[Page [190]]

PART OF AN IRREGULAR FRAGMENT.

[The following Poem is formed on a very singular and sublime idea. A young gentleman, possessed of an uncommon genius for drawing, on visiting the Tower of London, passing one door of a singular construction, asked what apartment it led to, and expressed a desire to have it opened. The person who shewed the place shook his head, and answered, "Heaven knows what is within that door it has been shut for ages." This answer made small impression on the other hearers, but a very deep one on the imagination of this youth. Gracious heaven! an apartment shut up for ages and in the Tower!

"Ye Towers of Julius! London's lasting shame, By many a foul and midnight murder fed."

Genius builds on a slight foundation, and rears beautiful structures on "the baseless fabric of a vision." The above transient hint dwelt on the young man's fancy, and conjured into his memory all the murders which history records to have been committed in the Tower: Henry the Sixth, the Duke of Clarence, the two young Princes sons of Edward the Fourth, Sir Thomas Overbury, &c. He supposes all their ghosts assembled in this unexplored apartment, and to these his fertile imagination has added several others. One of the spectres raises an immense pall of black velvet, and discovers the remains of a murdered royal family, whose story is lost in the lapse of time. The gloomy wildness of these images struck my imagination so forcibly, that, endeavouring to catch the fire of the youth's pencil, this fragment was produced.]

[Page 191]
I.
1 RISE, winds of night! relentless tempests, rise!
2 Rush from the troubled clouds, and o'er me roll!
3 In this chill pause a deeper horror lies,
4 A wilder fear appals my shudd'ring soul!
5 'Twas on this day,
* The anniversary of the murder of Edward V., and his brother Richard, Duke of York.
this hour accurst,
6 That Nature, starting from repose,
7 Heard the dire shrieks of murder burst
8 From infant innocence they rose,
9 And shook these solemn towers!
10 I shudd'ring pass that fatal room,
11 For ages wrapt in central gloom!
12 I shudd'ring pass that iron door,
13 Which fate perchance unlocks no more;
14 Death, smear'd with blood, o'er the dark portal lowers!
[Page 192]
II.
15 How fearfully my step resounds
16 Along these lonely bounds!
17 Spare, savage blast! the taper's quiv'ring fires;
18 Deep in these gath'ring shades its flame expires.
19 Ye host of heaven! the door recedes
20 It mocks my grasp what unseen hands
21 Have burst its iron bands?
22 No mortal force this gate unbarr'd,
23 Where danger lives, which terrors guard
24 Dread powers! its screaming hinges close
25 On this dire scene of impious deeds
26 My feet are fix'd! Dismay has bound
27 My step on this polluted ground!
28 But lo! the pitying moon a line of light
29 Athwart the horrid darkness dimly throws,
30 And from yon grated window chases night.
[Page 193]
III.
31 Ye visions that before me roll,
32 That freeze my blood, that shake my soul!
33 Are ye the phantoms of a dream?
34 Pale spectres! are ye what ye seem?
35 They glide more near!
36 Their forms unfold!
37 Fix'd are their eyes on me they bend
38 Their glaring look is cold!
39 And hark! I hear
40 Sounds that the throbbing pulse of life suspend:
IV.
41 "No wild illusion cheats thy sight
42 With shapes that only live in night
43 Mark the native glories spread
44 Around my bleeding brow!
45 The crown of Albion wreath'd my head,
46 And Gallia's lilies
* Henry the Sixth was crowned when an infant, at Paris.
twin'd below
[Page 194]
47 When my father shook his spear,
48 When his banner sought the skies,
49 Her baffled host recoil'd with fear,
50 Nor turn'd their shrinking eyes.
51 Soon as the daring eagle springs,
52 To bask in heav'n's empyreal light,
53 The vultures ply their baleful wings,
54 A cloud of deep'ning colour marks their flight,
55 Staining the golden day:
56 But see! amid the rav'nous brood
57 A bird of fiercer aspect soar
58 The spirits of a rival race
* Richard the Third, by murdering so many near relations, seemed to revenge the suffering of Henry the Sixth and his family, on the house of York.
59 Hang on the noxious blast, and trace
60 With gloomy joy his destin'd prey;
61 Inflame th' ambitious wish that thirsts for blood,
62 And plunge his talons deep in kindred gore.
V.
63 "View the stern form that hovers nigh:
64 Fierce rolls his dauntless eye,
[Page 195]
65 In scorn of hideous death;
66 Till starting at a brother's
* Richard the Third, who murdered his brother the Duke of Clarence.
name,
67 Horror shrinks his glowing frame;
68 Locks the half-utter'd groan,
69 And chills the parting breath:
70 Astonish'd Nature heav'd a moan!
71 When her affrighted eye beheld the hands
72 She form'd to cherish, rend her holy bands.
VI.
73 "Look where a royal infant
Richard, Duke of York.
kneels;
74 Shrieking, and agoniz'd with fear,
75 He sees the dagger pointed near
76 A much-lov'd brother's
Edward the Fifth.
breast,
77 And tells an absent mother all he feels!
78 His eager eye he casts around,
79 Where shall her guardian form be found,
80 On which his eager eye would rest?
[Page 196]
81 On her he calls in accents wild,
82 And wonders why her step is slow
83 To save her suff'ring child!
84 Rob'd in the regal garb, his brother stands
85 In more majestic woe,
86 And meets the impious stroke with bosom bare,
87 Then fearless grasps the murd'rer's hands,
88 And asks the minister of hell to spare
89 The child, whose feeble arms sustain
90 His bleeding form, from cruel death.
91 In vain fraternal fondness pleads,
92 For cold is now his livid cheek,
93 And cold his last, expiring breath;
94 And now, with aspect meek,
95 The infant lifts its mournful eye,
96 And asks, with trembling voice, to die,
97 If death will cure his heaving heart of pain!
98 His heaving heart now bleeds!
99 Foul tyrant! o'er the gilded hour
100 That beams with all the blaze of power,
[Page 197]
101 Remorse shall spread her thickest shroud!
102 The furies in thy tortur'd ear
103 Shall howl, with curses deep and loud,
104 And wake distracting fear!
105 I see the ghastly spectre rise,
106 Whose blood is cold, whose hollow eyes
107 Seem from his head to start!
108 With upright hair and shiv'ring heart,
109 Dark o'er thy midnight couch he bends,
110 And clasps thy shrinking frame, thy impious spirit rends. "
VII.
111 Now his thrilling accents die
112 His shape eludes my searching eye.
113 But who is he,
* Sir Thomas Overbury, poisoned in the Tower by Somerset.
convuls'd with pain,
114 That writhes in every swelling vein?
115 Yet in so deep, so wild a groan,
116 A sharper anguish seems to live
117 Than life's expiring pang can give!
118 He dies deserted, and alone.
[Page 198]
119 If pity can allay thy woes,
120 Sad spirit, they shall find repose:
121 Thy friend, thy long-lov'd friend is near;
122 He comes to pour the parting tear,
123 He comes to catch the parting breath.
124 Ah, heaven! no melting look he wears,
125 His alter'd eye with vengeance glares;
126 Each frantic passion at his soul;
127 'Tis he has dash'd that venom'd bowl
128 With agony and death!
VIII.
129 But whence arose that solemn call?
130 Yon bloody phantom waves his hand,
131 And beckons me to deeper gloom!
132 Rest, troubled form! I come
133 Some unknown power my step impels
134 To horror's secret cells.
135 "For thee I raise this sable pall,
136 It shrouds a ghastly band:
[Page 199]
137 Stretch'd beneath, thy eye shall trace
138 A mangled regal race!
139 A thousand suns have roll'd, since light
140 Rush'd on their solid night!
141 See, o'er that tender frame grim Famine hangs,
142 And mocks a mother's pangs!
143 The last, last drop which warm'd her veins
144 That meagre infant drains,
145 Then gnaws her fond, sustaining breast!
146 Stretch'd on her feeble knees, behold
147 Another victim sinks to lasting rest;
148 Another yet her matron arms would fold,
149 Who strives to reach her matron arms in vain
150 Too weak her wasted form to raise,
151 On him she bends her eager gaze;
152 She sees the soft imploring eye
153 That asks her dear embrace, the cure of pain
154 She sees her child at distance die!
155 But now her stedfast heart can bear,
156 Unmov'd, the pressure of despair.
[Page 200]
157 When first the winds of winter urge their course
158 O'er the pure stream, whose current smoothly glides,
159 The heaving river swells its troubled tides;
160 But when the bitter blast with keener force
161 O'er the high wave an icy fetter throws,
162 The harden'd wave is fix'd in dead repose."
IX.
163 "Say, who that hoary form? alone he stands,
164 And meekly lifts his wither'd hands;
165 His white beard streams with blood!
166 I see him with a smile deride
167 The wounds that pierce his shrivell'd side,
168 Whence flows a purple flood;
169 But sudden pangs his bosom tear
170 On one big drop, of deeper dye,
171 I see him fix his haggard eye
172 In dark, and wild despair!
173 That sanguine drop which wakes his woe,
174 Say, Spirit! whence its source?"
[Page 201]
175 "Ask no more its source to know
176 Ne'er shall mortal eye explore
177 Whence flow'd that drop of human gore,
178 Till the starting dead shall rise,
179 Unchain'd from earth, and mount the skies,
180 And Time shall end his fated course.
181 Now th' unfathom'd depth behold:
182 Look but once a second glance
183 Wraps a heart of human mould
184 In death's eternal trance!
X.
185 "That shapeless phantom, sinking slow
186 Deep down the vast abyss below,
187 Darts thro' the mists that shroud his frame,
188 A horror, nature hates to name!
189 Mortal, could thine eyes behold
190 All those sullen mists enfold,
191 Thy sinews at the sight accurst
192 Would wither, and thy heart-strings burst;
[Page 202]
193 Death would grasp with icy hand,
194 And drag thee to our grizly band!
195 Away! the sable pall I spread,
196 And give to rest th' unquiet dead;
197 Haste! ere its horrid shroud enclose
198 Thy form, benumb'd with wild affright,
199 And plunge thee far through wastes of night,
200 In yon black gulph's abhorr'd repose!"
201 As, starting at each step, I fly,
202 Why backward turns my frantic eye,
203 That closing portal past?
204 Two sullen shades, half-seen, advance!
205 On me, a blasting look they cast,
206 And fix my view with dang'rous spells,
207 Where burning frenzy dwells!
208 Again! their vengeful look and now a speechless

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): PART OF AN IRREGULAR FRAGMENT.
Themes:
Genres: ode; fragment

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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. [190]-202. 

Editorial principles

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.

Other works by Helen Maria Williams