Menella Bute Smedley

Coeur de Lion and his Horse

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“Ah, Fanuel, my noble horse, and art thou, art thou slain?
Wilt thou never bear me to the chase or the battle-field again?
Thou wert a steed of peerless might, a steed of strength and glee;
Right faithful wert thou to thy lord, and well thy lord loved thee.
Thou wouldst answer, when I named thee, with a joyous neigh and proud,
For thy voice was like a cymbal's, so exulting and so loud;
Thou wouldst arch thy neck, and stamp thy foot, for joy when I came near;
Thou wert eager to look lovely in the eyes of one so dear.
If other knight dared ride thee, with gay and reckless bound,
As a billow shakes the foam away, thou'dst toss him to the ground:
Yet gentle wert thou in thy strength; my lady-love might dare
To twine her fingers in thy mane, as in a child's bright hair.
Thou didst not start nor tremble at the sound of clashing swords;
Thy spirit in the battle was as eager as thy lord's;
Like him, thy fittest place was where the closing lines engage,
When thou wouldst snort and shake thy mane, like a lion in his rage.
A friend and a companion thou wert unto my heart;
Alas, alas, my noble steed, and is it thus we part?
Low on the ground, and lifeless, I see thy graceful head;
My voice awakes thee not,—by this, I know that thou art dead.

I must leave thee on the burning sands, beneath the eastern sun,
Like a worn and sleeping warrior whose battle-task is done;
Yet thou shalt not be forgotten by thy master and thy friend;
Where'er my name is known on earth, thy glory shall extend.”
King Richard thus lamented for his steed when it was slain;
But he turn'd him to the combat, and he drew his sword again;
“Take back thy barb, good Longsword;
mount, mount, and be thou mute;
For I will not fight on horseback, if thou must fight a-foot.”
But the mighty sultan Saladin had watch'd our gallant king,
How he bore him in the battle like an eagle on the wing;
He saw his charger bleeding; he saw the hero fight
On foot amid his followers, a fearless-hearted knight.
He bade a coal-black steed be brought, and to his page he spake,
“Lead this to yonder chieftain—bid him ride it for my sake:
Fair courtesy beseemeth the lofty in degree;
And to honour such a hero, doth honour unto me.”
The page he bow'd full lowly, that courser's rein he took,
And he led him where King Richard had kneel'd beside a brook;
All heated with the battle, he had cast his helm aside,
And he stoop'd to bathe his forehead in the cold and glassy tide.
“O king, the mighty Saladin hath sent this steed to thee.”
Thus spake the page full humbly, and dropp'd upon his knee:
King Richard smooth'd that charger's mane, and stroked his graceful head;
“Go thank your courteous master,” right graciously he said.

“Much shall I prize thee for his sake, my steed of glossy black!”
With that he grasp'd the courser's mane, to leap upon his back:
But Longsword came to check him, that brave and loyal count;
“Nay, nay, my liege—your pardon—let me try him ere you mount.”
“Who doubts the noble sultan's faith?” King Richard sternly said;
But the earl was in the saddle ere the answer well was made:
Oh, fair and knightly was his seat upon the gilded selle;
And he prick'd the charger's side, resolved to try his mettle well.
The Arab feels a stranger's spur, a stranger's hand he knows;
Down to the dust right scornfully he bends his haughty brows;
Then tossing up his wrathful head, he scour'd across the plain,
Like the wild bull of the jungle, in his fury and disdain.
Away, away, with frantic speed, across the flying sand,
He rushes like a torrent freed, uncheck'd by human hand;
Nor did he stay his headlong race until his path had crost,
Like a flash of summer lightning, the Paynim's startled host.
He came to where the sultan stood, his ancient master dear,
And there he paused; and sweet it was his joyous neigh to hear:
He laid his head right lovingly against the sultan's breast,
With wistful and expectant eyes that ask'd to be caress'd.
Oh, deeply blush'd brave Saladin! he blush'd for noble shame,
Lest the stain of such a stratagem should light upon his fame;
He bent full low his turban'd brow, and scarce his eyes could lift,
As he craved of good Earl William a pardon for his gift.
“Now grieve not, gallant sultan,” quoth the earl in earnest tone;
“For the great heart of King Richard is noble as thine own:
No doubt is in his confidence; as soon would he believe
That he could be dishonour'd, as that thou couldst thus deceive.”
Of joyous heart was Saladin that thus the earl should say;
He bade his slaves caparison a steed of silver-grey;
And with many a phrase of courtesy, and many a fair excuse,
He sent that docile charger for good King Richard's use.
To that steed, in fair remembrance of the sultan true and brave,
The stately name of Saladin our gallant monarch gave.
Thus to his foe each warrior-king was courteous as a brother;
Oh, thus should generous enemies do honour to each other!

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Menella Bute Smedley