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Sir Uwaine's Daughter
Sir Uwain was a noble Knight,
His only son was Hugo hite.
His lovely daughter Leontine,
Full tall she was and strong withal.
I' all the sports of venarie,
She much excelled, all men agree.
The Monarch of the Woods she'd chase;
She pulled her bow string and with a grace
A yard shaft shot, with careful art
And struck the red stag in the heart.
At swordsmanship, this Ladie tall
Would practise in the armour hall.
"O would I were a man," said she,
"Then I a belted Knight would be."
But Hugo was of gentler mind;
And as a woman, passing kind.
Full timorous, by trifles scared,
Few manly games or sports he dared
To practise: he a weakling proved
And Uwaine's heart to anger moved.
When he a Red Cross Knight became,
He little thought of praise or fame
His armour well must guarded be,
Ere he should gain a Knight's degree,
All lonely, fearing, he must guard
His armour, though he found it hard!
The bats and mice and crickets all--
Poor wretch, his little soul appal.
And every shadow seemed to him
A fearful spectre, tall and grim.
At Camelot Towers, tall and high,
King Arthour a tournament let cry.
Knights and Ladies of high degree
Came flocking from many a far countree.
And Hugo must go, or else shall he
A coward be called and shaméd be.
"Ah, Sister," he said, "I fear to go!
For that I must be slain, full well I know."
Then rose the beauteous Leontine,
"Be not afraid, O! brother mine.
O! would to God, I a man might be,
And join in the games of chivalry.
But I am a maid and they think that I
Should content me with weaving tapestry."
He kneeled at her feet, with bowëd head
Saying, "Sister, ah, would that I were dead.
I never was made to fight in mail,
My knees will tremble, my heart will fail;
And, in the end, O sister mine,
I shall dishonour a noble line."
Quoth Leontine, "By our sainted dead!
I will don armour in your stead!"
"Nay, dear sister, that cannot be!"
But she tossed her hair, till it floated free--
She laughed, for a while, right merrilie.
And on his ears her laughter fell,
Like the tuneful notes of a silver bell.
Sir Hugo hath hied from the Castle gate,
Where, assembled in lordly state,
Many a servant doth on him wait.
Many a maiden fair to see
Doth stand in that goodly companie.
He drinks to the dregs a loving cup,
Which Leontine gladly lifted up,
The air is trembling with loud acclaim
Of Sir Hugo, who goeth in quest of fame,
For so they thought except Leontine,
Though her silvery voice in the shouts doth join.
Banners, o'er Camelot, float i' the air;
Priceless jewels the ladies wear,
Who have come the Tourney and Jousts to view,
In garments gay and of every hue.
Where is Sir Hugo? Ah, where is he?
Not on the field where a man should be.
Guinever sits on her throne of state--
The Queen of Beauty--with heart elate;
For Launcelot rides with a lordly air,
And her white glove in his crest doth wear.
"But who may he be, what is he hite,
Who weareth armour as black as night?
His charger is dark as ebony.
Tell us, we pray, whence cometh he?"
Thus asks each ladie of her true knight;
But none the riddle can answer right.
He hath met Sir Kay, hath this unknown knight,
Who lieth a bleeding, in sorry plight,
He hath unhorsed good Sir Gawaine,
Thrice on the ground, hath the good Knight lain.
Then with swords, on their feet they fight;
Till Gawaine, by the unknown Knight,
Chased round the ring, is vanquished quite.
Then all the ladies assembled there,
Cross themselves, with a whispered prayer.
"Surely," they think, "this mysterie
Naught but a fiend of hell must be."
Said the Queen, "Of our worshipful Table Round
Shall never a single Knight be found
To fight this unknown accursed Knight?
Were Launcelot here, in his armour bright,
I swear by the Rood, in a happy hour
The pride of this dusky Knight he'd lower!"
But Launcelot hears not his ladie's cry;
For he lies on a bed of agony.
By the Cross of Christ may he saved be!
Then one, who was Knighted that very year,
Boweth before Queen Guinevere;
"Ladie, for thee will I assay,
By shock of lance this Knight to slay!"
Guinever, in her beauty bright,
Sweetly smiles on the youthful knight.
Into his hand a glove she flings,
While with applause the welkin rings.
The unknown Knight now his match hath met,
Either at rest his spear hath set.
Like wild bulls, together ahurtling,
Spear meets with shield and their armours ring.
Thrice they meet. Then the Knight unknown
Prostrate upon the field is thrown.
The Ladie Linet hath seen him fall--
A lady of powers magical.
Kneeling beside him she doth unlace
His helm and seeth a sweet pale face,
And o'er his bleeding heart there streams
Hair which lightly as sunset gleams;
Her hair is waving adown her breast.
She is no man--but a maid confessed.
"Cursed be this hand," the young Knight cried,
"That struck this bosom in red gore dyed.
And as she lieth in deadly pain,
I'd give my life to restore again
Her health," then he kneeled by the maiden pale,
As he shook from his hands his gloves of mail.
Said Lady Linet, "Be assured by me
That all are not dead that in danger be,
For I may save her by grammarie."
She kneeled down by the maiden's side,
And, from her breast with red blood dyed
Parted her vest, of samite white;
Then lowly bended the youthful Knight.
"My name," he said, "is Martingal,
In Erin's isle is my father's hall,
An' thou can'st cure this maid for me,
Soon to her will I married be.
For by the Cross on my shield I swear,
Ne'er have I seen a maid so fair!"
Long she lay in a sorry plight;
And through the watches of the night
Sir Martingal his vigils kept
And watched fair Leontine, as she slept;
For Leontine was this lovely maid,
Who fought in the Tourney undismayed.
When morn had come, her eyes of blue
Opened, her lover she could view.
She looked with love on Sir Martingal,
Saying, "Fair Knight, can'st thou recall
How, roving once in the forest free,
I shot at a stag and wounded thee?
How I knelt by thy side, in grief profound
And, for thy healing, sucked the wound,
Which with white linen, I closely bound?"
"Aye, I remember well," quoth he.
"Now, by ill chance, I've wounded thee.
But a gentler shaft, by a gentler art,
Hast thou driven deep in my love-sick heart.
Now I pray to thee, O maiden mine,
Let us not sorrow nor eke repine.
Come thou with me dear heart and bless
My soul, with thine own soul's tenderness!"
The Knight agreed to the maid's request,
And clasped her close to his trembling breast.
Soon was her grievous would all healed;
By soothing unguents, well annealed.
Then with her Knight she rode away,
To seek her home at the dawn of day.
O! there was joy in her father's Hall
Where welcomed Sir Uwaine, his daughter tall.
They wedded were, with solemnity
Under gay banners of chivalry,
Ladies gay and of Knights a throng:
With choristers chanting a Bridal song;
With pages small, who with joyful air,
The long white train of the bride upbear.
But Hugo's spirit was bright and gay;
And ever since Leontine's wedding day--
Shamed was he of his cowardice--
Manly courage doth now arise
In his soul; for now will this young Knight be
Renowned in valour and chivalry.
When lovely Leontine had been blessed
With a son, whom his parents twain caressed,
Glad were the hearts of parents twain--
Quoth Leontine, "Now, dear Lord, we gain
A Knight, who to none shall ever yield,
And he shall bear on his shining shield
Two hearts, which shall symbols be I trow,
How once were we wounded: I and Thou."