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THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL.

PRELUDE TO PART FIRST.

Over his keys the musing organist,

Beginning doubtfully and far away, First lets his fingers wander as they list, And builds a bridge from Dreamland

for his lay : Then, as the touch of his loved instru

ment Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws

his theme, First guessed by faint auroral flushes

sent Along the wavering vista of his dream.

a

Not only around our infancy
Doth heaven with all its splendors lie;
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,

We Sinais climb and know it not.
Dver our manhood bend the skies;

Against our fallen and traitor lives The great winds utter prophecies ; With our faint hearts the mountain

strives, Its arms outstretched, the druid wood

Waits with its benedicite And to our age's drowsy blood

Stiil shouts the inspiring sea. Earth gets its price for what Earth

gives us ; The beggar is taxed for a corner to

die in, The priest hath his fee who comes and

shrives us, We bargain for the graves we lie in : At the devil's booth are all things sold, Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of

gold; For a cap and belis our lives we

Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's

tasking : 'Tis heaven alone that is given away, 'T is only God may be had for the ask

ing, No price is set on the lavish summer; June may be had by the poorest comer. And what is so rare as a day in June ?

Then, if ever, come perfect days; Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in

tune, And over it softly her warm ear lays : Whether we look, or whether we listen, We hear life murmur, or see it glisten; Every clod feels a stir of might, An instinct within it that reaches and

towers, And, groping blindly above it for light,

Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers; The flush of life may well be seen

Thrilling back over hills and valleys; The cowslip startles in meadows green, The buttercup catches the sun in its

chalice, And there's never a leaf nor a blade

too mean To be some happy creature's palace ; The little bird sits at his door in the sun,

Atiltlike a blossom among the leaves, And lets his illumined being o'errun With the deluge of summer it re

ceives; His mate feels the eggs beneath her

wings, And the heart in her dumb breast flut

ters and sings; He sings to the wide world, and she to

her nest, In the nice ear of Nature which song is

the best? Now is ihe high-tide of the year,

And whatever of life hath ebbed away

pay,

Like burnt-out craters healed with

snow. What wonder if Sir Lauvral now Remembered the keeping of his vow?

PART FIRST.

I.

“My golden spurs now bring to me,

And bring to me my richest mari, For to-morrow I go over land and sea

In search of the Holy Grail; Shall never a bed for me be spread, Nor shall a pillow be under my head, Till I begin my vow to keep ; Here on the rushes will I sleep, And perchance there may come a vision

true Ere day create the world anew.

Slowly Sir Launfal's eyes grew dim.

Slumber fell like a cloud on him, And into his soul the vision fiew.

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Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer, Into every bare inlet and creek and

bay ; Now the heart is so full that a drop

overfills it, We are happy now because God wills

it; No matter how barren the past may

have been, 'Tis enough for us now that the leaves

are green ; We sit in the warm shade and feel right

well How the sap creeps up and the blos

soms swell; We may shut our eyes, but we cannot

help knowing That skies are clear and grass is grow

ing; The breeze comes whispering in our ear, That dandelions are blossoming near, That maize has sprouted, that streams

are flowing, That the river is bluer than the sky, That the robin is plastering his house

hard by ; And if the breeze kept the good news

back, For other couriers we should not lack; We could guess it all by yon heiser's

lowing, And hark ! how clear bold chanticleer, Warmed with the new wine of the year,

Tells all in his lusty crowing ! Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how; Everything is happy now,

Everything is upward striving ; 'Tisas easy now for the heart to be true As for grass to be green or skies to be

blue, "T is the natural way of living: Who knows whither the clouds have

fied ! In the unscarred heaven they leave

no wake; And the eyes forget the tears they have

shed, The heart forgets its sorrow and ache; The soul partakes the season's youth, And the sulphurous rifts of passion

and woe Lie deep neath a silence pure and

smooth,

The crows flapped over by twos and

threes, In the pool drowsed the cattle up to

their knees, The little birds sang as if it were The one day of summer in all the

year, And the very leaves seemed to sing on

the trees : The castle alone in the landscape lay Like an outpost of winter, dull and

gray : 'T was the proudest hall in the North

Countree, And never its gates might opened bo, Save to lord or lady of high degree ; Summer besieged it on every side, But the churlish storie her assaults de

fied : She could not scale the chilly wali, Though around it for leagues her pa.

vilions tall Stretched left and right, Over the hills and out of sight;

Green and broad was every tent,

And out of each a murmur went Till the breeze fell off at night.

And seemed the one blot on the sum

mer morn, So he tossed him a piece of gold in

scorn.

VI.

III. The drawbridge dropped with a surly

clang, And through the dark arch a charger

sprang, Bearing Sir Launfal, the maiden knight, In his gilded mail, that flamed so bright It seemed the dark castle had gathered

all Those shafts the fierce sun had shot

over its wall In his siege of three hundred sum

mers long, And, binding them all in one blazing

sheaf, Had cast them forth : so, young and

strong, And lightsome as a locust-leaf, Sir Launfal flashed forth in his un

scarred mail, To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.

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 doch all

unite, The hand cannot clasp the whole of his

alms, The heart outstretches its eager palms, For a god goes with and makes it

store To the soul that was starving in dark

ness before."

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 arinor 'gan

shrink and crawl, And midway its leap his heart stood stili

Like a frozen waterfall; For this man, so foul and bent of stature, Rasped harshly against his dainty na:

PRELUDE TO PART SECOND. Down swept the chill wind from the

mountain peak, From the snow five thousand sum

mers old; On open wold and hill-top bleak

It had gathered all the cold, And whirled it like sleet on the wan

derer's cheek ; It carried a shiver everywhere From the unleased boughs and pastures

bare; The little brook heard it and built a

roof 'Neath which he could house him, win

ter-proof; All night by the white stars' frosty

gleams He groined his arches and matched his

ture,

beams; Slender and clear were his crystal spais As the lashes of light that irim thie

stars :

Go threading the soot-forest's tangled

darks Like herds of startled deer.

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 afsles of steel-steinmed

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 sum:

mer 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.

But the wind without was eager and

sharp, Of Sir Launfal's gray hair it makes 8

harp,
And rattles and wrings
The icy strings,
Singing, in dreary monotone,
A Christmas carol of its own,
Whose burden still, as he migh,

guess,
Was — “Shelterless, shelterless, shel-

terless!” 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 The great hall-fire, so cheery and

bold, Through the window-slits of the cas

tle old, Build out its piers of ruddy light Against the drift of the cold.

night

PART SECOND.

1.

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 siient sparks, Now pausing, now scattering away

as in fear,

THERE was never

leaf on busha 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 Launfai 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 But deep in his soul the sign he wore, The badge of the suffering and the poor.

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 !"

the cross,

his eyes

III. Sir Launfal's raiment thin and spare Was idle mail 'gainst the barbed 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.

VI.
Then the soul of the leper stood up

in 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.

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.

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 Beauti

ful Gate, Himself the Gate whereby men can Enter the temple of God in Man.

V. And Sir Launfal said, I behold in

thee An image of Him who died on the

tree;

VIII. His words were shed softer than leaves

from the pine, And they fell on Sir Launfai as shows

on the brine,

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