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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
King Arthur Addresses the Grail-Seekers
The Legend of the Holy Grail
 
From ‘The Quest of the Sangraal,’ by Robert Stephen Hawker

THERE stood the knights! stately, and stern, and tall:
Tristan; and Perceval; Sir Galahad;
And he, the sad Sir Lancelot of the lay:
Ah me! that logan of the rocky hills,
Pillared in storm, calm in the rush of war,        5
Shook at the light touch of his lady’s hand!
See where they move, a battle-shouldering kind!
Massive in mold, but graceful; thorough men;
Built in the mystic measure of the Cross:
Their lifted arms the transome; and their bulk        10
The Tree where Jesu stately stood to die!
Thence came their mastery in the field of war:
Ha! one might drive battalions—one alone!
  See now, they pause; for in their midst, the King!
Arthur, the Son of Uter and the Night.        15
Helmed with Pendragon; with the crested crown;
And belted with the sheathed Excalibur,
That gnashed his iron teeth and yearned for war!
Stern was that look—high natures seldom smile;
And in those pulses beat a thousand kings.        20
A glance! and they were hushed; a lifted hand,
And his eye ruled them like a throne of light!
Then, with a voice that rang along the moor,—
Like the Archangel’s trumpet for the dead,—
He spake, while Tamar sounded to the sea:—        25
  “Comrades in arms! mates of the Table Round!
Fair Sirs, my fellows in the bannered ring,—
Ours is a lofty tryst! this day we meet,
Not under shield, with scarf and knightly gage,
To quench our thirst of love in ladies’ eyes;        30
We shall not mount to-day that goodly throne,
The conscious steed, with thunder in his loins,
To launch along the field the arrowy spear:
Nay, but a holier theme, a mightier quest,—
‘Ho! for the Sangraal, vanished vase of God!’        35
  “Ye know that in old days, that yellow Jew,
Accursèd Herod; and the earth-wide judge,
Pilate the Roman, doomster for all lands,—
Or else the Judgment had not been for all,—
Bound Jesu-Master to the world’s tall tree,        40
Slowly to die….
            “Ha! Sirs, had we been there,
They durst not have assayed their felon deed,—
Excalibur had cleft them to the spine!
Slowly He died, a world in every pang,
Until the hard centurion’s cruel spear        45
Smote His high heart; and from that severed side
Rushed the red stream that quenched the wrath of Heaven!
  “Then came Sir Joseph, hight of Arimethée,
Bearing that awful vase, the Sangraal!
The vessel of the Pasch, Shere Thursday night;        50
The selfsame Cup, wherein the faithful Wine
Heard God, and was obedient unto Blood!
Therewith he knelt and gathered blessèd drops
From his dear Master’s Side that sadly fell,
The ruddy dews from the great tree of life:        55
Sweet Lord! what treasures! like the priceless gems
Hid in the tawny casket of a king,—
A ransom for an army, one by one!
That wealth he cherished long; his very soul
Around his ark; bent as before a shrine!        60
  “He dwelt in Orient Syria: God’s own land;
The ladder foot of heaven—where shadowy shapes
In white apparel glided up and down!
His home was like a garner, full of corn
And wine and oil; a granary of God!        65
Young men, that no one knew, went in and out,
With a far look in their eternal eyes!
All things were strange and rare: the Sangraal,
As though it clung to some ethereal chain,
Brought down high Heaven to earth at Arimethée!        70
  “He lived long centuries! and prophesied.
A girded pilgrim ever and anon;
Cross-staff in hand, and folded at his side
The mystic marvel of the feast of blood!
Once, in old time, he stood in this dear land,        75
Enthralled: for lo! a sign! his grounded staff
Took root, and branched, and bloomed, like Aaron’s rod;
Thence came the shrine, the cell; therefore he dwelt,
The vassal of the vase, at Avalon!
  “This could not last, for evil days came on,        80
And evil men: the garbage of their sin
Tainted this land, and all things holy fled.
The Sangraal was not: on a summer eve,
The silence of the sky brake up in sound!
The tree of Joseph glowed with ruddy light:        85
A harmless fire, curved like a molten vase,
Around the bush, and from the midst a voice,
Thus hewn by Merlin on a runic stone:—
[Cabalistic sentence.]
  “Then said the shuddering seer—he heard and knew
The unutterable words that glide in Heaven,        90
Without a breath or tongue, from soul to soul:—
  “‘The land is lonely now; Anathema:
The link that bound it to the silent grasp
Of thrilling worlds is gathered up and gone;
The glory is departed; and the disk        95
So full of radiance from the touch of God—
This orb is darkened to the distant watch
Of Saturn and his reapers, when they pause,
Amid their sheaves, to count the nightly stars.
  “‘All gone! but not forever: on a day        100
There shall arise a king from Keltic loins,
Of mystic birth and name, tender and true;
His vassals shall be noble, to a man:
Knights strong in battle till the war is won;
Then while the land is hushed on Tamar side,        105
So that the warder upon Carradon
Shall hear at once the river and the sea,
That king shall call a Quest; a kindling cry:—
“Ho! for the Sangraal! vanished vase of God!”
  “‘Yea! and it shall be won! a chosen knight,        110
The ninth from Joseph in the line of blood,
Clean as a maid from guile and fleshly sin—
He with the shield of Sarras; and the lance,
Ruddy and moistened with a freshening stain,
As from a severed wound of yesterday—        115
He shall achieve the Graal: he alone!’
  “Thus wrote Bard Merlin on the runic hide
Of a slain deer; rolled in an aumery chest.
  “And now, fair Sirs, your voices: who will gird
His belt for travel in the perilous ways?        120
This thing must be fulfilled: in vain our land
Of noble name, high deed, and famous men,
Vain the proud homage of our thrall the sea,
If we be shorn of God;—ah! loathsome shame!
To hurl in battle for the pride of arms;        125
To ride in native tourney, foreign war;
To count the stars; to ponder pictured runes,
And grasp great knowledge, as the demons do,—
If we be shorn of God;—we must assay
The myth and meaning of this marvelous bowl;        130
It shall be sought and found.”
                        Thus said the King.
 
 
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