The Peregrine Knight ~ Part V

Submitted by Caleb on Sat, 11/17/2018 - 22:40

And soo withoute bydyng they ranne to gyder as it had ben the thonder… And thenne they alyghte and drewe their swerdes and gafe grete strokes that the blood trayled to the ground
~Le Morte d’Arthur

Author's age when written


Part V: The Knight Encountereth the Earl

But doubts hung cloudy oe’r the dark earl’s mind,
Why should these banners greet his black-cloaked hundreds?
Sure those within no hope of grace could find,
Yet had they taken heart of grace? he wondered.
So spurring quickly to the gate he thundered:
“My damosel the castle door throw wide
Your lord is come, who all your land has plundered.”
“A dead man’s colours fright me not.” he cried
But silence only answered him as echoes died.

Then ‘neath the crumbled arch – through vine-hung door,
Came not the crushed and miserable maid
The which the haughty earl in joy looked for,
But man of war for tourney all arrayed.
And not his lance nor sword made him afraid
Nor gadded gauntlets, nor his helmet bright
But eyes of hawk in yarak upon him laid,
From ‘neath the visor of this stranger knight
Who called: “Look to your arms, I for this lady fight!”

He raised his lance to signal the attack,
And with a shout did spur his eager horse.
Then rushed the earl as rolling, ragged rack
When black with rain it flies a tempestuous course.
And when they met such was the stormy force
Both steeds did stagger, and the black-earl’s threw
Him down headlong (his men roared in remorse,)
But rising from the dust his sword he drew;
So swift the knight leapt down and drew his weapon too.

Such was their strength, that every ringing clash
Between the black earl’s sword and knight’s sharp steel,
With fiery, flying sparks as lightning flashed,
And blows, upon the shields, as thunder pealed.
What stronger wights did ever weapons wield?
But stronger struck the earl, and very soon
Did flog the blazon from his rival’s shield,
And then with heavier strokes the shield was hewn,
And dwindled with each sword-stroke, as the waning moon.

So waned the hope within the countess’ breast
On seeing her knight fall back before her foe.
Till to the forest edge the knight was pressed,
For there the earl did strike him such a blow,
As clove his helm, and made his blood to flow
Down o’er his eyes. And nothing could he see.
And while he sank in this black sea, I trow,
He was in peril great. His enemy
Then raised his sword to lay him low beneath a tree.

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