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Seeing obedience is the bond of rule.

Were it well to obey then, if a king demand
An act unprofitable, against himself?

The King is sick, and knows not what he does.
What record, or what relic of my lord.
Should be to aftertime, but empty breath
And rumours of a doubt? But were this kept,
Stored in some treasure-house of mighty kings,
Some one might show it at a joust of arms,
Saying, 'King Arthur's sword, Excalibur,
Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake.
Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps
Upon the hidden bases of the hills.'

So might some old man speak in the aftertime
To all the people, winning reverence.

But now much honour and much fame were lost."

So spake he, clouded with his own conceit,
And hid Excalibur the second time,
And so strode back slow to the wounded King.

Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily: "What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"

And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: "I heard the water lapping on the crag, And the long ripple washing in the reeds."

To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath: "Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue, Unknightly, traitor-hearted! Woe is me! Authority forgets a dying king, Laid widow'd of the power in his eye

That bow'd the will. I see thee what thou art, For thou, the latest-left of all my knights,

In whom should meet the offices of all,

Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt;
Either from lust of gold, or like a girl
Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice,
And the third time may prosper, get thee hence:
But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur,
I will arise and slay thee with my hands."

Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran, And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged Among the bulrush beds, and clutch'd the sword, And strongly wheel'd and threw it. The great brand Made lightnings in the splendour of the moon, And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch, Shot like a streamer of the northern morn, Seen where the moving isles of winter shock By night, with noises of the Northern Sea. So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur: But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him. Three times, and drew him under in the mere. And lightly went the other to the King.

Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath: "Now see I by thine eyes that this is done. Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen?"

And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Should blind my purpose, for I never saw,
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Not tho' I live three lives of mortal men,
So great a miracle as yonder hilt.

Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him;
But when I look'd again, behold an arm,

Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere."

And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard: "My end draws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone. Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight, And bear me to the margin; yet I fear My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."

So saying, from the pavement he half rose, Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm, And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears, And would have spoken, but he found not words; Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee, O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands, And rising bore him thro' the place of tombs.

But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted hard, Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King, Muttering and murmuring at his ear, “Quick, quick! I fear it is too late, and I shall die."

But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge, Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walk'd, Larger than human on the frozen hills.

He heard the deep behind him, and a cry

Before. His own thought drove him like a goad.
Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves.
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels-

And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.

Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge, Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern, Beneath them; and descending they were ware That all the decks were dense with stately forms, Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream-by these Three Queens with crowns of gold: and from them rose A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars, And, as it were one voice, an agony

Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills

All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
Or hath come, since the making of the world.

Then murmur'd Arthur, "Place me in the barge." So to the barge they came. There those three Queens Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept. But she, that rose the tallest of them all

And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,

And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands, And call'd him by his name, complaining loud,

And dropping bitter tears against a brow

Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white
And colourless, and like the wither'd moon
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east;
And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with drops
Of onset; and the light and lustrous curls—
That made his forehead like a rising sun

High from the daïs-throne—were parch'd with dust;
Or, clotted into points and hanging loose,
Mix'd with the knightly growth that fringed his lips.
So like a shatter'd column lay the King;
Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest,
From spur to plume a star of tournament,
Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and charged
Before the eyes of ladies and of kings.

Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that ed
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."

And slowly answer'd Arthur from the barge: "The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?

I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,

Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.

For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seëst-if indeed I
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)—
To the island-valley of Avilion;

go

Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,

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