The Spectre’s Isle

Miss Vardill

Red Roderic and O’Donnel, distinguished chieftains in the South of Ireland, were divided by a sanguinary feuf which sprang from the latter’s refusal to bestow his sister on Red Roderic, who was suddenly induced by a mysterious dream to seek a reconciliation with his enemy.

Rodelinda-Delphine-Stormont has the honour of offering this tradition as her last tribute to the Attic Chest. Tho’ it has passed through a lover’s hand, it is not enriched with such brilliant colouring as the “Fairy’s Isle”.

May 2d 1816


The bell of Roderic’s beacon-tow’r
Has toll’d the dreary midnight hour;
The watch-dog gasps with glaring eyes,
The wild doe to her covert flies — 
Who treads unseen the rampart’s height?
A demon of the deathful night? — 
It is a lone and shrouded form
Dark as the spirit of the storm — 
It steals beside yon murky stream
Red with a waning Baal-fire’s gleam;
A boat lies in the mountain’s cleft,
Of oar and sail, and rudder reft — 
That spectre-form has seiz’d the prow,
And glides beneath the cavern’s brow
To yon green isle, whose sedges lave
Their lilies in Locherin’s wave:
None but the spectres of the dead
Upon that lonely island tread!


Shall wand’ring shades of night beguile
Red Roderic to that lonely isle?
He spurns the shore, he cleaves the tide,
His foot is on the dark isle’s side — 
Nor life, nor light, nor sound is there
Save the pale deathfire’s wand’ring glare:
Yet there is now a breath — it heaves
Yon down amidst the thistle’s leaves — 
Is it a fairy’s gift?—it looks
Like elves that dwell in haunted brooks;
So wan, so cold, with eyes so fair,
And fleece-white locks of dewy hair — 
But it has clasp’d Red Roderic’s hand
And smil’d upon his sparkling brand.


“Son of stranger! — lovely one!
Like thine my early woes begun,
But none were ever found to bless
My stern heart with a Sire’s caress;
None ever seal’d upon my brow
The fond warm kiss I give thee now.
Red Roderic has no Brother’s feast
To smile at when the storm has ceas’d;
No sire shall praise, no mother hear
The triumphs of his battle-spear,
And on his nameless cairn, the stone
Shall be by mountain-wand’rers thrown — 
Come, changeling, to my heart! — thy smile
May warn its frozen core awhile;
It might have lov’d — but none were near
A lone heart’s craving sigh to hear.”


“Red Roderic, yield thy prize!”—that cry
Is from a mother’s heart — her eye
Asks mercy while her cold hands wrest
Her treasure from the warrior’s breast — 
“Thou hast no son — thou canst not know
The anguish of a mother’s throe — 
Mad with detested shame I gave
My lov’d one to the coming wave — 
But thy red falchion shall not tear
Its beauteous breast and silken hair — 
Think of thy mother’s heart, and press
To thine his infant loveliness — 
O’Donnel’s highborn son shall owe
High ransom to his noblest foe.”


The Chieftain starts — avenging ire
Burns in his eyeball’s lurid fire — 
“Son of my foe! — to Roderic’s ear
That sound is heav’n — revenge is near!
Forgett’st thou now the deathful hour
When flames embrac’d O’Donnel’s tow’r?
’Midst crashing piles and floods of gore
My arm his bright-hair’d sister bore — 
Yet — yet he spurn’d me! — may my hand
Wither when I forget the brand!
O! such an hour may yet return,
Again those hated walls may burn,
But he, in leaden silence laid,
No more shall boast his white-arm’d maid;
And thou, fair boy! shalt never wield
For him thy lance in battle-field — 
On thee his withering heart shall call — 
On thee in vain! — to mourn his fall — 
Live, hostage of my hate!”
        But where
Is now that babe so softly fair?
’Tis but a shape of painted air!
And where is she whose eye of blue
Seem’d like heav’n’s azure dropping dew?
He sees that eye — it glimmers still
Unmoving, glassy, stern, and chill;
And there is but a beauteous shade
Dimly in robes of death array’d,
While strange unearthly voices sound
From the dark world of waters round.


“Thou hast thy vengeance now! — thine eyes
Gaze on a brief and shadowy prize!
A prize than dust and ashes less,
Vain, cold, unearthly nothingness!
Such are the trophies that await
On grim Revenge and brooding Hate; — 
By shadows mock’d, by shadows fed,
They grasp the relics of the dead.
Behold! — the feast of Vengeance ends
As this forsaken isle descends,
By its own baleful fires consum’d,
In Horror’s darkest gulf entomb’d!”

Earth shudders — o’er the rocking isle
Flames dart, and rushing billows boil:
Down, down unfathom’d depths it goes — 
Above, the foaming waters close.

’Tis but a dream! — and not a trace
Tells of the vanish’d island’s place,
But on Red Roderic’s heaving breast
A milk white dove descends to rest.
Ere eve he sheathes his vengeful sword
And calls his foeman to his board,
While by his side the stranger-dove
Sits pleas’d to watch the feast of love;
And in the red cup dips its beak
The honied draught of peace to seek,
Sheds incense from its silver wings
Then back to heav’n exulting springs.

Edited by A…… S……
From a MS. by Mrs Rodelinda