Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Arthur’s Farewell (from The Idylls of the King: Guinevere)
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
 
  HE paused, and in the pause she crept an inch
Nearer, and laid her hands about his feet.
Far off a solitary trumpet blew.
Then waiting by the doors the warhorse neigh’d
As at a friend’s voice, and he spake again:        5
  “Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes,
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
To see thee, laying there thy golden head,
My pride in happier summers, at my feet.        10
The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce law,
The doom of treason and the flaming death,
(When first I learnt thee hidden here) is past.
The pang—which while I weigh’d thy heart with one
Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee,        15
Made my tears burn—is also past—in part.
And all is past, the sin is sinn’d, and I,
Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God
Forgives: do thou for thine own soul the rest.
But how to take last leave of all I loved?        20
O golden hair, with which I used to play
Not knowing! O imperial-moulded form,
And beauty such as never woman wore,
Until it came a kingdom’s curse with thee—
I cannot touch thy lips, they are not mine,        25
But Lancelot’s: nay, they never were the King’s.
I cannot take thy hand; that too is flesh,
And in the flesh thou hast sinn’d; and mine own flesh,
Here looking down on thine polluted, cries
‘I loathe thee:’ yet not less, O Guinevere,        30
For I was ever virgin save for thee,
My love thro’ flesh hath wrought into my life
So far, that my doom is, I love thee still.
Let no man dream but that I love thee still.
Perchance, and so thou purify thy soul,        35
And so thou lean on our fair father Christ,
Hereafter in that world where all are pure
We two may meet before high God, and thou
Wilt spring to me, and claim me thine, and know
I am thine husband—not a smaller soul,        40
Nor Lancelot, nor another. Leave me that,
I charge thee, my last hope. Now must I hence.
Thro’ the thick night I hear the trumpet blow:
They summon me their King to lead mine hosts
Far down to that great battle in the west,        45
Where I must strike against the man they call
My sister’s son—no kin of mine, who leagues
With Lords of the White Horse, heathen, and knights,
Traitors—and strike him dead, and meet myself
Death, or I know not what mysterious doom.        50
And thou remaining here wilt learn the event;
But hither shall I never come again,
Never lie by thy side; see thee no more—
Farewell!”
            And while she grovell’d at his feet,
She felt the King’s breath wander o’er her neck,        55
And in the darkness o’er her fallen head,
Perceived the waving of his hands that blest.
 
 
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