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Death In The Forest

August 2: 1100

Where the greenwood is greenest
At gloaming of day,
Where the twelve-antler'd stag
Faces boldest at bay;
Where the solitude deepens,
Till almost you hear
The blood-beat of the heart
As the quarry slips near;
His comrades outridden
With scorn in the race,
The Red King is hallooing
His bounds to the chase.

What though the Wild Hunt
Like a whirlwind of hell
Yestereve ran the forest,
With baying and yell:--
In his cups the Red heathen
Mocks God to the face;
--'In the devil's name, shoot;
Tyrrell, ho!--to the chase!'

--Now with worms for his courtiers
He lies in the narrow
Cold couch of the chancel!
--But whence was the arrow?

The dread vision of Serlo
That call'd him to die,
The weird sacrilege terror
Of sleep, have gone by.
The blood of young Richard
Cries on him in vain,
In the heart of the Lindwood
By arbalest slain.
And he plunges alone
In the Serpent-glade gloom,
As one whom the Furies
Hound headlong to doom.

His sin goes before him,
The lust and the pride;
And the curses of England
Breathe hot at his side.
And the desecrate walls
Of the Evil-wood shrine
Lo, he passes--unheeding
Dark vision and sign:--

--Now with worms for his courtiers
He lies in the narrow
Cold couch of the chancel:
--But whence was the arrow?

Then a shudder of death
Flicker'd fast through the wood:--
And they found the Red King
Red-gilt in his blood.
What wells up in his throat?
Is it cursing, or prayer?
Was it Henry, or Tyrrell,
Or demon, who there
Has dyed the fell tyrant
Twice crimson in gore,
While the soul disincarnate
Hunts on to hell-door?

--Ah! friendless in death!
Rude forest-hands fling
On the charcoaler's wain
What but now was the king!
And through the long Minster
The carcass they bear,
And huddle it down
Without priest, without prayer:--

Now with worms for his courtiers
He lies in the narrow
Cold couch of the chancel:
--But whence was the arrow?

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:45 min read
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Francis Turner Palgrave

Francis Turner Palgrave was a British critic and poet. more…

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