The King Of Denmark’s Ride

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WORD was brought to the Danish king  
That the love of his heart lay suffering,  
And pin’d for the comfort his voice would bring;  
 (Oh! ride as though you were flying!)
Better he loves each golden curl  
On the brow of that Scandinavian girl  
Than his rich crown jewels of ruby and pearl;  
 And his rose of the isles is dying!  

Thirty nobles saddled with speed,
Each one mounting a gallant steed  
Which he kept for battle and days of need;  
 (Oh! ride as though you were flying!)  
Spurs were struck in the foaming flank;
Worn-out chargers stagger’d and sank;  
Bridles were slacken’d, and girths were burst;  
But ride as they would, the king rode first,  
 For his rose of the isles lay dying!  

His nobles are beaten, one by one;
They have fainted, and falter’d, and homeward gone;  
His little fair page now follows alone,  
 For strength and for courage trying.  
The king look’d back at that faithful child;
Wan was the face that answering smil’d;  
They passed the drawbridge with clattering din,  
Then he dropp’d; and only the king rode in  
 Where his rose of the isles lay dying!  

The king blew a blast on his bugle horn;
No answer came; but faint and forlorn  
An echo return’d on the cold gray morn,  
 Like the breath of a spirit sighing.  
The castle portal stood grimly wide;
None welcom’d the king from that weary ride;  
For dead, in the light of the dawning day,  
The pale sweet form of the welcomer lay,  
 Who had yearn’d for his voice while dying!  

The panting steed, with a drooping crest,
 Stood weary.  
The king return’d from her chamber of rest,  
The thick sobs choking in his breast;  
 And, that dumb companion eyeing,  
The tears gush’d forth which he strove to check;
He bowed his head on his charger’s neck:  
“O steed—that every nerve didst strain,  
Dear steed, our ride hath been in vain  
 To the halls where my love lay dying!”

© Caroline Norton