The Ballad Of The Rose

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Booted and spurred he rode toward the west,
A rose, from the woman who loved him best,
Lay warm with her kisses there in his breast,
And the battle beacons were burning.

As over the draw he galloping went,
She, from the gateway's battlement,
With a wafted kiss and a warning bent
"Beware of the ford at the turning!"

An instant only he turned in his sell,
And lightly fingered his petronel,
Then settled his sword in its belt as well,
And the horns to battle were sounding.

She watched till he reached the beacon there,
And saw its gleam on his helm and hair,
Then turned and murmured, "God keep thee, Clare!
From that wolf of the hills and his hounding."

And on he rode till he came to the hill,
Where the road turned off by the ruined mill,
Where the stream flowed shallow and broad and still,
And the battle beacon was burning.

Into the river with little heed,
Down from the hill he galloped his steed
The water whispered on rock and reed,
"Death hides by the ford at the turning!"

And out of the night on the other side,
Their helms and corselets dim descried,
He saw ten bandit troopers ride,
And the horns to battle were blaring.

Then he reined his steed in the middle ford,
And glanced behind him and drew his sword,
And laughed as he shouted his battle-word,
"Clare! Clare! and my steel needs airing!"

Then down from the hills at his back there came
Ten troopers more. With a face of flame
Red Hugh of the Hills led on the same,
In the glare of the beacon's burning.

Again the cavalier turned and gazed,
Then quick to his lips the rose he raised,
And kissed it, crying, "Now God be praised!
And help her there when mourning!"

Then he rose in his stirrups and loosened rein,
And shouting his cry spurred on amain
Into the troopers to slay and be slain,
While the horns to battle were blowing.

With ten behind him and ten before,
And the battle beacon to light the shore,
Small doubt of the end in his mind he bore,
With her rose in his bosom glowing.

One trooper he slew with his petronel,
And one with his sword when his good steed fell,
And they haled him, fighting, from horse and sell
In the light of the beacon's burning.

Quoth Hugh of the Hills, "To yonder tree
Now hang him high where she may see;
Then bear this rose and message from me
'The ravens feast at the turning.'"

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