Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TWO DEATHS: 1. DEATH OF SIGURD, EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE TWO DEATHS: 1. DEATH OF SIGURD, EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The earl lay on his purple bed
Last Line: And earl sigurd's life is done!
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Death; Dead, The


THE Earl lay on his purple bed,
Faint and heavy was his head,
Where the snows of age were shed --
Heavy on his pillow.
Never more when seas are dark
Will Earl Sigurd guide his bark
Thro' the dashing billow.
Never from that bed of pain
Will the warrior rise again.

Yes, he will arise: -- e'en now
Red he flushes to the brow;
Like the light before his prow
Is the dark eye's gleaming.
No: it never shall be said
Sigurd died within his bed
With its curtains streaming --
Whose sole curtain wont to be
Banners red with victory.

Lift me up, the sea-king said --
At the word his sons obey'd,
And the old man was convey'd
Where the sea was sounding,
At his ancient castle-gate,
Death's dark coming to await,
With his knights surrounding.
Morn was reddening in the sky,
As the Earl came forth to die.

In a carved oaken chair,
Carved with carving quaint and rare --
Faces strange and garlands fair --
Is the chieftain seated,
As when at some festival
In his high ancestral hall
Bards his deeds repeated.
And there was no loftier song,
Than what bore his name along.

Round him swept his mantle red,
Like a chief apparelled,
With his helmet on his head --
With its white plumes flying.
At his side the sheathed brand,
And the spear in his right hand --
Mid the dead and dying.
Where the battle raged the worst,
Ever was that right hand first.

He -- the tamer of the wild --
Who invincible was styled,
Now is feeble as a child
By its mother sleeping;
But the mind is unsubdued --
Fearless is the warrior's mood,
While his eyes are keeping
This last vigil strange and lone,
That his spirit may be known.

As a ship cuts through the froth
Shining comes the morning forth,
From his own ancestral north,
While each rosy vapour
Kindles beautiful and bright,
With an evanescent light:
But the human taper
Hath an even briefer ray:
Strange, oh life, is thy decay!

Haughtily his castle stands
On a rock amid the sands,
Where the waves in gather'd bands
Day by day are dashing.
Never is the sounding shore
Still with their eternal roar,
And their strife is flashing
To the noontide's azure light,
And the stars that watch at night.

Sigurd's look is on the foam
Where his childhood wont to roam --
For the sea has been his home
From his earliest hours --
Gathering the echoing shells,
Where the future tempest dwells,
As some gather flowers;
Trembling when a rosy boy
With a fierce and eager joy.

Many things long since forgot
In a hard and hurried lot
Now arise -- they trouble not
Him, the stately hearted:
But he saw a blue-eyed maid,
Long since 'mid the long grass laid,
And true friends departed.
Tears that stand in that dark eye
Only may the sea-breeze dry.

Longer do the shadows fail
Of his castle's armed wall,
Yet the old man sits, while all
Stand behind him weeping:
But behind they stand, for he
Would not brook man's tears to see.
One fair child is sleeping --
To his grandsire's feet he crept,
Weeping silent till he slept.

Heavily beneath his mail
Seems Earl Sigurd's breath to fail,
And his pale cheek is more pale,
And his hand less steady.
Crimson are the sky and surge,
Stars are on th' horizon's verge,
Night and Death are ready!
Down in ocean goes the sun,
And Earl Sigurd's life is done!





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