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- Songs of the Ridings - 11/11 -

The hest of the mystic rune.

But naught could she see from her casement, Save a man on a coal-black steed; For his mantle was muffled about him, His blazon she could not read.

She crossed herself and she whispered-- Her voice was faint but clear-- "Oh! Who art thou that darest ride, Through the aspen glade, by the river's side, My chamber window near?

"Say, art thou the lord of Bainbridge, Or Gervase of Bolton Hall, That comest so late on St Agnes Eve Within my manor wall?"

"I am not the lord of Bainbridge, Nor Gervase of Bolton Hall, But I marked the light in thy casement, And I saw the sage-leaves fall, Flutter awhile and fall."

"Camest thou over the moorlands, Or camest thou through the dale? Speak no guile to a witless maid, But tell me a soothfast tale."

"I came not over the moorlands, Nor along the dale did ride; But thou seeest thy plighted lover, That has come to claim his bride."

"Say, art thou knight or yeoman, Of noble or simple birth? Fain would I know thy lineage, Thy prowess and thy worth."

"Nor knight nor lowly yeoman, But a mighty king am I; Bold vassals do my bidding, And on mine errands hie.

"They come to court and castle, They climb the palace stairs; Nor pope nor king may entrance bar To him my livery wears."

"But why should a king so mighty Pay court to a simple maid? My father's a knight of low degree, No princely realm he holds in fee, No proud-foot damsels wait on me: Thy steps have surely strayed."

"No step of mine hath wandered From the goal of my desires; 'Tis on thee my hopes are centred, 'Tis to thee my heart aspires.

"I love thee for thy beauty, I love thee for thy grace, I love thee for the dancing lights That gleam in thy moon-lit face: And these I deem a peerless dower To win a king's embrace."

"One boon, O royal lover, I ask on St Agnes Day; I fain would gaze on thy visage fair Ere with thee I steal away.

"Unmuffle thou the mantle That hides thee like a pall; And let the purple trappings From off thy shoulders fall."

Slowly he loosed the mantle, And showed his face beneath. The lights went out in the maiden's eyes; One swooning word she breathed to the skies: The gaunt hills echoed "Death."

Songs of the Ridings - 11/11

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