Back to top

King Arthur: Book 7 of 12

[Father of the Tudor] It is needless to say that in Henry VII. the direct line of the British kings, through their most renowned heroes, is restored to the throne of England. It is here symbolically intimated, that the date in which the Father-race of the Land thus regains the Sovereign rights, is also (whatever the mere personal faults of the Tudor kings) the date destined for the first recognition of rights more important;—the dawn of a new era for the liberties of men.

[King—three lions on his shield] Richard Cœur de Lion;—poetically speaking, the mythic Arthur was the Father of the age of adventure and knighthood—and the legends respecting him reigned with full influence, in the period which Richard Cœur de Lion, here (generally and without strict prosaic regard to chronology) represents; from the lay of the Troubadour and the song of the Saracen—to the final concentration of chivalric romance in the muse of Ariosto.

[loyalty] The Stuarts, like the Tudors, were descended from the Welch kings: but the latent meaning of the text is, that whatever most redeemed the faults on either side in the great Civil Wars, and animated, on the one, such souls as Derby and Falkland, on the other, such as Hampden and Vane, may be traced to those ennobling sentiments which are engendered by the early romance and poetry of a nation. It is only from the traditions of a Hero-age that true heroism enters into the struggles for even practical ends, and gives the sentiment of grandeur whether to freedom or loyalty. The hardest man who never read a poem, nor listened to a legend, cannot say what he would have been if the poet had never coloured, and the legend never exalted, that Prose of Life to which his scope is confined. This is designed to be conveyed in words ascribed below to Milton, who himself united all the romance of the Cavalier with all the zeal of the Republican.

[ruby] In heraldic mysteries, the ruby is the emblem of charity—the topaz assuages choler and frenzy—the sapphire preserves chastity, &c.– See SYLVANUS MORGAN’S Sphere of Gentry.

Arthur and the Lady of the Lake—They land on the Meteor Isle—Which then sinks to the Halls below—Arthur beholds the Forest springing from a single stem—He tells his errand to the Phantom, and rejects the fruits that It proffers him in lieu of the sword—He is conducted by the Phantom to the entrance of the caves through which he must pass alone—He reaches the Coral Hall of the Three Kings—The Statue Crowned with thorns—The Asps and the Vulture, and the Diamond Sword—The Choice of the Three Arches—He turns from the first and second arch, and beholds himself, in the third, a corpse—The sleeping King rises at Arthur’s question—“if his death shall be in vain?”—The Vision of times to be—Cœur de Lion and the Age of Chivalry—The Tudors—Henry VII.—the restorer of the line of Arthur and the founder of civil Freedom—Henry VIII. and the revolution of Thought—Elizabeth and the Age of Poetry—The Union of Cymrian and Saxon, under the sway of “Crowned Liberty”—Arthur makes his choice, and attempts, but in vain, to draw the sword from the Rock—The Statue with the thorn-wreath addresses him—Arthur called upon to sacrifice the Dove—His reply—The glimpse of Heaven—The trance which succeeds, and in which the King is borne to the sea-shores.
As when, in Autumn nights, and Arctic skies,
   An angel makes a cloud his noiseless car,
And, thro’ cærulean silence, silent flies
   From antique Hesper to some dawning star,
So still, so swift, along the windless tides
Her vapour-sail the Lake’s mute Lady guides.
Along the sheen, along the glassy sheen,
   Amid the lull of lucent night they go;
Till, in the haven of an islet green,
   Murmuring thro’ reeds, the gentle waters flow:
Shoots the dim pinnace to the gradual strand,
And the pale Phantom, beck’ning, glides to land.
Her the King followed, yet scarce touched the shore;
   When slowly, slowly sunk the meteor-isle,
Fathom on fathom, to the sparry floor
   Of alabaster shaft and porphyr-pile,
Built as by Nereus for his own retreat,
Or the Nymph-mother of the silver feet.
Far, thro’ the crystal lymph, the pillared halls
   Went lengthening on in vistaed majesty;
The waters sapped not the enchanted walls,
   Nor shut their roofless silence from the sky;
But every beam that gilds this world of ours
Broke sparkling downward into diamond showers;
And the strange magic of the Place bestowed
   Its own strange life upon the startled King,
Round him, like air, the subtle waters flowed;
   As round the Naiad flows her native spring;
Domelike collapsed the azure;—moonlight clear
Filled the melodious silvery atmosphere—
Melodious with the chaunt of distant falls
   Of sportive waves, within the waves at play,
And infant springs that bubble up the halls
   In varying jets, on which the broken ray
Weaves its slight iris—hymning while they rise
To that smooth calm their restless life supplies,
Like secret thoughts in some still poet’s soul,
   Nourished unseen till they reflect the stars:
But overhead a trembling shadow stole,
   A gloom that leaf-like quivered on the spars,
And that quick shadow, ever moving, fell
From a vast Tree with root immoveable;
In linked arcades, and interwoven bowers
   Swept the long forest from that single stem:
And, flashing through the foliage, fruits or flowers
   In jewelled clusters, glowed with every gem
Golconda hideth from the greed of kings;
Or Lybian gryphons guard with drowsy wings.
Here blushed the ruby, warm as Charity,
   There the mild topaz, wrath-assuaging, shone
Radiant as Mercy;—like an angel’s eye,
   Or a stray splendor from the Father’s throne,
The sapphire chaste a heavenlier lustre gave
To that blue heaven reflected on the wave.
Never from India’s cave, or Oman’s sea
   Swart Afrite wreathed for scornful Peri’s brow,
Such gems as, wasted on that Wonder-tree,
   Paled Sheban treasures in each careless bough;
And every bough which the light wavelet heaves,
Quivers to music with the quivering leaves.
Then first the Sovereign Lady of the deep
   Spoke;—and the waves and whispering leaves were still,
“Ever I rise before the eyes that weep
   When, born from sorrow, Wisdom wakes the will;
But few behold the shadow thro’ the dark,
   And few will dare the venture of the bark.
“And now amid the Cuthites’ temple halls
   O’er which the waters undestroying flow,
Heark’ning the mysteries hymned from silver falls
   Or from the springs that, gushing up below,
Gleam to the surface, whence to Heaven updrawn,
They form the clouds that harbinger the dawn.—
“Say what the treasures which my deeps enfold
   That thou would’st bear to the terrestrial day?”
Then Arthur answered—and his quest he told,
   The prophet mission which his steps obey—
“Here springs the forest from the single stem:
I seek the falchion welded from the gem.”
“Pause,” said the Phantom, “and survey the tree!
   More worth one fruit that weighs a branchlet down,
Than all which mortals in the sword can see.
   Thou ask’st the falchion to defend a crown—
But seize the fruit, and to thy grasp decreed
   More realms than Ormuzd lavished on the Mede;
“Than great Darius left his doomëd son,
   From Scythian wastes to Abyssinian caves;
From Nimrod’s tomb in silenced Babylon
   To Argive islands fretting Asian waves;
Then changed to scepters the rude Lictor-rods,
And placed the worm called Cæsar with the gods.
“Pause—take thy choice—each gem a host can buy,
   Link race on race to Conquest’s rushing car;
No ghastly Genius here thou need’st defy,
   The fruits unguarded and the fiends afar;
But dark the perils that surround the Sword,
And slight its worth—ambitious if its Lord;
“Weak to invade, though potent to defend,
   Its blade will shiver in a conqueror’s clasp;
A weapon meter for the herdsman’s end,
   When ploughshares turn to falchions in his grasp,
Some churl who seeks to guard his humble hearth—
A Hero’s soul should hunger for the Earth!”
“Spirit or Sorceress,”—said the frowning King,
   “Fame like the sun illumes an universe;
But life and joy both fame and sun should bring;
   And God ordains no glory for a curse.
What need of falchions save to guard a land?
’Tis the Churl’s cause that nerves the Hero’s hand.
“Not mine the crowns the Persian lost or won,
   Tiaras glittering over kneeling slaves;
Mine be the sword that freed at Marathon,
   The unborn races by the Father-graves—
Or stayed the Orient in the Spartan pass,
And carved on Time, thy name, Leonidas!”
The Sibyl of the Sources of the Deep
   Heard nor replied, but indistinct and wan
Went as a Dream that thro’ the worlds of Sleep
   Leads the charmed soul of labour-wearied man;
And ev’n as man and dream, so, side by side,
Glideth the mortal with the gliding guide.
Glade after glade, beneath that forest tree
   They pass,—till sudden, looms amid the waves,
A dismal rock, hugely and heavily,
   With crags distorted vaulting horrent caves;
A single moonbeam thro’ the hollow creeps:
Glides with the beam the Lady of the deeps.
Then Arthur felt the dove that at his breast
   Lay nestling warm—stir quick and quivering,
His soothing hand the crispëd plumes carest;
   Slow went they on, the Lady and the King:
And, ever as they went, before their way
O’er prisoned waters lengthening stretched the ray.
Now the black jaws as of a hell they gain;
   Pauses the Lake’s pale Hecate. “Lo,” she said,
“Yonder, the Genii thou invadest reign.
   Alone thy feet the threshold floors must tread—
No aid from Powers not human canst thou win;
Trust to thy soul, and dare the Shapes within.”
She spoke to vanish—but the single ray
   Shot from the unseen moon, still palely breaks
The awe that rests with midnight on the way;
   Faithful as Hope when Wisdom’s self forsakes
The buoyant beam the lonely man pursued—
And, feeling God, he felt not solitude.
No fiend obscene, no giant spectre grim
   (Born or of Runic or Arabian Song,)
Affronts the progress, thro’ the gallery dim,
   Into the sudden light which flames along
The waves, and dyes the stillness of their flood
To one red horror like a lake of blood.
And now, he enters, with that lurid tide,
   Where time-long corals shape a mighty hall;
Three curtained arches on the dexter side,
   And on the floors a ruby pedestal,
On which, with marble lips, that life-like smiled,
Stood the fair Statue of a crownëd Child:
It smiled, and yet its crown was wreathed of thorns,
   And round its limbs coiled foul the viper’s brood;
Near to that Child a rough crag, deluge-torn,
   Jagged with sharp shadow abrupt, the luminous flood;
And a huge Vulture from the summit, there,
Watched with dull hunger in its glassy stare.
Below the Vulture in the rock ensheathed,
   Shone out the hilt-beam of the diamond glaive;
And all the hall one hue of crimson wreathed,
   And all the galleries vistaed thro’ the wave;
As flushed the coral fathom-deep below,
Lit into glory from the ruby’s glow.
On thrones blood-red, there, sate three giant forms,
   Rigid the first, as Death;—with lightless eyes
And brows as hushed as deserts, when the storms
   Lock the tornado in the Nubian skies;—
Dead on dead knees the large hands nerveless rest,
And dead the front droops heavy on the breast.
The second shape with bright and kindling eye,
   And aspect haughty with triumphant life,
Like a young Titan reared its crest on high,
   Crowned as for sway and harnessed as for strife;
But o’er one half his image there was cast,
A shadow from the throne were sate the last.
And this, the third and last, seemed in that sleep
   Which neighbours waking in a summer’s dawn,
When dreams, relaxing, scarce their captive keep:
   Half o’er his face a veil transparent drawn,
Stirred with quick sighs unquiet and disturbed,
Which told the impatient soul the slumber curbed.
Thrilled, but undaunted, on the Adventurer strode,
   Then spoke the youthful Genius with the crown
And armour: “Hail to our august abode!”
   Guardless we greet the seeker of Renown.
In our least terror cravens Death behold,
But vainly frown our direst for the bold.”
“And who are ye?” the wondering King replied,
   “On whose large aspects reigns the awe sublime
Of fabled judges, that o’er souls preside
   In Radamanthian Halls?” The Lords of Time,
Answered the Giant, “And our realms are three,
“But while we speak my brother’s shadow creeps
   Over the life-blood that it freezes fast;
Haste, while the king that shall discrown me sleeps,
   Nor lose the Present,—lo how dead the Past!
Accept the trials, Prince beloved by Heaven,
To the deep heart—that nobler reason,—given.
“Thou hast rejected in the Cuthite’s halls
   The fruits that flush Ambition’s dazzling tree,
The Conqueror’s lust of blood-stained coronals;—
   Again thine ordeal in thy judgment be!
Nor here shall empire need the arm of crime—
But Fate achieve the lot thou ask’st from Time.
“Behold the threefold Future at thy choice,
   Choose right, and win from Fame the master spell.”
Then the concealing veils, as ceased the voice,
   From the three arches with a clangor fell,
And clear, as scenes with Thespian wonders rife,
Gave to his view the Lemur-shapes of life.
Lo the fair stream amidst that pleasant vale,
   Wherein his youth held careless holiday;
The stream is blithe with many a silken sail,
   The vale with many a proud pavilion gay,
And in the centre of the rosy ring,
Propt on his arm, reclines himself, the King.
All, all the same as when his golden prime
   Lay in the lap of Life’s soft Arcady;
When Youth and Pleasure owned no foe but Time,
   And, scarcely conscious of the warning sigh,
His one desire was as “a Summer day,
Mid blooms and sweets to dream himself away.”
“Behold,” the Genius said, “is that thy choice
   As once it was?” “Nay, I have wept since then,”
Answered the mortal with a mournful voice,
   “When the dews fall, the stars arise for men!”
So turned he to the second arch to see
The imperial peace of settled majesty;—
The kingly throne, himself the dazzling king;
   Bright arms, and jewelled vests, and purple stoles;
While silver winds, from many a music-string,
   Rippled the wave of glittering banderols:
From mitred priests and ermined barons, clear
Came the loud praise which monarchs love to hear.
“Doth this content thee?” “Ay,” the Prince replied,
   And towered erect, with empire on his brow;
“Ay, here at once a Monarch may decide,
   Be but the substance worthy of the show!
Courts are not States—let me see MEN!—behind
Where stands the People?—Genius, lift the blind!”
Slow fades the pageant, and the Phantom stage
   As slowly filled with squalid, ghastly forms;
Here, over fireless hearths cowered shivering Age
   And blew with feeble breath dead embers;—storms
Earth lay forlorn in Winter’s charnel air;
And Youth all labour-bowed, with withered look,
   Knelt by a rushing stream whose waves were gold,
And sought with lean strong hands to grasp the brook,
   And clutch the glitter lapsing from the hold,
Till with mad laugh it ceased, and, tottering down
Fell, and on frowning skies scowled back the frown.
No careless Childhood laughed disportingly,
   But dwarfed, pale mandrakes with a century’s gloom
On infant brows, beneath a Poison-tree
   With skeleton fingers plied a ghastly loom,
Mocking in cynic jests life’s gravest things,
They wove gay King-robes, muttering “What are Kings?”
And thro’ that dreary Hades to and fro,
   Stalked all unheeded the Tartarean guests;
Grim Discontent that loathes the Gods, and Woe
   Clasping dead infants to her milkless breasts;
And madding Hate, and Force with iron heel,
And voiceless Vengeance sharpening secret steel.
And, hand in hand, a Gorgon-visaged Pair,
   Envy and Famine, halt with livid smile,
Listening the demon-orator, Despair,
   That, with a glozing and malignant guile,
Seems sent the gates of Paradise to ope,
And lures to Hell by simulating Hope.
“Can such things be below and God above?”
   Faltered the King;—Replied the Genius—“Nay,
This is the state that sages must approve;
   This is Man civilized!—the perfect sway
Of Merchant Kings;—the ripeness of the art
Which cheapens men—the Elysium of the Mart.
“But what to thee, if Pomp hath its extremes?
   Not thine the shadow—Go, enjoy the light!
Begirt by guards, shut danger from thy dreams;
   That serves thy grandeur which appals thy sight;
From its own entrails if the worm supply
The silken purple—let it weave and die!”
“Demon—O rather,” cried the Poet-king,
   “Let me all lonely, on the heav’n-kist hill,
Rove with the hunter,—be my drink the spring,
   The root my banquet, and the night-wind shrill
Howl o’er my couch with the wild fox—than know
One pomp which mocks that Lazar-house of woe.
“Thou saidst, ‘Give dues to Cæsar,’—Lord! secure
   The mightier tribute Cæsars owe to men!
Thou who hast oped God’s kingdom to the Poor,
   Reveal Humanity to Kings!—agen
Descend, Messiah!—and to earth make known
How Christ had reigned if on the Cæsar’s throne!”
So, with indignant tears in manly eyes
   Turned the great Archetype of Chivalry
Lo the third arch and last!—In moonlight rise
   The Cymrian rocks dark-shining from the sea,
And all those rocks, some patriot war, forgone,
Hallows with grassy mound and starlit stone.
And where the softest falls the loving light,
   He sees himself, stretched lifeless on the sward,
And by the corpse, with sacred robes of white
   Leans on his ivory harp a lonely Bard;
Yea, to the Dead the sole still watchers given
Are the Fame-Singer and the Hosts of Heaven.
But on the kingly front the kingly crown
   Rests;—the pale right hand grasps the diamond glaive;
The brow, on which ev’n strife hath left no frown,
   Calm in the halo glory gives the brave.
“Mortal, is this thy choice?” the Genius cried.
“Here Death; there Pleasure; and there Pomp!—decide!”
“Death,” answer’d Arthur, “is nor good nor ill
   Save in the ends for which men die—and Death
Can oft achieve what Life may not fulfil,
   And kindle earth with Valour’s dying breath;
But oh, one answer to one terror deign,
My land—my people!—is that death in vain?”
Mute drooped the Genius, but the unquiet form
   Dreaming beside its brother king arose,
Tho’ dreaming still: as leaps the sudden storm
   On sands Arabian, as with spasms and throes
Bursts the Fire-mount by soft Parthenopè,
Rose the veiled Genius of the things to be:
Shook all the hollow caves;—with tortured groan,
   Shook to their roots in the far core of hell;
Deep howled to deep—the monumental throne
   Of the dead giant rocked;—each coral cell
Flashed quivering billowlike. Unshaken smiled,
From the calm ruby base the thorn-crowned Child.
The Genius rose; and thro’ the phantom arch
   Glided the Shadows of His own pale dreams;
The mortal saw the long procession march
   Beside that image which his lemur seems:
An armëd King—three lions on his shield
First by the Bard-watched Shadow paused and kneeled.
Kneeled, there, his train—upon each mailëd breast
   A red cross stampt; and deep as from a sea
With all its waves—full voices murmured—“Rest
   Ever unburied, Sire of Chivalry!
Ever by Minstrel watched, and Knight adored,
King of the haloed-brow, and diamond sword!”
Then, as from all the courts of all the earth,
   The reverent pilgrims, countless, clustering came;
They whom the seas of fabled Sirens girth,
   Or Baltic freezing in the Boreal flame;
Or they, who watch the Star of Bethlem quiver
By Carmel’s Olive mount, and Judah’s river.
From violet Provence comes the Troubadour;
   Ferrara sends her clarion-sounding son;
Comes from Iberian halls the turbaned Moor
   With cymbals chiming to the clarion;
And, with large stride, amid the gaudier throng,
Stalks the vast Scald of Scandinavian song.
Passed he who bore the lions and the cross,
   And all that gorgeous pageant left the space
Void as a heart which mourns the golden loss
   Of young illusions beautiful. A Race
Sedate, supplants upon the changeful stage,
Light’s early sires,—the Song-World’s hero-age.
Slow come the Shapes from out the dim Obscure,
   A noon-like quiet circles swarming bays,
Seas gleam with sails, and wall-less towns secure
   Rise from the donjon sites of antique days;
Lo, the calm Sovereign of that sober reign,
Unarmed,—with burghers in his pompless train!
And by the corpse of Arthur kneels that King,
   And murmurs, “Father of the Tudor, hail!
To thee nor bays, nor myrtle wreath I bring;
   But in thy Son, the Dragon-born prevail,
And in my rule Right first deposes Wrong;
And first the weak undaunted face the strong.”
He passed—Another, with a Nero’s frown
   Shading the quick light of impatient eyes,
Strides on—and casts his scepter, clattering, down,
   And from the scepter rushingly arise
Fierce sparks; along the heath they hissing run,
And the dull earth glows lurid as a sun.
And there is heard afar the hollow crash
   Of ruin;—wind-borne, on the flames are driven:
But where, round falling shrines, they coil and flash,
   A seraph’s hand extends a scroll from heaven,
And the rude shape cries loud, “Behold, ye blind,
I who have trampled Men, have freed the Mind!”
So laughing grim, passed the Destroyer on;
   And, after two pale shadows, to the sound
Of lutes more musical than Helicon,
   A manlike Woman marched:—The graves around
Yawned, and the ghosts of Knighthood, more serene
In death,—arose, and smiled upon the Queen.
With her, at either hand, two starry forms
   Glide—than herself more royal—and the glow
Of their own lustre, each pale phantom warms
   Into the lovely life the angels know,
And as they pass, each Fairy leaves its cell,
And GLORIANA calls on ARIEL.
Yet she, unconscious as the crescent queen
   Of orbs whose brightness makes her image bright,
Haught and imperious, thro’ the borrowed sheen,
   Claims to herself the sovereignty of light;
And is herself so stately to survey,
That orbs which lend, but seem to steal, the ray.
Elf-land divine, and Chivalry sublime,
   Seem there to hold their last high jubilee—
One glorious Sabbat of enchanted Time,
   Ere the dull spell seals the sweet glamoury.
And all those wonder-shapes in subject ring
Kneel where the Bard still sits beside the King.
Slow falls a mist, far booms a laboring wind,
   As into night reluctant fades the Dream;
And lo, the smouldering embers left behind
   From the old scepter-flame, with blood-red beam,
Kindle afresh, and the thick smoke-reeks go
Heavily up from marching fires below.
Hark! thro’ sulphureous cloud the jarring bray
   Of trumpet-clangours—the strong shock of steel;
And fitful flashes light the fierce array
   Of faces gloomy with the calm of zeal,
Or knightlier forms, on wheeling chargers borne;
Gay in despair, and meeting zeal with scorn.
Forth from the throng came a majestic Woe,
   That wore the shape of man—“And I”—It said,
“I am thy Son; and if the Fates bestow
   Blood on my soul and ashes on my head;
Time’s is the guilt, tho’ mine the misery—
This teach me, Father—to forgive and die!”
But here stern voices drowned the mournful word,
   Crying—“Men’s freedom is the heritage
Left by the Hero of the Diamond Sword,”
   And others answered—“Nay, the knightly age
Leaves, as its heirloom, knighthood, and that high
Life in sublime life call’d loyalty.”
Then, thro’ the hurtling clamour came a fair
   Shape like a sworded seraph—sweet and grave;
And when the war heaved distant down the air
   And died, as dies a whirlwind on the wave,
By the two forms upon the starry hill,
Stood the Arch Beautiful, august and still.
And thus It spoke—“I too will hail thee, ‘Sire,’
   Type of the Hero-age!—thy sons are not
On the earth’s thrones. They who, with stately lyre,
   Make kingly thoughts immortal, and the lot
Of the hard life divine with visitings
Of the far angels—are thy race of Kings.
“All that ennobles strife in either cause,
   And, rendering service stately, freedom wise,
Knits to the throne of God our human laws—
   Doth heir earth’s humblest son with royalties
Born from the Hero of the Diamond Sword,
Watched by the Bard, and by the Brave adored.”
Then the Bard, seated by the haloed dead,
   Lifts his sad eyes—and murmurs, “Sing of Him!”
Doubtful the stranger bows his lofty head,
   When down descend his kindred Seraphim;
Borne on their wings he soars from human sight,
And Heaven regains the Habitant of Light.
Again, and once again—from many a pale
   And swift succeeding, dim-distinguished, crowd,
Swells slow the pausing pageant. Mount and vale
   Mingle in gentle daylight, with one cloud
On the far welkin, which the iris hues
Steal from its gloom by rays that interfuse.
Mild, like all strength, sits Crownëd Liberty,
   Wearing the aspect of a youthful Queen:
And far outstretched along the unmeasured sea
   Rests the vast shadow of her throne; serene
From the dumb icebergs to the fiery zone,
Rests the vast shadow of that guardian throne.
And round her group the Cymrian’s changeless race
   Blent with the Saxon, brother-like; and both
Saxon and Cymrian from that sovereign trace
   Their hero line;—sweet flower of age-long growth;
The single blossom on the twofold stem;—
Arthur’s white plume crests Cerdic’s diadem.
Yet the same harp that Taliessin strung
   Delights the sons whose sires the chords delighted;
Still the old music of the mountain tongue
   Tells of a race not conquered but united;
That, losing nought, wins all the Saxon won,
And shares the realm where never sets the sun.
Afar is heard the fall of headlong thrones
   But from that throne as calm the shadow falls;
And where Oppression threats and Sorrow groans,
   Justice sits listening in her gateless halls,
And ev’n, if powerless, still intent, to cure,
Whispers to Truth, “Truths conquer that endure.”
Yet still on that horizon hangs the cloud,
   And the cloud chains the Cymrian’s anxious eye;
“Alas,” he murmured, “that one mist should shroud,
   Perchance from sorrow, that benignant sky!”
But while he sigh’d the Vision vanishëd,
And left once more the lone Bard by the dead.
“Behold the close of thirteen hundred years;
   Lo! Cymri’s Daughter on the Saxon’s throne!
Free as their air thy Cymrian mountaineers,
   And in the heavens one rainbow cloud alone,
Which shall not pass, until, the cycle o’er,
The soul of Arthur comes to earth once more;
“Dost thou choose Death?” the giant Dreamer said.
   “Ay, for in death I seize the life of fame,
And link the eternal millions with the dead,”
   Replied the King—and to the sword he came
Large-striding;—grasped the hilt;—the charmëd brand
Clove to the rock, and stirred not to his hand.
The Dreaming Genius hath his throne resumed;
   Sit the Giant Three, with Silence for their reign,
Awful as earliest Theban kings entombed,
   Or idols granite-hewn in Indian fane;
When lo, the dove flew forth, and circling round,
Dropped on the thorn-wreath which the Statue crowned.
Then rose the Vulture with its carnage-shriek,
   Up coiled the darting Asps; the bird above;
Below the reptiles;—poison-fang and beak,
   Nearer and nearer gathered round the dove;
When with strange life the marble Image stirred,
And sudden pause the asps—and rests the bird.
“Mortal,” the image murmured, “I am He,
   Whose voice alone the enchanted sword unsheathes,
Mightier than yonder Shapes—eternally
   Throned upon light, tho’ crown’d with thorny wreaths;
Changeless amid the Halls of Time;—my name
In heaven is YOUTH, and on earth is FAME.
“All altars need their sacrifice; and mine
   Asks every bloom in which thy heart delighted,
Thorns are my garlands—wouldst thou serve the shrine,
   Drear is the faith to which thy vows are plighted.
The asp shall twine,—the vulture watch the prey,
And horror rend thee, let but hope give way.
“Wilt thou the falchion with the thorns it brings?”
   “Yea—for the thorn-wreath hath not dimmed thy smile.”
“Lo, thy first offering to the vulture’s wings,
   And the asp’s fangs!”—the cold lips answered, while
Nearer, and nearer the devourers came,
Where the dove resting hid the thorns of Fame.
And all the memories of that faithful guide,
   The sweet companion of unfriended ways,
When danger threatened, ever at his side,
   And ever, in the grief of later days,
Soothing his heart with its mysterious love,
Till Æglè’s soul seemed hovering the dove,—
All cried aloud in Arthur, and he sprang
   And sudden from the slaughter snatcht the prey;
“What!” said the Image, “can a moment’s pang
   To the poor worthless favourite of a day
Appal the soul that yearns for ends sublime,
And sighs for empire o’er the worlds of Time?
“Wilt thou resign the guerdon of the sword?
   Wilt thou forego the freedom of thy land?
Not one slight offering will thy heart accord?
   The hero’s prize is for the martyr’s hand.”
Safe on his breast the King replaced the guide,
Raised his majestic front, and thus replied:
“For Fame and Cymri, what is mine I give,
   Life;—and prefer brave death to ease and power;
But not for Fame or Cymri would I live
   Soiled by the stain of one dishonoured hour;
And man’s great cause was ne’er triumphant made
By man’s worst meanness—Trust, for gain, betrayed.
“Let then the rock the sword for ever sheathe,
   All blades are charmëd in the Patriot’s grasp!”
He spoke, and lo! the Statue’s thorny wreath
   Bloomed into roses—and each baffled asp
Fell down and died of its own poison sting;
Back to the crag dull-sailed the death-bird’s wing.
And from the Statue’s smile, as when the morn
   Unlocks the Eastern gates of Paradise,
Ineffable joy, in light and beauty borne,
   Flowed; and the azure of the distant skies
Stole thro’ the crimson hues the ruby gave,
And slept, like Happiness on Glory’s wave.
“Go,” said the Image, “thou hast won the Sword;
   He who thus values Honour more than Fame
Makes Fame itself his servant, not his lord;
   And the man’s heart achieves the hero’s claim.
But by Ambition is Ambition tried,
None gain the guerdon who betray the guide!”
Wondering the Monarch heard, and hearing, laid
   On the bright hilt-gem, the obedient hand;
Swift at the touch, leapt forth the diamond blade,
   And each long vista lightened with the brand;
The speaking marble bowed its reverent head,
Rose the three Kings—the Dreamer and the Dead;
Voices far off, as in the heart of heaven,
   Hymn’d “Hail, Fame-Conqueror in the Halls of Time;”
Deep as to hell the flaming vaults were riven;
   High as to angels, space on space sublime
Opened, and flash’d upon the mortal’s eye
The Morning Land of Immortality.
Bowed down before the intolerable light,
   Sank on his knees the King; and humbly veiled
The Home of Seraphs from the human sight;
   Then the freed Soul forsook him, as it hailed
Thro’ Flesh, its prison-house, the spirit-choir;
And fled as flies the music from the lyre.
And all was blank, and meaningless, and void
   For the dull form, abandoned thus below;
Scarcely it felt the closing waves that buoyed
   Its limbs, light-drifting down the gentle flow—
And when the conscious life returned again,
Lo, noon lay tranquil on the ocean main.
As from a dream he woke, and looked around,
   For the lost Lake and Æglè’s distant grave;
But dark, behind, the silent headlands frowned;
   And bright, before him, smiled the murmuring wave;
His right hand rested on the falchion won;
And the dove poised her pinions in the sun.