The Prince and the Outlaw

Menella Bute Smedley

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Oh, it was our gallant Prince Edward,
Rode forth into Alton wood;
His plume was white, his sword was bright,
His heart was brave and good;
He saw the sunlight through the trees,
Checkering the grassy earth;
He felt the breath of the summer breeze,
And his spirit was full of mirth.
It was there he met with a stranger knight,
With disdain upon his face;
His mail was worn, and his eye spake scorn,
And full stately was his pace.
“Now who art thou, of the darksome brow,
Who wanderest here so free?”
“Oh, I'm one that will walk the green green woods,
And never ask leave of thee.”
“How now, thou churl?” quoth the angry prince,
“Ask pardon on thy knee!
I am England's heir, of my wrath beware,
Or ill shall it fare with thee.”
“Art thou England's heir?” quoth the outlaw bold;
“Well, if thy words be true,
I see not why, such a knight as I
Should fear for such as you.
I am Adam de Gordon, a noble free;
Perchance thou hast heard my name.”
“I have heard it, I trow (quoth the prince), and thou
Art a traitor of blackest fame.
Yield thee to me!” But the outlaw cried,
“Now, if thou knowest not fear,
Out with thy sword! by a good knight's word,
I will give thee battle here.”
“Come on!” cried that prince of dauntless heart;
“Yet pause while I alight,
For I never will play the craven's part,
At odds with thee to fight.”
He sprang from his steed, he drew his blade,
And a terrible fray began,
The very first stroke that Prince Edward made,
Blood from the Gordon ran.
At the second stroke that Prince Edward made,
The Gordon fell on his knee;
But he did not kneel to cry for aid—
Of a loftier heart was he.
To his feet he sprang, and the angry clang
Of their flashing swords did sound
Far through the green and solemn woods,
Stretching in beauty round.
The Gordon is pale, and his strength doth fail,
And his blood is ebbing fast,
But the spirit so high, in his flashing eye
Is dauntless to the last.
He hath struck the prince on his mailèd breast,
But the prince laugh'd scornfully;
“Oh, was it the wood-breeze stirr'd my vest,
Or a leaf from yonder tree?”
There is bitter grief in the Gordon's eye,
For he feels his strength depart;
It is not that he fears to die—
To be conquer'd grieves his heart;
He sinks, like a gallant ship o'erthrown
By the blast and the driving surf:
“I yield me not!” is his last faint tone,
As he falls on the trampled turf.
The prince was proud as a reinless steed—
Pride is an evil thing—
But the heart he bore was a heart indeed,
Right worthy of a king;
He sheath'd his blade, he sprang to aid
The Gordon as he lay.
“Rise up,” cried he, “my valorous foe,
Thou hast borne thee well to-day.”
He kneel'd by his side, he stanch'd the tide
Of life-blood flowing free;
With his scarf he bound each gaping wound,
And he sooth'd their agony.
He lifted the Gordon on his steed,
Himself he held the rein:
“I hold thee,” he said, “for a knight indeed,
And I give thee thy life again.”
There was bitter grief in the Gordon's eye,
Not for defeat that grief,
But he wept for his broken loyalty
To such a generous chief.
Humbly he bent his knightly head
With a changed and gentle brow:
“Oh, pardon! I yield, I yield!” he said;
“I am truly conquer'd now.”
Behold how mercy softeneth still
The haughtiest heart that beats;
Pride with disdain may be answer'd again,
But pardon at once defeats.
The brave man felt forgiveness melt
A heart by fear unshaken;
He was ready to die, for his loyalty
To the prince he had forsaken.
Prince Edward hath brought him to Guilford Tower
Ere that summer's day is o'er;
He hath led him in to the secret bower
Of his fair wife Alianore;
His mother, the lady of gay Provence,
And his sire, the king, were there;
Oh, scarcely the Gordon dared advance
In a presence so stately and fair.
But the prince hath kneel'd at his father's feet,—
For the Gordon's life he sues;
His lady so fair, she join'd his prayer;
And how should the king refuse?
Can he his own dear son withstand,
So duteous, brave, and true;
And the loveliest lady in all the land
Kneeling before him too?
“My children, arise!” the old king said,
And a tear was in his eye;
He laid his hand on each bright young head,
And he bless'd them fervently.
“With a joyful heart I grant your prayer,
And I bid the Gordon live;
Oh, the happiest part of a monarch's care
Is to pity and forgive.”
Then spake the queen so fair and free,—
“The Gordon I will make
Steward of my royal house,” quoth she,
“For these dear children's sake.”
May every prince be as generous
(Be this our prayer to Heaven),
And may every gallant rebel thus
Repent and be forgiven.

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