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AND said I that my limbs were old ;
And said I that my blood was cold,
And that my kindly fire was fled,
And my poor withered heart was dead,
And that I might not sing of love 2
How could I to the dearest theme,
That ever warmed a Minstrel's dream,
So foul, so false a recreant prove 1
How could I name love's very name,
Nor wake my harp to notes of flame!
In peace, Love tunes the shepherd's reed,
In war, he mounts the warrior's steed;
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 ;
For love is heaven, and heaven is love.
So thought Lord Cranstoun, as I ween,
While, pondering deep the tender scene,
He rode thro' Branksome's hawthorn greeii.
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 foeman'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:
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 stoop'd his head, and couch'd his spear,
And spurred his steed to full career.
The meeting of these champions proud,
Seemed like the bursting thunder-cloud.
Stern was the dint 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 thro', 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 stanch 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 tho't not to search or stanch the wound,
Until the secret he had found.
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.
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 herose 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 wondrous book to pry;
The clasps, tho' smeared with christian gore,
Shut faster than they were before.