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That hears of glad sad life in magic lands;
And bare it back to Tristram, with pure hands
Holding the love-draught that should be for flame
To burn out of them fear and faith and shame,
And lighten all their life up in men's sight,
And make them sad forever. Then the knight
Bowed toward her and craved whence had she this strange

That might be spoil of some dim Asian king,
By starlight stolen from some waste place of sands,
And a maid bore it here in harmless hands.
And Iseult, laughing—“ Other lords that be
Feast, and their men feast after them; but we,
Our men must keep the best wine back to feast
Till they be full, and we of all men least
Feed after them and fain to fare so well :
So with mine handmaid and your squire it fell
That hid this bright thing from us in a wile :"
And with light lips yet full of their swift smile,
And hands that wist not though they dug a grave,
Undid the hasps of gold, and drank, and gave,
And he drank after, a deep glad kingly draught:
And all their life changed in them, for they quaffed
Death; if it be death so to drink, and fare
As men who change and are what these twain were.


(From "Idylls of the King.)


So Lancelot got her horse,
Set her thereon, and mounted on his own,
And then they rode to the divided way,
There kiss'd, and parted weeping : for he passed
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen,

Back to his land ; but she to Almesbury
Fled all night long by glimmering waste and weald,
And heard the Spirits of the waste and weald
Joan as she fled, or thought she heard them moan:
And in herself she moan'd, “Too late, too late!”
Till in the cold wind that foreruns the morn.
A blot in heaven, the Raven, flying high,
Croak’d, and she thought, “ He spies a field of death ;
For now the heathen of the Northern Sea,
Lured by the crimes and frailties of the court,
Begin to slay the folk, and spoil the land.”

And when she came to Almesbury she spake
There to the nuns, and said, “ Mine enemies
Pursue me, but, 0 peaceful Sisterhood,
Receive, and yield me sanctuary, nor ask
Her name, to whom ye yield it, till her time
To tell you :” and her beauty, grace, and power
Wrought as a charm upon them, and they spared
To ask it.

So the stately Queen abode
For many a week, unknown, among the nuns;
Nor with them mix’d, nor told her name, nor sought,
Wrapt in her grief, for housel or for shrift,
But communed only with the little maid,
Who pleased her with a babbling heedlessness
Which often lured her from herself ; but now,
This night, a rumor wildly blown about
Came that Sir Modred had usurp'd the realm,
And leagued him with the heathen, while the King
Was waging war on Lancelot : then she thought,
“ With what a hate the people and the King
Must hate me!” and bow'd down upon her hands
Silent, until the little maid, who brook'd
No silence, brake it, uttering, “ Late! so late!
What hour, I wonder, now?" and when she drew
No answer, by and by began to hum

An air the nuns had taught her : “ Late, so late!
Which when she heard, the Queen looked up, and said,
“O maiden, if indeed you list to sing,
Sing, and unbind my heart that I may weep."
Whereat full willingly sang the little maid :


Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.

Too late, too late! ye can not enter now.
“No light had we; for that we do repent;
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent.

Too late, too late! ye can not enter now.
“No light; so late! and dark and chill the night!
Oh, let us in, that we may find the light!

Too late, too late! ye can not enter now.
“Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet ?
Oh, let us in, tho’ late, to kiss his feet !

No, no, too late! ye can not enter now.”

So sang the novice, while full passionately, Her head upon her hands, remembering Her thought when first she came, wept the sad Queen. Then said the little novice prattling to her :

“Oh, pray you, noble lady, weep no more: But let my words, the words of one so small, Who knowing nothing knows but to obey— And if I do not there is penance givenComfort your sorrows; for they do not flow From evil done: right sure am I of that, Who see your tender grace and stateliness. But weigh your sorrows with our lord the King's, And weighing find them less; for gone is he To wage grim war against Sir Lancelot there, Round that strong castle where he holds the Queen; And Modred whom he left in charge of all, The traitor—Ah, sweet lady, the King's grief For his own self, and his own Queen, and realm, Must needs be thrice as great as any of ours.

For me I thank the saints I am not great.
For if there ever come a grief to me,
I cry my cry in silence, and have done :
None knows it, and my tears have brought me good.
But even were the griefs of little ones
As great as those of great ones, yet this grief
Is added to the griefs the great must bear,
That howsoever much they may desire
Silence, they can not weep behind a cloud :
As even here they talk at Almesbury
About the good King and his wicked Queen.
And were I such a King with such a Queen,
Well might I wish to veil her wickedness,
But were I such a King, it could not be.”

Then to her own sad heart mutter'd the Queen,
“ Will the child kill me with her innocent talk ?
But openly she answer'd, “Must not I,
If this false traitor have displaced his lord,
Grieve with the common grief of all the realm ? ”

“ Yea," said the maid, "this is all woman's grief, That she is woman, whose disloyal life Hath wrought confusion in the Table Round Which good King Arthur founded, years ago, With signs and miracles and wonders, there At Camelot, ere the coming of the Queen."

Then thought the Queen within herself again, “ Will the child kill me with her foolish prate?” But openly she spake and said to her, “O little maid, shut in by nunnery walls, What canst thou know of Kings and Tables Round, Or what of signs and wonders, but the signs And simple miracles of thy nunnery?”

To whom the little novice garrulously : “ Yea, but I know : the land was full of signs

And wonders ere the coming of the Queen.
So said my father, and himself was knight
Of the great Table-at the founding of it;
And rode thereto from Lyonnesse, and he said
That as he rode, an hour or maybe twain
After the sunset, down the coast, he heard
Strange music, and he paused, and turning—there,
All down the lonely coast of Lyonnesse,
Each with a beacon-star upon his head,
And with a wild sea-light about his feet,
He saw them-headland after headland flame
Far on into the rich heart of the west :
And in the light the white mermaiden swam,
And strong man-breasted things stood from the sea,
And sent a deep sea-voice thro' all the land,
To which the little elves of chasm and cleft
Made answer, sounding like a distant horn.
So said my father-yea, and furthermore,
Next morning, while he passed the dim-lit woods,
Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy
Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower,
That shook beneath them, as the thistle shakes
When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed :
And still at evenings on before his horse
The flickering fairy-circle wheeld and broke
Flying, and link'd again, and wheel'd and broke
Flying, for all the land was full of life.
And when at last he came to Camelot,
A wreath of airy dancers hand-in-hand
Swung round the lighted lantern of the hall;
And in the hall itself was such a feast
As never man had dream'd; for every knight
Had whatsoever meat he long'd for served
By hands unseen; and even as he said,
Down in the cellars merry bloated things
Shoulder'd the spigot, straddling on the butts

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