Christabel "Whispering Tongues Can Poison Truth"

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Whispering Tongues Can Poison Truth"

Context: The Lady Christabel, having resorted to a wood at midnight to pray for her absent love, discovers at the base of a tree the beautiful Geraldine, apparently totally exhausted from having been mysteriously abducted by five men who forced her to ride at great speed for a long time. As Christabel conducts Geraldine to her bedchamber they pass a sleeping dog that growls. In the chamber Geraldine mentions that she wishes Christabel's mother were present. A moment later Geraldine, apparently looking at empty air, commands the mother to leave, as this hour had been given to Geraldine. Christabel thinks that the ghastly ride has unsettled Geraldine's wits. When, however, Geraldine prepares for bed she uncovers her breast and side, which are such horrifying sights that no one could tell of them. She draws Christabel to her breast, which is icy cold, and while the girl is in her arms she lays a spell on her that will prevent her from telling any more about the whole episode than the discovery of Geraldine in the woods. The next day Christabel conducts Geraldine to her father, the Baron Sir Leoline; he listens to Geraldine's story and becomes pale when he hears that her father is Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine. Sir Leoline and Lord Roland had been fast friends in youth, but someone had said something to make them quarrel so bitterly that they had long ago parted.

But when he heard the lady's tale,
And when she told her father's name,
Why waxed Sir Leoline so pale,
Murmuring o'er the name again,
Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine?
Alas! they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above;
And life is thorny; and youth is vain; And to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it chanced, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline.