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Anna Jane Vardill

Roderic’s Dream

A Sixth Tradition of Tabby-Hall

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 the waning Baal-fire’s gleam—
A boat lies in a cavern’s cleft
Of oar and sail and rudder ’reft;
That spectre-form has seiz’d the prow,
And glides beneath the mountain’s brow
To yon green isle, whose sedges lave
Their lilies in Ierne’s wave—*
But once within the circling year
It rises on its crystal bier,
And ere one summer moonbeam’s wane,
It sinks beneath the wave again;
None but the spectres of the dead
Upon that lonely island tread!

Shall wand’ring shades of night beguile
Red Roderic to the 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 passing 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 wither’d 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 unpitied pangs I gave
My lov’d one to the coming wave;
But thy red falchion shall not tear
His beauteous breast and silken hair—
Think of thy mother’s heart, and press
To thine his infant loveliness;—
O’Donnel’s first-born 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!—Red Roderic’s ear
Feasts on that sound—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 bright-hair’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 hatred’s boon!—thine eyes
Gaze on a brief and shadowy prize;
A prize than dust and ashes less—
Vain, cold, sepulchral nothingness!
Such are the trophies that await
Untam’d Revenge and lurking 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 boundless 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 O’Donnel 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.


* This singular isle, which is visible only one day a year, lies near the mountains of Donnegal.

The European Magazine, Vol. 69, June 1816, pp. 544-545