AT the castle’s outer door
Stood Blondel, the Troubadour.
Up the marble stairs the crowd,
Pressing, talked and laughed aloud.
Upward with the throng he went;
With a heart of discontent,
Tuned his sullen instrument;
Tried to sing of mirth and jest,
As the knights around him pressed;
But across his heart a pang
Struck him wordless ere he sang.

Then the guests and vassals roared,
Sitting round the oaken board,
“If thou canst not wake our mirth,
Touch some softer rhyme of earth:
Sing of knights in ladies’ bowers,—
Twine a lay of love and flowers.”

“Can I sing of love?” he said,—
And a moment bowed his head,
Then looked upward, out of space,
With a strange light in his face.

Said Blondel, the Troubadour,
“When I hear the battle roar,
And the trumpet-tones of war,
Can I tinkle my guitar?”

“But the war is o’er,” said all;
“Silent now the bugle’s call.
Love should be the warrior’s dream,—
Love alone the minstrel’s theme.
Sing us Rose-leaves on a stream.”

Said Blondel, “Not roses now,—
Leafless thorns befit the brow.
In this crowd my voice is weak,
But ye force me now to speak.
Know ye not King Richard groans
Chained ’neath Austria’s dungeon-stones?
What care I to sing of aught
Save what presses on my thought?
Over laughter, song, and shout
From these windows swelling out,
Over passion’s tender words
Intonating through the chords,
Rings the prisoned monarch’s lay,
Through and through me, night and day;
And the only strain I know
Haunts my brain where’er I go,—
Trumpet-tones that ring and ring
Till I see my Richard king!

“Gallants, hear my song of love,
Deeper tones than courtiers move,—
Hear my royal captive’s sigh,—
England, Home, and Liberty!”

Then he struck his lute and sang,
Till the shields and lances rang:
How for Christ and Holy Land
Fought the Lion Heart and Hand,—
How the craft of Leopold
Trapped him in a castle old,—
How one balmy morn in May,
Singing to beguile the day,
In his tower, the minstrel heard
Every note and every word,—
How he answered back the song,
“Let thy hope, my king, be strong!
We will bring thee help ere long!”

Still he sang,—“Who goes with me?
Who is it wills King Richard free?
He who bravely toils and dares,
Pain and danger with me shares,—
He whose heart is true and warm,
Though the night perplex with storm
Forest, plain, and dark morass,
Hanging-rock and mountain-pass,
And the thunder bursts ablaze,—
Is the lover that I praise!”

As the minstrel left the hall,
Silent, sorrowing, sat they all.
Well they knew his banner-sign,
The Lion-Heart of Palestine.
Like a flame the song had swept
O’er them;—then the warriors leapt
Up from the feast with one accord,—
Pledged around their knightly word,—
From the castle-windows rang
The last verse the minstrel sang,
And from out the castle-door
Followed they the Troubadour.