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On the space that might stand him in best stead :
For who knew, he thought, what the amazement,
The eruption of clatter and blaze meant,
And if, in this minute of wonder,
No outlet, ’mid lightning and thunder,
Lay broad, and, his shackles all shivered,
The lion at last was delivered ?
Ay, that was the open sky o’erhead !
And you saw by the flash on his forehead,
By the hope in those eyes wide and steady,
He was leagues in the desert already,
Driving the flocks up the mountain,
Or catlike couched hard by the fountain
To waylay the date-gathering negress :
So guarded he entrance or egress.
“ How he stands !” quoth the King : “ we may well swear,
No novice, we've won our spurs elsewhere,
And so can afford the confession,
We exercise wholesome discretion
In keeping aloof from his threshold;
Once hold you, those jaws want no fresh hold,
Their first would too pleasantly purloin
The visitor's brisket or surloin :
But who 's he would prove so foolhardy ?
Not the best man of Marignan, pardie !”
The sentence no sooner was uttered,
Than over the rails a glove fluttered,
Fell close to the lion, and rested :
The dame 't was, who flung it and jested
With life so, De Lorge had been wooing
For months past; he sat there pursuing
His suit, weighing out with nonchalance
Fine speeches like gold from a balance.
Sound the trumpet, no true knight's a tarrier !
De Lorge made one leap at the barrier,
Walked straight to the glove, — while the lion
Ne'er moved, kept his far-reaching eye on
The palm-tree-edged desert-spring's sapphire,
And the musky oiled skin of the Kaffir, -
Picked it up, and as calmly retreated,
Leaped back where the lady was seated,
And full in the face of its owner
Flung the glove,
“ Your heart's queen, you dethrone her? So should I,” — cried the King, -«'t was mere vanity, Not love, set that task to humanity !” Lords and ladies alike turned with loathing From such a proved wolf in sheep's clothing. Not so, I; for I caught an expression In her brow's undisturbed self-possession Amid the Court's scoffing and merriment, As if from no pleasing experiment She rose, yet of pain not much heedful So long as the process was needful,As if she had tried in a crucible, To what “speeches like gold,” were reducible, And, finding the finest prove copper, Felt the smoke in her face was but proper; To know what she had not to trust to, Was worth all the ashes, and dust too. She went out 'mid hooting and laughter; Clement Marot stayed; I followed after, And asked, as a grace, what it all meant, If she wished not the rash deed's recalment? “ For I,” – - so I spoke, -"am a Poet: Human nature,
- behooves that I know it!”
She told me, “Too long had I heard
Of the deed proved alone by the word :
For my love, - what De Lorge would not dare !
With my scorn, — what De Lorge could compare !
And the endless descriptions of death
He would brave when my lip formed a breath,
I must reckon as braved, or, of course,
Doubt his word, - and moreover, perforce,
For such gifts as no lady could spurn,
Must offer my love in return.
When I looked on your lion, it brought
All the dangers at once to my thought,
Encountered by all sorts of men,
Before he was lodged in his den, –
From the poor slave whose club or bare hands
Dug the trap, set the snare on the sands,
With no King and no Court to applaud,
By no shame, should he shrink, overawed,
Yet to capture the creature made shift,
That his rude boys might laugh at the gift,
To the page who last leaped o'er the fence
Of the pit, on no greater pretence
Than to get back the bonnet he dropped,
Lest his pay for a week should be stopped, –
So, wiser I judged it to make
One trial what death for my sake'
Really meant, while the power was yet mine,
Than to wait until time should define
Such a phrase not so simply as I,
Who took it to mean just • to die.'
The blow a glove gives is but weak,
Does the mark yet discolor my cheek?
But when the heart suffers a blow,
Will the pain pass so soon, do you know?”
I looked, as away she was sweeping,
And saw a youth eagerly keeping
As close as he dared to the doorway :
No doubt that a noble should more weigh
His life than befits a plebeian ;
And yet, had our brute been Nemean,
(I judge by a certain calm fervor
The youth stepped with, forward to serve her)
- He'd have scarce thought you did him the worst turn
If you whispered “Friend, what you 'd get, first earn!”
And when, shortly after, she carried
Her shame from the Court, and they married,
To that marriage some happiness, maugre
The voice of the Court, I dared augur.
For De Lorge, he made women with men vie,
Those in wonder and praise, these in envy;
And in short stood so plain a head taller
That he wooed and won ...
... How do you call her ?
The beauty, that rose in the sequel
To the King's love, who loved her a week well;
And 't was noticed he never would honor
De Lorge (who looked daggers upon her)
With the easy commission of stretching
His legs in the service, and fetching
His wife, from her chamber, those straying
Sad gloves she was always mislaying,
While the King took the closet to chat in,
But of course this adventure came pat in;
And never the King told the story,
How bringing a glove brought such glory,
But the wife smiled, His nerves are grown firmer, –
Mine he brings now and utters no murmur!”
“HOW THEY BROUGHT THE GOOD NEWS
FROM GHENT TO AIX."
SPRANG to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three; “Good speed !” cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
Speed !\ echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
’T was moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see ;
At Düffeld, 't was morning as plain as could be ;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with, “ Yet there is time!”
At Aerschot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye's black intelligence, ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.
By Hasselt, Dirck groaned ; and cried Joris, “Stay spur!
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault 's not in her,
We'll remember at Aix,” — for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And “ Gallop,” gasped Joris, “ for Aix is in sight!”