Arthurian and Grail Plays

Excalibur: An Arthurian Drama
By Ralph Adams Cram

Prologue

The curtains open on impenetrable darkness.

Merlin (invisible).
Pendragon passes; now Pendragon's seed
Shall reign, Pendragon, on Pendragon's throne.
A kingdom passes; now a kingdom's king
Shall raise a kingdom for the King of kings.

(
Merlin's figure becomes faintly visible, poised in mid-air.)

Morgan le Fay, rise from the riven rock,
Rise through the waters of the Magic Mere,
Merlin, thy master, calls.
The night is done.
I hear the trumpets of the trampling day,
I see the glimmer of the torch of dawn
Dance like the northern fires along the sky.
The curse is lifted, England wakes again.

Angelic Voices (above).
Night passes,
the darkness breaks:
see how the curse
is wafted away!
Down from Heaven,
a beam of light,
Sinks the smile of the Lord.
England, awake!
Rouse to the cry!
Day is at dawn for the land
for God is aweary of wrath.

Merlin.
Hark! how the marshalled choristers of God
Proclaim the dawn that burgeons on the world.
Now falls thy kingdom, Morgan, all awrack,
For Uther dies, and England waits a king.
The rune is written: "Now Pendragon's seed
Shall reign, Pendragon, on Pendragon's throne."
Whereby God's kingdom grows in England.
Rise,
Morgan le Fay! Pendragon passes. Rise!
Pendragon passes, and the night is done.

Morgan le Fay (below, invisible).
Pendragon passes, but the darkness holds,
And England sleeps: her dawn shall never come
The while I rule the Magic Mere. The day
Is not for her until I loose my hand;
Until the sunken sea and all the gods
That dwell therein, shall fail and fall away,
Dissolving as the mist that meets the sun.

Merlin.
The sun, the sun! Look where the flaunting host
Of blazing minions mounts the steep of Heaven.
Morgan, thy reign is ended!

Morgan.
At whose word?

Merlin.
The word of God, and here I give it thee.
What time King Uther lived, His hand was stayed,
While England paid the grievous penalty
Of evil done, and thou wast given leave
To scourge us with the curse of paynim gods.
Pendragon passes and the ban is raised;
Pendragon's seed is lord.

Morgan.
Is lord not yet!
Deep in the Magic Mere I hold the Sword:
Take it, magician, if ye have the hand,
Pendragon wins no worship if ye fail.

Merlin.
While Uther lived, the Sword was in thy hold;
Pendragon passes, and the Sword is won.

Morgan.
Thou liest, Merlin, for the Sword is lost!

Merlin.
Thou liest, Morgan, for within my hand
I hold the proof.

Morgan.
The proof?

Merlin.
Excalibur!

(Merlin is illuminated with a dazzling radiance. Four shafts of light shoot upward, downward, and to either hand, as he draws Excalibur, brandishing it aloft in the light.)

Morgan.
Here to me, all ye dwellers in the mere!
Excalibur is won! Cry treason, cry
Unto the uttermost and deepest depth,
Unto the farthest bounds of all the world,
"Excalibur is won!" Black treason stalks
Stark in the sunken sea: your bootless blades
Rust in their scabbards, hingeless hang the doors
That closed my Castle Terrabil, the walls
I reared to ward Excalibur are cleft
In sunder hopelessly. The Sword returns!

Voices.

Queen Morgan calls! Who reft the sleeping Sword
From out our holding? Treason!

Morgan.
All is lost,
And we ourselves hurled from our high dominion
Unless ye win him back. Gain me the Sword!
All hangs on this, the night is broken else.

(Dark phantoms dash across the light, assailing Merlin, who rests motionless. A tumult of cries and of low thunder.)

Merlin.
Pendragon passes, and Excalibur
Is for Pendragon's seed. Morgan le Fay,
The sun is bursting from the black abyssm;
Give thee good night, the day breaks on the land.

Morgan.
Spirits of darkness from the Magic Mere,
Win me the Sword!

Voices.
Excalibur is lost,
Our hands are helpless: mighty Merlin conquers.

Morgan.
Win me the Sword!

Voices.
Excalibur is lost;
Woe to the people of the Magic Mere!
Woe to thee, Morgan, crownless queen,
Woe!
Woe!

(The spirits vanish downward. Morgan's voice is heard afar off.)

Morgan.
Hold the Sword, Merlin, guard it with thy craft:
The day is breaking, but the day will die:
Night follows close. The rune is written. Hear!
"Pendragon passes. Now Pendragon's seed
Shall slay Pendragon for Pendragon's lust.
A kingdom passes, now a kingdom's king
Shall lose a kingdom to the lord of hell."

Merlin.
Not while Excalibur is in his hand.

Morgan.
Morgan le Fay shall gain Excalibur.

Merlin.
Not while gray Merlin guards Pendragon's seed.

Morgan.
Gray Merlin passes, and the night befalls.
Magician, guard thyself! the Sword returns.

Merlin.
So runs the rune, but God shall gain the day!
Excalibur is won, and England's dawn
Is breaking: cry adown the winds, "All hail,
Arthur Pendragon, King of England, hail!"
Build thou God's city in the wilderness,
Trample the paynim underneath thy feet
And raise the Cross above a thirsty land.
All hail, Pendragon, servant of the Lord!

Angelic Voices (above.)
Hail, Pendragon,
Lord of the Sword!
Crowned of England
saviour and king.
Come forth, thou servant of God,
for the dawn is white on the world,
and Christ shall arm thee to-day
The Sword is won,
hell is confounded,
back from England
cowers the curse.
The Sword Excalibur comes;
follows fast the Kingdom of God!

Merlin.

So answers Heaven and hell is dumb. The bell
Sounds for the day; go then, Excalibur,
Hold in the heavy rock until the king,
Great England's king, shall gain thee for his own.
So do I send thee, Sword of Avalon,
Down to the waiting world. Pendragon comes!

(He brandishes Excalibur thrice, then hurls it downward: the light vanishes.)