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An Arthurian Miscellany at




Deere Chryste, let not the cheere of earth,
To fill our hearts with heedless mirth
This holy Christmasse time;
But give us of thy heavenly cheere
That we may hold thy love most deere
And know thy peace sublime.


Full merry waxed King Pelles court
With Yuletide cheere and Yuletide sport,
And, when the board was spread,
Now wit ye well 'twas good to see
So fair and brave a companie
With Pelles at the head.

"Come hence, Elaine," King Pelles cried,
"Come hence and sit ye by my side,
For never yet, I trow,
Have gentle virtues like to thine
Been proved by sword nor pledged in wine,
Nor shall be nevermo!"

"Sweete sir, my father," quoth Elaine,
"Me it repents to give thee pain--
Yet, tarry I may not;
For I shall soond and I shall die
If I behold this companie
And see not Launcelot!

"My heart shall have no love but this--
My lips shall know no other kiss,
Save only, father, thine;
So graunt me leave to seek my bower,
The lonely chamber in the toure,
Where sleeps his child and mine."

Then frowned the King in sore despite;
"A murrain seize that traitrous knight,
For that he lies!" he cried--
"A base, unchristian paynim he,
Else, by my beard, he would not be
A recreant to his bride!

"Oh, I had liefer yield my life
Than see thee the deserted wife
Of dastard Launcelot!
Yet an' thou has no mind to stay,
Go with thy damosels away--
Lo, I'll detain ye not."

Her damosels in goodly train
Back to her chamber led Elaine,
And when her eyes were cast
Upon her babe, her tears did flow
And she did wail and weep as though
Her heart had like to brast.

The while she grieved the Yuletide sport
Waxed lustier in King Pelles' court,
And louder, houre by houre,
The echoes of the rout were borne
To where the lady, all forlorn,
Made moning in the toure,

"Swete Chryste," she cried, "ne let me hear
Their ribald sounds of Yuletide cheere
That mock at mine and me;
Graunt that my sore affliction cease
And give me of the heavenly peace
That comes with thoughts of thee!"

Lo, as she spake, a wondrous light
Made all that lonely chamber bright,
And o'er the infant's bed
A spirit hand, as samite pail,
Held sodaine foorth the Holy Grail
Above the infant's head.

And from the sacred golden cup
A subtle incense floated up
And filled the conscious air,
Which, when she breathed, the fair Elaine
Forgot her grief, forgot her pain.
Forgot her sore despair.

And as the Grail's mysterious balm
Wrought in her heart a wondrous calm,
Great mervail 'twas to see
The sleeping child stretch one hand up
As if in dreams he held the cup
Which none mought win but he.

Through all the night King Pelles' court
Made mighty cheer and goodly sport.
Nor never recked the joy
That was vouchsafed that Christmass tide
To Launcelot's deserted bride
And to her sleeping boy.

Swete Chryste, let not the cheere of earth
To fill our hearts with heedless mirth
This present Christmasse night;
But send among us to and fro
Thy Holy Grail, that men may know
The joy withe wisdom dight.

Next: Tom Thumb, a Tragedy, by Henry Fielding [1730]