[Page 381]

THE MONK OF LA TRAPPE;

A TALE.

Introduction.

HENRY De S—, Baron of D—, was betrothed to Eulalia De L—e, a Daughter of the Marquis De L—e. An offer more suitable to the ambitious views of the Marquis, being made to him, for his Daughter; he compelled her to write a refusal to her first Lover, which was accompanied by a peremptory one from himself. The young Lord, unable to bear the thoughts of seeing the amiable woman he doated on given in marriage to another, secretly quitted his house; leaving a letter behind him, written in a style which indicated a mind bordering on despair and madness, declaring that all search after him would be in vain; desiring, in a formal manner, that his Kinsman might, as his Heir, take possession of his Titles and Estate, giving to Eulalia De L—e, all the fortune of which he had a right to dispose. Let her be told, adds the unhappy De S—, "that this must be looked on as a Brother's, not a Lover's gift: that Duty and Virtue forbid the Wife of the Duke of to shed one tear of Love, to the Memory of the Baron De S—; let one wretched Victim to affection suffice[Page 382] let him be forgotten. May Heaven bless her. Give her, great God! the happiness which might have fallen to my share! add my date of days to hers!! !"

When this young Nobleman disappeared, it was imagined from the whole tenor of his incoherent Letter, addressed to several friends, in different parts, but directed to no one; from his taking nothing of value with him, and leaving even his purse in his inkstand, that he left his house with an intention of putting an end to his Life. And, though after the most careful search, his body was not found, yet it was still believed that he had completed his shocking purpose.

Disguised in the Habit of a Pilgrim, Henry De S— went to the Abbey of La Trappe, in the Province of Perche, in the diocese of Séez. He gained admission. And the Father Abbot immediately received him into the fraternity. The Rules of this order are more austere than those of any other of the Romish Church. Perpetual silence is enjoined to the Monks. They are allowed neither to receive nor write letters. None of their friends may see them, so that they are totally ignorant of what passes in the World. Their only food is Bread and Pulse; their drink Water. Meat, Fish, Eggs, Milk, Butter, Wine and Oil, are forbidden to them. They are not allowed to study. The Bible, and a very few books of severe morality and self-denial, compose the whole Library of a Monk of La Trappe. They live a very[Page 383] laborious Life, cultivating the earth, or following some manual employment, such as they are found most fitted for. The Father Abbot only is allowed to speak. When they are in the last agonies of Life, they are placed on a Bier covered with Straw and Ashes; and carried into the Church. They lie on this Bier till they expire: and if they retain the power of speech, in this last strife of Nature, their Vow of Silence is dispensed with; in order that they may exhort their Brethren: this permission has sometimes given rise to very affecting scenes and discoveries.

The uncommon severities which the young Baron De S— was obliged, by the Rules, to practise in the Monastery of La Trappe, injured his health. He had sound retirement, but not peace. The continual agitations of his mind, which converse with the friendly part of the World might have relieved, disturbed his reason, after he had been in this gloomy solitude two years. The Monks of La Trappe dig a part of their Grave at certain stated hours: Whilst employed in this occupation, Henry's now weakened mind pictured the form of his once-loved mistress sinking into it: This impression once made upon his imagination, constantly returned, at the same place, and time. His reason was not enough extinguished to make him suppose Eulalia really present; but the picture once formed by his disordered imagination was so strong, that he thought it a Vision: Impressed from this Idea, the coinage of his weakened reason, he determined, difficult and dangerous as the execution of such a[Page 384] design was, to escape from La Trappe: as he thought that Eulalia's appearance to him indicated a want of some assistance, which it might be in his power to give to her. Forbidden by the Rules of his order to speak but in prayer; and all the Brethren avoiding one another, except at Church, as much as possible; the state of Henry's mind, balancing between reason and madness, of which he himself at times was sensible, escaped observation. He got away amongst a number of Pilgrims who came to La Trappe to perform some acts of devotion; disguised in the very dress which he had on two years before, when he entered the Monastery. How or where he parted from the other Pilgrims is not known.

After the second day's travelling, in the depth of a severe Winter, he was benighted, on a heath: he wandered there for some hours, till his strength and vital heat, spite of the hardships to which he was accustomed, were nearly exhausted, when his undirected steps brought him to the Convent of Meudon. Father Hubert found him kneeling in the Portico of the Church, as he came out, from celebrating Midnight Mass. The Benevolent Priest seeing a way-worn Pilgrim, at that time of the night, in such an unprotected situation, invited him to his Cell. After he had been refreshed there; confidence in the fame-known character of Father Hubert, despair, and the workings of a disordered imagination, joined to make him discover his wildly conceived design. Father Hubert attempted to win him from his purpose of[Page 385] pursuing his journey; he could not find which way he was bending his course, and he feared to ask him too many questions. Finding common persuafion, and what force he could oppose to him ineffectual, to deter him from continuing his journey; he feigned to suspect the real motive of it: but as the test of the purity of his intentions, Father Hubert offered himself to be his conductor, if he would stay till the Noon of the coming day; as in the Morning he was obliged by his office, being Almoner, and Priest to the Convent, to attend and officiate in an extraordinary solemnity, which was to be performed. Henry accepted of his offer, and, somewhat calmed, spent the remaining part of the night in prayer.

[Page 386]

THE MONK OF LA TRAPPE:

A TALE.

1 How much is Man to pride a slave!
2 To compass an ambitious end,
3 Though he have godlike power to bless,
4 He acts the persecuting Fiend;
5 For sounding titles, pompous names,
6 That never gave one real joy,
7 His life is past in constant cares,
8 Which all his happiness annoy:
9 Not only to himself severe,
10 When fierce ambition cruel reigns,
11 He heeds no touch from Nature's ties,
12 Nor dove-like pity's melting strains.
13 He harms the Friend whom he esteems;
14 He seeks the Wretch his soul disproves;
15 He does the deed his heart arraigns,
16 E'en immolates the Child he loves.
17 And shall no warning Voice prevail?
18 Will Man but by experience learn?
19 Experience, dear-bought by himself,
20 His real interest to discern?
[Page 387]
21 No! from himself alone he learns
22 The Ills which from ambition flow,
23 That all, but Virtue's heavenly charms,
24 Is Folly, Vanity, and Woe.
25 Till he has tried the tortuous path,
26 Which blindfold he is doom'd to tread,
27 He thinks unhurt th' Ordeal to pass,
28 And tempts the danger he should dread.
29 When Passion blows the treacherous gale,
30 Reason and Prudence quit their post;
31 The Mind obeys the boisterous storm,
32 Unshipp'd its helm, its compass lost.
33 In vain the Muse, e'en Heaven in vain,
34 Point out the course it ought to steer;
35 Their warnings are unheeded all,
36 Till Fate allows no time to veer.
37 Yet once again the Muse essays,
38 (Oh! may her warning voice prevail!)
39 To show Ambition's fatal Ills,
40 Her moral pointing, from a tale.
41 The Sun appear'd to set in blood;
42 Dark gathering clouds deform'd the East;
43 O'er the lone wild a Pilgrim rov'd,
44 Nor saw, nor hop'd a place of rest.
[Page 388]
45 'Twas bleak December's dreary night,
46 Frore snow and beating hail descend;
47 Wand'ring he roam'd, nor knew which course
48 His weary way-worn steps to bend.
49 Long had be trod the stiffen'd plain,
50 Fatigued, benumb'd with piercing cold;
51 Just as his hopeless spirits droop'd,
52 A not far distant bell was toll'd.
53 Calm'd for a moment e'en his woes;
54 Hush'd were his sorrows and his fears;
55 And to the side whence the sound came,
56 His quicken'd, onward course he steers.
57 The Bell now ceas'd A striking Clock,
58 Proclaim'd the solemn hour of night:
59 And now he hears sweet Music's sound;
60 And sees a spreading, glaring light.
61 Scarcely his weak'ned eye-balls bear
62 To meet its dazzling, welcome rays;
63 It shows a building's large extent,
64 A cloister'd convent's dome, displays.
65 Its lofty portico he gain'd,
66 To shroud his tempest-beaten head:
67 And pious, kneel'd beneath its roof,
68 Whilst midnight Mass within was said.
[Page 389]
69 The deep, full Organ's swelling sound,
70 Cheers his just fainting, woe-struck heart;
71 Soft mournful voices raise the tears,
72 Which from his half-clos'd eyelids start:
73 The Service ceas'd. Hubert appear'd:
74 On the smooth brow of this lov'd sage
75 Autumnal grace, which linger'd long,
76 Yields to the majesty of Age.
77 Say, cries the kind benignant Sire,
78 Why at this hour thou kneelest here?
79 Can I assistance lend to check,
80 That heart-heav'd sigh, that falling tear?
81 Thy Pilgrim's weeds, thy sandal'd feet,
82 Thy rugged poverty declare:
83 Perhaps thou'rt houseless and forlorn;
84 Then haste my happy Cell to share.
85 He said, and lighted to his cell,
86 The hapless way-spent Pilgrim sigh'd;
87 What Thanks, my Father! can I give?
88 No Thanks, the priestly Saint reply'd.
89 God is the parent of us all;
90 The child of want, and woe, his care;
91 Whilst with me thou partak'st his gifts,
92 Thou hast a Brother's rightful share.
[Page 390]
93 Then sit and eat, and cheerful eat,
94 What I with heartfelt pleasure give;
95 Hadst thou the plenteous store I have,
96 The helpless would from thee receive.
97 Alas! the tears which 'scape thy eye,
98 Some deep-felt hopeless grief disclose;
99 They seem to say, "thou tend'st my wants,
100 But can'st not heal my mental woes."
101 Thy uncouth garb, thy Pilgrim's staff,
102 Might cheat an undiscerning eye;
103 Hast thou not bask'd in fortune's smile?
104 The blushing Guest made no reply.
105 Think not I mean t' ensnare thy youth;
106 For young, my Son! I see thou art,
107 Aught of thy secrets to disclose:
108 Yet would I ease thy troubled heart.
109 Th' ingenuous blush of modest worth,
110 Glows nobly on thy downcast face;
111 Each tender Virtue's there express'd,
112 With simple, native, manly, grace.
113 The awful front of Misery,
114 Must my respect and pity move;
115 When shrin'd in such a form as thine,
116 It claims a Father's care, and love.
[Page 391]
117 Then can I, stranger! (frankly speak)
118 Do aught for thee beyond this hour?
119 Thy griefs, thy prospects, all unknown,
120 Tell! freely tax my utmost power.
121 Though bounded I must own that power;
122 Not circumscrib'd is Hubert's heart;
123 What that permits, this willing does:
124 Thy wants, within its reach, impart.
125 And is this Meudon? (said the youth)
126 Art thou that Sainted Hubert, say!
127 Whose pious Life has constant serv'd,
128 To give his holy doctrines sway?
129 Art thou that Hubert, who refus'd
130 A Mitre's gorgeous envy'd load?
131 Who shunn'd for Peace the path of Fame,
132 And honour's courted, thorn-strow'd road?
133 This Dome, my Son! is Meudon call'd.
134 Enough, the heart-sad Pilgrim cried,
135 Forgive me that I knew thee not,
136 Friend of the wretch! the wand'rer's guide:
137 Kneeling, the trembling Pilgrim said,
138 Father! let me thy blessing share;
139 Though I am crimson'd o'er with sins,
140 God will look down, and hear thy prayer.
[Page 392]
141 O, ask a blessing for a wretch!
142 May Heaven, the pious Hubert said,
143 Forgive and bless thee, hapless Son!
144 And shower its bounties on thy head.
145 I ask but peace, the youth reply'd;
146 And sure Heaven pointed out the way,
147 When here it led my wand'ring steps;
148 Far from my destin'd course astray.
149 With thee I no concealment need;
150 My inmost thoughts, I dare disclose;
151 The present Errour of my mind,
152 And all my bitter unearn'd woes.
153 Thy piercing eye pervades disguise:
154 These weeds are not my birth-right's dress.
155 For Fortune gave me Titles, Wealth;
156 But dash'd, untouch'd, my cup of bliss.
157 E'en hope is gone my soul is dark
158 Some dire, some unknown stroke I dread.
159 The hand of wrath is rais'd on high,
160 The hand of Heaven against this head.
161 Oh! why at me is aim'd the bolt?
162 The shaken, bruised, broken reed.
163 To show what God can do, man bear,
164 Must I, Eternal Justice! bleed?
[Page 393]
165 On me, on me, thy bolt descends,
166 My harrass'd heart foreboding shows
167 'T was thus I wept, 't was thus I fear'd,
168 Before my fatal last of woes.
169 'T was then these death-like damps I felt,
170 This causeless, sick'ning horrour knew;
171 Before the lov'd Eulalia sent
172 Her fatal, tender, last Adieu.
173 Still fresh I feel the dire request
174 "Henry renounce, forgive, resign
175 " My hand, my broken vows, my heart;
176 "For I must never, now, be thine,
177 "Duty compels my Hand from thee:
178 " But not from thee, my heart is torn.
179 "Adieu! forgive the cruel act,
180 " Thy wretched friend, shall ever mourn. "
181 Yes, I forgive thy broken vows!
182 'T was strong compulsion urg'd the deed,
183 But thou, old man! My Father's friend!
184 Why didst thou doom my heart to bleed?
185 What hast thou done? What thy reward?
186 Forc'd us to curse our hapless fate.
187 Say, is thy fell ambition gorg'd,
188 Thy Daughter made a Wretch in state?
[Page 394]
189 Mine is the pang beyond distress
190 Thou art her Sire I curse thee not
191 Father! I wander from my tale;
192 And mourn with useless grief my lot.
193 I lov'd a gentle, smiling maid,
194 Whose mind surpass'd her far-fam'd charms.
195 Her Father promis'd me her hand;
196 Yet tore her from these faithful arms.
197 Then joyless night enwrapt my soul;
198 The sun ne'er rose to gild my Day;
199 Unblest he started from the East,
200 Or radiant shed his parting ray.
201 Eulalia in another's arms!
202 Was what I could not bear to see.
203 He who could bear such prize to lose,
204 Has never lov'd, nor felt, like me.
205 I shunn'd the sight of Nuptial joys;
206 Nor stay'd till they had seal'd my doom:
207 Determin'd I the World forsook;
208 And sought La Trappe's impervious gloom.
209 Where rigid Piety resigns
210 A faithless World, not worth its care;
211 Here I the Habit took, and Vows:
212 Not from Religion, but despair.
[Page 395]
213 Father! thou tremblest at my Guilt!
214 Perjur'd I am, e'en at Heaven's Shrine,
215 Perpetual silence there I vow'd,
216 And ne'er again the world to join.
217 But fix'd despair, and frantic grief,
218 Have tempted me to break those Vows.
219 Will Heaven forgive the crime I've dar'd,
220 And pardon what it disallows?
221 Two years I've dragg'd the heavy chain,
222 Of Life's incumbent, hated load;
223 Far from the cheerful walks of man;
224 With nought conversing, but my God:
225 And all my order's rigid Rules,
226 With gloomy pleasure I've observ'd:
227 Labour, and fasting, midnight prayers,
228 From silence, ne'er till now I've swerv'd.
229 Oh! had I ere this fatal hour,
230 Which brings my guilty footsteps here,
231 In sackcloth and in ashes cloth'd,
232 Expiring press'd the welcome bier!
233 Then had this prison of my Soul,
234 Been to my slow-made
* The Monks of La Trappe dig every day three Spadefuls of earth from their destined graves.
grave consign'd;
235 Borne by my Brethren's pious love,
236 As in my requiem they had join'd.
[Page 396]
237 Thou Grave! (Now, Love, thy only balm!)
238 My hope my wish my peace my gain!
239 Would I might plunge to thee uncall'd!
240 Quick snatch me to thy dark domain.
241 With terrour now the Pilgrim starts;
242 Aghast he fix'd his eager eyes,
243 As if some hideous form he saw:
244 And, frantic thus to Hubert cries.
245 Father! the fatal Vision's here!
246 Mark what her trembling lips shall say!
247 She sinks a horrid mass deform,
248 See! see! she slowly melts away.
249 She's here again; in beauty beams;
250 Oh! keep that charming, lovely form!
251 She sinks to fell corruption's dross,
252 To feed the loathsome, bloated worm.
253 Com'st thou again? O, speak, my Love!
254 As erst beside my slow-dug grave.
255 Say now thy Spirit waits for mine!
256 Or what thy dreadful Visits crave!
257 Was not my love for thee, as pure
258 As thy own spotless, heavenly mind?
259 No other love, but that of God,
260 Glow'd in this breast, where thou art shrin'd.
[Page 397]
261 For thee, I break my heaven-seal'd Vows;
262 To search, why thou disturb'st my rest.
263 Say! dost thou want to rouse the friend
264 Within thy Henry's faithful breast?
265 Say! if Misfortune's ruthless hand,
266 Make me thy only chosen aid?
267 I'll dare as much as man may dare,
268 Protect thee if thou art betray'd.
269 Dear, lovely, dreadful, Vision speak!
270 Say why thou nightly thus art seen?
271 Tell me thy Spirit waits for mine!
272 Or what thy fearful Visits mean!
273 Sink not to Earth! Distract me not!
274 Rise in thy beauty to my sight.
275 Let loveliness still round thee fling,
276 Her radiant robe of living light.
277 God of my Soul! avert thy wrath!
278 O shield me from this horrid sight!
279 Let madness, seize on memory's power!
280 And shroud each sense in dunnest night.
281 Why sink'st thou thus a shapeless mass?
282 Thy form thus mould'ring to decay?
283 O, take me to the shades of death!
284 Terrific vision! lead the way!
[Page 398]
285 Prostrate the raving Pilgrim fell.
286 The pious Hubert rais'd his head;
287 Keeling beside his ghastly form;
288 Whilst o'er his woes, his bosom bled.
289 I'll share thy griefs; be calm, my Son!
290 Blest is that man who patient bears,
291 His heaven-appointed lot below;
292 Affliction, in this vale of tears.
293 Take comfort then, my hapless Son!
294 Say, cries the youth, hast thou a charm
295 Can cure despair; and heal my mind;
296 My memory of its sting disarm?
297 If not, what comfort canst thou give?
298 All other aid but that were vain.
299 Would'st, with a breath control the waves;
300 Or strive the raging winds, to chain?
301 Think'st thou, unbuffeted, this storm
302 Has lawless rul'd, without control?
303 Or unresisting I obey'd,
304 This blackest tempest, of the Soul?
305 O'er the sick mind, what balm has power,
306 Within art's ample, healing bound?
307 I seek a cure, may haply prove,
308 A scorpion's venom to my wound.
[Page 399]
309 Thou know'st our Order's rigid rules:
310 No converse with the world's allow'd;
311 But I must know, the fate of her,
312 To whom my early faith was vow'd.
313 Her seen, That known, my mind will calm,
314 Nor more with visions be oppress'd.
315 I'll expiate then my perjur'd Vows;
316 And patient wait eternal rest.
317 Father, adieu! betray me not;
318 Full many a league I've yet to stray;
319 These pilgrim's weeds disguis'd me once,
320 As to La Trappe I steer'd my way.
321 Beneath this humble, friendly garb,
322 I'll view, unseen, the form I love:
323 Return and expiate my offence;
324 And from my soul this load remove.
325 Forbear to tempt this wintry gloom;
326 O, dread the dangers of the way!
327 (The Father said) know thou'rt proscrib'd,
328 Thy wildness will thy crime betray.
329 Renounce, my Son! thy dang'rous plan
330 Ne'er but with life, the Youth reply'd;
331 Let me but live to see her once!
332 Then, Parent Earth! my sorrows hide!
[Page 400]
333 Constrain me not, forego thy grasp
334 What can avail thy feeble age
335 'Gainst Youth, in all its prime of strength,
336 Nerv'd by athletic, frantic rage?
337 Oh! stay me not unloose thy hold
338 O venerable Sire! forbear
339 Oh! force me not to break thy grasp
340 Dread to contend with fix'd despair
341 What canst thou 'gainst my youthful arm?
342 I venerate thy hoary hairs,
343 Yet not their sacred prevalence,
344 Nor e'en thy trembling, starting tears,
345 Can win my Soul to change its course.
346 No Lion's force; not temper'd steel
347 Should bind me here Yet bless me, Sire!
348 Forgive the guilt thou ne'er canst feel!
349 Alas! my Son! an instant stay.
350 No longer shall my arm contend:
351 I'll not detain by force, or fraud:
352 But hear the counsel of a friend.
353 Just Heaven! direct my troubled thoughts!
354 Instruct me what I ought to do;
355 How soothe this hapless, wretched youth;
356 Yet keep my Duty still in view!
[Page 401]
357 My Soul disdains the traitor's part;
358 Thy secret trusted to my breast,
359 There lock'd, my Son! shall still repose,
360 Whilst thought and memory shall rest.
361 Stay till to-morrow's noon be past.
362 Be rul'd, and in thy friend confide;
363 Then will I share th' adventurous toil,
364 Thy wandering mind, thy footsteps guide.
365 Soon as the Sun shall gild the East,
366 An awful Rite demands my care.
367 As Priest, help thou to sing the Mass;
368 Claim, in that Sacrifice, thy share.
369 If all thy purpose be to see
370 The form thou ought'st not now to love,
371 To calm thy mind and ease thy fears,
372 My offer'd aid thou wilt approve.
373 Perhaps beyond stern Duty's rules
374 Prescrib'd, protecting thee, I go;
375 But man should err on mercy's side;
376 And stem, not aid, the storm of woe.
377 A mind like thine indulgence wants.
378 Yet better, Son! thy plan delay.
379 May I not urge thee to return?
380 And to La Trappe retrace thy way?
[Page 402]
381 No more! (with warmth, the Pilgrim cried)
382 A Prophet's eloquence would fail,
383 When yawning gulphs beneath my feet,
384 Nor Heaven's fear'd wrath could aught avail.
385 Think'st thou thy voice can more than these ?
386 Bid the fix'd stars in orbits roll;
387 Bid ocean's waves obey thy laws,
388 And hurl them foaming to the Pole.
389 Do this: then hope the Mind to rule,
390 The stricken Mind of freeborn Man,
391 Which, like the Comets' lawless blaze,
392 Though all unequal, has its plan.
393 Distract me not the woe-stung mind,
394 Too near approaches to that height,
395 Whence Reason roaming bursts all bounds;
396 And joins with madness in her flight.
397 Urge me no more! In mercy, cease!
398 Father! I never will return;
399 Till I have seen the form I love,
400 Or clasp'd these arms around her Urn.
401 Force or mean fraud thou wilt not use.
402 I dare in Hubert's promise trust:
403 Thy hoary hairs, thy sacred fame,
404 Vouch, that thou canst not be unjust.
[Page 403]
405 Glad I accept thee as my Guide.
406 Thy welcome presence shall supply
407 The real presence of my God.
408 As His, I'll fear thy piercing Eye.
409 Heaven knows my heart, its frailties knows;
410 It errs from woe, not wilful Sin:
411 Scan thou its movements, thou art just,
412 And aid the monitor within.
413 I thank thee, Father! for thy care;
414 Be the companion of my way:
415 I'll wait the morn. My Duty calls
416 To prayer. Let me its voice obey.
417 Trembling he kneel'd, "Great God, he cried,
418 " Omniscient, all-pervading mind!
419 "Upon a prostrate, sinful worm,
420 " Look from that Heaven, where thou art shrin'd.
421 "Not in avenging terrours rob'd,
422 " Thy Sword of Justice rais'd on high;
423 "But, clad in Mercy's mildest beam,
424 " Thee, let my trembling soul, descry.
425 "Else, dare I not, my prayer prefer,
426 " Wert thou but terrible and just;
427 "Who seest my unknown secret Sins:
428 " But thou art Mercy, I am dust.
[Page 404]
429 "Pity a stricken, wounded mind;
430 " Forlorn of thee for ends divine.
431 "O! heal the Soul, thy wrath has pierc'd:
432 " And be the praise, and Glory, thine.
433 "Yet, awful Power! thy will be done!
434 " Meek let me bow before thy rod,
435 "If I must bear this worst of ills,
436 " Nor dare to murmur at my God!
437 "O! if my voice can reach the height,
438 " Where Mercy's beams surround thy Throne.
439 "Another prayer I would prefer,
440 " For a Soul dearer than my own.
441 "Lend still a moment to my Mind,
442 " The strength to guide my voice aright;
443 "Avert the horrour of my soul;
444 " O! take this Phantom from my sight.
445 "But if some secret, unknown sin,
446 " Against my soul thy wrath doth move;
447 "Still let me suffer in myself;
448 " And not in her I maddening love.
449 "Though wounded to my inmost Soul,
450 " I feel the torture phrenzy knows,
451 "Pierc'd by this worst of human ills,
452 " Yet add to mine, her sum of woes!
[Page 405]
453 "If, God of Justice! to her share,
454 " Fall aught of ill, oh! be it mine!
455 "Watch o'er her with a parent's care;
456 " Still let thy Grace around her shine.
457 "Mild as her virtues be her fate.
458 " Let peace, and glory, crown her head.
459 "Let Grief ne'er find her heart its home,
460 " And but for me, one tear be shed.
461 "Let that be Pity's gentle tear,
462 " Which sadly-pleasing moves the heart;
463 "Not that which, harrowing the foul,
464 " Is seen from Passion's eye to start.
465 "Refine her mind from earthly love:
466 " Late may she learn my hapless doom.
467 "Let not my purpose teem with woe.
468 " Grant us! vain wish, one common tomb!
469 "God of my Soul! dread Being, hear!
470 " Awful, Omnipotent, yet Just.
471 "Bruise not the shaken, broken reed:
472 " Nor the worm, humbled to the dust.
473 "If aught that's impious I have ask'd,
474 " Not to my errours be it join'd:
475 "Pardon the wanderings of my heart;
476 " And the frail weakness of my Mind.
[Page 406]
477 "Yet save thy first of works below,
478 " A virtuous mind in beauty's form,
479 "Keep Her, dread God! from ev'ry ill;
480 " And on my head direct the storm.
481 "Thanks for this gleam of reason's light.
482 " Yet fearful is the scene it shows:
483 "I view the horrours I have felt:
484 " O! add not madness to my woes.
485 "Avert that Tempest from my mind:
486 " The wreck of Man's pre-eminence:
487 "Chain this wild demon of my Soul.
488 " God! show thy blest Omnipotence. "
489 With frantic and disorder'd haste,
490 The Pilgrim said his wonted prayers,
491 The midnight office of La Trappe,
492 With agonizing sighs and tears.
493 The pious Hubert watch'd his Guest;
494 And view'd the workings of his soul,
495 Wish'd to relieve his anguish'd mind;
496 Yet fear'd the storm, he would control.
497 In meditation and in prayer,
498 The young Monk spent night's live-long hours.
499 His ruffled, harrass'd mind seem'd sooth'd;
500 And show'd Religion's healing powers.
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501 The Morning breaks; dark, gloomy, sad.
502 And in the East, no Sun appears.
503 Hail, rain, and snow, deform the Sky;
504 Each leafless tree is dropping tears.
505 A tolling bell to early Mass,
506 Now call'd the pious, hallow'd Priest;
507 Prostrate he kiss'd the Altar's base,
508 Attended by his sorrowing Guest.
509 Each said his Mass, and then retir'd
510 Fasting; to meditate, and pray.
511 Compos'd the stranger Guest appear'd;
512 Yet could not prayer his gloom allay.
513 As in the Sacristy they kneel'd,
514 Hubert, sad Anselm
* In the Roman Church, when either a Man or Woman enters into a Monastic Order, they are called by the name of some Saint, not by their Christian or Family Name.
, thus address'd,
515 "Canst thou assist in the next Mass?
516 " Or is thy soul too much distress'd?
517 "Cuthbertha then those vows will make
518 " Which nought on earth can e'er erase;
519 "Wilt thou her written Vows receive,
520 " And place them on the Altar's base,
521 "Whilst I the Benediction give,
522 " And join the sainted, virgin choir,
523 "To celebrate the sacrifice
524 " Which zeal and piety inspire? "
[Page 408]
525 The Stranger willing bow'd assent.
526 The deep-ton'd bell proclaim'd the hour:
527 In Priestly vestments, at the Shrine,
528 Again their orisons they pour.
529 The Curtain drawn before the Grate,
530 Conceal'd the Sainted Vestal band.
531 Now drawn aside, the Virgin Choir,
532 In order round the Novice stand.
533 Cover'd with cloth of blackest hue,
534 An Altar in the midst was rear'd,
535 Th' intended victim kneeling there
536 In sable, flowing robes appear'd.
537 A Veil of lawn, of purest white,
538 Which swept with graceful folds the ground,
539 Around her face and shoulders spread;
540 A Crown of Thorns her temples bound.
541 Emblem of all that's fair and good,
542 Shone Modesty upon her brow;
543 And with a blush her cheek suffus'd,
544 More deep than beauty's transient glow.
545 Yet hers was beauty's choicest form,
546 Approaching almost to divine;
547 That, but for some slow-falling tears,
548 She seem'd an Angel at the Shrine.
[Page 409]
549 Trembling with tears, her soft, blue eyes
550 Shone like the moon before the storm;
551 Now bright, now darken'd by the mist,
552 As gathering clouds the sky deform.
553 The Organ's solemn descant flow'd:
554 With eager gaze she seeks the skies:
555 Then kiss'd, with pious awe, the cross,
556 Whilst heavenly rapture fill'd her eyes.
557 Th' expecting crowd gaz'd on the maid;
558 A sigh was heav'd from every breast,
559 At sight of the sweet Victim's charms,
560 For whom the sacred shrine was dress'd.
561 For beauty melts the fiercest heart;
562 Subdues the sternest, firmest mind:
563 But victim beauty claims the sigh
564 Of love, and tender sorrow join'd.
565 She rose; her gentle bosom heav'd;
566 The Lilly oft usurp'd her cheek;
567 As to the curtain'd Grate she walk'd,
568 With downcast eyes, mild, modest, meek.
569 Her folded hands, her downcast eyes,
570 The sigh by piety repress'd,
571 Spoke resignation to her Fate,
572 But Comfort alien to her breast.
[Page 410]
573 Close to the Altar's foot she kneel'd.
574 With trem'lous voice, her Vows she made:
575 Vows which engag'd to quit the world,
576 For ever, for the Cloister's shade.
577 Anselm approach'd to take the Scroll,
578 And place it on the Altar's base.
579 His gloomy, ground-fix'd eye now view'd,
580 For the first time, Cuthbertha's face.
581 Forgetful of the place, the time,
582 Cuthbertha, Henry's name, exclaim'd.
583 The Parchment scap'd his trembling hand
584 Anselm, the lov'd Eulalia, nam'd.
585 "O, faithful found! what joy in grief!
586 " Lift up again thy dove-like eyes!
587 "O God of wrath! eternal bars
588 " 'Gainst our, once guiltless, union rise.
589 Th' affrighted Hubert seiz'd his arm.
590 "O know, my Son! he whispering said,
591 " Thy words are doubly impious here;
592 "God's on the Shrine; his vengeance dread.
593 "Go, seek my Cell, and hide thee there! "
594 "No!" cried the awe-struck, wretched youth;
595 "The winged shaft of death is sped;
596 " Let my last look behold her Truth.
[Page 411]
597 "Approach, and bless the trembling saint;
598 " Thy sacred office now pursue!
599 "Grant this, my last request in life,
600 " Let my dimm'd eyes love's victim view. "
601 An awful silence now ensued.
602 Pale terrour in each face appears;
603 It reign'd a moment and was chac'd
604 By one, loud burst of groans and tears.
605 Grief found a universal voice;
606 For woes, beyond the reach of cure:
607 All pity'd, lov'd, and mourn'd, the pair,
608 Call'd, such stern trial, to endure.
609 Hubert drew near the beauteous Nun;
610 The holy Benediction gave.
611 Her half-clos'd eyes to Heaven were rais'd,
612 She seem'd, some earnest wish, to crave.
613 With trembling haste Cuthbertha rose.
614 Her charming eyes had lost their fire.
615 Dreadfully calm, she gaz'd around,
616 As slow she totter'd down the Choir.
617 There, on her knees, her requiem sung.
618 Then, prostrate, kiss'd the hallow'd ground.
619 A Pall secluded her from view:
620 Whilst all the Sisters chaunted round.
[Page 412]
621 Thrice, round the emblematic Pall,
622 The Abbess shook the holy Dew.
623 And thrice, with graceful, well-taught hand,
624 The smoking incense, circling threw.
625 The Vestal band the Office sung:
626 Whilst 'neath the Pall Cuthbertha lies.
627 The Ritual done; the Pall romov'd:
628 "Sester," the Abbess said, "arise."
629 Cuthbertha heeded not the voice.
630 The trembling Nuns around her drew.
631 They raise her languid, charming form;
632 And, Death, in every feature view.
633 Each art which stackning life recalls,
634 With eager, well-meant haste, they try.
635 She strives for speech; but 't is in vain;
636 Her quivering lips their aid deny.
637 Again she strove, and rais'd her eyes,
638 Her outstretch'd hands together press'd;
639 Then, like a tempest-beaten flower,
640 Sunk, ne'er to rise, on Helen's breast.
641 Despair and Horrour in his look,
642 Anselm on his Cuthbertha gaz'd;
643 Distracted saw, that Death's stern hand,
644 The beauteous edifice had raz'd.
[Page 413]
645 And as they bore her corpse away,
646 His fix'd eye spoke, that poignant woe,
647 Which words, or tears, can ne'er express:
648 Souls, pierc'd like his, can only know.
649 Falling at Hubert's feet, he said,
650 "Let the Grave join Our vows are past "
651 This effort his affection made,
652 But it was dying Nature's last.
653 The boon the hapless Henry ask'd,
654 To the sad pair the Sisters gave.
655 In Death they had fulfill'd their Vows;
656 Which reach'd no further than the Grave.
657 Ye Fair! ye Young! ye Gay! ye Vain!
658 This tale, O not unsoften'd hear!
659 These hapless Lovers claim one sigh;
660 Their woes, but not their Death, a Tear.
661 One tear of Sorrow, e'en from hearts,
662 Adversity has never taught,
663 And soften'd in her rugged School;
664 And bade to taste her wholesome draught.
665 Within that Heart, which views unmov'd
666 All other griefs except its own,
667 Friendship shall never find a place;
668 Nor Virtue e'er erect her throne.
[Page 414]
669 What though no woes assail ye now,
670 No anguish, no corroding care,
671 Was not Eulalia happy once?
672 The fairest too, where all were fair?
673 Till Henry was deny'd her love;
674 And secret left his lordly seat;
675 She ne'er had tasted sorrow's pang;
676 But then her misery rose complete.
677 Her gentle bosom knew no peace;
678 Nought now could ease its throbbing pain.
679 The faithful, much-lov'd Henry lost:
680 Her Sire relented now in vain.
681 A burning fever fir'd her blood:
682 Insatiate Death watch'd for his prey;
683 Though Youth repell'd his eager grasp,
684 'T was only for a short delay.
685 Th' ambitious Sire his folly curs'd,
686 His Daughter fading in her bloom,
687 The duteous Victim to his pride,
688 Slow sinking to an early Tomb.
689 Him moping melancholy seiz'd;
690 With mind distraught that knows no rest;
691 The thought, that he had kill'd his Child,
692 For ever haunts his cruel breast.
[Page 415]
693 Hopeless a Cloister'd life she chose.
694 Far from those scenes which Love had known,
695 Where hours now pass'd with leaden pace;
696 Which once, with swiftest wing, had flown.
697 She fear'd that Henry's frantic mind,
698 Had rais'd his hand against his life;
699 And rashly plung'd in endless woe;
700 From passion's fell, conflicting strife.
701 To weep, and pray, for him she lov'd,
702 To God she dedicates her hours;
703 Her sighs, her unseen tears, were his;
704 And his the Orisons, she pours.
705 The Nuns of Meudon, at her Death,
706 First learn'd, the reason of her Grief.
707 Unseen, the mourner lov'd to weep;
708 Nor would be thought to want relief.
709 Think not, ye Fair! ye are secure
710 (Though happy now) from grief and care.
711 The woes I sing ye ne'er may know:
712 But others fall to Mortals' share.
713 If Virtue in your bosoms glow:
714 If Pity there her Altar rear:
715 The Sympathy these woes excite,
716 Shall teach to stem, some falling Tear.
[Page 416]
717 To be the hand of Providence,
718 Its Angel, ministring below.
719 Dispenser thou, the Donor God,
720 Who giving, gives thee to bestow.
721 Then not unuseful has the Muse
722 From Meudon's annals sketch'd this Tale;
723 Of Henry's woes, Eulalia's love:
724 And snatch'd it from oblivion's vale.
(1787.)

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE MONK OF LA TRAPPE; A TALE.
Author: Hannah Brand
Themes:
Genres: narrative verse

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Source edition

Plays and poems: by Miss Hannah Brand. Norwich: printed by Beatniffe and Payne; and sold by Messrs. F. and C. Rivington; and Messrs. Elmsley and Bremner, London, 1798, pp. 381-416. xv,[1],424p.; 8⁰. (ESTC T42452; OTA K041482.000)

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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.