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Whereat the novice crying, with clasp'd

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, tho' himself would say Sir Lancelot had the noblest; and he died, Kill'd in a tilt, come next, five summers

back, And left me; but of others who remain, And of the two first-famed for courtesyAnd pray you check me if I ask amissBut pray you, which had noblest, while

you moved Among them, Lancelot or our lord the

King?'

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 who 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.'

Then the pale Queen look'd up and

answer'd 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-manner'd men of

all; For manners are not idle, but the fruit Of loyal nature, and of noble mind.'

So she, like many another babbler, hurt Whom she would soothe, and harm'd

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

“Yea,' said the maid, 'be manners such

fair fruit ? Then Lancelot's needs must be a thou

sand-fold Less noble, being, as all rumour runs, The most disloyal friend in all the world.'

Sigh’d, 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

thoughtNot ev'n 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.'

But when the Queen immersed in such

a trance, And moving thro' the past unconsciously, Came to that point where first she saw

the King Ride toward her from the city, sigh'd to

find Her journey done, glanced at him, thought

him cold, High, self-contain'd, and passionless, not

like him, Not like my Lancelot '-while she

brooded thus And grew half-guilty in her thoughts

again, There rode an armed warrior to the doors. A murmuring whisper thro' the nunnery

ran, Then on a sudden a cry, 'The King.'

She sat Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armed

feet

And ev'n 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

dream'd,) Rode under groves that look'd a paradise Of blossom, over sheets of hyacinth That seem'd the heavens upbreaking

thro' 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 crown'd the state pavilion of the

King, Blaze by the rushing brook or silent well.

Thro’the long gallery from the outer doors Rang coming, prone from off her seat she

fell, And grovell’d 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 armed feet Pause by her ; then came silence, then a

voice,

Monotonous and hollow like a Ghost's Denouncing judgment, but tho' changed,

the King's :

* Liest thou here so low, the child of one I honour’d, happy, dead before thy shame? Well is it that no child is born of thee. The children born of thee are sword and

fire,

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Whom I, while yet Sir Lancelot, my

right arm The mightiest of my knights, abode with

me, Have everywhere about this land of Christ Intwelve 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

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

live,

To guard thee in the wild hour coming on, Lest but a hair of this low head be harm’d. Fear not : thou shalt be guarded till my

death. Howbeit I know, if ancient prophecies Have err'd 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, Ev'n for thy sake, the sin which thou hast

sinn'd.

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 Lance

lot; Then came the sin of Tristram and Isolt;

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.'

Then others, following these my mightiest

knights, And drawing foul ensample from fair

names, Sinn'd also, till the loathsome opposite Of all my heart had destined did obtain, And all thro' 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, tho' thou wouldst not love

thy lord, Thy lord has 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

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

neigh'd As 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 weigh'd 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 sinn'd, and I, Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God Forgives : do thou for thine own soul the

house :

For being thro' his cowardice allow'd
Her station, taken everywhere for pure,
She like a new disease, unknown to men,
Creeps, no precaution used, among the

crowd,

rest.

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 moreFarewell !'

And while she grovell’d 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.

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 came a kingdom's curse with

theeI 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 sinn'd ; and

mine own fesh, Here looking down on thine polluted, cries “ I loathe thee :" yet not less, O Guine

vere, For I was ever virgin save for thee, My love thro' 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. Thro' 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,

Then, listening till those armed 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

lower'd, 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 turn'd; and more and

more

The moony vapour rolling round the King,

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