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THE PASSING OF ARTHUR (1869). [Von Zeile: “So all day long” bis “And on the mere the wailing died away” schon in den Poens 1842 gedruckt und bereits

1835 gedichtet (Mem. pg. 162).]

THAT story which the bold Sir Bedivere,
First made and latest left of all the knights,
Told, when the man was no more than a voice
In the white winter of his age, to those
With whom he dwelt, new faces, other minds.

For on their march to westward, Bedivere, Who slowly paced among the slumbering host, Heard in his tent the moanings of the King:

“I found Him in the shining of the stars,
I mark’d Him in the flowering of His fields,
But in His ways with men I find Him not.
I waged His wars, and now I pass and die.
O me! for why is all around us here
As if some lesser god had made the world,
But had not force to shape it as he would,
Till the High God behold it from beyond,
And enter it, and make it beautiful?
Or else as if the world were wholly fair,
But that these eyes of men are dense and dim,
And have not power to see it as it is:
Perchance, because we see not to the close;-
For I, being simple, thought to work His will,
And have but stricken with the sword in vain;
And all whereon I lean'd in wife and friend
Is traitor to my peace, and all my realm
Reels back into the beast, and is no more.
My God, thou hast forgotten me in my death:
Nay—God my Christ-I pass but shall not die.”

Then, ere that last weird battle in the west, There came on Arthur sleeping, Gawain killid In Lancelot's war, the ghost of Gawain blown Along a wandering wind, and past his ear Went shrilling, "Hollow, hollow all delight! Hail, King! to-morrow thou shalt pass away. Farewell! there is an isle of rest for thee. And I am blown along a wandering wind, And hollow, hollow, hollow all delight.” And fainter onward, like wild birds that change Their season in the night and wail their way From cloud to cloud, down the long wind the dream Shrill’d; but in going mingled with dim cries Far in the moonlit haze among the hills, As of some lonely city sack'd by night, When all is lost, and wife and child with wail Pass to new lords; and Arthur woke and callid, “Who spake? A dream. O light upon the wind, Thine, Gawain, was the voice-are these dim cries Thine? or doth all that haunts the waste and wild Mourn, knowing it will go along with me?"

This heard the bold Sir Bedivere and spake: “O me, my King, let pass whatever will, Elves, and the harmless glamour of the field; But in their stead thy name and glory cling To all high places like a golden cloud For ever: but as yet thou shalt not pass. Light was Gawain in life, and light in death Is Gawain, for the ghost is as the man; And care not thou for dreams from him, but riseI hear the steps of Modred in the west, And with him many of thy people, and knights Once thine, whom thou hast loved, but grosser grown Than heathen, spitting at their vows and thee.

Jiriczek, Englische Dichter.

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Right well in heart they know thee for the King.
Arise, go forth and conquer as of old.”

Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: “Far other is this battle in the west Whereto we move, than when we strove in youth, And brake the petty kings, and fought with Rome, Or thrust the heathen from the Roman wall, And shook him thro’ the north. Ill doom is mine To war against my people and my knights. The king who fights his people fights himself. And they my knights, who loved me once, the stroke That strikes them dead is as my death to me. Yet let us hence, and find or feel a way Thro’ this blind haze, which ever since I saw One lying in the dust at Almesbury, Hath folded in the passes of the world.”

Then rose the King and moved his host by night, And ever push'd Sir Modred, league by league, Back to the sunset bound of LyonnesseA land of old upheaven from the abyss By fire, to sink into the abyss again; Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt, And the long mountains ended in a coast Of ever-shifting sand, and far away The phantom circle of a moaning sea. There the pursuer could pursue no more, And he that fled no further fly the King; And there, that day when the great light of heaven Burn'd at his lowest in the rolling year, On the waste sand by the waste sea they closed. Nor ever yet had Arthur fought a fight Like this last, dim, weird battle of the west. A deathwhite mist slept over sand and sea: Whereof the chill, to him who breathed it, drew

Down with his blood, till all his heart was cold
With formless fear; and ev'n on Arthur fell
Confusion, since he saw not whom he fought.
For friend and foe were shadows in the mist,
And friend slew friend not knowing whom he slew;
And some had visions out of golden youth,
And some beheld the faces of old ghosts
Look in upon the battle; and in the mist
Was many a noble deed, many a base,
And chance and craft and strength in single fights,
And ever and anon with host to host
Shocks, and the splintering spear, the hard mail hewn,
Shield-breakings, and the clash of brands, the crash
Of battleaxes on shatter'd helms, and shrieks
After the Christ, of those who falling down
Look'd up for heaven, and only saw the mist;
And shouts of heathen and the traitor knights,
Oaths, insult, filth, and monstrous blasphemies,
Sweat, writhings, anguish, labouring of the lungs
In that close mist, and cryings for the light,
Moans of the dying, and voices of the dead.

Last, as by some one deathbed after wail
Of suffering, silence follows, or thro' death
Or deathlike swoon, thus over all that shore,
Save for some whisper of the seething seas,
A dead hush fell; but when the dolorous day
Grew drearier toward twilight falling, came
A bitter wind, clear from the North, and blew
The mist aside, and with that wind the tide
Rose, and the pale King glanced across the field
Of battle: but no man was moving there;
Nor any cry of Christian heard thereon,
Nor

yet of heathen; only the wan wave
Brake in among dead faces, to and fro
Swaying the helpless hands, and up and down

Tumbling the hollow helmets of the fallen,
And shiver'd brands that once had fought with Rome,
And rolling far along the gloomy shores
The voice of days of old and days to be.

Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere, And whiter than the mist that all day long Had held the field of battle was the King:

“Hearest thou this great voice that shakes the world, And wastes the narrow realm whereon we move, And beats upon the faces of the dead, My dead, as tho' they had not died for me?O Bedivere, for on my heart hath fall’n Confusion, till I know not what I am, Nor whence I am, nor whether I be King. Behold, I seem but King among the dead."

Then spake the bold Sir Bedivere: “My King, King everywhere! and so the dead have kings, There also will I worship thee as King. Yet still thy life is whole, and still I live Who love thee; but who hates thee, he that brought The heathen back among us, yonder stands, Modred, unharm'd, the traitor of thine house."

Then spake the King: "My house hath been my doom. But call not thou this traitor of

my

house
Who hath but dwelt beneath one roof with me.
My house are rather they who sware my vows,
Yea, even while they brake them, own’d me King.
And well for thee, saying in my dark hour,
When all the purport of my throne hath fail'd,
That quick or dead thou holdest me for King.
King am I, whatsoever be their cry;
And one last act of kinghood shalt thou see

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