Ode to Arthur

i. A Bard Advanc'd

They ceas'd, when on the tuneful stage
Advanc'd a bard, of aspect sage
His silver tresses, thin besprent
To age a graceful reverence lent

ii. Fair Vale of Avalon

Listen, Henry, to my rede
Not from fairy realms I lead
Bright-rob'd Tradition, to relate
In forged colours Arthur's fate

Though much of old romantic lore
On the high theme I keep in store
But boastful Fiction should be dumb
Where Truth the strain might best become

If thine ear may still be won
With songs of Uther's glorious son
Henry, I a tale unfold
Never yet in rhyme enroll'd

Nor sung nor harp'd in hall or bower
Which in my youth's full early flower
A minstrel, sprung of Cornish line
Who spoke of kings from old Locrine

Taught me to chant, one vernal dawn
Deep in a cliff-encircled lawn
What time the glistening vapours fled
From cloud-envelop'd Clyder's head

And on its sides the torrents gray
Shone to the morning's orient ray
When Arthur bow'd his haughty crest
No princess, veil'd in azure vest

Snatch'd him, by Merlin's potent spell
In groves of golden bliss to dwell
Where, crown'd with wreaths of mistletoe
Slaughter'd kings in glory go

But when he fell, with winged speed
His champions, on a milk-white steed
From the battle's hurricane
Bore him to Joseph's towered fane

In the fair vale of Avalon
There, with chanted orison
And the long blaze of tapers clear
The stoled fathers met the bier

Through the dim aisles, in order dread
Of martial woe, the chief they led
And deep intomb'd in holy ground
Before the altar's solemn bound

Around no dusky banners wave
No mouldering trophies mark the grave
Away the ruthless Dane has torn
Each trace that Time's slow touch had worn

And long, o'er the neglected stone
Oblivion's veil its shade has thrown
The faded tomb, with honour due
'Tis thine, O Henry, to renew

Thither, when Conquest has restor'd
Yon recreant isle, and sheath'd the sword
When Peace with palm has crown'd thy brows
Haste thee, to pay thy pilgrim vows

iii. Magic-tempered Metal

There, observant of my lore
The pavement's hallow'd depth explore
And thrice a fathom underneath
Dive into the vaults of death

There shall thine eye, with wild amaze
On his gigantic stature gaze
There shalt thou find the monarch laid
All in warrior-weeds array'd

Wearing in death his helmet-crown
And weapons huge of old renown

Martial prince, 'tis thine to save
From dark oblivion Arthur's grave

So may thy ships securely stem
The western frith, thy diadem
Shine victorious in the van
Nor heed the slings of Ulster's clan

Thy Norman pike-men win their way
Up the dun rocks of Harald's bay

And from the steeps of rough Kildare
Thy prancing hoofs the falcon scare
So may thy bow's unerring yew
Its shafts in Roderic's heart imbrew

Amid the pealing symphony
The spiced goblets mantled high
With passions new the song impress'd
The listening king's impatient breast

Flash the keen lightnings from his eyes
He scorns awhile his bold emprise
Ev'n now he seems, with eager pace
The consecrated floor to trace

And ope, from its tremendous gloom
The treasure of the wondrous tomb

Ev'n now he burns in thought to rear
From its dark bed, the ponderous spear
Rough with the gore of Pictish kings
Ev'n now fond of hope his fancy wings

To poise the monarch's massy blade
Of magic-temper'd metal made
And drag to day the dinted shield
That felt the storm of Camlan's field
The daily dirge, and rites divine