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The Fight With The Dragon
by [?]


Why run the crowd? What means the throng
That rushes fast the streets along?
Can Rhodes a prey to flames, then, be?
In crowds they gather hastily,
And, on his steed, a noble knight
Amid the rabble, meets my sight;
Behind him–prodigy unknown!–
A monster fierce they’re drawing on;
A dragon stems it by its shape,
With wide and crocodile-like jaw,
And on the knight and dragon gape,
In turns, the people, filled with awe.

And thousand voices shout with glee
“The fiery dragon come and see,
Who hind and flock tore limb from limb!–
The hero see, who vanquished him!
Full many a one before him went,
To dare the fearful combat bent,
But none returned home from the fight;
Honor ye, then, the noble knight!”
And toward the convent move they all,
While met in hasty council there
The brave knights of the Hospital,
St. John the Baptist’s Order, were.

Up to the noble master sped
The youth, with firm but modest tread;
The people followed with wild shout,
And stood the landing-place about,
While thus outspoke that daring one:
“My knightly duty I have done.
The dragon that laid waste the land
Has fallen beneath my conquering hand.
The way is to the wanderer free,
The shepherd o’er the plains may rove;
Across the mountains joyfully
The pilgrim to the shrine may move.”

But sternly looked the prince, and said:
“The hero’s part thou well hast played
By courage is the true knight known,–
A dauntless spirit thou hast shown.
Yet speak! What duty first should he
Regard, who would Christ’s champion be,
Who wears the emblem of the Cross?”–
And all turned pale at his discourse.
Yet he replied, with noble grace,
While blushingly he bent him low:
“That he deserves so proud a place
Obedience best of all can show.”

“My son,” the master answering spoke,
“Thy daring act this duty broke.
The conflict that the law forbade
Thou hast with impious mind essayed.”–
“Lord, judge when all to thee is known,”
The other spake, in steadfast tone,–
“For I the law’s commands and will
Purposed with honor to fulfil.
I went not out with heedless thought.
Hoping the monster dread to find;
To conquer in the fight I sought
By cunning, and a prudent mind.”

“Five of our noble Order, then
(Our faith could boast no better men),
Had by their daring lost their life,
When thou forbadest us the strife.
And yet my heart I felt a prey
To gloom, and panted for the fray;
Ay, even in the stilly night,
In vision gasped I in the fight;
And when the glimmering morning came,
And of fresh troubles knowledge gave,
A raging grief consumed my frame,
And I resolved the thing to brave.”

“And to myself I thus began:
‘What is’t adorns the youth, the man?
What actions of the heroes bold,
Of whom in ancient song we’re told,
Blind heathendom raised up on high
To godlike fame and dignity?
The world, by deeds known far and wide,
From monsters fierce they purified;
The lion in the fight they met,
And wrestled with the minotaur,
Unhappy victims free to set,
And were not sparing of their gore.'”

“‘Are none but Saracens to feel
The prowess of the Christian steel?
False idols only shall be brave?
His mission is the world to save;
To free it, by his sturdy arm,
From every hurt, from every harm;
Yet wisdom must his courage bend,
And cunning must with strength contend.’
Thus spake I oft, and went alone
The monster’s traces to espy;
When on my mind a bright light shone,–
‘I have it!’ was my joyful cry.”