WHY comes not Francis?--From the doleful City
He fled,--and, in his flight, could hear
The death-sounds of the Minster-bell:
That sullen stroke pronounced farewell
To Marmaduke, cut off from pity!
To Ambrose that! and then a knell
For him, the sweet half-opened Flower!
For all--all dying in one hour!
--Why comes not Francis? Thoughts of love
Should bear him to his Sister dear
With the fleet motion of a dove;
Yea, like a heavenly messenger
Of speediest wing, should he appear.
Why comes he not?--for westward fast
Along the plain of York he past;
Reckless of what impels or leads,
Unchecked he hurries on;--nor heeds
The sorrow, through the Villages,
Spread by triumphant cruelties
Of vengeful military force,
And punishment without remorse.
He marked not, heard not, as he fled
All but the suffering heart was dead
For him abandoned to blank awe,
To vacancy, and horror strong:
And the first object which he saw,
With conscious sight, as he swept along--
It was the Banner in his hand!
He felt--and made a sudden stand.
He looked about like one betrayed:
What hath he done? what promise made?
Oh weak, weak moment! to what end
Can such a vain oblation tend,
And he the Bearer?--Can he go
Carrying this instrument of woe,
And find, find anywhere, a right
To excuse him in his Country's sight?
No; will not all men deem the change
A downward course, perverse and strange?
Here is it;--but how? when? must she,
The unoffending Emily,
Again this piteous object see?
Such conflict long did he maintain,
Nor liberty nor rest could gain:
His own life into danger brought
By this sad burden--even that thought,
Exciting self-suspicion strong
Swayed the brave man to his wrong.
And how--unless it were the sense
Of all-disposing Providence,
Its will unquestionably shown--
How has the Banner clung so fast
To a palsied, and unconscious hand;
Clung to the hand to which it passed
Without impediment? And why,
But that Heaven's purpose might be known,
Doth now no hindrance meet his eye,
No intervention, to withstand
Fulfilment of a Father's prayer
Breathed to a Son forgiven, and blest
When all resentments were at rest,
And life in death laid the heart bare?--
Then, like a spectre sweeping by,
Rushed through his mind the prophecy
Of utter desolation made
To Emily in the yew-tree shade:
He sighed, submitting will and power
To the stern embrace of that grasping hour.
'No choice is left, the deed is mine--
Dead are they, dead!--and I will go,
And, for their sakes, come weal or woe,
Will lay the Relic on the shrine.'
So forward with a steady will
He went, and traversed plain and hill;
And up the vale of Wharf his way
Pursued;--and, at the dawn of day,
Attained a summit whence his eyes
Could see the Tower of Bolton rise.
There Francis for a moment's space
Made halt--but hark! a noise behind
Of horsemen at an eager pace!
He heard, and with misgiving mind.
--'Tis Sir George Bowes who leads the Band:
They come, by cruel Sussex sent;
Who, when the Nortons from the hand
Of death had drunk their punishment,
Bethought him, angry and ashamed,
How Francis, with the Banner claimed
As his own charge, had disappeared,
By all the standers-by revered.
His whole bold carriage (which had quelled
Thus far the Opposer, and repelled
All censure, enterprise so bright
That even bad men had vainly striven
Against that overcoming light)
Was then reviewed, and prompt word given,
That to what place soever fled
He should be seized, alive or dead.
The troop of horse have gained the height
Where Francis stood in open sight.
They hem him round--'Behold the proof,'
They cried, 'the Ensign in his hand!
'He' did not arm, he walked aloof!
For why?--to save his Father's land;--
Worst Traitor of them all is he,
A Traitor dark and cowardly!'
'I am no Traitor,' Francis said,
'Though this unhappy freight I bear;
And must not part with. But beware;--
Err not by hasty zeal misled,
Nor do a suffering Spirit wrong,
Whose self-reproaches are too strong!'
At this he from the beaten road
Retreated towards a brake of thorn,
That like a place of vantage showed;
And there stood bravely, though forlorn.
In self-defence with warlike brow
He stood,--nor weaponless was now;
He from a Soldier's hand had snatched
A spear,--and, so protected, watched
The Assailants, turning round and round;
But from behind with treacherous wound
A Spearman brought him to the ground.
The guardian lance, as Fra
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"The White Doe Of Rylstone, Or, The Fate Of The Nortons - Canto Sixth" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 13 Jul 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/42408/the-white-doe-of-rylstone,-or,-the-fate-of-the-nortons-----canto-sixth>.