Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
The Parting of Launcelot and Guinevere
By Stephen Phillips (1868–1915)
INTO a high-walled nunnery had fled
Queen Guinevere, amid the shade to weep,
And to repent ’mid solemn boughs, and love
The cold globe of the moon; but now as she
Meekly the scarcely-breathing garden walked,        5
She saw, and stood, and swooned at Launcelot,
Who burned in sudden steel like a blue flame
Amid the cloister. Then, when she revived,
He came and looked on her: in the dark place
So pale her beauty was, the sweetness such        10
That he half-closed his eyes and deeply breathed;
And as he gazed, there came into his mind
That night of May, with pulsing stars, the strange
Perfumèd darkness, and delicious guilt
In silent hour; but at the last he said:        15
“Suffer me, lady, but to kiss thy lips
Once, and to go away for evermore.”
But she replied, “Nay, I beseech thee, go!
Sweet were those kisses in the deep of night;
But from those kisses is this ruin come.        20
Sweet was thy touch, but now I wail at it,
And I have hope to see the face of Christ:
Many are saints in heaven who sinned as I.”
Then said he, “Since it is thy will, I go.”
But those that stood around could scarce endure        25
To see the dolour of these two; for he
Swooned in his burning armour to her face,
And both cried out as at the touch of spears:
And as two trees at midnight, when the breeze
Comes over them, now to each other bend,        30
And now withdraw; so mournfully these two
Still drooped together and still drew apart.
Then like one dead her ladies bore away
The heavy queen; and Launcelot went out
And through a forest weeping rode all night.        35

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