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The old nurse Angela, who is the young lovers' only friend in all the hostile castle, tells him of Madeline's plan to try the charm of St. Agnes' Eve; and he persuades the dame to conceal him in Madeline's chamber, where, when she sleeps, he will spread at her bed-side the feast which the charm of St. Agnes promises to her vision.

The dame hides him there and hobbles off, half afraid of what she has done, just as Madeline enters her chamber.

“Out went the taper as she hurried in;
Its little smoke in pallid moonshine died :
She closed the door, she panted, all akin
To spirits of the air and visions wide.
No uttered syllable or woe betide ;
But to her heart her heart was voluble,
Paining with eloquence her balmy side,

As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled, in her dell.
“A casement high and triple-arched there was,
All garlanded with carven imageries
Of fruits and flowers and bunches of knot-grass,
And diamonded with panes of quaint device
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger-moth's deep damasked wings;
And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries,

And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,
A shielded scutcheon blushed with blood of queens and kings.
“Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast,
As down she knelt for Heaven's grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint;
She seemed a splendid angel, newly dressed,

Save wings, for heaven. Porphyro grew faint;
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.
“ Anon his heart revives ; her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees,
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one ;
Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees :
Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile, she dreams awake and sees

In fancy fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.

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Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
In sort of wakeful swoon, perplexed she lay,
Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppressed
Her soothed limbs, and soul fatigued away;
Flown like a thought, until the morrow day,
Blissfully havened, both from joy and pain,
Clasped like a missal where swart Paynims pray,

Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.

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“Stolen to this paradise, and so entranced,

Porphyro gazed upon her empty dress,
And listened to her breathing, if it chanced
To wake into a slumberous tenderness,
Which, when he heard, that minute did he bless
And breathed himself; then from the closet crept,
Noiseless as fear in a wide wilderness,

And over the hushed carpet silent stept,
And 'tween the curtains peeped, where, lo! how fast she slept.

“ Then by the bedside, where the faded moon

Made a dim silver twilight, soft he set
A table, and, half anguished, threw thereon
A cloth of woven crimson, gold and jet.

“And still she slept, an azure-lidded sleep,

In blanched linen, smooth, and lavendered,
While he from forth the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince and plum and gourd,
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon,
Manna and dates, in argosy transferred

From Fez, and spiced dainties, every one
From silken Sarmacand to cedared Lebanon.

“ These delicates he heaped with glowing hand

On golden dishes, and in baskets bright
Of wreathed silver ; sumptuous they stand
In the retired quiet of the night,
Filling the chilly room with perfume light

Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,

Tumultuous, and, in chords that tenderest be,
He played an ancient ditty, long since mute,
In Provence called, “ La belle dame sans mercy!'
Close to her ear, touching the melody;
Wherewith disturbed, she uttered a soft moan:
He ceased — she panted quick — and suddenly

Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone : Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone.

“Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep;
There was a painful change, that nigh expelled
The blisses of her dream so pure and deep.

" Ah, Porphyro,' said she, “but even now

Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
Made tunable with every sweetest vow;
And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear :
How changed thou art ! how pallid, chill, and drear!
Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
Those looks immortal, those complainings dear !

Oh, leave me not in this eternal woe,
For if thou diest, my Love, I know not where to go.'

""My Madeline ! sweet dreamer ! lovely bride!

Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest ?
Thy beauty's shield, heart-shaped and vermeil dyed?
Ah! silver shrine, here will I take my rest
After so many hours of toil and quest,
A famished pilgrim, — saved by miracle.
Though I have found, I will not rob thy nest,

Saving of thy sweet self, if thou think'st well
To trust, fair Madeline, to no rude infidel.

“Hark! 't is an elfin storm from faery land,
Of haggard seeming, but a boon indeed :
Arise ! arise! the morning is at hand,
The bloated wassailers will never heed.
Let us away, my love, with happy speed;
There are no ears to hear, or eyes to see, –
Drowned all in Rhenish and the sleepy mead,

Awake! arise ! my love, and fearless be,
Far o'er the southern moors I have a home for thee.'

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They glide like phantoms into the wide hall ;
Like phantoms to the iron porch they glide,
Where lay the porter, in uneasy sprawl,
With a huge empty flagon by his side ;
The wakeful bloodhound rose, and shook his hide,
But his sagacious eye an inmate owns :
By one and one, the bolts full easy slide, -

The chains lie silent on the footworn stones ;
The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.

“And they are gone : aye ! ages long ago
These lovers fled away into the storm;
That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe,
And all his warrior guests, with shade and form
Of witch and demon, and large coffin-worm,
Were long be-nightmared. Angela the old
Died palsy-twitched, with meagre face deform ;
The Beadsman, after thousand aves told,
For aye unsought-for slept among his ashes cold.”

With Keats, who died in 1820, we enter upon the fair field of modern poetry, and find ourselves among the poets of our own age and our own forms of thought.

Lowell, one of our most sympathetic literary critics, has said,

Three men almost contemporaneous with each other Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron were the great means of bringing back English poetry from the sandy deserts of rhetoric and recovering for her her triple inheritance of simplicity, sensuousness, and passion. Of these, Wordsworth was the only conscious reformer and the deepest thinker; Keats, the most essentially a poet; and Byron, the most keenly intellectual of the three. ... Wordsworth has influenced most the ideas of succeeding poets; Keats their forms; and Byron, interesting to men of imagination less for his writings than for what his writings indicate, reappears no more in poetry, but presents an ideal to youth made restless with vague desires not yet regulated by experience, nor supplied with motives by the duties of life.”

LVII.

ON SOME FRIENDS OF THE LAKE POETS.

THE

HERE are many interesting writers, in prose as well

as verse, who wrote at the time the Lake School was rising to fame. They are worth better and longer mention than I can give in one brief Talk. The early part of this century saw gathered in London a group of men more interesting than any similar group since the days when the Scriblerus Club used to meet at Will's Coffee-house.

CHARLES LAMB, one of the sweetest and gentlest charac

ters that the past keeps alive for us, was a school1775-1835

mate of Coleridge in Christ's Hospital school, and they formed a friendship there which was never broken. Lamb was a man of varied talents. He wrote poems and one or two plays; but his merit as a writer is shown best in his Essays of Elia, which are full of quaint humor, and have a pathos entirely their own. No essays so fresh, delicate, and original had been written since the time of Abraham Cowley as these of Lamb, and I think I would rather part with Cowley even than with the gentle Elia.

Lamb was a true Londoner, born and dwelling in or near that great city all his life, and loving it as if it were a feeling and responsive being, conscious of his love. He went to visit Wordsworth once, and enjoyed the beautiful lake and mountain region among which his friend lived; but his heart was always in London. In one of his letters to Wordsworth he says,

Separate from the pleasure of your company, I don't much care if I never see a mountain in my life. I have passed all my days in London, until I have formed as many and intense local attachments as any of your mountaineers have done with dead nature. The lighted shops of the Strand and Fleet Street, the innumerable tradesmen and customers, coaches, wagons, play-houses, — all the bustle and wickedness round about Covent Garden, the watchmen, drunken scenes, rabbles, . . . the crowds, the very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements, the print-shops, old book-stalls, parsons cheapening books, coffee-houses, steams of soup from kitchens, the pantomimes, London itself a pantomime and masquerade, all these things work themselves into my mind, and feed me without a power of satiating me. The wonder of these sights impels me into night-walks about the city's crowded streets, and I often shed tears in the motley Strand from fulness of joy at so much life.”

66

Dr. Johnson also loved London as Lamb did, and preferred it to all the nature outside.

Lamb held for years a place as clerk in the India House, and his slight, stooping figure, clad in clerkly black, coming

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