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The Lay of Surluse
Now Launcelot and La Cote Male Taile,
Which one of you will choose
To take the three bridges and break the three gates
That guard the fair land of Surluse?
"Sir Launcelot," says La Cote Male Taile,
"Let me fare to win or fall!
If I speed, it is gain; if I die, say the same;
Ye shall win where I fail,—that is all!"
"Nay, I am loth!" cries Launcelot:
"This passage that you should pass!"
But La Cote Male Taile, for all else he should say,
Let break a great pace on the grass.
Sir Plein de Force, Sir Plein d'Amour!
Keep well the first bridge, or give way:
Here comes a young knight with his coat cut awry
But his spear is long as the day.
The tennon'd planks rock as they ride, knight and horse,
Like a ship under pluck of full sail:
But there's one hath a stain far too deep for the rain
From the blood of La Cote Male Taile.
Yet whether they ride or their horses avoid,
He hath meddled, and they are down:
Sir Plein de Force and Sir Plein d'Amour
Ye have lost the long pont of the town.
"Now, what is to do?" said La Cote Male Taile,
"But try the next bridge an I may:
Their brother, like fate, sits full-arm'd at the gate,—
Plenorius,—far greater than they!"
They two knights jousted, they two knights thrust,
Till the wind shook Surluse town:
But so be-bled was La Cote Male Taile,
Plenorius hath gat him down.
Yes, what for-wounded was Cote Male Taile,
What for-bled, he might not stand:
But Plenorius was as noble a lord
As ever took sword in his hand.
"Dismay ye not, you fair young knight!
For, had you been fresh like me,
I had not endured, as ye have done:
Now the best that I have be for thee!"
He has carried him to his bed-chamber:
"Yet haste!" was the hurt man's cry:
"There's another knight waits at the bridge,
And another manner knight than I."
"Oh, what is his name?" said Plenorius,
"That shall ye not know for me!"
But he heard a horse neigh, and a parlous voice say—
"Sir knight, I would meddle with thee."
"Art there, sweetheart," cried Plenorius:
"Ay, Surluse!" Sir Launcelot cried:
And step by step Sir Launcelot gained
The bridge at the Surluse side.
"Nay, leave your horse!" said Plenorius.
The avoid; Ha! the red knight's down:
The second long bridge hath Sir Launcelot gat,
And the second strong gate of the town.
"Now what is to do?" Sir Launcelot said:
"Try the third town-bridge on the tide!"
Plenorius' three brother's abide.
'Tis one spear to three men, but that spear hath a demon;
They are faint,—yea, ahorse or afoot:
The third gate to the town hath Sir Launcelot down,
And La Cote Male Taile he hath out.
"Now, thanks to thee, La Cote Male Taile,
For this meddle," cried Launcelot:
"We have gat the three bridges and passed the three gates;
All is thine that Plenorius aught!"
"Nay, thanks to thee, Sir Launcelot,—
I am saved," said La Cote Male Taile,
"But I pray thee pardon Plenorius,
Ere yet all thy kindness fail!
"Plenorius gave my life to me,—
Upon the bridge. As time is short:
Let him keep his five lands, and knightly kiss hands
Next Pentecost at the Haut King's Court."
"At Pentecost," said Sir Launcelot,
"Plenorius, sure as the Table's round:
And sure as one siege is voided there,
One siege for thee shall be found!"