DOWN the Savoy valleys sounding,
Echoing round this castle old,
’Mid the distant mountain chalets
Hark! what bell for church is toll’d?
In the bright October morning
Savoy’s Duke had left his bride.
From the castle, past the drawbridge,
Flow’d the hunters’ merry tide.
Steeds are neighing, gallants glittering;
Gay, her smiling lord to greet,
From her mullion’d chamber casement
Smiles the Duchess Marguerite.
From Vienna, by the Danube,
Here she came, a bride, in spring.
Now the autumn crisps the forest;
Hunters gather, bugles ring.
Hounds are pulling, prickers swearing,
Horses fret, and boar-spears glance:
Off!—They sweep the marshy forests.
Westward, on the side of France.
Hark! the game’s on foot; they scatter:—
Down the forest-ridings lone,
Furious, single horsemen gallop.
Hark! a shout—a crash—a groan!
Pale and breathless, came the hunters;
On the turf dead lies the boar—
God! the Duke lies stretch’d beside him,
Senseless, weltering in his gore.
In the dull October evening,
Down the leaf-strewn forest-road,
To the castle, past the drawbridge,
Came the hunters with their load.
In the hall, with sconces blazing,
Ladies waiting round her seat,
Clothed in smiles, beneath the dais
Sate the Duchess Marguerite.
Hark! below the gates unbarring!
Tramp of men and quick commands!
‘—’Tis my lord come back from hunting—’
And the Duchess claps her hands.
Slow and tired, came the hunters—
Stopp’d in darkness in the court.
‘—Ho, this way, ye laggard hunters!
To the hall! What sport? What sport?’—
Slow they enter’d with their Master;
In the hall they laid him down.
On his coat were leaves and blood-stains,
On his brow an angry frown.
Dead her princely youthful husband
Lay before his youthful wife,
Bloody, ’neath the flaring sconces:
And the sight froze all her life.
In Vienna, by the Danube,
Kings hold revel, gallants meet.
Gay of old amid the gayest
Was the Duchess Marguerite.
In Vienna, by the Danube,
Feast and dance her youth beguil’d.
Till that hour she never sorrow’d;
But from then she never smil’d.
’Mid the Savoy mountain valleys
Far from town or haunt of man,
Stands a lonely church, unfinish’d,
Which the Duchess Maud began;
Old, that Duchess stern began it,
In grey age, with palsied hands;
But she died while it was building,
And the Church unfinish’d stands;
Stands as erst the builders left it,
When she sank into her grave;
Mountain greensward paves the chancel,
Harebells flower in the nave.
‘In my castle all is sorrow,’—
Said the Duchess Marguerite then;
‘Guide me, some one, to the mountain!
We will build the Church again.’—
Sandall’d palmers, faring homeward,
Austrian knights from Syria came.
‘Austrian wanderers bring, O warders!
Homage to your Austrian dame.’—
From the gate the warders answer’d:
‘Gone, O knights, is she you knew!
Dead our Duke, and gone his Duchess;
Seek her at the Church of Brou!’—
Austrian knights and march-worn palmers
Climb the winding mountain-way.
Reach the valley, where the Fabric
Rises higher day by day.
Stones are sawing, hammers ringing;
On the work the bright sun shines:
In the Savoy mountain-meadows,
By the stream, below the pines.
On her palfry white the Duchess
Sate and watch’d her working train;
Flemish carvers, Lombard gilders,
German masons, smiths from Spain.
Clad in black, on her white palfrey;
Her old architect beside—
There they found her in the mountains,
Morn and noon and eventide.
There she sate, and watch’d the builders,
Till the Church was roof’d and done.
Last of all, the builders rear’d her
In the nave a tomb of stone.
On the tomb two forms they sculptured,
Lifelike in the marble pale.
One, the Duke in helm and armour;
One, the Duchess in her veil.
Round the tomb the carved stone fretwork
Was at Easter-tide put on.
Then the Duchess closed her labours;
And she died at the St. John.