Count Gismond--Aix in Provence

Christ God who savest man, save most
  Of men Count Gismond who saved me!
  Count Gauthier, when he chose his post,
  Chose time and place and company
  To suit it; when he struck at length
  My honour, 't was with all his strength.
  And doubtlessly, ere he could draw
  All points to one, he must have schemed!
  That miserable morning saw
  Few half so happy as I seemed,
 While being dressed in queen's array
 To give our tourney prize away.

 I thought they loved me, did me grace
  To please themselves; 't was all their deed;
 God makes, or fair or foul, our face;
  If showing mine so caused to bleed
 My cousins' hearts, they should have dropped
 A word, and straight the play had stopped.

 They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen
  By virtue of her brow and breast;
 Not needing to be crowned, I mean,
  As I do. E'en when I was dressed,
 Had either of them spoke, instead
 Of glancing sideways with still head!

 But no: they let me laugh, and sing
  My birthday song quite through, adjust
 The last rose in my garland, fling
  A last look on the mirror, trust
 My arms to each an arm of theirs,
 And so descend the castle-stairs-

 And come out on the morning troop
  Of merry friends who kissed my cheek,
 And called me queen, and made me stoop
  Under the canopy-(a streak
 That pierced it, of the outside sun,
 Powdered with gold its gloom's soft dun)-

 And they could let me take my state
  And foolish throne amid applause
 Of all come there to celebrate
  My queen's-day-Oh I think the cause
 Of much was, they forgot no crowd
 Makes up for parents in their shroud!

 However that be, all eyes were bent
  Upon me, when my cousins cast
 Theirs down; 't was time I should present
  The victor's crown, but ... there, 't will last
 No long time ... the old mist again
 Blinds me as then it did. How vain!

 See! Gismond's at the gate, in talk
  With his two boys: I can proceed.
 Well, at that moment, who should stalk
  Forth boldly-to my face, indeed-
 But Gauthier? and he thundered "Stay!"
 And all stayed. "Bring no crowns, I say!

 "Bring torches! Wind the penance-sheet
  "About her! Let her shun the chaste,
 "Or lay herself before their feet!
  "Shall she, whose body I embraced
 "A night long, queen it in the day?
 "For honour's sake no crowns, I say!"

 I? What I answered? As I live,
  I never fancied such a thing
 As answer possible to give.
  What says the body when they spring
 Some monstrous torture-engine's whole
 Strength on it? No more says the soul.

 Till out strode Gismond; then I knew
  That I was saved. I never met
 His face before, but, at first view,
  I felt quite sure that God had set
 Himself to Satan; would who spend
 A minute's mistrust on the end?

 He strode to Gauthier, in his throat
  Gave him the lie, then struck his mouth
 With one back-handed blow that wrote
  In blood men's verdict there. North, South,
 East, West, I looked. The lie was dead,
 And damned, and truth stood up instead.

 This glads me most, that I enjoyed
  The heart o' the joy, with my content
 In watching Gismond unalloyed
  By any doubt of the event:
 God took that on him-I was bid
 Watch Gismond for my part: I did.

 Did I not watch him while he let
  His armourer just brace his greaves,
 Rivet his hauberk, on the fret
  The while! His foot ... my memory leaves
 No least stamp out nor how anon
 He pulled his ringing gauntlets on.

 And e'en before the trumpet's sound
  Was finished, prone lay the false knight,
 Prone as his lie, upon the ground:
  Gismond flew at him, used no sleight
 O' the sword, but open-breasted drove,
 Cleaving till out the truth he clove.

 Which done, he dragged him to my feet
  And said, "Here die, but end thy breath
 "In full confession, lest thou fleet
  "From my first, to God's second death!
 "Say, hast thou lied? "And, "I have lied
 "To God and her,"he said, and died.

 Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked
  -What safe my heart holds, though no word
 Could I repeat now, if I tasked
  My powers for ever, to a third
 Dear even as you are. Pass the rest
 Until I sank upon his breast.

 Over my head his arm he flung
  Against the world; and scarce I felt
 His sword (that dripped by me and swung)
  A little shifted in its belt:<
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Robert Browning

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"Count Gismond--Aix in Provence" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 31 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/30339/count-gismond--aix-in-provence>.

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