“Her father left her with wild words, and sent
Rough men, who dragged her to a dungeon deep,
Where many a weary soul in darkness pent
For many a year had watched the slow days creep,
And there he left her for his dark intent,
Where madness breeds and sorrows never sleep.
Coarse robes he gave her, and her lips he fed
With bitter water and a crust of bread.
“And day by day still following out his plan,
He came to her, and with determined spite
Strove with soft words and then with curse and ban
To bend her heart so wearied to his might,
And aye she bode his bitter pleasure’s span,
As one that hears, but hath not sense or sight.
Ah, Nino, still her breaking heart held true:
Poor lady sad, she had no thought but you.
“The father tired at last and came no more,
But in his settled anger bade prepare
The marriage feast with all luxurious store,
With pomps and shows and splendors rich and rare;
And so in toil another fortnight wore,
Nor knew she aught what things were in the air,
Till came the old lord’s message brief and coarse:
Within three days she should be wed by force.
“And all that noon and weary night she lay,
Poor child, like death upon her prison stone,
And none that came to her but crept away,
Sickened at heart to see her lips so moan,
Her eyes so dim within their sockets grey,
Her tender cheeks so thin and ghastly grown;
But when the next morn’s light began to stir,
She sent and prayed that I might be with her.
“This boon he gave: perchance he deemed
The chaplain of his house, her childhood’s friend,
With patient tones and holy words, might try
To soothe her purpose to his gainful end.
I bowed full low before his crafty eye,
But knew my heart had no base help to lend.
That night with many a silent prayer I came
To poor Leonora in her grief and shame.
“But she was strange to me: I could not
For glad amazement, mixed with some dark fear;
I saw her stand no longer pale and weak,
But a proud maiden, queenly and most clear,
With flashing eyes and vermeil in her cheek:
And on the little table, set anear,
I marked two goblets of rare workmanship
With some strange liquor crowned to the lip.
“And then she ran to me and caught my hand,
Tightly imprisoned in her meagre twain,
And like the ghost of sorrow she did stand,
And eyed me softly with a liquid pain:
’Oh father, grant, I pray thee, I command,
One boon to me, I’ll never ask again,
One boon to me and to my love, to both;
Dear father, grant, and bind it with an oath.’