Elaine: A Poetic Drama

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Elaine: A Poetic Drama

from: Poet-Lore (Pp. 72 - 110)  1923

      It is a garden féte at an old English country house, in Brittany. The guests are masked. It is evening, rather light out of doors. The part of the grounds revealed is an open glade in the forest, with the high old wall of an ancient garden shutting off all the view in back, only sky above it. At the right (Stage right and left) is a spreading old tree with only the lower foliage in sight, mostly tree trunk visible, but a thick solid looking bole. There are evidences of the thicker growth of trees and bushes, outside the grove. At the other side of the open space is a heap of fallen stones, evidently Druid stones, and again, hint of the resuming woods outside. There is light laughter and the sound of voices, passing, and two masked figures come swiftly in, from opposite sides of the glade. There are a man, and a woman, both in early mediaeval costume. They come toward each other as though with purpose, and stand, face to face.

He. –
      Your name?
She. –
      Elaine. And yours is – ?
He. –
      Lancelot.
She. –
      I knew. It wasn't very long ago.
      Do you remember?
He. –
      Why? Had you forgot?
She. –
      Oh, no! The castle wall! This ruined shrine!
He. –
      And here the chair that cradles your fair form!
      (He leads her to a sort of rock seat in the fallen stones.)
      So! Better so! (He drops at her feet, full length, looking up.)
She. –
      The moon! Where is the moon?
He (Raises himself to peer over the wall). –
      She's coming. See – a slender beam disturbs
      The shadow there, atop the wall. It breaks
      The night. How softly she'll caress your face.
      Your face! Dear lady, drop your mask before
      She comes to light you! What have we of masks?
      (He slips his off, but his face is still in shadow)
She. –
      (Raises her mask, turning away so that the moon beam does not strike her face, and holds it high over her head).

      Here then dear Lady Moon, I greet thee, so!
He. –
      (Gently takes the mask from her and makes as though to turn her towards him, but).

She. –
      No! No! Not yet! – What need have you to see
      With eyes?
He. –
      For that I have them, Dear, to see
      Your beauty by. Oh, do not lose me this.
      She's wavering! Fair goddess, leave us not
      So dark again! Beloved, if she go
      And take this moment with her, we are done.
      We never may recover it, I know.
She.
      (Turns slowly, with lowered head, but raises it with a proud revealing and shows him her face). –

He. –
      The glory blinds me! Oh, remembering
      Is pale!
She (Tensely). –
      And yet has power to draw the soul
      Down from its empty star, that wandering,
      Goes, lonely through the Heavens. See, there's mine!
(Voices beyond). –
      A shooting star! Oh, look, a shooting star!
She. –
      They do not know, till they are born again.
He. –
      And have I brought you? I have wanted you!
She (Mischievously). –
      There have been others!
He. –
                                              I was seeking you!
She. –
      But nowadays, it is the maiden seeks
      A lover! Do you think in other years,
      'Tis she must bring him with her longing, back
      To earth? They cheat their souls – not only here
      But up among the stars.
He (Laughs softly). –
                                             And so you think
      Your sisters have grown strange? Dear Lady, who
      Woo'd Lancelot?
She. –
                                     But that was different!
He. –
      How different?
She. –
                                       You were so great a knight!
      So difficult to win. – There was another!
He. –
      And there are many others now that are
      Sweetly delectable as is the way
      Of gentle women –
She. –
      Gentle – gracious Lord!
      They hunt them men!
He (Slyly). –
                                        And what are their love filtres?
She. –
      Themselves! They tender freely all their charms
      To any – if he be a man – that come!
He. –
      Truly it is the fashion of the day
      To mock at modesty and play the man,
      To seek adventure: not to live in peace
      And learning gentle lore of woman's art;
      And yet we may not judge them lest they too
      Misjudge of us and mock at our dim years
      Of chivalry, and Arthur, and the Queen.
      Such scorn, Sweetheart, does not become you. Be
      My wistful maid again, for what have we
      To do with nowadays? The moon is gone.
      (He raises her, and with arm about her, her face up to his, they wander into the shadow of the deeper woods, out of the grove.)
      There is the sound of voices, and GUINEVERE enters the glade, accompanied by ENID and VIVIENNE. They are dressed for the hunt. The light has brightened to the glow of a sunny afternoon.
Guinevere. –
      The day is mild and we would rest. This grove
      I scarcely do remember. Is it far
      From Caerlion?
Vivienne. –
                                  No, truly, very near.
      'Tis a few paces from your castle wall,
      Madam, but we have come so round about
      Pursuing the far hunt that we have gone
      A many league to get here.
Enid. –
                                                  Are we then
      Still in the Forest of Broceliande? –
      (Wandering over to the fallen stones.)
      Here, Madam, will you rest? The stones are set
      Curiously, to make a proper chair.
Guinevere. –
      My thoughtful Enid, come and sit by me.
      VIVIENNE darts her an envious glance, as ENID drops onto another stone, lower than the queen. GERAINT enters, and bows to GUINEVERE.
Geraint. –
      My gracious Lady, as you did desire,
      The horses stand among the willow thicket
      Close by the little stream we crossed but now,
      Waiting your pleasure. I will not be far
      To attend your need when you would call on me.
      (He bows and prepares to withdraw.)
Guinevere. –
      We thank you, Lord Geraint, but pray return
      Unto the hunt, for we are well bestowed.
      Come, tell us of these woods you seem to know
      So well. How strangely far near places seem,
      When they are unfamiliar, Vivienne.
Vivienne. –
      Aye, Madam, I have trod the forest ways
      So many times, the paths are known to me.
      This glade is one of Merlin's favorite haunts.
      He showed me first. 'Tis here he keeps his runes,
      Beneath that hollow tree.
Guinevere (Shivers.). –
                                                  Then let us talk
      Of fairer things. I do recall a day, (Sighs.)
      May day, a year gone by, when we rode thus
      To hunt, but were not thus constrained to find
      Our own diversion, unattended by
      The knighthood of the court. There was one here!
      I would he were returned.
Vivienne. –
                                                  Sir Lancelot!
Enid. –
      Madam, if we can charm or entertain
      Your weary mood, command us.
Guinevere. –
                                                             I would talk
      Of him. Then even absent, he will be
      Before the eye of fancy, in the mind.
      Appraise him, Enid. Is he not the best –
      The flower of lords and gentlemen, who flock
      About the court of Arthur?
Enid (Laughing shyly.) –
                                                    Do you ask,
      My Lady Queen, that I shall set him up,
      Even Lancelot, above my own dear lord?
      I pray forgive my halting of his praise,
      For I must ever think Geraint the best,
      The noblest flower of knights and gentlemen.
      But I would cry them both as brave and true,
      And gentle to all women, courteous
      To all, though rich or poor, especially
      The poor – and never lost in idle boast,
      Vaunting their own good deeds or conquests won,
      Relentless in their anger if the cause
      Be just, to slay oppression in the realm
      And ever faithful to my lord the King!
      Such are they both, Geraint and Lancelot.
Guinevere. –
      Well spoke and truly, Enid, but I fain
      Would hear his name uncoupled. Vivienne,
      Now what have you to tell of Lancelot?
Vivienne. –
      His name uncoupled, Madam? But it must
      Be coupled – with the name of Guinevere!
      (She bows low to hide her ironic smile.)
Guinevere. –
      Ah, Vivienne, with mine? Throughout the world!
Vivienne. –
      All down the years your names shall, hand in hand,
      Go on, together, Guinevere, the Queen,
      And Lancelot, the gentle, perfect Knight,
      The first in battle, as the first in love,
      Unconquered, but a conqueror of all – save one!
Enid. –
      And is it true, a fairy godmother,
      The fairy Queen, of lake and stream, it was
      That reared him, and he won his name from her?
      Sir Lancelot du Lake? You know I am
      A stranger to the tales of Camelot.
Guinevere. –
      I do remember when he came to us.
      'Twas Gawaine brought him, fresh from victory,
      And glowing in the pride of deeds well done.
      How fair he was – !
Vivienne. –
                                       And young!
Guinevere (Darts her a quick startled glance) – .
      His very horse
      Stepped proudly to be bearing him. He was
      Not yet a knight, but Arthur knighted him
      That very day, and in the tourney he
      Was victor, and I crowned him!
Enid. –
                                                         And his name?
      They say he did not know it when he came
      To Arthur's court, and you were kind to him.
Guinevere. –
      Tell her the story, Vivienne; you know
      As well as I his birth and early years;
      And I will listen, dreaming of the days
      When Lancelot was all our own. Say on.
Vivienne (Accepting the proffer of a seat, settles herself upon the stones). –
      His father was King Ban of Benoic
      Who, with his wife and child, a helpless babe,
      By treachery was driven from his realm
      And fled. But he was wounded sore, and sank
      Beside a stream, where, overcome, he died.
      His wife, Clarine, had laid the babe, asleep,
      Beneath a fragrant bush of flowering thorn
      To tend her lord, but when she sought again
      To reach the child, a water fairy came
      Within a cloud of mist and lifted him,
      And carried him away beneath the stream.
      Some say she was the Queen of Meideland
      Where it is always Maytide, and there dwells
      No man within her kingdom, but of maids
      A goodly thousand, and they reared the child.
      Her palace has such virtue, I have heard,
      That who abides within it but one day
      May never more know sorrow, till he die.
      And there they reared the young Sir Lancelot
      But told him not his name nor parentage.
      And so he dwelt and grew to manhood there,
      Till, claiming leave to ride forth in the world,
      And try his lot, the fairy granted him
      His longing, but refused to tell his name.
      First he must win his spurs by conquering
      The strongest knight that dwelt within the land
      And then, she promised she would send to him
      A messenger, revealing all his rank
      And heritage; and he was well content
      And set upon his journey in the world.
      Adventures came to him in many a guise
      And though he knew no lot of knightly lore
      He met them all full knightly, till the fame
      Of his exploits was blown to Arthur's ears
      And Sir Gawaine was sent to meet with him
      And bring the unnamed hero to the court.
      So meeting, Sir Gawaine, that else had been
      Accounted the best knight in all the realm,
      Was overcome by Lancelot, and held
      In courteous treatment as became a knight;
      But when he asked the name and rank of him
      To whom he owed allegiance, Lancelot
      Stood lost, to tell him. Then, from forest paths
      That wound in sudden turn about a stream,
      A dwarf came riding who revealed his name
      As Lancelot du Lake. So, evermore
      He has been called. Then Gawaine to the court
      Conducted him, and he was made a knight.
Guinevere. –
      And have you heard no rumours, Vivienne,
      Where this knight errant wanders, or what cause
      Detains him from our side? 'Twas not his wont
      To show discourtesy unto his queen.
Enid. –
      Why, Madam, he has richly shown his love
      And duty, in the bounty he has sent
      And captives of his lance to do you grace.
      Such constancy you name – discourtesy!
Guinevere. –
      We value those fair gifts, and yet meseems,
      Enid, that gifts will not replace the man.
      I would have both.
Vivienne (Assuming hesitance). –
      Madam – I heard a tale –
Guinevere. –
      Reveal it! Wherefore do you look on me
      So doubtful? Naught can touch on Lancelot
      We would not hear!
Vivienne. –
                                        Your Grace commands. I speak.
      On good authority, but yet the source
      I cannot well disclose, the story rests.
Guinevere. –
      Well, tell it! We will spare your 'broideries.
Vivienne. –
      King Pelles has a hall in Corbenic,
      That stands, a sentinel above the sea,
      Grim-cliffed; within that hall there dwells with him
      A son, and daughter – and his daughter's name
      Is called – Elaine – Sir Lancelot has been
      At Corbenic a twelve month, and his son
      Is born, son to Elaine, King Pelles' child. –
      I tell the tale. I spare embroideries!
Guinevere (Angered). –
      How know you this? I will not think it true!
      You say it but to mock me! Lancelot
      Has got a child – The tale is false, I say:
Vivienne. –
      Here then, my gracious Lady, you may prove
      Your faith, or mine – Here comes Sir Lancelot!
      GUINEVERE stiffens as she rises to receive him. ENID retires. VIVIENNE watches, with sly enjoyment of the situation she has created. GUINEVERE recovers her poise, as LANCELOT comes quickly to her, and bowing on one knee, kisses her hand. In spite of herself she is overjoyed to see him.
Lancelot. –
      My gracious Queen, my lady Guinevere!
Guinevere. –
      My Lancelot! Welcome back to Caerlion!
      Gossiping tongues are busied with your name.
      You come in a good time to disabuse
      Our minds of idle rumour. Pray you, rise!
Lancelot. –
      But not before I crave a boon, my Queen.
      Then bid me rise.
Guinevere. –
                                    A boon? What can you ask
      Of us that we not gladly grant? Dismiss it!
      (Her voice grows softer – more personal. – He rises)
      We have not heard your voice for many days.
      Where have you tarried all the good year gone?
      (Suddenly recollecting that they are not alone).
      And for those captive knights accept our thanks,
      And the fair guerdon, that you sent to us.
      (To the girls, casually.)
      Go you awhile and leave us. Be not far
      To call, when we would ride.
Vivienne (Suavely). –
      Madam, we will.
      ENID bows silently and withdraws, VIVIENNE going reluctantly after. GUINEVERE turns to LANCELOT and gives him both her hands.
Guinevere. –
      We are alone!
      LANCELOT bows gracefully over the Queen's hands, releases them and looks about him with keen enjoyment.
Lancelot. –
                                Dear Lady, it is good
      To feel the breath of Camelot again –
      To be at home, after far journeying –
      If such a wanderer may call that home
      Where dwells the object of his fealty
      And long devotion.
      The sound of a hunting horn is heard far off, and he turns towards it, away from her. She is impatient of the interruption.
Guinevere. –
      Arthur, and his lords –
      They hunt a milk white hind that one has seen
      Lurking within these woods!
Lancelot. –
                                                      My lord the King!
      I have not yet paid homage unto him
      But hastened first to you, for that I would –
      I spoil it in the telling. Let my boon
      Speak for herself, I pray you, for I know
      Beauty and gentle kindness will receive
      Their meed of graciousness from Guinevere,
      The flower of beauty and gentleness!
      GUINEVERE stands, puzzled as LANCELOT bows and slips out of her presence. She claps her hands, suddenly realizing she is alone, and the two girls come back to her, VIVIENNE in advance.
Vivienne. –
      We attend you, Lady!
      GUINEVERE motions her to silence as ELAINE comes towards her, walking humbly, but with the proud consciousness of beauty. GUINEVERE lifts her head in a stiffly regal pose, instantly challenged by the presence of the other woman. ELAINE bows, on one knee, before the QUEEN.
Guinevere. –
                                              I beseech you, rise.
      Reveal your name, and tell us what you would
      With Guinevere!
Elaine. –
      Your welcome, noble Queen!
      Fair lady – you are fair! They speak but true
      Who tell it – I am called the Dame Elaine.
      I come from Corbenic, to offer you
      And to King Arthur, whom I could call Lord,
      Humble allegiance. Will you take of it?
Guinevere. –
      Elaine – from Corbenic? Who brought you here?
      For sure, you have not come to seek our court
      Unattended, with no purpose but your love
      To proffer? I do seem to know your name.
Elaine (Rises, at the haughty tone). –
      I came with Lancelot hither, to his queen!
      To beg her recognition of our loves,
      And sanctify the child that I have borne
      To Lancelot, my lord. I am his boon –
      That you receive me, even for his sake,
      I pray. I come in all humility.
Vivienne (Aside). –
      And if you came not that way, you would go
      Anhumbled, that I prophesy, fair dame.
Guinevere. –
      You come! to me! and tell me of your love –
      Illicit love, I warrant me – for him –
      For Lancelot whom I heaped my favors on –
      So – unrequited! Bitter is the sting
      Of base ingratitude – hypocrisy –
      Nay, for I have no tongue to name him right
      Who thus betrays allegiance to his queen,
      Allegiance sworn in young and tender days
      When Lancelot was newly come to court
      Unfriended, and I friended him, and he,
      With tears in's eyes made wilful pledge to love
      No other! – Are you then Queen Guinevere
      In magic guise, transformed? – You come to me
      Beseeching welcome – you, the mother of
      His son! – I do not know you! Get you gone!
Elaine (Stands almost transfixed, during this tirade). –
      Are you that gentle lady that my lord
      Has spoke so often and so reverently?
      Madam, alas you do yourself great sin
      To call your kindness, love, to Lancelot;
      For Arthur is your lord – the blameless King
      Whom all men honor. To dishonor him
      Is not the part of gracious womanhood.
      It is your part to love him for there is
      No queen on earth has such another king
      To love! Then grant me welcome, and the right
      To serve my lord, Sir Lancelot. I have cause
      To love him. I have borne him a fair son.
      His name is Galahad, and he shall be
      In time the best knight of the world, and bring
      Great glory on the realm, and Arthur's name.
      It has been prophesied! – Your welcome, Queen!
Guinevere. –
      My welcome, Dame Elaine! And have you done
      Prating to me of honor and of love?
      I will be brief with you. By break of day –
      I charge you – on the morrow – and command
      You do avoid my court! And for the love
      You bear Sir Lancelot, discover not
      Our counsel, here, for if you do, 'twill be
      His death! The Queen has spoken it.
Elaine. –
                                                                 O, stay!
      One moment, Madam, or it be too late
      To reconsider. Late for all but blame!
      If you rebuke him and dishonor me
      Then greatly must you blame yourself, for you
      Will lose him. He will never more rejoice
      In you, the lady of his early dreams.
      However you may claim his love, and bind
      His name to yours, 'twill but dishonor you!
      Fear not, I will be silent – And I go.
      For rather than he should be hurt, I'd give
      My life up, willingly – But never more
      To see him! This I fear – and chiefest cause
      Of this, Dame Guinevere! O, woe is me!
      ELAINE goes, bowed, into the woods. ENID follows, with a murmur of sympathy. VIVIENNE advances.
Vivienne (Slyly). –
      She is the fairest, and the best beseen
      Lady, that ever came into the court.
      It is a pity she must go away
      Disgraced. It will not please Sir Lancelot!
Guinevere (Has thrown herself petulantly on a stone). –
      Pray curb your tongue. It runs too far afield
      Unchecked! We would be silent – Vivienne.
Vivienne (Bows with mock humility). –
      Shall I withdraw? Sir Lancelot returns.
      GUINEVERE waves her aside, but VIVIENNE does not go out of earshot. She stands partly concealed, to watch the interview. GUINEVERE has turned her face from the approaching LANCELOT, making some effort to control her fury. He does not perceive her mood, as he comes to her.
Lancelot. –
      To add my humble thanks for courtesy
      And grace, bestowed upon the dame Elaine,
      I ventured to return. – She has retired?
Guinevere. –
      Retired! Yes. Your thanks are premature!
      Pray keep them for some mistress worthier!
      To me they are not welcome!
Lancelot. –
                                                      Guinevere!
Guinevere (Turns in a flash and stamps her foot). –
      My
name no longer lies upon your lips
      Caressingly. Permit it then, no more
      Bereft of proper dignity to sound
      When you address me. I am still – the Queen!
Lancelot (Is puzzled, but speaks with humility). –
      Forgive me, Madam, if my foolish tongue
      Took liberties. It shall not so again
      Transgress. May I in all humility
      Inquire the cause of your displeasure? If
      I have offended, I would expiate
      My wrong. How can I seek to find again
      The favor of my Queen? May I not know?
Guinevere. –
      And are your honied phrases still so glib?
      Offended! Tell me – is it possible –
      This thing – this mockery she flung at me –
      Gloating – Elaine – the mother of your son!
Lancelot. –
      A mockery! I cannot deem it true
      That gentle maid should mock at Guinevere
      In thought or word. Elaine, King Pelles' child,
      Is verily the mother of my son.
      Madam, and Queen, I owe you in full meed
      My duty and observance. You have been
      O'er bounteous in your favors always. I
      May never rightly pay the debt of thanks.
      But in all grateful reverence, I thought
      To show some measure of that gratitude
      By bringing first to you, the mistress of
      My heart – Elaine – as pure as she is fair –
      And therefore, Queen, I brought her first, to you –
      To sanctify and bless our unison.
Guinevere. –
      Have you so soon forgot how once your heart
      Was bounded to the queen who friended you
      When you were strange to courts and chivalry?
      Or is it simpler to forswear old vows
      When softer arms caress you? – You do well,
      Discarding pledges to a woman!
Lancelot. –
                                                          No!
      My Queen, I do beseech you to withdraw
      That accusation of disloyalty!
      Worship that never raised his head so high
      To covet Arthur's wife, nor dream of her
      Unfaithful to her liege – that love was mine
      For Guinevere – and will be, till I die.
      Pray you believe it. Your displeasure light
      On me alone, if it prove otherwise!
      On me – Elaine! O, was your anger turned
      On her – my gentle, wistful maid? My grief,
      If it be so, that I ungently left
      That tender flower to bow before the wind
      Unshielded! Give me leave to seek my wife!
Guinevere. –
      And do I stay you? Go! But never more,
      False, traitor Knight, abide within my court –
      Nor be so hardy in my sight to come,
      Again – forever!
Lancelot. –
      Oh, not banishment!
Guinevere. –
      And for the Dame Elaine, if you would know,
      Disgraced – unwelcomed – have I sent her forth
      The way she came, her insult in her teeth,
      Her proffered love and mock humility!
      Nor will I recognize her in your name
      No – nor her son – though on her bleeding knees
      She creep, from Pelles' hall to Camelot
      To beg my favor! Recreant, get you gone!
Lancelot (Draws his sword, and cries out wildly). –
      Who names me traitor? Let him show his face!
      Come on, I say – I'll ram that recreant
      Between his lying teeth – I – Lancelot!
      (Suddenly his mood turns to one of subdued frenzy.)
      Elaine, my dear most lady! mocked and scorned!
      Where are you? I will come to you again –
      I!  I! – Alas, and who am I? My name – ?
      (Wildly)
      I have no name! – I shall go seek for it
      Beyond the frozen edges of the world.
      It lures me, misty – There! I have it now!
      No – no – 'tis gone again. I follow you,
      Illusive cloud – have at you! Are you there?
      (Laughs exultantly and rushes off, sword in hand.)
Guinevere (Stunned by LANCELOT'S behavior). –
      O, he is wild! He clamors foolishly!
      What have I done?
Vivienne. –
                                      He is bereft of wits,
      Madam; the shock of your displeasure has
      Deranged his mind. He knows not his own name! –
      King Arthur comes, from hunting. Shall we seem
      Not to have met with this experience?
Guinevere. –
      Do you suggest I hide what I have done?
Vivienne. –
      I do but follow your suggestions, Lady!
      It is not fit I counsel Guinevere.
      GUINEVERE stands haughtily, still showing her anger, as ARTHUR comes striding to her. VIVIENNE conceals herself in the background.
Arthur (Speaking jovially). –
      The chase was heavy, but our labor all
      We have to serve our pains. And have you found
      Amusement, Guinevere? I would not have
      My pleasure be a source of weariness
      To you – What is it, my dear Queen? You seem
      Offended. May I remedy the cause?
      (She does not answer.)
      One
said Sir Lancelot had come to court,
      And added that a train of goodly men
      Came with him, and a litter softly borne,
      But he, for all his sly endeavoring,
      Could not obtain a glimpse of her within.
      (Laughs softly.)
      Have you had wind of such a mystery?
      Or was the villain cozened by his cups
      And seeing more than natural?
Guinevere (With vehemence). –
      It is true!
      Sir Lancelot is come to Camelot –
      Attended!
Arthur. –
      He has paid his duty to you?
Guinevere. –
      So much of duty he has tendered me
      That I could well have spared the half of it!
Arthur. –
      I will not well believe of Lancelot
      Excess of courtesy. He is my friend –
      The comrade of my councils and my heart,
      Even as a brother, and I trust in him
      As I would do myself. It is not he
      Can have offended Guinevere? But where
      Is he bestowed? I would make welcome fit
      For his return, in measure to express
      My joy at it and pleasure of the court
      To have our foremost knight in hall again.
Guinevere (Hesitates. VIVIENNE takes it upon herself.)
Vivienne. –
      He wanders through the forest aimlessly
      Bereft of wits, as seeking his own name.
      We cannot tell you where he is bestowed.
Arthur (With quiet impressiveness). –
      We'll spare your kind assistance. You may go.
      (VIVIENNE apparently obeys, but goes only so far that she can still spy upon the two.)
Arthur. –
      Can this be so – that Lancelot wanders wild?
      What accident has happened suddenly
      To rob that fair mind of his goodly wits?
      Pray you, retail his coming and the cause
      Of this indisposition, Guinevere.
Guinevere. –
      He slighted me! I bade him to avoid
      The court, to come no more within my sight –
      For I was angered! He has wed a maid –
      King Pelles' daughter, and – she came with him –
      Vaunting their loves, for me to recognize
      And welcome her! Is not that impudence?
Arthur. –
      What did you do with her, the maid?
Guinevere. –
                                                                  I sent
      Her back upon her way to Corbenic.
      I could not brook the sight of her!
Arthur. –
                                                            And why?
      What had she done, that you should mock at her?
Guinevere (Sullenly). –
      He was my sworn knight. Now he is forsworn.
      The fault is hers. She stole him for her own
      And asks me no forgiveness for the theft!
Arthur. –
      O, Guinevere – am I so small a thing?
      So low in your esteem, so little worth,
      That you must look to others to defend
      Your honor in the field, your name abroad?
      To be your knight – must Lancelot answer this?
      (She cannot answer.)
      There was a time when Arthur rode to field
      To succour King Leodegrance. A maid –
      The fairest I have ever looked upon,
      Stood in a gallery, and the radiance
      Of her shone on him. She let fall a rose.
      He caught the blossom, raised it to his lips,
      And vowed to win – for her. And Camelard
      Was succoured, and the king, in gratitude
      Bestowed his only daughter, Guinevere,
      Upon the victor. Arthur was in dread
      To look upon the queen that he had won.
      Her face was veiled. Her wanton hair was hid.
      Do you remember how he would delay
      To lift the veil? and find his shining maid,
      His queen, his Guinevere – one and the same?
      There was no Lancelot that mattered then.
      He was a little lad and had not come
      To court – and Arthur reigned. Ah, Guinevere,
      A boy's devotion is a flaming thing
      But burns not for a lifetime. Let it go!
      He is a younger brother to us both.
      We both do love him, with the love that takes
      The way of happiness for Lancelot
      The crown of joy – a helpmate of his own!
      Then let us find this lady, and effect
      With courteous persuasion that she deem
      The former slight a trick of fantasy,
      A dream that did not happen. – Lancelot?
      How to recover him and mend the shock,
      Of scorn and banishment, for I do fear,
      That wandering alone and witless, he
      May do himself some hurt – Merlin, perhaps –
Guinevere. –
      O, Arthur, if it be too late – my grief!
      My lord and husband, I would ask of you
      Forgiveness – for my foolish pride – that so
      Has led me wrong! – Nay, let me – let me speak!
      There is no other one so great, and kind,
      So wisely tender as my lord the King.
      I know it now, and always have I known
      If I had but remembered!
Arthur. –
                                                Guinevere!
      I love you. (He lifts her drooping face and kisses her.)
      If it please you, come with me.
      We shall appoint some messengers, whom we
      Do know discreet, to search the woods about
      And aid this poor distracted gentleman.
      ARTHUR and GUINEVERE go off together. VIVIENNE steals out of her place of concealment and looks after them, speaking to herself.
Vivienne. –
      O, she is wily! I could learn of her.
      Abuse her lord before his very eyes
      And then beguile him till he is contrite
      To see her humbled! 'Tis a worthy trick.
      I will remember it for future use.
      They scorn me – both – but they shall pay for it.
      I see a way to stain her innocence
      By such a simple twisting of the tale –
      A hint of "something" that I may not say
      Between Sir Lancelot and Guinevere –
      A meeting I espied "by accident",
      His soft embrace, her yielding, then – Elaine!
      Her frenzied jealousy of Lancelot
      That makes her banish him, and sets him mad
      To lack enjoying of her! – I will tell it!
      The rumor shall go far – if rightly borne,
      It will disparage Arthur too, and still
      In wider ripples spread its harm, until
      The circle comes full round. Those nearest him
      Shall bring destruction on the Blameless King!
      VIVIENNE smiles viciously, then suddenly throws up her head, like a dog scenting its master . . . She assumes a pose of humble waiting, as MERLIN comes slowly into the glade. His head is bowed. He is intent in thought. He goes over to the tree and stands, leaning one hand against it, not seeing VIVIENNE.
Vivienne. –
      My Master! (There is no response.)
                            Merlin – speak to Vivienne!
      There is still no answer. She silently stamps her foot, but controlling her passion, approaches him with apparent timidity.
Vivienne (Purring). –
      Dear Master, what great thought beguiles your mind?
      Is it some vengeance you would execute?
      Then let me be the agent – or if not –
      If it is succouring of some poor knight
      You plan, in dire distress – then let me too
      Bear part in that. I'll minister to him
      Even in likeness of a holy maid
      And do your will; then come again to you
      For further labors. Merlin! Master! Lord!
Merlin. –
      Child, must your prate when I am occupied?
      I hear your sentences but reckon not
      Their meaning. It is all a buzz of words.
      What would you?
Vivienne (Pouting). –
      I would have you talk to me!
Merlin. –
      Well, so I do. – And now, what shall I say?
Vivienne. –
      Why, you shall tell me what it was but now
      That filled your mind? I'm jealous of your thoughts.
Merlin. –
      Ah, foolish child, a young maid jealous of
      An old, old man? It is not credible.
      Now you tell me, why do you come to haunt
      My favorite grove? Just show a woman once
      Your private sanctum and it is no more
      Your own, but she appropriates the place
      And "shares" it with you! Well, I'm growing old.
      Merlin would never so have made a slip
      When he was in his wits. – What is it, wench?
Vivienne (Has come up to him, takes his hand and fondles it). –
      I'll guess, and you shall say if I am right,
      What you were planning of – Sir Lancelot!
Merlin. –
      What of him?
Vivienne. –
                           He has fall'n on evil ways.
       And Arthur has besought your magic aid
      To find him and to make him whole again!
      Am I not right?
Merlin (Half to himself). –
      He told me naught of this!
      So it has come to pass, as I foresaw
      Of old, how Lancelot returned to court,
      And Dame Elaine, mother of Galahad,
      Rode with him, seeking Guinevere to bow
      The knee to her – and she repulsed them both
      And banished him. 'Tis written.
Vivienne. –
                                                         Then you know
      That Lancelot is mad, and wandering
      At loss among the forest. Sure you have
      Some spell to cure him in your magic runes?
Merlin. –
      He shall be cured. That can I prophesy –
      And, bless me, what comes next? My own demise!
      Ah, Merlin – trust not in the gentler sex.
      A damsel will encompass thy despair –
      Be thine undoing. So thou shalt not live
      To see Lord Lancelot restored again
      Nor Arthur, nor the Queen, nor Caerlion
      That I have builded – I must nevermore
      Perceive again.
Vivienne (Shaking him out of his state of vision). –
                                  You say he shall be cured?
      This Lancelot – But who shall compass it?
Merlin. –
      A maiden.
Vivienne (Pleading).
                         Merlin, teach me I beseech,
      A potent spell to cast upon this knight
      And so restore his wandering wits again
      That he may give me thanks, for you have said
      A damosel shall cure him. Why not I?
Merlin (Hesitant). –
      What would you do with it? – No, Vivienne,
      'Tis safer not to trust a maid with this.
      Too potent is the charm, that binds in sleep
      The object, sleep unbroken, till the will
      Of him who casts the magic, would undo
      The spell again, using a second charm,
      The first, wrought backwards, to awaken him.
Vivienne. –
      What harm in teaching me your horrid spell?
Merlin. –
      Ah, little wily one, what harm indeed?
      Tease the old man and fuddle his poor brains,
      Then tumble him to sleep and keep him so
      Under your pretty thumb, eh, Vivienne?
      To pass out spells and charms convenient
      Whenever needed – Have I caught you now?
Vivienne. –
      You do not trust me! Do you, then, believe
      That I would haunt your grove and wait on you
      Ungraciously received – unless – I cared?
Merlin (Lifts her head and looks into her face. She is a good actress). –
      What can a lovely morsel such as you
      See in old gray-beard Merlin? Love me, child?
      Where lusty manhood blooms in youth and grace
      In Arthur's court – why should you fancy me?
Vivienne. –
      Do you ask love to reason? Verily
      Merlin is old, if he has grown beyond
      The memory of passion! Does the flame,
      Then, stop and reason when it would consume?
      For those same lusty knights about the court,
      Have you not heard that they are all corrupt –
      No less the Queen?
Merlin. –
                                          I will not suffer you
      So to malign them! It is false – the tale
      Of love unholy. Guinevere is true
      To Arthur, as his knights are true to him!
Vivienne. –
      What made her then to banish Lancelot,
      And scorn Elaine, the mother of his child?
Merlin. –
      Pride of possession is a foolish pride
      That turns to anger readily. The Queen
      Would brook it ill to have another set
      Above her in the eyes of Lancelot
      That else was wont to be her very knight.
      There is no more between them, nor has been.
      She will recall him to her favor; so
      Your tale falls down. – Modred's the only one –
Vivienne. –
      He is fair haired and good to look upon.
Merlin. –
      But evil in his heart. If you would have
      A valiant knight and handsome, there's Sir Bors.
Vivienne. –
      He is of bitter tongue. I like him not.
      That boasted valiance, too, is accident
      Of birth – He is misshapen. His two arms
      Do not hang even. One is longer than
      The other, that his deeds are marvelous.
      His unexpected reach of arm o'erbears
      Opponents, so they topple on the ground.
Merlin. –
      And have you not a single word in praise
      To speak of Arthur's goodly company?
Vivienne. –
      I hate them –
Merlin. –
                               For they will not look on you!
Vivienne. –
      The compliment is greater then I ween
      To Merlin, that I see no good in them –
      So young and fair – but reverence him instead.
      O, be not angry with your Vivienne,
      Dear Master – show me that you trust in me!
      You are not old, and I'll no more be young
      But we will grow together, till the years
      Slip off, and matter not, forever more!
Merlin. –
      It would be sweet to taste the fruits of love
      The sweeter that I thought them past and done –
Vivienne. –
      Only begun, Dear Master! I can give
      You more than you have ever dreamed of – come!
      (She leads him to the fallen rocks and sits at his feet, her head on his knees). (He strokes her hair).
Merlin. –
      Woman is stronger than philosophy.
      We know when we are in the toils, and yet
      We let the silken cords enfold us till
      We can no longer struggle. Have your will
      With Merlin. –
Vivienne. –
                                 Tell me – whisper it – the spell!
Merlin. –
      The spell?
Vivienne. –
                                The charm, to cure Sir Lancelot!
      The soothing sleep to mend his shattered wits.
Merlin. –
      And what of Merlin then? – Is he forgot?
      The old man tossed aside for younger game.
      Why should I lay me open to your will
      To gratify that lust for power! No – No!
Vivienne (Springing up, angrily). –
      You do not love me! You would trust me else –
      Nor misinterpret as a lust for power
      My will to succour pain. It is my love
      For Merlin makes me tender to all men!
      Was ever woman so misread? My love
      Disparaged – scorned – My motives ill transcribed!
      And shall I too run mad within the wood
      And hide my head beneath the forest leaves?
      No one will miss me – Merlin, least of all –
      That might have held me in his straining arms
      And felt my breath steal warm across his cheek,
      My hair blown wild and mingled with his hair,
      My lips upturned to meet his, looking down!
      (She falls to weeping.)
Merlin. –
      I never could abide a woman's tears!
      Come, sweeting – come – I'll do what you desire.
      I promise – anything – so you will smile!
      The spell – 'Tis little to create such fuss,
      And if it give you pleasure, here it is!
      There – smile again at Merlin! Ah, the sun
      Breaks through the shower! So – Attend, and mark:
      He steps off from her, and at once loses himself in the incantation. She pretends to hold her hands up, still, before her eyes, but peeps through wide fingers. MERLIN executes the spell, all in pantomime. It consists of waving arms and measured paces. He works it on the tree. As he advances on his object his back is to VIVIENNE. She drops her hands, and watches intently, counting on her fingers and nodding her head in time to his movements.

The Spell. –
      First he raises both hands high over his head, gazing up between them. Then he lowers his head and slowly brings his arms down so that they are stretched out straight in front of him, shoulder high. He next advances three paces, slowly, and pointing with his right hand at the object, swings the left hand out to the left side pointing to the ground. In this position, he advances three more slow paces, then makes three sweeping circles with his right arm, and dropping it at his side, brings up his left arm, repeating the gesture with that. Then three hurried steps, three sharp claps of his hands, and his arm flung suddenly wide – he holds the pose for a moment. Then he turns to
VIVIENNE with a smile and starts to speak:
Merlin. –
      So, it is done –
      (The words are frozen on his lips as VIVIENNE immediately begins to practice the spell on him.)

      As
VIVIENNE advances, pointing at MERLIN as the charm demands, he retreats, fascinated, until he is concealed behind the big tree. As she attains the final pose we hear only a groan and the fall of his body, out of sight, VIVIENNE sighs triumphantly and shakes herself.
Vivienne. –
      So is it done, dear Master!
      Now have I that will make them reverence me –
      Even the highest, even Lancelot!
      And when I wake him, he will be my lord.
      She laughs quietly in anticipation and goes swiftly into the woods. The light has darkened, during this, so that it seems to be twilight. During this performance there has been faintly heard the sound of clashing arms and shouts, and now LANCELOT staggers wildly in. His sword still brandishing in his right hand, his left clasped to his side, where he has apparently been wounded. He walks unsteadily to the tree and half stands, leaning on his sword, half rests against it. He breathes with difficulty.
Lancelot. –
      I had him there. He will not ride again
      To ravage or to slay – or hide from me
      My name! He knew it but he would not tell!
      One syllable he gave me, of a truth,
      To bear with me. – I cannot pluck it out!
      (He is excitedly tugging, with both hands.)
      An I could get that one I'd have the rest!
      The effort is too much and he gradually sinks on his knees still trying in vain to pull out the spear head in his side. With a long breath he falls forward, lying across the base of the tree, as GERAINT comes hurriedly in. He calls excitedly:
Geraint. –
      My lord – Sir Lancelot! – He came this way –
      And could not go much farther, if that churl,
      The dead knight's squire, reports his wound aright!
      (The light is indistinct. GERAINT comes around the tree.)
      The trail ends here – ? – And here lies Lancelot!
      (Tenderly he turns him over, lays his own cloak under the other's head, and feels for the wound.)
      A spear head in his side – and he has swooned!
      (As GERAINT kneels there, ENID comes into the glade, his back to her.)
Enid. –
      Geraint, dear Lord – What is it? Who is there?
      Sir Lancelot? O, he is never dead!
      (GERAINT rises and comes to her. He takes her hands.)
Geraint. –
      My own sweet Enid, – he is wounded sore.
      Do you apply your woman's healing art,
      The while I hasten to the court for aid
      To bear him in a litter to the hall,
      Where we may tend our comrade fittingly.
Enid. –
      How came he to this pass – Sir Lancelot?
Geraint. –
      Were you not with the Queen and saw it all?
      (She signifies, no.)
      How Lancelot was driven from the court
      By Guinevere – who now repents her haste
      And would repair the havoc she has wrought?
      In secrecy my lord the King enjoined
      All speed – all care – to seek this wanderer,
      Distraught with grief and lost within these woods.
      What anger had the Queen at Lancelot
      I cannot know – nor is it mine to ask.
      I do not understand the ways of queens!
Enid. –
      Alas, poor lady – it is Dame Elaine!
      To be so mocked is misery enough
      But to be the cause of sorrow to her lord
      Will break her heart!
Geraint (Wondering.) –
                                           Who is the Dame Elaine?
Enid. –
      She is his wife, and mother of his child.
      She loves Sir Lancelot as I love you!
      Who found me in a hovel and led me forth,
      A queen above all women – by your side!
      So, for the happiness that is my share,
      I went with her when she was desolate,
      Disgraced and driven out for loving him.
Geraint. –
      That gentleness was like you. – Where is she –
      The dame Elaine?
Enid. –
                                       She rests tonight within
      The forest. I have newly come from her.
Geraint. –
      She is attended?
Enid. –
                                    She is well bestowed.
      Her fair pavilion rises in a glade
      Not far from this. I promised to inquire
      Of Lancelot, and bring her word again.
      But now! Alas, poor lady!
Geraint. –
                                                     Do you go
      And tell the dame Elaine the manner of it –
      It is her right to tend her wedded lord –
      Whiles I report to Arthur and the Queen.
Enid. –
      But is it wise to leave this wounded man
      Helpless, and unprotected – all alone?
Geraint. –
      My speed will be his best protection.
Enid. –
                                                                     Go!
      Then, haste to Arthur, while I seek Elaine!
      They clasp hands fondly, and go, each in the direction from which he entered the glade. There is a pause in which LANCELOT groans and moves restlessly. VIVIENNE comes cautiously, seeming to glide rather than walk. Silently and swiftly she looks about and discovering the figure she seeks, shows her triumph for an instant. She stands over him.
Vivienne. –
      Not far to seek, sweet lord. How fair he lies –
      And helpless. (She kneels lightly and lays her hand on his side)
                            Ah, 'tis Vivienne you need
      To loose this angry barb that pricks your side,
      And pluck it out! So – gently – do not stir!
      I lay three fingers crosswise on the place
      And thrice I breathe upon its gaping mouth –
      It gapes no longer but is whole and sound!
      (She slips back to survey her work, sitting on her heels.)
      Now have I claim upon his gratitude
      He needs must answer. He is fair of limb,
      And sweetly made for woman's arms to hold!
      His wits are still to mend – A mind distraught
      Makes a poor lover – I must have him all,
      Or not at all!
      LANCELOT awakens from his swoon. With a mighty sigh he opens his eyes and dazedly stands up, leaning one hand on the tree.
Lancelot. –
                                What are you? What's your name?
Vivienne. –
      A maiden, Sir, that trembles to be spoke
      By such a mighty lord – and beautiful!
      (LANCELOT gathering strength, stands upright, and restlessly picks up his sword and cloak – )
      I'm Vivienne! Will you not say it, Lord?
      It would be sweet to hear you speak my name!
Lancelot (Puzzled, shakes his head). –
      It has the sound of crawling, secret things.
      My tongue does not embrace it willingly,
      But seeks, and seeks, for one I cannot find –
      One, and the mate to it. – I must go on! –
Vivienne. –
      But wherefore will you go away from me,
      To wander through the forest all alone?
      I will attend you. I will be your slave.
Lancelot. –
      I would not be attended. I would find
      Two names that love each other. Let me go.
Vivienne. –
      But if I help to find them, Lord, what then?
Lancelot. –
      My thanks I'll give you, freely.
Vivienne. –
                                                      Only thanks?
      You owe me thanks already!
Lancelot. –
                                                       Wherefore, Lady?
Vivienne. –
      I found you wounded and I made you whole!
Lancelot. –
      My gratitude is bounden to your skill!
Vivienne. –
      Has gratitude no warmer voice than words?
Lancelot. –
      There's danger in it if it be too warm!
      One will misunderstand, and call it love,
      And say that she is flouted – afterwards!
Vivienne. –
      But I am not as that one! Do not fear
      That I will turn from you! – I – know – your – name!
Lancelot (Turns, puts his two hands on her shoulders and looks hard into her face).
      Then tell me! (She laughs mockingly.)
Vivienne. –
      If I do – you'll love me, then?
Lancelot. –
      I cannot, damsel, if I would. My love
      Is given, and answered. – Ask me something less.
Vivienne (Angered). –
      And shall I beg for crumbs – after the feast?
Lancelot (Passes his hand wearily over his forehead). –
      I would be gone! Pray you, detain me not.
Vivienne. –
      No – do not go! I'll help you – for a kiss!
      One kiss, within your arms. Is that so much?
Lancelot (Stubbornly). –
      My kisses are another's, and my arms.
      (As LANCELOT starts doggedly away, VIVIENNE cries out)
Vivienne. –
      You will not? – Wait!
      (He turns. She immediately begins the charm of MERLIN. He drops gently asleep across the ruined stones.)
Vivienne. –
      Here you shall stay, and sleep –
      Until I wake you! None will seek you here.
      So you can keep old Merlin company
      Until I would enjoy you! – Fare you well!
      She bends over him swiftly, then turns, with a light laugh, and slips out. – Almost at once ENID and ELAINE come in, from the opposite side of the glade, hand in hand. ENID is in advance, as if trying to shield ELAINE from the sight which must meet them. ENID crosses to the tree. It is quite dark by this.
Enid. –
      Dear Lady, here we found him. – Why he's gone!
      Perhaps my lord has gone and come again,
      And borne him hence? – And yet, it is too soon –
      Elaine (Has stopped midway in the grove, and turns sharply, as if drawn directly to the place where LANCELOT lies). –
      Here lies my sweet knight, low, among the stones;
      Just as I saw him in my dream, but now,
      Before you came to tell me it was true!
      My dear – my dear – and have you suffered, too?
      (She kneels beside him and strokes his hair.)
Enid. –
      But he had swooned, and lay beneath this tree
      Wounded, and helpless, when I sought you out!
      How could he rise, and walk, even so far?
Elaine. –
      A wound?
Enid. –
                        A spear was buried in his side.
      We would not pluck it out for fear he bleed
      And come to's end, before we summon aid!
Elaine. –
      I see no wound!
Enid (Almost in a whisper). – 'Tis magically healed!
      This grove is Merlin's haunt. Do you suppose – ?
Elaine. –
      It does not matter how, so he be whole!
      I thank whatever agency it was
      That wrought this deed of love to Lancelot.
Enid. –
      How fast he lies asleep! You'll waken him?
Elaine. –
      It is not well to rouse a troubled mind
      Too hastily. – I saw him in my dream
      So sound asleep it seemed he could not wake,
      Although I called him, "Lancelot, dear love – "
      And gently shook him as a troubled child
      That one would wake from slumber!
      (Suddenly she starts back from him, and rising swiftly, stands with body lax, her head up, her eyes fixed as on a vision.)
Enid. –
                                                                 Is he – dead?
Elaine (Still in the vision). –
      I cry the power of love – of holy love
      That blesses where it heals – my Father – hear!
      Help me to break the spell of evil sleep
      That compasses my wedded lord, and holds
      His senses dulled and heavy. Hear your child
      That cries to you out of the darkness – "Come!"
      ELAINE raises both hands above her head, and her outstretched fingers are suddenly tipped with light. She turns as in a dream, and follows the beam of light – while ENID drops to her knees in the shadow, near the tree. ELAINE reaches the outer edge of the glade, and as the light grows more intense, she turns about again, coming back to her former place beside LANCELOT. She bears the Sangreal in her raised hands, radiant but veiled. Her face is bowed before its glow. She almost chants – as she stretches out the Grail toward LANCELOT:
Elaine. –
      Lo, the Sangreal – It is permitted thee
      To look upon – the holy Chalice! Rise
      And be thou whole, and sanctified by all
      The hosts of heaven! His light is with thee – Rise!
      LANCELOT opens his eyes, stirs, and as if drawn by a greater power, rises to his feet; then drops at once to his knees and bows his head, his hand reaching out blindly toward the vision, then swiftly brought over his eyes, shutting out its brilliance.
Lancelot. –
      The glory blinds me!
      He remains kneeling, while ELAINE seems to float, as before, to the outer dark, where the light suddenly is gone. She turns and gently removes LANCELOT'S hands from his eyes. He looks up at her, the wonder still on his face. It does not change as he rises and still holding both her hands, speaks in an utterly quiet voice:
Lancelot. –
                                       Lady of light – Elaine!
      (ENID has risen too, and comes to them, timidly.)
Enid. –
      I am full glad to see you are restored,
      Sir Lancelot. I'll go and tell the King!
Lancelot. –
      Restored? Yes, tell the King and Guinevere
      That all is well with Lancelot. – But stay –
      I suddenly remember ugly words
      That beat into my waking happiness
      And darken it! Elaine? – You are with me!
      Then all is well in spite of everything.
Elaine. –
      Dear Enid, thanks for all your gentle ways
      Of comfort. I can not say more but – thanks.
Enid. –
      What little I could do to serve was all
      So little – I will go and tell the Queen!
      (She runs off.)
Lancelot. –
      How do you find me, sweetheart, here? I still
      Am not myself. I left you with the Queen – ?
Elaine (Draws him down on to the rock and sits beside him, stroking his hand as though he were a child). –
      I did not please the lady Guinevere.
      She bade me to avoid her, hastily;
      And so I came away, with heavy heart
      Foreboding separation from my lord. –
      But I have found you, and the sacred Cup
      Has made you whole – my thanks to Guinevere!
      For it was she that gave you in my hands
      To comfort, now, and serve. I bless her for it!
Lancelot. –
      Now I recall, it was her scorn of you –
      And something else of sorrow – banishment,
      That made me so distrait with grief and pain!
      I do not know what followed after that!
      I came to seek you, sweetheart, in the woods;
      But surely – it was here I spoke the Queen!
      Or have I stayed in the one place, and dreamed
      I rushed from grove to thicket, clamoring
      Until the echo called my clamor back
      And deafened my own ears?
Elaine (Soothingly). –                It was no dream.
      Beloved, you have driven yourself about
      In circles, till you came again to stop
      From where you started, wounded, and alone.
      But that is over, dear my lord, and we
      Shall journey back to Pelles' welcome hall,
      To Corbenic. My father will rejoice
      To see us come again. There is an isle
      Not distant from his castle, where we may
      Spend all our days in sweet forgetfulness.
      Its name is Joyous Isle, the home of peace,
      Where love dwells with contentment. Let us go.
      (She rises, drawing him up with her.)
Lancelot. –
      Dear one, you speak no word of blame for that
      I brought you here, and suffered you to bear
      The misery of scorn, in place of that
      Fair welcome, that I pledged, from Guinevere.
Elaine. –
      There is no need. We have each other, dear.
      No mocking can gainsay that happiness.
      And what is Guinevere to me – or you?
Lancelot. –
      She was the lady of my younger dreams.
      Far off and holy, on a pedestal
      Of stone, as some fair image of a saint,
      I held her – but the image has come down
      And crashed in little pieces at my feet! –
      Yet must I honor her as Arthur's wife,
      My friend and king; I dare to call him so
      For he has ever been a friend to me
      And held me as a brother in his court.
Elaine (Wistfully). –
      You love this lord, King Arthur, very much?
Lancelot (Turns from her restlessly). –
      I owe him more than love. He knighted me
      When I was but a stripling, and Gawaine
      Brought me to him, unknown and wandering
      About the land, in search of venturings
      To prove my manhood. I was scarce a man –
      Not sixteen summers old, and Arthur's queen
      Appeared to my young senses beautiful
      Beyond compare. Her kindness dazzled me.
      She showered me with favors, of a truth,
      Until she filled my vision. Guinevere
      Was all my young eyes pictured, and for her
      Was my achievement in the tournament
      Or fray afield. – Yet had I sense enough
      To humble me in thought, nor envy him,
      My dear lord King. It was such distant love
      As worships dumbly, and is grateful for
      A crumb of recognition. I was young.
Elaine. –
      And Guinevere?
Lancelot. –
                                    Has branded me, forsworn!
      I never swore to love my brother's wife –
      Else had I been a miscreant indeed!
      I cannot fathom it.
Elaine. –
                                        But lord, I can!
      It is not strange to me that anyone
      Should love you. Did you never make an oath
      To take no other lady for your own,
      But only Guinevere?
Lancelot. –
                                       And if I did
      It was not so I meant it, that she deem
      My oath is unfulfilled, for I have worn
      No symbol of another in the lists,
      And when my lance has brought me guerdon, I
      Have straightway sent such trophies to the Queen
      And captives, to await her sentencing;
      And so I shall do, till my hand shall fail;
      To pay my thanks for ancient courtesies.
Elaine. –
      Cold payment, dear my lord, if only duty.
      It was a sort of love that prompted her
      To show you favors. Might she not believe
      Her sentiments returned by Lancelot? –
      She is imperious, and such a one
      Is quickly stung to pride. It angered her
      To think that she was superseded by
      Another; and I think, in very truth,
      She holds me for a thief who stole the love
      Of Lancelot – and so she mocked at me,
      And turned against you, too. – Are you so sure
      That Guinevere has never won the right
      To claim you for her own – her more than knight?
Lancelot. –
      There is one lady, only, in my heart
      That blots all other fancies out – Elaine,
      My wife and comrade, soul and body's mate,
      Through all eternity, for all, to come,
      Beside me, closest. Can you doubt it, dear?
      Though glancing visions win a passing share
      Of transient allegiance, when the soul
      Comes face to face with his own counterpart
      They hail each other joyfully, and know
      They never may be parted any more.
      How could I give that love to Guinevere
      That had it not to give, for it was yours,
      Is yours and will be always, though I die
      And carry it beyond the stars and back
      To find you –
Elaine. –
                              Waiting. Past the stars and back,
      I'll come to you, beloved, when you call.
Lancelot. –
      And we shall be together – just Elaine
      And Lancelot – together down the years.
      And yet, I fear the tales of men, Elaine,
      Will not report us true, but Guinevere
      Will twine the name of Lancelot with hers,
      And so dishonor both. They will not know,
      Those who come after, that it was Elaine
      I loved – not Guinevere, the Queen.
Elaine. –
                                                                  But we –
      If we know, dear lord, then it is enough.

      Lancelot (Taking her gently in his arms). –
      Is woman always wiser of the two?
      You knew me for your man at once, but I
      Was slow to see I'd found you, dear – so dull
      Your dame Brisane, with cup of magic drink
      Had need to charm my senses, till I saw
      Where I was blind before – beheld, Elaine,
      And burned for her and took her for my own.
      Blessed be those who strike the scales away
      From eyes unseeing – if their art be black
      Or made of purest light. Say you not so?
Elaine. –
      I love Dame Brisane as a faithful friend
      And pure in heart. Her ways of skill are not
      As mine; but I would not condemn, for that
      She fashions good with other instruments
      That I have learned are holy. We can both
      Return her thanks for that love philtre given
      To Lancelot, when he was newly come
      To Corbenic, to Pelles' holy hall –
      Where the Sangreal has made its glowing home
      For many lifetimes, and no harm can dwell
      Within those portals. – (Suddenly stirring.)
                                       Are you happy, dear?
      Is there no sting that's left within the cup
      Of life I hold to you – forgetfulness
      And peace and quiet days in Joyous Isle?
Lancelot. –
      The sting of idleness, while yet my hand
      Bears the lance lightly, and my good arm still
      Serves with young vigor to engage the foe –
      To leave this man's work that my knighthood pledge
      To Arthur, the sweet king, has promised – Yes!
      There is the sting. – And yet I must be gone
      From all that goodly company afar,
      Companions I have wrought beside, and slept
      In tent or field beside them, – and the King! –
      No more of this, for I am banished. I
      May never look upon those faces more
      Nor grip their hands in friendship – Let us go.
      And I will seek to find forgetfulness
      And learn the ways of quiet and of peace
      In Joyous Isle.
Elaine. –
                              Nay, I must tell you, then!
      Your happiness is greater than my own
      That longs to hold you ever and apart,
      Close to me. Though I thought to have you go
      From Camelot believing that the Queen
      Desires you to avoid her, it is ill
      To turn her angered impulse to my will
      And let you go unheeding, for the King
      Enforced by Guinevere, is seeking now
      To find you and to do all honor to you,
      And beg you to forget the words of pain
      That were recalled, even by Guinevere
      Within the hour she spoke them. So, my dear,
      I must not take you from your rightful place
      Even to have you close to me, apart.
      Your happiness is greater than my own.
Lancelot. –
      How do you know this thing? Can it be so?
Elaine (Sighing gently). –
      It can be and it is. Geraint, the lord
      Of gentle Enid, was the messenger.
      She has reported your recovery
      By this, I warrant me. She told it all
      When she returned to my pavilion there
      Within the woods, and led me to your side –
      How lord Geraint was gone to summon aid
      To bear you to the castle fittingly,
      For you were wounded when he came on you –
Lancelot. –
      I do remember, I did slay a knight
      Who called himself the Red. He was the scourge
      Of the far wooded land. And it was he
      That wounded me; but all that passed is dim
      As in a mist. And then one came to me –
      But she was not Elaine – that I recall.
      I slept – and you awoke me, and the light
      Shone in an aureole from your hands. Elaine!
      I saw you only in the light! Your hair
      Glowed copper, and the glory of your face
      Radiant, blinded me. – I have attained
      The holiest vision I shall come upon
      Forever, in the beauty of your love,
      That heals and blesses, and denies herself,
      Demanding nothing but the chance to serve!
Elaine. –
      I am content, so you are satisfied.
      I will ride back to Corbenic alone
      And wait – and dream, that some day you will come
      To Joyous Isle, and me, and Galahad;
      And I will teach him when he is a man
      To grow like Lancelot.
Lancelot. –
                                          He shall attain
      To heights I never dreamed of. He shall be
      The purest heart and knightliest, in the land.
      The vision will be plain to him, that veils
      Its majesty to lesser men like me.
      So shall one generation carry on
      The beauty of that foregone, and fill the world
      With his own greater ecstasy – and we
      Achieve in him our glory. It is well.
Elaine. –
      And when the time shall come to enter him
      Into the rank of knighthood, I desire
      That Galahad shall take accolade
      From Lancelot, the greatest living knight, –
      And know his father.
Lancelot. –
                                        So it shall be done.
      May I be worthy of you both that day.
Elaine. –
      Go you to Arthur, dear my lord, and I
      Will go my ways, content. For you and me
      There is no parting that shall not be healed.
Lancelot (Takes her two hands and raises them to his lips). –
      Forever I will bear you in my heart,
      My lady love – Elaine! – We'll meet again.
      (Quietly he goes off into the shadow. She stretches both hands in blessing after him, then also slips into the shadows.
      The moon floods the glade with light. There is the sound of light voices outside, then one voice, that of the Host, calling, as he advances):

The Host. –
      I say! O, Larry! – Here you are! What luck!
      Was more than half afraid you'd gone to sleep.
      Jove, what a jolly night! A night for lovers.
      I might have known you'd find our ancient ruin.
      It's hoary – isn't it? That druid oak
      Remembers many a bit that we've forgot. –
      I sometimes wonder if they live again –
      Those elder days – in such a place as this.
      Dare say you'll laugh at me – old Sobersides –
      Displaying sentiment! But, hang it, man,
      There is a spell about these woods, you know!
      (He starts as Elaine emerges from the shadows.)
      Who's that! – You here, Elaine? – You've dressed the part!
      And Larry too – What a coincidence!
      Let me present you to old Sobersides,
      The best of friends – but mighty shy of girls –
      Unless they are in trouble. Do you know,
      The fellows dubbed him Lancelot, at Christs!
      He loved to rescue damsels in distress!
      (With an elaborate bow)
      Sir Lancelot – Elaine!
      (These two stand silent. He smiles into her eyes, as he raises her two hands to his lips.)
The Host. –
                                              I say, do you
      Two know each other?
She. –
      We have met –
He. –
                                    Before!

      (The host stands with an expression of dawning memory, as they are all blotted out by the curtain.)