Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LEPER KNIGHT; A LEGEND OF MALTA, by CARROLL RYAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE LEPER KNIGHT; A LEGEND OF MALTA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: St. Elmo's walls are high and strong
Last Line: Had kept his vow in dying.
Alternate Author Name(s): Ryan, William Thomas Carroll
Subject(s): Fights; Knights & Knighthood; Legends; Malta; Muslims; Tyranny & Tyrants; Moslems

St. Elmo's walls are high and strong,
Brave knights are their defenders,
And, though the siege has lasted long,
Not one in thought surrenders.
The Moslem foe, without the gate,
Continuously thunder,
With furious force, impelled by hate,
They rend the walls asunder;
But knightly arms, in battle great,
Still keep them back and under.

Soon crumbling walls were falling down
Around the dead and dying.
They won the hero-martyr crown,
And where they fell were lying.
Among the few, who held the wall,
And fearlessly awaited
The doom that would to-morrow fall
On brave hearts darkly fated,
One lordly spirit heard the call
Triumphant and elated.

For some unspoken sin, 'twas said,
Or foil 'gainst Eastern charmer.
He bound his helmet to his head
And riveted his armour.
In battle was no braver knight,
In Council none was wiser,
But never he to human sight
Was known with open visor;
His mailed hand was used to fight
And of its blows no miser.

The bodies of his brother knights
Were in the harbour floating,
Whereon, with cruel revelry,
Old Solyman was gloating.
While La Valette sent Turkish heads,
Like bombshells from each mortar,
To show how he could take revenge
For Gozo's ruthless slaughter,
And all the fountains of the isle
Ran blood instead of water.

At last St. Elmo's guns were hushed,
Each embrasure deserted,
And, creeping up the gloomy breach,
The foe his way asserted.
The castle was as still as death—
The ramparts all forsaken
Till eager feet in covert ways
Unwelcome echoes waken,
When, suddenly, the granite walls
Were, as by earthquake, shaken!

Within the square the Chapel doors
Flew, clanging loud, asunder:
To gaze upon the scene within
The Moslems stood in wonder.
The altar was a blaze of light,
Red flames about it leaping;
Around in dinted armour clad,
Dead knights lay as 'twere sleeping:
One giant figure only stood
An awful death-watch keeping.

His right hand held his battle brand,
His left the cross uplifted,
While, o'er his head, the smoke and flame
In crimson billows drifted.
Last of the garrison he stood
Successful foes defying.
When, headlong in a gulf of fire
St. Elmo's walls were flying:
Then knew Valette the Leper Knight
Had kept his vow in dying.

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