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Page, Esquire, and Knight by  Marion Florence Lansing


 

 

THE PASSING OF ARTHUR

"And Arthur and his knighthood for a space

Were all one will, and thro' that strength the King

Drew in the petty princedoms under him,

Fought, and in twelve great battles overcame

The heathen hordes, and made a realm and reigned."

[75] Many brave knights came into King Arthur's fellowship, and they wrought together and conquered all the land and did many good deeds. Courtesy and justice and honor flourished in those days. But there came a time when the goodly fellowship was scattered. While Arthur was absent from his court there appeared to the knights as they sat in the castle hall a strange vision of the Holy Grail, which was a sacred vessel that none but the purest might see. When the vision was past the knights had sworn with binding vows that they would follow the quest for that Holy Grail until they had looked upon it, for it had seemed to them to [76] be veiled in a cloud and they would see it plainly. One by one they took the vow, Perceval and Gawain and Lancelot, and Galahad, that pure knight.

When King Arthur returned to the hall he was sorely grieved and said: "Woe is me, my knights! Had I been here, ye had not sworn that vow."

But Perceval answered him and said, "My king, hadst thou been here, thou wouldst have sworn thyself."

Then the king spoke to them sadly and said: "Nay, ye are not all Galahads, or even Percevals, to have these holy visions and follow sacred quests. Ye are men with strength and will to right wrongs and succor those in need. Go, for your vows are made, but think how often in this hall, whither flock the needy in all my realm, the chance of noble deeds will come and go unchallenged, while your places are vacant at my side."

So the king spoke, and so it befell; for while the knights of the Round Table were gone on that holy quest,—and many saw [77] wondrous sights and gained for themselves great holiness thereby, — there rose up enemies to Arthur in the land, and they plotted against him to drive him from his throne. And Arthur gathered all his forces and went forth to do battle with his foes; and there in that battle he was sore wounded, so that he knew that he must die, and only the bold Sir Bedivere was with him. And Arthur bade him help him to the water side, and there before them stood a barge whereon were three fair queens.

And Arthur said, "Place me in the barge"; and they laid him gently on the deck, and the queens cared for him.

Then Sir Bedivere cried out, saying, "Ah, my lord Arthur, what shall become of me, now that you go from me, and leave me here alone?"

"Comfort thyself," said the king, "and do as well as thou mayest, for I go to the vale of Avilion to heal me of my grievous wound." So the barge passed slowly away from the bank and up the river, and Arthur was seen [78]

no more by mortal men. But some there are who say that he is not dead, but will come again when all the world is ruled by chivalry, for though King Arthur and his noble knights passed from the earth, yet the spirit of their life and deeds did linger many hundred years, and many followed in their way, and do still follow even unto the present time. And ever when men speak of knightly deeds, Arthur is held in honor and loving remembrance, for he was the

"first of all the kings who drew

The knighthood-errant of that realm and all

The realms together under him, their Head,

In that fair Order of the Table Round,

A glorious company, the flower of men,

To serve as model for the mighty world,

And be the fair beginning of a time."


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