Arthurian and Grail Poetry

Joyous Garde
By Robert Buchanan

I.
'Mid fragrant flowers and fairest
The scorpion oft will bide,
And ripest fruits and rarest
The vengeful hornet hide.
O'er Sodom's lake in beauty
The tempting clusters hung;
But plucked, like soot that baleful fruit
It mocked the loathing tongue!
The summer cloud rains fastest
When rainbows brightest shine;
The deadliest draught is couched and quaffed
In cups of choicest wine:
And lawless love, with ecstacy,
Though snatched in bed or bower,
Hath in its honey poison,
A scorpion in its flower!
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II.
So thought, I ween, Sir Launcelot,
So thought Queen Guinevere,
When Arthur camped round Garde Joyeuse
To seek his wrong's repair,
And banner broad and banderol
Streamed thick o'er the array
Of knight, and squire, and yeoman,
Beseiged it night and day.
The walls are stout -- the garners
Are full -- and week by week,
In vain by force or famine
To win that tower they seek:
But day by day Sir Launcelot
With gibe and jeer they taunt --
And traitor hail, and bordeller,
And hoot him recreant!

III.
"Now Christ me save, Sir Uncle!
This may no more be borne;
But let us out, and yonder rout,
We'll soon abate their scorn!
Like fox that skulks in cover
It shames me here to shield,"
Cried fierce Sir Bors -- "To-morrow
We'll ride us forth a'field --
So redd ye well that crow so loud,
Look to your battle-gear,
For we will stir your slumbers
With prick of lance and spear!"
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IV.
And fair it rose that morrow,
Brought in a doleful day;
On braird and bent the blobs besprent
Like drops of diamond lay:
Like darkling sea, the mountains
Heaved in their misty screen,
And Tweed sang soft his morning song
Beneath his shroud unseen.
But when that cloudy curtain rose,
Brave sight it was to see
On plain apost, Sir Arthur's host
Drawn out in battles three:
And on their hinges shrieking
The heavy gates are swung,
And forth thereout, with clang and shout,
Three gallant armies flung!

V.
Their banners wapped and wavered
O'er streams of rushing steel;
And hoarsely brayed the trumpet's blast
Their onset's deadly peal.
Rose shout and cheer, and laughter wild,
And shriek and frenzy-curse,
The glint of glaive, the dint of mace,
The thud of falling horse.
Are helm and hauberk ringing
To swords are smiting keen;
Are battered casque, and cloven shield,
And showers of arrows sheen: --
Now backward, and now forward,
Now swells, now sinks the fray;
Like forest heaves and hollows
Beneath the tempest's sway.
Sir Blamor, and Sir Lionel,
Sir Bors, and Palamede,
That day in battle bore the bell
For deeds of doughtyhede:
For Arthur still, and fierce Gawayne,
Nor heed nor hinder not,
But keep their swords undinted
For only Launcelot.
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VI.
And they have pressed him hot and sore,
All round the battle-field;
But ever he their feud forbore,
And kept him with his shield.
Then upspake Lavayne angrily,
Sir Launcelot, think thee well,
Thy nephews twain, are nigh to slain,
Sir Bors and Lionel,
And yet thy most thou sparest still,
Nor slayest them that slay;
But skulk'st like hunted badger,
Or stand'st like boar at bay.
To see thee braved and baited thus,
Puts thine to evil cheer;
The foe but mocks thy mercy,
And counts it all of fear."
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VII.
He led him where on sward aswoon
Sir Bors lay bleeding fast;
All pale for rage grew Launcelot,
And tears for anger brast --
He cheered his steed -- he set his teeth --
He raised his battle-cry --
And where the death-drift fierceliest drove,
Flashed there his sword on high!
With shout and cheer hath followed him
His gallant chivalry; --
Lavayne, Safyr, and Bellangere,
And Urre of Hungary.
Fought yeoman stout, fought burgher bold,
Each man as he were wood;
Ere even-song, Sir Launcelot
Rode fetlock-deep in blood!