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Poem by Aubrey Thomas De Vere

At the Tomb of King Arthur

THROUGH Glastonburys cloister dim
  The midnight winds were sighing;
Chanting a low funereal hymn
  For those in silence lying,
Deaths gentle flock mid shadows grim
  Fast bound, and unreplying.

Hard by the monks their mass were saying;
  The organ evermore
Its wave in alternation swaying
  On that smooth swell upbore
The voice of their melodious praying
  Toward heavens eternal shore.

Erelong a princely multitude
  Moved on through arches gray
Which yet, though shattered, stand where stood
  (God grant they stand for aye!)
Saint Josephs church of woven wood
  On Englands baptism day.

The grave they found; their swift strokes fell,
  Piercing dull earth and stone.
They reached erelong an oaken cell,
  And cross of oak, whereon
Was graved, Here sleeps King Arthur well,
  In the isle of Avalon.

The mail on every knightly breast,
  The steel at each mans side,
Sent forth a sudden gleam; each crest
  Bowed low its pluméd pride;
Down oer the coffin stooped a priest,
  But first the monarch cried:

Great King! in youth I made a vow
  Earths mightiest son to greet;
His hand to worship; on his brow
  To gaze; his grace entreat.
Therefore, though dead, till noontide thou
  Shalt fill my royal seat!

Away the massive lid they rolled,
  Alas! what found they there?
No kingly brow, no shapely mould;
  But dust where such things were.
Ashes oer ashes, fold on fold,
  And one bright wreath of hair.

Genevras hair! like gold it lay;
  For Time, though stem, is just,
And humbler things feel last his sway,
  And Death reveres his trust.
They touched that wreath; it sank away
  From sunshine into dust!

Then Henry lifted from his head
  The Conquerors iron crown;
That crown upon that dust he laid,
  And knelt in reverence down,
And raised both hands to heaven, and said,
  Thou God art King alone!

Aubrey Thomas De Vere

Poem Themes: Cities of England, Glastonbury

Aubrey Thomas De Vere's other poems:
  1. Kinsale
  2. A Ballad of Athlone; Or, How They Broke down the Bridge
  3. To a Flower on the Skirts of Mont Blanc
  4. Roisin Dubh; Or, the Bleeding Heart
  5. Composed at Rydal, September, 1860

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