Menella Bute Smedley

The Death of King Henry the Third

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At Sicily's court Prince Edward sate,
Of a joyous heart was he,
For he came from afar from the holy war,
From battle and victory.
There strode a messenger into the hall,
He kneel'd upon his knee;
“What news dost thou bring,” quoth Sicily's king,
“From the fair isle of the sea?”
“I come to Prince Edward,” the messenger cried,
“And with heavy news I come;
For at eventide his young son died—
He died in his English home!”
Fair Elinore wrings her lily hands
In a mother's bitter woe;
But firm and grave Prince Edward stands,
Like a knight who meets his foe.
“Take comfort, Alianore, my wife,
Submit thee to this pain;
For it is but the God who giveth life
Recalling His gift again.”
Oh, not the less fair Elinore weeps,
Her lips can speak no word;
But her dark eyes raise their tearful gaze
Up to her stedfast lord.
Another step on the marble floor;
'Tis the prince's page, I trow—
His page who fought on the Syrian shore;
He cometh sad and slow.
Fair Elinore rose in hope and fear;
Wildly that page she met,
It was as though she hoped to hear
That her child was living yet.
“Ah, master mine,” the sad page said,
“God smiteth oft and sore:
Thy little daughter dear is dead!”
He could not utter more.
Fair Elinore raised one bitter wail,
And she swoon'd upon the ground;
Prince Edward's face grew somewhat pale,
But he did not breathe a sound.
And mute he stood for a moment's space,
Then slow and calmly spake,
“Bear ye the princess from the place,
Her gentle heart will break;
Tend her with care, and comfort her.”
Then to the king said he,
“My lord, I grieve thy festal eve
Should thus be marr'd for me.”
Oh, greatly marvell'd Sicily's lord
His stately air to see;
He dared not speak one pitying word,
But he watch'd him reverently.
Silent were all in the royal hall;
Not a breath was heard, until
A footstep fell like death's slow knell,
And every heart stood still.
A squire kneel'd lowly on the floor,
And he spake in humble tone,
“Henry of England breathes no more:
Thine are the crown and throne.”
A sudden change o'er the prince's brow
Like a cloud's swift shadow swept;
The strength of his heart forsook him now—
He hid his face and wept.
Oh, greatly marvell'd Sicily's king
When the hero's tears he saw;
From a warrior-soul those tears did spring,
And the king stood mute with awe;
But at last he spake:“O valorous prince,
Right strangely hast thou done:
Thou didst shed no tear for thy daughter dear!
Thou weepedst not for thy son!
But now thine aged sire is dead,
Like a worn-out pilgrim sleeping,
Though he leaves a crown for thy royal head,
Thou like a child art weeping!”
His noble face did Prince Edward raise,
And his tears became him now,
Like dew-drops sheen on the laurel green,
When it binds a conqueror's brow.
“Ah, king,” he said, “when infants die,
We mourn but for a day;
For God can restore as many more,
Lovely and loved as they:
But when a noble father dies,
Our tears pour forth like rain;
Once from high Heaven is a father given,
Once—and, oh, never again!”

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Menella Bute Smedley