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Thy shadow still would glide from room to room, But hither shall I never come again,
Never lie by thy side ; see thee no more-
And while she grovell’d at his feet, Thy lord has wholly lost his love for thee.
She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck, I am not made of so slight elements.
And in the darkness o'er her fallen head, Yet must I leave thee, woman, to thy shame. Perceived the waving of his hands that blest. I hold that man the worst of public foes Who either for his own or children's sake,
Then, listening till those armed steps were gone, To save his blood from scandal, lets the wife Rose the pale Queen, and in her apguish found Whom he knows false, abide and rule the house : The casement: “peradventure," so she thought, For being thro' his cowardice allow'd
“If I might see his face, and not be seen." Her station, taken everywhere for pure,
And lo, he sat on horseback at the door! She like a new disease, unknown to men,
And near him the sad nuns with each a light Creeps, no precaution used, among the crowd, Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen, Makes wicked lightnings of her eyes, and saps To guard and foster her for evermore. The fealty of our friends, and stirs the pulse And while he spake to these his helm was lower'd, With devil's leaps, and poisons half the young. To which for crest the golden dragon clung Worst of the worst were that man he that reigns ! of Britain; so she did not see the face Better the King's waste hearth and aching heart Which then was as an angel's, but she saw, Than thou reseated in thy place of light,
Wet with the mists and smitten by the lights, The mockery of my people, and their bane." The Dragon of the great Pendragonship
Blaze, making all the night a steam of fire. He paused, and in the pause she crept an inch And even then he turn'd; and more and more Nearer, and laid her hands about his feet.
The moony vapor rolling round the King, Far off a solitary trumpet blew.
Who seem'd the phantom of a Giant in it, Then waiting by the doors the warhorse neigh'd Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray As at a friend's voice, and he spake again :
And grayer, till himself became as mist
Before her, moving ghostlike to his doom. “Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes, I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
Then she stretch'd out her arms and cried aloud I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
“O Arthur !" there her voice brake suddenly, To see thee, laying there thy golden head,
Then—as a stream that spouting from a cliff My pride in happier summers, at my feet.
Fails in mid-air, bnt gathering at the base The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce Re-makes itself, and flashes down the valelaw,
Went on in passionate utterance: The doom of treason and the flaming death (When first I learnt thee hidden here), is past.
“Gone-my lord! The pang-which while I weigh'd thy heart with one Gone thro' my sin to slay and to be slain ! Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee,
And he forgave me, and I could not speak. Made my tears burn-is also past, in part.
Farewell? I should have auswer'd his farewell. And all is past, the sin is sinn'd, and I,
His mercy choked me. Gone, my lord the King, Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God
My own true lord ! how dare I call him mine! Forgives : do thou for thine own soul the rest. The shadow of another cleaves to me, But how to take last leave of all I loved !
Avd makes me one pollution : he, the King, O golden hair, with which I used to play
Callid me polluted : shall I kill myself? Not knowing! O imperial-moulded form,
What help in that! I cannot kill my sin, And beauty such as woman never wore,
If soul be soul; nor can I kill my shame; Until it came a kingdom's curse with thee
No, nor by living cau I live it down. I cannot touch thy lips, they are not mine,
The days will grow to weeks, the weeks to months, But Lancelot's: nay, they never were the King's. The months will add themselves and make the years, I cannot take thy hand ; that too is flesh,
The years will roll into the centuries, And in the flesh thou hast siun'd; and mine own And mine will ever be a name of scorn. flesh,
I must not dwell on that defeat of fame. Here looking down on thine polluted, cries,
Let the world be ; that is but of the world. *I loathe thee:' yet not less, O Guinevere,
What else? what hope? I think there was a hope, For I was ever virgin save for thee,
Except he mock'd me when he spake of hope ;
For mockery is the fame of little hearts.
My wickedness to him, and let me hope
That in mine own heart I can live down sin
Aud be his mate hereafter in the heavens
Among his warring senses, to thy kuights-
To whom my false voluptuous pride, that took I charge thee, my last hope. Now must I hence. Full easily all impressions from below, Thro' the thick night I hear the trumpet blow : Would not look np, or half-despised the height They summon me their King to lead mine hosts To which I would not or I could not climl) Far down to that great battle in the west,
I thonght I could not breathe in that fine air Where I must strike against the man they call That pure severity of perfect lightMy sister's son-no kin of mine, who leagnes I wanted warmth and color which I found With Lords of the White Horse, heathen, and knights, In Lancelot—now I see thee what thou art, Traitors and strike him dead, and meet myself Thou art the bighest and most human too, Death, or I know not what mysterious doom. Not Lancelot, nor another. Is there none And thou remaining here wilt learn the event; Will tell the King I love him tho' so late?
Now-ere he goes to the great Battle ? none: Perchance, because we see not to the ciose :
For I, being simple, thonght to work His will, But now it were too daring. Ah my God,
And have bnt stricken with the sword in vain ; What might I not have made of thy fair world, And all whereon I leav'd in wife and friend Had I but loved thy highest creature here?
Is traitor to my peace, and all my realm It was my duty to have loved the highest:
Reels back into the beast, and is no more. It surely was my profit bad I kvown :
My God, thou hast forgotten me in my death : It would have been my pleasure had I seen. Nay-God my Christ-I pass, but sball not die.” We needs must love the highest when we see it, Not Lancelot, nor another."
Then, ere that last weird battle in the west,
There came on Arthur sleeping, Gawain kill'd
Here her hand In Lancelot's war, the ghost of Gawain blown Grasp'd, made her veil her eyes: she look'd and saw Along a wandering wind, and past his ear The novice, weeping, suppliant, and said to her, Went shrilling, "Hollow, hollow all delight! “Yea, little maid, for am not forgiven !"
Hail, Kiug! to-morrow thou shalt pass away. Then glancing up beheld the holy nuns
Farewell! there is an isle of rest for thee. All round ber, weeping; and her heart was loosed And I am blown along a wandering wind, Within her, and she wept with these and said, And hollow, hollow, hollow all delight."
And fainter onward, like wild birds that change “Ye know me then, that wicked one, who broke Their season in the night and wail their way The vast design and purpose of the King.
From cloud to cloud, down the long wind the dream Oh, shut me round with parrowing nunnery-walls, Shrill'd; but in going mingled with dim cries Meek maidens, from the voices crying .shame.' Far in the moonlit baze among the hills, I most not scoru myself: he loves me still. As of some lonely city sack'd by night,
Let no one dream but that he loves me still. When all is lost, and wife and child with wail So let me, if you do not shudder at me
Pass to new lords; and Artbur woke and call'd, Nor shun to call me sister, dwell with you ;
"Who spake? A dream. Oh, light upon the wind, Wear black and white, and be a uun like yon, Thine, Gawain, was the voice-are these dim cries - Fast with your fasts, not feasting with your feasts; Thine! or doth all that haunts the waste and wild Grieve with your griefs, not grieving at your joys, Mourn, knowing it will go along with me!" But pot rejoicing; mingle with your rites; Pray and be pray'd for; lie before your shrines; This heard the bold Sir Bedivere and spake : Do each luw office of your holy house ;
“O me, my King, let pass whatever will, Walk your dim cloister, and distribute dole
Elves, and the harmless glamour of the field; To poor sick people, richer in His eyes
But in their stead thy name and glory cling
To all high places like a golden cloud
Is Gawain, for the ghost is as the man ;
I hear the steps of Modred in the west, She said: they took her to themselves; and she, And with him many of thy people, and knights Still hoping, fearing, “is it yet too late ?"
Once thine, whom thou hast loved, but grosser grown Dwelt with them, till in time their Abbess died. Than heathen, spitting at their vows and thee. Then she, for her good deeds and her pure life, Right well in heart they kuow thee for the King. And for the power of ministration in her,
Arise, go forth and conquer as of old."
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
And brake the petty kings, and fought with Rome,
To war against my people and my knights.
The king who fights his people fights himself.
And they my knights, who loved me once, the stroke That story which the bold Sir Bedivere,
That strikes them dead is as my death to me. First made and latest left of all the knights, Yet let us hence, and tind or feel a way Told, when the man was no more than a voice
Thro' this blind haze, which ever since I saw In the wbite winter of his age, to those
One lying in the dust at Almesbury, With whom he dwelt, new faces, other minds. Hath folded in the passes of the world.” For on their march to westward Bedivere,
Then rose the King and moved his host hy night, Who slowly paced among the slombering host, And ever push'd Sir Modred, league by league, Heard in his tent the moanings of the King: Back to the sunset bound of Lyonnesse
A land of old upheaven from the abyss
And the long mountains ended in a coast
Of ever-shifting sand, and far away O me! for why is all around us here
The phantom circle of a moaning sea. As if some lesser god had made the world,
There the pursuer could pursue no more, But had vot force to shape it as he would,
And he that fled no further fly the King; Till the High God behold it from beyond,
And there, that day when the great light of heaven And enter it, and make it beautiful?
Burn'd at his lowest in the rolling year, Or else as if the world were wholly fair,
On the waste sand by the waste sea they closed. But that these eyes of men are dense and dim, Nor ever yet had Arthur fonght a fight Aud have not power to see it as it is
Like this last, dim, weird battle of the west.
A deathwbite mist slept over sand and sea :
Made at the map: then Modred smote his liege Whereof the chill, to him who breathed it, drew Hard on that helm which many a heathen sword Down with his blood, till all his heart was cold Had beaten thin; while Arthur at one blow, With formless sear; and ey'n on Arthur fell Striking the last stroke with Excalibur, Confusion, since he saw not whom he fought, Slew him, and all but slain himself, be fell. For friend and foe were shadows in the mist, And friend slew friend not knowing whom he slew; So all day long the noise of battle rollid And some bad visions out of golden youth,
Among the mountains by the winter sea; And some beheld the faces of old ghosts
Uutil King Arthur's Table, man by man, Look in npon the battle; and in the mist
Had fall'n in Lyonnesse about their lord, Was many a noble deed, many a base,
King Arthur. Then, because his wound was deep And chance and craft and strength in single fights, The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him, And ever and apon with host to host
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field, Shocks, and the splintering spear, the hard mail A brokeu chancel with a broken cross, hewn,
That stood on a dark strait of barren land: Shield-breakings, and the clash of brands, the crash On one side lay the Ocean, and on one of battleaxes on shatter'd helms, and shrieks Lay a great water, and the moon was full. After the Christ, of those who falling down Look'd up for heaven, and only saw the mist; Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: And shouts of heathen and the traitor knights, "The sequel of to-day unsolders all Oaths, insult, tilth, and monstrous blasphemies, The goodliest fellowship of famous knights Sweat, writhings, anguish, laboring of the lungs, Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep In that close mist, and cryings for the light, They sleep-the men I loved. I think that we Moans of the dying, and voices of the dead. Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
or Camelot, as in the days that were.
I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm
In those old days, one summer noon, an arm Nor any cry of Christian heard thereon,
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake, Nor yet of heathen ; only the wan wave
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, Brake in among dead faces, to aud fro
Holding the sword—and how I row'd across Swaying the helpless hands, and up and down And took it, and have worn it, like a king; Tumbling the hollow helmets of the fallen,
And, wheresoever I am sung or told And shiver'd brands that once had fought with Rome, In aftertime, this also shall be known: And rolling far along the gloomy shores
But now delay not: take Excalibur, The voice of days of old and days to be.
And fling him far into the middle mere:
Watch what thou seëst, and lightly bring me word." Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere, And whiter than the mist that all day long
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere : Had held the field of battle was the King:
"It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
Aidless, alone, and smitten thro' the helm“Hearest thou this great voice that shakes the A little thing may harm a wounded man; world,
Yet I thy hest will all perform at full, And wastes the narrow realm whereon we move, Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word.” And beats upon the faces of the dead, My dead, as tho' they had not died for me!
So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he stept, O Bedivere, for on my heart hath fall'n
And in the moon athwart the place of tombs, Confusiou, till I know not what I am,
Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men, Nor whence I am, nor whether I be King,
Old kuights, and over them the sea-wind sang Behold, I seem but King among the dead."
Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down
By zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock,
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
And o'er him, drawing it, the winter moon, Who love thee; but who hates thee, he that bronght Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth The heathen back among us, yonder stands,
And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt: Modred, upharm'd, the traitor of thine house." For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work Then spake the King: “My house hath been my of subtlest jewelry. He gazed so long doom.
That both his eyes were dazzled as he stood,
This way and that dividing the swift mind,
That whistled stiff and dry about the marge.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: And one last act of kinghood shalt thou see “Hast thou perform'd my mission which I gave? Yet, ere I pass.” And uttering this the King What is it thou hast seen! or what hast heard ?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn, "I heard the ripple washing in the reeds,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock And the wild water lapping on the crag."
By night, with noises of the Northern Sea.
So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur :
And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him Thy fealty, nor like a poble knight:
Three times, and drew bim under in the mere. For surer sign had follow'd, either hand,
And lightly went the other to the King.
Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath: Yet vow, I charge tbee, quickly go again,
“Now see I by thine eyes that this is done. As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen ?" I bade thee, watch, and lightly bring me word."
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere : Then went Sir Bedivere the second time
“Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Not thu' I live three lives of mortal men,
Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him;
But when I look'd again, behold an arm, "And if indeed I cast the brand away,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, Sarely a precious thing, one worthy note,
That caught him by the hilt and brandish'd him Should thus be lost for ever from the earth, Three times, and drew him under in the mere." Which might have pleased the eyes of many men. What good should follow this, if this were doue ! And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard : What harm, undone! Deep harm to disobey, “My end draws nigh ; 'tis time that I were gone. Seeing obedience is the boud of rule.
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight,
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."
So saying, from the pavement he half rose,
Slowly, with pain, clining on his arm,
And would have spoken, but he found not words; Wrought by the lovely maiden of the Lake. Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee, Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps O'er both his shoulders drew the languid bands, Upon the hidden bases of the hills.'
And rising bore him thro' the place of tombs. So might some old man speak in the aftertime To all the people, winning reverence.
But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted hard, But now much honor and much fame were lost." Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed
When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King, So spake he, clouded with his own conceit, Muttering and murmuring at his ear, “Quick, quick! Aud hid Excalibur the second time,
I fear it is too late, and I shall die." And so strode back slow to the wounded King. But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walk'd, Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily: Larger than human on the frozen hills. "What is it thou hast seen ? or what hust heard ?" He heard the deep behiud him, and a cry
Before. His own thought drove him like a goad. And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves “I heard the water lapping on the crag,
And barren chasms, and all to left and right And the long ripple washing in the reeds." The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath : Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels“Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue,
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.
Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
Beneath them; and descending they were ware In whom should meet the offices of all,
That all the decks were dense with stately forms, Thou wonldst betray me for the precions hilt ; Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream-by these Either from lust of gold, or like a girl
Three queens with crowns of gold: and from them Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
rose Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice,
A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars,
of lamentation, like a wind that shrills I will arise and slay thee with my hands."
All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
Or hath come, since the making of the world. Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran, And, lenping down the ridges lightly, plunged Then murmur'd Arthur, “Place me in the barge." Among the balrush beds, and clutch'd the sword, So to the barge they came. There those three queens And strongly wheel'd, and threw it. The great brand Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept. Made lightnings in the splendor of the moon, But she, that rose the tallest of them all And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch, And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,
And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands, With these thou seëst—if indeed I
To the island-valley of Avilion ;
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest, With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere From spur to plume a star of tournament,
Revolving many meinories, till the hull Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and charged Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn, Before the eyes of ladies and of kings.
And on the mere the wailing died away. Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere :
But when that moan had past for evermore, “Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
The stillness of the dead world's winter dawn Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes ? Amazed him, aud he groan'd, “ The King is gone." For now I see the true old times are dead,
And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme, When every morning brought a noble chance, "From the great deep to the great deep be goes." Aud every chance brought ont a noble kuight. Such times have been not since the light that led Whereat he slowly turn'd and slowly clomb The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
The last bard footstep of that iron crag; But now the whole Round Table is dissolved, Thence mark'd the black hull moving yet, and cried, Which was an image of the mighty world,
" He passes to be King among the dead, And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And after healing of his grievous wound
Who shriek'd and wail'd, the three whereat we gazed
of Arthur, who should help him at his need ?" Lest one good custom should corrupt the world. Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
Then from the dawn it seem'd there came, but faint
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb
Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand, If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King, Both for themselves and those who call them friend ! Down that long water opening on the deep For so the whole round
Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go Bound by gold chains abont the feet of God. From less to less and vanish into light. But now farewell. I am going a long way
And the new sun rose bringing the new year.
TO THE QUEEN.
O LOYAL to the royal in thysell,
Left mightiest of all peoples under heaven?