THE TALE OF PER BAUD
Day had struck the river’s roll,
Sweeping across its magnificent sway,
Where I, by my horse’s side, did stroll,
Following the river’s unquestionable way;
Its winding course, threads the hills and woods,
Where dark birches shaped my silent moods;
Their towering passions fallen away,
As the river brings such awful death
To lie before those dread waves of Lethe!
I rode through the lanes on my tiring steed,
Carried away by the morning’s frost,
Watching the birds in the cornfields feed
On the farmer’s scattered seed that cost
Many a night an aching back,
To sow by hand from a heavy sack!
I leant against an old gate post
And tied my horse to an old wooden pole
That rocked to and fro within its hole.
In mournful mood, I found the scene
Awesome to behold in its desolate woe,
So I sat me down by a tree, to dream,
As I could not no further go.
I thought of many wondrous things:
The quarrels of the heart and the joy love brings,
Till I felt on my cheek a cool wind blow
And found I’d dreamt the morn away
Beneath an apple tree’s blossomed sway!
I saw before me a twisting track,
Where thistle and heather swept over a hill –
I walked on, though stopped, half-way, glancing back
As I felt in my young heart a sudden chill
At not seeing my horse or the apple tree,
That from the noon’s heat had sheltered me.
Weary, I turned, and onward, still
I climbed, filled by some new light
Within, that fuelled me with fresh fight.
At the top of the hill stood an old stone church,
And I wandered about its sloped graveyard,
Surrounded by statues and silver birch,
As if sentinels, stood they by the dead, on guard.
Crooked stones carved with elegant scrolls
Were left to decay with those forgotten souls!
I took from my side, my sleepless sword,
And against some stone marked ‘Catherine’,
Rested – she died young, and lies within.
I felt my fingers touch her name,
And pressed against such awful fate,
I though of the many bones that lie the same
Upon this hill of sorrows great;
For someone, somewhere must surely weep
To lose such a one whose soul shall keep
The blush of youth, and ever wait
Till death’s harbinger on her, is doubled
By mortal love, that’s twice as troubled?
Lost in thoughts that left me cold:
I found no wrongs for philosophies,
Solving, that in ancient worlds, were told
And hammered through the centuries…
For if heaven is above us, in the sky,
Then surely hell on this earth must lie,
To summon young bones from earthly ties…
I looked upon her cheerless stone
And wished this heavy heart were gone.
Yet how bewitching she must have been;
What love she must have known, like I,
And walked with a beauty so serene,
Until she came to this hill to lie
And rest among cool-shaded stones
Alone, in an eternity of bones!
I imagined I could hear her sigh,
Within her sun-less burial mound,
As I lay me down on the mossy ground.
And deep the pain and deep the woe
That harboured melancholy fears,
That for this girl I did not know –
My eyes were filled with tears.
Should ever a soul weep soft for me
When I am deep in the ground, like she?
Here she has lay some sixteen years;
I wish I had known her in her day
Before she met her ill-timed way!
O spirit, do not forsake me now,
Forlorn, I am but mortal man;
Though dark the blood through coarse veins, flow,
To meet in me each cruel organ!
I am given to thoughts that in me swell,
Like the breaking of some crystal bell
That over this world’s meteoric span,
Booms by oceans, feeding the land
From God’s grandeur to His temples, grand!
I heard sweet birdsong rise and fall,
As I pulled my self from sad refrain;
I felt the spell’s last conjured call
Sweep about the stones again.
And in the evening’s lull, I cried,
And felt the gulf between us, wide:
Sweet Catherine, I have felt thy pain,
To sit here where thy resting bones
Do not stir beneath my sighs and moans.
Then hooves came thundering up the track,
That from its sad air broke my mind;
I saw my horse’s reins fell slack
And saw the old fence post, behind,
Dragged like some bent piece of twig
That danced demonic, a terrible jig.
I raced down to free him, to unwind
His reins from that unwanted load
That waltzed behind him down the road.
We rode from the hill by a fading sun,
To the gentle ripples that struck the banks,
As I looked to see that church, near gone:
I paused to give sweet Catherine thanks;
That girl alone in burial white
Is left to face another night
With the churchyard’s gloomy ranks
Of spectres, phantoms, ghouls and ghosts
And other rotted-coffined hosts!
If only I could be the same
As those foul creatures that nightly, turn
Lone Catherine’s eyes upon the shame,
I would at least by midnight, learn
What wondrous beauty haunts the tomb
In scarlet blossom and velvet bloom,
Wherein her blood-red eyes shall burn
To look on love and purity
That in my souls, long dwelt in me!
I looked across the river’s reach
Silently wishing I were not alone;
That maybe my horse and I, we each
Had thoughts the same, that somehow shone
As one in thoughts of hope, no less;
But I could only try to guess
That his thoughts like mine had gone
From joy to sadness in one stride:
‘Twas fair Catherine walking at my side!