Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Poem.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Fauconshawe [A Ballad]
by [?]

To fetch clear water out of the spring
The little maid Margaret ran;
From the stream to the castle’s western wing
It was but a bowshot span;
On the sedgy brink where the osiers cling
Lay a dead man, pallid and wan.

The lady Mabel rose from her bed,
And walked in the castle hall,
Where the porch through the western turret led
She met with her handmaid small.
“What aileth thee, Margaret?” the lady said,
“Hast let thy pitcher fall?

“Say, what hast thou seen by the streamlet side–
A nymph or a water sprite–
That thou comest with eyes so wild and wide,
And with cheeks so ghostly white?”
“Nor nymph nor sprite,” the maiden cried,
“But the corpse of a slaughtered knight.”

The lady Mabel summon’d straight
To her presence Sir Hugh de Vere,
Of the guests who tarried within the gate
Of Fauconshawe most dear
Was he to that lady; betrothed in state
They had been since many a year.

“Little Margaret sayeth a dead man lies
By the western spring, Sir Hugh;
I can scarce believe that the maiden lies–
Yet scarce can believe her true.”
And the knight replies, “Till we test her eyes
Let her words gain credence due.”

Down the rocky path knight and lady led,
While guests and retainers bold
Followed in haste, for like wildfire spread
The news by the maiden told.
They found ’twas even as she had said–
The corpse had some while been cold.

How the spirit had pass’d in the moments last
There was little trace to reveal:
On the still calm face lay no imprint ghast,
Save the angel’s solemn seal,
Yet the hands were clench’d in a death-grip fast,
And the sods stamp’d down by the heel.

Sir Hugh by the side of the dead man knelt,
Said, “Full well these features I know,
We have faced each other where blows were dealt,
And he was a stalwart foe;
I had rather have met him hilt to hilt
Than have found him lying low.”

He turn’d the body up on its face,
And never a word was spoken,
While he ripp’d the doublet, and tore the lace,
And tugg’d–by the self-same token,–
And strain’d, till he wrench’d it out of its place,
The dagger-blade that was broken.

Then he turned the body over again,
And said, while he rose upright,
“May the brand of Cain, with its withering stain,
On the murderer’s forehead light,
For he never was slain on the open plain,
Nor yet in the open fight.”

Solemn and stern were the words he spoke,
And he look’d at his lady’s men,
But his speech no answering echoes woke,
All were silent there and then,
Till a clear, cold voice the silence broke:–
Lady Mabel cried, “Amen.”

His glance met hers, the twain stood hush’d,
With the dead between them there;
But the blood to her snowy temples rush’d
Till it tinged the roots of her hair,
Then paled, but a thin red streak still flush’d
In the midst of her forehead fair.

Four yeomen raised the corpse from the ground,
At a sign from Sir Hugh de Vere;
It was borne to the western turret round,
And laid on a knightly bier,
With never a sob nor a mourning sound,–
No friend to the dead was near.

Yet that night was neither revel nor dance
In the halls of Fauconshawe;
Men looked askance with a doubtful glance
At Sir Hugh, for they stood in awe
Of his prowess, but he, like one in a trance,
Regarded naught that he saw.