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Poem by Edwin Arnold


The Falcon-Feast


Well and wisely spake the master
 Of the silver Tuscan talk,
Love should laugh at all disaster
 If with wisdom he would walk.
And to you the word is spoken,
 Ladies, therefore, ponder well;
That by every certain token
 Your true lovers you may tell:
Only be ye gentle hearted;
 Beauty rich and wisdom rare
From a gentle spirit parted
 Earneth hate and causeth care.
One there wasno prayers could move her;
 Listen to the tale they tell;
How she scorned a faithful lover,
 How she came to love him well.
Gianetta, Marco's daughter,
 Lord of many pleasant lands;
And she lived by Arno's water,
 Where the marble city stands.
All in Florence she was fairest,
 Fair and rich exceedingly;
Where the dames are of the rarest
 None so beautiful as she.
Courtiers with best beguiling,
 Praised her black and lustrous eye,
Knights for Gianetta's smiling
 Saddest death would gladdest die.
None among them loved her truly;
 Lightest heart can loudest woo
But to love a lady duly
 Asketh earnest heart and true;
Asketh lover like Frederigo;
 He alone did love her well,
Heir was he of Alberigo,
 Alberigo of Castel;
In the lists with deeds of daring
 Manfully he did her will;
In the hall with gallant bearing
 Loyally he served her still:
Read her eyes and did their meanings
 Long before her lip had stirred,
Treasured all her lightest leanings,
 Noted every careless word,
Till his little wealth was vanished,
 And his thoughtful cheek was pale;
Then at last the fear he banished,
 And he told his loving tale.
Spake she then, "I know you fearless,
 "And I do believe you true;
"But my heart is free and careless,
 "And indeed I love not you."
Sadly then he shook the bridle,
 Sadly spurred his charger thence;
Oh! they sting from the heart's idol,
 Words of calm indifference.
Half a league from Marco's palace
 Sadly lived he summers three,
Full of love and free of malice,
 Bearing bitter poverty.
Bearing life too sad and sorry,
 But for one poor falcon's love;
Swifter never stooped at quarry,
 Better never came to glove.
Where the swan was up and flying
 She could fetch him from the sky,
When the swan lay torn and dying,
 Patiently she waited by.
So it fellthe lady's brother
 Sickened even to the death;
And she loved him more than other,
 Loved him better than her breath;
Thus she sat where he was lying,
 Talking gentle woman-talk,
Sudden spake he, deeply sighing,
 "Fetch me Frederigo's hawk;
"For her quick and merry playing
 "Bringeth back the smile to me;
"Sister mine, make no delaying
 "He would give his blood to thee."
Oh! it shamed her to be seeking
 Help of him in time of need,
But the sick boy's eager speaking
 Won her spirit to the deed.
At her lover's door alighted
 Blushing doubtfully she stands;
He, beyond compare delighted,
 Kneeling kissed his lady's hands:
She to find him loving-hearted
 Wondering exceedingly,
Sayeth, "For the days departed,
 I am come to sup with thee."
To the largest room he leadeth,
 Bringeth of his fruits the best;
But alas! his cottage needeth
 Banquet meet for Lady-guest.
Even as he pondered weeping,
 Weeping bitterly, I wist,
From the sky his falcon sweeping,
 Perched upon his master's wrist.
Fair she was, and glossy-feathered,
 Sleek and fat, with shining crest;
On his cheek the big tear gathered
 With the purpose of his breast.
Spake he then: "Beyond denying,
 "Best of birds that ever flew,
"Living serv'dst thou well, and dying
 "Better service thou shalt do."
So for one who loved him never
 Slew he what had loved him well:
Gianetta silent ever
 Feasted till the sunlight fell;
Then in accent faint and broken
 Told him all her brother's wish
Nothing hath the lover spoken,
 Only points he to the dish.
All at once the silken lashes
 Droop and quiver on her eyes,
All at once her fair cheek flashes,
 Flashes red with glad surprise.
Thrice and once her lips were parted,
 Thrice and once she strove to speak;
Sudden from her seat she started,
 And she kissed him on the cheek,
Kissed him fearlessly, and faltered:
 "Oh! if thou canst pardon me,
"If the old love lives unaltered,
 "Thusand thusI pay it thee."



Edwin Arnold


Edwin Arnold's other poems:
  1. The Division of Poland
  2. With a Bracelet in the Form of a Snake
  3. The Marriage
  4. The Alchemist
  5. The Rhine and The Moselle


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