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Sir Hector de Marais

A lonely horseman, travel worn,
Rides slowly o'er the plain;
He wanders from the golden morn,
Till twilight falls again;
It is Sir Hector de Marais,
Who sought, for many a weary day,
His long lost brother Lancelot;
Still, as at eve, he found him not,
He thought, "To-morrow we may meet,
The world is very wide,
But earnest search, and memories sweet,
Will lure him to my side."

He rides afar, o'er moorlands dim,
O'er boundless deserts rude;
The world seems ever thus to him,
A trackless solitude.
Where long low heaths in purple lie,
And gloom to black against the sky,
Across the trembling brown morasses,
His stately war-horse onward passes.
There is no path so desolate
Can make him turn the rein;
From early morn till evening late,
He seeks, and seeks in vain.

He rides along the village street,
O'er-canopied with trees,
Round lattice windows roses sweet
Are all astir with bees;
The maidens, on the fountain's brim,
Rest their full urns, and gaze on him;
The way-worn armour, stained, yet proof,
The mighty steed, with clanging hoof;
While, wandering through the country fair,
He thinks but of the quest;
There is no beauty anywhere
That speaks to him of rest.

Sometimes he halts beneath the towers
Of lords of high degree,
Where glittering throng in ladies' bowers,
The gorgeous chivalry;
Their mirth has now a jarring tone,
The key-note of the chord is gone.
The high-born ladies glance aside,
And say, "Does Lancelot hither ride?
For weary years we wait in vain,
Our banquet halls are dim;
Alas! the noble courteous strain
That passed away with him!"

Sometimes he seeks the pebbly shore,
Kissed by the silver tide,
And sees the gay sea-rovers pour
From the black war-ships' side;
A people strong, and free, and bold,
With giant frames and locks of gold,
And truth as clear and bright, I ween,
As sunshine on their weapons keen.
Rough warriors, wild with power and youth;
But vainly seeks he here
The courteous valour, gentle ruth
Of high-born cavalier.

Then to the camp he takes his way;
There, gold or pleasure reigns,
The young men laugh the time away,
The old men count their gains.
The heart of fire that could not rest
While one dark wrong was unredressed;
The sword that flashed from out its sheath,
Alert at honour's lightest breath;
The fair ideal that inspires
High natures, were forgot;
The men were mean as their desires--
And gone was Lancelot.

In fading hope the years have sped;
Then one November night
He saw high windows, glowing red,
And rode towards the light;
And through bewildering mist-wreaths dim,
Came fragments of a solemn hymn;
They sang of endless rest and peace,
Of wanderings far that soon shall cease.
He lighted down and eagerly
Within the chapel pressed,
He felt, so bright his hope and high,
He had achieved the quest.

Hush -- for upon the quiet there,
Too loud the mailed foot rings;
Hush -- for in pauses of the prayer,
The quire a requiem sings.
A hundred torches burning clear,
Show the calm warrior on his bier;
They stand aside, the mourning train,
To let the brothers meet again --
So long he sought, and found him not;
Now seven long years are fled,
Hector has found Sir Lancelot,
And Lancelot is dead.

'Tis ever thus, when we pursue
Some cherished bright ideal --
Some hope that fades before our view,
Too beauteous to be real;
For when, perchance, through toil and pain,
Our darling wishes we attain,
The lifeless form alone we clasp;
The spirit is beyond our grasp;
We too, we seek Sir Lancelot,
Till youth and hope are fled;
We find him, yet we find him not,
For Lancelot is dead.