The Old Tale of the Begetting

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The Old Tale of the Begetting
written by John Masefield
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The men of old, who made the tale for us,
Declare that Uther begat Arthur thus:--

QUEEN YGRAIN sat in her bower
Looking from Tintagel tower.

Uther saw Ygrain the Bright,
His heart went pit-pat at the sight.

He said to Merlin, "Make her mine,
Or you'll be hog's meat for my swine."

Merlin wrought all day with pray'r,
With water, earth and fire and air.

He made a mask that had the look,
Colour and speech of Ygrain's Duke.

Uther wore it and came late
And knocked upon Tintagel gate.

He cried, with the mask's voice, "Fair Ygrain,
Open, it is your lord again."

The dogs howled and the owls cried,
But Uther came to the Queen's side.

As he climbed to the Queen's bed,
Ygrain's Duke on the moors fell dead.

* * * * *

Uther drinks and boasts at his board,
Ygrain sings for her dead lord:
"Would I were pierced through with a sword!"


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