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And staring each at other like dumb men
Stood, till I found a voice and sware a vow.

'I sware a vow before them all, that I,
Because I had not seen the Grail, would ride
A twelvemonth and a day in quest of it,
Until I found and saw it, as the nun

My sister saw it; and Galahad sware the vow,
And good Sir Bors, our Lancelot's cousin, sware,
And Lancelot sware, and many among the knights,
And Gawain sware, and louder than the rest.'

Then spake the monk Ambrosius, asking him, 'What said the King? Did Arthur take the vow?'

'Nay, for my lord,' said Percivale, 'the King,
Was not in hall: for early that same day,
Scaped thro' a cavern from a bandit hold,
An outraged maiden sprang into the hall
Crying on help: for all her shining hair
Was smear'd with earth, and either milky arm

Red-rent with hooks of bramble, and all she wore
Torn as a sail that leaves the rope is torn

In tempest so the King arose and went

To smoke the scandalous hive of those wild bees
That made such honey in his realm.
Some little of this marvel he too saw,


Returning o'er the plain that then began
To darken under Camelot; whence the King
Look'd up, calling aloud, "Lo, there! the roofs
Of our great hall are roll'd in thunder-smoke!
Pray Heaven, they be not smitten by the bolt."
For dear to Arthur was that hall of ours,
As having there so oft with all his knights
Feasted, and as the stateliest under heaven.

'O brother, had you known our mighty hall,
Which Merlin built for Arthur long ago!
For all the sacred mount of Camelot,
And all the dim rich city, roof by roof,
Tower after tower, spire beyond spire,

By grove, and garden-lawn, and rushing brook,
Climbs to the mighty hall that Merlin built.
And four great zones of sculpture, set betwixt
With many a mystic symbol, gird the hall:
And in the lowest beasts are slaying men,
And in the second men are slaying beasts,
And on the third are warriors, perfect men,
And on the fourth are men with growing wings,
And over all one statue in the mould

Of Arthur, made by Merlin, with a crown,
And peak'd wings pointed to the Northern Star.
And eastward fronts the statue, and the crown
And both the wings are made of gold, and flame

At sunrise till the people in far fields,
Wasted so often by the heathen hordes,
Behold it, crying, "We have still a King.'

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'And, brother, had you known our hall within, Broader and higher than any in all the lands! Where twelve great windows blazon Arthur's wars, And all the light that falls upon the board Streams thro' the twelve great battles of our King. Nay, one there is, and at the eastern end, Wealthy with wandering lines of mount and mere, Where Arthur finds the brand Excalibur.

And also one to the west, and counter to it,

And blank: and who shall blazon it? when and


O there, perchance, when all our wars are done, The brand Excalibur will be cast away.

'So to this hall full quickly rode the King,
In horror lest the work by Merlin wrought,
Dreamlike, should on the sudden vanish, wrapt
In unremorseful folds of rolling fire.

And in he rode, and up I glanced, and saw
The golden dragon sparkling over all :


many of those who burnt the hold, their arms Hack'd, and their foreheads grimed with smoke, and sear'd,

Follow'd, and in among bright faces, ours,
Full of the vision, prest: and then the King
Spake to me, being nearest, "Percivale,"
(Because the hall was all in tumult—some
Vowing, and some protesting), "what is this?"

'O brother, when I told him what had chanced, My sister's vision, and the rest, his face Darken'd, as I have seen it more than once, When some brave deed seem'd to be done in vain, Darken; and "Woe is me, my knights," he cried, "Had I been here, ye had not sworn the vow." Bold was mine answer, "Had thyself been here,

My King, thou wouldst have sworn." "Yea, yea,” said he,

"Art thou so bold and hast not seen the Grail?"

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'Nay, lord, I heard the sound, I saw the light, But since I did not see the Holy Thing,

I sware a vow to follow it till I saw."

'Then when he ask'd us, knight by knight, if any Had seen it, all their answers were as one: "Nay, lord, and therefore have we sworn our vows.

""Lo now," said Arthur, "have ye seen a cloud? What go ye into the wilderness to see?"

'Then Galahad on the sudden, and in a voice

Shrilling along the hall to Arthur, call'd,

"But I, Sir Arthur, saw the Holy Grail,

I saw the Holy Grail and heard a cry—

'O Galahad, and O Galahad, follow me.""

"Ah, Galahad, Galahad," said the King, "for


As thou art is the vision, not for these.

Thy holy nun and thou have seen a sign-
Holier is none, my Percivale, than she—
A sign to maim this Order which I made.
But ye, that follow but the leader's bell"
(Brother, the King was hard upon his knights)
"Taliessin is our fullest throat of song,

And one hath sung and all the dumb will sing.
Lancelot is Lancelot, and hath overborne
Five knights at once, and every younger knight,
Unproven, holds himself as Lancelot,
Till overborne by one, he learns—and ye,
What are ye? Galahads?—no, nor Percivales "
(For thus it pleased the King to range me close
After Sir Galahad); "nay," said he, "but men
With strength and will to right the wrong'd, of power
To lay the sudden heads of violence flat,

Knights that in twelve great battles splash'd and


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