Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 10/Legend of the Castle of Monetier

here summer sunshine lends its softest smile,
And Mont Salève lifts his scarr'd brow toward Heaven,
There is a long-deserted feudal pile,
To ruthless ruin given.

Beneath the precipice on which it stands,
Like a gray warder endless vigil keeping,
Geneva, like mosaic in gold bands,
By Leman's side lies sleeping.

No hardy flower, no clinging ivy trains
A kindly leaf to veil its broken arches;
Of all its garden bowers no trace remains,
Save some poor stunted larches.

Upon its ancient gate, midst rime and rust,
As a fit comment on its fearful story,
Some cunning hand, long gone to mouldering dust,
Graved "Nasci, pati, mori."

The moss-grown ruins[1] of its massive wall
Teaches the littleness of man's ambition;
But of its ancient glory and its fall,
Speaks only grey tradition.

This saith, that in the olden, feudal times
It was the stronghold of a warlike baron,
Whose ghost, condemned for unrepented crimes,
Still haunts the Styx with Charon.

He loved a noble lady of the land,
With eyes like summer twilight, blue and starry,
Tresses like braided sunshine, lily hand—
Gentle, bewitching fairy.

He loved her with a heart that could fulfil
Its wildest purpose in the hour of trial,
And sought her with the stubborn, lawless will
That never brook'd denial.

But the fair lady was the promised bride
Of one who wore the cross of a crusader—
Who gave his heart to lovely Linneleid,
His sword to the invader.

And he, Sir Athold, was at danger's post—
The colours of his lady waving o'er him;
The bravest leaders of the Paynim host
Falling like grass before him.

Long, but in vain, the warlike baron woo'd;
The lady still was cold in word and bearing;
But in those cloudy times the world was rude,
And chieftain lovers daring.

And to compel what love could never gain,
He sallied forth with many an armed vassal;
Surprised the lady, put to flight her train,
And bore her to his castle.

And there, midst waving torches, gleaming swords,
And iron hearts that never deign'd to falter,
And priestly mockery of holy words,
He led her to the altar.

She buried then the hopes of all life's years—
Her cruel anguish brook'd not to be spoken;
Despair dried up the fountain of her tears—
Her gentle heart was broken.

Yet there was breath upon her pallid lips,
And light beneath her blue-vein'd eyelids gleaming;
Hers was not life, nor death, but that eclipse
Which the soul knows in dreaming.

She sat in her lone tower, in vague repose,
Her sad gaze fix'd upon the distant mountains,
And yet she did not see their winter snows,
Nor hear their summer fountains.

Heart, mind, and soul with one fond thought were rife;
One blessed image mock'd her soul's endeavour,
It was the only star of her young life,
Distant and dimm'd for ever.

****

Night crown'd the mountains with pale coronals,
And moonbeams trembled down through Leman's waters,
To light the coral bowers and fairy halls
Of Undine's fair-hair'd daughters.

But ho, there was a cry, a trumpet blast,
The castle's sleepy sentinels alarming!
Wild words from pallid lips, that spoke their last;
Shrieks, groans, and hurried arming.

They rallied, mann'd the ramparts; but too late!
The baron's furious life-blood dyed the paving,
And soon, from lofty tower and massive gate,
The blood-red cross was waving.

With fainting heart the lady heard that cry—
Sir Athold's voice through the still night-air driven;
She could not live to meet his alter'd eye—
And—pity her, O Heaven!

The fight was over, and Sir Athold gone
To seek his lady-love in hall and tower;
The lamp burn'd in her turret-chamber lone;—
Where was she, in that hour?

He breathed her name with loving words, in vain;
She heard him not, and there was no replying,
Save the sad night-wind through the lattice pane,
Mournfully sobbing, sighing.

They sought her with swift feet, above, below,—
They call'd her with wild words, but unavailing;
And morning found them hurrying to and fro,
Their brave hearts faint and failing.

At length a peasant came, with wild dismay,
And hurried words of most terrific meaning—
There was a lady dead, a little way
From where he had been gleaning.

And on the sands, where two deep ravines meet,
Half hidden by the pine-plumes waving round her;
Below her lattice full five hundred feet,
Pale as the snows they found her.

O, slowly, slowly toll'd the solemn knell,
As many a gallant knight and wondering vassal
Wound with the black pall up Pas-de-1'Echelle,[2]
And bore her to the castle.

With tearful eyes they made her grave apart—
With loving hands they laid the cross above her;
And there the lady of the broken heart
Sleeps with her noble lover.

But there are those who, on a certain night,
Deem they can hear a wail—a low, wild weeping;
And see a lady, in a robe of white,
From that same lattice leaping.

The brave Sir Athold went not forth again
To tread the warrior's dizzy path of glory—
But, as he liv'd, had suffered, loved in vain,
Wrote, "Nasci, pati, mori."

Sarah T. Bolton.
Indianapolis, Indiana.


  1. Many English tourists will remember with pleasure the ruin to which this legend belongs. It was situated on the verge of a towering precipice of Mont Salève, and looked from Geneva, Switzerland, like an eagle's eyrie hung between heaven and earth. Engraved on the arch of one of its gateways, and covered with the rust of centuries, were the words—"Nasci, pati, mori!" In 1857, some enterprising vandal built a hotel on the site of this interesting ruin, and frightened away the spirit of its romance for ever.
  2. A narrow rocky pathway leading from the valley to the site of the Castle of Monetier, or Château de l'Hermitage, as it was formerly called.