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EDWIN AND ELTRADA,

A LEGENDARY TALE.

1 WHERE the pure Derwent's waters glide
2 Along their mossy bed,
3 Close by the river's verdant side,
4 A castle rear'd its head.
5 The antient pile by time is raz'd,
6 Where gothic trophies frown'd,
7 Where once the gilded armour blaz'd,
8 And banners wav'd around.
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9 There liv'd a chief well known to fame,
10 A bold adven'trous knight,
11 Renown'd for victory, his name
12 In glory's annals bright.
13 Yet milder virtues he possest,
14 And gentler passions felt,
15 For in his calm and yielding breast
16 The soft affections dwelt.
17 No rugged toils the heart could steel,
18 By nature form'd to prove
19 Whate'er the tender mind can feel
20 In friendship or in love.
21 He lost the partner of his breast,
22 Who sooth'd each rising care,
23 And ever charm'd the pains to rest
24 She ever lov'd to share.
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25 From solitude he hop'd relief
26 And this lone mansion sought,
27 To cherish there his faithful grief,
28 To nurse the tender thought.
29 There, to his bosom fondly dear,
30 A blooming daughter smil'd,
31 And oft' the mourner's falling tear
32 Bedew'd his EMMA'S child.
33 As drest in charms the lonely flower
34 Smiles in the distant vale,
35 With beauty gilds the morning hour,
36 And scents the evening gale;
37 So liv'd in solitude, unseen,
38 This lovely, peerless maid;
39 So grac'd the wild sequester'd scene,
40 And blossom'd in the shade.
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41 Yet love could pierce the lone recess,
42 For there he likes to dwell,
43 To leave the noisy crowd, and bless
44 With happiness the cell.
45 To wing his sure resistless dart
46 Where all its power is known,
47 And rule the undivided heart
48 Despotic and alone.
49 Young EDWIN charm'd her gentle breast,
50 Though scanty all his store,
51 No hoarded treasure he possest,
52 Yet he could boast of more:
53 For he could boast the lib'ral heart,
54 And honour, sense, and truth,
55 Unwarp'd by vanity or art,
56 Adorn'd the gen'rous youth.
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57 The maxims of a servile age,
58 The mean, the selfish care,
59 The sordid views that now engage
60 The mercenary fair,
61 Whom riches can unite or part,
62 To them were all unknown,
63 For then each sympathetic breast
64 Was join'd by love alone.
65 They little knew that wealth had power
66 To make the constant rove;
67 They little knew the weighty dower
68 Could add one bliss to love.
69 ELTRADA o'er the distant mead
70 Would haste at closing day,
71 And to the bleating mother lead
72 The lamb that chanc'd to stray.
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73 For the bruis'd insect on the waste
74 A sigh would heave her breast;
75 And oft her careful hand replac'd
76 The linnet's fallen nest.
77 To her sensations calm as these
78 Could sweet delight impart,
79 Those simple pleasures most can please
80 The uncorrupted heart.
81 And oft with eager step she flies
82 To cheer the roofless cot,
83 Where the lone widow breathes her sighs,
84 And wails her desp'rate lot.
85 Their weeping mother's trembling knees
86 Her lisping infants clasp,
87 Their meek imploring look she sees,
88 She feels their tender grasp.
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89 On her pale cheek, where hung the tear
90 Of agonizing woe,
91 ELTRADA bids a smile appear,
92 A tear of rapture flow.
93 Thus on soft wing the moments flew,
94 (Tho' love would court their stay,)
95 While some new virtue rose to view,
96 And mark'd each fleeting day.
97 The youthful poet's soothing dream
98 Of golden ages past,
99 The muse's fond ideal theme
100 Seem'd realiz'd at last.
101 But here, how weak to hope that bliss
102 Unchanging will endure;
103 Ah, in a world so vain as this,
104 What heart can rest secure!
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105 For now arose the fatal day
106 For civil discord fam'd,
107 When YORK from LANCASTER'S proud sway
108 The regal sceptre claim'd.
109 Each moment now the horrors brought
110 Of desolating rage,
111 The fam'd achievements now were wrought
112 That swell th' historic page.
113 The good old ALBERT pants again
114 To dare the hostile field,
115 The cause of HENRY to maintain,
116 For him the lance to wield.
117 But O, a thousand gen'rous ties
118 That bind the hero's soul,
119 A thousand sacred claims arise,
120 And EDWIN'S breast controul.
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121 Though passion pleads in HENRY'S cause,
122 And EDWIN'S heart would sway,
123 Yet honour's stern, imperious laws,
124 The brave will still obey.
125 Oppress'd with many an anxious care,
126 Full oft ELTRADA sigh'd,
127 Complaining that relentless war
128 Should those she lov'd divide.
129 At length the parting morn arose,
130 For her in sadness drest,
131 While boding thoughts of future woes
132 With terror heav'd her breast.
133 A thousand pangs her father feels,
134 A thousand tender fears,
135 While clinging at his feet she kneels,
136 And bathes them with her tears.
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137 One pitying tear bedew'd his cheek
138 From his lov'd child he flew,
139 O'erwhelmed, the father could not speak,
140 He could not say "adieu!"
141 Arm'd for the field her lover came,
142 He saw her pallid look,
143 And trembling seize her drooping frame,
144 While, falt'ring, thus he spoke:
145 "This cruel tenderness but wounds
146 The heart it means to bless,
147 Those falling tears, those mournful sounds
148 Increase the vain distress!"
149 "If fate," she answer'd, "has decreed
150 That on the hostile plain
151 My EDWIN'S faithful heart must bleed,
152 And swell the heep of slain:
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153 "Trust me, I never will complain,
154 I'll shed no fruitless tear,
155 Not one weak drop my cheek shall stain,
156 Or tell what passes here!
157 "O, let thy fate of others claim
158 A tear, a mournful sigh;
159 I'll only murmur thy dear name,
160 I'll call on thee and die!"
161 But ah, how vain for words to tell
162 The pang their bosoms prov'd,
163 They only will conceive it well,
164 They only, who have lov'd.
165 The timid muse forbears to say
166 What laurels EDWIN gain'd;
167 How ALBERT, long renown'd, that day
168 His ancient fame maintain'd.
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169 The bard, who feels congenial fire,
170 May sing of martial strife,
171 And with heroic sounds inspire
172 The gen'rous scorn of life.
173 But ill the theme would suit her reed,
174 Who, wand'ring through the grove,
175 Forgets the conqu'ring hero's meed,
176 And gives a tear to love!
177 Though long the closing day was fled,
178 The fight they still maintain,
179 While night a deeper horror shed
180 Along the darken'd plain.
181 To ALBERT'S breast an arrow flew,
182 He felt a mortal wound
183 The drops that warm'd his heart bedew
184 The cold and flinty ground.
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185 The foe who aim'd the fatal dart
186 Now heard his dying sighs;
187 Compassion touch'd his yielding heart,
188 To ALBERT'S aid he flies.
189 While round the chief his arms he cast,
190 While oft he deeply sigh'd,
191 And seem'd as if he mourn'd the past,
192 Old ALBERT faintly cried:
193 "Though nature heaves these parting groans,
194 Without complaint I die;
195 Yet one dear care my heart still owns,
196 Still feels one tender tie.
197 "For YORK, a warrior known to fame,
198 Uplifts the hostile spear,
199 EDWIN the blooming hero's name,
200 To ALBERT'S bosom dear.
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201 "O tell him my expiring sigh,
202 Say my last words implor'd
203 To my despairing child to fly,
204 To her he once ador'd!"
205 He spoke! but O, what mournful strain,
206 Whose force the soul can melt,
207 What moving numbers shall explain
208 The pang that EDWIN felt?
209 The pang that EDWIN now reveal'd
210 For he the warrior prest
211 (Whom the dark shades of night conceal'd)
212 Close to his throbbing breast.
213 "Fly, fly," he cried, "my touch profane
214 O, how the rest impart!
215 Rever'd old man! could EDWIN stain
216 With ALBERT'S blood the dart?"
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217 His languid eyes lie weakly rais'd,
218 Which seem'd for ever clos'd,
219 On the pale youth with pity gaz'd,
220 And then in death repos'd.
221 "I'll go," the hapless EDWIN said,
222 "And breathe a last adieu!
223 And with the drops despair will shed,
224 My mournful love bedew.
225 "I'll go to her for ever dear,
226 To catch her trembling sigh,
227 To wipe from her pale cheek the tear,
228 And at her feet to die!"
229 And as to her for ever dear
230 The frantic mourner flew,
231 To wipe from her pale cheek the tear,
232 And breathe a last adieu;
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233 Appall'd his troubled fancy sees
234 That tear of anguish flow,
235 And hears in every passing breeze
236 The plaintive sound of woe.
237 Meanwhile the anxious maid, whose tears
238 In vain would heav'n implore,
239 Of ALBERT'S fate despairing hears,
240 But yet had heard no more.
241 "What woes," she cried, "this breast must prove,
242 Its dearest ties are broke;
243 O, say what ruthless arm, my love,
244 Could aim the fatal stroke?
245 "Could not thy hand, my EDWIN, thine
246 Have warded off the blow?
247 For O, he was not only mine,
248 He was thy father too!
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249 "Why does thy bosom throb with pain?
250 O speak, my EDWIN, speak!
251 Or sure, unable to sustain
252 This grief, my heart will break."
253 "Yes, it will break," he falt'ring cried,
254 "For we will life resign
255 Then trembling know, thy father died
256 And know, the guilt was mine!
257 "It is enough!" with short quick breath,
258 Exclaim'd the fainting maid;
259 She spoke no more, but seem'd from death
260 To look for instant aid.
261 In plaintive accents EDWIN cries,
262 "And have I murder'd thee?
263 To other worlds thy spirit flies,
264 And mine this stroke shall free!"
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265 His hand the lifted weapon grasp'd,
266 The steel he firmly prest,
267 When wildly she arose, and clasp'd
268 Her lover to her breast.
269 "Methought," she cried, with panting breath,
270 "My EDWIN talk'd of peace;
271 I knew 'twas only found in death,
272 And fear'd that sad release.
273 "I clasp him still! 'twas but a dream
274 Help yon wide wound to close,
275 From which a father's spirits stream,
276 A father's life-blood flows.
277 "But see! from thee he shrinks, nor would
278 Be blasted by thy touch!
279 Ah, though my EDWIN spilt thy blood,
280 Yet once he lov'd thee much.
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281 "My father, yet in pity stay!
282 I see his white beard wave
283 A spirit beckons him away,
284 And points to yonder grave.
285 "Alas, my love, I trembling hear
286 A father's last adieu;
287 I see, I see the falling tear
288 His wrinkled cheek bedew.
289 "He's gone, and here his ashes sleep
290 I do not heave a sigh,
291 His child a father does not weep
292 For ah, my brain is dry!
293 "But come, together let us rove,
294 At the pale hour of night,
295 When the moon wand'ring through the grove,
296 Shall pour her faintest light.
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297 "We'll gather from the rosy bower
298 The fairest wreaths that bloom,
299 We'll cull, my love, each op'ning flower
300 To deck his hallow'd tomb;
301 "We'll thither from the distant dale
302 A weeping willow bear;
303 And plant a lily of the vale,
304 A drooping lily, there.
305 "We'll shun the face of glaring day,
306 Eternal silence keep;
307 Through the dark wood together stray,
308 And only live to weep.
309 "But hark, 'tis come the fatal time,
310 When, EDWIN, we must part:
311 Some angel tells me 'tis a crime
312 To hold thee to my heart.
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313 "Yet, EDWIN, if th' offence be thine,
314 Too soon I can forgive;
315 But O, the guilt would all be mine,
316 Could I endure to live.
317 "Farewell, my love, for O, I faint,
318 Of pale despair I die;
319 And see! that hoary, murder'd saint
320 Descends from yon blue sky.
321 "Poor weak old man! he comes, my love,
322 To lead to heav'n the way;
323 He knows not heav'n will joyless prove,
324 If EDWIN here must stay!"
325 "O, who can bear this pang?" he cried,
326 Then to his bosom prest
327 The dying maid, who piteous sigh'd,
328 And sunk to endless rest.
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329 He saw her eyes for ever close,
330 He heard her latest sigh,
331 And yet no tear of anguish flows
332 From his distracted eye.
333 He feels within his shiv'ring veins
334 A mortal chillness rise!
335 Her pallid corse he feebly strains,
336 And on her bosom dies.
337 No longer may their hapless lot
338 The mournful muse engage,
339 She wipes away the tears that blot
340 The melancholy page.
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341 For heav'n in love dissolves the ties
342 That chain the spirit here,
343 And distant, and for ever flies
344 The blessing held most dear;
345 To bid the suff'ring soul aspire
346 A higher bliss to prove,
347 To wake the pure, refin'd desire,
348 The hope that rests above!

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): EDWIN AND ELTRADA, A LEGENDARY TALE.
Themes: mythology
Genres: narrative verse
Headnote: First published in 1782. A reworked shorter version was published in 1823.

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Source edition

Poems on various subjects: with introductory remarks on the present state of science and literature in France. London: G. and W. B. Whittaker, 1823, pp. [117]-139. 

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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.

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Other works by Helen Maria Williams