An Arthurian Miscellany at sacred-texts.com
THE DEATH OF LANCEOR
The fight was over, and one shiver'd spear
Had dash'd to splinters 'gainst a coat of mail;
The other, crushing an opposing shield,
Had pierced the hauberk of a valiant knight
And let his brave life through a ghastly rent.
Upon the green hill-side Sir Lanceor fell,
No more in tournament or joust to strive;
And good Sir Balin gazed upon his foe,
And sadden'd that his hand had stretch'd him there,
Albeit in self-defence each blow was struck:
Yet well he knew he might not often meet,
In field or tourney, opponent so bold!
And while he lean'd upon his unsheathed sword,
Resting a moment after contest fierce,
Sudden from out the forest at his side
A fair, white palfrey, galloping with speed,
Bore to his feet a damsel full of grace,
Who, when she saw Sir Lanceor thus slain,
Alighted down, and made a tearful wail,
Clasping her arms about the stirless form,
Casting on Balin each upbraiding look,
Wounding his soul with frantic words of woe:
"Ah! not one life alone hast thou destroy'd,
Thou cruel knight that slew this love of mine!
Two hearts thy weapon shatter'd when it cast
This stalwart body on the trampled turf!"
She took the steel from out the dead man's hand,
And swoon'd in freeing thence the stiffen'd grasp;
And when she lifted up her pallid face,
All tear-bedew'd and framed in golden curls,
Sir Balin's thought was grieving passing sore
That thus his act should make a lady's dole.
He strove the slender fingers to untwine
From round the heavy hilt of Lanceor's blade;
But, lightly stepping from his careful hold,
Quickly she set the pommel on the ground,
And thrust her bosom on the shining point.
The ruby blood came gushing from her wound,
Like red wine spill'd from goblet made of pearl;
The gentle figure, white-enrobed, sank down,
Like to a stricken dove upon its nest;
The violet eyes reproach'd him for her death,
Then closed forever on her lover's breast.
Oh, matchless love of woman! Sure thou art
The only flower of Eden left to bloom
Amid the thorny thistles of real life,
Scenting the wayside with thy rich perfume,
Brightening with beauty common spots of earth!
"Alas!" said Balin, looking on the pair,
"Sorely repent I now this brave knight's death,
Because of her who loved him living so!
And yet methinks 'twere happiness to die,
In armor clad, doing one's right devoir,
With one we love to breathe their last, warm sigh
In sorrow out, surviving not our loss!"
While thus he mused aloud, on horseback came,
Riding apace, a dwarf from Camelot,
That wildly grieved above the lifeless twain.
Quoth good Sir Balin, "'Twas a sorry deed;
And yet himself gave challenge for the tilt!
No craven heart is mine to fly from foe,
And fate had will'd that one should linger here.
The damsel died for love of yon still knight,
And evermore I hold, for her sweet sake,
All womankind in highest, dear esteem!"
As thus they talk'd, King Mark of Cornwall rode
On gallant charger by the touching group,
And sorrow'd greatly for such true hearts dead,
Swearing with vows he would not stir from thence
Till he had raised above their dust a tomb.
Then, pitching his pavilion on the spot,
His squires sought through all the country round
To find a sepulchre would shrine them both;
And ere Sir Balin took his parting leave
Of Cornwall's generous sovereign, he had reared,
A monument right passing rich and fair,
Brought from some distant church, and rarely carved
And sculptured on the stone their name and fate:--
"Here lieth Lanceor, a valiant knight,
Prince Arthur's friend, and son of Ireland's king,
Kill'd by Sir Balin of the Table Round,
In lawful tilt upon the green hill-side;
And on his breast the ladye of his love
Sleepeth till judgment, slain by her own hand,
For very sorrow, with her lover's sword!
Pray for the souls, O gentle passer-by,
Of fair Colombe and brave Sir Lanceor!"
Next: The King and the Bard, by Sallie Bridges