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Were it well to obey then, if a king demand
An act unprofitable, against himself ?
The king is sick, and knows not what he does.
What record, or what relic of my lord
Should be to after-time, but empty breath
And rumors of a doubt? but were this kept,
Stored in some treasure-house of mighty kings,
Some one might show it at a joust of arms,
Saying, King Arthur's sword, Excalibur,
Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake.
Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps
Upon the hidden bases of the hills.'
So might some old man speak in the after-time
To all the people, winning reverence.
But now much honor and much fame were lost.”
So spake he, clouded with his own conceit,
And hid Excalibur the second time,
And so strode back slow to the wounded king.
Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily : “What is it thou hast seen ? or what hast heard ? "
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere,
“I heard the water lapping on the crag,
And the long ripple washing in the reeds."
To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath :
“ Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue,
Unknightly, traitor-hearted! Woe is me!
Authority forgets a dying king,
Laid widowed of the power in his eye
That bowed the will. I see thee what thou art,
For thou, the latest-left of all my knights
In whom should meet the offices of all,
Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt;
Either from lust of gold, or like a girl
Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice,
And the third time may prosper, get thee hence:
But, if thou spare to Aling Excalibur,
I will arise and slay thee with my hands."
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran,
And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged
Among the bulrush beds, and clutched the sword,
And strongly wheeled and threw it. The great brand
Made lightnings in the splendor of the moon,
And flashing round and round, and whirled in an arch,
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
By night, with noises of the northern sea.
So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur :
But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
And caught him by the hilt, and brandished him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.
And lightly went the other to the king.
Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath:
“Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen ?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere :
“Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Should blind my purpose, for I never saw,
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Not though I live three lives of mortal men,
So great a miracle as yonder hilt.
Then with both hands I Aung him, wheeling him ;
But when I looked again, behold an arm,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandished him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.”
And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard :
“My end draws nigh ; 'tis time that I were gone.
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight,
And bear me to the margin ; yet I fear
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die.”
So saying, from the pavement he half rose,
Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm,
And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes
As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere
Remorsefully regarded through his tears,
And would have spoken, but he found not words,
Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee,
O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands,
And rising bore him through the place of tombs.
But, as he walked, King Arthur panted hard,
Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed
When all the house is mute. So sighed the king,
Muttering and murmuring at his ear, “Quick, quick!
I fear it is too late, and I shall die.”
But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walked,
Larger than human on the frozen hills.
He heard the deep behind him, and a cry
Before. His own thought drove him like a goad.
Dry clashed his harness in the icy caves
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clanged round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of arméd heels -
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.
Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern,
Beneath them ; and descending they were ware
That all the decks were dense with stately forms
Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream — by these
Three Queens with crowns of gold — and from them rose
A cry that shivered to the tingling stars,
And, as it were one voice, an agony
Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
Or hath come, since the making of the world.
Then murmured Arthur, “Place me in the barge."
So to the barge they came. There those three Queens
Put forth their hands, and took the king, and wept.
And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure ! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest — if indeed I go —
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion ;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.”
So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, Auting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Looked one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.
THE MILLER'S DAUGHTER. I see the wealthy miller yet,
The slow, wise smile that, round about His double chin, his portly size,
His dusty forehead dryly curled And who that knew him could forget Seemed half-within and half-without, The busy wrinkles round his eyes ?
And full of dealings with the world?
In yonder chair I see him sit,
Three fingers round the old silver cup I see his gray eyes twinkle yet
At his own jest — gray eyes lit up
With summer lightnings of a soul
So full of summer warmth, so glad,
So healthy, sound, and clear, and whole,
His memory scarce can make me sad.
Yet fill my glass: give me one kiss :
My own sweet Alice, we must die. There's somewhat in this world amiss
Shall be unriddled by and by. There's somewhat flows to us in life,
But more is taken quite away. Pray, Alice, pray, my darling wife,
That we may die the self-same day. Have I not found a happy earth?
I least should breathe a thought of pain. Would God renew me from my birth
I'd almost live my life again.
So sweet it seems with thee to walk,
And once again to woo thee mine -
It seems in after-dinner talk
Across the walnuts and the wine To be the long and listless boy
Late left an orphan of the squire, Where this old mansion mounted high
Looks down upon the village spire : For even here, where I and you
Have lived and loved alone so long, Each morn my sleep was broken through
By some wild skylark's matin-song. And oft I heard the tender dove
In firry woodlands making moan;
But ere I saw your eyes, my love,
I had no motion of my own.
For scarce my life with fancy played
Before I dreamed that pleasant dream S:ill hither thither idly swayed
Like those long mosses in the stream. Or from the bridge I leaned to hear
The mill-dam rushing down with noise, And see the minnows everywhere
In crystal eddies glance and poise, The tall flag-flowers when they sprung
Below the range of stepping-stones, Or those three chestnuts near, that hung
In masses thick with milky cones. But, Alice, what an hour was that,
When after roving in the woods, ('Twas April then), I came and sat
Below the chestnuts, when their buds
Were glistening to the breezy blue ;
And on the slope, an absent fool,
I cast me down, nor thought of you,
But angled in the higher pool.
A love-song I had somewhere read,
An echo from a measured strain,
Beat time to nothing in my head
From some odd corner of the brain. It haunted me, the morning long,
With weary sameness in the rhymes, The phantom of a silent song,
That went and came a thousand times. Then leapt a trout. In lazy mood
I watched the little circles die; They past into the level flood,
And there a vision caught my eye; The reflex of a beauteous form,
A glowing arm, a gleaming neck, As when a sunbeam wavers warm
Within the dark and dimpled beck. For you remember, you had set,
That morning, on the casement's edge A long green box of mignonette,
And you were leaning from the ledge ; And when I raised my eyes, above
They met with two so full and bright Such eyes ! I swear to you, my love,
That these have never lost their light. I loved, and love dispelled the fear
That I should die an early death ; For love possessed the atmosphere, And filled the breast with
purer breath. My mother thought, What ails the boy?
For I was altered, and began
To move about the house with joy,
And with the certain step of man.
I loved the brimming wave that swam
Through quiet meadows round the mill. The sleepy pool above the dam,
The pool beneath never still,
The meal-sacks on the whitened floor,
The dark round of the dripping wheel, The very air about the door
Made misty with the floating meal. And oft in ramblings on the wold,
When April nights began to blow, And April's crescent glimmered cold,
I saw the village lights below: I knew your taper far away,
And full at heart of trembling hope, From off the wold I came, and lay
Upon the freshly-flowered slope.