KING ARTHUR IN AVALON
Sara Hammond Palfrey (1823-1914)
King Arthur sailed along a sea unknown.
Met him the misty Night, and drew him in
Unto the cherishing shelter of her breast.
He glided onward toward the land of rest.
In his parched throat, his burning thirst was drowned
By draughts of coolness, brought by hands unseen.
Upon his long-lost mother’s lap, his head,
Worn out with toil and woe, was softly laid–
Or so he deemed. Her tender palms were pressed
Unto his temples; and his brow was kissed
By her fond lips, that murmured love and peace
As in some childish sickness long ago.
Far Uther called before, “Well done– well done!
Here grow thy laurels, son– my worthy son!”
The waves sang lullabies to him, and rocked
His weary frame all bruised and battle-shocked,
And soothed it slowly into slumberous ease;
And thus he slept, to wake in Avalon–
If waking e’er was calm as any dream–
Half wake, and sleep again…
No longer haunted him light Guinevere;
But watching o’er him often did appear
Instead, his boyhood’s love, her sister fair,
Who loved him, only him, and loved him well–
Sweet maid, too early crowned with asphodel–
The joy of youth came back to him. He thrilled
With growing powers that all his being filled.
Each innocent Yearning that was starved to death
Erst, by the hard conditions of this life,
Arose new-born, and smiled on him full-fed.
Despair in turn was killed and, deep beneath
The past’s old ruins, buried by the years;
And anywhere was balm, and nowhere strife.
So still he sleeps, and does not care to wake;
But Merlin sayeth, at length a day shall break
And ripen onward to another noon
When, master of his fate and blithe and whole,
And all renewed in body, mind, and soul,
King Arthur, with his knights, shall come again,
To wield Excalibur, and not in vain.