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Counting the dewy pebbles, fix'd in thought;
But when he saw the wonder of the hilt,
"And if indeed I cast the brand away,
Surely a precious thing, one worthy note,
Were it well to obey then, if a king demand
The King is sick, and knows not what he does.
And rumours of a doubt ? but were this kept,
Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake.
Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps
Upon the hidden bases of the hills.'
So might some old man speak in the aftertime
To all the people, winning reverence.
But now much honour and much fame were lost."
So spake he, clouded with his own conceit, And hid Excalibur the second time,
And so strode back slow to the wounded King. Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily : "What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?" And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere : "I heard the water lapping on the crag,
And the long ripple washing in the reeds."
To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath:
'Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue,
Authority forgets a dying king,
Woe is me!
Laid widowed of the power in his eye
That bowed the will. I see thee what thou art.
For thou, the latest-left of all my knights,
In whom should meet the offices of all,
Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt;
Either from lust of gold, or like a girl
Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice,
And the third time may prosper, get thee hence :
I will arise and slay thee with my hands."
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran,
And strongly wheel'd and threw it. The great brand
And flashing round and round, and whirled in an arch,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur :
Three times, and drew him under in the meer.
Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath:
"Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
Speak out what is it thou hast heard, or seen!"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere :
"Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard:
My end draws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone. Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight, And bear me to the margin; yet I fear
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."
Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears,
And would have spoken, but he found not words,
But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted hard,
When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King, Muttering and murmuring at his ear "Quick, quick! I fear it is too late, and I shall die."
But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walk'd, Larger than human on the frozen hills.
He heard the deep behind him, and a cry
Before. His own thought drove him like a goad.
Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.