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An Arthurian Miscellany at





Our lord the Pope bears Peter's key,
         And sits in Peter's chair,
It vexed him in his Christendie
         Such sinful doings were:
A learned clerk to Garde Joyeuse,
         He's bid with haste repair,
Should warn Sir Launcelot, on his curse,
         Restore Queen Guinevere:
And charge her lord, as loyal knight,
         But anger or arraign,
To have his lady scatheless
         Into his grace again.



And first of knights an hundred,
         In gallant graith rode by;
Waved from each helm, in sign of peace,
         An olive-branch on high,
An hundred knights of prowess,
         That deadly stroke could deal; --
Their steeds with velvet and with gold,
         Were trapped from head to heel.
And next, in costly mantles
         Of golden tissue rare,
Full stately rode Sir Launcelot,
         And lovely Guinevere.
A matchless pair! like bridgegroom
         They looked, I ween, and bride:
"Ah! pity," whispered ladies,
         "Their love was sin!" and sigh'd.
A four-and-twenty maidens,
         On milk-white palfrey borne,
Behind the Queen rode daintily,
         Fresh as that April morn.
With scarf and plume, in boyhood's bloom,
         Behind Sir Launcelot,
Of gentle strain, twelve pages rein
         Their curving coursers hot.



They cross'd the presence-chamber,
         And knelt them duteously;
And lords and ladies many a'wept
         For joy that sight to see.
But sternly cold Sir Arthur looked
         Upon that kneeling pair;
Nor word he spake to Launcelot,
         Nor word to Guinevere!


Flashed then his eye for anger,
         And flushed his brow for shame;
And proudly rose Sir Launcelot,
         And raised that royal dame --
"My lord the king! this lady
         Have to thy grace again,
And love her true, and cherish her,
         So doth the Pope ordain.
And be there lord, or be there knight,
         Save but thyself, shall dare
By sign or say, to counter-nay,
         That she is true and fair --
For liar, and for libeller,
         I brand him on the spot;
And in the trial deadly
         Will prove it in his throat.
When thou, by false hearts lied on,
         Did'st foul suspect thy Queen,
This arm ere now, with Heaven to help,
         Hath proved her clear and clean.
And when the traitor, Aggravayne" --
         "'Tis thou the traitor art,"
Shouted Sir Gawayne, hoarse for rage, --
         "A traitor to the heart!
Thy lief lord thou hast dearly wronged,
         And slain me brothers three;
And two unarmed -- nor hurt nor harm
         Had compassed thine or thee!"


"My lord! laments me sorely
         That twain my lovers true;
But well thou wot'st 'twas blindly done,
         Unweeting whom I slew.
And for atonement, hear thou now,
         The penance I intend --
To Sandwich town, in sackcloth gown,
         To barefoot pilgrim wend:
And whereso'er I rest by night,
         To found me convent fair,
Where holy men, the live year long,
         Shall for their souls do prayer."


O then, on Launcelot kindly
         Sir Arthur turned his eye;
But hastily, and haughtily,
         Sir Gawayne made reply --
"My lord the king, so listeth him,
         But anger or arraign,
May take that lady to his grace,
         Or if he list, refrain:
But peace or pardon pledge he thee,
         Or seat at Table Round,
Shall never more Sir Gawayne
         Be seen on British ground.
So speed thee hence in safety,
         As safely thou art come:
But tarry not, beyond the sea
         To harbour find and home,
Ere fifteen days be come and gone;
         Or wete thou well ere long,
Our trumpets from thy morning-sleep
         Shall wake thee with their song."



"Ah, noble realm!" sighed Launcelot,
         And must we part us so?
For bield or biding here is none,
         While Gawayne is my foe!
Alas! that land or lordship,
         I wan or knightly name,
In this fair isle, like felon vile,
         To be cast forth with shame!
O broad art thou, and beautiful,
         The Briton's isle to see,
With mead, and mere, and mountain,
         And strath and forest free!
For trench thou hast the ocean-stream,
         And rocks for rampart-wall;
Thou rearest steed for knightly need,
         And steer for festive hall.
For brand, for bow, to ride, to row,
         Or battle-axe to wield.
So stalworth arm, so fearless heart,
         No hand on earth may yield,
Or dames so true, or maidens
         So witch with beauty's smile, --
A happy-doled that man I hold
         Doth home the Briton's isle!
But false and fickle lover
         Is fortune well I know;
Her wheel a'roll, who loftiest rise
         Do ever fall most low.
A banished man and branded
         From land I loved so long,
Most noble dame! speak fair my name
         Against maligner's wrong.
And come defame or danger,
         Then lightly send me word;
And doubt thou ne'er Sir Launcelot
         Shall right thee with his sword!"



He kissed her ivory forehead,
         Her trembling hand he took,
And round that presence-chamber
         He looked a lofty look --
"Stands here the man shall say it,
         Or shall uphold it said,
She is untrue this lady
         To Arthur's bond or bed?"
Then to her lord he led her,
         And reverently he bent
Before them both in silence,
         And forth for ever went!

Next: The Rescue, by Robert Buchanan [1859]