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THE 

POETICAL WORKS OF TENNYSON 

IN TEN VOLUMES 

VOL. V, 



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THE POETICAL WORKS OF 



ALFRED TENNYSON 



POET LAUREATE 



IDYLLS OF THE KING. VOL. IL 




LONDON 

C Kegan Paul & Co., i Paternoster Square 
•1879 

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( The rights of transloHon and of ts^oduciimt. 
are reserved) 



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LANCELOT AND ELAINE 



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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 



LAINE the fair, Elaine the loveablc^ . 
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, 
High in her chamber up a tower to the east 
Guarded the sacred shidd of Lancelot ; 
Which first she placed where morning's earliest ray 
Might strike it, and awake her with the gleam ; 
Then fearing rust or soilure fJuhionM for it 
A case of silk, and braided thereupon 
All the devices blazon'd on the shield 

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4 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

In their own tinct, and added, of her wit, 
A border fantasy of branch and flower, 
And yellow-throated nestling in the nest. 
Nor rested thus content, but day by day 
Leaving her household and good father climbed 
That eastern tower, and entering barr'd her door, 
Stript off the case, and read the naked shield. 
Now guess'd a hidden meaning in his arms, 
Now made a pretty history to herself 
Of erery dint a sword had beaten in it. 
And every scratch a lance had made upon it. 
Conjecturing when and where: this cut is fresh ; 
That ten years back; thb dealt him at Caerlyle; 
That at Caerleon ; this at Camdot : 
And ah God's mercy what a stroke was there I 
And here a thrust that might have kill*d, but God 

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LANCELOT AUD ELAINE- 5 

Broke the strong lance, and roU'd his enemy down, 
And saved him : so she lived in fantasy. 



How came the lily maid«by that good shield 
Of Lancelot, she that knew not ev*n his name ? 
He left it with her, when he rode to tilt 
For the great diamond in the diamond jousts, 
Which Arthur had ordain'd, and by that name 
Had named them, since a diamond was the prize. 

For Arthur long before they crown'd him 
king. 
Roving the trackless realms of Lyonnesse, 
Had found a glen, gray bouldei and black tarn. 
A horror lived about the tarn, and clave 

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6 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

like its own mists to all the mountain side : 
For here two brothers, one a king, had met 
And fought together; but their names were lost. 
And each had slain his brother at a blow. 
And down they fell and made the glen abhorr'd : 
And there they lay till all their hones wen; 

bleach'd, 
And lichenM into colour with the crags : 
And he, that once was king, had on a crown 
Of diamonds, one in front, and four aside. 
And Arthur came, and labouring up the pass 
All in a misty moonshine, imawares 
Had trodden that crown'd skeleton, and the skull 
Brake from the nape, and from the skull the crown 
Roll'd into light, and turning on its rims 

'^ ^ a glittering rivulet to the tarn : 

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LANCELOT AND SLA INS. 7 

And down the shingly scaur he plunged, and 

caught. 
And set it on his head, and in his heart 
Heard mnnnurs " lo, thou likewise shalt be king." 

Thereafter, when a king, he had the gems 
Pluck'd from the crown, and show'd them to his 

knights. 
Saying '' these jewels, whereupon I chanced 
Divinely, are the kingdom's not the king's— 
For public use : henceforward let there be, 
Once every year, a joust for one of these : 
For so by nine years' proof we needs must learn 
Which is our mightiest, and ourselves shall grow 
In use of arms and manhood, till we drive 
The Heathen, who^ some say, shall rule the land 

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8 LANCELOT AND ELAINB, 

Hereafter, which God hinder." Thus he spoke : 
And eight years past, eight jousts had been, and 

stiU 
Had Lancelot won the diamond of the year, 
With purpose to present them to the Queen, 
When all were won ; but meaning all at once 
To snare her royal fancy with a boon 
Worth half her realm, had never spoken word. 

Now for the central diamond and the last 
And laigest, Arthur, holding then his court 
Hard on the river nigh the place which now 
Is this world's hugest, let proclaim a joust 
At Camelot, and when the time drew nigh 
Spake (for she had been sick) to Guinevere 
'' Are yon so sick, my Queen, you cannot move 

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LANCELOT AND EL A INS. 9 

To these fair jousts ?" " Yea, lord," she said, "ye 

know it." 
** Then will ye miss,'* he answered, "the great deeds 
Of Lancelot, and his prowess in the lists, 
A sight ye love to look on." And the Queen 
Lifted her eyes, and they dwelt languidly 
On Lancelot, where he stood beside the King. 
He thinking that he lead her meaning there, 
" Stay with me, I am sick ; my love is more 
Than many diamonds," yielded, and a heart. 
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen 
(However much he yeam'd to make complete 
The tale of diamonds for his destined boon) 
Urged him to speak against the truth, and say, 
" Sir King, mine ancient wound is hardly whole, 
And lets me from the saddle;" and the King 

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lo LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Glanced first at him, then her, and went his way. 
No sooner gone than suddenly she began. 

"To blame, my lord Sir Lancelot, much to 
blame. 
Why go ye not to these fair jousts ? the knights 
Are half of them our enemies, and the crowd 
Will murmur, lo the shameless ones, who take 
Their pastime now the trustful king is gone I" 
Then Lancelot vext at having lied in vain : 
" Kxt, ye so wise? ye were not once so wise. 
My Queen, that summer, when ye loved me first 
Then of the crowd ye took no more account 
Than of the myriad cricket of the mead. 
When its own voice clings to each blade of grass, 
' ' every voice is nothing. As to knights, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, n 

Them surely can I silence with all ease. 
But now my loyal worship is allowM 
Of all men : many a bard, without offence, 
Has linked our names together in his lay, 
Lancelot, the flower of bravery, Guinevere, 
The pearl of beauty : and our knights at feast 
Have pledged us in this union, while the king 
Would listen smiling. How then ? is there more 7 
Has Arthur spoken aught ? or would yourself, 
Now weary of my service and devoir, 
Henceforth be truer to your faultless lord?". 

She broke into a little scornful laugh. 
'' Aithur, my lord, Arthur, the faultless King, 
That passionate perfection, my good lord — 
But who can gaze upon the Sun in heaven 7 

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12 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

\\t never spake word of reproach to me, 

He never had a glimpse of mme mitrath, 

He cares not for me : only here to-day 

There gleam'd a vague suspicion in his eyes : 

Some meddling rogue has tamper'd with him— else 

Rapt in this fancy of his Table Round, 

And swearing men to vows impossible, 

To make them like himself: but, friend, to me 

He is all fault who hath no fault at all : 

For who loves me must have a touch of earth ; 

The low sun makes the colour : I am yours, 

Not Arthur's, as ye know, save by the bond. 

And therefore hear my words : go to the jousts : 

The tiny-trumpeting gnat can break our dream 

When sweetest ; and the vermin voices here 

May buzz so loud— we scorn them, but they sting." 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 13 

Then answer'd Lancelot, the chief of knights. 
" And with what lace, after my pretext made^ 
Shall I appear, O Queen, at Camelot, I 
Before a king who honours his own word, 
As if it were his God's?'* 

"Yea," said the Queen, 
" A moral child without the craft to rule. 
Else had he not lost me : but listen to me, 
If I must find you wit : we hear it said 
That men go down before your spear at a touch 
But knowing you are Lancelot ; your great name, 
This conquers : hide it therefore; go tmknown : 
Win I by this kiss you will : and our tnie king 
Will then allow your pretext, O my knight. 
As all for glory; for to speak him true. 
Ye know right well, how meek so'er he seem^ 

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14 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

No keener hunter after glory breathes. 

He loves it in his knights more than himself: 

They prove to him his work : win and return." 

Then got Sir Lancelot suddenly to horse, 
Wroth at himself: not willing to be known, 
He left the barren-beaten thoroughfare. 
Chose the green path that showed the rarer foot. 
And there among the solitary downs, 
Full often lost in fancy, lost his way ; 
Till as he traced a faintly-shadow'd track, 
That all in loops and links among the dales 
Ran to the Castle of Astolat, he saw 
Fired firom the west, far on a hill, the towers. 
Thither he made and wound the gateway horn. 
Then came an old, dumb, myriad-wrinkled man. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, aS 

Who let him into lodging and disannM. 
And Lancelot marvell'd at the wordless man ; 
And issuing found the Lord of Astolat 
With two strong sons, Sir Torre and Sir Lavaine, 
Moving to meet him in the i»stle court ; 
And close behind them stept the lily maid 
Elaine, his daughter : mother of the house 
There was not : some light jest among them rose 
With laughter d3dng down as the great knight 
Approached them : then the Lord of Astolat. 
"Whence comest thou, my guest, and by what name 
Livest between the lips? for by thy state 
And presence I might guess thee chief of those, 
After the king, who eat in Arthur's halls. 
Him have I seen : the rest, his Table Round, 
Known as they are, to me they are unknown." 

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i6 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Then answer'd Lancelot, the chief of knights, 
" Known am I, and of Arthur's hall, and known, 
What I by mere mischance have brought, my shield. 
But since I go to joust as one unknown 
At Camelot for the diamond, ask me not. 
Hereafter you shall know me — and the shield — 
I pray you lend me one, if such you have, 
Blank, or at least with some device not mine/' 

Then said the Lord of Astolat, '' Here is Torre's : 
Hurt in his first tilt was my son. Sir Torre. 
And so, God wot, his shield is blank enough. 
His ye can have." Then added plain Sir Torre, 
•* Yea since I cannot use it, ye may have it" 
Here laugh'd the father saying " Fie^ Sir Churl, 
Is that an answer for a noble knight? 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, i 

Allow him : but LAvaine, my younger here, 
He is so full of lustihood, he will ride, 
Joust for it, and win, and bring it in an hour 
And set it in this damsel's golden hair, 
To make her thrice as wilful as before." 

'* Nay, father, nay good father, shame me not 
Before this noble knight " said young Lavaine 
'* For nothing. Surely I but play'd on Torre : 
He seem'd so sullen, vext he could not go : 
A jest, no more : for, knight, the maiden dream, 
That some one put this diamond in her hand. 
And that it was too slippexy to be held. 
And slipt and fell into some pool or stream. 
The castle-well, belike ; and then I said 
That if\ went and if\ fought and won it 

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i8 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

(But all was jest and joke among ourselves) 
Then must she keep it safelier. All was jest 
But father give me leaver an if he will. 
To ride to Camdot with this noble knight : 
Win shall I not, but do my best to win : 
Young as I am, yet would I do my best." 

" So ye will grace me," answer'd Lancelot, 
Smiling a moment, " with your fellowship 
O'er these waste downs whereon I lost myself, 
Then were I glad of you as guide and friend ; 
And you shall win this diamond—as I hear, 
It is a fair laige diamond,— if ye may, 
And yield it to this maiden, if ye will." 
" A fair large diamond/' added plain Sir Torre, 
" Such be for Queens and not for simple maids.** 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 19 

Then she, who held her eyes upon the ground, 
Elaine, and heard her name so tost about, 
Flush'd slightly at the slight disparagement 
Before the stranger knight, who, looking at her. 
Full courtly, yet not falsely, thus retum'd. 
" If what is fair be but for what is fair, 
And only Queens are to be counted so, 
Rash were my judgment then, who deem this 

maid 
Might wear as fair a jewel as is on earth, 
Not violating the bond of like to like." 

' He spoke and ceased : the lily maid Elaine^ 
Won by the mellow voice before she look'd, 
Lifted her eyes, and read his lineaments. 
The great and guilty love he bare the Queen, 

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90 LANCELOT AND ELAINM, 

In battle with the love he bare his lord. 
Had marr'd his face, and mark'd it ere his time. 
Another sinning on such heights with one^ 
The flower of all the west and all the world, 
Had been the sleeker for it : but in him 
His mood was often like a fiend, and rose 
And drove him into wastes and solitudes 
For agony, who was yet a living soul. 
Marr'd as he was, he seem*d the goodliest man, 
That ever among ladies ate in Hall, 
And noblest, when she lifted up her eyes. 
However marr'd, of more than twice her years, 
Seam'd with an ancient swordcut on the cheek. 
And bruised smd bronzed, she lifted up her eyes 
And loved him, with that love -which was her 
doom. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 21 

Then the great knight, the darling of the court» 
Loved of the loveliest, into that rude hall 
Stept with all grace, and not with half disdain 
Hid under grace, as in a smaller time^ 
But kindly man moving among his kind : 
Whom they with meats and vintage of their best 
And talk and minstrel melody entertained. 
And much they ask'd of court and Table Round, 
And ever well and readily answered he : 
But Lancelot, when they glanced at Guinevere, 
Suddenly speaking of the wordless man. 
Heard from the Baron that, ten years before. 
The heathen caught and reft him of his tongue. 
" He learnt and wam'd me of their fierce design 
Against my house, and him they caught and 
maira'd 

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aa LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

But I my sons and little daughter fled 

From bonds or death, and dwelt among the 

woods 
By the great river in a boatman's hut. 
Dull days were those, till our good Arthur broke 
The Pagan yet once more on Badon hill." 

** O there, great Lord, doubtless," Lavame said, 
rapt 
By all the sweet and sudden passion of youth 
Toward greatness in its elder, ** you have fought. 
O tell us — for we live apart — voa know 
Of Arthur's glorious wars." And Lancelot spoke 
And answer'd him at full, as having been 
With Arthur in the fight which all day long 
Rang by the white mouth of the violent Glem ; 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 23 

And in the four wild battles by the shore 

Of Diiglas ; that on Bassa ; then the war 

That thunder'd in and out the gloomy skirts 

Of Celidon the forest ; and again 

By castle Gnmion where the glorious King 

Had on his cuirass worn our Lady's Head, 

Carved of one emerald, centered in a sun 

Of silver rays, that lightened as he breathed ; 

And at Caerleon had he help'd his lord. 

When the strong neighings of the wild white 

Hoise 
Set every gilded parapet shuddering; 
And up in Agned Cathregonion too^ 
And down the waste sand-shores of Trath Treroit, 
Where many a heathen fell ; " and on the mount 
Of Badon I myself beheld the King 

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«4 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Charge at the head of all his Table Round, 
And all his legions crying Christ and him. 
And break them ; and I saw him, after, stand 
High on a heap of slain, from spur to plume 
Red as the rising sun with heathen blood. 
And seefhg me, with a great voice he cried 
' They are broken^ they are broken ' for the King, 
However mild he seems at home, nor cares 
For triumph in our mimic wars, the jousts — 
For if his own knight cast him down, he laughs 
Saying, his knights are better men than he— 
Yet in this heathen war the fire of God 
Fills him : I never saw his like : there lives 
No greater leader." 

While he utter*d thw, 
her own heart said the lily maid 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 35 

** Save your great self, fair lord ;*' and when he fell 
From talk of war to traits of pleasantry — 
Being mirthful he but in a stately kind — 
She still took note that when the living smile 
Died from his lips, across him came a cloud 
Of melancholy severe, from which again. 
Whenever in her hovering to and fro 
The lily maid had striven to make him cheer, 
There brake a sudden-beaming tenderness 
Of manners and of nature : and she thought 
That all was nature, all, perchance, for her. 
And all night long his face before her lived. 
As when a painter, poring on a face, 
Divinely thro* all hindrance finds the man 
Behind it, and so paints him that his face, 
The shape and colour of a mind and hf& 

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36 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Lives for his children, ever at its best 
And fullest ; so the face before her lived, 
Dark-splendid, speaking in the silence, fidl 
Of noble things, and held her from her sleep. 
Till rathe she rose, half-cheated in the thought 
She needs must bid farewell to sweet Lavaine. 
First as in fear, step after step, she stole 
Down the long tower-stairs, hesitating : 
Anon, she heard Sir Lancelot cry in the court, 
" This shield, my friend, where is it ?" and Lavaine 
Past inward, as she came from out the tower. 
There to his proud horse Lancelot tum'd, and 

smoothed 
The glossy shoulder, humming to himself. 
Elalf-envious of the flattering hand, she drew 
Nearer and stood. He look'd, and more amazed 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 27 

Than if seven men had set upon him, saw 

The maiden standing in the dewy light. 

He had not dream*d she was so beautiful. 

Then came on him a sort of sacred fear, 

For silent, tho' he greeted her, she stood 

Rapt on his face as if it were a God's. 

Suddenly flashed on her a wild desire. 

That he should wear her favour at the tilt 

She braved a riotous heart in asking for it. 

" Fair lord, whose name I know not — ^noble it is, 

I well believe, the noblest— will you wear 

My favour at this tourney ? " " Nay," said he, 

" Fair lady» since I never yet have worn 

Favour of any lady in the lists. 

Such is my wont, as those, who know me, know.' 

•* Yea, so," she answer'd; ** then in wearing min* 

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a8 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Needs must be lesser likelihood, noble lord, 
That those who know should know you." And 

he tum'd 
Her counsel up and down within his mind, 
And found it true, and answered, "true, my child. 
Well, I will wear it : fetch it out to me : 
What is it?" and she told him " a red sleeve 
Broider'd with pearls," and brought it: then he 

bound 
Her token on his helmet, with a smile 
Sa3ring, " I never yet have done so much 
For any maiden living," and the blood 
Sprang to her face and fill'd her with delight ; 
But left her all the paler, when Lavaine 
Returning brought the yet-unblazon'd shield, 
His brother's ; which he gave to Lancelot, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 39 

Who parted with his own to fair Elaine ; 

" Do me this grace, my child, to have my shield 

In keeping till I come." " A grace to me," 

She answer'd, " twice to-day. I am your Squire." 

Whereat Lavaine said, laughing, *' Lily maid. 

For fear our people call you lily maid 

In earnest, let me bring your colour back ; 

Once, twice, and thrice : now get you hence to 

bed: 
So kiss*d her, and Sir Lancelot his own hand, 
And thus they moved away : she stay'd a minute^ 
Then made a sudden step to the gate, and there — 
Her bright hair blown about the serious face 
Yet rosy-kindled with her brother's kiss — 
Paused in the gateway, standing by the shield 
In silence, while she watch'd their arms fer-off 

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30 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Sparkle, until they dipt below the downs. 

Then to her tower she climb'd, and took the shield. 

There kept it, and so lived in fantasy. 

Meanwhile the new companions past away 
Far o'er the long backs of the bushless downs, 
To where Sir Lancelot knew there lived a knight 
Not far from Camelot, now for forty years 
A hermit, who had pra/d, labour'd and prayd 
And ever labouring had scoop'd himself 
In the white rock a chapel and a hall 
On massive columns, like a shorediff cave, 
And cells and chambers : all were fair and dry ; 
The green light from the meadows underneath 
Struck up and Uved along the milky roofe ; 
And in the meadows tremulous asi>en-trees 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINB, ji 

And poplars made a noise of falling showers. 
And thither wending there that night they bode. 

But when the next day broke from underground, 
And shot red fire and shadows thro' the cave, 
They rose, heard mass, broke fast, and rode away : 
Then Lancelot saying, ** hear, but hold my name 
Hidden, you ride with Lancelot of the Lake," 
Abashed Lavaine, whose instant reverence. 
Dearer to true young hearts than their own praise, 
But left him leave to stammer, ** is it indeed ?*' 
And after muttering " the great Lancelot" 
At last he got his breath and answer'd *' One, 
One have I seen— that other, our liege lord, 
The dread Pendragon, Britain's king of kings, 
Of whom the people talk mysteriously. 

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39 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

He will be there — then were I stricken blind 
That minute, I might say that J had seen.*' 

So spake Lavaine, and when they reached the lists 
fiy Camelot in the meadow, let his eyes 
Run thro* the peopled gallery which half round 
Lay like a rainbow fall'n upon the grass, 
Until they found the clear-faced King, who sat 
Robed in red samite, easily to be known. 
Since to his crown the golden dragon clung, 
And down his robe the dragon writhed in gold. 
And from the carven-work behind him crept 
Two dragons gilded, sloping down to make 
Arms for his chair, while all the rest of them 
Thro* knots and loops and folds innumerable 
Fled ever thro' the woodwork, till they found 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 33 

The new design wherein they lost themselves, 
Yet with all ease, so tender was the work : 
And, in the costly canopy o*er him set, 
Blazed the last diamond of the nameless king. 
Then Lancelot answered young Lavaine and said, 
" Me you call great : mine is the firmer seat, 
The truer lance : but there is many a youth 
Now crescent, who will come to all I am 
And overcome it ; and in me there dwells 
No greatness, save it be some far-off touch 
Of greatness to know well I am not great : 
'iliere is the man." And Lavaine gaped upon him 
As on a thing miraculous, and anon \ 

The trumpets blew ; and then did either side. 
They that assail'd, and they that held the lists. 
Set lance in rest, strike spur, suddenly move, 

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34 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Meet in the midst, and there so furiously 
Shock, that a man far-off might well perceive, 
If any man that day were left afield. 
The hard earth shake, and a low thunder of arms. 
And Lancelot bode a little, till he saw 
Which were the weaker; then he hurl'd into it 
Against the stronger : little need to speak 
Of Lancelot in his glory : King, duke, earl, 
Count, baron — ^whom he smote, he overthrew. 

But in the field were Lancelot's kith and kin. 
Ranged with the Table Round that held the lists, 
Strong men, and wrathful that a stranger knight 
Should do and almost overdo the deeds 
Of Lancelot; and one said to the other " Lo ! 
''^hat is he ? I do not mean the force alone. 

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LANCELOT A}fD ELAINE. 35 

The grace and versatility of the man — 

Is it not Lancelot ! " " When has Lancelot worn 

Favour of any lady in the lists ? 

Not such his wont, as we, that know him, know." 

*• How then ? who then ?" a fury seized on them, 

A fiery family passion for the name 

Of Lancelot, and a glory one with theirs. 

They couched their spears and prickM their steeds 

and thus, 
Their plumes driv*n backward by the wind they 

made 
In moving, all together down upon him 
Bare, as a wild wave in the wide North-sea, 
Green-glimmering toward the summit, bears, with all 
Its stormy crests that smoke against the skies, 
Down on a bark, and overbears the bark, 

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36 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

And him that helms it, so they overbore 
Sir Lancelot and his charger, and a spear 
Down-glancing, lamed the charger, and a spear 
Prick'd sharply his own cuirass, and the head 
Pierced thro' his side, and there snapt, and remain*d« 

Then Sir Lavaine did well and worshipfully ; 
He bore a knight of old repute to the earth. 
And brought his horse to Lancelot where he lay. 
He up the side, sweating with agony, got. 
But thought to do while he might yet endure, 
And being lustily holpen by the rest. 
His party, — tho* it seemed half-miracle 
To those he fought with — drave his kith and kin, 
And all the Table Round that held the lists, 
Back to the barrier; then the heralds blew 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 37 

Proclaiming his the prize, who wore the sleeve 
Of scarlet, and the pearls ; and all the knights, 
His party, cried " Advance, and take your prize 
The diamond;" but he answered, "diamond me 
No diamonds I for God's love, a little air ! 
Prize me no prizes, for my prize is death ! 
Hence will I and I charge you, follow me not." 

He spoke, and vanished suddenly from the fielu 
With young Lavaine into the poplar grove. 
There from his charger down he slid, and sat, 
Gasping to Sir Lavaine, " draw the lance-head :" 
" Ah my sweet lord Shr Lancelot,** said I >avaine, 
** 1 dread me, if I draw it, ye will die.*' 
But he " I die already with it : draw — 
Draw,** — and Lavaine drew, and that other gave 

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38 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

A marvellous great shriek and ghastly groan, 
And half his blood burst forth, and down he sank 
For the pure pain, and wholly swoon'd away. 
Then came the hermit out and bare him in. 
There stanch'd his wound; and there, in daily 

doubt 
Whether to live or die, for many a week 
Hid from the wide world's rumour by the grove 
Of poplars with their noise of falling showers. 
And ever-tremulous aspen-trees, he lay. 

But on that ds^ when Lancelot fled the lists, 
His party, knights of utmost North and West, 
Lords of waste marches, kings of desolate isles, 
Came round their great Pendragon, saying to him 
Lo, Sire, our knight thro* whom we won the day 

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LANCELOT AND BLAINE. ?.9 

Hath gone sore wounded, and hath left his prize 
Untaken, crying that his prize is death." 
"Heaven hinder," said the King "that such an one, 
So great a knight as we have seen to-day — 
He seem*d to me another Lancelot — 
Yea, twenty times I thought him Lancelot — 
He must not pass uncared for. Wherefore rise, 

Gawain. and ride forth and find the knight 
Wounded and wearied needs must he be near. 

1 charge you that you get at once to horse. 

And, knights and kings, there breathes not one of 

you 
Will deem this prize of ours is rashly given : 
His prowess was too wondrous. We will do him 
No customary honour: since the knight 
Came not to us, of us to claim the prize, 

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40 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Ourselves will send it after. Rise and take . 
This diamond, and deliver it, and return, 
And bring us where he is and how he fares, 
A nd cease not from your quest, until you find." 

So saying from the carven flower above. 
To which it made a restless heart, he took, 
And gave, the diamond : then from where he sat 
At Arthur*s right, with smiling face arose. 
With smiling face and frowning heart, a Prince 
In the mid might and flourish of his May, 
Gawain, sumamed The Courteous, fair and strong. 
And after Lancelot, Tristram, and Geraint 
And Lamorack, a good knight, but therewithal 
Sir Modred*s brother, of a crafty house, 
Nor often loyal to his word, and now 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 41 

Wroth that the king's command to sally forth 
In quest of whom he knew not, made him leave 
The banquet, and concourse of knights and kings. 

So all in wrath he got to horse and went ; 
While Arthur to the banquet, dark in mood. 
Past, thinking "is it Lancelot who has come 
Despite the wound he spake of, all for gain 
Of glory, and has added wound to wound. 
And ridd*n away to die?" So fear'd the King, 
And, after two days* tarriance there, returned. 
Then when he saw the Queen, embracing ask'd, 
•' Ix)ve, are you yet so sick ? " " Nay, Lord," she 

said. 
*' And where is Lancelot?" Then the Queen 

amazed 

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49 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

*' Was he not with you ? won he not your prize ?*' 
** Nay, but one like him." " Why that like was he." 
And when the King demanded how she knew, 
Said " Lord, no sooner had ye parted from us, 
Than Lancelot told me of a common talk 
That men went down liefore his spear at a touch. 
But knowing he was Lancelot; his great name 
Conquer'd ; and therefore would he hide his name 
From all men, ev*n the king, and to this end 
Had made the pretext of a hindering wound. 
That he might joust unknown of all, and learn 
If his old prowess were in aught decay'd : 
And added, * our true Arthur, when he learns. 
Will well allow ray pretext, as for gain 
Of purer glory.* " 

Then replied the King : 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 4 

" Far lovelier in our I^ancelot had it been. 
In lieu of idly dall3ring with the truth, 
To have trusted me as he has trusted you. 
Surely his king and most familiar friend 
Might well have kept his secret. True, indeed. 
Albeit I know my knights fantastical. 
So fine a fear in our large Lancelot 
Must needs have moved my laughter : now 

remains 
But little cause for laughter : his own kin — 
111 news, my Queen, for all who love him, 

these I 
His kith and kin, not knowing, set upon him ; 
So that he went sore wounded from the field : 
Yet good news too : for goodly hopes are mine 
That Lancelot is no more a lonely heart. 

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44 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

He wore, against his wont, upon his helm 

A sleeve of scarlet, broidered i^dth great pearls, 

Some gentle maiden's gift." 

" Yea, lord," she said, 
" Your hopes are mine," and saying that she 

choked, 
And sharply tum'd about to hide her face. 
Past to her chamber, and there flung herself 
Down on the great King's couch, and writhed 

upon it. 
And clench'd her fingers till they bit the palm, 
And shriek'd out "traitor" to the unhearing 

wall, 
Then flash'd into wild tears, and rose again, 
\nd moved about her palace, proud and pale. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 45 

Gawun the while thro' all the region round 
Rode with his diamond, wearied of the quest, 
Touched at all points, except the poplar grove, 
And came at last, tho' late, to Astolat : 
Whom glittering in, enamelled arms the maid 
Glanced at, and cried " What news from Camelot, 

lord? 
What of the knight with the red sleeve?" " He 

won." 
•• I knew it," she said. *• But parted from the 

jousts 
Hurt in the side," whereat she caught her breatii \ 
Thro' her own side she felt the sharp lance go ; 
Thereon she smote her hand: well-nigh she 

swoon'd : 
And, while he ga.-:ed wonderingly at her, came 

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46 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

The lord of Astolat out, to whom the Prince 
Reported who he was, and on what quest 
Sent, that he bore the prize and could not find 
The victor, but had ridden wildly round 
To seek him, and was wearied of the search. 
To whom the lord of Astolat ** Bide with us. 
And ride no longer wildly, noble Prince ! 
Here was the knight, and here he left a shield ; 
This will he send or come for : furthermore 
Our son is with him ; we shall hear anon. 
Needs must we hear. " To this the courteous Prince 
Accorded with his wonted courtesy. 
Courtesy with a touch of traitor in it. 
And stay'd; and cast his eyes on fair Elaine: 
Where could be found face daintier? then her 
shape 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 47 

From forehead down to foot perfect — ^again 
From foot to forehead exquisitely tum*d : 
" WeU— if I bide, lo I this wild flower for me !" 
And oft they met among the garden yews, 
And there he set himself to play upon her 
With sallying wit, free flashes from a height 
Above her, graces of the court, and songs, 
Sighs, and slow smiles, and golden eloquence 
And amorous adulation, till tlie maid 
Rebelled against it, saying to him, " Prince, 
O loyal nephew of our noble King, 
Why ask you not to see the shield he left. 
Whence you might learn his name? Why slight 

your King, 
And lose the quest he sent you on, and prove 
No surer than our falcon yesterday. 

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48 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Who last the hem we slipt him at, and went 

To all the winds ?" " Nay, by mine head," said he, 

" I lose it, as we lose the lark in heaven, 

O damsel, in the light of your blue e>'es : 

But an ye will it let me see the shield." 

And when the shield was brought, and Gawain saw 

Sir Lancelot's azure lions, crown'd with gold. 

Ramp in the field, he imote his thigh, and mock'd; 

"Right was the King I our Lancelot! that true 

man!" 
** And right was I," she answered merrily, " I, 
Who dream'd my knight the greatest knight of all." 
** And if /dream'd," said Gawain, "that you love 
This greatest knight, your pardon ! lo, you know 

it! 
Speak therefore : shall I waste myself in vain?" 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 49 

Full simple was her answer " What know I ? 
My brethren have been all my fellowship, 
And I, when often they have taUc'd of love, 
Wish'd it had been my mother, for they talk'd, 
Meseem'd, of what they knew not ; so myself— 
I know not if I know what true love is, 
But if I know, then, if I love not him, 
Methinks there is none other I can love." 
"Yea, by God's death," said he, ** ye love him well. 
But would not, knew ye what all others know. 
And whom he loves." " So be it," cried Elaine. 
And lifted her fair face and moved away : 
But he pursued her calling •* Stay a little I 
One golden minute's grace : he wore your sleeve . 
Would he break faith with one I may not name r 
Must our true man chansfe like a leaf aJUast ?, 

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5 E 



50 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Nay — like enough : why then, far be it from me 
To cross our mighty Lancelot in his loves ! 
And, damsel, for I deem you know full well 
Where your great knight is hidden, let me leave 
My quest with you ; the diamond also : here I 
For if you love, it will be sweet to give it ; 
And if he love, it will be sweet to have it 
From your own hand ; and whether he love or not, 
A diamond is a diamond. Fare you well 
A thousand times ! — a thousand times farewell I 
Yet, if he love, and his love hold, we two 
May meet at court hereafter : there, I think, 
So you will learn the courtesies of the court, 
We two shall know each other." 



Then he gave, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 51 

And slightly kiss'd the hand to which he gave 
The diamond, and all weaned of the quest 
Leapt on his horse, and carolling as he went 
A true-love ballad, lightly rode away. 

Thence to the court he past; there told the 
King 
What the Kmg knew " Sir Lancelot is the knight." 
And added " Sire, my liege, so much I learnt ; 
But faird to find him tho' I rode all round 
The r^on : but I lighted on the maid, 
Whose sleeve he wore ; she loves him ; and to her. 
Deeming our courtesy is the truest law, 
1 gave the diamond : she will render it ; 
For by mine head she knows his hiding-place.** 

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-52 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

The seldom-frowning King frown'd, and replied 
'' Too courteous truly I ye shall go no more 
On quest of mine, sedng that ye foiget 
Obedience is the courtesy due to kings." 

He spake and parted. Wroth but all in awe, 
For twenty strokes of the blood, without a word. 
Lingered that other, staring after him ; 
Then shook his hair, strode off, and buzz'd abroad 
About the maid of Astolat, and her love. 
All ears were prick'd at once, all tongues were 

loosed: 
" The maid of Astolat loves Sir Lancelot, 
Sir Lancelot loves the maid of Astolat" 
Some read the King's face, some the Queen's, 

and all 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 53 

Had marvel what the maid might be, but most 
Predoom*d her as unworthy. One old dame 
Came suddenly on the Queen with the sharp news. 
She^ that had heard the noise of it before, 
But sorrowing Lancelot should have stoop'd so low 
Marr'd her friend's point with pale tranquillity. 
So ran the tale like fire about the court, 
Fire in dry stubble a nine days' wonder flared : 
Till ev'n the knights at banquet twice or thrice 
Forgot to drink to Lancelot and the Queen, 
And pledging Lancelot and the lily maid 
Smiled at each other, while the Queen who sat 
With lips severely placid felt the knot 
Climb in her throat, and with her feet unseen 
Cmsh'd the wild passion out against the floor 
Beneath the banquet, where the meats became 

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54 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

As wonnwood, and she Iiated all who pledged. 

Bat far away the maid in Astolat, 
Her guiltless rival, she that ever kept 
The one-day-seen Sir Lancelot in her heart. 
Crept to her father, while he mused alone, 
Sat on his knee, stroked his gray face and said, 
" Father, you call me wilful, and the fault 
Is yours who let me have my will, and now 
Sweet father, will you let me lose my wits ?" 
"Nay," said he, "surely." "Wherefore, let mc 

hence," 
She answered, "and find out our dear Lavaine." 
" Ye will not lose your wits for dear Lavaine : 
Bide," answer'd he : "we needs must hear anon 
Of him, and of that other." " Ay," she said. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 55 

" And of that other, for I needs must hence 
And find that other, wheresoever he be, 
And with mine own hand give his diamond to him, 
Lest I be found as faithless in the quest 
As yon proud Prince who left the quest to me. 
Sweet father, I behold him in my dreams 
Gaunt as it were the skeleton of himself. 
Death-pale, for lack of gentle maiden's aid. 
The gentler-bom the maiden, the more bound. 
My father, to be sweet and serviceable 
To noble knights in sickness, as ye know. 
When these have worn their tokens : let me hence 
I pray you." Then her father nodding said, 
" Ay, ay, the diamond : wit you well, my child. 
Right fain were I to learn this knight were whole. 
Being our greatest : yea, and you must give U— 

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56 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

And sure I think this fruit is hung too high 
For any mouth to gape for save a Queen's— 
Nay, I mean nothing: so then, get you gone, 
Being so very wilful you must go.** 

Lightly, her suit alloVd, she slipt away, 
And while she made her ready for her ride, 
Her father's latest word humm'd in her ear, 
" Being so very wilful you must go,** 
And changed itself and echoed in her heart, 
" Bdng so very wilful you must die.** 
But she was happy enough and shook it off. 
As we shake off the bee that buzzes at us ; 
And in her heart she answer*d it and said, 
" What matter, so I help him back to life ?*' 
Then far away with good Sir Torre for guide 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 



57 



Rode o'er the long backs of the bushless downs 

To Camelot, and before the city-gates 

Came on her brother with a happy face 

Making a roan horse caper and curvet 

For pleasure all about a field of flowers : 

Whom when she saw, "Lavaine/' she cried. 

''Lavaine, 
How fares my lord Sir Lancelot ?" He amazed, 
" Torre and Elaine ! why here? Sir Lancelot ! 
How know ye my lord's name is Lancelot ?" 
But when the maid had told him all her tale, 
Then tum'd Sir Torre, and being in his moods 
Left them, and under the strange-statued gate, 
Where Arthur's wars were render*d mystically. 
Past up the still rich city to his kin, 
His own far blood, which dwelt at Camelot ; 

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58 LANCELOi A^D ELAIHR. 

And her, Lavaine across the poplar grove 

Led to the caves : there first she saw the casque 

Of Lancelot on the wall : her scarlet sleeve, 

Tho' carved and cut, and half the pearls away, 

Stream'd from it still ; and in her heart she laugh 'd. 

Because he had not loosed it from his helm. 

But meant once more perchance to tourney in it. 

And when they gain'd the cell in which he slept. 

His battle-writhen arms and mighty hands 

Lay naked on the wolfskin, and a dream 

Of dragging down his enemy made them move. 

Then she that saw him lying unsleek, unshorn, 

Gaunt as it were the skeleton of himself, 

Uttered a Httle tender dolorous cry. 

The sound not wonted in a place so still 

Woke the sick knight, and while he rolFd his cy« 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 59 

Yet blank from sleep, she started to him, sayuig 
" Your prize the diamond sent you by the King :** 
His eyes glisten*d : she fancied '* is it for me?" 
And when the maid had told him all the tale 
Of King and Prince, the diamond sent, the quest 
Assigned to her not worthy of it, she knelt 
Full lowly by the comers of his bed. 
And laid the diamond in his open hand. 
Her lace was near, and as we kiss the child 
That does the task assign'd, he kiss'd her face 
At once she slipt like water to the floor. 
" Alas," he said, " your ride has wearied you. 
Rest must you have." " No rest for me," she said ; 
"Nay, for near you, fair lord, I am at rest." 
What might she mean by that? his laxge black 
eyes, 

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6o LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Yet larger thro' his leanness, dwelt upon her. 
Till all her heart's sad secret blazed itself 
In the heart's colours on her simple face; 
And Lancelot look*d and was perplext in mind. 
And being weak in body said no more ; 
But did not love the colour ; woman's love. 
Save one, he not regarded, and so tum'd 
Sighing, and feign'd a sleep until he slept. 

Then rose Elaine and glided thro' the fields. 
And past beneath the wildly-sculptured gates 
Far up the dim rich city to her kin ; 
There bode the night : but woke with dawn, and 

past 
Down thro* the dim rich city to the fields. 
Thence to the cave : so day by day she past 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE 

In either twilight ghost-like to and fro 
Gliding, and every day she tended him, 
And likewise many a night : and Lancelot 
Would, tho' he call'd his wound a little hurt 
Whereof he should be quickly whole, at times 
Brain-feverous in his heat and agony, seem 
Uncourteous, even he : but the meek maid 
Sweetly forbore him ever, being to him 
Meeker than any child to a rough nurse, 
Milder'than any mother to a sick child. 
And never woman yet, since man's first fall. 
Did kindlier unto man, but her deep love 
Upbore her ; till the hermit, skill'd in all 
The simples and the science of that time, 
Told him that her fine care had saved his life. 
And the sick man forgot her simple blush. 

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62 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Would call her friend and sister, sweet Elaine, 
Would listen for her coining and regret 
Her parting step, and held her tenderly, 
And loved her with all love except the love 
Of man and woman when they love thdr best 
Closest and sweetest, and had died the death 
In any knightly fashion for her sake. 
And peradventure had he seen her first 
She might have made this and that other world 
Another world for the sick man ; but now 
The shackles of an old love straiten'd him, 
His honour rooted in dishonour stood. 
And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true. 

Yet the great knight in his mid-sickness made 
Full many a holy vow and pure resolve. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 63 

These, as but bom of sickness, could not live: 
For when the blood ran lustier in him again, 
Full often the sweet image of one face, 
Making a treacherous quiet in his heart, 
Dispersed his resolution like a cloudy 
Then if the maiden, while that ghostly grace 
Beam'd on his fancy, spoke, he answer'd not. 
Or short and coldly, and she knew right well 
What the rough sickness meant, but what tliis 

meant 
She knew not, and the sorrow dimm'd her sight. 
And drave her ere her time across the fields 
Far into the rich dty, where alone 
She murmur'd "vain, in vain: it cannot be. 
He will not love me: how then? must I die." 
Then as a little helpless innocent bird, 

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64 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

That has but one plain passage of few notes. 

Will sing the simple passage o'er and o'er 

For all an April morning, till the ear 

Wearies to hear it, so the simple maid 

Went half the night repeating, ** must I die?" 

And now to right she tum'd, and now to left, 

And found no ease in turning or in rest ; 

And " him or death " she mutter'd, " death or him," 

Again and like a burthen, " him or death." 

But when Sir Lancelot's deadly hurt was whole, 
To Astolat returning rode the three. 
There mom by mom, arraying herjsweet self 
In that wherein she deem*d she look'd her best, 
She came before Sir Lancelot, for she thought 
* be loved, these are my festal robes, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 65 

If not, the victim's flowers before he fall." 
And Lancelot ever prest upon the maid 
That she should ask some goodly gift of him 
For her own self or hers ; ** and do not shun 
To speak the wish most dear to your true heart : 
Such service have ye done me, that I make 
My will of yours, and Prince and Lord am I 
In mine own land, and what I will I can." 
Then like a ghost she lifted up her face. 
But like a ghost without the power to speak. 
And Lancelot saw that she withheld her wish, 
And bode among them yet a little space 
Till he should learn it ; and one mom it chanced 
He found her in among the garden yews. 
And said, ** Delay no longer, speak your wish, 
Sn«n(^ I must go to-day :" then out she brake 5 

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66 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

*' Going? and we shall never see you more. 
And I must die for want of one bold word." 
•* Speak : that I live to hear," he said, "is yours." 
Then suddenly and passionately she spoke : 
" I have gone mad, I love you : let me die." 
" Ah, sister," answered Lancelot, " what is this ?" 
And innocently extending her white arms, 
"Your love," she said, " your love — ^tobeyourwife. 
And Lancelot answer'd, " Had I chos'n to wed, 
I had been wedded earlier, sweet Elaine : 
But now there never will be wife of mine." 
" No, no," she cried, " I care not to be wife. 
But to be with you still, to see your face. 
To serve you, and to follow you thro' the world." 
And Lancelot answerM, " Nay, the world, the 
world. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 67 

All ear and eye, with such a stupid heart 
To interpret ear and eye, and such a tongue 
To blare its own interpretation — nay, 
Full ill then should I quit your brother's love, 
And your good father's kindness." And she said 
** Not to be with you, not to see your face — 
Alas for me then, my good days are done." 
"Nay, noble maid," heanswer'd, " ten times nay I 
This is not love : but love's first flash in youth. 
Most common : yea I know it of mine own self : 
And you yourself will smile at your own self 
Hereafter, when you yield your flower of life 
To one more fitly yours, not thrice your age : 
And then will I, for true you are and sweet 
Beyond mine old belief in womanhood, 
More specially should your good knight be poor, 

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68 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Endow you with broad land and territory 
Even to tl-.e half my realm beyond the seas, 
So that would make you happy : furthermore, 
Ev'n to the death, as tho* ye were my blood. 
In all your quarrels vrill I be your knight. 
This will I do, dear damsel, for your sake. 
And more than this I cannot." 

While he spoke 
She neither blush'd nor shook, but deathly-pale 
Stood grasping what was nearest, then replied; 
" Of all this will I nothing ;" and so fell. 
And thus they bore her swooning to her tower. 

Then spake, to whom thro* those black walls of 
yew 
Their talk had pierced, her father. " Ay, a flash. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 69 

I fear me, that will strike my blossom dead 
Too courteous are you, fair Lord Lancelot 
I pray you, use some rough discourtesy 
To blunt or break her passion.** 

Lancelot said, 
" That were against me : what I can I will ;" 
And there that day remain'd, and toward even 
Sent for his shield : full meekly rose the maid, 
Stript off the case, and gave the naked shield ; 
Then, when she heard his horse upon the stoues, 
Unclasping flung the casement back, and looked 
Down on his helm, from which her sleeve had gone. 
And Lancelot knew the little clinking sound ; 
And she by tact of love was well aware 
That Lancelot knew that she was looking at him. 
And yet he glanced not up, nor waved his hand. 

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70 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Nor bad farewell, but sadly rode away. 
This was the one discoartesy that he used. 

So in her tower alone the maiden sat : 
His very shield was gone ; only the case, 
Her own poor work, her empty labour, left. 
But still she heard him, still his picture form*d 
And grew between her and the pictured wall. 
Then came her father, saying in low tones 
•* Have comfort," whom she greeted quietly. 
Then came her brethren saying, " Peace to thee 
Sweet sister," whom she answer'd with all calm. 
But when they left her to herself again. 
Death, like a friend's voice from a distant field 
Approaching thro' the darkness, call'd ; the owls 
Hing had power upon her, and she mixt 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE 7x 

Her fancies with the sallow-rifted glooms 
Of evening, and the meanings of the wind. 

And in those days she made a little song, 
And call'd her song "The Song of Love and 

Death," 
And sang it : sweetly -could she make and sing. 

" Sweet is true love tho* given in vain, in vain ; 
And sweet is death who puts an end to pain : 
I know not which is sweeter, no^ not I. 

"Love, art thou sweet? then Mtter death must 
be: 
Love, thou art bitter ; sweet is death to me. 
O Love, if death be sweeter, let me die. 

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72 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

** Sweet love, that seems not made to fade away, 
Sweet death, that seems to make us loveless clay, 
I know not which is sweeter, no, not I. 

** I fain would follow love, if that could be ; 
I needs must follow death, who calls for me ; 
Call and I follow, I follow ! let me die." 

High with the last line scaled her voice, and this, 
All in a fiery dawning wild with wind 
That shook her tower, the brothers heard, and 

thought 
With shuddering " Hark the Phantom of the house 
That ever shrieks before a death," and call'd 
The father, and all three in hurry and fear 
Kan to her, and lo ! the bloodred light of dawn 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 
Flared on her fece. she shrilling '* Let me die V 

As when we dwell upon a word we know 
Repeating, till the word we know so well 
Becomes a wonder and we know not why, 
So dwelt the £a,ther on her face and thought 
" Is this Elaine?" till back the maiden fell. 
Then gave a languid hand to each, and lay, 
Speaking a still good-morrow with her eyes. 
At last she said ** Sweet brothers, yesternight 
I seem*d a curious little maid again. 
As happy as when we dwelt among the woods. 
And when ye used to take me with the flood 
Up the great river in the boatman's boat. 
Only ye would not pass beyond the cape 
That has the poplar on it : there ye hxt^ , 

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74 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Your limit, oft returning with the tide. 

And yet I cried because ye would not pass 

Beyond it, and far up the shining flood 

Until we found the palace of the king. 

And yet ye would not ; but this night I dream*d 

Tl-at I was all alone upon the flood, 

And then I said ** Now shall I have my will :" 

And there I woke, but still the wish remain*d. 

So let me hence that I may pass at last 

Beyond the poplar and far up the flood, 

Until I find the palace of the king. 

There will I enter in among them all. 

And no man there will dare to mock at me ; 

But there the fine Gawain will wonder at me, 

And there the great Sir Lancelot muse at me ; 

Gawain, who bad a thousand farewells to me, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 75 

Lancelot, who coldly went nor bad me one : 
And there the King will know me and my love, 
And there the Queen herself will pity me, 
And all the gentle court MriU welcome me, 
And after my long voyage I shall rest I" 

•* Peace," said her father, ** O my child, ye seem 
Light-headed, for what force is yours to go, 
So far, being sick ? and wherefore would ye look 
On this proud fellow again, who scorns us all?" 

Then the rough Torre began to heave and move, 
And bluster into stormy sobs and say 
** I never loved him : an I meet with him, 
I care not howsoever great he be, 
Then will I strike at him and strike him down. 

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76 LANCELOT AND EL A INK. 

Give me good fortune, I will strike him dead, 
For this discomfort he hath done the house." 

To which the gentle sister made reply, 
•* Fret not yourself, dear brother, nor be wroth, 
Seeing it is no more Sir Lancelot's fault 
Not to love me, than it is mine to love 
Him of all men who -seems to me the highest." 

"Highest?" the Father answer'd, echoing 
"highest?" 
(He meant to break the passion in her) "nay, 
Daughter, I know not what you call the highest ; 
But this I know, for all the people know it. 
He loves the Queen, and in an open shame : 
And she returns his love in open shame. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 
If this be high, what is it to be low ?" 

Then spake the lily maid of Astolat ;' 
" Sweet father, all too faint and sick am I 
For anger : these are slander^ : never yet 
Was noble man but made ignoble talk. 
He makes no friend who never made a foe. 
But now it is my glory to have loved 
One peerless, without stain ; so let me pass 
My father, howsoe'er I seem to you, 
Not all unhappy, having loved God's best 
And greatest, tho' my love had no return : 
Yet, seeing ye desire your child to live, 
Thanks, but ye work against your own desire ; 
For if I could believe the things ye say 
I should but die the sooner ; wherefore cease, 

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78 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Sweet father, and bid call the ghostly man 
Hither, and let me shrive me clean, and die.** 

So when the ghostly man had come and gone 
She with a face, bright as for sin forgiven. 
Besought Lavaine to write as she devised 
A letter, word for word ; and when he ask'd 
" Is it for Lancelot, is it for my dear lord ? 
Then will I bear it gladly;" she replied, 
" For Lancelot and the Queen and all the world, 
But I myself must bear it." Then he wrote 
The letter she devised; which being writ 
And folded, ** O sweet father, tender and true. 
Deny me not," she said — **ye never yet 
Denied my fancies— this, however strange, 
My latest : lay the letter in my hand 

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IsANCELOT AN^D ELAINE. j 

A little ere I die, and close the hand 

Upon it ; I shall guard it even in death. 

And when the heat is gone from out my heart, 

Then take the little bed on which I died 

For Lancelot*s love, and deck it like the Queen*s 

For richness, and me also like the Queen 

In all I have of rich, and lay me on it. 

And let there be prepared a chariot-bier 

To take me to the river, and a barge 

Be ready on the river, clothed in black. 

I go in state to court, to meet the Queen. 

There surely I shall speak for mine own sel^ 

And none of you can speak for me so well. 

And therefore let our dumb old man alone 

Go with me, he can steer and row, and he 

Will guide me to that palace, to the doors." 

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Po LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

She ceased : her father promised ; whereupon 
She grew so cheerful that they deem'd her death 
Was rather in the fantasy than the blood. 
But ten slow mornings past, and on the eleventh 
Her father laid the letter in her hand. 
And closed the hand upon it, and she died. 
So that day there was dole in Astolat 

But when the next sun brake from underground. 
Then, those two brethren slowly with bent brows 
Accompanying, the sad chariot-bier 
Past like a shadow thro' the field, that shone 
Full-summer, to that stream whereon the barge, 
Pall'd all its length in blackest samite, lay. 
There sat the lifelong creature of the house. 
Loyal, the dumb old servitor, on deck. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. . £ 

Winking his eyes, and twisted all his face. 
So those two brethren from the chariot took 
And on the black decks laid her in her bed. 
Set in her hand a lily, o'er her hung 
The silken case with braided blazonings, 
And kiss'd her quiet brows, and sa3ring to her 
** Sister, farewell for ever," and again 
" Farewell, sweet sister," parted all in tears. 
Then rose the dumb old servitor, and the dead 
Steer'd by the dumb went upward with the flood- 
In her right hand the lily, in her left 
The letter — all her bright hair streammg down - 
And all the coverlid was cloth of gold 
Drawn to her waist, and she herself in white 
All but her £m», and that clear-featured face 
Was lovely, for she^id not seem as dead, 

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82 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

But fast asleep, and lay as tho' she smiled. 

Tnat day Sir Lancelot at the palace craved 
Audience of Guinevere, to give at last 
The price of half a realm, his costly gift, 
Hard-won and hardly won with bruise and blow, 
With deaths of others, and almost his own. 
The nine-years-fought-for diamonds : for he saw 
One of her house, and sent him to the Queen 
Bearing hb wish, whereto the Queen agreed 
With such and so unmoved a majesty 
She might have seem'd her statue, but that he, 
Low-drooping till he wellnigh kiss'd her feet 
For loyal awe, saw with a sidelong eye 
The shadow of a piece of pointed lace. 
In the Queen's shadow, vibrate cu the walls, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 83 

And parted, laughing in his courtly heart. 

All in an oriel on the summer side, 
Vine-clad, of Arthur's palace toward the stream, 
They met, and Lancelot kneeling utter'd, " Queen, 
Lady, my liege, in whom I have my joy, 
Take, what I had not won except for you, 
These jewels, and make me happy, making them 
An armlet for the roundest arm on earth. 
Or necklace for a neck to which the swan's 
Is tawnier than her cygnet's : these are words : 
Your beauty is your beauty, and I sin 
In speaking, yet O grant my worship of it 
Words, as we grant grief tears. Such sin in word? 
Perchance, we both can pardon : but, my Queen, 
I hear of rumours flying thro* your court 

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84 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

Our bond, as not the bond of man and wife. 
Should have m it an absoluter trust 
To make up that defect : let rumours be : 
When did not rumours fly ? these, as I trust 
That you trust me in your own nobleness, 
I may not well believe that you believe.'' 

While thus he spoke, half tum*d away, the Queeu 
Brake from the vast oriel-embowering vine 
Leaf after leaf, and tore, and cast them off. 
Till all the place whereon she stood was green y 
Then, when he ceased, in one cold passive hand 
Received at once and laid aside the gems 
There on a table near her, and replied. 



"It may be, I am quicker of belief 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 85 

Than you believe me, Lancelot of the Lake. 
Our bond is not the bond of man and wife. 
This good is in it, whatsoe'er of ill, 
It can be broken easier. I for you 
This many a year have done despite and wrong 
To one whom ever in my heart of hearts 
I did acknowledge nobler. What are these ? 
Diamonds for me ! they had been thrice their worth 
Being your gift, had you not lost your own. 
To loyal hearts the value of all gifts 
Must vary as the giver's. Not for me t 
For her I for your new fancy. Only this 
Grant me, I pray you : have your joys apart. 
I doubt not that however changed, you keep 
So much of what is graceful : and myself 
Would shun to break those bounds of courtesy 

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86 LANCELOT AND BLAINR. 

In which as Arthur's queen I move and rule: 
So cannot speak my mind. An end to this ! 
A strange one 1 yet I take it with Amen. 
So pray you, add my diamonds to her pearls; 
Deck her with these; tell her she shines me 

down: 
An armlet for an arm to which the Queen's 
Is haggard, or a necklace for a neck 
O as much fairer — as a faith once fair 
Was richer than those diamonds — hers not mine^ 
Nay, by the mother of our Lord himself, 
Or hers or mine, mine now to work my will — 
She shall not have them." 



Saying which she seiztKl, 
And, thro the casement standing wide for heat. 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 87 

Flung them, and down they flashed, and smote the 

stream. 
Then from the smitten surface flashed, as it were^ 
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away. 
Then while Sir Lancelot leant, in half disgust 
At love, life, all things, on the window ledge. 
Close underneath his eyes, and right across 
Where these had fallen, slowly past the barge 
"Whereon the lily maid of Astolat 
Lay smiling, Uke a star in blackest night. 

But the wild Queen, who saw not* burst away 
To weep and wail in secret ; and the barge. 
On to the palace-doorway sliding, paused. 
There two stood arm'd, and kept the door ; to 
whom. 

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88 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

All up the marble stair, tier over tier. 

Were added mouths that gaped, and eyes thaf 

ask'd 
" What is it ?" but that oarsman's haggard face, 
As hard and still as is the face that men 
Shape to their fancy's eye from broken rocks 
On some cliff-side, appali'd them, and they said, 
" He is enchanted, cannot speak — and she, 
Look how she sleeps— the Fairy Queen, so fairl 
Yea, but how palel what are they? flesh and 

blood? 
Or come to take the King to fairy land ? 
For some do hold our Arthur cannot die, 
Bat that he passes into fairy land." 



While thus they babbled of the King^ the King 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 89 

Came girt with knights : then tum'd the tongueleas 

man 
From the half-face to the full eye, and rose 
And pointed to the damsel, and the doors. 
So Arthur bad the meek Sir Percivale 
And pure Sir Galahad to uplift the maid ; 
And reverently they bore her into halL 
Then came the fine Gawain and wonder'd at her, 
And Lancelot later came and mused at her, 
And last the Queen herself and pitied her : 
But Arthur spied the letter in her hand, 
Stoopt, took, brake seal, and read it ; this was alL 

*• Most noble lord. Sir Lancelot of the Lake, 
I, sometime call'd the maid of Astolat, 
Come, for you left me taking no farewell. 

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90 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Hither, to take ray last farewell of you. 

I loved you, and my love had no return, 

And therefore my true love has been my death. 

And therefore to our lady Guinevere, 

And to all other ladies, I make moan. , 

Pray for my soul, and yield me buriaL 

Pray for my soul thou too, Sir Lancelot, 

As thou art a knight peerless." 

Thus he read. 
And ever in the reading, lords and dames 
Wept, looking often from his face who read 
To hers which lay so silent, and at times. 
So touch'd were they, half-thinking that her lips. 
Who had devised the letter, moved again* 

'^hen freely spoke Sir Lancelot to them all j 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 9: 

" My lord li^e Arthur, and all'ye that hear, 
Know that for this most gentle maiden's death 
Right heavy am I ; for good she was and true, 
But loved me with a love beyond all love 
In women, whomsoever I have known. 
Yet to be loved makes not to love again ; 
Not at my years, however it hold in youth. 
I swear by truth and knighthood that I gave 
No cause, not willingly, for such a love ; 
To this I call my friends in testimony. 
Her brethren, and her father, who himself 
Basought me to be plain and blunt, and use, 
To break her passion, some discourtesy 
Against my nature : what I could, I did. 
I left her and I bad her no farewelL 
Tho', had I dreamt the damsel would have died. 

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93 LANCELOT AND ELAINS. 

I might have put my wits to some rough use. 
And help*d her from herself." 

Then said the Queen 
(Sea was her wrath, yet working after storm) 
" Ye might at least have done her so much grace, 
Fair lord, as would have help'd her from her 

death." 
He raised his head, their eyes met and hers fell. 
He adding, 

" Queen, she would not be content 
Save that I wedded her, which could not be. 
Then might she follow me thro' the world, sht 

ask'd; 
It could not be. I told her that her love 
Was but the flash of youth, would darken down 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 93 

To rise hereafter in a stiller flame 
Toward one more worthy of her — then would 1, 
More specially were he^ she wedded, poor, 
Estate them with large land and territory 
In mine own realm beyond the narrow seas, 
To keep them in all joyance : more than this 
I could not ; this she would not, and she died." 

He pausing, Arthur answer'd, '' O my knight, 
It will be to thy worship, as my knight. 
And mine, as head of all our Table Round, 
To see that she be buried worshipfully.*' 

So toward that shrine which then in all the realm 
Was richest, Arthur leading, slowly went 
The manhall'd order of their Table Round, 

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94 LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 

And Lancelot sad beyond his wont, to see 
The maiden buried, not as one unknown, 
Nor meanly, but with gorgeous obsequies. 
And mass, and rolling music, like a Queen. 
And when the knights had laid her comely head 
Low in the dust of half-forgotten kings. 
Then Arthur spake among them, *' Let her tomb 
Be costly, and her image thereupon. 
And let the shield of Lancelot at her feet 
Be carven, and her lily in her hand. 
And let the story of her dolorous voyage 
For all true hearts be blazon'd on her tomb 
In letters gold and azure !'* which was wrought 
Thereafter ; but when now the lords and dames 
And people, from the high door streaming, brake 
Disorderly, as homeward each, the Queen, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 95 

Who mark*d Sir Lancelot where he moved apart, 
Drew near, and sigh'd in passing " Lancelot, 
Forgive me ; mine was jealousy in love." 
He answer'd with his eyes upon the ground, 
" That is love's curse ; pass on, my Queen, for- 
given." 
But Arthur who beheld his cloudy brows 
Approached him, and with full affection flung 
One arm about his neck, and spake and said. 

" Lancelot, my Lancelot, thou in whom I have 
Most love and most affiance, for I know 
What thou hast been in battle by my side. 
And many a time have watch*d thee at the tilt 
Strike down the lusty and long-practised knight. 
And let the younger and unskill'd go by 

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96 LANCELOT AND EL A INK. 

To win his honour and to make his name. 
And loved thy courtesies and thee, a man 
Made to be loved ; but now I would to God, 
For the wild people say wild things of thee, 
Thou could'st have loved this maiden, shaped, it 

seems, 
By God for thee alone, and from her face. 
If one may judge the living by the dead. 
Delicately pure and marvellously lair, 
Who might have brought thee, now a lonely man 
Wifeless and heirless, noble issue, sons 
Bom to the glory of thy name and fame. 
My knight, the great Sir Lancelot of the Lake.** 

Then answered Lancelot, "Fair she was, my 
King, 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 97 

Pure, as you ever wish your knights to be. 
To doubt her fairness were to want an eye, 
To doubt her pureness were to want a heart- 
Yea, to be loved, if what is worthy love 
Could bind him, but free love will not be bound." 

"Free love, so bound, were freest,'* said the 
King. 
•* Let love be free; free love is for the best : 
And, after heaven, on our dull side of death. 
What should be best, if not so pure a love 
Clothed in so pure a loveliness? yet thee 
She fail'd to bind, tho' being, as I think. 
Unbound as yet, and gentle, as I know." 



And Lancelot answer'd nothing, but he went. 

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98 LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

And at the inrunniog of a little brook 

Sat by the river in a cove, and watch'd 

The high reed wave, and lifted up his eyes 

And saw the baige that brought her moving dowii, 

Far-ofT, a blot upon the stream, and said 

Low in himself ** Ah simple heart and sweet. 

Ye loved me, damsel, surely with a love 

Far tenderer than my Queen's. Pray for thy soul ? 

Ay, that will I. Farewell too — now at last — 

Farewell, fair lily. * Jealousy in love ?* 

Not rather dead love's harsh heir, jealous pride ? 

Queen, if I grant the jealousy as of love. 

May not your crescent fear for name and fame 

Speak, as it waxes, of a love that wanes ? 

Why did the King dwell on my name to me ? 

Mine own name shames me, seeming a reproach* 

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LANCELOT AND ELAINE, 99 

Lancelot, whom the Lady of the Ljike 
Stole from his mother— as the story runs- 
She chanted snatches of mysterious song 
Heard cm the winding waters, eve and morn 
She kiss'd me saying thou art fair, my child, 
As a king's son, and often in her arms 
She bare me, pacing on the dusky mere. 
Would she had drown'd me in it, where'er it be ! 
For what am I ? what profits me my name 
Of greatest knight? I fought for it, and 

have it : 
Pleasure to have it, none; to lose it, pain, 
Now grown a part of me : but what use in it ? 
To make men worse by making my sin known ? 
Or sin seem less, the sinner seeming great ? 
Alas for Arthur's greatest knight, a man 

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loo LANCELOT AND ELAINE. 

Not after Arthur's heart ! I needs must break 
These bonds that so defame me : not without 
She wills it : would I, if she will'd it ? nay, 
Who knows ? but if I would not, then may God, 
I pray him, send a sudden Angel down 
To seize me by the hur and bear me far, 
And fling me deep in that forgotten mere, 
Among the tumbled fragments of the hills." 

So groan'd Sir Lancelot in remorseful pain. 
Not knowing he should die a holy num. 




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THE HOLY GRAIL. 



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THE HOLY GRAIL. 



ROM noiseful arms, and acts of prowess 
done 

In tournament or tilt. Sir Percivale, 
Whom Arthur and his knighthood call'd The Pure, 
Had pass'd into the silent life of prayer, 
Praise, fast, and alms ; and leaving for the cowl 
The helmet in an abbey far away 
From Camelot, there, and not long aftei, died. 



And one, a fellow-monk among tht rest. 

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IC4 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

Ambrodtis, loved him much beyond the rest, 
A.nd honoor'd him, and wrought into his heart 
A way by love that waken'd love within. 
To answer that which came : and as they sat 
Beneath a world-old yew-tree, dar]cening half 
The doisters, on a gnstful April mom 
That puff'd the swaying branches into smoke 
Above them, ere the summer when he died. 
The monk Ambrosius questioned Perdvale 

" O brother, I have seen this yew-tree smoke, 
Spring after spring, for half a hundred years : 
For never have I known the world without. 
Nor ever stra/d beyond the pale : but thee, 
When first thou camest — such a courtesy 
Spake thro' the limbs and in the voice— I knew 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 105 

For one of those who eat in Arthur's hall ; 
For good ye are and bad, and like to coins. 
Some true, some light, but every one of you 
Stamp'd with the image of the King ; and now 
Tell me, what drove thee from the Table Round, 
My brother? was it earthly passion crost?" 

"Nay," said the knight; "for no such passion 

mine. 
But the sweet vision of the Holy Grail 
Drove me from all vainglories, rivalries, 
And earthly heats that spring and sparkle out 
Among us in the jousts, while women watch 
Who wins, who falls; and waste the spiritual 

strength 
Within us, better offered up to Heaven." 

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io6 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

To whom the monk : " The Holy Grail !— I trust 
We are green in Heaven's eyes ; but here too much 
We moulder — ^as to things without I mean — 
Yet one of your own knights, a guest of ours. 
Told us of this in our refectory, 
But spake with such a sadness and so low 
We heard not half of what he said. What is it j* 
The phantom of a cup that comes and goes ?" 

" Nay, monk I what phantom ? *' answered 
Percivale. 
' The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord 
Drank at the last sad supper with his own. 
This, from the blessed land of Aromat — 
After the day of darkness, when the dead 
Went wandering o'er Moriah — the good saint. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 107 

Arimathsean Joseph, journeying brought 
To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn 
Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord. 
And there awhile it bode ; and if a man 
Could touch or see it, he was heal'd at once, 
By faith, of all his ills. But then the times 
Grew to such evil that the holy cup 
Was caught away to Heaven, and disappear'd.*' 

To whom the monk : " From our old books I 
know 
That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury, 
And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus, 
Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build ; 
And there he built with wattles from the marsh 
A little lonely church in days of yore. 

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io8 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

For so they say, these books of oan, but 
Mute of this mirade, far as I have read. 
But who first saw the holy thing to-day ?" 



" A woman," answered Percivale, "a nun. 
And one no further off in blood from me 
Than sister; and if ever holy maid 
With knees of adoration wore the stone, 
A holy maid ; tho' never maiden glow'd. 
But that was in her earlier maidenhood. 
With such a fervent flame of human love, * 
Which being rudely blunted, glanced and shot 
Only to holy things; to prayer and praise 
She gave herself, to fast and alms. And yet. 
Nun as she was, the scandal of the Court, 
Sin against Arthur and the Table Round, 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 109 

And the strange sound of an adulterous race, 

Across the iron grating of her cell 

Beat, and she pra/d and fasted all the more. 

" And he to whom she told her sins, or what 
Her all but utter whiteness held for sin, 
A man well-nigh a hundred winters old. 
Spake often with her of the Holy Grail, 
A legend handed down thro' five or six, 
And each of these a hundred winters old, 
From our Lord's time. And when King Arthur 

made 
His Table Round, and all men's hearts became 
Clean for a season, surely he had thought 
That now the Holy Grail would come again ; 
Bot sin broke out. Ah, Christ, that it would come. 

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no THE HOLY GRAIL. 

And heal the world of all their wickedness ! 
' O Father !' asked the maiden, ' might it come 
To me by prayer and fasting ? * * Nay/ said he, 
'I know not, for thy heart Is pure as snow.' 
And so she pra/d and fiasted, till the sun 
Shone, and the wind blew, thro' her, and I thought 
She might have risen and floated when I saw her. 

" For on a day she sent to speak with me. 
And when she came to speak, behold her eyes 
Beyond my knowing of them, beautiful. 
Beyond all knowing of them, wonderful, 
Beautiful in the light of holiness. 
And * O my brother, Percivale,' she sadd, 
* Sweet brother, I have seen the Holy Grail ; 
For, waked at dead of night, I heard a sound 

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/Vs of a silver horn from o'er the hills x^^^^ 
Blown, and I thought, "It is not Arthur's use 
To hunt by moonlight;" and the slender sound 
As from a distance beyond distance grew 
Coming upon me— O never harp nor horn, 
Nor aught we blow with breath, or touch with 

hand. 
Was like that music as it came; and then 
Streamed thro' my cell a cold and silver beam. 
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail, 
Rose-red with beatings in it, as if alive, 
Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed 
With rosy colours leaping on the wall ; 
And then the music faded, and the Grail 
Pass'd, and the beam decay'd, and from the walls 
The rosy quiverings died into the night. 

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iia THE HOLY GRAIL. 

So now the Holy Thing is here again 
Among us, brother, fast thou too and pray. 
And tell thy brother knights to fast and pray, 
That so perchance the vision may be seen 
By thee and those, and all the world be heal'd. 

" Then leaving the pale nun, I spake of this 
To all men ; and myself fasted and pray'd 
Always, and many among us many a week 
Fasted and pray'd even to the uttermost. 
Expectant of the wonder that would be. 

" And one there was among us, ever moved 
Among us in white armour, Galahad. 
' God make thee good as thou art beautiful,' 
Said Arthur, when he dubb'd him knight ; and 
none, 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 113 

In so yoong youth, was ever made a knight 
Till Galahad ; and this Galahad, when he heard 
My sister's vision, fill*d me with amaze ; 
His eyes became so like her own, they seem'd 
Hers, and himself her brother more than I. 

** Sister or brother none had ne ; but some 
Call'd him a son of Lancelot, and some said 
Begotten by enchantment — chatterers they. 
Like birds of passage piping up and down. 
That g!4)c for flies — we know not whence they 

come; 
For when was Lancelot wanderingly lewd ? 

" Bat she, the wan sweet maiden shore away 
Clean from Ler forehead all that wealth of hair 
Which made a silken mat-work for her feet. ; 

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114 TH^ HOLY GRAIL. 

And out of this she plaited broad and long 

A strong sword-belt, and wove with silver thread 

And crimson in the belt a strange device, 

A crimson grail within a silver beam ; 

And saw the bright boy-knight, and bound it on 

him, 
Saying, * My knight, my love, my knight of heaven, 
O thou, my love, whose love is one with mine, 
I, maiden, round thee, maiden, bind my belt. 
Go forth, for thou shalt see what I have seen. 
And break thro* all, till one will crown thee king 
Far in the spiritual dty :* and as she spake 
She sent the deathless passion in her eyes 
Thro' him, and made him hers, and laid her mind 
On him, and he believed in her belief. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 115 

'** Then came a year of miracle : O brother, 
In our great hall there stood a vacant chair, 
Fashion'd by Merlin ere he past away. 
And carven with strange figures ; and in and out 
The figures, like a serpent, ran a scroll 
Of letters in a tongue no man could read. 
And Merlin call'd it *The Siege perilous,' 
Perilous for good and ill ; 'for there,' he said, 
' No man could sit but he should lose himself :' 
And once by misadvertence Merlin sat 
In his own chair, and so was lost ; but he, 
Galahad, when he heard of Merlin's doom. 
Cried, * If I lose myself I save myself T 

" Then on a summer night it came to pass, 
While the great banquet lay along the l^all, i 



zi6 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

That Galahad would sit down in Merlin's chair. 

*' And all at once, as there we sat, we heard 
A cracking and a riving of the roofs, 
And rending, and a blast, and overhead 
Thunder, and in the thunder vras a cry. 
And in the blast there smote along the hall 
A beam of light seven times more clear than day : 
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail 
All over cover'd with a luminous doud, 
And none might see who bare it, and it past. 
But every knight beheld his fellow's face 
As in a glory, and all the knights arose. 
And staring each at other like dumb men 
Stood, till I found a voice and sware a vow 

'* I sware a vow before them all, tliat I, 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 117 

Because I had not seen the Grail, would ride 

A twelvemonth and a day in quest of it, 

Until I found and saw it, as the nun 

My aster saw it ; and Galahad sware the vow. 

And good Sir Bors, our Lancelot's cousin, sware, 

And Lancelot sware, and many among the knights, 

And Gawain sware, and louder than the rest.** 

Then spake the monk-Ambrosius, asking him, 
** What said the King ? Did Arthur take the vow ? 

•• Nay, for my lord," said Perdvale, " the king, 
Was not in hall : for early that same day. 
Scaped thro' a cavern from a bandit hold, 
An outraged maiden sprang into the hall 
Crying on help : for all her shining hair 

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ii8 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

Was smear'd with earth, and either milky ann^ 
Red-rent with hooks of bramble, and all she wore 
Tom as a sail that leaves the rope is torn 
In tempest: so the king arose and went 
To smoke the scandalous hive of those wild bees 
That made such honey in hi3 realm. Howbeit 
Some little of this marvel he too saw, 
Returning o'er the plain that then b^;an 
To darken under Camelot ; whence the king 
Look'd up, calling aloud, ' Lo there ! the roofs 
Of our great hall are rolled in thunder-smoke ! 
Pray Heaven, they be not smitten by the bolt' 
For dear to Arthur was that hall of ours, 
As having there so oft with all his knights 
Feasted, and as the stateliest under heaven. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 119 

" O brother, had you known our mighty hall, 
Which Merlin built for Arthur long ago ! 
(<^or all the sacred mount of Camelot, 
And all the dim rich city, roof by roof. 
Tower after tower, spire beyond spire. 
By grove, and garden-lawn, and rushing brook, 
Climbs to the mighty hall that Merlin built 
And four great zones of sculpture, set betwixt 
With many a mystic symbol, gird the hall : 
And in the lowest beasts are slaying men. 
And in the second men are slaying beasts, 
And on the third are warriors, perfect men. 
And on the fourth are men with growing wings. 
And over all one statue in the mould 
Of Arthur, made by Merlin, with a crown. 
And pcak'd wings pointed to the Northern Star. 

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ISO THE HOLY GRAIL. 

And eastward fronts the statue, and the crown 
And both the wings are made of gold, and flame 
At sunrise till the people in for fields, 
Wasted so often by the heathen hordes, 
Behold it, crying, 'We have still a king.* 

" And, brother, had you known our hall within. 
Broader and higher than any in all the lands ! 
Where twelve great windows blazon Arthur's 

wars, 
And all the light that falls upon the board 
Streams thro' the twelve great battles of our King. 
Nay, one there is and at the eastern end. 
Wealthy with wandering lines of mount and mere. 
Where Arthur finds the brand, Excalibur. 
And also one to the west, and counter to it 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 121 

And blank: and who shall blazon it? when and 

how?— 
O there, perchance, when all our wars are done. 
The brand Excalibnr will be cast away. 

'* So to this hall fhll quickly rode the King, 
In horror lest the work by Merlin wrought, 
Dreamlike, should on the sudden vanish, wrapt 
In unremorseful folds of rolling fire. 
And in he rode, and up I glanced, and saw 
The golden dragon sparkling over all : 
And many of those who burnt the hold, their arms 
Hacked, and their foreheads grimed with smoke, 

and sear'd, 
Followed, and in among bright faces, ours, 
Full of the vision, prest : and then the King 

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122 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

Spake to me, being nearest, 'Percivale/ 
(Because the hall was all in tumult — some 
Vowing, and some protesting), ' what is this ?' 

" O brother, when I told him what had chanced, 
My sister's vision, and the rest, his face 
Darkened, as I have seen it more than once, 
When some brave deed seem'd to be done in vwn, 
Darken ; and * Woe is me, my knights,* he cried, 
• Had I been here, ye had not sworn the vow.' 
Bold was mine answer, ' Had thyself been here. 
My King, thou wouldst have sworn. * * Yea , yea, * 

said he, 
' Art thou so bold and hast not seen the Grail ? 

*' * Nay, Lord, I heard the sound, I saw the light. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 123 

Bat since I did not see the Holy Thing, 
I sware a tow to follow it till I saw.' 

" Then when he asked us, knight by knight, if any 
Had seen it, all their answers were as one : 
'Nay, Lord, and therefore have we sworn our 



" *Lo now,* said Arthur, 'have ye seen a 
doud? 
What go ye into the wilderness to see ?* 

" Then Galahad on the sudden, and in a voice 
Shrilling along the hall to Arthur, call'd, 
• But I, Sir Arthur, saw the Holy Grail, 
I saw the Holy Grail and heard a cry — 
O Galahad, and O Galahad, follow me.' 

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124 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

" 'Ah, Galahad, Galahad,' said the King, 'for 
such 
As thou art is the vision, not for these. 
Thy holy nun and thou have seen a sign — 
Holier is none, my Perdvale, than she — 
A sign to maim this Order which I made. 
But you, that follow but the leader's bell ' 
(Brother, the King \i'as hard upon his knights) 
' Taliessin is our fullest throat of song, 
And one hath sung and all the dumb will sing. 
Lancelot is lAncelot, and hath overborne 
Five knights at once, and every younger knight, 
Unproven, holds himself as Lancelot, 
Till overborne by one, he learns — and ye, 
What are ye ? Galahads ? — no, nor Percivales 
(For thus it pleased the King to lange me close 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 125 

After Sir Galahad) ; 'nay/ said he, < but men 
With strength and will to right the ¥nrong'd, of 

power 
To lay the sudden heads of violence flat. 
Knights that in twelve great battles splash'd and 

dyed 
The strong White Horse in his own heathen 

blood- 
But one hath seen, and all the blind will see. 
Go, since your vows are sacred, being made : 
Yet— for ye know the cries of all my realm 
Pass thro' this hall — how often, O my knights. 
Your places being vacant at my side. 
This chance of noble deeds will come and go 
Unchallenged, while you follow wandering fixes 
Lost in the quagmhe ?' Many of you, yea m*^ 

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126 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

Return do more : ye think I show myself 
Too dark a prophet : come now, let us meet 
The morrow mom once more in one full field 
Of gradous pastime, that once more the King, 
Before you leave him for this Quest, may count 
The yet-unbroken strength of all his knights, 
Rejoicing in that Order which he made.* 

" So when the sun broke next from under ground, 
All the great table of our Arthur dosed 
And dash'd in such a tourney and so full, 
So many lances broken — never yet 
Had Camelot seen the like, since Arthur came. 
And I myself and Galahad, for a strength 
Was in us from the vision, overthrew 
So many knights that all the people cried, 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 127 

And almost burst the barriers in their heat, 
Shouting ' Sir Galahad and Sir Percivale I' 

**But when the next day brake from under- 
ground — 
O brother, had you known our Camelot, 
Built by old kings, age after age, so old 
The King himself had fears that it would fall, 
So strange, and rich, and dim ; for where tlie roofs 
Totter*d toward each other in the sky, 
Met foreheads all along the street of those 
Who watch'd us pass ; and lower, and where tlie 

. long 
Rich galleries, lady-laden, weighed the necks 
Of dragons clinging to the crazy walls. 
Thicker than drops from thunder, showers of flowers 

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128 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

Fell as we past ; and men and boys astride 
On wyvem, lion, dragon, griffin, swan, 
At all the comers, named us each by name» 
Callmg ' God speed 1* but in the street below 
The knights and ladies wept, and rich and poor 
Wept, and the King himself could hardly speak 
For grief, and in the middle street the Queen, 
Who rode by Lancelot, wail*d and shriek'd aloud, 
' This madness has come on us for our sins.' 
And then we reached the weirdly-sculptured gate^ 
Where Arthur's wars were rendered mystically. 
And thence departed every one his way. 

" And I was lifted up in heart, and thought 
Of all my late-shown prowess in the lists. 
How my strong lance had beaten down the knii^'hts 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 129 

So many and £unous names ; £uid never yet 
Had heaven appear'd so blue, nor earth so green. 
For all my blood danced in me, and I knew 
That I should light upon the Holy Grail. 

" Thereafter, the dark warning of our King, 
That most of us would follow wandering fires. 
Came like a driving gloom across my mind. 
Then every evil word I had spoken once, 
And every evU thought I had thought of old. 
And every evil deed I ever did. 
Awoke and cried, ' This Quest is not for thee.' 
And lifting up mine eyes, I found myself 
Alone, and in a land of sand and thorns. 
And I was thirsty even unto death ; 
And I, too, cried, * This Quest is not for thee/ 

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130 



THE HOLY GRAIL. 



** And on I rode, and when I thought my thirst 
Would slay me, saw deep lawns, and then a brook. 
With one sharp rapid, where the crisping white 
Play*d ever back upon the f loping wave, 
And took both ear and eye ; and o'er the brook 
Were apple-trees, and apples by the brook 
Fallen, and on the lawns. ' I will rest here,' 
I said, * I am not worthy of the Quest ;' 
But even while I drank the brook, and ate 
The goodly apples, all these things at once 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone, 
And thirsting, in a land of sand and thorns. 

" And then behold a woman at a door 
Spinning ; and fair the house whereby she sat, 
And kind the woman's eyes and innocent. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL 131 

And all her bearing gracious ; and she rose 
Opening her arms to meet me, as who should say, 
* Rest here;' but when I touched her, lo I she, too, 
Fell into dust and nothing, and the house 
Became no better than a broken shed, 
And in it a dead babe ; and also this 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone. 

*' And on I rode, and greater was my thirst. 
Then flashed a yellow gleam across the world, 
And where it smote the plowshare in the field. 
The plowman left his plowing, and fell down 
Before it ; where it glittered on her pail. 
The milkmaid left her milking, and fell down 
Before it, and I knew not why, but thought 
' The sun is rising/ tho* the sun had risen. 

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132 THB HO Lie pRAIL. 

Then was I ware of one that on me moved 
In golden armour with a crown of gold 
About a casque all jewels ; and his horse 
In golden armour jewelled everywhere : 
And on the splendour came, flashing me blind ; 
And seem*d to me the Lord of all the world. 
Being so huge. But when I thought he meant 
To crush me, moving on me, lo ! he, too, 
Opened his arms to embrace me as he came. 
And up I went and touched him, and he, too. 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone 
And wearying in a land of sand and thorns. 

"And I rode on and found a mighty hill. 
And on the top, a city wall*d : the spires 
Prick'd with incredible pinnacles into heaven. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 133- 

And by the gateway stirr'd a crowd ; and these 
Cried to me climbing, * Welcome, Percivale 1 
Thou mightiest and thou purest among men I' 
And glad was I and clomb, but found at top 
No man, nor any voice. And thence I past 
Far thro' a ruinous city, and I saw 
That man had once dwelt there ; but there 1 found 
Only one man of an exceeding age. 

* Where is that goodly company,' said I, 

' That so cried out upon me Y and he had 
Scarce any voice to answer, and yet gasp'd 

• Whence and what art thou V and even as he spoke 
Fell into dust, and disappeared, and I 

Was left alone once more, and cried in grief, 
« Lo, if I find the Holy Grail itself 
And touch i*, it will crumble into dust.' 

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X34 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

" And thence I dropt into a lowly vale, 
Low as the hill was high, and where the vale 
Was lowest, found a chapel and thereby 
A holy hermit in a hermitage. 
To whom I told my phantoms, and he said . 

" ' O son, thou hast not true humility, 
The highest virtue, mother of them all; 
For when the Lord of all things made Himself 
Naked of glory for His mortal change, 
• Take thou my robe,' she said, * for all is thine,' 
And all her form shone forth with sudden light 
So that the angels were amazed, and she 
Follow'd him down, and like a flying star 
Led on the gray-hair'd wisdom of the east ; 
But her thou hast not known : for what is this 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 13S 

Thou thoughtcst of thy prowess and thy sins t 

Thou hast not lost thyself to save thyself 

As Galahad.* When the hermit made an end, 

In silver armour suddenly Galahad shone 

Before us, and against the chapel door 

Laid lance, and entered, and we knelt in prayer. 

And there the hermit slaked my burning thirst 

And at the sacring of the mass I saw 

The holy elements alone ; but he : 

• Saw ye no more ? I, Galahad, saw the Grail, 

The Holy Grail, descend upon the shrine : 

I saw the fiery face as of a child 

That smote itself into the bread, and went ; 

And hither am I come ; and never yet 

Hath what thy sister taught me first to see. 

This Holy Thing, failM from my side, nor com«^ 

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136 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

4 

Covered, but moving with me night and day. 

Fainter by day, but always in the night 

Blood-red, and sliding down the blackened marsh 

Blood-red, and on the naked mountain top 

Blood-red, and in the sleeping mere below 

Blood-red. And in the strength of this I rode, 

Shattering all evil customs everywhere, 

And past thro' Pagan realms, and made them mine. 

And dashM with Pagan hordes, and bore them 

down. 

And broke thro' all, and in the strength of this 

Come victor. But my time is hard at hand. 

And hence I go ; and one will crown me king 

Far in the spiritual city ; and come thou, too. 

For thou shalt see the vision when I go.* 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 137 

" While thus he spake, his eye, dwelling on mine, 
Drew me, with power upon me, till I grew 
One with him, to believe as he believed. 
Then, when the day began to wane, we went. 

"There rose a hill that none but man could climb. 
Scarr'd with a hundred wintry watercourses — 
Storm at the top, and when we gain'd it, storm 
Round us and death ; for every moment glanced 
His silver arms and gloom'd : so quick and thick 
The lightnings here and there to left and right 
Struck, till the diy old trunks about us, dead, 
Yea, rotten with a hundred years of death, 
Sprang into fire : and at the base we found 
On either hand, as far as eye could see, 
A great black swamp and of an evil smell. 

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138 THE HOLY GRAtL. 

Part black, part whiten'd with the bones of men. 
Not to be crost, save that some ancient king 
Had built a way, where, link*d with many a bridge^ 
A thousand piers ran into the great Sea. 
And Galahad fled along them bridge by bridge^ 
And every bridge as quickly as he crost 
Sprang into fire and vanished, tho* I yeam'd 
To follow ; and thrice above him all the heavens 
Open'd and blazed with thunder such as seemed 
Shoutings of all the sons of God : and first 
At once I saw him far on the great sea. 
In silver-shining armour starry-clear ; 
And o'er his head the holy vessel hung 
Clothed in white samite or a luminous cloud. 
And with exceeding swiftness ran the boat 
If boat it were — I saw not whence it came. 

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THB HOLY GRAIL. 139 

And when the heavens open'd and blazed again 
Roaring, I saw him like a silver star — 
And had he set the sail, or had the boat 
Become a living creature clad with wings ? 
And o'er his head the holy vessel hung 
Redder than any rose, a joy to me, 
For now I knew the veil had been withdrawn. 
Then in a moment when they blazed again 
Opening, I saw the least of little stars 
Down on the waste, and straight beyond the star 
I saw the spiritual city and all her spires 
And gateways in a glory like one pearl — 
No larger, tho* the goal of all the saints — 
Strike from the sea ; and from the star there shot 
A rose-red sparkle to the city, and there 
Dwelt, and I knew it was the Holy Grail, 

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X40 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

Which never eyes on earth again shall see. 
Then fell the floods of heaven drowning the deep. 
And how my feet recross'd the deathful rid^e 
No memory in me lives ; but that I touch'd 
The chapel-doors at dawn I know ; and thence 
Taking my war-horse from the holy man, 
Glad that no phantom vext me more, retum'd 
To whence I came, the gate of Arthur's wars.*' 

" O brother," ask'd Ambrosius, — ** for in scoth 
These ancient books — and they would win thee— 

teem. 
Only I find not there this Holy Grail, 
With miracles and marvels like to these. 
Not all unlike ; which oftentime I read. 
Who read but on my breviary with ease, 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 141 

Till my head swims ; and then go forth and pofis 
Down to the little thorpe that lies so close, 
And almost plaster'd like a martin's nest 
To these old walls — and mingle with our folk ; 
And knowing every honest face of theirs, 
As well as ever shepherd knew his sheep, 
And every homely secret in their hearts, 
Delight myself with gossip and old wives, 
And ills and aches, and teethings, lyings-in, 
And mirthful sayings, children of the place, 
That have no meaning half a league away : 
Or lulling random squabbles when they rise, 
Chafferings and chatterings at the market-cross, 
Rejoice, small man, in this small world of mine, 
Yea, even in their hens and in their eggs — 
O brother, saving this Sir Galahad 

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X42 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

Came ye on none but phantoms in your quest, 
No man, no woman ?" 

Then, Sir Percivale: 
*< All men, to one so bound by such a vow, 
And women were as phantoms. O, my brother, 
Why wilt thou shame me to confess to thee 
How far I falter'd from my quest and vow? 
For after I had lain so many nights 
A bedmate of the snail and eft and snake. 
In grass and burdock, I was changed to wan 
And meagre, and the vision had not come, 
And then I chanced upon a goodly town 
With one great dwelling in the middle of it ; 
Thither I made, and there was I disarmed 
By maidens each as fair as any flower : 
But when they led me into hall, behold 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. i4 

The Princess of that castle was the one, 
Brother, and that one only, who had ever 
Made my heart leap ; for when I moved of old 
A slender page about her father's hall, 
And she a slender maiden, all my heart 
Went after her with longing : yet we twain 
Had never kiss'd a kiss, or vow*d a vow. 
And now I came upon her once again, 
And one had wedded her, and he was dead, 
And all his land and wealth and state were hers. 
And while I tarried, every day she set 
A banquet richer than the day before 
By me ; for all her longing and her will 
Was toward me as of old ; till one fair mom, 
I walking to and fro beside a stream 
That flash'd across her orchard underneath 

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144 3^^-^ HOLY GRAIL. 

Her castle-walls, she stole upon my walk. 
And calling me the greatest of all knights, 
Embraced me, and so kiss*d me the first time, 
And gave herself and all her wealth to me. 
Then I remember'd Arthur's warning word. 
That most of us would follow wandering fires. 
And the Quest faded in my heart Anon, 
The heads of all her people drew to me. 
With supplication both of knees and tongue : 
* We have heard of thee : thou art our greatest 

knight. 
Our Lady says it, and we well believe : 
Wed thou our Lady, and rule over us. 
And thou shalt be as Arthur in our land.' 
O me, my brother I but one night my vow 
Burnt me within, so that I rose and fled. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 14. 

Bnt wail'd and wept, and hated mine own self, 
And ev'n the Holy Quest, and all but her ; 
Then after I was jom*d with Galahad 
Cared not for her, nor anything upon earth." 

Then said the monk, ** Poor men, when yule is 
cold, 
Must be content to sit by little fires. 
And this am !» so that ye care for me 
Eyer so little ; yea, and blest be Heaven 
That brought thee here to this poor house of ours, 
Where all the brethren are so hard, to warm 
My cold heart with a friend : but O the pity 
To find thine own first love once more — to hold, 
Hold her a wealthy bride within thine anr.s, 
Or all but hold, and then— cast her aside, 

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,46 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

Foregoing all her sweetness, like a weed. 

For we that want the warmth of double life, 

We that are plagued with dreams of sometliing 

sweet 
Beyond all sweetness in a life so rich, — 
Ah, blessed Lord, I speak too earthlywise, 
Seeing I never strayed beyond the cell. 
But live like an old badger in his earth, 
With earth about him everywhere, despite 
All fast and penance. Saw ye none beside. 
None of your knights ?" 

•* Yea so," said Percivale: 
" One night my pathway swerving east, I saw 
The pelican on the casque of our Sir Bors 
All in the middle of the rising moon : 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, X47 

And toward him spurr'd and hail'd him, and he me, 
And each made joy of either; then he ask'd, 
•Where is he? hast thou seen him— Lancelot?* 

•Once,' 
Said good Sir Bors, ' he dash'd across me — mad, 
And maddening what he rode : and when I cried, 
' Ridest thou then so hotly on a quest 
So holy?* Lancelot shouted, * Stay me not 1 
I have been the sluggard, and I ride apace, 
For now there is a lion in the way.' 
So vanish'd.' 

" Then Sir Bors had ridden oo 
Softly, and sorrowing for our Lancelot, 
Because his former madness, once the talk 
And scandal of our table, had retum'd ; 

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148 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

For Lancelot's kith and kin so woiship him 
That ill to him is III to them ; to Bors 
Beyond the rest : he well had been content 
Not to have seen, so Lancelot might have seen. 
The Holy Cup of healing ; and, indeed. 
Being so clouded with his grief and love. 
Small heart was his after the Holy Quest : 
If God would send the vision, well : if not. 
The Quest and he were in the hands of heaven. 



" And then, with small adventure met. Sir Bors 
Rode to the lonest tract of all the realm, 
And found a people there among their crags. 
Our race and blood, a remnant that were left 
Payr.im amid their circles, and the stones 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 149 

They pitch up straight to heaven : and their >%Tse 

men 
Were strong in that old magic which can trace 
The wandering of the stars, and scofTd at him 
And this high Quest as at a simple thing : 
Told him he followed — almost Arthur's words — 
A mocking fire : ' what other fire than he. 
Whereby the blood beats, and the blossom blows, 
And the sea rolls, and all the world is warm*d ? * 
And when his answer chafed them, the rough crowd. 
Hearing he had a difference with their priests. 
Seized him, and bound and plunged him into a cell 
Of great piled stones ; and lying bounden there 
In darkness thro' innumerable hours 
He heard the hollow-ringing heavens sweep 
Over him, till by miracle — what else ? — 

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ISO THE HOLY GRAIL. 

Heavy as it was, a great stone slipt and fell. 
Such as no wind could move : and thro' the gap 
Glimmer'd the streaming scud : then came a night 
Still as the day was loud ; and thro' the gap 
The seven dear stars of Arthur's Table Round — 
For, brother, so one night, because they roll 
Thro' such a round in heaven, we named the staxs, 
Hejoicing in ourselves and in our king — 
And these, like bright eyes of familiar friends. 
In on him shone, ' And then to me, to me,' 
Said good Sir Bors, * beyond all hopes of mine. 
Who scarce had pra/d or ask'd it for myself— 
Across the seven clear stars — O grace to me — 
In colour like the fingers of a hand 
Before a burning taper, the sweet Grail 
Glided and past, and dose upon it peal'd 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 151 

A sharp quick thunder.* Afterwards a maid. 
Who kept our holy faith among her kin 
In seciet, entering, loosed and let him go." 

To whom the monk : "And I remember now 
That pelican on the casque : Sir Bors it was 
Who spake so low and sadly at our board ; 
And mighty reverent at our grace was he : 
A square-set man and honest ; and his eyes. 
An out-door sign of all the warmth within, 
Smiled with his lips — a smile beneath a cloud, 
But heaven had meant it for a sunny one ; 
Ay, ay, Sir Bors, who else? But when ye reach'd 
The city, found ye all your knights return'd. 
Or was there sooth in Arthur's prophecy, 
Tell me, and what said each, and what the King ?" 

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153 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

Then answer'd Perdvale : ** And that can I, 
Brother, and truly; since the living words 
Of so great men as Lancelot and our King 
Pass not from door to door and out again. 
But sit within the house. O, when we reach'd 
The city, our horses stumbling as they trode 
On heaps of ruin, hornless unicorns, 
Cracked basilisks, and splintered cockatrices. 
And shatter'd talbots, which had left the stones 
Raw, that they fell from, brought us to the hall. 

" And there sat Arthur on the dais-throne. 
And those that had gone out upon the Quest, 
Wasted and worn, and but a tithe of them, 
And those that had not, stood before the King. 
Who, when he saw me, rose, and bade me hail, 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. 155 

Saying, ' A wel£ure in thine eye reproyes 
Our fear of some disastrous chance for thee 
On hill, or plain, at sea, or flooding ford. 
So fierce a gale made havock here of late 
Among the strange devices of our kings ; 
Yea, shook this newer, stronger hall of ours, 
And from the statue Merlin moulded for us 
Half-wrench'd a golden wing; but now — the quest, 
This vision — hast thou seen the Holy Cup, 
That Joseph brought of old to Glastonbury ?' 

" So when I told him all thyself hast heard, 
Ambrosius, and my fresh but fixt resolve 
To pass away into the quiet life. 
He answer'd not, but, sharply turning, ask'd < 

Of Gawain, ' Gawain, was this Quest for thee ?' 

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154 ^^^ HOLY GRAIL, 

" *Nay, lord.* said Gawain, *not for such as I. 
Therefore I communed with a saintly man, 
Who made me sure the Quest was not for me ; 
For I was much awearied of the Quest : 
But found a silk pavilion in a field, 
And merry maidens in it ; and then this gale 
Tore my pavilion from the tenting-pin, 
And blew my merry maidens all about 
With all discomfort ; yea, and but for this, 
My twelvemonth and a day were pleasant to me,* 

** He ceased ; and Arthur tum*d to whom at first 
He saw not, for Sir Bors, on entering, push'd 
Athwart the throng to Lancelot, caught his hand. 
Held it, and there, half-hidden by him, stood. 
Until the King espied him, saj-ing to him. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, ^ ,55 

' Hail, Bors I if ever loyal man and true 
Could see it, thou hast seen the Grail;' and Bors, 
' Ask me not, for I may not speak of it, 
I saw it :' and the tears were in his eyes. 

" Then there remained hut Lancelot, for the rest 

Spake but oi sundry perils in the storm ; 

Perhaps, like him of Cana in Holy Writ, 

Our Arthur kept his best until the last; 

'Thou, too, my Lancelot,' ask*d the King, 'my 

friend. 

Our mightiest, hath this Quest avail'd for thee?' 

« 
"*Ouj mightiest I' answer'd Lancelot, with a 

groan; 

*0 King I' — and when he paused, methought I spied 

A dying fire of madness in his eyes — 

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156 , THE HOLY GRAIL, 

*0 King, my friend, if friend of thine I be. 
Happier are those that welter in their sin, 
Swine in the mud, that cannot see for slime. 
Slime of the ditch : but in me lived a sin 
So strange, of such a kind, that all of pure, 
Noble, and knightly in me twined and clung 
Round that one sin, until the wholesome flower 
And poisonous grew together, each as each. 
Not to be pluck'd asunder; and when thy knights 
Sware, I sware with them only in the hope 
That could I touch or see the Holy Grail 
They might be pluck'd asunder. Then I spake 
To one most holy saint, who wept and said. 
That save they could be pluck'd asunder, all 
My quest were but in vain ; to whom I vow'd 
— n I would work according as he will'd. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 157 

And forth I went, and while I yeam*d and strove 

To tear the twain asunder in my heart, 

My madness came upon me as of old. 

And whipt me into waste fields Sax away ; 

There was I beaten down by little men. 

Mean knights, to whom the moving of my sword 

And shadow of my spear had been enow 

To scare them from me once ; and then I came 

All in my folly to the naked shore. 

Wide flats, where nothing but coarse grasses grew ; 

But such a blast, my King, began to blow, 

So loud a blast along the shore and sea. 

Ye could not hear the waters for the blast, 

Tho* heapt in mounds and ridges all the sea 

Drove like a cataract, and all the sand 

Swept like a river, and the clouded heavens 

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158 THE HOLY GRAtL, 

Were shaken with the motion and the sound. 
And blackening in the sea-foam sway'd a boat, 
Half-swalloVd in it, anchored with a chain ; 
And in my madness to myself I said, 
' I will embark and I will lose myself, 
And in the great sea wash away my sin.' 
I burst the chain, I sprang into the boat. 
Seven days I drove along the dreary deep, 
And with me drove the moon and all the stars ; 
And the wind fell, and on the seventh night 
I heard the shingle grinding in the surge, 
And felt the boat shock earth, and looking up. 
Behold, the enchanted towers of Carbonek, 
A castle like a rock upon a rock. 
With chasm-like portals open to the sea, 
And steps that met the breaker I there was none 

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THE HOLY GRAIL. ,59 

Stood near it but a lion on each side 
That kept the entry, and the moon was full. 
Then from the boat I leapt, and up the stairs. 
There drew my sword. With sudden-flaring manes 
Those two great beasts rose upright like a man. 
Each gript a shoulder, and I stood between ; 
And, when I would have smitten them, heard a 

voice, 
' Doubt not, go forward ; if thou doubt, the beasts 
Will tear thee piecemeal.' Then with violence 
The sword was dash'd from out my hand, and fell 
And up into the sounding hall I past ; 
But nothing in the sounding hall I saw 
No bench nor table, painting on the wall 
Or shield of knight ; only the rounded moon 
Thro* the tall oriel on the rolling sea. 

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i6o THE HOLY GRAIL. 

But alwa3rs in the quiet house I heard, 
Clear as a lark, high o'er me as a lark, 
A. sweet voice singing in the topmost tourer 
To the eastward : up I dimb'd a thousand steps 
With pain : as in a dream I seem'd to climb 
For ever : at the last I reach'd a door, 
A light was m the crannies, and I heard, 
* Glory and joy and honour to our Lord 
And to the Holy Vessel of the Grail.* 
Then in my madness I essay'd the door ; 
It gave ; and thro* a stormy glare, a heat 
As from a seventimes-heated furnace, I, 
Blasted and burnt, and blinded as I was. 
With such a fierceness that I swoon'd away — 
O, yet methought I saw the Holy Grail, 
All pall'd in crimson samite, and around 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, x6i 

Great aiigels, awful shapes, and wings and eyes. 
And but for all my madness and my sm, 
And then my swoonmg, I had sworn I saw 
That which I saw ; but what I saw was veil'd 
And cover'd ; and this quest was not for me.' 

»^So speaking, and here ceasing, Lancelot left 
The hall long silent, till Sir Gawain — nay. 
Brother, I need not tell thee foolish woijds, — 
A reckless and irreverent knight was he. 
Now bolden'd by the silence of his King, — 
WeU, I will tell thee : * O king, my liege,' he said, 
* Hath Gawain fail'd in any quest of thine? 
When have I stinted stroke in foughten field ? 
But as for thine, my good friend, Perdvale, 
Thy holy nun and thou have driven men mad, 

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i62 THE HOLY GRAIL. 

Vea, made our mightiest madder than our least. 
But by mine eyes and by mine ears I swear, 
I will be deafer than the blue-eyed cat, 
And thrice as blind as any noonday owl, 
To holy virgins in their ecstacies, 
Henceforward.' 

" * Deafer,* said the blameless Kii^ 
* Gawain, and blinder unto holy things 
Hope not to make thyself by idle vows, 
Being too blind to have desire to see. 
But if indeed there carae a sign from heaven, 
Blessed are Bors, Lancelot and Percivale, 
For these have seen according to their sight. 
For every fiery prophet in old times, 
And all the sacred madness of the bard. 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 163 

When God made music thro' them, could but speak 
His music by the framework and the chord ; 
And as ye saw it ye have spoken truth. 

" * Nay — ^but thou errest, Lancelot : never yet 
Could all of true and noble in knight and man 
Twine roimd one sin, whatever it might be, 
With such a closeness,. but apart there grew. 
Save that he wefe the swine thou spakest of, 
Some root of knighthood and pure nobleness ; 
Whereto see thou, that it may bear its flower, 

'* ' And spake I not too truly, O my knights? 
Was I too dark a prophet when I said 
To those who went upon, the Holy Quest, 
That most of them would follow wandering fires, 

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x64 THE HOLY GRAIL, 

Ix>st in the quagmire ?^ost to me and gone. 
And left me gazing at a barren board, 
And a lean Order — scarce retum'd a tithe— 
And oat of those to whom the vision came 
My greatest hardly will believe he saw ; 
Another hath beheld it afar off» 
And leaving human wrongs to right themselves. 
Cares but to pass into the silent life. 
And one hath had the vision face to lace, 
And now his chair desires him here in vain, 
However they may crown him otherwhere. 

" ' And some among yon held, that if the King 
Had seen the sight he would have sworn the vow : 
Not easily, seeing that the King must guard 
That which he rules, and is but as the hind 

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THE HOLY GRAIL, 165 

To whom a space of land is given to plough, 

Who may not wander from the allotted field, 

Before his work be done; but, being done» 

Let visions of the night or of the day 

Come, as they will; and many a time they come. 

Until this earth he walks on seems not earth. 

This light that strikes his eyeball is not light. 

This 2CLX that smites his forehead is not air 

But vision— yea, his very hand and foot — 

In moments when he ieels he cannot die, 

And knows himself no vision to himself. 

Nor the high God a vision, nor that One 

Who rose again : ye have seen what ye have seen. 

'* So spake the king : I knew not all he meant." 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRR 



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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE. 

^ING Arthur made new knights to fill 
the gap • 

Left by the Holy Quest ; and as he sat 
In hall at old Caerleon, the high doors 
Were softly sundered, and thro* these a youth, 
Pelleas, and the sweet smell of the fields 
Past, and the sunshine came along with him. 



" Make me thy knight, because I know. Sir King, 

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X70 PBLLEAS AND ETTARRE. 

All that belongs to knighthood, and I love," 
Such was his cry; for having heard the King 
Had let proclaim a tournament — the prize 
A golden circlet and a knightly sword. 
Full fain had Pelleas for his lady won 
The golden drdet, for himself the sword : 
And there were those who knew him near the King 
And promised for him: and Arthur made him 
knight 

And this new knight, Sir Pelleas of the isles — 
But lately come to his inheritance, 
And lord of many a barren isle was he — 
Riding at noon, a day or twain before, 
Across the forest call'd of Dean, to find 
PaArlPon and the King, had felt the sun 

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PSLLJSAS AND ETTARRS, i?^ 

Beat like a stiong knight on his helm, and reel'd 
Almost to falling fronkhis hozse; but saw 
Near him a mound of even-sloping side, 
Whereon a hundred stately beeches grew, 
And here and there great hollies under them. 
But for a mile all round was open space, 
And fern and heath : and slowly Pelleas drew 
To that dim day, then binding his good horse 
To a tree, cast himself down ; and as he lay 
At random looking over the brown earth 
Thro* that green-glooming twilight of the grove, 
It seem'd to Pelleas that the fern without 
Burnt as a living fire of emeralds. 
So that his eyes were dazzled looking at it. 
Then o*er it crost the dimness of a cloud 
Floating, and once the shadow of a bird 

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173 PELLEAS AND ETTARRM, 

Flying, and then a fawn ; and his eyes dosed. 
And since he loved all maidens, but no maid 
In special, half-awake he whispered, ** Where ? 
O where ? I love thee, tho' I know thee not. 
For fair thou art and pure as Guinevere, 
And I will make thee with my spear and sword 
As famous — O my queen, my Guinevere, 
For I will be thine Arthur when we meet." 

Suddenly waken'd with a sound of talk 
And laughter at the limit of the wood, 
And glancing thro' the hoary boles, he saw. 
Strange as to some old prophet might have seem'd 
A vision hovering on a sea of fire. 
Damsels in divers colours like the cloud 
Of sunset and sunrise, and all of them 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRK, 173 

On horses, and the horses richly trapt 
Breast-high in that bright line of bracken stood ; 
And all the damsels taUc'd confusedly, 
And one was pointing this way, and one that. 
Because the way was lost 

And Pelleas rose. 
And loosed his horse, and led him to the light 
There she that seem'd the chief among them said, 
" In happy time behold our pilot-star ! 
Youth, we are damsels-errant, and we ride, 
Arm*d as ye see, to tilt against the knights 
There at Caerleon, but have lost our way : 
To right? to left? straight forward? back again? 
Which? tell us quickly." 

And Pelleas gazing thought. 

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174 PSLLSAS AND STTARRS. 

" Is GuineYere herself so beautiful?'* 
For large her violet eyes look'd, and her bloom 
A rosy dawn kindled in stainless heavens. 
And round her limbs, matm'e in womanhood, 
And slender was her hand and small her shape, 
And but for those large eyes, the haunts of scorn, 
She might have seem'd a toy to trifle with. 
And pass and care no more. But while he gazed 
The beauty of her flesh abash*d the boy, 
As tho' it were the beauty of her soul : 
For as the base man, judging of the good, 
Puts his 0¥m baseness m him by default 
Of will and nature, so did Pelleas lend 
All the young beauty of his own soul to hers, 
Believing her; and when she spake to him, 
-nmer*d, and could not make her a reply. 

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PELLS AS AND STTARRE, 175 

For out of the waste islands had he come. 
Where saving his own sisters he had known 
Scarce any but the women of his isles. 
Rough wives, that langh'd and scoeam'd against 

the galls, 
Makers of nets, and living from the sea. 

Then with a slow smile tnm'd the lady round 
And look'd upon her people ; and as when 
A stone is flung into some sleeping tarn. 
The drde widens till it lip the maige. 
Spread the slow smile thro' all her company. 
Three knights were thereamong; and they too 

smiled, 
Scorning him j for the Lady was Etlarre, 
And she was a great lady in her land. 

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176 PEL LEAS AND ETTARRR. 

Again she said, " O wild and of the woods, 
Knowest thou not the fashion of oar speech? 
Or have the Heavens but given thee a fair face, 
Lacking a tongue?" 

•* O damsel," answer'd he, 
" I woke from dreams ; and coming out of gloom 
Was dazzled by the sudden light, and crave 
Pardon : but will ye to Caerleon? I 
Go likewise : shall I lead you to the King?" 

"Lead then,*' she said; and thro' the woods 
they went. 
And while they rode, the meaning in his eyes. 
His tenderness of manner, and chaste awe. 
His broken utterances and bashfulness. 

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PRLLEAS AND ETTARRE, 177 

Were all a burthen to her, and in her heart 
She muttered, " I have lighted on a fool. 
Raw, yet so stale !" But since her mind was bent 
On hearing, after trumpet blown, her name 
And title, " Queen of Beauty," in the lists 
Cried— and beholding him so strong, she thought 
That peradventure he will fight for me. 
And win the circlet : therefore flattered him, 
Being so gracious, that he well-nigh deem'd 
His wish by hers was echo'd ; and her knights 
And all her damsels too were gracious to him. 
For she was a great lady. 

And when they reach*d 
Caerleon, ere they past to lodging, she, 
Taking his hand, " O the strong hand," she said. 

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xjS PBLLBAS AND ETTARRE. 

'*See I look at mine ! but wilt thoa fig^t for um. 
And win me this fine drdet, Pelleas, 
That I may love thee?" 

Then his helpless heart 
Leapt, and he cried " Ay ! wilt thou if I win ?" 
'* Ay, that will I," she answered, and she langh'dc 
And straitly nipt the hand, and flung it fipom her ; 
Then glanced askew at those three knights of hers^ 
Till all her ladies langh'd along with her. 

«0 happy world," thought Pelleas, *'aU, me- 
seems, 
Are happy ; I the happiest of them alL" 
Nor slept that night for pleasure in his blood, 
"" od green wood-ways, and eyes among the leaves ; 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE, 179 

Then being on the morrow knighted, sware 
To love one only. And as he came away, 
The men who met him rounded on their heels 
And wonder'd after him, because his face 
Shone like the countenance of a priest of old 
Against the flame about a sacrifice 
Kindled by fire from heaven : so glad was he. 

Then Arthur made vast banquets, and strange 

knights 
From the four winds came in : and each one sat, 
Tho' served with choice from air, land, stream, and 

sea, 
Oft in mid-banquet measuring with his eyes 
His neighbour's make and might: and Pelleas 

look'd 

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i8o PELLEAS AND ETTARRE, 

Noble among the noble, for he dream'd 
His lady loved him, and he knew himself 
Loved of the King : and him his new-made knight 
Woishipt, whose lightest whisper moved him more 
Than all the ranged reasons of the worid. 

Then blush'd and brake the morning of the 
jousts, 
And this was call'd " The Tournament of Youth : " 
For Arthur, loving his young knight, withheld 
His older and his mightier from the lists. 
That Pelleas might obtain his lady's love. 
According to her promise, and remain 
Lord of the tourney. And Arthur had the jousts 
Down in the flat field by the shore of U^ 
Holden : the gilded parapets were crown'd 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRB. j8i 

With faces, and the great tower fill'd with eyes 
Up to the summit, and the trumpets blew. 
There all day long Sir Pelleas kept the field 
With honour : so by that strong hand of his 
The sword and golden circlet were achieved. 

Then rang the shout his lady loved .* the heat 
Of pride and glory fired her face ; her eye 
Sparkled ; she caught the circlet from his lance 
And there before the people crown'd herself : 
So for the last time she was gracious to him. 

Then at Caerleon for a space— her look 
Bright for all others, cloudier on her knight — 
Lingered Ettarre : and seeing Pelleas droop. 
Said Guinevere, " We marvel at thee much^ . 



ife PELLBAS AND ETTARRE, 

damsd, wearing this nnsmmy face 

To him who won thee gloiy ! ** And she said, 
" Had ye not held your Lancelot in your bower. 
My Queen, he had not won." Whereat the Queen, 
As one whose foot is bitten by an ant, 
Glanced down upon her, tum*d and went her way. 

But after, when her damsels, and herself. 
And those three knights all set their faces home. 
Sir Pelleas follow'd. She that saw him cried, 
" Damsels— and yet I should be shamed to say 
it— 

1 cannot bide Sir Baby. Keep him back 
Among yourselves. Would rather that we had 
Some rough old knight who knew the worldly way, 

rizzlier than a bear, to ride-^^^i^ 

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PELLEAS AND ETTA ERE, 183 

And jest with : take him to you, keep him off, 
And pamper him with papmeat, if ye will. 
Old milky fables of the wolf and sheep, 
Such as the wholesome mothers tell their boys. 
Nay, should ye try him with a merry one 
To find his mettle, good : and if he fly us, 
Small matter ! let him.^' This her damsels heard, 
And mindfiil of her small and cruel hand, 
They, closing round him thro' the journey home. 
Acted her hest, and always from her side 
Restrained him with all manner of device. 
So that he could not come to speech with her. 
And when she gain'd her castle, upsprang the 

bridge, 
Down rang the grate of iron thro' the groove. 
And he was left alone in open field. 

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x84 PELLEAS AND ETTARRE, 

" These be the wavs of ladies," Pelleas thought, 
" To those who love them, trials of our faith. 
Vea, let her prove me to the uttermost, 
For loyal to the uttermost am I." 
So made his moan ; and, darkness falling, sought 
A priory not far off, there lodged, but rose 
With morning every day, and, moist or diy, 
Full-arm*d upon his chaiger all day long 
Sat by the walls, and no one open'd to him. 

And this persistance tum'd her scorn to wrath. 
Then calling her three knights, she charged them, 

"Out! 
And drive him from the walls." And out they 

came. 
But Pelleas overthrew them as they dash'd 

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PELLEAS AND ETTA R RE. 185 

Against him one by one; and these Fetum'd, 
But still he kq>t his watch beneath the walL 

Thereon her wrath became a hate ; and once, 
A week beyond, while walking on the walls 
With her three knights, she pointed downward, 

"Look, 
He haunts me — I cannot breathe — ^besi^^es me ; 
Down ! strike him I put my hate into your strokes, 
And drive him from my walls." And down they 

went. 
And Pelleas overthrew them one by one ; 
And from the tower above him cried Ettarre, 
•* Bind him, and bring him in." 



He heard her voice ; 

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i86 PEL LEAS AND ETTA R RE. 

Then let the strong hand, which had overthrown 

Her minion-knights, by those he overthrew 

Be bounden straight, and so they brought him in. 

Then when he came before Ettarre, the sight 
Of her rich beauty made him at one glance 
More bondsman in his heart than in his bonds. 
Yet with good cheer he spake, "Behold me. 

Lady, 
A prisoner, and the vassal of thy will ; 
And if thou keep me in thy donjon here, 
Content am I so that I see thy face 
But once a day : for I have sworn my vows, 
And thou hast given thy promise, and I know 
That all these pains are trials of my faith, 
And that thjrself when thou hast seen me strain'd 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE. 187 

And sifted to the utmost, wilt at length 

Yield me thy love and know me for thy knight." 

Then she b^[an to rail so bitterly, 
With all her damsels, he was stricken mute ; 
But when she mocked his vows and the great 

King, 
Lighted on words : " For pity of thine own self, 
Peace, Lady, peace : is he not thine and mine ?" 
" Thou fool," she said, •* I never heard his voice 
But long'd to break away. Unbind him now. 
And thrust him out of doors ; for save he be 
Fool to the midmost marrow of his bones, 
He will return no more." And those, her three, 
Laugh'd, and unbound, and thrust him from the 
gate. 

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i88 PEL LEAS AND ETTARRE, 

And after this, a week beyond, again 
She call'd them, saying, "There he watches yet, 
There like a dog before his master's door I 
Kicked, he returns : do ye not hate him, ye ? 
Ye know yourselves : how can ye bide at peace. 
Affronted with his fulsome innocence? 
Are ye but creatures of the board and bed. 
No men to strike ? Fall on him all at once, 
And if ye slay him I reck not : if ye fail. 
Give ye the slave mine order to be bound, 
Bind him as heretofore, and bring him in : 
It may be ye shall slay him in his bonds." 

She spake ; and at her will they couch'd their 
spears, 
■•gainst one : and Gawain passing by. 

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PSLLSAS AND ETTARRX. ,89 

Boand upon solitary adventure, saw 
Low down beneath the shadow of those towers 
A YiUainy, three to one : and thro' his heart 
The fire of honour and all uoble deeds . 
Flash'd, and he call'd, " I strike upon thy side — 
Thecaitifisr' " Nay," said Pelleas, " but forbear ; 
He needs no aid who doth his lady's will." 

So Gawain, looking at the villainy done. 
Forbore, but in his heat and eagerness 
Trembled and quiver'd, as the dog, withheld 
A moment from the vennin that he sees 
Before him, shivers, ere he springs and kills. 

And Pelleas overthrew them, one to three ; 
And they rose up, and bound, and brought hir 

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xgo PELLEAS AND ETTARRE 

Then first her anger, leaving Pelleas, bum*d 
Full on her knights in many an evil name 
Of craven, weakling, and thrice-beaten hound : 
" Yet, take him, ye that scarce are fit to touch. 
Far less to bind, your victor, and thrust him out. 
And let who will release him firom his bonds. 
And if he comes agun" — there she brake short ; 
And Pelleas answered, " Lady, for indeed 
I loved you and I deem*d you beautiful, 
I cannot brook to see your beauty marr'd 
Thro' evil spite : and if ye love me not, 
I cannot bear to dream you so forsworn : 
I had liefer ye were worthy of my love. 
Than to be loved again of you — ^farewell ; 
And tho* ye kill my hope, not yet my love, 
'•jc not yourself : ye will not see me more." 

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PELLRAS AND ETTARRR, 191 

While thus he spake, she gazed upon the man 
Of princely bearing, tho' in bonds, and thought, 
" Why have I pushed him fix)m me ? this man loves. 
If love there be : yet him I loved not. Why ? 
I deemed him fool ? yea, so ? or that in him 
A something — was it nobler than myself?- - 
Seem'd my reproach ? He is not of my kind 
He could not love me, did he know me well. 
Nay, let him go— and quickly." And her knights 
Laugh'd not, but thrust him bounden out of door. 

Forth sprang Gawain, and loosed him from his 
bonds. 
And flung them o'er the walls ; and afterward. 
Shaking his hands, as from a lazar's rag, 
• Faith of my body," he said, "and art thou not— 

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192 PELLEAS AND ETTA R RE. 

Yea thou art he, whom late our Arthur made 
Knight of his table ; yea and he that won 
The circlet? wherefore hast thou so defamed 
Thy brotherhood in me and all the rest. 
As let these caiti£& on thee work their will ?*' 

And Pelleas answer'd, " O, thdr wills are hers 
For whom I won the circlet ; and mine, hers. 
Thus to be bounden, so io see her face, 
Marr'd tho* it be with spite and mockery now. 
Other than when I found her in the woods ; 
And tho* she hath me bounden but in spite. 
And all to flout me, when they bring me in, 
Let me be bounden, I shall see her face ; 
Rise must I die thro* mine unhappiness." 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE. i93 

And Gawain answered kindly tho' in scom, 
" Why, let my lady bind me if she wUl, 
And let my lady beat me if she will : 
But an the send her del^^ate to thrall 
These fighting hands of mine — Christ kill me then 
But I will slice him handless by the wrist, 
And let my lady sear the stump for him. 
Howl as he may.. But hold me for your friend : 
Come, ye know nothing : here I pledge my troth. 
Yea, by the honour of the Table Round, 
I will be leal to thee and work thy woik. 
And tame thy jailing princess to thine hand. 
Lend me thine horse and arms, and I will say 
That I have slain thee. She will let me in 
To hear the manner of thy fight and fall ; 
Then, when I come within her counseU, then 

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194 PSLLEAS AND ETTARRB, 

From prime to vespers will I chant thy praise 
As prowest knight and tmest lover, more 
Than any have sung thee living, till she long 
To have thee back in lusty life again, 
Not to be bound, save by white bonds and wamiy 
Dearer than freedom. Wherefore now thy horse 
And armour : let me go : be comforted : 
Give me three days to melt her fancy, and hqpe 
The third night hence will bring thee news of 
gold." 

Then Pelleas lent his horse and all his arms. 
Saving the goodly sword, his prize, and took 
Gawain's, and said, ** Betray me not, but help- 
Art thou not he whom men call light-of-love ?" 



• Ay," said Gawain, " for women be so light." 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE. 195 

Then boonded forward to the castle walls^ 
And raised a bugle hanging from his neck, 
And winded it, and that so musically 
That all the old echoes hidden in the wall 
Rang out like hollow woods at huntingtide. 

Up ran a score of damsels to the tower ; 
*• Avaunt," they cried, " our lady loves thee not." 
Bat Gawain lifting up his visor said, 
*' Gawain am I, Gawain of Arthur's court. 
And I have slain this Pelleas whom ye hate: 
Behold his horse and armour. Open gate. 
And I will make yon merry." 

And down they ran, 
Her damsels, crying to their lady, " Lo I 
Pdkas is dead— he told us— he that haUi , 

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196 PBLLBAS AND RTTARRE, 

His hoise and armour : will ye let him in ? 
He slew him I Gawain, Gawain of the court. 
Sir Gawain— there he waits below the wall, 
Blowing his bugle as who should say him nay." 

And so, leave given, straight on thro' open door 
Rode Gawain, whom she greeted courteously. 
" Dead, is it so ?" she ask'd. " Ay, ay," said he, 
** And oft in dying cried upon your name." 
•* Pity on him," she answered, " a good knight. 
But never let me bide one hour at peace." 
" Ay," thought Gawain^ " and ye be fidr enow : 
Bat I to your dead man have given my troth, 
That whom ye loathe him will I make you love." 



So those three days, aimli>ss about the laud* 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE. i97 

Lost in a doubt, PeUeas wandering 
Waited, until the third night brought a moon 
With promise of large light on woods and wajrs. 

The night was hot : he could not rest, but rode 
Ere midnight to her walls, and bound his horse 
Hard by the gates. Wide open were the gates, 
And no watch kept ; and in thro' these he past. 
And heard but his own steps, and his own heart 
Beating, for nothing moved but his own sel( 
And his own shadow. Then he crost the court. 
And saw the postern portal also wide 
Yawning; and up a slope of garden, all 
Of roses white and red, and wild ones mixt 
And overgrowing them, went on, and found, 
Here too, all hush'd below the mellow moon 



198 PELLBAS AND ETTARRS. 

Save that one riTiilet from a tiny cave 

Came lightening downward, and so spilt itself 

Among the roses, and was lost again. 

Then was he ware that white pavilions rose, 
Three from the bnshes, gilden-peakt : in one. 
Red after revel, droned her lurdane knights 
Slumbering, and their three squires across theii 

feet: 
In one, their malice on the placid lip 
Froz'n by sweet sleep, four of her damsels lay s 
And in the third, the circlet of the jousts 
Bound on her brow, were Gawain and Ettarre. 

Back, as a hand that pushes thro' the leaf 
To find a nest and feels a snake, he drew: 
Back, as a coward slinks from what he fean 

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PELLSAS AND ETTARRE, 199 

To cope withy or a traitor proven, or hound 
Beaten, did Felleas in an utter shame 
Creep with his shadow thro' the court a£;ain, 
Fingering at his sword-handle until he stood 
There on the castle-bridge once more, and thought, 
*' I will go back, and skjr them where they lie." 

And so went bade and seeing them yet in sleep 
Said, " Ye, that so dishallow the holy sleep. 
Your sleep is death," and drew the tword, and 

thought, 
*'WhatI slay a sleqpmg knight? the King hath 

bound 
And sworn me to this brotherhood ; " again, 
" Alas that ever a knight should be so false/' 
Then tum'd, and so retum'd, and groaning laid 

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300 PSLLEAS AND BTTARRE, 

The naked sword athwart their naked throats^ 
Thererleft it, and them sleeping ; and she lay. 
The eirdet of the tourney round her browsy 
And the sword of the toomey across her throat. 

And forth he past^ and moonting on his hoise 
Stared at her towers that^ hurger than themselves 
In their own darkness, throng'd into the moon. 
Then crash'd the saddle with his thig^, and 

dench'd 
His handsv and madden'd ¥dth himself and moon'd: 

*' Would they have risen against me in their 
Uood 
At the last day? I might have answer'd them 
before high God. O towers so strong 

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PELLBAS AND BTTARRE, aoi 

Huge, solid, would fhat even while I gaze 
The crack of earthquake shivering to your base 
Split you, and Hell burst up your harlot roofe 
Bellowing, and charr'd yon thro' and thro' within, 
Black as the harlot's heart — ^hollow as a skull I 
Let the fierce east scream thro' your eyelet-holes. 
And whirl the dust of harlots round and round 
In dung and nettles I hiss, snake — ^I saw him there — 
I^ the fox bark, let the wolf yell. Who yells 
Here in the still sweet summer night, but I — 
I, the poor Pelleas whom she call'd her fool ? 
Fool, beast— he, she, or I? myself most fool ; 
Beast too, as lacking human wit — disgraced, 
Dishonour'd all for trial of true love — 
Love? — ^we be all alike : only the king 
Hath made us fools and liars. O noble vows ! 

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303 PELLBAS AND ETTARRB. 

greftt and sane and simple race of brates 
That own no lust because they have no law I 
For why should I have loved her to my shame ? 

1 loathe her, as I loved her to my shame. 

I never loved her, I but lusted for her — - 
Away—" 

He dash'd the rowd into his horsey 
And bounded forth and vanish'd thro' the night 

Then she, that felt the cold touch on her throat, 
Awaking knew the sword, and tum'd herself 
To Gawain : " Liar, for thou hast not slain 
This Pelleas I here he stood and might have simn 
Me and thyself.'' And he that tells the tale 
Says that her ever-veering fimcy tum'd 

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PELLBAS AND STTARRS, 803 

To Pelleas, as the one true knight on earth. 
And only lorer ; and thro' her love her life 
Wasted and pined, desiring him in vain. 

But he by wild and way, for half the nighty 
And over hard and soft, striking the sod 
From out the soft, the spark from off the hard. 
Rode till the star above the wakening sun. 
Beside that tower where Percivale was cowl'd, 
Glanced from the rosy forehead of the dawn. 
For so the words were flash'd into his heart 
He knew not whence or wherefore : " O sweet star, 
Pure on the virgin forehead of the dawn." 
And there he would have wept, but fdt his eyes 
Harder and drier than a fsuntain bed 
In summer : thither came the village girls 

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204 PBLLEAS AND ETTARRE. 

And linger'd talking, and they come no more 
Till the sweet heavens hare fill'd it from the 

heights 
Again with living waters in the change 
Of seasons : hard his eyes ; harder his heart 
Seem'd ; but so weary were his limbs, that he^ 
Gasping, '* Of Arthur's hall am I, but here, 
Here let me rest and die,'* cast himself down. 
And gulph'd his griefs in inmost sleep ; so lay, 
Till shaken by a dream, that Gawain fired 
The hall of Merlin, and the morning star 
Reel'd in the smoke, brake into flame, and felL 

He woke, and being ware of some one nigh. 
Sent hands upon him, as to tear him, crying 
■^alse! and I held thee pure as Guinevere." 

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PELLEAS AND ETTAJRRE. 205 

But Perdvale stood near him and replied, 
" Am I but fiedse as Guinevere is pure? 
Or art thou mazed with dreams ? or being one 
Of our free-spoken Table hast not heard 
That Lancelot "—there he checked hunself and 



Then fared it with Sir Pelleas as with one 
Who gets a wound in battle, and the sword 
That made it plunges thro' the wound again. 
And pricks it deeper : and he shrank and wail'd, 
'* Is the Queen false?** and Perdvale was mute. 
** Have any of our Round Table held their tows ?'' 
And Perdvale made answer not a word. 
" Is the king true?*' " The king 1** said Perdvale. 
" Why then let men couple at once with wo' 

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ao6 PRLLRAS AND STTARRE. 
What ! art thoa mad?" 

Bat Pelleasy lei^tDg up. 
Ran thro' the doors and yanlted on his horse 
And fled : small pity npon his horse had he, 
Or on himself, or any, and when he met 
A cripple, one that hdd a hand for alms — 
Hmich'd as he was, and like an old dwarf-ehu 
That turns its back on the salt blast, the boy 
Paused not bat orerrode him, shouting ''Falser 
And £dse with Gawain I" and so left him bruised 
And batter'd, and fled on, and hill and wood 
Went ever streaming by him till the gloom. 
That follows on the turning of the world. 
Darkened the common path : hetwitch'd the reina^ 
d made his beast that better knew it, swerve 

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PELLBAS AND BTTARRE, ^07 

Now off it and now on ; bat when he saw 
Hi^ np in heaven the hall that Merlin bnilty 
Blackening against the dead-greeii stripes of even, 
<*Black nest of rats^" he groan'd, <'y« build too 
high.* 

Not long thereafter from the city gates 
Issued Sir Lancelot riding airily, 
Warm with a gradons parting from the Queen, 
Peace at lus heart, and gazing at a star 
And marvelling what it was : on whom the boy. 
Across the rilent seeded meadow-grass 
fiome^ dash'd: and Lancelot, saying ''What 

name hast thou 
That ridest here so blindly and so hard?" 
*' I have no name," he shouted, ** a soouge ' 

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9o8 PRLLEAS AND RTTARRR. 

To lash the treasons of the Table Round.** 

** Yea, bat thy name?" ''I have many names'* 

he cried: 
'' I am wrath and shame and hate and evil fimie^ 
And like a poisonous wind I pass to blast 
And blaze the crime of Lancdot and the QneeD.** 
" Fiist oyer me^" said Lanodoty *' shalt thoa pass." 
"Fight theiefore," yell'd the other, and either 

knight 
Drew back a spacer and when thej dosed, at once 
The weaiy steed of Pelleas floundering flnng 
His rider, who called oat from the dark fidd, 
"Thoa art false as Hell: slay me: I have no 

swoxd." 
Then Lancdot, "Yea, between thy lips— «nd 

sharp; 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE, ^09 

fittt here will I disedge it by thy death." 

" Slay then," he shrick'd, " my will is to oe 

slain." 
And Lancelot, with his heel upon the fall'n, 
Rolling his eyes, a moment stood, then spake : 
" Rise, weakling; I am Lancelot; say thy say.' 

And Lancelot slowly rode his war-hoise back 
To Camelot, and Sir Pelleas in brief while 
Caught lus nnbroken limbs from the dark field. 
And foQow'd to the city. It chanced that both 
Brake into hall together, worn and pale. 
There with her knights and dames was Guinevere 
Full wonderingly she gazed on Lancelot 
So soon retum'd, and then on Pelleas, him 
Who had not greeted her, but cast himself 

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9XO PMLLMAS AND ETTARRE. 

Down on a bench, hard-breathing. ''Have ye 

fought?" 
She ask'd of Lancelot "Ay, my Queen," he 

said. 
*'And thou hast orerthrown him?" ''Ay, my 

Queen." 
Then she, turning to Pelleas, '' O young knight. 
Hath the great heart of knighthood in thee fail'd 
So far thou canst not bide, unfrowardly, 
A fall from him ? " Then, for he answer'd not, 
" Or hast thou other griefs ? If I, the Queen, 
May help them, loose thy tongue^ and let me 

know." 
But Pelleas lifted up an eye so fierce 
She quail'd; and he, hissing " I have no sword," 
"Sprang from the door into the dark. The Queen 

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PELLEAS AND ETTARRE. 211 

Look'd hard upon her lover, he on her; 

And each foresaw the dolorous day,.to be: 

And all talk died, as in a grove all song 

Beneath the shadow of some bird of prey, 

Then a long silence came npon the hall, 

And Modred thought, " The tune is hard at hand,' 




Spottiswoode &» Co., Printers, London. 

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