Louise Imogen Guiney

A Ballad of Kenelm

“In Clent cow-batch, Kenelm, King born,
Lieth under a thorn.”

It was a goodly child,
Sweet as the gusty May;
It was a knight that broke
On his play,
A fair and coaxing knight:
“O little liege!” said he,
“Thy sister bids thee come
After me.

“A pasture rolling west
Lies open to the sun,
Bright-shod with primroses
Doth it run;
And forty oaks be nigh,
Apart, and face to face,
And cow-bells all the morn
In the space.

“And there the sloethorn bush
Beside the water grows,
And hides her mocking head
Under snows;
Black stalks afoam with bloom,
And never a leaf hath she:
Thou crystal of the realm,
Follow me!”

Uplooked the undefiled:
“All things, ere I was born,
My sister found; now find
Me the thorn.”
They travelled down the lane,
An hour’s dust they made:
The belted breast of one
Bore a blade.

The primroses were out,
The aislèd oaks were green,
The cow-bells pleasantly
Tinked between;
The brook was beaded gold,
The thorn was burgeoning,
Where evil Ascobert
Slew the King.

He hid him in the ground,
Nor washed away the dyes,
Nor smoothed the fallen curls
From his eyes.
No father had the babe
To bless his bed forlorn;
No mother now to weep
By the thorn.

There fell upon that place
A shaft of heavenly light;
The thorn in Mercia spake
Ere the night:
“Beyond, a sister sees
Her crownèd period,
But at my root a lamb
Seeth God.”

Unto each, even so.
As dew before the cloud,
The guilty glory passed
Of the proud.
Boy Kenelm has the song,
Saint Kenelm has the bower;
His thorn a thousand years
Is in flower!

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