King Arthur: Book 11 of 12

[Angel's sword] The Bishops, Germanus and Lupus, having baptized the Britons in the River Alyn, led them against the Picts and Saxons, to the cry of “Alleluia.” The cry itself, uttered with all the enthusiasm of the Christian host, struck terror into the enemy, who at once took to flight. Most of those who escaped the sword perished in the river. This victory, achieved at Maes-Garmon, was called “Victoria Alleluiatica.”  BRIT. ECCLES. ANTIQ., 335; BED., lib. i., c. i., 20.

[Cymrian Child of Song] No Cymrian bard, according to the primitive law, was allowed the use of weapons.

[Death] The sublime idea of the nonenity of death, of the instantaneous transit of the soul from one phase and cycle of being to another, is earnestly insisted upon by the early Cymrian bards in terms which seem borrowed from some spiritual belief anterior to that which does in truth teach that the life of man once begun, has not only no end, but no pause—and, in the triumphal cry of the Christian, “O grave where is thy victory?” annihilates death.

[divined the death] See Book II, stanzas XXIII-XXVI.

[evermore remain] Perhaps it is in this sense that Taliessin speaks in his mystical poem, called “Taliessin’s History,” still extant:
             “I have been an instructor
                To the whole universe.
             I shall remain till the day of doom
                On the face of the earth.”

[Fate] Sir William Hamilton (Lectures on Metaphysics, vol. i. p. 40, foot note) thus explains the sense in which Nature is here viewed—as distinct from the vague and non-metaphysical sense in which she is popularly regarded at least by English writers, and is for instance, addressed (Book viii, stanzas cvii-viii), in this Poem:—“In the philosophy of Germany, Natur and its correlatives, whether of Greek or Latin derivation, are in general expressive of the world of matter in contrast to the world of intelligence.”
   I was not aware when in accepting this metaphysical definition of Nature, I attempted to show, in the earlier editions of my poem, how Nature, thus seen, identifies herself with Necessity or Fate, that a similar or analogous idea had been expressed by one of the noblest reasoners on the immaterial or religious side of philosophical inquiry, viz:—Jacobi, whom Sir William Hamilton justly entitles “the pious and profound.” And in this edition the verses in the former ones have been recast in order to avail myself as far as possible of the argument conveyed by Jacobi in the sentences I subjoin, and which I would respectfully entreat the reader to peruse with care, not only as affording the authority upon which the reasonings in the text are mainly based, but as supplying the key to whatever it may seem to him that the verses have left obscure.
   “But is it unreasonable to confess that we believe in God, not by reason of the nature, which conceals Him, but by reason of the supernatural in man, which alone reveals and proves Him to exist?
   “Nature Conceals God: for through her whole domain Nature reveals only fate, only an indissoluble chain of mere efficient causes without beginning and without end, excluding, with equal necessity, both providence and chance. An independent agency, a free original commencement within her sphere, and proceeding from her powers, is absolutely impossible. Working without will, she takes counsel neither of the good nor of the beautiful; creating nothing, she casts up from her dark abyss only eternal transformations of herself, unconsciously and without an end; futhering with the same ceaseless industry decline and increase, death and life,—never producing what alone is of God, and what supposes liberty—the virtuous, the immortal.
   “Man Reveals God: for man by his intelligence rises above nature, and in virtue of this intelligence is conscious of himself as a power, not only independent of, but opposed to, nature, and capable of resisting, conquering, and controlling her. As man has a living faith in his power, superior to nature, which dwells in him, so has he a belief in God, a feeling, an experience of his existence. As he does not believe in this power, so does he not believe in God; he sees, he experiences nought in existence but Nature,—Necessity,—Fate.”—JACOBI, Von den Göttlichen Dingen, Werke iii. p. 424-6; quoted by Sir William Hamilton, Lectures on Metaphysics, vol. i. p. 40-41.

[Tudor's standard] The old arms of the Tudors were three Saxons’ heads.

Walloons,—the name given by the Saxons, in contumely, to the Cymrians.
 
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King Arthur: Book 11 of 12

ARGUMENT.

The siege of Carduel—The preparations of the Saxon host for the final assault on the City, under cover of the approaching night—The state of Carduel—Discord—Despondence—Famine—The apparent impossibility to resist the coming enemy—Dialogue between Caradoc and Merlin—Caradoc hears his sentence, and is resigned—He unstrings his harp and descends into the town—The Progress of Song; in its effects upon the multitude—Caradoc’s address to the people he has roused, and the rush to the Council Hall—Meanwhile the Saxons reach the walls—The burst of the Cymrians—The Saxons retire into the plain between the Camp and the City, and there take their stand—The battle described—The single combat between Lancelot and Harold—Crida leads on his reserve; the Cymrians take alarm and waver—The prediction invented by the noble devotion of Caradoc—His fate—The enthusiasm of the Cymrians and the retreat of the enemy to their Camp—The first entrance of a Happy Soul into Heaven—The Ghost that appears to Arthur, and leads him through the Cimmerian tomb to tbe Realm of Death—The sense of time and space are annihilated—Death, the Phantasmal Everywhere—Its brevity and nothingness—The condition of soul is life, whether here or hereafter—Fate and Nature identical—Arthur accosted by his Guardian Angel—After the address of that Angel, Arthur loses his former fear both of the realm and the Phantom—He addresses the Ghost, which vanishes without reply to his question—The last boon—The destined Soother—Arthur recovering as from a trance, sees the Maiden of the Tomb—Her description—The Dove is beheld no more—Strange resemblance between the Maiden and the Dove—Arthur is led to his ship, and sails at once for Carduel—He arrives on the Cymrian territory, and lands with Gawaine and the Maiden near Carduel, amidst the ruins of a hamlet devastated by the Saxons—He seeks a convent, of which only one tower, built by the Romans, remains—From the hill top he surveys the walls of Carduel and the Saxon encampment—The appearance of the holy Abbess, who recognises the king, and conducts him and his companions to the subterranean grottoes built by the Romans for a summer retreat—He leaves the Maiden to the care of the Abbess, and concerts with Gawaine the scheme for attack on the Saxons—The Virgin is conducted to the cell of the Abbess—Her thoughts and recollections, which explain her history—Her resolution—She attempts to escape—Meets the Abbess, who hangs the Cross round her neck, and blesses her—She departs to the Saxon Camp.
 
I.
KING CRIDA’S hosts are storming Carduel!
   From vale to mount one world of armour shines,
Round castled piles·for which the forest fell,
   Spreads the white war-town of the Teuton lines;
To countless clarions, countless standards swell;
King Crida’s hosts are storming Carduel!
 
II.
There, all its floods the Saxon deluge pours;
   All the fierce tribes; from those whose fathers first
With their red seaxes from the southward shores,
   Carved realms for Hengist,—to the bands that burst
Along the Humber, on the idle wall
Rome built for manhood rotted by her thrall.
 
III.
There, wild allies from many a kindred race,
   In Cymrian lands hail Teuton thrones to be:
Dark Jutland wails her absent populace,—
   And large-limbed sons, his waves no more shall see,
Leave Danube desolate: afar they roam,
Where halts the Raven there to find a home.

IV.
Within the inmost fort the pine-trees made,
   The hardy women kneel to warrior gods.
For where the Saxon armaments invade,
   All life abandons their resigned abodes.
All that they prize the tents they pitch contain;
And each new march is for a new domain.
 
V.
To the stern gods the fair-haired women kneel,
   As slow to rest the red sun glides along;
And near and far, hammers, and clanking steel,
   Neighs from impatient barbs, and runic song
Mutter’d o’er mystic fires by wizard priests,
Invite the Valkyrs to the raven feasts.
 
VI.
For after nine long moons of siege and storm,
   Thy hold, Pendragon, trembles to its fall!
Loftier the Roman tower uprears its form,
   From the crushed bastion and the shattered wall,
And but till night those iron floods delay
Their rush of thunder:—Blood-red sinks the day.
 
VII.
Death halts to strike, and swift the moment flies:
   Within the walls, (than all without more fell,)
Discord with Babel tongues confounds the wise,
   And spectral Panic, like a form of hell
Chased by a Fury, fleets,—or, palsied, stands
Dull-eyed Despondence, wringing nerveless hands.
 
VIII.
And Pride, that evil angel of the Celt,
   Whispers to all, “’tis servile to obey,”
Robs ordered Union of its starry belt,
   Rends chief from chief and tribe from tribe away,
And leaves the children wrangling for command
Round the wild death-throes of the Father-land.
 
IX.
In breadless marts, the ill-persuading fiend
   Famine, stalks maddening with her wolfish stare;
And hearts, on whose stout anchors Faith had leaned,
   Bound at her look to treason from despair,
Shouting, “Why shrink we from the Saxon’s thrall?
Is slavery worse than Famine smiting all?”
 
X.
Thus in the absence of the sunlike king,
   All phantoms stalk abroad; dissolve and droop
Light and the life of nations—while the wing
   Of carnage halts but for its rushing swoop.
Some moan, some rave, some laze the hours away;—
And down from Carduel blood-red sunk the day!
 
XI.
Leaning against a broken parapet
   Alone with Thought, mused Caradoc the Bard,
When a voice smote him, and he turned and met
   A gaze prophetic in its sad regard.
Beside him, solemn with his hundred years,
Stood the arch hierarch of the Cymrian seers.
 
XII.
“Dost thou remember,” said the Sage, “that hour
   When, seeking signs to Glory’s distant way,
Thou heard’st the night-bird in her leafy bower,
   Singing sweet death-chaunts to her shining prey,
While thy young poet-heart, with ravished breath,
Hung on the music, nor divined the death?”
 
XIII.
“Ay,” the bard answer’d, “and ev’n now, methought,
   I heard again the ambrosial melody!”
“So,” sighed the Prophet, “to the bard, unsought,
   Come the far whispers of Futurity!
Like his own harp, his soul a wind can thrill,
And the chord murmur, tho’ the hand be still.
 
XIV.
“Wilt thou for ever, evën from the tomb,
   Live, yet a music, in the hearts of all;
Arise and save thy country from its doom;
   Arise, Immortal, at the angel’s call!
The hour shall give thee all thy life implored,
And make the lyre more glorious than the sword.
 
XV.
“In vain, thro’ yon dull stupour of despair,
   Sound Geraint’s tromp and Owaine’s battle-cry;
In vain where yon rude clamour storms the air,
   The Council Chiefs stem mad’ning mutiny;
From Trystan’s mail the lion heart is gone,
And on the breach stands Lancelot alone!
 
XVI.
“Driveling the wise, and impotent the strong;
   Fast into night the life of Freedom dies;
Awake Light-Bringer, wake bright soul of song,
   Kindler, reviver, re-creator, rise!
Crown thy great mission with thy parting breath,
And teach to hosts the Bard’s disdain of death!”
 
XVII.
Thrilled at that voice the soul of Caradoc;
   He heard, and knew his glory and his doom.
As when in summer’s noon the lightning shock
   Smites some fair elm in all its pomp of bloom,
Mid whose green boughs each vernal breeze had played,
And air’s sweet race melodious homes had made;
 
XVIII.
So that young life bowed sad beneath the stroke
   That seared the fresh and stilled the musical,
Yet on the sadness thought sublimely broke:
   Holy the tree on which the bolt doth fall!
Wild flowers shall spring the sacred roots around,
And nightly fairies tread the haunted ground;
 
XIX.
There, age by age, shall Youth with musing brow,
   Hear Legend murmuring of the days of yore;
There, virgin Love more lasting deem the vow
   Breathed in the shade of branches green no more;
And kind Religion keep the grand decay
Still on the earth while forests pass away.
 
XX.
“So be it, O voice from Heaven,” the Bard replied,
   “Some grateful tears may yet embalm my name,
Ever for human love my youth hath sighed,
   And human love’s divinest form is fame.
Is the dream erring? shall the song remain?
Say, can one poet ever live in vain?”
 
XXI.
As the warm south on some unfathomed sea,
   Along the Magian’s soul, the awful rest
Stirred with the soft emotion: tenderly
   He laid his hand upon the brows he blessed,
And said, “Complete beneath a brighter sun
The beautiful life which here was but begun.
 
XXII.
“Joyous and light, and fetterless thro’ all
   The blissful, infinite, empyreal space,
If then thy spirit stoopeth to recall
   The ray it shed upon the human race,
See where the ray had kindled from the dearth,
Seeds that shall glad the garners of the earth!
 
XXIII.
“Never true Poet lived and sung in vain:
   Lost if his name, and withered if his wreath,
The thoughts he woke must evermore remain
   Fused in our light and blended with our breath;
All life more noble, and all earth more fair,
Because that soul refined man’s common air!”*
 
XXIV.
Then rose the Bard, and smilingly unstrung
   His harp of ivory sheen, from shoulders broad,
Kissing the hand that doomed his life, he sprung
   Light from the shattered wall,—and swiftly strode
Where, herdlike huddled in the central space,
Drooped, in dull pause, the cowering populace.
 
XXV.
There, in the midst he stood!   The heavens were pale
   With the first stars, unseen amidst the glare
Cast from large pine-brands on the sullen mail
   Of listless legions, and the streaming hair
Of women, wailing for the absent dead,
Or bowed o’er infant lips that moaned for bread.
 
XXVI.
From out the illumed cathedral hollowly
   Swelled, like a dirge, the hymn; and thro’ the throng
Whose looks had lost all commerce with the sky,
   With lifted rood the slow monks swept along,
And vanished hopeless: From those wrecks of man
Fled ev’n Religion:—Then the BARD began.
 
XXVII.
Slow, pitying, soft it glides, the liquid lay,
   Sad with the burthen of the Singer’s soul;
Into the heart it coiled its lulling way;
   Wave upon wave the golden river stole;
Hushed to his feet forgetful Famine crept,
And Woe, reviving, veiled the eyes that wept.
 
XXVIII.
Then stern, and harsh, clashed the ascending strain,
   Telling of ills more dismal yet in store;
Rough with the iron of the grinding chain,
   Dire with the curse of slavery evermore;
Wild shrieks from lips beloved pale warriors hear,
Her child’s last death-groan rends the mother’s ear;
 
XXIX.
Then trembling hands instinctive griped the swords;
   And men unquiet sought each other’s eyes;
Loud into pomp sonorous swell the chords,
   Like linkëd legions march the melodies;
Till the full rapture swept the Bard along,
And o’er the listeners rushed the storm of song:
 
XXX.
And the Dead spoke; From cairns and kingly graves
   The Heroes called;—and Saints from earliest shrines;
And the Land spoke!—Mellifluous river-waves;
   Dim forests awful with the roar of pines;
Mysterious caves from legend-haunted deeps;
And torrents flashing from untrodden steeps;—
 
XXXI.
THE LAND OF FREEDOM called upon the Free!
   All Nature spoke; the clarions of the wind;
The organ swell of the majestic sea;
   The choral stars; the Universal Mind
Spoke, like the voice from which the world began,
“No chain for Nature and the Soul of Man!”
 
XXXII.
Then loud thro’ all, as if Mankind’s reply,
   Burst from the Bard the Cymrian battle hymn!
That song which swelled the anthems of the Sky,
   The Alleluia of the Seraphim;
When Saints led on the Children of the Lord,
And smote the Heathen with the Angel’s sword.
 
XXXIII.
As leaps the warfire on the beacon hills,
   Leapt in each heart the lofty flame divine;
As into sunlight flash the molten rills,
   Flasht the glad claymores, lightening line on line;
From cloud to cloud as thunder speeds along,
From rank to rank—rushed forth the choral song.—
 
XXXIV.
Woman and child—all caught the fire of men,
   To its own heaven that Alleluia rang,
Life to the spectres had returned agen;
   And from the grave an armëd Nation sprang!
Then spoke the Bard,—each crest its plumage bowed,
As the large voice went lengthening thro’ the crowd.
 
XXXV.
“Hark to the measured march!—The Saxons come!
   The sound earth quails beneath the hollow tread!
Your fathers rushed upon the swords of Rome
   And climbed her war-ships—when the Cæsar fled:
The Saxons come! why wait within the wall?
They scale the mountain:—let its torrents fall!
 
XXXVI.
“Mark, ye have swords, and shields, and armour, YE!
   No mail defends the Cymrian Child of Song,
But where the warrior—there the Bard shall Be!
   All fields of glory to the Bard belong!
His realm extends wherever god-like strife
Spurns the base death, and wins immortal life.
 
XXXVII.
“Unarmed he goes—his guard the shields of all,
   Where he bounds foremost on the Saxon spear!
Unarmed he goes, that, falling, ev’n his fall
   Shall bring no shame, and shall bequeath no fear!
Does his song cease?—avenge it by the deed,
And make his sepulchre—a nation freed!”
 
XXXVIII.
He said, and where the chieftains wrangling sate,
   Led the grand army marshalled by his song;
Into the hall—and on the wild debate,
   King of all kings, A PEOPLE, poured along;
And from the heart of man the trumpet cry
Smote faction down, “Arms, arms and liberty!”
 
XXXIX.
Meanwhile rolled on the Saxon’s long array;
   On to the wall the surge of slaughter rolled;
Slow up the mount—slow heaved its awful way;
   The moonlight rested on the domes of gold;
No warder peals alarum from the keep,
And Death comes mute, as on the realm of Sleep;
 
XL.
When, as their ladders touched the ruined wall,
   And to the van, high-towering, Harold strode,
Sudden expand the brazen-gates, and all
   The awful arch as with the lava glowed;
Torch upon torch the dreadful sweep illumes,
The burst of armour and the flash of plumes!
 
XLI.
Rings Owaine’s shout;—rings Geraint’s thunder-cry;
   The Saxon’s death-knell in a hundred wars;
And Cador’s laugh of joy;—rush through the sky
   Bright tossing banderolls—swift as shooting stars.—
Trystan’s white lion—Lancelot’s cross of red,
And Tudor’s standard with the Saxon’s head.
 
XLII.
And high o’er all, its scalëd splendour rears
   The vengeful emblem of the Dragon Kings.
Full on the Saxon bursts the storm of spears;
   Far down the vale the charging whirlwind rings;
While, thro’ the ranks its barbëd knighthood clave,
All Carduel follows with its roaring wave.
 
XLIII.
And ever in the van, with robes of white
   And ivory harp, shone swordless Caradoc;
And ever floated, in melodious might,
   The clear song buoyant o’er the battle shock;
Calm as an eagle, when the Olympian King
Sends the red bolt upon its tranquil wing.
 
XLIV.
Borne back, and wedged within the ponderous weight
   Of their own dense and multitudinous crowd,
Recoiled the Saxons!   As adown the height
   Of some grey mountain, rolls the cloven cloud,
Smit by the shafts of the resistless day,—
So to the vale sunk dun the rent array.
 
XLV.
Midway between the camp and Carduel,
   Halting their slow retreat, the Saxons stood;
There as the Sea Arabian ere it fell
   On Ægypt’s chariots, gathered up the flood;
There, in suspended deluge, solid rose,
And hung expectant o’er the hurrying foes.
 
XLVI.
Right in the centre, rampired round with shields,
   King Crida stood,—o’er him, its livid mane
The Horse whose pasture is the Valkyr’s fields
   Flung wide;—but, foremost thro’ the javelin-rain,
Blazed Harold’s helm, as when, thro’ all the stars
Distinct, pale soothsayers see the dooming Mars.
 
XLVII.
Down dazzling sweeps the Cymrian Chivalry
   Round the bright sweep closes the Saxon wall;
Snatcht from the glimmer of the funeral sky,
   Raves the blind murder; and enclasped with all
Its own stern hell, against the iron bar
Pants the fierce heart of the imprisoned War.
 
XLVIII.
Only by gleaming banners and the flash
   Of some large sword, the vext Obscure once more
Sparkled to light.   In one tumultuous crash
   Merged every sound—as when the maëlstrom’s roar
By dire Lofoden, dulls the seaman’s groan,
And drowns the voice of tempests in its own.
 
XLIX.
The Cymrian ranks,—disparted from their van,
   And their hemmed horsemen,—stubborn, but in vain,
Press thro’ the levelled spears; yet, man by man,
   And shield to shield close-serried, they sustain
The sleeting hail against them hurtling sent,
From every cloud in that dread armament.
 
L.
But now, at length, cleaving the solid clang,
   And o’er the dead men in their frowning sleep,
The rallying shouts of chiefs confronted rang
   “Thor and Walhalla!”—answered swift and deep
By “Allleluia!” and thy chaunted cry,
Young Bard sublime, “For Christ and Liberty!”
 
LI.
Then the ranks opened, and the midnight moon
   Streamed where the battle, like the scornful main,
Ebbed from the dismal wrecks its wrath had strewn.
   Paused either host;—lo, in the central plain
Two chiefs had met, and in that breathless pause,
Each to its champion left a Nation’s cause.
 
LII.
Now, heaven defend thee, noble Lancelot!
   For never yet such danger thee befell,—
Tho’ loftier deeds than thine emblazon not
   The peerless Twelve of golden Carduel,
Tho’ oft thy breast hath singly stemmed a field,—
As when thy falchion clashed on Harold’s shield!
 
LIII.
And Lancelot knew not his majestic foe,
   Save by his deeds; by Cador’s cloven crest;
By Modred’s corpse; by rills of blood below,
   And shrinking helms above;—when from the rest
Spurring,—the steel of his uplifted brand
Drew down the lightning of that red right hand.
 
LIV.
Full on the Saxon’s shield the sword descends;
   The strong shield clattering shivers at the stroke,
And the bright crest with all its plumage bends,
   As to the blast with all its boughs an oak:
As from the blast an oak retowering slow,
The crest remounts, and overshades the foe.
 
LV.
Now, grasped with both hands, o’er the Christian hung
   The axe that Woden taught his sons to wield;
Slant from the death-blow Lancelot’s charger sprung
   And Cymri sees its champion fly the field.
Feigns he to fly, but to renew, the strife?
Or holds he honour of less worth than life?
 
LVI.
“Lo, Saxons, what chiefs these Walloons lead!”
   Laughed hollow from his helm the scornful Thane.
Then tow’rds less recreant knights he spurred his steed,
   When on his path rushed Lancelot again.
Thus, when awhile the falcon soars away,
‘Tis but for deadlier swoop upon its prey:
 
LVII.
And as the falcon, while its talons dart
   Into the crane’s broad bosom, splits its own
On the sharp beak, and, clinging heart to heart,
   Both in one plumage blent, spin whirling down,—
So in that shock each found, and dealt, the blow;
Rolled horse on horse; fell, grappling, foe on foe.
 
LVIII.
First to his feet the slighter Cymrian leapt,
   And on the Saxon’s breast set firm his knee;
Then thro’ the heather host a shudder crept,
   Rose all their voices,—wild and wailingly;
“Woe, Harold, woe!” as from one bosom came,
The groan of thousands, and the mighty name.
 
LIX.
The Cymrian starts, and stays his lifted hand,
   For at that name from Harold’s vizor shone
Genevra’s eyes!   Back in its sheath the brand
   He plunged:—rose Harold—and the foe was gone,—
Lost amid dust-clouds, big with arrowy rain,
Where thickest grouped the slaughterers round the slain.
 
LX.
Fast on his track spurred every Cymrian knight,
   Again confused, the onslaught raged on high;
Again the war-shout swelled above the fight,
   Again the chaunt “for Christ and Liberty,”
When, with fresh hosts unbreathed, the Saxon king
Forth from the wall of shields leapt thundering.
 
LXI.
Behind the chief the dreadful godfanon
   Spread;—the Pale Horse went rushing down the wind.—
“On where the Valkyrs rest o’er Carduel, on!
   On o’er the corpses to the wolf consigned!
On, that the Pale Horse, ere the night be o’er,
Stalled in yon tower, may rest his hoofs of gore!”
 
LXII.
Thus spoke the king, and all his hosts replied;
   Filled by his word and kindled by his look—
For helmless, with his grey hair straming wide,
   He strided thro’ the spears;—the mountains shook—
Shook the dim city—as that answer rang;
The fierce shout chiming to the buckler’s clang!
 
LXIII.
Aghast, the Cymrians see, like Titan sons
   New-born form earth,—leap forth the sudden bands:
As when the wind’s invisible tremour runs
   Thro’ corn-sheafs ripening for the reaper’s hands,
The glittering tumult undulating flows,
And the field quivers where the panic goes.
 
LXIV.
The Christians waver—shrink—recoil—give way,
   Strike with weak hands amazed; half turn to flee;
In vain with knightly charge their chiefs delay
   The hostile mass that rolls resistlessly;
And the pale hoofs, for aye, had trampled down
The Cymrian freedom and the Dragon Crown,
 
LXV.
But for that arch preserver, under heaven,
   Of names and states, the Bard! the hour was come
To prove the ends for which the lyre was given:—
   Each thought divine demands its martyrdom.
Where round the central standard rallying flock
The Dragon Chiefs—paused and spoke Caradoc:
 
LXVI.
“Ye Cymrian men!”   Hushed at the calm sweet sound,
   Drooped the wild murmur, bowed the loftiest crest,
Meekly the haughty paladins grouped round
   The swordless hero with the mail-less breast,
Whose front, serene amid the spears, had taught
To humbled force the chivalry of Thought.
 
LXVII.
“Ye Cymrian men—from Heus the Guardian’s tomb
   I speak the oracular promise of the Past.
Fear not the Saxon!   Till the Judgment-Doom,
   Free on their hills the Dragon race shall last,
If from yon heathen, ye this night can save
One spot not wider than a single grave.
 
LXVIII.
“For thus the antique prophecy decrees,—
‘When, where the Pale Horse crushes down the dead,
War’s many sons shall see one child of Peace
   Grasp at the mane to fall beneath the tread—
There, where he falleth let his corpse remain,
There, bid the Dragon rest above the slain;
 
LXIX.
“There, let the steel-clad living watch the clay,
   Till on that spot the grave for it be made,—
And the Pale Horse shall melt in cloud away,
   No stranger’s step the sacred mound invade:
A People’s life that single death shall save,
And all the land be hallowed by one grave.’
 
LXX.
“So be the Guardian’s prophecy fulfilled!
   Advance the Dragon, for the grave is mine.”
He ceased; while yet the silver accents thrilled
   Each mail-clad bosom, down the listening line
Bounded his steed, and like an arrow went
His plume, swift glancing thro’ the armament;
 
LXXI.
On, thro’ the tempest, went it glimmering;
   On, thro’ the rushing barbs and levelled spears;
On, where, far streaming o’er the Teuton king,
   Its horrent pomp the ghastly standard rears;
On rushed to rescue all to whom his breath
Lent what saves Nations,—the disdain of death.
 
LXXII.
Alike the loftiest knight and meanest man,
   All the roused host, but now so panic-chilled,
All Cymri once more as one Cymrian,
   With the last light of that grand spirit filled,
Thro’ rank on rank, down-mowed, down-trampled, sped,
And reached the standard—to defend the dead.
 
LXXIII.
Wrenched from the heathen’s hand, one moment, bowed
   In the bright Christian’s grasp, the gonfanon;
Then from a dumb amaze the countless crowd
   Woke,—and the night, as with a sudden sun,
Flashed with avenging steel; life gained its goal,
And calm from lips proud-smiling went the soul!
 
LXXIV.
Leapt from his selle, the king-born Lancelot;
   Leapt from the selle each paladin and knight;
In one mute sign that, where upon that spot
   The foot was planted, God forbade the flight:
There, should the Father-land avenge its son,
Or heap all Cymri round the grave of one.
 
LXXV.
Then, well nigh side by side—broad floated forth
   The Cymrian Dragon and the Teuton Steed,
The rival Powers that struggle for the north;
   The gory Idol—the chivalric Creed;
Odin’s and Christ’s confronting flags unfurled,
As which should save and which destroy a world:
 
LXXVI.
Then fought those Cymrian men, as if on each
   All Cymri set its last undaunted hope;
Thro’ the steel bulwarks round them yawns the breach;
   Vistas to freedom brightning onwards ope;
Crida in vain leads band on slaughtered band,
In vain unsparing smites dread Harold’s hand;
 
LXXVII.
As the fierce pard, when in its headlong bound
   On the wild bull, baffled by horns that gore,
Shrinks back, and reddens, in retreat, the ground
   With ebbing life-blood;—so recedes, before
Its purposed victim, Crida’s foiled array,
Awed by the marvel of its own dismay.
 
LXXVIII.
“Some God more mighty than Walhalla’s king
   Strikes in yon arms”—the sullen murmurs run,
And fast and faster speeds the Dragon wing—
   And shrinks and cowers the ghastly gonfanon,
The panic gathers, and the Pale Horse flies;
Lone rests the Dragon under dawning skies!
 
LXXIX.
Lone rests the Dragon, with its wings outspread
   O’er one spot hallowed;—Caradoc lies there;
And there kneel Christian warriors round the Dead,
   With sobs that slowly vent themselves in prayer.
Calm is the dead man’s smile as when he braved
Hosts; and his altars and his land were saved.
 
LXXX.
Pardon, ye shrouded and mysterious Powers,
   Ye far-off Shadows from the spirit-clime,
If, for that realm untrodden by the Hours,
   Awhile we leave this lazar-house of Time;
With Song remounting to those native airs
Of which, tho’ exiled, still we are the heirs.
 
LXXXI.
Up from the clay and tow’rds the Seraphim,
   The Immortal, men called Caradoc, arose.
Round the freed captive whose melodious hymn
   Had hailed each ray our earthly prison knows,
Spread all the aisles by angel worship trod;
Blazed every altar conscious of its God;
 
LXXXII.
All the illumed creation one calm shrine;
   All space one rapt adoring ecstacy;
All the sweet stars, with their untroubled shine,
   Near and more near enlarging thro’ the sky;
All, opening gradual on the eternal sight,
Joy after joy, the depths of their delight.
 
LXXXIII.
Paused on the marge, Heaven’s beautiful New-born,
   Paused on the marge of that wide happiness;
And as a lark that, poised amid the morn,
   Shakes from its wings the dews,—the plumes of bliss,
Sunned in the dawn of the diviner birth,
Shook every sorrow memory bore from earth:
 
LXXXIV.
Knowledge, which on the troubled waves of sense
   Breaks into sparkles, poured upon the soul
Its lambent, clear, translucent affluence,
   And cold-eyed Reason loosed its hard control;
Each godlike guess beheld the truth it sought;
And inspiration flashed from what was thought.
 
LXXXV.
Stilled evermore the old familiar train
   Of human motives prompting human deeds,
The unquiet race of the material brain,
   Formed for this life, and fashioned to its needs,
But without uses in that second birth,
When wakes in heaven the soul’s last sleep on earth.
 
LXXXVI.
Greed and Ambition, those misled desires
   For bournes that fly us into worlds afar;
And carnal Passion which with meteor fires
   Allures from lights in heaven; Wisdom at war
With its own angel, Faith;—that nurse of Grief,
Hope, crowned with flowers, a blight in every leaf;
 
LXXXVII.
All these are still—abandoned to the worm,
   Their loud breath jars not on the calm above:
Only survived, as if the single germ
   Of the new life’s celestial essence,—LOVE.
Ah, if the bud can give such bloom to Time,
What is the flower when in its native clime?
 
LXXXVIII.
Love to the radiant Stranger left alone
   Of all the vanished hosts of memory;
While broadening round, on splendour splendour shone,
   To earth soft-pitying dropt the veil-less eye,
And saw the shape, that love remembered still,
Couched ’mid the ruins on the moonlit hill;
 
LXXXIX.
And the freed Spirit comprehending all
   Which to the labouring King had been ordained,
Knew itself summoned, and obeyed the call,
   To crown with peace the gifts thro’ conflict gained,
And to reveal, in Arthur’s destined bride,
The lovely form concealed in Duty’s guide.
 
XC.
Pale to the slumbering king the Shadow came,
   Its glory left it as the earth it neared,
In livid likeness as its corpse the same,
   Wan with its wounds the awful ghost appeared.
Life heard the voice of unembodied breath,
And Sleep stood trembling side by side with Death.
 
XCI.
“Come,” said the Voice, “Before the Iron Gate
   Which hath no egress, waiting thee, behold
Beside that Power which is to Matter—Fate,
   But not to Soul,—the guide with locks of gold.”
Then rose the mortal following, and, before,
Moved the pale shape the angel’s comrade wore.
 
XCII.
Where, in the centre of those ruins grey,
   Immense with blind walls columnless, a tomb
For earlier kings, whose names had passed away,
   Dusked the chill moonlight with its mass of gloom;
Thro’ doors, ajar to every prying blast,
By which to rot imperial dust had past,
 
XCIII.
The Vision went, and went the living king;
   Then strange and hard to human ear to tell
By language moulded but by thoughts that bring
   Material images, what there befell!
The mortal entered Eld’s dumb burial place,
And at the threshold, vanished time and space!
 
XCIV.
Yea, the hard sense of time was from the mind
   Rased and annihilate;—yea, space to eye
And soul was presenceless?   What rest behind?
   Thought and the Infinite! the eternal I,
And its true realm the Limitless, whose brink
Thought ever nears: What bounds us when we think?
 
XCV.
“What,” asked the Dreamer, “is this Nothingness,
   Empty as air—yet air without a breath?”
Answered the Ghost—“Tho’ it be measureless,
   ‘Tis but that line ‘twixt life and life called ‘Death,’
Which souls, transported to a second birth,
Pass in an instant when they soar from earth.
 
XCVI.
“From the brief Here to the eternal There
   We can but see the swift flash of the goal,
Less than the space between two waves of air,
   The void between existence and a soul;
Wherefore look forth and with calm sight endure
The vague impalpable, inane Obscure!
 
XCVII.
“Lo, by the Iron Gate a giant cloud,
   From which emerge (the form itself unseen,)
Vast adamantine brows, sublimely bowed
   Over the dark—relentlessly serene;
That power called Nature,—in this mortal state
Is to all matter which is soulless, Fate;
 
XCVIII.
“Issuing fixed laws which the brute world obey;
   Hiding the Great Law-giver of the whole;
Nature saith not unto the lion ‘Pray,’
   Nor to the lamb ‘Look upward!’—in the Soul
Of Man the Supernatural lodged reveals
The God whom Nature—Matter’s Fate—conceals.
 
XCIX.
“And every work in which his sovran art
   Bows will-less Nature to subserve his will,
And every instinct which compels his heart
   To yearnings Nature never can fulfil,
Attest the future which to Man is given
As earth’s sole creature that conceives a heaven.”
 
C.
While spoke the ghost, before the Iron Gate
   Sudden stood forth amidst the cloud whose gloom
Mantled the form of Nature throned as Fate,
   An image radiant with no mortal bloom,
Its left hand bore a mirror, crystal-bright,
A wand star-pointed, glittered in the right.
 
CI.
“Dost thou not know me?—Me, thy second soul?
   Dost thou not know me, Arthur?” said the Voice;
“I who have led thee to each noble goal,
   Mirrored thy heart, and starward led thy choice?
To teach thee wisdom won in Labour’s school,
I lured thy footsteps to the forest pool,
 
CII.
“Shewed all the woes which wait inebriate Power,
   And woke the Man from Youth’s voluptuous dream;
Glassed on the crystal—let each stainless hour
   Obey the wand I lift unto the beam;
And at the last, when yonder gates expand,
Pass with thy Guardian Angel hand in hand.”
 
CIII.
Spoke the sweet Splendour, and, as music dies
   Into the heart that hears it, passed away,
Then Arthur lifted his serenest eyes
   Tow’rds the pale Shade from the celestial day,
And said, “O thou in life beloved so well,
Dream I or wake?—As those last accents fell,
 
CIV.
“So fears that, spite of thy mild words, dismayed—
   Fears not of death, but that which death conceals,
Vanish;—my soul that trembled at thy shade,
   Yearns to the far light which the shade reveals,
And sees how human is the dismal error
That hideth God, when veiling Death with terror.
 
CV.
“Ev’n thus some infant, in the early spring,
   Under the pale buds of the almond tree,
Shrinks from the wind that, with an icy wing
   Shakes, showering down, white flakes that seem to be
Winter’s wan sleet,—till the quick sunbeam shows
That those were blossoms which he took for snows.
 
CVI.
“Thou, to this last supremest mystery
   Of my strange travail, as instructor sent,
Dear as thou wert, I will not mourn for thee,
   Thou wert not shaped for earth’s hard element—
Our ends, our aims, our pleasure and our woe,
Thou knew’st them all, but thine we could not know.
 
CVII.
“Forgive that none were worthy of thy worth!
   That none took heed, upon their plodding way,
What diamond dew was on the flowers of earth,
   Till, in thy soul, drawn upward to the day.
But now, why gape the wounds upon thy breast?
What guilty hand dismissed thee to the blest?
 
CVIII.
“For blest thou art, belov’d and lost?   Oh, speak,
   Say thou art with the Angels?”—As at night
Far off, the pharos on the mountain-peak
   Sends o’er dim ocean one pale path of light,
Lost in the wideness of the weltering Sea,—
So, that one gleam along eternity
 
CIX.
Vouchsafed, Heaven’s messenger (his mission closed)
   Fled; and the mortal stood amidst the cloud.
All dark above,—lo at his feet reposed
   Beneath the Brows which over both were bowed,
With looks that lit the darkness where they smiled,
A Virgin shape, half woman and half child!
 
CX.
There as if Nature (call by that mild name
   The Power which but to soul-less things is Fate),
Had culled her choicest elements to frame
   Perfected beauty,—by the Iron Gate
The dreamer gazed upon the promised guide
Thro’ life to death, his soul’s predestined bride.
 
CXI.
And as he gazed he thought to hear from far
   The Enchanter’s voice—“Behold, transformed the Dove!
In this last prize thy trials ended are:
   No life completes itself that knows not love
As the soul knows it.”—Here the morning beam
Flashed on the dreamer and dispelled the dream.
 
CXII.
Was it in truth a Dream?   He gazed around,
   And saw the granite of sepulchral walls;
Thro’ open doors, along the desolate ground,
   O’er coffined dust—the joyous sunshine falls,
Revives the stir of insect life, and flings
A glory wasted on the tombs of kings.
 
CXIII.
He stood within that Golgotha of old,
   Whither the Phantom first had led the soul.
It was no dream! lo, round those locks of gold
   Rest the young sunbeams like an auriole;
Lo, where the day night’s mystic promise keeps,
And in the tomb a life of beauty sleeps!
 
CXIV.
Slow to his eyes, those lids reveal their own,
   And, the lips smiling evën in their sigh,
The Virgin woke.   O never yet was known,
   In bower or pleasaunce under summer sky,
Life so enriched with nature’s happiest bloom
As thine, thou young Aurora of the tomb!
 
CXV.
Words cannot paint thee, gentlest cynosure
   Of all things lovely in that loveliest form
Souls wear—the youth of woman! brows as pure
   As Memphian skies that never knew a storm;
Lips with such sweetness in their honied deeps
As fills the rose in which a fairy sleeps;
 
CXVI.
Eyes on whose tenderest azure, aching hearts
   Might look as to a heaven, and cease to grieve;
The very blush, as day, when it departs,
   Haloes, in flushing, the mild cheek of eve,
Taking soft warmth in light from earth afar,
Heralds no thought less holy than a star.
 
CXVII.
And Arthur spoke!   O ye, all noble souls,
   Divine how knighthood speaks to maiden fear!
Yet, is it fear which that young heart controuls
   And leaves its music voiceless on the ear?—
Ye, who have felt what words can ne’er express,
Say then, is fear as still as happiness?
 
CXVIII.
By the mute pathos of an eloquent sign,
   Her rosy finger on her lip, the maid
Seemed to denote that on that coral shrine
   Speech was to silence vowed.   Then from the shade
Gliding—she stood beneath the golden skies,
Fair as the dawn that brightened Paradise.
 
CXIX.
And Arthur looked, and saw the dove no more;
   Yet, by some wild and wondrous glamoury,
Changed to the shape the new companion wore,
   His soul the missing Angel seemed to see;
And, soft and silent as the earlier guide,
The soft eyes thrill, the silent footsteps glide.
 
CXX.
Thro’ paths his yester steps had failed to find,
   Adown the woodland slope she leads the king,—
And, pausing oft, she turns to look behind,
   As oft had turned the dove upon the wing;
And oft he questioned, still to find reply
Mute on the lip, yet struggling to the eye.
 
CXXI.
Far briefer now the way, and open more
   To heaven, than those his whilome steps had won;
And sudden, lo! his galley’s brazen prore
   Beams from the greenwood burnished in the sun;
Up from the sward his watchful cruisers spring,
And loud-lipp’d welcome hails the genial King.
 
CXXII.
Now plies the rapid oar, now swells the sail;
   All day, and deep into the heart of night,
Flies the glad bark before the favouring gale;
   Now Sabra’s virgin waters dance in light
Under the large full moon, on margents green,
Lone with charred wrecks where Saxon fires have been.
 
CXXIII.
Here furls the sail, here rests awhile the oar,
And from the crews the Cymrians and the maid
Pass with hushed breath along the mournful shore;
   For, where yon groves the gradual hillock shade,
A convent stood when Arthur left the land.
God grant the shrine hath ’scap’d the heathen’s hand!
 
CXXIV.
As onward wends their way, thro’ roofless walls
   And casement gaps, the ghost-like star-beams peer:
Welcomed by night and ruin, hollow falls
   The footstep of a King:—Upon the ear
The inexpressible hush of murder lay,—
Wide yawned the doors, and not a watch dog’s bay!
 
CXXV.
They pass the groves, they gain the holt, and, lo,
   Rests of the sacred pile but one grey tower,
A fort for luxury in the long-ago
   Of gentile gods, and Rome’s voluptuous power.
But far, on walls yet spared, the moon-beams fell,—
Far on the golden domes of Carduel.
 
CXXVI.
“Joy,” cried the King, “behold the land lives still!”
   Then Gawaine pointed, where in lengthening line
The Saxon watch-fires from the haunted hill,—
   Shorn of its forest old,—their blood-red shine
Fling over Isca, and with wrathful flush
Gild the vast storm-cloud of the armëd hush.
 
CXXVII.
“Ay,” said the King, “in that lulled Massacre
   Doth no ghost whisper Crida—‘Sleep no more!’
Hark, where I stand, dark murder-chief, on thee
   I launch the doom! ye airs, that wander o’er
Ruins and graveless bones, to Crida’s sleep
Bear Cymri’s promise, which her king shall keep!”
 
CXXVIII.
As thus he spoke, upon his outstretched arm
   A light touch trembled,—turning he beheld
The maiden of the tomb; a wild alarm
   Stared from her eyes; his own their terror spelled.
Struggling for speech, the pale lips writhed apart,
And, as she clung, he heard her beating heart;
 
CXXIX.
While Arthur marvelling soothed the agony
   Which, comprehending not, he still could share,
Sudden sprang Gawaine—hark! a timorous cry
   Pierced yon dim shadows!   Arthur looked, and where,
On artful valves revolved the stony door,
A kneeling nun his knight is bending o’er.
 
CXXX.
Ere the nun’s fears the knightly words dispel
   As tow’rds the spot the maid and monarch came,
On Arthur’s brow the slanted moon-beams fell,
   And the nun knew the King, and called his name,
And clasped his knees, and sobbed thro’ joyous tears,
“Once more! once more! our God his people hears!”
 
CXXXI.
Kin to his blood—the welcome face of one
   Known as a saint throughout the Christian land,
Arthur recalled, and as a pious son
   Honouring a mother—on that sacred hand
In homage bowed the King, “What mercy saves
Thee, blest survivor in this shrine of graves?”
 
CXXXII.
Then the nun led them, thro’ the artful door
   Masked in the masonry, adown a stair
That coiled its windings to the grottoed floor
   Of vaulted chambers desolately fair;
Wrought in the green hill, like an Oread’s home,
For summer heats by some soft lord of Rome.
 
CXXXIII.
On shells, which nymphs from silver sands might cull,
   On paved mosaic, and long-silenced fount,
On marble waifs of the far Beautiful
   By graceful spoiler garnered from the mount
Of vocal Delphi, or the Elean town,
Or Sparta’s rival of the violet-crown—
 
CXXXIV.
Shone the rude cresset from the homely shrine
   Of that new Power, upon whose Syrian Cross
Perished the antique Jove.   And the grave sign
   Of the glad faith (which, for the lovely loss
Of poet-gods, their own Olympus frees
To man,—Men’s souls the new Uranides—)
 
CXXXV.
High from the base, on which, of old, reposed
   Grape-crowned Iacchus—spoke the Saving Woe!
Within these crypts to prying daylight closed,
   While o’er them, heaped by the fierce heathen foe,
Their walls in smouldering ruin strewed the ground,
Asylum safe the Christian vestals found.
 
CXXXVI.
To peasants, scattered thro’ the neighbouring plains,
   The secret known;—kind hands with pious care
Supply such humble nurture as sustains
   Lives most with fast familiar; thus and there
The patient sisters in their faith sublime,
Felt God was good, and waited for His time.
 
CXXXVII.
Yet ever, when the crimes of earth and day
   Slept in the starry peace, to the lone tower
The sainted Abbess won her nightly way,
   And gazed on Carduel!—’T was the wonted hour
When from the opening door the Cymrian knight
Saw the pale shadow steal along the light.
 
CXXXVIII.
Musing, the King the safe retreat surveyed,
   And smoothed his brow from the time’s urgent care;
Here—from the strife secure, might rest the maid
   Not meet the tasks which morn must bring, to share;
And pleased the Mother’s pitying looks he eyed
Bent on the young form creeping to her side.
 
CXXXIX.
“King,” said the Abbess, “from some distant clime
   Comes this fair stranger, that her eyes alone
Answer our mountain tongue?”—“May happier time,”
   Replied the King, “her tale, her land, make known.
Meanwhile, O kind recluse, receive the guest
To whom these altars seem the native rest.”
 
CXL.
The Mother smiled, “In sooth those looks,” she said,
   “Do speak a soul pure with celestial air;
And in the morrow’s awful hour of dread,
   Her heart methinks will echo to our prayer,
And breathe responsive to the hymns that swell
The Christian’s curse upon the Infidel.
 
CXLI.
“But say, if truth, from rumour vague and wild,
   To this still world the friendly peasants bring,
‘That grief and wrath for some lost heathen child,
   Urge to yon walls the Mercians’ direful king?’”—
“Nay,” said the Cymrian, “doth ambition fail—
When force needs falsehood, of the glozing tale?
 
CXLII.
“And—but behold the stranger faints, outworn
   By the long wandering and the scorch of day!”
Pale as a lily when the dewless morn,
   Parched in the fiery dog-star, wanes away
Into the glare of noon without a cloud,
O’er the nun’s breast that flower of beauty bowed.
 
CXLIII.
Yet still the clasp retained the hand that prest,
   And breath came still, tho’ heaved in sobbing sighs.
“Leave her,” the Mother said, “to needful rest,
   And to such care as woman best supplies;
And may this charge a conqueror soon recall,
And change the refuge to a monarch’s hall!”
 
CXLIV.
Tho’ found the asylum sought, with boding mind
   The crowning guerdon of his mystic toil
To the kind nun the unwilling King resigned;
   Nor till his step was on his mountain soil
Did his large heart its lion calm regain,
And o’er his soul no thought by Cymri reign.
 
CXLV.
As tow’rds the bark the friends resume their way,
   Quick they resolve the conflict’s hardy scheme;
With half the Northmen, at the break of day
   Shall Gawaine sail where Sabra’s broadening stream
Admits a reeded creek; and, landing there,
Elude the fleet the neighbouring waters bear;
 
CXLVI.
Thro’ secret paths with bush and bosk o’ergrown
   Wind round the tented hill, and win the wall;
With Arthur’s name arouse the leaguered town,
   Give its pent stream the cataract’s rushing fall,
And launch, where Crida hath encamped his horde,
All who in Carduel yet survive the sword.
 
CXLVII.
Meanwhile on foot the king shall guide his band
   Round to the rearward of the vast array,
Where yet large fragments of the forest stand
   To shroud with darkness the avenger’s way;—
Thence, when least looked for, burst upon the foe,
On war’s own heart direct the sudden blow;
 
CXLVIII.
Thus, front and rear assailed, their numbers, less
   (Perplexed, distraught,) avail the heathen’s power.
Dire were the odds: the chances of success
   Lay in the accurate seizure of the hour;
The high-souled rashness of the bold emprize;
The fear that smites the fiercest in surprize;
 
CXLIX.
Whatever worth the enchanted boons may bear;
   The hero heart by which those boons were won;
The stubborn strength of that supreme despair,
   When victory lost is a whole realm undone;
In the man’s cause, and in the Christian zeal;
And the just God who sanctions Freedom’s steel.
 
CL.
Meanwhile, along a cavelike corridor
   The stranger guest the gentle Abbess led;
Where the voluptuous hypocaust of yore
   Left cells for vestal dreams saint-hallowëd.
Her own, austerely rude, affords the rest
To which her parting kiss consigns the guest.
 
CLI.
But welcome not for rest that loneliness!
   The iron lamp the imaged cross displays,
And to that guide for souls, what mute distress
   Lifts the imploring passion of its gaze?
Fear like remorse—and sorrow dark as sin?
Enter that mystic heart and look within!
 
CLII.
What broken gleams of memory come and go
   Along the dark!—a silent starry love
Lighting young Fancy’s virgin waves below,
   But shed from thoughts that rest ensphered above!
Oh, flowers whose bloom had perfumed Carmel, weave
Wreaths for such love as lived in Genevieve!
 
CLIII.
A May noon resteth on the forest hill;
   A May noon resteth over ruins hoar;
A maiden muses on the forest hill,
   A tomb’s vast pile o’ershades the ruins hoar,
With doors now open to each prying blast,
Where once to rot imperial dust had past;
 
CLIV.
Glides thro’ that tomb of Eld the musing maid,
   And slumber drags her down its airy deep.
O wondrous trance! in druid robes arrayed,
   What form benignant charms the life-like sleep?
What spells low-chaunted, holy-sweet, like prayer,
Plume the light soul, and waft it through the air?
 
CLV.
Comes a dim sense as of an angel’s being,
   Bathed in ambrosial dew and liquid day;
Of floating wings, like heavenward instincts, freeing
   Thro’ azure solitudes a spirit’s way,—
An absence of all earthly thought, desire,
Aim—hope,—save those which love and which aspire;
 
CLVI.
Each harder sense of the mere human mind
   Merged into some protective prescience;
Calm gladness, conscious of a charge consigned
   To the pure ward of guardian innocence;
And the felt presence, in that charge, of one
Whose smile to life is as to flowers the sun.

CLVII.
Go on, thou troubled Memory, wander on!
   Dull, o’er the bounds of the departing trance,
Droops the lithe wing the airier life hath known;
   Yet on the confines of the dream, the glance
Sees—where before he stood, the Enchanter stand,
Bend the vast brow, and stretch the shadowy hand.

CLVIII.
And, human sense reviving, on the ear
   Fall words ambiguous, now with happy hours
And plighted love,—and now with threats austere
   Of demon dangers—of malignant Powers
Whose force might yet the counter charm unbind,
If loosed the silence to her lips enjoined.—

CLIX.
Then, as that Image faded from the verge
   Of life’s renewed horizon—came the day;
Yet, ere the vision’s last faint gleams submerge
   Into earth’s common light, their parting ray
On Arthur’s brow the faithful memories leave,
And the Dove’s heart still beats in Genevieve!

CLX.
Still she the presence feels,—resumes the guide,
   Till slowly, slowly waned the prescient power
Which gave the guardian to the pilgrim’s side;—
   And only rested, with her human dower
Of gifts sublime to soothe, but weak to save,
And blind to warn,—the Daughter of the Grave.

CLXI.
Yet the lost dream bequeathed, for evermore,
   Thoughts that did, like a second nature, make
Life to that life the Dove had hovered o’er
   Cling as an instinct,—and for that dear sake
Danger and Death had found the woman’s love
In realms as near the Angels as the Dove.

CLXII.
And now and now is she herself the one
   To launch the bolt on that belovëd life?
Shuddering she starts, again she hears the nun
   Denounce the curse that arms the awful strife;
Again her lips the wild cry stifle,—“See
Crida’s lost child, thy country’s curse, in me!”

CLXIII.
Or—if along the world of that despair
   Fleet other spectres,—from the ruined steep
Points the dread arm, and hisses thro’ the air
   The avenger’s sentence on her father’s sleep!
The dead seem rising from the yawning floor,
And the shrine steams as with a shamble’s gore.
 
CLXIV.
Sudden she springs, and, from her veiling hands,
   Lifts the pale courage of her calmëd brow;
With upward eyes, and mumuring lips, she stands,
   Raising to heaven the new-born hope:—and now
Glides from the cell along the galleried caves,
Mute as a moonbeam flitting over waves,

CLXV.
Now gained the central grot; now won the stair;
   The lamp she bore gleamed on the door of stone;
Why halt? what hand detains?—she turned, and there,
   On the nun’s serge and brow rebuking, shone
The tremulous light; then fear her lips unchained
From that stern silence by the Dream ordained;

CLXVI.
And at those holy feet the Saxon fell
   Sobbing, “O stay me not! O rather free
These steps that fly to save his Carduel!
   Throne, altars, life—his life!   In me, in me,
To these strange shrines, thy saints in mercy bring
Crida’s lost Child!—Way, way to save thy king!”

CLXVII.
Listened the nun; doubt, joy, and awed amaze
   Fused in that lambent atmosphere of soul,
FAITH in the wise All-Good!—so melt the rays
   Of varying Iris in the lucid whole
Of light;—“Thy people still to Thee are dear,
O Lord,” she murmured, “and Thy hand is here!”

CLXVIII.
“Yes,” cried the suppliant, “if my loss deplored,
   My fate unguest—misled and armed my sire;
When to his heart his child shall be restored,
   Sure, war itself will in the cause expire!
Ruth come with joy,—and in that happy hour
Hate drop the steel, and Love alone have power?”

CLXIX.
Then the nun took the Saxon to her breast,
   Round the bowed neck she hung her sainted cross,
And said, “Go forth—O beautiful and blest!
   And if my king rebuke me for thy loss,
Be my reply the gain that loss bestowed,—
Hearths for his people, altars for his God!”

CLXX.
She ceased;—on secret valves revolved the door;
   Breathed on the silent hill the dawning air;
One moment paused the steps of Hope and o’er
   The war’s vast slumber looked the soul of Prayer.
So halts the bird that from the cage hath flown—
A light bough rustled, and the Dove was gone.