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280 And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme,
Whereat he slowly turn’d and slowly clomb
Thence mark'd the black hull moving yet, and cried: 285"He passes to be king among the dead,
And after healing of his grievous wound
yon black boat, Who shriek'd and wail'd, the three whereat we gazed 290 On that high day, when, clothed with living light,
They stood before his throne in silence, friends
Then from the dawn it seem'd there came, but faint As from beyond the limit of the world, 295 Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb Even to the highest he could climb, and saw, 300 Straining his eyes, beneath an arch of hand,
Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King, Down that long water opening on the deep Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
From less to less and vanish into light. 305 And the new sun rose bringing the new year.
ALFRED TENNYSON. 1 Clomb, climbed.
QUESTIONS FOR STUDY
Describe the picture in lines 32–37.
Compare this description with that in “The Coming of Arthur,” page 460, lines 227-230. Is there any difference?
Why did Arthur want the sword thrown over the lake? Why did not Sir Bevidere want to do it?
Whose arm was it that caught Excalibur?
“strait of barren land,” line 14.
image of the mighty world,” line 239. Has this poem rhymes ?
"feet" has each “ verse"? Have
you read any other such verse in this book? What do you call such poetry?
What parts of this poem indicate that Arthur was sent for an especial mission to men ?
What passages are proof of a belief in immortality ?
Would it have been better for Arthur to have lived on and ruled men indefinitely ?
What does he himself say about it? (Lines 243– 246.)
Memorize lines 243–259.
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
Lowell is among the very few American poets who have achieved international fame. He is
indeed better known as an essayist and critic than as a poet, but some of his
poems have struck a popular cord, and are likely to bemuch read for many years to come, if not permanently. Among the best known are the Commemoration Ode and the poem here given, The Vision of Sir Launfal. He wrote also many charming shorter
poems. Lowell belonged to the group of distinguished literary men who lived in Boston and its environs during the latter part of the nineteenth century.
His particular friends were Longfellow, Holmes, and Emerson. He was graduated at Harvard College, in which institution he was later a professor, but his chief interest was always literature. He is called the first of American literary critics.
He was twice married. His first wife was herself a poetess, but died early. Her death called forth some of his most beautiful and touching shorter poems, a series of four, beginning with Aufwiedersehen. During his later years Mr. Lowell entered the field of diplomacy, and was for several years the much admired ambassador of the United States to England.
The Holy Grail was the cup used by Jesus at the last supper before his crucifixion. It was, according to the legend, brought into England by Joseph of Arimathea and remained there for many generations. But at length, because of the evil life of one who had it in his care, the Grail was lost to sight.
King Arthur's knights eagerly sought for it, but only to one was the honor granted. Sir Galahad, the “Maiden Knight,” was the
was the youngest of all the knights of Arthur's Round Table, and the purest. To him alone was it granted to see the Holy Grail.
Lowell has utilized the story of the Holy Grail for one of his best known poems, The Vision of Sir Launfal. He has drawn a lesson, quite in contrast with the ideas prevailing in King Arthur's days. He retains the vision, but gives a modern interpretation. The introductory stanza indicates, however, that he is in reverie and sees a vision, the vision of the modern ideal of a good life rising from the dim vapors of the past, until finally it stands out clear and strong.
THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL
PRELUDE TO PART FIRST
Over his keys the musing organist
Beginning doubtfully and far away, First lets his fingers wander as they list,
And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay: 5 Then, as the touch of his loved instrument
Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws his theme, First guessed by faint auroral flashes sent
Along the wavering vista of his dream.
Not only around our infancy
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,
Over our manhood bend the skies;
Against our fallen and traitor lives 15 The great winds utter prophecies;
With our faint hearts the mountain strives,
1. These two lines refer to a passage in Wordsworth's Ode on the Intimations of Immortality, beginning, “Heaven lies around us in our infancy.”
2 Sinais. Mt. Sinai, where Moses met with God face to face.