Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

"I will wring thy fingers pale in the gauntlet of my mail: : ‘Little hand and muckle gold' close shall lie within my hold,

As the sword did to prevail."

Oh, the little birds sang east, and the little birds sang west, Oh, and laughed the Duchess May, and her soul did put away

All his boasting, for a jest.

In her chamber did she sit, laughing low to think of it,“Tower is strong, and will is free: thou canst boast, my Lord

of Leigh; But thou boastest little wit.”

In her tire-glass gazed she, and she blushed right womanly: She blushed half from her disdain, half her beauty was so

plain; "Oath for oath, my Lord of Leigh!”

Straight she called her maidens in,—“Since ye gave me blame

herein, That a bridal such as mine should lack gauds to make it fine,

Come and shrive me from that sin.

“It is three months gone to-day since I gave mine hand away: Bring the gold, and bring the gem; we will keep bride-state

in them While we keep the foe at bay.

“On your arms I loose mine hair; comb it smooth, and crown

it fair: I would look in purple pall from this lattice down the wall,

And throw scorn to one that's there!”

Oh, the little birds sang east, and the little birds sang west: On the tower the castle's lord leant in silence on his sword,

With an anguish in his breast.

With a spirit-laden weight did he lean down passionate:
They have almost sapped the wall,—they will enter there-

withal
With no knocking at the gate.

[ocr errors]

• Then the sword he leant upon shivered, snapped upon the

stone: “Sword,” he thought with inward laugh, “ill thou servest for a

staff
When thy nobler use is done!

“Sword, thy nobler use is done! tower is lost, and shame

begun. If we met them in the breach, hilt to hilt, or speech to speech,

We should die there, each for one.

“If we met them at the wall, we should singly, vainly fall; But 1 die here alone,—then I die who am but one,

And die nobly for them all.

“Five true friends lie, for my sake, in the moat and in the

brake; Thirteen warriors lie at rest, with a black wound in the breast:

And not one of these will wake.

“So, no more of this shall be. Heartblood weighs too heavily; And I could not sleep in grave, with the faithful and the

brave
Heaped around and over me.

"Since young Clare a mother hath, and young Ralph a plighted

faith; Since my pale young sister's cheeks blush like rose when Ron

ald speaks,

Albeit never a word she saith,

“These shall never die for me: lifeblood falls too heavily. And if I die here apart, o'er my dead and silent heart

They shall pass out safe and free.

“When the foe hath heard it said, “Death holds Guy of

Linteged, That new corse new peace shall bring, and a blessed, blessed

thing Shall the stone be at its head.

“Then

my friends shall pass out free and shall bear my mem

ory; Then my foes shall sleek their pride, soothing fair my widowed

bride, Whose sole sin was love of me.

“With their words all smooth and sweet, they will front her,

and entreat, And their purple pall will spread underneath her fainting

head While her tears drop over it.

will pray

“She will weep her woman's tears,

woman's prayers; But her heart'is young in pain, and her hopes will spring again By the suntime of her years.

“Ah, sweet May! ah, sweetest grief! once I vowed thee my

belief That thy name expressed thy sweetness,—May of poets in com

pleteness! Now my May-day seemeth brief.”

All these silent thoughts did swim o'er his eyes grown strange

and dim, Till his true men in the place wished they stood there face to

face With the foe, instead of him.

“One last oath, my friends that wear faithful hearts to do

and dare! Tower must fall, and bride be lost: swear me service worth the

cost!” Bold they stood around to swear.

“Each man clasp my hand, and swear, by the deed we failed

in there, Not for vengeance, not for right, will ye strike one blow to

night!” Pale they stood around to swear.

"One last boon, young Ralph and Clare! faithful hearts to

do and dare! Bring that steed up from his stall, which she kissed before you

all, Guide him up the turret stair.

"Ye shall harness him aright, and lead upward to this height; Once in love, and twice in war, hath he borne me strong and

far: He shall bear me far to-night.”

Then his men looked to and fro when they heard him speak

ing so. “ 'Las! the noble heart,” they thought: “he, in sooth, is grief

distraught: Would we stood here with the foe!”

[ocr errors]

But a fire flashed from his eye 'twixt their thought and their

reply, “Have ye so much time to waste? We who ride here must

ride fast As we wish our foes to fly.”

They have fetched the steed with care, in the harness he did

wear, Past the court, and through the doors, across the rushes of the

floors; But they goad him up the stair.

[ocr errors]

Then, from out her bower chambère, did the Duchess May

repair: “Tell me now what is your need,” said the lady, "of this

steed, That ye goad him up the stair?”

Calm she stood; unbodkined through fell her dark hair to her

shoe; And the smile upon her face, ere she left the tiring-glass,

Had not time enough to go.

"Get thee back, sweet Duchess May; hope is gone like yes

terday: One half-hour completes the breach; and thy lord grows wild

of speechGet thee in, sweet lady, and pray!

« ÎnapoiContinuă »