An Arthurian Miscellany at sacred-texts.com
THE DAY BEFORE THE TRIAL
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE
King Arthur says being alone.
Now the day comes near and near
I feel its hot breath, and see it clear,
How strange it is and full of fear;
And I grow old waiting here,
Grow sick with pain of Guenevere,
My wife, that loves not me.
So strange it seems to me, so new
To have such shame between us two,
I dare not hold this Mador true
Nor false, because his words ran thro'
My blood with all the shame they drew
And burnt me to the bone; I knew
That some such tale would be
For all these years she grew more fair,
More sweet her low sweet speeches were,
More long and heavy grew her hair,
Not such as other women wear;
But ever as I looked on her
Her face seemed fierce and thin.
I felt half sick, and on my head
The gold crown seemed not gold but lead;
Strange words I heard that no man said,
Strange noises where all noise was dead;
Was it pure blood that made her red
From brows to rounded chin?
Sometimes I knew she loved me not;
Down to my hands the blood went hot
In a dull hate of Launcelot
For all the praise of her he got,
Being so pure of sin.
For he was clean as any maid,
And on his head God's hand was laid
As on a maiden's; so men said;
But I, a woman's hands there weighed
Instead of God's upon my head,
No maid was I, to see
The white Sangreal borne up in air,
To touch at last God's body fair,
To feel strange terror stir my hair
As a slow light went past; but here
I had to my honours year by year,
I had the name of king to bear,
And watch the eyes of Guenevere,
My wife, who loves not me.
Next: Joyeuse Garde, by Algernon Charles Swinburne