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Of some vast charm concluded in that star
To make fame nothing. Wherefore, if I fear,
Giving you power upon me thro' this charm,
That you might play me falsely, having power,
However well you think you love me now
(As sons of kings loving in pupillage

Have turn'd to tyrants when they came to power)
I rather dread the loss of use than fame;


yon - and not so much from wickedness,
As some wild turn of anger, or a mood
Of overstrain❜d affection, it may be,

To keep me all to your own self, or else
A sudden spurt of woman's jealousy,

Should try this charm on whom you say you love.

And Vivien answer'd smiling as in wrath. 'Have I not sworn? I am not trusted. Good! Well, hide it, hide it; I shall find it out; And being found take heed of Vivien. A woman and not trusted, doubtless I Might feel some sudden turn of anger born Of your misfaith; and your fine epithet Is accurate too, for this full love of mine Without the full heart back may merit well Your term of overstrain'd. So used as I, My daily wonder is, I love at all. And as to woman's jealousy, O why not? O to what end, except a jealous one, And one to make me jealous if I love, Was this fair charm invented by yourself? I well believe that all about this world You cage a buxom captive here and there, Closed in the four walls of a hollow tower From which is no escape for evermore.'

Then the great Master merrily answer'd her. 'Full many a love in loving youth was mine, I needed then no charm to keep them mine But youth and love; and that full heart of yours

Whereof you prattle, may now assure you mine:
So live uncharm'd. For those who wrought it first,
The wrist is parted from the hand that waved,
The feet unmortised from their ankle-bones
Who paced it, ages back: but will you hear
The legend as in guerdon for your rhyme ?

'There lived a king in the most Eastern East,
Less old than I, yet older, for my blood
Hath earnest in it of far springs to be.
A tawny pirate anchor'd in his port,

Whose bark had plunder'd twenty nameless isles ;
And passing one, at the high peep of dawn,
He saw two cities in a thousand boats

All fighting for a woman on the sea.

And pushing his black craft among them all,
He lightly scatter'd theirs and brought her off,
With loss of half his people arrow-slain;
A maid so smooth, so white, so wonderful,
They said a light came from her when she moved:
And since the pirate would not yield her up,
The King impaled him for his piracy;

Then made her Queen: but those isle-nurtur'd eyes
Waged such unwilling tho' successful war

On all the youth, they sicken'd; councils thinn'd,
And armies waned, for magnet-like she drew
The rustiest iron of old fighters' hearts;

And beasts themselves would worship; camels knelt
Unbidden, and the brutes of mountain back
That carry kings in castles, bow'd black knees
Of homage, ringing with their serpent hands,
To make her smile, her golden ankle-bells.
What wonder, being jealous, that he sent
His horns of proclamation out thro' all
The hundred under-kingdoms that he sway'd
To find a wizard who might teach the King
Some charm, which being wrought upon the Queen
Might keep her all his own: to such a one
He promised more than ever king has given,

A league of mountain full of golden mines,
A province with a hundred miles of coast,
A palace and a princess, all for him :

But on all those who tried and fail'd, the King
Pronounced a dismal sentence, meaning by it
To keep the list low and pretenders back,
Or like a king, not to be trifled with

Their heads should moulder on the city gates.
And many tried and fail'd, because the charm
Of nature in her overbore their own:

And many a wizard brow bleach'd on the walls:
And many weeks a troop of carrion crows
Hung like a cloud above the gateway towers.'

And Vivien breaking in upon him, said:
'I sit and gather honey; yet, methinks,
Your tongue has tript a little: ask yourself.
The lady never made unwilling war

With those fine eyes: she had her pleasure in it,
And made her good man jealous with good cause.
And lived there neither dame nor damsel then
Wroth at a lover's loss? were all as tame,
I mean, as noble, as their Queen was fair?
Not one to flirt a venom at her eyes,
Or pinch a murderous dust into her drink,
Or make her paler with a poison'd rose?
Well, those were not our days: but did they find
A wizard? Tell me, was he like to thee?'

She ceased, and made her lithe arm round his neck

Tighten, and then drew back, and let her eyes
Speak for her, glowing on him, like a bride's
On her new lord, her own, the first of men.

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He answer'd laughing, Nay, not like to me.
At last they found his foragers for charms
A little glassy-headed hairless man,
Who lived alone in a great wild on grass ;

Read but one book, and ever reading grew
So grated down and filed away with thought,
So lean his eyes were monstrous; while the skin
Clung but to crate and basket, ribs and spine.
And since he kept his mind on one sole aim,
Nor ever touch'd fierce wine, nor tasted flesh,
Nor own'd a sensual wish, to him the wall
That sunders ghosts and shadow-casting men
Became a crystal, and he saw them thro' it,
And heard their voices talk behind the wall,
And learnt their elemental secrets, powers
And forces; often o'er the sun's bright eye
Drew the vast eyelid of an inky cloud,
And lash'd it at the base with slanting storm;
Or in the noon of mist and driving rain,
When the lake whiten'd and the pinewood roar'd,
And the cairn'd mountain was a shadow, sunn'd
The world to peace again: here was the man.
And so by force they dragg'd him to the King.
And then he taught the King to charm the Queen
In such-wise, that no man could see her more,
Nor saw she save the King, who wrought the charm,
Coming and going, and she lay as dead,
And lost all use of life: but when the King
Made proffer of the league of golden mines,
The province with a hundred miles of coast,
The palace and the princess, that old man
Went back to his old wild, and lived on grass,
And vanish'd, and his book came down to me.'

And Vivien answer'd smiling saucily;
'You have the book: the charm is written in it:
Good: take my counsel: let me know it at once:
For keep it like a puzzle chest in chest,
With each chest lock'd and padlock'd thirty-fold,
And whelm all this beneath as vast a mound
As after furious battle turfs the slain
On some wild down above the windy deep,
I yet should strike upon a sudden means

To dig, pick, open, find and read the charm:
Then, if I tried it, who should blame me then?

And smiling as a Master smiles at one
That is not of his school, nor any school
But that where blind and naked Ignorance
Delivers brawling judgments, unashamed,
On all things all day long; he answer'd her.

'You read the book, my pretty Vivien !
O ay, it is but twenty pages long,
But every page having an ample marge,
And every marge enclosing in the midst
A square of text that looks a little blot,
The text no larger than the limbs of fleas;
And every square of text an awful charm,
Writ in a language that has long gone by.
So long, that mountains have arisen since
With cities on their flanks — you read the book
And every margin scribbled, crost, and cramm'd
With comment, densest condensation, hard
To mind and eye; but the long sleepless nights
Of my long life have made it easy to me.
And none can read the text, not even I;
And none can read the comment but myself;
And in the comment did I find the charm.
O, the results are simple; a mere child
Might use it to the harm of any one,
And never could undo it: ask no more:
For tho' you should not prove it upon me,
But keep that oath you swore, you might, perchance,
Assay it on some one of the Table Round,

And all because you dream they babble of you.'


And Vivien, frowning in true anger, said: 'What dare the full-fed liars say of me? They ride abroad redressing human wrongs They sit with knife in meat and wine in horn. They bound to holy vows of chastity!

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