by Sydney Fowler Wright
- PART II
- NOT God shall stay the ending day
That closeth dole or good.
With guerdon earned for life returned,
At parting hour they stood.
To right the way the downland lay,
To left the hawthorn wood.
"Damsel there is no gold to give
The price of life shall pay,
But speak you all your heart," he said,
"And in such things I may,
To serve thee is my part," he said,
"It is but thine to say."
"If I have won thy life," she said,
"I will no gold in fee.
Except our willing hearts were wed,
There were no gain for me.
Men speak me for the fairest maid
From Guildford to the sea, -
I would no sooner flower should fade
If all be nought to thee."
"Damsel, the bitter boon you would
I may not grant," said he,
"Since by the heavy doom of God
The Grail I might not see,
I know till all my path be trod
A wrought sin clingeth me,
And I am nothing worth to God,
Nor fitting mate for thee."
"If word of quick, or word of dead,
Or word of God Most High,
Should speak thee any shame," she said,
"Or any worth deny,
In this thing were it shown," she said,
"That very God could lie."
"I may not change my word," said he,
"Though well in heart I wot,
My grief before the throne of God
Shall be I loved thee not."
"But there," she said, "my boast shall be
That I loved Lancelot."
"My Benoic lands are large," he said,
"My sword is strong to friend;
My lands were thine to take," he said,
"My wealth were thine to spend,
But well I wot such gifts as these
Were nought for love's amend
The small dust of the balances
God brushes ere the end."
"I'll ask no holding bond to share,
"No lengthened price to pay.
My life is thine to take," she said,
"Is thine to cast away.
The day thy love shall tire," she said,
"Shall be our parting day,
And I will bless thy name in prayer,
Yea, before God, alway."
"I will not waste thy life," he said,
"God put it far from me.
Not any strain of strife," he said,
"No sin that clingeth me,
Should close me from the courts of God
As this you speak should be,
The clean gift of thy love to take,
Who have no love for thee.
There is no woe of mortal kind
But God may cease," he said,
"Believe, thy later days shall find
A better knight to wed,
And leave me in thy life behind,
As having loved the dead."
She had no further hope to plead,
No other word to say.
She turned beneath the hawthorn seed,
Where once had blown the may.
The may was white as innocence,
But dark as blood were they.
The meaning of this thing to rede
There is no man that may.
But slow she clomb the upward way,
And slow she toiled the flat.
Nought saw she where her footsteps lay,
No word her heart forgat.
So won she at the fail of day
The towers of Astolat.
No more to meet the morn she rose,
No more she sought the sun,
But while she lay in wearihed,
And while she walked as one
Whose soul a living corse had shed,
Whose use of days was done.
"Bethink thy gentle birth," they said,
"Bethink thy virgin name.
A love to seek unsought," they said,
"There is no greater shame.
Would God that treasoned knight had died,
Ere to these lonely towers aside
To work our grief he came."
But hotly in his sisters plea
Spake the young knight, Lavaine,
"What use in reasoned speech may be,
In urging customs vain?
For they that noble knight who see,
The nobler that themselves they be,
They love him to the like degree,
And are not whole again.
Myself since that red dusk of day
When here in hall he stood,
I have but thought to seek his way,
Nor other life I would,
Save but to serve his need alway,
For evil days or good."
She said, "What God hath in me wrought,
That shall not God deny.
The noblest of my kind I sought.
And no way shamed am I,
Though love be given in gain of nought,
And glad of grief I die.
But you shall bear and lay me dead
The river barge within,
And tire it as the bridal bed
Of maid of loftiest kin,
For this way shall I gain," she said,
"That only death should win.
Shall be one silent hand to steer
Down the still stream and wide,
Until the palace walls appear,
That rise in terraced marble sheer
From the full waterside;
And he shall turn his course anear,
And wait what things betide."
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