Maude Clare

Out of the church she followed them
With a lofty step and mien:
His bride was like a village maid,
Maude Clare was like a queen.

‘Son Thomas, ‘ his lady mother said,
With smiles, almost with tears:
‘May Nell and you but live as true
As we have done for years;

‘Your father thirty years ago
Had just your tale to tell;
But he was not so pale as you,
Nor I so pale as Nell.’

My lord was pale with inward strife,
And Nell was pale with pride;
My lord gazed long on pale Maude Clare
Or ever he kissed the bride.

‘Lo, I have brought my gift, my lord,
Have brought my gift, ‘ she said:
To bless the hearth, to bless the board,
To bless the marriage-bed.

‘Here’s my half of the golden chain
You wore about your neck,
That day we waded ankle-deep
For lilies in the beck:

‘Here’s my half of the faded leaves
We plucked from the budding bough,
With feet amongst the lily leaves, -
The lilies are budding now.’

He strove to match her scorn with scorn,
He faltered in his place:
‘Lady, ‘ he said, - ‘Maude Clare, ‘ he said, -
‘Maude Clare, ‘ – and hid his face.

She turn’d to Nell: ‘My Lady Nell,
I have a gift for you;
Though, were it fruit, the blooms were gone,
Or, were it flowers, the dew.

‘Take my share of a fickle heart,
Mine of a paltry love:
Take it or leave it as you will,
I wash my hands thereof.’

‘And what you leave, ‘ said Nell, ‘I’ll take,
And what you spurn, I’ll wear;
For he’s my lord for better and worse,
And him I love Maude Clare.

‘Yea, though you’re taller by the head,
More wise and much more fair:
I’ll love him till he loves me best,
Me best of all Maude Clare.