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"The fate of...is tragic in the essential senseand not merely that superficial sense of the word according to which everymisfortune is called 'tragic.'...In truth innocent suffering of that sort ismerely patheticnot tragicinasmuch as it is not within the sphere of reason.Now suffering--misfortune--comes within the sphere of reason only if it isbrought about by the free will of the subjectwho must be entirely moral andjustifiable; as must be also the power against which that subject proceeds. Thispower must be no merely natural onenor the mere will of a tyrant: because itis only in such case that the man is himselfso to speakguilty of hismisfortune.
"In genuine tragedythenthey must be powers both alikemoral and justifiablewhich from this side and from that come into collision.Two opposed Rights come forth: the one breaks itself to pieces against the other:in this way both alike loss: while both alike are justifiedthe one towards theother: not as if this were rightthat other wrong."
HEGEL. (Translated by W. Pater)Persons Represented
ARTHURKing of Britain.
SIR KAYThe Seneschal.
SIR LANCELOT DU LAKE.
SIR LAMORAK DE GALIS.
SIR TRISTRAM DE LIONES.
SIR PELLEAS OF THE ISLES.Princes of OrkneySons of King Lot and Queen Morgance.
SIR MORDREDPrince of Orkneyson of Arthur and Morgance.
GUINEVEREQueen of Britain.Ladies in attendance on Guinevere.
KNIGHTSSQUIRESYEOMENGUARDSLADIESNUNS&c.The buildingsarmourand dresses are in the style of the early part of theXVth century.ACT I.
SCENE I.The Lists at Caerleon-on-Usk. Upon a da´s
GUINEVERE with her fourladiesand
KAY and a herald at his right hand. Alittle below them
LANCELOTTRISTRAMLAMORAKGAWAINE and many otherknights in armour;
PELLEASMORDRED squiresyeomenand a crowd of folkbeyond.
Arthur. Lancelotthe Queen with all men's loud acclaimHath named thee victorand doth summon theeTo kneel before her Grace.[LANCELOT kneels.Guinevere (laying a wreath upon his head). Sir LancelothereI give thee but a wisp of worthless leavesFor honour's sake: the prize thou hast alreadyKnowing thyself unmatched.Lancelot. A prizemy QueenOr this or thatwas never in my thought;But one word's praiseif any toil might win itFrom the most gracious lips in Christendom.Arthur. A knightly answerfitly rounding offA noble contest: for in all the yearsSince Britain crowned me with Pendragon's crownHere at Caerleonnever have I beheldSo great a press of splendid chivalryGathered within one listsnor ever knownChallenge so keendefence so strenuousValour and courtesy so justly blent.ThouLancelotclaim'st of right the victor's wreathHaving surpassed even thine own renown;Yet let me saydid'st thou not wear it betterThere are a hundred here would wear it well.(To KAY.) But come'tis ended: bid the trumpet soundAnd let the herald cry before we partOur wonted proclamation.Kay. Sirhe is readyHo! the king's herald![Trumpet.]Herald. Oyez! oyez! oyez!And first if there be any in presence hereKnight of the Table Roundthat hath receivedCommission of the king for quest or warAnd therein laboured and therefrom returnedNow let him render up his due accountAnd bide the judgment of our lord the kingOyez! Who comes?Lamorak. ILamorak de Galis.Arthur. Lamorak? Our Order knows no greater name:Did I not match it with a charge as great?Lamorak. My Lordthe charge was great: no less indeedThan kingship: for the full space of a yearTo rule the outland by the Northern SeaDeal peace or war to the king's enemiesAnd justice to his people; to commandWith Arthur's voice of thunderand to strikeWith the swift lightning flash of Arthur's sword.Arthur. I do remember wellyet all this yearI have not so much as dreamed of my wild NorthKnowing it guarded by a hand of ironAnd golden counsels: yet for custom's sakeRecount thy serviceLamorak.Lamorak. Sirbriefly summed'Tis war-built peacethat will not quickly crumble.Arthur. Thou hast our thanks: we'll question thee anonOf all in order; meanwhilepeace or warThou'rt welcomeLamorak: and since thy warsHave wrought our peacetwice welcome! So there come notSome need more pressing that the times portendWe'll keep thee near us.Lamorak. Good my lordyou heapReward on praise and honour on reward.Arthur. Heraldagain thy trumpet.[Trumpet.]Herald. Oyez! oyez! oyez!And next if there be any in presence hereGentle or simplewomanchildor manThat wishing well to live at peace with allNatheless hath suffered or doth suffer wrongNow let the weak and poor forget their fearsAnd crave the justice of our lord the king.Oyez! who comes?[A pause.]Arthur. (To KAY.) None? let him sound again.Kay. My lord'tis needless; up and down the realmThe Table Round have quested year by yearTill there is none perverse or bold enoughTo dare the instant forfeit.Arthur. How say'st thounone?Are there no ladies held against their willNo poor down-troddenno man done to deathBy craft unknightlyno blaspheming heardAgainst our holy faith? The Golden AgeIs come again then! Yetwhy marvel IKnowing my strengthwhose arm is truly bracedWith triple steelLancelot and LamorakAnd Tristrambetwixt whomas all men sayThe knighthood of the world is parted fair.But now to make an endthere's yetmeseemsOne proclamationherald.[Trumpet.]Herald. Oyez! oyez! oyez!And lastif there be any in presence hereWho being but squireyet true withal and strongDoth covet knighthoodand would bind himselfBy the strait vows of Arthur's Table RoundNow let him comewith warrant of his worthAnd make request unto our lord the king.Oyez! who comes?Lancelot. ILancelotmake requestFor my squirePelleas: I have proved him braveEnduringemuloussudden and sure at needAnd in the courtesy of serviceperfect.Thereto his birth is princely; yet I lookTo see his life out-lustre it.Arthur. Enough!Thy suit is grantedLancelot: and for theePelleasthat hearest of thyself such wordsFrom such a mouthremember all thy daysThat Lancelot praised the promise of thy youthAnd thou shalt surely come to more than fame.Gawaine. My lordIGawainealso beg thy favourFor a young kinsman.Arthur. NayGawainethou art late.It doth repent mebut the Table RoundHath but one siege unfilledand that thou hear'stIs pledged to Pelleas. Thou shalt ask againAt some more happy season.(To GUINEVERE) Comemy queenShall we go homeward?Mordred. Ah! my lord! my lord!Hear me one moment's space![He kneels and grasps the king's mantle.Arthur (his robe falling as he turns). And who art thouSo wilful-urgent that thou darest thusFrom a king's shoulder pluck his kingly robe?Mordred (looking fixedly at him). Mordredthe son of Morgance.Arthur. Ha! thou sayest?Mordred. Mordredthe son of Morgance.Arthur. NayI hear theeAnd for the name's sake pardon. What's thy plaint?What wilt thou?Mordred. Knighthood of the Table Round.Arthur. Thou too? Hast thou not heard even now--Mordred. Aymy lordIt was for me that Gawaine made request.Arthur. And thereto had his answer. What? is there more?Mordred. Aythis my lord:Morgancethe queenmy mothersending meHer youngest hitherbade me boldly askThis boon of knighthoodsaying"And if he doubtThou shalt entreat him by the memoryOf his own youthwhen I from Orkney cameOn a far embassageand made with himThat lasting treaty."[ARTHUR looks hard on MORDRED and is silent.Guinevere (aside to LANCELOT). Mark how the king is moved!Anger and policy divide his mindWith more than common tumult.Lancelot. 'Tis no wonder:The habit of command so long ingrainedBrooks not a suit urged by any mouthSave onemy queen.Guinevere (smiling). Listen!Arthur (half to himself). That lasting treaty!(aloud) AyMordredpartly for that treaty's sakeAnd partly toothat something in thy faceStirs me with presage of a name for theeBeyond thy fellowsthou shalt have thy willThough howI know not yet.[He turns to go.Kay. Sir--Arthur. Stay me not;I know thy scruplesKay; but I have swornHe shall be knightknight of our Table RoundThough I myself must yield my place to him.[GUINEVERE and ARTHUR go out followed byladiesknightssquiresand men-at-arms.ACT I.
SCENE II.Caerleon: the Queen's Bower.
Enter GUINEVERE with Ladies attending her.Guinevere. Thanksye may leave me now; for some short spaceI shall not need you. Enidgo not thou.[The others go out.Enid. Madamyou are tired.Guinevere. Ay'twas a weary day.Enid. Weary? Oh! madamnow you jest with me!Think you I saw not--up on the da´s there--How your eyes kindled when the trumpets rangAnd every time those two great glittering wavesThundered along to the shockyou clenched your handsAnd leaned a little forwardand your breathCaughtwhile the mellay clashed and clung and brokeAnd clashed again; and when the warder fellAnd youthe Queen of Tourneyrose to crownOur noblest knight--think you I marked not thenThe happy pride that gave your quivering voiceThat deep-strung note of challenge? Dearest madamWas it not so?Guinevere. NayEnidyea and nayProud was I--yeaand who would not be proud?But happy! Yeaand I was happy tooWhile he was there before meand my thoughtA moment slumbered--but to wake--to think--To see the one thing I have lacked in lifeThe one thing worth possession--ah! thou knowestThat I was wed while I was half a childAnd found not this till I had signed awayMy right to grasp it--and the slow years bringNought but endurance--bitterer stillthere comeDays like to-daypoignant with needless proofOf loss immeasurableand rack my heartWith a vain longing to unravel lifeAnd weave the pattern fresh--and then thou sayestIt was not wearyEnid!Enid. Oh! dear ladyForgive meI was blindI should have seen--And I remember I have sometimes thought--Why did you never tell me?Guinevere. Only I thinkBecause I never yet have felt so weakAs to-day left me--Hark! a foot without!Let no one enter--give me a moment yet--Now open--Well? Who is it?Enid. Madamhis page--He craves an audience of the queen.Guinevere. Why gladlyTell him--is it done?--andEnidwhen he comesWait thou withoutdear childand see that noneBreak in upon our conference.Enid. Oh! madamNot--not alone! not now! you are not yourselfLet me stay with you--I am true and secret.Guinevere. NayEnidtrust me'tis the queen he seeksAnd he shall find her!There's his step withoutI am ready.Enid (kissing her hand). Dearest lady!Guinevere. Bring him in.Enter LANCELOT hurriedly: ENID goes out.Lancelot. My QueenI am come--(He stops abruptly.)Guinevere. Surely Sir Lancelot knowsCome for what cause he mayhe is welcome here.Lancelot. Oh! say not thatnot that; for I am comeTo take farewell.Guinevere. Farewell?--I cannot--stay--What wert thou saying? My head is tired to-nightAnd thou wert strange and sudden.Lancelot. YeaI am strangeEven to myselfmost strange; and suddennessBefits my purposethat must do the deedBefore repentance wakes.Guinevere. Whythou art distressed:We'll sit awhileand talk of this more calmly.Comelet me guess; the kingit may beneedsThat his right hand should strike some distant wrong.Is it so far distant?Lancelot. I must part to-nightFor Joyous Gard.Guinevere. Ah'tis trouble calls thee homeNot the king's service? Then some rebel knightGrudging thine overlordshipthinks it easyTo brave an absent prince; but thou'lt be goneHow long at most?Lancelot. I shall be gone the restOf all my life-days.Guinevere. Now may God defend thee!But 'tis not like thy high victorious heartTo brood on danger.Lancelot. Alas! you know me not!I have brooded longtoo longand now must flyLest worse befall than danger.Guinevere. Thou must fly?When has thou fled? But stay--'tis hence thou goest;The peril's herethen?Lancelot. Aymost truly hereImminent--here and now!--farewellmy QueenFarewellI dare not linger.Guinevere (in a low voice). Peril here?I know not--what--thou sayest--Lancelot. You shall not know:Only what's weakest in me could desireThat you should know: farewell!Guinevere. Stayart thou notPerchance too suddenLancelottoo resignedTo thine own weaknesswhen with patient craftOr help of strong allianceeven yetThou might'st endureand by enduring breakThe onset of thy foes?Lancelot. Ohstay me not!God knows I have endured! What is there leftWhat patiencewhat alliance?Guinevere. Mine! the queen's!Lancelot. Ohmockery! most unguarded stroke of all!Thy words against their merciful intentDrive the steel deeper.Guinevere. NayLancelothear me yetWhat if this secret enemy of thineThreatened me too? What if my life with thineLay strangling in the toilsthe self-same toilsWild with one hope and dumb with one despair?Lancelot. Guinevere! Guinevere! What hast thou said ?I dare not understand thee!Guinevere. Must my tongueCry it more loudly than my beating heart?Can'st thou not read a woman's eyes?Lancelot. O Death!Remember not my blind and faithless prayersLet not the end be yet!Guinevere. Ahreckless heart!How long before thou wilt repent againAnd crave Death's mercy-stroke? Forget thou notBecause a sudden gleam hath touched the worldThat 'tis but lightningborn of the storm itselfAnd for a moment only cleaves the gloomThat deepens round us. Canst thou still endureTo grope in darknessdoubtful of the endWith but a voice to guide thy faltering feet?Lancelot. My Queen--let storm-clouds gather as they willWhy should we stay to brave them? Far awayLies Joyous Gard: there sleeps the windless skyThere dreams the sunlit summer of our life.Comelet us seek it: art thou silent still?Why are thine eyes so rapt and so forlornMy Guinevere?Guinevere. Oh! Lancelotcall me notBy a false name: since I am GuinevereI am not thine: if I were thine indeedI were myself no more: which would'st thou have meThineor the woman thou hast known and loved?Lancelot. Naybeing mine thou shalt be most thyself.How could'st thou truly livewhen all these yearsThy will hath been another's? Not a roseIn all the forest comes to bud and bloom--Her veriest life and being--till she 'scapesThe cold embrace of earthand stretches forthFree arms to the free air. I offer thee--Nayon my knees I humbly pray thee take--The life thou owest to thy truer selfThe life thy soul desireth.Guinevere. Lancelot! Lancelot!I am the king's--nayhear me to the endI know thy thought--'tis true I was a child'Tis true that with a child's consent I gaveI knew not whatfor that I did not need:Yet did I pledge my troth; and therewithalTook in return a true man's single faithAnd in my keeping ever since have heldHis welfare and his peace.Lancelot. The bargain's nought!'Twas blindfold: no man's bound by such a pact.Hewhen he made itthereby made it voidAnd took thee at his peril.Guinevere. Yet am I boundNot by my promiseif thou wiltbut stillBy that which followed: how can I escapeThe memory of his bounty?Lancelot. Ohbethink theeHast thou not said even nowhe gave thee noughtBut that thou did'st not need?Guinevere. Ah! but he gave!And I accepted gladly: day by dayYear after yearI have taken countless gifts--His thronethe splendour of his namea lifeAll-honouredall-befriended and secureThe constant service of his silent careAndgreater stillto share his kingly thoughtFor the land's weal: thou canst not say that theseThese that I tookand learned at last to needDeserve no payment.Lancelot. They were more than paidBy grace of mere acceptance: thou hast givenDay after daythou say'stand year by yearGold for his silver--Guinevere. Lancelotif 'twere soYet is there more between the king and meThan such exchange can ransom: when we weddedAyfrom the day when first he saw my faceAnd shrined it in his thoughthe has kept for meIn sacred dedicationthe one giftThat none can offer twicethe crown of loveThe undivided faith of body and soul.Thou'rt silent--nayI love thee but the more;Some challenges no man may answer toAnd not be tarnished. Oh! my peerless knightEnforce my will with thineand we'll contestThis praise with Arthur: Love's a noble nameBut Faith's a nobler: how can thou and IEndure to lack it? What! Shall he be pureAnd Guinevere break troth? Shall he be strongAnd Lancelot falter? Naywhile Arthur's kingKing of himselfno less will I be queenAnd thouhis prince of comrades.Lancelot. Ha! by my lifeThere's more of knighthood in a woman's heartThan the Round Table musters! Thou hast wroughtPassion itself to such a generous heatThat Love for Love's sake hath surrendered himExulting into thrall.Guinevere. There Lancelot spoke!There rang the flawless shield! O lover mineSince we must partI bless thee for the wordThat makes the parting easier! Fare thee well:I have crowned thee twice to-day: let me not liveTo see thee less victorious.Lancelot. Fear it not!My thought is as thy thoughtand all my mindSet to the measure of thy will. Farewell![He goes out and ENID returns.Enid. Ohdo not weep! What is it? rest you here.Was it so hard then?Guinevere. Hard? Oh Enid! Enid!ACT II.
SCENE I.Camelot: a terrace below the Great Hall.
AGRAVAINE enterspresently through a gatewaybut is at first unseen.
Mordred. It shall be! it shall be! but this waitingWill fret my heart-strings through!Agravaine (aside). Ha! my brother MordredMaking confession to himself--and me.[He withdraws under the gateway.Pity the sinner's youngand bears a shieldSo unbesmirched: I might have gathered elseSomething of import.[A silence.]Wellif that's the sum'Tis time for absolution.[He steps forward.(Aloud) How nowMordred?Aloneman? Yet I thought a moment sinceI heard the sound of voices.Mordred. Ayvery likely.Voices there werebut all of them were mine.I am a very tumultAgravaineOf clamorous voices: Youth and Youth's desiresHope and ambition and indignant strengthCry from within me"How shall life be lifeThus thwarted and fore-ordered?"Agravaine. "Thus?" If I take theeThere's treason there.Mordred. What then? to tyrants' earsTruth may be treason.Agravaine. Well'tis truth; we areSomewhat--o'er-harnessed--with these vows of ours;He's wise who takes discretion when there's needSoftly to slip or break them.Mordred. Break? Never!I would destroy them!Agravaine. Welldestroy or breakThere's but the difference of a word between us.Mordred. Not so! not so! for what thou counsellestI deem dishonour--misconceive me notAs censuring thee--I know thy words were bornOf tenderness towards my suspected faultNot of self-sparing baseness--but these vowsThese laws of the Table Round--themselves indeedEnjoining nought of act or abstinenceThat is not noble and most justly dearTo the soul of knighthood--in despite of thatAre by their mere existence tyrannousUnnaturalhateful!Agravaine. I long have held them hatefulBut have not bent so keen a glance as thineTo spy the wherefore.Mordred. Wherefore? Is it not plain?Life's not a mummer's dancethat we should walk itStiffly composed and following one by oneThe same set figure: 'tis most orderlyWhen ordered leastand only then secureFrom waywardness when each man's acts are flowersOf his own rooted will.Agravaine. Certesmy brotherIf thou wert gardener herethe Court would yieldA pretty posy--of somewhat diverse hues!Mordred. ThereAgravainethou speak'st the common wordOf priests and princes: but I will not hear it:--Look wide into the worldand mark how natureGuides every living thingand never oneBut keeps the age-long customs of his kindBy inborn virtue: is it to be believedThat men alone come of a lawless stockAnd know not their own good? No! cease to warpTheir free intent by covenant or commandAnd thou shalt see them spring like forest treesStraighttalland comely.Agravaine. Woodman and gardener too!But comethou'rt in the rightI'll not dispute:Men are alike--all humanat the best.Mordred. Nayat the worst.Agravaine. So be itat the worst.We are agreed: what then?Mordred. Why thenwould to GodAll Camelotall Britainall the worldWere of one mind with us!Agravaine. Aybut they are not:And casting nets too wide is like to meanDrawing them empty: Britain and the worldAre nought to thee: bethink theeman'tis hereThou standesthere amidst of Arthur's CourtStandest alone against the general voiceAnd the king's ordinance.Mordred. Ha! the general voice!I have ever noted that what all men sayFew thinkand fewer still have thought upon.Mine is a reasoned faithand soon or lateThey'll hear and hold it.Agravaine. Some might come to hold itIf they would hear: but I have warned theeMordredThy faith is treason.Mordred. It shall not be for long.I will be waryand begin to speakWith none but such as owe me some regard:My brothers first: our kindred: here and thereA trusted comrade; so by one and oneI'll build myself a secret fellowshipThat may defy impeachment: what is treasonMuttered by one mouthearns another nameWhen many shout it.Agravaine. True: then 'tis called rebellion.Mordred. I care not if it were: since time beganFreedom hath been rebellion.Agravaine. Since our time beganThe end of treason hath been banishmentAnd of rebelliondeath.Mordred. For meneither!Some may betray my counselsome turn backWhen battle's joinedbut tide what will betideNo man may judge mesave the king himself.Agravaine. Judgment enoughGod wot!Mordred. Yeafor all men else:But I and mine stand not within his doom.Agravaine. Prithee how's that?Mordred. I will not tell thee now.Agravaine. No! nor this yearnor this hundred years!So 'tis with youth--some slight indulgence givenHe struts on airand thinks to stand henceforthAbove the law: 'tis a vain confidenceAnd will undo thee.Mordred. Now on my knightly honourI swear it is not vain!Agravaine. I'll trust my lifeTo no man's knightly honour: mark thou!--if IIf wethy kindredband ourselves with theeTo challenge oddsand ride a desperate tiltAgainst unblunted spearswe must be toldIn the last perilwhat's this vaunted ransomOf price beyond refusalto buy backOur forfeit lives.Mordred. Thou know'st our House of OrkneyShares the blood of Pendragon--Agravaine. Out! childout!Back to thy toys! meddle no more with men.Mordred. I will not so be scorned--Agravaine. Our House of Orkney!Blood of Pendragon! Whywert thou Arthur's son--Mordred. I am Arthur's son![A silence.]Agravaine. Thou! who hath told thee so?Mordred. My mother.Agravaine. What mother?Mordred. NayI would not would thee--She is mine tooremember.Agravaine. Tush! she's womanAnd woman's frailand frailty courts reproach.Who spoke of blame? But hear me tell theeMordredThou hast devised this infamous reportCoveting lordship--thou the last and least--Over thine elder brethren.Mordred. Get thee to OrkneyAnd ask of Morganceif thou dar'stthe nameOf Mordred's father!Agravaine. Naymy dearest brotherI did but try theefor thy news was suddenAnd full of wonder; trust me I doubt thee not;There's Arthur in thy face. We'll speak of thisWith Gaheris and Gawaine: Gareth too:We are all thy brethren still; we'll bear aloftThe banner of thy rightand stand hereafterFour-square about thy throneto lift from theeThe weight of kingship.Mordred. For thy good will I thank thee.Yet I could almost wish--but thou'lt be close--We'll have more conference: for an hour or twainI am promised now: meanwhile speak not with anyTill after counsel taken.[MORDRED goes out.Agravaine. Nothing of import!Fool! to forget that even sinless youthMay be a sin incarnatedamned from birthWith him that fathered it.ACT II.
SCENE II.The Great Hall at Camelot.
ARTHURGUINEVERE and the Round Tableassembledexcept
Arthur. Is it not hard on noon? I thought to-dayShould bring us messengers from Constantine.Kay. Sirthey are comeand will be present hereIn briefest space.Bedivere. My lordyou did command meTo stir your memory touching certain plaintsFrom the South Marches.Arthur. Say onBedivereWhat time is left we grant thee.PELLEAS enters hastily.Pelleas. Where is the king?Justice! the king's justice on a traitor!Vengeance sudden and sharp! or give my swordInto my hand again!Lancelot. Pelleas?Kay. What noise is thisAnd whence these mannerssirrah? The king but nowHath opened conference with Sir Bedivere:Wait thou thy turn.Pelleas. (To ARTHUR.) Oh! bid me not waitmy lordI cannotI have been waiting all these years--Since daybreak--yea! since daybreak!Lancelot. Alas! he is mad.I pray yousirforbear him.[He speaks with PELLEAS aside.Guinevere. Oh! call not madnessThis anguish of the heart that forces griefFrom lips unwitting! I beseech yousirLet not the poison longer work in himLest he be mad in truth. Sir BedivereAs thou art courteousstand not on thy rights--Yield him thy place.Bedivere. Madamwith all my heartSo that the king forbid not.Arthur. To-morrow thenWe'll hear theeBediverenor shall thy causeLose by delay.ComePelleasstand thou forth.What is the justice thou hast claimed of us?Who is it hath wronged thee?NayI hear thee not:Thy lips move without sound: fear not to nameThy foe: if there be justice under heavenSo that thy quarrel's righteousthou shalt find it.Pelleas. Gawaine! Gawaine! My lordI slew him notHe's of the Table Round--ohtraitorous heart!All vows together broken!Mordred. Gawaine? Thou darest--My lordhear not this madman.Arthur. SilenceMordred.This must be heard.Sir Pelleas of the IslesRemember where thou standest; with what vowsBound to our orderand to this thy foe:Weigh well thy wordsand even as thou hopestTo answer thine accuser at the DoomNow without malice or addition bringThy charge against thy fellow.Pelleas. Naymy lordIndeed this passion that hath marred my speechKnows nought of malice: nor could very maliceDevise addition here.I think 'tis knownOf all men presenthow that many a dayI loved and wooed a lady passing fairWith unrequited service.Guinevere. YeaSir PelleasAnd there's no gentle heart in CamelotBut wished thee speedand held her all too proudTo scorn such honour.Pelleas. Ah! madamof gentle heartsYours is the queenand well may speak for such.But hers was hard: she took my one poor gift--My prize of tourney--tossed it to her squiresMocked my despairand parted from the Court.I following to her castle found the gatesThrice barred against methat I might not gainEven her disdainful presence. Then there cameThis Gawaine: heard my taleand lightly laughed"I know this kind" he said"Lend me thine armsI'll say I conquered theeand once withinI'll draw her on to pitythence to love theeAnd with the second morningcome againTo bring thee to thy triumph."Oh! I was fooled!I clutched the shadow of hopegave him my arms--Save my sword only--hid meand watched him forth.He passed; I heard him parley at the gatesAnd the bridge ring beneath him: since that hourI have heard no more his footfall or his voice.Mordred. Why this is nought!Arthur. Let be!--Sir PelleasThus far thou hast but justified thy painNot thy impeachment: nothing there is shownAgainst Sir Gawaine's honour.Pelleas. Sirhear to the end.Day passedand night: the second day came roundThe day of promise: I waited hour by hour:He came not: yet I waited: evening fell:I waited still: at midnightbeing on fireI wandered to those gatesand found them wideThe courtyard emptyall the castle darkIts chambers void: a garden lay beyondWherein were three pavilions--Ah! my lordI cannot tell the end!Lancelot. Sirgive me leaveHe hath told it in mine ear: he found them thereIn sleep togetherpride by treachery:So turned and left themturned and came againAnd found them sleepingand in his heart he longedTo slay them both: yet would not so destroyThe High Order of Knighthood as to strikeA sleeping man--no! though he came on himAt the very midnight of his thievish lust.This is the end--he laid his naked swordAthwart their throatsand left them there to sleepUnto a dawn of shame.[A silence.]Guinevere. Sirwill you notGive him such instant comfort as you may?Arthur. I will do justice.Mordred. My lordmy brother GawaineBeing absentcannot dash this slander downAs yet he will: but even now the taleShows like a rotten garment backed and piecedWith unmatched colours: marked you Gawaine hereProffering a service no man ever owedTo his most cherished friendhere rendering lessThan his mere duty to a comrade:--nowHe founds deliberate schemes of deepest craftOn chanceand wayward impulse; nowsupineAt the very moment of foreseen pusuitHe bares in guilty sleep his forfeit lifeTo the stroke of vengeance!Who can justly weighWhat an eavesdropper sees through eyes inflamedWith starved and jealous passion? 'Tis well saidSuspicionlike the prowling beasts of preySees most in darkness.Arthur. Mordredenvenom notWith angry countercharge this sore debate.Start not: I know thee full of knightly prideAnd high-strung courageand I praise in heeThe love thou bear'st thy brother: yet by hot wordsThou wrong'st a cause that only truth can saveAnd not defiance.Pelleas. What should he make with truth?Where is my sword? Never before came truthSo near his traitor's throat!Lancelot. Peacefriend! hear the king.Arthur. For thee tooPelleasit were wiselier doneTo leave with us thy quarrel: the third day henceThou shalt be heard againand face to faceChallenge Sir Gawaine to the proofnor lackThine utmost right. 'Tis true thou dost accuseOne who is kinand hath been friendto usAnd for our Order's sake his spotless fameIs dear past utterance--yet stablish halfOf this thy chargeand by my kingly faithAnd honour of knighthoodI will cast him forthTo herd among his kindand feed on husksIn the outer desert of brute heathendom.ACT II.
SCENE III. Camelot. The King's Chamber.
Arthur. What would'st thouKaywith me?Kay. Your pardonsirI would not vex your studybut yourselfGave me command to bring young Mordred hither;He hath been pleased to comeand for the timeAwaits your summons.Arthur. 'Tis well: bid him within.And leave usKay; I know thou lov'st him not.Kay. Naysirindeedmy quarrel's not with himBut with his youth: as though the world were madeFor boys to whip their toys in!Arthur. Wellno matter now.[KAY goes out: ARTHUR leans his head on his hand.Enter MORDRED.Mordred. SirI am here.Arthur (looking up). Mordredthat which I must speakI have pondered long: remember if with painThou hearest itI too have borne this griefAnd bear it twice in wounding thine and thee.Gawaine hath been with me.Mordred. SirI perceiveHe has not prospered: let me then be boldTo plead for him; to urge his old reputeHis tried obedience and untarnished faithSuch as when Justice holds the balancemustBear weightand fling the oaths of unproved menHigh to the beam.Arthur. NayMordredI would not have itThat Gawaine's word should fail of due accountBy a straw's reckoning: moreI have cast therewithThe makeweight of my trust: but voice on voiceOf unbought witness heaps the opposing scaleSo that no arm of friendship or of faithCan lift it longer.Mordred. What witness and what voices?Arthur. The holy priorwhose woodland cloister gaveSir Pelleas lodgingunto whom he baredHis nest of hopes yet warm with fluttering life:The folk of yonder castledames and squiresWho saw that shameful wooing: my own knightsWho summoned Gawaine forth and bore him hitherStill dight in Pelleas' armourblazoned stillWith Pelleas' colours--all in fatal sequenceTell forth one tale.Mordred. A truncheon for their tale!Whyfifty such would splinter in the shockOf Gawaine's full denial!Arthur. I would to HeavenHe had denied: he gave me never onceA forthright "nay" but foiled me warilyWith question parrying question. No! past hopeHe is guilty--guilty--and to-morrow's noonMust hear the word that bans him.Mordred (with a violent gesture). Must?Arthur. 'Twas for thisI called thee hither: tho' his sin be grossAnd but to think on it my indignant heartHisses and glows fire-hardened--yet I cannotEndure to watch with just relentless eyesMy sentence branding shame into his faceUpturned to mine.Mordred. Well?Arthur. Mordredas thou art liegeTo me the kingand lov'st thy brother stillSee that to-morrow find him fledbeyondThe sight and voice of justice: if he have sinnedIs it not enough to suffer lifelong death?Mordred. If he have sinned! but that is yet to be prove.There's nought in all their witness: nought in the lackOf clear denial: not the act itselfBut the act mistimedmismanneredor misaimedMakes up the crime: let all be granted trueTrue that he promisedtrue that he set forthTo woo in Pelleas' colourstrue that he wonThe lady for himself; is that to sayHe promised not in faithor set not forthWith honour?--laboured not till hope was pastIn Pelleas' causebefore he urged his own?Was not this prize a prize for all the worldNot Pelleas only? Nayfor all the worldSave Pelleas only! And shall he claim to keepFrom all men else that which himself must lackOr failingcry for vengeance?Arthur. I too have leanedUpon that reedand found it all too frail.What though it were notwhat though Pelleas' wrongsVanish in merest envythere remainsA blacker treason: he hath sold himselfBetrayed a woman's trustand broke the chierOf the high vows wherewith we sought to bindThis kingdom's weakness into sheaves of strength:--The vow of a chaste life.Mordred. Never word of mineGlance lightly on that sin! Yet so the moreDo I esteem it far beyond the forceOf vows to conquer. If I could believe--What I'll deny till seeing strike me dumb--That Gawaine so hath fallentheneven thenI would entreat you leave him to the voiceOf his own soulthat shall require of himHer murdered peace.Arthur. Alas! I must believe;God knows how sadly!--and for all my willTo pardon Gawaine for our kinship's sakeAnd the old-time love between usI am the kingAnd dare not in my kingly office failThe common welfare.Mordred. I am not driven to pleadAgainst the common welfare: Gawaine's causeIs but of private noteentangling noneBeside himself and Pelleas.Arthur. I would it were soBut such a challenge cried in open hallRings ever loud and loudertill the realmThrough every fibre of its corporate lifeAches with the scandal.No! my mind is fixed.I have heard theeMordredwith an ear that longedTo bear persuasion's message: none hath reachedThe inner chamber where my conscience waitsEnthroned in steadfast anguish. Leave me now:Let this vain striving end.Mordred. By the light of heaven!And I will end it! There's a shaft unspedWithin my quiver yetthat shall not missTo cleave this coil; thoughsave for life and deathI had not drawn it. Scandal? Wit you wellThe doom that falls on Gawaine shall not spareWith the same stroke to hurl a greater nameIn more tremendous ruin!Arthur. Hold! thy wordsAre wildwithout respect: for thy grief's sakeThey shall not be remembered.Mordred. Forgive my speechIf it have slipped beneath so great a load.I rave not: hear me: Gawaine's called unchasteBut what far fouler name shall hiss the deedOf him thathonouring not his chosen brideHeld it not shame to rob his kinsman's crownOf its most treasured splendour?Arthur. Now in good truthBut thou dost rave.Mordred. Then I am not the firstHath raved so--in good truth--nor yet the lastThat--in good truth--shall reckon Gawaine's faultWhite to the blackness of the hand that smites him.[He points to Arthur's hand.Arthur. Blackness? I know not how thou darest--[A pause.]Nay!Enough! I will no longer fence with theeIn this false twilight: thou hast struck thy pointUpon my lifes one flaw: I do confess it.What then? What then? Shall I not have my will?Not dare do justice? Whyin all my daysNo manno thingno thought hath yet prevailedTo turn me from my pathand dost thou hopeTo bear me backward with thy stripling hand?Mordred. NayI have done with hoping: by your leaveI'll quit you now.[He turns as if to go.Arthur. StayMordred: wherefore this haste?I fear we are not yet so wholly at oneAs my endeavour purposed.Mordred. IndeedI thinkWe are agreed: I pray you let me go.Arthur. Whither?Mordred. To Gawainefirst.Arthur. Wellas thou wilt.But in thy counsels be deliberate still:Let him not part to-night.Mordred. Nonot to-night.[He goes out.ACT II.
SCENE IV.Camelot: a guard-room at night.
AGRAVAINE in the outer chamber alone:guard within.
Enter Lancelot with Bedivere.Lancelot. What said the king to Mordred?Bedivere. I heard not that.Here's Agravaine; if it be known to anyHe'll surely tell us.Lancelot. Naydo not trouble him:Gawaine's his brother still; I could not bearTo gain the tidings of our rich contentFrom him that's beggared by it. Yonder's the guardWe'll gather something.[They pass in and speak with the guard.Agravaine (looking after them). Lancelot! I heard enoughI know his errand! Unbred cock of the yard!He would be sure his foes are maimed and spurlessBefore he crows his spite. Ha! for this onceWe'll pluck some of his plumage!LANCELOT and BEDIVERE return.Lancelot. Still with the king?I marvel wherefore. Let us walk withoutAnd shortly come again.Bedivere. That would I gladlyBut the time fails me; I am called elsewhere.[They go out.Enter MORDRED from within.Agravaine. Mordred! at last!(Coming quickly to meet him.) The issuemanthe issue?Mordred. Nought hath been promised: I have told the kingThat Gawaine's innocent.Agravaine. What! no more?Mordred. Be patient.He would not be convinced.Agravaine. Ha! ha!Mordred. ' I granted himSome part of the accusationand besoughtThat Gawaine's sin might only be avengedBy Gawaine's conscience.Agravaine. Oh! prate no more of GawaineWhat of thy secretman? How sped thy threat?Is it true? Was Arthur shaken? Have we foundA gag to stifle judgment in his throat?Mordred. Be not so violentAgravaine; thy spiritFor all it runs the self-same way with mineJostles and jars me still. I'll answer allSo thou'lt but listen. Arthur's not the manTo stoop his pride beneath an outright threat;Nor did the occasion call me to declareThe secret of my birth.Agravaine. What! thou hast not threatened?Thou hast not told him?Mordred. Patience! that's for a timeWhen all our lives hang clutching at the brinkOf the last sheer abyss; it was not neededTo stay one foot from exile. Never doubtI told enough; beneath my visor'd helmThe king hath seen the face of buried sinGlaring with dreadful eyes.Agravaine. If thou hast told so muchThou hast told him all: 'tis but a step from thisTo stumble on thy birth.Mordred. Naybut he's barredFrom that one step: my mother sent him wordLong sincehis child was lost on stormy seas.Agravaine. Wellwe shall see.Mordred. Ayto-morrow thou shalt seeI have won the game with half my stake in handAnd threefold profit added--Gawaine savedThe king half masteredand my kindred allBound to my cause.Only--I grieve to warWith Lancelot: out of all to cross the oneMost knightly and most noble.Agravaine. Most surethou meanestTo prop the tottering king against our thrust.Mordred. For thattooI am sorry.Agravaine. What say'st thou thenCan we not cleave between their sundered feetSome gulf of mortal hatred? There's a nameWe know--that both--Mordred. Silence! I know it not!But this I knowthat carrion-baited snaresTrap not the sunward eagle.Agravaine. Hist! who comes here?Lancelot again? This time we've news for him.Whither nowMordred?Mordred. I cannot stay to seemInsolentheartless: prithee come thou too.Agravaine. But one word and I'll follow.MORDRED goes out: LANCELOT re-enters alone.Agravaine (greeting LANCELOT). I perceiveSir Lancelot comes to glean what's cast abroadOf the king's purpose.Lancelot. I knowSir AgravaineWhere thine affection's pledgedand so the moreEsteem thy greeting courteous: be sureWere not this matter sharp with two-edged painI would not part so soon. Good-night.Agravaine. StaySir Lancelot!The worst I fain would spare thee; that's to hearIll news from lips indifferent or unkind.Grief loves a sudden onset; be forewarnedAgainst his ambushfront thy heart with steelAnd--thank the friend that warned thee.Lancelot. What! Is there moreThan Pelleas told me?Agravaine. Aythere is more indeedAnd harsher for thy hearing. Gawaine's guilty;So much is old: to-morrow thou shalt learnThat Gawaine's free: but as thou lovest peaceAsk me not wherefore.Lancelot. Guiltythou say'stand free?Then Pelleas hath forgiven? Oh! that's to gainMore than revenge!Agravaine. Nay! that Pelleas may forgiveWe all must hope: but that's no matter here.The king will pardon Gawaine.Lancelot. Now God forbid!I am not hardbut oft 'tis giant InjusticeThatcrouched in Mercy's cloakrobs all the worldTo spare one lawful debt.Agravaine. I am Gawaine's brother:What saves him must content me: yet in truthEven I could wish the well-spring of this graceWere something purer.Lancelot. I cannot grasp thy clue;Pritheebe plainer yet.Agravaine. Then I must utterWhat a less generous hearer might impeachFor sland'rous treason.Lancelot. Hold! I have no right to hearWhat's perilous in the speaking.Agravaine. Naytis thy rightIf but for Pelleas' sake: but thou'lt withhold itFrom all the Table Round?Lancelot. Ay.Agravaine. How to beginSo black a tale! Thou knowest we are not wontTo hate whom we resemblenor to chideThe act whose common use ourselves pursue?So 'tis with Arthur.Lancelot. I hope thou dost not dareTo jest with me! What's thy excuse to linkthe king with Gawaine?Agravaine. Merely that their deedsAre much alike: as like as brothers are.But Arthur's is the elderandto chooseThe far more hideous.Lancelot (suddenly). Aha! "While Arthur's king--King of himself--so long--oh! we'll contestThis praise with Arthur."--Outit is not true!Where is the proof?Agravaine. Thou hast seen within the hourAnd even where thou stand'stthe living proof.Lancelot. Mordred?Agravaine. The son of Arthurand the sonOf MorganceQueen of Orkney.Lancelot. Oh! I am rent!God help us all! Can it be true?Agravaine. Thou doubtest?To-morrow shall persuade thee: if thou hear'stTrue judgment portioned out in yonder hallTo Gawaine's treasonthen cry out upon meTherebefore all: but if the king shall findSome dark and twisted bye-way to avoidThe path of Justicethou shalt own me rightAnddoubtlessgrieve as I do.Sogood-night.[He goes out.Lancelot. To-morrow?God in Heaven!Ah! Guinevere!ACT II.
SCENE V. Camelot: the Great Hall. Enter
Guinevere. At last! at last!ButEnidwhat should this mean?The hall is empty: have we missed the hourOr is there some fresh order?Enid. NaymadamI thinkWe are not here in fault; 'tis Time himselfHath broken tryst: when did his laggard flightKeep pace with beating hearts?Guinevere. Why should my heart beatMore than another's? What have I to doWith Gawaine and his sentence?Enid. Whysurely--surely--Sir Pelleas--Guinevere. WellSir Pelleas--?Enid. He hath been wronged;He is loved of all: besideshis cause is seenTo be Sir Lancelot's own.Guinevere. Is it so? In faithWhose should it be? Lancelot's? I would it wereAnd fear it is not--or I fear it should beAnd would it were not.Have I not had good gameAt thy bewilderment!Oh! what am I sayingWhy come they not?Enid. Hush! they are here!Enter Lancelot.Guinevere. Not now!Lancelotnot now! I pray theenot one wordOr I shall hate thee as I hate the rest.Where is the king?Lancelot. I know not'tis scarcely yetThe hour appointed.Guinevere. LancelotI am distraughtI know not dream from daylight. Was it in sleepI heard the king's voicesharp with agonyOutcrying"I have slain her" and thy voiceThat echoed"I have slain her; yeaand IHave sunk herearth in earth?"Lancelot. Dearest lady mineForget these midnight fears: here are no voicesBut one high fluttering song that greets the dawn.Is not the past well buried?Guinevere. I thought it soA short hour since: thattoowas while I dreamed:Now I am waking.Lancelot. Aywaking to findThy best dreams true.Guinevere. Nolull me not with hopeLet me have truth and rue it. What's their taleOf Arthur's guilt? The yelp of Gawaine's packThat see the lash descending! What's thy promiseOf love and freedom? Gold from fairylandScattered at sunrise with the whirling leaves!Lancelot. How canst thou say so? Let me tell thee againEven as I heard it--Guinevere. No! no! tell me noughtBut how to win back peaceand the old dull painThat I had learned to live with. Let me goBefore my strength break!Lancelot. Guinevere! dear heart'Tis but an hourone hour. Ha! they are coming!PELLEAS and other Knights enter.Madamyour siege is here; if it please your GraceI'll bring you to it.Pelleas. Lancelot! Lancelot! Stay!A word in haste!Lancelot. Forgive meseest thou notAnother service claims me?Guinevere(aside to LANCELOT). Ah! thou'rt cruel.Go back to him.Lancelot. I cannot: though my tongueBade him good-speedmine eyes would rede him death.I am base enoughGod knows I am base enough!But I am not yet practised.Enter Gawaine with Mordred and Agravaine;then GarethLamorakGeraintand others. A great bellstrikes twelve. Silence follows.Gawaine (loudly). Where is the king?Geraint (aside). Mark that!Lamorak. Aythe snake dies hissing; but he dies.Geraint. I am not sure: there's something in that voiceChimes not with mere defiance.Lamorak. Whywhere hast thou beenThese two good days? 'Tis proved upon himprovedPast doubt or dispensation.Herald. Silence! The King!Enter ARTHUR with KAYBEDIVEREand men-at-arms.He takes his seat and looks moodily before him.Arthur. It seemsSir Pelleas--Kay. Sirwere it not bestTo follow ancient usage? Let the heraldSummon the accuser and accused.Arthur. Kay! Kay!What's ancient usage to a heart on fire?Wellhave it so then!Kay. Herald!Herald. In the king's nameStand forth Sir Pelleas of the Isles! Stand forthSir GawainePrince of Orkney!Dost thou stillSir Pelleascharge against thy fellow-knightThe crimes of treachery and unchastity?Pelleas. Still? When a score of voices echo mine!Still? Aythen! Ay!Herald. Sir Gawainethou hast heard.What is thine answer?Arthur. Hold! no more of this!We have had Sir Gawaine's answer: he denies.Kay. Yet for the form's sake--Arthur. Is it for the form's sakeThou'rt bent to thwart meKay? Gawaine denies.Pelleas. That too was in his part. So be itmy lord;But I have tendered witness.Arthur. WhatSir Pelleas!Art thou forgetfulor so newly comeThou hast not yet been taughtthat in this hallThe word of one manoneso that he beKnight of our Orderdrowns the federate noiseOf all the crowd intruding?Pelleas. But these were broughtBy the king's own command--Lamorak (aside). Pelleasart thou mad?Anger him not!Pelleas. Naythen; I'll urge but this:Let the rest go; let his word bear it offAgainst a hundred; yetmy lordforget notI too am knightthe fellow and the peerOf all men now in presence.Arthur. Wellsirwell!What follows?Guinevere. Siryour pardon if I stay youAt an unfitting momentbut meseemsThat's something tangled herethat a friend's handBeing coolermight unravel.Arthur. Madamwhat friend?Guinevere. I thought I saw--Sir Lancelot--Lancelot. I thank your GraceIf the king will--I know not--at a wordThis is Sir Pelleas' drift--oath against oathOne knight is worth another.Pelleas. God forbid!I never said so.Arthur. Wherefore"God forbid"?Dar'st thou dispute it?Pelleas. Thenmy lordmy wirdShould weigh no less than his.Arthur. And Gawaine's wordNo less than thine--Silence!--no less than thineAnd neither outweigh the other.Geraint (aside). Markagain!Did I not tell thee so ? There's Pelleas lostIn a mere ambush. Were it not the king--Lamorak. Whatmanthou doubtest Arthur?Arthur. Sirswe have heardAccuser and accusedour fellows bothAnd both esteemed most noble. Against the honourOf such as thesewith us who know----who know their truthNo witness from without may gain belief.Nor herewhere all are equalmay we dareSet comrade above comrade. Lastlyour vowsForbid that any knight should challenge otherWith word or weapon. And the sum of allIs this: that for the fame of chivalryAnd the realm's peaceI do require you bothSir Pelleas and Sir Gawainefrom this hourIn field and hallin council and in questTo live in strait accordance: to which endThe cause of this your quarrelbeing foundToo dark for judgmentshall be henceforth bannedFrom your lips and from all men'sunder painOf life-long exile.Pelleas. Shall--Arthur (rising). Silence! I have said!KayBedivereattend me![ARTHUR and his train go out: the KNIGHTS drawingapart in silence. Then PELLEAS looks wildly roundand rushes from the hall.Geraint (following). Come! LamorakLancelot!Lancelot. NayI am commanded.Lamorak (bitterly). To hold thy peace! What more? Why so far forthWe are all commanded.[GERAINT and LAMORAK go out. GARETH turns andlooks hard upon GAWAINE.Gareth. Wellcommand or noneI follow truth! [He goes out.Agravaine (mocking). As brothers most are wont!Mordred. Peace! Agravaine.Agravaine. Oh! my lord Mordred's here!I had forgotten. Will it please your GraceTo grant us private audience? GawainecomeLet us all away: we too will follow truth--Since that's the phrase--but at convenient distance![They go outleaving GUINEVEREENID and LANCELOT.GUINEVERE'S face is buried in her hands. ENIDlooks at herand moves towards the door. LANCELOTcomes nearer to GUINEVERE.Lancelot. Wilt thou comeGuinevere?Guinevere (rising suddenly). Yea! to the world's end.ACT III.
SCENE I. Camelot: the Queen's Bower.
Linet. Whatstill unreadyLaurelnot yet cloaked?The horses will be waiting.Laurel. Waiting for whom?Not for usLinet.Linet. Trulynot for me!Thou know'st me better; when the hunt is upHe must be early who's to wait for me.But what's thy meaning?Laurel. Hast thou not been told?I heard an hour ago: 'tis brief enough--Our service is not needed.Linet. Ha! that's to sayWe are supplanted: what's a promise worthWhen favourites plead?Laurel. Wellfor this time thou'rt wrong:If we must stayso too must all the rest.Linet. And Enid?Laurel. Even Enid!Linet. Then I'm content--Or half content--but pritheewhat's her whimTo go two days abroad--two days and nights--Without attendance? Or is he perchanceTo take our places too?Laurel. Truly none dare vouchThat lies not in the future! But to-dayThere's no such pleasant news--merely her GraceIs pleased to change her Grace's mindand leaveThe king to his own sport.Linet. So that the kingMay leave the queen hers: which is not his;Nonor hath been this merry year and more!Wellone man's lossthey sayis other's gainSo none need lack for comfort.Laurel. Thou'rt in witFair fall the day! I would some greater folkHad half thy spiritand something less than halfTheir own chill humour.Linet. Is she sighing still?WhereLaurel?Laurel. Within therecloseted with EnidAnd that dull thingthy sister.Linet. Poor Lionors!She was not always dull: I can rememberBefore she wedded Garethhow her bloodDanced to a quicker tune than well beseemedA maiden's pulses; but the times are changed.Laurel. Why so they arefor I remember tooIt was thy handthy chaste considerate handThat locked the same young pair of crooning dovesSo long in separate cages.Linet. Alas! 'tis trueIn the old days I was cruelbut I trustI have made atonement.Laurel. If thou hast not yetThou shalt; there's matter for thy charityNew come to hearing; worth the hearing too.Iseult--Iseult of Cornwall--Linet. Oh! I know it!But tell me!Laurel. I hear them coming.Linet. Quick thenquick!Oh! tell meLaurel!Laurel. Waitand fare the better.Help me in this: we'll hold a mirror upAnd startle eyes that only look to seeAnother's picture. Ware! and mark her well!Enter GUINEVERE.Guinevere. Linethath Laurel told theewe have thoughtThis late October-tidefor all its brightnessToo cold to lie abroad in? It repents meThat you should lose what little pleasure comesIn the way of service; prompt me that I stay notLong in your debt for this.Linet. I thank youmadam.[GUINEVERE sits musing LAUREL signs to Linet.WellLaurelthou hast made a grave beginningI scarce dare ask the end.Laurel. Nononot now.We should be heardand such heart-searching newsIs not for weary moments.Linet. Shall we go out then?Guinevere. Nodo not: audience so gently askedShould yet be grantedwere I weary indeed;As now I am not; this my mood is noughtBut a faint pang of autumn at the heart:Maybe thy tale will stir me.Laurel. I think it willFor this poor lady too was once a queen--Iseult of Cornwall.Guinevere. Once? Tell me not she is dead?Laurelnot dead?Laurel. Naynor is Tristram deadSave to his faith and greatness.Guinevere. What hast thou heard?Laurel. Is it not black? The king hath been betrayedThese many monthsby his most valiant knightAnd by his queen and wife.Guinevere. No! no!Laurel. The sequel provesWhat hath been long suspected: all such talesHave the same ending. He was taken at last[GUINEVERE makes a gesture of entreaty.But broke his prisonand now they are fled by sea:'Tis saidto Joyous Gard.Guinevere. Oh! thou hast been toldA wild and cruel slander! Joyous Gard?What shelter thinkest thou hath Joyous GardFor such as they are?Linet. Oh! Madamwit you wellThe castle's fairand garnished for the needOf the most noblefit for Lancelot's self--Yeaeven for a queen royal.Guinevere. Ah! thou art youngAnd thy light thought is bouyed above the deepWhere mine sinks anguished.Enid! where is Enid?Pray yougo call her.[LAUREL goes out and returns immediately.Laurel. Madamthe king desires to see your Grace.Guinevere. The king? Where?(aside) Let him not hear this news to-day.Enter ARTHURBEDIVEREand LANCELOT. LAUREL holdsaside the curtain of the door.Arthur. Our thanksfair lady.GuinevereI am comeTo learn thy last resolve: if 'tis for stayingTo take my leavebut if thou'lt ride with usThen to entreat thee hastenwhile the airStill bears the softness of the noonday sun.Shall it be so?Guinevere. Indeed I would be excused:The year grows late: I fear to lie afield.But if 'tis urgent--Arthur. NayI plead not thatIt was but for our pleasure. WellI am sorry.Since then we partthe merrier cheer be yoursWhilst we are roving.Guinevere. The wish is kindfarewell.[ARTHUR and BEDIVERE take leaveand go outtalkingwith LAUREL and LINET. LANCELOT follows as faras the door and then returns to GUINEVERE.Lancelot. Oh! could'st thou think it? to-day of all fairdays?Guinevere. Art thou not bounden to them?Lancelot. Ayfor the goingNot the returning: time's my own for that.They mean no further journey for to-dayThan to the king's pavilion: four long hoursShould bring us thitherless than two will serveFor spurring home: I'll find some clear excuseAnd be with thee by midnight.Guinevere. Canst thou do it?Is it not perilouswith the king so near?Lancelot. Whereforedear heart? These fears of thine are new:Ere nowhe has been nearer.Guinevere. I never told theeBut oft before--'tis shame to be so weak--When I have been most happyand known myselfTwice safe with theeI yet have felt the darknessPulsing around me with the hard-held breathOf stealthy vengeance.Lancelot. Dearestthou'rt not thyselfThy present dread throws back upon the pastThese vain and monstrous shadows. Could'st thou have trembledAnd I not know it?Guinevere. Can I love theeLancelotAnd not forbode the end--yea! at all timesAnd most when most I love thee?Lancelot. Fear not the endAt worst 'tis Joyous Gard.Guinevere. Never! ah! never!She lied to say it must!Lancelot. Naybe not distressed;As my Queen will.But I must part in haste.Sweetbear me in thy heart these tedious hours.Guinevere. Farewellbeloved--and if it be not safe--Lancelot--thou wilt not--Lancelot. Dear Prudencebut I will!I must be rash for both.Comelet me go.Why! thou'rt all cold and shivering!Guinevere. Wherefore not?'Tis long past summer.Wellif it be timeI will not stay thee.Lancelot. Farewell.Guinevere. Bid Enid come.Bid them all come.[LANCELOT goes out.I will not think of it.ACT III.
SCENE II.The King's Pavilion: on a moor: bright moonlight.
Arthur (standing apart and speaking half to himself).'Tis wondrous light: I did not think the moonHad waxed so near her greatest: how sereneWith what unquestioned sovranty she walksHer wide aŰrial palace! The bright hostOf starsher courtiersblink their myriad eyesBefore her full calm gazeand not a cloudDares with rebellious darkness to usurpA hand's-breadth of her vast and tranquil realm.Bedivere. The king is sad to-night; marked you his voiceAt supper-time?Geraint. Ayand yet 'twas not one voice:Sometimes it rose in scornsometimes it sankWeighed low with hidden meaning: now and then'Twas strangely gentleas in times of griefA grown man speaks with childrenhis own painSubdued to a great tenderness.Bedivere. Finely noted!That was the sound of it; and all unlikeOur old imperious Arthur.Kay. Sirsheed it notAll men must have their humours; his will passWith the first mot of the horn.Geraint. WellHeaven send it soAnd bless us from ill tidings!Arthur (rousing himself). Comemy friends!We should be elsewheredreaming of the game.Once moreall's ready? Are the tufters come?Geraint. Sirtwo good hours agoand kennelled yonderWithin a stone's throw.Arthur. What says the harbourer?Bedivere. I spoke with him even now: a hopeful rogue!To hear him talkthe forest's all aliveWith warrantable deer: baytrayand tenThe meanest head among them!Arthur. Good!Mordred. 'Tis a fair windLightwith a tingle of the frosty North.Arthur. Yet 'twas a lowering sunset.Mordred. Aybut the cloudsFollowed the sun and sank close after him.Trust meto-morrow we shall wake to a skyAs clear as this above us.Arthur. So we'll hope.Till thenGod keep us!All. Good-nightmy lord.Arthur. Good-night.[They go outleaving the KING alone.Arthur. I could not tell them: these two days at leastAre something saved from the relentless fangsThat gape to grip us. Two days! why'twill seemAn age of peace hereafter. There's nought I haveBut I would barter it to ride to-morrowFree-hearted one more chase. Oh! LaurelLaurel!Why must she run to pour into mine earSuch news red-hot? Did she not love him then--Tristramwhom all men loved?Nayshe was right!I'll hate him too. Thank God! he falls alone.Enter KAY.Kay. Sirif I set aside your strict commandAnd come at this late hour to trouble youBe sure the cause is grave.Arthur. Whyso am I:The matter fits the time then.Kay. Naysirthe matterIs such as fits no moment in the lifeOf an all-puissant king: so full it isOf bold disorder.Arthur. a! she has told theetoo?What ails the womanthat with reckless handShe spreads contagion broadcast?Kay. Sir'twas no womanBut one of the rangers told me this even nowAnd most discreetlyso that I am to seekWhence your own knowledge comes.Arthur. Thou'rt right: I perceiveOur thoughts have crossed: there's something more then: come!I'll hear it.Kay. Your pardonsirif I beginTo leave my resolution; at first indeedI thought this could not wait: but now I am fearfulSeeing you woundedlest another thrustMay hurt you past endurance.Arthur. Delay does more!Fear notbe short! always my strength reboundsTo front a second blow.Kay. My judgment bows.This is the dolorous tale then: yester-eveSir Lamorakriding home towards CamelotWas in the forest yonder held to bayHalf-armed and helplessby three caitiff knightsWho pulled him from his horseand bound him thereTo bear their heaped reproaches. At the lastEach miscreant stabbed him with a several woundAnd fled: the ranger found himlife and senseFaintbut not wholly ebbed: stanched the last flowAnd for his ghostly comfort brought the priestTo shrive and housel him.Arthur. Kayhold me not strainedUpon the gradual rack of thy slow speech:In one wordall!Kay. Sirat the hour of tierceSir Lamorakafter full confession madeAnd absolution takenyielded upHis sinful spirit.Arthur. Thou might'st have kept that wordFor who deserve it. When they dared reproach him--Lamorak--they dared no lesser villainyThan when they stabbed his body. By what vile namesShall they be infamous--so much he toldBefore he parted?Kay. Nohe named them notBut owned their quarrel righteous--he confessedThey were the kindred of a lady--oneWhose life he had corrupted.Arthur (grasping KAY'S hand and turning away his face).KayKaymy father!Gopray for me. The living and the dead!Gostay not!Kay. I feared that I was wrong to speakYet the time presses: there is need of counselAnd order to be taken.Arthur. Order that noneCome near me! For thyself get thee to sleep.[KAY goes out.I cannot think; the freightage of my mindIs tossed and broken on a shoreless floodOf weltering passions. I have been betrayedBy those whom most I cherished. Came there notUpon their heartseven in that dark hourOf faith's eclipsesome grace of memorySome tenderness up-smouldering at the lastOn the old altars that we built long sinceIn life's most sacred places?Oh! 'tis false!They never loved me: I have been their scornHumoured and duped. Lamorakthou art a cowardThou durst not face my vengeance; thou hast forsakenThy fellow traitor!--ha! but Tristram--TristramIs mine! I'll fell him with a toppling strokeShall make this kingdom echo!God pardon me!I had forgot: the realm's in peril hereWhile I sit brooding on the angry smartOf my own wrongs. What must I do to stayThe creeping of this sinthat like a wormEats out the heart of every tallest shaftWhereon my kingdom's pillared? One more snappedAnd Britainlike a palace underminedCrumbles to Chaos. Death! that I should crouchDully foreboding which of my high hopesShall fail me next--I that a year agoLaughed in my heart "My days indeed must passBut I have built this Orderthat shall keepMy purpose after meand stand unshakenThrough all the changeful ages of the world."Shall it not stand? Was it not well devised?Will God not lend me counsel how to saveA thing so noble? If I knew but whenceThis evil had its birth: the first to fallWas Gawaine--I was weak--but no man guessedOr more than guessedthe fulness of his guilt:None knew that Mordred forced menone could knowWith what fell weapon. Nobeyond all doubtThe mischief sprang not thence: and long agoI have forgiven Mordred.Who dare sayIt is not so? How should I not forgiveWhom I have found so passionately pureSo swift to ring the armoured heel of scornOn every creeping thought and the whole broodOf venomed sayings?Yet I have not plumbedThe secret of this Mordred. True he isHigh-mindedclean of heart: yet ever seemsTo choose my way because it is his ownAnd not from sworn obedience.'Tis strangeBut 'tis a thought that like an April cloudHath often chilled the sunshine of my mind--Gone with a shiver--that till Mordred came--NonoI will not think it! How could heWhose only fault is too impetuous youthAnd unripe counsel--folly! I must beMore weary than I knew. I'll pray awhileAnd sleep perchance thereafter: being but manI dare not hope with blind and selfish cryTo turn aside the ordering of the worldFrom God's eternal purposeyet I knowSomething divine stirs in us while we prayTransforming thought to will.[He kneels.Enter KAY and MORDRED hurriedly.Kay. Backsirrahback!Mordred. I will not.Kay. There can be nothingSo grave to warrant--Mordred. Warrant? there's that should bendonce for all.(To ARTHUR who has risen.) Sira messengerIs come from Camelot: spur never yetDripped red with direr haste: let me not tell itIf you can save me with a leap at truth.Arthur. Whose messenger?Mordred. My brother Agravaine's.He came not with us; for some private causeHe had exchanged his turnand keeps to-nightThe inner guard of the palace.[He pauses.Arthur. Make an end:I am readyMordred.Mordred. He hath sent me wordBy his most trusted squirewho bears for tokenThis signet ringthat when the moon was highSir Lancelot came alone to CamelotAnd passed within the palace.[The King starts: MORDRED looks hard at him fora spaceand goes on.AgravaineSetting the watch at midnightsaw him there--There--he returned not--even now perchanceHe is there.[A silence.]Arthur (in a low voice). WhereMordred?Mordred. With the Queen.[A silence.]Arthur (quietly). Aylet us go.FarewellKay; if I have been harsh with theeI crave thy pardon: we will speak againOf Lamorak's burying.Kay. Sirif you will--God send you peace--to-morrow.Arthur (half to himself). Ayto-morrow.That's in another life.Kay. Pray youforgive meI am an old man: I have served you long:Put not such force upon your grief.Arthur. My friendThou hast misread me: I have striven to-nightWith the dread angel of my destiny:Henceforth I am halt for ever: but I knowThat I shall save my people.Mordredcome!ACT IV.
SCENE I.Open country near Almesbury.
MORDRED alone; behindsquires and yeomenresting. Enter
Mordred. Gawaine! already? But so far from folkI knew thine errand hopeless.Gawaine. A hundred timesIt might have been sobut to-day by fortuneHere at the hand I chanced on all I soughtAnd something more.Mordred. They have been seen then?Gawaine. Where is the king?Mordred. He was beside me but a moment sincePacing and pacing like a sentinelTo keep his thoughts imprisoned.Gawaine. Aywhen I partedI saw how 'twas: the speed of this pursuitHolds sorrow breathless: when the chase is stayedHe cannot choose but hear the instant voiceOf that which rides behind him.Mordred. There thou'rt wide:I do not think him so much grieved as eagerAt grip with strong resolves that will not waitThe time for utterance.But let that passTell me thy news.Gawaine. I scarce had gone a mileBeyond the cross-roadswhen I met a dwarfMounted upon a pack-mule.Mordred. Oh! keep thy mulePackdwarf and all! be briefman!Gawaine. Wellwell! to-dayAt the hour of tierce a lady and two knightsCame to the nunnery at AlmesburyNot seven miles hence: Lancelot and Pelleas(He all but told their names) tarried an hourTo break their fast and ease their lagging steedsThen took the forest southward: they're for FranceI'll warrant it: and when we see them nextTheir faces will be turned this wayand backedWith a rare dust of onset.Mordred. Then the queen--Where is the queen?Gawaine. Why there--in sanctuary--Fordone with flight and terrorleft to hangDay in day out upon the altar stepsSighing for rescue.Mordred. Rescue? Mercy of God!And she shall have it! Are we not all her menSworn to her service with the self-same oathThat made us Arthur's too?Gawaine. Only so longAs to be hers was still to serve the king.I am sorry for herbut the time has comeTo choose our ways; no man can ride at onceTwo roads cross-parted.Mordred. Gawainethey are not partedThey must not be! Aywag thy tolerant headI say they shall not be! What's CamelotWhen the enchantment of that voice hath ceasedTo haunt her chambers? Whom wilt thou call kingWhen the four seas of heathendom break inTo beat our tottering bulwark into moundsOf nameless ruin?Gawaine. Arthur will rule his ownWithout thy help or mine.Mordred. Not without mine!I am his son: I look to follow himAnd with my will no man--not Arthur's self--Shall waste my heritage. There's Tristram goneAnd Lamorakand the twelve that died last nightWith Agravaine--how think'st thouis it a timeTo whet revengeand lop the last great branchWith all his leafage?Gawaine. Ha! Pelleas and the like!Mordred. Such like we scarce could match themman for man;Half the Round Tableand their vanward chiefNo delicate amblerbut the sternest knightUnto his mortal foe that ever yetPut spear in rest.Gawaine. WellHeaven defend the weak!Since we are the weak: for certesmortal foesTo all that hold with Lancelot and the queenWe are and must beMordred. Never!Gawaine. Oh! Thou'rt dull to-day:Loved I not Lancelot? When have I been heardTo blame the queen for choosing where she would?Oft-times I warned these meddlers; they are the causeOf their own death: I follow not revengeBut kings are hard to oust; and last night's workForbids accordance.Mordred. Then what last night hath doneTo-night shall undo:--Gawainehear my planA plan to end all well: she is therethou sayestAnd Arthur knows not; let him not know yet;Sothe time's mine: and the place too is mine--The abbey yonder--Kay and BedivereHave word to meet us there; till darkness fallTheir readiest speed cannot make good the tryst.He must await them: there's the nick of fortuneWhere the adventure dovetails with the wish.I'll plot their meeting--Arthur and the queen--For soft and pensive twilight: strange it were--Now that the fever's passed and left her bloodTo its noble rhythm--if she longed notFor silence and forgiveness; passing strangeIf Arthur could deny her aught so askedAs she will ask it.Gawaine. And Lancelot?Mordred. Time enough:First let me fly this pitch.Gawaine. When thou hast stoopedAnd missed--Mordred. Nay! miss I shall not: Gawainemark!If--ah! if he should find it in his heartTo judge her where he hath not judged himselfAnd to deny her fault that tendernessHis own more loudly cries forI'll not standTo see injustice doneand the fell gripOf this old tyranny we swore to looseClenched tight and tighter on the aching throatsThat ask but leave to breathe: I saved thee onceWith half the truth; this time I'll venture allAy! and win all!Gawaine. WellMordredgo thy way.Thou'rt a bold spirit: if the rest of usCould match the sanguine colour of thy thoughtsPerchance we too might come to govern kingsAnd do the thing we would.Mordred. Hist! yonder he comes.Let us go meet him!Remembernought of the queen.ACT IV.
SCENE II.Almesbury: a chapel in the Nunnery. Within the screen the Nuns at evensong:among them
GUINEVERE in white clothes and black: without
Nuns (chanting).In covertendo Dominus captivitatem Sion;Facti sumus sicut somniantes.Tunc repletum est risu os nostrum;Et lingua nostra exultatione.Tunc dicebant inter gentes;Magnificavit Dominus facere cum istis.Magnificavit Dominus facere nobiscum:Facti sumus lŠltantes.Converte Domine captivitatem nostram;Sicut rivos in Austro.Qui seminant in lacrimis;In exultatione metent.Qui ambulans ibat et flebatPortans ad seminandum sementem:Veniens veniet in exultationePortans suos manipulos.[The nuns go out: GUINEVERE is left kneeling before thealtar: ARTHUR and MORDRED in the ante-chapel.Arthur (to himself). I heard a voice which sangSo sweetly that it seemed none earthly thing."He that now goeth weeping on his wayShall come again: shall doubtless come with joyAnd bring"--Ah! fair sweet Father Jesu Christ!If it might be!Nevernever again.[MORDRED goes softly out unperceived: GUINEVERE risesand comes through the screen towards ARTHUR.Arthur. ThouGuinevere?Guinevere. Is it not to take me thenThat you art come?Arthur. I know not: I followed thee--I thought--I cannot tell thee--Guinevere. Be not at painsTo spare me truth: I know that I am judged;Yea! but for shelter of this holy placeDoomed to the death by fire.Arthur. That were the workOf mere revenge: thou knowest methou knowestThat where love issuch anger and such dreadFind but a moment's foothold: seest thou notMy wrath is fallen? Let thy fears go with itInto the dark abyss from which they sprang.[He pauses: she is silent.Doubt not; thou'rt free.Guinevere. Free! for the hope of that one wordI have given allhonour and peace and name?And now--'tis but a word; a breatha soundThat with a barren echo mocks my cry.Yeaand the very wish was a fool's wishI know it now; what passionate revoltWhat tearswhat prayerswhat fierce desire of lifeCan wholly blot the pastor sear awayThe memory of the soul? Not God HimselfCan make undone that which hath once been done.Take back thy gift of freedom: were it all--Naywere it half of that for which I longed'Tis not for me: my just reward is death;I have sinned the twofold sin of them that striveTo better wrong by wrong.Arthur. Have I not saidTrue love desires not justice or revengeBut only thisto love and to forgive--And to be loved again.Ah! Guinevere!Hast thou then never loved me? Have my yearsBeen but a dreamand thine a long-drawn lie?Wilt thou not speakwilt thou not give me backThe pastmy happy past? Take not that tooOr truth has lost its meaning.Guinevere. I am not hard--Oh! do not think it!--but sometimes "yea" and "nay"Bear equal falsehood. I would tell thee allIf I could find but words.The name of loveIs light upon the lips of many a maidThat never knew him truly: such was IThenwhen my father bade me give myselfUnto a man scarce seenand all unknownBeyond the common speech of courtesy."Love comes" they saidand I was well contentWith that which cameas children are contentTo cling about their nurses; till they hear--Yeathough it be far off--the voice of herWhose life was one with theirsand lo! they are fledFled with a reckless rapture past commandPast reasonpast entreaty! Such was IWhen at the last love came and called his own.Arthur. His own? Did I not love theetoothen? Ay!Firstlongestbest? His own? Oh! stay me notI heard--of speech so bitter and so boldI could not miss the purpose--thou hast saidMy soul through all those wedded nights and daysCalled not to thine with the true kindred voiceThat quickens passion--ah! God knows!--but thouLoveless or lovingthou hadst sworn to hearOne voicethe voice of honour. If I know theeEven then the lingering echoes of that oathIn some far chamber of thine inmost heartWere ringing still; I marvel passion's selfCould so have drowned them.Guinevere. Marvel no more! 'tis false!Thou art the cause: my faith was stayed on thineAnd fell when thine had fall'n: thou did'st not know--When all thy mind was fierce with flaming thoughtsThat leaped to torture me--thou didst not dreamHowlong agothe knowledge of thy sinHad burned my heart to ashes.Arthur. Thou too? thou?Have I not paid that debtyea! paid it thriceTo the uttermost? Bethink theeis it justBecause a boywilful and passionateDrunk with the incense of his fameand flushedWith the new wine of power--How canst thou sayThat I am he? 'Tis half a lifetime since:He sinnedand went his way; he is becomeA thing of dreama shadow in the glassNo part of me; is it not enough that IStill bear his punishmentbut thou must addThe burden of thy scorn.Guinevere. I scorned thee notFor any fault of boyhoodbut I heardA manmidway upon the road of lifeA kingfor justice throneddeliberateUpholding lust and treason for the sakeOf the old-time fellowship they claimed with him.I heard thee: love and hate that moment brokeThe dungeon-keep of duty.Arthur. GuinevereI am the man: but hear me--my soul tooNo less than thinerevolted--I believed--Yea! by God's lightwhich may we yet beholdI thought to save our Order and the realmFrom wider ruin.Guinevere. How should wider be?LamorakTristramLancelotGuinevere--These and a hundred morein yonder hallCast off their vows for ever.Arthur. Mordred! Mordred!What art thou then? God's vengeance upon earth?Guinevere. Not yet! Did'st thou not know then--Arthur. I know thee now!Mordred! my son! my very son! the childOf Youth and Doomsent to me from the pastWith life's young glory in thy wilful eyesAnd in thine hand stark death!NayGuinevere'Tis I am judged. Think not my spirit unchangedBecause I humble not myself with wordsAnd vain lamenting; but I reap aloneThat which my hand hath sowedand all my strengthMust stoop to bear it homeward.Now farewell:It sets toward dusk; the hour is come to partThou to what earthly rest thy soul may findI to the long night's work.Guinevere. Oh! blinder still!I knew not Arthur! Thou art king through all!And I that might have served thee!Arthur. GuinevereVex not thine heart in vain: the past is mineThy life is yet to come.Guinevere. Ah! never dreamThat I will live it! Here I render upInto thine hand the remnant of my daysTo spare or spend. Thou canst not ask of meThat which I will not school myself to give.Arthur. If it might be! Naythis one hour my heartEndureendure! this too will pass!Oh! woman!God hold from thee the cup thy hand hath mixed!Guinevere. What have I said? Did I not offer allTo stead thy purpose?Arthur. Aybut thou and IHave drifted far asunder on a tideThat knows no hour of turning. Never soundOf thy voice and of mine shall meet againAcross that homeless oceanthough we steerBeneath the same true starsand win at lastTo the same haven of achieved desire.Guinevere. What haven? What achievement?Arthur. If by toilBy battleby the pangs of dying hopeBy deathby death in lifeI yet may saveThis Britain from the curse that sprang from meWilt thou not--even thou--for Britain's sakeForgive--forgive me?Guinevere. Oh! thou royal heart!Is not this shame forgiveness? Wilt thou more?Thine enemies--I reck not what they be!--All! all! God smite them headlong from thy path!Farewell: forth to thy battle! Even hereThrough these dim aisles of peacethere yet shall comeSome wandering voice to whisper tidings dearOf Camelotof Arthur's Table RoundOf the kingreigning as a noble knightAnd Guinevere forgotten.[She passes within the screen and falls on her kneesagain before the altar. ARTHUR moves towards herfor a moment: then turns suddenly away.ACT V.
SCENE I.A down between Camelford and Tintagel
KAY. A camp isseen behind them.
Kay. 'Tis not that I esteem my counsel surer;Norso esteeming itwould I be boldTo thrust it on you.Arthur. And yonderas thou sayestLies Mordred with his force?Kay. Aymy lordyonder:But what I venture--Arthur. ell mehow is this known;I see no sign.Kay. Sir Bediveremy lordHad sent fore-riders out to skim the countryWho brought the news even now.But with your leave--Merely for safe assurance--Arthur. And Constantine?Kay. On that sidetoothere is a scout-watch setBut nothing yet reported. Good my lordWill you not hear me?Arthur. Why trulyif I must.But wit thou wellmeseems to hear adviceBeing resolved alreadysuits no moreWith wisdomthan the way that children useWho dig their gardens up to make them sureThe seeds are sprouting.Kay. NaynaysirHeaven forbidThat any word of mine should work upheavalIn the king's mind!Arthur. AyHeaven forbid! and yetLet us not be too fearful; for thy peaceI'll even risk my own. Say on.Kay. SirI have said'Tis merely for assurance--none can doubtYou have considered all that could be urgedOn this side and on thatyetmy good lord--May I be pardoned--you have held aloofFrom all of us who serve youtaken counselWith no man all these daysfrom the first newsOf Lancelot's flightto thisbut three nights oldThat Mordred sets his teeth to meet rebukeWith unashamed rebellion. 'Tis to-dayHe comes for the last time to urge his claim--Pardon for Lancelotand I know not whatOf licence for himself and those he leads--If that the answer--Arthur. "If" is out of time;The answer's ready.Kay. Let it not be thoughtI would presume to ply the king with questions[He pauses.Or force the privacy of his intent--[He pauses again: ARTHUR remains silent.But how can we be certain that his glance--That any one man's glance--hath made surveyOf the whole fieldremarked each several gapWhere dangers peepand reckoned with them allIf silence--If silence must be kept.BEDIVERE enters.Arthur. Naycontent theeKayFor one hour yet. WellBedivere?Bedivere. Sirtime presses:Mordred's at hand: his terms are known to allAnd there are some who love you ill at easeThat choice so sudden should be forced upon you.Arthur. It cannot be too sudden.Bedivere. I know 'tis saidYou are resolved: 'tis true you have good right--If right were all in question--to repulseLancelot and Mordred both: yet there is moreIf I dare speak it.Arthur. Ayspeak itBedivere.Bedivere. Let me be blunt thentoo; there's no way leftTo deal with Lancelotsave by pardoning him.We've none to match him: let his force be joined--As 'tis in part even now--with Mordred's yonderAndsave what hope may hang on ConstantineWe are merely lost.Arthur. But Constantine will come.He too is close at hand; 'tis three weeks sinceI sent him urgent summons.Bedivere. Ayso urgentAnd so long sincethat but for some mishapHe had been here ere now.Arthur. Nono!Bedivere. Let us not strainOur eyes so blind with staring at the distanceThey cannot measure the abyss that yawnsOne step before us. Mark you--king or churl--Down from life to death in a moment's fall--'Tis a sheer plungeand dark!Kay. Sir Bedivere! My lord--This is no language for a king to hear--I go not with him there; I but approveHis meaningnot his plainness.Arthur. Nayboth are honestBoth have my thanks: in truththese latter daysDeath has been much remembered in my thoughtsAnd no less dreaded.Bedivere. He may well be dreadedBy those who leave their country tossed betweenThe wind and tide of parties. Sirforgive meThis Mordred is your son.Arthur. ThattooBedivereI have remembered.Bedivere. Your only sonyour heir:And once this gust of wilfulness were laid--As well it may be-- there's no voice in BritainSo like a king's. Bend to him nowhereafterYou'll turn him to your will; but if this cloudBreak into storm between youeither wayThere's ruin; he who winswins but remorse;Who losesloses all.[ARTHUR turns away.Kay (aside to BEDIVERE). There I think we touched him.Hold to it: press him! not to hardbut stillAs hard as may be with a due respect.Bedivere (aside). Naythe hour's struck: God send I was in time!My lordSir Mordred's coming. Mark you nowThere's something courteous and humble mixedWith his high bearing; rebels look not so.Kay. Humble? Good sooth! But well'twas timely said.MORDRED enters with GAWAINE.Arthur. Good morrowMordred.Mordred. SirGod give you peace!Arthur. Gawainethou too art welcome.Gawaine. My lordI thank you.Arthur. If ye have other friends at handwe pray youLet us not lack their presence.Mordred. Sirif it please youThey are content to waitwhilst I entreatThe boon of private audience.Arthur. WhysurelyIf such a place may serve us. PritheeKayGo summon all the campand while we walkApart with Mordredbid them share thy charge.That Gawaine and his comrades fall not wearyFor lack of entertainment. BedivereThou shalt attend us yonder within call.[KAY and BEDIVERE go out with Gawaine.(To MORDERD.) Thou hast thy wish; we are alone:What is itThou seekest further?Mordred. SirI had thought to speakOf Lancelot first.Arthur. Ah! Mordredthink again!Thou wilt not suffer any man to standBetween the clasping of thy hand and mine?Mordred. But this is Lancelotbut for whom long sinceThe best of all of us had been full coldAt the heart's root.Arthur. Aylong since.Mordred. Oh! he hath sinnedBut say notpast forgiveness: drive him notTo justify his deed: set him againTo climb with stronger and more patient feetThe path he fell from; and to us his pardonShall be an earnest of the gentler ruleFor which we humbly pray.Arthur. There thou'rt asking more--Far more--than Lancelot's pardon.Mordred. We do but craveFor freedom; every current of the timeSets toward a kindly faith and tend'rer laws;Only these vows oppress uscrying still"Thou shalt not" in the ear of lusty youthTo whom no voice should call but Nature's own"Desire and dread not; life is all too shortToo fairtoo greatto mar with meaner hopesThisthis thou shaltand this!"Arthur. Aybut those to whomDespite of Nature these same meaner hopesAre still the more endeared?Mordred. There would be none!Nay then if such there might beI would cast themInto the prison-house of lonelinessThe pit of disfellowed: there to shiverTill penitence should give them tears enoughTo pay their ransom.Arthur. Thy trust were vainay! vainAnd perilous: there's evil in our bloodTwin-born with goodand claiming soon or lateHis destined share of life's inheritance:Whom tenderness but fosters.Mordred. Naybut 'tis not so:Put it to proof: the event shall bind us all.Arthur. 'Tis proved already.Mordred. How so?Arthur. In all the yearsBefore thouMordredcam'st--Mordred. Ha! before I cameNone dared--Arthur. Thou sayest wellbefore thou cam'stNone dared whatsince thy comingall men dareWhat none shall dare again!Mordred. Then God save BritainWhen freedom may not speak her dearest hopeAbove a crouching whisper!Arthur. Ay! God save Britain!But that's my prayernot thine; for what sake elseWhen Gawaine fellshould I have thrust my handInto the torment of that blackening shame?For what have I forsworn all peace--the peaceThat comes of pardoningthe peace that hauntsOld trodden waysthe peace that at the lastWhen wife and son bend down to fading eyesLightens the dusk of death? Oh! MordredMordred!Thou should'st have been in very deed my son!Mordred. I am thy sonI will be! I will wait;Reproach me not; thou shalt not be alone;Thou shalt not lose an hour of peace for meHenceforward all thy days!Arthur. And afterMordred?Mordred. Nayall thy days.Arthur. Ayand when my days are done?Mordred. Then I thy son will take this realm in trustFor thy son's son.Arthur. Ah! Mordredif I but knewHow thou would'st read that trust when I am deadAnd by what oath be bounden!Mordred. Oath? Oath again?More oaths? More dust upon a parching tongue?Is't not enough for thee whilst thou art hereTo gag and fetter mebut thou must seekTo bind my life upon thy tyrant's wheelWith the dead hand? Oath? Yea thenhear my oath!I swear to rule this kingdom after theeAs thou hast ruled it:--that's by my own willAnd my own reasonand my own right arm!Arthur. Said I not? Bedivere!Mordred. Stay! I have not doneWe have not spoken of the queen.Arthur. Ho! there! Bedivere!BEDIVERE enters.Bring the knights hither!Bedivere. Allmy lord?Arthur. Allall![BEDIVERE goes out.Mordred. Thou shalt not so escape; alone or throngedThere's that within my grasp shall reach thee yet.For Lancelotas thou wilt: with his own handHe well may keep his head; and for myselfI might have thought on patience: but the queenNo man shall judgeand thouthe fount of wrongThouleast of all men: doomand thou art doomed;Be just and live: why wilt thou ride apaceTo thy last battle? Seest thou not how SinFollows to drag thee downand at thy sideDeath shakes the sand-glass of thy falling hours?Thou'rt mastered: who can hope to be more strongThan Fatethat on the instant springs all-armedFrom our own deeds?BEDIVERE and Knights enter.Arthur (to MORDRED). Silence! thy bolt is shot:Stand thou aside!(To the others.)Sirswe have drawn you hitherThat ye may share our counsel. Time hath beenWhen ye have known this kingdom's life to flowTranquil and purewith no more sound of stormThan a broad river on a windless noon:But now 'tis changed; its swollen course is fedBy dark and roaring torrents; build we notOur dykes the strongernight may hear us yetSwept down to ruin on a world in flood.I am resolved: I bid you toil with me:If we achieve'tis noble: though we fail'Tis work for kings! How say ye?Bedivere and Arthur's Knights. Yea!Mordred's Party. What must we do?Arthur. Ye must be bound anew to keep the vowsOf our High Order: ye must stand apartFrom whoso hath not kept themleaving suchTo justice unappealed; and ye must swearUpon your hilted swords true faith and serviceTo him that after me shall work my will--Sir Constantine.Mordred. What? disinherit me?Rob me and slay me? Naythou canst not do it!Thou canst not slay thy past! For thy lifeback!Thou goest to the deathward!Arthur. Wilt thou dare me?Wilt thou be taught that so his heart be strongA fallen man may riseand trample downThe offspring of his rash and evil past?Stand from before me![MORDRED'S party draw back: one of them treads uponan adderand draws his sword to kill it.Arthur's Herald. Treasonlords! at arms!Arthur's Knights. At arms! at arms![Both sides draw their swords. MORDRED throwshimself between them.Mordred. Hold!Gawaine (to MORDRED). Draw man! all's afire!Cry "Freedom!" and set on![All go out fighting in great confusion: a noise oftrumpets and shouting is heard behind.ACT V.
SCENE II. Another part of the down. Enter
ARTHUR attended by atrumpeter.
Arthur. I'll breathe myself a moment; trumpeterSound me a rally: 'twixt pursuit and flightThe long day throughour bands are too much partedYetas I thinknot broken past recall.[The trumpet sounds: a pause follows. ]They come not: God defend us! Sound again.How the mist hangs! I cannot see the fieldSave here and there in gaps and shifting gleamsThere's one! 'Tis Lucan: woundedby his gait.Anotherand another!BEDIVERE enters.Bedivere!Well met! 'Tis time we drew our battle in.What of the southward fighting?Bedivere. NayGod knows!Mine eyes were elsewhere: yet at times I caughtBetween the shocks we bruntedhow their fortuneMoment by moment on the razor's edgeSwung in a doubtful scale: forward and backForward and back: a scant hour sincetheir noiseStill rang between the water and the woodThen clattered inlandscattering up the cliff.Arthur. Inland? They pushed us then? Yet against odds'Twas long and stoutly held: to-night at leastNought threatens thence: there's silence on the right;And herewhere first the main encounter joinedMen prowl like fog-blind wolves among the deadAnd fight by tens and twenties. Whence art thou?Hath Kay been seen? We lost him: is he strayedBeyond the trumpet call?Bedivere. Aybeyond callGod rest him!Arthur. Kay? Ah! Bedivereunsay it!They told thee false!Bedivere. I bore him in these armsBack from the vanward mellay; bound his woundsAnd thought to leave him: even while I turnedHis voice came strong"These braggart boys!" he cried"Lock on my armour!" but with that he droopedAnd straightway fell on sleep.Arthur. Such death be mine!So suddenso undoubting!FarewellKay!Thou leav'st a lonely world.ComeBedivereTell out thy tale: this was mine oldest friendAll else is lighter.Bedivere. Yet I had liefer takeAs many blows unshieldedthan recallThe hundred partings that to-day hath knelled.Who is not fallen? Pertilope died firstCut off from rescue: like a lonely rockNow barenow hidden by the swinging seasWe marked his crest awhile; then with a roarThe full tide seethed above him. AglovaleGillimerDriantGrifletPriamusFell in one charge: the dead upon their trackLay thick as wind-laid wheat. Then with the mistConfusion came: I saw young Tor and DinasHurtle together like two boars in springTill they were blotted from me: when the windBrought twilight backtheir arms were locked in death.Segwarides is goneand LambegusDamasand Herminde: Brandiles is shrivenAnd ebbing fast: yonder's my brother LucanThat scarce can drag him hither.Arthur. TrumpeterGo help Sir Lucan.Ohmy noble knightsI am your death!HereafterBedivereThere shall be grief beyond all tears for theseWho now must be forgotten: counsel meWhich way to fling ourselves upon the flight?Where stand the traitors?Bedivere. Nowhere; Death is justThis side and that he reaps with equal stroke:They too are few and faint.Arthur. Then 'tis well with us--If aught can yet be well--thy fears are likeTo find their answer; let this fortune holdAn hour or lessand Mordred's game is lost.For him stalemate's defeatand all or noughtHis only hazard.Bedivere. I would it were so.Arthur. What else?What is there left?Bedivere. I know notyet meseemsHis very life's a challenge.Arthur. Was it not thouThis morning would'st have urged me yield his claimAnd make accord with him?Bedivere. There was yet time:Now he hath tasted bloodand will not stintTill he be gorged--Arthur or ConstantineSo long as Britain lies within his springHe'll reck not.Arthur. BedivereI have sworn an oath--God's mercy keep me from redeeming it!--But Mordred shall not reign.Enter LUCANwounded.Thou'rt welcomeLucan.Where is thy hurt?What knight was that who climbedSo doubtfully behind thee? Knows he notOur rallying signal?Lucan. Nayhe's none of ours.His visor hides his facebut 'tis the frameOf a strong knightand traitor though he beHe deals a grievous buffet.Bedivere (looking off). Ayhe's boldHe means to try us.Arthur. Nohe seeks a parley.Look yehe doffs his helm!MORDRED enters.Ah! Jesu mercy!Bedivere. Mordred! thou villain! lace that helm againAnd keep thee as thou may'st!Arthur. Hold! BedivereThis is my deed: I could not bear to standAnd see thee slay him.Mordreddraw thy swordAnd give thy soul into the hands of GodFor thy time hieth fast![ARTHUR and MORDRED fightbut neither is wounded:they draw apart for a breathing space. ARTHURmoves forward again.Lucan. Sirlet him go:Bethink youhe's your son: let him but swearBy the five wounds of our sweet Saviour ChristTo quit this land for ever.AhSir Mordred.What's he that strikes against his father's life?Be swornand 'scape the curse!Mordred (to ARTHUR). I have more rightTo take thy life than thou could'st ever claimTo give me mine!Arthur. I sinned: I will atone.[They fight again: MORDRED falls: ARTHUR standslooking down upon him.Arthur. 'Tis done!Might I die too!Mordred. Thou shalt![He raises himself with a last effort andstabs ARTHUR.O Britain!Life! life! One year of life--untyrannised![He falls back dead: ARTHUR kneels beside him.Bedivere. My lord--you are sore hurt: come hence!(A pause.) My lord!Will you not hence?[ARTHUR turns and looks at him.Arthur. YeaBedivere'tis time.[He turns away and covers his face again.ACT V.
SCENE III.Sea coast near Tintagel. Under the rocks a barge:
ARTHUR therein withladies tending him.
BEDIVERE upon the shore at hand.
Arthur. BedivereFor this last office and for all that's goneThou hast my loving thanks: little enoughFor such true service: but it yet may beWhen thou hast crept from off the windy hillsInto the ingle-nook of dreaming eldAmong the ember-faces my face tooThou shalt beholdand muse before thou sleepestWith heart contented "Arthur leaned on meAnd his last thanks were mine."Bedivere. Naymy dear lordFar be the last! You are not yet for death;Men say you cannot die.Arthur. 'Tis truelong sinceI do remember it was told of meI should be hurt to death and yet not slainBut by the will of our Lord Jesu broughtInto another placeand come againTo win the Holy Cross. I cannot tell;'Tis a dark saying: ratheras I deemTo-nightafter the fashion of this worldMy life must change.Bedivere. To-night? So Britain sinks!Ah! my Lord Arthurwhat shall save us now--A torn and kingless people?Arthur. NayBedivereNot kingless; tide me death betide me lifeThe realm rides high through allwith ConstantineTo hold the course I pricked. Look forwardforwardAnd let the pastwith Arthur and his sinsFade on the dim horizon far behind!Yeteven someseems I shall not die;My purpose livesmy willthat which hath beenThe life-blood of my spiritmy soul's breath:--What shall a man not suffer and not dareThat this may be? Yea! shall he not for thisTread out the fire upon his own hearth-stoneFor this draw steel against the child that sprangOf his own body? Though my name be lostFor everand my race with me to-nightFall into dustthat which I willed remainsAnd while that lives I shall not wholly die.Now make me ere I pass:--Sir ConstantineIs King of Britain: see him crowned with speedAnd summon all true men to render himSuch service and such faith as they would ownTowards Arthur come again. Then shalt thou goWhere thou may'st meet with Lancelot: let him witI died full fain of himleaning my trustUpon his old remembered noblenessThat he will yet repent him. They are fallenWho brought the realm in peril for his sake;His penance waits him still: let him pray outHis life in some lone hermitageor passInto the Holy Land where Jesu ChristWas quick and dead. There may his soul find peace!Bedivere. All this shall have fulfilment. Ah! would GodI too had fallen first!Arthur. Nayfor lack of theeMy words were lost: be thankfulwork thy workAnd wait God's end for all. My last commandIs thisthou shalt not fail to bring the queenTrue tale how all befell: what lies beneathLet Silence whisper.Farewell Bedivere.God dwell with thee. This ring to ConstantineBid him be strongand rule.[He falls back dying: the barge puts out to sea.Finis.