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Canto Sixth.


WELL do I hope that this my minstrel

Will tempt no traveller from southern
Whether in tilbury, barouche, or

To view the Castle of these Seven
Proud Shields.

Small confirmation its condition


A wolf North Wales had on his armour-coat,

And Rhys of Powis-land a couchant stag;

Strath-Clwyd's strange emblem was a stranded boat,

Donald of Galloway's a trotting nag;

A corn-sheaf gilt was fertile Lodon's brag;

A dudgeon-dagger was by Dunmail


Northumbrian Adolf gave a sea-beat crag

Surmounted by a cross; such signs were borne

By theories, to prove the fortress Upon these antique shields, all wasted

now and worn.



To Meneville's high lay: no towers

are seen

On the wild heath, but those that fancy builds,

And, save a fosse that tracks the moor with green,

Is nought remains to tell of what may there have been.

And yet grave authors, with the no small waste

Of their grave time, have dignified

the spot

By Roman bands, to curb the invading Scot.

Hutchinson, Horsley, Camden, I
might quote,

But rather choose the theory less civil
Of boors, who, origin of things forgot,
Refer still to the origin of evil,
And for their master-mason choose
that master-fiend the Devil.

With the bright level light ere sinking down.

Illumined thus, the dauntless Dane surveys

The Seven Proud Shields that o'er the portal frown,

And on their blazons traced high marks of old renown.


Therefore, I say, it was on fiendbuilt towers


These scann'd, Count Harold sought the castle-door

Whose ponderous bolts were rusted to decay;

Yet till that hour adventurous knight forbore

The unobstructed passage to essay. More strong than armed warders in array,

And obstacle more sure than bolt
or bar,

Sate in the portal Terror and Dis-
While Superstition, who forbade

to war

With foes of other mould than mortal clay,

That stout Count Harold bent his
wondering gaze,
When evening dew was on the
heather flowers,

And the last sunbeams made the
mountain blaze,

And tinged the battlements of other Cast spells across the gate, and barr'd the onward way.


Vain now those spells; for soon with heavy clank

The feebly-fasten'd gate was inward push'd,

And, as it oped, through that emblazon'd rank

Of tarnish'd gold, or silver nothing clear,

With throne begilt, and canopy of pall,

And tapestry clothed the walls with fragments sear:

Of antique shields, the wind of Frail as the spider's mesh did that evening rush'd rich woof appear.

With sound most like a groan, and then was hush'd.

Is none who on such spot such sounds could hear

But to his heart the blood had faster rush'd;

Yet to bold Harold's breast that throb was dear

It spoke of danger nigh, but had no touch of fear.

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Each tower presenting to their scrutiny

A hall in which a king might make abode,

And fast beside, garnish'd both proud and high,

Was placed a bower for rest in which a king might lie.

As if a bridal there of late had been,

On pleasure's opiate pillow laid their head,

For whom the bride's shy footstep, slow and light,

Was changed ere morning to the murderer's tread.

For human bliss and woe in the frail thread

Of human life are all so closely twined,

That till the shears of Fate the texture shred,

The close succession cannot be disjoin'd,

Since date of that unhallow'd festival. Flagons, and ewers, and standing Nor dare we, from one hour, judge cups, were all that which comes behind.

Deck'd stood the table in each
gorgeous hall;

And yet it was two hundred years,
I ween,


In every bower, as round a hearse, was hung

A dusky crimson curtain o'er the bed,

And on each couch in ghastly wise were flung

The wasted relics of a monarch


Barbaric ornaments around were spread,

Vests twined with gold, and chains of precious stone,

And golden circlets, meet for monarch's head;

While grinn'd, as if in scorn amongst them thrown,

The wearer's fleshless skull, alike with dust bestrown.

For these were they who, drunken with delight,

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Empty as air, as water volatile,
Been here avenged. The origin of ill
Through woman rose, the Christian
doctrine saith:

Nor deem I, Gunnar, that thy
minstrel skill

A wanderer's wayward steps could



All this she did, and guerdon none
Required, save that her burial-stone
Should make at length the secret


"Thus hath a faithful woman done." Not in each breast such truth is laid, But Eivir was a Danish maid.'

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And his half-filling eyes he dried,
And said, 'The theme I should but

Unless it were my dying song,
(Our Scalds have said, in dying hour
The Northern harp has treble power)
Else could I tell of woman's faith,
Defying danger, scorn, and death.

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Firm was that faith, as diamond stone
And unrequited; firm and pure,
Pure and unflaw'd, her love unknown,

Her stainless faith could all endure;
From clime to clime, from place to place.
Through want, and danger, and

The stern Dane smiled this charnelhouse to see,

For his chafed thought return'd to But Eivir sleeps beneath her stone, And all resembling her are gone.


And 'Well,' he said, 'hath woman's What maid e'er show'd such constancy

In plighted faith, like thine to me?
But couch thee, boy; the darksome

Falls thickly round, nor be dismay'd
Because the dead are by.
They were as we; our little day
O'erspent, and we shall be as they.


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'Thou art a wild enthusiast,' said
Count Harold, for thy Danish maid;
And yet, young Gunnar, I will own
Hers were a faith to rest upon.


Can show example where a woman's Yet near me, Gunnar, be thou laid, Thy couch upon my mantle made, Hath made a true-love vow, and, That thou mayst think, should fear tempted, kept her faith.'



Thy master slumbers nigh.'

The minstrel-boy half smiled, half! Thus couch'd they in that dread abode, sigh'd, Until the beams of dawning glow'd.


An alter'd man Lord Harold rose;
When he beheld that dawn unclose,
There's trouble in his eyes,
And traces on his brow and check
Of mingled awe and wonder speak :
My page,' he said, 'arise;

Leave we this place, my page.' No



'My wildness hath awaked the dead,
Disturb'd the sacred tomb!
Methought this night I stood on high,
Where Hecla roars in middle sky,
And in her cavern'd gulfs could spy

The central place of doom;
And there before my mortal eye
Souls of the dead came flitting by,
Whom fiends, with many a fiendish cry,
Bore to that evil den!
My eyes grew dizzy, and my brain
Was wilder'd, as the elvish train,
With shriek and howl, dragg'd on

Those who had late been men.

He utter'd till the castle door
They cross'd, but there he paused and My inmost soul the summons knew,
As captives know the knell
That says the headsman's sword is bare,
And, with an accent of despair,

All crush'd and foul with bloody stain.
More had I seen, but that uprose
A whirlwind wild, and swept the

And with such sound as when at need
A champion spurs his horse to speed,
Three armëd knights rush on, who lead
Caparison'd a sable steed.
Sable their harness, and there came
Through their closed visors sparks of

Nor think, a vassal thou of hell,
With hell can strive." The fiend
spoke true!

The first proclaim'd, in sounds of fear,
"Harold the Dauntless, welcome here!"
The next cried, "Jubilee! we've won
Count Witikind the Waster's son !"
And the third rider sternly spoke,
"Mount, in the name of Zernebock!
From us, O Harold, were thy powers,
Thy strength, thy dauntlessness, are



'His sable cowl, flung back, reveal'd
The features it before conceal'd;
And, Gunnar, I could find

In him whose counsels strove to stay
So oft my course on wilful way,
My father Witikind!


'With haggard eyes and streaming Doom'd for his sins, and doom'd for hair,


Jutta the Sorceress was there,
And there pass'd Wulfstane, lately

Commands them quit their cell.
I felt resistance was in vain,
My foot had that fell stirrup ta'en,
My hand was on the fatal mane,
When to my rescue sped
That Palmer's visionary form,
And, like the passing of a storm,
The demons yell'd and fled!

A wanderer upon earth to pine
Until his son shall turn to grace,
And smooth for him a resting-place.
Gunnar, he must not haunt in vain
This world of wretchedness and pain:
I'll tame my wilful heart to live
In peace, to pity and forgive;
And thou, for so the Vision said,
Must in thy lord's repentance aid.
Thy mother was a prophetess,
He said, who by her skill could guess
How close the fatal textures join
Which knit thy thread of life with mine;
Then, dark, he hinted of disguise
She framed to cheat too curious eyes,
That not a moment might divide
Thy fated footsteps from my side.
Methought while thus my sire did

I caught the meaning of his speech,
Yet seems its purport doubtful now.'
His hand then sought his thoughtful


Then first he mark'd, that in the tower His glove was left at waking hour.


Trembling at first, and deadly pale,
Had Gunnar heard the vision'd tale;
But when he learn'd the dubious close,
He blush'd like any opening rose,
And, glad to hide his tell-tale cheek,
Hied back that glove of mail to seek;
When soon a shriek of deadly dread
Summon'd his master to his aid.

What sees Count Harold in that bower,
So late his resting-place?
The semblance of the Evil Power,
Adored by all his race!
Odin in living form stood there,
His cloak the spoils of Polar bear;
For plumy crest a meteor shed
Its gloomy radiance o'er his head,
Yet veil'd its haggard majesty
To the wild lightnings of his eye.
Such height was his, as when in stone
O'er Upsal's giant altar shown:
So flow'd his hoary beard;
Such was his lance of mountain-pine,
So did his sevenfold buckler shine;
But when his voice he rear'd,
Deep, without harshness, slow and

The powerful accents roll'd along, And, while he spoke, his hand was laid On captive Gunnar's shrinking head.


'Harold,' he said, 'what rage is thine, To quit the worship of thy line,

To leave thy Warrior-God? With me is glory or disgrace, Mine is the onset and the chase, Embattled hosts before my face

Are wither'd by a nod.

Wilt thou then forfeit that high seat
Deserved by many a dauntless feat,
Among the heroes of thy line,
Eric and fiery Thorarine?
Thou wilt not. Only I can give
The joys for which the valiant live,

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