The Dame of Athelhall


‘Dear! Shall I see thy face,’ she said,

‘In one brief hour!

And away with thee from a loveless bed

To a far-off sun, to a vine-wrapt bower,

And be thine own unseparated,

And challenge the world’s white glower?’


She quickened her feet, and met him where

They had predesigned:

And they clasped, and mounted, and cleft the air

Upon whirling wheels; till the will to bind

Her life with his made the moments there

Efface the years behind.


Miles slid, and the port uprose to view

As they sped on;

When slipping its bond the bracelet flew

From her fondled arm. Replaced anon,

Its cameo of the abjured one drew

Her musings thereupon.


The gaud with his image once had been

A gift from him:

And so it was that its carving keen

Refurbished memories wearing dim,

Which set in her soul a twinge of teen,

And a tear on her lashes’ brim.


‘I may not go!’ she at length outspake,

‘Thoughts call me back –

I would still lose all for your dear, true sake;

My heart is thine, friend! But my track

Home, home to Athelhall I must take

To hinder household wrack!’


He was wroth. And they parted, weak and wan;

And he left the shore;

His ship diminished, was low, was gone;

And she heard in the waves as the daytide wore,

And read in the leer of the sun that shone,

That they parted for evermore.


She homed as she came, at the dip of eve

On Athel Coomb

Regaining the Hall she had sworn to leave.

The house was soundless as a tomb,

And she stole to her chamber, there to grieve

Lone, kneeling, in the gloom.


From the lawn without rose her husband’s voice

To one his friend:

‘Another her Love, another my choice,

Her going is good. Our conditions mend;

In a change of mates we shall both rejoice;

I hoped that it thus might end!


‘A quick divorce; she will make him hers,

And I wed mine.

So Time rights all things in long, long years –

Or rather she, by her bold design!

I admire a woman no balk deters:

She has blessed my life, in fine.


‘I shall build new rooms for my new true bride,

Let the bygone be:

By now, no doubt, she has crossed the tide

With the man to her mind. Far happier she

In some warm vineland by his side

Than ever she was with me.’