Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Rouen
The Lay of Talbot, the Troubadour
William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)
 
(Excerpt)

I.
AT Rouen Richard kept his state,
  Released from captive thrall;
And girt with many a warrior guest
  He feasted in the hall!
 
The rich metheglin mantled high,        5
  The wine was berry red,
When tidings came that Salisbury,
  His early friend, was dead;
 
And that his sole surviving child,
  The heiress of his wealth,        10
By crafty kinsmen and allies
  Was borne away by stealth;
 
Was borne away from Normandy,
  Where, secretly confined,
She heard no voice of those she loved,        15
  But sighed to the north wind.
 
Haply from some lone castle’s tower
  Or solitary strand,
Even now she gazes o’er the deep,
  That laves her father’s land!        20
 
King Richard cries, “My minstrel knights,
  Who will the task achieve,
To seek through France and Normandy
  The orphan left to grieve?”
 
Young William Talbot then did speak,        25
  “Betide me weal and woe,
From Michael’s castle through the land
  A pilgrim I will go.”
 
He clad him in his pilgrim weeds,
  With trusty staff in hand,        30
And scallop shell, and took his way,
  A wanderer through the land.
 
For two long years he journeyed on,
  A pilgrim, day by day,
Through many a forest dark and drear,        35
  By many a castle gray.
 
At length, when one clear morn of frost
  Was shining on the main,
Forth issuing from a castle gate
  He saw a female train!        40
 
With lightsome step and waving hair,
  Before them ran a child,
And, gathering from the sands a shell,
  Ran back to them, and smiled.
 
Himself unseen among the rocks,        45
  He saw her point her hand,
And cry, “I would go home, go home,
  To my poor father’s land.”
*        *        *        *        *
II.
THE TWO long years had passed away,
  When castle Galliard 1 rose,        50
As built at once by elfin hands,
  And scorning time or foes.
 
It might be thought that Merlin’s imps
  Were tasked to raise the wall,
That unheard axes fell the woods,        55
  While unseen hammers fall.
 
As hung by magic on a rock,
  The castle-keep looked down
O’er rocks and rivers, and the smoke
  Of many a far-off town.        60
 
And now, young knights and minstrels
  Obeyed their master’s call,
And loud rejoicing held the feast
  In the new raftered hall.
 
His minstrels and his mailed peers        65
  Were seated at the board,
And at his side the highest sat
  William of the Long Sword.
 
This youthful knight, of princely birth,
  Was dazzling to behold,        70
For his chain-mail from head to foot
  All glistened o’er with gold.
 
His surcoat dyed with azure blue
  In graceful foldings hung,
And there the golden lions ramped,        75
  With bloody claws and tongue.
 
With crimson belt around his waist
  His sword was girded on;
The hilt, a cross to kiss in death,
  Radiant with jewels shone.        80
 
The names and banners of each knight
  It were too long to tell;
Here sat the brave Montgomery,
  There Bertrand and Rozell.
 
Of Richard’s unresisted sword        85
  A noble minstrel sung,
Whilst to an hundred answering harps
  The blazing gallery rung.
 
So all within was merriment,—
  When, suddenly, a shout,        90
As of some unexpected guest,
  Burst from the crowd without.
 
Now not a sound, and scarce a breath,
  Through the long hall is heard,
When, with a young maid by his side,        95
  A vizored knight appeared.
 
Up the long hall they held their way,
  On to the royal seat;
Then both together, hand in hand,
  Knelt at King Richard’s feet.        100
 
“Talbot, a Talbot!” rang the hall
  With gratulation wild,
“Long live brave Talbot, and long live
  Earl William’s new-found child!
 
Amid a scene so new and strange,        105
  This poor maid could not speak;
King Richard took her by the hand,
  And gently kissed her cheek;
 
Then placed her, smiling through a tear,
  By his brave brother’s side:        110
“Long live brave Longspe!” rang the hall,
  “Long live his future bride!”
 
To noble Richard this fair child,
  His ward, was thus restored;
Destined to be the future bride        115
  Of Him of the Long Sword.
 
Note 1. This magnificent ruin of the favorite castle of Richard I. is on the banks of the Seine, near Les Andelys, the birthplace of Poussin, and the retreat of Thomas Corneille. A single year sufficed to form its immense fosses, and to raise those walls which might seem to be the structure of a lifetime. When Cœur de Lion saw it finished, he is said to have exclaimed with exultation, “How beautiful she is, this daughter of a year!” [back]
 
 
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