Now, riding through the deep and twisted forest
‘Neath forlorn night’s dark wing, that very hour,
(A night as black as his own raven crest,)
The infamous earl came with all his power
To pitch black tents beneath the countess’ tower.
When flaming morn o’er treetop did extend,
She saw them spread below, but did not cower.
The knight had promise made her to defend –
“This morning,” said she, “sees our night of sorrow end.
So strike the mourning hangings, and unfurl,
From every casement in this castle’s keep,
My father’s standard, to affront the earl”
So pennants green and red did billowing leap
And heavily fall from every port, and sweep
Out on the morning wind above the trees.
“This tower,” she said “long nights has seen me weep
While looking from its casement I did see
In fear those woods that I loved once when I was free”.
The knight then stood before her in the hall
And so to him she told the forest’s ways,
What may be seen where green the shadows fall –
Of men who had been lost within its maze,
And pathless wandered ‘round for many days,
Till stumbling out they found the castle gate,
But how she fearless walked its paths always
Before the earl had darkened it with hate –
She told him then how rich therein had been her state:
“I loved her winding paths and secret pools
Which dark and mossy branches overhung,
Where owls hid from the forest’s daylight fools,
The jays, who pestered them with questioning song.
If rain clouds found me there when I was young
Where oaks a vaulted abbey roof did spread,
Where buckthorn chapels grew, I dry among
The thicket sat, and heard above my head
The drops down-falling on my leafy roof instead.”
Some days by sun-glanced stream I’d speak my heart,
And lift my song for none but God to hear,
Then summer’s clouds of swifts would take their part
And swirling praise Him in the firmament clear,
As long ago they flew ere knowing fear.”
She smiled, and through the sunlight streaming in
Crossed to the knight and said “Now you are here,
Swift flies the earl’s doom, Sir Peregrine;
My thanks I give – I’ve found the fearless world again.”