The Song of Courtesy

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The Song of Courtesy

from: Once a Week (P. 30)  July 9, 1859

I.

 When Sir Gawain was led to his bridal bed,
 By Arthur's knights in scorn God-sped:
 How, think you, he felt?
   Oh, the bride within
Was yellow and dry as a snake's old skin;
   Loathly as sin!
   Scarcely faceable,
   Quite unembraceable;
With a hog's bristle on a hag's chin!
 Gentle Gawain felt as should we,
 Little of Love's soft fire knew he:
 But he was the Knight of Courtesy
 
II.

 When that evil lady he lay beside
 Bade him turn to welcome his bride,
 What, think you, he did?
   Oh, to spare her pain,
And let not his loathing her loathliness vain
   Mirror too plain,
   Sadly, sighingly,
   Almost dyingly,
 Turned he and kissed her once and again.
 Like Sir Gawain, gentles, should we?
 Silent, all!  But for pattern agree
 There's none like the Knight of Courtesy.
 
III.

 Sir Gawain sprang up amid laces and curls:
 Kisses are not wasted pearls:
 What clung in his arms?
   Oh, a maiden flower,
Burning with blushes the sweet bride-bower,
   Beauty her dower!
   Breathing perfumingly
   "Shall I live bloomingly,"
Said she, "by day, or the bridal hour?"
 Thereat he clasped her, and whispered he,
 "Thine, rare bride, the choice shall be."
Said she, "Twice bless'd is Courtesy!"
 
IV.

 Of Gentle Sir Gawain they had no sport,
 When it was morning in Arthur's court;
 What, think you, they cried?
   "Now, life and eyes!
This bride is the very Saint's dream of a prize,
   Fresh from the skies!
   See ye not, Courtesy
   Is the true Alchemy,
Turning to gold all it touches and tries?
 Like the true knight, may we
 Make the basest that be
 Beautiful ever by Courtesy!"