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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Cumnor Hall

William Julius Mickle (1735–1788)

THE DEWS of summer night did fall;

The moon, sweet regent of the sky,

Silvered the walls of Cumnor Hall,

And many an oak that grew thereby.

Now nought was heard beneath the skies—

The sounds of busy life were still—

Save an unhappy lady’s sighs,

That issued from that lonely pile.

‘Leicester,’ she cried, ‘is this thy love

That thou so oft hast sworn to me,

To leave me in this lonely grove,

Immured in shameful privity?

‘No more thou com’st with lover’s speed,

Thy once-belovèd bride to see;

But be she alive, or be she dead,

I fear, stern Earl, ’s the same to thee.

‘Not so the usage I received

When happy in my father’s hall:

No faithless husband then me grieved;

No chilling fears did me appall.

‘I rose up with the cheerful morn,

No lark more blithe, no flower more gay,

And, like the bird that haunts the thorn,

So merrily sang the livelong day.

‘If that my beauty is but small,

Among court ladies all despised;

Why didst thou rend it from that hall,

Where, scornful Earl, it well was prized?

‘And when you to me first made suit,

How fair I was you oft would say!

And proud of conquest, plucked the fruit,

Then left the blossom to decay.

‘Yes, now neglected and despised,

The rose is pale, the lily’s dead;

But he that once their charms so prized

Is, sure, the cause those charms are dead.

‘For know, when sick’ning grief doth prey,

And tender love’s repaid with scorn,

The sweetest beauty will decay:

What floweret can endure the storm?

‘At court, I’m told, is beauty’s throne,

Where every lady’s passing rare;

That eastern flowers that shame the sun

Are not so glowing, not so fair.

‘Then, Earl, why didst thou leave the bed

Where roses and where lilies vie,

To seek a primrose, whose pale shade

Must sicken when those gauds are by?

‘’Mong rural beauties I was one—

Among the fields wild flowers are fair;

Some country swain might me have won,

And thought my beauty passing rare.

‘But, Leicester, or I much am wrong,

Or ’tis not beauty lures thy vows;

Rather ambition’s gilded crown

Makes thee forget thy humble spouse.

‘Then, Leicester, why again I plead—

The injured surely may repine—

Why didst thou wed a country maid,

When some fair princess might be thine?

‘Why didst thou praise my humble charms,

And Oh! then leave them to decay?

Why didst thou win me to thy arms,

Then leave to mourn the livelong day?

‘The village maidens of the plain

Salute me lowly as they go;

Envious they mark my silken train,

Nor think a Countess can have woe.

‘The simple nymphs, they little know

How far more happy’s their estate—

To smile for joy—than sigh for woe—

To be content—than to be great.

‘How far less blest am I than them

Daily to pine and waste with care!

Like the poor plant that from its stem

Divided, feels the chilling air.

‘Nor, cruel Earl, can I enjoy

The humble charms of solitude!

Your minions proud my peace destroy

By sullen frowns or pratings rude.

‘Last night, as sad I chanced to stray,

The village death-bell smote my ear:

They winked aside, and seemed to say

‘Countess, prepare, thy end is near!’

‘And now, while happy peasants sleep,

Here I sit lonely and forlorn;

No one to sooth me as I weep,

Save Philomel on yonder thorn.

‘My spirits flag, my hopes decay,

Still that dread death-bell smites my ear;

And many a boding seems to say

‘Countess, prepare, thy end is near!’

Thus sore and sad that lady grieved

In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear;

And many a heartfelt sigh she heaved,

And let fall many a bitter tear.

And ere the dawn of day appeared,

In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear,

Full many a piercing scream was heard,

And many a cry of mortal fear.

The death-bell thrice was heard to ring,

An aerial voice was heard to call,

And thrice the raven flapped its wing

Around the towers of Cumnor Hall.

The mastiff howled at village door,

The oaks were shattered on the green,

Woe was the hour, for nevermore

That hapless Countess e’er was seen.

And in that manor now no more

Is cheerful feast and sprightly ball;

For ever since that dreary hour

Have spirits haunted Cumnor Hall.

The village maids, with fearful glance,

Avoid the ancient, moss-grown wall;

Nor ever lead the merry dance

Among the groves of Cumnor Hall.

Full many a traveller oft hath sighed,

And pensive wept the Countess’ fall,

As, wandering onwards, they’ve espied

The haunted towers of Cumnor Hall.