Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PARLOUS THING, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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THE PARLOUS THING, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The villainous tract he knew
Last Line: . . . Say on, sword, say on!
Subject(s): Knights & Knighthood; War


The villainous tract he knew.
Boulders were its wear.
Black and steely blue
Its girth in the low moon-glare.
Between his gauntlet palms
He raised his good sword drawn:
"Who comes this night to ask an alms?
Say on, sword, say on!"

"First, Beauty radiant-bright;
Second, the Fiend in red;
Third, with Yourself this night you fight;
And that is all," it said.
Sudden he fell adread.

On the split and stubborn ground
His proud steed pawed again.
False Beauty, without sound
Stood -- as she dawns on men,
Her naked body dressed
In the colored mists of dawn. . . .
As the steel he drew from her cloven breast:
"Say on, sword, say on!"

"A hard thing, that to meet, --
Yet well you held the field.
The Fiend should treat at your mailed feet.
But to One your steel must yield!"
To ice his blood congealed.

His charger's mane tossed back,
As the white foam flew in wrath.
The Fiend, in red and black,
With mockery barred the path.
Swift as a snake! At grips
Like a tiger set upon! . . .
He wiped dark blood from his sword's blue lips.
"Say on, sword, say on!"

"Trenchant! But feel your side
Twined by the Parlous Thing,
More than Derision to deride,
Faster than flesh to cling!"
Hissing his brain did sing.

The Thing came flowingly
Against his side, all warm!
"Two you have slain for fear of me,
And I take o'er the charm;
For I am the fear within your brain,
The weakness in your arm,
Your Self of inmost treachery, lechery, and alarm!"

Such were ill plight to know
Between the dark and dawn.
Struck that good knight his final blow?
Shrunk he to sob and fawn?
Was this the hour of overthrow?
. . . Say on, sword, say on!





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