When might made right in days of chivalry,
Hatot and Ringsdale, over claims of land,
Darkened their lives with stormy enmity,
And for their cause agreed this test to stand:
To fight steel-clad till either's blood made wet
The soil disputed; and a time was set.
But Hatot sickened when the day drew near,
And strength lay racked that once had been his boast.
Then Agnes, his fair daughter, for the fear
That in proud honor he would suffer most,
Resolved to do the battle in his name,
And leave no foothold for the tread of Shame.
She, at the gray, first coming of the day,
Shook off still sleep, and from her window gazed.
The west was curtained with night's dark delay;
A cold and waning moon in silence raised
It's bent and wasted finger o'er the vale,
And seemed sad Death that beckoned, wan and pale.
But Hope sails by the rugged coasts of Fear;
For while awakened birds sang round her eaves,
Our Agnes armed herself with knightly gear
Of rattling hauberk and of jointed greaves;
Withal she put on valor, that to feel
Does more for victory than battle-steel.
She had a sea of hair, whose odor sweet,
And golden softness, in a moonless tide
Ran rippling toward the white coast of her feet;
But as beneath a cloud the sea may hide,
Son in her visored, burnished helmet, there,
Under the cloud-like plume, was hid her hair.
Bearing the mighty lance, sharp-spiked and long,
She at the sill bestrode her restless steed.
Her kneeling soul prayed God to make her strong,
And prayer is nearest path to every need.
She clattered on the bridge, and on apace,
And met dread Ringsdale at the hour and place.
They clash in onslaught; steel to steel replies;
The champed bit foams; rider and ridden fight.
Each feels the grim and brutal instinct rise
That in forefront of havoc takes delight.
The lightning of the lances flashed and ran,
Until, at last, the maid unhorsed the man.
Then on her steed, she, bright-eyed, flushed, and glad,
Her helmet lifted in the sylvan air;
And from the iron concealment that it had,
The noiseless ocean of her languid hair
Broke in disheveled waves: the cross and heart,
Jewels that latched her vest, she drew apart.
'Lo, it is Agnes, even I!' she said,
'Who with my trusty lance have thrust thee down!
For hate of shame the fray I hazarded;
And yet, not me the victory should crown,
But God, the Merciful, who helps the right,
And lent me strength to conquer in the fight.'
Henry Abbey's Other Poems
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