Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CHILD OF THE SEA: THE LAY OF THE SECOND PROVENCAL BARD, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

Rhyming Dictionary Search
THE CHILD OF THE SEA: THE LAY OF THE SECOND PROVENCAL BARD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It was a summer evening; and the sea
Last Line: The tale of sorrow, sin. And death.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


IT was a summer evening; and the sea
Seem'd to rejoice in its tranquillity;
Rolling its gentle waters to the west,
Till the rich crimson blush'd upon their breast,
Uniting lovingly the wave and sky,
Like Hope content in its delight to die.
A young queen with her maidens sat and sung,
While ocean thousands of sweet echoes flung,
Delighting them to hear their voices blent
With music from the murmuring element.
Then cast they on the winds their radiant hair,
Then gather'd of the pink shells those most rare,
To gem their flying curls, that each might seem
A Nereid risen from the briny stream.
When sudden cried the queen, "Come, gaze with me
At what may yonder in the distance be."
All gather'd round. A little speck was seen,
Like a mere shadow, on the billows green.
Nearer and nearer, more distinct it grew,
Till came a fragile vessel full in view;
As if at random flung to a chance gale,
Uncheck'd, unguided, flapp'd a silken sail;
And saw they all alone a lady there,
Her neck and arms to the rude sea-wind bare,
And her head bow'd as in its last despair.
It came no nearer, on the sea it lay;
The wind, exhausted, had died quite away.
They had a fairy boat, in which 'twas sport
Amid the inland channels to resort;
Their fair hands raised the sail, and plied the oar,
And brought the lonely wanderer to their shore;
Then mark'd they how her scarlet mantle's fold
Was round a young, a lovely infant roll'd.
They brought the wearied stranger to their tent,
Flung o'er her face cool water, gifted scent,
And touch'd her lips with wine, though all too plain
That death was darkening in each frozen vein:
Eager she gazed where the queen stood beside,
Her hands stretch'd to her own fair boy, and died.

And thus the babe was left without a name,
Child of the Sea, without a kindred claim:
He never felt the want; that gentle queen
Nurtured his infancy, as though he had been
The brother of her own sweet ISABELLE;
But as he grew she thought it need to tell
His history, and gave the cloak whose fold
Was heavy with rich work and broider'd gold;
And also gave his mother's carkanet,
With precious stones in regal order set.
In truth he was well worthy of her care, --
None of the court might match his princely air;
And those who boasted of their bearing high,
Quail'd at the flashing of his falcon eye.
Young as he was, none better ruled the speed
Or curb'd the mettle of the wayward steed;
None better knew the hunter's gentle craft,
None could wing from the bow a truer shaft;
And noble was his courtesy and bland,
Graceful his bearing in the saraband;
He knew the learned scroll the clerk displays,
And touch'd the lute to the fine poet's lays;
And many bright eyes would their glances fling
On the young victor in the tilter's ring.

Young as he was, the seal was on his heart,
That burning impress which may not depart
Where it has once been set, Love's fiery seal:
But little need I dwell on what all feel;
Gay, grave, cold, proud, stern, high, say, is there one
Whom at some time Love has not breathed upon?
And EGLAMOUR turned to ISABELLE,
As to his destiny's best oracle:
'Twas at midnight, beneath her bower, he sung
Those gentle words with which love gifts the tongue.

THE SONG.

OH! give me but my gallant steed,
My spurs and sword to serve at need,
The shield that has my father's crest,
Thy colours, lady, on my breast,
And I will forth to wild warfare,
And win thee, or will perish there.
I am unknown, of a lost line,
And, thou, love, art the flow'r of thine.
I know thou art above me far,
Yet still thou art hope's leading star;
For love is like the breathing wind,
That everywhere may entrance find.
I saw thee, sure the fairest one
The morning light e'er look'd upon;
No wonder that my heart was moved, --
'Twere marvel if I had not loved.
Long, long held by a spell too dear,
Thy smile has kept thy loiterer here.
Almost it seem'd enough for me
Of Heaven to only gaze on thee.
But love lights high and gallant thought,
A rich prize must be dearly bought,
Unworthy votary at thy shrine,
I scorn my falchion's idle shine;
To-morrow I will wend away
To dim it in the battle fray.
Lady, farewell! I pray thee give
One look whereon may absence live,
One word upon my ear to dwell,
And then, sweet lady mine, farewell.

THEN softly open was a casement flung,
And a fair face from out the lattice hung;
The trace of heavy tears was on her cheek,
But dash'd aside, as though the heart were weak
In tenderness, yet it sought strength to show
An outward firmness, whate'er lurk'd below.
'Twas but a moment's struggle, and the pride
That nerves the softness of a hero's bride
Was on her lofty forehead, as she gave
A sunny curl beside his plume to wave.
"I have another gift which you must take,
And guard it, EGLAMOUR, well for my sake:
It is a charmed ring -- this emerald stone
Will be a sign, when thou art from me gone.
Mark if it changes; if a spot be seen
On the now spotless ground of lighted green,
Danger is round me; haste thou then to me,
Thou know'st how fearless is my trust in thee.
There is a weight to-night upon my heart;
Ah! peace for me can be but where thou art."
She spoke no more, she felt her bosom swell,
How could her lip find utterance for farewell?
He took the curl, one kiss is on it press'd,
Then gave it to its sanctuary, his breast;
And doff'd his plumed helm, -- "Dear lady, now
Take the last offering of thy lover's vow;
And for thy beauty's honour, I will go
Bareheaded to the battle, weal or woe.
Never shall crested casque my temples grace
Until again I look on thy sweet face."
A shriek burst from her -- it was lost in air;
She call'd upon his name, -- he was not there.
But leave we her, her solitude to keep,
To pray the Virgin's pity, wail and weep
O'er all the tender thoughts that have such power
Upon the constant heart in absent hour;
And go we forth with our young knight, to see
What high adventure for his arms may be.
Onward he rode upon a barbed steed,
Milk-white as is the maiden's bridal weed,
Champing his silver bit. From throat to heel
Himself was clad in Milan's shining steel;
The surcoat that he wore was work'd with gold;
And from his shoulder fell the scarlet fold
Of a rich mantle lined with miniver,
His mother's once, all that he held from her,
Save the bright chain, with pearl and ruby strung,
Which rainbow-like outside his hauberk hung;
His ashen lance lay ready in its rest;
His shield was poised beside him, and its crest
Was a young eaglet trying its first flight,
The motto, "I must seek to win my right:"
Two greyhounds ran beside; and mortal sight
Had never look'd upon more gallant knight.
Bareheaded so his features met the view,
Touch'd by the tender morning's early hue;
And eyes like the wild merlin's when she springs
After long prison, on her eager wings,
Fierce in their beauty, with that flashing glance
Which dazzles as it were a flying lance,
Giving the sternness of a warrior's air
To what had else seem'd face almost too fair:
And, as in mockery of the helm, behind,
Like plumes, his bright curls danced upon the wind;
Curls of that tint o'er which a sunbeam flings
A thousand colours on their auburn rings.

Two days he journey'd, till he reach'd a wood,
A very dwelling-place of solitude;
Where the leaves grew by myriads, and the boughs
Were fill'd with linnets, singing their sweet vows;
And dreaming, lover-like, with open eye,
He envied the gay birds that they might fly
As with a thought from green tree to green tree,
And wing their way with their dear loves to be.
Even as he mused on this he heard a cry,
A bitter shriek, for mercy pleading high.
He rushed, and saw two combatants with one
Whose strength seem'd in th' unequal battle done;
And praying, weeping, knelt a maiden near,
Whose piercing voice it was had reach'd his ear.
His lance flies, and one felon bites the ground,
The other turns, and turns for a death-wound.
Their champion moved the rescued twain to greet,
Just one embrace, and they are at his feet.
And gazed Sir EGLAMOUR on their strange dress,
But more on the fair dame's great loveliness;
For, saving one, to him still beauty's queen,
A face so radiant had he never seen.
Together, for the sun was high in June,
They sought a shelter from the sultry noon.
There was shade all around, but had one place
Somewhat more softness in its gentler grace;
There of fair moss a pleasant couch was made,
And a small fountain o'er the wild flowers play'd,
A natural lute, plaining amid the grove,
Less like the voice of sorrow than of love.
They told their history: the maiden came
From a far heathen land, of foreign name;
The Soldan's daughter, but she fled her state,
To share a Christian lover's humbler fate:
That lover was from Italy, his hand
Had o'er a cunning art a strange command;
For he had curious colours, that could give
The human face so like, it seem'd to live.
He had cross'd over land and over sea
To gaze on the fair Saracen; and she,
When seen, was like the visions that were brought
In unreal beauty on his sleeping thought.
And Love is like the lightning in its might,
Winging where least bethought its fiery flight,
Melting the blade, despite the scabbard's guard.
Love, passionate Love, hast thou not thy reward,
Despite of all the soil and stain that clings
When carth thou touchest with thy heavenly wings,
In rich return'd affection, which doth make
Light of all suffering, for its own dear sake?
Together they had fled by sea and land,
And the youth led her to Italia's strand,
Where he had a lone home in Arno's vale --
A fit nest for his lovely nightingale --
Till stopp'd by those fierce outlaws, who had paid
Their life's base forfeit to the victor's blade.

Mused EGLAMOUR, in silence, on the art
Which even to absence pleasure could impart;
Ever before the eyes the one loved face,
Aiding the memory with its present grace.
Beautiful art, in pity surely sent
To soothe the banish'd lover's discontent!
Then pray'd they too his history and name,
Wherefore and whence their gallant champion came?
And told he of his vow, and of the maid
For whose sake each high venture was essay'd.
With earnest tone the painter said his way
Beside the palace of the princess lay;
And pray'd of his deliverer that he might
Bear off his likeness to his lady's sight.
And soon saw EGLAMOUR, with glad surprise,
The colours darken, and the features rise.
He gazed within the fountain, and the view
Was not more than the tablet's likeness true.
At length they parted, as those part, in pain,
Who rather wish than hope to meet again.

Twas night, but night which the imperial moon,
Regal in her full beauty, turn'd to noon,
But still the noon of midnight; though the ray
Was clear and bright, it was not that of day;
When EGLAMOUR came to a gate: 'twas roll'd
On its vast hinges back; his eyes behold --

"He who counts his life but light,
Let him hunt my deer to=night:"

Needed no more, honour might be to win,
Eager our gallant spurr'd his courser in.
A noble park it was: the sweep of green
Seem'd like a sea touch'd with the silver sheen
Of moonlight, with the floating isles of shade
Lithe coppices of shrubs sweet-scented made;
'Twas dotted with small pools, upon whose breast
The radiance seem'd to have a favourite rest,
So bright each crystal surface shone; and, round,
Lines of tall stately trees flung on the ground
Huge mass of shade, while others stood alone,
As if too mighty for companions grown.
And yielded EGLAMOUR to the delight
Which ever must be born of such a night.
When, starting from his dream, he saw stand near,
Bright as the lake they drank from, the white deer.
Instant the leash was from his greyhounds flung --
They would not to the chase, but backwards hung;
To cheer them on he wound his bugle-horn;
And, ere the sound was in the distance borne
Away to silence, rang another strain,
And furious spurr'd a steed across the plain;
Huge like its giant rider. As he pass'd,
His shadow fell, as if a storm had cast
A sudden night around; grasped his right hand
A spear, to which our youth's was but a wand;
Black as his shadow on the darken'd field
Was horse and armour; and his gloomy shield
Was as a cloud passing before the stars.
EGLAMOUR set his lance; scarcely it jars
The mail'd rings of the hauberk: down he bent
In time to shun the one his foeman sent;
Wasting its strength it reach'd the lake beside,
And like a fallen tree dash'd in the tide.
Their swords are out like lightning; one whose stroke
Is as the bolt that fells the forest oak,
The other with light arm and ready wound.
At length the black knight's steed rolls on the ground;
He rises like a tower. One desperate blow,
And the blood wells from EGLAMOUR'S fair brow;
His shield is dash'd in pieces: but just then,
Ere the recover'd blow was aimed again,
He stakes his life upon a sudden thrust,
And his fierce foe is levell'd in the dust.
Gazed he in wonder on each giant limb,
Yet scarce he deem'd victory was won by him.
He went on bended knee: "Now, virgin queen,
Who hast my succour in this danger been,
Mother of God, these fair white deer shall be
Offer'd to-morrow at thy sanctuary."
He sat down by a fountain near, and tame
These gentle hinds now at his beckon came;
He lean'd on the soft grassy bed and slept,
And when he waked found they their watch had kept.
Then sprang he on his steed. The sun was high,
Morning's last blush was fading from the sky
O'er a fair city; there with pious will
He turn'd, his vow'd thanksgiving to fulfil.
He enter'd victor; and around him drew
The multitude, who could not sate their view,
Gazing upon him who the black knight slew,
And yet so young, so fair. Though somewhat now
His cheek had lost its custom'd summer glow,
With paleness from his wound, yet was not one
Could say his peer they e'er had look'd upon.
He found a stately church, and, bending there,
His spoil devoted, -- pray'd his lover prayer;
When, rising from his knee, he saw a train
With cross and chaunt enter the holy fane,
Led by a man, though aged, of stately air,
With purple robe, though head and feet were bare.
He ask'd the cause, and he was told, the king
Thus sought some mercy on his suffering;
For that he had, in causeless jealousy,
Exposed his wife and child to the rude sea.
Hope thrill'd the bosom of our ocean knight,
Anxious he stay'd and watch'd the sacred rite;
He saw the old man kneel before the shrine
Where was the image of the Maid Divine.
He pray'd to her that Heaven, now reconciled,
Would pardon his great fault, and give his child
Back to his arms. With that the stranger set
Full in his view the cloak and carkanet.
One moment gazed the king upon his face
The next, and they are lock'd in fast embrace,
While from their mutual eyes the warm tears run.
The Virgin Mother hath restored his son.
Hasty thanksgivings, anxious words were said;
Joy for the living, sorrow for the dead,
Mingled together. Oh! for those sweet ties
By which blood links affection's sympathies;
Out on the heartless creed which nulls the claim
Upon the heart of kindred, birth, and name.
Together seek they now the regal hall,
So long unknown to aught of festival;
One fill'd with mourning, as now fill'd with joy,
While thousands gather round the princely boy.

Open'd the king his treasury and gave
His bounty forth free as the boundless wave;
Feasting was spread, the dance, the masque, the song,
Whatever might to revelry belong:
Seem'd the young prince as if he had a charm,
Love to take prisoner, envy to disarm.
Yet e'en while floating thus on fortune's tide,
While each delight the past delight outvied,
Never omitted he at twilight hour,
When sleep and dew fall on the painted flower,
There for the night like bosom friends to dwell,
To kiss the ring of his sweet ISABELLE.
He told his father, whose consent had seal'd
The gentle secret, half in fear reveald.
True love is timid, as it knew its worth,
And that such happiness is scarce for earth.
Waited he only for the princely band
With which he was to seek his foster-land,
When gazing on his treasured ring one night,
He saw clouds gather on the emerald's light.
Like lightning he has flung him on the steed,
His hasty spur then urged to fiery speed.
But leave we him to press his anxious way,
His band to follow with what haste they may;
And turn to the lorn princess who had kept,
With all a woman's truth, the faith she wept
Rather than spoke at parting. It was One
Whose love another faith had bade her shun, --
Ah! shame and sign of this our mortal state,
That ever gentle love can turn to hate, --
Had caused her all this misery. He brought
A charge that she with arts unholy wrough:
For he had seen his rival's picture press'd
To its soft home and altar on her breast;
And hitherto unknown in that far land
Was the sweet cunning of the limner's hand.

It was a fearful charge, all hope was vain,
And she must die the fire's red death of pain,
Unless that she could find some gentle knight
Who would do battle for a maiden's right,
And win: but her accuser never yet,
In field or tourney, had an equal met.

The fatal day is come, the pile is raised,
As eager for its victim fierce it blazed.
They led her forth: her brow and neck were bare,
Save for the silken veil of unbound hair;
So beautiful, few were there who could brook
To cast on her sweet face a second look.
There stood she, even as a statue stands,
With head droop'd downward, and with clasped hands;
Such small white hands that match'd her ivory feet,
How may they bear that scorching fire to meet!
On her pale cheek there lay a tear, but one
Cold as the icicle of carved stone.
Despair weeps not. Her lip moved as in prayer
Unconsciously; as if prayers had been there,
And they moved now from custom. Triumphing,
SIR AMICE rode around the weeping ring:
Once, twice, the trumpet challenges: all fear
To meet th' accuser's never-erring spear.
Her lips grow ghastly pale, closes her eye,
It cannot meet its last of agony.

But, hark! there comes a distant rushing sound,
The crowd gives way before a courser's bound.
She turns her face; her scarce raised eyes behold
The unhelm'd head shine with its curls of gold.
SIR AMICE knew his rival. What! so slight,
So young, would he dare cope with him in fight?
Their blades flash out, but only one is red;
Rolls on the ground the traitor's felon head,
The dust around with his life-blood is dyed,
And EGLAMOUR darts to his maiden's side.
Her lip is red, her eyes with tears are dim,
But she is safe, and she is saved by him.

My tale is told. May minstrel words express
The light at noon, or young love's happiness?
Enow, I trow, of that sweet dream can tell
Without my aiding. Gentles, fare ye well.

WILD and pale was the strange brow
Of the bard advancing now;
Eyeballs with such wandering light,
Like the meteors of the night,
As if they that fearful look
From their own dark mountains took,
Where the evils ones are found --
Gloomy haunt, and cursed ground:
Sank his voice to mutter'd breath,
The tale of sorrow, sin. and death.





Other Poems of Interest...



Home: PoetryExplorer.net