Page images

To what my father bids ; but I
A maid full fain would live and die,
Since I am born to be a queen."

"Yea, yea, for such as thou hast seen, That may be well,” the other said. “But come now, come ; for by my head This one must be from Paradise ; Come swiftly then, if thou art wise, Ere aught can snatch him back again."

She caught her hand, and not in vain She prayed; for now some kindly thought To Cecily's brow fair color brought, And quickly 'gan her heart to beat As Love drew near those eyes to greet, Who knew him not till that sweet hour.

So over the fair, pink-edged flower, Softly she stepped; but when she came Anigh the sleeper, lovely shame Cast a soft mist before her eyes Full filled of many fantasies. But when she saw him lying there She smiled to see her mate so fair; And in her heart did Love begin To tell his tale, nor thought she sin To gaze on him that was her own, Not doubting he was come alone To woo her, whom 'midst arms and gold She deemed she should at first behold; And with that thought love grew again Until departing was a pain, Though fear grew with that growing love, And with her lingering footsteps strove As from the place she turned to go, Sighing and murmuring words full low. But as her raiment's hem she raised, And for her merry fellow gazed Shamefaced and changed, she met her eyes Turned grave and sad with ill surprise : Who while the Princess mazed did stand Had drawn from Michael's loosened band The King's scrol, which she he'd out now To Cecily, and whispered low, "Read, and do quickly what thou wilt, Sad, sad ! such fair life to be spilt: Come further first."

With that they stepped
A pace or two from where he slept,
And then she read,

Lord Seneschal,
On thee and thine may all good fall;
Greeting hereby the King sendeth,
And biddeth thee to put to death
His enemy who beareth this ;
And as thou lovest life and bliss,
And all thy goods thou holdest dear,

Set thou his head upon a spear
A good half furlong from the gate,
Our coming hitherward to wait, -
So perish the King's enemies !”

She read, and scarcely had her eyes
Seen clear her father's name and seal,
Ere all love's powers her heart did feel,
That drew her back in spite of shame,
To him who was not e'en a name
Unto her a short hour agone.
Panting she said, “Wait thou alone
Beside him, watch him carefully,
And let him sleep if none draw nigh.
If of himself he waketh, then
Hide him until I come again,
When thou hast told him of the snare, –
If thou betrayest me, beware!
For death shall be the least of all
The ills that on thine head shall fall.
What say I?- thou art dear to me,
And doubly dear now shalt thou be,
Thou shalt have power and majesty,
And be more queen in all than I.
Few words are best, be wise, be wise!"

Withal she turned about her eyes Once more, and swiftly as a man Betwixt the garden trees she ran, Until, her own bower reached at last, She made good haste, and quickly passed Unto her secret treasury. There, hurrying since the time was nigh For folk to come from meat, she took From 'twixt the leaves of a great book A royal scroll, signed, sealed, but blank, Then, with a hand that never shrank Or trembled, she the scroll did fill With these words, writ with clerkly skill – “Unto the Seneschal, Sir Rafe, Who holdeth our fair castle safe, Greeting and health! O well beloved, Know that at this time we are moved To wed our daughter, so we send Him who bears this, our perfect friend, To be her bridegroom; so do thou Ask nought of him, since well we know His race and great nobility, And how he is most fit to be Our son; therefore make no delay, But wed the twain upon the day Thou readest this; and see that all Take oath to him, whate'er shall fall To do his bidding as our heir ; So doing still be lief and dear As I have held thee yet to be."

She cast the pen down hastily

At that last letter, for she heard

And from the house made haste to get How even now the people stirred

A gilded maund wherein she set Within the hall: nor dared she think A flask of ancient island wine, What bitter potion she must drink

Ripe fruits and wheaten manchets fine, If now she failed, so falsely bold

And many such a delicate That life or death did she infold

As goddesses in old time ate, Within its cover, making shift

Ere Helen was a Trojan queen; To seal it with her father's gift,

So passing through the garden green A signet of carnelian.

She cast her eager eyes again

Upon the spot where he had lain, Then swiftly down the stairs she ran But found it empty, so sped on And reached the garden ; but her fears Till she at last the place had won Brought shouts and thunder to her ears, Where Cecily lay weak and white That were but lazy words of men

Within that fair bower of delight. Full fed, far off; nay, even when

Her straight she made to eat and drink, Her limbs caught up her flying gown And said, “See now thou dost not shrink The noise seemed loud enough to drown From this thy deed ; let love slay fear The twitter of the autumn birds,

Now, when thy life shall grow so dear, And her own muttered breathless words Each minute should seem lost to thee That to her heart seemed loud indeed. If thou for thy felicity

Yet therewithal she made good speed Couldst stay to count them; for I say, And reached the fountain seen of none, This day shall be thy happy day." Where yet abode her friend alone,

Therewith she smiled to see the wine Watching the sleeper, who just now Embraced by her fingers fine; Turned in his sleep and muttered low. And her sweet face grow bright again Therewith fair Agnes saying nought

With sudden pleasure after pain. From out her hand the letter caught; Again she spoke, “What is this word And while she leaned against the stone That, dreaming, I perchance have heard, Stole up to Michael's side alone,

But certainly remember well; And with a cool, unshrinking hand

That some old soothsayer did tell Thrust the new scroll deep in his band, Strange things unto my lord, the King, And turned about unto her friend:

That on thy hand the spousal ring Who, having come unto the end

No Kaiser's son, no King should set, Of all her courage, trembled there

But one a peasant did beget, With face upturned for fresher air,

What say'st thou?" And parted lips grown gray and pale,

But the Queen Aushed red; And limbs that now began to fail,

“Such fables I have heard," she said; And hands wherefrom all strength had gone, "And thou - is it such scath to me, Scarce fresher than the blue-veined stone The bride of such a man to be?" That quivering still she strove to clutch. “Nay," said she, “God will have him But when she felt her lady's touch,

King: Feebly she said, “Go ! let me die

How shall we do a better thing And end this sudden misery

With this or that one than He can? That in such wise has wrapped my life, God's friend must be a goodly man." I am too weak for such a strife,

But with that word she heard the sound So sick I am with shame and fear:

Of folk who through the mazes wound Would thou hadst never brought me here I " Bearing the message; then she said, But Agnes took her hand and said,

"Be strong, pluck up thine hardihead, Nay, Queen, and must we three be dead Speak little, so sha'l all be well, Because thou fearest? All is safe

For now our own tale will they tell.”
If boldly thou wilt face Sir Rafe.”
So saying, did she draw her hence,

And even as she spoke they came, Past tree, and bower, and high-pleached And all the green place was aflame fence

With golden raiment of the lords ; Unto the garden's further end,

While Cecily, noting not their words, And left her there, and back did wend, Rose up to go; and for her part

By this had fate so steeled her heart, I know not; some faint quivering
Scarce otherwise she seemed, than when In the last words; some little thing
She passed before the eyes of men

That checked the cold words' even for. At tourney or high festival.

But yet they set his heart aglow, But when they now had reached the hall, And he in turn said eagerly, — And up its very steps they went,

"Surely I count it nought to die Her head a little down she bent;

For him who brought me unto this;
Nor raised it till the dais was gained, For thee, who givest me this bliss;
For fear that love some monster feigned Yea, even dost me such a grace
To be a god, and she should be

To look with kind eyes in my face,
Smit by her own bolt wretchedly.

And send sweet music to my ears." But at the rustling, crowded dais

But at his words she, mazed with tears, She gathered heart her eyes to raise, Seemed faint, and failing quickly, when And there beheid her love, indeed,

Above the low hum of the men Clad in her father's serving weed,

Uprose the sweet bells' suriden clang, But proud, and flushed, and calm withal, As men unto the chapel rang; Fearless of aught that might befall,

While just outside the singing folk Nor too astonied, for he thought,

Into most heavenly carols broke. “From point to point my life is brought And going softly up the hall Through wonders til it comes to this; Boys bore aloft the verges tall And trouble cometh after bliss,

Before the bishop's gold-clad head. And I will bear a'l as I may,

Then forth his bride young Michael led, And ever, as day passeth day,

And nought to him seemed good or bad My life will hammer írom the twain,

Except the lovely hand he had; Forging a long-enduring chain."

But she the while was murmuring low, But 'midst these thoughts their young eyes “If he could know, if he could know, met,

What love, what love, his love should be !" And every word did he forget Wherewith men name unhappiness,

But while 'mid mirth and miastrelsy As read again those words did bless

The ancient Castle of the Rose With double blessings his glad ears.

Such pageant to the autumn shows And if she trembled with her fears,

The King sits ill at ease at home, And if with doubt, and love, and shame, For in these days the news is come The rosy color went and came

That he who in his line should wed In her sweet cheeks and smooth bright Lies in his own town stark and dead, brow,

Slain in a tumult in the street. Little did folk think of it now,

Brooding on this he decmed it meet, But as of maiden modesiy,

Since nigh the day was come when she Shamefaced to see the bridegroom nigh. Her bridegroom's visage looked to see,

And now when Rafe the Seneschal To hold the settled day with her, Had read the message down the Hall, And bid her at the least to wear And turned to her, quite calm again

Dull mourning guise for gold and white. Her face had grown, and with no pain So on another morning bright, She raised her serious eyes to his,

When the whole promised month was past, Grown soft and pensive with his bliss, He drew anigh the place at last And said,

Where Michae''s dead hend, looking down “Prince, thou art welcome here, Upon the highway with a frown, Where all my father loves is dear,

He doubted not at last to see. And full trust do I put in thee,

So 'twixt the fruitful greenery For that so great nobi ity

He rode, scarce touched by care the while He knoweth in thee; be as kind

Humming a roundel with a smile. As I would be to thee, and find

Withal, cre yet he drew anigh, A happy life from day to day,

He heard their watch-horn sound from high, Till all our days are passed away."

Nor wondered, for their wont was so, What more than found the bystanders And well his banner they might know He found within this speech of hers,

Amidst the stubble-lands afar:

Bat now a distant point of war
He seemed to hear, and bade draw rein,
But listening cried, “Push on again!
They do but send forth minstrelsy
Because my daughter thinks to see
The man wbo lieth on his bier."
So on they passed, till sharp and clear
They heard the pipe and shrill fife sound;
And restlessly the King glanced round
To see that he had striven for,
The crushing of that sage's lore,
The last confusion of that fate.

But drawn still nigher to the gate
They turned a sharp bend of the road,
And saw the pageant that abode
The solemn coming of the King.

For first on each side, maids did sing, Dressed in gold raiment; then there came The minstrels in their coats of flame; And then the many-colored lords, The knights' spears, and the swordmen's

Backed by the glittering wood of bills.

So now, presaging many ills,
The King drew rein, yet none the less
He shrank not from his hardiness,
But thought, “Well, at the worst I die,
And yet perchance long life may lie
Before me — I will hold my peace;
The dumb man's borders still increase.”

But as he strengthened thus his heart
He saw the crowd before him part,
And down the long, melodious lane,
Hand locked in hand there passed the twain,
As fair as any earth has found,
Clad as kings' children are, and crowned.
Behind them went the chiefest lords,
And two old knights with sheathéd swords
The banners of the kingdom bore.

But now the king had pondered sore, By when they reached him, though, indeed, The time was short unto his need, Betwixt his heart's first startled pang And those old banner-bearers' clang Anigh his saddle-bow; but he Across their heads scowled heavily, Not saying aught a while : at last, Ere any glance at them he cast, He said, "Whence come ye? what are ye? What play is this ye play to me?"

None answered, - Cecily, faint and white, The ra:her Michael's hand clutched tight, And seemed to speak, bit not one word The nearest to her could have heard. Then the King spoke again, — "Sir Rafe,

Meseems this youngling came here safe
A week agone?"

“Yea, sir," he said;
Therefore the twain 1 straight did wed,
E'en as thy letters bound me to."
"And thus thou diddest well to do,"
The King said. "Tell me on what day
Her old life she did put away.

“Sire, the eleventh day this is Since that they gained their earthly bliss," Quoth old Sir Rafe. The King said nought, But with his head bowed down in thought, Stood a long while ; but at the last Upward a smiling face he cast, And cried aloud above the folk: “Shout for the joining of the yoke Betwixt these twain ! and thou, fair lord, Who dost so well my every word, Nor makest doubt of anything, Wear thou the collar of thy King : And a duke's banner, cut foursquare, Henceforth shall men before thee bear In tourney and in stricken field.

“But this mine heir shall bear my shield, Carry my banner, wear my crown, Ride equal with me through my town, Sit on the same step of the throne ; In nothing will reign alone; Nor be ye with him miscontent, For that with littie ornament Of gold and folk to you he came; For he is of an ancient name That needeth not the clink of gold The ancientest the world doth hold; For in the fertile Asian land, Where great Damascus now doth stand, Ages agone his line was born, Ere yet men knew the gift of corn: And there, anigh to Paradise, His ancestors grew stout and wise; And certes he from Asia bore No little of their piercing lore.

“Look then to have great happiness, For every wrong shall he redress.”

Then did the people's shouting drown His clatter as he leapt adown, And, taking in each hand a hand Of the two lovers, now did stand Betwixt them on the flower-strewn way, And to himself meanwhile 'gan say,

How many an hour might I have been Right merry in the gardens green; How many a glorious day had I Made happy with some victory;

And straight the autumn air did burn
With many a point of steel and gold;
And through the trees the carol rolled
Once more, until the autumn thrush
Far off 'gan twittering on his bush,
Made mindful of the long-lived spring.

What noble deeds I might have done,
What bright renown my deeds have won ;
What blessings would have made me glad;
What little burdens had I had;
What calmness in the hope of praise ;
What joy of well-accomplished days,
If I had let these things alone ;
Nor sought to sit upon my throne
Like God between the cherubim.
But now, — but now, my days wax dim,
And all this fairness have I tost
Unto the winds, and all have lost
For nought, for nought ! yet will I strive
My little end of life to live ;
Nor will I look behind me more,
Nor forward to the doubtful shore."

So mid sweet song and taboring,
And shouts amid the apple-grove,
And soft caressing of his love,
Began the new King Michael's reign.
Nor will the poor folk see again
A king like him on any throne,
Or such good deeds to all men done;
For then, as saith the chronicle,
It was the time, as all men tell,
When scarce a man would stop to gaze
At gold crowns hung above the ways

With that he made the sign to turn,


Robert Buchanan was born in 1847, and was educated at the High School and the University of Glasgow. His first work, Undertones, appeared in 1860, followed by Idyls and Legends of Inverburn in 1865, and London Poems in 1866. Mr. Buchanan edited Wayside Poems, and contributed to the Danish Ballads in 1866. American editions of his poems are published by Roberts Brothers. It is impossible as yet to assign him any definite rank among poets. His poems seem to give promise of something better than he has yet accomplished.

SEVEN pleasant miles by wood, and stream, and moor,
Seven miles along the country road that wound
Uphill and downhill in a thin red line,
Then from the forehead of a hill, behold -
Lying below me, sparkling ruby-like,
The village ! - quaint old gables, roofs of thatch,
A glimmering spire that peeped above the firs,
The sunset lingering orange-red on all,
And nearer, tumbling through a mossy bridge,
The river that I knew! No wondrous peep
Into the faery land of Oberon,
Its bowers, its glowworm-lighted colonnades
Where pygmy lovers wandered two by two,
Could weigh upon the city wanderer's heart
With peace so pure as this ! Why, yonder stood,
A fledgeling's downward flight beyond the spire,

« PreviousContinue »