Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Sir Hugh the Heron
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1843
Publisher: G. Polidori's Private Press
Printer: G. Polidori's Private Press

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Manuscript Addition: / To Olive Rossetti / with her Father's love / 1888.
Editorial Description: WMR's handwriting.



B Y G A B R I E L R O S S E T T I, J U N R.

    Scott's Marmion, Canto 1.


G. Polidori's Private Press,

15, Park Village East, Regent's Park.

(For Private Circulation only.)

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Manuscript Addition: Harley II / R7354s / / 1843
Editorial Description: not in DGR's handwriting
N.B. The following Tale is a versification, with consi-

derable additions, variations and omissions, of

a Border Romance, published under the same

title, the production (I believe) of the late

Allan Cunningham. The epoch is supposed

to be during the wars of the Roses.
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  • 'Twas midnight; on the slumbering wave
  • The moonbeams gently shone,
  • Where interposed a darksome cave
  • The placid scene upon.
  • The pirate band have launched their boats
  • Upon the waters blue;
  • Above the masts in silence floats
  • The banner of the crew.
  • From yonder chapel on the shore
  • 10 What sounds rise on the air?
  • The blessed Virgin they implore;
  • It is the voice of prayer.
  • Within there knelt a gallant knight,
  • And many a vassal bold;
  • The baron's armour glittered bright
  • With steel and ruddy gold.
  • And o'er his burnished hood of mail,
  • With pearls encircled round,
  • The heron plume was seen to trail
  • 20 And fall upon the ground.
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  • Beside him lay his blazoned shield,
  • Cast on the marble floor;
  • The heron on an azure field
  • Upon it seemed to soar.
  • And at his side, his trusty brand
  • Had many a conflict seen,
  • And many a strife, on border land,
  • Of death, where he had been.
  • Banners and shields adorn the walls,
  • 30 Trophies of battles won;
  • And armour, torn from Scottish halls
  • To shine those walls upon.
  • “What sounds invade my startled ear,
  • Borne on the midnight wind?
  • It is the clang of arms I hear:
  • Now shield me, Virgin kind!”
  • Thus spoke Sir Hugh; he braced his shield
  • And donned his helmet bright;
  • His sword around his head did wield,
  • 40 And stood prepared for fight.
  • The chapel door has opened wide,
  • And all who there did stand,
  • By torches high upheld, descried
  • The rover and his band.
  • Back starts their chief; his trembling frame
  • Expressed surprise and fright;
  • As, panting with desire for fame,
  • Forth rushed th' undaunted knight.
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  • “St. George! St. George!” that piercing shout
  • 50 Broke on the still midnight;
  • The pirates in a mingled rout
  • Betook themselves to flight.
  • “Strike for the Heron!” was the word,
  • And down upon the foe,
  • Foot to foot, and sword to sword,
  • They pressed with blow on blow.
  • The gallant knight their passage clogs;
  • None could his onset bide;
  • “Down with the sacrilegious dogs!”
  • 60 Resounds on every side.
  • And the rush of the steeds, and the sound of the blows,
  • And the battle's deafening yell,
  • And the armour which clanked as the warrior rose,
  • And rattled as he fell;
  • And the rushing sound of the murderous bolts,
  • Which rained like a storm of sleet,
  • And the moan of the fallen wretch who shrank
  • From the horses' prancing feet;
  • And the shrieks of the flying, and the prayers of the dying,
  • 70 As they rolled on their gory bed,
  • And the soldier's start at the sound of the dart,
  • As it whistled past his head;
  • And the clash of the sword, and the gathering word,
  • And the groans of wounded men,
  • And the voices loud of the struggling crowd
  • Re-echoed along the glen.

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  • The pirate chieftain sprang to horse,
  • He spared nor spur nor whip;
  • He dashed o'er many a comrade's corse,
  • 80 And gained his anchored ship.
  • The bold Sir Hugh has followed him
  • All through his desperate course;
  • As, straining every nerve and limb,
  • He spurred his flying horse.
  • And now his daring foot he placed
  • Upon the pirate's barge;
  • And from his arm, in desperate haste,
  • He cast his cumb'rous targe.
  • A moment—in his mighty hand
  • 90 His sword was gleaming high;
  • The leader of the rover band
  • Upon the deck doth lie.
  • Another moment—and the grasp
  • Of that fell pirate bold
  • Relaxes—and his dying gasp
  • His soul's departure told.
  • And there he stood, that noble knight,
  • Faint from the dubious fray;
  • While bloody from the recent fight
  • 100 His sword beside him lay.
  • Is it th' illusion of a dream,
  • Or weakness of his sight?
  • When from the vessel there doth seem
  • To rise a lady bright.
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  • She threw her trembling at his feet,
  • And clasped his knees in fear;
  • While down her countenance so sweet
  • There rolled full many a tear.
  • Sir Hugh he gently o'er her leant,
  • 110 And asked her of her name,
  • And by what fatal accident
  • 'Mongst those fierce men she came.
  • “I spring from a right noble stock,
  • And Beatrice my name:
  • My mansion on the castled rock
  • To me by lineage came.
  • “These rovers bore me from those walls
  • Far o'er the distant main;
  • And far from those ancestral halls
  • 120 I ne'er must see again.
  • “They rased my castle to the plain,
  • Such was my adverse fate:
  • My aged father they have slain,
  • And left me desolate.”
  • She said no more—with heaving breast
  • She wept aloud and sighed:
  • Her sobs her anxious fears expressed,
  • While thus the knight replied.
  • “Lady, I pray, thy grief dispel,
  • 130 Yon fortress strong is mine,
  • Where thou shalt be received well
  • As doth befit thy line.”
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  • He took her gently by the hand,
  • And raised her from the ground;
  • When there approached his little band
  • With drums' and trumpets' sound.
  • A knight advanced towards the sea,
  • Sir Aymer was his name;
  • The cousin of Sir Hugh was he,
  • 140 A knight of noble fame.
  • “Kinsman,” he said, “it was but now
  • I saw thee dealing death,
  • With flashing eyes and burning brow,
  • In fury on the heath.
  • “And now I find thee with this maid,
  • A stranger to our race;
  • The slaughter of thy foemen staid
  • To gaze upon her face.”
  • Sir Hugh replied not, but he led
  • 150 The lady up the hill,
  • And quickly to his castle sped,
  • Where she was safe from ill.
  • They brought the spoils into the hall,
  • In presence of the knight,
  • But there was none he prized of all
  • Like to that lady bright.
Transcribed Footnote (page 8): END OF PART THE FIRST.
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Sig. C

  • There is the bugle in Heron Hall,
  • And buckling spur and brand,
  • And banners snatched from off the wall
  • 160 To wave in a foreign land.
  • And many a noble lord was there,
  • And many a lady bright,
  • Who had come to speak a parting word
  • To her own devoted knight.
  • And the trampling chargers pawed the ground,
  • And neighed impatiently,
  • And the trumpet's brazen voice was heard,
  • And it sounded cheerily.
  • And the armour rang, and the soldiers sprang
  • 170 To horse right merrily,
  • And they laughed aloud in blithesome mood,
  • And they whistled joyously.
  • And the sun was bright with his glorious light,
  • And he cheered the little band,
  • And his beams did glance on every lance,
  • And gilded every brand.
  • And e'en the stern Sir Aymer smiled,
  • And smoothed his brow of gloom,
  • As the soft breeze kissed his rugged cheek,
  • 180 And tossed his dancing plume.
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  • Hugh Heron bent him from his steed,
  • And his face was ghastly pale,
  • And the sunbeams shone his helm upon,
  • And flashed against his mail.
  • And he stooped him near to his kinsman's ear,
  • And took his armed hand,
  • And, “I go,” he said, “with my banners spread,
  • To fight in a hostile land.
  • “My love for Lady Beatrice
  • 190 Thou hast not yet to learn,
  • Nor how she is to be my bride
  • Upon my safe return.
  • “I leave her in thy hands, my friend,
  • See thou protect her well,
  • And let not word, nor thought, nor act
  • Against thy charge rebel.
  • “But if foully thou betray the trust
  • Of thy friend beyond the sea,
  • The winds as they moan shall find a tone
  • 200 And bear the news to me.”
  • Thus saying, from the fortalice
  • His footsteps quick he wound:
  • “He's gone,” sobbed Lady Beatrice,
  • And fainted on the ground.

  • And oft she would mount to the rampart high
  • Which looked across the sea,
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  • And there she would watch the live long day,
  • And she watched right patiently.
  • And if she espied a coming sail
  • Her sorrow disappeared,
  • And she placed a light on the castle height,
  • 210 For she thought her prayers were heard;
  • And she would gaze with an anxious eye,
  • Till it vanished o'er the main,
  • And then her tears would flow once more,
  • When she found her hopes were vain.
  • One day she sat on the battlements,
  • And her heart was sick with care,
  • And her spirits sank within her breast,
  • She felt so lonely there.
  • And there came the plaintive sound of a harp,
  • 220 And a knock at the outer gate:
  • “A minstrel, maid,” Sir Aymer said,
  • “For speech with thee doth wait.”
  • He came—a venerable man,
  • With tedious travel worn;
  • He wandered from a Scottish clan,
  • His garments soiled and torn.
  • He sang of knights' and ladies' love,
  • Of tournament and dance;
  • What knight the best his truth did prove,
  • 230 Who couched the strongest lance.
  • “No more of this,” the lady said,
  • “Tell me of mortal fight;
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  • What warriors yielded up their breath,
  • And deemed the pain but light
  • “Compared to glorious victory
  • O'er their oppressive foes;
  • And there were proud that death to die,
  • To end their country's woes.”
  • The colour mantled to her cheek,
  • 240 Her voice it rose full high;
  • And when the bard began to speak,
  • A tear was in her eye.
  • “Lady,” he said, “I know of one,
  • Lord of these lands so wide;
  • He saved my bold and only son,
  • While fighting by his side.”
  • “Tell me of him,” exclaimed the fair,
  • “Him whom I love so well!”
  • And to a bold and martial air,
  • 250 His voice began to swell.
  • Towards the fatal field of Barnet*
  • Who fierce onwards spurs his steed?
  • Habited in sable harness,
  • Soon, alas! too soon to bleed!

Transcribed Footnote (page (12)):

* The battle of Barnet, at which the Lancastrians sus-

tained a signal defeat, was fought on Easter Day, April

14, 1471. I have caused the minstrel to commit the

mistake of representing Sir Hugh as falling in this battle,

in order to apprise the reader that his tale is a fabrication;

our hero being in France at the time.

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  • Forward prances bold his courser,
  • Proudly tossing high his head;
  • And his hoofs, as on he gallops,
  • Seem to spurn the earth they tread.
  • What arrests thine onward progress,
  • 260 Madly rushing towards thy fate?
  • Lo! a minstrel, old and hoary,
  • Riseth up from where he sate.
  • Backward starts th' affrighted charger;
  • Clutched the knight his trusty brand:
  • Wildly sounds that old man's lyre,
  • Touched by some unearthly hand.
  • Turn thee back, ere yet too late;
  • Tempt not, rashly bold, thy fate:
  • Dread the spell, and dread the tomb,
  • 270Warrior of the Heron Plume.
  • Many a knight on yonder field
  • Sword and spear shall cease to wield:
  • Many a one who scorned to yield
  • 'Mid heaps of dead shall lie concealed,
  • Pillowed on his shattered shield:
  • Many a widow while she kneels
  • Loud shall curse yon hated field,
  • Where, lying amid blood congealed,
  • Her much loved husband's fate was sealed
  • 280 On Barnet's gory plain.
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  • There shall fall full many a knight
  • In that most disastrous fight;
  • Many a man of martial might
  • Yonder shall to death be dight.
  • Sounds shall rise upon the night,
  • Sounds of that fierce battle's height.
  • 'Tis revealed to my sight
  • That, ere rise the morning light,
  • Fallen in the cause of right
  • 290 Shall many warriors lie.
  • And thou shalt fall among the slain;
  • The haughty victors shall not deign
  • One glance upon thy dying pain:
  • Thou, who had'st hoped thy spurs to gain,
  • And whilst around thee blows did rain
  • Thy firm position to retain,
  • And from the sword of some proud Thane
  • To save thy Prince upon that plain:
  • Proud hopes, alas! but all in vain,
  • 300 For thou shalt also fall.
  • Then turn back, ere yet too late;
  • Tempt not, rashly bold, thy fate;
  • Dread the spell and dread the tomb,
  • Warrior of the Heron Plume.
  • Ceased that wild unearthly warning,
  • Sunk the minstrel's upraised hand;
  • Pallid grew the knight with anger,
  • Glittering sparkled forth his brand.
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  • “From my path, thou doting wizard!
  • 310 Tempt not England's sons to dread!
  • Think not, by thy lying presage,
  • Thus to stay me,” fierce he said.
  • Wrapped the bard his mantle round him,
  • But his visage showed no fear;
  • Slowly, faintly, indistinctly,
  • 'Gan his form to disappear.
  • Round him glanced the knight in wonder,
  • But no object meets his eye;
  • Then, with rash and headstrong courage,
  • 320 Onward spurs his horse to fly.

  • There is strife on bloody Barnet,
  • After evening spreads her shade;
  • Warriors join, in deadly struggle,
  • Sounding shield and clashing blade.
  • Round the corpse of fallen Warwick
  • Clusters many a friendly band,
  • Proud to save their slaughtered leader
  • From th' insulting victor's hand.
  • Onward press the conquering Yorkists,
  • 330 Flushed with triumph and with rage;
  • Still their foes, unyielding, fearless,
  • The unequal warfare wage.
  • Forward sweeps the mighty Edward,
  • Laying low full many a man;
  • And the bloody minded Richard,
  • Fighting boldly in the van.
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  • Dreadful with their upraised axes,
  • On that mighty torrent sped:
  • The Lancastrians, faint and weary,
  • 340 Breathing still defiance, fled.
  • Downward on their sinking foemen
  • Fierce th' exultant victors swayed:
  • Ah! how many wretched widows
  • Has that fearful slaughter made!
  • Still, amid the falling squadrons,
  • Boldly fighting, stands a knight;
  • Still he faintly shouts his war cry,
  • Gory is his armour bright.
  • Fierce he wields his fatal weapon
  • 350 'Mid that scene of blood and gloom;
  • O'er his helm, in fallen grandeur,
  • Droops the lordly heron plume.
  • With his few surviving comrades
  • Bold he makes one final charge;
  • Desp'rate casts aside the weapons
  • With his strong and trusty targe.
  • Round them close their vengeful foemen,
  • Raising high their glittering blades:
  • Ah! alas! that fatal onslaught
  • 360 Has dismissed their daring shades.

  • Light hath dawned on bloody Barnet,
  • Gilding shattered sword and shield:
  • War horse fall'n and breathless rider
  • Lie upon that fatal field.
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Sig. D
  • There amid his butchered vassals,
  • Grasping yet his shattered brand,
  • Lies a knight; but fixed his features,
  • Powerless his mighty hand.
  • It is he who scorned the warning
  • 370 Of that hoary minstrel seer!
  • May his fate, so drear and awful,
  • Strike his haughty race with fear!
  • Far from his ancestral towers
  • Lies Sir Hugh the Heron bold;
  • Solely through his rash rejection
  • Of that prophet minstrel old.

  • Her bosom heaved—her heart beat high;
  • She gave her smothered sorrows vent;
  • And to her chamber, with a sigh,
  • 380 Her tottering footsteps faintly bent.

Transcribed Footnote (page (17)): END OF PART THE SECOND.
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  • At the hour of drear midnight
  • In yon chamber burns a flame,
  • Through the darkness glittering bright,
  • Lighting “deeds without a name.”
  • 'Tis the time when on the earth
  • Oft malignant fiends alight,
  • Revelling in demon mirth;
  • 'Tis the dread Walpurgis night.
  • Fanning oft their flickering blaze,
  • 390By those embers sits a man;
  • Fixed on them his earnest gaze,
  • Pale his haggard face and wan.
  • Round the chamber there are spread
  • Books of magic and of art;
  • Words were writ there, which, 'twas said,
  • Would restore the faithless heart:
  • Talismans of wondrous might—
  • Many a spell and amorous charm—
  • Philtres too, which, swift as light,
  • 400Would the coldest bosom warm.

Transcribed Footnote (page (18)):

† The incidents of this Part are supposed to take place

at the storming of a town during the French wars.

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  • Sudden from his task he starts—
  • Hark! the sound of armed feet!
  • Round a hasty glance he darts,
  • With the fear of death replete.
  • Through the chamber as he gazed,
  • Entered there an armed knight;
  • Quick his visor he hath raised,
  • Breathless from the mortal fight.
  • Rich his arms with sculptured gold,
  • 410Soiled and dim with many a stain;
  • Well his gory pole-axe told
  • Of the lives of foemen slain.
  • Many a blow that morn had rung
  • On his dinted shield and crest;
  • Stained with blood his surcoat hung,
  • Thrown across his armed breast.
  • “Show me quickly,” fierce he cried,
  • “My domains and feudal halls;
  • Let me see my promised bride,
  • 420Lone within the castle walls.”
  • Forth the seer has stretched his hand,
  • Muttering some unholy name;
  • Tracing circles with his wand,
  • Words from out his lips there came.
  • Fiercely stamping on the ground,
  • Loudly on the fiend he calls:
  • Answering low, a distant sound
  • On his anxious ear there falls.
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  • Then upon the stony floor
  • 530Quick his potent wand he cast:
  • With a hushed and far-off roar,
  • Through that chamber swept a blast.
  • And upon that blast there came
  • Words of more than mortal might:
  • Straight that ample room became
  • Darker than the blackest night.
  • Now the darkness partly clears,
  • And, where lately nought had been,
  • There a mirror vast appears,
  • 630Of the brightest crystal sheen.
  • Eager gazed the armed knight
  • On that glassy surface clear;
  • Dubious in the varying light,
  • Figures indistinct appear.
  • Backward starts the bold Sir Hugh
  • As those misty objects glide:
  • What he saw that wizard knew,
  • But no mortal soul beside.

  • Echoing rolls the distant thunder;
  • 640Lightning flashes, pelts the hail:
  • From the murky clouds, the demons
  • Loudly laugh, blaspheme, and wail.
  • Lo! where wildly, madly rushes
  • O'er the heath yon armed form!
  • Dashing through the entangled bushes;
  • Heedless of the raging storm.
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  • Bright his burnished armour flashes,
  • Ruddy in the lightning's glare:
  • Loudly screams the startled eagle,
  • 650Frighted from his rocky lair.
  • O'er the now dismantled barrier
  • Of the smoke-enshrouded walls,
  • Where some wretch, disarmed and wounded,
  • Faintly yet for mercy calls:
  • Where yon helpless maiden, flying
  • From some heartless villain's chase,
  • Plunges 'midst the blazing ruins,
  • Better than his foul embrace:
  • Through these scenes of blood and carnage
  • 660Fierce the knight pursued his way;
  • Under his resistless weapon
  • Many a foeman bleeding lay.
  • Swift he passed the burning city,
  • Leaving many a corpse behind;
  • And embarked for merry England,
  • Favoured by a friendly wind.
Transcribed Footnote (page (21)): END OF PART THE THIRD.
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  • Her eye gazed wildly on the cross; her thoughts were far away;
  • Unheeded o'er her marble cheek the tear-drops found their way;
  • Her listless fingers o'er her beads mechanically dart,
  • 670But a fire was burning in her brain, and the worm was at her heart.
  • And he was dead! the only tie that bound her yet to earth:
  • And he was dead! and all her hopes had withered in the birth:
  • More frequent were her stifled sobs, and deep-drawn came her breath,
  • And she felt a sickness at the heart, and a longing after death.
  • And in this world she was alone; this world so vast and wide!
  • To run her solitary course, with none her steps to guide:
  • Yes, there was one; and now to him she raised her streaming eyes,
  • And she felt her drooping soul rejoice, and her sinking spirits rise.
  • She prayed that still she might pursue the straight and narrow path,
  • 680Though fallen was her only friend, and desolate her hearth:
  • And that she might be brought to him, and might with him be blest,
  • “Where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.”
  • Poor Beatrice! she little thought that he might not be dead,
  • Nor dreamt she of the rising storm that gathered round her head;
  • She little thought that unto her, her guardian might incline,
  • Nor dreamt she that the tale she heard might favour his design.
  • Anon she heard an armed tread sound from the corridor,
  • Which stayed not in its onward course till it reached her chamber door;
  • And hastily she sat her down, and her panting heart beat high,
  • 690As she heard Sir Aymer access beg, and gave him her reply.

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  • But now she starts to see him kneel, beseeching at her feet;
  • The pressure of his hand to feel; his earnest gaze to meet.
  • “Ah! pardon,” cried th' empassioned knight, “the fault† thy charms dictate;
  • And do not with one fearful blight for ever seal my fate.”
  • The lady checked the rising tear; “Thy knighthood do not stain,
  • Betray not thus that friendship dear reposed in thee in vain.
  • Bethink thee of thy kinsman's love thou would'st so foully mar,
  • The while his loyalty to prove he fights in climes afar.
  • “And dread that kinsman's wrathful mood, if he return to see
  • 700Defeated thus his fond desire; his hopes deceived in thee.”
  • In vain she pleads; his brawny arm her waist encircled round;
  • The lady raised, in dire alarm, her voice with fearful sound.
  • “Fair Beatrice,” exclaimed the knight, “your cries are heard by none;
  • With horse and hound to the blythe greenwood my followers are gone;
  • Two trusty vassals only, love, are left to guard the door,
  • While their comrades bold, o'er the trackless wold, hunt down the tusky boar.
  • “Lady, I love thee to excess; oh yield to my desire!
  • Lady, the passion in my breast is like a raging fire—
  • And though rivals were thick as the acorns are, and with mail were covered o'er,
  • 710I'd make the pass good, as a noble should, and as oft I've done before.
  • “Perchance you have forgot that night, when the mirth was loud and long,
  • And the hall so bright was a blaze of light, and time sped fast along,
  • When all our nobles danced and sang, and the wassail bowl passed round,
  • And you mocked at me, as I sat apart, with my eyes bent on the ground.

Transcribed Footnote (page (23)):

† Sir Aymer is supposed, in the interval indicated by the asterisks, to have

disclosed to Beatrice the little ruse de guerre which he had employed.

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  • “'Twas my hopeless love which made me then sit silent and alone;
  • (Since I saw thee, fair Beatrice, my time has sadly flown:)
  • Then come unto these arms, dear love, and yield thee to my prayer,
  • And show that thou art kind, dear love, as kind as thou art fair.”
  • He cast his arm around her waist; he pressed her to his side;
  • 720He held her in his powerful grasp although she loudly cried:—
  • 730But hark! sure 'twas the clash of arms resounding from the shore!
  • He let go the maid, and forth gleamed his blade, as he hurried towards the door.

  • The heron plume waved o'er his brow; his sword was in his hand;
  • He pointed to his kinsman's blade with a gesture of command:
  • But fixed upon Hugh Heron was Sir Aymer's vacant stare;
  • He seemed not yet to comprehend that truly he stood there.
  • “Turn, recreant knight and faithless friend; turn, ere I strike thee dead;
  • Turn, ere my lawful vengeance fall upon thine impious head.”
  • They fought, till from their polished mail the blood came dropping down,
  • But still they combatted unmoved, and their swords went whirling round.
  • 740Sir Hugh has made a furious thrust, and grazed his kinsman's arm,
  • And from the wound, though small to sight, the blood came spouting warm;
  • Then fainter grew the wounded knight, till broken was his sword,
  • And from his injured kinsman he received his just reward.
  • Then stepped the knight to the lady bright, and took her beauteous hand;
  • “I knew thy danger, Beatrice, while yet in a far land:
  • And the first sound that I heard, love, when to my halls I came,
  • Was thy voice, love, raised in agony, and calling on my name.”
Transcribed Footnote (page (24)): THE END.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 1-1841.rad.xml
Copyright: Digital images courtesy of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.