The Troubadour. Canto 2 A (Preparation for battle)

Letitia Elizabeth Landon 1802 (Chelsea) – 1838 (Cape Coast)

THE first, the very first; oh! none
Can feel again as they have done;
In love, in war, in pride, in all
The planets of life's coronal,
However beautiful or bright,--
What can be like their first sweet light?

When will the youth feel as he felt,
When first at beauty's feet he knelt?

As if her least smile could confer
A kingdom on its worshipper;
Or ever care, or ever fear
Had cross'd love's morning hemisphere.
And the young bard, the first time praise
Sheds its spring sunlight o'er his lays,
Though loftier laurel, higher name,
May crown the minstrel's noontide fame,
They will not bring the deep content
Of his lure's first encouragement.
And where the glory that will yield
The flush and glow of his first field
To the young chief? Will RAYMOND ever
Feel as he now is feeling?--Never.

The sun wept down or ere they gain'd
The glen where the chief band remain'd.

It was a lone and secret shade,
As nature form'd an ambuscade
For the bird's nest and the deer's lair,
Though now less quiet guests were there.
On one side like a fortress stood
A mingled pine and chesnut wood;
Autumn was falling, but the pine
Seem'd as it mock'd all change; no sign
Of season on its leaf was seen,
The same dark gloom of changeless green.
But like the gorgeous Persian bands
'Mid the stern race of northern lands,
The chesnut boughs were bright with all
That gilds and mocks the autumn's fall.

Like stragglers from an army's rear
Gradual they grew, near and less near,
Till ample space was left to raise,
Amid the trees, the watch-fire's blaze;
And there, wrapt in their cloaks around,
The soldiers scatter'd o'er the ground.

One was more crowded than the rest,
And to that one was RAYMOND prest;--
There sat the chief: kind greetings came
At the first sound of RAYMOND'S name.
'Am I not proud that this should be,
Thy first field to be fought with me:
Years since thy father's sword and mine
Together dimm'd their maiden shine.
We were sworn brothers; when he fell
'Twas mine to hear his last farewell:
And how revenged I need not say,
Though few were left to tell that day.--

Thy brow is his, and thou wilt wield
A sword like his in battle-field.
Let the day break, and thou shalt ride
Another RAYMOND by my side;
And thou shalt win and I confer,
To-morrow, knightly brand and spur.'

With thoughts of pride, and thoughts of grief,
Sat RAYMOND by that stranger chief,
So proud to hear his father's fame,
So sad to hear that father's name,
And then to think that he had known
That father by his name alone;
And aye his heart within him burn'd
When his eye to DE VALENCE turn'd,
Mark'd his high step, his warlike mien,--
'And such my father would have been!'

A few words of years past away,
A few words of the coming day,
They parted, not that night for sleep;
RAYMOND had thoughts that well might keep
Rest from his pillow,--memory, hope,
In youth's horizon had full scope
To blend and part each varied line
Of cloud and clear, of shade and shine.
--He rose and wander'd round, the light
Of the full moon fell o'er each height;
Leaving the wood behind in shade,
O'er rock, and glen, and rill it play'd.

He follow'd a small stream whose tide
Was bank'd by lilies on each side,
And there, as if secure of rest,
A swan had built her lonely nest;
And spread out was each lifted wing,
Like snow or silver glittering.
Wild flowers grew around the dale,
Sweet children of the sun and gale;
From every crag the wild vine fell,
To all else inaccessible;
And where a dark rock rose behind,
Their shelter from the northern wind,
Grew myrtles with their fragrant leaves,
Veil'd with the web the gossamer weaves,
So pearly fair, so light, so frail,
Like beauty's self more than her veil.--

And first to gaze upon the scene,
Quiet as there had never been
Heavier step than village maid
With flowers for her nuptial braid,
Or louder sound than hermit's prayer,
To crush its grass or load its air.
Then to look on the armed train,
The watch-fire on the wooded plain,
And think how with the morrow's dawn,
Would banner wave, and blade be drawn;
How clash of steel, and trumpet's swell,
Would wake the echoes of each dell.
--And thus it ever is with life,
Peace sleeps upon the breast of Strife,
But to be waken'd from its rest,
Till comes that sleep the last and best.

And RAYMOND paused at last, and laid
Himself beneath a chesnut's shade,
A little way apart from all,
That he might catch the waterfall,
Whose current swept like music round,—
When suddenly another sound
Came on the ear; it was a tone,
  Rather a murmur than a song,
As he who breathed deem'd all unknown
  The words, thoughts, echo bore along.
Parting the boughs which hung between,
Close, thick, as if a tapestried screen,
RAYMOND caught sight of a white plume
Waving o'er brow and cheek of bloom;
And yet the song was sad and low,
As if the chords it waked were woe.

SONG OF THE YOUNG KNIGHT.

YOUR scarf is bound upon my breast,
Your colours dance upon my crest,—
They have been soil'd by dust and rain,
And they must wear a darker stain.

I mark'd thy tears as fast they fell,
I saw but heard not thy farewell,
I gave my steed the spur and rein,—
I dared not look on thee again.

My cheek is pale, but not with fears,
And I have dash'd aside my tears;
This woman's softness of my breast
Will vanish when my spear's in rest.

I know that farewell was our last,
That life and love from me are past;
For I have heard the fated sign
That speaks the downfall of our line.

I slept the soldier's tired sleep;
But yet I heard the music sweep,
Dim, faint, as when I stood beside
The bed whereon my father died.

Farewell, sweet love! never again
Will thine ear listen to the strain
With which so oft at midnight's hour
I've waked the silence of thy bower.

Farewell! I would not tears should stain
Thy fair cheek with their burning rain:
Tears, sweet! would an ill offering be
To one whose death was worthy thee.

  ————

  RAYMOND thought on that song next day
When bleeding that young warrior lay,
While his hand, in its death-pang, prest
A bright curl to his wounded breast.
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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