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Poem by Bessie Rayner Parkes

King Arthur

WHEN good King Arthur ruled this land,
     He dwelt at Caerleon-upon-Usk;
He held it with an armed right hand,
     And drank red wine from dawn till dusk.

How stalwart were the warriors then,
     In our time no such maidens are;
King Arthur was the first of men,
     The fairest dame Queen Guenevar.

When Merlin waved his silver wand,
     None dared dispute its awful spells;
On summer-nights the moonlit strand
     Was musical with fairy bells.

And all the knights in Arthur's Court
     Made glorious that enchanted spot;
And who was first in every sport--
     Ah, who was loved but Launcelot!

How bright the armour which they wore
     When setting out at morning-tide,--
The silken banners which they bore,
     By gentle hands were wrought and dyed.

And who shall rise, and who shall fall,
     When they the robber-bands assail;
And whose pure hands shall duty call
     To seek and find the holy Grail!

Fair company of noble knights
     That ride in that mysterious land,
And celebrate your mystic rites
     With stainless sword in stainless hand!

Ah, where is Caerleon-upon-Usk!
     Though somewhere in the south of Wales,--
The wanderer there, at gathering dusk,
     When dreaming o'er these ancient tales,--

Will hardly see such lovely dames,
     Will hardly meet such noble men,
Till bards and prophets prove their claims,
     And good King Arthur--comes again!

Bessie Rayner Parkes

Bessie Rayner Parkes's other poems:
  1. Rome
  2. Firelight
  3. Up the River
  4. The Old Chateau
  5. On a Group of Justice and Charity

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