Arthurian and Grail Poetry
Knights Of King Arthur's Court
By Jessie Weston
The scent of the may is in the air,
And its stars on each bough are hung,
With largesse of blossom and perfume rare
To the wandering breezes flung,
And the fairies tread a measure fair
To the chime by the blue-bells rung.
And the wood-birds carol unafraid,
For no man hath done them wrong,
While King Arthur's knights pass adown the glade,
And each, as he rides along,
Wending his way by sun and shade,
Beguileth the hour with song.
"A song, a song for the springtide,
A song for the golden days,
For the lovelit eyes of the maidens,
And the knight whom their lips shall praise
And who but I should sing it,
Who was ever the Maidens' Knight?
Such honour hath been my guerdon
For many a fair-fought fight.
"Oh, my heart is fain for the clamour
And cry of the battle-field,
For the crash of the splintered spear-shaft,
And the clang of the smitten shield.
But 'tis sweeter when toil is over
To lay me a while to rest
In the arms that so soft enfold me,
And for pillow a snow-white breast.
"And what if such joys be fleeting?
Ah, little I reck the while
I ride adown thro' the sunlight,
With ever a song and a smile!
For when my last fight is foughten
I know that a white-robed band
Of maidens shall bid me greeting
On the shores of a sunlit land!"
"Tho' the springtide sun be fair,
Brighter far beyond compare
Shineth Iseult's golden hair!
"Springtide hours pass all too fleet,
Haste, my steed, on flying feet,
Ah, but Iseult's lips are sweet!
"Iseult, lily, Iseult, rose,
At my heart the love-drink glows,
Thro' my veins like fire it flows!
"Iseult, Iseult, when the light
Fadeth, clasp me, hold me tight,
Kiss me, dearest, into night!"
"Art thou waiting for me, my Lady,
Alone in thy royal bower?
Dost thou send a word thro' the silence
To hasten the passing hour,
'Hath he ever a thought for me, my knight?
Will he come to my arms with the fading light?'
"I am coming, love, I am coming--
Breathe soft, O wind of Spring,
Sail fast, O fleecy cloudlet,
Speed, bird, on glancing wing,
Whisper a word in my Lady's ear,
Tell her the sound of my feet ye hear!
"Ah, never had knight a lady
Fair as my queen is fair;
On a golden throne she sitteth,
In the blaze of her red-gold hair--
And little he dreams, my lord the king,
Of the secret that maketh her heart to sing.
"Are we false? are we true? I know not,
The twain are so wrought in one;
But whether for joy or for sorrow,
The sands of our fate must run--
And what matter if men condemn us quite,
Since all the world shall be ours to-night?"
"I ride adown the forest aisles
From morn till evening shade,
Beneath the stars of heaven my head,
At fall of night, is laid.
No comrade wendeth at my side,
No voice bids me God-speed,
Alone by hill and vale I ride,
Alone by wood and mead.
"For somewhere, near, or far away,
One waiteth long mine aid,
I may not rest, by night or day,
Until his grief be stayed.
For many a year, with prayer and tear,
I've sought to find the way,
But rough or smooth, the path I choose
Still leadeth me astray.
"I may not rest from
off my quest,
I may not stay my hand,
Tho' Life and Love be waiting me,
Far in a distant land.
I may not see my wife's fair face,
I may not faint nor fail,
Till I have won Anfortas grace,
And found the Holy Grail.".
Sir Gawayne hath sought the isles of light
Beyond the shores of day,
Where morn never waneth to shades of night,
And the silver fountains play;
There he holdeth high court as the Maidens' Knight,
In the Maidens' Isle, for aye.
And Tristan sleeps by his lady's side,
To the dirge of the sounding sea;
And the foaming wave and the flowing tide
Hide the twain, that no man may see
Where they take their rest, and their fate abide,
Till the dawn of Eternity.
But Lancelot wrought a penance hard
To win from his sin release,
And his face was by fast and vigil marred
Or ever his pain might cease.
Now his body lieth in Joyous Gard,
And his soul hath gotten peace.
And Perceval, doth he wake or sleep?
Ah, no man shall tell that tale--
Perchance he lieth in
With the Eastern sands for veil;
Or perchance, in a distant land,
doth keep Watch and ward o'er the Holy Grail.
But when the archangel trump shall call,
And the Heavenly Feast be spread,
Say, which of those heroes, among them all,
Shall lift up a fearless head,
And walk the pavement of Heaven's high Hall
With unashamèd tread?
Sir Gawayne, methinks, shall hide his face,
Abashed and overawed,
And the lovers twain, by Jesu's grace,
Sit low at the Heavenly board;
But the King of Heaven shall rise from His place
When He seeth Monsalvsch' lord--
"Welcome, O Brother, who bare thy part
In the travail of My soul,
Who knew no rest of hand or heart
Till thy brother might be made whole;
Come thou, and sit at My side, apart,
While the stars 'neath our footstool roll."