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An Arthurian Miscellany at




          I strung the following lines together hoping to give you pleasure. The stories are taken from a book called 'Morte d'Arthur' which you will read when you are older, and will see that I have often used the very words of the translator

                                                                                        YOUR LOVING GRANNY

1 The Birth of King Arthur

2 Arthur Made King

3 The Message

4 The Marriage of King Arthur

5 The Sancgreal

6 The Death of King Arthur


'To horse! to horse! my noble lord,'
          Thus spake the fair Igraine,
'Ride hard -- ride fast all through the night,
          Nor stay, nor slack the rein.'

'Now why such haste to leave the Court?'
          The Duke of Cornwall cried.
'Ah me,' she said, 'King Uther wills
          Thy wife should be his bride.'

Fast, fast they rode all through the night,
          Nor stayed, nor slacked the rein,
Until the towers of Tintagel
          Rose shining o'er the plain.

But on the morrow, messengers
          Came riding from the King:
'Uther Pendragon bids the Duke
          Himself and wife to bring

Back to fair London town.' -- 'Unto
          The King this answer give:
Nor self nor wife shall tread his halls
          So long as either live.'

Then sware the King a dreadful oath,
          Or ere the fortieth day
He would unearth him from his lair,
          And waste, and burn, and slay.

Alack for right 'gainst regal might!
          It boots but ill to tell
How in a sally 'gainst the King
          The brave Duke Cornwall fell.

The towers he manned, the wife he loved,
          Became King Uther's prey,
And from her home at Tintagel
          Igraine was borne away.

And when her baby boy was born,
          In cloth of gold with state
'Twas given to a beggar-man,
          Who waited at the gate.

But this was Merlin, in disguise
          Of beggar old and grey,
The great enchanter, Merlin hight,
          Who bore the babe away

Unto a holy, saintly man,
          Who christened him by name
Of Arthur -- prince of chivalry,
          First on the scroll of fame.

And good Sir Ector's noble wife
          Nurtured the baby fair,
And brought him up in gentle ways,
          Befitting England's heir.

Eftsoons King Uther sickenèd
          And fell in woful plight;
He spake to non or great or small,
          By day nor eke by night.

Then Merlin rose in council full,
          And spake both loud and high:
'God's will be done, but I will make
          Him speak or ere he die!'

So in hot haste, without delay,
          Unto the King he hied,
Knelt down beside the royal couch:
          'Wilt thou, O Sire,' he cried

'That Arthur, thy own son, shall rule
          O'er England in thy stead?'
The noble vassals gathered round,
          Listening astonishèd.

For naught knew they of infant son,
          But every Baron there
Mighty of men, and strong of arm,
          Wended to be the heir.

King Uther Pendragon turned round
          Upon his dying bed,
And to the knights assembled there
          And to great Merlin said:

'May God Almighty bless my son!
          I, too, my blessing give;
Bid him use fitting holy prayers
          That my poor soul may live:

'And claim the crown right worshipful
          On pain of blessing lost.'
With that he turned him o'er again,
          And yielded up the ghost.

They buried him with regal pomp,
          While all his Barons wept,
As did Igraine, his beauteous queen --
          But Uther calmly slept.


When Uther passed away, the realm
          Fell in great jeopardy,
For many wended to be king
          Through might and bravery.

Then Merlin to the Archbishop
          Of Canterbury went,
And they together council took
          This evil to prevent.

Thus they agreed -- that every lord,
          On pain of curses deep,
And every gentleman-at-arms
          A solemn tryst should keep,

On Christmas day, at London town,
          Since Christ, as all do know,
Was then created Lord of all
          The kingdoms here below;
So who should reign o'er England fair
          By miracle might show.

Some nobles made them passing clean
          From vice or crime, for fear
Their prayers might enter gracelessly,
          Within Christ Jesus' ear.

Inside the church on Christmas day
          (It was St. Paul's, I ween),
A mightly host of knights and lords
          And commoners is seen.

But ere they read the early mass,
          Or early matins sing,
Unto the Lord Archbishop there
          This startling news they bring:

'Outside, within the churchyard gate,
          Near to the altar stone,
There stands a large square marble slab
          With anvil perched thereon;

'And in the anvil, of pure steel
          A naked sword doth sit,
Of finest point, and all around
          Are golden letters writ:

'"Whoso from out this marble stone
          With his own powerful hand
Shall pluck this sword, he shall be Lord
          And King of all England."'

The Lord Archbishop ordered then
          That none should touch the stone,
But all within the church should pray
          Until High Mass was done,

And when all prayers were finishèd
          (This was his Grace's will),
Ten knights of stainless troth and fame
          Should guard the sword from ill;

That jousts and tournaments be held
          Upon the New Year's day;
That all who willed their prowess try
          To pluck the sword away.

Thereto there flocked a gallant host
          Of knights and ladies gay;
Sir Ector brought young Arthur there,
          And his own son, Sir Kay.

But then befel a woful chance --
          Sir Kay had lost his sword,
In sooth, had left it at his home.
          Then uttered he this word:

'O foster brother! backward speed,
          Ride fast for love of me,
And when thou reachest Ector's house,
          My sword bring back to me.'

'That will I,' said the gallant youth,
          Riding away alone;
But when he reached the castle gate
          He found the wardour gone,

And all the inmates, great and small,
          Off to the tournament;
Baffled and wroth he turned his horse
          And to the churchyard went.

'Ten thousand pities 'twere,' he said,
          'My dearest brother Kay
Should at the joust withouten sword
          Appear in disarray.

Whereat he lighted from his horse,
          And tied it to the stile,
While to the tent he bent his steps
          And loitered there awhile,

To see if the ten guards were there --
          He recked not that they went
With all the world, both rich and poor,
          To the great tournament.

So when he found no knights were there
          But to the jousting gone,
Lightly yet fierce the sword he seized,
          And pulled it from the stone,

And to Sir Kay delivered it,
          Who wist, as soon as seen,
That 'twas the sword from out the stone;
          Then said, 'Full well I ween

I have the sword, and I must be
          The King of all Englànd.
But when he showed it to his sire
          Sir Ector gave command

That to the church he should repair
          And swear upon the book
How gat he then the sword; but he,
          Fearing his sire's rebuke,

Told how his foster brother came
          When all the knights were gone,
And light and fiercely plucked the sword
          From out the magic stone.

'Now try again,' Sir Ector said;
          Whereat they all assayed,
But none save Arthur there availed
          To sunder out the blade.

And thrice again he made assay,
          And thrice the sword came free;
Sir Ector and Sir Kay fell down
          Upon their bended knee.
'O father! why,' young Arthur said,
          'Your homage pay to me?'

'Because that God has willed it so.
          Thou art no son of mine:
'Twas Merlin brought thee to my arms
          From some far nobler line.

'But, O my liege! for King thou art,
          Wilt thou to mine and me,
Who nurtured thee and brought thee up,
          A gracious sovereign be?

But Arthur wept and made great dole
          At what Sir Ector said,
That he no sire or mother had,
          Then sweetly answerèd:

'Else were I much to blame! I am
          Beholden so to you,
Command me, and may God me help
          I will your bidding do.'

'Sir,' said Sir Ector, 'I will ask
          No more than that of all
The lands you govern, my son Kay
          Be made the Seneschal.'

Replied young Arthur, 'That shall be;
          I here my promise give,
That none but he that office fill
          While he or I shall live.'

Then happèd it that on Twelfth day
          The Barons all assay
To pluck the sword, but none prevail
          Save Arthur on that day.

Then waxed they wroth, and Candlemas
          Was fixed for the assay,
Yet still no knight but Arthur
          Could pluck the sword away.

Then at high feast of Eastertide,
          Also at Pentecost,
None but young Arthur loosed the sword --
          The knights their temper lost.

But when the Lord Archbishop came,
          All cried with one accord,
'We will have Arthur for our King,
          God wills him for our lord.'

And down on bended knee they fell
          To pay him homage due;
And thus he won Excalibur
          And all fair England too.

Soon Scotland, and the North, and Wales,
          To him obeisance made,
Won by prowess of his knights
          And of his trusty blade.


On battlemented Camelot
          The moon was softly sleeping;
Within, King Arthur's noble knights
          Their wassail late were keeping.

'What ho! Sir Wardour, ope the gate,
          And let the drawbridge down;
I bear a message to your lord
          From Ryence of renown.'

Then up and spake the white-haired thrall
          That kept the castle gate,
'It ill befits our courtesy
          To one who comes so late,

'Who travel-stained and weary seems,
          To bar his entry free;
But tell me first your quest, I pray,
          And who may Ryence be?'

'My quest I tell but to thy chief:
          Enough for thee, I ween,
That Ryence reigns o'er Wales, and eke
          O'er Ireland's mountains green,
And isles unnumbered round about,
          Now glittering in the sheen.'

The wardour oped the castle door,
          And let the drawbridge down;
The herald crossed in silence o'er,
          And entered with a frown,

And when within the banquet hall,
          He never bowed the head,
Nor bent the knee, but strode right on
          And to King Arthur said:

'King Ryence vanquished in fair fight
          Twice six good kings save one;
He summons thee that one to be,
          Or proffers thee a boon.

'He bids thee here on bended knee
          Thy lawful homage pay,
Or he will come with fire and sword
          To waste, and burn, and slay.

'King Ryence hath a sammet cloak
          All purfled round with hair --
With human hair torn from the chins
          Of kings he slew in war.

'But still there is one little spot
          Uncovered at the base:
Flay thou thy chin, and send thy beard
          To fill the vacant place.'

Then started up King Arthur's knights
          Indignant at this word;
Each stamped his mailèd heel in ire,
          Each drew his trusty sword.

King Arthur rose with manly grace
          And to the herald spake,
'Quail not before my noble knights,
          But back this answer take:

'Say that of all the messages
          E'er sent from king to king,
This is the shamefullest and worst
          That herald e'er did bring.

' 'Tis plain Ryence has never been
          In knightly company;
He lacks the soul -- he lacks the speech
          Of common courtesy.

'Tell him, no homage do I owe,
          Nor sire nor kith of mine;
As for my beard, it is too scant
          To purfle cloak so fine;

'And if he come, as now he boasts,
          With fire and sword to slay,
On both his bended knees he shall
          To me his homage pay.'

The herald left the hall -- the King
          Thus broke the deep silènce:
'Now is there any here,' he said,
          'That knoweth King Ryence?'

Then answered him one night Naram,
          'I know him passing well;
In body few can match his strength,
          In pride none him excel.

'I doubt not he will war with you
          Full strong and powerfully.'
'Well!' said the King, 'I will ordain
          For him, as he shall see.'


Then happed it on Allhallowmas,
          That Bors, the King of Gaul,
And Ban of Benwick, over seas,
          Came at King Arthur's call.

They came with full three hundred knights,
          All chosen, brave, and true,
To vanquish Arthur's enemies
          Who fierce and fiercer grew.

And while they kept high festival
          Beneathen cloth of gold,
A thrall came riding in hot haste
          And woful tidings told;

How that King Ryence of North Wales
          Had gone with sword and lance
From out his mountain fastnesses
          'Gainst King Leodogrance.

Now Arthur loved this king for aid
          In war, and friendly troth,
But hated Ryence of North Wales,
          So at this news was wroth.

King Bors and Ban made ready then
          Their chivalry from France,
And all the country rose in arms
          To aid Leodogrance.

Full twenty thousand men-at-arms
          Rode with King Arthur hard,
Until within six days they reached
          The towers of Cameliard.

And then and there the mighty host
          Engaged in dreadful fight,
They slaughtered twice five thousand souls
          And put Ryence to flight.

'Twas then King Arthur first beheld
          The lovely Guinever,
The King's fair daughter -- ever since
          He loved but only her.

When that the kingdom freedom gat
          From wars and jealous strife,
The barons begged King Arthur then
          To wed a loving wife.

With Merlin too was counsel ta'en,
          Who deemed it good and wise,
And asked the King if any maid
          Found favour in his eyes.

Then answered Arthur, 'There is one,
          I deem her passing fair,
The daughter of my trusty friend,
          The lovely Guinever.

'To him my father gave a prize
          I value more than gold,
The huge Round Table at whose board
          Sate knights a hundred told

'And fifty more.' 'Sir,' Merlin said,
          'I grant you passing well,
For beauty and for fairness too
          No maid can her excel.

'But an ye loved her not, I could
          Another damsel find,
Whose beauty and whose goodness should
          Be equal in your mind.

'But 'tis not meet a man should wed
          Where he can feel no love;
For where his heart is set, he will
          Be quick his feet to move.'

'Ah! that is true,' the King replied,
          Nor list what Merlin said,
How grief and sorrow would ensue
          If he the maid should wed,

But sent him to Leodogrance,
          In goodly company,
To plead his suit, and ask the King
          What might his pleasure be?

Leodogrance was overjoyed
          To welcome Merlin's suite,
Exclaiming that it pleased him well
          Arthur's demands to meet.

But said, 'What can I proffer him
          With Guinever for dower?
For gold and land he does not lack,
          He has such ample store.

'But I the huge Round Table have,
          Uther Pendragon gave
To me is trusted friend, and that
          His son shall gladly have.

'Alack for hap and woful change!
          Full many a gallant knight
Who sate thereat has perished since,
          Slain in the bloody fight.

'But still a hundred knights remain,
          My faithful bodyguard;
They shall escort my daughter when
          She leaveth Cameliard.'

So Merlin, knights, and Guinever
          Journeyed by land and sea,
Till they came nigh to London town,
          A goodly company.

Then did King Arthur joy to see
          The cavalcade arrive,
Bearing the Table that he prized
          And Guinever to wive.

He spake out openly and loud,
          'This maid I long have loved,
And more than land or precious gold
          These gifts my heart have moved.

'For nothing is so lief to me
          As Guinever the fair;
To wed her, and to crown her queen,
          We quickly will prepare.

'Let Merlin search through all the land
          If fifty knights be found,
To fill the places vacant left
          Beside the Table Round.'

But only eight-and-twenty knights
          Of prowess and good fame
Could Merlin find to fill the seats.
          Then Canterbury came --

He came with pomp right royally
          To bless the seats in state;
Upon each chair, the while he prayed,
          The eight-and-twenty sate.

When they arose and homage paid
          To Arthur, as was fit,
Were golden letters found on each,
          Telling who there should sit.

But two were void, and so anon
          Came riding young Gawaine,
To beg the king to dub him knight,
          Nor did he beg in vain

Then forthwithal a poor man came,
          And with him his fair son:
'Oh, where shall I King Arthur find?'
          He questioned every one.

'Yonder he stands -- what wilt with him?'
          Down on his bended knee
He dropped and said, 'O blessed King!
          O flower of chivalry!

'May Jesu save thee! here I come
          A humble suppliant,
Hearing that on your wedding-day
          Ye any boon would grant.

'Sir, I have thirteen stalwart sons,
          Who labour all the year,
And do my bidding passing well;
          But this thou seest here

'Will nothing do but bend the bow,
          And cast the dart afar;
He loves to watch the feasts and games,
          And mix where battles are.

'Make him, my King, a gallant knight.'
          ' 'Tis sooner said than done,'
Arthur replied; but all the while
          He watchèd well the son,

And found that he fair-visaged was,
          And passingly well made.
'What is thy name, and where thy sword?'
          He to the young man said.

'My name is Tor, and here is my sword.'
          'Unsheath it and alight.'
The youth leaped from his meagre steed,
          Kneeling in Arthur's sight.

'Oh make me, sir, a knight, I pray,
          Knight of the Table Round!'
Smiting him on the neck with sword,
          'May'st thou be ever found,'

King Arthur said, 'I pray to God,
          A good knight and a true!
But to be knight of Table Round
          Lacks worth and prowess too.'

And then there happed a wondrous sight;
          For when the King was wed
All solemnly at Camelot,
          And the high feast was made,

By Merlin's order every knight
          Sat silent, one and all,
Each in his siege in solemn state
          Within the banquet hall.

Till, as the portals open flew,
          Rushed in a hart milk-white,
A snow-white brachet followed on,
          And then, O wondrous sight!

Twice thirty coal-black hounds pursued
          The hart with yell and cry,
And when the brachet wounded her
          She moanèd piteously,

And gave a sudden bound that threw
          One knight upon the ground,
Wherefrom he soon arose and seized
          By force the snow white hound.

Quick out of hall, he leaped to horse,
          Bearing his prize away,
Riding as if for life and death,
          That no man could him stay.

Anon there came on palfrey white
          A lady fair and gay,
Who begged the King to give her back
          Her brachet stolen away.

That can I not,' said Arthur. Then
          A knight in full array
Came riding in, armed cap-a-pie
          And bore the maid away.

By force he snatched her that she made
          Such dole with shriek and cry,
That all within the banquet hall
          Rejoiced to see them fly.

Then Merlin spake: 'Ye may not treat
          These shames as poor and slight,
Else much disworship will arise
          To King and every knight

'Belonging to the Table Round;
          But order noble men,
Gawaine, and Pellinore, and Tor,
          To fetch them back again.'

'That will I,' said the King. 'Gawaine,
          Bring back the milk-white hart.
To you, King Pellinore, behoves
          To play a nobler part:

'The Knight and Lady you shall meet
          In war and fearful strife;
Bring them again before this court,
          Or sacrifice their life.

'And you, Sir Tor, your valour test,
          And knightly honour gain,
For bringing back the brachet white
          Within this hall again.'

It little boots me now to tell
          How each one's work was sped;
Suffice it that they all returned
          Their task accomplishèd.

Then Arthur stablished all the knights;
          To such as were too poor
He granted lands and tenements
          Dividing up his store.

And solemnly he charged them all
          No outrage e'er to do,
Murder, cruelty, and vice,
          And treason to eschew.

He said, 'To him that asketh you
          Mercy and pardon give,
Under the ban of forfeiting
          My service while ye live;

'The penalty of death be yours,
          If damsels in distress
Or gentlewomen plead in vain
          For succour or redress.

'And let no man for worldly goods,
          Or lands, or sordid pelf,
In wrongful quarrel battle make
          Or glorify himself.

'Swear,' said King Arthur -- every knight
          Uprose to do his will --
'Swear faithfully and loyally
          My precepts to fulfil.'

'Twas done -- in every future year,
          As Pentecost came by,
King Arthur's knights were bound by oath
          To truth and chivalry.

And thus was stablished in our land
          Honour and loyalty;
Long may they last, nor ever fail
          Till time itself shall die!


It chanced, when Lancelot du Lake
          Had freed from durance vile
The fairest lady in the land,
          He journeyed on awhile,

Until King Pelles spied the knight,
          Whose castle stood hard by,
And begged him to alight and share
          His hospitality.

So courteously and graciously
          The twain passed through the gate,
Then sat within the banquet hall,
          The viands to await.

But lo! through window opened wide,
          Without or voice or sound,
A gentle dove came gliding in,
          And floated round and round.

Within her beak a censer hung
          Cast in pure molten gold,
Whence clouds of fragrance issued forth
          Which o'er the table rolled.

It seemed as Araby the blest,
          And every spicy isle,
Had garnered all their treasures up,
          To waft them there the while.

And forthwithal upon the board
          All kinds of meats were spread,
And drinks that might the palate please
          Were likewise furnishèd.

A damsel passing fair and young,
          Most beauteous to behold,
Came gliding in -- betwixt her hands
          She bare a vase of gold.

And thereunto the King kneeled down,
          Devoutly and with grace,
To say his prayers, as also did
          Each soul within the place.

Then spake Sir Lancelot du Lake
          And askèd of the King,
'What may this mean? I pray you tell.'
          'This is the richest thing,'

Replied King Pelles, 'that a man
          Can own, alive or dead;
E'en the Round Table, when this comes,
          Shall be abolishèd.

'And wit thou well, thou here hast seen
          The holy Sangreal --
The blessed gift -- the cherished hope
          Sought for and prayed of all.'

In after years when Lancelot
          Had wedded sweet Elaine,
King Pelles' child, within those walls,
          The wonder happed again.

For Lancelot's nephew, young Sir Bors,
          To Corben Castle rode,
And in the banquet-hall he saw
          Elaine, just where she stood,

Her baby on her arm; and when
          She said the lovely boy
Was Lancelot's child, he kneelèd down
          And wept for very joy,

And prayed to God, that when the child
          To years of manhood grew,
He might prove worthy of his sire,
          As brave a knight and true.

Then through the window opened wide,
          Without or voice or sound,
A gentle dove came gliding in,
          And floated round and round.

Within her beak a censer hung
          Formed of pure molten gold,
Whence clouds of fragrance issued forth,
          Which o'er the table rolled.

It seemed as Araby the blest,
          And every spicy isle,
Had garnered all their treasures up
          To waft them there awhile.

And forthwithal upon the board
          All kinds of meats were spread,
And drinks that might the palate please
          Were also furnishèd.

A damsel passing fair and young,
          Most beauteous to behold,
Came gliding in, betwixt her hands
          Bearing a vase of gold.

She spake, 'This babe Sir Galahad,
          Sir Bors, I bid you wit,
In future on Siege Perilous
          As knight shall surely sit --

'A nobler knight than is his sire' --
          Her words rang through the hall --
'For as he lives, he surely shall
          Achieve the Sancgreal.'

She vanished then. As of afore,
          King Pelles spoke out loud:
'No knight shall win, or honour have,
          Save he that loveth God.

'Be he a knight of high degree,
          Or be he e'er so brave,
An he nor love nor feareth God,
          No honour shall he have.'

Replied Sir Bors, 'Within these halls
          (I wot not what they mean)
Most strange and weird adventures hap,
          And wondrous sights are seen.
I will be shriven with good will
          And be confessèd clean.'

So was he shriven of his sins,
          And in the dead of night
Most marvellous adventures happed,
          Too lengthy here to write.

When morning broke, to Camelot
          He spurred his gallant steed;
For Arthur had returned from France
          Victorious, and decreed

That feasts and tournaments be held
          Upon that very day,
And all his knights at Table Round
          Should sit in full array.

But when uncovered was the siege
          Hight Perilous, behold,
The name of young Sir Galahad
          Shone forth in molten gold.

But no one at the Table wot
          Who Galahad might be,
Till long years afterward he came
          Out from the nunnery

Where holy women reared the child
          Till he to manhood grew,
And taught him to be good and wise,
          Noble, and brave, and true.

At Pentecost, he having first
          Performed the holy rite,
On bended knee he begged to be
          Installèd as a knight.

Sir Lancelot surveyed the youth,
          And found him passing fair,
With limbs well knit, of stature tall,
          Graceful beyond compare.

He struck him with his sword, and said,
          'Sir Galahad, arise!
God grant the virtue ne'er may fade
          Now shining through your eyes!'

Sir Galahad then hasted forth,
          To joust withouten shield;
He broke their spears, he threw the knights
          Save twain who would not yield.

He then unhorsed, unlaced him helm
          At Guinever's request,
Who, looking on his visage, spake,
          'No marvel he is best

'At jousting and at holy prayer;
          For, as you plainly see,
His face and mien bespeak him sprung
          From true nobility.'

Then all to the great minster sped
          To offer evensong,
King, Queen, the knights of Table Round,
          With all the motley throng.

Then back to Camelot to sup,
          Where in the lofty hall,
Each sitting as toforehand, lo!
          This marvel did befall:

The thunder growled, and cracked ahead
          As though the walls would rive.
Each knight made sign of cross, as though
          The priest had stood to shrive.

But in the midst of crash and blast
          A sunbeam entered there,
By seven times brighter than the day,
          When day is bright and clear.

It shed such lustre over all,
          Each scanned his neighbour o'er;
And each seemed fairer in that light
          Than e'er he seemed before.

No word was spoke, no sound was made,
          As they all dumb had been:
The holy Grail in white samite
          Came softly gliding in.

And as afore the hall was filled
          With perfumes where it moved,
And every knight had meats and drinks
          As each one wished and loved.

As quickly as it glided in,
          It quick evanishèd;
None knew from whence or whitherward
          The holy vision fled.

King Arthur rose with reverence,
          Bowing full low his head:
'Thank Jesu Christ our Lord for this
          So precious boon,' he said.

Then up and spake Gawaine, 'I vow
          By all I hold most dear,
In quest of this most holy Grail,
          To wander for a year.

'And eke a day nor e'er return
          Until it reappear
Unto my longing eyes more bright
          And openly than here!'

Then rose up all the knights around,
          And vowed, with one accord,
With heart and soul to join the quest,
          For love of Christ their Lord.

King Arthur spake with troubled mien,
          'Alas! Gawaine, Gawaine!
With this avow and promise made,
          Ye have me well nigh slain.

'Alas! this morn I held secure
          A band so brave and true,
The fairest fellowship on earth
          That knighthood ever knew.

'Ye have bereft me of this band.
          Alas! it grieves me sore;
For when they once depart from hence,
          I ne'er shall meet them more.

'For many in the quest will die --
          Those that I loved so well.
How close I held them to my heart,
          No words of mine can tell.

'And thus it now forthinketh me,
          I fain for grief would die;
For 'twas an old, old usage
          To have their company.'

This spake he, with the gathering tears
          Slow trembling in his eyes,
Fresh from his o'ercharged heart, so full
          Of loving memories.

Next morn, the band of gallant knights
          Through the great minster pass,
And kneel below the altar stair
          To celebrate the mass.

And then 'to horse!' The eager crowd
          Are gathering far and near;
Maidens forlorn and gentlefolk
          With wistful eyes are there:

The rich, the poor, the camp, the court,
          Arthur and Guinever;
They bid farewell with many a sob
          And many a bitter tear.

They mount, they ride, their glittering plumes
          Are waving in the wind;
Ah! what remains save aching hearts
          To those they leave behind?


False Mordred spake to Guinever,
          'Arthur, thy lord, is dead,
And has appointed me to reign
          O'er England in his stead.

'We will be crowned right royally.
          To Canterbury haste;
We there high festival will make
          For fifteen days at least,

'And thou shalt be my wedded wife.'
          She shrank in mute dismay,
Knowing King Arthur had embarked
          His troops from Cardiff Bay:

Full threescore thousand gallant men,
          With his tried friend Gawaine,
To 'venge an insult, they had gone
          To Benwick over main.

And now, poor Guinever, take heart;
          Brush back they bitter tears;
Trust in thy subtle woman's wit
          Born of thy woman's fears.

She answered him in gentle guise,
          'I may not say thee nay,
But grant me that I journey first
          To London town, I pray,
To buy some guards and trinkets fine
          To grace my bridal day.'

False Mordred granted her request,
          In that she spake so fair;
Then quick she hied to London town,
          And bade her men repair

Unto the Tower, the which she filled
          With food, and arms, and men,
Nor aught that Mordred said or did
          Could lure her forth again.

He sued her with false honeyed words,
          They did not once prevail;
He stormed the Tower with mighty guns,
          It was of no avail.

Within her fortress Guinever
          Sent scornful answers true:
'Thou art a traitor to thy king,
          Which thou full soon shalt rue.

'Ere I come forth to thee, false knight,
          E'en though my lord be dead,
I liever by this sword will die
          Than ever I thee wed.'

When Mordred heard that Arthur's host
          Was coming over sea,
In eager haste to be avenged
          For this foul treachery,

He writ to all the barons round
          To come from far and near,
And studied words of treason dark
          He whispered in their ear:

How that with Arthur evermore
          Was naught but war and strife,
While he, Sir Mordred, gave them peace,
          And joy, and bliss of life.

Then many that King Arthur had
          Raised up from low estate,
And granted lands, now slanderous words
          And evil 'gainst him spake.

Now, all ye Englishmen, behold
          What mischief happened here:
This King, who was the noblest king,
          And knight withouten peer,

Who loved the fellowship of none
          But good and brave, who spent
His life redressing crime and wrong,
          Was held in discontent.

This old, old custom of the land
          Is not forgot, they say,
That Englishmen are ne'er content,
          Not even at this day.

This is their great default -- no thing
          Pleaseth this people long.
Thus happed it that false Mordred's force
          Waxed numerous and strong.

They met at Dover. Arthur's fleet
          Came sailing o'er the sea,
Bearing its freight of human worth,
          A goodly company.

Then was there launching of great boats
          And small, in eager haste
To lift King Arthur from the realm
          Whereto God had him placed.

They rushed ashore -- ah, woe is me
          For many a noble slain,
For barons bold, and gentle knights,
          Among them Sir Gawaine.

When Arthur saw his sister's son
          Fall with a deadly blow,
He took him gently in his arms,
          And kissed his pallid brow.

'Gawaine,' he cried, 'my only joy!
          I pray thee, do not die,
And leave me, in this cold bleak world,
          To utter misery.

'For now I will confess to thee
          That I have loved thee so,
I cannot bear, withouten thee,
          This life of grief and woe.'

The dying man thrice oped his eyes,
          And gasped amid his pain
Some words of comfort to the King,
          Then never spake again.

King Arthur mourned with bitter grief
          The friend he loved so well,
At Dover Castle buried him
          Within a small chapelle,
Where even to this day his skull
          Is shown, as travellers tell.

Meanwhile the battle hurtled on
          Far as to Barham plain;
King Arthur's troops victorious
          Drave Mordred back again.

But then there happed a wondrous thing,
          For in the dead of night
A vision to King Arthur came,
          Warning him not to fight.

Gawaine, surrounded by a troop
          Of ladies fair and bright,
Whom he had rescued from foul wrong,
          Or aided in the right,

Thus spake: 'God sends us here to you
          His purpose to maintain;
For if you fight to-morrow morn,
          You surely will be slain.

'Wait only till Sir Lancelot
          With aid shall reappear.'
Thus having said, he vanishèd
          As into empty air.

In council it was then decreed
          That when the morrow came,
When both the armies were afield,
          A herald should proclaim

A truce, with gold and lands in pledge,
          If Mordred would accede.
The morning broke, the herald cried,
          Each party was agreed.

But each, mistrustful of his foe,
          Gave orders to his men
To stand prepared for deadly fight,
          Should aught occur again

To mar the truce. Just then from out
          Some heather on the right
An adder glided forth, and stung
          Upon his foot a knight,

Who thought no harm, but drew his sword
          To strike the reptile dead,
Whereat both armies yelled aloud
          As by one impulse led.

At sound of trumpets, beams, and horns,
          They hasted on to fight,
And never in this Christian land
          Was seen more doleful sight.

Oh! there was rushing, riding fast,
          And many a grim word spoke,
Foining and striking everywhere,
          And many a deadly stroke.

They stinted not, but madly fought
          Through all that livelong day;
At night a hundred thousand dead
          Stark on the common lay.

When Arthur gazed across the down,
          And saw his valiant host
All slain, save two poor wounded knights,
          He knew that all was lost.

'Jesu have mercy!' cried the King;
          'Would that I too had been
Like these, my comrades, stricken dead,
          Ere I this day had seen!

'Now would to God I wist me where
          That traitor foul may be,
Who brought such mischief to the realm
          And misery to me!'

Thereat he suddenly turned round,
          And spied, across the plain,
False Mordred leaning on his sword
          Among a heap of slain.

Then cried he to a wounded knight
          Yclept Sir Bedevere,
'Yonder I spy the traitor false.
          Give me my trusty spear;

'For tide me life, or tide me death,
          I see him there alone
He shall not 'scape my vengeance now
          As he before hath done.'

With both his hands he seized the spear,
          Crying, 'Thy hour is come --
Die, traitor, die!' rushed headlong on,
          And drave the weapon home.

But with his sword the dying man
          Smote Arthur on the head,
Piercing his helmet to the brain,
          Then fell down stark and dead.

When noble Arthur fell to earth
          Thrice in a deadly swoon,
Sir Lucan and Sir Bedevere
          Thrice raised him up, and soon

They led him on betwixt them both
          Softly and tenderly,
Until they reached a chapel small
          Close by the moaning sea.

And while they sat and hearkened there,
          All in the broad moonlight,
They saw the pillers on the down
          Rob many a noble knight

Of brooch, and beads, and jewels rare,
          Of many a goodly ring,
Which much distressed Sir Bedevere,
          Who begged the dying King

To haste to some securer spot,
          Where they could hide away.
Arthur replied, 'My time flees fast,
          I have not long to stay.

'Now hie thee to yon waterside,
          And throw my trusty sword,
My own Excalibur, therein,
          And quickly bring me word

'What there thou see'st.' 'It shall be done,'
          Replied the willing knight.
But when he saw that noble sword,
          With precious stones bedight

On haft and pommel, to himself
          He reasoned in this wise:
'If I destroy this richest sword,
          But harm and loss arise,

'For an I throw it in the stream,
          No good to him or me.'
Whereon he hid Excalibur
          Under the nearest tree.

When he gat back unto the King,
          'What saw'st thou there?' quoth he.
'Naught but the waves and winds,' he said,
          'Moaning most dolefully.'

Then said King Arthur, 'Truth is good,
          To lie is deadly sin;
As thou art lief and dear to me,
          Go back and throw it in.'

Sir Bedevere returned again,
          But thought it sin and shame
To cast away the noble sword,
          So acted just the same.

He hid the sword amid the grass,
          Then, on his bended knee,
Told Arthur his command was done.
          'Say then what didst thou see?'

'Sire,' said he, 'I saw nothing there
          But the great waters wap,
And the waves wan; while I remained,
          Naught else to me did hap.'

'Ah, traitor!' said King Arthur, 'all
          Thou sayest is untrue;
Thou hast betrayed me twice, and now
          Thou would'st me quite undo.

'Who would have wend that thou, who wast
          So lief and dear to me,
And called a noble knight, for gain
          Should now deceitful be?

Go quickly hence. The cold strikes keen;
          I have short time to stay;
An if thou disobey me now,
          I surely will thee slay.'

Thereat Sir Bevedere rushed forth;
          Seizing the weapon fast,
He bound the girdle round the hilt,
          And threw it in at last.

When lo! an arm and hand appeared
          Above the watery grave,
Caught at the sword, thrice brandished it,
          Then vanished in the wave.

When Arthur heard what had befell,
          He spake, 'Sir Bedevere,
Alas! Now help me hence; I dread
          Too long I tarry here.'

He took the King upon his back,
          Close to the waterside,
Where hovèd in, fast by the bank,
          A little barge he spied;

Wherein there sate a stately queen,
          And many ladies fair,
Who shrieked and wept for grief when they
          Beheld King Arthur there.

'Now put me in the barge,' he said,
          Which softly was obeyed;
Three queens in sable hood therein
          Gently King Arthur laid.

Upon the lap of one of these
          His weary head he laid.
'Why have ye tarried, brother dear,
          So long from me?' she said.

'Alas! the cold has stricken deep
          Into this wound, I fear;'
And then they rowed far far away
          From sad Sir Bedevere.
Their wailing floated on the wind,
          Most pitiful to hear.

Soon as the barge was lost to sight,
          Forlorn Sir Bedevere
Wept and bemoaned the livelong night,
          Wandering about, in fear

Of armed foes and robbers vile,
          Through devious forest ways.
When morning brake, a hermitage
          Met his bewildered gaze.

Close by a little chapel stood,
          Where holy men might pray;
Within, low grovelling on the ground,
          A saintly hermit lay

Beside a new-made grave. The knight
          Inquired in accents low,
'What man is recent buried there
          Down in the grave below?'

'Fair Sir,' the hermit then replied,
          'I wot not who he be;
A band of lovely ladies brought
          Him here last night to me.

'A hundred tapers, too, they brought,
          A hundred besants gave,
To lay in earth his lovely form,
          His precious soul to save.'

'Alas! that was my honoured lord,'
          Replied Sir Bedevere,
'King Arthur, prince of chivalry,
          Who now lies buried here.'

Whereat he fell into a swoon.
          When he revived again,
He begged the hermit piteously
          To let him there remain.

'In life or death I would be near,
          Not evermore remove,
By fasting and by prayer to show
          My loyalty and love.'

And then he doffed his knightly gear,
          Putting on mean array,
And both together wept and prayed
          Their weary lives away.

Queen Guinever became a nun
          In cloistered Almesbury,
Spending her days in deeds of love
          And acts of charity.