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Wyndham Towers   By: (1836-1907)

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By Thomas Bailey Aldrich



In offering these verses to you, I beg you to treat them (as you have many a time advised a certain lord chamberlain to treat the players) not according to their desert. "Use them after your own honor and dignity; the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty."

These many years your friend and comrade,



The motif of the story embodied in the following poem was crudely outlined in a brief sketch printed in an early collection of the authors verse, and subsequently cancelled for a purpose not until now accomplished. Wyndham Towers is not to be confused with this discarded sketch, the text of which has furnished only a phrase, or an indirect suggestion, here and there. That the writer's method, when recasting the poem, was more or less influenced by the poets he had been studying chiefly the dramatists of the Elizabethan era will, he hopes, be obvious. It was part of his design, however far he may have fallen from it, to give his narrative something of the atmosphere and color of the period in which the action takes place, though the story is supposed to be told at a later date.


Before you reach the slender, high arched bridge, Like to a heron with one foot in stream, The hamlet breaks upon you through green boughs A square stone church within a place of graves Upon the slope; gray houses oddly grouped, With plastered gables set with crossed oak beams, And roofs of yellow tile and purplish slate. That is The Falcon, with the swinging sign And rustic bench, an ancient hostelry; Those leaden lattices were hung on hinge In good Queen Bess's time, so old it is. On ridge piece, gable end, or dove cot vane, A gilded weathercock at intervals Glimmers an angel on the wing, most like, Of local workmanship; for since the reign Of pious Edward here have carvers thrived, In saints' heads skillful and winged cherubim Meet for rich abbeys. From yon crumbling tower, Whose brickwork base the cunning Romans laid And now of no use else except to train The ivy of an idle legend on You see, such lens is this thin Devon air, If it so chance no fog comes rolling in, The Torridge where its branching crystal spreads To join the Taw. Hard by from a chalk cliff A torrent leaps: not lovelier Sappho was Giving herself all silvery to the sea From that Leucadian rock. Beneath your feet Lie sand and surf in curving parallels. Off shore, a buoy gleams like a dolphin's back Dripping with brine, and guards a sunken reef Whose sharp incisors have gnawed many a keel; There frets the sea and turns white at the lip, And in ill weather lets the ledge show fang. A very pleasant nook in Devon, this,

Upon the height of old was Wyndham Towers, Clinging to rock there, like an eagle's nest, With moat and drawbridge once, and good for siege; Four towers it had to front the diverse winds: Built God knows when, all record being lost, Locked in the memories of forgotten men. In Caesar's day, a pagan temple; next A monastery; then a feudal hold; Later a manor, and at last a ruin. Such knowledge have we of it, vaguely caught Through whispers fallen from tradition's lip. This shattered tower, with crenellated top And loops for archers, alone marks the spot, Looming forlornly a gigantic harp Whereon the invisible fingers of the wind Its fitful and mysterious dirges play.

Here dwelt, in the last Tudor's virgin reign, One Richard Wyndham, Knight and Gentleman, (The son of Rawdon, slain near Calais wall When Bloody Mary lost her grip on France,) A lonely wight that no kith had nor kin Save one, a brother by ill fortune's spite A brother, since 't were better to have none Of late not often seen at Wyndham Towers, Where he in sooth but lenten welcome got When to that gate his errant footstep strayed... Continue reading book >>

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