Page images

In halls, in gay attire is seen ;
In hamlets, dances on the green.
Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
And men below and saints above ; w
For love is heaven, and heaven is love.


So thought Lord Cranstoun, as Iween,
While, pondering deep the tender scene,
He rode through Branksome's hawthorn green,
But the page shouted wild and shrill,
And scarce his helmet could he don,
When downward from the shady hill
A stately knight came pricking on.
That warrior's steed so dapple gray,
Was dark with sweat, and splashed with clay;
His armour red with many a stain:
He seemed in such a weary plight,
As if he had ridden the livelong night;
For it was William of Deloraine.


But no whit weary did he seem,
When dancing in the sunny beam,
He marked the crane on the baron's crest:
For his ready spear was in his rest.

Few were the words, and stern, and high,
That marked the foemen's feudal hate ;
For question fierce and proud reply,
Gave signal soon of dire debate.
Their very coursers seemed to know
That each was other's mortal foe ;
And snorted fire, when wheeled around,
To give each knight his vantage ground.

[ocr errors]

In rapid round the baron bent;
He sighed a sigh, and prayed a prayer :
The prayer was to his patron saint,
The sigh was to his ladye fair.
Stout Deloraine nor sighed, nor prayed,
Nor saint, nor ladye, called to aid;
But he stooped his head and couched his spear,
And spurred his steed to full career.
The meeting of these champions proud
Seemed like the bursting thunder-cloud.

VI. Stern was the dint of the Borderer lent! The stately baron backwards bent; Bent backwards to his horse's tail, And his plumes went scattering on the gale ;

The tough ash spear, so stout and true,
Into a thousand flinders flew.
But Cranstoun's lance of more avail,
Pierced through, like silk, the Borderer's mail;
Through shield, and jack, and acton, past,
Deep in his bosom, broke at last.
Still sate the warrior saddle fast,
Till, stumbling in the mortal shock,
Down went the steed, the girthing broke,
Hurled on a heap lay man and horse :
The baron onward passed his course;
Nor knew, so giddy rolled his brain,
His foe lay stretched upon the plain.


But when he reined his courser round,
And saw his foeman on the ground
Lie senseless as the bloody clay,
He bade his page to staunch the wound,
And there beside the warrior stay,
And tend him in his doubtful state,
And lead him to Branksome castle gate :
His noble mind was inly moved
For the kinsman of the maid he loved.
“This shalt thou do without delay;
No longer here myself may stay :

Unless the swifter I speed away,
Short shrift will be at my dying day.”


Away in speed Lord Cranstoun rode ;
The goblin page behind abode :
His lord's command he ne'er withstood,
Though small his pleasure to do good.
As the corslet off he took,
The dwarf espied the mighty book!
Much he marvelled a knight of pride,
Like a book-bosomed priest, should ride :
He thought not to search or staunch the wound,
Until the secret he had found.

[ocr errors]

The iron band, the iron clasp,
Resisted long the elfin grasp.
For when the first he had undone,
It closed as he the next begun.
Those iron clasps, that iron band,
Would not yield to unchristened hand,
Till he smeared the cover o’er -
With the Borderer's curdled gore;
A moment then the volume spread,
And one short spell therein he read.

It had much of glamour* might,
Could make a ladye seem a knight;
The cobwebs on a dungeon wall,
Seem tapestry in lordly hall ;
A nutshell seem a gilded barge,
A sheelingt seem a palace large,
And youth seem age and age seem youth;
All was delusion, nought was truth.

[ocr errors]

He had not read another spell,
When on his cheek a buffet fell,
So fierce, it stretched him on the plain,
Beside the wounded Deloraine.
From the ground he rose dismayed,
And shook his huge and matted head;
One word he muttered and no more :
“Man of age, thou smitest sore!”
No more the elfin page durst try
Into the wonderous book to pry;
The clasps though smeared with Christian gore,
Shut faster than they were before.
He hid it underneath his cloak—
Now, if you ask who gave the stroke,

* Magical delusion, f A shepherd's hut.

« PreviousContinue »