Page images
[ocr errors]

I have shamed thee so that now thou

shamest me, Thee will I bear no more,' high on a

branch Hung it, and turn'd aside into the woods, And there in gloom cast himself all

along, Moaning. My violences,

my violences !!

But now the wholesome music of the

wood Was dumb'd by one from out the hall of

Mark, A damsel-errant, warbling, as she rode The woodland alleys, Vivien, with her


Sounded across the court, and - men-at

arms, A score with pointed lances, making at

him Ile dash'd the pummel at the foremost

face, Beneath a low door dipt, and made his

feet Wings thro' a glimmering gallery, till he

mark'd The portal of King Pellam's chapel wide And inward to the wall; he stept behind; Thence in a moment heard them pass

like wolves Howling; but while he stared about the

shrine, In which he scarce could spy the Christ

for Saints, Beheld before a golden altar lie The longest lance his eyes had ever seen, Point-painted red; and seizing thereupon Push'd thro' an open casement down,

lean'd on it, Leapt in a semicircle, and lit on earth; Then hand at ear, and harkening from

what side The blindfold rummage buried in the

walls Might echo, ran the counter path, and

found His charger, mounted on him and away. An arrow whizz'd to the right, one to the

left, One overhead; and Pellam's feeble cry *Stay, stay him! he defileth heavenly

things With earthly uses '— made him quickly

dive Beneath the boughs, and race thro' many

a mile Of dense and open, till his goodly horse, Arising wearily at a fallen oak, Stumbled headlong, and cast him face to


• The fire of Heaven has kill'd the

barren cold, And kindled all the plain and all the

wold. The new leaf ever pushes off the old. The fire of Heaven is not the flame of


Old priest, who mumble worship in

your quire Old monk and nun, ye scorn the world's

desire, Yet in your frosty cells ye feel the fire ! The fire of Heaven is not the flame of


• The fire of Heaven is on the dusty


The wayside blossoms open to the blaze. The whole wood-world is one full peal

of praise. The fire of Heaven is not the flame of


“The fire of Heaven is lord of all things

good, And starve not thou this fire within thy

blood, But follow Vivien thro' the fiery flood! The fire of Heaven is not the flame of


Half-wroth he had not ended, but all

glad, Knightlike, to find his charger yet un

lamed, Sir Balin drew the shield from off his

neck, Stared at the priceless cognizance, and


Then turning to her Squire, ‘This fire

of Heaven, This old sun

un-worship, boy, will rise again,


And beat the cross to earth, and break

the King And all his Table.'

Die: let the wolves' black maws

sepulchre Their brother beast, whose anger was his

Icrd. O me, that such a name as Guinevere's, Which our high Lancelot hath so listed

up, , And been thereby uplifted, should thro'

me, My violence, and my villainy, come to


Then they reach'd a glade, Where under one long lane of cloudless

air Before another wood, the royal crown Sparkled, and swaying upon a restless elm Drew the vague glance of Vivien, and her

Squire; Amazed were these; 'Lo there,' she

cried, a crown Borne by some high lord-prince of

Arthur's hall, And there a horse! the rider? where is

he? See, yonder lies one dead within the

wood. Not dead; he stirs ! — but sleeping. I

will speak. Hail, royal knight, we break on thy sweet

rest, Not, doubtless, all unearn'd by noble

deeds. But bounden art thou, if from Arthur's

hall, To help the weak. Behold, I fly from

shame, A lustful King, who sought to win my

love Thro' evil ways: the knight, with whom

I rode, Hath suffer'd misadventure, and my

squire Hath in him small defence; but thou,

Sir Prince, Wilt surely guide me to the warrior King, Arthur the blameless, pure as any maid, To get me shelter for my maidenhood. I charge thee by that crown upon thy

shield, And by the great Queen's name, arise

and hence.'

Thereat she suddenly laugh'd and

shrill, anon Sigh'd all as suddenly. Said Balin to her “Is this thy courtesy - - to mock me, ha? Hence, for I will not with thee.' Again

she sigh'd * Pardon, sweet lord! we maidens often

laugh When sick at heart, when rather we

should weep: I knew thee wrong'd. I brake upon thy

rest, And now full loth am I to break thy

dream, But thou art man, and canst abide a truth, Tho' bitter. Hither, boy – and mark

me well.
Dost thou remember at Caerleon once
A year ago — nay, then I love thee not
Ay, thou rememberest well –

-one summer dawn By the great tower

- Caerleon upon Usk Nay, truly we were hidden : this fair

lord, The flower of all their vestal knighthood,

knelt In amorous homage - knelt - what else?

- O ay

And Balin rose, “Thither no more!

nor Prince Nor knight am I, but one that hath

defamed The cognizance she gave me: here I

dwell Savage among the savage woods, here


Knelt, and drew down from out his

night-black hair And mumbled that white hand whose

ring'd caress Had wander'd from her own King's

golden head, And lost itself in darkness, till she

cried I thought the great tower would crash

down on both “Rise, my sweet King, and kiss me on

the lips,


Thou art my King." This lad, whose

lightest word Is mere white truth in simple nakedness, Saw them embrace: he reddens, cannot

speak, So bashful, he! but all the maiden Saints, The deathless mother-maidenhood of

Heaven, Cry out upon her. Up then, ride with

me! Talk not of shame! thou canst not, an

thou would'st, Do these more shame than these have

done themselves.'

That weird yell, Unearthlier than all shriek of bird or

beast, Thrill'd thro' the woods; and Balan

lurking there (His quest was unaccomplish’d) heard

and thought • The scream of that Wood-devil I came

to quell!' Then nearing ‘Lo! he hath slain some

brother-knight, And tramples on the goodly shield to

show His loathing of our Order and the Queen. My quest, meseems, is here. Or devil

or man

She lied with ease; but horror-stricken

he, Remembering that dark bower at Came

lot, Breathed in a dismal whisper.It is


Sunnily she smiled . And even in this

lone wood, Sweet lord, ye do right well to whisper

this. Fools prate, and perish traitors. Woods

have tongues, As walls have ears: but thou shalt go

Guard thou thine head.' Sir Balin spake

not word, But snatch'd a sudden buckler from the

Squire, And vaulted on his horse, and so they

crash'd In onset, and King Pellam's holy spear, Reputed to be red with sinless blood, Redden'd at once with sinful, for the

point Across the maiden shield of Balan prick'd The hauberk to the Aesh; and Balin's

horse Was wearied to the death, and, when

they clash'd, Rolling back upon Balin, crush'd the man Inward, and either fell, and swoon'd away.

with me,

And we will speak at first exceeding

low. Meet is it the good King be not deceived. See now, I set thee high on vantage

ground, From whence to watch the time, and

eagle-like Stoop at thy will on Lancelot and the


She ceased; his evil spirit upon him

leapt, He ground his teeth together, sprang

with a yell, Tore from the branch, and cast on earth,

the shield, Drove his mail'd heel athwart the royal

crown, Stampt all into defacement, hurl'd it from

him Among the forest weeds, and cursed the

tale, The told-of, and the teller.

[blocks in formation]

And when the Squire had loosed them,

“Goodly! — look! They might have cropt the myriad flower

of May, And butt each other here, like brainless

bulls, Dead for one heifer!'

Then the gentle Squire 'I hold them happy, so they died for

love: And, Vivien, tho' ye beat me like your

dog, I too could die, as now I live, for thee.'

• Brother, I dwelt a day in Pellam'.

hall : This Garlon mock'd me, but I heeded

not. And one said “Eat in peace! a liar

is he, And hates thee for the tribute !" this

good knight Told me that twice a wanton damsel

came, And sought for Garlon at the castle

gates, Whom Pellam drove away with holy

heat. I well believe this damsel, and the one Who stood beside thee even now, the

same. She dwells among the woods,” he said,

“and meets And dallies with him in the Mouth of

Hell.” Foul are their lives; foul are their lips;

they lied. Pure as our own true Mother is our



[blocks in formation]

O brother,' answer'd Balin, 'woe is

me! My madness all thy life has been thy

doom, Thy curse, and darken'd all thy day;

and now The night has come. I scarce can see

thee now. Goodnight! for we shall never bid again Goodmorrow --Dark my doom was here,

and dark It will be there. I see thee now no

more. I would not mine again should darken

thine, Goodnight, true brother.'

O Balin, Balin, I that fain had died To save thy life, have brought thee to

thy death. Why had ye not the shield I knew? and

why Trampled ye thus on that which bare the


Balan answer'd low Goodnight, true brother here! good

morrow there! We two were born together, and we

die Together by one doom :' and while he

spoke Closed his death-drowsing eyes, and slept

the sleep With Balin, either lcck'd in either's arm.

Then Balin told him brokenly, and in

gasps, All that had chanced, and Balan moan'd



To leave the hall, and, Vivien following

him, Turn’d to her: 'Here are snakes within

the grass;

A STORM was coming, but the winds

were still, And in the wild woods of Broceliande, Before an oak, so hollow, huge and old It look'd a tower of ivied masonwork, At Merlin's feet the wily Vivien lay.

And you methinks, O Vivien, save ye

fear The monkish manhood, and the mask of

pure Worn by this court, can stir them till

they sting.'

For he that always bare in bitter

grudge The slights of Arthur and his Table,

Mark The Cornish King, had heard a wander

ing voice, A minstrel of Caerleon by strong storm Blown into shelter at Tintagil, say That out of naked knightlike purity Sir Lancelot worshipt no unmarried girl But the great Queen herself, fought in

her name, Sware by her - vows like theirs, that

high in heaven Love most, but neither marry, nor are

given In marriage, angels of our Lord's report.

[blocks in formation]

He ceased, and then - for Vivien

sweetly said (She sat beside the banquet nearest

Mark), . And is the fair example follow'd, Sir, In Arthur's household?'-answer'd inno


• Ay, by some few - ay, truly -- youths

that hold It more beseems the perfect virgin knight To worship woman as true wife beyond All hopes of gaining, than as maiden

girl. They place their pride in Lancelot and

the Queen. So passionate for an utter purity Beyond the limit of their bond, are these, For Arthur bound them not to singleness, Brave hearts and clean! and yet God

guide them — young.' Then Mark was half in heart to hurl

Among the dead and sown upon the

wind And then on thee! and shown the truth

betimes, That old true filth, and bottom of the

well, Where Truth is hidden. Gracious lessons

thine And maxims of the mud!“ This Arthur

pure! Great Nature thro' the flesh herself hath

made Gives him the lie! There is no being

pure, My cherub; saith not Holy Writ the

same?If I were Arthur, I would have thy blood. Thy blessing, stainless King! I bring

thee back, When I have ferreted out their burrow

ings, The hearts of all this Order in mine

hand Ay — so that fate and craft and folly

close, Perchance, one curl of Arthur's golden

beard. To me this narrow grizzled fork of thine

his cup

Straight at the speaker, but forbore: he


« PreviousContinue »