1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Philip Sidney

Bernard Barton, in "Sir Philip Sidney" A Widow's Tale (1827) 46-49.



The hoarser din of war had died away,
The cannon's thunder, and the clarion's swell,
And on the sanguine field of battle-fray
Silence more sad, and more appalling fell;
Stillness unbroken but by murmurs low,
Which told of faintness, weariness, and woe.

Here lay a Chief, whose war-cry thro' the field
Had rivall'd late the trumpet's clamour loud,
His cold brow pillow'd on his dinted shield,
His bloody corselet, now, alas, his shroud;
And there beside him, soil'd with dust and foam,
The faithful steed that bore him from his home.

Here lay a stripling, ne'er to rise again
From his first field of battle, and his last;
And there a veteran of the warrior train,
Who scatheless many a fearful fray had past;
But now was stretched upon his gory bed,
The mute companion of the silent dead.

And now a living group arrests the eye;—
Two Squires at Arms, supporting on the plain
A Knight of manly form and lineage high,
Living, but faint with weariness and pain;—
And round them, eager to afford relief,
Gather the faithful followers of their Chief.

He through the thickest of the fight had led
The fearless on to victory and to fame;
Like one whose heart no danger e'er could dread,
Whose ardent spirits no fatigue could tame;—
But now exhausted on the field of death,
Each languid sigh appears his parting breath.

His cheek, his brow are pale; his eye is dim,
So lately like a falcon's in its gaze,
And shapeless forms before his vision swim,
Such as the sleeper in a dream surveys:—
Oh! for a cup of water! 'twould be worth
The richest vintage of the teeming earth.

'Tis brought; a gift more welcome than a gem;
For never yet, in beauty's braded hair,
Or haughty monarch's costly diadem,
Shone pearl or ruby with it to compare;—
Cool, bright, and sparkling, in that faint distress
Worth kingly smile, or woman's dear caress.

He lifts it to his lips: — he stops! ah why
Not quaff the draught, when life may come with drinking?
He sees beside him one, whose wistful eye
Is on that cup, whose very soul is sinking;
Poor, helpless, nameless! none to him attend,
For when had humble wretchedness a friend?

Oh! then, and there; — for, melting at the view,
The noble Sidney, in his hour of need,
From his parch'd lips the welcome cup withdrew,
And gave it him whose sufferings thus could plead;
Exclaiming, with benevolence benign,
"Here, drink, my friend, thy want surpasses mine!"

And never knightly deed of arms was done
By him, the frank, the chivalrous, the bold,
Which more enduring fame hath nobly won,
Than with this simple legend is enroll'd;
Fame which the heart shall suffer not to die,
Glory befitting genuine chivalry!