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An Arthurian Miscellany at




At Almesbury the lights are low --
With muffled step the Sisters go,
And come, and go, in tears, for lo.

With crucifix held o'er her head,
The Abbess-Queen lies on her bed,
Soon to be gathered with the dead.

They deem her holy; she hath taught
How hope may come and faith be bought,
But now she thinks -- and this the thought:

"To die. O God! what breadth of doom
Awaits me in the ghostly gloom
That stretcheth out beyond the tomb?

"To die -- to die -- to go where I
May meet with Arthur passing by?
I cannot die -- I cannot die!

"I whisper to myself his name,
I count the years, I count the shame,
And feel the torture of the flame.

"I loved him not, yet well I know
I took his life -- and deep and slow
I wrought the wound, I dealt the blow.

"I know not where his body lies --
I dare not meet his clear, large eyes,
Bright with the light of Paradise.

"Why, they would cut me thro' and thro'
Like yonder star, that from the blue
Dissevers this clear drop of dew.

"O Christ! a little time, I pray,
Yet let me live -- perchance some day
I may not fear to tread the way.

"Cease, cease, vain prayer -- I am grown old.
The thin white hair that once was gold,
The sunken cheeks, half-gray, half-cold,

"The shrivelled breast, the sightless eye,
All wan and worn -- they mutely cry, --
''Tis time to die! 'tis time to die!'

"O, I am old and changed! and what
If I should meet with Launcelot
And he should pass and know me not?

"Methinks my heart would throb and swell
Until it broke again -- ah well,
'Twould make of heaven a twofold hell.

"To think that we two souls had met
And he passed, with quiet face set
Away from me, so old -- and yet

"It was not love for him I felt;
No love in me hath ever dwelt
Save love of self. Why, I have knelt

"And prayed to God for grace for me ,
Have moaned and prayed for strength to see
Some hope in gray eternity.

"And in my prayer no name has mixt
With mine, lest it should come betwixt
My thoughts and God's, and leave unfixt

"The grace for which I prayed; and now
The death-damp gathers on my brow,
But to God's will I cannot bow.

"O, I would live! I dread this death,
This sudden sinking of the breath,
With all the mystery beneath;

"With all the fear beyond the pain,
With all the mist beyond the rain --
O God! O Christ! I would remain!"

She lieth dead -- the church-bells toll --
Fair Father Christ, receive her soul
And make the broken image whole.

Next: The Egyptian Maid or the Romance of the Water-Lily, by William Wordsworth [1835]