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As over the barrier which bounded
His platform, and us who surrounded
The barrier, they reached and they rested
On space that might stand him in best stead :
For who knew, he thought, what the amazement,
The eruption of clatter and blaze meant,
And if, in this minute of wonder,
No outlet, imid lightning and thunder,
Lay broad, and, his shackles all shivered,
The lion at last was delivered ?
Ay, that was the open sky o'erhead !
And you saw by the flash on his forehead,
By the hope in those eyes wide and steady,
He was leagues in the desert already,
Driving the flocks up the mountain,
Or catlike couched hard by the fountain
To waylay the date-gathering negress :
So guarded he entrance or egress.
“ How he stands !” quoth the King: “we may well
(“No novice, we've won our spurs elsewhere
“And so can afford the confession)
“ We exercise wholesome discretion
“In keeping aloof from his threshold;
“ Once hold you, those jaws want no fresh hold,
“ Their first would too pleasantly purloin
“ The visitor's brisket or surloin :
“ But who 's he would prove so fool-hardy?
“ Not the best man of Marignan, pardie !”
The sentence no sooner was uttered,
Than over the rails a glove fluttered,
Fell close to the lion, and rested :
The dame 't was, who flung it and jested
With life so, De Lorge had been wooing
For months past; he sat there pursuing
His suit, weighing out with nonchalance
Fine speeches like gold from a balance.
Sound the trumpet, no true knight 's a tarrier!
De Lorge made one leap at the barrier,
Walked straight to the glove,—while the lion
Ne’er moved, kept his far-reaching eye on
The palm-tree-edged desert-spring's sapphire,
And the musky oiled skin of the Kaffir,—
Picked it up, and as calmly retreated, .
Leaped back where the lady was seated,
And full in the face of its owner
Flung the glove.
“ Your heart's queen, you dethrone her? “ So should I !"—cried the King—“'t was mere vanity, “ Not love, set that task to humanity !” Lords and ladies alike turned with loathing From such a proved wolf in sheep's clothing.
Not so, I; for I caught an expression
In her brow's undisturbed self-possession
Amid the Court's scoffing and merriment,-
As if from no pleasing experiment
She rose, yet of pain not much heedful
So long as the process was needful,-
As if she had tried, in a crucible,
To what “speeches like gold” were reducible,
And, finding the finest prove copper,
Felt smoke in her face was but proper ;
To know what she had not to trust to,
Was worth all the ashes and dust too.
She went out ’mid hooting and laughter;
Clement Marot stayed; I followed after,
And asked, as a grace, what it all meant ?
If she wished not the rash deed's recalment ?
- For I”—so I spoke—"am a poet :
“ Human nature,-behoves that I know it!”
She told me, "Too long had I heard “Of the deed proved alone by the word : “ For my love—what De Lorge would not dare ! “ With my scorn—what De Lorge could compare ! “ And the endless descriptions of death “ He would brave when my lip formed a breath, " I must reckon as braved, or, of course, “ Doubt his word—and moreover, perforce, “ For such gifts as no lady could spurn, “ Must offer my love in return. “When I looked on your lion, it brought “ All the dangers at once to my thought, “ Encountered by all sorts of men, “ Before he was lodged in his den,“ From the poor slave whose club or bare hands
Dug the trap, set the snare on the sands, • With no King and no Court to applaud, “ By no shame, should he shrink, overawed, “ Yet to capture the creature made shift, “ That his rude boys might laugh at the gift, “ —To the page who last leaped o'er the fence
“Of the pit, on no greater pretence
“ Than to get back the bonnet he dropped,
“ Lest his pay for a week should be stopped.
“So, wiser I judged it to make
“ One trial what 'death for my sake'
“Really meant, while the power was yet mine,
“ Than to wait until time should define ·
“ Such a phrase not so simply as I,
“ Who took it to mean just 'to die.'
“ The blow a glove gives is but weak:
“ Does the mark yet discolour my cheek ?
“ But when the heart suffers a blow,
“ Will the pain pass so soon, do you know?"
I looked, as away she was sweeping,
And saw a youth eagerly keeping
As close as he dared to the doorway.
No doubt that a noble should more weigh
His life than befits a plebeian;
And yet, had our brute been Nemean-
(I judge by a certain calm fervour
The youth stepped with, forward to serve her)
-He'd have scarce thought you did him the worst turn
If you whispered “ Friend, what you 'd get, first earn !”
And when, shortly after, she carried
Her shame from the Court, and they married,
To that marriage some happiness, maugre
The voice of the Court, I dared augur.
For De Lorge, he made women with men vie,
Those in wonder and praise, these in envy;
And, in short, stood so plain a head taller
That he wooed and won ... how do you call her?
The beauty, that rose in the sequel
To the King's love, who loved her a week well.
And 't was noticed he never would honour
De Lorge (who looked daggers upon her)
With the easy commission of stretching
His legs in the service, and fetching
His wife, from her chamber, those straying
Sad gloves she was always mislaying,
While the King took the closet to chat in,-
But of course this adventure came pat in.
And never the King told the story,
How bringing a glove brought such glory,
But the wife smiled—“His nerves are grown firmer :
“ Mine he brings now and utters no murmur.”
Venienti occurrite morbo !
With which moral I drop my theorbo.