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LAINE the fair, Elaine the loveable,

Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat,

High in her chamber up a tower to

the east

Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot ;

Which first she placed where morning's earliest ray

Might strike it, and awake her with the gleam;

Then fearing rust or soilure fashion'd for it

A case of silk, and braided thereupon

All the devices blazon'd on the shield

In their own tinct, and added, of her wit,

A border fantasy of branch and flower,

And yellow-throated nestling in the nest.

Nor rested thus content, but day by day,

Leaving her household and good father, climb'd

That eastern tower, and entering barr'd her door, Stript off the case, and read the naked shield,

Now guess'd a hidden meaning in his arms,

Now made a pretty history to herself

Of every dint a sword had beaten in it,


And every scratch a lance had made upon it,


Conjecturing when and where: this cut is fresh;

That ten years back ; this dealt him at Caerlyle;

That at Caerleon; this at Camelot :

And ah God's mercy, what a stroke was there!

And here a thrust that might have killd, but God

Broke the strong lance, and roll'd his enemy down,

And saved him: so she lived in fantasy.

How came the lily maid by that good shield

Of Lancelot, she that knew not ev'n his name?

He left it with her, when he rode to tilt

For the great diamond in the diamond jousts,

Which Arthur had ordain'd, and by that name

Had named them, since a diamond was the prize.


For Arthur, long before they crown'd him King,

Roving the trackless realms of Lyonnesse,

Had found a glen, gray boulder and black tarn.

A horror lived about the tarn, and clave

Like its own mists to all the mountain side :

For here two brothers, one a king, had met

And fought together, but their names were lost;

And each had slain his brother at a blow;

And down they fell and made the glen abhorr'd :

And there they lay till all their bones were


And lichen'd into colour with the crags :

And he, that once was king, had on a crown

Of diamonds, one in front, and four aside.

And Arthur came, and labouring up the pass,

All in a misty moonshine, unawares

Had trodden that crown'd skeleton, and the skull

Brake from the nape, and from the skull the crown

Roll'd into light, and turning on its rims

Fled like a glittering rivulet to the tarn:

And down the shingly scaur he plunged, and


And set it on his head, and in his heart

Heard murmurs, ‘Lo, thou likewise shalt be King.'

Thereafter, when a King, he had the gems

Pluck'd from the crown, and show'd them to his


Saying, “These jewels, whereupon I chanced

Divinely, are the kingdom's, not the King's—
For public use: henceforward let there be,

Once every year, a joust for one of these :

For so by nine years' proof we needs must learn

Which is our mightiest, and ourselves shall grow

In use of arms and manhood, till we drive

The heathen, who, some say, shall rule the land

Hereafter, which God hinder.' Thus he spoke :

And eight years past, eight jousts had been, and


Had Lancelot won the diamond of the year,

With purpose to present them to the Queen,

When all were won; but meaning all at once

To snare her royal fancy with a boon

Worth half her realm, had never spoken word.

Now for the central diamond and the last

And largest, Arthur, holding then his court

Hard on the river nigh the place which now

Is this world's hugest, let proclaim a joust

At Camelot, and when the time drew nigh

Spake (for she had been sick) to Guinevere,

' Are you so sick, my Queen, you cannot move

To these fair jousts ?' 'Yea, lord,' she said, 'ye

know it.'

• Then will ye miss,' he answer'd, 'the great deeds

Of Lancelot, and his prowess in the lists,

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