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
 
Extracts from The Defence of Guenevere: Launcelot and Guenevere (from King Arthur’s Tomb)
By William Morris (1834–1896)
 
                            “REMEMBER too,
  Wrung heart, how first before the knights there came
A royal bier, hung round with green and blue,
  About it shone great tapers with sick flame.
 
“And thereupon Lucius, the Emperor,        5
  Lay royal-robed, but stone-cold now and dead,
Not able to hold sword or sceptre more,
  But not quite grim; because his cloven head
 
“Bore no marks now of Launcelot’s bitter sword,
  Being by embalmers deftly solder’d up;        10
So still it seem’d the face of a great lord,
  Being mended as a craftsman mends a cup.
 
“Also the heralds sung rejoicingly
  To their long trumpets, ‘Fallen under shield,
Here lieth Lucius, King of Italy,        15
  Slain by Lord Launcelot in open field.’
 
“Thereat the people shouted ‘Launcelot!’
  And through the spears I saw you drawing nigh,
You and Lord Arthur—nay, I saw you not,
  But rather Arthur, God would not let die,        20
 
“I hoped, these many years, he should grow great,
  And in his great arms still encircle me,
Kissing my face, half-blinded with the heat
  Of king’s love for the queen I used to be.
 
“Launcelot, Launcelot, why did he take your hand,        25
  When he had kissed me in his kingly way?
Saying, ‘This is the knight whom all the land
  Calls Arthur’s banner, sword, and shield to-day;
 
“‘Cherish him, love.’ Why did your long lips cleave
  In such strange way unto my fingers then?        30
So eagerly glad to kiss, so loath to leave
  When you rose up? Why among helmed men
 
“Could I always tell you by your long strong arms,
  And sway like an angel’s in your saddle there?
Why sicken’d I so often with alarms        35
  Over the tilt-yard? Why were you more fair
 
“Than aspens in the autumn at their best?
  Why did you fill all lands with your great fame,
So that Breuse even, as he rode, fear’d lest
  At turning of the way your shield should flame?”        40
 
 
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