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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Old Castle

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

THE GRAY arch crumbles,

And totters and tumbles;

The bat has built in the banquet hall:

In the donjon-keep

Sly mosses creep;

The ivy has scaled the southern wall:

No man-at-arms

Sounds quick alarms

A-top of the cracked martello tower:

The drawbridge-chain

Is broken in twain—

The bridge will neither rise nor lower.

Not any manner

Of broidered banner

Flaunts at a blazoned herald’s call.

Lilies float

In the stagnant moat;

And fair they are, and tall.

Here, in the old

Forgotten springs,

Was wassail held by queens and kings;

Here at the board

Sat clown and lord,

Maiden fair and lover bold,

Baron fat and minstrel lean,

The prince with his stars,

The knight with his scars,

The priest in his gabardine.

Where is she

Of the fleur-de-lys,

And that true knight who wore her gages?

Where are the glances

That bred wild fancies

In curly heads of my lady’s pages?

Where are those

Who, in steel or hose,

Held revel here, and made them gay?

Where is the laughter

That shook the rafter—

Where is the rafter, by the way?

Gone is the roof,

And perched aloof

Is an owl, like a friar of Orders Gray.

(Perhaps ’tis the priest

Come back to feast—

He had ever a tooth for capon, he!

But the capon’s cold,

And the steward’s old,

And the butler’s lost the larder key!)

The doughty lords

Sleep the sleep of swords.

Dead are the dames and damozels.

The King in his crown

Hath laid him down,

And the Jester with his bells.

All is dead here:

Poppies are red here,

Vines in my lady’s chamber grow—

If ’twas her chamber

Where they clamber

Up from the poisonous weeds below.

All is dead here,

Joy is fled here;

Let us hence. ’Tis the end of all—

The gray arch crumbles,

And totters, and tumbles,

And Silence sits in the banquet hall.