St. Knighton's Kieve

Silent and still was the haunted stream,
Feeble and faint was the moon's pale beam,
And the wind that whispered the waving bough
Was like the sound of some godless vow.

Far in the distance the waters fell
Foaming o'er many a pinnacle;
They waged with the crags an angry fight,
'Twas a dreary sound in the dead of night.

But the place where we stood was a quiet nook,
Like a secret page in nature's book;
Down at our feet was the midnight well,
Naught of its depths can the daylight tell.

An old oak tree grows near to the spot,
Gray with moss of long years forgot;
They say that the dead are sleeping below,
'Twas a shrine of the Druids ages ago.

One alone stood beside me there,
The dismal silence I could not bear;
A mariner wild from beyond the sea:
I wish that he had not been with me.

Over the gloomy well we hung,
And a long, long line with the lead we flung;
And as the line and the hook we threw,
Darker and darker the waters grew.

With gibe and jest that mariner stood,
Mocking the night of that gloomy flood;
Quoth he, "when the line brings its treasure up,
I'll drain a deep draught from the golden cup.

"I only wish it were filled with wine,
Water has little love of mine;
But the eyes I'll pledge will lend a glow,
They're the brightest and wickedest eyes I know

"Though those eyes light up a cloister now,
Little she recks of the veil and the vow;
And let but the well yield its gold to-night,
And St. Valerie's nun will soon take flight."

Black and more black the midnight grew,
Black and more black was the water's hue;
Then a ghastly sound on the silence broke,
And I thought of the dead beneath the oak.

"Thank God, thank God for light below,
'Tis the charmed cup that is flashing now;"
"No thanks to God," my comrade cries,
"'Tis our own good skill that has won the prize."

There came a flash of terrible light,
And I saw that my comrade's face was white;
The golden cup rose up on a foam,
Then down it plunged to its mystical home.

Then all was night—and I may not tell
What agony there on my spirit fell;
But I pray'd for our Lady's grace as I lay,
And the pain and the darkness past away.

Years have past, yet that sinful man,
Though his hair is gray and his face is wan,
Keeps plunging his line in the gloom of that well;
He is under the Evil Spirit's spell.

'Twas the fairies carved that cup's bright mould,
What have we to do with their gold?
Now our Lady forgive my hour of sin,
That ever I sought that cup to win.



I am indebted to a communication from Mr. Clarke for this legend. He has not stated the attempt to gain the golden cup, hidden in the well, to be an act so reprehensible as I have made it. However, I only follow common custom, in putting upon any act the worst possible construction.
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Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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"St. Knighton's Kieve" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 1 Jun 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/52427/st.-knighton's-kieve>.

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