"A Short Life In The Saddle"
Context: Louise Imogen Guiney's deep religious devotion, which was strengthened by the noble character of the poet's father, is reflected in the poem "The Knight Errant" (Donatello's Saint George). The obvious inspiration for the poem is the marble statue of "St. George" by the Italian sculptor Donatello (c.1386-1466). The poet admits the pitfalls that are waiting for mankind, even for men who have risen to great heights. Considering the weaknesses and the failings of man in his attempt to carry out his dreams, the poet asks that the "Spirits of old . . . / . . . help me wear with every scar/ Honour at eventide." The poet sees not only the outer foes but also the "awful other foeman/ Impowered in my breast." The outer foes will be fought in the sun, but the "inner beneath the moon; . . ." The poet then asks that "Our Lady lend to me/ Sight of the Dragon soon!" The poem suggests the need of immediate action on the part of each one. The second stanza reads as follows:
Let claws of lightning clutch meFrom summer's groaning cloud,Or ever malice touch me,And glory make me proud.Oh, give my youth, my faith, my sword,Choice of the heart's desire:A short life in the saddle, Lord!Not long life by the fire.