Sir Raymond And The False Palmer

SIR Raymond de Clifford, a gallant band
Hath gathered to fight in the Holy Land;
And his lady's heart is sinking in sorrow,—
For the knight and his lances depart on the morrow!

'Oh, wherefore, noble Raymond, tell,'—
His lovely ladye weeping said,—
'With lonely sorrow must I dwell,
'When but three bridal moons have fled?'

Sir Raymond kissed her pale, pale cheek,
And strove, with a warrior's pride,
While an answer of love he essayed to speak,
His flooding tears to hide.

But an image rose in his heated brain,
That shook his heart with vengeful pain,
And anger flashed in his rolling eye,
While his ladye looked on him tremblingly.

Yet he answered not in wrathful haste,—
But clasped his bride to his manly breast;
And with words of tender yet stately dress,
Thus strove to banish her heart's distress:—

'De Burgh hath enrolled him with Philip of France;—
'Baron Hubert,—who challenged De Clifford's lance,
'And made him the scoff of the burgher swine,
'When he paid his vows at the Virgin's shrine.

'Oh, ask me not, love, to tarry in shame,—
'Lest 'craven' be added to Raymond's name!
'To Palestine hastens my mortal foe,—
'And I with our Lion's Heart will go!

'Nay, Gertrude, repeat not thy sorrowing tale!
'Behold in my casque the scallop-shell,—
'And see on my shoulder the Holy Rood—
'The pledge of my emprize—bedyed in blood!

'Thou wouldst not, love, I should be forsworn,
'Nor the stain on my honour be tamely borne:
'Do thou to the saints, each passing day,
'For Raymond and royal Richard pray,—

'While they rush to the rescue, for God's dear Son;
'And soon, for thy Raymond, the conqueror's meed,—
'By the skill of this arm, and the strength of my steed,—
'From the Paynim swart shall be nobly won.

'Thou shalt not long for De Clifford mourn,
'Ere he to thy bosom of love return;
'When blind to the lure of the red-cross bright,
'He will bask, for life, in thy beauty's light!'

The morn in the radiant east arose:—
The Red-cross Knight hath spurred his steed
That courseth as swift as a falcon's speed:—
To the salt-sea shore Sir Raymond goes.

Soon, the sea he hath crossed, to Palestine;
And there his heart doth chafe and pine,—
For Hubert de Burgh is not in that land:
He loitereth in France, with Philip's band.

But De Clifford will never a recreant turn,
While the knightly badge on his arm is borne;
And long, beneath the Syrian sun,
He fasted and fought, and glory won.

His Gertrude, alas! like a widow pines;
And though on her castle the bright sun shines,
She sees not its beams,—but in loneliness prays,
Through the live-long hours of her weeping days.

Twelve moons have waned, and the morn is come
When, a year before, from his meed-won home
Sir Raymond went:—At the castle gate
A reverend Palmer now doth wait.

He saith he hath words for the ladye's ear;
And he telleth, in accents dread and drear,
Of De Clifford's death in the Holy Land,
At Richard's side, by a Saracen's hand.

And he gave to the ladye, when thus he had spoken,—
Of Sir Raymond's fall a deathly token:
'Twas a lock of his hair all stained with blood,
Entwined on a splinter of Holy Rood.—

Then the Palmer in haste from the castle sped;
And from gloomy morn to weary night,
Lorn Gertrude, in her widowed plight,
Weepeth and waileth the knightly dead.—

Three moons have waned, and the Palmer, again,
By Gertrude stands, and smileth fain;
Nor of haste, nor of death, speaks the Palmer, now;
Nor doth sadness or sorrow bedim his brow.

He softly sits by the ladye's side,
And vaunteth his deeds of chivalrous pride;
Then lisps, in her secret ear, of things
Which deeply endanger the thrones of kings:

From Philip of France, he saith, he came,
To treat with Prince John, whom she must not name;
And he in fair France hath goodly lands,—
Where his sturdy vassals await his commands.—

The ladye liked her gallant guest,—
For he kenned the themes that pleased her best;
And his tongue in silken measures skilled,
With goodly ditties her memory filled.

Thus the Palmer the ladye's ear beguiles,—
Till Gertrude her sorrow exchangeth for smiles;
And when from the castle the Palmer went,
She watched his return from the battlement.—

Another moon doth swell and wane;
But how slowly it waneth!
How her heart now paineth
For sight of the Palmer again!

But the Palmer comes, and her lightsome heart
Derideth pain and sorrow:
She pledgeth the Palmer, and smirketh smart,
And saith, 'We'll wed to-morrow!'—

The morrow is come, and at break of day,
'Fore the altar, the abbot, in holy array,
Is joining the Palmer's and Gertrude's hands,—
But, in sudden amazement the holy man stands!

For, before the castle, a trumpet's blast
Rings so loud that the Palmer starts aghast;
And, at Gertrude's side, he sinks dismayed,—
Is't with dread of the living, or fear of the dead?

The doors of the chapel were open thrown,
And the beams through the pictured windows shone
On the face of De Clifford, with fury flushed,—
And forth on the Palmer he wildly rushed!

'False Hubert!' he cried; and his knightly sword
Was sheathed in the heart of the fiend-sold lord
With a scream of terror Gertrude fell—
For she knew the pride of Sir Raymond well!

He flew to raise her—but 'twas in vain:
Her spirit its flight in fear had ta'en!—
And Sir Raymond kneels that his soul be shriven,
And the stain of this deed be by grace forgiven:—

But ere the Abbot his grace can dole,
De Clifford's truthful heart is breaking,—
And his soul, also, its flight is taking!—
Christ, speed it to a heavenly goal!—
Oh, pray for the peace of Sir Raymond's soul!

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