Menella Bute Smedley

The Lament of Eleanor of Bretagne

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Comfort me, O my God!
Mine only hope Thou art!
The strokes of Thine afflicting rod
Fall heavy on my heart.
Oh, who would wish to live
When life's bright flowers decay!
Oh, had I power to give
This weight of life away!
Comfort me, O my God!
Thou didst Thyself endure
Full many a bitter pang;
Thou, the All-holy, the All-pure,
Upon the cross didst hang.
My feet are on the track
Trodden erewhile by Thine;—
Ah, do not cast me back
On this weak heart of mine!
Comfort me, O my God!
I will pour forth my woes
Into Thy pitying ear.
Stern, stern must be the hearts of those
Whose hands confined me here;
In the morning of my days,
In the spring of guiltless mirth,
Never again to gaze
Free on the gladsome earth!
Comfort me, O my God!
'Twas said that I was fair
As the white gem of the sea;
They named me, in my native air,
The Pearl of Brittany:
At tourneys have I been,
And they chose me, far and near,
To reign the tourney's queen,—
I, the poor captive here.
Comfort me, O my God!
But I do not now regret
My splendour, doom'd to fade;
My changing beauty I forget;—
But oh, the wood's deep shade,
The free bird's gushing songs,
The sound of murmuring seas,—
For these my spirit longs,
And for dearer things than these.
Comfort me, O my God!
I had a brother then,
Whose place was in my heart;—
Oh, give me my beloved again,
And freedom may depart!
How shall I breathe the tone
Of that name,—the lost—the dear?
Arthur! mine own, mine own!—
Alas, thou canst not hear!
Comfort me, O my God!
They murder'd him by night,
In the sweetness of his youth,
His brow all bright with boyhood's light,
Clear as the beams of truth.
Falaise, thy walls, Falaise,
Behold a fearful thing,
For his brother's child a brother slays,
And a traitor stabs his king!
Comfort me, O my God!
Yes, king thou shouldst have been
Of this isle of high renown;
But death's wide gulf is now between
Thee and thy thorny crown.
My brother! thou wert mine!
Of crowns I little reck;
But, oh, that I could twine
These arms about thy neck.
Comfort me, O my God!
Sleep on, sweet Arthur, sleep
In thy calm and happy grave;
How couldst thou bear to see me weep,
And not have power to save?
Farewell! And shall I waste
My weary life away
In weeping for the past?
No! let me kneel and pray,
Comfort me, O my God!
That wailing voice hath ceased,
It melted into tears;
And death's sure hand the maid released,
After long mournful years.
In her beauty and her bloom
She was borne to that dark hold;
Thence was she carried to her tomb,
Grey-hair'd, and wan, and old!

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Menella Bute Smedley