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IV.

It was morning on hill and stream and tree,
And morning in the young knight's heart;
Only the castle moodily

Rebuffed the gifts of the sunshine free,
And gloomed by itself apart;

The season brimmed all other things up
Full as the rain fills the pitcher-plant's cup.

V.

As Sir Launfal made morn through the darksome gate,
He was 'ware of a leper, crouched by the same,
Who begged with his hand and moaned as he sate;
And a loathing over Sir Launfal came;
The sunshine went out of his soul with a thrill,

The flesh 'neath his armor 'gan shrink and crawl, And midway its leap his heart stood still

Like a frozen waterfall;

For this man, so foul and bent of stature,
Rasped harshly against his dainty nature,
And seemed the one blot on the summer morn, -
So he tossed him a piece of gold in scorn.

VI.

The leper raised not the gold from the dust:
"Better to me the poor man's crust,
Better the blessing of the poor,

Though I turn me empty from his door;
That is no true alms which the hand can hold;
He gives nothing but worthless gold

Who gives from a sense of duty;
But he who gives a slender mite,
And gives to that which is out of sight,

That thread of the all-sustaining Beauty
Which runs through all and doth all unite,
The hand cannot clasp the whole of his alms,
The heart outstretches its eager palms,
For a god goes with it and makes it store
To the soul that was starving in darkness before."

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PRELUDE TO PART SECOND.

Down swept the chill wind from the mountain peak, From the snow five thousand summers old;

On open wold and hill-top bleak

It had gathered all the cold,

And whirled it like sleet on the wanderer's cheek
It carried a shiver everywhere

From the unleafed boughs and pastures bare;
The little brook heard it and built a roof
'Neath which he could house him, winter-proof;
All night by the white stars' frosty gleams
He groined his arches and matched his beams;
Slender and clear were his crystal spars
As the lashes of light that trim the stars:
He sculptured every summer delight
In his halls and chambers out of sight;
Sometimes his tinkling waters slipt
Down through a frost-leaved forest-crypt,
Long, sparkling aisles of steel-stemmed trees
Bending to counterfeit a breeze;
Sometimes the roof no fretwork knew
But silvery mosses that downward grew;
Sometimes it was carved in sharp relief
With quaint arabesques of ice-fern leaf;
Sometimes it was simply smooth and clear
For the gladness of heaven to shine through, and here
He had caught the nodding bulrush-tops
And hung them thickly with diamond drops,
That crystalled the beams of moon and sun,
And made a star of every one:

No mortal builder's most rare device
Could match this winter-palace of ice;
'T was as if every image that mirrored lay
In his depths serene through the summer day,
Each fleeting shadow of earth and sky,

Lest the happy model should be lost,
Had been mimicked in fairy masonry

By the elfin builders of the frost.

Within the hall are song and laughter,
The cheeks of Christmas glow red and jolly,
And sprouting is every corbel and rafter

With lightsome green of ivy and holly;
Through the deep gulf of the chimney wide
Wallows the Yule-log's roaring tide;
The broad flame-pennons droop and flap

And belly and tug as a flag in the wind; Like a locust shrills the imprisoned sap,

Hunted to death in its galleries blind; And swift little troops of silent sparks,

Now pausing, now scattering away as in fear, Go threading the soot-forest's tangled darks Like herds of startled deer.

But the wind without was eager and sharp,
Of Sir Launfal's gray hair it makes a harp,
And rattles and wrings

The icy strings,

Singing, in dreary monotone,

A Christmas carol of its own,

Whose burden still, as he might guess,

Was "Shelterless, shelterless, shelterless!"

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The voice of the seneschal flared like a torch
As he shouted the wanderer away from the porch,
And he sat in the gateway and saw all night
The great hall-fire, so cheery and bold,

Through the window-slits of the castle old,
Build out its piers of ruddy light
Against the drift of the cold.

PART SECOND.

I.

There was never a leaf on bush or tree,
The bare boughs rattled shudderingly;
The river was numb and could not speak,

For the weaver Winter its shroud had spun;
A single crow on the tree-top bleak

From his shining feathers shed off the cold sun. Again it was morning, but shrunk and cold, As if her veins were sapless and old, And she rose up decrepitly

For a last dim look at earth and sea.

II.

Sir Launfal turned from his own hard gate,
For another heir in his earldom sate;
An old, bent man, worn out and frail,
He came back from seeking the Holy Grail;
Little he recked of his earldom's loss,
No more on his surcoat was blazoned the cross,
But deep in his soul the sign he wore,
The badge of the suffering and the poor.

III.

Sir Launfal's raiment thin and spare
Was idle mail 'gainst the barbèd air,
For it was just at the Christmas time;
So he mused, as he sat, of a sunnier clime,
And sought for a shelter from cold and snow
In the light and warmth of long-ago;
He sees the snake-like caravan crawl
O'er the edge of the desert, black and small,
Then nearer and nearer, till, one by one,
He can count the camels in the sun,

As over the red-hot sands they pass

To where, in its slender necklace of grass,
The little spring laughed and leapt in the shade,
And with its own self like an infant played,
And waved its signal of palms.

IV.

"For Christ's sweet sake, I beg an alms;
The happy camels may reach the spring,
But Sir Launfal sees only the grewsome thing,
The leper, lank as the rain-blanched bone,
That cowers beside him, a thing as lone
And white as the ice-isles of Northern seas
In the desolate horror of his disease.

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V.

And Sir Launfal said, - "I behold in thee
An image of Him who died on the tree;
Thou also hast had thy crown of thorns,

Thou also hast had the world's buffets and scorns,

And to thy life were not denied

The wounds in the hands and feet and side:

Mild Mary's Son, acknowledge me;
Behold, through him, I give to thee!"

VI.

in his eyes

Then the soul of the leper stood up
And looked at Sir Launfal, and straightway he
Remembered in what a haughtier guise

He had flung an alms to leprosie,
When he girt his young life up in gilded mail
And set forth in search of the Holy Grail.
The heart within him was ashes and dust;
He parted in twain his single crust,
He broke the ice on the streamlet's brink,
And gave the leper to eat and drink,
'T was a mouldy crust of coarse brown bread,
'T was water out of a wooden bowl,
Yet with fine wheaten bread was the leper fed,

And 't was red wine he drank with his thirsty soul.

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VII.

As Sir Launfal mused with a downcast face,
A light shone round about the place;

The leper no longer crouched at his side,
But stood before him glorified,

Shining and tall and fair and straight

As the pillar that stood by the Beautiful Gate, —
Himself the Gate whereby men can
Enter the temple of God in Man.

VIII.

His words were shed softer than leaves from the pine,
And they fell on Sir Launfal as snows on the brine,
Which mingle their softness and quiet in one
With the shaggy unrest they float down upon;
And the voice that was calmer than silence said,
"Lo, it is I, be not afraid!

In many climes, without avail,

Thou hast spent thy life for the Holy Grail;
Behold it is here, this cup which thou
Didst fill at the streamlet for me but now;
This crust is my body broken for thee,
This water His blood that died on the tree;
The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,

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