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Alas ! one day this fisherman
Had taken too much grog,
And, being but a landsman, too,
He couldn't keep his log.
'Twas all in vain, with might and main
He strove to reach the shore ;
Down-down he went to feed the fish
He'd baited oft before.
The jury gave their verdict that
'Twas nothing else but gin
Had caused the fisherman to be
So sadly taken in;
Though one stood out upon a whim,
And said the angler's slaughter,
To be exact about the fact,
Was, clearly, gin-and-water!
The moral of this mournful talo
To all is plain and clear,
That drinking habits bring a man
Too often to his bier ;
And he who scorns to “take the pledge,”
And keep the promise fast,
May be, in spite of fate, a stif
Cold water man at last!
J. G. Saxe.
The fame of the fearless De Courcy
Is boundless as the air :
With his own right hand he won the land
Of Ulster, green and fair!
But he lieth low in a dungeon now,
Powerless, in proud despair;
For false King John hath cast him in,
And closely chained him there.
The false king sate on his throne of state,
'Mid knights and nobles free : “Who is there," he cried, “who will cross the tide,
And do battle in France for me?
There is cast on mine honour a fearful stain-
The death of the boy who ruled Bretagne;
And the monarch of France, my old suzerain,
Hath bidden a champion for me appear,
My fame from this darkening blot to clear.
Speak—is your silence the silence of fear,
My knights and my nobles ? Frowning and pale
Your faces grow as I tell my tale !
Is there not one of this knightly ring,
Who dares do battle for his king ?”
The warriors they heard, but they spake not a word ;
The earth some gazed upon;
And some did raise a steadfast gaze
To the face of false King John.
Think ye they feared? They were Englishmen all,
Though mutely they sate in their monarch’s hall;
The heroes of many a well-fought day,
Who loved the sound of a gathering fray,
Even as the lonely shepherd loves
The herd's soft bell in the mountain groves.
Why were they silent? There was not one
Who could trust the word of false King John;
And their cheeks grew pallid as they thought
On the deed of blood by his base hand wrought;
Pale, with a brave heart's generous fear,
When forced a tale of shame to hear.
'Twas a coward whiteness then did chase
The glow of shame from the false king's face;
And he turned aside in bootless pride
That witness of his guilt to hide;
Yet every heart around him there
Witness against him more strongly bare !
Oh, out then spake his beauteous queen-
“A captive lord I know,
Whose loyal heart hath ever been
Eager to meet the foe.
Were true De Courcy here this day,
Freed from his galling chain,
Never, oh never, should scoffers say
That amid all England's rank and might
Their king had sought him a loyal knight,
And sought such knight in vain."
Up started the monarch, and cleared his brow,
And bade them summon De Courcy now.
Swiftly his messengers hasted away,
And sought the cell where the hero lay;
They bade him arise at his master's call,
And follow their steps to the stately hall.
He is brought before the council
There are chains upon his hands;
With his silver hair, that aged knight,
Like a rock o'erhung with foam-wreathes white,
Proudly and calmly stands.
From the warrior's form they loosed the chain :
His face was lighted with calm disdain ;
Nor cheek, nor lip, nor eye gave token
E'en that he knew his chains were broken.
He spake—no music loud and clear
Was in the voice of the grey-haired knight,
But a low, stern sound, like that ye
In the march of a mail-clad host by night.
“ Brother of Cæur de Lion," said he,
“ These chains have not dishonoured me!”
There was crushing scorn in each simple word,
Mightier than battle-axe or sword.
Not long did the heart of the false king thrill
To the touch of passing shame,
For it was hard, and mean, and chill;
As breezes sweep o'er a frozen rill
That feeling went and came,
Leaving it cold and unbroken still ;
And now to the knight he made reply,
Pleading his cause right craftily.
Skilled was his tongue in specious use
Of promise fair and feigned excuse,
Blended with words of strong appeal
To love of fame and loyal zeal.
At length he ceased, and every eye
Gazed on De Courcy wistfully.
“Speak,” cried the king, in that fearful pause ;
“Wilt thou not champion thy monarch's cause ?”
The old knight struck his foot on the ground
Like a war-horse hearing the trumpet sound;
And he spake in a voice of thunder,
Solemn and fierce in tone,
Waving his hand to the stately band
Who stood by the monarch's throne,
As a warrior might wave his flashing glaive
When cheering his squadrons on:
“I will fight for the honour of England,
But not for false King John!"
He turned and strode from the lofty hall,
Nor seemed to hear the sudden cheer
Which burst, as he spake, from the lips of all.
And when he stood in the air without,
He paused as if in joyful doubt;
To the forests green and wide blue sky
Stretching his arms embracingly,
With stately tread and uplifted head,
As a good steed tosses back his mane
When they loose his neck from the servile rein.
Ye know not, ye who are always free,
How precious a thing is liberty.
“Oh, world !” he cried ; "sky, river, hill,
Ye wear the garments of beauty still.
How have ye kept your youth so fair,
While age has whitened this hoary hair?"
But when the squire who watched his lord,
Gave to his hand his ancient sword,
The hilt he pressed to his eager breast,
Like one who a long-lost friend hath met,
And joyously said, as he kissed the blade,
“ Methinks there is youth in my spirit yet. For France ! for France lo'er the waters blue False king-dear land-adieu, adieu !"
He hath crossed the booming oceán;
On the shore he plants his lance,
And he sends his daring challenge
Into the heart of France :
“ Lo here I stand for England,
Queen of the silver main !
SHALL I, WASTING IN DESPAIR.
To guard her fame and cleanse her name
From slander's darkening stain !
Advance, advance, ye knights of France,
Give answer to my call ;
Lo ! here I stand for England,
And I defy you all !”
From the east and the north came champions forth,
They came in a knightly crowd ;
From the south and the west each generous breast
Throbbed at that summons proud.
But though brave was each lord, and keen each sword,
No warrior could withstand The strength of the hero-spirit
Which nerved the old man's hand.
He is conqueror in the battle,
He hath won the wreath of bay,
To the shining crown of his fair renown
He hath added another ray ;
He hath drawn his sword for England,
He hath fought for her spotless name,
And the isle resounds to her farthest bounds
With her grey-haired hero's fame.
In the ears of the craven monarch
Oft must this burthen ring“Though the crown be thine, and the royal line,
He is in heart thy king!”
they gave this graceful honour
To the bold De Courcy's race,
That they ever should dare their helms to wear
Before the king's own face.
And the sons of that line of heroes
To this day their right assume,
For when every head is unbonneted,
They walk in cap and plume !
SHALL I, WASTING IN DESPAIR.
SHALL I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman's fair?
Or make pale my cheeks with care
'Cause another's rosy are ?