Felicia Dorothea Hemans ( )

Burial of William the Conqueror

At Caen, in Normandy, 1087

At the day appointed for the kings interment, Prince Henry, his third son, the Norman prelates, and a multitude of clergy and people, assembled in the Church of St. Stephen, which the Conqueror had founded. The mass had been performed, the corpse was placed on the bier, and the Bishop of Evreux had pronounced the panegyric on the deceased, when a voice from the crowd exclaimed: He whom you have praised was a robber. The very land on which you stand is mine. By violence he took it from my father; and in the name of God, I forbid you to bury him in it. The speaker was Asceline Fitz-Arthur, who had often, but fruitlessly, sought reparation from the justice of William. After some debate, the prelates called him to them, paid him sixty shillings for the grave, and promised that he should receive the full value of his land. The ceremony was then continued, and the body of the king deposited in a coffin of stone. Lingard, Vol. II. p. 98.

LOWLY upon his bier
  The royal conqueror lay;
Baron and chief stood near,
  Silent in war array.
Down the long minsters aisle
  Crowds mutely gazing streamed;
Altar and tomb the while
  Through mists of incense gleamed.

And, by the torches blaze,
  The stately priest had said
High words of power and praise
  To the glory of the dead.
They lowered him, with the sound
  Of requiems, to repose;
When from the throngs around
  A solemn voice arose:

Forbear! forbear! it cried;
  In the holiest Name, forbear!
He hath conquered regions wide,
  But he shall not slumber there!
By the violated hearth
  Which made way for yon proud shrine;
By the harvests which this earth
  Hath borne for me and mine;

By the house een here oerthrown
  On my brethrens native spot,
Hence! with his dark renown
  Cumber our birthplace not!
Will my sires unransomed field,
  Oer which your censers wave,
To the buried spoiler yield
  Soft slumber in the grave?

The tree before him fell
  Which we cherished many a year,
But its deep root yet shall swell
  And heave against his bier.
The land that I have tilled
  Hath yet its brooding breast
With my homes white ashes filled,
  And it shall not give him rest.

Here each proud columns bed
  Hath been wet by weeping eyes,
Hence! and bestow your dead
  Where no wrong against him cries!
Shame glowed on each dark face
  Of those proud and steel-girt men,
And they bought with gold a place
  For their leaders dust, een then.

A little earth for him
  Whose banner flew so far!
And a peasants tale could dim
  The name, a nations star!
One deep voice thus arose
  From a heart which wrongs had riven,
O, who shall number those
  That were but heard in heaven?

Felicia Dorothea Hemans's other poems:
  1. Lines Written for the Album at Rosanna
  2. The Music of St. Patricks
  3. Joan of Arc in Rheims
  4. A Farewell to Wales
  5. Druid Chorus on the Landing of the Romans

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