A warrior so bold and a virgin so bright,
Conversed as they sat on the green;
They gazed at each other with tender delight;
Alonzo the Brave was the name of the knight,
And the maiden's was fair Imogene.
"And oh!" said the youth, "Since tomorrow I go
To fight in some far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon ceasing to flow,
Some other will court you and you will bestow
On a wealthier suitor your hand."
"Hush hush these suspicions," fair Imogene said,
"Offensive to love and to me;
For if you be living or if you be dead,
I'll swear by the Virgin that none in your stead
Shall husband of Imogene be.
"If by ire or by lust or by wealth led aside
Forget my Alonzo the Brave,
God grant to punish my falsehood and pride
Your ghost at my marriage should sit by my side,
Should tax me with perjury, claim me as a bride,
And bear me away to the grave."
To Palestine hastened this hero so bold;
His love she lamented him sore;
But scarce had a twelve-month elapsed when behold,
A baron all covered with jewels and gold
Arrived at fair Imogene's door.
His treasures, his presents, his spacious domain,
Soon made her untrue to her vows;
He dazzled her eyes, he bewildered her brain,
He caught her affection so light and so vain,
And carried her home as his spouse.
And now had the marriage been blessed by the priest;
The revelry now was begun;
The tables, they groaned with the weight of the feast;
Nor yet had the laughter and merriment ceased,
When the bell at the castle tolled one.
When to her amazement fair Imogene found
A stranger was placed by her side;
His ire was terrific, he uttered no sound;
He spoke not, he moved not, he turned not around,
But earnestly gazed on the bride.
His visor was closed and gigantic his height;
His armour was sable to view;
All pleasure and laughter were hushed at his sight;
The dogs as they eyed drew back in a fright,
The lights in the chamber burned blue.
His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay,
The guests sat in silence and fear;
At length spake the bride, while trembling, "I pray,
Sir Knight, that your helmet aside you would lay,
And deign to partake of our cheer."
The lady was silent, the stranger complied;
His visor he slowly unclosed;
Great God what a sight met fair Imogene's eyes,
What words can express her dismay and surprise,
When a skeleton's head was exposed!
All present then uttered a horrified shout;
And turned with disgust from the scene;
The worms, they crept in and the worms they crept out,
They sported his eyes and his temples about
While the spectre addressed Imogene:
"Behold me, thou false one, behold me," he cried,
"Remember Alonzo the Brave;
God grant that to punish thy falsehood and pride,
My ghost at your marriage should sit by your side,
Should tax you with perjury, claim you as a bride,
And bear you away to the grave."
So saying, his arms 'round the lady he wound,
While loudly she shrieked in dismay;
Then sank with his prey through the wide yawning ground,
And never again was fair Imogene found,
Or the spectre that bore her away.
Not long lived the baron and none since that time
To inherit his castle presume;
For chronicles tell that by order sublime,
There Imogene suffers the pain of her crime,
And mourns her deplorable doom.
At midnight four times in each year does her spright,
(While mortals in slumber are bound)
Arrayed in her bridal apparel of white,
Appear in the hall with the skeleton knight,
And she shrieks as he whirls her around.
While they drink out of skulls newly-torn from the grave,
Dancing 'round them the spectres are seen;
Their liquor is blood and this horrible stave
They held to the health of Alonzo the Brave,
And his consort, the fair Imogene."