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King Arthur's Tomb

William Morris 1834 (Walthamstow) – 1896 (London)



Hot August noon: already on that day
Since sunrise through the Wiltshire downs, most sad
Of mouth and eye, he had gone leagues of way;
Ay and by night, till whether good or bad

He was, he knew not, though he knew perchance
That he was Launcelot, the bravest knight
Of all who since the world was, have borne lance,
Or swung their swords in wrong cause or in right.

Nay, he knew nothing now, except that where
The Glastonbury gilded towers shine,
A lady dwelt, whose name was Guenevere;
This he knew also; that some fingers twine,

Not only in a man's hair, even his heart,
(Making him good or bad I mean,) but in his life,
Skies, earth, men's looks and deeds, all that has part,
Not being ourselves, in that half-sleep, half-strife,

(Strange sleep, strange strife,) that men call living; so
Was Launcelot most glad when the moon rose,
Because it brought new memories of her. "Lo,
Between the trees a large moon, the wind lows

"Not loud, but as a cow begins to low,
Wishing for strength to make the herdsman hear:
The ripe corn gathereth dew; yea, long ago,
In the old garden life, my Guenevere

"Loved to sit still among the flowers, till night
Had quite come on, hair loosen'd, for she said,
Smiling like heaven, that its fairness might
Draw up the wind sooner to cool her head.

"Now while I ride how quick the moon gets small,
As it did then: I tell myself a tale
That will not last beyond the whitewashed wall,
Thoughts of some joust must help me through the vale,

"Keep this till after: How Sir Gareth ran
A good course that day under my Queen's eyes,
And how she sway'd laughing at Dinadan.
No. Back again, the other thoughts will rise,

"And yet I think so fast 'twill end right soon:
Verily then I think, that Guenevere,
Made sad by dew and wind, and tree-barred moon,
Did love me more than ever, was more dear

"To me than ever, she would let me lie
And kiss her feet, or, if I sat behind,
Would drop her hand and arm most tenderly,
And touch my mouth. And she would let me wind

"Her hair around my neck, so that it fell
Upon my red robe, strange in the twilight
With many unnamed colours, till the bell
Of her mouth on my cheek sent a delight

"Through all my ways of being; like the stroke
Wherewith God threw all men upon the face
When he took Enoch, and when Enoch woke
With a changed body in the happy place.

"Once, I remember, as I sat beside,
She turn'd a little, and laid back her head,
And slept upon my breast; I almost died
In those night-watches with my love and dread.

"There lily-like she bow'd her head and slept,
And I breathed low, and did not dare to move,
But sat and quiver'd inwardly, thoughts crept,
And frighten'd me with pulses of my Love.

"The stars shone out above the doubtful green
Of her bodice, in the green sky overhead;
Pale in the green sky were the stars I ween,
Because the moon shone like a star she shed

"When she dwelt up in heaven a while ago,
And ruled all things but God: the night went on,
The wind grew cold, and the white moon grew low,
One hand had fallen down, and now lay on

"My cold stiff palm; there were no colours then
For near an hour, and I fell asleep
In spite of all my striving, even when
I held her whose name-letters make me leap.

"I did not sleep long, feeling that in sleep
I did some loved one wrong, so that the sun
Had only just arisen from the deep
Still land of colours, when before me one

"Stood whom I knew, but scarcely dared to touch,
She seemed to have changed so in the night;
Moreover she held scarlet lilies, such
As Maiden Margaret bears upon the light

"Of the great church walls, natheless did I walk
Through the fresh wet woods, and the wheat that morn,
Touching her hair and hand and mouth, and talk
Of love we held, nigh hid among the corn.

"Back to the palace, ere the sun grew high,
We went, and in a cool green room all day
I gazed upon the arras giddily,
Where the wind set the silken kings a-sway.

"I could not hold her hand, or see her face;
For which may God forgive me! but I think,
Howsoever, that she was not in that place."
These memories Launcelot was quick to drink;

And when these fell, some paces past the wall,
There rose yet others, but they wearied more,
And tasted not so sweet; they did not fall
So soon, but vaguely wrenched his strained heart sore

In shadowy slipping from
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:09 min read
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William Morris

William Morris, Mayor of Galway, 1527-28. more…

All William Morris poems | William Morris Books

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