a Tragedy in Five Acts
MORDRED, illegitimate son of Arthur.
KING LEODEGRANCE, father to Guinevere.
DAGONET, the King’s jester.
GUINEVERE, Queen of Britain.
ELAINE, a maiden who loves Launcelot.
UNID, a lady in waiting to the Queen.
gentlemen, ladies, soldiers, herdsmen, messengers, and
ACT I. SCENE I.
Hermitage in the Woods.
ARTHUR, LAUNCELOT and other Knights.
Here is a place of prayer; we will alight,
And rest a space and think us of our sins.
Launcelot, and were I shrived and clean
Half hell itself were loosened of its pains.
Arthur, friend and lover of my youth,
Could’st thou but throw this black mood from thee
And get a sweeter hope into thy soul,
Drive out the horrid phantoms of the past,
And it were hope for Britain. Well thou knowest
Men look to thee to succor this poor land
Enrent by inward brawls and foreign hordes,
Whose fields untilled, and vanished the smoke of homes.
It hath been said that thou would’st raise once
Out of these ruins a kingdom whose great fame
Would ring for ages down the days of earth,
And be a glory in men’s hearts forever.
to the left.
Launcelot, well know I thy love for Arthur.
’Tis thy sweet, manly kinship of the heart,
Opening thy spirit’s windows toward the sun,
Hath made my dark days lighter. Would that I
Had kept me holy, innocent as thee.
I might in kinder fate have made this land
A place where holiness and peace might dwell,
And such a white and lofty honor held [Page
Before men’s eyes, that all the world would come
And worship manhood’s beauty freed from sin.
Such dreams have haunted me from my first youth,
In fitful slumbers or long marching hours.
These lonesome, lofty vigils of the heart
Have made men deem me colder. ’Tis my sin!
O Launcelot I am blacker than thou knowest!
HER. And comest thou, my son, for Church’s grace?
AR. I come here, Father, for
to have me shrived.
HER. Then thou art shriven,
such a noble face Could never harbor evil in its
his hands in blessing.
AR. Stay holy Hermit, fair
trees rot at heart,
And I am evil if this world holds ill.
I would lay bare my soul of its foul sin,
And if there be white shrift for such as me
In Heaven’s mercy, I would crave it now;
Though little of hope have I, if thou dost hear.
HER. Wouldst thou confess, my son? The church hath power
To white the blackest sinner crawling foul
From earth’s most sensuous cesspool, doth he but
Come in the earnest sorrow of his heart
And lay his sins within her holy keeping.
But well I know that thou art that great Arthur,
The hope of all for succor to this realm:—
For other man hath never worn such grace
And nobleness of bearing as thou wearest.
Fear not my son, whatever be the sin
Of thy hot youth, the past will be forgiven,
And holy Church will freely pardon one
And all the evil deeds that thou hast done.
AR. Father, my life is haunted
with one thought [Page 14]
That comes between me and my sweetest hopes.
In battle’s clamor only will it pass,
But in my lonelier moments it comes in;—
The awful memory of one heinous sin.
HER. Of truth thou hast suffered over much, my son.
What is thy sin?
AR. One deed
beyond all others of my youth,
Mad, passionate and wild to savagery,
I violated a maid’s sanctuary,
And afterwards I found,—O Christ, forgive me!
HER. Say on!
AR. She was my sister!
HER. Sancta Maria—Ora
AR. It will not out. The evil
of that night
When I, unknowing, did that awful deed,
Hath blackened all my future like a web.
And when men look up to me as their sun,
It makes my life seem like some whited tower,
Where all is foul and hideous hid within.
HER. Though sayest truth, my
son, thy sin be heavy.
AR. Oh swart, incestuous night
whose bat-like wings
O’er-spread my life like thunder-gathering cloud,
When will thy dawn break glimmering on my soul?
Or wilt thou drag thy weary length along
And spell thy moments out in hopeless years
Until thy black o’er-laps the black of death
In that dread journeying where all men go,
When all my dreams are spent and smouldered down
Like some far ruined sunset at life’s ebb,
And hope deferred fades out in endless sleep?
O holy man forgive mine impious presence,
Thy blessed office naught availeth me.
Nay son grieve not as one who hath no hope.
Though awesome be this youthful sin of thine,
Whose memory blurs thy loftier, holier dreams,
Let not this one sin lead thee to blaspheme [Page
Thus ignorantly holy Church’s power.
Thy very sorrow
half absolveth thee.
In name of Him who blessed the dying thief,
I bid thee look no longer at thy past,
Which eateth like some canker at thy heart;
Redeem thy past in deeds of future good.
Deem’st thy high dreams were given thee for nought?
There is a noble doom about thy face,
A writing writ of God that telleth me
That thou art not a common ordered man,
But one ordained as holy ones of old
For some great lofty cause. Lift up thy heart;
Earth hath a need of thee, thy people call,
Wrongs long unrighted, evils long unplucked,
All cry to thee for judgment. Palsy not
The strength of thy great future brooding on
An indiscretion of thy savage past.
AR. And is it of God, Oh! Father,
HER. Yea, my son;
As are all hope and sunshine. What is life—
But spring unmindful of bleak winter-time,
Joying in living, mindless of old death;
Youth dead to sorrow, age to coming night.
Look up, forget thine evil, drink new faith
From this glad parable of the awakening year.
The church’s arms are round thee, build new hope
In this poor Kingdom as the quickening year
Hath made this wrinkled earth forget old sorrows;
Be this but thine to do, and thou art pardoned.
AR. Oh! blessed be thy counsel,
I feel new joys run riot in my heart.
Old hopes long faded built on my high dreams!
The old dread sorrow lightens, it is gone,
And I go forth a shrived soul even now.
Yea, hear me Father, now I consecrate
This my poor life to this great kingdom’s weal,
And be my God but with me, I will raise
This head of sorrows out of clouds of ill, [Page
And build a splendor of my chastened will.
Thy blessing Father!
HER. (Raises his hand in blessing.) Go forth
Great Arthur, keeper of thy people’s peace.
Go forth to right all wrong and guard all right,
In home and mart, in castle and in cot,
Meting the same to high and lowly lot.
Go forth in name of God to build a realm
Built up on chastity and noble deeds,
Where womanhood is gentle and austere,
And manhood strong in its great innocence.
Go, blessed of God and all thy fellow men,
Go in the strength of thy most high resolve,
Thou wondrous soul unto thy wondrous work,
The glory of all the after days to be.
AR. Amen! Amen!!
ACT I. SCENE 2.
MERLIN and MORDRED, a hunchback, the King’s
Outside a great clamor
of voices is heard of “Arthur! Long live
MER. Now tarry here aside while I prepare
The King for this thy filial audience.
MOR. O mighty Merlin, I fear
me all thine arts
That compass ocean, air, and deepest mine,
And have command of subtlest sciences,
Have never found the power to brew a charm,
A Sovereign draught of distillation rare,
To warm a Father’s heart toward such as me. [Page
MER. Thou much mistakest Mordred,
he is noble.
This too-long thought on thine infirmity,
Hath made thy mind, which is as clear as glass,
Ensickly all things that it looks upon.
When Arthur, thy great father, knows his son,
His nobleness of heart will plead with him;
And when he sees what I have seen in thee,
A subtle greatness of the inner spirit,
Greater than even I, wise Merlin, have,
That prophesies a power for good or ill
Such as is rare ’mid men in this our age,
He will forget that outward lack of mould
In the strong, god-like, nobleness within.
MOR. Ah, Merlin, would my spirit
thou wert right,
And I would show him such a son’s true love,
And consecrate this subtlety within me,
To build a fence of safety round his glory.
But something tells me, some weird, evil doom,
That sits about my heart by day and night,
An awful presence that will never flit,
That he will never love me, yea, that more,
Of all things hateful to him on this earth,
My presence the most hateful. O great Mage,
I know that thou art skilful in thine age,
And subtle in all knowledges of lore,
But there lies in recesses of the heart,
That hath known bitter sorrow such as mine,
A deeper wisdom intuition breeds,
That thou hast never sounded in thy lore.
MER. Hast thou ever seen this
presence whereof thou speakest?
MOR. Yea, only as a look that
MOR. I never saw it in my poor
When he hath climbed my knees to lick my hand.
I never saw in the mirrored peace
That brims the beauty of a forest pool;— [Page
Nor in the wise regard of mighty nature.
But in the face of man I oft have seen it.
MER. What hast thou seen? This
wisdom would I know.
MOR. I never saw it in thy
look, O Mage,
But something sweeter, much akin, called pity,
But once I woke a flower-eyed little maid,
Who slumbered ’mid the daisies by a stream;
She seemed the summer day incarnate there
With her sweet, innocent, unconscious face,
So like a flower herself amid the flowers;
And I were lonely there in all that vast,
And thinking, (’twas only but a boy’s light
With some deep, other thought beyond mine age,)
To wake this human summer-morn to life,
And know this June-day conscious of its joy;
But when I bent and touched her on the arm,
I only woke a living terror there
Of eyes and limbs that fled from my amaze.
I saw it once within the Priestman’s face
The only and the last time I was shriven.
I have no need for shriving priestmen since.
My spirit tells me if they hold no power
To conjure out that devil in themselves,
That darting horror that offends mine eyes,
They ne’er can cast the devils from this life,
And all their vaunts but jugglers’ juggling lies.
MER. O sad, warped youth, aged before thy time,
With that worst, saddest of wisdoms on this earth,
The knowledge of thine own deformity!
Back, Mordred! here cometh our lord, the King!
ARTHUR in his state robes.
AR. And now wise Merlin, wisest of this earth,
Here cometh thine Arthur decked in his first glory.
So great hath been the splendor of this day
That my heart brims with the wine of it [Page
MER. Yea King, thy horn of
glory doth enlarge,
Thy sun of splendor toppeth the future’s marge,
May all bright auspices attend its setting.
AR. And now wise Mage, what
hath thy will with me?
I am thine Arthur even being King,
For thou hast made me, next to that weird fate
That sat about the mystery of my getting,
And the sweet fostership of Holy Church,
Which hath forgiven my great youthful sin
And set her seal of favor on my deeds.
All present splendors thou hast prophesied,
And made the people take me for their king,
Hast pointed out my fitness for this office,
And lifted Arthur from a cloud of sorrows
Unto the golden glories of a throne.
To-day the fealty of an hundred Earls
Which thou hast garnered to my new-made kingdom
Hath honored me and made me thrice a King.
Yea, well say Merlin that my horn is full
To plenty with the blessed hopes of earth,
And all of this I owe unto thy favor.
My thunder-clouds are past, my future clear
As yon blue summer sky. No evil lurks
In secret for to strike at this my glory,
Unless a bolt fell from yon dazzling blue!
heard in the distance—ARTHUR staggers
A portent! A portent!
MER. ’Tis nought, o King,
but gathering thunderheads
About the thick, close heatings of the west,
The muttered portent of a summer shower.
’Tis but a blackness that will quickly pass
And leave a blessing on the fields and woods.
Fear not such signs as nature’s seeming anger.
I come to thee upon a graver matter.
AR. Yea Merlin! Speak on.
MER. Arthur, I speak now to
no puling youth, [Page 20]
No mere sin-pricked conscience in a human form,
But bring a kingly matter to a king,
Whereof that he may do the kingliest deed
That he may hap on in the unknown lease
Of all his kingship. I have kept this matter,
The deepest and the dreadest concerning thee
And all the workings of thy coming fate,
Until the hour when thou didst feel thee king
In more than seeming outward human choice,
And thou wert at thy greatest, even that I,
In all his power, might see the King I made,
Not in all the glory of his court,
His people’s laudings sounding in his ears,
Not in all the shout of battle victory;
But in that dread and secret solemn hour,
When some strange doom uplifts its somber face
And man must show his kingship of himself.
AR. Yea Merlin! Say on Merlin,
MER. For this same reason I
have hid till now
The secret from thee that thou hast a son.
AR. A son!
MER. Yea, a son, by thine own sister.
AR. Oh cruel! Oh cruel! Oh
MER. Yea more, for knowing
all the warm desire
That thou hast unto things of beauteous shape,
And lovest chiefly what is glad and fair
To look upon in nature or human form,
Which showest in thy love for Launcelot—
AR. Yea, Launcelot! Would a
Launcelot were my son!
MOR. (aside) Ah, me!
MER. But knowing further that a deeper feeling,
Which holdeth rule in every human heart
That knoweth greatness, would uppermost in thee,
At knowledge of the fate of thy poor son,
Who madeth not himself but bore thy sin
In outward simile in his whole life’s being,
As Christ did bear men’s sins upon the tree; [Page
Who knowing all the ill that thou had’st done
Still had sufficient sense of inward greatness
To love the father who begat him thus;
I feel if thou art that great Arthur dreamed
Of me these many years of toil and care
That I have worked to make thee what thou art;
That knowing this son of thine, distorted, wry,
Diminutive in outward human shape,
And void of all those graces thou hast loved
To group about thy visions of thy court,
Hath such a soul within him like a jewel
In some enchanted casket, that were rare
In all the lore and wisdom of this age,
That thou wouldst love him only all the more
For that poor, wry, misshapen shell of his.
AR. Oh cruel! cruel! cruel!
MER. Mordred, come forth!
MORDRED who kneels and tries to cover himself with
AR. (starts) what be this?
MER. Thy son Mordred, the heir
to thy realm!
AR. O black angered Heaven!
[Falls heavily to
MOR. Father! My father! Merlin
thou hast killed my father.
O Merlin thou wert over-cruel!
MER. Better that he were dead
a thousand deaths
Than this had happened. He is not a king
In more than vulgar fancy. In mine eyes
With all thy wry, distorted body there,
Thou art a thousand times more kingly now
Than he or any like him in this realm.
And thou wilt be a king yet ere thou diest.
O Arthur, thou great Arthur of my dreams,
Why didst thou thus unthrone thee, showing bare
A thing of clay, where all seemed whitest marble?
MOR. Ha! now he revives. Father!
AR. (Rises and staggers)
Ha! yea, yea, that cloud, that cloud upon mine
My crown! My crown! Methought I had a crown!
MER. Yea of a truth thou hadst
AR. And where be it, good father?
MER. Stumbling on sudden to
the precipice of a golden opportunity,
Thou loosedst thy kingship and straightway it toppled
AR. And might we not make search,
Might we not take lights, lights, and go find it?
MER. Not all the lights that light this glowing world
Might light thee to it.
And who art thou that mocketh at me thus?
MER. A shadow.
AR. And what be I?
MER. In truth a shadow.
AR. And that—that blackness?
[Pointing at MORDRED.
MER. A shadow also, yea we
all be shadows.
AR. And is there nothing real,
nothing tangible in all this mist?
MER. Nay, nothing, save the
visions we have lost,
The autumn mornings with their frosty prime,
The dreams of youth like bells at eventime
Ringing their golden longings down the mist.
AR. And we be dead, Father?
MER. Yea, I am dead to one
great hope I had,
And thou art dead to what thou mightst have been,
And he is dead to what is best of all,
The holiest blossom on life’s golden tree.
AR. And what be that, Father?
MER. Love! Love!
AR. Then he be greatest?
MER. Yea greater, far, though
we completed greatness,
Than either thou or I could ever be.
AR. Then what be he? [Page
MER. He is that rare great
blossom of this life
Which mortals call a man.
AR. A man!
MER. Yea, a man.
AR. Why he is wry, distorted,
short of shape,
Like some poor twisted root in human form.
And I am tall and fair, placed like a king,
And yet you make him greater, how be that?
MER. Didst thou but own Goliath’s
And wert a Balder in thy face and form,
With all of heaven’s lightnings in thy gaze,
Still would his greatness dwarf thee.
AR. Then what be I?
MER. The wreck of my poor hopes.
AR. The what?
MER. The shadow of a king.
AR. And where may be the king, if I be but the shadow?
He went out in his glory one bright morn,
In all the summer splendors long ago,
And there by well-heads of my youth’s bright dreams,
Be-like he’s walking yet.
MOR. Oh! Merlin wake him! Thou
art over cruel
To play thus on his fancy with thine arts.
MER. And dost thou love him
MOR. Yea, love is not a thing
so lightly placed,
That it may perish easy. Thou mayst kill
The king in him, thou canst not kill the father,
Though thou mightst make me bitter to conspire
And topple his great kingdom round his head,
Yet I would ever love him ’neath it all.
The Arthur of thine ambitions may be dead,
But not the Arthur of my childhood’s longing,
Though this poor King who hunteth his lost crown
Be but the walking shape of all those dreams.
And temptest thou me, thou Merlin, thus to hate?
MER. Yea, Mordred, I am cruel, I am fate.
I tempt thee but to live, and dost thou live,
Enalienate from all this love of earth,
And they but crumble this phantom round their heads.
Thou art the key by which I may unlock
The lock that I have made with mine own hands.
And if thou ever want’st an instrument,
A dagger wherewith to stab this paltry realm,
MER. Yea, Vivien. There is
naught on all this earth
That cuts so sharp the thews of love and hate
And those poor brittle thongs that bind men up
In that strange bundle called society,
Like the sharp acids nature hath distilled
From out the foiled hates of an evil woman.
(To the king.) Ho! ho! Arthur! Great King
Arthur! Knowest thou me, Merlin?
AR. Yea, Merlin, it is thou,
and I the King,
Waking, it seemeth from an evil dream.
MER. Yea, King, we have all
AR. Ha! where is my crown?
You dropped it when you fainted, sire.
[Kneels and presents it.
Here is thy crown, father.
AR. Father! yea all, I know
all now. It cometh back.
And this my son? Oh Merlin, had I known
That thou didst hate me and wouldst use me thus!
MER. I hate thee not, King
Arthur, nor do I love.
I loved an Arthur once, a phantom king,
Whom I did build on pinnacles of glory.
But he hath now long vanished, and I go,
Like many another who hath wrecked his hopes
On some false shore of human delusiveness,
To bury my pinch-beck jewels in that pit
That men call black oblivion. No, proud Arthur,
I am much over old for loves or hates, [Page
My days are
past, my mission done on earth;
I leave thee one here, though, whose love or hate
Is more to thee than mine could ever be.
’Twixt thee and him there are such subtle webs
Of destiny, it needeth no magician
To prophesy the running of those threads
That weave the warp of your two destinies.
Farewell Arthur! Mordred, fare thee well!
AR. Stay, Stay, Merlin! I have
much need of thee.
ACT 1. SCENE 3.
PLACE—A room in the castle at Camelot.
Enter DAGONET, the
DAG. Meseems this King is like an April week.
But yestermorn he was all smiles and sun,
And now he skulks and prowls and scowls and mopes,
As though existence were a draggled pond
In dirty weather.
VIV. And thou fool, but a wry toad on its edge.
DAG. And thou the snake’s
head lifted in the sedge,
Aye, sweet Vivien.
VIV. Why snakest thou me, fool?
Methought that thou favoredst me?
DAG. Aye, so I do. Thou coilest
round my heart,
The sweetest, wisest serpent in this world.
Thou charmest me with those dazzling eyes o’ thine.
And though the blessed bread were yet in mouth,
I’d go to Hell to do a deed for thee [Page
And yet thou art a snake, as well thou knowest.
Is it not so, sweet Vivien?
VIV. Can’st thou be wise for once Dagonet?
Yea let me teach thee.
DAG. And what is it to be wise?
VIV. To leave aside that mummer’s
And show a front of silent dignity.
DAG. Like the King?
VIV. Aye, like the King.
DAG. Then to be wise is to
be like the King,
To be a cup of summer wine to-day,
Anon a dish of lonesome woe to-morrow.
I love not much this wisdom thou dost teach,
These high come-ups and downs they like me not.
I am too much a fool to learn thy lesson.
And who’d be wise
And full of sighs,
And care and evil borrow;
When to be a fool
Is to go to school
Who’d tread the road,
And feel the goad,
And bear the sweatsome burden;
When loves are light,
And paths are bright
Of folly’s pleasant guerdon?
Sigh while we may,
We cannot stay
The sun, nor hold its shining;
So joy the nonce,
We live but once,
And die for all our pining [Page 27].
Who’d be a king
And wear a ring
And age his youth with sorrow;
When to be a fool
Is to go to school
VIV. Aye, Dagonet, thou art indeed a happy fool.
Wilt thou shew me how to make love?
DAG. (kneels in mock humility)
Sweet Vivien, I am thy knight.
VIV. Is it all thou canst say?
DAG. What would’st thou
VIV. Oh lover’s talk.
DAG. Thou meanest as lovers
DAG. After wedding or afore,
VIV. Afore, of course, stupid
DAG. (Folds his hands and
frups and mumble rings,
Whirligigs and winter-greens,
Turnip-tops and other things, I love thee!
Spindle-spouts and turtles’ eggs,
Mutton-chops and milk-stools’ legs,
Heigh ho! I love thee!
VIV. And now thou art the fool in earnest.
DAG. Yea, and the better lover.
VIV. And what after wedding, thou wise fool?
DAG. What saith the pot to the egg that is boiled therein,
The floor to the mop that hath scrubbed it,
The rain to the moist earth,
And the bird’s nest to the empty shell?
Learn, and thou shalt find it [Page 28].
VIV. And had’st thou never a lover’s longing,
DAG. Yea, but I cured me.
VIV. Wilt thou give me that receipt, Dagonet?
DAG. I filled my mouth wi’ honey, and my couch
And went asleep on’t.
[VIVIEN laughs and retires
behind the curtain.
DAG. Yea woe is me, is me, poor Dagonet!
I hate myself and yet I fain must smile
And play the thistle-down and dandy-puff,
The foolish froth at edge of flagonets;
And all the while see me a tortured torrent
Winding down in darks of its own sorrow.
Yea, Dagonet, thou art too much of fool,
Like the great King and all other fools,
To be the thistle-down thou fain wouldst seem,
For thou art also anchored by the heels
To some sore, eating iron of thy desire.
Well fool, what mummeries now?
I be holding a black Friday service, Sir King.
And what sayest thou in thy supplications?
I think on thee Sir King, and I think on poor Dagonet,
And I say, Lord have mercy upon us!
A pious wish, Sir Fool, but why pitiest thou me?
For thy poverty, Sire.
Why poverty, fool?
Yea King, thou hast a crown, thou hast wealth,
And power and lands, and yet thou lackest
The cheapest commodity i’ the whole world.
And what be that, fool?
(Going out.) Sunshine, Sir King, that be the
AR. Launcelot, sit here and let’s forget
That I am king and thou the greatest knight
In this most mighty realm. Let us deem
Me but the Arthur of old days, and thou
The sunny Launcelot who was fain to shrive
His sorrowful Arthur from his darker moods,
And make a glow about the future’s countenance.
LAUN. Yea King, but me thought
thou sentest for me with most urgent commands.
AR. Yea, most urgent.
LAUN. The knights and men-at-arms
And all the splendid cortège thou hast ordered,
With retinue befitting thy commands.
God’s benison go with thee, great Arthur,
This most auspicious day thou goest forth
To meet the high and beauteous Guinevere,
Thy chosen mate and queen of this fair realm.
AR. I go not forth!
LAUN. Thou goest not, and why?
AR. Deem it not strange my
Launcelot, that I sit
Here thus disconsolate my betrothal morn,
Nor over eager for to play the lover
And decked in splendor go to meet the queen.
Launcelot thine Arthur hath a sorrow.
Hast seen my son Mordred?
LAUN. Yea Arthur, I have seen this Mordred.
Yea, my Arthur, thou hast indeed a sorrow,
And could thy Launcelot but help thee bear it!
AR. What thinkest thou of this
Mordred, this my son?
Likest thou him not?
LAUN. He is so strange, so
small, so queer of limb,
At first I marvelled, then I pitied, then—
AR. Yea, and what?
LAUN. I met his eyes, and straightway
I forgot [Page 30]
The manner of man he was, save that a soul
Of wondrous scorn and mystery met mine;
That froze the present, made the future dread,
With strange forebodings. While I mused he passed,
But left that chill behind him in my blood.
And yet he seemeth a soul, Sire, to be pitied.
AR. Yea, all but pity, Arthur’s
son should claim.
LAUN. ’Tis thy cross,
Arthur, as a king thou’lt bear it.
And we all seeing shall say our King, like Christ,
Beareth his cross i’ the sunlight, i’ the
And take pattern from thy greatness.
AR. I bear it not, Launcelot, it beareth me down,
Down into blacker depths, aye and blacker.
He cometh betwixt my spirit and the sun.
Canst thou not help thy King?
I seem like one who walketh in dreams where all are
Till I seem but a shadow-king walking in a realm of
LAUN. Take courage to thee,
Arthur, it will off.
Go in thy kingship’s strength and meet thy queen.
Her beauty and her kindliness will cure thee
Of this distemper.
AR. Nay, Launcelot, this is
the very matter,
As thou well knowest she hath never seen me;
And for the very reverence I bear her,
A maiden princess, I would hold as snow
In each thing that regardeth purity.
By all the love that I would bear to her,
I would not have her meet me in this mood,
But I would have her meet her Arthur when
In kingly grace he is himself a king.
Yea, Launcelot, for this I sent for thee.
’Tis mine intent that I should tarry here
And in the joustings cure me of this fit,
While thou dost go forth in my place to bring
The Princess Guinevere to Camelot.
LAUN. Nay Sire, not I! Not Launcelot!
AR. By thy love for me, thou wilt do it,
Whom else in all this kingdom wide but thee [Page
Could I send on a mission such as this?
I honor all thy love in sending thee,
The one true knight, the glory of my realm.
In this, Oh Launcelot, thou canst help thy King,
And show abroad the love that ’twixt us lies,
Till men will say: “So much of love there lies
Betwixt King Arthur and great Launcelot,
That when the King stayed ill at Camelot
He sent forth Launcelot to fetch the Queen.”
And what more fitting messenger to send
That thee in all thy strong and splendid youth,
The flower and sun of all my chivalry,
Launcelot, the young and pure-in-heart.
Thou wilt do this and crown thy love for me.
LAUN. Nay, mine own Arthur, men will rather say:
“Why stayed the King, unkingly, thus at home
And sent forth Launcelot to meet his bride?”
Oh Arthur, by my love, go forth thyself.
Rather thou sentest me sack a hundred cities
Than do this deed that will un-king thee so.
AR. Launcelot, I would rather die than go.
LAUN. Yea Arthur, I would rather
die than go.
AR. Launcelot lovest thou thine
LAUN. Yea Arthur, well thou
AR. Wilt thou honor me as a
LAUN. Yea to the death.
AR. Then the King commands
that thou goest for the love thou bearest Arthur.
LAUN. Yea, Sire, I go. (aside)
And all fears go with me [Page 32].
ACT I. SCENE 4.
PLACE—LEODEGRANCE’S castle at Camelard.
LEO. Now is the day auspicious to my house
When Guinevere will wed with mighty Arthur.
Golden the mornings, happy speed the nights,
With constellations soft and wooing hours
That speed the bride and bridegroom to their bowers.
Splendid be my prime and soft mine age,
Who am a father to this mighty realm.
Ho there, without!
[Trumpets heard, enter pages.
PAGE. Mighty Sire, with trumpet
and with drum,
The lofty Arthur with his host hath come.
A world of spears and pennons fill the town,
And all the burghers feast their eyes with seeing.
[A clatter of arms without.
LAUNCELOT, who kneels.
LAUN. Sir King!
LEO. Where tarries the great
LAUN. He cometh not, my lord.
LEO. And why?
LAUN. The King on sudden sick
Hath sent me with his heart to Camelard
To plead his absence with thee and the Princess,
And guard her glad way forth to Camelot.
I am that Launcelot, the knight-at-arms,
Who loveth Arthur more than maid or king.
Perchance if thou wilt trust her to my care,—
Here is great Arthur’s order.
[Presents a ring.
LEO. Welcome to Camelard, most
Well ken we of thy name and nobleness.
It grieves us much great Arthur could not come [Page
And guest of our poor hospitality,
Receive our noble daughter at our hearth,
And lead her home from out our very doors.
This much perforce had willed a father’s pride,
This much had satisfied a father’s love.
But seeing Chance hath given us none of it,
We must be gracious to her messenger
And thank her for the safety she hath sent.
Tomorrow’s dawn we give into thy hands
The maiden daughter of our kingly love,
To guard in safety to great Arthur’s court,
There to be wedded as his faithful queen.
Meanwhile receive our hospitality.
This castle and this town are thine to-night
In honor of the Princess and the King.
LAUN. We thank thee Sire for this thy hospitality.
LEO. Yea, one thing further,
knowing our daughter’s nature,
And fearing a maiden’s pride might feel a hurt,
At the King’s absence, we would therefore advise
That this be kept a secret till tomorrow,
When we will break it softly to Her Highness;
Though she hath never seen him, as thou knowest,
She now half loves him for his kingly virtues,
And being her father’s daughter thinks it well
To act a daughter’s just obedience.
She hath a wayward nature, ’tis a pride
We have in common, therefore we defer
This matter till tomorrow. ’Twould not do
To let her sleep on such sharp disappointment.
LAUN. As you will, noble lord
ACT I. SCENE 5.
PLACE—The apartment of GUINEVERE
GUINEVERE and a lady attendant.
GUIN. Now Unid, I have seen
this noble Arthur.
I spied him from my turret as he rode,
And all my heart went out in love to him,
The knight incarnate of my girlhood’s dreams.
Didst notice his bearing Unid?
UNID. Yea my lady, and fairer
man and nobler knight
Eye hath not seen.
GUIN. His face was like the
gardens when the sun
Lifts up his crimson splendor after dawn
His bearing as the bearing of a god,
And yet as one who would be kind and loving.
UNID. Yea, my lady, he seemed
glad and fair,
And fit to be the lord to thee, my Princess.
GUIN. Come Unid, take my hand
and we will sit
And speak of this great Arthur. Well thou knowest
My maiden fears regarding this same marriage.
I honored this Arthur as a noble king,
The mighty monarch and the splendid warrior,
And yet I fear him for reputed coldness.
Thou knowest me a princess warm in blood,
Brim with fire and sweetness of this life,
Not fitted to be wedded to a statue,
A marble, though that marble be a king.
For something stirred my life-springs long ago,
And whispered, Guinevere was made for love,
And love alone would rule her destiny.
And when I looked and saw him enter there,
And knew my lord, and felt him gaze my way,
Knowing his errand to my father’s hall,
I blushed me till mine inmost being burned.
And all the roses whispered, “Arthur”! “Arthur”!
And “Arthur”! “Arthur”! rang
through all the halls.
I wonder much if he will love me Unid?
UNID. In sooth he must, my
lady, be he noble.
Though he never saw thee, who but heard
Of all thy charms, my Princess Guinevere,
Could help but love thee when he seeth thy face?
GUIN. ’Tis in my mind to sound his manner, Unid.
To take him treacherous and unawares.
I like not much this way of wedding maids,
In cruel blindness of their coming fate.
This marriage savoreth much of state affairs,
Even o’er much to please my noble fancy.
I would me much to see this royal lover,
And know with mine own senses if he loves
With that intense delight and warmth of feeling,
With which poor Darby freely weddeth Joan.
Though I be all a queen I be a woman,
With all the thoughts and instincts of a woman.
UNID. What would’st thou
do, my lady?
GUIN. That I this even meet
him in the garden.
UNID. On what pretence, my
lady? ’Twere a risky business.
GUIN. Thou wilt be veiled and
take this golden ring,
Cozen his squire, and say, this for the knight
Who rode within the castle walls to-day.
Leave thou him word, a lady in distress,
Who needeth a knight to aid her in her sorrow,
Would meet him in the garden walls at sunset.
UNID. I will do it my lady,
but what if he come not?
GUIN. No danger of his not
coming if he be
The man I worshipped from my tower this morning.
He’d come were yon rose-plot enchanted ground
And gated by a thousand belching fiends.
He’d come, my king! Oh Unid, how I love him! [Page
ACT I. SCENE 6.
PLACE—A rose garden adjoining the castle.
LAUN. This is a sunset bower for lovers made.
The air seems
faint with pale and ruddy bloom,
The red for rosy dreams, the white for pure
And holy maiden thoughts all unexpressed.
There hangs fatality upon this place.
I cannot shake its ague from my heart.
I would I were safe back in Camelot,
With this fair Guinevere, great Arthur’s glory.
I’d rather meet the mad kerls of the Isles,
Than come again on such a quest as this.
This Guinevere they say is proud and cold,
Not such a woman as Launcelot would love.
Yea love, what doth it mean, and this strange maid,
What can she want of me? Aye, here she comes.
GUIN. My lord forgive this meeting in this place.
(aside) Oh, if he like it not!
LAUN. Wouldst ask mine aid?
GUIN. Yea; wouldst thou aid
a maiden in distress?
LAUN. Lady, all maidens have
a right to a true knight’s help.
GUIN. My lord hast thou ever
LAUN. Many fair women have
I seen, but none to love as thou meanest.
Why askest thou me this?
GUIN. Wouldst thou fight for
one like me?
aside her cloak.
LAUN. (Starts and stands
as one in a dream.) Fair lady!
(Aside.) Wondrous Heaven, what be this? [Page
In all my dreams I never saw such beauty
Of woman’s face or of a woman’s form.
She fills my heart like combs of golden honey.
GUIN. My lord, hast lost thy
(Aside) I had not dreamed this.
LAUN. Fair lady, forgive my sudden lack of speech,
But never in my existence have I seen
Such loveliness and maiden grace as thine.
Yea, I would call it benison, could I stand,
And gaze upon thee as thou art, forever.
There’s some fatality that draws me to thee,
Like I had known thee somewhere long ago.
LAUN. Thou art all glory, all
that this life is,
And all before but one poor, pallid dream
Of this real living. Now I see thy face,
I know what heaven is and all delights
That erring mortals lost in Paradise.
GUIN. My lord! (Aside)
Sweet heaven this be too blessed!
LAUN. Fair maiden, Princess,
lady, what thou art
Is what I’d die for. In mine inmost heart
Thou art inshrined. It seems some blessed dream.
Thou art too beautiful for mortal maid,
And yet I feel thou art not all unkind,
Might I dare read love’s missal in thine eyes.
GUIN. Most noble lord, I came
here for this purpose
To render my heart’s being up to thee.
Deem not this act unmaidenly in one
Whose whole life’s currents to thy being run.
LAUN. It seems that we were
[Folds her in his
arms and kisses her.
GUIN. All life hath been but
shaping up to this.
LAUN. Oh could this sunset
be but gold forever
GUIN. My lord Arthur! [Page
LAUN. (Starts back.)
GUIN. Kiss me. Why Great God?
Thou art my God when thy lips are so sweet.
LAUN. Why calledst thou me
GUIN. And art thou not?
LAUN. Oh, who art thou that
callest Arthur, lord?
GUIN. As thou art Arthur, I
back in horror.
LAUN. Guinevere! Oh hell make
thick your murky curtains
Day wake no more! Stars shrink your eye-hole lights,
And let this damned earth shrivel!
GUIN. (Clutching his arm.)
And art thou not great Arthur?
Who art thou? O God! who art thou?
LAUN. Not Arthur, no! but that
Who ’twixt his hell and Arthur’s heaven
GUIN. Then am I a doomed maid.
LAUN. Black, murky fiend of
hell! come in thy form
Most monstrous, give me age on ages here.
And I will clang with thee and all thine imps.
Bind me in blackness under Hell’s foul night,
And it were nothing, after dream like this.
GUIN. (Rising up.)
Oh, mercy! damned or not, I love thee still!
LAUN. Why doth not nature crack
GUIN. (Crawls to his feet.)
Oh be thou fiend or imp or Launcelot,
Thy kisses burn me even through this mist.
LAUN. Yea, thou dost move me
as never woman hath moved.
Oh would to God that we had never loved!
Then thou wouldst have been Guinevere and I Launcelot.
GUIN. What be we now?
LAUN. Damned souls.
GUIN. Then sweet, my love, it were thus to be damned
LAUN. Oh thou must go, proud
Unto great Arthur’s court and be his bride,
And I will be that olden Launcelot
In shape and seeming, though I hold a devil.
Oh never more, mine Arthur, will I look
With peace and frankness on thy noble face.
’Twixt thee and me a wall is builded up
Of hideous evil. Guinevere, my love,
We were damned long ago, and this be hell.
GUIN. Oh most unfortunate me, thou art not Arthur,
And I am Guinevere and I have loved.
Though I go morrow morn to Camelot
And place my hand in his and pledge him mine,
Not all the clamor of glad abbey-bells,
Or heavenward incense, may kill out the fever
Of thy hot kisses on my burning lips.
I am not Arthur’s. He is but a name,
A ringing doom that haunts me round the world.
Launcelot, we were wedded long ago
Before this life in some old Venus garden,
And this brief meeting but re-memory
Awakening from some cursed doze of life
Unto this present glory of our love.
Thou wilt not leave me, Launcelot, loveless, lorn?
LAUN. Aye, this be hell!
GUIN. Aye, hell to me to be
divorced from thee.
LAUN. Thou art betrothed to
our great lord, high Arthur,
And I that Arthur’s trusted bosom friend,
And yet I’d kiss again thy honied lips
Though Arthur’s shadow flaming stood between.
I’m not an Adam to be driven out
With flaming brand from thy sweet paradise.
I’d hold thee, Guinevere, in these mine old self.
O Guinevere, this love hath made me mad.
that all were changed in nature’s course [Page
That I were not myself, but some rude shape;
That thou wert not so sweet to look upon,
But sour and crabbed and old, for Arthur’s sake,
So that all might have gone the olden way.
GUIN. Oh, that this night might
never pass away,
We and this garden here forever stay,
Yon setting moon forever hold her crest
Above the fringed peace of yonder West,
These roses ever perfumed petals cast,
So that our love in its glad youth might last;
No bleak to-morrows with their Arthurs come,
With evil waking to a somber doom;
No age, like autumn, wrinkling to decays,
Filled with sad hauntings of gone yesterdays [Page41].
ACT II. SCENE 1.
PLACE—The forest of Bracliande.
Enter LAUNCELOT and VIVIEN.
MER. Tarry we here, for I am fain for rest.
O mighty Slumber, sweet Oblivion!
Make this day night and seal my sleep-ward eyes;
And bear me in thy light and feathery bark,
For I am over-weary of this world.
VIV. Give me the book of charms
wherein is written
The power whereof that I may guard thy rest.
gives her the book.
MER. Thou hast poor Merlin
on the weaker side.
[He sleeps. VIVIEN mutters
VIV. Sleep! Sleep!
MER. Ho! ho! a mountain lieth
on me. Take off this mountain!
Ha! ha! mine olden power, and thou art gone at last!
[Tries to rise.
VIV. (mutters charm)
MER. Methought it thundered,
and a drop of rain
Fell on my forehead.
VIV. Sleep! sleep!
Spirit of slumber, rise from thy dark caves!
spirit of sleep rises up as a grey mist and looms about.
Wrap him in thy shadowy embrace
And bind him in thy filmy, silken bonds
A thousand ages [Page 42].
MER. O light, thou goest out!
VIV. Come, black Oblivion, from thy shadowy tomb!
spirit of oblivion rises as a black smoke.
Shroud him in thy swart and deep embrace
A thousand ages. Bind his senses fast.
Make him all droppings of a foul decay.
moans and sinks in sleep. VIVIEN weaves
paces about him.
rise and wind him in a grey and black smoke.
Sleep like any rock or clod of earth,
Thou coffin that enclosed a human soul.
The blind dull years take never note of thee,
For thou art part and parcel of the past.
Now, Arthur, that thy great right hand is gone,
Vivien, the devil, backs to Camelot;
Vivien, the scorned, the dust betwixt thy feet,
Doth back to Camelot, where vengeance waits.
I am resolved
to be the villain dire,
And cunning plotter of this present play.
Then hence to Camelot to achieve mine end.
I’ll shadow Mordred, work upon his ill,
And mould him to my spirit’s will.
ACT II. SCENE. 2.
PLACE—Castle at Camelot.
MOR. Two roads there are for me in this dark world,
Both shadowed by the gloom of haunted groves.
One leads to quiet and kind nature’s peace.
I’m part inclined to join a brotherhood [Page
Composed of nature and mine inward thoughts.
The other road leads to no happiness;
But dark ambition—it lowers about my brain,
And hatred at the scorn of human eyes.
Yea, I am half resolved to be a man,
And take a part in this poor, shifty world,
Where so much ill begins to lift its head.
And help to pull the ropes behind the scenes
That aid the puppets to their forcèd parts.
Yea, sooth, indeed, that Vivien hath a devil,
But it is such a sweet and clever devil,
I cannot help but take it to mine arms.
She hath a counsel toward the stormier part.
She puts her little foot on fate’s grim head,
And harks it hiss. I am persuaded much
To make a stir to remedy my wrongs,
And yet my loftier nature cries me no.
O Mordred, what art thou, misshapen monster?
Thou wilt be sweet as Launcelot in the grave,
Though thou canst never smile on Guinevere,
Or other star of brightness, stand by Arthur
Like lofty pine that girds the hills of snow.
Yea, I am half constrained to be a fiend,
And take this mighty kingdom by the walls,
And shake it till its deep foundations thunder.
There is no love for Mordred in these precincts;
Took he the lonely road to-morrow morn,
They’d cover his face and laugh the world along,
Unmindful of his setting.
VIV. Nay, not so, there are two would grieve for thee.
MOR. Aye, two?
Yea, two: I and thy dog.
MOR. Yea, sooth would grieve
my poor four-footed friend.
Better that Mordred had been got a dog,
With four good legs and strength of limbs and back,
A pattern to his species, than be thus
A blot on all the beauty of his kind.
Vivien, would that I were shelved in earth!
VIV. Doubtest thou my love?
MOR. Thou art a strange and
subtle human mixture
Of cleverness and charm and swift deceit,
And yet I like thee, though thou voicest me
Upon the evil longings of my nature.
What canst thou love in me?
VIV. Yea, all of thee, not
thy misshapen body,
But thy deep, precious mind, thy spirit rare,
That patent greatness seated on thy brow
Wherefore I’d see thee lift this Arthur down,
And show thy kingship on thy rightful throne.
Thou hast a grievance against this callous world,
If ever man were saddled by grim woe.
LAUNCELOT at left, followed by GUINEVERE.
doth come the way will help thee to it.
MORDRED back into the shadow.
LAUN. (comes forward, followed
by GUINEVERE) My dearest lady, why wilt tempt me
Thou art the rightful, wedded spouse of Arthur.
GUIN. O Launcelot, thou hast
doomed me with thy beauty.
I am no more the rightful wife of Arthur;
I cannot live without thee, Launcelot!
LAUN. Lady, this stolen sweetness
is a hell.
I am no more the Launcelot that I was,
Nor would I be that Launcelot for high Heaven.
VIV. (aside to MORDRED)
These words are rungs by which to build thy
Over the ruins of this doomèd kingdom.
MOR. I cannot play thus on
my father’s shame,
Even though he hate me. I would rather go
And bury my sorrows in a hermit’s grave [Page
Than build a power upon this human folly.
Even these twain, my heart doth pity them.
Not all their beauty hath kept them from this hell.
VIV. Hast thou no pride, Prince
Yea, wait a breath, I’ll show thy wrongs too deep
To languish in a monkish wilderness.
What hath thy soul to do with weeds and turf?
Assert thy greatness or else kill thyself.
Thou art not fit to cumber this flat earth
If thou canst not assert thy dignity.
Were I misshapen o’er a thousand times,
Had but one eye, a wen upon my neck,
And swart and foul as foulest Caliban,
And were a man, I’d make my kingship felt—
So all should fear the god that looked a devil.
MOR. Where’er thou comest
from, thou comest not from Heaven.
VIV. What cometh from Heaven
is not for such as thee.
The day doth come when thou wilt call on me.
VIV. Stay, lady, I would speak with thee.
GUIN. What art thou, woman?
VIV. I am a maiden here about thy court,
Of whom ’tis said that she did love great Arthur,
Our high lord Arthur, whom thou lovest so well;
If this be my poor crime, forgive me, lady,
Seeing thou thyself art happier in the same.
Thou art the splendid moon to his great planet,
And we but stars that vanish at thy rising.
What wouldst thou with me?
VIV. I would fain bring unto
thy notice one,
Wrongèd of nature and his human kind,
Knowing where thine admiration stopped,
Might follow thy pity.
MOR. Nay, all but pity. Pity
is such a gift
That all the world would grant it, none receive [Page
Grant me thy scorn, lady, but withhold thy pity.
Thou mightst pity a horse or dog or fowl,
But man of rarest compounds moulded up,
And standing on foundations of a soul,
Hath too much of the god within him hid
To need such shallow, cold, inclement gifts.
Your pities would feeze the icèd heart of winter
Colder wihin its breast.
GUIN. And what art thou, strange
heap, that speaketh thus
Unto thy Queen?
MOR. Madam, I am one who through
Goeth by ways of sorrow and mishap.
Knowest me not, madam?
GUIN. Thou seemest like some
Wearing proud black of some mock tragedy.
Art thou another fool?
VIV. (aside) Ah! That
will touch him.
MOR. A fool, madam! Callest
thou Mordred a fool?
Takest him for one who juggles for a court,
A football for the passing merriment,
Forgotten ere his wit hath passed to sadness?
Because I wear mis-nature on my form,
Knowest thou not the son of Britain’s King?
GUIN. I know thee not, save
thou art insolent.
Pass! You bar my way.
MOR. Is there so little in
That men know not a king when he goes forth?
When that great Arthur thou callest lord goes out,
I tell thee, madam, I am Britain’s King.
GUIN. Enough, insolent! Is
it some mock tragedy
Thou playest? Or art thou mad?
MOR. Madam, though thou wert
thousand times a queen,
The day will come when thou wilt eat those words
With the salt rue of utter wretchedness!
VIV. (aside) He hath
awakened at last! [Page 47]
GUIN. Dost threaten thy Queen? Make way, monster!
LAUN. (rushing forward) Dost thou insult the
Nay, not as thou hast insulted great Arthur’s
LAUN. Toad! abortion! take
that, and that!
[Beats him with the flat of his sword.
MOR. (starting back and
drawing) Thou hast slain pity and peace forever.
Come on, adulterous knight, and each foul stroke
Dishonoring my poor back I’ll pay with hate
To fullest usury!
[They close. LAUNCELOT
LAUN. There, go, Mis-shapen.
Wert thou not a prince,
I’d teach thee manners toward thy father’s
Wert thou a man, and not that which thou art,
With this quick blade I’d stop thy craven heart.
MOR. There is nought more to
do but to slay me.
(bares his breast) Slay me ere I kill myself.
VIV. Nay! nay!
LAUN. Kill thyself, Prince;
Launcelot fights with men.
(to the Queen) I will follow you, my lady.
[Exeunt LAUNCELOT and the Queen.
MOR. (flings his sword
away) All sweet compassions, pityings and resolves
That dwelt in Mordred’s breast are slain at last,
Slain by a woman’s scorn, a man’s brutality.
A last good-bye to all my gladder thoughts,
And hail, dark vengeance, plots and evil counsels.
Mordred is misshapen, then will he breed chaos.
Mordred is monstrous, then will he breed horrors.
Mordred is dark, then will he cast a shadow
That ne’er shall loose this kingdom’s light
again [Page 48].
ACT II. SCENE 3.
PLACE—Another part of the castle.
VIV. Now for the plot to bring this kingdom down.
I’ve racked my wits. Yea, I have got a plan.
Ho! Here comes Mordred.
resolved to put it to an issue?
I’ve racked my wits. Yea, I have got a plan.
Ho! here comes Mordred.
MOR. Yea, I am all determination
Compunction’s dead. Yea, I am over-tired
Of playing the wart upon the hand of time,
But am resolved to be that hand itself,
And move the issues of this foolish world.
VIV. What is thy plot?
MOR. To hold the world at bay.
VIV. ’Tis too vague.
MOR. Yea, all this life is
vague till evil shrinks
The vistas of our longings down to lusts.
My plot is this, to reach this kingdom by
The sinister door that opens to Launcelot.
VIV. Yea, ’tis my thought.
MOR. To catch the Queen in
her own guilty net,
Then open her shame to all the gaping world.
’Twill bring great Arthur’s glory by the
With thunder and smoke of splendor to the ground.
Launcelot is half of Arthur’s greatness,
And when he hateth Launcelot for the Queen,
This house of majesty will rend itself,
And Mordred be the raven in the smoke,
Flapping his wings across its desolation.
VIV. Yea, then will my hate—my
love— [Page 49]
MOR. Nay, woman, do not speak of hates or loves,
Or other foolish human-hearted moods
Of man’s poor weakness, nay, but steel thyself
To be an engine of the crushing fates;
For he who would be powerful must be iron
And adamant amid this cruel world,
Knowing not heat nor cold, remorse nor shame,
Doing the deed that cometh to his hand.
But we must have a care and watch and wait,
And bait the trap and lay the springe and mine.
Not such a greatness crumbles in a a day.
Much might be lost by hastening the issue.
Some one must work upon the moody King
And mould him softly, cunningly to knowledge
Of his cuckoldship. It must be deftly done,
Or like spark i’ the powder, it would send
Our plottings and hopings out o’ the skyhole.
It is well.
MOR. Meanwhile we watch the
Queen and Launcelot,
Each action, aye, the changing of their faces;
Till knowledge be garnered of their secret commerce.
Who will approach the King?
DAG. (heard without, singing)
her face is,
Blue seas her eyes,
All of earth’s sweetness
In their light lies.
her lips are,
Red reefs of doom,
There do love’s ships drive
Down to their doom.
VIV. Here cometh one who may work the matter.
MOR. Who be it? Not the fool?
VIV. Yea, the fool! He is not
all surface, he is deep, Yea, deep for me [Page
MOR. May he be trusted?
VIV. Yea, like one who is in
Prince, I would sound him.
DAG. (enters, singing)
would I shipwreck,
Swooning to death,
Passing to darkness
On the winds of her breath.
VIV. Well, fool, and what wert thou singing?
DAG. ’Twas but a fool’s
VIV. If thou wert not a fool
I would say thou wert in love.
DAG. (starts) Well
And by Our Lady, thou art in the right of it.
VIV. And who might be the object,
DAG. Madam, I am deep in love
with three mistresses,
To wit, the past, the present, and the future.
VIV. And how be that, fool?
DAG. The first be my breakfast
which I have had,
The second my dinner which I have just eaten,
And the third be my supper which, like the morrow,
Is the more joyful as yet to come.
VIV. Wouldst thou do me a favor?
DAG. What be it?
VIV. Dost thou love the King?
DAG. Yea, that I do, though
he be sometimes like a great child,
Spoiled on the weather-side.
There be something grieves him.
VIV. Yea, well hath he cause
DAG. Thou dost say so! What
be the cause?
VIV. The Queen.
DAG. Why, she be well favored?
VIV. Yea, but treacherous.
DAG. Aye! Knowest thou that?
VIV. Yea, and more!
DAG. Then is hell come on earth!
What wilt have me do?
VIV. I would have thee warn
DAG. The King!
VIV. Yea, the King.
DAG. As well ask the cricket
to piper for the thunderstorm.
Dost thou crave my destruction so dearly?
VIV. Thou alone canst do it
Thou art so little in his estimation,
And thou must.
DAG. Yea, Vivien, I will. O
Where e’en royalty cannot ’scape the blight!
God save us all! I will e’en commence now.
Here cometh the King.
King enters at the left.
DAG. Though she bade me hellward, I will obey.
But what evilment is abroad now,
That would I know? There’s something back o’
The King a cuckold! Then Heaven help us all!
I would this were dispatched, yet how to do it
Passeth my understanding.
AR. Well, sir fool,
Hast a merry message for my heart to-day?
DAG. Yea, sire.
AR. Then mouth it, fool.
DAG. He who cometh to the wall
hath crossed the last ditch.
AR. Thine is but grim comfort,
DAG. Then is it thine, King;
and he who garners not i’ the morning
Can laugh with death [Page 52].
AR. Indeed, thou art over-weird.
Come, play me a masque.
DAG. A masque, sire! Should
it be merry?
AR. Aye, merry, or thou ruest
DAG. Here be a comedy, sire:
There be a king, sire,—
DAG. And there be a queen,
And there be a bishop—nay, a knight.
AR. And what then?
DAG. The knight taketh the
AR. And the king, fool?
DAG. Oh, he be fool’s-mated,
ha, ha, ha!
AR. And where is the comedy,
DAG. Oh, the fiends laugh i’
That be the comedy! ha, ha, ha!
AR. Ha! Hast thou a moral?
DAG. Nay, not a moral, sire!
Morals be not in it.
AR. Thou art but a wry fool
DAG. (aside) My plan
(to the King) Yea, sire, I passed an uncommon
AR. How, fool?
DAG. I dreamed of thee, Sire,
and as I love thee I liked it not.
AR. What was thy dream?
DAG. I dreamed I saw thee stand,
and back of thee
A great blackness, that thou sawest not,
And from the shadow loomed—pardon me, sire—the
AR. Ha, and what?
DAG. Forgive thy poor fool,
Sire, but methought I saw Sir Launcelot [Page
AR. (in a terrible passion) Heaven damn thee,
[Knocks DAGONET down and would throttle
Did the greatest knight i’ this kingdom
Dare even dream such a thought, I would hack him to
DAG. Slay me, great Arthur,
but forgive thy fool.
AR. Knowest thou not thou hast
slandered the whole realm?
DAG. I am but a poor fool,
GWAINE, a tall, clumsy youth in scullion’s
AR. Who art thou?
GWA. Thou must tell me.
AR. I am the King.
GWA. Art thou? Thou lookest
AR. Whence comest thou?
GWA. I came out o’ the
Where I served my father i’ the bogs,
Intentioning to be a knight,
And they put me down in the kitchen.
AR. Thou wouldst be a knight?
AR. And wherefore?
GWA. That I might serve the
AR. Thou wouldst serve me?
GWA. That I would!
AR. (loosening DAGONET)
Then hang yonder imp i’ the crane over the castle
GWA. Come, rat!
[Lifts DAGONET and hangs him on the crane.
DAG. Oh, oh, the shame!
GWA. Hath such as thou shame?
DAG. Yea, I house me a soul
GWA. Then is it poorly lodged.
AR. (strides back and forth)
Yea, a fool!—worse than a fool!
Arthur, why wilt thou same thyself even in thought?
Out, damned suspicion, that insulteth my dignity!
AR. Madam, I would entreat thy pardon!
GUIN. Wherefore, my lord?
AR. For a thought. Guinevere,
I am unworthy of thy queenliness.
GUIN. Nay, nay, my lord. I
am but flesh and blood.
AR. Thou art a Queen!
GUIN. Yea, and a weak woman.
AR. It seemeth we be strangers
GUIN. Aye, my lord.
AR. Thou art cold, madam, and
I like that iciness.
It well becometh this whiteness I uphold.
What wouldst this morning, my Queen?
GUIN. I would know of the tournament
thou hast in hand.
AR. Yea, the tournament!—the
I fear I am over-moody, forgetful at times.
Hast thou seen Launcelot?
GUIN. (starts) Why
Launcelot, my lord? He is not the King.
AR. Yea, not the King, but
he that charge of such matters.
Knowest thou, my lady, that Arthur loveth Launcelot?
Yea, had Arthur a brother or a son, would he were Launcelot!
And were Launcelot evil, the heavens would distil poison.
GUIN. Yea, my lord, but thou
forgettest the tourney.
AR. Heralds have been sent
out, and throughout the kingdom
Jousts are called, with strange and wondrous tests [Page
GWA. Well, what next?
AR. Sirrah! the Queen!
GWA. (doffs his cap)
AR. To your knees! by my blade,
to your knees!
GWA. By my legs, I am no lick-spittle
to claw the earth.
Kneel to your own woman, I’ll to none!
AR. Death! down on your life!
GUIN. Nay, nay, he will kneel.
GWA. Not he! King or other
man, I can crack a neck.
Come on, give me a quarterstaff and I’ll knock
Kings like a nine-pins.
GUIN. (gets between)
AR. Wilt thou kneel?
GWA. I will fight, but I will
Not to mine own mother. Gwaine is honest, but a plain
GUIN. And thou shalt not kneel,
if thou wilt not.
Thou art well-favored, hadst thou manners.
GWA. Manners, madam, like fine
But hide the lice i’ the bird.
Gwaine loveth acts, not appearances.
AR. Madam, wilt thou that I
make him kneel?
GUIN. Nay, but grant his wish.
AR. What wilt thou, knave?
GWA. That I be made a knight.
AR. Thou must kneel to be knighted.
GWA. Not to man.
AR. To thy God, then.
GWA. So be it, if it must.
AR. What be thy name?
GWA. They called me Gwaine
i’ the marches.
[ARTHUR lifts his sword. GWAINE leaps to
Woulds’t thou hit a man when he is down? [Page
AR. I would knight thee, clown;
’tis the mode.
GWA. Oh, but be careful, King,
i’ the doing. [Kneels.
AR. Art thou of noble blood?
GWA. Dost thou mean honest?
Gwaine is plain; if thou meanest i’ the getting,
no one can mis-call Gwaine’s mother.
AR. (raises his sword and
strikes him with the flat on the shoulder) Rise,
GWA. (rises) Is it
AR. It is in sooth.
GWA. Then, King, am I thine,
but yours first, madam.
Gwaine is plain but honest; I would have a sword, King.
AR. Go, get thee one!
GWA. Dost thou mean it, King?
GWA. (goes to the arras
and, taking one down, proceeds to buckle it on)
Then this one pleaseth me.
GUIN. Stop, knight, ’tis
GWA. Then will it be the King’s
AR. My son! what of him?
GUIN. My lord, I would have
him banished the Court.
He is sinister on my sight, and exceeding forward.
I like him not. Wilt thou promise?
AR. It is a heavy matter. We
will consider it [Page 57].
ACT II. SCENE 4.
ELAINE and her retinue.
Lady, this is the place; we will retire.
Within short space the Queen doth come this way.
EL. They say she is all goodness,
she will grant
That I may meet this noble knight and fair,
And know my love returned, or else I die.
GUINEVERE and ladies.
GUIN. Lady, what wouldst thou?
EL. O most noble lady, I am
Called Elaine, daughter unto Astolat’s lord,
Who cometh to thee, madam, for kind help
Upon the matter of a maiden’s love.
rendeth me so, unless it be returned
My heart will burst in twain, and I will die.
GUIN. Maiden, thy tale is sad;
be thy quest pure,
The Queen will help thee; be thy person wronged,
By Arthur’s mighty kingdom, thou art ’venged.
EL. Nay, madam, Elaine’s
love is white and pure,
And he she loves is noble as any knight
In all this kingdom. Forgive my boldness, madam,
And by that love thou bearest to the King,
Our great lord, high Arthur, help me now,
And bring me to the face of him I love.
GUIN. Of truth, thou hast a
boldness in thy love.
(aside) There is an innocence in this fair
Doth make me pity her, so deep in love
For some false face and made a summer toy
Of her frank passion. Yea, I pity her.
(to ELAINE) Maiden, to-morrow we do hold a
Thou wilt be present with us in the Court,
And thou canst note the knights and seek thy lover,
If he be ’mid the guests of noble Arthur [Page
EL. Oh, thank thee, noble madam,
may kind Heaven
Bless thee in thy great wifehood to the King.
GUIN. Come, maiden, thou wilt
follow in our train.
ACT II. SCENE 5.
disguised as a strange maiden, followed by men bearing
a great stone
with a sword thrust in it.
AR. Whence comest thou unto our Court, strange maiden,
And on what quest art sent?
VIV. Nine days are past and
gone, O noble King,
Since thou didst advertise throughout the land
The kingdom be gathered for tests at Camelot,
And marvelous feats might here performed be.
Wherefore I, knowing of that noble pride
With which you hold the flower of your great Court
For manhood’s purity, woman’s chastity,
Have deigned to show before the world, great King,
The truth whereof thou boastest.
AR. It is bold, indeed, but
Arthur keeps his word.
What be the tests?
VIV. First, here to test thy
We bring a sword sunk fast in yonder stone
By magic’s force, and he who plucks it forth
Must be a knight who hath not known a woman,
Save in the lawful mode of marriage bed.
(to LAUNCELOT) Wouldst try, pure knight? [Page
LAUN. Yea, I would, doth great
Though all the fiends of hell clutched nether end.
Do other knights but make the trial first.
number of knights come forward, try to pull the sword
out of the stone,
but fail. Then LAUNCELOT
places his feet on the stone and grasps
sword and pulls with all his might, but the sword remains
AR. It is in sooth a marvel!
LAUN. It seemeth grown therein,
Yea, I will bend and strain until it comes.
It will not.
to take breath.
GUIN. It is enough!
VIV. Wouldst thou try again,
LAUN. Yea, I will try till
I die, if it come not.
[Tries again, bends his whole strength, then staggers
to his feet.
Methought the earth’s roots hung thereon.
I am shamed!
AR. ’Tis enough!
VIV. Wilt not try again, pure
LAUN. (with set face)
Yea, now for Camelot’s glory.
Launcelot’s manhood pulls on his side, Hell on
himself and gives one terrible tug, then falls back
EL. ’Tis he!
out and falls fainting on his breast. The Queen’s
women lift her
and bear her out.
GUIN. Great Heaven!
AR. ’Tis enough! away
with it, maiden; thy magic hat outdone our noblest
Is there no pure man here will make a trial? [Page
GWA. (emerges from the
throng still dressed in scullion’s dress)
Yea, I will
try, although I rend the stone.
on to the stone and plucks the sword out with both hands
pull, and waves it aloft with an exultant shout. The
How now, mighty King?
AR. ’Tis a great marvel!
LAUN. (steps forth)
Thou must face Launcelot to the death—the death!
GWAINE and draws.
GUIN. My God!
maids support her; she hides her face in her mantle.
GWA. I would not slay thee.
LAUN. Thou canst not!—Keep
fight. Knights try to separate them.
AR. Nay, back more room! give
them more room!
fighting; each draws blood, but neither gives way.
GUIN. (aside to the maids)
Be he slain?
A Maid. Neither be
AR. Enough! I say enough!
GWA. Must we stop the exercise?
AR. It is enough, you are both
LAUN. Gwaine, thou art better
GWA. Thou art the best I have
Wilt thou take the hand of Gwaine?
LAUN. Yea, I will, though it
hath pressed me hard.
AR. Clear the Court.
blow and the throng falls back. [Page 61]
ACT II. SCENE 6.
PLACE—An outer room in the castle.
walking back and forth. Enter LAUNCELOT,
kneels, would take
[GUINEVERE draws back coldly.
LAUN. Madam, what means this
Thou wert not ever wont to meet me thus!
GUIN. Where hast thou left
the maid of Astolat?
LAUN. Maid of Astolat!
GUIN. Yea, that frail pink-and-white
that pillowed thy breast,
What time thou didst faint; some slim cowslip miss
Such as do flatter you strong men by their weakness.
Go, flippant knight, and seek your skim-milk love.
Guinevere would hate thee but for scorn.
God curse the day I ever let thee love!
LAUN. Madam, each word thou
utterest, like a dagger,
Doth stab with cruel agonies my heart.
If Launcelot hath sinned in loving thee!
That love is maiden unto all save thee.
Yea, I am damnèd daily for thy face,
And even thou dost scorn me!
GUIN. A truce of words; I saw
with mine own eyes
What all the Court and all the world doth know.
Launcelot’s Love, the Maid of Astolat,
I mouthed by all fools’ lips in all men’s
Till Guinevere is even Mordred’s scorn.
I’d slay thee, were I only but a man.
LAUN. Madam! by my love!—
GUIN. By thy love, a flimsy,
A toylet of a moment! Such as thou!
And I! I gave—By Heaven! I pluck thee out,
And thrust thee from me, thou false, handsome face!
Thou devil-eyed to lead hearts on to ruin! [Page
LAUN. Madam, wilt thou not
GUIN. Nay, nay, begone! I scorn
thee, yea, I hate!
LAUN. (sadly) Yea,
Guinevere, I go, to come no more.
It is will seen that thou hast tired of me.
Thou hast driven Launcelot mad! mad!
The world reels round me, I am all alone.
All else the visions of a noisome dream.
I am mad, mad, Guinevere!
And dost thou smile? here’s for the lonely dark!
Ho, ho! the world’s one hideous mockery.
GUIN. Nay, nay, Launcelot!
Come back! I love thee, I forgive thee all!
(falls on her face) O Heaven! I have driven
Nevermore, oh never to return.
O Love! O Love! my maddened heart will break.
O foolish stars, why smile on this grim night,
O foolish birds, why pipe across the dark,
Calling the rosy morn, the false-faced morn,
While hearts are breaking here amid the dark?
Nay, ‘tis the foolish wind wooing the silly trees.
O poor white hand! he nevermore will clasp.
O wayward lips! he nevermore will kiss.
O heart, break! break!
Maid. Madam here cometh the King.
AR. Watchest thou the splendor of the night?
GUIN. Yea, there is a burden
in the distant sea,
And a soft sadness from the far-off night [Page
Of ghost-winds footing under the haunted dark.
It groweth chill, my lord.
AR. We will go within.
GWAINE and DAGONET.
GWA. Yea, mad! mad! stark, raving mad, you say?
GWA. Yea, mad! mad! stark,
raving mad, you say?
DAG. Yea, mad. His eyes were
like balls o’ fire,
An’ his face fixed like he followed a vision
Or walked i’ his sleep,
An’ his hands did beat the air the while he shouted
a war song.
It hath frighted me out of a week’s sleep.
GWA. Yea, he is indeed mad.
’Tis this crazy love.
And he such a man, the best i’ the world.
I will take horse and follow him.
Drop that lanthorn, fool, and help me wi’ this
’Tis new to me. The best i’ the world, damn
Fool, wert thou ever in love?
DAG. Yea, thou knowest I be
GWA. Then be wise like Gwaine,
fool, and scorn love;
’Tis but a mad fever o’ the head and marrow.
It creepeth in by the eyes and spoileth a good man.
It killeth sleep and maketh a mock at feeding.
It heateth the blood and routeth caution.
’Ware of love, fool, an’ thou wouldst be
DAG. Yea, thy words be like
what the wind said to the wall.
GWA. And what be that?
DAG. Stand up while I blow
Art thou off now?
GWA. Yea, till I find him.
Tell the King Gwaine hath ta’en French leave,
but he will come again when he will come again when
he bringeth the best man i’ the kingdom. Ho! without
there! Fool, go ahead with that lanthorn [Page
ACT II. SCENE 7.
VIVIEN and MORDRED.
VIV. prince, and do you weaken now again?
MOR. Yea, Vivien, I have only
half a heart
For this ill business.
VIV. ’Tis but a lack of manhood in thy blood,
That runs to water dwelling on puerile things,
Like parent-love and other sickly longings,
Forgotten with forgetting of the paps.
Now, me, my memory knows no parentage
Save circumstance and mine own nimble wits.
’Tis but our acts that build the bridge of fate
Across this perilous river men call life.
Some kneel and pray, trust some fond deity,
And build in fancy safety for themselves,
Then soon are churning ’mid the ravening flood.
Others do build them piers of solid stone,
Or use men’s bodies for to tread upon.
These get the surest over.—Hast seen the Queen?
MOR. Ha, that one name hath
more to conjure with
Than all your sophistries, to my dark soul.
Yea, how I hate that woman! I am but
The hideous toad that poisons on her sight.
Though I may sense the glories of this earth
With all its wealth, the heaven o’er-bridged with
And know love’s heights and depths, and pity’s
Brimming with pearls of tears and woman’s eyes;
I am but hideous Mordred after all.
VIV. Yea, in her eyes art hideous,
MOR. Woman, thou liest! It
To love the perfect shape and noble form,
The sunny face and splendid laughing eye;
But canst thou love the wry and gnarlèd shape
And beetle-browed, night-shaded soul like mine?
I am a toad, a bat, a gnarlèd stump [Page
in nature are my kin.
Woman, thou liest, when thou speakest of love!
VIV. Nay, Mordred, do not scorn
me! Thou’rt a man
In more than mere out-seeming; ’tis thy fate,
Thy whole grim spirit, Vivien would be
Thy queen, thy slave, the ’venger of thy wrongs,
That call to heaven.
MOR. Nay, nay, it cannot be,
thou wastest words.
I like thee least in this strange mood of thine.
Love is no word for Mordred, rather hate,
And thou wert made for plottings, not for joys.
Yea, we will marry in compact of ill,
And will beget as child, black, black revenge.
This is my mood.
VIV. Now thou art natural!
There is much to do.
Our schemes o’erreached, proud Arthur’s
As yet untouched, and Launcelot fled the court
In some queer madness. How likest the conditions?
MOR. He must come back, I am
a devil at root.
We’ll seethe him in the Queen’s despairs
I have a plan,—she giveth soon a feast
Of autumn fruits unto her favorite knights,
And I will go, although she hates my face,
For I misdoubt she fears me even now.
There is a joy to know, if thou’rt not loved,
That thou canst wield an influence over those
Who otherwise would pass thee by in scor.
Well, I do know a poison, subtle, sharp,
That when it bites it is the tooth of death.
This will I get inserted in some fruit,
And manage that one knight will eat of it,
Sir Patrise, brother unto that Sir Mador,
Who hates the Queen for that she scorned his love,
And not being present will call for loud revenge
Upon his brother’s death ’gainst Guinevere.
Proud Arthur, then, will call upon some knight
To prove her innocence upon the sword [Page
And her extremity makes Launcelot sane.
He will return. Then I will trap him with her,
Set Arthur and Launcelot at bitter war,
And wrest the kingdom from their weakened hands.
This is my plot, now for the working of it.
Down all compunction! Mount all dark resolves!
Let me be Mordred inward as well as out,
All inky poison of soul, even that I,
Who’d trample others, must crush out myself.
VIV. Yea, Prince, indeed, ’tis
seen thou hast a mind
Of subtle working fit to rule a king.
Thou wilt be greater than great Arthur yet,
When thou sittest in his place.
MOR. Nay, woman, tantalize
me not with hopes.
’Tis not the splendid end that leads me on.
’Tis but the getting there that Mordred loves;
The mood of one who’d trample on the flowers
In some fair garden whence he is excluded.
Here is the poison. That will be thy part
To get it hidden in the special fruit,
And get it fed unto the special man
Whose snuffing out will pander to our end.
VIV. Give me the poison!
MOR. Here it is, this small
So petty, but all-powerful.
’Tis wondrous that this tiny polished globe,
Could hide betwixt the finger and the thumb,
Hath power to open the gateways of this world,
And in a sudden sleep dislodge a soul.
Hast thou an agent for to do this work?
VIV. Yea, that I have.
MOR. Not the fool again?
VIV. Yea, the fool!
MOR. See he does this better
than the last. ’Tis the more perilous. Thinkest
he will undertake it?
VIV. Yea, he will.
MOR. By what compulsion? [Page
VIV. By that most powerful
of all most powerful compulsions. He loveth me.
MOR. And thou wilt use him,
put him on the rack,
Which is thine influence?
VIV. See my little finger;
he is as the yarn
That I may wind around it.
MOR. Thou art a devil! Ho!
ho! Mordred hath mirth!
And this be life? Mordred that mirth, yea, Vivien, mirth!
See, woman, that thou failest not.
Mordred is roused, it must be.
ACT II. SCENE 8.
DAG. I’m but the ghost of mine old former self,
Who, once a jester, am now but the jest
Of some outrageous fortune. Sleep hath fled,
My meat hath no more taste unto my mouth,
The wine but heavy lees within the cup.
I am so held in love for Vivien
That I must end this foolish spark o’ life.
My heart leaps up for joy to see her face,
A silly joy, such as a child might have,
Loving some star for plaything, out of reach.
Oh, what would I not do to even dare
To press the velvet of her dainty had!
Bac, down, poor foolish dreams! Now I must play
The frothy merriment of a world that’s gray [Page
may be poison in the cup,
But still the foam must
To keep the strong world’s courage up
Poor fools must laugh and
With sobs below and smiles aboe,
A-masking day by day,
On trampled, bleeding hopes of love.
So whirls the world away!
There may be breaking of the heart,
Though merry laughs the
Still we poor fools must act our part,
And laugh, and weep, and
Still must we sportive battles wage,
With foam of lightsome
While underneath the currents rage
And wrecks are churned
VIVIEN. DAGONET starts.
VIV. Thou growest gruesome, Dagonet; where hast lost
DAG. I know not, Vivien, I
know not; belike I am a fool, indeed. Poor Dagonet
no more himself.
VIV. Poor Dagonet!
DAG. Why not call me fool?
Dost thou pity me?
VIV. Yea, I do.
DAG. And since when?
VIV. Since I knew that thou
wert a man.
DAG. Dagonet, the fool, a man?
VIV. Yea, since I knew that
thou couldst love indeed.
DAG. That I love, Vivien, what
VIV. Yea, that thou hast a
heart under thy mask. Yea, more, for whom thou
hast this feeling. Wouldst thou win her grace? [Page
DAG. (falls on his knees)
Yea, yea, Vivien, for one look, one smile. O Vivien,
well thou knowest I am thy slave.
VIV. What wouldst thou do for
DAG. Thou hast my heart bare
in thy sight. Write on it what characters thou likest,
for I am thine. I tell thee I am thy dog, thy slave.
VIV. Not dog, nor slave, but
holds our her hand, DAGONET crawls near
and takes it.
DAG. O Vivien, dost thou mean
VIV. Yea, in sooth I will try
thy love. Wouldst thou win my love, Dagonet?
DAG. Dost thou mock me?
VIV. Nay. (takes a little
box from her girdle and opens it) Dost see this
[Leans near and whispers in his
DAG. (starts back)
Nay! nay! not that!
VIV. That or nought.
DAG. Wouldst thou use me thus?
VIV. Thou art the man who’d
win my love! I tell thee so must all who’d love
DAG. Nay, nay, I must think.
This is indeed death, death!
VIV. Yea, death, or nought!
I thought thou wert a man?
DAG. For that reason am I now
VIV. (takes his hand)
Dagonet, dost thou love me?
DAG. O God! Yea, Vivien, give
me the pill. I am not myself any more. I am thine, I
will do it. Vivien, thou wilt not fail me?
VIV. See that thou dost not
fail me, and be sure that thou doest this well.
DAG. I will.
At last, O Dagonet, thou hast thy wish [Page
Thou’st passed the iron o’ that grim barrier
That shutteth comedy from black tragedy.
Dagonet, now thou art indeed a man!
Thou art pitied! Thou canst win love.
Thou canst snuff the candle out o’ a life.
Dost know thy former features any more
And all for love!
that lights this world
Yet leaves us i’
I led thee to my couch,
A grave-cloth was thy
O Love, we would be clothed,
And thou hast left us
Yea, I am
on fire. Snow! snow! Would I had snow to cool me!
Fool, thou art no more a fool. Dagonet, thou art a man!
Thou lovest. This must be done.
[Goes out. [Page 71]
ACT III. SCENE I.
ARTHUR, MORDRED, DAGONET and Nobles.
the Queen in great trouble. Enter SIR MADOR and
Knights, bringing in a
dead body and crying, “Treason!
Treason!” The Queen takes her state.
AR. Who would accuse the Queen?
SIR M. ’Tis I, my liege.
AR. What be the substance of
SIR M. Murder, sire! murder
most foul and treacherous!
Other Knights. Yea,
murder most foul and treacherous!
AR. On whom?
SIR M. On the body of this
knight, my brother, Sir Patrise, whom thou knowest to
have been a courteous Knight of much steadfastness to
thee and the Court.
AR. It is most strange. Relate
SIR M. ’Twas at the banquet,
Sir King, where we all invited of thy Queen, the Madam
Guinevere, who sitteth there, and after meat, she, with
much courtesy of seeming, did press on us to partake
of some fruit, and which on partaking of, my brother,
this dead knight, did fall in agony so extreme and mortal
that his soul went out, and now he lieth as thou seest
Other Knights. Yea,
’tis true, ’tis as he saith, a most foul
AR. (turns to the Queen)
Madam, what sayest thou to this accusation?
GUIN. ’Tis a false, foul
lie. I am innocent of this deed [Page 72].
DAG. (aside) Yea,
AR. Thou seest this dead knight
here, and these witnesses. As I am King I must see justice,
even against thee. Hast thou no other defence to offer?
GUIN. Nay, my lord, as I am
the Queen, ’tis a most damnable lie. ’Fore
Heaven, I am innocent of this strange murder.
DAG. (aside) Now is
my soul in flames!
SIR M. According to our ancient
laws, when a guest dies in this most suspicious manner,
where proof of grievous intent is present, the accused
is condemned to be burnt at the stake.
GUIN. Great Heaven!
AR. ’Tis a foul punishment.
SIR M. But for a foul crime.
Other Knights. Yea,
’tis but justice.
AR. There is also a trial.
MOR. Yea, sire, the accused,
being a woman, must have a knight to prove her innocence
by his body on the body of the accuser ere the time
of death be accomplished.
AR. Then be it so. The law
must follow on the weight of these many witnesses. (turning
to the Queen) Guinevere, Queen of Britain, I believe
thee guiltless of the crime whereof thou art accused,
as thou hast said. As King, I am not free to prove thine
innocence with my body, but as the King, unless thou
procurest a knight to assoil thee here the time appointed,
I here condemn thee to be taken hence to a place of
public note and there be burnt to death, as the law
GUIN. O great Heaven!
in a swoon.
AR. Sir knight, art thou satisfied?
SIR M. Yea, on my body.
AR. Then clear the Court.
Madam, this is the heaviest hour of all my life.
GUIN. (supported by her
ladies) Yea, my lord, thou wilt save me? [Page
AR. That I will, in all justice.
Ho, there, without!
Sir Hake on the instant!
Enter SIR HAKE.
AR. I command that this stern sentence on the body of
the noble Queen be proclaimed widely, and that messengers
be sent, on pain of death, to find Sir Gwaine and Sir
Launcelot, that if they be not procured here within
the present month, the messengers pay the penalty with
SIR H. Yea, Sire, it shall
AR. And thou, my Queen, retire to your apartments;
I will come shortly to you. Keep up thy heart; as thou
art innocent so will Heaven help thee.
GUIN. Yea, my lord, thou wilt
save me, as I am
GUINEVERE and her ladies.
AR. Ho, page, bring wine (aside)
I would forget my sorrow.
Bring wine, I say, and send me hither my fool!
AR. Fool, I would forget my heaviness. Make me merry.
DAG. (aside) O God! (to the
King) Yea, sire, what wouldst thou have?
AR. Some music.
DAG. Yea, sire. (sings)
is the summer morning’s sky,
And birds are glad and
And Anna’s eyes are sweet and sly,
Her cheeks like any cherry;
Her lips like dewy rosebuds are
Upon the gladsome morning.
She is my love, my heart’s glad star,
In spite of all her scorning
So fill the cup of gladness up,
And drink to youth and
Let sadness go with evening sup,
I’m hers for all
AR. Would I had thy merry heart, fool.
DAG. Yea, sire.
ACT III. SCENE 2.
LAUNCELOT discovered seated almost naked amid swineherds.
there was a castle hall,
Fair, fair to see;
Armored dight, and splendored all,
Filled with shout o’
Came the hosts o’fate and rage,
Thundered on its walls
Sunken now like ruined age,
Never laughs its light
I loved a Queen and she loved me.
Aye, that were long ago!
Come now wrack! come now, woe!
Strike now, lightning! beat now, snow!
Memory, I’ll ha’ none o’ thee!
Ha! ha! Cowards,
who’ll fight? (rises) Ha! ha!
Enter a Knight.
Knight. Who be this?
1st Swineherd. Him
be mad, though him hurt us not, for us be soft wi’
him. Him tend a’swine [Page 75].
Him mun fight, but us not answer.
Him be o’er hulk a man twa hanle a staff.
LAUN. Winds are cold
and flowers are dead. All is past, past!
Knight. Ho, there!
who be thou?
LAUN. ’Tis an
old world, an old, old world, I tell thee truth. I loved
a queen, but that be long past.
wits be dull.—Who art thou, fellow?
LAUN. It hath been
never summer this many a year.
Canst tell me why?
summer now, thou fool!
LAUN. Nay, nay, ’tis
but winter. I loved a queen—
damn thy queen! who art thou?
LAUN. Yea, damn all
queens, I am with thee, friend,—wilt thou fight?
LAUN. Curse thee!
tell thee I won’t.
LAUN. Then, damn thee,
oh! I am murdered!
LAUN. More! More!
GWA. Ha! at last, it seemeth!
Have care, master! Him be dread.
GWA. How long hath he been like this?
’Tis some time agone. At first him did tear the
An’ bite hisself, but him be better now.
LAUN. I chased the
moon, the silly moon,
Ahind a Willard tree.
I knocked the stars like ninepins down,
One, two, three.
I loved a queen. Ha, ha! ’tis winter [Page
GWA. And this be he,
the best o’ Arthur’s Court,
A ragged ninny, mouthing wanton froth,
The sport o’ pig-folk; this be love’s good
O Love! thou hast much to answer!
Him want allus twa foight.
GWA. Yea, he spoileth
for a bout; ’tis often a right cure,
I will try it. God give it may bring him round!
(to LAUNCELOT) ho, there, fellow
LAUN. Ho thyself,
windbag. Thou hast a fine voice, friend;
Canst thou call back memory?
GWA. Yea, I can.
LAUN. Canst thou find
springtime? I loved, I loved—
GWA. Oh, damn love—dost
thou know me?
LAUN. Know thee? know
thee? I know thou art a man. Wilt thou fight, friend?
GWA. With a merry
LAUN. Then let’s
[GWAINE takes a quarterstaff; they fight
hard and long. GWAINE
belabors LAUNCELOT on the head,
back and shoulders.
Ha! it raineth thoughts now. Come on, Hell, come on!
GWA. Yea, am I coming.
(hits him harder) If I bet that fool’s
love out o’him I will do him a good deed.
How’s that, and that?
LAUN. And that, and
that? [Both fight till exhausted.
GWA. Launcelot, dost
know thyself now?
LAUN. Methinks I partly
do, under a cloud.
GWA. And dost thou
LAUN. Methinks thou
art the moon.
GWA. Fiends take this
love! If I be the moon thou shalt find me no honeymoon.
[Hits him again; they
LAUN. Come on, thou
art welcome. Oh! [Page
GWA. Well, dost thou know me yet?
LAUN. Methinks thou art one
named Gwaine. Oh, my bones!
GWA. Be this winter?
LAUN. I be warm now?
GWA. An’ dost thou love
LAUN. What mean’st thou?
GWA. I would rid thee of this
LAUN. Then wouldst thou rid
me of this life. Gwaine, thou art a noble soul, but
thou canst not do that.
GWA. Yea, and I have cured
thee. Come, this be no place. Let us go.
ACT III. SCENE 3.
PLACE—Another part of the forest.
LAUNCELOT and GWAINE.
GWA. Launcelot, thou art a fool. Thou art the king’s
man, and the best. Thou hast an arm and a sword on it.
Thou must come. I will no longer here.
LAUN. I may not; this hurt
be too deep.
GWA. Curse thy hurt, man! thou
art sound as I.
LAUN. ’Tis a deep hurt;
Launcelot fights no more.
Here I die.
GWA. Better go a monk. Thou
art a fool, man. This love is a girl’s folly.
Fighting is a man’s trade and his sword his true
mistress. Gwaine will have no other. Come, thou art
not dead yet [Page 78].
LAUN. Aye, Gwaine, thou wastest
words. Launcelot is ended.
GWA. Nay! nay! I gave my word
I would bring thee.
Will I have to go forsworn, else carry thee on my back.
Have I cured thy madness but for this?
LAUN. Nay, nay, make peace
best thou canst. Thou art a good fellow, but I cannot.
Launcelot will die here.
GWA. I say, damn thee, thou
LAUN. Thou liest!
spring to their feet and draw. Trumpets without.
the King’s Messengers.
GWA. Who comes?
Mess. From the King.
GWA. What want ye?
Mess. We seek two
knights, Sir Launcelot and Sir Gwaine.
GWA. We be thy men—what
be thy message?
Mess. The King desireth
thee in great haste; the Queen be in great peril.
Mess. Yea, of her
life. She be condemned to the stake if a knight assoil
her not with his body on her accuser to-morrow noon.
LAUN. Dread Heaven!
GWA. What be the accusation?
Mess. Murder on the
body of Sir Patrise.
LAUN. Enough! Hast thou brought
LAUN. Then quick! on your lives!
lead us hence!
[Exeunt LAUNCELOT and Messengers.
GWA. The foul fiend take this
love! It be a queer sickness, indeed. Anon it made him
like the luke water, and now he be all fire. It bloweth
now up, no down, like the [Page 79] wind
i’ a chimney. Yea, I love that man like a father
his child. There is no sword like to his i’ the
whole kingdom. An’ a wench that be a queen leadeth
him like a goss-hawk. (voices without) Yea,
I am coming.
ACT III. SCENE 4.
Court-ushers with trumpets, Soldiers and Knights. Enter
the King, takes
his state. Enter the Queen, in a black robe surrounded
by her women;
she comes to the foot of
the throne, falls on her face.
GUIN. Arthur, thou wilt save me?
AR. My Queen, as the King I
may not. My heart is hell.
Put trust in Heaven.
GUIN. ’Tis a dread death.
AR. Madam, could Arthur save
thee he would. If thou diest, so doth my joy in this
world. Keep thy heart!
GUIN. ’Fore God, I am
AR. Thou must trust to Heaven.
GUIN. That I do.
and takes her state.
Court Chamberlain. Guinevere, Queen of Britain, of this
dread crime whereof thou art accused, what hast thou
GUIN. (rising) That
I, Guinevere, Queen of Britain, am innocent of this
most foul charge of which I am here accused, and here
call on Heaven to prove on the body of that foul knight,
Marshals enter and trumpets are blown.
Doth no knight assoil the Queen?
GUIN. Heaven help me!
AR. Do no knights approach? [Page 80]
Page. Nay, sire.
AR. Then has the hour of my
life’s sorrow come!
SIR MADOR, doffs to the King.
SIR M. Sire, the time hath almost passed, and I demand
a knight to do me battle, or that the Queen be burnt.
GUIN. (aside) Merciful
AR. (to the Page)
Do none come?
Page. Nay, sire.
DAG. Were I not bound to Vivien
body and soul I would state the truth. Nay, I am accursed.
There is but one way.
[Staggers to the front of the throne; the throng
presses back in wonder.
DAG. (kneels) Sire!
AR. (in voice of thunder)
DAG. Didst thou not once make
me a knight?
AR. Yea, in a moment of jest.
DAG. Then would I take this
GUIN. Nay, nay! death, death!
but not this insult!
What base knight of this Court hath prompted this?
DAG. None, none, my lady; ‘tis
AR. Take him out! Now is Arthur
[Knights hurry DAGONET out.
DAG. (aside) Now is
hell indeed my portion!
GUIN. Sire, I would now die.
SIR M. Sire, the time be up.
And I, as the accuser, now ask that thou, as King, wilt
command that Guinevere, Queen of Britain, who standeth
here, be taken from hence and burnt till she be dead.
[A commotion without.
rushes in, draws, and faces SIR MADOR.
LAUN. And I say, nay! [Page
ACT III. SCENE 5.
MOR. Now cursed be the womb that gave me birth!
Thrice cursed be the paps that gave me suck!
That I, but
made for hellish plots and hates,
And inky thoughts and moods and black despairs,
The most unhappy man in this dread world,
Should house in me a dream of womanhood
Such as doth dwell in all the milk-white glory
And glamored stateliness of Arthur’s Queen.
Yea, would I now forego all I hold dear
In this life and the next, if such there be;
My chance of Heaven thrust to darkest Hell,
One hour like Launcelot to know her love.
Hell! Hell! I laugh at Hell! such flames I burn
Would scorch the northern ice-seas in their beds,
So deep a flame I hold me in my thoughts
Of madness for her love.—Yea, I am turned
A very subtle Satan that will plot
High Arthur’s downfall, Launcelot’s banishment,
And all the ruin of this present kingdom.
Yea, I will be a king and perch a crown
In its unsteady poisings on this brow,
So that by very glamour of my power
And inner majesty of mine iron soul,
I build in her a fancy for my person.
For I am Mordred; in this hour I’m great
In subtle cunning far beyond these days
Of mere brute strength and stature physical.—
Yea, I was born upon an evil time
Of evil parentage of sin and shame,
Thrice cursed in the inner soul and form.
What sportive fate gave me the gifts I bear?
But I am willed to use them to my use.
Yea, I will use all deviltries and lies,
All plots and counterplots, to gain mine end [Page
This misbegotten now doth hold the key
To this doomed kingdom.
We are well
met. Thou art upon the hour.
The plot grows closer to our waited end.
The net is weaving closer, mesh by mesh,
That traps the leopard and the lioness.
I have by long connivance, secret planned,
Built round me many knights who hold my weal,
Jealous of Launcelot and Arthur’s glory.
These will be with me when the stroke comes down.
A thousand swords will leap their scabbard mouths
At shout of Mordred! Yea, a thousand throats
Will cry me king when my fate topples Arthur.
VIV. Now art thyself, this
be thy natural mood.
Yea, Mordred, when thou kingest it, there will be
A splendid thraldom to true kingliness.
For thou wilt sink a terror in men’s hearts
Of king’s prerogatives will make them fear
The very sound and rumor of thy name;
And there will go before thee waves of will
Presaging thunders of thy royal coming.
But wilt thou then, my lord, remember Vivien,
When thou dost come unto thy royalty,
Her who did place thy footsteps in the way
That led thee to these gateways of success,
And bade thee trample on thy youthful fears
And doubts and milksop fancies of the mind,
And gave into thy hand an iron mace,
And bade thee use it? Wilt thou think on her,
The only one who loved thee for thyself,
The single soul that knew thee in the dark,
And loved thee for thy nobler qualities?
MOR. What wouldst thou have
VIV. I would be a queen!
MOR. Ha! thou climbest high!
Be careful or thy stairway [Page 83]
In toppling over carry thee to ruin.
(aside) This be her trend! I must match cunning
And tie this serpent in her venomed coils.
Were she a man I would admire her much
But not as woman! She be Mordred’s queen,
When queen of women there be one Guinevere!
(to VIVIEN) When I am king thou wouldst then
be the queen?
’Tis a daring thought!
VIV. Not more than thou bearest,
That Mordred, squat and monster, lorn, despised,
Misgotten, friendless save to such as me,
Should rise in dreams to heights of Arthur’s glory,
And even sigh to husband Guinevere.
MOR. What now? Thou devil!
VIV. Ha! Now I stabbed thy
longings to the quick,
And probed thine ink-heart.—Thou dost love the
Thou, who dost dwell so far below her scorn!
MOR. Witch-hag or devil! Wert
thou but a man,
And I would quickly send thee to that place
Where thou belongest.
VIV. Nay, I fear thee not.
I am too much a part of all thy plans
For thee to quarrel with. Stab me and thou stabbest
The life of all thy longings. Let me blood,
And with it flows the making of thy dreams.
MOR. (aside) ’Tis
as she says. She’s woven in my web,
And I must keep her, evil though she be.
Yea, Mordred! Mordred! (to VIVIEN)
Vivien, thou art hasty
In dreaming Mordred would do thee an evil.
’Twas but the sudden mantling of the blood.
Yea, I indeed do owe thee overmuch,
And Mordred will pay thee with what gratitude
Of words and acts as such as he possesses [Page
Yea, when my mind dwells on the what I was,
And that which I now am, an admiration
Sudden and great comes o’er me at the change
And the swift transformation thou hast made.
Thou took’st a youth from out his sickly longings,
Vague, undefined with musings on this world,
And sick with evil of a shadowed fate,
Dried up his kindness, showed him he was iron,
And gave the keys of cruelty to his hand
Wherewith to pick the lock of this poor kingdom.
Yea, I am wrapped in admiration vast.
Then I would shudder did an evil thought,
Wandering vaguely through my caverned mind,
But stop and grin me. Now it seems mine act
Would neck and neck with Hell’s most foul desire.
Yea, thou hast right in pride of workmanship
In building from material thou hadst
So deft a moulded villain to thy hand.
Yea, Vivien, fear not Mordred will forget,
When every waking moment on his bed,
And every devil knocking on his sill,
Mindeth him of cause for gratitude.
VIV. Wilt thou promise?
MOR. I am thy master. Thou
wilt be my slave,
Thou cunning plotter, schemer to my hand,
To be my dagger, poison, flaming brand,
My very slave, convenience, creature, tool’
And if thou art not, I’ll trample, trample thee.
I tell thee I will thrust this kingship out;
Will spin these actors round my crooked thumb,
Until this devil Mordred walketh king [Page
Little didst dream what demon thou wert raising
When thou didst conjure Mordred.
VIV. Darest thou me?
MOR. Yea, look into my glass
and ask thyself
What Mordred hath in life to hope or fear?
But I do tell thee, woman, Mordred in hell
Will be no tortured creature spinning round,
But himself the very devil.
To show my power of evilment, I tell thee,
I know thy fatal liking for myself.
’Tis the one part of thee that now can suffer,
The only part of thee that holdeth good.
VIV. Nay, I will not hearken!
MOR. (seizes her wrist)
I’ll bind thee on the rack as thou hast me,
Or, rather, finding me there, stretched my sorrows,
And show thee all the fiend that thou hast roused.
Then hear me: I do scorn that love of thine:
Do trample on, despise, as I do thee!
VIV. (falls on her face)
Nay, Mordred, thou breakest my heart.
Nay, curse me not.
MOR. Yea, ask the rack for
mercy when it racks,
Or seek for honey in the aspic’s sting!
Yea, more, I tell thee plainly to thy face,
Guinevere makes hell within my breast,
And thou, my slave, wilt help me to her arms.
VIV. One little smile, one
little word of peace!
MOR. Nay, silence, or a curse!
Wilt thou do this?
VIV. Thou knowest I will, let
me but touch thy hand!
Trampled on, despised, I love thee still.
MOR. Now to the point: Launcelot
goes this night
To secret assignation with the Queen—
This saving of her life hath patched their quarrel—
And thou must find for me the hour of meeting,
Must intercept the trusted messenger,
And bring me secret knowledge of the time [Page
I go now with some knights unto the King,
To force his leave for this our undertaking,
And put their secret love to open shame.
Thou must watch near the apartments of the Queen,
And take by fraud or force knowledge of the hour,
And bring it to my ears with thy best speed.
VIV. Yea, I will.
He hath read true, I am his slave at last.
Aye, what a splendid devil he doth make!
There is no man like him in all this world.
I’ll see him crowned, climb he there o’er
ACT III. SCENE 6.
PLACE—An audience room in the castle.
Enter MORDRED, SIR AGRAVAINE and other
MOR. ’Tis a delicate business we be come upon,
Though one of grave importance, therefore I
Will stand i’ the background. Thou, Sir Agravaine,
Being a kinsman not o’ the sinister side,
May speak the plainer. Let it fall on me.
Yea, I will answer with my body here.
SIR AG. Yea, I will put it
plainly to the King,
And show the evil placed upon our house,
And that foul insult tendered King and kingdom
By overbearing Launcelot and the Queen.
Other Knights. Yea,
we are with you.
Enter a Page.
SIR AG. We would see the King.
Page. [Page 87]
AR. What means this sudden
assembling of knights
At this strange hour?
SIR AG. We’d bring a
matter to thy hearing, King,
Of grave import unto thyself and us
Of thine own household, who’d uphold thy pride.
Yea, one affecting the dignity of this land.
AR. What be this matter?
SIR AG. The matter is one which
toucheth thine own honor,
And hath to do with Launcelot and the Queen.
AR. Dost thou insult thy king?
SIR AG. Nay, ’tis thou
dost insult thyself and us,
Dost thou not listen!
Other knights. Yea,
King, ’tis true.
AR. Tis treason, damnable treason
’gainst my Queen,
’Gainst myself and ’gainst this noble kingdom!
SIR AG. Wilt thou hear me,
Other Knights. Yea,
AR. Then I will hear thee further,
but ’tis plain
You prove this on your bodies to the death.
If this strange lie be not as true as Heaven,
Each man who thinks this damnèd treason dies!
just, King; we will prove it on our bodies.
SIR AG. We think, Lord Arthur,
thou art over-blind
To certain things that compromise thine honor,
And some of us have reason to suspect
Sir Launcelot holdeth commerce with the Queen.
AR. Stop, caitiff!
SIR AG. Wilt thou not hear
AR. Have ye forgotten that
my name is Arthur?
Or is this nobleness a vanished dream?
SIR AG. We would prove this
same upon our bodies,
By taking of them in the very act [Page 88].
AR. No more! by heaven, no
more! I say, no more!
Or by my crown, I’ll cleave thy caitiff tongue,
And spatter thine evil brains on yonder pavement,
That dared impeach my royalty of such dishonor.
SIR AG. Nay, King, we will
die for the truth of this matter.
Knights. Yea, Lord
Arthur, we are so prepared.
AR. Nay, ye are mad, blind,
SIR AG. Nay, King, here is
Sir Mordred, who will show
The truth whereof we speak.
AR. Ha! ’Tis thou at
bottom o’ this ill!
MOR. Sire, I would but do my
duty to this kingdom,
And to the honor of your kingly place.
Sir Agravaine is over-blunt in speech,
And speaketh sudden on a cruel matter;
Yet he hath but the right in this grave question,
Nor doth dishonor thee in this respecet
More than do any of these loyal knights,
But rather would show wherein thine honor lieth.
If dishonor lies therein, it doth not lie
On them who’d prove the evilment suspected,
But rather on those who by their treasonable act
Have brought this same upon us. It would seem
That thou doest love Sir Launcelot even more
Than the unsullied honor of thy Queen.
AR. Nay! Speak no more! Thou
hast insulted Arthur.
If but one thousandth part of this be true,
Then is great Arthur’s glory brought to ground.
AR. No more words! What wouldst
thou have me do?
MOR. Sire, we would that thou
To prove the cruel substance of our coming
By taking the doers in the very act,
And trapping Launcelot in the Queen’s apartment.
AR. Go on! Death! Speak on!
Accursed me! [Page 89]
MOR. If thou wilt go abroad
this coming night,
And advertise thy going, and grant to us
Sufficient knights to make the matter proof,
Will fulfill this matter with our lives.
Knights. We will.
AR. And it hath come to this!
MOR. Sire, wilt thou grant
AR. Yea, I will grant it, but,
by Arthur’s honor,
The knight returning from such vile ambushment
Without full proof unto the open world
Of that which spills the sea of Arthur’s glory.
Shall die the foulest death this kingdom lends!
On this condition only do you go.
MOR. Yea, we accept the conditions.
Knights. Yea, we do.
ACT III. SCENE 7.
PLACE—A passage near the Queen’s apartments.
VIV. Now, slave, but do the
bidding of thy master,
And soon the boding hour willdraw anigh
When Guinevere will queen a royal hunchback.
Now serve me well, my wits, until I play
The issue of this matter to my mind.
[Retires into an alcove.
UNID, the Queen’s Maid, with a ring.
UNID. Now, drat that page! What can the matter be?
This ring must go, but who will be the bearer
It bothereth me to discover.
out on left. [Page 90]
DAGONET on right.
DAG. O me! me! me! that ever I did that deed!
(to spirit) Nay! nay! spirit, come not here!
Hide, hide that woeful face. Sleep, sleep
Quiet i’ the grave! Dagonet meant it not.
Ha, ha! I’ll laugh and me merry. ’Tis but
I’ll think on Vivien.—Nay, nay, not that
I slew thee not! Away! away! away!
’Tis but a fancy, but it lifts the hair
In frosty bristles, makes the eyeballs stare,
And turns me to a horror. Away! away!
UNID. What play is now, sir fool, that thy wit playeth?
DAG. Oh! ’tis thou!
UNID. ’Tis said that
thou art looking at the Queen,
And wouldst oust Sir Launcelot. Thou art a bold fool.
DAG. Nay, nay, ’tis thou,
sweet Unid, rendeth my heart.
UNID. Now art thou a kind fool.
DAG. Is the Queen within?
UNID. She sleepeth.
DAG. I will sing thee a song.
rose upon a month o’ May,
When woods were filled
Came Margery tripping up the way,
And Jock a-stealing after.
(to spirit) Away! Away!
rose in auntumn’s afternoon,
When love was dead, and
That Jock went striding ’neath the moon,
And Margery pining after.
(to spirit) Away! I say, away!
UNID. Well, acted, fool, and well sung! [Page
DAG. Yea, it is a part of me.
UNID. (aside) He will
do. (to DAGONET) Fool, wilt thou deliver a
message for me?
DAG. Yea, by my love.
UNID. It be a pressing business,
and a private one.
in a low voice.
Thou seest this ring. It is the Queen’s. thou
needs must find Sir Launcelot, and deliver it to him
privately and say: “This night afore midnight.”
DAG. What doth it mean?
UNID. It meaneth, do thy part,
and shut thy ears and mouth, and put a padlock on thine
inward thoughts. Wilt thou do it?
DAG. Yea, that I will, ’tis
for the Queen. (to spirit)
Away! Away! Haunt me not!
UNID. What aileth thee?
DAG. Did I speak?
UNID. Thou spokest as to someone.
DAG. ’Tis but an infirmity.
UNID. ’Tis a queer one.
Thou wilt be speedy and private?
DAG. That I will. Not one kiss?
UNID. Away! away! Haunt me
[Exit. VIVIEN comes from the
VIV. Ha! thou false lover!
DAG. ’Tis thou!
VIV. Caught in the act, soft
words and lovers’ songs,
And rings exchanged, and even kisses proffered.
Thou double-dealer! Thou wouldst seek my love?
DAG. I tell thee thou are wrong.
’Tis the appearances are at fault.
VIV. Thou liest! Didst thou
not offer to buss her?
DAG. ’Twas but a sally
to cover mine inward thoughts [Page 92].
VIV. Thou liest again. What
were those low words she spake, when she took thy hand?
DAG. ’Twas but a message
she gave me on a private matter.
VIV. Oh! Oh! Very private,
Dagonet, very private!
DAG. I cannot tell thee of
VIV. Nay, thou canst not, for
DAG. I tell thee, Vivien, thou
wilt madden me.
I tell thee I love thee only, and thou knowest it.
VIV. What was the substance
of that message?
DAG. If thou must have it—and
thou draggest my heart out—it was from the Queen:
the words, “to-night afore midnight.”
VIV. A true story! To thee?
DAG. Nay, to Sir Launcelot.
VIV. Thou liest! Canst thou
explain that ring she gave thee?
[Picks it up.
DAG. ’Tis the Queen’s.
VIV. Ho! Ho! And thou the trusted
messenger? ’Tis a likely story. Wouldst have me
DAG. Vivien, I tell thee that
I love thee, and am in hell for thee, aye in hell!
VIV. Thou forgettest thine
important message, thou most trusted lover and messenger!
DAG. Vivien, wilt thou not
VIV. Go, go, I tell thee; I
will see thee again.
Now cometh the hour when my revenge approacheth,
Now winds my web about doomed Camelot,
An angered fate hangs o’er these castle walls.
There will be bloody deeds abroad to-night.
Rise, spirits of old vengeance and affright!
Vivien conquereth! Wait! Wait! [Page 93]
ACT IV. SCENE I.
(Rise outer curtain.) Passage near the
DAG. ’Tis little I can do, but I will mend
The devilment that I have helped to cause.
Hark, now they come! Here I will take my stand.
’Tis over my dead body, when they come,
That they’ll come at her. Ho! Stand without!
(sounds heard without)
Enter MORDRED, SIR AGRAVAINE and other
Knights with torches and naked
(draws) Where go you masters?
MOR. We go this road; ’ware
how you stop our way.
DAG. The man who goes this
road goes o’er my body.
SIR AG. Louse! Take that!
[Stabs DAGONET; he falls.
MOR. ’Tis the King’s
DAG. You have leeched my folly.
Now is the jest ended. Vivien!
A Knight. He was a
man, after all.
MOR. Onward, knights, to better
game than this,
Though little we know the tragedy that ended
When yon poor light went out! Come this way!
(Rise inner curtain.)
The Queen’s apartment.
LAUNCELOT and GUINEVERE.
LAUN. I come this night to bid you a long farewell [Page
Before I leave this kingdom’s shores for ever.
This love doth hold me in a demon’s grasp,
And my heart breaks to feel great Arthur’s love,
And all the time we twain be meeting thus.
GUIN. Nay, nay, Launcelot,
leave me not forlorn,
I cannot live without thee. They strong arms
And thy warm kisses are to me the one
Fair garden springing on this drearsome earth.
LAUN. Lady, I must go. My lands
Tribute to my sword, I’ll make a kingdom,
And pass my days in memories of thee.
GUIN. Nay, nay, thou wilt not
go! And if thou must
My heart will bleed for thee until my death.
UNID. (hurrying in)
Madam, there is treason roused without.
Many armèd knights do come this way.
LAUN. Now is the end come I
have long expected,
The grim fatality of all my dears,
The nightmare real at last. Quick, my sweet!
Kiss me you latest now! This is my death!
GUIN. Launcelot, hasten! Save,
oh, save thyself!
I will bar them with my body here.
They will but trample a dead, dishonored Queen,
Whom brute fatality made its passing sport.
Quick! that way!
LAUN. Nay, nay, sweet love,
but I will die with thee,
And show great love can make a greater death.
(draws) Would to God I had mine armor!
knocking heard at the door, and the voice of MORDRED
MOR. Come out, thou traitor,
Launcelot, and show the world
The face of him who hath dishonored Arthur!
Come out, thou traitor!
GUIN. Launcelot, save thyself,
there is time yet [Page 95].
LAUN. Nay, love, I’ll
end me here, if be my fate.
Ho! Cowards without! I am a single man,
Devoid of armor, having but my sword;
Yet will I open and give you hell’s glad welcome.
[Unbars the door;
SIR AGRAVAINE rushes in.
[Takes the arms from SIR AGRAVAINE’S
body and arms himself.
GUIN. (helping him)
Aye, love, if prayers are aught, will mine clothe thee.
Voices outside. Open
up, traitor, open up!
GUIN. Great God, Great God,
help this poor Queen who prays!
[LAUNCELOT buckles his armor.
LAUN. Now am I ready. Fare
thee well, sweet love!
Whatever haps—and we may meet no more
This side of darkness—carry to thy grave,
That launcelot loved thee, thee, and only thee.
GUIN. O Launcelot, my heart
[They embrace. The
LAUN. (to the Maids)
Take her back from this, protect her, keep her safe.
This work is not for her sweet presence. Now Heaven
The man that meeteth Launcelot’s blade this night!
Voices without. Coward! Traitor! Wilt thou open up?
LAUN. Yea, traitors who forswore
the name of knight,
When like some drunken rabble ye polluted
The gentle sacredness of these apartments!
And every man who shamed her ears to-night
(throws open the doors) Shall die! Die! Die!
Come on, ye fiends!
[They rush in and
then fall back in surprise. [Page 96]
Ha! ha! here’s wine that Launcelot’s blade
[Rushes forward, hacking fiercely with his sword;
twelve knights fall
one after the other.
MOR. God of Heaven, let us
back! This man be mad!
[Retreats with four knights; LAUNCELOT slays
LAUN. Come on, ye fiends of
hell! I’ll back me here!
Launcelot is indeed a man of honor!
ACT IV. SCENE 2.
PLACE—SIR LAUNCELOT’S apartment.
Enter several Knights with
torches and swords.
SIR BAN. Hello there! Wake up!
Knights. Hello! Within!
[Loud knocking heard at the doors.
Enter several other Knights. Enter
LAUN. What means this, that ye be armed?
SIR BAN. Strange horrors woke
us frozen from our beds. Hideous nightmares beset us.
Some heard moanings, some that grave-bells rang, and
others saw strange spectres, and I myself heard clash
of mighty arms, and quick each man found himself leaped
form his bed, naked blade in hand. What may it portend?
We be much affrighted.
LAUN. ’Tis a true portent.
Now the end hath come of peace and happiness
this doomèd kingdom.
Tonight, on private meeting with the Queen [Page
In her apartments, there was I surrounded,
And, hounded traitor, slew so many knights,
There’s scarce on left to tell the King the story.
Knights. A most foul and dastard attack! The kingdom
LAUN. The Queen! Quick! the Queen! what of her?
Mess. An order hath
but come in the King’s name:
And she is to be burnt to-morrow noon.
LAUN. Never! By my blade, she
shall not die!
Knights. She shall not! She shall not! On our lives!
ACT IV. SCENE 3.
PLACE—The King’s lodge in the forest.
walks back and forth.
AR. Would I had not done this! Heaven this hour
Be kind to this poor King, suspend thy wrath.
For my past frailties judge me not too heavy.
Oh, were it dawning! Nay, if it be shame,
Night roll forever round your shrouding glooms
Hide Arthur’s woe in your convenient black.
Rise not, O pitiless day, with searching white,
Showing abroad catastrophe and doom.
Hark! ’tis the messenger. Now, my royal soul,
Is it black or white, is it death or life to thee?
AR. Speak! Is it calamity?
Mess. Yea, sire, it
is calamity; Sir Launcelot ta’en— [Page
AR. In the Queen’s chamber
Mess. Yea, sire.
AR. Then, sable Night, shut
out the morning now!
O blackness, bury Arthur in thy shroud!
O Calamities, pelt, pelt your fire!
Sink now, proud Arthur, sink to rise no more!
MORDRED and two knights.
MOR. We bring you evil news in sorry haste.
Launcelot ta’en by us in the Queen’s apartments,
When we, hailing him traitor, would bring him out,
Then he, mad with a devil, did issue forth
And slay the most of us, so that we are scarce fled
with our lives,
As these two knights do witness.
AR. Murder and Treason walk
abroad this night.
Adultery and Incest leave their graves.
Arthur, Arthur, thou art a King no more!
MOR. We would arrest the Queen,
did we know thy will.
AR. O Night! Night! Night!
MOR. ’Tis not an hour
for grief and memories, sire,
But action, instant action is the word,
If thou wouldst keep thy kingdom. Sir Launcelot knoweth
That thou wert privy to this heavy matter,
And, swearing direst vengeance on us all,
Buildeth a party for to help the Queen
And oust thee from thy royalty.
AR. Dost thou not know I loved
And had I chosen a brother or a son,
It had been Launcelot! O hour cruel world!
Thou hast no cloud of evils brooding dire,
So much hath rained. Mordred, take my crown.
To illegitimacy pass my glory now.
MOR. Nay, sire, but a King
until thou takest
A King’s dread vengeance on thine enemies [Page
AR. Enemies, thou sayest! Who
To stoop to hate this cuckold, shamèd King?
I am a King no more, my Table Round
Is but a stall-yard where the swine of men
Will rend and snarl and tear my glory down.
GWA. This is a bad and foolish matter, King,
And thou wert fool to fetch it to an issue.
But now thou makest bad worse. Didst thou send out
For Launcelot’s arrest and the Queen’s murder?
MOR. The order hath gone out
in the King’s name.
’Tis gone too far for compromises now.
GWA. ’Tis thou hast done
all this, thou plotter!
MOR. Thou liest! ’Tis but the natural end of circumstance
that worked its issue. I tell thee, the King ordered
GWA. King, didst thou give
AR. Gwaine, thy words were
But now they’re fitting. None need show me reverence.
GWA. I know not reverence,
but I would of facts.
Didst thou proclaim that Guinevere should die,
Being found of treason foul against thy person,
And doom her to the stake to-morrow noon?
AR. The Queen! The Queen! Thou
sayest? I’ll have no queens!
If there be a Queen to-morrow in this land,
She shall die the death! ’Tis the King’s
MOR. Now thou hast thine answer.
GWA. Then fear Sir Launcelot’s
hate and split this kingdom,
Topple yonder King and bring him dwn,
As thou wouldst love to. Gwaine will none o’ this.
The Pope shall hear it! What’s a woman worth
That, truth or untruth, she should wreck a kingdom?
Enter a Messenger
Mess. Sir launcelot
and many knights have rescued the queen and have taken
her to Joyeous Guarde, and in the quick struggle Sir
Gareth and Sir Lynnette were slain.
AR. More woes! More woes! Where
will this end?
MOR. (to SIR GWAINE)
Now art thou satisfied?
GWA. (to Messenger)
What! Thou liest! Tell me my brothers be slain?
Mess. ’Tis true,
master, mine own eyes saw them dead.
GWA. Hell! Who did the deed?
Mess. Sir Launcelot
himself. He rode quick i’ the Court, and lighted
and hacked without looking at whom he met, to reach
the Queen, whom bearing to horse, he stayed not to see
who were dead or wounded, but straight rode away.
GWA. This world or the next,
he will answer me! Mine own two brothers, and all for
a damned wench! Queen or no, King, thou shalt answer
Yea, all shall answer for this fatal business.
MOR. Yea, I will help thee.
’Twas most unnatural,
Who never harmed him, he should serve them so.
GWA. Launcelot, Launcelot,
now I cast thee out!
One world won’t hold us!
MOR. This works my way. O world,
thou are moulding swift
To my poor vengeance!
(to ARTHUR) Sire, what wilt thou do?
AR. To arms, to arms! We’ll
siege him in his hold.
’Tis death that cures dishonor. He will reap
The swift, dread harvest of Heaven’s retribution.
GWA. Would Launcelot were but
two men, I’d slay him twice.
’Twould suit my feelings [Page 101].
ACT IV. SCENE 4.
(Rise outer curtain.) Court at Camelot.
1st Gent. Were I the weaker kind, I’d
For this poor kingdom. Hast thou seen the Pope’s
2nd Gent. Yea, forbidding
the carrying on of his strange war,
And commanding Arthur to take back his Queen,
And give Sir Launcelot passage from the Kingdom.
He be a wondrous knight, this Launcelot.
’Tis pity this love o’ercome him.
VIVIEN and MORDRED.
VIV. My heart grows hot to bring things to an issue.
MOR. Patience! And thou wilt
see the issue come.
Launcelot banished, Arthur follows after,
With blustering Gwaine, both ravening for war.
Arthur will leave me regent, then’s mine hour.
[Both pass on.
inner curtain.) Enter ARTHUR, takes
his state. Knights and Ladies.
blow without. Enter LAUNCELOT with the Queen,
draped in black, with
her Ladies. LAUNCELOT leads the Queen, who
stands. LAUNCELOT kneels.
ARTHUR averts his face. LAUNCELOT speaks.
LAUN. Sire, by order of the Pope of Rome,
And your most royal promise, here I bring
Unto your keeping Guinevere the Queen,
And dares one knight within these roayal precincts
Impugn her chastity or queenliness,
I meet him with my body.
AR. Madam, I acknowledge you
It is the will of Heaven I submit [Page 102].
But loving wife thou art no more to me.
Not Pope nor Prince can white thy black in this.
GUIN. Arthur of Britain, I
answer thee, the King,
I am no more thy wife, nor ever was,
Nor am I shamed as Queen to own the love
I’ve borne for Launcelot. In the coming world
He will be mine, as I am truly his.
I wronged thee not, great Arthur, but ’twas thou
And hellish circumstance have wrecked my days.
’Tis the Queen’s answer, she will speak
AR. Sir Launcelot Du Lake,
arise! [LAUNCELOT stands.
Launcelot Du Lake, thou traitor knight,
Sinner against the honor of this realm,
I banish thee forever from this kingdom,
On pain of foulest death, dost thou return.
LAUN. Sire, I accept the issue.
MOR. ’Tis but a gentle
majesty that leans
To mercy such as this. Were I thy King—
GWA. Yea, get thee quick. Fast
as thou nearest France,
We sail the faster. Thou shalt meet with Gwaine,
And pay his brothers’ spirits thou hast slain,
Thou foul, lewd traitor!
LAUN. Lord Arthur, thou hast
reason to scorn me now,
And all thine anger stabs mine inward soul;
But now ’tis I must tell thee true,
I love Queen Guinevere as mine own body,
And her alone will love unto my death,
As to none other. For this woeful love,
I’ll answer to my God who put it there,
And not to man, nor even to thee, proud King.
And yet I say it, yea, with breaking heart,
I love thee King, as doth no other man;
And did no hideous fate come in between
I had been thy Launcelot still [Page 103].
AR. (aside) Great
god! Now my heart breaketh. (to LAUNCELOT)
Begone, false knight. ’Tis enough.
LAUN. Yea, yet a little, sire,
it is the end.
If Gwaine would hearken, I would answer him
For his two brothers.
GWA. Nay, nay, I’ll not
LAUN. ’Tis ended, then,
but I would say to thee,
That nothing, next to this most heavy matter,
The most dread, sorrowful fatter in this poor world,
Hath grieved me so as that I did that deed.
All blinded with my sorrow for the Queen,
I knew not ’twas your brothers that I slew.
GWA. Nay, nay, blood, blood
alone will answer.
LAUN. (to the Queen)
And thou, sad Guinevere, thou queen of women,
Sweetest of soul and form upon this earth,
I’l look upon thy beauteous face no more.
Let womanhood blossom in the days to come,
There nevermore will be one like to thee.
[Bends and kisses her hand. GUINEVERE goes
GUIN. Launcelot, take me with
thee; I am thine!
AR. And thou, the Queen?
GUIN. I am no Queen of realm
save this man’s heart.
And where he treads, that land to me alone
Beloved of the kingdoms of this earth.
Oh, take me, Launcelot, my lord, my king!
AR. Ladies, the Queen to her
LAUN. I would not shame thy
We were each other’s ere this world began,
And we together, unshamed yet shall go
To meet our God. Sweet love, farewell, farewell.
[Hurries out. The Queen borne slowly to
her apartments, weeping.
AR. O black, brute Evil, why
was Arthur born?
Now is all loveliness gone from life [Page 104].
Yea, I will sink. Nay, I am Arthur still.
The Kingly still, defying Hell and Fate.
To arms! To arms! Red battle is my mood!
MOR. Yea, battle!
GWA. Yea, blood for blood!
My brothers’ spirits call.
AR. My heart awakens! Mordred,
as my regent,
I leave thee filial keeper of my crown,
My queen and kingdom, while I wed with war,
And bring as issue yon foul Launcelot’s doom.
Make my forces ready. France! Is the word.
swords and shouting) Yea,
ACT IV. SCENE 5.
PLACE—A corridor in the palace.
1st Gent. Hast heard the news? Mordred’s
usurped the kingdom, that seized the Queen, and, backed
by half realm, doth challenge Arthur to a warm home-coming.
’Tis said he hath plotted this long time, and
now hath proved his chances. How stand you in this most
2nd Gent. I’m for Arthur, and now for Dover
and France this coming night.
1st Gent. Then I am
with you. May we bring these shores
New peace from this usurper when we come!
VIVIEN with a dagger.
VIV. Nay, he shall never make her Queen. Nay,
She shall die first! No Queen but Vivien [Page
Shall royal it while Mordred lifts the crown.
His slave, his creature, yea, in all save this.
I’ll maker her beauty wan, I’ll curtain
Yea, she shall queen in Tartarus this night.
heard without. VIVIEN gets behind the tapestry.
MORDRED as King.
MOR. Now have I reached the pinnacle of my
In these uncertain heights of Arthur’s glory.
And even now I sicken of the struggle;
Even now I top a tower of fear.
A thousand swords, would leap at my command,
And swim this land in blood at my one word,
Would at a stronger power but turn and rend me.
The thousand throats that this morn shouted “Mordred!”
To-morrow morn may shout as loud for Arthur.
’Tis but a petty thing to be a King,
And strut an hour to crown a people’s will
And make them think they wield a majesty,
And hold a phantom rule; then pass and be
A little dust in a forgotten heap.
Nay, ’tis not worth the blackening of a soul,
The letting of a single human life,
The fouling o’er of youthful memory.
And I am now this self-contemnèd thing,
A man of truest sorrows who descended
From out the pedestal of nobler dreams,
And used the subtle intrigues of this world
To climb this pyramid of human weakness.
And now I hate it as I hate myself
Who stooped to gain it. Yet must Mordred king
This realm with tyranny that fear
Wields o’er a monarchy that knows not love,
And burn his heart out for a woman’s scorn.
Yea, she shall be my queen if love can win her.
GUINEVERE as a State Prisoner.
MOR. Madam, I would detain you [Page
GUIN. Usurper! Why
this bringing of me here?
I deemed the shelter of a sisterhood
Were not denied me.
MOR. Madam, I would
to you unfold this matter.
I am not all you think me in you scorn.
Though I be born misshapen, yet my soul
Hath appetite for beauty like a man’s
That shows the inward in the outward mien.
Madam, I would lay the matter plainly:
I have long been a victim to thy beauties,
And would new-make thee Queen of this old kingdom.
GUIN. Never! Were
Launcelot or Arthur standing by,
Insulter of thy Queen, thou quick wouldst die.
Make way! Make way!
MOR. Madam, have compassion
on my weakness!
A soul is lodged within this crooked body.
No man hath ever loved as Mordred loves.
GUIN. Make way! this
MOR. Let your sorrow
plead for Mordred’s sorrow.
As thou hast loved Launcelot unhappy,
So he loves thee.
GUIN. Show it by closing
quick this audience.
I am all Laucelot’s, this world and the next,
As Heaven knoweth.
MOR. Then thou wilt
not have compassion?
GUIN. I pity thee,
but this may never be.
GUIN. As I am a Queen,
MOR. Lady, thy pity
doth but lttle help me.
Yet will I show thee Mordred hath a heart.
Know thou hast killed the spark of Mordred’s hope,
And silenced the music of this world for him;
Yet, lady, as rightful King of this great land,
He grants thee safest passage where thou wilt.
GUIN. I would go to
MOR. As thou wilt.
Not one word? Not one token? [Page 107]
GUIN. Prince, thou
hast my respect and gratitude
For this thine act.
[Exeunt GUINEVERE and her train.
VIV. Ha, ha, ha! King Mordred!
forward and draws) Fiend! Thou diest!
(He clutches her, they stand confronting each other)
Nay, nay, and thou didst hear all? Nay, I will not kill
thee. Thy punishment hath been more than I could mete
thee. I see sharp agony in thine evil face. Yea, woman,
thou hast suffered.
VIV. O God! My love! My love!
[Would stab herself.
MOR. Nay, die not!
(throws the dagger away) Thou deservest thy
reward. Mordred will crown this farce and make thee
VIV. Me! Thy wife?
MOR. Nay, nay, or
mistress even; only Queen.
ACT IV. SCENE 6.
PLACE—France. A tent on the field
near LAUNCELOT’S castle.
paces to and fro.
AR. I would I were on British soil again!
This leaguer goes but feebly. I am sick
Of losing battles to this Launcelot,
Whose strength and prowess in far kinder days
Were my heart’s pride. Arthur, thy star grows
Thou canst not keep the love of woman. Nay,
Men’s friendships turn to traitor on the lips.
O Merlin, couldst thou now but see thine Arthur! [Page
Mess. Sir Launcelot
met Sir Gwaine beneath the wall,
And of all the bloody fights betwixt them two,
Which have enhorrored this ensanguined war,
This was the bloodiest.
AR. Speak on!
Gwaine be mortal wounded, so it seemeth.
even fought on after he was down,
Till his blad fell from out his palsied hand.
AR. This time maketh
thrice that he hath been defeated,
And surely this will cool his fiery blood.
He is the strongest hater I have known
In all my royalty. He would as row go
To hell, so that his foe might forfeit heaven.
GWAINE, born by Squires and Attendants.
GWA. Let me forth—forth, I say! Hell!
Caitiffs I be better now.
I would at him! Oh!
Sire, if he rest not he will die.
The blood runneth from him in streams
So we cannot quench it out o’ my knowledge. I
be in pieces.
AR. Thou hast had
enough, temper thy hates.
And do thy brothers more they lodge in hell. I am for
GWA. Nay, King, let
me but once more.
AR. Thou canst scarce
utter, thou wilt die.
GWA. Nay, I will stand
his front so long as I may hold a blade, and shake it
a Messenger in great haste.
AR. Whence come you? [Page 109]
England. Mordred hath made him King.
AR. Nay! Nay!
true, and seized the Queen.
AR. Great Heaven!
now he sitteth robed in they late state,
And wieldeth puissance.
GWA. The damned hunchback!
AR. O world! Would
I were gone! My Queen untrue,
My heart’s best brother traitor, even my son,
Mine ill-got son doth rend me. Who would now
Hold fate with sunken Arthur?
(to the Messenger) Be there more?
sire, I came in haste at the first news,
Though it is said that he would wed the Queen!
AR. A thousand devils
take him!—Nay, not that,
Not that most foul completion!
Ho! Sir Hake, Sir Mark! Ho, knights without!
AR. Mordred’s usurped the kingdom. We
must haste to England now. The siege is raised. Yea,
I will blot him out or make an end righting mine old
GWA. (borne out) Now
are my chances gone. Gwaine is disgraced. This is a
world of woe. I’ll fight no more. But one more
bout, and my sword might ha’ done it [Page
ACT V. SCENE I.
(Rise outer curtain.)
1st Sol. Ho, without there!
2nd Sol. What news?
1st Sol. Arthur is
back for England with all his forces, and the King hath
sent an army to withstand his landing, and himself leaveth
to-night to follow them.
2nd Sol. He be a rare
King, this hunchback. He hath a marvelous power. His
knights be feared of him, but ’tis said, but none
can say his rule be foul.
2nd Sol. ’Tis
said that the new Queen be a witch an’ hath holpen
him wi’ her deviltries.
1st Sol. So be I till
the next change comes.
(Rise inner curtain.) Enter
VIVIEN as Queen, with many Ladies and Pages;
her state. Enter a Knight, who kneels.
VIV. What news from France, Sir Bors?
cometh back, my lady [Page 111].
my lady, the army be embarked.
VIV. Oh, short and
MOR. Well, madam!
VIV. (to the ladies) Begone!
(to MORDRED) Hast thou heard the news?
MOR. ’Tis as
I have long expected. He now cometh back.
VIV. Art thou prepared?
MOR. Yea, if ’tis
death thou meanest.
And ’twere better so. Thou art a Queen already!
I had not thought thou wouldst so look the Queen.
VIV. Mordred, would that thou mightst also see
I wear a heart, a woman’s heart, beneath
This queenly mask!
MOR. A heart?
VIV. That beats and
breaks for thee!
MOR. I’m not
myself, I am a hunchback king
Who stole his father’s rule by subtlety,
And keepeth it by power of being a devil.
I know not love. Woman, thou art mad!
Art thou not satisfied with what thou art?
I made thee all that woman’s heart might crave.
Revenge, ambition, these all can I grant,
But love, a commodity not in Mordred’s giving.
Use this thy power to surfeit while it lasts;
To-morrow it will topple. I’m o’er-weary
Of all this sycophancy of creeping men,
Wh fear my power and sneer upon my back;
A pageantry of lies where human worms,
Who crawl to-day, to-morrow get a sting
And use is on the hand that ’friended them.
I cannot mould the face to popular form,
And hide the thought behind the outward act,
And make good ill, ill good, by royal patent [Page
Nay, I can scorn, and I can hate,—yea, strike,
When rules the mood, yea, I’m a very devil;
But cheat myself and others to what I am,
And be a popular dream, a fancied god,
The victim of a world’s delusiveness,
What manner I am, I were not made for this.
Yea, coming struggle, I meet thee with a joy,
’Twere scarce expected. Madam, I bid farewell.
We worked this masque together, thou and I,
And if it like thee little, blame not Mordred.
I go to-night to meet my sire in battle.
Such fight will be this kingdom hath not known
In all its sorrows. Britain’s darkest hours
Are blacking on her, I feel I go to death.
I leave some knights to guard thee. If thou desirest,
Thou canst withdraw unto some convent close
Till this blows over.
VIV. Nay, Vivien flees
not. She dies first. Woman or Queen,
She will be found where dangers threaten thee
And menace thy kingliness. O Mordred,
Thou knowest not the woman that I am.
Take me with thee as thy heart’s true slave.
Where thou diest, there would Vivien die,
Or where thou goest, there would she wander, too.
MOR. Nay, nay, ’tis
vain, I am a man apart.
Thou knowest not the iron I am become.
Mordred needs no shield of kindly help
Other than what unkind nature gave him.
Woman, thou dost unqueen thyself, I tell thee.
Thou wastest thy words on Mordred.
VIV. O brute, O cruel
shape, not natural man,
Hast thou no feeling?
MOR. I go forth to-night
To wreck my father, stem his tide this way
Unto his rightful kingdom. Speak me love!
Rather tell the lamb skipping the mead
Go ask the wolf for suckle [Page 113].
VIV. Nay, Mordred,
slay me now, and thou wilt know
Vivien had blood full warm to flow for thee.
MOR. Woman, I’m
all iron and adamant,
And yet I pity thee, for thou hast hell.
I would not slay thee—rather fare thee well.
VIV. O God! Mordred!
Mordred! Is this all?
And I have moulded him unto this iron
I beat against. It is my punishment!
O God! O God! Nay, I will go with him,
And die with him if need be. Now, my wits! But how?
Page. Madam, the King?
VIV. He hath just
left.—Stay, doest thou go with him?
VIV. Dost see this
madam, it be wondrous indeed.
VIV. It will be thine—wilt
And let another go in thy stead.
King trusteth me.
VIV. ’Tis the
will of one who loveth the King fare more than ever
thou couldst. ’Tis my will. Thou must stay. Quick,
MORDRED with Knights.
MOR. Make haste! Make
haste! Where tarrieth this squire of mine? We must ride
to Dover ere it darkens.
He cometh now, sire.
VIVIEN, disguised as a Squire.
MOR. Dost thou keep thy King? Thou wert long
VIV. I came with all
speed, sire [Page 114].
MOR. Thou seemest
over pink and white for this work.
Canst thou fight?
VIV. Yea, sire, I
can use a dagger.
MOR. Then follow.—Ho,
there without! Now for Mordred’s doom!
ACT V SCENE 2.
PLACE—the Kentish coast.
Landing of ARTHUR’S troops
opposed by MORDRED. Battle going on in the
distance. Enter GWAINE, borne ashore on a litter.
Battle comes near.
A Soldier. The come this way. Here will we
stand and guard thee.
put down the litter.
GWA. How goes the
Desperate hard. The enemy be strong,
As if half England would shove the other i’ the
GWA. Give me my sword
and help me up; I’ll fight.
Sir knight, if you rise up it is your death.
GWA. Damn thee, to
lie here helpless is to die,
With those fierce sounds of battle in mine ears.
Quick! my sword! Mine old strength cometh back.
[A Squire hands him his sword; he leaps
to his feet. The battle comes
and they are all borne out fighting. Re-enter GWAINE,
and the Leech.
told thee thou wouldst die.
GWA. And so wilt thou
some day, and, like a milksop, i’ thy bed.
’Twas a poor prophecy, though a sure one. It is
Turn me over. Yea, I wedged some skulls, a clipped
Damned Mordred’s wings o’ some pen-feathers
AR. So far the battle’s ours. This edge,
Of Britain’s soil doth Arthur own to-night.
What be this?
GWA. ’Tis Gwaine,
King, brought to bay at last.
AR. Thou wert mad
GWA. ’Twas madness,
and death but the healing of it.
Ringing its clarion thunders in mine ears.
All life be madness, and death but the healing of it.
I have reft some brain-pans i’ my time, ha, ha!
Tell traitor Launcelot—Yea, turn me softly;
’Twas a deft hand did give me that last stroke.
be thy message, knight? Thy time rowth short.
GWA. Yea, take away—tell
Launcelot Gwaine’s vengeance waits him i’
the nether black.
ACT V. SCENE 3.
on the battlefield. The royal tent, ARTHUR’S
AR. Ho! There without! (Enter a Page)
Send me Sir Bedivere. [Exit Page.
AR. Is all sage i’ the camp?
SIR B. Yea, sire,
the sentries are set and watch-fires ablaze. And all
ready for battle i’ the first dawn.
AR. What of the enemy?
SIR B. They be the same, sire;
all seemeth quiet i’ the camp.
AR. What of the enemy?
AR. Remember all watchfulness,
so there be no surprise. Thou canst go, Bedivere; I
would fain sleep [Page 116].
SIR B. Yea, I go, sire, and
God keep thee this night.
AR. Stay, knight; Arthur of
England is a lonely man,
Betrayed of those who should have loved him best.
To-night perchance he fronts the brink of death,
In bloody battle for his rightful kingdom.
Take this ring, knight, in memory of thy King,
(gives him a ring) Survive he not the morrow.
SIR B. God keep thee, sire.
[Exit SIR BEDIVERE.
AR. Now what will morrow’s
dawn-rise bring to Arthur?
Will it bring bloody victory or defeat?
How like an autumn wood is stript my glory.
Who short since was sole monarch of this realm.
O evil Spite, that ruleth this sad world!
Come, joy, come hope, there’s nothing sure but
Yea, I will sleep and muffle out my sorrows.
A little while.
[Goes toward the couch.
Nay, Arthur will not pillow till he beds with death,
Or doth regain his kingdom. I will rest me here.
[Seats himself on a chair and wraps his cloak about
Now for oblivion’s peace!
O stricken King, thou art the loneliest to-night
In any realm.
forward; falls asleep. A Page steals in.
Page. He sleeps.
AR. (starts and mutters)
Launcleot! Launcelot! My friend! My friend! Ah! Guinevere!
Ghost of MERLIN rises.
Ghost. Arthur of England!
AR. (in his sleep)
Merlin! Ah! Merlin!
Ghost. I come to tell
thy doom. To-morrow, Arthur! To-morrow!
AR. Away, spirit! Affright
me not. Away! Away!
[Ghost vanishes. ARTHUR
starts up. [Page 117]
Ah, did I dream of Merlin? ’Twas but fancy.
O Mage, to-night thy portents wander back
Unto my mind. Oh, couldst thou see thine Arthur!
To-morrow, said the voice within my dream.
To-morrow! Yea, to-morrow!
down again and folds his cloak. Sleeps. Mutters,
“Mordred! My son
of GWAINE rises.
AR. Ah! ’Tis thou! Away!
Ghost. King, fight
AR. (in his sleep)
Nay, I will!
Ghost. King, fight
[Ghost vanishes; ARTHUR wakes.
AR. Yea, sleep is but the borderland
’Tis twice! ’Tis twice! It is a certain
Yea, Arthur fights, thought Arthur dies, to-morrow.
Yea, now I’ll sleep, for I am over-weary.
Weary of life, yea, I am over-tired.
I would fain sleep, though night should have no morning.
This night is sweet. To-morrow cometh doom,
This hour for soft oblivion.
ACT V. SCENE 4.
PLACE—Near the battlefield.
1st Knight. This day is Britain doomed and
Rent and dismembered by old grisled war.
2nd Knight. Meseems
the kingdom’s severed like two tides [Page
That meet together in some mountain course
To whelm other. Arthur’s star grows dark,
And Mordred’s darker. ’Tis the queen, they
Hath cursed the realm with her godless loves.
two other Knights, fighting on foot.
One. A Mordred! Ho! A Mordred!
The Other. An Arthur!
An Arthur! Have at you!
[They close and each stabs the other. Both die.
1st Knight. Thus is
the kingdom rent like doomsday’s crack.
Such awful portents have been told abroad
Since yesternight. Some say the world hath end.
2nd Knight. And what
1st Knight. The crucifixes
on the churches’ walls
have trickled blood, and many abbey-bells
have tolled the midnight, rung by no man’s hand.
Yea, even the dead have risen from their graves.
2nd Knight. Ora pro
Yea, even fiercer, as two tidal waves
That roar together on some mighty bore,
And meet in thunders. Never hath such war
Been know in Britain since the ancient days.
The bowmen’s arrows darken all the sun,
The battle-axes clamor on the shields,
As on some morn the loud woodcutter’s din
By some bright hillside. Knight encounters knight
In serried thunders. All the kingdom’s turned
To one mad tournament of blood and flame.
[The battle is heard moving nearer. Both
rush out. [Page 119]
part of the field. Enter ARTHUR, surrounded
by his Knights.
AR. Now where is he, that monster
In shape and spirit, Nature calls my son?
AR. Ah, Blot
on all this sunlight, Creature dire,
Spawn of mine incest. There standest thou, my sin,
Incarnate now before me; mine old doom;
Thou that wast stronger in thine influences
To work dread evil in this hideous world
Than all the glory all my good might win.
well say Father! Parent I this ill
That hath enrent my kingdom all in twain.
In that dread night of my licentious youth,
When I in darkness thy foul shape begot,
I worked a web of blackness round my fate
And thine, distorted phantom of my sin,
Not all the tolling of sweet abbey-bells
And murmur of masses sung this thousand years
Can sweep from this doomed kingdom. Father! Yea,
There is no truce betwixt us. Thou art Death
To all that I hold dearest on this earth.
Thou stood’st betwixt me and my gladder fate,
The one black spot on all my glory’s sun.
In thee once more mine evil blackens in,
Reddens mine eyesight! Have at thee, foul Curse!
[They fight. ARTHUR wounds
MORDRED. He falls. A Knight stabs Arthur
AR. Ho! All
the sunlight blackens! Mordred! Oh! My glory darkens!
Curtain not yon sun!
this is all, and I were made for this,
To scatter death and desolation round [Page
On this fair kingdom, ruin this sweet land,
And level all the pride of Arthur’s glory,
As men might level some great castle walls;
And sow with with salt the fields of his desire,
And make him mock before the eyes of men.
Turn all his great joy into bitterness.
Yea, I his blood, and I were made for this.
O ancient, cruel Laws of human life,
O deep, mysterious, unfathomable Source
Of man’s poor being; we are ringed about
With such hard rinds of hellish circumstance
That we can never walk or breathe or hope,
Or eye the sun, or ponder on the green
Of tented plain, or glorious blue of heaven,
Or know love’s joy, or knotted thews of strength,
But imps of evil thoughts creep in between,
Like lizards in the chinks of some fair wall,
And mar life’s splendor and its fairness all.
’Tis some damned birth-doom blended in the blood
That prophesies our end in our poor acts.
Oh! We are but blind children of the dark,
Wending a way we neither make nor ken.
Yea, Arthur, I had loved thee sweet and well,
And made mine arm a bulwark to thy realm,
Had I been but as fair as Launcelot.
What evil germ, false quickening of the blood,
Did breed me foul, distorted as I am,
That I should mar this earth and thy great realm
With my wry, knotted sorrows? Launcelot’s love
Was manly, kind and generous, as became
A soul encased in such propitious frame.
The kingly trees well turn them to the sun,
And glory in their splendor with the morn.
’Tis natural that noble souls should dwell
’Twixt noble features, but eh maimed soul
Should ever be found in the distorted shape.
But I had loved as never man hath loved
Did nature only plant me sweet at first.
(to his Knights) And now I die, and blessed
be my death [Page 121],
More blessed far that I had never breathed.
Murder and Treason were my midwives dire,
Rapine and Carnage, priests that shrive me now.
VIVIEN, disguised as a Squire.
VIV. Mordred! Thou diest!
VIV. I am
MOR. Hence, hence, viper! Thou
Not natural woman, but Ambition framed,
And all lust’s envy. Thou wert unto me
A blacker blackness. Did an angel come,
And whisper sweeter counsel in mine ears,
And trumpet hopes that all were not in vain,
But thou wouldst wool mine ears with malice dire,
And play upon the black chords of my heart.
Hence, devil! Hence! Mar not my closing hours.
VIV. Oh, woe! Woe!
MOR. (to the Knights)
Now bear me slowly to great Arthur’s side
And let me place my hands upon his breast,
For he was mine own father! Alas! Alas!
So hideous is this nature we endure.
Soldiers place him by ARTHUR.
How calm he sleeps, Allencthon, as those should
Who die in glorious battle. Dost thou know,
O mighty father, that thine ill-got son,
Ill-got of nature and mysterious night,
To mar thy splendor and enwreck this world,
Now crawls to thy dead body near his death,
As would some wounded of faithful days
To lick his master’s hand? Blame not, O King,
If thou somewhere may know what I here feel,
Thy poor, misshapen Mordred. Blame him not,
The turbulent, treacherous currents of his blood
Which were a part of thine, nor let one thought
Of his past evil mar thy mighty rest [Page 122];
He would have loved thee, but remember that.
Now, past is all this splendor, new worlds come,
But nevermore will Britain know such grace,
Such lofty glory and such splendid days.
Back of the clang of battle, back of all
The mists of life, the clamor and the fall
Of ruined kingdoms built on human days,
Arthur! Merlin! Mighty dead, I come!
to his feet.
Ho! Horse! To horse! My sword! A trumpet calls!