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

Swerve

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

Darken’d the common path: he twitch'd

Rolling his eyes, a moment stood, the: the reins,

spake: And made his beast that better knew it, 'Rise, weakling; I am Lancelot; say tty

say.' Now off it and now on; but when he saw High up in heaven the hall that Merlin

And Lancelot slowly rode his warhorse built,

back Blackening against the dead-green stripes

To Camelot, and Sir Pelleas in brief of even,

while • Black nest of rats,' he groan'd,'ye build

Caught his unbroken limbs from the dark too high.'

tield,

And follow'd to the city. It chanced Not long thereafter from the city gates

that both issued Sir Lancelot riding airily,

Brake into hall together, worn and pale.
Warm with a gracious parting from the

There with her knights and dames was
Queen,

Guinevere.
Peace at his heart, and gazing at a star
And marvelling what it was :

Full wonderingly she gazed on Lancelot
on whom

So soon return'd, and then on Pelleas, the boy,

him Across the silent seeded meadow-grass

Who had not greeted her, but cast himBorne, clash'd: and Lancelot, saying,

self • What name hast thou That ridest here so blindly and so hard?'

Down on a bench, hard-breathing. 'Have

ye fought?' No name, no name,' he shouted, .a

She ask'd of Lancelot. “Ay, my Queen' scourge am I

he said. To lash the treasons of the Table Round.'

* And hast thou overthrown him?' Ay, Yea, but thy name?' •I have many

my Queen.' names,' he cried :

Then she, turning to Pelleas, “O young 'I am wrath and shame and hate and evil

knight, fame,

Hath the great heart of knighthood in And like a poisonous wind I

thee fail'd blast

So far thou canst not bide, unfrowardly,
And blaze the crime of Lancelot and the

A fall from him?' Then, for he answer'd
Queen.'

not,
• First over me,' said Lancelot, 'shalt
thou pass.'

'Or hast thou other griefs? If I, the

Queen, • Fight therefore, yell’d the youth, and

May help them, loose thy tongue, and let either knight

me know.' Drew back a space, and when they closed,

But Pelleas listed up an eye so fierce at once

She quail'd; and he, hissing, 'I have no The weary steed of Pelleas foundering

sword,' flung

Sprang from the door into the dark. His rider, who call'd out from the dark The Queen field,

Look'd hard upon her lover, he on her; “Thou art false as Hell: slay me: I have

And each foresaw the dolorous day to no sword.'

be : Then Lancelot, ‘Yea, between thy lips —

And all talk died, as in a grove all song, and sharp;

Beneath the shadow of some bird of But here will I disedge it by thy death.'

prey; 'Slay then,' he shriek’d, my will is to be

Then a long silence came upon slain,'

hall, And Lancelot, with his heel upon the

And Modred thought, “The time is hard fall'n,

at hand.'

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

pass to

[ocr errors]

the

[ocr errors]

THE LAST TOURNAMENT.

• Take thou the jewels of this dead inno

cence, And make them, an thou wilt, a tourney

prize.

DAGONET, the fool, whom Gawain in his

mood Had made mock-knight of Arthur's Table

Round, At Camelot, high above the yellowing

woods, Danced like a wither'd leaf before the

hall. And toward him from the hall, with harp

in hand, And from the crown thereof a carcanet Of ruby swaying to and fro, the prize Of Tristram in the jousts of yesterday, Came Tristram, saying, 'Why skip ye so,

Sir Fool?'

To whom the King, Peace to thine

eagle-borne Dead nestling, and this honour after

death, Following thy will! but, O my Queen,

I muse Why ye not wear on arm, or neck, or

zone Those diamonds that I rescued from the

tarn, And Lancelot won, methought, for thee

to wear.'

[blocks in formation]

For Arthur and Sir Lancelot riding once Far down beneath a winding wall of rock Heard a child wail. A stump of oak

half-dead, From roots like some black coil of carven

snakes, Clutch'd at the crag, and started thro'

mid air Bearing an eagle's nest: and thro' the

tree Rush'd ever a rainy wind, and thro' the

wind Pierced ever a child's cry: and crag and

tree Scaling, Sir Lancelot from the perilous.

nest, This ruby necklace thrice around her

neck, And all unscarr'd from beak or talon,

brought A maiden babe; which Arthur pitying

took, Then gave it to his Queen to rear: the

Queen But coldly acquiescing, in her white arms Received, and after loved it tenderly, And named it Nestling; so forgot herself A moment, and her cares; till that young

life Being smitten in mid heaven with mortal

cold Past from her; and in time the carcanet Vext her with plaintive memories of the

child: So she, delivering it to Arthur, said,

[blocks in formation]

nose

[blocks in formation]

Bridge-broken, one eye out, and one

hand off, And one with shatter'd fingers dangling

lame, A churl, to whom indignantly the King,

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

‘My churl, for whom Christ died, what

evil beast Hath drawn his claws athwart thy face?

or fiend? Man was it who marr'd heaven's image

in thee thus?'

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

Then, sputtering thro' the hedge of

splinter'd teeth, Yet strangers to the tongue, and with

blunt stump Pitch-blacken'd sawing the air, said the

inaim'd churl,

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

your flower

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

Then Arthur turn'd to Kay the senes.

chal,
* Take thou my churl, and tend him

curiously
Like a king's heir, till all his hurts be

whole.
The heathen — but that ever-climbing

wave,
Hurl’d back again so often in empty foam,
Hath lain for years at rest —

and rene-
gades,
Thieves, bandits, leavings of confusion,

whom
The wholesome realm is purged of other-

where,
Friends, thro' your manhood and your

fealty,
Make their last head like Satan in the

North.
My younger knights, new-made, in whom
Waits to be solid fruit of golden deeds,
Move with me toward their quelling,

which achieved,
The loneliest ways are safe from shore to

shore.
But thou, Sir Lancelot, sitting in my place
Enchair'd to-morrow, arbitrate the field;
For wherefore shouldst thou care to

mingle with it,
Only to yield my Queen her own again?
Speak, Lancelot, thou art silent: is it

well?'
Thereto Sir Lancelot answer'd, 'It is

well :
Yet better if the King abide, and leave
The leading of his younger knights to me,
Else, for the King has will'd it, it is well.'
Then Arthur rose and Lancelot follow'd

him,
And while they stood without the doors,

the King
Turn’d to him saying, “Is it then so well?
Or mine the blame that oft I seem as he
Of whom was written, “ A sound

ears"?
The foot that loiters, bidden go,—the

[ocr errors][merged small]

He took them and he drave them to

his tower— Some hold he was a table-knight of

thine A hundred goodly ones—the Red Knight,

he
Lord, I was tending swine, and the Red

Knight
Brake in upon me and drave them to his

tower;
And when I call'd upon thy name as one
That doest right by gentle and by churl,
Maim'd me and maul'd, and would out-

right have slain,
Save that he sware me to a message,

saying, “Tell thou the King and all his liars,

that I
llave founded my Round Table in the

North,
And whatsoever his own knights have

Sworn
My knights have sworn the counter to

it-- and say
My tower is full of harlots, like his court,
But mine are worthier, seeing they profess
To be none other than themselves — and

say
My knights are all adulterers like bis
But mine are truer, seeing they profess
To be none other; and say his hour is

glance

come,

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

in bis

own,

[merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

White-robed in honour of the stainless

child, And some with scatter'd jewels, like a

bank Of maiden snow mingled with sparks of

fire. He look'd but once, and vail'd his eyes

again.

NA

He spoke, and taking all his younger

knights, Down the slope city rode, and sharply

turn'd North by the gate. In her high bower

the Queen, Working a tapestry, lifted up her head, Watch'd her lord pass, and knew not

that she sigh’d. Then ran across her memory the strange

rhyme Of bygone Merlin, “Where is he who

knows? From the great deep to the great deep

The sudden trumpet sounded as in a

dream To ears but half-awaked, then one low

roll Of Autumn thunder, and the jousts

began : And ever the wind blew, and yellowing

leaf And gloom and gleam, and shower and

shorn plume Went down it. Sighing weariedly, as one Who sits and gazes on a faded fire, When all the goodlier guests are past

away, Sat their great umpire, looking o'er the

lists. He saw the laws that ruled the tourna.

ment Broken, but spake not; once, a knight

cast down Before his throne of arbitration cursed The dead babe and the follies of the

King; And once the laces of a helmet crack'd, And show'd him, like a vermin in its

hole, Modred, a narrow face: anon he heard The voice that billow'd round the barriers

he goes.'

[blocks in formation]

roar

one

The words of Arthur Aying shriek’d,

arose, And down a streetway hung with folds of

pure White samite, and by fountains running

wine, Where children sat in white with cups of

gold, Moved to the lists, and there, with slow

sad steps

An ocean-sounding welcome to

knight, But newly-enter'), taller than the rest, And armour'd all in forest green, whereon There tript a hundred tiny silver deer, And wearing but a holly-spray for crest, With ever-scattering berries, and on shield A spear, a harp, a bugle – Tristram -- late From overseas in Brittany return'd, And marriage with a princess of that

realm, Isolt the White --Sir Tristram of the

Woods Whom Lancelot knew, had held some.

time with pain

Ascending, fillid his double-dragon'd

chair.

He glanced and saw the stately gal

leries, Dame, damsel, each thro' worship of

their Queen

• Fair damsels, each to him who worships

each Sole Queen of Beauty and of love, behold This day my Queen of Beauty is not here. And most of these were mute, some

anger'd, one Murmuring, ‘All courtesy is dead,' and

one, *The glory of our Round Table is no more.'

His own against him, and now yearn'd

to shake The burthen off his heart in one full

shock With Tristram ev'n to death : his strong

hands gript And dinted the gilt dragons right and left, Until he gruan'd for wrath

- so many of those, That ware their ladies' colours on the

casque, Drew from before Sir Tristram to the

bounds, And there with gibes and flickering

mockeries Stood, while he mutter'd, ‘Craven crests!

O shame! What faith have these in whom they sware

to love? The glory of our Round Table is no more.'

Then fell thick rain, plume droopt and

mantle clung, And pettish cries awoke, and the wan day Went glooming down in wet and weari.

ness : But under her black brows a swarthy one Laugh'd shrilly, crying, “ Praise the pa

tient saints, Our one white day of Innocence hath

past, Tho'somewhat draggled at the skirt. So

be it. The snowdrop only, flowering thro' the

year, Would make the world as blank as Win

ter-tide. Come — let us gladden their sad eyes,

our Queen's And Lancelot's, at this night's solemnity With all the kindlier colours of the field.'

[blocks in formation]

So dame and damsel glitter'd at the

feast Variously gay: for he that tells the tale Liken'd them, saying, as when an hour

of cold Falls on the mountain in midsunimer

Snows, And all the purple slopes of mountain

flowers Pass under white, till the warm hour re

turns With veer of wind, and all are flowers

again; So dame and damsel cast the simple white, And glowing in all colours, the live grass, Rose-campion, bluebell, kingcup, poppy,

glanced About the revels, and with mirth so loud Beyond all use, that, half-amazed, the

Queen, And wroth at Tristram and the lawless

jousts.

No blood of mine, I trow; but () chief

knight, Right arm of Arthur in the battlefield, Great brother, thou nor I have made the

world; Be happy in thy fair Queen as I in mine.'

And Tristram round the gallery made

his horse Caracole; then bow'd his homage, bluntly

saying,

« PreviousContinue »