Alfred Lord Tennyson

Here you will find the Long Poem Guinevere of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson


Queen Guinevere had fled the court, and sat 
There in the holy house at Almesbury 
Weeping, none with her save a little maid, 
A novice: one low light betwixt them burned 
Blurred by the creeping mist, for all abroad, 
Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full, 
The white mist, like a face-cloth to the face, 
Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still. 

For hither had she fled, her cause of flight 
Sir Modred; he that like a subtle beast 
Lay couchant with his eyes upon the throne, 
Ready to spring, waiting a chance: for this 
He chilled the popular praises of the King 
With silent smiles of slow disparagement; 
And tampered with the Lords of the White Horse, 
Heathen, the brood by Hengist left; and sought 
To make disruption in the Table Round 
Of Arthur, and to splinter it into feuds 
Serving his traitorous end; and all his aims 
Were sharpened by strong hate for Lancelot. 

For thus it chanced one morn when all the court, 
Green-suited, but with plumes that mocked the may, 
Had been, their wont, a-maying and returned, 
That Modred still in green, all ear and eye, 
Climbed to the high top of the garden-wall 
To spy some secret scandal if he might, 
And saw the Queen who sat betwixt her best 
Enid, and lissome Vivien, of her court 
The wiliest and the worst; and more than this 
He saw not, for Sir Lancelot passing by 
Spied where he couched, and as the gardener's hand 
Picks from the colewort a green caterpillar, 
So from the high wall and the flowering grove 
Of grasses Lancelot plucked him by the heel, 
And cast him as a worm upon the way; 
But when he knew the Prince though marred with dust, 
He, reverencing king's blood in a bad man, 
Made such excuses as he might, and these 
Full knightly without scorn; for in those days 
No knight of Arthur's noblest dealt in scorn; 
But, if a man were halt or hunched, in him 
By those whom God had made full-limbed and tall, 
Scorn was allowed as part of his defect, 
And he was answered softly by the King 
And all his Table. So Sir Lancelot holp 
To raise the Prince, who rising twice or thrice 
Full sharply smote his knees, and smiled, and went: 
But, ever after, the small violence done 
Rankled in him and ruffled all his heart, 
As the sharp wind that ruffles all day long 
A little bitter pool about a stone 
On the bare coast. 

 But when Sir Lancelot told 
This matter to the Queen, at first she laughed 
Lightly, to think of Modred's dusty fall, 
Then shuddered, as the village wife who cries 
`I shudder, some one steps across my grave;' 
Then laughed again, but faintlier, for indeed 
She half-foresaw that he, the subtle beast, 
Would track her guilt until he found, and hers 
Would be for evermore a name of scorn. 
Henceforward rarely could she front in hall, 
Or elsewhere, Modred's narrow foxy face, 
Heart-hiding smile, and gray persistent eye: 
Henceforward too, the Powers that tend the soul, 
To help it from the death that cannot die, 
And save it even in extremes, began 
To vex and plague her. Many a time for hours, 
Beside the placid breathings of the King, 
In the dead night, grim faces came and went 
Before her, or a vague spiritual fear-- 
Like to some doubtful noise of creaking doors, 
Heard by the watcher in a haunted house, 
That keeps the rust of murder on the walls-- 
Held her awake: or if she slept, she dreamed 
An awful dream; for then she seemed to stand 
On some vast plain before a setting sun, 
And from the sun there swiftly made at her 
A ghastly something, and its shadow flew 
Before it, till it touched her, and she turned-- 
When lo! her own, that broadening from her feet, 
And blackening, swallowed all the land, and in it 
Far cities burnt, and with a cry she woke. 
And all this trouble did not pass but grew; 
Till even the clear face of the guileless King, 
And trustful courtesies of household life, 
Became her bane; and at the last she said, 
`O Lancelot, get thee hence to thine own land, 
For if thou tarry we shall meet again, 
And if we meet again, some evil chance 
Will make the smouldering scandal break and blaze 
Before the people, and our lord the King.' 
And Lancelot ever promised, but remained, 
And still they met and met. Again she said, 
`O Lancelot, if thou love me get thee hence.' 
And then they were agreed upon a night 
(When the good King should not be there) to meet 
And part for ever. Vivien, lurking, heard. 
She told Sir Modred. Passion-pale they met 
And greeted. Hands in hands, and eye to eye, 
Low on the border of her couch they sat 
Stammering and staring. It was their last hour, 
A madness of farewells. And Modred brought 
His creatures to the basement of the tower 
For testimony; and crying with full voi