Robert Fuller Murray
The Burial of William - the Conqueror Poem by Robert Fuller Murray
Oh, who may this dead warrior be
That to his grave they bring?
`Tis William, Duke of Normandy,
The conqueror and king.
Across the sea, with fire and sword,
The English crown he won;
The lawless Scots they owned him lord,
But now his rule is done.
A king should die from length of years,
A conqueror in the field,
A king amid his people's tears,
A conqueror on his shield.
But he, who ruled by sword and flame,
Who swore to ravage France,
Like some poor serf without a name,
Has died by mere mischance.
To Caen now he comes to sleep,
The minster bells they toll,
A solemn sound it is and deep,
May God receive his soul!
With priests that chant a wailing hymn,
He slowly comes this way,
To where the painted windows dim
The lively light of day.
He enters in. The townsfolk stand
In reverent silence round,
To see the lord of all the land
Take house in narrow ground.
While, in the dwelling-place he seeks,
To lay him they prepare,
One Asselin FitzArthur speaks,
And bids the priests forbear.
`The ground whereon this abbey stands
Is mine,' he cries, `by right.
`Twas wrested from my father's hands
By lawlessness and might.
Duke William took the land away,
To build this minster high.
Bury the robber where ye may,
But here he shall not lie.'
The holy brethren bid him cease;
But he will not be stilled,
And soon the house of God's own peace
With noise and strife is filled.
And some cry shame on Asselin,
Such tumult to excite,
Some say, it was Duke William's sin,
And Asselin does right.
But he round whom their quarrels keep,
Lies still and takes no heed.
No strife can mar a dead man's sleep,
And this is rest indeed.
Now Asselin at length is won
The land's full price to take,
And let the burial rites go on,
And so a peace they make.
When Harold, king of Englishmen,
Was killed in Senlac fight,
Duke William would not yield him then
A Christian grave or rite.
Because he fought for keeping free
His kingdom and his throne,
No Christian rite nor grave had he
In land that was his own.
And just it is, this Duke unkind,
Now he has come to die,
In plundered land should hardly find
Sufficient space to lie.
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