Menella Bute Smedley

The Death of the Captal de Buch

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The royal moon shone silver bright
Upon a prison-grate,
Where, his chains glancing to her light,
A lonely captive sate;
Strange was it to behold his brow
So stately and so free,
For twice three years had witnessed now
His stern captivity.
No change had past upon his face,
No dimness on his eye,
Where shone in glory and in grace
The soul of chivalry!
True had he kept his loyal faith,
And true his knightly sword,
Nor bribe, nor threat, nor chains, nor death,
Could turn him from his word.
Slow moves the bolt—his captors come;
He starts with burning cheek;
“Oh, say, what news? what news from home?
How fares my chieftain? Speak!”
Their eyes no sympathy evince,
They answer cold and slow,
“Nay, ask not of thy sable prince,
He died six days ago!”
Stern were their hearts and chill with pride;
But when his face they saw,
They could not choose but turn aside
Their gaze in very awe:
What captive years had failed to do,
At once that instant wrought,
The heart which nothing could subdue,
Was broken—by a thought!
His mailless hands awhile he prest
Over his aching eyes,
Until the tumult of his breast
Brake forth in words and sighs:
“Ah, thou, the gentlest, bravest, first,
Model of friend and foe,
How should the heart refuse to burst
Which hears that thou art low?
Not on the battle-plain, my chief,
Where knightly banners wave,
And trumpets sound their martial grief
Over the hero's grave;
Not on thy shield or in thy tent,
With comrades weeping nigh,—
In this thy native element
Thou wert not given to die!
But sickness had its task, to wear
Thy glorious soul away,
And I,—O God!—I was not there
To soothe thy closing day!
With nought to cheer thy wasting pain
Save thine unconquered heart
(That all-sufficient to sustain),
So, so didst thou depart!
I lift no prayer for thy repose,
God gives the crown to worth,
And well I know thou art of those
Who earn'd it while on earth;
For me—my pilgrimage is done,
My noon of life is grey,
Mine eyes have seen their guiding sun
Go down while it was day!”
He ceased, and from his side unbound
The sword which still he wore;
He cast it sternly on the ground,
And grasp'd it never more!
He turn'd his face against the wall,
Shut fast his tearless eye,
And, reckless of the words of all,
So did the hero die!

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Menella Bute Smedley