Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
The last scene from Mordred
By William Wilfred Campbell (1861–1918)
(The battlefield.  Enter ARTHUR surrounded by knights.)

  ARTHUR.  Now where is he, that monster, foul, deformed
In shape and spirit, nature calls my son?
(Enter  MORDRED)
  MORDRED.  Here!
  ARTHUR.  Ah, blot on all this sunlight, creature dire,
Spawn of mine incest! There standest thou, my sin,        5
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.
  MORDRED.  Father!        10
  ARTHUR.  Yea, 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        15
And thine, distorted phantom of my sin,
Not all the tolling of sweet abbey-bells,
And murmur of masses sung these thousand years,
Can sweep from this doomed kingdom. Father! Yea,
There is no truce betwixt us. Thou art death        20
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!        25
  MORDRED.  Father!
  ARTHUR.  Have at thee!
(They fight.  ARTHUR wounds MORDRED.  He falls.
A knight stabs ARTHUR from behind.)
  ARTHUR.  Ho! all the sunlight blackens! Mordred! Oh!
My glory darkens! Curtain not yon sun!  (Dies.)
  MORDRED.  Yea, this is all, and I were made for this,        30
To scatter death and desolation round
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 salt the fields of his desire,        35
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.
Oh, ancient, cruel laws of human life,
Oh, deep, mysterious, unfathomable source        40
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,        45
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 splendour and its greatness all.
’Tis some damned birth-doom blended in the blood,        50
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,        55
Had I been but as fair as Lancelot.
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? Lancelot’s love        60
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 splendour with the morn.
’Tis natural that noble souls should dwell        65
’Twixt noble features; but the maimèd soul
Should ever be found in the distorted shape.
But I had loved as never man had loved,
Did nature only plant me sweet at first.
(To his knights.)  And now I die, and blessed be my death,        70
More blessed far that I had never breathed.
Murder and Treason were my midwives dire,
Rapine and Carnage, priests that shrive me now.
(Enter VIVIEN disguised as a squire.)
  VIVIEN.  Mordred, thou diest!
  MORDRED.  Who art thou?        75
  VIVIEN.  I am Vivien.
  MORDRED.  Hence, hence, Viper, incarnate Fiend!
Not natural woman, but Ambition framed,
And all lust’s envy. Thou wert unto me
A blacker blackness. Did an angel come        80
And whisper sweeter counsel in mine ears,
And trumpet hopes that all were not in vain;
And 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!        85
  VIVIEN.  Oh, woe, woe!  (Steals out.)
  MORDRED.  (To the knights.)  Now bear me slowly to great Arthur’s side,
And let me place my hand upon his breast,
For he was mine own father! Alas! Alas!
So hideous is this nature we endure!        90
(The 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 splendour and enwreck this world,        95
Now crawls to thy dead body near his death,
As would some wounded dog 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        100
The turbulent, treacherous currents of the blood
Which were a part of thine; nor let one thought
Of his past evil mar thy mighty rest.
He would have loved thee; but remember that.
Now, past is all this splendour; new worlds come;        105
But never more 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 clamour and the fall
Of human kingdoms built on human days;        110
Arthur! Merlin! mighty Dead! I come!  (Springs to his feet!)
Ho! Horse! To horse! My sword! A trumpet calls!
A Mordred!  (Dies.)

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