Menella Bute Smedley

Earl Strongbow

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Earl Strongbow lies in Dublin towers,
Begirt by a mighty host;
At the horn's wild sound they have gather'd around
From forest, hill, and coast.
There are thirty thousand island men,
With spears, and bows, and darts;
Earl Strongbow has not one to ten—
Six hundred gallant hearts!
Six hundred gallant hearts had he,
And not a blade beside;
But these did battle valorously
For Strongbow and his bride.
Fair Eva wept, fair Eva pray'd,
And wrung her hands of snow;
Alas! her tears are little aid
Against the ruthless foe!
The brave earl sate at his castle-board
At the close of a summer's day;
Freely the generous wine was pour'd
As they feasted the eve away;
He gazed on the manly brows around—
Cried he, “We may yet hold out,
For our walls so strong will shield us long,
And our hearts are full as stout!”

They answer'd his words by a ringing cheer,
And Milo de Cogan spoke;
“We lack but bold Fitzstephen here,
With his hand and heart of oak;
In Carrig fair, Fitzstephen rests;
But knew he of our need,
Soon should we see his courser free
Come leaping o'er the mead.”
As he spake, a page came up the hall,
Like a ghost of the drown'd his seeming;
Pale was his face and feeble his pace,
And his vest all drench'd and streaming.
“Lord baron,” he cried, “unseen did I glide
Through the midst of yon mighty foe,
Thy moat did I swim, as the twilight sank dim,
And I bear thee news of woe!
Be sad, be sad! thou hast look'd thy last
On the bold Fitzstephen's brow;
His knightly limbs ere morn be past
Shall feed the hooded crow.
Beset by a force of fearful strength,
By want and famine worn,
His gallant heart gives way at length,
And he must yield ere morn.
He sends thee this glove of steel by me;
And he bade me pray ye all
To give a mass to his memory,
And a sigh to grace his fall.”
Sadly the token Earl Strongbow took,
While sorrow, shame, and ire

Strove for a while in his downcast look;
But anon his eyes shot fire!
“Answer me, friends,” he cried; “if thus
Our danger and need were known,
Would not Fitzstephen die for us?
And now, shall he fall alone?”
Up leap'd they all at those stirring words,
And they shook the ancient hall
With the angry clash of their outdrawn swords,
And their shouts, “We are ready all!”
Ready were all—ah, noble few,
Ready ye were to die!
That heart is chill which feels no thrill
At your fidelity!
One swift embrace exchanging then,
Like friends who part ere death,
They rush on the foe, as the mountain-piled snow
Rushes down on the plains beneath!
Ah, knew'st thou, Eva, good and fair,
Kneeling with lifted hands,
How he whose name thou breath'st in prayer
By death beleaguer'd stands,
Paler would grow thy cheeks' soft glow,
Sadder thine eyes' soft light,
But prouder still thy trembling heart,
To be wife to such a knight!
Come forth, come forth from thy lonely bower,
A messenger rides below;
“Oh, bring'st thou news from Dublin's tower?
Speak, is it weal or woe?”

“Joy, lady, joy—these wond'ring eyes
Have look'd on deeds of fame;
Joy—for the earth, the sea, the skies,
Ring with Earl Pembroke's name!
That tiny band, I saw it dash
Through the enemy's gather'd crowd,
It was like the slender lightning's flash
Cleaving the massy cloud.
Clear shot they through—on either hand
Their foes nor fight nor fly,
But stand, as trembling sheep might stand
When a lion hath darted by!
And when they came to Carrig fair,
Trembling their eyes beheld
Its lonely banners rock the air,
Its heights unsentinell'd;
Its troops, a sad and downcast host,
Slow moving to the gate,
Leaving their leader at his post,
Death's welcome stroke to wait!
‘To the rescue, ho!’ they charge the foe
With a torrent's headlong might;
With answering shout the troops rush out
And join that desperate fight.
Oh, who shall say what Fitzstephen felt
When, from his tower on high,
He saw the light of their lances bright
Gleaming against the sky?
Oh, who shall say what Fitzstephen felt
When the glorious fight was done,

And his friend he prest to his fervent breast,
As a mother clasps her son!”
Fair Eva kneel'd on the flowery mead,
But never a word she spoke;
When hark! the tramp of a coming steed
That joyful silence broke.
In glistening steel, with armèd heel,
And tall plume stooping low,
With pennon fair, that woos the air,
A warrior nears them now;
His step is light, and his smile is bright,
As he flings down his charger's rein:
Oh! this is Pembroke's graceful knight—
He is come to his own again!
“Now, welcome home, mine honour'd lord!
Proud should old England be
To learn from thy resistless sword
Pure faith and chivalry!
Oh, I have wept from sun to sun,
A sad and widow'd wife;
But I would not wish thy deed undone,
Though it had cost thy life!”

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Menella Bute Smedley