English Literature » Alfred Tennyson » Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere

Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere by

A FRAGMENT

First published in 1842. Not altered since 1853.

See for what may have given the hint for this fragment _Morte D’Arthur_, bk. xix., ch. i., and bk. xx., ch. i., and _cf. Coming of Arthur:_–

And Launcelot pass’d away among the flowers,
For then was latter April, and return’d
Among the flowers in May with Guinevere.

Like souls that balance joy and pain,
With tears and smiles from heaven again
The maiden Spring upon the plain
Came in a sun-lit fall of rain.
In crystal vapour everywhere
Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between,
And, far in forest-deeps unseen,
The topmost elm-tree [1] gather’d green
From draughts of balmy air.

Sometimes the linnet piped his song:
Sometimes the throstle whistled strong:
Sometimes the sparhawk, wheel’d along,
Hush’d all the groves from fear of wrong:
By grassy capes with fuller sound
In curves the yellowing river ran,
And drooping chestnut-buds began
To spread into the perfect fan,
Above the teeming ground.

Then, in the boyhood of the year,
Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere
Rode thro’ the coverts of the deer,
With blissful treble ringing clear.
She seem’d a part of joyous Spring:
A gown of grass-green silk she wore,
Buckled with golden clasps before;
A light-green tuft of plumes she bore
Closed in a golden ring.

Now on some twisted ivy-net,
Now by some tinkling rivulet,
In mosses mixt [2] with violet
Her cream-white mule his pastern set:
And fleeter now [3] she skimm’d the plains
Than she whose elfin prancer springs
By night to eery warblings,
When all the glimmering moorland rings
With jingling bridle-reins.

As she fled fast thro’ sun and shade,
The happy winds upon her play’d,
Blowing the ringlet from the braid:
She look’d so lovely, as she sway’d
The rein with dainty finger-tips,
A man had given all other bliss,
And all his worldly worth for this,
To waste his whole heart in one kiss
Upon her perfect lips.

[Footnote 1: Up to 1848. Linden.]

[Footnote 2: All editions up to and including 1850. On mosses thick.]

[Footnote 3: 1842 to 1851. And now more fleet,]

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