'Ah! why do grieve and look so wild,
Lord Henrie, tell it to me!
And why do you say you must watch till day,
Where, alas! I may not be?
'O take me then to the aisle of the tower,
And my fears you shall not see;
My heart shall be still in the midnight aisle
If I may but watch with thee;
'I hate the gloom of the eastern tower,
And its dismal hall I shun;
I have heard it said 'tis the haunt of the dead,
The haunt of the Perjur'd Nun!'
'The Nun! the Nun!' and his cheek grew pale,
'But I know you are jesting now;
The dead are at rest and their wand'rings past,'
And he press'd his livid brow!
'The Nun! the Nun! . . . what a dream is this!'
And he shudder'd at the name;
''Tis an idle tale of a spectre pale,'
And his colour went and came!
'But hear me now! . . . till the morning light,
Thro' the dreary, midnight hour;
I must watch alone, at the altar's stone,
In the aisle of the eastern tower:
'And urge me not, my own Geraldine!
For it may not, cannot be!
I am doom'd to this, and I may not miss,
But none must watch with me. . . .
'Thro' this fated night let the tapers burn
And the lamp on the armed wall;
For the light is dim thro' the window's brim
On the roof of the eastern hall:
'When the clock strikes two, if the tapers burn
And the lamp on the marble stair;
You will know by them if I living am,
But you may not venture there!
'And mark, mark well, when the castle bell
And the clock ring three and one;
If the lamps expire and the lights retire,
You may know that my life is gone!
'My own Geraldine! how your heart beats now,
By the blessed God you must swear!
Tho' the lamps burn dim and you know by them
That my hour of fate is near;
'Tho' the flame goes round with a hissing sound
From the lamp on the marble stair;
You must swear to God, on the holy rood,
That you will not seek me there!
'And hear once more! . . . at the passing knell,
When the clock rings deep at four;
Let your soul be at peace and your watching cease,
You may look for me no more!'
The clock strikes one to the charmed moon,
And poor Geraldine is alone!
And the pulses beat, in her heart, in her feet,
As the second hour draws on.
It rings! it rings! from the sounding tower,
And her heart-pulse stops with fear,
As she turns to gaze where the tapers blaze,
But they still are burning clear. . . .
'Tis hush'd again! and the swell is past,
The clock's dull knell at two!
But the hour is to come that seals her doom,
And the lamps are burning blue!
Hark! hark! the clock, . . . 'tis the fated hour,
On her listening ear it toll'd.
The pulse leaps now thro' her burning brow,
And her limps are deadly cold;
Her fingers cling to the closing door,
But the key she scarce can turn!
'Tis the last of the clock ere the bars unlock,
And the lights have ceas'd to burn!
She paus'd, she paused on the marble stair,
And she gazed wild around;
She turns to hear, is it hope? is it fear?
Or a low and measur'd sound!
It comes! it comes! with a measur'd step,
From the aisle of the eastern tower;
She would fly to meet, but her stiff'ning feet
Have lost their living power.
It is nearer now! but the sound, the sound,
Ah! why does it move so slow?
She would rush to the stair to meet him there,
If her heart did not tremble so! . . .
The blood rush'd back to her clay-cold feet,
And her heart took courage then;
She burst thro' the door to the eastern floor;
To welcome her love again!
But O! her shriek! . . . Like the dead from the grave
Was the form she had clasp'd around!
And the phantom turn'd where the lamps had burn'd
And stood on the marble ground.
'You sought not me!' cries the hollow voice,
'You came not to welcome me!
Let your watching cease, and depart in peace,
For him you shall never see. . . .
'For him! for him, I resign'd my vows,
And the guilt is on my head.
I could conjure here! but my hour draws near,
And I may not rouse the dead!
'For him! for him! I forsook my God,
And his soul unblest shall be!
And the sacred blood for man that flow'd,
O Heaven! will it plead for me!
'I hear a call you can never hear,
And I may not now unfold!
Let your soul be at peace, and your watching cease,
For his faithless heart is cold!
'The aisle! the aisle of the eastern tower
Your feet must ever shun!
For dark and dread is the haunt of the dead,
The haunt of the Perjur'd Nun!'