Chapter 59


And now must I bury my dead out of my sight--bid farewell to the old resplendent, stately, scarred, defiant Raglan, itself the grave of many an old story, and the cradle of the new, and alas! in contrast with the old, not merely the mechanical, but the unpoetic and commonplace, yes vulgar era of our island's history. Little did lord Herbert dream of the age he was initiating--of the irreverence and pride and destruction that were about to follow in his footsteps, wasting, defiling, scarring, obliterating, turning beauty into ashes, and worse! That divine mechanics should thus, through selfishness and avarice, be leagued with filth and squalor and ugliness! When one looks upon Raglan, indignation rises--not at the storm of iron which battered its walls to powder, hardly even at the decree to level them with the dust, but at the later destroyer who could desecrate the beauty yet left by wrath and fear, who with the stones of my lady's chamber would build a kennel, or with the carved stones of chapel or hall a barn or cowhouse! What would the inventor of the water-commanding engine have said to the pollution of our waters, the destruction of the very landmarks of our history, the desecration of ruins that ought to be venerated for their loveliness as well as their story! Would he not have broken it to pieces, that the ruin it must occasion might not be laid to his charge? May all such men as for the sake of money constitute themselves the creators of ugliness, not to speak of far worse evils in the land, live--or die, I care not which--to know in their own selves what a lovely human Psyche lies hid even in the chrysalis of a railway-director, and to loathe their past selves as an abomination--incredible but that it had been. He who calls such a wish a curse, must undergo it ere his being can be other than a blot. But this era too will pass, and truth come forth in forms new and more lovely still. The living Raglan has gone from me, and before me rise the broken, mouldering walls which are the monument of their own past. My heart swells as I think of them, lonely in the deepening twilight, when the ivy which has flung itself like a garment about the bareness of their looped and windowed raggedness is but as darker streaks of the all prevailing dusk, and the moon is gathering in the east. Fain would the soul forsake the fettersome body for a season, to go flitting hither and thither, alighting and flitting, like a bat or a bird--now drawing itself slow along a moulding to taste its curve and flow, now creeping into a cranny, and brooding and thinking back till the fancy feels the tremble of an ancient kiss yet softly rippling the air, or descries the dim stain which no tempest can wash away. Ah, here is a stair! True there are but three steps, a broken one and a fragment. What said I? See how the phantom-steps continue it, winding up and up to the door of my lady's chamber! See its polished floor, black as night, its walls rich with tapestry, lovelily old, and harmoniously withered, for the ancient time had its ancient times, and its things that had come down from solemn antiquity--see the silver sconces, the tall mirrors, the part-open window, long, low, carved latticed, and filled with lozenge panes of the softest yellow green, in a multitude of shades! There stands my lady herself, leaning from it, looking down into the court! Ah, lovely lady! is not thy heart as the heart of my mother, my wife, my daughters? Thou hast had thy troubles. I trust they are over now, and that thou art satisfied with God for making thee! The vision fades, and the old walls rise like a broken cenotaph. But the same sky, with its clouds never the same, hangs over them; the same moon will fold them all night in a doubtful radiance, befitting the things that dwell alone, and are all of other times, for she too is but a ghost, a thing of the past, and her light is but the light of memory; into the empty crannies blow the same winds that once refreshed the souls of maiden and man-at-arms, only the yellow flower that grew in its gardens now grows upon its walls. And however the mind, or even the spirit of man may change, the heart remains the same, and an effort to read the hearts of our forefathers will help us to know the heart of our neighbour. Whoever cares to distinguish the bones of fact from the drapery of invention in the foregone tale, will find them all in the late Mr. Dirck's 'Life of the Marquis of Worcester,' and the 'Certamen Religiosum' and 'Golden Apophthegms' of Dr. Bayly. THE END.