Alfred Lord Tennyson

Here you will find the Long Poem Balin and Balan of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson

Balin and Balan

Pellam the King, who held and lost with Lot 
In that first war, and had his realm restored 
But rendered tributary, failed of late 
To send his tribute; wherefore Arthur called 
His treasurer, one of many years, and spake, 
'Go thou with him and him and bring it to us, 
Lest we should set one truer on his throne. 
Man's word is God in man.' 
 His Baron said 
'We go but harken: there be two strange knights 
Who sit near Camelot at a fountain-side, 
A mile beneath the forest, challenging 
And overthrowing every knight who comes. 
Wilt thou I undertake them as we pass, 
And send them to thee?' 
 Arthur laughed upon him. 
'Old friend, too old to be so young, depart, 
Delay not thou for aught, but let them sit, 
Until they find a lustier than themselves.' 

So these departed. Early, one fair dawn, 
The light-winged spirit of his youth returned 
On Arthur's heart; he armed himself and went, 
So coming to the fountain-side beheld 
Balin and Balan sitting statuelike, 
Brethren, to right and left the spring, that down, 
From underneath a plume of lady-fern, 
Sang, and the sand danced at the bottom of it. 
And on the right of Balin Balin's horse 
Was fast beside an alder, on the left 
Of Balan Balan's near a poplartree. 
'Fair Sirs,' said Arthur, 'wherefore sit ye here?' 
Balin and Balan answered 'For the sake 
Of glory; we be mightier men than all 
In Arthur's court; that also have we proved; 
For whatsoever knight against us came 
Or I or he have easily overthrown.' 
'I too,' said Arthur, 'am of Arthur's hall, 
But rather proven in his Paynim wars 
Than famous jousts; but see, or proven or not, 
Whether me likewise ye can overthrow.' 
And Arthur lightly smote the brethren down, 
And lightly so returned, and no man knew. 

Then Balin rose, and Balan, and beside 
The carolling water set themselves again, 
And spake no word until the shadow turned; 
When from the fringe of coppice round them burst 
A spangled pursuivant, and crying 'Sirs, 
Rise, follow! ye be sent for by the King,' 
They followed; whom when Arthur seeing asked 
'Tell me your names; why sat ye by the well?' 
Balin the stillness of a minute broke 
Saying 'An unmelodious name to thee, 
Balin, "the Savage"--that addition thine-- 
My brother and my better, this man here, 
Balan. I smote upon the naked skull 
A thrall of thine in open hall, my hand 
Was gauntleted, half slew him; for I heard 
He had spoken evil of me; thy just wrath 
Sent me a three-years' exile from thine eyes. 
I have not lived my life delightsomely: 
For I that did that violence to thy thrall, 
Had often wrought some fury on myself, 
Saving for Balan: those three kingless years 
Have past--were wormwood-bitter to me. King, 
Methought that if we sat beside the well, 
And hurled to ground what knight soever spurred 
Against us, thou would'st take me gladlier back, 
And make, as ten-times worthier to be thine 
Than twenty Balins, Balan knight. I have said. 
Not so--not all. A man of thine today 
Abashed us both, and brake my boast. Thy will?' 
Said Arthur 'Thou hast ever spoken truth; 
Thy too fierce manhood would not let thee lie. 
Rise, my true knight. As children learn, be thou 
Wiser for falling! walk with me, and move 
To music with thine Order and the King. 
Thy chair, a grief to all the brethren, stands 
Vacant, but thou retake it, mine again!' 

Thereafter, when Sir Balin entered hall, 
The Lost one Found was greeted as in Heaven 
With joy that blazed itself in woodland wealth 
Of leaf, and gayest garlandage of flowers, 
Along the walls and down the board; they sat, 
And cup clashed cup; they drank and some one sang, 
Sweet-voiced, a song of welcome, whereupon 
Their common shout in chorus, mounting, made 
Those banners of twelve battles overhead 
Stir, as they stirred of old, when Arthur's host 
Proclaimed him Victor, and the day was won. 

Then Balan added to their Order lived 
A wealthier life than heretofore with these 
And Balin, till their embassage returned. 

'Sir King' they brought report 'we hardly found, 
So bushed about it is with gloom, the hall 
Of him to whom ye sent us, Pellam, once 
A Christless foe of thine as ever dashed 
Horse against horse; but seeing that thy realm 
Hath prospered in the name of Christ, the King 
Took, as in rival heat, to holy things; 
And finds himself descended from the Saint 
Arimathan Joseph; him who first 
Brought the great faith to Britain over seas; 
He boasts his life as purer than thine own; 
Eats scarce enow to keep his pulse abeat; 
Hath pushed aside his faithful wife, nor lets 
Or dame or damsel enter at his gates 
Lest he should be polluted. This gray King 
Showed us a shrine wherein were wonder