The Iron Gate,-A Legend of Alderley

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The Iron Gate,-A Legend of Alderley

by: J. Roscoe (Author)
from: Blackwood's Magazine (Pp. 271 - 274)  Jan-June 1839

   I LOVE those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true,
That bring things back from fairyland,
In all their glittering hue.
I love to hear of stalwart knights;
Of squires, and dwarfs, and fays;
Whose gambols in the pale moonlight
Fill rustics with amaze.
Those things are, to a musing wight,
Substantial things to view!—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     I love those tales my grandame told
When I sat on her knee,
And look'd into her aged face
With wonder fill'd and glee;
Those tales that made me quake with fear,
Though trembling with delight;
As some huge giant fell to earth
When vanquish'd in the fight:—
Or some magician gave his aid
To whom that aid was due.—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     And she, my grandame, lov'd to tell
To me, her listening child,
Old tales of witch, and charm, and spell,
With many a legend wild.
And I had faith in all she said,
And held for truth each tale;
And wept for grief, or scream'd for joy,
Did ill or good prevail.
And this the way my grandame did,
Her wonders bring to view—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "Once on a time there was a man,
A miller he by trade;
Down by yon brook he had his mill,
Where now the bridge is made.
An honest man that miller was,
An honest name did own;
His word would pass for forty pounds
Where'er that name was known;
And no one doubted what he said,
For credence was his due."—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The miller had a noble horse,
It was an iron-grey;
It had a flowing mane and tail,
And pranced in spirit gay.
It look'd like to a warrior's steed,
Its bearing was so good;
And much the miller prized his horse,
And boasted of its blood.
He rode it hard, but fed it well,
And it was sleek to view."—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The miller to the market went
Upon one market day,
And, as his custom always was,
He rode his noble grey.
He bought and sold, and profit made,
And added to his store;
Then homeward went, along the road
He oft had gone before.
But his good steed and he must part,
Though grievous the adieu"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "His way lay o'er a barren heath,
Where now are farms and fields;
For land where naught but thistles grew,
Now wheat and barley yields.
The time was tow'rds the gloaming hour,
When things are dimly seen;
No house or man was in his sight,
It was a lonely scene.
His horse has made a sudden start,
The thing is something new"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The grey horse made a sudden start;
The miller, in amaze,
Look'd out, and in the twilight gloom
An ancient met his gaze!
An aged man there stood to view,
Where a moment past was none!
His horse stood still, and he himself
Felt rooted like a stone.
That aged man the silence broke—
The horse did start anew"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The man was clad like to a monk,
A reverend air had he;
A white beard hung from 'neath his chin,—
From his belt a rosary.
He stretched his hand, ere yet he spoke,
A hand of skin and bone;—
The goodly grey seem'd 'reft of pow'r,
And stood as still as a stone;
He mildly on the miller look'd,—
The miller was pow'rless too"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "'I want thy horse—sell me thy horse,
'Tis a good and gallant steed;'—
I'll give thee gold shall fill thy purse,
For much thy horse I need.'
So said that old mysterious monk.
But the miller said him nay;
'I would be loath to sell my horse,
My good, my gallant grey—
For, if I should my grey horse sell,
I should the bargain rue.'"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "'I want thy horse—sell me thy horse'—
Again that old monk said;
'Name thou thy price—whate'er it be
It shall be quickly paid!
But certes 'tis, thy horse and thee
Must part within one hour;—
Take gold, then, while thou mayst receive,
And while to give I've power.'
The miller heav'd a bitter sigh,
The grey horse trembled too"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "'I want thy horse—sell me thy horse,'—
A third time spoke the man;—
'Again, I say, I'll give thy price,
Then yield him whilst thou can.
For I have power to make him mine,
Despite what thou may'st say;
But good King Arthur bade me first
To ask thy price, and pay,—
It is for him I want thy horse,
And gold I bid in lieu'"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "'For good King Arthur did not die,
As idle tales have said;
And years and years will pass away
Ere he ranks with the dead!
But Merlin from the battle bore
His friend and king away:
That he might lead his chivalry,
In England's needful day:
It is for him I want thy steed,
Then yield thy king his due.'"
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "There was a magic in his voice,
That charmed and filled with fear;
And made his words fall like commands
Upon the listener's ear.
An impulse by that voice was given
Which no man might gainsay;
The miller said he'd sell his horse;
He heard but to obey.
'Then follow me,' the old monk said,
'And I will pay thy due'"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The monk then strode across the heath—
The miller followed too;
'Till they came to a green hill-side,
With an iron gate in view.
The miller knew the country well,
And knew each brake and dell,
But could not in his memory trace
The portal of that hill!
The monk bade ope that iron gate,
And wide it open flew"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The monk passed through that iron gate,
The miller passed likewise;
They scarce were through when closed it was,
With a loud and fearful noise;
And they were there within that hill,
And a strange mysterious light
Shone all about, and still revealed
Each wonder to their sight:
And much the miller was amazed
At things that met his view"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "And first the monk the miller took
To a cavern large and wide,
In which lay twice ten thousand men
All sleeping side by side:—
And they were cas'd in armour all,
Of purest steel so bright;
And each man's falchion near him lay,
Quite ready for the fight.
A shield and lance, too, each man had;
Ten thousand twice in view"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "And as the monk pass'd slowly on
Each warrior turn'd him o'er,
As though from sleep awakening;
But sank down as before!
'It is not time!—it is not time!'
The old monk calmly said,
'And till the time is perfected,
This cave must be your bed;
For ye are for a noble work,
And are a noble crew'"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "Then to the miller, turning round,
He said, with accents bland,
'These are King Arthur's chivalry,
The noblest in the land!
And each man stretch'd before thee now,
Has been well tried in fight;
And proved him in a foeman's face
To be a valiant knight;
By Merlin's power they here are laid,
But will go forth anew'"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "'When England's troubles painful grow,
And foeman cause her grief,
Then Arthur and his noble knights
Will haste to her relief:
And then with deeds of chivalry
All England will resound;
And none so worthy as these knights
Will in the land be found!
For they are England's Paladins,
Men great and gallant too!'"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "Then onwards to another cave
The old monk led the way;
Where twice ten thousand noble steeds
Were slumb'ring time away!
And by each horse a serving man;—
It was a noble sight
To see that band of gallant steeds,
All harness'd fit for fight!
And when the miller's horse came there,
He fell and slumber'd too"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "'That horse is mine!' the old man said,
'A noble price I'll pay:
Thou see'st he's mine, for now thou canst
Not move him hence away!
He'll good King Arthur's war-steed be,
And bear him bravely forth,
When thy head—honest miller!—
Has forgot the things of earth!
By Merlin he preserv'd will be
As now he is to view'"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "Then forth the old monk led the way
To a cave of smaller size;
But who can tell the sight that met
The miller's wond'ring eyes!
A glowing light that cave contain'd,
Which fell on stone and gem;
And they threw back that glowing light,
As though too mean for them!
And lustrous was that gitt'ring cave
With stones of every hue"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "And there the miller saw huge heaps
Of gold in coin and ore:
The monk he bade the miller take,
His horse's worth, and more!
'Take what thou wilt, take what thou canst,
I stint thee not,' said he:
The miller thought of his tolling dish,
And help'd himself right free;
He took such store of gems and gold
To walk he'd much ado"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The monk then led him forth the hill,
To the open heath again;
And said, 'thou art a favour'd man,
Within that hill t'have been:
'Tis but to some few mortals given
To see that iron door;
And once thy back is to'wrds it turn'd
Thou'lt see it there no more!
In peace pass on—thy way lies there—
I bid thee, friend, adieu!"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "The miller looked—the monk was gone!
And he stood there alone!
And turning tow'rds the iron gate,
Saw but the hill of stone!
The miller lived a prosp'rous man,
And long dwelt at the mill;
And oft to see the iron gate
He wander'd tow'rds the hill:
But never more that gate he saw;
For aye it shunn'd his view."—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "And it was said that ancient monk
Had told him wondrous things;
Of all that would to England hap,
Through a long line of kings:
Had made him wise beyond all men;
And, certes, he look'd grave,
When ask'd what things the monk reveal'd,
Or what reward he gave.
But years, long years, have pass'd and gone
Since he gave death his due"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     "And since his death full many a man
Has sought that iron gate;
And wander'd near that grey hill-side
At early morn and late:
But still the gate is kept from view,
By Merlin watch'd each hour;
And will be till King Arthur rides,
With all his knightly power:
But no man knows when that will be—
My tale is told—adieu!"—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!

     Such was a tale my grandame told,
When I sat on her knee;
And I look'd into her aged face
With wonder fill'd and glee:
And such a tale I lov'd to hear,
And listen yet I can:
For oft what has beguiled the child
Will still beguile the man.
Those things are, to a musing wight,
Substantial things to view!—
I love those tales of ancientry,
Those tales to fancy true!