Then up a torch lit stair the knight was led
And in his mind still ran her roundelay.
Then came he to a chamber where a bed
By a window, and a long-cold, hearthstone lay.
There lay the knight and looked on one blue star
A-waiting for the coming of the day,
And there he heard a voice as from afar –
The lady of the castle pleading say
His name which he had told to none upon his way.
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 young man in the doorway stood,
And fearfully the waking knight bespoke:
“I pray you of your courtesy, be good
To hear me speak. A deep and wild wood
We live 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 noble count whose foster son I am
Is in the grave – now gone three wintertides.
One daughter, heir of all was left by him,
The lady who this night sat by your side.
Like as a blooming rose the woodland hides,
Or jeweled crown in dusty vault long lain,
This castle her bright beauty keeps inside.
But noble knight, this crown you may attain –
Wed her, and with her by your side you may here reign.”
The knight then spoke: “Her eyes, I saw, shine clear,
Her cheeks were like the red blood fall’n on snow.
When her refreshing voice fell on my ear
It came like forest stream with deep clear flow,
Or southern springtime winds when first they blow.
But you were led this night by deeper dread
Then that she’d live unwed. Now let me know
What fear I see – What sword hangs over your head
“Our foe returns”, the young man said, “and we’ve no bread.”