The Peregrine Knight and the Countess of the Forest
He promised he’d return next Whitsuntide
And rode out from the lands ‘neath Arthur’s sway,
Through springtime’s valleys green, and wooded height,
Upon the road that goes the wild way.
The narrow winding path for many a day
He’d taken upward into mountain lands,
And every turn the road made on its way
Showed towering gray rock walls on either hand
Until at last on open moor the knight did stand.
And from this highland he at once could see
The vale below, a wooded, rocky waste
And like a ship a-sinking in the sea
A lonely castle in the forest placed.
(The which, hard by, a ruined convent faced.)
So on he rode, the windrush in his ears,
Each dusty downward turn the pathway traced,
Until at last, as sunlight disappeared,
Mid trees and high grown weeds the castle gate he neared.
The iron gate on two stone pillars hung,
The rust showed that it long had lain at rest,
And from the pillar tops the grass had sprung,
And on the crumbled arch sat sparrows’ nests.
He struck the bars an entrance to request,
Not knowing who but he could hear this call
And in the dark, a door yet unnoticed
Beside the gate, swung open in the wall
And there with candle stood a slender young man tall.
“A knight in arms upon the road at night!
And seek you sir” he said “to rest within?”
Aloft to see the blazon he held his light.
The knight replied “You see a peregrine
Who worn with wanderings wide would welcome win.”
The light and porter all at once were gone,
But soon the gate swung wide with grating din,
And through the gate the young man led him on
Up to a courtyard, wide as that of Caerleon.
The lonely flame illumined the courtyard stones,
And black against its light he saw a tree,
In middle of the courtyard it had grown
And spread a dark and tangled canopy.
One other light over the branches he
Saw glint from casement distant, high above.
And all was hung with mourning cloth to see.
And all beneath the shroud the branches wove,
Was quiet as a grave forgot in woodland grove.