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Eviradnus
by [?]


THE KNIGHT ERRANT.

(“Qu’est-ce que Sigismond et Ladislas ont dit.”)

[Bk. XV. iii. 1.]

I.

THE ADVENTURER SETS OUT.

What was it Sigismond and Ladislaeus said?

I know not if the rock, or tree o’erhead,
Had heard their speech;–but when the two spoke low,
Among the trees, a shudder seemed to go
Through all their branches, just as if that way
A beast had passed to trouble and dismay.
More dark the shadow of the rock was seen,
And then a morsel of the shade, between
The sombre trees, took shape as it would seem
Like spectre walking in the sunset’s gleam.

It is not monster rising from its lair,
Nor phantom of the foliage and the air,
It is not morsel of the granite’s shade
That walks in deepest hollows of the glade.
‘Tis not a vampire nor a spectre pale
But living man in rugged coat of mail.
It is Alsatia’s noble Chevalier,
Eviradnus the brave, that now is here.

The men who spoke he recognized the while
He rested in the thicket; words of guile
Most horrible were theirs as they passed on,
And to the ears of Eviradnus one–
One word had come which roused him. Well he knew
The land which lately he had journeyed through.

He down the valley went into the inn
Where he had left his horse and page, Gasclin.
The horse had wanted drink, and lost a shoe;
And now, “Be quick!” he said, “with what you do,
For business calls me, I must not delay.”
He strides the saddle and he rides away.

II.

EVIRADNUS.

Eviradnus was growing old apace,
The weight of years had left its hoary trace,
But still of knights the most renowned was he,
Model of bravery and purity.
His blood he spared not; ready day or night
To punish crime, his dauntless sword shone bright
In his unblemished hand; holy and white
And loyal all his noble life had been,
A Christian Samson coming on the scene.
With fist alone the gate he battered down
Of Sickingen in flames, and saved the town.
‘Twas he, indignant at the honor paid
To crime, who with his heel an onslaught made
Upon Duke Lupus’ shameful monument,
Tore down, the statue he to fragments rent;
Then column of the Strasburg monster bore
To bridge of Wasselonne, and threw it o’er
Into the waters deep. The people round
Blazon the noble deeds that so abound
From Altorf unto Chaux-de-Fonds, and say,
When he rests musing in a dreamy way,
“Behold, ’tis Charlemagne!” Tawny to see
And hairy, and seven feet high was he,
Like John of Bourbon. Roaming hill or wood
He looked a wolf was striving to do good.
Bound up in duty, he of naught complained,
The cry for help his aid at once obtained.
Only he mourned the baseness of mankind,
And–that the beds too short he still doth find.
When people suffer under cruel kings,
With pity moved, he to them succor brings.
‘Twas he defended Alix from her foes
As sword of Urraca–he ever shows
His strength is for the feeble and oppressed;
Father of orphans he, and all distressed!
Kings of the Rhine in strongholds were by him
Boldly attacked, and tyrant barons grim.
He freed the towns–confronting in his lair
Hugo the Eagle; boldly did he dare
To break the collar of Saverne, the ring
Of Colmar, and the iron torture thing
Of Schlestadt, and the chain that Haguenau bore.
Such Eviradnus was a wrong before,
Good but most terrible. In the dread scale
Which princes weighted with their horrid tale
Of craft and violence, and blood and ill,
And fire and shocking deeds, his sword was still
God’s counterpoise displayed. Ever alert
More evil from the wretched to avert,
Those hapless ones who ‘neath Heaven’s vault at night
Raise suppliant hands. His lance loved not the plight
Of mouldering in the rack, of no avail,
His battle-axe slipped from supporting nail
Quite easily; ’twas ill for action base
To come so near that he the thing could trace.
The steel-clad champion death drops all around
As glaciers water. Hero ever found
Eviradnus is kinsman of the race
Of Amadys of Gaul, and knights of Thrace,
He smiles at age. For he who never asked
For quarter from mankind–shall he be tasked
To beg of Time for mercy? Rather he
Would girdle up his loins, like Baldwin be.
Aged he is, but of a lineage rare;
The least intrepid of the birds that dare
Is not the eagle barbed. What matters age,
The years but fire him with a holy rage.
Though late from Palestine, he is not spent,–
With age he wrestles, firm in his intent.