The Peregrine Knight ~ Part VI

Submitted by Caleb on Wed, 11/21/2018 - 23:34

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
~Psalm 37:35

Author's age when written


But stumbling back, upon a root he tripped —
The black-earl’s sword stroke high, fast stuck inside
The old yew’s trunk, and though the earl gripped
The hilt and strove to free’t, from him it slipped,
And of a sudden the swordless man seemed small
As does a bird when of its plumage stripped.
The red stained knight then rose up from his fall
And from the tree a falcon rose with hunting call.

That sword, sunk deep, for many a year
Within the old yew’s hard-clenched grasp lay fast,
And by its rusted hilt many would hear
The tale of what upon that day had passed,
Of how the two had striv'n until at last
The craven earl had swordless turned to fly,
And how the rushing wind with stormy blast,
And lightning then made war across the sky
Curling and twisting there with thunderous battle-cry.

Scorning the flashing blade within his hand
The knight his fearful foe caught ‘round the girth
And bracing him, with arms as iron bands,
Did cast him headlong hard upon the earth,
Unlaced his helm, and thus spoke to him first:
“Are you that earl who has the maid oppressed?”
(And o’er their heads with rain the black rack burst,)
“I am the earl” the fallen man confessed
And will restore to her all that she first possessed”.

The knight then said “Your earldom give or die!
And meat and drink and arms and horses too
Enough for twice two hundred men’s supply.”
(All this in her high name he bade him do
With sword point poised to pierce his bare throat through,)
“And you shall in her power here remain
And in her thrall your foul misdeeds rue
As in her dungeon dark you lie enchained.”
“This will I do.” the earl replied. And ceased the rain.

The countess on the ground then kneeled and prayed,
And she looked up into the open sky
While in the mud where Raven-Earl was laid
The knight looked down with tired and blood-drenched eye.
Across the land one line of light did lie
And made the victor in his armour blaze
As happy star; And since it was not dry
From off his helm shone rainbow aureole rays
And made for him a crown more beautiful than bays.

When evening wrapped the castle in its cloak
And warm winds wed the fragrance of the night —
The woodland after rain and torches’ smoke —
High in the tower sat the wounded knight
And listened after meat as his delight,
The countess, softly sang a psalm of yore,
Of wicked men as trees, who reach great height,
Whose flourishing branches spread the country o’er,
But suddenly are felled and burned, and seen no more.

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