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The Birth of Sir Galahad
Upon a day Sir Launcelot had met
King Pellas who was sure a cousin nigh
Unto Saint Joseph, born in Aramathea.
Unto Sir Launcelot was honour given
By Pellas; who invited this good Knight
To sup with him; and, in the banquet hall,
A table groaned with meat and fruits and wine.
And, as they dined, a portent, wonderful
And of great import, came before their eyes.
A snow white dove, in at the window flew
A golden censer bearing in her beak;
Which all the air made redolent with spice
As though all orient perfumes were combined.
The dove became a damsel, passing fair
And young; a dish of shining gold she bare,
Devoutly kneeled the King and said a prayer;
As also did all those assembled there.
Then Launcelot stood spell-bound in amaze.
Greatly he marvelled, and at length he said,--
"What meaneth this most mystic, marvellous
And lovely vision, sent from heaven to us!"
To him King Pellas,--"Aye, it comes from Heaven,
But, when the tongue of Rumour wafteth it
Abroad, the Table Round shall broken be."
King Pellas had a daughter passing fair;
And he desired that she to Launcelot
Should wedded be, not knowing that High God was urging him to this;
Because from her and Launcelot should spring
Sir Galahad, the best of Arthour's Knights,
Who should achieve the quest of the Sangrael
Which only they shall see whose lives are pure.
No bravery is such a virtue as the Graele may gain.
For Arthour never gained it--Launcelot
Could not achieve it. Only three there were:
Galahad, Bors, and Percival; of these
Their spotless souls had ne'er been flecked by sin.
Dame Brisen crafty was and full of guile:
Of Alchemy and of Astronomy
She secrets learned: could read men's destiny
Or cull love potions. She to Pellas said,--
"O noble King: my art shall find a way,
Whereby Sir Launcelot shall love Elaine--
Thinking the while she is Queen Guinevere.
There is a ring of gold, by Merlin made,
A little copy of the Table Round:
A Diamond is in the centre set
To be the sign and image of the Sun:
In circle round it are the Zodiac Signs."
Then Pellas answered, "What is thy design?"
"This is it," answered Brisen, "I will make
A ring so like the other, by my power,
That e'en the cunningest goldsmith could not tell
The one from other. This Elaine shall wear.
And I will mix a draught for Launcelot,
Distilled by herbs of love; and when he drinks
My potion, it shall creep into his brain
And alter so the courses of his mind
That he shall think Elaine is Guinever.
But should he have a doubt, the ring's the thing,
To change all doubts into a certainty."
That night, within a castle, guided well
By many Knights, as she a queen had been,
Elaine was led. Fairer than Guinever
Was she; for Guinever was growing old
To others; but Time's rasure could not mar,
In her true lover's eyes--Sir Launcelot--
The unstaled loveliness of Guinever.
Straight to the castle of Oase, Sir Launcelot
Rode. There he rested, and with worship great
The Knights received him, led him to a hall
Of banquet; where red wine they offered him,
In a fair chalice, all of burnished gold.
Then drank he of red wine, by Brisen's spell
Polluted. Then a drowsiness o'ercame him.
Straight was he borne to bed and there he saw
Queen Guinever--It surely must be she;
For on her finger was the very ring,
That Merlin made, by art of grammarie!
Sir Launcelot rejoiced, but fair Elaine
Rejoiced far more; because full well she knew
That of them should be born Sir Galahad.
Sir Launcelot arose at break of day,
The heavy curtains from the window moved;
And lines of light, wherein danced atomies,
Streamed in and played upon the fair Elaine.
All the Enchantment, from Sir Launcelot
Had vanished and his waking eyes could see
Upon the pillow, resting he could see
A maiden's face. She might a child have been--
She was so young. Yet he, not loving her,
In wrath outcried, "A traitress vile thou art;
And by my hand shalt die this very day!"
This said he, sword in hand. The Ladie Elaine
Kneeled down afore him,--"Couteous Knight and fair,
Of Royal blood, Mercy to me, I pray,
Extend: for mercy, as the dew of heaven,
Falleth alike on flowers and on weeds.
I am a weed. Uptear me by the roots
And trample me, beneath the iron heel
Of vengeance. I shall deserve it all.
I am Elaine, the daughter of King Pellas!
But for this cause, I pray thee, spare my life:
There shalt be born a son, to thee and me.
Of Knights the noblest our dear child shall be."
And Launcelot, a knight of courtesie
And gentleness, took pity on the maid,
Who was so fair and young. How could he slay
Her who to him had given all a maid
Doth hold most dear. Remembering love's joy
That late had been, he took her in his arms
And kissed her long and many times with love.
"In the fulfilment of a prophecy,"
She said, "Lo, I have given unto thee
The greatest riches and the fairest flower
That e'er I had, this is my maiden love.
And therefore, Noble Knight, give me good will."
And when her time had come, unto Elaine,
A child was born--She named him Galahad,
Because she knew Sir Launcelot was named
Thus, at a font of stone, by Nimue.
Sir Bors de Ganis, he of Launcelot
The nephew, brave as lions, pure as snow,
With Galahad and Percival was destined
The Holy Grail to witness and to taste
Wine from the Sacred Chalice. Only these,
Of all the Table Round, had purity
Which gift alone the sangrael could win.
Sir Bors came to Elaine, and with her saw
A child in samite clothëd; and the child
Might have been Christ for beauty and the mother
The Sacred Virgin, unto whom all men
Of Christian faith must humbly bend the knee.
Bors wept for joy, as on his knees prayed he;
And as he prayed, lo! through a window flew
A snow-white dove--bearing a censer of gold.
Then came a maiden in--though all the doors
Were closed. She, in her hands, the Sangrael bore.
Then was a table o'erlaid with goodly fare:
Red wine in crystal cups, and meat and fruit.
"Peace be to thee and thine," she said, "Sir Bors,
Go to the perilous siege, the siege of death!
But first the Sangrael Galahad shall achieve;
His father he excels in purity."
Then kneeled they down, while wafted on the air
Was incense of such savour, as the world
Had never known; and, when the dove took flight,
The maiden vanished, as the mists of morn--
Vanished before the rays of that red sun,
The source of life. Thus vanished and was gone
The maid--the cup of sacred wine remained.
Quoth Pallas, "This, Sir Bors, is marvellous:
A portent passing strange." They kneeled down,
The bread they broke and drank the sacred wine,
Kneeling before God's altar reverently.
But when the night her mantle had o'erspread
And all upon the earth had slumberëd,
A shaft of golden light most marvellous
Saw Bors, which shaped itself till it became
A spear that burned and yet was not consumed.
It smote him in the shoulder, this sharp spear,
So that he laid him down in pain. All this
Was but a dream. The Angel Gabriel
Had wounded him, as Christ once wounded was
By one of Herod's minions: by the wound
Came honour unto Bors, as unto Christ.