When madly raged religious war
O'er all the Magyar land
And royal archer and hussar
Met foemen hand to hand,
A princess fair in castle strong
The royal troops defied
And bravely held her fortress long
Though help was all denied.
Princess Maria was her name
Brave daughter nobly sired;
She caught her father's trusty sword
When bleeding he expired,
And bravely rallied warders all
To meet the storming foe,
And hurled them from the rampart-wall
Upon the crags below.
Prince Casimir her father built
Murana high and wide;
It sat among the mountain cliffs
The Magyars' boast and pride.
Bold Wesselenyi stalwart knight,
Young, famed and wondrous fair,
With a thousand men besieged the height,
And led the bravest there.
And long he tried the arts of war
To take that castle-hold,
Till many a proud and plumed hussar
Was lying stiff and cold;
And still the frowning castle stood
A grim, unbroken wall,
Like some lone rock in stormy seas
That braves the billows all.
Bold Wesselenyi's cheeks grew thin;
A solemn oath he sware
That if he failed the prize to win
His bones should molder there.
Two toilsome months had worn away,
Two hundred men were slain,
His bold assaults were baffled still,
And all his arts were vain.
But love is mightier than the sword,
He clad him in disguise
In the dress of an inferior lord
To win the noble prize.
He bade his armed men to wait,
To cease the battle-blare
And sought alone the castle-gate
To hold a parley there.
Aloft a flag of truce he bore:
Her warders bade him pass;
Within he met the princess fair
All clad in steel and brass.
Her bright, black eyes and queenly art,
Sweet lips and raven hair,
Smote bold young Wesselenyi's heart
While he held parley there.
Cunning he talked of great reward
And royal favor, too,
If she would yield her father's sword;
She sternly answered "No."
But even while they parleyed there
Maria's lustrous eyes
Looked tenderly and lovingly
On the chieftain in disguise.
"Go tell your gallant chief," she said,
"To keep his paltry pelf;
The knight who would my castle win,
Must dare to come himself."
And forth she sternly bade him go,
But followed with her eyes.
I ween she knew the brave knight well
Through all his fair disguise.
But when had dawned another morn,
He bade his bugleman
To sound again the parley-horn
Ere yet the fray began.
And forth he sent a trusty knight
To seek the castle-gate
And to the princess privately
His message to relate;
That he it was who in disguise
Her warders bade to pass,
And while he parleyed there her eyes
Had pierced his plates of brass.
His heart he offered and his hand,
And pledged a signet-ring
If she would yield her brave command
Unto his gracious king.
"Go tell your chief," Maria cried
"Audacious as he is
If he be worthy such a bride
My castle and hand are his.
But he should know that lady fair
By faint heart ne'er was won;
So let your gallant chieftain, sir,
Come undisguised alone.
"And he may see in the northern tower,
Over yonder precipice,
A lone, dim light at the midnight hour
Shine down the dark abyss.
And over the chasm's dungeon-gloom
Shall a slender ladder hang;
And if alone he dare to come,
Unarmed without a clang,
"More of his suit your chief shall hear
Perhaps may win the prize;
Tell him the way is hedged with fear,
One misstep and he dies.
Nor will I pledge him safe retreat
From out yon guarded tower;
My watchful warders all to cheat
May be beyond my power."
At midnight's dark and silent hour
The tall and gallant knight
Sought on the cliff the northern tower,
And saw the promised light.
With toil he climbed the cragged cliff,
And there the ladder found;
And o'er the yawning gulf he clomb
The ladder round by round.
And as he climbed the ladder bent
Above the yawning deep,
But bravely to the port he went
And entered at a leap
Full twenty warders thronged the hall
Each with his blade in hand;
They caught the brave knight like a thrall
And bound him foot and hand.
They tied him fast to an iron ring,
At Maria's stern command,
And then they jeered "God save the king
And all his knightly band!"
They bound a bandage o'er his eyes,
Then the haughty princess said:
"Audacious knight, I hold a prize,
My castle or your head!
"Now, mark! desert the king's command,
And join your sword with mine,
And thine shall be my heart and hand,
This castle shall be thine.
I grant one hour for thee to choose,
My bold and gallant lord;
And if my offer you refuse
You perish by the sword!"
He spoke not a word, but his face was pale
And he prayed a silent prayer;
But his heart was oak and it could not quail,
And a secret oath he sware.
And grim stood the warders armed all,
In the torches' flicker and flare,
As they watch for an hour in the gloomy hall
The brave knight pinioned there.
The short the flying hour is past,
The warders have bared his breast;
The bugler bugles a doleful blast;
Will the pale knight stand the test?
He has made his choice he will do his part,
He has sworn and he cannot lie,
And he cries with the sword at his beating heart,
"Betray? nay better to die!"
Suddenly fell from his blue eyes
The silken, blinding bands,
And while he looked in sheer surprise
They freed his feet and hands.
"I give thee my castle," Maria cried,
"And I give thee my heart and hand,
And Maria will be the proudest bride
In all this Magyar land.
"Grant heaven that thou be true to me
As thou art to the king,
And I'll bless the day I gave to thee
My castle for a ring."
The red blood flushed to the brave knight's face
As he looked on the lady fair;
He sprang to her arms in a fond embrace,
And he married her then and there.
So the little blind elf with his feathered shaft
Did more than the sword could do,
For he conquered and took with his magical craft
Her heart and her castle, too.