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The Holy Grail : and other poems online

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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA



BEQUEST

OF

ANITA D. S. BLAKE




University of California • Berkeley



THE HOLY GRAIL



These four * Idylls of the King ' are printed in
their present form for the convenience of those
who possess the former volume.

The whole aeries should be read, and is to-day-
published, in the following order : —

^ THE COMING OP ARTHUR,



GERAINT AND ENID.
MERLIN AND VIVIEN.
LANCELOT AND ELAINE.
THE HOLY GRAIL.
PELLEAS AND ETTARRE.
GUINEVERE.



^ THE PASSING OF ARTHUR.*

* This last, the earliest written of the poems,
is here connected with the rest in accordance
with an early project of the author's.



THE HOLY GRAIL



^n!> Bt^tt ipoims



By ALFRED TENNYSON, d.c.l.



POET LAUREATE



** F/os Reg7iin Art hunts'*

Joseph of Exeter




STRAHAN AND CO., PUBLISHERS

56 LUDGATE HILL, LONDON
1870



LONDON :
BRADBURY, EVANS, AND CO., PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

THE COMING OF ARTHUR 1

THE HOLY GRAIL 31

PELLEAS AND ETTARRE 89

THE PASSING OF ARTHUR 129

NORTHERN FARMER. NEW STYLE 161

THE GOLDEN SUPPER 169

THE VICTIM . . . . . . . . . 193

WAGES 199

THE HIGHER PANTHEISM 201

** FLOWER IN THE CRANNIED WALL," . . . . 204

LUCRETIUS 205



THE COMING OF ARTHUR.



THE COMING OF ARTHUE.

Leodogran, the King of Cameliard,
Had one fair daughter, and none other child ;
And she was fairest of all flesh on earth,
Guinevere, and in her his one delight.

For many a petty king ere Arthur came
Ruled in this isle, and ever waging war
Each upon other, wasted all the land ;
And still from time to time the heathen host
Swarm'd overseas, and harried what was left.
And so there grew great tracts of wilderness,

B 2



[ THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Wherein the beast was ever more and more,
But man was less and less, till Arthur came.
For first Aurelius lived and fought and died,
And after him King Uther fought and died,
But either fail'd to make the kingdom one.
And after these King Arthur for a space.
And thro' the puissance of his Table Round,
Drew all their petty princedoms under him.
Their king and head, and made a realm, and
reign'd.

And thus the land of Cameliard was waste.
Thick with wet woods, and many a beast therein,
And none or few to scare or chase the beast ;
So that wild dog, and wolf and boar and bear
Came night and day, and rooted in the fields.
And wallow'd in the gardens of the king.
And ever and anon the wolf would steal



THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

The children and devour, but now and then,
Her own brood lost or dead, lent her fierce teat
To human sucklings ; and the children, housed
In her foul den, there at their meat would growl,
And mock their foster-mother on four feet,
Till, straightened, they grew up to wolf-like men.
Worse than the wolves. And King Leodogran
Groan' d for the Koman legions here again.
And Caesar's eagle : then his brother king,
Rience, assail'd him : last a heathen horde,
Reddening the sun with smoke and earth with

blood,
And on the spike that split the mother's heart
Spitting the child, brake on him, till, amazed,
He knew not whither he should turn for aid.

But — for he heard of Arthur newly crown'd,
Tho' not without an uproar made by those



6 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Who cried, ' He is not Uther's son ' — the king
Sent to him, saying, ' Arise, and help us thou !
For here between the man and beast we die.'

And Arthur yet had done no deed of arms.
But heard the call, and came : and Guinevere
Stood by the castle walls to watch him pass ;
But since he neither wore on helm or shield
The golden symbol of his kinglihood,
But rode a simple knight among his knights,
And many of these in richer arms than he,
She saw him not, or mark'd not, if she saw,
One among many, tho' his face was bare.
But Arthur, looking downward as he past.
Felt the light of her eyes into his life
Smite on the sudden, yet rode on, and pitch' d
His tents beside the forest. And he drave
The heathen, and he slew the beast, and fell'd



THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

The forest, and let in the sun, and made
Broad pathways for the hunter and the knight ;
And so returned.

For while he lingered there,
A doubt that ever smoulder'd in the hearts
Of those great Lords and Barons of his realm
Flash'd forth and into war : for most of these
Made head against him, crying, * Who is he
That he should rule us 1 who hath proven him
King Uther s son 1 for lo ! we look at him,
And find nor face nor bearing, limbs nor voice,
Are like to those of Uther whom we knew.
This is the son of Gorlois, not the king;
This is the son of Anton, not the king.'

And Arthur, passing thence to battle, felt
Travail, and throes and agonies of the life,



8 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Desiring to be join'd with Guinevere ;
And thinking as he rode, ^ Her father said
That there between the man and beast they die.
Shall I not lift her from this land of beasts
Up to my throne, and side by side with me 1
What happiness to reign a lonely king,
Yext — ye stars that shudder over me,

earth that soundest hollow under me,

Vext with waste dreams ? for saving I be join'd
To her that is the fairest under heaven,

1 seem as nothing in the mighty world,
And cannot will my will, nor work my work
Wholly, nor make myself in mine own realm
Victor and lord. But were I join'd with her.
Then might we live together as one life.
And reigning with one will in everything
Have power on this dark land to lighten it.
And power on this dead world to make it live.



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 9

And Arthur from the field of battle sent
Ulfius, and Brastias, and Bedivere,
His new-made knights, to King Leodogran,
Saying, * If I in ought have served thee well,
Give me thy daughter Guinevere to wife.'

Whom when he heard, Leodogran in heart
Debating — * How should I that am a king,
However much he holp me at my need,
Give my one daughter saving to a king.
And a king's son ' — lifted his voice, and call'd
A hoary man, his chamberlain, to whom
He trusted all things, and of him required
.His counsel : * Knowest thou aught of Arthur's birth ' ]

Then spake the hoary chamberlain and said,
' Sir king, there be but two old men that know :
And each is twice as old as I ; and one



10 THE COMING OP ARTHUE.

Is Merlin, the wise man that ever served
King Uther thro' his magic art ; and one
Is Merlin's master (so they call him) Bleys,
Who taught him magic ; but the scholar ran
Before the master, and so far, that Bleys
Laid magic by, and sat him down, and wrote
All things and whatsoever Merlin did
In one great annal-book, where after-years
Will learn the secret of our Arthur's birth/

To whom the King Leodogran replied,
* friend, had I been holpen half as well
By this King Arthur as by thee to-day.
Then beast and man had had their share of me :
But summon here before us yet once more
Ulfius, and Brastias, and Bedivere.'

Then, when they came before him, the king said.



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 11

* I have seen the cuckoo chased by lesser fowl,
And reason in the chase : but wherefore now
Do these your lords stir up the heat of war,
Some calling Arthur born of Gorlois,
Others of Anton ? Tell me, ye youi-selves,
Hold ye this Arthur for King Uther's son ? '

And Ulfius and Brastias answer' d, ' Ay.'
Then Bedivere, the first of all his knights
Knighted by Arthur at his crowning, spake —
For bold in heart and act and word was he,
Whenever slander breathed against the king —

• * Sir, there be many rumours on this head :
For there be those who hate him in their hearts,
Call him baseborn, and since his ways are sweet,
And theirs are bestial, hold him less than man :
And there be those who deem him more than man.



12 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

And dream he dropt from heaven : but my belief

In all this matter — so ye care to learn —

Sir, for ye know that in King Uther's time

The prince and warrior Gorlois, he that held

Tintagil castle by the Cornish sea,

Was wedded with a winsome wife, Ygerne :

And daughters had she borne him, — one whereof

Lot's wife, the Queen of Orkney, Bellicent,

Hath ever like a loyal sister cleaved

To Arthur, — but a son she had not borne.

And Uther cast upon her eyes of love :

But she, a stainless wife to Gorlois,

So loathed the bright dishonour of his love.

That Gorlois and King Uther went to war :

And overthrown was Gorlois and slain.

Then Uther in his wrath and heat besieged

Ygerne within Tintagil, where her men.

Seeing the mighty swarm about their walls,



THE COMING OP ARTHUR. 13

Left her and fled, and Uther enter' d in,

And there was none to call to but himself.

So, compass' d by the power of the king,

Enforced she was to wed him in her tears.

And with a shameful swiftness : afterward.

Not many moons, King Uther died himself,

Moaning and wailing for an heir to rule

After him, lest the realm should go to wrack.

And that same night, the night of the new year.

By reason of the bitterness and grief

That vext his mother, all before his time

Was Arthur bom, and all as soon as born

Deliver' d at a secret postern-gate

To Merlin, to be holden fax apart

Until his hour should come ; because the lords

Of that fierce day were as the lords of this.

Wild beasts, and surely would have torn the child

Piecemeal among them, had they known j for each



14 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

But sought to rule for his own self and hand,

And many hated Uther for the sake

Of Gorlois. Wherefore Merlin took the child,

And gave him to Sir Anton, an old knight

And ancient friend of Uther ; and his wife

Nursed the young prince, and rear'd him with her

own;
And no man knew. And ever since the lords
Have foughten like wild beasts among themselves,
So that the realm has gone to wrack : but now.
This year, when Merlin (for his hour had come)
Brought Arthur forth, and set him in the hall,
Proclaiming, " Here is Uther's heir, your king,"
A hundred voices cried, " Away with him !
No king of ours ! a son of Gorlois he.
Or else the child of Anton, and no king,
Or else basebom.'' Yet Merlin thro' his craft.
And while the people clamour'd for a king,



r



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 15

Had Arthur crown' d ; but after, the great lords
Banded, and so brake out in open war.'

Then while the king debated with himself
If Arthur were the child of shamefulness,
Or bom the son of Gorlois, after death,
Or Uther's son, and born before his time,
Or whether there were truth in anything
Said by these three, there came to Cameliard,
With Gawain and young Modred, her two sons,
Lot's wife, the Queen of Orkney, Bellicent ;
Whom as he could, not as he would, the king
Made feast for, saying, as they sat at meat,

' A doubtful throne is ice on summer seas —
Ye come from Arthur's court : think ye this king —
So few his knights, however brave they be —
Hath body enow to beat his foemen down V



16 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

' king/ she cried, ' and I will tell thee : few,
Few, but all brave, all of one mind with him ;
For I was near him when the savage yells
Of Uther's peerage died, and Arthur sat
Crown' d on the dais, and his warriors cried,
" Be thou the king, and we will work thy will
Who love thee." Then the king in low deep tones,
And simple words of great authority,
Bound them by so strait vows to his own self,
That when they rose, knighted from kneeling, some
Were pale as at the passing of a ghost,
Some flush' d, and others dazed, as one who wakes
Half-blinded at the coming of a light.

* But when he spake and cheer d his Table Hound
With large divine and comfortable words
Beyond my tongue to tell thee — I beheld
From eye to eye thro' all their Order flash



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 17

A momentary likeness of the king :
And ere it left their faces, thro' the cross
And those around it and the Crucified,
Down from the casement over Arthur, smote
Flame-colour, vert and azure, in three rays,
One falling upon each of three fair queens,
Who stood in silence near his throne, the friends
Of Arthur, gazing on him, tall, with bright
Sweet faces, who will help him at his need.

' And there I saw mage Merlin, whose vast wit
And hundred winters are but as the hands
Of loyal vassals toiling for their liege.

* And near him stood the Lady of the Lake,
Who knows a subtl-er magic than his own —
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful.
She gave the king his huge cross-hilted sword.



18 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Whereby to drive the heathen out : a mist
Of incense curl'd about her, and her face
Wellnigh was hidden in the minster gloom ;
But there was heard among the holy hymns
A voice as of the waters, for she dw^ells
Down in a deep, calm, whatsoever storms
May shake the world, and when the surface rolls,
Hath power to walk the waters like our Lord.

* There likewise I beheld Excalibur
Before him at his crowning borne, the sword
That rose from out the bosom of the lake,
And Arthur row'd across and took it — rich
With jewels, elfin Urim, on the hilt,
Bewildering heart and eye — the blade so bright
That men are blinded by it — on one side.
Graven in the oldest tongue of all this world,
" Take me,*' but turn the blade and you shall see,



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 19

And written in the speech ye speak yourself,
" Cast me away ! " And sad was Arthur's face
Taking it, but old Merlin counsell'd him,
" Take thou and strike ! the time to cast away
Is yet far-off." So this great brand the king
Took, and by this will beat his foemen down.'

Thereat Leodogran rejoiced, but thought
To sift his doub tings to the last, and ask'd,
Fixing full eyes of question on her face,
* The swallow and the swift are near akin,
But thou art closer to this noble prince.
Being his own dear sister ; ' and she said,
^ Daughter of Gorlois and Ygerne am I ; '
' And therefore Arthur's sister,' ask'd the King.
She answer'd, * These be secret things,' and sign'd
To those two sons to pass and let them be.
And Gawain went, and breaking into song



20 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Sprang out, and follow'd by his flying hair

Ban like a colt, and leapt at all he saw :

But Modred laid his ear beside the doors,

And there half heard ; the same that afterward

Struck for the throne, and striking found his doom.

And then the Queen made answer, * What
know 1 1
For dark my mother was in eyes and hair,
And dark in hair and eyes am I ; and dark
Was Gorlois, yea and dark was Uther too,
Wellnigh to blackness ; but this king is fair
Beyond the race of Britons and of men.
Moreover always in my mind I hear
A cry from out the dawning of my life,
A mother weeping, and I hear her say,
" that ye had some brother, pretty one.
To guard thee on the rough w^ays of the world." '



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 21

' Ay,' said the King, ' and hear ye such a cry 1
But when did Arthur chance upon thee first?'

' kino: ! ' she cried, * and I will tell thee true :
He found me first when yet a little maid :
Beaten I had been for a little fault
Whereof I was not guilty ; and out I ran
And flung myself down on a bank of heath,
And hated this fair world and all therein.
And wept, and wish'd that I were dead ; and he —
I know not whether of himself he came,
Or brought by Merlin, who, they say, can walk
Unseen at pleasure — he was at my side.
And spake sweet words, and comforted my heart.
And dried my tears, being a child with me.
And many a time he came, and evermore
As I grew greater grew with me ; and sad
At times he seem'd, and sad with him was T,



22 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Stern too at times, and then I loved him not,
But sweet again, and then I loved him well.
And now of late I see him less and less,
But those first days had golden hours for me,
For then I surely thought he would be king.

* But let me tell thee now another tale :
For Bleys, our Merlin s master, as they say.
Died but of late, and sent his cry to me,
To hear him speak before he left his life.
Shrunk like a fairy changeling lay the mage.
And when I enter'd told me that himself
And Merlin ever served about the king,
XJther, before he died, and on the night
When Uther in Tintagil past away
Moaning and wailing for an heir, the two
Left the still king, and passing forth to breathe,
Then from the castle gateway by the chasm



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 23

Descending thro' the dismal night — a night

In which the bounds of heaven and earth were lost —

Beheld, so high upon the dreary deeps

It seem'd in heaven, a ship, the shape thereof

A dragon wing'd, and all from stem to stern

Bright with a shining people on the decks,

And gone as soon as seen. And then the two

Dropt to the cove, and watch'd the great sea fall,

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,

Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep

And full of voices, slowly 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, and rode to Merlin's feet.

Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried *'The

King !
Here is an heir for Uther ! " And the fringe
Of that great breaker, sweeping up the strand.



24 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Lash'd at the wizard as he spake the word,

And all at once all round him rose in fire,

So that the child and he were clothed in fire.

And presently thereafter followed calm,

Free sky and stars : " And this same child," he said,

*^ Is he who reigns ; nor could I part in peace

Till this were told." And saying this the seer

Went thro' the strait and dreadful pass of death,

Not ever to be question'd any more

Save on the further side ; but when I met

Merlin, and ask'd him if these things were truth —

The shining dragon and the naked child

Descending in the glory of the seas —

He laugh' d as is his wont, and answer'd 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 ;



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 25

An old man's wit may wander ere he die.

Rain, rain, and sun ! a rainbow on the lea !
And truth is this to me, and that to thee ;
And truth or clothed or naked let it be.

Rain, sun, and rain ! and the free blossom blows :
Sun, rain, and sun ! and where is he who knows 1
From the great deep to the great deep he goes.**

* So Merlin riddling anger'd me ; but thou
Fear not to give this king thine only child,
Guinevere : so great bards of him will sing
Hereafter ; and dark sayings from of old
Ranging and ringing thro' the minds of men,
And echo'd by old folk beside their fires
For comfort after their wage-work is done.
Speak of the king ; and Merlin in our time
Hath spoken also, not in jest, and sworn
Tho' men may wound him that he will not die.



26 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

But pass, again to come ; and then or now

Utterly smite the heathen underfoot,

Till these and all men hail him for their king.'

She spake and King Leodogran rejoiced,
But musing ^ Shall I answer yea or nay 1 '
Doubted, and drowsed, nodded and slept, and saw,
Dreaming, a slope of land that ever grew.
Field after field, up to a height, the peak
Haze-hidden, and thereon a phantom king,
Now looming, and now lost ; and on the slope
The sword rose, the hind fell, the herd was

driven.
Fire glimpsed ; and all the land from roof and rick,
In drifts of smoke before a rolling wind.
Stream' d to the peak, and mingled with the haze
And made it thicker ; while the phantom king
Sent out at times a voice ; and here or there



THE COMING OF ARTHUR. 27

Stood one who pointed toward the voice, the rest
. Slew on and burnt, crying, ^ No king of ours,
No son of Uther, and no king of ours ' ;
Till with a wink his dream was changed, the haze
Descended, and the solid earth became
As nothing, and the king stood out in heaven,
Crown' d. And Leodogran awoke, and sent
Ulfius, and Brastias and Bedivere,
Back to the court of Arthur answering yea.

Then Arthur charged his warrior whom he loved
And honoured most. Sir Lancelot, to ride forth
And bring the Queen ; — and watch'd him from the

gates :
And Lancelot past away among the flowers,
(For then was latter April) and return' d
Among the flowers, in May, with Guinevere.
To w^hom arrived, by Dubric the high saint.



28 THE COMING OF ARTHUR.

Chief of the church in Britain, and before
The stateliest of her altar-shrines, the king
That morn was married, while in stainless white.
The fair beginners of a nobler time,
And glorying in their vows and him, his knights
Stood round him, and rejoicing in his joy.
And holy Dubric spread his hands and spake,
' Reign ye, and live and love, and make the world
Other, and may thy Queen be one with thee.
And all this Order of thy Table Round
Fulfil the boundless purpose of their king.'

Then at the marriage feast came in from Rome,
The slowly-fading mistress of the world.
Great lords, who claim'd the tribute as of yore.
But Arthur spake, ' Behold, for these have sworn
To fight my wars, and worship me their king ;
The old order changeth, yielding place to new ;



THE COMING OP ARTHUR. 29

And we that fight for our fair father Christ,
Seeing that ye be grown too weak and old
To drive the heathen from your Eoman wall,
No tribute will we pay : ' so those great lords
Drew back in wrath, and Arthur strove with Rome.

And Arthur and his knighthood for a space
Were all one will, and thro' that strength the king
Drew in the petty princedoms under him,
Fought, and in twelve great battles overcame
The heathen hordes, and made a realm and reign'd.



THE HOLY GRAIL.



THE HOLY GRAIL.



From noiseful arms, and acts of prowess done

In tournament or tilt, Sir Percivale,

Whom Arthur and his knighthood call'd The Pure,

Had pass'd into the silent life of prayer,

Praise, fast, and alms ; and leaving for the cowl

The helmet in an abbey far away

From Camelot, there, and not long after, died.

And one, a fellow-monk among the rest,
Ambrosius, loved him much beyond the rest,
And honoured him, and wrought into his heart



34 THE HOLY GRAIL.

A way by love that waken'd love within,
To answer that which came : and as they sat
Beneath a world-old yew-tree, darkening half
The cloisters, on a gustful April morn
That puff'd the swaying branches into smoke
Above them, ere the summer when he died.
The monk Ambrosius questioned Percivale :

' brother, I have seen this yew-tree smoke,
Spring after spring, for half a hundred years :
For never have I known the world without,
Nor ever stray'd beyond the pale : but thee.
When first thou camest — such a courtesy
Spake thro' the limbs and in the voice — I knew
For one of those who eat in Arthur's hall ;
For good ye are and bad, and like to coins,
Some true, some light, but every one of you •
Stamp'd with the image of the King ; and now



THE HOLT GRAIL. 35

Tell me/ what drove thee from the Table Bound,
My brother ? was it earthly passion crost 1 '

* Nay,' said the knight ; * for no such passion
mine.
But the sweet vision of the Holy Grail
Drove me from all vainglories, rivalries,
And earthly heats that spring and sparkle out
Among us in the jousts, while women watch
Who wins, who falls ; and waste the spiritual strength
Within us, better ofFer'd up to Heaven.*

To whom the monk : * The Holy Grail ! — I trust
We are green in Heaven's eyes ; but here too

much
We moulder — as to things without I mean —
Yet one of your own knights, a guest of ours,
Told us of this in our refectory,



36 THE HOLY GRAIL.

But spake with such a sadness and so low

We heard not half of what he said. What is it ?

The phantom of a cup that comes and goes 1 *

^ Nay, monk ! what phantom 1 ' answer'd Percivale.
^ The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
This, from the blessed land of Aromat —
After the day of darkness, when the dead
Went wandering o'er Moriah — the good saint,
Arimathsean Joseph, journeying brought
To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord.
And there awhile it bode ; and if a man
Could touch or see it, he was heaPd at once,
By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
Grew to such evil that the holy cup
Was caught away to Heaven, and disappeared.'



THE HOLY GRAIL. 37

To whom the monk : ' From our old books I know
That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury,
And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus,
Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build ;
And there he built with wattles from the marsh
A little lonely church in days of yore,
For so they say, these books of ours, but seem
Mute of this miracle, far as I have read.
But who first saw the holy thing to-day ? '

^ A woman,' answer' d Percivale, * a nun.


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