Francis Turner Palgrave

Edith of England


Through sapling shades of summer green,
  By glade and height and hollow,
Where Rufus rode the stag to bay,
King Henry spurs a jocund way,
  Another chase to follow.
But when he came to Romsey gate
  The doors are open'd free,
And through the gate like sunshine streams
  A maiden company:--
One girdled with the vervain-red,
  And three in sendal gray,
And touch the trembling rebeck-strings
  To their soft roundelay;--

--The bravest knight may fail in fight;
  The red rust edge the sword;
The king his crown in dust lay down;
  But Love is always Lord!

King Henry at her feet flings down,
  His helmet ringing loudly:--
His kisses worship Edith's hand;
'Wilt thou be Queen of all the land?'
  --O red she blush'd and proudly!
Red as the crimson girdle bound
  Beneath her gracious breast;
Red as the silken scarf that flames
  Above his lion-crest.
She lifts and casts the cloister-veil
  All on the cloister-floor:--
The novice maids of Romsey smile,
  And think of love once more.

'Well, well, to blush!' the Abbess cried,
  'The veil and vow deriding
That rescued thee, in baby days,
From insolence of Norman gaze,
  In pure and holy hiding.
--O royal child of South and North,
  Malcolm and Margaret,
The promised bride of Heaven art thou,
  And Heaven will not forget!
What recks it, if an alien King
  Encoronet thy brow,
Or if the false Italian priest
  Pretend to loose the vow?'

O then to white the red rose went
  On Edith's cheek abiding!
With even glance she answer'd meek
'I leave the life I did not seek,
  In holy Church confiding':--
Then Love smiled true on Henry's face,
  And Anselm join'd the hands
That in one race two races bound
  By everlasting bands.
So Love is Lord, and Alfred's blood
  Returns the land to sway;
And all her joyous maidens join
  In their soft roundelay:

--For though the knight may fail in fight,
  The red rust edge the sword,
The king his crown in dust lay down,
  Yet Love is always Lord!

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