Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Lay of Talbot, the Troubadour

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.


The Lay of Talbot, the Troubadour

By William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)


AT Rouen Richard kept his state,

Released from captive thrall;

And girt with many a warrior guest

He feasted in the hall!

The rich metheglin mantled high,

The wine was berry red,

When tidings came that Salisbury,

His early friend, was dead;

And that his sole surviving child,

The heiress of his wealth,

By crafty kinsmen and allies

Was borne away by stealth;

Was borne away from Normandy,

Where, secretly confined,

She heard no voice of those she loved,

But sighed to the north wind.

Haply from some lone castle’s tower

Or solitary strand,

Even now she gazes o’er the deep,

That laves her father’s land!

King Richard cries, “My minstrel knights,

Who will the task achieve,

To seek through France and Normandy

The orphan left to grieve?”

Young William Talbot then did speak,

“Betide me weal and woe,

From Michael’s castle through the land

A pilgrim I will go.”

He clad him in his pilgrim weeds,

With trusty staff in hand,

And scallop shell, and took his way,

A wanderer through the land.

For two long years he journeyed on,

A pilgrim, day by day,

Through many a forest dark and drear,

By many a castle gray.

At length, when one clear morn of frost

Was shining on the main,

Forth issuing from a castle gate

He saw a female train!

With lightsome step and waving hair,

Before them ran a child,

And, gathering from the sands a shell,

Ran back to them, and smiled.

Himself unseen among the rocks,

He saw her point her hand,

And cry, “I would go home, go home,

To my poor father’s land.”


THE TWO long years had passed away,

When castle Galliard rose,

As built at once by elfin hands,

And scorning time or foes.

It might be thought that Merlin’s imps

Were tasked to raise the wall,

That unheard axes fell the woods,

While unseen hammers fall.

As hung by magic on a rock,

The castle-keep looked down

O’er rocks and rivers, and the smoke

Of many a far-off town.

And now, young knights and minstrels

Obeyed their master’s call,

And loud rejoicing held the feast

In the new raftered hall.

His minstrels and his mailed peers

Were seated at the board,

And at his side the highest sat

William of the Long Sword.

This youthful knight, of princely birth,

Was dazzling to behold,

For his chain-mail from head to foot

All glistened o’er with gold.

His surcoat dyed with azure blue

In graceful foldings hung,

And there the golden lions ramped,

With bloody claws and tongue.

With crimson belt around his waist

His sword was girded on;

The hilt, a cross to kiss in death,

Radiant with jewels shone.

The names and banners of each knight

It were too long to tell;

Here sat the brave Montgomery,

There Bertrand and Rozell.

Of Richard’s unresisted sword

A noble minstrel sung,

Whilst to an hundred answering harps

The blazing gallery rung.

So all within was merriment,—

When, suddenly, a shout,

As of some unexpected guest,

Burst from the crowd without.

Now not a sound, and scarce a breath,

Through the long hall is heard,

When, with a young maid by his side,

A vizored knight appeared.

Up the long hall they held their way,

On to the royal seat;

Then both together, hand in hand,

Knelt at King Richard’s feet.

“Talbot, a Talbot!” rang the hall

With gratulation wild,

“Long live brave Talbot, and long live

Earl William’s new-found child!

Amid a scene so new and strange,

This poor maid could not speak;

King Richard took her by the hand,

And gently kissed her cheek;

Then placed her, smiling through a tear,

By his brave brother’s side:

“Long live brave Longspe!” rang the hall,

“Long live his future bride!”

To noble Richard this fair child,

His ward, was thus restored;

Destined to be the future bride

Of Him of the Long Sword.