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Speak for her, glowing on him, like a bride's
He answer'd, laughing, “Nay, not like to me.
Or in the noon of mist and driving rain,
And Vivien answer'd, smiling saucily: “Ye have the book: the charm is written in it: Good : take my counsel: let me know it at once: For keep it like a puzzle, chest in chest,
With each chest lock'd and padlock'd thirty-fold, And Merlin answer'd, “Overquick art thou And whelm all this beneath as vast a mound To catch a loathly plame fall’n from the wing As after furious battle turfs the slain
Of that foul bird of rapive whose whole prey On some wild down above the windy deep,
Is man's good name: he never wrong'd his bride. I yet should strike upon a sudden means
I know the tale. Au angry gust of wind To dig, pick, open, tind, and read the charm : Puff'd out his torch among the myriad-room'd Then, if I tried it, who should blame me then p" And many-corridor'd complexities
Of Arthur's palace: then he found a door, And smiling, as a master smiles at one
And darkling felt the sculptured ornament That is not of his school, nor any school
That wreathen round it, made it seem his own But that where blind and naked Ignorance
And wearied out, made for the couch and slept, Delivers brawling judgments, anashamed,
A stainless man beside stainless maid ; On all things all day long, he answer'd her: And either slept, nor knew of other there;
Till the high dawn, piercing the royal rose “Thou read the book, my pretty Vivien !
In Arthur's casement, glimmer'd chastely down, Oh ay, it is but twenty pages long,
Blushing upon them blushing, and at once But every page having an ample marge,
He rose without a word and parted from her: And every marge enclosing in the midst
But when the thing was blazed about the court, A square of text that looks a little blot,
The brute world howling forced them into bonds, The text no larger than the limbs of fleas;
And as it chanced, they are happy, being pare." And every square of text an awful charm, Writ in a language that has long gone by.
"Oh ay,” said Vivien, "that were likely too. So long, that mountains have arisen since
What say ye then to fair Sir Percivale, With cities on their flanks--thon read the book! And of the horrid foulness that he wrought, And every margin scribbled, crost, and crammid The saintly youth, the spotless lamb of Christ, With comment, densest condensation, hard
Or some black wether of St. Satan's fold. To mind and eye; but the long sleepless nights What, in the precincts of the chapel-yard, Of my long life have made it easy to me.
Among the knightly brasses of the graves,
And by the cold Hic Jacets of the dead !"
And Merlin answer'd, careless of her charge, Oh, the results are simple; a mere child
"A sober man is Percivale and pure; Might use it to the harm of anyone,
But once in life was fluster'd with new wine, And never could undo it: ask no more:
Then paced for coolness in the chapel-yard ; For tho' you should not prove it upon me,
Where one of Satan's shepherdesses caught
And that he sign'd is not believable;
The sin that practice burns into the blood, And Vivien, frowning in true anger, said: And not the one dark hour which brings remorse. “What dare the full-fed liars say of me?
Will brand us, after, of whose fold we be: They ride abroad redressing human wrongs! Or else were he, the holy king, whose hymus They sit with knife in meat and wine in horn. Are chanted in the minster, worse than all. They bound to holy vows of chastity!
But is your spleen froth'd out, or have ye more?" Were I not woman, I could tell a tale. But you are man, you well can understand
And Vivien answer'd, frowning yet in wrath : The shame that cannot be explaiu'd for shame. “Oh ay; what say ye to Sir Lancelot, friend ! Not one of all the drove should touch me: swine!" Traitor or true that commerce with the Queen,
I ask you, is it clamor'd by the child, Then answer'd Merlin, careless of her words : Or whisper'd in the corner ? do ye know it !" “Yon breathe but accusation vast and vague, Spleen-born, I think, and proofless. If ye know, To which he answer'd sadly, "Yea, I know it. Set up the charge ye know, to stand or fall !" Sir Lancelot went ambassador, at first,
To fetch her, and she watch'd him from her walls. And Vivien answer'd, frowning wrathfully: A rumor runs, she took him for the King, "Oh ay, what say ye to Sir Valence, him
So fixt her fancy on him : let them be. Whose kinsman left him watcher o'er his wife But have ye no one word of loyal praise And two fair babes, and went to distant lands, For Arthur, blameless King aud stainless man ?" Was one year gone, and on returning found Not two but three? there lay the reckling, one
She answer'd with a low and chuckling laugh: But one hour old! What said the happy sire ! “Man! is he man at all, who knows and winks? A seven-months' babe had been a truer gift.
Sees what his fair bride is and does, and winks? Those twelve sweet moons confused his fatherhood." By which the good King means to blind himself
And blinds himself and all the Table Round Then answer'd Merlin, “Nay, I know the tale. To all the foulness that they work. Myself Sir Valence wedded with an outland dame :
Could calı him (were it not for womanhood) Some cause had kept him sunder'd from his wife: The pretty, popular pame such manhood earns, One child they had: it lived with her: she died : Could call him the main cause of all their crimne : His kinsman traveling on his own affair,
Yea, were he not crown'd King, coward, and fool." Was charged by Valence to bring home the child. He brought, not found it therefore: take the truth." Then Merlin to his own heart, loathing, said:
“O true and tender! O my liege and King! "Oh ay," said Vivien, "overtrne a tale.
O selfless man and stainless gentleman, What say ye then to sweet Sir Sagramore,
Who wouldst against thine own eye-witness fain That ardent man! 'to pluck the flower in season,' Have all men true and leal, all women pure ; So says the song, 'I trow it is no treason.'
How, in the mouths of base interpreters, O Master, shall we call him overquick
From over-fineness not intelligible To crop his own sweet rose before the hour?" To things with every sense as false and foul
As the poach'd filth that floods the middle street, I thought that he was gentle, being great:
I should have found in him a greater heart.
Oh, I, that flattering my true passion, saw By instance, recommenced, and let her tongue The knights, the court, the King, dark in your light, Rage like a fire among the noblest names,
Who loved to make men darker than they are, · Polluting, and imputing her whole sell,
Because of that high pleasure which I had
To seat you sole upon my pedestal
The conrse of life that seem'd so flowery to me
And ending in a ruin-nothing left,
If the wolf spare me, weep my life away,
Kill'd with inutterable unkindliness." So will she rail. What did the wanton say? Not mount as high ;'we scarce can sink as low: She paused, she turn'd away, she hung her head, For men at most differ as heaven and eartb, The snake of gold slid from her hair, the braid But women, worst and best, as heaven and hell. Slipt and uncoil'd itself, she wept afresh, I know the Table Round, my friends of old : And the dark wood grew darker toward the storm All brave, and many generous, and some chaste. In silence, while his anger slowly died She cloaks the scar of some repulse with lies ; Within him, till he let his wisdom go I well believe she tempted them and faild,
For ease of heart, and half believed her true: Being so bitter : for fine plots may fail,
Called her to shelter in the hollow oak, Tho' harlots paint their talk as well as face
“Come from the storm," and having no reply, With colors of the heart that are not theirs. Gazed at the heaving shoulder, and the face I will not let her know: nine tithes of times Hand-hidden, as for utmost grief or shame : Face-flatterer and backbiter are the same.
Then thrice essay'd, by tenderest-touching terms, And they, sweet soul, that most impute a crime To bleek her ruffled peace of mind, in vain. Are pronest to it, and impate themselves,
At last she let herself be conquer'd by him, Wanting the mental range; or low desire
And as the cageling, newly-flown, returns, Not to feel lowest makes them level all;
The seeming-injured, simple-hearted thing, Yea, they would pare the mountain to the plain, Came to her old perch back, and settled there. To leave an equal baseness; and in this
There while she sat, half-falling from his knees, Are harlots like the crowd, that if they find Ealf-nestled at his heart, and since he saw Some stain or blemish in a name of note,
The slow tear creep from her closed eyelid yet, Not grieving that their greatest are so small, About her, more in kindness than in love, Inflate themselves with some insane delight, The gentle wizard cast a shielding arm. And judge all nature from their feet of clay,
But she dislink'd herself at once and rose, Without the will to lift her eyes, and see
Her arms upon her breast across, and stood,
He spoke in words part heard, in whispers part, “There must be now no passages of love
Betwixt us twain henceforward evermore ;
Would reckon worth the taking? I will go. Leapt from her session on his lap, and stood
In truth, but one thing now-better bave died Stiff as a viper frozen ; loathsome sight,
Thrice than have ask'd it once--could make me stayHow from the rosy lips of life and love,
That proof of trust so often ask'd in vain !
T'he vast necessity of heart and life.
For one so old, must be to love thee still.
Bat ere I leave thee let me swear once more A long, long weeping, not consolable,
That if I schemed against thy peace in this, Then her false voice made way, broken with sobs: May yon just heaven, that darkens o'er me, send
One flash, that, missing all things else, may make "O crueller than was ever told in tale,
My scheming brain a cinder, if I lie."
Scarce had she ceased, when out of heaven a bolt
With darted spikes and splinters of the wood Who call'd her what he call'd her-all her crime, The dark earth round. He raised his eyes and saw All-all-the wish to prove him wholly hers." The tree that shone, white-listed, thro' the gloom.
But Vivien, fearing heaven had heard her oath, She mused a little, and then clapt her hands And dazzled by the livid-flickering fork, Together with a wailing shriek, and said :
And deafen'd with the stammering cracks and claps "Stabb'd through the heart's affections to the heart! That follow'd, flying back and crying out, Seethed like the kid in its own mother's milk! "O Merlin, tho' you do not love me, save, Kill'd with a word worse than a life of blows ! Yet save me!" chung to him and hugg'd him close;
And call'd him dear protector in her fright, And fought together; but their names were lost : Nor yet forgot her practice in her fright,
And each bad slain his brother at a blow; But wrought upon his mood and hugg'd him close. And down they fell and made the glen abhorrid: The pale blood of the wizard at her touch
And there they lay till all their bones were bleachd, Took gayer colors, like an opal warm'd.
And lichen'd into color with the crags :
All in a misty moonshine, unawares Her God, her Merlin, the one passionate love Had trodden that crown'd skeleton, and the skull of her whole life; and ever overhead
Brake from the nape, and from the skull the crown Illow'd the tempest, and the rotten branch Rollid into light, and turning on its rims, Snapt in the rushing of the river-rain
Fled like a glittering rivulet to the tarn : Above them; and in change of glare and gloom And down the shingly scaur he plunged, and caught, Her eyes and neck, glittering, went and came ; And set it on his head, and in his heart Till now the storm, its burst of passion spent, Heard murmurs, "Lo, thou likewise shalt be King." Moaning and calling out of other lands, Had left the ravaged woodland yet once more Thereafter, when a King, he had the gems To peace; and what should not have been had been, Pluck'd from the crown, and show'd them to bis For Merlin, overtalk'd and overworn,
Divinely, are the kingdom's, not the King's-
Once every year, a joust for one of these :
For so by nine years' proof we needs must learn And lost to life and use and name and fame. Which is our mightiest, and ourselves shall grow
In use of arms and manhood, till we drive
And eight years past, eight jousts had been, and still Behind her, and the forest echoed, "fool."
Had Lancelot won the diamond of the year,
Worth half her realm, bad never spoken word.
Now for the central diamond and the last
And largest, Arthur, holding then his court Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat,
Hard on the river, nigh the place which now High in her chamber up a tower to the east Is this world's hugest, let proclaim a joust Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot;
At Camelot, and when the time drew nigh Which tirst she placed where morning's earliest ray Spake (for she had been sick) to Guinevere, Might strike it, and awake her with the gleam; "Are you so sick, my Queen, you cannot move Then fearing rust or soilure, fashion'd for it To these fair jousts ?" "Yea, lord,” she said, “ye A case of silk, and braided thereupon
know it.” All the devices blazon'd on the shield
“Then will ye miss," he answer'd, "the great deeds In their own tinct, and added, of her wit,
of Lancelot, and his prowess in the lists, A border fantasy of branch and flower,
A sight ye love to look on." And the Queen And yellow-throated nestling in the nest.
Lifted her eyes, and they dwelt languidly Nor rested thus content, but day by day,
On Lancelot, where he stood beside the King. Leaving her household and good father, climb'd He, thinking that he read her meaning there, That eastern tower, and entering, barr'd her door, “Stay with me, I am sick; my love is more Stript off the case, and read the naked shield, Than many diamonds," yielded ; and a heart Now guess'd a hidden meaning in his arms, Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen Now made a pretty history to herself
(However much he yearp'd to make complete of every dint a sword had beaten in it,
The tale of diamonds for his destined boon) And every scratch a lance had made opon it, Urged him to speak against the truth, and say, Conjecturing when and where: this cut is fresh ; “Sir King, mine ancient wound is hardly whole, That ten years back; this dealt him at Caerlyle; And lets me from the saddle;" avd the King That at Caerleon: this at Camelot:
Glanced first at bim, then her, and went his way. And ah, God's mercy, what a stroke was there! No sooner gone than suddenly she began : And here a thrust that might have kill'd, but God Broke the strong lance, and roll'd his enemy down, “To blame, my lord Sir Lancelot, much to blame! And saved him: so she lived in fantasy.
Why go ye not to these fair jousts ? the knights
Are half of them our enemies, and the crowd
Then Lancelot, vext at having lied in vain :
Tban of the myriad cricket of the mead,
And every voice is nothing. As to knights,
But now my loyal worship is allow'd
Lancelot, the flower of bravery: Guinevere,
Then answer'd Lancelot, the chief of knights : The pearl of beauty: and our knights at feast “Known am I, and of Arthur's hall, and known, Have pledged us in this union, while the King What I by mere mischance have brought, my shield. Would listen smiling. How tben ! is there more ? But since I go to joust as one unknown Has Arthur spoken aught? or would yourself, At Camelot for the diamond, ask me not, Now weary of my service and devoir,
Hereafter ye shall know meand the shieldHenceforth be truer to your faultless lord ?" I pray yon lend me one, if sach you have,
Blank, or at least with some device not mine.” She broke into a little scornful laugh : “Arthur, my lord, Arthur, the faultless King,
Then said the Lord of Astolat, “Here is Torres : That passionate perfection, my good lord
Hurt in his first tilt was my sun, Sir Torre. But who can gaze upon the Sun in heaven?
And so, God wot, his shield is blank enough. He never spake word of reproach to me,
His ye can have." Then added plain Sir Torre, He never had a glimpse of mine untruth,
“Yea, since I cannot use it, ye may have it." He cares pot for me: only here to-day
Here laugh'd the father, saying, "Fie, Sir Chur), There gleam'd a vague suspicion in his eyes : Is that an apswer for a noble knight? Some meddling rogue has tamper'd with bim-else Allow him! but Lavaine, my younger here, Rapt in this fancy of his Table Round,
He is so full of lustihood, he will ride, And swearing men to vows impossible,
Joust for it, and wiu, and bring it in an hour,
To make her thrice as willful as before."
"Nay, father, nay, good father, shame me not
And that it was too slippery to be held,
That if I went, and if I fought and won it
(But all was jest and joke among ourselves), As if it were his God's?"
Then must she keep it safelier. All was jest
But, father, give me leave, an if he will, “Yea," said the Queen, To ride to Camelot with this noble kuight: "A moral child without the craft to rule,
Win shall I not, but do my best to win: Else had he not lost me: but listen to me, Young as I am, yet would I do my best.” If I must find you wit: we hear it said That men go down before your spear at a tonch, “So ye will grace me," answer'd Lancelot, But knowing you are Lancelot; your great vame, Smiling a inoment, "with your fellowship This conquers: hide it, therefore ; go unknown: O'er these waste downs whereon I lost myself, Win! by this kiss you will: and our true King Then were I glad of you as guide and friend : Will then allow your pretext, O my knight,
And you shall win this diamond-as I hear, As all for glory; for to speak him true,
It is a fair large diamond-if ye may, Ye know right well, how meek soe'er he seem, And yield it to this maiden, if ye will." No keener hunter after glory breathes.
“A fair large diamond," added plain Sir Torre, He loves it in his knights more than himself: “Such be for queens, and not for simple maids." They prove to him his work: win and return." Then she, who held her eyes upon the ground,
Elaine, and heard her name so tost abont,
Flush'd slightly at the slight disparagement Wroth at himself. Not willing to be known, Before the stranger knight, who, looking at her, He left the barren-beaten thoroughfare,
Full courtly, at not falsely, thus return'd: Chose the green path that show'd the rarer foot, "If what is fair be but for what is fair, And there among the solitary downs,
And only queens are to be counted so, Full often lost in fancy, lost his way ;
Rash were my judgment then, who deem this maid Till as he traced a faintly-shadow'd track,
Might wear as fair a jewel as is on earth, That all in loops and links among the dales Not violating the bond of like to like." Ran to the castle of Astolat, he saw Fired from the west, far on a hill, the towers. He spoke and ceased: the lily maid Elaine, Thither he made, and blew the gateway horn. Won by the mellow voice before she look'd, Then came an old, dumb, myriad-wrinkled man, Lifted her eyes, and read his lineaments. Who let him into lodging and disarm'd.
The great and guilty love he bare the Queen, And Lancelot marveli'd at the wordless man ; In battle with the love he bare his lord, And issuing, found the Lord of Astolat,
Had marr'd his face, and mark'd it ere his time. With two strong sons, Sir Torre and Sir Lavaine, Another sipping on such heights with one, Moving to meet him in the castle court;
The flower of all the west and all the world, And close behind them stept the lily maid,
Had been the sleeker for it: but in him Elaine, his daughter: mother of the house
His mood was often like a fiend, and rose There was not: some light jest among them rose And drove him into wastes and solitudes With laughter dying down as the great knight For agony, who was yet a living soul, Approach'd them: then the Lord of Astolat: Marr'd as he was, he seem'd the goodliest man "Whence comest thou, my guest, and by what name That ever among ladies ate in hall, Livest between the lips ! for by thy state
And noblest, when she lifted up her eyes. And presence I might guess the chief of those However marrd, of more than twice her years, After the King, who eat in Arthur's halls.
Seam'd with an ancient swordcut on the cheek, Him have I seen : the rest, his Table Round, And bruised and bronzed, she lifted up her eyes Known as they are, to me they are unknown.” And loved him, with that love which was her doom.