Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The Baron’s Last Banquet

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Baron’s Last Banquet

By Albert Gorton Greene (1802–1868)

[Born in Providence, R. I., 1802. Died at Cleveland, Ohio, 1868. Selected from his Fugitive Verse.]

O’ER a low couch the setting sun had thrown its latest ray,

Where in his last strong agony a dying warrior lay,

The stern old Baron Rudiger, whose frame had ne’er been bent

By wasting pain, till time and toil its iron strength had spent.

“They come around me here, and say my days of life are o’er,

That I shall mount my noble steed and lead my band no more;

They come, and to my beard they dare tell me now, that I,

Their own liege lord and master born,—that I, ha! ha! must die.

And what is death? I’ve dared him oft before the Paynim spear,—

Think ye he’s entered at my gate, has come to seek me here?

I’ve met him, faced him, scorned him, when the fight was raging hot,—

I’ll try his might—I’ll brave his power; defy, and fear him not.

Ho! sound the tocsin from my tower, and fire the culverin,—

Bid each retainer arm with speed,—call every vassal in,

Up with my banner on the wall,—the banquet board prepare;

Throw wide the portal of my hall, and bring my armor there!”

An hundred hands were busy then—the banquet forth was spread—

And rung the heavy oaken floor with many a martial tread,

While from the rich, dark tracery along the vaulted wall,

Lights gleamed on harness, plume, and spear, o’er the proud old Gothic hall.

Fast hurrying through the outer gate the mailed retainers poured,

On through the portal’s frowning arch, and thronged around the board.

While at its head, within his dark, carved oaken chair of state,

Armed cap-a-pie, stern Rudiger, with girded falchion, sate.

“Fill every beaker up, my men, pour forth the cheering wine;

There’s life and strength in every drop,—thanksgiving to the vine!

Are ye all there, my vassals true?—mine eyes are waxing dim;

Fill round, my tried and fearless ones, each goblet to the brim.

“You’re there, but yet I see ye not. Draw forth each trusty sword

And let me hear your faithful steel clash once around my board:

I hear it faintly:—Louder yet!—What clogs my heavy breath?

Up all, and shout for Rudiger, ‘Defiance unto Death!’”

Bowl rang to bowl—steel clang to steel—and rose a deafening cry

That made the torches flare around, and shook the flags on high:—

“Ho! cravens, do ye fear him?—Slaves, traitors! have ye flown?

Ho! cowards, have ye left me to meet him here alone!

But I defy him:—let him come!” Down rang the massy cup,

While from its sheath the ready blade came flashing half way up;

And with the black and heavy plumes scarce trembling on his head,

There in his dark, carved oaken chair, Old Rudiger sat, dead.