Through the long Minster; Winchester. Rufus, with much hesitation, was buried in the chancel as a king; but no religious service or ceremonial was celebrated:—’All men thought that prayers were hopeless.’
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!
Edith, (who, after marriage, took the name Matilda in compliment to Henry’s mother), daughter to Malcolm King of Scotland by Margaret, granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, had been brought up by her aunt Christina, and placed in Romsey Abbey for security against Norman violence. But she had always refused to take the vows, and was hence, in opposition to her aunt’s wish, declared canonically free to marry by Anselm; called here an Italian priest, as born at Aosta. Henry had been long attached to the Princess, and married her shortly after his accession.