Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

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Lo, noon lay tranquil on the ocean main.


As from a dream he woke, and looked around.
For the lost Lake and Ogle's distant grave ;

But dark, behind, the silent headlands frown'd ;

And bright, before him, smiled the murmuring wave ;

His right hand rested on the falchion won ;

And the dove plumed her pinions in the sun.


BOOK viir.


Lancelot continues to watch for Arthur till the eve of the following day,
when a damsel approaches the Lake ; Lancelot's discreet behaviour there-
on, and how the Knight and the Damsel converse ; The Damsel tells her
tale ; Upon her leaving Lancelot, the fairy ring commands the Knight to
desert his watch, and follow the Maiden ; The story returns to Arthur,
who, wandering by the sea-shore, perceives a Bark with the Raven flag
of the sea kings ; The Dove enjoins him to enter it; The Ship is deserted,
and he waits the return of the Crew ; Sleep falls upon him ; The con-
soling A'^ision of ^gle; What befalls Arthur on waking; Meanwhile
Sir Gawaine pursues his voyage to the Shrine of Freya, at which he is
to be sacrificed; How the Hound came to bear him company; Sir Ga-
waine argues with the Viking on the inutility of roasting him ; The
Viking defends that measure upon philosophical and liberal principles,
and silences Gawaine; The Ship arrives at its destination; Gawaine is
conducted to the Shrine of Freya ; The Statue o^ the Goddess described ;
Gawaine's remarks thereon, and how he is refuted and enlightened by
the Chief Priest; Sir Gawaine is bound, and in reply to his natural
curiosity, The Priest explains how he and the Dog are to be roasted and
devoured; The sagacious proceedings of the Dog; Sir Gawaine fails in
teaching the Dog the duty of Fraternization; The Priest re-enters, and
Sir Gawaine, with much satisfaction, gets the best of the Argument;
Concluding Stanzas to Nature,




Lone by the lake reclined young Lancelot —

Night passed, the noonday slept on wave and plain ;

Lone by the lake watch'd patient Lancelot ;
Like Faith assured that Love returns again.

Noon glided on to eve ; when from the brake -

Brush'd a light step and paused beside the lake.


How lovely to the margin of the wave

The shy-eyed Virgin came ! and all unwitting

The unseen Knight, to the frank sunbeam gave
Her sunny hair — its snooded braids unknitting ;

And, fearless, as by her own well the nymph,

Sleek'd the loose tresses, mirror'd in the lymph.

And, playful now, the sandal silks unbound.

Oft from the cool fresh wave with coy retreat
Shrinking, — and glancing with arch looks around,

The crystal gleameth with her ivory feet.
Like floating swan-plumes, or the leaves that quiver
From water-lilies, under Himera's river.



Ah happy Knight, unscathed, such charms espying,
As brought but death to the profane of yore,

When Dian's maids to angry quivers flying
Pierced the bold heart presuming to adore !

Ah happy Knight, unguest in thy retreat.

Envying the waves that kiss those starry feet !


But worthy of his bUss, the loyal Knight

Pure from all felon thoughts as Knights should be.

Revering, angered at his own delight.

The lone, unconscious, guardless modesty,

Rose, yet unseen, and to the copse hard by,

Stole with quick footstep, and averted eye.


But as one tremor of the summer boughs

Scares the shy fawn, so with that hiintest sound

The Virgin starts, and back from rosy brows
Flings wide the showering gold ; and all around

Casts the swift trouble of her looks, to see

The white plume glisten through the rustling tree.


As by some conscious instinct of the fear

He caused, the Knight turns back his reverent gaze;

And in soft accents, tuned to Lady's ear

In gentle courts, her purposed flight delays ;

So nobly timid in his look and tone

As if the power to harm were all her own.



" Lady, and liege, fly not thus thy slave ;

If he offend, unwillmg the oflence,
For safer not upon the unsullying wave

Doth thy pure image rest, than Innocence
On the clear thoughts of noble men !" He said ;
And low with downcast lids, replied the maid.


[Oh from those lips how strangely musical

Sounds the loath'd language of the Saxon foe !]

" Though on mine ear the Cymrian accents fall.
And in my speech, Cymrian, thou wilt know

The Daughter of the Saxon ; marvel not,

That less I fear thee in this lonely spot,


" Than hadst thou spoken in my mother-tongue.
Or worn the aspect of my father-race."

Here to her eyes some tearful memory sprung.

And youth's glad sunshine vanished from her face;

Like the changed sky the gleams of April leave,

Or the quick coming of an Indian eve.


Moved, yet emboldened by that mild distress.
Near the fair shape the gentle Cymrian drew,

Bent o'er the hand his pity dared to press.

And sooth'd the sorrow ere the cause he knew.

Frank were those times of trustful Chevisaunce,*

And Hearts when guileless open to a glance.

• Chevisaunce. — Spenser.



So see tliem seated by the haunted lake,
She on the grassy bank, her sylvan throne^

He at her feet — and out from every brake
The Forest- An 2:els* sindncr ■ — All alone

<— ' t_x t_;

With Nature and the Beautiful — and Youth
Pure in each soul as, in her fountain, Truth !


And thus her tale the Teuton maid began :
" Daughter of Harold, Mercia's Earl, am I.

Small need to tell to Knighthood's Christian son
What creed of wrath the Saxons sanctify.

With songs first chaunted in some thunder-field,

Stern nurses rock'd me in my father's shield.


" Motherless both, — my playmate, sole and sweet.
Years — sex, the same, was Crida's youngest child,

(Crida, the Mercian Ealder-King) our feet [smil'd ;
Roved the same pastures when the Mead-month*(*

By the same hearth we paled to Saga runes.

When wolves descending howl'd to icy moons. J


" As side by side, two osiers o'er a stream.
When air is still, with separate foliage bend.

But let a breezelet blow, and straight they seem
With trembling branches into one to blend,

So grew our natures, — when in calm, apart.

But, in each care, commingling, heart to heart.

* The Angels of the Grove (Le, the birds) is a pciphrasis used ni'^re than once
by our earlier Poets.

■j- 'I'he Mkadhionth, June. ^ i, e., in the Wolf-month, January.



'^ Her soul was bright and tranquil as a bird
That hangs in golden noon with silent wing,

And mine, more earthly, gay, and quickly stirr'd
Did like the gossamer float light, to cling

To each frail blossom, — weaving idle dreams

Where'er on dew-drops play'd the morning beams.


" Thus into youth we grew, when Crida ,bore
Home from fierce wars a British Woman-slave,

A lofty captive, wdio her sorrow wore

As Queens a mantle; yet not proud, tho' grave,

And grave as if with pity for the foe,

Too high for anger^ too resigned for woe.


" Much moved our young hearts that majestic face.
And much we seemed to soothe the sense of thrall.

She learned to love us, — let our love replace

That she had lost, — and thank'd her God for all,

Even for chains and bondage : — awed we heard,

And found the secret in the Gospel Word.


" Thus, Cymrian, we were Christians. First, the slave
Taught that bright soul whose shadow fell on mine ;

Thus we were Christians ; — but as thro' the cave
Flow hidden river-springs, the Faith Divine

We dared not, give to-day — in stealth we sung

Hymns to the Cymrian's God^ in Cymri's tongue.



"And for our earlier names of heathen sound,

We did such names as saints have borne, receive ;

One name in truth, tho' with a varying sound ;
Genevra I — and she sweet Genevieve, —

Words that escaped from other ears, unknown.

But spoke as if from Angels to our own.


" Soon with thy creed w^e learned thy race to love.
Listening high tales of Arthur's peerless fame.

But most such themes did my sweet playmate move ;
To her the creed endeared the champion's name.

With angel thoughts surrounded Christ's young chief,

And gave to glory haloes from Belief.


" Not long our teacher did survive, to guide
Our feet, delighted in the new-found ways ;

Smiling on us — and on the cross — she died.
And vanish' d in her grave our infant days ;

We grew to woman when we learned to grieve,

And Childhood left the eyes of Genevieve.


" Oft ev'n from me, musing she stole away,
Where thick the woodland girt the ruin'd hall

Of Cymrian kings, forgotten ; — thro' the day
Still as the lonely nightingale midst all

The joyous choir that drown her murmuj* : — So

Mused Crida's daughter on the Saxon's foe.



"Alas ! alas (sad moons have waned since then !)
One fatal morn her forest haunt she sought

Nor thence returned ; whether by lawless men
Captured, or flying, of her own free thought,

From heathen shrines abhorr'd ; — all search was vain,

Ne'er to our eyes that smile brought light again."


Here paused the maid, and tears gush'd forth anew,
Ere faltering words re wove the tale once more ;

" Roused from his woe, the wrathful Crida flew
To Thor's dark priests, and Woden's wizard lore.

Task'd was each rune that sways the demon hosts,

And the strong seid"^' compell'd revealing ghosts.


" And answered priest and rune, and the pale Dead,
' That in the fate of her, the Thor-descended,

The Gods of Cymri wove a mystic thread.

With Arthur's life and Cymri's glory blended,

And Dragon-Kings ordained in clouded years.

To seize the birthright of the Saxon spears.


" ' By Arthur's death, and Carduel's towers o'erthrown,
Could Thor and Crida yet the web unweave,

Protect the Saxon's threaten'd gods ; — alone
Regain the lost one, and exulting leave

To Hengist's race the ocean-girt abodes ;

Till the Last Twilightf darken round the Gods.'

• Magic.

t At Kagnarok, or the Twilight of the Gods, the Aser and the Giants are to"
destroy each other and the whole earth is to be consumed.



" This heard and this believed, the direful Kins;

Convenes his Eorl-born and prepares his powers,
Unfolds the omens, and the tasks they bring,

And 23oints the Valkyrs to the Cymrian towers.
Dreadest in war — and wisest in the hall.
Stands my great Sire — the Saxon's Ilerman-Saul.*


" He to secure allies beyond the sea

Departs — but first, (for well he loved his child,)
He drew me to his breast, and tenderly

Chiding my tears, he spoke, and speaking smiled,
' What'er betides thy father or thy land.
Far from our dangers Astrildf woos thy hand.


" ' Beorn, the bold son of Sweyn, the Gotland king,
Whose ocean war-steeds on the BalticJ deeps

Range their blue pasture — for thy love shall bring
As morgen-gifts,§ to Cymri's mountain keeps

Arm'd men and thunder. Happy is the maid,

Whose charms lure armies to her Country's aid.'

* Herman-Saul (or Saulc) often corrupt'y written Irminsula, Armensula, «&:c,, the
name of the celebrated Teuton Idol representing an armed warrior on a column,
destroyed by Charlemagne, a. d. 772. According to some it means literally the
column of Herman, i. e-, the leader — the War-God. Others, however, have sup-
posed the name to be rather Jormum-Saul, the great or Universal Column, and so
the name is rendered in the Latin translation, " Universalis Columiia."

•j- Astrild, the Cupid of the Northern Mythology.

i The more proper word for the Baltic, viz., the Eastern S?ea, would probably
convey to the English ear, a notion contrary to that which is intended, and there-
fore the familiar word in the text is selected, though, strictly speaking, the name of the
Baltic does not appear to have been given to that ocean before the twelfth century,

§ MonoKN-GiFTs maybe rendered marriage-gifts; according to Saxon usage
bestowed by the bridegroom on the bride's family or guardian.



" What, while I heard, the terror and the woe,
Of one who, vow'd to the meek Christian God,

Found the Earth's partner in the Heaven's worst foe !
For ne'er o'er blazing altars Slaughter trod.

Redder with blood of saints remorseless slain.

Than Beorn, the Incarnate Fenris* of the main.


^* Yet than such nuptials more I feared the frown
Of my dread father ; — motionless I stood,

Rigid in horror, mutely bending down

The eyes that dared not weep. — So Solitude

Found me, a thing made soulless by despair.

Till tears gave way, and with the tears fiow'd prayer."


Again Genevra paused : and beautiful.

As Art hath imaged Faith — look'd up to heaven.

With eyes that glistening smiled. Along the lull
Of air, waves sigh'd — the winds of stealing Even '

Murmured, birds sung, the leaflet rustling stirr'd ;

His own loud heart was all the list'ner heard.


The maid resumed — " Scarce did my Sire return.
To loose the War-fiends on the Cymrian foe.

Than came the raven oescaf sent by Beorn,
For the pale partner of his realms of snow ;

Shuddering, recoiling, forth I stole at night.

To the wide forest with wild thoudits of flight.

* Fenrts, the Demon Wolf, Son of Asa Lok. f CEsca, Scandinavian Ship.



" I reached the ruined halls wherein so oft
Lost Genevieve had mused lone hours away,

When halting wistful there, a strange and soft
Slumber fell o'er me, or, more sooth to say,

A slumber not, but rather on my soul

A life-dream clear as hermit visions stole.


'' I saw an aged and majestic form.

Robed in the spotless weeds thy Druids wear,

I heard a voice deep as when coming iltorm

Sends its first murmur through the heaving air.

^ Return,' — it said — ' return, and dare the sea,

The Eye that sleeps not looks from heaven on thee.


" The form was gone, the Voice was hush'd, and grief
Fled from my heart ; I trusted and obey'd ;

Weak still, my weakness leant on my belief;
I saw the sails unfurl, the headlands fade ;

I saw my father, last upon the strand,

Veiling proud sorrow with his iron hand.


" Swift through the ocean clove the flashing prows,
And half the dreaded course was glided o'er,

When, as the wolves, which night and winter rouse
In cavernous lairs, from seas without a shore

Clouds swept the skies ; and the swift hurricane

Rush'd from the Nortli along the maddening main.

BOOK y I II. 45


" Startled from sleep upon the verge of doom,
With wild cry, shrilling thro' the wilder blast,

Uprose the seamen, ghostlike thro' the gloom,
Hurrying and helpless ; while the sail-less mast

Now lightning-wreath'd, now indistinct and pale,

Bow'd, or, rebounding, groaned against the gale,


•• And crash'd at last ; — its sullen thunder drown'd
In the great storm that snapp'd it. Over all

Swept the long surges, and a gurgling sound

Told where some wretch, that strove in vain to call

For aid, where all were aidless, thro' the spray

Emerging, gasp'd, and then was whirl'd away.


'' But I, who ever wore upon my heart

The sjanbol cross of Him who had walked the seas,
Bow'd o'er that sign my head ; and pray'd apart :

When through the darkness, on his crawling knees,
Crept to my side the chief, and crouch'd him there.
Mild as an infant, listening to ray prayer.


^'' And clinging to my robes, ^ Thee have I seen,'
Faltering he said, ^when round thee coil'd the blue

Lightning, and rush'd the billow-swoop, serene
And scatheless smiling ; surely then I knew

That, strong in charms or runes that guard and save.

Thou mock'st the whirlwind and the roaring grave !

VOL. II. 4



" ' Shield us, 3''oung Vala, from the wrath of Ean,
And calm the raging Helhenn of the deep.'

As from a voice within, I answ^ered, ' Man,
Nor rune nor charm locks into mortal sleep

The Present God ; by Faith all ills are braved ;

Trust in that God ; adore Ilim, and be saved.'


" Then, pliant to my will, the ghastly crew

Crept round the cross, amid the howling dark —

Dark, save wdien swift and sharp, and griding* thro'
The cloud-mass clove the lightning, and the bark

FLash'd like a iloating hell ; Low by that sign

All knelt, and voices hollow-chimed to mine.


" Thus as we prayed, lo, opened all the Heaven,
With one long steadfast splendour — calmly o'er

The God-Cross resting : then the clouds were riven
And the rains fell ; the whirlwind hush'd its roar,

And the smooth'd billows on, the ocean's breast,

As on a mother's, sighing, sunk to rest.


" So came the dawn : o'er the new Christian fold.
Glad as the Heavenly Shepherd, smiled the sun ;

Then to those grateful hearts my tale I told.

Then heathen bonds the Christian maid should shun.

And praj^'d in turn their aid my soul to save

From doom more dismal than a sinless grave.

• Griding. — Milton. '* The grtJing sword with discontinuous wound,'* &c.



" Tliey, with one shout, proclaim their laiv my ^\'il],
And veer the prow from northern snows afar,

Soon gentler winds the murmuring canvas fill,

Fair floats the bark where guides the western star,

From coast to coast we pass'd, and peaceful sail'd

Into lone creeks, by yon blue mountains veil'd.


" Here all wide-scattered up the inward land

For stores and water, range the blithesome crew ;

Lured by the smiling shores, one gentler band
I join'd awhile, then left them, to pursue

Mine o^vn glad fancies, where the brooklet clear

Shot singing onward to the sunlit mere.


"And so we chanced to meet !" She ceased and bent
Down the fresh rose-hues of her eloquent cheek ;

Ere Lancelot spoke, the startled echo sent

Loud shouts reverberate, lengthening plain to peak ;

The sounds proclaim the savage followers near.

And straight the rose-hues pale, — but not from fear.


Slowly Genevra rose, and her sweet eyes

Raised to the Knight's, frankly and mournfully ;

" Farewell," she said, " the winged moment flies.
Who shall say whither ? — if this meeting be

Our last as first^ Christian warrior, take

The Saxon's greeting for the Christian's sake.



"And if, returning to thy perill'd land,

In the hot fray thy sword confront my Sire,

Strike not — remember me 1" On her fair hand
The Cymrian seals his lips ; wild thoughts inspire

Words which the lips may speak not : — but what truth

Lies hid when youth reflects its soul in youth ?


Keluctant turns Genevra, lingering turns,
And up the hill, oft pausing, languid wends.

As infant flame thro' humid fuel burns.

In Lancelot's heart with honour, love contends ;

Longs to pursue, regain, and cry, " Where'er

Thou wanderest, lead me 3 Paradise is there !"


But the lost Arthur ! — at that thought, the strength

Of duty nerved the loyal sentinel :
So by the lake w^atch'd Lancelot ; at length

Upon the ring his looks, in drooping, fell,
And see, the hand, no more in dull repose.
Points to the path in which Genevra goes !


Amazed, and wrathful at his own delight.

He doubts, he hopes, he moves, and still the ring

Repeats the sweet command, and bids the Knight
Pursue the Maid as if to find the Kino*.

Yielding, at last, though half remorseful still.

The Cymrian follows up the twilight hill.



Meanwhile along the beach of the wide sea,
Wandered the dove-led Arthur, — needful food,

The Maenad's fruits from many a purple tree

Flush'd for the vintage, gave ; with musing mood,

Lonely he strays till ^thra'^ sees again

Her starry children smiling on the main.


Around him then, curved gray the hollow creek ;

Before, a ship lay still with lagging sail ;
A gilded serpent glittered from the beak.

Along the keel encoil'd with lengthening trail ;
Black from a brazen flag, with outstretched wings
Grimm'df the dread Raven of the Runic kings.


Here paused the Wanderer, for here flew the dove
To the tall mast, and murmuring, hovered o'er ;

But on the deck, no watch, no pilot move,
Life- void the vessel as the lonely shore.

Far on the sand-beach drawn, a boat he spied.

And with strong hand he launch'd it on the tide.


Gaining the bark, still not a human eye

Peers through the noiseless solitary shrouds ;

So, for the crew's return, all patiently

He sate him down, and watch'd the phantom clouds

Flit to and fro, where o'er the slopes afar

Reign storm-girt Arcas,J and the Mother Star.

* Both the Pleiades and the Hyades are said to be the daughters of ^Ethra, one of

the Oceanides by Atlas,

t Grimni'd from the verb grirnmen, whence the adjective grim that we sfill retain,
^ Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, near the North Pole, supposed by the Poets to

be Areas and his Mother.



Thus sleep stole o'er him, mercy-hallow'd sleep,
His OAvn lov'd jEgle, lovelier tiian of old,

lovelier far — shone from the azure deep —
And like the angel dying saints behold,

Bent o'er his brow, and with ambrosial kiss

Breathed on his soul her own pure spirit-bliss.


" Never more grieve for me," the Vision said,
" Behold how beautiful thy bride is now !

Who to yon Heaven from heathen Hades led
Me, thine Immortal ? Mourner, it was thou !

Why shouldst thou mourn ? In the empyreal clime

We know no severance, for we own no time,


" Both in the Past and Future circumfused.
We live in each ; — all life's more happy hours

Bloom back for us ; — all prophet Fancy mused
Fairest in days to come, alike are ours :

With me not vet — I ever am with thee,

Thy presence flows through my eternity,


" Think thou hast bless'd the earth, and 023ed the heaven
To her baptized, reborn, through thy dear love, —

In the new buds that Ijloom for thee, be given
The fragrance of the primal flower above !

In Heaven we are not jealous ! — But in aught

That heals remembrance and revives the thought,



" That makes the life more beautiful, we hind
Those who survive us in a closer chain :

In all that glacis we feel ourselves enshrined ;
In all that loves, our love but lives again."

Anew she kiss'd his brow, and at her smile

Night and Creation brighten'd ! He, the while,


Stretch'd his vain arms, and clasp'd the mocking air,
And from the raptu^^e woke !* — All fiercely round

Groupe savage forms, amidst the lurid glare
Of lifted torches, red ; fierce tongues resound,

Discordant clamoring hoarse- — as birds of prey

Scared by man's footstep in some desolate bay.


Mild thro' the throng a bright-hair'd Virgin came,
And the roar hushed; — while to the Virgin's breast

Soft-cooing fled the Dove. His own great name
Rang thro' the ranks behind ; quick footsteps prest

(As thro' arm'd lines a warrior) to the spot.

And to the King knelt radiant Lancelot.


Here for a while the wild and fickle song

Leaves the crown'd Seeker of the Silver Shield ;

Thy fates, Gawaine, done to grievous wrong
By the black guide perfidious, be reveal'd,

Nearing, poor Knight, the Cannibalian shrine.

Where Freya scents thee, and prepares to dine.

• The reader will perhaps perceive, th it the abjve passage, containing Arthur's
Vision of ^Egle, is partially borrowed from tiie apparition of Clorinda, in Tasso. —
Cant. xii.



Left by a bride and outraged by a raven,

One friend still shared the injured captive's lot;

For, as the vessel left the Cvmrian haven,

The faithful hound, Avhom he had half forgot,

Swam to the ship, clombe, up the sides, on board^

Snarl'd at the Danes, and nestled by his lord.


The hirsute Captain not displeased to see a
New honne hoiicJie added to the destined roast

His floating larder had prepared for Freya,
Welcomed the dog, as Charon might a ghost ;

Allowed the beast to share his master's platter,

And daily eyed them both, — and thought them fatter !


Even in such straights, the Knight of golden tongue
' Confronts his foe with arguings just and sage,
Whether in pearls from deeps Druidic strung,

Or link'd synthetic from the Stagirite's page,
Labouring to show him how absurd the notion.
That roasting Gawaine would affect the Ocean.


But that enlightened tho' unlearned man.

Posed all the lore Druidical or Attic ;
" One truth," quoth he, '' instructs the Sons of Ban,

(A seaman race are always democratic,)
That truth once known, all else is worthless lumber;
' The greatest pleasure of the greatest number.'

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Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonKing Arthur → online text (page 15 of 25)