Masefield's Midsummer Night
So Arthur passed, but country-folk believe
He will return, to triumph and achieve;
Men watch for him on each Midsummer Eve.
They watch in vain, for ere that night was sped,
That ship reached Avalon with Arthur dead;
I, Gwenivere, helped cere him, within lead.
I, Gwenivere, helped bury him in crypt,
Under cold flagstones that the ringbolts shipped;
The hangings waved, the yellow candles dripped.
Anon I made profession, and took vows
As nun encloistered: I became Christ's spouse,
At Amesbury, as Abbess to the house.
I changed my ermines for a goat-hair stole,
I broke my beauty there, with dule and dole,
But love remained a flame within my soul.
What though I watched and fasted and did good
Like any saint among my sisterhood,
God could not be deceived, God understood
How night and day my love was as a cry
Calling my lover out of earth and sky
The while I shut the bars against reply.
Years thence a message came: I stood to deal
The lepers' portions through the bars of steel;
A pilgrim thrust me something shut with seal.
I could not know him in his hoodings hid;
Besides, he fled: his package I undid;
Lancelot's leopard-crest was on the lid.
'Within, on scarlet ivory, there lay
A withered branchlet, having leaves of grey.
A writing said: "This is an olive spray
Picked for your blessing from a deathless tree
That shades the garden of Gethsemane;
May it give peace, as it has given me."
Did it give peace? Alas, a woman knows
The rind without may deaden under blows;
But who has peace when all within's a rose?