Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

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All Cymri once more as one Cymrian,

With the last light of that grand spirit fill'd,

Thro' rank on rank, mow'd down, down trampled, sped,

And reach'd the standard — to defend the dead.


Wrench'd from the heathen's hand, one moment bow'd
In the bright Christian's grasp the gonfanon ;

Then from a dumb amaze the countless crowd
Swept, — and the night as with a sudden sun

Flash'd with avenging steel ; life gained its goal,

And calm from lips proud-smiling went the soul !


Leapt from his selle, the king-born Lancelot ;

Leapt from the selle each paladin and knight ;
In one mute sign that where upon that spot

The foot was planted, God forbade the liight :
There shall the Father-land avenge the son.
Or heap all Cymri round the grave of one.


Then, well nigh side by side — broad floated forth
The Cymrian Dragon and the Teuton Steed,

The rival Powers that struffole for the north ;
The gory Idol — the chivahic Creed;

Odin's and Christ's confronting flags unfurl'd.

As which should save and which destroy a world !

BOOK XT. 157


Then fought those Cymrian men, as if on each
All Cymri set its last undaunted hope;

Thro' the steel bulwarks round them vawns the breach ;
Vistas to freedom brightening onwards ope ;

Crida in vain leads band on slaughtered band,

In vain revived falls Harold's ruthless hand ;


As on the bull the pard will fearless bound,

But if the horn that meets the spring should gore,

Awed with fierce pain, slinks snarling from the ground ;
So baffled in their midmost rush, before

The abrupt assault, the savage hosts give way,

Yet will not own that man could thus dismay.

'^ Some God more mighty than Walhalla's king.

Strikes in yon arms" — the sullen murmurs run.
And fast and faster drives the Dragon wing —

And shrinks and cowers the ghastly gonfanon,
They flag — they falter — lo, the Saxons lly ! —
Lone rests the Dragon in the dawning sky !

Lone rests the Dragon with its wings outspread.

Where the pale hoofs one holy ground had trod,
There the hush'd victors round the martyr'd dead,

As round an altar, lift their hearts to God.
Calm is that brow as when a host it braved,
And smiles that lip as on the land it saved !




Pardon, ye shrouded and mysterious Powers,
Ye fixr off shadows from the spirit-cUme,

K for that reahii untrodden by the Hours,
Awhile we leave this lazar house of Time ;

With Song remounting to those native airs

Of which tho' exiled, still we are the heirs.


Up from the clay and towards the Seraphim,
The Immortal, men call'd Caradoc, arose.

Round the freed captive whose melodious hymn

Had haifd each glimmer earth, the dungeon, knows.

Spread all the aisles by angel worship trod ;

Blazed every altar conscious of the God.


All the illumed creation one calm shrine ;

All space one rapt adoring extasy;
All the sweet stars with their untroubled shine,

Near and more near enlarging thro' the sky ;
All opening gradual on the eternal sight,
Joy after joy, the depths of their delight.

Paused on the marge. Heaven's beautiful New-born,

Paused on the marge of that wide happiness ;
And as a lark that, poised amid the morn.

Shakes from its wing the dews, — the plumes of bliss,
Sunned in the dawn of the diviner birth.
Shook every sorrow memory bore from eartli ;

BOOK XI. 159


Knowledge (tliat on the troubled waves of sense
Breaks into sparkles) — poured upon the soul

Its lambent, clear, translucent affluence,

And cold-eyed Keason loosed its hard control ;

Each godlike guess beheld the truth it sought ;

And inspiration flash'd from what was thought.


Still evermore the old familiar train

That fill the frail Proscenium of our deeds,

The unquiet actors on that stage, the brain,
Which, in the spangles of their tinsell'd weeds,

Mime the true soul's majestic royalties.

And strut august in Wonders credulous eyes ; —


Ambition, Envy, Pride, those false desires
For a true bourne which is — but not in life ;

x\nd human Passion that with meteor fires

Lures from the star it simulates ; Wisdom's strife ;

With its own Angel, Faith ; — that nurse of Grief,

Hope, crown'd with flowers, a blight in every leaf;


All these are still — abandoned to the worm.
Their loud breath jars not on the calm above;

Only survived, as if the single germ

Of the new life's ambrosian being, — love.

Ah, if the bud can give such bloom to Time,

What is the flower when in its native clime ?



Love to the radiant Stranger left alone

Of all the vanish'd hosts of memory ;
Vf liile broadening round, on splendour splendour shone,

To earth soft-pitying dropt the veilless eye,
And saw the shape, that love remembered still,
Couch'd mid the ruins on the moonlit hill.


And, with the new-born vision piercing all

Things past and future, view'd the fates ordain'd ;

The fame achieved amidst the Coral Hall ;

From war and winter Freedom's symbol gained,

Yf hat rests ? — the sj)irit from its realm of bliss.

Shot, loving down, — the guide to Happiness !


Pale to the Cymrian king the Shadow came,

Its glory left it as the earth it neared.
In livid likeness as its corpse the same.

Wan with its wounds the awful ghost appeared.
Life heard the voice of unembodied breath.
And Sleep stood trembling side by side with Death.

" Come," said the voice, " Before the Iron Gate

Which hath no egress, waiting thee, behold
Under the shadow of the brows of Fate,

The childHke playmate with the locks of gold."
Then rose the mortal following, and, before,
Moved the pale shape the angel's comrade wore.

BOOK XI. 161

Where, in the centre of those ruins gray,

Immense with blind walls columnless, a tomb
For earlier kings, whose names had passed away,

Chill'd the chill moonlight with its mass of gloom ;
Thro' doors ajar to every prying blast
By which to rot imperial dust had past,

The vision went, and went the living king ;

Then strange and hard to human ear to tell
By language moulded but by thoughts that bring

Material images, what there befell !
The mortal entered Eld's dumb burial place.
And at the threshold vanished time and space !


Yea, the hard sense of time was from the mind
Rased and annihilate ; — yea, space to eye

And soul was presenceless ? What rest behind ?
Thought and the Infinite ! the eternal I,

And its true realm the Limitless, whose brink

Thought ever nears : What bounds us when we think ?


Yea, as the dupe in tales Arabian,

Dipp'd but his brow beneath the beaker's brim,
And in that instant all the life of man

From youth to age roll'd its slow years on him,
And while the foot stood motionless — the soul
Swept with deliberate wing from pole to pole,



So when the man the graves still portals pass'd,
Closed on the substances or cheats of earth,

The Immaterial for the things it glass'd,

Sliaped a new vision from the matter's dearth:

Before the sight that saw not thro' the clay.

The undefined Immeasurable lay.


A realm not land, nor sea, nor earth, nor sky.
Like air impalpable, and yet not air ; —

" Where am I led ?" asked Life with hollow sigh.
" To Death, that dim phantasmal Every where,"

Answered the Ghost. " Nature's circumfluent robe

Girding all life — the globule of the globe."


'^ Yet," said the Mortal, " if indeed this breath
Profane the w^orld that lies beyond the tomb;

Where is the Spirit-race that peoples death ?
My soul surveys but unsubstantial gloom,

A void — a Ijlank — where none preside or dwell,

Nor woe nor bliss is here, nor heaven nor hell."

ex VI.

" And what is death ? — a name for nothingness,"*
Replied the Dead ; " The shadow of a shade ;

Death can retain no spirit ! — w^oe and bliss,
And heaven and hell, are for the living made ;

An instant flits between life's latest sigh

And life's renewal ; — that it is to die !

* The suMime idea of the noncnity of deatli, of the instantaneous transit of the
soul from one phase or cycle of being to another, is earnestly insisted upon hy the
early Cymriau baids in term& which seem borrowed from some spiritual belief an-

- BOOK XI. 1G8


" From the brief Here to the eternal There,
We can but see the swift flash of the goal ;

Less than the space between two weaves of air,
The void between existence and a soul ;

Wherefore look forth ; and wdth calm sight endure

The vague, impalpable, inane Obscure :


Lo, by the Iron Gate a giant cloud

From which emerge (the form itself unseen)

Vast adamantine browns sublimely bow'd
Over the dark, — relentlessly serene ;

Thou canst not view the hand beneath the fold,

The work it w^eaveth none but God behold.


^' Yet ever from this Nothingness of Death,

That hand shapes out the myriad pomps of life ;

Receives the matter when resign'd the breath,
Calms into Law the Elemental strife.

On each still'd atom forms afresh bestows ;

(No atom lost since first Creation rose.)


" Thus seen, what men call Nature, thou surveyest.
But matter boundeth not the still one's power ,

Li every deed its presence thou displayest,

It prompts each impulse, guides each wdnged hour,

It spells the Valkyrs to their gory loom.

It calls the blessing from the bane they doom :

lerior to that which does in truth teach that the Ufe of man once begun, has not
only no end, but no pause — and, in the triumjihal or}- of the Christian, '• O Grave
where is thy victory ?" — annihilates death.



^' It rides the steed, it saileth with the bark,
Wafts the first corn-seed to the herbless wild,

Alike directing thro' the doom of dark.

The age-long Nature and the new-born child ;

Here the dread Power, yet loftier tasks await.

And Nature, twofold, takes the name of Fate.


^' Nature or Fate, Matter's material life.

Or to all spirit the si)iritual guide,
Alike with one harmonious being rife.

Form but the whole which only names divide ;
Fate's crushing power, or Nature's gentle skill.
Alike one Good — from one all loving Will."


While thus the Shade benign instructs the King,
Near the dark cloud the still brows bended o'er,

They come : A soft wind with continuous wing
Sighs thro' the gloom and trembles thro' the door,

^^ Hark to that air," the gentle phantom said,

*' In each faint murmur flit unseen the dead, —


" Pass thro' the gate, from life the life resume.
As the old impulse flies to heaven or hell."

While spoke the Ghost, stood forth amidst the gloom,
A lucent Image, crowned with asphodell,

The left hand bore a mirror crystal-bright,

A wand star-pointed glittered in the right.

BOOK XI. 165


" Dost thou not know me ? — me, thy second soul ?

Dost thou not know me, Arthur ?" said the Voice ;
" I who have led thee to each noble goal,

Mirror'd thy heart, and starward led thy choice ?
To each thee wisdom won in Labour's school,
I lured thy footsteps to the forest pool,


" ShoAved all the woes which wait inebriate power.
And woke the man from youth's voluptuous dream ;

Glass'd on the crystal — let each stainless hour
Obey the wand I lift unto the beam ;

And at the last, when yonder gates expand.

Pass with thy Guardian Angel; hand in hand."


Spoke the sweet Splendour, and as music dies
Into the heart that hears, subsides away,

Then Arthur lifted his serenest eyes

Towards the pale Shade from the celestial day,

And said, " thou in life beloved so well,

Dream I or wake ? — As those last accents fell,


" So fears that, spite of thy mild words, dismay'd,
Fears not of death, but that which death conceals,

Vanish ; — my soul that trembled at thy shade.
Yearns to the far light which the shade reveals.

And sees how human is the dismal error

That hideth God, when veiling death with terror.



'^ Ev'n thus some infant, in the earlj'' spring,
Under the pale buds of the abiiond tree,

Shrinks from the wind that with an icy wing

Shakes showering down white flakes that seem to he

Winter's w\an sleet, — till the quick sunbeam shows

That those were blossoms which he took for snows.


" Thou to this last and sovran mystery
Of my mysterious travail guiding sent,

Dear as thou wert, I will not mourn for thee.

Thou w^ert not shaped for earth's hard element —

Our ends, our aims, our pleasure, and our woe.

Thou knew'st them all, but thine we could not know.


^^ Forgive that none were worthy of thy worth !

That none took heed upon the plodding way.
What diamond dcAv was on the flowers of earth.

Till in thy soul drawn upw^ard to the day.
But now, why gape the wounds uj^on thy breast ?
What guilty hand dismissed thee to the blest ?


^' For blest thou art, beloved and lost ? Oh, speak ,
Say thou art with the Angels ?" — As at night

Far off the pharos on the mountain peak
Sends o'er dim ocean one pale path of light,

Lost in the wideness of the weltering Sea,

So, that one gleam along eternity

BOOK XI. 167


Youclisafed, the radiant guide (its mission closed)
Fled, and the mortal stood amidst the cloud !

All dark above, — lo at his feet reposed

Beneath the Brow's still terror o'er it bow'd,

With eyes that lit the gloom thro' which they smiled

A Virgin shape^ half woman and half child !

There, bright before the iron gates of Death,

Bright in the shadow of the aAvful Power
Which did as Nature give the human breath,

As Fate mature the germ and nurse the flower
Of earth for heaven, — Toil's last and sweetest prize,
The destined Soother lifts her fearless eyes !


Thro' all the mortal's frame, enraptured thrills

A subtler tide, a life ambrosial,
Brio'ht as the fabled element which fills

The veins of Gods when in the golden hall
Flush'd Hebe brims the urn. The transport broke
The charm that gave it — and the Dreamer woke.


Was it in truth a Dream ? He gazed around.
And saw the granite of sepulchral walls ;

Thro' open doors, along the desolate ground.
O'er coffin dust — the morning sunbeam falls ;

On mouldering relics life its splendour flings.

The arms of warriors and the bones of kinu's. —



He stood within that Golgotha of old,

Whither the Phantom first had led the soul.

It was no dream ! lo, round those locks of gold
Rest the young sunbeams like an auriole;

Lo, where the day, night's mystic promise keeps,

And in the tomb a life of beauty sleeps !


Slow to his eyes, those lids reveal their own,
And, the lips smiling even in their sigh.

The Virgin woke ! never yet w^as known,
In bower or plaisaunce under summer sky.

Life so enrich'd with nature's happiest bloom

As thine, thou young Aurora of the tomb !


Words cannot paint thee, gentlest Cynosure
Of all things lovely in that loveliest form.

Souls wear — the youth of woman ! brows as pure
As Memphian skies that never knew a storm ;

Lips with such sweetness in their honied deeps

As fills the rose in which a fairy sleeps ;


Eyes on whose tenderest azure, aching hearts
Might look as to a heaven, and cease to grieve ;

The very blush, as day, when it departs,
Haloes, in liushing, the mild cheek of eve,

Takimir soft warmth in lit>lit from earth afar,

Heralds no thoudit less holv than a star.

BOOK XI. 169


And Arthur spoke ! ye, all noble souls,

Divine how knighthood speaks to maiden fear !

Yet, is it fear which that young heart controls
And leaves its music voiceless on the ear —

Ye, who have felt what words can ne'er express,

Say then, is fear as still as happiness ?


By the mute pathos of an eloquent sign,

Her rosy finger on her lip, the maid
Seem'd to donote that on that choral shrine

Speech was to silence vow'd. Then from the shade
Gliding — she stood beneath the golden skies.
Fair as the dawn that brightened Paradise.


And Arthur looked, and saw the dove no more ;

Yet, by some wild and wondrous giamoury.
Changed to the shape the new companion wore.

His soul the missing Angel seemed to see ;
And, soft and silent as the earlier guide,
The soft eyes thrill, the silent footsteps glide.


Thro' paths his yester steps had fail'd to find,
Adown the w^oodland slope she leads the king, —

And, pausing oft, she turns to look behind,
As oft had turned the dove upon the wing ;

And oft he questioned, still to find reply

Mute on the lip, yet struggling to the eye.



Far briefer now the way, and open more

To heaven, than those his whileome steps had won ;
And sudden, lo ! his galley's brazen prore

Beams from the greenwood burnished in the sun ;
Uj) from the SAvard his watchful cruisers spring,
And loud-lipp'd welcome girds with joy the King.


Now plies the rapid oar, now swells the sail ;

All day, and deep into the heart of night,
Flies the glad bark before the favouring gale ;

Now Sabra's virgin waters dance in light
Under the large full moon, on margents green.
Lone with charr'd wrecks where Saxon fires have been.


Here furls the sail, here rests awhile the oar.
And from the crews the Cymrians and the maid

Pass with mute breath upon the mournful shore ;
For, where yon groves the gradual hillock shade,

A convent stood when Arthur left the land.

God grant the shrine hath 'scaped the heathen's hand !


Landing, on lifeless hearths, thro' roofless walls

And casement gaps, the ghost-like star-beams peer ;

Welcomed by night and ruin, hollow falls
The footstep of a King ! — Upon the ear

The inexpressible hush of murder lay, —

Wide yawn'd the doors, and not a watch dog's bay !

BOOK XI. 171


They pass the groveSj they gain the holt, and lo !

Rests of the sacred pile but one gray tower,
A fort for luxury in the long-ago

Of gentile gods, and Rome's voluptuous power.
But far on walls yet spared, the moonbeams fell, —
Far on the golden domes of Carduel !


^'^Joy," cried the King, "behold, the land lives still!"
Then Gawaine 23ointed, where, in lengthening line

The Saxon watch-fires from the haunted hill
(Shorn of its forest old,) their blood-red shine

Fling over Isca, and with wrathful flush

Gild the vast storm-cloud of the armed hush.


" Ay," said the King, " in that lull'd Massacre
Doth no ghost whisper Crida — ' Sleep no more !'

" Hark, where I stand, dark murder-chief, on thee
I launch the doom ! ye airs, that wander o'er

Ruins and graveless bones, to Crida' s sleep

Bear Cymri's promise, which her king shall keep !"


As thus he spoke, upon his outstretch'd arm
A light touch trembled, — turning he beheld

The maiden of the tomb ; a wild alarm

Shone from her ej^es; his own their terror spell'd.

Struggling for speech, the pale lips Avrithed apart,

And, as she clung, he heard her beating heart ;



While Artliur marvelling sootli'd the agonj

Which., comprehending not^ he still could share,

Sudden sprang Gawaine — hark ! a timorous cry

Pierced yon dim shadows ! Arthur look'd, and where

On' artful valves revolved the stoney door,

A kneeling nun his knight is bending o'er.


Ere the nun's fears the knightly words dispell,
As towards the spot the maid and monarch came,

On Arthur's brows the slanted moonbeams fell.
And the nun knew the King, and call'd his name

And clasp'd his knees, and sobb'd thro' joyous tears,

*' Once more ! once more ! our God his people hears !"


Kin to his blood — the welcome face of one

Known as a saint throughout the Christian land,

Arthur recall'd, and as a pious son

Honouring a mother — on that sacred hand

In homage bow'd the King, " What mercy saves

Thee, blest survivor in this shrine of graves ?"


Then the nun led them, thro' the artful door

Mask'd in the masonry, adown a stair
That coil'd its windings to the grottoed floor

Of vaulted chambers desolately fair ;
Wrought in the green hill like on Oread's home,
For summer heats by some soft lord of Rome,

BOOK XI. 173


On shells, which nymphs from silver sands might cuU,^
On paved mosaics and long-silenced fount,

On marble waifs of the far Beautiful

By graceful spoiler garner'd from the mount

Of vocal Delphi, or the Elean town,

Or Sparta's rival of the violet-crown —


Shone the rude cresset from the homely shrine
Of that new Power, upon whose Syrian Cross

Perished the antique Jove ! And the grave sign
Of the glad faith (which, for the lovely loss

Of poet-gods, their own Olympus frees \

To men ! — our souls the new Uranides,)


High from the base, on which, of old, reposed
Grape-crown'd lacchus — spoke the Saving Woe !

The place itself the sister s tale disclosed.

Here, while, amidst the hamlet doomed below,

Raged the fierce Saxon — was retreat secured ;

Nor gnawed the iiame where those deep vaults immured.


To peasants scattered thro' the neighbouring plains,
The secret known ; — kind hands with pious care

Supply such humble nurture as sustains

Lives must with fiist familiar ; thus and there

The patient sisters in their faith sublime.

Felt God was good, and waited for His time.

VOL. II. 12



Yet ever when the crimes of earth and day
Slept in the starry peace, to the lone tower

The sainted abbess won her nightly way,

And gazed on Carduel ! — 'T was the wonted hour

When from the opening door the Cymrian knight

Saw the pale shadow steal along the light.


Musing, the King the safe retreat surveyed, [care ;

And smoothed his brow from time's most anxious
Here — from the strife secure, might rest the maid

Not meet the tasks that morn must bring to share ;
And pleased the sister's pitying looks he eyed
Bent on the young form creeping to her side.


" King," said the sainted nun, " from some far clime
Comes this fair stranger, that her eyes alone

Answer our mountain tongue ?" — " May happier time,"
Replied the King, " her tale, her land, make known.

Meanwhile, kind recluse, receive the guest

To whom these altars seem the native rest."


The sister smiled, " In sooth those looks," she said,
" Do speak a soul pure with celestial air ;

And in the morrow's awful hour of dread,
Her heart methinks will echo to our prayer,

And breathe responsive to the hymns that swell

The Christian's curse upon the infidel.

BOOK XI. 175


" But say, if truth from rumor vague and wild
To this still world the friendly peasants bring,

' That grief and wrath for some lost heathen child,
Urge to yon walls the Mercian's direful king ?' " —

" Nay," said the Cymrian, " doth ambition fail

When force needs falsehood, of the glozing tale ?


" And — but behold she droops, she faints, outworn
By the long wandering and the scorch of day !"

Pale as a lily when the dewless morn,
Parch'd in the fiery dog-star, wanes away

Into the glare of noon without a cloud,

O'er the nun's breast that flower of beauty bow'd.


Yet still the clasp retained the hand that prest.

And breath came still, tho' heaved in sobbing sighs.

" Leave her," the sister said, " to needful rest.
And to such care as woman best supplies ;

And may this charge a conqueror soon recall.

And change the refuge to a monarch's hall !"


Tho' found the asylum sought, with boding mind
The crowning guerdon of his mystic toil

To the kind nun the unwilling King resigned ;
Nor till his step was on his mountain soil

Did his large heart its lion calm regain,

And o'er his soul no thought but Cymri reign.



As towards the bark the friends resume their way,
Quick they resolve the conflict's hardy scheme ;

With half the Northmen, at the break of day

Shall Gawaine sail where Sabra's broadening stream

Admits a reeded creek, and, landing there,

Elude the fleet the neighbouring waters bear;


Thro' secret paths with bush and bosk o'ergrown,
Wind round the tented hill, and win the wall ;

With Arthur's name arouse the leaguered town,
Give the pent stream the cataract's rushing fall,

Sweep to the camp, and on the Pagan horde

Urge all of man that yet survives the sword.


Meanwhile on foot the king shall guide his band
Round to the rearward of the vast array.

Where yet large fragments of the forest stand
To shroud with darkness the avenger's way ;

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Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonKing Arthur → online text (page 21 of 25)