The Golden Violet with its Tales of Romance and Chivalry and Other Poems/The Haunted Lake

    Sunny and blue was the minstrel's eye,
Like the lake when noontide is passing by;
And his hair fell down in its golden rings,
As bright and as soft as his own harp-strings,

Yet with somewhat wild upon lip and cheek,
As forth the enthusiast spirit would break
To wander at times through earth and air,
And feed upon all the wonders there.
A changeful prelude his light notes rung,
As remembering all they had ever sung:
Now the deep numbers rolled along,
Like the fiery sweep of a battle song;
Now sad, yet bold, as those numbers gave
Their last farewell to the victor's grave;
Then was it soft and low, as it brought
The depths of the maiden's lovelorn thought:—
Harp of Erin! hath song a tone
Not to thy gifted numbers known?—
But the latest touch was light and calm,
As the voice of a hymn, the night-falling balm;

Holy and sweet, as its music were given
Less from a vision of earth than of heaven.



Rose up the young moon; back she flung
The veil of clouds that o'er her hung:
Thus would fair maiden fling aside
Her bright curls in her golden pride;
On pass'd she through the sky of blue,
Lovelier as she pass'd it grew;
At last her gentle smiles awake
The silence of the azure lake.
Lighted to silver, waves arise,
As conscious of her radiant eyes.

Hark! floats around it music's tone,
Sweeter than mortal ear hath known:
Such, when the sighing night-wind grieves
Amid the rose's ruby leaves,
Conscious the nightingale is nigh,
    That too soon his reluctant wing
Must rival song and rival sigh
    To his own fair flower bring;
Such as the lute, touch'd by no hand
    Save by an angel's, wakes and weeps,
Such is the sound that now to land
    From the charmed water sweeps.
Around the snowy foam-wreaths break,
The spirit band are on the lake.
First, a gay train form'd of the hues
Of morning skies and morning dews;

A saffron-light around them play'd,
As eve's last cloud with them delay'd;
Such tints, when gazing from afar,
The dazed eye sees in midnight star.
They scatter'd flowers, and the stream
    Grew like a garden, each small billow
Shining with the crimson gleam
    The young rose flung upon its pillow;
And from their hands, and from their hair,
Blossoms and odours fill'd the air;
And some of them bore wreathed shells,
Blush-dyed, from their coral cells,
Whence the gale at twilight brought
The earliest lesson music caught:
And gave they now the sweetest tone,
That unto sea-born lyre was known;

For they were echoes to the song
    That from spirit lips was fleeting,
And the wind bears no charm along
    Such as the shell and voices meeting.
On pass'd they to the lulling tune,
Meet pageant for the lady moon.
A louder sweep the music gave:
The chieftain of the charmed wave,
Graceful upon his steed of snow,
Rises from his blue halls below;
And rode he like a victor knight
Thrice glorious in his arms of light.
But, oh! the look his features bear
Was not what living warriors wear;
The glory of his piercing eye
Was not that of mortality;

Earth's cares may not such calm allow,
Man's toil is written on his brow:
But here the face was passionless,
The holy peace of happiness,
With that grave pity spirits feel
In watching over human weal;
An awful beauty round him shone
But for the good to look upon.
Close by his side a maiden rode,
Like spray her white robe round her flow'd;
No rainbow hues about her clung,
Such as the other maidens flung;
And her hair hath no summer crown,
But its long tresses floating down
Are like a veil of gold which cast
A sunshine to each wave that past.

She was not like the rest: her cheek
    Was pale and pure as moonlight snows;
Her lip had only the faint streak
    The bee loves in the early rose;
And her dark eye had not the blue
    The others had clear, wild, and bright;
But floating starry, as it drew
    Its likeness from the radiant night
And more she drew my raised eye
Than the bright shadows passing by;
A meeker air, a gentler smile,
A timid tenderness the while,
Held sympathy of heart, and told
The lady was of earthly mould.
Blush'd the first blush of coming day,
Faded the fairy band away.

They pass'd and only left behind
A lingering fragrance on the wind,
And on the lake, their haunted home,
One long white wreath of silver foam.
Heard I in each surrounding vale
What was that mortal maiden's tale:
Last of her race, a lonely flower,
She dwelt within their ruin'd tower.
Orphan without one link to bind
Nature's affection to her kind;
She grew up a neglected child,
As pure, as beautiful, as wild
As the field flowers which were for years
Her only comrades and compeers.
Time pass'd, and she, to woman grown,
Still, like a wood bird, dwelt alone.

Save that, beside a peasant's hearth,
Tales of the race which gave her birth
Would sometimes win the maiden's ear;
And once, in a worst hour of fear,
When the red fever raged around,
Her place beside the couch was found
Of sickness, and her patient care,
And soothing look, and holy prayer,
And skill in herbs, had power sublime
Upon the sufferer's weary time:
But, saving these, her winter day
Was pass'd within the ruins grey;
And ever summer noons were spent
    Beside the charmed lake, and there
Her voice its silver sweetness sent
    To mingle with the air.

Thus time pass'd on. At length, one day
Beside her favourite haunt she lay,
When rush'd some band who wish'd to make
Her prisoner for her beauty's sake.

She saw them ere they gain'd her seat,
    Ah! safety may she gain?
Though mountain deer be not more fleet,
    Yet here flight is in vain.
The lake—oh, it is there to save!
She plunges—is it to a grave?
Moons waned; again is come the night
When sprites are free for earthly sight.
They see the mortal maiden ride
In honour by the chieftain's side,
So beautiful, so free from sin,
Worthy was she such boon to win:

The spirit race that floated round
Were not more pure, more stainless found;
Her utmost loveliness and grace
Were sole signs of her human race;
Happy, thus freed from earthly thrall,
She skims the lake, fairest of all.