The Saxon

Miss Vardill

Mr Editor,

As you encourage voluntary contributions from Positive House, I venture to add mine, and to answer an angry assault committed by one of the Peers of Creation on the female nobility. You recollect, no doubt, a certain islet not far from the Sicilian dominions called Lampidosa in which a subterranean chamber was once inhabited by recluses from various nations. Their legends prove that female influence has not always produced such ignoble or tragical effects as those recorded by the historians of the Hermitage; and that females, whatever may be their influence, are not all selfish, inconstant, and mischievous. Some enemies to the noble efforts produced by old-fashioned love, may class these legends among the traditions of Tabby Hall, but they shall be faithfully collected and undauntedly published by

Your unknown yet constant Friend

A Member of Positive House

February 1816

Certain lovers’ plagiarisms will be detected by the Legends of Lampidosa, but, it is hoped, not without pardon.

The Legends of Lampidosa, or, Tales from Four Nations

1. The Saxon

The sable Knight has turn’d his steed
 Thro’ Plaven’s ruin’d dale
Where famish’d wolves and vultures feed
 Or court the poison’d gale:
Where’ver the battle-shout was heard
His steed that sable warrior spurr’d;
 Now, while the moon looks pale,
His fetlocks stiff with curdled blood
He laves in Plaven’s silent flood.


Beside that war-steed’s bending neck
 A fairy-form of beauty stands:
It seems as if the river-queen
Had shap’d an elf of courtly mien
 And dipp’d in balm her dewy hands
The coral of his lips to deck,
Or robb’d her fairest coronet
Its pearls between those lips to set;
Or woven in her amber loom
Soft locks to mock the gold-bird’s plume,
And from her river-lily’s bell
Lent whiteness in his brow to dwell;
Then sent him to her bow’rs to lead
Sir Conrade and his gallant steed.


“Now, good Sir Conrade, heed me well!
 Tempt not the forest-wolf to-night,
Nor tread alone this ruin’d dell!
 Yon flash is from the watchfire’s light
Which guides the robber to his cell!”
“Art thou, my boy, a soldier’s page
 And shrinks thy heart from midnight spell?
O leave to cold and coward Age
 The tales which cloister’d dotards tell!
My arm is firm, my sword is just,
No other omen claims my trust.”


“Yet hear me, noble Conrade, now!
Beneath yon hollow mountain’s brow
A meagre sybil sits alone,
 And mutters to the scowling skies:
She well might seem a form of stone,
But that a strange and speechless moan
 Strives from her yellow lips to rise.
Ere to the tents of gallant men
Thy bounty led me from this glen
That meagre Sybil’s warning tone
Well to my infant ear was known.
O tread not near yon baleful cell!
Thou hear’st her wand’ring goblins yell!”


“Cheer, cheer thy heart, my gentle boy!
’Tis but the shout of gypsy-joy:
Yon watchfire shews the vagrant crew
Whose chiefs the flying elk pursue.
From Saxon fields and cities chas’d
Rich Elba’s plunder’d grape they taste;
And oft the Vaivod’s fur-clad dame,
 Soft-smiling thro’ her azure veil
In whispers tells some cherish’d name
 And fondly hears their mystic tale:
Now round the bowl in fearless glee
They sing of love and liberty!”


Back starts his steed—the spur is vain — 
Where is the page that held his rein?
Beneath this yawning chasm’s shade
Have shiver’d rocks his feet betray’d?
These dizzy steeps and caverns grim
Ask keener eye and firmer limb — 
O’er bush and crag the warrior springs,
With shouts the hollow mountain rings:
Who lurks within yon silent lair?
No beauteous boy is shelter’d there!
A muffled,lone, and shapeless hag
Smiles grimly thro’ the clefted crag;
The prophetess of Elba’s realm,
The far-fam’d witch of Hohenelm!


“Listen and speak, thou hoary dame!
 If here, as Saxon tales relate,
 Thy gifted eye can look on fate,
Thou know’st my birthright and my name;
 And thou may’st tell what vengeful pow’r
 Shall crush thee in this hated hour
 If charter’d plunderers annoy
 My gentle page, my orphan-boy!”

Thrice, mutt’ring low, the wither’d dame
Cower’d scowling o’er her dusky flame,
Thrice wav’d her staff with mystic clang,
And thus in hollow discord sang.


“The Vaivod sat in the lonely dell
And saw the sabbath which none must tell;
He knelt unseen by St. Monan’s cross
While the night-dew hung on its wither’d moss
Till once in the mouldering cloister’s gloom
The witch of the mountain told his doom.

“Thou shalt build a dome on distant land
Where myrtles bloom by the sea-gale fann’d
But none must the light of thy hearth behold,
Nor wandering guest thy gates unfold
Till thy bride proves pure as the mountain-stream,
The forest-dove, and the mild moon’s beam!”

The moss on the Vaivod’s porch grew green,
The light of his hearth was never seen;
He heard no sound but the water’s fall,
No guest but the ghosts of his mould’ring hall,
Yet his bride seem’d pure as the bud that blows
In a sunbright cleft among Alpine snows.

The beam of her azure eye was meek
The pale rose dwelt in her dimpled cheek,
But his frown was dark on her beauty’s pride
As the corsair’s prow on the sparkling tide
For thrice in the chapel’s shadowy aisle
The witch spoke low with an elf-queen’s smile.

“Once thou may’st look on yon blasted thorn,
Thrice and once on the star of morn,
Five times call on the sprites that dwell
On the holy brink of St. Monan’s well,
Then shall the mirror of ocean shew
If she thou lovest is wise and true.”

The Vaivod sat by St. Monan’s tree
Thrice he look’d on the glassy sea;
He saw his bride’s fair tresses float
O’er the bounding helm of a fisher’s boat,
And a voice said—“Wives thou may’st find again,
But one so true thou wilt seek in vain!

“The fountain stays not in desert sand,
The moon-beam glides from the grasping hand;
When tempests wither the leafless glade
The dove flies far to a secret shade:
Thy wife is gone like the mountain-stream,
The forest-dove, and the mild moon’s beam!”


Sir Conrade bow’d his lofty head
And stern in stifled anguish said
“Thou know’st me, sybil!—if thine eye
Can Fate’s remotest depths descry,
Well hast thou learnt what pangs await
Uncertain love and jealous hate!
Such anguish as a madman’s thirst
With dreams of distant nectar curst,
While gazing on the poison-tree,
He loathes, yet loves his agony!
But I have legends too to tell
Of mystic craft and wizard-spell.—


When Norway’s monarch knelt to gain
The spell of love at Runa’s fane
A wither’d sybil heard his pray’r
And fram’d the gift with magic care.
A web of silken hair she spun
Dipp’d in the dew from roses won:
She gemm’d the work with sapphires blue
And ting’d it with the ruby’s hue,
Then hid a pearl within its fold,
Last clos’d it with a ring of gold,
In consecrated fire refin’d
The mystic talisman to bind.
That talisman of pow’r renown’d
Methought in Bertha’s love I found;
Hers was the web of silken hair,
Her lips the honey-dew might spare;
The sapphire sparkled in her eye,
Her blush excell’d the ruby’s dye:
I grasp’d the prize — but could not find
The spotless pearl within enshrin’d — 
She fled, and mock’d the ring’s controul,
Tho’ Love’s true flame was in my soul!”


Strange lustre fills the Sybil’s eyes
While thus her mystic tongue replies
“’Tis said the opal once had pow’r
To lengthen Pleasure’s brightest hour;
The amethyst’s ethereal blue
Could potent eloquence renew,
And in the glowing ruby dwelt
A sting by guilty lovers felt.
Now all these envied spells are flown
Or dwell with eastern seers alone,
But Conrade on this holy day
May claim a gem of surer sway — 
A faithful heart! — its ample store
Can more than eastern treasures pour;
Can summon Fancy’s richest hues
And all the light of love diffuse.
Receive the gift! — its price is known
To pure and noble souls alone;
It lends the lip a richer glow
Than Persian rubies can bestow;
It needs no amethyst to teach
The magic melody of speech,
Nor from the sparkling opal steals
The varied ray which wit reveals:
All these the faithful heart supplies,
Love sees them all with Fancy’s eyes:
For thee these precious gifts combine — 
The faithful heart is only thine!
My task is done — my tale is told — 
The Witch of Hohenelm behold!”


Slow drops her mask — with syren laugh
She rends her hood and breaks her staff:
The blue eyes of the rosy page
Gleam thro’d the borrow’d locks of age!—
“Now, gallant Conrade! take again
The hand that held thy war-steed’s rein!
In deeds of death, in fields of blood,
Thy Bertha by thy side has stood;
If doubted love has fires so pure,
How will rewarded faith endure?
Believe her vow! — if faith can fail,
 If doubt can pleading love o’erwhelm,
Think of thy Page in Plaven’s vale,
 Think of the Witch of Hohenelm!”