“And he may see in the northern tower,
Over yonder precipice,
A lone, dim light at the midnight hour
Shine down the dark abyss.
And over the chasm’s dungeon-gloom
Shall a slender ladder hang;
And if alone he dare to come,—
Unarmed—without a clang,
“More of his suit your chief shall hear
Perhaps may win the prize;
Tell him the way is hedged with fear,—
One misstep and he dies.
Nor will I pledge him safe retreat
From out yon guarded tower;
My watchful warders all to cheat
May be beyond my power.”
At midnight’s dark and silent hour
The tall and gallant knight
Sought on the cliff the northern tower,
And saw the promised light.
With toil he climbed the cragged cliff,
And there the ladder found;
And o’er the yawning gulf he clomb
The ladder round by round.
And as he climbed the ladder bent
Above the yawning deep,
But bravely to the port he went
And entered at a leap
Full twenty warders thronged the hall
Each with his blade in hand;
They caught the brave knight like a thrall
And bound him foot and hand.
They tied him fast to an iron ring,
At Maria’s stern command,
And then they jeered—“God save the king
And all his knightly band!”
They bound a bandage o’er his eyes,
Then the haughty princess said:
“Audacious knight, I hold a prize,—
My castle or your head!
“Now, mark!—desert the king’s
And join your sword with mine,
And thine shall be my heart and hand,
This castle shall be thine.
I grant one hour for thee to choose,
My bold and gallant lord;
And if my offer you refuse
You perish by the sword!”
He spoke not a word, but his face was pale
And he prayed a silent prayer;
But his heart was oak and it could not quail,
And a secret oath he sware.
And grim stood the warders armed all,
In the torches’ flicker and flare,
As they watch for an hour in the gloomy hall
The brave knight pinioned there.
The short—the flying hour is past,
The warders have bared his breast;
The bugler bugles a doleful blast;
Will the pale knight stand the test?
He has made his choice—he will do his part,
He has sworn and he cannot lie,
And he cries with the sword at his beating heart,—
“Betray?—nay—better to die!”
Suddenly fell from his blue eyes
The silken, blinding bands,
And while he looked in sheer surprise
They freed his feet and hands.
“I give thee my castle,” Maria cried,
“And I give thee my heart and hand,
And Maria will be the proudest bride
In all this Magyar land.
“Grant heaven that thou be true to me
As thou art to the king,
And I’ll bless the day I gave to thee
My castle for a ring.”
The red blood flushed to the brave knight’s face
As he looked on the lady fair;
He sprang to her arms in a fond embrace,
And he married her then and there.