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An Arthurian Miscellany at




Part I
Throughout the ambiguous April day
The skylark wings his singing way,
And trills a rhapsody of May.

The wind that sweetens earth with spring
Falls on the ocean, wakening
The rising waves beneath his wing.

While swiftly from her native lea
A Cornish bark, rejoicingly,
Bears Iseult o'er the Irish sea.

With eyes reverted toward the land
Dimly she sees the paling strand
Diminish to a silvery band.

But, as a carrier pigeon springs
Homeward on strong, exulting wings,
The alien ship glides on, and flings

The waters green to gleaming spray,
Threading its pathless southward way,
While shine and shower cross the day.

And where the ripples bud and break
The sea mews drift along its wake,
Like boats the tide at will may take.

Then landward o'er the glistering main
Fair Iseult flings her song. In vain!
The wind beats back the sad refrain,--

Farewell, farewell, a long farewell to thee,
O happy isle, blue girdled of the sea!
Fair are thy fields of green that fade to grey,
And dim mine eyes, with watching wistfully
The lengthening of the endless watery way.
Farewell, farewell, a long farewell to thee.

Farewell, farewell, a long farewell to thee!
Thine is my love, and thine the heart of me,
Through all the widening of the alien years
My hopes be thine, and thine the memory
That brightens through the bitterness of tears.
Farewell, farewell, a long farewell to thee!

Farewell, farewell, a long farewell to thee!
Thou art the world, what other world could be?
Lo! I had hoped, when life was o'er, to die
Upon thy breast, and smiling peacefully
To whisper, ere words falter to a sigh,
Farewell, farewell, a long farewell to thee!

Part II
As clouds obscure the April skies,
The overwhelming tears arise,
And tremble in her baffled eyes.

The gleeful breezes pluck and woo
Her kirtle, where the crocus' hue
Flames up a robe of violet blue.

Hers is a face whose beauty seen
Makes one forget what life has been,
And own her, henceforth, utter queen.

Thus Tristram, dreaming, lingers there
Unknown, perplexed of her despair,
And timid, seeing grief so fair.

"I would not anger thee, by Heaven,
Yet let my presence be forgiven
For all the joy that thine has given!

"Sorrow, methinks, has wearied thee,
And weariness comes over me
From battling with the wind and sea.

"Behold a goblet rich with gold,
And mellow wine, matured of old,
A luscious draught of heat and cold!

"Nay, cheer thy heart, and pledge me then,
As in those hours of anguish, when
Wounded I lay among thy men."

So pleads he, till she smiles again,
And, drinking, feels through every vein
A joy that trembles into pain.

He raises high the bowl with half
The dancing poison, sweet to quaff,
And drains its sweetness with a laugh.

And, in a trenchant stroke of light,
Love cleaves the darkness of their night,
And puts the fading world to flight.

As one who knows not Life from Death,
Nor yet what power Love's language hath,
He calls with half-abated breath,--

Iseult! One wild, unmated word,
Iseult! No sound so sweet is heard
In all the lyric speech of bird.

But, softer than a startled sigh,
Her voice reluctant, breathes reply,
Tristram! --a tender, summoning cry.

And all is silent save alone
The sea's reverberate monotone,
With Love's own voice in unison.

Next: The Vision of Sir Launfal, by James Russell Lowell [1848]