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King Arthur: Book 3 of 12

[Æglè] The Etrurians paid more respect to women than most of the classical nations, and admitted females to the throne. The Augur (a purely Etruscan name and office) was the highest power in the state. In the earlier Etruscan history the Augur and the king were unquestionably united in one person. Latterly, this does not appear to have been necessarily (nor perhaps generally) the case. The King (whether we call him lar or lucumo), as well as the Augur, was elected out of a certain tribe, or clan; but in the strange colony described in the poem, it is supposed that the rank has become hereditary in the family of the chief who headed it, as would probably have been the case even in more common-place settlements in another soil. Thus, the first Etrurian colonist, Tarclun, no doubt had his successors in his own lineage.
   I cannot assert that Æglè is a purely Etruscan name; it is one common both with the Greeks and Latins. In Apollodorus (ii. 5) it is given to one of the Hesperides, and in Virgil (Eclog. vi. 1. 20) to the fairest of the Naiads, the daughter of the Sun; but it is not contrary to the conformation of the Etruscan language, as, by the way, many of the most popular Latinized Etruscan words are, such as Lucumo, for Lauchme; and even Porsena, or, as Virgil (contrary to other authorities) spells and pronounces it, Porsenna (a name which has revived to fresh fame in Mr. Macaulay’s noble “Lays”) is a sad corruption; for, as both Niebuhr and Sir William Gell remark, the Etruscans had no o in their language. Pliny informs us that they supplied its place by the v. I apprehend that an Etrurian would have spelt Porsena Pvrsna. [Dryden, with an accurate delicacy of erudition for which one might scarcely give him credit, does not in his translation follow Virgil’s quantity Porsenna, but makes the word short, Porsena.]

ÆSARS, the name given collectively to the deities. Suel. Aug. 97. Dio. Cass. xxvi. p. 589.

ALFADER—Universal Father—a name given by the Teuton and Scandinavian nations to the supreme Deity, often applied to Odin, (and indeed, in the Prose Edda, never applied to any other god), but, according to some learned authorities, appertaining only, in strict mythological truth, to a more serene and supreme chief in the Northern Pantheon. It should here be remembered that the Saxons (though not yet converted to Christianity) are represented as having attained to a much greater degree of civilization than the wandering Aleman tribe, [The heathen priest and his wild troop are not represented as a fair specimen in that day, of the great Aleman family, but as a primitive and barbarous off-shoot from the main stem.] whose priest Arthur saves from the wolf: and so (somewhat too flatteringly) their superstition is supposed to have lost much of its elder and more sanguinary barbarism.

[Aphrodite] Hom[eric] Hymn.

[arch’d with moving steel] See in Plutarch (vit. Cæs.) and in Cæsar’s Commentaries (lib. iv.) the description of this renowned passage. Cæsar was the first Roman who ever crossed the Rhine as an enemy. To do so in vessels he deemed it not only unsafe, but unworthy of his own and the Roman dignity. Ten days were consumed in the construction of this bridge and the transport of his legions.

[bird] The hawk, or falcon, was also the usual companion of the Cymrian chiefs. But there may be a peculiar reason for the special favour it enjoyed with the Saxons. The hawk was sacred to Odin, or, as the Saxons (fond of the w) wrote the name, Woden, and almost inseparably borne by the high-born warriors of the nation by whom Odin was worshipped, whether Teutonic or Scandinavian. Those who have only glanced over the picturesque passages of our Saxon history will remember that the Bayeux tapestry represents Harold, the last Saxon king, with his faithful falcon on his wrist. Hounds were also invariable attendants of the Saxon chiefs, and I may here remark that the gre-hound of Wales and Saxon England could scarcely be the present greyhound, who tracks his quarry by the eye, not scent, since Ethelstan sent to North Wales [Malmsb. lib. ii. p. 60.] (famous for that description of dog) for such as had “scent-tracking noses,” to find the deer in there coverts. Whatever the precise species of the hunting dogs, so esteemed and promoted (which I have called “blood-hounds or ban-dogs,”) [Ban-dogs, more properly band-dogs, (a race not very satisfactorily defined in Johnson’s Dictionary,) were hounds trained to bait the boar and the bull. Camden (see Middlesex in his Britannia) says that “three of them could manage a bear.” The name is apparently derived from their being banded against their quarry. In later times they were much used as watch-dogs. The Saxon name for blood-hound was statth-hound.] they were capable of coping with the wolf and the wild boar, which then abounded in Great Britain.† The reader will notice that, though Harold unscrupulously uses his dogs to find his foe, he does not employ them to seize it—a delicate distinction which later Anglo-Saxons, in their colonial settlements, have not always observed.

[bright wanderer] Apollo.

Cære, one of the twelve cities in the Etrurian league (though not originally an Etrurian population), imparted to the Romans their sacred mysteries: hence the word Cæremonia. This holy city was in close connexion with Delphi. An interesting account of it, under its earlier name “Agylla,” will be found in Sir W. Gell’s “Topography of Rome and its vicinity.” The obscure passage in Plutarch’s Life of Sylla, which intimates that the Etrurian soothsayers had a forewarning of the declining fates of their country, is well known to scholars; who have made more of it that it deserves.
   The word lar is here used in its most reserved sense—that of “Lord.” It occurs too frequently in monumental inscriptions to designate any regal, or, perhaps, any lofty title; but those antiquaries who have proceeded to strip its signification of any rank at all (see Micali, v. ii. c. xxi. page 70, note), and consider it merely a prenomen, argue on very insufficient grounds; they presume too much on the frequency of the word in inscriptions—a good argument against its identification with princely rank, none against its identification with noble. It would rarely happen that any not noble would have had mortuary inscriptions at all. I may as well observe here that the adjective larian would be derived from the lar, or household god; the adjective lartian, from the lars, or lord: But for the sake of euphony, the word lar (as applied to a chief) has been used in this poem instead of lars.

[The Choosers of the Slain] The Valkyas (in Saxon, Valcyrge, Valcyrian), the Choosers of the Slain, who ride before the battle, and select its victims; to whom, afterwards, (softening their character) they administer in Walhalla.

[Etrurian's language] The Etrurian language perished between the age of Augustus and that of Julian. —LEITCH’S Muller on Ancient Art.

[forms of dark yet lustrous loveliness] Whatever the original cradle of the mysterious Etrurians, scholars, with one or two illustrious exceptions, are pretty well agreed that it must have been somewhere in the East; and the more familiar we become with the remains of their art, the stronger appears the evidence of their early and intimate connexion with the Ægyptians, though in themselves a race decidedly not Ægyptian. See Micali, Stor. deg. Antich. Pop. But in referring to this delightful and learned writer, to whom I am under many obligations, in this part of my poem, I must own, with such frankness as respect for so great an authority will permit, that I think many of his assumptions are to be taken with great qualification and reserve.

[Golden Hall] Walhalla.

[hath made a host] Id est—“Have made him a match for a host”—the line is imitated from an old Saxon poem.

HISTER, the Etruscan minstrel.—CAMSEE, CAMESE, or CAMÆSE, the mythological sister of Janus (a national deity of the Etrurians) whose are of song is supposed to identify her with the Camœna of music of the latin poets—ARRETIUM celebrated for the material of the Etruscan vases.)

[knights] It need scarcely be observed, that the title of knight, [Even the word Earl, though not unknown to the earlier Anglo-Saxons, was employed by them in a different sense from that which it afterwards borrowed from the Danish jarl. At first, it meant merely a person of noble race, of Earl kind,— but the Danes applied it originally to a leader; it then became the name given to the rulers of the provinces under the king, and at length wholly supplanted the old English title of Alderman, as applied to such high dignitaries.” See Palgrave’s History of England, p. 267 and Palgrave’s Commonwealth, part I. c. iii. p. 118.] as it is now understood, is very incorrectly given to the followers of the Heathen Harold (or, indeed, in an age so early, to the Christian Arthur himself.) It may be remarked, however, that when Harold speaks in his own person, he does not lay claim to the title. Nor were heralds (so freely introduced in the poem) yet known. They do not appear in England, under that name at least, till the reign of Edward III. But those accustomed to the delightful anachronisms of a similar kind, both in the romantic lays and the heroic poems of chivalry, will require no apology for what, while most departing from the costume of Arthur’s historical day, does in truth adhere strictly to the manners of the time in which Arthur took his poetical existence, and was re-created by knightly minstrels as the type of knighthood.
   I assume, throughout the poem, that Arthur understands the language of the Saxons, and that any conversation between them is carried on in that tongue. For the evidence that a dialect closely allied to the Anglo-Saxon was spoken in Britain long before the invasion of Hengist, see Palgrave’s English Commonwealth (vol. i. c. i. p. 27), a work that combines English discretion with German learning. I assume, also, that Arthur, as sovereign over tributary kings in Gaul, and as intimately allied with Teutonic and Scandinavian potentates, is acquainted with the chief dialects of the north, and is thus enabled to communicate with the idolatrous Aleman priest, and other Northern personages, whom the progress of the story may introduce.

Mantu, or Mandu, the Etrurian God of the Shades. Fane is a purely Etruscan word.

Naith, the Egyptian goddess.

NAPÆÆ, the most bashful of all the rural nymphs; their rare apparition was supposed to produce delirium in the beholder.

[robe with broidered palm-leaves] The purple gown, or toga, broidered with palm-leaves and stars, is supposed to have been the distinguishing robe of the princely families. It was semicircular, as Micali observes in a note vol. i. 97.

[Saxon Thane] HAROLD is called both Earl and Thane; in fact, though the names imply different degrees of rank; an Earl was a Thane (thegn) though a Thane was not necessarily an Earl. The word “Thane,” appears applied by Saxon poets indiscriminately to those possessed of superior dignity.  Thus, Cædmon calls the angels Thanes
                              “The glory-fast Thegns
                                Praised the King.”
                               SHARON TURNER’S Translation from Cædmon, Ang. Saxons, vol. i. p. 386;
and in the two MSS. Of Layamon’s Brut, (copies of which Sir F. Madden has annexed to a translation that, for the first time, makes the public acquainted with a poem that has much higher claims to our admiration than mere antiquity,) knight and Thane seem to have borne much the same general signification, knight (or cniht) in the one being often Thegn in the other. [These thanes were also known as knights.” (PALGRAVE’S Commonwealth, part i. p. 578); this, however, refers to a later period than that of Arthur: originally cniht meant a youth, and is used in that sense by Cædmon. See Sharon Turner’s Anglo-Saxons, vol. iii. p. 126.]

SKULDA, the Norna, or Destiny of the Future.

[Tagetian] TAGES—the tutelary genius of the Etrurians. They had a noble legend that Tages appeared to Tarchun, rising from a furrow beneath his plough, with a man’s head and a child’s body; sung the laws destined to regulate the Etrurian colonist, then sunk, and expired. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses (xvi. 533) Tages is said to have first taught the Etrurians to foresee the future.

The Etrurians had talismans against the evil eye, which were impregnated with spices. The vervain was as holy with the Etrurians as with our Druid ancestors.  A crown of vervain was, on solemn occasions, worn by the Augur.

[tenth] Ten was a sacred number of the Etrurians, so also was twelve.

Tina was the Jove of the Etrurians. The mode in which this people (whose mysterious civilization so tasks our fancy and so escapes from our researches) appropriated a colony is briefly described in the text. The Augur made lines in the air due north, south, east, and west, marked where the lines crossed upon the earth; then he and the chiefs associated with him sat down, covered their heads, and waited some approving omen from the gods.  The Etrurian Augurs were celebrated for their power over the electric fluid. The vulture was a popular bird of omen in the founding of colonies. See Niebuhr, Muller, &c.
Arthur still sleeps—The sounds that break his rest—The war between the beast and the man—How ended—The Christian foe and the heathen—The narrative returns to the Saxons in pursuit of Arthur—Their chase is stayed by the caverns described in the preceding book, the tides having now advanced up the gorge through which Arthur passed, and blocked that pathway—the hunt is resumed at dawn—the tides have receded from the gorge—One of the hounds finds scent—The riders are on the track—Harold heads the pursuit—The beech tree—The man by the water-spring—The wood is left—The knight on the brow of the hill—Parley between the earl and the knight—The encounter—Harold’s address to his men, and his foe—His foe’s reply—the dove and the falcon—The unexpected succor—And conclusion of the fray—The  narrative passes on to the description of the Happy Valley—In which the dwellers await the coming of a stranger—History of the Happy Valley—A colony founded by Etrurians from Fiesole, forwarned of the destined growth of the Roman dominion—Its strange seclusion and safety from the changes of the ancient world—The law that forbade the daughters of the Lartian or ruling family to marry into other clans—Only one daughter (the queen) is left now, and the male line in the whole Lartian clan is extinct—The contrivance of the Augur for the continuance of the royal house, sanctioned by two former precedents—A stranger is to be lured into the valley—The simple dwellers therein to be deceived into believing him a god—He is to be married to the queen, and then, on the birth of a son, to vanish again amongst the gods, (i.e. to be secretly made away with)—Two temples at the opposite ends of the valley give the only gates to the place—By the first, dedicated to Tina, (the Etrurian Jove,) the stranger is to be admitted—In the second, dedicated to Mantu, (the god of the shades,) he is destined to vanish—Such a stranger is now expected in the happy valley—He emerges, led by the Augur, from the temple of Tina—Æglè, the queen, described—Her stranger-bridegroom is led to her bower.
We raise the curtain where the unconscious King
  Beneath the beech his fearless couch had made;
Here the fierce fangs prepared their deadly spring;
  There, in the hand of Murther gleamed the blade;
And not a sound to warn him from above;
Where still unsleeping, watch’d the guardian dove!
Hark, a dull crash!—a howling, ravenous yell!
  Opening fell symphony of ghastly sound,
Jarring yet blent, as if the dismal hell
  Sent its strange anguish from the rent profound:
Through all its scale the horrible discord ran,
Now mock’d the beast, now took the groan of man;
Wrath, and the grind of gnashing teeth; the growl
  Of famine routed from its red respast;
Sharp shrilling pain; and fury from some soul
  That fronts despair, and wrestles to the last.
Sprang to his feet the King;—the feeble ray
Through the still leaves just wins its glimmering way,
And lo, before him, close, yet wanly faint,
  Forms that seem shadows, strife that seems the sport
Of things that oft some holy hermit saint
  Lone in Egyptian plains—the dread resort
Of Nile’s dethroned demon gods—hath viewed;
The grisly tempters, born of Solitude:—
Coiled in the strong death-grapple, through the dim
  And haggard air, before the Cymrian lay
Writhing and interlaced, with fang and limb,
  As if one shape, what seemed a beast of prey
And the grand form of Man!—The bird of Heaven
Wisely no note to warn the sleep had given;
The sleep protected;—as the murther sprang
  So sprang the wolf,—before the dreamer’s breast
Death death encountered; murther found the fang,
  The wolf the steel;—so, starting from his rest
The saved man woke to save! Nor time was here
For pause or caution; for the sword or spear;
Clasp’d round the wolf, swift arms of iron draw
  From their fierce hold the buried fangs;—on high
Up-borne, the baffled terrors of its jaw
  Gnash vain;—one yell howls, hollow, through the sky,
And dies abruptly, stifled to a gasp,
As pants the wild-beast in its conqueror's grasp.
Fit for a nation’s bulwark, that strong breast
  To which the strong arms lock the powerless foe,
Till its limbs stir not,—till its gasp hath ceast;
  And lifeless down the dull weight drops below.
And kindred form, which now the King surveys,
Those arms, all gentle as a woman’s, raise.
The pale cheek pillow’d on the pitying heart,
  He wipes the blood from face, and breast, and limb,
And joyful sees (for no humaner art
  Which Christian knighthood knows, unknown to him)
That the fell fangs the nobler parts forbore,
And, thanks, sweet Virgin!—life returns once more.
Stared round the savage man: from dizzy eyes
  Toss’d the wild shaggy hair; and to his knee,—
His reeling feet—ap stagger’d—Lo, where lies
  The dead wild beast!—lo, in his saviour, see
The fellow-man, whom;—with a feeble bound
He leapt, and snatch’d the dagger from the ground;
And faithful to his gods, he sprang to slay;  [blade;
  The weak limb fail’d him; gleam’d and dropp’d the
The arm hung nerveless;—by the beast of prey
  Murder, still baffled, fell;—Then soothing, said
The gentle King—“Behold no foe in me!”
And knelt by Hate like pitying Charity.
In suffering man he could not find a foe,
  And the mild hand clasp’d that which yearn’d to kill!
“Ha,” gasp’d the gazing savage, “dost thou know
  That I had doom’d thee in thy sleep?—that still
My soul would doom thee, could my hand obey?—
Wake thou, stern goddess—seize thyself the prey!”
“Serv’st thou a goddess,” said the wondering King,
  “Whose rites ask innocent blood?—O brother, learn
In heaven, in earth, in each created thing,
  One God, whom all call ‘FATHER,’ to discern!”
“Can thy God suffer thy God’s foe to live?”—
“God once had foes, and said to man, ‘forgive!’”
Answered the Cymrian!  Dream-like the mild words
  Fell on the ear, as sense again gave way
To swooning sleep; which woke but with the birds
  In the cold clearness of the dawning day.—
Strung by that sleep, the savage scowl’d around;
Why droops his head?  Kind hands his wounds have bound!
Lonely he stood, and miss’d that tender foe;
  The wolf’s glazed eye-ball mutely met his own;
Beyond, the pine-brand sent its sullen glow,
  Circling blood-red the awful altar stone;
Blood-red, as sinks the sun, from the land afar,
Ere tempests wreck the Amalfian mariner;
Or as, when Mars sits in the House of Death
  For doom’d Aleppo, on the hopeless Moor
Glares the fierce orb from skies without a breath,
  While chalk’d signal on the abhorred door
Tells that the Pestilence is come!—The pine
Unheeded wastes upon the hideous shrine;
The priest returns not;—from its giant throne,
  The idol calls in vain:—its realm is o’er;
The Dire Religion flies the altar-stone
  For love has breath’d on what was hate before.
Lured by man's heart, but man's kind deeds subdued,
Him who had pardoned, he who wronged pursued.
Meanwhile speeds on the Saxon chase, behind;—
  Baffled at first, and doubling to and fro
At last the war dogs snort the fatal wind,
  Burst on the scent which gathers as they go;
Day wanes, night comes; the star succeeds the sun,
To light the hunt until the quarry’s won.
At the first gray of dawn, they halt before
  The fretted arches of the giant caves;
For here the tides rush full upon the shore.
  The failing scent is snatch’d amidst the waves,—
Waves block the entrance of the gorge unseen;
And roar, hoarse-surging, up the pent ravine.
And worn, and spent, and panting, flag the steeds,
  With mail and man bow’d down; nor meet to breast
The hell of waters, whence no pathway leads,
  And which no plummet sounds;—Reluctant rest
Checks the pursuit, till sullenly and slow
Back, threatening still, the hosts of Ocean go,—
And the bright clouds that circled the fair sun
  Melt in the azure of the mellowing sky;
Then hark again the human hunt begun,
  The ringing hoof, the hunter’s cheering cry;
Round and around, by sand, and cave, and steep,
The doubtful ban-dogs, undulating, sweep:
At length, one windeth where the wave hath left
  The unguarded portals of the gorge, and there
Far-wandering halts; and from a rocky cleft
  Spreads his keen nostril to the whispering air;
Then, with trail’d ears, moves cowering o’er the ground
The deep bay booming breaks:—the scent is found.
Hound answers hound,—along the dank ravine
  Pours the fresh wave of spears and tossing plumes;
On—on; and now the idol-shrine obscene
  The dying pine-brand flickeringly illumes;
The dogs go glancing through the shafts of stone,
Trample the altar, hurtle round the throne;
Where the lone priest had watch’d, they pause awhile;
  Then forth, hard-breathing, down the gorge they swoop;
Soon the swart woods that close the far defile
  Gleam with the shimmer of the steel-clad troop;
Glinting thro’ leaves—now bright’ning thro’ the glade,
Now lost, dispersed amidst the matted shade.
Foremost rode Harold, on a matchless steed,
  Whose sire, from Afric coasts a sea-king bore,
And gave the Mercian, as his noblest meed,
  What time (then beardless) to Norwegian shore
Against a common foe, the Saxon Thane
Led three tall ships, and loosed them on the Dane:
Foremost he rode, and on his mailed breast
  Cranch’d the strong branches of the groaning oak.
Hark; with full peal, as suddenly supprest,
  Behind, the ban-dog’s choral joy-cry broke!
Led by the note, he turns him back, to reach,
Near the wood’s marge, a solitary beech.
Clear space spreads round it for a rood or more;
  Where o’er the space the feathering branches bend,
The dogs, wedg’d close, with jaws that drip with gore,
  Growl o’er the carcase of the wolf they rend
Shamed at their lord’s rebuke, they leave the feast—
Scent the fresh foot-track of the idol priest;
And, track by track, deep, deeper through the maze,
  Slowly they go—the watchful earl behind.
Here the soft earth a recent hoof betrays;
  And still a footstep near the hoof they find;—
So on, so on—the pathway spreads more large,
And daylight rushes on the forest marge.
The dogs bound emulous; but, snarling, shrink
  Back at the anger of the earl’s quick cry;—
Near a small water spring, had paused to drink
  A man half clad, who now, with kindling eye,
And lifted knife, roused by the hostile sounds,
Plants his firm foot, and fronts the glaring hounds.
“Fear not, rude stranger,” quoth the earl in scorn;
  “Not thee I seek; my dogs chase nobler prey.
Speak, thou hast seen (if wandering here since morn)
  A lonely horseman;—whither wends his way?”
“Track’st thou his steps in love or hate?”—“Why, so
As hawk its quarry, or as man his foe.”
“Thou dost not serve his God,” the heathen said;
  And sullen turn’d to quench his thirst again.
The fierce earl chafed, but longer not delay’d;
  For what he sought the earth itself made plain
In the clear hoof-prints; to the hounds he showed
The clue, and, cheering as they track’d, he rode.
But thrice, to guide his comrades from the maze,
  Rings through the echoing wood his lusty horn
Now o’er waste pastures where the wild bulls graze,
  Now labouring up slow-lengthening headlands borne,
The steadfast hounds outstrip the horseman’s flight,
And on the hill’s dim summit fade from sight.
But scarcely fade, before, though faint and far,
  Fierce wrathful yells the foe at bay reveal.
On spurs the Saxon, till, like some pale star,
  Gleams on the hill a lance—a helm of steel.
The brow is gained; a space of level land,
Bare to the sun—a grove at either hand;
And in the middle of the space a mound;
  And, on the mound a knight upon his barb.
No need for herald there his trump to sound!—
  No need for diadem and ermine garb!
Nature herself has crown’d that lion mien;
And in the man the king of men is seen.
Upon his helmet sits a snow-white dove,
  Its plumage blending with the plumed crest.
Below the mount, recoiling, circling move
  The ban-dogs, awed by the majestic rest
Of the great foe; and, yet with fangs that grin,
And eyes that redden, raves the madding din.
Stills stands the steed; still, shining in the sun,
  Sits on the steed the rider, statue-like:
One stately hand upon his haunch, while one
  Lifts the tall lance, disdainful even to strike;
Calm from the roar obscene looks forth his gaze,
Calms as the moon at which the watch-dog bays.
The Saxon rein’d his destrier on the brow
  Of the broad hill; and if his inmost heart
Ever confest to fear, fear touched it now;—
  Not that chill pang which strife and death impart
To meaner men, but such religious awe
As from brave souls a foe admired can draw:
Behind a quick and anxious glance he threw,
  And pleased beheld spur midway up the hill
His knights and squires; again his horn he blew,
  Then hush’d the hounds, and near’d the slope where still
The might of Arthur rested, as in cloud
Rests thunder; there his haughty crest he bowed,
And lowered his lance, and said—“Dread foe and lord,
  Pardon the Saxon Harold, nor disdain
To yield to warrior hand a kingly sword.
  Behold my numbers! to resist were vain,
And flight—” Said Arthur, “Saxon, is a word
From warrior lips a King should not have heard;
“And, sooth to say, when Cymri’s knights shall ride
  To chase a Saxon monarch from the plain,
More knightly sport shall Cymri’s king provide,
  And Cymrian tromps shall ring a nobler strain.
Warrior, forsooth! when first went warrior, say,
With hound and horn—God’s image for the prey?”
Gall’d to the quick, the firey earl erect
  Rose in his stirrups, shook his iron hand,
And cried—“ALFADER! but for the respect
  Arm’d numbers owe to one, my Saxon brand
Should—but why words? Ho, Mercia to the field!
Lance to the rest!—yield, scornful Cymrian, yield!”
For answer, Arthur closed his bassinet,
  Then down it broke, the thunder from that cloud!
And, even as thunder by thunder met,
  O’er his spurr’d steed broad-breasted Harold bow’d;
Swift through the air the rushing armour flash’d,
And in the shock commingling tempests clash’d!
The Cymrian’s lance smote on the Mercian’s breast,
  Thro’ the pierced shield, there, shivering in the hand.
The dove had stirr’d not on the Prince’s crest,
  And on his destrier bore him to the band,
Which, moving not, but in a steadfast ring,
With levell’d lances front the coming King.
His shivered lance thrown by, high o’er his head,
  Pluck’d from the selle, his battle-axe he shook—
Paused for an instant—breathed his foaming steed,
  And chose his pathway with one lightning look:
From the hill’s brow extending either side,
The Saxon troop the rearward woods denied;
These gain’d, their numbers less the strife avail.
  He paused, and every voice cried—“Yield, brave King!
Scarce died the word ere through the wall of steel
  Flashes the breach, and backward reels the ring,
Plumes shorn, shields cloven, man and horse o’erthrown,
As the armed meteor flames and rushes on.
Till then, the danger shared, upon his crest,
  Unmoved and calm, had sate the faithful dove,
Serene as, braved for some beloved breast
  All peril finds the gentle hero,—Love;
But rising now, towards the dexter side
Where stretch the woods, the prescient pinions guide.
Near the green marge the Cymrian checks the rein,
  And, even forgetful of the dove, wheels round,
To front the foe that follows up the plain:
  So when the lion, with a single bound,
Breaks through Numidian spears,—his den before
He halts, and roots dread feet that fly no more.
Their riven ranks reform’d, the Saxons move
  In curving crescent, close, compact, and slow
Behind the earl; who feels a hero’s love
  Fill his large heart for that great hero foe;
Murmuring “May Harold, thus confronting all,
Pass from the spear-storm to the Golden Hall
Then to his band—“If prophecy and sign
  Paling men’s cheeks, and read by wizard seers,
Had not declared that Woden’s threatened line,
  And the large birthright of the Saxon spears,
Were cross’d by SKULDA; in the baleful skein
Of him who dares "The Choosers of the Slain."
“If not forbid against his single arm
  Singly to try the even-sworded strife,
Since his new gods, or Merlin’s mighty charm,
  Hath made a host the were-geld of his life—
Not ours this shame!—here one, and there a field,
But men are waxen when the Fates are steel’d.
“Seize we our captive, so the gods command—
  But ye are men, let manhood guide the blow;
Spare life, or but with life-defending hand
  Strike—and Walhalla take that noble foe!
Sound trump, speed truce.”—Sedately from the rest
Rode out the earl, and Cymri thus addrest:—
"Our steels have cross’d: hate shivers on the shield;
  If the speech gall’d, the lance atones the word:
Yield, for thy valour wins the right to yield;
  Unstain’d the scutcheon, though resign’d the sword.
Grant us the grace, which chance (not arms) hath won:
Why strike the many who would save the one?"
“Fair foe, and courteous,” answered Arthur, moved
  By that chivalric speech, “too well the might
Of Mercia’s famous Harold have I proved,
  To deem it shame to yield as knight to knight;
But a king’s sword is by a nation given,
Who guards a people holds his post from heaven.
“This freedom which thou ask’st me to resign
  Than life is dearer; were it but to slow
That with my people thinks their King!—divine
  Through me all Cymri!—Streams shall cease to flow,
Yon sun to shine, before to Saxon strife
One Cymrian yields his freedom save with life.
“And so the saints assoil ye of my blood;
  Return;—the rest we leave unto our cause
And the just heavens;” All silent, Harold stood
  And his heart smote him. Now, amidst that pause,
Arthur look’d up, and in the calm above
Behold a falcon wheeling round the dove!
For thus it chanced; the bird which Harold bore
  (As was the Saxon wont whate’er his way,
Had, in the woodland, slipp’d the hood it wore,
  Unmark’d; and, when the bloodhounds bark’d at bay,
Lured by the sound, had risen on the wing,
Far o’er the fierce encounter hovering—
Till when the dove had left, to guide, her lord,
  It caught the white plume glancing where it went;
High in large circles to its height it soared,
  Swoop’d;—the light pinion foil’d the fierce descent;
The falcon rose rebounding to the prey;
And barred the refuge—fronting still the way.
In vain to Arthur seeks the dove to flee;
  Round her and round, with every sweep more near,
The swift destroyer circles rapidly,
  Fixing keen eyes that fascinate with fear,
A moment—and a shaft, than wing more fleet,
Hurls the pierced falcon at the Saxon’s feet.
Down, heavily it fell;—a moment stirr’d
  Its fluttering plumes, and roll’d its glazing eye;
But even before the breath forsook the bird,
  Even while the arrow whistled through the sky,
Rush’d from the grove that screen’d the marksman’s hand
With yell and whoop, a wild barbarian band—
Half clad, with hides of beast, and shields of horn,
  And huge clubs cloven from the knotty pine;
And spears like those by Thor’s great children borne,
  When Cæsar arch’d with moving steel the Rhine—
Countless they start, as if from every tree
Had sprung the uncouth defending diety;
They pass the King, low bending as they pass;
  Bear back the startled Harold on their way;
And roaring onward, mass succeeding mass,
  Snatch the hemm’d Saxons from the King’s survey.
On Arthur’s crest the dove refolds its wing;
On Arthur’s ear a voice comes murmuring:
“Man, have I served thy God?” and Arthur saw
  The priest beside him, leaning on his bow;
“Not till, in all, thou hast fulfill’d the law—
  Thou hast saved the friend—now, aid to shield the foe;”
And as a ship, cleaving the severed tides,
Right through the sea of spears the hero rides.
The wild troop part submissive as he goes;
  Where, like an islet in that stormy main,
Gleam’d Mercia’s steel; and like a rock arose,
  Breasting the breakers, the undaunted Thane;
He doff’d his helmet, look’d majestic round;
And dropp’d the murderous weapon on the ground;
And with a meek and brotherly embrace
  Twined round the Saxon’s neck the peaceful arm.
Strife stood arrested—the mild kingly face,
  The loving gesture, like a holy charm
Thrill’d thro’ the ranks: you might have heard a breath!
So did soft silence seem to bury Death.
On the fair locks, and on the noble brow,
  Fell the full splendor of the heavenly ray;
The dove, dislodged, flew up—and rested now,
  Poised in the tranquil and translucent day.
The calm wings seem’d to canopy the head;
And from each plume a parting glory spread
So leave we that still picture on the eye;
  And turn, reluctant, where the wand of Song
Points to the walls of Time’s long gallery:
  And the dim Beautiful of Eld—too long
Mouldering unheeded in these latter days,
Starts from the canvass, bright’ning as we gaze.
O lovely scene which smiles upon my view,
  As sure it smiled on sweet Albano’s dreams;
He to whom Amor gave the roseate hue
  And that harmonious colour-wand which seems
Pluck’d from the god’s own wing!—Arcades and bowers,
Mellifluous waters lapsing amidst flowers,
Or springing up, in multiform disport,
  From countless founts, delightedly at play;
As if the Naiad held her joyous court
  To greet the goddess whom the flowers obey;
And all her nymphs took varying shapes in glee,
Bell’d like the blossom—branching like the tree.
Adown the cedarn alleys glanced the wings
  Of all the painted populace of air,
Whatever lulls the noonday while it sings
  Or mocks the iris with its plumes,—is there—
Music and air so interfused and blent,
That music seems life’s breathing element.
And every alley’s stately vista closed
  With some fair statue, on whose gleaming base,
Beauty, not earth’s benignantly repose,
  As if the gods were native to the place;
And fair indeed the mortal forms, I ween,
Whose presence brings no discord to the scene!
O fair they are, if mortal forms they be!
  Mine eye the lovely error must beguile;
See I the Hours, when from the lulled Sea
  Come Aphrodite to the rose isle,
What time they left their orient halls above,
To greet on earth their best beguiler—Love?
Or are they Oreads from the Delphian steep
  Waiting their goddess of the silver bow?
Or shy Napææ startled from their sleep
  Where blue Cythærom guards sweet vales below,
Watching as home, from vanquish’d Ind afar,
Comes their loved Evian in the panther-car?
Why stream ye thus from yonder arching bowers?
  Whom wait, whom watch ye for, O lovely band?
With spears that, thyrus-like, glance, wreath’d with flowers
  And garland fetters, linking hand to hand,
And locks, from which drop blossoms on your way,
Like starry buds from the loose crown of May?
Behold how Alp on Alp shuts out the scene
  From all the ruder world that lies afar;
Deep, fathom-deep, the valley which they screen,
  Deep, as in chasms of cloud a happy star!
What pass admits the stranger to your land?
Whom wait, whom watch ye for, O lovely band?
Ages ago, what time the barbarous horde,
  From whose rough bosoms sprang Imperial Rome,
Drew the slow widening circle of the sword,
  Till kingdoms vanish’d in a robbers home,
A wise Etrurian Lar, forwarn’d (’t was said)
By his dark (Cære, from the danger fled:
He left the vines of fruitful Fiesole,
  Left, with his household gods and chosen clan,
Intent beyond the Ausonian bounds to flee,
  And Rome’s dark shadow on the world of man.
So came the exiles to the rocky wall
Which, centuries after, frown’d on Hannibal.
Here, it so chanced, that down the deep profound
  Of some huge Alp—a stray’d Etrurian fell;
The pious rites ordained to explore the ground,
  And give the ashes to the funeral cell;
Slowly they gained the gulf, to scare away
A vulture ravening on the mangled clay;
Smit by a javelin from the leader’s hand,
  The bird crept fluttering down a deep defile,
Through whose far end faint glimpses of a land,
  Sunn’d by a softer daylight, sent a smile;
This seen, the attendant seer, ordained the Lar
To take the glimmer for the guiding star.
What seem’d a gorge was but a vista’d cave,
  Long-drawn and hollow’d through the dædal stone;
Rude was the path, but as, beyond the grave,
  Elysium shines, the glorious landscape shone,
Broadening and brightening—till their wonder sees
Bloom through the Alps the lost Hesperides.
There, the sweet sunlight, from the heights debarr’d,
  Gathered its pomp to lavish on the vale;
A wealth of wild sweets glittered on the sward,
  Screen’d by the very snow-rocks from the gale;
Murmured clear waters, murmured joyous birds,
And o’er soft pastures roved the fearless herds.
His rod the Augur waves above the ground,
  And cries, “In Tina’s name I bless the soil.”
With veiled brows the exiles circle round;
  Along the rod propitious lightnings coil;
The gods approve: rejoicing hands combine,
Swift springs a sylvan city from the pine.
What charm yet fails them in the lovely place?
  Childhood’s gay laugh—and woman’s tender smile.
A chosen few the venturous steps retrace;
  Love lightens toil for those who rest the while;
And, ere the winter stills the sadden’d bird,
The sweeter music of glad homes is heard;
And with the objects of the dearer care,
  The parting gifts of the old soil are borne;
Soon Tusca’s grape hangs flushing in the air,
  Soon fields wave golden with the rippling corn;
Gleams on gray slopes the olive’s silvery tree,
In her lone Alpine child,—far Fiesole
Revives—reblooms, but under happier stars!
  Age rolls on age,—upon the antique world
Full many a storm hath graved its thunder scars;
  Tombs only speak the Etrurian’s language—hurl’d
To dust the shrines of Naith;—the serpents hiss
On Asia’s throne in lorn Persepolis; 
The seaweed rots upon the ports of Tyre;
  On Delphi’s steep the Pythian’s voice is dumb;
Sad Athens leans upon her broken lyre;
  From the doom’d east the Bethlem Star hath come;
But Rome an empire from an empire’s loss
Gains in the god Rome yielded to the Cross!
And here, as in a crypt, the miser, Time,
  Hoards, from all else, embedded in the stone,
One eldest treasure—fresh as when, sublime
  O’er gods and men, Jove thundered from his throne.
The garb, the arts, the creed, the tongue, the same
As when to Tarquin Cuma’s Sybil came.
The soil’s first fathers, with elaborate hands,
  Had closed the rocky portals of the place;
No egress opens to unhappier lands:
  As tree on tree so race succeeds to race,
From sleep the passions no temptations draw,
And strife bows childlike to the patriarch’s law;
Ambition was not; each soft lot was east;
  Gold had no use; with war expired renown;
From priest to priest mysterious reverence past;
  From king to king the mild Saturnian crown;
Like dews, the rest came harmless into birth;
Like dews exhaling—after gladdening earth.
Not wholly dead indeed, the love of praise—
  When can that warmth from heaven forsake the heart?
The Hister’s lyre still thrill’d with Camsee’s lays,
  Still urn and statue caught the Arretian art,
And hands, least skill’d, found leisure still to cull
Some flowers, in offering to the Beautiful.
Hence, the whole vale one garden of delight
  Hence every home a temple for the Grace;
Who worships Nature finds in Arts the rite;
  And Beauty grows the Genius of the Place.
Enough this record of the happy land;
Whom watch, whom wait ye for, O lovely band?
Listen awhile!—The strength of that soft state,
  The arch’s key-stones, are the priest and king;
To guard all power inviolate from debate,
  To curb all impulse, or direct its wing,
In antique forms to mould from childhood all;—
This guards more strongly than the Alpine wall.
The regal chief might wed as choice inclined,
  Not so the daughters sprung from his embrace,
Law, strong as caste, their nuptial rite confined
  To the pure circle of the Lartian race;
Hence with more awe the kingly house was viewed,
Hence nipp’d ambition bore no rival feud.
But now, as on some eldest oak, decay
  In the proud topmost boughs is serely shown;
While life yet shoots from every humbler spray—
  So, of the royal tribe, one branch alone
Remains; and all the honours of the race
Lend their last bloom to smile in Æglè’s face.
The great arch-priest (to whom the laws assign
  The charge of this sweet blossom from the bud),
Consults the annals archived in the shrine,
  And, twice before, when fail’d the Lartian blood,
 And no male heir was found, the guiding page
Records the expedient of the elder age.
Rather than yield to rival tribes the hope
  That wakes aspiring thought and tempts to strife,
And (lowering awful reverence) rashly ope
  The pales that mark the set degrees of life,
The priest (to whom the secret only known)
Unlock’d the artful portals of the stone;
And watch’d and lured some wanderer, o’er the steep,
  Into the vale, return for ever o’er;
The gate, like Death’s, reclosed upon the keep—
  Earth left its ghost upon the Elysian shore.
And what more envied lot could earth provide—
The Hesperian gardens and the royal bride?
A priestly tale the simple flock deceived:
  The gods had care of their Tagetian child!
The nuptial garland for a god they weaved;
  A god himself upon the maid had smiled;
A god himself renewed the race divine,
And gave new monarchs to the Lartian line.
Yet short, alas, the incense of delight
  That lull’d the new-found Ammon of the Hour;
Like love’s own star, upon the verge of night,
  Trembled the torch that lit the bridal bower;
Soon as a son was born—his mission o’er—
The stranger vanish’d to his gods once more.
Two temples closed the boundaries of the place,
  One (vow’d to Tina) in its walls conceal’d
The granite-portals, by the former race
  So deftly fashion’d,—not a chink reveal’d
Where (twice unbarr’d in all the ages flown)
The stony donjon mask’d the door of stone.
The fane of Mantu form’d the opposing bound
  Of the long valley; where the surplus wave
Of the main stream a gloomy outlet found,
  Split on sharp rocks beneath a night of cave,
And there, in torrents, down some lost ravine
Where Alps took root—fell heard but never seen.
Right o’er this cave the Death-Power’s temple rose;
  The cave’s dark vault was curtain’ by the shrine;
Here by the priest (the sacred scrolls depose)
  Was led the bridegroom when renewed the line;
At night, that shrine his steps unprescient trod—
And morning came, and earth had lost her god!
Nine days had now the Augur to the flock
  Announced the coming of the heavenly spouse;
Nine days his steps had wandered through the rock,
  And his eye watched through unfamiliar boughs,
And not a foot-fall in those rugged ways!
  The lone Alps wearied on his lonely gaze—
But now this day (the tenth) the signal torch
  Streams from the temple; the mysterious swell
Of long-drawn music peals from aisle to porch:—
  He leaves the bright hall where the Æsars dwell,
He comes, o’er flowers and fountains to preside,
He comes, the god-spouse to the mortal bride—
He comes, for whom ye watch’d, O lovely band,
  Scatter your flowers before his welcome feet!
Lo, where the temple’s holy gates expand,
  Haste, O ye nymphs, the bright’ning steps to meet!
Why start ye back?—What though the blaze of steel
The form of  Mars, the expanding gates reveal—
The face, no helmet crowns with war, displays
  Not that fierce god from whom Etruria fled;
Cull from far softer legends while ye gaze,
  Not there the aspect mortal maid should dread!
Have ye no songs from kindred Castaly
Of that bright wanderer from the Olympian sky,
When in Arcadian dells his silver lute
  Hush’d in delight the nymph and breathless fawn?
Or are your cold Etrurian minstrels mute
  Of him whom Syria worshipp’d as the Dawn
And Greece as fair Adonis?  Hail, O hail!
Scatter your flowers, and welcome to the vale!
Wondering the stranger moves!  That fairy land,
  Those forms of dark yet lustrous loveliness,
That solemn seer, who leads him by the hand;
  The tongue unknown, the joy he cannot guess,
Blend in one marvel every sound and sight;
And in the strangeness doubles the delight.
Young Æglè sits within her palace bower,
  She hears the cymbals clashing from afar—
So Ormuzd’s music welcomed in the hour
  When the sun hastened to his morning-star.
Smile, Star of Morn—he cometh from above!
And twilight melteth round the steps of Love.
Save the gray Augur (since the unconscious child
  Sprang to the last kiss of her dying sire)
Those eyes by man’s rude presence undefiled,
  Had deepened into woman’s.  As a lyre
Hung on unwitnessed boughs, amidst the shade,
And but to air her soul its music made.
Fair was her prison, walled with woven flowers,
  In a soft isle embraced by softest waters,
Linnet and lark the sentries to the towers,
  And for the guard Etruria’s infant daughters;
But stronger far than wall, the antique law,
And more than hosts, religion’s shadowy awe.
Thus lone, thus reverenced, the young virgin grew
  Into the age, when on the heart’s calm wave
The light winds tremble, and emotions new
  Steal to the peace departing childhood gave;
When for the vague Beyond the captive pines,
And the soul misses—what it scarce divines.
Lo where she sits—(and blossoms arch the dome)
  Girt by young handmaids!—Near and nearer swelling
The cymbals sound before the steps that come
  O’er rose and hayacinth to the bridal dwelling;
And clear and loud the summer air along
From virgin voices floats the choral song.
Lo where the sacred talismans diffuse
  Their fragrant charms against the Evil Powers;
Lo where young hands the consecrated dews
  From cusped vervain sprinkle round the flowers,
And o’er the robe with broidered palm-leaves sown,
That decks the daughter of the peaceful throne!
Lo, on those locks of night the myrtle crown!
  Lo where the heart beats quick beneath the veil;
Lo where the lids, cast tremulously down,
  Cloud stars which Eros as his own might hail;
Oh lovelier than Endymion’s loveliest dream,
Joy to the heart on which those eyes shall beam!
The bark comes bounding to the islet shore,
  The trelliced gates fly back; the footsteps fall
Through jasmine galleries on the threshold floor;
  And in the Heart-Enchainer’s golden thrall,
There, spell-bound halt;—So, first since youth began
Here eyes meet youth in the charm’d eyes of man!
And there Art’s two opposed Ideals rest;
  There the twin flowers of the old world bloom forth:
The classic symbol of the gentle West,
  And the bold type of the chivalric North.
What trial waits thee, Cymrian, sharper here
Than the wolf’s death-fang or the Saxon’s spear?
But would ye learn how he we left afar,
  Girt by the stormy people of the wild,
Came to the confines of the Hesperus Star,
  And the soft gardens of the Etrurian child?
Would ye yet lingering in the wondrous vale,
Learn what time spares if sorrow can assail?
What there, forgetful of the vanish’d dove,
  (Lost at those portals) did the King befall;
Pause till the hand has tuned the harp to love,
  And notes that bring young listeners to the hall;
And he whose sires in Cymri reign’d, shall sing
How Tusca’s daughter loved the Cymrian King.