Robert Southey

Here you will find the Long Poem Mary - A Ballad of poet Robert Southey

Mary - A Ballad

Author Note: The story of the following ballad was related to me, when a school boy, as a fact which had really happened in the North of England. I have
adopted the metre of Mr. Lewis's Alonzo and Imogene--a poem deservedly


Who is she, the poor Maniac, whose wildly-fix'd eyes
 Seem a heart overcharged to express?
She weeps not, yet often and deeply she sighs,
She never complains, but her silence implies
 The composure of settled distress.


No aid, no compassion the Maniac will seek,
 Cold and hunger awake not her care:
Thro' her rags do the winds of the winter blow bleak
On her poor withered bosom half bare, and her cheek
 Has the deathy pale hue of despair.


Yet chearful and happy, nor distant the day,
 Poor Mary the Maniac has been;
The Traveller remembers who journeyed this way
No damsel so lovely, no damsel so gay
 As Mary the Maid of the Inn.


Her chearful address fill'd the guests with delight
 As she welcomed them in with a smile:
Her heart was a stranger to childish affright,
And Mary would walk by the Abbey at night
 When the wind whistled down the dark aisle.


She loved, and young Richard had settled the day,
 And she hoped to be happy for life;
But Richard was idle and worthless, and they
Who knew him would pity poor Mary and say
 That she was too good for his wife.


'Twas in autumn, and stormy and dark was the night,
 And fast were the windows and door;
Two guests sat enjoying the fire that burnt bright,
And smoking in silence with tranquil delight
 They listen'd to hear the wind roar.


"Tis pleasant," cried one, "seated by the fire side
 "To hear the wind whistle without."
"A fine night for the Abbey!" his comrade replied,
"Methinks a man's courage would now be well tried
 "Who should wander the ruins about.


"I myself, like a school-boy, should tremble to hear
 "The hoarse ivy shake over my head;
"And could fancy I saw, half persuaded by fear,
"Some ugly old Abbot's white spirit appear,
 "For this wind might awaken the dead!"


"I'll wager a dinner," the other one cried,
 "That Mary would venture there now."
"Then wager and lose!" with a sneer he replied,
"I'll warrant she'd fancy a ghost by her side,
 "And faint if she saw a white cow."


"Will Mary this charge on her courage allow?"
 His companion exclaim'd with a smile;
"I shall win, for I know she will venture there now,
"And earn a new bonnet by bringing a bough
 "From the elder that grows in the aisle."


With fearless good humour did Mary comply,
 And her way to the Abbey she bent;
The night it was dark, and the wind it was high
And as hollowly howling it swept thro' the sky
 She shiver'd with cold as she went.


O'er the path so well known still proceeded the Maid
 Where the Abbey rose dim on the sight,
Thro' the gate-way she entered, she felt not afraid
Yet the ruins were lonely and wild, and their shade
 Seem'd to deepen the gloom of the night.


All around her was silent, save when the rude blast
 Howl'd dismally round the old pile;
Over weed-cover'd fragments still fearless she past,
And arrived in the innermost ruin at last
 Where the elder tree grew in the aisle.


Well-pleas'd did she reach it, and quickly drew near
 And hastily gather'd the bough:
When the sound of a voice seem'd to rise on her ear,
She paus'd, and she listen'd, all eager to hear,
 Aud her heart panted fearfully now.


The wind blew, the hoarse ivy shook over her head,
 She listen'd,--nought else could she hear.
The wind ceas'd, her heart sunk in her bosom with dread
For she heard in the ruins distinctly the tread
 Of footsteps approaching her near.


Behind a wide column half breathless with fear
 She crept to conceal herself there:
That instant the moon o'er a dark cloud shone clear,
And she saw in the moon-light two ruffians appear
 And between them a corpse did they bear.


Then Mary could feel her heart-blood curdle cold!
 Again the rough wind hurried by,--
It blew off the hat of the one, and behold
Even close to the feet of poor Mary it roll'd,--
 She felt, and expected to die.


"Curse the hat!" he exclaims. "Nay come on and first hide
 "The dead body," his comrade replies.
She beheld them in safety pass on by her side,
She seizes the hat, fear her courage supplied,
 And fast thro' the Abbey she flies.


She ran with wild speed, she rush'd in at the door,
 She gazed horribly eager around,
Then her limbs could support their fain