Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BARON'S LAST BANQUET, by ALBERT GORTON GREENE



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THE BARON'S LAST BANQUET, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O'er a low couch the setting sun / had thrown its latest ray
Last Line: Old rudiger sat, dead.
Subject(s): Germany; Germans


O'ER a low couch the setting sun
Had thrown its latest ray,
Where in his last strong agony
A dying warrior lay, --
The stern old Baron Rudiger,
Whose frame had ne'er been bent
By wasting pain, till time and toil
Its iron strength had spent.
"They come around me here, and say
My days of life are o'er,
That I shall mount my noble steed
And lead my band no more;
They come, and to my beard they dare
To tell me now, that I,
Their own liege lord and master born, --
That I -- ha! ha! -- must die.
"And what is Death? I've dared him oft
Before the Paynim spear --
Think ye he's entered at my gate,
Has come to seek me here?
I've met him, faced him, scorned him,
When the fight was raging hot, --
I'll try his might -- I'll brave his power;
Defy, and fear him not.
"Ho! sound the tocsin from my tower, --
And fire the culverin, --
Bid each retainer arm with speed,--
Call every vassal in;
Up with my banner on the wall, --
The banquet-board prepare, --
Throw wide the portal of my hall,
And bring my armor there!"
A hundred hands were busy then, --
The banquet forth was spread, --
And rung the heavy oaken floor
With many a martial tread,
While from the rich, dark tracery
Along the vaulted wall,
Lights gleamed on harness, plume, and spear,
O'er the proud old Gothic hall.
Fast hurrying through the outer gate,
The mailed retainers poured,
On through the portal's frowning arch,
And thronged around the board.
While at its head, within his dark,
Carved oaken chair of state,
Armed cap-a-pie, stern Rudiger,
With girded falchion, sate.
"Fill every beaker up, my men,
Pour forth the cheering wine;
There's life and strength in every drop, --
Thanksgiving to the vine!
Are ye all there, my vassals true? --
Mine eyes are waxing dim; --
Fill round, my tried and fearless ones,
Each goblet to the brim.
"Ye're there, but yet I see ye not.
Draw forth each trusty sword, --
And let me hear your faithful steel
Clash once around my board:
I hear it faintly: -- Louder yet! --
What clogs my heavy breath?
Up, all, -- and shout for Rudiger,
'Defiance unto Death!'"
Bowl rang to bowl, -- steel clanged to steel,
And rose a deafening cry
That made the torches flare around,
And shook the flags on high: --
"Ho! cravens, do ye fear him,? --
Slaves, traitors! have ye flown?
Ho! cowards, have ye left me
To meet him here alone?
"But I defy him: -- let him come!"
Down rang the massy cup,
While from its sheath the ready blade
Came flashing half-way up;
And, with the black and heavy plumes
Scarce trembling on his head,
There, in his dark, carved, oaken chair,
Old Rudiger sat, dead.




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