Poems of Sidney Lanier
Mary D. Lanier
BRIGHT shone the lists, blue bent the skies,
And the knights still hurried amain
To the tournament under the ladies' eyes,
Where the jousters were Heart and Brain.
Flourished the trumpets: entered Heart,
A youth in crimson and gold.
Flourished again: Brain stood apart,
Steel-armored, dark and cold.
Heart's palfrey caracoled gayly round,
Heart tra-li-ra'd merrily;
But Brain sat still, with never a sound,
So cynical-calm was he.
Heart's helmet-crest bore favors three
From his lady's white hand caught;
While Brain wore a plumeless casque; not he
Or favor gave or sought.
The herald blew; Heart shot a glance
To find his lady's eye,
But Brain gazed straight ahead his lance
To aim more faithfully.
They charged, they struck; both fell, both bled.
Brain rose again, ungloved,
Heart, dying, smiled and faintly said,
"My love to my beloved!"
CAMP FRENCH. WILMINGTON, N.C. May, 1862.
A-many sweet eyes wept and wept,
A-many bosoms heaved again;
A-many dainty dead hopes slept
With yonder Heart-knight prone o' the plain.
Yet stars will burn through any mists,
And the ladies' eyes, through rains of fate,
Still beamed upon the bloody lists
And lit the joust of Love and Hate.
O strange! or ere a trumpet blew,
Or ere a challenge-word was given,
A knight leapt down i' the lists; none knew
Whether he sprang from earth or heaven.
His cheek was soft as a lily-bud,
His grey eyes calmed his youth's alarm;
Nor helm nor hauberk nor even a hood
Had he to shield his life from harm.
No falchion from his baldric swung,
He wore a white rose in its place.
No dagger at his girdle hung,
But only an olive-branch, for grace.
And "Come, thou poor mistaken knight,"
Cried Love, unarmed, yet dauntless there,
"Come on, God pity thee!—I fight
Sans sword, sans shield; yet, Hate, beware!"
Spurred furious Hate; he foamed at mouth,
His breath was hot upon the air,
His breath scorched souls, as a dry drought
Withers green trees and burns them bare.
Straight drives he at his enemy,
His hairy hands grip lance in rest,
His lance it gleams full bitterly,
God!—gleams, true-point, on Love's bare breast!
Love's grey eyes glow with a heaven-heat,
Love lifts his hand in a saintly prayer;
Look! Hate hath fallen at his feet!
Look! Hate hath vanished in the air!
Then all the throng looked kind on all;
Eyes yearned, lips kissed, dumb souls were freed;
Two magic maids' hands lifted a pall
And the dead knight, Heart, sprang on his steed.
Then Love cried, "Break me his lance, each knight!
Ye shall fight for blood-athirst Fame no more!"
And the knights all doffed their mailèd might
And dealt out dole on dole to the poor.
Then dove-flights sanctified the plain,
And hawk and sparrow shared a nest.
And the great sea opened and swallowed Pain,
And out of this water-grave floated Rest!
MACON, GEORGIA, 1865.Page 230