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His helm unloos’d, they recognize the face Of the best knight that ever bore disgrace, Now seeming dead, and gone to his long rest, In comfort cold of that hard-hearted vest.
The loveliest ladies kiss him as he lay,
Then watch the leech, who cuts his vest away,
And clears his wounds. The weeping dames
Linen and balms, and part his forlorn hair,
And let upon his face the blessed air.
Meanwhile the tidings to his mistress come,
Who clasps her hands and for a while is dumb;
Then owns the secret why the shift was sent,
But said he far exceeded what she meant.
Pale and despairing to the spot she flies,
Where in his death-like rest her lover lies,
And prays to be let in :—they let her in:
She sees his hands laid straight, and his pale chin,
Nor dares advance to look upon his face,
Till round her come the ladies of the place,
Who comfort her, and say she must complete
The cure, and set her in the nurse's seat.
All day she watch'd, all night, and all next day,
And scarcely turned her face, except to pray,
Till the third morn, when breathing with a moan,
And feeling the soft hand that clasped his own,
He woke, and saw the face that had not ceas'd
To haunt his thoughts, in forest or at feast,
Visibly present, sweet with begging fears,
And eyes that loved him through remorseful tears.
Ah! love is a soft thing; and bravest eyes
Might answer as his did, with wells of balmy rise.
What need I say? a loitering cure is his, But full of sweets, and precious memories, And whispers, laden from the land of bliss. Sir Hugo with the lark has left his bed; 'Tis June ; 'tis lovers' month; in short, they wed. But how? like other people, you suppose, In silks and state, as all good story goes.
The bridegroom did, and never look'd so well,
Not e’en when in the shift he fought pell-mell :
But the fair bride, instead of things that bless
Wedding-day eyes, displayed a marvellous dress,—
Marvellous, and homely, and in open sight ;
The people were so mov'd, they wept outright.
For lo! with hair let loose about her ears,
And taper in her hand the fair appears,
And naked feet, a rosy saint at shrift,
And round her bosom hangs the ruddy shift :
Tatter'd it hangs, all cut and carved to rags;
Not fairer droop, when the great organ drags
Its thunders forth, a church's hundred flags.
With glimmering tears she hastens to his feet,
And kneels, and kisses in the public street,
Then takes his hand, and ere she will arise,
Entreats for pardon at his gracious eyes ;
And hopes he will not scorn her love for life,
As his most humble and most honour'd wife.
Awhile her lord, with manly deference, stood Wrapt in the sweetness of that angel mood; Then stooped, and on her brow his soul impress’d, And at the altar thus the bride was dress'd.