The Rhyme of Joyous Garde

Through the lattice rushes the south wind, dense
With fumes of the flowery frankincense
From hawthorn blossoming thickly ;
And gold is shower'd on grass unshorn,
And poppy-fire on shuddering corn,
With May-dew flooded and flush'd with morn,
And scented with sweetness sickly.
 
The bloom and brilliance of summer days,
The buds that brighten, the fields that blaze,
The fruits that ripen and redden,
And all the gifts of a God-sent light
Are sadder things in my shameful sight
Than the blackest gloom of the bitterest night,
When the senses darken and deaden.
 
For the days recall what the nights efface,
Scenes of glory and seasons of grace,
For which there is no returning—
Else the days were even as the nights to me,
Now the axe is laid to the root of the tree,
And to-morrow the barren trunk may be
Cut down—cast forth for the burning.
 
Would God I had died the death that day
When the bishop blessed us before the fray
At the shrine of the Saviour's Mother ;
We buckled the spur, we braced the belt,
Arthur and I—together we knelt,
And the grasp of his kingly hand I felt
As the grasp of an only brother.
 
The body and the blood of Christ we shared,
Knees bended and heads bow'd down and bared,
We listened throughout the praying.
Eftsoon the shock of the foe we bore,
Shoulder to shoulder on Severn's shore,
Till our hilts were glued to our hands with gore,
And our sinews slacken'd with slaying.
 
Was I far from Thy Kingdom, gracious Lord,
With a shattered casque and a shiver'd sword,
On the threshold of Mary's chapel ?
Pardie ! I had well-nigh won that crown
Which endureth more than a knight's renown,
When the pagan giant had got me down,
Sore spent in the deadly grapple.
 
May his craven spirit find little grace,
He was seal'd to Satan in any case,
Yet the loser had been the winner ;
Had I waxed fainter or he less faint,
Then my soul was free from this loathsome taint,
I had died as a Christian knight—no saint
Perchance, yet a pardon'd sinner.
 
But I strove full grimly beneath his weight,
I clung to his poignard desperate
I baffled the thrust that followed,
And writhing uppermost rose, to deal,
With bare three inches of broken steel,
One stroke—Ha ! the headpiece crash'd piecemeal,
And the knave in his black blood wallow'd.
 
So I lived for worse—in fulness of time,
When peace for a season sway'd the clime,
And spears for a space were idle ;
Trusted and chosen of all the court,
A favoured herald of fair report,
I travell'd eastward, and duly brought
A bride to a queenly bridal.
 
Pardie ! 'twas a morning even as this
(The skies were warmer if aught, I wis,
Albeit the fields were duller ;
Or it may be that the envious spring,
Abash'd at the sight of a fairer thing,
Wax'd somewhat sadder of colouring
Because of her faultless colour).
 
With her through the Lyonesse I rode,
Till the woods with the noontide fervour glow'd,
And there for a space we halted,
Where the intertwining branches made
Cool carpets of olive-tinted shade,
And the floors with fretwork of flame inlaid
From leafy lattices vaulted.
 
And scarf and mantle for her I spread,
And strewed them over the grassiest bed
And under the greenest awning,
And loosen'd latch and buckle, and freed
From selle and housing the red roan steed,
And the jennet of swift Iberian breed,
That had carried us since the dawning.
 
The brown thrush sang through the briar and bower,
All flush'd or frosted with forest flower
In the warm sun's wanton glances ;
And I grew deaf to the song bird—blind
To blossom that sweeten'd the sweet spring wind—
I saw her only—a girl reclined
In her girlhood's indolent trances.
 
And the song and the scent and sense wax'd weak,
The wild rose withered beside the cheek
She poised on her fingers slender ;
The soft spun gold of her glittering hair
Ran rippling into a wondrous snare,
That flooded the round arm bright and bare,
And the shoulder's silvery splendour.
 
The deep dusk fires in those dreamy eyes,
Like seas clear-coloured in summer skies,
Were guiltless of future treason ;
And I stood watching her, still and mute
Yet the evil seed in my soul found root,
And the sad plant throve, and the sinful fruit
Grew ripe in the shameful season.
 
Let the sin be mine as the shame was hers,
In desolate days of departed years
She had leisure for shame and sorrow—
There was light repentance and brief remorse,
When I rode against Saxon foes or Norse,
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Adam Lindsay Gordon

Adam Lindsay Gordon was an Australian poet, jockey and politician. more…

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"The Rhyme of Joyous Garde" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 4 Jul 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/183/the-rhyme-of-joyous-garde>.

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