Then rode they out beyond the forest’s bounds
And soon came to a country wide and fair
With farms and verdant meadows all around
Where blooming orchards perfumed all the air
And when they asked the crofters living there
Whose lands these were, the men to them replied:
“The Countess of the Forest now rules here,
(Though we before by an earl were despotized),
From here her lands stretch further than a full day’s ride.”
O’er hill, down dale, where lightly blew the rain,
They onward made their way till Caerleon
They saw down by the sunny river plain,
Her towers and bridges and pavilions
All brightly decked. And there a festal throng
The wide and narrow streets did overfill
As overrunning cup. And there among
That holy-feast-day crowd they passed until
They came unto the castle great that crowned the hill.
And as they passed into the high-beamed hall
The lowliest porter to the noblest knight
And highborn ladies were astonished all
By her beside the knight, slender and tall,
As silver birch, with jet-black brows as bows
Taut for the the hunt, and hands as white crystal.
And all the court was eager then to know
The countess’ tale, and of the earl’s overthrow.
Then good King Arthur blessed the happy pair
And said “You’re passing welcome unto me,
And we shall see you wed this day, and share
With you in joy, sweet songs, and revelry.”
And so it was, they feasted royally,
And drank from out gold-mounted drinking horns.
And knights from Cornish coast and far Orkney
In tabards bright, with ladies fair adorned
In silks and gems, all feasted there till rosy morn.
And when the sounds of British bagpipes’ squeal
And laughter’s peal, and ancient harper’s lay
Were faded from the hall, the guests did steal
Away to sleep all through the early day.
And four months more at court the knight did stay,
His wife beloved by all the maidens there,
But when the summer’s swifts had flown away,
And swallows took to wing, he made his prayer
Unto the king, that they as well might go from there,
And ride again together through the wilds
(Before white snow the vales should overlay)
Through autumn’s golden trees and empty fields
Upon the road that goes the wild way,
And take that winding path for many a day
Unto the castle where they twain should dwell
Deep in the forest holding righteous sway.
The knight’s request did please King Arthur well,
And so they went, but of their tale no more I‘ll tell.