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Legends That Every Child Should Know

 The Passing Of Arthur 
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      And the long glories of the winter moon.
      Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
      Dark as a funeral scarf from stern to stern,
      Beneath them; and descending they were ware
      That all the decks were dense with stately forms,
      Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream--by these
      Three Queens with crowns of gold: and from them rose
      A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars,
      And, as it were one voice, an agony
      Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
      All night in a waste land, where no one comes
      Or hath come, since the making of the world.
      Then murmur'd Arthur, "Place me in the barge."
      So to the barge they came. There those three Queens
      Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.
      But she, that rose the tallest of them all
      And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,
      And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands,
      And call'd him by his name, complaining loud,
      And dropping bitter tears against a brow
      Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white
      And colourless, and like the withered moon
      Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east;
      And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with drops
      Of onset; and the light and lustrous curls--
      That made his forehead like a rising sun
      High from the dias-throne--were parch'd with dust;
      Or, clotted into points and hanging loose,
      Mix'd with the knightly growth that fringed his lips.
      So like a shatter'd column lay the King;
      Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest,
      From spur to plume a star of tournament,
      Shot thro' the lists of Camelot, and charged
      Before the eyes of ladles and of kings,
      Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
      "Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
      Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
      For now I see the true old times are dead,
      When every morning brought a noble chance,
      And every chance brought out a noble knight.
      Such times have been not since the light that led
      The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
      But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
      Which was an image of the mighty world,
      And, I the last, go forth companionless,
      And the days darken round me, and the years,
      Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
      And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
      "The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
      And God fulfils himself in many ways,
      Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
      Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
      I have lived my life, and that which I have done
      May He within himself make pure! but thou,
      If thou shouldst never see my face again,
      Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
      Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
      Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
      For what are men better than sheep or goats
      That nourish a blind life within the brain,
      If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
      Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
      For so the whole round earth is every way
      Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
      But now farewell. I am going a long way
      With these thou seest-if indeed I go
      (For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
      To the island-valley of Avilion;
      Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
      Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
      Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
      And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea.
      Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."
      So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
      Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
      That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
      Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
      With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
      Revolving many memories, till the hull
      Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn,
      And on the mere the wailing died away.
      But when that moan had past for evermore,
      The stillness of the dead world's winter dawn
      Amazed him, and he groan'd, "The King is gone."
      And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme,
      "From the great deep to the great deep he goes"
      Whereat he slowly turn'd and slowly clomb
      The last hard footstep of that iron crag;
      Thence mark'd the black hull moving yet, and cried,
      "He passes to be King among the dead,
      And after healing of his grievous wound
      He comes again; but--if he come no more--
      O me, be yon dark Queens in yon black boat,
      Who shriek'd and wail'd, the three whereat we gazed
      On that high day, when, clothed with living light,
      They stood before his throne in silence, friends
      Of Arthur, who should help him at his need?"
      Then from the dawn it seem'd there came, but faint
      As from beyond the limit of the world,
      Like the last echo born of a great cry,
      Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
      Around a king returning from his wars.
      Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb
      Ev'n to the highest he could climb, and saw,
      Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
      Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King,
      Down that long water opening on the deep
      Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
      From less to less and vanish into light.
      And the new sun rose bringing the new year.

      THE END.

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