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Wilson's Border Tales
The Hermit of the Hills


"Intruder, thou shalt hear my tale," the solitary said;
While far adown beneath our feet the fiery levin played;
The thunder-clouds our carpet were - we gazed upon the storm,
Which swept along the mountain sides, in many a fearful form.

I sat beside the lonely man, on Cheviot's cloudless height;
Above our heads was glory, but beneath more glorious night;
For the sun was shining over us, but lightnings flashed below,
Like the felt and burning darkness of unutterable wo.

"I love in such a place as this," the desolate began,
"To gaze upon the tempests wild that sep'rate me from man;--
To muse upon the passing things that agitate the world-
View myself as by a whirlwind to hopeless ruin hurled.

"My heart was avaricious once, like yours the slave of feeling-
Perish such hearts!-vile dens of crime! Man's selfishness concealing;--
For self! Damned self's creation's lord! - man's idol and his god!
'Twas torn from me, a blasted, bruised, a cast off, worthless load.

"Some say there's wildness in my eyes, and others deem me crazed
They, trembling, turn and shun my path - for which let Heaven be praised!
They say my words are blasphemy - they marvel at my fate,
When 'tis my happiness to know, they pity not, but-hate.

"My father fell from peace and wealth the day that I was born-
My mother died, and he became his fellow-gamblers scorn;
I know not where he lived or died - I never heard his name-
An orphan in a workhouse - I was thought a child of shame.

"Some friend by blood had lodged me there, and bought my keeper too,
Who pledged his oath he would conceal what of my tale he knew,
Death came to him; he called on me the secret to unfold;
But died while he was uttering the little I have told.

"My soul was proud-nor brooked restraint, was proud, and I was young;
And with an eager joyancy, I heard his faltering tongue
Proclaim me not of beggars born; yea, as he speaking died,
I-greedy-mad to know the rest-stood cursing by his side.

"I looked upon the homely garb that told my dwelling place-
It hung upon me heavily - a token of disgrace!
I fled the house - I went to sea - was by a wretch impressed,
The stamp of whose brutality is printed on my breast.

"Like vilest slave he fettered me, my flesh the irons tore-
Scourged, mocked, and worse than buried me upon a lifeless shore
Where human foot had never trode-upon a barren rock,
Whose caves ne'er echoed to a sound, save billows as they broke.

'Twas midnight-but the morning came. I looked upon the sea,
And a melancholy wilderness its waters were to me;
The heavens were black as yonder cloud that rolls beneath our feet,
While neight land nor living thing my eager eyes could meet.

"I naked sat upon the rock;-- I trembled-strove to pray:--
Thrice did I see a distant sail, and thrice they bore away.
My brain with hunger maddening, as the steed the battle braves,
Headlong I plunged from the bare rock and buffetted the waves.

"Methought I saw a vessel near, and bitter were my screams;
But they died within me echoless as voices in our dreams,
For the winds were howling round me, and the suffocating gush
Of briny horrors rioted, the cry of death to crush.

"My senses fled. I lifelessly upon the ocean slept;
And when to consciousness I woke, a form before me wept.
Her face was beautiful as light!-but by her side there stood
A group, whose savage glances were more dismal than the flood.

"They stood around exultingly;-- they snatched me from the wave-
Stole me from death-to torture me, to sell me as a slave.
She who stood o'er me weeping was a partner of my chains,
We were sold, and separation bled my heart with deeper pains.

"I knew not what her birth had been, but loved her with a love
Which nor our tyrant's cruelty nor mockery could move.
I saw her offered to a Moor-another purchased me-
But, heavens! my arms once fetterless, ere midnight I was free!

"Memory, with eager eye, had marked her master's hated door-
I grasped a sabre-reached the house, and slew th' opposing Moor.
I bore her rapidly away;-- a boat was on the beach-
We put to sea-saw morning dawn 'yond our pursuer's reach.

"I gazed upon her silently - I saw her sink to sleep,
As darkness gathered over upon the cheerless deep;--
I saw her in her slumber start - unconsciously she spoke -
O death!-she called upon his name who left me on the rock!

"Then! there was madness in my breast and fury in my brain-
She never heard that name from me-yet uttered it again!
I started forth and grasped her hand - "Are we pursued?" she cried -
I trembled in my agony, and speechless o'er her sighed.

"I ventured not to speak of love in such an awful hour,
For hunger glistened in our eyes, and grated to devour
The very rags that covered us!-My pangs I cannot tell,
But in that little hour I felt the eternity of hell!

"For the transport of its tortures did in that hour surround
Two beings on the bosom of a shoreless ocean found;
As we gazed upon each other, with a dismal longing look,
And jealousy, but not from love our tortured bosoms shook.

"I need but add that we were saved, and by a vessel borne
Again toward our native land, to be asunder torn.
The maiden of my love was rich - was rich - and I was poor-
A soulless menial shut on me her wealthy guardian's door.

"She knew it not, nor would I tell -- tell! by the host of heaven,
My tongue became the sepulchre of sound! my heart was riven.
I fled society and hope; the prison of my mind
A world of inexpressible and guilty thoughts confined.

She was not wed-my hope returned; ambition fired my soul.
Sweeping round me like a fury; while the beacon and the goal
Of desire ever turbulent and sleepless, was to have
The hand that mine had rescued from the fetters of a slave.

"I was an outcast on the earth, but braved my hapless lot;
And while I groaned impatiently, weak mortals heard it not.
A host of drear, unholy dreams did round my pillow haunt;
While my days spent in loneliness, were darkened o'er with want.

"At length blind, fortune favoured me-my breast to joy awoke;
And then he who had left me on the isolated rock,
I met within a distant land; nor need I further tell,
But, that we met as equals there, and my antag'nist fell.

"Awhile I brooded on his death; and gloomily it brought
A desolateness round me, stamping guilt on every thought.
I trembling found how bloodily my vengeance was appeased,
At what vile price my bosom was of jealousy released.

"For still the breathing of his name by her I lov'd, had rung,
In remembrance, like the latest sound that falleth from the tongue
Of those best loved and cherished, when upon the bed of death
They bequeath to us their injuries to visit in our wrath.

"But soon these griefs evanished, like a passing summer storm,
And a gush of hope like sunshine flashed around me, to deform
The image of repentance, while the darkness of remorse,
Retreated from its presence with a blacker with'ring curse.

"I hurried home in eagerness;-- the leaden moments fled;--
My burning tale of love was told-was told, and we were wed.
A tumult of delightfulness had rapt my soul in flame,
But on that day-my wedding day-a mourning letter came.

"Joy died on ev'ry countenance-she, trembling, broke the seal-
Screamed-glanced on me and lifeless fell, unable to reveal
The horrid tale of death that told her new-made husband's guilt-
The hand which she that day had wed-her brother's blood had spilt.

"That brother in his mother's right another name did bear-
'Twas him I slew;-- all shrank from me in horror and in Fear:--
They seized me in my bridal dress-my bride still senseless lay-
I spoke not while they pinioned me and hurried me away.

"They lodged me in a criminal cell, by iron grating barred,
And there the third day heavily a funeral bell I heard,
A sable crowd my prison passed-they gazed on it with gloom-
It was my bride-my beautiful, they followed to the tomb!

"I was aquitted - but what more had I with life to do?-
I cursed my fate-my heart-the world-and from its creatures flew.
Intruder thou hast heard my tale of wretchedness and guilt-
Go, mingle with a viler world, and tell it if thou wilt."


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