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An Arthurian Miscellany at




I stood and gazed far out into the waste;
No dip of oar broke on the listening ear;
But the quick rippling of the inward flood
Gave warning of approaching argosy.

Adown the west, the day's last fleeting gleam
Faded and died, and left the world in gloom.
Hope hung no star up in the murky east
To cheer the soul, or guide the pilgrim's way.
Black frown'd the heavens, and black the answering earth
Reflected from her watery wastes the night.

Sudden, a plash! then silence. Once again
The dripping oar dipped in its silver blade,
Parting the waves, as smiles part beauty's lips.
Betwixt me and the curtain of the cloud,
Close down by the horizon's verge, there crept
From out the darkness, barge and crew and freight,
Sailless and voiceless, all!
Ah! Then I knew
I stood upon the brink of Time. I saw
Before me Death's swift river sweep along
And bear its burden to the grave.
One seamew screamed, in solitary woe;
"Elaine! Elaine!" stole back the echo, weird
And musical, from off the further shore.
Then burst a chorus wild, "Elaine! Elaine!"
And gazing upward through the twilight haze,
Mine eyes beheld King Arthur's phantom Court.
There stood the sturdy monarch: he who drove
The hordes of Hengist from old Albion's strand;
And, leaning on his stalwart arm, his queen,
The fair, the false, but trusted Guinevere!
And there, like the statue of a demi-god,
In marble wrought by some old Grecian hand,
With eyes downcast, towered Lancelot of the Lake.
Lavaine and Torre, the heirs of Astolat,
And he, the sorrowing Sire of the Dead,
Together with a throng of valiant knights
And ladies fair, were gathered as of yore,
At the Round Table of bold Arthur's Court.
There, too, was Tristram, leaning on his lance,
Whose eyes alone of all that weeping host
Swam not in tears; but indignation burned
Red in their sockets, like volcanic fires,
And from their blazing depths a Fury shot
Her hissing arrows at the guilty pair.
Then Lancelot, advancing to the front,
With glance transfixed upon the canvas true
That sheds immortal fame on ROSENTHAL,
Thus chanted forth his Requiem for the Dead:

Fresh as the water in the fountain,
Fair as the lily by its side,
Pure as the snow upon the mountain,
Is the angel
My spirit bride!

Day after day she grew fairer,
As she pined away in sorrow, at my side;
No pearl in the ocean could be rarer
Than the angel
My spirit bride!

The hours passed away all unheeded,
For love hath no landmarks in its tide.
No child of misfortune ever pleaded
In vain
To Elaine!
My spirit bride!

Here, where sad Tamesis is rolling
The wave of its sorrow-laden tide,
Forever on the air is heard tolling
The refrain
Of Elaine!
My spirit bride!

Next: King Arthur's Sleep, by Ernest Rhys [1898]