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  • The Prisoner of the Castle

    THE sun's far to westward–the wild din and rattle
    Of warriors and steeds has at length died away;
    Unprofaned is the hour by the tumult of battle,
    That crimsoned yon sward at the dawn of the day.
    All is still o'er the landscape–but not in the soul
    Of the captive, whose eyes from his bastioned recess,
    Toward yon distance-dimmed castle and hamlet still roll,
    While thus he pours forth his lone tale of distress:

    "The time has gone by when my courage or madness
    Drove me recklessly on to this hateful abode,
    And my proud soul oppressed with a burden of sadness,
    Treads again the dull level of life's weary road.
    Green hills of my childhood, that smile from afar,
    Through the rough bars that chequer the prisoner's breast,
    Is the sole boon bequeathed me by Fame's cherished star,
    Such a fate and such feelings–in sight of such rest?

    "Ah! there my poor mother her needle is plying,
    Cheating time with some strain she once carolled for me,
    But neglecting her work, she oft turns her, and sighing,
    Gazes out on the pathway that pencils the lea.
    There the children, if e'er they should see on the way
    Some travel-stained soldier approaching the cot,
    To run and apprise her, will cease from their play,
    And wonder why with him their brother comes not.

    "How my father will cover his woe-speaking features
    When perchance some old comrade less hapless than I,
    Comes to tell how he witnessed these treacherous creatures .
    Drag me off to be cast in a dungeon–or die!
    How my mother will seek for a plea to retreat,
    Nor to tears within sight of the little ones yield;
    And all the sad day and the hour will regret
    When I left the sweet cot for the turbulent field.

    "Ah, fool that I was, to make light of that treasure
    Of humble contentment that blessed me before,
    And wander in quest of a fanciful pleasure,
    Nor knew what I lost, till I owned it no more."
    The sun has gone down, and while pacing his room,
    The youth moves his lips in communion with God;
    Then forgetting his dungeon, its bars and its gloom,
    He dreams of the hills where in childhood he trod.

    [These lines were written in Italy, on observing two castles upon mountain-ranges, placed within sight of each other, where the events here spoken of may be readily imagined to have occurred during the uneeasing Baronial feuds of the middle ages.]

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    Cummings, J.W. Italian Legends and Sketches. New York: Edward Dunigan & Brother, James B. Kirker, 1858. 189-190


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