King Arthur: Book 4 of 12


Alemen as the plural of Aleman must be excused as a poetic licence, For the sake of euphony. Literally speaking, it is as incorrect, as, in Familiar speech, Musselmen for the plural of Musselman.

[bards] Sir F. Palgrave bids us remark that TALIESSIN, who was a contemporary of Arthur, or nearly so, addresses his countrymen as “the remnant of Troy.” —Palgrave’s Commonwealth, vol. i. c. x. p. 323. The Britons no doubt received that legend with many others, to which Welch scholars have too fondly assigned a more remote antiquity, from the Romans.

Belisairius, whose fame was then just rising under Justinian. The Ostrogoth, Theodoric, was on the throne of Italy.

[coracles] — The ancient British boats, covered with coria or hides. —”The ancient Britons,” as Mr. Pennant observes, “Had them of large size, and even made short voyages in them, according to the accounts we receive from Lucan.”  —Pennant, vol. i. p. 303.

[guttural-grumbling and disvowell'd man] The Etrurian here insinuates a charge very common, but singularly unjust, against the Welch language. Want of vowels is certainly not the fault of that tongue, though it must be owned that it often appears to an uninitiated ear. Owen, in his Welch grammar, proposes to English jaws  the following somewhat hard nut to crack— “Gwaewawr.” Now the Welch w is a vowel answering to our oo, and the word may therefore be written “Gooaeooaoor.” Will any candid man say there are not vowels enough there?

LUNA —a trading town on the gulf of Spezia, said to have been founded by the Etrurian Tarchun. Se Strabo, lib. V. CAT. Orig. xxv. In a fragment of Ennius, Luna is mentioned. In Lucan’s time it was deserted, “desertæ mœnia Lunæ.” —Luc. i. 586.

Mantu, the God of the Shades—Pales, the Pastoral Deity.

NORTHIA, the Eturian Deity, which corresponds with the FORTUNE of the Romans, but probably with something more of the sterner attributes which the Greek and the Scandinavian gave to the FATES.

RASENA was the name which the Etrurians gave to themselves.— Twiss’s Niebuhr, vol. i. c. vii. Müller, die Etrusker: DION. i. 30.

SABRINA, the Severn. —Isca, the Usk

SARONIDES—the Druids of Gaul: “The Samian Sage” — PYTHAGORAS. The Augur is here supposed to speak Phœnician as the parent language of Arthur’s native Celtic.
   Diodorus Siculus speaks with great respect of the Saronides as the Druid priests of Gaul. [Mr. Davis, in his Celtic Researches, insists upon it that Saronides is a British word, compounded from sêr, stars; and honydd, "one who discriminates or points out:" in fine, according to him the Saronides are Seronyddion, i.e., astronomers.] The notions of Pythagoras as to the transmigration of souls, and certain other intricate points of Heathen theology were similar to those of the Druids. For the initiation of this very legendary philosopher (whose name sometimes represents a personage genuinely historical—sometimes a sect partly scholastic, partly political) into the Druid mysteries, see Clem. Alex. strom. L. i. Ex. Alex Polyhist. It will be observed that the author here takes advantages of the well-known assertions of many erudite authorities that the Phœnician language is the parent of the Celtic, in order to obtain a channel of oral communication between Arthur and the Etrurian; [It may perhaps occur to the reader that Latin, with which Arthur (in an age so shortly subsequent to the Roman occupation of Britain,) could scarcely fail to be well acquainted, might have furnished a better mode of communication between himself and the Augur. But the Latin language would have been very imperfectly settled at the time of the supposed Etrurian emigration; would have had no connection with the literature, sacred or profane, of the Etrurians; and would long have been despised as a rude medley of various tongues and dialects, by the proud and polished race which the Romans subjected.] though, contented with those authorities, as sufficing for all poetic purpose, he prudently declines entering into a controversy between the countrymen of Dido and the scattered remnants of the Briton. It is not surprising that the Augur should know Phœnician, for we have only to suppose that he maintained, as well as he could in his retreat, the knowledge common with his priestly forefathers. The intercourse between the Etrurian and the Phœnician states (especially Carthage), was too considerable not to have rendered the language of the last familiar to the learning of the first, to say nothing of those more disputable affinities of origin and religion, which, if existing, would have made an acquaintance with Phœnician necessary to the solution of their historical chronicles and sacred books. Nor, when the Augur afterwards assures Arthur that Æglè also understands Phœnician, is any extravagant demand made upon the credulity of the indulgent reader; for those who have consulted such lights as research has thrown upon Etrurian records, are aware that their more high-born women appear to have received no ordinary mental cultivation. 

[Snowdon's rock-lake] Cwm Idwal (in Snowdonia). “A fit place to inspire murderous Thoughts, —environed with horrible precipices shading a lake lodged in its bottom. The shepherds fable that it is the haunt of demons, and that no bird dare fly over its damned waters.” —PENNANT. v. iii. p. 324.

[Tree of Dreams] —“In medio ramos,” &c. —Virgil, l. vi. 282.

Ynys-Wen—England, “the White Island.”
 
Zendavest. Compare the winged genius of the Etrurians with the Feroher of the Persians, in the sculptured reliefs of Persepolis. (See Heeren’s Historical Researches, Art. Persians.) Micali, vol. ii. p. 174, points out some points of similarity between the Persian and Etrurian cosmogony. It may be here observed, by the way, that it was peculiar to the Etrurians, amongst the classic nations of Europe, to delineate their deities with wings. Even when they borrowed some Hellenic god, they still invested him with this attribute, so especially Eastern. Not less worth noting by students is the resemblance, in many points, between the Scandinavian
and Persian mythology.


 
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King Arthur: Book 4 of 12

ARGUMENT.

Invocation to Love—Arthur, Æglè, and the Augur—Dialogue between the Cymrian and the Etrurian—Meanwhile Lancelot gains the sea-shore, where he meets with the Aleman-priest and his sons, and hears tidings of Arthur—He tells them the tale of his own infancy—Crosses the sea—Lands on the coast or Brettannie—And is guided by the crystal ring in quest of Arthur towards the Alps—He finds the King’s charger, which Arthur had left without the vaulted passage into the Happy Valley—But the rock-gate being closed, he cannot discover the King, and, winding by the foot of the Alps round the valley, gains a lake and a convent—The story now returns to Arthur and Æglè—Descriptive stanzas—A raven brings Arthur news from Merlin—The King resolves to quit the valley—He seeks and finds the Augur—Dialogue—Parting scene with Æglè—Arthur follows the Augur towards the fane of the funereal god.
 
I.
HAIL, thou, the ever young, albeit of Night,
   And of primæval Chaos eldest born;
Thou, at whose birth broke forth the founts of light,
   And o’er Creation flushed the earliest morn;
Life, in thy life, suffused the conscious whole;
And formless matter took the harmonious soul:—
 
II.
Hail, Love! the Death-defyer! age to age
   Linking in kinship to the heart of man;
Dream to the bard, and marvel to the sage,
   Glory and mystery since the world began;
Shadowing the cradle, brightening at the tomb,
Soft as our joys, and solemn as our doom!
 
III.
Ghostlike amidst the unfamiliar Past,
   Dim shadows flit along the streams of Time;
Vainly our learning trifles with the vast
   Unknown of ages:—Like the wizard’s rhyme
We call the dead, and from the Tartarus
’T is but the dead that rise to answer us:
 
IV. 
Voiceless and wan, we question them in vain;
   They leave unsolved earth’s mighty yesterday.
But wave thy wand—they bloom, they breathe again!
   The link is found!—as we love, so loved they!
Warm to our clasp our human brothers start,
Man smiles on man, and heart speaks out to heart.
 
V.
Arch Power, of every power most dread, most sweet,
   Ope at thy touch the far celestial gates;
Yet Terror flies with Joy before thy feet,
   And, with the Graces, glide unseen the Fates:
Eos and Hesperus; one, with twofold light,
Bringer of day, and herald of the night.
 
VI.
But, lo! again, where rise upon the gaze
   The Tuscan Virgin in the Alpine bower,
The steel-clad wanderer, in his rapt amaze,
   Led thro’ the flowerets to that crowning flower:
Eye meeting eye, as in the blest survey
Two hearts, unspeaking, breathe themselves away!
 
VII.
Behind the King, with silent ominous gaze
   On man and maid, the dark-robed Augur sate:
Thus calm, thus cold, upon the lives it sways
   Rests the stern aspect of unheeded Fate:
And setting sunbeams, thro’ the blossoms stealing,
Lit circled Childhood round the Virgin kneeling.
 
VIII.
Slow from charmed wonder woke at last the King,
   And the frank mien regained the princely grace.
Gently he passed amidst the kneeling ring.
   Knelt with the infants to that downcast face;
And on the hand, that thrilled in his to be,
Pressed the pure kiss of courteous chivalry.
 
IX.
And softening down his hardy mountain tongue,
   Spoke the knight’s homage and the man’s delight.
Is there one common language to the young
   That, with each word more troubled and more bright,
Stirred the quick blush—as when the south wind heaves
Into sweet storm the hush of rosy leaves?—
 
X.
But now the listening Augur to the side
   Of Arthur moves; and, signing silently,
The handmaid children from the chamber glide,
   And Æglè follows slow, with drooping eye.—
Then on the King the soothsayer gazed and spoke,
And Arthur started as the accents broke.
 
XI.
For those dim sounds his mother-tongue express,
   But in some dialect of remotest age;
Like that in which the far SARONIDES
   Exchanged dark riddles with the Samian sage.
Ghostlike the sounds; a founder of his race
Seemed in that voice the haunter of the place.
 
XII.
“Guest,” said the priest, with labored words and slow,
   “If, as thy language, tho’ corrupt, betrays,
Thou art of those great tribes our records show
   As the crowned wanderers of untrodden ways,
Whose eldest god, from pole to pole enshrined,
Gives Greece her KRONOS and her BOUDH to Ind;
 
XIII.
“Who, from their Syrian parent-stem, spread forth
   Their giant roots to every farthest shore,
Sires of young nations in the stormy North,
   And slumberous East; but most renowned of yore
In purple Tyre:—if, of PHŒNICIAN race,
In truth thou art,—thrice welcome to the place.
 
XIV.
“Know us as sons of that old friendly soil
   Whose ports, perchance, yet glitter with the prows
Of Punic ships, when resting from their toil
   In LUNA'S gulf, the seabeat crews carouse.
Unless in sooth (and here he sighed) the day
Cære foretold hath come to RASENA
 
XV.
“Grave sir,” quoth Arthur, piteously perplext,
   “Or much—forgive me, hath my hearing erred,
Or of that People quoted in thy text,
   (Perished long since)—but little have I heard:
Phœnicians! True, that name is found within
Our scrolls;—they came to YNYS-WEN for tin.
 
XVI.
“As for my race, our later bards declare
   It springs from Brut, the famous Knight of Troy;
But if Sir Hector spoke in Welch, I ne’er
   Could clearly learn—meanwhile, I hear with joy,
My native language—pardon the remark—
Much as it might be spoken in the ark.
 
XVII.
“More would my pleasure be increased to know
   That yon fair lady rivals your own lore
In the dear music taught so long ago,
   To Punic traders seeking British shore.”
“Speak as you ought to speak the maiden can;
O guttural-grumbling and disvowell'd man
 
XVIII.
Replied the priest “But, ere I yet disclose
   The bliss that Northia singles for your lot,
Fain would I learn what change the gods impose
   On the old races and their sceptres?—what
The latest news from RASENA?”—“With shame
I own, grave sir, I never heard that name!”
 
XIX.
The Augur stood aghast!—“O, ruthless Fates!
   Who then rules Italy?”—“The Ostrogoth.”
“The Os—the what?”—“Except the Papal states;
   Unless the Goth, indeed, has ravished both
The Cæsar’s throne and the apostle’s chair—
Spite of the knight of Thrace,—Sir Belisair
 
XX.
“But upon this, and all you seek to know
   Which I, no clerk, though Christian, can relate,
Occasion meet my sojourn may bestow;—
   Now, wherefore, pray you, through yon granite gate
Have you, with signs of some distress endured,
And succor sought, my wandering steps allured?”
 
XXI.
“Pardon, but first, soul-startling stranger,” said
   The slow-recovering Augur—“say if fair
The region seems to which those steps were led?
   And next, the maid to whom you knelt compare
With those you leave: are hers, in sober truth,
The charms that fix the roving heart of youth?”
 
XXII.
“Lovelier than all on earth mine eyes have seen
   Smiles the gay marvel of this gentle realm;
Of all earth’s beauty that fair maid the queen;
   And, might I place her glove upon my helm,
I would proclaim that truth with lance and shield,
In tilt and tourney, sole against a field!”
 
XXIII.
“Sith that be so (though what such custom means
   I rather guess than fully comprehend)
Answer again;—if right my reason gleans
   From dismal harvests, and discerns the end
To which the Beautiful and Wise have come,
Hard are the fates beyond our Alpine home:
 
XXIV.
“What makes, without, the chief pursuit of life?”
   “War,” said the Cymrian, with a mournful sigh:
“The fierce provoke, the free resist, the strife,
   The daring perish and the dastard fly;
Amidst a storm we snatch our troubled breath,
And life is one grim battle-field of death.”
 
XXV.
“Then here, O stranger, find at last repose!
   Here, never smites the thunder-blast of war:
Here all unknown the very name of foes;
   Here, but with yielding earth men’s contests are:
Our trophies—flower and olive, corn and wine:—
Accept a sceptre, be this kingdom thine!
 
XXVI.
“Our queen, the virgin who hath charmed thine eyes—
   Our laws her spouse, in whom the gods shall send,
Decree; the gods have sent thee;—what the skies
   Allot, receive:—Here, shall thy wanderings end,
Here thy woes cease, and life’s voluptuous day
Glide, like yon river through our flowers, away.”
 
XXVII.
“Kind sir,” said Arthur, gratefully—“such lot
   Indeed were fair beyond what dreams display;
But earth has duties which—” —“Relate them not!”
   Exclaimed the Augur—“or at least delay,
Till better known the kingdom and the bride,
Then youth, and sense, and nature, shall decide.”
 
XXVIII.
With that, the Augur, much too wise as yet
   To hint compulsion, and secure from flight,
Arose, resolved each scruple to beset
   With all which melteth duty in delight—
Here, for awhile, we leave the tempted King,
And turn to him who owns the crystal ring.
 
XXIX.
Oh. The old time’s divine and fresh romance!
   When o’er the lone yet ever-haunted ways
Went frank-eyed knighthood with the lifted lance,
   And life with wonder charmed adventurous days;
When light more rich, through prisms that dimmed it, shone;
And Nature loomed more large through the Unknown.
 
XXX.
Nature, not then the slave of formal law!
   Her each free sport a miracle might be;
Enchantment clothed the forest with sweet awe;
   Astolfo spoke from out the Bleeding Tree;
The fairy wreathed his dance in moonlit air;
On golden sands the Mermaid sleeked her hair—
 
XXXI.
Then soul learned more than barren sense can teach;
   (Soul with the sense now evermore at strife)
Wherever fancy wandered man could reach—
   And what is now called poetry was life.
If the old beauty from the world is fled,
Is it that Truth or that Belief is dead?
 
XXXII.
Not following, step by step, the devious King,
   But whither best his later steps are gained,
Moved the sure index of the fairy ring,
   And since, at least, a moon hath waxed and waned
What time the pilgrim left the fatherland—
So tow’rds his fresher footsteps veered the hand.
 
XXXIII.
And now where pure Sabrina on her breast
   Hushes sweet Isca, and, like some fair nun
That yearns, earth-wearied, for the golden rest,
   Reflects more clearly on stilled waves the sun,
As from her wonted borders widening free
She melts from human sight into the sea;—
 
XXXIV.
Across that ford passed musing Lancelot,
   Then, tow’rds those lovely lands which yet retain
The Cymrian freedom, rode, and rested not
   Till, rough on Devon, broke the broadened main.
Through rocks abrupt, the strong waves force their way,
Here, inland cleave—there, scoop in curves the bay;
 
XXXV.
Paused the good knight. Rude huts lay far and wide;
   The dipping sea-gulls wheeled with startled shriek;
Drawn on the sands lay coracles of hide,
   And all was desolate; when tow’rds the creek,
Near which he halts, comes loud the plashing oar;
A boat shoots in; the seamen leap to shore.

XXXVI.
Three were their number, —two in youthful prime,
   One of mid years; —tall, huge of limb the three;
Scarce clad, with weapons of a northward clime;
   Clubs, spears, and shields—the uncouth armoury
Of man, while yet the wild beast is his foe: —
Yet something still the lords of earth may show;
 
XXXVII.
The pride of eye, the majesty of mien,
   The front erect that looks upon the star;
While round each neck the twisted chains are seen
    Of Teuton chiefs; —and signs of chiefs they are
In Cymrian lands—where still the torque of gold
Or decks the highborn or rewards the bold.
 
XXXVIII.
Stern Lancelot frowned; for in those sturdy forms
   The Briton’s eye the Saxon foeman feared.
“Why come ye hither? —nor compelled by storms,
   Nor proffering barter?” As he spoke they neared
The noble knight; —and thus the elder said,
“Naught save his heart the Aleman hath led!
 
XXXIX.
“Ere more I answer, say if this the shore
   And thou the friend of him who owns the dove,
Arthur the King, —who taught us to adore
   By the man’s deeds  the God whose creed is love?”
Then Lancelot answered, with a moistening eye,
“Arthur’s true knight and lealest friend am I.”
 
XL.
With that, he leapt from selle to clasp his hand
   Who spoke thus gently of the absent one:
And now behold them seated on the strand,
   Frank faces smiling in the cordial sun;
The absent, there, seemed present; to unite
In loving bonds, his converts and his knight.
 
XLI.
Then told the Aleman the tale by song
   Already told—and we resume its flow
Where the mild hero charmed the stormy throng
   And twined the arm that sheltered round his foe:
Not meanly conquered but sublimely won—
Stern Harold vailed his plume to Uther’s son.
 
XLII.
The Saxon troop resought the Vandal King,
   And Arthur sojourned with the savage race:
More easy such rude proselytes to bring
   To Christian truth, than in the wonderous place
Where now he rests, —proud wisdom shall he find!
For Heaven dawns clearest on the simplest mind.
 
XLIII.
But when his cause of wrong the Cymrian showed;
   The heathen foe—the carnage-crimsoned fields;
With one fierce impulse those fierce converts glowed,
   And their wild war-howl chimed with clashing shields:
But by the past’s dark history Arthur taught,
Refused the aid which Vortigern had sought.

XLIV.
Yet to the chief, for there at least no fear,
   And his two sons, a slow consent he gave:
Showed by the prince the stars by which to steer,  
   They hewed a pine and launched it on the wave;
Bringing rough forms but dauntless hearts to swell
The force that guards the fates of Carduel.
 
XLV.
The story heard, the son of royal BAN
   Questions the paths to which the King was led.
“Know,” answered Faul (so hight the Aleman,)
   “That, in our father’s days, our warriors spread
O’er lands wherein eternal summer dwells,
Beyond the snow-storm’s siegeless pinnacles;
 
XLVI.
“And on the borders of those lands, ’tis told,
   There lies a lake, some dead great city’s grave,
Where, when the moon is at her full, behold
   Pillar and palace shine up from the wave!
And o’er the water glideth, still and dark,
Seen but by seers, a spectre and a bark.
 
XLVII.
“It chanced, as round our fires we sate at night,
   And saga-runes to while our watch were sung,
That with the legends of our father’s might
   And wandering labours, this old tale was  strung,
Then the roused King much questioned; —what we knew
We told, still question from each answer grew:
 
XLVIII.
“That night he slept not, and at morn was gone,
   With the dove’s guidance, where the snow-storms sleep.”
Then Lancelot rose, and led his destrier on,
   And gained the boat, and motioned to the deep,
His purpose well the Alemen divine,
And launch once more the bark upon the brine,
 
XLIX.
And ask to aid—“Know, friends,” replied the knight,
   “Each wave that rolleth smooths its frown for me;
My sire and mother, by the lawless might
   Of a fierce foe expelled, and forced to flee
From the fair halls of BENOIC, paused to take
Breath for new woes, beside a Fairy’s lake.

L.
“With them was I, their new-born helpless heir, —
   The hunted exiles gazed afar on home,
And saw the giant fires that dyed the air
   Like blood, twine snake-like round the crushing dome.
They clung, they gazed—no word by either spoken;
And in that hush the sterner heart was broken.
 
LI.
“The woman felt the cold hand fail her own;
   The head that leaned fell heavy on the sod ;
She knelt—she kist the lips, —the breath was flown!
   She called upon a soul that was with God:
For the first time the wife’s sweet power was o’er—
She who had smoothed till then could soothe no more:
 
LII.
“In the wife’s woe, the mother was forgot.
   At last—for I was all earth held of him
Who had been all to her, and now was not—
   She rose, and looked, with tearless eyes, but dim,
In the babe’s face the father still to see;
And lo! the babe was on another’s knee; —
 
LIII.
“Another’s lip had kissed it into sleep,
   And o’er the sleep another, watchful, smiled; —
The Fairy sate beside the lake’s still deep,
   And hushed with chaunted charms the orphan child!
Scared at the mother’s cry, as fleets a dream
Both Child and Fairy melt into the stream.
 
LIV.
“There, in calm halls of lucent crystalline,
   Fed by the dews that fell from golden stars,
But through the lymph I saw the sunbeams shine,
   Nor dreamed a world beyond the glistening spars;
And my nurse blest me with the charm that saves
On stream, on sea—no matter where the waves.
 
LV.
“In my fifth year, to Uther’s royal towers
   The Fairy bore me, and her charge resigned.
My mother took the veil of Christ—the Hours
   With Arthur’s life the orphan’s life entwined.
O’er mine own element my course I take—
All oceans smile on Lancelot of the Lake!”
 
LVI.
He said, and waved his hand: around the boat
   The curlews hovered, as it shot to sea.
The wild men watched it lessening, lessening float,
   Till lost to sight in fading momently;
Then slowly tow’rds the huts they bent their way,
And the lone waves moaned up the lifeless bay.
 
LVII.
Pass we the voyage. Hunger-worn, to shore
   Gained man and steed; there food and rest they found
In humble roofs. The course resumed once more,
   The traveler wends o’er no unsmiling ground;
Pleased, as he rides by tower and town, to see
Cymri’s old oak rebloom in Brettanie.
 
LVIII.
Nathless, no pause, save such as needful rest
   Demandeth, stays him in the friendly land.
Ever obedient to the Seer’s behest,
   Onward he speeds as veers the magic hand.
Howbeit not barren of adventurous days,
Sweet danger found him in the devious ways.
 
LIX.
What foes encountered, or what damsels freed—
   What demon spells in lonely forests braving,
Leave we to songs yet vocal to the reed
   On every bank, beloved by poets, waving;
Our task reluctant from the muse of old,
Takes but the tale by nobler bards untold.
 
LX.
Now as he journeys, frequent more and more
   The foot-prints of the steps he tracks are found;
Fame, like a light, shines broadening on before
   His path, and cleaves the shadows on the ground;
High deeds and gentle, bruited near and far,
Show where that soul when flashing as a star.
 
LXI.
At length he gains the Ausonian Alpine walls;
   Here, castle, convent, town, and hamlet fade;
Lone, through the rolling mists the hoof-tread falls;
   Lone, earth’s mute giants loom amidst the shade;
Yet still, as sure of hope, he tracks the king,
Up steep, through gorge, where guides the crystal ring.
 
LXII.
One day—along by mist-veiled chasms his course—
   He saw before him indistinctly pass
Through the dun fogs, what seemed a phantom horse, 
   Like that which oft, amidst the dank morass,
Bestrid by goblin-meteor, starts the eye—
So fleshless, flitting, wan and shadowy.
 
LXIII.
By a bare rock it paused, and feebly neighed,
   As the good knight, descending, seized the rein;
Dew-rusted mail the shrunken front arrayed;
   The rich selle rotted with the moulder-stain;
And on the selle were slung helm, axe, and mace;
And the great lance lay careless near the place.
 
LXIV.
Then first the seeker’s stricken spirit fell;
   Too well that helmet, with its dragon crest,
Speaks of the mighty owner; and too well
   That steed, so oft by snowy hands carest,
When bright-eyed Beauty from the balcon bent
To crown the victor-lord of tournament.
 
LXV.
Near and afar he searched—he called in vain
   By crag and combe, naught answering and nought seen;
Returned, the charger long refused the rein,
   Clinging, poor slave, where last its lord had been.
At length the slow reluctant hoofs obeyed
The soothing words; so went they through the shade:
 
LXVI.
Following the gorge that wound the Alpine wall,
   Like the huge fosse of some Cyclopean town, —
While roaring round, invisible cataracts fall, —
   On the black rocks twilight comes ghostly down,
And deep and deeper still the windings go,
And dark and darker as to world below.
 
LXVII.
Night halts the course, resumed at earliest day,
   Through day pursued, till the last sunbeams fell
On a broad mere whose margin closed the way.
   Hark! o’er the waters swung the holy bell
From a grey convent on the rising ground,
Amidst the subject hamlet stretched around.
 
LXVIII.
Here, while both man and steeds the welcome rest
   Under the sacred roof of Christ received,
We turn once more to Æglè and her guest.
   Lo! the sweet valley in the flush of eve!
Lo! side by side, where, through the rose-arcade,
Steals the love-star, the hero, and the maid!
 
LXIX.
Silent they gaze into each other’s eyes,
   Stirring the inmost soul’s unquiet sleep;
So pierce soft star-beams, blending wave and skies,
   Some holy fountain trembling to its deep:
Bright to each eye each human heart is bare,
And scare a thought to start an angel there.
 
LXX.
Taste while ye may, O Beautiful! the brief
   Fruit, life but once wins from the Beautiful;
Ripe to the sun it blushes from the leaf,
   Hear not the blast that rises while ye cull;
Brief though it be, how few in after hours
Can say “at least the Beautiful was ours!”
 
LXXI.
Two loves, and both divine and pure, there are;
   One by the roof-tree takes its root for ever,
Nor tempests rend, nor changeful seasons mar—
   It clings the stronger for the storm’s endeavor;
Beneath its shade the wayworn find their rest,
And in its boughs the cushat builds her nest.
 
LXXII.
But one more frail,—in that more prized perchance, —
   Bends its rich blossoms over lonely streams
In the untrodden ways of wild Romance,
   On earth’s far confines, like the Tree of Dreams,
Few find the path; —linger, O ye that find!
’Tis lost for ever when once left behind.
 
LXXIII.
O, the short spring!—the eternal winter!—All
   Branch,—stem all shattered; fragile as the bloom!
Yet this the love that charms us to recall;
   Life’s golden holiday before the tomb;
Yea! this the love which age again lives o’er.
And hears the heart beat loud with youth once more!
 
LXXIV.
Before them, at the distance, o’er the blue
   Of the sweet waves which girt the roseate isle,
Flitted light shapes the inwoven alleys thro’:
   Remotely mellowed, musical the while,
Floated the hum of voices, and the sweet
Lutes chimed with timbrels to dim-glancing feet.

LXXV.
The calm swan rested on the breathless glass
   Of dreamy waters, and the snow-white steer
Near the opposing margin, motionless,
   Stood, knee-deep, gazing wistful on its clear
And life-like shadow, shimmering deep and far,
Where on the lucid darkness fell the star.
 
LXXVI.
Near them, upon its lichen-tinted base,
   Gleamed one of those fair-fancied images
Which art hath lost—no god of Idan race,
   But the winged symbol which, by Caspian seas,
Or Susa’s groves, its parable addrest
To the wild faith of Iran’s Zendavest.
 
LXXVII.
Light as the soul, whose archetype it was,
   The Genius touched, yet spurned the pedestal;
Behind, the foliage, in its purple mass,
   Shut out the flushed horizon; circling all,
Nature’s hushed giants stood to guard and girth
The only home of peace upon the earth.
 
LXXVIII.
And when, at last, from Æglè’s lips, the voice
   Came soft as murmured hymns at closing day,
The sweet sound seemed the sweet air to rejoice—
   To give the sole charm wanting, —to convey
The crowning music to the Musical;
As with the soul of love infusing all!
 
LXXXIX.
She spoke of youth’s lost years, so lone before,
   And coming to the present, paused and blushed;
As if Time’s wing were spell-bound evermore,
   And Life, the restless, in the hour, were hushed:
The pause, the blush, said, more than words, “and tough
Art found!—thou lov’st me!—Fate is powerless now!”
 
LXXX.
That hand in his—that heart his own entwining
   With its life’s tendrils,—youth his pardoner be,
If in his heaven no loftier star were shining—
   If round the haven boomed unheard the sea—
If in the wreath forgot the thorny crown,
And the harsh duties of severe renown.
 
LXXXI.
Blame we as well the idlesse of a dream,
   As that entranced oblivion from the reign
Of the Great Curse, which glares in every beam
   Of labouring suns to the stern race of Cain;
So life from earth did Nature here withdraw,
That the strange peace seemed but earth’s common law.
 
LXXXII.
Yet some excuse all stronger spirits take
   For all repose from toil (to strength the doom)
How sweet in that fair heathen soil to wake
   The living palm God planted on the tomb!
And so, and long, did Passion’s subtle art
Mask with the soul the impulse of the heart.
 
LXXXIII.
Wonderous and lovely in that last retreat
   Of the old Gods,—the simple speech to hear
Tell of the Messenger whose beauteous feet
   Had filt the mountain-tops with tidings clear
Of veilless Heaven—while Æglè, thoughtful, said,
“Love makes this plain—love never can be dead!”
 
LXXXIV.
Now, as Night gently deepens round them, while
   Oft to the moon upturn their happy eyes—
Still, hand in hand, they range the lulled isle,
   Air knows no breeze, scarce sighing to their sighs;
No bird of night shrieks bode from drowsy trees,
Nought lives between them and the Pleïades;
 
LXXXV.
Save where the moth strains to the moon its wing,
   Deeming the Reachless near;—the prophet race
Of the cold stars forewarned them not; the Ring
   Of great Orion, who for the embrace
Of Morn’s sweet Maid had died, looked calm above
The last unconscious hours of human love.
 
LXXXVI.
Each astral influence unrevealing shone
   O’er the dark web its solemn thread enwove;
Mars shot no anger from his fatal throne,
   No beam spoke trouble in the House of Love;
Their closing path the treacherous smile illumed;
And the stern Star-kings kissed the brows they doomed—
 
LXXXVII.
’Tis morn once more; upon the shelving green
    Of the small isle, alone the Cymrian stood
With his full heart,—when suddenly, between
   Him and the sun, the azure solitude
Was broken by a dark and rapid wing,
And a dusk bird swooped downward tow’rds the King.
 
LXXXVIII.
And the King’s cheek grew pale, for well to him,
   (As now the raven, settling, touched his feet,)
Was known the mystic messenger: where, rim
   O’er Snowdon's rock-lake demon shadows fleet
Along the bosom of that ghastly mere,
Where never wings that love the day will steer,
 
LXXXIX.
The Prophet’s dauntless childhood strayed and found
   The weird bird muttering by the waves of dread;
Three days and nights upon the haunted ground
   The raven’s beak the solemn infant fed:
And ever after—so the legend ran—
The lone bird tended on the lonely man.
 
XC.
O’er the Child’s brow prest the last snows of age,
   As fresh the lustrous ebon of the Bird,—
Less awe had credulous horror of the safe
   Than that familiar by the Fiend conferred—
So thought the crowd; nor knew what holy lore
Lives in all things whose instinct is to soar.—
 
XCI.
Hoarse croaks the bird, and, with its round bright eye,
   Fixes the gaze of the recoiling King;
Slowly the hand, that trembles, cuts the tie
   Which binds the white scroll gleaming from the wing,
And these the words, “Weak Loiterer from thy toil,
The Saxon’s march is on they father’s soil.”

LXCII.
Bounded the Prince!—As when the sudden sun
   Looses the ice-chains on the halted rill,
Smites the dumb snow-mass, and the cataracts run
   In molten thunder down the clanging hill,
So from his heart the fetters burst; and strong
In its rough course the great soul rushed along.
 
XCIII.
As looks a warrior on the fort he scales,
   Sweeps his broad glance around the sternal steeps—
Not there escape:—the wildest fancy quails
   Before those heights on which the whitening deeps
Of measureless heaven repose:—below their frown,
Planed as a wall, sheers the smooth granite down.—
 
XCIV.
Marvel, indeed, how ev’n the enchanted wing
   Had o’er such rampires won to the abode;
But not for marvel paused the kindled King
   Swift, as Pelides stung to war, he stroed;
While the dark herald, with its sullen scream,
Rose, and fled, dismal as an evil dream.
 
XCV.
Carved as for Love—a slender boat rocked o’er
   The ripple with the murmuring marge at play,
He loosed its chain, he gained the adverse shore,
   Startled the groups that fluttered round his way,
Awed by the knitted brow and flashing eyes
Of him they deemed the native of the skies.
 
XCVI.
Tow’rds the far temple, thro’ whose tomb-like door
   First he had passed into the Elysian Land,
He strode—when suddenly, he saw before
   His path the seated priest;—with earnest hand
Turning strange-lettered scrolls upon his knee;
While o’er him spread the platan’s murmuring tree:—
 
XCVII.
On his mysterious leisure broke the cry
   Of the imperious Northman, “Rise, unbar
Your granite gates—the eagle seeks the sky,
   The captive freedom, and the warrior war!”
Slow rose the Augur, and this answer gave,
“Man see thy world—its outlet is the grave!”
 
XCVIII.
“What! dost thou think us so in love with fear,
   That of our peace we should confide the key?
Tina hath closed the gates of Janus here,
   Shall we expand them?—never!” Scornfully
He turned—but thrilled with priestly wrath to feel
His sacred arm lockt in a grasp of steel.
 
XCIX.
Trifle not, host,—Fate calls me to depart;
   On my shamed soul a prophets voice hath cried!
Thy secret!—that is safer in the heart
   Of a true Man than in an Alp.”—“Thy bride?”
Said the pale Augur—“A true man, forsooth!
What says wronged Æglè, boaster, of the truth?”
 
C.
“Let Æglè answer,” cried the noble lover;
   “Let Æglè judge the trust I hold from Heaven.
I faithless!—I! a King?—my labours over,
   From mine own soil the surge of carnage driven,
And I will come, as kings should come, to claim
Queens for their throne, and partners in their fame!”
 
CI.
Long mused the Augur, and at length replied,
   His guile scarce marked in his malignant gaze,
“Well, guest—thy fate thine Æglè shall decide—
   Then, if still wearied of untroubled days—
No more from Mantu Pales shall controul
And one free gate shall open on thy soul!”
 
CII.
He said, and drew his large robe round his form,
   And wrathful swept along, as o’er the sky
A cloud sweeps dark, secret with hoarded storm;
   Behind him went the guest as silently;
Afar the gazing wonderers whispered, while
They crossed the girdling wave and reached the isle.
 
CIII.
With violet buds, bright Æglè, in her bower,
   Knits the dark riches of her lustrous hair;
Her heart springs eager to the appointed hour
   When to loved eyes ’tis glorious to be fair:
Gleams of a neck, proud as the swan’s, escape
The light-spun tunic rounded to the shape;
 
CIV.
Now from the locks the airy veil, dividing
   Falls, and floats perfumed by the violet crown.
What happy thought is in that breast presiding
   Like some serenest bird which settles down,
Its wanderings over, on calm summer eves
Into its nest, amid the secret leaves?
 
CV.
What happy thought in those large tranquil eyes
   Seems prescient of the eternity of love?
The fixed content in conquered destinies
   Which makes the being of the lives above,
When resting side by side no more to sever,
Soul whispers soul, “This Present is for ever.”
 
CVI.
Who has once gazed on perfect happiness,
   Nor felt it as the shadow cast from God?
It seems so still in its divine excess,
   So brings all heaven around its hushed abode,
That in its very beauty awe has birth,
Dismayed by too much glory for the earth.
 
CVII.
Across the threshold now abruptly strode
   Her youth’s stern guardian. “Child of RASENA,”
He said, “the lover on thy youth bestowed
   For the last time on earth thine eyes survey,
Unless thy power can chain his faithless breast,
And sated bliss deigns gracious to be blest.”
 
CVIII.
“Not so!” cried Arthur, as his loyal knee
   Bent to the earth, and with the knightly truth
Of his right hand he clasped her own;—”to be
   Thine evermore; youth mingled with thy youth,
Age with thine age; in thy grave mine; above,
Spirit beside thy spirit;—this the love
 
CIX.
“God teacheth man to pray for! Oft, the while
   I spoke of knighthood, thou hast praised its vow,
‘Faith without stain, and honour without guile,
   To guard.’ Sweet lady, trust to Knighthood now!”
Hurrying his words rushed on; the threatened land,
   The fates confided to the sceptered hand,
 
CX.
Here gathering woes, and there suspended toil;
   And the stern warning from the distant seer:—
“Thine be my people--thine this bleeding soil;
   Queen of my realm, its groaning murmurs hear!
Then ask thyself, what manhood’s choice should be;
False to my country, were I worthy thee?”


CXI.
Dim through her struggling sense the light came slow,
   Struck from those words of fire. Alas, poor child!
What, in thine isle of roses, shouldst thou know
   Of earth’s grave duties? —of that stormy wild
Of care and carnage—that relentless strife
Of man with happiness, and soul with life?
 
CXII.
Thou, who hadst seen the sun but rise and set
   O’er one Saturnian Arcady of rest,
Snatcht from the Age of Iron? Ever, yet,
   Dwells that high instinct in each nobler breast,
Which truth, like light, intuitive receives,
And what the reason grasps not, faith believes.
 
CXIII.
So in mute woe, one hand to his resigned,
   And one pressed firmly on her swelling heart,
Passive she heard, and in her labouring mind,
   Strove with the dark enigma—“Part!—to part!”
Till, having solved it by the beams that broke
From that clear soul on hers, struggling she spoke: —
 
CXIV.
“Trust—trust in thee! —but no, I will not weep:
   What thou deem’st good is the sole good to me.
Let my heart break, before thy heart keep
   From aught, which lost, could give a pang to thee.
Thou speak’st of dread and terror, strife and woe;
And I might wonder why they tempt thee so;
 
CXV.
“And I might ask how more can mortals please
   The heavens, than thankful to enjoy the earth;
But through its mist my soul, though faintly, sees
   Where thine sweeps on beyond this mountain-girth,
And, awed and dazzled, bending I confess
Life may have holier ends than happiness.
 
CXVI.
“For something bright and high thyself without,
   Thou makest thy heart an offering; so my heart
Could sacrifice to thee! Then wherefore doubt
   There are to thy soul what mine thou art?”
She paused, and raised her earnest eyes above,
Bright with the truest devotion breathes in love:
 
CXVII.
Then, as she felt his tears upon her hand,
   Earth called her back; —o’er him her face she bowed:
As when the silver gates of heaven expand,
   And on the earth descends the melting cloud,
So slunk the spirit from the sublimer air,
And all the woman rushed on her despair.
 
CXVIII.
“To lose thee—of, to lose thee! To live on
   And see the sun—not thee! Will the sun shine,
Will the birds sing, flowers bloom, when thou art gone?
   Desolate, desolate! Thy right hand in mine,
Swear, by the Past, thou wilt return! —Oh, say,
Say it again!” —voice died in sobs away!
 
CXIX.
Mute looked the Augur, with his deathful eyes,
   On the last anguish of their lockt embrace.
“Priest,” cried the lover, “canst thou deem this prize
   Lost to my future? —No, tho’ round the place
Yon Alps took life, with all the fell array
Of your false gods, Love would to Love force way.
 
CXX.
“Hear me, adored one!” On a silent ear
   The promise fell; o’er an unconscious frame
Wound the protecting arm, —“Since neither fear
   Of the great Powers thou dost blaspheming name,
Nor the soft impulse native in man’s heart.
Restrains thee, doomed one—hasten to depart.
 
 
CXXI.
“Come, in thy treason merciful at least,
   Come, while those eyes by Sleep, the Pityer, bound,
See not thy shadow pass from earth!” —The Priest
   Spoke, —and now called the infant handmaids round;
But o’er that form, with arms that vainly cling,
And words that idly comfort, bends the King.
 
CXXII.
“Nay, nay, look up! It is these arms that fold; —
   I still am here; —this hand, these tears, are mine.”
Then, when they sought to loose her from his hold,
   He waved them back with a fierce jealous sign;
O’er her husht breath his listening ear he bowed
And the awed children round him wept aloud.
 
CXXIII.
But when the soul broke faint from its eclipse,
   And his own name came, shaping life’s first sigh,
His very heart seemed breaking in the lips
   Prest to those faithful ones; —then, tremblingly,
He rose; —he moved; —he paused; —his nerveless hand
Veiled the dread agony of man unmanned.
 
CXXIV.
Thus, from the chamber, as an infant meet,
   The Priest’s weak arm led forth the mighty King;
In vain wide air came fresh upon his cheek,
   Passive he went in his great sorrowing;
Hate, the mute guide, —the waves of death, the goal, —
So, following Hermes, glides to Styx a soul.