Arthur in the Ruins

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Arthur in the Ruins
written by John Masefield
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KING ARTHUR watched within the ruined town,
Debating what to do and what avoid;
No sleep was there for his tormented brain.
War lay behind; before, were war and pain,
The column of the Kingdom fallen down,
With all that he had struggled for destroyed.
For if he fought his son,
The heathen would re-win what he had won;
And if he did not . . . there it was again.

So, being heart-sick, saying "I must rest,"
He turned him to his blanket on the stones
Grass-sprouted, of a roofless temple's floor.
The sky above her bright-eyed watchers bore
Now that the youngling moon had wilted west.
Miswandered beetles fumbled out with drones.
And there a woman stood
Star-semée, with a planet in her hood,
Live with such beauty as the morning owns.

"Arthur," she said, "these many weary days
You have desired help where none has been.
To captain souls, in their intensest grief,
No comrade understanding gives relief,
Or brings that balm of the discouraged, praise:
Sweet friendship cannot come to King and Queen;
But we immortals come,
Sometimes, to help them in their martyrdom,
As sunlight comes upon the summer leaf.

You know that what I counsel will be true,
True as your inmost self at whitest heat
That touches All-Truth, and, as such, endures.
All courses that perplex men with their lures
Perplex you now with anguish, which to do.
So may the summer poppies hide the wheat.
This single thing must be:--
Battle with Modred by the western sea;
Of all man's destined courses, this is yours.

This will but seem a vision of the night
Rede-ing you falsely: let me prove it true:--
In the grey morning, as you march the Heath,
Left of the road a woman with a wreath,
Broad-browed, like me, in raiment crosst with white,
Yearning towards you there, will welcome you.
'King,' she will say, 'Go on.
Eternal glory waits in Avalon,
In Avalon the sword will find its sheath.'"

At dawn King Arthur bade the trumpets call
"Strike camp and march;" and as King Arthur rode,
Lo, by the crossways in the heathy place,
A broad-browed woman with a noble face,
Wreathed with the little toadflax from the wall,
With white-crosst garments, from the heather strode
Towards him, and declared
Those self-same words: then on King Arthur fared
West, from the downlands to the Cornish chase.

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