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Mighty wizard was old Merlin, the wisest of his age;
But Love all living men subdues, and Love spared not the sage:
So the gray-beard grew a dotard for one fair woman's sake,
Ever following and wooing the Ladye of the Lake;
For she chain'd him with her beauty, and ruled him with a smile,
Till he taught her each enchantment, each magic charm and wile;
And on the four Evangelists an oath she made him swear
That his subtle craft should never her life with mysteries snare.
But she loved no whit the wizard: yet, to learn his mystic art,
She feign'd a loving passion, and acted well her part;
And he taught her all the wonders of the fire, earth, and sea,
All the marvels of the genii, all tricks of glamourie,
Gave her words of spell and power the spirits to command,
And gifted her with prophecy, with lore from every land.
But she wearied of the master when his parables were o'er,
And ladies laugh at lovers gray-bearded and three-score.
Thus it happen'd, as they journey'd, he show'd her by the way,
Mid a rock, a deep-hewn cavern, wherein a wonder lay,
But that hitherto was hidden beneath a weighty stone
From the entrance could be shaken by sorcery alone;
Then she pray'd the old magician, with many a witching word,
To venture in and record bear what sights were there interr'd;
In an evil hour Merlin he did the Ladye's will,
For she quickly wrought her magic, and the rock entombs him still.
Long in court and council-chamber they waited for the sage,
And marvell'd what endeavor his absence should engage;
'Twas whisper'd he had wander'd afar beyond the main
To countries of the Orient, and yet would come again,
With more than mortal wisdom, to work for England's weal,
From the sepulchre of Solomon bearing home the sacred seal.
But forever kept the Ladye the secret of the stone,
As she sat beneath the waters and wrought her spells alone.