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Far-off, a blot upon the stream, and said
Low in himself, "Ah! simple heart and sweet,
Far tenderer than my Queen's. Pray for thy soul?
Stole from his mother- as the story runs.
Would she had drown'd me in it, where'er it be!
To seize me by the hair and bear me far,
So groan'd Sir Lancelot in remorseful pain, Not knowing he should die a holy man.
NOTES TO ELAINE.
(The numbers refer to lines.)
KING ARTHUR was a Celtic hero, who fought against the early Saxon invaders. What his real character was, it is now impossible to discover. A cycle of legends has gathered about him, and hidden the actual facts. The Arthurian legends are widely extended. From England they crossed the Channel to France, and from that country passed into the literature of the leading nations of Europe. These legends were a favorite topic with the poets and storytellers of the Middle Ages. The scenes of Arthur's exploits are laid chiefly in the south-western part of England. Carleon on the Usk is given as his principal place of residence. He established a magnificent court, gathered about him the bravest knights and fairest ladies of his realm, and sought to regenerate the world. Twelve of the noblest knights, who enjoyed the special confidence of the king, and sat with him at meat, constituted the famous "order of the Table Round." In "Guinevere " Arthur is represented as saying:
"But I was first of all the kings who drew
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the King, as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King,
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
But alas for Arthur's beautiful hopes! Passion and sin invaded his court; and finally the unfaithfulness and treachery of his friends brought devastation and death.
Among the knights of the Round Table, Lancelot was pre-eminent for deeds of prowess. He stood highest in the favor of the king. His birthplace and possessions were in Brittany. In his infancy he was carried away and fostered by Vivien, the Lady of the Lake; and from this circumstance he is called sometimes "Lancelot du Lac." Unfortunately, he cherished a secret passion for the queen. This unholy attachment, which is referred to in "Elaine," and still more fully in "Guinevere," brought unspeakable sorrow, not only to the guilty lovers, but also to the noble and unsuspecting king. It was this love for the queen that steeled his heart against the touching devotion of Elaine.
"Elaine" is justly regarded as one of the most beautiful "Idyls of the King." The story is as follows: "On his way to Camelot to joust, incognito, for the last and greatest of the nine diamonds offered as prizes by King Arthur, Lancelot spends the night at Astolat, the castle of Elaine's father. Here unwittingly he wins Elaine's love. At the joust, whither he is accompanied by Lavaine, Lancelot, wearing her sleeve of pearls on his helmet, is sorely wounded. Elaine learns of this, and, with her father's consent, goes to him and nurses him through his serious illness. Recovering, he returns with her and her brother to Astolat for his shield, left with her that he might not be recognized by it. Here she confesses to him her love. Unable to give his own in return, he tenderly, yet without farewell, departs. Elaine sickens and dies; but not till her father has promised her that, with the letter she has written to Lancelot and the queen in her dead hand, she shall be dressed in her richest white, placed on the deck of the barge, and rowed up the river to the palace. This is done; and the majestic poem concludes with the appearance of her body at court and the burial, with a painful interview between the king and Lancelot, and with Lancelot's sad reflections."
2. Lily maid, in reference to her complexion.
4. Sacred, that is, in the eyes of Elaine.
9. Blazoned to portray armorial bearings. From O. Fr. blazon, a coat of arms.
10. Tinct color, tinge. Lat. tingere, to stain.
17. Arms: = coat of arms.
22. Carlyle, etc. See introduction.
26. Him Lancelot.
35. Lyonnesse a district in Cornwall.
44. Lichen'd = covered with lichen- flowerless, parasitic plants.
46. Aside = on each side.
53. Shingly scaur =
steep rocky bank.
67. Still always.
69. The Queen:
a guilty attachment.
hinders. There are two lets in English; the one from A. S. latan, to allow; and the other from A. S. lettan, to hinder.
104. That summer, etc. - Lancelot had been sent to conduct Guinevere to the court to become the wife of King Arthur. It was on this journey, when all their talk was on "love and sport and tilts and pleasure," that their attachment sprang up.
106. Cricket, here used as a collective noun. Cf. creak.
108. Nothing, that is, cannot be located.
146. Craft: 148. Wit
149. But knowing only knowing or simply knowing. 162. Downs = hills. From A. S. dun, a hill.
Guinevere, between whom and himself there existed
167. Fired lighted up by the setting sun.
168. Gateway horn the horn used by visitors to presence.
181. Livest between the lips art known or called by.
vigor of body. 214. Belike perhaps. 218. An ifif. 222. So
Arthur is represented as a Christian king.
259. Doom = destruction.
263. Smaller time
referred or alluded to.
time of less noble thought and feeling.
- See introduction.
image of the Virgin Mary.
The emerald was set in the centre of a pictured sun
297. White Horse:
411. Broke from underground:
422. Pendragon = dragon's head, a title descending to Arthur from his reputed father, Uther.
431. Samite a rich silk stuff, usually adorned with gold.
442. Nameless king. See line 40.
strike together, collide.
= standard of the northern invaders.
early. It is the positive form, now little used, of rather.
= are blown into mist, by the wind.
489. Worshipfully honorably, worthily. From A. S. stem weorth, worthy, honorable.
502. Diamond me, etc.
do not speak to me of diamonds.
545. Bring us =
the might of vigorous manhood.
556. Sir Modred was Arthur's nephew, and finally became a traitor. See "Guinevere" and "The Passing of Arthur."
654. To all the winds in all directions.
660. Ramp stand rampant; that is, upright on their hind legs.
681. One I may not name= Queen Guinevere.
rose above the horizon.
703. Liege sovereign. In the older sense, a liege lord was a free lord. Common meaning, faithful, loyal.
715. Twenty strokes, etc. = twenty beats of the pulse. 739. Wormwood: a plant of bitter, nauseous taste. From A. S. wermod, ware-wood, mind-preserver. So called, says Skeat, from its curative properties in diseases of the mind. Thus it has no connection with either worm or wood.
798. Far blood: distant relations.
844. Either twilight = morning and evening.
857. Simples medicinal plants. "So called," says Webster, "because each vegetable is supposed to possess its particular virtue, and therefore to constitute a simple remedy."
953. Realm beyond the seas. See introduction.
995. Sallow-rifted = streaked or seamed with pale yellow. 1012. Scaled = ascended, rose in pitch.