1 SIR MAURICE was a wealthy lord,
2 He lived in the north countrie;
3 Well could he cope with foeman's sword,
4 Or the glance of a lady's eye.
5 Now all his armed vassals wait,
6 A staunch and burly band,
7 Before his stately Castle's gate,
8 Bound for the Holy Land.
9 Above the spearmen's lengthened file,
10 Are pictured ensigns flying;
11 Stroked by their keeper's hand the while,
12 Are harnessed chargers neighing.
13 And looks of woe, and looks of cheer,
14 And looks the two between,
15 On many a warlike face appear,
16 Where tears have lately been.
17 For all they love is left behind,
18 Hope beckons them before;
19 Their parting sails swell with the wind,
20 Blown from their native shore.
21 Then through the crowded portal passed
22 Six goodly knights and tall,
23 Sir Maurice himself, who came the last,
24 Was goodliest of them all.
25 And proudly roved his hasty eye
26 O'er all the warlike train; —
27 "Save ye! brave comrades! — prosperously,
28 Heaven send us cross the main!
29 "But see I right? — an armed band
30 From Moorham's lordless hall;
31 And he, who bears the high command,
32 Its ancient Seneschal!
33 "Return, your stately keep defend;
34 Defend your lady's bower,
35 Lest rude and lawless hands should rend,
36 That lone and lovely flower."
37 "God will defend our lady dear,
38 And we will cross the sea,
39 From slavery's chain, his lot severe,
40 Our noble lord to free."
41 "Nay, nay! some wandering minstrel's tongue,
42 Hath framed a story vain;
43 Thy lord, his liege-men brave among,
44 Near Acre's wall was slain."
45 "Nay, good my lord! for had his life
46 Been lost on battle-ground,
47 When ceased that fell and fatal strife,
48 His body had been found."
49 "No faith to such delusion give;
50 His mortal term is past" —
51 "Not so, not so! he is alive,
52 And will be found at last!"
53 These latter words, right eagerly,
54 From a slender stripling broke,
55 Who stood the ancient warrior by,
56 And trembled as he spoke.
57 Sir Maurice started at the sound,
58 And all, from top to toe,
59 The stripling scanned, who to the ground,
60 His blushing face bent low.
61 "Is this thy kinsman, Seneschal?
62 Thy own or thy sister's son?
63 A gentler page, in tent or hall,
64 Mine eyes ne'er looked upon.
65 "To thine own home return, fair youth!
66 To thine own home return;
67 Give ear to likely, sober truth,
68 Nor prudent counsel spurn.
69 "War suits thee not if boy thou art;
70 And if a sweeter name
71 Befit thee, do not lightly part
72 With maiden's honoured fame."
73 He turned him from his liege-men all,
74 Who round their chieftain pressed;
75 His very shadow on the wall,
76 His troubled mind expressed.
77 As sometimes slow and sometimes fast
78 He paced to and fro,
79 His plumy crest now upwards cast
80 In air, now drooping low.
81 Sometimes, like one in frantic mood,
82 Short words of sound he uttered,
83 And sometimes, stopping short, he stood
84 As to himself he muttered:
85 "A daughter's love, a maiden's pride!
86 And may they not agree?
87 Could man desire a lovelier bride,
88 A truer friend than she?
89 "Down, cursed thought! a boy's garb,
90 Betrays not wanton will;
91 Yet sharper than an arrow's barb,
92 That fear might wound me still."
93 He muttered long, then to the gate
94 Returned and looked around,
95 But the Seneschal and his stripling mate
96 Were nowhere to be found.
97 With outward cheer and inward smart,
98 In warlike, fair array,
99 Did Maurice with his bands depart,
100 And shoreward bent his way.
101 Their stately ship rode near to port,
102 The warriors to receive,
103 And there, with blessings kind but short,
104 Did friends of friends take leave.
105 And soon they saw the crowded strand
106 Wear dimly from their view,
107 And soon they saw the distant land,
108 A line of hazy blue.
109 The white-sailed ship with favouring breeze,
110 In all her gallant pride,
111 Moved like the mistress of the seas,
112 That rippled far and wide.
113 Sometimes with steady course she went,
114 O'er wave and surge careering,
115 Sometimes with sidelong mast she bent,
116 Her wings the sea-foam sheering.
117 Sometimes with poles and rigging bare
118 She scudded before the blast,
119 But safely by the Syrian shore
120 Her anchor dropped at last.
121 What martial honours Maurice won,
122 Joined with the brave and great,
123 From the fierce, faithless Saracen,
124 I may not here relate.
125 With boldest band on bridge or moat,
126 With champion on the plain,
127 I' the narrow bloody breach he fought,
128 Choked up with grizzly slain.
129 Most valiant by the valiant deemed,
130 Their praise his deeds proclaimed,
131 And the eyes of his liege-men brightly beamed,
132 When they heard their leader named.
133 But fate will quell the hero's strength,
134 And dim the loftiest brow,
135 And this our noble chief at length
136 Was in the dust laid low.
137 He lay the heaps of dead beneath,
138 As sunk life's flickering flame,
139 And thought it was the trance of death,
140 That o'er his senses came.
141 And when again day's blessed light
142 Did on his vision fall,
143 There stood by his side — a wondrous sight —
144 The ancient Seneschal.
145 He strove, but could not utter word;
146 His misty senses fled;
147 Again he woke, and Moorham's lord
148 Was bending o'er his bed.
149 A third time sank he as if dead,
150 And then his eye-lids raising,
151 He saw a chief with turbaned head,
152 Intently on him gazing.
153 "The Prophet's zealous servant I;
154 His battles I've fought and won;
155 Christians I scorn, their creeds deny,
156 But honour Mary's Son.
157 "And I have wedded an English Dame,
158 And set her parent free;
159 And none who bear an English name,
160 Shall e'er be thralled by me.
161 "For her dear sake I can endure
162 All wrong, all hatred smother;
163 Whate'er I feel, thou art secure,
164 As though thou wert my brother."
165 "And thou hast wedded an English Dame!"
166 Sir Maurice said no more,
167 For o'er his heart soft weakness came,
168 He sighed and wept full sore.
169 And many a dreary day and night,
170 With the Moslem Chief stayed he,
171 But ne'er could catch, to bless his sight,
172 One glimpse of the fair lady.
173 Oft gazed he on her lattice high,
174 As he paced the court below,
175 And turned his listening ear to try,
176 If word or accent low
177 Might haply reach him there; and oft
178 Traversed the garden green,
179 And thought some footstep, small and soft,
180 Might on the turf be seen.
181 And oft to Moorham's lord he gave
182 His eager ear, who told
183 How he became a wretched slave,
184 Within that Syrian hold;
185 What time from liege-men parted far,
186 Upon the battle-field,
187 By stern and adverse fate of war,
188 He was compelled to yield:
189 And how his daughter did by stealth,
190 So boldly cross the sea,
191 With secret store of gathered wealth,
192 To set her father free:
193 And how into the foemen's hands
194 She and her people fell;
195 And how (herself in captive bands,)
196 She sought him in his cell;
197 And but a captive boy appeared,
198 Till grief her sex betrayed;
199 And the fierce Saracen, so feared,
200 Spoke kindly to the maid:
201 How for her plighted hand sued he,
202 And solemn promise gave,
203 Her noble father should be free,
204 With every Christian slave;
205 (For many there, in bondage kept,
206 Felt the base rule of vice,)
207 How long she pondered, sorely wept,
208 Then paid the fearful price.
209 A tale that made his bosom thrill, —
210 His faded eyes to weep;
211 He waking thought upon it still,
212 And saw it in his sleep.
213 But harness rings, and the trumpet's bray,
214 Again to battle calls,
215 And Christian Powers in grand array,
216 Are near those Moslem walls.
217 Sir Maurice heard; untoward fate!
218 Sad to be thought upon!
219 But the Castle's lord unlocked its gate,
220 And bade his guest be gone.
221 "Fight thou for faith by thee adored,
222 By thee so well maintained;
223 But never may this trusty sword,
224 With blood of thine be stained!"
225 Sir Maurice took him by the hand,
226 "God bless thee too!" — he cried;
227 Then to the nearest Christian band,
228 With mingled feelings hied.
229 The battle joined, with dauntless pride,
230 'Gainst foemen, foemen stood,
231 And soon the fatal field was dyed
232 With many a brave man's blood.
233 At length gave way the Moslem force;
234 Their valiant Chief was slain;
235 Maurice protected his corse,
236 And bore it from the plain.
237 There's mourning in the Moslem halls,
238 A dull and dismal sound;
239 The lady left its 'leaguered walls,
240 And safe protection found.
241 When months were past, the widowed Dame
242 Looked calm and cheerfully;
243 Then Maurice to her presence came,
244 And bent him on his knee.
245 What words of penitence or suit
246 He uttered, pass we by;
247 The lady wept, a while was mute,
248 Then gave this firm reply:
249 "That thou didst doubt my maiden pride,
250 (A thought that rose and vanished.
251 So fleetingly) I will not chide;
252 'Tis from remembrance banished.
253 "But thy fair fame, earned by that sword,
254 Still spotless shall it be:
255 I was the bride of a Moslem lord,
256 And will never be bride to thee."
257 So firm though gentle was her look,
258 Hope in the instant fled;
259 A solemn, dear farewell he took,
260 And from her presence sped.
261 And she a plighted nun became,
262 God serving day and night;
263 And he of blest Jerusalem,
264 A brave and zealous knight.
265 But that their lot was one of woe,
266 Wot ye, because of this
267 Their separate single state? — if so,
268 In sooth ye judge amiss.
269 She tends the helpless stranger's bed,
270 For alms her wealth is stored;
271 On her meek worth God's grace is shed,
272 Man's grateful blessings poured.
273 He still in warlike mail doth stalk,
274 In arms his prowess prove;
275 And oft of siege or battle talk,
276 And sometimes of his love.
277 His noble countenance the while,
278 Would youthful listeners please,
279 When with altered voice, and a sweet sad smile
280 He uttered such words as these:
281 "She was the fairest of the fair,
282 The gentlest of the kind;
283 Search ye the wide world every where,
284 Her like ye shall not find.
285 "She was the fairest, is the best,
286 Too good for a monarch's bride;
287 I would not give her, in nun's coif drest,
288 For all her sex beside."