Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KNIGHT ERRANT, by ARTHUR JOHN ARBUTHNOTT STRINGER

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THE KNIGHT ERRANT, by            
First Line: He rode at dusk down woodlands strange
Last Line: "but white her soul, say I!"";"
Alternate Author Name(s): Arbuthnott, John
Subject(s): Desire; Knights & Knighthood; Lust; Man-woman Relationships; Temptation; Male-female Relations

He rode at dusk down woodlands strange,
Where stood all bathed in fire
A great dark Tower whose shadow gloomed
The Valley of Desire.

Alluring glowed that sun-lit Tower,
But dark the way, and long;
And where the walls seemed pearl and gold
The gates stood doubly strong.

Life lay with all its wrongs to right,
And all its deeds undone;
Earth held full many a height to storm,
But he must take this one.

We knew that castle of delight
Was death to him who knocks,
Where roses screened the granite walls
And lilies hid the locks.

We told him how ten thousand men
Had failed and fallen there
"Her eyes," he sang, "are like the stars;
Like ripened wheat her hair!"

We laughed our laugh, for we ourselves
Of old had heard these things.
But hearkens he to any man,
The youth who fights and sings!

He, watching there each casement dark,
By dawn and dreary dusk,
Lay siege unto those mystic walls
Of lily, rose, and musk;

And saw by night, from turrets dim,
Some dubious signal start;
—We knew each sign, we who had sought
The fortress of her heart—.

In loneliness and gloom and cold
His hungry youth went past.
"Lo, all ye tribe of Puny Things,
How one great love can last!"

The pitying stars shone over him:
Still flamed his sword on high.
"Her mouth," he sang, "is like the rose,
And white her soul, say I!"

But lo, he beat the dark gates down,
And there his fortress lay
Four lonely walls wherein all life
Had fallen to decay.

Each old retainer, night by night,
In silence crept from her;
And one by one her vassals died,
For all her musk and myrrh.

Starved aspirations, hopes, regrets,
From her white body stole,
And left her there a woman dead,
And with an empty soul.

Four walls, she stood, from whence the last
Embattled rose had blown;
"I yield," she gasped, with goodly art,
"Take all that is your own!"

Beside that castle grim he wept—
We heard him in our sleep—
" 'Tis not, O God, the life I gave,
And the tares that I must reap.

"Of battered, not of rusting swords
Thy knights, I know, are made;—
Oh, 'tis not, God, that in this fight
You broke me as a blade!

"But ah, so empty lies this thing,
Why barred she not each door
And sent me singing through the Dusk
Of my grey Dreams once more!"

She laughed her laugh, and swept the blood
From off her granite stair,
For down the wood a strange youth sang:
"Like golden sheaves her hair!"

The pitying stars shone over him,
He shook his sword on high.
"Her mouth," he sang in turn, "is red,
But white her soul, say I!";

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