Page images
PDF
EPUB

So Gawain, looking at the villainy

done, Forbore, but in his heat and eagerness Trembled and quiver'd, as the dog, with

held A moment from the vermin that he sees Before him, shivers, ere he springs and

kills.

Lighted on words: "For pity of thine

own self, Peace, Lady, peace: is he not thine and

mine? “Thou fool,' she said, 'I never heard his

voice But long'd to break away. Unbind him

now, And thrust him out of doors; for save he

be Fool to the midmost marrow of his

bones, He will return no more. And those,

her three, Laugh'd and unbound, and thrust him

from the gate.

And after this, a week beyond, again She callid them, saying, “There he

watches yet, There like a dog before his master's

door! Kick'd, he returns: do ye not hate him,

ye? Ye know yourselves : how can ye bide

And Pelleas overthrew them, one to

three; And they rose up, and bound, and

brought him in. Then first her anger, leaving Pelleas,

burn'd Full on her knights in many an evil name, Of craven, weakling, and thrice-beaten

hound: Yet, take him, ye that scarce are fit to

touch, Far less to bind, your victor, and thrust

him out, And let who will release him from his

bonds. And if he comes again there she

brake short; And Pelleas answer'd, ‘Lady, for indeed I loved you and I deem'd you beautiful, I cannot brook to see your beauty marr'd Thro' evil spite : and if ye love me not, I cannot bear to dream you so forsworn: I had liefer ye were worthy of my love, Than to be loved again of you -- fare

well; And tho' ye kill my hope, not yet my

love, Vex not yourself: ye will not see me

more.'

at peace,

Affronted with his fulsome innocence? Are ye but creatures of the board and

bed, No men to strike? Fall on him all at

once, And if ye slay him I reck not: if ye fail, Give ye the slave mine order to be

bound, Bind him as heretofore, and bring him in: It may be ye shall slay him in his bonds.' She spake; and at her will they

couch'd their spears, Three against one: and Gawain passing

by, Bound upon solitary adventure, saw Low down beneath the shadow of those

towers A villainy, three to one: and thro' his

heart The fire of honour and all noble deeds Flash'd, and he callid, 'I strike upon thy

side The caitiffs !' Nay,' said Pelleas, ' but

forbear; He needs no aid who doth his lady's

While thus he spake, she gazed upon

the man Of princely bearing, tho' in bonds, and

thought, • Why have I push'd him from me? this

man loves, If love there be: yet him I loved not.

Why? I deem'd him fool? yea, so? or that in

him A something — was it nobler than my

self ? — Seem'd my reproach? He is not of my He could not love me, did he know me

will.'

kind.

well. Nay, let him go- and quickly. And

her knights Laugh'd not, but thrust him bounden out

of door.

Yea, by the honour of the Table Round Behold
I will be leal to thee and work thy work,
And tame' thy jailing princess to thine

hand.
Lend me thine horse and arms, and I

will say

Her dan

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Forth sprang Gawain, and loosed him

from his bonds, And flung them o'er the walls; and

afterward, Shaking his hands, as from a lazar's rag, Faith of my body,' he said, and art

thou not — Yea thou art he, whom late our Arthur

made Knight of his Table; yea and he that

And so

won

[ocr errors]

The circlet? wherefore hast thou so

defamed Thy brotherhood in me and all the rest, As let these caitiffs on thee work their

will?'

That I have slain thee. She will let me

in To hear the manner of thy fight and fall

; Hister Then, when I come within her counsels,

then From prime to vespers will I chant thy

praise As prowest knight and truest lover, more Than any have sung thee living, till she

long To have thee back in lusty life again, Not to be bound, save by white bonds

and warm, Dearer than freedom. Wherefore now

thy horse And armour: let me go: be comforted: true Give me three days to melt her fancy, on

and hope The third night hence will bring thee is here

news of gold.' Then Pelleas lent his horse and all his 10

arms, Saving the goodly sword, his prize, and took

TO Gawain's, and said, Betray

help – Art thou not he whom men call light-of

love?'

[blocks in formation]

me not, but

Other than when I found her in the

woods; And tho' she hath me bounden but in

spite, And all to flout me, when they bring me in, Let me be bounden, I shall see her face; Else must I die thru mine unhappiness.'

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

And Gawain answer'd kindly tho' in

scorn, Why, let my lady bind me if she will, And let my lady heat me if she will: But an she send her delegate to thrall These fighting hands of mine - Christ

kill me then But I will slice him handless by the

wrist, And let my lady sear the stump for him, Howl as he may.

But hold me for your friend : Come, ye know nothing: here I pledge

my troth,

th

Up ran a score of damsels to the tower; 'Avaunt,'they cried,'our lady loves thee

not.' But Gawain lifting up his vizor said, 'Gawain am I, Gawain of Arthur's court, And I have slain this Pelleas whom ye

hate :

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

enow:

he past,

[blocks in formation]

And heard but his own steps, and his

own heart Beating, for nothing moved but his own

self, And his own shadow. Then he crost the

court, And spied not any light in hall or bower, But saw the postern portal also wide Yawning; and up a slope of garden, all Of roses white and red, and brambles mixt And overgrowing them, went on, and

found, Here too, all hush'd below the mellow

moon, Save that one rivulet from a tiny cave Came lightening downward, and so spilt

itself Among the roses, and was lost again.

moon

Hot was the night and silent; but a

sound Of Gawain ever coming, and this lay Which Pelleas had heard sung before the

Queen,
And seen her sadden listening

vext his heart, And marr'd his rest A worm within

the rose,'

Then was he ware of three pavilions

rear'd Above the bushes, gilden-peakt: in one, Red after revel, droned her lurdane

knights Slumbering, and their three squires across

A rose, but one, none other rose had I, A rose, one rose, and this was wondrous

their feet:

fair,

In one, their malice on the placid lip Froz'n by sweet sleep, four of her damsels

lay: And in the third, the circlet of the jousts Bound on her brow, were Gawain and

Ettarre.

Then crush'd the saddle with his thighs,

and clench'd His hands, and madden'd with himsell

and moan'd:

1

Back, as a hand that pushes thro’ the

leaf To find a nest and feels a snake, he

drew: Back, as a coward slinks from what he

fears To cope with, or a traitor proven or hound Beaten, did Pelleas in an utter shame Creep with his shadow thro’ the court

again, Fingering at his sword-handle until he

stood There on the castle-bridge once more, and

thought, I will go back, and slay them where they

lie.'

And so went back, and seeing them yet

in sleep Said, “Ye, that so dishallow the holy

sleep, Your sleep is death,' and drew the sword,

and thought, "What! slay a sleeping knight? the King

hath bound And sworn me to this brotherhood;'

again, * Alas that ever a knight should be so

false.' Then turn'd, and so return'd, and groan

ing laid The naked sword athwart their naked

throats There left it, and them sleeping; and she

lay, The circlet of the tourney round her

brows, And the sword of the tourney across her

throat.

• Would they have risen against me in

their blood At the last day? I might have answer'd

them Even before high God. O towers so

strong, Huge, solid, would that even while I gaze The crack of earthquake shivering to your

base Split you, and Hell burst up your harlot

roofs Bellowing, and charr'd you thro' and

thro' within, Black as the harlot's heart hollow as a

skull! Let the fierce east scream thro' your eye.

let-holes, And whirl the dust of harlots round and

round In dung and nettles! hiss, snake - I saw

him there Let the fox bark, let the wolf yell. Who

yells Ilere in the still sweet summer night, but

II, the poor Pelleas whom she call'd her

fool? Fool, beast - he, she, or I? myself most

fool; Beast too, as lacking human wit - dis

graced, Dishonour'd all for trial of true love Love? -- we be all alike: only the King Hath made us fools and liars. O noble

vows! O great and sane and simple race of

brutes That own no lust because they have no

law! For why should I have loved her to my

shame? I loathe her, as I loved her to my shame. I never loved her, I but lusted for her Away -

F

[ocr errors]

And forth he past, and mounting on

He dash'd the rowel into his horse. And bounded forth and vanish'd thru'

the night.

his horse Stared at her towers that, larger than

themselves In their own darkness, throng'd into the

moon.

[blocks in formation]

his eyes

Harder and drier than a fountain bed
In summer : thither came the village girls
And linger'd talking, and they come no

more Till the sweet heavens have fill'd it from

the heights Again with living waters in the change Of seasons: hard his eyes; harder his

heart Seem'd; but so weary were his limbs,

that he, Gasping, 'Of Arthur's hall am I, but here, Here let me rest and die,' cast himself

down, And gulfd his griefs in inmost sleep; so

lay, Till shaken by a dream, that Gawain fired The hall of Merlin, and the morning star Reel'd in the smoke, brake into flame,

and fell.

But Pelleas, leaping up, Ran thro' the doors and vaulted on his

horse And fled: small pity upon his horse had

he, Or on himself, or any, and when he met A cripple, one that held a hand for almsHunch'd as he was, and like an old dwarf

elm That turns its back on the salt blast, the

boy Paused not, but overrode him, shouting,

False, And false with Gawain !' and so left him

bruised And batter'd, and fled on, and hill and

wood Went ever streaming by him till the gloom, That follows on the turning of the world,

« PreviousContinue »