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“In the east tower, high’st of all, loud he cries for steed from
stall: 'He would ride as far,' quoth he, ‘as for love and victory,
Though he rides the castle wall.'
“And we fetch the steed from stall, up where never a hoof
did fallWifely prayer meets deathly need: may the sweet heavens hear
thee plead If he rides the castle wall!”
Low she dropt her head, and lower, till her hair coiled on the
floor, And tear after tear you heard fall distinct as any word
Which you might be listening for.
“Get thee in, thou soft ladye! here is never a place for thee! Braid thine hair and clasp thy gown, that thy beauty in its
May find grace with Leigh of Leigh.”
She stood up in bitter case, with a pale yet steady face,
And her foot trod in with pride her own tears i' the stone
beside: “Go to, faithful friends, go to! judge no more what ladies do,
No, nor how their lords may ride!”
Then the good steed's rein she took, and his neck did kiss Soft he neighed to answer her, and then followed up the
stair For the love of her sweet look.
Oh, and steeply, steeply wound up the narrow stair around,
On the east tower, high’st of all,—there, where never a hoof
did fall, Out they swept, a vision steady, noble steed and lovely lady,
Calm as if in bower or stall.
Down she knelt at her lord's knee, and she looked up silently, And he kissed her twice and thrice, for that look within her
eyes Which he could not bear to see.
Quoth he, “Get thee from this strife, and the sweet saints
bless thy life! In this hour I stand in need of my noble red-roan steed,
But no more of my noble wife.”
Quoth she, "Meekly have I done all thy biddings under sun; But by all my womanhood, which is proved so true and good,
I will never do this one.
"Now by womanhood's degree and by wifehood's verity, In this hour, if thou hast need of thy noble red-roan steed,
Thou hast also need of me.
“By this golden ring ye see on this lifted hand pardiè, If, this hour, on castle wall can be room for steed from stall,
Shall be also room for me.
“So the sweet saints with me be!” (did she utter solemnly) “If a man, this eventide, on this castle wall will ride,
He shall ride the same with me.”
Oh, he sprang up in the selle, and he laughed out bitter-well,“Wouldst thou ride among the leaves, as we used on other
eves, To hear chime a vesper bell?”
She clung closer to his knee—“Ay, beneath the cypress-tree! Mock me not; for otherwhere than along the greenwood fair
Have I ridden fast with thee.
“Fast I rode with new-made vows from my angry kinsman's
house: What! and would you men should reck that I dared more for
love's sake As a bride than as a spouse?
“What! and would you it should fall, as a proverb, before all, That a bride may keep your side while through castle gate
Yet eschew the castle wall?”
Ho! the breach yawns into ruin, and roars up against her
suing, With the inarticulate din, and the dreadful falling-in
Shrieks of doing and undoing!
Twice he wrung her hands in twain; but the small hands closed
again. Back he reined the steed—back, back! but she trailed along his
track With a frantic clasp and strain.
Evermore the foemen pour through the crash of window and
door, And the shouts of Leigh and Leigh, and the shrieks of “Kill!”
and “Flee!” Strike up clear amid the roar.
Thrice he wrung her hands in twain; but they closed and clung
again, While she clung, as one, withstood, clasps a Christ upon the
rood, In a spasm of deathly pain.
She clung wild, and she clung mute, with her shuddering lips
half shut; Her head fallen as half in swound, hair and knee swept on
the ground, She clung wild to stirrup and foot.
Back he reined his steed back-thrown on the slippery coping
stone; Back the iron hoofs did grind on the battlement behind,
Whence a hundred feet went down;
And his heel did press and goad on the quivering flank be
strode,"Friends and brothers, save my wife! Pardon, sweet, in change
for life; But I ride alone to God."
Straight, as if the holy name had upbreathed her like a flame, She upsprang, she rose upright, in his selle she sate in sight.
By her love she overcame.
And her head was on his breast, where she smiled as one at
rest,“Ring,” she cried, “O vesper-bell, in the beechwood's old
chapelle, But the passing-bell rings best!”
They have caught out at the rein which Sir Guy threw loose,
in vain; For the horse, in stark despair, with his front hoofs poised
in air, On the last verge rears amain.
Now he hangs, he rocks between, and his nostrils curdle in; Now he shivers head and hoof, and the fakes of foam fall
off, And his face grows fierce and thin;
And a look of human woe from his staring eyes did go;
Of the headlong death below;
And, “Ring, ring, thou passing-bell,” still she cried, “;' the
old chapelle!” Then back-toppling, crashing back, a dead weight flung out to
wrack, Horse and riders overfell..
Elizabeth Barrett Browning