The Dappled Doe.

A Convent Legend.

There are fifty thanes in King Egbert’s hall1
Quaffing the sparkling mead ;2
There are fifty knights at King Egbert’s call,3
Each on his prancing steed,4
Serving the meat, pouring the wine :5
Right royally doth King Egbert dine ;6
And there is wassail, and revel, and din7
Our sweet lady sain her who entereth in !8
For, lo !  untended by squire or page,9
’Mid this rude company,10
Cometh a maiden of tender age,11
Of beauty most rare to see,12
Wimpled in white, in her soft right hand13
Leading a doe in a silken band ;14
And the revel was hushed as she passed on,15
And she standeth before King Egbert’s throne.16
Justice, King Egbert !  for Heaven’s sweet grace17
All friendless I’ve flown to thee.”18
He set down the cup, and amazed in her face19
Gazed long and eagerly :20
For lovely was she as the lily flow’r,21
Fed by the dew, and baptized by the show’r ;22
I trow he half deemed her a saint from heaven,23
So he royally answered, “ Now ask, and ’tis
O erst I was lady of yonder lands,25
And none durst my right gainsay :26
But manors and lordships by violent hands27
Have been wrested all away.28
And he who hath done this cruel deed29
Now quaffs at thy right hand the sparkling mead,30
While helpless, and homeless, and lone, I go,31
Having no friend save my dappled doe.”32
The shield-bearer rose with a salvage frown33
Young minion, thou liest !”  cried he ;34
Bid thy champion come forth, cast thy gauntlet
And the battel were I may me.”36
But Heaven, by ways human skill ne’er could
Will take part with the lowly and fatherless.”38
Then Heaven be thine aid !  Since no champion
hast thou
On earth save thy dappled doe,40
Lead her straight to yon hill, and bid her go forth41
Thy lordships and lands to show :42
And if she the boundary traceth aright,43
I yield up my claim.”— “ So be it, Sir Knight,”44
Cried the king; “ come, my thanes, to the hill
let us go
A brave champion, forsooth, is yon dappled doe.”46
On the brow of the hill maid Bertha stands,47
One prayer to Heaven she prayed ;48
Then, stooping, unloosed the silken band :49
Fair doe, thou must be mine aid ;50
And may He who knoweth the right is mine,51
Who in weakest things sheweth his power divine,52
Trace out the path whereon thou shouldst go,53
To win me my lands, my dappled doe !”54
Straight with a bound from the maiden’s side55
Outspringeth the graceful doe ;56
She skimmeth like falcon the meadows wide,57
Like arrow from hunter’s bow58
O’er the plain, through the copse, right gallantly59
Holding her course o’er the daisied lea,60
Swifter than arrow she on doth go61
Our sweet lady speed thee, dappled doe !62
And on, and on, over moor and plain,63
Valley and hill, she flies64
The hunter’s horn is ringing—in vain65
It soundeth—right on she hies ;66
Threading the greenwood, and then away67
She speedeth, now lost in the distance gray68
Swifter than arrow she on doth go69
O Heaven watch o’er thee, fleetest doe !70
One bound—the Rother rolls deep and wide ;71
One bound, fair creature, most fleet72
’Tis crost,—o’er the plain, up the green hill’s side,73
And now at maid Bertha’s feet74
She kneeleth.  “ Gramercy, gramercy, sweet Hea-
The shield-bearer cried, “ may my crimes be for-
given !
For well as the abbey’s own book could show,77
Hath the boundary been traced by the dappled doe.”78
List, list !  for the even-song bell is ringing79
In the convent of Waveney80
And sweetly the holy nuns are singing81
Laudate Domine.”82
And there, with her crosier, maid Bertha stands,83
Lifting to heaven her gentle hands,84
While the convent seal to this day doth show85
The tale of that maid and her dappled doe.86