Menella Bute Smedley

The Knighting of Count Geoffrey of Anjou

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Oh, listen, ye dames and ye lordlings all;
For never before or since
Was there known so stately a festival
As that which at Rouen did befall
At the knighting of a prince.
Count Geoffrey of Anjou was his name,
And the race of our noblest kings—
The great Plantagenets, whose fame
Old England should ever be proud to claim—
From this gallant warrior springs.
That name Count Geoffrey did first assume
When, riding to the chase,
He wore in his casque, instead of plume,
A nodding crest of the yellow broom,
In its fresh and fragrant grace.
The train it is moving with stately march
Through the abbey's magnificent gate;
The lances are group'd beneath corbel and arch,
Like a forest fair of the slender larch,
So airy, and tall, and straight.
The bishop walk'd first in his mitre and gown,—
A reverend prelate was he,
With his bare silver tresses in place of a crown;
Next came great King Henry of learned renown,
From England beyond the sea.

There were heroes and chieftains undaunted in war,—
In peace gentle, generous, and true;
With a step like a monarch, a glance like a star,
Came the Empress Matilda from Germany far,—
The betroth'd of the Count of Anjou.
As they paced up the aisle to the organ's slow strain,
Like unrolling a blazonried page,
The walls of the grey abbey echo'd again,
And its outspreading arches seem'd blessing the train
With the muteness and fervour of age.
The high mass is over, the aspirant kneels
At the feet of King Henry the wise;
What strength and what hope in his spirit he feels,
As the vow of his knighthood he solemnly seals
With his lips, and his heart, and his eyes!
The monarch he lifted a Damascene blade
O'er the kneeling count's brow on high;
A blow on his shoulder full gently he laid,
And by that little action a knight he is made,
Baptised into chivalry!
“Bear thou this blow,” said the king to the knight,
“But never bear blow again;
For thy sword is to keep thine honour white,
And thine honour must keep thy good sword bright,
And both must be free from stain.
Thou takest a pledge upon thee now
To be loyal, and true, and brave,
Ever to succour the weak and low,
And to make the fierce oppressor bow,
And the helpless to aid and save.

Firm to thy God and thine honour's laws,
Remember this solemn word,
That the knight who ever his good sword draws
Save in a fair and a righteous cause
Is worthy to lose that sword.
Two cuisses of steel I give to thee,
Proof against blade and dart;
Even so thy virtue proof should be
'Gainst the strokes of that ghostly enemy
Who wars upon the heart.
I give thee two spurs of gold so bright—
They are badges of chivalry;
Thou must use them as becomes a knight,
Still to press onward in the fight,
And never to turn and flee.
I give thee a glorious steed from Spain—
A steed with a martial voice;
As his docile neck obeys the rein,
So shouldst thou bend beneath the chain
Of the lady of thy choice.
I give thee a helm with a dancing crest;
And like that airy plume,
The heart that beats thy steely vest
Should ever be lightsome in thy breast,
Unshadow'd by fortune's gloom.
Rise up a knight!” With a joyous spring
Count Geoffrey leap'd on high;

His sword he clasp'd like a living thing,—
“For God, my lady, and my king!
Be this my battle-cry.”
Matilda's hand hath buckled his spurs—
A happy heart was his;
And surely a happy task was hers,
For blest is the bride who ministers
To her husband's fame and bliss.
Lightly he sprang on his best of steeds,
Which stood at the abbey-door;
In his flashing eye each gazer reads
A promise bright of valorous deeds,
As he gallops fair Rouen o'er.
Blithely he rides in the people's sight,
While the joyous heralds cry,
“God's blessing on Geoffrey the new-made knight—
Long may he live, and well may he fight,
And nobly at last may he die!”

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Menella Bute Smedley