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ed ; The story returns to Arthur ; the dove has not been absent, though
unseen ; It comes back to Arthur ; The priest leads the King through
the sepulchral valley into the temple of the Death-god ; Description of
the entrance of the temple, with the walls on which is depicted the pro-
gress of the guilty soul through the realms below ; The cave, the raft,
and the stream which conducts to the cataract; Arthur enters the boat,
and the dove goes before him ; ^Egle awakes from her swoon, and follows
the King to the temple ; Her dialogue with the Augur ; She disappears
in the stream ; MeauAvhile Lancelot wanders in the valleys on the other
side of the Alps, and is led to the cataract by the magic ring ; The ap-
parition of the dove ; He follows the bird up the skirts of the cataract ;
He finds Arthur and iEgle, and conveys them to the convent: The Chris-
tian hymn and the Etrurian dirge ; iirthur and Lancelot seated by the
lake ; The Lady of the Lake appears in her pinnace to Lancelot ; The
King's sight is purged from its film by the bitter herb, and he enters the
magic bark.



In the high Council Hall of Carduel,
Beside the absent Arthur's ivory throne,

(What time the earlier shades of evening fell),
Wan-silvering through the hush, the cresset shone

O'er the arch seer, — as, mid the magnates there,

Rose his large front august with prophet care ;


Rose his large front above the luminous guests,
The deathless twelve of that Heroic Ring,

Which, as the belt wherein the Orion rests,
Girded w^itli subject stars the starry king •

Without, strong towers guard Rome's elaborate wall ;

Within is manhood ! — strongest tower of all.


First, Muse of Cymri, name the Council Three^'
Who, of maturer years and graver mien.

Wise in the past, conceived the things to be,

And temper'd impulse quick with thought serene ;

Nor young, nor old — no dupes to rushing Hope,

Nor narrowing to tame Fear th' ignoble scope.

* Three counselling knights were in the court of Arthur, which were Cynon,
the son of Clydno Eiddin, Aron the son of Kynfarch ap Meirchion-gul, and iJy-




Of these was Cynon of the highborn race,
A cold but dauntless — calm but earnest man ;

With deep eyes shining from a thoughtful face,
And spare slight form, for ever in the van

When ripening victories crown'd laborious deeds ;

Reaper of harvest — sower not of seeds ;


For scarcely his the quick far-darting soul

Which like Apollo's shaft, strikes lifeless things

Into divine creation ; but, the whole

Once rife, the skill which into concord brings

The jarring parts ; shapes out the rudely wrought.

And calls the action living from the thought.


Next Aron see — not rash, yet gaily bold,
With the frank polish of chivalric courts ;

Him from the right, no fear of wrong controul'd ;
And toil he deem'd the sprightliest of his sports ;

O'er War's dry chart, or Wisdoms mystic page,

Alike as smiling, and alike as sage ;


With the warm instincts of the knightly heart
That rose at once if insult touch'd the realm.

He spurn'd each state-craft, each deceiving art,
And rode to war, no vizor to his helm ;

This proved his worth, this line his tomb may boast —

^ Who hated Cymri, hated Aron most !'

warch hen the son of Elidir Lydanwyn, <Src. — Note in Lady Charlotte Gucft's cdi-
fon of the Mubinocrion, vol. i. p. 93. In the text, for the sake of euphony to
English ears, for the name of Lly warch is substituted that of his father Elidir.

BOOK y. 179


But who with eastern hue and haughty brow,
Stern with dark beauty sits apart from all ?

Ah, couldst thou shun thy friends, Elidir ! — thou
Scorning all foes, before no foe shalt fall !

On thy wronged grave one hand appeasing lays

The humble flower — oh, could it yield the bays !


Courts may have known than thou a readier tool,
States may have found than thine a subtler brain.

But States shall honour many a formal fool,
And many a tawdry fawner courts may gain

Ere King or People in their need shall see

A soul as grand as that which fled with thee !


For thou wert more than true ; thou Avert a Truth !

Open as Truth, and yet as Truth profound ;
Thy fault was genius — that eternal youth

Whose weeds but prove the richness of the ground —
And dull men envied thee, and false men feared,
And where soared genius, there convention sneer'd.


Ah, happy hadst thou fallen, foe to foe.

The bright race run — the laurel o'er thy grave !

But hands perfidious strung the ambush bow,
And the friend's shaft the ranklino; torture srave-

The last proud wish its agony to hide,

The stricken deer to covert crept and died.



Next came tlie warrior Three.* Of glory's cliarms
(Glory, the bride of heroes) nobly vain

Dark Mona's Owainef shines with golden arms,
The Roland of the Cvmrian Charlemain,

Scathed by the storm the holy chief survives,

For Fame makes holy all its lightning rives.


Beside, with simplest garb and sober mien,

Solid as iron, not yet wrought to steel.
In his plain manhood Cornwall's chiefj is seen,

Who (if wild tales some glimpse of truth reveal)
Gave Northern standards to the Indian sun —
And wreaths from palms that shaded Evian won.


Lo he whose fame outshines the Fabulous !

Sublime with eagle front, and that gray crown
Which Age, the arch-priest, sets on laurell'd brows ;

Lo, Geraint, bending with a world's renown !
Yet those gray hairs one ribald scoffer found ; —
The moon sways ocean and provokes the hound.

• Three knights of battle vpere in the court of Arthur; Cadwr the Earl of Corn-
wall, Lancelot du Lac, and Owaine the son of Urien Rheged ; and this was their
characteristic, that they would not retreat from battle, neither for spear, nor for
arrow, nor for sword ; and Arthur never had shame in battle the day he saw their
faces there, &c.—Ladi/ C. Guest's Mabinoi^. vol. i. p. 91. In the poem, for Lan-
celot of the Lake, whose fame is not yet supposed to be matured, is substituted the
famous Geraint, the hero of a former generation.

t Owaine's birth-place and domains are variously surmised ; in the text they are
ascribed to Mona, (Anglesey) St. Palayc, concurrently both with French fabliasts
and Welch bards, makes this hero very fond of the pomp and blazonry of arms, and
attributes to him the introduction of buckles to spurs, furred mantles, and the use
of gloves. I Cadwr.

BOOK y. 181


Next the three chiefs of Eloquence j"^' the kings [mmd,
Whose hosts are thoughts, whose reahn the human

Who out of words evoke the souls of things,
And shape the lofty drama of mankind ;

Wit charms the fancy, wisdom guides the sense ;

To make men nobler — tliat is Eloquence !

As from the Mount of Gold, auriferous flows

The Lydian wave, thy pomp of period shines
Resplendent Drydas — glittering as it goes

High from the mount, but labouring thro' the mines,
x\nd thence the tides, enriching while they run.
Glass every fruit that ripens to the sun.


But, like the vigour of a Celtic stream.
Comes Lolod's rush of manly sense along,

Fresh with the sparkles of a healthful beam.
And quick with impulse like a poet's song.

How listening crowds that knightly voice delights —

If from those crowds are banished all but knights !


The third, though young, well worthy of his place.
Was Gawaine, courteous, blithe, and debonnair,

Arch Mercury's wit, with careless Cupid's face ;
Frank as the sun, but searching as the air,

Who with bland parlance prefaced doughtiest blows,

And mildly arguing— argiiing brain'd his fqes,

* There were three golden tongued knights in the court of Arthur — Gwalchrnai
(Gawaine), Drudwas (Drydas in the text), and Eliwlod (Lolod) Lady C. GutbCs
Mabinog. note vol. i. p. 118,



Next came the Three — in mystic Triads hight

" The Knights of Loye ;"* some type the name

For where no lover, there methinks no knight ;
All knights were lovers in King Arthur's days :

Caswallawn ; Trystan of the lion rock ;-j-

And, leaning on his harp, calm Caradoc !


Thus class'd, distinct in peace, — let war dismay,

Straight in one bond the divers natures blend-
So varying tints in tranquil sunshine play.

But form one iris if the rains descend ;
And, fused in Hght against the clouds that lower,
Forbid the deluge while they own the shower !


On the bright group the Prophet rests his gaze.
Then the deep voice sonorous thrills aloud —

" In Carduel's vale the steers unheeded graze.
To jocund winds the yellowing corn is bow'd.

By hearths of mirth the waves of Isca flow.

And Heaven above smiles down on peace below.

* The three ardent lovers of the island of Britain — Caswallawn, Tristan, and
Cynon, (for the last, already placed amongst the counselling knights, Caradoc is
substituted). — Laclif C. Guest's Mnbinog, vol. i. note to page 94.

I Trystan's birth-place, Lyonness, is supposed to have been that part of Cornwall
since destroyed by the sea. See Southey's note to Morte d'Arlhur, vol. ii. p. 477.

BOOK y. 183



^' But far looks forth the warder from the tower,
And to the halls of Cj^mri's antique kings

A soul that sees the future m the hour
The desolation of its burthen brings ;

Hollow sounds earth beneath the clanging tread :

Yon fields shall yield no harvest but the Dead !


^^ And waves shall rush in crimson to the deep,
The Meteor Horse shall pale autumnal skies- —

From Rauran's"^ lairs the jojous wolves shall leap —
From EiFLE'sf crags the screaming eagles rise- —

Yea ! while I speak, these halls the havoc nears !

Ked sets the sun behind the storm of spears !


" The Sons of Woden sound no tromp before

Their march ! No herald comes their war to tell !

No plea for slaughter, dress'd in clerkly lore,

Makes death seem justice! As the rain clouds swell.

When air is stillest, in Bal Huan'sJ halls ;

The herbage waves not till the tempest falls !


" Of old je know them ; ye the elect remains
Of perish'd rac^ — rock-saved ; anchoring here

The ark of empire ! For your latest fanes.
For your last hearths, for all to freemen dear.

And to God sacred ; take the shield and brand !

Accurst each Cymrian who survives his land !"

* Aran — called Rauran by Spenser, who makes it the place of Arthur's eiluca-
tion under Timon ;

"Under the foot of Rauran mossy hore."
•j- More correctly Yr Eifl, or Reifel, in Caernarvonshire. ^ The Sun.



" Accurst each Cvmrian who survives his land !'^
Echoed deep tones, hollow as blasts escaped

From Boreal caverns, and in every hand

The hilts of swords to sainted croziers shaped

Were grimly griped — as by that symbol sign

Hallowing the human wrath to war divine.


The Prophet mark'd the deep unci amorous vow
Of the pent passion ; and the morning light

Of young Humanity flash'd o'er the brow

Dark with that wisdom which, like Nature's night,

Communes with stars and dreams; it flash'd and waned

And the vast front its awful hush regain'd.


'' Princes, I am but as a voice ; be you

As deeds ! The wind comes through the hollow oak,
And stirs the green woods that it wanders through.

Now wafts the seeds, now wings the levin stroke.
Now kindles now destroys ; — that Wind am I,
Homeless on earth ; the mystery of the sky !


" But when the wind in noiseless air hath sunk.
Behold the sower tends and rears the seeds ;

Behold the woodman shapes the fallen trunk ;

The viewless voice hath waked the human deeds ;

Born of the germs, flowers bloom and harvests spring;

The pine uprooted speeds the Ocean King.

BOOK y. 185


" Warriors, since absent, (not from wanton lust
Of errant emprize, but by Fate ordained,

For all lone labouring, worthy of his trust)

He whose young lips in thirst of glory drained

All that of arts Mavortian, elder Eome

Taught to assail the foe, or guard the home ;


" Be ye his delegates, and oft with prayer

' Bring angels round his wild and venturous way ;

As one great orb gives life and light to air.

So times there are when all a people's day
Shines from a single life ! This known, revere
The exile ; mourn not — let his soul be here.


^^ Yours then, high chiefs, the conduct of the war,
But heed this counsel (won or wrung from Fate)

Strong rolls the tide when curb'd its channels are,
Strong flows the force that but defends a state ;

In Carduel's walls concentre Cymri's power.

And chain the dragon to his charmed tower.

^' This night the moon should see the beacon brand

Link fire to fire from Beli's Druid pile ;
Rock call on rock, till blazes all the land

From Sabra's wave to Mona's parent isle !
Let freedom write in characters of fire,
' ^yho climbs my throne ascends his funeral jDj^re !' "



The Prophet ceased ; and rose with stern accord
The warrior senate. Sudden every shield

Leapt into lightning from the clashing sword ;*
And choral voices consentaneous peal'd —

" Hail to our guests ! the wine of war is red ;

Fire light the banquet — steel prepare the bed !"


While thus the peril threat'ning land and throne,
Unarmed, unheeding, dreaming, goes the King,

Where from the brief Elysium, Acheron

Awaits the victim which its priest shall bring.

And where art thou meek guardian of the brave ?

Though fails the eagle, still the dove may save !


When, lured by signs that seem'd his aid to implore.
From his good steed the lord of knighthood sprung,

[And left it wistful by the dismal door,

Since the cragg d roof too low-descending hung

For the great war-horse in his barb'd array ;

And little dreamed he of the long delay]


His path the dove nor favoured nor forbade ;

Motionless, folding on sharp rocks its wing.
With its soft eyes it watch'd, resign'd and sad.

Where fetes, ordain'd for sorrow, led the King ;
Nor did he miss, (till earth regained the day)
The plumed angel vanish'd from his way.

• The striking the sword against the shield was the Gallic signal of war — com-
mon alike to the Teutonic and Scandinavian races.

BOOK Y. 187


Then oft, in truth, and oft in blissful hours,

Miss'd was that faithful guide through stormier life.

Ah common lot ! how oft, mid summer flowers,
We miss the soother of the winter strife ;

How oft we mourn in Fortune's sunlit vale

Some silenced heart with which we shared the gale !


But absent not the dove, albeit unseen ;

In some still foliage it had found its nest ;
At night it hovered where his steps had been.

Pale through the moonbeams in the air of rest ;
By the lull'd wave and shadowy banks it pass'd.
Lingering where love with ^gie lingered last.


And when with chiller dawn resought the lone
And leafy gloom in which it shunn'd the day.

Beneath those boughs you might have heard it moan,
Low-wailing to itself its plaintive lay ;

Till with the sun rose all the songs that fill

Morn with delight 5 and then the dove was still.


But now, as towards the Temple of the Shades
The King went heavily — a gleam of light

Shot throvigh the gloaming of the cedarn glades.
And the dove glided to his breast : the sight

Came like a smile from heaven upon the King,

And his heart warmed beneath the brooding wing.



Strange was the thrill of joy, heyoiid belief,

Sent from the soft touch of those plumes of down !

He was not all deserted in his grief,

The brows of Fate relax'd their iron frown ;

And his soul quickened to that glorious power

WJiich fronts the future and subdues the hour ;


The hope it brought — not seem'd the dove to share,

As if it felt the tempest in the sky ;
TrembHng, it nestled to its shelter there.

Nor lifted to the light its drooping eye.
Not, as its wont, to guide it came ; but brave
With him the ills from which it could not save.


Now lost the lovelier features of the land,

Dull waves replace the fount, dark pines the bowers,

Gray-streeted tombs, far stretch'd on either hand.
Rear the dumb city of the Funeral Powers,

Massive and huge glooms up the dome of dread.

Where the stern Death-god frowns above the dead.


Hewn from a rock, stand the great columns square.
With tryglyphs wrought and j)onderous pediment ;

Such as yet greet the musing wanderer where,
Near the old Fane to which Etruria sent

Her sovereign twelve, the thick-sown violet blooms,

In Castel d'Asso's vale of hero-tombs.*

* Castel (I'Asso (the Castellum Axla, in Cicero), the name now given to the
valleys near Viterbo, which formed the great burial-place of the Etrurians, ^"ear

BOOK Y. 189


Passing a bridge that sj)ann'd the barrier wave,

The J reach the Thebes-Uke porch ; — the Augur here

First entering, leaves the King. Within the nave
Now swell the iiutes (which went before the bier

What time the funeral chaunt of Pagan Eome

Knell'd some throne-shatterer to his six feet home.)


Jar back the portals — long, in measured line,
There stand within the mute Aruspices,

In each pale hand a torch ; and near a shrine
Sit on still thrones, the guardian deities ;

Here Sethlans,'''' sovereign of life's fix'd domains —

There fatal Northia with the iron chains.


Between the two the Death-god broods sublime ;

On his pale brow the inexorable peace
Which speaks of power beyond the shores of time ;

Calm, not benign like the sweet gods of Greece,
Calm as the mystery, which in Memphian skies.
Froze life's warm current from a sphinx's eyes.

these valleys, and, as some suppose, on the site of Viterbo, was Voltumna (Fanuni
VoltumnEej, at which the twelve sovereigns of the twelve dynasties, and the otht-r
chiefs of the Etrurians, met in the spring of every year. Views of the rock-temples
at Norchea, in this neighbourhood, are to be seen in Inghirami's Etrusc. Antiq.

* Sethlans, the Etrurian Vulcan. He appears sometimes to assume the attributes
of Terminus, though in a higher and more ethereal sense — presiding over the bounds
of life as Terminus over those of the land.



With many a grausome sliape unutterable,
Liinn'd were tlie cavernous sepulchral walls ;

Life-like they stalk'clj the Populace of Hell,
Through the pale pomp of Acherontian halls ;

Distinct as when the Trojan's living breath,

Yex'cl the wide silence in the waste of death.


Shown was the Progress of the guilty Soul

From earth's warm threshold to the throne of doom ;

Here the black genius to the dismal goal

Dragg'd the wan spectre from the unsheltering tomb ;

While from its side it never more may warn

The better angel, sorrowing, fled forlorn.


Hideous with horrent looks and goading steel
The fiend drives on the abject cowering ghost

Where (closed the eighth) sev'n yawning gates reveal
The sev'nfold anguish that awaits the lost ;

By each the gryphon flaps his ravening wings,

And dire Chimaera whets her hungry stints.


Here, even that God, of all the kindliest one,

Life of all life (in Tusca's later creed.
Blent with the orient worship of the Sun,

Or His who loves the madding nym23hs to lead
On the Fork'd Hill) — abjures the genial smile,*
And, scowls transform'd, the Typhon of the Nile.

* Tina, the Etrurian Bacchus (son of Tina), identified symbolically \vith the
pod of the infernal regions. In the funeral monuments he sometimes ussumes the
most fearful aspect.

BOOK V. 191


Closed the eiglitli gate — for tlierey the Happy dwell !

No glimpse of joy beyond makes horror less.
But that closed gate upon the exiled Hell

Sets Hell's last seal of misery — Hopelessness !
Nathless, despite the Deemon's chacing thong,
Here, as if hoping still, the Hopeless throng."^


Before the northern knight each nightmare dream
Of Theban soothsayer or Chaldaean mage.

Thus kindling in the torches' breathless beam.
As if incarnate with resistless rage.

And Hell's true malice, starts from wall to wall ;

He signs the cross, and looks unmoved on all.


Before the inmost Penetralian doors.

Holding a cypress branch the Augur stands ;

The King s firm foot strides echoeless the floors,
And with dull groan the temple veil expands ;

Advance the torches, and their shaken shine

Glares o'er the wave that yawns behind the >shrine ; —


Glares o'er the wave, as, under vaulted rock,
Dark as Cocytus, the false smoothness flows ;

But wdiere the light fades — there is heard the shock,
As hurrying on the headlong torrent goes ;

With mocking oars — a raft sways, moored beside,

What keel save Charon's ploughs that dismal tide ?

* The above description of the Etrurian Hades, with its eight gates, is taken in
each detail from vases and funeral monuments, most of which are cited by Micali.



Proud Arthur smiled upon the guileful host,
As welcome danger roused him and restored. —

" Friend," quoth the King, " methinks jour streams
mii>ht boast
A gentler margin and a fairer ford."

" As birth to man," replied the priest, " the cave,

guest; to thee ! as death to man the wave.


" Doth it appal thee ? thou canst yet return !

There love, there sunny life ; — and yonder" — " FamCy
Cymri, and God !" said Arthur. " Paynim, learn

Death has two victors, deathless both — the name,
The soul ; — to each a realm eternal given.
This rules the earth, and that achieves the heaven."


He said and seized a torch with scornful hand :
The frail raft rock'd to his descending tread ;

Uj^on the prow he x'd the glowing brand.

And the raft drifted down the waves of dread.

So with his fortunes went confidinsf forth

The knightly Ceesar of the Christian North.


Then, from its shelter on his breast, the dove
Rose, and sail'd slow before with doubtful wing ;

The dun mists rolling round the vaults above,
Below, the gulf with torch-fires crimsoning ;

Wan through the glare, or white amidst the gloom.

Glanced Heaven's mute daughter with the silver plume.

BOOK y. 193


Meanwhile to ^gle : from the happier trance,
And from the stun of the first human ill

Labourinof returns the soul ! — As lio-htninprs alance
O'er battle fields, with sated slaughter still.

The fitful reason flickerino; comes and 2;oes

O'er the past struggle — o'er the blank repose.

At length with one long, eager, searching look,

She gazed around, and all the living space
With one great loss seem'd lifeless ! — then she strook

Her clench'd hand on her heart ; and o'er her fixce
Settled inefiable that icj gloom,
Which only falls when hope abandons doom.


Why breaks the smile — why waves the exulting hand ?

Why to the threshold moves that step serene ?
The brow superb awes back the maiden band.

From the roused woman towers sublime the queen.
Past bower, past aisle — and dazzled crowds survey^
That pomp of beauty burst upon the day.


Brief and imperious rings her question ; quick
A hundred hands point, answering to the fane.

As on she sweeps, behind her, fast and thick.
Gather the groups far following in her train.

Behind some bird unknown, of glorious dyes,

So swarm the meaner people of the skies.




Oh the great force that sleeps in woman's heart !

She will, at least, behold that form once more ;
See its last vestige from her world depart,

And mark the spot to haunt and wander o'er ;
Eased in that impulse of the human breast
All the cold lessons on its leaves impress'd ; —

Lxvi. ^It-

Snapped in the strength of the divine desire

All the vain swathes with which convention thralls;-
Nature breaks forth, and at her breath of fire

The elaborate snow-pile's molten temple falls ;
And life's scar'd priestcrafts fly before that Truth,
Whose name is Passion, whose great altar, Youth !


Unknown the egress, dreamless of the snare,
Sole aim to look the last on the adored ;

She gains the fane — she treads the aisle — and there
The deathlights guide her to the bridal lord ;

On, through pale groupes around the yawning cave,

She comes — and looks upon the livid wave.


She comes — she sees afar, amidst the dark.
That fair, serene, undaunted, godlike brow —

Sees on the lurid deep the lonely bark.

Drift through the circling horror — sees, and now

On light's far verge it hovers, wanes, and fades,

As roars the hungering cataract up the shades.

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Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonKing Arthur → online text (page 10 of 25)