Oldalképek
PDF

Had beaten thin ; while Arthur at one

blow, Striking the last stroke with Excalibur, Slew him, and all but slain himself, he fell.

So all day long the noise of battle rolld Among the mountains by the winter sea ; Until King Arthur's Table, man by man, Had fall’n in Lyonnesse about their lord, King Arthur. Then, because his wound

was deep, The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him, And bore him to a chapel nigh the field, A broken chancel with a broken cross, That stood on a dark strait of barren land : On one side lay the Ocean, and on one Lay a great water, and the moon was full.

Rose up from out the bosom of the lake, Clothed in white samite, mystic, won

derful, Holding the sword—and how I row'd

across And took it, and have worn it, like a king; And, wheresoever I am sung or told In aftertime, this also shall be known : But now delay not : take Excalibur, And fling him far into the middle mere : Watch what thou seëst, and lightly bring

me word.'

To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere : • It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee

thus, Aidless, alone, and smitten thro' the

helmA little thing may harm a wounded man ; Yet I thy hest will all perform at full, Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee

word.'

Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedi

vere : “The sequel of to-day unsolders all The goodliest fellowship of famous knights Whereof this world holds record. Such

a sleep They sleep—the men I loved. I think

that we Shall never more, at any future time, Delight our souls with talk of knightly

deeds, Walking about the gardens and the halls Of Camelot, as in the days that were. I perish by this people which I made, Tho' Merlin sware that I should come

again To rule once more; but, let what will be,

So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he

stept, And in the moon athwart the place of

tombs, Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men, Old knights, and over them the sea-wind

sang Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He,

stepping down By zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock, Came on the shining levels of the lake.

be,

There drew he forth the brand Excali

bur,

· I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm

That without help I cannot last till morn. Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur, Which was my pride : for thou remem

berest how In those old days, one summer noon, an

arm

And o'er him, drawing it, the winter

moon, Brightening the skirts of a long cloud,

ran forth And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt :

мм

Counting the dewy pebbles, fix'd in

thought ; But when he saw the wonder of the hilt, How curiously and strangely chased, he

smote His palms together, and he cried aloud :

For all the haft twinkled with diamond

sparks, Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work Of subtlest jewellery. He gazed so long That both his eyes were dazzled as he

stood, This way and that dividing the swift mind, In act to throw : but at the last it seem'd Better to leave Excalibur conceal'd There in the many-knotted waterflags, That whistled stiff and dry about the

marge. So strode he back slow to the wounded

King.

Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: • Hast thou perform'd my mission which

I gave? What is it thou hast seen ? or what hast

heard ?'

And answer made the bold Sir Bedi

vere : "I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, And the wild water lapping on the crag.'

* And if indeed I cast the brand away, Surely a precious thing, one worthy note, Should thus be lost for ever from the earth, Which might have pleased the eyes of

many men. What good should follow this, if this were

done? What harm, undone? Deep harm to

disobey, Seeing obedience is the bond of rule. Were it well to obey then, if a king

demand An act unprofitable, against himself? The King is sick, and knows not what

he does. What record, or what relic of my lord Should be to aftertime, but empty breath And rumours of a doubt? But were this

kept, Stored in some treasure-house of mighty

kings, Some one might show it at a joust of arms, Saying, “King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, Wrought by the lonely maiden of the

Lake. Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the

deeps Upon the hidden bases of the hills.” So might some old man speak in the after

time To all the people, winning reverence. But now much honour and much fame

were lost.'

To whom replied King Arthur, faint

and pale : 'Thou hast betray'd thy nature and thy

name, Not rendering true answer, as beseem'd Thy fëalty, nor like a noble knight : For surer sign had follow'd, either hand, Or voice, or else a motion of the mere. This is a shameful thing for men to lie. Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again, As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing I bade thee, watch, and lightly bring me

word.'

Then went Sir Bedivere the second time Across the ridge, and paced beside the

mere,

So spake he, clouded with his own

conceit,

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

And caught him by the hilt, and brandisk'd

him Three times, and drew him under in the

mere. And lightly went the other to the King.

Then spoke King Arthur, drawing

thicker breath : • Now see I by thine eyes that this is done. Speak out : what is it thou hast heard, or

seen ?'

To whom replied King Arthur, much

in wrath : * Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue, Unknightly, traitor-hearted ! Woe is me! Authority forgets a dying king, Laid widow'd of the power in his eye That bow'd the will. I see thee what

thou art, For thou, the latest-left of all my knights, In whom should meet the offices of all, Thou wouldst betray me for the precious

hilt ; Either from lust of gold, or like a girl Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes. Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice, And the third time may prosper, get thee

hence: But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur, I will arise and slay thee with my hands.'

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

Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and

ran, And, leaping down the ridges lightly,

plunged Among the bulrush beds, and clutch'd

the sword, And strongly wheeld and threw it. The

great brand Madelightnings in the splendour of the

moon,

And answer made King Arthur,

breathing hard : • My end draws nigh ; 'tis time that I Make broad thy shoulders to receive my

were gone.

weight, And bear me to the margin ; yet I fear My wound hath taken cold, and I shall

die.'

Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed

heelsAnd on a sudden, lo ! the level lake, And the long glories of the winter moon.

So saying, from the pavement he half

rose, Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm, And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears, And would have spoken, but he found not

words; Then took with care, and kneeling on one

knee, O'er both his shoulders drew the languid

hands, And rising bore him thro' the place of

tombs.

Then saw they how there hove a dusky

barge, Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern, Beneath them; and descending they were

ware That all the decks were dense with stately

forms, Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream

-by these Three Queens with crowns of gold : and

from them rose A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars, And, as it were one voice, an agony Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills All night in a waste land, where no one

comes, Or hath come, since the making of the

world.

But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted

hard, Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed When all the house is mute. So sigh'd

the King, Muttering and murmuring at his ear,

Quick, quick ! I fear it is too late, and I shall die.' But the other swiftly strode from ridge to

ridge, Clothed with his breath, and looking, as

he walk'd, Larger than human on the frozen hills. He heard the deep behind him, and a cry Before. His own thought drove him like

a goad. Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves And barren chasms, and all to left and

right The bare black cliff clang'd round him,

as he based His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang

Then murmur'd Arthur, * Place me in

the barge. So to the barge they came. There those

three Queens Put forth their hands, and took the King,

and wept. But she, that rose the tallest of them all And fairest, laid his head upon her lap, And loosed the shatter'd casque, and

chafed his hands, And call’d him by his name, complaining

loud, And dropping bitter tears against a brow Striped with dark blood : for all his face

was white And colourless, and like the wither'd

moon Smote by the fresh beam of the spring. And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with

ing east;

drops Of onset; and the light and lustrous

curlsThat made his forehead like a rising sun High from the daïs-throne—were parch'd

with dust ; Or, clotted into points and hanging loose, Mix'd with the knightly growth that

fringed his lips. So like a shatter'd column lay the King ; Not like that Arthur who, with lance in

rest, From spur to plume a star of tournament, Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and

charged Before the eyes of ladies and of kings.

Then loudly cried the bold Sir

Bedivere : *Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go? Where shall I hide my forehead and my

eyes ? For now I see the true old times are

dead, When every morning brought a noble

chance, And every chance brought out a noble

knight. Such times have been not since the light

that led The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh. But now the whole Round Table is dis.

solved Which was an image of the mighty world, And I, the last, go forth companionless, And the days darken round me, and the

years, Among new men, strange faces, other

minds.'

· The old order changeth, yielding place

to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the

world. Comfort thyself : what comfort is in me? I have lived my life and that which I

have done May He within himself make pure ! but

thou, If thou shouldst never see my face again, Pray for my soul. More things are

wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of. Wherefore,

let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me night and day. For what are men better than sheep or goats That nourish a blind life within the brain, If, knowing God, they lift not hands of

prayer Both for themselves and those who call

them friend ? For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of

God. But now farewell. I am going a long way With these thou seëst-if indeed I go (For all my mind is clouded with a

doubt) — To the island-valley of Avilion ; Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard

lawns And bowery hollows crown'd with summer

sea, Where I will heal me of my grievous

wound.'

So said he, and the barge with oar and

sail

And slowly answer'd Arthur from the

Moved from the brink, like some full

barge :

breasted swan

« ElőzőTovább »