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"Liest thou here so low, the child of
I honor'd, happy, dead before thy shame? Well is it that no child is born of thee. The children born of thee are sword and fire,
Red ruin, and the breaking up of laws, The craft of kindred and the godless hosts
Of heathen swarming o'er the Northern Sea;
Whom I, while yet Sir Lancelot, my right arm,
The mightiest of my knights, abcde with
Have every where about this land of Christ
In twelve great battles ruining overthrown.
And knowest thou now from whence I come-from him,
From waging bitter war with him ; and he,
That did not shun to smite me in worse way,
Had yet that grace of courtesy in him left,
He spared to lift his hand against the King
Who made him knight. But many a knight was slain ;
And many more and all his kith and kin
Clave to him, and abode in his own land. And many more when Modred raised revolt,
Forgetful of their troth and fealty, clave To Modred, and a remnant stays with
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs, To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it, To honor his own word as if his God's, To lead sweet lives in purest chastity, To love one maiden only, cleave to her, And worship her by years of noble deeds, Until they won her; for indeed I knew Of no more subtle master under heaven Than is the maiden passion for a maid, Not only to keep down the base in man, But teach high thought, and amiable words
And courtliness, and the desire of fame, And love of truth, and all that makes a
To sit once more within his lonely hall. And miss the wonted number of my knights,
And miss to hear high talk of noble deeds As in the golden days before thy sin. For which of us who might be left could speak
Of the pure heart, nor seem to glance at thee?
And in thy bowers of Camelot or of Usk Thy shadow still would glide from room
And I should evermore be vext with thee
Thy lord has wholly lost his love for
I am not made of so slight elements. Yet must I leave thee, woman, to thy shame.
I hold that man the worst of public foes Who either for his own or children's sake,
To save his blood from scandal, lets the wife
Whom he knows false abide and rule
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere, I, whose vast pity almost makes me die To see thee, laying there thy golden head, My pride in happier summers, at my feet. The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce law,
The doom of treason and the flaming death,
When first I learned thee hidden here,—
The pang-which, while I weigh'd thy heart with one
Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee,
Made my tears burn-is also past-in part.
And all is past, the sin is sinn'd, and I, Lo, I forgive thee, as Eternal God Forgives! do thou for thine own soul the rest.
But how to take last leave of all I loved? O golden hair, with which I used to play Not knowing! O imperial-moulded form,
And beauty such as never woman wore, Until it came a kingdom's curse with thee
I cannot touch thy lips, they are not mine,
But Lancelot's; nay, they never were the King's.
I cannot take thy hand; that too is flesh, And in the flesh thou hast sinn'd; and mine own flesh,
Here looking down on thine polluted,
And lo, he sat on horseback at the door! And near him the sad nuns with each a light
Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen,
To guard and foster her for evermore. And while he spake to these his helm was lower'd,
To which for crest the golden dragon clung
Of Britain; so she did not see the face, Which then was as an angel's, but she
Wet with the mists and smitten by the lights,
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship Blaze, making all the night a steam of
And even then he turn'd; and more and
The moony vapor rolling round the King, Who seem'd the phantom of a giant in
Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray
I must not scorn myself; he loves me still.
Let no one dream but that he loves me still.
So let me, if you do not shudder at me, Nor shun to call me sister, dwell with you;
Wear black and white, and be a nun
Fast with your fasts, not feasting with your feasts;
Grieve with your griefs, not grieving at your joys,
But not rejoicing; mingle with your rites;
Pray and be pray'd for; lie before your shrines;
Do each low office of your holy house; Walk your dim cloister, and distribute dole
To poor sick people, richer in His eyes Who ransom'd us, and haler too than I ; And treat their loathsome hurts and heal mine own;
And so wear out in alms-deed and in prayer
The sombre close of that voluptuous day Which wrought the ruin of my lord the King."
She said. They took her to themselves; and she
Still hoping, fearing "Is it yet too late?" Dwelt with them, till in time their ab
Then she, for her good deeds and her pure life,
And for the power of ministration in her, And likewise for the high rank she had borne,
Was chosen abbess, there, an abbess, lived
For three brief years, and there, an abbess, passed
To where beyond these voices there is peace. 1859.
THE Woods decay, the woods decay and
fall, The vapors weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan. Me only cruel immortality
Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms, Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Alas! for this gray shadow, once a
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice, Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem'd
To his great heart none other than a
Like wealthy men who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work'd their wills,
And beat me down and marr'd and wasted me,
And tho' they could not end me, left me maim'd
To dwell in presence of immortal youth, Immortal age beside immortal youth, And all I was in ashes. Can thy love. Thy beauty, make amends, tho' even