Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FALCON; THE LAY OF THE NORMAN KNIGHT, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE FALCON; THE LAY OF THE NORMAN KNIGHT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I hear a sound o'er hill and plain
Last Line: Your pleasant dream, half thought, half sigh.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


I HEAR a sound o'er hill and plain,
It doth not pass away.
Is it the valleys that ring forth
Their welcome to the day?
Or is it that the lofty woods,
Touch'd by the morn, rejoice?
No, 'tis another sound than these, --
It is the battle's voice!
I see the martial ranks, I see
Their banners floating there,
And plume and spear rise meteor-like
Upon the reddening air.
One mark'd I most of all, -- he was
Mine own familiar friend;
A blessing after him was all
My distant lip could send.
Curse on the feeble arm that hung
Then useless by my side!
I lay before my tent and watch'd
Onwards the warriors ride.
DE VALENCE he was first of all,
Upon his foam-white steed;
Never knight curb'd more gallantly
A fiery courser's speed.
His silver armour shone like light,
In the young morning's ray,
And round his helm the snowy plume
Danced like the ocean spray.
Sudden a bird burst through the air, --
I knew his falcon's flight;
He perch'd beside his master's hand, --
Loud shouts rose at the sight.
For many there deem'd the brave bird
Augur'd a glorious day;
To my dark thoughts, his fond caress,
Seem'd a farewell to say.
One moment and he spread his wings,
The bird was seen no more;
Like the sea waves the armed ranks
Swept onwards as before.
The height whereon I lay look'd down
On a thick-wooded land,
And soon amid the forest shade
I lost the noble band.
The snow-white steed, the silver shield
Amid the foliage shone;
But thicker closed the heavy boughs,
And even these were gone.
Yet still I heard the ringing steps
Of soldiers clad in mail,
And heard the stirring trumpet send
Defiance on the gale.
Then rose those deadlier sounds that tell
When foes meet hand to hand, --
The shout, the yell, the iron clang
Of meeting spear and brand.
I have stood when my own life-blood
Pour'd down like winter rain;
But rather would I shed its last
Than live that day again.
Squire, page, and leech my feverish haste
To seek me tidings sent;
And day was closing as I paced
Alone beside my tent;
When suddenly upon my hand
A bird sank down to rest, --
The falcon! -- but its head was droop'd,
And soil'd and stain'd its breast.
A light glanced through the trees: I knew
His courser's snowy hide, --
But that was dash'd with blood; one bound,
And at my feet it died.
I rushed towards my sword, -- alas!
My arm hung in its sling;
But, as to lead my venture,
The falcon spread its wing.
I met its large beseeching eye
Turn'd to mine, as in prayer;
I follow'd, such was its strange power,
Its circuit through the air.
It led me on, -- before my path
The tangled branches yield;
It led me on till we had gain'd
The morning's battle-field.
The fallen confused, and numberless!
"O grief! it is in vain,
My own beloved friend, to seek
For thee amid the slain."
Yet paused the falcon, where heap'd dead
Spoke thickest of the fray;
There, compass'd by a hostile ring,
Its noble master lay.
None of his band were near, around
Were only foes o'erthrown;
It seem'd as desperate he rush'd,
And fought, and fell alone.
The helm, with its white plumes, was off;
The silver shield blood-stain'd;
But yet within the right red hand
The broken sword remain'd.
That night I watch'd beside, and kept
The hungry wolves away,
And twice the falcon's beak was dipp'd
In blood of birds of prey.
The morning rose, another step
With mine was on the plain;
A hermit, who, with pious aid,
Sought where life might remain.
We made DE VALENCE there a grave,
The spot which now he prest;
For shroud, he had his blood-stain'd mail, --
Such suits the soldier best.
A chestnut tree grew on the spot;
It was as if he sought,
From the press of surrounding foes,
Its shelter while he fought.
The grave was dug, a cross was raised,
The prayers were duly said,
While perch'd upon a low-hung bough
The bird moan'd overhead.
We laid the last sod on the grave, --
The falcon dropp'd like lead;
I placed it in my breast in vain,
Its gallant life was fled.
We bade the faithful creature share
Its master's place of rest;
I took two feathers from its wing,
They are my only crest.
Spring leaves were green upon the trees
What time DE VALENCE fell,
Let autumn's yellow forests say
If I avenged him well.
And then I laid aside my sword,
And took my lute to thee,
And vow'd for my sworn brother's sake
I would a wanderer be;
Till for a year I had proclaim'd
In distant lands his fame,
And taught to many a foreign court
DE VALENCE'S brave name.
Never was heart more kind and true,
Never was hand more bold;
Never was there more loyal knight, --
Gentles, my tale is told.

STRANGE contrast to each gorgeous vest,
His rough plaid cross'd upon his breast,
And looking worn, and wild, and rude,
As just from mountain solitude;
Though weary brow and drooping eye
Told wanderer 'neath a distant sky.
Heedless of all, with absent look,
The key of his clairshach he took;
But the first breath, oh! it was sweet,
As river gliding at your feet,
And leaving, as it murmurs by,
Your pleasant dream, half thought, half sigh.





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