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Glan-Alarch His Silence And Song. Book Ii - Poem by Emily Pfeiffer

Our silent house of Garth, whereon the winds
And driving rains of autumn sadly beat,
Gave back no answer to the wild appeal;
What soul of us had voice or heart to chide
That fleeces dropped from off rank sheep; that seed
Slept idle in the granaries; that strength
Of man and beast were lost in labouring
Ground which had shut it in so close a grave,
The angel of the spring had called in vain
To resurrection. ‘Let him call,’ I said
Within my heart, benumbed with sullen pain;
‘Let the world rot, and its false promise sleep
For aye, since sleep is good, though death is best!’

So in the dumbness of the house we two,
The elders, we on whom the stroke of grief
Fell sorest, seeing for us no new quick rush
Of life rolled back the stone from off the heart,
Sate by the fire, our days as dull and pale
As the wan embers whereupon we looked,
And envied that their goal was reached so soon.

And sitting thus it liked me well to hear
The moaning of the wind, the wandering wind,
Which might have brushed a secret in its course,—
The happy wind that could not know or feel!

If Modwyth heard it too, she heeded not;
She met these empty days with idle hands,
Save that they grasped her skirts, as set thereto
By one who feared impediment to flight,
And sate uneasily, with waiting face,
Which spoke unto a heart which was the heart
Still of Glân-Alarch, answering to my look:
‘There children twain await me; here but one.’
So sorrow drew a circle round us two
Whose spheres had never crossed in happier hours.

Shriek clamorous winds and give our griefs a tongue,
For he whose lips once overflowed with song
As autumn combs with honey, now is grown
The core of silence in this silent house.
Rave wordless winds, obsequious to our woe,
Break clouds, and blind the eyes of heaven with tears,
For sad Glân-Alarch will be heard no more;
Yet would he, but for what is left in him
Of manhood, lift his broken voice on high
And cry you down with grief unsyllabled.

Ay, break your rage, rough winds, upon these stones,
For they are old, and ancient things most move
The hate that curdles at the heart of life;
Ravage these walls of pale wind-flowers that harbour
And bloom within their chinks; no colour bless,
Nor perfume bathe their bareness evermore!

So in my heart I answered to the wind,
Content that it should howl as with our woe;
But when the birds, befooled by struggling gleams
Of sunshine glinted through the rended clouds,
Piped dubiously, as they foretasted spring,
I shut them from mine ears, as summer friends
Unmannerly, who chatter of our loss,
And turned me from the fickle sun away
That dared to smile on wintry nakedness.

O my white hairs! O eyes that see too far
The griefs that march on us through every pass,
Armed companies to ring us round, and crush us
Here in our mountain cage! O weak right arm
That fain had lent to Eurien its strength;
O song, that wast already as a voice
Breaking, not richly to virility,
But poorly to the pulpless infancy
That waits on length of days;—thou, even thou;
Sad song, art prisoner in the war of life,
And never from thy dungeon may break forth,
Nay, not to raise a standard of high hope,
Or lift my chieftain's name above the wreck.

But clearer than the bodings of the wind,
More timeous than the piping of the birds,
There came to us as there we sate and watched
The smoke-wreaths curl, sounds of a mimic strife,—
The tramp of marching feet, the clash of arms,
And Eurien's voice uplifted in command,
Coming to fill the gaps in home and heart
With Eurien's shining image.

I, Glân-Alarch,
Heard it, and thought the world which now seemed dead,
Might haply be rekindled by the sparks
Struck out from steel; and Modwyth heard it, with me,
And loosed her skirts, content to bide the issue;
Or, if she sorted silks, would ravel all
In trembling haste, and leave them in her lap.
Fair Bronwen heard it, and her ivory throat,
Leaned sedulous above some household task,
Would rear itself, which while her side-long glance
Would seem to pierce like wind-blown hail, and reach
The place where Eurien's levies daily learnt
The grammar of the blood-red tongue of war.
Then she would call her thoughts to heal, and pluck
With gentle force from Modwyth's hand, the threads
To disengage from knots, and lay them spread
All fairly out beneath her heedless fingers.
I think, in sooth, that life could show few knots
The woman's nimble tact had not won through;
But shears had served her turn where fingers failed.

Oh in these days our wounds had stately tendance;
For our still house, whose pulse might else have ceased,
Or beat disorderly, was kept in time,
And held in active function, in the grasp
Of Bronwen's supple hand,—content to guide
Her house of Havod and its impish heir
With longer rein, or furtive visits stolen
From sleep, or much-beholden hours of rest.
And so it grew to be that all the place
Was filled as with a whisper of her presence,
Which chased the dust from distant corridors,
Which set in motion idle feet and hands,
And turned again the groaning wheels of life,
Laying a web of comfort, and of healing
Ev'n on the very gashes of our hearts.

When Eurien's voice no longer from the vale
Clove the dull air about our stagnant hearth,
And Eurien's self undid the door, and came—

His beauty dashed a little by the rain,
With tumbled gold of beard, and hair, bespread
Over the face the steely showers made pale,—
I loved him that he showed so comfortless,
And prized him dearer for his beauty's loss.

But Bronwen's love—if that she loved him too—
Was humble at such times, and challenged not
His notice, as with motion swift she gave
The sign which brought a servile train to crown
The board with ordered plenty; whereupon
Would follow a wild troop of squires and pages,
And shaggy men of various estate,
Who shared the wrongs of Eurien and of Wales,
And fattened them at Eurien's daily cost.

Then Bronwen, like the spirit of good cheer,—
But for a spirit all too busked and sleek,—
Carved and apportioned with a dextrous choice
The meats and winter fruits, the cakes and bread,—
Some fine and honey-sweetened, some of rye
That, soured with age, was still found sweet enough
For palates not perplexed with dainty use.
And Bronwen's face would shine on us, but most
On Eurien, as shines the moon when gilt
To be the lamp of such as house the harvest;
But unto those wild men who pressed around,
And drank deep draughts, and emptied mighty trenchers,
Her looks were strange and cold; still like the moon,
But like it on its darkened nether side.

Oh days both sad and heavy !—weariest days
Will pass, and these, if heavy, pass'd too soon!
The honest sorrow of our hearts was changed
Ere long for bastard peace. The eyes of Modwyth
Would wander off from reading Eurien's face,
To gaze on Bronwen's, and then back again,
Till to and fro, her glance would seem to spin
A web about, and bind the twain in one.

Then the false winds forgot to moan, the vain
Light heavens put back their tears, the sun looked out
Cold, cold as justice, or as charity;
The robin, like a wretch that sings for bread,
Quavered harsh notes,—and all the world went mad.
No no, it was not love that came to chase
Grim sorrow from our hearts; had it been love,
High love indeed, which had been born for Eurien—
Though sprung from out a grave too newly trenched—
I should have owned its presence as a thing
Divine,—though somewhat rathe in its approach;
If I had tasked it that it came too soon,
I had not held it pestilent as now.

But I, Glân-Alarch, I have lived too long,
The hours now pass me by with leaden feet,
And the swift years reel after them, and seem
To gain upon them in the race of time;
The moments, long for grief, still bring short months,
That come to aged hearts too soon for joy.

There hath been feasting in the halls of Garth,
Feasting and wassail, though the soul of mirth
Seemed dead within our midst, or rapt away
As liking not our company. The feast
Had been of marriage; wildly shrilled the pipes,
And like to froward tongues the cymbals clanged,
Tearing the seemly silence from our woe,
As one might strip the cerements from a corpse.
Then when the shouting and the clangour failed
For weariness, and we were set at even,
In rank about the board, Bronwen looked round
Sheer in my face,—for there had come a gap
Of the old silence, which her haughty eye
Commanded me to fill. She was the queen
And lady of us all, Bronwen the wise,
Whose beauty was the theme of many a song;
And more than all, she was a chosen bride
Of Eurien, lord and owner of my heart;
But still my pallid gaze gave back to hers
Denial which she could not overbear.

The silence lingered yet awhile, then broke,
Broke of itself, and with a heavy crash
As of a body fallen upon the hearth;
When all the hall from floor to blackened rafters,
Kindled with sudden fire, and there arose
A note as if our scantly buried sorrow
Had gotten loose, and found itself a voice
Tuned to the pattern of the woeful wind.
A shudder seemed to wind us all in one
For one brief moment, as at ghostly bidding,
Our souls rose up and wandering through the night,
Left empty bodies in our seats, the while
They shivered in the wind on Clogwyn Cromlech.

Then Eurien turned, and showed the wolf-hound, Abred,
Whom falling of a yule-log had awakened,
Howling his weird defiance at the moon;
Whereon our souls came back to us again.

Our Chieftain hailed the wolf-dog to his place,
And called on us to let the harp go round;
But I leaned back, nor touched it with a breath;
While Bronwen took it in her hands, and held
A moment all familiarly, as one
Who loving not a babe, still loves to twit it;
Then striking, made it cry aloud, and laughed;
It was her hour of triumph, when light ripples
Dance lightly into waves; she looked my way
Once more, and sweetly to our Chieftain said,
Though bitterly to me:

‘It seems, my lord,
As if your house of Garth, where for you win
This day a mistress, is not very tuneful,
That it should lack a bard to laud the feat.’

And Eurien, who had watched her with a smile,
Sitting there crowned and radiant at his side,
Fretting the harp, which seemed too slight a thing
To thwart a soul so royally enhoused,—
Stretched forth his sovereign hand to grip mine own;
But answered nought, and spared to meet mine eye.

But I spoke up:

‘There have been harpers twain
Here in this house of Garth, whom every breath
Of Eurien stirred to music. One is dead,—
Since when the other hath left off to sing.’

Oh Eurien, you were gracious thus to suffer
My heart to rise in judgment of your own;
But Modwyth frowned, and Bronwen to her side
Beckoned a henchman brought with her from Havod;
One who was used to twang and thrum the harp
In time for dancing; in good sooth the varlet
Could boast a dexterous finger; in his hand
She set it, all its triple chords perplexed
With a jarred sigh; filled him a foaming flagon,
And wreathing round his breast some woven flowers
Snatched from the board, proclaimed him Bard of Garth.

But Eurien stayed her here: ‘Thy bard, sweet Bronwen,
And Havod's; but for Garth, that post is filled,
And in another sort;’ then turned to Dafyth;
‘Bard of the fairest lady in the land,
A lighter lot is yours.’

And so he took
From off his neck a golden chain, and threw
Over his lady's flowers, and smiled on her:

‘Sweetheart, it seems that you have still to learn
Whom you may bind with flowers, and whom with gold.’

But Bronwen waited not on Eurien's words
For following of the chain he cast away.

Then Eurien again:

‘Beseech you, lady,
Command your bard to strike some merry chord;
For ours, he hath been, and he shall be ever,
Free from all strain but music and his mood.’

Then Dafyth seized the harp, and made its strings
To caper till its fallen music seemed
To habit in the heels of all our guests,
Who loud upon the floor beat out the time.
So as the mead past round, and voices rose,
And Dafyth harped, with harpings emulous
Against the rising babble,—harped and scared
Shy music from the blatant strings,—I went
Unnoted from the glowing hall, and stole
Alone into the white, moon-lighted night,
And stood beside the fall, where it had crashed
A passage for itself through prisoning ice.
Here, when the heart-deep roaring of the flood
Had failed a moment, followed after me
The voice of mirth and jingle of the harp,
But tenderer grown with distance, till at last
The cataracts loud wordless rage filled all
The cavern of mine ear; and one by one
The chambers in the turrets glimmered forth
Like stars into the night. And then my soul
Closed on itself the door, and knelt within
A chamber yet more secret, seeing nought,
And haply only soothed by the deep boom
Of the vexed mountain torrent. So I prayed
For Eurien's glory and for Eurien's peace,
If peace and honour might consort together;
For nuptial joys, and strength of joinëd lives,
And worthy issue, linking him with years
To come, when he from off the earth should cease.

And as I woke from prayer, I felt a warmth
Bathing my hand; felt too, and heard a breath
Taken with mighty pants, close at my side.
The clouds had overlapped the moon, and all
Was dun as death, but still I knew that thing
Which pressed against my side was wakeful love.
Then from the humid warmth I freed my hand,
And raising, rested it with inside touch
Upon the brow of Myneth, Mona's hound,
That from the day when she had gone from Garth
Had vanished as her body, none knew where.
I think I cried a cry, as Myneth's breath
And greeting were a moment on my face;
But not a whimper of her joy made answer,
And promptly at a signal far beneath
The black brow of the hill, she, bounding off,
Was swallowed in the silence of the night.

And stumbling through the darkness, I made haste
To look from off the hill where she went down,
And thought one moment I discerned a light—
Most like a wandering candle of the marsh;—
And then I pressed my failing eyes, and looked
Once more, and it was gone, and I was fain
To doubt if I had seen, felt, greeted aught
More solid than a vision which had come
To soothe or mock the hunger of the heart.

And so the marriage feast of Eurien past,
While silence hung upon my lip like lead.

That year the days grew long before their time;
The sun shone late and early, and keen winds
Drove home its beams through all the sodden fallows
And marshy flats, and aired the drenchëd world.
And heads that had lain fallow with the fields
Through the slow winter, now grew rife with thoughts
Of husbandry, while others, lightlier bent,
Woke at the beckoning of the beam and breeze
To wandering fancies, straggling wild as weeds.

So, wise or thriftless, they who were content
In meagre winter months to take our cheer,
Lodging and pottage, and to lend themselves
As journeymen to learn the trade of war,
Rose up together with the stir of spring,
Bade us God speed, and left us to ourselves.

Oh then the face of Bronwen at the board,—
The lesser board whose viands were more choice
And service daintier,—shone, a radiant sphere
That kept no darkened half for outside souls.

And sitting in the flickering light at eve,
Filled full with work and cheer, and blown by winds
As precious as the ransom of a king,
Some of us haply nodded o'er the blaze,
Our senses lapped by murmurous tongues of flame;
But Eurien with his ice-blue eyes would gaze
Undaunted on the embers' burning heart,
Turning within his own, as well I knew,
Deep thoughts whose hour of action was not yet.

Then Bronwen's fingers, shedding of their work,
Would twine themselves within, and unclasp Eurien's
Close knotted as they were, and reach his palm
With hers, as warm as the full-podded flax
That ripens in the sun, and whisper him;
That sweeter thoughts were his for close of day,
Than plans for ploughing fields, or seeding furrows;—
It was her art t' interpret thus his mind;—
And then when she had won him from his mood,
And got his softened eyes to speak her fair,
Taking sweet rest, all languorously reclined,
Bathed in the ruddy glow,—the woman in her
Was well content, exulting in her power.

For honour and for peace, if they might grow
Together on one tree of life, my prayer
To God for Eurien; and the days which came
Brought peace and plenty to our house of Garth,
But honour, more than ever, was his meed
At tilt and tourney where his lance was first,—
In skirmish with our brawling chiefs, or such
As daring hunter wins from his compeers,—
Was yet to crown our chieftain's tawny locks.
And I who loved him better than my life,
And—sooth to say it—better than his own,
Grew jealous of the cheek that waxed too fair
With body's health, and spirit's dull content;
And ever when we two came face to face,
I strove to prick his heart with memory
Of Cymric wrong, and all that brood of sorrows
Which, if it seemed to snatch a moment's rest,
Would waken with a wilder throb ere long.

And sometimes with that look which took all hearts,
Eurien would turn on me, and bid me trust
The tardy healing power of Cymric wounds;
And sometimes he, without a word, would lay
My hand upon his girdle, where that other
Holding the leaden missile, pressed his heart;
Anon would make complaint that men and times
Were yet not ripe for action; at which word
I would approve to him that souls heroic
In this were demi-gods,—that they could breathe
Or shine on men and times, and ripen both.
And then at whiles upon his lip and brow
Would come that pallor of the refluent blood,
And to his eyes that look of one who saw
Fruit in the flower, and seed within the fruit,
Which boded that his spirit had been summoned
On high, to meet a council of his peers.
Then I, who humbly loved him, sat and thought
Rejoicingly, that he in his young wisdom
And guarded strength, was greater far than I
Who, in my unthrift impotence of age,
Had fought a giant with unmeasured swords.

The year fulfilled itself; the earth once more
Was pregnant with the slowly-ripening grain.
And Bronwen was the lady of the land;
A fair, firm woman; one who ruled her house
As Eurien his state; nay, ruled her house
But ruled it in another sort than he,
Who, like a god, gave back with rich increase
His lieges' tribute and their fitful service;
Shielding the weak, and lifting up the low,
Pruning the insolence of pride, and storing
Scant fruit for all his pain, to leave a harvest
More generous for the gleaners of his fields.

But not so Bronwen, who from day to day
Waxed as the waxing moon in all that made
The ordered sweep and circle of her life:
More affluent in beauty and in honour,
With hands more flush of power, and of means
Of making by accretion; with an ocean
Of duty it became her part to rule,—
A sea with tides that shifted with the seasons,
And runnels intersecting all the shores
That bordered it. So waxed she in her place,
And so her shadow broadened all around.

As Bronwen, like the moon that fills her horn,
Rounded to perfect shape, so Modwyth waned,
Like the sad evening star that tends on her.
But Modwyth's will had triumphed, and some hold
That woman's will is woman's paradise.
If such were hers, it was a fading portion;
I, cowering o'er the hearth, Eurien a-field,
Watched the frail fingers twisting threads of flax,
Grow thin and whiter as the weeks rolled on,
And weak, I thought, for lack of stronger work.

But when the even of each day was come,
When babes were hushed, and labour sought repose,
The wheel of Modwyth by an empty chair
Stood silent, while from hut to hut there passed
A presence with a hand outstretched, that dropped
Comfort as God drops flowers upon the fields;
And for some sickness never to be cured,
Or only by th' all-healing sleep of death,
At whiles from Modwyth's faded lips flowed out
Words, which were glowing with a light, that touched
The rampant ill with glory, till it seemed
To pierce the gloom which wraps all human thought,
And shine an upraised banner of new hope.

So plenty reigned at Garth; the kine increased,
Fat beeves were in the stall, the milking pails
Were foaming to the brim; lush fruits flowed in,
Seed-pods yet green and tender, burst with fulness,
And succulent roots, with crispëd salad stems,
And juicy leaves, and honey-dropping combs,
Were heaped with fat flesh meats upon the board
Crowned with tall tankards of new wine and mead.
But for all hands that laboured once at Garth
Mine own and Modwyth's were the only four
Untasked to further effort; for the rest,
Each tale of work was doubled, and each thrall
Inept or idle, sent into the fields
To tend the swine, or house and feed with them;
Thus fewer mouths were matched with better fare.

And now no longer like a running stream
The largess of the house flowed out by day,—
By day and eke by night for loud-tongued need;
But times were set apart, when at the gate
Bronwen stood up, fresh as a rain-washed rose,
As ruddy, and deep-bosomed,—with behind her
The piled-up leavings of the house, in face,
The pallid misery which sought relief;—
The palsied age and puling infancy,
The withered youth, and cankered morning prime,
The pinched with want, or sore-disgraced of birth;
And ever to mine eye the contrast grew
More harsh;—the lady Bronwen spread more fair,
More dun and haggard showed the dwindling crowd.

Then fences grew where no defence before
Had ever been; the very mountain breeze,
Fresh with the morning and the spring, and bearing
Spice from the gorse, with odour of wild thyme
And gums from opening buds, paused on the threshold,
Nor blew the breath of nature through our lives.

And ever as that plenteous house of Garth
Grew fat but overflowed not, so the land
Around it, held in tribute hands, grew lean.
We of the household, who had used to take
Our share of milk, now lapped the curded cream;
So those without, who once from the same dish
Had dipped with us, were fain to feed on whey.

Oh fair and teeming world, world false as fair,
Whose sweetest blossoms grow from out fresh graves,
Rooting their callous virtues in dead hearts
That once have loved them; oh thou falsest spring
That ever breathed on shallow human hopes,—
I, even I, Glân-Alarch,—lusty grown
As a blind capon fed for others' food,—
I, even I rejoiced and hailed the sun;
Strung daisies for the saucy imps who followed
My errant steps; felt my faint heart spring up
As fresh as watered-cresses of the brook;
And one fair morn when all the world ran wild,
When kids were frisking on the mountain's brow,
And streams came leaping down its channelled sides,
I could no longer close my heart to joy,
But stood there laughing with the waterfall.

Oh teeming earth, and spring unearthly fair!
The beauty ye affect is but a mask;
Pranked as ye are,—all green and lush with life,—
Your painted semblance cries aloud of death,
For she who loved,—whom nature loved and feared,—
Lies on her breast past any hope of spring;
Unless she sleeps, and these more plenteous flowers,
Are rosier tinted for her maiden dreams!
No, she is dead, the world her tomb, whose fairness
Has rapt her very memory from our hearts;
For Bronwen moves among us quick with life,
Shining with twofold lustre, since we see
In her the sheaf, and beauteous continent
Of a young hope for Eurien and for Glyneth.

And I, even I, a wayward bard, and sullen,
Jealous for love that perished ere its prime,
And loth to love again where love hath been
So deadly to my heart,—I, even I,
Grew tender when I looked on her, the blessed,
The chosen vessel, bearing Eurien's child.

Then like the pregnant year, her beauty grew
More changeful; there would come to her cold breaths
From clouds, which broke in sudden tears; warm languors
That none but Eurien might uphold! and fears
Which he alone could quell. But of all sights
That crossed her, none was grievous in her eyes
As Poplet, with his antic ways, his tags
Of borrowed wisdom, and his inborn cunning,
Which often she chastised with cuffs, and rated
With clamour, that unsettled all the house.
So seeing that the wife this while in Bronwen
Had overborne the mother in her heart,
Our lordly chief consigned her forward son
For page's training to a neighbour roof.

And oftentimes when Eurien, returning
At even, sate with her a space withdrawn,
Bronwen would weep, and say his love was cold,
For Cynorac, her foe e'en more than his,—
He who had heaped unnumbered shames upon her,—
Prospered and triumphed in impunity.
And he who first was tender to her mood,
Seeking to smooth her grief with gentle counsel,
Thereafter lightlier put her plaint aside,
Saying: ‘We prosper, let him prosper too;’
Or adding: ‘Let live all who live for Britain.’
Then when she fretted the resisting chord,
Remorse would ofttime wake a dormant echo,
And Eurien's eyes, that turned towards Clogwyn Cromlech
Through Bronwen's comely substance, would behold
Things other than they looked on; at these seasons,
His words were few, and like his gaze would seem
As bent on distant journey. He would say:
‘I swore that day as now again I swear,
To know no wrongs but those of Wales,—'Wild Wales'!’

And sighing forth ‘Wild Wales’ in solemn echo
Of a dead voice, there past into his own
A note of music strange to it before.

This while more often than in days gone by
Newsmongering guests would come to share our cheer,
And often even at the mid-day meal
Make light the ponderous meats with laugh and song.

And I, grown loyal as I said, to her
Who was the lady of my lord, and wearing
In heaviness the burthen of his joy,
Seemed to my love confounded with himself,—
Rejoiced to see her gay, and even bore
The recreant mirth of Dafyth's misused harp.

But oftener than all others, when our lord
Who doubted him, was on some distant quest,
Weroc would come, and, ere he went his gate,
Stand whispering by the lady, under cover
Of Dafyth's jingling strings, which then would shriek
The louder, while we others gazed aloof,
Silent, as feeling treason in the air.

For at such moments,—Eurien far away,—
It seemed to us that Eurien's unborn child
Should be potential there to keep at bay
Any whom Eurien's presence had abashed.

And Weroc had been with us on a day
Craftily chosen; but few words as yet
Had past between them, and the talk that filled
The vacant hour when all were met in hall
Was hollow as a reed, the while a meaning
Outside of it was borne in covert glances
Betwixt our lady and her down-faced squire.
I left the board ere yet the broth was cold;
My wrath had spoken else; whereon the lady
With lowered voice:

‘He was sole bard of Garth
Ere Dafyth came, and liketh not to hear
Another harping better in his place.’

I went out sad as angry, that our house,—
Tuneful in happier days, as summer woods,—
Had come to be the meeting place of daws.

But Weroc when he went this day, had honour
More than his wont, for Bronwen's own white hands
Poured out a stirrup-cup, and bore to him
Without the door, and waited there caressing
His horse the while he drank, and waited still
A while, when having done, he stooped above her
To empty in her ear a parting word.

Then Weroc took his way, and Bronwen hers,
Crossing the court full stately, with a firm
And rhythmic tread, to which her two hands beat
The time, like cymbals clanged triumphantly.

And I who had for Eurien's honour prayed,
And Eurien's peace, if peace might dwell with honour,
Had at the first been fain to be content
With peace and plenty; what if at the last,
Plenty should reign at Garth, and reign alone?

That night brought Eurien home, with him a train,
Longer than that wherewith a week agone
He left, to offer fealty to the king
Of the rich lands which border on the Severn.
The newly crowned one was the only son
Of Teudric,—he who quitted throne and state,
And fair renown untarnished by defeat,
To live a hermit's life of prayer, and fasting,
In honour of the only Son of God.

And Bronwen, joyous at her lord's return,
The leader of so brave a following,
Had drest her house, and made herself as brave
To greet them; and there came a genial hour
Wherein the sports and jousts, by Mowric held,
Were played or fought anew, and we who listened
Made glad at heart to hear how Eurien ever
Had held that place in both to him belonging.

But Eurien careless of this wind blown praise,
As feeling that some seeds of deeper purpose
Bided within him but the turn of time
To show a worthier harvest, put aside
The theme, and asked his lady how the days
Had sped with her at Garth, her lord away.
Then Bronwen dropped her words into the pause
Which waited them, and said in ear of all
The silent household and the listening guests:

‘My lord, I have been comforted to hear
From noble lips, of honour you have won
Abroad, for by my troth of loyal lady
And loving wife,—albeit I blush to own it,—
You have been very foully shamed at home!’

Then silence deepened in the hall, unbroken
By Eurien even so much as by a word;
But there was burning question in his eyes,
And wrath concentred in the gathered limbs
So late relaxed in careless rest; and Bronwen
Went on as at his bidding, but her voice
Shook as she louder spoke to steady it.

‘We have been shamed, my lord, by Cynorac,
Who mocks at you for leaving of his trespass
So long unpunished. In the days gone by
He was content to rob your mother's lands
And mine, not then your wife, as now, but only
Your love; he, having proved your tireless patience,
Comes forward to a bolder tune, and beards you
Not from afar, through others, but in face,
As man to man. He chooses from your flocks,—
Your household flocks, not those which roam at large,
The one which most of all those flocks you cherish
For the fine wool wherewith you count in time
To profit our poor Glyneth;—takes the beasts
And judges them deliberately, selecting
With a slow care the finest ram and ewe,
And rides away with them in leash before him.’

Then the clenched hand of Eurien lighted down,
Amidst the platters on the oaken board,
And touching with his ring a crystal goblet
Laid it upon its base in glittering ruin.
And warning off pale Bronwen as she rose
To gather up the fragments, Eurien sate
Grasping his crispëd beard, his way in wrath,—
Withdrawn within himself, silently shaping
His purpose to the need of his displeasure.
But counsel came to him, and suddenly
He turned on Bronwen:

‘Who hath borne this tale?’
And she who loved to tread in crooked paths,
Yet seldom lied with lip, seemed forced to answer:
‘It came from Weroc,—wrought before his eyes.’
Then Eurien:

‘Tell to Weroc when you next
Have speech of him,—to Weroc, mischief-monger,—
Spinner of spiders' webs that fail to stay
Aught weightier than a gnat,—tell him I hold
His Cynorac so modest to have taken
One only pair of sheep from all my folds,
I straight shall send him six, and therewith chide him
That he accounted me so poor in grace
As to have stinted for his open asking.’

But Bronwen eyed her haughty lord askant,
And thought his pride became him well; albeit—
Holding his words no better than a boast—
She looked for likelier fruit of Weroc's cunning.
For Weroc was the thief who wore the cloak
Of Cynorac, whereof if Bronwen wist,
She held herself apart from open proof.

Next day at dawn the stranger knights rode forth,
And Eurien with them, through the fine, soft rain
That gemmed his hair and beard with thick-sewn beads
As diamonds golden-threaded; and he rode,
Speaking with bended head and lowered voice
To a grey knight of Mowric's, who was deep
In Mowric's council; and the talk was all
Of plots without and jealousies within,
And plans to bind our Cymri in one bond
Of brotherhood, to stem the tide of doom.

And bidding them God-speed, as from the sun
New-risen, shot a vague and watery gleam,
Lighting a new-born hope, pale as the dawn,
As sad and dubious, we two turned away,
And wending slowly homeward, Eurien looked
Round on the tearful land, wherefrom the mists
Were rising, gathered up like filmy scarves
In folds about the mountains' turbaned heads;

And tenderly his voice that stirred my heart
More than all other voices, being made
I think to wake a hidden soul of music
In wayside stones, gave forth a strain that bore
A sadness to his mien and words unknown;
He spoke in music only, and in music
My heart responded truly, tone for tone;
The burthen of his plaint was ‘Wales, wild Wales!’

And when his song was ended, Eurien turned not,
But spoke his heart, faintly, as in a dream:
‘Think you in truth that he,—our great Pendragon,—
Arthur, still lives in some high land of Faëry
Whence he may win to us, and with that brand
Men tell of, cleave the heart of Dynas-Emrys,
And mount the golden chair which Merlin guards
Within? What say you? will he once more gather
Our scattered Cymri in his kingly hands,
Bind them in one, and so compacted hurl them—
Hurl them against the Saxon that we back him,
Ay, back until we choke him in the sea?’

Then I Glân-Alarch, wakening to his voice:
‘Should our hearts’ longing so prevail on his,
That he for us will leave some further sphere,—
He being of those ripe souls who have o'ercome,—
Past nobly through the flesh,—but who return
For love of man, to run the course once more,—
Causing the level of the race to rise
By their sole presence as an inland sea
By the unsealëd heart of some high spring,—
If such pure sacrifice, of God allowed,
Be made by Arthur for his trampled Britons,
One thing is sure: our hope will be revealed
First in the forward ranks of marching men.’

And Eurien whose passion seemed to glow
And kindle into flame, although unfed
By Saxon outrage later than the slaughter
Of the twelve-hundred, struck his clenched right hand
Hard on his girdle, where the leaden ball
Lay, waiting to be launched; and as I looked
I felt a traitor ever to have deemed
It could beseem his cheek to show more pale.

He paused; then answering to his thought, resumed:
‘The life she bore, thrice over she had yielded,
So death that frees the soul should let it blow
The flame which kindled her in living fire
Through Cymric souls, to weld them into one!’

Then first I knew that she whose death had crowned
My cup of sorrows, lived in Eurien's heart,
Wherein mine own found comfort ever more,
Though all unwitting of the sweet encounter.

And eyeing him from 'neath my shaggy brows,—
Him, Eurien the golden, on whose person
The sunbeams loved to gather; he whose head
Now rayed with broken light from lip and crown,
Strong as a god's, was as a woman's fair,
Whose limbs in nature's finest mould were fashioned,
And cast in nature's most enduring metal,
Whose very garments, chosen for their fitness,
Became revealing, as the jewelled feathers
Of some rare bird proclaim the daintiness
Which rules its life,—I looked on him and sighed:
‘My son, an unthrift hand hath wrought these titles
Which have not won for thee the crown of love;
Nay more, whose very splendour was the blind
Which made you lose in youth the way of life.’

And musing thus, I thought how Eurien's youth
Was poorer than mine age; that golden Eurien
Might never hear the tale which now I heard
Blown by the trumpet of the honeysuckle
Across the vale of years,—blown strong and sweet,
Opening the long-closed, silent ways of life,—
Awakening dead regrets, and living hope.

So on we rode in silence, while the birds
Sung of the brightening promise of the day,
And shook the pendant drops from verdant eaves
Which sloped above their nests.

Then, when the valley
Widened, and laid its townships, hamlets, castles,
At Eurien's feet, he spake again; and thus:

‘We Cymri are as sheep that have no shepherd;
Mowric is leal, but as a wind-blown flame;—
A king of Glyneth, but no king of men.
What man if he should lift him to our head,
Could draw the scattered flock to follow him?’

I answered hotly:

‘Eurien is the man.’

He turned on me as never until now
In sudden wrath:

‘These be no words of wisdom
Worthy the sanction of a hoary crown;
'Tis Eurien you speak with,—not Brocmail!
Shall I as he, pricked by a vain ambition,
Open a way to Britain's bleeding heart,
Heedless of warning, anguish, ruth, and shame?’

And then more gently, having gathered patience
With age that was more rash than others' youth.

‘The chief of Snowdon owns a noble name,
And nobler that it hath been wisely borne;
But ‘Snowdon’ is no cry of leadership
That to the few bold bands we seek to train,
Could rally such a following as would quell
Long rooted hate, and smooth divided council.
Other than I must be the man whose head
Is consecrate to so supreme a task.
The sheen of youth, its boasts of strength and prowess,
Its craving need to be, and to possess,
Its hopes too high, its time too long to weave
And wear them in, are arguments wherefrom
Our jealous chiefs would gather harsh conclusions.
One now to lead our Cymri should be hoar
As wise with age; should be as God who gives,
Not man who grips. Grey Teudric, with his crown
Of power and meekness, had been he, if only
His heart when dead to self, had lived for Britain.
It was not so, and vengeance still must ripen.
Our way is dark, we know not where it leads us,
The road still narrows, while its side-paths close;
Hold the heart high, and keep the spirit pure,
Then, watchful and alert, come what come may,
We in the teeth of Fate shall still be men,—
E'en in the jaws of Fate as men would fall!
But, my Glân-Alarch, side not with the fiend
Who tempts me, and would tempt me with more power
But for a voice whose silence weights my thoughts,
And a lost presence mingled with my life.’

Then answerless, rebuked, with downcast looks
I rode by Eurien; but my heart beat high;
For truly as I think the proudest thing
That rears its head on earth, is love, and mine
For Eurien now was rampant in content.

Then silence fell again, until the towers
Of Garth rose up; when Eurien to me:
‘Our hands, Glân-Alarch, now are somewhat bare
Of fitting work; our levies broken loose,
Like water that the breath of spring unlocks,
Are spread abroad upon those summer fields
Their sweat makes fruitful; so these summer days
That had been short for work, are long for waiting.’

‘Ay, they are long,’ I said, ‘but there is still
The chase to keep the soldier's veins in health,
To exercise his arm, and teach him cunning.’

‘That game,’ quoth he, ‘I fear that we have played
With passion too prolonged; my hoped-for heir,
If we should keep this merry fashion going
As we have kept it, scarce would know the joy
Of saving his white flesh—it should be white,
His mother's is—from the still whiter fangs
The hungry wolf uncovers. We must leave
Some pickings from the feast of life for those
Who seat them at the board when we have done.’

I smiled that he was gay; I wished him troubled
At whiles when he was still, yet when his brow
Was dark, I seemed to lose my way of life.

I laughed: ‘We'll leave the lean and wiry wolf
To teach young Eurien, that is to be,
Our long endurance, when the brutish men
That were our masters shall be trodden under.
We who have learnt our lesson of the wolf,—
Learnt it too well as she you wot of told us—
We need not scorn to drink enlivening draughts
Of the sweet air in questing humbler game.
The bear would not more savagely defend
His hold than we these mountains from the hunters
Who hem us in; and now methinks we might
With profit learn some cunning of the creatures
Who make their wiles atone for lack of strength,
And in the padded steps e'en of the hare,—
Whose ears are funnels of all dangerous sound,—
Take counsel of her shifts, her craft, her doubles;
And, as all means are good that are well used,
Find in her oily course an argument
Wherewith to whet the temper of our spirit.
The rather would I that you should decline
Upon this lowlier sport, first, that you hold
Your life in fee for Cambria, secondly,
That herein old Glân-Alarch, your dumb bard,
May still be partner with you.’

Eurien spoke not;
His looks were set high o'er Y-Aran's summit,
Piercing the cloud beyond it; then he turned
And flashed on me, and all his soul I saw
Was stirred within him, as it came to meet
And hail me at the threshold of his eyes,
Ere yet mine own was waked with sudden clangour
Reverberate to the metal of his voice.

‘Now by my knighthood, and my hope of heaven,
No hare that hath her form on any hill
Or plain, or valley where my rule is known,
Shall ever flee me more, by me pursued!’
Then hurriedly:

‘A week agone we met,—
You were not of us—met upon the banks
Of Llyn-y-Gader; on the dewy ground
The scent was hot. Our game was promptly found,
And from the brake, the hare fled full in view,
And straightened from the first, as though she knew
Her race that day would be a race with death.
So past we on through unaccustomed glens,
And over mountain spurs, still calling up
Old echoes that had slept the summer long.
A robe of state had covered all the pack,
And still in view of men, and flying hounds,
And staring horses, sped the gallant hare,—
The fleeting fixture of a hundred eyes.
Her tale had had another end, I trow;
She would have perished at Lake Quellen's side,
If from the flanks of Moel-Ruth had come
No flock of mountain sheep to cross our path,
And let her glide unnoted in the rout
Into a bowery copse we left behind us.
Then it was good to see the baffled hounds
‘Cast’ themselves, sprinkled singly o'er the vale,
As a full shower of grain that leaves the hand
Of a skilled sower; and ere long the tongue
Of Chorister, that ne'er was known to lie,
Broke the still air, and every head was turned,
Retracing that same way by which we came.
So on past Llyn-y-Gader, in one burst
To where the Colwyn and blue waters meet,
Leaving Y-Aran, on past Dynas-Emrys
To Llyn-y-dinas, where the burning scent
Was quenched upon the water's edge. And here
I thought no wrong to help the eager brutes,
So wound my horn, and ‘lifted’ them to where
My human cunning told me that the game
Had landed. Then we hit the line again,
And all the narrowing vale was overflowed
With music which the mountain sides beat back,—
With music welling up from clarion throats,
Bursting as living springs of harmony,
Whose waves repelled, crossed clamorously, and made
An inland sea of turbulent sound, which maddened
The sense of all who heard it.

‘On we flew,
A lessening train, to right of Gwynant Lyn,
Over the bryn, past Hafod,—holm, and mere,—
On and still on, with neither halt nor check,
At blinding pace, meeting the treacherous wind
Which blew the secret of the hapless hare
Full in the faces of the pack; so on
Towards Pen-y-Gwryd, a still dwindling train
Of horsemen; only I and Wythan now
To take brook Teryn, and to find when landed
Upon its further side, the hounds at fault,
Scouring the widening valley, snuffing wildly
At tainted stems and herbage; whimpering
Of baffled rage.

‘Then, then Glân-Alarch mine,
I was no better than a beast myself;
The brute had broken loose in me, the lust
Of conquest grew with struggle; the frail thing
We hunted—crept for shelter 'neath a stone
That shelved above the brook—had from that covert,
Gathered within her timorous ear, the sharp,
Wild hue and cry of dogs and men, and trampling
Of steeds that plunged above her heavily,
Leaving her panting for the life scarce saved.

‘So round and round we flew, we, baffled beasts,
The dogs and I alone; for Wythan's horse
Grown wild, had made a stride too rash in leaping
The brook, and suffered hurt; then stealing forth
With gathered courage, I beheld the hare
Skimming the ground, unweaving for her part
Our desperate morning's work,—spinning her way
Backward through Gwynant vale. I blew my horn;
The maddened hounds pressed round me, fierce, redeyed,
With flapping tongues that hung like bloody banners,
And at my voice and gesture, flung themselves
Once more across the brook, and back we flew,
The savage pack in front, and I alone
Of all their morning's following, behind;
The valley full of discord, re-awakened,—
Their yelling tongues, and mine that cheered them on.

‘Glân-Alarch! From the side of Gant-y-Wennol,
Letting itself fall slowly, as a giant
Folding his arms round peaks and crags, might drop
From off a mountain's brow, there came a cloud,—
A tall, white cloud, which spread itself in mist,
Over the path we followed through the vale.

‘We gained upon the hare; again she broke
In sight of our pursuing eyes; we gained,
She lost with every stride; then in our path
She lay down spent; she yielded, poor dumb wretch,
But yielded to fierce foes who gave no quarter.
A moment, but a little moment more,
And she had perished, torn by ravening hounds,
Nor lived to ransom all her kind of me.
But lo, within the mist whereof we neared
The skirts, there stood revealëd now to view
A maiden, draped, and veiled in spotless white,—
A maid of stature tall, and vast of limb,
Beyond the wont of mortals; and she seemed
Of the white mist to be the whiter core.

‘Ah then, Glân-Alarch mine, a weird, a wonder,
Grew up before my eyes; this stately virgin,
This maiden of the mist, spread her fair arms,
And into them, half dead, our victim sprung,—
Sprung with an impulse of expiring nature,—
And panting on a heart that seemed the home
Of all the charities, closed her faint eyes,
And drooped her head in sweet abandonment,
And utter joy of safety, and of rest.

‘Then the fierce pack that would not be denied,
Swept after her, and clove the silvery mist,—
A serried body, reeking bloody hate,—
And would I think have snatched the creature forth,
E'en from the haven of those nursing arms.
But lo, another wonder. At the foot
Of that strange presence white and cold, they fell,—
The savage yelping beasts with fiery eyes,—
They fell,—their tongues subdued to tremulous sounds,
Tamed in a moment, as by some great joy,—
Fell whimpering, abject, licking her pale feet,
And, fawning in the dust, they lay there grovelling
As they would bore their graves, and hide them in it.

‘I saw no more; shame blinded me. I fell,
I too, upon my knees, and could have buried
My shamëd manhood in the dust with them.

When next I looked, the mist had grown a cloud
More dense and white than at its first descent
From Wennoll, and from forth of it, the hounds
Trailed themselves one by one, and dropped about me
Resting on trembling haunches, while they met
My glance with such confused and conscious looks
As suit conspirers in some deed of ill.

‘But now the greatest wonder, and the last.
The cloud moved slowly on towards Gwynant lake,
Then spread itself abroad again in mist,
And not the faintest film of human form
Remained within it;—maid, and hare were gone.
Glân-Alarch, I am not as thou, a seer,
So have not learnt to doubt the tale mine eyes
May tell, or hold it over-true to be
The common showing of a world of shows.
That which my sense has pictured, I have taken
As the true message of a trusted servant,
No more;—but this, what shall I say of this?
Believe me I had counted it a dream
If its beginning had not had firm proof;—
For look you—’

Eurien's voice grew faint with awe
And breathed its burthen closer in my ear,—
‘That maiden of the mist, that high white spirit
Which for a moment to my spirit became
As palpable, was Mona! By her arm,
Waving its queenly bidding to the hounds,
I knew her, as they knew her; oh, Glân-Alarch,
Her love was great, it will not have me shame it,
Her love was high, and will not let me fall,
I too Glân-Alarch, I arose that day
From out the dust where I had fallen, and left
My baser part in it; with sterner sense
Of manhood in me, then I swore to give
My undivided strength, to 'Wales, wild Wales!'’

‘Wales, Wales, wild Wales, and Eurien for Wales!’
I echoed, and the breeze that brushed my beard
Prolonged the cry, and all the air seemed stirring
With voices as a chorus swelling it.

Then ‘Wales, wild Wales, and Eurien but for Wales!’
He answered me; and we two side by side
Rode in white heat of passion, pale as wraiths.

The harvest time was come again, and seed
Sown in a tearful spring, was reaped in joy
Of autumn sunshine broadening on full fields.
And when the sickle eased the groaning earth,
And the fair fruit of all its toil, was laid
In sheaves upon its breast, then Bronwen held
Within her arms a separate life, and paused
A moment from her own, to dwell with it
On the still border-land of infancy,
In careless rest of innocence, and peace.

And Eurien's eyes that looked upon his son,—
Albeit in manhood's early prime, their light
Was dimmed by shadows of the past, and doubts
Veiling the threatening future,—filled with joy
Unreasoning as the love which gives it birth:
Joy that a man is born into the world,—
The bitter, weary, dubious world,—and love
That still should quell, and still creates such joy.
But joy and love were brooding in the silence
Which wrapped the young child's life; and where love dwells
There faith and hope, her sisters twain, will come
And show themselves, if only in our dreams.
Wherefore the child of Eurien, born to see
The rise or fall of many Cymric hopes,
The rise or fall may be of Cymric life,
Was welcomed as an unblown flower of time,
By hearts all reverent of its mystery.

The silence passed; from out it came a stir,
A glad new motion in our daily lives.
Long-silent birds gushed forth in sudden song,
As if in memory of their summer joys;
The grey old towers and mouldering stones of Garth
Grew warm in the embraces of the sun,
And quickened with their warmth the Roman vines,
Whose bunches overflowing, brought a gay
Barbed throng to tap their wine to drowsy music.
And louder than the drone of armed marauders
Among the flushing vines of Garth-y-Gwin,
More merry than the lated joy of birds,
That sung the dying splendours of the woods,
There rose from out the valley, sounds of labour
Nearing its recompense; of men and maids—
Their voices joined in laughter or in song
Because—nay, never seek a cause for joy!
No flower that blows but somewhere had a root;
Enough for simple hearts that Garth rejoiced
For birth, the ripe, soon o'er-ripe year, for death.

High festival was held again by Eurien
In honour of the twofold joy; the harvest
More fruitful than our fields for many a year
Had yielded to our cares, and the young life
Which showed yet fairer-fruited in our dreams.

The banks of Colwyn, newly shorn, were gay
With mounted knights and dames, bedecked like flowers;
With banners floating on the breeze, and hauberk
And lance that shone like dew-drops hung upon them.
To one who watched them from the towers of Garth,
These coming guests, backed by the tawny stubble,
Were moving pictures, by a cunning hand,
Set in a field of gold; and as they came,
The broken music of the river rose
And fell to other sounds than churlish glee,
Or changes of grave words whereof the oxen
Partook their share, and showed their equal sense.
Anon the flourish of a horn would startle
The echoes of our hills, and set them leaping
As airy giants over rock and chasm;
Or snatch of some gay song, or minstrel harp
Would light the darkened passage of a wood,
Or guide the eye to some untrodden path
Betwixt the mountains, where the unseen guest
Wound his wild way at Eurien's gracious bidding.

And to this feast of baptism and of harvest,
They who were summoned were of all degrees;
Mowric was there, Glamorgan's silken chief,
With many a thane, and many a belted knight,
Wearers of torque and bracelet, squire and page;
And therewith many a dame, in fairer field
As potent as the lord who was her liege;
These, and the followers of their high estate
Had greeting as their worth; nor was there stint
Of welcome for the men whose honest hands,
Wearing no gloves of steel, were rough and horny,—
Poor soldiers battling with brute elements,
Whose daily conquests won no meed of praise.
These ran and wrestled; haply lost and laughed,
Giving their bodies up to merry scorn
In feats impossible; or watched the great ones
Who proved the keen delight of warlike contest,
The keenest edge of danger dulled.

The lists
Were set within a long-disusëd court;
'Twas Eurien's eye adjudged the space well levelled;
His hand assigned their places to the judges;
His spirit, fed in childhood by the tales
Of that high table-land of honour, dear
To men of Arthur's court, it was that kindled
Us all, till at his fire we too took flame,
And treading in those reverend steps, we felt
Our office priestly to some sacred rite.

No knight of Arthur's court, nay, not its head—
The ‘blameless king’—I speak it reverently—
For pure is pure and knows of no degree,—
Could own a motive freer from all stain
Of baser self, than that which urged our chief
To gather thus the chivalry of Britain
And forge in casual fellowship, firm links
To bind its limbs as in one coat of mail.

The prize our chieftain chose from out the treasures
Which time had gathered in our house of Garth,
Was one well made to shine in lady's eyes,
And be the gage of beauty and of might.
A chaplet all of orphrey, finely wrought,
The work of Roman hand, with, in its midst,
As mete to be the shield of some fair front,
A dome of sapphires, dark as midnight sky,
But lighted at its heart by one vast pearl,
Resplendent as the moon which follows harvest.
Men say the fatal beauty of this gem,—
The fairest ever found in British waters,—
Cost us our sovereignty, when, in a ring
It pass'd as love-gage from a British maiden
To one who bore it with him o'er the seas,
And made with it his boast. Its modest light,
Serene as virtue's self, meeting the eye
Of him who was the tyrant then of Rome,
Kindled the lust and greed that slept within it,
And sent him from his palaces of pride
To rifle for their pearls our sea-worn sands.

This precious token then, of his great heart
Our chieftain brought, and lifted up on high
Where all might see the prize which skill and valour
Might win for beauty. As the sapphires glowed
Around the mild, white radiance of the pearl,
The chaplet was the lure of every eye;
Knights felt their courage rise, and dames their zest
To watch the combat, quicken at the sight.

Only one lady,—she whose brow was crowned
E'en as the Roman conqueror's,—beheld it
With eyes that had the greed importunate
Of his. That one was Bronwen, whom all voices
Had lifted to the throne, set in the midst
For regal beauty. Looking on the chaplet
Her lighter crown, grew light in her esteem,
And in her breast a sullen sense of wrong
Rose up, for that her having in this jewel—
A thing she felt her own by every title,—
Should run the chances of a warlike game,
Or mere caprice of knightly courtesy.

On the one side our knights of Snowdon fought,
Led by Garth's golden eagle, on the other
The stranger knights with Mowric at their head.
They strove all day, with ever-changing fortune,
And at the end, when shrilling trumpets sounded
And marshals of the court broke up the lists,
The prize was still unwon.

Then Bronwen felt
It hard to wear her smiles, and keep her cheer,
Yet only said in passing night to Eurien,—
Said to her maidens with a silvered laugh
Which just betrayed a steely edge:

‘Dear ladies
If we to-morrow would not see our knights
Betray our cause as eke they have to-day,
'Twere best we bade them seek a ruder captain.’

The taunt,—the first that ever touched the sheen
Of Eurien's honour, fell beside it harmless;
He all unwitting of the poisoned sting,
Even as a child that has no skill in danger
Doubts not the coated venom of the wasp.

The evening wore away, and half the night
In song and revel; in all forms of feasting,
And moods of mirth; but when the morrow came,
The words were few, and they were feebly heard
For clank of arms and hoofs, for champ of bits,
And neigh of chargers, eager as their lords
To prove their mettle. Pennons waved i' the wind,
The lists were cleared, the judges set, the marshals
And broidered heralds glowing in their places;
The ladies shining with a softer radiance,
All but one star who led the galaxy,
Proud Bron wen, she who, girded in her robe
Of gold and grain, that changed to dusky green,
With shining bars of black that with each motion
Of the fair shape within, broke into waves
Which trembled on the beauty that they lapped,—
Seemed to an eye whence years had filched the fire,
A snake-like, burnished creature of the dust.

Then Eurien raised again, high on the staff
Within the ken of all, the costly prize
As yet unwon; and laughing lips declared
The pearl had grown in darkness of the night.

They strove from morn till noon, as yesterday,
While Fortune seemed to mock each side in turn,—

Freakish as were the glimpses of the sun,
Which shot at us betwixt the travelling clouds.
An hour for baiting man and horse scarce taken
At noon, the thunder of the charge set in,
The lightning of the clashing steel flashed forth
Anew. The bray of trumpets stirred the spirits,
And knight and charger, hard to be restrained
Stood trembling in the ranks on either side
Waiting the signal. Eurien's eye was burning,
His brow flushed, even to the shores whence set
The wavelets of his yellow hair, his voice
Cheering his knights of Snowdon when the thrust
Of lance, or stroke of sword went fully home,
Rung o'er the warlike din reverberate,
And set his horse curvetting, flinging foam
From the champed bit, from his red nostril smoke,
And glare of baffled courage from his eye.
For Eurien's hand that moved not, yet was closed
So hard upon the reins, his glove of steel,
Pressed deep into his flesh, the while he held
His charger back, himself aloof from praise,—
That meed too wildly coveted, which else
Too lightly he had won, and paid too dear.

I grew impatient then as Eurien's horse,
Irate as Eurien's wife, when suddenly
The chafing beast set free, rushed like a greyhound
Loosed from the slips, and with his weight impetuous
Staggered in mid career the heavy onslaught
Of a grim knight, about to charge on Wythan,
Ere yet his hands were freed, the overthrow
Of a sworn freer. Our chieftain's fiery valour
Made silence for a moment round the twain;
Sparks flashed from targe and helm as though his strokes
Were wrought upon an anvil; so he kept
The knight at bay till Wythan claimed his own.

Then from the watchful throng of stranger knights
Rode one whose subtle tongue gained him the ear
Of Mowric, one who knew full well the weight
Of Eurien's thrust, but thought to tempt his stars
This day which seemed propitious. In his eye
There lurked such hatred as hard lessons leave
In churlish minds. They met, and with the fortune
Iölyn—so men call him—should have known.
Our chieftain's hand, grown hot upon the work,
And somewhat feverish from its long constraint,
Splintered the braggart's lance in the first charge,
And ere his seat was righted, struck the crest
Sheer from his helm; which, falling to the ground,
Was trodden by the horses as in scorn.

At this there rose from out a group of pages
The tinkle of light laughter, led by Poplet,—
Here with his stranger lord,—and soon repressed,
But urging first Iölyn's wrath to fury.

Charge upon charge they met, our chieftain holding
His own;—'twas hard for him to win and hold
No more, and so angry were the eyes that glared
From out the plated steel, so rude the hand
Aiming to reach his face, which in fine scorn
Of that he deemed too fair, he ever left
Unguarded, e'en in deadliest heat of war.
When Eurien bore his foe to earth unhorsed,
He lighted down beside him, and the twain
Fought hand to hand, which while the quickset hedge
Of eyes that watched the lists grew fixed and fierce.
Our chieftain's cunning hand prolonged the game,
And dallied with his mad opponent, warding,
Or dealing cut and thrust with such nice sense
Of weight, as one well-skilled upon the harp
Might use in playing it, yet from its strings
Shake out the inmost tone that spared their life.

But when at last the knight lay, back to earth,
His vain heart panting heavily beneath
The bended knee descending on its throbs,
Then Eurien caught that baleful gleam of malice
Hot from the eyes of Mowric's trusted servant,
And swift as light, he loosed his hold, and leaving
His sword within Iölyn's struggling hand,
Sprung back, and fell before him, as if smitten
With sudden blow or pang; whereon Iölyn
Rose up astonished to astonished eyes,
Waving a sword above a prostrate body,—
A victor in the long unequal strife.

My eyes were blind with rage, I only heard
A shout go up to hail the victor's triumph,—
That triumph which my chieftain's heart disdained,
Or, not disdaining, threw away, as one
Who trims his vessel for some mighty storm,
May throw vain splendours to the howling waves
Whereon dark Moel-Hebog answered back,
As ever to all words proclaimed at Garth,
And seemed to shake its sides with giant laughter.

Then Eurien, he too rose, but faint and giddy,
Striking his foot upon the earth, to feel
After the ebbing strength which one dire moment
Had overthrown; then went, a luckless knight,—
He, golden Eurien,—on his way, and bent
Lowly before the ladies with sad eyes,
And parted silent lips, and came to Bronwen
And whispered her:

‘Wife, you as I, your knight,
Will joy to lose some barren show of honour
Laying it down in tribute to the cause
We live for.’

Then he stood beside her pale
As lead, with on his brow the clustering curls
Like draggled sheaves the hail had beaten down
Dank, clinging in the sweat of that ere now
Untasted anguish; but her gaze was set
Above his head, hard on the pearl within
The sapphire dome, which seemed to loom more large
From further distance. Then with drooping glance
She swept his pallid face, which forthwith reddened
As if beneath a blow, and turned her own
With all its smiles and favour, and the light—
If light could live within her darkened eyes—
Full on Iölyn.

Then my chieftain, you
Who were to me as son, ay, son and father,
Son, for you were the branch whereon my hopes
Were sheathed, and father that I owed you more than life,—
I could at this have seized my harp, and sung,
And sung tempestuously your foregone praise,
Breaking my vow of silence; but I laid
Mine unsung song, as you your unwon crown,
Low on that altar where our best was due.

And other some there were whose eyes were used
To glance from you, as birds of twilight spare
To meet the sun in face, who unabashed
Now eyed your brow unfilleted, though touched
With such a grace as mocked the victor's crown,
And would have made my words, though they had burst
In passion's finest frenzy from my lips,
No better than a goblet's empty ring.

Some scorn there was, and some disdainful pity
In that long gaze of Eurien which sounded
The shallow soul with which his own was mated:
The soul of that wise woman who knew glory
Only by name, and would have looked askance
At Jesu's crown of thorn,—accounting it
No better than a badge of common shame.

There be some women, women woman-hearted,
Whose hearts had died, slow withering, in the blight
Of gaze so piteous, and of such proud pity;
For her, she only reared her head, and raised
Her hand to settle in its place, her poor
Vain crown of beauty which had bowed to meet
The helm of that false victor; and with smiles
Still lingering when their duty had been done,
Gazed loftily around in low content.

Then Eurien put the bitter thoughts aside
With the sweet mead in the untasted cup
A hand had lifted to his saddle-bow,
And threaded with his glance the moving crowd
If haply he might find the fiery beard,
The blood-charged eyes, straight brows, and mighty chest
Crossed by the braceletted long arms of Cynorac.
For he, too, had been bidden to the feast
And tourney, by the hand which bore from Eurien
His present of the ewes; he was not there,
The friendly bidding seemingly was scorned,
The hind detained;—but that was yet to see.

And knight still challenged knight, as the fierce game
Raged on; but I had seen too much, and wearied
To get above the din; so set my face
And toiling steps to reach the mountain's brow.

Grey towers of Garth-y-Gwin that showed so fair
From thence! Old eyrie of our chieftain's race,—
A race of eaglets who had seen the world
Beneath their feet for ages, but had scorned
To brush the dust or mire from off fat plains,
And left them to the velvet clutch of owls.
There looking down upon the plumes that flashed
And whirled about us borne upon the wind,
Seeing the streaming, blood-red flags, and housings
Torn and bestrewing with their crimson shreds
The ground from which the dust went up like smoke,
Methought that ancient eyrie seemed to-day
The scene of some dread battle of the birds.
And from the dust, and through the rarer air,
The sound of ringing hoofs, the heavy thud
Of meeting bodies, and the clash of steel,
With cries and shouts or groans of partisans,
Came mingled with the bray of the big words
By heralds trumpeted,—whose meaning often
The syllables that dropped upon the way
Made mock of,—and got tangled in my thoughts
With sports of other days, and dead bright eyes,
And softened with the tuneful toil of bees
At work to plenish Bronwen's winter stores
With honey from the fading heather blooms,
And guarded gorse, whose flower like human love
Knows nought of seasons, or defies their rigour.
Then suddenly above the droning bees
And murmurous past, there rose a cheer wherein
The youthful ring of Wythan's voice was clearest;
So knew I that our gallant knights of Snowdon
Had guarded well the treasure of our house,
And that our pearl remained the pride of Garth.

I hastened down the mountain; from our beeches
The squirrels had been scared, but silently,
Coming from time to time I saw not whence,
To vanish like a guilty, furtive thing,
There wheeled a bird with dusk, broad pinions spread,
And burning eyes fixed keenly on the crowd
Whose voices took a harsher edge, as thirst
Was fired with deeper draughts.

Alas, the bustards,
And very carrion crows had come to know
The bloody lapses of our Cymric sport.

Yet still the horns went round, and still the laugh
Grew wilder, when not quelled by deep-voiced oaths,—

Retorts of charges fierce or querulous;
Till Eurien, troubled at the rising tumult,
Took from a page's hand a brimming beaker,
And riding to the midst, he poured it forth
On the hot stones wherefrom it rose in steam,
And lifting clear above the muddy waves
Of sound, the matchless music of his voice,
He, singing as it were unto himself,
Rid slowly through the court; the song he sung
Was Bard Aneurin's song of Cateraeth,—
That battle lost to Britons through the bees;—
He sung, and silence grew about his steps,
And the sad echoes whispered the refrain:
‘Pale mead, that was their drink, became their poison!’

Then many a fevered hand that late had vexed
A charger's fretted mouth, or clutched a weapon
In grip too deadly, closed in fellowship
As sudden as its owner's foregone ire;
And many an eye that had been stern with doubt
Grew soft beneath a mist which seemed to rise
As from the common tears of a doomed race.

Ere long the lists were closed; the heralds sounded
The signal that the busy day was done;
And fluttering lawn, and silk of many dies,
Enwoven in new waves of harmony,
Past from the galleries, and left them bare
Of beauty; while the mail-clad knights and squires
Heavily lounging on their weary steeds,
Besieged the issues of the court, in haste
To be refreshed with change of suit, and rest.

Then when the last armed tread that sought a place
Within the castle walls, had died away,
And waiting varlets leading to their stalls
The slow paced chargers, left the court to silence,
There rose through the thin air, and rose so high
It might have been a message for the moon,
The hymn that told how in the granaries
Of Garth, the harvest of the year was housed.

And suddenly the castle grew alive
With faces ruddy in the evening light,
Brightening each outlet, and with hands that waved
Kerchiefs at loop and lancet, and with lungs
That helped the note of triumph; then the voices
Died out, and silence to my sense became
As audible in the air that was a-quiver
With chirp of crickets in the tawny grass,
Or steadied for a moment by a gush
Of greeting from some late-returning bird,
Or cooled and sweetened with the plash of water,
Or babble of young voices 'neath the beeches,
That, in the overflowing of our halls,
Became the tiring-room of page and squire.

Bright over all the quaint shows of the feast
Had slanted, when the guests were marshalled first,
The low red sun, whose fiery oriflamme,—
Like a false herald setting gules on gules,—
Struck upon Ruval's beard, which thus beset,
Gave back so bold a challenge to the eye,
That Eurien rising up in joyful welcome,
Had half let fall the name of ‘Cynorac!’
Ere Ruval's friendly glance spoke him denial.

And they on whom the parting sun had shone
Sate on when shadows deepened on the daïs,
And knights and dames grew pale betwixt two lights,
While the spent beams still brushed familiarly,
As with a farewell token, the flushed cheek
Of harvestman or maid; and still sate on,
Laughing a little lower it may be,
And drinking somewhat deeper, when the sad
Last ashen pallor told the death of day.
Then argent beams from the triumphant moon
Prevailed through door and oriel, and were met
By fitful glare of torches; and they sate,
Sate still and feasted, sate and laughed and sung,
And sung and quaffed, and wore the night away.
When my wreathed harp at Eurien's later bidding
Was brought to me, I took it tenderly,
And held awhile ere passing it to Wythan;
Yet as it left my grasp, a sigh broke forth
Responsive to a touch, and all my being
Was shaken as a lover's, who expecting
No boon of love, unwittingly has come
In casual contact with his lady's hand.
Then the youth took my harp and woke its chords
What while I listened, trembling and half wroth
That this mine harp should answer any call
But that which left it still to silent shame.
He touched it softly, and it liked me well
To hear how mournful a return it made;
And then he sang, a song of little mirth,
For which his tuneful voice won willing hearing.

I spur all day from dawn till dark,
I follow a phantom pale,
And often I outrise the lark,
Out-watch the nightingale;
But whether I lie by a cool sweet spring,
Or ride on a burning quest,
A voice in mine ear still murmuring,
Forbears me of my rest.
She haunts the sunshine, haunts the shade,
The mountain, and the stream,
And I know not whether she be a maid,
Or only a young man's dream;
But my soul grows white in her lovely light,
And my life so richly blest,—
God wot if it better becomes a knight
To possess or be possest.

A silence fell, the while from hand to hand
My harp was past, still past, abiding nowhere,
Till Ruval seized it in a grasp familiar,
And rose and smiled a truce to knights and dames,
The temper of whose mirth had met rebuff;
Then set his face to where the harvest folk—
Sunk in the silence of their grave repletion,—
Bent open-eyed and eared, haply to pick
From lordly droppings crumbs of lighter cheer.
A timelier song than Wythan's, Ruval's woke
A heartier echo; one of unknown love
Had sung in unknown tongue; the other told
A tale of cut and thrust, and wisely spake
In harvest-time of harvest. This his lay.

The table of the earth was spread,
Her sheaves were all a-glow,
The sun was laughing overhead,
The reapers wrought below;
All of a row those reapers ten
Had stood since dewy morn,
And bowed the head, ten brawny men,
Above the bended corn.
The table of the earth was spread,
And jocund was the feast,
For man there was good store of bread,
Of fodder for the beast;
At noon those merry reapers ten
Past round the foaming horn,
And laughed and quaffed, brown bearded men,
Among the bearded corn.
The table of the earth is spread,
The corn-crake gleans the floor,
The lark falls silent as the dead,
The laugh rings out no more;
And side by side those reapers ten,
Upon the field new-shorn,
Fall drowned in sleep, ten drowsy men,
Like poppies in the corn.
The mountain herds have ceased to graze,
Still fall the forest leaves,
But sudden motion bends and sways
A dozen golden sheaves;
And forth there step twelve armëd men,
Of Saxon mothers born;
Now God protect those reapers ten
Asleep among the corn.
The murderous Sassenachs they creep,—
Start, turn in craven fear!
A faithful dog but gives to sleep
One eye, and half an ear;
Black Mervyn wakes those reapers ten;
They rise with strength new-born,
They rise and thresh those Saxon men
Before they reap their corn.

Some voices from the topmost table caught
The tag, and sent it floating down the hall,
When tributary echoes hurried in
And made a roystering chorus.

When it ceased,
Voices of speech, not song, rose at the door;
One voice in hoarse complaint of barred admittance,
Striving and beaten back by the harsh tones
Of Rhun, our warder, grating as his keys,
And by the shrill and chirping insolence
Of pages, prodigal of borrowed power.

Then Eurien, whose glance had turned as often
As any shadow played about the portal,
Rose up, and stood with eager face attentive,
Flushed with a generous hope, and looking welcome.
I rose with Eurien, sharing Eurien's hope;
My portion died that moment it was born;
The lady Bronwen, seated by our chief,
And toying with her bracelet, looked athwart him,
Threading through interposing shapes of men
And chattels, till her gaze which was as fine
As sharpest needle-point, had seemed to prick
The wolfish hide of Weroc; for he turned
And met it; whereupon a sudden spark
Flashed from the contact, as when steel meets flint.

Then knew I that nor peace nor truce with Cynorac
Would come to crown our festival this day.

Our chieftain, in whose breast the hope had died
Less violently, raised his voice, and quelled
The tumult; then, with favour of his guests,
Forbade that any having claim on him,—
Seeking for council or redress from wrong,—
Should, feast or fast-day, be denied his face.

So from the open door the underlings
Fell back, and straight from out the silver night
The moonbeams seemed to swim into the hall,
Borne on the stooping shoulders of a hind,
And caught upon the fleecy carcases
Of two fair mountain sheep with blood besprinkled,
Slaughtered by hands unskilled, tied by their tails,
And rudely spiked upon an up-turned harrow,
Whereto the bearer of our chieftain's gift
To Cynorac, like a beast of draught, was yoked.

A silence fell upon our feast; the guests
Both high and low, the haughty, loud, or dull,
Where hushed in sudden brotherhood of shame.

Wythan and Ruval, Caradoc and Gryffyth,
Sprung to their feet; we Cymri, we are quick,
Ay, quick to know and feel, and rash to act;
A word or look from Eurien had sent them
Panting o'er narrow mountain paths, with swords
Drawn ready for the thrust which should have found
Their sheaths ere dawn in Cynorac's churlish heart.

But Eurien on whose brow one while had glowed
A spot as if a burn had left its wheal,
Now showed a face grown cold, and stern, and white,—
Oh, whiter than the moonlight which it seemed
Had clomb to reach it as its highest mark,—
Eurien stood still, and gave no sign for action,
Nay, seemed to tame their choler with his hand
The while he struggled with his own, or took
Counsel with knighthood how it best might strike.

Then we who knew our chieftain's wont in wrath,
How quick to break its bounds, and to run over,—
As might a three parts plenished cup,—in foam,
Saw in this sullen continence of ire,
This stedfastness of muscle and of mien,
This wary handling of the draught full-charged,
The token of its deadlier quality.

And I, who knew that poison had been dropped
Into his wholesome blood by one whose part
Had been yet more to sweeten it, had nought
To urge but words which would have murdered peace
And so I swallowed them with silent curses.

And Bronwen, ever plucking at her bracelet,
Sent furtive glances out to glean the news,
Now here, now there about the hall, which keeping
Below the mark of Eurien's eyes, one moment
Encountered mine; whereon with a slow smile,
Secure in insolence of conquering cunning,
She sent them back their challenge.

All this while
The groaning shepherd, who had dragged his burthen
To Eurien's feet, and fallen prone before him,
Like an o'erladen beast, was lifting up
His voice in lamentation of his hurts,
His bruises, weariness, and stripes withal.
And Eurien then, in whom the tide of life
Began again to flow in wonted channels,
Took from the board a weighty silver goblet,
And filled it to the brim with generous wine,
Then gave it to the hind, and bade him quell
His overflowing sighs and words therewith.

Then Eurien: ‘We as yet but guess this riddle,
Which savours of the mood of Cynorac;
If he hath pointed his blunt wit with words,
Or sent a key to help our own, speak out;
Spare us the need to give it edge, or force it!’

So urged the varlet spoke, and truly spoke
All he might truly know; told how he came,
Bearer of Eurien's present of the sheep,
And Eurien's words of open heart, and told
How Cynorac had scoffed at both, but most
At Eurien's friendly bidding to the feast.
Then proud to think his tongue had found the way
To ears be-dulled for him by golden torques,
The fool spun o'er and o'er, and round and round
The taunting words of Cynorac; mumbling still:
‘'I marvel not,'—his very words my liege—
Lord Eurien seeks to have me eat his salt;
Your salt when eaten by a lusty foe
Is a rare physic for an ailing liver.'
'An ailing liver,' quotha; sooth, my lord,
I mind his words, for there is rank offence
In such for one who hath the wit to take it.
And then he fell a-foul o' the poor sheep,
Saying he had no mind to them, and swearing
That else he had been bold to help himself,
And waited no man's bidding; then he up
And slew them—not in such wise as becomes
A man to slaughter beasts, but vengefully,
Vilely, as if the creatures had been men.
Which done he bad his people dig a trench
And haul them in; and, quotha, with a laugh,
'Go tell your lord his beasts had Christian burial!'
But ere his knaves had settled to their work,
He changed his mind, and where I trembling stood,
Commanded they should seize and harness me,
Yoking me to the harrow and these twain
As one might tie a clout behind a dog;
And then the gang with curses and with blows
Set on to drive me up the pass, and Cynorac
Before I started shouted:

'Tell your lord
To cook his sheep and serve them at his feast;
I'll warrant them the tenderer for their trip.
And haply,' quotha, 'he will send thee back,
So full of gentleness he late hath grown,
With thanks that I have made myself his butcher!'
So with fierce laughter, and still fiercer cudgels
Behind me, over hill and dale I come,
And fall a bag of bruises at your foot
With scarce the breath to bear his scurvy message.’

This while, like horses scenting from afar
The battle, our bold knights and squires, were fretting
And chafing in their places, barely held
By courtesy from rising in a troop;
And many a muttered oath and wrathful gesture
Had broken on this speech. But one there was
Who, bending to the tale an ear attent,
Smiled as a ‘Maker’ smiles, hearing his ode
Rehearsed to chosen audience; it was Weroc,
Whose damnëd leer betrayed the artist's joy!

Then Eurien, who now held his mood in hand,
And tamed it with some pride in its subjection,
Commanded that the hind should straight be freed,
Set on his feet, have all meet tendance given
To his complaints; and when he rendered back
The cup, our chieftain filled it yet again,
And bade him bear it with him as his pay;
‘Sell it for salve,’ he said, ‘to heal thy sores.’
Which done he prayed the pardon of his guests
That note so rude had come to mar their music;
Bidding fair ladies call the flying colours
Back to their cheeks, and not betray the cause
Of joy and peace whereto they all had met.
And then he ordered forth the deep blue Hîrlas,
And bending low to Mowric, drained the whole;
Then sent it on its course a-down the board,
And turned to Bronwen, laughing, rallying her,
That she, his wife, a mountain chieftain's dame,
Who should ere this be free of their wild hills,
And all the sudden changes of their skies,
Should own her spirits dashed because, forsooth,
The summery breath sent forth by him, returned
In the rough hail of a tempestuous joke.
Then Bronwen looked a moment in his face,
And triumph deepened on her own, as smiling
She strove with him to set once more adrift
The stagnant talk, and call back vanished mirth
To ring its merry changes in their words.
So singly, cautiously, as huts are seen
To rise upon a mountain's blackened side,
Which fire, that may return ere long, hath swept
Bare of all life, came at our chief's command,
The word, the laugh, the jest, but empty all,—
Mere habitations of our scattered spirits.
Our chieftain in a voice that had too much
The ring of steel in every note of it,
Called on his guests to drink and sing; they drank,
But song was scared; they drank, but did not sing.

Then at a sign from Bronwen, Dafyth's harp
Leapt with a shriek as of a mountebank
That tumbles at a fair, into our midst;
And all the jarring elements at strife
Within the hall,—the smouldering rage pent up,
The smiling treachery, the hollow mirth,
The tongue-tied honesty, the baffled hope,
Seemed to commingle in a hurricane
Of ribald sound, wherein at last the note
Of a base triumph, a lewd merriment,
Wanton, exultant, dominated all.

Well for the varlet that his throat was hoarse,
His mind as barren of all thought, but greed,
And sympathy with cunning, as the owl's;
Had his low triumph taken voice in words,
There haply had been found a hand to turn
A key upon them; tho' the lock were death.

But peace; the tongues were loosed again, the voices,
In high dispute with Dafyth's demon harp,
Rose as it rose, commingling in the strife,
And shapes of knights and ladies on the daïs—
Swayed to and fro with running talk—were glowing
With ruddy fire of torches, while the beams
Of the white moon surged up to them, and made
Our hall, which was the battle-plain of thoughts
And sounds discordant, to my vision seem,
The meeting-place of light from heaven and hell.

Then straight on me, Glân-Alarch, came the mood
Wherein God's secrets open to my spirit;
Wherein I see within, beyond mine eyes;
Wherein the cries of meeting matter leave
My ears impervious, while the immanent life
Which burgeons in the buds of spring, which rises
And swells within the wheat, which bursts in blessing
From ripened fruits, and breaks in rhapsody
Of perfect love from love-made-perfect flowers,
Flows into me, holds converse with my soul,
Reveals me to myself but as the glass
Wherein God's thoughts grow visible, the harp
His breathings trouble into melting music;
Then haply leaves me as the gleam goes by
Some seed of light for pregnant thought to clothe
In images of sense, which then I make
To serve his need for whom I hold my life.

So, with the twanging of the harp, and voices
Still mutinous about me, there dropped down
Betwixt us, as the curtains of a tent
Which shut them from my view; and I sate still,—
Still in their midst as in an isle of silence,—
While shapes of unrelated men and women
Grew to be hollow outlines, ere they vanished
As phantoms wholly, leaving me alone
With Eurien, and with Bronwen, and one other
Who came among us,—nay, how there I asked not,
Borne on a wave of moonlight as it seemed,—
And stood inclined towards us, with her arms
At rest upon the board, her face uplifted
Gazing in Eurien's eyes that saw her not,
With love and pity at their highest flood,
Drowning her own.

Then knew I she was come
God-sent to speed the battle for a soul
Against the powers of Cythraul, and my heart
Grew pure of hate and fear in looking on her—
God's minister, free of the gate of death,
God's maiden soldier, who was panoplied
In purity alone, bearing no weapon
Saving her tempered sword of virgin love.

And Eurien, for whose eyes the vision was not,
Spoke with the phantom shapes on either hand;
But under cover of this shadowy talk
I saw his spirit labouring to work
Its own confusion; saw the beckoning hand
Wherewith he summoned Wythan; heard the words
Of deadly meaning leave his guarded lips,
And knew that vengeance which a year agone
Was buried in our lost one's unknown grave,
Was now conjured to rise, a shapeless horror,
A foam-crowned wave of evil, in whose downdraught
Our Cymri would be drawn the way of doom.

Our chieftain watched his message take its round,
And met its silent answer with his eyes,
As each of his fierce followers in turn
Possessed his mind.

And all this while it stood,—
The heavenly vision of our vanished Mona,—

With looks meseemed of all too-human sorrow
For one who was a visitor to earth
From Gwynfyd, sphere of utter joy in love.

And still for him she was, and yet was not,
As there he sate unwitting, with the arm
Of Bronwen interlacing his,—a staple
Locked firmly by her clasping hands,—the while
Her radiant brow, her smile, her bold bright eyes,
And breast whereon the jewels heaved and fell
With each exulting breath, proclaimed him hers,
All hers,—the bondman of her earth-born beauty.

And then I saw not whence it came, but felt
That Modwyth brushed my arm in passing near;
And lo, on Bronwen's breast there lay a blossom,—
Her infant's tender head; and as the rose
Shows tenfold fair companioned by the bud,
So Bronwen's beauty brightened as she sate,
Until it seemed to burn the eyes of men,
And voices multitudinous arose
And terrified the vision;—that I knew
The guests were all a-foot, their goblets ringing,
Their voices pitched together in acclaim
Of Eurien's beauteous wife, and Eurien's heir.

When all were sat again I sought the place
Of the white soul of Mona. It was gone.

And Eurien's glances, caught upon the tide
Of others' eyes, as is the wont of men,
Fell vanquished upon Bronwen, and he bent
And plucked from off the board some woven ears
Of wheat, and drowsy poppy blooms, with hearts
Black as from burning; so he crowned her triumph,
And taking Dafyth's harp within his hand,
Stood over her and sung. This was his lay:—

Mountain rose single and sweet,
Beaten upon by the wind and the rain,
Far from the passage of dainty feet,
Shedding thy perfume as treasure in vain;
Spreading a feast for the good of the bees,
Coining your heart into golden grain
For the murmuring guest and the wandering breeze
To speed or to scatter in dull disdain;—
Hard, fruitful life, pale mountain rose,
Whose seed through the ages grows, still grows.’

Rose of the valley, costly fair,—
A cup fulfilled with its own delight,—
Doubly closed from the eager air,
From the busy day, and the vulgar sight;
Plucked for my lady's peerless breast,
To perish upon it or ever at night
She draws it forth from its balmëd rest,—
Its winding-sheet so blinding white;
Soft, fruitless life, fair double rose,
Dead in thy passion's barren throes!
O single flower, whose lip uncurled
Sets free the virtues of its heart,
Whose riches are for all the world,
Whose beauty doth itself dispart,—
Say, canst thou make a home for joy
Secure as that which subtlest art
Hath folded in,—so deep, so coy,—
A maze that hath nor clue nor chart?
Say fruitful life, say single rose,
Whose seed through the ages grows, still—’

He paused upon a note; the broken stave,
Crushed by his fingers on the harp, died out
In a grieved sigh, and golden Eurien stood
Rapt, silent, motionless, an ivory image
With harp in hand, and gleaming hair spread out
In quivering rays; an image as of one
Caught in a sudden ecstasy of awe.
And I, Glân-Alarch followed with mine eyes
His gaze, and in the ghostly, sheeted moonbeams
Gleaming without the oriel, they alighted
Upon that same white spirit which late had looked
On Eurien from the table,—Mona's spirit,—
The sad, wide eyes o'ercharged with love and tears
Seeming to let their treasure overflow
And glorify her face, baptising it
With sorrow touched with purest light of heaven.

Even as I looked, the vision failed once more,
Dropped, and was quenched as drops and dies a spark,
And Eurien when I sought him in his place,
Had vanished too, the harp of Dafyth lying
Broken upon the floor, and Bronwen sitting
Pale and undone beneath her conqueror's crown,
The infant wailing at her breast unheeded,
Its tendril fingers and soft flexile lips
Seeking to reach the fount of motherhood,
Clinging by turns, and spurning at the gems,—
The hard bright stones that mocked its baffled quest.

Then I too rose and followed Eurien forth
Into the night; I knew that he had gone
To seek that guiding spirit, to hold speech
And question with it, if such thing might be.

The court, but only for the sounds that welled
From out the hall, was silent as a corpse
Beneath its sheet of moonlight; the black shadows
Immovable as mutes and funeral trappings
About its bastioned walls. He was not there.
And then I looked where white, with rifts of shadow,
The mighty flanks of Moel-Wythfa rose
And fell,—a waste of all incertitudes;
Then swept the spaces north and south and west,
With glances far and near; alike in vain;
Till from the hall the parting guests swarmed out
In murmurous companies, which took their way
Over the hills and valleys here and there
And sent a stir of life through the dead world.

I waited through the still small hours of night,
And waited when the hours yet small, were still
No longer; when the wind that churned the sea
And skimmed the waves blew salt upon my lips,
Sent a wild host of clouds disorderly
Over the setting moon's serener state,
And bore aloft the loosened bramble leaves;
Or hunted as a hound with nose to earth
Forcing the secrets of the silent sod,
And, getting scent of them, threw a shrill note
Keen through the night, and sped upon its way.

Then overhead the windy current paused;
Crag-Eyrie was besmeared, a vapoury blot,
Black on the luminous veil that wrapped the moon,
While still the unchained winds hunted the ground
Which seemed to find a voice and answer back.

I waited restless, trembling; less in fear
Than expectation; something pitched too high
For the worn instrument so wrought upon.
For Eurien,—the powers of light were with him,
But who should say what sloughs, what gulfs, what darkness,
Might lie upon the way which they should lead him?
That consummation which in human speech
We falsely call the ‘end,’ would be, was, well;
But the Time-spirit bore upon me hard,
And shook me as the wind the loosened leaves.

Then came the sound—oh, welcome on the mountains!—
Of Eurien's steps; and through the rifted clouds
The stars looked down, and let me see his face.
'Twas Eurien, and not Eurien; a change
Had past upon him;—nay, it was all Eurien,—
And I had never seen him all till now.

He spoke and low, but with a voice which seemed
To ring against the starry floor of heaven
And thence return to overflow mine ear:

‘She lives, Glân-Alarch; I have looked on her,
Have heard her voice; she lives for Wales and me;
Love will not let her spirit free of us,—
Death cannot hold her,—love has conquered it!’

He ceased to speak, and I, the elder seer,
Waited his mood in silence. Then he turned,
Facing the castle:

‘There I saw her stand,
When at the feast, where I had lost myself,
She found me with her eyes. Glân-Alarch mine,
How knew you that the dead could speak to us?
My eyes, my ears, are open now as yours.’

I said ‘My son, they speak to awful purpose.’

Then he: ‘She lives, and I,—if I live too,
Who should have perished in the cloud which made
Crag Eyrie one black sea of yawning graves,—
I live to do her bidding.’

‘I had past
Beyond that Clogwyn, whither my spirit bore me
In quest of her who had been rapt away,
Lost while my soul seemed fastened upon hers,
When the cloud came,—she in it, though I wist not;
It came, it compassed me, a sable wall;
Then but for her, each step had been a step
Towards death; for the fierce winds arose, and drove me,
A vessel tost amongst the unseen rocks
And eddies, that I bade farewell to life;
When at my side a voice from out the darkness
Whispered me softly:

'Follow, Eurien, follow!'
And I did follow blindly where she led,
For it was Mona's voice, and Mona's heart
Beating so near mine own I seemed to hear it;
But no, believe me not,—that could not be,
The vision had no part in that; that was
The heightened life, and double beat of mine.

‘And still that voice before me seemed to rise
From out the ground where step by step my foot
Met the hard rock; still 'Eurien, follow, Eurien!'
And still I followed, walking as she led me,
Walking I knew not whither,—if to death
Or to some end of life yet hid from me;
Till following, and still following her, the cloud
Grew lighter as I reached its burnished edge,
And then I knew that hanging on that voice
Through a black hour of peril, I had past
Safely the awful ridge of Crib-y-dysgull;
And so, in growing light, I followed still
The voice now faint, and fainter, till the breeze
Which bore it to me, almost seemed to claim it;
And now from off the vale it floated back,
Still 'Follow, Eurien, follow,' till I came
Well nigh to Garth, and then the words were changed:
'Teudric and Tintern' was the burthen now
Laid on my heart, until the voice was gone,
Expiring on the road which leads to them.’

‘Teudric and Tintern;’ I had caught these words
On Eurien's lips before; for as I think
They long had been the watchwords of true thoughts
Which strove to win a way to outer act.

‘Behold, Glân-Alarch, these my hands, ere now
They had been still for kites and earns to play with
And part the fingers; if I hold them thus,
It is that they were spared for stouter work
Than to chastise a nettle that hath stung us
Who grapple in a serpent's deadly folds.
No, by my faith, they shall not let the blood
Of Cymri forth to smell in Cymric nostrils
And move the beast in Cymric hearts to ravin.
If now I live, I live as one new born,
And born for Britain. No more dazed or drifted
By doubt and wrath, or stagnate in the shallows
The weak call Fate, I swear through mirk and mist
To hold the highest hope, and follow it
With will as strong as will of man may be,—
Such will being Franklin to the will of God.
The man who hath no call to lead the herd
May waken to the task the sleeping herdsman;
The stalwart arm may prompt the dreamy head;
He who is not a saving light may lift
A saving voice.’

He paused; my heart was so
At one with him, I knew not if I spoke,
But he it was who said:

‘The light now waxeth;
It may be, as it spreads, that we no more
Shall see it shining as a star apart
In men who are as gods upon the earth;
That in the growing manhood of the world
Each one shall be a candle to himself;
That Teudric, whose great heart hath all but 'scaped
The flesh that lies so light on it, and Eurien,
And Mowric, and no better men, shall be
The kings of battle in the days to come;—
Not such as Arthur fresh from Avalon,
Nor any with God's seal upon their brows.
Wherefore, Glân-Alarch, such as here I stand,
I throw myself with every hope of life,
Name, fame, joy, pride, all, keeping nothing back,
Into that cause all will too poorly serve.’

So Eurien, who had laid his vengeance once
On Mona's grave, whence evil hands had plucked it,
Now cast it from his path in quiet scorn,
To free the way whereto her voice had called him.

Then Modwyth, dim and dubious as the dawn
Now trembling in the east, drew near to us,
And Eurien, knowing that the woman's love
Was great beyond the joy she had of it,
Feared not to show her all his heart and purpose.
Whereon we crept like thieves, feeling our way
Through the thick sleeping shadows of the hall,
Each to his silent chamber, and his thoughts.

When Eurien laid his body down to rest,
Though wandering still in spirit up and down
That cloudy pass of death wherefrom a thread
Of silvery sound had saved him, by his side,
Robed in the unmoved majesty of sleep,
A dreamless nursing mother lay Bronwen.

With morning light there came a word to Garth,—
A word that had been blown from lip to lip,—
Whose airy passage left no trace,—a word
That walked in darkness e'en as pestilence,
A word that stole, and burst like wind or fire
Upon that foregone state which now we called
Our peace; the word was one we knew too well;
War was the word, and war must be the answer.

The Saxon foe had waited not our onslaught;
They of the West were marching on the Severn,
To hurl defiance at its guardian arm
And foul its virgin bosom with the tread
Of their marauding hordes; to cross our threshold
And dare us with our backs against our mountains,
Our feet upon the soil wherein our hearts
Were rooted. Such the wandering word that found us,
And found us ready, ready to an hour,
With a young hope new-born to meet the call.

A hasty council had been held at dawn
With Mowric, and the chiefs the towers of Garth
Had guarded through the night; and Eurien's voice
Had rung with sound of such deep heart and true,
As set all others ringing in accord.

‘Teudric the Holy’ was the word of hope
Whose way our chieftain won to every heart.
While yet the day was young, our lingering guests
Left hurriedly; it had been younger still
When I and Modwyth, Bronwen and the babe—
His soft cheek flushed with Eurien's parting kiss—
Watched a dim figure winding down the slope,—
A solitary shape, in palmer's weed,
The hooded head close shorn from chin to crown,—
And knew that deep beneath that hood there lay
A tongue whose silvery matin chime would wake
The hermit of the Wye—our royal Teudric,—

If lusty limbs and supple wit, might shear
A path for it through hordes of gathering Saxons.

Eurien, his costly life within his hand,
Was gone to call our saint from silent prayer
To hear God's answer in the tongue of war,—
To raise in view of our distracted Cymri
A flag of happy omen, which should draw them
From the vain shallows of divided aims,
To the broad ocean where the breath of God
Wafts men and peoples on life's grand highways.

But Bronwen smote her hand upon the stone
Whereon she leaned, and lifted angry eyes:

‘Thus have we come to see a king of Snowdon
Steal from his gates,—the eagle grown an owl,—
And following on a guest as bare of honour
As the shorn head is of its golden wealth.’

No word had I to spare, for thought of Modwyth,
Whose farewell blessing, ringing hard as steel,
Had shaken her, that now she leaned her arm
On mine in sudden quailing as she said:
‘That face beneath the hood was e'en as Gwynion's;
God grant it be not gone from me as hers!’

And true it was that Eurien's beardless lip
Had changes swift and sweet as his dead sister's.

Then both to her and Bronwen and my heart
I answered:

‘We can never see him greater;
His hand was ever free to yield his goods,
But now he gives up pride and praise of men,
Showing himself thereby a son of God
Who scatters while his hirelings scrape and gather.’

We watched him till he faded in the mist
Which clomb the mountain's side as he went down it,
Following in faith the visionary words,
‘Teudric and Tintern.’ Then we turned within
And faced with our full hearts the empty house.


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