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To wreck thee villainously: but, O Sir

Knight, What dame or damsel have ye kneeld to


And fault and doubt - no word of that

fond tale Thy deep heart-yearnings, thy sweet

memories Of Tristram in that year he was away.'

And Tristram, •Last to my Queen

Paramount, Here now to my Queer. Paramount of

love And loveliness — ay, lovelier than when

first Her light feet fell on our rough Lyo

nesse, Sailing from Ireland.'

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Softly laugh'd Isolt; * Flatter me not, for hath not our great

Queen My dole of beauty trebled?' and he said, *Her beauty is her beauty, and thine

thine, And thine is more to me---soft, gracious,

kind Save when thy Mark is kindled on thy

lips Most gracious; but she, haughty, ev'n to

him, Lancelot; for I have seen him wan enow To make one doubt if ever the great

Have yielded him her love.'

To whom Isolt, • Ah then, false hunter and false harper,

thou Who brakest thro' the scruple of my

bond, Calling me thy white hind, and saying

to me That Guinevere had sinn'd against the

highest, And I — misyoked with such a want of

And, saddening on the sudden, spake

Isolt, • I had forgotten all in my strong joy To see thee — yearnings? — ay! for, hour

by hour, Here in the never-ended afternoon, O sweeter than all memories of thee, Deeper than any yearnings after thee Seem'd those far-rolling, westward

smiling seas, Watch'd from this tower. Isolt of Britain

dash'd Before Isolt of Brittany on the strand, Would that have chill'd her bride-kiss?

Wedded her? Fought in her father's battles ? wounded

there? The King was all fulfill'd with grateful

ness, And she, my namesake of the hands, that

heal'd Thy hurt and heart with unguent and Well -- can I wish her any huger wrong Than having known thee? her too hast

thou left To pine and waste in those sweet

memories. O were I not my Mark's, by whom all



Are noble, I should hate thee more than



That I could hardly sin against the lowest.'

He answer'd, O my soul, be com

forted! If this be sweet, to sin in leading-strings, If here be comfort, and if ours be sin, Crown'd warrant had we for the crown

ing sin That made us happy: but how ye greet

me— fear

And Tristram, fondling her light hands,

replied, Grace, Queen, for being loved : she

loved me well. Did I love her? the name at least I

loved. Isolt? – I fought his battles, for Isolt! The night was dark; the true star set.

Isolt! The name was ruler of the dark Isolt? Care not for her! patient, and prayerful

, meek, Pale-blooded, she will yield herself to


How darest thou, if lover, push me


And Isolt answer'd, 'Yea, and why

not I? Mine is the larger need, who am not meek, Pale-blooded, prayerful. Let me tell

thee now. Here one black, mute midsummer night

I sat, Lonely, but musing on thee, wondering

where, Murmuring a light song I had heard thee

sing, And once or twice I spake thy name aloud. Then flash'd a levin-brand; and near me

stood, In fuming sulphur blue and green, a

fiend Mark's way to steal behind one in the

dark For there was Mark: “He has wedded

her," he said, Not said, but hiss'd it: then this crown

of towers So shook to such a roar of all the sky, That here in utter dark I swoon'd away, And woke again in utter dark, and cried, “I will flee hence and give myself to

God” And thou wert lying in thy new leman's


In fancy from thy side, and set me far
In the gray distance, half a life away,
Her to be loved no more? Unsay it,

Flatter me rather, seeing me so weak,
Broken with Mark and hate and solitude,
Thy marriage and mine own, that I

should suck Lies like sweet wines: lie to me: I be.

lieve. Will ye not lie? not swear, as there ye

kneel, And solemnly as when ye sware to him, The man of men, our King – My God,

the power

Was once in vows when men believed the

King! They lied not then, who 'sware, and thro'

their vows The King prevailing made his realm :

I say,

Swear to me thou wilt love me ev'n when

old, Gray-hair’d, and past desire, and in de


Then Tristram, ever dallying with her

hand, May God be with thee, sweet, when old

and gray,

Then Tristram, pacing moodily up and

down, "Vows! did you keep the vow you made

to Mark More than I mine? Lied, say ye? Nay,

but learnt, The vow that binds too strictly snaps

itselfMy knighthood taught me this —- ay, being

snapt We run more counter to the soul thereof Than had we never sworn. I swear no


And past desire !' a saying that anger'd

her. May God be with thee, sweet, when

thou art old, And sweet no more to me!" I need

Him now. For when bad Lancelot utter'd aught so

gross Ev'n to the swineherd's malkin in the

mast? The greater man, the greater courtesy. Far other was the Tristram, Arthur's

knight! But thou, thro' ever harrying thy wild

beasts Save that to touch a harp, tilt with a

lance Becomes thee well art grown wild beast


I swore to the great King, and am for

Sworn. For once - -ev'n to the height - 1

honour'd him. “ Man, is he man at all?" methought,

when first I rode from our rough Lyonesse, and

beheld That victor of the Pagan throned in hall His hair, a sun that ray'd from off a brow Like hillsnow high in heaven, the steel.

blue eyes,

The golden beard that clothed his lips Mock them: my soul, we love but while with light

we may; Moreover, that weird legend of his birth, And therefore is my love so large for thee, With Merlin's mystic babble about his end Seeing it is not bounded save by love.' Amazed me; then his foot was on a stool Shaped as a dragon; he seem'd to me no Here ending, he moved toward her, man,

and she said, But Michaël trampling Satan; so I sware, • Good: an I turn'd away my love for Being amazed: but this went by — The

thee vows!

To some one thrice as courteous as thy. O ay - the wholesome madness of an


For courtesy wins woman all as well They served their use, their time; for As valour may, but he that closes both every knight

Is perfect, he is Lancelot — taller indeed, Believed himself a greater than himself, Rosier and comelier, thou – but say I And every follower eyed him as a God;

loved Till he, being lifted up beyond himself, This knightliest of all knights, and cast Did mightier deeds than elsewise he had

thee back done,

Thine own small saw, “ We love but And so the realm was made ; but then

while we may,"
their vows-

Well then, what answer?'
First mainly thro' that sullying of our
Queen -

He that while she spake, Began to gall the knighthood, asking Mindful of what he brought to adorn her whence

with, Had Arthur right to bind them to himself? The jewels, had let one finger lightly Dropt down from heaven? wash'd up

touch from out the deep?

The warm white apple of her throat, They fail'd to trace him thro' the flesh replied, and blood

Press this a little closer, sweet, until Of our old kings: whence then? a doubt- Come, I am hunger'd and half-angerdful lord

meat, To bind them by inviolable vows, Wine, wine — and I will love thee to the Which flesh and blood perforce would death, violate:

And out beyond into the dream to come.' For feel this arm of mine — the tide within

So then, when both were brought to Red with free chase and heather-scented

full accord, air,

She rose, and set before him all he willid: Pulsing full man; can Arthur make me And after these had comforted the blood pure

With meats and wines, and satiated their As any maiden child? lock up my tongue hearts – From uttering freely what I freely hear? Now talking of their woodland paradise, Bind me to one? The wide world The deer, the dews, the fern, the founts, laughs at it.

the lawns; And worldling of the world am I, and Now mocking at the much ungaipliness, know

And craven shifts, and long crane legs of The ptarmigan that whitens ere his hour

Mark Woos his own end; we are not angels Then Tristram laughing caught the barp,

here Vor shall be: vows – I am woodman of the woods,

* Ay, ay, O ay – the winds that bend And hear the garnet-headed yaffingale

the brier!

and sang:

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Not so, my Queen,' he said, 'but the

red fruit Grown on a magic oak-tree in mid

heaven, And won by Tristram as a tourney-prize, And hither brought by Tristram for his

last Love-offering and peace-offering unto


He spoke, he turn'd, then, flinging

round her neck, Claspt it, and cried • Thine Order, O my

Queen!' But, while he bow'd to kiss the jewell'd

throat, Out of the dark, just as the lips had

touch'd, Behind him rose a shadow and a shriek* Mark's way,' said Mark, and clove him

thro' the brain.

For hither had she fled, her cause of

flight Sir Modred; he that like a subtle beast Lay couchant with his eyes upon the

throne, Ready to spring, waiting a chance : for

this He chill'd the popular praises of the

King With silent smiles of slow disparage.

ment; And tamper'd with the Lords of the

White Horse, Heathen, the brood by Hengist left; and

sought To make disruption in the Table Round Of Arthur, and to splinter it into feuds Serving his traitorous end; and all his

aims Were sharpen'd by strong hate for Lance


That night came Arthur home, and

while he climb'd, All in a death-dumb autumn-dripping

gloom, The stairway to the hall, and look'd and

For thus it chanced one morn when

all the court, Green-suited, but with plumes that

mock'd the may, Had been, their wont, a-maying and

return'd, That Modred still in green, all ear and eye,


The great Queen's bower was dark,

about his feet



Climb'd to the high top of the garden

wall To spy some secret scandal if he might, And saw the Queen who sat betwixt her

best Enid, and lissome Vivien, of her court The wiliest and the worst; and more

than this He saw not, for Sir Lancelot passing by Spied where he couch'd, and as the

gardener's hand Picks from the colewort a green cater.

pillar, So from the high wall and the fowering

grove Of grasses Lancelot pluck'd him by the

heel, And cast him as a worm upon the way; But when he knew the Prince tho'

marr'd with dust, He, reverencing king's blood in a bad

man, Made such excuses as he might, and these Full knightly without scorn; for in those

days No knight of Arthur's noblest dealt in

scorn; But, if a man were halt or hunch'd, in

By those whom God had made full-

limb'd and tall,
Scorn was allow'd as part of his defect,
And he was answer'd softly by the King
And all his Table. So Sir Lancelot holp
To raise the Prince, who rising twice or

Full sharply smote his knees, and smiled,

and went :
But, ever after, the small violence done
Rankled in him and ruffled all his heart,
As the sharp wind that ruffles all day

A little bitter pool about a stone
On the bare coast.


Then laugh'd again, but faintlier, for in

She half-foresaw that he, the subtle beast

Would track her guilt until he found, and

Would be for evermore a name of scorn.

Henceforward rarely could she front in

Or elsewhere, Modred's narrow foxy face,
Heart-hiding smile, and gray persistent

Henceforward too, the Powers that tend

the soul,
To help it from the death that cannot

And save it even in extremes, began
To vex and plague her. Many a time for

Beside the placid breathings of the King,
In the dead night, grim faces came and
Before her, or a vague spiritual fear --
Like to some doubtful noise of creaking

Heard by the watcher in a haunted house,
That keeps the rust of murder on the leap

walls -
Held her awake: or if she slept, she

An awful dream; for then she seem'd to

On some vast plain before a setting sun,
And from the sun there swiftly made at her
A ghastly something, and its shadow flew
Before it, till it touch'd her, and she

When lo! her own, that broadening from

her feet,
And blackening, swallow'd all the land,

and in it
Far cities burnt, and with a cry she woke.
And all this trouble did not pass but grew;
Till ev'n the clear face of the guileless

And trustful courtesies of household life,
Became her bane; and at the last she

'O Lancelot, get thee hence to thine own

For if thou tarry we shall meet again,
And if we meet again, some evil chance
Will make the smouldering scandal break

But when Sir Lancelot told This matter to the Queen, at first she

laugh'd Lightly, to think of Modred's dusty fall, Then shudder'd, as the village wife who

cries 'I shudder, some one steps across my

and blaze


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