Sir Hugh the Palmer

A poem by Henry Newbolt

I

He kneeled among a waste of sands
Before the Mother-Maid,
But on the far green forest-lands
His steadfast eyes were stayed,
And like a knight of stone his hands
He straightened while he prayed.

"Lady, beyond all women fair,
Beyond all saints benign,
Whose living heart through life I bear
In mystery divine,
Hear thou and grant me this my prayer,
Or grant no prayer of mine.

"The fever of my spirit's pain
Heal thou with heavenly scorn;
The dust that but of dust is fain
Leave thou in dust forlorn;
Yea! bury love to rise again
Meet for eternal morn.

"So by thy grace my inward eyes
Thy beauty still shall see,
And while our life in shadow lies
High dawn shall image thee,
Till with thy soul in Paradise
Thy servant's soul shall be."

Before the immortal Mother-Maid
Low on the sands he kneeled;
But even while the words he prayed
His lips to patience sealed,
Joy in his eyes a radiance made
Like stars in dusk revealed.


II

It was an idle company--
Ladies and lordings fine--
Idly under the wild-wood tree
Their laughter ran like wine.
Yet as they laughed a voice they heard--
A voice where none was seen,--
Singing blithe as a hidden bird
Among the forest green.

"Mark ye, mark ye, a lonely knight
Riding the green forest:
Pardì! for one so poorly dight
He lifts a haughty crest!

Azure and white is all his wear,
He hath no gold, I trow!
Wanderer, thou in the wild-wood there,
Tell us why sing ye so!"

"Noble ladies and lordings gay,
God have you all in guard:
Since ye are pleased with me to play,
My riddle it is not hard.
I sing because, of all that ride,
I am the least of worth:
I sing because, to match my pride,
Never was pride on earth.

"But, an ye ask what that may mean,
Thus do I answer then:
I bear with me the heart of a Queen--
I that am least of men:--
I bear her heart till the end of all,
Yea! by her own command
I bear the heart of a Queen royal
Unto the Holy Land."

Humbly there his crest he bent,--
Azure it waved and white,--
Haughtily there he turned and went
Singing, out of their sight.
Long, long but his voice they heard,--
A voice where none was seen,--
Singing blithe as a hidden bird,
Among the forest green.

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