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A Ballad Of King Richard Post by :freemanSmith Category :Poems Author :John Presland Date :November 2011 Read :3010

Click below to download : A Ballad Of King Richard (Format : PDF)

A Ballad Of King Richard

1. The Banner

King Richard wiped the wine from his lips
And laughed full scornfully;
"Oh, I care not a bit for King Philip's wit,
Nor the honour of France," quoth he;

"And I care not a straw for Austria's wrath,
And little of Templars reck;
If I lead not this host, by the Holy Ghost,
May my head be struck from my neck."

King Richard drank, and swore in his cups
--And a mighty man was he--
"Let the mongrels yap, I care not a rap,
I am Richard the Lion," quoth he.

The news went forth to the King of France
And the Dukes of high degree,
How Richard had sworn that no man born
Should lead the armies but he.

The Kings were wroth at King Richard's words
That were carried to them that day;
"Does he make a mock of our ancient stock,
This king of an hour?" quoth they.

"This bastard son of a bastard sire
The standard first would plant
On the city's walls when Jerusalem falls;
Must we this honour grant?

"Not so; if Christ would have Richard lead,
Let Christ give grace to his arms.
We will stand aside from the battle pride
And the fury of war's alarms.

"Our men are sick and outnumbered sore,
And words from home reveal
That our country cries for our governance wise;
We will look to our country's weal.

"For we came to fight for a Holy Cause,
Not dance to an upstart king;
The cause must wait for Richard the Great,
For our weapons down we fling."

Breathless and hushed the messengers spoke
As they told King Richard the news
How the kings were set and the council met,
And the kings to fight refuse.

Louder than ever laughed the King
In the depths of his golden beard.
"God rest my soul, I will reach the goal,
And show if Richard's afeared;

"I will plant my flag amidst this camp
As a token seen of all;
Nor Austria's lance, nor the frown of France,
Shall make its splendour fall."

So the sultry breezes of Ascalon
Saluted the lions three,
And Austria frowned from his camping ground,
And cursed right bitterly.

"Shall this bastard son of a bastard sire
Boast he o'erruleth me?
By the Holy Cross, be it living loss,
This shame shall never be."

So he planted his banner firm and fast,
And it floated high and free,
On the selfsame mound in the Christian ground
Flew eagle and lions three.

Word they brought to Richard the King
Where in his tent he lay,
"Lo, Austria's hand on the lion's land
Has loosed the eagle," said they.

Richard arose and strode in haste
--Oh the banners floated free--
"Ill eagles fare in the lion's lair,
Take down your banner," quoth he.

But word for word the Archduke gave.
He answered, "Eagles fly;
Let the lion keep to the fields and sheep,
To the eagle leave the sky."

"Do you give me words?" cried Richard the King;
"Ho, now, at your words I laugh."
And he tore the flag like a worthless rag,
And he wrenched and splintered the staff,

And he set his foot on the silken flag,
His foot on Austria's fame;
With a swordless hip, yet a smiling lip,
He mocked the eagle's shame.

(Oh, Richard the Lion, woe is me
For the sorrow your deed shall bring,
For the dungeon walls, and the gloom that falls
On the heart of Richard the King;

For the long despair of the prison dark,
And the traffic in lordly things,
When the Austrian sold for an Emperor's gold
The son of the English kings.)

But Richard laughed in the noonday sun
That beats on Palestine.
And Leopold turned, while in hate he burned
Against Plantagenet's line;

He trusted not in his own right arm,
But justice cried from France,
And France spake fair, but he did not dare
Withstand King Richard's glance.

Sullenly Austria turned from the Kings
And back to his tents went he;
And the lions of gold above Richard the bold
Floated alone and free.


2. The Imprisonment

Word they brought to Leopold,
Spake in Austria's ear;
"Rejoice this day that brings your prey,
Your enemy Richard is here;

"Now is revenge for an ancient grudge
Given into your hand,
He mocked aloud 'mid the allies' crowd
And is now alone in your land."

Leopold started out of his seat;
"Good be the news indeed!
Now quickly bring to me hither the king,
He shall sue to me in his need."

Richard the King is before the Duke,
Garbed in a mean disguise,
Yet kingship claim the mighty frame
And the glance of the kingly eyes,

And the Jove-like head with its close-cut hair,
And the flowing golden beard;
No rags can hide the huge limbs' pride,
In kingly cradle reared.

Gay, and kingly, and debonair
The Lion-hearted stood.
"Fair come to land, by this right hand,
Your welcome shall be good."

"Fair thanks to you, our cousin the Duke,"
Said Richard, no whit beguiled;
"I thought not to prove the worth of your love
When I entered your land," he smiled.

"Being in haste to return to my land,
I passed in this disguise,
For I would not stay the rich display
Your ducal bounty supplies."

Leopold snarled like an angry wolf.
"How came you hither?" said he;
"No choice of mine, but by rule divine,"
--Said Richard--"I came by sea,

"Travelling in haste from Palestine
To assure me England's throne;
But a storm arose, and my fears suppose
That I was saved alone."

"Now bind his hands," cried Leopold,
"For he comes as a spy, I see."
The King's eyes blazed in wrath amazed,
"A ducal greeting," quoth he.

"These bonds are unfitting, Duke Leopold,
Both mine and your degree,
Nor consorts my fame with a spying name,
In your throat let your own words be."

Amazed were they all at Richard's taunts,
But he smiled with easy pride.
"Now what prevents that my fury vents
Itself?" the Austrian cried.

"Now what prevents that I kill you straight
And your corpse to the ravens fling?
'Twere easy to say you were ocean's prey."
"But you dare not," said Richard the King.

Leopold turned to his feudal lords,
Who stood in wondering;
"Now prison me straight this runagate,"
Said he, "let us lodge this King!"

They have taken Richard the Lion-heart
And fettered him fast and sure,
In a narrow cell they have chained him well
With chains that shall endure.

And even Richard's stout heart fails
When he hears the great doors clang,
And he knows at last that they have him fast,
Whose fame through Europe rang.

"Oh, what prevents the crafty Duke
From poison or secret knife,
For no one knows that Richard goes
In disguise, in fear of his life;

"My brother John will well believe
That I was drowned at sea;
Nay, he scarce will ask, but will take the task
Of kingship gleefully;

"And my people will easily forget
Their monarch so little seen,
And almost my name will be lost to fame,
I shall be as I ne'er had been."

Many a weary week and month
Must darken prison walls;
And the King's eye dims, and his mighty limbs
Waste, as the leaf that falls.

And his face is blanched, and sorrow sits
Carven upon his brow,
And his right arm slacks for the battle-axe,
The warlike field to plough.

And yet and anon comes Leopold
His captive lord to see,
And revenge to taste, as he sees him waste,
"How fares the Lion?" cries he.

"Cousinly questioned," says the King,
And kingly flashes his eye;
"Let the hog beware of the lion's lair,
Though the lion couchant lie."

And then gives back Duke Leopold,
And his laugh has a hollow ring;
Once more he goes, and the shadows close
Round the head and the heart of the King.

Then word comes suddenly, flying fast,
"Masters, the King is found!"
And from distant lands the poet stands
At last upon English ground.

"I have found him, Blondel de Nesle!
As I wandered, harp in hand,
Through breadth and length of Austria's strength,
I saw a tower stand,

"And nearer drew, I knew not why,
Till I heard a man's voice sing
With something of skill, and my heart stood still--
'Twas the voice of Richard the King,

"Singing a fitte that we both had made
Once in a banquet hall,
When his heart was light, of a captive knight
Who out upon Fate did call.

"Then I took up King Richard's words
And sang the fitte again,
And did descry--Oh! hope was high!---
That he of it was fain.

"So I struck my harp and sang once more
Of a minstrel wandering far,
Till he reached the strand of a distant land
Where trusty yeomen are,

"Where hearts will swell with joy to hear
Of their dear and distant King,
And burn for shame of his knightly fame
And the false imprisoning----

"And Richard sang from his mighty throat
'Oh Blondel, blessed be thou,
Thy star of birth makes glad the earth,
Thy wit shall save me now.

"'Oh tell my people that I am woe
For my absence long and drear,
When the land did bleed under wolfish greed
And the shepherd was not near.'"

(Sullen and black was the brow of John
Like an angry thunder-cloud,
But the poet recked not in his respect,
His message spake aloud.)

"'And tell my people Richard sends
His heart in the minstrel's hand,
And my eyes shall yearn until they turn
On the cliffs of my loyal land.

"'And this do I add at night and morn,
When I pray for the fall of Zion:
To my people send a better friend,
Oh God, than Richard the Lion!'"


(The end)
John Presland's poem: Ballad Of King Richard

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