The Traveller and the Knight

The Traveller and the Knight
It was a quiet, misty morning when he set out on the final stage of his journey to
Hermitage Castle. The old road curved through woods and lakes, beautiful in the rays
of the early sun. As he rounded a bend and began to descend closer to one of the
meres, he caught sight of a figure sitting by the roadside.
As he drew closer, he saw that it was an armed man and hesitated. But the figure did
not look and threatening. Indeed, it was slumped against a tree trunk as if asleep
He approached and as he did so noticed that the weather seemed to have changed. The
sun was no longer warm and the mist was heavier.
The man, clad in the light armour of a knight, did not look up as he drew near. Was he
He leant from his horse and called out “Oh, what can ail thee, knight-at-arms? Why
are you here all alone?” The knight opened his eyes and look at him palely.
“Loitering,” he smiled.
The traveller frowned. “Are you ill?” he asked.
The knight looked around as if in a dream, or recovering from a dream. “Look,” he
said, “the sedge has withered from the lake and no birds are singing.”
It was true. The landscape was strangely silent. The knight was dethly pale. ‘Oh what
can ail thee, knight-at-arms,’ he thought, ‘so haggard and so woe-begone?’
The knight looked into the distance. “The squirrel’s granary is full and the harvest’s
done!” he cried. The traveller drew back. Was this man stark mad? Then he spoke
again. “I remember the song she sang,” he said. “It went like this:
I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too….”
He fell silent again. The traveller dismounted, tethered his horse to one of the
branches and knelt beside the knight. “What happened to you?” he asked.
“Ah,” said the knight. “I met a lady in the meads, full beautiful she was, like a faery’s
child. Her hair was long, her foot was light and her eyes were wild… though I did not
realise how wild until much later….”
He paused and then continued: “She seemed to hypnotise me. We sat by the lakeside
and talked. What we talked of now I cannot recall. But I remember that she made a
garland from daisies for my head and I made a garland for her head, as well. And I
tried to make little grass bracelets too, and everything seemed fragrant in that magic
zone which we inhabited, ah, all too briefly.
“She looked at me as if she did indeed love me and when I, hesitantly, kissed her she
made a soft sweet sound like a the moan of a dove.”
“I set her on my pacing steed and we walked on through the glades. We only had eyes
for each other and nothing else saw all day long - for sidelong would she bend, and
sing a faery’s song as we sauntered along. I remembered some of it just then…
“When we grew hungry, she found me roots of relish, sweet they were! - and honey
wild, and manna in the dew… and I’m sure she spoke in a language quite strange but
I heard and understood as she said ‘I love thee true’.
“She took full charge of where we went and led me to her elfin grotto, a curious,
hidden place amid the trees and rocks. And there, suddenly for some reason I could
not fathom, she wept, and sighed as if the sadness of something had just filled her
heart and left her soul painful and sore just there in that melancholy place.
“The joy seemed to have drained from our day. I shut her wild, wild eyes with kisses,
four long loving kisses. And those kisses seemed to affect me too, for then and there
she lulled me asleep, and there I dreamed….
The knight started and looked wildly about him. Then he sank back. “Ah! woe
betide!” he exclaimed. “That will be the last dream I ever dream on this cold hillside.”
“And in my dreams I saw pale kings and princes too, pale warriors… Death-pale were
they all; and they all cried, ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci hath thee in her thrall!’ I saw
their starved lips in the gloaming, with horrid warning their eyes gaped wide --- “
The traveller feared that he knight had returned to his dream or vision but then he
stirred again and resumed, “And I awoke and found myself here on the cold hillside.
And this is why I sojourn here alone and palely loitering…”
“You’re right,” said the traveller. “Though it is summer, the sedge is withered from
the lake; and though it is early morning, no birds sing. Let me carry you to some place
of rest where you can put this strange event behind you. And maybe we shall find
your horse and you can resume your journey!”
“Ah,” replied the knight. “My journey. What would be the point now of my journey?
You see, I was on my way to………
© Trevor Millum and Teachit 2008
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