Anna Hempstead Branch

(1875-1937 / United States)

The Warrior Maid - Poem by Anna Hempstead Branch

They bade me to my spinning
Because I was a maid,
But down into the battle
I marshalled unafraid.

Brightly against the sunbeams
I shook the flaming lance.
Then out I swept to gather
With the red and royal dance.

The war was stately in me,
And in my heart was pride—
Fierce moods like neighing horses
Most terribly did ride.

Deep as a sea of scarlet
I saw the banners roll—
And then the great war terror
Laid hold upon my soul.

I laughed aloud to feel it
And royally did cheer:
I strode amid my tremblings
And did not fear to fear.

A warrior rode against me.
I laid him to his rest.
I could not stop to gather
The bright sword from his breast.

But on I drove in splendor,
I—that was but a maid—
With piercing calls of triumph
And I was not afraid.

But once, beneath my charging,
A face shone up below.
Dead in the bloody furrow,
A stranger white as snow!

The foe rode close behind me!
I lost the day for this—
I sprang from off my stallion
And left on him a kiss.

The sword that pierced his bosom
With jewelled splendor shone.
I snatched it from him bleeding,
And lo, it was my own.

The spears blazed thick around me
When I leaped forth again.
But jubilant they found me
To face a thousand men.

Bright-voiced was my laughter,
I—that was but a maid!
And when the sharp gyve bound me,
Then was I not afraid.

Ah, hadst thou lived, my warrior,
Among the glorious ones,
I had borne thee savage daughters
And beautiful fierce sons.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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