19th Century

The Knights of Palestine (1838) | G. W. M. Reynolds

The following poem was written by George W.M. Reynolds and originally appeared in his novel Alfred: The Adventures of a French Gentleman (1838), which was originally serialised in the Monthly Magazine. The poem is about the deeds of a knight errant in medieval Palestine during the crusades. It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.

Later edition of Reynolds’s Alfred (1838) (Stephen Basdeo Personal Collection)

It was when the eventful day was done,

That witnessed the capture of Ascalon,

From the Moslem king by the Christians won,

Who fought for the shrine of the Virgin’s Son;

And when Phæbus’ course to the west had run,

And Cynthia’s silent reign had begun,

That out of the camp, attended by none,

Towards the city walls rode an armëd one.

He stopped at the castle-postern straight,

And tarried no moment to meditate,

But knocked full hard at the massive gate;

Nor long was the time that he had to wait,

For a warder, appearing at the grate,

Demanded who thither might come so late;

When the knight replied, that affairs of weight

Had brought him there with a need so great.

“Show me a sign, that I may obey,

Else never, Sır Knight, wilt thou pass

Such are the orders none gainsay.”

“— Shame to thy hair — thy locks so gray,

If thou sendest me out in the night astray,

When the sickly beams of the moon scarce play

On the road where my journey back must lay.”

“ —Sir Knight, you will manage as best you may.”

“—Of thy threats and thine orders all despite,

Will I enter the gates this very night;

Though the door be guarded by every sprite

That avoids the earth in broad day-light,

And in darkness comes to mortal sight

Against the legions of hell to fight,

Were to me but a pastime of delight,

Since it leads to Celestine,” quóth the Knight.

Then the warrior turned to his charger there

He seized his mace and raised it in air:

The dint of its force he did not spare,

But to deal the blow his arm ‘gan prepare;

And, in sooth, the axe was of weight full rare;

No delicate hand must that weapon bear:

It fell with a din made the warder aware

Of such Warrior’s prowess to have a care.

Loud thundered the mace — the door fell supine:

“Well aimed was that blow,” said the warrior, “of mine!

Now, to the bower of the fair Celestine;

This feat has well earned her beauties divine;

And, maiden, I’m come to revel in thine!

Shall such charms in a gloomy tower decline,

When thou may’st be led to the bridal shrine

By the bravest chieftain in Palestine?”

The warrior he entered — the warder essayed

To stop his proceedings— he sighed—and he prayed;

But in vain his appeal and petition he made;

The Knight, so undaunted, could never be stayed

By even the words that a foeman had said;

And his heart was now full of the beautiful maid

Whom Nature with every charm had arrayed;

So he turned from the warder, nothing dismayed.

But as he was going to seek the tower

Where he knew Celestine slept in bower,

(For now ‘ twas already midnight hour)

A stately form, with an arm of power,

Seized on the Knight, whose brow ‘gan lower,

And his eyes the fire of wrath to shower;

But the other exclaimed , “Thou well may’st cower,

For thou ne’er shalt possess so lovely a flower.

“This day,” he continued , “the Moslem in vain

His crescent against our red cross did sustain,

And here I was sent these towers to maintain,

Should the Saracen Soldan rally again.

Wilt thou then arrive to disturb my reign,

And seek for my daughter, whom never a stain

Has sullied, to give me, her father, pain?

For she is betrothed to Sir Alberic Fayne.”

“—Little reck I for the happy one,

Nor thee, the governor of Ascalon,

Sent by the king when the siege was done,

And these walls by Richard’s arms were won:

But I will leave thee till morning’s sun

To illumine our hemisphere has begun;

And then, ere his mid -day course be run,

Will I combat with that ephemeron.”

“—Sir Alberic Fayne will never fly,

Though thou art so stalwart an enemy;”

(‘Twas thus the governor gave reply)

“But tomorrow’s morn, if thou wilt try

The joust to decide your rivalry,

I swear by the Virgin, who rules on high,

That Celestine herself, with her beauteous eye,

Shall glance on the conqueror’s victory.”

The morning’s dawned, and the sun has lent

His rays to enliven the tournament;

Then, with their eyes on each other bent,

And harnessed in steel with gilding blent,

Both the knights to their stations went,

And stood each before his own fair tent,

Till the signal bugle its warning sent,

When they charged, ere its latest sounds were spent.

Like falcon swift on an airy wing,

They met with echoes thundering:

Their steeds the dust around them fling,

And the crowds, with voices murmuring,

Said they never had seen such chivalrous thing;

For the lances broke at the sudden spring,

And Sir Alberic Fayne lay in the ring

His victor was Richard himself—the King!

The vanquished was raised from his state supine,

When Richard addressed the fair Celestine:—

“Never, too dear one, shalt thou be mine,

On him let your glances only shine;

He’s worthy, I ween, of such bliss divine,

Since I, the victor of Palestine,

Forgetting the rank of thee and thine,

Were fain to have robbed thy virgin shrine.

“—Thy father will tell thee, I came in the night,

Like a robber who shuns the glare of day-light;

I came like a south wind on blossoms bright,

Fraught with intention to ravish and blight:

But now, though I’ve conquered thine own true knight,

Though I love thee, sweet maiden, as much as man might,

Still justice directs my heart aright,

And tomorrow thy bridal shall speed in our sight.”