Menella Bute Smedley

The Black Prince of England

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I'll tell you a tale of a knight, my boy,
The bravest that ever was known;
A lion he was in the fight, my boy,
A lamb when the battle was done.
Oh, he need not be named; for who has not heard
Of the glorious son of King Edward the Third?
Armour he wore as black as jet;
His sword was keen and good;
He conquer'd every foe he met,
And he spared them when subdued.
Valiant and generous, and gentle and bold,
Was the Black Prince of England in days of old.
Often he charged with spear and lance
At the head of his valorous knights;
But the battle of Poictiers, won in France,
Was the noblest of all his fights;
And every British heart should be
Proud when it thinks of that victory.
The French were many—the English few;
But the Black Prince little heeded:
His knights, he knew, were brave and true;
Their arms were all he needed.
He ask'd not how many might be the foe;
Where are they? was all that he sought to know.

So he spurr'd his steed, and he couch'd his lance,
And the battle was won and lost;
Captive he took King John of France,
The chief of that mighty host:
Faint grew the heart of each gallant foe;
Their leader was taken; their hopes were low.
Brave were the French; but at last they yield,
All wearied and worn out:
The prince is conqueror of the field;
And the English soldiers shout,
“God save our prince, our mighty lord!
Victory waiteth on his sword!”
Of all the knights who fought that day,
James Audley was the best;
His wounds were three, won valiantly,
On cheek, and brow, and breast:
And the Black Prince said, when the fight was o'er,
He never had seen such a knight before.
And did they chain King John of France?
Was he in dungeon laid?
Oh, little ye know what a generous foe
Our English Edward made!
A gentle heart, and an arm of might—
These are the things that make a knight.
He set King John on a lofty steed,
White as the driven snow,
And without all pride he rode beside,
On a palfrey slight and low:
He spoke to the king with a reverent mien,
As though the king had his captor been.

He treated King John like an honour'd guest;
When at the feast he sate
With courteous air, and with forehead bare,
The prince did on him wait;
And even when they to England came,
Our generous hero was the same.
But the prisoner's heart it grew not light,
For all the prince could say:
A captive king and a conquer'd knight,
Oh, how could he be gay?
E'en while his courteous words were speaking,
For his own dear France his heart was breaking.
Another lay shall the story tell
Of this valiant king and true:
He loved the Black Prince passing well,
And his worth full well he knew.
Then let us all unite to praise
That hero of the olden days.
The Romans, when they won the day
And bore their captives home,
Caused them to march in sad array,
Fetter'd and chain'd, through Rome;
And every foe, though good and brave,
They held as victim or as slave.
But ours was a Christian conqueror,
Generous, and true, and kind:
Though the grave has now closed o'er his brow,
He hath left this rule behind,—
That valour should ever wedded be
To mercy, and not to cruelty.

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Menella Bute Smedley