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An old, bent man, worn out and frail,
He came back from seeking the Holy Grail;
Little he recked of his earldom's loss,
No more on his surcoat was blazoned the cross,
But deep in his soul the sign he wore,
The badge of the suffering and the poor,

III

Sir Launfal's raiment thin and spare
Was idle mail 'gainst the barbèd air,
For it was just at the Christmas time;
So he mused, as he sat, of a sunnier clime,
And sought for a shelter from cold and snow
In the light and warmth of long-ago;
He sees the snake-like caravan crawl
O'er the edge of the desert, black and small,
Then nearer and nearer, till, one by one,
He can count the camels in the sun,
As over the red-hot sands they pass
To where, in its slender necklace of grass,
The little spring laughed and leapt in the shade,
And with its own self like an infant played,
And waved its signal of palms.

IV

“For Christ's sweet sake, I beg an alms;''-
The happy camels may reach the spring,
But Sir Launfal sees only the grewsome thing,
The leper, lank as the rain-blanched bone,

That cowers beside him, a thing as lone
And white as the ice-isles of Northern seas
In the desolate horror of his disease.

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And Sir Launfal said, “I behold in thee
An image of Him who died on the tree;
Thou also hast had thy crown of thorns,
Thou also hast had the world's buffets and scorns,
And to thy life were not denied
The wounds in the hands and feet and side:
Mild Mary's Son, acknowledge me;
Behold, through him, I give to Thee!”

VI

Then the soul of the leper stood up in his eyes

And looked at Sir Launfal, and straightway he Remembered in what a haughtier guise

He had flung an alms to leprosie, When he girt his young life up in gilded mail And set forth in search of the Holy Grail. The heart within him was ashes and dust; He parted in twain his single crust, He broke the ice on the streamlet's brink, And gave the leper to eat and drink: 'Twas a mouldy crust of coarse brown bread, 'Twas water out of a wooden bowl, Yet with fine wheaten bread was the leper fed, And 'twas red wine he drank with his thirsty soul.

VII

As Sir Launfal mused with a downcast face,
A light shone round about the place;
The leper no longer crouched at his side,
But stood before him glorified,
Shining and tall and fair and straight
As the pillar that stood by the Beautiful Gate,-
Himself the Gate whereby men can
Enter the temple of God in Man.

VIII

His words were shed softer than leaves from the pine,
And they fell on Sir Launfal as snows on the brine,
That mingle their softness and quiet in one
With the shaggy unrest they float down upon;
And the voice that was calmer than silence said,
"Lo, it is I, be not afraid !
In many climes, without avail,
Thou hast spent thy life for the Holy Grail;
Behold, it is here,—this cup which thou
Didst fill at the streamlet for Me but now;
This crust is My body broken for thee
This water His blood that died on the tree;
The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need:
Not what we give, but what we share,—
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,-
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me."

IX

Sir Launfal awoke as from a swound:-
The Grail in my castle here is found !
Hang my idle armor up on the wall,
Let it be the spider's banquet-hall;
He must be fenced with stronger mail
Who would seek and find the Holy Grail.”'

X

The castle gate stands open now,

And the wanderer is welcome to the hall As the hangbird is to the elm-tree bough;

No longer scowl the turrets tall, The Summer's long siege at last is o'er; When the first poor outcast went in at the door, She entered with him in disguise, And mastered the fortress by surprise; There is no spot she loves so well on ground, She lingers and smiles there the whole year round; The meanest serf on Sir Launfal's land Has hall and bower at his command; And there's no poor man in the North Countree But is lord of the earldom as much as he.

Notes

Sinais: Sinai was the mountain in the wilderness where Moses went for his personal talks with God.

Druid: member of an old Celtic order of religion, which in its earliest form was a kind of tree worship. The rites were

usually performed in woods or groves. Here Lowell would seem to imply that the trees themselves take the place of the priests in their power to bless.

Holy Grail: the following note accompanied the first publication of The Vision of Sir Launfal in 1848 :

According to the mythology of the Romancers, the San Greal, or Holy Grail, was the cup out of which Jesus Christ partook of the last supper with his disciples. It was brought into England by Joseph of Arimathea, and remained there, an object of pilgrimage and adoration, for many years in the keeping of his lineal descendants. It was incumbent upon those who had charge of it to be chaste in thought, word, and deed; but, one of the keepers having broken this condition, the Holy Grail disappeared. From that time it was a favorite enterprise of the Knights of Arthur's court to go in search of it. Sir Galahad was at last successful in finding it, as may be read in the seventeenth book of the Romance of King Arthur. Tennyson has made Sir Galahad the subject of one of the most exquisite of his poems.

The plot (if I may give that name to anything so slight) of the following poem is my own, and, to serve its purposes, I have enlarged the circle of competition in search of the miraculous cup in such a manner as to include not only other persons than the heroes of the Round Table, but also a period of time subsequent to the date of King Arthur's reign."

Questions for Study

1. How does Lowell, like a “musing organist,” lead up to his theme in Part First? Show the steps that he takes in his Prelude to Part First. What would the story lose if it began on page 179? Show similarly the uses made of the Prelude to Part Second or what the story would lose if that were omitted.

2. At what point in the poem does the vision begin! At what point does it end? Is the second Prelude included in it!

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