By Lord Tennyson Alfred
LANCELOT AND ELAINE.
ELAINE the fair, Elaine the loveable, Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, High in her chamber up a tower to the east Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot; Which first she placed where morning’s earliest ray Might strike it, and awake her with the gleam; Then fearing rust or soilure fashion’d for it A case of silk, and braided thereupon All the devices blazon’d on the shield In their own tinct, and added, of her wit, A border fantasy of branch and flower, And yellow-throated nestling in the nest. Nor rested thus content, but day by day, Ieaving her household and good father, climb’d That eastern tower, and entering barr’d her door Stript off the case, and read the naked shield, Now guess’d a hidden meaning in his arms, Now made a pretty history to herself Of every dint a sword had beaten in it, And every scratch a lance had made upon it, Conjecturing when and where: this cut is fresh; That ten years back; this dealt him at Caerlyle; That at Caerleon; this at Camelot: And ah God’s mercy, what a stroke was there! And here a thrust that might have kill’d, but God Broke the strong lance, and roll’d his enemy down, And saved him: so she lived in fantasy. How came the lily maid by that good shield Of Lancelot, she that knew not ev’n his name? He left it with her, when he rode to tilt For the great diamond in the diamond jousts, Which Arthur had ordain’d, and by that name Had named them, since a diamond was the prize.For Arthur, long before they crown’d him King, Roving the trackless realms of Lyonnesse, Had found a glen, gray boulder and black tarn. A horror lived about the tarn, and clave Like its own mists to all the mountain side: For here two brothers, one a king, had met And fought together; but their names were lost; And each had slain his brother at a blow; And down they fell and made the glen abhorr’d: And there they lay till all their bones were bleach’d, And lichen’d into colour with the crags:And he, that once was king, had on a crown Of diamonds, one in front, and four aside. And Arthur came, and labouring up the pass, All in a misty moonshine, unawares Had trodden that crown’d skeleton, and the skull Brake from the nape, and from the skull the crown Roll’d into light, and turning on its rims Fled like a glittering rivulet to the tarn: And down the shingly scaur he plunged, and caught, And set it on his head, and in his heart Heard murmurs, `Lo, thou likewise shalt be King.’
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