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“No, no !" cried the crowd of his varlets,
Waving with velvet and gold,
And tossing their banner's fringed fold.
The drummers, beginning to beat, Bid the trumpets sound quick for the mounting
Never sound to my ear was so sweet.
For the varlets were flocking round Richard,
To hurry him down from his seat;
Disdaining to back or retreat.
Made all the proud ears of them ring,
Rode into the tilt-yard the king.
Pale grew the lips of the vassals,
Sir Tracey turned colour, and frown'd, But the people, with scorn of oppression,
Hissed, and the hisses flew round; Then the king waved his hand, as for silence,
Stamp'd loud on the step of his throne, And bade the two rivals together
Dismount, and their errors disown.
“Ah ! this page is a rival for any,
And fit to break lance with his king; Let the gallants first meet in the tournay,
And afterwards ride for the ring." Dick stood at the feet of the monarch,
And bowed till his plume swept the ground; Then, clapping on helmet and feather,
Rode into the lists with a bound.
Sir Walter was silently waiting,
He shone like a statue of gold ;
Fell over his housing's red fold.
A device of his errantry shewing,
Any way that the wind might be blowing.
Dick lifted his eyes up and smil'd,
Oh ! it brought the blood hot to my cheek ; I could see from his lips he was praying
That God would look down on the weak. He seemed to be grown to his saddle,
I felt my brain tremble and reel, He moved like a fire-ruling spirit,
Blazing from helmet to heel.
The king gave the sign, and the trumpet
Seemed to madden the horses, and drive Them fast as the leaves in a tempest,
With a shock the tough iron would rive.
Leapt over the banners and flags,
Sat holding the quivering jaga.
Fresh lances ! “God's blessing on Dicky !"
A blast, and and in flashes they go ! “ Well broken again on his scutcheon !"
Again the wood snaps with the blow. Alas, for Sir Walter De Tracey !
His spear has flown out of his hand, Whilst over his bright-gilded crupper
He stretches his length on the sand.
One start ! he is up in a moment ;
His sword waves a torch in his grasp, Dick leaps from his foam-covered charger,
And springs with a clash to his clasp.-Sir Walter is shorn of his splendour,
His weather-cock beaten to dust, His armour has lost all its glitter,
And is dinted with hammer and thrust.
He reels, and Dick presses him sorely,
And smites him as smiths do a forge ; He reels like an axe-stricken cedar
He falls !-yes !--by God and St. George. Then, oh, for the clamour and cheering
That rang round the circling ring, As Dick, his blue feather gay blowing,
Knelt down at the foot of the king !
Then the king took the brightest of diamonds
That shone on his fingers that day,
And made him the Baron of Bray.
The jewels beat out of his chains,
With less of proud blood in his veins.
And they caught his mad froth-covered charger,
Who had torn off his housings of pearl,
And, downcast, his banner they furl.
When Dick of the Diamond sprang in,
He kissed me from brow unto chin.
I stuck his blue feather of honour
In the knots of my clustering hair, And knelt, ere I went to the banquet,
Thanking God for his sheltering care.
THE TOWN GATE.
In the dusky summer evenings,
When the light was growing dim;
Oft heard the distant hymn,
Moved over the dry scorched down,
At the sight of the stately town.
Soon, slowly through the dusky gate,
To the light that lay beyond, Trod all the dusty pilgrims,
Happy as men from bond ; Pointing out tower and steeple
To the boys with the palm-leaf crown, Chanting the songs of Zion,
To welcome the stately town.
The old men, tired and travel-worn,
Were telling tales of home ;
Of desert or sea-foam.
Though a few looked sadly down,
Entered the stately town.
In the dark midnights of winter,
Oft came, with bloody plume, With dinted helm and bleeding horse,
The trooper and the groom ; Red-hot from rout and rally,
“Once they were stricken down," Spurring, with wild and staring eyes, * Into the stately town.
In the merry April mornings,
The laughing players come ;
Another beats a drum :
And a boy in a woman's gown
As they enter the stately town. With a blaze of cloak and feather,
Of fluttering cloth of gold, Through the dull white fogs of autumn,
With crimson wreath and fold, Rode knights unto the tournay,
Trampling over the down, Grand as a cloud of summer,
Into the stately town.
Driven before the pikemen,
Half naked, pale, aghast, Flying like leaves of autumn
Before the chasing blast, Now hurry bleeding burghers,
Their gashed heads bending down, Urged on with shouts and curses,
Fast from the stately town.
In the dreadful year of famine,
When black Death moved about, Three livid, maddened creatures,
With groans and a shrieking shout, Ran naked through the gateway,
Their shorn heads bandaged down, From the red-crossed door left open,
To scare the stately town.
When bells shook every steeple,
And flags deck'd every roof;
Trapped with a purple woof,
With the massy keys knelt down ;
Swept into the stately town.
With clash and shock of drums,
Hoarse shouts and rabble hums,
His stern eyes looking down,
That filled the stately town.
THE JESTER'S SERMON.
THE Jester shook his hood and bells, and leaped upon a chair,
The page played with the heron's plume, the steward with his chain,
“Dear sinners all,” the fool began, “ man's life is but a jest,
Let no man haloo he is safe till he is through the wood;
The friar, preaching, cursed the thief (the pudding in his sleeve).
When the hungry curate licks the knife there's not much for the clerk ;
EARLY ENGLISH POETRY.*
“ Oh !” exclaims the reader, “ this is an antiquarian article; we need not cut the leaves; we have enough to do in this nineteenth century to read the leading article in the Times ; or, if we want poetry, there are Tennyson and Longfellow, without digging up the mouldering crudities of the reign of Edward III. We have no sympathy with the plodding Dryasdust, the laudator temporis acti, who values a coin not for its intrinsic worth, but for the rust with which it is overlaid.” By your leave, gentle reader, you mistake us altogether. We are not Dryasdust; we have as little sympathy as you with the mereantiquary; we never quarrel with a Victoria sovereign fresh from the mint ; but if we happen to meet with a Rose Noble of the reign of Edward III., the quaintness of the image and superscription does not prevent us from recognizing the ring of the sterling metal upon which they are stamped. If you never get beyond the large type in the T'imes, or Tennyson's last, we cannot expect to enlist your sympathies in the poetry of a century ago ; even Dryden must be a sealed book to you. But if you have at all profited by the instruction in the true principles of taste which we have been ever careful to provide for your improvement, you will introduce yourself to, and cultivate the closest intimacy with, genial, joyous, humorous, tender, old Geoffrey Chaucer.
It was in the days of our undergraduateship that we first became acquainted with him. We had made our escape for the vacation, from those long stories that Euclid tells about triangles and rhomboids, when, in the library of a country house, where we were on a visit, we happened to meet with Speght's black-lettered edition of 1604. The quaint wood-cut on the title-page, in which a knight is represented charging against the walls of a castle among lilies as high as the battlements, arrested our attention. We read a few lines of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, saying to ourself, “ I wonder what strange stuff
is this !" But it ended in our reading the folio through, in spite of all the difiiculties of black-letter, corrupt text, and incorrect punctuation. Andever since that time, when a winter evening hangs heavily on our hands; or when the still, sultry air of a summer's day invites to sit under the old medlartree on the grass-plot before our study window ; when the air is loaded with the perfume of the bean-fields, and the joyous laugh of the troop of peasant-girls who are weeding in the wheat comes mellowed by the distance ; or the harvest-horn is heard dismissing the reapers from their toil, we take down the old volume, and dream over the sweet pictures of English country-life and home-scenery—the stately dances of knights and ladies, or the gorgeous pageants and banquets of feudal magnificence, which the enchanter raises before our imagination with such life-like reality. Don't call us Dryasdust for loving old Geoffrey. It is because his pictures are so fresh-it is because the men and women who move before us on his page are the very men and women whom we have seen in the flesh in this year of our Lord, 1856whom we travel with in the rail-road carriage-whom we sit under at the proprietary chapel, or sit beside at the market-ordinary of the country town to which we resort on a Saturday--who do our little law-business for us in Westminster-hall, or act the lady-bountiful in our parish, that they never fail to secure our attention and command our sympathy, whether their mood be humourous or pathetic.
There is a healthy and genial tone about Chaucer's poetry and philosophy which disposes us to be pleased with the world in which we live ; and we are inclined to think that in this he caught the real aspect of nature. Discontent and misanthropy are the offspring of over-civilization. Chaucer always prefers the sunny side of nature. He delights in May mornings, gazes with rapture on the sloping lawns, the stately oaks, the daisy spreading its petals to the sun, the
Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Edited by Robert Bell. J. W. Parker and Son : London, 1854-5.