The King and the Child by Eugene J. Hall

The sunlight shone on walls of stone,
And towers sublime and tall,
King Alfred sat upon his throne
Within his council hall.
 
And glancing o'er the splendid throng,
With grave and solemn face,
To where his noble vassals stood,
He saw a vacant place.
 
"Where is the Earl of Holderness?"
With anxious look, he said.
"Alas, O King!" a courtier cried,
"The noble Earl is dead!"
 
Before the monarch could express
The sorrow that he felt,
A soldier, with a war-worn face,
Approached the throne, and knelt.
 
"My sword," he said, "has ever been,
O King, at thy command,
And many a proud and haughty Dane
Has fallen by my hand.
 
"I've fought beside thee in the field,
And 'neath the greenwood tree;
It is but fair for thee to give
Yon vacant place to me."
 
"It is not just," a statesman cried,
"This soldier's prayer to hear,
My wisdom has done more for thee
Than either sword or spear.
 
"The victories of thy council hall
Have made thee more renown
Than all the triumphs of the field
Have given to thy crown.
 
"My name is known in every land,
My talents have been thine,
Bestow this Earldom, then, on me,
For it is justly mine."
 
Yet, while before the monarch's throne
These men contending stood,
A woman crossed the floor, who wore
The weeds of widowhood.
 
And slowly to King Alfred's feet
A fair-haired boy she led—
"O King, this is the rightful heir
Of Holderness," she said.
 
"Helpless, he comes to claim his own,
Let no man do him wrong,
For he is weak and fatherless,
And thou art just and strong."
 
"What strength or power," the statesman cried,
"Could such a judgement bring?
Can such a feeble child as this
Do aught for thee, O King?
 
"When thou hast need of brawny arms
To draw thy deadly bows,
When thou art wanting crafty men
To crush thy mortal foes."
 
With earnest voice the fair young boy
Replied: "I cannot fight,
But I can pray to God, O King,
And God can give thee might!"
 
The King bent down and kissed the child,
The courtiers turned away,
"The heritage is thine," he said,
"Let none thy right gainsay.
 
"Our swords may cleave the casques of men,
Our blood may stain the sod,
But what are human strength and power
Without the help of God?"