The First Brother’s Tale

Miss Vardill


Soft blew the gale on Lomond’s tide
While Henry steer’d his blooming bride:
O’er castled rock and shadowy dell
Aslant the mellow moonbeams fell
In Ellen’s hair, on Ellen’s eye,
Dark as the pall of midngight’s sky;
While on the waving helm reclin’d
She gave her loose locks to the wind,
And smil’d to see the lucid stream
Catch from her eye another gleam.


“Now urge the boat; — the tide is slow;
Yon envious shadows hide our foe;
His oars are swift — his sails are wide — 
He skims beneath the mountain’s side:
Ah! now his bugle’s note I hear — 
His plume — his milk-white plume is near!
Haste, or a cruel kinsman’s pow’r
May close in blood our bridal hour!”


“Nay, Lady, show thy beauty’s light,
And cheer with smiles thy faithful knight.
Yon isle, whose cluster’d willows weep
So lowly o’er the silent deep,
Will yield us in its lonely breast
A haven of untroubled rest.
Amid the rocks which round it rise
Like giant guards of Paradise,
The chapel’s holy relics still
Shall flying lovers guard from ill.
Believe my faith! — our humble pray’r
May win a richer blessing there
Than list’ning angels ever lent
To vows on golden altars spent.


“And he whose hallow’d hand shall twine
Our plighted hearts in bonds divine,
Bears in his brow no wintry frown
To wither rosy Pleasure’s crown.
O fear him not! — tho’ years of care
Have blanch’d his cheeks and thinn’d his hair,
Full well my noble Brother loves
To bless the heart which Beauty moves;
For once he fondly hop’d to trace
A smile like thine in Beauty’s face.
Perhaps o’er love’s deluded trust,
Perhaps o’er friendship laid in dust,
He mourns; for oft with tearful eye
He gazes on the fading sky;
Or prints, with slow and careful hand,
An image in the silver sand.
But, dearest, soon thy bright eye’s beam
Shall cheer his clouded fancy’s dream;
And teach him on yon mould’ring shore
To gaze on lifeless shapes no more.”


The lover ceas’d — with bolder stroke
His oar the sparkling crystal broke;
While brighter than the current’s brim
Soft Fancy’s mirror shone for him.
Starts Ellen now? — ’tis but the surge
Moans on the rocky rampart’s verge;
’Tis but the milk-white solan laves
Her clashing pinion in the waves.
Now safe beneath the islet’s side
Led by the waning moon, they glide:
Now, lady, trust thy pilot’s hand;
The bounding boat has touch’d the strand!


Such tints her ice-cold cheeks adorn
As steal upon the frozen morn;
Such tints as best in Beauty’s cheek
Tell of the doubt that dares not speak.
“Why shrinks my love? — yon torch’s ray
Is near to guide our level way:
The priest of Lomond’s sacred isle
Awaits us with a Brother’s smile
See, from yon ivied casement’s height,
His blazing ingle lends us light!
The faggot, dear to midnight mirth,
Burns cheerly on his social hearth;
And in his heart — tho’ cold it seems,
The richest fount of kindness streams,
As Neva’s lonely rock retains
A thousand rubies in its veins.
He comes! — thy smile will sweeter prove
Blest by a gentle Brother’s love:
Our joy will fairer blossoms give
If Arthur sees and bids them live.”


She sighs — but soon the sigh is past;
The guiding torch approaches fast:
The pastor of the lonely isle
Comes with a guardian Brother’s smile.
A lover’s hand has half-withdrawn
From Ellen’s cheek the shading lawn,
And half-reveal’d its rosy glow,
And half her bending neck of snow.
But why is Arthur’s form unseen
Beneath his mantle’s dusky screen,
As o’er their path, with trembling hand,
He waves his half-extinguish’d brand?
The pressure of that hand might spread
The icy dew which damps the dead!
O’er his pale cheek and hollow eye
Loose locks their sable shade supply — 


A glance she dares not look upon
Is there — it glistens, and is gone!
So mute, so wan, the weary ghost
Stalks on a drear and deathful coast:
Hark! — from the chapel’s sainted ground
His footsteps call a boding sound;
The mould’ring aisle is dim and damp,
Scarce burns the lone funereal lamp:
It reddens now with lurid glare
While Arthur breathes the nuptial pray’r — 
His task is done — the dusky veil
Falls from his visage stern and pale!
But wherefore now that glance of fire?
Ah! why that smile of frenzy dire?
“Depart! — thy far-sought prize possess!
Thou could’st not see and love her less:
Thou knew’st not in how soft a chain
Thy Brother lov’d, and lov’d in vain!
I thought — ’twas but a dream of heav’n,
That Ellen’s faith to me was giv’n:
But I will slumber now, and dream
That hers to thee may constant seem.
I give thee at this holy shrine
The heart which is not — was not mine — 
It is not rage that burns my brow;
It is not grief — I scorn them now!
But bear her farther from my soul
Than yonder flames which mock the Pole.
Away! — thy guilty siren hide,
Thy ruin’d Brother’s faithless bride!
Away! — lest in his burning brain
No trace of Nature’s law remain!”


Has Ellen heard? — her mantle’s fold
Is still in gasping Henry’s hold,
But she has fled — already now
She trembles on the loose rock’s brow,
While Henry, dumb, with glazing eye
Sees but the glance that bids him die.
’Tis Arthur starts — ’tis Arthur calls
As in the whelming wave she falls,
“Turn, Ellen, to a brother’s breast;
Return, sweet Ellen, and be blest!”
He flies — her floating veil is there,
Her tresses quiver still in air;
He plunges in the wat’ry bed
And grasps — the raiment of the dead.


The pang is past: — o’er Ellen’s woes
Unvex’d, the silent waters close:
In Lomond’s isle the chapel grey
Still tells of Henry’s bridal day,
And still along that lonely shore
The stranger sees a hermit hoar,
Who gazes on the floating glass
And bids a long-lov’d image pass;
But Henry’s eye no record shows
Of blighted love or cherish’d woes:
He shuns the dim and silent hour
And talks of peace in wisdom’s bow’r:
Yet when the purple bowl he fills,
While mirth resounds and music trills,
He sees in Lomond’s glassy tide
A ruin’d Brother’s buried Bride.