SIR MAURICE was a wealthy lord,
He liv'd in the north countrie,
Well would he cope with foe-man's sword,
Or the glance of a lady's eye.
Now all his armed vassals wait,
A staunch and burly band,
Before his stately castle's gate,
Bound for the Holy Land.
Above the spearmen's lengthen'd file,
Are figur'd ensigns flying;
Strok'd by their keeper's hand the while,
Are harness'd chargers neighing.
And looks of woe, and looks of cheer,
And looks the two between,
On many a warlike face appear,
Where tears have lately been.
For all they love is left behind;
Hope beckons them before:
Their parting sails spread to the wind,
Blown from their native shore.
Then thro' the crowded portal pass'd
Six goodly knights and tall;
Sir Maurice himself, who came the last,
Was goodliest of them all.
And proudly rov'd his hasty eye
O'er all the warlike train;--
'Save ye, brave comrades! prosp'rously,
Heaven send us o'er the main!
'But see I right? an armed band
From Moorham's lordless hall;
And he who bears the high command,
Its ancient seneschal!
'Return; your stately keep defend;
Defend your lady's bower,
Lest rude and lawless hands should rend,
That lone and lovely flower.'--
'God will defend our lady dear,
And we will cross the sea,
From slav'ry's chain, his lot severe,
Our noble lord to free.'--
'Nay, nay! some wand'ring minstrel's tongue,
Hath fram'd a story vain;
Thy lord, his liegemen brave among,
Near Acre's wall was slain.'--
'Nay, good my lord! for had his life
Been lost on battle-ground,
When ceas'd that fell and fatal strife,
His body had been found.'--
'No faith to such delusions give;
His mortal term is past.'--
'Not so! not so! he is alive,
And will be found at last!'
These latter words right eagerly,
From a slender stripling broke,
Who stood the ancient warrior by,
And trembled as he spoke.
Sir Maurice started at the sound,
And all from top to toe
The stripling scann'd, who to the ground
His blushing face bent low.
Is this thy kinsman, seneschal?
Thine own or thy sister's son?
A gentler page, in tent or hall,
Mine eyes ne'er look'd upon.--
'To thine own home return, fair youth!
To thine own home return,
Give ear to likely, sober truth,
Nor prudent counsel spurn.
'War suits thee not, if boy thou art;
And if a sweeter name
Befit thee, do not lightly part
With maiden's honour'd fame.'
He turn'd him from his liegemen all,
Who round their chieftain press'd;
His very shadow on the wall
His troubled mind express'd,
As sometimes slow and sometimes fast,
He paced to and fro,
His plumy crest now upward cast
In air, now drooping low.
Sometimes like one in frantic mood,
Short words of sound he utter'd,
Aud sometimes, stopping short he stood,
As to himself he mutter'd.
'A daughter's love, a maiden's pride!
And may they not agree?
Could man desire a lov'lier bride,
A truer friend than she?'
'Down, cursed thought! a boy's garb
Betrays not wanton will,
Yet, sharper than an arrow's barb,
That fear might haunt me still.'
He mutter'd long, then to the gate,
Return'd and look'd around,
But the seneschal and his stripling mate
Were no where to be found.
With outward cheer and inward smart,
In warlike fair array,
Did Maurice with his bands depart,
And shoreward bent his way.
Their stately ship rode near the port,
The warriors to receive,
And there, with blessings kind but short,
Did friends of friends take leave.
And soon they saw the crowded strand
Wear dimly from their view,
And soon they saw the distant land,
A line of hazy blue.
The white-sail'd ship with fav'ring breeze,
In all her gallant pride,
Mov'd like the mistress of the seas,
That rippled far and wide.
Sometimes with steady course she went,
O'er wave and surge careering,
Sometimes with sidelong mast she bent,
Her wings the sea-foam sheering.
Sometimes, with poles and rigging bare,
She scudded before the blasts
But safely by the Syrian shore,
Her anchor dropt at last.
What martial honours Maurice won,
Join'd with the brave and great,
From the fierce, faithless Saracen,
I may not here relate.
With boldest band on bridge or moat,
With champion on the plains
I' th' breach with clust'ring foes he fought,
Chok'd up with grizly slain.
Most valiant by the valiant styl'd,
Their praise his deeds proclaim'd,
And oft his liegemen proudly smil'd
To hear their leader nam'd.
But fate will quell the hero's strength,
And dim the loftiest brow,
And this, our noble chief, at length
Was in the dust laid low.
He lay the heaps of dead beneath,
As sunk life's flick'ring flame,
And thought it was the trance of death,
That o'er his senses came.
And when again day's blessed light
Did on his vision fall,
There stood by his side,--a wond'rous sight!
The ancient seneschal.
He strove, but could not utter word,
His misty senses fled;
Again he woke, and Moorham's lord
Was bending o'er his bed,
A third time sank he, as if dead,
And then his eye-lids raising,
He saw a chief with turban'd head,
Intently on him gazing.
'The prophet's zealous servant I;
His battles I've fought and won;
Christians I scorn, their creeds deny,
But honour Mary's son.
'And I have wedded an English dame,
And set her parent free;
And none, who wears an English name,
Shall e'er be thrall'd by me.
'For her dear sake I can endure
All wrong, all hatred smother;
Whate'er I feel, thou art secure,
As tho' thou wert my brother.'--
'And thou hast wedded an English dame!''
Sir Maurice said no more,
For o'er his heart soft weakness came,
He sigh'd and wept full sore.
And many a dreary day and night
With the Moslem chief stay'd he,
But ne'er could catch, to bless his sight,
One glimpse of the fair lady.
Oft gazed he on her lattice high
As he paced the court below,
And turn'd his list'ning ear to try
If word or accent low
Might haply reach him there; and oft
Traversed the garden green,
Wotting her footsteps small and soft
Might on the turf be seen.
And oft to Moorham's lord he gave
His list'ning ear, who told,
How he became a wretched slave
Within that Syrian hold;
What time from liegemen parted far,
Upon the battle field,
By stern and adverse fate of war
He was obliged to yield:
And how his daughter did by stealth
So boldly cross the sea
With secret store of gather'd wealth,
To set her father free:
And how into the foemen's hands
She and her people fell;
And how (herself in captive bands)
She sought him in his cell;
And but a captive boy appear'd,
Till grief her sex betray'd,
And the fierce Saracen, so fear'd!
Spoke gently to the maid:
How for her plighted hand sued he,
And solemn promise gave,
Her noble father should be free
With ev'ry Christian slave;
(For many there, in bondage kept,
Felt the stern rule of vice
How, long she ponder'd, sorely wept,
Then paid the fearful price.--
A tale which made his bosom thrill,
His faded eyes to weep;
He, waking, thought upon it still,
And saw it in his sleep.
But harness rings, and the trumpet's bray
Again to battle calls;
And Christian pow'rs, in grand array,
Are near those Moslem walls.
Sir Maurice heard; untoward fate!
Sad to be thought upon:
But the castle's lord unlock'd its gate,
And bade his guest be gone.
'Fight thou for faith by thee ador'd
By thee so well maintain'd!
But never may this trusty sword
With blood of thine be stain'd!'--
Sir Maurice took him by the hand,
'God bless thee too,'--he cried;
Then to the nearest Christian band
With mingl'd feelings hied.
The battle join'd, with dauntless pride
'Gainst foemen, foemen stood;
And soon the fatal field was dyed
With many a brave man's blood.
At length gave way the Moslem force;
Their valiant chief was slain;
Maurice protected his lifeless corse,
And bore it from the plain.
There's mourning in the Moslem halls,
A dull and dismal sound:
The lady left its 'leaguer'd walls,
And safe protection found.
When months were past, the widow'd dame
Look'd calm and cheerfully;
Then Maurice to her presence came,
And bent him on his knee.
What words of penitence or suit
He utter'd, pass we by;
The lady wept, awhile was mute,
Then gave this firm reply:
That thou didst doubt my maiden pride
(A thought that rose and vanish'd
So fleetingly) I will not chide;
'Tis from remembrance banish'd
'But thy fair fame, earn'd by that sword;
Still spotless shall it be:
I was the bride of a Moslem lord,
And will never be bride to thee.'
So firm, tho' gentle, was her look,
Hope i' the instant fled:
A solemn, dear farewell he took,
And from her presence sped.
And she a plighted nun became,
God serving day and night;
And he of blest Jerusalem
A brave and zealous knight.
But that their lot was one of woe,
Wot ye, because of this
Their sep'rate single state? if so,
In sooth ye judge amiss.
She tends the helpless stranger's bed,
For alms her wealth is stor'd;
On her meek worth God's grace is shed,
Man's grateful blessings pour'd.
He still in warlike mail doth stalk,
In arms his prowess prove;
And oft of siege or battle talk,
And sometimes of his love.
She was the fairest of the fair,
The gentlest of the kind;
Search ye the wide world every where,
Her like ye shall not find.
She was the fairest, is the best.
Too good for a monarch's bride;
I would not give her in her nun's coif dress'd
For all her sex beside.