The Knight’s Lament.

Upon the dreary battle-field1
I lay across my shattered shield.2
Through all the dark, cold night I lay,3
And then through half the sunny day.4
The blood-red grasses to and fro,5
Waved over friend and over foe6
Waved o’er my anguished face, when, lo !7
They woke me, waving to and fro.8
Then gazed I, very wearily,9
Up to the blue and happy sky ;10
While all across each tear-dimmed cheek11
The hot sun shone, and made me weak :12
While far, and far, and far away,13
I looked across the shining bay ;14
And O ! thy father’s castle lay,15
So far, and far, and far away.16
Now, all above, and all below,17
The air was cool—soft winds did blow18
When suddenly along the plain19
Arose a cloud all big with rain.20
And then, O Christ, I thank thee well !21
The heavy rain-drops fell, and fell,22
Into a deep and strange sea-shell :23
I crept and drank at this strange well.24
And then, because the brave horse neighed,25
I clung to him, and, half afraid,26
He bent his head, his bloodshot eyes27
Looked into mine with strange surprise ;28
And leaning on my broken spear,29
And creeping near, and near, and near,30
I mounted him in very fear,31
Armed only with a broken spear.32
Right in the middle of the way,33
Where all the ghastly faces lay,34
A vulture sat, all red with gore,35
Tearing a heart that beat no more.36
Red were its talons, bright its eyes,37
Outstretching wings, of wondrous size,38
Across the path lay counterwise.39
I shrieked : we fled from those strange eyes.40
We reached the sea : winds from the sea41
Blew o’er the sea and came to me ;42
And all along the wandering waves,43
Soft music came from pearly caves ;44
And far, and far, and far away,45
Along the bay, the morning grey46
Broke softly, where the soft sand lay.47
I wept for joy, and turned away.48
We went to where a cool greenwood,49
Embowered in fragrant solitude,50
Lay round about on every hand51
A pleasant, sunny, fairy land.52
Beneath the bloom of bending trees,53
Onward we went, and joy and ease,54
And gentle sights and sounds to please,55
Lay nestled in the bending trees.56
And ever as we went, a bird,57
Singing above in gladness, stirred58
The branches, hung with green and white,59
With a most sweet and strange delight ;60
And all the sunshine and the shade,61
Fantastic strangeness ever made62
As shadow with fair sunshine played,63
And then sunshine with pensive shade.64
Thus, through the quiet woods, all day65
We went upon our homeward way ;66
Until, into the pensive shade,67
I saw the gentle sunshine fade.68
Then all beneath the mellow moon69
I lay, and heard the fen-fowl’s croon,70
And heard the river’s mournful tune,71
Floating beneath the mellow moon.72
I had a vision in the night ;73
Nor was it one of rare delight,74
Nor such as youthful poets deem75
They see whene’er they dream a dream ;76
For then I saw, or seemed to see,77
A pale, white phantom, like to thee,78
Which stood and smiled and beckoned me :79
And more than this I might not see.80
But when I woke the morrow morn,81
Just as the sun was newly born,82
The vision was so ill-defined,83
It seemed some phantom of the mind.84
Then on we went, and came again85
Unto the wild and open plain,86
Where I might hear the surging main,87
And see thy far-off home again.88
When this I saw, the hot blood ran89
Around my heart ; yet weak and wan,90
I leaned across my weary horse.91
Then, hastening on our homeward course,92
We soon came near, and near, and near,93
To those I held so dear, so dear.94
O, chaffering swallow, say I am here !”95
I cried— “ That I am near, am near.”96
Full many a mile the meadows lay,97
Soft cradled in the bloom of May ;98
From flowery haunts the lark upsprang,99
And o’er the tender meadows sang.100
All at the right and left were seen101
Sweet smelling trees and grasses green ;102
And, through the boughs that waved between,103
The shining houses, too, were seen.104
Between the boughs I wandered down105
The pathway, to the little town ;106
And all who knew me came to see,107
And welcomed me, and pitied me.108
Fair maidens, spinning in the shade,109
Pausing, looked up, and half afraid,110
Sang ancient songs of knight and maid,111
And tender vows breathed in the shade.112
Thy father met me at his gate ;113
Thy mother sang, “ So late ! so late !114
And those I love so far from me,115
And I alone in misery !”116
He led me through the silent hall,117
So late ! so late! the shadows fall118
Wearily o’er the castle wall :”119
The song went through the silent hall.120
Then in the dim, mysterious eve,121
I heard the cooing ringdoves grieve,122
The nightingales sang soft and low,123
The fountain droned and splashed below ;124
All in the fields around there went125
Strange winds that sighed with discontent ;126
Through half-closed lattices the scent127
Of many roses came and went.128
A chamber door, half open ; there129
Floated the sad and fragrant air130
Soft sounds and fancies intertwined131
With coming joys, all undefined.132
We paused, and looked within. We heard133
No sound of feet, nor whispered word134
Only a little breeze, which stirred135
Long curls of golden hair, we heard.136
My heart was weak, my eyes were dim.137
He held me close—I rushed from him.138
I tore the silken screen apart139
My heart throbbed !— O, my throbbing heart !140
I bent near thee, I looked at thee,141
I kissed thee, whispering lovingly,142
Awake ! awake ! and answer me !”143
I paused, and closely clung to thee.144
Weeping and weeping near to me,145
And weeping, weeping bitterly,146
All in the strange and troubled gloom,147
A little crowd stood in the room.148
A wondrous paleness smote each face,149
A wondrous silence filled the place.150
I clung to thee. Christ, give me grace !151
Close to thy face I hid my face.152
Half doubting—in a dream of bliss153
I heard my lips thy cold lips kiss.154
Entranced by this most strange distress,155
I gazed on thy strange loveliness.156
Pale lips, cold cheeks, and loveless eyes,157
Gave back no welcome, nor surprise,158
Nor smiles, nor tears, nor dear replies.159
O, lily lips !  O, loveless eyes !160
How long half dreaming thus I lay161
I cannot know, for none will say ;162
But this I know, that never more163
I walk with thee along the shore.164
And this I know, that mor and eve,165
And through the night, the ring-doves grieve ;166
And sad thoughts all around me weave167
A weary veil from morn till eve.168
Long after, lying wearily,169
A little bird sang unto me.170
It seemed as if thy spirit stirred171
Within the bosom of the bird.172
So saintly sweet the bird did sing,173
I said, “ This is a heavenly thing174
A gladsome angel carolling.”175
And near and far the bird did sing.176
As thus I lay, with wakeful eyes,177
I heard delicious melodies,178
Like fairies in the forest hear179
When summer glories crown the year :180
Was never yet a bird did sing181
So sweet and clear as this strange thing.182
Entranced, I rose, and, wandering,183
Walked in the wood where it did sing.184
The grieving stars kissed, one by one,185
The footprints of the dying sun,186
As in the middle of the wood187
In trembling wonderment I stood.188
O, was it then a sweet moonrise189
That fluttered o’er my tearful eyes ?190
Or was it some most strange surprise191
A mystic moon’s mysterious rise ?192
O, Jesu, Jesu, give me grace !193
Hot kisses fell upon my face,194
And passionate lips were close to mine,195
And loving arms did me entwine.196
Two dear blue eyes—so wondrous bright197
Shone through the softness of the night ;198
My heart upleaped with rare delight :199
Save thine, no eyes e’er shone so bright.200
A tender voice did speak and say,201
My thoughts are with thee through the day,202
And ever through the changeful night203
My soul shall be thy beacon-light.204
No more, no more, remember me!”205
I shrieked !— I strained my eyes to see :206
Upon the wind ran mockingly207
No more, no more, remember me!”208
How long within the wood I lay,209
I cannot know, for none will say.210
I woke : the land was glad with songs,211
Sung by the happy harvest throngs.212
Amazed, I rose and left the place213
Amazed, they looked me in the face214
My former self they scarce could trace :215
I wept, and left that wondrous place.216