Sir Guy the Seeker
—"SIR GUY, THE SEEKER"—
Is founded upon a tradition current in Northumberland.—Indeed, an adventure nearly similar to Sir Guy's, is said to have taken place in various parts of Great Britain, particularly on the Pentland Hills in Scotland, (where the prisoners are supposed to be King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table,) and in Lancashire, where an ale-house near Chorley still exhibits the sign of a Sir John Stanley following an old man with a torch, while his horse starts back in terror at the objects, which are discovered through two immense iron gates—the ale-house is known by the name of the "Iron Gates," which are supposed to protect the entrance of an enchanted cavern in the neighbourhood—the female captive, I believe, is peculiar to Dunstanburgh Castle; and certain shining stones, which are occasionally found in its neighbourhood, and which are called "Dunstanburgh Diamonds," are supposed by the peasants to form part of that immense treasure, with which the Lady will reward her Deliverer.—In Wallis's "History of the Antiquities of Northumberland," the castle is described as follows:—"It stands on an eminence of several acres, sloping gently to the sea, and on the north and north-west edged with precipices in the form of a crescent: by the western termination of which are three natural stone pyramids of a considerable height, and by the eastern one an opening in the rocks made by the sea, under a frightful precipice, called Rumble Churn, from the breaking of the waves in tempestuous weather and high seas. Above this is the main entrance, and by it the ruin of the chapel: at the south-west corner is the draw-well, partly filled up. It is built with rag and whinstone."
This Romance was written during my residence in the castle's neighbourhood at Howick, the seat of the present Earl Gray; to whose ancestor, Sir William Grey, Dunstanburgh Castle was granted by James the First. It is now the property of the Earl of Tankerville.
For a further account of Dunstanburgh, v. Grose's Antiquities of England and Wales.
SIR GUY, THE SEEKER
LIKE those in the head of a man just dead
Are his eyes, and his beard's like snow;
But when here he came, his glance was a flame,
And his locks seemed the plumes of the crow.
Since then are o'er forty summers and more;
Yet he still near the castle remains,
And pines for a sight of that lady bright,
Who wears the wizard's chains.
Nor sun nor snow from the ruins to go
Can force that aged wight;
And still the pile, hall, chapel, and aisle,
He searches day and night:
But find can he ne'er the winding stair,
Which he past that beauty to see,
Whom spells enthrall in the haunted hall,
Where none but once may be.
That once regret will not let him forget:—
'Twas night, and pelting showers
Did patter and splash, when the lightning's flash
Showed Dunstanburgh's grey towers.
Raised high on a mound that castle frowned
In ruined pagean-trie;
And where to the north did rocks jut forth,
In towers hung o'er the sea.
Proud they stood, and darkened the flood
For the cliffs were so rugged and steep,
Had a plummet been dropt from their summit, unstopped
That plummet had reached the deep.
Nor flower there grew; nor tree e'er drew
Its nuture from that ground,
Save a lonely yew, whose branches threw
Their baleful shade around.
Loud was the roar on that sounding shore;
Yet still could the Knight discern,
Louder than all, the swell and the fall
Of the bellowing Rumble Churn!
With strange turmoil did it bubble and boil,
And echo from place to place;
So strange was its dash, and so high did it splash,
That it washed the castle's base:
The spray, as it broke, appeared like smoke
From a sea-volcano pouring;
And still did it rumble, and grumble, and tumble,
Rioting! raging! roaring!
Up the hill Sir Guy made his courser fly,
And hoped, from the wind and rain
That he there should find some refuge kind,
But he sought it long in vain:
For fast and hard each portal was barred,
And against his efforts proof;
Till at length he espied a porch spread wide
The shelter of its roof.
—"Gramarcy, St. George!" quoth glad Sir Guy,
And sought the porch with speed;
And fast to the yew, which near it grew,
He bound his Barbara steed.
And safety found on that sheltered ground
From the sky's increasing gloom,
From his brow he took his casque, and he shook
The rain off, that burthened its plume.
Then long he stood in mournful mood
With listless sullen air,
Propped on his lance, and with indolent glance
Watched the red lightning's glare;
And sadly listened to the shower,
On the clattering roof that fell;
And counted twice the lonely hour,
Tolled by some distant bell.
But scarce that bell could midnight tell,
When louder roared the thunder,
And the bolt so red whizzed by his head,
And burst the gates asunder.
And lo! Through the dark a glimmering spark
He espied of lurid-blue,
Onward it came, and a form all flame
Soon struck his wondering view!
'Twas an ancient man of visage wan,
Gigantic was his height;
And his breast below there was seen to flow
A beard of grizzled white:
And flames o'er-spread his hairless head,
And down his beard they streamed;
And in his hand a radiant wand
Of burning iron gleamed.
Of darkest grain, with flowing train,
A wondrous robe he wore,
With many a charm to work man's harm
In fire embroidered o'er:
And this robe was bound his waist around
With a triple chain red-hot!—
And still came nigher that phantom of fire,
Till he reached the self same spot,
Where stood Sir Guy while his hair bristled high,
And his breath he scarce could draw;
And he crost his breast, for I wot, he guest,
'Twas Belzebub's self that he saw!
And full on the Knight that ghastly wight
Fixt his green and glassy eyes;
And he clanked his chain, and he howled his pain,
Ere his words were heard to rise.
—"Sir Knight, Sir Knight! if your heart be right,
And your nerves be firm and true,
Sir Knight, Sir Knight! a Beauty bright
In durance waits for you.
"But Sir Knight, Sir Knight! if you ever knew fright,
That Dame forbear to view:
Or Sir Knight, Sir Knight! that you feasted your sight,
While you live you'll sorely rue!"—
—"That mortal ne'er drew vital air,
Who witnessed fear in me:
Come what come will, come good come ill,
Lead on! I'll follow thee!" —
And now they go both high and low,
Above and under ground,
And in and out, and about and about,
And round, and round, and round!
The storm is hushed, and lets them hear
The howlet's boding screech,
And now through many a passage drear,
A winding stair they reach.
With beckoning hand, which flamed like a brand,
Still on the Wizard led;
And well could Sir Guy hear a sob and sigh,
As up the first flight he sped!
While the second he past with footsteps fast,
He heard a death-bell toll!
While he climbed the third, a whisper he heard,
—"God's mercy on thy soul!"—
And now at the top the wanderers stop
A brazen gate before
Of massive make; and a living snake
Was the bolt, which held the door.
In many a fold round the staple 'twas rolled,
With venom its jaws ran o'er;
And that juice of hell, where-ever it fell,
To a cinder burned the floor.
When the monster beheld Sir Guy, he swelled
With fury, and threw out his sting;
Sparks flashed from each eye, and he reared him on high,
And prepared on the warrior to spring;
But the wizard's hand extended his wand,
And the reptile drooped his crest,
Yet strove to bite in impotent spite
The ground, which gave him rest!
And now the gate is heard to grate,
On its hinges turning slow;
Till on either side the valves yawn wide,
And in the wanderers go.
'Twas a spacious hall, whose sides were all
With sable hangings dight;
And whose echoing floor was diamonded o'er
With marble black and white;
And of marble black as the raven's back
A hundred steeds stood round;
And of marble white by each a knight
Lay sleeping on the ground;
And a hundred shafts of laboured bronze
The fretted roof upheld;
And the ponderous gloom of that vaulted room
A hundred lights dispelled;
And a dead man's arm by a magic charm
Each glimmering taper bore,
And where it was lopt, still dropt and dropt
Thick gouts of clotted gore.
Where ends the room, doth a chrystal tomb
Its towering front uphold;
And one on each hand two skeletons stand,
Which belonged to two giants of old:
That on the right holds a faulchion bright,
That on the left a horn;
And crowns of jet with jewels beset
Their eyeless skulls adorn:
And both those grim colossal kings
With fingers long and lean
Point tow'rds the tomb, within whose womb
A captive Dame is seen.
A form more fair than that prisoner's, ne'er
Since the days of Eve was known;
Every glance, that flew from her eyes of blue,
Was worth an Emperor's throne,
And one sweet kiss from her roseate lips
Would have melted a bosom of stone.
Soon as Sir Guy had met her eye,
Knelt low that captive maid;
And her lips of love seemed fast to move,
But he heard not what she said.
Then her hands did she join in suppliant sign
Her hands more white than snow:
And like dew that streak the rose's cheek,
Her tears began to flow.
The warrior felt his stout heart melt,
When he saw those fountains run;
—"Oh! What can I do," he cried, "for you?
What mortal can do, shall be done!" —
Then out and speaks the wizard;
Hollow his accents fall!
—"Was never man, since the world began,
Could burst that chrystal wall:
"For the hand, which raised its magic frame,
Had oft clasped Satan's own;
And the lid bears a name . . . . . . . . Young Knight the same
Is stamped on Satan's throne;
"At its maker's birth long trembled the earth;
The sky dropt showers of gore;
And she, who to light gave the wondrous wight,
Had died seven years before;
"And at Satan's right hand while keeping his stand,
The foulest Fiend of fire
Shrunk back with awe, when the babe he saw,
For it shocked its very sire!
But hark, Sir Knight! and riddle aright
The riddle I'll riddle to thee:
Thou'lt learn a way without delay
To set yon damsel free.
"See'st yonder sword, with jewels rare
Its dudgeon crusted o'er:
See'st yonder horn of ivory fair:
'Twas Merlin's horn of yore!
"That horn to sound, or sword to draw,
Now, youth, your choice explain;
But that which you choose, beware how you lose,
For you never will find it again:
"And that once lost, all hopes are crost,
Which now you fondly form;
And that once gone, the sun ne'er shone
A sadder wight to warm;
"But such keen woe, as never can know
Oblivion's balmy power.
With fixed despair your soul will share,
Till comes your dying hour.
"Your choice now make for yon Beauty's sake;
To burst her bonds endeavour;
But that which you chuse, beware how you lose:
Once lost, 'tis lost for ever!"—
In pensive mood awhile now stood
Sir Guy, and gazed around;
Now he turned his sight to the left, to the right,
Now he fixed it on the ground.
Now the faulchion's blaze attracted his gaze;
On the hilt his fingers lay;
But he heard fear cry,—"you're wrong, Sir Guy!"
And he snatched his hand away!
Now his steps he addrest toward the North and the West;
Now he turned tow'rds the East and the South:
Till with desperate thought the horn he caught,
And prest it to his mouth.
Hark! the blast is a blast so strong and so shrill,
That the vaults like thunder ring;
And each marble horse stamps the floor with force,
And from sleep the warriors spring!
And frightful stares each stoney eye,
As now with ponderous tread
They rush on Sir Guy, poising on high
Their spears to strike him dead.
At this strange attack full swift sprang back,
I wot the startled Knight!
Away he threw the horn, and drew
His faulchion keen and bright.
But as soon as the horn his grasp forsook,
Was heard a cry of grief;
It seemed the yell of a soul in hell
Made desperate of relief!
And straight each light was extinguished quite,
Save the flame so lurid blue
On the Wizard's brow, (whose flashings now
Assumed a bloody hue,)
And those sparks of fire, which grief and ire
From his glaring eye-balls drew!
And he stamped in rage, and he laughed in scorn,
While in thundering tone he roar'd,
"Now shame on the coward who sounded a horn,
When he might have unsheathed a sword!"
He said, and from his mouth there came
A vapour blue and dank,
Whose poisonous breath seemed the kiss of death,
For the Warrior senseless sank.
Morning breaks! again he wakes;
Lo! in the porch he lies,
And still in his heart he feels the dart,
Which shot from the captive's eyes.
From the ground he springs! as if he had wings,
The ruin he wanders o'er,
And with prying look each cranny and nook
His anxious eyes explore:
But find can he ne'er the winding stair,
Which he climbed that dame to see,
Whom spells enthrall in the haunted hall,
Where none but once may be.
The earliest ray of dawning day
Beholds his search begun;
The evening star ascends her car,
Nor yet his search is done:
Whence the neighbours all the night now call
By "Guy, the Seeker's" name;
For never he knows one hours[sic] repose
From his wish to find the Dame;
But still he seeks, and aye he seeks,
And seeks, and seeks in vain;
And still he repeats to all he meets,
—"Could I find the sword again!—"
Which words he follows with a groan,
As if his heart would break;
And oh! that groan, has so strange a tone,
It makes all hearers quake!
The villagers round know well its sound,
And when they hear it poured,
—"Hark! hark!" they cry; "the Seeker Guy
Groans for the Wizard's sword."—
Twice twenty springs on their fragrant wings
For his wound have brought no balm;
For still he's found . . . . But hark! what sound
Disturbs the midnight calm?
Good peasants, tell, why rings that knell?
—"'tis the Seeker-Guy's we toll:
"His race is run; his search is done".——
God's mercy on his soul!