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Poem by Walter Scott


The Fire-King


Bold knights and fair dames, to my harp give an ear,
Of love and of war and of wonder to hear;
And you haply may sigh in the midst of your glee
At the tale of Count Albert and fair Rosalie.

O, see you that castle, so strong and so high?
And see you that lady, the tear in her eye?
And see you that palmer from Palestine's land,
The shell on his hat and the staff in his band? Ч

"Now, palmer, gray palmer, O, tell unto me,
What news bring you home from the Holy Countrie?
And how goes the warfare by Galilee's strand?
And how fare our nobles, the flower of the land?"

"O, well goes the warfare by Galilee's wave,
For Gilead and Nablous and Ramah we have;
And well fare our nobles by Mount Lebanon,
For the heathen have lost and the Christians have won."

A fair chain of gold mid her ringlets there hung;
O'er the palmer's gray locks the fair chain has she flung:
"O palmer, gray palmer, this chain be thy fee
For the news thou hast brought from the Holy Countrie.

"And, palmer, good palmer, by Galilee's wave,
O, saw ye Count Albert, the gentle and brave?
When the Crescent went back and the Red-cross rashed on,
O, saw ye him foremost on Mount Lebanon?"

"O lady, fair lady, the tree green it grows;
O lady, fair lady, the stream pure it flows;
Your castle stands strong and your hopes soar on high,
But, lady, fair lady, all blossoms to die.

"The green boughs they wither, the thunderbolt falls,
It leaves of your castle but levin-scorched walls:
The pure stream runs muddy; the gay hope is gone;
Count Albert is prisoner on Mount Lebanon."

O, she 's ta'en a horse should be fleet at her speed;
And she 's ta'en a sword should be sharp at her need;
And she has ta'en shipping for Palestine's land,
To ransom Count Albert from Soldanrie's hand.

Small thought had Count Albert on fair Rosalie,
Small thought on his faith or his knighthood had he:
A heathenish damsel his light heart had won,
The Soldan's fair daughter of Mount Lebanon.

"O Christian, brave Christian, my love wouldst thou be,
Three things must thou do ere I hearken to thee:
Our laws and our worship on thee shalt thou take;
And this thou shalt first do for Zulema's sake.

"And next, in the cavern where burns evermore
The mystical flame which the Curdmans adore,
Alone and in silence three nights shalt thou wake;
And this thou shalt next do for Zulema's sake.

"And last, thou shalt aid us with counsel and hand,
To drive the Frank robber from Palestine's land;
For my lord and my love then Count Albert I'll take,
When all this is accomplished for Zulema's sake."

He has thrown by his helmet and cross-handled sword,
Renouncing his knighthood, denying his Lord;
He has ta'en the green caftan, and turban put on,
For the love of the maiden of fair Lebanon.

And in the dread cavern, deep deep under ground,
Which fifty steel gates and steel portals surround,
He has watched until daybreak, but sight saw he none,
Save the flame burning bright on its altar of stone.

Amazed was the Princess, the Soldan amazed,
Sore murmured the priests as on Albert they gazed;
They searched all his garments, and under his weeds
They found and took from him his rosary beads.

Again in the cavern, deep deep under ground,
He watched the lone night, while the winds whistled round;
Far off was their murmur, it came not more nigh,
The flame burned unmoved and naught else did he spy.

Loud murmured the priests and amazed was the king,
While many dark spells of their witchcraft they sing;
They searched Albert's body, and, lo! on his breast
Was the sign of the Cross by his father impressed.

The priests they erase it with care and with pain,
And the recreant returned to the cavern again;
But as he descended a whisper there fell:
It was his good angel, who bade him farewell!

High bristled his hair, his heart fluttered and beat,
And he turned him five steps, half resolved to retreat;
But his heart it was hardened, his purpose was gone,
When he thought of the maiden of fair Lebanon.

Scarce passed he the archway, the threshold scarce trode,
When the winds from the four points of heaven were abroad,
They made each steel portal to rattle and ring,
And borne on the blast came the dread Fire-King.

Full sore rocked the cavern whene'er he drew nigh,
The fire on the altar blazed bickering and high;
In volcanic explosious the mountains proclaim
The dreadful approach of the Monarch of Flame.

Unmeasured in height, undistinguished in form,
His breath it was lightning, his voice it was storm;
I ween the stout heart of Count Albert was tame,
When he saw in his terrors the Monarch of Flame.

In his hand a broad falchion blue-glimmered through smoke,
And Mount Lebanon shook as the monarch he spoke:
" With this brand shalt thou conquer, thus long and no more,
Till thou bend to the Cross and the Virgin adore."

The cloud-shrouded arm gives the weapon; and see!
The recreant receives the charmed gift on his knee:
The thunders growl distant and faint gleam the fires,
As, borne on the whirlwind, the phantom retires.

Count Albert has armed him the Paynim among,
Though his heart it was false, yet his arm it was strong;
And the Red-cross waxed faint and the Crescent came on,
From the day he commanded on Mount Lebanon.

From Lebanon's forests to Galilee's wave,
The sands of Samaar drank the blood of the brave;
Till the Knights of the Temple and Knights of Saint John,
With Salem's King Baldwin, against him came on.

The war-cymbals clattered, the trumpets replied,
The lances were couched, and they closed on each side;
And horseman and horses Count Albert o'erthrew,
Till he pierced the thick tumult King Baldwin unto.

Against the charmed blade which Count Albert did wield,
The fence had been vain of the king's Red-cross shield;
But a page thrust him forward the monarch before,
And cleft the proud turban the renegade wore.

So fell was the diat that Count Albert stooped low
Before the crossed shield to his steel saddlebow;
And scarce had he bent to the Red-cross his head, Ч
"Bonne Grace, Notre Dame!" he unwittingly said.

Sore sighed the charmed sword, for its virtue was o'er,
It sprung from his grasp and was never seen more;
But true men have said that the lightning's red wing
Did waft back the brand to the dread Fire-King.

He clenched his set teeth and his gaunt-leted hand;
He stretched with one buffet that page on the strand;
As back from the stripling the broken casque rolled,
You might see the blue eyes and the ringlets of gold.

Short time had Count Albert in horror to stare
On those death-swimming eyeballs and blood-clotted hair;
For down came the Templars, like Cedron in flood,
And dyed their long lances in Saracen blood.

The Saracens, Curdmans, and Ishmaelites yield
To the scallop, the saltier, and crossleted shield;
And the eagles were gorged with the infidel dead
From Bethsaida's fountains to Naphthali's head.

The battle is over on Bethsaida's plain. Ч
O, who is yon Paynim lies stretched mid the slain?
And who is yon page lying cold at his knee? Ч
O, who but Count Albert and fair Rosalie?

The lady was buried in Salem's blest bound,
The count he was left to the vulture and hound:
Her soul to high mercy Our Lady did bring;
His went on the blast to the dread Fire-King.

Yet many a minstrel in harping can tell
How the Red-cross it conquered, the Crescent it fell:
And lords and gay ladies have sighed mid their glee
At the tale of Count Albert and fair Rosalie.



Walter Scott


Walter Scott's other poems:
  1. Lines Addressed to Ranald Macdonald, Esq., of Staffa
  2. The Sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill
  3. On Ettrick ForestТs Mountains Dun
  4. On the Massacre of Glencoe
  5. The Maid of Isla


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