Felicia Dorothea Hemans

(25 September 1793 – 16 May 1835 / Liverpool, England)

Coeur De Lion At The Bier Of His Father


Torches were blazing clear,
Hymns pealing deep and slow,
Where a king lay stately on his bier,
In the church of Fontevraud.
Banners of battle o'er him hung,
And warriors slept beneath,
And light, as Noon's broad light, was flung
On the settled face of death.

On the settled face of death
A strong and ruddy glare,
Through dimm'd at times by the censer's breath,
Yet it fell still brightest there:
As if each deeply-furrow'd trace
Of earthly years to show,-
-Alas! that sceptred mortal's race
Had surely clos'd in woe!

The marble floor was swept
By many a long dark stole,
As the kneeling priests round him that slept,
Sang mass for the parted soul;
And solemn were the strains they pour'd
Through the stillness of the night,
With the cross above, and the crown and sword,
And the silent king in sight.

There was heard a heavy clang,
As of steel-girt men the tread,
And the tombs and the hollow pavement rang
With a sounding thrill of dread;
And the holy chant was hush'd awhile,
As by the torch's flame,
A gleam of arms, up the sweeping aisle,
With a mail-clad leader came.

He came with haughty look,
An eagle-glance and clear,
But his proud heart through its breast-plate shook,
When he stood beside the bier!
He stood there still with a drooping brow,
And clasp'd hands o'er it rais'd;-
For his father lay before him low,
It was Coeur-de-Lion gazed!

And silently he strove
With the workings of his breast,
-But there's more in late repentant love
Than steel may keep suppress'd!
And his tears brake forth, at last, like rain-
-Men held their breath in awe,
For his face was seen by his warrior-train,
And he reck'd not that they saw.

He look'd upon the dead,
And sorrow seem'd to lie,
A weight of sorrow, ev'n like lead,
Pale on the fast-shut eye.
He stoop'd-and kiss'd the frozen cheek,
And the heavy hand of clay,
Till bursting words-yet all too weak-
Gave his soul's passion way.

'Oh, father! is it vain,
This late remorse and deep?
Speak to me, father! once again,
I weep-behold, I weep!
Alas! my guilty pride and ire!
Were but this work undone,
I would give England's crown, my sire!
To hear thee bless thy son.

'Speak to me! mighty grief
Ere now the dust hath stirr'd!
Hear me, but hear me!-father, chief,
My king! I must be heard!
-Hush'd, hush'd-how is it that I call,
And that thou answerest not?
When was it thus?-woe, woe for all
The love my soul forgot!

'Thy silver hairs I see,
So still, so sadly bright!
And father, father! but for me,
They had not been so white!
I bore thee down, high heart! at last,
No longer couldst thou strive;-
Oh! for one moment of the past,
To kneel and say-'forgive!'

'Thou wert the noblest king,
On royal throne e'er seen;
And thou didst wear, in knightly ring,
Of all, the stateliest mien;
And thou didst prove, where spears are prov'd
In war, the bravest heart-
-Oh! ever the renown'd and lov'd
Thou wert-and there thou art!

'Thou that my boyhood's guide
Didst take fond joy to be!-
The times I've sported at thy side,
And climb'd thy parent-knee!
And there before the blessed shrine,
My sire! I see thee lie,-
-How will that sad still face of thine
Look on me till I die!'

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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