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ENID HAS BEEN married to Prince Geraint—one of Arthur's knights of the Round Table—for a year, and at court, Enid is one of Queen Guinevere's favorites. Afraid that his wife might be influenced by Guinevere's adulterous behavior, Geraint takes her away from Camelot. Once they return to his own earldom, which has become lawless in his absence, Geraint becomes so obsessed with watching over Enid that he forgets all other duties, and is ridiculed by his own subjects. Enid feels she should say something to him, but cannot. One morning, as she watches Geraint sleeping, she begins to upbraid herself for not speaking frankly to her husband. He wakes, only to hear her last words: "O me, I fear that I am no true wife." Assuming his wife has been unfaithful, he determines to "ride forth into the wilderness" accompanied by Enid, who is to put on "her worst and meanest dress" as a sign of her offense. As she prepares to leave, ignorant of what she has done wrong, Enid recalls her first meeting with Geraint.
A year earlier, while Geraint is attending the Queen at a royal hunt, they see a strange knight, accompanied by a dwarf and a lady, ride by. Curious, the Queen asks Geraint to find out his name. When the knight refuses to answer, thereby insulting Geraint and the Queen, Geraint follows him to avenge the insult. Geraint's search leads him to the ruined castle of Yniol, Enid's father, who invites Geraint to partake of his hospitality. As Yniol escorts Geraint through the courtyard,
He look'd and saw that all was ruinous.
Here stood a shattcr'd archway plumed with fern;
And here had fall'n a great part of a tower,
Whole, like a crag that tumbles from the cliff,
And high above a piece of turret stair,
Worn by the feet that now were silent, wound
Bare to the sun, and monstrous ivy-stems
Claspt the gray walls with hairy-fibred arms,
And suck'd the joining of the stones, and look'd
A knot, beneath, of snakes, aloft, a grove. (315-325)
GERAINT IS SERVED that evening by Enid, who must assume the role of servant because her family is so poor. First attracted by her beauty, Geraint is further charmed at "seeing her so sweet and serviceable," and before the evening is through he falls in love with her. Meanwhile Yniol tells Geraint that the knight he seeks is his own nephew, known as the "sparrow-hawk." This knight, once Enid's suitor, had been rejected by Yniol; infuriated, he brought Yniol's family to ruin and usurped Yniol's earldom. Geraint, on hearing the story, offers to challenge the sparrow-hawk at the tournament to be held the following day. Although he appreciates Geraint's offer, Yniol explains that no man can tilt, "Except the lady he loves best be there." Geraint then reveals that he loves Enid and, with Yniol's permission, he will fight the sparrow-hawk and claim victory in her name. Yniol agrees and sends his wife to tell Enid, who doesn't respond with words, but is clearly honored by Geraint's favor:
Nor did she lift an eye nor speak a word,
Rapt in the fear and in the wonder of it;
So moving without answer to her rest
She found no rest, and ever fail'd to draw
The quiet night into her blood, but lay
Contemplating her own unworthiness;
And when the pale and bloodless east began
To quicken to the sun, arose, and raised
Her mother too, and hand in hand they moved
Down to the meadow where the jousts were held,
And waited there for Yniol and Geraint.
And thither came the twain, and when Geraint
Beheld her first in field, awaiting him,
He felt, were she the prize of bodily force,
Himself beyond the rest could move
The chair of Idris. (528-543)
SOON THE TOURNAMENT grounds arc filled with knights and ladies, and the field is prepared: "Two forks are fix't into the meadow ground, / And over these is laid a silver wand, / And over that is placed the sparrow-hawk, / The prize of beauty for the fairest there." For the past two years, Yniol's nephew has won the prize, and so won the name "sparrow-hawk." As he claims the prize—not expecting any challengers—Geraint boldly comes forward. The two men are evenly matched, and the battle is fierce; just when both are nearly exhausted, Yniol cries to Geraint, "Remember that great insult done the Queen." Inspired, Geraint conquers the sparrow-hawk and once again asks his name.
[T]he fallen man
Made answer, groaning, "Edyrn, son of Nudd!
Ashamed am I that I should tell it thee.
My pride is broken: men have seen my fall."
"Then, Edyrn, son of Nudd," replied Geraint,
"These two things shalt thou do, or else thou diest.
First, thou thyself, thy lady, and thy dwarf,
Shalt ride to Arthur's court, and being there,
Crave pardon for that insult done the Queen,
And shalt abide her judgment on it; next,
Thou shalt give back their earldom to thy kin.
These two things shalt thou do, or thou shalt die."
And Edyrn answer'd, "These things will I do,
For I have never yet been overthrown,
And thou hast overthrown me, and my pride
Is broken down, for Enid sees my fall!"
And rising up, he rode to Arthur's court,
And there the Queen forgave him easily. (575-592)
ENID AND GERAINT travel to Camelot after the tournament, where they are married "with all ceremony" Now, a year later, the two prepare for another journey. Geraint orders Enid to ride ahead of him—not by his side—and charges her, whatever happens, not to speak to him. As they travel, past "bandit-haunted holds, / Gray swamps and pools, waste places of the hern, / And wildernesses, perilous paths," Enid notices three knights, "caitiffs all," lying in wait for them. Despite Geraint's command, Enid turns back to warn her husband. Angry that she has disobeyed, Geraint prepares to prove to her that his "vigour is not lost." He conquers the villains, and claims as his prize their armor and horses, which he orders Enid to herd before her. They move on, and once more Enid spies three horsemen waiting to ambush them. She turns back again to warn Geraint:
"There lurk three villains yonder in the wood,
And each of them is wholly arm'd, and one
Is larger-limb'd than you are, and they say
That they will fall upon you while you pass."
To which he flung a wrathful answer back:
"And if there were an hundred in the wood,
And every man were larger-limb'd than I,
And all at once should sally out upon me,
I swear it would not ruffle me so much
As you that not obey me. Stand aside,
And if I fall, cleave to the better man."
And Enid stood aside to wait the event,
Not dare to watch the combat, only breathe
Short fits of prayer, at every stroke a breath.
And he, she dreaded most, bare down upon him.
Aim'd at the helm, his lance crr'd; but Geraint's,
A little in the late encounter strain'd
Struck thro' the bulky bandit's corselet home,
And then brake short, and down his enemy roll'd,
And there lay still. (991-1010)
AFTER DEFEATING THESE bandits, Geraint takes their horses and armor as well, and gives them with the others to Enid to herd along.
So thro' the green gloom of the wood they past,
And issuing under open heavens beheld
A little town with towers, upon a rock,
And close beneath, a meadow gemlike chased
In the brown wild, and mowers mowing in it:
And down a rocky pathway from the place
There came a fair-hair'd youth, that in his hand
Bare victual for the mowers: and Geraint
Had ruth again on Enid looking pale:
Then, moving downward to the meadow ground,
He, when the fair-hair'd youth came by him, said,
"Friend, let her eat; the damsel is so faint."
"Yea, willingly," replied the youth; "and you,
My lord, eat also, tho' the fare is coarse,
And only meet for mowers;" then set down
His basket, and dismounting on the sward
They let the horses graze, and ate themselves. (1044-1060)
THE YOUTH THEN leads the couple to lodging for the night. They are waked by a loud party of revelers, led by Limours, "the wild lord of the place." In years past, Limours was also a suitor of Enid, and seeing her again rekindles his ardour. At the first opportunity he speaks to her alone and tries to convince her to leave Geraint. Limours points out that her husband cannot love her, as proved by her "wretched dress, / A wretched insult" on her. Enid listens to Limours' plot to kill Geraint so they can be reunited and, pretending to agree, she claims exhaustion and tells him to return in the morning to fulfill his plans. Early the next day, as Geraint sleeps, Enid prepares his armor "All to be there against a sudden need." He wakes and Enid tells him that Limours will be there soon. She helps Geraint arm himself, and the two leave, Geraint once again commanding Enid to remain silent. They have not traveled far when Enid looks back to see Limours and his companions following them. She remains silent, but warns Geraint by pointing to the pursuers.
At which the warrior in his obstinacy,
Because she kept the letter of his word
Was in a manner pleased, and turning, stood.
And in the moment after, wild Limours,
Borne on a black horse, like a thunder-cloud ...
Dash'd on Geraint, who closed with him, and bore
Down by the length of lance and arm beyond
The crupper, and so left him stunn'd or dead,
And overthrew the next that follow'd him,
And blindly rush'd on all the rout behind.
But at the flash and motion of the man
They vanish'd panic-stricken, like a shoal
Of darting fish. (1303-1318)
ALTHOUGH ENID'S WARNING has enabled Geraint to vanquish Limours, he remains unconvinced of his wife's fidelity. Geraint orders her to proceed on, "To the waste earldom of another earl, / Doorm, whom his shaking vassals call'd the Bull." Enid obeys, unaware that Geraint has been wounded until he falls from his horse.
And Enid heard the clashing of his fall,
Suddenly came, and at his side all pale
Dismounting, loosed the fastenings of his arms,
Nor let her true hand falter, nor blue eye
Moisten, till she had lighted on his wound,
And tearing off her veil of faded silk
Had bared her forehead to the blistering sun,
And swathed the hurt that drain'd her dear lord's life.
Then after all was done that hand could do,
She rested, and her desolation came
Upon her, and she wept beside the way.
And many past, but none regarded her,
For in that realm of lawless turbulence,
A woman weeping for her murder'd mate
Was cared as much for as a summer shower:
One took him for a victim of Earl Doorm,
Nor dared to waste a perilous pity on him:
Another hurrying past, a man-at-arms,
Rode on a mission to the bandit Earl;
Half whistling and half singing a coarse song,
He drove the dust against her veilless eyes:
Another, flying from the wrath of Doorm
Before an ever-fancied arrow, made
The long way smoke beneath him in his fear;
At which her palfrey whinnying lifted heel,
And scour'd into the coppices and was lost,
While the great charger stood, grieved like a man. (1358-1384)
As ENID CONTINUES weeping at Geraint's side, "the huge Earl Doorm" comes riding past. He chides Enid for weeping over a dead man, or one as good as dead, and orders two of his men to take the couple to his hall. While Doorm and his men are out on a raid, Enid remains with Geraint, tending him until he regains consciousness. Believing at last that she loves him, he nevertheless "feigned himself as dead, / That he might prove her to the uttermost." Soon Doorm returns from his foray, and there is a great and noisy banquet. "To shun the wild ways of the lawless tribe," Enid tries to shrink back from view. The earl sees her, and angry that she still grieves over Geraint—who he assumes is dead—he commands her to come eat and drink. Enid repeatedly refuses Doorm's orders and calls upon his "gentleness" to leave her alone.
Then strode the brute Earl up and down his hall,
And took his russet beard between his teeth;
Last, coming up quite close, and in his mood
Crying, "I count it of no more avail,
Dame, to be gentle than ungentle with you;
Take my salute," unknightly with flat hand,
However lightly, smote her on the cheek.
Then Enid, in her utter helplessness,
And since she thought, "he had not dared to do it,
Except he surely knew my lord was dead,"
Sent forth a sudden sharp and bitter cry,
As of a wild thing taken in the trap,
Which sees the trapper coming thro' the wood.
This heard Geraint, and grasping at his sword ...
Made but a single bound, and with a sweep of it
Shore thro' the swarthy neck, and like a ball
The russet-bearded head roll'd on the floor.
So died Earl Doorm by him he counted dead. (1561—1579)
AFTER GERAINT KILLS Doorm, the earl's followers flee. Geraint begs Enid's forgiveness, admitting his wrongs and confessing he had overheard her say she was untrue. Enid, still worried that Doorm's men will return, can only respond by urging him to leave. Outside the hall, they find Geraint's charger waiting.
[T]hen Geraint upon the horse
Mounted, and reach'd a hand, and on his foot
She set her own and climb'd; he turn'd his face
And kiss'd her climbing, and she cast her arms
About him, and at once they rode away.
And never yet, since high in Paradise
O'er the four rivers the first roses blew,
Came purer pleasure unto mortal kind
Than lived thro' her, who in that perilous hour
Put hand to hand beneath her husband's heart,
And felt him hers again....
[A]nd in their halls arose
The cry of children, Enids and Geraints
Of times to be; nor did he doubt her more
But rested in her fëalty, till he crown'd
A happy life with a fair death, and fell
Against the heathen of the Northern Sea
In battle, fighting for the blameless King. (1607-1819)
VIVIEN PRESENTS THE romance of the famous magician of Camelot and the enchantress who brings about his ruin. Merlin, now an old man, has left Camelot, suffering from "a great melancholy," and Vivien has followed him.
A storm was coming, but the winds were still
And in the wild woods of Broceliande,
Before an oak, so hollow huge and old
It look'd a tower of ruin'd masonwork,
At Merlin's feet the wily Vivien lay....
There she lay all her length and kiss'd his feet,
As if in deepest reverence and in love.
A twist of gold was round her hair; a robe
Of samite without price, that more exprest
Than hid her, clung about her lissome limbs,
In colour like the satin-shining palm
On sallows in the windy gleams of March. (1-74)
VIVIEN, EARLIER SLIGHTED by King Arthur when she tried to seduce him, had become an object of ridicule in Camelot. She plans her revenge by setting out "to gain / Him, the most famous man of all those times, / Merlin." To this end, she pursues the wizard, pretending to be in love: "She played about with slight and sprightly talk, / And vivid smiles ... / ... would often when they met / Sigh fully, or all-silent gaze upon him / With such a fixt devotion, that the old man, / Tho' doubtful, felt the flattery" Merlin "half-believes" Vivien loves him, but wavers even while she remains "fixt in her will" to seduce him.
Then fell upon him a great melancholy;
And leaving Arthur's court he gain'd the beach;
There found a little boat, and stept into it;
And Vivien follow'd, but he mark'd her not.
She took the helm and he the sail; the boat
Drave with a sudden wind across the deeps,
And touching Breton sands, they disembark'd. (45-51)
HAVING SAILED ACROSS the channel to Brittany, Merlin proceeds toward the legendary woods of Broceliande. Merlin continues to ignore Vivien, and she to follow him.
And then she follow'd Merlin all the way,
Ev'n to the wild woods of Broceliande.
For Merlin once had told her of a charm,
The which if any wrought on any one
With woven paces and with waving arms,
The man so wrought on ever seem'd to lie
Closed in the four walls of a hollow tower,
From which was no escape for evermore;
... and he lay as dead
And lost to life and use and name and fame.
And Vivien ever sought to work the charm
Upon the great Enchanter of the Time,
As fancying that her glory would be great
According to his greatness whom she quench'd. (52-67)
AS THE TWO sit underneath the tree, Merlin remains silent. In response to her repeated question, "O Merlin, do you love me?" Merlin finally asks, "To what request for what strange boon ... / Are these your pretty tricks and fooleries, / O Vivien, the preamble?" Vivien acts offended, particularly by Merlin's confession that his melancholy is caused by a dark foreboding that she, Vivien, will "sweep me from my hold upon the world, / My use and name and fame." Half-convinced by Vivien's protestations, Merlin asks her pardon. Vivien then requests that Merlin teach her the magic charm to prove that he trusts her. When he refuses, she sings a song about the necessity for complete trust between lovers, and "So tender was her voice, so fair her face, / So sweetly gleam'd her eves behind her tears" that Merlin is almost convinced of her sincerity. Nevertheless, thoughts of his past with King Arthur intrude, and Merlin combats Vivien's attraction with his memories.
"Far other was the song that once I heard
By this huge oak, sung nearly where we sit:
For here we met, some ten or twelve of us,
To chase a creature that was current then
In these wild woods, the hart with golden horns.
It was the time when first the question rose
About the founding of a Table Round,
That was to be, for love of God and men
And noble deeds, the flower of all the world.
And each incited each to noble deeds." (255-264)
Excerpted from Doré's Illustrations for "IDYLLS OF THE KING" by GUSTAVE DORÉ. Copyright © 1995 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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