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Alnwick Castle

Halleck, Fitz-Greene (1790 - 1867)

Original Text:
Alnwick Castle, with Other Poems (New York: George Dearborn, 1836): 9-15. Intern
et Archive

1Home of the Percys' high-born race,

2 Home of their beautiful and brave,
3Alike their birth and burial-place,
4 Their cradle and their grave!
5Still sternly o'er the Castle gate
6Their house's Lion stands in state,
7 As in his proud departed hours;
8And warriors frown in stone on high,
9And feudal banners "flout the sky"
10 Above his princely towers.
11A gentle hill its side inclines,
12 Lovely in England's fadeless green,
13To meet the quiet stream which winds
14 Through this romantic scene
15As silently and sweetly still,
16As when, at evening, on that hill,
17 While summer's wind blew soft and low,
18Seated by gallant Hotspur's side,
19His Katherine was a happy bride,
20 A thousand years ago.
21Gaze on the Abbey's ruined pile:
22 Does not the succoring Ivy, keeping
23Her watch around it, seem to smile,
24 As o'er a loved one sleeping?
25One solitary turret gray
26 Still tells, in melancholy glory,
27The legend of the Cheviot day,
28 The Percys' proudest border story,
29That day its roof was triumph's arch;
30 Then rang, from aisle to pictured dome,
31The light step of the soldier's march,
32 The music of the trump and drum;
33And babe, and sire, the old, the young,
34And the monk's hymn, and minstrel's song,
35And woman's pure kiss, sweet and long,
36 Welcomed her warrior home.
37Wild roses by the Abbey towers
38 Are gay in their young bud and bloom:
39They were born of a race of funeral-flowers
40That garlanded, in long-gone hours,
41 A Templar's knightly tomb.
42He died, the sword in his mailed hand,
43On the holiest spot of the Blessed Land,
44 Where the Cross was damped with his dying breath;
45When blood ran free as festal wine,
46And the sainted air of Palestine
47 Was thick with the darts of death.
48Wise with the lore of centuries,
49What tales, if there be "tongues in trees,"
50 Those giant oaks could tell,
51Of beings born and buried here;
52Tales of the peasant and the peer,
53Tales of the bridal and the bier,
54 The welcome and farewell,
55Since on their boughs the startled bird
56First, in her twilight slumbers, heard
57 The Norman's curfew-bell.
58I wandered through the lofty halls
59 Trod by the Percys of old fame,
60And traced upon the chapel walls
61 Each high, heroic name,
62From him who once his standard set
63Where now, o'er mosque and minaret,
64 Glitter the Sultan's crescent moons;
65To him who, when a younger son,
66Fought for King George at Lexington,
67 A major of Dragoons.
68 * * * *
69That last half stanza -- it has dashed
70 From my warm lip the sparkling cup;
71The light that o'er my eyebeam flashed,
72 The power that bore my spirit up
73Above this bank-note world -- is gone;
74And Alnwick's but a market town,
75And this, alas! its market day,
76And beasts and borderers throng the way;
77Oxen, and bleating lambs in lots,
78Northumbrian boors, and plaided Scots,
79 Men in the coal and cattle line,
80From Teviot's bard and hero land,
81From royal Berwick's beach of sand,
82From Wooller, Morpeth, Hexham, and
83 Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
84These are not the romantic times
85So beautiful in Spenser's rhymes,
86 So dazzling to the dreaming boy:
87Ours are the days of fact, not fable,
88Of Knights, but not of the Round Table,
89 Of Bailie Jarvie, not Rob Roy:
90'Tis what "our President," Monro,
91 Has called "the era of good feeling:"
92The Highlander, the bitterest foe
93To modern laws, has felt their blow,
94Consented to be taxed, and vote,
95And put on pantaloons and coat,
96 And leave off cattle-stealing:
97Lord Stafford mines for coal and salt,
98The Duke of Norfolk deals in malt,
99 The Douglass in red herrings;
100And noble name, and cultured land,
101Palace, and park, and vassal band
102Are powerless to the notes of hand
103 Of Rothschild, or the Barings.
104The age of bargaining, said Burke,
105 Has come: to-day the turbaned Turk
106(Sleep, Richard of the lion heart!
107Sleep on, nor from your cerements start,)
108 Is England's friend and fast ally;
109The Moslem tramples on the Greek,
110 And on the Cross and altar stone,
111 And Christendom looks tamely on,
112And hears the Christian maiden shriek,
113 And sees the Christian father die;
114And not a sabre blow is given
115For Greece and fame, for faith and heaven,
116 By Europe's craven chivalry.
117You'll ask if yet the Percy lives
118 In the armed pomp of feudal state?
119The present representatives
120 Of Hotspur and his "gentle Kate,"
121Are some half dozen serving men,
122In the drab coat of William Penn;
123 A chambermaid, whose lip and eye,
124And cheek, and brown hair, bright and curling,
125 Spoke Nature's aristocracy;
126And one, half groom half seneschal,
127Who bowed me through court, bower, and hall,
128From donjon-keep to turret wall,
129For ten-and-sixpence sterling.
Alnwick Castle: a seat of the duke of Northumberland, a member of the Percy fami
ly, at the time the poem was written, Algernon George Percy, 6th Duke of Northum
berland (97).
Hotspur: Sir Henry Percy (1364.-1403), who fought for the English against Glendo
wer of Scotland and fell at the battle of Shrewsbury; and a figure in Shakespear
e's 1 Henry IV.
Katherine: in history, Hotspur married Lady Elizabeth Mortimer, but in Shakespea
re's play she was Katherine.
Cheviot: highest of the Cheviot Hills on the border with Scotland.
"tongues in trees": the Duke in Shakespeare's As You Like It praises life in the
forest when he says, "And this our life exempt from publike haunt, / Findes ton
gues in trees, bookes in the running brookes, / Sermons in stones, and good in e
uery thing" (621-23).
him who once his standard set: "One of the ancesters of the Percy family was an
Emperor of Constantinople." (97)
Lexington: Sir Hugh Percy, second dukle of Northumberland, "commanded a detachme
nt of the British army, in the affair at Lexington and Concord, in 1775" (97).
Teviot: a river on the border between Scotland and England.
royal Berwick: "formerly a Principality. Richard II. was styled 'King of England
, France and Ireland, and Berwick-upon-Tweed." (97)
Spenser: Edmund Spenser (1552-99), English Renaissance epic poet.
Bailie Jarvie: a Scottish whisky named after a character in Walter Scott's novel
Rob Roy.
Monro: James Monroe, fifth President of the United States.
pantaloons: trousers.
Rothschild: German-Jewish banking family.
Barings: an old bank in England.
Burke: Irish statesman, Edmund Burke (1729-97).
Richard of the lion heart: Richard I (1157-99), king of England, crusader.
William Penn: founder of the state of Pennsylvania,
seneschal: steward.
poem Editors:
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung