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The Vision of Sir Launfal
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Part First


My golden spurs now bring to me,
     And bring to me my richest mail,
For to-morrow I go over land and sea
     In search of the Holy Grail;
Shall never a bed for me be spread,
Nor shall a pillow be under my head,
Till I begin my vow to keep;
Here on the rushes will I sleep,
And perchance there may come a vision true
Ere day create the world anew."
     Slowly Sir Launfal's eyes grew dim,
     Slumber fell like a cloud on him,
And into his soul the vision flew.


The crows flapped over by twos and threes,
In the pool drowsed the cattle up to their knees,
     The little birds sang as if it were
     The one day of summer in all the year,
And the very leaves seemed to sing on the trees:
The castle alone in the landscape lay
Like an outpost of winter, dull and gray:
'T was the proudest hall in the North Countree,
And never its gates might opened be,
Save to lord or lady of high degree;
Summer besieged it on every side,
But the churlish stone her assaults defied,
She could not scale the chilly wall,
Though round it for leagues her pavilions tall
Stretched left and right,
Over the hills and out of sight;
     Green and broad was every tent,
     And out of each a murmur went
Till the breeze fell off at night.


The drawbridge dropped with a surly clang,
And through the dark arch a charger sprang,
Bearing Sir Launfal, the maiden knight,
In his gilded mail, that flamed so bright
It seemed the dark castle had gathered all
Those shafts the fierce sun had shot over its wall
In his siege of three hundred summers long,
And, binding them all in one blazing sheaf,
     Had cast them forth: so, young and strong,
And lightsome as a locust-leaf,
Sir Launfal flashed forth in his unscarred mail,
To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.


It was morning on hill and stream and tree,
     And morning in the young knight's heart;
Only the castle moodily
Rebuffed the gifts of the sunshine free,
    And gloomed by itself apart;
The season brimmed all other things up
Full as the rain fills the pitcher-plant's cup.


As Sir Launfal made morn through the darksome gate,
     He was 'ware of a leper, crouched by the same,
Who begged with his hand and moaned as he sate;
     And a loathing over Sir Launfal came;
The sunshine went out of his soul with a thrill,
     The flesh 'neath his armor 'gan shrink and crawl,
And midway its leap his heart stood still
     Like a frozen waterfall;
For this man, so foul and bent of stature,
Rasped harshly against his dainty nature,
And seemed the one blot on the summer morn,--
So he tossed him a piece of gold in scorn.


The leper raised not the gold from the dust:
"Better to me the poor man's crust,
Better the blessing of the poor,
Though I turn me empty from his door;
That is no true alms which the hand can hold;
He gives nothing but worthless gold
Who gives from a sense of duty;
But he who gives a slender mite,
And gives to that which is out of sight,
     That thread of the all-sustaining Beauty
Which runs through all and doth all unite, --
The hand cannot clasp the whole of his alms,
The heart outstretches its eager palms,
For a god goes with it and makes it store
To the soul that was starving in darkness before."

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