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Poem by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The Lady of the Land

We were three voyagers in one ship,	
	Bertrand, Godfrey, and I; 	
And we lay off one of the Grecian isles	
	Under a summer sky.	
O, red are the stars in that foreign land,	
	And darkly blue the sea; 	
But to touch the shore of that Grecian isle	
	Hath ill befallen me.	
And O, beware that unholy isle,	
	Did Godfrey say to me; 	
For many a knight as brave as thou	
	Hath perished in yon sea.	
But to have seen a strange creature there	
	Those men did meet their doom;	
Nor priest nor funeral bell had they, 	
	Nor sacred oil nor tomb.	
What kind of creature be this, quoth I, 	
	Whom but to see be death?	
Then Godfrey, making the holy sign, 	
	Answered under his breath:	
Of noble race and name is she;	
	Of lineage old and grand; 	
And these islanders have surnamed her	
	The Lady of the Land.	
And erst she was a lovely maid, 	
	Sweet-voicd as mermaids song;	
But now a dragons shape she hath, 	
	A hundred fathoms long.	
And in a loathsome cave lies she,	
	And there shall stay, I wis, 	
Till a Christian knight shall ransom her	
	With brave and Christian kiss.		
Good sooth! I cried, that knight am I	
	To set that virgin free, 	
From the horrid shape which she doth wear 	
	By some foul sorcery.	
Then Sir Godfrey shook his head amain:	
	Many have vowed that vow; 	
Many good knights and true, quoth he:	
	Where be those champions now?	
Bravely they went to that maidens bower,	
	Bravely they calld her name; 	
But when they did see her horrid face	
	They fled, sans knightly shame.	
And each she followed along the rocks	
	Whither he fain would flee; 	
And each she seized in her ravening mouth,	
	And cast him in the sea.	
And O, she cried, is there neer a knight,	
	In all these goodly ships 	
I watch afar from my cavern-door,	
	Will kiss me on the lips?  	
Then out spake I, By all the red gold	
	Eer was carried in ships, 	
I will go straight to this hapless maid,	
	And kiss her on the lips.	
The sun was red in the stormy west 	
	O, red like blood was he  	
When I did climb the perilous steep	
	That frowneth oer the sea.	
And redder he shone as I came anigh	
	The cave where she did dwell; 	
Without that cavern twas red as blood,	
	Within twas black as hell.	
Boldly I entered that darksome cave,	
	But dragon none saw there, 	
Only a maid with an angels face	
	Combing her amber hair.	
Under the light of a silver lamp	
	She sat and combed her hair;			 	
Silent I watched her, in sore amaze	
	Because she was so fair.	
Then sudden she lookèd in her glass	
	And saw me standing there; 	
O, who art thou, sweet? cried I. Quoth she,	
	The Lady of the Land.	
And dost thou love me, dear? asked she. 	
	Better than life, quoth I. 	
Then hither come thou to-morrow eve,	
 	And kiss me tenderly.	
And thou must wait at my cavern-door	
	Till I come forth to thee; 	
But O, dear champion, thou must not fear 	
	The creature thou shalt see! 	
For though I come in a dragons shape,	
	No such dragon am I; 	
But only a maid whom the angry gods 	
	Have used despitefully.	
And O, I will be mine own true wife,	
	And love thee long and dear, 	
If thou do but kiss my ghastly mouth,	
	And never shrink for fear.	
Great store of treasure, and all this isle,	
	The harbour and the ships, 	
Shall be thine for aye if thou wilt dare	
	To kiss me on the lips,	
My troth I swore by all the saints,	
	And fain had kissed her then;	
But she thrust me forth from her cavern-door 	
	Till I should come again.	
So when the morrows sun went down, 	
	That darksome cave sought I,	
And there came a thing with two great eyen 	
	That glared exceedingly.	
Gramercy! it was a ghastly sight;	
	To flee had I good cause, 	
When she came forth from the cavern-door,	
	Clashing her bony jaws.	
Then a sudden fear laid hold on me,	
	And changed my blood to ice; 	
Aghast, I fled from that hideous thing	
	Adown the precipice.	
And the creature followed close behind	
	With eyen of crimson fire,	
And I fled amain till I neared my ship,	
	And O, my fears were dire!	
And when she saw that I did fly,	
	The creature, sooth, did wail; 	
But I got me back to the ship anon,	
	And at daybreak we set sail.	
And sithen that time, by night or day,	
	Nor rest nor sleep know I; 	
And my comrades look me in the face	
	And say I soon shall die.	


Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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