Alfred Lord Tennyson

Here you will find the Long Poem Lancelot And Elaine of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson

Lancelot And Elaine

Elaine the fair, Elaine the loveable, 
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, 
High in her chamber up a tower to the east 
Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot; 
Which first she placed where the morning's earliest ray 
Might strike it, and awake her with the gleam; 
Then fearing rust or soilure fashioned for it 
A case of silk, and braided thereupon 
All the devices blazoned on the shield 
In their own tinct, and added, of her wit, 
A border fantasy of branch and flower, 
And yellow-throated nestling in the nest. 
Nor rested thus content, but day by day, 
Leaving her household and good father, climbed 
That eastern tower, and entering barred her door, 
Stript off the case, and read the naked shield, 
Now guessed a hidden meaning in his arms, 
Now made a pretty history to herself 
Of every dint a sword had beaten in it, 
And every scratch a lance had made upon it, 
Conjecturing when and where: this cut is fresh; 
That ten years back; this dealt him at Caerlyle; 
That at Caerleon; this at Camelot: 
And ah God's mercy, what a stroke was there! 
And here a thrust that might have killed, but God 
Broke the strong lance, and rolled his enemy down, 
And saved him: so she lived in fantasy. 

How came the lily maid by that good shield 
Of Lancelot, she that knew not even his name? 
He left it with her, when he rode to tilt 
For the great diamond in the diamond jousts, 
Which Arthur had ordained, and by that name 
Had named them, since a diamond was the prize. 

For Arthur, long before they crowned him King, 
Roving the trackless realms of Lyonnesse, 
Had found a glen, gray boulder and black tarn. 
A horror lived about the tarn, and clave 
Like its own mists to all the mountain side: 
For here two brothers, one a king, had met 
And fought together; but their names were lost; 
And each had slain his brother at a blow; 
And down they fell and made the glen abhorred: 
And there they lay till all their bones were bleached, 
And lichened into colour with the crags: 
And he, that once was king, had on a crown 
Of diamonds, one in front, and four aside. 
And Arthur came, and labouring up the pass, 
All in a misty moonshine, unawares 
Had trodden that crowned skeleton, and the skull 
Brake from the nape, and from the skull the crown 
Rolled into light, and turning on its rims 
Fled like a glittering rivulet to the tarn: 
And down the shingly scaur he plunged, and caught, 
And set it on his head, and in his heart 
Heard murmurs, 'Lo, thou likewise shalt be King.' 

Thereafter, when a King, he had the gems 
Plucked from the crown, and showed them to his knights, 
Saying, 'These jewels, whereupon I chanced 
Divinely, are the kingdom's, not the King's-- 
For public use: henceforward let there be, 
Once every year, a joust for one of these: 
For so by nine years' proof we needs must learn 
Which is our mightiest, and ourselves shall grow 
In use of arms and manhood, till we drive 
The heathen, who, some say, shall rule the land 
Hereafter, which God hinder.' Thus he spoke: 
And eight years past, eight jousts had been, and still 
Had Lancelot won the diamond of the year, 
With purpose to present them to the Queen, 
When all were won; but meaning all at once 
To snare her royal fancy with a boon 
Worth half her realm, had never spoken word. 

Now for the central diamond and the last 
And largest, Arthur, holding then his court 
Hard on the river nigh the place which now 
Is this world's hugest, let proclaim a joust 
At Camelot, and when the time drew nigh 
Spake (for she had been sick) to Guinevere, 
'Are you so sick, my Queen, you cannot move 
To these fair jousts?' 'Yea, lord,' she said, 'ye know it.' 
'Then will ye miss,' he answered, 'the great deeds 
Of Lancelot, and his prowess in the lists, 
A sight ye love to look on.' And the Queen 
Lifted her eyes, and they dwelt languidly 
On Lancelot, where he stood beside the King. 
He thinking that he read her meaning there, 
'Stay with me, I am sick; my love is more 
Than many diamonds,' yielded; and a heart 
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen 
(However much he yearned to make complete 
The tale of diamonds for his destined boon) 
Urged him to speak against the truth, and say, 
'Sir King, mine ancient wound is hardly whole, 
And lets me from the saddle;' and the King 
Glanced first at him, then her, and went his way. 
No sooner gone than suddenly she began: 

'To blame, my lord Sir Lancelot, much to blame! 
Why go ye not to these fair jousts? the knights 
Are half of them our enemies, and the crowd 
Will murmur, "Lo the shameless ones, who take 
Their pastime now the trustful King is gone!"' 
Then Lancelot vext at having lied in vain: 
'Are ye so wise? ye were not