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No quest was hers of vague desire,
Of tortured hope and purpose shaken!
Following the margin of a bay, 135

She spied the lonely Cast-away,
Unmarred, unstripped of her attire,
But with closed eyes,—of breath and bloom
forsaken.

Then Nina, stooping down, embraced,
With tenderness and mild emotion, 140

The Damsel, in that trance embound;
And, while she raised her from the ground,
And in the pearly shallop placed,
Sleep fell upon the air, and stilled the ocean.

The turmoil hushed, celestial springs 145

Of music opened, and there came a blending
Of fragrance, underived from earth,
With gleams that owed not to the sun their

birth, And that soft rustling of invisible wings Which Angels make, on works of love descending 150

And Nina heard a sweeter voice
Than if the Goddess of the flower had spoken:
"Thou hast achieved, fair Dame! what none
Less pure in spirit could have done;
Go, in thy enterprise rejoice! 155

Air, earth, sea, sky, and heaven, success be token."

So cheered, she left that Island bleak,
A bare rock of the Scilly cluster;
And, as they traversed the smooth brine,
The self-illumined Brigantine 160

Shed, on the Slumberer's cold wan cheek
And pallid brow, a melancholy lustre.

Meet was their course, and when they came 't To the dim cavern, whence the river

Issued into the salt-sea flood, 165

Merlin, as fixed in thought he stood, Was thus accosted by the Dame; "Behold to thee my Charge I now deliver!

But where attends thy chariot—where ?"— Quoth Merlin, "Even as I was bidden, 170 So have I done; as trusty as thy barge My vehicle shall prove—O precious Charge! If this be sleep, how soft! if death, how fair! Much have my books disclosed, but the end is hidden."

He spake; and gliding into view 175

Forth from the grotto's dimmest chamber Came two mute Swans, whose plumes of

dusky white Changed, as the pair approached the light, Drawing an ebon car, their hue (Dike clouds of sunset) into lucid amber. 180

Once more did gentle Nina lift
The Princess, passive to all changes:
The car received her:—then up-went
Into the ethereal element
The Birds with progress smooth and swift 185
As thought, when through bright regions
memory ranges.

Sage Merlin, at the Slumberer's side,
Instructs the Swans their way to measure;
And soon Caerleon's towers appeared,
And notes of minstrelsy were heard 190

From rich pavilions spreading wide,
For some high day of long-expected pleasure.

Awe-stricken stood both Knights and Dames Ere on firm ground the car alighted; Eftsoons astonishment was past, 195

For in that face they saw the last Last lingering look of clay, that tames All pride; by which all happiness is blighted.

Said Merlin, "Mighty King, fair Lords, Away with feast and tilt and tourney! 200 Ye saw, throughout this royal House, Ye heard, a rocking marvellous Of turrets, and a clash of swords Self-shaken, as I closed my airy journey.

Lo! by a destiny well known 205

To mortals, joy is turned to sorrow; This is the wished-for Bride, the Maid Of Egypt, from a rock conveyed Where she by shipwreck had been thrown; 209 111 sight! but grief may vanish ere the morrow."

"Though vast thypower, thy words are weak," Exclaimed the King, "a mockery hateful; Dutiful Child, her lot how hard! Is this her piety's reward? Those watery locks, that bloodless cheek! 215 0 winds without remorse! O shore ungrateful!

"Rich robes are fretted by the moth;
Towers, temples, fall by stroke of thunder;
Will that, or deeper thoughts, abate
A Father's sorrow for her fate? 220

He will repent him of his troth; His brain will burn, his stout heart split asunder.

"Alas! and I have caused this woe; For, when my prowess from invading Neighbours Had freed his Realm, he plighted word 225 That he would turn to Christ our Lord, And his dear Daughter on a Knight bestow Whom I should choose for love and matchless labours.

"Her birth was heathen; but a fence
Of holy Angels round her hovered: 230

A Lady added to my court
So fair, of such divine report
And worship, seemed a recompense
For fifty kingdoms by my sword recovered.

"Ask not for whom, O Champions true! 235

She was reserved by me her life's betrayer;

She who was meant to be a bride

Is now a corse: then put aside

Vain thoughts, and speed ye, with observance due Of Christian rites, in Christian ground to lay her." 240

"The tomb," said Merlin, "may not close
Upon her yet, earth hide her beauty;
Not froward to thy sovereign will
Esteem me, Liege! if I, whose skill
Wafted her hither, interpose 245

To check this pious haste of erring duty.

"My books command me to lay bare
The secret thou art bent on keeping:
Here must a high attest be given,
What Bridegroom was for her ordained by
Heaven: 250

And in my glass significants there are Of things that may to gladness turn this weeping.

"For this, approaching, One by One,

Thy Knights must touch the cold hand of

the Virgin; So, for the favoured One, the Flower may

bloom 255

Once more: but, if unchangeable her doom, If life departed be for ever gone, Some blest assurance, from this cloud emerging,

"May teach him tobewail his loss; 159

Not with a grief that, like a vapour, rises And melts; but grief devout that shall endure, And a perpetual growth secure Of purposes which no false thought shall cross, A harvest of high hopes and noble enterprises."

"So be it," said the King;—" anon, 265

Here, where the Princess lies, begin the trial; Knights each in order as ye stand Step forth."—To touch the pallid hand Sir Agravaine advanced; no sign he won From Heaven or earth;—Sir Kaye had like denia1. 270

Abashed, Sir Dinas turned away; Even for Sir Percival was no disclosure; Though he, devoutest of all Champions, ere He reached that ebon car, the bier Whereon diffused like snow the Damsel lay, Full thrice had crossed himself in meek composure. 276

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