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At Francis Allen's on the Christmas

eve,The game of forfeits done-the girls all

kiss'd Beneath the sacred bush and past awayThe parson Holmes, the poet Everard

Hall, The host, and I sat round the wassail

bowl, Then half-way ebb’d : and there we held

a talk, How all the old honour had from Christ

mas gone, Or gone, or dwindled down to some odd

games In some odd nooks like this ; till I, tired

out With cutting eights that day upon the

pond, Where, three times slipping from the

outer edge, I bump'd the ice into three several stars

Fell in a doze; and half-awake I heard The parson taking wide and wider

sweeps, Now harping on the church-commis

sioners, Now hawking at Geology and schism ; Until I woke, and found him settled down Upon the general decay of faith Right thro' the world, 'at home was little

left, And none abroad : there was no anchor,

none, To hold by.' Francis, laughing, clapt

his hand On Everard's shoulder, with I hold by

him.' * And I,' quoth Everard, .by the wassail

bowl.' • Why yes,' I said, "we knew your gift

that way

At college : but another which you had, I mean of verse (for so we held it then), What came of that?' 'You know,' said

Frank, "he burnt


His epic, his King Arthur, some twelve

books'And then to me demanding why? «Oh,

sir, He thought that nothing new was said, or

else Something so said 'twas nothing-that a

truth Looks freshest in the fashion of the day: God knows : he has a mint of reasons :

ask. It pleased me well enough.' 'Nay, nay,'

said Hall, "Why take the style of those heroic

times? For nature brings not back the Masto

don, Nor we those times; and why should any

So all day long the noise of battle roll'd Among the mountains by the winter sea ; Until King Arthur's table, man by man, Had fallen in Lyonness about their Lord, King Arthur : then, because his wound

was deep, The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him, Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights, 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. Then spake King Arthur to Sir

Bedivere : • The sequel of to-day unsolders all Thegoodliest 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,


Remodel models? these twelve books of

mine Were faint Homeric echoes, nothing

worth, Mere chaff and draff, much better burnt.'

But I,' Said Francis, pick'd the eleventh from

this hearth And have it : keep a thing, its use will

come. I hoard it as a sugar-plum for Holmes.' He laugh’d, and I, though sleepy, like a

horse That hears the corn-bin open, prick'd my

ears; For I remember'd Everard's college fame When we were Freshmen : then at my

request He brought it ; and the poet little urged, But with some prelude of disparage

ment, Read, mouthing out his hollow oes and

aes, Deep-chested music, and to this result.


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


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* 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 dis

obey, 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'ssword, 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

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

were lost.' So spake he, clouded with his own

conceit, And hid Excalibur the second time, And so strode back slow to the wounded

Then spoke King Arthur, breathing

heavily : * What is it thou hast seen? or what hast


And answer made the bold Sir

Bedivere : • I heard the water lapping on the crag, And the long ripple washing in the reeds.' 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.' 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 Made lightnings in the splendour of the

moon, And flashing round and round, and

whirld in an arch, Shot like a streamer of the northern morn, Seen where the moving isles of winter

shock By night, with noises of the northern sea. So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur : But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonder


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