How Lisa Loved the King

By George Eliot, 1869
How Lisa Loved the King

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Excerpt

Six hundred years ago, in Dante's time,
Before his cheek was furrowed by deep rhyme;
When Europe, fed afresh from Eastern story,
Was like a garden tangled with the glory
Of flowers hand-planted and of flowers air-sown,
Climbing and trailing, budding and full-blown,
Where purple bells are tossed amid pink stars,
And springing blades, green troops in innocent wars,
Crowd every shady spot of teeming earth,
Making invisible motion visible birth,-

Six hundred years ago, Palermo town
Kept holiday.  A deed of great renown,
A high revenge, had freed it from the yoke
Of hated Frenchmen; and from Calpe's rock
To where the Bosporus caught the earlier sun,
Twas told that Pedro, King of Aragon,
Was welcomed master of all Sicily,-
A royal knight, supreme as kings should be
In strength and gentleness that make high chivalry.

Spain was the favorite home of knightly grace,
Where generous men rode steeds of generous race;
Both Spanish, yet half Arab; both inspired
By mutual spirit, that each motion fired
With beauteous response, like minstrelsy
Afresh fulfilling fresh expectancy.
So, when Palermo made high festival,
The joy of matrons and of maidens all
Was the mock terror of the tournament,
Where safety, with the glimpse of danger blent,
Took exaltation as from epic song,
Which greatly tells the pains that to great life belong.

And in all eyes King Pedro was the king
Of cavaliers; as in a full-gemmed ring
The largest ruby, or as that bright star
Whose shining shows us where the Hyads are.
His the best genet, and he sat it best;
His weapon, whether tilting or in rest,
Was worthiest watching; and his face, once seen,
Gave to the promise of his royal mien
Such rich fulfilment as the opened eyes
Of a loved sleeper, or the long-watched rise
Of vernal day, whose joy o'er stream and meadow flies.