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by Galway Kinnell |

Saint Francis And The Sow

The bud 
stands for all things, 
even for those things that don't flower, 
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; 
though sometimes it is necessary 
to reteach a thing its loveliness, 
to put a hand on its brow 
of the flower 
and retell it in words and in touch 
it is lovely 
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing; 
as Saint Francis 
put his hand on the creased forehead 
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch 
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow 
began remembering all down her thick length, 
from the earthen snout all the way 
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail, 
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine 
down through the great broken heart 
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering 
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath 
them: 
the long, perfect loveliness of sow. 


by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

Guinevere

 Queen Guinevere had fled the court, and sat 
There in the holy house at Almesbury 
Weeping, none with her save a little maid, 
A novice: one low light betwixt them burned 
Blurred by the creeping mist, for all abroad, 
Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full, 
The white mist, like a face-cloth to the face, 
Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still. 

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 chilled the popular praises of the King 
With silent smiles of slow disparagement; 
And tampered 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 sharpened by strong hate for Lancelot. 

For thus it chanced one morn when all the court, 
Green-suited, but with plumes that mocked the may, 
Had been, their wont, a-maying and returned, 
That Modred still in green, all ear and eye, 
Climbed 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 couched, and as the gardener's hand 
Picks from the colewort a green caterpillar, 
So from the high wall and the flowering grove 
Of grasses Lancelot plucked him by the heel, 
And cast him as a worm upon the way; 
But when he knew the Prince though marred 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 hunched, in him 
By those whom God had made full-limbed and tall, 
Scorn was allowed as part of his defect, 
And he was answered softly by the King 
And all his Table. So Sir Lancelot holp 
To raise the Prince, who rising twice or thrice 
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 long 
A little bitter pool about a stone 
On the bare coast. 

But when Sir Lancelot told 
This matter to the Queen, at first she laughed 
Lightly, to think of Modred's dusty fall, 
Then shuddered, as the village wife who cries 
`I shudder, some one steps across my grave;' 
Then laughed again, but faintlier, for indeed 
She half-foresaw that he, the subtle beast, 
Would track her guilt until he found, and hers 
Would be for evermore a name of scorn. 
Henceforward rarely could she front in hall, 
Or elsewhere, Modred's narrow foxy face, 
Heart-hiding smile, and gray persistent eye: 
Henceforward too, the Powers that tend the soul, 
To help it from the death that cannot die, 
And save it even in extremes, began 
To vex and plague her. Many a time for hours, 
Beside the placid breathings of the King, 
In the dead night, grim faces came and went 
Before her, or a vague spiritual fear-- 
Like to some doubtful noise of creaking doors, 
Heard by the watcher in a haunted house, 
That keeps the rust of murder on the walls-- 
Held her awake: or if she slept, she dreamed 
An awful dream; for then she seemed to stand 
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 touched her, and she turned-- 
When lo! her own, that broadening from her feet, 
And blackening, swallowed 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 even the clear face of the guileless King, 
And trustful courtesies of household life, 
Became her bane; and at the last she said, 
`O Lancelot, get thee hence to thine own land, 
For if thou tarry we shall meet again, 
And if we meet again, some evil chance 
Will make the smouldering scandal break and blaze 
Before the people, and our lord the King.' 
And Lancelot ever promised, but remained, 
And still they met and met. Again she said, 
`O Lancelot, if thou love me get thee hence.' 
And then they were agreed upon a night 
(When the good King should not be there) to meet 
And part for ever. Vivien, lurking, heard. 
She told Sir Modred. Passion-pale they met 
And greeted. Hands in hands, and eye to eye, 
Low on the border of her couch they sat 
Stammering and staring. It was their last hour, 
A madness of farewells. And Modred brought 
His creatures to the basement of the tower 
For testimony; and crying with full voice 
`Traitor, come out, ye are trapt at last,' aroused 
Lancelot, who rushing outward lionlike 
Leapt on him, and hurled him headlong, and he fell 
Stunned, and his creatures took and bare him off, 
And all was still: then she, `The end is come, 
And I am shamed for ever;' and he said, 
`Mine be the shame; mine was the sin: but rise, 
And fly to my strong castle overseas: 
There will I hide thee, till my life shall end, 
There hold thee with my life against the world.' 
She answered, `Lancelot, wilt thou hold me so? 
Nay, friend, for we have taken our farewells. 
Would God that thou couldst hide me from myself! 
Mine is the shame, for I was wife, and thou 
Unwedded: yet rise now, and let us fly, 
For I will draw me into sanctuary, 
And bide my doom.' So Lancelot got her horse, 
Set her thereon, and mounted on his own, 
And then they rode to the divided way, 
There kissed, and parted weeping: for he past, 
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen, 
Back to his land; but she to Almesbury 
Fled all night long by glimmering waste and weald, 
And heard the Spirits of the waste and weald 
Moan as she fled, or thought she heard them moan: 
And in herself she moaned `Too late, too late!' 
Till in the cold wind that foreruns the morn, 
A blot in heaven, the Raven, flying high, 
Croaked, and she thought, `He spies a field of death; 
For now the Heathen of the Northern Sea, 
Lured by the crimes and frailties of the court, 
Begin to slay the folk, and spoil the land.' 

And when she came to Almesbury she spake 
There to the nuns, and said, `Mine enemies 
Pursue me, but, O peaceful Sisterhood, 
Receive, and yield me sanctuary, nor ask 
Her name to whom ye yield it, till her time 
To tell you:' and her beauty, grace and power, 
Wrought as a charm upon them, and they spared 
To ask it. 

So the stately Queen abode 
For many a week, unknown, among the nuns; 
Nor with them mixed, nor told her name, nor sought, 
Wrapt in her grief, for housel or for shrift, 
But communed only with the little maid, 
Who pleased her with a babbling heedlessness 
Which often lured her from herself; but now, 
This night, a rumour wildly blown about 
Came, that Sir Modred had usurped the realm, 
And leagued him with the heathen, while the King 
Was waging war on Lancelot: then she thought, 
`With what a hate the people and the King 
Must hate me,' and bowed down upon her hands 
Silent, until the little maid, who brooked 
No silence, brake it, uttering, `Late! so late! 
What hour, I wonder, now?' and when she drew 
No answer, by and by began to hum 
An air the nuns had taught her; `Late, so late!' 
Which when she heard, the Queen looked up, and said, 
`O maiden, if indeed ye list to sing, 
Sing, and unbind my heart that I may weep.' 
Whereat full willingly sang the little maid. 

`Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill! 
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still. 
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now. 

`No light had we: for that we do repent; 
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent. 
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now. 

`No light: so late! and dark and chill the night! 
O let us in, that we may find the light! 
Too late, too late: ye cannot enter now. 

`Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet? 
O let us in, though late, to kiss his feet! 
No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now.' 

So sang the novice, while full passionately, 
Her head upon her hands, remembering 
Her thought when first she came, wept the sad Queen. 
Then said the little novice prattling to her, 
`O pray you, noble lady, weep no more; 
But let my words, the words of one so small, 
Who knowing nothing knows but to obey, 
And if I do not there is penance given-- 
Comfort your sorrows; for they do not flow 
From evil done; right sure am I of that, 
Who see your tender grace and stateliness. 
But weigh your sorrows with our lord the King's, 
And weighing find them less; for gone is he 
To wage grim war against Sir Lancelot there, 
Round that strong castle where he holds the Queen; 
And Modred whom he left in charge of all, 
The traitor--Ah sweet lady, the King's grief 
For his own self, and his own Queen, and realm, 
Must needs be thrice as great as any of ours. 
For me, I thank the saints, I am not great. 
For if there ever come a grief to me 
I cry my cry in silence, and have done. 
None knows it, and my tears have brought me good: 
But even were the griefs of little ones 
As great as those of great ones, yet this grief 
Is added to the griefs the great must bear, 
That howsoever much they may desire 
Silence, they cannot weep behind a cloud: 
As even here they talk at Almesbury 
About the good King and his wicked Queen, 
And were I such a King with such a Queen, 
Well might I wish to veil her wickedness, 
But were I such a King, it could not be.' 

Then to her own sad heart muttered the Queen, 
`Will the child kill me with her innocent talk?' 
But openly she answered, `Must not I, 
If this false traitor have displaced his lord, 
Grieve with the common grief of all the realm?' 

`Yea,' said the maid, `this is all woman's grief, 
That SHE is woman, whose disloyal life 
Hath wrought confusion in the Table Round 
Which good King Arthur founded, years ago, 
With signs and miracles and wonders, there 
At Camelot, ere the coming of the Queen.' 

Then thought the Queen within herself again, 
`Will the child kill me with her foolish prate?' 
But openly she spake and said to her, 
`O little maid, shut in by nunnery walls, 
What canst thou know of Kings and Tables Round, 
Or what of signs and wonders, but the signs 
And simple miracles of thy nunnery?' 

To whom the little novice garrulously, 
`Yea, but I know: the land was full of signs 
And wonders ere the coming of the Queen. 
So said my father, and himself was knight 
Of the great Table--at the founding of it; 
And rode thereto from Lyonnesse, and he said 
That as he rode, an hour or maybe twain 
After the sunset, down the coast, he heard 
Strange music, and he paused, and turning--there, 
All down the lonely coast of Lyonnesse, 
Each with a beacon-star upon his head, 
And with a wild sea-light about his feet, 
He saw them--headland after headland flame 
Far on into the rich heart of the west: 
And in the light the white mermaiden swam, 
And strong man-breasted things stood from the sea, 
And sent a deep sea-voice through all the land, 
To which the little elves of chasm and cleft 
Made answer, sounding like a distant horn. 
So said my father--yea, and furthermore, 
Next morning, while he past the dim-lit woods, 
Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy 
Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower, 
That shook beneath them, as the thistle shakes 
When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed: 
And still at evenings on before his horse 
The flickering fairy-circle wheeled and broke 
Flying, and linked again, and wheeled and broke 
Flying, for all the land was full of life. 
And when at last he came to Camelot, 
A wreath of airy dancers hand-in-hand 
Swung round the lighted lantern of the hall; 
And in the hall itself was such a feast 
As never man had dreamed; for every knight 
Had whatsoever meat he longed for served 
By hands unseen; and even as he said 
Down in the cellars merry bloated things 
Shouldered the spigot, straddling on the butts 
While the wine ran: so glad were spirits and men 
Before the coming of the sinful Queen.' 

Then spake the Queen and somewhat bitterly, 
`Were they so glad? ill prophets were they all, 
Spirits and men: could none of them foresee, 
Not even thy wise father with his signs 
And wonders, what has fallen upon the realm?' 

To whom the novice garrulously again, 
`Yea, one, a bard; of whom my father said, 
Full many a noble war-song had he sung, 
Even in the presence of an enemy's fleet, 
Between the steep cliff and the coming wave; 
And many a mystic lay of life and death 
Had chanted on the smoky mountain-tops, 
When round him bent the spirits of the hills 
With all their dewy hair blown back like flame: 
So said my father--and that night the bard 
Sang Arthur's glorious wars, and sang the King 
As wellnigh more than man, and railed at those 
Who called him the false son of Gorlos: 
For there was no man knew from whence he came; 
But after tempest, when the long wave broke 
All down the thundering shores of Bude and Bos, 
There came a day as still as heaven, and then 
They found a naked child upon the sands 
Of dark Tintagil by the Cornish sea; 
And that was Arthur; and they fostered him 
Till he by miracle was approven King: 
And that his grave should be a mystery 
From all men, like his birth; and could he find 
A woman in her womanhood as great 
As he was in his manhood, then, he sang, 
The twain together well might change the world. 
But even in the middle of his song 
He faltered, and his hand fell from the harp, 
And pale he turned, and reeled, and would have fallen, 
But that they stayed him up; nor would he tell 
His vision; but what doubt that he foresaw 
This evil work of Lancelot and the Queen?' 

Then thought the Queen, `Lo! they have set her on, 
Our simple-seeming Abbess and her nuns, 
To play upon me,' and bowed her head nor spake. 
Whereat the novice crying, with clasped hands, 
Shame on her own garrulity garrulously, 
Said the good nuns would check her gadding tongue 
Full often, `and, sweet lady, if I seem 
To vex an ear too sad to listen to me, 
Unmannerly, with prattling and the tales 
Which my good father told me, check me too 
Nor let me shame my father's memory, one 
Of noblest manners, though himself would say 
Sir Lancelot had the noblest; and he died, 
Killed in a tilt, come next, five summers back, 
And left me; but of others who remain, 
And of the two first-famed for courtesy-- 
And pray you check me if I ask amiss- 
But pray you, which had noblest, while you moved 
Among them, Lancelot or our lord the King?' 

Then the pale Queen looked up and answered her, 
`Sir Lancelot, as became a noble knight, 
Was gracious to all ladies, and the same 
In open battle or the tilting-field 
Forbore his own advantage, and the King 
In open battle or the tilting-field 
Forbore his own advantage, and these two 
Were the most nobly-mannered men of all; 
For manners are not idle, but the fruit 
Of loyal nature, and of noble mind.' 

`Yea,' said the maid, `be manners such fair fruit?' 
Then Lancelot's needs must be a thousand-fold 
Less noble, being, as all rumour runs, 
The most disloyal friend in all the world.' 

To which a mournful answer made the Queen: 
`O closed about by narrowing nunnery-walls, 
What knowest thou of the world, and all its lights 
And shadows, all the wealth and all the woe? 
If ever Lancelot, that most noble knight, 
Were for one hour less noble than himself, 
Pray for him that he scape the doom of fire, 
And weep for her that drew him to his doom.' 

`Yea,' said the little novice, `I pray for both; 
But I should all as soon believe that his, 
Sir Lancelot's, were as noble as the King's, 
As I could think, sweet lady, yours would be 
Such as they are, were you the sinful Queen.' 

So she, like many another babbler, hurt 
Whom she would soothe, and harmed where she would heal; 
For here a sudden flush of wrathful heat 
Fired all the pale face of the Queen, who cried, 
`Such as thou art be never maiden more 
For ever! thou their tool, set on to plague 
And play upon, and harry me, petty spy 
And traitress.' When that storm of anger brake 
From Guinevere, aghast the maiden rose, 
White as her veil, and stood before the Queen 
As tremulously as foam upon the beach 
Stands in a wind, ready to break and fly, 
And when the Queen had added `Get thee hence,' 
Fled frighted. Then that other left alone 
Sighed, and began to gather heart again, 
Saying in herself, `The simple, fearful child 
Meant nothing, but my own too-fearful guilt, 
Simpler than any child, betrays itself. 
But help me, heaven, for surely I repent. 
For what is true repentance but in thought-- 
Not even in inmost thought to think again 
The sins that made the past so pleasant to us: 
And I have sworn never to see him more, 
To see him more.' 

And even in saying this, 
Her memory from old habit of the mind 
Went slipping back upon the golden days 
In which she saw him first, when Lancelot came, 
Reputed the best knight and goodliest man, 
Ambassador, to lead her to his lord 
Arthur, and led her forth, and far ahead 
Of his and her retinue moving, they, 
Rapt in sweet talk or lively, all on love 
And sport and tilts and pleasure, (for the time 
Was maytime, and as yet no sin was dreamed,) 
Rode under groves that looked a paradise 
Of blossom, over sheets of hyacinth 
That seemed the heavens upbreaking through the earth, 
And on from hill to hill, and every day 
Beheld at noon in some delicious dale 
The silk pavilions of King Arthur raised 
For brief repast or afternoon repose 
By couriers gone before; and on again, 
Till yet once more ere set of sun they saw 
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship, 
That crowned the state pavilion of the King, 
Blaze by the rushing brook or silent well. 

But when the Queen immersed in such a trance, 
And moving through the past unconsciously, 
Came to that point where first she saw the King 
Ride toward her from the city, sighed to find 
Her journey done, glanced at him, thought him cold, 
High, self-contained, and passionless, not like him, 
`Not like my Lancelot'--while she brooded thus 
And grew half-guilty in her thoughts again, 
There rode an armd warrior to the doors. 
A murmuring whisper through the nunnery ran, 
Then on a sudden a cry, `The King.' She sat 
Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armd feet 
Through the long gallery from the outer doors 
Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell, 
And grovelled with her face against the floor: 
There with her milkwhite arms and shadowy hair 
She made her face a darkness from the King: 
And in the darkness heard his armd feet 
Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice, 
Monotonous and hollow like a Ghost's 
Denouncing judgment, but though changed, the King's: 

`Liest thou here so low, the child of one 
I honoured, happy, dead before thy shame? 
Well is it that no child is born of thee. 
The children born of thee are sword and fire, 
Red ruin, and the breaking up of laws, 
The craft of kindred and the Godless hosts 
Of heathen swarming o'er the Northern Sea; 
Whom I, while yet Sir Lancelot, my right arm, 
The mightiest of my knights, abode with me, 
Have everywhere about this land of Christ 
In twelve great battles ruining overthrown. 
And knowest thou now from whence I come--from him 
From waging bitter war with him: and he, 
That did not shun to smite me in worse way, 
Had yet that grace of courtesy in him left, 
He spared to lift his hand against the King 
Who made him knight: but many a knight was slain; 
And many more, and all his kith and kin 
Clave to him, and abode in his own land. 
And many more when Modred raised revolt, 
Forgetful of their troth and fealty, clave 
To Modred, and a remnant stays with me. 
And of this remnant will I leave a part, 
True men who love me still, for whom I live, 
To guard thee in the wild hour coming on, 
Lest but a hair of this low head be harmed. 
Fear not: thou shalt be guarded till my death. 
Howbeit I know, if ancient prophecies 
Have erred not, that I march to meet my doom. 
Thou hast not made my life so sweet to me, 
That I the King should greatly care to live; 
For thou hast spoilt the purpose of my life. 
Bear with me for the last time while I show, 
Even for thy sake, the sin which thou hast sinned. 
For when the Roman left us, and their law 
Relaxed its hold upon us, and the ways 
Were filled with rapine, here and there a deed 
Of prowess done redressed a random wrong. 
But I was first of all the kings who drew 
The knighthood-errant of this realm and all 
The realms together under me, their Head, 
In that fair Order of my Table Round, 
A glorious company, the flower of men, 
To serve as model for the mighty world, 
And be the fair beginning of a time. 
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear 
To reverence the King, as if he were 
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King, 
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ, 
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs, 
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it, 
To honour his own word as if his God's, 
To lead sweet lives in purest chastity, 
To love one maiden only, cleave to her, 
And worship her by years of noble deeds, 
Until they won her; for indeed I knew 
Of no more subtle master under heaven 
Than is the maiden passion for a maid, 
Not only to keep down the base in man, 
But teach high thought, and amiable words 
And courtliness, and the desire of fame, 
And love of truth, and all that makes a man. 
And all this throve before I wedded thee, 
Believing, "lo mine helpmate, one to feel 
My purpose and rejoicing in my joy." 
Then came thy shameful sin with Lancelot; 
Then came the sin of Tristram and Isolt; 
Then others, following these my mightiest knights, 
And drawing foul ensample from fair names, 
Sinned also, till the loathsome opposite 
Of all my heart had destined did obtain, 
And all through thee! so that this life of mine 
I guard as God's high gift from scathe and wrong, 
Not greatly care to lose; but rather think 
How sad it were for Arthur, should he live, 
To sit once more within his lonely hall, 
And miss the wonted number of my knights, 
And miss to hear high talk of noble deeds 
As in the golden days before thy sin. 
For which of us, who might be left, could speak 
Of the pure heart, nor seem to glance at thee? 
And in thy bowers of Camelot or of Usk 
Thy shadow still would glide from room to room, 
And I should evermore be vext with thee 
In hanging robe or vacant ornament, 
Or ghostly footfall echoing on the stair. 
For think not, though thou wouldst not love thy lord, 
Thy lord hast wholly lost his love for thee. 
I am not made of so slight elements. 
Yet must I leave thee, woman, to thy shame. 
I hold that man the worst of public foes 
Who either for his own or children's sake, 
To save his blood from scandal, lets the wife 
Whom he knows false, abide and rule the house: 
For being through his cowardice allowed 
Her station, taken everywhere for pure, 
She like a new disease, unknown to men, 
Creeps, no precaution used, among the crowd, 
Makes wicked lightnings of her eyes, and saps 
The fealty of our friends, and stirs the pulse 
With devil's leaps, and poisons half the young. 
Worst of the worst were that man he that reigns! 
Better the King's waste hearth and aching heart 
Than thou reseated in thy place of light, 
The mockery of my people, and their bane.' 

He paused, and in the pause she crept an inch 
Nearer, and laid her hands about his feet. 
Far off a solitary trumpet blew. 
Then waiting by the doors the warhorse neighed 
At a friend's voice, and he spake again: 

`Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes, 
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere, 
I, whose vast pity almost makes me die 
To see thee, laying there thy golden head, 
My pride in happier summers, at my feet. 
The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce law, 
The doom of treason and the flaming death, 
(When first I learnt thee hidden here) is past. 
The pang--which while I weighed thy heart with one 
Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee, 
Made my tears burn--is also past--in part. 
And all is past, the sin is sinned, and I, 
Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God 
Forgives: do thou for thine own soul the rest. 
But how to take last leave of all I loved? 
O golden hair, with which I used to play 
Not knowing! O imperial-moulded form, 
And beauty such as never woman wore, 
Until it became a kingdom's curse with thee-- 
I cannot touch thy lips, they are not mine, 
But Lancelot's: nay, they never were the King's. 
I cannot take thy hand: that too is flesh, 
And in the flesh thou hast sinned; and mine own flesh, 
Here looking down on thine polluted, cries 
"I loathe thee:" yet not less, O Guinevere, 
For I was ever virgin save for thee, 
My love through flesh hath wrought into my life 
So far, that my doom is, I love thee still. 
Let no man dream but that I love thee still. 
Perchance, and so thou purify thy soul, 
And so thou lean on our fair father Christ, 
Hereafter in that world where all are pure 
We two may meet before high God, and thou 
Wilt spring to me, and claim me thine, and know 
I am thine husband--not a smaller soul, 
Nor Lancelot, nor another. Leave me that, 
I charge thee, my last hope. Now must I hence. 
Through the thick night I hear the trumpet blow: 
They summon me their King to lead mine hosts 
Far down to that great battle in the west, 
Where I must strike against the man they call 
My sister's son--no kin of mine, who leagues 
With Lords of the White Horse, heathen, and knights, 
Traitors--and strike him dead, and meet myself 
Death, or I know not what mysterious doom. 
And thou remaining here wilt learn the event; 
But hither shall I never come again, 
Never lie by thy side; see thee no more-- 
Farewell!' 

And while she grovelled at his feet, 
She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck, 
And in the darkness o'er her fallen head, 
Perceived the waving of his hands that blest. 

Then, listening till those armd steps were gone, 
Rose the pale Queen, and in her anguish found 
The casement: `peradventure,' so she thought, 
`If I might see his face, and not be seen.' 
And lo, he sat on horseback at the door! 
And near him the sad nuns with each a light 
Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen, 
To guard and foster her for evermore. 
And while he spake to these his helm was lowered, 
To which for crest the golden dragon clung 
Of Britain; so she did not see the face, 
Which then was as an angel's, but she saw, 
Wet with the mists and smitten by the lights, 
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship 
Blaze, making all the night a steam of fire. 
And even then he turned; and more and more 
The moony vapour rolling round the King, 
Who seemed the phantom of a Giant in it, 
Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray 
And grayer, till himself became as mist 
Before her, moving ghostlike to his doom. 

Then she stretched out her arms and cried aloud 
`Oh Arthur!' there her voice brake suddenly, 
Then--as a stream that spouting from a cliff 
Fails in mid air, but gathering at the base 
Re-makes itself, and flashes down the vale-- 
Went on in passionate utterance: 

`Gone--my lord! 
Gone through my sin to slay and to be slain! 
And he forgave me, and I could not speak. 
Farewell? I should have answered his farewell. 
His mercy choked me. Gone, my lord the King, 
My own true lord! how dare I call him mine? 
The shadow of another cleaves to me, 
And makes me one pollution: he, the King, 
Called me polluted: shall I kill myself? 
What help in that? I cannot kill my sin, 
If soul be soul; nor can I kill my shame; 
No, nor by living can I live it down. 
The days will grow to weeks, the weeks to months 
The months will add themselves and make the years, 
The years will roll into the centuries, 
And mine will ever be a name of scorn. 
I must not dwell on that defeat of fame. 
Let the world be; that is but of the world. 
What else? what hope? I think there was a hope, 
Except he mocked me when he spake of hope; 
His hope he called it; but he never mocks, 
For mockery is the fume of little hearts. 
And blessd be the King, who hath forgiven 
My wickedness to him, and left me hope 
That in mine own heart I can live down sin 
And be his mate hereafter in the heavens 
Before high God. Ah great and gentle lord, 
Who wast, as is the conscience of a saint 
Among his warring senses, to thy knights-- 
To whom my false voluptuous pride, that took 
Full easily all impressions from below, 
Would not look up, or half-despised the height 
To which I would not or I could not climb-- 
I thought I could not breathe in that fine air 
That pure severity of perfect light-- 
I yearned for warmth and colour which I found 
In Lancelot--now I see thee what thou art, 
Thou art the highest and most human too, 
Not Lancelot, nor another. Is there none 
Will tell the King I love him though so late? 
Now--ere he goes to the great Battle? none: 
Myself must tell him in that purer life, 
But now it were too daring. Ah my God, 
What might I not have made of thy fair world, 
Had I but loved thy highest creature here? 
It was my duty to have loved the highest: 
It surely was my profit had I known: 
It would have been my pleasure had I seen. 
We needs must love the highest when we see it, 
Not Lancelot, nor another.' 

Here her hand 
Grasped, made her vail her eyes: she looked and saw 
The novice, weeping, suppliant, and said to her, 
`Yea, little maid, for am I not forgiven?' 
Then glancing up beheld the holy nuns 
All round her, weeping; and her heart was loosed 
Within her, and she wept with these and said, 

`Ye know me then, that wicked one, who broke 
The vast design and purpose of the King. 
O shut me round with narrowing nunnery-walls, 
Meek maidens, from the voices crying "shame." 
I must not scorn myself: he loves me still. 
Let no one dream but that he loves me still. 
So let me, if you do not shudder at me, 
Nor shun to call me sister, dwell with you; 
Wear black and white, and be a nun like you, 
Fast with your fasts, not feasting with your feasts; 
Grieve with your griefs, not grieving at your joys, 
But not rejoicing; mingle with your rites; 
Pray and be prayed for; lie before your shrines; 
Do each low office of your holy house; 
Walk your dim cloister, and distribute dole 
To poor sick people, richer in His eyes 
Who ransomed us, and haler too than I; 
And treat their loathsome hurts and heal mine own; 
And so wear out in almsdeed and in prayer 
The sombre close of that voluptuous day, 
Which wrought the ruin of my lord the King.' 

She said: they took her to themselves; and she 
Still hoping, fearing `is it yet too late?' 
Dwelt with them, till in time their Abbess died. 
Then she, for her good deeds and her pure life, 
And for the power of ministration in her, 
And likewise for the high rank she had borne, 
Was chosen Abbess, there, an Abbess, lived 
For three brief years, and there, an Abbess, past 
To where beyond these voices there is peace.


by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

The Holy Grail

 From noiseful arms, and acts of prowess done 
In tournament or tilt, Sir Percivale, 
Whom Arthur and his knighthood called The Pure, 
Had passed into the silent life of prayer, 
Praise, fast, and alms; and leaving for the cowl 
The helmet in an abbey far away 
From Camelot, there, and not long after, died. 

And one, a fellow-monk among the rest, 
Ambrosius, loved him much beyond the rest, 
And honoured him, and wrought into his heart 
A way by love that wakened love within, 
To answer that which came: and as they sat 
Beneath a world-old yew-tree, darkening half 
The cloisters, on a gustful April morn 
That puffed the swaying branches into smoke 
Above them, ere the summer when he died 
The monk Ambrosius questioned Percivale: 

`O brother, I have seen this yew-tree smoke, 
Spring after spring, for half a hundred years: 
For never have I known the world without, 
Nor ever strayed beyond the pale: but thee, 
When first thou camest--such a courtesy 
Spake through the limbs and in the voice--I knew 
For one of those who eat in Arthur's hall; 
For good ye are and bad, and like to coins, 
Some true, some light, but every one of you 
Stamped with the image of the King; and now 
Tell me, what drove thee from the Table Round, 
My brother? was it earthly passion crost?' 

`Nay,' said the knight; `for no such passion mine. 
But the sweet vision of the Holy Grail 
Drove me from all vainglories, rivalries, 
And earthly heats that spring and sparkle out 
Among us in the jousts, while women watch 
Who wins, who falls; and waste the spiritual strength 
Within us, better offered up to Heaven.' 

To whom the monk: `The Holy Grail!--I trust 
We are green in Heaven's eyes; but here too much 
We moulder--as to things without I mean-- 
Yet one of your own knights, a guest of ours, 
Told us of this in our refectory, 
But spake with such a sadness and so low 
We heard not half of what he said. What is it? 
The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?' 

`Nay, monk! what phantom?' answered Percivale. 
`The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord 
Drank at the last sad supper with his own. 
This, from the blessd land of Aromat-- 
After the day of darkness, when the dead 
Went wandering o'er Moriah--the good saint 
Arimathan Joseph, journeying brought 
To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn 
Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord. 
And there awhile it bode; and if a man 
Could touch or see it, he was healed at once, 
By faith, of all his ills. But then the times 
Grew to such evil that the holy cup 
Was caught away to Heaven, and disappeared.' 

To whom the monk: `From our old books I know 
That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury, 
And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus, 
Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build; 
And there he built with wattles from the marsh 
A little lonely church in days of yore, 
For so they say, these books of ours, but seem 
Mute of this miracle, far as I have read. 
But who first saw the holy thing today?' 

`A woman,' answered Percivale, `a nun, 
And one no further off in blood from me 
Than sister; and if ever holy maid 
With knees of adoration wore the stone, 
A holy maid; though never maiden glowed, 
But that was in her earlier maidenhood, 
With such a fervent flame of human love, 
Which being rudely blunted, glanced and shot 
Only to holy things; to prayer and praise 
She gave herself, to fast and alms. And yet, 
Nun as she was, the scandal of the Court, 
Sin against Arthur and the Table Round, 
And the strange sound of an adulterous race, 
Across the iron grating of her cell 
Beat, and she prayed and fasted all the more. 

`And he to whom she told her sins, or what 
Her all but utter whiteness held for sin, 
A man wellnigh a hundred winters old, 
Spake often with her of the Holy Grail, 
A legend handed down through five or six, 
And each of these a hundred winters old, 
From our Lord's time. And when King Arthur made 
His Table Round, and all men's hearts became 
Clean for a season, surely he had thought 
That now the Holy Grail would come again; 
But sin broke out. Ah, Christ, that it would come, 
And heal the world of all their wickedness! 
"O Father!" asked the maiden, "might it come 
To me by prayer and fasting?" "Nay," said he, 
"I know not, for thy heart is pure as snow." 
And so she prayed and fasted, till the sun 
Shone, and the wind blew, through her, and I thought 
She might have risen and floated when I saw her. 

`For on a day she sent to speak with me. 
And when she came to speak, behold her eyes 
Beyond my knowing of them, beautiful, 
Beyond all knowing of them, wonderful, 
Beautiful in the light of holiness. 
And "O my brother Percivale," she said, 
"Sweet brother, I have seen the Holy Grail: 
For, waked at dead of night, I heard a sound 
As of a silver horn from o'er the hills 
Blown, and I thought, `It is not Arthur's use 
To hunt by moonlight;' and the slender sound 
As from a distance beyond distance grew 
Coming upon me--O never harp nor horn, 
Nor aught we blow with breath, or touch with hand, 
Was like that music as it came; and then 
Streamed through my cell a cold and silver beam, 
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail, 
Rose-red with beatings in it, as if alive, 
Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed 
With rosy colours leaping on the wall; 
And then the music faded, and the Grail 
Past, and the beam decayed, and from the walls 
The rosy quiverings died into the night. 
So now the Holy Thing is here again 
Among us, brother, fast thou too and pray, 
And tell thy brother knights to fast and pray, 
That so perchance the vision may be seen 
By thee and those, and all the world be healed." 

`Then leaving the pale nun, I spake of this 
To all men; and myself fasted and prayed 
Always, and many among us many a week 
Fasted and prayed even to the uttermost, 
Expectant of the wonder that would be. 

`And one there was among us, ever moved 
Among us in white armour, Galahad. 
"God make thee good as thou art beautiful," 
Said Arthur, when he dubbed him knight; and none, 
In so young youth, was ever made a knight 
Till Galahad; and this Galahad, when he heard 
My sister's vision, filled me with amaze; 
His eyes became so like her own, they seemed 
Hers, and himself her brother more than I. 

`Sister or brother none had he; but some 
Called him a son of Lancelot, and some said 
Begotten by enchantment--chatterers they, 
Like birds of passage piping up and down, 
That gape for flies--we know not whence they come; 
For when was Lancelot wanderingly lewd? 

`But she, the wan sweet maiden, shore away 
Clean from her forehead all that wealth of hair 
Which made a silken mat-work for her feet; 
And out of this she plaited broad and long 
A strong sword-belt, and wove with silver thread 
And crimson in the belt a strange device, 
A crimson grail within a silver beam; 
And saw the bright boy-knight, and bound it on him, 
Saying, "My knight, my love, my knight of heaven, 
O thou, my love, whose love is one with mine, 
I, maiden, round thee, maiden, bind my belt. 
Go forth, for thou shalt see what I have seen, 
And break through all, till one will crown thee king 
Far in the spiritual city:" and as she spake 
She sent the deathless passion in her eyes 
Through him, and made him hers, and laid her mind 
On him, and he believed in her belief. 

`Then came a year of miracle: O brother, 
In our great hall there stood a vacant chair, 
Fashioned by Merlin ere he past away, 
And carven with strange figures; and in and out 
The figures, like a serpent, ran a scroll 
Of letters in a tongue no man could read. 
And Merlin called it "The Siege perilous," 
Perilous for good and ill; "for there," he said, 
"No man could sit but he should lose himself:" 
And once by misadvertence Merlin sat 
In his own chair, and so was lost; but he, 
Galahad, when he heard of Merlin's doom, 
Cried, "If I lose myself, I save myself!" 

`Then on a summer night it came to pass, 
While the great banquet lay along the hall, 
That Galahad would sit down in Merlin's chair. 

`And all at once, as there we sat, we heard 
A cracking and a riving of the roofs, 
And rending, and a blast, and overhead 
Thunder, and in the thunder was a cry. 
And in the blast there smote along the hall 
A beam of light seven times more clear than day: 
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail 
All over covered with a luminous cloud. 
And none might see who bare it, and it past. 
But every knight beheld his fellow's face 
As in a glory, and all the knights arose, 
And staring each at other like dumb men 
Stood, till I found a voice and sware a vow. 

`I sware a vow before them all, that I, 
Because I had not seen the Grail, would ride 
A twelvemonth and a day in quest of it, 
Until I found and saw it, as the nun 
My sister saw it; and Galahad sware the vow, 
And good Sir Bors, our Lancelot's cousin, sware, 
And Lancelot sware, and many among the knights, 
And Gawain sware, and louder than the rest.' 

Then spake the monk Ambrosius, asking him, 
`What said the King? Did Arthur take the vow?' 

`Nay, for my lord,' said Percivale, `the King, 
Was not in hall: for early that same day, 
Scaped through a cavern from a bandit hold, 
An outraged maiden sprang into the hall 
Crying on help: for all her shining hair 
Was smeared with earth, and either milky arm 
Red-rent with hooks of bramble, and all she wore 
Torn as a sail that leaves the rope is torn 
In tempest: so the King arose and went 
To smoke the scandalous hive of those wild bees 
That made such honey in his realm. Howbeit 
Some little of this marvel he too saw, 
Returning o'er the plain that then began 
To darken under Camelot; whence the King 
Looked up, calling aloud, "Lo, there! the roofs 
Of our great hall are rolled in thunder-smoke! 
Pray Heaven, they be not smitten by the bolt." 
For dear to Arthur was that hall of ours, 
As having there so oft with all his knights 
Feasted, and as the stateliest under heaven. 

`O brother, had you known our mighty hall, 
Which Merlin built for Arthur long ago! 
For all the sacred mount of Camelot, 
And all the dim rich city, roof by roof, 
Tower after tower, spire beyond spire, 
By grove, and garden-lawn, and rushing brook, 
Climbs to the mighty hall that Merlin built. 
And four great zones of sculpture, set betwixt 
With many a mystic symbol, gird the hall: 
And in the lowest beasts are slaying men, 
And in the second men are slaying beasts, 
And on the third are warriors, perfect men, 
And on the fourth are men with growing wings, 
And over all one statue in the mould 
Of Arthur, made by Merlin, with a crown, 
And peaked wings pointed to the Northern Star. 
And eastward fronts the statue, and the crown 
And both the wings are made of gold, and flame 
At sunrise till the people in far fields, 
Wasted so often by the heathen hordes, 
Behold it, crying, "We have still a King." 

`And, brother, had you known our hall within, 
Broader and higher than any in all the lands! 
Where twelve great windows blazon Arthur's wars, 
And all the light that falls upon the board 
Streams through the twelve great battles of our King. 
Nay, one there is, and at the eastern end, 
Wealthy with wandering lines of mount and mere, 
Where Arthur finds the brand Excalibur. 
And also one to the west, and counter to it, 
And blank: and who shall blazon it? when and how?-- 
O there, perchance, when all our wars are done, 
The brand Excalibur will be cast away. 

`So to this hall full quickly rode the King, 
In horror lest the work by Merlin wrought, 
Dreamlike, should on the sudden vanish, wrapt 
In unremorseful folds of rolling fire. 
And in he rode, and up I glanced, and saw 
The golden dragon sparkling over all: 
And many of those who burnt the hold, their arms 
Hacked, and their foreheads grimed with smoke, and seared, 
Followed, and in among bright faces, ours, 
Full of the vision, prest: and then the King 
Spake to me, being nearest, "Percivale," 
(Because the hall was all in tumult--some 
Vowing, and some protesting), "what is this?" 

`O brother, when I told him what had chanced, 
My sister's vision, and the rest, his face 
Darkened, as I have seen it more than once, 
When some brave deed seemed to be done in vain, 
Darken; and "Woe is me, my knights," he cried, 
"Had I been here, ye had not sworn the vow." 
Bold was mine answer, "Had thyself been here, 
My King, thou wouldst have sworn." "Yea, yea," said he, 
"Art thou so bold and hast not seen the Grail?" 

`"Nay, lord, I heard the sound, I saw the light, 
But since I did not see the Holy Thing, 
I sware a vow to follow it till I saw." 

`Then when he asked us, knight by knight, if any 
Had seen it, all their answers were as one: 
"Nay, lord, and therefore have we sworn our vows." 

`"Lo now," said Arthur, "have ye seen a cloud? 
What go ye into the wilderness to see?" 

`Then Galahad on the sudden, and in a voice 
Shrilling along the hall to Arthur, called, 
"But I, Sir Arthur, saw the Holy Grail, 
I saw the Holy Grail and heard a cry-- 
`O Galahad, and O Galahad, follow me.'" 

`"Ah, Galahad, Galahad," said the King, "for such 
As thou art is the vision, not for these. 
Thy holy nun and thou have seen a sign-- 
Holier is none, my Percivale, than she-- 
A sign to maim this Order which I made. 
But ye, that follow but the leader's bell" 
(Brother, the King was hard upon his knights) 
"Taliessin is our fullest throat of song, 
And one hath sung and all the dumb will sing. 
Lancelot is Lancelot, and hath overborne 
Five knights at once, and every younger knight, 
Unproven, holds himself as Lancelot, 
Till overborne by one, he learns--and ye, 
What are ye? Galahads?--no, nor Percivales" 
(For thus it pleased the King to range me close 
After Sir Galahad); "nay," said he, "but men 
With strength and will to right the wronged, of power 
To lay the sudden heads of violence flat, 
Knights that in twelve great battles splashed and dyed 
The strong White Horse in his own heathen blood-- 
But one hath seen, and all the blind will see. 
Go, since your vows are sacred, being made: 
Yet--for ye know the cries of all my realm 
Pass through this hall--how often, O my knights, 
Your places being vacant at my side, 
This chance of noble deeds will come and go 
Unchallenged, while ye follow wandering fires 
Lost in the quagmire! Many of you, yea most, 
Return no more: ye think I show myself 
Too dark a prophet: come now, let us meet 
The morrow morn once more in one full field 
Of gracious pastime, that once more the King, 
Before ye leave him for this Quest, may count 
The yet-unbroken strength of all his knights, 
Rejoicing in that Order which he made." 

`So when the sun broke next from under ground, 
All the great table of our Arthur closed 
And clashed in such a tourney and so full, 
So many lances broken--never yet 
Had Camelot seen the like, since Arthur came; 
And I myself and Galahad, for a strength 
Was in us from this vision, overthrew 
So many knights that all the people cried, 
And almost burst the barriers in their heat, 
Shouting, "Sir Galahad and Sir Percivale!" 

`But when the next day brake from under ground-- 
O brother, had you known our Camelot, 
Built by old kings, age after age, so old 
The King himself had fears that it would fall, 
So strange, and rich, and dim; for where the roofs 
Tottered toward each other in the sky, 
Met foreheads all along the street of those 
Who watched us pass; and lower, and where the long 
Rich galleries, lady-laden, weighed the necks 
Of dragons clinging to the crazy walls, 
Thicker than drops from thunder, showers of flowers 
Fell as we past; and men and boys astride 
On wyvern, lion, dragon, griffin, swan, 
At all the corners, named us each by name, 
Calling, "God speed!" but in the ways below 
The knights and ladies wept, and rich and poor 
Wept, and the King himself could hardly speak 
For grief, and all in middle street the Queen, 
Who rode by Lancelot, wailed and shrieked aloud, 
"This madness has come on us for our sins." 
So to the Gate of the three Queens we came, 
Where Arthur's wars are rendered mystically, 
And thence departed every one his way. 

`And I was lifted up in heart, and thought 
Of all my late-shown prowess in the lists, 
How my strong lance had beaten down the knights, 
So many and famous names; and never yet 
Had heaven appeared so blue, nor earth so green, 
For all my blood danced in me, and I knew 
That I should light upon the Holy Grail. 

`Thereafter, the dark warning of our King, 
That most of us would follow wandering fires, 
Came like a driving gloom across my mind. 
Then every evil word I had spoken once, 
And every evil thought I had thought of old, 
And every evil deed I ever did, 
Awoke and cried, "This Quest is not for thee." 
And lifting up mine eyes, I found myself 
Alone, and in a land of sand and thorns, 
And I was thirsty even unto death; 
And I, too, cried, "This Quest is not for thee." 

`And on I rode, and when I thought my thirst 
Would slay me, saw deep lawns, and then a brook, 
With one sharp rapid, where the crisping white 
Played ever back upon the sloping wave, 
And took both ear and eye; and o'er the brook 
Were apple-trees, and apples by the brook 
Fallen, and on the lawns. "I will rest here," 
I said, "I am not worthy of the Quest;" 
But even while I drank the brook, and ate 
The goodly apples, all these things at once 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone, 
And thirsting, in a land of sand and thorns. 

`And then behold a woman at a door 
Spinning; and fair the house whereby she sat, 
And kind the woman's eyes and innocent, 
And all her bearing gracious; and she rose 
Opening her arms to meet me, as who should say, 
"Rest here;" but when I touched her, lo! she, too, 
Fell into dust and nothing, and the house 
Became no better than a broken shed, 
And in it a dead babe; and also this 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone. 

`And on I rode, and greater was my thirst. 
Then flashed a yellow gleam across the world, 
And where it smote the plowshare in the field, 
The plowman left his plowing, and fell down 
Before it; where it glittered on her pail, 
The milkmaid left her milking, and fell down 
Before it, and I knew not why, but thought 
"The sun is rising," though the sun had risen. 
Then was I ware of one that on me moved 
In golden armour with a crown of gold 
About a casque all jewels; and his horse 
In golden armour jewelled everywhere: 
And on the splendour came, flashing me blind; 
And seemed to me the Lord of all the world, 
Being so huge. But when I thought he meant 
To crush me, moving on me, lo! he, too, 
Opened his arms to embrace me as he came, 
And up I went and touched him, and he, too, 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone 
And wearying in a land of sand and thorns. 

`And I rode on and found a mighty hill, 
And on the top, a city walled: the spires 
Pricked with incredible pinnacles into heaven. 
And by the gateway stirred a crowd; and these 
Cried to me climbing, "Welcome, Percivale! 
Thou mightiest and thou purest among men!" 
And glad was I and clomb, but found at top 
No man, nor any voice. And thence I past 
Far through a ruinous city, and I saw 
That man had once dwelt there; but there I found 
Only one man of an exceeding age. 
"Where is that goodly company," said I, 
"That so cried out upon me?" and he had 
Scarce any voice to answer, and yet gasped, 
"Whence and what art thou?" and even as he spoke 
Fell into dust, and disappeared, and I 
Was left alone once more, and cried in grief, 
"Lo, if I find the Holy Grail itself 
And touch it, it will crumble into dust." 

`And thence I dropt into a lowly vale, 
Low as the hill was high, and where the vale 
Was lowest, found a chapel, and thereby 
A holy hermit in a hermitage, 
To whom I told my phantoms, and he said: 

`"O son, thou hast not true humility, 
The highest virtue, mother of them all; 
For when the Lord of all things made Himself 
Naked of glory for His mortal change, 
`Take thou my robe,' she said, `for all is thine,' 
And all her form shone forth with sudden light 
So that the angels were amazed, and she 
Followed Him down, and like a flying star 
Led on the gray-haired wisdom of the east; 
But her thou hast not known: for what is this 
Thou thoughtest of thy prowess and thy sins? 
Thou hast not lost thyself to save thyself 
As Galahad." When the hermit made an end, 
In silver armour suddenly Galahad shone 
Before us, and against the chapel door 
Laid lance, and entered, and we knelt in prayer. 
And there the hermit slaked my burning thirst, 
And at the sacring of the mass I saw 
The holy elements alone; but he, 
"Saw ye no more? I, Galahad, saw the Grail, 
The Holy Grail, descend upon the shrine: 
I saw the fiery face as of a child 
That smote itself into the bread, and went; 
And hither am I come; and never yet 
Hath what thy sister taught me first to see, 
This Holy Thing, failed from my side, nor come 
Covered, but moving with me night and day, 
Fainter by day, but always in the night 
Blood-red, and sliding down the blackened marsh 
Blood-red, and on the naked mountain top 
Blood-red, and in the sleeping mere below 
Blood-red. And in the strength of this I rode, 
Shattering all evil customs everywhere, 
And past through Pagan realms, and made them mine, 
And clashed with Pagan hordes, and bore them down, 
And broke through all, and in the strength of this 
Come victor. But my time is hard at hand, 
And hence I go; and one will crown me king 
Far in the spiritual city; and come thou, too, 
For thou shalt see the vision when I go." 

`While thus he spake, his eye, dwelling on mine, 
Drew me, with power upon me, till I grew 
One with him, to believe as he believed. 
Then, when the day began to wane, we went. 

`There rose a hill that none but man could climb, 
Scarred with a hundred wintry water-courses-- 
Storm at the top, and when we gained it, storm 
Round us and death; for every moment glanced 
His silver arms and gloomed: so quick and thick 
The lightnings here and there to left and right 
Struck, till the dry old trunks about us, dead, 
Yea, rotten with a hundred years of death, 
Sprang into fire: and at the base we found 
On either hand, as far as eye could see, 
A great black swamp and of an evil smell, 
Part black, part whitened with the bones of men, 
Not to be crost, save that some ancient king 
Had built a way, where, linked with many a bridge, 
A thousand piers ran into the great Sea. 
And Galahad fled along them bridge by bridge, 
And every bridge as quickly as he crost 
Sprang into fire and vanished, though I yearned 
To follow; and thrice above him all the heavens 
Opened and blazed with thunder such as seemed 
Shoutings of all the sons of God: and first 
At once I saw him far on the great Sea, 
In silver-shining armour starry-clear; 
And o'er his head the Holy Vessel hung 
Clothed in white samite or a luminous cloud. 
And with exceeding swiftness ran the boat, 
If boat it were--I saw not whence it came. 
And when the heavens opened and blazed again 
Roaring, I saw him like a silver star-- 
And had he set the sail, or had the boat 
Become a living creature clad with wings? 
And o'er his head the Holy Vessel hung 
Redder than any rose, a joy to me, 
For now I knew the veil had been withdrawn. 
Then in a moment when they blazed again 
Opening, I saw the least of little stars 
Down on the waste, and straight beyond the star 
I saw the spiritual city and all her spires 
And gateways in a glory like one pearl-- 
No larger, though the goal of all the saints-- 
Strike from the sea; and from the star there shot 
A rose-red sparkle to the city, and there 
Dwelt, and I knew it was the Holy Grail, 
Which never eyes on earth again shall see. 
Then fell the floods of heaven drowning the deep. 
And how my feet recrost the deathful ridge 
No memory in me lives; but that I touched 
The chapel-doors at dawn I know; and thence 
Taking my war-horse from the holy man, 
Glad that no phantom vext me more, returned 
To whence I came, the gate of Arthur's wars.' 

`O brother,' asked Ambrosius,--`for in sooth 
These ancient books--and they would win thee--teem, 
Only I find not there this Holy Grail, 
With miracles and marvels like to these, 
Not all unlike; which oftentime I read, 
Who read but on my breviary with ease, 
Till my head swims; and then go forth and pass 
Down to the little thorpe that lies so close, 
And almost plastered like a martin's nest 
To these old walls--and mingle with our folk; 
And knowing every honest face of theirs 
As well as ever shepherd knew his sheep, 
And every homely secret in their hearts, 
Delight myself with gossip and old wives, 
And ills and aches, and teethings, lyings-in, 
And mirthful sayings, children of the place, 
That have no meaning half a league away: 
Or lulling random squabbles when they rise, 
Chafferings and chatterings at the market-cross, 
Rejoice, small man, in this small world of mine, 
Yea, even in their hens and in their eggs-- 
O brother, saving this Sir Galahad, 
Came ye on none but phantoms in your quest, 
No man, no woman?' 

Then Sir Percivale: 
`All men, to one so bound by such a vow, 
And women were as phantoms. O, my brother, 
Why wilt thou shame me to confess to thee 
How far I faltered from my quest and vow? 
For after I had lain so many nights 
A bedmate of the snail and eft and snake, 
In grass and burdock, I was changed to wan 
And meagre, and the vision had not come; 
And then I chanced upon a goodly town 
With one great dwelling in the middle of it; 
Thither I made, and there was I disarmed 
By maidens each as fair as any flower: 
But when they led me into hall, behold, 
The Princess of that castle was the one, 
Brother, and that one only, who had ever 
Made my heart leap; for when I moved of old 
A slender page about her father's hall, 
And she a slender maiden, all my heart 
Went after her with longing: yet we twain 
Had never kissed a kiss, or vowed a vow. 
And now I came upon her once again, 
And one had wedded her, and he was dead, 
And all his land and wealth and state were hers. 
And while I tarried, every day she set 
A banquet richer than the day before 
By me; for all her longing and her will 
Was toward me as of old; till one fair morn, 
I walking to and fro beside a stream 
That flashed across her orchard underneath 
Her castle-walls, she stole upon my walk, 
And calling me the greatest of all knights, 
Embraced me, and so kissed me the first time, 
And gave herself and all her wealth to me. 
Then I remembered Arthur's warning word, 
That most of us would follow wandering fires, 
And the Quest faded in my heart. Anon, 
The heads of all her people drew to me, 
With supplication both of knees and tongue: 
"We have heard of thee: thou art our greatest knight, 
Our Lady says it, and we well believe: 
Wed thou our Lady, and rule over us, 
And thou shalt be as Arthur in our land." 
O me, my brother! but one night my vow 
Burnt me within, so that I rose and fled, 
But wailed and wept, and hated mine own self, 
And even the Holy Quest, and all but her; 
Then after I was joined with Galahad 
Cared not for her, nor anything upon earth.' 

Then said the monk, `Poor men, when yule is cold, 
Must be content to sit by little fires. 
And this am I, so that ye care for me 
Ever so little; yea, and blest be Heaven 
That brought thee here to this poor house of ours 
Where all the brethren are so hard, to warm 
My cold heart with a friend: but O the pity 
To find thine own first love once more--to hold, 
Hold her a wealthy bride within thine arms, 
Or all but hold, and then--cast her aside, 
Foregoing all her sweetness, like a weed. 
For we that want the warmth of double life, 
We that are plagued with dreams of something sweet 
Beyond all sweetness in a life so rich,-- 
Ah, blessd Lord, I speak too earthlywise, 
Seeing I never strayed beyond the cell, 
But live like an old badger in his earth, 
With earth about him everywhere, despite 
All fast and penance. Saw ye none beside, 
None of your knights?' 

`Yea so,' said Percivale: 
`One night my pathway swerving east, I saw 
The pelican on the casque of our Sir Bors 
All in the middle of the rising moon: 
And toward him spurred, and hailed him, and he me, 
And each made joy of either; then he asked, 
"Where is he? hast thou seen him--Lancelot?--Once," 
Said good Sir Bors, "he dashed across me--mad, 
And maddening what he rode: and when I cried, 
`Ridest thou then so hotly on a quest 
So holy,' Lancelot shouted, `Stay me not! 
I have been the sluggard, and I ride apace, 
For now there is a lion in the way.' 
So vanished." 

`Then Sir Bors had ridden on 
Softly, and sorrowing for our Lancelot, 
Because his former madness, once the talk 
And scandal of our table, had returned; 
For Lancelot's kith and kin so worship him 
That ill to him is ill to them; to Bors 
Beyond the rest: he well had been content 
Not to have seen, so Lancelot might have seen, 
The Holy Cup of healing; and, indeed, 
Being so clouded with his grief and love, 
Small heart was his after the Holy Quest: 
If God would send the vision, well: if not, 
The Quest and he were in the hands of Heaven. 

`And then, with small adventure met, Sir Bors 
Rode to the lonest tract of all the realm, 
And found a people there among their crags, 
Our race and blood, a remnant that were left 
Paynim amid their circles, and the stones 
They pitch up straight to heaven: and their wise men 
Were strong in that old magic which can trace 
The wandering of the stars, and scoffed at him 
And this high Quest as at a simple thing: 
Told him he followed--almost Arthur's words-- 
A mocking fire: "what other fire than he, 
Whereby the blood beats, and the blossom blows, 
And the sea rolls, and all the world is warmed?" 
And when his answer chafed them, the rough crowd, 
Hearing he had a difference with their priests, 
Seized him, and bound and plunged him into a cell 
Of great piled stones; and lying bounden there 
In darkness through innumerable hours 
He heard the hollow-ringing heavens sweep 
Over him till by miracle--what else?-- 
Heavy as it was, a great stone slipt and fell, 
Such as no wind could move: and through the gap 
Glimmered the streaming scud: then came a night 
Still as the day was loud; and through the gap 
The seven clear stars of Arthur's Table Round-- 
For, brother, so one night, because they roll 
Through such a round in heaven, we named the stars, 
Rejoicing in ourselves and in our King-- 
And these, like bright eyes of familiar friends, 
In on him shone: "And then to me, to me," 
Said good Sir Bors, "beyond all hopes of mine, 
Who scarce had prayed or asked it for myself-- 
Across the seven clear stars--O grace to me-- 
In colour like the fingers of a hand 
Before a burning taper, the sweet Grail 
Glided and past, and close upon it pealed 
A sharp quick thunder." Afterwards, a maid, 
Who kept our holy faith among her kin 
In secret, entering, loosed and let him go.' 

To whom the monk: `And I remember now 
That pelican on the casque: Sir Bors it was 
Who spake so low and sadly at our board; 
And mighty reverent at our grace was he: 
A square-set man and honest; and his eyes, 
An out-door sign of all the warmth within, 
Smiled with his lips--a smile beneath a cloud, 
But heaven had meant it for a sunny one: 
Ay, ay, Sir Bors, who else? But when ye reached 
The city, found ye all your knights returned, 
Or was there sooth in Arthur's prophecy, 
Tell me, and what said each, and what the King?' 

Then answered Percivale: `And that can I, 
Brother, and truly; since the living words 
Of so great men as Lancelot and our King 
Pass not from door to door and out again, 
But sit within the house. O, when we reached 
The city, our horses stumbling as they trode 
On heaps of ruin, hornless unicorns, 
Cracked basilisks, and splintered cockatrices, 
And shattered talbots, which had left the stones 
Raw, that they fell from, brought us to the hall. 

`And there sat Arthur on the das-throne, 
And those that had gone out upon the Quest, 
Wasted and worn, and but a tithe of them, 
And those that had not, stood before the King, 
Who, when he saw me, rose, and bad me hail, 
Saying, "A welfare in thine eye reproves 
Our fear of some disastrous chance for thee 
On hill, or plain, at sea, or flooding ford. 
So fierce a gale made havoc here of late 
Among the strange devices of our kings; 
Yea, shook this newer, stronger hall of ours, 
And from the statue Merlin moulded for us 
Half-wrenched a golden wing; but now--the Quest, 
This vision--hast thou seen the Holy Cup, 
That Joseph brought of old to Glastonbury?" 

`So when I told him all thyself hast heard, 
Ambrosius, and my fresh but fixt resolve 
To pass away into the quiet life, 
He answered not, but, sharply turning, asked 
Of Gawain, "Gawain, was this Quest for thee?" 

`"Nay, lord," said Gawain, "not for such as I. 
Therefore I communed with a saintly man, 
Who made me sure the Quest was not for me; 
For I was much awearied of the Quest: 
But found a silk pavilion in a field, 
And merry maidens in it; and then this gale 
Tore my pavilion from the tenting-pin, 
And blew my merry maidens all about 
With all discomfort; yea, and but for this, 
My twelvemonth and a day were pleasant to me." 

`He ceased; and Arthur turned to whom at first 
He saw not, for Sir Bors, on entering, pushed 
Athwart the throng to Lancelot, caught his hand, 
Held it, and there, half-hidden by him, stood, 
Until the King espied him, saying to him, 
"Hail, Bors! if ever loyal man and true 
Could see it, thou hast seen the Grail;" and Bors, 
"Ask me not, for I may not speak of it: 
I saw it;" and the tears were in his eyes. 

`Then there remained but Lancelot, for the rest 
Spake but of sundry perils in the storm; 
Perhaps, like him of Cana in Holy Writ, 
Our Arthur kept his best until the last; 
"Thou, too, my Lancelot," asked the king, "my friend, 
Our mightiest, hath this Quest availed for thee?" 

`"Our mightiest!" answered Lancelot, with a groan; 
"O King!"--and when he paused, methought I spied 
A dying fire of madness in his eyes-- 
"O King, my friend, if friend of thine I be, 
Happier are those that welter in their sin, 
Swine in the mud, that cannot see for slime, 
Slime of the ditch: but in me lived a sin 
So strange, of such a kind, that all of pure, 
Noble, and knightly in me twined and clung 
Round that one sin, until the wholesome flower 
And poisonous grew together, each as each, 
Not to be plucked asunder; and when thy knights 
Sware, I sware with them only in the hope 
That could I touch or see the Holy Grail 
They might be plucked asunder. Then I spake 
To one most holy saint, who wept and said, 
That save they could be plucked asunder, all 
My quest were but in vain; to whom I vowed 
That I would work according as he willed. 
And forth I went, and while I yearned and strove 
To tear the twain asunder in my heart, 
My madness came upon me as of old, 
And whipt me into waste fields far away; 
There was I beaten down by little men, 
Mean knights, to whom the moving of my sword 
And shadow of my spear had been enow 
To scare them from me once; and then I came 
All in my folly to the naked shore, 
Wide flats, where nothing but coarse grasses grew; 
But such a blast, my King, began to blow, 
So loud a blast along the shore and sea, 
Ye could not hear the waters for the blast, 
Though heapt in mounds and ridges all the sea 
Drove like a cataract, and all the sand 
Swept like a river, and the clouded heavens 
Were shaken with the motion and the sound. 
And blackening in the sea-foam swayed a boat, 
Half-swallowed in it, anchored with a chain; 
And in my madness to myself I said, 
`I will embark and I will lose myself, 
And in the great sea wash away my sin.' 
I burst the chain, I sprang into the boat. 
Seven days I drove along the dreary deep, 
And with me drove the moon and all the stars; 
And the wind fell, and on the seventh night 
I heard the shingle grinding in the surge, 
And felt the boat shock earth, and looking up, 
Behold, the enchanted towers of Carbonek, 
A castle like a rock upon a rock, 
With chasm-like portals open to the sea, 
And steps that met the breaker! there was none 
Stood near it but a lion on each side 
That kept the entry, and the moon was full. 
Then from the boat I leapt, and up the stairs. 
There drew my sword. With sudden-flaring manes 
Those two great beasts rose upright like a man, 
Each gript a shoulder, and I stood between; 
And, when I would have smitten them, heard a voice, 
`Doubt not, go forward; if thou doubt, the beasts 
Will tear thee piecemeal.' Then with violence 
The sword was dashed from out my hand, and fell. 
And up into the sounding hall I past; 
But nothing in the sounding hall I saw, 
No bench nor table, painting on the wall 
Or shield of knight; only the rounded moon 
Through the tall oriel on the rolling sea. 
But always in the quiet house I heard, 
Clear as a lark, high o'er me as a lark, 
A sweet voice singing in the topmost tower 
To the eastward: up I climbed a thousand steps 
With pain: as in a dream I seemed to climb 
For ever: at the last I reached a door, 
A light was in the crannies, and I heard, 
`Glory and joy and honour to our Lord 
And to the Holy Vessel of the Grail.' 
Then in my madness I essayed the door; 
It gave; and through a stormy glare, a heat 
As from a seventimes-heated furnace, I, 
Blasted and burnt, and blinded as I was, 
With such a fierceness that I swooned away-- 
O, yet methought I saw the Holy Grail, 
All palled in crimson samite, and around 
Great angels, awful shapes, and wings and eyes. 
And but for all my madness and my sin, 
And then my swooning, I had sworn I saw 
That which I saw; but what I saw was veiled 
And covered; and this Quest was not for me." 

`So speaking, and here ceasing, Lancelot 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 boldened by the silence of his King,-- 
Well, I will tell thee: "O King, my liege," he said, 
"Hath Gawain failed 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." 

`"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, 
Blessd 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 through 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 man 
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, 
Some root of knighthood and pure nobleness; 
Whereto see thou, that it may bear its flower. 

`"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 wandering fires, 
Lost in the quagmire?--lost to me and gone, 
And left me gazing at a barren board, 
And a lean Order--scarce returned 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 himself, 
Nor the high God a vision, nor that One 
Who rose again: ye have seen what ye have seen." 

`So spake the King: I knew not all he meant.'


by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

To E. Fitzgerald: Tiresias

 OLD FITZ, who from your suburb grange,
Where once I tarried for a while,
Glance at the wheeling orb of change,
And greet it with a kindly smile;
Whom yet I see as there you sit
Beneath your sheltering garden-tree,
And watch your doves about you flit,
And plant on shoulder, hand, and knee,
Or on your head their rosy feet,
As if they knew your diet spares
Whatever moved in that full sheet
Let down to Peter at his prayers;
Who live on milk and meal and grass;
And once for ten long weeks I tried
Your table of Pythagoras,
- And seem'd at first "a thing enskied,"
As Shakespeare has it, airy-light
To float above the ways of men,
Then fell from that half-spiritual height
Chill'd, till I tasted flesh again
One night when earth was winter-b]ack,
And all the heavens flash'd in frost;
And on me, half-asleep, came back
That wholesome heat the blood had lost,
And set me climbing icy capes
And glaciers, over which there roll'd
To meet me long-arm'd vines with grapes
Of Eshcol hugeness- for the cold
Without, and warmth within me, wrought
To mould the dream; but none can say
That Lenten fare makes Lenten thought
Who reads your golden Eastern lay,
Than which I know no version done
In English more divinely well;
A planet equal to the sun
Which cast it, that large infidel
Your Omar, and your Omar drew
Full-handed plaudits from our best
In modern letters, and from two,
Old friends outvaluing all the rest,
Two voices heard on earth no more;
But we old friends are still alive,
And I am nearing seventy-four,
While you have touch'd at seventy-five,
And so I send a birthday line
Of greeting; and my son, who dipt
In some forgotten book of mine
With sallow scraps of manuscript,
And dating many a year ago,
Has hit on this, which you will take,
My Fitz, and welcome, as I know,
Less for its own than for the sake
Of one recalling gracious times,
When, in our younger London days,
You found some merit in my rhymes,
And I more pleasure in your praise.

TIRESIAS

I WISH I were as in the years of old
While yet the blessed daylight made itself
Ruddy thro' both the roofs of sight, and woke 
These eyes, now dull, but then so keen to seek 
The meanings ambush'd under all they saw, 
The flight of birds, the flame of sacrifice, 
What omens may foreshadow fate to man 
And woman, and the secret of the Gods.
My son, the Gods, despite of human prayer,
Are slower to forgive than human kings.
The great God Ares burns in anger still 

Against the guiltless heirs of him from Tyre
Our Cadmus, out of whom thou art, who found
Beside the springs of Dirce, smote, and still'd
Thro' all its folds the multitudinous beast
The dragon, which our trembling fathers call'd
The God's own son.
A tale, that told to me,
When but thine age, by age as winter-white
As mine is now, amazed, but made me yearn
For larger glimpses of that more than man
Which rolls the heavens, and lifts and lays the deep,
Yet loves and hates with mortal hates and loves,
And moves unseen among the ways of men.
Then, in my wanderings all the lands that lie
Subjected to the Heliconian ridge
Have heard this footstep fall, altho' my wont
Was more to scale the highest of the heights
With some strange hope to see the nearer God.
One naked peak‹the sister of the Sun
Would climb from out the dark, and linger there 


To silver all the valleys with her shafts‹
There once, but long ago, five-fold thy term
Of years, I lay; the winds were dead for heat-
The noonday crag made the hand burn; and sick
For shadow‹not one bush was near‹I rose
Following a torrent till its myriad falls
Found silence in the hollows underneath.
There in a secret olive-glade I saw
Pallas Athene climbing from the bath
In anger; yet one glittering foot disturb'd
The lucid well; one snowy knee was prest
Against the margin flowers; a dreadful light
Came from her golden hair, her golden helm
And all her golden armor on the grass,
And from her virgin breast, and virgin eyes
Remaining fixt on mine, till mine grew dark
For ever, and I heard a voice that said
"Henceforth be blind, for thou hast seen too much,
And speak the truth that no man may believe."
Son, in the hidden world of sight that lives
Behind this darkness, I behold her still
Beyond all work of those who carve the stone
Beyond all dreams of Godlike womanhood,
Ineffable beauty, out of whom, at a glance
And as it were, perforce, upon me flash'd
The power of prophesying‹but to me
No power so chain'd and coupled with the curse
Of blindness and their unbelief who heard
And heard not, when I spake of famine, plague
Shrine-shattering earthquake, fire, flood, thunderbolt,
And angers of the Gods for evil done
And expiation lack'd‹no power on Fate
Theirs, or mine own! for when the crowd would roar
For blood, for war, whose issue was their doom,
To cast wise words among the multitude
Was fiinging fruit to lions; nor, in hours
Of civil outbreak, when I knew the twain
Would each waste each, and bring on both the yoke
Of stronger states, was mine the voice to curb
The madness of our cities and their kings. 
Who ever turn'd upon his heel to hear
My warning that the tyranny of one
Was prelude to the tyranny of all?
My counsel that the tyranny of all
Led backward to the tyranny of one?
This power hath work'd no good to aught that lives
And these blind hands were useless in their wars.
O. therefore, that the unfulfill'd desire,
The grief for ever born from griefs to be
The boundless yearning of the prophet's heart‹
Could that stand forth, and like a statue, rear'd
To some great citizen, wim all praise from all
Who past it, saying, "That was he!"
In vain!
Virtue must shape itself im deed, and those
Whom weakness or necessity have cramp'd
Withm themselves, immerging, each, his urn
In his own well, draws solace as he may.
Menceceus, thou hast eyes, and I can hear
Too plainly what full tides of onset sap
Our seven high gates, and what a weight of war
Rides on those ringing axlesl jingle of bits,
Shouts, arrows, tramp of the horn-footed horse
That grind the glebe to powder! Stony showers
Of that ear-stunning hail of Ares crash
Along the sounding walls. Above, below
Shock after shock, the song-built towers and gates
Reel, bruised and butted with the shuddering
War-thunder of iron rams; and from within
The city comes a murmur void of joy,
Lest she be taken captive‹maidens, wives,
And mothers with their babblers of the dawn, 
And oldest age in shadow from the night, 
Falling about their shrines before their Gods, 
And wailing, "Save us."

And they wail to thee!
These eyeless eyes, that cannot see thine own,
See this, that only in thy virtue lies
The saving of our Thebes; for, yesternight,
To me, the great God Ares, whose one bliss
Is war and human sacrifice‹himself
Blood-red from battle, spear and helmet tipt
With stormy light as on a mast at sea,
Stood out before a darkness, crying, "Thebes,
Thy Thebes shall fall and perish, for I loathe
The seed of Cadmus‹yet if one of these
By his own hand‹if one of these‹"
My son, No sound is breathed so potent to coerce, 
And to conciliate, as their names who dare 
For that sweet mother land which gave them birth 
Nobly to do, nobly to die. Their names, 
Graven on memorial columns, are a song 
Heard in the future; few, but more than wall 
And rampart, their examples reach a hand 
Far thro' all years, and everywhere they meet 
And kindle generous purpose, and the strength 
To mould it into action pure as theirs.
Fairer thy fate than mine, if life's best end 
Be to end well! and thou refusing this, 
Unvenerable will thy memory be 
While men shall move the lips; but if thou dare‹ 
Thou, one of these, the race of Cadmus‹then 
No stone is fitted in yon marble girth 
Whose echo shall not tongue thy glorious doom, 
Nor in this pavement but shall ring thy name 
To every hoof that clangs it, and the springs 
Of Dirce laving yonder battle-plain, 
Heard from the roofs by night, will murmur thee 
To thine own Thebes, while Thebes thro' thee shall stand 
Firm-based with all her Gods.
The Dragon's cave
Half hid, they tell me, now in flowing vines‹
Where once he dwelt and whence he roll'd himself
At dead of night‹thou knowest, and that smooth rock
Before it, altar-fashion'd, where of late 
The woman-breasted Sphinx, with wings drawn back 
Folded her lion paws, and look'd to Thebes. 
There blanch the bones of whom she slew, and these
Mixt with her own, because the fierce beast found 
A wiser than herself, and dash'd herself
Dead in her rage; but thou art wise enough 
Tho' young, to love thy wiser, blunt the curse 
Of Pallas, bear, and tho' I speak the truth
Believe I speak it, let thine own hand strike 
Thy youthful pulses into rest and quench 
The red God's anger, fearing not to plunge 
Thy torch of life in darkness, rather thou 
Rejoicing that the sun, the moon, the stars 
Send no such light upon the ways of men 
As one great deed.
Thither, my son, and there 
Thou, that hast never known the embrace of love 
Offer thy maiden life.
This useless hand! 
I felt one warm tear fall upon it. Gone! 
He will achieve his greatness.
But for me I would that I were gather'd to my rest, 
And mingled with the famous kings of old 
On whom about their ocean-islets flash 
The faces of the Gods‹the wise man's word 
Here trampled by the populace underfoot 
There crown'd with worship and these eyes will find
The men I knew, and watch the chariot whirl 
About the goal again, and hunters race 
The shadowy lion, and the warrior-kings 
In height and prowess more than human, strive 
Again for glory, while the golden lyre 
Is ever sounding in heroic ears 
Heroic hymns, and every way the vales 
Wind, clouded with the grateful incense-fume 
Of those who mix all odor to the Gods
On one far height in one far-shining fire.

-------------------------

"One height and one far-shining fire!"
And while I fancied that my friend
For this brief idyll would require
A less diffuse and opulent end,
And would defend his judgment well,
If I should deem it over nice‹
The tolling of his funeral bell
Broke on my Pagan Paradise,
And mixt the dream of classic times,
And all the phantoms of the dream,
With present grief, and made the rhymes,
That miss'd his living welcome, seem
Like would-be guests an hour too late,
Who down the highway moving on
With easy laughter find the gate
Is bolted, and the master gone.
Gone onto darkness, that full light
Of friendship! past, in sleep, away
By night, into the deeper night!
The deeper night? A clearer day
Than our poor twilight dawn on earth‹
If night, what barren toil to be!
What life, so maim'd by night, were worth
Our living out? Not mine to me
Remembering all the golden hours
Now silent, and so many dead,
And him the last; and laying flowers,
This wreath, above his honor'd head,
And praying that, when I from hence
Shall fade with him into the unknown,
My close of earth's experience
May prove as peaceful as his own.


by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

Balin and Balan

 Pellam the King, who held and lost with Lot 
In that first war, and had his realm restored 
But rendered tributary, failed of late 
To send his tribute; wherefore Arthur called 
His treasurer, one of many years, and spake, 
'Go thou with him and him and bring it to us, 
Lest we should set one truer on his throne. 
Man's word is God in man.' 
His Baron said 
'We go but harken: there be two strange knights 

Who sit near Camelot at a fountain-side, 
A mile beneath the forest, challenging 
And overthrowing every knight who comes. 
Wilt thou I undertake them as we pass, 
And send them to thee?' 
Arthur laughed upon him. 
'Old friend, too old to be so young, depart, 
Delay not thou for aught, but let them sit, 
Until they find a lustier than themselves.' 

So these departed. Early, one fair dawn, 
The light-winged spirit of his youth returned 
On Arthur's heart; he armed himself and went, 
So coming to the fountain-side beheld 
Balin and Balan sitting statuelike, 
Brethren, to right and left the spring, that down, 
From underneath a plume of lady-fern, 
Sang, and the sand danced at the bottom of it. 
And on the right of Balin Balin's horse 
Was fast beside an alder, on the left 
Of Balan Balan's near a poplartree. 
'Fair Sirs,' said Arthur, 'wherefore sit ye here?' 
Balin and Balan answered 'For the sake 
Of glory; we be mightier men than all 
In Arthur's court; that also have we proved; 
For whatsoever knight against us came 
Or I or he have easily overthrown.' 
'I too,' said Arthur, 'am of Arthur's hall, 
But rather proven in his Paynim wars 
Than famous jousts; but see, or proven or not, 
Whether me likewise ye can overthrow.' 
And Arthur lightly smote the brethren down, 
And lightly so returned, and no man knew. 

Then Balin rose, and Balan, and beside 
The carolling water set themselves again, 
And spake no word until the shadow turned; 
When from the fringe of coppice round them burst 
A spangled pursuivant, and crying 'Sirs, 
Rise, follow! ye be sent for by the King,' 
They followed; whom when Arthur seeing asked 
'Tell me your names; why sat ye by the well?' 
Balin the stillness of a minute broke 
Saying 'An unmelodious name to thee, 
Balin, "the Savage"--that addition thine-- 
My brother and my better, this man here, 
Balan. I smote upon the naked skull 
A thrall of thine in open hall, my hand 
Was gauntleted, half slew him; for I heard 
He had spoken evil of me; thy just wrath 
Sent me a three-years' exile from thine eyes. 
I have not lived my life delightsomely: 
For I that did that violence to thy thrall, 
Had often wrought some fury on myself, 
Saving for Balan: those three kingless years 
Have past--were wormwood-bitter to me. King, 
Methought that if we sat beside the well, 
And hurled to ground what knight soever spurred 
Against us, thou would'st take me gladlier back, 
And make, as ten-times worthier to be thine 
Than twenty Balins, Balan knight. I have said. 
Not so--not all. A man of thine today 
Abashed us both, and brake my boast. Thy will?' 
Said Arthur 'Thou hast ever spoken truth; 
Thy too fierce manhood would not let thee lie. 
Rise, my true knight. As children learn, be thou 
Wiser for falling! walk with me, and move 
To music with thine Order and the King. 
Thy chair, a grief to all the brethren, stands 
Vacant, but thou retake it, mine again!' 

Thereafter, when Sir Balin entered hall, 
The Lost one Found was greeted as in Heaven 
With joy that blazed itself in woodland wealth 
Of leaf, and gayest garlandage of flowers, 
Along the walls and down the board; they sat, 
And cup clashed cup; they drank and some one sang, 
Sweet-voiced, a song of welcome, whereupon 
Their common shout in chorus, mounting, made 
Those banners of twelve battles overhead 
Stir, as they stirred of old, when Arthur's host 
Proclaimed him Victor, and the day was won. 

Then Balan added to their Order lived 
A wealthier life than heretofore with these 
And Balin, till their embassage returned. 

'Sir King' they brought report 'we hardly found, 
So bushed about it is with gloom, the hall 
Of him to whom ye sent us, Pellam, once 
A Christless foe of thine as ever dashed 
Horse against horse; but seeing that thy realm 
Hath prospered in the name of Christ, the King 
Took, as in rival heat, to holy things; 
And finds himself descended from the Saint 
Arimathan Joseph; him who first 
Brought the great faith to Britain over seas; 
He boasts his life as purer than thine own; 
Eats scarce enow to keep his pulse abeat; 
Hath pushed aside his faithful wife, nor lets 
Or dame or damsel enter at his gates 
Lest he should be polluted. This gray King 
Showed us a shrine wherein were wonders--yea-- 
Rich arks with priceless bones of martyrdom, 
Thorns of the crown and shivers of the cross, 
And therewithal (for thus he told us) brought 
By holy Joseph thither, that same spear 
Wherewith the Roman pierced the side of Christ. 
He much amazed us; after, when we sought 
The tribute, answered "I have quite foregone 
All matters of this world: Garlon, mine heir, 
Of him demand it," which this Garlon gave 
With much ado, railing at thine and thee. 

'But when we left, in those deep woods we found 
A knight of thine spear-stricken from behind, 
Dead, whom we buried; more than one of us 
Cried out on Garlon, but a woodman there 
Reported of some demon in the woods 
Was once a man, who driven by evil tongues 
From all his fellows, lived alone, and came 
To learn black magic, and to hate his kind 
With such a hate, that when he died, his soul 
Became a Fiend, which, as the man in life 
Was wounded by blind tongues he saw not whence, 
Strikes from behind. This woodman showed the cave 
From which he sallies, and wherein he dwelt. 
We saw the hoof-print of a horse, no more.' 

Then Arthur, 'Let who goes before me, see 
He do not fall behind me: foully slain 
And villainously! who will hunt for me 
This demon of the woods?' Said Balan, 'I'! 
So claimed the quest and rode away, but first, 
Embracing Balin, 'Good my brother, hear! 
Let not thy moods prevail, when I am gone 
Who used to lay them! hold them outer fiends, 
Who leap at thee to tear thee; shake them aside, 
Dreams ruling when wit sleeps! yea, but to dream 
That any of these would wrong thee, wrongs thyself. 
Witness their flowery welcome. Bound are they 
To speak no evil. Truly save for fears, 
My fears for thee, so rich a fellowship 
Would make me wholly blest: thou one of them, 
Be one indeed: consider them, and all 
Their bearing in their common bond of love, 
No more of hatred than in Heaven itself, 
No more of jealousy than in Paradise.' 

So Balan warned, and went; Balin remained: 
Who--for but three brief moons had glanced away 
From being knighted till he smote the thrall, 
And faded from the presence into years 
Of exile--now would strictlier set himself 
To learn what Arthur meant by courtesy, 
Manhood, and knighthood; wherefore hovered round 
Lancelot, but when he marked his high sweet smile 
In passing, and a transitory word 
Make knight or churl or child or damsel seem 
From being smiled at happier in themselves-- 
Sighed, as a boy lame-born beneath a height, 
That glooms his valley, sighs to see the peak 
Sun-flushed, or touch at night the northern star; 
For one from out his village lately climed 
And brought report of azure lands and fair, 
Far seen to left and right; and he himself 
Hath hardly scaled with help a hundred feet 
Up from the base: so Balin marvelling oft 
How far beyond him Lancelot seemed to move, 
Groaned, and at times would mutter, 'These be gifts, 
Born with the blood, not learnable, divine, 
Beyond MY reach. Well had I foughten--well-- 
In those fierce wars, struck hard--and had I crowned 
With my slain self the heaps of whom I slew-- 
So--better!--But this worship of the Queen, 
That honour too wherein she holds him--this, 
This was the sunshine that hath given the man 
A growth, a name that branches o'er the rest, 
And strength against all odds, and what the King 
So prizes--overprizes--gentleness. 
Her likewise would I worship an I might. 
I never can be close with her, as he 
That brought her hither. Shall I pray the King 
To let me bear some token of his Queen 
Whereon to gaze, remembering her--forget 
My heats and violences? live afresh? 
What, if the Queen disdained to grant it! nay 
Being so stately-gentle, would she make 
My darkness blackness? and with how sweet grace 
She greeted my return! Bold will I be-- 
Some goodly cognizance of Guinevere, 
In lieu of this rough beast upon my shield, 
Langued gules, and toothed with grinning savagery.' 

And Arthur, when Sir Balin sought him, said 
'What wilt thou bear?' Balin was bold, and asked 
To bear her own crown-royal upon shield, 
Whereat she smiled and turned her to the King, 
Who answered 'Thou shalt put the crown to use. 
The crown is but the shadow of the King, 
And this a shadow's shadow, let him have it, 
So this will help him of his violences!' 
'No shadow' said Sir Balin 'O my Queen, 
But light to me! no shadow, O my King, 
But golden earnest of a gentler life!' 

So Balin bare the crown, and all the knights 
Approved him, and the Queen, and all the world 
Made music, and he felt his being move 
In music with his Order, and the King. 

The nightingale, full-toned in middle May, 
Hath ever and anon a note so thin 
It seems another voice in other groves; 
Thus, after some quick burst of sudden wrath, 
The music in him seemed to change, and grow 
Faint and far-off. 
And once he saw the thrall 
His passion half had gauntleted to death, 
That causer of his banishment and shame, 
Smile at him, as he deemed, presumptuously: 
His arm half rose to strike again, but fell: 
The memory of that cognizance on shield 
Weighted it down, but in himself he moaned: 

'Too high this mount of Camelot for me: 
These high-set courtesies are not for me. 
Shall I not rather prove the worse for these? 
Fierier and stormier from restraining, break 
Into some madness even before the Queen?' 

Thus, as a hearth lit in a mountain home, 
And glancing on the window, when the gloom 
Of twilight deepens round it, seems a flame 
That rages in the woodland far below, 
So when his moods were darkened, court and King 
And all the kindly warmth of Arthur's hall 
Shadowed an angry distance: yet he strove 
To learn the graces of their Table, fought 
Hard with himself, and seemed at length in peace. 

Then chanced, one morning, that Sir Balin sat 
Close-bowered in that garden nigh the hall. 
A walk of roses ran from door to door; 
A walk of lilies crost it to the bower: 
And down that range of roses the great Queen 
Came with slow steps, the morning on her face; 
And all in shadow from the counter door 
Sir Lancelot as to meet her, then at once, 
As if he saw not, glanced aside, and paced 
The long white walk of lilies toward the bower. 
Followed the Queen; Sir Balin heard her 'Prince, 
Art thou so little loyal to thy Queen, 
As pass without good morrow to thy Queen?' 
To whom Sir Lancelot with his eyes on earth, 
'Fain would I still be loyal to the Queen.' 
'Yea so' she said 'but so to pass me by-- 
So loyal scarce is loyal to thyself, 
Whom all men rate the king of courtesy. 
Let be: ye stand, fair lord, as in a dream.' 

Then Lancelot with his hand among the flowers 
'Yea--for a dream. Last night methought I saw 
That maiden Saint who stands with lily in hand 
In yonder shrine. All round her prest the dark, 
And all the light upon her silver face 
Flowed from the spiritual lily that she held. 
Lo! these her emblems drew mine eyes--away: 
For see, how perfect-pure! As light a flush 
As hardly tints the blossom of the quince 
Would mar their charm of stainless maidenhood.' 

'Sweeter to me' she said 'this garden rose 
Deep-hued and many-folded! sweeter still 
The wild-wood hyacinth and the bloom of May. 
Prince, we have ridden before among the flowers 
In those fair days--not all as cool as these, 
Though season-earlier. Art thou sad? or sick? 
Our noble King will send thee his own leech-- 
Sick? or for any matter angered at me?' 

Then Lancelot lifted his large eyes; they dwelt 
Deep-tranced on hers, and could not fall: her hue 
Changed at his gaze: so turning side by side 
They past, and Balin started from his bower. 

'Queen? subject? but I see not what I see. 
Damsel and lover? hear not what I hear. 
My father hath begotten me in his wrath. 
I suffer from the things before me, know, 
Learn nothing; am not worthy to be knight; 
A churl, a clown!' and in him gloom on gloom 
Deepened: he sharply caught his lance and shield, 
Nor stayed to crave permission of the King, 
But, mad for strange adventure, dashed away. 

He took the selfsame track as Balan, saw 
The fountain where they sat together, sighed 
'Was I not better there with him?' and rode 
The skyless woods, but under open blue 
Came on the hoarhead woodman at a bough 
Wearily hewing. 'Churl, thine axe!' he cried, 
Descended, and disjointed it at a blow: 
To whom the woodman uttered wonderingly 
'Lord, thou couldst lay the Devil of these woods 
If arm of flesh could lay him.' Balin cried 
'Him, or the viler devil who plays his part, 
To lay that devil would lay the Devil in me.' 
'Nay' said the churl, 'our devil is a truth, 
I saw the flash of him but yestereven. 
And some DO say that our Sir Garlon too 
Hath learned black magic, and to ride unseen. 
Look to the cave.' But Balin answered him 
'Old fabler, these be fancies of the churl, 
Look to thy woodcraft,' and so leaving him, 
Now with slack rein and careless of himself, 
Now with dug spur and raving at himself, 
Now with droopt brow down the long glades he rode; 
So marked not on his right a cavern-chasm 
Yawn over darkness, where, nor far within, 
The whole day died, but, dying, gleamed on rocks 
Roof-pendent, sharp; and others from the floor, 
Tusklike, arising, made that mouth of night 
Whereout the Demon issued up from Hell. 
He marked not this, but blind and deaf to all 
Save that chained rage, which ever yelpt within, 
Past eastward from the falling sun. At once 
He felt the hollow-beaten mosses thud 
And tremble, and then the shadow of a spear, 
Shot from behind him, ran along the ground. 
Sideways he started from the path, and saw, 
With pointed lance as if to pierce, a shape, 
A light of armour by him flash, and pass 
And vanish in the woods; and followed this, 
But all so blind in rage that unawares 
He burst his lance against a forest bough, 
Dishorsed himself, and rose again, and fled 
Far, till the castle of a King, the hall 
Of Pellam, lichen-bearded, grayly draped 
With streaming grass, appeared, low-built but strong; 
The ruinous donjon as a knoll of moss, 
The battlement overtopt with ivytods, 
A home of bats, in every tower an owl. 
Then spake the men of Pellam crying 'Lord, 
Why wear ye this crown-royal upon shield?' 
Said Balin 'For the fairest and the best 
Of ladies living gave me this to bear.' 
So stalled his horse, and strode across the court, 
But found the greetings both of knight and King 
Faint in the low dark hall of banquet: leaves 
Laid their green faces flat against the panes, 
Sprays grated, and the cankered boughs without 
Whined in the wood; for all was hushed within, 
Till when at feast Sir Garlon likewise asked 
'Why wear ye that crown-royal?' Balin said 
'The Queen we worship, Lancelot, I, and all, 
As fairest, best and purest, granted me 
To bear it!' Such a sound (for Arthur's knights 
Were hated strangers in the hall) as makes 
The white swan-mother, sitting, when she hears 
A strange knee rustle through her secret reeds, 
Made Garlon, hissing; then he sourly smiled. 
'Fairest I grant her: I have seen; but best, 
Best, purest? THOU from Arthur's hall, and yet 
So simple! hast thou eyes, or if, are these 
So far besotted that they fail to see 
This fair wife-worship cloaks a secret shame? 
Truly, ye men of Arthur be but babes.' 

A goblet on the board by Balin, bossed 
With holy Joseph's legend, on his right 
Stood, all of massiest bronze: one side had sea 
And ship and sail and angels blowing on it: 
And one was rough with wattling, and the walls 
Of that low church he built at Glastonbury. 
This Balin graspt, but while in act to hurl, 
Through memory of that token on the shield 
Relaxed his hold: 'I will be gentle' he thought 
'And passing gentle' caught his hand away, 
Then fiercely to Sir Garlon 'Eyes have I 
That saw today the shadow of a spear, 
Shot from behind me, run along the ground; 
Eyes too that long have watched how Lancelot draws 
From homage to the best and purest, might, 
Name, manhood, and a grace, but scantly thine, 
Who, sitting in thine own hall, canst endure 
To mouth so huge a foulness--to thy guest, 
Me, me of Arthur's Table. Felon talk! 
Let be! no more!' 
But not the less by night 
The scorn of Garlon, poisoning all his rest, 
Stung him in dreams. At length, and dim through leaves 
Blinkt the white morn, sprays grated, and old boughs 
Whined in the wood. He rose, descended, met 
The scorner in the castle court, and fain, 
For hate and loathing, would have past him by; 
But when Sir Garlon uttered mocking-wise; 
'What, wear ye still that same crown-scandalous?' 
His countenance blackened, and his forehead veins 
Bloated, and branched; and tearing out of sheath 
The brand, Sir Balin with a fiery 'Ha! 
So thou be shadow, here I make thee ghost,' 
Hard upon helm smote him, and the blade flew 
Splintering in six, and clinkt upon the stones. 
Then Garlon, reeling slowly backward, fell, 
And Balin by the banneret of his helm 
Dragged him, and struck, but from the castle a cry 
Sounded across the court, and--men-at-arms, 
A score with pointed lances, making at him-- 
He dashed the pummel at the foremost face, 
Beneath a low door dipt, and made his feet 
Wings through a glimmering gallery, till he marked 
The portal of King Pellam's chapel wide 
And inward to the wall; he stept behind; 
Thence in a moment heard them pass like wolves 
Howling; but while he stared about the shrine, 
In which he scarce could spy the Christ for Saints, 
Beheld before a golden altar lie 
The longest lance his eyes had ever seen, 
Point-painted red; and seizing thereupon 
Pushed through an open casement down, leaned on it, 
Leapt in a semicircle, and lit on earth; 
Then hand at ear, and harkening from what side 
The blindfold rummage buried in the walls 
Might echo, ran the counter path, and found 
His charger, mounted on him and away. 
An arrow whizzed to the right, one to the left, 
One overhead; and Pellam's feeble cry 
'Stay, stay him! he defileth heavenly things 
With earthly uses'--made him quickly dive 
Beneath the boughs, and race through many a mile 
Of dense and open, till his goodly horse, 
Arising wearily at a fallen oak, 
Stumbled headlong, and cast him face to ground. 

Half-wroth he had not ended, but all glad, 
Knightlike, to find his charger yet unlamed, 
Sir Balin drew the shield from off his neck, 
Stared at the priceless cognizance, and thought 
'I have shamed thee so that now thou shamest me, 
Thee will I bear no more,' high on a branch 
Hung it, and turned aside into the woods, 
And there in gloom cast himself all along, 
Moaning 'My violences, my violences!' 

But now the wholesome music of the wood 
Was dumbed by one from out the hall of Mark, 
A damsel-errant, warbling, as she rode 
The woodland alleys, Vivien, with her Squire. 

'The fire of Heaven has killed the barren cold, 
And kindled all the plain and all the wold. 
The new leaf ever pushes off the old. 
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell. 

'Old priest, who mumble worship in your quire-- 
Old monk and nun, ye scorn the world's desire, 
Yet in your frosty cells ye feel the fire! 
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell. 

'The fire of Heaven is on the dusty ways. 
The wayside blossoms open to the blaze. 
The whole wood-world is one full peal of praise. 
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell. 

'The fire of Heaven is lord of all things good, 
And starve not thou this fire within thy blood, 
But follow Vivien through the fiery flood! 
The fire of Heaven is not the flame of Hell!' 

Then turning to her Squire 'This fire of Heaven, 
This old sun-worship, boy, will rise again, 
And beat the cross to earth, and break the King 
And all his Table.' 
Then they reached a glade, 
Where under one long lane of cloudless air 
Before another wood, the royal crown 
Sparkled, and swaying upon a restless elm 
Drew the vague glance of Vivien, and her Squire; 
Amazed were these; 'Lo there' she cried--'a crown-- 
Borne by some high lord-prince of Arthur's hall, 
And there a horse! the rider? where is he? 
See, yonder lies one dead within the wood. 
Not dead; he stirs!--but sleeping. I will speak. 
Hail, royal knight, we break on thy sweet rest, 
Not, doubtless, all unearned by noble deeds. 
But bounden art thou, if from Arthur's hall, 
To help the weak. Behold, I fly from shame, 
A lustful King, who sought to win my love 
Through evil ways: the knight, with whom I rode, 
Hath suffered misadventure, and my squire 
Hath in him small defence; but thou, Sir Prince, 
Wilt surely guide me to the warrior King, 
Arthur the blameless, pure as any maid, 
To get me shelter for my maidenhood. 
I charge thee by that crown upon thy shield, 
And by the great Queen's name, arise and hence.' 

And Balin rose, 'Thither no more! nor Prince 
Nor knight am I, but one that hath defamed 
The cognizance she gave me: here I dwell 
Savage among the savage woods, here die-- 
Die: let the wolves' black maws ensepulchre 
Their brother beast, whose anger was his lord. 
O me, that such a name as Guinevere's, 
Which our high Lancelot hath so lifted up, 
And been thereby uplifted, should through me, 
My violence, and my villainy, come to shame.' 

Thereat she suddenly laughed and shrill, anon 
Sighed all as suddenly. Said Balin to her 
'Is this thy courtesy--to mock me, ha? 
Hence, for I will not with thee.' Again she sighed 
'Pardon, sweet lord! we maidens often laugh 
When sick at heart, when rather we should weep. 
I knew thee wronged. I brake upon thy rest, 
And now full loth am I to break thy dream, 
But thou art man, and canst abide a truth, 
Though bitter. Hither, boy--and mark me well. 
Dost thou remember at Caerleon once-- 
A year ago--nay, then I love thee not-- 
Ay, thou rememberest well--one summer dawn-- 
By the great tower--Caerleon upon Usk-- 
Nay, truly we were hidden: this fair lord, 
The flower of all their vestal knighthood, knelt 
In amorous homage--knelt--what else?--O ay 
Knelt, and drew down from out his night-black hair 
And mumbled that white hand whose ringed caress 
Had wandered from her own King's golden head, 
And lost itself in darkness, till she cried-- 
I thought the great tower would crash down on both-- 
"Rise, my sweet King, and kiss me on the lips, 
Thou art my King." This lad, whose lightest word 
Is mere white truth in simple nakedness, 
Saw them embrace: he reddens, cannot speak, 
So bashful, he! but all the maiden Saints, 
The deathless mother-maidenhood of Heaven, 
Cry out upon her. Up then, ride with me! 
Talk not of shame! thou canst not, an thou would'st, 
Do these more shame than these have done themselves.' 

She lied with ease; but horror-stricken he, 
Remembering that dark bower at Camelot, 
Breathed in a dismal whisper 'It is truth.' 

Sunnily she smiled 'And even in this lone wood, 
Sweet lord, ye do right well to whisper this. 
Fools prate, and perish traitors. Woods have tongues, 
As walls have ears: but thou shalt go with me, 
And we will speak at first exceeding low. 
Meet is it the good King be not deceived. 
See now, I set thee high on vantage ground, 
From whence to watch the time, and eagle-like 
Stoop at thy will on Lancelot and the Queen.' 

She ceased; his evil spirit upon him leapt, 
He ground his teeth together, sprang with a yell, 
Tore from the branch, and cast on earth, the shield, 
Drove his mailed heel athwart the royal crown, 
Stampt all into defacement, hurled it from him 
Among the forest weeds, and cursed the tale, 
The told-of, and the teller. 
That weird yell, 
Unearthlier than all shriek of bird or beast, 
Thrilled through the woods; and Balan lurking there 
(His quest was unaccomplished) heard and thought 
'The scream of that Wood-devil I came to quell!' 
Then nearing 'Lo! he hath slain some brother-knight, 
And tramples on the goodly shield to show 
His loathing of our Order and the Queen. 
My quest, meseems, is here. Or devil or man 
Guard thou thine head.' Sir Balin spake not word, 
But snatched a sudden buckler from the Squire, 
And vaulted on his horse, and so they crashed 
In onset, and King Pellam's holy spear, 
Reputed to be red with sinless blood, 
Redded at once with sinful, for the point 
Across the maiden shield of Balan pricked 
The hauberk to the flesh; and Balin's horse 
Was wearied to the death, and, when they clashed, 
Rolling back upon Balin, crushed the man 
Inward, and either fell, and swooned away. 

Then to her Squire muttered the damsel 'Fools! 
This fellow hath wrought some foulness with his Queen: 
Else never had he borne her crown, nor raved 
And thus foamed over at a rival name: 
But thou, Sir Chick, that scarce hast broken shell, 
Art yet half-yolk, not even come to down-- 
Who never sawest Caerleon upon Usk-- 
And yet hast often pleaded for my love-- 
See what I see, be thou where I have been, 
Or else Sir Chick--dismount and loose their casques 
I fain would know what manner of men they be.' 
And when the Squire had loosed them, 'Goodly!--look! 
They might have cropt the myriad flower of May, 
And butt each other here, like brainless bulls, 
Dead for one heifer! 
Then the gentle Squire 
'I hold them happy, so they died for love: 
And, Vivien, though ye beat me like your dog, 
I too could die, as now I live, for thee.' 

'Live on, Sir Boy,' she cried. 'I better prize 
The living dog than the dead lion: away! 
I cannot brook to gaze upon the dead.' 
Then leapt her palfrey o'er the fallen oak, 
And bounding forward 'Leave them to the wolves.' 

But when their foreheads felt the cooling air, 
Balin first woke, and seeing that true face, 
Familiar up from cradle-time, so wan, 
Crawled slowly with low moans to where he lay, 
And on his dying brother cast himself 
Dying; and HE lifted faint eyes; he felt 
One near him; all at once they found the world, 
Staring wild-wide; then with a childlike wail 
And drawing down the dim disastrous brow 
That o'er him hung, he kissed it, moaned and spake; 

'O Balin, Balin, I that fain had died 
To save thy life, have brought thee to thy death. 
Why had ye not the shield I knew? and why 
Trampled ye thus on that which bare the Crown?' 

Then Balin told him brokenly, and in gasps, 
All that had chanced, and Balan moaned again. 

'Brother, I dwelt a day in Pellam's hall: 
This Garlon mocked me, but I heeded not. 
And one said "Eat in peace! a liar is he, 
And hates thee for the tribute!" this good knight 
Told me, that twice a wanton damsel came, 
And sought for Garlon at the castle-gates, 
Whom Pellam drove away with holy heat. 
I well believe this damsel, and the one 
Who stood beside thee even now, the same. 
"She dwells among the woods" he said "and meets 
And dallies with him in the Mouth of Hell." 
Foul are their lives; foul are their lips; they lied. 
Pure as our own true Mother is our Queen." 

'O brother' answered Balin 'woe is me! 
My madness all thy life has been thy doom, 
Thy curse, and darkened all thy day; and now 
The night has come. I scarce can see thee now. 

Goodnight! for we shall never bid again 
Goodmorrow--Dark my doom was here, and dark 
It will be there. I see thee now no more. 
I would not mine again should darken thine, 
Goodnight, true brother. 
Balan answered low 
'Goodnight, true brother here! goodmorrow there! 
We two were born together, and we die 
Together by one doom:' and while he spoke 
Closed his death-drowsing eyes, and slept the sleep 
With Balin, either locked in either's arm.


by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

In Memoriam 131: O Living Will That Shalt Endure

 O living will that shalt endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow thro' our deeds and make them pure, 

That we may lift from out of dust
A voice as unto him that hears,
A cry above the conquer'd years
To one that with us works, and trust, 

With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul. 

O true and tried, so well and long,
Demand not thou a marriage lay;
In that it is thy marriage day
Is music more than any song. 

Nor have I felt so much of bliss
Since first he told me that he loved
A daughter of our house; nor proved
Since that dark day a day like this; 

Tho' I since then have number'd o'er
Some thrice three years: they went and came,
Remade the blood and changed the frame,
And yet is love not less, but more; 

No longer caring to embalm
In dying songs a dead regret,
But like a statue solid-set,
And moulded in colossal calm. 

Regret is dead, but love is more
Than in the summers that are flown,
For I myself with these have grown
To something greater than before; 

Which makes appear the songs I made
As echoes out of weaker times,
As half but idle brawling rhymes,
The sport of random sun and shade. 

But where is she, the bridal flower,
That must be made a wife ere noon?
She enters, glowing like the moon
Of Eden on its bridal bower: 

On me she bends her blissful eyes
And then on thee; they meet thy look
And brighten like the star that shook
Betwixt the palms of paradise. 

O when her life was yet in bud,
He too foretold the perfect rose.
For thee she grew, for thee she grows
For ever, and as fair as good. 

And thou art worthy; full of power;
As gentle; liberal-minded, great,
Consistent; wearing all that weight
Of learning lightly like a flower. 

But now set out: the noon is near,
And I must give away the bride;
She fears not, or with thee beside
And me behind her, will not fear. 

For I that danced her on my knee,
That watch'd her on her nurse's arm,
That shielded all her life from harm
At last must part with her to thee; 

Now waiting to be made a wife,
Her feet, my darling, on the dead;
Their pensive tablets round her head,
And the most living words of life 

Breathed in her ear. The ring is on,
The "wilt thou" answer'd, and again
The "wilt thou" ask'd, till out of twain
Her sweet "I will" has made you one. 

Now sign your names, which shall be read,
Mute symbols of a joyful morn,
By village eyes as yet unborn;
The names are sign'd, and overhead 

Begins the clash and clang that tells
The joy to every wandering breeze;
The blind wall rocks, and on the trees
The dead leaf trembles to the bells. 

O happy hour, and happier hours
Await them. Many a merry face
Salutes them--maidens of the place,
That pelt us in the porch with flowers. 

O happy hour, behold the bride
With him to whom her hand I gave.
They leave the porch, they pass the grave
That has to-day its sunny side. 

To-day the grave is bright for me,
For them the light of life increased,
Who stay to share the morning feast,
Who rest to-night beside the sea. 

Let all my genial spirits advance
To meet and greet a whiter sun;
My drooping memory will not shun
The foaming grape of eastern France. 

It circles round, and fancy plays,
And hearts are warm'd and faces bloom,
As drinking health to bride and groom
We wish them store of happy days. 

Nor count me all to blame if I
Conjecture of a stiller guest,
Perchance, perchance, among the rest,
And, tho' in silence, wishing joy. 

But they must go, the time draws on,
And those white-favour'd horses wait;
They rise, but linger; it is late;
Farewell, we kiss, and they are gone. 

A shade falls on us like the dark
From little cloudlets on the grass,
But sweeps away as out we pass
To range the woods, to roam the park, 

Discussing how their courtship grew,
And talk of others that are wed,
And how she look'd, and what he said,
And back we come at fall of dew. 

Again the feast, the speech, the glee,
The shade of passing thought, the wealth
Of words and wit, the double health,
The crowning cup, the three-times-three, 

And last the dance,--till I retire:
Dumb is that tower which spake so loud,
And high in heaven the streaming cloud,
And on the downs a rising fire: 

And rise, O moon, from yonder down,
Till over down and over dale
All night the shining vapour sail
And pass the silent-lighted town, 

The white-faced halls, the glancing rills,
And catch at every mountain head,
And o'er the friths that branch and spread
Their sleeping silver thro' the hills; 

And touch with shade the bridal doors,
With tender gloom the roof, the wall;
And breaking let the splendour fall
To spangle all the happy shores 

By which they rest, and ocean sounds,
And, star and system rolling past,
A soul shall draw from out the vast
And strike his being into bounds, 

And, moved thro' life of lower phase,
Result in man, be born and think,
And act and love, a closer link
Betwixt us and the crowning race 

Of those that, eye to eye, shall look
On knowledge; under whose command
Is Earth and Earth's, and in their hand
Is Nature like an open book; 

No longer half-akin to brute,
For all we thought and loved and did,
And hoped, and suffer'd, is but seed
Of what in them is flower and fruit; 

Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing ere the times were ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God, 

That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.


by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

In Memoriam A. H. H.: 131. O living will that shalt endure

 O living will that shalt endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow thro' our deeds and make them pure,
That we may lift from out of dust
A voice as unto him that hears,
A cry above the conquer'd years
To one that with us works, and trust,
With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.------

O true and tried, so well and long,
Demand not thou a marriage lay;
In that it is thy marriage day
Is music more than any song.

Nor have I felt so much of bliss
Since first he told me that he loved
A daughter of our house; nor proved
Since that dark day a day like this; 

Tho' I since then have number'd o'er
Some thrice three years: they went and came,
Remade the blood and changed the frame,
And yet is love not less, but more;

No longer caring to embalm
In dying songs a dead regret,
But like a statue solid-set,
And moulded in colossal calm.

Regret is dead, but love is more
Than in the summers that are flown,
For I myself with these have grown
To something greater than before;

Which makes appear the songs I made
As echoes out of weaker times,
As half but idle brawling rhymes,
The sport of random sun and shade.

But where is she, the bridal flower,
That must be made a wife ere noon?
She enters, glowing like the moon
Of Eden on its bridal bower:

On me she bends her blissful eyes
And then on thee; they meet thy look
And brighten like the star that shook
Betwixt the palms of paradise.

O when her life was yet in bud,
He too foretold the perfect rose.
For thee she grew, for thee she grows
For ever, and as fair as good.

And thou art worthy; full of power;
As gentle; liberal-minded, great,
Consistent; wearing all that weight
Of learning lightly like a flower.

But now set out: the noon is near,
And I must give away the bride;
She fears not, or with thee beside
And me behind her, will not fear.

For I that danced her on my knee,
That watch'd her on her nurse's arm,
That shielded all her life from harm
At last must part with her to thee;

Now waiting to be made a wife,
Her feet, my darling, on the dead;
Their pensive tablets round her head,
And the most living words of life

Breathed in her ear. The ring is on,
The "wilt thou" answer'd, and again
The "wilt thou" ask'd, till out of twain
Her sweet "I will" has made you one.

Now sign your names, which shall be read,
Mute symbols of a joyful morn,
By village eyes as yet unborn;
The names are sign'd, and overhead

Begins the clash and clang that tells
The joy to every wandering breeze;
The blind wall rocks, and on the trees
The dead leaf trembles to the bells.

O happy hour, and happier hours
Await them. Many a merry face
Salutes them--maidens of the place,
That pelt us in the porch with flowers.

O happy hour, behold the bride
With him to whom her hand I gave.
They leave the porch, they pass the grave
That has to-day its sunny side.

To-day the grave is bright for me,
For them the light of life increased,
Who stay to share the morning feast,
Who rest to-night beside the sea.

Let all my genial spirits advance
To meet and greet a whiter sun;
My drooping memory will not shun
The foaming grape of eastern France.

It circles round, and fancy plays,
And hearts are warm'd and faces bloom,
As drinking health to bride and groom
We wish them store of happy days.

Nor count me all to blame if I
Conjecture of a stiller guest,
Perchance, perchance, among the rest,
And, tho' in silence, wishing joy.


But they must go, the time draws on,
And those white-favour'd horses wait;
They rise, but linger; it is late;
Farewell, we kiss, and they are gone.


A shade falls on us like the dark
From little cloudlets on the grass,
But sweeps away as out we pass
To range the woods, to roam the park,


Discussing how their courtship grew,
And talk of others that are wed,
And how she look'd, and what he said,
And back we come at fall of dew.


Again the feast, the speech, the glee,
The shade of passing thought, the wealth
Of words and wit, the double health,
The crowning cup, the three-times-three,


And last the dance,--till I retire:
Dumb is that tower which spake so loud,
And high in heaven the streaming cloud,
And on the downs a rising fire:


And rise, O moon, from yonder down,
Till over down and over dale
All night the shining vapour sail
And pass the silent-lighted town,


The white-faced halls, the glancing rills,
And catch at every mountain head,
And o'er the friths that branch and spread
Their sleeping silver thro' the hills;


And touch with shade the bridal doors,
With tender gloom the roof, the wall;
And breaking let the splendour fall
To spangle all the happy shores


By which they rest, and ocean sounds,
And, star and system rolling past,
A soul shall draw from out the vast
And strike his being into bounds,


And, moved thro' life of lower phase,
Result in man, be born and think,
And act and love, a closer link
Betwixt us and the crowning race


Of those that, eye to eye, shall look
On knowledge; under whose command
Is Earth and Earth's, and in their hand
Is Nature like an open book;


No longer half-akin to brute,
For all we thought and loved and did,
And hoped, and suffer'd, is but seed
Of what in them is flower and fruit;


Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing ere the times were ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God,


That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.


by Emily Dickinson |

It was not Saint -- it was too large --

 It was not Saint -- it was too large --
Nor Snow -- it was too small --
It only held itself aloof
Like something spiritual --


by Robert Burns |

410. Epigram—Kirk and State Excisemen

 YE men of wit and wealth, why all this sneering
’Gainst poor Excisemen? Give the cause a hearing:
What are your Landlord’s rent-rolls?—Taxing ledgers!
What Premiers?—What ev’n Monarchs?—Mighty Gaugers!
Nay, what are Priests? (those seeming godly wise-men,)
What are they, pray, but Spiritual Excisemen!


by Robert Burns |

280. The Kirk of Scotland’s Alarm: A Ballad

 ORTHODOX! orthodox, who believe in John Knox,
 Let me sound an alarm to your conscience:
A heretic blast has been blown in the West,
 That what is no sense must be nonsense,
Orthodox! That what is no sense must be nonsense.


Doctor Mac! Doctor Mac, you should streek on a rack,
 To strike evil-doers wi’ terror:
To join Faith and Sense, upon any pretence,
 Was heretic, damnable error,
Doctor Mac! 1 ’Twas heretic, damnable error.


Town of Ayr! town of Ayr, it was mad, I declare,
 To meddle wi’ mischief a-brewing, 2
Provost John 3 is still deaf to the Church’s relief,
 And Orator Bob 4 is its ruin,
Town of Ayr! Yes, Orator Bob is its ruin.


D’rymple mild! D’rymple mild, tho’ your heart’s like a child,
 And your life like the new-driven snaw,
Yet that winna save you, auld Satan must have you,
 For preaching that three’s ane an’ twa,
D’rymple mild! 5 For preaching that three’s ane an’ twa.


Rumble John! rumble John, mount the steps with a groan,
 Cry the book is with heresy cramm’d;
Then out wi’ your ladle, deal brimstone like aidle,
 And roar ev’ry note of the D—’d.
Rumble John! 6 And roar ev’ry note of the D—’d.


Simper James! simper James, leave your fair Killie dames,
 There’s a holier chase in your view:
I’ll lay on your head, that the pack you’ll soon lead,
 For puppies like you there’s but few,
Simper James! 7 For puppies like you there’s but few.


Singet Sawnie! singet Sawnie, are ye huirdin the penny,
 Unconscious what evils await?
With a jump, yell, and howl, alarm ev’ry soul,
 For the foul thief is just at your gate.
Singet Sawnie! 8 For the foul thief is just at your gate.


Poet Willie! poet Willie, gie the Doctor a volley,
 Wi’ your “Liberty’s Chain” and your wit;
O’er Pegasus’ side ye ne’er laid a stride,
 Ye but smelt, man, the place where he sh-t.
Poet Willie! 9 Ye but smelt man, the place where he sh-t.


Barr Steenie! Barr Steenie, what mean ye, what mean ye?
 If ye meddle nae mair wi’ the matter,
Ye may hae some pretence to havins and sense,
 Wi’ people that ken ye nae better,
Barr Steenie! 10 Wi’people that ken ye nae better.


Jamie Goose! Jamie Goose, ye made but toom roose,
 In hunting the wicked Lieutenant;
But the Doctor’s your mark, for the Lord’s holy ark,
 He has cooper’d an’ ca’d a wrang pin in’t,
Jamie Goose! 11 He has cooper’d an’ ca’d a wrang pin in’t.


Davie Bluster! Davie Bluster, for a saint ye do muster,
 The core is no nice o’ recruits;
Yet to worth let’s be just, royal blood ye might boast,
 If the Ass were the king o’ the brutes,
Davie Bluster! 12 If the Ass were the king o’ the brutes.


Cessnock-side! Cessnock-side, wi’ your turkey-cock pride
 Of manhood but sma’ is your share:
Ye’ve the figure, ’tis true, ev’n your foes will allow,
 And your friends they dare grant you nae mair,
Cessnock-side! 13 And your friends they dare grant you nae mair.


Muirland Jock! muirland Jock, when the L—d makes a rock,
 To crush common-sense for her sins;
If ill-manners were wit, there’s no mortal so fit
 To confound the poor Doctor at ance,
Muirland Jock! 14 To confound the poor Doctor at ance.


Andro Gowk! Andro Gowk, ye may slander the Book,
 An’ the Book nought the waur, let me tell ye;
Tho’ ye’re rich, an’ look big, yet, lay by hat an’ wig,
 An’ ye’ll hae a calf’s-had o’ sma’ value,
Andro Gowk! 15 Ye’ll hae a calf’s head o’ sma value.


Daddy Auld! daddy Auld, there’a a tod in the fauld,
 A tod meikle waur than the clerk;
Tho’ ye do little skaith, ye’ll be in at the death,
 For gif ye canna bite, ye may bark,
Daddy Auld! 16 Gif ye canna bite, ye may bark.


Holy Will! holy Will, there was wit in your skull,
 When ye pilfer’d the alms o’ the poor;
The timmer is scant when ye’re taen for a saunt,
 Wha should swing in a rape for an hour,
Holy Will! 17 Ye should swing in a rape for an hour.


Calvin’s sons! Calvin’s sons, seize your spiritual guns,
 Ammunition you never can need;
Your hearts are the stuff will be powder enough,
 And your skulls are a storehouse o’ lead,
Calvin’s sons! Your skulls are a storehouse o’ lead.


Poet Burns! poet Burns, wi” your priest-skelpin turns,
 Why desert ye your auld native shire?
Your muse is a gipsy, yet were she e’en tipsy,
 She could ca’us nae waur than we are,
Poet Burns! She could ca’us nae waur than we are.


PRESENTATION STANZAS TO CORRESPONDENTSFactor John! Factor John, whom the Lord made alone,
 And ne’er made anither, thy peer,
Thy poor servant, the Bard, in respectful regard,
 He presents thee this token sincere,
Factor John! He presents thee this token sincere.


Afton’s Laird! Afton’s Laird, when your pen can be spared,
 A copy of this I bequeath,
On the same sicker score as I mention’d before,
 To that trusty auld worthy, Clackleith,
Afton’s Laird! To that trusty auld worthy, Clackleith.


 Note 1. Dr. M’Gill, Ayr.—R. B. [back]
Note 2. See the advertisement.—R. B. [back]
Note 3. John Ballantine,—R. B. [back]
Note 4. Robert Aiken.—R. B. [back]
Note 5. Dr. Dalrymple, Ayr.—R. B. [back]
Note 6. John Russell, Kilmarnock.—R. B. [back]
Note 7. James Mackinlay, Kilmarnock.—R. B. [back]
Note 8. Alexander Moodie of Riccarton.—R. B. [back]
Note 9. William Peebles, in Newton-upon-Ayr, a poetaster, who, among many other things, published an ode on the “Centenary of the Revolution,” in which was the line: “And bound in Liberty’s endering chain.”—R. B.
 [back]
Note 10. Stephen Young of Barr.—R. B. [back]
Note 11. James Young, in New Cumnock, who had lately been foiled in an ecclesiastical prosecution against a Lieutenant Mitchel—R. B. [back]
Note 12. David Grant, Ochiltree.—R. B. [back]
Note 13. George Smith, Galston.—R. B. [back]
Note 14. John Shepherd Muirkirk.—R. B. [back]
Note 15. Dr. Andrew Mitchel, Monkton.—R. B. [back]
Note 16. William Auld, Mauchline; for the clerk, see “Holy Willie”s Prayer.”—R. B. [back]
Note 17. Vide the “Prayer” of this saint.—R. B. [back]