Back to top

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

      No work tends more to create the "team spirit" in education than the preparation and production of a School or Community Play. It unifies the resources of the society, and provides so many interesting things to do--calling for so many different gifts, and showing how one art helps another. There is the scenery to be made and painted. If the Gordon Craig scheme of scene is decided on, its simplicity will be found admirable for the purposes of a little play. It aids the imagination by its restraint, and makes scene shifting so much more easy to do. Then there is the designing and, where possible, the making of the dresses. And what a wealth of possibilities for the construction department in making the various properties! In these plays the production even of the Greek helmets has stimulated a whole depart­ment of invention and skill in itself. The specially designed poster and window-bills bring Art to adver­tisement's aid.
      Then there are the music and the dances, the stage arrangement and the acting, the stage-lighting and the make-up of the performers, to say nothing of the training in correct and audible speech. All kinds of activity must be harnessed for the play's production, and, in the end, the play's the thing whereby we catch the conscience of--the staff at any rate.
      It would not be possible to select two subjects more interesting for school plays or for plays for little theatres and adults than the great epics of Homer­--the Iliad and the Odyssey. One wonders indeed that dramatic versions of these great works have not previously appeared. The action of the Iliad centres in the Wrath of Achilles, its dire results and final appeasement. The Odyssey play is grouped around the Return of Odysseus from the island of Calypso, followed by the confusion and slaying of Penelope's suitors. The language used in these translations is direct, and if it does not give the idea of the "winged words" of the original, it at least attempts to repro­duce their simplicity and vigour. The passages will not be found difficult to memorize, and, even if the plays are not performed, pupils who read them will have an excellent idea of the stories both of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
      The illustrations and the notes about the decor of the plays are by Mr. Sydney Merrills, whose artistic services first gave these plays an adequate setting. Mr. A. M. Uttley has been kind enough to add some notes on the new method of light-flooding for the stage. Sincerest thanks are due and are offered to Miss I. R. Doherty and to Mr. W. J. Williams for valuable hints in production and stage directions, and to Mr. W. M. Newton and Mr. R. B. Marshall for suggestions regarding the text.
      In each play tableaux may be used with good results. In "King Arthur and His Knights," scenes from "The Lady of Shalott" and "The Passing of Arthur" have been so presented, and this device has been found most appropriate for various scenes of combat in "King Arthur," "The Wrath of Achilles," and "The Return of Odysseus." In the last-named a much fuller use of tableaux may be made. The story of the hero's adventures is related in monologue in Act II., and descriptive tableaux interspersed show the episodes of the Lotus-eaters, the Cyclops, and Circe in considerable detail. In "The Quest of the Golden Fleece" the same effect may be produced by the stage grouping at the "curtain" of several scenes, in the loading of the Argo, where the "silent drama" of the cinema may be imitated, as also in the Dragon scene, where Medea, Jason, and his companions wait in suspense for the music of enchantment to work its spell.
      Descriptive dances form an interlude in each play, the ball game of Nausicaa's maidens, the" Shield of Achilles" with its scenes from the life of Hellas in peace and war, the story of Hylas and the nymphs, suggesting suitable themes, and these with the tableaux add much to the general effect of the production.
      The makers of the Holt School plays will be happy if these old-world stories give to young people fresh visions of truth and nobleness and beauty, and re­mind them for a moment of the Ode on a Grecian Urn, and those times of
                     " . . . happy, happy love
              For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
              For ever panting and for ever young."
                                                                 C. W. B.


Arranged by C. W. Bailey, M.A.
In short dramatic scenes and tableaux from Tennyson's Idylls of the King, with a dance and some music.


                        PART I



     (a) Gareth's Quest (in 5 Scenes) :
           (i.) Gareth and Queen Bellicent.
           (ii.) At the Gate of Camelot.
           (iii.) In Arthur's Hall.
           (iv.) Arthur and Gareth.
           (v.) Lynette and Gareth (in Hall).
     (b) The Marriage of Geraint (in 6 Scenes and a Tableau) :
           (i.) The Hunt at Camelot. (Dance of hunts­men and maidens.)
           (ii.) The Insult to the Queen.
           (iii.) Sparrow-Hawk's Bourg.
           (iv.) Outside Yniol's Castle.
           (v.) Geraint and Enid.
           (vi.) The Tournament.
           (vii.) Tableau: Geraint presents Enid to Queen Guinevere.

                        PART II

         "The Old Order Changeth." [An interesting addition here would be a Choral Number, e.g. "The Lady of Shalott," by Bendall


[Spoken before the curtain.]

SAGE Merlin ever served about the King,
Uther, before he died: and on the night
When Uther in Tintagel passed away
Mourning and wailing for an heir, he then
With Bleys, our Merlin's master as they say,
Left the still King, and passing forth to breathe,
Then from the castle gateway by the chasm
Descending through the dismal night
In which the bounds of heaven and earth were lost--
Beheld, so high upon the dreary deeps
It seemed in heaven, a ship, the shape thereof
A dragon winged, all from stem to stern
Bright with a shining people on the decks,
And gone as soon as seen. And then the two
Dropt to a cove, and watched the great sea fall,
Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame ;
And down the wave and in the flame was borne
A naked babe, and rode to Merlin's feet,
Who stooped and caught the babe and cried "The King!
Here is an heir for Uther!"  And the fringe
Of that great breaker, sweeping up the strand,
Lashed at the wizard as he spake the word,
And all at once all round him rose in fire,
And presently thereafter follow'd calm,
Free sky and stars.  And this same child know now
Is he who reigns.

For many a petty king ere Arthur came
Ruled in this Isle, and ever waging war
Each upon other, wasted all the land;
And still from time to time the heathen host
Swarm'd overseas, and harried what was left.
And so there grew great tracts of wilderness
Wherein the beast was ever more and more,
But man was less and less, till Arthur came.
For first Aurelius lived and fought and died,
And after him King Uther fought and died,
But either failed to make the kingdom one.
And after these King Arthur, for a space,
And thro' the puissance of his Table Round,
Drew all their petty princedoms under him,
Their King and Head, and made a realm, and reigned



Leodogran, the King of Cameliard,
Had one fair daughter and none other child,
And she was fairest of all flesh on earth,
Guinevere, and in her his one delight.
And Arthur, passing thence to battle, felt
Travail, and throes and agonies of the life,
Desiring to be joined with Guinevere;
And thinking as he rode, "Her father said
That there between the man and beast they die.
Shall I not lift her from this land of beasts
Up to my throne, and side by side with me?
What happiness to reign a lonely king
Vext--O ye stars that shudder over me,
O earth that soundest hollow under me,
Vext with waste dreams? for saving I be joined
To her that is the fairest under heaven,
I seem as nothing in the mighty world,
And cannot will my will, nor work my work
Wholly, nor make myself in mine own realm
Victor and lord. But were I joined with her,
Then might we live together as one life,
And reigning with One will in everything
Have power on this dark world to lighten it,
And power on this dead world to make it live.


Then Arthur charged his warrior whom he loved
And honoured most, Sir Lancelot, to ride forth
And bring the Queen.
And Lancelot passed away among the flowers
(For then was hotter April), and returned
Among the flowers, in May, with Guinevere.


             (Curtains at back with altar built up in front. An altar with May blossom.)

               DUBRIC, High Priest.
ARTHUR (Red Dragons).
GUINEVERE (White Dragons).
               Tabards with Trumpets.
               Roman Knights.
               A Group: Priest giving blessing.

Arthur. Behold, thy doom is mine
Let chance what will. I love thee to the death.

Queen. King, and my lord, I love thee to the death.

Dubric. Reign ye, and live and love, and make the world
Other, and may thy Queen be one with thee,
And all this order of thy Table Round
Fulfil the boundless purpose of their king.

Chorus. Blow trumpet, for the world is white with May;
Blow trumpet, the long night hath roll'd away!
Blow thro' the living world--Let the King reign.

Shall Rome or heathen rule in Arthur's realm ?
Flash brand and lance, fall battle-axe upon helm,
Fall battle-axe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.

Strike for the King and live! His knights have heard
That God hath told the King a secret word.
Fall battle-axe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.

Blow trumpet! he will lift us from the dust.
Blow trumpet! live the strength and die the lust!
Clang battle-axe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.

Strike for the King and die! And if thou diest,
The King is King, and ever wills the highest.
Clang battle-axe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.

Blow, for our Sun is mighty in his May!
Blow, for our Sun is mightier day by day!
Clang battle-axe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.

The King will follow Christ, and we the King
In whom high God hath breathed a secret thing.
Fall battle-axe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.


                    SCENE I

       Gareth and Queen Bellicent. A chair and a Book of Hours.

Gareth [at his mother's knee]. Dear mother, tho' ye count me still the child,
Sweet mother, do you love the child?

Bellicent. Thou art but a wild-goose to ques­tion it.

Gareth. Then, mother, an ye love the child, I say,
Being a goose, and rather tame than wild,
Hear the child's story.

Bellicent.                    Yea, my well-beloved,
An 'twere but of the goose and golden eggs.

Gareth. Nay, nay, good mother, but this egg of mine
Was finer gold than any goose can lay;
For this an eagle, a royal Eagle, laid,
Almost beyond eye-reach, on such a palm
As glitters gilded in thy Book of Hours.
And there was ever haunting round the palm
A lusty youth, but poor, who often saw
The splendour sparkling from aloft, and thought
"An I could climb and lay my hand upon it,
Then were I wealthier than a leash of kings."
But ever when he reached a hand to climb,
One that had loved him from his childhood caught
And stay'd him, "Climb not, lest thou break thy neck,
I charge thee by my love." And so the boy,
Sweet mother, neither clomb nor brake his neck,
But brake his very heart in pining for it,
And past away.

Bellicent. True love, sweet son, had risked him­self and climbed,
And handed down the golden treasure to him.

Gareth. Gold? Said I gold? Ay then, why he, or she,
Or whosoe'er it was, or half the world
Had ventured--had the thing I spake of been
Mere gold--but this was all of that true steel,
Whereof they forged the brand Excalibur,
And lightnings played about it in the storm,
And all the little fowl were flurried at it,
And there were cries and clashings in the nest,
That sent him from his senses: let me go.

Bellicent. Hast thou no pity upon my loneliness?
Stay, my best son!  Ye are yet more boy than man.

Gareth. O mother, How can ye keep me tether'd to you--shame.
Man am I grown, a man's work must I do :
Follow the deer? Follow the Christ, the King.
Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King--
Else, wherefore born?

Bellicent.                  Wilt thou leave
Thine easeful biding here, and risk thine all,
Life, limbs, for one that is not proven King?
Stay, till the cloud that settles round his birth
Hath lifted but a little. Stay, sweet son.

Gareth [quickly].                         Not an hour,
So that ye yield me--I will walk thro' fire,
Mother, to gain it--your full leave to go.
Not proven, who swept the dust of ruin'd Rome
From off the threshold of the realm, and crush'd
The Idolaters, and made the people free?
Who should be King save him who makes us free?

Bellicent.                      Will ye walk thro' fire?
Who walks thro' fire will hardly heed the smoke.
Ay, go then, an ye must: only one proof,
Before thou ask the King to make thee knight,
Of thine obedience and thy love to me,
Thy rnother--I demand.

Gareth. A hard one or a hundred, so I go.
Nay--quick! the proof to prove me to the quick!

Bellicent [slowly]. Prince, thou shalt go dis­guised to Arthur's hall,
And hire thyself to serve for meats and drinks
Among the scullions and the kitchen-knaves,
And those that hand the dish across the bar;
Nor shalt thou tell thy name to anyone,
And thou shalt serve a twelvemonth and a day.

Gareth [after a pauseJ. The thrall in person may be free in soul,
And I shall see the jousts. Thy son am I,
And since thou art my mother, must obey.
I therefore yield me freely to thy will;
For hence will I, disguised, and hire myself
To serve with scullions and with kitchen-knaves,
Nor tell my name to any--no, not the King.

                  CURTAIN (quickly)

                    SCENE II
          At the gate of Camelot.

Servant. Lord, the gateway is alive.
                                       [Strains of music.]

Who be you, my sons?

Gareth. We be tillers of the soil,
Who leaving 'share in furrow corne to see
The glories of our King: but these my men
(Your city moved so weirdly in the mist)
Doubt if the King be King at all, or come
From Fairyland, and whether this be built
By magic, and by fairy kings and queens;
Or whether there be any city at all,
Or all a vision: and this music now
Hath scared them both. But tell thou these the truth.

Seer. Son, I have seen the good ship sail
Keel upward and mast downward in the heavens,
And solid turrets topsy-turvy in air;
And here is truth: but an it please thee not,
Take thou the truth as thou hast told it me,
For truly, as thou sayest, a fairy king
And fairy queens have built the city, son;
They came from out a sacred mountain-cleft
Toward the sunrise, each with harp in hand,
And built it to the music of their harps.
And, as thou sayest, it is enchanted, son.
For there is nothing in it, as it seems,
Saving the King: tho' some there be that hold
The King a shadow, and the city real:
Yet take thou heed of him, for, so thou pass
Beneath this archway, then wilt thou become
A thrall to his enchantments, for the King
Will bind thee by such vows, as is a shame
A man should not be bound by. Yet the which
No man can keep; but so thou dread to swear,
Pass not beneath this gateway, but abide
Without, among the cattle of the field.
For an ye heard a music, like enow
They are building still, seeing the city is built
To music, therefore never built at all,
And therefore built for ever.

Gareth. Old master, reverence thine own beard,
That looks as white as utter truth, and seems
Well nigh as long as thou art statured tall.
Why mockest thou the stranger that hath been
To thee fair-spoken?

Seer. Know ye not then the Riddling of the Bards?
"Confusion, and illusion, and relation,
Elusion, and occasion, and evasion" ?
I mock thee not but as thou mockest me,
And all that see thee, for thou art not who
Thou seemest, but I know thee who thou art.
                                                       [Goes off.]

and comrades enter Camelot, laughing.]

                    SCENE III
                 In Arthur's hall.

[Arthur and Guinevere seated on throne. Knights and ladies present.] 

                     [Enter a Widow, crying.]

A boon, Sir King! Thy father, Uther, reft
From my dear lord a field with violence:
For howsoe'er at first he proffered gold,
Yet, for the field was pleasant in our eyes,
We yielded not; and then he reft us of it
Perforce, and left us neither gold nor field.

Arthur. Whether would ye? Gold or field?

Widow. Nay, my lord,
The field was pleasant in my husband's eye.

Arthur. Have thy pleasant field again,
And thrice the gold for Uther's use thereof,
According to the years. No boon is here,
But justice, so thy say be proven true.
Accursed, who from the wrongs his father did
Would shape himself a right.

                  [Enter another Widow, shrilling.]

Second Widow.
A boon, Sir King! Thine enemy, King, am I.
With thine own hand thou slewest my dear lord,
A knight of Uther in the Barons' war,
When Lot and many another rose and fought

Against thee, saying thou wert basely born.
I held with these, and loathe to ask thee aught.
Yet lo! my husband's brother had my son
Thrall'd in his castle, and hath starved him dead;
And standeth seized of that inheritance
Which thou that slewest the sire hast left the son.
So tho' I scarce can ask it thee for hate,
Grant me some knight to do the battle for me,
Kill the foul thief, and wreak me for my son.

A Knight. A boon, Sir King! I am her kins­man, I.
Give me to right her wrong, and slay the man.

Sir Kay, the Seneschal. A boon, Sir King! ev'n that thou grant her none,
This railer, that hath mocked thee in full hall­--
None: or the wholesome boon of gyve and gag.

Arthur. We sit King, to help the wronged
Thro' all our realm. The woman loves her lord.
Peace to thee, woman, with thy loves and hates.
                       . . . Thou that art her kin,
Go forthwith, lay him low and slay him not,
But bring him here, that I may judge the right.

[Enter a messenger of King Mark of Cornwall, with a cloth of gold.]

Messenger [kneeling before the throne].
King Mark of Cornwall, may it please you, sire,
Is even on his way to Camelot:
For having heard that you, sire, of your grace,
Have made his goodly cousin, Tristram, knight,
And, for himself is of the greater state,
Being a king, he now trusts his liege-lord
Will yield him this large honour all the more;
So prays you well to accept this cloth of gold,
In token of true heart and fealty.

Arthur [tearing the cloth to pieces). The goodly knight!
What! Shall the shield of Mark stand among these?
More like are we to reave him of his crown
Than make him knight because men call him king.
But Mark hath tarnished the great name of king,
As Mark would sully the low state of churl;
And seeing he hath sent us cloth of gold,
Return and meet and hold him from our eyes,
Lest we should lap him up in cloth of lead.
No fault of thine: let Kay the Seneschal
Look to thy wants and send thee satisfied.

[Enter Gareth and his two companions.]

Gareth. A boon, Sir King!
For see ye not how weak and hunger-worn
I seem--leaning on these? Grant me to serve
For meat and drink among thy kitchen-knaves
A twelvemonth and a day, nor seek my name.
Hereafter I will fight.

Arthur. A goodly youth and worth a goodlier boon!
But so thou wilt no goodlier, then must Kay,
The master of the meats and drinks, be thine.
                     [King, Queen, and attendants go out.]

Kay.                                               Lo, ye now!
This fellow hath broken from some Abbey, where,
God wot, he had not beef and brewis enow,
However that might chance! But an he work,
Like any pigeon will I cram his crop,
And sleeker shall he shine than any hog.

Lancelot.                                   Sir Seneschal,
Sleuth-hound thou knowest, and grey, and all the hounds;
A horse thou knowest, a man thou dost not know;
Broad brows and fair, a fluent hair and fine,
High nose, a nostril large and fine, and hands
Large, fair and fine! Some young lad's mystery.
But, or from sheepfold or king's hall, the boy
Is noble-natured. Treat him with all grace,
Lest he should come to shame thy judging of him.

Kay. What murmurest thou of mystery?
Think ye this fellow will poison the King's dish?
Nay, for he spake too fool-like: mystery!
Tut, an the lad were noble, he had ask'd
For horse and armour: fair and fine, forsooth!
Sir Fine-face, Sir Fair-hands? But see thou to it
That thine own fineness, Lancelot, some fine day
Undo thee not--and leave my man to me.

                    SCENE IV
         King Arthur and Gareth.

Gareth. I have staggered thy strong Gawain in a tilt
For pastime; yea, he said it: joust can I.
Make me thy knight--in secret! Let my name
Be hidd'n, and give me the first quest, I spring
Like flame from ashes.
              [Bows lowly, and kisses the King's hand.]

Son, the good mother let me know thee here,
And sent her wish that I would yield thee thine.
Make thee my knight? My knights are sworn to vows
Of utter hardihood, utter gentleness,
And, loving, utter faithfulness in love,
And uttermost obedience to the king.

Gareth [lightly rising]. My King, for hardihood I can promise thee.
For uttermost obedience make demand
Of whom ye gave me to, the Seneschal,
No mellow master of the meats and drinks!
And as for love, God wot, I love not yet,
But love I shall, God willing.

Arthur. Make thee my knight in secret? Yea, but he,
Our noblest brother and our truest man,
And one with me in all, he needs must know.

Gareth. Let Lancelot know, my King, let Lance­lot know,
Thy noblest and thy truest.

Arthur. But wherefore would ye that men should wonder at you?
Nay, rather for the sake of me, their King,
And the deed's sake my knighthood do the deed,
Than to be noised of.

Gareth. Have I not earn'd my cake in baking of it?
Let be my name until I make my name.
My deeds shall speak: it is but for a day.

                    SCENE V
               King Arthur's hall

[King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Knights, Ladies, Citizens.]

[Enter Lynette.]

O King, for thou hast driven the foe without,
See to the foe within! bridge, ford, beset
By bandits, every one that owns a tower
The lord for half a league. Why sit ye there?
Rest would I not, Sir King, an I were King,
Till ev'n the lonest hold were all as free
From cursed bloodshed, as thine altar-cloth
From that best blood it is a sin to spill.

Arthur. Comfort thyself, I pray thee, I nor mine
Rest: so my knighthood keep the vows they swore,
The wastest moorland of our realm shall be
Safe, damsel, as the centre of this hall.
What is thy name? thy need?

Lynette.                          My name? O King,
Lynette my name; noble; my need, a knight
To combat for my sister, Lyonors,
A lady of high lineage, of great lands,
And comely, yea, and comelier than myself.
She lives in Castle Perilous: a river
Runs in three loops about her living-place;
And o'er it are three passings, and three knights
Defend the passings, brethren, and a fourth,
And of that four the mightiest, holds her stay'd
In her own castle, and so besieges her
To break her will, and make her wed with him;
And delays his purport till thou send
To do the battle with him thy chief man
Sir Lancelot, whom he trusts to overthrow,
Then wed, with glory: but she will not wed
Save whom she loveth, or a holy life.
Now therefore have I come for Lancelot.

Gareth. A boon, Sir King--this quest!
                                            [Kay groans.]
Yea, King, thou knowest thy kitchen-knave am I,
And mighty thro' thy meats and drinks am I,
And I can topple over a hundred such.
Thy promise, King!

Arthur.               Rough, sudden,
And pardonable, worthy to be knight­--
Go, therefore.

Lynette [lifting her arms]. Fie on thee, King! I ask'd for thy chief knight,
And thou hast given me but a kitchen-knave.

[Gareth looses cloak; appears as knight. Popu­lace cheer: "God bless the King and all his fellowship."]

                    THE MARRIAGE OF GERAINT

                    SCENE I
    [Dance: huntsmen and maidens.]

                    SCENE II

[Queen enters with Attendants. Geraint enters.]

ueen. Late, late, Sir Prince, indeed, later than we.

Geraint. Yea, noble Queen, I own it, and so late
That I but come like you to see the hunt,
Not join it.

Queen. Then wait with me, Sir Knight,
For on this little knoll, if anywhere,
There is good chance that we shall hear the hounds:
Here often they break covert at our feet.
                                                  [Looking off.]
What knight is that that shows a youthful face,
Imperious, and of haughtiest lineaments.
Go, ask his name.
[Off.] You shall not know.

Attendant. Then will I ask it of himself.
[Off.] Thou art not worthy even to speak of him.

[Sound of whip. Attendant rushes back insulted.]

I will avenge this insult, noble Queen,
Done in your maiden's person to yourself;
And I will track this vermin to their earths;
To find at some place I shall come at, arms
On loan, or else for pledge: and, being found,
Then will I fight him, and will break his pride,
And on the third day will again be here,
So that I be not fall'n in fight. Farewell.

Queen. Farewell, fair Prince,
Be prosperous on this journey as in all,
And may you light on all things that you love!
And live to wed with her whom first you love;
But ere you wed with any, bring your bride,
And I, were she the daughter of a king,
Yea, tho' she were a beggar from the hedge,
Will clothe her for her bridals like the sun.

                    SCENE III
             Sparrow-Hawk's town.

          [Geraint, Youth, Armourer.]

Here, as I think, I have tracked him to his earth.
What means the tumult in the town?

Youth [scouring still].         The Sparrow-Hawk.
                          [Churl passes with com bag.]

. What means the hubbub here?

Churl.                     Ugh! the Sparrow-Hawk.

Geraint. You, friend, what means this tumult in the town?

Armourer. Friend, he that labours for the Sparrow-Hawk
Has little time for idle questioners.

Geraint [angrily]. A thousand pips eat up your Sparrow-Hawk!
Tits, wrens, and all wing'd nothings peck him dead!
Ye think the rustic cackle of your bourg
The murmur of the world! What is it to me?
O wretched set of sparrows, one and all,
Who pipe of nothing but of sparrow-hawks!
Speak, if ye be not like the rest, hawk-mad,
Where can I get me harbourage for the night?
And arms, arms, arms to fight my enemy? Speak!

Armourer [looking upJ. Pardon me, O stranger knight;
We hold a tourney here to-morrow morn,
And there is scantly time for half the work.
Arms? Truth! I know not: all are wanted here.
Harbourage? Truth, good truth, I know not, save,
It may be, at Earl Yniol's, o'er the bridge

                    SCENE IV
            Outside Yniol' s castle.

Yniol.                         Whither, fair son?

Geraint. O friend, I seek a harbourage for the night.

Yniol. Enter therefore and partake
The slender entertainment of a house
Once rich, now poor, but ever open-door'd.

Geraint.                       Thanks, venerable friend,
So that ye do not serve me sparrow-hawks
For supper, I will enter, I will eat
With all the passion of a twelve-hours' fast.

Yniol. Graver cause than yours is mine
To curse this hedgerow thief, the Sparrow-Hawk:
But in, go in; for save yourself desire it,
We will not touch upon him ev'n in jest.

                    SCENE V
                In the castle.

[Enid and her mother, who is spinning.]

[sings]. Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel and lower the proud;
Turn thy wild wheel thro' sunshine, storm, and cloud;
Thy wheel, and thee we neither love nor hate.

Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown;
With that wild wheel we go not up or down;
Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great.

Smile and we smile, the lords of many lands;
Frown and we smile, the lords of our own hands;
For man is man and master of his fate.

Turn, turn thy wheel above the staring crowd;
Thy wheel and thou art shadows in the cloud;
Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate.

Yniol [to Geraint, entering]. Hark, by the bird's song ye may learn the nest.

Enid, the good knight's horse stands in the court;
Take him to the stall, and give him corn,
And we will make us merry as we may.
Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great.

[Enid rises to go out. Geraint attempts to stop her. Yniol seizes Geraint by the scarf.]

Rest! The good house, tho' ruined, O my son,
Endures not that her guest should serve himself.
                                           [Supper is served.]

Fair Host and Earl, I pray your cour­tesy;
This Sparrow-Hawk, what is he? Tell me of him.
His name? but no, good faith, I will not have it:
For if it be the knight whom late I saw
Ride into that new fortress by your town,
White from the mason's hand, then have I sworn
From his own lips to have it--I am Geraint
Of Devon--for this morning, when the Queen
Sent her own maiden to demand the name,
His dwarf, a vicious under-shapen thing,
Struck at her with his whip, and she returned
Indignant to the Queen: and then I swore
That I would track this caitiff to his hold,
That I would break his pride and learn his name,
Avenging this great insult done the Queen.

Yniol.                               Art thou he, indeed,
Geraint, a name far sounded among men
For noble deeds? and truly I, when first
I saw you moving by me on the bridge,
Felt ye were somewhat, yea, by your state
And presence might have guessed you one of those
That eat in Arthur's hall at Camelot.
Nor speak I now from foolish flattery;
For this dear child hath often heard me praise
Your feats of arms and often when I praised
Hath asked again, and ever loved to hear.
                                                      Your foe,
My curse, my nephew--I will not let his name
Slip from my lips if I can help it--
He keeps me in this ruinous castle here,
Where doubtless he would put me soon to death,
But that his pride too much despises me,
And I myself sometimes despise myself;
For I have let men be, and have their way.

Geraint.                             Then grant me arms,
That if the Sparrow-Hawk, this nephew, fight
In next day's tourney I may break his pride.

Yniol.                               Arms, indeed, but old
And rusty, old and rusty, Prince Geraint,
Are mine, and therefore at thine asking, thine.
But in this tournament can no man tilt,
Except the lady he loves best be there.
He being apt at arms, and big of bone,
Hath ever won it for the lady with him;
And toppling over all antagonism,
Hath earned himself the name of Sparrow-Hawk.
But thou, thou hast no lady, canst not fight.

Geraint.                                           Thy leave!
Let me lay lance in rest, O noble host,
For this dear child, because I never saw,
Tho' having seen all beauties of our time,
Nor can see elsewhere, anything so fair.
                                                [Enid goes out.]

Yniol [to his wlfe].                  Ere thou go to rest,
Tell her, and prove her heart toward the Prince.

                    SCENE VI
      The overthrow of Sparrow-Hawk.


Geraint. Thy name.

Edryn.                   Edryn, son of Nudd.
Ashamed am I that I should tell it thee.
My pride is broken: men have seen my fall.

Geraint.                 Then, Edryn, son of Nudd,
These two things shalt thou do, or else thou diest.
First, thou thyself and with thy wretched dwarf,
Shalt ride to Arthur's court, and coming there,
Crave pardon for the insult done the Queen,
And shalt abide her judgment on it; next,
Thou shalt give back their earldom to thy kin.
These two things shalt thou do, or else thou diest.

Edryn.                 These things will I do,
For I have never yet been overthrown,
And thou hast overthrown me, and my pride
Is broken down, for Enid sees my fall!



                    PART II



                    SCENE I
               Before the hall

[Dagonet dancing. Enter Tristram.]

Why skip ye so, Sir Fool?

Dagonet. Belike for lack of wiser company;
Or being fool, and seeing too much wit
Makes the world rotten, why, belike I skip
To know myself the wisest knight of all.

Tristram. Ay, fool, that may be, but 'tis eating dry
To dance without a catch, a roundelay
To dance to.

[Tristram plays on harp. Dagonet stands still.]

Why skip ye not, Sir Fool?

Dagonet. Sir Tristram, I had liefer twenty years
Skip to the broken music of my brains
Than any broken music thou canst make.

Tristram [waiting for the quip]. Good now, what music have I broken, fool?

Dagonet.                                                                    Arthur, the King's;
For when thou playest that air with Queen Isolt,
Thou makest broken music with thy bride,
Her daintier namesake down in Brittany--
And so thou breakest Arthur's music too.

Tristram. Sir Fool, I swear it, I would break thy head,
Save for that broken music in thy brains.
Fool, I came late, the heathen wars were o'er,
The life had flown, we sware but by the shell­--
I am but a fool to reason with a fool--
Come, thou art crabbed and sour: but lean me down,
Sir Dagonet, one of thy long asses' ears,
And hearken if my music be not true.

Free love--free field--we love but while we may:
The woods are hush'd, their music is no more;
The leaf is dead, the yearning passed away:
New life, new life--the days of frost are o'er;
New life, new love, to suit the newer day:
Free love--free field--we love but while we may.
                                        [Dagonet stands still. ]

Tristram. Ye might have moved slow-measure to my tune,
Not stood stock-still. I made it in the woods,
And heard it ring as true as tested gold.

Dagonet [one foot poised in hand]. Friend, did ye mark that fountain yesterday
Made to run wine? But this had run itself
All out like a long life to a sour end--
And them that round it sat with golden cups,
The twelve small damosels white as Innocence­--
                     . . .And one of those white slips
Handed her cup and piped, the pretty one,
"Drink, drink, Sir Fool!" and thereupon I drank,
Spat--pish--the cup was gold, the draught was mud.

Tristram. Was it muddier than thy gibes?
Is all the laughter gone dead out of thee?
Not marking how the knighthood mock thee, fool--
Fear God: honour the King--his one true knight­--
Sole follower of the vows.

Dagonet.                      Dost thou know the star
We call the harp of Arthur, up in heaven?

Tristram.            Ay, Sir Fool, for when our King
Was victor wellnigh day by day, the knights,
Glorying in each new glory, set his name
High on all hills, and in the signs of heaven.

Dagonet.                        Ay, and when the land
Was freed, and the Queen false, ye set yourself
To babble about him, all to show your wit--
And whether he were King by courtesy,
Or King by right--and so went harping down
The black king's highway, got so far, and grew
So witty that ye play'd at ducks and drakes
With Arthur's vows on the great lake of fire.
Tuwhoo! do ye see it? Do ye see the star?

Tristram. Nay, fool, of course not--not in open day.

Dagonet. Nay, nor will: I see it and hear.
It makes a silent music up in heaven,
And I, and Arthur, and the angels hear,
And then we skip.

Tristram.             Lo, fool, indeed ye talk
Fool's treason: is the King thy brother fool?

Dagonet [clapping his hands]. Ay, ay, my brother fool, the king of fools!
Conceits himself as God that he can make
Figs out of thistles, silk from bristles, milk
From burning spurge, honey from hornet-combs,
And men from beasts--long live the king of fools!

                    SCENE II
  In Camelot. After Guinevere's desertion.

Arthur. Gone is the Queen who did me grievous wrong,
But I was first of all the kings who drew
The knighthood-errant of this realm and all
The realms together under me, their Head,
In that fair Order of my Table Round,
A glorious company, the flower of men,
To serve as model for the mighty world,
And be the fair beginning of a time.
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the King, as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King,
To break up the heathen and uphold the Christ,
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
To honour his own word as if his God's,
To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,
To love one maiden only, cleave to her,
And worship her by years of noble deeds,
Until they won her: for indeed I knew
Of no more subtle master under heaven
Than is the maiden passion for a maid,
Not only to keep down the base in man,
But teach high thought, and amiable words
And courtliness, and the desire of fame,
And love of truth, and all that makes a man.
And all this throve before I wedded thee,
Believing, "lo mine helpmate, one to feel
My purpose, and rejoicing in my joy."
Then came thy shameful sin with Lancelot;
Then came the sin of Tristram and Isolt;
Then others, following these my mightiest knights,
And drawing foul ensample from fair names,
Sinn'd also, till the loathsome opposite
Of all my heart had destined did obtain,
And all thro' thee.

[Dagonet enters, and falls at Arthur's feet.]

                         What art thou?

Dagonet [weeping].                    I am thy fool,
And I shall never make thee smile again.

                    SCENE III
 Scene at Almesbury. Nuns and Novice.

[Enter Queen Guinevere.]

Queen.                        Mine enemies
Pursue me, but, O peaceful Sisterhood,
Receive, and yield me sanctuary, nor ask
Her name to whom ye yield it, till her time
To tell you.            [Novice hums "Late, so late."]

Queen. O maiden, if indeed ye list to sing,
Sing and unbind my heart that I may weep.

Novice and Chorus of Nuns--
     Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!
     Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.
     Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

     No light had we: for that we do repent;
     And learning this, the bridegroom will relent.
     Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

     No light: so late! and dark and chill the night
     O let us in, that we may find the light!
     Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

     Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet?
     O let us in, tho' late, to kiss his feet!
     No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now.
Novice. O pray you, noble lady, weep no more;
But let my words, the words of one so small,
Comfort your sorrows; for they do not flow
From evil done; right sure am I of that,
Who see your tender grace and stateliness.
But weigh your sorrows with our lord the King's,
As even here they talk at Almesbury
About the good King and his wicked Queen,
And were I such a King with such a Queen,
Well might I wish to veil her wickedness,
But were I such a King, it could not be.

Queen [aside]. Will the child kill me with her innocent talk?
[Aloud.]                                                                   Must not I
If this false traitor hath displaced his lord,
Grieve with the common grief of all the realm?

Novice. Yea, this I know, this is all woman's grief,
That she is woman, whose disloyal life
Hath wrought confusion in the Table Round
Which good King Arthur founded, years ago,
With signs and miracles and wonders, there
At Camelot, ere the coming of the Queen.

Queen [aside]. Will the child kill me with her foolish prate?
[Aloud.] O little maid, shut in by nunnery walls,
What canst thou know of Kings and Tables Round,
Or what of signs and wonders, but the signs
And simple miracles of thy nunnery?

Novice. Yea, but I know: the land was full of signs
And wonders ere the coming of the Queen.
So said my father, and himself was knight
Of the great Table.

Queen [bitterly]. Were they so glad? ill prophets were they all,
Spirits and men: could none of them foresee,
Not even thy wise father with his signs
And wonders, what has fall'n upon the realm?

Novice. I pray you check me if I ask amiss.
I pray you, which was noblest whilst you moved
Among them--Lancelot or our lord the King?

Queen. Sir Lancelot, as became a noble knight,
Was gracious to all ladies, and the same
In open battle or the tilting-field
Forbore his own advantage, and the King
In open battle or the tilting-field
Forbore his own advantage, and these two
Were the most nobly-manner'd men of all:
For manners are not idle, but the fruit
Of loyal nature and of noble mind.

Novice. If this be so--be manners such fair fruit--
Then Lancelot's needs must be a thousandfold
Less noble, being, as all rumour runs,
The most disloyal friend in all the world.

Queen. O closed about by narrowing nunnery walls,
What knowest thou of the world, and all its lights
And shadows, all the wealth and all the woe?
If ever Lancelot, that most noble knight,
Were for one hour less noble than himself,
Pray for him that he 'scape the doom of fire,
And weep for her who drew him to his doom.

Novice.                              I pray for both;
But I should all as soon believe that his,
Sir Lancelot's, were as noble as the King's,
As I could think, sweet lady, yours would be
Such as they are, were you the sinful Queen.

Queen. Thou, their tool, set on to plague
And play upon, and harry me, petty spy
And traitress ... Get thee hence.
                               [Cry: "The King! "]

     [Enter King Arthur; Guinevere falls at his feet.]

Oh, think not that I come to urge thy crimes.
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
To see thee, laying there thy golden head,
My pride in happier summers, at my feet.
The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce law,
The doom of treason and the flaming death
(When first I learnt thee hidden there), is past.
The pang--which while I weigh'd thy heart with one
Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee,
Made my tears burn--is also past--in part.
And all is past, the sin is sinn'd, and I,
Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God
Forgives: do thou for thine own soul the rest.