SIR HUGH THE HERON.
A LEGENDARY TALE,
IN FOUR PARTS.
G A B R I E L R O S S E T T I, J U N R.
Manuscript Addition: / To Olive Rossetti / with her Father's love / 1888.
Editorial Description: WMR's handwriting.
SIR HUGH THE HERON BOLD,
BARON OF TWISELL AND OF FORD,
AND CAPTAIN OF THE HOLD.
Marmion, Canto 1.
G. Polidori's Private Press,
15, Park Village East,
(For Private Circulation only.)
Manuscript Addition: Harley II / R7354s / / 1843
Editorial Description: not in DGR's handwriting
N.B. The following Tale is a versification, with
derable additions, variations and omissions, of
a Border Romance,
published under the same
title, the production (I believe) of the late
Allan Cunningham. The epoch is supposed
to be during the
wars of the Roses.
- 'Twas midnight; on the slumbering wave
- The moonbeams gently shone,
- Where interposed a darksome cave
- The placid scene upon.
- The pirate band have launched their boats
- Upon the waters blue;
- Above the masts in silence floats
- The banner of the crew.
- From yonder chapel on the shore
10 What sounds rise on the air?
- The blessed Virgin they implore;
- It is the voice of prayer.
- Within there knelt a gallant knight,
- And many a vassal bold;
- The baron's armour glittered bright
- With steel and ruddy gold.
- And o'er his burnished hood of mail,
- With pearls encircled round,
- The heron plume was seen to trail
20 And fall upon the ground.
- Beside him lay his blazoned shield,
- Cast on the marble floor;
- The heron on an azure field
- Upon it seemed to soar.
- And at his side, his trusty brand
- Had many a conflict seen,
- And many a strife, on border land,
- Of death, where he had been.
- Banners and shields adorn the walls,
30 Trophies of battles won;
- And armour, torn from Scottish halls
- To shine those walls upon.
- “What sounds invade my startled ear,
- Borne on the midnight wind?
- It is the clang of arms I hear:
- Now shield me, Virgin kind!”
- Thus spoke Sir Hugh; he braced his shield
- And donned his helmet bright;
- His sword around his head did wield,
40 And stood prepared for fight.
- The chapel door has opened wide,
- And all who there did stand,
- By torches high upheld, descried
- The rover and his band.
- Back starts their chief; his trembling frame
- Expressed surprise and fright;
- As, panting with desire for fame,
- Forth rushed th' undaunted knight.
- “St. George! St. George!” that
50 Broke on the still midnight;
- The pirates in a mingled rout
- Betook themselves to flight.
- “Strike for the Heron!” was the word,
- And down upon the foe,
- Foot to foot, and sword to sword,
- They pressed with blow on blow.
- The gallant knight their passage clogs;
- None could his onset bide;
- “Down with the sacrilegious dogs!”
60 Resounds on every side.
- And the rush of the steeds, and the sound of the blows,
- And the battle's deafening yell,
- And the armour which clanked as the warrior rose,
- And rattled as he fell;
- And the rushing sound of the murderous bolts,
- Which rained like a storm of sleet,
- And the moan of the fallen wretch who shrank
- From the horses' prancing feet;
- And the shrieks of the flying, and the prayers of the dying,
70 As they rolled on their gory bed,
- And the soldier's start at the sound of the dart,
- As it whistled past his head;
- And the clash of the sword, and the gathering word,
- And the groans of wounded men,
- And the voices loud of the struggling crowd
- Re-echoed along the glen.
- The pirate chieftain sprang to horse,
- He spared nor spur nor whip;
- He dashed o'er many a comrade's corse,
80 And gained his anchored ship.
- The bold Sir Hugh has followed him
- All through his desperate course;
- As, straining every nerve and limb,
- He spurred his flying horse.
- And now his daring foot he placed
- Upon the pirate's barge;
- And from his arm, in desperate haste,
- He cast his cumb'rous targe.
- A moment—in his mighty hand
90 His sword was gleaming high;
- The leader of the rover band
- Upon the deck doth lie.
- Another moment—and the grasp
- Of that fell pirate bold
- Relaxes—and his dying gasp
- His soul's departure told.
- And there he stood, that noble knight,
- Faint from the dubious fray;
- While bloody from the recent fight
100 His sword beside him lay.
- Is it th' illusion of a dream,
- Or weakness of his sight?
- When from the vessel there doth seem
- To rise a lady bright.
- She threw her trembling at his feet,
- And clasped his knees in fear;
- While down her countenance so sweet
- There rolled full many a tear.
- Sir Hugh he gently o'er her leant,
110 And asked her of her name,
- And by what fatal accident
- 'Mongst those fierce men she came.
- “I spring from a right noble stock,
- And Beatrice my name:
- My mansion on the castled rock
- To me by lineage came.
- “These rovers bore me from those walls
- Far o'er the distant main;
- And far from those ancestral halls
120 I ne'er must see again.
- “They rased my castle to the plain,
- Such was my adverse fate:
- My aged father they have slain,
- And left me desolate.”
- She said no more—with heaving breast
- She wept aloud and sighed:
- Her sobs her anxious fears expressed,
- While thus the knight replied.
- “Lady, I pray, thy grief dispel,
130 Yon fortress strong is mine,
- Where thou shalt be received well
- As doth befit thy line.”
- He took her gently by the hand,
- And raised her from the ground;
- When there approached his little band
- With drums' and trumpets' sound.
- A knight advanced towards the sea,
- Sir Aymer was his name;
- The cousin of Sir Hugh was he,
140 A knight of noble fame.
- “Kinsman,” he said,
“it was but now
- I saw thee dealing death,
- With flashing eyes and burning brow,
- In fury on the heath.
- “And now I find thee with this maid,
- A stranger to our race;
- The slaughter of thy foemen staid
- To gaze upon her face.”
- Sir Hugh replied not, but he led
150 The lady up the hill,
- And quickly to his castle sped,
- Where she was safe from ill.
- They brought the spoils into the hall,
- In presence of the knight,
- But there was none he prized of all
- Like to that lady bright.
Transcribed Footnote (page 8):
END OF PART THE FIRST.
- There is the bugle in Heron Hall,
- And buckling spur and brand,
- And banners snatched from off the wall
160 To wave in a foreign land.
- And many a noble lord was there,
- And many a lady bright,
- Who had come to speak a parting word
- To her own devoted knight.
- And the trampling chargers pawed the ground,
- And neighed impatiently,
- And the trumpet's brazen voice was heard,
- And it sounded cheerily.
- And the armour rang, and the soldiers sprang
170 To horse right merrily,
- And they laughed aloud in blithesome mood,
- And they whistled joyously.
- And the sun was bright with his glorious light,
- And he cheered the little band,
- And his beams did glance on every lance,
- And gilded every brand.
- And e'en the stern Sir Aymer smiled,
- And smoothed his brow of gloom,
- As the soft breeze kissed his rugged cheek,
180 And tossed his dancing plume.
- Hugh Heron bent him from his steed,
- And his face was ghastly pale,
- And the sunbeams shone his helm upon,
- And flashed against his mail.
- And he stooped him near to his kinsman's ear,
- And took his armed hand,
- And, “I go,” he said,
“with my banners spread,
- To fight in a hostile land.
- “My love for Lady Beatrice
190 Thou hast not yet to learn,
- Nor how she is to be my bride
- Upon my safe return.
- “I leave her in thy hands, my friend,
- See thou protect her well,
- And let not word, nor thought, nor act
- Against thy charge rebel.
- “But if foully thou betray the trust
- Of thy friend beyond the sea,
- The winds as they moan shall find a tone
200 And bear the news to me.”
- Thus saying, from the fortalice
- His footsteps quick he wound:
- “He's gone,” sobbed Lady Beatrice,
- And fainted on the ground.
- And oft she would mount to the rampart high
- Which looked across the sea,
- And there she would watch the live long day,
- And she watched right patiently.
- And if she espied a coming sail
- Her sorrow disappeared,
- And she placed a light on the castle height,
210 For she thought her prayers were heard;
- And she would gaze with an anxious eye,
- Till it vanished o'er the main,
- And then her tears would flow once more,
- When she found her hopes were vain.
- One day she sat on the battlements,
- And her heart was sick with care,
- And her spirits sank within her breast,
- She felt so lonely there.
- And there came the plaintive sound of a harp,
220 And a knock at the outer gate:
- “A minstrel, maid,” Sir Aymer said,
- “For speech with thee doth wait.”
- He came—a venerable man,
- With tedious travel worn;
- He wandered from a Scottish clan,
- His garments soiled and torn.
- He sang of knights' and ladies' love,
- Of tournament and dance;
- What knight the best his truth did prove,
230 Who couched the strongest lance.
- “No more of this,” the lady said,
- “Tell me of mortal fight;
- What warriors yielded up their breath,
- And deemed the pain but light
- “Compared to glorious victory
- O'er their oppressive foes;
- And there were proud that death to die,
- To end their country's woes.”
- The colour mantled to her cheek,
240 Her voice it rose full high;
- And when the bard began to speak,
- A tear was in her eye.
- “Lady,” he said, “I
know of one,
- Lord of these lands so wide;
- He saved my bold and only son,
- While fighting by his side.”
- “Tell me of him,” exclaimed the fair,
- “Him whom I love so well!”
- And to a bold and martial air,
250 His voice began to swell.
- Towards the fatal field of Barnet*
- Who fierce onwards spurs his steed?
- Habited in sable harness,
- Soon, alas! too soon to bleed!
Transcribed Footnote (page (12)):
* The battle of Barnet, at which the Lancastrians sus-
signal defeat, was fought on Easter Day, April
14, 1471. I have
caused the minstrel to commit the
mistake of representing Sir
Hugh as falling in this battle,
in order to apprise the reader
that his tale is a fabrication;
our hero being in France at the time.
- Forward prances bold his courser,
- Proudly tossing high his head;
- And his hoofs, as on he gallops,
- Seem to spurn the earth they tread.
- What arrests thine onward progress,
260 Madly rushing towards thy fate?
- Lo! a minstrel, old and hoary,
- Riseth up from where he sate.
- Backward starts th' affrighted charger;
- Clutched the knight his trusty brand:
- Wildly sounds that old man's lyre,
- Touched by some unearthly hand.
- Turn thee back, ere yet too late;
- Tempt not, rashly bold, thy fate:
- Dread the spell, and dread the tomb,
270Warrior of the Heron Plume.
- Many a knight on yonder field
- Sword and spear shall cease to wield:
- Many a one who scorned to yield
- 'Mid heaps of dead shall lie concealed,
- Pillowed on his shattered shield:
- Many a widow while she kneels
- Loud shall curse yon hated field,
- Where, lying amid blood congealed,
- Her much loved husband's fate was sealed
280 On Barnet's gory plain.
- There shall fall full many a knight
- In that most disastrous fight;
- Many a man of martial might
- Yonder shall to death be dight.
- Sounds shall rise upon the night,
- Sounds of that fierce battle's height.
- 'Tis revealed to my sight
- That, ere rise the morning light,
- Fallen in the cause of right
290 Shall many warriors lie.
- And thou shalt fall among the slain;
- The haughty victors shall not deign
- One glance upon thy dying pain:
- Thou, who had'st hoped thy spurs to gain,
- And whilst around thee blows did rain
- Thy firm position to retain,
- And from the sword of some proud Thane
- To save thy Prince upon that plain:
- Proud hopes, alas! but all in vain,
300 For thou shalt also fall.
- Then turn back, ere yet too late;
- Tempt not, rashly bold, thy fate;
- Dread the spell and dread the tomb,
- Warrior of the Heron Plume.
- Ceased that wild unearthly warning,
- Sunk the minstrel's upraised hand;
- Pallid grew the knight with anger,
- Glittering sparkled forth his brand.
- “From my path, thou doting wizard!
310 Tempt not England's sons to dread!
- Think not, by thy lying presage,
- Thus to stay me,” fierce he said.
- Wrapped the bard his mantle round him,
- But his visage showed no fear;
- Slowly, faintly, indistinctly,
- 'Gan his form to disappear.
- Round him glanced the knight in wonder,
- But no object meets his eye;
- Then, with rash and headstrong courage,
320 Onward spurs his horse to fly.
- There is strife on bloody Barnet,
- After evening spreads her shade;
- Warriors join, in deadly struggle,
- Sounding shield and clashing blade.
- Round the corpse of fallen Warwick
- Clusters many a friendly band,
- Proud to save their slaughtered leader
- From th' insulting victor's hand.
- Onward press the conquering Yorkists,
330 Flushed with triumph and with rage;
- Still their foes, unyielding, fearless,
- The unequal warfare wage.
- Forward sweeps the mighty Edward,
- Laying low full many a man;
- And the bloody minded Richard,
- Fighting boldly in the van.
- Dreadful with their upraised axes,
- On that mighty torrent sped:
- The Lancastrians, faint and weary,
340 Breathing still defiance, fled.
- Downward on their sinking foemen
- Fierce th' exultant victors swayed:
- Ah! how many wretched widows
- Has that fearful slaughter made!
- Still, amid the falling squadrons,
- Boldly fighting, stands a knight;
- Still he faintly shouts his war cry,
- Gory is his armour bright.
- Fierce he wields his fatal weapon
350 'Mid that scene of blood and gloom;
- O'er his helm, in fallen grandeur,
- Droops the lordly heron plume.
- With his few surviving comrades
- Bold he makes one final charge;
- Desp'rate casts aside the weapons
- With his strong and trusty targe.
- Round them close their vengeful foemen,
- Raising high their glittering blades:
- Ah! alas! that fatal onslaught
360 Has dismissed their daring shades.
- Light hath dawned on bloody Barnet,
- Gilding shattered sword and shield:
- War horse fall'n and breathless rider
- Lie upon that fatal field.
- There amid his butchered vassals,
- Grasping yet his shattered brand,
- Lies a knight; but fixed his features,
- Powerless his mighty hand.
- It is he who scorned the warning
370 Of that hoary minstrel seer!
- May his fate, so drear and awful,
- Strike his haughty race with fear!
- Far from his ancestral towers
- Lies Sir Hugh the Heron bold;
- Solely through his rash rejection
- Of that prophet minstrel old.
- Her bosom heaved—her heart beat high;
- She gave her smothered sorrows vent;
- And to her chamber, with a sigh,
380 Her tottering footsteps faintly bent.
Transcribed Footnote (page (17)):
END OF PART THE SECOND.
- At the hour of drear midnight
- In yon chamber burns a flame,
- Through the darkness glittering bright,
- Lighting “deeds without a name.”
- 'Tis the time when on the earth
- Oft malignant fiends alight,
- Revelling in demon mirth;
- 'Tis the dread Walpurgis night.
- Fanning oft their flickering blaze,
390By those embers sits a man;
- Fixed on them his earnest gaze,
- Pale his haggard face and wan.
- Round the chamber there are spread
- Books of magic and of art;
- Words were writ there, which, 'twas said,
- Would restore the faithless heart:
- Talismans of wondrous might—
- Many a spell and amorous charm—
- Philtres too, which, swift as light,
400Would the coldest bosom warm.
Transcribed Footnote (page (18)):
† The incidents of this Part are supposed to take
at the storming of a town during the French wars.
- Sudden from his task he starts—
- Hark! the sound of armed feet!
- Round a hasty glance he darts,
- With the fear of death replete.
- Through the chamber as he gazed,
- Entered there an armed knight;
- Quick his visor he hath raised,
- Breathless from the mortal fight.
- Rich his arms with sculptured gold,
410Soiled and dim with many a stain;
- Well his gory pole-axe told
- Of the lives of foemen slain.
- Many a blow that morn had rung
- On his dinted shield and crest;
- Stained with blood his surcoat hung,
- Thrown across his armed breast.
- “Show me quickly,” fierce he cried,
- “My domains and feudal halls;
- Let me see my promised bride,
420Lone within the castle walls.”
- Forth the seer has stretched his hand,
- Muttering some unholy name;
- Tracing circles with his wand,
- Words from out his lips there came.
- Fiercely stamping on the ground,
- Loudly on the fiend he calls:
- Answering low, a distant sound
- On his anxious ear there falls.
- Then upon the stony floor
530Quick his potent wand he cast:
- With a hushed and far-off roar,
- Through that chamber swept a blast.
- And upon that blast there came
- Words of more than mortal might:
- Straight that ample room became
- Darker than the blackest night.
- Now the darkness partly clears,
- And, where lately nought had been,
- There a mirror vast appears,
630Of the brightest crystal sheen.
- Eager gazed the armed knight
- On that glassy surface clear;
- Dubious in the varying light,
- Figures indistinct appear.
- Backward starts the bold Sir Hugh
- As those misty objects glide:
- What he saw that wizard knew,
- But no mortal soul beside.
- Echoing rolls the distant thunder;
640Lightning flashes, pelts the hail:
- From the murky clouds, the demons
- Loudly laugh, blaspheme, and wail.
- Lo! where wildly, madly rushes
- O'er the heath yon armed form!
- Dashing through the entangled bushes;
- Heedless of the raging storm.
- Bright his burnished armour flashes,
- Ruddy in the lightning's glare:
- Loudly screams the startled eagle,
650Frighted from his rocky lair.
- O'er the now dismantled barrier
- Of the smoke-enshrouded walls,
- Where some wretch, disarmed and wounded,
- Faintly yet for mercy calls:
- Where yon helpless maiden, flying
- From some heartless villain's chase,
- Plunges 'midst the blazing ruins,
- Better than his foul embrace:
- Through these scenes of blood and carnage
660Fierce the knight pursued his way;
- Under his resistless weapon
- Many a foeman bleeding lay.
- Swift he passed the burning city,
- Leaving many a corpse behind;
- And embarked for merry England,
- Favoured by a friendly wind.
Transcribed Footnote (page (21)):
END OF PART THE THIRD.
- Her eye gazed wildly on the cross; her thoughts were far away;
- Unheeded o'er her marble cheek the tear-drops found their way;
- Her listless fingers o'er her beads mechanically dart,
670But a fire was burning in her brain, and the worm was at her heart.
- And he was dead! the only tie that bound her yet to earth:
he was dead! and all her hopes had withered
in the birth:
- More frequent were her stifled sobs, and deep-drawn came her breath,
- And she felt a sickness at the heart, and a longing after death.
- And in this world she was alone; this world so vast and wide!
- To run her solitary course, with none her steps to guide:
- Yes, there was one; and now to him she raised her streaming eyes,
- And she felt her drooping soul rejoice, and her sinking spirits rise.
- She prayed that still she might pursue the straight and narrow path,
680Though fallen was her only friend, and desolate her hearth:
- And that she might be brought to
him, and might
with him be blest,
- “Where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary
are at rest.”
- Poor Beatrice! she little thought that he might not be dead,
- Nor dreamt she of the rising storm that gathered round her head;
- She little thought that unto her, her guardian might incline,
- Nor dreamt she that the tale she heard might favour his design.
- Anon she heard an armed tread sound from the corridor,
- Which stayed not in its onward course till it reached her chamber door;
- And hastily she sat her down, and her panting heart beat high,
690As she heard Sir Aymer access beg, and gave him her reply.
- But now she starts to see him kneel, beseeching at her feet;
- The pressure of his hand to feel; his earnest gaze to meet.
- “Ah! pardon,” cried th'
empassioned knight, “the fault† thy charms dictate;
- And do not with one fearful blight for ever seal my fate.”
- The lady checked the rising tear; “Thy knighthood do
- Betray not thus that friendship dear reposed in thee in vain.
- Bethink thee of thy kinsman's love thou would'st so foully mar,
- The while his loyalty to prove he fights in climes afar.
- “And dread that kinsman's wrathful mood, if he return
700Defeated thus his fond desire; his hopes deceived in thee.”
- In vain she pleads; his brawny arm her waist encircled round;
- The lady raised, in dire alarm, her voice with fearful sound.
- “Fair Beatrice,” exclaimed the knight,
“your cries are heard by none;
- With horse and hound to the blythe greenwood my followers are gone;
- Two trusty vassals only, love, are left to guard the door,
- While their comrades bold, o'er the trackless wold, hunt down the
- “Lady, I love thee to excess; oh yield to my desire!
- Lady, the passion in my breast is like a raging fire—
- And though rivals were thick as the acorns are, and with mail
were covered o'er,
710I'd make the pass good, as a noble should, and as oft I've done before.
- “Perchance you have forgot that night, when the mirth
was loud and long,
- And the hall so bright was a blaze of light, and time sped fast along,
- When all our nobles danced and sang, and the wassail bowl passed round,
- And you mocked at me, as I sat apart, with my eyes bent on the ground.
Transcribed Footnote (page (23)):
† Sir Aymer is supposed, in the interval indicated by the
asterisks, to have
disclosed to Beatrice the little
ruse de guerre which he had employed.
- “'Twas my hopeless love which made me then sit silent
- (Since I saw thee, fair Beatrice, my time has sadly flown:)
- Then come unto these arms, dear love, and yield thee to my prayer,
- And show that thou art kind, dear love, as kind as thou art fair.”
- He cast his arm around her waist; he pressed her to his side;
720He held her in his powerful grasp although she loudly cried:—
730But hark! sure 'twas the clash of arms resounding from the shore!
- He let go the maid, and forth gleamed his blade, as he hurried
towards the door.
- The heron plume waved o'er his brow; his sword was in his hand;
- He pointed to his kinsman's blade with a gesture of command:
- But fixed upon Hugh Heron was Sir Aymer's vacant stare;
- He seemed not yet to comprehend that truly
- “Turn, recreant knight and faithless friend; turn, ere
I strike thee dead;
- Turn, ere my lawful vengeance fall upon thine impious head.”
- They fought, till from their polished mail the blood came
- But still they combatted unmoved, and their swords went whirling round.
740Sir Hugh has made a furious thrust, and grazed his kinsman's arm,
- And from the wound, though small to sight, the blood came
- Then fainter grew the wounded knight, till broken was his sword,
- And from his injured kinsman he received his just reward.
- Then stepped the knight to the lady bright, and took her
- “I knew thy danger, Beatrice, while yet in a far land:
- And the first sound that I heard, love, when to my halls I came,
- Was thy voice, love, raised in agony, and calling on my name.”
Transcribed Footnote (page (24)):