Fauconshawe: A Ballad Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


To fetch clear water out of the springA
The little maid Margaret ranB
From the stream to the castle's western wingA
It was but a bowshot spanB
On the sedgy brink where the osiers clingA
Lay a dead man pallid and wanC
The lady Mabel rose from her bedD
And walked in the castle hallE
Where the porch through the western turret ledD
She met with her handmaid smallE
What aileth thee Margaret the lady saidD
Hast let thy pitcher fallE
Say what hast thou seen by the streamlet sideF
A nymph or a water spriteG
That thou comest with eyes so wild and wideF
And with cheeks so ghostly whiteG
Nor nymph nor sprite the maiden criedF
But the corpse of a slaughtered knightG
The lady Mabel summon'd straightH
To her presence Sir Hugh de VereI
Of the guests who tarried within the gateH
Of Fauconshawe most dearI
Was he to that lady betrothed in stateH
They had been since many a yearI
Little Margaret sayeth a dead man liesJ
By the western spring Sir HughK
I can scarce believe that the maiden liesJ
Yet scarce can believe her trueK
And the knight replies Till we test her eyesJ
Let her words gain credence dueK
Down the rocky path knight and lady ledD
While guests and retainers boldL
Followed in haste for like wildfire spreadD
The news by the maiden toldL
They found 'twas even as she had saidD
The corpse had some while been coldL
How the spirit had pass'd in the moments lastM
There was little trace to revealN
On the still calm face lay no imprint ghastM
Save the angel's solemn sealN
Yet the hands were clench'd in a death grip fastM
And the sods stamp'd down by the heelN
Sir Hugh by the side of the dead man kneltM
Said Full well these features I knowO
We have faced each other where blows were dealtM
And he was a stalwart foeO
I had rather have met him hilt to hiltM
Than have found him lying lowO
He turn'd the body up on its faceP
And never a word was spokenQ
While he ripp'd the doublet and tore the laceP
And tugg'd by the self same tokenQ
And strain'd till he wrench'd it out of its placeP
The dagger blade that was brokenQ
Then he turned the body over againR
And said while he rose uprightM
May the brand of Cain with its withering stainS
On the murderer's forehead lightM
For he never was slain on the open plainS
Nor yet in the open fightM
Solemn and stern were the words he spokeT
And he look'd at his lady's menR
But his speech no answering echoes wokeT
All were silent there and thenR
Till a clear cold voice the silence brokeT
Lady Mabel cried AmenR
His glance met hers the twain stood hush'dM
With the dead between them thereU
But the blood to her snowy temples rush'dM
Till it tinged the roots of her hairU
Then paled but a thin red streak still flush'dM
In the midst of her forehead fairU
Four yeomen raised the corpse from the groundM
At a sign from Sir Hugh de VereI
It was borne to the western turret roundM
And laid on a knightly bierV
With never a sob nor a mourning soundM
No friend to the dead was nearI
Yet that night was neither revel nor danceW
In the halls of FauconshaweX
Men looked askance with a doubtful glanceW
At Sir Hugh for they stood in aweX
Of his prowess but he like one in a tranceW
Regarded naught that he sawY
Night black and chill wind gathering stillZ
With its wail in the turret tallE
And its headlong blast like a catapult castM
On the crest of the outer wallE
And its hail and rain on the crashing paneS
Till the glassy splinters fallE
A moody knight by the fitful lightM
Of the great hall fire belowO
A corpse upstairs and a woman at prayersA2
Will they profit her aye or noO
By'r lady fain an' she comfort gainS
There is comfort for us alsoO
The guests were gone save Sir Hugh aloneB2
And he watched the gleams that brokeT
On the pale hearth stone and flickered and shoneB2
On the panels of polish'd oakT
He was 'ware of no presence except his ownB2
Till the voice of young Margaret spokeT
I've risen Sir Hugh at the mirk midnightM
I cannot sleep in my bedM
Now unless my tale can be told arightM
I wot it were best unsaidM
It lies the blood of yon northern knightM
On my lady's hand and headM
Oh the wild wind raves and rushes alongC2
But thy ravings seem more wildM
She never could do so foul a wrongC2
Yet I blame thee not my childM
For the fever'd dreams on thy rest that throngC2
He frown'd though his speech was mildM
Let storm winds eddy and scream and hurlD2
Their wrath they disturb me naughtM
The daughter she of a high born earlD2
No secret of hers I've soughtM
I am but the child of a peasant churlD2
Yet look to the proofs I've broughtM
This dagger snapp'd so close to the hiltM
Dost remember thy token wellD2
Will it match with the broken blade that spiltM
His life in the western dellD2
Nay read her handwriting an' thou wiltM
From her paramour's breast it fellD2
The knight in silence the letter readM
Oh the characters well he knewK
And his face might have match'd the face of the deadM
So ashen white was its hueK
Then he tore the parchment shred by shredM
And the strips in the flames he threwK
And he muttered Densely those shadows fallD2
In the copse where the alders thickenQ
There she bade him come to her once for allD2
Now I well may shudder and sickenQ
Gramercy that hand so white and smallD2
How strongly it must have strickenQ
At midnight hour in the western towerE2
Alone with the dead man thereU
Lady Mabel kneels nor heeds nor feelsF2
The shock of the rushing airU
Though the gusts that pass through the riven glassG2
Have scattered her raven hairU
Across the floor through the opening doorH2
Where standeth a stately knightM
The lamplight streams and flickers and gleamsI2
On his features stern and whiteM
'Tis Sir Hugh de Vere and he cometh more nearI
And the lady standeth uprightM
'Tis little he said that I know or careU
Of the guilt if guilt there beJ2
That lies 'twixt thee and yon dead man thereU
Nor matters it now to meJ2
I thought thee pure thou art only fairU
And to morrow I cross the seaJ2
He perish'd I ask not why or howK2
I come to recall my trothL2
Take back my lady thy broken vowK2
Give back my allegiance oathL2
Let the past be buried between us nowK2
For ever 'tis best for bothL2
Yet Mabel I could ask dost thou dareU
Lay hand on that corpse's heartM
And call on thy Maker and boldly swearU
That thou hadst in his death no partM
I ask not while threescore proofs I shareU
With one doubt uncondemn'd thou artM
Oh cold and bleak upon Mabel's cheekM2
Came the blast of the storm wind keenN2
And her tresses black as the glossy backO2
Of the raven glanced betweenN2
Her fingers slight like the ivory whiteM
As she parted their sable sheenN2
Yet with steady lip and with fearless eyeP2
And with cheek like the flush of dawnQ2
Unflinchingly she spoke in replyP2
Go hence with the break of mornR2
I will neither confess nor yet denyP2
I will return thee scorn for scornR2
The knight bow'd low as he turn'd to goO
He travell'd by land and seaJ2
But naught of his future fate I knowO
And naught of his fair ladyeP2
My story is told as long agoO
My story was told to meJ2

Adam Lindsay Gordon


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