Page images
PDF
EPUB

IV.

But Guendolen's might far outshine

She listen’d silently the while, Each maid of merely mortal line.

Her mood express'd in bitter smile; Her mother was of human birth,

Beneath her eye must Arthur quail, Her sire a genie of the earth,

And oft resume the unfinish'a tale, In days of old deemed to preside

Confessing, by his downcast eye, O'er lovers' wiles and beauty's pride,

The wrong he sought to justify. By youths and virgins worshipped long,

He ceased. A moment mute she gazed, With festive dance and choral song,

And then her looks to heaven she raised; Till, when the cross to Britain came,

One palm her temples veil'd, to hide On heathen altars died the flame.

The lear that sprung in spite of pride; Now, deep in Wastdale's solitude,

The other for an instant press'd The downfall of his rites he rued,

The foldings of her silken vest! And, born of his resentment heir,

VII. He trained to guile that lady fair,

At her reproachful sign and look, To sink ip slothful sin and shame

The hint the monarch's conscience took. The champions of the christian name.

Eager he spoke—“No, lady, no! Well-skilled to keep vain thoughts alive, Deem not of British Arthur so, And all to promise, nought to give,

Nor think he can deserter prore The timid youth had hope in store,

To the dear pledge of mutual love. The bold and pressing gained no more.

I swear by sceptre and by sword, As wildered children leave their home,

As belted knight and Britain's lord, After the rainbow's areh to roam,

That if a boy shall claim my care, Her lovers bartered fair esteem,

That boy is born a kingdom's heir; Faith, fame, and honour, for a dream.

But, if a maiden fate allows,

To choose that maid a fitting spouse, Her sire's soft arts the soul to tame

A summer day in lists shall strive She practised thus--till Arthur came,

My knights,--the bravest knights alive,Then frail humanity had part,

And he, the best and bravest tried, And all the mother claimed her heart.

Shall Arthur's daughter claim for bride."Forgot each rule her father gave,

He spoke, with voice resolved and highSunk from a princess to a slave,

The lady deigned him not reply.
Too late must Guendolen deplore,
He, that has all, can hope no more!

vui. Now, must she see her lover strain,

At dawn of morn, ere on the brake At every turn, her feeble chain;

His matins did a warbler make, Watch, to new-bind each knot, and shrink Or stirr'd his wing to brush away To view each fast-decaying link.

A single dew-drop from the spray, Art she invokes to nature's aid,

Ere yet a sunbeam, through the mist, Her vest to zone, her locks to braid;

The castle battlements bad kiss'd, Each varied pleasure heard her call,

The gates revolve, the draw-bridge falls, The feast, the tourney, and the ball:

And Arthur sallies from the walls. Her storied lore she next applies,

Doffd his soft garb of Persia's loom, Taxing her mind to aid her eyes;

And steel from spur to helmet-plume, Now more than mortal wise, and then

His Lybian steed full proudly trode, In female softness sunk again;

And joyful neighed beneath his load. Now, raptured, with each wish complying, The monarch gave a passing sigh With feigned reluctance now denying;

To penitence and pleasures by, Each charm she varied, to retain

When, lo! to his astonished ken
A varying heart--and all in vain!

Appeared the form of Guendolen.
V.
Thus in the garden's narrow bound,

IX.
Flank'd by some castle's gothic round,

Beyond the outmost wall she stood, Fain would the artist's skill provide,

Attired like huntress of the wood; The limits of his realm to hide.

Sandall'd her feet, her ancles bare, The walks in labyrinths he twines,

And eagle plumage decked her hair; Shade after shade with skill combines,

Firm was her look, her bearing bold, With many a varied flowery knot,

And in her hand a cup of gold. And copse and arbour deck the spot,

“Thou goest!” she said, " and ne'er again Tempting the hasty foot to stay,

Must we two meet, in joy or pain. And linger on the lovely way.

Full fain would I this hour delay, Vain art! vain hope! 'tis fruitless all!

Though weak the wish-yet, wilt thou stay!

No! thou look'st forward. Still attend, At length we reach the bounding wall,

Part we like lover and like friend.”_
And, sick of flower and trim-dressed tree,
Long for rough glades and forest free.

She raised the cup—"Not this the juice
VI.

The sluggish vines of earth produce; Three summer months had scantly flown,

Pledge we, at parting, in the draught When Arthur, in embarrassed tone,

Which genii love!”--she said, and quaff'd; Spoke of his liegemen and his throne;

And strange unwonted lustres fty Said, all too long had been his stay,

From her Aushed cheek and sparkling eye And duties, which a monarch sway,

X. Duties unknown to humbler men,

The courteous monarch bent him low, Must tear her knight from Guendolen. - And, stooping down from saddle-bow,

Lifted the cup, in act to drink.

drop escaped the goblet's brink,
Intense as liquid fire from hell,
Upon the charger's neck it fell.
Screaming with agony and fright,
He bolted twenty feet upright-
- The peasants still can show the dint,
Where his hoofs lighted on the flint.
From Arthur's hand the goblet flew,'
Scattering a shower of fiery dew,
That burned and blighted where it fell!
The frantic steed rushed up the dell,
As whistles from the bow the reed;
Nor bit nor rein could check his speed

Until he gained the hill;
Then breath and sinew failed apace,
And, reeling from the desperate race,

He stood, exhausted, still.
The monarch, breathless and amazed,
Back on the fatal castle gazed —
Nor tower nor donjon could he spy,
Darkening against the morning sky;2
But, on the spot where once they frowned,
The lonely streamlet brawled around
A tufted knoll, where dimly shone
Fragments of rock and rifted stone.
Musing on this strange hap the while,
The king wends back to fair Carlisle;
And cares, that cumber royal sway,
Wore memory of the past away.

XI.
Full fifteen years, and more, were sped,
Each brought new wreaths to Arthur's head.
Twelve bloody fields, with glory fought,
The Saxons to subjection brought;3
Rython, the mighty giant, slain
By his good brand, relieved Bretagne;
The Pictish Gillamore in fight,
And Roman Lucius, owned his might;
And wide were through the world renowned
The glories of his Table Round.
Each knight, who sought adventurous fame,
To the bold court of Britain came,
And all who suffered causeless wrong,
From tyrant proud or faitour strong,
Sought Arthur's presence to complain,
Nor there for aid implored in vain.

XII.
For this the king, with pomp and pride,
Held solemn court at Whitsuntide,

And summoned prince and peer,
All who owed homage for their land,
Or who craved knighthood from his hand,
Or who had succour to demand,

To come from far and near.
At such high tide, where glee and game
Mingled with feats of martial fame,
For many a stranger champion came

In lists to break a spear;
And not a knight of Arthur's host,
Save that he trod some foreign coast,
But at this feast of Pentecost

Before him must appear..
Ah, miostrels! when the Table Round
Arose, with all its warriors crowned,
There was a theme for bards to sound

In triumph to their string!
Five hundred years are past and gone,
But Time shaú draw his dying groan,
Ere he behold the British throne

Begirt with such a ring!

XIN.
The heralds named the appointea spot,
As Caerleon or Camelot,

Or Carlise fair and free.
At Penrith, now, the feast was set,
And in fair Eamont's vale were met

The flower of chivalry.
There Galaad sate with manly grace,
Yet maiden meekness in his face;
There Morolt of the iron mace,

And love-lorn Tristrem there:
And Dinadam with lively glance,
And Lanval with the fairy lance,
And Mordred with his look askaunca

Brunor and Bevidere.
Why should I tell of numbers more?
Sir Cay, sir Banier, and sir Bore,

Sir Carodac the keen,
The gentle Gawain's courteous lore,
Hecter de Mares of Pellinore,
And Lancelot, that evermore
Look'd stol'n-wise on the queen.5

XIV.
When wine and mirth did most abouna,
And harpers play'd their blithest round,
A shrilly trumpet shook the ground,

And marshals cleared the ring, A maiden, on a palfrey white, Heading a band of damsels bright, Paced through the circle, to alight

And kneel before the king.
Arthur, with strong emotion, saw
Her graceful boldness check'd by awe,
Her dress like huntress of the wold,
Her bow and baldrick trapped with gola,
Her sandall'd feet, her ancles bare,
And the eagle plume that deck'd her hair.
Graceful her veil she backward fung-
The king, as from his seat he sprung,

Almost cried, “ Guendolen!"
But 'twas a face more frank and wild,
Betwixt the woman and the child,
Where less of magic beauty smiled

Than of the race of men;
And in the forehead's haughty grace
The lines of Britain's royal race,
Pendragon's, you might ken.

XV.
Faltering, yet gracefully, she said-
“ Great prince! behold an orphan naid,
In her departed mother's name,
A father's vowed protection claim!
The vow was sworn in desert lone,
In the deep valley of saint John.”_
At once the king the suppliant raised,
And kissed her brow, her beauty praised;
His vow, he said, should well be kept,
Ere in the sea the sun was dipp'd;
Then, conscious, glanced upon his queen:
But she, unruffled at the scene,
Of human frailty construed mild,
Looked upon Lancelot, and smiled.

XVI. “Up! up! each knight of gallant cresc!

Take buckler, spear, and brand ! He that to-day shall bear him best,

Shall win my Gyneth's hand.
and Arthur's daughter, when a bride,

Shall bring a noble dower;
Both fair Strath-Clyde and Reged wide,

And Carlisle town and tower."'

Then might you hear each valiant knight, King Arthur saw, with startled eye,
To page and squire that cried,

The flower of chivalry march by,
“Bring my armour bright, and my courser wight! The bulwark of the christian ereed,
'Tis not each day that a warrior's might

The kingdom's shield in hour of need. May win a royal bride."

Too late he thought him of the wo Then cloaks and caps of maintenance

Might from their civil conflict flow: In haste aside they fling;

For well be knew they would not part The helmets glance, and gleams the lance, Till cold was many a gallant heart. And the steel-weaved hauberks ring,

His hasty vow he 'gan to rue, Small care had they of their peaceful array, And Gyneth then apart he drew; They might gather in that wolde:

To her his leading-staff resign'd, For brake and bramble glittered gay,

But added caution grave and kind. With pearls and cloth of gold.

XX.

“ Thou see'st, my child, as promise-bounu, XVII.

I bid the trump for tourney sound, Within trumpet-sound of the Table Round

Take thou my warder, as the queen Were fifty champions free,

And umpire of the martial scene; And they all arise to fight that prize,

But mark thou this:-as beauty bright, They all arise, but three.

Is polar star to valiant knight, Nor love's fond troth, nor wedlock's oath,

As at her word his sword he draws, One gallant could withhold,

His fairest guerdon her applause, For priests will allow of a broken vow,

So gentle maid should never ask For penance or for gold.

Of knighthood vain and dangerous task: But sigh and glance from ladies bright

And Beauty's eye should ever be Among the troop were thrown,

Like the twin stars that sooth the sea, To plead their right, and true-love plight, And Beauty's breath should whisper peace, And plain of honour flown.

And bid the storm of battle cease. The knights they busied them so fast,

I tell thee this, lest all too far With buckling spur and belt,

These knights urge tourney into war. That sigh and look by ladies cast,

Blith at the trumpet let them go, Were neither seen nor felt.

And fairly counter blow for blow; From pleading or upbraiding glance,

No striplings these, who succour need Each gallant turns aside,

For a razed helm or fallen steed. And only thought, “ If speeds my lance,

But, Gyneth, when the strite grows warm A queen becomes my bride!

And threatens death or deadly barm, She has fair Strath-Clyde, and Reged wide, Thy sire entreats, thy king commands, And Carlisle tower and town;

Thou drop the warder from thy hands. She is the loveliest maid, beside,

Trust thou thy father with thy fate, That ever heir'd a crown.”

Doubt not he choose thee fitting mate: So in haste their coursers they bestride,

Nor be it said, through Gyneth's pride And strike their visors down.

A rose of Arthur's chaplet died."
XVIII.

XXI.
The champions, arm'd in martial sort,

A proud and discontented glow Have throug'd into the list,

O’er shadowed Gyneth's brow of snow; And but three knights of Arthur's court

She put the warder by:Are from the tourney miss'd.

“ Reserve thy boon, my liege," she said, And still these lovers' fame survives

“ Thus chaffered down and limited, For faith so constant shown,

Debased and narrowed, for a maid There were two who lov'd their neighbours’wives

Of less degree than I. And one who loved his own. 6

No petty chief, but holds his heir The first was Lancelot de Lac,

At a more honoured price and rare The second Tristrem bold,

Than Britain's king holds me! The third was valiant Carodac,

Although the sun-burn'd maid, for dower, Who won the cup of gold,?

Has but her father's rugged tower,

His barren hill and lea. What time, of all king Arthur's crew (Thereof came jeer and laugh,)

King Arthur swore, .by crown and sword, He, as the mate of lady true,

• As belted knight, and Britain's lord, Alone the cup could quaff.

• That a whole summer's day should strin Though envy's tongue would fain surmise,

His knights, the bravest knights alive!' That, but for very shame,

Recal thine oath! and to her glen Sir Carodac, to fight that prize,

Poor Gyneth can return agen: Had given both cup and dame.

Not on thy daughter will the stain, Yet, since but one of that fair court

That soils thy sword and crown, remgin. Was true to wedlock's shrine,

But think not she will e'er be bride Brand him who will with base report,

Save to the bravest, proved and tried; He shall be free from mine.

Pendragon's daughter will not fear

For clashing sword or splintered spear, XIX.

Nor shrink though blood should flow Now caracold the steeds in air,

And all tov well sad Guendolen Now plumes and pennons wanton'd fair,

Hath taught the faithlessness of men, As all around the lists so wide

That child of hers should pity, when lo panoply the champions ride.

Their meed they undergo."

[graphic]

XXII.

Arthur, in anguish, tore away He frowned and sighed, the monarch bold: From head and beard his tresses gray, "I give—what I may not withhold;

And she, proud Gyneth, felt dismay, For, not for danger, dread, or death,

And quaked with ruth and fear; Must British Arthur break his faith.

But still she deem'd her mother's shade Too late I mark, thy mother's art

Hung o'er the tumult, and forbade Hath taught thee this relentless part.

The sign that had the slaughter staid, I blame her not, for she had wrong,

And chid the rising tear. But not to these my faults belong.

Then Brunor, Taulus, Mador, fell, Use, then, the warder as thou wilt;

Helias the White, and Lionel, But trust me that, if life be spilt,

And many a champion more; In Arthur's love, in Arthur's grace,

Rochemont and Dinadam are down, Gyneth shall lose a daughter's place.”

And Ferrand of the Forest Brown With that he turn'd his head aside,

Lies gasping in his gore. Nor brooked to gaze upon her pride,

Vanoc, by mighty Morolt pressd As, with the truncheun raised, she sate

Even to the confines of the list, The arbitress of mortal fate;

Young Vanoc of the beardless face, Nor brooked to mark, in ranks disposed, (Fame spoke the youth of Merlin's race,) How the bold champions stood opposed; O’erpowered at Gyneth's footstool bled, For shrill the trumpet-flourish fell

His heart's blood died her sandals red. Upon his ear like passing bell!

But then the sky was overcast, Then first from sight of martial fray

Then howled at once a whirlwind's blast, Did Britain's hero turn away.

And, rent by sudden throes,

Yawn'd in mid lists the quaking earth, XXIN.

And from the gulf,--tremendous birth! But Gyneth heard the clangor high,

The form of Merlin rose.
As hears the hawk the partridge-cry.

XXVI.
Oh, blame her not! the blood was hers,
That at the trumpet's summons stirs !-

Sternly the wizard prophet eyed
And e’en the gentlest female eye

The dreary lists with slaughter dyed, Might the brave strise of chivalry

And sternly raised his hand:-A while untroubled view;

“ Madmen,” he said, “ your strife forbear! So well accomplished was each knight,

And thou, fair cause of mischief, hear To strike and to defend in fight,

The doom thy fates demand! Their meeting was a goodly sight,

Long shall close in stony sleep While plate and mail held true.

Eyes for ruth that would not weep; The lists with painted plumes were strown,

Iron lethargy shall seal Upon the wind at random thrown,

Heart that pity scorned to feel. But helm and breast-plate bloodless shone;

Yet, because thy mother's art It seemed their feathered crests alone

Warp'd thine unsuspicious heart,

And for love of Arthur's race,
Should this encounter rue.

Punishment is blent with grace,
And ever, as the combat grows,
The trumpet's cheery voice arose,

Thou shalt bear thy penance lone,
Like lark's shrill solig the flourish flows,

In the valley of saint John, Heard while the gale of April blows

And this weird* shall overtake thee;The merry greenwood through.

Sleep, until a knight shall wake thee,

For feats of arms as far renowned
XXIV.

As warrior of the Table Round.
But soon to earnest grew their game,

Long endurance of thy slumber
The spears drew blood, the swords struck flame, Well may teach the world to number
And, horse and man, to ground there came All their woes from Gyneth's pride,
Knights who shall rise no more!

When the Red Cross champions died."Gone was the pride the war that graced,

XXVII. Gay shields were cleft, and crests defaced,

As Merlin speaks, on Gyneth's eye And steel coats riven, and helms unbraced,

Slumber's load begins to lie; And pennons streamed with gore.

Fear and anger vainly strive Gone, too, were fence and fair array,

Still to keep its light alive. And desperate strength made deadly way

Twice, with effort and with pause, At random through the bloody fray,

O'er her brow her hand she draws; And blows were dealt with head-long sway, T'wice her strength in vain she tries, Unheeding where they fell;

From the fatal chair to rise; And now the trumpet's clamours seem

Merlin's magic doom is spoken,
Like the shrill sea-bird's wailing scream, Vanoc's death must now be wroken.
Heard o'er the whirlpool's gulfing stream, Slow the dark-fringed eye-lids fall,
The sinking seaman's knell!

Curtaining each azure ball,
XXV.

Slowly as on summer eves

Violets fold their dusky leaves.
Seemed in this dismal hour, that Fate
Would Carnlan's ruin anledate,

The weighty baton of command

Now bears down her siuking hand, And spare dark Mordred's crime;

On her shoulder droops her head;
Already gasping on the ground

Net of pearl and golden thread,
Lie twenty of the Table Round,
Of chivalry the prime.

• Doom.

Bursting, gave her locks to flow

But their right paramount assert O'er her arm and breast of snow.

To limit her by pedant art, And so lovely seem'd she there,

Damoing whate'er of vast and fair Spell-bound in her ivory chair,

Exceeds a canvass three feet square. That her angry sire, repenting,

This thicket, for their gumption fit, Craved stern Merlin for relenting,

May furnish such a happy bit. And the champions, for her sake,

Bards, too, are hers, wont to recite Would again the contest wake;

Their own sweet lays by waxen light, Till, in necromantic night,

Half in the salver's tipkle drown'd,
Gyneth vanish'd from their sight.

While the chasse-café glides around!
XXVII.

And such may hither secret stray,
Still she bears her weird alone,

To labour an extempore: In the valley of saint John;

Or sportsman, with his boisterous hollo, And her semblance oft will seem

May here his wiser spaniel follow, Mingling in a champion's dream,

Or stage-struck Juliet may presume Of her weary lot to plain,

To choose this bower for tiring room; And crave his aid to burst her chain.

And we alike must shun regard, While her wondrous tale was new,

From painter, player, sportsman, bard. Warriors to her rescue drew,

Insects that skim in Fashion's sky, East and west, and south and north,

Wasp, blue-hottle, or butterfly, From the Liffey, Thames, and Forth.

Lucy, have all alarms for us, Most have sought in vain the glen,

For all can ham and all can buz.
Tower nor castle could they ken;

III.
Not at every time or tide,
Nor by every eye, descried.

But oh, my Lucy, say how long

We still must read this trilling throng, Fast and vigil must be borne, Many a night in watching worn,

And stoop to hide, with coward art, Ere an eye of mortal powers

The genuine feelings of the heart! Can discern those magic towers.

No parents thine, whose just command

Should rule their ehild's obedient hand; Of the persevering few, Some from hopeless task withdrew,

Thy guardians, with contending voice,

Press each his individual choice.
When they read the dismal threat
Graved upon the gloomy gate.

And which is Lucy's!-Can it be
Few have braved the yawning door,

That puny fop, trimm'd cap-a-pie, And those few return'd no more.

Who loves in the saloon to show In the lapse of time forgot,

The arms that never knew a foe;

Whose sabre trails along the ground, Well nigh lost is Gyneth's lot;

Whose legs in shapeless boots are drown's Sound her sleep as in the tomb,

A new Achilles, sure,-the steel
Till waken'd by the trump of doom.

Fled from his breast to fence his heel;
END OF LYULPH'S TALE.

One, for the simple manly grace

That wont to deck our martial race, 1.

Who comes in foreign trashery Here pause, my tale; for all too soon,

Of tinkling chain and spur, My Lucy, comes the hour of noon.

A walking haberdashery, Already from thy lofty dome

Of feathers, lace, and fur: Its courtly inmates 'gin to roam,

In Rowley's antiquated phrase,
And, each, to kill the goodly day

Horse-milliner* of modern days.
That God has granted them, his way
Of lazy sauntering has sought;

IV.
Lordings and willings not a few,

Or is it he, the wordy youth, Incapable of doing aught,

So early train’d for statesman's part, Yet ill at ease with nought to do.

Who talks of honour, faith, and truth, Here is no longer place for me;

As themes that he has got by heart; For, Lacy, thou would'st blush to see

Whose ethics Chesterfield can teach, Some phantom, fashionably thin,

Whose logic is from Single-speech; With limb of lath and kerchief'd chin,

Who scords the meanest thought to vent, And lounging gape, or sneering grin,

Save in the phrase of parliament; Steal sudden on our privacy.

Who, in a tale of cat and mouse, And how should I, so humbly born,

Calls “ order,” and “divides the house,” Endure the graceful spectre's scorn!

Who “ craves permission to reply,” Faith! ill I fear, while conjuring wand

Whose " noble friend is in his eye;" Of English oak is hard at hand.

Whose loving tender some have reckon'd II.

A motion, you should gladly second? Or grant the hour be all too soon

V. For Hessian boot and pantaloon,

What, neither? Can there be a third, And grant the lounger seldom strays

To such resistless swains preferr'd!-Beyond the smooth and gravell’d maze,

O why, my Lucy, turn aside, Laud we the gods, that Fashion's train

With that quick glance of injured pride? Holds hearts of more adventurous strain.

• « The trammels of the palfraye pleased his sight, Artists are hers, who scorn to trace

And the horse-millanere his head with roses dightTheir rules from Nature's boundless grace,

Rowley's Ballads er Chsritis

« PreviousContinue »