Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
A Ballad of Roncesvalles
By Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793–1835)
 
‘THOU hast not been with the festal throng
  At the pouring of the wine,
Men bear not from the hall of song
  So dark a mien as thine!
    There ’s blood upon thy shield,        5
    There ’s dust upon thy plume,
Thou hast brought from some disastrous field
    That brow of wrath and gloom.’
 
‘And is there blood upon my shield?
  Maiden, it well may be!        10
We have sent the streams from our battle field
  All darkened to the sea!
    We have given the founts a stain
    Midst their woods of ancient pine;
And the ground is wet—but not with rain,        15
    Deep dyed—but not with wine.
 
‘The ground is wet—but not with rain;
  We have been in war array,
And the noblest blood of Christian Spain
  Hath bathed her soil to-day.        20
    I have seen the strong man die,
    And the stripling meet his fate,
Where the mountain winds go sounding by
    In the Roncesvalles’ Strait.
 
‘In the gloomy Roncesvalles’ Strait        25
  There are helms and lances cleft;
And they that moved at morn elate
  On a bed of heath are left!
    There ’s many a fair young face
    Which the war-steed hath gone o’er;        30
At many a board there is kept a place
    For those that come no more!’
 
‘Alas for love, for woman’s breast,
  If woe like this must be!
Hast thou seen a youth with an eagle crest        35
  And a white plume waving free?
    With his proud quick-flashing eye,
    And his mien of kingly state,
Doth he come from where the swords flashed high
    In the Roncesvalles’ Strait?’        40
 
‘In the gloomy Roncesvalles’ Strait
  I saw, and marked him well;
For nobly on his steed he sate
  When the pride of manhood fell.
    But it is not youth which turns        45
    From the field of spears again;
For the boy’s high heart too wildly burns
    Till it rests among the slain.’
 
‘Thou canst not say that he lies low,
  The lovely and the brave?        50
Oh none could look on his joyous brow
  And think upon the grave!
    Dark, dark perchance the day
    Hath been with valour’s fate;
But he is on his homeward way        55
    From the Roncesvalles’ Strait.’
 
‘There is dust upon his joyous brow,
  And o’er his graceful head,
And the warhorse will not wake him now,
  Though it browse his greensward bed.        60
    I have seen the stripling die,
    And the strong man meet his fate,
Where the mountain winds go sounding by,
    In the Roncesvalles’ Strait.’
 
 
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