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النشر الإلكتروني

'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue, -

'Tis the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled ?

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,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

What wonder if Sir Launfal now
Remembered the keeping of his vow?

PART FIRST.

“My golden spurs now bring to me,

And bring to me my richest mail,
For tomorrow 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 flew. 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; 'Twas the proudest hall in the North Countree, And never its gates might opened be, Save to lord or lady of high degree; Summer besieged it on every side, But the churlish stone her assaults defied; She could not scale the chilly wall, Though around it for leagues her pavilions tall

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

Green and broad was every tent,

And out of each murmur went
Till the breeze fell off at night.
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 summers 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 maiden mail,
To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.
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.
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.
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 only the worthless gold

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Who gives from a sense of duty;
But he who gives but 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.”

PRELUDE TO PART SECOND.
Down swept the chill wind from the mountain peak,
From the snow five thousand summers old ;

On open wold and hilltop 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 know
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 crystaled the beams of moon and sun,
And made a star of every one:
No mortal builder's most rare devico
Could match this winter palace of ice;
'Twas as if every image that mirrored lay

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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 barp,

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 !
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.

There was never a leaf on bush or tree,
The bare boughs rattled shudderingly;
The river was dumb 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,

As she rose up decrepitly
For a last dim look at earth and sea.
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.
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. “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. 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!”

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