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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


At the Tomb of King Arthur

By Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814–1902)

THROUGH Glastonbury’s cloister dim

The midnight winds were sighing;

Chanting a low funereal hymn

For those in silence lying,

Death’s gentle flock mid shadows grim

Fast bound, and unreplying.

Hard by the monks their mass were saying;

The organ evermore

Its wave in alternation swaying

On that smooth swell upbore

The voice of their melodious praying

Toward heaven’s eternal shore.

Erelong a princely multitude

Moved on through arches gray

Which yet, though shattered, stand where stood

(God grant they stand for aye!)

Saint Joseph’s church of woven wood

On England’s baptism day.

The grave they found; their swift strokes fell,

Piercing dull earth and stone.

They reached erelong an oaken cell,

And cross of oak, whereon

Was graved, “Here sleeps King Arthur well,

In the isle of Avalon.”

The mail on every knightly breast,

The steel at each man’s side,

Sent forth a sudden gleam; each crest

Bowed low its pluméd pride;

Down o’er the coffin stooped a priest,—

But first the monarch cried:

“Great King! in youth I made a vow

Earth’s mightiest son to greet;

His hand to worship; on his brow

To gaze; his grace entreat.

Therefore, though dead, till noontide thou

Shalt fill my royal seat!”

Away the massive lid they rolled,—

Alas! what found they there?

No kingly brow, no shapely mould;

But dust where such things were.

Ashes o’er ashes, fold on fold,—

And one bright wreath of hair.

Genevra’s hair! like gold it lay;

For Time, though stem, is just,

And humbler things feel last his sway,

And Death reveres his trust.—

They touched that wreath; it sank away

From sunshine into dust!

Then Henry lifted from his head

The Conqueror’s iron crown;

That crown upon that dust he laid,

And knelt in reverence down,

And raised both hands to heaven, and said,

“Thou God art King alone!”