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Anna Jane Vardill

The Keep of Windsor Castle

A Fragment from Tradition

James I. of Scotland was imprisoned here by Henry IV. His attachment to Lady Jane Beaufort, which began in the arbour within the castle-court, is described in his own poem written during his captivity.

And in that Keep there was a grass-grown court,
 Around with hawthorns and trim bushes knit
Wherein the breezes and sweetbirds made sport,
 When the wan moonlight was for lovers fit;
 And there all lonely would the captive sit
Tempting his idle lute to melody,
Or asking his sad heart—“How far is hope from thee?”

Lowly a voice replied—“There is a grief
 Deeper than jocund youth’s captivity;
For Solitude has solace, and the leaf
 Of healthful hope may deck a rugged tree
 That grows upon a barren sepulchre:
But never more shall golden blossom stay
On the lone branch that cankers waste away.

“Full many an abhorr’d and weary year
 This tower’s dark rampart hath thy prison been—
Yet deem them not unblest, for love hath here
 Kept in thy heart one spot of freshness green,
 Like the sweet bower these stony bounds within:
Watch well that spot—till such a bower began,
Eden was not the paradise of Man.

“I am like thee a King—and golden piles
 Of hoarded wealth swell in my treasury,
Enough to win thy envious kinsmen’s smiles,
 And bend the sturdiest rebel’s iron knee,
 For gold alone buys courtiers’ courtesy:—
I grieve not that my gold can buy their grace,
But that a king should need a toy so base.

“I was an Exile once, and cowards deem’d
 The sun was sunk because he met a cloud;
And they were dazzled when his glory beam’d,
 Turning to purple robes his mourning shroud:
 But while the cloud was near, the traitors bow’d
To them whose light in my eclipse begun,
As petty stars look forth when darkness blots the sun.

“Avails it aught that now my victor-hand
 Can beckon flatterers to my footstool’s side?
That round my regal chair the recreants stand.
 Crouching to kiss the sceptre of my pride,
 And strewing flowers their serpent-track to hide?—
No flowers a monarch’s gilded yoke adorn,
But such as Chance may blast, and Power should scorn.

“Oh! it is not for wasted days I pine,
 Nor for my slander’d youth’s long banishment,
Nor for the wand of power so coldly mine,
 It seemeth but a thorn in malice rent
 From its right root to wound my heart’s content:—
My foes I scorn and tread on, but my woe
Is the cold hollowness of friends to know.

“To seek the baubles—yet to see they lie
 Too low to purchase e’en with gilded dust;
In aching loneliness of heart to sigh
 Even for the comforter it dares not trust;
 For though it knows the bane, the tired heart must
Gasp for some nectar-drop—Oh! who can guess
Famine more dire in life’s long wilderness?

“Avails it that the noble victim scorns
 To trample on the asp that caused his smart?
Avails it that he spurns his bed of thorns,
 And bids the earth-worm to its cell depart?—
 Alas! it lingers still—with cruel art
Stealing the life-juice of the generous breast,
As reptiles blast the core wherein they rest.

“When centuries have hid my race in dust
 These walls shall captive hold a nobler One;
His name shall be the Gracious and the Just,
 The Father of an Empire which the sun
 Scarce measures when his summer-course is run—
Yet Grief shall crush him, and his royal state
Shall be a prison-couch by pomp made desolate.

“His race shall bloom around him while his soul
 Lies in its dark and frozen mansion dead;
His ear shall know no voice, and years shall roll
 Their snows unheeded on his fallen head,
 As the dim winter-clouds in silence shed
Their silver on the slumbering Saint that lies
Hid in the Palace of eternal ice.[1]

“His is a glorious prison, for his seat
 Is curtain’d round by clouds from mortal sight;
The four winds sing his anthem, and his feet
 Rest on a pavement all of crystal bright,
 Rubies and amber and rich crysolite;
And rainbows gorgeous in as shining dyes,
Mount from the floods to be his canopies.

“His porch is of a thousand columns made,
 Each an eternal rock:—his proud roof swells
Up to the sky, with silver heaps o’erlaid;
 And giant-mountains are his sentinels:
 But there in solitary pomp he dwells—
As cold in joyless splendor is the doom
Of him whose mouldering heart is but a tomb.

“Smile, then, and rest—Captivity is bliss
 If Hope awakes thee with her angel voice;
Thou know’st not yet the lone heart’s miseries
 If thou canst in thy Brother Man rejoice,
 And of love’s roses make thy trusting choice:
Ask only this of heaven—it cannot give
More, than in faith and hope and love to live.”


  1. A colossal human figure is still seen at an elevation of 5000 feet, in one of the most superb and inaccessible mountains of Switzerland. 

The European Magazine, Vol. 79, May 1821, pp. 457-458