Study Guide

Christabel Stanzas 39-42

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Stanzas 39-42

Pat II, Stanzas 39-42

Saith Bracy the bard, So let it knell!
And let the drowsy sacristan
Still count as slowly as he can!
There is no lack of such, I ween,
As well fill up the space between.
In Langdale Pike and Witch's Lair,
And Dungeon-ghyll so foully rent,
With ropes of rock and bells of air
Three sinful sextons' ghosts are pent,
Who all give back, one after t'other,
The death-note to their living brother;
And oft too, by the knell offended,
Just as their one! two! three! is ended,
The devil mocks the doleful tale
With a merry peal from Borodale.

The air is still! through mist and cloud
That merry peal comes ringing loud;
And Geraldine shakes off her dread,
And rises lightly from the bed;
Puts on her silken vestments white,
And tricks her hair in lovely plight,
And nothing doubting of her spell
Awakens the lady Christabel.
"Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel?
I trust that you have rested well."

And Christabel awoke and spied
The same who lay down by her side—
O rather say, the same whom she
Raised up beneath the old oak tree!
Nay, fairer yet! and yet more fair!
For she belike hath drunken deep
Of all the blessedness of sleep!
And while she spake, her looks, her air
Such gentle thankfulness declare,
That (so it seemed) her girded vests
Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.
"Sure I have sinn'd!" said Christabel,
"Now heaven be praised if all be well!"

And in low faltering tones, yet sweet,
Did she the lofty lady greet
With such perplexity of mind
As dreams too lively leave behind.

  • Now it's morning and the bells that we've been hearing about for two stanzas are finally ringing.
  • Geraldine wakes up, gets dressed, and braids her hair.
  • Braiding her hair is an important reminder that Geraldine is a maid, meaning she's an unmarried woman. Only married women wore their hair loose in public in the Middle Ages, when the poem is set.
  • Really, much of this section is pretty mundane stuff. Not much to see here—oh, wait. There's that spell again. And what about that "dread" Geraldine was feeling in line 362?
  • It looks like Geraldine is still quite confident that her spell is working. This isn't only a sign that's she a confident witch-vampire, but also that what we saw happening to Christabel wasn't in a dream or anything. Nope, it was the real deal.
  • As far as the dread goes, that may be from the bells. Since Geraldine isn't from the immediate area, she may just be more affected by the meaning of the bells. Maybe the idea of death first thing in the morning is a little unpleasant. We don't blame her.
  • On the other hand, the bells are meant to drive the evil spirits from the morning, so perhaps Geraldine is filled with dread because she should have been making a fast exit with her creepy brethren when those bells went off.
  • It looks like Christabel has learned to sleep through all that bell-ringing and death-reminding every morning, since Geraldine has to wake her up.
  • Christabel wakes up to see Geraldine and thinks, "Hey, good lookin'! You're even prettier in the light."
  • Christabel attributes this extra dose of loveliness to good old-fashioned beauty sleep.
  • Geraldine's thankfulness is so deep that her heart seems to swell with gratitude. Or is that Christabel noticing that same bosom that cast a spell on her the night before? That seems the more likely option here, since right after noticing Geraldine's "heaving breasts" she immediately is hit with the feeling that she has sinned. Of course, part of the spell that Geraldine cast on her was that Christabel would be unable to recall exactly what happened between them in the bed that night.
  • Christabel waves off the feeling that she's sinned and decides that it must have been a dream.
  • Even if it was a dream, it was so vivid that Christabel is having some serious mixed feelings about seeing the beautiful lady again in the morning.
  • Christabel gets up and does her usual morning routine, which includes praying to wash away the sins of the night, even though she can't remember what those sins were.
  • The use of the word "maiden" here is likely intentional to remind the reader that Christabel is an innocent virgin.
  • Now she takes Geraldine to meet her dad.
  • Tra-la-la…Christabel and Geraldine walk through the castle.
  • The presence-room is where important people, like Sir Leoline, receive guests. This is usually a separate room from the throne room, where more official stuff goes on.

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