The Peregrine Knight ~ Part III

Submitted by Caleb on Sat, 11/10/2018 - 21:11

Me lever were with point of foeman’s spear be dead
~ The Faery Queen, Book III

(I would rather be dead by foeman's spearpoint)

Author's age when written


Part III: The Porter Aviseth the Knight

He wandered in a woodland in his dreams,
And never found the castle towers, though he
The light could see. Loud calling, cawing screams
Tore through the air amid the black branched trees,
And beating wings he heard and could not see.
First quietly, then louder than before
He heard a sound resounding distantly,
Till close, as giants beating drums of war,
It boomed, and from it fled the flocks in loud uproar.

Then he from out this midnight-mare awoke.
The slender porter in the doorway stood,
And quietly the waking knight bespoke:
“I pray you of your courtesy, be good
To hear me speak. A deep forgotten wood
Are we within, through which but one path goes --
The lonely way which in the day you rode.
In twisted briar and bush, and hemlock groves,
This castle’s hid. And who but rogues this household knows?

The knight saw him step near, by rush-light dim,
And asked “What is your will?” Then at his side
The castle porter softly spoke to him,
“Our will is that you take now as your bride
Our foster sister whom you sat beside.”
Yet spoke he as in fear. The knight then said,
“A gentle maid -- but from me nothing hide;
What is your dread? What sword hangs o’er your head?
He hastily said “Our foe returns and we’ve no bread.”

“Pray hear her tale: A count once ruled these lands,
And from this castle held his righteous sway.
It fell a neighbouring earl sought the hand
Of her, his only daughter. But his way
Of proudly wooing vexed her day by day,
And never would her father ‘gainst her will
To any earl on earth give her away.
That he should hawk and yet the dove not kill
With leaping flames of rage this suitor’s heart did fill.

“Her father died; then came he all afire
Demanding he should see her then and hear
Her acquiescence to his proud desire.
But when before the maid the earl appeared,
His hest she did deny, though pierced with fear.
Grasping her wrists, he kicked her round the room,
And not her cries, nor agéd nurse’s tears
Could stop his blows as he pronounced her doom;
With him her bed would be, or cold within the tomb.

“He loosed his horse from ‘neath the courtyard tree,
And galloped in anger through the iron gate.
I saw him at the woods periphery
Turn toward these walls, and curse with jarring hate:
“I swear, like ranging wolves their lusts to sate
Who gut a living doe and tear from bone
Her flesh away, I’ll rend this maid’s estates.
Her house cannot long stand when lands are gone.”
And so he’s warred, and now this castle stands alone.

“The countess sits as shipwrecked on a rock
Around which roils a deep and hungry sea,
Which with its main and might her anguish mocks,
So cold and fell this earl her enemy.
Yet such the castle’s strength know verily,
We brothers ten can hold his force at bay.”
Then said the knight “Why speak you then with me?”
“While meat and drink remain” he said “we may,
But our provisions all are spent this very day.”

Our eldest did the countess charge this night,
When barren lay our final cask of meal,
That she should come and tell to you her plight;
That she should softly to your bedside steal
And bow her head, and as a suppliant kneel,
To beg you be her lord, her love, her shield --
This, she should ask, not only for her weal,
But for ours too. But she no whit would yield:
“I’d liefer face our foe” she said “upon the field.”

“‘Then’ said he, ‘all that unto you belong
Will fly from here as doves in wintertide,
Cold lady who your faithful friends now wrong,
And cowardice in cloak of modesty hides!”
But weeping, pale, from us she turned aside,
So I have come instead to beg your aid.
“Show her this ring of gold” the knight replied
This shield of white, this black steel blade,
True are the tales I told; Bid her be unafraid.”

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse

This poem is broken up into little stanzas of nine lines. The form of stanza is called the Spenserian stanza for Edmund Spenser who invented it for his epic romance The Faery Queen.

It works like this:

All of the lines are 10 syllables (iambic pentameter) except the ninth which is twelve.

As you can see, in each stanza there are only three rhyming sounds that end the lines.

The end of the first line only needs one rhyme (easy) the end of the second needs three more lines to rhyme with it (not easy!), and the end of the sixth needs two more lines to rhyme with it.

So there are 2 As, 4 Bs, and 3 Cs which equals nine lines.

“Whence come you knight?” “King Arthur’s court” he said
At which the forest knight in fury roared:
“All Arthur’s men that I have faced hang dead
Within this forest deep, slain by my sword.
I stand sworn enemy unto your lord,”
Then charged he swift as stag in forest glade.
But when the two did meet, the forest ward
Was swiftly thrown to ground, and there was made
To swear to Arthur faith, and cede his black steel blade.

A = said and dead.
B = roared, sword, lord, ward.
C = glade, made, blade.

said (a)
roared (b)
dead (a)
sword (b)
lord (b)
glade (c)
ward (b)
made (c)
blade (c)

B is the main challenge -- thinking of four rhymes that all relate to one subject.

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse