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Unshriven

OH ! the sun rose on the lea, and the bird sang merrilie,

And the steed stood ready harness'd in the hall.

And he left his lady's bower, and he sought the eastern tower,

And he lifted cloak and weapon from the wall.

 

'We were wed but yester-noon, must we separate so soon,

Must you travel unassoiled and, aye, unshriven,

With the blood stain on your hand, and the red streak on your brand,

And your guilt all unconfess'd and unforgiven ?'

 

'Tho' it were but yester-even we were wedded, still unshriven,

Across the moor this morning I must ride ;

I must gallop fast and straight, for my errand will not wait ;

Fear naught, I shall return at eventide.'

 

'If I fear, it is for thee, thy weal is dear to me,

Yon moor with retribution seemeth rife ;

As we've sown so must we reap, and I've started in my sleep

At the voice of the avenger, "Life for life." '

 

'My arm is strong, I ween, and my trusty blade is keen,

And the courser that I ride is swift and sure,

And I cannot break my oath, though to leave thee I am loath,

There is one that I must meet upon the moor.'

 

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

 

Oh ! the sun shone on the lea, and the bird sang merrilie,

Down the avenue and through the iron gate,

Spurr'd and belted, so he rode, steel to draw and steel to goad,

And across the moor he gallop'd fast and straight.

 

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

 

Oh ! the sun shone on the lea, and the bird sang full of glee,

Ere the mists of evening gather'd chill and grey ;

But the wild bird's merry note on the deaf ear never smote,

And the sunshine never warmed the lifeless clay.

 

Ere the sun began to droop, or the mist began to stoop,

The youthful bride lay swooning in the hall ;

Empty saddle on his back, broken bridle hanging slack,

The steed returned full gallop to the stall.

 

Oh ! the sun sank in the sea, and the wind wailed drearilie ;

Let the bells in yonder monastery toll,

For the night rack nestles dark round the body stiff and stark,

And unshriven to its Maker flies the soul.

 

Published in 'Sea Spray and Smoke Drift' (1867).