Arthurian and Grail Poetry

Tristram To Isolt
By Madison Cawein

Yea, there are some who always seek
The love that lasts an hour;
And some who in love's language speak,
Yet never know his power.

Of such was I, who knew not what
Sweet mysteries can rise
Within the heart when 'tis its lot
To love and realize.

Of such was I, Isolt! till, lo,
Your face on mine did gleam,
And changed that world, I used to know,
Into an evil dream.

That world wherein, on hill and plain,
Great blood-red poppies bloomed;
Their hot hearts thirsty for the rain,
And sleepily perfumed.

Above, below, on every part,
A crimson shadow lay;
As if the red sun streamed athwart,
And sunset was alway.

I know not how; I know not when;
I only know that there
She met me in the haunted glen,
A poppy in her hair.

Her face seemed fair as Mary's is,
That knows nor sin nor wrong;
Her presence filled the silences
As music fills a song.

And she was clad like the Mother of God,
As 'twere for Christ's sweet sake;
But when she moved and where she trod
A hiss went of a snake.

Though seeming sinless, till I die
I shall not know for sure
Why to my soul she seemed a lie
And otherwise than pure.

Nor why I kissed her soon and late,
And for her felt desire,
While loathing of her passion ate
Into my heart like fire.

Was it because my soul could tell
That, like the poppy flower,
She had no soul? a thing of Hell,
That o'er mine had no power.

Or was it that your love at last,
My soul so long had craved,
From that sweet sin which held me fast
At that last moment, saved?