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Was one year gone, and on returning

found Not two but three? there lay the reck

ling, one But one hour old! What said the happy

sire? A seven-months' babe had been a truer

gift. Chose twelve sweet moons confused his

fatherhood.'

And wearied out made for the couch and

slept, A stainless man beside a stainless maid; And either slept, nor knew of other there; Till the high dawn piercing the royal rose In Arthur's casement glimmer'd chastely

down, Blushing upon them blushing, and at once He rose without a word and parted from

her: But when the thing was blazed about the

court, The brute world howling forced them into

bonds, And as it chanced they are happy, being

pure.'

Then answer'd Merlin, ‘Nay, I know

the tale. Sir Valence wedded with an outland

dame : Some cause had kept him sunder'd from

his wife : One child they had: it lived with her:

she died : His kinsman travelling on his own affair Was charged by Valence to bring home

the child. He brought, not found it therefore: take

the truth.'

• O ay,' said Vivien, that were likely

too. What say ye then to fair Sir Percivale And of the horrid foulness that he

wrought, The saintly youth, the spotless lamb of

Christ, Or some black wether of St. Satan's fold. What, in the precincts of the chapel-yard, Among the knightly brasses of the graves, And by the cold Hic Jacets of the dead!'

"O ay,' said Vivien, overtrue a tale. What say ye then to sweet Sir Sagramore, That ardent man? " to pluck the flower

in season," So says the song, "I trow it is no trea

son." O Master, shall we call him overquick To crop his own sweet rose before the

hour?'

And Merlin answer'd, 'Overquick art

thou To catch a loathly plume fall’n from the

wing Of that foul bird of rapine whose whole

prey Is man's good name: he never wrong'd

his bride. I know the tale. An angry gust of

wind Puffd out his torch among the myriad

room'd And many-corridor'd complexities Of Arthur's palace: then he found a

door, And darkling felt the sculptured ornament That wreathen round it made it seem his

own;

And Merlin answer'd careless of her

charge, “A sober man is Percivale and pure; But once in life was fluster'd with new

ne, Then paced for coolness in the chapel.

yard; Where one of Satan's shepherdesses

caught And meant to stamp him with her mas

ter's mark; And that he sinn'd is not believable; For, look upon his face! — but if he

sinn'd, The sin that practice burns into the blood, And not the one dark hour which brings

remorse, Will brand us, after, of whose fold we be: Or else were he, the holy king, whose

hymns Are chanted in the minster, worse than

all. But is your spleen froth'd out, or have ye

more?'

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To which he answer'd sadly, “Yea, I

know it. Sir Lancelot went ambassador, at first, To fetch her, and she watch'd him from

her walls. A rumour runs, she took him for the King, So fixt her fancy on him: let them be. But have ye no one word of loyal praise For Arthur, blameless King and stainless

man?'

But Vivien, deeming Merlin overborne By instance, recommenced, and let her

tongue Rage like a fire among the noblest

names, Polluting, and imputing her whole self, Defaming and defacing, till she left Not even Lancelot brave, nor Galahad

clean,

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She answer'd with a low and chuckling

laugh: Man! is he man at all, who knows and

winks? Sees what his fair bride is and does, and

winks? By which the good King means to blind

himself, And blinds himself and all the Table

Round To all the foulness that they work. My

self Could call him (were it not for woman

hood) The pretty, popular name such manhood

earns, Could call him the main cause of all

their crime; Yea, were he not crown'd King, coward,

and fool.'

Her words had issue other than she

will’d. He dragg'd his eyebrow bushes down,

and made A snowy penthouse for his hollow eyes, And mutter'd in himself, “Tell her the

charm! So, if she had it, would she rail on me To snare the next, and if she have it not So will she rail. What did the wanton

say? Not mount as high; we scarce can

sink as low: For men at most differ as Heaven and

earth, But women, worst and best, as Heaven

and Hell. I know the Table Round, my friends of

old; All brave, and many generous, and some

chaste. She cloaks the scar of some repulse with

lies; I well believe she tempted them and fail'd, Being so bitter: for fine plots may fail, Tho’harlots paint their talk as well as face With colours of the heart that are not

theirs. I will not let her know: nine tithes of

times Face-flatterer and backbiter are the same. And they, sweet soul, that most impute a

crime Are pronest to it, and impute themselves, Wanting the mental range; or low desire Not to feel lowest makes them level all;

Then Merlin to his own heart, loath

ing, said: 'O true and tender! O my liege and

King! O selfless man and stainless gentleman, Who wouldst against thine own eye-wit

ness fain Have all men true and leal, all women

pure; How, in the mouths of base interpreters, From over-fineness not intelligible

Yea, they would pare the mountain to the

plain, To leave an equal baseness; and in this Are harlots like the crowd, that if they

find Some stain or blemish in a name of note, Not grieving that their greatest are so

small, Inflate themselves with some insane de

light, And judge all nature from her feet of clay, Without the will to lift their eyes, and see Her godlike head crown'd with spiritual

fire, And touching other worlds. I am weary

of her.'

Or seeming shameful — for what shame

in love, So love be true, and not as yours is

nothing Poor Vivien had not done to win his trust Who call'd her what he call'd her - all

her crime, All — all — the wish to prove him wholly

hers.'

He spoke in words part heard, in

whispers part, Half-suffocated in the hoary fell And many-winter'd fleece of throat and

chin. But Vivien, gathering somewhat of his

mood, And hearing 'harlot' mutter'd twice or

thrice, Leapt from her session on his lap, and

stood Stiff as a viper frozen; loathsome sight, How from the rosy lips of life and love, Flash'd the bare-grinning skeleton of

death! White was her cheek; sharp breaths of

anger puftd Her fairy nostril out; her hand half

clench'd Went faltering sideways downward to her

belt, And feeling; had she found a dagger

there (For in a wink the false love turns to

hate) She would have stabb'd him; but she

found it not: His eye was calm, and suddenly she took To bitter weeping like a beaten child, A long, long weeping, not consolable. Then her false voice made way, broken

with sobs:

She mused a little, and then clapt her

hands Together with a wailing shriek, and said: | • Stabb'd through the heart's affections to

the heart! Seethed like the kid in its own mother's

milk!
Kill'd with a word worse than a life of

blows!
I thought that he was gentle, being great:
O God, that I had loved a smaller man!
I should have found in him a greater

heart.
0, I, that flattering my true passion, saw
The knights, the court, the King, dark

in your light, Who loved to make men darker than they

are, Because of that high pleasure which I

had To seat you sole upon my pedestal Of worship – I am answer'd, and hence

forth The course of life that seem'd so flowery

to me With you for guide and master, only you, Becomes the sea-cliff pathway broken

short, And ending in a ruin — nothing left, But into some low cave to crawl, and

there, If the wolf spare me, weep my life away, Kill'd with inutterable unkindliness.'

She paused, she turn'd away, she hung

her head, The snake of gold slid from her hair, the

braid Slipt and uncoil'd itself, she wept afresh, And the dark wood grew darker toward

the storm In silence, while his anger slowly died Within him, till he let his wisdom go

"O crueller than was ever told in tale, Or sung in song! ( vainly lavish'd love! () cruel, there was nothing wild or strange,

For ease of heart, and half believed her

true: Call'd her to shelter in the hollow oak, "Come from the storm,' and having no

reply, Gazed at the heaving shoulder, and the

face Hand-hidden, as for utmost grief or

shame; Then thrice essay’d, by tenderest-touching

terms, To sleek her ruffled peace of mind, in

vain. At last she let herself be conquer'd by

him, And as the cageling newly flown returns, The seeming-injured simple-hearted thing Came to her old perch back, and settled

there. There while she sat, half-falling from his

knees, Half-nestled at his heart, and since he

The vast necessity of heart and life.
Farewell; think gently of me, for I fear
My fate or folly, passing gayer youth
For one so old, must be to love thee

still. But ere I leave thee let me swear once

more That if I schemed against thy peace in

this, May yon just heaven, that darkens o'er

me, send One flash, that, missing all things else,

may make My scheming brain a cinder, if I lie.'

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Scarce had she ceased, when out of

heaven a bolt (For now the storm was close above

them) struck, Furrowing a giant oak, and javelining With darted spikes and splinters of the

wood The dark earth round. He raised his

eyes and saw The tree that shone white listed thro'

the gloom. But Vivien, fearing heaven had heard

her oath, And dazzled by the livid-flickering fork, And deafen'd with the stammering

cracks and claps That follow'd, flying back and crying out,

O Merlin, tho'you do not love me, save, Yet save me!' clung to him and hugg'd

him close; And call'd him dear protector in her

fright, Nor yet forgot her practice in her fright, But wrought upon his mood and hugg'd

him close. The pale blood of the wizard at her

touch Took gayer colours, like an opal warm’d. She blamed herself for telling hearsay

tales : She shook from fear, and for her fault

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she wept

Of petulancy; she call'd him lord and

liege, Her seer, her bard, her silver star of eve, Her God, her Merlin, the one passionate

love Of her whole life; and ever overhead

Bellow'd the tempest, and the rotten

branch Snapt in the rushing of the river-rain Above them; and in change of glare

and gloom Her eyes and neck glittering went and

came; Till now the storm, its burst of passion

spent, Moaning and calling out of other lands, Had left the ravaged woodland yet once To peace; and what should not have

been had been, For Merlin, overtalk'd and overworn, Had yielded, told her all the charm, and

slept.

That eastern tower, and entering barrd

her door, Stript off the case, and read the naked

shield, Now guess'd a hidden meaning in his

arms, Now made a pretty history to herself Of every dint a sword had beaten in it, And every scratch a lance had made

upon it, Conjecturing when and where: this cut

is fresh; That ten years back; this dealt him at

Caerlyle; That at Caerleon; this at Camelot: And ah God's mercy, what a stroke was

there! And here a thrust that might have killid,

but God Broke the strong lance, and rollid his

enemy down, And saved him: so she lived in fantasy.

more

Then, in one moment, she put forth

the charm Of woven paces and of waving hands, And in the hollow oak he lay as dead, And lost to life and use and name and

fame.

Then crying 'I have made his glory

mine,' And shrieking out 'O fool!' the harlot

leapt Adown the forest, and the thicket closed Behind her, and the forest echo'd 'fool.'

How came the lily maid by that good

shield Of Lancelot, she that knew not ev'n his

name? He left it with her, when he rode to tilt For the great diamond in the diamond

jousts, Which Arthur had ordain'd, and by that

name Had named them, since a diamond was

the prize.

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Might strike it, and awake her with the

gleam; Then fearing rust or soilure fashion'd for

it A case of silk, and braided thereupon All the devices blazon'd on the shield In their own tinct, and added, of her wit, A border fantasy of branch and flower, And yellow-throated nestling in the nest. Nor rested thus content, but day by day, Leaving her household and good father,

climb'd

For Arthur, long before they crown'd

him King, Roving the trackless realms of Lyo

nesse, Had found a glen, gray boulder and

black tarn. A horror lived about the tarn, and clave Like its own mists to all the mountain

side: For here two brothers, one a king, had

met And fought together; but their names

were lost; And each had slain his brother at a blow; And down they fell and made the glec

abhorr'.: And there they lay till all their bones

were bleach'd,

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