The Combat. By Etty
THEY fled,--for there was for the brave
Left only a dishonour'd grave.
The day was lost; and his red hand
Was now upon a broken brand,
The foes were in his native town,
The gates were forced, the walls were down,
The burning city lit the sky,--
What had he then to do but fly;
Fly to the mountain-rock, where yet
Revenge might strike, or peace forget!
They fled,--for she was by his side,
Life's last and loveliest link, his bride,--
Friends, fame, hope, freedom, all were gone,
Or linger'd only with that one.
They hasten'd by the lonely way
That through the winding forest lay,
Hearth, home, tower, temple, blazed behind,
And shout and shriek came on the wind;
And twice the warrior turn'd again
And cursed the arm that now in vain,
Wounded and faint, essay'd to grasp
The sword that trembled in its clasp.
At last they reach'd a secret shade
Which seem'd as for their safety made;
And there they paused, for the warm tide
Burst in red gushes from his side,
And hung the drops on brow and cheek,
And his gasp'd breath came thick and weak.
She took her long dark hair, and bound
The cool moss on each gaping wound,
And in her closed-up hands she brought
The water which his hot lip sought,--
And anxious gazed upon his eye,
As asking, shall we live or die?
Almost as if she thought his breath
Had power o'er his own life and death.
But, hark!--'tis not the wind deceives,
There is a step among the leaves:
Her blood runs cold, her heart beats high,
It is their fiercest enemy;
He of the charm'd and deadly steel,
Whose stroke was never known to heal,--
He of the sword sworn not to spare,--
She flung her down in her despair!
The dying chief sprang to his knee,
And the staunch'd wounds well'd fearfully;
But his gash'd arm, what is it now?
Livid his lip, and black his brow,
While over him the slayer stood,
As if he almost scorn'd the blood
That cost so little to be won,--
He strikes,--the work of death is done!