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Aix In Provence

 Christ God who savest man, save most
Of men Count Gismond who saved me!
Count Gauthier, when he chose his post,
Chose time and place and company
To suit it; when he struck at length
My honour, 'twas with all his strength.
And doubtlessly ere he could draw All points to one, he must have schemed! That miserable morning saw Few half so happy as I seemed, While being dressed in queen's array To give our tourney prize away.
I thought they loved me, did me grace To please themselves; 'twas all their deed; God makes, or fair or foul, our face; If showing mine so caused to bleed My cousins' hearts, they should have dropped A word, and straight the play had stopped.
They, too, so beauteous! Each a queen By virtue of her brow and breast; Not needing to be crowned, I mean, As I do.
E'en when I was dressed, Had either of them spoke, instead Of glancing sideways with still head! V.
But no: they let me laugh, and sing My birthday song quite through, adjust The last rose in my garland, fling A last look on the mirror, trust My arms to each an arm of theirs, And so descend the castle-stairs--- VI.
And come out on the morning-troop Of merry friends who kissed my cheek, And called me queen, and made me stoop Under the canopy---(a streak That pierced it, of the outside sun, Powdered with gold its gloom's soft dun)--- VII.
And they could let me take my state And foolish throne amid applause Of all come there to celebrate My queen's-day---Oh I think the cause Of much was, they forgot no crowd Makes up for parents in their shroud! VIII.
However that be, all eyes were bent Upon me, when my cousins cast Theirs down; 'twas time I should present The victor's crown, but .
there, 'twill last No long time .
the old mist again Blinds me as then it did.
How vain! IX, See! Gismond's at the gate, in talk With his two boys: I can proceed.
Well, at that moment, who should stalk Forth boldly---to my face, indeed--- But Gauthier, and he thundered ``Stay!'' And all stayed.
``Bring no crowns, I say! X.
``Bring torches! Wind the penance-sheet ``About her! Let her shun the chaste, ``Or lay herself before their feet! ``Shall she whose body I embraced ``A night long, queen it in the day? ``For honour's sake no crowns, I say!'' XI.
I? What I answered? As I live, I never fancied such a thing As answer possible to give.
What says the body when they spring Some monstrous torture-engine's whole Strength on it? No more says the soul.
Till out strode Gismond; then I knew That I was saved.
I never met His face before, but, at first view, I felt quite sure that God had set Himself to Satan; who would spend A minute's mistrust on the end? XIII.
He strode to Gauthier, in his throat Gave him the lie, then struck his mouth With one back-handed blow that wrote In blood men's verdict there.
North, South, East, West, I looked.
The lie was dead, And damned, and truth stood up instead.
This glads me most, that I enjoyed The heart of the joy, with my content In watching Gismond unalloyed By any doubt of the event: God took that on him---I was bid Watch Gismond for my part: I did.
Did I not watch him while he let His armourer just brace his greaves, Rivet his hauberk, on the fret The while! His foot .
my memory leaves No least stamp out, nor how anon He pulled his ringing gauntlets on.
And e'en before the trumpet's sound Was finished, prone lay the false knight, Prone as his lie, upon the ground: Gismond flew at him, used no sleight O' the sword, but open-breasted drove, Cleaving till out the truth he clove.
Which done, he dragged him to my feet And said ``Here die, but end thy breath ``In full confession, lest thou fleet ``From my first, to God's second death! ``Say, hast thou lied?'' And, ``I have lied ``To God and her,'' he said, and died.
Then Gismond, kneeling to me, asked ---What safe my heart holds, though no word Could I repeat now, if I tasked My powers forever, to a third Dear even as you are.
Pass the rest Until I sank upon his breast.
Over my head his arm he flung Against the world; and scarce I felt His sword (that dripped by me and swung) A little shifted in its belt: For he began to say the while How South our home lay many a mile.
So 'mid the shouting multitude We two walked forth to never more Return.
My cousins have pursued Their life, untroubled as before I vexed them.
Gauthier's dwelling-place God lighten! May his soul find grace! XXI.
Our elder boy has got the clear Great brow; tho' when his brother's black Full eye slows scorn, it .
Gismond here? And have you brought my tercel*1 back? I just was telling Adela How many birds it struck since May.
*1 A male of the peregrine falcon.

Poem by Robert Browning
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