BETA

SIR ELIDUC.

A LAY OF MARIE.

He had a daughter of young age,
The shoon were gold upon her feet,
So white she was and fair of mood ;
So is the snow on red blood.
Whereto should I that maid descrive ?
She was the fairest thing on-live.”
Sir Bevis of Hamptoun.

1.

Touch ye the harp with tender
hand,
1
And gently let its music flow,2
While softly, sadly the Minstrel
sings
3
An olden tale of love and woe : —4
Three hundred years have come and
gone,
5
As dewdrops shine and disappear,6
Since first ’ twas sung by fair Marie7
To Henry’s royal ear.8

2.

The stately knight, young Eliduc,9
As alone in hall he sate,10
Beheld the page of Elizabeth,11
At eve, beside his gate.12
Come hither—hither, thou page of
court,
13
What would the King with me ? ”14
The boy held the love-gifts on his arm,15
As he lowly bent on knee.16

3.

I bear this gay gold ring, Sir
Knight,
17
And robe of miniver ;18
Greets thee by these, my ladye
bright,
19
And bids thee think of her.”20
To and fro strode Eliduc,21
To and fro he paced the floor,22
Then put the gift-ring on his
hand,
23
And the robe his shoulders o’er.24

4.

To and fro strode Eliduc ;25
Anon with folded arms he stood ;26
Then brush’d the hall with hurried
step,
27
Like one in doubtful mood.28
At length he bit his nether lip,29
Breathed deep, with downcast
head ;
30
For a moment paused in torturing
thought,
31
To the boy then, sighing, said32

5.

Go back—haste back, my little foot
page,
33
To the palace straight repair,34
And tell the Princess Elizabeth35
That I will think of her.”36
The little page knelt, the little page
rose
37
From the rushes whereon he knelt.38
And hied him thence,—but who may
tell
39
What Eliduc then felt ?40

6.

Brave Eliduc is woe-begone,41
A cloud o’erhangs his eyes,42
And though in fame he hath rivals
none,
43
By the wild sea-shore he sighs.44
He stands upon the barren rock,45
He listens to the shrieking mew,46
Until the evening star is out,47
And earth is moist with dew.48

7.

But the King hath sent, the Knight
hath gone
49
Where he sat at chess in hall,50
At the chequer-board play’d a stranger
lord,
51
Behind stood his daughter tall.52
Why, daughter, dove Elizabeth,53
Greet ye not this noble knight ?54
’Tis the same who hath our kingdom
saved,
55
And quell’d our foes in fight.”56

8.

Elizabeth stretch’d forth her white
soft hand,
57
And with Elidue down she stray’d58
By the tapestried wall of that long-
arch’d hall,
59
While at board her father play’d.60
In a window’d niche at length they
stood,
61
The fair one and the brave62
Both sorrowful and in pensive mood,63
Both silent as the grave ; —64

9.

Till the ladye faltering spake— “ Sir
Knight,
65
Words are ill befitting me,66
But were the world at my behest,67
I would wed no mate but thee.”—68
Sweet princess fair,” said Eliduc,69
As he dropp’d her proffer’d hand,70
I am pledged by the oath of a leal
true knight,
71
To return to my native land ;72

10.

And thou knowest, flower, that not
with me
73
Canst thou leave this realm to roam,74
For thou art the sole child of its
crown,
75
Which thou must wear at home.”76
’ Tis nay, ’ tis nay, Sir Eliduc—77
This heart is thine, this hand is
free
78
And if thou spurn’st me not away,79
I will cross the waves with thee ! ”80

11.

She stood before him beautiful,81
Like a lily pure by a lake ;82
With deep-drawn sighs, and dovelike
eyes ;
83
O, his heart was like to break !84
My bird of beauty,” said Eliduc,85
I am summon’d across the
sea
86
But blithely sing in thy father’s halls87
Till I come back for thee.88

12.

O yes—O yes! my fair Princess,89
In hopeful peace and pleasure
rest.”
90
Then the love-sick heart of Eliza-
beth
91
Leapt for joy within its nest ;92
And returning to her sire the king,93
Sir Eliduc ’ gan say94
To the shores of my native Brit-
tanie
95
I am summon’d hence away.96

13.

Thy realm, great king, is now at rest ;97
Thy foes are all o’ercome ;98
While the jars and the wars of my own
dear land
99
Call all her children home.100
At the throne, where sign’d was my
exile,
101
All the knaves who cross’d my way102
Have own’d the shame of their per-
jured words,
103
And for my presence pray :104

14.

Well, well I knew the carpet knights105
For their gentle selves should fear,106
When o’er them gleam’d the Flanders
axe,
107
And Brabant’s threatening spear.”108
Sir Eliduc,” replied the King,109
Thy worth may none gainsay ;110
In the gloom of war thou camest to
us,
111
And leavest us peace to-day.”112

15.

The King bade the royal galleys wait113
At Totness, by the shore,114
To the plains of France with sword
and lance
115
To escort the brave Knight o’er.116
With golden gleam the pennants
stream’d ;
117
In foam the blue waves curl’d ;118
On deck stood the bearded halber-
diers,
119
And the snow-white sails-unfurl’d.120

16.

From the echoing streets of Exeter121
March’d a thousand men and
more,
122
With banners, and unbeaver’d all,123
Following Eliduc to the shore.124
There is never a knight in Loegria125
Can match with this strange
knight,
126
At feat of courtly tournament,127
Or on blood-red field of fight.128

17.

Elizabeth gazed from the turret high,129
And she saw him, on the plain130
Departing ’ mid bright clumps of
spears,
131
While pages held each rein ;132
And toll the bells went, tant-a-roll ;133
And she heard the trampling
crowd,
134
And the trumpets’ bray, and the loud
huzza,
135
And the neigh of a war-horse proud.136

18.

Passion and pride now lifted up137
Her heart within her breast,138
But doubt and fear anon drew near,139
And down her spirit press’d ;140
Then, turning, she sank upon her
couch,
141
And wrung her hands, and sigh-
ed
142
O, would that Sir Eliduc were
back ;
143
To woo me for his bride !144

19.

Like the rainbow to the clearing air,145
Like the bird to the vernal tree,146
Like spring’s first flowers ’ mid wood-
land bowers
147
To the honey-thirsting bee ;148
Like-Salem to the pilgrim’s sight,149
When his feet are travel-sore,150
Come the thoughts of thy return, dear
love,
151
My longing spirit o’er ! ”152

Fitte Second.

1.

O, sad was-the song of Gildeluec153
As she sate within her bower,154
Beguiling, with her dulcimer,155
The solitary hour.156
Was it a voice ? ” she rose and cried,157
Or what step comes here in
quest ? ”
158
The door flew wide—’twas Sir Eli-
duc,
159
And she fell upon his breast.160

2.

Welcome, welcome ! my husband
dear ! ”
161
Aye she clasped his neck and cried ;162
All heavy and drear have lage’d
the hours
163
Since thou did’st sail the tide.164
Bring wine and bread, let the board
be spread,
165
Bid the silence of our halls re-
[joice !
166
Heaven bless thee, fair Gildeluec ! ”167
Quod the knight, with a low sad
voice.
168

3.

And comest thou hither with heart
of grief,
169
My lord, my loved ? ” the lady said.170
Thou know’st that our land is o’er-
run with foes,”
171
Sigh’d the knight, with downcast
head.
172
Thou art weary, and here wilt rest
to-night,
173
And at morning to the king ” ——174
Nay,” answer’d he, “I must leave
this roof
175
Ere the bells of vesper ring.”176

4.

When life was young, Gildeluec, 177
To me thou gavest thy hand ;178
There was no flower like thee, sweet
love,
179
In all this blooming land.180
And dost thou call me cruel now ?181
Then surely am I changed ;182
Deem’st thou that broken is my vow,183
Or my heart from thine estran-
ged
? ”
184

5.

As the snow,” cried noble Gil-
deluec,
185
On the Alps, I know thee pure ;186
Like the roots o’ the everlasting hills,187
Thy faith is firm and sure ;188
Then go—go—go to the battle-field,189
’Tis thy country calls for thee,190
When our foes have before thee fallen
or fled,
191
Return to peace and me ! ”192

6.

His steed at the portal neighing
paw’d ;
193
Sir Eliduc doun’d his mail,194
His figured casque, with its morion
black,
195
And steel-barr’d aventayle.196
He clasp’d her form—he snatch’d
kiss—
197
By their threshold cypress-tree ;198
Bade all the saints his dame to bless, 199
Then off through the woods rode
he.
200

7.

The nights they pass’d, and the days
they pass’d,
201
Heavy and lone they fell,202
As Gildeluec pined for the bugle
blast
203
Which her lord’s return should
tell.
204
Yet heard she how o’er vanquish’d
foes,
205
Had his banner victorious flown,206
While the fame of his name, like a
sweet west wind,
207
Through his native land was blown.208

8.

Did the trumpet of battle arouse his
[heart,
209
As it aroused in days of yore ?210
Did he think of his mate, lone watch-
ing late,
211
For his coming, at her bower door ?212
No more—no more the battle toils213
Did Sir Eliduc’s bosom cheer ;214
And if he thought of Gildeluec,215
’Twas with grief, and shame, and
fear.
216

9.

For o’er his soul, like an April gust,217
To awaken the young flowers driven,218
Came the thoughts of Elizabeth, sad
and pale,
219
Like a seraph that pined for heaven.220
He knew her lovely as May morning,221
Pure, chaste, as the new-fallen snow :222
And could he leave uncheer’d to break,223
A heart that loved him so ?224

10.

To have told her of his wedded state,225
When her heart and hopes were
high ;
226
To have told her of his Bretagne mate227
Were to have bidden her die.228
He mused on her matchless loveliness,229
On her bright, bold, artless mind ;230
But alas ! his heart, like Noah’s dove,231
No haven of rest could find !232

Fitte Third.

1.

The barque is launch’d—before the
prow
233
The hissing billows of foam divide ;234
And Sir Eliduc sails for Elizabeth,235
Whatever fate betide.236
Fresh blew the breeze—soon the waste
wide seas
237
By that bounding barque were
[cross’d,
238
And at Totness, with the purple dawn,239
He lay beside the coast.240

2.

Beneath the sheltering rocks they
moor’d,
241
In a wild lone woodland cove242
Now haste thy message, page,” he
cried,
243
To the ladye of my love.244
And tell her that for her we wait,245
’Mid this forest by the sea ;246
Linger till eve by the palace gate,247
And hurry her thence with thee.”248

3.

Without stop or stay, the fleet page
[away
249
O’er moor and o’er meadow ran,250
Till he saw young Elizabeth, 'mid the
shrubs
251
And flowers of the palace lawn.252
And he hath knelt and whisper’d there,253
And she hath heard and sigh’d,—254
Lo ! he waits in the copse by the pos-
tern-gate
255
Till the grey of eventide.256

4.

When but one star shone like a torch257
On departing daylight’s tomb,258
To the wistful pade she comes—she
came
259
Like an angel through the gloom.260
With light quick step like a startled
fawn,
261
She hasten’d her through the grove,262
A short, warm mantle, with ermined
fringe,
263
Thrown her splendid dress above.264

5.

With harness bright for the path be-
[dight,
265
The ready palfrey stood ;266
The page seized hold of the silken
[rein,
267
And away they hied through the
wood.
268
’Neath the linden tree watch’d Eliduc,269
Behind was moor’d his barque ;270
But he leapt to his feet when Eliza-
beth
271
Came riding up through the dark !272

6.

Welcome, welcome, my love, my
life ! ”—
273
In a moment, within his arms274
Lay the heaving breast of the young
princess,
275
In the bloom of her virgin charms.276
To sea, to sea, my mariners ! ”277
The white sails are unfurl’d ;278
Behind the barque the land withdrew ;279
Before the white waves curl’d.280

7.

Oh bliss of bliss—a lovely night ! —281
The winds breathed gently free,282
The stars, a galaxy of light,283
Shower’d fire upon the sea ;284
And on and on, they bore and
bore
285
The beauteous and the brave,286
Till green Bretagne display’d its
shore,
287
Like a cloud above the wave.288

8.

Sudden changed the sky—a tempest
fierce
289
Fell brooding ; and lo ! the gale,290
Like an evil spirit from hell let loose,291
Split the mast and rent the sail !292
And the mountain waves rear’d their
crested heads,
293
And the lightnings scorch’d the sky,294
And the mariners on their patron
saints
295
In supplication cry.296

9.

But from the helm, with upraised
arm
297
An old man leapt, and said298
On St Clement and St Nicolas,
sirs,
299
In vain ye call for aid,—300
On Mary Mother in vain ye call—301
All, Sir Eliduc, for thee302
Hath the wrath of Heaven o’ertaken
us ;
303
Throw thy paramour in the sea,—304

10.

And return, return to thy wedded
wife ! ”
305
Wedded wife ! ” pale Elizabeth
cried,
306
With a shriek gave up her startled life, 307
And fell dead by his side.308
He held her wrist her lips he kiss’d—309
No word his fate deplored ;310
But Sir Eliduc seized the old man’s
waist
311
And toss’d him overboard.312

11.

'Twas silence all ; —the wild winds fell,313
And the clouds dispersed away :314
All the stars grew pale, save the morn-
ing star
315
That heralded the day : —316
With a bubbling groan the old man
sank ;
317
The mariners sat with in-drawn
breath ;
318
To Bretagne’s shore the vessel bore319
’Twas like a ship of death.320

12.

’Twas silence all : the brightening
east
321
Proclaim’d the coming day ;322
With many a shriek, from crag and
creek
323
The seamews skimm’d the bay,324
While sad and silent they glide along325
Till the beetling shore they reach,326
Then, with dead Elizabeth in his
arms,
327
Strode Eliduc from the beach.328

Fitte Fourth

1.

Why mournest thou thus, Sir Eli-
duc ?
329
What is thy cause of woe ?330
Why these stifled sighs and heavy
eyes ?
331
Sure of yore it wont not so ;332
And why so often, Sir Eliduc,333
Dost thou thread the woods alone ? ”334
The knight look’d up on Gildeluec,335
But answering word spake none.336

2.

The knight was a gallant knight, the
first
337
In battle field or festive hall ;338
The knight is an alter’d man ; he hangs339
His cuirass on the wall :340
Within its kennel yells the hound ;341
The prison’d falcon pines away ;342
The steed neighs from his stall, as if343
To chide his lord’s delay.344

3.

At peep of morn, ’ mid thick green
woods,
345
Sir Eliduc to stray hath gone ;346
There is no music in human voice ;347
He loves to be alone.348
At fall of eve, neath the rising moon,349
Through the tangled walks he
strays ;
350
The heart of Gildeluec almost broke351
To behold his alter’d ways.352

4.

Betide me weal, betide me woe,”—353
To her page the ladye said,—354
Thou must after thy sorrowing mas-
ster go,
355
And track him through the glade.”356
The page he went, the page he came ;357
By her bower the ladye stood358
What news, what news, my faithful
lad,
359
Bringest thou from dark green-
[wood ? ”
360

5.

From turn toturn,” replied the page,361
I lurk’d Sir Eliduc’s path to see ;362
And at length he enter’d th hermit’s
cell,
363
Beneath the chestnut tree ;364
And while he mourn’d that cell within,365
I listen’d the door beside,366
And heard him say— ‘ O, murder’d
[love,
367
Would for thee that I had died !368

6.

To me thou gavest thy love ; for me369
Did’st leave thy father’s land ;370
And I have given thee but a grave371
Upon this foreign strand !372
And oh ! and oh ! had’st thou but
seen,
373
And loved some worthier mate ;374
And oh ! for thy hapless death, and
oh !
375
My miserable fate ! ’”376

7.

Sir Eliduc came home—he sate377
With his elbow leant on knee ;378
He spoke not a word of wail, nor
sigh’d,
379
Though bow’d to earth was he380
Oh tell me why, Sir Eliduc,381
Thou peak’st, and pin’st, and roam’st
astray ? ”—
382
Ask the tree, by the forky lightnings
scathed,
383
Why wither its boughs away !384

8.

Ask the forest oak why down it falls385
Beneath the woodman’s stroke ;386
Ask life, when death the tyrant calls,387
Why it yields to such a yoke.” —388
Through the wood, in morning’s soli-
tude,
389
Gildeluec roam’d alone,390
And knock’d at the door of the her-
mitage,
391
But answer back came none.392

9.

With a beating heart, and trembling
hand,
393
The wicket latch she raised,394
And in as she went, with timid eyes,395
Through its twilight gloom she
gazed.
396
Why starts she back ? She sees a couch397
With coverlet of snow ;398
She lifted it up in her wonderment,399
And a lady slept below !400

10.

She slept—but ’ twas the sleep of death,401
Ah ! nothing could compare402
With the sparkling of her jewell’d
robes,
403
And the pearls in her raven hair,404
Saye her form—and that was quite
divine !
405
She look’d as of heaven she dream’d,406
While the lustre of her loveliness,407
Like a halo round her stream’d.408

11.

But waned from her lip was the cherry
red ;
409
Her silk robe was her swathing
shroud ;
410
And her eyes were closed in dim
eclipse,
411
Like stars behind a cloud.412
Was nought on earth so beautiful !413
Gildeluec sigh’d— “ Ah me !414
No wonder, seeing what thou hast
been,
415
My lord’s heart turn’d to thee !416

12.

Then farewell love—and farewell
ye,
417
The vanities of life :418
Oh would, fair light, that thou had’st
lived,
419
To shine his peerless wife : —420
As it is, I’ll love the sun no more,421
Let to others his beams be given ;422
I’ll seal mine ears to the sounds of
earth,
423
And give my heart to heaven ! ”424

13.

The cloister hath another nun,425
The gentlest, purest, holiest there ;426
Before the crucifix, morn and eve,427
She kneels in fervent prayer :428
Her thoughts are of the things
above,
429
Her dreams have all a blest abode,430
Where, ’ midst the bowers of Para-
dise,
431
White angels walk abroad.432

14.

Sir Eliduc sits in a lonely home,433
He hath built a marble tomb,434
And within it laid the foreign maid435
In the wild wood’s central gloom :436
With railings of gold he hath railed it
round,
437
Beside the hermit’s mossy cell ;438
He hath lock’d it with a silver
key,
439
And bidden a last farewell.440

15.

’Twas a lone sequester’d place ; through
boughs
441
The sky o’erhead was seen ;442
And wild vines ran the stems about,443
And festooning ivy green ;444
’Twas a favourite haunt for nightin-
gales
445
Singing-the moonlight through ;446
And by day the living emerald shade447
Echo’d the stock-dove’s coo.448

16.

Twas one of Nature’s shrines—the
birds
449
And beasts eame flocking there :450
The golden pheasant, and vocal
lark,
451
And squirrel, and hart, and hare ;452
But scarce a footstep breaks the
gloom,
453
The long still season lone ;454
Rains, winds, and sunbeams kiss the
tomb
455
But Sir Eliduc is gone !456

17.

The war-steed neighs—but not from
stall
457
Caparison’d by the gate ;458
The cuirass hangs not on the wall,459
As it hath hung of late :460
His own keen hands have wiped
away
461
The red rust from his sword,462
Which again sends out a silvery
gleam,
463
As if it knew its lord.464

18.

’Twas a glorious, glowing September
eve,
465
As the knight rode down the dale ;466
The broad low sun shone along the
land,
467
And kiss’d his burnish’d mail :468
Hawk, hound, and horse roam master-
less—
469
His serving-men grow grey470
His roofs are moss’d ; —’tis twenty years471
Since the warrior went away !472

19.

A thousand friends had Sir Eliduc—473
The brave, the noble, and the wise ;474
And each asks each—but of his fate475
No answering tongue replies.476
Arm’d cap-a-pie went Eliduc,477
From his proud ancestral towers alone ;478
But whither he went, or where he died,479
By man was never known !480