Monday, March 4, 2013

"His Soul Is With The Saints, I Trust"

Last week, after posting poems by John Masefield and G. K. Chesterton about the leafy fate of two dead knights, I remembered that Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed a poem on the same subject.  After writing the poem, he recited it to a friend, who later repeated it to Walter Scott.  Unbeknownst to Coleridge, Scott used a slightly different version of the final three lines in Ivanhoe, which was published in 1819.  The poem was not published under Coleridge's name until 1834.

Eileen Aldridge, "The Downs near Brighton, East Sussex" (1962)

               The Knight's Tomb

Where is the grave of Sir Arthur O'Kellyn?
Where may the grave of that good man be? --
By the side of a spring, on the breast of Helvellyn,
Under the twigs of a young birch tree!
The oak that in summer was sweet to hear,
And rustled its leaves in the fall of the year,
And whistled and roared in the winter alone,
Is gone, -- and the birch in its stead is grown. --
The Knight's bones are dust,
And his good sword rust; --
His soul is with the saints, I trust.

Ernest Hartley Coleridge (editor), The Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Oxford University Press 1912).

Stephen McKenna, "Foliage" (1983)

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who wrote the following untitled poem, was a knight.  In the last two lines, he hauntingly anticipates the poems by Coleridge, Masefield, and Chesterton.

Happy were he could finish forth his fate
     In some unhaunted desert, most obscure
From all societies, from love and hate
     Of worldly folk; then might he sleep secure;
Then wake again, and give God ever praise,
     Content with hips and haws and bramble-berry;
In contemplation spending all his days,
     And change of holy thoughts to make him merry;
Where, when he dies, his tomb may be a bush,
Where harmless robin dwells with gentle thrush.

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, in Norman Ault (editor), Elizabethan Lyrics (1925).

I say "hauntingly anticipates" for the following reason:  Devereux was beheaded in February of 1601 for alleged treason against Elizabeth I.

Dane Maw, "Woolverton and Peart Woods" (1970)

No comments: