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Knight in Shining Armor Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Knight's Epitaph by William Cullen Bryant
  2. An Old Castle by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  3. Lochinvar by Walter Scott
  4. The Glove and the Lions by Leigh Hunt
  5. The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Tennyson
  6. Sleeping Beauty by Walter De la Mare
  7. The Queen's Ride by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  8. The Wandering Knight’s Song translated by J. G. Lockhart
  9. Love's Coming by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

  1. The Knight's Epitaph

    by William Cullen Bryant

    This is the church which Pisa, great and free,
    Reared to St. Catharine. How the time-stained walls,
    That earthquakes shook not from their poise, appear
    To shiver in the deep and voluble tones
    Rolled from the organ! Underneath my feet
    There lies the lid of a sepulchral vault.
    The image of an armed knight is graven
    Upon it, clad in perfect panoply—
    Cuishes, and greaves, and cuirass, with barred helm,
    Gauntleted hand, and sword, and blazoned shield.
    Around, in Gothic characters, worn dim
    By feet of worshippers, are traced his name,
    And birth, and death, and words of eulogy.
    Why should I pore upon them? This old tomb,
    This effigy, the strange disused form
    Of this inscription, eloquently show
    His history. Let me clothe in fitting words
    The thoughts they breathe, and frame his epitaph.

    "He whose forgotten dust for centuries
    Has lain beneath this stone, was one in whom
    Adventure, and endurance, and emprise
    Exalted the mind's faculties and strong
    The body's sinews. Brave he was in fight,
    Courteous in banquet, scornful of repose,
    And bountiful, and cruel, and devout,
    And quick to draw the sword in private feud.
    He pushed his quarrels to the death, yet prayed
    The saints as fervently on bended knees
    As ever shaven cenobite. He loved
    As fiercely as he fought. He would have borne
    The maid that pleased him from her bower by night,
    To his hill-castle, as the eagle bears
    His victim from the fold, and rolled the rocks
    On his pursuers. He aspired to see
    His native Pisa queen and arbitress
    Of cities; earnestly for her he raised
    His voice in council, and affronted death
    In battle-field, and climbed the galley's deck,
    And brought the captured flag of Genoa back,
    Or piled upon the Arno's crowded quay
    The glittering spoils of the tamed Saracen.
    He was not born to brook the stranger's yoke,
    But would have joined the exiles, that withdrew
    For ever, when the Florentine broke in
    The gates of Pisa, and bore off the bolts
    For trophies—but he died before that day.

    "He lived, the impersonation of an age
    That never shall return. His soul of fire
    Was kindled by the breath of the rude time
    He lived in. Now a gentler race succeeds,
    Shuddering at blood; the effeminate cavalier,
    Turning from the reproaches of the past,
    And from the hopeless future, gives to ease,
    And love, and music, his inglorious life."

  2. An Old Castle

    by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    I.
    The gray arch crumbles,
    And totters and tumbles;
    The bat has built in the banquet hall;
    In the donjon-keep,
    Sly mosses creep;
    The ivy has scaled the southern wall:
    No man-at-arms
    Sounds quick alarms
    A-top of the cracked martello tower:
    The drawbridge-chain
    Is broken in twain—
    The bridge will neither rise nor lower.
    Not any manner
    Of broidered banner
    Flaunts at a blazoned herald's call.
    Lilies float
    In the stagnant moat;
    And fair they are, and tall.

    II.
    Here, in the old
    Forgotten springs,
    Was wassail held by queens and kings;
    Here at the board
    Sat clown and lord,
    Maiden fair and lover bold,
    Baron fat and minstrel lean,
    The prince with his stars,
    The knight with his scars,
    The priest in his gabardine.

    III.
    Where is she
    Of the fleur-de-lys,
    And that true knight who wore her gages?
    Where are the glances
    That bred wild fancies
    In curly heads of my lady's pages?
    Where are those
    Who, in steel or hose, Held revel here, and made them gay?
    Where is the laughter
    That shook the rafter—
    Where is the rafter, by the way?
    Gone is the roof,
    And perched aloof
    Is an owl, like a friar of Orders Gray.
    (Perhaps 't is the priest
    Come back to feast—
    He had ever a tooth for capon, he!
    But the capon's cold,
    And the steward's old,
    And the butler's lost the larder-key!)
    The doughty lords
    Sleep the sleep of swords.
    Dead are the dames and damozels.
    The King in his crown
    Hath laid him down,
    And the Jester with his bells.

    IV.
    All is dead here:
    Poppies are red here,
    Vines in my lady's chamber grow—
    If 't was her chamber
    Where they clamber
    Up from the poisonous weeds below.
    All is dead here,
    Joy is fled here;
    Let us hence. 'T is the end of all—
    The gray arch crumbles,
    And totters, and tumbles,
    And Silence sits in the banquet hall.

  3. Lochinvar

    Walter Scott. Note: This selection is a song taken from Scott's poem of "Marmion." It is in a slight degree founded on a ballad called "Katharine Janfarie," to be found in the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border."

    Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
    Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
    And save his good broadsword, he weapon had none,
    He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone!
    So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
    There never was knight like the young Lochinvar!

    He stayed not for brake, and he stopped not for stone,
    He swam the Eske River where ford there was none;
    But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
    The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
    For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
    Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar!

    So boldly he entered the Netherby hall,
    Among bridesmen, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all:
    Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his sword—
    For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word—
    "Oh, come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
    Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?"

    "I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied;—
    Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide—
    And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
    To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
    There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
    That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar."

    The bride kissed the goblet; the knight took it up,
    He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup.
    She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,
    With a smile on her lips, and a tear in her eye.
    He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar,
    "Now tread we a measure!" said young Lochinvar.

    So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
    That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
    While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
    And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
    And the bridemaidens whispered, "'Twere better by far
    To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar."

    One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,
    When they reached the hall door, and the charger stood near,
    So light to the croup the fair lady he swung,
    So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
    "She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur:
    They'll have fleet steeds that follow," quoth young Lochinvar.

    There was mounting 'mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
    Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran;
    There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
    But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see.
    So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
    Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

  4. The Glove and the Lions

    by Leigh Hunt.

    King Francis was a hearty king, and loved a royal sport,
    And one day as his lions fought, sat looking on the court;
    The nobles filled the benches, and the ladies in their pride,
    And 'mongst them sat the Count de Lorge, with one for whom he sighed:
    And truly 'twas a gallant thing to see that crowning show,
    Valour and love, and a king above, and the royal beasts below. ...

    Ramped and roared the lions, with horrid laughing jaws;
    They bit, they glared, gave blows like beams, a wind went with their paws;
    With wallowing might and stifled roar they rolled on one another;
    Till all the pit with sand and mane was in a thunderous smother;
    The bloody foam above the bars came whisking through the air;
    Said Francis then, "Faith, gentlemen, we're better here than there."

    De Lorge's love o'erheard the King, a beauteous lively dame
    With smiling lips and sharp bright eyes, which always seemed the same;
    She thought, the Count my lover is brave as brave can be;
    He surely would do wondrous things to show his love of me;
    King, ladies, lovers, all look on; the occasion is divine;
    I'll drop my glove, to prove his love; great glory will be mine.

    She dropped her glove, to prove his love, then looked at him and smiled;
    He bowed, and in a moment leaped among the lions wild:
    The leap was quick, return was quick, he has regained his place,
    Then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady's face.
    "By God!" said Francis, "rightly done!" and he rose from where he sat:
    "No love," quoth he, "but vanity, sets love a task like that."

  5. The Lady of Shalott

    by Alfred Tennyson.

    Part I
    On either side the river lie
    Long fields of barley and of rye,
    That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
    And thro' the field the road runs by
    To many-tower'd Camelot;
    The yellow-leaved waterlily
    The green-sheathed daffodilly
    Tremble in the water chilly
    Round about Shalott.

    Willows whiten, aspens shiver.
    The sunbeam showers break and quiver
    In the stream that runneth ever
    By the island in the river
    Flowing down to Camelot.
    Four gray walls, and four gray towers
    Overlook a space of flowers,
    And the silent isle imbowers
    The Lady of Shalott.

    Underneath the bearded barley,
    The reaper, reaping late and early,
    Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
    Like an angel, singing clearly,
    O'er the stream of Camelot.
    Piling the sheaves in furrows airy,
    Beneath the moon, the reaper weary
    Listening whispers, ' 'Tis the fairy,
    Lady of Shalott.'

    The little isle is all inrail'd
    With a rose-fence, and overtrail'd
    With roses: by the marge unhail'd
    The shallop flitteth silken sail'd,
    Skimming down to Camelot.
    A pearl garland winds her head:
    She leaneth on a velvet bed,
    Full royally apparelled,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    Part II
    No time hath she to sport and play:
    A charmed web she weaves alway.
    A curse is on her, if she stay
    Her weaving, either night or day,
    To look down to Camelot.
    She knows not what the curse may be;
    Therefore she weaveth steadily,
    Therefore no other care hath she,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    She lives with little joy or fear.
    Over the water, running near,
    The sheepbell tinkles in her ear.
    Before her hangs a mirror clear,
    Reflecting tower'd Camelot.
    And as the mazy web she whirls,
    She sees the surly village churls,
    And the red cloaks of market girls
    Pass onward from Shalott.

    Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
    An abbot on an ambling pad,
    Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
    Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
    Goes by to tower'd Camelot:
    And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
    The knights come riding two and two:
    She hath no loyal knight and true,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    But in her web she still delights
    To weave the mirror's magic sights,
    For often thro' the silent nights
    A funeral, with plumes and lights
    And music, came from Camelot:
    Or when the moon was overhead
    Came two young lovers lately wed;
    I am half sick of shadows,' said
    The Lady of Shalott.

    Part III
    A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
    He rode between the barley-sheaves,
    The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
    And flam'd upon the brazen greaves
    Of bold Sir Lancelot.
    A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
    To a lady in his shield,
    That sparkled on the yellow field,
    Beside remote Shalott.

    The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
    Like to some branch of stars we see
    Hung in the golden Galaxy.
    The bridle bells rang merrily
    As he rode down from Camelot:
    And from his blazon'd baldric slung
    A mighty silver bugle hung,
    And as he rode his armour rung,
    Beside remote Shalott.

    All in the blue unclouded weather
    Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
    The helmet and the helmet-feather
    Burn'd like one burning flame together,
    As he rode down from Camelot.
    As often thro' the purple night,
    Below the starry clusters bright,
    Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
    Moves over green Shalott.

    His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
    On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
    From underneath his helmet flow'd
    His coal-black curls as on he rode,
    As he rode down from Camelot.
    From the bank and from the river
    He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
    'Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:'
    Sang Sir Lancelot.

    She left the web, she left the loom
    She made three paces thro' the room
    She saw the water-flower bloom,
    She saw the helmet and the plume,
    She look'd down to Camelot.
    Out flew the web and floated wide;
    The mirror crack'd from side to side;
    'The curse is come upon me,' cried
    The Lady of Shalott.

    Part IV
    In the stormy east-wind straining,
    The pale yellow woods were waning,
    The broad stream in his banks complaining,
    Heavily the low sky raining
    Over tower'd Camelot;
    Outside the isle a shallow boat
    Beneath a willow lay afloat,
    Below the carven stern she wrote,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight,
    All raimented in snowy white
    That loosely flew (her zone in sight
    Clasp'd with one blinding diamond bright)
    Her wide eyes fix'd on Camelot,
    Though the squally east-wind keenly
    Blew, with folded arms serenely
    By the water stood the queenly
    Lady of Shalott.

    With a steady stony glance—
    Like some bold seer in a trance,
    Beholding all his own mischance,
    Mute, with a glassy countenance—
    She look'd down to Camelot.
    It was the closing of the day:
    She loos'd the chain, and down she lay;
    The broad stream bore her far away,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    As when to sailors while they roam,
    By creeks and outfalls far from home,
    Rising and dropping with the foam,
    From dying swans wild warblings come,
    Blown shoreward; so to Camelot
    Still as the boathead wound along
    The willowy hills and fields among,
    They heard her chanting her deathsong,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,
    She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
    Till her eyes were darken'd wholly,
    And her smooth face sharpen'd slowly,
    Turn'd to tower'd Camelot:
    For ere she reach'd upon the tide
    The first house by the water-side,
    Singing in her song she died,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    Under tower and balcony,
    By garden wall and gallery,
    A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
    Deadcold, between the houses high,
    Dead into tower'd Camelot.
    Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
    To the planked wharfage came:
    Below the stern they read her name,
    The Lady of Shalott.

    They cross'd themselves, their stars they blest,
    Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest.
    There lay a parchment on her breast,
    That puzzled more than all the rest,
    The wellfed wits at Camelot.
    'The web was woven curiously,
    The charm is broken utterly,
    Draw near and fear not,—this is I,
    The Lady of Shalott.'

  6. Sleeping Beauty

    by Walter De la Mare

    The scent of bramble fills the air,
    Amid her folded sheets she lies,
    The gold of evening in her hair,
    The blue of morn shut in her eyes.

    How many a changing moon hath lit
    The unchanging roses of her face!
    Her mirror ever broods on it
    In silver stillness of the days.

    Oft flits the moth on filmy wings
    Into his solitary lair;
    Shrill evensong the cricket sings
    From some still shadow in her hair.

    In heat, in snow, in wind, in flood,
    She sleeps in lovely loneliness,
    Half-folded like an April bud
    On winter-haunted trees.

  7. The Queen's Ride

    by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    'T is that fair time of year,
    Lady mine,
    When stately Guinevere,
    In her sea-green robe and hood,
    Went a-riding through the wood,
    Lady mine.

    And as the Queen did ride,
    Lady mine,
    Sir Launcelot at her side
    Laughed and chatted, bending over,
    Half her friend and all her lover,
    Lady mine.

    And as they rode along,
    Lady mine,
    The throstle gave them song,
    And the buds peeped through the grass
    To see youth and beauty pass,
    Lady mine.

    And on, through deathless time,
    Lady mine,
    These lovers in their prime,
    (Two fairy ghosts together!)
    Ride, with sea-green robe, and feather!
    Lady mine.

    And so we two will ride,
    Lady mine,
    At your pleasure, side by side,
    Laugh and chat; I bending over,
    Half your friend and all your lover,
    Lady mine.

    But if you like not this,
    Lady mine,
    And take my love amiss,
    Then I'll ride unto the end,
    Half your lover, all your friend,
    Lady mine.

    So, come which way you will,
    Lady mine,
    Vale, upland, plain, and hill
    Wait your coming. For one day
    Loose the bridle, and away!
    Lady mine.

  8. The Wandering Knight’s Song

    translated by J. G. Lockhart

    My ornaments are arms,
    My pastime is in war,
    My bed is cold upon the wold,
    My lamp yon star.

    My journeyings are long,
    My slumbers short and broken;
    From hill to hill I wander still,
    Kissing thy token.

    I ride from land to land,
    I sail from sea to sea;
    Some day more kind I fate may find,
    Some night kiss thee.

  9. Love's Coming

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    She had looked for his coming as warriors come,
    With the clash of arms and the bugle's call;
    But he came instead with a stealthy tread,
    Which she did not hear at all.

    She had thought how his armor would blaze in the sun,
    As he rode like a prince to claim his bride:
    In the sweet dim light of the falling night
    She found him at her side.

    She had dreamed how the gaze of his strange, bold eye
    Would wake her heart to a sudden glow:
    She found in his face the familiar grace
    Of a friend she used to know.

    She had dreamed how his coming would stir her soul,
    As the ocean is stirred by the wild storm's strife:
    He brought her the balm of a heavenly calm,
    And a peace which crowned her life.