IDYLLS OF THE KING
Flos Regum Arthurus
(Joseph of Exeter)
These toHis Memory--since he held them dearPerchanceas finding there unconsciouslySome imageof himself--I dedicateIdedicateI consecrate with tears--TheseIdylls.
And indeed He seems to meScarceother than my king's ideal knight'Whoreverenced his conscience as his king;Whoseglory wasredressing human wrong;Who spakeno slandernonor listened to it;Who lovedone only and who clave to her--'Her--overall whose realms to their last isleCommingledwith the gloom of imminent warThe shadowof His loss drew like eclipseDarkeningthe world. We have lost him: he is gone:We knowhim now: all narrow jealousiesAresilent; and we see him as he movedHowmodestkindlyall-accomplishedwiseWith whatsublime repression of himselfAnd inwhat limitsand how tenderly;
Notswaying to this faction or to that;Not makinghis high place the lawless perchOf wingedambitionsnor a vantage-groundForpleasure; but through all this tract of yearsWearingthe white flower of a blameless lifeBefore athousand peering littlenessesIn thatfierce light which beats upon a throneAndblackens every blot: for where is heWho daresforeshadow for an only sonA lovelierlifea more unstainedthan his?Or howshould England dreaming of his sonsHope morefor these than some inheritanceOf such alifea hearta mind as thineThou nobleFather of her Kings to beLaboriousfor her people and her poor--Voice inthe rich dawn of an ampler day--Far-sightedsummoner of War and WasteTofruitful strifes and rivalries of peace--Sweetnature gilded by the gracious gleamOflettersdear to Sciencedear to ArtDear tothy land and oursa Prince indeedBeyond alltitlesand a household nameHereafterthrough all timesAlbert the Good.
Break notO woman's-heartbut still endure;Break notfor thou art Royalbut endureRememberingall the beauty of that starWhichshone so close beside Thee that ye madeOne lighttogetherbut has past and leavesThe Crowna lonely splendour.
May all loveHis loveunseen but felto'ershadow TheeThe loveof all Thy sons encompass TheeThe loveof all Thy daughters cherish TheeThe loveof all Thy people comfort TheeTill God'slove set Thee at his side again!
Leodogranthe King of CameliardHad onefair daughterand none other child;And shewas the fairest of all flesh on earthGuinevereand in her his one delight.
For many a petty king ere Arthur cameRuled inthis isleand ever waging warEach uponotherwasted all the land;And stillfrom time to time the heathen hostSwarmedoverseasand harried what was left.And sothere grew great tracts of wildernessWhereinthe beast was ever more and moreBut manwas less and lesstill Arthur came.For firstAurelius lived and fought and diedAnd afterhim King Uther fought and diedBut eitherfailed to make the kingdom one.And afterthese King Arthur for a spaceAndthrough the puissance of his Table RoundDrew alltheir petty princedoms under him.Their kingand headand made a realmand reigned.
And thus the land of Cameliard was wasteThick withwet woodsand many a beast thereinAnd noneor few to scare or chase the beast;So thatwild dogand wolf and boar and bearCame nightand dayand rooted in the fieldsAndwallowed in the gardens of the King.And everand anon the wolf would stealThechildren and devourbut now and thenHer ownbrood lost or deadlent her fierce teatTo humansucklings; and the childrenhousedIn herfoul denthere at their meat would growlAnd mocktheir foster mother on four feetTillstraightenedthey grew up to wolf-like menWorse thanthe wolves. And King LeodogranGroanedfor the Roman legions here againAndCaesar's eagle: then his brother kingUrienassailed him: last a heathen hordeReddeningthe sun with smoke and earth with bloodAnd on thespike that split the mother's heartSpittingthe childbrake on himtillamazedHe knewnot whither he should turn for aid.
But--for he heard of Arthur newly crownedThough notwithout an uproar made by thoseWho cried'He is not Uther's son'--the KingSent tohimsaying'Ariseand help us thou!For herebetween the man and beast we die.'
And Arthur yet had done no deed of armsBut heardthe calland came: and GuinevereStood bythe castle walls to watch him pass;But sincehe neither wore on helm or shieldThe goldensymbol of his kinglihoodBut rode asimple knight among his knightsAnd manyof these in richer arms than heShe sawhim notor marked notif she sawOne amongmanythough his face was bare.ButArthurlooking downward as he pastFelt thelight of her eyes into his lifeSmite onthe suddenyet rode onand pitchedHis tentsbeside the forest. Then he draveTheheathen; afterslew the beastand felledTheforestletting in the sunand madeBroadpathways for the hunter and the knightAnd soreturned.
For while he lingered thereA doubtthat ever smouldered in the heartsOf thosegreat Lords and Barons of his realmFlashedforth and into war: for most of theseColleaguingwith a score of petty kingsMade headagainst himcrying'Who is heThat heshould rule us? who hath proven himKingUther's son? for lo! we look at himAnd findnor face nor bearinglimbs nor voiceAre liketo those of Uther whom we knew.This isthe son of Gorloisnot the King;This isthe son of Antonnot the King.'
And Arthurpassing thence to battlefeltTravailand throes and agonies of the lifeDesiringto be joined with Guinevere;Andthinking as he rode'Her father saidThat therebetween the man and beast they die.Shall Inot lift her from this land of beastsUp to mythroneand side by side with me?Whathappiness to reign a lonely kingVext--O yestars that shudder over meO earththat soundest hollow under meVext withwaste dreams? for saving I be joinedTo herthat is the fairest under heavenI seem asnothing in the mighty worldAnd cannotwill my willnor work my workWhollynor make myself in mine own realmVictor andlord. But were I joined with herThen mightwe live together as one lifeAndreigning with one will in everythingHave poweron this dark land to lighten itAnd poweron this dead world to make it live.'
Thereafter--as he speaks who tells the tale--WhenArthur reached a field-of-battle brightWithpitched pavilions of his foethe worldWas all soclear about himthat he sawThesmallest rock far on the faintest hillAnd evenin high day the morning star.So whenthe King had set his banner broadAt oncefrom either sidewith trumpet-blastAndshoutsand clarions shrilling unto bloodThelong-lanced battle let their horses run.And nowthe Barons and the kings prevailedAnd nowthe Kingas here and there that warWentswaying; but the Powers who walk the worldMadelightnings and great thunders over himAnd dazedall eyestill Arthur by main mightAndmightier of his hands with every blowAndleading all his knighthood threw the kingsCaradosUrienCradlemont of WalesClaudiasand Clariance of NorthumberlandThe KingBrandagoras of LatangorWithAnguisant of ErinMorganoreAnd Lot ofOrkney. Thenbefore a voiceAsdreadful as the shout of one who seesTo one whosinsand deems himself aloneAnd allthe world asleepthey swerved and brakeFlyingand Arthur called to stay the brandsThathacked among the flyers'Ho! they yield!'So like apainted battle the war stoodSilencedthe living quiet as the deadAnd in theheart of Arthur joy was lord.He laughedupon his warrior whom he lovedAndhonoured most. 'Thou dost not doubt me KingSo wellthine arm hath wrought for me today.''Sir andmy liege' he cried'the fire of GodDescendsupon thee in the battle-field:I knowthee for my King!' Whereat the twoFor eachhad warded either in the fightSware onthe field of death a deathless love.And Arthursaid'Man's word is God in man:Let chancewhat willI trust thee to the death.'
Then quickly from the foughten field he sentUlfiusand Brastiasand BedivereHisnew-made knightsto King LeodogranSaying'If I in aught have served thee wellGive methy daughter Guinevere to wife.'
Whom when he heardLeodogran in heartDebating--'Howshould I that am a kingHowevermuch he holp me at my needGive myone daughter saving to a kingAnd aking's son?'--lifted his voiceand calledA hoarymanhis chamberlainto whomHe trustedall thingsand of him requiredHiscounsel: 'Knowest thou aught of Arthur's birth?'
Then spake the hoary chamberlain and said'Sir Kingthere be but two old men that know:And eachis twice as old as I; and oneIs Merlinthe wise man that ever servedKing Utherthrough his magic art; and oneIsMerlin's master (so they call him) BleysWho taughthim magicbut the scholar ranBefore themasterand so farthat BleysLaid magicbyand sat him downand wroteAll thingsand whatsoever Merlin didIn onegreat annal-bookwhere after-yearsWill learnthe secret of our Arthur's birth.'
To whom the King Leodogran replied'O friendhad I been holpen half as wellBy thisKing Arthur as by thee todayThen beastand man had had their share of me:But summonhere before us yet once moreUlfiusand Brastiasand Bedivere.'
Thenwhen they came before himthe King said'I haveseen the cuckoo chased by lesser fowlAnd reasonin the chase: but wherefore nowDo theseyour lords stir up the heat of warSomecalling Arthur born of GorloisOthers ofAnton? Tell meye yourselvesHold yethis Arthur for King Uther's son?'
And Ulfius and Brastias answered'Ay.'ThenBediverethe first of all his knightsKnightedby Arthur at his crowningspake--For boldin heart and act and word was heWheneverslander breathed against the King--
'Sirthere be many rumours on this head:For therebe those who hate him in their heartsCall himbasebornand since his ways are sweetAnd theirsare bestialhold him less than man:And therebe those who deem him more than manAnd dreamhe dropt from heaven: but my belief
In allthis matter--so ye care to learn--Sirforye know that in King Uther's timeThe princeand warrior Gorloishe that heldTintagilcastle by the Cornish seaWas weddedwith a winsome wifeYgerne:Anddaughters had she borne him--one whereofLot'swifethe Queen of OrkneyBellicentHath everlike a loyal sister cleavedToArthur--but a son she had not borne.And Uthercast upon her eyes of love:But sheastainless wife to GorloisSo loathedthe bright dishonour of his loveThatGorlois and King Uther went to war:Andoverthrown was Gorlois and slain.Then Utherin his wrath and heat besiegedYgernewithin Tintagilwhere her menSeeing themighty swarm about their wallsLeft herand fledand Uther entered inAnd therewas none to call to but himself.Socompassed by the power of the KingEnforcedwas she to wed him in her tearsAnd with ashameful swiftness: afterwardNot manymoonsKing Uther died himselfMoaningand wailing for an heir to ruleAfter himlest the realm should go to wrack.And thatsame nightthe night of the new yearBy reasonof the bitterness and griefThat vexthis motherall before his timeWas Arthurbornand all as soon as bornDeliveredat a secret postern-gateTo Merlinto be holden far apartUntil hishour should come; because the lordsOf thatfierce day were as the lords of thisWildbeastsand surely would have torn the childPiecemealamong themhad they known; for eachBut soughtto rule for his own self and handAnd manyhated Uther for the sakeOfGorlois. Wherefore Merlin took the childAnd gavehim to Sir Antonan old knightAndancient friend of Uther; and his wifeNursed theyoung princeand reared him with her own;And no manknew. And ever since the lordsHavefoughten like wild beasts among themselvesSo thatthe realm has gone to wrack: but nowThis yearwhen Merlin (for his hour had come)BroughtArthur forthand set him in the hallProclaiming"Here is Uther's heiryour king"A hundredvoices cried"Away with him!No king ofours! a son of Gorlois heOr elsethe child of Antonand no kingOr elsebaseborn." Yet Merlin through his craftAnd whilethe people clamoured for a kingHad Arthurcrowned; but afterthe great lordsBandedand so brake out in open war.'
Then while the King debated with himselfIf Arthurwere the child of shamefulnessOr bornthe son of Gorloisafter deathOr Uther'ssonand born before his timeOr whetherthere were truth in anythingSaid bythese threethere came to CameliardWithGawain and young Modredher two sonsLot'swifethe Queen of OrkneyBellicent;Whom as hecouldnot as he wouldthe KingMade feastforsayingas they sat at meat
'A doubtful throne is ice on summer seas.Ye comefrom Arthur's court. Victor his menReporthim! Yeabut ye--think ye this king--So manythose that hate himand so strongSo few hisknightshowever brave they be--Hath bodyenow to hold his foemen down?'
'O King' she cried'and I will tell thee: fewFewbutall braveall of one mind with him;For I wasnear him when the savage yellsOf Uther'speerage diedand Arthur satCrowned onthe daisand his warriors cried"Bethou the kingand we will work thy willWho lovethee." Then the King in low deep tonesAnd simplewords of great authorityBound themby so strait vows to his own selfThat whenthey roseknighted from kneelingsomeWere paleas at the passing of a ghostSomeflushedand others dazedas one who wakesHalf-blindedat the coming of a light.
'But when he spake and cheered his Table RoundWithlargedivineand comfortable wordsBeyond mytongue to tell thee--I beheldFrom eyeto eye through all their Order flashAmomentary likeness of the King:And ere itleft their facesthrough the crossAnd thosearound it and the CrucifiedDown fromthe casement over ArthursmoteFlame-colourvert and azurein three raysOnefalling upon each of three fair queensWho stoodin silence near his thronethe friendsOf Arthurgazing on himtallwith brightSweetfaceswho will help him at his need.
'And there I saw mage Merlinwhose vast witAndhundred winters are but as the handsOf loyalvassals toiling for their liege.
'And near him stood the Lady of the LakeWho knowsa subtler magic than his own--Clothed inwhite samitemysticwonderful.She gavethe King his huge cross-hilted swordWhereby todrive the heathen out: a mistOf incensecurled about herand her faceWellnighwas hidden in the minster gloom;But therewas heard among the holy hymnsA voice asof the watersfor she dwellsDown in adeep; calmwhatsoever stormsMay shakethe worldand when the surface rollsHath powerto walk the waters like our Lord.
'There likewise I beheld ExcaliburBefore himat his crowning bornethe swordThat rosefrom out the bosom of the lakeAnd Arthurrowed across and took it--richWithjewelselfin Urimon the hiltBewilderingheart and eye--the blade so brightThat menare blinded by it--on one sideGraven inthe oldest tongue of all this world"Takeme" but turn the blade and ye shall seeAndwritten in the speech ye speak yourself"Castme away!" And sad was Arthur's faceTaking itbut old Merlin counselled him"Takethou and strike! the time to cast awayIs yetfar-off." So this great brand the kingTookandby this will beat his foemen down.'
Thereat Leodogran rejoicedbut thoughtTo sifthis doubtings to the lastand askedFixingfull eyes of question on her face'Theswallow and the swift are near akinBut thouart closer to this noble princeBeing hisown dear sister;' and she said'Daughterof Gorlois and Ygerne am I;''Andtherefore Arthur's sister?' asked the King.Sheanswered'These be secret things' and signedTo thosetwo sons to passand let them be.And Gawainwentand breaking into songSprangoutand followed by his flying hairRan like acoltand leapt at all he saw:But Modredlaid his ear beside the doorsAnd therehalf-heard; the same that afterwardStruck forthe throneand striking found his doom.
And then the Queen made answer'What know I?For darkmy mother was in eyes and hairAnd darkin hair and eyes am I; and darkWasGorloisyea and dark was Uther tooWellnighto blackness; but this King is fairBeyond therace of Britons and of men.Moreoveralways in my mind I hearA cry fromout the dawning of my lifeA motherweepingand I hear her say"Othat ye had some brotherpretty oneTo guardthee on the rough ways of the world."'
'Ay' said the King'and hear ye such a cry?But whendid Arthur chance upon thee first?'
'O King!' she cried'and I will tell thee true:He foundme first when yet a little maid:Beaten Ihad been for a little faultWhereof Iwas not guilty; and out I ranAnd flungmyself down on a bank of heathAnd hatedthis fair world and all thereinAnd weptand wished that I were dead; and he--I know notwhether of himself he cameOr broughtby Merlinwhothey saycan walkUnseen atpleasure--he was at my sideAnd spakesweet wordsand comforted my heartAnd driedmy tearsbeing a child with me.And many atime he cameand evermoreAs I grewgreater grew with me; and sadAt timeshe seemedand sad with him was IStern tooat timesand then I loved him notBut sweetagainand then I loved him well.And now oflate I see him less and less
But thosefirst days had golden hours for meFor then Isurely thought he would be king.
'But let me tell thee now another tale:For Bleysour Merlin's masteras they sayDied butof lateand sent his cry to meTo hearhim speak before he left his life.Shrunklike a fairy changeling lay the mage;And when Ientered told me that himselfAnd Merlinever served about the KingUtherbefore he died; and on the nightWhen Utherin Tintagil past awayMoaningand wailing for an heirthe twoLeft thestill Kingand passing forth to breatheThen fromthe castle gateway by the chasmDescendingthrough the dismal night--a nightIn whichthe bounds of heaven and earth were lost--Beheldsohigh upon the dreary deepsIt seemedin heavena shipthe shape thereofA dragonwingedand all from stern to sternBrightwith a shining people on the decksAnd goneas soon as seen. And then the twoDropt tothe coveand watched the great sea fallWave afterwaveeach mightier than the lastTill lasta ninth onegathering half the deepAnd fullof voicesslowly rose and plungedRoaringand all the wave was in a flame:And downthe wave and in the flame was borneA nakedbabeand rode to Merlin's feetWho stooptand caught the babeand cried "The King!Here is anheir for Uther!" And the fringeOf thatgreat breakersweeping up the strandLashed atthe wizard as he spake the wordAnd all atonce all round him rose in fireSo thatthe child and he were clothed in fire.Andpresently thereafter followed calmFree skyand stars: "And this the same child" he said"Ishe who reigns; nor could I part in peaceTill thiswere told." And saying this the seerWentthrough the strait and dreadful pass of deathNot everto be questioned any moreSave onthe further side; but when I metMerlinand asked him if these things were truth--Theshining dragon and the naked childDescendingin the glory of the seas--He laughedas is his wontand answered meInriddling triplets of old timeand said:
'"Rainrainand sun! a rainbow in the sky!A youngman will be wiser by and by;An oldman's wit may wander ere he die. Rainrainand sun! a rainbow on the lea!And truthis this to meand that to thee;And truthor clothed or naked let it be. Rainsunand rain! and the free blossom blows:Sunrainand sun! and where is he who knows?From thegreat deep to the great deep he goes."
'So Merlin riddling angered me; but thouFear notto give this King thy only childGuinevere: so great bards of him will singHereafter;and dark sayings from of oldRangingand ringing through the minds of menAnd echoedby old folk beside their firesForcomfort after their wage-work is doneSpeak ofthe King; and Merlin in our timeHathspoken alsonot in jestand swornThough menmay wound him that he will not dieBut passagain to come; and then or nowUtterlysmite the heathen underfootTill theseand all men hail him for their king.'
She spake and King Leodogran rejoicedButmusing'Shall I answer yea or nay?'Doubtedand drowsednodded and sleptand sawDreaminga slope of land that ever grewFieldafter fieldup to a heightthe peakHaze-hiddenand thereon a phantom kingNowloomingand now lost; and on the slopeThe swordrosethe hind fellthe herd was drivenFireglimpsed; and all the land from roof and rickIn driftsof smoke before a rolling windStreamedto the peakand mingled with the hazeAnd madeit thicker; while the phantom kingSent outat times a voice; and here or thereStood onewho pointed toward the voicethe restSlew onand burntcrying'No king of oursNo son ofUtherand no king of ours;'Till witha wink his dream was changedthe hazeDescendedand the solid earth becameAsnothingbut the King stood out in heavenCrowned. And Leodogran awokeand sentUlfiusand Brastias and BedivereBack tothe court of Arthur answering yea.
Then Arthur charged his warrior whom he lovedAndhonoured mostSir Lancelotto ride forthAnd bringthe Queen;--and watched him from the gates:AndLancelot past away among the flowers(For thenwas latter April) and returnedAmong theflowersin Maywith Guinevere.To whomarrivedby Dubric the high saintChief ofthe church in Britainand beforeThestateliest of her altar-shrinesthe KingThat mornwas marriedwhile in stainless whiteThe fairbeginners of a nobler timeAndglorying in their vows and himhis knightsStoodaround himand rejoicing in his joy.Far shonethe fields of May through open doorThe sacredaltar blossomed white with MayThe Sun ofMay descended on their KingThey gazedon all earth's beauty in their QueenRolledincenseand there past along the hymnsA voice asof the waterswhile the twoSware atthe shrine of Christ a deathless love:And Arthursaid'Beholdthy doom is mine.Let chancewhat willI love thee to the death!'To whomthe Queen replied with drooping eyes'King andmy lordI love thee to the death!'And holyDubric spread his hands and spake'Reign yeand live and loveand make the worldOtherandmay thy Queen be one with theeAnd allthis Order of thy Table RoundFulfil theboundless purpose of their King!'
So Dubric said; but when they left the shrineGreatLords from Rome before the portal stoodInscornful stillness gazing as they past;Then whilethey paced a city all on fireWith sunand cloth of goldthe trumpets blewAndArthur's knighthood sang before the King:--
'Blowtrumpetfor the world is white with May;Blowtrumpetthe long night hath rolled away!Blowthrough the living world--"Let the King reign."
'Shall Rome or Heathen rule in Arthur's realm?Flashbrand and lancefall battleaxe upon helmFallbattleaxeand flash brand! Let the King reign.
'Strike for the King and live! his knights have heardThat Godhath told the King a secret word.Fallbattleaxeand flash brand! Let the King reign.
'Blow trumpet! he will lift us from the dust.Blowtrumpet! live the strength and die the lust!Clangbattleaxeand clash brand! Let the King reign.
'Strike for the King and die! and if thou diestThe Kingis Kingand ever wills the highest.Clangbattleaxeand clash brand! Let the King reign.
'Blowfor our Sun is mighty in his May!Blowforour Sun is mightier day by day!Clangbattleaxeand clash brand! Let the King reign.
'The King will follow Christand we the KingIn whomhigh God hath breathed a secret thing.Fallbattleaxeand flash brand! Let the King reign.'
So sang the knighthoodmoving to their hall.There atthe banquet those great Lords from RomeTheslowly-fading mistress of the worldStrode inand claimed their tribute as of yore.But Arthurspake'Beholdfor these have swornTo wage mywarsand worship me their King;The oldorder changethyielding place to new;And wethat fight for our fair father ChristSeeingthat ye be grown too weak and oldTo drivethe heathen from your Roman wallNo tributewill we pay:' so those great lordsDrew backin wrathand Arthur strove with Rome.
And Arthur and his knighthood for a spaceWere allone willand through that strength the KingDrew inthe petty princedoms under himFoughtand in twelve great battles overcameTheheathen hordesand made a realm and reigned.
The lasttall son of Lot and BellicentAndtallestGarethin a showerful springStared atthe spate. A slender-shafted PineLostfootingfelland so was whirled away.'How hewent down' said Gareth'as a false knightOr evilking before my lance if lanceWere mineto use--O senseless cataractBearingall down in thy precipitancy--And yetthou art but swollen with cold snowsAnd mineis living blood: thou dost His willTheMaker'sand not knowestand I that knowHavestrength and witin my good mother's hallLingerwith vacillating obediencePrisonedand kept and coaxed and whistled to--Since thegood mother holds me still a child!Goodmother is bad mother unto me!A worsewere better; yet no worse would I.Heavenyield her for itbut in me put forceTo wearyher ears with one continuous prayerUntil shelet me fly discaged to sweepInever-highering eagle-circles upTo thegreat Sun of Gloryand thence swoopDown uponall things baseand dash them deadA knightof Arthurworking out his willTo cleansethe world. WhyGawainwhen he cameWithModred hither in the summertimeAsked meto tilt with himthe proven knight.Modred forwant of worthier was the judge.Then I soshook him in the saddlehe said"Thouhast half prevailed against me" said so--he--ThoughModred biting his thin lips was muteFor he isalway sullen: what care I?'
And Gareth wentand hovering round her chairAsked'Motherthough ye count me still the childSweetmotherdo ye love the child?' She laughed'Thou artbut a wild-goose to question it.''Thenmotheran ye love the child' he said'Being agoose and rather tame than wildHear thechild's story.' 'Yeamy well-belovedAn 'twerebut of the goose and golden eggs.'
And Gareth answered her with kindling eyes'Naynaygood motherbut this egg of mineWas finergold than any goose can lay;For thisan Eaglea royal EaglelaidAlmostbeyond eye-reachon such a palmAsglitters gilded in thy Book of Hours.And therewas ever haunting round the palmA lustyyouthbut poorwho often sawThesplendour sparkling from aloftand thought"An Icould climb and lay my hand upon itThen wereI wealthier than a leash of kings."But everwhen he reached a hand to climbOnethathad loved him from his childhoodcaughtAnd stayedhim"Climb not lest thou break thy neckI chargethee by my love" and so the boySweetmotherneither clombnor brake his neckBut brakehis very heart in pining for itAnd pastaway.'
To whom the mother said'Truelovesweet sonhad risked himself and climbedAnd handeddown the golden treasure to him.'
And Gareth answered her with kindling eyes'Gold?'said I gold?--ay thenwhy heor sheOrwhosoe'er it wasor half the worldHadventured--had the thing I spake of beenMeregold--but this was all of that true steelWhereofthey forged the brand ExcaliburAndlightnings played about it in the stormAnd allthe little fowl were flurried at itAnd therewere cries and clashings in the nestThat senthim from his senses: let me go.'
Then Bellicent bemoaned herself and said'Hast thouno pity upon my loneliness?Lowherethy father Lot beside the hearthLies likea logand all but smouldered out!For eversince when traitor to the KingHe foughtagainst him in the Barons' warAnd Arthurgave him back his territoryHis agehath slowly drooptand now lies thereA yet-warmcorpseand yet unburiableNo more;nor seesnor hearsnor speaksnor knows.And boththy brethren are in Arthur's hallAlbeitneither loved with that full loveI feel fortheenor worthy such a love:Staytherefore thou; red berries charm the birdAnd theemine innocentthe jouststhe warsWho neverknewest finger-achenor pangOfwrenched or broken limb--an often chanceIn thosebrain-stunning shocksand tourney-fallsFrights tomy heart; but stay: follow the deerBy thesetall firs and our fast-falling burns;So makethy manhood mightier day by day;Sweet isthe chase: and I will seek thee outSomecomfortable bride and fairto graceThyclimbing lifeand cherish my prone yearTillfalling into Lot's forgetfulnessI know nottheemyselfnor anything.Staymybest son! ye are yet more boy than man.'
Then Gareth'An ye hold me yet for childHear yetonce more the story of the child.Formotherthere was once a Kinglike ours.The princehis heirwhen tall and marriageableAsked fora bride; and thereupon the KingSet twobefore him. One was fairstrongarmed--But to bewon by force--and many menDesiredher; one good lackno man desired.And thesewere the conditions of the King:That savehe won the first by forcehe needsMust wedthat otherwhom no man desiredAred-faced bride who knew herself so vileThatevermore she longed to hide herselfNorfronted man or womaneye to eye--Yea--someshe cleaved tobut they died of her.Andone--they called her Fame; and one--O MotherHow can yekeep me tethered to you--Shame.Man am Igrowna man's work must I do.Follow thedeer? follow the Christthe KingLive purespeak trueright wrongfollow the King--Elsewherefore born?'
To whom the mother said'Sweetsonfor there be many who deem him notOr willnot deem himwholly proven King--Albeit inmine own heart I knew him KingWhen I wasfrequent with him in my youthAnd heardhim Kingly speakand doubted himNo morethan hehimself; but felt him mineOf closestkin to me: yet--wilt thou leaveThineeaseful biding hereand risk thine allLifelimbsfor one that is not proven King?Staytillthe cloud that settles round his birthHathlifted but a little. Staysweet son.'
And Gareth answered quickly'Not an hourSo that yeyield me--I will walk through fireMothertogain it--your full leave to go.Notprovenwho swept the dust of ruined RomeFrom offthe threshold of the realmand crushedTheIdolatersand made the people free?Who shouldbe King save him who makes us free?'
So when the Queenwho long had sought in vainTo breakhim from the intent to which he grewFound herson's will unwaveringly oneSheanswered craftily'Will ye walk through fire?Who walksthrough fire will hardly heed the smoke.Aygothenan ye must: only one proofBeforethou ask the King to make thee knightOf thineobedience and thy love to meThymother--I demand.
And Gareth cried'A hardoneor a hundredso I go.Nay--quick!the proof to prove me to the quick!'
But slowly spake the mother looking at him'Princethou shalt go disguised to Arthur's hallAnd hirethyself to serve for meats and drinksAmong thescullions and the kitchen-knavesAnd thosethat hand the dish across the bar.Nor shaltthou tell thy name to anyone.And thoushalt serve a twelvemonth and a day.'
For so the Queen believed that when her sonBeheld hisonly way to glory leadLow downthrough villain kitchen-vassalageHer owntrue Gareth was too princely-proudTo passthereby; so should he rest with herClosed inher castle from the sound of arms.
Silent awhile was Gareththen replied'Thethrall in person may be free in soulAnd Ishall see the jousts. Thy son am IAnd sincethou art my mothermust obey.Itherefore yield me freely to thy will;For hencewill Idisguisedand hire myselfTo servewith scullions and with kitchen-knaves;Nor tellmy name to any--nonot the King.'
Gareth awhile lingered. The mother's eyeFull ofthe wistful fear that he would goAndturning toward him wheresoe'er he turnedPerplexthis outward purposetill an hourWhenwakened by the wind which with full voiceSweptbellowing through the darkness on to dawnHe roseand out of slumber calling twoThat stillhad tended on him from his birthBefore thewakeful mother heard himwent.
The three were clad like tillers of the soil.Southwardthey set their faces. The birds madeMelody onbranchand melody in mid air.The damphill-slopes were quickened into greenAnd thelive green had kindled into flowersFor it waspast the time of Easterday.
Sowhen their feet were planted on the plainThatbroadened toward the base of CamelotFar offthey saw the silver-misty mornRollingher smoke about the Royal mountThat rosebetween the forest and the field.At timesthe summit of the high city flashed;At timesthe spires and turrets half-way downPrickedthrough the mist; at times the great gate shoneOnlythatopened on the field below:Anonthewhole fair city had disappeared.
Then those who went with Gareth were amazedOnecrying'Let us go no furtherlord.Here is acity of EnchantersbuiltBy fairyKings.' The second echoed him'Lordwehave heard from our wise man at homeToNorthwardthat this King is not the KingBut onlychangeling out of FairylandWho dravethe heathen hence by sorceryAndMerlin's glamour.' Then the first again'Lordthere is no such city anywhereBut all avision.'
Gareth answered themWithlaughterswearing he had glamour enowIn his ownbloodhis princedomyouth and hopesTo plungeold Merlin in the Arabian sea;So pushedthem all unwilling toward the gate.And therewas no gate like it under heaven.Forbarefoot on the keystonewhich was linedAndrippled like an ever-fleeting waveThe Ladyof the Lake stood: all her dressWept fromher sides as water flowing away;But likethe cross her great and goodly armsStretchedunder the cornice and upheld:And dropsof water fell from either hand;And downfrom one a sword was hungfrom oneA censereither worn with wind and storm;And o'erher breast floated the sacred fish;And in thespace to left of herand rightWereArthur's wars in weird devices doneNew thingsand old co-twistedas if TimeWerenothingso inveteratelythat menWere giddygazing there; and over allHigh onthe top were those three Queensthe friendsOf Arthurwho should help him at his need.
Then those with Gareth for so long a spaceStared atthe figuresthat at last it seemedThedragon-boughts and elvish emblemingsBegan tomoveseethetwine and curl: they calledTo Gareth'Lordthe gateway is alive.'
And Gareth likewise on them fixt his eyesSo longthat even to him they seemed to move.Out of thecity a blast of music pealed.Back fromthe gate started the threeto whomFrom outthereunder came an ancient manLong-beardedsaying'Who be yemy sons?'
Then Gareth'We be tillers of the soilWholeaving share in furrow come to seeTheglories of our King: but thesemy men(Your citymoved so weirdly in the mist)Doubt ifthe King be King at allor comeFromFairyland; and whether this be builtBy magicand by fairy Kings and Queens;Or whetherthere be any city at allOr all avision: and this music nowHathscared them bothbut tell thou these the truth.'
Then that old Seer made answer playing on himAndsaying'SonI have seen the good ship sailKeelupwardand mast downwardin the heavensAnd solidturrets topsy-turvy in air:And hereis truth; but an it please thee notTake thouthe truth as thou hast told it me.
For trulyas thou sayesta Fairy KingAnd FairyQueens have built the cityson;They camefrom out a sacred mountain-cleftToward thesunriseeach with harp in handAnd builtit to the music of their harps.Andasthou sayestit is enchantedsonFor thereis nothing in it as it seemsSaving theKing; though some there be that holdThe King ashadowand the city real:Yet takethou heed of himforso thou passBeneaththis archwaythen wilt thou becomeA thrallto his enchantmentsfor the KingWill bindthee by such vowsas is a shameA manshould not be bound byyet the whichNo man cankeep; butso thou dread to swearPass notbeneath this gatewaybut abideWithoutamong the cattle of the field.For an yeheard a musiclike enowThey arebuilding stillseeing the city is builtTo musictherefore never built at allAndtherefore built for ever.'
Gareth spakeAngered'Old masterreverence thine own beardThat looksas white as utter truthand seemsWellnighas long as thou art statured tall!Whymockest thou the stranger that hath beenTo theefair-spoken?'
But the Seer replied'Know yenot then the Riddling of the Bards?"Confusionand illusionand relationElusionand occasionand evasion"?I mockthee not but as thou mockest meAnd allthat see theefor thou art not whoThouseemestbut I know thee who thou art.And nowthou goest up to mock the KingWho cannotbrook the shadow of any lie.'
Unmockingly the mocker ending hereTurned tothe rightand past along the plain;WhomGareth looking after said'My menOur onewhite lie sits like a little ghostHere onthe threshold of our enterprise.Let lovebe blamed for itnot shenor I:Wellwewill make amends.'
With all good cheerHe spakeand laughedthen entered with his twainCamelotacity of shadowy palacesAndstatelyrich in emblem and the workOf ancientkings who did their days in stone;WhichMerlin's handthe Mage at Arthur's courtKnowingall artshad touchedand everywhereAtArthur's ordinancetipt with lessening peakAndpinnacleand had made it spire to heaven.And everand anon a knight would passOutwardor inward to the hall: his armsClashed;and the sound was good to Gareth's ear.And out ofbower and casement shyly glancedEyes ofpure womenwholesome stars of love;And allabout a healthful people steptAs in thepresence of a gracious king.
Then into hall Gareth ascending heardA voicethe voice of Arthurand beheldFar overheads in that long-vaulted hallThesplendour of the presence of the KingThronedand delivering doom--and looked no more--But felthis young heart hammering in his earsAndthought'For this half-shadow of a lieThetruthful King will doom me when I speak.'Yetpressing onthough all in fear to findSir Gawainor Sir Modredsaw nor oneNor otherbut in all the listening eyesOf thosetall knightsthat ranged about the throneClearhonour shining like the dewy starOf dawnand faith in their great Kingwith pureAffectionand the light of victoryAnd glorygainedand evermore to gain. Then came a widow crying to the King'A boonSir King! Thy fatherUtherreftFrom mydead lord a field with violence:Forhowsoe'er at first he proffered goldYetforthe field was pleasant in our eyesWe yieldednot; and then he reft us of itPerforceand left us neither gold nor field.'
Said Arthur'Whether would ye? gold or field?'To whomthe woman weeping'Naymy lordThe fieldwas pleasant in my husband's eye.'
And Arthur'Have thy pleasant field againAnd thricethe gold for Uther's use thereofAccordingto the years. No boon is hereButjusticeso thy say be proven true.Accursedwho from the wrongs his father didWouldshape himself a right!'
And while she pastCame yetanother widow crying to him'A boonSir King! Thine enemyKingam I.With thineown hand thou slewest my dear lordA knightof Uther in the Barons' warWhen Lotand many another rose and foughtAgainsttheesaying thou wert basely born.I heldwith theseand loathe to ask thee aught.Yet lo! myhusband's brother had my sonThralledin his castleand hath starved him dead;Andstandeth seized of that inheritanceWhich thouthat slewest the sire hast left the son.So thoughI scarce can ask it thee for hateGrant mesome knight to do the battle for meKill thefoul thiefand wreak me for my son.'
Then strode a good knight forwardcrying to him'A boonSir King! I am her kinsmanI.Give me toright her wrongand slay the man.'
Then came Sir Kaythe seneschaland cried'A boonSir King! even that thou grant her noneThisrailerthat hath mocked thee in full hall--None; orthe wholesome boon of gyve and gag.'
But Arthur'We sit Kingto help the wrongedThroughall our realm. The woman loves her lord.Peace totheewomanwith thy loves and hates!The kingsof old had doomed thee to the flamesAureliusEmrys would have scourged thee deadAnd Utherslit thy tongue: but get thee hence--Lest thatrough humour of the kings of oldReturnupon me! Thou that art her kinGolikewise; lay him low and slay him notBut bringhim herethat I may judge the rightAccordingto the justice of the King:Thenbehe guiltyby that deathless KingWho livedand died for menthe man shall die.'
Then came in hall the messenger of MarkA name ofevil savour in the landTheCornish king. In either hand he boreWhatdazzled alland shone far-off as shinesA field ofcharlock in the sudden sunBetweentwo showersa cloth of palest goldWhich downhe laid before the throneand kneltDeliveringthat his lordthe vassal kingWas evenupon his way to Camelot;For havingheard that Arthur of his graceHad madehis goodly cousinTristramknightAndforhimself was of the greater stateBeing akinghe trusted his liege-lordWouldyield him this large honour all the more;So prayedhim well to accept this cloth of goldIn tokenof true heart and fealty.
Then Arthur cried to rend the clothto rendIn piecesand so cast it on the hearth.Anoak-tree smouldered there. 'The goodly knight!What!shall the shield of Mark stand among these?'Formidway down the side of that long hallA statelypile--whereof along the frontSomeblazonedsome but carvenand some blankThere rana treble range of stony shields--Roseandhigh-arching overbrowed the hearth.And underevery shield a knight was named:For thiswas Arthur's custom in his hall;When somegood knight had done one noble deedHis armswere carven only; but if twainHis armswere blazoned also; but if noneThe shieldwas blank and bare without a signSaving thename beneath; and Gareth sawThe shieldof Gawain blazoned rich and brightAndModred's blank as death; and Arthur criedTo rendthe cloth and cast it on the hearth.
'More like are we to reave him of his crownThan makehim knight because men call him king.The kingswe foundye know we stayed their handsFrom waramong themselvesbut left them kings;Of whomwere any bounteousmercifulTruth-speakingbravegood liversthem we enrolledAmong usand they sit within our hall.But asMark hath tarnished the great name of kingAs Markwould sully the low state of churl:Andseeing he hath sent us cloth of goldReturnand meetand hold him from our eyesLest weshould lap him up in cloth of leadSilencedfor ever--craven--a man of plotsCraftpoisonous counselswayside ambushings--No faultof thine: let Kay the seneschalLook tothy wantsand send thee satisfied--Accursedwho strikes nor lets the hand be seen!'
And many another suppliant crying cameWith noiseof ravage wrought by beast and manAndevermore a knight would ride away.
LastGareth leaning both hands heavilyDown onthe shoulders of the twainhis menApproachedbetween them toward the Kingand asked'A boonSir King (his voice was all ashamed)For see yenot how weak and hungerwornIseem--leaning on these? grant me to serveFor meatand drink among thy kitchen-knavesAtwelvemonth and a daynor seek my name.HereafterI will fight.'
To him the King'A goodlyyouth and worth a goodlier boon!But sothou wilt no goodlierthen must KayThe masterof the meats and drinksbe thine.'
He rose and past; then Kaya man of mienWan-sallowas the plant that feels itselfRoot-bittenby white lichen
'Lo ye now!Thisfellow hath broken from some AbbeywhereGod wothe had not beef and brewis enowHoweverthat might chance! but an he workLike anypigeon will I cram his cropAndsleeker shall he shine than any hog.'
Then Lancelot standing near'Sir SeneschalSleuth-houndthou knowestand grayand all the hounds;A horsethou knowesta man thou dost not know:Broadbrows and faira fluent hair and fineHigh nosea nostril large and fineand handsLargefair and fine!--Some young lad's mystery--Butorfrom sheepcot or king's hallthe boyIsnoble-natured. Treat him with all graceLest heshould come to shame thy judging of him.'
Then Kay'What murmurest thou of mystery?Think yethis fellow will poison the King's dish?Nayforhe spake too fool-like: mystery!Tutanthe lad were noblehe had askedFor horseand armour: fair and fineforsooth!SirFine-faceSir Fair-hands? but see thou to itThat thineown finenessLancelotsome fine dayUndo theenot--and leave my man to me.'
So Gareth all for glory underwentThe sootyyoke of kitchen-vassalage;Ate withyoung lads his portion by the doorAndcouched at night with grimy kitchen-knaves.AndLancelot ever spake him pleasantlyBut Kaythe seneschalwho loved him notWouldhustle and harry himand labour himBeyond hiscomrade of the hearthand setTo turnthe broachdraw wateror hew woodOr grossertasks; and Gareth bowed himselfWith allobedience to the Kingand wroughtAll kindof service with a noble easeThatgraced the lowliest act in doing it.And whenthe thralls had talk among themselvesAnd onewould praise the love that linkt the KingAndLancelot--how the King had saved his lifeIn battletwiceand Lancelot once the King's--ForLancelot was the first in TournamentBut Arthurmightiest on the battle-field--Gareth wasglad. Or if some other toldHow oncethe wandering forester at dawnFar overthe blue tarns and hazy seasOnCaer-Eryri's highest found the KingA nakedbabeof whom the Prophet spake'He passesto the Isle AvilionHe passesand is healed and cannot die'--Gareth wasglad. But if their talk were foulThen wouldhe whistle rapid as any larkOr carolsome old roundelayand so loudThat firstthey mockedbutafterreverenced him.Or Garethtelling some prodigious taleOfknightswho sliced a red life-bubbling wayThroughtwenty folds of twisted dragonheldAll in agap-mouthed circle his good matesLying orsitting round himidle handsCharmed;till Sir Kaythe seneschalwould comeBlusteringupon themlike a sudden windAmong deadleavesand drive them all apart.Or whenthe thralls had sport among themselvesSo therewere any trial of masteryHeby twoyards in casting bar or stoneWascounted best; and if there chanced a joustSo thatSir Kay nodded him leave to goWouldhurry thitherand when he saw the knightsClash likethe coming and retiring waveAnd thespear springand good horse reelthe boyWas halfbeyond himself for ecstasy.
So for a month he wrought among the thralls;But in theweeks that followedthe good QueenRepentantof the word she made him swearAndsaddening in her childless castlesentBetweenthe in-crescent and de-crescent moonArms forher sonand loosed him from his vow.
ThisGareth hearing from a squire of LotWith whomhe used to play at tourney onceWhen bothwere childrenand in lonely hauntsWouldscratch a ragged oval on the sandAnd eachat either dash from either end--Shamenever made girl redder than Gareth joy.Helaughed; he sprang. 'Out of the smokeat onceI leapfrom Satan's foot to Peter's knee--These newsbe minenone other's--naythe King's--Descendinto the city:' whereon he soughtThe Kingaloneand foundand told him all.
'I have staggered thy strong Gawain in a tiltForpastime; yeahe said it: joust can I.Make methy knight--in secret! let my nameBe hiddenand give me the first questI springLike flamefrom ashes.'
Here the King's calm eyeFell onand checkedand made him flushand bowLowlytokiss his handwho answered him'Sonthegood mother let me know thee hereAnd senther wish that I would yield thee thine.Make theemy knight? my knights are sworn to vowsOf utterhardihoodutter gentlenessAndlovingutter faithfulness in loveAnduttermost obedience to the King.'
Then Garethlightly springing from his knees'My Kingfor hardihood I can promise thee.Foruttermost obedience make demandOf whom yegave me tothe SeneschalNo mellowmaster of the meats and drinks!And as forloveGod wotI love not yetBut love IshallGod willing.'
And the King'Make theemy knight in secret? yeabut heOurnoblest brotherand our truest manAnd onewith me in allhe needs must know.'
'Let Lancelot knowmy Kinglet Lancelot knowThynoblest and thy truest!'
And the King--'Butwherefore would ye men should wonder at you?Nayrather for the sake of metheir KingAnd thedeed's sake my knighthood do the deedThan to benoised of.'
Merrily Gareth asked'Have Inot earned my cake in baking of it?Let be myname until I make my name!My deedswill speak: it is but for a day.'So with akindly hand on Gareth's armSmiled thegreat Kingand half-unwillinglyLoving hislusty youthhood yielded to him.Thenafter summoning Lancelot privily'I havegiven him the first quest: he is not proven.Looktherefore when he calls for this in hallThou getto horse and follow him far away.Cover thelions on thy shieldand seeFar asthou mayesthe be nor ta'en nor slain.'
Then that same day there past into the hallA damselof high lineageand a browMay-blossomand a cheek of apple-blossomHawk-eyes;and lightly was her slender noseTip-tiltedlike the petal of a flower;She intohall past with her page and cried
'O Kingfor thou hast driven the foe withoutSee to thefoe within! bridgefordbesetBybanditseveryone that owns a towerThe Lordfor half a league. Why sit ye there?Rest wouldI notSir Kingan I were kingTill eventhe lonest hold were all as freeFromcursed bloodshedas thine altar-clothFrom thatbest blood it is a sin to spill.'
'Comfort thyself' said Arthur. 'I nor mineRest: so my knighthood keep the vows they sworeThewastest moorland of our realm shall beSafedamselas the centre of this hall.What isthy name? thy need?'
'My name?' she said--'Lynettemy name; noble; my needa knightTo combatfor my sisterLyonorsA lady ofhigh lineageof great landsAndcomelyyeaand comelier than myself.She livesin Castle Perilous: a riverRuns inthree loops about her living-place;And o'erit are three passingsand three knightsDefend thepassingsbrethrenand a fourthAnd ofthat four the mightiestholds her stayedIn her owncastleand so besieges herTo breakher willand make her wed with him:And butdelays his purport till thou sendTo do thebattle with himthy chief manSirLancelot whom he trusts to overthrowThen wedwith glory: but she will not wedSave whomshe lovethor a holy life.Nowtherefore have I come for Lancelot.'
Then Arthur mindful of Sir Gareth asked'Damselye know this Order lives to crushAllwrongers of the Realm. But saythese fourWho bethey? What the fashion of the men?'
'They be of foolish fashionO Sir KingThefashion of that old knight-errantryWho rideabroadand do but what they will;Courteousor bestial from the momentsuchAs havenor law nor king; and three of theseProud intheir fantasy call themselves the DayMorning-Starand Noon-Sunand Evening-Star
Beingstrong fools; and never a whit more wiseThefourthwho alway rideth armed in blackA hugeman-beast of boundless savagery.He nameshimself the Night and oftener DeathAnd wearsa helmet mounted with a skullAnd bearsa skeleton figured on his armsTo showthat who may slay or scape the threeSlain byhimselfshall enter endless night.And allthese four be foolsbut mighty menAndtherefore am I come for Lancelot.'
Hereat Sir Gareth called from where he roseA headwith kindling eyes above the throng'A boonSir King--this quest!' then--for he markedKay nearhim groaning like a wounded bull--'YeaKingthou knowest thy kitchen-knave am IAnd mightythrough thy meats and drinks am IAnd I cantopple over a hundred such.ThypromiseKing' and Arthur glancing at himBroughtdown a momentary brow. 'RoughsuddenAndpardonableworthy to be knight--Gotherefore' and all hearers were amazed.
But on the damsel's forehead shamepridewrathSlew theMay-white: she lifted either arm'Fie ontheeKing! I asked for thy chief knightAnd thouhast given me but a kitchen-knave.'Then ere aman in hall could stay herturnedFled downthe lane of access to the KingTookhorsedescended the slope streetand pastThe weirdwhite gateand paused withoutbesideThe fieldof tourneymurmuring 'kitchen-knave.'
Now two great entries opened from the hallAt one endonethat gave upon a rangeOf levelpavement where the King would paceAtsunrisegazing over plain and wood;And downfrom this a lordly stairway slopedTill lostin blowing trees and tops of towers;And out bythis main doorway past the King.But onewas counter to the hearthand roseHigh thatthe highest-crested helm could rideTherethroughnor graze: and by this entry fledThe damselin her wrathand on to thisSir Garethstrodeand saw without the doorKingArthur's giftthe worth of half a townA warhorseof the bestand near it stoodThe twothat out of north had followed him:This barea maiden shielda casque; that heldThe horsethe spear; whereat Sir Gareth loosedA cloakthat dropt from collar-bone to heelA cloth ofroughest weband cast it downAnd fromit like a fuel-smothered fireThat lookthalf-deadbrake brightand flashed as thoseDull-coatedthingsthat making slide apartTheir duskwing-casesall beneath there burnsA jewelledharnessere they pass and fly.So Garethere he parted flashed in arms.Then as hedonned the helmand took the shieldAndmounted horse and graspt a spearof grainStorm-strengthenedon a windy siteand tiptWithtrenchant steelaround him slowly prestThepeoplewhile from out of kitchen cameThethralls in throngand seeing who had workedLustierthan anyand whom they could but loveMounted inarmsthrew up their caps and cried'God blessthe Kingand all his fellowship!'And onthrough lanes of shouting Gareth rodeDown theslope streetand past without the gate.
So Gareth past with joy; but as the curPlucktfrom the cur he fights withere his causeBe cooledby fightingfollowsbeing namedHis ownerbut remembers alland growlsRememberingso Sir Kay beside the doorMutteredin scorn of Gareth whom he usedTo harryand hustle.
'Bound upon a questWith horseand arms--the King hath past his time--Myscullion knave! Thralls to your work againFor anyour fire be low ye kindle mine!Will therebe dawn in West and eve in East?Begone!--myknave!--belike and like enowSome oldhead-blow not heeded in his youthSo shookhis wits they wander in his prime--Crazed! How the villain lifted up his voiceNor shamedto bawl himself a kitchen-knave.Tut: he was tame and meek enow with meTillpeacocked up with Lancelot's noticing.Well--Iwill after my loud knaveand learnWhether heknow me for his master yet.Out of thesmoke he cameand so my lanceHoldbyGod's gracehe shall into the mire--Thenceifthe King awaken from his crazeInto thesmoke again.'
But Lancelot said'Kaywherefore wilt thou go against the KingFor thatdid never he whereon ye railBut evermeekly served the King in thee?Abide: take counsel; for this lad is greatAnd lustyand knowing both of lance and sword.''Tuttellnot me' said Kay'ye are overfineTo marstout knaves with foolish courtesies:'Thenmountedon through silent faces rodeDown theslope cityand out beyond the gate.
But by the field of tourney lingering yetMutteredthe damsel'Wherefore did the KingScorn me?forwere Sir Lancelot lacktat leastHe mighthave yielded to me one of thoseWho tiltfor lady's love and glory hereRatherthan--O sweet heaven! O fie upon him--Hiskitchen-knave.'
To whom Sir Gareth drew(And therewere none but few goodlier than he)Shining inarms'Damselthe quest is mine.LeadandI follow.' She thereatas oneThatsmells a foul-fleshed agaric in the holtAnd deemsit carrion of some woodland thingOr shrewor weaselnipt her slender noseWithpetulant thumb and fingershrilling'Hence!Avoidthou smellest all of kitchen-grease.And lookwho comes behind' for there was Kay.'Knowestthou not me? thy master? I am Kay.We lackthee by the hearth.'
And Gareth to him'Master nomore! too well I know theeay--The mostungentle knight in Arthur's hall.''Have atthee then' said Kay: they shockedand KayFellshoulder-sliptand Gareth cried again'LeadandI follow' and fast away she fled.
But after sod and shingle ceased to flyBehindherand the heart of her good horseWas nighto burst with violence of the beatPerforceshe stayedand overtaken spoke.
'What doest thouscullionin my fellowship?Deem'stthou that I accept thee aught the moreOr lovethee betterthat by some deviceFullcowardlyor by mere unhappinessThou hastoverthrown and slain thy master--thou!--Dish-washerand broach-turnerloon!--to meThousmellest all of kitchen as before.'
'Damsel' Sir Gareth answered gently'sayWhate'erye willbut whatsoe'er ye sayI leavenot till I finish this fair questOr dietherefore.'
'Aywilt thou finish it?Sweetlordhow like a noble knight he talks!Thelistening rogue hath caught the manner of it.Butknaveanon thou shalt be met withknaveAnd thenby such a one that thou for allThekitchen brewis that was ever suptShalt notonce dare to look him in the face.'
'I shall assay' said Gareth with a smileThatmaddened herand away she flashed againDown thelong avenues of a boundless woodAnd Garethfollowing was again beknaved.
'Sir Kitchen-knaveI have missed the only wayWhereArthur's men are set along the wood;The woodis nigh as full of thieves as leaves:If both beslainI am rid of thee; but yetSirScullioncanst thou use that spit of thine?Fightanthou canst: I have missed the only way.'
So till the dusk that followed evensongRode onthe tworeviler and reviled;Then afterone long slope was mountedsawBowl-shapedthrough tops of many thousand pinesAgloomy-gladed hollow slowly sinkTowestward--in the deeps whereof a mereRound asthe red eye of an Eagle-owlUnder thehalf-dead sunset glared; and shoutsAscendedand there brake a servingmanFlyingfrom out of the black woodand crying'They havebound my lord to cast him in the mere.'ThenGareth'Bound am I to right the wrongedButstraitlier bound am I to bide with thee.'And whenthe damsel spake contemptuously'LeadandI follow' Gareth cried again'FollowIlead!' so down among the pinesHeplunged; and thereblackshadowed nigh the mereAndmid-thigh-deep in bulrushes and reedSaw sixtall men haling a seventh alongA stoneabout his neck to drown him in it.Three withgood blows he quietedbut threeFledthrough the pines; and Gareth loosed the stoneFrom offhis neckthen in the mere besideTumbledit; oilily bubbled up the mere.LastGareth loosed his bonds and on free feetSet himastalwart BaronArthur's friend.
'Well that ye cameor else these caitiff roguesHadwreaked themselves on me; good cause is theirsTo hatemefor my wont hath ever beenTo catchmy thiefand then like vermin hereDrown himand with a stone about his neck;And underthis wan water many of themLierottingbut at night let go the stoneAnd riseand flickering in a grimly lightDance onthe mere. Good nowye have saved a lifeWorthsomewhat as the cleanser of this wood.And fainwould I reward thee worshipfully.Whatguerdon will ye?' Gareth sharply spake'None! forthe deed's sake have I done the deedInuttermost obedience to the King.But wiltthou yield this damsel harbourage?'
Whereat the Baron saying'I well believeYou be ofArthur's Table' a light laughBroke fromLynette'Aytruly of a truthAnd in asortbeing Arthur's kitchen-knave!--But deemnot I accept thee aught the moreScullionfor running sharply with thy spitDown on arout of craven foresters.A thresherwith his flail had scattered them.Nay--forthou smellest of the kitchen still.But anthis lord will yield us harbourageWell.'
So she spake. A league beyond the woodAll in afull-fair manor and a richHis towerswhere that day a feast had beenHeld inhigh halland many a viand leftAnd many acostly catereceived the three.And therethey placed a peacock in his prideBefore thedamseland the Baron setGarethbeside herbut at once she rose.
'Meseemsthat here is much discourtesySettingthis knaveLord Baronat my side.Hearme--this morn I stood in Arthur's hallAnd prayedthe King would grant me LancelotTo fightthe brotherhood of Day and Night--The last amonster unsubduableOf anysave of him for whom I called--Suddenlybawls this frontless kitchen-knave"Thequest is mine; thy kitchen-knave am IAnd mightythrough thy meats and drinks am I."ThenArthur all at once gone mad replies"Gotherefore" and so gives the quest to him--Him--here--avillain fitter to stick swineThan rideabroad redressing women's wrongOr sitbeside a noble gentlewoman.'
Then half-ashamed and part-amazedthe lordNow lookedat one and now at otherleftThe damselby the peacock in his prideAndseating Gareth at another boardSat downbeside himate and then began.
'Friendwhether thou be kitchen-knaveor notOr whetherit be the maiden's fantasyAndwhether she be mador else the KingOr both orneitheror thyself be madI asknot: but thou strikest a strong strokeFor strongthou art and goodly therewithalAnd saverof my life; and therefore nowFor herebe mighty men to joust withweighWhetherthou wilt not with thy damsel backTo craveagain Sir Lancelot of the King.Thypardon; I but speak for thine availThe saverof my life.'
And Gareth said'Fullpardonbut I follow up the questDespite ofDay and Night and Death and Hell.'
So whennext mornthe lord whose life he savedHadsomebrief spaceconveyed them on their wayAnd leftthem with God-speedSir Gareth spake'LeadandI follow.' Haughtily she replied.
'I fly no more: I allow thee for an hour.Lion andstout have isled togetherknaveIn time offlood. NayfurthermoremethinksSome ruthis mine for thee. Back wilt thoufool?For hardby here is one will overthrowAnd slaythee: then will I to court againAnd shamethe King for only yielding meMychampion from the ashes of his hearth.'
To whom Sir Gareth answered courteously'Say thouthy sayand I will do my deed.Allow mefor mine hourand thou wilt findMyfortunes all as fair as hers who layAmong theashes and wedded the King's son.'
Then to the shore of one of those long loopsWherethroughthe serpent river coiledthey came.Rough-thicketedwere the banks and steep; the streamFullnarrow; this a bridge of single arcTook at aleap; and on the further sideArose asilk paviliongay with goldIn streaksand raysand all Lent-lily in hueSave thatthe dome was purpleand aboveCrimsonaslender banneret fluttering.Andtherebefore the lawless warrior pacedUnarmedand calling'Damselis this heThechampion thou hast brought from Arthur's hall?For whomwe let thee pass.' 'Naynay' she said'SirMorning-Star. The King in utter scornOf theeand thy much folly hath sent thee hereHiskitchen-knave: and look thou to thyself:See thathe fall not on thee suddenlyAnd slaythee unarmed: he is not knight but knave.'
Then at his call'O daughters of the DawnAndservants of the Morning-StarapproachArm me'from out the silken curtain-foldsBare-footedand bare-headed three fair girlsIn giltand rosy raiment came: their feetIn dewygrasses glistened; and the hairAll overglanced with dewdrop or with gemLikesparkles in the stone Avanturine.Thesearmed him in blue armsand gave a shieldBlue alsoand thereon the morning star.And Garethsilent gazed upon the knightWho stooda momentere his horse was broughtGlorying;and in the stream beneath himshoneImmingledwith Heaven's azure waveringlyThe gaypavilion and the naked feetHis armsthe rosy raimentand the star.
Then she that watched him'Wherefore stare ye so?Thoushakest in thy fear: there yet is time:Flee downthe valley before he get to horse.Who willcry shame? Thou art not knight but knave.'
Said Gareth'Damselwhether knave or knightFar lieferhad I fight a score of timesThan hearthee so missay me and revile.Fair wordswere best for him who fights for thee;But trulyfoul are betterfor they sendThatstrength of anger through mine armsI knowThat Ishall overthrow him.'
And he that boreThe starwhen mountedcried from o'er the bridge'Akitchen-knaveand sent in scorn of me!Such fightnot Ibut answer scorn with scorn.For thiswere shame to do him further wrongThan sethim on his feetand take his horseAnd armsand so return him to the King.Comethereforeleave thy lady lightlyknave.Avoid: for it beseemeth not a knaveTo ridewith such a lady.'
'Dogthou liest.I springfrom loftier lineage than thine own.'He spake;and all at fiery speed the twoShocked onthe central bridgeand either spearBent butnot brakeand either knight at onceHurled asa stone from out of a catapultBeyond hishorse's crupper and the bridgeFellasif dead; but quickly rose and drewAnd Garethlashed so fiercely with his brandHe dravehis enemy backward down the bridgeThe damselcrying'Well-strickenkitchen-knave!'TillGareth's shield was cloven; but one strokeLaid himthat clove it grovelling on the ground.
Then cried the fallen'Take not my life: I yield.'AndGareth'So this damsel ask it of meGood--Iaccord it easily as a grace.'Shereddening'Insolent scullion: I of thee?I bound tothee for any favour asked!''Then heshall die.' And Gareth there unlacedHis helmetas to slay himbut she shrieked'Be not sohardyscullionas to slayOne noblerthan thyself.' 'Damselthy chargeIs anabounding pleasure to me. KnightThy lifeis thine at her command. AriseAndquickly pass to Arthur's halland sayHiskitchen-knave hath sent thee. See thou craveHis pardonfor thy breaking of his laws.Myselfwhen I returnwill plead for thee.Thy shieldis mine--farewell; anddamselthouLeadandI follow.'
And fast away she fled.Then whenhe came upon herspake'MethoughtKnavewhen I watched thee striking on the bridgeThe savourof thy kitchen came upon meA littlefaintlier: but the wind hath changed:I scent ittwenty-fold.' And then she sang'"Omorning star" (not that tall felon thereWhom thouby sorcery or unhappinessOr somedevicehast foully overthrown)"Omorning star that smilest in the blueO starmymorning dream hath proven trueSmilesweetlythou! my love hath smiled on me."
'But thou begonetake counseland awayFor hardby here is one that guards a ford--The secondbrother in their fool's parable--Will paythee all thy wagesand to boot.Care notfor shame: thou art not knight but knave.'
To whom Sir Gareth answeredlaughingly'Parables? Hear a parable of the knave.When I waskitchen-knave among the restFierce wasthe hearthand one of my co-matesOwned arough dogto whom he cast his coat"Guardit" and there was none to meddle with it.And such acoat art thouand thee the KingGave me toguardand such a dog am ITo worryand not to flee--and--knight or knave--The knavethat doth thee service as full knightIs all asgoodmeseemsas any knightToward thysister's freeing.'
'AySir Knave!Ayknavebecause thou strikest as a knightBeing butknaveI hate thee all the more.'
'Fair damselyou should worship me the moreThatbeing but knaveI throw thine enemies.'
'Ayay' she said'but thou shalt meet thy match.'
So when they touched the second river-loopHuge on ahuge red horseand all in mailBurnishedto blindingshone the Noonday SunBeyond araging shallow. As if the flowerThat blowsa globe of after arrowletsTenthousand-fold had grownflashed the fierce shieldAll sun;and Gareth's eyes had flying blotsBeforethem when he turned from watching him.He frombeyond the roaring shallow roared'Whatdoest thoubrotherin my marches here?'And sheathwart the shallow shrilled again'Here is akitchen-knave from Arthur's hallHathoverthrown thy brotherand hath his arms.''Ugh!'cried the Sunand vizoring up a redAnd cipherface of rounded foolishnessPushedhorse across the foamings of the fordWhomGareth met midstream: no room was thereFor lanceor tourney-skill: four strokes they struckWithswordand these were mighty; the new knightHad fearhe might be shamed; but as the SunHeaved upa ponderous arm to strike the fifthThe hoofof his horse slipt in the streamthe streamDescendedand the Sun was washed away.
Then Gareth laid his lance athwart the ford;So drewhim home; but he that fought no moreAs beingall bone-battered on the rockYielded;and Gareth sent him to the King'Myselfwhen I return will plead for thee.''LeadandI follow.' Quietly she led.'Hath notthe good winddamselchanged again?''Naynota point: nor art thou victor here.There liesa ridge of slate across the ford;His horsethereon stumbled--ayfor I saw it.
'"O Sun" (not this strong fool whom thouSir KnaveHastoverthrown through mere unhappiness)"OSunthat wakenest all to bliss or painO moonthat layest all to sleep againShinesweetly: twice my love hath smiled on me."
What knowest thou of lovesong or of love?NaynayGod wotso thou wert nobly bornThou hasta pleasant presence. Yeaperchance--
'"O dewy flowers that open to the sunO dewyflowers that close when day is doneBlowsweetly: twice my love hath smiled on me."
'What knowest thou of flowersexceptbelikeTo garnishmeats with? hath not our good KingWho lentme theethe flower of kitchendomA foolishlove for flowers? what stick ye roundThe pasty?wherewithal deck the boar's head?Flowers?naythe boar hath rosemaries and bay.
'"O birdsthat warble to the morning skyO birdsthat warble as the day goes bySingsweetly: twice my love hath smiled on me."
'What knowest thou of birdslarkmavismerleLinnet?what dream ye when they utter forthMay-musicgrowing with the growing lightTheirsweet sun-worship? these be for the snare(So runsthy fancy) these be for the spitLardingand basting. See thou have not nowLarded thylastexcept thou turn and fly.Therestands the third fool of their allegory.'
For there beyond a bridge of treble bowAll in arose-red from the westand allNaked itseemedand glowing in the broadDeep-dimpledcurrent underneaththe knightThat namedhimself the Star of Eveningstood.
And Gareth'Wherefore waits the madman thereNaked inopen dayshine?' 'Nay' she cried'Notnakedonly wrapt in hardened skinsThat fithim like his own; and so ye cleaveHis armouroff himthese will turn the blade.'
Then the third brother shouted o'er the bridge'Obrother-starwhy shine ye here so low?Thy wardis higher up: but have ye slainThedamsel's champion?' and the damsel cried
'No star of thinebut shot from Arthur's heavenWith alldisaster unto thine and thee!For boththy younger brethren have gone downBeforethis youth; and so wilt thouSir Star;Art thounot old?' 'Olddamselold and hardOldwiththe might and breath of twenty boys.'SaidGareth'Oldand over-bold in brag!But thatsame strength which threw the Morning StarCan throwthe Evening.'
Then that other blewA hard anddeadly note upon the horn.'Approachand arm me!' With slow steps from outAn oldstorm-beatenrussetmany-stainedPavilionforth a grizzled damsel cameAnd armedhim in old armsand brought a helmWith but adrying evergreen for crestAnd gave ashield whereon the Star of EvenHalf-tarnishedand half-brighthis emblemshone.But whenit glittered o'er the saddle-bowThey madlyhurled together on the bridge;And Garethoverthrew himlighteddrewThere methim drawnand overthrew him againBut uplike fire he started: and as oftAs Garethbrought him grovelling on his kneesSo many atime he vaulted up again;TillGareth panted hardand his great heartForedoomingall his trouble was in vainLabouredwithin himfor he seemed as oneThat allin latersadder age beginsTo waragainst ill uses of a lifeBut thesefrom all his life ariseand cry'Thou hastmade us lordsand canst not put us down!'He halfdespairs; so Gareth seemed to strikeVainlythe damsel clamouring all the while'Welldoneknave-knightwell-strickenO good knight-knave--O knaveas noble as any of all the knights--Shame menotshame me not. I have prophesied--Strikethou art worthy of the Table Round--His armsare oldhe trusts the hardened skin--Strike--strike--thewind will never change again.'And Garethhearing ever stronglier smoteAnd hewedgreat pieces of his armour off himBut lashedin vain against the hardened skinAnd couldnot wholly bring him undermoreThan loudSouthwesternsrolling ridge on ridgeThe buoythat rides at seaand dips and springsFor ever;till at length Sir Gareth's brandClashedhisand brake it utterly to the hilt.'I havethee now;' but forth that other sprangAndallunknightlikewrithed his wiry armsAroundhimtill he feltdespite his mailStrangledbut straining even his uttermostCastandso hurled him headlong o'er the bridgeDown tothe riversink or swimand cried'LeadandI follow.'
But the damsel said'I lead nolonger; ride thou at my side;Thou artthe kingliest of all kitchen-knaves.
'"O trefoilsparkling on the rainy plainO rainbowwith three colours after rainShinesweetly: thrice my love hath smiled on me."
'Sir--andgood faithI fain had added--KnightBut that Iheard thee call thyself a knave--Shamed amI that I so rebukedreviledMissaidthee; noble I am; and thought the KingScorned meand mine; and now thy pardonfriendFor thouhast ever answered courteouslyAnd whollybold thou artand meek withalAs any ofArthur's bestbutbeing knaveHast mazedmy wit: I marvel what thou art.'
'Damsel' he said'you be not all to blameSavingthat you mistrusted our good KingWouldhandle scornor yield youaskingoneNot fit tocope your quest. You said your say;Mineanswer was my deed. Good sooth! I holdHe scarceis knightyea but half-mannor meetTo fightfor gentle damselhewho letsHis heartbe stirred with any foolish heatAt anygentle damsel's waywardness.Shamed?care not! thy foul sayings fought for me:And seeingnow thy words are fairmethinks
Thererides no knightnot Lancelothis great selfHath forceto quell me.' Nigh upon that hourWhen thelone hern forgets his melancholyLets downhis other legand stretchingdreamsOf goodlysupper in the distant poolThenturned the noble damsel smiling at himAnd toldhim of a cavern hard at handWherebread and baken meats and good red wineOfSouthlandwhich the Lady LyonorsHad senther coming championwaited him.
Anon they past a narrow comb whereinWhereslabs of rock with figuresknights on horseSculpturedand deckt in slowly-waning hues.'SirKnavemy knighta hermit once was hereWhose holyhand hath fashioned on the rockThe war ofTime against the soul of man.And yonfour fools have sucked their allegoryFrom thesedamp wallsand taken but the form.Know yenot these?' and Gareth lookt and read--In letterslike to those the vexillaryHath leftcrag-carven o'er the streaming Gelt--'PHOSPHORUS'then 'MERIDIES'--'HESPERUS'--
'NOX'--'MORS'beneath five figuresarmed menSlab afterslabtheir faces forward allAndrunning down the Soula Shape that fledWithbroken wingstorn raiment and loose hairFor helpand shelter to the hermit's cave.'Followthe facesand we find it. LookWho comesbehind?'
For one--delayed at firstThroughhelping back the dislocated KayToCamelotthen by what thereafter chancedThedamsel's headlong error through the wood--SirLancelothaving swum the river-loops--His blueshield-lions covered--softly drewBehind thetwainand when he saw the starGleamonSir Gareth's turning to himcried'Stayfelon knightI avenge me for my friend.'And Garethcrying pricked against the cry;But whenthey closed--in a moment--at one touchOf thatskilled spearthe wonder of the world--Wentsliding down so easilyand fellThat whenhe found the grass within his handsHelaughed; the laughter jarred upon Lynette:Harshlyshe asked him'Shamed and overthrownAndtumbled back into the kitchen-knaveWhy laughye? that ye blew your boast in vain?''Naynoble damselbut that Ithe sonOf oldKing Lot and good Queen BellicentAnd victorof the bridges and the fordAnd knightof Arthurhere lie thrown by whomI knownotall through mere unhappiness--Device andsorcery and unhappiness--Outsword; we are thrown!' And Lancelot answered'PrinceOGareth--through the mere unhappinessOf one whocame to help theenot to harmLancelotand all as glad to find thee wholeAs on theday when Arthur knighted him.'
Then Gareth'Thou--Lancelot!--thine the handThat threwme? An some chance to mar the boastThybrethren of thee make--which could not chance--Had sentthee down before a lesser spearShamed hadI beenand sad--O Lancelot--thou!'
Whereat the maidenpetulant'LancelotWhy cameye notwhen called? and wherefore nowCome yenot called? I gloried in my knaveWho beingstill rebukedwould answer stillCourteousas any knight--but nowif knightThe marveldiesand leaves me fooled and trickedAnd onlywondering wherefore played upon:Anddoubtful whether I and mine be scorned.Whereshould be truth if not in Arthur's hallInArthur's presence? Knightknaveprince and foolI hatethee and for ever.'
And Lancelot said'Blessedbe thouSir Gareth! knight art thouTo theKing's best wish. O damselbe you wiseTo callhim shamedwho is but overthrown?Thrownhave I beennor oncebut many a time.Victorfrom vanquished issues at the lastAndoverthrower from being overthrown.With swordwe have not striven; and thy good horseAnd thouare weary; yet not less I feltThymanhood through that wearied lance of thine.Well hastthou done; for all the stream is freedAnd thouhast wreaked his justice on his foesAnd whenreviledhast answered graciouslyAnd makestmerry when overthrown. PrinceKnightHailKnight and Princeand of our Table Round!'
And then when turning to Lynette he toldThe taleof Garethpetulantly she said'Aywell--ay well--for worse than being fooledOf othersis to fool one's self. A caveSirLancelotis hard bywith meats and drinksAnd foragefor the horseand flint for fire.But allabout it flies a honeysuckle.Seektillwe find.' And when they sought and foundSir Garethdrank and ateand all his lifePast intosleep; on whom the maiden gazed.'Soundsleep be thine! sound cause to sleep hast thou.Wakelusty! Seem I not as tender to himAs anymother? Aybut such a oneAs all daylong hath rated at her childAnd vexthis daybut blesses him asleep--Good lordhow sweetly smells the honeysuckleIn thehushed nightas if the world were oneOf utterpeaceand loveand gentleness!OLancelotLancelot'--and she clapt her hands--'Fullmerry am I to find my goodly knaveIs knightand noble. See nowsworn have IElse yonblack felon had not let me passTo bringthee back to do the battle with him.Thus anthou goesthe will fight thee first;Who doubtsthee victor? so will my knight-knaveMiss thefull flower of this accomplishment.'
Said Lancelot'Peradventure heyou nameMay knowmy shield. Let Garethan he willChange hisfor mineand take my chargerfreshNot to bespurredloving the battle as wellAs he thatrides him.' 'Lancelot-like' she said'Courteousin thisLord Lancelotas in all.'
And Garethwakeningfiercely clutched the shield;'Ramp yelance-splintering lionson whom all spearsAre rottensticks! ye seem agape to roar!Yearampand roar at leaving of your lord!--Care notgood beastsso well I care for you.O nobleLancelotfrom my hold on theseStreamsvirtue--fire--through one that will not shameEven theshadow of Lancelot under shield.Hence: let us go.'
Silent the silent fieldTheytraversed. Arthur's harp though summer-wanIn countermotion to the cloudsalluredThe glanceof Gareth dreaming on his liege.A starshot: 'Lo' said Gareth'the foe falls!'An owlwhoopt: 'Hark the victor pealing there!'Suddenlyshe that rode upon his leftClung tothe shield that Lancelot lent himcrying'Yieldyield him this again: 'tis he must fight:I cursethe tongue that all through yesterdayReviledtheeand hath wrought on Lancelot nowTo lendthee horse and shield: wonders ye have done;Miraclesye cannot: here is glory enowIn havingflung the three: I see thee maimedMangled: I swear thou canst not fling the fourth.'
'And whereforedamsel? tell me all ye know.You cannotscare me; nor rough faceor voiceBrute bulkof limbor boundless savageryAppal mefrom the quest.'
'NayPrince' she cried'God wotI never looked upon the faceSeeing henever rides abroad by day;Butwatched him have I like a phantom passChillingthe night: nor have I heard the voice.Always hemade his mouthpiece of a pageWho cameand wentand still reported himAs closingin himself the strength of tenAnd whenhis anger tare himmassacringManwomanlad and girl--yeathe soft babe!Some holdthat he hath swallowed infant fleshMonster! O PrinceI went for Lancelot firstThe questis Lancelot's: give him back the shield.'
Said Gareth laughing'An he fight for thisBelike hewins it as the better man:Thus--andnot else!'
But Lancelot on him urgedAll thedevisings of their chivalryWhen onemight meet a mightier than himself;How bestto manage horselancesword and shieldAnd sofill up the gap where force might failWith skilland fineness. Instant were his words.
Then Gareth'Here be rules. I know but one--To dashagainst mine enemy and win.Yet have Iseen thee victor in the joustAnd seenthy way.' 'Heaven help thee' sighed Lynette.
Then for a spaceand under cloud that grewTothunder-gloom palling all starsthey rodeInconverse till she made her palfrey haltLifted anarmand softly whispered'There.'And allthe three were silent seeingpitchedBeside theCastle Perilous on flat fieldA hugepavilion like a mountain peakSunder theglooming crimson on the margeBlackwith black bannerand a long black hornBeside ithanging; which Sir Gareth grasptAnd sobefore the two could hinder himSent allhis heart and breath through all the horn.Echoed thewalls; a light twinkled; anonCamelights and lightsand once again he blew;Whereonwere hollow tramplings up and downAndmuffled voices heardand shadows past;Till highabove himcircled with her maidsThe LadyLyonors at a window stoodBeautifulamong lightsand waving to himWhitehandsand courtesy; but when the PrinceThreetimes had blown--after long hush--at last--The hugepavilion slowly yielded upThroughthose black foldingsthat which housed therein.High on anightblack horsein nightblack armsWith whitebreast-boneand barren ribs of DeathAndcrowned with fleshless laughter--some ten steps--In thehalf-light--through the dim dawn--advancedThemonsterand then pausedand spake no word.
But Gareth spake and all indignantly'Foolforthou hastmen saythe strength of tenCanst thounot trust the limbs thy God hath givenBut mustto make the terror of thee moreTrickthyself out in ghastly imageriesOf thatwhich Life hath done withand the clodLess dullthan thouwill hide with mantling flowersAs if forpity?' But he spake no word;Which setthe horror higher: a maiden swooned;The LadyLyonors wrung her hands and weptAs doomedto be the bride of Night and Death;SirGareth's head prickled beneath his helm;And evenSir Lancelot through his warm blood feltIcestrikeand all that marked him were aghast.
At once Sir Lancelot's charger fiercely neighedAndDeath's dark war-horse bounded forward with him.Then thosethat did not blink the terrorsawThat Deathwas cast to groundand slowly rose.But withone stroke Sir Gareth split the skull.Half fellto right and half to left and lay.Then witha stronger buffet he clove the helmAsthroughly as the skull; and out from thisIssued thebright face of a blooming boyFresh as aflower new-bornand crying'KnightSlay menot: my three brethren bad me do itTo make ahorror all about the houseAnd staythe world from Lady Lyonors.They neverdreamed the passes would be past.'AnsweredSir Gareth graciously to oneNot many amoon his younger'My fair childWhatmadness made thee challenge the chief knightOfArthur's hall?' 'Fair Sirthey bad me do it.They hatethe Kingand Lancelotthe King's friendThey hopedto slay him somewhere on the streamThey neverdreamed the passes could be past.'
Then sprang the happier day from underground;And LadyLyonors and her housewith danceAnd reveland songmade merry over DeathAs beingafter all their foolish fearsAndhorrors only proven a blooming boy.So largemirth lived and Gareth won the quest.
And he that told the tale in older timesSays thatSir Gareth wedded LyonorsBut hethat told it latersays Lynette.
The braveGerainta knight of Arthur's courtAtributary prince of DevononeOf thatgreat Order of the Table RoundHadmarried EnidYniol's only childAnd lovedheras he loved the light of Heaven.And as thelight of Heaven variesnowAtsunrisenow at sunsetnow by nightWith moonand trembling starsso loved GeraintTo makeher beauty vary day by dayIncrimsons and in purples and in gems.And Enidbut to please her husband's eyeWho firsthad found and loved her in a stateOf brokenfortunesdaily fronted himIn somefresh splendour; and the Queen herselfGratefulto Prince Geraint for service doneLoved herand often with her own white handsArrayedand decked heras the loveliestNext afterher own selfin all the court.And Enidloved the Queenand with true heartAdoredheras the stateliest and the bestAndloveliest of all women upon earth.And seeingthem so tender and so closeLong intheir common love rejoiced Geraint.But when arumour rose about the QueenTouchingher guilty love for LancelotThough yetthere lived no proofnor yet was heardTheworld's loud whisper breaking into stormNot lessGeraint believed it; and there fellA horroron himlest his gentle wifeThroughthat great tenderness for GuinevereHadsufferedor should suffer any taintInnature: wherefore going to the KingHe madethis pretextthat his princedom layClose onthe borders of a territoryWhereinwere bandit earlsand caitiff knightsAssassinsand all flyers from the handOfJusticeand whatever loathes a law:Andthereforetill the King himself should pleaseTo cleansethis common sewer of all his realmHe craveda fair permission to departAnd theredefend his marches; and the KingMused fora little on his pleabutlastAllowingitthe Prince and Enid rodeAnd fiftyknights rode with themto the shoresOf Severnand they past to their own land;Wherethinkingthat if ever yet was wifeTrue toher lordmine shall be so to meHecompassed her with sweet observancesAndworshipnever leaving herand grewForgetfulof his promise to the KingForgetfulof the falcon and the huntForgetfulof the tilt and tournamentForgetfulof his glory and his nameForgetfulof his princedom and its cares.And thisforgetfulness was hateful to her.And by andby the peoplewhen they metIn twosand threesor fuller companiesBegan toscoff and jeer and babble of himAs of aprince whose manhood was all goneAnd moltendown in mere uxoriousness.And thisshe gathered from the people's eyes:This toothe women who attired her headTo pleaseherdwelling on his boundless loveTold Enidand they saddened her the more:And day byday she thought to tell GeraintBut couldnot out of bashful delicacy;While hethat watched her saddenwas the moreSuspiciousthat her nature had a taint.
At lastit chanced that on a summer morn(Theysleeping each by either) the new sunBeatthrough the blindless casement of the roomAnd heatedthe strong warrior in his dreams;Whomovingcast the coverlet asideAnd baredthe knotted column of his throatThemassive square of his heroic breastAnd armson which the standing muscle slopedAs slopesa wild brook o'er a little stoneRunningtoo vehemently to break upon it.And Enidwoke and sat beside the couchAdmiringhimand thought within herselfWas everman so grandly made as he?Thenlikea shadowpast the people's talkAndaccusation of uxoriousnessAcross hermindand bowing over himLow to herown heart piteously she said:
'O noble breast and all-puissant armsAm I thecauseI the poor cause that menReproachyousaying all your force is gone?I am thecausebecause I dare not speakAnd tellhim what I think and what they say.And yet Ihate that he should linger here;I cannotlove my lord and not his name.Far lieferhad I gird his harness on himAnd ridewith him to battle and stand byAnd watchhis mightful hand striking great blowsAtcaitiffs and at wrongers of the world.Far betterwere I laid in the dark earthNothearing any more his noble voiceNot to befolded more in these dear armsAnddarkened from the high light in his eyesThan thatmy lord through me should suffer shame.Am I soboldand could I so stand byAnd see mydear lord wounded in the strifeAnd maybepierced to death before mine eyesAnd yetnot dare to tell him what I thinkAnd howmen slur himsaying all his forceIs meltedinto mere effeminacy?O meIfear that I am no true wife.'
Half inwardlyhalf audibly she spokeAnd thestrong passion in her made her weepTrue tearsupon his broad and naked breastAnd theseawoke himand by great mischanceHe heardbut fragments of her later wordsAnd thatshe feared she was not a true wife.And thenhe thought'In spite of all my careFor all mypainspoor manfor all my painsShe is notfaithful to meand I see herWeepingfor some gay knight in Arthur's hall.'Thenthough he loved and reverenced her too muchTo dreamshe could be guilty of foul actRightthrough his manful breast darted the pangThat makesa manin the sweet face of herWhom heloves mostlonely and miserable.At this hehurled his huge limbs out of bedAnd shookhis drowsy squire awake and cried
'Mycharger and her palfrey;' then to her'I willride forth into the wilderness;For thoughit seems my spurs are yet to winI have notfallen so low as some would wish.And thouput on thy worst and meanest dressAnd ridewith me.' And Enid askedamazed'If Eniderrslet Enid learn her fault.'But he'Icharge theeask notbut obey.'Then shebethought her of a faded silkA fadedmantle and a faded veilAnd movingtoward a cedarn cabinetWhereinshe kept them folded reverentlyWithsprigs of summer laid between the foldsShe tookthemand arrayed herself thereinRememberingwhen first he came on herDrest inthat dressand how he loved her in itAnd allher foolish fears about the dressAnd allhis journey to heras himselfHad toldherand their coming to the court.
For Arthur on the Whitsuntide beforeHeld courtat old Caerleon upon Usk.There on adayhe sitting high in hallBefore himcame a forester of DeanWet fromthe woodswith notice of a hartTallerthan all his fellowsmilky-whiteFirst seenthat day: these things he told the King.Then thegood King gave order to let blowHis hornsfor hunting on the morrow morn.And whenthe King petitioned for his leaveTo see thehuntallowed it easily.So withthe morning all the court were gone.ButGuinevere lay late into the mornLost insweet dreamsand dreaming of her loveForLancelotand forgetful of the hunt;But roseat lasta single maiden with herTookhorseand forded Uskand gained the wood;Thereona little knoll beside itstayedWaiting tohear the hounds; but heard insteadA suddensound of hoofsfor Prince GeraintLate alsowearing neither hunting-dressNorweaponsave a golden-hilted brandCamequickly flashing through the shallow fordBehindthemand so galloped up the knoll.A purplescarfat either end whereofThereswung an apple of the purest goldSwayedround about himas he galloped upTo jointhemglancing like a dragon-flyIn summersuit and silks of holiday.Low bowedthe tributary Princeand sheSweet andstatelilyand with all graceOfwomanhood and queenhoodanswered him:'LatelateSir Prince' she said'later than we!''Yeanoble Queen' he answered'and so lateThat I butcome like you to see the huntNot joinit.' 'Therefore wait with me' she said;'For onthis little knollif anywhereThere isgood chance that we shall hear the hounds:Here oftenthey break covert at our feet.'
And while they listened for the distant huntAndchiefly for the baying of CavallKingArthur's hound of deepest mouththere rodeFullslowly by a knightladyand dwarf;Whereofthe dwarf lagged latestand the knightHad vizorupand showed a youthful faceImperiousand of haughtiest lineaments.AndGuineverenot mindful of his faceIn theKing's halldesired his nameand sentHer maidento demand it of the dwarf;Who beingviciousold and irritableAnddoubling all his master's vice of prideMadeanswer sharply that she should not know.'Then willI ask it of himself' she said.'Naybymy faiththou shalt not' cried the dwarf;'Thou artnot worthy even to speak of him;'And whenshe put her horse toward the knightStruck ather with his whipand she returnedIndignantto the Queen; whereat GeraintExclaiming'Surely I will learn the name'Madesharply to the dwarfand asked it of himWhoanswered as before; and when the PrinceHad puthis horse in motion toward the knightStruck athim with his whipand cut his cheek.ThePrince's blood spirted upon the scarfDyeing it;and his quickinstinctive handCaught atthe hiltas to abolish him:But hefrom his exceeding manfulnessAnd purenobility of temperamentWroth tobe wroth at such a wormrefrainedFrom evena wordand so returning said:
'I will avenge this insultnoble QueenDone inyour maiden's person to yourself:And I willtrack this vermin to their earths:For thoughI ride unarmedI do not doubtTo findat some place I shall come atarmsOn loanor else for pledge; andbeing foundThen willI fight himand will break his prideAnd on thethird day will again be hereSo that Ibe not fallen in fight. Farewell.'
'Farewellfair Prince' answered the stately Queen.'Beprosperous in this journeyas in all;And mayyou light on all things that you loveAnd liveto wed with her whom first you love:But ereyou wed with anybring your brideAnd Iwere she the daughter of a kingYeathough she were a beggar from the hedgeWillclothe her for her bridals like the sun.'
And Prince Geraintnow thinking that he heardThe noblehart at baynow the far hornA littlevext at losing of the huntA littleat the vile occasionrodeBy ups anddownsthrough many a grassy gladeAndvalleywith fixt eye following the three.At lastthey issued from the world of woodAndclimbed upon a fair and even ridgeAnd showedthemselves against the skyand sank.Andthither there came Geraintand underneathBeheld thelong street of a little townIn a longvalleyon one side whereofWhite fromthe mason's handa fortress rose;And on oneside a castle in decayBeyond abridge that spanned a dry ravine:And out oftown and valley came a noiseAs of abroad brook o'er a shingly bedBrawlingor like a clamour of the rooksAtdistanceere they settle for the night.
And onward to the fortress rode the threeAndenteredand were lost behind the walls.'So'thought Geraint'I have tracked him to his earth.'And downthe long street riding wearilyFoundevery hostel fulland everywhereWas hammerlaid to hoofand the hot hissAndbustling whistle of the youth who scouredHismaster's armour; and of such a oneHe asked'What means the tumult in the town?'Who toldhimscouring still'The sparrow-hawk!'Thenriding close behind an ancient churlWhosmitten by the dusty sloping beamWentsweating underneath a sack of cornAsked yetonce more what meant the hubbub here?Whoanswered gruffly'Ugh! the sparrow-hawk.'Thenriding further past an armourer'sWhowithback turnedand bowed above his workSatriveting a helmet on his kneeHe put theself-same querybut the manNotturning roundnor looking at himsaid:'Friendhe that labours for the sparrow-hawkHas littletime for idle questioners.'WhereatGeraint flashed into sudden spleen:'Athousand pips eat up your sparrow-hawk!Titswrensand all winged nothings peck him dead!Ye thinkthe rustic cackle of your bourgThe murmurof the world! What is it to me?O wretchedset of sparrowsone and allWho pipeof nothing but of sparrow-hawks!Speakifye be not like the resthawk-madWhere canI get me harbourage for the night?And armsarmsarms to fight my enemy? Speak!'Whereatthe armourer turning all amazedAnd seeingone so gay in purple silksCameforward with the helmet yet in handAndanswered'Pardon meO stranger knight;We hold atourney here tomorrow mornAnd thereis scantly time for half the work.Arms?truth! I know not: all are wanted here.Harbourage?truthgood truthI know notsaveIt may beat Earl Yniol'so'er the bridgeYonder.' He spoke and fell to work again.
Then rode Gerainta little spleenful yetAcross thebridge that spanned the dry ravine.Theremusing sat the hoary-headed Earl(His dressa suit of frayed magnificenceOnce fitfor feasts of ceremony) and said:'Whitherfair son?' to whom Geraint replied'O friendI seek a harbourage for the night.'ThenYniol'Enter therefore and partakeTheslender entertainment of a houseOnce richnow poorbut ever open-doored.''Thanksvenerable friend' replied Geraint;'So thatye do not serve me sparrow-hawksForsupperI will enterI will eatWith allthe passion of a twelve hours' fast.'Thensighed and smiled the hoary-headed EarlAndanswered'Graver cause than yours is mineTo cursethis hedgerow thiefthe sparrow-hawk:But ingoin; for save yourself desire itWe willnot touch upon him even in jest.'
Then rode Geraint into the castle courtHischarger trampling many a prickly starOfsprouted thistle on the broken stones.He lookedand saw that all was ruinous.Here stooda shattered archway plumed with fern;And herehad fallen a great part of a towerWholelike a crag that tumbles from the cliffAnd like acrag was gay with wilding flowers:And highabove a piece of turret stairWorn bythe feet that now were silentwoundBare tothe sunand monstrous ivy-stemsClaspt thegray walls with hairy-fibred armsAnd suckedthe joining of the stonesand lookedA knotbeneathof snakesalofta grove.
And while he waited in the castle courtThe voiceof EnidYniol's daughterrangClearthrough the open casement of the hallSinging;and as the sweet voice of a birdHeard bythe lander in a lonely isleMoves himto think what kind of bird it isThat singsso delicately clearand makeConjectureof the plumage and the form;So thesweet voice of Enid moved Geraint;And madehim like a man abroad at mornWhen firstthe liquid note beloved of menComesflying over many a windy waveToBritainand in April suddenlyBreaksfrom a coppice gemmed with green and redAnd hesuspends his converse with a friendOr it maybe the labour of his handsTo thinkor say'There is the nightingale;'So faredit with Geraintwho thought and said'HerebyGod's graceis the one voice for me.'
It chanced the song that Enid sang was oneOf Fortuneand her wheeland Enid sang:
'TurnFortuneturn thy wheel and lower the proud;Turn thywild wheel through sunshinestormand cloud;Thy wheeland thee we neither love nor hate.
'TurnFortuneturn thy wheel with smile or frown;With thatwild wheel we go not up or down;Our hoardis littlebut our hearts are great.
'Smile and we smilethe lords of many lands;Frown andwe smilethe lords of our own hands;For man isman and master of his fate.
'Turnturn thy wheel above the staring crowd;Thy wheeland thou are shadows in the cloud;Thy wheeland thee we neither love nor hate.'
'Harkby the bird's song ye may learn the nest'SaidYniol; 'enter quickly.' Entering thenRight o'era mount of newly-fallen stonesThedusky-raftered many-cobwebbed hallHe foundan ancient dame in dim brocade;And nearherlike a blossom vermeil-whiteThatlightly breaks a faded flower-sheathMoved thefair Enidall in faded silkHerdaughter. In a moment thought Geraint'Here byGod's rood is the one maid for me.'But nonespake word except the hoary Earl:'Enidthegood knight's horse stands in the court;Take himto stalland give him cornand thenGo to thetown and buy us flesh and wine;And wewill make us merry as we may.Our hoardis littlebut our hearts are great.'
He spake: the Princeas Enid past himfainTo followstrode a stridebut Yniol caughtHis purplescarfand heldand said'Forbear!Rest! thegood housethough ruinedO my sonEnduresnot that her guest should serve himself.'Andreverencing the custom of the houseGeraintfrom utter courtesyforbore.
So Enid took his charger to the stall;And afterwent her way across the bridgeAndreached the townand while the Prince and EarlYet spoketogethercame again with oneA youththat following with a costrel boreThe meansof goodly welcomeflesh and wine.And Enidbrought sweet cakes to make them cheerAnd in herveil enfoldedmanchet bread.And thenbecause their hall must also serveForkitchenboiled the fleshand spread the boardAnd stoodbehindand waited on the three.And seeingher so sweet and serviceableGerainthad longing in him evermoreTo stoopand kiss the tender little thumbThat crostthe trencher as she laid it down:But afterall had eatenthen GeraintFor nowthe wine made summer in his veinsLet hiseye rove in followingor restOn Enid ather lowly handmaid-workNow herenow thereabout the dusky hall;Thensuddenly addrest the hoary Earl:
'Fair Host and EarlI pray your courtesy;Thissparrow-hawkwhat is he? tell me of him.His name?but nogood faithI will not have it:For if hebe the knight whom late I sawRide intothat new fortress by your townWhite fromthe mason's handthen have I swornFrom hisown lips to have it--I am GeraintOfDevon--for this morning when the QueenSent herown maiden to demand the nameHis dwarfa vicious under-shapen thingStruck ather with his whipand she returnedIndignantto the Queen; and then I sworeThat Iwould track this caitiff to his holdAnd fightand break his prideand have it of him.And allunarmed I rodeand thought to findArms inyour townwhere all the men are mad;They takethe rustic murmur of their bourgFor thegreat wave that echoes round the world;They wouldnot hear me speak: but if ye knowWhere Ican light on armsor if yourselfShouldhave themtell meseeing I have swornThat Iwill break his pride and learn his nameAvengingthis great insult done the Queen.'
Then cried Earl Yniol'Art thou he indeedGeraintaname far-sounded among menFor nobledeeds? and truly Iwhen firstI saw youmoving by me on the bridgeFelt yewere somewhatyeaand by your stateAndpresence might have guessed you one of thoseThat eatin Arthur's hall in Camelot.Nor speakI now from foolish flattery;For thisdear child hath often heard me praiseYour featsof armsand often when I pausedHath askedagainand ever loved to hear;Sograteful is the noise of noble deedsTo noblehearts who see but acts of wrong:O neveryet had woman such a pairOf suitorsas this maiden: first LimoursA creaturewholly given to brawls and wineDrunk evenwhen he wooed; and be he deadI knownotbut he past to the wild land.The secondwas your foethe sparrow-hawkMy cursemy nephew--I will not let his nameSlip frommy lips if I can help it--heWhen thatI knew him fierce and turbulentRefusedher to himthen his pride awoke;And sincethe proud man often is the meanHe sowed aslander in the common earAffirmingthat his father left him goldAnd in mychargewhich was not rendered to him;Bribedwith large promises the men who servedAbout mypersonthe more easilyBecause mymeans were somewhat broken intoThroughopen doors and hospitality;Raised myown town against me in the nightBefore myEnid's birthdaysacked my house;From mineown earldom foully ousted me;Built thatnew fort to overawe my friendsFor trulythere are those who love me yet;And keepsme in this ruinous castle hereWheredoubtless he would put me soon to deathBut thathis pride too much despises me:And Imyself sometimes despise myself;For I havelet men beand have their way;Am muchtoo gentlehave not used my power:Nor know Iwhether I be very baseOr verymanfulwhether very wiseOr veryfoolish; only this I knowThatwhatsoever evil happen to meI seem tosuffer nothing heart or limbBut canendure it all most patiently.'
'Well saidtrue heart' replied Geraint'but armsThat ifthe sparrow-hawkthis nephewfightIn nextday's tourney I may break his pride.'
And Yniol answered'Armsindeedbut oldAnd rustyold and rustyPrince GeraintAre mineand therefore at thy askingthine.But inthis tournament can no man tiltExcept thelady he loves best be there.Two forksare fixt into the meadow groundAnd overthese is placed a silver wandAnd overthat a golden sparrow-hawkThe prizeof beauty for the fairest there.And thiswhat knight soever be in fieldLays claimto for the lady at his sideAnd tiltswith my good nephew thereuponWho beingapt at arms and big of boneHas everwon it for the lady with himAndtoppling over all antagonismHas earnedhimself the name of sparrow-hawk.'But thouthat hast no ladycanst not fight.'
To whom Geraint with eyes all bright repliedLeaning alittle toward him'Thy leave!Let me laylance in restO noble hostFor thisdear childbecause I never sawThoughhaving seen all beauties of our timeNor cansee elsewhereanything so fair.And if Ifall her name will yet remainUntarnishedas before; but if I liveSo aid meHeaven when at mine uttermostAs I willmake her truly my true wife.'
Thenhowsoever patientYniol's heartDanced inhis bosomseeing better daysAndlooking round he saw not Enid there(Whohearing her own name had stolen away)But thatold dameto whom full tenderlyAndfolding all her hand in his he said'Motheramaiden is a tender thingAnd bestby her that bore her understood.Go thou torestbut ere thou go to restTell herand prove her heart toward the Prince.'
So spake the kindly-hearted Earland sheWithfrequent smile and nod departing foundHalfdisarrayed as to her restthe girl;Whom firstshe kissed on either cheekand thenOn eithershining shoulder laid a handAnd kepther off and gazed upon her faceAnd toldthem all their converse in the hallProvingher heart: but never light and shadeCoursedone another more on open groundBeneath atroubled heaventhan red and paleAcross theface of Enid hearing her;Whileslowly falling as a scale that fallsWhenweight is added only grain by grainSank hersweet head upon her gentle breast;Nor didshe lift an eye nor speak a wordRapt inthe fear and in the wonder of it;So movingwithout answer to her restShe foundno restand ever failed to drawThe quietnight into her bloodbut layContemplatingher own unworthiness;And whenthe pale and bloodless east beganTo quickento the sunaroseand raisedHer mothertooand hand in hand they movedDown tothe meadow where the jousts were heldAnd waitedthere for Yniol and Geraint.
And thither came the twainand when GeraintBeheld herfirst in fieldawaiting himHe feltwere she the prize of bodily forceHimselfbeyond the rest pushing could moveThe chairof Idris. Yniol's rusted armsWere onhis princely personbut through thesePrincelikehis bearing shone; and errant knightsAnd ladiescameand by and by the townFlowed inand settling circled all the lists.And therethey fixt the forks into the groundAnd overthese they placed the silver wandAnd overthat the golden sparrow-hawk.ThenYniol's nephewafter trumpet blownSpake tothe lady with him and proclaimed'Advanceand takeas fairest of the fairWhat Ithese two years past have won for theeThe prizeof beauty.' Loudly spake the Prince'Forbear: there is a worthier' and the knightWith somesurprise and thrice as much disdainTurnedand beheld the fourand all his faceGlowedlike the heart of a great fire at YuleSo burnthe was with passioncrying out'Do battlefor it then' no more; and thriceTheyclashed togetherand thrice they brake their spears.Then eachdishorsed and drawinglashed at eachSo oftenand with such blowsthat all the crowdWonderedand now and then from distant wallsThere camea clapping as of phantom hands.So twicethey foughtand twice they breathedand stillThe dew oftheir great labourand the bloodOf theirstrong bodiesflowingdrained their force.Buteither's force was matched till Yniol's cry'Rememberthat great insult done the Queen'IncreasedGeraint'swho heaved his blade aloftAndcracked the helmet throughand bit the boneAnd felledhimand set foot upon his breastAnd said'Thy name?' To whom the fallen manMadeanswergroaning'Edyrnson of Nudd!Ashamed amI that I should tell it thee.My prideis broken: men have seen my fall.''ThenEdyrnson of Nudd' replied Geraint'These twothings shalt thou door else thou diest.Firstthou thyselfwith damsel and with dwarfShalt rideto Arthur's courtand coming thereCravepardon for that insult done the QueenAnd shaltabide her judgment on it; nextThou shaltgive back their earldom to thy kin.These twothings shalt thou door thou shalt die.'And Edyrnanswered'These things will I doFor I havenever yet been overthrownAnd thouhast overthrown meand my prideIs brokendownfor Enid sees my fall!'And risinguphe rode to Arthur's courtAnd therethe Queen forgave him easily.And beingyounghe changed and came to loatheHis crimeof traitorslowly drew himselfBrightfrom his old dark lifeand fell at lastIn thegreat battle fighting for the King.
But when the third day from the hunting-mornMade a lowsplendour in the worldand wingsMoved inher ivyEnidfor she layWith herfair head in the dim-yellow lightAmong thedancing shadows of the birdsWoke andbethought her of her promise givenNo laterthan last eve to Prince Geraint--So bent heseemed on going the third dayHe wouldnot leave hertill her promise given--To ridewith him this morning to the courtAnd therebe made known to the stately QueenAnd therebe wedded with all ceremony.At thisshe cast her eyes upon her dressAndthought it never yet had looked so mean.For as aleaf in mid-November isTo what itis in mid-OctoberseemedThe dressthat now she looked on to the dressShe lookedon ere the coming of Geraint.And stillshe lookedand still the terror grewOf thatstrange bright and dreadful thinga courtAllstaring at her in her faded silk:And softlyto her own sweet heart she said:
'This noble prince who won our earldom backSosplendid in his acts and his attireSweetheavenhow much I shall discredit him!Would hecould tarry with us here awhileBut beingso beholden to the PrinceIt werebut little grace in any of usBent as heseemed on going this third dayTo seek asecond favour at his hands.Yet if hecould but tarry a day or twoMyselfwould work eye dimand finger lameFar lieferthan so much discredit him.'
And Enid fell in longing for a dressAllbranched and flowered with golda costly giftOf hergood mothergiven her on the nightBefore herbirthdaythree sad years agoThat nightof firewhen Edyrn sacked their houseAndscattered all they had to all the winds:For whilethe mother showed itand the twoWereturning and admiring itthe workTo bothappeared so costlyrose a cryThatEdyrn's men were on themand they fledWithlittle save the jewels they had onWhichbeing sold and sold had bought them bread:AndEdyrn's men had caught them in their flightAnd placedthem in this ruin; and she wishedThe Princehad found her in her ancient home;Then lether fancy flit across the pastAnd roamthe goodly places that she knew;And lastbethought her how she used to watchNear thatold homea pool of golden carp;And onewas patched and blurred and lustrelessAmong hisburnished brethren of the pool;And halfasleep she made comparisonOf thatand these to her own faded selfAnd thegay courtand fell asleep again;And dreamtherself was such a faded formAmong herburnished sisters of the pool;But thiswas in the garden of a king;And thoughshe lay dark in the poolshe knewThat allwas bright; that all about were birdsOf sunnyplume in gilded trellis-work;That allthe turf was rich in plots that lookedEach likea garnet or a turkis in it;And lordsand ladies of the high court wentIn silvertissue talking things of state;Andchildren of the King in cloth of goldGlanced atthe doors or gamboled down the walks;And whileshe thought 'They will not see me' cameA statelyqueen whose name was GuinevereAnd allthe children in their cloth of goldRan tohercrying'If we have fish at allLet thembe gold; and charge the gardeners nowTo pickthe faded creature from the poolAnd castit on the mixen that it die.'Andtherewithal one came and seized on herAnd Enidstarted wakingwith her heartAllovershadowed by the foolish dreamAnd lo! itwas her mother grasping herTo get herwell awake; and in her handA suit ofbright apparelwhich she laidFlat onthe couchand spoke exultingly:
'See heremy childhow fresh the colours lookHow fastthey hold like colours of a shellThat keepsthe wear and polish of the wave.Why not? It never yet was wornI trow:Look onitchildand tell me if ye know it.'
And Enid lookedbut all confused at firstCouldscarce divide it from her foolish dream:Thensuddenly she knew it and rejoicedAndanswered'YeaI know it; your good giftSo sadlylost on that unhappy night;Your owngood gift!' 'Yeasurely' said the dame'Andgladly given again this happy morn.For whenthe jousts were ended yesterdayWent Yniolthrough the townand everywhereHe foundthe sack and plunder of our houseAllscattered through the houses of the town;And gavecommand that all which once was oursShould nowbe ours again: and yester-eveWhile yewere talking sweetly with your PrinceCame onewith this and laid it in my handFor loveor fearor seeking favour of usBecause wehave our earldom back again.Andyester-eve I would not tell you of itBut keptit for a sweet surprise at morn.Yeatrulyis it not a sweet surprise?For Imyself unwillingly have wornMy fadedsuitas youmy childhave yoursAndhowsoever patientYniol his.Ahdearhe took me from a goodly houseWith storeof rich apparelsumptuous fareAnd pageand maidand squireand seneschalAndpastime both of hawk and houndand allThatappertains to noble maintenance.Yeaandhe brought me to a goodly house;But sinceour fortune swerved from sun to shadeAnd allthrough that young traitorcruel needConstrainedusbut a better time has come;So clotheyourself in thisthat better fitsOur mendedfortunes and a Prince's bride:For thoughye won the prize of fairest fairAnd thoughI heard him call you fairest fairLet nevermaiden thinkhowever fairShe is notfairer in new clothes than old.And shouldsome great court-lady saythe PrinceHathpicked a ragged-robin from the hedgeAnd like amadman brought her to the courtThen wereye shamedandworsemight shame the PrinceTo whom weare beholden; but I knowThat whenmy dear child is set forth at her bestThatneither court nor countrythough they soughtThroughall the provinces like those of oldThatlighted on Queen Estherhas her match.'
Here ceased the kindly mother out of breath;And Enidlistened brightening as she lay;Thenasthe white and glittering star of mornParts froma bank of snowand by and bySlips intogolden cloudthe maiden roseAnd lefther maiden couchand robed herselfHelped bythe mother's careful hand and eyeWithout amirrorin the gorgeous gown;Whoafterturned her daughter roundand saidShe neveryet had seen her half so fair;And calledher like that maiden in the taleWhomGwydion made by glamour out of flowersAndsweeter than the bride of CassivelaunFlurforwhose love the Roman Caesar firstInvadedBritain'But we beat him backAs thisgreat Prince invaded usand weNot beathim backbut welcomed him with joyAnd I canscarcely ride with you to courtFor old amIand rough the ways and wild;But Yniolgoesand I full oft shall dreamI see myprincess as I see her nowClothedwith my giftand gay among the gay.'
But while the women thus rejoicedGeraintWoke wherehe slept in the high halland calledFor Enidand when Yniol made reportOf thatgood mother making Enid gay
In suchapparel as might well beseemHisprincessor indeed the stately QueenHeanswered: 'Earlentreat her by my loveAlbeit Igive no reason but my wishThat sheride with me in her faded silk.'Yniol withthat hard message went; it fellLike flawsin summer laying lusty corn:For Enidall abashed she knew not whyDared notto glance at her good mother's faceButsilentlyin all obedienceHer mothersilent toonor helping herLaid fromher limbs the costly-broidered giftAnd robedthem in her ancient suit againAnd sodescended. Never man rejoicedMore thanGeraint to greet her thus attired;Andglancing all at once as keenly at herAs carefulrobins eye the delver's toilMade hercheek burn and either eyelid fallBut restedwith her sweet face satisfied;Thenseeing cloud upon the mother's browHer byboth hands she caughtand sweetly said
'O my new motherbe not wroth or grievedAt thy newsonfor my petition to her.When lateI left Caerleonour great QueenIn wordswhose echo laststhey were so sweetMadepromisethat whatever bride I broughtHerselfwould clothe her like the sun in Heaven.Thereafterwhen I reached this ruined hallBeholdingone so bright in dark estateI vowedthat could I gain herour fair QueenNo handbut hersshould make your Enid burstSunlikefrom cloud--and likewise thought perhapsThatservice done so graciously would bindThe twotogether; fain I would the twoShouldlove each other: how can Enid findA noblerfriend? Another thought was mine;I cameamong you here so suddenlyThatthough her gentle presence at the listsMight wellhave served for proof that I was lovedI doubtedwhether daughter's tendernessOr easynaturemight not let itselfBe mouldedby your wishes for her weal;Or whethersome false sense in her own selfOf mycontrasting brightnessoverboreHer fancydwelling in this dusky hall;And such asense might make her long for courtAnd allits perilous glories: and I thoughtThat couldI someway prove such force in herLinkedwith such love for methat at a word(No reasongiven her) she could cast asideAsplendour dear to womennew to herAndtherefore dearer; or if not so newYettherefore tenfold dearer by the powerOfintermitted usage; then I feltThat Icould resta rock in ebbs and flowsFixt onher faith. NowthereforeI do restA prophetcertain of my prophecyThat nevershadow of mistrust can crossBetweenus. Grant me pardon for my thoughts:And for mystrange petition I will makeAmendshereafter by some gaudy-dayWhen yourfair child shall wear your costly giftBesideyour own warm hearthwithon her kneesWho knows?another gift of the high GodWhichmaybeshall have learned to lisp you thanks.'
He spoke: the mother smiledbut half in tearsThenbrought a mantle down and wrapt her in itAnd clasptand kissed herand they rode away.
Now thrice that morning Guinevere had climbedThe gianttowerfrom whose high crestthey sayMen sawthe goodly hills of SomersetAnd whitesails flying on the yellow sea;But not togoodly hill or yellow seaLooked thefair Queenbut up the vale of UskBy theflat meadowtill she saw them come;And thendescending met them at the gatesEmbracedher with all welcome as a friendAnd didher honour as the Prince's brideAndclothed her for her bridals like the sun;And allthat week was old Caerleon gayFor by thehands of Dubricthe high saintThey twainwere wedded with all ceremony.
And this was on the last year's Whitsuntide.But Enidever kept the faded silkRememberinghow first he came on herDrest inthat dressand how he loved her in itAnd allher foolish fears about the dressAnd allhis journey toward heras himselfHad toldherand their coming to the court.
And now this morning when he said to her'Put onyour worst and meanest dress' she foundAnd tookitand arrayed herself therein.
O purblindrace of miserable menHow manyamong us at this very hourDo forge alife-long trouble for ourselvesBy takingtrue for falseor false for true;Herethrough the feeble twilight of this worldGropinghow manyuntil we pass and reachThatotherwhere we see as we are seen!
So fared it with Geraintwho issuing forthThatmorningwhen they both had got to horsePerhapsbecause he loved her passionatelyAnd feltthat tempest brooding round his heartWhichifhe spoke at allwould break perforceUpon ahead so dear in thundersaid:'Not at myside. I charge thee ride beforeEver agood way on before; and thisI chargetheeon thy duty as a wifeWhateverhappensnot to speak to meNonot aword!' and Enid was aghast;And forththey rodebut scarce three paces onWhencrying out'Effeminate as I amI will notfight my way with gilded armsAll shallbe iron;' he loosed a mighty purseHung athis beltand hurled it toward the squire.So thelast sight that Enid had of homeWas allthe marble threshold flashingstrownWith goldand scattered coinageand the squireChafinghis shoulder: then he cried again'To thewilds!' and Enid leading down the tracksThroughwhich he bad her lead him onthey pastThemarchesand by bandit-haunted holdsGrayswamps and poolswaste places of the hernAndwildernessesperilous pathsthey rode:Round wastheir pace at firstbut slackened soon:A strangermeeting them had surely thoughtThey rodeso slowly and they looked so paleThat eachhad suffered some exceeding wrong.For he wasever saying to himself'O I thatwasted time to tend upon herTo compassher with sweet observancesTo dressher beautifully and keep her true'--And therehe broke the sentence in his heartAbruptlyas a man upon his tongueMay breakitwhen his passion masters him.And shewas ever praying the sweet heavensTo saveher dear lord whole from any wound.And everin her mind she cast aboutFor thatunnoticed failing in herselfWhich madehim look so cloudy and so cold;Till thegreat plover's human whistle amazedHer heartand glancing round the waste she fearedIn everwavering brake an ambuscade.Thenthought again'If there be such in me
I mightamend it by the grace of HeavenIf hewould only speak and tell me of it.'
But when the fourth part of the day was goneThen Enidwas aware of three tall knightsOnhorsebackwholly armedbehind a rockIn shadowwaiting for themcaitiffs all;And heardone crying to his fellow'LookHere comesa laggard hanging down his headWho seemsno bolder than a beaten hound;Comewewill slay him and will have his horseAndarmourand his damsel shall be ours.'
Then Enid pondered in her heartand said:'I will goback a little to my lordAnd I willtell him all their caitiff talk;Forbe hewroth even to slaying meFar lieferby his dear hand had I dieThan thatmy lord should suffer loss or shame.'
Then she went back some paces of returnMet hisfull frown timidly firmand said;'My lordI saw three bandits by the rockWaiting tofall on youand heard them boastThat theywould slay youand possess your horseAndarmourand your damsel should be theirs.'
He made a wrathful answer: 'Did I wishYourwarning or your silence? one commandI laidupon younot to speak to meAnd thusye keep it! Well thenlook--for nowWhether yewish me victory or defeatLong formy lifeor hunger for my deathYourselfshall see my vigour is not lost.'
Then Enid waited pale and sorrowfulAnd downupon him bare the bandit three.And at themidmost chargingPrince GeraintDrave thelong spear a cubit through his breastAnd outbeyond; and then against his braceOfcomradeseach of whom had broken on himA lancethat splintered like an icicleSwung fromhis brand a windy buffet outOncetwiceto rightto leftand stunned the twainOr slewthemand dismounting like a manThat skinsthe wild beast after slaying himStriptfrom the three dead wolves of woman bornThe threegay suits of armour which they woreAnd letthe bodies liebut bound the suitsOf armouron their horseseach on eachAnd tiedthe bridle-reins of all the threeTogetherand said to her'Drive them onBeforeyou;' and she drove them through the waste.
He followed nearer; ruth began to workAgainsthis anger in himwhile he watchedThe beinghe loved best in all the worldWithdifficulty in mild obedienceDrivingthem on: he fain had spoken to herAnd loosedin words of sudden fire the wrathAndsmouldered wrong that burnt him all within;Butevermore it seemed an easier thingAt oncewithout remorse to strike her deadThan tocry 'Halt' and to her own bright faceAccuse herof the least immodesty:And thustongue-tiedit made him wroth the moreThat shecould speak whom his own ear had heardCallherself false: and suffering thus he madeMinutes anage: but in scarce longer timeThan atCaerleon the full-tided UskBefore heturn to fall seaward againPausesdid Enidkeeping watchbeholdIn thefirst shallow shade of a deep woodBefore agloom of stubborn-shafted oaksThreeother horsemen waitingwholly armedWhereofone seemed far larger than her lordAnd shookher pulsescrying'Looka prize!Threehorses and three goodly suits of armsAnd all incharge of whom? a girl: set on.''Nay'said the second'yonder comes a knight.'The third'A craven; how he hangs his head.'The giantanswered merrily'Yeabut one?Wait hereand when he passes fall upon him.'
And Enid pondered in her heart and said'I willabide the coming of my lordAnd I willtell him all their villainy.My lord isweary with the fight beforeAnd theywill fall upon him unawares.I needsmust disobey him for his good;How shouldI dare obey him to his harm?Needs mustI speakand though he kill me for itI save alife dearer to me than mine.'
And she abode his comingand said to himWith timidfirmness'Have I leave to speak?'He said'Ye take itspeaking' and she spoke.
'There lurk three villains yonder in the woodAnd eachof them is wholly armedand oneIslarger-limbed than you areand they sayThat theywill fall upon you while ye pass.'
To which he flung a wrathful answer back:'And ifthere were an hundred in the woodAnd everyman were larger-limbed than IAnd all atonce should sally out upon meI swear itwould not ruffle me so muchAs youthat not obey me. Stand asideAnd if Ifallcleave to the better man.'
And Enid stood aside to wait the eventNot dareto watch the combatonly breatheShort fitsof prayerat every stroke a breath.And heshe dreaded mostbare down upon him.Aimed atthe helmhis lance erred; but Geraint'sA littlein the late encounter strainedStruckthrough the bulky bandit's corselet homeAnd thenbrake shortand down his enemy rolledAnd therelay still; as he that tells the taleSaw once agreat piece of a promontoryThat had asapling growing on itslideFrom thelong shore-cliff's windy walls to the beachAnd therelie stilland yet the sapling grew:So lay theman transfixt. His craven pairOfcomrades making slowlier at the PrinceWhen nowthey saw their bulwark fallenstood;On whomthe victorto confound them moreSpurredwith his terrible war-cry; for as oneThatlistens near a torrent mountain-brookAllthrough the crash of the near cataract hearsThedrumming thunder of the huger fallAtdistancewere the soldiers wont to hearHis voicein battleand be kindled by itAnd foemenscaredlike that false pair who turnedFlyingbutovertakendied the deathThemselveshad wrought on many an innocent.
Thereon Geraintdismountingpicked the lanceThatpleased him bestand drew from those dead wolvesTheirthree gay suits of armoureach from eachAnd boundthem on their horseseach on eachAnd tiedthe bridle-reins of all the threeTogetherand said to her'Drive them onBeforeyou' and she drove them through the wood.
He followed nearer still: the pain she hadTo keepthem in the wild ways of the woodTwo setsof three laden with jingling armsTogetherserved a little to disedgeThesharpness of that pain about her heart:And theythemselveslike creatures gently bornBut intobad hands fallenand now so longBy banditsgroomedpricked their light earsand feltHer lowfirm voice and tender government.
So through the green gloom of the wood they pastAndissuing under open heavens beheldA littletown with towersupon a rockAnd closebeneatha meadow gemlike chasedIn thebrown wildand mowers mowing in it:And down arocky pathway from the placeThere camea fair-haired youththat in his handBarevictual for the mowers: and GeraintHad ruthagain on Enid looking pale:Thenmoving downward to the meadow groundHewhenthe fair-haired youth came by himsaid'Friendlet her eat; the damsel is so faint.''Yeawillingly' replied the youth; 'and thouMy lordeat alsothough the fare is coarseAnd onlymeet for mowers;' then set downHisbasketand dismounting on the swardThey letthe horses grazeand ate themselves.And Enidtook a little delicatelyLesshaving stomach for it than desireTo closewith her lord's pleasure; but GeraintAte allthe mowers' victual unawaresAnd whenhe found all emptywas amazed;And 'Boy'said he'I have eaten allbut takeA horseand arms for guerdon; choose the best.'Hereddening in extremity of delight'My lordyou overpay me fifty-fold.''Ye willbe all the wealthier' cried the Prince.'I take itas free giftthen' said the boy'Notguerdon; for myself can easilyWhile yourgood damsel restsreturnand fetchFreshvictual for these mowers of our Earl;For theseare hisand all the field is hisAnd Imyself am his; and I will tell himHow greata man thou art: he loves to knowWhen menof mark are in his territory:And hewill have thee to his palace hereAnd servethee costlier than with mowers' fare.'
Then said Geraint'I wish no better fare:I neverate with angrier appetiteThan whenI left your mowers dinnerless.And intono Earl's palace will I go.I knowGod knowstoo much of palaces!And if hewant melet him come to me.But hireus some fair chamber for the nightAndstalling for the horsesand returnWithvictual for these menand let us know.'
'Yeamy kind lord' said the glad youthand wentHeld hishead highand thought himself a knightAnd up therocky pathway disappearedLeadingthe horseand they were left alone.
But when the Prince had brought his errant eyesHome fromthe rocksideways he let them glanceAt Enidwhere she droopt: his own false doomThatshadow of mistrust should never crossBetwixtthemcame upon himand he sighed;Then withanother humorous ruth remarkedThe lustymowers labouring dinnerlessAndwatched the sun blaze on the turning scytheAnd afternodded sleepily in the heat.But sheremembering her old ruined hallAnd allthe windy clamour of the dawsAbout herhollow turretplucked the grassTheregrowing longest by the meadow's edgeAnd intomany a listless annuletNow overnow beneath her marriage ringWove andunwove ittill the boy returnedAnd toldthem of a chamberand they went;Whereafter saying to her'If ye willCall forthe woman of the house' to whichSheanswered'Thanksmy lord;' the two remainedApart byall the chamber's widthand muteAs twocreatures voiceless through the fault of birthOr twowild men supporters of a shieldPaintedwho stare at open spacenor glanceThe one atotherparted by the shield.
On a suddenmany a voice along the streetAnd heelagainst the pavement echoingburstTheirdrowse; and either started while the doorPushedfrom withoutdrave backward to the wallAndmidmost of a rout of roisterersFemininelyfair and dissolutely paleHer suitorin old years before GeraintEnteredthe wild lord of the placeLimours.He movingup with pliant courtlinessGreetedGeraint full facebut stealthilyIn themid-warmth of welcome and graspt handFound Enidwith the corner of his eyeAnd knewher sitting sad and solitary.Then criedGeraint for wine and goodly cheerTo feedthe sudden guestand sumptuouslyAccordingto his fashionbad the hostCall inwhat men soever were his friendsAnd feastwith these in honour of their Earl;'And carenot for the cost; the cost is mine.'
And wine and food were broughtand Earl LimoursDrank tillhe jested with all easeand toldFreetalesand took the word and played upon itAnd madeit of two colours; for his talkWhen wineand free companions kindled himWas wontto glance and sparkle like a gemOf fiftyfacets; thus he moved the PrinceTolaughter and his comrades to applause.Thenwhenthe Prince was merryasked Limours'Yourleavemy lordto cross the roomand speakTo yourgood damsel there who sits apartAnd seemsso lonely?' 'My free leave' he said;'Get herto speak: she doth not speak to me.'Then roseLimoursand looking at his feetLike himwho tries the bridge he fears may failCrost andcame nearlifted adoring eyesBowed ather side and uttered whisperingly:
'Enidthe pilot star of my lone lifeEnidmyearly and my only loveEnidtheloss of whom hath turned me wild--Whatchance is this? how is it I see you here?Ye are inmy power at lastare in my power.Yet fearme not: I call mine own self wildBut keep atouch of sweet civilityHere inthe heart of waste and wilderness.I thoughtbut that your father came betweenIn formerdays you saw me favourably.And if itwere so do not keep it back:Make me alittle happier: let me know it:Owe you menothing for a life half-lost?Yeayeathe whole dear debt of all you are.AndEnidyou and heI see with joyYe sitapartyou do not speak to himYou comewith no attendancepage or maidTo serveyou--doth he love you as of old?Forcallit lovers' quarrelsyet I knowThough menmay bicker with the things they loveThey wouldnot make them laughable in all eyesNot whilethey loved them; and your wretched dressA wretchedinsult on youdumbly speaksYourstorythat this man loves you no more.Yourbeauty is no beauty to him now:A commonchance--right well I know it--palled--For I knowmen: nor will ye win him backFor theman's love once gone never returns.But hereis one who loves you as of old;With moreexceeding passion than of old:Goodspeak the word: my followers ring him round:He sitsunarmed; I hold a finger up;Theyunderstand: nay; I do not mean blood:Nor needye look so scared at what I say:My maliceis no deeper than a moatNostronger than a wall: there is the keep;He shallnot cross us more; speak but the word:Or speakit not; but then by Him that made meThe onetrue lover whom you ever ownedI willmake use of all the power I have.O pardonme! the madness of that hourWhen firstI parted from theemoves me yet.'
At this the tender sound of his own voiceAnd sweetself-pityor the fancy of itMade hiseye moist; but Enid feared his eyesMoist asthey werewine-heated from the feast;Andanswered with such craft as women useGuilty orguiltlessto stave off a chanceThatbreaks upon them perilouslyand said:
'Earlif you love me as in former yearsAnd do notpractise on mecome with mornAnd snatchme from him as by violence;Leave metonight: I am weary to the death.'
Low at leave-takingwith his brandished plumeBrushinghis instepbowed the all-amorous EarlAnd thestout Prince bad him a loud good-night.He movinghomeward babbled to his menHow Enidnever loved a man but himNor careda broken egg-shell for her lord.
But Enid left alone with Prince GeraintDebatinghis command of silence givenAnd thatshe now perforce must violate itHeldcommune with herselfand while she heldHe fellasleepand Enid had no heartTo wakehimbut hung o'er himwholly pleasedTo findhim yet unwounded after fightAnd hearhim breathing low and equally.Anon sheroseand stepping lightlyheapedThe piecesof his armour in one placeAll to bethere against a sudden need;Then dozedawhile herselfbut overtoiledBy thatday's grief and travelevermoreSeemedcatching at a rootless thornand thenWentslipping down horrible precipicesAndstrongly striking out her limbs awoke;Thenthought she heard the wild Earl at the doorWith allhis rout of random followersSound on adreadful trumpetsummoning her;Which wasthe red cock shouting to the lightAs thegray dawn stole o'er the dewy worldAndglimmered on his armour in the room.And onceagain she rose to look at itButtouched it unawares: janglingthe casqueFellandhe started up and stared at her.Thenbreaking his command of silence givenShe toldhim all that Earl Limours had saidExcept thepassage that he loved her not;Nor leftuntold the craft herself had used;But endedwith apology so sweetLow-spokenand of so few wordsand seemedSojustified by that necessityThatthough he thought 'was it for him she weptIn Devon?'he but gave a wrathful groanSaying'Your sweet faces make good fellows foolsAndtraitors. Call the host and bid him bringChargerand palfrey.' So she glided outAmong theheavy breathings of the houseAnd like ahousehold Spirit at the wallsBeattillshe woke the sleepersand returned:Thentending her rough lordthough all unaskedInsilencedid him service as a squire;Tillissuing armed he found the host and cried'Thyreckoningfriend?' and ere he learnt it'TakeFivehorses and their armours;' and the hostSuddenlyhonestanswered in amaze'My lordI scarce have spent the worth of one!''Ye willbe all the wealthier' said the PrinceAnd thento Enid'Forward! and todayI chargeyouEnidmore especiallyWhat thingsoever ye may hearor seeOr fancy(though I count it of small useTo chargeyou) that ye speak not but obey.'
And Enid answered'Yeamy lordI knowYour wishand would obey; but riding firstI hear theviolent threats you do not hearI see thedanger which you cannot see:Then notto give you warningthat seems hard;Almostbeyond me: yet I would obey.'
'Yea so' said he'do it: be not too wise;Seeingthat ye are wedded to a manNot allmismated with a yawning clownBut onewith arms to guard his head and yoursWith eyesto find you out however farAnd earsto hear you even in his dreams.'
With that he turned and looked as keenly at herAs carefulrobins eye the delver's toil;And thatwithin herwhich a wanton foolOr hastyjudger would have called her guiltMade hercheek burn and either eyelid fall.AndGeraint looked and was not satisfied.
Then forward by a way whichbeaten broadLed fromthe territory of false LimoursTo thewaste earldom of another earlDoormwhom his shaking vassals called the BullWent Enidwith her sullen follower on.Once shelooked backand when she saw him rideMore nearby many a rood than yestermornItwellnigh made her cheerful; till GeraintWaving anangry hand as who should say'Ye watchme' saddened all her heart again.But whilethe sun yet beat a dewy bladeThe soundof many a heavily-galloping hoofSmote onher earand turning round she sawDustandthe points of lances bicker in it.Then notto disobey her lord's behestAnd yet togive him warningfor he rodeAs if heheard notmoving back she heldHer fingerupand pointed to the dust.At whichthe warrior in his obstinacyBecauseshe kept the letter of his wordWas in amanner pleasedand turningstood.And in themoment afterwild LimoursBorne on ablack horselike a thunder-cloudWhoseskirts are loosened by the breaking stormHalfridden off with by the thing he rodeAnd all inpassion uttering a dry shriekDasheddown on Geraintwho closed with himand boreDown bythe length of lance and arm beyondThecrupperand so left him stunned or deadAndoverthrew the next that followed himAndblindly rushed on all the rout behind.But at theflash and motion of the manTheyvanished panic-strickenlike a shoalOf dartingfishthat on a summer mornAdown thecrystal dykes at CamelotComeslipping o'er their shadows on the sandBut if aman who stands upon the brinkBut lift ashining hand against the sunThere isnot left the twinkle of a finBetwixtthe cressy islets white in flower;Soscaredbut at the motion of the manFled allthe boon companions of the EarlAnd lefthim lying in the public way;So vanishfriendships only made in wine.
Then like a stormy sunlight smiled GeraintWho sawthe chargers of the two that fellStart fromtheir fallen lordsand wildly flyMixt withthe flyers. 'Horse and man' he said'All ofone mind and all right-honest friends!Not a hoofleft: and I methinks till nowWashonest--paid with horses and with arms;I cannotsteal or plunderno nor beg:And sowhat say yeshall we strip him thereYourlover? has your palfrey heart enoughTo bearhis armour? shall we fastor dine?No?--thendo thoubeing right honestprayThat wemay meet the horsemen of Earl DoormI toowould still be honest.' Thus he said:And sadlygazing on her bridle-reinsAndanswering not one wordshe led the way.
But as a man to whom a dreadful lossFalls in afar land and he knows it notBut comingback he learns itand the lossSo painshim that he sickens nigh to death;So faredit with Geraintwho being prickedIn combatwith the follower of LimoursBledunderneath his armour secretlyAnd sorode onnor told his gentle wifeWhat ailedhimhardly knowing it himselfTill hiseye darkened and his helmet wagged;And at asudden swerving of the roadThoughhappily down on a bank of grassThePrincewithout a wordfrom his horse fell.
And Enid heard the clashing of his fallSuddenlycameand at his side all paleDismountingloosed the fastenings of his armsNor lether true hand falternor blue eyeMoistentill she had lighted on his woundAndtearing off her veil of faded silkHad baredher forehead to the blistering sunAndswathed the hurt that drained her dear lord's life.Then afterall was done that hand could doSherestedand her desolation cameUpon herand she wept beside the way.
And many pastbut none regarded herFor inthat realm of lawless turbulenceA womanweeping for her murdered mateWas caredas much for as a summer shower:One tookhim for a victim of Earl DoormNor daredto waste a perilous pity on him:Anotherhurrying pasta man-at-armsRode on amission to the bandit Earl;Halfwhistling and half singing a coarse songHe drovethe dust against her veilless eyes:Anotherflying from the wrath of DoormBefore anever-fancied arrowmadeThe longway smoke beneath him in his fear;At whichher palfrey whinnying lifted heelAndscoured into the coppices and was lostWhile thegreat charger stoodgrieved like a man.
But at the point of noon the huge Earl DoormBroad-facedwith under-fringe of russet beardBound on aforayrolling eyes of preyCameriding with a hundred lances up;But ere hecamelike one that hails a shipCried outwith a big voice'Whatis he dead?''Nononot dead!' she answered in all haste.'Wouldsome of your people take him upAnd bearhim hence out of this cruel sun?Most suream Iquite surehe is not dead.'
Then said Earl Doorm: 'Wellif he be not deadWhy wailye for him thus? ye seem a child.And be hedeadI count you for a fool;Yourwailing will not quicken him: dead or notYe mar acomely face with idiot tears.Yetsincethe face is comely--some of youHeretakehim upand bear him to our hall:An if helivewe will have him of our band;And if hediewhy earth has earth enoughTo hidehim. See ye take the charger tooA nobleone.' He spakeand past awayBut lefttwo brawny spearmenwho advancedEachgrowling like a dogwhen his good boneSeems tobe plucked at by the village boysWho loveto vex him eatingand he fearsTo losehis boneand lays his foot upon itGnawingand growling: so the ruffians growledFearing toloseand all for a dead manTheirchance of booty from the morning's raidYet raisedand laid him on a litter-bierSuch asthey brought upon their forays outFor thosethat might be wounded; laid him on itAll in thehollow of his shieldand tookAnd borehim to the naked hall of Doorm(Hisgentle charger following him unled)And casthim and the bier in which he layDown on anoaken settle in the hallAnd thendepartedhot in haste to joinTheirluckier matesbut growling as beforeAndcursing their lost timeand the dead manAnd theirown Earland their own soulsand her.They mightas well have blest her: she was deafToblessing or to cursing save from one.
So for long hours sat Enid by her lordThere inthe naked hallpropping his headAndchafing his pale handsand calling to him.Till atthe last he wakened from his swoonAnd foundhis own dear bride propping his headAndchafing his faint handsand calling to him;And feltthe warm tears falling on his face;And saidto his own heart'She weeps for me:'And yetlay stilland feigned himself as deadThat hemight prove her to the uttermostAnd say tohis own heart'She weeps for me.'
But in the falling afternoon returnedThe hugeEarl Doorm with plunder to the hall.His lustyspearmen followed him with noise:Eachhurling down a heap of things that rangAgainsthis pavementcast his lance asideAnd doffedhis helm: and then there fluttered inHalf-boldhalf-frightedwith dilated eyesA tribe ofwomendressed in many huesAndmingled with the spearmen: and Earl DoormStruckwith a knife's haft hard against the boardAnd calledfor flesh and wine to feed his spears.And menbrought in whole hogs and quarter beevesAnd allthe hall was dim with steam of flesh:And nonespake wordbut all sat down at onceAnd atewith tumult in the naked hallFeedinglike horses when you hear them feed;Till Enidshrank far back into herselfTo shunthe wild ways of the lawless tribe.But whenEarl Doorm had eaten all he wouldHe rolledhis eyes about the halland foundA damseldrooping in a corner of it.Then heremembered herand how she wept;And out ofher there came a power upon him;And risingon the sudden he said'Eat!I neveryet beheld a thing so pale.God'scurseit makes me mad to see you weep.Eat! Look yourself. Good luck had your good manFor were Idead who is it would weep for me?Sweetladynever since I first drew breathHave Ibeheld a lily like yourself.And sothere lived some colour in your cheekThere isnot one among my gentlewomenWere fitto wear your slipper for a glove.But listento meand by me be ruledAnd I willdo the thing I have not doneFor yeshall share my earldom with megirlAnd wewill live like two birds in one nestAnd I willfetch you forage from all fieldsFor Icompel all creatures to my will.'
He spoke: the brawny spearman let his cheekBulge withthe unswallowed pieceand turning stared;Whilesomewhose souls the old serpent long had drawnDownasthe worm draws in the withered leafAnd makesit earthhissed each at other's earWhat shallnot be recorded--women theyWomenorwhat had been those gracious thingsBut nowdesired the humbling of their bestYeawouldhave helped him to it: and all at onceThey hatedherwho took no thought of themButanswered in low voiceher meek head yetDrooping'I pray you of your courtesyHe beingas he isto let me be.'
She spake so low he hardly heard her speakBut like amighty patronsatisfiedWith whathimself had done so graciouslyAssumedthat she had thanked himadding'YeaEat and begladfor I account you mine.'
She answered meekly'How should I be gladHenceforthin all the world at anythingUntil mylord arise and look upon me?'
Here the huge Earl cried out upon her talkAs all butempty heart and wearinessAnd sicklynothing; suddenly seized on herAnd bareher by main violence to the boardAnd thrustthe dish before hercrying'Eat.'
'Nono' said Enidvext'I will not eatTillyonder man upon the bier ariseAnd eatwith me.' 'Drinkthen' he answered. 'Here!'(Andfilled a horn with wine and held it to her)'Lo! Imyselfwhen flushed with fightor hotGod'scursewith anger--often I myselfBefore Iwell have drunkenscarce can eat:Drinktherefore and the wine will change thy will.'
'Not so' she cried'by HeavenI will not drinkTill mydear lord arise and bid me do itAnd drinkwith me; and if he rise no moreI will notlook at wine until I die.'
At this he turned all red and paced his hallNow gnawedhis undernow his upper lipAnd comingup close to hersaid at last:'GirlforI see ye scorn my courtesiesTakewarning: yonder man is surely dead;And Icompel all creatures to my will.Not eatnor drink? And wherefore wail for oneWho putyour beauty to this flout and scornBydressing it in rags? Amazed am IBeholdinghow ye butt against my wishThat Iforbear you thus: cross me no more.At leastput off to please me this poor gownThissilken ragthis beggar-woman's weed:I lovethat beauty should go beautifully:For see yenot my gentlewomen hereHow gayhow suited to the house of oneWho lovesthat beauty should go beautifully?Risetherefore; robe yourself in this: obey.'
He spokeand one among his gentlewomenDisplayeda splendid silk of foreign loomWhere likea shoaling sea the lovely bluePlayedinto greenand thicker down the frontWithjewels than the sward with drops of dewWhen allnight long a cloud clings to the hillAnd withthe dawn ascending lets the dayStrikewhere it clung: so thickly shone the gems.
But Enid answeredharder to be movedThanhardest tyrants in their day of powerWithlife-long injuries burning unavengedAnd nowtheir hour has come; and Enid said:
'In this poor gown my dear lord found me firstAnd lovedme serving in my father's hall:In thispoor gown I rode with him to courtAnd therethe Queen arrayed me like the sun:In thispoor gown he bad me clothe myselfWhen nowwe rode upon this fatal questOf honourwhere no honour can be gained:And thispoor gown I will not cast asideUntilhimself arise a living manAnd bid mecast it. I have griefs enough:Pray yoube gentlepray you let me be:I neverlovedcan never love but him:YeaGodI pray you of your gentlenessHe beingas he isto let me be.'
Then strode the brute Earl up and down his hallAnd tookhis russet beard between his teeth;Lastcoming up quite closeand in his moodCrying'Icount it of no more availDametobe gentle than ungentle with you;Take mysalute' unknightly with flat handHoweverlightlysmote her on the cheek.
Then Enidin her utter helplessnessAnd sinceshe thought'He had not dared to do itExcept hesurely knew my lord was dead'Sent fortha sudden sharp and bitter cryAs of awild thing taken in the trapWhich seesthe trapper coming through the wood.
This heard Geraintand grasping at his sword(It laybeside him in the hollow shield)Made but asingle boundand with a sweep of itShorethrough the swarthy neckand like a ballTherusset-bearded head rolled on the floor.So diedEarl Doorm by him he counted dead.And allthe men and women in the hallRose whenthey saw the dead man riseand fledYelling asfrom a spectreand the twoWere leftalone togetherand he said:
'EnidI have used you worse than that dead man;
Done youmore wrong: we both have undergoneThattrouble which has left me thrice your own:HenceforwardI will rather die than doubt.And here Ilay this penance on myselfNotthough mine own ears heard you yestermorn--Youthought me sleepingbut I heard you sayI heardyou saythat you were no true wife:I swear Iwill not ask your meaning in it:I dobelieve yourself against yourselfAnd willhenceforward rather die than doubt.'
And Enid could not say one tender wordShe feltso blunt and stupid at the heart:She onlyprayed him'Flythey will returnAnd slayyou; flyyour charger is withoutMy palfreylost.' 'ThenEnidshall you rideBehindme.' 'Yea' said Enid'let us go.'And movingout they found the stately horseWho now nomore a vassal to the thiefBut freeto stretch his limbs in lawful fightNeighedwith all gladness as they cameand stoopedWith a lowwhinny toward the pair: and sheKissed thewhite star upon his noble frontGlad also;then Geraint upon the horseMountedand reached a handand on his footShe sether own and climbed; he turned his faceAnd kissedher climbingand she cast her armsAbout himand at once they rode away.
And never yetsince high in ParadiseO'er thefour rivers the first roses blewCame purerpleasure unto mortal kindThan livedthrough herwho in that perilous hourPut handto hand beneath her husband's heartAnd felthim hers again: she did not weepBut o'erher meek eyes came a happy mistLike thatwhich kept the heart of Eden greenBefore theuseful trouble of the rain:Yet not somisty were her meek blue eyesAs not tosee before them on the pathRight inthe gateway of the bandit holdA knightof Arthur's courtwho laid his lanceIn restand made as if to fall upon him.Thenfearing for his hurt and loss of bloodShewithher mind all full of what had chancedShriekedto the stranger 'Slay not a dead man!''The voiceof Enid' said the knight; but sheBeholdingit was Edyrn son of NuddWas movedso much the moreand shrieked again'O cousinslay not him who gave you life.'And Edyrnmoving frankly forward spake:'My lordGeraintI greet you with all love;I took youfor a bandit knight of Doorm;And fearnotEnidI should fall upon himWho loveyouPrincewith something of the loveWherewithwe love the Heaven that chastens us.For oncewhen I was up so high in prideThat I washalfway down the slope to HellByoverthrowing me you threw me higher.Nowmadea knight of Arthur's Table RoundAnd sinceI knew this Earlwhen I myselfWas half abandit in my lawless hourI come themouthpiece of our King to Doorm(The Kingis close behind me) bidding himDisbandhimselfand scatter all his powersSubmitand hear the judgment of the King.'
'He hears the judgment of the King of kings'Cried thewan Prince; 'and lothe powers of DoormArescattered' and he pointed to the fieldWherehuddled here and there on mound and knollWere menand women staring and aghastWhile someyet fled; and then he plainlier toldHow thehuge Earl lay slain within his hall.But whenthe knight besought him'Follow mePrincetothe campand in the King's own earSpeak whathas chanced; ye surely have enduredStrangechances here alone;' that other flushedAnd hunghis headand halted in replyFearingthe mild face of the blameless KingAnd aftermadness acted question asked:Till Edyrncrying'If ye will not goTo Arthurthen will Arthur come to you''Enough'he said'I follow' and they went.But Enidin their going had two fearsOne fromthe bandit scattered in the fieldAnd onefrom Edyrn. Every now and thenWhen Edyrnreined his charger at her sideShe shranka little. In a hollow landFrom whichold fires have brokenmen may fearFresh fireand ruin. Heperceivingsaid:
'Fair and dear cousinyou that most had causeTo fearmefear no longerI am changed.Yourselfwere first the blameless cause to makeMynature's prideful sparkle in the bloodBreak intofurious flame; being repulsedBy Ynioland yourselfI schemed and wroughtUntil Ioverturned him; then set up(With onemain purpose ever at my heart)My haughtyjoustsand took a paramour;Did hermock-honour as the fairest fairAndtoppling over all antagonismSo waxedin pridethat I believed myselfUnconquerablefor I was wellnigh mad:Andbutfor my main purpose in these joustsI shouldhave slain your fatherseized yourself.I lived inhope that sometime you would comeTo thesemy lists with him whom best you loved;And therepoor cousinwith your meek blue eyesThe truesteyes that ever answered HeavenBehold meoverturn and trample on him.Thenhadyou criedor kneltor prayed to meI shouldnot less have killed him. And so you came--But onceyou came--and with your own true eyesBeheld theman you loved (I speak as oneSpeaks ofa service done him) overthrowMy proudselfand my purpose three years oldAnd sethis foot upon meand give me life.There wasI broken down; there was I saved:Thoughthence I rode all-shamedhating the lifeHe gavememeaning to be rid of it.And allthe penance the Queen laid upon meWas but torest awhile within her court;Wherefirst as sullen as a beast new-cagedAndwaiting to be treated like a wolfBecause Iknew my deeds were knownI foundInstead ofscornful pity or pure scornSuch finereserve and noble reticenceManners sokindyet statelysuch a graceOftenderest courtesythat I beganTo glancebehind me at my former lifeAnd findthat it had been the wolf's indeed:And oft Italked with Dubricthe high saintWhowithmild heat of holy oratorySubdued mesomewhat to that gentlenessWhichwhen it weds with manhoodmakes a man.And youwere often there about the QueenBut saw menotor marked not if you saw;Nor did Icare or dare to speak with youBut keptmyself aloof till I was changed;And fearnotcousin; I am changed indeed.'
He spokeand Enid easily believedLikesimple noble naturescredulousOf whatthey long forgood in friend or foeThere mostin those who most have done them ill.And whenthey reached the camp the King himselfAdvancedto greet themand beholding herThoughpaleyet happyasked her not a wordBut wentapart with Edyrnwhom he heldInconverse for a littleand returnedAndgravely smilinglifted her from horseAnd kissedher with all purenessbrother-likeAnd showedan empty tent allotted herAndglancing for a minutetill he saw herPass intoitturned to the Princeand said:
'Princewhen of late ye prayed me for my leaveTo move toyour own landand there defendYourmarchesI was pricked with some reproofAs onethat let foul wrong stagnate and beBy havinglooked too much through alien eyesAndwrought too long with delegated handsNot usedmine own: but now behold me comeTo cleansethis common sewer of all my realmWith Edyrnand with others: have ye lookedAt Edyrn?have ye seen how nobly changed?This workof his is great and wonderful.His veryface with change of heart is changed.The worldwill not believe a man repents:And thiswise world of ours is mainly right.Fullseldom doth a man repentor useBoth graceand will to pick the vicious quitchOf bloodand custom wholly out of himAnd makeall cleanand plant himself afresh.Edyrn hasdone itweeding all his heartAs I willweed this land before I go.Ithereforemade him of our Table RoundNotrashlybut have proved him everywayOne of ournoblestour most valorousSanest andmost obedient: and indeedThis workof Edyrn wrought upon himselfAfter alife of violenceseems to meAthousand-fold more great and wonderfulThan ifsome knight of minerisking his lifeMy subjectwith my subjects under himShouldmake an onslaught single on a realmOfrobbersthough he slew them one by oneAnd werehimself nigh wounded to the death.'
So spake the King; low bowed the Princeand feltHis workwas neither great nor wonderfulAnd pastto Enid's tent; and thither cameThe King'sown leech to look into his hurt;And Enidtended on him there; and thereHerconstant motion round himand the breathOf hersweet tendance hovering over himFilled allthe genial courses of his bloodWithdeeper and with ever deeper loveAs thesouth-west that blowing Bala lakeFills allthe sacred Dee. So past the days.
But while Geraint lay healing of his hurtTheblameless King went forth and cast his eyesOn each ofall whom Uther left in chargeLongsinceto guard the justice of the King:He lookedand found them wanting; and as nowMen weedthe white horse on the Berkshire hillsTo keephim bright and clean as heretoforeHe rootedout the slothful officerOr guiltywhich for bribe had winked at wrongAnd intheir chairs set up a stronger raceWithhearts and handsand sent a thousand menTo tillthe wastesand moving everywhereClearedthe dark places and let in the lawAnd brokethe bandit holds and cleansed the land.
Thenwhen Geraint was whole againthey pastWithArthur to Caerleon upon Usk.There thegreat Queen once more embraced her friendAndclothed her in apparel like the day.And thoughGeraint could never take againThatcomfort from their converse which he tookBefore theQueen's fair name was breathed uponHe restedwell content that all was well.Thenceafter tarrying for a space they rodeAnd fiftyknights rode with them to the shoresOf Severnand they past to their own land.And therehe kept the justice of the KingSovigorously yet mildlythat all heartsApplaudedand the spiteful whisper died:And beingever foremost in the chaseAnd victorat the tilt and tournamentTheycalled him the great Prince and man of men.But Enidwhom her ladies loved to callEnid theFaira grateful people namedEnid theGood; and in their halls aroseThe cry ofchildrenEnids and GeraintsOf timesto be; nor did he doubt her moreBut restedin her fealtytill he crownedA happylife with a fair deathand fellAgainstthe heathen of the Northern SeaIn battlefighting for the blameless King.
Pellam theKingwho held and lost with LotIn thatfirst warand had his realm restoredButrendered tributaryfailed of lateTo sendhis tribute; wherefore Arthur calledHistreasurerone of many yearsand spake'Go thouwith him and him and bring it to usLest weshould set one truer on his throne.Man's wordis God in man.' His Baron said'We go butharken: there be two strange knightsWho sitnear Camelot at a fountain-sideA milebeneath the forestchallengingAndoverthrowing every knight who comes.Wilt thouI undertake them as we passAnd sendthem to thee?' Arthur laughed upon him.'Oldfriendtoo old to be so youngdepartDelay notthou for aughtbut let them sitUntil theyfind a lustier than themselves.'
So these departed. Earlyone fair dawnThelight-winged spirit of his youth returnedOnArthur's heart; he armed himself and wentSo comingto the fountain-side beheldBalin andBalan sitting statuelikeBrethrento right and left the springthat downFromunderneath a plume of lady-fernSangandthe sand danced at the bottom of it.And on theright of Balin Balin's horseWas fastbeside an alderon the leftOf BalanBalan's near a poplartree.'FairSirs' said Arthur'wherefore sit ye here?'Balin andBalan answered 'For the sakeOf glory;we be mightier men than allInArthur's court; that also have we proved;Forwhatsoever knight against us cameOr I or hehave easily overthrown.'
'I too'said Arthur'am of Arthur's hallBut ratherproven in his Paynim warsThanfamous jousts; but seeor proven or notWhether melikewise ye can overthrow.'And Arthurlightly smote the brethren downAndlightly so returnedand no man knew.
Then Balin roseand Balanand besideThecarolling water set themselves againAnd spakeno word until the shadow turned;When fromthe fringe of coppice round them burstA spangledpursuivantand crying 'SirsRisefollow! ye be sent for by the King'Theyfollowed; whom when Arthur seeing asked'Tell meyour names; why sat ye by the well?'Balin thestillness of a minute brokeSaying 'Anunmelodious name to theeBalin"the Savage"--that addition thine--My brotherand my betterthis man hereBalan. I smote upon the naked skullA thrallof thine in open hallmy handWasgauntletedhalf slew him; for I heardHe hadspoken evil of me; thy just wrathSent me athree-years' exile from thine eyes.I have notlived my life delightsomely:For I thatdid that violence to thy thrallHad oftenwrought some fury on myselfSaving forBalan: those three kingless yearsHavepast--were wormwood-bitter to me. KingMethoughtthat if we sat beside the wellAnd hurledto ground what knight soever spurredAgainstusthou would'st take me gladlier backAnd makeas ten-times worthier to be thineThantwenty BalinsBalan knight. I have said.Notso--not all. A man of thine todayAbashed usbothand brake my boast. Thy will?'SaidArthur 'Thou hast ever spoken truth;Thy toofierce manhood would not let thee lie.Risemytrue knight. As children learnbe thouWiser forfalling! walk with meand moveTo musicwith thine Order and the King.Thy chaira grief to all the brethrenstandsVacantbut thou retake itmine again!'
Thereafterwhen Sir Balin entered hallThe Lostone Found was greeted as in HeavenWith joythat blazed itself in woodland wealthOf leafand gayest garlandage of flowersAlong thewalls and down the board; they satAnd cupclashed cup; they drank and some one sangSweet-voiceda song of welcomewhereuponTheircommon shout in chorusmountingmadeThosebanners of twelve battles overheadStirasthey stirred of oldwhen Arthur's hostProclaimedhim Victorand the day was won.
Then Balan added to their Order livedAwealthier life than heretofore with theseAnd Balintill their embassage returned.
'Sir King' they brought report 'we hardly foundSo bushedabout it is with gloomthe hallOf him towhom ye sent usPellamonceAChristless foe of thine as ever dashedHorseagainst horse; but seeing that thy realmHathprospered in the name of Christthe KingTookasin rival heatto holy things;And findshimself descended from the SaintArimathaeanJoseph; him who firstBroughtthe great faith to Britain over seas;He boastshis life as purer than thine own;Eatsscarce enow to keep his pulse abeat;Hathpushed aside his faithful wifenor letsOr dame ordamsel enter at his gatesLest heshould be polluted. This gray KingShowed usa shrine wherein were wonders--yea--Rich arkswith priceless bones of martyrdomThorns ofthe crown and shivers of the crossAndtherewithal (for thus he told us) broughtBy holyJoseph thitherthat same spearWherewiththe Roman pierced the side of Christ.He muchamazed us; afterwhen we soughtThetributeanswered "I have quite foregoneAllmatters of this world: Garlonmine heirOf himdemand it" which this Garlon gaveWith muchadorailing at thine and thee.
'But when we leftin those deep woods we foundA knightof thine spear-stricken from behindDeadwhomwe buried; more than one of usCried outon Garlonbut a woodman thereReportedof some demon in the woodsWas once amanwho driven by evil tonguesFrom allhis fellowslived aloneand cameTo learnblack magicand to hate his kindWith sucha hatethat when he diedhis soulBecame aFiendwhichas the man in lifeWaswounded by blind tongues he saw not whenceStrikesfrom behind. This woodman showed the caveFrom whichhe salliesand wherein he dwelt.We saw thehoof-print of a horseno more.'
Then Arthur'Let who goes before meseeHe do notfall behind me: foully slainAndvillainously! who will hunt for meThis demonof the woods?' Said Balan'I'!So claimedthe quest and rode awaybut firstEmbracingBalin'Good my brotherhear!Let notthy moods prevailwhen I am gone
Who usedto lay them! hold them outer fiendsWho leapat thee to tear thee; shake them asideDreamsruling when wit sleeps! yeabut to dreamThat anyof these would wrong theewrongs thyself.Witnesstheir flowery welcome. Bound are theyTo speakno evil. Truly save for fearsMy fearsfor theeso rich a fellowshipWould makeme wholly blest: thou one of themBe oneindeed: consider themand allTheirbearing in their common bond of loveNo more ofhatred than in Heaven itselfNo more ofjealousy than in Paradise.'
So Balan warnedand went; Balin remained:Who--forbut three brief moons had glanced awayFrom beingknighted till he smote the thrallAnd fadedfrom the presence into yearsOfexile--now would strictlier set himselfTo learnwhat Arthur meant by courtesyManhoodand knighthood; wherefore hovered roundLancelotbut when he marked his high sweet smileInpassingand a transitory wordMakeknight or churl or child or damsel seemFrom beingsmiled at happier in themselves--Sighedasa boy lame-born beneath a heightThatglooms his valleysighs to see the peakSun-flushedor touch at night the northern star;For onefrom out his village lately climedAndbrought report of azure lands and fairFar seento left and right; and he himselfHathhardly scaled with help a hundred feetUp fromthe base: so Balin marvelling oftHow farbeyond him Lancelot seemed to moveGroanedand at times would mutter'These be giftsBorn withthe bloodnot learnabledivineBeyond myreach. Well had I foughten--well--In thosefierce warsstruck hard--and had I crownedWith myslain self the heaps of whom I slew--So--better!--Butthis worship of the QueenThathonour too wherein she holds him--thisThis wasthe sunshine that hath given the manA growtha name that branches o'er the restAndstrength against all oddsand what the KingSoprizes--overprizes--gentleness.Herlikewise would I worship an I might.I nevercan be close with heras heThatbrought her hither. Shall I pray the KingTo let mebear some token of his QueenWhereon togazeremembering her--forgetMy heatsand violences? live afresh?Whatifthe Queen disdained to grant it! nayBeing sostately-gentlewould she makeMydarkness blackness? and with how sweet graceShegreeted my return! Bold will I be--Somegoodly cognizance of GuinevereIn lieu ofthis rough beast upon my shieldLanguedgulesand toothed with grinning savagery.'
And Arthurwhen Sir Balin sought himsaid'What wiltthou bear?' Balin was boldand askedTo bearher own crown-royal upon shieldWhereatshe smiled and turned her to the KingWhoanswered 'Thou shalt put the crown to use.The crownis but the shadow of the KingAnd this ashadow's shadowlet him have itSo thiswill help him of his violences!''Noshadow' said Sir Balin 'O my QueenBut lightto me! no shadowO my KingBut goldenearnest of a gentler life!'
So Balin bare the crownand all the knightsApprovedhimand the Queenand all the worldMademusicand he felt his being moveIn musicwith his Orderand the King.
The nightingalefull-toned in middle MayHath everand anon a note so thinIt seemsanother voice in other groves;Thusafter some quick burst of sudden wrathThe musicin him seemed to changeand growFaint andfar-off. And once he saw the thrallHispassion half had gauntleted to deathThatcauser of his banishment and shameSmile athimas he deemedpresumptuously:His armhalf rose to strike againbut fell:The memoryof that cognizance on shieldWeightedit downbut in himself he moaned:
'Too high this mount of Camelot for me:Thesehigh-set courtesies are not for me.Shall Inot rather prove the worse for these?Fierierand stormier from restrainingbreakInto somemadness even before the Queen?'
Thusas a hearth lit in a mountain homeAndglancing on the windowwhen the gloomOftwilight deepens round itseems a flameThat ragesin the woodland far belowSo whenhis moods were darkenedcourt and KingAnd allthe kindly warmth of Arthur's hallShadowedan angry distance: yet he stroveTo learnthe graces of their TablefoughtHard withhimselfand seemed at length in peace.
Then chancedone morningthat Sir Balin satClose-boweredin that garden nigh the hall.A walk ofroses ran from door to door;A walk oflilies crost it to the bower:And downthat range of roses the great QueenCame withslow stepsthe morning on her face;And all inshadow from the counter doorSirLancelot as to meet herthen at onceAs if hesaw notglanced asideand pacedThe longwhite walk of lilies toward the bower.Followedthe Queen; Sir Balin heard her 'PrinceArt thouso little loyal to thy QueenAs passwithout good morrow to thy Queen?'To whomSir Lancelot with his eyes on earth'Fainwould I still be loyal to the Queen.''Yea so'she said 'but so to pass me by--So loyalscarce is loyal to thyselfWhom allmen rate the king of courtesy.Let be: ye standfair lordas in a dream.'
Then Lancelot with his hand among the flowers'Yea--fora dream. Last night methought I sawThatmaiden Saint who stands with lily in handIn yondershrine. All round her prest the darkAnd allthe light upon her silver faceFlowedfrom the spiritual lily that she held.Lo! theseher emblems drew mine eyes--away:For seehow perfect-pure! As light a flushAs hardlytints the blossom of the quinceWould martheir charm of stainless maidenhood.'
'Sweeter to me' she said 'this garden roseDeep-huedand many-folded! sweeter stillThewild-wood hyacinth and the bloom of May.Princewehave ridden before among the flowersIn thosefair days--not all as cool as theseThoughseason-earlier. Art thou sad? or sick?Our nobleKing will send thee his own leech--Sick? orfor any matter angered at me?'
Then Lancelot lifted his large eyes; they dweltDeep-trancedon hersand could not fall: her hueChanged athis gaze: so turning side by sideThey pastand Balin started from his bower.
'Queen? subject? but I see not what I see.Damsel andlover? hear not what I hear.My fatherhath begotten me in his wrath.I sufferfrom the things before meknowLearnnothing; am not worthy to be knight;A churlaclown!' and in him gloom on gloomDeepened: he sharply caught his lance and shieldNor stayedto crave permission of the KingButmadfor strange adventuredashed away.
He took the selfsame track as BalansawThefountain where they sat togethersighed'Was I notbetter there with him?' and rodeTheskyless woodsbut under open blueCame onthe hoarhead woodman at a boughWearilyhewing. 'Churlthine axe!' he criedDescendedand disjointed it at a blow:To whomthe woodman uttered wonderingly'Lordthou couldst lay the Devil of these woodsIf arm offlesh could lay him.' Balin cried'Himorthe viler devil who plays his partTo laythat devil would lay the Devil in me.''Nay' saidthe churl'our devil is a truthI saw theflash of him but yestereven.And somedo say that our Sir Garlon tooHathlearned black magicand to ride unseen.Look tothe cave.' But Balin answered him'Oldfablerthese be fancies of the churlLook tothy woodcraft' and so leaving himNow withslack rein and careless of himselfNow withdug spur and raving at himselfNow withdroopt brow down the long glades he rode;So markednot on his right a cavern-chasmYawn overdarknesswherenor far withinThe wholeday diedbutdyinggleamed on rocksRoof-pendentsharp; and others from the floorTusklikearisingmade that mouth of nightWhereoutthe Demon issued up from Hell.He markednot thisbut blind and deaf to allSave thatchained ragewhich ever yelpt withinPasteastward from the falling sun. At onceHe feltthe hollow-beaten mosses thudAndtrembleand then the shadow of a spearShot frombehind himran along the ground.Sidewayshe started from the pathand sawWithpointed lance as if to piercea shapeA light ofarmour by him flashand passAnd vanishin the woods; and followed thisBut all soblind in rage that unawaresHe bursthis lance against a forest boughDishorsedhimselfand rose againand fledFartillthe castle of a Kingthe hallOf Pellamlichen-beardedgrayly drapedWithstreaming grassappearedlow-built but strong;Theruinous donjon as a knoll of mossThebattlement overtopt with ivytodsA home ofbatsin every tower an owl. Then spake the men of Pellam crying 'LordWhy wearye this crown-royal upon shield?'Said Balin'For the fairest and the bestOf ladiesliving gave me this to bear.'So stalledhis horseand strode across the courtBut foundthe greetings both of knight and KingFaint inthe low dark hall of banquet: leavesLaid theirgreen faces flat against the panesSpraysgratedand the cankered boughs withoutWhined inthe wood; for all was hushed withinTill whenat feast Sir Garlon likewise asked'Why wearye that crown-royal?' Balin said'The Queenwe worshipLancelotIand allAsfairestbest and purestgranted meTo bearit!' Such a sound (for Arthur's knightsWere hatedstrangers in the hall) as makesThe whiteswan-mothersittingwhen she hearsA strangeknee rustle through her secret reedsMadeGarlonhissing; then he sourly smiled.'Fairest Igrant her: I have seen; but bestBestpurest? thou from Arthur's halland yetSo simple!hast thou eyesor ifare theseSo farbesotted that they fail to seeThis fairwife-worship cloaks a secret shame?Trulyyemen of Arthur be but babes.'
A goblet on the board by BalinbossedWith holyJoseph's legendon his rightStoodallof massiest bronze: one side had seaAnd shipand sail and angels blowing on it:And onewas rough with wattlingand the wallsOf thatlow church he built at Glastonbury.This Balingrasptbut while in act to hurlThroughmemory of that token on the shieldRelaxedhis hold: 'I will be gentle' he thought'Andpassing gentle' caught his hand awayThenfiercely to Sir Garlon 'Eyes have IThat sawtoday the shadow of a spearShot frombehind merun along the ground;Eyes toothat long have watched how Lancelot drawsFromhomage to the best and purestmightNamemanhoodand a gracebut scantly thineWhositting in thine own hallcanst endureTo mouthso huge a foulness--to thy guestMeme ofArthur's Table. Felon talk!Let be! nomore!' But not the less by nightThe scornof Garlonpoisoning all his restStung himin dreams. At lengthand dim through leavesBlinkt thewhite mornsprays gratedand old boughsWhined inthe wood. He rosedescendedmetThescorner in the castle courtand fainFor hateand loathingwould have past him by;But whenSir Garlon uttered mocking-wise;'Whatwear ye still that same crown-scandalous?'Hiscountenance blackenedand his forehead veinsBloatedand branched; and tearing out of sheathThe brandSir Balin with a fiery 'Ha!So thou beshadowhere I make thee ghost'Hard uponhelm smote himand the blade flewSplinteringin sixand clinkt upon the stones.ThenGarlonreeling slowly backwardfellAnd Balinby the banneret of his helmDraggedhimand struckbut from the castle a crySoundedacross the courtand--men-at-armsA scorewith pointed lancesmaking at him--He dashedthe pummel at the foremost faceBeneath alow door diptand made his feetWingsthrough a glimmering gallerytill he markedThe portalof King Pellam's chapel wideAnd inwardto the wall; he stept behind;Thence ina moment heard them pass like wolvesHowling;but while he stared about the shrineIn whichhe scarce could spy the Christ for SaintsBeheldbefore a golden altar lieThelongest lance his eyes had ever seenPoint-paintedred; and seizing thereuponPushedthrough an open casement downleaned on itLeapt in asemicircleand lit on earth;Then handat earand harkening from what sideTheblindfold rummage buried in the wallsMightechoran the counter pathand foundHischargermounted on him and away.An arrowwhizzed to the rightone to the leftOneoverhead; and Pellam's feeble cry'Staystay him! he defileth heavenly thingsWithearthly uses'--made him quickly diveBeneaththe boughsand race through many a mileOf denseand opentill his goodly horseArisingwearily at a fallen oakStumbledheadlongand cast him face to ground.
Half-wroth he had not endedbut all gladKnightliketo find his charger yet unlamedSir Balindrew the shield from off his neckStared atthe priceless cognizanceand thought'I haveshamed thee so that now thou shamest meThee willI bear no more' high on a branchHung itand turned aside into the woodsAnd therein gloom cast himself all alongMoaning'My violencesmy violences!'
But now the wholesome music of the woodWas dumbedby one from out the hall of MarkAdamsel-errantwarblingas she rodeThewoodland alleysVivienwith her Squire.
'The fire of Heaven has killed the barren coldAndkindled all the plain and all the wold.The newleaf ever pushes off the old.The fireof Heaven is not the flame of Hell.
'Old priestwho mumble worship in your quire--Old monkand nunye scorn the world's desireYet inyour frosty cells ye feel the fire!The fireof Heaven is not the flame of Hell.
'The fire of Heaven is on the dusty ways.Thewayside blossoms open to the blaze.The wholewood-world is one full peal of praise.The fireof Heaven is not the flame of Hell.
'The fire of Heaven is lord of all things goodAnd starvenot thou this fire within thy bloodBut followVivien through the fiery flood!The fireof Heaven is not the flame of Hell!'
Then turning to her Squire 'This fire of HeavenThis oldsun-worshipboywill rise againAnd beatthe cross to earthand break the KingAnd allhis Table.' Then they reached a gladeWhereunder one long lane of cloudless airBeforeanother woodthe royal crownSparkledand swaying upon a restless elmDrew thevague glance of Vivienand her Squire;Amazedwere these; 'Lo there' she cried--'a crown--Borne bysome high lord-prince of Arthur's hallAnd therea horse! the rider? where is he?Seeyonder lies one dead within the wood.Not dead;he stirs!--but sleeping. I will speak.Hailroyal knightwe break on thy sweet restNotdoubtlessall unearned by noble deeds.Butbounden art thouif from Arthur's hallTo helpthe weak. BeholdI fly from shameA lustfulKingwho sought to win my loveThroughevil ways: the knightwith whom I rodeHathsuffered misadventureand my squireHath inhim small defence; but thouSir PrinceWiltsurely guide me to the warrior KingArthur theblamelesspure as any maidTo get meshelter for my maidenhood.I chargethee by that crown upon thy shieldAnd by thegreat Queen's namearise and hence.'
And Balin rose'Thither no more! nor PrinceNor knightam Ibut one that hath defamedThecognizance she gave me: here I dwellSavageamong the savage woodshere die--Die: let the wolves' black maws ensepulchreTheirbrother beastwhose anger was his lord.O methatsuch a name as Guinevere'sWhich ourhigh Lancelot hath so lifted upAnd beenthereby upliftedshould through meMyviolenceand my villainycome to shame.'
Thereat she suddenly laughed and shrillanonSighed allas suddenly. Said Balin to her'Is thisthy courtesy--to mock meha?HenceforI will not with thee.' Again she sighed'Pardonsweet lord! we maidens often laughWhen sickat heartwhen rather we should weep.I knewthee wronged. I brake upon thy restAnd nowfull loth am I to break thy dreamBut thouart manand canst abide a truthThoughbitter. Hitherboy--and mark me well.Dost thouremember at Caerleon once--A yearago--naythen I love thee not--Aythourememberest well--one summer dawn--By thegreat tower--Caerleon upon Usk--Naytrulywe were hidden: this fair lordThe flowerof all their vestal knighthoodkneltIn amoroushomage--knelt--what else?--O ay
Kneltanddrew down from out his night-black hairAndmumbled that white hand whose ringed caressHadwandered from her own King's golden headAnd lostitself in darknesstill she cried--I thoughtthe great tower would crash down on both--"Risemy sweet Kingand kiss me on the lipsThou artmy King." This ladwhose lightest wordIs merewhite truth in simple nakednessSaw themembrace: he reddenscannot speakSobashfulhe! but all the maiden SaintsThedeathless mother-maidenhood of HeavenCry outupon her. Up thenride with me!Talk notof shame! thou canst notan thou would'stDo thesemore shame than these have done themselves.'
She lied with ease; but horror-stricken heRememberingthat dark bower at CamelotBreathedin a dismal whisper 'It is truth.'
Sunnily she smiled 'And even in this lone woodSweetlordye do right well to whisper this.Foolsprateand perish traitors. Woods have tonguesAs wallshave ears: but thou shalt go with meAnd wewill speak at first exceeding low.Meet is itthe good King be not deceived.See nowIset thee high on vantage groundFromwhence to watch the timeand eagle-likeStoop atthy will on Lancelot and the Queen.'
She ceased; his evil spirit upon him leaptHe groundhis teeth togethersprang with a yellTore fromthe branchand cast on earththe shieldDrove hismailed heel athwart the royal crownStampt allinto defacementhurled it from himAmong theforest weedsand cursed the taleThetold-ofand the teller. That weird yellUnearthlierthan all shriek of bird or beastThrilledthrough the woods; and Balan lurking there(His questwas unaccomplished) heard and thought'Thescream of that Wood-devil I came to quell!'Thennearing 'Lo! he hath slain some brother-knightAndtramples on the goodly shield to showHisloathing of our Order and the Queen.My questmeseemsis here. Or devil or manGuard thouthine head.' Sir Balin spake not wordButsnatched a sudden buckler from the SquireAndvaulted on his horseand so they crashedIn onsetand King Pellam's holy spearReputed tobe red with sinless bloodRedded atonce with sinfulfor the pointAcross themaiden shield of Balan prickedThehauberk to the flesh; and Balin's horseWaswearied to the deathandwhen they clashedRollingback upon Balincrushed the manInwardand either felland swooned away.
Then to her Squire muttered the damsel 'Fools!Thisfellow hath wrought some foulness with his Queen:Else neverhad he borne her crownnor ravedAnd thusfoamed over at a rival name:But thouSir Chickthat scarce hast broken shellArt yethalf-yolknot even come to down--Who neversawest Caerleon upon Usk--And yethast often pleaded for my love--See what Iseebe thou where I have beenOr elseSir Chick--dismount and loose their casquesI fainwould know what manner of men they be.'And whenthe Squire had loosed them'Goodly!--look!They mighthave cropt the myriad flower of MayAnd butteach other herelike brainless bullsDead forone heifer! Then the gentle Squire'I holdthem happyso they died for love:AndVivienthough ye beat me like your dogI toocould dieas now I livefor thee.'
'Live onSir Boy' she cried. 'I better prizeThe livingdog than the dead lion: away!I cannotbrook to gaze upon the dead.'Then leapther palfrey o'er the fallen oakAndbounding forward 'Leave them to the wolves.'
But when their foreheads felt the cooling airBalinfirst wokeand seeing that true faceFamiliarup from cradle-timeso wanCrawledslowly with low moans to where he layAnd on hisdying brother cast himselfDying; andhe lifted faint eyes; he feltOne nearhim; all at once they found the worldStaringwild-wide; then with a childlike wailAnddrawing down the dim disastrous browThat o'erhim hunghe kissed itmoaned and spake;
'O BalinBalinI that fain had diedTo savethy lifehave brought thee to thy death.Why had yenot the shield I knew? and whyTrampledye thus on that which bare the Crown?'
Then Balin told him brokenlyand in gaspsAll thathad chancedand Balan moaned again.
'BrotherI dwelt a day in Pellam's hall:ThisGarlon mocked mebut I heeded not.And onesaid "Eat in peace! a liar is heAnd hatesthee for the tribute!" this good knightTold methat twice a wanton damsel cameAnd soughtfor Garlon at the castle-gatesWhomPellam drove away with holy heat.I wellbelieve this damseland the oneWho stoodbeside thee even nowthe same."Shedwells among the woods" he said "and meetsAnddallies with him in the Mouth of Hell."Foul aretheir lives; foul are their lips; they lied.Pure asour own true Mother is our Queen."
'O brother' answered Balin 'woe is me!My madnessall thy life has been thy doomThy curseand darkened all thy day; and nowThe nighthas come. I scarce can see thee now.
Goodnight!for we shall never bid againGoodmorrow--Darkmy doom was hereand darkIt will bethere. I see thee now no more.I wouldnot mine again should darken thineGoodnighttrue brother. Balan answered low'Goodnighttrue brother here! goodmorrow there!We twowere born togetherand we dieTogetherby one doom:' and while he spokeClosed hisdeath-drowsing eyesand slept the sleepWithBalineither locked in either's arm.
A stormwas comingbut the winds were stillAnd in thewild woods of BroceliandeBefore anoakso hollowhuge and oldIt lookeda tower of ivied masonworkAtMerlin's feet the wily Vivien lay.
For he that always bare in bitter grudgeTheslights of Arthur and his TableMarkTheCornish Kinghad heard a wandering voiceA minstrelof Caerlon by strong stormBlown intoshelter at TintagilsayThat outof naked knightlike puritySirLancelot worshipt no unmarried girlBut thegreat Queen herselffought in her nameSware byher--vows like theirsthat high in heavenLove mostbut neither marrynor are givenInmarriageangels of our Lord's report.
He ceasedand then--for Vivien sweetly said(She satbeside the banquet nearest Mark)'And isthe fair example followedSirInArthur's household?'--answered innocently:
'Ayby some few--aytruly--youths that holdIt morebeseems the perfect virgin knightTo worshipwoman as true wife beyondAll hopesof gainingthan as maiden girl.They placetheir pride in Lancelot and the Queen.Sopassionate for an utter purityBeyond thelimit of their bondare theseFor Arthurbound them not to singleness.Bravehearts and clean! and yet--God guide them--young.'
Then Mark was half in heart to hurl his cupStraightat the speakerbut forbore: he roseTo leavethe hallandVivien following himTurned toher: 'Here are snakes within the grass;And youmethinksO Viviensave ye fearThemonkish manhoodand the mask of pureWorn bythis courtcan stir them till they sting.'
And Vivien answeredsmiling scornfully'Why fear?because that fostered at thy courtI savourof thy--virtues? fear them? no.As Loveif Love is perfectcasts out fearSo Hateif Hate is perfectcasts out fear.My fatherdied in battle against the KingMy motheron his corpse in open field;She boreme therefor born from death was IAmong thedead and sown upon the wind--And thenon thee! and shown the truth betimesThat oldtrue filthand bottom of the wellWhereTruth is hidden. Gracious lessons thineAnd maximsof the mud! "This Arthur pure!GreatNature through the flesh herself hath madeGives himthe lie! There is no being pureMy cherub;saith not Holy Writ the same?"--If I wereArthurI would have thy blood.Thyblessingstainless King! I bring thee backWhen Ihave ferreted out their burrowingsThe heartsof all this Order in mine hand--Ay--sothat fate and craft and folly closePerchanceone curl of Arthur's golden beard.To me thisnarrow grizzled fork of thineIscleaner-fashioned--WellI loved thee firstThat warpsthe wit.'
Loud laughed the graceless MarkButVivieninto Camelot stealinglodgedLow in thecityand on a festal dayWhenGuinevere was crossing the great hallCastherself downknelt to the Queenand wailed.
'Why kneel ye there? What evil hath ye wrought?Rise!' andthe damsel bidden rise aroseAnd stoodwith folded hands and downward eyesOfglancing cornerand all meekly said'Nonewroughtbut suffered muchan orphan maid!My fatherdied in battle for thy KingMy motheron his corpse--in open fieldThe sadsea-sounding wastes of Lyonnesse--Poorwretch--no friend!--and now by Mark the KingFor thatsmall charm of feature minepursued--If anysuch be mine--I fly to thee.Savesaveme thou--Woman of women--thineThe wreathof beautythine the crown of powerBe thinethe balm of pityO Heaven's own white
Earth-angelstainless bride of stainless King--Helpforhe follows! take me to thyself!O yield meshelter for mine innocencyAmong thymaidens!
Here her slow sweet eyesFear-tremulousbut humbly hopefulroseFixt onher hearer'swhile the Queen who stoodAllglittering like May sunshine on May leavesIn greenand goldand plumed with green replied'Peacechild! of overpraise and overblameWe choosethe last. Our noble ArthurhimYe scarcecan overpraisewill hear and know.Nay--webelieve all evil of thy Mark--Wellweshall test thee farther; but this hourWe ridea-hawking with Sir Lancelot.He hathgiven us a fair falcon which he trained;We go toprove it. Bide ye here the while.'
She past; and Vivien murmured after 'Go!I bide thewhile.' Then through the portal-archPeeringaskanceand muttering broken-wiseAs onethat labours with an evil dreamBeheld theQueen and Lancelot get to horse.
'Is that the Lancelot? goodly--aybut gaunt:Courteous--amendsfor gauntness--takes her hand--Thatglance of theirsbut for the streethad beenA clingingkiss--how hand lingers in hand!Let go atlast!--they ride away--to hawkForwaterfowl. Royaller game is mine.For such asupersensual sensual bondAs thatgray cricket chirpt of at our hearth--Touch flaxwith flame--a glance will serve--the liars!Ah littlerat that borest in the dykeThy holeby night to let the boundless deepDown uponfar-off cities while they dance--Ordream--of thee they dreamed not--nor of meThese--aybut each of either: rideand dreamThe mortaldream that never yet was mine--Riderideand dream until ye wake--to me!Thennarrow court and lubber Kingfarewell!ForLancelot will be gracious to the ratAnd ourwise Queenif knowing that I knowWill hateloathefear--but honour me the more.'
Yet while they rode together down the plainTheir talkwas all of trainingterms of artDiet andseelingjessesleash and lure.'She istoo noble' he said 'to check at piesNor willshe rake: there is no baseness in her.'Here whenthe Queen demanded as by chance'Know yethe stranger woman?' 'Let her be'SaidLancelot and unhooded casting offThe goodlyfalcon free; she towered; her bellsTone undertoneshrilled; and they lifted upTheireager faceswondering at the strengthBoldnessand royal knighthood of the birdWhopounced her quarry and slew it. Many a timeAsonce--of old--among the flowers--they rode.
But Vivien half-forgotten of the QueenAmong herdamsels broidering satheardwatchedAndwhispered: through the peaceful court she creptAndwhispered: then as Arthur in the highestLeavenedthe worldso Vivien in the lowestArrivingat a time of golden restAnd sowingone ill hint from ear to earWhile allthe heathen lay at Arthur's feetAnd noquest camebut all was joust and playLeavenedhis hall. They heard and let her be.
Thereafter as an enemy that has leftDeath inthe living watersand withdrawnThe wilyVivien stole from Arthur's court.
She hated all the knightsand heard in thoughtTheirlavish comment when her name was named.For oncewhen Arthur walking all aloneVext at arumour issued from herselfOf somecorruption crept among his knightsHad metherVivienbeing greeted fairWould fainhave wrought upon his cloudy moodWithreverent eyes mock-loyalshaken voiceAndfluttered adorationand at lastWith darksweet hints of some who prized him moreThan whoshould prize him most; at which the KingHad gazedupon her blankly and gone by:But onehad watchedand had not held his peace:It madethe laughter of an afternoonThatVivien should attempt the blameless King.And afterthatshe set herself to gainHimthemost famous man of all those timesMerlinwho knew the range of all their artsHad builtthe King his havensshipsand hallsWas alsoBardand knew the starry heavens;The peoplecalled him Wizard; whom at firstShe playedabout with slight and sprightly talkAnd vividsmilesand faintly-venomed pointsOfslanderglancing here and grazing there;Andyielding to his kindlier moodsthe SeerWouldwatch her at her petulanceand playEven whenthey seemed unloveableand laughAs thosethat watch a kitten; thus he grewTolerantof what he half disdainedand shePerceivingthat she was but half disdainedBegan tobreak her sports with graver fitsTurn redor palewould often when they metSighfullyor all-silent gaze upon himWith sucha fixt devotionthat the old manThoughdoubtfulfelt the flatteryand at timesWouldflatter his own wish in age for loveAnd halfbelieve her true: for thus at timesHewavered; but that other clung to himFixt inher willand so the seasons went.
Then fell on Merlin a great melancholy;He walkedwith dreams and darknessand he foundA doomthat ever poised itself to fallAnever-moaning battle in the mistWorld-warof dying flesh against the lifeDeath inall life and lying in all loveThemeanest having power upon the highestAnd thehigh purpose broken by the worm.
So leaving Arthur's court he gained the beach;Therefound a little boatand stept into it;And Vivienfollowedbut he marked her not.She tookthe helm and he the sail; the boatDrave witha sudden wind across the deepsAndtouching Breton sandsthey disembarked.And thenshe followed Merlin all the wayEven tothe wild woods of Broceliande.For Merlinonce had told her of a charmThe whichif any wrought on anyoneWith wovenpaces and with waving armsThe man sowrought on ever seemed to lieClosed inthe four walls of a hollow towerFrom whichwas no escape for evermore;And nonecould find that man for evermoreNor couldhe see but him who wrought the charmComing andgoingand he lay as deadAnd lostto life and use and name and fame.And Vivienever sought to work the charmUpon thegreat Enchanter of the TimeAsfancying that her glory would be greatAccordingto his greatness whom she quenched.
There lay she all her length and kissed his feetAs if indeepest reverence and in love.A twist ofgold was round her hair; a robeOf samitewithout pricethat more exprestThan hidherclung about her lissome limbsIn colourlike the satin-shining palmOn sallowsin the windy gleams of March:And whileshe kissed themcrying'Trample meDear feetthat I have followed through the worldAnd I willpay you worship; tread me downAnd I willkiss you for it;' he was mute:So dark aforethought rolled about his brainAs on adull day in an Ocean caveThe blindwave feeling round his long sea-hallInsilence: whereforewhen she lifted upA face ofsad appealand spake and said'O Merlindo ye love me?' and again'O Merlindo ye love me?' and once more'GreatMasterdo ye love me?' he was mute.Andlissome Vivienholding by his heelWrithedtoward himslided up his knee and satBehind hisankle twined her hollow feetTogethercurved an arm about his neckClung likea snake; and letting her left handDroop fromhis mighty shoulderas a leafMade withher right a comb of pearl to partThe listsof such a board as youth gone outHad leftin ashes: then he spoke and saidNotlooking at her'Who are wise in loveLove mostsay least' and Vivien answered quick'I saw thelittle elf-god eyeless onceInArthur's arras hall at Camelot:Butneither eyes nor tongue--O stupid child!Yet youare wise who say it; let me thinkSilence iswisdom: I am silent thenAnd ask nokiss;' then adding all at once'And loIclothe myself with wisdom' drewThe vastand shaggy mantle of his beardAcross herneck and bosom to her kneeAnd calledherself a gilded summer flyCaught ina great old tyrant spider's webWho meantto eat her up in that wild woodWithoutone word. So Vivien called herselfBut ratherseemed a lovely baleful starVeiled ingray vapour; till he sadly smiled:'To whatrequest for what strange boon' he said'Are theseyour pretty tricks and fooleriesO Vivienthe preamble? yet my thanksFor thesehave broken up my melancholy.'
And Vivien answered smiling saucily'WhatOmy Masterhave ye found your voice?I bid thestranger welcome. Thanks at last!Butyesterday you never opened lipExceptindeed to drink: no cup had we:In mineown lady palms I culled the springThatgathered trickling dropwise from the cleftAnd made apretty cup of both my handsAndoffered you it kneeling: then you drankAnd knewno morenor gave me one poor word;O no morethanks than might a goat have givenWith nomore sign of reverence than a beard.And whenwe halted at that other wellAnd I wasfaint to swooningand you layFoot-giltwith all the blossom-dust of thoseDeepmeadows we had traverseddid you knowThatVivien bathed your feet before her own?And yet nothanks: and all through this wild woodAnd allthis morning when I fondled you:Boonaythere was a boonone not so strange--How had Iwronged you? surely ye are wiseBut such asilence is more wise than kind.'
And Merlin locked his hand in hers and said:'O did yenever lie upon the shoreAnd watchthe curled white of the coming waveGlassed inthe slippery sand before it breaks?Even sucha wavebut not so pleasurableDark inthe glass of some presageful moodHad I forthree days seenready to fall.And then Irose and fled from Arthur's courtTo breakthe mood. You followed me unasked;And when Ilookedand saw you following me stillMy mindinvolved yourself the nearest thingIn thatmind-mist: for shall I tell you truth?You seemedthat wave about to break upon meAnd sweepme from my hold upon the worldMy use andname and fame. Your pardonchild.Yourpretty sports have brightened all again.And askyour boonfor boon I owe you thriceOnce forwrong done you by confusionnextFor thanksit seems till now neglectedlastFor theseyour dainty gambols: wherefore ask;And takethis boon so strange and not so strange.'
And Vivien answered smiling mournfully:'O not sostrange as my long asking itNot yet sostrange as you yourself are strangeNor halfso strange as that dark mood of yours.I everfeared ye were not wholly mine;And seeyourself have owned ye did me wrong.The peoplecall you prophet: let it be:But not ofthose that can expound themselves.TakeVivien for expounder; she will callThatthree-days-long presageful gloom of yoursNopresagebut the same mistrustful moodThat makesyou seem less noble than yourselfWhenever Ihave asked this very boonNow askedagain: for see you notdear loveThat sucha mood as thatwhich lately gloomedYour fancywhen ye saw me following youMust makeme fear still more you are not mineMust makeme yearn still more to prove you mineAnd makeme wish still more to learn this charmOf wovenpaces and of waving handsAs proofof trust. O Merlinteach it me.The charmso taught will charm us both to rest.Forgrantme some slight power upon your fateIfeelingthat you felt me worthy trustShouldrest and let you restknowing you mine.Andtherefore be as great as ye are namedNotmuffled round with selfish reticence.How hardyou look and how denyingly!Oif youthink this wickedness in meThat Ishould prove it on you unawaresThat makesme passing wrathful; then our bondHad bestbe loosed for ever: but think or notBy Heaventhat hears I tell you the clean truthAs cleanas blood of babesas white as milk:O Merlinmay this earthif ever IIf theseunwitty wandering wits of mineEven inthe jumbled rubbish of a dreamHave tripton such conjectural treachery--May thishard earth cleave to the Nadir hellDowndownand close againand nip me flatIf I besuch a traitress. Yield my boonTill whichI scarce can yield you all I am;And grantmy re-reiterated wishThe greatproof of your love: because I thinkHoweverwiseye hardly know me yet.'
And Merlin loosed his hand from hers and said'I neverwas less wisehowever wiseToocurious Vivienthough you talk of trustThan whenI told you first of such a charm.Yeaif yetalk of trust I tell you this
Too much Itrusted when I told you thatAndstirred this vice in you which ruined manThroughwoman the first hour; for howsoe'erInchildren a great curiousness be wellWho haveto learn themselves and all the worldIn youthat are no childfor still I findYour faceis practised when I spell the linesI callit--wellI will not call it vice:But sinceyou name yourself the summer flyI wellcould wish a cobweb for the gnatThatsettlesbeaten backand beaten backSettlestill one could yield for weariness:But sinceI will not yield to give you powerUpon mylife and use and name and fameWhy willye never ask some other boon?YeabyGod's roodI trusted you too much.'
And Vivienlike the tenderest-hearted maidThat everbided tryst at village stileMadeanswereither eyelid wet with tears:'NayMasterbe not wrathful with your maid;Caressher: let her feel herself forgivenWho feelsno heart to ask another boon.I think yehardly know the tender rhymeOf "trustme not at all or all in all."I heardthe great Sir Lancelot sing it onceAnd itshall answer for me. Listen to it.
"In Loveif Love be Loveif Love be oursFaith andunfaith can ne'er be equal powers:Unfaith inaught is want of faith in all.
"It is the little rift within the luteThat byand by will make the music muteAnd everwidening slowly silence all.
"The little rift within the lover's luteOr littlepitted speck in garnered fruitThatrotting inward slowly moulders all.
"It is not worth the keeping: let it go:But shallit? answerdarlinganswerno.And trustme not at all or all in all."
O Masterdo ye love my tender rhyme?'
And Merlin looked and half believed her trueSo tenderwas her voiceso fair her faceSo sweetlygleamed her eyes behind her tearsLikesunlight on the plain behind a shower:And yet heanswered half indignantly:
'Far other was the song that once I heardBy thishuge oaksung nearly where we sit:For herewe metsome ten or twelve of usTo chase acreature that was current thenIn thesewild woodsthe hart with golden horns.It was thetime when first the question roseAbout thefounding of a Table RoundThat wasto befor love of God and menAnd nobledeedsthe flower of all the world.And eachincited each to noble deeds.And whilewe waitedonethe youngest of usWe couldnot keep him silentout he flashedAnd intosuch a songsuch fire for fameSuchtrumpet-glowings in itcoming downTo such astern and iron-clashing closeThat whenhe stopt we longed to hurl togetherAnd shouldhave done it; but the beauteous beastScared bythe noise upstarted at our feetAnd like asilver shadow slipt awayThroughthe dim land; and all day long we rodeThroughthe dim land against a rushing windThatglorious roundel echoing in our earsAnd chasedthe flashes of his golden hornsTill theyvanished by the fairy wellThatlaughs at iron--as our warriors did--Wherechildren cast their pins and nailsand cry"Laughlittle well!" but touch it with a swordIt buzzesfiercely round the point; and thereWe losthim: such a noble song was that.ButVivienwhen you sang me that sweet rhymeI felt asthough you knew this cursed charmWereproving it on meand that I layAnd feltthem slowly ebbingname and fame.'
And Vivien answered smiling mournfully:'O minehave ebbed away for evermoreAnd allthrough following you to this wild woodBecause Isaw you sadto comfort you.Lo nowwhat hearts have men! they never mountAs high aswoman in her selfless mood.Andtouching famehowe'er ye scorn my songTake oneverse more--the lady speaks it--this:
'"My nameonce minenow thineis closelier mineFor famecould fame be minethat fame were thineAnd shamecould shame be thinethat shame were mine.So trustme not at all or all in all."
'Says she not well? and there is more--this rhymeIs likethe fair pearl-necklace of the QueenThat burstin dancingand the pearls were spilt;Some lostsome stolensome as relics kept.Butnevermore the same two sister pearlsRan downthe silken thread to kiss each otherOn herwhite neck--so is it with this rhyme:It livesdispersedly in many handsAnd everyminstrel sings it differently;Yet isthere one true linethe pearl of pearls:"Mandreams of Fame while woman wakes to love."Yea! Lovethough Love were of the grossestcarvesA portionfrom the solid presenteatsAnd usescareless of the rest; but FameThe Famethat follows death is nothing to us;And whatis Fame in life but half-disfameAndcounterchanged with darkness? ye yourselfKnow wellthat Envy calls you Devil's sonAnd sinceye seem the Master of all ArtThey fainwould make you Master of all vice.'
And Merlin locked his hand in hers and said'I oncewas looking for a magic weedAnd founda fair young squire who sat aloneHad carvedhimself a knightly shield of woodAnd thenwas painting on it fancied armsAzureanEagle rising orthe SunIn dexterchief; the scroll "I follow fame."Andspeaking notbut leaning over himI took hisbrush and blotted out the birdAnd made aGardener putting in a graffWith thisfor motto"Rather use than fame."You shouldhave seen him blush; but afterwardsHe made astalwart knight. O VivienFor youmethinks you think you love me well;For meIlove you somewhat; rest: and LoveShouldhave some rest and pleasure in himselfNot everbe too curious for a boonTooprurient for a proof against the grainOf him yesay ye love: but Fame with menBeing butampler means to serve mankindShouldhave small rest or pleasure in herselfBut workas vassal to the larger loveThatdwarfs the petty love of one to one.Use gaveme Fame at firstand Fame againIncreasinggave me use. Lothere my boon!Whatother? for men sought to prove me vileBecause Ifain had given them greater wits:And thendid Envy call me Devil's son:The sickweak beast seeking to help herselfBystriking at her bettermissedand broughtHer ownclaw backand wounded her own heart.Sweet werethe days when I was all unknownBut whenmy name was lifted upthe stormBrake onthe mountain and I cared not for it.Right wellknow I that Fame is half-disfameYet needsmust work my work. That other fameTo one atleastwho hath not childrenvagueThe cackleof the unborn about the graveI carednot for it: a single misty starWhich isthe second in a line of starsThat seema sword beneath a belt of threeI nevergazed upon it but I dreamtOf somevast charm concluded in that starTo makefame nothing. Whereforeif I fearGiving youpower upon me through this charmThat youmight play me falselyhaving powerHoweverwell ye think ye love me now(As sonsof kings loving in pupilageHaveturned to tyrants when they came to power)I ratherdread the loss of use than fame;Ifyou--and not so much from wickednessAs somewild turn of angeror a moodOfoverstrained affectionit may beTo keep meall to your own self--or elseA suddenspurt of woman's jealousy--Should trythis charm on whom ye say ye love.'
And Vivien answered smiling as in wrath:'Have Inot sworn? I am not trusted. Good!Wellhideithide it; I shall find it out;And beingfound take heed of Vivien.A womanand not trusteddoubtless IMight feelsome sudden turn of anger bornOf yourmisfaith; and your fine epithetIsaccurate toofor this full love of mineWithoutthe full heart back may merit wellYour termof overstrained. So used as IMy dailywonder isI love at all.And as towoman's jealousyO why not?O to whatendexcept a jealous oneAnd one tomake me jealous if I loveWas thisfair charm invented by yourself?I wellbelieve that all about this worldYe cage abuxom captive here and thereClosed inthe four walls of a hollow towerFrom whichis no escape for evermore.'
Then the great Master merrily answered her:'Full manya love in loving youth was mine;I neededthen no charm to keep them mineBut youthand love; and that full heart of yoursWhereof yeprattlemay now assure you mine;So liveuncharmed. For those who wrought it firstThe wristis parted from the hand that wavedThe feetunmortised from their ankle-bonesWho paceditages back: but will ye hearThe legendas in guerdon for your rhyme?
'There lived a king in the most Eastern EastLess oldthan Iyet olderfor my bloodHathearnest in it of far springs to be.A tawnypirate anchored in his portWhose barkhad plundered twenty nameless isles;Andpassing oneat the high peep of dawnHe saw twocities in a thousand boatsAllfighting for a woman on the sea.
Andpushing his black craft among them allHe lightlyscattered theirs and brought her offWith lossof half his people arrow-slain;A maid sosmoothso whiteso wonderfulThey saida light came from her when she moved:And sincethe pirate would not yield her upThe Kingimpaled him for his piracy;Then madeher Queen: but those isle-nurtured eyesWaged suchunwilling though successful warOn all theyouththey sickened; councils thinnedAnd armieswanedfor magnet-like she drewTherustiest iron of old fighters' hearts;And beaststhemselves would worship; camels kneltUnbiddenand the brutes of mountain backThat carrykings in castlesbowed black kneesOf homageringing with their serpent handsTo makeher smileher golden ankle-bells.Whatwonderbeing jealousthat he sentHis hornsof proclamation out through allThehundred under-kingdoms that he swayedTo find awizard who might teach the KingSomecharmwhich being wrought upon the QueenMight keepher all his own: to such a oneHepromised more than ever king has givenA leagueof mountain full of golden minesA provincewith a hundred miles of coastA palaceand a princessall for him:But on allthose who tried and failedthe KingPronounceda dismal sentencemeaning by itTo keepthe list low and pretenders backOr like akingnot to be trifled with--Theirheads should moulder on the city gates.And manytried and failedbecause the charmOf naturein her overbore their own:And many awizard brow bleached on the walls:And manyweeks a troop of carrion crowsHung likea cloud above the gateway towers.'
And Vivien breaking in upon himsaid:'I sit andgather honey; yetmethinksThy tonguehas tript a little: ask thyself.The ladynever made unwilling warWith thosefine eyes: she had her pleasure in itAnd madeher good man jealous with good cause.And livedthere neither dame nor damsel thenWroth at alover's loss? were all as tameI meanasnobleas the Queen was fair?Not one toflirt a venom at her eyesOr pinch amurderous dust into her drinkOr makeher paler with a poisoned rose?Wellthose were not our days: but did they findA wizard? Tell mewas he like to thee?
She ceasedand made her lithe arm round his neckTightenand then drew backand let her eyesSpeak forherglowing on himlike a bride'sOn her newlordher ownthe first of men.
He answered laughing'Naynot like to me.At lastthey found--his foragers for charms--A littleglassy-headed hairless manWho livedalone in a great wild on grass;Read butone bookand ever reading grewSo grateddown and filed away with thoughtSo leanhis eyes were monstrous; while the skinClung butto crate and basketribs and spine.And sincehe kept his mind on one sole aimNor evertouched fierce winenor tasted fleshNor owneda sensual wishto him the wallThatsunders ghosts and shadow-casting menBecame acrystaland he saw them through itAnd heardtheir voices talk behind the wallAnd learnttheir elemental secretspowersAndforces; often o'er the sun's bright eyeDrew thevast eyelid of an inky cloudAnd lashedit at the base with slanting storm;Or in thenoon of mist and driving rainWhen thelake whitened and the pinewood roaredAnd thecairned mountain was a shadowsunnedThe worldto peace again: here was the man.And so byforce they dragged him to the King.And thenhe taught the King to charm the QueenInsuch-wisethat no man could see her moreNor sawshe save the Kingwho wrought the charmComing andgoingand she lay as deadAnd lostall use of life: but when the KingMadeproffer of the league of golden minesTheprovince with a hundred miles of coastThe palaceand the princessthat old manWent backto his old wildand lived on grassAndvanishedand his book came down to me.'
And Vivien answered smiling saucily:'Ye havethe book: the charm is written in it:Good: take my counsel: let me know it at once:For keepit like a puzzle chest in chestWith eachchest locked and padlocked thirty-foldAnd whelmall this beneath as vast a moundAs afterfurious battle turfs the slainOn somewild down above the windy deepI yetshould strike upon a sudden meansTo digpickopenfind and read the charm:Thenif Itried itwho should blame me then?'
And smiling as a master smiles at oneThat isnot of his schoolnor any schoolBut thatwhere blind and naked IgnoranceDeliversbrawling judgmentsunashamedOn allthings all day longhe answered her:
'Thou read the bookmy pretty Vivien!O ayitis but twenty pages longBut everypage having an ample margeAnd everymarge enclosing in the midstA squareof text that looks a little blotThe textno larger than the limbs of fleas;And everysquare of text an awful charmWrit in alanguage that has long gone by.So longthat mountains have arisen sinceWithcities on their flanks--thou read the book!And evermargin scribbledcrostand crammedWithcommentdensest condensationhardTo mindand eye; but the long sleepless nightsOf my longlife have made it easy to me.And nonecan read the textnot even I;And nonecan read the comment but myself;
And in thecomment did I find the charm.Otheresults are simple; a mere childMight useit to the harm of anyoneAnd nevercould undo it: ask no more:For thoughyou should not prove it upon meBut keepthat oath ye swareye mightperchance
Assay iton some one of the Table RoundAnd allbecause ye dream they babble of you.'
And Vivienfrowning in true angersaid:'What darethe full-fed liars say of me?They rideabroad redressing human wrongs!They sitwith knife in meat and wine in horn!They boundto holy vows of chastity!Were I notwomanI could tell a tale.But youare manyou well can understandThe shamethat cannot be explained for shame.Not one ofall the drove should touch me: swine!'
Then answered Merlin careless of her words:'Youbreathe but accusation vast and vagueSpleen-bornI thinkand proofless. If ye knowSet up thecharge ye knowto stand or fall!'
And Vivien answered frowning wrathfully:'O aywhat say ye to Sir Valencehim
Whosekinsman left him watcher o'er his wifeAnd twofair babesand went to distant lands;Was oneyear goneand on returning foundNot twobut three? there lay the recklingoneBut onehour old! What said the happy sire?'Aseven-months' babe had been a truer gift.Thosetwelve sweet moons confused his fatherhood.'
Then answered Merlin'NayI know the tale.SirValence wedded with an outland dame:Some causehad kept him sundered from his wife:One childthey had: it lived with her: she died:Hiskinsman travelling on his own affairWascharged by Valence to bring home the child.Hebroughtnot found it therefore: take the truth.'
'O ay' said Vivien'overtrue a tale.What sayye then to sweet Sir SagramoreThatardent man? "to pluck the flower in season"So saysthe song"I trow it is no treason."O Mastershall we call him overquickTo crophis own sweet rose before the hour?'
And Merlin answered'Overquick art thouTo catch aloathly plume fallen from the wingOf thatfoul bird of rapine whose whole preyIs man'sgood name: he never wronged his bride.I know thetale. An angry gust of windPuffed outhis torch among the myriad-roomedAndmany-corridored complexitiesOfArthur's palace: then he found a doorAnddarkling felt the sculptured ornamentThatwreathen round it made it seem his own;Andwearied out made for the couch and sleptAstainless man beside a stainless maid;And eithersleptnor knew of other there;Till thehigh dawn piercing the royal roseInArthur's casement glimmered chastely downBlushingupon them blushingand at onceHe rosewithout a word and parted from her:But whenthe thing was blazed about the courtThe bruteworld howling forced them into bondsAnd as itchanced they are happybeing pure.'
'O ay' said Vivien'that were likely too.What sayye then to fair Sir PercivaleAnd of thehorrid foulness that he wroughtThesaintly youththe spotless lamb of ChristOr someblack wether of St Satan's fold.Whatinthe precincts of the chapel-yardAmong theknightly brasses of the gravesAnd by thecold Hic Jacets of the dead!'
And Merlin answered careless of her charge'A soberman is Percivale and pure;But oncein life was flustered with new wineThen pacedfor coolness in the chapel-yard;Where oneof Satan's shepherdesses caughtAnd meantto stamp him with her master's mark;And thathe sinned is not believable;Forlookupon his face!--but if he sinnedThe sinthat practice burns into the bloodAnd notthe one dark hour which brings remorseWill brandusafterof whose fold we be:Or elsewere hethe holy kingwhose hymnsArechanted in the minsterworse than all.But isyour spleen frothed outor have ye more?'
And Vivien answered frowning yet in wrath:'O ay;what say ye to Sir LancelotfriendTraitor ortrue? that commerce with the QueenI ask youis it clamoured by the childOrwhispered in the corner? do ye know it?'
To which he answered sadly'YeaI know it.SirLancelot went ambassadorat firstTo fetchherand she watched him from her walls.A rumourrunsshe took him for the KingSo fixther fancy on him: let them be.But haveye no one word of loyal praiseForArthurblameless King and stainless man?'
She answered with a low and chuckling laugh:'Man! ishe man at allwho knows and winks?Sees whathis fair bride is and doesand winks?By whichthe good King means to blind himselfAnd blindshimself and all the Table RoundTo all thefoulness that they work. MyselfCould callhim (were it not for womanhood)Theprettypopular cause such manhood earnsCould callhim the main cause of all their crime;Yeawerehe not crowned Kingcowardand fool.'
Then Merlin to his own heartloathingsaid:'O trueand tender! O my liege and King!O selflessman and stainless gentlemanWhowouldst against thine own eye-witness fainHave allmen true and lealall women pure;Howinthe mouths of base interpretersFromover-fineness not intelligibleTo thingswith every sense as false and foulAs thepoached filth that floods the middle streetIs thywhite blamelessness accounted blame!'
But Viviendeeming Merlin overborneByinstancerecommencedand let her tongueRage likea fire among the noblest namesPollutingand imputing her whole selfDefamingand defacingtill she leftNot evenLancelot bravenor Galahad clean.
Her words had issue other than she willed.He draggedhis eyebrow bushes downand madeA snowypenthouse for his hollow eyesAndmuttered in himself'Tell her the charm!Soif shehad itwould she rail on meTo snarethe nextand if she have it notSo willshe rail. What did the wanton say?"Notmount as high;" we scarce can sink as low:For men atmost differ as Heaven and earthBut womenworst and bestas Heaven and Hell.I know theTable Roundmy friends of old;All braveand many generousand some chaste.She cloaksthe scar of some repulse with lies;I wellbelieve she tempted them and failedBeing sobitter: for fine plots may failThoughharlots paint their talk as well as faceWithcolours of the heart that are not theirs.I will notlet her know: nine tithes of timesFace-flattererand backbiter are the same.And theysweet soulthat most impute a crimeArepronest to itand impute themselvesWantingthe mental range; or low desireNot tofeel lowest makes them level all;Yeatheywould pare the mountain to the plainTo leavean equal baseness; and in thisAreharlots like the crowdthat if they findSome stainor blemish in a name of noteNotgrieving that their greatest are so smallInflatethemselves with some insane delightAnd judgeall nature from her feet of clayWithoutthe will to lift their eyesand seeHergodlike head crowned with spiritual fireAndtouching other worlds. I am weary of her.'
He spoke in words part heardin whispers partHalf-suffocatedin the hoary fellAndmany-wintered fleece of throat and chin.ButViviengathering somewhat of his moodAndhearing 'harlot' muttered twice or thriceLeapt fromher session on his lapand stoodStiff as aviper frozen; loathsome sightHow fromthe rosy lips of life and loveFlashedthe bare-grinning skeleton of death!White washer cheek; sharp breaths of anger puffedHer fairynostril out; her hand half-clenchedWentfaltering sideways downward to her beltAndfeeling; had she found a dagger there(For in awink the false love turns to hate)She wouldhave stabbed him; but she found it not:His eyewas calmand suddenly she tookTo bitterweeping like a beaten childA longlong weepingnot consolable.Then herfalse voice made waybroken with sobs:
'O crueller than was ever told in taleOr sung insong! O vainly lavished love!O cruelthere was nothing wild or strangeOr seemingshameful--for what shame in loveSo love betrueand not as yours is--nothingPoorVivien had not done to win his trustWho calledher what he called her--all her crimeAll--all--thewish to prove him wholly hers.'
She mused a littleand then clapt her handsTogetherwith a wailing shriekand said:'Stabbedthrough the heart's affections to the heart!Seethedlike the kid in its own mother's milk!Killedwith a word worse than a life of blows!I thoughtthat he was gentlebeing great:O Godthat I had loved a smaller man!I shouldhave found in him a greater heart.OIthatflattering my true passionsawTheknightsthe courtthe Kingdark in your lightWho lovedto make men darker than they areBecause ofthat high pleasure which I hadTo seatyou sole upon my pedestalOfworship--I am answeredand henceforthThe courseof life that seemed so flowery to meWith youfor guide and masteronly youBecomesthe sea-cliff pathway broken shortAnd endingin a ruin--nothing leftBut intosome low cave to crawland thereIf thewolf spare meweep my life awayKilledwith inutterable unkindliness.'
She pausedshe turned awayshe hung her headThe snakeof gold slid from her hairthe braidSlipt anduncoiled itselfshe wept afreshAnd thedark wood grew darker toward the stormInsilencewhile his anger slowly diedWithinhimtill he let his wisdom goFor easeof heartand half believed her true:Called herto shelter in the hollow oak'Come fromthe storm' and having no replyGazed atthe heaving shoulderand the faceHand-hiddenas for utmost grief or shame;Thenthrice essayedby tenderest-touching termsTo sleekher ruffled peace of mindin vain.At lastshe let herself be conquered by himAnd as thecageling newly flown returnsTheseeming-injured simple-hearted thingCame toher old perch backand settled there.Therewhile she sathalf-falling from his kneesHalf-nestledat his heartand since he sawThe slowtear creep from her closed eyelid yetAbout hermore in kindness than in loveThe gentlewizard cast a shielding arm.But shedislinked herself at once and roseHer armsupon her breast acrossand stoodA virtuousgentlewoman deeply wrongedUprightand flushed before him: then she said:
'There must now be no passages of loveBetwixt ustwain henceforward evermore;SinceifI be what I am grossly calledWhatshould be granted which your own gross heartWouldreckon worth the taking? I will go.In truthbut one thing now--better have diedThricethan have asked it once--could make me stay--That proofof trust--so often asked in vain!Howjustlyafter that vile term of yoursI findwith grief! I might believe you thenWho knows?once more. Lo! what was once to meMerematter of the fancynow hath grownThe vastnecessity of heart and life.Farewell;think gently of mefor I fearMy fate orfollypassing gayer youthFor one sooldmust be to love thee still.But ere Ileave thee let me swear once moreThat if Ischemed against thy peace in thisMay yonjust heaventhat darkens o'er mesendOne flashthatmissing all things elsemay makeMyscheming brain a cinderif I lie.'
Scarce had she ceasedwhen out of heaven a bolt(For nowthe storm was close above them) struckFurrowinga giant oakand javeliningWithdarted spikes and splinters of the woodThe darkearth round. He raised his eyes and sawThe treethat shone white-listed through the gloom.ButVivienfearing heaven had heard her oathAnddazzled by the livid-flickering forkAnddeafened with the stammering cracks and clapsThatfollowedflying back and crying out'O Merlinthough you do not love mesaveYet saveme!' clung to him and hugged him close;And calledhim dear protector in her frightNor yetforgot her practice in her frightButwrought upon his mood and hugged him close.The paleblood of the wizard at her touchTook gayercolourslike an opal warmed.She blamedherself for telling hearsay tales:She shookfrom fearand for her fault she weptOfpetulancy; she called him lord and liegeHer seerher bardher silver star of eveHer Godher Merlinthe one passionate loveOf herwhole life; and ever overheadBellowedthe tempestand the rotten branchSnapt inthe rushing of the river-rainAbovethem; and in change of glare and gloomHer eyesand neck glittering went and came;Till nowthe stormits burst of passion spentMoaningand calling out of other landsHad leftthe ravaged woodland yet once moreTo peace;and what should not have been had beenForMerlinovertalked and overwornHadyieldedtold her all the charmand slept.
Thenin one momentshe put forth the charmOf wovenpaces and of waving handsAnd in thehollow oak he lay as deadAnd lostto life and use and name and fame.
Then crying 'I have made his glory mine'Andshrieking out 'O fool!' the harlot leaptAdown theforestand the thicket closedBehindherand the forest echoed 'fool.'
Elaine thefairElaine the loveableElainethe lily maid of AstolatHigh inher chamber up a tower to the eastGuardedthe sacred shield of Lancelot;Whichfirst she placed where the morning's earliest rayMightstrike itand awake her with the gleam;Thenfearing rust or soilure fashioned for itA case ofsilkand braided thereuponAll thedevices blazoned on the shieldIn theirown tinctand addedof her witA borderfantasy of branch and flowerAndyellow-throated nestling in the nest.Nor restedthus contentbut day by dayLeavingher household and good fatherclimbedThateastern towerand entering barred her doorStript offthe caseand read the naked shieldNowguessed a hidden meaning in his armsNow made apretty history to herselfOf everydint a sword had beaten in itAnd everyscratch a lance had made upon itConjecturingwhen and where: this cut is fresh;That tenyears back; this dealt him at Caerlyle;That atCaerleon; this at Camelot:And ahGod's mercywhat a stroke was there!And here athrust that might have killedbut GodBroke thestrong lanceand rolled his enemy downAnd savedhim: so she lived in fantasy.
How came the lily maid by that good shieldOfLancelotshe that knew not even his name?He left itwith herwhen he rode to tiltFor thegreat diamond in the diamond joustsWhichArthur had ordainedand by that nameHad namedthemsince a diamond was the prize.
For Arthurlong before they crowned him KingRoving thetrackless realms of LyonnesseHad founda glengray boulder and black tarn.A horrorlived about the tarnand claveLike itsown mists to all the mountain side:For heretwo brothersone a kinghad metAnd foughttogether; but their names were lost;And eachhad slain his brother at a blow;And downthey fell and made the glen abhorred:And therethey lay till all their bones were bleachedAndlichened into colour with the crags:And hethat once was kinghad on a crownOfdiamondsone in frontand four aside.And Arthurcameand labouring up the passAll in amisty moonshineunawaresHadtrodden that crowned skeletonand the skullBrake fromthe napeand from the skull the crownRolledinto lightand turning on its rimsFled likea glittering rivulet to the tarn:And downthe shingly scaur he plungedand caughtAnd set iton his headand in his heartHeardmurmurs'Lothou likewise shalt be King.'
Thereafterwhen a Kinghe had the gemsPluckedfrom the crownand showed them to his knightsSaying'These jewelswhereupon I chancedDivinelyare the kingdom'snot the King's--For publicuse: henceforward let there beOnce everyyeara joust for one of these:For so bynine years' proof we needs must learnWhich isour mightiestand ourselves shall growIn use ofarms and manhoodtill we driveTheheathenwhosome sayshall rule the landHereafterwhich God hinder.' Thus he spoke:And eightyears pasteight jousts had beenand stillHadLancelot won the diamond of the yearWithpurpose to present them to the QueenWhen allwere won; but meaning all at onceTo snareher royal fancy with a boonWorth halfher realmhad never spoken word.
Now for the central diamond and the lastAndlargestArthurholding then his courtHard onthe river nigh the place which nowIs thisworld's hugestlet proclaim a joustAtCamelotand when the time drew nighSpake (forshe had been sick) to Guinevere'Are youso sickmy Queenyou cannot moveTo thesefair jousts?' 'Yealord' she said'ye know it.''Then willye miss' he answered'the great deedsOfLancelotand his prowess in the listsA sight yelove to look on.' And the QueenLifted hereyesand they dwelt languidlyOnLancelotwhere he stood beside the King.Hethinking that he read her meaning there'Stay withmeI am sick; my love is moreThan manydiamonds' yielded; and a heartLove-loyalto the least wish of the Queen(Howevermuch he yearned to make completeThe taleof diamonds for his destined boon)Urged himto speak against the truthand say'Sir Kingmine ancient wound is hardly wholeAnd letsme from the saddle;' and the KingGlancedfirst at himthen herand went his way.No soonergone than suddenly she began:
'To blamemy lord Sir Lancelotmuch to blame!Why go yenot to these fair jousts? the knightsAre halfof them our enemiesand the crowdWillmurmur"Lo the shameless oneswho takeTheirpastime now the trustful King is gone!"'
ThenLancelot vext at having lied in vain:'Are ye sowise? ye were not once so wiseMy Queenthat summerwhen ye loved me first.Then ofthe crowd ye took no more accountThan ofthe myriad cricket of the meadWhen itsown voice clings to each blade of grassAnd everyvoice is nothing. As to knightsThemsurely can I silence with all ease.But now myloyal worship is allowedOf allmen: many a bardwithout offenceHas linkedour names together in his layLancelotthe flower of braveryGuinevereThe pearlof beauty: and our knights at feastHavepledged us in this unionwhile the KingWouldlisten smiling. How then? is there more?Has Arthurspoken aught? or would yourselfNow wearyof my service and devoirHenceforthbe truer to your faultless lord?'
She broke into a little scornful laugh:'Arthurmy lordArthurthe faultless KingThatpassionate perfectionmy good lord--But whocan gaze upon the Sun in heaven?He neverspake word of reproach to meHe neverhad a glimpse of mine untruthHe caresnot for me: only here todayTheregleamed a vague suspicion in his eyes:Somemeddling rogue has tampered with him--elseRapt inthis fancy of his Table RoundAndswearing men to vows impossibleTo makethem like himself: butfriendto meHe is allfault who hath no fault at all:For wholoves me must have a touch of earth;The lowsun makes the colour: I am yoursNotArthur'sas ye knowsave by the bond.Andtherefore hear my words: go to the jousts:Thetiny-trumpeting gnat can break our dreamWhensweetest; and the vermin voices hereMay buzzso loud--we scorn thembut they sting.'
Then answered Lancelotthe chief of knights:'And withwhat faceafter my pretext madeShall IappearO Queenat CamelotIBefore aKing who honours his own wordAs if itwere his God's?'
'Yea' said the Queen'A moralchild without the craft to ruleElse hadhe not lost me: but listen to meIf I mustfind you wit: we hear it saidThat mengo down before your spear at a touchButknowing you are Lancelot; your great nameThisconquers: hide it therefore; go unknown:Win! bythis kiss you will: and our true KingWill thenallow your pretextO my knightAs all forglory; for to speak him trueYe knowright wellhow meek soe'er he seemNo keenerhunter after glory breathes.He lovesit in his knights more than himself:They proveto him his work: win and return.'
Then got Sir Lancelot suddenly to horseWroth athimself. Not willing to be knownHe leftthe barren-beaten thoroughfareChose thegreen path that showed the rarer footAnd thereamong the solitary downsFull oftenlost in fancylost his way;Till as hetraced a faintly-shadowed trackThat allin loops and links among the dalesRan to theCastle of Astolathe sawFired fromthe westfar on a hillthe towers.Thither hemadeand blew the gateway horn.Then camean olddumbmyriad-wrinkled manWho lethim into lodging and disarmed.AndLancelot marvelled at the wordless man;Andissuing found the Lord of AstolatWith twostrong sonsSir Torre and Sir LavaineMoving tomeet him in the castle court;And closebehind them stept the lily maidElainehis daughter: mother of the houseThere wasnot: some light jest among them roseWithlaughter dying down as the great knightApproachedthem: then the Lord of Astolat:'Whencecomes thoumy guestand by what nameLivestthou between the lips? for by thy stateAndpresence I might guess thee chief of thoseAfter theKingwho eat in Arthur's halls.Him have Iseen: the resthis Table RoundKnown asthey areto me they are unknown.'
Then answered Sir Lancelotthe chief of knights:'Known amIand of Arthur's halland knownWhat I bymere mischance have broughtmy shield.But sinceI go to joust as one unknownAt Camelotfor the diamondask me notHereafterye shall know me--and the shield--I pray youlend me oneif such you haveBlankorat least with some device not mine.'
Then said the Lord of Astolat'Here is Torre's:Hurt inhis first tilt was my sonSir Torre.And soGod wothis shield is blank enough.His ye canhave.' Then added plain Sir Torre'Yeasince I cannot use itye may have it.'Herelaughed the father saying'FieSir ChurlIs thatanswer for a noble knight?Allow him!but Lavainemy younger hereHe is sofull of lustihoodhe will rideJoust foritand winand bring it in an hourAnd set itin this damsel's golden hairTo makeher thrice as wilful as before.'
'Nayfathernay good fathershame me notBeforethis noble knight' said young Lavaine'Fornothing. Surely I but played on Torre:He seemedso sullenvext he could not go:A jestnomore! forknightthe maiden dreamtThat someone put this diamond in her handAnd thatit was too slippery to be heldAnd sliptand fell into some pool or streamThecastle-wellbelike; and then I saidThat if Iwent and if I fought and won it(But allwas jest and joke among ourselves)Then mustshe keep it safelier. All was jest.Butfathergive me leavean if he willTo ride toCamelot with this noble knight:Win shallI notbut do my best to win:Young as Iamyet would I do my best.'
'So will ye grace me' answered LancelotSmiling amoment'with your fellowshipO'er thesewaste downs whereon I lost myselfThen wereI glad of you as guide and friend:And youshall win this diamond--as I hearIt is afair large diamond--if ye mayAnd yieldit to this maidenif ye will.''A fairlarge diamond' added plain Sir Torre'Such befor queensand not for simple maids.'Then shewho held her eyes upon the groundElaineand heard her name so tost aboutFlushedslightly at the slight disparagementBefore thestranger knightwholooking at herFullcourtlyyet not falselythus returned:'If whatis fair be but for what is fairAnd onlyqueens are to be counted soRash weremy judgment thenwho deem this maidMight wearas fair a jewel as is on earthNotviolating the bond of like to like.'
He spoke and ceased: the lily maid ElaineWon by themellow voice before she lookedLifted hereyesand read his lineaments.The greatand guilty love he bare the QueenIn battlewith the love he bare his lordHad marredhis faceand marked it ere his time.Anothersinning on such heights with oneThe flowerof all the west and all the worldHad beenthe sleeker for it: but in himHis moodwas often like a fiendand roseAnd drovehim into wastes and solitudesFor agonywho was yet a living soul.Marred ashe washe seemed the goodliest manThat everamong ladies ate in hallAndnoblestwhen she lifted up her eyes.Howevermarredof more than twice her yearsSeamedwith an ancient swordcut on the cheekAndbruised and bronzedshe lifted up her eyesAnd lovedhimwith that love which was her doom.
Then the great knightthe darling of the courtLoved ofthe loveliestinto that rude hallStept withall graceand not with half disdainHid undergraceas in a smaller timeBut kindlyman moving among his kind:Whom theywith meats and vintage of their bestAnd talkand minstrel melody entertained.And muchthey asked of court and Table RoundAnd everwell and readily answered he:ButLancelotwhen they glanced at GuinevereSuddenlyspeaking of the wordless manHeard fromthe Baron thatten years beforeTheheathen caught and reft him of his tongue.'He learntand warned me of their fierce designAgainst myhouseand him they caught and maimed;But Imysonsand little daughter fledFrom bondsor deathand dwelt among the woodsBy thegreat river in a boatman's hut.Dull dayswere thosetill our good Arthur brokeThe Paganyet once more on Badon hill.'
'O theregreat lorddoubtless' Lavaine saidraptBy all thesweet and sudden passion of youthTowardgreatness in its elder'you have fought.O tellus--for we live apart--you knowOfArthur's glorious wars.' And Lancelot spokeAndanswered him at fullas having beenWithArthur in the fight which all day longRang bythe white mouth of the violent Glem;And in thefour loud battles by the shoreOf Duglas;that on Bassa; then the warThatthundered in and out the gloomy skirtsOf Celidonthe forest; and againBy castleGurnionwhere the glorious KingHad on hiscuirass worn our Lady's HeadCarved ofone emerald centered in a sunOf silverraysthat lightened as he breathed;And atCaerleon had he helped his lordWhen thestrong neighings of the wild white HorseSet everygilded parapet shuddering;And up inAgned-Cathregonion tooAnd downthe waste sand-shores of Trath TreroitWhere manya heathen fell; 'and on the mountOf Badon Imyself beheld the KingCharge atthe head of all his Table RoundAnd allhis legions crying Christ and himAnd breakthem; and I saw himafterstandHigh on aheap of slainfrom spur to plumeRed as therising sun with heathen bloodAnd seeingmewith a great voice he cried"Theyare brokenthey are broken!" for the KingHowevermild he seems at homenor caresFortriumph in our mimic warsthe jousts--For if hisown knight cast him downhe laughsSayinghis knights are better men than he--Yet inthis heathen war the fire of GodFillshim: I never saw his like: there livesNo greaterleader.'
While he uttered thisLow to herown heart said the lily maid'Save yourown great selffair lord;' and when he fellFrom talkof war to traits of pleasantry--Beingmirthful hebut in a stately kind--She stilltook note that when the living smileDied fromhis lipsacross him came a cloudOfmelancholy severefrom which againWheneverin her hovering to and froThe lilymaid had striven to make him cheerTherebrake a sudden-beaming tendernessOf mannersand of nature: and she thoughtThat allwas natureallperchancefor her.And allnight long his face before her livedAs when apainterporing on a faceDivinelythrough all hindrance finds the manBehind itand so paints him that his faceThe shapeand colour of a mind and lifeLives forhis childrenever at its bestAndfullest; so the face before her livedDark-splendidspeaking in the silencefullOf noblethingsand held her from her sleep.Till ratheshe rosehalf-cheated in the thoughtShe needsmust bid farewell to sweet Lavaine.First infearstep after stepshe stoleDown thelong tower-stairshesitating:Anonsheheard Sir Lancelot cry in the court'Thisshieldmy friendwhere is it?' and LavainePastinwardas she came from out the tower.There tohis proud horse Lancelot turnedand smoothedThe glossyshoulderhumming to himself.Half-enviousof the flattering handshe drewNearer andstood. He lookedand more amazedThan ifseven men had set upon himsawThe maidenstanding in the dewy light.He had notdreamed she was so beautiful.Then cameon him a sort of sacred fearForsilentthough he greeted hershe stoodRapt onhis face as if it were a God's.Suddenlyflashed on her a wild desireThat heshould wear her favour at the tilt.She braveda riotous heart in asking for it.'Fairlordwhose name I know not--noble it isI wellbelievethe noblest--will you wearMy favourat this tourney?' 'Nay' said he'Fairladysince I never yet have wornFavour ofany lady in the lists.Such is mywontas thosewho know meknow.''Yeaso'she answered; 'then in wearing mineNeeds mustbe lesser likelihoodnoble lordThat thosewho know should know you.' And he turnedHercounsel up and down within his mindAnd foundit trueand answered'Truemy child.WellIwill wear it: fetch it out to me:What isit?' and she told him 'A red sleeveBroideredwith pearls' and brought it: then he boundHer tokenon his helmetwith a smileSaying'Inever yet have done so muchFor anymaiden living' and the bloodSprang toher face and filled her with delight;But lefther all the palerwhen LavaineReturningbrought the yet-unblazoned shieldHisbrother's; which he gave to LancelotWho partedwith his own to fair Elaine:'Do methis gracemy childto have my shieldIn keepingtill I come.' 'A grace to me'Sheanswered'twice today. I am your squire!'WhereatLavaine saidlaughing'Lily maidFor fearour people call you lily maidInearnestlet me bring your colour back;Oncetwiceand thrice: now get you hence to bed:'So kissedherand Sir Lancelot his own handAnd thusthey moved away: she stayed a minuteThen madea sudden step to the gateand there--Her brighthair blown about the serious faceYetrosy-kindled with her brother's kiss--Paused bythe gatewaystanding near the shieldInsilencewhile she watched their arms far-offSparkleuntil they dipt below the downs.Then toher tower she climbedand took the shieldThere keptitand so lived in fantasy.
Meanwhile the new companions past awayFar o'erthe long backs of the bushless downsTo whereSir Lancelot knew there lived a knightNot farfrom Camelotnow for forty yearsA hermitwho had prayedlaboured and prayedAnd everlabouring had scooped himselfIn thewhite rock a chapel and a hallOn massivecolumnslike a shorecliff caveAnd cellsand chambers: all were fair and dry;The greenlight from the meadows underneathStruck upand lived along the milky roofs;And in themeadows tremulous aspen-treesAndpoplars made a noise of falling showers.Andthither wending there that night they bode.
But when the next day broke from undergroundAnd shotred fire and shadows through the caveThey roseheard massbroke fastand rode away:ThenLancelot saying'Hearbut hold my nameHiddenyou ride with Lancelot of the Lake'Abashedyoung Lavainewhose instant reverenceDearer totrue young hearts than their own praiseBut lefthim leave to stammer'Is it indeed?'And aftermuttering 'The great LancelotAt last hegot his breath and answered'OneOne have Iseen--that otherour liege lordThe dreadPendragonBritain's King of kingsOf whomthe people talk mysteriouslyHe will bethere--then were I stricken blindThatminuteI might say that I had seen.'
So spake Lavaineand when they reached the listsBy Camelotin the meadowlet his eyesRunthrough the peopled gallery which half roundLay like arainbow fallen upon the grassUntil theyfound the clear-faced Kingwho satRobed inred samiteeasily to be knownSince tohis crown the golden dragon clungAnd downhis robe the dragon writhed in goldAnd fromthe carven-work behind him creptTwodragons gildedsloping down to makeArms forhis chairwhile all the rest of themThroughknots and loops and folds innumerableFled everthrough the woodworktill they foundThe newdesign wherein they lost themselvesYet withall easeso tender was the work:Andinthe costly canopy o'er him setBlazed thelast diamond of the nameless king.
Then Lancelot answered young Lavaine and said'Me youcall great: mine is the firmer seatThe truerlance: but there is many a youthNowcrescentwho will come to all I amAndovercome it; and in me there dwellsNogreatnesssave it be some far-off touchOfgreatness to know well I am not great:There isthe man.' And Lavaine gaped upon himAs on athing miraculousand anonThetrumpets blew; and then did either sideThey thatassailedand they that held the listsSet lancein reststrike spursuddenly moveMeet inthe midstand there so furiouslyShockthat a man far-off might well perceiveIf any manthat day were left afieldThe hardearth shakeand a low thunder of arms.AndLancelot bode a littletill he sawWhich werethe weaker; then he hurled into itAgainstthe stronger: little need to speakOfLancelot in his glory! KingdukeearlCountbaron--whom he smotehe overthrew.
But in the field were Lancelot's kith and kinRangedwith the Table Round that held the listsStrongmenand wrathful that a stranger knightShould doand almost overdo the deedsOfLancelot; and one said to the other'Lo!What ishe? I do not mean the force alone--The graceand versatility of the man!Is it notLancelot?' 'When has Lancelot wornFavour ofany lady in the lists?Not suchhis wontas wethat know himknow.''How then?who then?' a fury seized them allA fieryfamily passion for the nameOfLancelotand a glory one with theirs.Theycouched their spears and pricked their steedsand thusTheirplumes driven backward by the wind they madeIn movingall together down upon himBareas awild wave in the wide North-seaGreen-glimmeringtoward the summitbearswith allIts stormycrests that smoke against the skiesDown on abarkand overbears the barkAnd himthat helms itso they overboreSirLancelot and his chargerand a spearDown-glancinglamed the chargerand a spearPrickedsharply his own cuirassand the headPiercedthrough his sideand there snaptand remained.
Then Sir Lavaine did well and worshipfully;He bore aknight of old repute to the earthAndbrought his horse to Lancelot where he lay.He up thesidesweating with agonygotButthought to do while he might yet endureAnd beinglustily holpen by the restHisparty--though it seemed half-miracleTo thosehe fought with--drave his kith and kinAnd allthe Table Round that held the listsBack tothe barrier; then the trumpets blewProclaiminghis the prizewho wore the sleeveOfscarletand the pearls; and all the knightsHis partycried 'Advance and take thy prizeThediamond;' but he answered'Diamond meNodiamonds! for God's lovea little air!Prize meno prizesfor my prize is death!Hence willIand I charge youfollow me not.'
He spokeand vanished suddenly from the fieldWith youngLavaine into the poplar grove.There fromhis charger down he slidand satGasping toSir Lavaine'Draw the lance-head:''Ah mysweet lord Sir Lancelot' said Lavaine'I dreadmeif I draw ityou will die.'But he'Idie already with it: draw--Draw'--andLavaine drewand Sir Lancelot gaveAmarvellous great shriek and ghastly groanAnd halfhis blood burst forthand down he sankFor thepure painand wholly swooned away.Then camethe hermit out and bare him inTherestanched his wound; and therein daily doubtWhether tolive or diefor many a weekHid fromthe wide world's rumour by the groveOf poplarswith their noise of falling showersAndever-tremulous aspen-treeshe lay.
But on that day when Lancelot fled the listsHis partyknights of utmost North and WestLords ofwaste marcheskings of desolate islesCame roundtheir great Pendragonsaying to him'LoSireour knightthrough whom we won the dayHath gonesore woundedand hath left his prizeUntakencrying that his prize is death.''Heavenhinder' said the King'that such an oneSo great aknight as we have seen today--He seemedto me another Lancelot--Yeatwenty times I thought him Lancelot--He mustnot pass uncared for. WhereforeriseO Gawainand ride forth and find the knight.Woundedand wearied needs must he be near.I chargeyou that you get at once to horse.Andknights and kingsthere breathes not one of youWill deemthis prize of ours is rashly given:Hisprowess was too wondrous. We will do himNocustomary honour: since the knightCame notto usof us to claim the prizeOurselveswill send it after. Rise and takeThisdiamondand deliver itand returnAnd bringus where he isand how he faresAnd ceasenot from your quest until ye find.'
So sayingfrom the carven flower aboveTo whichit made a restless hearthe tookAnd gavethe diamond: then from where he satAtArthur's rightwith smiling face aroseWithsmiling face and frowning hearta PrinceIn the midmight and flourish of his MayGawainsurnamed The Courteousfair and strongAnd afterLancelotTristramand GeraintAndGaretha good knightbut therewithalSirModred's brotherand the child of LotNor oftenloyal to his wordand nowWroth thatthe King's command to sally forthIn questof whom he knew notmade him leaveThebanquetand concourse of knights and kings.
So all in wrath he got to horse and went;WhileArthur to the banquetdark in moodPastthinking 'Is it Lancelot who hath comeDespitethe wound he spake ofall for gainOf gloryand hath added wound to woundAnd riddenaway to die?' So feared the KingAndaftertwo days' tarriance therereturned.Then whenhe saw the Queenembracing asked'Loveareyou yet so sick?' 'Naylord' she said.'And whereis Lancelot?' Then the Queen amazed'Was henot with you? won he not your prize?''Naybutone like him.' 'Why that like was he.'And whenthe King demanded how she knewSaid'Lordno sooner had ye parted from usThanLancelot told me of a common talkThat menwent down before his spear at a touchButknowing he was Lancelot; his great nameConquered;and therefore would he hide his nameFrom allmeneven the Kingand to this endHad made apretext of a hindering woundThat hemight joust unknown of alland learnIf his oldprowess were in aught decayed;And added"Our true Arthurwhen he learnsWill wellallow me pretextas for gainOf purerglory."'
Then replied the King:'Farlovelier in our Lancelot had it beenIn lieu ofidly dallying with the truthTo havetrusted me as he hath trusted thee.Surely hisKing and most familiar friendMight wellhave kept his secret. TrueindeedAlbeit Iknow my knights fantasticalSo fine afear in our large LancelotMust needshave moved my laughter: now remainsBut littlecause for laughter: his own kin--Ill newsmy Queenfor all who love himthis!--His kithand kinnot knowingset upon him;So that hewent sore wounded from the field:Yet goodnews too: for goodly hopes are mineThatLancelot is no more a lonely heart.He woreagainst his wontupon his helmA sleeveof scarletbroidered with great pearlsSomegentle maiden's gift.'
'Yealord' she said'Thy hopesare mine' and saying thatshe chokedAndsharply turned about to hide her facePast toher chamberand there flung herselfDown onthe great King's couchand writhed upon itAndclenched her fingers till they bit the palmAndshrieked out 'Traitor' to the unhearing wallThenflashed into wild tearsand rose againAnd movedabout her palaceproud and pale.
Gawain the while through all the region roundRode withhis diamondwearied of the questTouched atall pointsexcept the poplar groveAnd cameat lastthough lateto Astolat:Whomglittering in enamelled arms the maidGlancedatand cried'What news from Camelotlord?What ofthe knight with the red sleeve?' 'He won.''I knewit' she said. 'But parted from the joustsHurt inthe side' whereat she caught her breath;Throughher own side she felt the sharp lance go;Thereonshe smote her hand: wellnigh she swooned:Andwhilehe gazed wonderingly at hercameThe Lordof Astolat outto whom the PrinceReportedwho he wasand on what questSentthathe bore the prize and could not findThevictorbut had ridden a random roundTo seekhimand had wearied of the search.To whomthe Lord of Astolat'Bide with usAnd rideno more at randomnoble Prince!Here wasthe knightand here he left a shield;This willhe send or come for: furthermoreOur son iswith him; we shall hear anonNeeds musthear.' To this the courteous PrinceAccordedwith his wonted courtesyCourtesywith a touch of traitor in itAndstayed; and cast his eyes on fair Elaine:Wherecould be found face daintier? then her shapeFromforehead down to footperfect--againFrom footto forehead exquisitely turned:'Well--ifI bidelo! this wild flower for me!'And oftthey met among the garden yewsAnd therehe set himself to play upon herWithsallying witfree flashes from a heightAbove hergraces of the courtand songsSighsandslow smilesand golden eloquenceAndamorous adulationtill the maidRebelledagainst itsaying to him'PrinceO loyalnephew of our noble KingWhy askyou not to see the shield he leftWhence youmight learn his name? Why slight your KingAnd losethe quest he sent you onand proveNo surerthan our falcon yesterdayWho lostthe hern we slipt her atand wentTo all thewinds?' 'Nayby mine head' said he'I loseitas we lose the lark in heavenO damselin the light of your blue eyes;But an yewill it let me see the shield.'And whenthe shield was broughtand Gawain sawSirLancelot's azure lionscrowned with goldRamp inthe fieldhe smote his thighand mocked:'Right wasthe King! our Lancelot! that true man!''And rightwas I' she answered merrily'IWhodreamed my knight the greatest knight of all.''And if Idreamed' said Gawain'that you loveThisgreatest knightyour pardon! loye know it!Speaktherefore: shall I waste myself in vain?'Fullsimple was her answer'What know I?Mybrethren have been all my fellowship;And Iwhen often they have talked of loveWished ithad been my motherfor they talkedMeseemedof what they knew not; so myself--I know notif I know what true love isBut if Iknowthenif I love not himI knowthere is none other I can love.''YeabyGod's death' said he'ye love him wellBut wouldnotknew ye what all others knowAnd whomhe loves.' 'So be it' cried ElaineAnd liftedher fair face and moved away:But hepursued hercalling'Stay a little!One goldenminute's grace! he wore your sleeve:Would hebreak faith with one I may not name?Must ourtrue man change like a leaf at last?Nay--likeenow: why thenfar be it from meTo crossour mighty Lancelot in his loves!Anddamselfor I deem you know full wellWhere yourgreat knight is hiddenlet me leaveMy questwith you; the diamond also: here!For if youloveit will be sweet to give it;And if heloveit will be sweet to have itFrom yourown hand; and whether he love or notA diamondis a diamond. Fare you wellA thousandtimes!--a thousand times farewell!Yetif heloveand his love holdwe twoMay meetat court hereafter: thereI thinkSo ye willlearn the courtesies of the courtWe twoshall know each other.'
Then he gaveAndslightly kissed the hand to which he gaveThediamondand all wearied of the questLeapt onhis horseand carolling as he wentAtrue-love balladlightly rode away.
Thence to the court he past; there told the KingWhat theKing knew'Sir Lancelot is the knight.'And added'Siremy liegeso much I learnt;But failedto find himthough I rode all roundTheregion: but I lighted on the maidWhosesleeve he wore; she loves him; and to herDeemingour courtesy is the truest lawI gave thediamond: she will render it;For bymine head she knows his hiding-place.'
The seldom-frowning King frownedand replied'Toocourteous truly! ye shall go no moreOn questof mineseeing that ye forgetObedienceis the courtesy due to kings.'
He spake and parted. Wrothbut all in aweFor twentystrokes of the bloodwithout a wordLingeredthat otherstaring after him;Then shookhis hairstrode offand buzzed abroadAbout themaid of Astolatand her love.All earswere pricked at onceall tongues were loosed:'The maidof Astolat loves Sir LancelotSirLancelot loves the maid of Astolat.'Some readthe King's facesome the Queen'sand allHad marvelwhat the maid might bebut mostPredoomedher as unworthy. One old dameCamesuddenly on the Queen with the sharp news.Shethathad heard the noise of it beforeButsorrowing Lancelot should have stooped so lowMarred herfriend's aim with pale tranquillity.So ran thetale like fire about the courtFire indry stubble a nine-days' wonder flared:Till eventhe knights at banquet twice or thriceForgot todrink to Lancelot and the QueenAndpledging Lancelot and the lily maidSmiled ateach otherwhile the Queenwho satWith lipsseverely placidfelt the knotClimb inher throatand with her feet unseenCrushedthe wild passion out against the floorBeneaththe banquetwhere all the meats becameAswormwoodand she hated all who pledged.
But far away the maid in AstolatHerguiltless rivalshe that ever keptTheone-day-seen Sir Lancelot in her heartCrept toher fatherwhile he mused aloneSat on hiskneestroked his gray face and said'Fatheryou call me wilfuland the faultIs yourswho let me have my willand nowSweetfatherwill you let me lose my wits?''Nay'said he'surely.' 'Whereforelet me hence'Sheanswered'and find out our dear Lavaine.''Ye willnot lose your wits for dear Lavaine:Bide'answered he: 'we needs must hear anonOf himand of that other.' 'Ay' she said'And ofthat otherfor I needs must henceAnd findthat otherwheresoe'er he beAnd withmine own hand give his diamond to himLest I befound as faithless in the questAs yonproud Prince who left the quest to me.SweetfatherI behold him in my dreamsGaunt asit were the skeleton of himselfDeath-palefor lack of gentle maiden's aid.Thegentler-born the maidenthe more boundMy fatherto be sweet and serviceableTo nobleknights in sicknessas ye knowWhen thesehave worn their tokens: let me henceI prayyou.' Then her father nodding said'Ayaythe diamond: wit ye wellmy childRight fainwere I to learn this knight were wholeBeing ourgreatest: yeaand you must give it--And sure Ithink this fruit is hung too highFor anymouth to gape for save a queen's--NayImean nothing: so thenget you goneBeing sovery wilful you must go.'
Lightlyher suit allowedshe slipt awayAnd whileshe made her ready for her rideHerfather's latest word hummed in her ear'Being sovery wilful you must go'Andchanged itself and echoed in her heart'Being sovery wilful you must die.'But shewas happy enough and shook it offAs weshake off the bee that buzzes at us;And in herheart she answered it and said'Whatmatterso I help him back to life?'Then faraway with good Sir Torre for guideRode o'erthe long backs of the bushless downsToCamelotand before the city-gatesCame onher brother with a happy faceMaking aroan horse caper and curvetForpleasure all about a field of flowers:Whom whenshe saw'Lavaine' she cried'LavaineHow faresmy lord Sir Lancelot?' He amazed'Torre andElaine! why here? Sir Lancelot!How knowye my lord's name is Lancelot?'But whenthe maid had told him all her taleThenturned Sir Torreand being in his moodsLeft themand under the strange-statued gateWhereArthur's wars were rendered mysticallyPast upthe still rich city to his kinHis ownfar bloodwhich dwelt at Camelot;And herLavaine across the poplar groveLed to thecaves: there first she saw the casqueOfLancelot on the wall: her scarlet sleeveThoughcarved and cutand half the pearls awayStreamedfrom it still; and in her heart she laughedBecause hehad not loosed it from his helmBut meantonce more perchance to tourney in it.And whenthey gained the cell wherein he sleptHisbattle-writhen arms and mighty handsLay nakedon the wolfskinand a dreamOfdragging down his enemy made them move.Then shethat saw him lying unsleekunshornGaunt asit were the skeleton of himselfUttered alittle tender dolorous cry.The soundnot wonted in a place so stillWoke thesick knightand while he rolled his eyesYet blankfrom sleepshe started to himsaying'Yourprize the diamond sent you by the King:'His eyesglistened: she fancied 'Is it for me?'And whenthe maid had told him all the taleOf Kingand Princethe diamond sentthe questAssignedto her not worthy of itshe kneltFull lowlyby the corners of his bedAnd laidthe diamond in his open hand.Her facewas nearand as we kiss the childThat doesthe task assignedhe kissed her face.At onceshe slipt like water to the floor.'Alas' hesaid'your ride hath wearied you.Rest mustyou have.' 'No rest for me' she said;'Nayfornear youfair lordI am at rest.'What mightshe mean by that? his large black eyesYet largerthrough his leannessdwelt upon herTill allher heart's sad secret blazed itselfIn theheart's colours on her simple face;AndLancelot looked and was perplext in mindAnd beingweak in body said no more;But didnot love the colour; woman's loveSave onehe not regardedand so turnedSighingand feigned a sleep until he slept.
Then rose Elaine and glided through the fieldsAnd pastbeneath the weirdly-sculptured gatesFar up thedim rich city to her kin;There bodethe night: but woke with dawnand pastDownthrough the dim rich city to the fieldsThence tothe cave: so day by day she pastIn eithertwilight ghost-like to and froGlidingand every day she tended himAndlikewise many a night: and LancelotWouldthough he called his wound a little hurtWhereof heshould be quickly wholeat timesBrain-feverousin his heat and agonyseemUncourteouseven he: but the meek maidSweetlyforbore him everbeing to himMeekerthan any child to a rough nurseMilderthan any mother to a sick childAnd neverwoman yetsince man's first fallDidkindlier unto manbut her deep loveUpboreher; till the hermitskilled in allThesimples and the science of that timeTold himthat her fine care had saved his life.And thesick man forgot her simple blushWould callher friend and sistersweet ElaineWouldlisten for her coming and regretHerparting stepand held her tenderlyAnd lovedher with all love except the loveOf man andwoman when they love their bestClosestand sweetestand had died the deathIn anyknightly fashion for her sake.Andperadventure had he seen her firstShe mighthave made this and that other worldAnotherworld for the sick man; but nowTheshackles of an old love straitened himHis honourrooted in dishonour stoodAnd faithunfaithful kept him falsely true.
Yet the great knight in his mid-sickness madeFull manya holy vow and pure resolve.Theseasbut born of sicknesscould not live:For whenthe blood ran lustier in him againFull oftenthe bright image of one faceMaking atreacherous quiet in his heartDispersedhis resolution like a cloud.Then ifthe maidenwhile that ghostly graceBeamed onhis fancyspokehe answered notOr shortand coldlyand she knew right wellWhat therough sickness meantbut what this meantShe knewnotand the sorrow dimmed her sightAnd draveher ere her time across the fieldsFar intothe rich citywhere aloneShemurmured'Vainin vain: it cannot be.He willnot love me: how then? must I die?'Then as alittle helpless innocent birdThat hasbut one plain passage of few notesWill singthe simple passage o'er and o'erFor all anApril morningtill the earWearies tohear itso the simple maidWent halfthe night repeating'Must I die?'And now toright she turnedand now to leftAnd foundno ease in turning or in rest;And 'Himor death' she muttered'death or him'Again andlike a burthen'Him or death.'
But when Sir Lancelot's deadly hurt was wholeTo Astolatreturning rode the three.There mornby mornarraying her sweet selfIn thatwherein she deemed she looked her bestShe camebefore Sir Lancelotfor she thought'If I belovedthese are my festal robesIf notthe victim's flowers before he fall.'AndLancelot ever prest upon the maidThat sheshould ask some goodly gift of himFor herown self or hers; 'and do not shunTo speakthe wish most near to your true heart;Suchservice have ye done methat I makeMy will ofyoursand Prince and Lord am IIn mineown landand what I will I can.'Then likea ghost she lifted up her faceBut like aghost without the power to speak.AndLancelot saw that she withheld her wishAnd bodeamong them yet a little spaceTill heshould learn it; and one morn it chancedHe foundher in among the garden yewsAnd said'Delay no longerspeak your wishSeeing Igo today:' then out she brake:'Going?and we shall never see you more.And I mustdie for want of one bold word.''Speak: that I live to hear' he said'is yours.'Thensuddenly and passionately she spoke:'I havegone mad. I love you: let me die.''Ahsister' answered Lancelot'what is this?'Andinnocently extending her white arms'Yourlove' she said'your love--to be your wife.'AndLancelot answered'Had I chosen to wedI had beenwedded earliersweet Elaine:But nowthere never will be wife of mine.''Nono'she cried'I care not to be wifeBut to bewith you stillto see your faceTo serveyouand to follow you through the world.'AndLancelot answered'Naythe worldthe worldAll earand eyewith such a stupid heartTointerpret ear and eyeand such a tongueTo blareits own interpretation--nayFull illthen should I quit your brother's loveAnd yourgood father's kindness.' And she said'Not to bewith younot to see your face--Alas forme thenmy good days are done.''Naynoble maid' he answered'ten times nay!This isnot love: but love's first flash in youthMostcommon: yeaI know it of mine own self:And youyourself will smile at your own selfHereafterwhen you yield your flower of lifeTo onemore fitly yoursnot thrice your age:And thenwill Ifor true you are and sweetBeyondmine old belief in womanhoodMorespecially should your good knight be poorEndow youwith broad land and territoryEven tothe half my realm beyond the seasSo thatwould make you happy: furthermoreEven tothe deathas though ye were my bloodIn allyour quarrels will I be your knight.This Iwill dodear damselfor your sakeAnd morethan this I cannot.'
While he spokeSheneither blushed nor shookbut deathly-paleStoodgrasping what was nearestthen replied:'Of allthis will I nothing;' and so fellAnd thusthey bore her swooning to her tower.
Then spaketo whom through those black walls of yewTheir talkhad piercedher father: 'Aya flashI fear methat will strike my blossom dead.Toocourteous are yefair Lord Lancelot.I prayyouuse some rough discourtesyTo bluntor break her passion.'
Lancelot said'That wereagainst me: what I can I will;'And therethat day remainedand toward evenSent forhis shield: full meekly rose the maidStript offthe caseand gave the naked shield;Thenwhenshe heard his horse upon the stonesUnclaspingflung the casement backand lookedDown onhis helmfrom which her sleeve had gone.AndLancelot knew the little clinking sound;And she bytact of love was well awareThatLancelot knew that she was looking at him.And yet heglanced not upnor waved his handNor badfarewellbut sadly rode away.This wasthe one discourtesy that he used.
So in her tower alone the maiden sat:His veryshield was gone; only the caseHer ownpoor workher empty labourleft.But stillshe heard himstill his picture formedAnd grewbetween her and the pictured wall.Then cameher fathersaying in low tones'Havecomfort' whom she greeted quietly.Then cameher brethren saying'Peace to theeSweetsister' whom she answered with all calm.But whenthey left her to herself againDeathlike a friend's voice from a distant fieldApproachingthrough the darknesscalled; the owlsWailinghad power upon herand she mixtHerfancies with the sallow-rifted gloomsOfeveningand the moanings of the wind.
And in those days she made a little songAnd calledher song 'The Song of Love and Death'And sangit: sweetly could she make and sing.
'Sweet is true love though given in vainin vain;And sweetis death who puts an end to pain:I know notwhich is sweeternonot I.
'Loveart thou sweet? then bitter death must be:Lovethouart bitter; sweet is death to me.O Loveifdeath be sweeterlet me die.
'Sweet lovethat seems not made to fade awaySweetdeaththat seems to make us loveless clayI know notwhich is sweeternonot I.
'I fain would follow loveif that could be;I needsmust follow deathwho calls for me;Call and IfollowI follow! let me die.'
High with the last line scaled her voiceand thisAll in afiery dawning wild with windThat shookher towerthe brothers heardand thoughtWithshuddering'Hark the Phantom of the houseThat evershrieks before a death' and calledThefatherand all three in hurry and fearRan toherand lo! the blood-red light of dawnFlared onher faceshe shrilling'Let me die!'
As when we dwell upon a word we knowRepeatingtill the word we know so wellBecomes awonderand we know not whySo dweltthe father on her faceand thought'Is thisElaine?' till back the maiden fellThen gavea languid hand to eachand laySpeaking astill good-morrow with her eyes.At lastshe said'Sweet brothersyesternightI seemed acurious little maid againAs happyas when we dwelt among the woodsAnd whenye used to take me with the floodUp thegreat river in the boatman's boat.Only yewould not pass beyond the capeThat hasthe poplar on it: there ye fixtYourlimitoft returning with the tide.And yet Icried because ye would not passBeyond itand far up the shining floodUntil wefound the palace of the King.And yet yewould not; but this night I dreamedThat I wasall alone upon the floodAnd then Isaid"Now shall I have my will:"And thereI wokebut still the wish remained.So let mehence that I may pass at lastBeyond thepoplar and far up the floodUntil Ifind the palace of the King.There willI enter in among them allAnd no manthere will dare to mock at me;But therethe fine Gawain will wonder at meAnd therethe great Sir Lancelot muse at me;Gawainwho bad a thousand farewells to meLancelotwho coldly wentnor bad me one:And therethe King will know me and my loveAnd therethe Queen herself will pity meAnd allthe gentle court will welcome meAnd aftermy long voyage I shall rest!'
'Peace' said her father'O my childye seemLight-headedfor what force is yours to goSo farbeing sick? and wherefore would ye lookOn thisproud fellow againwho scorns us all?'
Then the rough Torre began to heave and moveAndbluster into stormy sobs and say'I neverloved him: an I meet with himI care nothowsoever great he beThen willI strike at him and strike him downGive megood fortuneI will strike him deadFor thisdiscomfort he hath done the house.'
To whom the gentle sister made reply'Fret notyourselfdear brothernor be wrothSeeing itis no more Sir Lancelot's faultNot tolove methan it is mine to loveHim of allmen who seems to me the highest.'
'Highest?' the father answeredechoing 'highest?'(He meantto break the passion in her) 'nayDaughterI know not what you call the highest;But this Iknowfor all the people know itHe lovesthe Queenand in an open shame:And shereturns his love in open shame;If this behighwhat is it to be low?'
Then spake the lily maid of Astolat:'Sweetfatherall too faint and sick am IForanger: these are slanders: never yetWas nobleman but made ignoble talk.He makesno friend who never made a foe.But now itis my glory to have lovedOnepeerlesswithout stain: so let me passMy fatherhowsoe'er I seem to youNot allunhappyhaving loved God's bestAndgreatestthough my love had no return:Yetseeing you desire your child to liveThanksbut you work against your own desire;For if Icould believe the things you sayI shouldbut die the sooner; wherefore ceaseSweetfatherand bid call the ghostly manHitherand let me shrive me cleanand die.'
So when the ghostly man had come and goneShe with afacebright as for sin forgivenBesoughtLavaine to write as she devisedA letterword for word; and when he asked'Is it forLancelotis it for my dear lord?Then willI bear it gladly;' she replied'ForLancelot and the Queen and all the worldBut Imyself must bear it.' Then he wroteThe lettershe devised; which being writAndfolded'O sweet fathertender and trueDeny menot' she said--'ye never yetDenied myfancies--thishowever strangeMylatest: lay the letter in my handA littleere I dieand close the handUpon it; Ishall guard it even in death.And whenthe heat is gone from out my heartThen takethe little bed on which I diedForLancelot's loveand deck it like the Queen'sForrichnessand me also like the QueenIn all Ihave of richand lay me on it.And letthere be prepared a chariot-bierTo take meto the riverand a bargeBe readyon the riverclothed in black.I go instate to courtto meet the Queen.Theresurely I shall speak for mine own selfAnd noneof you can speak for me so well.Andtherefore let our dumb old man aloneGo withmehe can steer and rowand heWill guideme to that palaceto the doors.'
She ceased: her father promised; whereuponShe grewso cheerful that they deemed her deathWas ratherin the fantasy than the blood.But tenslow mornings pastand on the eleventhHer fatherlaid the letter in her handAnd closedthe hand upon itand she died.So thatday there was dole in Astolat.
But when the next sun brake from undergroundThenthose two brethren slowly with bent browsAccompanyingthe sad chariot-bierPast likea shadow through the fieldthat shoneFull-summerto that stream whereon the bargePalled allits length in blackest samitelay.There satthe lifelong creature of the houseLoyalthedumb old servitoron deckWinkinghis eyesand twisted all his face.So thosetwo brethren from the chariot tookAnd on theblack decks laid her in her bedSet in herhand a lilyo'er her hungThe silkencase with braided blazoningsAnd kissedher quiet browsand saying to her'Sisterfarewell for ever' and again'Farewellsweet sister' parted all in tears.Then rosethe dumb old servitorand the deadOared bythe dumbwent upward with the flood--In herright hand the lilyin her leftTheletter--all her bright hair streaming down--And allthe coverlid was cloth of goldDrawn toher waistand she herself in whiteAll buther faceand that clear-featured faceWaslovelyfor she did not seem as deadBut fastasleepand lay as though she smiled.
That day Sir Lancelot at the palace cravedAudienceof Guinevereto give at lastThe priceof half a realmhis costly giftHard-wonand hardly won with bruise and blowWithdeaths of othersand almost his ownThenine-years-fought-for diamonds: for he sawOne of herhouseand sent him to the QueenBearinghis wishwhereto the Queen agreedWith suchand so unmoved a majestyShe mighthave seemed her statuebut that heLow-droopingtill he wellnigh kissed her feetFor loyalawesaw with a sidelong eyeThe shadowof some piece of pointed laceIn theQueen's shadowvibrate on the wallsAndpartedlaughing in his courtly heart.
All in an oriel on the summer sideVine-cladof Arthur's palace toward the streamThey metand Lancelot kneeling uttered'QueenLadymyliegein whom I have my joyTakewhatI had not won except for youThesejewelsand make me happymaking themAn armletfor the roundest arm on earthOrnecklace for a neck to which the swan'sIs tawnierthan her cygnet's: these are words:Yourbeauty is your beautyand I sinInspeakingyet O grant my worship of itWordsaswe grant grief tears. Such sin in wordsPerchancewe both can pardon: butmy QueenI hear ofrumours flying through your court.Our bondas not the bond of man and wifeShouldhave in it an absoluter trustTo make upthat defect: let rumours be:When didnot rumours fly? theseas I trustThat youtrust me in your own noblenessI may notwell believe that you believe.'
While thus he spokehalf turned awaythe QueenBrake fromthe vast oriel-embowering vineLeaf afterleafand toreand cast them offTill allthe place whereon she stood was green;Thenwhenhe ceasedin one cold passive handReceivedat once and laid aside the gemsThere on atable near herand replied:
'It may beI am quicker of beliefThan youbelieve meLancelot of the Lake.Our bondis not the bond of man and wife.This goodis in itwhatsoe'er of illIt can bebroken easier. I for youThis manya year have done despite and wrongTo onewhom ever in my heart of heartsI didacknowledge nobler. What are these?Diamondsfor me! they had been thrice their worthBeing yourgifthad you not lost your own.To loyalhearts the value of all giftsMust varyas the giver's. Not for me!For her!for your new fancy. Only thisGrant meI pray you: have your joys apart.I doubtnot that however changedyou keepSo much ofwhat is graceful: and myselfWould shunto break those bounds of courtesyIn whichas Arthur's Queen I move and rule:So cannotspeak my mind. An end to this!A strangeone! yet I take it with Amen.So prayyouadd my diamonds to her pearls;Deck herwith these; tell hershe shines me down:An armletfor an arm to which the Queen'sIshaggardor a necklace for a neckO as muchfairer--as a faith once fairWas richerthan these diamonds--hers not mine--Naybythe mother of our Lord himselfOr hers orminemine now to work my will--She shallnot have them.'
Saying which she seizedAndthrough the casement standing wide for heatFlungthemand down they flashedand smote the stream.Then fromthe smitten surface flashedas it wereDiamondsto meet themand they past away.Then whileSir Lancelot leantin half disdainAt lovelifeall thingson the window ledgeCloseunderneath his eyesand right acrossWherethese had fallenslowly past the barge.Whereonthe lily maid of AstolatLaysmilinglike a star in blackest night.
But the wild Queenwho saw notburst awayTo weepand wail in secret; and the bargeOn to thepalace-doorway slidingpaused.There twostood armedand kept the door; to whomAll up themarble stairtier over tierWere addedmouths that gapedand eyes that asked'What isit?' but that oarsman's haggard faceAs hardand still as is the face that menShape totheir fancy's eye from broken rocksOn somecliff-sideappalled themand they said'He isenchantedcannot speak--and sheLook howshe sleeps--the Fairy Queenso fair!Yeabuthow pale! what are they? flesh and blood?Or come totake the King to Fairyland?For somedo hold our Arthur cannot dieBut thathe passes into Fairyland.'
While thus they babbled of the Kingthe KingCame girtwith knights: then turned the tongueless manFrom thehalf-face to the full eyeand roseAndpointed to the damseland the doors.So Arthurbad the meek Sir PercivaleAnd pureSir Galahad to uplift the maid;Andreverently they bore her into hall.Then camethe fine Gawain and wondered at herAndLancelot later came and mused at herAnd lastthe Queen herselfand pitied her:But Arthurspied the letter in her handStoopttookbrake sealand read it; this was all:
'Most noble lordSir Lancelot of the LakeIsometime called the maid of AstolatComeforyou left me taking no farewellHithertotake my last farewell of you.I lovedyouand my love had no returnAndtherefore my true love has been my death.Andtherefore to our Lady GuinevereAnd to allother ladiesI make moan:Pray formy souland yield me burial.Pray formy soul thou tooSir LancelotAs thouart a knight peerless.'
Thus he read;And everin the readinglords and damesWeptlooking often from his face who readTo herswhich lay so silentand at timesSo touchedwere theyhalf-thinking that her lipsWho haddevised the lettermoved again.
Then freely spoke Sir Lancelot to them all:'My lordliege Arthurand all ye that hearKnow thatfor this most gentle maiden's deathRightheavy am I; for good she was and trueBut lovedme with a love beyond all loveIn womenwhomsoever I have known.Yet to beloved makes not to love again;Not at myyearshowever it hold in youth.I swear bytruth and knighthood that I gaveNo causenot willinglyfor such a love:To this Icall my friends in testimonyHerbrethrenand her fatherwho himselfBesoughtme to be plain and bluntand useTo breakher passionsome discourtesyAgainst mynature: what I couldI did.I left herand I bad her no farewell;Thoughhad I dreamt the damsel would have diedI mighthave put my wits to some rough useAnd helpedher from herself.'
Then said the Queen(Sea washer wrathyet working after storm)'Ye mightat least have done her so much graceFair lordas would have helped her from her death.'He raisedhis headtheir eyes met and hers fellHe adding 'Queenshe would not be contentSave thatI wedded herwhich could not be.Then mightshe follow me through the worldshe asked;It couldnot be. I told her that her loveWas butthe flash of youthwould darken downTo risehereafter in a stiller flameToward onemore worthy of her--then would IMorespecially were heshe weddedpoorEstatethem with large land and territoryIn mineown realm beyond the narrow seasTo keepthem in all joyance: more than thisI couldnot; this she would notand she died.'
He pausingArthur answered'O my knightIt will beto thy worshipas my knightAnd mineas head of all our Table RoundTo seethat she be buried worshipfully.'
So toward that shrine which then in all the realmWasrichestArthur leadingslowly wentThemarshalled Order of their Table RoundAndLancelot sad beyond his wontto seeThe maidenburiednot as one unknownNormeanlybut with gorgeous obsequiesAnd massand rolling musiclike a queen.And whenthe knights had laid her comely headLow in thedust of half-forgotten kingsThenArthur spake among them'Let her tombBe costlyand her image thereuponAnd letthe shield of Lancelot at her feetBe carvenand her lily in her hand.And letthe story of her dolorous voyageFor alltrue hearts be blazoned on her tombIn lettersgold and azure!' which was wroughtThereafter;but when now the lords and damesAndpeoplefrom the high door streamingbrakeDisorderlyas homeward eachthe QueenWho markedSir Lancelot where he moved apartDrew nearand sighed in passing'LancelotForgiveme; mine was jealousy in love.'Heanswered with his eyes upon the ground'That islove's curse; pass onmy Queenforgiven.'ButArthurwho beheld his cloudy browsApproachedhimand with full affection said
'Lancelotmy Lancelotthou in whom I haveMost joyand most affiancefor I knowWhat thouhast been in battle by my sideAnd many atime have watched thee at the tiltStrikedown the lusty and long practised knightAnd letthe younger and unskilled go byTo win hishonour and to make his nameAnd lovedthy courtesies and theea manMade to beloved; but now I would to GodSeeing thehomeless trouble in thine eyesThoucouldst have loved this maidenshapedit seemsBy God forthee aloneand from her faceIf one mayjudge the living by the deadDelicatelypure and marvellously fairWho mighthave brought theenow a lonely manWifelessand heirlessnoble issuesonsBorn tothe glory of thine name and fameMy knightthe great Sir Lancelot of the Lake.'
Then answered Lancelot'Fair she wasmy KingPureasyou ever wish your knights to be.To doubther fairness were to want an eyeTo doubther pureness were to want a heart--Yeato belovedif what is worthy loveCould bindhimbut free love will not be bound.'
'Free loveso boundwere freest' said the King.'Let lovebe free; free love is for the best:Andafterheavenon our dull side of deathWhatshould be bestif not so pure a loveClothed inso pure a loveliness? yet theeShe failedto bindthough beingas I thinkUnbound asyetand gentleas I know.'
And Lancelot answered nothingbut he wentAnd at theinrunning of a little brookSat by theriver in a coveand watchedThe highreed waveand lifted up his eyesAnd sawthe barge that brought her moving downFar-offablot upon the streamand saidLow inhimself'Ah simple heart and sweetYe lovedmedamselsurely with a loveFartenderer than my Queen's. Pray for thy soul?Aythatwill I. Farewell too--now at last--Farewellfair lily. "Jealousy in love?"Not ratherdead love's harsh heirjealous pride?QueenifI grant the jealousy as of loveMay notyour crescent fear for name and fameSpeakasit waxesof a love that wanes?Why didthe King dwell on my name to me?Mine ownname shames meseeming a reproachLancelotwhom the Lady of the LakeCaughtfrom his mother's arms--the wondrous oneWho passesthrough the vision of the night--Shechanted snatches of mysterious hymnsHeard onthe winding waterseve and mornShe kissedme saying"Thou art fairmy childAs aking's son" and often in her armsShe baremepacing on the dusky mere.Would shehad drowned me in itwhere'er it be!For whatam I? what profits me my nameOfgreatest knight? I fought for itand have it:Pleasureto have itnone; to lose itpain;Now growna part of me: but what use in it?To makemen worse by making my sin known?Or sinseem lessthe sinner seeming great?Alas forArthur's greatest knighta manNot afterArthur's heart! I needs must breakThesebonds that so defame me: not withoutShe willsit: would Iif she willed it? nayWho knows?but if I would notthen may GodI prayhimsend a sudden Angel downTo seizeme by the hair and bear me farAnd flingme deep in that forgotten mereAmong thetumbled fragments of the hills.'
So groaned Sir Lancelot in remorseful painNotknowing he should die a holy man.
Fromnoiseful armsand acts of prowess doneIntournament or tiltSir PercivaleWhomArthur and his knighthood called The PureHad passedinto the silent life of prayerPraisefastand alms; and leaving for the cowlThe helmetin an abbey far awayFromCamelotthereand not long afterdied.
And onea fellow-monk among the restAmbrosiusloved him much beyond the restAndhonoured himand wrought into his heartA way bylove that wakened love withinTo answerthat which came: and as they satBeneath aworld-old yew-treedarkening halfThecloisterson a gustful April mornThatpuffed the swaying branches into smokeAbovethemere the summer when he diedThe monkAmbrosius questioned Percivale:
'O brotherI have seen this yew-tree smokeSpringafter springfor half a hundred years:For neverhave I known the world withoutNor everstrayed beyond the pale: but theeWhen firstthou camest--such a courtesySpakethrough the limbs and in the voice--I knewFor one ofthose who eat in Arthur's hall;For goodye are and badand like to coinsSome truesome lightbut every one of youStampedwith the image of the King; and nowTell mewhat drove thee from the Table RoundMybrother? was it earthly passion crost?'
'Nay' said the knight; 'for no such passion mine.But thesweet vision of the Holy GrailDrove mefrom all vaingloriesrivalriesAndearthly heats that spring and sparkle outAmong usin the joustswhile women watchWho winswho falls; and waste the spiritual strengthWithin usbetter offered up to Heaven.'
To whom the monk: 'The Holy Grail!--I trustWe aregreen in Heaven's eyes; but here too muchWemoulder--as to things without I mean--Yet one ofyour own knightsa guest of oursTold us ofthis in our refectoryBut spakewith such a sadness and so lowWe heardnot half of what he said. What is it?Thephantom of a cup that comes and goes?'
'Naymonk! what phantom?' answered Percivale.'The cupthe cup itselffrom which our LordDrank atthe last sad supper with his own.Thisfromthe blessed land of Aromat--After theday of darknesswhen the deadWentwandering o'er Moriah--the good saintArimathaeanJosephjourneying broughtToGlastonburywhere the winter thornBlossomsat Christmasmindful of our Lord.And thereawhile it bode; and if a manCouldtouch or see ithe was healed at onceBy faithof all his ills. But then the timesGrew tosuch evil that the holy cupWas caughtaway to Heavenand disappeared.'
To whom the monk: 'From our old books I knowThatJoseph came of old to GlastonburyAnd therethe heathen PrinceArviragusGave himan isle of marsh whereon to build;And therehe built with wattles from the marshA littlelonely church in days of yoreFor sothey saythese books of oursbut seemMute ofthis miraclefar as I have read.But whofirst saw the holy thing today?'
'A woman' answered Percivale'a nunAnd one nofurther off in blood from meThansister; and if ever holy maidWith kneesof adoration wore the stoneA holymaid; though never maiden glowedBut thatwas in her earlier maidenhoodWith sucha fervent flame of human loveWhichbeing rudely bluntedglanced and shotOnly toholy things; to prayer and praiseShe gaveherselfto fast and alms. And yetNun as shewasthe scandal of the CourtSinagainst Arthur and the Table RoundAnd thestrange sound of an adulterous raceAcross theiron grating of her cellBeatandshe prayed and fasted all the more.
'And he to whom she told her sinsor whatHer allbut utter whiteness held for sinA manwellnigh a hundred winters oldSpakeoften with her of the Holy GrailA legendhanded down through five or sixAnd eachof these a hundred winters oldFrom ourLord's time. And when King Arthur madeHis TableRoundand all men's hearts becameClean fora seasonsurely he had thoughtThat nowthe Holy Grail would come again;But sinbroke out. AhChristthat it would comeAnd healthe world of all their wickedness!"OFather!" asked the maiden"might it comeTo me byprayer and fasting?" "Nay" said he"Iknow notfor thy heart is pure as snow."And so sheprayed and fastedtill the sunShoneandthe wind blewthrough herand I thoughtShe mighthave risen and floated when I saw her.
'For on a day she sent to speak with me.And whenshe came to speakbehold her eyesBeyond myknowing of thembeautifulBeyond allknowing of themwonderfulBeautifulin the light of holiness.And "Omy brother Percivale" she said"SweetbrotherI have seen the Holy Grail:Forwakedat dead of nightI heard a soundAs of asilver horn from o'er the hillsBlownandI thought'It is not Arthur's useTo hunt bymoonlight;' and the slender soundAs from adistance beyond distance grewComingupon me--O never harp nor hornNor aughtwe blow with breathor touch with handWas likethat music as it came; and thenStreamedthrough my cell a cold and silver beamAnd downthe long beam stole the Holy GrailRose-redwith beatings in itas if aliveTill allthe white walls of my cell were dyedWith rosycolours leaping on the wall;And thenthe music fadedand the GrailPastandthe beam decayedand from the wallsThe rosyquiverings died into the night.So now theHoly Thing is here againAmong usbrotherfast thou too and prayAnd tellthy brother knights to fast and prayThat soperchance the vision may be seenBy theeand thoseand all the world be healed."
'Then leaving the pale nunI spake of thisTo allmen; and myself fasted and prayedAlwaysand many among us many a weekFasted andprayed even to the uttermostExpectantof the wonder that would be.
'And one there was among usever movedAmong usin white armourGalahad."Godmake thee good as thou art beautiful"SaidArthurwhen he dubbed him knight; and noneIn soyoung youthwas ever made a knightTillGalahad; and this Galahadwhen he heardMysister's visionfilled me with amaze;His eyesbecame so like her ownthey seemedHersandhimself her brother more than I.
'Sister or brother none had he; but someCalled hima son of Lancelotand some saidBegottenby enchantment--chatterers theyLike birdsof passage piping up and downThat gapefor flies--we know not whence they come;For whenwas Lancelot wanderingly lewd?
'But shethe wan sweet maidenshore awayClean fromher forehead all that wealth of hairWhich madea silken mat-work for her feet;And out ofthis she plaited broad and longA strongsword-beltand wove with silver threadAndcrimson in the belt a strange deviceA crimsongrail within a silver beam;And sawthe bright boy-knightand bound it on himSaying"My knightmy lovemy knight of heavenO thoumylovewhose love is one with mineImaidenround theemaidenbind my belt.Go forthfor thou shalt see what I have seenAnd breakthrough alltill one will crown thee kingFar in thespiritual city:" and as she spakeShe sentthe deathless passion in her eyesThroughhimand made him hersand laid her mindOn himand he believed in her belief.
'Then came a year of miracle: O brotherIn ourgreat hall there stood a vacant chairFashionedby Merlin ere he past awayAnd carvenwith strange figures; and in and outThefigureslike a serpentran a scrollOf lettersin a tongue no man could read.And Merlincalled it "The Siege perilous"Perilousfor good and ill; "for there" he said"Noman could sit but he should lose himself:"And onceby misadvertence Merlin satIn his ownchairand so was lost; but heGalahadwhen he heard of Merlin's doomCried"IfI lose myselfI save myself!"
'Then on a summer night it came to passWhile thegreat banquet lay along the hallThatGalahad would sit down in Merlin's chair.
'And all at onceas there we satwe heardA crackingand a riving of the roofsAndrendingand a blastand overheadThunderand in the thunder was a cry.And in theblast there smote along the hallA beam oflight seven times more clear than day:And downthe long beam stole the Holy GrailAll overcovered with a luminous cloud.And nonemight see who bare itand it past.But everyknight beheld his fellow's faceAs in agloryand all the knights aroseAndstaring each at other like dumb menStoodtill I found a voice and sware a vow.
'I sware a vow before them allthat IBecause Ihad not seen the Grailwould rideAtwelvemonth and a day in quest of itUntil Ifound and saw itas the nunMy sistersaw it; and Galahad sware the vowAnd goodSir Borsour Lancelot's cousinswareAndLancelot swareand many among the knightsAnd Gawainswareand louder than the rest.'
Then spake the monk Ambrosiusasking him'What saidthe King? Did Arthur take the vow?'
'Nayfor my lord' said Percivale'the KingWas not inhall: for early that same dayScapedthrough a cavern from a bandit holdAnoutraged maiden sprang into the hallCrying onhelp: for all her shining hairWassmeared with earthand either milky armRed-rentwith hooks of brambleand all she woreTorn as asail that leaves the rope is tornIntempest: so the King arose and wentTo smokethe scandalous hive of those wild beesThat madesuch honey in his realm. HowbeitSomelittle of this marvel he too sawReturningo'er the plain that then beganTo darkenunder Camelot; whence the KingLooked upcalling aloud"Lothere! the roofsOf ourgreat hall are rolled in thunder-smoke!PrayHeaventhey be not smitten by the bolt."For dearto Arthur was that hall of oursAs havingthere so oft with all his knightsFeastedand as the stateliest under heaven.
'O brotherhad you known our mighty hallWhichMerlin built for Arthur long ago!For allthe sacred mount of CamelotAnd allthe dim rich cityroof by roofTowerafter towerspire beyond spireBy groveand garden-lawnand rushing brookClimbs tothe mighty hall that Merlin built.And fourgreat zones of sculptureset betwixtWith manya mystic symbolgird the hall:And in thelowest beasts are slaying menAnd in thesecond men are slaying beastsAnd on thethird are warriorsperfect menAnd on thefourth are men with growing wingsAnd overall one statue in the mouldOf Arthurmade by Merlinwith a crownAnd peakedwings pointed to the Northern Star.Andeastward fronts the statueand the crownAnd boththe wings are made of goldand flameAt sunrisetill the people in far fieldsWasted sooften by the heathen hordesBehold itcrying"We have still a King."
'Andbrotherhad you known our hall withinBroaderand higher than any in all the lands!Wheretwelve great windows blazon Arthur's warsAnd allthe light that falls upon the boardStreamsthrough the twelve great battles of our King.Nayonethere isand at the eastern endWealthywith wandering lines of mount and mereWhereArthur finds the brand Excalibur.And alsoone to the westand counter to itAndblank: and who shall blazon it? when and how?--O thereperchancewhen all our wars are doneThe brandExcalibur will be cast away.
'So to this hall full quickly rode the KingIn horrorlest the work by Merlin wroughtDreamlikeshould on the sudden vanishwraptInunremorseful folds of rolling fire.And in herodeand up I glancedand sawThe goldendragon sparkling over all:And manyof those who burnt the holdtheir armsHackedand their foreheads grimed with smokeand searedFollowedand in among bright facesoursFull ofthe visionprest: and then the KingSpake tomebeing nearest"Percivale"(Becausethe hall was all in tumult--someVowingand some protesting)"what is this?"
'O brotherwhen I told him what had chancedMysister's visionand the resthis faceDarkenedas I have seen it more than onceWhen somebrave deed seemed to be done in vainDarken;and "Woe is memy knights" he cried"HadI been hereye had not sworn the vow."Bold wasmine answer"Had thyself been hereMy Kingthou wouldst have sworn." "Yeayea" said he"Artthou so bold and hast not seen the Grail?"
'"NaylordI heard the soundI saw the lightBut sinceI did not see the Holy ThingI sware avow to follow it till I saw."
'Then when he asked usknight by knightif anyHad seenitall their answers were as one:"Naylordand therefore have we sworn our vows."
'"Lo now" said Arthur"have ye seen a cloud?What go yeinto the wilderness to see?"
'Then Galahad on the suddenand in a voiceShrillingalong the hall to Arthurcalled"ButISir Arthursaw the Holy GrailI saw theHoly Grail and heard a cry--'OGalahadand O Galahadfollow me.'"
'"AhGalahadGalahad" said the King"for suchAs thouart is the visionnot for these.Thy holynun and thou have seen a sign--Holier isnonemy Percivalethan she--A sign tomaim this Order which I made.But yethat follow but the leader's bell"(Brotherthe King was hard upon his knights)"Taliessinis our fullest throat of songAnd onehath sung and all the dumb will sing.Lancelotis Lancelotand hath overborneFiveknights at onceand every younger knightUnprovenholds himself as LancelotTilloverborne by onehe learns--and yeWhat areye? Galahads?--nonor Percivales"(For thusit pleased the King to range me closeAfter SirGalahad); "nay" said he"but menWithstrength and will to right the wrongedof powerTo lay thesudden heads of violence flatKnightsthat in twelve great battles splashed and dyedThe strongWhite Horse in his own heathen blood--But onehath seenand all the blind will see.Gosinceyour vows are sacredbeing made:Yet--forye know the cries of all my realmPassthrough this hall--how oftenO my knightsYourplaces being vacant at my sideThischance of noble deeds will come and goUnchallengedwhile ye follow wandering firesLost inthe quagmire! Many of youyea mostReturn nomore: ye think I show myselfToo dark aprophet: come nowlet us meetThe morrowmorn once more in one full fieldOfgracious pastimethat once more the KingBefore yeleave him for this Questmay countTheyet-unbroken strength of all his knightsRejoicingin that Order which he made."
'So when the sun broke next from under groundAll thegreat table of our Arthur closedAndclashed in such a tourney and so fullSo manylances broken--never yetHadCamelot seen the likesince Arthur came;And Imyself and Galahadfor a strengthWas in usfrom this visionoverthrewSo manyknights that all the people criedAnd almostburst the barriers in their heatShouting"Sir Galahad and Sir Percivale!"
'But when the next day brake from under ground--O brotherhad you known our CamelotBuilt byold kingsage after ageso oldThe Kinghimself had fears that it would fallSostrangeand richand dim; for where the roofsTotteredtoward each other in the skyMetforeheads all along the street of thoseWhowatched us pass; and lowerand where the longRichgallerieslady-ladenweighed the necksOf dragonsclinging to the crazy wallsThickerthan drops from thundershowers of flowersFell as wepast; and men and boys astrideOn wyvernliondragongriffinswanAt all thecornersnamed us each by nameCalling"God speed!" but in the ways belowTheknights and ladies weptand rich and poorWeptandthe King himself could hardly speakFor griefand all in middle street the QueenWho rodeby Lancelotwailed and shrieked aloud"Thismadness has come on us for our sins."So to theGate of the three Queens we cameWhereArthur's wars are rendered mysticallyAnd thencedeparted every one his way.
'And I was lifted up in heartand thoughtOf all mylate-shown prowess in the listsHow mystrong lance had beaten down the knightsSo manyand famous names; and never yetHad heavenappeared so bluenor earth so greenFor all myblood danced in meand I knewThat Ishould light upon the Holy Grail.
'Thereafterthe dark warning of our KingThat mostof us would follow wandering firesCame likea driving gloom across my mind.Then everyevil word I had spoken onceAnd everyevil thought I had thought of oldAnd everyevil deed I ever didAwoke andcried"This Quest is not for thee."Andlifting up mine eyesI found myselfAloneandin a land of sand and thornsAnd I wasthirsty even unto death;And Itoocried"This Quest is not for thee."
'And on I rodeand when I thought my thirstWould slaymesaw deep lawnsand then a brookWith onesharp rapidwhere the crisping whitePlayedever back upon the sloping waveAnd tookboth ear and eye; and o'er the brookWereapple-treesand apples by the brookFallenand on the lawns. "I will rest here"I said"Iam not worthy of the Quest;"But evenwhile I drank the brookand ateThe goodlyapplesall these things at onceFell intodustand I was left aloneAndthirstingin a land of sand and thorns.
'And then behold a woman at a doorSpinning;and fair the house whereby she satAnd kindthe woman's eyes and innocentAnd allher bearing gracious; and she roseOpeningher arms to meet meas who should say"Resthere;" but when I touched herlo! shetooFell intodust and nothingand the houseBecame nobetter than a broken shedAnd in ita dead babe; and also thisFell intodustand I was left alone.
'And on I rodeand greater was my thirst.Thenflashed a yellow gleam across the worldAnd whereit smote the plowshare in the fieldTheplowman left his plowingand fell downBefore it;where it glittered on her pailThemilkmaid left her milkingand fell downBefore itand I knew not whybut thought"Thesun is rising" though the sun had risen.Then was Iware of one that on me movedIn goldenarmour with a crown of goldAbout acasque all jewels; and his horseIn goldenarmour jewelled everywhere:And on thesplendour cameflashing me blind;And seemedto me the Lord of all the worldBeing sohuge. But when I thought he meantTo crushmemoving on melo! hetooOpened hisarms to embrace me as he cameAnd up Iwent and touched himand hetooFell intodustand I was left aloneAndwearying in a land of sand and thorns.
'And I rode on and found a mighty hillAnd on thetopa city walled: the spiresPrickedwith incredible pinnacles into heaven.And by thegateway stirred a crowd; and theseCried tome climbing"WelcomePercivale!Thoumightiest and thou purest among men!"And gladwas I and clombbut found at topNo mannor any voice. And thence I pastFarthrough a ruinous cityand I sawThat manhad once dwelt there; but there I foundOnly oneman of an exceeding age."Whereis that goodly company" said I"Thatso cried out upon me?" and he hadScarce anyvoice to answerand yet gasped"Whenceand what art thou?" and even as he spokeFell intodustand disappearedand IWas leftalone once moreand cried in grief"Loif I find the Holy Grail itselfAnd touchitit will crumble into dust."
'And thence I dropt into a lowly valeLow as thehill was highand where the valeWaslowestfound a chapeland therebyA holyhermit in a hermitageTo whom Itold my phantomsand he said:
'"O sonthou hast not true humilityThehighest virtuemother of them all;For whenthe Lord of all things made HimselfNaked ofglory for His mortal change'Take thoumy robe' she said'for all is thine'And allher form shone forth with sudden lightSo thatthe angels were amazedand sheFollowedHim downand like a flying starLed on thegray-haired wisdom of the east;But herthou hast not known: for what is thisThouthoughtest of thy prowess and thy sins?Thou hastnot lost thyself to save thyselfAsGalahad." When the hermit made an endIn silverarmour suddenly Galahad shoneBefore usand against the chapel doorLaidlanceand enteredand we knelt in prayer.And therethe hermit slaked my burning thirstAnd at thesacring of the mass I sawThe holyelements alone; but he"Sawye no more? IGalahadsaw the GrailThe HolyGraildescend upon the shrine:I saw thefiery face as of a childThat smoteitself into the breadand went;And hitheram I come; and never yetHath whatthy sister taught me first to seeThis HolyThingfailed from my sidenor comeCoveredbut moving with me night and dayFainter bydaybut always in the nightBlood-redand sliding down the blackened marshBlood-redand on the naked mountain topBlood-redand in the sleeping mere belowBlood-red. And in the strength of this I rodeShatteringall evil customs everywhereAnd pastthrough Pagan realmsand made them mineAndclashed with Pagan hordesand bore them downAnd brokethrough alland in the strength of thisComevictor. But my time is hard at handAnd henceI go; and one will crown me kingFar in thespiritual city; and come thoutooFor thoushalt see the vision when I go."
'While thus he spakehis eyedwelling on mineDrew mewith power upon metill I grewOne withhimto believe as he believed.Thenwhenthe day began to wanewe went.
'There rose a hill that none but man could climbScarredwith a hundred wintry water-courses--Storm atthe topand when we gained itstormRound usand death; for every moment glancedHis silverarms and gloomed: so quick and thickThelightnings here and there to left and rightStrucktill the dry old trunks about usdeadYearotten with a hundred years of deathSpranginto fire: and at the base we foundOn eitherhandas far as eye could seeA greatblack swamp and of an evil smellPartblackpart whitened with the bones of menNot to becrostsave that some ancient kingHad builta waywherelinked with many a bridgeA thousandpiers ran into the great Sea.AndGalahad fled along them bridge by bridgeAnd everybridge as quickly as he crostSpranginto fire and vanishedthough I yearnedTo follow;and thrice above him all the heavensOpened andblazed with thunder such as seemedShoutingsof all the sons of God: and firstAt once Isaw him far on the great SeaInsilver-shining armour starry-clear;And o'erhis head the Holy Vessel hungClothed inwhite samite or a luminous cloud.And withexceeding swiftness ran the boatIf boat itwere--I saw not whence it came.And whenthe heavens opened and blazed againRoaringIsaw him like a silver star--And had heset the sailor had the boatBecome aliving creature clad with wings?And o'erhis head the Holy Vessel hungRedderthan any rosea joy to meFor now Iknew the veil had been withdrawn.Then in amoment when they blazed againOpeningIsaw the least of little starsDown onthe wasteand straight beyond the starI saw thespiritual city and all her spiresAndgateways in a glory like one pearl--No largerthough the goal of all the saints--Strikefrom the sea; and from the star there shotA rose-redsparkle to the cityand thereDweltandI knew it was the Holy GrailWhichnever eyes on earth again shall see.Then fellthe floods of heaven drowning the deep.And how myfeet recrost the deathful ridgeNo memoryin me lives; but that I touchedThechapel-doors at dawn I know; and thenceTaking mywar-horse from the holy manGlad thatno phantom vext me morereturnedTo whenceI camethe gate of Arthur's wars.'
'O brother' asked Ambrosius--'for in soothTheseancient books--and they would win thee--teemOnly Ifind not there this Holy GrailWithmiracles and marvels like to theseNot allunlike; which oftentime I readWho readbut on my breviary with easeTill myhead swims; and then go forth and passDown tothe little thorpe that lies so closeAnd almostplastered like a martin's nestTo theseold walls--and mingle with our folk;Andknowing every honest face of theirsAs well asever shepherd knew his sheepAnd everyhomely secret in their heartsDelightmyself with gossip and old wivesAnd illsand achesand teethingslyings-inAndmirthful sayingschildren of the placeThat haveno meaning half a league away:Or lullingrandom squabbles when they riseChafferingsand chatterings at the market-crossRejoicesmall manin this small world of mineYeaevenin their hens and in their eggs--O brothersaving this Sir GalahadCame ye onnone but phantoms in your questNo mannowoman?'
Then Sir Percivale:'All mento one so bound by such a vowAnd womenwere as phantoms. Omy brotherWhy wiltthou shame me to confess to theeHow far Ifaltered from my quest and vow?For afterI had lain so many nightsA bedmateof the snail and eft and snakeIn grassand burdockI was changed to wanAndmeagreand the vision had not come;And then Ichanced upon a goodly townWith onegreat dwelling in the middle of it;Thither Imadeand there was I disarmedBy maidenseach as fair as any flower:But whenthey led me into hallbeholdThePrincess of that castle was the oneBrotherand that one onlywho had everMade myheart leap; for when I moved of oldA slenderpage about her father's hallAnd she aslender maidenall my heartWent afterher with longing: yet we twainHad neverkissed a kissor vowed a vow.And now Icame upon her once againAnd onehad wedded herand he was deadAnd allhis land and wealth and state were hers.And whileI tarriedevery day she setA banquetricher than the day beforeBy me; forall her longing and her willWas towardme as of old; till one fair mornI walkingto and fro beside a streamThatflashed across her orchard underneathHercastle-wallsshe stole upon my walkAndcalling me the greatest of all knightsEmbracedmeand so kissed me the first timeAnd gaveherself and all her wealth to me.Then Iremembered Arthur's warning wordThat mostof us would follow wandering firesAnd theQuest faded in my heart. AnonThe headsof all her people drew to meWithsupplication both of knees and tongue:"Wehave heard of thee: thou art our greatest knightOur Ladysays itand we well believe:Wed thouour Ladyand rule over usAnd thoushalt be as Arthur in our land."O memybrother! but one night my vowBurnt mewithinso that I rose and fledBut wailedand weptand hated mine own selfAnd eventhe Holy Questand all but her;Then afterI was joined with GalahadCared notfor hernor anything upon earth.'
Then said the monk'Poor menwhen yule is coldMust becontent to sit by little fires.And thisam Iso that ye care for meEver solittle; yeaand blest be HeavenThatbrought thee here to this poor house of oursWhere allthe brethren are so hardto warmMy coldheart with a friend: but O the pityTo findthine own first love once more--to holdHold her awealthy bride within thine armsOr all butholdand then--cast her asideForegoingall her sweetnesslike a weed.For wethat want the warmth of double lifeWe thatare plagued with dreams of something sweetBeyond allsweetness in a life so rich--Ahblessed LordI speak too earthlywiseSeeing Inever strayed beyond the cellBut livelike an old badger in his earthWith earthabout him everywheredespiteAll fastand penance. Saw ye none besideNone ofyour knights?'
'Yea so' said Percivale:'One nightmy pathway swerving eastI sawThepelican on the casque of our Sir BorsAll in themiddle of the rising moon:And towardhim spurredand hailed himand he meAnd eachmade joy of either; then he asked"Whereis he? hast thou seen him--Lancelot?--Once"Said goodSir Bors"he dashed across me--madAndmaddening what he rode: and when I cried'Ridestthou then so hotly on a questSo holy'Lancelot shouted'Stay me not!I havebeen the sluggardand I ride apaceFor nowthere is a lion in the way.'Sovanished."
'Then Sir Bors had ridden onSoftlyand sorrowing for our LancelotBecausehis former madnessonce the talkAndscandal of our tablehad returned;ForLancelot's kith and kin so worship himThat illto him is ill to them; to BorsBeyond therest: he well had been contentNot tohave seenso Lancelot might have seenThe HolyCup of healing; andindeedBeing soclouded with his grief and loveSmallheart was his after the Holy Quest:If Godwould send the visionwell: if notThe Questand he were in the hands of Heaven.
'And thenwith small adventure metSir BorsRode tothe lonest tract of all the realmAnd founda people there among their cragsOur raceand blooda remnant that were leftPaynimamid their circlesand the stonesThey pitchup straight to heaven: and their wise menWerestrong in that old magic which can traceThewandering of the starsand scoffed at himAnd thishigh Quest as at a simple thing:Told himhe followed--almost Arthur's words--A mockingfire: "what other fire than heWherebythe blood beatsand the blossom blowsAnd thesea rollsand all the world is warmed?"And whenhis answer chafed themthe rough crowdHearing hehad a difference with their priestsSeizedhimand bound and plunged him into a cellOf greatpiled stones; and lying bounden thereIndarkness through innumerable hoursHe heardthe hollow-ringing heavens sweepOver himtill by miracle--what else?--Heavy asit wasa great stone slipt and fellSuch as nowind could move: and through the gapGlimmeredthe streaming scud: then came a nightStill asthe day was loud; and through the gapThe sevenclear stars of Arthur's Table Round--Forbrotherso one nightbecause they rollThroughsuch a round in heavenwe named the starsRejoicingin ourselves and in our King--And theselike bright eyes of familiar friendsIn on himshone: "And then to meto me"Said goodSir Bors"beyond all hopes of mineWho scarcehad prayed or asked it for myself--Across theseven clear stars--O grace to me--In colourlike the fingers of a handBefore aburning taperthe sweet GrailGlided andpastand close upon it pealedA sharpquick thunder." Afterwardsa maidWho keptour holy faith among her kinIn secretenteringloosed and let him go.'
To whom the monk: 'And I remember nowThatpelican on the casque: Sir Bors it wasWho spakeso low and sadly at our board;And mightyreverent at our grace was he:Asquare-set man and honest; and his eyesAnout-door sign of all the warmth withinSmiledwith his lips--a smile beneath a cloudBut heavenhad meant it for a sunny one:AyaySir Borswho else? But when ye reachedThe cityfound ye all your knights returnedOr wasthere sooth in Arthur's prophecyTell meand what said eachand what the King?'
Then answered Percivale: 'And that can IBrotherand truly; since the living wordsOf sogreat men as Lancelot and our KingPass notfrom door to door and out againBut sitwithin the house. Owhen we reachedThe cityour horses stumbling as they trodeOn heapsof ruinhornless unicornsCrackedbasilisksand splintered cockatricesAndshattered talbotswhich had left the stonesRawthatthey fell frombrought us to the hall.
'And there sat Arthur on the dais-throneAnd thosethat had gone out upon the QuestWasted andwornand but a tithe of themAnd thosethat had notstood before the KingWhowhenhe saw meroseand bad me hailSaying"Awelfare in thine eye reproves
Our fearof some disastrous chance for theeOn hillor plainat seaor flooding ford.So fiercea gale made havoc here of lateAmong thestrange devices of our kings;Yeashookthis newerstronger hall of oursAnd fromthe statue Merlin moulded for usHalf-wrencheda golden wing; but now--the QuestThisvision--hast thou seen the Holy CupThatJoseph brought of old to Glastonbury?"
'So when I told him all thyself hast heardAmbrosiusand my fresh but fixt resolveTo passaway into the quiet lifeHeanswered notbutsharply turningaskedOf Gawain"Gawainwas this Quest for thee?"
'"Naylord" said Gawain"not for such as I.ThereforeI communed with a saintly manWho mademe sure the Quest was not for me;For I wasmuch awearied of the Quest:But founda silk pavilion in a fieldAnd merrymaidens in it; and then this galeTore mypavilion from the tenting-pinAnd blewmy merry maidens all aboutWith alldiscomfort; yeaand but for thisMytwelvemonth and a day were pleasant to me."
'He ceased; and Arthur turned to whom at firstHe sawnotfor Sir Borson enteringpushedAthwartthe throng to Lancelotcaught his handHeld itand therehalf-hidden by himstoodUntil theKing espied himsaying to him"HailBors! if ever loyal man and trueCould seeitthou hast seen the Grail;" and Bors"Askme notfor I may not speak of it:I saw it;"and the tears were in his eyes.
'Then there remained but Lancelotfor the restSpake butof sundry perils in the storm;Perhapslike him of Cana in Holy WritOur Arthurkept his best until the last;"Thoutoomy Lancelot" asked the king"my friendOurmightiesthath this Quest availed for thee?"
'"Our mightiest!" answered Lancelotwith a groan;"OKing!"--and when he pausedmethought I spiedA dyingfire of madness in his eyes--"OKingmy friendif friend of thine I beHappierare those that welter in their sinSwine inthe mudthat cannot see for slimeSlime ofthe ditch: but in me lived a sinSostrangeof such a kindthat all of pureNobleandknightly in me twined and clungRound thatone sinuntil the wholesome flowerAndpoisonous grew togethereach as eachNot to beplucked asunder; and when thy knightsSwareIsware with them only in the hopeThat couldI touch or see the Holy GrailThey mightbe plucked asunder. Then I spakeTo onemost holy saintwho wept and saidThat savethey could be plucked asunderallMy questwere but in vain; to whom I vowedThat Iwould work according as he willed.And forthI wentand while I yearned and stroveTo tearthe twain asunder in my heartMy madnesscame upon me as of oldAnd whiptme into waste fields far away;There wasI beaten down by little menMeanknightsto whom the moving of my swordAnd shadowof my spear had been enowTo scarethem from me once; and then I cameAll in myfolly to the naked shoreWideflatswhere nothing but coarse grasses grew;But such ablastmy Kingbegan to blowSo loud ablast along the shore and seaYe couldnot hear the waters for the blastThoughheapt in mounds and ridges all the seaDrove likea cataractand all the sandSwept likea riverand the clouded heavensWereshaken with the motion and the sound.Andblackening in the sea-foam swayed a boatHalf-swallowedin itanchored with a chain;And in mymadness to myself I said'I willembark and I will lose myselfAnd in thegreat sea wash away my sin.'I burstthe chainI sprang into the boat.Seven daysI drove along the dreary deepAnd withme drove the moon and all the stars;And thewind felland on the seventh nightI heardthe shingle grinding in the surgeAnd feltthe boat shock earthand looking upBeholdthe enchanted towers of CarbonekA castlelike a rock upon a rockWithchasm-like portals open to the seaAnd stepsthat met the breaker! there was noneStood nearit but a lion on each sideThat keptthe entryand the moon was full.Then fromthe boat I leaptand up the stairs.There drewmy sword. With sudden-flaring manesThose twogreat beasts rose upright like a manEach gripta shoulderand I stood between;AndwhenI would have smitten themheard a voice'Doubtnotgo forward; if thou doubtthe beastsWill tearthee piecemeal.' Then with violenceThe swordwas dashed from out my handand fell.And upinto the sounding hall I past;Butnothing in the sounding hall I sawNo benchnor tablepainting on the wall
Or shieldof knight; only the rounded moonThroughthe tall oriel on the rolling sea.But alwaysin the quiet house I heardClear as alarkhigh o'er me as a larkA sweetvoice singing in the topmost towerTo theeastward: up I climbed a thousand stepsWithpain: as in a dream I seemed to climbFor ever: at the last I reached a doorA lightwas in the cranniesand I heard'Glory andjoy and honour to our LordAnd to theHoly Vessel of the Grail.'Then in mymadness I essayed the door;It gave;and through a stormy glarea heatAs from aseventimes-heated furnaceIBlastedand burntand blinded as I wasWith sucha fierceness that I swooned away--Oyetmethought I saw the Holy GrailAll palledin crimson samiteand aroundGreatangelsawful shapesand wings and eyes.And butfor all my madness and my sinAnd thenmy swooningI had sworn I sawThat whichI saw; but what I saw was veiledAndcovered; and this Quest was not for me."
'So speakingand here ceasingLancelot leftThe halllong silenttill Sir Gawain--nayBrotherIneed not tell thee foolish words--A recklessand irreverent knight was heNowboldened by the silence of his King--WellIwill tell thee: "O Kingmy liege" he said"HathGawain failed in any quest of thine?When haveI stinted stroke in foughten field?But as forthinemy good friend PercivaleThy holynun and thou have driven men madYeamadeour mightiest madder than our least.But bymine eyes and by mine ears I swearI will bedeafer than the blue-eyed catAnd thriceas blind as any noonday owlTo holyvirgins in their ecstasiesHenceforward."
'"Deafer" said the blameless King"Gawainand blinder unto holy thingsHope notto make thyself by idle vowsBeing tooblind to have desire to see.But ifindeed there came a sign from heavenBlessedare BorsLancelot and PercivaleFor thesehave seen according to their sight.For everyfiery prophet in old timesAnd allthe sacred madness of the bardWhen Godmade music through themcould but speakHis musicby the framework and the chord;And as yesaw it ye have spoken truth.
'"Nay--but thou errestLancelot: never yetCould allof true and noble in knight and manTwineround one sinwhatever it might beWith sucha closenessbut apart there grewSave thathe were the swine thou spakest ofSome rootof knighthood and pure nobleness;Wheretosee thouthat it may bear its flower.
'"And spake I not too trulyO my knights?Was I toodark a prophet when I saidTo thosewho went upon the Holy QuestThat mostof them would follow wandering firesLost inthe quagmire?--lost to me and goneAnd leftme gazing at a barren boardAnd a leanOrder--scarce returned a tithe--And out ofthose to whom the vision cameMygreatest hardly will believe he saw;Anotherhath beheld it afar offAndleaving human wrongs to right themselvesCares butto pass into the silent life.And onehath had the vision face to faceAnd nowhis chair desires him here in vainHoweverthey may crown him otherwhere.
'"And some among you heldthat if the KingHad seenthe sight he would have sworn the vow:Noteasilyseeing that the King must guardThat whichhe rulesand is but as the hindTo whom aspace of land is given to plow.Who maynot wander from the allotted fieldBefore hiswork be done; butbeing doneLetvisions of the night or of the dayComeasthey will; and many a time they comeUntil thisearth he walks on seems not earthThis lightthat strikes his eyeball is not lightThis airthat smites his forehead is not airButvision--yeahis very hand and foot--In momentswhen he feels he cannot dieAnd knowshimself no vision to himselfNor thehigh God a visionnor that OneWho roseagain: ye have seen what ye have seen."
'So spake the King: I knew not all he meant.'
KingArthur made new knights to fill the gapLeft bythe Holy Quest; and as he satIn hall atold Caerleonthe high doorsWeresoftly sunderedand through these a youthPelleasand the sweet smell of the fieldsPastandthe sunshine came along with him.
'Make me thy knightbecause I knowSir KingAll thatbelongs to knighthoodand I love.'Such washis cry: for having heard the KingHad letproclaim a tournament--the prizeA goldencirclet and a knightly swordFull fainhad Pelleas for his lady wonThe goldencircletfor himself the sword:And therewere those who knew him near the KingAndpromised for him: and Arthur made him knight.
And this new knightSir Pelleas of the isles--But latelycome to his inheritanceAnd lordof many a barren isle was he--Riding atnoona day or twain beforeAcross theforest called of Deanto findCaerleonand the Kinghad felt the sunBeat likea strong knight on his helmand reeledAlmost tofalling from his horse; but sawNear him amound of even-sloping sideWhereon ahundred stately beeches grewAnd hereand there great hollies under them;But for amile all round was open spaceAnd fernand heath: and slowly Pelleas drewTo thatdim daythen binding his good horseTo a treecast himself down; and as he layAt randomlooking over the brown earthThroughthat green-glooming twilight of the groveIt seemedto Pelleas that the fern withoutBurnt as aliving fire of emeraldsSo thathis eyes were dazzled looking at it.Then o'erit crost the dimness of a cloudFloatingand once the shadow of a birdFlyingand then a fawn; and his eyes closed.And sincehe loved all maidensbut no maidInspecialhalf-awake he whispered'Where?O where? Ilove theethough I know thee not.For fairthou art and pure as GuinevereAnd I willmake thee with my spear and swordAsfamous--O my Queenmy GuinevereFor I willbe thine Arthur when we meet.'
Suddenly wakened with a sound of talkAndlaughter at the limit of the woodAndglancing through the hoary boleshe sawStrange asto some old prophet might have seemedA visionhovering on a sea of fireDamsels indivers colours like the cloudOf sunsetand sunriseand all of themOn horsesand the horses richly traptBreast-highin that bright line of bracken stood:And allthe damsels talked confusedlyAnd onewas pointing this wayand one thatBecausethe way was lost.
And Pelleas roseAnd loosedhis horseand led him to the light.There shethat seemed the chief among them said'In happytime behold our pilot-star!Youthweare damsels-errantand we rideArmed asye seeto tilt against the knightsThere atCaerleonbut have lost our way:To right?to left? straight forward? back again?Which?tell us quickly.'
Pelleas gazing thought'IsGuinevere herself so beautiful?'For largeher violet eyes lookedand her bloomA rosydawn kindled in stainless heavensAnd roundher limbsmature in womanhood;Andslender was her hand and small her shape;And butfor those large eyesthe haunts of scornShe mighthave seemed a toy to trifle withAnd passand care no more. But while he gazedThe beautyof her flesh abashed the boyAs thoughit were the beauty of her soul:For as thebase manjudging of the goodPuts hisown baseness in him by defaultOf willand natureso did Pelleas lendAll theyoung beauty of his own soul to hersBelievingher; and when she spake to himStammeredand could not make her a reply.For out ofthe waste islands had he comeWheresaving his own sisters he had knownScarce anybut the women of his islesRoughwivesthat laughed and screamed against the gullsMakers ofnetsand living from the sea.
Then with a slow smile turned the lady roundAnd lookedupon her people; and as whenA stone isflung into some sleeping tarnThe circlewidens till it lip the margeSpread theslow smile through all her company.Threeknights were thereamong; and they too smiledScorninghim; for the lady was EttarreAnd shewas a great lady in her land.
Again she said'O wild and of the woodsKnowestthou not the fashion of our speech?Or havethe Heavens but given thee a fair faceLacking atongue?'
'O damsel' answered he'I wokefrom dreams; and coming out of gloomWasdazzled by the sudden lightand cravePardon: but will ye to Caerleon? IGolikewise: shall I lead you to the King?'
'Lead then' she said; and through the woods they went.And whilethey rodethe meaning in his eyesHistenderness of mannerand chaste aweHis brokenutterances and bashfulnessWere all aburthen to herand in her heartShemuttered'I have lighted on a foolRawyetso stale!' But since her mind was bentOnhearingafter trumpet blownher nameAnd title'Queen of Beauty' in the listsCried--andbeholding him so strongshe thoughtThatperadventure he will fight for meAnd winthe circlet: therefore flattered himBeing sograciousthat he wellnigh deemedHis wishby hers was echoed; and her knightsAnd allher damsels too were gracious to himFor shewas a great lady.
And when they reachedCaerleonere they past to lodgingsheTaking hishand'O the strong hand' she said'See! lookat mine! but wilt thou fight for meAnd win methis fine circletPelleasThat I maylove thee?'
Then his helpless heartLeaptandhe cried'Ay! wilt thou if I win?''Aythatwill I' she answeredand she laughedAndstraitly nipt the handand flung it from her;Thenglanced askew at those three knights of hersTill allher ladies laughed along with her.
'O happy world' thought Pelleas'allmeseemsAre happy;I the happiest of them all.'Nor sleptthat night for pleasure in his bloodAnd greenwood-waysand eyes among the leaves;Then beingon the morrow knightedswareTo loveone only. And as he came awayThe menwho met him rounded on their heelsAndwondered after himbecause his faceShone likethe countenance of a priest of oldAgainstthe flame about a sacrificeKindled byfire from heaven: so glad was he.
Then Arthur made vast banquetsand strange knightsFrom thefour winds came in: and each one satThoughserved with choice from airlandstreamand seaOft inmid-banquet measuring with his eyesHisneighbour's make and might: and Pelleas lookedNobleamong the noblefor he dreamedHis ladyloved himand he knew himselfLoved ofthe King: and him his new-made knightWorshiptwhose lightest whisper moved him moreThan allthe ranged reasons of the world.
Then blushed and brake the morning of the joustsAnd thiswas called 'The Tournament of Youth:'ForArthurloving his young knightwithheldHis olderand his mightier from the listsThatPelleas might obtain his lady's loveAccordingto her promiseand remainLord ofthe tourney. And Arthur had the joustsDown inthe flat field by the shore of UskHolden: the gilded parapets were crownedWithfacesand the great tower filled with eyesUp to thesummitand the trumpets blew.There allday long Sir Pelleas kept the fieldWithhonour: so by that strong hand of hisThe swordand golden circlet were achieved.
Then rang the shout his lady loved: the heatOf prideand glory fired her face; her eyeSparkled;she caught the circlet from his lanceAnd therebefore the people crowned herself:So for thelast time she was gracious to him.
Then at Caerleon for a space--her lookBright forall otherscloudier on her knight--LingeredEttarre: and seeing Pelleas droopSaidGuinevere'We marvel at thee muchO damselwearing this unsunny faceTo him whowon thee glory!' And she said
'Had yenot held your Lancelot in your bowerMy Queenhe had not won.' Whereat the QueenAs onewhose foot is bitten by an antGlanceddown upon herturned and went her way.
But afterwhen her damselsand herselfAnd thosethree knights all set their faces homeSirPelleas followed. She that saw him cried'Damsels--andyet I should be shamed to say it--I cannotbide Sir Baby. Keep him backAmongyourselves. Would rather that we hadSome roughold knight who knew the worldly wayAlbeitgrizzlier than a bearto rideAnd jestwith: take him to youkeep him offAnd pamperhim with papmeatif ye willOld milkyfables of the wolf and sheepSuch asthe wholesome mothers tell their boys.Nayshould ye try him with a merry oneTo findhis mettlegood: and if he fly usSmallmatter! let him.' This her damsels heardAndmindful of her small and cruel handTheyclosing round him through the journey homeActed herhestand always from her sideRestrainedhim with all manner of deviceSo that hecould not come to speech with her.And whenshe gained her castleupsprang the bridgeDown rangthe grate of iron through the grooveAnd he wasleft alone in open field.
'These be the ways of ladies' Pelleas thought'To thosewho love themtrials of our faith.Yealether prove me to the uttermostFor loyalto the uttermost am I.'So madehis moan; and darkness fallingsoughtA priorynot far offthere lodgedbut roseWithmorning every dayandmoist or dryFull-armedupon his charger all day longSat by thewallsand no one opened to him.
And this persistence turned her scorn to wrath.Thencalling her three knightsshe charged them'Out!And drivehim from the walls.' And out they cameButPelleas overthrew them as they dashedAgainsthim one by one; and these returnedBut stillhe kept his watch beneath the wall.
Thereon her wrath became a hate; and onceA weekbeyondwhile walking on the wallsWith herthree knightsshe pointed downward'LookHe hauntsme--I cannot breathe--besieges me;Down!strike him! put my hate into your strokesAnd drivehim from my walls.' And down they wentAndPelleas overthrew them one by one;And fromthe tower above him cried Ettarre'Bind himand bring him in.'
He heard her voice;Then letthe strong handwhich had overthrownHerminion-knightsby those he overthrewBe boundenstraightand so they brought him in.
Then when he came before Ettarrethe sightOf herrich beauty made him at one glanceMorebondsman in his heart than in his bonds.Yet withgood cheer he spake'Behold meLadyAprisonerand the vassal of thy will;And ifthou keep me in thy donjon hereContent amI so that I see thy faceBut once aday: for I have sworn my vowsAnd thouhast given thy promiseand I knowThat allthese pains are trials of my faithAnd thatthyselfwhen thou hast seen me strainedAnd siftedto the utmostwilt at lengthYield methy love and know me for thy knight.'
Then she began to rail so bitterlyWith allher damselshe was stricken mute;But whenshe mocked his vows and the great KingLighted onwords: 'For pity of thine own selfPeaceLadypeace: is he not thine and mine?''Thoufool' she said'I never heard his voiceBut longedto break away. Unbind him nowAnd thrusthim out of doors; for save he beFool tothe midmost marrow of his bonesHe willreturn no more.' And thoseher threeLaughedand unboundand thrust him from the gate.
And after thisa week beyondagainShe calledthemsaying'There he watches yetThere likea dog before his master's door!Kickedhereturns: do ye not hate himye?Ye knowyourselves: how can ye bide at peaceAffrontedwith his fulsome innocence?Are ye butcreatures of the board and bedNo men tostrike? Fall on him all at onceAnd if yeslay him I reck not: if ye failGive yethe slave mine order to be boundBind himas heretoforeand bring him in:It may beye shall slay him in his bonds.'
She spake; and at her will they couched their spearsThreeagainst one: and Gawain passing byBound uponsolitary adventuresawLow downbeneath the shadow of those towersAvillainythree to one: and through his heartThe fireof honour and all noble deedsFlashedand he called'I strike upon thy side--Thecaitiffs!' 'Nay' said Pelleas'but forbear;He needsno aid who doth his lady's will.'
So Gawainlooking at the villainy doneForborebut in his heat and eagernessTrembledand quiveredas the dogwithheldA momentfrom the vermin that he seesBeforehimshiversere he springs and kills.
And Pelleas overthrew themone to three;And theyrose upand boundand brought him in.Then firsther angerleaving PelleasburnedFull onher knights in many an evil nameOf cravenweaklingand thrice-beaten hound:'Yettakehimye that scarce are fit to touchFar lessto bindyour victorand thrust him outAnd letwho will release him from his bonds.And if hecomes again'--there she brake short;AndPelleas answered'Ladyfor indeedI lovedyou and I deemed you beautifulI cannotbrook to see your beauty marredThroughevil spite: and if ye love me notI cannotbear to dream you so forsworn:I hadliefer ye were worthy of my loveThan to beloved again of you--farewell;And thoughye kill my hopenot yet my loveVex notyourself: ye will not see me more.'
While thus he spakeshe gazed upon the manOfprincely bearingthough in bondsand thought'Why haveI pushed him from me? this man lovesIf lovethere be: yet him I loved not. Why?I deemedhim fool? yeaso? or that in himAsomething--was it nobler than myself?Seemed myreproach? He is not of my kind.He couldnot love medid he know me well.Naylethim go--and quickly.' And her knightsLaughednotbut thrust him bounden out of door.
Forth sprang Gawainand loosed him from his bondsAnd flungthem o'er the walls; and afterwardShakinghis handsas from a lazar's rag'Faith ofmy body' he said'and art thou not--Yea thouart hewhom late our Arthur madeKnight ofhis table; yea and he that wonThecirclet? wherefore hast thou so defamedThybrotherhood in me and all the restAs letthese caitiffs on thee work their will?'
And Pelleas answered'Otheir wills are hersFor whom Iwon the circlet; and minehersThus to beboundenso to see her face
Marredthough it be with spite and mockery nowOther thanwhen I found her in the woods;And thoughshe hath me bounden but in spiteAnd all toflout mewhen they bring me inLet me beboundenI shall see her face;Else mustI die through mine unhappiness.'
And Gawain answered kindly though in scorn'Whyletmy lady bind me if she willAnd let mylady beat me if she will:But an shesend her delegate to thrallThesefighting hands of mine--Christ kill me thenBut I willslice him handless by the wristAnd let mylady sear the stump for himHowl as hemay. But hold me for your friend:Comeyeknow nothing: here I pledge my trothYeabythe honour of the Table RoundI will beleal to thee and work thy workAnd tamethy jailing princess to thine hand.Lend methine horse and armsand I will sayThat Ihave slain thee. She will let me inTo hearthe manner of thy fight and fall;ThenwhenI come within her counselsthenFrom primeto vespers will I chant thy praiseAs prowestknight and truest lovermoreThan anyhave sung thee livingtill she longTo havethee back in lusty life againNot to beboundsave by white bonds and warmDearerthan freedom. Wherefore now thy horseAndarmour: let me go: be comforted:Give methree days to melt her fancyand hopeThe thirdnight hence will bring thee news of gold.'
Then Pelleas lent his horse and all his armsSaving thegoodly swordhis prizeand tookGawain'sand said'Betray me notbut help--Art thounot he whom men call light-of-love?'
'Ay' said Gawain'for women be so light.'Thenbounded forward to the castle wallsAnd raiseda bugle hanging from his neckAnd windeditand that so musicallyThat allthe old echoes hidden in the wallRang outlike hollow woods at hunting-tide.
Up ran a score of damsels to the tower;'Avaunt'they cried'our lady loves thee not.'But Gawainlifting up his vizor said'Gawain amIGawain of Arthur's courtAnd I haveslain this Pelleas whom ye hate:Behold hishorse and armour. Open gatesAnd I willmake you merry.'
And down they ranHerdamselscrying to their lady'Lo!Pelleas isdead--he told us--he that hathHis horseand armour: will ye let him in?He slewhim! GawainGawain of the courtSirGawain--there he waits below the wallBlowinghis bugle as who should say him nay.'
And soleave givenstraight on through open doorRodeGawainwhom she greeted courteously.'Deadisit so?' she asked. 'Ayay' said he'And oftin dying cried upon your name.''Pity onhim' she answered'a good knightBut neverlet me bide one hour at peace.''Ay'thought Gawain'and you be fair enow:But I toyour dead man have given my trothThat whomye loathehim will I make you love.'
So those three daysaimless about the landLost in adoubtPelleas wanderingWaiteduntil the third night brought a moonWithpromise of large light on woods and ways.
Hot was the night and silent; but a soundOf Gawainever comingand this lay--WhichPelleas had heard sung before the QueenAnd seenher sadden listening--vext his heartAnd marredhis rest--'A worm within the rose.'
'A rosebut onenone other rose had IA roseone roseand this was wondrous fairOne rosea rose that gladdened earth and skyOne rosemy rosethat sweetened all mine air--I carednot for the thorns; the thorns were there.
'One rosea rose to gather by and byOne rosea roseto gather and to wearNo rosebut one--what other rose had I?One rosemy rose; a rose that will not die--He dieswho loves it--if the worm be there.'
This tender rhymeand evermore the doubt'Whylingers Gawain with his golden news?'So shookhim that he could not restbut rodeEremidnight to her wallsand bound his horseHard bythe gates. Wide open were the gatesAnd nowatch kept; and in through these he pastAnd heardbut his own stepsand his own heartBeatingfor nothing moved but his own selfAnd hisown shadow. Then he crost the courtAnd spiednot any light in hall or bowerBut sawthe postern portal also wideYawning;and up a slope of gardenallOf roseswhite and redand brambles mixtAndovergrowing themwent onand foundHere tooall hushed below the mellow moonSave thatone rivulet from a tiny caveCamelightening downwardand so spilt itselfAmong therosesand was lost again.
Then was he ware of three pavilions rearedAbove thebushesgilden-peakt: in oneRed afterreveldroned her lurdane knightsSlumberingand their three squires across their feet:In onetheir malice on the placid lipFrozen bysweet sleepfour of her damsels lay:And in thethirdthe circlet of the joustsBound onher browwere Gawain and Ettarre.
Backas a hand that pushes through the leafTo find anest and feels a snakehe drew:Backas acoward slinks from what he fearsTo copewithor a traitor provenor houndBeatendid Pelleas in an utter shameCreep withhis shadow through the court againFingeringat his sword-handle until he stoodThere onthe castle-bridge once moreand thought'I will gobackand slay them where they lie.'
And so went backand seeing them yet in sleepSaid'Yethat so dishallow the holy sleepYour sleepis death' and drew the swordand thought'What!slay a sleeping knight? the King hath boundAnd swornme to this brotherhood;' again'Alas thatever a knight should be so false.'Thenturnedand so returnedand groaning laidThe nakedsword athwart their naked throatsThere leftitand them sleeping; and she layThecirclet of her tourney round her browsAnd thesword of the tourney across her throat.
And forth he pastand mounting on his horseStared ather towers thatlarger than themselvesIn theirown darknessthronged into the moon.Thencrushed the saddle with his thighsand clenchedHis handsand maddened with himself and moaned:
'Would they have risen against me in their bloodAt thelast day? I might have answered themEvenbefore high God. O towers so strongHugesolidwould that even while I gazeThe crackof earthquake shivering to your baseSplit youand Hell burst up your harlot roofsBellowingand charred you through and through withinBlack asthe harlot's heart--hollow as a skull!Let thefierce east scream through your eyelet-holesAnd whirlthe dust of harlots round and roundIn dungand nettles! hisssnake--I saw him there--Let thefox barklet the wolf yell. Who yellsHere inthe still sweet summer nightbut I--Ithepoor Pelleas whom she called her fool?Foolbeast--hesheor I? myself most fool;Beast tooas lacking human wit--disgracedDishonouredall for trial of true love--Love?--webe all alike: only the KingHath madeus fools and liars. O noble vows!O greatand sane and simple race of brutesThat ownno lust because they have no law!For whyshould I have loved her to my shame?I loatheheras I loved her to my shame.I neverloved herI but lusted for her--Away--' He dashed the rowel into his horseAndbounded forth and vanished through the night.
Then shethat felt the cold touch on her throatAwakingknew the swordand turned herselfToGawain: 'Liarfor thou hast not slainThisPelleas! here he stoodand might have slainMe andthyself.' And he that tells the taleSays thather ever-veering fancy turnedToPelleasas the one true knight on earthAnd onlylover; and through her love her lifeWasted andpineddesiring him in vain.
But he by wild and wayfor half the nightAnd overhard and softstriking the sodFrom outthe softthe spark from off the hardRode tillthe star above the wakening sunBesidethat tower where Percivale was cowledGlancedfrom the rosy forehead of the dawn.For so thewords were flashed into his heartHe knewnot whence or wherefore: 'O sweet starPure onthe virgin forehead of the dawn!'And therehe would have weptbut felt his eyesHarder anddrier than a fountain bedInsummer: thither came the village girlsAndlingered talkingand they come no moreTill thesweet heavens have filled it from the heightsAgain withliving waters in the changeOfseasons: hard his eyes; harder his heartSeemed;but so weary were his limbsthat heGasping'Of Arthur's hall am Ibut hereHere letme rest and die' cast himself downAnd gulfedhis griefs in inmost sleep; so layTillshaken by a dreamthat Gawain firedThe hallof Merlinand the morning starReeled inthe smokebrake into flameand fell.
He wokeand being ware of some one nighSent handsupon himas to tear himcrying'False!and I held thee pure as Guinevere.'
But Percivale stood near him and replied'Am I butfalse as Guinevere is pure?Or artthou mazed with dreams? or being oneOf ourfree-spoken Table hast not heardThatLancelot'--there he checked himself and paused.
Then fared it with Sir Pelleas as with oneWho gets awound in battleand the swordThat madeit plunges through the wound againAnd pricksit deeper: and he shrank and wailed'Is theQueen false?' and Percivale was mute.'Have anyof our Round Table held their vows?'AndPercivale made answer not a word.'Is theKing true?' 'The King!' said Percivale.'Why thenlet men couple at once with wolves.What! artthou mad?'
But Pelleasleaping upRanthrough the doors and vaulted on his horseAnd fled: small pity upon his horse had heOr onhimselfor anyand when he metA crippleone that held a hand for alms--Hunched ashe wasand like an old dwarf-elmThat turnsits back upon the salt blastthe boyPausednotbut overrode himshouting'FalseAnd falsewith Gawain!' and so left him bruisedAndbatteredand fled onand hill and woodWent everstreaming by him till the gloomThatfollows on the turning of the worldDarkenedthe common path: he twitched the reinsAnd madehis beast that better knew itswerveNow off itand now on; but when he sawHigh up inheaven the hall that Merlin builtBlackeningagainst the dead-green stripes of even'Blacknest of rats' he groaned'ye build too high.'
Not long thereafter from the city gatesIssued SirLancelot riding airilyWarm witha gracious parting from the QueenPeace athis heartand gazing at a starAndmarvelling what it was: on whom the boyAcross thesilent seeded meadow-grassBorneclashed: and Lancelotsaying'What name hast thouThatridest here so blindly and so hard?''No nameno name' he shouted'a scourge am ITo lashthe treasons of the Table Round.''Yeabutthy name?' 'I have many names' he cried:'I amwrath and shame and hate and evil fameAnd like apoisonous wind I pass to blastAnd blazethe crime of Lancelot and the Queen.''Firstover me' said Lancelot'shalt thou pass.''Fighttherefore' yelled the youthand either knightDrew backa spaceand when they closedat onceThe wearysteed of Pelleas floundering flungHis riderwho called out from the dark field'Thou artas false as Hell: slay me: I have no sword.'ThenLancelot'Yeabetween thy lips--and sharp;But here Iwill disedge it by thy death.''Slaythen' he shrieked'my will is to be slain'AndLancelotwith his heel upon the fallenRollinghis eyesa moment stoodthen spake:'Riseweakling; I am Lancelot; say thy say.'
And Lancelot slowly rode his warhorse backToCamelotand Sir Pelleas in brief whileCaught hisunbroken limbs from the dark fieldAndfollowed to the city. It chanced that bothBrake intohall togetherworn and pale.There withher knights and dames was Guinevere.Fullwonderingly she gazed on LancelotSo soonreturnedand then on PelleashimWho hadnot greeted herbut cast himselfDown on abenchhard-breathing. 'Have ye fought?'She askedof Lancelot. 'Aymy Queen' he said.'And hastthou overthrown him?' 'Aymy Queen.'Then sheturning to Pelleas'O young knightHath thegreat heart of knighthood in thee failedSo farthou canst not bideunfrowardlyA fallfrom him?' Thenfor he answered not'Or hastthou other griefs? If Ithe QueenMay helpthemloose thy tongueand let me know.'ButPelleas lifted up an eye so fierceShequailed; and hehissing 'I have no sword'Sprangfrom the door into the dark. The QueenLookedhard upon her loverhe on her;And eachforesaw the dolorous day to be:And alltalk diedas in a grove all songBeneaththe shadow of some bird of prey;Then along silence came upon the hallAnd Modredthought'The time is hard at hand.'
Dagonetthe foolwhom Gawain in his moodHad mademock-knight of Arthur's Table RoundAtCamelothigh above the yellowing woodsDancedlike a withered leaf before the hall.And towardhim from the hallwith harp in handAnd fromthe crown thereof a carcanetOf rubyswaying to and frothe prizeOfTristram in the jousts of yesterdayCameTristramsaying'Why skip ye soSir Fool?'
For Arthur and Sir Lancelot riding onceFar downbeneath a winding wall of rockHeard achild wail. A stump of oak half-deadFrom rootslike some black coil of carven snakesClutchedat the cragand started through mid airBearing aneagle's nest: and through the treeRushedever a rainy windand through the windPiercedever a child's cry: and crag and treeScalingSir Lancelot from the perilous nestThis rubynecklace thrice around her neckAnd allunscarred from beak or talonbroughtA maidenbabe; which Arthur pitying tookThen gaveit to his Queen to rear: the QueenBut coldlyacquiescingin her white armsReceivedand after loved it tenderlyAnd namedit Nestling; so forgot herselfA momentand her cares; till that young lifeBeingsmitten in mid heaven with mortal coldPast fromher; and in time the carcanetVext herwith plaintive memories of the child:So shedelivering it to Arthursaid'Take thouthe jewels of this dead innocenceAnd maketheman thou wilta tourney-prize.'
To whom the King'Peace to thine eagle-borneDeadnestlingand this honour after deathFollowingthy will! butO my QueenI museWhy ye notwear on armor neckor zoneThosediamonds that I rescued from the tarnAndLancelot wonmethoughtfor thee to wear.'
'Would rather you had let them fall' she cried'Plungeand be lost--ill-fated as they wereAbitterness to me!--ye look amazedNotknowing they were lost as soon as given--Slid frommy handswhen I was leaning outAbove theriver--that unhappy childPast inher barge: but rosier luck will goWith theserich jewelsseeing that they cameNot fromthe skeleton of a brother-slayerBut thesweet body of a maiden babe.Perchance--whoknows?--the purest of thy knightsMay winthem for the purest of my maids.'
She endedand the cry of a great joustsWithtrumpet-blowings ran on all the waysFromCamelot in among the faded fieldsTofurthest towers; and everywhere the knightsArmed fora day of glory before the King.
But on the hither side of that loud mornInto thehall staggeredhis visage ribbedFrom earto ear with dogwhip-wealshis noseBridge-brokenone eye outand one hand offAnd onewith shattered fingers dangling lameA churlto whom indignantly the King
'My churlfor whom Christ diedwhat evil beastHath drawnhis claws athwart thy face? or fiend?Man was itwho marred heaven's image in thee thus?'
Thensputtering through the hedge of splintered teethYetstrangers to the tongueand with blunt stumpPitch-blackenedsawing the airsaid the maimed churl
'He took them and he drave them to his tower--Some holdhe was a table-knight of thine--A hundredgoodly ones--the Red Knighthe--LordIwas tending swineand the Red KnightBrake inupon me and drave them to his tower;And when Icalled upon thy name as oneThat doestright by gentle and by churlMaimed meand mauledand would outright have slainSave thathe sware me to a messagesaying"Tellthou the King and all his liarsthat IHavefounded my Round Table in the NorthAndwhatsoever his own knights have swornMy knightshave sworn the counter to it--and sayMy toweris full of harlotslike his courtBut mineare worthierseeing they professTo be noneother than themselves--and sayMy knightsare all adulterers like his ownBut mineare truerseeing they professTo be noneother; and say his hour is comeTheheathen are upon himhis long lanceBrokenand his Excalibur a straw."'
Then Arthur turned to Kay the seneschal'Take thoumy churland tend him curiouslyLike aking's heirtill all his hurts be whole.Theheathen--but that ever-climbing waveHurledback again so often in empty foamHath lainfor years at rest--and renegadesThievesbanditsleavings of confusionwhomThewholesome realm is purged of otherwhereFriendsthrough your manhood and your fealty--nowMake theirlast head like Satan in the North.My youngerknightsnew-madein whom your flowerWaits tobe solid fruit of golden deedsMove withme toward their quellingwhich achievedTheloneliest ways are safe from shore to shore.But thouSir Lancelotsitting in my placeEnchairedtomorrowarbitrate the field;Forwherefore shouldst thou care to mingle with itOnly toyield my Queen her own again?SpeakLancelotthou art silent: is it well?'
Thereto Sir Lancelot answered'It is well:Yet betterif the King abideand leaveTheleading of his younger knights to me.Elseforthe King has willed itit is well.'
Then Arthur rose and Lancelot followed himAnd whilethey stood without the doorsthe KingTurned tohim saying'Is it then so well?Or minethe blame that oft I seem as heOf whomwas written"A sound is in his ears"?The footthat loitersbidden go--the glanceThat onlyseems half-loyal to command--A mannersomewhat fallen from reverence--Or have Idreamed the bearing of our knightsTells of amanhood ever less and lower?Or whencethe fear lest this my realmuprearedBy nobledeeds at one with noble vowsFrom flatconfusion and brute violencesReel backinto the beastand be no more?'
He spokeand taking all his younger knightsDown theslope city rodeand sharply turnedNorth bythe gate. In her high bower the QueenWorking atapestrylifted up her headWatchedher lord passand knew not that she sighed.Then ranacross her memory the strange rhymeOf bygoneMerlin'Where is he who knows?From thegreat deep to the great deep he goes.'
But when the morning of a tournamentBy thesein earnest those in mockery calledTheTournament of the Dead InnocenceBrake witha wet wind blowingLancelotRoundwhose sick head all nightlike birds of preyThe wordsof Arthur flying shriekedaroseAnd down astreetway hung with folds of pureWhitesamiteand by fountains running wineWherechildren sat in white with cups of goldMoved tothe listsand therewith slow sad stepsAscendingfilled his double-dragoned chair.
He glanced and saw the stately galleriesDamedamseleach through worship of their QueenWhite-robedin honour of the stainless childAnd somewith scattered jewelslike a bankOf maidensnow mingled with sparks of fire.He lookedbut onceand vailed his eyes again.
The sudden trumpet sounded as in a dreamTo earsbut half-awakedthen one low rollOf Autumnthunderand the jousts began:And everthe wind blewand yellowing leafAnd gloomand gleamand shower and shorn plumeWent downit. Sighing weariedlyas oneWho sitsand gazes on a faded fireWhen allthe goodlier guests are past awaySat theirgreat umpirelooking o'er the lists.He saw thelaws that ruled the tournamentBrokenbut spake not; oncea knight cast downBefore histhrone of arbitration cursedThe deadbabe and the follies of the King;And oncethe laces of a helmet crackedAnd showedhimlike a vermin in its holeModredanarrow face: anon he heardThe voicethat billowed round the barriers roarAnocean-sounding welcome to one knightButnewly-enteredtaller than the restAndarmoured all in forest greenwhereonTheretript a hundred tiny silver deerAndwearing but a holly-spray for crestWithever-scattering berriesand on shieldA spearaharpa bugle--Tristram--lateFromoverseas in Brittany returnedAndmarriage with a princess of that realmIsolt theWhite--Sir Tristram of the Woods--WhomLancelot knewhad held sometime with painHis ownagainst himand now yearned to shakeTheburthen off his heart in one full shockWithTristram even to death: his strong hands griptAnd dintedthe gilt dragons right and leftUntil hegroaned for wrath--so many of thoseThat waretheir ladies' colours on the casqueDrew frombefore Sir Tristram to the boundsAnd therewith gibes and flickering mockeriesStoodwhile he muttered'Craven crests! O shame!What faithhave these in whom they sware to love?The gloryof our Round Table is no more.'
So Tristram wonand Lancelot gavethe gemsNotspeaking other word than 'Hast thou won?
Art thouthe purestbrother? Seethe handWherewiththou takest thisis red!' to whomTristramhalf plagued by Lancelot's languorous moodMadeanswer'Aybut wherefore toss me thisLike a drybone cast to some hungry hound?Lest bethy fair Queen's fantasy. Strength of heartAnd mightof limbbut mainly use and skillArewinners in this pastime of our King.Myhand--belike the lance hath dript upon it--No bloodof mineI trow; but O chief knightRight armof Arthur in the battlefieldGreatbrotherthou nor I have made the world;Be happyin thy fair Queen as I in mine.'
And Tristram round the gallery made his horseCaracole;then bowed his homagebluntly saying'Fairdamselseach to him who worships eachSole Queenof Beauty and of lovebeholdThis daymy Queen of Beauty is not here.'And mostof these were mutesome angeredoneMurmuring'All courtesy is dead' and one'The gloryof our Round Table is no more.'
Then fell thick rainplume droopt and mantle clungAndpettish cries awokeand the wan dayWentglooming down in wet and weariness:But underher black brows a swarthy oneLaughedshrillycrying'Praise the patient saintsOur onewhite day of Innocence hath pastThoughsomewhat draggled at the skirt. So be it.Thesnowdrop onlyflowering through the yearWould makethe world as blank as Winter-tide.Come--letus gladden their sad eyesour Queen'sAndLancelot'sat this night's solemnityWith allthe kindlier colours of the field.'
So dame and damsel glittered at the feastVariouslygay: for he that tells the taleLikenedthemsayingas when an hour of coldFalls onthe mountain in midsummer snowsAnd allthe purple slopes of mountain flowersPass underwhitetill the warm hour returnsWith veerof windand all are flowers again;So dameand damsel cast the simple whiteAndglowing in all coloursthe live grassRose-campionbluebellkingcuppoppyglancedAbout therevelsand with mirth so loudBeyond allusethathalf-amazedthe QueenAnd wrothat Tristram and the lawless joustsBrake uptheir sportsthen slowly to her bowerPartedand in her bosom pain was lord.
And little Dagonet on the morrow mornHigh overall the yellowing Autumn-tideDancedlike a withered leaf before the hall.ThenTristram saying'Why skip ye soSir Fool?'Wheeledround on either heelDagonet replied'Belikefor lack of wiser company;Or beingfooland seeing too much witMakes theworld rottenwhybelike I skipTo knowmyself the wisest knight of all.''Ayfool' said Tristram'but 'tis eating dryTo dancewithout a catcha roundelayTo danceto.' Then he twangled on his harpAnd whilehe twangled little Dagonet stoodQuiet asany water-sodden logStayed inthe wandering warble of a brook;But whenthe twangling endedskipt again;And beingasked'Why skipt ye notSir Fool?'Madeanswer'I had liefer twenty yearsSkip tothe broken music of my brainsThan anybroken music thou canst make.'ThenTristramwaiting for the quip to come'Good nowwhat music have I brokenfool?'And littleDagonetskipping'Arthurthe King's;For whenthou playest that air with Queen IsoltThoumakest broken music with thy brideHerdaintier namesake down in Brittany--And sothou breakest Arthur's music too.''Save forthat broken music in thy brainsSir Fool'said Tristram'I would break thy head.FoolIcame too latethe heathen wars were o'erThe lifehad flownwe sware but by the shell--I am but afool to reason with a fool--Comethouart crabbed and sour: but lean me downSirDagonetone of thy long asses' earsAnd harkenif my music be not true.
'"Free love--free field--we love but while we may:The woodsare hushedtheir music is no more:The leafis deadthe yearning past away:New leafnew life--the days of frost are o'er:New lifenew loveto suit the newer day:New lovesare sweet as those that went before:Freelove--free field--we love but while we may."
'Ye might have moved slow-measure to my tuneNot stoodstockstill. I made it in the woodsAnd heardit ring as true as tested gold.'
But Dagonet with one foot poised in his hand'Frienddid ye mark that fountain yesterdayMade torun wine?--but this had run itselfAll outlike a long life to a sour end--And themthat round it sat with golden cupsTo handthe wine to whosoever came--The twelvesmall damosels white as InnocenceIn honourof poor Innocence the babeWho leftthe gems which Innocence the QueenLent tothe Kingand Innocence the KingGave for aprize--and one of those white slipsHanded hercup and pipedthe pretty one"DrinkdrinkSir Fool" and thereupon I drankSpat--pish--thecup was goldthe draught was mud.'
And Tristram'Was it muddier than thy gibes?Is all thelaughter gone dead out of thee?--Notmarking how the knighthood mock theefool--"FearGod: honour the King--his one true knight--Solefollower of the vows"--for here be theyWho knewthee swine enow before I cameSmuttierthan blasted grain: but when the KingHad madethee foolthy vanity so shot upItfrighted all free fool from out thy heart;Which leftthee less than fooland less than swine
A nakedaught--yet swine I hold thee stillFor I haveflung thee pearls and find thee swine.'
And little Dagonet mincing with his feet'Knightan ye fling those rubies round my neckIn lieu ofhersI'll hold thou hast some touchOf musicsince I care not for thy pearls.Swine? I have wallowedI have washed--the worldIs fleshand shadow--I have had my day.The dirtynurseExperiencein her kindHathfouled me--an I wallowedthen I washed--I have hadmy day and my philosophies--And thankthe Lord I am King Arthur's fool.Swinesayye? swinegoatsassesrams and geeseTroopedround a Paynim harper oncewho thrummedOn such awire as musically as thouSome suchfine song--but never a king's fool.'
And Tristram'Then were swinegoatsassesgeeseThe wiserfoolsseeing thy Paynim bardHad such amastery of his mysteryThat hecould harp his wife up out of hell.'
Then Dagonetturning on the ball of his foot'Andwhither harp'st thou thine? down! and thyselfDown! andtwo more: a helpful harper thouThatharpest downward! Dost thou know the starWe callthe harp of Arthur up in heaven?'
And Tristram'AySir Foolfor when our KingWas victorwellnigh day by daythe knightsGloryingin each new gloryset his nameHigh onall hillsand in the signs of heaven.'
And Dagonet answered'Ayand when the landWas freedand the Queen falseye set yourselfTo babbleabout himall to show your wit--Andwhether he were King by courtesyOr King byright--and so went harping downThe blackking's highwaygot so farand grewSo wittythat ye played at ducks and drakesWithArthur's vows on the great lake of fire.Tuwhoo! doye see it? do ye see the star?'
'Nayfool' said Tristram'not in open day.'AndDagonet'Naynor will: I see it and hear.It makes asilent music up in heavenAnd IandArthur and the angels hearAnd thenwe skip.' 'Lofool' he said'ye talkFool'streason: is the King thy brother fool?'
Thenlittle Dagonet clapt his hands and shrilled'Ayaymy brother foolthe king of fools!Conceitshimself as God that he can makeFigs outof thistlessilk from bristlesmilkFromburning spurgehoney from hornet-combsAnd menfrom beasts--Long live the king of fools!'
And down the city Dagonet danced away;Butthrough the slowly-mellowing avenuesAndsolitary passes of the woodRodeTristram toward Lyonnesse and the west.Before himfled the face of Queen IsoltWithruby-circled neckbut evermorePastas arustle or twitter in the woodMade dullhis innerkeen his outer eyeFor allthat walkedor creptor perchedor flew.Anon thefaceaswhen a gust hath blownUnrufflingwaters re-collect the shapeOf onethat in them sees himselfreturned;But at theslot or fewmets of a deerOr even afallen feathervanished again.
So on for all that day from lawn to lawnThroughmany a league-long bower he rode. At lengthA lodge ofintertwisted beechen-boughsFurze-crammedand bracken-rooftthe which himselfBuilt fora summer day with Queen IsoltAgainst ashowerdark in the golden groveAppearingsent his fancy back to whereShe liveda moon in that low lodge with him:Till Markher lord had pastthe Cornish KingWith sixor sevenwhen Tristram was awayAndsnatched her thence; yet dreading worse than shameHerwarrior Tristramspake not any wordBut bodehis hourdevising wretchedness.
And now that desert lodge to Tristram looktSo sweetthat haltingin he pastand sankDown on adrift of foliage random-blown;But couldnot rest for musing how to smootheAnd sleekhis marriage over to the Queen.Perchancein lone Tintagil far from allThetonguesters of the court she had not heard.But thenwhat folly had sent him overseasAfter sheleft him lonely here? a name?Was it thename of one in BrittanyIsoltthedaughter of the King? 'IsoltOf thewhite hands' they called her: the sweet nameAlluredhim firstand then the maid herselfWho servedhim well with those white hands of hersAnd lovedhim welluntil himself had thoughtHe lovedher alsowedded easilyBut lefther all as easilyand returned.Theblack-blue Irish hair and Irish eyesHad drawnhim home--what marvel? then he laidHis browsupon the drifted leaf and dreamed.
He seemed to pace the strand of BrittanyBetweenIsolt of Britain and his brideAnd showedthem both the ruby-chainand bothBegan tostruggle for ittill his QueenGraspt itso hardthat all her hand was red.Then criedthe Breton'Lookher hand is red!These beno rubiesthis is frozen bloodAnd meltswithin her hand--her hand is hotWith illdesiresbut this I gave theelookIs all ascool and white as any flower.'Followed arush of eagle's wingsand thenAwhimpering of the spirit of the childBecausethe twain had spoiled her carcanet.
He dreamed; but Arthur with a hundred spearsRode fartill o'er the illimitable reedAnd many aglancing plash and sallowy isleThewide-winged sunset of the misty marshGlared ona huge machicolated towerThat stoodwith open doorswhereout was rolledA roar ofriotas from men secureAmid theirmarshesruffians at their easeAmongtheir harlot-bridesan evil song.'Lothere' said one of Arthur's youthfor thereHigh on agrim dead tree before the towerA goodlybrother of the Table RoundSwung bythe neck: and on the boughs a shieldShowing ashower of blood in a field noirAndtherebeside a horninflamed the knightsAt thatdishonour done the gilded spurTill eachwould clash the shieldand blow the horn.But Arthurwaved them back. Alone he rode.Then atthe dry harsh roar of the great hornThat sentthe face of all the marsh aloftAn everupward-rushing storm and cloudOf shriekand plumethe Red Knight heardand allEven totipmost lance and topmost helmInblood-red armour sallyinghowled to the King
'The teeth of Hell flay bare and gnash thee flat!--Lo! artthou not that eunuch-hearted KingWho fainhad clipt free manhood from the world--Thewoman-worshipper? YeaGod's curseand I!Slain wasthe brother of my paramourBy aknight of thineand I that heard her whineAndsnivelbeing eunuch-hearted tooSware bythe scorpion-worm that twists in hellAnd stingsitself to everlasting deathTo hangwhatever knight of thine I foughtAndtumbled. Art thou King? --Look to thy life!'
He ended: Arthur knew the voice; the faceWellnighwas helmet-hiddenand the nameWentwandering somewhere darkling in his mind.And Arthurdeigned not use of word or swordBut letthe drunkardas he stretched from horseTo strikehimoverbalancing his bulkDown fromthe causeway heavily to the swampFallasthe crest of some slow-arching waveHeard indead night along that table-shoreDropsflatand after the great waters breakWhiteningfor half a leagueand thin themselvesFar oversands marbled with moon and cloudFrom lessand less to nothing; thus he fellHead-heavy;then the knightswho watched himroaredAndshouted and leapt down upon the fallen;Theretrampled out his face from being knownAnd sankhis head in mireand slimed themselves:Nor heardthe King for their own criesbut sprangThroughopen doorsand swording right and leftMenwomenon their sodden faceshurledThe tablesover and the winesand slewTill allthe rafters rang with woman-yellsAnd allthe pavement streamed with massacre:Thenechoing yell with yellthey fired the towerWhich halfthat autumn nightlike the live NorthRed-pulsingup through Alioth and AlcorMade allabove itand a hundred meresAbout itas the water Moab sawCame roundby the Eastand out beyond them flushedThe longlow duneand lazy-plunging sea.
So all the ways were safe from shore to shoreBut in theheart of Arthur pain was lord.
Thenout of Tristram wakingthe red dreamFled witha shoutand that low lodge returnedMid-forestand the wind among the boughs.Hewhistled his good warhorse left to grazeAmong theforest greensvaulted upon himAnd rodebeneath an ever-showering leafTill onelone womanweeping near a crossStayedhim. 'Why weep ye?' 'Lord' she said'my manHath leftme or is dead;' whereon he thought--'Whatifshe hate me now? I would not this.Whatifshe love me still? I would not that.I know notwhat I would'--but said to her'Yet weepnot thoulestif thy mate returnHe findthy favour changed and love thee not'--Thenpressing day by day through LyonnesseLast in aroky hollowbellingheardThe houndsof Markand felt the goodly houndsYelp athis heartbut turningpast and gainedTintagilhalf in seaand high on landA crown oftowers.
Down in a casement satA lowsea-sunset glorying round her hairAndglossy-throated graceIsolt the Queen.And whenshe heard the feet of Tristram grindThespiring stone that scaled about her towerFlushedstartedmet him at the doorsand thereBelted hisbody with her white embraceCryingaloud'Not Mark--not Markmy soul!Thefootstep fluttered me at first: not he:Catlikethrough his own castle steals my MarkButwarrior-wise thou stridest through his hallsWho hatestheeas I him--even to the death.My soulIfelt my hatred for my MarkQuickenwithin meand knew that thou wert nigh.'To whomSir Tristram smiling'I am here.Let be thyMarkseeing he is not thine.'
And drawing somewhat backward she replied'Can he bewronged who is not even his ownBut savefor dread of thee had beaten meScratchedbittenblindedmarred me somehow--Mark?Whatrights are his that dare not strike for them?Not lift ahand--notthough he found me thus!Butharken! have ye met him? hence he wentToday forthree days' hunting--as he said--And soreturns belike within an hour.Mark'swaymy soul!--but eat not thou with MarkBecause hehates thee even more than fears;Nordrink: and when thou passest any woodClosevizorlest an arrow from the bushShouldleave me all alone with Mark and hell.My Godthe measure of my hate for MarkIs as themeasure of my love for thee.'
Soplucked one way by hate and one by loveDrained ofher forceagain she satand spakeToTristramas he knelt before hersaying'O hunterand O blower of the hornHarperand thou hast been a rover tooForere Imated with my shambling kingYe twainhad fallen out about the brideOfone--his name is out of me--the prizeIf prizeshe were--(what marvel--she could see)--Thinefriend; and ever since my craven seeksTo wreckthee villainously: butO Sir KnightWhat dameor damsel have ye kneeled to last?'
And Tristram'Last to my Queen ParamountHere nowto my Queen Paramount of loveAndloveliness--aylovelier than when firstHer lightfeet fell on our rough LyonnesseSailingfrom Ireland.'
Softly laughed Isolt;'Flatterme notfor hath not our great QueenMy dole ofbeauty trebled?' and he said'Herbeauty is her beautyand thine thineAnd thineis more to me--softgraciouskind--Save whenthy Mark is kindled on thy lipsMostgracious; but shehaughtyeven to himLancelot;for I have seen him wan enowTo makeone doubt if ever the great QueenHaveyielded him her love.'
To whom Isolt'Ah thenfalse hunter and false harperthouWhobrakest through the scruple of my bondCalling methy white hindand saying to meThatGuinevere had sinned against the highestAndI--misyoked with such a want of man--That Icould hardly sin against the lowest.'
He answered'O my soulbe comforted!If this besweetto sin in leading-stringsIf here becomfortand if ours be sinCrownedwarrant had we for the crowning sinThat madeus happy: but how ye greet me--fearAnd faultand doubt--no word of that fond tale--Thy deepheart-yearningsthy sweet memoriesOfTristram in that year he was away.'
Andsaddening on the suddenspake Isolt'I hadforgotten all in my strong joyTo seethee--yearnings?--ay! forhour by hourHere inthe never-ended afternoonO sweeterthan all memories of theeDeeperthan any yearnings after theeSeemedthose far-rollingwestward-smiling seasWatchedfrom this tower. Isolt of Britain dashedBeforeIsolt of Brittany on the strandWould thathave chilled her bride-kiss? Wedded her?Fought inher father's battles? wounded there?The Kingwas all fulfilled with gratefulnessAnd shemy namesake of the handsthat healedThy hurtand heart with unguent and caress--Well--canI wish her any huger wrongThanhaving known thee? her too hast thou leftTo pineand waste in those sweet memories.O were Inot my Mark'sby whom all menAre nobleI should hate thee more than love.'
And Tristramfondling her light handsreplied'GraceQueenfor being loved: she loved me well.Did I loveher? the name at least I loved.Isolt?--Ifought his battlesfor Isolt!The nightwas dark; the true star set. Isolt!The namewas ruler of the dark--Isolt?Care notfor her! patientand prayerfulmeekPale-bloodedshe will yield herself to God.'
And Isolt answered'Yeaand why not I?Mine isthe larger needwho am not meekPale-bloodedprayerful. Let me tell thee now.Here oneblackmute midsummer night I satLonelybut musing on theewondering whereMurmuringa light song I had heard thee singAnd onceor twice I spake thy name aloud.Thenflashed a levin-brand; and near me stoodIn fumingsulphur blue and greena fiend--Mark's wayto steal behind one in the dark--For therewas Mark: "He has wedded her" he saidNot saidbut hissed it: then this crown of towersSo shookto such a roar of all the skyThat herein utter dark I swooned awayAnd wokeagain in utter darkand cried"Iwill flee hence and give myself to God"--And thouwert lying in thy new leman's arms.'
Then Tristramever dallying with her hand'May Godbe with theesweetwhen old and grayAnd pastdesire!' a saying that angered her.'"MayGod be with theesweetwhen thou art oldAnd sweetno more to me!" I need Him now.For whenhad Lancelot uttered aught so grossEven tothe swineherd's malkin in the mast?Thegreater manthe greater courtesy.Far otherwas the TristramArthur's knight!But thouthrough ever harrying thy wild beasts--Save thatto touch a harptilt with a lanceBecomesthee well--art grown wild beast thyself.How darestthouif loverpush me evenIn fancyfrom thy sideand set me farIn thegray distancehalf a life awayHer to beloved no more? Unsay itunswear!Flatter meratherseeing me so weakBrokenwith Mark and hate and solitudeThymarriage and mine ownthat I should suckLies likesweet wines: lie to me: I believe.Will yenot lie? not swearas there ye kneelAndsolemnly as when ye sware to himThe man ofmenour King--My Godthe powerWas oncein vows when men believed the King!They liednot thenwho swareand through their vowsThe Kingprevailing made his realm:--I saySwear tome thou wilt love me even when oldGray-hairedand past desireand in despair.'
Then Tristrampacing moodily up and down'Vows! didyou keep the vow you made to MarkMore thanI mine? Liedsay ye? Naybut learntThe vowthat binds too strictly snaps itself--Myknighthood taught me this--aybeing snapt--We runmore counter to the soul thereofThan hadwe never sworn. I swear no more.I swore tothe great Kingand am forsworn.Foronce--even to the height--I honoured him."Manis he man at all?" methoughtwhen firstI rodefrom our rough Lyonnesseand beheldThatvictor of the Pagan throned in hall--His haira sun that rayed from off a browLikehillsnow high in heaventhe steel-blue eyesThe goldenbeard that clothed his lips with light--Moreoverthat weird legend of his birthWithMerlin's mystic babble about his endAmazed me;thenhis foot was on a stoolShaped asa dragon; he seemed to me no manButMichael trampling Satan; so I swareBeingamazed: but this went by-- The vows!O ay--thewholesome madness of an hour--Theyserved their usetheir time; for every knightBelievedhimself a greater than himselfAnd everyfollower eyed him as a God;Till hebeing lifted up beyond himselfDidmightier deeds than elsewise he had doneAnd so therealm was made; but then their vows--Firstmainly through that sullying of our Queen--Began togall the knighthoodasking whenceHad Arthurright to bind them to himself?Dropt downfrom heaven? washed up from out the deep?Theyfailed to trace him through the flesh and bloodOf our oldkings: whence then? a doubtful lordTo bindthem by inviolable vowsWhichflesh and blood perforce would violate:For feelthis arm of mine--the tide withinRed withfree chase and heather-scented airPulsingfull man; can Arthur make me pureAs anymaiden child? lock up my tongueFromuttering freely what I freely hear?Bind me toone? The wide world laughs at it.Andworldling of the world am Iand knowTheptarmigan that whitens ere his hourWoos hisown end; we are not angels hereNor shallbe: vows--I am woodman of the woodsAnd hearthe garnet-headed yaffingaleMockthem: my soulwe love but while we may;Andtherefore is my love so large for theeSeeing itis not bounded save by love.'
Here endinghe moved toward herand she said'Good: an I turned away my love for theeTo someone thrice as courteous as thyself--Forcourtesy wins woman all as wellAs valourmaybut he that closes bothIsperfecthe is Lancelot--taller indeedRosier andcomelierthou--but say I lovedThisknightliest of all knightsand cast thee backThine ownsmall saw"We love but while we may"Well thenwhat answer?'
He that while she spakeMindful ofwhat he brought to adorn her withThejewelshad let one finger lightly touchThe warmwhite apple of her throatreplied'Pressthis a little closersweetuntil--ComeI amhungered and half-angered--meatWinewine--and I will love thee to the deathAnd outbeyond into the dream to come.'
So thenwhen both were brought to full accordShe roseand set before him all he willed;And afterthese had comforted the bloodWith meatsand winesand satiated their hearts--Nowtalking of their woodland paradiseThe deerthe dewsthe fernthe fountsthe lawns;Nowmocking at the much ungainlinessAnd cravenshiftsand long crane legs of Mark--ThenTristram laughing caught the harpand sang:
'AyayO ay--the winds that bend the brier!A star inheavena star within the mere!AyayOay--a star was my desireAnd onewas far apartand one was near:AyayOay--the winds that bow the grass!And onewas water and one star was fireAnd onewill ever shine and one will pass.AyayOay--the winds that move the mere.'
Then in the light's last glimmer Tristram showedAnd swungthe ruby carcanet. She cried'Thecollar of some Orderwhich our KingHath newlyfoundedall for theemy soulFor theeto yield thee grace beyond thy peers.'
'Not somy Queen' he said'but the red fruitGrown on amagic oak-tree in mid-heavenAnd won byTristram as a tourney-prizeAnd hitherbrought by Tristram for his lastLove-offeringand peace-offering unto thee.'
He spokehe turnedthenflinging round her neckClaspt itand cried'Thine OrderO my Queen!'Butwhilehe bowed to kiss the jewelled throatOut of thedarkjust as the lips had touchedBehind himrose a shadow and a shriek--'Mark'sway' said Markand clove him through the brain.
That night came Arthur homeand while he climbedAll in adeath-dumb autumn-dripping gloomThestairway to the halland looked and sawThe greatQueen's bower was dark--about his feetA voiceclung sobbing till he questioned it'What artthou?' and the voice about his feetSent up ananswersobbing'I am thy foolAnd Ishall never make thee smile again.'
QueenGuinevere had fled the courtand satThere inthe holy house at AlmesburyWeepingnone with her save a little maidA novice: one low light betwixt them burnedBlurred bythe creeping mistfor all abroadBeneath amoon unseen albeit at fullThe whitemistlike a face-cloth to the faceClung tothe dead earthand the land was still.
For hither had she fledher cause of flightSirModred; he that like a subtle beastLaycouchant with his eyes upon the throneReady tospringwaiting a chance: for thisHe chilledthe popular praises of the KingWithsilent smiles of slow disparagement;Andtampered with the Lords of the White HorseHeathenthe brood by Hengist left; and soughtTo makedisruption in the Table RoundOf Arthurand to splinter it into feudsServinghis traitorous end; and all his aimsWeresharpened by strong hate for Lancelot.
For thus it chanced one morn when all the courtGreen-suitedbut with plumes that mocked the mayHad beentheir wonta-maying and returnedThatModred still in greenall ear and eyeClimbed tothe high top of the garden-wallTo spysome secret scandal if he mightAnd sawthe Queen who sat betwixt her bestEnidandlissome Vivienof her courtThewiliest and the worst; and more than thisHe sawnotfor Sir Lancelot passing bySpiedwhere he couchedand as the gardener's handPicks fromthe colewort a green caterpillarSo fromthe high wall and the flowering groveOf grassesLancelot plucked him by the heelAnd casthim as a worm upon the way;But whenhe knew the Prince though marred with dustHereverencing king's blood in a bad manMade suchexcuses as he mightand theseFullknightly without scorn; for in those daysNo knightof Arthur's noblest dealt in scorn;Butif aman were halt or hunchedin himBy thosewhom God had made full-limbed and tallScorn wasallowed as part of his defectAnd he wasanswered softly by the KingAnd allhis Table. So Sir Lancelot holpTo raisethe Princewho rising twice or thriceFullsharply smote his kneesand smiledand went:Buteverafterthe small violence doneRankled inhim and ruffled all his heartAs thesharp wind that ruffles all day longA littlebitter pool about a stoneOn thebare coast.
But when Sir Lancelot toldThismatter to the Queenat first she laughedLightlyto think of Modred's dusty fallThenshudderedas the village wife who cries'Ishuddersome one steps across my grave;'Thenlaughed againbut faintlierfor indeedShehalf-foresaw that hethe subtle beastWouldtrack her guilt until he foundand hersWould befor evermore a name of scorn.Henceforwardrarely could she front in hallOrelsewhereModred's narrow foxy faceHeart-hidingsmileand gray persistent eye:Henceforwardtoothe Powers that tend the soulTo help itfrom the death that cannot dieAnd saveit even in extremesbeganTo vex andplague her. Many a time for hoursBeside theplacid breathings of the KingIn thedead nightgrim faces came and wentBeforeheror a vague spiritual fear--Like tosome doubtful noise of creaking doorsHeard bythe watcher in a haunted houseThat keepsthe rust of murder on the walls--Held herawake: or if she sleptshe dreamedAn awfuldream; for then she seemed to standOn somevast plain before a setting sunAnd fromthe sun there swiftly made at herA ghastlysomethingand its shadow flewBefore ittill it touched herand she turned--When lo!her ownthat broadening from her feetAndblackeningswallowed all the landand in itFar citiesburntand with a cry she woke.And allthis trouble did not pass but grew;Till eventhe clear face of the guileless KingAndtrustful courtesies of household lifeBecame herbane; and at the last she said'OLancelotget thee hence to thine own landFor ifthou tarry we shall meet againAnd if wemeet againsome evil chanceWill makethe smouldering scandal break and blazeBefore thepeopleand our lord the King.'AndLancelot ever promisedbut remainedAnd stillthey met and met. Again she said'OLancelotif thou love me get thee hence.'And thenthey were agreed upon a night(When thegood King should not be there) to meetAnd partfor ever. Vivienlurkingheard.She toldSir Modred. Passion-pale they metAndgreeted. Hands in handsand eye to eyeLow on theborder of her couch they satStammeringand staring. It was their last hourA madnessof farewells. And Modred broughtHiscreatures to the basement of the towerFortestimony; and crying with full voice'Traitorcome outye are trapt at last' arousedLancelotwho rushing outward lionlikeLeapt onhimand hurled him headlongand he fellStunnedand his creatures took and bare him offAnd allwas still: then she'The end is comeAnd I amshamed for ever;' and he said'Mine bethe shame; mine was the sin: but riseAnd fly tomy strong castle overseas:There willI hide theetill my life shall endThere holdthee with my life against the world.'Sheanswered'Lancelotwilt thou hold me so?Nayfriendfor we have taken our farewells.Would Godthat thou couldst hide me from myself!Mine isthe shamefor I was wifeand thouUnwedded: yet rise nowand let us flyFor I willdraw me into sanctuaryAnd bidemy doom.' So Lancelot got her horseSet herthereonand mounted on his ownAnd thenthey rode to the divided wayTherekissedand parted weeping: for he pastLove-loyalto the least wish of the QueenBack tohis land; but she to AlmesburyFled allnight long by glimmering waste and wealdAnd heardthe Spirits of the waste and wealdMoan asshe fledor thought she heard them moan:And inherself she moaned 'Too latetoo late!'Till inthe cold wind that foreruns the mornA blot inheaventhe Ravenflying highCroakedand she thought'He spies a field of death;For nowthe Heathen of the Northern SeaLured bythe crimes and frailties of the courtBegin toslay the folkand spoil the land.'
And when she came to Almesbury she spakeThere tothe nunsand said'Mine enemiesPursue mebutO peaceful SisterhoodReceiveand yield me sanctuarynor askHer nameto whom ye yield ittill her timeTo tellyou:' and her beautygrace and powerWrought asa charm upon themand they sparedTo ask it.
So the stately Queen abodeFor many aweekunknownamong the nuns;Nor withthem mixednor told her namenor soughtWrapt inher grieffor housel or for shriftButcommuned only with the little maidWhopleased her with a babbling heedlessnessWhichoften lured her from herself; but nowThisnighta rumour wildly blown aboutCamethatSir Modred had usurped the realmAndleagued him with the heathenwhile the KingWas wagingwar on Lancelot: then she thought'With whata hate the people and the KingMust hateme' and bowed down upon her handsSilentuntil the little maidwho brookedNosilencebrake ituttering'Late! so late!What hourI wondernow?' and when she drewNo answerby and by began to humAn air thenuns had taught her; 'Lateso late!'Which whenshe heardthe Queen looked upand said'O maidenif indeed ye list to singSingandunbind my heart that I may weep.'Whereatfull willingly sang the little maid.
'Latelateso late! and dark the night and chill!Latelateso late! but we can enter still.Too latetoo late! ye cannot enter now.
'No light had we: for that we do repent;Andlearning thisthe bridegroom will relent.Too latetoo late! ye cannot enter now.
'No light: so late! and dark and chill the night!O let usinthat we may find the light!Too latetoo late: ye cannot enter now.
'Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet?O let usinthough lateto kiss his feet!Nonotoo late! ye cannot enter now.'
So sang the novicewhile full passionatelyHer headupon her handsrememberingHerthought when first she camewept the sad Queen.Then saidthe little novice prattling to her 'O pray younoble ladyweep no more;But let mywordsthe words of one so smallWhoknowing nothing knows but to obeyAnd if Ido not there is penance given--Comfortyour sorrows; for they do not flowFrom evildone; right sure am I of thatWho seeyour tender grace and stateliness.But weighyour sorrows with our lord the King'sAndweighing find them less; for gone is heTo wagegrim war against Sir Lancelot thereRound thatstrong castle where he holds the Queen;And Modredwhom he left in charge of allThetraitor--Ah sweet ladythe King's griefFor hisown selfand his own Queenand realmMust needsbe thrice as great as any of ours.For meIthank the saintsI am not great.For ifthere ever come a grief to meI cry mycry in silenceand have done.None knowsitand my tears have brought me good:But evenwere the griefs of little onesAs greatas those of great onesyet this griefIs addedto the griefs the great must bearThathowsoever much they may desireSilencethey cannot weep behind a cloud:As evenhere they talk at AlmesburyAbout thegood King and his wicked QueenAnd were Isuch a King with such a QueenWell mightI wish to veil her wickednessBut were Isuch a Kingit could not be.'
Then to her own sad heart muttered the Queen'Will thechild kill me with her innocent talk?'But openlyshe answered'Must not IIf thisfalse traitor have displaced his lordGrievewith the common grief of all the realm?'
'Yea' said the maid'this is all woman's griefThat sheis womanwhose disloyal lifeHathwrought confusion in the Table RoundWhich goodKing Arthur foundedyears agoWith signsand miracles and wondersthereAtCamelotere the coming of the Queen.'
Then thought the Queen within herself again'Will thechild kill me with her foolish prate?'But openlyshe spake and said to her'O littlemaidshut in by nunnery wallsWhat canstthou know of Kings and Tables RoundOr what ofsigns and wondersbut the signsAnd simplemiracles of thy nunnery?'
To whom the little novice garrulously'YeabutI know: the land was full of signsAndwonders ere the coming of the Queen.So said myfatherand himself was knightOf thegreat Table--at the founding of it;And rodethereto from Lyonnesseand he saidThat as herodean hour or maybe twainAfter thesunsetdown the coasthe heardStrangemusicand he pausedand turning--thereAll downthe lonely coast of LyonnesseEach witha beacon-star upon his headAnd with awild sea-light about his feetHe sawthem--headland after headland flameFar oninto the rich heart of the west:And in thelight the white mermaiden swamAnd strongman-breasted things stood from the seaAnd sent adeep sea-voice through all the land
To whichthe little elves of chasm and cleftMadeanswersounding like a distant horn.So said myfather--yeaand furthermoreNextmorningwhile he past the dim-lit woodsHimselfbeheld three spirits mad with joyComedashing down on a tall wayside flowerThat shookbeneath themas the thistle shakesWhen threegray linnets wrangle for the seed:And stillat evenings on before his horseTheflickering fairy-circle wheeled and brokeFlyingand linked againand wheeled and brokeFlyingfor all the land was full of life.And whenat last he came to CamelotA wreathof airy dancers hand-in-handSwunground the lighted lantern of the hall;And in thehall itself was such a feastAs neverman had dreamed; for every knightHadwhatsoever meat he longed for servedBy handsunseen; and even as he saidDown inthe cellars merry bloated thingsShoulderedthe spigotstraddling on the buttsWhile thewine ran: so glad were spirits and menBefore thecoming of the sinful Queen.'
Then spake the Queen and somewhat bitterly'Were theyso glad? ill prophets were they allSpiritsand men: could none of them foreseeNot eventhy wise father with his signsAndwonderswhat has fallen upon the realm?'
To whom the novice garrulously again'Yeaonea bard; of whom my father saidFull manya noble war-song had he sungEven inthe presence of an enemy's fleetBetweenthe steep cliff and the coming wave;And many amystic lay of life and deathHadchanted on the smoky mountain-topsWhen roundhim bent the spirits of the hillsWith alltheir dewy hair blown back like flame:So said myfather--and that night the bardSangArthur's glorious warsand sang the KingAswellnigh more than manand railed at thoseWho calledhim the false son of Gorlois:For therewas no man knew from whence he came;But aftertempestwhen the long wave brokeAll downthe thundering shores of Bude and BosThere camea day as still as heavenand thenThey founda naked child upon the sandsOf darkTintagil by the Cornish sea;And thatwas Arthur; and they fostered himTill he bymiracle was approven King:And thathis grave should be a mysteryFrom allmenlike his birth; and could he findA woman inher womanhood as greatAs he wasin his manhoodthenhe sangThe twaintogether well might change the world.But evenin the middle of his songHefalteredand his hand fell from the harpAnd palehe turnedand reeledand would have fallenBut thatthey stayed him up; nor would he tellHisvision; but what doubt that he foresawThis evilwork of Lancelot and the Queen?'
Then thought the Queen'Lo! they have set her onOursimple-seeming Abbess and her nunsTo playupon me' and bowed her head nor spake.Whereatthe novice cryingwith clasped handsShame onher own garrulity garrulouslySaid thegood nuns would check her gadding tongueFulloften'andsweet ladyif I seemTo vex anear too sad to listen to meUnmannerlywith prattling and the talesWhich mygood father told mecheck me tooNor let meshame my father's memoryoneOf noblestmannersthough himself would saySirLancelot had the noblest; and he diedKilled ina tiltcome nextfive summers backAnd leftme; but of others who remainAnd of thetwo first-famed for courtesy--And prayyou check me if I ask amiss-But prayyouwhich had noblestwhile you movedAmongthemLancelot or our lord the King?'
Then the pale Queen looked up and answered her'SirLancelotas became a noble knightWasgracious to all ladiesand the sameIn openbattle or the tilting-fieldForborehis own advantageand the KingIn openbattle or the tilting-fieldForborehis own advantageand these twoWere themost nobly-mannered men of all;Formanners are not idlebut the fruitOf loyalnatureand of noble mind.'
'Yea' said the maid'be manners such fair fruit?'ThenLancelot's needs must be a thousand-foldLessnoblebeingas all rumour runsThe mostdisloyal friend in all the world.'
To which a mournful answer made the Queen:'O closedabout by narrowing nunnery-wallsWhatknowest thou of the worldand all its lightsAndshadowsall the wealth and all the woe?If everLancelotthat most noble knightWere forone hour less noble than himselfPray forhim that he scape the doom of fireAnd weepfor her that drew him to his doom.'
'Yea' said the little novice'I pray for both;But Ishould all as soon believe that hisSirLancelot'swere as noble as the King'sAs I couldthinksweet ladyyours would beSuch asthey arewere you the sinful Queen.'
So shelike many another babblerhurtWhom shewould sootheand harmed where she would heal;For here asudden flush of wrathful heatFired allthe pale face of the Queenwho cried'Such asthou art be never maiden moreFor ever!thou their toolset on to plagueAnd playuponand harry mepetty spyAndtraitress.' When that storm of anger brakeFromGuinevereaghast the maiden roseWhite asher veiland stood before the QueenAstremulously as foam upon the beachStands ina windready to break and flyAnd whenthe Queen had added 'Get thee hence'Fledfrighted. Then that other left aloneSighedand began to gather heart againSaying inherself'The simplefearful childMeantnothingbut my own too-fearful guiltSimplerthan any childbetrays itself.But helpmeheavenfor surely I repent.For whatis true repentance but in thought--Not evenin inmost thought to think againThe sinsthat made the past so pleasant to us:And I havesworn never to see him moreTo see himmore.'
And even in saying thisHer memoryfrom old habit of the mindWentslipping back upon the golden daysIn whichshe saw him firstwhen Lancelot cameReputedthe best knight and goodliest manAmbassadorto lead her to his lordArthurand led her forthand far aheadOf his andher retinue movingtheyRapt insweet talk or livelyall on loveAnd sportand tilts and pleasure(for the timeWasmaytimeand as yet no sin was dreamed)Rode undergroves that looked a paradiseOfblossomover sheets of hyacinthThatseemed the heavens upbreaking through the earthAnd onfrom hill to hilland every dayBeheld atnoon in some delicious daleThe silkpavilions of King Arthur raisedFor briefrepast or afternoon reposeBycouriers gone before; and on againTill yetonce more ere set of sun they sawThe Dragonof the great PendragonshipThatcrowned the state pavilion of the KingBlaze bythe rushing brook or silent well.
But when the Queen immersed in such a tranceAnd movingthrough the past unconsciouslyCame tothat point where first she saw the KingRidetoward her from the citysighed to findHerjourney doneglanced at himthought him coldHighself-containedand passionlessnot like him'Not likemy Lancelot'--while she brooded thusAnd grewhalf-guilty in her thoughts againThere rodean armed warrior to the doors.Amurmuring whisper through the nunnery ranThen on asudden a cry'The King.' She satStiff-strickenlistening; but when armed feetThroughthe long gallery from the outer doorsRangcomingprone from off her seat she fellAndgrovelled with her face against the floor:There withher milkwhite arms and shadowy hairShe madeher face a darkness from the King:And in thedarkness heard his armed feetPause byher; then came silencethen a voiceMonotonousand hollow like a Ghost'sDenouncingjudgmentbut though changedthe King's:
'Liest thou here so lowthe child of oneIhonouredhappydead before thy shame?Well is itthat no child is born of thee.Thechildren born of thee are sword and fireRed ruinand the breaking up of lawsThe craftof kindred and the Godless hostsOf heathenswarming o'er the Northern Sea;Whom Iwhile yet Sir Lancelotmy right armThemightiest of my knightsabode with meHaveeverywhere about this land of ChristIn twelvegreat battles ruining overthrown.Andknowest thou now from whence I come--from himFromwaging bitter war with him: and heThat didnot shun to smite me in worse wayHad yetthat grace of courtesy in him leftHe sparedto lift his hand against the KingWho madehim knight: but many a knight was slain;And manymoreand all his kith and kinClave tohimand abode in his own land.And manymore when Modred raised revoltForgetfulof their troth and fealtyclaveTo Modredand a remnant stays with me.And ofthis remnant will I leave a partTrue menwho love me stillfor whom I liveTo guardthee in the wild hour coming onLest but ahair of this low head be harmed.Fear not: thou shalt be guarded till my death.Howbeit Iknowif ancient propheciesHave errednotthat I march to meet my doom.Thou hastnot made my life so sweet to meThat I theKing should greatly care to live;For thouhast spoilt the purpose of my life.Bear withme for the last time while I showEven forthy sakethe sin which thou hast sinned.For whenthe Roman left usand their lawRelaxedits hold upon usand the waysWerefilled with rapinehere and there a deedOf prowessdone redressed a random wrong.But I wasfirst of all the kings who drewTheknighthood-errant of this realm and allThe realmstogether under metheir HeadIn thatfair Order of my Table RoundA gloriouscompanythe flower of menTo serveas model for the mighty worldAnd be thefair beginning of a time.I madethem lay their hands in mine and swearToreverence the Kingas if he wereTheirconscienceand their conscience as their KingTo breakthe heathen and uphold the ChristTo rideabroad redressing human wrongsTo speakno slandernonor listen to itTo honourhis own word as if his God'sTo leadsweet lives in purest chastityTo loveone maiden onlycleave to herAndworship her by years of noble deedsUntil theywon her; for indeed I knewOf no moresubtle master under heavenThan isthe maiden passion for a maidNot onlyto keep down the base in manBut teachhigh thoughtand amiable wordsAndcourtlinessand the desire of fameAnd loveof truthand all that makes a man.And allthis throve before I wedded theeBelieving"lo mine helpmateone to feelMy purposeand rejoicing in my joy."Then camethy shameful sin with Lancelot;Then camethe sin of Tristram and Isolt;Thenothersfollowing these my mightiest knightsAnddrawing foul ensample from fair namesSinnedalsotill the loathsome oppositeOf all myheart had destined did obtainAnd allthrough thee! so that this life of mineI guard asGod's high gift from scathe and wrongNotgreatly care to lose; but rather thinkHow sad itwere for Arthurshould he liveTo sitonce more within his lonely hallAnd missthe wonted number of my knightsAnd missto hear high talk of noble deedsAs in thegolden days before thy sin.For whichof uswho might be leftcould speakOf thepure heartnor seem to glance at thee?And in thybowers of Camelot or of UskThy shadowstill would glide from room to roomAnd Ishould evermore be vext with theeIn hangingrobe or vacant ornamentOr ghostlyfootfall echoing on the stair.
For thinknotthough thou wouldst not love thy lordThy lordhast wholly lost his love for thee.I am notmade of so slight elements.Yet must Ileave theewomanto thy shame.I holdthat man the worst of public foesWho eitherfor his own or children's sakeTo savehis blood from scandallets the wifeWhom heknows falseabide and rule the house:For beingthrough his cowardice allowedHerstationtaken everywhere for pureShe like anew diseaseunknown to menCreepsnoprecaution usedamong the crowdMakeswicked lightnings of her eyesand sapsThe fealtyof our friendsand stirs the pulseWithdevil's leapsand poisons half the young.Worst ofthe worst were that man he that reigns!Better theKing's waste hearth and aching heartThan thoureseated in thy place of lightThemockery of my peopleand their bane.'
He pausedand in the pause she crept an inchNearerand laid her hands about his feet.Far off asolitary trumpet blew.Thenwaiting by the doors the warhorse neighedAt afriend's voiceand he spake again:
'Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimesI did notcome to curse theeGuinevereIwhosevast pity almost makes me dieTo seetheelaying there thy golden headMy pridein happier summersat my feet.The wrathwhich forced my thoughts on that fierce lawThe doomof treason and the flaming death(Whenfirst I learnt thee hidden here) is past.Thepang--which while I weighed thy heart with oneToo whollytrue to dream untruth in theeMade mytears burn--is also past--in part.And all ispastthe sin is sinnedand ILo! Iforgive theeas Eternal GodForgives: do thou for thine own soul the rest.But how totake last leave of all I loved?O goldenhairwith which I used to playNotknowing! O imperial-moulded formAnd beautysuch as never woman woreUntil itbecame a kingdom's curse with thee--I cannottouch thy lipsthey are not mineButLancelot's: naythey never were the King's.I cannottake thy hand: that too is fleshAnd in theflesh thou hast sinned; and mine own fleshHerelooking down on thine pollutedcries"Iloathe thee:" yet not lessO GuinevereFor I wasever virgin save for theeMy lovethrough flesh hath wrought into my lifeSo farthat my doom isI love thee still.Let no mandream but that I love thee still.Perchanceand so thou purify thy soulAnd sothou lean on our fair father ChristHereafterin that world where all are pureWe two maymeet before high Godand thouWiltspring to meand claim me thineand knowI am thinehusband--not a smaller soulNorLancelotnor another. Leave me thatI chargetheemy last hope. Now must I hence.Throughthe thick night I hear the trumpet blow:Theysummon me their King to lead mine hostsFar downto that great battle in the westWhere Imust strike against the man they callMysister's son--no kin of minewho leaguesWith Lordsof the White Horseheathenand knightsTraitors--andstrike him deadand meet myselfDeathorI know not what mysterious doom.And thouremaining here wilt learn the event;But hithershall I never come againNever lieby thy side; see thee no more--Farewell!'
And while she grovelled at his feetShe feltthe King's breath wander o'er her neckAnd in thedarkness o'er her fallen headPerceivedthe waving of his hands that blest.
Thenlistening till those armed steps were goneRose thepale Queenand in her anguish foundThecasement: 'peradventure' so she thought'If Imight see his faceand not be seen.'And lohesat on horseback at the door!And nearhim the sad nuns with each a lightStoodandhe gave them charge about the QueenTo guardand foster her for evermore.And whilehe spake to these his helm was loweredTo whichfor crest the golden dragon clungOfBritain; so she did not see the faceWhich thenwas as an angel'sbut she sawWet withthe mists and smitten by the lightsThe Dragonof the great PendragonshipBlazemaking all the night a steam of fire.And eventhen he turned; and more and moreThe moonyvapour rolling round the KingWho seemedthe phantom of a Giant in itEnwoundhim fold by foldand made him grayAndgrayertill himself became as mistBeforehermoving ghostlike to his doom.
Then she stretched out her arms and cried aloud'OhArthur!' there her voice brake suddenlyThen--as astream that spouting from a cliffFails inmid airbut gathering at the baseRe-makesitselfand flashes down the vale--Went on inpassionate utterance:
'Gone--my lord!Gonethrough my sin to slay and to be slain!And heforgave meand I could not speak.Farewell? I should have answered his farewell.His mercychoked me. Gonemy lord the KingMy owntrue lord! how dare I call him mine?The shadowof another cleaves to meAnd makesme one pollution: hethe KingCalled mepolluted: shall I kill myself?What helpin that? I cannot kill my sinIf soul besoul; nor can I kill my shame;Nonor byliving can I live it down.The dayswill grow to weeksthe weeks to monthsThe monthswill add themselves and make the yearsThe yearswill roll into the centuriesAnd minewill ever be a name of scorn.I must notdwell on that defeat of fame.Let theworld be; that is but of the world.What else?what hope? I think there was a hopeExcept hemocked me when he spake of hope;His hopehe called it; but he never mocksFormockery is the fume of little hearts.Andblessed be the Kingwho hath forgivenMywickedness to himand left me hopeThat inmine own heart I can live down sinAnd be hismate hereafter in the heavensBeforehigh God. Ah great and gentle lordWho wastas is the conscience of a saintAmong hiswarring sensesto thy knights--To whom myfalse voluptuous pridethat tookFulleasily all impressions from belowWould notlook upor half-despised the heightTo which Iwould not or I could not climb--I thoughtI could not breathe in that fine airThat pureseverity of perfect light--I yearnedfor warmth and colour which I foundInLancelot--now I see thee what thou artThou artthe highest and most human tooNotLancelotnor another. Is there noneWill tellthe King I love him though so late?Now--erehe goes to the great Battle? none:Myselfmust tell him in that purer lifeBut now itwere too daring. Ah my GodWhat mightI not have made of thy fair worldHad I butloved thy highest creature here?It was myduty to have loved the highest:It surelywas my profit had I known:It wouldhave been my pleasure had I seen.We needsmust love the highest when we see itNotLancelotnor another.'
Here her handGraspedmade her vail her eyes: she looked and sawThenoviceweepingsuppliantand said to her'Yealittle maidfor am I not forgiven?'Thenglancing up beheld the holy nunsAll roundherweeping; and her heart was loosedWithinherand she wept with these and said
'Ye know me thenthat wicked onewho brokeThe vastdesign and purpose of the King.O shut meround with narrowing nunnery-wallsMeekmaidensfrom the voices crying "shame."I must notscorn myself: he loves me still.Let no onedream but that he loves me still.So let meif you do not shudder at meNor shunto call me sisterdwell with you;Wear blackand whiteand be a nun like youFast withyour fastsnot feasting with your feasts;Grievewith your griefsnot grieving at your joysBut notrejoicing; mingle with your rites;Pray andbe prayed for; lie before your shrines;Do eachlow office of your holy house;Walk yourdim cloisterand distribute doleTo poorsick peoplericher in His eyesWhoransomed usand haler too than I;And treattheir loathsome hurts and heal mine own;And sowear out in almsdeed and in prayerThe sombreclose of that voluptuous dayWhichwrought the ruin of my lord the King.'
She said: they took her to themselves; and sheStillhopingfearing 'is it yet too late?'Dwelt withthemtill in time their Abbess died.Then shefor her good deeds and her pure lifeAnd forthe power of ministration in herAndlikewise for the high rank she had borneWas chosenAbbesstherean AbbesslivedFor threebrief yearsand therean AbbesspastTo wherebeyond these voices there is peace.
That storywhich the bold Sir BedivereFirst madeand latest left of all the knightsToldwhenthe man was no more than a voiceIn thewhite winter of his ageto thoseWith whomhe dweltnew facesother minds.
For on their march to westwardBedivereWho slowlypaced among the slumbering hostHeard inhis tent the moanings of the King:
'I found Him in the shining of the starsI markedHim in the flowering of His fieldsBut in Hisways with men I find Him not.I wagedHis warsand now I pass and die.O me! forwhy is all around us hereAs if somelesser god had made the worldBut hadnot force to shape it as he wouldTill theHigh God behold it from beyondAnd enteritand make it beautiful?Or else asif the world were wholly fairBut thatthese eyes of men are dense and dimAnd havenot power to see it as it is:Perchancebecause we see not to the close;--For Ibeing simplethought to work His willAnd havebut stricken with the sword in vain;And allwhereon I leaned in wife and friendIs traitorto my peaceand all my realmReels backinto the beastand is no more.My Godthou hast forgotten me in my death;Nay--Godmy Christ--I pass but shall not die.'
Thenere that last weird battle in the westThere cameon Arthur sleepingGawain killedInLancelot's warthe ghost of Gawain blownAlong awandering windand past his earWentshrilling'Hollowhollow all delight!HailKing! tomorrow thou shalt pass away.Farewell!there is an isle of rest for thee.And I amblown along a wandering windAndhollowhollowhollow all delight.'Andfainter onwardlike wild birds that changeTheirseason in the night and wail their wayFrom cloudto clouddown the long wind the dreamShrilled;but in going mingled with dim criesFar in themoonlit haze among the hillsAs of somelonely city sacked by nightWhen allis lostand wife and child with wailPass tonew lords; and Arthur woke and called'Whospake? A dream. O light upon the windThineGawainwas the voice--are these dim criesThine? ordoth all that haunts the waste and wildMournknowing it will go along with me?'
This heard the bold Sir Bedivere and spake:'O memyKinglet pass whatever willElvesandthe harmless glamour of the field;But intheir stead thy name and glory clingTo allhigh places like a golden cloudFor ever: but as yet thou shalt not pass.Light wasGawain in lifeand light in deathIs Gawainfor the ghost is as the man;And carenot thou for dreams from himbut rise--I hear thesteps of Modred in the westAnd withhim many of thy peopleand knightsOncethinewhom thou hast lovedbut grosser grownThanheathenspitting at their vows and thee.Right wellin heart they know thee for the King.Arisegoforth and conquer as of old.'
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:'Far otheris this battle in the westWhereto wemovethan when we strove in youthAnd brakethe petty kingsand fought with RomeOr thrustthe heathen from the Roman wallAnd shookhim through the north. Ill doom is mineTo waragainst my people and my knights.The kingwho fights his people fights himself.And theymy knightswho loved me oncethe strokeThatstrikes them dead is as my death to me.Yet let ushenceand find or feel a wayThroughthis blind hazewhich ever since I sawOne lyingin the dust at AlmesburyHathfolded in the passes of the world.'
Then rose the King and moved his host by nightAnd everpushed Sir Modredleague by leagueBack tothe sunset bound of Lyonnesse--A land ofold upheaven from the abyssBy fireto sink into the abyss again;Wherefragments of forgotten peoples dweltAnd thelong mountains ended in a coastOfever-shifting sandand far awayThephantom circle of a moaning sea.There thepursuer could pursue no moreAnd hethat fled no further fly the King;And therethat day when the great light of heavenBurned athis lowest in the rolling yearOn thewaste sand by the waste sea they closed.Nor everyet had Arthur fought a fightLike thislastdimweird battle of the west.Adeathwhite mist slept over sand and sea:Whereofthe chillto him who breathed itdrewDown withhis bloodtill all his heart was coldWithformless fear; and even on Arthur fellConfusionsince he saw not whom he fought.For friendand foe were shadows in the mistAnd friendslew friend not knowing whom he slew;And somehad visions out of golden youthAnd somebeheld the faces of old ghostsLook inupon the battle; and in the mistWas many anoble deedmany a baseAnd chanceand craft and strength in single fightsAnd everand anon with host to hostShocksand the splintering spearthe hard mail hewnShield-breakingsand the clash of brandsthe crashOfbattleaxes on shattered helmsand shrieksAfter theChristof those who falling downLooked upfor heavenand only saw the mist;And shoutsof heathen and the traitor knightsOathsinsultsfilthand monstrous blasphemiesSweatwrithingsanguishlabouring of the lungsIn thatclose mistand cryings for the lightMoans ofthe dyingand voices of the dead.
Lastas by some one deathbed after wailOfsufferingsilence followsor through deathOrdeathlike swoonthus over all that shoreSave forsome whisper of the seething seasA deadhush fell; but when the dolorous dayGrewdrearier toward twilight fallingcameA bitterwindclear from the Northand blewThe mistasideand with that wind the tideRoseandthe pale King glanced across the fieldOfbattle: but no man was moving there;Nor anycry of Christian heard thereonNor yet ofheathen; only the wan waveBrake inamong dead facesto and froSwayingthe helpless handsand up and downTumblingthe hollow helmets of the fallenAndshivered brands that once had fought with RomeAndrolling far along the gloomy shoresThe voiceof days of old and days to be.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir BedivereAnd whiterthan the mist that all day longHad heldthe field of battle was the King:
'Hearest thou this great voice that shakes the worldAnd wastesthe narrow realm whereon we moveAnd beatsupon the faces of the deadMy deadas though they had not died for me?--OBediverefor on my heart hath fallenConfusiontill I know not what I amNor whenceI amnor whether I be King.BeholdIseem but King among the dead.'
Then spake the bold Sir Bedivere: 'My KingKingeverywhere! and so the dead have kingsThere alsowill I worship thee as King.Yet stillthy life is wholeand still I liveWho lovethee; but who hates theehe that broughtTheheathen back among usyonder standsModredunharmedthe traitor of thine house.'
Then spake the King: 'My house hath been my doom.But callnot thou this traitor of my houseWho hathbut dwelt beneath one roof with me.My houseare rather they who sware my vowsYeaevenwhile they brake themowned me King.And wellfor theesaying in my dark hourWhen allthe purport of my throne hath failedThat quickor dead thou holdest me for King.King am Iwhatsoever be their cry;And onelast act of kinghood shalt thou seeYetere Ipass.' And uttering this the KingMade atthe man: then Modred smote his liegeHard onthat helm which many a heathen swordHad beatenthin; while Arthur at one blowStrikingthe last stroke with ExcaliburSlew himand all but slain himselfhe fell.
So all day long the noise of battle rolledAmong themountains by the winter sea;Until KingArthur's Tableman by manHad fallenin Lyonnesse about their lordKingArthur. Thenbecause his wound was deepThe boldSir Bedivere uplifted himAnd borehim to a chapel nigh the fieldA brokenchancel with a broken crossThat stoodon a dark strait of barren land:On oneside lay the Oceanand on oneLay agreat waterand the moon was full.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:'Thesequel of today unsolders allThegoodliest fellowship of famous knightsWhereofthis world holds record. Such a sleepTheysleep--the men I loved. I think that weShallnever moreat any future timeDelightour souls with talk of knightly deedsWalkingabout the gardens and the hallsOfCamelotas in the days that were.I perishby this people which I made--ThoughMerlin sware that I should come againTo ruleonce more; butlet what will bebeI am sodeeply smitten through the helmThatwithout help I cannot last till morn.Thoutherefore take my brand ExcaliburWhich wasmy pride: for thou rememberest howIn thoseold daysone summer noonan armRose upfrom out the bosom of the lakeClothed inwhite samitemysticwonderfulHoldingthe sword--and how I rowed acrossAnd tookitand have worn itlike a king;Andwheresoever I am sung or toldInaftertimethis also shall be known:But nowdelay not: take ExcaliburAnd flinghim far into the middle mere:Watch whatthou seestand lightly bring me word.'
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere:'It is notmeetSir Kingto leave thee thusAidlessaloneand smitten through the helm--A littlething may harm a wounded man;Yet I thyhest will all perform at fullWatch whatI seeand lightly bring thee word.'
So sayingfrom the ruined shrine he steptAnd in themoon athwart the place of tombsWhere laythe mighty bones of ancient menOldknightsand over them the sea-wind sangShrillchillwith flakes of foam. Hestepping downBy zigzagpathsand juts of pointed rockCame onthe shining levels of the lake.
There drew he forth the brand ExcaliburAnd o'erhimdrawing itthe winter moonBrighteningthe skirts of a long cloudran forthAndsparkled keen with frost against the hilt:For allthe haft twinkled with diamond sparksMyriads oftopaz-lightsand jacinth-workOfsubtlest jewellery. He gazed so longThat bothhis eyes were dazzled as he stoodThis wayand that dividing the swift mindIn act tothrow: but at the last it seemedBetter toleave Excalibur concealedThere inthe many-knotted waterflagsThatwhistled stiff and dry about the marge.So strodehe back slow to the wounded King.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:'Hast thouperformed my mission which I gave?What is itthou hast seen? or what hast heard?'
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:'I heardthe ripple washing in the reedsAnd thewild water lapping on the crag.'
To whom replied King Arthurfaint and pale:'Thou hastbetrayed thy nature and thy nameNotrendering true answeras beseemedThyfealtynor like a noble knight:For surersign had followedeither handOr voiceor else a motion of the mere.This is ashameful thing for men to lie.Yet nowIcharge theequickly go againAs thouart lief and dearand do the thingI badetheewatchand lightly bring me word.'
Then went Sir Bedivere the second timeAcross theridgeand paced beside the mereCountingthe dewy pebblesfixed in thought;But whenhe saw the wonder of the hiltHowcuriously and strangely chasedhe smoteHis palmstogetherand he cried aloud:
'And if indeed I cast the brand awaySurely aprecious thingone worthy noteShouldthus be lost for ever from the earthWhichmight have pleased the eyes of many men.What goodshould follow thisif this were done?What harmundone? Deep harm to disobeySeeingobedience is the bond of rule.Were itwell to obey thenif a king demandAn actunprofitableagainst himself?The Kingis sickand knows not what he does.Whatrecordor what relic of my lordShould beto aftertimebut empty breathAndrumours of a doubt? But were this keptStored insome treasure-house of mighty kingsSome onemight show it at a joust of armsSaying"King Arthur's swordExcaliburWrought bythe lonely maiden of the Lake.Nine yearsshe wrought itsitting in the deepsUpon thehidden bases of the hills."So mightsome old man speak in the aftertimeTo all thepeoplewinning reverence.But nowmuch honour and much fame were lost.'
So spake heclouded with his own conceitAnd hidExcalibur the second timeAnd sostrode back slow to the wounded King.
Then spoke King Arthurbreathing heavily:'What isit thou hast seen? or what hast heard?'
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:'I heardthe water lapping on the cragAnd thelong ripple washing in the reeds.'
To whom replied King Arthurmuch in wrath:'Ahmiserable and unkinduntrueUnknightlytraitor-hearted! Woe is me!Authorityforgets a dying kingLaidwidowed of the power in his eyeThat bowedthe will. I see thee what thou artFor thouthe latest-left of all my knightsIn whomshould meet the offices of allThouwouldst betray me for the precious hilt;Eitherfrom lust of goldor like a girlValuingthe giddy pleasure of the eyes.Yetfor aman may fail in duty twiceAnd thethird time may prosperget thee hence:Butifthou spare to fling ExcaliburI willarise and slay thee with my hands.'
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivereand ranAndleaping down the ridges lightlyplungedAmong thebulrush bedsand clutched the swordAndstrongly wheeled and threw it. The great brandMadelightnings in the splendour of the moonAndflashing round and roundand whirled in an archShot likea streamer of the northern mornSeen wherethe moving isles of winter shockBy nightwith noises of the Northern Sea.So flashedand fell the brand Excalibur:But ere hedipt the surfacerose an armClothed inwhite samitemysticwonderfulAnd caughthim by the hiltand brandished himThreetimesand drew him under in the mere.Andlightly went the other to the King.
Then spoke King Arthurdrawing thicker breath:'Now see Iby thine eyes that this is done.Speakout: what is it thou hast heardor seen?'
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:'Sir KingI closed mine eyelidslest the gemsShouldblind my purposefor I never sawNor shallseehere or elsewheretill I dieNot thoughI live three lives of mortal menSo great amiracle as yonder hilt.Then withboth hands I flung himwheeling him;But when Ilooked againbehold an armClothed inwhite samitemysticwonderfulThatcaught him by the hiltand brandished himThreetimesand drew him under in the mere.'
And answer made King Arthurbreathing hard:'My enddraws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone.Make broadthy shoulders to receive my weightAnd bearme to the margin; yet I fearMy woundhath taken coldand I shall die.'
So sayingfrom the pavement he half roseSlowlywith painreclining on his armAndlooking wistfully with wide blue eyesAs in apicture. Him Sir BedivereRemorsefullyregarded through his tearsAnd wouldhave spokenbut he found not words;Then tookwith careand kneeling on one kneeO'er bothhis shoulders drew the languid handsAnd risingbore him through the place of tombs.
Butas he walkedKing Arthur panted hardLike onethat feels a nightmare on his bedWhen allthe house is mute. So sighed the KingMutteringand murmuring at his ear'Quickquick!I fear itis too lateand I shall die.'
But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridgeClothedwith his breathand lookingas he walkedLargerthan human on the frozen hills.He heardthe deep behind himand a cryBefore. His own thought drove him like a goad.Dryclashed his harness in the icy cavesAnd barrenchasmsand all to left and rightThe bareblack cliff clanged round himas he basedHis feeton juts of slippery crag that rangSharp-smittenwith the dint of armed heels--And on asuddenlo! the level lakeAnd thelong glories of the winter moon.
Then saw they how there hove a dusky bargeDark as afuneral scarf from stem to sternBeneaththem; and descending they were wareThat allthe decks were dense with stately formsBlack-stoledblack-hoodedlike a dream--by theseThreeQueens with crowns of gold: and from them roseA cry thatshivered to the tingling starsAndas itwere one voicean agonyOflamentationlike a wind that shrillsAll nightin a waste landwhere no one comesOr hathcomesince the making of the world.
Then murmured Arthur'Place me in the barge.'So to thebarge they came. There those three QueensPut forththeir handsand took the Kingand wept.But shethat rose the tallest of them allAndfairestlaid his head upon her lapAnd loosedthe shattered casqueand chafed his handsAnd calledhim by his namecomplaining loudAnddropping bitter tears against a browStripedwith dark blood: for all his face was whiteAndcolourlessand like the withered moonSmote bythe fresh beam of the springing east;And allhis greaves and cuisses dashed with dropsOf onset;and the light and lustrous curls--That madehis forehead like a rising sunHigh fromthe dais-throne--were parched with dust;Orclotted into points and hanging looseMixed withthe knightly growth that fringed his lips.So like ashattered column lay the King;Not likethat Arthur whowith lance in restFrom spurto plume a star of tournamentShotthrough the lists at Camelotand chargedBefore theeyes of ladies and of kings.
Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:'Ah! myLord Arthurwhither shall I go?Whereshall I hide my forehead and my eyes?For now Isee the true old times are deadWhen everymorning brought a noble chanceAnd everychance brought out a noble knight.Such timeshave been not since the light that ledThe holyElders with the gift of myrrh.But nowthe whole Round Table is dissolvedWhich wasan image of the mighty worldAnd Ithelastgo forth companionlessAnd thedays darken round meand the yearsAmong newmenstrange facesother minds.'
And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:'The oldorder changethyielding place to newAnd Godfulfils himself in many waysLest onegood custom should corrupt the world.Comfortthyself: what comfort is in me?I havelived my lifeand that which I have doneMay Hewithin himself make pure! but thouIf thoushouldst never see my face againPray formy soul. More things are wrought by prayerThan thisworld dreams of. Whereforelet thy voiceRise likea fountain for me night and day.For whatare men better than sheep or goatsThatnourish a blind life within the brainIfknowing Godthey lift not hands of prayerBoth forthemselves and those who call them friend?For so thewhole round earth is every wayBound bygold chains about the feet of God.But nowfarewell. I am going a long wayWith thesethou seest--if indeed I go(For allmy mind is clouded with a doubt)--To theisland-valley of Avilion;Wherefalls not hailor rainor any snowNor everwind blows loudly; but it liesDeep-meadowedhappyfair with orchard lawnsAnd boweryhollows crowned with summer seaWhere Iwill heal me of my grievous wound.'
So said heand the barge with oar and sailMoved fromthe brinklike some full-breasted swanThatfluting a wild carol ere her deathRufflesher pure cold plumeand takes the floodWithswarthy webs. Long stood Sir BedivereRevolvingmany memoriestill the hullLooked oneblack dot against the verge of dawnAnd on themere the wailing died away.
But when that moan had past for evermoreThestillness of the dead world's winter dawnAmazedhimand he groaned'The King is gone.'Andtherewithal came on him the weird rhyme
'From thegreat deep to the great deep he goes.'
Whereat he slowly turned and slowly clombThe lasthard footstep of that iron crag;Thencemarked the black hull moving yetand cried'He passesto be King among the deadAnd afterhealing of his grievous woundHe comesagain; but--if he come no more--O mebeyon dark Queens in yon black boatWhoshrieked and wailedthe three whereat we gazedOn thathigh daywhenclothed with living lightThey stoodbefore his throne in silencefriendsOf Arthurwho should help him at his need?'
Then from the dawn it seemed there camebut faintAs frombeyond the limit of the worldLike thelast echo born of a great crySoundsasif some fair city were one voiceAround aking returning from his wars.
Thereat once more he moved aboutand clombEven tothe highest he could climband sawStraininghis eyes beneath an arch of handOr thoughthe sawthe speck that bare the KingDown thatlong water opening on the deepSomewherefar offpass on and onand goFrom lessto less and vanish into light.And thenew sun rose bringing the new year.
O loyal tothe royal in thyselfAnd loyalto thy landas this to thee--Bearwitnessthat rememberable dayWhenpaleas yetand fever-wornthe PrinceWho scarcehad plucked his flickering life againFromhalfway down the shadow of the gravePast withthee through thy people and their loveAnd Londonrolled one tide of joy through allHertrebled millionsand loud leagues of manAndwelcome! witnesstoothe silent cryThe prayerof many a race and creedand clime--Thunderlesslightnings striking under seaFromsunset and sunrise of all thy realmAnd thattrue Northwhereof we lately heardA strainto shame us 'keep you to yourselves;So loyalis too costly! friends--your loveIs but aburthen: loose the bondand go.'Is thisthe tone of empire? here the faithThat madeus rulers? thisindeedher voiceAndmeaningwhom the roar of HougoumontLeftmightiest of all peoples under heaven?What shockhas fooled her sincethat she should speakSo feebly?wealthier--wealthier--hour by hour!The voiceof Britainor a sinking landSomethird-rate isle half-lost among her seas?There rangher voicewhen the full city pealedThee andthy Prince! The loyal to their crownAre loyalto their own far sonswho loveOurocean-empire with her boundless homesForever-broadening Englandand her throneIn ourvast Orientand one isleone isleThat knowsnot her own greatness: if she knowsAnd dreadsit we are fallen. --But thoumy QueenNot foritselfbut through thy living loveFor one towhom I made it o'er his graveSacredaccept this old imperfect taleNew-oldand shadowing Sense at war with SoulIdealmanhood closed in real manRatherthan that gray kingwhose namea ghostStreamslike a cloudman-shapedfrom mountain peakAndcleaves to cairn and cromlech still; or himOfGeoffrey's bookor him of Malleor'soneTouched bythe adulterous finger of a timeThathovered between war and wantonnessAndcrownings and dethronements: take withalThy poet'sblessingand his trust that HeavenWill blowthe tempest in the distance backFrom thineand ours: for some are sacredwho markOr wiselyor unwiselysigns of stormWaveringsof every vane with every windAnd wordytrucklings to the transient hourAnd fierceor careless looseners of the faithAndSoftness breeding scorn of simple lifeOrCowardicethe child of lust for goldOr Labourwith a groan and not a voiceOr Artwith poisonous honey stolen from FranceAnd thatwhich knowsbut careful for itselfAnd thatwhich knows notruling that which knowsTo its ownharm: the goal of this great worldLiesbeyond sight: yet--if our slowly-grownAndcrowned Republic's crowning common-senseThat savedher many timesnot fail--their fearsAremorning shadows huger than the shapesThat castthemnot those gloomier which foregoThedarkness of that battle in the WestWhere allof high and holy dies away.