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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Sir Galahad Achieves the Grail-Quest

By The Legend of the Holy Grail

From Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’

“WHEN the hermit made an end,

In silver armor suddenly Galahad shone

Before us, and against the chapel door

Laid lance, and entered, and we knelt in prayer.

And there the hermit slaked my burning thirst,

And at the sacring of the mass I saw

The holy elements alone; but he—

‘Saw ye no more? I, Galahad, saw the Grail,

The Holy Grail, descend upon the shrine,

I saw the fiery face as of a child

That smote itself into the bread, and went;

And hither am I come; and never yet

Hath what thy sister taught me first to see,

This Holy Thing, failed from my side, nor come

Covered, but moving with me night and day,

Fainter by day, but always in the night

Blood-red, and sliding down the blackened marsh

Blood-red, and on the naked mountain top

Blood-red, and in the sleeping mere below

Blood-red. And in the strength of this I rode,

Shattering all evil customs everywhere,

And past thro’ pagan realms, and made them mine,

And clashed with pagan hordes, and bore them down,

And broke thro’ all, and in the strength of this

Come victor. But my time is hard at hand,

And hence I go; and one will crown me king

Far in the spiritual city; and come thou, too,

For thou shalt see the vision when I go.’

“While thus he spake, his eye, dwelling on mine,

Drew me, with power upon me, till I grew

One with him, to believe as he believed.

Then, when the day began to wane, we went.

“There rose a hill that none but man could climb,

Scarred with a hundred wintry water-courses—

Storm at the top, and when we gained it, storm

Round us and death: for every moment glanced

His silver arms and gloomed; so quick and thick

The lightnings here and there to left and right

Struck, till the dry old trunks about us, dead,

Yea, rotten with a hundred years of death,

Sprang into fire: and at the base we found

On either hand, as far as eye could see,

A great black swamp and of an evil smell,

Part black, part whitened with the bones of men,

Not to be crost, save that some ancient king

Had built a way, where, linked with many a bridge,

A thousand piers ran into the great Sea.

And Galahad fled along them bridge by bridge,

And every bridge as quickly as he crost

Sprang into fire and vanished, tho’ I yearned

To follow; and thrice above him all the heavens

Opened and blazed with thunder such as seemed

Shoutings of all the sons of God: and first

At once I saw him far on the great Sea,

In silver-shining armor starry-clear;

And o’er his head the Holy Vessel hung

Clothed in white samite or a luminous cloud.

And with exceeding swiftness ran the boat,

If boat it were—I saw not whence it came.

And when the heavens opened and blazed again

Roaring, I saw him like a silver star—

And had he set the sail, or had the boat

Become a living creature clad with wings?

And o’er his head the Holy Vessel hung

Redder than any rose, a joy to me,

For now I knew the veil had been withdrawn.

Then in a moment when they blazed again

Opening, I saw the least of little stars

Down on the waste, and straight beyond the star

I saw the spiritual city and all her spires

And gateways in a glory like one pearl—

No larger, tho’ the goal of all the saints—

Strike from the sea; and from the star there shot

A rose-red sparkle to the city, and there

Dwelt, and I knew it was the Holy Grail,

Which never eyes on earth again shall see.

Then fell the floods of heaven drowning the deep.

And how my feet recrost the deathful ridge

No memory in me lives: but that I touched

The chapel doors at dawn I know; and thence,

Taking my war-horse from the holy man,

Glad that no phantom vext me more, returned

To whence I came, the gate of Arthur’s wars.”