Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RITTER BANN, by THOMAS CAMPBELL



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THE RITTER BANN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The ritter bann from hungary
Last Line: Of the knight embracing jane.
Subject(s): Knights & Knighthood


THE Ritter Bann from Hungary
Came back, renowned in arms,
But scorning jousts of chivalry,
And love and ladies' charms.

While other knights held revels, he
Was wrapped in thoughts of gloom,
And in Vienna's hostelrie
Slow paced his lonely room.

There entered one whose face he knew, --
Whose voice, he was aware,
He oft at mass had listened to,
In the holy house of prayer.

'Twas the Abbot of St. James's monks,
A fresh and fair old man:
His reverend air arrested even
The gloomy Ritter Bann.

But seeing with him an ancient dame
Come elad in Scotch attire,
The Ritter's color went and came,
And loud he spoke in ire.

"Ha! nurse of her that was my bane,
Name not her name to me;
I wish it blotted from my brain:
Art poor? -- take alms, and flee."

"Sir Knight," the Abbot interposed,
"This case your ear demands;"
And the crone cried, with a cross enclosed
In both her trembling hands: --

"Remember, each his sentence waits;
And he that shall rebut
Sweet Mercy's suit, on him the gates
Of Mercy shall be shut.

"You wedded, undispensed by Church,
Your cousin Jane in Spring; --
In Autumn, when you went to search
For Churchmen's pardoning,

"Her house denounced your marriage-band,
Betrothed her to De Grey,
And the ring you put upon her hand
Was wrenched by force away.

"Then wept your Jane upon my neck.
Crying, 'Help me, nurse, to flee
To my Howel Bann's Glamorgan hills;'
But word arrived -- ah me! --

"You were not there; and 'twas their threat,
By foul means or by fair,
To-morrow morning was to set
The seal on her despair.

"I had a son, a sea-boy, in
A ship at Hartland Bay;
By his aid from her cruel kin
I bore my bird away.

"To Scotland from the Devon's
Green myrtle shores we fled;
And the Hand that sent the ravens
To Elijah, gave us bread.

"She wrote you by my son, but he
From England sent us word
You had gone into some far countrie,
In grief and gloom he heard.

"For they that wronged you, to elude
Your wrath, defamed my child;
And you -- ay, blush, Sir, as you should --
Believed, and were beguiled.

"To die but at your feet, she vowed
To roam the world; and we
Would both have sped and begged our bread,
But so it might not be:

"For when the snow-storm beat our roof,
She bore a boy, Sir Bann,
Who grew as fair your likeness proof
As child e'er grew like man.

"'Twas smiling on that babe one morn,
While health bloomed on the moor,
Her beauty struck young Lord Kinghorn
As he hunted past our door.

"She shunned him, but he raved of Jane,
And roused his mother's pride:
Who came to us in high disdain, --
'And where's the face,' she cried,

"'Has witched my boy to wish for one
So wretched for his wife? --
Dost love thy husband? Know, my son
Has sworn to seek his life.'

"Her anger sore dismayed us,
For our mite was wearing scant,
And, unless that dame would aid us,
There was none to aid our want.

"So I told her, weeping bitterly,
What all our woes had been;
And, though she was a stern ladie,
The tears stood in her een.

"And she housed us both, when, cheerfully
My child to her had sworn,
That even if made a widow, she
Would never wed Kinghorn." --

Here paused the nurse, and then began
The Abbot, standing by: --
"Three months ago a wounded man
To our abbey came to die.

"He heard me long, with ghastly eyes
And hand obdurate clenched,
Speak of the worm that never dies,
And the fire that is not quenched.

"At last by what this scroll attests
He left atonement brief,
For years of anguish to the breasts
His guilt had wrung with grief.

"'There lived,' he said, 'a fair young dame
Beneath my mother's roof;
I loved her, but against my flame
Her purity was proof.

"'I feigned repentance, friendship pure;
That mood she did not check,
But let her husband's miniature
Be copied from her neck,

"'As means to search him; my deceit
Took care to him was borne
Nought but his picture's counterfeit,
And Jane's reported scorn.

"'The treachery took: she waited wild;
My slave came back and lied
Whate'er I wished; she clasped her child,
And swooned, and all but died.

"'I felt her tears, for years and years,
Quench not my flame, but stir;
The very hate I bore her mate
Increased my love for her.

"'Fame told us of his glory, while
Joy flushed the face of Jane;
And while she blessed his name, her smile
Struck fire into my brain.

"'No fears could damp; I reached the camp,
Sought out its champion;
And if my broad-sword failed at last,
'Twas long and well laid on.

"'This wound's my meed, my name's Kinghorn,
My foe's the Ritter Bann.' --
The wafer to his lips was borne,
And we shrived the dying man.

"He died not till you went to fight
The Turks at Warradein;
But I see my tale has changed you pale." --
The Abbot went for wine;

And brought a little page who poured
It out, and knelt and smiled; --
The stunned knight saw himself restored
To childhood in his child;

And stooped and caught him to his breast,
Laughed loud and wept anon,
And with a shower of kisses pressed
The darling little one.

"And where went Jane?" -- "To a nunnery, Sir --
Look not again so pale --
Kinghorn's old dame grew harsh to her." --
"And she has ta'en the veil!" --

"Sit down, Sir," said the priest, "I bar
Rash words." -- They sat all three,
And the boy played with the knight's broad star,
As he kept him on his knee.

"Think ere you ask her dwelling-place,"
The Abbot further said;
"Time draws a veil o'er beauty's face
More deep than cloister's shade.

"Grief may have made her what you can
Scarce love perhaps for life."
"Hush, Abbot," cried the Ritter Bann,
"Or tell me where's my wife."

The priest undid two doors that hid
The inn's adjacent room,
And there a lovely woman stood,
Tears bathed her beauty's bloom.

One moment may with bliss repay
Unnumbered hours of pain;
Such was the throb and mutual sob
Of the Knight embracing Jane.





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