Menella Bute Smedley

The Enemies

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PART I

Oh, fair was Countess Isadoure,
The Ladye of Leòn,
And she unto her highest tower,
With all her maids, is gone;
A veil of lace, in modest grace,
Was wrapt her brow around;
Her vesture fair of satin rare
Swept on the stony ground.
She spake unto her wardour good:
“Now, wardour, tell thou me
How many years thou here hast stood
To watch the far countree.”
The wardour stout, he straight spake out:
“Sweet ladye, there have been,
Since first I clombe this lofty dome,
Methinks full years fifteen.
And every night, and every morn,
Noontide and eve the same,
I still was wont to wind my horn,
For still a stranger came;
Now, twice three days are fully past,
I gazed both far and wide,
Nor have I wound a single blast,
Nor have I aught espyed.”

The ladye dried her pearly tears,
That flowed like summer rain:
“Ah, wardour, spare a woman's fears,
Go up yet once again!
Perchance thine eye my lord may spy
Far in the distant west,
For yestereen he should have been
Enfolded to this breast.”
The wardour clombe the weary stair,
And long and closely gazed;
At last his glad shout rent the air,—
“Hurrah! Saint James be praised!
I see a knight—the glimmering light
Just glances from his shield;
His pace is slow, his plume droops low—
He comes from a foughten field.”
Then joyful was that ladye bright
With measureless content,
And forth to meet the coming knight
In eager haste she went.
“Now, maidens mine, bring food and wine,
And spread the festal board;
Soft music bring, rich incense fling,
To welcome back my lord.”
She placed her on a palfrey good,
As well beseemed her state,
And forth she rode in mirthful mood
Down to the castle-gate:
“Now, maidens, stay your pace, I pray,
And let us gladly wait

Till yonder knight shall here alight
By his own castle-gate.”
They had not stayed an hour's brief space
Beneath that sinking sun,
When, lo, with stern and darkened face
That stranger knight came on;
The ladye saw his brow of awe,
And mark'd his greeting word,
Then veil'd her eyes in wild surprise,
And shriek'd, “'Tis not my lord!”
His mien was sad, his crest defaced,
His mail besprent with gore,
He lighted off his steed in haste,
Hard by the castle-door;
He flung aside his helm of pride,
He bent his forehead low,
And scarcely knew that war's red dew
Fell trickling from his brow.
“Ah, ladye,” (thus the stranger said,)
“Ill tidings must I tell;
Your lord will surely lose his head
Before the matin bell.
His gallant host are slain and lost,
His friends are all dispersed;
The cruel Moor is at his door:
Yet is not this the worst!
Pent in Alhama's fort he lies,
Bereft of every hope;
In vain his utmost strength he tries
With triple force to cope;

The Moor hath sworn, ere break of morn
The fortress shall be won,
And he will hang in ruthless scorn
Its valiant garrison.
Your lord commends him to your love,
And prays, in piteous kind,
That ere the morrow shine above,
Some succour thou mayst find.
He bade me tell, that, if he fell,
His heart's last hope should be—”
No further word that ladye heard,—
Down in a swoon sank she!
Then loud her maidens wail and weep,
And mourn so sad an hour,
They lift her up in deathful sleep,
They bear her to her bower;
And loyal grief for their good chief
Spreads far on every part,
Through all Leòn there is not one
But bears a heavy heart.


PART II

In proud Medina's castle fair
The rosy wine flows bright,
For proud Medina's valiant heir
Brings home his bride to-night.
Mirth smiles on every lip, and shines
In every gleaming eye,
And the sound of merry laughter joins
With lutes and minstrelsy.

Full many a knight of high degree
Sate at Medina's board,
But the morning-star of chivalry
Was he, their stately lord.
The haughtiest monarchs bowed them down
In reverence of his fame,
And the trumpet-tones of loud renown
Were weary of his name.

The health passed joyously about
That table fair and wide,
And every guest with eager shout
Gave honour to the bride.
The old hall rang to their joyous peal;—
And, lo, on its sides so high,
The clattering sound of the shaken steel
Gave faint but fierce reply!

Was that the sound of lance or sword
'Gainst the mailèd hauberk ringing,
Which circles above the festive board,
And the lordly banners swinging?
Lo, every lip forsakes the cup!
Lo, every knight starts breathless up!
For wheeling around
That ancient hall,
Came the faint, faint sound
Of a trumpet-call,—
Sinking and swelling, slow and soft,
And lost in the night-wind's whistle oft.

It ceased, that low and fitful sound,
It died on the evening gale,
And the knights they all gazed grimly round,
And the ladies all wax'd pale;
The baron bold was first to break
The silence of his hall:
“What may this bode?”—'twas thus he spake—
“Now rede me, warriors all!”

Then up spake Guzman of Mindore—
A holy monk was he—
“'Tis the sound,” quoth he, “of the coming Moor;
Oh, let us turn and flee!”
Him answer'd straight Sir Leoline,
A true and stalwart knight,
“'Tis the sound of the coming Moor, I ween;
Let us go forth and fight.”

Then every gauntlet sought its sword
With a quick and friendly greeting,
And a clash arose at the festive board,
But not of goblets meeting.
Up sprang each knight; like a beam of light
Forth flash'd each trenchant blade,
And the backward start of the quivering sheath
A stirring answer made—
When, lo, on the breeze again was borne
The murmuring note of that distant horn!

And see, where up the hall proceeds
A sad yet stately group;
A ladye, clad in mourning weeds,
Is foremost of the troop.
Her tearful eyes betray her grief,
Her mien shews her degree;
And forward to the wondering chief
She steps right gracefully.

She wrung her hands, and down she kneeled,
So sorrowful, so fair,
That heart must have been triply steeled
That could resist her prayer.
Scarce have her trembling lips the power
Their suppliant words to frame,
She sinks upon the marble floor,
Murmuring her husband's name!

Her husband's name!—unwelcome sound
In proud Medina's ears:
A wrathful whisper circles round
The band of knights and peers;
From lip to lip is past the word,
In tones of fierce rebuke,
“Is it the wife of Cadiz' lord
Who seeks Medina's duke?”

Alas, that deadly feud should be
Between two hearts so brave and free!
Alas, that long ancestral hate
Such kindred souls should separate!

Up rose that lady at the word,
And spake with queenly brow:
“It is the wife of Cadiz' lord
Who seeks Medina now!
I come to tell my husband's plight,—
A captive doomed is he;
And I charge thee as a Christian knight
Go forth and set him free!

Pent in Alhama's fort he lies,
Bereft of every hope;
In vain his utmost strength he tries
With triple force to cope;
The Moor hath sworn ere break of morn
The fortress shall be won,
And he will hang in ruthless scorn
Its valiant garrison.

Then canst thou, wilt thou, not forget
The stormy words when last ye met?”
“Say rather, will I not contemn
The heart that could remember them?
Fear nothing, gentle ladye,—I
Am slave to love and chivalry.
Let each who keeps his honour bright
And holds his conscience free,
Let each who boasts the name of knight,
Forward and follow me!”
He spake, and shook his flashing sword,
Then darted from the festal board.

Him follow'd Guzman of Mindore
With words of counsel wise:
“Oh, cross not thou thy castle-door
On such a mad emprise!
Recall, recall thy hasty word,
Nor set false Cadiz free!”
But out then spake that generous lord,
“He is mine enemy!”

And never another word spake he,
But on his steed he sprang;
And forth he rode right joyously,
As though for his wedding revelry
The merry church-bells rang:
O glorious time, and noble race,
Where hate to honour thus gave place!

Behind him then his vassals crowd
In legions bold and bright,
The prancing of their coursers proud,
It was a stately sight;
And the music of their eager swords,
In martial fury clashing,
Was like the ocean-waves' wild hordes
Over the dark rocks dashing.

Like the torrent plunging from the rock,
Or the lightning from the skies,
So rolled the thunder of their shock
Against their enemies!
How should a mortal foe resist
The charge of such a band?
They scatter'd like an April mist
Cleft by the sun-god's hand!

Brief was the battle! Fast and fierce,
Ere its first moment parts,
A thousand Christian falchions pierce
A thousand Moslem hearts!
The gates are gained, the walls are cleared,
The citadel is won,
That work of victory appeared
To end ere it begun.

Oh, brightly on Alhama's fort
The morning sun was beaming,
Where many a chief of lordly port
Stood in his blue mail gleaming;
Fair is the scene its towers disclose
In their high banquet-hall;
But the first embrace of those two foes
Was a fairer sight than all!
Oh, fast through all the Spanish land
That victory was told,
Right gladsome was King Ferdinand,
Right gay his warriors bold;
From lip to lip the bright tale darts,
All laud the high emprise;
But the union of those generous hearts
Was dear in God's own eyes!

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Menella Bute Smedley