Lancelot 06 Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


The dark of Modred's hour not yet availingA
Gawaine it was who gave the King no peaceB
Gawaine it was who goaded him and drove himC
To Joyous Gard where now for long his armyD
Disheartened with unprofitable slaughterE
Fought for their weary King and wearilyD
Died fighting Only Gawaine's hate it wasF
That held the King's knights and his warrior slavesG
Close hived in exile dreaming of old scenesH
Where Sorrow and her demon sister FearI
Now shared the dusty food of lonelinessJ
From Orkney to Cornwall There was no peaceB
Nor could there be so Gawaine told the KingA
And so the King in anguish told himselfK
Until there was an end of one of themL
Of Gawaine or the King or LancelotM
Who might have had an end as either knewN
Long since of Arthur and of Gawaine with himC
One evening in the moonlight LancelotM
And Bors his kinsman and the loyalestM
If least assured of all who followed himC
Sat gazing from an ivy cornered casementM
In angry silence upon Arthur's hordeM
Who in the silver distance without soundM
Were dimly burying dead men Sir BorsO
Reiterating vainly what was toldM
As wholesome hearing for unhearing earsP
Said now to Lancelot And though it beD
For no more now than always let me speakA
You have a pity for the King you sayQ
That is not hate and for Gawaine you haveR
A grief that is not hate Pity and griefS
And the Queen all but shrieking out her soulT
That morning when we snatched her from the faggotsQ
That were already crackling when we cameU
Why Lancelot if in you is an answerE
Have you so vast a charity for the KingA
And so enlarged a grief for his gay nephewN
Whose tireless hate for you has only oneV
Disastrous appetite You know for whatM
For your slow blood I knew you LancelotM
When all this would have been a merry fableW
For smiling men to yawn at and forgetM
As they forget their physic Pity and griefS
Are in your eyes I see them well enoughX
And I saw once with you in a far landM
The glimmering of a Light that you saw nearerE
Too near for your salvation or advantageY
If you be what you seem What I saw thenZ
Made life a wilder mystery than everE
And earth a new illusion You maybeD
Saw pity and grief What I saw was a GleamA2
To fight for or to die for till we knowB2
Too much to fight or die Tonight you turnC2
A page whereon your deeds are to engrossQ
Inexorably their story of tomorrowB2
And then tomorrow How many of these tomorrowsQ
Are coming to ask unanswered why this warD2
Was fought and fought for the vain sake of slaughterE
Why carve a compost of a multitudeM
When only two discriminately despatchedM
Would sum the end of what you know is endingA
And leave to you the scorch of no more bloodM
Upon your blistered soul The Light you sawQ
Was not for this poor crumbling realm of ArthurE
Nor more for Rome but for another stateM
That shall be neither Rome nor CamelotM
Nor one that we may name Why longer thenZ
Are you and Gawaine to anoint with warD2
That even in hell would be superfluousQ
A reign already dying and ripe to dieM
I leave you to your last interpretationV
Of what may be the pleasure of your madnessQ
Meanwhile a mist was hiding the dim workA
Of Arthur's men and like another mistM
All gray came Guinevere to LancelotM
Whom Bors had left not having had of himC
The largess of a word She laid her handsQ
Upon his hair vexing him to brief speechE2
And you are you like BorsQ
I may be soB2
She said and she saw faintly where she gazedM
Like distant insects of a shadowy worldM
Dim clusters here and there of shadowy menZ
Whose occupation was her long abhorrenceQ
If he came here and went away againZ
And all for nothing I may be like BorsQ
Be glad at least that I am not like MarkA
Of Cornwall who stood once behind a manF2
And slew him without saying he was thereG2
Not Arthur I believe nor yet GawaineF2
Would have done quite like that though only GodM
May say what there's to come before this warD2
Shall have an end unless you are to seeD
As I have seen so long a way to end itM
He frowned and watched again the coming mistM
That hid with a cold veil of auguryD2
The stillness of an empire that was dyingA
And are you here to say that if I killH2
Gawaine and Arthur we shall both be happyD
Is there still such a word as happinessQ
I come to tell you nothing LancelotM
That folly and waste have not already told youN
Were you another man than LancelotM
I might say folly and fear But no no fearD2
As I know fear was yet composed and wroughtM
By man for your delay and your undoingA
God knows how cruelly and how truly nowF2
You might say that of all who breathe and sufferD2
There may be others who are not so nearD2
To you as I am and so might say betterD2
What I say only with a tongue not aptM
Or guarded for much argument A womanF2
As men have known since Adam heard the firstM
Of Eve's interpreting of how it wasQ
In Paradise may see but one side onlyD
Where maybe there are two to say no moreD2
Yet here for you and me and so for allI2
Caught with us in this lamentable netM
I see but one deliverance I see noneF2
Unless you cut for us a clean way outM
So rending these hate woven webs of horrorD2
Before they mesh the world And if the worldM
Or Arthur's name be now a dying gloryD
Why bleed it for the sparing of a manF2
Who hates you and a King that hates himselfK
If war be war and I make only bloodM
Of your red writing why dishonor TimeJ2
For torture longer drawn in your slow gameU
Of empty slaughter Tomorrow it will beD
The King's move I suppose and we shall haveR
One more magnificent waste of nameless pawnsQ
And of a few more knights God how you loveK2
This game to make so loud a shambles of itM
When you have only twice to lift your fingerD2
To signal peace and give to this poor drenchedM
And clotted earth a time to heal itselfK
Twice over I say to you if war be warD2
Why play with it Why look a thousand waysQ
Away from what it is only to findM
A few stale memories left that would requiteM
Your tears with your destruction Tears I sayQ
For I have seen your tears I see them nowF2
Although the moon is dimmer than it wasQ
Before I came I wonder if I dimmed itM
I wonder if I brought this fog here with meD
To make you chillier even than you areD2
When I am not so near you LancelotM
There must be glimmering yet somewhere within youN
The last spark of a little willingnessQ
To tell me why it is this war goes onF2
Once I believed you told me everythingA
And what you may have hidden was no matterD2
For what you told was all I needed thenF2
But crumbs that are a festival for joyL2
Make a dry fare for sorrow and the fewN
Spared words that were enough to nourish faithM2
Are for our lonely fears a frugal poisonF2
So Lancelot if only to bring backA
For once the ghost of a forgotten mercyD
Say now even though you strike me to the floorD2
When you have said it for what untold endM
All this goes on Am I not anything nowF2
Is Gawaine who would feed you to wild swineF2
And laugh to see them tear you more than I amN2
Is Arthur at whose word I was dragged outM
To wear for you the fiery crown itselfK
Of human torture more to you than I amN2
Am I because you saw death touch me onceQ
Too gross a trifle to be longer prizedM
Not many days ago when you lay hurtM
And aching on your bed and I cried outM
Aloud on heaven that I should bring you thereD2
You said you would have paid the price of hellO2
To save me that foul morning from the fireD2
You paid enough yet when you told me thatM
With death going on outside the while you said itM
I heard the woman in me asking whyM
Nor do I wholly find an answer nowF2
In any shine of any far off LightM
You may have seen Knowing the world you knowF2
How surely and how indifferently that LightM
Shall burn through many a war that is to beD
To which this war were no more than a smearD2
On circumstance The world has not begunF2
The Light you saw was not the Light of RomeP2
Or Time though you seem battling here for timeJ2
While you are still at war with Arthur's hostM
And Gawaine's hate How many thousand menF2
Are going to their death before GawaineF2
And Arthur go to theirs and I to mineF2
Lancelot looking off into the fogA
In which his fancy found the watery lightM
Of a dissolving moon sighed without hopeQ2
Of saying what the Queen would have him sayQ
I fear my lady my fair nephew BorsQ
Whose tongue affords a random wealth of soundM
May lately have been scattering on the airD2
For you a music less oracularD2
Than to your liking Say then you had splitM
The uncovered heads of two men with an axeQ
Not knowing whose heads if that's a palliationF2
And seen their brains fly out and splash the groundM
As they were common offal and then learnedM
That you had butchered Gaheris and GarethR2
Gareth who had for me a greater loveK2
Than any that has ever trod the waysQ
Of a gross world that early would have crushed himC
Even you in your quick fever of dispatchS2
Might hesitate before you drew the bloodM
Of him that was their brother and my friendM
Yes he was more my friend was I to knowF2
Than I had said or guessed for it was GawaineF2
Who gave to Bors the word that might have saved usQ
And Arthur's fading empire for the timeJ2
Till Modred had in his dark wormy wayQ
Crawled into light again with a new ruinF2
At work in that occult snake's brain of hisQ
And even in your prompt obliterationF2
Of Arthur from a changing world that rocksQ
Itself into a dizziness around himC
A moment of attendant reminiscenceQ
Were possible if not likely Had he madeM
A knight of you scrolling your name with hisQ
Among the first of men and in his loveK2
Inveterately the first and had you thenF2
Betrayed his fame and honor to the dustM
That now is choking him you might in timeJ2
You might I say to my degree succumbT2
Forgive me if my lean words are for yoursQ
Too bare an answer and ascribe to themL
No tinge of allegation or reproachU2
What I said once to you I said for everD2
That I would pay the price of hell to save youN
As for the Light leave that for me aloneF2
Or leave as much of it as yet for meD
May shine Should I through any unforeseenF2
Remote effect of awkwardness or chanceQ
Be done to death or durance by the KingA
I leave some writing wherein I beseechE2
For you the clemency of afterthoughtM
Were I to die and he to see me deadM
My living prayer surviving the cold handM
That wrote would leave you in his larger prudenceQ
If I have known the King free and secureD2
To bide the summoning of another KingA
More great than Arthur But all this is languageV2
And I know more than words have yet the scopeQ2
To show of what's to come Go now to restM
And sleep if there be sleep There was a moonF2
And now there is no sky where the moon wasQ
Sometimes I wonder if this be the worldM
We live in or the world that lives in usQ
The new day with a cleansing crash of rainF2
That washed and sluiced the soiled and hoof torn fieldM
Of Joyous Gard prepared for LancelotM
And his wet men the not unwelcome sceneF2
Of a drenched emptiness without an armyD
Our friend the foe is given to dry fightingA
Said Lionel advancing with a shrugA
To Lancelot who saw beyond the rainF2
And later Lionel said What fellows are theyQ
Who are so thirsty for their morning rideM
That swimming horses would have hardly timeJ2
To eat before they swam You LancelotM
If I see rather better than a blind manF2
Are waiting on three pilgrims who must love youN
To voyage a flood like this No friend have IM
To whisper not of three on whom to countM
For such a loyal wash The King himselfK
Would entertain a kindly qualm or soF2
Before he suffered such a burst of heavenF2
To splash even three musiciansQ
Good LionelW
I thank you but you need afflict your fancyD
No longer for my sake For these who comeT2
If I be not immoderately deceivedM
Are bearing with them the white flower of peaceQ
Which I could hope might never parch or witherD2
Were I a stranger to this ravening worldM
Where we have mostly a few rags and tagsQ
Between our skins and those that wrap the fleshW2
Of less familiar brutes we feed uponF2
That we may feed the more on one anotherD2
Well now that we have had your morning graceQ
Before our morning meat pray tell to meD
The why and whence of this anomalousQ
Horse riding offspring of the Fates Who are theyQ
I do not read their features or their namesQ
But if I read the King they are from RomeP2
Spurred here by the King's prayer for no delayQ
And I pray God aloud that I say trueN
And after a long watching neither speakingA
You do said Lionel for by my soulT
I see no other than my lord the BishopX2
Who does God's holy work in RochesterD2
Since you are here you may as well abide hereD2
While I go foragingA
Now in the gatewayQ
The Bishop who rode something heavilyD
Was glad for rest though grim in his refusalW
At once of entertainment or refectionF2
What else you do Sir Lancelot receive meD
As one among the honest when I sayQ
That my voluminous thanks were less by cantosQ
Than my damp manner feels Nay hear my voiceQ
If once I'm off this royal animalW
How o' God's name shall I get on againF2
Moreover the King waits With your accordM
Sir Lancelot I'll dry my rainy faceQ
While you attend what's herein written downF2
In language of portentous brevityD
For the King's gracious pleasure and for yoursQ
Whereof the burden is the word of RomeP2
Requiring your deliverance of the QueenF2
Not more than seven days hence The King returnsQ
Anon to Camelot and I go with himC
Praise God if what he waits now is your willH2
To end an endless war No recrudescenceQ
As you may soon remark of what is pastM
Awaits the Queen or any doubt soeverD2
Of the King's mercy Have you more to sayQ
Than Rome has written or do I perceiveY2
Your tranquil acquiescence Is it soQ
Then be it so Venite Pax vobiscumC
To end an endless war with pax vobiscum'C
Would seem a ready schedule for a bishopX2
Would God that I might see the end of itM
Lancelot like a statue in the gatewayQ
Regarded with a qualified rejoicingA
The fading out of his three visitorsQ
Into the cold and swallowing wall of stormC
Between him and the battle wearied KingA
And the unwearying hatred of GawaineF2
To Bors his nephew and to LionelW
He glossed a tale of Roman intercessionF2
Knowing that for a time and a long timeC
The sweetest fare that he might lay before themC
Would hold an evil taste of compromiseQ
To Guinevere who questioned him at noonF2
Of what by then had made of Joyous GardM
A shaken hive of legend heavy wonderD2
He said what most it was the undying DevilW
Who ruled him when he might would have him sayQ
Your confident arrangement of the boardM
For this day's game was notably not to beD
Today was not for the King's move or mineF2
But for the Bishop's and the board is emptyD
The words that I have waited for more daysQ
Than are to now my tallage of gray hairsQ
Have come at last and at last you are freeD
So for a time there will be no more warD2
And you are going home to CamelotM
To CamelotM
To Camelot But his wordsQ
Were said for no queen's hearing In his armsQ
He caught her when she fell and in his armsQ
He carried her away The word of RomeC
Was in the rain There was no other soundM

Edwin Arlington Robinson


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