On the wall his golden shield,
Dinted deep in battle field,
When the host o’ the Khalif fled.
Gold to gold. Long sunbeams flit
Upward, tremble and break on it.
’Ay, ’t is over, all things writ
Of my sleep shall end awake,
Now is joy, and all its bane
The dark shadow of after pain.’
Then the queen saith, ’Nay, but break
Unto me for dear love’s sake
This thy matter. Thou hast been
In great bitterness I ween
All the night-time.’ But ’My queen,
Life, love, lady, rest content,
Ill dreams fly, the night is spent,
Good day draweth on. Lament
‘Vaileth not,—yea peace,’ quoth he;
’Sith this thing no better may be,
Best were held ‘twixt thee and me.’
Then the fair queen, ’Even so
As thou wilt, O king, but know
Mickle nights have wrought thee woe,
Yet the last was troubled sore
Above all that went before.’
Quoth the king, ‘No more, no more.’
Then he riseth, pale of blee,
As one spent, and utterly
Master’d of dark destiny.
Comes a day for glory famed
Tidings brought the enemy shamed,
Fallen; now is peace proclaimed.
And a swarm of bells on high
Make their sweet din scale the sky,
‘Hail! hail! hail!’ the people cry
To the king his queen beside,
And the knights in armour ride
After until eventide.
All things great may life afford,
Praise, power, love, high pomp, fair gaud,
Till the banquet be toward
Hath this king. Then day takes flight,
Sinketh sun and fadeth light,
Late he coucheth—Night; ’t is night.
The proud king heading the host on his red roan
Dust. On a thicket of spears glares the Syrian sun,
The Saracens swarm to the onset, larger aye larger
Loom their fierce cohorts, they shout as the day were won.
Brown faces fronting the steel-bright armour, and
The crash o’ the combat runs on with a mighty cry,
Fell tumult; trampling and carnage—then fails endeavour,
O shame upon shame—the Christians falter and fly.
The foe upon them, the foe afore and behind them,
The king borne back in the melee; all, all is vain;
They fly with death at their heels, fierce sun-rays blind them,
Riderless steeds affrighted, tread down their ranks amain.
Disgrace, dishonour, no rally, ah no retrieving,
The scorn of scorns shall his name and his nation brand,
’T is a sword that smites from the rear, his helmet cleaving,
That hurls him to earth, to his death on the desert sand.
Ever they fly, the cravens, and ever reviling
Flies after. Athirst, ashamed, he yieldeth his breath,
While one looks down from his charger; and calm slow smiling,
Curleth his lip. ’T is the Khalif. And this is death.