Poor Mary The Maid Of The Inn





Who is she, the poor maniac, whose wildly fix'd eyes

Seem a heart overcharg'd 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:

Through her rags do the winds of the winter blow bleak

On her poor wither'd bosom, half bare; and her cheek

Has the deathly pale hue of despair.



Yet cheerful and happy, nor distant the day,

Poor Mary the maniac has been!

The trav'ller remembers, who journey'd this way,

No damsel so lovely, no damsel so gay,

As Mary the Maid of the Inn.



Her cheerful address fill'd the guests with delight,

As she welcom'd 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 lov'd; 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 glows 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 through 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.

Through 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 arriv'd 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,

And 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 white 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,[C] and, behold,

Even close to the foot 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 through the abbey she flies.



She ran with wild speed, she rush'd in at the door,

She gaz'd horribly eager around:

Then her limbs could support their faint burden no more,

And exhausted and breathless she sunk on the floor,

Unable to utter a sound.



Ere yet her cold lips could the story impart,

For a moment the hat met her view--[D]

Her eyes from that object convulsively start,

For, oh! God! what cold horror then thrill'd through her heart,

When the name of her Richard she knew.



Where the old abbey stands on the common hard by,

His gibbet is now to be seen:

Not far from the road it engages the eye,

The trav'ller beholds it, and thinks, with a sigh,

Of poor Mary, the Maid of the Inn.



SOUTHEY'S POEMS.





FOOTNOTES:



[C] The hat of one of the ruffians.



[D] She knew it to be Richard's hat.





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