An Old Castle

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich

The gray arch crumbles,
And totters and tumbles;
The bat has built in the banquet hall;
In the donjon-keep,
Sly mosses creep;
The ivy has scaled the southern wall:
No man-at-arms
Sounds quick alarms
A-top of the cracked martello tower:
The drawbridge-chain
Is broken in twain—
The bridge will neither rise nor lower.
Not any manner
Of broidered banner
Flaunts at a blazoned herald’s call.
Lilies float
In the stagnant moat;
And fair they are, and tall.
Here, in the old
Forgotten springs,
Was wassail held by queens and kings;
Here at the board
Sat clown and lord,
Maiden fair and lover bold,
Baron fat and minstrel lean,
The prince with his stars,
The knight with his scars,
The priest in his gabardine.
Where is she
Of the fleur-de-lys,
And that true knight who wore her gages?
Where are the glances
That bred wild fancies
In curly heads of my lady’s pages?
Where are those
Who, in steel or hose, Held revel here, and made them gay?
Where is the laughter
That shook the rafter—
Where is the rafter, by the way?
Gone is the roof,
And perched aloof
Is an owl, like a friar of Orders Gray.
(Perhaps ‘t is the priest
Come back to feast—
He had ever a tooth for capon, he!
But the capon’s cold,
And the steward’s old,
And the butler’s lost the larder-key!)
The doughty lords
Sleep the sleep of swords.
Dead are the dames and damozels.
The King in his crown
Hath laid him down,
And the Jester with his bells.
All is dead here:
Poppies are red here,
Vines in my lady’s chamber grow—
If ‘t was her chamber
Where they clamber
Up from the poisonous weeds below.
All is dead here,
Joy is fled here;
Let us hence. ‘T is the end of all—
The gray arch crumbles,
And totters, and tumbles,
And Silence sits in the banquet hall.

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