Cast of Characters
GARETH, youngest son of King Lot and Queen Bellicent.
SIR KAY, the Seneschal.
THE ANCIENT, a Seer.
GAWAIN, brother of Gareth.
BELLICENT, mother of Gareth.
PRINCE LLWELLYN, a child.
LYONORS, maiden held in Castle Perilous.
LYNETTE, her sister.
A WIDOW AND HER KINSMAN.
MORS, the boy disguised as Death.
THE KING'S JESTER.
THE KING'S PAGE.
KNIGHTS, MESSENGERS, ETC.
HOME OF GARETH.
(Bellicent arranging coverlet over her husband, who is lying before the hearth. Child seated on the floor, playing with helmet and sword.)
BELLICENT. Ah me! The very babes are smitten with the love of strife, and sword and helmet are the children's toys!
And he lies there, my husband and a king; lies like a log, and all but smouldered out! For, ever since - when traitor to the king - he found against him in the barons' war, and Arthur gave him back his territory - his age has slowly drooped, and now he lies, listless and lifeless, though not ready for the tomb.
And my two sons, Modred and Gawain, are the king's knights; while now the last, - the youngest and the dearest, - would away to Arthur's Hall.
Long have I held him, as a hound in leash; but the hour comes, I know, when from my home, my heart, Gareth, my best beloved will break away.
(Child tries to put on helmet, and lets it fall clattering on the sword. Looks up and sees Queen.)
My Lady Queen, I fain would be thy knight, for thou art sad. Who does thee wrong? (Grasps sword.)
Hush little one, and be in leed my knight, - a carpet-knight and stay at home with me. For soon there wil be none but thou and I. I know thy cousin yearneth to be gone, and soon Gareth -
Gareth? And goeth he to the court? and will he see the King? And have you seen great Arthur?
Aye, child. For I was near him when he sat crowned on the dais; and his warriors cried, "Be thou the king, and we will work thy will, who love thee!"
And thou hast been to Camelot?
Yes, child. And there saw Mage Merlin, whose vast wit and hundred winters are but as slaves to serve the king. And there the white-robed Lady of the Lake, who gave the King his huge cross-hilted sword, who lives down in the lake's calm deeps, and sometimes walks the water, - like our LORD.
There, likewise, I beheld Excalibur, the sword that rose from out the bosom of the lake; and Arthur rowed across and took it; rich with jewels on the hilt, bewildering heart and eye; the blade so bright that men are blinded by it.
But child, the hour is late. (Voice without calls, "Llewellyn, Llewellyn!") Hark, thy nurse is calling thee! Hasten, sweet one, - to bed and pleasant dreams! (Embraces him.)
(Exit Bellicent and child. Stage darkened, Bellicent returns, bearing a lighted candle, looks at Lot and sighs. Moves towards chair. Enter Gareth. Bellicent sits, Gareth at her feet.)
Mother, tho' ye count me still the child, sweet mother, do ye love the child?
(Laughing.) Thou art but a wild-goose to question it.
Then, mother, as ye love the child, being a goose and rather tame than wild, hear the child's story.
Yea, my well-beloved, an t'were but of the goose and golden eggs!
Nay, nay, good mother, but this egg of mine was finer than any goose can lay. For this an eagle, - a royal eagle laid
Almost 'yond reach of eye, on such a palm
As glitters gilded in thy Book of Hours.
And there was ever haunting round the palm
A lusty youth but poor, who often saw
The splendor sparkling from aloft, and thought,
An I could climb and lay my hand upon it,
Then were I wealthier than a leash of kings.
But ever when he reached a hand to climb
One that had loved him from his childhood caught
And stayed him, "Climb not lest thou break thy neck,
I charge thee by my love." And so they boy,
Sweet mother, neither climbed nor brake his neck,
But brake his very heart in pining for it.
Hast thou no pity on my loneliness?
See, where thy father, Lot, beside the hearth
Lies prone, nor hears, nor speaks, nor knows;
And both thy brethren are in Arthur's Hall -
Albeit neither loved with that full love.
I feel for thee.
Stay therefore thou. Follow the deer,
By these tall firs and our fast falling burns,
So make thy manhood mightier day by day!
Stay, my best son, ye are yet more boy than man.
O mother, how can ye keep me tethered to you?
Man am I grown, a man's work must I do.
Follow the deer? Follow Christ, the King,
Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King -
Else wherefore born?
Sweet son there be those who deem him not,
Or will not deem him wholly proven king.
Say, wilt thou leave
Thine easeful biding here and risk thine all,
Life, limbs, for one that is not proven king?
Not proven? Who swept the dust of ruined Rome
From off the threshold of the realm, and crushed
The idolaters, and made the people free!
Who should be king save him who makes us free?
Yield me, my mother! your full leave to go.
Mother, to gain it, I would walk through fire!
Will ye walk thro' fire?
Who walks thro' fire will hardly heed the smoke.
Ay, go then, an ye must. Only, one proof,
Before thou ask the king to make thee knight,
Of thine obedience and thy love to me,
Thy mother, - I demand.
A hard one or a hundred, so I go!
Nay - quick! The proof to prove me to the quick!
Prince, thou shalt go disguised to Arthur's hall,
And hire thyself to serve for meats and drinks
Among the scullions and the kitchen knaves,
Nor shalt thou tell thy name to any one.
And thou shalt serve a twelvemonth and a day.
The thrall in person may be free in soul;
And I shall see the jousts. Thy son am I,
And, since thou art my mother, must obey.
I therefore yield me freely to thy will;
For hence will I, disguised, and hire myself
To serve with scullions and with kitchen knaves;
Nor tell my name to any-no, not e'en the king.
BEFORE CAMELOT CASTLE.
(Enter Lancelot and Kay.)
Sit down, Sir Kay, and breathe the enlivening air, and rest thyself a while. Moreover, I would hear thee tell of the Coming of Arthur.
'Tis said, that when King Uther died, Merlin and Bleys, soothsayers both, saw on the sea a dragon-ship, all bright from stem to stern with shining people on the decks.
And as they watched the great sea fall, wave after wave, - each mightier than the last, - a ninth wave, full of voices, rose and plunged, roaring, and all the wave was in a flame.
And down the wave and in the flame was borne a naked babe, floating to Merlin's feet. Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried, "The King! Here is an heir for Uther!"
But when I met Merlin and asked him if these things be truth - the shining dragon-ship and naked child, descending in the glory of the seas, - he laughed as is his wont, and answered me in riddling triplets of old time, and said:
"Rain, rain, and sun!
A rainbow in the sky,
A young man will be wiser by and by,
An old man's wit may wander ere he die!"
Ha ha! That sounds like Merlin. But truth to tell; - Arthur was born after his father's death, within the castle by the Cornish sea. And, all as soon as born, delivered at a secret postern-gate to Merlin; to be holden far apart until his hour should come. Because the lords of that fierce day had surely torn the child piece-meal among them had they known, for each but sought to rule for his own self and hand.
Ah well, I ever held great Arthur king! Did I not see him throw the kings of Erin, Wales, and Orkney, - till, like a painted battle, the war stood silenced, - the living quiet as the dead.
And then he turned to me and laughing said: "Thou dost not doubt me king, for well thine arm hath wrought for me today."
"Sir, and my liege," I cried, "the fire of God descends upon thee in the battlefield. I know the for my king."
Whereat we twain, for each had warded either in the fight, sware on the field of death a deathless love.
But come, let's seek the hall, for, seems to me, I hear the sound of footsteps nigh at hand.
Aye, aye! And I must to my knaves and scullions and bid the villain-vassals to their work again - for if their fire be low 'twill kindle mine!
(Enter Gareth and two companions.)
Let us go no further, Lord. Here is a city of enchanters, built by fairy kings!
Lord, we have heard from our wise men at home to northward, that this king, is not the King, but only changeling out of Fairyland who drave the heathen hence by sorcery and Merlin's glamour.
Lord, there is no such city anywhere. 'Tis all a vision!
Pshaw! Have I not enough glamour
In my own blood, my princedom, youth and hopes,
To plunge old Merlin in the Arabian Sea!
(They approach the gate. A long bearded aged man appears.)
Who be ye, my sons?
We be tillers of the soil,
Who leaving share in furrow come to see
The glories of our king: but these, my men, -
Your city moved so weirdly in the mist -
Doubt if the king be king at all, or come
From Fairyland, and whether this be built,
By magic, and by fairy kings and queens,
Or whether there be any city at all,
Or all a vision.
Son, truly as thou sayest, a fairy king
And fairy queens have built the city.
They came from out a sacred mountain-cleft
Toward the sunrise, each with harp in hand,
And built it to the music of their harps.
And, as thou sayest, it is enchanted, son;
For there is nothing in it as it seems
Saving the king; tho' some there be that hold
The king, a shadow and the city real.
Yet take thou heed of him, for, so thou pass
Beneath this archway, then wilt thou become
A thrall to his enchantments. For the king
Will bind thee by such vows as is a shame
A man should not be bound by, yet the which
No man can keep. But, so thou dread to swear,
Pass not beneath this gateway, but abide
Without, among the cattle of the field.
Old master, reverence thine own beard
That looks as white as utter truth, and seems
Well nigh as long as thou art statured tall!
Why mockest thou the stranger that hath been
To thee fair-spoken?
I mock thee not but as thou mockest me,
And all that see thee, for thou art not who
Thou seemest, but I know thee who thou art.
And now thou goest up to mock the king,
Who cannot brook the shadow of any lie.
Our one white lie sits like a little ghost
Here on the threshold of our enterprise.
Let love be blamed for it, - not she, nor I.
Well, we will make amends.
(They enter the gate.)
THRONE ROOM OF CAMELOT CASTLE.
(Enter Arthur attended by Page and Jester and knights. The king takes seat on throne.)
A boon, Sir King! Thine enemy am I, and loathe to ask thee aught.
Yet lo! my husband's brother had my son
Thralled in his castle, and hath starved him dead,
And seized upon that goodly heritage
Which thou that slewest the sire hadst left the son.
Grant me some knight to do the battle for me,
Kill the foul thief, and wreak me for my son.
A boon, Sir King! I am her kinsman, I, -
Give me to right her wrong, and slay the man.
A boon, Sir King! E'en that thou grant her none,
This railer, that hath mocked thee in full hall -
None, or the wholesome boon of gyve and gag!
"Gyve and gag!" Poor old Kay! He must have a pain somewhere. Sir King, I would fain ask thee a riddle.
Say on. Thou art a fool, but fools are sometimes wiser than the wise. Moreover, thou mayest relieve the Seneschal of his pain.
Suppose then, Sir Pendragon, this doughty kinsman going on his quest, were to be seized with a fit of colic on the way, - Where and When would it take him?
Faith, I know not! Sir Kay, canst thou tell?
Nay, verily. I vex me not with such fool questions.
(Knights murmur, asking each other the riddle.)
Well Sir Jeffrey, and when and where would the colic attack the warrior?
In the middle of the (k)night of course!
Ha, ha, ha! I would like to see him doubled up. (Points to long slender knight.) He is too long as it is. But, Sir King, grant him no boon.
We sit King, to help the wrong'd
Thro' all our realm. The woman loves her lord.
Peace to thee, woman, with thy loves and hate!
The kings of old had doomed thee to the flames.
But get thee hence -
Lest that rough humor of the kings of old
Return upon me! Thou that art her kin,
Go likewise; lay him low and slay him not,
But bring him here, that I may judge the right,
According to the justice of the King:
Then, be he guilty, by that deathless King
Who lived and died for men, the man shall die.
(Exit Widow and Kinsman.)
Go, Jeffrey, lad, and get thy lute.
I would thou'dst cheer me with a song. Sir Kay, in sooth, is sound and wholesome as an apple, - but like an apple plucked too soon, he's somewhat sour.
Enough to give one colic in the middle of the knight!
(Fetches lute and sings.)
SONG OF THE KING'S JESTER.
(Enter Gareth leaning on his two companions.)
Every morning towards twelve o'clock
I tumble out of bed,
And set to work quite hard you know,
To earn my daily bread.
It's mighty tough to get up jokes,
And always play the fool;
I sometimes think I might as well,
Be back again at school!
Everybody works but Arthur, and he sits around all day,
High on his velvet cushion chatting with old Sir Kay;
Squires and knights go questing, tourneying thro' the land
Kay and the king are resting in the castle grand!
But, boys, I'm only jollying you,
You know it is my way;
For, poking fun it is my cue,
I strive to make you gay.
King Arthur, every body knows,
Is bravest of the brave;
Where others quail, he does not fail,
But fights the weak to save.
Everybody runs but Arthur, he always holds the field;
Whoe'er may fail or falter, right in the van his shield.
Right in the forefront dashes, Arthur with conquering spear;
There Arthur's bright sword flashes, while foemen fall and fear.
A truce, now, to the minstrel's jest
And a song for the Table Round,
For true as steel in every test
Our white cross knights are found,
Sir Lancelot, Gareth, Gawain, -
Bors, Galahad, and Kay!
Yes, Kay a jolly fellow is,
Laugh at him as we may!
Everybody runs but Arthur, everybody runs but Kay;
Enemies run before Arthur, Kay keeps out of the way!
Everybody loves King Arthur, foemen fear his sword;
Then, a shout for the knights of Arthur, true knights, in deed and word!
A boon, Sir King!
For see ye not how weak and hunger-worn
I seem - leaning on these? Grant me to serve
For meat and drink among thy kitchen knaves
A twelve-month and a day, nor seek my name.
Hereafter, I will fight.
A goodly youth and worth a goodlier boon!
But so thou wilt no goodlier, then must Kay,
The master of the meats and drinks, be thine.
Lo ye now!
This fellow has broken from some abbey, where,
I wot, he had not beef and brewis enow.
Howe'er that might chance, but an he work,
Like any pigeon will I cram his crop,
And sleeker shall he shine than any hog.
Hog! H-O-G, - big pig! What a fine dinner a fellow could eat, if he were as hungry as me, and as roomy as he!
(Points to the fattest knight.)
Sleuth-hound thou knowest, and gray, and all the hounds;
A horse thou knowest, a man thou dost not know.
Broad brows and fair, a fluent hair and fine,
High nose, a nostril large and fine, and hands
Large, fair, and fine! - Some young lad's mystery this!
But, or from sheepcote or king's hall, the boy
Is noble-natured. Treat him with all grace,
Lest he should come to shame thy judging of him.
(Exeunt Kay and Gareth.)
(Knight attendants, march past the throne saluting the King, and go before him as the court retires, the King's train borne by his Page.)
THRONE ROOM OF CAMELOT CASTLE.
(Time, some months later. King seated on throne. Enter messenger, Only Page and perhaps Jester, or one other present.)
My Lord, there is one without craves audience with thee.
Bid him enter. (Enter Gareth.) Speak, my son.
Sir King, when I came hither I was bound by sacred promise to my mother to disguise myself, nor even tell my name.
And I was glad for glory to endure the sooty yoke of kitchen vassalage, and eat with thralls my portion by the door; and couch at night, though prince, with kitchen-knaves, my comrades of the hearth.
But to-day my lady-mother sends me full release from this my vow; and now I speak and own myself Gareth, the son of Lot and Bellicent. The queen hath sent me arms; and so this joy is mine, - to leap out of the smoke, at once from Satan's foot to Peter's knee!
I have staggered thy strong Gawain in a tilt for pastime; yea, he said it! Joust can I. Make me thy knight in secret. Let my name be hidden, and give me the first quest, then I spring like flame from ashes.
(Gareth bows low, drops on one knee, and kisses the king's hand.)
Son! Thy good mother let me know thee here,
And sent her wish that I would yield thee thine.
Make thee my knight? My knights are sworn to vows
Of utter hardihood, utter gentleness,
And uttermost obedience to the king.
(Springing from his knees.)
My king, for hardihood I can promise thee.
For uttermost obedience make demand
Of whom ye gave me to, the Seneschal,
No mellow master of meats and drinks!
And as for love - ah, well, - I love not yet,
But love I shall, God willing.
Make thee my knight in secret?
Yea, but he, our noblest brother, and our truest man,
And one with me in all, he needs must know.
Let Lancelot know, my king, let Lancelot know,
Thy noblest and thy truest!
But wherefore would ye men should wonder at you?
Nay, rather for the sake of me their king,
And the deed's sake my knighthood do the deed,
Than to be noised at.
Have I not earned my cake in baking of it?
Let my name be until I make my name!
My deed will speak, it is but for a day.
(Taking sword from Page.)
I yield my will to thine. Rise, Sir Gareth! (Gives him accolade.)
Tell Lancelot I would speak with him.
(Exit Gareth. Enter Lancelot.)
I have given him the first quest; he is not proven.
Look therefore, when he calls for this in hall,
Thou get to horse and follow him far away,
Cover the lions on thy shield, and see,
Far as thou mayest, he be not ta'en nor slain.
(Enter Gareth with the Court.)
All hail, my noble knights! And now my merry men,
Who will make sport for us?
I challenge Sir Jeffrey!
(Mock combat between Gawain and Jester.)
(Jester rises and advances with outstretched sword. Suddenly he produces a bladder from behind his back, and drives Gawain from the stage, amidst general laughter. Sir Jeffrey returns limping.)
Why Jeffrey, Jester, what's the matter? Did yonder slender skeleton tread upon thy toe?
No - No - My shoes hurt me!
No wonder, fool. You have them on the wrong feet.
Well - well, I c-can't help that, can I? I haven't got any other feet.
O King, for thou hast driven the foe without,
See to the foe within! bridge, ford, beset
By bandits, everyone that owns a tower
The lord for half a league. Why sit ye there?
Rest would I not, Sir King, an I were king,
Till even the lonest hold were all as free
From stain of blood as thy white altar cloth.
Comfort thyself, I nor mine rest;
So my knighthood keep the vows they swore,
The wasted moorland of our realm shall be
Safe, damsel, as the centre of this hall.
What is thy name? thy need?
Lynette, my name, noble; my need, a knight
To combat for my sister, Lyonors,
A lady of high lineage, of great lands;
And comely, yea, and comelier than myself,
She lives in Castle Perilous; a river
Runs in three loops about her dwelling place,
And o'er it are three passings, and three knights
Defend the passings, brethren; and a fourth,
And of that four the mightiest, holds her stayed
In her own castle, and so besieges her
To break her will, and make her wed with him;
And but delays his purpose till thou send
To do battle with him thy chief man
Sir Lancelot, whom he trusts to overthrow;
Then wed, with glory. But she will not wed
Save whom she loveth, or a holy life.
Now therefore have I come for Lancelot.
Damsel, ye know this Order lives to crush
All wrongers of the realm. But say, these four,
Who be they? What the fashion of the men?
They be of foolish fashion, O Sir King,
The fashion of that old knight-errantry
Who ride abroad, and do but what they will,
Courteous or bestial from the moment, such
As have nor law nor king, and three of these
Proud in their fantasy call themselves THE DAY,
MORNING-STAR, and NOON-SUN, and EVENING-STAR,
Being strong fools. And never a whit more wise
The fourth, who alway rideth armed in black,
A huge man-beast of boundless savagery.
He names himself THE NIGHT and oftener DEATH,
And wears a helmet mounted with a skull,
And bears a skeleton figured on his arms,
To show that who may slay or scape the three,
Slain by himself, shall enter endless night.
And all these four be fools, but mighty men,
And therefore am I come for Lancelot.
"And all these four be fools, but mighty men!"
(Brandishes a broom.) A Broom, Sir King! A Broom!
And if I do not sweep the Sun and Stars away, and prove myself a braver, busier, bigger fool than they -
A boon, Sir King! This quest!
Yea, King, thou knowest thy kitchen knave am I,
And mighty thro' thy meats and drinks am I,
And I can topple o'er a hundred such.
Thy promise, King!
And pardonable, worthy to be knight -
(Lifting both arms.)
Fie on thee, King! I asked for thy chief knight,
And thou hast given me but a kitchen knave!
(Rushes from the Hall.)
Now, forth, Gareth! And find without the gate
The King's own gift, a war horse of renown;
And thy companions from the north
Squires twain, with shield and casque, and spear.
(King rises to his feet.)
Now leap from thy disguise, cast thy dull cloak,
For 'neath thy dusky case there burns a jeweled harness.
Flame forth from smoke; break bright, and pass, and fly!
God bless the King and all his fellowship!
God bless the King and all his fellowship!
(Music, Processional march. Knights and attendants pass the throne saluting the king, forming procession before the king, the train of whose robe is borne by his page.)
A WOOD NEAR CASTLE PERILOUS.
Bound on a quest, with horse and arms -
The King hath past his time! -
My scullion knave!
Will there be dawn in West and eve in East?
Begone, my knave! Belike, and like enow
Some old head-blow not heeded in his youth
So shook his wits they wander in his prime;
Crazed! How the villain lifted up his voice,
Nor shamed to bawl himself a kitchen knave!
Tut! He was tame and meek enow with me
Till peacocked up with Lancelot's noticing.
Well, - I will after my loud knave, and learn
Whether he know me for his master yet.
Out of the smoke he came, and so my lance
Hold, by Heav'n's grace, he shall into the mire, -
Thence, if the king awaken from his craze,
Into the smoke again.
Kay, wherefore wilt thou go against the king,
For that did never he whereon ye rail,
But ever meekly served the king in thee?
Abide, take counsel; for this lad is great
And lusty, and knowing both of lance and sword.
Tut! Tell not me, - ye are overfine
To mark stout knaves with foolish courtesies.
(Exit Kay and Lancelot.) (Enter group of knights talking.)
Didst see him loose
The cloak that dropped from collar-bone to heel,
A cloth of roughest web, and cast it down,
And from it, like a fuel-smothered fire
That looking dead, bursts bright with flash of flame,
- So Gareth ere he parted flashed in arms!
And when he donned the helm and took the shield
And mounted horse and graspt a spear, the people
Prest around him; from hall and kitchen came
The thralls in throngs, and seeing him who worked
Lustier than any, any whom they could but love,
Mounted in arms, threw up their caps and cried,
Echoing the shouts within,
God bless the king and all his fellowship!
But marked you not the damsel lingering by the field and muttering:
Wherefore did the king scorn me?
For where Sir Lancelot lackt, at least
He might have yielded to me one of these
Who tilt for lady's love and glory here,
Rather than - O sweet heaven! O fie upon him! -
His kitchen knave.
Yea, and I saw Gareth draw nigh unto her -
And there were none but few goodlier than he -
Shining in arms. Damsel, the quest is mine, he said,
Lead, and I follow. She, thereat,
Nipping her nose with petulant thumb and finger
And shrilling, cried: Hence, hence! Avoid!
Thou smellest all of kitchen grease. Begone!
Methinks this maiden somewhat of a shrew.
And did he take it gently?
Aye, aye! Damsel, Sir Gareth answered, say
Whate'er ye will, but whatsoe'er ye say,
I leave not till I finish this fair quest,
Or die therefor.
But come, my friends, I seek the forest; perchance we may meet adventure there. Who goes with me?
( Exit knights.)
( Enter Lynette, followed by Gareth, bearing blue shield, on which is white star.)
Sir, - and good faith, I fain had added knight,
But that I heard thee call thyself a knave, -
Shamed am I that I so rebuked, reviled,
Missaid thee. Noble I am and thought the king
Scorned me and mine. And now, thy pardon, friend,
For thou hast ever answered courteously,
And wholly bold thou art, and meek withal
As any of Arthur's best, but, being knave,
Hast mazed my wit! I marvel what thou art.
Damsel, in sooth, thou art not all to blame,
Saving that you mistrusted our good king
Would handle scorn, or yield you, - asking, - one
Not fit to cope your quest. You said your say;
My answer was my deed.
And seeing now thy words are fair, methinks
There rides no knight, not Lancelot, his great self,
Hath force to quell me. But, look, who comes behind?
(Enter Lancelot with shield covered, - seeing the shield taken from "Evening Star," he pretends to be the friend of the vanquished knight.)
Stay, felon knight, I avenge me for my friend
(They meet in combat. Gareth is thrown at first thrust. Finding himself so suddenly on the grass he laughs.)
Shamed! Shamed and overthrown, and - tumbled back into the kitchen-knave!
Why laugh ye? That ye blew your boast in vain?
Nay, noble damsel, but that I, the son
Of old King Lot, and good Queen Bellicent,
And knight of Arthur, here lie thrown by whom
I know not. All thro' mere unhappiness -
Device and sorcery and unhappiness -
Out, sword, we are thrown!
(Throws down his sword.)
O, Gareth, Prince, through mere unhappiness
Of one who came to help thee, not to harm, -
Lancelot, - and all as glad to find thee whole
As on the day when Arthur knighted thee.
Thou Lancelot? Thine the hand that threw me?
Why came ye not when called? and wherefore now
Come ye, not called? I gloried in my knave,
Who being still rebuked would answer still
Courteous as any knight. But now, if knight,
The marvel dies, and leaves me fooled and tricked,
And only wondering wherefore played upon,
And doubtful whether I and mine be scorned.
Where should be truth if not in Arthur's hall,
In Arthur's presence? Knight, knave, prince, and fool!
I hate thee and for ever!
Blessed be thou, Sir Gareth! Knight art thou
To the king's best wish. O damsel, be you wise
To call him shamed who is but overthrown?
Thrown have I been, nor once, but many a time.
Victor from vanquished issues at the last,
And overthrower from being overthrown.
Well hast thou done, for all the stream is freed,
And the king's justice wreaked upon his foes;
And when reviled hast answered graciously,
And makest merry when overthrown. Prince, knight!
Hail, knight and prince, and of our Table Round!
O Lancelot, O Lancelot! (Clapping her hands.)
Full merry am I to find my goodly knave
Is knight and noble. See now, sworn have I,
- Else yon black felon had not let me pass,
To bring thee back to do the battle with him.
Thus as thou goest, he will fight thee first;
Who doubts thee victor? so will my knight-knave,
Miss the full flower of this accomplishment.
Peradventure he you name
May know my shield. Let Gareth, an he will,
Change his for mine.
Courteous in this, Lord Lancelot, as in all.
(Seizing the shield.)
Ramp, ye lance-splintering lions, on whom all spears
Are rotten sticks! Ye seem agape to roar!
O noble Lancelot, from my hold on these
Streams virtue, fire, thro' one who will not shame
Even the shadow of Lancelot under shield.
Hence, let us go!
(Enter Knights on their way back from tourney and adventure.)
Comrades, the lad is brave, patient, and kind withal.
Down the long avenues of a boundless wood
I followed them. The damsel all the way
With hot and bitter speech Gareth beknaved,
But still he answered only with a smile: I shall assay.
Till presently the damsel cried, Sir Kitchen-knave
The wood is nigh as full of thieves as leaves;
Sir Scullion, canst thou use that spit of thine?
Fight, and thou canst, I have missed the only way.
Then to the shore of one of those long loops
Wherethro' the serpent river coils, they came.
There armed in armor blue, with starry shield,
Blue also, paced the lawless warrior, Morning-Star.
And Gareth silent gazed upon the knight.
Who stood a moment ere his horse was brought,
Glorying. Then he that bore
The star, when mounted, cried from o'er the bridge:
A kitchen-knave, and sent in scorn of me!
Then spake the boy,
I spring from loftier lineage than thine own.
Have at thee! All at fiery speed the two
Shocked on the central bridge, and either spear
Bent but not brake, and either knight at once,
Hurled as a stone from out a catapult
Beyond his horse's crupper and the bridge,
Fell as if dead, but quickly rose and drew,
And Gareth lashed so fiercely with his brand
He drave his enemy backward down the bridge,
Till the lad's shield was cloven; but one stroke
Laid him that clove it grovelling on the ground.
Bravo, bravo! Indeed, a noble combat!
Yea, hark to me!
I saw them at the second river loop,
Where, huge on huge red horse, and all in mail
Burnished to blinding, shone the Noon-day Sun.
Who, visoring up a red
And cipher face of rounded foolishness,
Pushed horse across the foamings of the ford,
Whom Gareth met mid-stream. Four strokes they struck
With sword, and these were mighty. The new knight
Had fear he might be shamed; but as the Sun
Heaved up a ponderous arm to strike the fifth,
The hoof of his horse slipped in the stream, the stream
Descended, and the Sun was washed away!
And I stood near them when he met
The last, the third fool of their allegory.
For there, beyond a bridge of triple bow,
All in the rose red from the west, the knight
That named himself the Star of Evening stood.
They madly hurled together on the bridge;
And Gareth overthrew him, lighted, drew,
There met him drawn, and overthrew him again,
But up like fire he started; and as oft
As Gareth brought him grovelling on his knees,
So many a time he vaulted up again.
Strike - Strike! the maiden cried,
Strike! Thou art worthy of the Table Round -
And Gareth hearing, ever strongly smote,
And hewed great pieces of his armor off him,
But could not wholly bring him under.
Till at length Sir Gareth's brand
Clashed his and brake it utterly to the hilt.
"I have thee now!" But forth that other sprang
And all unknightlike, writhed his wiry arms
Around him, till he felt, despite his mail,
Strangled. But, straining even his uttermost
Cast, and so hurled him headlong o'er the bridge
Down to the river, sink or swim!
(Kay, who has been listening unobserved, advances.)
See, here is Kay. Now mark me well, he'll praise
Whom he was wont to scorn.
Sir Knights, I like me well the tale ye tell. I always thought the lad was brave. He is some noble youth, perhaps a prince disguised. I will at once to the King, and tell the story of his knightly deeds. 'Tis worthy the best annals of the Table Round. Arthur will set his shield, full carved and blazoned rich and bright, above his name Gareth, on topmost rank of treble range in Hall.
Go to, now, Kay. Too late to change your note of scorn. King Arthur knows the lad; nor seems it well to shift from cold contempt to hollow praise, as veers the weather-vane in varying winds.
A CASTLE WALL WITH WINDOWS.
(Enter Gareth followed by Lancelot and Lynette. Gareth blows lustily upon a horn. The Lady Lyonors is seen at the window. At the third blast Mors, the monster, appears.)
Fool, for thou hast, men say, the strength of ten,
Canst thou not trust the limbs thy God hath given,
But must, to make the terror of thee more,
Trick thyself out in ghastly imageries
Of that which life hath done with, and the clod, -
Less dull than thou, will hide with mantling flowers
As if for pity.
(Lady Lyonors wrings her hands and weeps.)
(Fierce combat between Gareth and Mors. Gareth cleaves the monster's skull-helmet and out from this issues the bright face of a blooming boy.)
Knight, slay me not, my brethern bade me do it.
To make a horror all about the house,
And stay the world from Lady Lyonors,
They never dreamed the passes would be past.
My fair child,
What madness made thee challenge the chief knight
Of Arthur's Hall?
Fair Sir, they bade me do it.
They hate the king, and Lancelot, the King's friend;
They hoped to slay him somewhere on the stream,
They never dreamed the passes could be past.
(Lady Lyonors, with maidens and courtiers enters, - Left.)
(Enter King Arthur and his court and Bellicent, - Right.)
(Beckons Gareth to him. Gareth kneels.)
Sir Gareth, thou hast done full well, and I thy King am proud of thee.
(Shaking hands with Gareth.)
Sir Gareth, thou hast done fool well and I, the fool, am proud of thee!
Sir Jeffrey, thou hast also done the fool well and all the court is proud of thee. Take thou this shield.
(Hangs over his shoulder a shield with the device, of a fool's head.)
(Embracing Gareth.) My own true son, my best beloved Prince!
(Turning to the front). Now springs the happier day from under ground.
Let Lady Lyonors and her house, with dance
And revel and song, make merry over Death,
As being, after all their foolish fears,
And horrors, only proven a blooming boy!
Let large mirth live, Gareth hath won The Quest!
(Facing the knights)
'Rah! 'Rah! 'Rah! (Castle Cheer)
And now my gallant knights, let us sing in honor of Sir Gareth our song of the Round Table!
Upon King Arthur's throne to-night
The royal sword is flashing bright,
The dew of youth on us is laid,
The dew of heaven upon our blade.
Then lift the heart and raise the song
On manly voices fresh and strong;
To knightly manhood pledged are we
In life, in love, in loyalty.
A CASTLE SONG
Rev. James Yeames
Tune - "Honey Boy".
See him gaily ride away,
Our noble lad!
He must go, as you know,
On his quest for what is best,
With his shining sword, and armor bright,
Fighting ever for the right,
Courage high! Foemen fly!
Let not hope nor purpose fail,
Yonder shines the Holy Grail,
Arthur's knights ne'er quit or quail,
Galahad! We give you joyous speeding!
Galahad! We follow on your leading!
Where you are riding, riding on your way,
Gallant boy, Galahad!
For each heart is filled with high emotion,
We will strive to copy your devotion;
Comrades dear, Never fear!
We will follow, follow
Follow after Galahad!
Strong as with the strength of men,
Go, gallant lad!
Heart so pure, stroke so sure,
For your sword is "bathed in heav'n,"
To our white-cross flag we know you're true,
And our hearts are all with you,
Hail the King! Shout and sing!
Here we pledge ourselves again
Loyal knights and gentle men,
Without fear and without stain