Arthurian and Grail Poetry

Lancelot
By Algernon Charles Swinburne


Lancelot
Very long and hot it was,
The dry light on the dry grass,
The set noon on lakes of glass,
All that summer time;
And the great woods burnt and brown,
With dry tendrils dropping down,
And the sky's white rampart thrown
On the bare wall of a town,
Round breadths of oak and lime.
Thro' the woods I rode and rode,
No prayer of mine clomb up to God;
Sharp leaves crackled on the road
Where my horse the heaviest trode,
Over leaves and grass.
Thro' the sad boughs rent on high
Naked burnt the great blind sky;
Yet I did not pray to die,
For no pain that was.
Here and there some colour was
Hidden in the muffled grass,
Some late flower that one might pass,
Or else a brown, smooth beech-mast was,
Or carven acorn cup.

And birds sang, and could not long,
For a trouble in their song:
All things there did suffer wrong,
All but I who rode along.
Now I grow so tired of this,
I would give much gold to kiss
One leaf of those primroses
That grow here when the green spring is
Whereof their life is made.
Under moon and under star
I have ridden fast and far
Where the deep leaves thickest are
In the huddled shade.

I cannot see what I shall do.

No the day drops angrily,
Leaves a red stain on the sea,
And fierce light on field and tree,
Red as any brand.
A great slumber takes me round
In this place of sleepy sound;
Surely now the gift is found
And ready to my hand.

For there is left me nothing new
And none rides with me riding through
These brown wood walks so straight and few
For many nights and days.
And men say that I shall not win,
Tho' the chosen for all my sin;
The sleepy beams crawl out and in
Under the branches rare and thin
Where thro' I ride always.

(He sleeps.)