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And in those days she made a little song,
To whom the gentle sister made reply, And call’d her song "The Song of Love and Death,” “Fret not yourself, dear brother, nor be wroth, And sang it: sweetly could she make and sing. Seeing it is no more Sir Lancelot's fault
Not to love me, than it is mine to love "Sweet is true love, tho' given in vain, in vain ; Him of all men who seems to me the highest." And sweet is death who puts an end to pain: I know not which is sweeter, no, not I.
" " Highest ?'" the father answer'd, echoing, "hig' " Love, art thon sweet? then bitter death must be: (He meant to break the passion in her), “ day, Love, thou art bitter; sweet is death to me. Daughter, I know not what you call the highest ; O Love, if death be sweeter, let me die.
But this I know, for all the people know it,
He loves the Queen, and in an open shame:
Then spake the lily maid of Astolat:
Was noble man but made ignoble talk.
He makes no friend who never made a foe.
One peerless, without stain: so let me pass,
Not all unhappy, having loved God's best With shuddering, "Hark the Phantom of the house, and greatest, tho' my love had no return : That ever shrieks before a death," and call'd Yet, seeing you desire your child to live, The father, and all three in horry and fear
Thanks, but you work against your own desire;
Sweet father, and bid call the ghostly man
So when the ghostly man had come and gone So dwelt the father on her face, avd thought, She with a face bright, as for sin forgiven, “Is this Elaine ?” till back the maiden fell,
Besought Lavaine to write as she devised Then gave a languid hand to each, and lay, A letter, word for word; and when he ask'd, Speaking a still good-morrow with her eyes. “Is it for Lancelot, is it for my dear lord ? At last she said, “Sweet brothers, yesternight Then will I bear it gladly:" she replied, I seem'd a curious little maid again,
"For Lancelot and the Queen and all the world, As happy as when we dwelt among the woods, But I myself must bear it.” Then he wrote And when ye used to take me with the flood The letter she devised; which being writ Up the great river in the boatman's boat.
And folded, "O sweet father, tender and true, Only ye would not pass beyond the cape
Deny me not," she said-"ye never yet That has the poplar on it: there ye fixt
Denied my fancies—this, however strange, Your limit, oft returning with the tide.
My latest: lay the letter in my hand And yet I cried because ye would not pass
A little ere I die, and close the hand Beyond it, and far np the shining flood
Upon it; I shall guard it even in death. Until we found the palace of the King.
And when the heat is gone from out my heart, And yet ye would not; but this night I dream'd Then take the little bed on which I died That I was all alone upon the flood,
For Lancelot's love, and deck it like the Queen's And then I said, 'Now shall I have my will :' For richness, and me also like the Queen And there I woke, but still the wish remain'd. In all I have of rich, and lay me on it. So let me hence that I may pass at last
And let there be prepared a chariot-bier Beyond the poplar and far up the flood,
To take me to the river, and a barge Until I find the palace of the King.
Be ready on the river, clothed in black. 6 There will I enter in among them all,
I go in state to court, to meet the Queen. And no man there will dare to mock at me; There surely I shall speak for mine own self, But there the fine Gawain will wonder at me, And none of you can speak for me so well. And there the great Sir Lancelot muse at me; And therefore let our dumb old man alone Gawain, who bade a thousand farewells to me, Go with me, he can steer and row, and he Lancelot, who coldly went, nor bade me one: Will guide me to that palace, to the doors." And there the King will know me and my love, And there the Queen herself will pity me,
She ceased : her father promised; whereupon And all the gentle court will welcome me,
She grew so cheerful that they deem'd her death And after my long voyage I shall rest !"
Was rather in the fantasy than the blood.
But ten slow mornings past, and on the eleventh "Pence," said her father, "O my child, ye seem Her father laid the letter in her hand, Light-headed, for what force is yours to go And closed the hand upon it, and she died. So far, being sick! and wherefore would ye look So that day there was dole in Astolat. On this proud fellow again, who scorns us all ?"
But when the next sun brake from underground, Then the rongh Torre began to heave and move, Then, those two brethren slowly with bent brows And bluster into stormy sobs, and say,
Accompanying, the sad chariot-bier "I never loved him: an I meet with him,
Past like a shadow thro' the field, that shone I care not howsoever great he be,
Full-summer, to that stream whereon the barge, Then will I strike at him and strike him down, Pall'd all its length in blackest samite, lay. Give me good fortune, I will strike him dead, There sat the lifelong creature of the house For this discomfort he hath done the house." Loyal, the dumb old servitor, on deck,
Winking his eyes, and twisted all his face.
So much of what is graceful: and myself So those two brethren from the chariot took
Would shun to break those bounds of courtesy And on the black decks laid her in her bed, In which as Arthur's Queen I move and rule: Set in her hand a lily, o'er her hung
So cannot speak my mind. An end to this ! The silken case with braided blazonings,
A strange one! yet I take it with Amen. And kiss'd her quiet brows, and saying to her So pray you, add my diamonds to her pearls ; “Sister, farewell for ever," and again
Deck her with these ; tell her, she shines me down: “Farewell, sweet sister," parted all in tears. An armlet for an arm to which the Queen's Then rose the dumb old servitor, and the dead, Is haggard, or a necklace for a neck Oar'd by the dumb, went upward with the flood- Oh, as much fairer-as a faith once fair In her right hand the lily, in her left
Was richer than these diamonds-hers, not mine-
Or hers or mine, mine now to work my will-
Saying which she seized, But fast asleep, and lay as tho' she smiled.
And thro' the casement standing wide for heat,
Flung them, and down they flash'd, and smote the That day Sir Lancelot at the palace craved
stream. Audience of Guinevere, to give at last
Then from the smitten surface flash'd, as it were, The price of half a realm, his costly gift,
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away. Hard-won and hardly won with bruise and blow, Then while Sir Lancelot leant, in half disdain With deaths of others, and almost his own,
At love, life, all things, on the window ledge, The nine-years-sought-for diamonds : for he saw Close underneath his eyes, and right across One of her house, and sent him to the Queen Where these had fallen, slowly past the barge Bearing his wish, whereto the Queen agreed Whereon the lily maid of Astolat With such and so unmoved a majesty
Lay smiling, like a star in blackest night. She might have seem'd her statue, but that he, Low-drooping till be wellpigh kiss'd her feet But the wild Queen, who saw not, burst away For loyal awe, saw with a sidelong eye
To weep and wail in secret; and the barge, The shadow of some piece of pointed lace,
On to the palace-doorway sliding, paused. In the Queen's shadow, vibrate on the walls, There two stood arm'd, and kept the door; to And parted, laughing in his courtly heart.
All up the marble stair, tier over tier, All in an oriel on the summer side,
Were added mouths that gaped, and eyes that ask'd Vine-clad, of Arthur's palace toward the stream, “What is it?" but that oarsman's haggard face, They met, and Lancelot kneeling utter'd, “Queen, As hard and still as is the face that men Lady, my liege, in whom I have my joy,
Shape to their fancy's eye from broken rocks Take, what I had not won except for you,
On some cliff-side, appall’d them, and they said, These jewels, and make me happy, making them "He is enchanted, cannot speak—and she, An armlet for the roundest arm on earth,
Look how she sleeps-the Fairy Queen, so fair! Or necklace for a neck to which the swan's Yea, but how pale! what are they? flesh and blood ? Is tawnier than her cygnet's: these are words: Or come to take the King to Fairyland ? Your beauty is your beauty, and I sin
For some do hold our Arthur cannot die, In speaking, yet, oh grant my worship of it But that he passes into Fairyland." Words, as we grant grief tears. Such sin in words Perchance, we both cau pardon: but, my Queen, While thus they babbled of the King, the King I hear of rumors flying thro' your court.
Came girt with knights: then turu’d the tongueless Our bond, as not the bond of man and wife,
man Should have in it an absoluter trust
From the balf-face to the full eye, and rose To make up that defect: let rumors be:
And pointed to the damsel, and the doors. When did not rumors fly? these, as I trust
So Arthur bade the meek Sir Percivale That you trust me in your own nobleness,
And pure Sir Galahad to uplift the maid ; I may not well believe that you believe."
And reverently they bore her into hall.
Then came the five Gawain and wonder'd at her, While thus he spoke, half turn'd away, the Queen And Lancelot later came and mused at her, Brake from the vast oriel-embowering vine
And last the Queen herself, and pitied her: Leaf after leaf, and tore, and cast them off,
But Arthur spied the letter in her hand, Till all the place whereon she stood was green ; Stoopt, took, brake seal, and read it; this was all : Then, when he ceased, in one cold passive hand Received at once and laid aside the gems
"Most noble lord, Sir Lancelot of the Lake, There on a table near her, and replied:
I, sometime call'd the maid of Astolat,
Come, for you left me taking no farewell, “It may be, I am quicker of belief
Hither, to take my last farewell of you. Than you believe me, Lancelot of the Lake. I loved you, and my love had no return, Our bond is not the bond of man and wife. And therefore my true love has been my death. This good is in it, whatsoe'er of ill,
And therefore to our Lady Guinevere, It can be broken ensier. I for you
And to all other ladies, I make moan.
Pray for my soul thou too, Sir Lancelot,
Thus he read To loyal hearts the value of all gifts
And ever in the reading, lords and dames Must vary as the giver's. Not for me!
Wept, looking often from his face who read For her! for your new fancy. Only this
To hers which lay so silent, and at times, Grant me, I pray you: have your joys apart. So touch'd were they, half-thinking that her lips, I doubt not that however changed, you keep Who had devised the letter, moved again.
Then freely spoke Sir Lancelot to them all : What thou hast been in battle by my side, *My lord liege Arthur, and all ye that hear, And many a time have watch'd thee at the tilt know that for this most gentle maiden's death Strike down the lusty and long-practised knight, Right heavy am I; for good she was and true, And let the younger and unskill'd go by But loved me with a love beyond all love
To win his honor and to make his name, In woman, whomsoever I have known.
And loved thy courtesies and thee, a man Yet to be loved makes not to love again ;
Made to be loved; but now I would to God, Not at my years, however it hold in youth.
Seeing the homeless trouble in thine eyes, I swear by truth and knighthood that I gave Thou couldst have loved this maiden, shaped, it Yo cause, not willingly, for such a love:
seems, To this I call my friends in testimony,
By God for thee alone, and from her face,
If one may judge the living by the dead,
Who might have brought thee, now a lonely man, Against my nature: what I could, I did.
Wifeless and heirless, noble issue, sons I left her, and I bade her no farewell ;
Born to the glory of thy name and fame, Tho', had I dreamt the damsel would have died, My kuight, the great Sir Lancelot of the Lake." I might have put my wits to some rough use, And help'd her from herself.”
Then answer'd Lancelot, “Fair she was, my King,
Pure, as you ever wish your knights to be.
Then said the Queen To doubt her fairness were to want an eye, (Sea was her wrath, yet working after storm), To doubt her pareness were to want a heart"* Ye might at least have done her so much grace, Yea, to be loved, if what is worthy love Fair lord, as would have help'd her from her death.” Could bind him, but free love will not be bound.” He raised his head, their eyes met and hers fell, He adding,
“Free love, so bound, were freëst," said the King.
“Let love be free; free love is for the best: “Queen, she would not be content And, after heaven, on our dull side of death, Save that I wedded her, which could not be. What should be best, if not so pure a love Then might she follow me thro' the world, she Clothed in so pure a loveliness ! yet thee ask'd ;
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,
Sat by the river in a cove, and watch'd Estate them with large land and territory
The high reed wave, and lifted up his eyes In mine own realm beyond the narrow seas, And saw the barge that brought her moving down, To keep them in all joyance: more than this Far-off, a blot upon the stream, and said I could vot; this she would not, and she died.” Low in himself, "Ah, simple heart and sweet,
Ye loved me, damsel, surely with a love He pansing, Arthur answer'd, "O my knight, Far tenderer than my Queen's. Pray for thy scul? It will be to thy worship, as my knight,
Ay, that will l. Farewell too—now at last-And mine, as head of all our Table Round,
Farewell, fair lily. "Jealousy in love ? To see that she be buried worshipfully."
Not rather dead love's harsh .heir, jealous pride!
Queen, if I grant the jealousy as of love, So toward that shrine which then in all the May not your crescent fear for name and fame realm
Speak, as it waxes, of a love that wanes ? Was richest, Arthur leading, slowly went
Why did the King dwell on my name to me? The marshall'd Order of their Table Round,
Mine own name shames me, seeming a reproach, And Lancelot sad beyond his wont, to see
Lancelot, whom the Lady of the Lake The maiden buried, not as one unknown),
Caught from his mother's arms-the wondrous one Nor meanly, but with gorgeous obsequies,
Who passes thro' the vision of the nightAnd mass, and rolling music, like a queen.
She chanted snatches of mysterious hymns And when the knights had laid her comely head Heard on the winding waters, eve and morn Low in the dust of half-forgotten kings,
She kiss'd me, saying, Thou art fair, my chila, Then Arthur spake among them, “Let her tomb As a king's son,' and often in her arms Be costly, and her image thereupon.
She bare me, pacing on the dusky mere. And let the shield of Lancelot at her feet
Would she had drown'd me in it, where'er it be! Be carven, and her lily in her hand.
For what am I? what protits me my name And let the story of her dolorous voyage
or greatest knight! I fought for it, and have it: For all true hearts be blazon'd on her tomb Pleasure to have it, none; to lose it, pain : In letters gold and azure !" which was wrought Now grown a part of me: but what use in it? Thereafter; but when now the lords and dames To make men worse by making my sin known ? And people from the high door streaming, brake Or sin seem less, the sinner seeming great? Disorderly, as homeward each, the Queen,
Alas for Arthur's greatest knight, a man Who mark'd Sir Lancelot where he moved apart, Not after Arthur's heart! I needs must break Drew near, and sigh'd in passing, "Lancelot, These bonds that so defame me: not without Forgive me; mine was jealousy in love."
She wills it: would I, if she will'd it ? nay, He answer'd with his eyes upon the ground, Who knows? but if I would not, then may God, “That is love's curse; pass on, my Queen, forgiv- I pray him, send a sudden Angel down
To seize me by the hair and bear me far, Bat Arthur, who beheld his cloudy brows,
And fling me deep in that forgotten mere, Approach'd him, and with full affection said, Among the tumbled fragments of the hills.”
“Lancelot, my Lancelot, thou in whom I have So groan'd Sir Lancelot in remorseful pain, Most joy and most affiance, for I know
Not knowing he should die a holy man.
THE HOLY GRAIL.
And ope no further off in blood from me
Than sister ; and if ever holy maid
A holy maid ; tho' never maiden glow'd,
With such a fervent flame of human love, Praise, fast, and alms ; and leaving for the cowl Which being rudely blunted, glanced and shot The helmet in an abbey far away
Only to holy things; to prayer and praise From Camelot, there, and pot long after, died. She gave herself, to fast and alms. And yet,
Nun as she was, the scandal of the Court, And one, a fellow-monk among the rest,
Sin against Arthur and the Table Round, Ambrosius, loved him much beyond the rest, And the strange sound of an adulterous race, And honor'd him, and wrought into his heart Across the iron grating of her cell A way by love that waken'd love within,
Beat, and she pray'd and fasted all the more. To answer that which came: and as they sat Beneath a world-old yew-tree, darkening half
“And he to whom she told her sins, or what The cloisters, on a gustful April morn
Her all but utter whiteness held for sin, That puff'd the swaying branches into smoke A man wellnigh a hundred winters old, Above them, ere the suinmer when he died, Spake often with her of the Holy Grail, The monk Ambrosius question'd Percivale:
A legend handed down thro' tive or six,
And each of these a hundred winters old, "O brother, I have seen this yew-tree smoke, From our Lord's time. And when King Arthur made Spring after spring, for half a hundred years : His Table Round, and all men's hearts became For never have I known the world without,
Clean for a season, surely he had thought Nor ever stray'd beyond the pale: but thee, That now the Holy Grail would come again ; When first thou camest-such a courtesy
But sin broke out. Ab, Christ, that it would come, Spake thro' the limbs and in the voice-I knew And heal the world of all their wickedness! For one of those who eat in Arthur's hall;
“O Father!' ask'd the maiden, "might it come For good ye are and bad, and like to coins, To me by prayer and fasting?' 'Nay,' said he, Some true, some light, but every one of you 'I know not, for thy heart is pure as snow.' Stamp'd with the image of the King; and now And so she pray'd and fasted, till the sun Tell me, what drove thee from the Table Round, Shone, and the wind blew, thro' her, and I thought My brother ? was it earthly passion crost ?”
She might have risen and floated when I saw her.
“Nay," said the knight ; " for no such passion “For on a day she sent to speak with me. mine.
And when she came to speak, behold her eyes But the sweet vision of the Holy Grail
Beyond my knowing of them, beautiful,
Beyond all knowing of them, wonderful,
For, waked at dead of night, I heard a sound
As of a silver horn from o'er the hills To whom the monk: "The Holy Grail !- I trust Blown, and I thought, “It is not Arthur's use We are green in Heaven's eyes; but here too much to hunt by moonlight;" and the slender suund We moulder-as to things without I mean
As from a distance beyond distance grew Yet one of your own knights, a guest of ours, Coming upon me. Oh, never harp por horn, Told us of this in our refectory,
Nor aught we blow with breath or touch with hand, But spake with such a sadness and so low
Was like that music as it came; and then We heard not half of what he said. What is it? Stream'd thro' my cell a cold and silver beam, The phantom of a cup that comes and goes ?” And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail,
Rose-red with beatings in it, as is alive, “Nay, monk! what phantom ?" answer'd Percivale. Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed “The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
With rosy colors leaping on the wall ; Drank at the last sad snpper with his own.
And then the music faded, and the Grail This, from the blessed land of Aromat
Past, and the beam decay'd, and from the walls After the day of darkiess, when the dead
The rosy quiverings died into the night. Went wandering o'er Moriah-the good saint, So now the Holy Thing is here again Arimathæan Joseph, journeying brought
Among us, brother, fast thou too and pray, To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
And tell thy brother knights to fast and pray, Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord. That so perchance the vision may be seen And there awhile it bude ; and if a man
By thee and those, and all the world be heal'd.' Coulil touch or see it, he was heal'd at once, By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
"Then leaving the pale nun, I spake of this Grew to such evil that the Holy Cup
To all men ; and myself fasted and pray'd
Fasted and pray'd even to the urtermost,
“And one there was among us, ever moved
Said Arthur, when he dubbd him knight; and none,
Till Galahad; and this Galahad, when he heard But who first saw the Holy Thing to-day?"
My sister's vision, fill'd me with amaze;
His eyes became so like her own, they seem'd "A woman," answer'd Percivale, "a nun,
Hers, and himself her brother more than I.
"Sister or brother none had he; but some In tempest: so the King arose and went Calld him a son of Lancelot, and some said To smoke the scandalous hive of those wild bees Begotten by enchantment-chatterers they,
That made such honey in his realm. How beit Like birds of passage piping up and down,
Some little of this marvel he too saw,
Look'd up, calling aloud, 'Lo, there! the roofs
As having there 80 oft with all his knights
“O brother, had you known our mighty hall, And saw the bright boy-knight, and bound it on Which Merlin built for Arthur long ago! him,
For all the sacred mount of Camelot, Saying, 'My knight, my love, my knight of Heaven, And all the dim rich city, roof by roof, O thou, my love, whose love is one with mine, Tower after tower, spire beyond spire, I, maiden, round thee, maiden, bind my belt. By grove, and garden-lawn, and rushing brook, Go forth, for thou shalt see what I have seen, Climbs to the mighty ball that Merliu built. And break thro' all, till one will crown thee king And four great zones of sculpture, set betwixt Far in the spiritual city:' and as she spake
With many a mystic symbol, gird the hall: She sent the deathless passion iv her eyes
And in the lowest beasts are slaying men, Thro' him, and made him hers, aud laid her mind And in the second men are slaying beasts, On him, and he believed in her belief.
And on the third are warriors, perfect men,
And on the fourth are men with growing wings, "Then came a year of miracle: O brother, And over all one statue in the mould In our great hall there stood a vacant chair, of Arthur, made by Morlin, with a crown, Fashion'd by Merlin ere he past away,
And peak'd wings pointed to the Northern Star. And carven with strange figures, and in and out And eastward fronts the statue, and the crowu The figures, like a serpent, ran a scroll
And both the wings are made of gold, and flame Of letters in a tongue no man could read.
At sunrise till the people in far fields,
Wasted so often by the heathen hordes,
“And, brother, had you known our hall within, In his own chair, and so was lost; but he,
Broader and higher than any in all the lauds ! Galahad, when he heard of Merlin's doom,
Where twelve great windows blazon Arthur's wars, Cried, 'If I lose myself I save myself!
And all the light that falls upon the board
Streams thro' the twelve great battles of our King. "Then on a summer night it came to pass, Nay, one there is, and at the eastern end, While the great banquet lay along the hall,
Wealthy with wandering lines of mount and mere, That Galahad would sit down in Merlin's chair. Where Arthur fiuds the brand Excalibur.
And also one to the west, and counter to it, "And all at once, as there we sat, we heard And blank: and who shall blazon it! when and A cracking and a riving of the roofs,
how And rending, and a blast, and overhead
Oh, there, perchance, when all our wars are done, Thouder, and in the thunder was a cry.
The brand Excalibur will be cast away. And in the blast there smote along the hall A beam of light seven times more clear than day: “So to this hall full quickly rode the King, And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail In horror lest the work by Merlin wrought, All over cover'd with a luminous cloud,
Dreamlike, should on the sudden vanish, wrapt And none might see who bare it, and it past. Iu uvremorseful folds of rolling fire. But every knight beheld his fellow's face
And iu he rode, and up I glanced, and saw As in a glory, and all the knights arose,
The golden dragon sparkling over all : And staring each at other like dumb men
And many of those who burnt the hold, their arms Slood, till I found a voice and sware a vow. Hack'd, and their foreheads grimed with smoke, and
seard, "I sware a vow before them all, that I,
Follow'd, and in among bright faces, ours, Because I had not seen the Grail, would ride Full of the vision, prest: and then the King A twelvemonth and a day in quest of it,
Spake to me, being nearest, Percivale' Until I found and saw it, as the nun
(Because the hall was all in tumult--some My sister saw it; and Galahad sware the vow, Vowing, and some protesting), 'what is this !! And govd Sir Bors, our Lancelot's cousin, sware, And Lancelot sware, and many among the knights, "O brother, when I told him what had chanced, And Gawain sware, and louder than the rest.” My sister's vision, and the rest, his face
Darken'd, as I have seen it more than once, Then spake the monk Ambrosius, asking him, When some brave deed seem'd to be done in vain, "What said the King? Did Arthur take the vow ?" Darken ; and 'Woe is me, my knights,' he cried,
‘Had I been here, ye had not sworn the vow.' "Nay, for my lord," said Percivale, “the King, Bold was mine auswer, 'Had thyself been here, Was not in ball: for early that same day,
My King, thou wouldst have sworn.' 'Yea, yea, Scaped thro' a cavern from a bandit hold,
said he, An outraged maiden sprang into the hall
'Art thou so bold and hast not seen the Grail ! Crying on help: for all her shining hair Was smear'd wiih earth, and either milky arm " Nay, lord, I heard the sound, I saw the light, Red-rent with hooks of bramble, and all she wore But since I did not see the Holy Thing, Torn as a sail that leaves the rope is torn
I sware a vow to follow it till I saw.'