Imágenes de páginas

And the white flowing veil which swept athwart

The sable tokens of her widowed state.

And he would cry when weary of the chase, "Oh! the drear sadness of this lonely state, The vacant chamber where my mother spun,

The vacant chair wherein my mother sate, She whom they say my father 'Constance' called ! [greet

When shall these halls such other inmate As shall be fit to stand where Constance stood?

No, that can never be: I'll hie me then Back to the chase, and in my hounds and hawks

Find some poor solace for a mother's loss.
I see no maidens, and I care to see
None, who resemble her in beauty, or
In priceless, peerless worth and yet 'tis

To live unloved, to see no loving face,

To feel no loving hand, to know no heart That beats and throbs responsive to one's

[blocks in formation]

Walked on the terrace 'neath the castle wall

To greet the Count upon his natal day. And Gualtiero stood amid the crowd Conspicuous by gay dress and manly gait, And easy courteous bearing; and he spake Kind words of friendship now to this, now that,

Waving his plumèd bonnet to the crowd.

Stepped forth six burghers from the rest,

and said,

"Most noble Count, son of a noble sire, Nor a less noble mother's son, we crave Audience and due attention at thine hands. We were thy father's vassals; we are thine;

And that allegiance that we paid to him
We owe his son; nor shall it e'er be said
That we were wanting in due loyalty.
We love thy mother's and thy father's
And we would shed for thee, if need, our
Thou wilt not therefore turn a cold, deaf


[blocks in formation]

Of Northern Lombardy or our Tuscan


Would gladly call her Gualtiero's bride,
Saluzzo's Countess, yet my love to her
Who gave me birth, whom still ye burghers

Forbids me to ambition aught that is
Inferior to herself; and many a mile
Well might I traverse both by land and sea,
Ere I beheld her equal, or in mien,
Or in a loving, loyal, trusting heart.
Peerless she was, and peerless yet remains,
Nor can ye point to her that is her peer.
Yet it mislikes me that this city fair
Should risk its being or its weal on one
Who bears and carries no enchanted life.
So, masters, if it please ye, I will strive
Against mine inclination, and will seek
A maiden who shall be unto your hearts:
And if beside she be to me, good sirs,
A loyal friend, submissive, fond, and true,
It may be that I even shall rejoice
To give a Countess to this city fair.
But stay, one warning. Whom I choose
as bride

Of Gualtiero, be she who she may,
Of royal, noble, or ignoble blood,
Ye swear to me, right worthy sirs, that ye
And all my people loyally accept
And reverence, as though she were a queen
Of gay Ravenna, or of Milan proud,
Ay, or of fair Firenze, come what may."

He spoke: the burghers swore, and straight retired; [path The gay crowd parted, and the terraceLay lonely and deserted as in knots Of twain and three the burghers homeward paced,

Much pondering in perplexed wonder

[blocks in formation]

Fringed with a scanty flower-bed and o'erhung

By a dark grove of olives, intermixed
With pale ceringos and acacia bowers,
A humble cottage stood. Giannuculo,
Its tenant, was a labourer of the soil,
And sixty summer suns had bronzed his
With him there dwelt a daughter, passing
The envy of each youthful villager
On this side and on that. Her girlhood



Was scarcely passing into womanhood,
And yet she showed a woman's care of
Who was her sire, and who with duteous
Said daily, "De profundis," for the soul
Of her departed mother. She was fair;
But not so fair as modest, pure, and chaste.
A violet from beneath a moss-clad stone
Peeping in early spring-tide did not cast
Its glance more shyly forth upon the vale
Than did Griselda when she spoke and

And prized was she much by her rustic
Who called her his fair flow'ret; and his

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Before this moon hath waned and waxed No! that were long to wait; this very eveShall be Saluzzo's Countess and the bride Of Gualtiero!"

And no sooner thought Had passed into speech, than he declared Unto Giannuculo his love. "I read

In this sweet maiden's features all I seek
To gladden and to grace the palace halls
In which erewhile my mother Constance

I am Saluzzo's Count; and in her eyes
I see the eyes of Constance; in her gait,
The princely queen-like mien; those raven

The marble of her forehead,-all, I swear,
Remember me of what my mother was.'

"You do much honour to our poor estate, Most noble Count; and if it be thy will To wed my daughter, let that will be done. Only I fear that she may climb too high, And take her seat upon a throne awhence One day her downfall shall more grievous be,"

"Fear not, my friend; but first, in order due,

'Tis fitting that I question her one word. I am Saluzzo's Count; I seek thy hand, Thy hand and heart; say, wilt thou bend thy will,

Whole and entire, and in no stinted share, Unto my will obedient, come what may; Nor shrink to render service to thy lord, Who loves thee, but whose will must be thy law?"

The maiden laid her pitcher on the ground;

Stood for a moment half amazed and shy, Then looked to heaven, as though she would attest

The saints to her resolve, and said "I will."

He led her by the hand, and bade her strip [smock;

Her poor apparel, save one threadbare Then called for richest garments, silken hose,

Tunic and corselet, and a flowing robe
Of satin tissue; and a coronet

[blocks in formation]

Twelve months, twelve happy months have come and gone,

And Gualtiero with a deep'ning love
Doth cherish his fair bride, and ever fresh
Appear the tokens of his fond regard.
But when to a wife's title she did add
The name of mother, and a daughter fair
She bore, his countenance became

Harsh words he uttered in his angry mood: "What! can ye bear no son? In vain have I

Sought out a bride in thee, if issue none
Or none but female issue be my lot.
Hark how my subjects mutter in their scorn,
Curse thy mean parentage and poor estate:
Thou art not what I hoped to find in thee.
That child thou nursest in thine arms, I

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Twelve months, twelve anxious months have rolled on,

And to the vacant cradle of the babe Succeeds a son. Fair was his cheek, and bright

His eye, and dark his hair, like Constance's. He grew to prattle on Griselda's knee, And know her voice, and call her "mother dear,"

Nor shrank in terror at the plumèd crest Of Gualtiero.

As she sat one day Upon the terrace, playing with her boy, The father stern approached, and threatening spake. {true, "Griselda, thou art pure, and good, and Nor ever hast thou failed in loyalty To me thy lord. My will is thine. "Tis well It should be so. Then hear. My burghers Mutter in silence, or complain aloud, [all A humble peasant's child should be my heir, [that thou Their future lord. 'Tis therefore meet Give up this boy to share his sister's fate, And then return to that which was thy home Hard by the convent gate; Giannuculo Will give thee welcome, and his aged heart Haply thou mayest cheer. Meantime my my soul [wilt, Yearns for a nobler mate. Say what thou

My mind is fixed; and ere to-morrow's sun Hath set, thy father's door receives thee back

As naked as thou camest thence to me. And for thy son'


"Nay, good my lord, I bow Unto thy voice, thy word, thy will-my law. I bow, obedient; though it wrings my heart, My very heart of hearts, not to lay down The coronet thou didst place upon my brow, But the dear name of mother, and to see Thy henchmen bear the sweet fruit of my womb

To perish on the hills. Nay, cast him not Unto the wolves, as erst-But nay, my tongue

Shall ne'er give utterance to reproachful word.

Gualtiero's wife shall ever worthy be
Of her who was his mother. But my son-
Cast him not to the wolves, unless it be
Thy will; and then thy will and God's be

Yet ere I go upon my lonely road,

A wife discrowned, yet scarce dishonoured, One word I crave. This crown, these jewels bright,

This silk attire, yes, and this golden ring, With which thou didst espouse my maiden hand,

I give thee back, for they are thine—no gifts,
But only lent me for a little space.
You bid me take the dowry that I brought:
You need no teller for to count the dross,
Nor I a purse to wrap it in, far less
A sumpter-horse or mule to carry it.
Naked you took me from my father's hands,
And naked I return, such as I came,
Bereft of nought, save only maidenhood;
That jewel thou can'st ne'er give back to

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

One summer morn, twelve years the very day

Since that Griselda in her cottage home
Had first beheld her lord-in hottest haste
A horseman reins his steed before the door,
Where sits Giannuculo in pensive mood.
"The Count, my lord and master and thine

Hath sent to call thy daughter, fair Griselde,
Upon the pain of fealty, to appear
This day within his palace gates. Once more
Saluzzo joys to learn its lord, the Count,
Our gracious Gualtiero, hath prepared
His halls to welcome a new bride, as fair
As was Griselda, and of nobler blood.
To-morrow-for the Court of Rome mean-

Hath granted dispensation for the deedGod's priest before God's altar shall stand forth

And publicly proclaim our noble chief
And a fair daughter of Count Panago,
In God's name and the Church's, man and

And need there is that every chamber shine Beswept and garnished, that the palace smile

Resplendent, as befits a bridal day.

Griselda's hands are not ill used to toil; Griselda's eyes will keep good watch and ward

Over the kitchen and the banquet-hall. Say, shall she come obedient to my voice?"

[blocks in formation]

She swept the palace halls, garnished the floor,

The couches, each familiar guest-chamber
Dressed in its gayest colours, and came forth
To greet the Countess as she stepped from
Her palfrey at the gate. The guests are
And all is expectation, and the feast
Will soon begin.


[ocr errors]

'And now, what thinkest thou, Griselda, of my bride?" the Count exclaimed. 'Sooth she is fair, yes, passing fair, and fit To deck these halls, as none afore her was. And, if she be as good as she is fair, You may reign happy in Saluzzo's halls, And hand your heritage to a long line Of noble sons, sprung from your princely loins.

But oh! if I may breathe one prayer, I pray Thou mayst not rack this youthful maiden's heart

As thou hast racked another's. Yet withal Thy will, my lord, and God's own will be done.

Young is thy bride, and nurtured tenderly; I was a tougher sapling, and I knew To bend me to the storm, as one who learnt [schooled

Life's fitful moods, and as a child was To hardships, ay, from earliest infancy. Yet stay-what mean this locket, and this cross?

It is the same which twelve long years ago I bound about that neck-the neck of her, My first-born child! O God and saints of heaven!

Do I yet see my own, my long-lost child? And by her side, so like their father's face, Her brother? or does sight bemock my heart,

My mother's heart, or is it all a dream? God's will ana Gualtiero's will be done!" She spoke, and swooning, sank upon the ground.

Then rose the Count, and every lip was still,

Hushed in amazing silence; and he spoke: "Ye burghers of Saluzzo, trusty friends, Worshipful sirs, ye see before ye here Griselda, my most spotless, noblest bride. This lady who hath stepped from off her steed,

[blocks in formation]


« AnteriorContinuar »