Robert Southey

King Henry the Fifth and the Hermit of Dreux

HE passed unquestioned through the camp;
  Their heads the soldiers bent
In silent reverence, or begged
  A blessing as he went;
And so the hermit passed along,
  And reached the royal tent.

King Henry sate in his tent alone;
  The map before him lay:
Fresh conquests he was planning there
  To grace the future day.

King Henry lifted up his eyes
  The intruder to behold;
With reverence he the hermit saw,
  For the holy man was old;
His look was gentle as a saint’s,
  And yet his eye was bold.

“Repent thee, Henry! of the wrongs
  Which thou hast done this land;
O King! repent in time, for know
  The judgment is at hand.

“I have passed forty years of peace
  Beside the river Blaise;
But what a weight of woe hast thou
  Laid on my latter days!

“I used to see along the stream	
  The white sail gliding down,
That wafted food, in better times,
  To yonder peaceful town.

“Henry! I never now behold
  The white sail gliding down;
Famine, Disease, and Death, and Thou,
  Destroy that wretched town.

“I used to hear the traveller’s voice
  As here he passed along,
Or maiden as she loitered home
  Singing her even-song.

“No traveller’s voice may now be heard;
  In fear he hastens by:
But I have heard the village maid
  In vain for succor cry.

“I used to see the youths row down,
  And watch the dripping oar,
As pleasantly their viol’s tones
  Came softened to the shore.

“King Henry, many a blackened corpse
  I now see floating down!
Thou man of blood! repent in time,
  And leave this leaguered town.”

“I shall go on,” King Henry cried,
  “And conquer this good land:
Seest thou not, hermit, that the Lord
  Hath given it to my hand?”

The hermit heard King Henry speak,
  And angrily looked down:
His face was gentle, and for that
  More solemn was his frown.

“What if no miracle from Heaven
  The murderer’s arm control;
Think you, for that, the weight of blood
  Lies lighter on his soul?

“Thou conqueror King, repent in time,
  Or dread the coming woe!
For, Henry, thou hast heard the threat,
  And soon shalt feel the blow!”

King Henry forced a careless smile,
  As the hermit went his way;
But Henry soon remembered him
  Upon his dying day.

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