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The Ballad of the Bell Tower by Margaret J. Preston

"Five years ago I vowed to Heaven upon my falchion blade

To build the tower; and to this hour my vow hath not been paid.

"When from the eagle's nest I snatched my falcon-hearted dove,

And in my breast shaped her a nest, safe and warm-lined with love,

"Not all the bells in Christendom, if rung with fervent might,

That happy day in janglings gay had told my joy aright.

"As up the aisle my bride I led in that triumphant hour,

I ached to hear some wedding-cheer clash from the minster tower.

"Nor chime nor tower the minster had; so in my soul I sware,

Come loss, come let, that I would set church-bells a-ringing there

"Before a twelvemonth. But ye know what forays lamed the land,

How seasons went, and wealth was spent, and all were weak of hand.

"And then the yearly harvest failed ('twas when my boy was born);

But could I build while vassals filled my ears with cries for corn?

"Thereafter happed the heaviest woe, and none could help or save;

Nor was there bell to toll a knell above my Hertha's grave.

"Ah, had I held my vow supreme all hinderance to control,

Maybe these woes—God knows! God knows!—had never crushed my soul.

"Ev'n now ye beg that I give o'er: ye say the scant supply

Of water fails in lowland vales, and mountain-springs are dry.

"'Here be the quarried stones' (ye grant), 'skilled craftsmen come at call;

But with no more of water-store how can we build the wall?'

"Nay, listen: Last year's vintage crowds our cellars, tun on tun:

With wealth of wine for yours and mine, dare the work go undone?

"Quick! bring them forth, these mighty butts: let none be elsewhere sold,

And I will pay this very day their utmost worth in gold,

"That so the mortar that cements each stone within the shrine,

For her dear sake whom God did take, may all be mixed with wine."

'Twas thus the baron built his tower; and, as the story tells,

A fragrance rare bewitched the air whene'er they rang the bells.

A merrier music tinkled down when harvest-days were long:

They seemed to chime at vintage-time a catch of vintage-song;

And when the vats were foamed with must, if any loitered near

The minster tower at vesper hour, above him he would hear

Tinglings, as of subsiding trills, athwart the purple gloom,

And every draught of air he quaffed would taste of vineyard bloom.