by Sydney Fowler Wright

II | III | IV


"What would ye that I did?" said Sir Lancelot.
"I would have you to my husband," said Elaine.
"Fair damosel, I thank you," said Sir Lancelot,
"but truly," said he, "I cast me never to be wedded man."
"Then, fair knight," said she, "will ye be my paramour?"
"Jesu defend me," said Sir Lancelot, "for then I
rewarded your father and your brother full evil
for their great goodness."
"Alas," said she, "then must I die for your love."

Le Morte D'Arthur.
Book XVIII Chap. XIX.


PART I

SHE came when evening came, - her feet
The cool grass comforted, -
Where love through morn and noon-day heat
Her seeking steps had led
To him who had no love for her,
And nigh whose life was dead.

Lone through the lengthened days he lay
Within that hermit's cave,
Since, on the fatal tourney day,
So deep the lancehead drave
It seemed nor any skill could heal,
Nor any love could save.

Was closed that riven hurt where-through
The restless life had drained.
No more the aching wound he knew,
No more its healing pained.
Quiet in the shadowed cave he lay,
As one whose goal was gained.

Only he would for speech with him
To whom in life he clave,
The good knight Bors, whose lance too well
That wound unweening gave,
That he might ere his parting tell
How well his heart forgave.

"Damsel, my space of days is sped,
I wot God's night is near,
But could'st thou hold my life," he said,
"Till that good knight is here,
You might not ask so great a thing
That you should ask in fear."

"I'll ask one boon of God's Mother,
Ere aught I'll ask of thee.
I'll ask one gift of God's Mother,
That she should grant it me,
Though needly at the feet of God
She lay my life in fee."

She searched that closing wound anew,
Its utter depth she learned.
She dressed it with the skill she knew,
With herbs that waked and burned,
Till where the dying life withdrew
Its aching pain returned.

The changing day was night without,
The changing night was day.
Through the long hours with life in doubt
In ever pain he lay.
Only the weary day was night:
Only the night was day.

And still her constant watch she kept,
And gained nor glance nor word,
And still her constant prayer she wept
Till Mary Virgin heard,
And then in quiet ease he slept,
And then from sleep he stirred.

"Damsel, a lightsome dream was mine:
A dream of truth, I ween.
I saw that good knight's harness shine
The singing shaws between.
I pray thee look thou forth a space,
He should not pass unseen."

She said, "The bending shaws above
A goodly knight I view.
His helm it bears no lady's glove,
No plume is trailed thereto;
His shield hath but a small white dove,
That soareth in the blue;
He rideth as thy kinsmen ride;
He cometh close hereto."

They heard the stamping hooves anear,
They heard the ringing bit,
They heard his voice the charger cheer
As that good knight alit.
Before the low cave-entrance trod
Sir Bors de Ganis, knight of God,
And stooping entered it.

Beside the lowly couch he knelt
In grief he might not stay,
Whose hand the deathful thrust had dealt
On that sad tourney day,
The chief of his great House to see,
Whom most of mortal men loved he,
How reft of strength he lay.

"Lancelot, there may no grief atone
The woeful chance," he said,
"That deeming from a knight unknown
Our gathered Table fled,
Late ere the ceasing trump was blown,
The fatal charge I led.

But not thy changed arms had missed
Thy comrades used of yore
Their lord in any guise to wist,
But that red sleeve you bore:
A damsel's favour down the list,
Thy never wont before."

"Good friend, for nought you mourn," he said,
"The day for grief is done.
My life, that sought the silent dead,
This damsel's care hath won,
And days are mine that had not been,
And other life begun.

Whate'er device of pride I hid,
In fameless guise to shine,
My boast thy better lance fordid.
For that sure thrust of thine
That drave the brittle point unbent,
May rest you in good heart content:
My folly's price is mine.

But speak what outer chance hath been
While here my life hath lain,
Withholding nought thine eyes have seen,
For either peace or pain.
For thou hast known the Grail of God,
Where that is false is vain."

"When wounded from the lists you drew,
And no man marked thy way,
Forthright the ceasing trumpet blew,
The dying strife to stay,
As Arthur charged, alone who knew
Thy questioned name to say.

And spake the King for all that would
To seek thee wide and near.
Eager from noble heart he spake,
Who loves thee for thy glory's sake,
The while that Guenevere,
Entreated half, and half forbid,
As half in fear her wrath she hid,
And half in wrath her fear.

From those who rode thy fate to trace
Lord Gawain first returned.
At Guildford, from thy biding place,
Thy present need he learned,
But brought he from his halting there
Such word of damsel; worth and fair,
Who gave thee that red sleeve to wear,
That little thank he earned.

For when I spoke my thought aloud
That hither ride would I,
(Her wrath it was a waiting cloud
Where the still thunders lie),
Thy queen in bitter speech aside
Forgiveness of thy fault denied,
Yea, though the race of kind had died,
Until ye twain should die."

PART II



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