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Poem by Menella Bute Smedley

The Captivity of Coeur de Lion


In the realm of sunny Palestine,
Realm of the rose, the palm, the vine,
The warrior-king hath fought;
And the valour of his strong right hand
Free passage through that hallow'd land
For Christian men hath wrought.
Now may the pilgrim fearless tread
The spot that held his Saviour dead,
And fearless kneel to pay
His vows before that sacred shrine,
In the land of sunny Palestine,
Where Christians love to pray.
And the warrior-king hath won him fame,
A mighty and a glorious name
Is his, the wide world through;
For his deeds on that far eastern shore,
Done in a righteous cause, seem more
Than man alone might do.

A generous knight he was, who strove
For fame, and piety, and love,
Not for base earthly gain:
He saw his comrades share the spoil
Won by his valour and his toil,
With careless, calm disdain.
Enough it was for him to feel
That for his God he drew his steel,
And for his faith was bold;
And he thought one smile so gently bright,
Given by his lady to her knight,
Was worth a world of gold.
And he knew that he should leave behind
The legacy to all mankind
Of an undying name;
A name to thrill the brave, and make
The very coward's heart awake
To not ignoble shame.
And now, his toils and dangers o'er,
Joyous he quits that eastern shore;
Oh, let him journey fast!
For his eager heart with hope doth beat,
He pants once more to set his feet
On England's soil at last.
Yet are there foes upon his way
To strike, beleaguer, and waylay;
The promise-breaking Greek,
The lord of France's lovely land,
And Austria's duke, as strong of hand
As he of wit is weak.

In a Templar's garb the king is drest,
The white cross gleams upon his breast:
Safe in this strange disguise
He hopes to join his lady dear,
And read his welcome in the tear
That bathes her gentle eyes.
Look forth, look forth from England's shore!
Look forth, look forth, the far seas o'er!
When will his swift bark come?
Oh, swift and sure the bark should be
Which bears across the willing sea
Our wanderer to his home!
Take up, take up the strain of grief!
Lost is our warrior and our chief!
Foes lurk'd upon his path.
Nor close disguise, nor linkèd mail,
Nor faith, nor chivalry avail
To save him from their wrath.
Captive he is; but to what foe,
Alas, his English do not know!
A dark and sunless gloom
Hath closed above that noble head,
As closeth o'er the newly dead
The cold and changeless tomb!


I was a king of fearless might,
I was a warrior and a knight,
My soul was like the morning light,
So sparkling in its buoyancy!
I am a captive sad and lone,
And all my glorious things are gone,
Except the heart that is mine own,
Unchanging in its royalty!
The sword that I was wont to wield,
The dancing plume, the knightly shield,
The clarion calling to the field,
Are lost to my captivity!
The crown that I was wont to wear,
The robe of pride, the sceptre fair,
These are not mine, though mine they were,
Gone are the signs of majesty!
Oh, that I were a simple hind,
Slavish in toil, and weak in mind,
So I might feel the morning wind
Sweep o'er my forehead joyously!
Oh, that I were a village maid,
To weeping prone, of wars afraid,
So I might tread the mossy glade,
Unthinking and at liberty!
The rills along my native plains
Are murmuring forth their gladsome strains;
And the gay breeze that scorneth chains
Is blowing fresh and wantonly!
The birds that skim my native air
Are pouring forth sweet music there;
The woods are green, the hills are fair,
While I am in captivity!
My strength is worn, my spirits sink,
My heart does every thing but shrink;
Alas, my people, do ye think
Upon your king regretfully?

My queen,
my wife, my lady! thou
Of the blue eye and dazzling brow,
Say, art thou weeping for me now,
In sad and patient constancy?
Do ye remember me? Oh, fast
The weary months are gliding past:
Will they bring liberty at last?
Or have ye all forgotten me?
Ah, friends! if ye were thus distress'd,
Thus chain'd, insulted, and oppress'd,
Ye would not find this faithful breast
So careless of your memory!
Ah, lady! did a tear but steep
Those moonlight eyes, so still and deep,
Here is a heart, ere thou shouldst weep,
That would rejoice to die for thee!
Hard is the lesson I must learn,
How changeless faith meets false return;
The love I give I cannot earn
As strong in its fidelity!
My God, for Thee my sword I drew;
Thy foes my strong arm overthrew;
Oh, do not Thou forget me too;
Give aid in mine extremity!
Upon Thy love my heart shall lean
Even in my dungeon's gloomy scene;
Forgotten by my friends and queen,
In Thee I find sufficiency!


We have lost our hero-monarch, our lion-king is ta'en,
Around his free and knightly limbs is bound the shameful chain;
The eye which used to marshal us is waxing faint and dim,
For the light of day, which shines on us, is shut and barr'd from him.
Alas, alas, for England! our princely chief is lost;
And powerless is the mighty arm that hath struck down a host;
Our people hath no ruler, no tenant hath our throne;
And we know not where the enemy hath laid our glorious one.
We have follow'd him to battle in the far-off eastern climes;
We have watch'd his matchless valour a thousand, thousand times;
We have seen the humbled Saracen kneel low to kiss his robe;
For his fame hath but one limitthe limit of the globe!
For his coronal of glory he won the brightest gem
Where the stately palms are circling thy land, Jerusalem!
The very air that fans thy domes is vocal with his name,
And the pale cheek of each infidel pays tribute to his fame.
His eye was like the lightning, his arm was like its stroke,
When it shivers into shapeless dust the gnarl'd and massy oak;
His voice was like a trumpet with a challenge in its tone,
Yet sweet as the wild lark that sings in field and forest lone.
But now there is a fetter on that firm and noble hand,
And mute is that imperial voice whose accent was command;
That eye of bright authority is waxing faint and dim,
For the beams of day, the breath of mornall, all are barr'd from him!
Oh, is it wily Philip who hath wrought thee this mischance,
Because thine English banner did outstrip the flag of France?
Or is it specious Burgundy, that soft and carpet-knight,
Because thy foot hath ever been before him in the fight?
Or is it craven Austria, who plann'd the false surprise,
In vengeance for the lofty scorn of thine undaunted eyes?
Well hath thy soul disdain'd him, and well thine eye hath spurn'd
The canning envy of the base, which in his spirit burn'd.
Out on thee, recreant Austria! in battle thou wouldst be
Full glad to sue for mercy to the Lion on thy knee;
Thou art not meet to serve him as a squire or as a slave;
Alas, that craft and dastardy prevail against the brave!
We have sheath'd our useless weapons, we have flung our helmets down,
Our steeds are uncaparison'd, our clarions are unblown;
Why should the joyous clarion sound, to cheer us on the foe?
Thou art not here to marshal us, so wherefore should we go?
All powerless are thy warriorsthey know not where thou art;
They can but lock thy bitter wrongs within each burning heart;
For thee the minstrel only his lay of mourning sings,
Thou monarch of all heroes! thou hero among kings!


A minstrel cross'd the summer sea,
With haste that never tarried;
A sword upon his thigh had he,
And a golden lute he carried.
He wander'd east, he wander'd west,
The way was long and dreary;
But the minstrel never paused to rest,
Though faint he grew, and weary.

On, on he went, by night, by noon,
His eager steps renewing,
On, when the calm and peaceful moon
To sweet repose was wooing.
Where'er a castle to the skies
Its haughty front was raising,
The minstrel paused with anxious eyes,
As though his heart were gazing.
He paced the battled walls around,
Beneath fair banners flying;
He struck his lute of silver sound,
And seem'd to wait replying.
He sang a wild, unfinish'd lay;
Then paused, his sad head shaking,
He turn'd and went upon his way,
As though his heart were breaking.
Who is the minstrel? late and long
He roams, to no man speaking;
'Tis Blondel, 'tis the prince of song,
His captive master seeking!
Lo, to a lonely tower and grey
Once more the bard advances;
Once more his eyes the wall survey
With sad and asking glances.
Hark to his strain! how changed and low
Upon the ear 'tis stealing;
Its notes give language to the woe
Which his sad heart is feeling.
Oft hath he waked that strain before,
By dames and lords surrounded,
When Richard, skill'd in minstrel lore,
His lute, in answer, sounded.
Each courtier-critic smooth'd his brow
When that voice and lute were blended;
Ah, if those lov'd sounds answer now,
His minstrel's search is ended!

Blondel's Song

Two brothers once did weeping part
On the edge of the sea so blue;
The one was fair and false of heart,
The other was gallant and true.
The true knight sail'd to a distant strand
For the holy cross to fight;
The false knight seized his wealth and land,
And revell'd from morn till night.
Like a prince he sate in his hall of state,
And his vassals came at his word,
Their homage they paid and their suits they made
As though he had been their lord.
There came a stranger into the hall,
And spake, on bended knee,
Sir baron, art thou the lord of all
The lands that around I see?

The minstrel paused; but hark! but hark!
Is it the wild wind sighing?
'Tis a voice of power from the old grey tower
To the minstrel's voice replying!

[Blondel's song continued]

I am their lord, the false knight cried,
With a glance of scorn and a smile of pride
Pride in his own disgrace.
His head the stranger slowly raised
It was a brother's eye that gazed
Upon the traitor's face.
Loud rose the vassals' joyous shout,
While the craven lord, in fear and doubt,
Down from his throne did come.
Oh! is it thus, his brother cried,
Opening his arms of pardon wide,
Thou giv'st me welcome home?
Ah, what revenge can ever be
So sweet as pardon full and free?
No more! Though strong and clear
The king's voice sounded on the blast,
His minstrel's tears broke forth so fast
That the words he could not hear!

He is found! he is found! the minstrel cries,
With a faltering voice, and with streaming eyes;
My hero! my king! I have found thee now,
Though I must not gaze on thy glorious brow.
That voice, that voice! I have heard it oft,
When the banners waved in the skies aloft;
And it rang through the air like a summons high,
Nerving the hearts of the brave to die!
God bless thee! God cheer thee! oh, sink thou not
Under the weight of thy woful lot!
I seek thine England, thine isle of the sea,
Thy home which hath never forgotten thee!
My voice to her farthest shores shall ring,
And tell the land of her captive king;
And thy chains shall be broken, and thou shalt be
Again in the land of thy fathers, free!
Then let not the beauty of hope depart
Out of the depths of thy lion heart;
Think on thy God in thy lonely cell!
His blessing be on thee! my chief, farewell!

Mute is the bard's exulting tone,
And the captive king is left alone;
But past were grief, and fear, and gloom
Away from his narrow prison-room.
All joyous is the place, and bright
With his own heart's reflected light;
Sweet tears are in his warrior eye,
For he thinks on faith and loyalty.
His queen is weeping for his lot;
His English hearts forget him not:
And hope, and strength, and patience, now
Resume their throne upon his brow.


Shout forth for joy, old Englandour noble king is come!
God bless thee, generous Richard, oh, welcome, welcome home!
Long hast thou been a captive, and long thine isle hath mourn'd;
Long, long thy queen hath wept for thee, but now thou art return'd.
There's rejoicing in the palace, there is gladness in the cot;
There is no lip of prince, or peer, or serf, that smileth not;
For our hero is come back to us, our noble king is come:
God bless thee, lion-hearted one! oh, welcome, welcome home!
The queen look'd from her chamber, she look'd toward the sea,
Oh, where is now the gallant bark that brings my love to me?
When she heard that bark was coming she donn'd her best array,
And she went in joyous eagerness to meet him by the way.
Down to the shore she hurried, no word her haste might check,
She cast herself into his arms, she wept upon his neck,
Crying, Hail to thee, mine only one! thank God that thou art come!
My hero and my husband, oh, welcome, welcome home!
Prince John beheld his brother: at first he thought to fly,
For he knew he was a traitor, and he dared not meet that eye;
Yet he turn'd to sue for mercy, he kneel'd upon his knee,
For Christ's dear sake, my brother, I pray you pardon me!
I forgive thee, said the hero, with a glance of calm regret;
Forget not thou my pardon, as I thy fault forget.
God bless thee, thou forgiving one, for mercy art thou come;
Our generous-hearted hero, oh, welcome, welcome home!
Rejoice, rejoice, old England, exult from shore to shore!
Thy hero is come back again, thy day of grief is o'er!
Oh, base and cruel were the hands that bound him in a chain;
He hath shaken off those fetters, as the lion shakes his mane!
He is come to those who love him,our own, our noble king;
Our hearts unfold to hail him, like buds to hail the spring.
Come forth, come forth to meet him! thank God that he is come!
Our free and fearless-hearted one, oh, welcome, welcome home!

Menella Bute Smedley

Menella Bute Smedley's other poems:
  1. Jack and Ned
  2. The Painter
  3. The Shadow from the Valley
  4. A Contrast
  5. A Letter

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