Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

سهلة بدء

[ocr errors]

the

“So speaking, and here ceasing, Lance

lot left The hall long silent, till Sir Gawain — nay, Brother, I need not tell thee foolish

words, A reckless and irreverent knight was he, Now bolden'd by the silence of his

King, Well, I will tell thee: “O King, my

liege,” he said, “ Hath Gawain fail'd in any quest of

thine? When have I stinted stroke in foughten

field? But as for thine, my good friend Percivale, Thy holy nun and thou have driven men

mad, Yea, made our mightiest madder than

our least. But by mine eyes and by mine ears I

swear, I will be deafer than the blue-eyed cat, And thrice as blind as any noonday owl, To holy virgins in their ecstasies, Henceforward."

[merged small][ocr errors]

Heas

, ar

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

““ Deafer," said the blameless King, “Gawain, and blinder unto holy things Hope not to make thyself by idle vows, Being too blind to have desire to see. But if indeed there came a sign from

heaven, Blessed are Bors, Lancelot and Percivale, For these have seen according to their

sight. For every fiery prophet in old times, And all the sacred madness of the bard, When God made music thro' them, could

but speak His music by the framework and the

chord; And as ye saw it ye have spoken truth. "" Nay - but thou errest, Lancelot:

never yet Could all of true and noble in knight and

““ And spake I not too truly, O my

knights? Was I too dark a prophet when I said To those who went upon the Holy Quest, That most of them would follow wander.

ing tires, Lost in the quagmire? — lost to me and

gone, And left me gazing at a barren board, And a lean Order - scarce return'd a

tithe And out of those to whom the vision came My greatest hardly will believe he saw; Another hath beheld it afar off, And leaving human wrongs to right

themselves, Cares but to pass into the silent life. And one hath had the vision face to face, And now his chair desires him here in

vain, However they may crown him otherwhere. "“ And some among you held, that if

the King Had seen the sight he would have sworn

the vow: Not easily, seeing that the King must

guard That which he rules, and is but as the hind To whom a space of land is given to

plow. Who may not wander from the allotted

field Before his work be done; but, being done, Let visions of the night or of the day Come, as they will; and many a time

they come, Until this earth he walks on seems not

earth, This light that strikes his eyeball is not

light, This air that smites his forehead is not

air But vision — yea, his very hand and foot In moments when he feels he cannot

die, And knows himself no vision to him

self,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

man

[ocr errors]

Twine round one sin, whatever it might

be, With such a closeness, but apart there

grew, Save that he were the swine thou spakest

of,

[blocks in formation]

To a tree, cast himself down; and as he

lay At random looking over the brown earth Thro' that green-glooming twilight of the

grove, It seemd to Pelleas that the fern without Burnt as a living fire of emeralds, So that his eyes were dazzled looking at it. Then o'er it crost the dimness of a cloud Floating, and once the shadow of a bird Flying, and then a fawn; and his eyes

closed. And since he loved all maidens, but no

maid In special, half-awake he whisper'd,

• Where? O where? I love thee, tho' I know thee

not. For sair thou art and pure as Guinevere, And I will make thee with my spear and

sword As famous --O my Queen, my Guinevere, For I will be thine Arthur when we

meet.'

*Make me thy knight, because I know,

Sir King, All that belongs to knighthood, and I love.' Such was his cry: for having heard the

King Had let proclaim a tournament - the prize A golden circlet and a knightly sword, Full fain had Pelleas for his lady won The golden circlet, for himself the sword: And there were those who knew him near

the King, And promised for him: and Arthur made

him knight.

And this new knight, Sir Pelleas of the

isles But lately come to his inheritance, And lord of many a barren isle was heRiding at noon, a day or twain before, Across the forest call’d of Dean, to find Caerleon and the King, had felt the sun Beat like a strong knight on his helm,

and reel'd Almost to falling from his horse; but

Suddenly waken'd with a sound of talk And laughter at the limit of the wood, And glancing thro’the hoary boles, he saw, Strange as to some old prophet might

have seem'd A vision hovering on a sea of fire, Damsels in divers colours like the cloud Of sunset and sunrise, and all of them On horses, and the horses richly trapt Breast-high in that bright line of bracken

stood : And all the damsels talk'd confusedly, And one was pointing this way, and one

that, Because the way was lost.

And Pelleas rose, And loosed his horse, and led him to the

light. There she that seem'd the chief among

them said, * In happy time behold our pilot-star! Youth, we are damsels-errant, and we ride, Arm’d as ye see, to tilt against the knights There at Caerleon, but have lost our way: To right? to left? straight forward? back

again? Which? tell us quickly.'

saw

Near him a mound of even-sloping side, Whereon a hundred stately beeches grew, And here and there great hollies under

them; But for a mile all round was open space, And fern and heath: and slowly Pelleas

drew so that dim day, then binding his good

horse

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Pelleas gazing thought, • Is Guinevere herself so beautiful?' For large her violet eyes look’d, and her

bloom A rosy dawn kindled in stainless heavens, And round her limbs, mature in woman

hood; And slender was her hand and small her

shape; And but for those large eyes, the haunts

of scorn, She might have seem'd a toy to trifle with, And pass and care no more. But while

he gazed The beauty of her flesh abash'd the boy, As tho' it were the beauty of her soul : For as the base man, judging of the good, Puts his own baseness in him by default Of will and nature, so did Pelleas lend All the young beauty of his own soul to

hers, Believing her; and when she spake to

him, Stammer'd, and could not make her a

reply. For out of the waste islands had he come, Where saving his own sisters he had

known Scarce any but the women of his isles, Rough wives, that laugh'd and scream'd

against the gulls, Makers of nets, and living from the sea.

*Lead then,' she said; and thro' the

woods they went. And while they rode, the meaning in his

eyes, His tenderness of manner, and chaste awe, His broken utterances and bashfulness, Were all a burthen to her, and in her

heart She mutter'd, 'I have lighted on a fool, Raw, yet so stale!' But since her mind

was bent On hearing, after trumpet blown, her name And title, · Queen of Beauty,' in the lists Cried — and beholding him so strong, she

thought That peradventure he will fight for me, And win the circlet: therefore flatter'd

him, Being so gracious, that he wellnigh

deem'd His wish by hers was echo'd; and her

knights And all her damsels too were gracious to

him, For she was a great lady.

Then with a slow smile turn’d the lady

round And look'd upon her people, and as

when A stone is Aung into some sleeping tarn, The circle widens till it lip the marge, Spread the slow smile thro' all her com

pany. Three knights were thereamong; and

they too smiled, Scorning him; for the lady was Ettarre, And she was a great lady in her land.

[blocks in formation]

Aga she said, 'O wild and of the

woods, Knowest thou not the fashion of our

speech? Or have the Heavens but given thee a fair

face, Lacking a tongue?'

Then his helpless heart Leapt, and he cried, 'Ay! wilt thou if I

win?' * Ay, that will I,' she answer'd, and she

laugh’d, And straitly nipt the hand, and flung i

from her; Then glanced askew at those three knights

of hers, Till all her ladies laugh'd along with her.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Then blush'd and brake the morning

of the jousts, And this was callid · The Tournament of

Youth:' For Arthur, loving his young knight,

withheld His older and his mightier from the lists, That Pelleas might obtain his lady's love, According to her promise, and remain Lord of the tourney. And Arthur had

the jousts Down in the flat field by the shore of Usk Holden : the gilded parapets were crown'd With faces, and the great tower fill'd with

eyes Up to the summit, and the trumpets blew.

[blocks in formation]

Some rough old knight who knew the

worldly way, Albeit grizzlier than a bear, to ride And jest with: take him to you, keep

hiin off,

one

And pamper him with papmeat, if ye

will, Old milky fables of the wolf and sheep, Such as the wholesome mothers tell their

boys. Nay, should ye try him with a merry To find his mettle, good: and if he fly

us, Small matter! let him.' This her damsels

heard, And mindful of her small and cruel hand, They, closing round him thro' the journey

home, Acted her hest, and always from her

side Restrain’d him with all manner of device, So that he could not come to speech

with her. And when she gain'd her castle, upsprang

the bridge, Down rang the grate of iron thro' the

groove, And he was left alone in open field.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

one

*These be the ways of ladies,' Pelleas

thought, • To those who love them, trials of our

faith. Yea, let her prove me to the uttermost, For loyal to the uttermost am I.' So made his moan; and, darkness falling,

sought A priory not far off, there lodged, but

rose With morning every day, and, moist or

dry, Full-arm’d upon his charger all day long Sat by the walls, and no one open’d to

him.

Then when he came before Ettarre,

the sight Of her rich beauty made him at

glance More bondsman in his heart than in his

bonds. Yet with good cheer he spake, ‘Behold

me, Lady, A prisoner, and the vassal of thy will; And if thou keep me in the donjon

here, Content am I so that I see thy face But once a day: for I have sworn my

VOWS, And thou hast given thy promise, and I

know That all these pains are trials of my faith, And that thyself, when thou hast seer

me strain'd And sifted to the utmost, wilt at length Yield me thy love and know me for thr

knight.'

And this persistence turn'd her scorn

to wrath. Then calling her three knights, she

charged them, Out! And drive him from the walls.' And out

they came, But Pelleas overthrew them as they

dash'd Against him one by one; and these

return'd, But still he kept his watch beneath the

wall.

Then she began to rail so bitterly, With all her damsels, he was stricker

mute; But when she mock'd his vows and the

great King,

« PreviousContinue »