Gwenivach Tells

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Gwenivach Tells
written by John Masefield
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I, GWENIVACH, King Modred's queen, declare
What happened next: I, Gwenivach, accurst,
Being born very little but most fair.
King Arthur marched his army into Kent
And suffered loss at first:
I said to Modred, "See, the gods prepare
Your fortunes for you; take the chances sent."

Small need had he for prompting; he arose,
He and myself and all our chosen band;
He seized the crown and governed as he chose.
The gutters reddened from our glutted hate.
Had we but laid a hand
On Gwenivere, she should have died, God knows;
But she escaped us for a bitterer fate.

Throughout we triumphed: Modred was the King,
I was the Queen, from Gelliwic to Wales.
Sir Kolgrim joined us from his pirating,
Bringing, to swell our army, all the crews
That manned his hundred sails.
Well to our side did Fortune's balance swing:
Then Fortune changed; a rider came with news.

These were the news: that, Arthur had destroyed
The heathen fleet and army and had turned
To make our treasoned usurpation void,
Marching like fire on a windy day;
That, when our subjects learned
His coming, they renounced us overjoyed.
So our red morning had an evening grey.

We saw their malice snicker in the street
In Camelot: would God we had had time
To blast their pleasure in my love's defeat;
Some of those sneerers should have had white lips,
And eyeballs seared with lime.
But Modred gave the order to retreat;
We marched to Cornwall to Sir Kolgrim's ships.

And there we waited Fate and Fortune's chance,
Camped above harbour on the windy down.
Spies brought us word of Arthur's swift advance,
Then that he halted like a man in doubt
In that burnt Roman town.
Then lurching at us like a launching lance,
He camped in hail and hung his colours out.

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