The Bandit’s Death


To Sir Walter Scott...


Sir, do you see this dagger? nay, why do you start aside?
I was not going to stab you, tho’ I am the Bandit’s bride.

You have set a price on his head: I may claim it without a lie.
What have I here in the cloth? I will show it you by-and-by.

Sir, I was once a wife. I had one brief summer of bliss.
But the Bandit had woo’d me in vain, and he stabb’d my Piero with this.

And he dragg’d me up there to his cave in the mountain, and there one day
He had left his dagger behind him. I found it. I hid it away.

For he reek’d with the blood of Piero; his kisses were red with his crime,
And I cried to the Saints to avenge me. They heard, they bided their time.

In a while I bore him a son, and he loved to dandle the child,
And that was a link between us; but I—to be reconciled?—

No, by the Mother of God, tho’ I think I hated him less,
And—well, if I sinn’d last night, I will find the Priest and confess.

Listen! we three were alone in the dell at the close of the clay.
I was lilting a song to the babe, and it laugh’d like a dawn in May.

Then on a sudden we saw your soldiers crossing the ridge,
And he caught my little one from me: we dipt down under the bridge

By the great dead pine—you know it—and heard as we crouch’d below,
The clatter of arms, and voices, and men passing to and fro.

Black was the night when we crept away—not a star in the sky—
Hush’d as the heart of the grave, till the little one utter’d a cry.

I whisper’d ‘give it to me,’ but he would not answer me—then
He gript it so hard by the throat that the boy never cried again.

We return’d to his cave—the link was broken—he sobb’d and he wept,
And cursed himself; then he yawn’d, for the wretch could sleep, and he slept

Ay, till dawn stole into the cave, and a ray red as blood
Glanced on the strangled face—I could make Sleep Death, if I would—

Glared on at the murder’d son, and the murderous father at rest, . . . 
I drove the blade that had slain my husband thrice thro’ his breast.

He was loved at least by his dog: it was chain’d, but its horrible yell
‘She has kill’d him, has kill’d him, has kill’d him’ rang out all down thro’ the dell,

Till I felt I could end myself too with the dagger—so deafen’d and dazed—
Take it, and save me from it ! I fled. I was all but crazed

With the grief that gnaw’d at my heart, and the weight that dragg’d at my hand;
But thanks to the Blessed Saints that I came on none of his band;

And the band will be scatter’d now their gallant captain is dead,
For I with this dagger of his—do you doubt me? Here is his head ! 


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