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Walking about the gardens and the halls
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere :
So saying, from the ruined shrine he stept,
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
That both his eyes were dazzled, as he stood
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere : Hast thou performed my mission which I gave ? What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard ?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: “ I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, And the wild water lapping on the crag."
To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale.
Then went Sir Bedivere the second time
66 And if indeed I cast the brand away,
Should be to aftertime, but empty breath
So spake he, clouded with his own conceit,
Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily: • What is it thou hast seen ? or what hast heard ?'
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: “I heard the water lapping on the crag, And the long ripple washing in the reeds.”
To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath: " Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue, Unknightly, traitor-hearted ! Woe is me! Authority forgets a dying king, Laid widowed of the power in his eye That bowed the will. I see thee what thou art. For thou, the latest left of all my knights, In whom should meet the offices of all, Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt; Either from lust of gold, or like a girl Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes. Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice, And the third time may prosper, get thee hence: But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur, I will arise and slay thee with my hands.”
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran, And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged Among the bulrush-beds, and clutched the sword, And strongly wheeled and threw it. The great brand Made lightnings in the splendor of the moon,
And flashing round and round, and whirled in an
arch, Shot like a streamer of the northern morn, Seen where the moving isles of winter shock By night, with noises of the northern sea. So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur: But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, And caught him by the hilt, and brandished him Three times, and drew him under in the meer. And lightly went the other to the King.
Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath: “Now see I by thine eyes that this is done. Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen!”
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: “ Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems Should blind my purpose, for I never saw, Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die, Not though I live three lives of mortal men, So great a miracle as yonder hilt. Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him ; But when I looked again, behold an arm, Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, That caught him by the hilt, and brandished him Three times, and drew him under in the meer.”
And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard : “ My end draws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone. Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight, And bear me to the margin; yet I fear My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die.”
So saying, from the pavement he half rose, Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm, And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere Remorsefully regarded through his tears, And would have spoken, but he found not words, Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee, O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands, And rising bore him through the place of tombs.
But, as he walked, King Arthur panted hard Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed When all the house is mute. So sighed the King, Muttering and murmuring at his ear,
quick ! I fear it is too late, and I shall die.” But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge, Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walked, Larger than human on the frozen hills. He heard the deep behind him, and a cry Before. His own thought drove him like a goad. Dry clashed his harness in the icy caves And barren chasms, and all to left and right The bare black cliff clanged round him, as he based His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels And on a sudden, lo! the level lake, And the long glories of the winter moon.
Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge, Dárk as a funeral scarf from stem to stern, Beneath them ; and descending they were ware That all the decks were dense with stately forms Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream—by these Three Queens with crowns of gold—and from them
A cry that shivered to the tingling stars,
There those three
wept. But she that rose the tallest of them all And fairest, laid his head upon her lap, And loosed the shattered casque, and chafed his hands,