III. The drawbridge dropped with a surly

clang, And through the dark arch a charger

sprang, Bearing Sir Launfal, the maiden knight, In his gilded mail, that flamed so bright It seemed the dark castle had gathered

all Those shafts the fierce sun had shot

over its wall In his siege of three hundred sum

mers long, And, binding them all in one blazing

sheaf, Had cast them forth : so, young and

strong, And lightsome as a locust-leaf, Sir Launfal flashed forth in his un

scarred mail, To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.

And seemed the one blot on the sum

mer morn, So he tossed him a piece of gold in scorn.

VI. The leper raised not the gold from the

dust : “Better to me the poor man's crust, Better the blessing of the poor, Though I turn me empty from his door : That is no true alms which the hand

can hold; He gives nothing but worthless gold

Who gives from a sense of duty; But he who gives a slender mite, And gives to that which is out of sight, That thread of the all-sustaining

Beauty Which runs through all and doth all

unite, The hand cannot clasp the whole of his

alms, The heart outstretches its eager palms, For a god goes with it and makes it

store To the soul that was starving in dark

ness before.

IV. It was morning on hill and stream and

tree, And morning in the young knight's

heart; Only the castle moodily Rebuffed the gifts of the sunshine free,

And gloomed by itself apart; The season brimmed all other things

up Full as the rain fills the pitcher-plant's cup.

V. As Sir Launfal made morn through the

darksome gate, He was 'ware of a leper, crouched

by the same, Who begged with his hand and moaned

as he sate; And a loathing over Sir Launfal

came; The sunshine went out of his soul with

a thrill, The flesh 'neath his arınor 'gan

shrink and crawl, And midway its leap his heart stood stili

Like a frozen waterfall; For this man, so foul and bent of stature, Rasped harshly against his dainty na

PRELUDE TO PART SECOND. Down swept the chill wind from the

mountain peak, From the snow five thousand sum

mers old ; On open wold and hill-top bleak

It had gathered all the cold, And whirled it like sleet on the wan

derer's cheek ; It carried a shiver everywhere From the unleafed boughs and pastures

bare ; The little brook heard it and built a

roof 'Neath which he could house him, win

ter-proof; All night by the white stars' frosty

gleams He groined his arches and matched his

beams; Slender and clear were his crystal spars As the lashes of light that trim the He sculptured every summer delight In his halls and chambers out of sight; Sometimes his tinkling waters slipt Down through a frost-leaved forest


stars :

crypt, Long, sparkling aksles of steel-stemmed

trees Bending to counterfeit a breeze ; Sometimes the roof no fretwork knew But silvery mosses that downward grew; Sometimes it was carved in sharp relief With quaint arabesques of ice-fern leaf; Sometimes it was simply smooth and

clear For the gladness of heaven to shine

through, and here He had caught the nodding bulrush

tops And hung them thickly with diamond

drops, That crystalled the beams of moon and

sun, And made a star of every one : No mortal builder's most rare device Could match this winter-palace of ice ; 'Twas as if every image that mirrored

lay In his depths serene through the sum:

mer day, Each fleeting shadow of earth and sky,

Lest the happy model should be lost, Had been mimicked in fairy masonry

By the elfin builders of the frost.

Go threading the soot-forest's tangled

darks Like herds of startled deer. But the wind without was eager and

sharp, Of Sir Launfal's gray hair it makes :

And rattles and wrings
The icy strings,
Singing, in dreary monotone,
A Christmas carol of its own,
Whose burden still, as he migh

guess, Was-"Shelterless, shelterless, shel

terless!” The voice of the seneschal flared like a

torch As he shouted the wanderer


from the porch, And he sat in the gateway and saw all

night The great hall-fire, so cheery and

bold, Through the window-slits of the cas

tle old, Build out its piers of ruddy light Against the drift of the cold.



Within the hall are song and laughter, The cheeks of Christmas glow red

and jolly, And sprouting is every corbel and rafter With lightsome green of ivy and

holly; Through the deep gulf of the chimney

wide Wallows the Yule-log's roaring tide ; The broad flame-pennons droop and

flap And belly and tug as a flag in the

wind; Like a locust shrills the imprisoned

sap, Hunted to death in its galleries

blind; And swift little troops of silent sparks, Now pausing, now scattering away

as in fear,

There was never a leaf on busho

tree, The bare boughs rattled shudderingly, The river was numb and could not

speak, For the weaver Winter its shroud

had spun ; A single crow on the tree-top bleak From his shining feathers shed oft

the cold sun ; Again was morning, but shrunk and

cold, As if her veins were sapless and old, And she rose up decrepitly For a last dim look at earth and sea.

II. Sir Launfai turned from his own hard

gate, For another heir in his earldom sate ;

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

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 !"

the cross,

But deep in his soul the sign he wore, The badge of the suffering and the poor.

his eyes


III. Sir Launfal's raiment thin and spare Was idle mail 'gainst the barbed 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 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.

VI. Then the soul of the leper stood up And looked at Sir Launfal, ara

straightway he Remembered in what a haughtier guiso

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, 'T was a mouldy crust of coarse brown

bread, 'Twas water out of a wooden bowl, Yet with fine wheaten bread was the

leper fed, And 'I was red wine he drank with

his thirsty soul.


“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

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 Beauti

ful Gate, Himself the Gate whereby men can Enter the temple of God in Man.


In the desolate horror of his disease.

V. And Sir Launfal said, “I behold in

thee An image of Him who died on the


VIII. His words were shed softer than leaves

from the pine, And they fell on Sir Launfal as snows

on the brine,

in one

the door,

Which mingle their softness and quiet 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

No longer scowl the turrets tall, The Summer's long siege at last is o'er. When the first poor outcast wat in ar 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



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


NOTE. – According to the mythology of the Romancers, the San Greal, or Holy Grail, was the cup out of which Jesus 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 any. thing so slight) of the foregoing poem is my own, and, to serve its purposes, I have enlarged the circle of coinpetition 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!


The castle gate stands open now,
And the wanderer is welcome to the

hall A: ne hangbird is to the elm-tree


and buy at a perfectly ruinous rate




(I like, as a thing that the reader's first fancy may strike,

an old-fashioned title-page,
such as presents a tabular view of the volume's contents,)



(Mrs. Malaprop's word)






By a quonderful Quiz,

who accompanies himself with a rub-a dub-dub, full of spirit and grace

on the top of the tub.

Set forth in October, the 31st day,
In the year '48, G. P. Putnam, Broadway.

« ElőzőTovább »