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Down with his blood, till all his heart was cold
And chance and craft and strength in single fights,
Shocks, and the splintering spear, the hard mail hewn,
Last, as by some one deathbed after wail
Tumbling the hollow helmets of the fallen,
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,
Who love thee; but who hates thee, he that brought
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
Yet, ere I pass.' And uttering this the King
So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: "The sequel of to-day unsolders all The goodliest fellowship of famous knights Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep They sleep-the men I loved. I think that we Shall never more, at any future time, Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds, Walking about the gardens and the halls Of Camelot, as in the days that were. I perish by this people which I made,— Tho' Merlin sware that I should come again To rule once more; but, let what will be, be, I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm That without help I cannot last till morn. Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur, Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how In those old days, one summer noon, an arm
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere:
"It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he stept, And in the moon athwart the place of tombs, Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men, Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down By zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock, Came on the shining levels of the lake.
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
There in the many-knotted waterflags,
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: "Hast thou perform'd my mission which I gave? What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: "I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, And the wild water lapping on the crag."
To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale: "Thou hast betray'd thy nature and thy name, Not rendering true answer, as beseem'd Thy fealty, nor like a noble knight: For surer sign had follow'd, either hand, Or voice, or else a motion of the mere. This is a shameful thing for men to lie. Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again, As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing I bade thee, watch, and lightly bring me word."
Then went Sir Bedivere the second time
"And if indeed I cast the brand away, Surely a precious thing, one worthy note, Should thus be lost for ever from the earth, Which might have pleased the eyes of many men. What good should follow this, if this were done? What harm, undone? Deep harm to disobey,