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THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL.
PRELUDE TO PART FIRST.
OVER his keys the musing organist,
Beginning doubtfully and far away, First lets his fingers wander as they list,
And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay : Then, as the touch of his loved instrument
Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws his theme, First guessed by faint auroral flushes sent
Along the wavering vista of his dream.
Not only around our infancy
Over our manhood bend the skies ;
Against our fallen and traitor lives The great winds utter prophecies;
With our faint hearts the mountain strives ; Its arms outstretched, the druid wood
Waits with its benedicite; And to our age's drowsy blood
Still shouts the inspiring sea.
Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us ;
The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in, The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us,
For a cap
We bargain for the graves we lie in ;
and bells our lives we pay, Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's tasking :
'Tis heaven alone that is given away, 'T is only God may be had for the asking; No price is set on the lavish summer; June may be had by the poorest comer.
And what is so rare as a day in June ?
Then, if ever, come perfect days; Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays :
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
and flowers; The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys ; The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice, And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace; The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves, And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives; His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings, And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings; He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest, — In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay; Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it, We are happy now because God wills it; No matter how barren the past may have been, 'T is enough for us now that the leaves are green; We sit in the warm shade and feel right well How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell; We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing That skies are clear and grass is growing; The breeze comes whispering in our ear, That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing, –
Tells all in his lusty crowing !
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how ;
Everything is upward striving ;
'Tis the natural way of living: Who knows whither the clouds have fled ?
In the unscarred heaven they leave no wake; And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow. What wonder if Sir Launfal now Remembered the keeping of his vow?
“My golden spurs now bring to me,
And bring to me my richest mail, For to-morrow
go over land and sea
Slowly Sir Launfal's eyes grew dim,
Slumber fell like a cloud on him, And into his soul the vision flew.
II. The crows flapped over by twos and threes, In the pool drowsed the cattle up to their knees,
The little birds sang as if it were
The one day of summer in all the year, And the very leaves seemed to sing on the trees : The castle alone in the landscape lay Like an outpost of winter, dull and gray : ’T was the proudest hall in the North Countree,
And never its gates might opened be,
Green and broad was every tent,
And out of each a murmur went Till the breeze fell off at night.
The drawbridge dropped with a surly clang,
In his siege of three hundred summers long, And, binding them all in one blazing sheaf,
Had cast them forth : so, young and strong, And lightsome as a locust-leaf, Sir Launfal flashed forth in his maiden mail, To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.
It was morning on hill and stream and tree,
And morning in the young knight's heart;
And gloomed by itself apart;