William Morris Archive

The Ruined Castle (The dream of a castle, standing alone / In the midst of a leafless wood;)

Not pub. in CW or AWS, but appears in Le Bourgeois, 210-12.
Draft in B. L. Add. MS 45,298A, 32-33v, in what may be Morris's hand.

B. L. Add. MS 45,298A

[f. 32]           The ruined Castle

The dream of a castle, standing alone
     In the midst of a leafless wood;
A ruined castle under the moon;
     Three walls and a turret stood.

The ancients surely were fools thought I
     When they talked of the huntress moon,
I think she screams, for she dwells in the sky
     Both day and night alone:

The clouds are below her, far below,
     And the stars are far above,
Neither stars above, nor clouds below
     The lonely moon do love.

And the withered leaves in the castle walls
     Do mock her, spinning around,
The brittle bough from the poplar falls,
     Carved figures lie on the ground.

But the brazen vane on the turretted stair
     That faced the steady west wind,
It seemed to love the moon so drear[,]
     In the moonlight it looked kind --

Wild, wild, with love she had left her home[,]
     She had wandered into the night;
Through the three drear walls long time she did roam
     In the midst of the ghostly light.

[f. 32v] For bright by times, and dull by times
     Did the yearning moon look on her;
And the long steady wind through the leafless limes
     Blew the withered leaves upon her.

She cast her eyes on the turreted stair,
     The stair that led to nothing;
Chipped was the rugged stone, and there
     Lay a broken mail coat rusting.

There were great brown stains on the granite stair;
     They looked so much like blood,
In darksome corner, very drear,
     An armed statue stood.

It had lain in the chapel many a night
     While the monks say miserere,
There it lay as if resting after the fight,
     Of the fight with the dragon weary[.]

But now it standeth bolt upright[.]
     It is shadowed as with a curtain
In the top of its battered helm, the light
     Falls from the moon uncertain.

A dismal tale rang in the lady's head
     Of a lord of that castle old;
'Twas [a] dismal tale of men long dead [MS, as]
     By a bright fireside once told:

How an ancient lord of gloomy cheer
     Slew his lovely lady bright
[f. 33] And buried her under the turret stair
     In the winter-moon's ghastly light;

And, how throughout that castle old,
     Since the day when the deed was done,
On wall and floor grew fearful red mould,
     There ever since it has grown.

It grew in spots on floor and wall
     In the midst of the banquet's light,
From it blood ran on floor and wall,
     On the murdered lady's night.

Now the vane went creaking round in the wind,
     To the east the wind swept suddenly,
And the late gaunt poplar 'gan to find
     Its branches dipping plungingly.

While the west wind blew the yellow eyed owl
     Stared from the ivy quietly,
When the wind swept round, with a scream, the owl
     Flew from the ivy heavily.

Then the dismal tale, and the lady's thought
     In her brain a strange whirl wound,
Owl[,] vane and wind strange dreaming wrought,
     On the leaves she lay in a swound.

When she woke the moon was low in the west,
     It was changing from gold to white,
The lark was singing, leaving his nest,
     As the day rose out from the night.

[f. 33v] Through the fall of her golden, shining hair
     She could see a face above her;
Two eyes shone moist in the morning air,
     Truly they seemed to love her --

Notes by Peter Wright:

st. 2, the huntress moon:the goddess Diana
st. 3, fight with dragon: cmp. legend of St. George