Launceston Castle a poem written in 1881.
Majestic pile grey, venerable Sage,
Rich in strange legends of a distant age
String Time’s wild harp and minstrel forth the tale
Of thy long summer’s joy and winter’s gale
Sing who from bold Dunheved’s swelling hill.
Fringed with deep wood, soft mead and purling rill,
Raised thy giant form, and weird and mystic rites. And crowned thee monarch of the neighb’ring heights.
Bade cloud-capp’d Dartmoor with Brown Willey’s tors
Keep outer watch-guard – rough, yet faithful corps.
When first upon thy softer, peaceful charms
Broke the rude war-cry and the clash of arms
Who first usurped thy broad and rich domain,
Restored by age once more to tranquil reign.
Who stood thy sponsors – some rude British clan,
Prous Roman, Saxon, or the mail’d Norman
All this, alas! thy thousand years becloud,
Like winter’s mists that oft thy brow enshroud.
Yet, while I linger ‘neath thy crumbling Keep,
That, ivy-bound, o’erhangs the circling steep,
A hallowed stillness, as with wizard’s wand,
Invokes from out the Past a long drawn band
Of phantom pictures first with colours light,
Then fading slowly with Time’s dimming light-
Thy battled walls and watch towers rising high,
Then jealous sentries pacing thwart the sky.
Each buruished helmet, each cuirass of steel,
Flags back the western rays, while like a wheel
Girt with stout iron, thy clut’ring vassal town,
High from its seat, loud scorns the foeman’s frown,
Points to deep moat, stout battlement wall,
And dares attack on hut or lordily hall
To thy safe shelter distant peasants fly,
When warned of foe from Windmill Beacons high
Thy pond’rous drawbridge ne’er declines to fall
To welcome strangers to thy princely hall
Three rings the song and fast the wassail flows
With “Health to friends and death to trait’rous foes,”
Oft on thy mossy green, the proud Keep Court,
Speed the gay joust or vassal’s meaner sport
While matrons staid and many a youthful queen
Grace with their smiles the animated scene:-
The plumed knights, with axe at saddle bow,
And burnished armour flashing back the glow,
The prancing steeds, the charge, the shielded spear,
The unhorsed vanquished, the loud victor’s cheer!
With staff and cross-bow each stout village swain
Phey (?) his rule art some sweetheart’s nod to gain
Hark now the hunt, in broad Deer Park below
Henceforth the deep-tongued hound on frightened roe:
Of springs the fate as on his conq’ring flight
O’er paltreyed dance and many a gold-spurr’d knight,
Whose sword, as keen and bright as chivalry,
Ne’er brooks offence or strikes below the knee.
But fickle Change bursts in upon the view,
And blurn the scene with dark and bloody hue
Tune’s stern vieiasstudes assert them away.
And strike a minor chord in minstrel’s lay:-
The siege, the storm, the fast o’erpowered guard,
The mute surrender on the blood-stained award.
Cruel tender wars, the long and bitter cry
Of tortured souls for Christian liberty
The dark and “notsome den” (?) the dunjon deep,
Where virgin martyr and grey patriot weep
Hig o’er thy prison cells the gibbet tall
Links black assassin with offender small.
Yet blacker hues! A King and Nation’s broil,
The spendthrift court, the o’ertested subject’s toil,
The shout for right, the war for Freedom’s own,
The headless monarch and the vacant thrown!
While Peace around thee once again holds sway,
And generations rise and pass away,
Still teach thy youth, on Green in mimic strife,
The fight and shame that parfit (?) the course of life
The price with which their liberties were bought,
That they may fight as others toiled and wrought;
That Freedom’s flag, now riddled, stained and old,
Will need again in Village Hampden bold.
W.L.P. in the Picturesque Guide to North Cornwall, Cater & Co. Launceston, July 21st, 1881.
TO LAUNCESTON CASTLE by G. A. Stanbury January, 1884
The storm of centuries ground thy time-worn head
Have spent their fury, and their strength swayed;
The acts of ages, long since past away,
Thy towers have viewed, and still in grandeur stay,
Stern monuments of what was – what is now
Thy striking contrast forces on thy thoughtful brow.
What deeds of darkness have thy dungeon seen!
What battle cries resounded o’er thy peaceful green!
What heroes’ armour clanked through thy halls!
And warlike hearts have panted on thy battled walls!
How fair the ladies that thy Keep has held!
What noble thoughts within their bosoms welled!
The prisoners’ souls long since have sought another shore,
The dungeons that their bodies held exist no more,
The warriors that thy hoary walls contained,
The priests to purgatory long since did send,
The ladies and their beauty, all have fled,
Without a line or stone to tell the lives they led.
Yet thou in majesty shalt frown on still,
As history’s landmark on that ancient hill,
The rash despoiler ne’er they stones remove,
Or aim a death blow at they verdant grove,
And grimly rear they hand in silence wrapt,
As when o’er the sleeping town thy watch was kept.