“This granted I, and then with many a wail
She told me all the story of your woe,
And when she finished, lightly but most pale,
To those two brimming goblets she did go,
And one she took within her fingers frail,
And looked down smiling in its crimson glow:
’And now thine oath I’ll tell; God grant to thee
No rest in grave, if thou be false to me.
“’Alas, poor me! whom cruel hearts would
On the sad morrow to that wicked lord;
But I’ll not go; nay, rather I’ll be dead,
Safe from their frown and from their bitter word.
Without my Nino life indeed were sped;
And sith we two can never more accord
In this drear world, so weary and perplext,
We’ll die, and win sweet pleasure in the next.
“’Oh father, God will never give thee
If thou be false to what thy lips have sworn,
And false to love, and false to me distressed,
A helpless maid, so broken and outworn.
This cup—she put it softly to her breast—
I pray thee carry, ere the morrow morn,
To Nino’s hand, and tell him all my pain;
This other with mine own lips I will drain.’
“Slowly she raised it to her lips, the while
I darted forward, madly fain to seize
Her dreadful hands, but with a sudden wile
She twisted and sprang from me with bent knees,
And rising turned upon me with a smile,
And drained her goblet to the very lees.
‘Oh priest, remember, keep thine oath,’ she cried,
And the spent goblet fell against her side.
“And then she moaned and murmured like a bell:
‘My Nino, my sweet Nino!’ and no more
She said, but fluttered like a bird and fell
Lifeless as marble to the footworn floor;
And there she lies even now in lonely cell,
Poor lady, pale with all the grief she bore,
She could not live, and still be true to thee,
And so she’s gone where no rude hands can be.”
The monk’s voice pauses like some mournful flute,
Whose pondered closes for sheer sorrow fail,
And then with hand that seems as it would suit
A soft girl best, it is so light and frail,
He turns half round, and for a moment mute
Points to the goblet, and so ends his tale:
“Mine oath is kept, thy lady’s last command;
’Tis but a short hour since it left her hand.”
So ends the stranger: surely no man’s tongue
Was e’er so soft, or half so sweet, as his.
Oft as he listened, Nino’s heart had sprung
With sudden start as from a spectre’s kiss;
For deep in many a word he deemed had rung
The liquid fall of some loved emphasis;
And so it pierced his sorrow to the core,
The ghost of tones that he should hear no more.