Her seer, her bard, her silver star of eve, Her God, her Merlin, the one passionate

love Of her whole life ; and ever overhead Bellow'd the tempest, and the rotten

branch Snapt in the rushing of the river-rain Above them; and in change of glare and

gloom Her eyes and neck glittering went and

came; Till now the storm, its burst of passion

spent, Moaning and calling out of other lands, Had left the ravaged woodland yet once

more To peace ; and what should not have been

had been, For Merlin, overtalk'd and overworn, Had yielded, told her all the charm, and


Which first she placed where morning's

earliest ray Might strike it, and awake her with the

gleam; Then fearing rust or soilure fashion'd for it A case of silk, and braided thereupon All the devices blazon'd on the shield In their own tinct, and added, of her wit, A border fantasy of branch and flower, And yellow-throated nestling in the nest. Nor rested thus content, but day by day, Leaving her household and good father,

climb'd That eastern tower, and entering barr’d

her door, Stript off the case, and read the naked

shield, Now guess'd a hidden meaning in his

arms, Now made a pretty history to herself Of every dint a sword had beaten in it, And every scratch a lance had made

upon it, Conjecturing when and where : this cut

is fresh; That ten years back ; this dealt him at

Caerlyle ; That at Caerleon ; this at Camelot : And ah God's mercy, what a stroke was

there ! And here a thrust that might have kill'd,

but God Broke the strong lance, and rollid his

enemy down, And saved him : so she lived in fantasy.

Then, in one moment, she put forth

the charm Of woven paces and of waving hands, And in the hollow oak he lay as dead, And lost to life and use and name and


Then crying 'I have made his glory

mine,' And shrieking out “O fool !' the harlot

leapt Adown the forest, and the thicket closed Behind her, and the forest echo'd 'fool.'


ELAINE the fair, Elaine the loveable,
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat,
High in her chamber up a tower to the

east Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot;

How came the lily maid by that good

shield Of Lancelot, she that knew not ev'n his

name? He left it with her, when he rode to tilt For the great diamond in the diamond


Which Arthur had ordain'd, and by that

name Had named them, since a diamond was

the prize.

For Arthur, long before they crown'd

him King, Roving the trackless realms of Lyonnesse, Had found a glen, gray boulder and black

tarn. A horror lived about the tarn, and clave Like its own mists to all the mountain

side : For here two brothers, one a king, had

Pluck'd from the crown, and show'd them

to his knights, Saying, “These jewels, whereupon I

chanced Divinely, are the kingdom's, not the

King's For public use : henceforward let there be, Once every year, a joust for one of these : For so by nine years' proof we needs

must learn Which is our mightiest, and ourselves

shall grow In use of arms and manhood, till we drive The heathen, who, some say, shall rule

the land Hereafter, which God hinder.' Thus he

spoke : And eight years past, eight jousts had

been, and still Had Lancelot won the diamond of the

year, With purpose to present them to the

Queen, When all were won ; but meaning all at

once To snare her royal fancy with a boon Worth half her realm, had never spoken



And fought together ; but their names

were lost; And each had slain his brother at a blow; And down they fell and made the glen

abhorr'd : And there they lay till all their bones

were bleach'd, And lichen'd into colour with the crags : And he, that once was king, had on a

crown Of diamonds, one in front, and four aside. And Arthur came, and labouring up the

pass, All in a misty moonshine, unawares Had trodden that crown'd skeleton, and

the skull Brake from the nape, and from the skull

the crown Roll'd into light, and turning on its rims Fled like a glittering rivulet to the tarn : And down the shingly scaur he plunged,

and caught, And set it on his head, and in his heart Heard murmurs, 'Lo, thou likewise shalt

be King.'

Now for the central diamond and the

last And largest, Arthur, holding then his

court Hard on the river nigh the place which

now Is this world's hugest, let proclaim a joust At Camelot, and when the time drew nigh Spake (for she had been sick) to

Guinevere, *Are you so sick, my Queen, you cannot

move To these fair jousts?' 'Yea, lord,' she

said, “ye know it.'

Thereafter, when a King, he had the


"Then will ye miss,' he answer'd, the

great deeds Of Lancelot, and his prowess in the lists, A sight ye love to look on.' And the

Queen Lifted her eyes, and they dwelt languidly On Lancelot, where he stood beside the

King. He thinking that he read her meaning

there, *Stay with me, I am sick ; my love is

more Than many diamonds,' yielded ; and a

heart Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen (However much he yearn'd to make

complete The tale of diamonds for his destined

boon) Urged him to speak against the truth,

and say, Sir King, mine ancient wound is hardly

whole, And lets me from the saddle;' and the

King Glanced first at him, then her, and went

his way. No sooner gone than suddenly she began :

Then of the crowd ye took no more

account Than of the myriad cricket of the mead, When its own voice clings to each blade

of grass, And every voice is nothing. As to

knights, Them surely can I silence with all ease. But now my loyal worship is allow'd Of all men : many a bard, without

offence, Has link'd our names together in his lay, Lancelot, the flower of bravery, Guine

vere, The pearl of beauty : and our knights at

feast Have pledged us in this union, while the

King Would listen smiling. How then ? is

there more? Has Arthur spoken aught? or would

yourself, Now weary of my service and devoir, Henceforth be truer to your faultless lord?'

*To blame, my lord Sir Lancelot,

much to blame ! Why go ye not to these fair jousts ? the

knights Are half of them our enemies, and the

crowd Will murmur, “Lo the shameless ones,

who take Their pastime now the trustful King is

She broke into a little scornful laugh : * Arthur, my lord, Arthur, the faultless

King, That passionate perfection, my good

lordBut who can gaze upon the Sun in heaven? He never spake word of reproach to me, He never had a glimpse of mine untruth, He cares not for me : only here to-day There gleam'd a vague suspicion in his

eyes : Some meddling rogue has tamper'd with

him-else Rapt in this fancy of his Table Round, And swearing men to vows impossible, To make them like himself : but, friend,

to me He is all fault who hath no fault at all :

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For who loves me must have a touch of

earth; The low sun makes the colour : I am yours, Not Arthur's, as ye know, save by the

bond. And therefore hear my words : go to the

jousts : The tiny-trumpeting gnat can break our

dream Whensweetest ; and the vermin voices here May buzz so loud-we scorn them, but

they sting.'

Then answer'd Lancelot, the chief of

knights : * And with what face, after my pretext

made, Shall I appear, O Queen, at Camelot, I Before a King who honours his own word, As if it were his God's?'

Yea,' said the Queen, • A moral child without the craft to rule, Else had he not lost me : but listen to me, If I must find you wit : we hear it said That men go down before your spear at

a touch, But knowing you are Lancelot; your great

name, This conquers : hide it therefore; go

unknown : Win! by this kiss you will : and our true

King Will then allow your pretext, Omy

knight, As all for glory; for to speak him true, Ye know right well, how meek soe'er he

seem, No keener hunter after glory breathes. He loves it in his knights more than

himself : They prove to him his work : win and


And there among the solitary downs, Full often lost in fancy, lost his way; Till as he traced a faintly-shadow'd track, That all in loops and links among the

dales Ran to the Castle of Astolat, he saw Fired from the west, far on a hill, the

towers. Thither he made, and blew the gateway

horn. Then came an old, dumb, myriad-wrinkled

man, Who let him into lodging and disarm’d. And Lancelot marvelld at the wordless

man ; And issuing found the Lord of Astolat With two strong sons, Sir Torre and Sir

Lavaine, Moving to meet him in the castle court; And close behind them stept the lily maid Elaine, his daughter : mother of the house There was not : some light jest among

them rose With laughter dying down as the great

knight Approach'd them: then the Lord of

Astolat: • Whence comest thou, my guest, and by

what name Livest between the lips ? for by thy state And presence I might guess thee chief of

those, After the King, who eat in Arthur's halls. Him have I seen : the rest, his Table

Round, Known as they are, to me they are


Then answer'd Lancelot, the chief of

knights : • Known am I, and of Arthur's hall, and

known, What I by mere mischance have brought,

my shield. But since I go to joust as one unknown At Camelot for the diamond, ask me not, Hereafter ye shall know me--and the

shieldI pray you lend me one, if such you have, Blank, or at least with some device not


That some one put this diamond in her

hand, And that it was too slippery to be held, And slipt and fell into some pool or stream, The castle-well, belike ; and then I said That if I went and if I fought and won it (But all was jest and joke among ourselves) Then must she keep it safelier. All was jest. But, father, give me leave, an if he will, To ride to Camelot with this noble knight : Win shall I not, but do my best to win : Young as I am, yet would I do my best.'

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He is so full of lustihood, he will ride, Joust for it, and win, and bring it in an

hour, And set it in this damsel's golden hair, To make her thrice as wilful as before.'

Then she, who held her eyes upon the

ground, Elaine, and heard her name so tost about, Flush'd slightly at the slight disparagement Before the stranger knight, who, looking

at her, Full courtly, yet not falsely, thus return'd : • If what is fair be but for what is fair, And only queens are to be counted so, Rash were my judgment then, who deem

this maid Might wear as fair a jewel as is on earth, Not violating the bond of like to like.'

• Nay, father, nay good father, shame

me not Before this noble knight,' said young

Lavaine, “For nothing. Surely I but play'd on

Torre : He seem'd so sullen, vext he could not go : A jest, no more ! for, knight, the maiden


He spoke and ceased : the lily maid


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