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The Birth of Arthur: A Choral Drama











  UTHER     ... ... ... ... King of Britain.
ULFIUS    ... ... ... ... A Knight.
MERLIN   ... ... ... ... Prophet of Britain.
BRASTIAS ... ... ... ... A Knight.
IGRAINE ... ... ... ... Queen of Cornwall.
The Will of the World.

SCENE I. --- A Wayside in Cornwall.
SCENE II. --- Merlin's Mount.


Deep in the shadow of forgotten things,
Rising like mountains round it,
Is a Lake.
White mists o'erwhelm it till its look is mourant.
Deep are its Shadows and its Silences,
But white the foam of its black waters,
When the breathless oars of ghostly rowers break its surface calm.
Its name is known of dead and dreaming Kings,
Whose folded purple lies behind the Night.
Its name is known to children,
While they freely walk mysterious glades.
Its name is known to dim and cloistered souls,
To those who kneel 'fore Altars,
And those whose souls ascend the gleaming pathway of the Secret Stair.

To those who toil 'tis known,
When great ascendant hopes
Goad on the body to the noble task!

'Tis called the Lake of Wonder ....
From him who drinks thereof all Doubt is driven.

There was a man, who walked in the Land of Forgotten Things,
And he passed to the Land of Oblivion ....

There was a man, who walked amid the Mists,
And he was swallowed up ....

There was a man, who bathed in the Lake of Wonder,
And his name was Merlin!

To him are the Wonders of the Deep,
The Mysteries of the Earth,
And the Magic of the Air.

Whence came he, O Waters?
Whence came he?
Deep are the Shadows and the Silences,
Deep as Merlin's heart,....
Deep as the pool where slept the Dragons, which he slew!

Who bore him? Who begat him?

Deep are the Shadows and the Silences of things remembered,
But not revealed ....
O Destiny, is he not thy comrade?
O Light and Darkness, is he not thy servant?

Look ye into the waters of the Lake of Wonder.
Is Love there?
Behold! There lie jewels in the Lake of Wonder.
All the Youth of the World may bathe there.
And they, who have bathed therein, take thence a jewel.
Twain and twain they quit the waters, and hasten to the Woods of Love.

And for those, who lose not the jewel of the Lake of Wonder, it is well.
But for those who lose the jewel it is ill ....

Merlin bathed in the Lake of Wonder .... alone he bathed there ....
And in the Waters came he upon a great jewel,
Which was the Stone of Enchantment.
When he came to the Wood, no woman brought her jewel,
But many, who had lost their jewels came to him, but he said them nay.
For the Children of Enchantment live only for Enchantment,
And, if they rebel, the jewel is ta'en away.

O Lake of Wonder, roll your Mists away!
Strike through the Mist, O Sun,
And give us Day!

Day by the wayside, day and foliage green ....
A Cornish lane, where Autumn's hand is seen.
Near Terrabyll, 'neath Gorlois, Cornwall's lord,
Who, 'gainst the King, hath raised a rebel sword.

As light steals through the branches,
The tints of the Autumn glow
Red like the elder passions
Of Loves of long ago!

Along the lane comes Uther,
Clad in the gear of War.
Sir Ulfius, the cautious, beside him walks ....

Together they tread the pathway,
Flanked by the shrubs and ferns,
Their weapons agleam in the sunray,
As the lordlier warrior turns ....

For he is Uther, the King,
Of stature great and stately,
With eyes of flame, and mighty brows for bastions!

In silence he walks, unheeding his man,
Who first the silence breaks:

O Lord and mighty warrior, all deeds are done at thy desire.
Thyself hast laid a seige round Terrabyll, and spurring here,
I left Tintagel like to an otter with the dogs upon her.
Within Terrabyll Castle thou hast the Duke in ward,
And his white spouse within Tintagel Keep!
Surely the Duke shall fall into my hands,
But think you, Ulfius,
Tintagel shall her keys surrender?

I know not!

And if I gain the keys of that proud castle,
Think you surely
That Igraine shall yield at last?

Thou art a goodlier man than Gorlois.

Ulfius, my men can batter down the gateways,
The men-at-arms may fly before the spear thrusts ....
The keep shall fall!
Of fire and flame shall be a triumph!
But shall the flames within my heart, O Ulfius,
Melt the white marble of Igraine?

Never was wax so white, O King,
That flame should not o'ercome it.

If the white marble turn to blackest ashes ....
If I have fought for damage, with no delight to crown it!
If, from the ruin, we reap but destruction.

The light steals through the branches.
The weapons and war-gear gleam,
But the eyes of Uther are dull as the gloom of gathering thunder
Sunken in the mood of a dream.


The sunlight comes .... among the clouds it shineth!

Thou know'st my sorrow from the first, O Ulfius ....
How at the banquet it began ....
How she a sudden flame of glory shone before me,
And wild within my breast the torrent rose!
The full, red wine in beakers lay before us,
As with Tintagel's lord we feasted, as a friend,
After the weary wars we'd waged upon him.
In peace, with merry hearts we supped together.
Gorlois was not my foe, yet was he husband of Igraine ....
In that wild hour, the flaming wine and torches fired me ....
And when we rose to leave the revel,
As King, I bade him yield Igraine to me.
Then was he wroth, and shame and anger reddened
Igraine's white face.
Though Gorlois was mine elder, yet had he full drunk,
And he did threaten me, the King of Britain!
I am resolved, as from that fateful hour it was written.
As I am King do I desire Igraine!

The eyes of Uther are gleaming with gathering storm.

No longer mine the fleeting hopes and dreams of passion!
O Ulfius, these eyes have seen all beauty.
These arms in amorous dream have beheld the fairest living!
My soul, with purple wings, has beaten upward
Till in the heaven has it fared ....
Whence is this flame that round me flares?
Whither or whence I care not, so that she be won!
I am a goodlier man than Gorlois ....
Yet Tintagel's lord is set before the King in her embraces!
And so my anger now is as the love-rage of my heart!
His death shall feed my hungry hate.
Igraine's fair body shall before the love-rage fall!
How long shall stand Tintagel?

My lord, I know not, for it is exceeding strong.
These many years it hath withstood
The shock of storm and tempest and the sword,
Nor God, nor guile hath yet prevailed against it.

O Ulfius, there's a sickness come upon me
Nought will cure save victory.
Can'st thou not help me?

Maybe I can; if thou be patient.
Thou knowest Merlin?

Him who was strangely born, half angel and half man?

Or, so they say, begotten by a devil.
Perchance the Mage will help thee,
Perchance thy passion spurn.
For Merlin's will is moved by fancies,
Dark and wayward to other men.

Thy word is good!
Seek out the Mage, and bring him unto me
At Terrabyll.
Thither I go now to lead my men in war.

And I must seek the Mage alone?

Art thou afeard? Speed on thy task,
For patience hath no home within my heart!

Boldly King Uther goes,
Out of sight along the way ....
As Ulfius watches after,
Behind him stalks a wayworn beggar,
Wearily limping, craftily cringing,
Waiting for arms.

Old Man.

Good day, Sir Ulfius.

Old man, I've nothing for thee.
Leave me in peace!

Old Man
If I leave thee, Sir Ulfius,
Thy sorrow will not leave thee.

Get hence, old man! Naught troubles me.

Old Man.
What of the King?
And Gorlois's wife?

Art thou a spy?

In power and strength the beggar man is risen,
And Ulfius shrinks from him, and stands away.

Old Man.

On yonder Mount when Night's more fully fallen,
Bid the King come and hold communion with me!
For oft it haps that ill and sorry passions
Are but the pods for glorious seed and harvest.

Who art thou ...?

Old Man.
Bid the King come, for even now I go toward yon mountain.
Let the King follow if he love Igraine.

Slowly the old man wends away ....
And Ulfius's gaze upon him rests awhile ....


'Twas Merlin's self, who, if tales be true,
Once met two sprites upon the mountain yonder.
Once was a messenger of heaven,
The other, envoy of satanic hosts for mercy suing.
There he heard mystic converse,
And may overhear the councils of the highest and the deep.
He knows the ways of men, of beasts and trees,
The starry firmament, the sounding deeps,
And knows the language of the rushing winds.
So will I haste, and bid the King to follow.

Along the lane goes Ulfius,
And all grows bleak and grim.
Crashes the heavy thunder,
The droop of the clouds so dim.
All goes black and dull as the gloom of the thunder gathers,
As it booms in the distance, but ever closer comes.
Naught see we in the storm:
The wayside there no longer.
Keen are the blades of the Swords
That cleave the clamouring sky!
Loud is the boom of the thunder,
That ever cometh more near.
But the chaos and gloom reveal
A darkling form on a mountain.

Voice of the Storm.

All grows bleak and dim.
All goes black and dull
As the gloom with its Terror!
In the brooding spirit of the Storm
Works the soul of the World and the Will.
For here are revealed the wonders of the deep,
And the magic of the air.
Out of the storm and stress,
Out of the wizard working of the worlds,
Toiling 'mid the gloom,
'Mid the shattering boom of the thunder!
Striving to bring to birth
The son of Fire and Flame,
As from the flame of the lightning
The passion of thunder is risen,
So the godhead of storm
Wakens the world!

O Daranau, thou reinest in thy lightning and thy thunder
Like to a man with mighty passion molten!
Hold back thy blasting breath, while here I commune.
The King comes now for converse and communion,
His heart aflame for Gorlois's wife, Igraine.
O Daranau, thou god of thunder!
O fire and flame that now light up the gloom,
Give me your guidance!

Sharp are the fiery swords that cleave the clamouring sky.
Rising in fierce revolt, the untamed world of darkness!
From out the cauldron of Chaos,
The fire and gloom are come.

Voice of the storm.

Yearning to break through the wall of their world,
Cry the unborn for bodies to clothe them.

O god of heavenly conflict, thou hast spoken.
E'en as the greatest flash of lightning gives the loudest thunder,
And, as the loudest thunder moves the mountain,
So shall the greatest love give us the Hero!
O flame of Love, which courses through King Uther,
Surround Igraine that Britain may be saved!

Voice of the Storm.
Even as the greatest flash of lightning gives the loudest thunder,
And, as the loudest thunder moves the mountain,
So shall the greatest Love give us the Hero!

Two forms are rising from the murk and darkness.
Together climb they to the mound,
Whereon the Seer,
A King amid the storm, upstandeth.
The one a man of stature great and stately,
And one who fears the lightning, with the crashing thunder ....


All hail, O King, and welcome to Sir Ulfius,
Who sought to hide this sorrow.

'Tis not a sorrow, but a mighty love, O Merlin,
Which hath brought me to thee!

There are two Gates to Sorrow's Garden, Uther.
The one is Birth, the other Death is hight.
All that from storm and travail springs
In restless stream shall flow,
And, in the ebb, shall pass with sobs and sighs.

What gloom, O Merlin? Thou, who knowest the wonders of the world!

Ye rede me wrong, for know ye not
How Britain in sorrow lingers yet?
Half stand we in bestial Night,
Half reach we to the Dawn!
Knowest thou, Uther, how every sage looks for a glorious kingdom,
More kingly than the realm of kings?
What is conceived by Man, by mankind can be wrought!
What seek we from the King of Britain?

Am I a penitent that thus thou pratest?
I come to thee because I love a woman,
That thou, by magic art, mayst do what baffles armies.

Thinkest thou that I will aid thee?

I command it, by my sword!

The hand of Merlin rises, with prophetic power,
Upward toward the heavens.
Keen is the blade of the sword that cleaves the clamouring sky.
The sword of Uther 'neath the stroke is shattered!
Loud is the boom of the thunder, shaking the mountain.
Then Merlin turns unto the haughty King and paling Ulfius,
Taking the hilt of Uther's sword, unbroken.


Uther, I will aid thee,
If thou wilt swear one oath :
That, when Igraine is thine,
Thou wilt to me deliver her first-born son!

By my sword I swear!
To thee I will deliver her first-born son.

Trust not thy sword o'ermuch.
But now ye must hasten! For the storm returneth,
And e'en to-night thine arms around her close!
Who will go with thee?

The arm of Uther toward pale Ulfius sweeps.


We parley further in Tintagel Castle.

Uther and Ulfius behind the mount go down,
And, by a pathway steep, in haste are gone.
Hear the mad music of the storming thunder
From Chaos's cauldron, where the powers hereunder
Rebel 'gainst heaven till the fires are quenched,
All the armed clouds to rend asunder,
Before the Light is victor, and the Dark outdriven.


The light upon the helm of Uther glances.
Go, thou unruly Torch, for Britain shalt thou burn!
And, in thy stead shall come a Light to Britain!
Igraine, fresh from her convent, Gorlois married.
No fatherhood nor destiny is his ....
She, the most beauteous in the land mated to Gorlois,
And yet our Britain waits
The coming of a King!
Within his heart unruly love upburneth ....
O proud, adulterous heart, thou shalt as incense burn before an Altar!
Daranau, loud voic'd and full of curses,
Thou shalt hear the Voice of Silence ....
Wodan, from thy couch of skins,
A wonder shalt thou see!
I follow thee, O Uther ....
E'en now, the spell is woven ....

Voice of the Storm.
Yearning to break through the wall of our world,
Cry the unborn for bodies to clothe them.

Down the steep path the warriors wend,
'Mid the mad music of the booming thunder ....
Like some wild prophet of the powers hereunder
Stands Merlin .... calm upon the mountain.


SCENE I. --- The Chamber of Igraine, in Tintagel Castle.


Dark and stark and strong
Tintagel Castle stands!

The splash and the surge of the sea on the rocks of Tintagel,
The boom of the breakers,
The echoes in chasm and cave ....

O hear ye the song of the surges,
That beat in the caves of Tintagel,
The shrill of the pebbles,
The hiss of the backgathering waves.

The gloom of the dusk has been darkened,
And distant the thunder
That rang in the Castle of Gorlois,
And boomed in the caves.

The splash and the surge of the sea on the rocks of Tintagel ....
The boom of the breakers,
The echoes in castle and cave ....
The crests of the galloping waves,
The curvetting ocean,
The gloom of the dusk, and the hurrying cloud waves above.

And, on the headland,
Tintagel Castle stands!

Alone in his cavern, beneath the great headland,
Merlin is brooding ....
Dark is the soul of Merlin,
Dark with the doubt of Destiny,
While the Wisdom of the Ages
Slumbers in the womb.

The splash and the surge of the sea,
The dark will of Merlin,
Threaten the Castle of Gorlois!

The watchfires burn and glower,
Where Uther's army lies.
Like to the sea in its strength
Is the passion of Uther!

The surge of the sea, and the love-rage of Uther
Threaten the Castle of Gorlois!

Dark and stark and strong,
Besieged by land and sea,
By sea and sky,
By man and wind and wave beset,
The Castle strongly stands!

Within her chamber, gazing seaward,
In witchery of gleaming moonlight,
Igraine of Cornwall with Sir Brastias waits.


How calm the moon,
The white wave-crests how fair!
Can men wage war on such a night as this?

The wolfish fangs, my lady,
Seek out for flesh to tear.

He would not tear
Her whom he strives to win?

The wind just lifts her hair,
And on her ivory skin
The moonbeams shine.


Men are like wolves when they are ruled by passion.

How fierce his eyes,
And strange his look of longing!
When Gorlois wooed me,
Naught I knew of this.

What learned you, lady,
From false Uther's eyes?

O Brastias, how can I say?
Suppose I were a waxen candle,
Cold upon an altar standing ....
And a red flame started down upon me,
And the wax melted, burning up my soul!

Whence is the flame that round her soul is flaring?
Never was wax so white,
That flame should not o'ercome it.


Feel you thus to Uther?
O lady Igraine, I grieve for thee.

I know not whether it be Love
That doth fever all my soul.
But, O my friend, I am a lonely woman ....
Gorlois can find his life in war and manhood!
But I .... within my soul ....
My mother-love hath brought no babe to prove me.
Enough .... I weary thee.
Thy love is ever in the land of dreams!
Thou dost not know the yearning of the barren, lonely soul!

The eyes of Brastias turn
That all their tale be hid.
For some men love too well,
And hide within their heart
Those things that may not be.


I age, I age, my lady.
It boots not now, I ween ....
But there were days when, with the holy sisters,
There dwelt a maiden called, like thee, Igraine.
She was so beautiful that, in a song, I called her
"The White Igraine, the faery Queen of Cornwall."
In those far days my harp was alway with me,
And now it hangs above my narrow bed.
And a great lord who heard my song, came to me:
"Of whose fair beauty sing you, harper?"
I told him..... Days and weeks went by ....
Then knew I that my harp had lost her to me ....
My song had won for him a bride!
Then went I, and took service with him.
A knight was I. His trusty knight I've been,
And over her I've guarded till this day.

His head bowed down, Sir Brastias turns away.


Hadst thou no hate for Gorlois?

Nay, Lady, for Love is not unworthy.
The chosen bridegroom of Igraine was Gorlois,
And I thine elder was .... and poor.

But Gorlois was mine elder also--

But Gorlois was the lord of Cornwall.

Strange that one schooled by holy sisters
Should be beloved so many ways.
Some men are fierce,
And some are tender for me.
Say, O Brastias, if thou mayest,
Who in the end will hold me?

I am not Merlin,
And Love is deep to fathom
Sometimes to me it seemeth
That some strange Power,
Moving behind the deeds of men,
Mingles desires, choosing men and women,
Weaves and broiders like a cunning craftsman.

Can Uther gain the Castle?

The keep is strong, my lady.
Though men and storms rise up,
They fail to batter down the gateways.

And what of Gorlois?

'Tis said that Merlin weaveth spells against him.

Ha! Ha! Why will ye ever mistrust Merlin?

Why wilt thou ever trust him,
Whose magic is unholy?

What ye call magic is but greater knowledge.

From morn till eve last sennight
In the cave he sat.
What did he there?
No good man liveth thus.

The cave beneath the Castle?


Will of the World.
Even now, beneath he broodeth,
While the Wisdom and Love of the Ages
Slumbers in the Womb.

And what of that unruly King,
Who with such lawless strength doth love me?

Full sick is he, and carried in a litter,
Like some Arabian infidel to battle.

And is he sick for Love?

Nay, not for Love! For lust and longing,
Half of the body, half of moody brooding!
Like to the king, who looked upon the stars,
And claimed them as the cattle of his pasture!
Uther loves not
As true men love.

Knows any man true Love?

Yea, even he who knows the rapture of which Taliesin sings,
A Love which like a star doth shine,
And, like a star, reveals a world beyond our sense.

'Tis well thou art not wed, O Brastias.
Thou art a dreamer.
Dreams without deeds
Will ne'er reveal that other world of thine.

Deeds without dreams reveal a world far worse.

Will of the World.
Up from the Lake of Wonder,
Rise the deeds that were dreams but yesterday,
The dreams that are to-morrow's deeds!
The knowledge that is magic ....
The magic of the air ....
The knowledge and the passion,
Whence all Creation comes.
O Wonder of Creation!

Loud clangs the postern bell,
A-clang, a-clang, impatient, clamorous ....


I feel it is not Gorlois.
Go, Brastias! Who cometh .... send him here!

Will of the World.
Hither, O Merlin, Wisdom's soul and Wonder's,
Unto Igraine, who waiteth for her hour
In moonlight's gleam and witchery of gloom.

Dark in the doorway stands the mighty Merlin,
Proud in the utter calm of Manhood.


Igraine, my child.
Thine hour is here.

Mine hour?

Thine hour,
And His who Shall Be!

His who Shall Be?

Will of the World.
She waiteth for her hour
In gleam of hope,
And witchery of Wonder.

Yearning to break through the wall of their world
Cry the unborn for bodies to clothe them.
In the soul of the world, striving for birth,
Are the Men of to-morrow!
Like to the cry of the homeless ....
Like to the wail of the children, who clamour for bread,
Yearn the unborn for their bodies,
Where worketh the spirit of Will and of Wonder.
Through the thoughts in the mind of mankind
Works the Will of the Power of Darkness.

That power hath been upon me,
And hitherward I come,
Even to thee!
Thou art the woman who shalt bear
A wondrous child.

The silence is alive with pulsing thought,
The brooding soul of Woman,
And the Mind of Man ....
The Soul of Wonder,
And the World's great Will.


Thou dost feel it!
Speak ....
Thou dost hear his call?
Hearken ....

Will of the World.
Like to the wail of the homeless ....
Like to the cry of the children, who clamour for bread,
Yearn the unborn for their bodies to clothe them.

For many years I've brooded o'er my longing ....

The bird that lightly lives
Broods but a season.
The Hero Child must needs be carried in the heart for ages,
E'er to flower he come!

But, as the years rolled on,
Gorlois's moody temper grew more sullen.
My soul did sicken!
Starved for lack of love!
Though I conceived not,
Yet did my heart outbear my body,
And, in my secret soul, a mother-love was kindled,
For a babe unknown .... unfathered.
And year by year .... within this lonely land
I live my life .... alone,
Brooding o'er my longing
Like a sea-bird o'er her nest.
But still he came not ....
Then did I come to thee for charm to bring me fruitage.
No charm thou gavest me .... but Knowledge ....
To know the stars, the mighty deep ....
All things thou taughtest me!
But one thing thou taughtest not,
E'en to stay the empty craving of my soul!

No more the moonbeams on Igraine are shed.
How very silent is the room become.
Fainter the splash on the rocks of the headland,
Softer the echoes beneath, in the cave.


Who shall his father be?

Speak to thine heart!

Full many a day in peace I've dwelt with Gorlois
Content and calm within his Castle.
But, when proud Uther claimed me at the banquet,
Then did a strange new joy arise within me,
And all my body burned with glad desire!
No shame I felt,
Though thus he read my face of fire.
His eyes of flame from brows of iron shone,
More kingly than the lord of Cornwall.
Great and shapely were his limbs ....
And all my mother-soul was quickened 'neath his gaze.

Will of the World.
In the bodily rapture and longing for love
The souls of the unborn are thronging.
The Love of the Woman,
The Love of the Hero,
And the Will of the World are as one!
In the bodily rapture and longing of mother-love,
The Hero-Child is waking to Life!
Yearning to break through the walls of their world,
Cry the unborn for bodies to clothe them.
In the Womb of the World, striving for birth,
Is the Man of To-morrow!

Merlin, thou hast no hate for Gorlois?

Hate have I for no man, but the fool!

A rumour is abroad that thou hast woven spells against him.

All knowledge is but empty magic to the fool.
Heed not this babble!
To thee, who knowest, Truth is but greater Mystery!

'Tis well, O Merlin,
I have ever trusted thee.

No hate have I for Gorlois,
Nor for Uther love.
'Tis only for the Future that I strive!
Thy son shall be both king and saviour to his people!
O fair Igraine, give all thy longing freedom,
And, by thy Love,
Chasten the King!
Burn from his soul the fleeting hopes and dreams of Passion,
So, by thy Love and Wisdom,
Our Britain shall be saved!

Will of the World.
Our Britain that in sorrow lingers yet ....

I go to the cave beneath thy chamber,
Nor come I thence
Till in the heavens 'tis written
That Arthur shall be born!

Will of the World.
O lovely mother-longing!
Deep within thy tender soul
The hero-child is trembling into life!
Cradled deep in mother-longing
Sleeps the unborn Hero ....

Arthur .... ! Arthur? .....

Then turneth Merlin ....
The splash and the surge of the sea
Sound out as he goeth in silence.

Will of the World.
Hither, O Uther, Passion's soul and Power's,
Unto Igraine, who waiteth for her hour
In mystery of midnight,
And mystery of Love!

The clash of mail and armèd clangour sounds,
Nearer .... with heavy tread ....
Igraine is filled with great foreboding
Like to thoughts in the mind of Mankind
Are the dooms of the power of darkness.
No power is hers, for the Will of the World,
Has gathered her soul in its bondage.
From out the moonlight to the shadow moving,
Behind the purple curtain,
To her secret chamber,
Igraine is gone.
Deep in the shadow .... slowly two warriors come.
The first a torch-bearer, in knightly armour,
Holding his flame that all in shadow lies ....
Behind, a man in all the pride of power ....
Very fearful in the lesser man,
The flame is all a-tremble .... near the door he shivers ....


Go, Ulfius!
With my lady would I speak!
Hast thou an ague, man?

No, sire .... but ....

Go, .... and warm thee!

Will of the World.
Yearning to break through the walls of their world
Cry the unborn for bodies to clothe them.

Ulfius sets down the torch, high flaming,
Near to the purple curtain of the chamber,
Wherein Igraine awaits the fateful word.
Alone and trembling stands the King,
The torchlight flaming,
As though its flame of Love
Would burn all bonds away.
Deep are the shadows of forgotten things,
Deep amid dead and dreaming kings
Is Gorlois gone.
The curtain parts again,
And in the flaming light,
'Mid shadows cast,
Igraine ....


Thou dost tremble,
Like to thy man ....
Hast thou an ague?

Her smile like moonlight to his flame of Love ....



His word, like some far cry of passion, comes ....


Speak on! O speak .... !
What would'st thou?

Thee .... !

Speak yet again .... !
For many words must I now have with thee.

First at the banquet did I love thee.
Thou, and the wine and torches burned in golden blaze!

Nay, Uther, 'twas thyself thou loved'st!
For me .... but full of longing.

How know'st thou?

I know, and yet I care not.
As thou art King did'st thou desire Igraine!
As I am a woman, long I for my son .... !
And, in that longing,
All my soul is molten passion,
And my body fevered pain.
For my child shall have a hero for his father,
A mighty arm, a kingly will,
Of wisdom and of Woman unafraid!

Before Love's curtain they stand,
Beneath Love's light,
Passion, the King of the Land!
The Queen of the Night
Shines in Igraine,
Her beauty as white
As the candles that flame on an altar bedight,
For the bridal of King and of Queen.


Hungerest thou?

Aye, for thy lips and for thy breast, I hunger!

Thirsteth thou, O King?

For thine arms and for thy kisses,
As thirst the deer, when heated chase is done!

Within his arms
King Uther holds his loved one,
The white Igraine,
The faery Queen of Cornwall!


And thou, Igraine?

I thirst as doth the dry and parchèd ground,
When rumours of rain come with the rush of winds.

Deep are the shadows and the silences,
Deep as Merlin's heart, whence sprang the dream.

I could linger with thine arms about me
Till all the stars should die.
Till all the heavenly host should melt away,
Like candles on an altar .... !

And I, Igraine, thy waist would clasp,
Till mine eyes
Failed with looking on thy whiteness!
I would swoon within these arms till time should cease ... !

Time is no more with its throb,
In the light of the day,
The Ages are yearning to life,
And the sob of the sea,
Like the surge of their pulses is beating,
In the life that shall be.
His arms around her close ....
High flames the torch ....

Will of the World.

Go, unruly torch, for Britain shalt thou burn,
And, in thy stead, shall come a light to Britain!

Her head is droop'd .... upon his shoulder leaning,
The white Igraine, the faery Queen of Cornwall!
Uther parts the purple curtain,
And with her
Within the secret chamber of Igraine is come.
The curtain falls ....

Will of the World.

O starlit night, brood on!
O kindling flame of life, thine hour is here!
For Britain lies in darkness.
Love's fire and flame shall kindle
To-morrow's race of men!
The soul of the Hero alone shall save you,
He only smites the golden Dragon down!
He only into the Light shall lead you,
To show you Life,
And bring you to the Dawn!

And if in lands unseen, I waken,
And thou art from me gone,
Again mine eyes shall close .... !

Deep are the shadows and the silences,
Deep as Merlin's heart,
Whence sprang the Dream!
Casting aside his cloak,
The Mage with Ulfius cometh.


Ho, Ulfius, dost thou hear?

Like as the dry and parchèd ground ....
She .... thirsts for Uther ....
The earth is full of evil.
What of Gorlois?


Will not .... some ill befall?

Tush! Thou art afeard to walk,
Lest into some imagined pit thou shouldest fall.

Walk we not in sin?

Sin is the fear of the soul, walking in darkness.
Sin is the death of the soul, that knoweth not love.

Like as the dry and parchèd ground.
The world a Hero waits.


And from this ground shall spring
The noblest sapling by Britain grown!
From Earth he springs,
But he shall tower to Heaven!
For earthly passions
Are but as pods for heavenly seed and harvest!
A spell I've woven, with the warp and woof of Fate,
That she may match the frenzy of the King,
Whose hero-blood goes swirling through his veins!
And till the wailing harps proclaim
That Uther unto Vortigern is gone,
Shall white Igraine be filled with Love.

And is the potion of thy mixing, Merlin?

Nay, it is the wine within their veins,
By the Power behind the veil of darkness mingled!
Look through yon window!
Lo, the vault of heaven,
Where, in the hand of God,
All Fate is written.

Will of the World.
O starlit night, brood on!
O kindling flame of life, thine hour is here!

The splash of the sea on the rocks of the headland
Fainter is grown, and the storm is gone by!
But the waves are grown fresh, with the joy of their surge,
The air is grown keen with the salt of their spray!


See'st thou not a point of lurid fire,
Which o'er the sea is set?

I see, O Merlin,
If but at the spell of thy deep art.

With arm on high,
With eyes in glory flaming,
The voice of Merlin grows,
Like to the battle-cry of kings,
As the prophetic Voice that sings aloud
The Will of God in Man!


Lurid grows the Star of Arthur, there .... !

Arthur .... dost thou say?

Sound loud the trumpet note of flame,
Exultant in the glory of his name,
His, who shall be?


Arthur, of Britain, king and lord!
He, with a glorious rule, shall sway the people,
And to his knights shall Mystery be revealed!
But, as in Man there dwell two seeds,
The one of Death,
The other Life,
So shall he die ....
His glorious knigdom shall have end!

The Hand of God is come upon him!
In trancèd ecstacy he sways,
His soul between the Seen and Unseen trembles,
In spheral power his voice is raised!


Then shall the Seven Curses come upon the kingdom!
A curse upon the land,
Where the proud man shall herd his wild deer,
And the poor man have no field to give him bread!

Forth from the Unseen is it spoken,
And it shall burn within the soul of the free!

A curse shall come upon the eyes that they see no beauty,
Upon the lips that they sing no praise!

Truth from the Godhead hath been sounded,
And it shall blaze before the vision of the free!


A curse upon the body that its glory become unclean,
That the lust of the sun
Be as shame in the darkness!

Uther and his loved one hurl defiance
To an age that is sunken in the dust!


A curse upon those who are wedded and love not,
And a curse upon a people,
Come tired from the womb!

Hear, O ye people, in your weakness,
And ye shall live again the Life of the Strong!


When these curses are come upon the people,
Let them cry aloud
For the second coming of the King!

All hail, red star! And royal herald, hail!

Arthur, king unborn,
Thus shalt thou rule:
Thy law shall be
To pluck the Flowers of Freedom!
Wield the passion of Uther,
And the calm thought of Igraine!
Free thy people
From the Dragon of fear
And the black brand of shame!
And then, perchance, once again the Grail may come among us;
Once again a Light may come from Heaven;
And, in the pure flame of Eternal Love,
Burn all our shame and sin away!

So far can Merlin go.
My spell is woven.
The bar of my power is here,
And all my deeds
Lie drifting on the deep!
The Mage's sun is set,
But when the wailing harps proclaim
That Uther unto Vortigern is gone,
That he, with fathers dead, doth lie,
The flower of all our sowing riseth!
So, to the Power behind the Veil of Darkness,
Where all my might and magic naught avail me,
To Thee I trust great Uther,
Fair Igraine,
And yon red Star .... !

Will of the World.
O starlit Night, brood on!
O kindling flame of Life,
Thine hour is here.
Love and the Night of Stars,
And the surge of the sea,
Sing the song of the spheres!

The world on the bosom of Night
Leans full of yearning and dreams;
The red flowers of sleep,
And the fire of stars,
And the breathing of Love,
Are as one.

Languid as love that is spent,
We lie in the darkness;
But now cometh longing
And new love to save us!
Fire of the waters that gleam in the moonlight!

Thine is the glory, O Love!

Fire of the starshine, at promise of Dawn!

Flame in the heavens above.

Like the sea in its raging strength
Is passion at midnight;

The billows are leaping,
Anger high,

With the tossing of spray

Spitting scorn at the moon's pale flame.
Now cometh longing and red fire to save us,

At the dawning of Day!

Leap high, O billows!
Spit scorn, O spray!
Rise on your passion,
And all the world,
In fiery glow
Shall burn its shame away!

At Dawn of the Hero
The world is newly wed;
And her lover lies upon her breast.
Come, O sky, and wrap around us,
Let thy stars grow pale and die;
Come, O sun, and flood our bodies
With thine awful purity.
No longer now
Shall passion hide in shame,
For our souls are glowing
With the promise of the day.

O Lake of Wonder,
Roll your mists away;
And in the shadow of thy waters clear,
Reveal the mystery of Life and Love!                   *      *      *      *      *      *      *

A Far Vision.

Behold there lie jewels in the Lake of Wonder!
All the youth of the world may bathe there;
And they who have bathed therein
Take thence a jewel;
Twain and twain quit they the waters,
And hasten to the woods of love.



The following prefatory remarks appeared in the issue of this work in 1914, and are now inserted without alteration, although in some points the matter, through the lapse of time, has naturally become out of date.



When "Music Drama of the Future" was published nearly three years ago it seemed unlikely that the ideal of a Temple Theatre, as we called it, could be realised in our time.

As I write this preface to a popular re-issue of the text of "The Birth of Arthur," arrangements are well in hand for the erection of a temporary building, adequate to its purpose, and the establishment of a Glastonbury Festival, at the town associated with the life and death of the hero. The foundation stone is to be laid this year.

Further, the scheme has received the recognition and open good wishes of Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Frederick Pollock, Sir Henry J. Wood, Granville Bantock, W.L. Courtney, Bernard Shaw and St. Loe Strachey, to mention only a few persons representative of different phases of life, while the names of Lena Ashwell and Lillah McCarthy emphasise the fact that it tends to no narrow hero-worship, but that Woman too shall have her part in this drama of Motherhood and Manhood.

The music of my collaborator, Rutland Boughton, is considered by Sir Edward Elgar to be "worthy of the great subject that you have chosen." Of the poem itself you can judge, remembering that only by performance can it become truly alive.

The artists who have shown themselves willing to appear include Frederic Austin, Francis Harford and Mrs. Tobias Matthay, while the problem of the chorus has been solved in a manner that should guarantee efficiency.

Meanwhile the musical part of the work has not been neglected. As long ago as 1909 an orchestral excerpt was played at a Leeds symphony concert under Mr. Fricker's direction.

Mr. Thomas Beecham's orchestra gave an excerpt from the second act at Birmingham last year, and a very generous offer of assistance from him is one of the pillars upon which the coming Glastonbury Festival rests.

In August (1913), at Bournemouth, Mr. Boughton, with the kind help of Mr. Dan Godfrey and his band, organised a scenic production of excerpts. This, largely owing to his use of "human staging," caused widespread notice, for which we thank the Press, which invariably shows interest when something is brought to pass in visible form.

At that juncture we gained the co-operation of Miss Margaret Morris, who is to be responsible for the Glastonbury production, jointly with the composer. This staging, together with the use of choral dance, is a success experimentally, and will be tried on a large scale for the first time. At Glastonbury itself the Mayor and a number of representative citizens have ensured the public nature of the scheme, and Miss Alice Buckton, author of "Eager Heart," has helped us.

We are not building for ourselves. The "Birth of Arthur" is to symbolise the birth of new hopes, new works and aims.

The Glastonbury Festival idea has been regarded in many quarters as a "British Bayreuth."

This is a convenient term, but not a correct one.

First, as regards our Arthurian cycle (four dramas, of which "The Birth of Arthur" is the first); it differs technically in several essentials from the "Ring": in staging; in choral treatment; and in poetic method.

Second, the people of the locality will find artistic scope in the productions.

Thirdly, the theatre will have quite a different kind of stage.

Here is the Word (or at least the "words").

At this season it would seem impious to doubt this hero birth for which the whole soul longs.


February 14, 1914.