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At love, life, all things, on the window

ledge, Close underneath his eyes, and right across Where these had fallen, slowly past the

barge Whereon the lily maid of Astolat Lay smiling, like a star in blackest night.

Being your gift, had you not lost your

own. To loyal hearts the value of all gifts Must vary as the giver's. Not for me! For her ! for your new fancy. Only this Grant me, I pray you: have your joys

apart. I doubt not that however changed, you

keep So much of what is graceful : and myself Would shun to break those bounds of

courtesy In which as Arthur's Queen I move and

rule : So cannot speak my mind. An end to

this! A strange one ! yet I take it with Amen. So pray you, add my diamonds to her

pearls ; Deck her with these ; tell her, she shines

me down : An armlet for an arm to which the

Queen's Is haggard, or a necklace for a neck O as much fairer--as a faith once fair Was richer than these diamonds—hers

not mineNay, by the mother of our Lord himself, Or hers or mine, mine now to work my

will — She shall not have them.'

But the wild Queen, who saw not, burst

away To weep and wail in secret ; and the

barge, On to the palace-doorway sliding, paused. There two stood arm’d, and kept the

door ; to whom, All up the marble stair, tier over tier, Were added mouths that gaped, and eyes

that ask'd • What is it?' but that oarsman's haggard

face, As hard and still as is the face that men Shape to their fancy's eye from broken

rocks On some cliff-side, appall’d them, and they

said, “He is enchanted, cannot speak-and she, Look how she sleeps—the Fairy Queen,

so fair! Yea, but how pale ! what are they? Aesh

and blood ? Or come to take the King to fairyland ? For some do hold our Arthur cannot die, But that he passes into fairyland.'

Saying which she seized, And, thro’ the casement standing wide

for heat, Flung them, and down they flash'd, and

smote the stream. Then from the smitten surface flash'd, as

it were, Diamonds to meet them, and they past

away. Then while Sir Lancelot leant, in half

disdain

While thus they babbled of the King,

the King Came girt with knights : then turn'd the

tongueless man From the half-face to the full eye, and

rose

And pointed to the damsel, and the doors. So Arthur bad the meek Sir Percivale And pure Sir Galahad to uplift the maid; And reverently they bore her into hall. Then came the fine Gawain and wonder'd

at her, And Lancelot later came and mused at her, And last the Queen herself, and pitied her : But Arthur spied the letter in her hand, Stoopt, took, brake seal, and read it;

this was all :

I swear by truth and knighthood that I

gave No cause, not willingly, for such a love : To this I call my friends in testimony, Her brethren, and her father, who himself Besought me to be plain and blunt, and use, To break her passion, some discourtesy Against my nature : what I could, I did. I left her and I bad her no farewell ; Tho', had I dreamt the damsel would

have died, I might have put my wits to some rough use, And help'd her from herself.'

• Most noble lord, Sir Lancelot of the

Lake, I, sometime call'd the maid of Astolat, Come, for you left me taking no farewell, Hither, to take my last farewell of you. I loved you, and my love had no return, And therefore my true love has been my

death. And therefore to our Lady Guinevere, And to all other ladies, I make moan. Pray for my soul, and yield me burial. Pray for my soul thou too, Sir Lancelot, As thou art a knight peerless.'

Then said the Queen (Sea was her wrath, yet working after

storm) Ye might at least have done her so

much grace,

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Thus he read; And ever in the reading, lords and dames Wept, looking often from his face who read To hers which lay so silent, and at times, So touch'd were they, half-thinking that

her lips, Who had devised the letter, moved again.

Pair lord, as would have help'd her from

her death.' He raised his head, their eyes met and

hers fell, He adding,

· Queen, she would not be content Save that I wedded her, which could not be. Then might she follow me thro' the world,

she ask'd; It could not be. I told her that her love Was but the flash of youth, would darken

down To rise hereafter in a stiller flame Toward one more worthy of her-then

would I, More specially were he, she wedded, poor, Estate them with large land and territory In mine own realm beyond the narrow sea To keep them in all joyance : more than this I could not ; this she would not, and she

died.'

Then freely spoke Sir Lancelot to them

all :

• My lord liege Arthur, and all ye that

hear, Know that for this most gentle maiden's

death Right heavy am I; for good she was and

true, But loved me with a love beyond all love In women, whomsoever I have known. Yet to be loved makes not to love again; Not at my years, however it hold in youth.

He pausing, Arthur answer'd, O my

knight,

It will be to thy worship, as my knight, And mine, as head of all our Table Round, To see that she be buried worshipfully.'

So toward that shrine which then in all

the realm Was richest, Arthur leading, slowly went The marshallid Order of their Table

Round, And Lancelot sad beyond his wont, to

see

• Lancelot, my Lancelot, thou in whom

I have Most joy and most affiance, for I know What thou hast been in battle by my side, And many a time have watch'd thee at

the tilt Strike down the lusty and long-practised

knight, And let the younger and unskill'd go by To win his honour and to make his name, And loved thy courtesies and thee, a man Made to be loved ; but now I would to

God, Seeing the homeless trouble in thine eyes, Thou couldst have loved this maiden,

shaped, it seems, By God for thee alone, and from her face, If one may judge the living by the dead, Delicately pure and marvellously fair, Who might have brought thee, now

lonely man Wifeless and heirless, noble issue, sons Born to the glory of thy name and fame, My knight, the great Sir Lancelot of the

Lake.'

The maiden buried, not as one unknown, Nor meanly, but with gorgeous obsequies, And mass, and rolling music, like a queen. And when the knights had laid her comely

head Low in the dust of half-forgotten kings, Then Arthur spake among them, “Let

her tomb Be costly, and her image thereupon. And let the shield of Lancelot at her feet Be carven, and her lily in her hand. And let the story of her dolorous voyage For all true hearts be blazon'd on her toml) In letters gold and azure !' which was

wrought Thereafter ; but when now the lords and

dames And people, from the high door streaming,

brake Disorderly, as homeward each, the Queen, Who mark'd Sir Lancelot where he

moved apart, Drew near, and sigh'd in passing,

Lancelot, Forgive me; mine was jealousy in love.' He answer'd with his eyes upon the

ground, •That is love's curse ; pass on, my Queen,

forgiven.' But Arthur, who beheld his cloudy brows, Approach'd him, and with full affection

said,

Then answer'd Lancelot, Fair she was,

my King, Pure, as you ever wish your knights to be. To doubt her fairness were to want an eye, To doubt her pureness were to want a

heartYea, to be loved, if what is worthy love Could bind him, but free love will not be

bound.'

Free love, so bound, were freëst,' said

the King. * Let love be free ; free love is for the best : And, after heaven, on our dull side of

death, What should be best, if not so pure a love Clothed in so pure a loveliness ? yet thee She fail'd to bind, tho' being, as I think, Unbound as yet, and gentle, as I know.'

Of greatest knight? I fought for it, and

have it : Pleasure to have it, none; to lose it, pain ; Now grown a part of me : but what use in

it? To make men worse by making my sin

known? Or sin seem less, the sinner seeming great ? Alas for Arthur's greatest knight, a man Not after Arthur's heart ! I needs must

break These bonds that so defame me : not

without She wills it : would I, if she will'd it ? nay, Who knows ? but if I would not, then

may God, I pray him, send a sudden Angel down To seize me by the hair and bear me far, And Aling me deep in that forgotten mere, Among the tumbled fragments of the

hills.'

And Lancelot answer'd nothing, but

he went,
And at the inrunning of a little brook
Sat by the river in a cove, and watch'd
The high reed wave, and lifted up his eyes
And saw the barge that brought her

moving down,
Far-off, a blot upon the stream, and said
Low in himself, “Ah simple heart and

sweet, Ye loved me, damsel, surely with a love Far tenderer than my Queen's. Pray for

thy soul ? Ay, that will l. Farewell too-now at

lastFarewell, fair lily. “Jealousy in love ?” Not rather dead love's harsh heir, jealous

pride? Queen, if I grant the jealousy as of love, May not your crescent fear for name and

fame Speak, as it waxes, of a love that wanes ? Why did the King dwell on my name to

me ? Mine own name shames me, seeming a

reproach,
Lancelot, whom the Lady of the Lake
Caught from his mother's arms—the

wondrous one
Who passes thro' the vision of the night-
She chanted snatches of mysterious hymns
Heard on the winding waters, eve and

morn She kiss'd me saying, “Thou art fair,

my child, As a king's son,” and often in her arms She bare me, pacing on the dusky mere. Would she had drown'd me in it, where'er

it be ! For what am I? what profits me my name

So groan'd Sir Lancelot in remorseful

pain, Not knowing he should die a holy man.

THE HOLY GRAIL.

FROM noiseful arms, and acts of prowess

done In tournament or tilt, Sir Percivale, Whom Arthur and his knighthood callid

The Pure, Had pass'd into the silent life of prayer, Praise, fast, and alms; and leaving for

the cowl The helmet in an abbey far away From Camelot, there, and not long after,

died.

And one, a fellow-monk among the rest Ambrosius, loved him much beyond the

rest,

And honour'd him, and wrought into his

heart A way by love that waken'd love within, To answer that which came : and as they

sat Beneath a world-old yew-tree, darkening

hall The cloisters, on a gustful April morn That puffd the swaying branches into

smoke Above them, ere the summer when he died, The monk Ambrosius question’d Per

civale:

To whom the monk: «The Holy

Grail !-I trust We are green in Heaven's eyes; but here

too much We moulder—as to things without I

meanYet one of your own knights, a guest of

ours, Told us of this in our refectory, But spake with such a sadness and so low We heard not half of what he said. What

is it? The phantom of a cup that comes and

goes?'

O brother, I have seen this yew-tree

smoke, Spring after spring, for half a hundred

years : For never have I known the world without, Nor ever stray'd beyond the pale : but thee, When first thou camest, such a courtesy Spake thro' the limbs and in the voice-I

Nay, monk! what phantom?'answer'd

Percivale. • The cup, the cup itself, from which our

Lord Drank at the last sad supper with his

Own.

knew

For one of those who eat in Arthur's hall ; For good ye are and bad, and like to coins, Some true, some light, but every one of you Stamp'd with the image of the King ; and

now

Tell me, what drove thee from the Table

Round, My brother? was it earthly passion crost?'

This, from the blessed land of AromatAfter the day of darkness, when the dead Went wandering o'er Moriah--the good

saint, Arimathæan Joseph, journeying brought To Glastonbury, where the winter thom Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our

Lord. And there awhile it bode ; and if a man Could touch or see it, he was heald at

once, By faith, of all his ills. But then the times Grew to such evil that the holy cup Was caught away to Heaven, and dis

appear'd.'

• Nay,' said the knight ; ‘for no such

passion mine. But the sweet vision of the Holy Grail Drove me from all vainglories, rivalries, And earthly heats that spring and sparkle

out Among us in the jousts, while women

watch Who wins, who falls; and waste the

spiritual strength Within us, better offer'd up to Heaven.'

To whom the monk : From our old

books I know That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury, And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to

build ;

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