Alfred Lord Tennyson

Here you will find the Long Poem Merlin And Vivien of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson

Merlin And Vivien

A storm was coming, but the winds were still, 
And in the wild woods of Broceliande, 
Before an oak, so hollow, huge and old 
It looked a tower of ivied masonwork, 
At Merlin's feet the wily Vivien lay. 

For he that always bare in bitter grudge 
The slights of Arthur and his Table, Mark 
The Cornish King, had heard a wandering voice, 
A minstrel of Caerlon by strong storm 
Blown into shelter at Tintagil, say 
That out of naked knightlike purity 
Sir Lancelot worshipt no unmarried girl 
But the great Queen herself, fought in her name, 
Sware by her--vows like theirs, that high in heaven 
Love most, but neither marry, nor are given 
In marriage, angels of our Lord's report. 

He ceased, and then--for Vivien sweetly said 
(She sat beside the banquet nearest Mark), 
'And is the fair example followed, Sir, 
In Arthur's household?'--answered innocently: 

'Ay, by some few--ay, truly--youths that hold 
It more beseems the perfect virgin knight 
To worship woman as true wife beyond 
All hopes of gaining, than as maiden girl. 
They place their pride in Lancelot and the Queen. 
So passionate for an utter purity 
Beyond the limit of their bond, are these, 
For Arthur bound them not to singleness. 
Brave hearts and clean! and yet--God guide them--young.' 

Then Mark was half in heart to hurl his cup 
Straight at the speaker, but forbore: he rose 
To leave the hall, and, Vivien following him, 
Turned to her: 'Here are snakes within the grass; 
And you methinks, O Vivien, save ye fear 
The monkish manhood, and the mask of pure 
Worn by this court, can stir them till they sting.' 

And Vivien answered, smiling scornfully, 
'Why fear? because that fostered at THY court 
I savour of thy--virtues? fear them? no. 
As Love, if Love is perfect, casts out fear, 
So Hate, if Hate is perfect, casts out fear. 
My father died in battle against the King, 
My mother on his corpse in open field; 
She bore me there, for born from death was I 
Among the dead and sown upon the wind-- 
And then on thee! and shown the truth betimes, 
That old true filth, and bottom of the well 
Where Truth is hidden. Gracious lessons thine 
And maxims of the mud! "This Arthur pure! 
Great Nature through the flesh herself hath made 
Gives him the lie! There is no being pure, 
My cherub; saith not Holy Writ the same?"-- 
If I were Arthur, I would have thy blood. 
Thy blessing, stainless King! I bring thee back, 
When I have ferreted out their burrowings, 
The hearts of all this Order in mine hand-- 
Ay--so that fate and craft and folly close, 
Perchance, one curl of Arthur's golden beard. 
To me this narrow grizzled fork of thine 
Is cleaner-fashioned--Well, I loved thee first, 
That warps the wit.' 

 Loud laughed the graceless Mark, 
But Vivien, into Camelot stealing, lodged 
Low in the city, and on a festal day 
When Guinevere was crossing the great hall 
Cast herself down, knelt to the Queen, and wailed. 

'Why kneel ye there? What evil hath ye wrought? 
Rise!' and the damsel bidden rise arose 
And stood with folded hands and downward eyes 
Of glancing corner, and all meekly said, 
'None wrought, but suffered much, an orphan maid! 
My father died in battle for thy King, 
My mother on his corpse--in open field, 
The sad sea-sounding wastes of Lyonnesse-- 
Poor wretch--no friend!--and now by Mark the King 
For that small charm of feature mine, pursued-- 
If any such be mine--I fly to thee. 
Save, save me thou--Woman of women--thine 
The wreath of beauty, thine the crown of power, 
Be thine the balm of pity, O Heaven's own white 
Earth-angel, stainless bride of stainless King-- 
Help, for he follows! take me to thyself! 
O yield me shelter for mine innocency 
Among thy maidens! 

 Here her slow sweet eyes 
Fear-tremulous, but humbly hopeful, rose 
Fixt on her hearer's, while the Queen who stood 
All glittering like May sunshine on May leaves 
In green and gold, and plumed with green replied, 
'Peace, child! of overpraise and overblame 
We choose the last. Our noble Arthur, him 
Ye scarce can overpraise, will hear and know. 
Nay--we believe all evil of thy Mark-- 
Well, we shall test thee farther; but this hour 
We ride a-hawking with Sir Lancelot. 
He hath given us a fair falcon which he trained; 
We go to prove it. Bide ye here the while.' 

She past; and Vivien murmured after 'Go! 
I bide the while.' Then through the portal-arch 
Peering askance, and muttering broken-wise, 
As one that labours with an evil dream, 
Beheld the Queen and Lancelot get to horse. 

'Is that the Lancelot? goodly--ay, but gaunt: 
Courteous--amends for gauntness--takes her hand-- 
That glance of theirs, but for the street, had been 
A clingi