Lanval: A Drama in Four Acts
|ARTHUR - - -||King of Britain|
|CADOR - - -||Duke of Cornwall|
|OWAIN - - -||Prince of North Wales|
|GERAINT - - -||Prince of Devon|
|Knights of ARTHUR'S Court|
|BERNARDO - -||An Armourer|
|GYFERT - - -||Squire to GERAINT|
|GUINEVERE - -||Queen of Britain|
|Attendants to GUINEVERE|
Knights, Captain, Men-at-Arms, Charcoal-burners, Girl and Apprentices.
ACT I. SCENE I.
THE ARMOURY, CARDUEL.
A large, bare vaulted room. Heavy studded doors. (C) opening on terrace. (L) a small, spiral stair from turret.
(R) a barred window and forge. Piles of spears, several tournament shields and fragments of armour.
Bernardo and several apprentices.
BER. (to an apprentice, painting)
Keep to the line, lad, let the field be bright
And the device well marked.
2 APP. So! Master?
In line and colour. (To 1st App.) Bring that vambrace here,
'Tis not ill done.
1 APP. I thought it was well wrought.
BER. And so it is, but I'm not satisfied
With competence; or I were still a smith
A common craftsman in far Mantua
And not Bernardo, once the armourer
Of Milan's court. See, here the work is rough
And somewhat careless.
1 APP. Must I braize again?
BER. Nay, let it stand till I have time for it.
Look you, my lad, this art of ours is rare
And needs long service. I am old enough
To know that I shall never learn it well.
(To others) Keep to it, lads. (To 3rd App.) Bring that haubergeon
And test it well, for I believe it strained.
3 APP. Here's a false ring.
BER. Then out with it, my lad.
Death 's a lean fellow, and needs little space
To make his entry. Rivet it again.
A life 's no stronger than its slightest hour
Nor any armour than its weakest spot.
(While the apprentice works, Bernardo goes over to the others.)
Have care of it. I mind in Milan once—
I'll tell you sometime. Now go on with it.
How often, boy, must I repeat my words,
Though hard, a metal 's not a rock to hack
As if it were a quarry, but a form
Worth some consideration. Yes, this steel
Has its own texture and its qualities,
And we must watch them. Iron has its use,
Bronze its own nature, steel its services,
All much akin, yet very different,
And I'd as soon take knife to my own flesh
As mangle metal with that tool of yours.
Work with the line and not across the grain
And see your play grows not too hot, for warmth
Draws out the soul of steel. Go on.
3 APP. 'Tis finished, master.
BER. Come, we'll test it then.
Give me a dagger. See, this is a life,
Here is the gorget, here would be the throat,
And I am fate in ambush 'gainst this life.
I strike it thus; the work is sound enough,
Ready for fracture in to-morrow's deeds.
3 APP. It is a grief —
BER. That such meet work is marred?
It's nature's way. All's made for breaking here
This linked defence and grievous instruments
For its destruction. Yet we make them both.
Either our blades can bite thro' our strong mail,
Or else these links can turn our finest edge.
We dress the balance of the world, my lad,
For all the virtues and the strength of man
Fare ill in life without the armourer.
(Enter Gyfert (C).)
Ah, Gyfert! Welcome!
GYF. Welcome, Bernardo, too.
It's long since we did meet.
BER. I think
GYF. Is it so much? I never thought
It was so long.
BER. Ye have been active then?
Whence are ye come?
GYF. Whence but from Logris, man.
We were drawn thither by some false reports
Of Saxon landing.
BER. You have need of me?
GYF. A pair of tassets and some saddle steels.
BER. Come, let me see them.
GYF. They have had rough use.
BER. Truly they have. I cannot make them good
Before the morrow.
GYF. I'm not troublesome;
Say in three days.
BER. You do not need them then
GYF. No, why should we?
BER. 'Tis the last,
The final meeting of our summer court.
To-day is Pentecost!
GYF. I had forgotten it.
When one is serving on the boundaries
Of all known order, one is apt to miss
The nice discernment of each date and feast.
BER. The Prince of Devon then
Will break no lance to-morrow.
GYF. He is proved.
These tests are good for practice, but the best
Of all our knighthood serve their cause apart.
But I m sorry that we took no hand.
Who did the best in recent tournaments?
BER. Sir Lamorak.
GYF. Good! He's a noble knight.
GYF. Of course!
BER. His brother Agravaine.
GYF. Sir Agravaine?
BER. Aye, he is much advanced
In strength and favour.
GYF. I believe my lord
Loves him but little.
BER. He's a gallant soul.
GYF. And so are many. He has certain faults
Which spoil the liking men should have for him.
Your countryman, has he gained no repute?
We thought him likely to do much.
BER. Who is
GYF. Sir Lanval.
BER. He is not.
Why, he was bred in wild Armorica,
A land that will not suckle her own seed,
But casts them out to batten on the world.
GYF. They do her honour.
BER. There are no better knights
GYF. But still Sir Lanval came
BER. True, an Italian lord
Adopted him. But he still bears these arms,
Argent a bend of vert, no heraldry
Of my far country.
GYF. What is his birth to me?
Who worsted him?
BER. No one; he took no part,
Nor have I seen him for some days.
GYF. 'Tis strange.
I often heard my master say no knight
In all this land was worthier in his sight.
Where does he lodge?
BER. In the third ward, I think.
GYF. I have a message for him from my lord,
Which I had best deliver. In three days,
You said, Bernardo, these should be repaired.
BER. I'll see to it. (Exit Gyfert.)
Come, lad, now let us work.
The hour grows late. Here is Sir Lanval's blade.
This was not used in gentle passages,
But has been bitten by opposing swords.
We must re-edge it. There's good stuff in this.
A proper weapon should lie thus in hand,
Leashed like a hound unto its handler's mind,
Straining and hungering for the sentient force
That shall oppose it.
3 APP. He's a worthy knight.
BER. None better, lad; they do not know him well,
Whom I have heard speak lightly of his strength.
There are not many in all Arthur's realm
Who can o'ermatch him.
3 APP. Yet he has no name
BER. I remember him
In Mantua when he was young, unknown,
And saw him step from that subservience
To eminence. He often spoke with me,
And talked of arms and manners of defence.
Come, let us work. For in to-morrow's play
Is half war's danger; no man must reproach
The aids we give him.
3 APP. The iron is prepared.
(Enter Lanval (C).)
LAN. At work, Bernardo?
BER. We are pressed, my lord.
LAN. I think, Bernardo, you must dream of arms,
See heaven as a place of perfect mail,
With all its angels armoured in delight.
BER. We armourers — give me the hammer, boy —
Like to imagine that the case we frame
Outweighs in value all that it shall hold,
And that our work is the best part of nature's,
Seeing that man lies fenceless to the world
Unless we aid him. 'Tis a small conceit.
LAN. But near the truth, for 'tis the shell, indeed,
That makes the man; and his appearance serves
In place of armour 'gainst all estimates.
My blade is finished?
BER. In a little space,
We would do justice to so fair a task.
(Lanval watches him working for a time.)
LAN. How would they fare, Bernardo, should ill chance
Arrest this service.
BER. Not so ill, my lord.
Mark you this boy, his skill shall equal mine
An I be spared to teach him.
LAN. Praise indeed!
BER. It's true enough; he has the touch, my lord,
The quality and feeling for this art,
But wants instruction. For I know full well
The certainty that's needed for this toil
Will halt and tremble.
LAN. Not for many years.
BER. But I grow old, for come next Martinmas
'Tis ten full years since I left Italy;
I was not young the time that Mantua
Half worshipped thee.
LAN. I had forgotten it.
Then was the world laid wide before my feet,
And all adventures stood for my assay,
But now — Bernardo, have you ever thought
Of turning hence?
BER. I shall die here, my lord.
LAN. Sloven content! What piece of steel is this
Your practice moulds?
BER. A gauntlet for the joust,
LAN. I gave it him. This guard
Is Meliard's, a present from myself.
This frontal here a portion of the suit
I gave long since unto Sir Astamor.
Here's much that once I could have called my own,
Mine ancient substance —
BER. They are good pieces all.
We have so much of armour bent and hurt
By bitter onslaughts of the Picts and Scots
That we are 'mazed that from the hundred acts,
The fierce attainments and strange accidents
Of such a war this handiwork comes back —
Worn, it is true, but none the less well fit
For future service.
LAN. I gave them my best,
And clad in kindness which they gained of me,
They have o'erpast me. So I strive in vain
And waste subsistence for their mockery.
And yet, Bernardo, when we met before
In Mantua, I did not do so ill.
There's not such difference in the make of man,
That I, who forced acknowledgement of worth
In Italy, in Britain should be shamed.
BER. Not shamed, my lord; this land is proud and dull,
And harsher in the value which it sets
Upon its servants than all other states.
This people slowly puts suspicion off,
And slower still divests it of belief.
Be patient with them.
LAN. Patient, I am so!
I crave no honours or rewards, indeed,
For they are favours that a chance may bring
To be henceforth the inmates of one's life,
And so sustained, consulted hour by hour,
That the cramped soul no longer is the lord
Of its own being. Is it much I ask,
That they acknowledge that I serve them well?
BER. The Duke of Cornwall praised your enterprise,
And swore no knight of Arthur's court could lead
To better purpose.
LAN. I may do them wrong;
Perhaps it is my vanity that's hurt,
And they do right to overlook my power.
Who knows where lies the limit of his use?
My blade is finished?
BER. In a moment, lord.
For it, as thou, waits on accomplishment.
Sir, I am old, and have watched many knights,
And might make play to hearten discontent.
Have I thy leave?
LAN. Bernardo, we are friends,
And both alike contemned and lightly held
In the opinion of these islanders.
BER. My lord, this humour is a youthful mood,
The fretting of a soul untrained, who feels
The bit of fortune curb his stride half way
Adown the lists. There are more courses yet,
And to show sourness is ungenerous.
LAN. 'Tis kindly meant; but I go hence to-night.
LAN. At once. Bernardo, I am poor.
The huge equipment and vast sustenance,
Wherewith I came unto this island realm,
Are past and vanished. All mine armament
Have I not given to my friends or foes
Indifferent? For I was taught a knight
Should be so free, so liberal and kind,
That none who asked should go without reward,
To this result. One simple suit is left —
My sword and horse.
BER. My lord, let me provide
Arms for to-morrow.
LAN. I may not accept
A gift of you.
BER. For our old friendship's sake,
Let me provide such arms as fit your rank.
Why, in a tournay one can win the wealth
Of a vast province in a single stroke,
Take prisoners, or hold the petty kings
To guard or ransom.
LAN. I'll not take of you
What I must risk.
LAN. Has been my friend!
Were his sweet friendship a small thing to me,
I'd ask of him, but I am not become
As yet a beggar.
BER. But the king is kind.
LAN. To some, perhaps. His kindness passed me by,
And I'll accept that treatment as the worth
I am to him.
BER. But he is just —
LAN. Most just,
So I accept his verdict as my due.
BER. The Queen —
LAN. Bernardo, if I cannot ask
Help of my friends, I am not like to come
To such a pass. For I am not so made
That I can bend my humour to the needs
Of Queen and courtiers. Ask my Queen for aid?
Cry out for my worth as pedlars cry their wares,
And pledge my honour for another cast?
That were too foul! Suffice it, I have failed.
I do not charge injustice to the world,
Nor blame mankind for blindness that my deeds
Are out of sight. I can accept defeat,
And with some sorrow put my dreams away.
BER. My lord, this court is not o'erfilled with men,
But its defences are hewn out from it
As flakes of metal from old armour fall.
Saxon and Scot, the Picts and outland men
Lie ever restless on our boundaries.
Each day may bring the messengers of war
And set our standards in the field again,
So do not leave us.
LAN. It is time I went,
For I am landless, houseless, penniless.
BER. Go not, my lord. I have none else to speak
The southern tongue, or raise remembrances
LAN. Come with me then, my friend.
BER. I am too old, and must endure my days
In these grey places. Death were easier there,
For he comes laughing with the sun and dust.
I wish I could.
LAN. I shall be glad to think
That one regrets my passing. Come — my blade!
Is it not finished?
3 APP. It is here —
LAN. And fits
Its scabbard truly. Lad, the work is good.
Would mine were so. Bernardo, then, farewell.
I go to test my fortune in new lands,
And fate may bring me to this realm again,
Or hold me far from it.
My lord and friend. I would that I could go.
At least I'll speed thee.
(Exeunt Bernardo and Lanval)
(The apprentices continue working)
(Enter Gawain and Agravaine, Meliard and Astamor (L).)
GAW. Where's the armourer, boy?
3 APP. But now gone out.
GAW. He will return?
3 APP. At once.
GAW. Good! Heed me not! I know that ye are pressed.
(Gawain goes to the back of the stage.)
MEL. But, Agravaine, thou dost not hear my words!
AGR. I have much else to think of, Meliard.
AST. I dreamt this night, pardie,
An elf queen should my leman be,
And lie beneath —
AST. She were cold else.
(Agravaine moves away impatiently.)
See, Meliard, he cannot even bear
The little mention of a covering.
MEL. Behold his meditation and his frown,
Which now relaxes while he sweetly smiles
AST. He only loves his thoughts
And smiles on them. But still I do him wrong.
MEL. How, Astamor?
AST. Why, did he love his thoughts
But half as much as he does love himself,
He would out-shock the poets.
MEL. We hate pride
Out of an envy, when we have no power
To humble it.
AST. But only the good will,
God send us some one for the noble task.
(Meliard and Astamor go aside.)
AGR. Think'st thou, Gawain, this guard is wide enough?
GAW. I think it is.
AGR. And see this blazoning!
'Twill not look ill on to-morrow's field!
GAW. It's well enough. I trust it may be marked
Of all to-morrow.
AGR. Borne in such a cause
As I uphold.
GAW. And what is that?
AGR. My own!
It cannot fail.
GAW. Be not too confident.
AGR. Why, I am borne upon the central stream
Of Fortune's current. Brother, blame me not;
There is a sweetness in the taste of power
Beyond all savours.
GAW. Be gentler, Agravaine,
This pride of bearing will not make thee loved.
AGR. Loved! What care I for any man's regard?
And for the rest this manner has its use.
(Enter Geraint and Owain (C).)
GER. Welcome, fair cousin —
GAW. Welcome, too, Geraint,
Wilt break a lance to-morrow?
GER. No, Gawain,
For I have other business in my hands,
And grow too old for these slight practices.
GAW. My brother there is anxious to advance
His name and honour.
GER. There are many here
Who'll not deny him the occasion.
But he flies high.
GER. Let him be satisfied;
But I'll not stay thee, for the time at least.
Ye choose your arms for this fair tournament,
Wherein, no doubt, ye both will do great deeds.
I will not hinder. (he turns away) Welcome, Meliard
And Astamor. All's well with you, I hope!
AST. Well met, Geraint. We fare much the same
As we did ever.
GER. (aside) And are likely to,
Until the Judgment. (To Owain) Let us sit and talk.
(They sit down.)
Tell me the news. How goes it in the court?
OW. In these last months there's been a bitter waste —
GER. What of?
OW. Of breath. There's been more ditty-making, sighing,
And yammering than I care to keep count of.
GER. Well, let them have their play at least.
OW. Play? All the babes that can carry a sword without being crushed by the belt, or hit a swinging shield with a practice-spear are bellowing and challenging like bucks. They'd be better of a little blood-letting. War's a fine chastener of manners.
GER. You take no part?
OW. God knows I've seen enough of war's true self,
To need no practice in its semblances.
Our strife is over for the time, it seems.
I keep my breath, for I have need of it
For other purpose than this foolishness.
GER. And so I think. Within the year, Owain,
This dalliance turns to raucous speech of strife.
OW. So soon?
GER. Aye, sooner than we think.
OW. The Saxons will not come for such a meal,
Having so tasted of our stuff —
GER. Not come!
Why, I know well. — No matter, let it pass —
And tell me more.
OW. This may please you, the Queen
Hath cast her favour on Sir Agravaine.
GER. I like him not.
OW. Nor do the most of us.
He gained some honour in the Saxon war,
And for that cause is by the Queen preferred,
And so by Arthur much advanced and loved.
GER. He irks my soul, for I have known him long,
And found his worth in no way equal to
His pride and scorn.
OW. The queen doth favour him.
GER. And there are others who should have the power
To stay this braggart.
GER. Lanval, for one.
Cador of Cornwall told me of his skill;
And I have seen him deal as goodly strokes
As man could wish for.
OW. How could we engage
Him in this passage?
GER. Why, most easily.
But how is it Sir Lanval has not yet
OW. He has not taken part
In joust or tournay since this court was held.
GER. Is he so backward?
OW. He may have cause to be.
At least I noted that amongst the hosts
Who got rewards and favours of the King,
He was not mentioned.
GER. Why? Did not Cador,
With whom he served, advance his claim and due?
OW. Maybe he did. Perhaps the King forgot,
Or else Cador.
He had no Queen to plead for kindnesses.
I am amazed; but come, we'll alter it,
For this foul usage fits my cause too well
To let me miss it.
(Geraint goes across to Gawain)
OW. (aside) What a fiery fool!
The devil take all those who have a mind
To cure injustice; there'll be trouble here.
GAW. Good cousin!
GER. I have a word for you.
(They talk apart.)
(Enter Bernardo, bearing a sheaf of blades.)
OW. Blunt blades, Bernardo?
BER. For the tournay, lord.
OW. Best sharpen them.
BER. Why so, my lord?
OW. Why thus:
There are not enough Picts, Scots, Angles, Saxons, or discontented folk in the kingdom for some of us, so we must needs encourage carving amongst our own friends.
GAW. 'Tis not our custom.
GER. A fair test, Gawain,
And for one seeking honour much encouragement.
Although inactive, I am glad I may
Do something now to lend reality
To the sped fashion of this mimic war.
I'll make a match. They say, Sir Agravaine,
That there is none who can withstand thy strength,
Or sleight of sword, amongst the younger knights.
AGR. Should fortune aid me, I believe I hold
As fair a chance upon to-morrow's field
As any man.
GER. I marked thy confidence,
And such an air goes not with slender worth.
Now 'tis a passion with me to maintain
Fortunes unknown and beings indigent.
I am so hungry for the birth of power
That I must needs help all that 's slight and young;
Therefore I would, not doubting thy great strength,
Make some slight wager that success doth fall
In other hands.
AGR. Do as thou wilt, Geraint,
But I must fear thy wager is ill found.
GER. Come then, I choose a knight of little name.
Hast thou a badge which he may challenge?
I bear no badge.
GER. 'Tis strange! Hast thou no love
To be upholden?
AGR. No, I bear no badge.
GER. What shall we hazard? Stake our baronies,
All tracts and fiefs which have been our reward,
So shall the gainer be made rich indeed,
The loser whetted to renewed attempts.
AGR. Sir, the fair gifts the King has rendered me
For my attainments are not to be staked
In such a manner.
GER. They do sit you hard.
I'll give you odds upon my friend's behalf,
Trust all my fortunes to his skill. Thus I
Stake all the lordship I have gained in war,
The barren lands and castle-shadowed fields
Against thine arms; thy horse and arms alone.
AGR. Be it accepted. What paladin is this
I must encounter?
AGR. No, Geraint,
I will not rob you. 'Tis too slight a task.
GER. Why, then, fulfil it! Lanval is not here.
But if he proves not thine attainments false,
Then am I fool, and all mine estimates
Are straight degraded.
GAW. This is not right, Geraint.
GER. The match is mine, and I have staked my lands.
GAW. The greater folly —
GER. Folly it may be.
But I stake these clean honours of the field
Against the favours of a gross intrigue.
Shall I be patient while true merit's checked,
And such a fashion strides unto success?
GAW. You are too free, Geraint.
GER. I am no thrall,
Or a dependent, but the Prince of Devon.
This much I know, ye have used Lanval ill,
And I have justice at my side to aid
In his maintaining.
GAW. Let him prove himself.
GER. And that he shall. Bernardo, hast thou seen
Aught of Sir Lanval?
BER. Sir Lanval is gone hence.
BER. He said he longed for Italy.
GER. He will return?
BER. I know not.
AGR. I do know.
He will return when this is overpast;
I had not failed him if he wished to break
A lance with me. But he has never dared.
Therefore, Geraint, thy lands are forfeited
To my possession.
GER. Let that wager stand.
Be not too hungry for my lands, good sir.
I think this matter is more like to come
To bitter ending than ye dream of now.
I think I heard ye say Sir Lanval feared?
AGR. I said he feared, and I will stand by it.
GER. Witness, ye knights, a charge of cowardice,
A slur on honour, which must be redeemed
In the closed field. Am I not right, Gawain?
GAW. I fear it is so.
AGR. I am well prepared
To answer for it if, Sir Lanval dare!
GER. Lanval is gone. I follow him at once.
OW. (At the window) Too late, Geraint; he passes even now
Into the forest.
GER. By which path?
OW. He rides
Into the evening.
GER. I will follow him,
And though I rake the whole wide earth about,
I will not fail to bring him here again,
When I return; then guard you, Agravaine.
Exit and Curtain.
ACT I. SCENE II.
A glade in the forest. Rocks, and a few huge, knotted trees. Late twilight.
Two charcoal-burners and a girl.
1 C.B. Come, man, let's be getting home.
2 C.B. Why, since we're free of the forest, let's make the most of it.
GIRL. It's getting dark.
1 C.B. Aye, so it is. Come on, man. We've gone far to-day: it's long since we dared come out here.
2 C.B. Oh, I'll come. An I were not so feared, I'd laugh at it. First we daren't come out. Now we're feared of staying, and none too happy about going back.
1 C.B. It's well the King and his knights have cleared the forest; we've less to fear now.
2 C.B. Help me, girl. Well, I like knights less when they're doing well than when they're hard put to it.
1 C.B. Why so?
2 C.B. Why, when they're pressed they've trouble enough to fend for themselves, and they let us bide quiet; but when they're quiet and comfortable, we're best clear of them.
1 C.B. Let's away.
2 C.B. I'm with you. There are too many odd qualms in this valley for my liking.
1 C.B. Come on, then. Why, who's here? A knight.
2 C.B. More like some robber. Would we were well home.
(Enter Lanval (C).)
LAN. Good, these should know. Come hither, my good folk.
Know ye these paths?
1 C.B. Nay, I do not.
2 C.B. Nor I.
LAN. Come, answer me, these thickets are your home,
And ye must know them.
1 C.B. But, good sir, we came
Thus far by chance. We know the certain path
LAN. But I would travel south.
1 C.B. South, you — where's south?
2 C.B. Why, anywhere but here.
LAN. What ails your speech, and why this trembling, man?
I shall not hurt you.
1 C.B. It grows over late;
The sun's near down.
LAN. I see you fear. Thou, girl,
Knowest thou the roads that lead beyond this place?
GIRL. Truly, my lord, I dare not overstep
These certain limits.
LAN. Is this truth?
GIRL. My lord.
LAN. Fear not, I shall not do you harm!
Here will I rest, since I must have the day
To light my passage.
1 C.B. We may go?
LAN. Why not?
God speed you.
(The 2nd Charcoal Burner offers to speak to Lanval.)
1 C.B. Fool, come on!
2 C.B. He should be told.
LAN. Stay, though, I need a service of you yet;
Light me a fire, for I'll sleep here to-night.
1 C.B. We will, my lord. Stay, girl, and make a fire.
LAN. Not so, my friends, stay ye and make it.
1 C.B. Night
Is hard upon us. (They make a fire.)
LAN. Ye shall go full soon.
Tell me, what fear ye?
1 C.B. My father near this place
Met with the death-dogs hunting!
LAN. Oh, I know
2 C.B. But more, good sir, I know this vale too well.
This wood is full of shadows, and the night
Goes not from it, but lurks the livelong day
In its deep places. One is followed marked
By a strange fear that waits for the night hours.
What was that sound?
LAN. Nothing, my good soul.
Ye that do fear the length of all your days,
Find doubt at dawn, half courage in the day,
Terror at twilight. What the night can bring
Of added tremors I may not conceive.
2 C.B. My lord, the shadows are not still, but move.
The air is quiet. All should be quite still.
And yet this glade is pregnant with a sound,
And silent movement in the silence hangs.
The fire is made.
LAN. Then go, good fools — farewell!
Why go ye not?
2 C.B. My lord, —
2 C.B. Speak!
1 C.B. Nay, do thou speak.
LAN. (throwing them some money)
See, here is the reward —
2 C.B. It was not that.
LAN. What then?
GIRL. Oh, my lord,
Certain fair knights have wandered to this glade,
Seeking the fear that ever haunted it.
This hungry forest hath consumed their lives;
No man has seen them, nor has any heard
Aught of their end at any time again.
Sweet sir, return, for to remain is —
2 C.B. 'Tis death, my lord.
LAN. Why, then, 'tis death.
The night is here. Go, ye good fearful things,
Lest your own fear play havoc with your lives.
Silence! Enough! I'll have no more of this.
Poor souls, they wander in a fitful dream;
Born in the shadow, nurtured like the stuff
That grows so rank between the stagnant moat
And savage wall. The usage of their days
Is but a hope that they shall pass unmarked.
Unnoticed birth, unhindered life, and thence
Unhampered passage to a state unknown.
Existence cramped beneath the wings of fear!
Poor souls, my sorrow is not half of theirs,
And yet suffices. (Lies down.) Sleep. Did I desire
To wish them well, I think to sleep is best,
Since 'tis denied them to attain great ends.
(The stage grows dark and the fire burns low. Presently a figure comesLAN. Returned so soon?
from the background and begins to tend the fire. Lanval half awakes.)
TRI. The fire burnt low, my lord.
LAN. Dost thou not fear?
TRI. I shall not fear here.
LAN. Thou needst not, girl. (dreamily) It's true more danger lives
Amongst mankind than in the open woods.
The twisted branches that enframe the stars
Are not as tangled as men's motives are.
The fiercest shadows that can haunt a glade,
The forms of terror that infest bleak hills,
Are not as savage, nor as dangerous,
As fretful moods in passionate wild souls.
All nature's constant save in idle man.
Night is so sweet that I can wonder now,
As must the spirits who look down on us;
We fret and trouble, spur our willing souls,
And yet see life outpace our earnest quest.
Why not be gentle, and say just good-night,
Sleep well, my dreams, sleep well, mine enterprise;
To-morrow — well, to-morrow. Tell me, child,
Why did thy comrades fear this place so much.
TRI. My lord, at times a phantom uses this
As her abode. She has the power to suck
The life and essence from all things she meets,
To creep about the heart of men with words
And dim illusions, till her manner draws
The soul from them, as all blood-feeding beasts,
Once fixed, drain forth their poor drugged victim's life.
LAN. What more?
TRI. The power that in the darkness lives
Impalpable, is hers to lose or hold.
The mysteries that on all being brood,
Are hers to open. In the mists of night
She sits embowered, and strange thoughts surround
Her habitation. For her service wait
Wild visions ready, and fantastic dreams,
To make the circuit of the sleeping world,
And breathe their formless and suggestive speech
To souls that slumber.
LAN. (Seizing a brand from the fire)
No charcoal-burner this.
The form itself! But, God, how fair it is —
Is this enchantment, or does mystery
In silence whispered, so infect my mind
That I see phantoms?
LAN. Hast my name?
Why, then, my soul has left its fleshly shape,
And stands to mock me.
TRI. Have no fear.
LAN. Not I!
If thou be flesh, and of defiant sort,
A blade can test thee. If thou art not that,
But mere refraction of disordered thought,
Thou canst not harm me.
TRI. Nay, I shall not harm
Aught of thy being. Come, touch me if thou wilt;
No need of steel, for that will hurt me not.
LAN. (coming near) So, 'tis the stuff, the substance of this world,
And no slight spirit, vaporous form of dreams,
Born of the moonbeams and the mist of lakes,
Clasped in the woodlands. Thou didst speak my name —
I know thee not!
TRI. But I do know thee well,
For I am flesh or spirit as I please,
For some incarnate in this woman's shape,
For some the fear and terror of deep glades,
For some the flame invisible that drifts
Out of the night, that fires the soul of men
To seek the strangeness of all wild desire.
LAN. They say the devil takes such shapes as this,
When he would tempt the constancy of knights!
TRI. Nay, fear me not.
LAN. Nay, I fear not, but doubt
Why thou hast come to trouble me.
TRI. Do I
So trouble thee? I come but from my place
To taste the fever of this sickly earth,
And also —
TRI. I have come too close
Unto this world. My being has been snared
Into its uses.
LAN. What meanest thou?
TRI. Is there need
To ask of me? Nay, Lanval, I have come
Out of the quiet of the middle world
To plead with thee, I, Triamour,
One of the daughters of the middle world.
LAN. Let me hold fast my senses, for they reel; —
I know this world!
TRI. There is a world as well,
That lies so close unto your being's self,
Is so entwined amid your secret thoughts,
That its existence is not known of you.
This is the vapour that doth shelter man
Lest he be scorched by the fierce heat of truth.
LAN. How may this be?
TRI. Speak not of it, but say
I came not vainly!
LAN. How shall I believe?
TRI. That I do love thee? Look into mine eyes,
And say if malice or deception lie
In ambush there!
LAN. I dare not.
TRI. Am I then
Not fair enough?
LAN. So wonderful and strange!
I dare not let my straining ears take hold
Upon thy speech.
TRI. Thou wilt not hear me?
For such a beauty is too dangerous
For mortal feeling.
TRI. I am shamed. Unkind
Thou art and cruel. (She moves away. )
LAN. Can I endure it so,
Or will my lips enforcèd cry the words —
My soul compels them! I have but my soul
To stake on it. Stay, Triamour!
My own state waits me.
LAN. May I not attain
Unto that world?
TRI. But by mine aid alone;
And since no pleasure or sweet feeling comes
Of this my presence, let us be apart.
LAN. Stay but a moment.
TRI. We shall meet no more
At any time!
LAN. Nay, be thou merciful.
Forgive my failing. 'Twas my craven soul
That shrank in doubt from this dread novelty,
But for a time. The fashion of my fear
Was more amazement than true dread. So swift,
So strange was thy sweet coming that my mind,
But half awoken from fantastic thoughts,
Lost mastery upon itself. But now
My fear is swung to terror of long days
Without thy presence.
TRI. This is no constancy,
To spurn me first and then implore mine aid.
Have care, Sir Lanval, this is no slight quest;
And slender souls that are not steeled of love,
May fail their entry and be ever lost
In the cold void that lies about these gates.
Art thou my knight, sworn to my services?
LAN. Let me be so, though I had never thought
To do love-service. I will pledge my soul
Unto thy being.
TRI. Bear witness to it, dreams,
All evil hauntings that infest the air!
Now shall remorse and foul disaster watch,
And blasting visions hang upon thy course.
See that thou fail not.
LAN. On my soul be it!
TRI. Look on the world, for it may be henceforth
Thou shalt not see it. Bid the earth farewell
And all its usage.
LAN. I'll not mourn for it.
Sour and displeasing it has been to me,
Unfriends of mine most of its habitants,
And I can leave it with no pain at heart.
TRI. Ours is a better and a stranger world,
Its gates swing open in the darkling hours
Upon the path of perfumes of the night.
Harken, ye wardens of the middle world,
Spirits of flame that stand at this world's edge —
A soul would enter! Let me touch thine eyes
And put the fabric of this world away,
A time-worn garment to be cast aside
On such a moment. Come, it is the hour!
(As she touches his eyes there is darkness and confusion. A rush of wild music. The stage remains dark for some moments, then gradually lightens, but remains darker than before. Triamour and Lanval have vanished. A horn is heard in the distance, then again nearer.)GYF. Was 't here, fellow?
(Enter Geraint and Gyfert, the latter dragging one of the charcoal-burners; with them one or two men-at-arms, with torches.)
C.B. Aye, for sure,
We left him here.
GER. 'Tis a wild spot, fit for unholy deeds.
Question him, Gyfert.
GYF. Aye, my lord. If we but find the track of him, I'll lay this dog's nose to it, and if he follow the line untruly, we have rope and trees.
C.B. Spare me, my lord. Indeed, we left him here;
He bade us leave him.
GYF. Here's a fire, my lord,
And warm as yet.
GER. He cannot then be far.
A plague of this darkness. Bring the torches by.
GYF. Now for a cast! Speak to it truly, my ill-favoured brachet. Give tongue, fellow!
C.B. Truly, my lord, we made this fire for him,
And then, being fearful, for he seemed distraught,
Prayed him return. He bade us leave him here.
GYF. His cloak!
GYF. Save of the soil, my lord.
GER. He may have wandered. Curse this night and gloom.
GYF. It grows the wilder for the touch of dawn.
GER. What fit of madness made him choose this place
To rest him in?
GYF. This fellow saith it holds
An evil name.
GER. Most like, the while he's in it!
Where are his tracks?
GYF. Confusion, 'tis too hard
In this ill light!
GER. We'll try by day. (to man-at-arms) Go, thou,
And bid them bring the horses and our gear,
The while we find some spot more fit to use
For our encampment. Listen, fellow, now
If we find not this knight alive and well
Upon the morrow, 'twill go hard with thee.
C.B. The evil spirit that doth haunt this glade
Hath taken him!
GER. What tale is this?
C.B. My lord,
It is well known this place is dangerous,
A valley favoured by the dogs of hell!
GER. Well, well! You're likely to know more of hell
Unless we find him!
GYF. 'Tis a gallows face!
Here's a good branch.
C.B. Oh, no, my lord.
Less noise, fool. Gyfert! come, we'll on;
Bring him away; the moon is overcast.
GYF. If it were not, this dog would howl to it.
ACT II. SCENE I.
Three months elapse between Acts I. and II.
THE MIDDLE WORLD.
Lanval is sleeping. Triamour rises and watches certain shadows passing across the stage. A low sound of horns goes with them.TRI. Go! Speed you, shadows! Come not near to us,
For we are ringed with virtues, and your ends
Call not to them. Sweet dusk of dreams be close,
Let no red thinking thread our pleasant hours
With strands of riot.
TRI. (turning to him) Be still;
The clouds are passing.
LAN. Aye, it seems to me
The light has changed.
TRI. Is there a difference
LAN. Surely this harsh colouring
Fashions a change from the grey, silvered state
Wherein I entered!
TRI. Has it changed my face?
LAN. I thought you once a wondrous flower,
White in the darkness of moon-mocking woods;
But now the flush of suns unknown to me
Has made you strange.
TRI. Think not of it. This state
Is flamed and tinctured by the mind of man,
Who sees it not. Gross motion makes us storms,
Blue, hanging thunder and swart shadowing:
And gentle peace breeds us a gentler moon.
We have our nights when reeling man goes down
To savagery: then from the striving birth
Comes amber dawn.
LAN. But now the skies are filled
With bronze and golden harness, like the breasts
Of kings in war.
TRI. A sun is setting now.
Man has his seasons as the natural earth,
High-hearted springs, calm, open summer times,
Wherein he weaves his kingdoms and his thoughts,
And hopeless autumn, when his fabrics fall
Before the onset of the wolfish winds.
Then shrinking days die out in such a glare
As we can see.
LAN. We watch an autumn, then?
TRI. Rome was its summer. These reflected fires
Foretell a winter.
LAN. And we watch?
TRI. In peace
We'll mark the season of man's brute despair,
And see its beauty. From the tumbled shreds
And rotting squalor of enfeebled years,
We'll patiently await the wondrous birth
Of a new spring.
LAN. I cannot understand.
What is this place?
TRI. This is the quiet land:
The ever-restful pleasaunce of sweet ghosts,
The lawn and arbour of the gentle folk,
It needs no knowledge.
TRI. Here all space
Is but a dream; all life a vision; time,
A thing unknown.
LAN. How can I think of it?
TRI. Here thought needs not expression for its use,
And souls rend not their substance in the war
They wage with silence, but exist in peace.
Here sleep the old ambitions and lost loves,
And from the wrack of lives in anguish spent,
Souls spring like flowers; for here is nothing gross,
The very essence and material
Of this existence are in phantasies.
For there is nothing coarser than a dream
In all the regions of the middle world.
LAN. But I have flesh and garb of man.
TRI. In such a shape I chose thee from the world.
I would not change it.
LAN. Were I worthier
I should not be ashamed.
TRI. Am I so much
That I am feared?
LAN. All exaltation 's here,
Vision, whose fashion is nobility,
Purged splendour of a sloven world,
Why hast thou brought me to the place of gods?
I am but man.
TRI. O love of mine, be still.
Man grows from man: in time from man shall grow
The gods again. Meantime, is there a state
Of greater pleasure and content contrived
In the dull broodings of the fettered earth
Than this we look on?
LAN. It is fair indeed.
TRI. Here, like the gods, shall we immortal watch
Eternal change: see the free spirits stride
To vaster issues, and conception breed
Fairness on fairness; we shall view the souls
Who rest in patience rising like the mists
When as God's trumpets cry the call to life.
Will you not thank me? I have striven much
To do thy pleasure.
LAN. I am sick at heart.
TRI. Why so?
LAN. Thy sweetness is so much to me
That I am withered in my impotence.
I cannot match thee. Had I been a man
As I am not —
TRI. Nay — Lanval —
LAN. Hear me out.
Had I been something, something even slight,
One that great nature sets apart and fits
To certain purpose, I were not ashamed.
But I 'm a callow 'prentice unto life
As yet, a clumsy handler of my soul,
Lacking the gifts of knowledge, strength and age.
Dearest, canst thou believe me faithful and yet know
I hold thy love to be but patronage?
Affection squandered on a thing unproved —
TRI. And my poor judgment — is it nothing worth?
I, who have tested, tricked and played with man,
Have I no wisdom?
LAN. Thou art overwise.
TRI. And yet I drew thee from a million shapes
And forms of being. I am satisfied.
LAN. But I am not. I have myself to please —
The hardest master of censorious thoughts
That one could wish for.
TRI. Dost thou not serve me
And my commandments?
LAN. In all faith.
TRI. Why then
Misdoubt my judgment?
LAN. I have kept my pride.
I 'll be no peasant spying on the gods,
No trancèd servant of a common lust,
But a clean being from all bondage free,
From crippling custom and base prejudice,
Wherein the folly of the world is held.
I cannot love thee; as a thing of us,
The mere companion of the films of earth,
I worship thine existence, and will stand
Equal or nothing.
TRI. Here's a flame indeed,
For one who lately did abjure the world,
I think, for me!
LAN. God help me! I forswear
My recent oaths. I have not only loved,
But set my being to a hopeless end,
Namely, to match what I have not deserved,
And force my substance to strange attributes.
TRI. Tired so soon? Do I then weary thee?
It is my presence brings this restlessness.
Well, I'll be kindly, and for remedy
Of this distraction leave you to yourself.
LAN. Nay, Triamour. You take my words amiss.
TRI. Thou dost not love me.
LAN. How can I do more
Than swear myself unto thy services?
Would hotter words prove greater faith in me?
If protestation 's measure of one's truth,
I am o'erthrown. The stumbling syllables
Which I can utter mock what I can feel;
But yet believe me.
TRI. So I will. Be frank.
What troubles thee?
LAN. Thought, only thought.
TRI. Have the cold phantoms of the foolish world
Still hold on thee? Come! these are but the pangs
And fearful wonder of strange happenings.
Soon thou shalt slough the vesture of thy form
As doth the snake in spring. Such little things
Are wrapped like rags about all little souls,
That the vile texture of their garment makes
Beggars of men. But we'll be free of this,
And in affection watch while circling years
Drift like the vultures. Empires are to us
But huge flushed clouds, and manners but the change
From sleet to sunlight. Here is happiness,
And peace, untinctured of perverted thoughts
That bring contrition.
LAN. Watch, always to watch!
I want no freedom, yet I would be free.
I have an envy of this god-like state,
And am not of it.
TRI. I will bring to thee
Spirits of every fashion, and strange souls
In whose communion discontent shall die,
Since I am not enough.
LAN. Nay, Triamour,
I would not others.
TRI. Lanval, tell me, then,
What is this sickness?
LAN. Give me a little time.
My withered hopes have had no space to fall,
But hang about me as the crispèd leaves
In mournful autumn. It is hard to tell —
But I do love thee; and affection should,
Like the grim father of the early gods,
Swallow all other offspring of the mind.
Yet it does not. For in this place of dreams
A dream has trapped me. Ay, I am forsworn.
I, who should have no glamour but thine eyes;
I, who should hear no music but thy words,
Heed other motions.
TRI. What is this?
LAN. The while
I was half sleeping, there was borne to me
A faint far clamour, like the distant call
Of hunters in the forest, and I saw
Long, lordly lines of very noble forms
Passing beyond me; then my pleasure passed,
Our dalliance was forgotten, and I heard,
In place of our sweet music, the foul clang
Of brass in action, and the dance of steel
On shields opponent, and into my ears
Stole the sweet thunder of a thousand hooves,
The hissing of the arrows, and the shrill
Keen note of the wind-cutting spears. Again
I saw the light on lance-heads in the dawn;
Long legions creeping from the morning mists;
The death-haze standing on embattled ranks;
The shaft of sunset on the armoured slain,
And breathless victors leaning on red swords.
There is no music like the tread of hosts,
Nor any glamour that can match the sight
Of set battalions meeting in the field.
I have confessed. (a pause) So silent! Is my fault
TRI. Listen, there's no fault
In anything except in ignorance.
The fault was mine. Nay, hear me; thou hast heard
The horns of action, and beheld the souls
That God has fettered.
LAN. What are they?
TRI. Such souls
As have been clasped too firm in earthly bonds;
Strange lives that sprang in unauspicious days,
And being baulked of their short-lived desire,
Do restless surge against their impotence.
They scorn the favour of this subtle world;
Death quenched their fire and not experience,
And so encircled of their own dead aims,
They wander waiting for new times to dawn.
LAN. What's this to me?
TRI. The call of life; for none
Can feel this presence who is not enforced
To like attainment.
LAN. Am I called to them?
TRI. Aye! mine's the fault! I took a shallow grief,
A sulking sorrow, for full man's despair;
Baulked vanity, for clean disheartened pride;
And a child hindered, for a tortured soul.
LAN. If I am slight it's not from lack of will,
Nor have I boasted my poor strength to be
More than it is. If I have shamed your choice,
Blame not my poverty.
TRI. I blame thee not,
Naught but myself. Now, Lanval, arm and go!
Go hence! The impulse of thy life is strong;
Go out from fairness, peace, and gentle love,
Into the clouded passion of the earth;
The sombre struggle of fate-ridden hours,
The grey injustice and the thousand shapes,
Wherein the brute shows like a beggar wrapped
In rags of soul.
LAN. But, Triamour!
TRI. Go now,
And swiftly. (She turns away.)
LAN. (Arms himself slowly.) Surely I have much to learn.
I was led hither for some mockery,
But it was needless. For on earth the skies
Cry scorn on all; the very heedless stars
Look down on us, as some cold audience
Might watch the striving and the end of man.
One can bear all when there is no escape.
(He buckles on his belt.)
'Twas not ill thought to tempt me with a dream,
And add relation to one's misery, (half drawing his sword)
For here's a mistress that at least will hurt
More than myself. (Triamour turns to him.)
TRI. Wilt thou not understand?
Can I, a daughter of the middle world,
Brook rivalry? Nay, I am not for one
Who has not found the saltness of desire;
But for a being who has much endured,
Has rent the garment of his vanity,
Made ashes of ambition, and come free
Of common striving. But I blame thee not.
Go to world, and I will watch on thee,
And bring thee honour and accomplishment,
With this condition, that thou speak no word
Of me or of our meeting. Swear to me
Thou wilt remember.
(The shadows are seen again at the back of the stage.)
LAN. God give strength to me,
The pledge I gave of my whole self endures.
Drive me not forth!
TRI. See how they envy thee,
Whom thou hast envied. Nay, it must be so;
None live within this strange environment
But those whose purpose serves some single end,
Whose souls acknowledge some plain mastery.
(The stage grows dark.)
LAN. The constant dusk is deepening into night;
Give me thy hand, I can no longer see,
These mysteries are faint.
TRI. Remember this,
Our meeting is more sacred than belief,
And evil fortune will attend the day
Thou speakest of it.
LAN. I'll remember. God!
What is this gloom?
TRI. The sullen grasp of earth.
(The stage darkens until only Triamour is visible.)
Pass now and swiftly, for my heart is wrung.
If Powers may hear me, let thy ways be fair!
Swart phantoms, clad in habit of cold pride,
Who drive men's souls relentless to dark ends,
How strange are ye! Out of accomplishment
Can come but grief, out of endeavour pain.
Closed be these gates. Earth comes to earth again.
(Darkness. The scene changes to the Forest.)
ACT II. SCENE II.
THE FOREST. (DAWN.)
Geraint is sitting moodily over a dying fire, the men-at-arms are asleep behind him. Only Gyfert is awake.GER. (to himself) A foul quest this. The world moves on apace.
I sicken for the west, and the clean winds;
These forests cramp the soul with silences.
God, for an empty brown stone-studded space,
And the faint seas beyond. Gyfert!
GYF. My lord.
GER. We'll turn again. We cannot find him here,
And there are doings in the world to-day
Which claim attention.
GYF. We shall find him yet.
GER. No doubt. His bones, a cap of steel, some links
Of rusted mail, and rotting leather shreds,
Foul with decay. Well! if that is the end
Of my endeavour, I'll not waste my days
In finding it.
GYF. And leave it so?
GER. How else?
I am not glad to prove myself a fool,
A butt for fools of my own sort. Enough;
I'll never trust my judgment of a man
Before my sense again. Rouse up
GYF. (pointing to 1st charcoal-burner)
Prince, what shall we do with this?
GER. He came near hanging: without cause, I think;
Give him my purse and our protection hence,
And if his absence has endangered him
With his liege lord, our warrant for his cause.
GYF. Up, Beric! up, ye sweltering dogs!
1 C.B. My lord, an evil spirit —
GYF. (throwing him a purse) Take
That dose to cure it.
1 C.B. Good, my lord.
GER. No thanks
For such bare justice. I did never think
To much believe you, but your talk of ghosts
And bitter phantoms has persuaded me
Enough to leave the forest.
(A horn in the distance.)
Why, a call!
Answer them, Beric, if they sound again.
(A horn, closer.)
Sound, man! (The man-at-arms sounds a call.)
Stand fast, we know not who they are.
Loosen your blades.
(Astamor and the 1st charcoal-burner appear (C).)
2 C.B. Here, sir, they be —
GER. Astamor, is it?
GER. Then well met,
AST. Well met, Geraint, I come
Hot-foot to bring you summons to our war.
AST. Aye, and no small one, in the pagan term.
The fire is up. The northmen have come down,
And the red Gaul from westward. Work 's to hand.
You have not found him?
GER. No, nor shall I find
Aught but the knowledge I was fool to seek.
AST. I hoped to hear some better news than this.
GER. It 's pitiful. Three months of wasted search
Prowling in thickets, wandering in groves,
Hampered by fools, who blubber and protest
That phantoms, vampires, ghosts, and all the brood
Of silly spirits haunt this miry wood.
AST. I can believe them.
GER. I am willing to,
Sobeit I get clear of this curst place,
All mud and thorn. I tell you, Astamor,
I dream of trees, long, endless, endless lines
Of bleached foul trunks, and hills so cloaked in leaves
They have no shape: but tell me, Astamor,
How came this war?
AST. In old and usual wise,
A messenger from some far fort besieged,
A rumour spreading from the common folk,
And then appeals, reports, and fearsome signs.
Then at the last plain statement of the case,
Two towers have fallen on the Clyde, the Gaul
Comes inward from the west, is helped
By the winged northmen.
GER. Is it so! How far
Have they pressed on?
AST. I know not. They say
Caer Rhiddock 's ta'en.
GER. Then we can waste no time.
Gyfert, our harness! Bid them saddle up
And tend our horses. We have far to ride.
My horse and arms!
(Confusion and hurry. Gyfert proceeds to
arm Geraint while he talks to Astamor.)
AST. How is it, Geraint,
Lanval has 'scaped you?
GER. That I cannot tell.
He has not taken ship, that much I know;
I found his cloak and campment: then the gods,
The fairies or the devils must have seized
Upon his body.
AST. You give him good scope.
GER. I swore I'd rax the whole wide earth for him.
Well! circumstance has made me break my pledge.
The state a man is born to sets about
His life like iron. He may wish and swear
His hours to service of his own desires;
But circumstance, position, and the rest
Of the vain follies of the world rise up
And sometime baulk him. I accept this war
As recreation, but I shall come back
To this pursuit.
AST. Too much persistency
To spend on such an object.
GER. (aside to Gyfert) Closer still;
The buckle's slack: — Well, I am not so sure
Of its unworth. I do not stake my lands
Without some faith: and I still hold myself
As shrewd a judge of men as any. Let it be!
God sparing me, I'll prove my estimates.
(The two charcoal-burners wander off.)
Meanwhile, I lose enough to whet my taste
For further effort. Are your horses near?
AST. Not far. No doubt some of these sullen dogs
Did murder him.
GER. I thought of hanging them
For that suspicion. But they're innocent;
I'm sure of it.
AST. Well, if you think so —
We waste the hours. How far to Carduel?
AST. One day's hard riding, though I squandered ten
In finding you.
GER. To horse, then.
(Enter 1st charcoal-burner, running.)
1 C.B. Oh, my lord,
A ghost! a spirit!
GER. Yet another one?
You are prolific.
2 C.B. See, my lord, it comes.
(Enter Lanval (C); he stops abruptly on seeing the
others, and they look at each other for a moment.
GER. Were I not schooled to madness, I might be
Almost astonished. 'Tis the man himself.
Welcome, Sir Lanval.
LAN. Welcome thou, Geraint.
GER. (aside) There's the most heartfelt greeting of my life.
AST. Welcome, Sir Lanval.
LAN. Welcome, Astamor.
What do ye here?
GER. I seek an errant knight,
One who stole forth from Carduel its court,
Who was too peevish or too proud to ask
Aid of his friends.
LAN. And have you found him?
I think we have. Sir Lanval, 'twas ill done
To slink from us in such a fashion.
Is't I ye seek?
GER. Whom else? Think you we spend
Our days in this dank brake in search of churls
Or madmen who choose this as their retreat?
But I'll not blame thee, though I lose three months.
Suffice it all ends well.
LAN. Three months!
Is it so long?
GER. Hast lost the count of time?
AST. He seems half dazed.
Hast thou been wounded, man,
Or in a sickness?
LAN. I am well enough.
GER. Then the adventure! Come, the whole of it;
We'll hear no less!
AST. Aye, Lanval, tell it us.
LAN. What shall I tell you? Ye seem real men,
And have the texture of this earth. But I
Have touched such dreams and viewed such phantomry,
That ye seem but the mist of being. God,
How thin and vap'rous is reality!
AST. This should be magic.
LAN. I mixed
My flesh with shadows, and I wrung my soul
In impotent dumb conflict with a wraith
That was myself. How quickly they can pass —
The golden twilights and flushed dawns that turned
Never to day. The ringed, wide, brazen lakes
Shining in purple-shadowed forestry,
And gaunt pale mountains fretted like the teeth
Of some sea dragon. Oh, the wealth of it
Dies in my mind ere I can find my words.
(Geraint examines his armour critically.)
GER. Strange speech, indeed. Where have you gotten these
New arms? They shame Bernardo's fairest craft.
AST. What workmanship!
GER. Aye, see this, Astamor.
Come, Lanval, tell us.
LAN. How had I these arms?
I had them of the fairest hands. — No more
Can I forget so soon. I may not speak.
AST. Thou dost but edge our interest —
LAN. I am
In honour bound.
AST. But surely we may hear
Some outline of the tale.
LAN. E'en now
I speak too much.
GER. This is not gentle.
But still, Geraint, I have been put in bonds
GER. Then thou hast the right of it.
A knight may hold his peace if he so please,
And a word pledged is better worth than all
Our wondering. Keep silence if you will;
I'll not regret it. For myself one word —
I pledged myself to find you and return
LAN. And wherefore?
GER. I admit
My purpose would look fairer if I said,
I sought you in pure friendship; but the case
Deals more with hate than love.
LAN. What, then?
GER. I swore myself to prove thy worthiness,
And staked sufficient value in thy power
To make me hot to see it shown.
LAN. 'Twas kind
To so uphold me.
GER. I'm no flatterer,
But even honest with myself at times;
So the belief which I have held in you
I put at issue. (He hesitates.)
AST. Come, be short, Geraint,
The sun is high.
GER. I so upheld your cause
That I have pledged you to the closèd field,
And our twin honours are at stake. I claim
This service of you.
LAN. Gladly I accept
Such terms of service.
AST. We do linger here
While war's abroad.
GER. I was too hot, perhaps,
Thou wilt forgive me that I staked thy life.
LAN. Geraint, I thank thee; I am heartened now
To try another cast with fortune. I am glad
To meet occasion that my fate may bring,
If I may gather honour.
GER. We shall speak
More of this later. Now to horse and war.
God, how I hate this forest and its peace!
I hate all peace and worship only change —
Save in man's mind. For we have been becalmed,
Lain stript and idle on the burnished sea
Of dull existence, but the winds are up;
Soon all our lives like labouring cogs shall dance
Through trough and ridge of fortune to our port,
With every rush of the torn restless waves
To sharpen us. Our horses, Gyfert.
(Geraint and Astamor go to back and call for their horses.)
The stream 's in flood, I must plunge into it,
And be borne deathward. There are mysteries
Which ring our purpose, flex our aims, and drape
Our subsequence. But I have seen so much
That I am baffled with strange lights. The course
Of one unknowing is so simple clean,
His quiet pleasure in an end achieved,
His certainty of honour and his faith
In gentle doings, I knew all of them.
But I am meshed in a strange web of dreams,
Limed to the thread of thoughts yet unconceived,
And faced by Nature, the grim spider form,
Who traps and spares not. O God, curse the hour
I ever saw her! No, all gods be thanked
That led me to it. Better it is to see
And be a madman than to keep one's sense
And happily be blind. But I am wrecked
In all my hopes, for I, like any fool,
Stand staked for ever on the motionless
High rocks of love. All visions shift and veer,
But there's a phantom stands beside my path
Both loved and feared.
(The horses are led on at the back.)
GER. Sound us a rally.
(The man-at-arms sounds a call. )
I think too much. My soul's a sanctuary
For every folly: to accomplishment
I lend my being.
(Lanval rises and goes towards Geraint and Astamor.)
1 C.B. Let him not come near.
There's some devil gotten into his shape, and such company may be fit for knights, but it's o'er warm for us.
(Lanval stops at the charcoal-burners, who shrink away from him. )
LAN. Why, 'tis the same. My old night-fearing friends
Still in unease. Well, I do owe you much.
Ye were the heralds of those fateful hours,
Truly quaint guardians for the gates of night;
But ye shall share my fortunes.
(throwing them a purse)
GER. Lanval, come,
We've far to ride.
(Exeunt all except the charcoal-burners.)
1 C.B. Let the purse be, man; it's fairy gold, and turns ashes: aye, and brings ill luck with it.
2 C.B. I would all our ashes were the same solid stuff.
1 C.B. The half is mine.
2 C.B. Nay, friend, ye can still think it's ashes. A very kindly devil it is. Think you they'll lose any more knights? It is a smooth, profitable business.
1 C.B. I came near hanging in it.
2 C.B. Well, I'm thinking I'd risk hanging once a year for this profit.
1 C.B. I'm glad we're clear of 'em. The forest's ours again. Where's our stack. I'll follow you.
2 C.B. Lead you for to-day. I'd rather see your back than show you my own.
(The 1st charcoal-burner goes off sullenly. )
Sure, some of them might be lost for charity to poor men, and no great harm. At least, the Saints be praised for a fair dawn.
ACT III. SCENE I.
THE QUEEN'S TOWER, CARDUEL. (Two years later.)
Large bay window at back of stage. A door (LC) leading to Queen's apartments.
Another (L) leading to knights' part of Castle. Door (R) to stairway leading to the lists.
AST. Still, Meliard, we shall see well from here.
MEL. How can one judge the value of a stroke
From such a distance?
AST. We are high, 'tis true,
But since our service keeps us to this room,
We must make shift to watch as best we can.
MEL. How long, think you, will our attendance last?
AST. I do not know. They say that messengers
Have come from Persant.
MEL. War again?
AST. No doubt.
MEL. I'd not have missed this meeting for the half
Of what I own. What think you, Astamor,
Is not Sir Lanval stouter than that stiff
And lustful ruffian Agravaine?
AST. Take care!
There are some here who love him. I do not,
And yet I'm cautious of too much disdain.
MEL. Lanval should gain!
AST. But he is wounded, man!
AST. He got a bitter hurt of late;
A Pictish shaft through the left shoulder.
And he will yet risk all in this debate?
AST. Oh, it concerns a very trifling fact;
He was accused of cowardice.
MEL. That charge
Was folly on the face of it.
AST. Of course;
Yet, Meliard, we both of us were there,
When this strange charge was first of all preferred.
Strange, that we saw no folly in it then!
MEL. Their conflict should be very hotly fought.
AST. Lanval's the defter in the use of swords,
And has the better eye for measure —
MEL. But his wound —
And Agravaine's great strength!
AST. Well, we shall see,
It's close on noon, for look, the shadows shrink.
(Enter Owain (R).)
OW. Hast seen Geraint, Sir Astamor? 'Tis time
We brought our man to his pavilion.
AST. No Owain,
I have not seen him.
OW. Wherefore wait ye here?
AST. It is our day for duty. We attend
The pleasure of the King.
OW. He needs you not:
I come from him in council with Cador,
The Duke of Cornwall.
MEL. Then we can go down
And watch this combat.
OW. I will answer for it.
MEL. Come, Astamor.
AST. You are sure, Owain?
OW. No, I am not. I said I'll answer for it.
God speed you, Sirs. (He turns away.)
AST. Come then, Sir Meliard.
(Exeunt Meliard and Astamor.)
OW. Aye, haste away and scuffle for your place.
Stare with the rabble. Feathers, voices, spurs,
Are all your being, and suit cockerels
As well as knights. God! I'd as soon have set
Two dogs by the ears and had a reeking barn
Of goggling rustics for their audience
As touch this business. All in honour's name?
Oh, honour, virtue, grace, nobility,
What fools you make of men!
Is Lanval armed?
GER. Bernardo is with him.
OW. We shall be late.
GER. Well, let them wait for us
Who forced the quarrel.
OW. I did think, Geraint,
That you had puddled in this mud as much
As our opponents. Why I am compelled
To take a hand in this fantastic shift
I cannot think.
GER. I claimed your services:
He is my friend.
OW. Well, God deliver me
From such a friendship. It's a kindly act
To urge one's friend into a bitter cleft
Where, if he gains, there's little profit found,
And if he lose the certainty of shame.
GER. I know, Owain, I have done wrong in this,
But I was stung by some foul incidents
And, in my groping for an instrument,
My hand lit on him. I regret it now
For I have found he has a quality
Which shames my purpose. I like him too much
To turn his deeds to my advantages;
I'd give my hand to be well clear of this.
OW. Hot head, soft heart, these are the devil's aids.
GER. May be, and yet strong arm outweighs them both.
But here he comes.
(Enter Lanval and Bernardo (L).)
Bernardo, hast thou armed
BER. Prince, had I a son to quip
For such engagement, I could furnish him
OW. Good. Thy shoulder, Lanval, smarts?
LAN. It troubles me a little.
OW. Have a care
To well protect it.
LAN. Trust me.
GER. That we do.
(A sennet off.)
OW. The marshals to the lists. Let us go down.
(Enter Guinevere and her maidens (LC). The Queen seats herself in a high chair and the maidens go to the window.)LYN. 'Tis a fair field, and see the marshals come
Into the lists.
ALYS. Who is the knight that bears
Bezants on azure?
LYN. 'Tis Sir Astamor.
ALYS. A noble knight.
HEL. See how the common folk
Press on the barriers!
ALYS. It is said they love
Sir Lanval's cause. What are the arms, Lynette?
LYN. Mounted three courses with the lance alone,
The points unbated. One being overthrown
But still unhurt, the dagger and the sword
ALYS. To death?
LYN. Until one yield himself,
Or else to death.
ALYS. I hope they will not press
Their quarrel harshly. It were sad to lose
So fair a knight as either of these men.
LYN. No, for my part I hope it is to death.
To see life hang despairing, calm, and hard
Upon its frontier! That is good to watch —
Worth one's attention!
HEL. See, they clear the lists!
Now comes Sir Lanval. (Murmurs.)
ALYS. How the people cry!
HEL. Salutes the marshal and retires to arm.
ALYS. Sir Agravaine in silence does the like.
LYN. They love him not. How should they know what flame
Lives in high hearts. Has a man in him
A churlish manner, then the people shout —
Like cries to like.
ALYS. And if Sir Lanval win?
LYN. As he will not —
ALYS. Then can the common folk
Show some sound judgment.
LYN. Agravaine will prove
Himself the better.
HEL. I think not.
What friends support the causes of these knights?
LYN. Sir Colgrevance and Pertinas are friends
To Agravaine. For Lanval, Prince Geraint,
Owain, the son of Ryence of North Wales,
Are the supporters.
QU. So! A savage pair,
Geraint, Owain: they will not lightly seize
On enterprise, but make them well assured
That they sustain no vessel of slight strength.
I have heard much of this strange Lanval's power,
But know him not beyond the courtesy
That's natural to all of kindly birth.
But ye should know. How is it, Alysoun,
That one who is apparently upheld
By qualities beyond the common scale
Comes not among us?
ALYS. Lady, I know him not
Save by report, as kindly, generous,
Beyond most men.
QU. That's but a vaporous
And stale description. Dost thou know, Lynette,
What the man is?
LYN. I think the common sort
Of comely, cunning, poor adventurer,
Who has a choice of fashions to advance
His scheme of action. This is his device:
He loves not ladies, has a brow of care,
And feigns a wealth of projects in his mind
To get a name for virtue and great gravity.
QU. Is he a fool?
LYN. I said not so.
What do men say of him?
HEL. Much good.
He's strong, and gentle; and most subtly learned
In warlike practice.
QU. I have heard as much;
Yet many men with half these qualities
Are better known. There's something strange in him.
Tell me what passes.
ALYS. The heralds cry the cause
Of this encounter; now announce the names
And titles of the knights. Their friends
Bring them to answer.
(All go to the window except Guinevere.)
HEL. It will not be long,
LYN. The signal. (A trumpet.)
See, they meet. Well struck!
QU. What is't, Lynette?
LYN. Each lance clean-hearted broke.
They bring fresh spears.
QU. The vantage?
LYN. Both unhurt.
Sir Lanval reeled.
HEL. But Agravaine gave ground.
LYN. Nay, he did not.
HEL. Look, they ride again.
LYN. Down! He's down!
HEL. Said I not so, Lynette?
QU. Who is o'erborne?
LYN. Sir Agravaine is down.
(Guinevere also goes to window.)
Full on the gorget, down both man and horse.
He may retrieve it; he is skilled and fierce.
He's up and draws. See, Sir Lanval lights.
Now shall the sword prove their arbitrament.
GUIN. They are well matched.
LYN. This cannot long endure.
Sir Agravaine, he's beaten to his knees.
GUIN. He falls. 'Tis finished.
(Shouts and applause without.)
LYN. Oh, incredible!
And Lanval holds his life within his hands;
Lanval that has no touch of human fire.
QU. Peace! He will spare him.
LYN. And thou canst be calm?
QU. Silence! I know Sir Lanval is at heart
Of kindly nature. Though Sir Agravaine
Has been at fault, as is so clearly proved,
This degradation shall bring him no harm.
LYN. Nay, but the victor doth become possessed
Of all the vanquished. He may straight condemn, —
Oh, not the gallows!
QU. Peace. Go, Alysoun,
And bid Sir Lanval come attend me here.
(Exit Alysoun (R).)
(The other maidens leave Lynette and Guinevere.)
What is it, fool, dost love
LYN. No, but 'tis horrible
To see a gallant and sweet-favoured man
Lie at the feet of a grim follower
Of power and war; a priest of policy,
A sour disciple of the arts of state
In whom's no pleasure, gaiety or wit,
But sullen strength.
QU. Think'st thou to so deceive?
I see thee, girl. Thou lov'st this Agravaine,
And yet for fear would'st not acknowledge it,
Thinking that I — by heaven, have a care,
Thoughts have a habit of becoming deeds.
This that thou lovest lies within the reach
Of the dread gallows. Therefore, have a guard
Upon thy tongue. There are ends as ill
That wait on women who have not the gift
Of gentle silence. (Re-enter Alysoun.)
What answer, girl?
ALYS. Sir Lanval bade me say,
That, once disarmed, he would attend on thee.
QU. Nay, it is urgent. Go thou, girl, again,
Bid him attend me armed — he is unhurt?
ALYS. He has no wound.
QU. Go then, and bid him come
Instant, accoutred even as he is,
Say that I have some reason for request,
And earnestly for his attendance plead.
Mark me, Lynette, I think this Agravaine
Has been thy lover. Is it not so? Fool,
What gain is there in a denial. Think;
Were I in anger, should I not be kind,
Smile on thy love and shortly be avenged?
And so I will. I'll beg of Lanval, now,
His life and body. Thou shalt have them both.
Things that are fallen are of me despised,
And interest that I have once displayed
Can, like a garment, be soon cast aside.
I'll pledge him to thee. Wished I for revenge,
Or were I jealous, I could wreak no ill
LYN. If I am meat for scorn,
What food can fill or satisfy the gods
That watch on thee?
QU. Have a care, Lynette,
For I am minded to be generous.
As for this man who is reputed cold,
Whose virtues live but in state services,
I'll handle him and fashion his device
Unto new purpose. Go!
LYN. Good lady, —
Make me not harsh. (Exit Lynette.)
Why am I curious now,
To try the texture of this novel man,
Whose gravity is so unnatural?
Doth not knights' duty learn them to serve us?
Yet, otherwise, he lacks not knightliness;
In truth his manner is of seemly sort,
And I do wonder — wonder overmuch!
Enough, he comes! (Enter Lanval.)
Sir Lanval, pardon me
That I enforce thee to attend me here;
I have no right to ask of thee a boon,
But my request is not for mine own cause;
Another sorrow has made me thus bold.
Wilt grant a favour?
LAN. I shall be most glad
To do thy pleasure.
QU. I pray thee, sit by me;
Nay, but thy arms will hamper thee.
LAN. Not so.
QU. Let me unarm thee. Nay, it is but just,
Since thou wilt grant of thy great courtesy
My little asking, that I should be swift
To do thee service. (She disarms him.)
Now come, sit by me
And I will tell thee what the gift shall be
Which thou hast granted; is it not?
LAN. 'Tis so.
QU. I have a maid attendant on myself,
Who is possessed of love for Agravaine,
And now he lies the prisoner of thine arms,
Proved to be false, caught in a calumny,
And, if thou wilt, upon the edge of death; —
I ask his life: it is not hard to give
Out of the riches of the hour of gain
So small a guerdon. 'Tis a piteous thing
That one maid's hopes should hang upon the word —
The chance — flung breath of careless victory!
LAN. Madame, I pray you — I had never thought
To push advantage to so foul an end:
The world's too fertile in quaint accidents,
And change of fortune, to let anger live
Beyond its moment. This question overpast,
I am so glad to turn to other thoughts
That I can keep no malice. There are souls
Who, once awakened by the conflict, flushed
By quick successes may not hold their hand;
I did not think I seemed as one of them.
QU. Forgive me, Lanval. But there are some men
Born to be bitter; bred in warlike times,
Whose only passion is to range the world,
And by its harshness frame their circumstance.
Such know no kindness, but are wrought by years
Until their texture is indifference.
From them the sorrows, gaieties and change,
That give the colour to existence, fall
And are rebutted as the idle waves
By the calm rocks. Even here they move,
Behind our pleasures, shadows of grim use.
And thou art stern, I thought thee one of them.
LAN. Thou did'st misjudge me.
QU. Truly I did so:
I ask thy pardon.
LAN. Nay, there is no need;
But I am grieved thou did'st anticipate
My own poor purpose, since Sir Agravaine
Is my possession. I did mean to ask
For thine acceptance of his person, arms;
His word is pledged as surety for his life
That he will serve thee.
QU. 'Tis a kindly gift:
But, though I thank thee, I do need him not.
LAN. I had hoped else. He is of comely build;
Fit to take part in revels, used to courts,
Skilled in the custom of all palaces,
Holding, in short, the qualities I lack.
QU. I need him not. I would not speak of him.
Press me not, Lanval, for I fear thy speech
Has in it something of the thoughts debased,
That have their kennels in the courts of kings.
Never can I shew any favour, smile,
Look kindly on, or help young enterprise,
But the foul whispers of the watching herds
Sneer shame on me. Surely thou didst not
Think evil of me?
LAN. Art thou not my Queen?
And am I not the servant of this realm?
How then shall I find space to heed such talk?
About the passage of our lives there drifts
A constant eddy of foul mutterings,
Which have no import, truth, or evidence.
However clean, our souls must wade waist-deep
In ribaldry. Though we disdain such stuff,
Full half the world can feed on nothing else.
I may have heard; I have not noticed.
As all that 's in thee! How could they have said
Thou wert ungentle, slandered ladies, spoke
Indifferent of them!
QU. I thought —
Was half afraid to ask of thee a gift.
Report did have it thou wast near a boor!
LAN. It flatters seldom.
QU. Lanval, wilt thou blame? —
Ye that hold honour high are hard,
Swift to rebuke. We women may not seek
To find expression in our little strength,
So faulty are we and of such slight power,
Yet we may kindle sleeping things to fire,
And by awakening form a part of them,
Till, by good fortune, we may see our spark
Light such a beacon that its luminance
Makes all men fairer. Thus I caught men up,
Tested and failed, and then cast them aside.
Have I done wrong?
LAN. I cannot think so.
Wilt never fail me: Lanval, bear my badge;
Be thou my knight!
LAN. I may not do so.
QU. But to refuse me is no courteous act.
Must I believe the common talk was just?
I'll not believe it. Thou art not unkind
LAN. (Aside) God! those words again!
QU. Nay, hear!
I stand apart, the watcher of this court,
Hungry as any for the spring of worth,
And I have listened through the dull sour years
To foolish babbling and vain braggart speech:
Never have I seen such a one as thee.
The power men value, state and exercise,
Is in my handling; honour, worship, all —
LAN. Honour and power are very far apart.
QU. Look at me, Lanval. Have you lust for place,
Desire for rule, all these are in my gift.
There shall be nothing, nothing in the world,
To be denied thee.
LAN. Madam, my deserts
Have not earned this.
QU. I know your merits well,
And love you for them. Will you make me speak,
When any soul should surely recognise
LAN. I may not.
QU. Why not?
Am I not fair? We shall soon forget
The foolish customs, detriments that bar
Our intercourse, for what are they to us?
For I do love thee. Is it shame? What 's shame,
But discipline to suit a baser sort?
LAN. I pray you, spare me.
QU. Put me not away,
For we are lifted to a pinnacle
Whereon stands nothing but ourselves alone,
And all else is a sleeping cloud, a mass
Of gentle, distant, white inconsequence.
LAN. I will not.
QU. Wherefore? Hast another love?
LAN. Nay, I have none.
QU. What can then impede
Our loves' progression? If thou lov'st me not,
My simple passion shall infect thy blood.
Such fire lives in me that my flesh is flame,
And I know well, life has no ore to stand
So fierce a blast, but that its metalled veins
Must yield their substance.
LAN. What of my fealty,
Shall I dishonour all I hold most firm,
And play the traitor to my King?
QU. What bonds
Of such convention stand against plain life?
Can man play master to the natural world,
Make laws to hold the elements in place?
Why, it is foolish. Let the passions reign,
For in their presence all existence stands
Free and unfettered.
LAN. I will not betray
My life for lust.
QU. This is false modesty —
The state wherein the shackled soul is blind,
And may not face the common light of day.
If I can bear it, wilt thou be afraid?
Come, kiss me, Lanval. I do thee no harm.
Why art thou harsh?
LAN. Let me go, I say.
QU. Why should I so?
LAN. My fealty is pledged.
QU. So be it, Lanval. Fealty 's the term;
A fair excuse; and now I see it clear,
Life scorns not love unless well fortified
By love itself. Thou hast a paramour,
And this aped virtue is the mask of vice.
Why, I was fool to think there lived a man
That spotted not his arms with that disgrace.
I pray thy pardon. I myself prefer
The common practice that will not disguise
Humanity beneath the hypocrite:
And I must think I shall be made a sport,
A credulous poor being that believed
In manhood's truth; my love a jest of clowns,
Worn as a garish triumph in base lists!
Shall I endure it?
LAN. And shall I endure
This constant insult? If my purpose stand
So much assured that no appeals of thine
Avail to move it, is that a just cause
LAN. What else?
Think'st thou a man should speak as much to me,
And pass unharmed? There is a limit, too,
To a queen's tongue! I bear as much as most,
And I am patient unless pricked too far!
QU. Thus do I gall thee! Be it a challenge then!
Swear to me, Lanval, by the blood of Christ,
By thine own honour and thy knighthood's oath,
By everything that can ensure thy soul
Unto the devil if thou art forsworn —
Hast thou a love?
LAN. I love many things:
Much of the world and more that may be hid
Beyond its limits.
QU. Hast thou not a love?
A keen desire to any woman? Strange
Thou dost not answer. Nay, take time, my lord,
Evasion springs not easily to lips
That speak of honour; and it is even so,
The sudden idol of a people's choice,
The fortunate applauded aspirant
Has human failings. Nay, I blame thee not,
Many are thus; shamed to acknowledge sins,
That — did they know it — are of greater worth
Than all their virtues. But, I fear, the king
Is but ill-served with traitors in his court;
His council, aided by sleek hypocrites,
Earning rewards of virtue undeserved.
Therefore I term thee coward, recreant knight,
A chance-bred upstart of presumption born!
Thou hast deceived me. Take it as a gain
That slime can match the sheen of metals true,
And filthy favours mock clean services.
Need I say more? I pray thee let me pass!
LAN. One moment, madam: I have some defence.
QU. Defence! I doubt not there 's a pretty talk,
But I have little patience to endure
Its full recital. There are taverns near
And other places of foul ill-repute
Which can enjoy it.
LAN. Madam, at the least,
Hear my excuse.
QU. If there were excuse,
What is 't to me? Either thou canst not
Be natural or courteous in thy ways —
Either thou art a shadow lacking strength;
Something inhuman that has crept to us,
Wearing the fashion of a very man,
And by enchantment gaining men's renown;
Or else shame bids thee cover up thy life,
Lest the foul taint of thy dishonoured love
Smirch thine existence till men turn from thee,
And all men know thee for the loathsome thing,
The recreant, base coward and defiled!
Which shall it be?
LAN. Neither, by all Heaven!
My strength is proved and I am not ashamed.
I know I may not hold free speech with thee,
Though I endure as much as man can stand
Of insult! But this goes too far,
And slurs the fairness of my love.
QU. I knew —
Some drab —
LAN. Enough. If there be fault in us,
It is that I am worthless and deserve
The stale abuse I have received. But she
Is much beyond it. God! you offered me
The present usage of an ugly lust,
The vileness of corruption, when I know
Someone so fair beyond the mould of earth
That she transcends all beauty that thou hast,
As much as dreams, that come to sleeping gods,
Outweigh the sweetest of men's slender thoughts!
There 's not a maiden that doth wait on her
But is thy match in beauty, in all else
Thy better! Pass, I will not stay thee now.
Why did I speak? My God! Did I not swear
Myself to silence? Never again, O fool!
My tongue has sped me. Why could I not rule
So base a passion? Fool that I am, O fool!
(Enter Owain, overhearing his last words.)
OW. Fool! It is true, he has some wisdom then!
(Enter Geraint, Astamor and Meliard.)
Well wrought, Sir Lanval.
GER. Said I not so, Owain?
I knew he had the power. Well fought, my friend;
Henceforth our fortunes shall go hand in hand.
Come, look not stern, for this should be the day
To crown thy service.
AST. Sir Lanval, here's my hand,
I have misjudged you.
MEL. I the same.
GER. I knew.
ACT III. SCENE II.
A Council Chamber in the Castle of Carduel. Broad windows (CR) opening on to the ramparts. A curtained door (L).Arthur, Gawain, Cador.
(Arthur paces up and down, then looks out of the window. Gawain and Cador exchange glances.
Presently Arthur comes back to table.)
ARTH. Truly, our time gives us but little ease,
And scarce a space wherein to rest our limbs:
No sooner have we slipped our wearied arms
From their hacked harness than the trumpet breeds
Another discord. Again, and yet again!
They hunt us hard, these senseless, savage hordes
Who waste their lives indifferent on our spears —
And yet return new-hearted to their task.
Where shall we soil —
ARTH. Where shall we be bayed?
We shall soon lack the strength to meet our foes
In the full field. Then shall we need to lurk
Behind our walls or in the forest deeps.
Then discontent, long drugged with victory,
Will wake again. Our lovers will fall off,
And all who nourish malice in their hearts
Be quick and active.
GAW. There are none.
Thou knowest well that there are many here
Who love me not. The bondage of our fears
And common ills hold many in my train.
Let but success once turn her face from me,
And then the substance of this state is gone,
Its shape dissolved, and all its elements
Content to snatch existence as they can.
GAW. You do not trust us?
ARTH. Nay, I do, Gawain.
I know thy nature; thine, good Cornwall, too,
And many others: but I know the mass
No less than you. No matter, let us turn
To present measures. Thou art sure, Gawain,
Of these advices?
GAW. Sire, there is no doubt
The Picts are up, have crossed the Linnuis
And march on us. Also the messengers
Bring word the Angles are renewed and helped
From out their coasts.
ARTH. God! Is there no end
To their resources? Let me think. The Picts
Will prey and ravage: thus at Arthuret
We may withstand them. Tell me now, Gawain:
What forces have we?
GAW. Here? Geraint, alone,
And his own levies.
ARTH. They are now at hand?
GAW. An hour will find them.
ARTH. They shall lead the van.
The men of Cornwall?
CAD. I shall need three days.
ARTH. So much?
CAD. Thy pardon, Sire, I had not thought
That this occasion could have grown so swift.
My men were weary with long services,
And well deserved a little space of ease.
If there be blame, I trust it may be mine.
ARTH. Three days, Gawain. Send word unto Owain,
To gather up the forces of North Wales.
Send a swift summons to our own estate,
Our personal adherents and all knights
Who owe us service.
GAW. I will go.
ARTH. No, stay.
What think you, lords, shall we encounter first
The painted men, or bend our courses straight
Against the Angle?
GAW. 'Gainst the Picts, say I.
They have a foothold in the northern lands,
And ever hang upon our outer march,
Primed for eruption.
CAD. But the Anglian hosts
Are numerous, well armed and grimly wrought.
The Scots and Picts are but fierce savages
Whose wild invasion has no cause or aim,
But bloody instinct bids them burn and slay
Like a disease. These we can cure in time,
But the white Angles have a dangerous end;
They mean our conquest and have interest in
Our whole destruction.
ARTH. True; and more, the force
We have at Chester should make sure the pass
Of Arthuret. Therefore, let us go
Against the Angles. Go, Gawain, and raise
Our utmost forces. I would march from here
Within five days — (Exit Geraint.)
O! I am tired, Cador (goes to the window).
I front the menace of this age alone.
CAD. I serve you still.
ARTH. Nay, I mean not that.
You hear the murmur of my court below?
CAD. I hear it.
ARTH. Strange they cannot realise
How close we lie to very bitter days.
We can see far.
CAD. The tower is high.
ARTH. The woods
Are deep in shadow. Clouds and ever clouds
Lie on the rim that circles us. How long
Before the storm burst? All my life is cloud,
And I am like a shadow in a mist.
The constant greyness rots my very heart
And leaves me faithless. I have built my schemes
Higher than this, and still I cannot see
CAD. Nay, Sire, this poor despondency
Befits you not.
ARTH. Eight battles have I won;
Two fortresses; but I have lost as much
In confidence. For there 's a change, Cador,
In quality, I cannot understand,
Amongst my people.
CAD. I am still the same.
ARTH. I think you are; but we are growing old.
The phantom outposts of a vanished world,
The weary servants of a state long dead —
Such are we. Time outstrides our slender use,
And I have only striven for an end
To find it worthless. God must have some plan
Which we in faith most diligently baulk.
CAD. What can I say?
ARTH. Some comfort. No! More truth
Lives in your silence than a wealth of words.
CAD. (laughs, and is silent for a time.)
You look too far. As like as not this realm
ARTH. I think so.
CAD. Let it be. The end
Is no great matter; it provides a phase
Of pleasant action and sweet enterprise:
If we are old, this ominous strange hour
Should give us pleasure: we can round our lives
With a fine end. Man lives too easily:
His birth concerns him not; his youth
Is spent in learning; often all his life
Is waste incarnate. Therefore he is glad
To make his end a picture and a grace
He lacked before; so we'll end worthily
And drag the mass in spite of them to act,
Make cowards heroes, common men high souls:
Thus shall we do more service to the world
Than conquerors —
ARTH. High speech!
CAD. My King, be strong!
ARTH. The stamped fire smoulders, and oppression fails
To quench its ardency. I 'll stand.
I will persist: our breed 's too hot to end!
No more exalting: common measures now!
We must make sure these Saxons gain no ground.
After Mount Badon we did press them hard,
And by our swiftness had the space to foil
Their certain purpose. All 's to do again!
Since we must strike, let it be quick and sure!
Therefore, I purpose to detach the best
Of all my forces for thine own command
To hold these Angles, till I am assured
Of the true moment when I may deal well
And strongly with them.
CAD. I do understand.
ARTH. Take whom thou wilt, for there 's a need in this
Of subtle leading.
CAD. I 'll take Lanval, then:
After Mount Badon he served under me,
And I was holpen better than I dared
Expect of him.
ARTH. He is a noble knight,
Much loved of me. Your commendation proves
That we have yet amongst our younger men
Something of worth.
CAD. For his nobility
And all his virtues, whatsoe'er they are,
I do not care. He has an eye for ground,
The trick of leading and the qualities
Which make a soldier. He may have as well
A hundred traits most notable and fair.
But virtues never won a battle yet,
And noble thoughts are but poor armoury
When steel 's in question.
ARTH. Cador, enough of this
Stale babbling talk. I am now concentrate
And set upon the problem of this hour.
Trouble me not: I am at chess with fate,
And faiths, opinions, personal device
May be considered, weighed, but not abused
By answering. I have my text and view,
My sight of honour. I know well enough,
The world is coloured different for each soul,
That vice and virtue are convenience,
But for the action of my simple self
I have rough rules. There is a justice set
Which, good or ill, suffices for the time,
O'erstep it not!
CAD. Pardon, Sire.
ARTH. Go now,
And haste our measures. No, no words, go now.
ARTH. I grow too harsh. O God, I do not dread
The chance of battle, favour of the field
Strange as it is, so much as the grim fall
That one endures by constant savagery.
Strife gets a hold upon the growth of man
As fire upon a thicket. There will stand
But the bare trunks where once a forest swelled;
Our leaf and flower will be all consumed,
And all our lawns be ash, grey shifting ash.
Flame could not bite, was not our herbage rank
And dry and sapless? Let it go, the stuff
Is better burned. Aye, all our imagery,
Our time-worn fashions, fruitless, lush beliefs
Shrivel and smoulder to enrich the soil.
Still, there are roots — no fire can reach to them;
Though we seem bare, our tangled strength remains
The base of things. Plain service to the world,
Common fulfilment, common life and blunt
Plain honour. Off, all foul complexity!
And folly reign! (Enter The Queen.)
ARTH. Ah! Guinevere, well met.
I need thy presence to divert my thoughts,
For I do feel this time looks hungrily
Upon us all. But we will now forget
Its sullen meaning.
GUIN. Thou did'st send for me?
ARTH. True, I did so. We meet not often now,
For 'twixt the pleasures of a gentle court,
And the bare motion of a state at work
There is much severance.
GUIN. Thou hast need of me
For other usage than the tale of hours
Of solemn counsel, measures, means and ends;
At least I trust so, for I have no love
For the gross detail of this governance.
ARTH. Why, Guinevere, thou knowest all too well
I irk thee not with aught of government;
But bid thine eyes look gently on the world
And see but fairness. All that 's grim and harsh
Becomes mine office. Do I use thee ill?
GUIN. Do I complain?
ARTH. But thou art not so kind
As thou wast once. I would not thus intrude
Necessity upon thy pleasures' room
Were I not driven. But a king 's no man,
His soul is swallowed in his offices,
And though he guides he 's but the instrument
Of his endeavour.
GUIN. What is it?
ARTH. We march
Once more against our enemies, and thus
I am compelled to close our Court again.
There 'll be no pleasure, feasting, tilt, or joy
Within these Halls for many weary days.
The age grows angry, and our climate turns
To bitter autumn.
GUIN. If it must be so
I shall not care.
ARTH. So should every Queen
Accept such knowledge. I am heartened now
To front the worst our sullen fortune brings:
Let us forget it. I have troubled thee
With terms thou hatest; I 'll do so no more,
But turn myself into the gentle world
Wherein thou livest. I will try to think
Of pleasant phrases. In my mind break lance,
Hunt in the forest, fly my hawks abroad,
Assume the manner of steel sweetly hid
In silk and samite. Will it please thee, sweet?
GUIN. How can I tell?
ARTH. Nay, come, be kindly now,
Forget the shadows that live over us,
And be content to welcome the dull beams
That glance between them. Tell me, did'st thou see
The recent combat? Sir Lanval, I am told,
O'erthrew with ease Sir Agravaine, his foe,
And might have slain him.
I did behold it.
ARTH. He 's a worthy knight.
It is not often that I grant the field
On such a question. Many make their name
A cause of battle: hang their honour out
As 't were a sign to lure some customer
To challenge it. Then they grow overbold,
Assume a greatness from a lack of trade,
And earn a lesson.
GUIN. Men can gain a cause
By other methods than their skill or strength.
ARTH. By what means?
GUIN. Foul means,
Or else enchantment.
ARTH. Nay, thou art unjust,
And hast been so since the first day he came
Into my court. I know I was at fault
In my neglect of his good qualities,
And came near losing some sweet services
By lack of notice. That is remedied,
And it doth shame me that I once forbade
Him his advancement.
GUIN. It will shame thee more
To lack discernment, find thy judgment false.
ARTH. I shall not do so. There is none I trust
More heartily. Why, I am even now
Content to lay the safety of this realm
Within his keeping. Cador of Cornwall asks
For his assistance: is he too deceived?
GUIN. And wherefore not; is it the privilege
Of kings to be deceived? This man
That stands so high in all your estimates
Is but a traitor.
ARTH. This is intolerance
Mated with folly.
GUIN. Can I not shew cause
ARTH. I will hear it out.
GUIN. Did not Sir Lanval leave this Court in wrath
Two years ago?
ARTH. Have I not said, I know
I was at fault?
GUIN. He left in wrath unmarked
Because his merit was unrecognised,
Or that the wastage of his life had left
Him no subsistence. Since in idle pomps
He aped the manner and the shape of kings,
Scattered his gold to all that asked of him,
So came at last to be impoverished,
His fellows' scorn!
ARTH. Then they lacked courtesy
To so disdain him.
GUIN. Beggared, he left the court;
Within three months returned with Prince Geraint,
Who swore to trace him for some wager made
ARTH. For the cause, I think,
That Agravaine had called him coward, here
During his absence.
GUIN. It may be so, I know
That he returned enriched, who had been poor,
Within three months: now, aided by Geraint,
He climbs to honour, and his falseness masks
In easy gifts and prodigal display.
ARTH. This may be foolish but not treasonable.
GUIN. Whence came this wealth? He will not speak of it,
Whither he travelled, how he fared or lived.
ARTH. Is that a treason? Am I king to spy
On free men's action; hoard the life and ways
Of my own followers as a miser gold?
Beyond the measure that our honour needs,
And our state's standing, I have nought to do.
Let cease this folly. 'T is not well to cast
Such calumny on any knight unless
Some proof be present.
GUIN. But I have a proof.
ARTH. Some dull suspicion born of prejudice.
GUIN. Not so, great King, but just that evidence
Of nature's turning that will bring thee grief.
Out of the shadow of suspected aims
I would have woven some sufficient tale,
Whereby the guilty might find punishment,
And thine own soul remain unwrung by shame.
But I have lost the counsel of thy heart,
And lack thy kindness, even thy belief.
ARTH. Nay, Guinevere, my fashion has not changed.
If I am short, I pray thee, pardon me.
The iron savour of these days is foul
And clogs the palate. I stand like a hart,
Bayed by such dangers and so many forms,
I cannot watch them. Am I harsh? Forgive!
But I would not that thou shouldst mingle with
Such bitter business.
GUIN. I would not, my lord,
Were I not hungry for thine honour's sake,
Which I see threatened.
GUIN. 'T is true.
But one hour since I bade Sir Lanval come
Into my presence. I did then intend
To plead with him, since he had won the life
Of his opponent. He had power and right
Over his person.
ARTH. That was not well done.
These questions lie 'twixt men, and men alone,
And ye the watchers have no part in them.
I do not grant the right of the closed field
To make a plaything.
GUIN. Sire, I found Lynette,
One of my maidens, loved Sir Agravaine,
And was so moved by pity to this course.
ARTH. There was no need to fear so ill an end.
GUIN. I could not know, I liked Sir Lanval not,
And thought him cruel.
ARTH. Did he refuse thee?
ARTH. Then be content: there 's naught of harm in this.
GUIN. But after that I spoke with him alone.
ARTH. And what of that?
GUIN. Canst not guess th' offence?
Must I be forced to put my shame in words?
Sire, thou dost know the baseness that 's in man,
And how success can feed his soul with flame,
Until the fever of his arrogance
Inflames his senses, and destroys restraint
In all his nature.
ARTH. In some men, perhaps,
But not in this one. Nay, thou wast deceived,
I 'll not believe.
GUIN. Can I say nothing, then,
With truth in it?
ARTH. I cannot so believe.
It is too easy in the air of Courts,
When silken speech takes precedence of truth,
And the world swings in a vain round of ease,
To find lust hidden in most common words.
Ye women live in a thick air of dreams,
In talk of love, light music of the same,
Until the thoughts become so bound by it
They cannot wander.
GUIN. Yet thou wilt not believe
Men grow infected?
ARTH. All folly 's possible,
But I have trusted and will not believe
A knight of mine can fail in fealty.
GAW. Thy pardon, sire, I have sent forth the call
To bid our forces gather with all speed;
Also fresh news from Persant in the north.
ARTH. What now, Gawain?
GAW. The Angles march in strength.
GAW. Toward the wood of Celyddon.
ARTH. 'Tis not unlikely. Bid all haste, Gawain;
Within five days we set our standards up,
And if it be they seek the forest ways,
We shall not fail them. Let our cause be known
So may the fire of our intent take hold,
And all the hate that smoulders in our souls
Flame to fresh fury.
GAW. Sire, Sir Lanval waits
To speak with thee if thou hast space to hear
Of his petition.
ARTH. Let him enter. Go
And bid all barons that have love for us
Or for their land, call up their vassalage.
(Exit Gawain and enter Lanval.)
Welcome, Sir Lanval, what would'st thou of me?
LAN. Permission, sire, to leave this Court at once,
To render up my offices and place.
ARTH. At such a time?
LAN. Sire, I have a quest
That I would follow.
ARTH. Strange, could'st thou
Not find some leisure in our days of peace
For such a purpose?
LAN. I would not have asked
This boon of thee, did not my fealty
Demand it of me. All the faith I have
Doth urge me to it.
ARTH. 'Tis impossible
At such an hour. I cannot spare a lance.
The tide that threatens our existence
Turns to its onset. I am not well pleased
That thou, Sir Lanval, should'st ask this of me.
LAN. Sire, I entreat thee.
ARTH. I will hear no more.
Since I have use for thy slight services,
The Duke of Cornwall shall have aid of them.
Avoid my presence. (Exit Lanval.)
GUIN. Now wilt thou believe?
Nay! 'tis no matter, let all seek my love;
Each battle-brute entreat me like a drab.
How should mine honour or thine own outweigh
One lance's value? Let him, being scorned,
Taunt me with praises of his paramour,
Swear her handmaidens are more fair than I.
What is an insult, or gross laughter's scorn,
Beside the merit of a practised sword?
The King of Britain, lauded through the world,
Must prostitute his honour to the need
Of keeping servants. Oh, the shame of it!
(The Queen breaks down and weeps.)
ARTH. Come, Guinevere, what need is there of tears?
(She turns away from him. He walks up and down irresolutely.)
God! How misfortune and ill chance attend
My course together. Why should Lanval come
And ask this of me? Shame, perchance regret,
It may be; yet, the gateway of my faith
Was barred so firm with confidence in him,
It hardly yields to reason. Oh! I could
Be parched with anger, had not life withdrawn
All wrath from me and poured into my soul
Nothing but sorrow. I am sick to think
Of this base happening. (To Guinevere.)
Dearest, trust in me:
If I have been thus slow to apprehend
Thy cause of grief, I will be swift to heal.
GUIN. Nay, touch me not, for I have lost thy love —
For such a loss there is no remedy —
And I am lonely, left to be the butt
Of scorn and insult.
ARTH. Nay, I have not changed,
Come, tell me all, for surely there should be
No shame between us. (He sits down by Guinevere.)
I can scarce be wroth
That men grow mad, with such a fairness close
Unto their being.
GUIN. I did so believe,
And had such comfort of the fancied love,
Thou might'st have borne me, that I cannot bear
The trickery of words that have no truth.
ARTH. Nay, Guinevere —
GUIN. I think thou would'st be kind,
But it is better to be honest now.
ARTH. Indeed, I love thee as I ever did.
Thou art to me a very favoured isle,
Full of sweet shadows and kind silences,
Where, by good chance, the sea-chafed mariner
May call at times. Alas, that voyages
For the grim commerce of disordered life
Make me infrequent!
(Guinevere rises and goes apart.)
GUIN. The same farce of words.
(Arthur rises to follow her.)
Nay, touch me not, for I will not be gulled
By any speech.
ARTH. Come, what is this strange mood?
GUIN. I do refuse thy love. Now be assured
And tell me that denial matters not,
And thou dost love a hundred fairer maids
Than I. So slow! Thy very lackeys hold
That answer at their lips. (Arthur turns away.)
Nay see, my lord,
Since love is perished I must use this shame
To trick thy quiet to a nobler fire.
ARTH. (turning to her) Have I not said that I remain unchanged,
The same bewildered servant of thine eyes,
As when thy father King Leodegrance
First led thee to me? Hast forgotten, sweet,
That war and wonder?
GUIN. And thou lov'st me still?
ARTH. How should I not? (He tries draw her to him; she stays him.)
GUIN. No, touch me not.
ARTH. How strange!
Thou 'lt not believe me faithful?
GUIN. Well, perchance!
Yet how can I believe it, give me proof.
ARTH. (eagerly) What proof you will!
GUIN. Some earnest that this love
Looks further than its consummation, and enrings
ARTH. What then?
GUIN. If protestation 's true,
Its act is fulness. If our lives are twin,
My shame is thine. I come to sanctuary,
Hang to the ring of honour and demand
More than protection. I have been ashamed,
Hunted of clashing, careless, stranger knights,
Both sought and scorned. Shall I appeal in vain?
The King is justice and my husband's man,
Surely, I cannot be denied of both.
ARTH. What would you?
GUIN. Judgment. Is it not enough
That I should love — that one should offer love
And thus offend me? Must I bear as well
His constant presence, the vile memory
ARTH. (aside) He was of gentle birth,
Of good condition, learned in all arts
That live with honour, and I have found in him
Many sweet gifts and gentle qualities.
GUIN. And I have none! I am not gentle, sweet,
Nor worth a kindness! I was sure thy love
Ran not beyond the sating of thine hours
Of leisure. Now at least we have this gain:
Henceforth we shall not any more pretend,
But hold our course apart. (She goes away from him.)
ARTH. (attempting to restrain) Nay, Guinevere —
GUIN. I'll not be handled. If thou must fondle, send
For this beloved and foul-speaking knight.
Nay, let me speak. Since thou wilt do for me
Nothing, since nothing is the very weight
Of all my honour, since all ill conceived
Against me 's nothing, let this nothing be
Hereafter our relation. So from this time forth
Between us — nothing! (She moves away.)
ARTH. Must it be so? O God!
Why will the lust that lurks in living things
Afflict men's being. What 's the man to me?
Stay, Guinevere, I grant thy cause! (Going to door)
Arrest Sir Lanval, keep him in thy ward,
Then bid Geraint, Owain and Cornwall here.
I have a cause which must be tried of them,
ARTH. Go, bring them here, I say.
(Arthur sits down sorrowfully.) (Exit Gawain.)
GUIN. My King, I thought thou hadst forgotten me
And feigned a love from kindness.
ARTH. An ill thought,
And a harsh proving!
GUIN. We'll forget it.
Perhaps we shall, for time 's a thief of thoughts;
But it is bitter to be told of deeds
That sully knighthood, and to hear of men
Of noble bearing fallen into fault.
How many souls wilt thou drag down to death
Before the end? Me, too, perhaps!
GUIN. (Flinging her arms round him) My King!
ACT IV. SCENE I.
(Three days later.)
A COUNCIL CHAMBER, CARDUEL.
Geraint and Agravaine.
AGR. But have some patience —
GER. Patience! Here's the world
Aflare with swords; and we are cramped and held
For ministration, when our spurring hosts
Should ride spear-levelled.
AGR. They'll have ended this
Within the hour.
GER. Have ended! Aye, but how?
Lanval's accused of a gross falsity,
An idle, paltry, and low-seeming crime.
But were he guilty (as I'll not believe),
His penalty would far outweigh the deed.
The standards of our justice should not be
Alike for peace and passion; but the vice
Of quiet should be worth in war.
AGR. They say the King demands his death.
GER. The Queen,
I think more likely. God! what foolishness
To let the practice of the sexes twine
Within our usage.
AGR. A strange heresy!
GER. Strange, dost thou find it? Here's a soul of strength,
As thou should'st know!
AGR. None better!
GER. He may be
Condemned to death or degradation now.
For what offence? An insult to a queen!
What is an insult to a queen to me?
A hundred insults to a hundred queens? —
Is he the slighter if his tongue have slipped?
Is he less able in the talk of blades,
For such a faulting? But thou hast some cause
To much mislike him!
AGR. I do not, Geraint.
He overthrew me; therefore he must be
One of the noblest, best, most valiant knights
In all the world.
GER. Five days ago he spared
AGR. And now to make a pretty tale,
I should save his? I would 'twere possible.
But I await this verdict. How can I
Divert its issue?
GER. I shall show you means.
AGR. I shall be glad. Oh, the sweet rogue, the rogue!
To think he had this hidden! I was tricked,
As all of us.
GER. What mean you?
AGR. Why, I 'm kind
To all that have a likeness to myself.
GER. You think
That of him?
AGR. Surely. Rascal that he is,
I almost love him!
GER. By God's will, he 'll die
Before he knows it.
AGR. Each to his taste. Here come
Our solemn judges. God help me, or I'll laugh.
(Enter Cador, Gawain, and Owain.)
My lords, the King impatiently attends
Upon your judgment.
CAD. In a little time
We shall decide it.
AGR. But, my lords, the knights
And barons murmur.
CAD. Go, disturb us not.
(Exit Agravaine. Gawain and Owain talk apart.)
GER. And now, Cador?
CAD. Geraint, he has confessed.
He did compare some paramour of his
To Guinevere: maintained her fairer far
Than any damsel of the court. How then
Shall I believe this taunt was unprovoked
By some denial?
GER. But he still maintains
His innocence upon the greater charge.
CAD. This is no time to play with subtlety.
I would have saved him were it possible.
He loved some woman. It is hers to save,
At least to prove that vile malignity
Bred not his words; and where can she be found?
Prove her existence!
GER. How can I do so?
I know her not.
CAD. Will not Sir Lanval tell
Her name and habit?
GER. I did ask of him;
He would not tell it; only he said to me
That never from her should his assistance come.
CAD. I greatly fear this woman never lived.
Hast thou, Gawain, heard aught of his desires?
GAW. He was much noted that he paid no heed
To such adventures.
CAD. Dost thou know, Owain?
OW. Am I a man to trouble in such case?
CAD. How can I doubt? His guilt is evident.
GER. I think myself his innocence is plain.
But have him guilty, 't is convenient,
And saves you labour. Cornwall, are you mad?
This man did you some service in the past,
And now to serve some fool's fantastic shift
Of loyalty, you'll smile his life away —
His who could aid you!
CAD. I, as well as thou,
Know Lanval's worth. But I will not offend
The King I serve to save nobility.
True, it is folly to destroy a soul
For following nature. True, I cannot tell
If he be guilty or most innocent.
True, we shall lose a man of some account;
But I'll not risk disunion in our arms,
The King's suspicion, and the thousand ills
That have their birth in idle clemency.
GER. Will that be justice?
CAD. Care I if it's not?
I judge this case for plain commodity.
We are too near the savagery of war
To let one life prevent our purposes.
Justice itself is but a luxury
That states which stand beyond their neighbour's hopes
Can well afford. One can do wrong, Geraint,
Sobeit action does not foul the wheels
Of man's intention.
GER. So said I, Cador.
We need no shackles of the common mind.
Our lists are open, let all run who can;
What matters guilt?
CAD. What matters innocence?
You have a liking for the man, I know;
Not without cause. For you he is a shape
Bright in our shadows with the light he draws
From your affection. We, indifferent,
See but a motion irksome, irritant
In our estate.
GER. I see you mean him ill.
CAD. I never wished a harm to any man
In all my workings. But in nature's course
I have wrecked many. See, Owain is wroth,
And the grim chariot of our life rolls on.
OW. (who has been looking from the window)
God! To be hampered in one's natural work
For such a case! Here see the clustered spears,
The glaives and axes of the gathered tribes
Waiting for us! Our banners are unfurled,
The lazy standards and forked pennons droop
And lisp in air. And we alone are dull,
Wasting the hours that give our homes and lands
To strangers' holding!
CAD. Patience, good Owain.
Let not the presence of this movement mar
Our graver judgment.
GAW. Why should we delay?
Are we not bound by laws of chivalry?
We much condemn such action as this man
Acknowledges. For to excuse this fault
Were to lend men too great a power of scorn.
We have some name for honour in the world.
Shall we give cause that all may say of us,
"Thus do his vassals honour Arthur's wife!
"This is the kindness and nobility
"Of British princes!"? Is not all our state
Based upon customs which this man offends?
The law condemns him.
GER. And how oft, Gawain,
Hast thou gone free when, had the law received
Some strict enforcement, thou hadst earned more pain
That Lanval has?
GAW. Am I the prisoner?
And must I answer for my honour now?
AGR. I hope not, brother. I am here prepared
To be a witness. I could tell a tale
Of forest meetings, love-quests sought, achieved,
Some say unwillingly.
GER. And more, Gawain.
How used you Pelleas?
GAW. As well as I
Shall answer for. My failing gives no grace,
No right of entry to our counselling.
Stay by your rhyming Agravaine, and leave
This cause to us.
AGR. May I not then disclose
My poor opinion?
GAW. Poor it is!
AGR. Of you,
No doubt, my brother. But of other men
A little different.
GAW. This concerns you not.
AGR. There ye mistake you. I am much concerned;
Ye try a lust, and who 's more competent
Than I to judge it? Is there lechery?
I am its master! There 's no crime of love
But I have touched it.
CAD. Agravaine, our time
Brooks not such hindrance.
AGR. Nay, I help your dense
Old wrinkled thoughts. Our King's enangered, hot
Upon his purpose. Judge as best you can,
He will accept it.
OW. Why must we be let
By one who 's proved a liar?
AGR. Is it worse
To be a liar than a butcher? Then
I hope that Lanval's guilty. He may come
To be as fair a rascal as I am.
OW. We'll push him to a better end.
AGR. No doubt,
For death 's your woman! A foul taste, Owain,
To wish your mistress common.
CAD. This address
Will do your man small service.
AGR. I could never hope
To help him much. I had to speak or laugh,
And laughter would have hurt you more than words.
CAD. I see small cause for it.
AGR. Why look, Cador;
Of you I will say nothing, for I think
You 're kindly minded: but behold Owain,
Our swart old savage handler of the sword,
A judge of love! Gawain, the advocate
Of all the virtues, and the father too
Of sundry bastards!
GAW. Come, this goes too far;
An' I were not your brother —
AGR. You would lack
Even a conscience.
OW. (to Cador) Will you still endure
This chattering fool?
CAD. Must I be judge as well
Of our opinions on each other's fame?
Drink in this vile detraction while our arms
Await their leaders? Ye do much mistake
The office ye fulfil. We 'll speak
Only of this which lies before us now.
No more, Geraint, I know your arguments.
Our task is simple. We have but to prove
The value, measure, and extent of ill.
Is folly sin? I think this man 's more fool
GAW. I do regret, Cador,
This idle treatment of the very crime
That suckles evil. Is not chivalry
Ordained to tread such humours to the ground?
CAD. Aye, so it is. I value it myself
As just a charm to school souls passionate,
But not a custom whose infraction needs
GAW. But still it is our law.
If knightliness be nothing, what are we?
OW. Great talkers, at the least.
CAD. 'Tis true.
Well, now, to finish: for some foolish speech,
And still more foolish action, we condemn
The likeliest leader who served under me.
How punish him?
GAW. Death is the simplest way
To free ourselves from all embarrassment.
CAD. And thou, Owain?
OW. I say kill, hang, or burn.
I for myself think that he 's innocent;
But this displeasure that his trial gives
Can serve for guilt. All 's guilty which will stand
Between our nature and its purposes:
So I condemn him for his innocence
That fawns on folly.
CAD. What say'st thou, Geraint?
GER. Nothing as yet.
AGR. (Aside to Geraint) It will go hard with him.
How strange it is that men hate most the deeds
In others which they practice of themselves.
GER. I have a stroke to play
Beyond their humour.
CAD. I like it not. This man
Deserves not death, for we must not use laws
To lop our trunk of its most worthy limbs.
Upon the basis of some idle words
Shall we build scaffolds?
GAW. Is it not enough
That our agreement smoulders into wrath?
What skill or courage balances the state
Of festering discord and half-veiled mistrust,
That we must enter if he stay with us?
Come, let the winds of resolution sweep
Away this mist wherein our souls do stand
OW. Cornwall, let him die.
Why should this life hold all of us in leash,
When we are straining to take up the scent,
And run our quarry?
CAD. If it must be death —
GER. I say it shall not!
GAW. Three are well agreed.
GER. I am not with you. Let this sentence pass,
And while I live it shall not be fulfilled,
Not if the blades of Devon can forbid
GAW. Are we slighted thus?
This is rebellion!
GER. Call it what you will!
There is a limit to all fealty.
I know no oath that I have ever sworn
Which bids me help injustice with my arms,
Or stand by quiet whilst ye brush aside
A man's existence for your several ends.
Must I endure it? Must I sacrifice
My friend to ease the workings of your craft?
Ye plead the motion of this war demands
Lanval's destruction; but I think ye need
The power and forces that I now command
No less than that. Choose ye! If Lanval dies,
No man of Devon shall lay hand to blade;
Assist, acknowledge, or play party with
AGR. (Aside) Now swell with righteous rage;
Have at him, brother!
GAW. Is this a time for threats,
An hour wherein to gender civil strife?
GER. 'T is not my seeking.
CAD. I know well, Geraint,
We cannot spare thee. Yet it is ill done
If thou dost seek from out our poverty
To force acquaintance of a natural crime.
GER. I ask but justice.
CAD. Am I a vampire then,
Who gluts himself upon the blood of man?
Come, let us reason. We must needs condemn.
Were we to quit him, could our King believe
That we who held his honour in such scorn
Were true and faithful! Would he not suspect?
And God! the need is heavy on us now
Of confidence. I wish this man no ill,
Dost thou, Owain?
OW. I liked him well.
CAD. And thou?
GAW. Before this failing he had all the gifts
CAD. See thou, Geraint, we seek
His condemnation not of our own selves,
But of the flood wherein our persons merge.
Did not occasion so constrain our ends,
We'd soon acquit him; so he 'd live again,
Chastened of sorrow, to redeem his fault,
And future deeds do penance for all hurt.
GER. Can they not still?
CAD. There is no future now,
But only present.
GER. He might still atone,
And do you service.
CAD. I do wish he could.
Most wrongs are deeds in idleness conceived,
Which have the fashion of true worth in them
Born at ill times.
GER. Can he have no escape?
I do suppose that it seems foul in me
To have no passion for this state and realm.
Yet I have served it and done certain deeds
For its advancement. Aye, the four of us
Have knit the threads of Britain in a web,
To stay all onset. This we did as friends,
And now this friendship will not grant a life
For friendship's sake. And, sirs, he used you well.
I am not 'customed to plead thus with men,
Nor am I prone to waste my love on such
As need excuses. Discord 's in the air,
Then drive me not to severance of our bonds.
GAW. What power have we that are the instruments
Of law and custom?
CAD. Ask us not, Geraint,
To shrink from judgment!
AGR. (Aside) How noble are we all!
This virtue 's catching; we shall have a plague
Of this same honour!
OW. Hearken now, ye lords,
And let my bluntness put an end to words.
I held a liking for this fellow once,
Since I believed he scorned, as well as I,
The love adventures, idle quests and aims,
In fact, all folly that this court adores.
Since he proved foolish I have lost all care.
Had but the fool denied this idle taunt,
And straight acknowledged that he loved the Queen,
We might have saved him. I advised you kill.
Death 's cheap enough, and we have learnt long since
How to inflict it. Since Geraint withstands
The better issue, I'll not baulk his love,
Though I despise it, and believe that harm
Will come of it. I bid you banish him.
Proclaim him guilty, honourless and foul,
Henceforth degraded from this company.
Let him go out and see this court no more.
So shall this cause which doth offend all ears
Be dead and ended.
CAD. What say'st thou, Gawain?
GAW. Owain is right. Let it be banishment.
GER. My friend degraded! Better death than that;
I 'm fouled with him.
CAD. Enough, the King is here.
(Enter Arthur and a company.)
ARTH. Your verdicts, lords! Ye dally overlong.
CAD. Sire, we agree.
GER. Nay, I do not.
CAD. We three
Have thus determined — that Sir Lanval leave
This court for ever, having been proclaimed
Unworthy of true men's respect. His name
To be unknown among us.
ARTH. It is well.
(Enter Gyfert and some of his men to Geraint. Others to different knights.)
GER. Is there no court in all the world but this?
While I am prince my home is open court
Unto Sir Lanval.
ARTH. It is not well, Geraint,
To so outface me, nor to lay thy speech
Against the manner of thy peers' consent.
I did not think Geraint should prove him false.
GER. Were I to yield and idly acquiesce
In such gross judgment as these barons give,
Who trim their sails by breath of their desires
And let the import of their careless hearts
Go cloaked as justice, I were false indeed.
False to myself and falser still to thee;
But I 'll be honest and confess my thoughts.
Shall I from fear of the disdain of these
Refuse a shelter to what soul I will?
ARTH. Thy fealty doth bind thee to my cause,
And this defection is as sour a crime
As e'er was thought on.
GER. But there is no need
To fear defection. None shall say Geraint,
The son of Erbin, failed in his account.
This much for me. Unto the King I owe
All body service. While my limbs and power
Of blade or lance rest with me they shall be
Thine instrument; and while this life is mine
God, king, or devil shall not tear from me
What I protect.
GAW. Is this not treason?
Proclaim the verdict of these lords abroad;
Let all the followers and our retinue
Know that Sir Lanval is adjudged as base,
False to his order, to his fealty,
To all that 's honest.
GER. (Aside) Gyfert!
GYF. Here, my lord.
GER. Go to Sir Lanval; I 'm his surety,
And bring him to me. We shall lead the van.
GYF. I will, my lord.
ARTH. I could be wroth, Geraint,
For I have trusted much to thy great soul;
But all prove false. So we 'll not speak of it,
For this dishonour is to me the man,
And for my kingship I 'll endure it so,
Being no longer man, but only king.
Amid the turmoil of these troubled days
The mist and wrack where wallows all our state,
My happiness, my pleasure and my faith
Are all gone down. Let then my honour go
And sink with them. Geraint, take thou thy task.
GER. I lead the van.
ARTH. I have not yet deprived
Thee of thine office. Go, be false or true
As it shall please thee! I must cringe to man
And beg his service.
GER. Sire, if I offend
Or wrong thy service, may the devil tear
My soul alive from its still quivering flesh,
And may — have done, the very oaths sound false!
I 'm sick of speech! God's curse upon our talk,
And all the damnable dim sympathies
That cloud our passage. To the proof I go.
Let all I am stand to the test of war.
ACT IV. SCENE II.
Another part of the forest. The ground rises at back of stage to a ridge. Beyond in the distance a line of wooded hills faint in the moonlight. As the Act continues the dawn begins, and towards the end of the Act a red light beats up out of the valley. When the scene opens it is nearly dark, the moon slanting through the branches in places.1 C.B. And now you 've dragged me four mile and more, what's the trouble?
Time. Three days elapse between Scenes I. and II.
The two charcoal-burners are conversing in a low tone.
2 C.B. Do you know the light of burning thatch?
1 C.B. Surely.
2 C.B. Well I've seen it away north, and I've seen a mort of men down over the ford, and that's enough to bring me to the woods. I fetched you along to be neighbourly.
1 C.B. And them over the ford, they'll be knights?
2 C.B. They're none of ours, and anyhow we're best clear of them.
1 C.B. Foreigners?
2 C.B. 'T is likely. There's a sight of strangers cutting into the land, or we'd have had no need to shift hereabouts. And now we're best away south again.
1 C.B. Why, we're safe enough here. Though I'm not fond of the woods after dark. There's more in them than I care to meet.
2 C.B. Likely enough. I'll not call you a liar for that. But speaking of fears, do ye mind a knight that was lost, and came near getting us hemp collars?
1 C.B. Sure I do.
2 C.B. He's lost again. I saw him yester noon, a-ravaging through the woods like a rutting stag.
1 C.B. Never!
2 C.B. I'm honest enough. 'T is the same man.
1 C.B. D' ye think they 'll pay for his finding again?
2 C.B. He seems middling precious. Any way, I marked him down. Yes, I've harboured him. Now if any tufter comes, we'll stand fast and make our price.
1 C.B. Halves.
2 C.B. I'll give you your share, no more. He's my find.
1 C.B. You're a mean stoat.
2 C.B. See here, man, I've treated you neighbourly. Look yonder, where our huts are. What's there?
1 C.B. Smoke!
2 C.B. Aye, you've need to be glad you're not being cured.
1 C.B. Let's get out of this!
2 C.B. And leave my find? Not I! It wants an hour of dawn: we're sure enough till the light comes.
1 C.B. Still! I heard a branch crack.
2 C.B. This side. (Enter Bernardo.)
BER. Just to this ridge! I dare not go beyond.
If he have passed it, there's an end of all.
Why, what are ye?
2 C.B. Poor men, sir.
BER. Stand away:
If old, I'm not unhandy. Of what race
2 C.B. Good sir, my father was a minder of cows, but I have an uncle that was follower of a great lord at Bassa, till they hanged him.
BER. Of what possession are you?
2 C.B. Of my uncle's, sir.
BER. What's that?
2 C.B. Why, doing well until you're hanged for it. Doing as you 're told and keeping away from any that can tell you; making a profit with two spears' length start of the dealer; being a very firm upholder of all wars where others do the fighting. My trade is charcoal burning.
BER. You know this country?
2 C.B. Well enough.
BER. Have you
Or your companions seen a wandering knight?
2 C.B. A wild fellow in a mail shirt, wandering and cursing? A man that goes fingering the rough bark of trees, and frowning and stumbling all across the woods? Such a one?
BER. It might be so.
2 C.B. I'll lead you to him — at a price.
BER. There is no need. (Lanval enters behind and halts in (C) of stage.)
Sir Lanval! Good, my lord
Will you not answer? (Lanval turns away.)
2 C.B. There's ungratefulness!
He's come a-purpose, lest we might be paid
For finding him.
BER. Sir, I have known you long
And merit not such usage.
LAN. Is there not
A single refuge or forgotten spot
Where this dogged custom fails?
BER. My lord,
I heartened you some years ago, when dull
And discontented you abjured this land,
So hear me now.
LAN. Bernardo, all my rage
Was vented then upon the world. But since,
I've learnt to blame myself, not circumstance.
BER. Is this the man that faced all Mantua,
And held his honour up against the world?
LAN. Aye, this is he. What would you of the ghost
Which once was man?
BER. My lord, I knew you well
When I was active. But the bitter clime,
The raw fierce action of this troubled state
Has wrinkled us together. And we yearn alike
For the fair spaces of the southern coasts.
LAN. I shall not see them. Nor do I desire
To gain such ease.
BER. My lord, in Italy —
LAN. I have forsworn it. I have cursed all lands,
And yet, Bernardo, thou dost not believe
That I am guilty?
BER. Nay, my lord, I know
It is not just.
LAN. Such faith should soften me,
Whom certain ills have hardened.
BER. O my lord,
Come hence with me.
LAN. Wherefore should I?
BER. There's room
For honour yet abroad.
LAN. Is there a court
In Christendom where it will not be known
That I 'm dishonoured? Let the stripling fools
Who follow fame seek honour at my hands:
For here 's a man whose death would bring them worth,
Since I am one with savage, beast and thief,
And not as worthy as the butchering lords
That foul these borders. No, give me a bell,
And let me sound my coming to all men
As do the lepers: let them step aside
And shirk the wrong they gave me.
BER. But my lord —
LAN. No, no, Bernardo. Leave me as I am.
These woods are kinder than the paths of men:
They give me shelter, but the bitter souls
Whom I have served have taken everything.
I squandered on them liking, wealth and life,
And they return me scorn. What is there left?
They 've had my service, honour, youth and name;
They sucked my being: at a harlot's word
They spat me out. This mire is honesty.
This thicket clearness, and the sleeting night
Warm covering, while I remember them.
BER. Your wrath is just, but bear a little while
With the sour treatment of the world. And then
We'll toss the past, its broken shafts and shields
Into a corner.
LAN. Can faith live so long?
You should know man.
BER. I do.
LAN. Yet you'd persuade
Me back to them. Nay, I am better here.
Naught 's fair in dreams but some reality,
And in the real nothing 's good but dreams.
Here I come closer to essential things,
Here will I stand before the veil of life
And wait its lifting.
BER. But, my lord, our foes —
The white-shield Angles lie beyond this vale,
Lovers of blood who spare no living thing.
LAN. And what of them? They can but add my death
To my account, and that 's a certain debt
Which all must pay. They 'll pile no infamy
Upon my name; they 'll not first fondle me,
Then spurn me like a dog. I shall be glad
To meet with them; for such sword-ending is
Most honourable treatment.
BER. Hark, my lord,
I hear men's movement in the valley, feet
That crush the bracken. Come away, my lord.
LAN. Stand to it, fool, this is as kind a spot
As we shall find. (A noise in the valley.)
1 C.B. Come away, man, there are some good thick places near here.
2 C.B. He owes me something for finding him.
1 C.B. You'll be paid with a clout, if I know the look of man.
2 C.B. Well, let 's get away, then.
(Exeunt the two charcoal-burners.)
LAN. Go thou, Bernardo.
BER. Nay, my lord, I stay,
At least stand here in shadow. They may pass.
(Enter from back Geraint, Gyfert and several men-at-arms.)
GER. Back, Beric, tell thy captain that his posts
Must watch the ford; if 'saulted, hold their ground
As best they can, and bid him send to me
Report of any movement. (Exit man-at-arms.)
(To remainder) Take your rest.
You sent a runner, Gyfert, to the south;
Has he returned?
GYF. Not yet, my lord.
GER. We've swinged
The hornets' nest, and left them buzzing.
(Gyfert goes to the ridge and comes back.)
GER. Too quiet, they'll be up anon
And we shall feel them. Oh, a thousand men!
Only a thousand of my moorland glaives,
And all the rest of Britain could stand off
And see me match them!
GYF. (Moving across the stage) We've a clear space here —
At least for action. Out, you skulking dogs!
(He sees Bernardo and Lanval.)
Out of the shadow!
GER. (Striding across to Gyfert) Why, what's here? Old man!
This is no place for long-beards. By the saints!
Bernardo! Lanval! Sure the fates have changed
Their ancient purpose: but how came ye here?
Why, Lanval, didst thou fly me? I had meant
As surety to bring thee to this war,
Where we might gather honour. Thou art come
LAN. I came of my own will,
With but one purpose, to be free of all
The cankering trouble of your squalid state,
But I can find no refuge. Let me go,
I seek some covert like a wounded beast,
Where I can brood to death.
GER. I know the cause
Of this despair. Give me your hand. Think now
I hold dishonour? Has my grasp a lack
Of strength in it?
LAN. Thou hast been friend to me
Beyond my merit. I have been so pricked
In comradeship that I must do the last
Good deed of kinship. Let me go, Geraint,
I am pollution, although innocent.
I shall infect the fashion of thy days,
Draw the black wings of sour suspicion down
Upon thy being. I am a man condemned,
Pronounced degraded, and no innocence
Can change my fashion. Let me go. I spoil
Thy whole existence. I am outcast now.
GER. I need thy service.
LAN. My best service is
To stand as far as may be from thy path.
GER. I tell thee, Lanval, I'll not hear of this.
The swollen torrent of grim circumstance
Swept us together, and upon its flood
Have we come down. I know not why we met,
Nor do I care so greatly for the cause
Of our adherence. It is possible
To make a virtue of one's tendencies,
When by some chance an instinct follows straight
On kindly endings. I am not acting now
As chosen helper of true worth distressed,
But I do this because I 'll not be baulked
Of what I please; and, to be frank, I think
My liking for thee is but selfishness.
Condemned or not, I hold my course the same.
Let us abide it.
LAN. Is it not enough
That I must suffer for such sodden crime
As I ne'er dreamt on. Is it not enough
That I must drift upon the sullen stream,
Like some wan lily of the autumn time,
In which the fairness and the flavour 's dead;
A thing repugnant, destined to the ooze
That beds the river? God! the little good
That I can do thee is to leave this place,
Or to rush idly on my fate beyond.
GER. I say thou shalt not. If need be, I stay
Thy passage hence, e'en by the force of arms.
Come, man! I thought there was more mettle here
Than such abasement shows. Art thou
So much a coward that the foolish fates
Have but to strike and thou art recreant?
Honour 's no virgin to be easy soiled
By life's first contact. There is naught we lose
Which we may not hack out of time again,
If we but hold the courage to outface
Our bitter fortunes.
LAN. Think not that I fear
To see my life out: but foul influence
Rules all my doings.
GER. Thou hast cause for wrath,
But rage should not be wasted on oneself
While work 's toward. Dishonour 's drowned in blood,
And names grow taintless in the fire of war.
LAN. Why wilt thou drag me to the profitless
And empty quarrel of this bitten realm?
I am aweary of it.
GER. And I am no less.
Lanval, see this, my will has been the spur
Of all thine action. I have linked my life
To thine: and so have I accepted share
Of all thy burdens. In the ills thou hast,
I am a partner: if thou knowest shame,
I am not scatheless. Twice have I withstood
The carelessness and idle scorn of man
From faith in thee. Once, I did stake my lands
And my subsistence on thy hardiness.
I was not wrong: again I staked belief
And risked my honour and my upright name,
Which, believe me, I love as much as thou,
Upon the shadow of thy good repute.
Now our acquaintance is no longer new,
And time puts our relation to the proof.
Let us be honest. I have stood for thee,
Enacted treason, spurned old comradeship
To stand thy helper. Now it seems I lied,
And all I did for honour is become
A very falseness.
GER. I was constrained
By some strange liking for another type,
A stamp of being distant from myself,
To spend my life, my power and influence
Upon a man in whom I snuffed the scent
Of a clean being. Now are we at holds.
LAN. Say on, Geraint.
GER. All men speak ill of thee:
I count opinion lesser than the turn
Of any pennant. But I doubt all now.
I cannot think that this spiritless poor husk
Is the same man I chose from out the herd
Who strove for honour. Was I too deceived,
And do men rightly call thee but a dog,
A common trickster and a hypocrite?
LAN. Wilt thou believe it?
GER. Only from thy lips,
Yet these strange actions must incline me to it.
The thought 's not sweet, but still be frank with me,
For I meet disillusion as all else,
LAN. I had but this to lose!
God! is there yet another rag to tear
GER. Now it is thine to loose
Or bind our friendship. I did never ask
A service of you but to turn its use
To your advancement. I have served your cause
In many fashions and not selfishly.
You squandered substance and I spent my years,
Now those you dowered have forgotten you,
And you, I fancy, have forgotten me.
Yet should you care to pay my years with hours,
And let me hold illusion to the end,
It will not grieve me. Lanval, stand by me,
Play man to my man! Be again to me
The friend I trusted.
LAN. Wilt compel me then?
GER. That 's not my answer.
LAN. I'll not say "accept,"
But "take" my life: for I have nothing left
Beyond the usage of my hands. Take this,
Cast it to feed what purposes you will.
It has no merit, value or regard;
Such as it is, I give it — a free gift
From now till death.
GER. And I will take it so.
Fate's herald holds the trumpet to his lips,
And we stand ready in the lists of life
To challenge fortune. But thou hast no arms!
GER. Have you equipment near?
BER. Not far, my lord.
GER. Go thou and bring it here. (Exit.)
My course is laid, and not a storm of change
Shall turn me from it. (Enter Gyfert.)
GYF. Our runner is returned.
He found Owain with levies of North Wales.
They come to help us.
GER. Could he hear no word
Of the King's forces?
GER. The dawn is near!
Advise me, Lanval. I do need thy skill,
Should Arthur come not ere the light reveals
Our present weakness, we shall be hard set
To hold this passage. (Enter Captain.)
Do they move?
CAPT. My lord,
There is a sound of motion in their camp,
And certain horsemen have already crossed
The ford beneath us.
GER. Can ye hold them?
I think, my lord, they move with the intent
To seize upon the vantage of this ridge
Before the day.
GER. They may not so intend.
What think'st thou, Lanval?
LAN. I believe it true.
It is their custom to attack at dawn,
If they suspect not we shall be renewed,
And know our forces to be much reduced,
They will endeavour to destroy at once
This band of ours. I counsel thee attack
And bring confusion.
GER. We have not the strength.
LAN. The Duke of Cornwall cannot now be far,
Owain is near. If we do lose this place
The issue 's doubtful. Check them, and surprise
Leaves them half-hearted, unprepared to meet
Our armies' onset. Hold them at all costs.
GER. Should Arthur fail?
LAN. We fall in either case,
If we oppose them not.
GER. Gyfert, my arms.
(Enter a man-at-arms.)
MAN. My lord, their forces have o'erpast the ford,
And drive our posts. (Alarms and noise off.)
GER. Back ye, and hold the ground
(Exeunt Captain and man.)
Until my coming. Up, all Devon's men,
Let battle-hunger seize upon your limbs,
And bring you aching for the food of death.
LAN. Come, let us go.
GER. While thou art still unarmed?
LAN. (To Gyfert.)
Lend me a sword.
GER. No, Lanval, I command
This much obedience. Till Bernardo brings
His armament, do thou hold here the half
Of these my forces to be our support,
And then employ them as occasion turns.
(The men file off. Geraint goes a few steps and
then turns back to Lanval.)
LAN. I must obey.
GER. The hour is dark and strange.
Lanval, should this our day of severance prove,
As well it may be, let us fall assured
Of our relation. When I said I served
Your cause in pureness, I perceive I lied.
No, let me speak. Unthinkingly I strove
To turn a being to an instrument.
It was ill done. Perhaps we'll have no time,
And no occasion to be clear henceforth.
We have been much together, and I think
Our ends will not be distant. Knowing this,
I give you absolution from all vows
LAN. Nay, Geraint.
GER. God guard you well.
If this be not our hour, the hour will come
Which we must meet; let then our manner hold
Until that time. But should our lot decree
We meet no more — in such a case: farewell!
LAN. Farewell, Geraint.
GER. Thou, Gyfert, stay with him.
(Exit Geraint; increased alarms.)
LAN. One righteous man who 's fool enough to think
That I am worthy. One friend who forces me
To do him wrong. The hooks of hell are fast
In all my being. I am manacled
With a cold bondage I have forged myself.
And how much simpler will the world become
For many men when I am dead! My end
Will be a kindness.
(Enter Owain, Meliard and a force.)
OW. They have joined too soon.
Split legions in a forest and the odds
Are 'gainst good timing. What are ye?
Of Prince Geraint.
OW. I want an honest man
To answer me.
GYF. He leads us.
OW. God defend
You from his leading. You! I do not know
With what good reason you afflict our paths.
The common outcome of our judgment is
That malefactors are enforced to feel
Their punishment. The sutlers, and the scum
Of ragged thieves who haunt our armies' march,
Should be behind.
MEL. This is too harsh, Owain!
OW. Peace, you. But I am glad that you are dumb:
Shame marks a vestige of your former state.
Now better it, and get you out from us.
You, Gyfert, follow us.
GYF. My lord,
We have our orders.
OW. And a cur to lead!
Not gone yet, fool? Out of my path, you dog.
(Strikes Lanval, who reels back.)
MEL. A dog's stroke too! The man 's not even armed!
(Gyfert half draws.)
OW. Honour protects no vermin! What, my friend,
Will you shew teeth?
LAN. Nay, Gyfert, hold your hand.
OW. Hearken, they 're to it. Our good game begins.
Out, swords, and follow! (Exeunt Owain, Meliard, and their men.)
LAN. I am come so low,
I have no word to answer censure with,
No record to run counter to reproach.
Even these men stand shamed to follow me.
GYF. It is not so, Sir Lanval, we do not
Forget old battles.
LAN. I remember now.
I led you once upon the fields of Clyde,
And once at Stirling. Take our forces on:
There is a hillock which doth lie beyond
The ridge we hold. Ye know it.
GYF. Aye, we do.
LAN. Thence we can lend assistance in short space
Where it is needed. Should by chance I fail
To give the signal and direction, use
Thine own discernment.
GYF. I will do so, sir!
(Exeunt Gyfert and men-at-arms. Lanval is left alone.)
LAN. Geraint should hold the passage of that line
Sufficiently; and yet becoming weak,
Will tempt these Angles to renewed assaults,
Whereon an army coming fresh with day
Will grip the issue. All will be success,
But I can have no share in it again.
A parasite that like the sucking-fish
Is borne about the spaces of the world
By one more powerful! No, there is no hope,
No refuge and no purpose in my life,
But to live on like some outlying wolf
Too savage even for the hungry pack.
Or to go mocked, the client of a prince,
Licking the crumbs of honour from his floor.
No, I am sure that life 's not tenable
Upon such terms. And therefore let us end.
If I gained heaven she would not be there,
So 't is no heaven! If I earned a hell
She has not done so, therefore 't is no hell!
I should be tearing at my heart by now,
Playing Prometheus to my own regrets,
And yet I'm numb. Sensation has its end,
And all our feeling to exhaustion comes.
So, life 's a silence, death an incident
Which to our dreaming puts a period.
If dreams are evil, one has but to wake
Into the darkness. Come, I'll look for it
Beyond that ridge. It is not hard to find,
And worth the seeking! (As he prepares to go out, Triamour appears.)
LAN. I have done
With all these dreams, and I had hoped to pass
TRI. Why? Art thou not content
With all the honours, merits and rewards
The world doth give thee?
LAN. There 's no need to mock,
The hour is past when I entreated help:
True there are times which do one's memory hurt,
Whose quick remembrance stabs one's soul with hate,
And makes one loth to look upon the beast
That this has been; for I have raved and foamed,
Spent all my soul in crying for thine aid,
And brought my manhood into such a pass
That reason's self could not well recognise
Such bestial stuff to be the frame of man,
Wherein she wrought. But that is overpast.
There is no scorn can touch the heart of me,
And no reproach but is an idle tale
Too oft repeated. All I am is ash,
The cindered fragment of a billet cast
By God or chance into time's furnaces,
And now the shadow is come down on me.
TRI. Is it not pleasant — man's acknowledgment?
Surely all love thee for thine excellence!
LAN. Be not so hard. I learnt my impotence,
And God has gently cleansed my vanity.
TRI. So the same shame that drove thee from mine arms,
Still dogs thy courses?
LAN. No, I've learnt enough,
And know myself an ordinary soul,
No way distinguished from the common mass,
No way their better. I am very low,
And have no feeling but an envious hope
Of better things. Yet I am not shamed,
For there 's a passion which must cry for stars,
Cry from the body of a beast that crawls
Upon this surface for the face of God.
I am not shamed, for while the spirit lives
Man must lust high.
TRI. There is no more to learn;
The world has done with all thy services.
(Confused noises off.)
This time is dying. Listen to the call!
Insurgent peoples waken from their sleep —
Race, tribe and nation. In the flux of war
All old ordainments spin to their decease.
I did not blame thee or reproach thy choice,
When thy disdain preferred the world to me,
And I change not. I know no fickleness,
But have in patience hungered for this hour,
All the old offrance of a state of peace
Awaits thee still. Ah, Lanval, I have loved,
And been so patient.
LAN. I was never worth
A portion of such kindness. I'd have talked
Of love in days whose dawn I shall not see.
God knows I loved you, but love whips my soul
To the same end life spurred me to, since I
Have found existence folly. Let me go
And get some credit in the end of it.
TRI. Wilt leave me?
LAN. I am pledged
TRI. If thou canst leave me now,
We shall not meet at any time again,
But part for ever. Each shall sink at last
Into the gulf of uncreated things,
And have no knowledge of the other's end.
Thou hast forgotten —
LAN. Come — the end! the end!
Tempt not my nature; while he lives, I hold
(A shout off.)
TRI. Geraint is dead.
LAN. He's dead?
I sent him to it: sent my only friend
To find his death! He 's better dead than friend
Or kind to me! God help me, I am cursed!
Oh let me die, then I can do no hurt
To any one!
TRI. Choose, then, the time is short.
Geraint is dead, slain by thy foolishness;
This battle lost.
LAN. Arthur must come.
TRI. He's far,
He will not come. Choose! Be with me or die,
And let our love immediate be dissolved.
The gates are closing. Wilt thou hold the world?
LAN. The King comes not. Can I do nothing right?
Always so foolish and unfortunate.
Geraint is dead. He was a noble knight —
God rest his soul.
TRI. (Aside) His soul awaits thine own.
LAN. All's lost, my friend, my faith and e'en my use,
Take me away.
TRI. Now, Lanval, in this kiss
Lies the best boon the spirit gives to man.
Come swift, the gates swing in upon thy soul;
Give me thy being.
LAN. It is done.
TRI. Then I
Give thee the last! the kindest gift of all —
(Darkness. Lanval reels and falls. When the stage lightens Triamour has
disappeared, but the body of Lanval lies across the centre. Increased alarms.)
(The dawn begins to lighten the scene, at the same time a red glow increases at the back.)
(Enter Arthur, Cador, Gawain, Agravaine, Astamor and a force.)
ARTH. Halt here. Go thou, Gawain, and seek
This conflict's meaning. (Exit Gawain.)
We are not too soon,
For see the pallor which precedes the birth
Of the wan day.
AGR. Here is an early fruit
Of this encounter.
ARTH. Who is it?
AGR. No man
Of consequence. His mail is thin and torn,
And he's not armoured.
CAD. Yet, Astamor, I think
I know that shape.
ARTH. No, let it be, Cador,
Whate'er his rank he 'll wait full patiently
For the last service.
(Arthur talks aside to Cador.)
AGR. (Turns the body over.)
Lanval, as I live!
AGR. Quiet. We 'll not interfere.
Let him alone.
AST. How did he die?
AGR. God knows.
We'll serve no purpose in revealing this:
He'll not have long to wait for company,
And I 'll not grudge him half an hour of hell.
AST. The King should know it.
AGR. Why? The man 's forgot
As soon as dead. Here ends an episode,
One of those little tangled businesses,
Which colour our existence for a space,
And then slip down the years. We fought
Only a week since and I had the worst.
He was a very tall man of his hands,
Yet I am living and he's safe and dead.
Strange, Astamor, that I, the only one
Who ever came by any harm from him,
Should so regret him.
ARTH. Hark, Cador, who's here?
What now, Gawain? How goes it?
GAW. Well for us,
Our slender van has held most gallantly
The ridge beyond us.
ARTH. Nobly done.
ARTH. We'll venge him —
GAW. But Owain
Doth hold the field. The Angles are confused
And stand uncertain. We have but to strike.
ARTH. Art sure, Gawain?
GAW. I know not how it comes,
But if some spirit who did favour us
Designed this moment, he could not do more
For victory. (Alarms.)
AGR. Strike, Sire!
ARTH. I will. Ye lords
And 'sembled barons of this British realm,
Reveal your favour. Set my standards on,
Let the red dragon flame above our helms.
Up, all ye lances that defend this state,
All hearts that bar oppression, and all blades
That stand for Britain. 'T is the hour at last
Wherein we triumph, and henceforth our foe
Shall know this valley by the name of woe.