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JULIA, OR THE CONVENT OF ST. CLAIRE: A TALE FOUNDED ON FACT.

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JULIA,

OR THE CONVENT OF ST. CLAIRE.

1 STRANGER, that massy, mouldering pile,
2 Whose ivied ruins load the ground,
3 Reechoed once to pious strains
4 By holy sisters breathed around.
5 There many a noble virgin came
6 To bid the world she loved .... adieu;
7 There, victim of parental pride,
8 To years of hopeless grief withdrew.
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9 Yes, proud St. Claire! thy costly walls
10 Have witnessed oft the mourner's pain;
11 And hearts in joyless durance bound,
12 Which sighed for kindred hearts in vain.
13 But never more within thy cells
14 Shall beauty breathe the fruitless sigh,
15 Nor hid beneath the envious veil
16 Shall sorrow dim the sparkling eye.
17 For now, a sight by reason blest,
18 Thy gloomy dome in ruins falls,
19 While bats and screechowls harbour there,
20 Sole tenants of thy crumbling walls.
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21 And soon, blest change! as those dread plains,
22 Where Etna's burning torrents poured,
23 Become, when Time its power has shed,
24 With softly-smiling verdure stored:
25 So, when thy darkly-frowning towers
26 The verdant plain no longer load,
27 These scenes, where sorrow reigned, may prove
28 Fond, faithful lovers' blest abode.
29 And they shall pledge the nuptial vow,
30 Where once far different vows were heard;
31 And where thy pining virgins mourned,
32 Shall babes, sweet smiling babes, be reared.
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33 Hail, glorious change, to Nature dear!
34 Methinks I see the bridal throng;
35 And hark, where lonely sisters prayed,
36 How sweetly swells the social song!
37 But nought, O! nought can her restore
38 To social life, to happy love,
39 Who once amidst thy cloistered train
40 With passion's hopeless sorrow strove.
41 Lamented maid! my faithful Muse
42 To pity's ear shall tell thy tale;
43 Shall tell, at midnight's awful hour
44 Why groaning ghosts affright the vale.
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45 On Julia's softly dimpled cheek
46 Just bloom'd to view youth's opening rose,
47 When, proudly stern, her father bade
48 St. Claire's dark walls her bloom enclose.
49 But no reluctance to obey
50 With tears bedewed her beauteous cheek,
51 Since love with soft persuasive power
52 Not yet had taught her heart to speak.
53 "Yes, .... be a nun's vocation mine,
54 So I my brother's bliss improve;
55 His be their wealth," sweet Julia cried,
56 So I may boast my parent's love! "
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57 Proud Clermont blessed his generous child;
58 Her gentler mother dropped a tear,
59 As if her boding heart foretold
60 That love and Julia's woes were near.
61 For lo! where glows the nuptial feast,
62 And Clermont's heir leads in his bride,
63 While Julia, called that feast to grace,
64 Sits by a blooming baron's side.
65 Dear, fatal hour! the feast is o'er,
66 But still in faithful memory charms,
67 And Julia's conscious heart has learnt
68 To throb with passion's new alarms.
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69 "Now then I feel the power of love,"
70 She on her sleepless pillow cried,
71 "Then must I still my sire obey,
72 And this warm heart in cloisters hide?
73 "But hold, fond girl! thy throbbing breast
74 May be with hopeless fondness fraught;
75 Yet sure Montrose's speaking eyes
76 Declared he felt the love he taught."
77 And well her hopes his glance had read, ....
78 Montrose a mutual passion felt,
79 Nor long his tender pangs concealed,
80 But at her feet impassioned knelt.
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81 Her downcast eye, her blush, her smile
82 To crown her lover's suit conspired,
83 Who, bold in hope, to Clermont told
84 The artless wish by fondness fired.
85 But told in vain "Away!" he cried;
86 "O'er me your pleadings boast no power:
87 Think not my son his rights shall yield,
88 To swell my pining daughter's dower."
89 "No: let his rights still sacred be,"
90 Montrose with throbbing heart replied,
91 "Give me but Julia's willing hand,
92 I ask, I wish for nought beside."
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93 "And darest thou think that Clermont's child
94 Shall e'er pronounce the nuptial vow
95 Unless," he said, "I could a dower
96 Equal to Clermont's rank bestow!
97 "Away, young lord! entreat no more!
98 Nor thus with vain complainings mourn;
99 For, ere tomorrow's sun has set,
100 My child shall to her cell return."
101 He spoke, and frown'd. Alas, Montrose!
102 In vain thy manly bosom mourned
103 For, ere tomorrow's sun had set,
104 Thy Julia to her cell returned.
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105 But changed indeed! Youth's opening rose
106 Now on her cheek no longer glowed;
107 And now, with earthly cares opprest,
108 Before the holy shrine she bowed.
109 Now to religion's rites no more
110 Her heart with ready zeal impelled;
111 No more with genuine fervour warm,
112 Her voice the holy anthem swelled.
113 "Whence thy pale cheek? and whence, my child,
114 Proceeds this change?" the abbess said,
115 "Why heaves thy breast with deep-drawn sighs,
116 And wherefore droops thy youthful head?"
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117 "Yes, .... you shall know," the sufferer cried,
118 "And let my fate your pity move!
119 See Passion's victim! Morn and eve
120 This struggling soul is lost in love.
121 "And I yon sacred shrine profane;
122 The cross with languid zeal I press;
123 Montrose's image claims the vows
124 Which my false lips to Heaven address.
125 "Yes: while I drop the sacred bead,
126 His form obtrudes upon my view,
127 And love's warm tears my rosary wet,
128 Love claims the sigh devotion's due.
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129 "Inhuman Father! wilt thou risk
130 My peace on earth, and hopes of heaven?
131 Tremble, tyrannic parent, think
132 What love may do to madness driven!"
133 With pitying heart the abbess heard;
134 For she an answering pang had known,
135 And well her gentle soul could mourn
136 A fate, a grief, so like her own.
137 "But why despair, my child?" she said,
138 "Before thy father lowly kneel,
139 And teach that heart, though fenced by pride,
140 Compassion's generous throb to feel."
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141 Julia the kind advice obeyed;
142 And when the haughty Clermont came,
143 Before his feet she lowly knelt,
144 And hailed him by a parent's name.
145 "Think'st thou to wrong thy brother's rights
146 I e'er can be by thee beguiled?"
147 "Father!" her trembling lips replied,
148 "Say, is not Julia too your child?
149 "For him you bid the nuptial feast,
150 And all life's dearest blessings glow,
151 While I, alike your child, you doom
152 To hopeless love, and lonely woe."
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153 But vain remonstrance, tears, and prayers;
154 The Count's proud heart could all deride,
155 For Nature's voice can never melt
156 The callous bosom fenced by pride.
157 "Urge me no more," he fiercely said,
158 "But know, not long these prayers can last;
159 Reflect, fond girl! at morning's dawn
160 The year of thy probation's past!"
161 Pale, pale grew then her youthful cheek,
162 Heart-piercing seemed her mournful cry:
163 "Clermont! relent," her mother cried,
164 "Nor coldly doom thy child to die."
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165 But vain was Julia's piercing shriek;
166 Nor justice he nor mercy knew:
167 "Receive," he said, "my last embrace," ....
168 Then from the mournful scene withdrew.
169 Loud called the evening bell to prayers,
170 But still on Julia vainly called,
171 Who, leaning on her mother's breast,
172 With desperate words that breast appalled.
173 "Suppress, suppress thy grief, my child,
174 Or fear to call dread vengeance down:
175 Wouldst thou not tremble, impious girl!
176 Before thy God's avenging frown?"
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177 "Paint not that gracious God in frowns,
178 Did not for us a Saviour bleed?
179 In mercy clothe his awful power,
180 For I shall soon that mercy need."
181 Dark, cheerless, awful is the night
182 When tempests load the troubled air;
183 But darker, gloomier is the mind
184 Where reigns the ghastly fiend Despair.
185 Fond mother! in thy Julia's eyes
186 Canst thou not see his reign is near?
187 Inhuman father! hark! loud groans
188 Shall swell the blast; .... Beware! beware!
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189 "Mother, the hour commands thee hence,"
190 Sad Julia cried, "we now must part;
191 And never may thy bosom know
192 A grief like that which rends my heart!
193 "In all thy prayers tonight for me,
194 The awful throne of Heaven address,
195 While I with grateful bosom kneel,
196 And bid its power thy goodness bless."
197 Speechless the mourning mother heard;
198 Her tongue denied the word 'farewell!'
199 At length her quivering lips she pressed,
200 And Julia hurried to her cell .....
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201 Now chill and loud the North wind blew,
202 Through the long aisles hoarse murmurs ran;
203 The shuddering sisters' cheeks were pale,
204 When they their midnight tasks began.
205 Mock'd by deep groans each anthem seemed,
206 The vaulted roofs still gloomier grew:
207 The blast of night was swelled by shrieks,
208 The bird of night ill-omened flew.
209 The trembling tapers grew more pale,
210 While, where their languid radiance fell,
211 A phantom dimly seemed to glide,
212 And loud was heard the passing bell.
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213 "Did you not see a phantom flit?
214 Did you not hear the passing bell?"
215 Each sister cried; while, pale with dread,
216 With hurried steps she sought her cell.
217 At length arose the fatal morn
218 Decreed to seal sad Julia's doom,
219 And make the worm of hopeless love
220 Feed on her beauty's opening bloom.
221 "Julia, thy bridal vest prepare;
222 Thy heavenly spouse expects thee; rise!"
223 The abbess cried. "Oh, stay awhile,"
224 Julia with broken tones replies.
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225 "The tapers burn, the altar glows,
226 Robed are the priests in costly pride,
227 The organ sounds! Prepare!" Again
228 "One moment stay!" the victim cried.
229 When through the long and echoing aisles
230 An unknown voice the abbess hears
231 It seems with wild, impatience fraught
232 And lo! Montrose himself appears!
233 "I come," he cries, "to claim my bride;
234 A father's frown no more impedes:
235 His son's no more! and Julia now
236 To Clermont's wealth and power succeeds."
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237 Distrest, yet pleased, the abbess heard,
238 While on to Julia's cell she led,
239 And, as she went, to pitying Heaven
240 Her arms in pious homage spread.
241 "Julia, come forth! come forth, my child!
242 Unlock thy cell, Montrose's bride!
243 Now thou art his, a father's frown
244 No longer will your fates divide.
245 "Behold him here to snatch thee hence,
246 And give thee to thy father's sight."
247 "How! silent still?" Montrose exclaimed;
248 "Why thus thy lover's soul affright?"
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249 The door with trembling speed he forced ....
250 Ah me! what object meets their eyes!
251 Stretcht on her bed in death's last pangs,
252 And bathed in blood, his Julia lies.
253 Presumptuous girl! when Heaven afflicts
254 Should we its dread decrees arraign?
255 Lo! Heaven thy woe with mercy saw,
256 But thou hast made its mercy vain.
257 "Behold the work of rash despair!"
258 In fluttering, feeble words she said:
259 "Had I been patient still, Montrose,
260 This day had blessings on me shed.
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261 "Didst thou not say my father's heart
262 Had deigned at length thy vows to hear?
263 Too late remorse! but oh, to him
264 My pardon, and my blessing bear.
265 "But must I die? and canst not thou
266 Thy Julia from death's terrors save?
267 We should have been so blest, Montrose!
268 And must I leave thee for the grave?
269 "Help me! they tear me from thy arms,
270 Save me, O save thy destin'd bride!
271 It will not be; .... forgive me, Heaven!"
272 She feebly said, then groaned and died.
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273 Oh! who can paint the lover's woe,
274 Or childless father's deep remorse,
275 While, bending o'er the blood-stained bed,
276 He clasped his daughter's pallid corse!
277 But from this scene of dreadful woe,
278 Learn why the village swain turns pale,
279 When he at midnight wanders near
280 The mouldering Convent in the vale.
281 There, faintly heard through whispering trees,
282 A mournful voice on Julia calls;
283 There, dimly seen, a blood-stained vest
284 Streams ghastly o'er the ivied walls.

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Title (in Source Edition): JULIA, OR THE CONVENT OF ST. CLAIRE.
Themes:
Genres: ballad metre; lyric; narrative verse

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Source edition

The Warrior's Return, and Other Poems. By Mrs. Opie. 2d. ed. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-row, 1808, pp. [19]-44. 

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.