King Arthur and the Half-Man
The summer day was long and hot;
King Arthur rade from Camelot,
And worn with court-craft, sought repose
Among the groves where Ivel flows.
There, whiles he lay in shadows dim,
A wondrous sight appeared to him.
A shadow drifted toward the king—
A clouded, human-seeming thing,
A futile, fleeting, feeble shape
With listless arms and mouth agape,
Devoid of purpose, force or will—
The foolish half-man Keudad Pwyll,
That quavered out in plaintive key:
“Great king, arise, and strive with me!”
Loud laughed the champion, “Ho! ho! ho!
Shall Arthur strive with such a foe?”
The form that seemed of vapor spun
Waxed huge and black against the sun,
Of goodly girth and ample height,
A burly earl of brawn and might
That voiced a challenge bold and free:
“Arise, O man, and strive with me!”
Still paltered Arthur, “Nay!” he said.
“What need of strife? My hardihead
“Is proved and known; and peace is best
In summer’s glow. So let me rest!”
Gigantic swelled that gruesome form,
His head a cliff, his brows a storm;
All ruth, all guile he cast away;
He spurned the monarch where he lay
And bellowed forth in evil glee:
“Thou fool! Arise and strive with me!”
Then Arthur rose for very shame.
He grappled, strove, and overcame;
But deep it made his heart to groan
Before that weight was overthrown;
And sore he taxed his vaunted strength
Before the giant lay his length!
So panted Arthur: “Aye! forsooth,
He called me ‘Fool’—and spake the truth.
“Yea, ‘fool!’ to scorn a feeble foe
While false indulgence made him grow!”
. . . . . . .
Boast not thy strength. Make no delay.
That foeman waxes day by day.
Strike swift! let cravens flinch or flee
If Half-Man Habit challenge thee!