King Charlemain
by Robert Southey

It was strange that he loved her, for youth was gone by,
And the bloom of her beauty was fled:
'Twas the glance of the harlot that gleam'd in her eye,
And all but the Monarch could plainly descry
From whence came her white and her red.

Yet he thought with Agatha none might compare,
And he gloried in wearing her chain;
The court was a desert if she were not there;
To him she alone among women seem'd fair,
Such dotage possess'd Charlemain.

The soldier, the statesman, the courtier, the maid,
Alike the proud leman detest;
And the good old Archbishop, who ceased to upbraid,
Shook his gray head in sorrow, and silently pray'd
That he soon might consign her to rest.

A joy ill-dissembled soon gladdens them all,
For Agatha sickens and dies.
And now they are ready with bier and with pall;
The tapers gleam gloomy amid the high hall,
And the strains of the requiem arise.

But Charlemain sent them in anger away,
For she should not be buried, he said;
And despite of all counsel, for many a day,
Where array'd in her costly apparel she lay,
The Monarch would sit by the dead.

The cares of the kingdom demand him in vain,
And the army cry out for their lord;
The Lombards, the fierce misbelievers of Spain,
Now ravage the realms of the proud Charlemain,
And still he unsheaths not the sword.

The soldiers they clamor, the Monks bend in prayer
In the quiet retreats of the cell;
The physicians to counsel together repair,
And with common consent, one and all they declare
That his senses are bound by a spell.

Then, with relics protected, and confident grown,
And telling devoutly his beads,
The good old Archbishop, when this was made known,
Steals in when he hears that the corpse is alone,
And to look for the spell he proceeds.

He searches with care, though with tremulous haste,
For the spell that bewitches the king;
And under her tongue, for security placed,
Its margin with mystical characters traced,
At length he discovers a ring.

Rejoicing he seized it, and hasten'd away;
The Monarch reinter'd the room;
The enchantment was ended, and, suddenly gay,
He bade the attendants no longer delay,
But bear her with speed to the tomb.

Now merriment, joyance, and feasting again
Enliven'd the palace of Aix;
And now by his heralds did King Charlemain
Invite to his palace the courtier train
To hold a high festival day.

And anxiously now for the festival day
The highly-born Maidens prepare;
And now, all apparel'd in costly array,
Exulting they come to the palace of Aix,
Young and aged, the brave and the fair.

Oh! happy the Damsel who, 'mid her compeers,
For a moment engaged the King's eye!
Now glowing with hopes, and now fever'd fears,
Each maid or triumphant or jealous appears,
As noticed by him, or pass'd by.

And now, as the evening approach'd, to the hall
In anxious suspense they advance,
Hoping each on herself that the King's chere, might fall,
When, lo! to the utter confusion of all,
He ask'd the Archbishop to dance.

The damsels they laugh, and the barons they sizes
'Twas mirth and astonishment all;
And the Archbishop started, and mutter'd a prayer
And, wroth at receiving such mockery there,
In haste he withdrew from the hall.

The moon dimpled over the water with light
As he wander'd along the lake side;
But the King had pursued, and, o'erjoyed at her sight,
" Oh turn thee, Archbishop, my joy and delight,
Oh turn thee, my charmer, " he cried.

" Oh come where the feast, and the dance, and the song,
Invite thee to mirth and to love;
Or at this happy moment, away from the throng,
To the shade of yon wood let us hasten along,?
The moon never pierces that grove. "

As thus by new madness the King seem'd possess'd,
In new wonder the Archbishop heard;
Then Charlemain warmly and eagerly press'd
The good old man's poor, wither'd hand to breast,
And kiss'd his long, gray, grizzle beard.

"Let us well, then, these fortunate moments employ! "
Cried the Monarch with passionate tone;
" Come away then, dear charmer,?my angels?my joy,?
Nay, struggle not now,?'tis in vain to be coy,?
And remember that we are alone. "

"Blessed Mary, protect me! " the Arohbishon cried;
"What madness has come to the King! "
In vain to escape from the monarch he tried,
When luckily he on his finger espied
The glitter of Agatha's ring.

Overjoy'd, the good prelate remember'd the
And far in the lake flung the ring;
The waters closed round it, and wondrous to tell,
Released from the cursed enchantment of hell,
His reason return'd to the King.

But he built him a palace there close by the bay,
And there did he love to remain;
And the traveller who will, may behold at this day
A monument still in the ruins at Aix
Of the spell that possess'd Charlemain.