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Her form with many a soft caress
Of tenderness and watchful care!
Sail forth into the sea, O ship!
Through wind and wave, right onward steer!
The moistened eye, the trembling lip,
Are not the signs of doubt or fear.
Sail forth into the sea of life,
O gentle, loving, trusting wife,
And safe from all adversity
Upon the bosom of that sea
Thy comings and thy goings be!
For gentleness, and love, and trust,
Prevail o'er angry wave and gust;
And in the wreck of noble lives
Something immortal still survives!
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity, with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What workmen wrought thy ribs of steel;
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope;
What anvils rang, what hammers beat;
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope.
Fear not each sudden sound and shock;
'Tis of the wave, and not the rock;
'Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale.
In spite of rock and tempest roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee-are all with thee.
XXXVIII.-KING ARTHUR AND QUEEN GUINEVERE.
The "Idylls of the King" is a poem consisting of four tales, three of which are derived from the legendary history of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. This extract is taken from the Fourth Idyll, and represents the last interview between the King and Queen Guinevere, who is stung with remorse for her guilty love of Sir Lancelot.
BUT when the Queen immersed in such a trance,
And moving through the past unconsciously,
Came to that point, when first she saw the King
Ride toward her from the city, sighed to find
Her journey done, glanced at him, thought him cold,
High, self-contained, and passionless, not like him,
"Not like my Lancelot"-while she brooded thus
And grew half-guilty in her thoughts again,
There rode an armed warrior to the doors.
A murmuring whisper through the nunnery ran,
Then on a sudden a cry, “The King." She sat
Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armed feet
Through the long gallery from the outer doors
Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell,
And grovelled with her face against the floor:
There with her milk-white arms and shadowy hair
She made her face a darkness from the King:
And in the darkness heard his armed feet
Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice,
Monotonous and hollow like a ghost's
Denouncing judgment, but though changed, the King's:
"Liest thou here so low, the child of one
I honoured, happy, dead before thy shame ?
Well is it that no child is born of thee.
The children born of thee are sword and fire,
Red ruin, and the breaking up of laws,
The craft of kindred and the godless hosts
Of heathen swarming o'er the Northern Sea.
And of this remnant will I leave a part,
True men, who love me still, for whom I live,
To guard thee in the wild hour coming on,
Lest but a hair of this low head be harmed.
Fear not thou shalt be guarded till my death.
Howbeit, I know, if ancient prophecies
Have erred not, that I march to meet my doom.
Thou hast not made my life so sweet to me,
That I the King should greatly care to live;
For thou hast spoilt the purpose of my life.
Bear with me for the last time, while I show,
Even for thy sake, the sin which thou hast sinned."
He paused, and in the pause she crept an inch
Nearer, and laid her hands about his feet.
Far off a solitary trumpet blew.
Then waiting by the doors the war-horse neighed,
As at a friend's voice, and he spake again:
"Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes;
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
To see thee, laying there thy golden head,
My pride in happier summers, at my feet.
The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce law, The doom of treason and the flaming death,
(When first I learnt thee hidden here), is past.
The pang-which while I weighed thy heart with
Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee,
Made my tears burn-is also past, in part.
And all is past, the sin is sinned, and I,
Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God
Forgives: do thou for thine own soul the rest.
But how to take last leave of all I loved?
O golden hair, with which I used to play,
Not knowing! O imperial-moulded form,
And beauty such as never woman wore,
Until it came a kingdom's curse with thee.
My love through flesh hath wrought into my life
So far, that my doom is, I love thee still.
Let no man dream but that I love thee still.
Perchance, and so thou purify thy soul,
And so thou lean on our fair father Christ,
Hereafter in that world where all are pure
We two may meet before high God, and thou
Wilt spring to me, and claim me thine, and know
I am thine husband-not a smaller soul,
Nor Lancelot, nor another.
I charge thee, my last hope.
Leave me that,
Now must I hence.
Through the thick night I hear the trumpet blow:
They summon me their King to lead mine hosts
Far down to that great battle in the west,
Where I must strike against my sister's son,
Leagued with the lords of the White Horse and knights
Once mine, and strike him dead, and meet myself
Death, or I know not what mysterious doom.
And thou remaining here wilt learn the event;
But hither shall I never come again,
Never lie by thy side, see thee no more,—
And while she grovelled at his feet,
She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck;
And, in the darkness, o'er her fallen head
Perceived the waving of his hands that blest.
Then, listening till those armed steps were gone,
Rose the pale Queen, and in her anguish found
The casement: "Peradventure," so she thought,
"If I might see his face, and not be seen."
And, lo, he sat on horseback at the door!
And near him the sad nuns with each a light
Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen,
To guard and foster her for evermore.
And while he spake to these his helm was lowered,
To which for crest the golden dragon clung
Of Britain; so she did not see the face,
Which then was as an angel's; but she saw,
Wet with the mists and smitten by the lights,
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship
Blaze, making all the night a steam of fire.
And even then he turned; and more and more
The moony vapour rolling round the King,
Who seemed the phantom of a giant in it,
Enwound him fold by fold, and made him grey
And greyer, till himself became as mist
Before her, moving ghost-like to his doom.
Then she stretched out her arms and cried aloud,
"O Arthur!" there her voice brake suddenly;
Then as a stream that spouting from a cliff
Fails in mid air, but gathering at the base
Re-makes itself, and flashes down the vale-
Went on in passionate utterance.
Gone through my sin to slay and to be slain!
And he forgave me, and I could not speak.
Farewell! I should have answered his farewell.
His mercy choked me. Gone, my lord the King,
My own true lord !-how dare I call him mine?
The shadow of another cleaves to me,
And makes me one pollution: he, the King,
Called me polluted: shall I kill myself?
What help in that? I cannot kill my sin,
If soul be soul; nor can I kill my shame;
No, nor by living can I live it down.
The days will grow to weeks, the weeks to months, The months will add themselves and make the years,
years will roll into the centuries,
And mine will ever be a name of scorn.
I must not dwell on that defeat of fame.
Let the world be; that is but of the world.
What else? what hope? I think there was a hope,
Except he mocked me when he spake of hope;
His hope he called it; but he never mocks,
For mockery is the fume of little hearts.
And blessed be the King, who hath forgiven
My wickedness to him, and left me hope
That in mine own heart I can live down sin