Idylls of the King
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
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And slowly answered Arthur from the barge: 'The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world. Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me? I have lived my life, and that which I have done May He within himself make pure! but thou, If thou shouldst never see my face again, Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me night and day. For what are men better than sheep or goats That nourish a blind life within the brain, If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer Both for themselves and those who call them friend? For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God. But now farewell. I am going a long way With these thou seest—if indeed I go (For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)— To the island-valley of Avilion; Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea, Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.'

So said he, and the barge with oar and sail Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan That, fluting a wild carol ere her death, Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere Revolving many memories, till the hull Looked one black dot against the verge of dawn, And on the mere the wailing died away.

But when that moan had past for evermore, The stillness of the dead world's winter dawn Amazed him, and he groaned, 'The King is gone.' And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme, 'From the great deep to the great deep he goes.'

Whereat he slowly turned and slowly clomb The last hard footstep of that iron crag; Thence marked the black hull moving yet, and cried, 'He passes to be King among the dead, And after healing of his grievous wound He comes again; but—if he come no more— O me, be yon dark Queens in yon black boat, Who shrieked and wailed, the three whereat we gazed On that high day, when, clothed with living light, They stood before his throne in silence, friends Of Arthur, who should help him at his need?'

Then from the dawn it seemed there came, but faint As from beyond the limit of the world, Like the last echo born of a great cry, Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice Around a king returning from his wars.

Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb Even to the highest he could climb, and saw, Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand, Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King, Down that long water opening on the deep Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go From less to less and vanish into light. And the new sun rose bringing the new year.

To the Queen

O loyal to the royal in thyself, And loyal to thy land, as this to thee— Bear witness, that rememberable day, When, pale as yet, and fever-worn, the Prince Who scarce had plucked his flickering life again From halfway down the shadow of the grave, Past with thee through thy people and their love, And London rolled one tide of joy through all Her trebled millions, and loud leagues of man And welcome! witness, too, the silent cry, The prayer of many a race and creed, and clime— Thunderless lightnings striking under sea From sunset and sunrise of all thy realm, And that true North, whereof we lately heard A strain to shame us 'keep you to yourselves; So loyal is too costly! friends—your love Is but a burthen: loose the bond, and go.' Is this the tone of empire? here the faith That made us rulers? this, indeed, her voice And meaning, whom the roar of Hougoumont Left mightiest of all peoples under heaven? What shock has fooled her since, that she should speak So feebly? wealthier—wealthier—hour by hour! The voice of Britain, or a sinking land, Some third-rate isle half-lost among her seas? There rang her voice, when the full city pealed Thee and thy Prince! The loyal to their crown Are loyal to their own far sons, who love Our ocean-empire with her boundless homes For ever-broadening England, and her throne In our vast Orient, and one isle, one isle, That knows not her own greatness: if she knows And dreads it we are fallen. —But thou, my Queen, Not for itself, but through thy living love For one to whom I made it o'er his grave Sacred, accept this old imperfect tale, New-old, and shadowing Sense at war with Soul, Ideal manhood closed in real man, Rather than that gray king, whose name, a ghost, Streams like a cloud, man-shaped, from mountain peak, And cleaves to cairn and cromlech still; or him Of Geoffrey's book, or him of Malleor's, one Touched by the adulterous finger of a time That hovered between war and wantonness, And crownings and dethronements: take withal Thy poet's blessing, and his trust that Heaven Will blow the tempest in the distance back From thine and ours: for some are scared, who mark, Or wisely or unwisely, signs of storm, Waverings of every vane with every wind, And wordy trucklings to the transient hour, And fierce or careless looseners of the faith, And Softness breeding scorn of simple life, Or Cowardice, the child of lust for gold, Or Labour, with a groan and not a voice, Or Art with poisonous honey stolen from France, And that which knows, but careful for itself, And that which knows not, ruling that which knows To its own harm: the goal of this great world Lies beyond sight: yet—if our slowly-grown And crowned Republic's crowning common-sense, That saved her many times, not fail—their fears Are morning shadows huger than the shapes That cast them, not those gloomier which forego The darkness of that battle in the West, Where all of high and holy dies away.


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