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Short poem

William Morris (1834-1896)

Shameful Death

              1  There were four of us about that bed;
              2    The mass-priest knelt at the side,
              3I and his mother stood at the head,
              4    Over his feet lay the bride;
              5We were quite sure that he was dead,
              6    Though his eyes were open wide.

              7  He did not die in the night,
              8    He did not die in the day,
              9But in the morning twilight
            10    His spirit pass'd away,
            11When neither sun nor moon was bright,
            12    And the trees were merely grey.

            13  He was not slain with the sword,
            14    Knight's axe, or the knightly spear,
            15Yet spoke he never a word
            16    After he came in here;
            17I cut away the cord
            18    From the neck of my brother dear.

            19  He did not strike one blow,
            20    For the recreants came behind,
            21In a place where the hornbeams grow,
            22    A path right hard to find,
            23For the hornbeam boughs swing so,
            24    That the twilight makes it blind.

            25  They lighted a great torch then,
            26    When his arms were pinion'd fast,
            27Sir John the knight of the Fen,
            28    Sir Guy of the Dolorous Blast,
            29With knights threescore and ten,
            30    Hung brave Lord Hugh at last.

            31  I am threescore and ten,
            32    And my hair is all turn'd grey,
            33But I met Sir John of the Fen
            34    Long ago on a summer day,
            35And am glad to think of the moment when
            36    I took his life away.

            37  I am threescore and ten,
            38    And my strength is mostly pass'd,
            39But long ago I and my men,
            40    When the sky was overcast,
            41And the smoke roll'd over the reeds of the fen,
            42    Slew Guy of the Dolorous Blast.

            43  And now, knights all of you,
            44    I pray you pray for Sir Hugh,
            45A good knight and a true,
            46    And for Alice, his wife, pray too.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Morris, The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems (London: Bell and Daldy, 1858). PR 5078 D4 1858 SIGS end M677 D44 1858 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1858
RPO poem editor: J. D. Robins
RP edition: 2RP 2.603.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/10

Rhyme: ababab ... aaaa

Other poems by William Morris