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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!