The Ballad of Cumner Hall - Mickle

The history of Cumnor would be viewed differently today if a Scotsman had not come to work at the Clarendon Press in Oxford around 1770. Williarn Julius Mickle enjoyed writing poetry and among his published work was the ballad 'Cumner Hail'. Unfortunately he did not check his facts carefully - he styled Amy Dudley as Countess, a title she never attained as she died three years before her husband Robert became Ear] of Leicester. Nonetheless Sir Waiter Scott read Mickle's ballad and was inspired by it to write his popular novel 'Kenilworth'. Thus Cumnor was drawn out of obscurity into the limelight of history.


The dews of summer night did fall,
The moon (sweet regent of the night)
Silver'd the walls of Cumner Hall
And many an oak that grew thereby.

Now nought was heard beneath the skies,
(The sounds of busy life were still,)
Save an unhappy lady's sighs,
That issued frorn that lonely pile.

"Leicester", she cried,"is this the love
That thou so oft has sworn to me,
To leave me in this lonely grove,
lmmur'd in shameful privity ?
"No more thou comest with lover's speed
Thy once beloved bride to see;
But be she alive, or be she dead,
I fear stern Earl's the same to thee.

"Not so, the usage I received,
When happy in my father's hall:
No faithless husband then me grieved,
No chilling fears did me appal.

"I rose up with the cheerful morn,
No lark more blithe, no flower more gay;
And like the bird that haunts the thorn,
So merrily sung the live long day.

If that my beauty is but small,
Among Court ladies all despis'd,
Why didst thou rend from that hall,
Where, scornful Earl, it well was priz'd.

"Yes, now neglected and despis'd,
The rose is pale - the lily's dead,
But he that once their charms so priz'd,
Is sure the cause those charms are fled.

'For know, when sick'ning grief doth prey,
And tender love's repaid with scorn,
The sweetest beauty will decay -
What flow'ret can endure the storm ?

'A Court, I'm told, is beauty's throne,
Where every lady's passing rare;
That, eastern flow'rs, that shame the sun,
Are not so glowing, not so fair.

"Then, Earl, why didst thou leave the beds
Where roses, and where lilies vie,
To seek a primrose, whose pale shades
Must sicken, when those gaudes are by ?

"Mong rural beauties I was one,
Among the fields wild flow'rs are fair;
Some country swain might me have won,
And thought my beauty passing rare.

"But, Leicester, (or I much am wrong,
Or t'is not beauty lures thy vows.
Rather ambition's gilded crown
Makes thee forget thy humble spouse.

"Then, Leicester, why, again I plead,
(The injur'd surely may repine,)
Why didst thou wed a country maid,
When some fair Princess might be thine?

'Why didst thou praise my humble charms,
And oh! then leave them to decay ?
Why didst thou win me to thy arms,
Then leave to mourn the live long day?

'The village maidens of the plain
Salute me lowly as they go,
Envious they mark my silken train,
Nor think a Countess can have woe.

'The simple nymphs! they little know
How far more happy's their estate-
To smile for joy, then sigh for woe;
To be content, than to be great.

How far less blest am 1 than them?
Daily to pine and waste with care!
Like the poor plant: that from its stem
Divided, feels the chilling air.

'Nor (cruel Earl) can I enjoy,
The humble charms of solitude;
Your minions proud my peace destroy,
By sullen frowns or pratings rude.

"Last night, as sad I chanced to stray,
The village death bell srnote rny ear;
They wink'd aside, and seerned to say,
Countess, prepare, thy end is near!

'And now while happy peasants sleep,
Here I sit lonely and forlorn;
No one to soothe me as I weep,
Save Philomel on yonder thorn.

"My spirits flag - my hopes decay-
Still that dread death bell smites my ear,
And many a boding seems to say,
Countess, prepare, thy end is near!

Thus sore and sad the Lady grieved,
in Curnner Hall so lone and drear;
And many a heartfelt sigh she heaved,
And let fall rnany a bitter tear.

And e'er the dawn of day appeared,
In Cumner Hall so lone and drear,
Full many a piercing scream was heard,
And many a cry of mortal fear.

The death bell thrice was heard to ring,
An aereal voice was heard to call;
And thrice the raven flapp'd its wing
Around the tow'rs of Cumner Hall.

The mastiff howled at village doer,
The oaks were shatter'd on the green:
Woe was the hour -for never more
That hapless Countess e'er was seen.

And in that manor now no more
Is cheerful feast and sprightly ball;
For ever since that dreary hour
Have spirits haunted Cumner Hall.

The village maids, with fearful glance
Avoid the ancient moss grown wall;
Nor ever lead the merry dance
Among the groves of Curnner Hall.

Full many a traveller oft hath sighed,
And pensive wept the Countess' fall,
As wand'ring onwards they espied
The haunted tow'rs of Cumner Hall.