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The Brides' Tragedy by Thomas Lovell Beddoes Edited by David Baulch

Sources

"Lucy" by Thomas Gillet from The Midland Minstrel: consisting chiefly of Traditionary Tales and Local Legends (Oxford: Munday and Slatter, 1822)

[Thomas Lovell Beddoes, in his dedication to The Brides' Tragedy, claims that "[ t]he following scenes were . . . founded upon facts, which occurred at Oxford, and are well detailed and illustrated by an interesting ballad in a little volume of Poems, lately published at Oxford, entitled the Midland Minstrel, by Mr. Gillet." It is odd however that in citing "Lucy" as the source of his play, his summary of the poem includes details about Lucy's father that are not a part of the poem but which are a part of the story in The Oxford University and City Herald for March 24, 1821, from which "Lucy" finds its source. The interesting coincidence is that the announcement of the publication of Beddoes's first volume is also in that day's paper, so it seems likely that Beddoes has in mind the newspaper story as much as he does Gillet's poem.]

Where Oxford rears in classic pride
   Her ample domes and stately towers,
'Mid vales where Cherwell pours his tide
   Through emerald meads and purple bowers;

There dwelt a maid—O deem not thou
   Her form was cast in common mould;
Honour was seated on her brow,
   Love laugh'd within her locks of gold.

The orient beam illum'd her eye,
   Her cheek had stol'n the blush of morn;
Her lip display'd the ruby's dye,
   Her neck surpass'd the blossom'd thorn.

Go search thou east—go search thou west,
   Search from the pole to southern line,
Yet never shall thy fond eye rest
   Upon a figure so divine!

'Twas not a stately solemn gait,
   'Twas not a form in silk attir'd,
That made all eyes upon her wait,
   And every heart with love inspir'd.

No—'twas a modest, nameless charm,
   The constant inmate of her breast,
Which shew'd a heart with feeling warm,
   And all her purity express'd.

Yet was this maid of low degree—
   Her sire nor wealth nor titles own'd;
But honour and integrity
   Were in his generous soul enthron'd:

And he on Lucy had bestow'd
   All, all that could adorn her mind;
And soon her ductile spirit shew'd
   'Twas well receiv'd as well design'd.

And she was good as she was fair,
   With every milder virtue blest;
The seeds kind nature planted there
   Had ripen'd in her youthful breast.

A son of Alma Mater saw,
   He saw and much the maid admir'd;
His spirit own'd great nature's law,
   And love his youthful breast inspir'd.

O Lucy then was all his thought;
   For Lucy, Lucy, still he sigh'd;
For her the humble dwelling sought
   Her jealous father occupied.

Then many a specious scheme was laid
   To 'scape the parent's watchful eye;
And oft he met his lovely maid
   In silence and in secrecy.

His youthful heart with passion burnd,
   He press'd his suit—'twas not declin'd;
The artless nymph his love return'd,
   And soon the priest their hands combin'd.

But secret was the solemn rite,
   'Twas not as solemn rite should be;
For well they knew the worldling's spite,
   The diff'rence in their pedigree;

And deem'd it better to conceal
   Their blissful union for awhile,
Till prudence might the fact reveal,
   Secure of fortune's favouring smile.

Vacation came—the youth went hence,
   And left his bride of beauty rare;
Then what her care could recompence?
   She droop'd in loneness and despair.

He trod his father's courts again,
   And join'd the train of revelry;
Her image faded from his brain,
   And other forms engag'd his eye.

A noble bade him grace his hall,
   And join the high-born festive throng;
He smil'd the gayest at the ball,
   And led the brightest fair along.

The youth was by attention cheer'd,
   Ambition all his breast inspir'd;
He saw his road to honour clear'd,
   And to the lofty seat aspir'd.

The noble's daughter on him smil'd,
   His fickle heart the nymph had won;
His merit had her parents guil'd,
   They long'd to hail and call him son.

Distinction now was all his aim,
   Renown at distance he foresaw.
The noble's child's—a wedded Dame!
   And he—a Culprit to the Law!

To hide his crime what must be done?—
   The youth is fled without his train;
And no one knows where he is gone—
   He'll soon rejoin his bride again.

But why beside that rural WALK
   That boasts the name DIVINITY,
Does yon disguised figure stalk
   Beneath the pale moon's glimmering eye?

And why is that lone grave prepar'd,
   Prepar'd in such unhallow'd place?
Nought in its womb can e'er be laid,
   Save the dull brute of vilest race.

But soft—two figures tread the waIk,
   And steal like spectres light along,
Deeply engag'd in whisper'd talk,
   As life and death were on each tongue.

Why do they stop?—and why embrace
   Beside that pit so deep and bare?—
By the pale moon I see a face
   Brighter than beauty's daughters wear.

The shade prevails—hark!—rings a blow!
   'Tis follow'd by a piercing tone!
That shriek bespeaks the depth of woe!
   There's death, in that heart-rending groan!

The beam returns—'tis still and clear!
   Scarce does the light-hung foliage wave!
The landscape glows!—there's no one there!
   But green turf clothes the recent grave!

O God! O God! can turf or gloom
   Hide the foul deed of death from thee?
Can the arch traitor 'scape his doom?
   The murderer from thy presence flee?

No!—Dawn awakes, and Lucy's sire
   Commands her from her chamber down;
Why comes she not?—away—inquire:
   Ah! Lucy from her chamber's flown!

He searches high, he searches low,
   For her the pain of travel bears;
Meanwhile his eyes with tears o'erflow,
   His heart is rent with bitter cares.—

'Tis morn—the bridegroom's with the bride!
   He prompt and ably pleads excuse;
She cannot long her rover chide,
   But bids him not her love abuse.

"Come, come!" she cries, "thy fault's forgiven—
   "Its purpose candidly avow;"
He turns his tranced eyes to heaven,
   Dark horrors gather o'er his brow.

"What! it offends thee?—let's immerse
   "Its memory in forgetfulness;
"With all that may that bosom pierce,
   "And chill thy love or mar thy peace."

But ah!—the scenes of that sad night
   Would never from his mind decay;
They rose to blast his mental sight
   In deepest gloom and brightest day.

And though his active, high career,
   Was crown'd with honour's fairest wreath;
Yet was he doom'd remorse to bear,
   And fiends exulted at his death.

And where poor Lucy's corse was laid,
   'Tis said a ghost is known to stalk;
Till college beau and city maid
   Have flown their wonted favourite walk.

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Published @ RC

August 2007

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