TINTAGEL, huge rock-royal, glad was I
That only here and there a crumbling wall,
Hard to distinguish from the natural,
Still stood upon thy summit. Worthily
Could feudal palace-keep scarce occupy
Such site; and how would newer buildings pall
Where every rood was stamped historical,
Or fancy-tinged, or steeped in legendry?
Dismantled, one can picture on the isle
A shadowy Arthur washed up from the bay,
And rear upon its front a stately pile
Of marble as kings reared them in the day,
Ere time had taught the Briton to neglect
The lesson of the Roman Architect.
Arthur and Ysolde, Uther and Ygraine,
Tristram and Mark!--on moon-enchanted nights
At murk mid-dark, or when the island's heights
Peer dimly through a veil of spray and rain
Driven by the western gales--ye live again.
What wilder than this huge rock, ringed with bights
Precipice walled and reefy, for the fights
Of Uther and the Cornish Duke, both fain
For Arthur's mother? Not in fairy-land
Have they in summer stillness such a cove
With ferny caverns nooked and soft with sand
To take a stranded babe. And hate and love,--
Queen Ysolde's love for Tristram, and Mark's hate--
Thy smooth brow and dark chasms illustrate.
I saw thee first late on a summer eve,
Too dusky to distinguish the low block
Of wall fast mingling with the native rock,
So dusky that I could not well perceive
The vast ravine the elements did leave,
When the great drawbridge fell, before the shock
Of giant storms or those strong dwarfs who mock
Adamant--mists which melt and frosts which cleave.
Only the mount loomed black against the sky
And at my feet slow heavy breakers roared,
The while I trampled, musing wistfully,
The stunted gorse and sea-pinks of the sward
Upon the windy height, whereon still stands
The church first founded there by Saxon hands.
Next morn I clomb the mount to seek the well
And all but vanished earthworks. Those were there
When Uther's savage war-cry rent the air;
Those and the mount itself alone could tell,
Had they but tongues, where such a hero fell,
And such a gallant prince won such a fair,
And how Queen Ysolde of the raven hair
Held the stout knight, Sir Tristram, in her spell.
The month was August and the morn was grand
With all that makes an August morning dear
To rain-vexed England; light the west wind chased
The ripples on the bay; the sky was clear,
The sun shone bright, the air was warm and dry:
And Nature held the keep of days gone by.