In the hush'd night, as if the world were

one Of utter peace, and love, and gentleness ! O Lancelot, Lancelot'—and she clapt her

hands*Full merry am I to find my goodly knave Is knight and noble. See now, swom

have I, Else yon black felon had not let me pass, To bring thee back to do the battle with

him. Thus an thou goest, he will fight thee first; Who doubts thee victor? so will my

knight-knave Miss the full Aower of this accomplish


Silent the silent field They traversed. Arthur's harp tho'

summer-wan, In counter motion to the clouds, allured The glance of Gareth dreaming on his

liege. A star shot : 'Lo,' said Gareth, the foe

falls !! An owl whoopt : ‘Hark the victor peal

ing there ! Suddenly she that rode upon his left Clung to the shield that Lancelot lent

him, crying, "Yield, yield him this again : 'tis he must

fight : I curse the tongue that all thro' yesterday Reviled thee, and hath wrought on

Lancelot now To lend thee horse and shield : wonders

ye have done; Miracles ye cannot : here is glory enow In having flung the three : I see thee

maim'd, Mangled : I swear thou canst not fling

the fourth.'

Said Lancelot, ‘Peradventure he, you

name, May know my shield. Let Gareth, an

he will, Change his for mine, and take my charger,

fresh, Not to be spurr'd, loving the battle as well As he that rides him.' 'Lancelot-like,'

she said, Courteous in this, Lord Lancelot, as in


* And wherefore, damsel ? tell me all

ye know.

You cannot scare me; nor rough face, or

voice, Brute bulk of limb, or boundless savagery Appal me from the quest.'

And Gareth, wakening, fiercely clutch'd

the shield ; *Ramp ye lance-splintering lions, on

whom all spears Are rotten sticks ! ye seem agape to roar! Yea, ramp and roar at leaving of your

lord !Care not, good beasts, so well I care for you. O noble Lancelot, from my hold on these Streams virtue-fire-thro' one that will

not shame Even the shadow of Lancelot under

shield. Hence : let us go.'

"Nay, Prince,' she cried, "God wot, I never look'd upon the face, Seeing he never rides abroad by day; But watch'd him have I like a phantom

pass Chilling the night : nor have I heard the

voice. Always he made his mouthpiece of a page Who came and went, and still reported


As closing in himself the strength of ten, And when his anger tare him, massacring Man, woman, lad and girl-yea, the soft

babe! Some hold that he hath swallow'd infant

flesh, Monster ! O Prince, I went for Lancelot

first, The quest is Lancelot's: give him back

the shield.'

Said Gareth laughing, “An he fight for

this, Belike he wins it as the better man : Thus--and not else!'

But Lancelot on him urged All the devisings of their chivalry When one might meet a mightier than

himself ; How best to manage horse, lance, sword

and shield, And so fill up the gap where force might

fail With skill and fineness. Instant were

his words.

Beside the Castle Perilous on flat field,
A huge pavilion like a mountain peak
Sunder the glooming crimson on the

marge, Black, with black banner, and a long

black horn Beside it hanging; which Sir Gareth

graspt, And so, before the two could hinder him, Sent all his heart and breath thro' all the

hörn. Echo'd the walls; a light twinkled ; anon Came lights and lights, and once again

he blew; Whereon were hollow tramplings up and

down And muffled voices heard, and shadows

past; Till high above him, circled with her

maids, The Lady Lyonors at a window stood, Beautiful among lights, and waving to him White hands, and courtesy ; but when

the Prince Three times had blown-after long hush

-at lastThe huge pavilion slowly yielded up, Thro' those black foldings, that which

housed therein. High on a nightblack horse, in nightblack

arms, With white breast-bone, and barren ribs

of Death, And crown'd with fleshless laughter

some ten stepsIn the half-light-thro' the dim dawn

advanced The monster, and then paused, and spake

no word.

Then Gareth, 'Here be rules. I know

but oneTo dash against mine enemy and to win. Yet have I watch'd thee victor in the joust, And seen thy way.' 'Heaven help thee,'

sigh'd Lynette.

Then for a space, and under cloud that

grew To thunder-gloom palling all stars, they

rode In converse till she made her palfrey halt, Lifted an arm, and softly whisper’d,

• There.' And all the three were silent seeing,


But Gareth spake and all indignantly, 'Fool, for thou hast, men say, the

strength of ten,

Canst thou not trust the limbs thy God

hath given, But must, to make the terror of thee more, Trick thyself out in ghastly imageries Of that which Life hath done with, and

the clod, Less dull than thou, will hide with

mantling flowers As if for pity?' But he spake no word; Which set the horror higher : a maiden

swoonid; The Lady Lyonors wrung her hands and

wept, As doom'd to be the bride of Night and

Death; Sir Gareth's head prickled beneath his

helm; And ev'n Sir Lancelot thro' his warm

blood felt Ice strike, and all that mark'd him were


And stay the world from Lady Lyonors. They never dream'd the passes would be

past.' Answer'd Sir Gareth graciously to one Not many a moon his younger, .My fair

child, What madness made thee challenge the

chief knight Of Arthur's hall?' Fair Sir, they bad

me do it. They hate the King, and Lancelot, the

King's friend, They hoped to slay him somewhere on

the stream, They never dream'd the passes could be


Then sprang the happier day from

underground; And Lady Lyonors and her house, with

dance And revel and song, made merry over

Death, As being after all their foolish fears And horrors only proven a blooming boy. So large mirth lived and Gareth won the


At once Sir Lancelot's charger fiercely

neigh'd, And Death's dark war-horse bounded

forward with him. Then those that did not blink the terror,


[blocks in formation]

At sunrise, now at sunset, now by night With moon and trembling stars, so loved

Geraint To make her beauty vary day by day, In crimsons and in purples and in gems. And Enid, but to please her husband's

eye, Who first had found and loved her in a

Of Justice, and whatever loathes a law : And therefore, till the King himself

should please To cleanse this common sewer of all his

realm, He craved a fair permission to depart, And there defend his marches; and the

King Mused for a little on his plea, but, last, Allowing it, the Prince and Enid rode, And fifty knights rode with them, to the

shores Of Severn, and they past to their own



Of broken fortunes, daily fronted him
In some fresh splendour ; and the Queen

herself, Grateful to Prince Geraint for service

done, Loved her, and often with her own white

hands Array'd and deck'd her, as the loveliest, Next after her own self, in all the court. And Enid loved the Queen, and with true

heart Adored her, as the stateliest and the best And loveliest of all women upon

earth. And seeing them so tender and so close, Long in their common love rejoiced

Geraint. But when a rumour rose about the Queen, Touching her guilty love for Lancelot, Tho' yet there lived no proof, nor yet was

heard The world's loud whisper breaking into

storm, Not less Geraint believed it; and there

fell A horror on him, lest his gentle wife, Thro' that great tenderness for Guinevere, Had suffer'd, or should suffer any taint In nature : wherefore going to the King, He made this pretext, that his princedom

lay Close on the borders of a territory, Wherein were bandit earls, and caitift

knights, Assassins, and all Ayers from the hand

Where, thinking, that if ever yet was

wife True to her lord, mine shall be so to me, He compass'd her with sweet observances And worship, never leaving her, and grew Forgetful of his promise to the King, Forgetful of the falcon and the hunt, Forgetful of the tilt and tournament, Forgetful of his glory and his name, Forgetful of his princedom and its cares. And this forgetfulness was hateful to her. And by and by the people, when they met, In twos and threes, or fuller companies, Began to scoff and jeer and babble of him As of a prince whose manhood was all

gone, And molten down in mere uxoriousness. And this she gather'd from the people's

eyes : This too the women who attired her head, To please her, dwelling on his boundless

love, Told Enid, and they sadden'd her the


And day by day she thought to tell Geraint, But could not out of bashful delicacy; While he that watch'd her sadden, was

the more Suspicious that her nature had a taint.

At last, it chanced that on a summer


Than that my lord thro' me should suffer

shame. Am I so bold, and could I so stand by, And see my dear lord wounded in the strife, Or maybe pierced to death before mine

eyes, And yet not dare to tell him what I think, And how men slur him, saying all his force Is melted into mere effeminacy? O me, I fear that I am no true wife.'

(They sleeping each by either) the new sun Beat thro' the blindless casement of the

room, And heated the strong warrior in his

dreams; Who, moving, cast the coverlet aside, And bared the knotted column of his

throat, The massive square of his heroic breast, And arms on which the standing muscle

sloped, As slopes a wild brook o'er a little stone, Running too vehemently to break upon it. And Enid woke and sat beside the couch, Admiring him, and thought within herself, Was ever man so grandly made as he ? Then, like a shadow, past the people's

talk And accusation of uxoriousness Across her mind, and bowing over him, Low to her own heart piteously she said :

O noble breast and all-puissant arms, Am I the cause, I the poor cause that men Reproach you, saying all your force is

Half inwardly, half audibly she spoke, And the strong passion in her made her

weep True tears upon his broad and naked

breast, And these awoke him, and by great mis

chance He heard but fragments of her later words, And that she fear'd she was not a true

wife. And then he thought, ‘In spite of all my

care, For all my pains, poor man, for all my

pains, She is not faithful to me, and I see her Weeping for some gay knight in Arthur's

hall.' Then tho' he loved and reverenced her

too much To dream she could be guilty of foul act, Right thro' his manful breast darted the

pang That makes a man, in the sweet face of her Whom he loves most, lonely and miserable. At this he hurl'd his huge limbs out of bed, And shook his drowsy squire awake and

cried, *My charger and her palfrey;' then to her, • I will ride forth into the wilderness ; For tho' it seems my spurs are yet to win, I have not fall’n so low as some would



I am the cause, because I dare not speak And tell him what I think and what they

say. And yet I hate that he should linger here; I cannot love my lord and not his name. Far liefer had I gird his harness on him, And ride with him to battle and stand by, And watch his mightful hand striking

great blows

At caitiffs and at wrongers of the world. Far better were I laid in the dark earth, Not hearing any more his noble voice, Not to be folded more in these dear arms, And darken’d from the high light in his


« ElőzőTovább »