« PreviousContinue »
To bind them by inviolable vows,
Here ending, he moved toward her, and she said,
He that while she spake,
"I am thy fool, And I shall never make thee smile again.”
So then, when both were brought to full accord, All in a death-dumb, autumn-dripping gloom, She rose, and set before him all he willid;
The stairway to the ball, and look'd and saw And after these bad comforted the blood
The great Queen's bower was dark—abont his feet With meats and wines, and satiated their bearts- A voice clung sobbing till he question'd it, Now talking of their woodland paradise,
“What art thon ?" and the voice about his feet T'e deer, the dews, the fern, the founts, the lawns: Sevt np an answer, sobbing, "I am thy fool, Now mocking at the much ungaiuliness,
And I shall never make thee sınile again."
“Ay, ay, oh ay—tbe winds that bend the brier! A star in heaven, a star within the mere !
QUEEN GUINEVERE had fled the court, and sat
Weeping, none with her save a little maid, And one will ever shine and one will pass.
A novice: one low light betwixt them burn'd Ay, ay, oh ay—the winds that move the mere." Blurr'd by the creeping mist, for all abroad,
Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full,
Clong to the dead earth, and the land was still. "The collar of some Order, which our King Hath newly founded, all for thee, my soul,
For hither had she fled, her cause of flight For thee, to yield thee grace beyond thy peers." Sir Modred; be that like a subtle beast
Lay couchant with his eyes upon the throne, “Not so, my Queen,” he said, “but the red fruit Ready to spring, waiting a chance : for this Grown on a magic oak-tree in mid-heaven,
He chill'd the popular praises of the King And won by Tristram as a tourney-prize,
With silent smiles of slow disparagement;
To make disruption in the Table Round
For thug it chanced one morn when all the court, "Mark's way,” said Mark, and clove bim thro' the Green-suited, but with plumes that mock'd the may, brain.
Had been, their wont, a-maying and return'd,
That Modred still in green, all ear and eye, That night came Arthur home, and while he Climb'd to the high top of the garden-wall climbid,
To spy some secret scandal if he might,
And saw the Queen who sat betwixt her best For testimony; and crying with full voice
"Traitor, come out, ye are trapt at last," aroased The wiliest and the worst; and more than this Lancelot, who rushing outward Jionlike He saw not, for Sir Lancelot passing by
Leapt on him, and hurld him headlong, and he fell Spied where he conch'd, and as the gardener's hand Scann'd, and his creatures took and bare him off, Picks from the colewort a green caterpiliar,
And all was still: then she, “The end is come, So from the high wall and the flowering grove And I am shamed for ever;" and he said, Of grasses Lancelot pluck'd him by the heel, "Mine be the shame; mine was the sin : but rise, And cast him as a worm upon the way;
And fly to my strong castle overseas : But when he knew the Prince tho' marr'd with dust, There will I hide thee, till my life shall end, He, reverencing king's blood in a bad man, There hold thee with my life against the world." Made such excuses as he might, and these
She answer'd “ Lancelot, wilt thou hold me so ? Full knightly without scorn ; for in those days Nay, friend, for we have taken our farewells. No knight of Arthur's noblest dealt in scorn ; Would God that thou couldst hide me from myself! But, if a man were halt or hunch'd, in him
Mine is the shame, for I was wife, and thou By those whom God had made full-limb'd and tall, Unwedded: yet rise now, and let us fly, Scorn was allow'd as part of his defect,
For I will draw me into sanctuary, And he was answer'd softly by the King
And bide my doom.” So Lancelot got her horse, And all his Table. So Sir Lancelot bolp
Set her thereon, and mounted on his own, To raise the Prince, who rising twice or thrice And then they rode to the divided way, Full sharply smote his knees, and smiled, and went: There kiss'd, and parted weeping: for he past, But, ever after, the small violence done
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen, Rankled in him and ruffled all his heart,
Back to his land; but she to Almesbury As the sharp wind that ruffles all day long
Fled all night long by glimmering waste and weald, A little bitter pool about a stone
And heard the Spirits of the waste and weald On the bare coast.
Moan as she fled, or thought she heard them moan:
And in herself she moan'd “Too late, too late!" But when Sir Lancelot told Till in the cold wind that foreruns the morn, This matter to the Qncen, at first she laugh'd A blot in heaven, the Raven, flying high, Lightly, to think of Modred's dusty fall,
Croak'd, and she thought, “He spies a field of Then shudder'd, as the village wife who cries
death; “I shudder, some one steps across my grave;" For now the Heathen of the Northern Sea, Then laugh'd again, but faintlier, for indeed Lured by the crimes and frailties of the court, She half-foresaw that he, the subtle beast,
Begin to slay the folk, and spoil the land."
And when she came to Almesbury she spake
Pursue me, but, О peaceful Sisterhood, Heart-hiding smile, and gray persistent eye: Receive, and yield me sanctuary, nor ask Henceforward too, the Powers that tend the soul, Her name to whom ye yield it, till her time To help it from the death that cannot die,
To tell you:" and her beanty, grace, and power, And save it even in extremes, began
Wrought as a charm upon them, and they spared To vex and plague her. Many a time for hours, To ask it. Beside the placid breathings of the King, In the dead night, grim faces came and went
So the stately Queen abode Before her, or a vague spiritual fear
For many a week, unknown, among the nuns ; Like to some doubtful noise of creaking doors, Nor with them mix'd, nor told her name, nor sought, Heard by the watcher in a haunted house,
Wrapt in her grief, for housel or for shrift, That keeps the rust of murder on the walls- But communed only with the little maid, Held her awake: or if she slept, she dream'd Who pleased her with a babbling heedlessness An awful dream ; for then she seem'd to stand Which ofien lured her from herself; but now, On some vast plain before a setting sun,
This night, a rumor wildly blown about And from the sun there swiftly made at her Came, that Sir Modred had usurp'd the realm, A ghastly something, and its shadow flew
And leagued him with the heathen, while the King Before it, till it touch'd her, and she turn'd
Was waging war on Lancelot: then she thought, When lo! her own, that broadening from her feet, “ With what a hate the people and the King And blackening, swallow'd all the land, and in it Must hate me," and bow'd down upon her hands Far cities burnt, and with a cry she woke.
Silent, until the little maid, who brook'd And all this trouble did not pass but grew; No silence, brake it, uttering, “Late! so late! Till ev'n the clear face of the guileless King, What hour, I wonder, now?" and when she drew And trustful courtesies of household life,
Nor answer, by and by began to bum Became her bane; and at the last she said, An air the nuns had taught her: “Late, so late!" "O Lancelot, get thee hence to thine own land, Which when she heard, the Queen look'd up, and said, For if thou tarry we shall meet again ;
"O maiden, if indeed ye list to sing, And if we meet again, some evil chance
Sing, and unbind my heart that I may weep."
"Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill And still they met and met. Again she said, Late, late, so late! but we can enter still. "O Lancelot, if thou love me get thee hence." Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now. And then they were agreed upon a night (When the good King should not be there) to meet "No light had we: for that we do repent; And part for ever. Passion-pale they met
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent. And greeted: hands in hands, and eye to eye, Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now. Low on the border of her couch they sat Stammering and staring: it was their last hour, “No light: so lato! and dark and chill the night! A madness of farewells. And Modred brought Oh, let us in, that we may find the light! His creatures to the basement of the tower
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.
"Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet! | Made answer, sounding like a distant horn, Oh, let us in, tho' late, to kiss his feet!
So said my father-yea, and furthermore, No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now.'
Next morning, while he past the dim-lit woods,
Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy So sang the novice, while full passionately, Come dasbing down on a tall wayside flower, Her head upon her hands, remembering
That shouk beneath them, as the thistle shakes Her thought when first she came, wept the sad Queen. When three gray linuets wrangle for the seed : Then said the little novice, prattling to her,
And still at evenings on before his horse
The flickering fairy-circle wheeld and broke “Oh, pray you, noble lady, weep no more; Flying, and link'd again, and wheeld aud bruke But let my words, the words of one so small, Flying, for all the land was full of life. Who knowing nothing knows but to obey,
And when at last he came to Camelot, And if I do not there is penance given
A wreath of airy dancers hand-in-hand Comfort your sorrows; for they do not flow Swung round the lighted lantern of the hall; From evil done; right sure am I of that,
And in the hall itself was such a feast Who see your tender grace and stateliness.
As never man had dreain'd; for every knight But weigh your sorrows with our lord the King's, Had whatsoever meat he long'd for served And weighing find them less; for gone is he By hands unseen ; and even as he said To wage grim war against Sir Lancelot there, Down in the cellars merry bloated things Round that strong castle where he holds the Queen; Shoulder'd the spigot, straddling on the batts And Modred whom he left in charge of all,
While the wine ran : so glad were spirits and men The traitor-Ah! sweet lady, the King's grief Before the coming of the sinful Queen." For his own self, and his own Queen, and realm, Must needs be thrice as great as any of vurs. Then spake the Queen and somewhat bitterly, For me, I thank the saints, I am not great. "Were they so glad ! ill prophets were they all, For if there ever come a grief to me
Spirits and men: could none of them foresee, I cry my cry in silence, and have done:
Not even thy wise father with his signs None knows it, and my tears have brought me good: And wonders, what has fall’n upon the realm 9" But even were the griefs of little ones As great as those of great ones, yet this grief To whom the novice garrulously again, Is added to the griefs the great must bear,
“Yea, one, a bard; of whoin my father said, That howsoever much they may desire
Full many a noble war-song had he song, Silence, they cannot weep behind a cloud:
Evin in the presence of an enemy's fleet, As even here they talk at Almesbury
Between the steep cliff and the coming wave; About the good King and his wicked Queen, And many a mystic lay of life and death And were I such a King with such a Queen, Had chanted on the smoky mountain-tops, Well might I wish to veil her wickedness ;
When round him bent the spirits of the hills But were I such a King, it could not be.”
With all their dewy hair blown back like flame:
So said my father--and that night the bard Then to her own sad heart mutter'd the Queen, Sang Arthur's glorious wars, and sang the King “ Will the child kill me with her innocent talk." As wellnigh more than man, and rail'd at those But openly she answer'd, “Must not I,
Who call'd him the false son of Gorlois : If this false traitor have displaced his lord,
For there was no man kuew from whence he camo; Grieve with the common grief of all the realm ?" But after tempest, when the long wave broke
All down the thundering shores of Bude and Bos, “Yea,” said the maid, "this is all woman's grief, There came a day as still as heaven, and then That she is woman, whose disloyal life
They found a naked child upon the sands
And that his grave should be a mystery
From all men, like his birth; and could he find Then thought the Queen within herself again, A woman in her womanhood as great " Will the child kill me with her foolish prate ?" As he was in his manhood, then, he sang, Bat openly she spake and said to her,
The twain together well might change the world. “O little maid, shut in by nunnery walls,
But even in the middle of his song What canst thou know of Kings and Tables Round, He falter'd, and his hand fell from the harp, Or what of signs and wonders, but the signs Aud pale he turu'd, and reel'd, and would have And simple miracles of thy nonuery?"
But that they stay'd him up; nor would he tell To whom the little novice garrulously,
His vision ; but what doubt that he foresaw
Then thought the Queen, “ Lo ? they have set her or the great Table-at the founding of it;
on, And rode thereto from Lyonnesse, and he said Our simple-seeming Abbess and her nuns, That as he rode, an hour or maybe twain
To play upou me," and bowed her head nor spake, After the sunset, down the coast, he heard
Whereat the novice crying, with clasp'd hands, Strange music, and he paused, and turning—there, Shame on her own garrulity garrulously, All down the lonely coast of Lyonnesse,
Said the good nuns would check her gadding tongue Each with a beacon-star upon his head,
Full often, “and, sweet lady, if I seem And with a wild sea-light about his feet,
To vex an ear too sad to listen to me, He saw them-headland after headland flame Unmannerly, with prattling and the tales Far on into the rich heart of the west:
Which my good father told me, check me too: And in the light the white mermaiden swam, Nor let me shame my father's memory, one And strong man-breasted things stood from the sea, of noblest manners, tho' himself would say And sent a deep sea-voice thro' all the land, Sir Lancelot had the noblest ; and he died, To which the little elves of chasm and cleft Kill'd in a tilt, come next, five summers back,
And left me ; but of others who remain,
Then Lancelot's needs must be a thousaud-fuld And of the two first-famed for courtesy
Less poble, being, as all rumor runs, And pray you check me if I ask amiss
The most disloyal friend in all the world." But pray you, which had noblest, while you moved Among them, Lancelot, or our lord the King ?" To which a mournful apswer made the Queen :
"Oh, closed about by narrowing nunnery-walls, Then the pale Queen look'd up and answer'd her, What knowest thou of the world, and all its light “Sir Lancelot, as became a noble knight,
And shadows, all the wealth and all the woe?
“While he past the dim-lit wooda, Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy
Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower." Was gracious to all ladies, and the same
If ever Lancelot, that most noble knight, In open battle or the tilting-field
Were for one hour less noble than himself, Forbure his own advantage, and the King
Pray for him that he 'scape the doom of fire, Iu open battle or the tilting-field
And weep for her who drew him to his doom." Forbore his own advantage, and these two Were the most nobly-manner'd men of all ;
“Yea," said the little novice, "I pray for buth ; For manners are not idle, but the fruit
But I should all as soon believe that his, or loyal nature, and of noble mind."
Sir Lancelot's, were as noble as the King's,
As I could think, sweet lady, yours would be “Yea," said the maid, “ be manners such fair fruit? Such as they are, were you the sinful Queen."
So she, like many another babbler, hurt
of heathen swarming o'er the Northern Sea; Whom she would soothe, avd harm'd wbere she Whom I, while yet Sir Lancelot, my right arm, would heal ;
The mightiest of my knights, abode with me, For here a sudden flush of wrathful heat
Have everywhere about this land of Christ Fired all the pale face of the Queen, who cried, In twelve great battles ruining overthrown). "Such as thou art be never maiden more
And knowest thou now from whence I come-from For ever! thou their tool, set ou to plague
him, Aud play apon, and barry me, petty spy
From waging bitter war with him: and he, And traitress.” When that storm of anger brake That did not shun to smite me in worse way, From Guinevere, agbast the maiden rose,
Had yet that grace of courtesy in him lest, White as her veil, avd stood before the Queen He spared to lift his band against the King As tremulously as foam upon the beach
Who made him knight: but, many a kuigbt was Stands in a wind, ready to break and fly,
slain ; And when the Queen bad added “Get thee hence," | And many more, and all his kith and kin Fled frighted. Then that other left alope
Clave to him, and abode in his own land. Sigh'd, and began to gather heart again,
And many more when Modred raised revolt, Saying in herself, “ The simple, fearful child Forgetful of their troth and fealty, clave Meant nothing, but my own too-fearful guilt, To Modred, and a remuant stays with me. Simpler than any child, betrays itself.
And of this remnant will I leave a part, But help me, heaven, for surely I repent.
True men who love me still, for whom I live, For what is true repentance but in thought- To guard thee in the wild hour coming on, Not ev'n in inmost thought to think again
Lest but a hair of this low head be harm'd. The sins that made the past so pleasant to us : Fear not: thou shalt be guarded till my death. And I have sworn never to see him more,
Howbeit I know, if ancient prophecies To see him more."
Have err'd not, that I march to meet my doom. ;
Thou hast not made my life so sweet to me, And ev'n in saying this, That I the King should greatly care to live : Her memory from old habit of the mind
For thou hast spoilt the purpose of my life. Weut slipping back upon the golden days
Bear with me for the last time while I show, In which she saw him first, when Lancelot came, Ev'n for thy sake, the sin which thou hast siun'd. Reputed the best kuight and goodliest man, For when the Roman left us, and their law Ambassador, to lead her to his lord
Relax'd its hold upon us, and the ways Arthur, and led her forth, and far ahead
Were fill’d with rapine, bere and there a deed or his and her retinue moving, they,
of prowess done redress'd a random wrong. Rapt in sweet talk or lively, all ou love
But I was first of all the kings who drew And sport and tilts and pleasure (for the time The knighthood-errant of this realm and all Was Maytime, and as yet no sin was dream'd), The realms together under me, their Head, Rode under groves that look'd a paradise
In that fair Order of my Table Rouud, of blossom, over sheets of hyacinth
A glorious company, the flower of men, That seem'd the heavens upbreaking thro' the earth, To serve as model for the mighty world, And on from hill to hill, and every day
Aud be the fair beginning of a time. Beheld at noon in some delicious dale
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear The silk pavilions of King Arthur raised
To reverence the King, as if he were For brief repast or afteruoon repose
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King, By couriers gove before; and on again,
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ, Till yet once more ere set of sun they saw
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs, The Dragon of the great Pendragonship,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it, That crownd the state pavilion of the King,
To hopor his own word as if his God's, Blaze by the rushing brook or silent well.
To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,
To love one maiden only, cleave to her,
Until they won her ; for indeed I kuew
And love of truth, and all that makes a man. There rode an armed warrior to the doors.
And all this throve before I wedded thee,
Then came the sin of Tristram and Isolt;
And drawing foul ensample from fair names,
And all thro' thee! so that this life of mine
I guard as God's high gift from scathe and wrong, Monotonous and hollow like a ghost's
Not greatly care to lose ; but rather think Denouncing judgment, but tho' changed, the King's: How sad it were for Arthur, should he live,
To sit once inore within his lonely hall, "Liest thou here so low, the child of one And miss the wonted number of my knights, I honor'd, happy, dead before thy shame?
And miss to hear high talk of noble deeds Well is it that no child is born of thee.
As iv the golden days before thy sin. The children born of thee are sword and fire, For which of us, who might be left, conld speak Red ruin, and the breaking-up of laws,
of the pure heart, nor seem to glance at thee? The craft of kindred and the godless hosts
And in thy bowers of Camelot or of Usk