The Three Friends

The sword slew one in deadly strife ;
One perished by the bowl ;
The third lies self-slain by the knife ;
For three the bells may toll-
I loved her better than my life,
And better than my soul.

Aye, father ! hast thou come at last ?
'Tis somewhat late to pray ;
Life's crimson tides are ebbing fast,
They drain my soul away ;
Mine eyes with film are overcast,
The lights are waning grey.

This curl from her bright head I shore,
And this her hands gave mine ;
See, one is stained with purple gore,
And one with poison'd wine ;
Give these to her when all is o'er-
How serpent-like they twine !

We three were brethren in arms,
And sworn companions we ;
We held this motto, 'Whoso harms
The one shall harm the three !'
Till, matchless for her subtle charms,
Beloved of each was she.

(These two were slain that I might kiss
Her sweet mouth. I did well ;
I said, 'There is no greater bliss
For those in heaven that dwell' ;
I lost her ; then I said, 'There is
No fiercer pang in hell !')

We have upheld each other's rights,
Shared purse, and borrow'd blade ;
Have stricken side by side in fights ;
And side by side have prayed
In churches. We were Christian knights,
And she a Christian maid.

We met at sunrise, he and I,
My comrade-'twas agreed
The steel our quarrel first should try,
The poison should succeed ;
For two of three were doom'd to die,
And one was doomed to bleed.

We buckled to the doubtful fray,
At first, with some remorse ;
But he who must be slain-or slay,
Soon strikes with vengeful force.
He fell ; I left him where he lay,
Among the trampled gorse.

Did passion warp my heart and head
To madness ? And, if so,
Can madness palliate bloodshed ?-
It may be-I shall know
When God shall gather up the dead
From where the four winds blow.

We met at sunset, he and I-
My second comrade true ;
Two cups with wine were brimming high,
And one was drugg'd-we knew
Not which, nor sought we to descry ;
Our choice by lot we drew.

And there I sat with him to sup :
I heard him blithely speak
Of bygone days-the fatal cup
Forgotten seem'd-his cheek
Was ruddy : father, raise me up,
My voice is waxing weak.

We drank ; his lips turned livid white,
His cheeks grew leaden ash ;
He reel'd-I heard his temples smite
The threshold with a crash !
And from his hand, in shivers bright,
I saw the goblet flash.

The morrow dawn'd with fragrance rare,
The May-breeze, from the west,
Just fann'd the sleepy olives, where
She heard and I confess'd ;
My hair entangled with her hair,
Her breast strained to my breast.

On the dread verge of endless gloom
My soul recalls that hour ;
Skies languishing with balm of bloom,
And fields aflame with flower ;
And slow caresses that consume,
And kisses that devour.

Ah ! now with storm the day seems rife,
My dull ears catch the roll
Of thunder, and the far sea strife,
On beach and bar and shoal-
I loved her better than my life,
And better than my soul.

She fled ! I cannot prove her guilt,
Nor would I an I could ;
See, life for life is fairly spilt !
And blood is shed for blood ;
Her white hands neither touched the hilt,
Nor yet the potion brew'd.

Aye ! turn me from the sickly south,
Towards the gusty north ;
The fruits of sin are dust and drouth,
The end of crime is wrath-
The lips that pressed her rose-like mouth
Are choked with blood-red froth.

Then dig the grave-pit deep and wide,
Three graves thrown into one,
And lay three corpses side by side,
And tell their tale to none ;
But bring her back in all her pride
To see what she hath done.

Adam Lindsay Gordon The copyright of the poems published here are belong to their poets. is a non-profit poetry portal. All information in here has been published only for educational and informational purposes.