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Slight, to be crush'd with a tap
Of my finger nail on the sand,
Small, but a work divine,

Frail, but of force to withstand,
Year upon year, the shock
Of cataract seas that snap

The three decker's oaken spine
Athwart the ledges of rock,

Here on the Breton strand!

- ALFRED TENNYSON.

THE SWORD EXCALIBUR

PART I. THE GAINING OF EXCALIBUR

Then Merlin took up King Arthur, and rode forth with him. As they rode King Arthur said, "I have no sword." "No matter," said Merlin, "hereby is a sword that shall be yours.'

So they rode till they came to a lake. In the midst of the lake King Arthur was aware of an arm clothed in white samite. It held a fair sword in the hand. "So," said Merlin to the king, "yonder is the sword that I spake of."

With that they saw a damsel going upon the lake. "What damsel is that?" said the king. "That is the

Lady of the Lake," said Merlin.

"She will come to

you anon. Speak fair to her that she will give you that sword."

Therewith came the damsel to King Arthur and saluted him. 66 Damsel," said the king, "what sword is that which the arm holdeth yonder above the water? I would it were mine, for I have no sword." "Sir King," said the Lady of the Lake, "that sword is mine. If ye will give me a gift when I ask it you, ye shall have it."" By my faith," said King Arthur, "I will give you any gift that you will ask or desire." Well," said the damsel, "go ye into yonder barge. Row yourself unto the sword. Take it and the scabbard with you. I will ask my gift when I see my time."

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So King Arthur and Merlin tied their horses to two trees and went into the barge. When they came to the sword that the hand held, King Arthur took it up by the handles. The arm and the hand went under the water. Then King Arthur looked upon the sword, and liked it passing well.

"Whether liketh you better," said Merlin, "the sword or the scabbard ?" "Me liketh better the sword," said King Arthur.-"Ye are unwise," said Merlin; "for the scabbard is worth ten of the

sword. While ye have the scabbard upon you, ye shall lose no blood, be ye never so sore wounded. Therefore keep well the scabbard alway with you."

PART II. THE PAYMENT FOR EXCALIBUR

Some time after, King Arthur and his knights came to Camelot. Thither also came a damsel with a message.

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She came before King Arthur and let her mantle fall, and behold! she was girded with a noble sword. At this the king marveled. Damsel," said he, "for what cause are ye gird with that sword?" "Now shall I tell you," said she. "This sword doth me great sorrow. But I may not be freed from it, except by a passing good knight. He alone may draw the sword from the scabbard."

"I will myself assay to draw out the sword," said Arthur.

He took the sword by the scabbard and the girdle, and pulled eagerly. But the sword would not out.

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'Sir," said the damsel, "ye need not pull half so hard. He that shall pull it out, shall do it with ease.”

"Now, assay ye, all my barons," said King Arthur. The barons of the Round Table assayed all in turn. It was in vain.

"Alas!" cried the damsel, "I thought in this court had been the best knights in the world." "And so there are," said the king.

It happened at this time that there was a poor knight with King Arthur. He was a prisoner, for he had slain a cousin of the king. He was named Balin.

He went into the court and would have tried the sword. But he was so poorly dressed, that he was ashamed to put himself forward.

As the damsel took her leave of King Arthur, Balin called to her. "Damsel, I pray you to suffer me to assay as these lords here. I am poorly clothed, but I believe I shall speed right well."

Then Balin took the sword by the scabbard, and drew it out easily.

And now there came into court the Lady of the Lake. She saluted the king, and asked the gift that he had promised.

"That is true," said King Arthur, "a gift I promised you. I have, however, forgotten the name of the sword which ye gave me."

"The name of it," said the lady, "is Excalibur, which means cut-steel."

"Ye say well," said King Arthur. "Ask what ye will, and ye shall have it, if it be in my power to give."

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Well," said the Lady of the Lake, "I ask the head of the knight that hath won the sword, or else the damsel's head that brought it. He slew my brother, a good knight and true, and she caused my father's death."

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Truly," said King Arthur, "I may not grant you either of their heads. Therefore, ask what ye will else, and I shall fulfill your desire."

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"I will ask none other thing of you," said the lady. When Balin was ready to depart, he saw the Lady of the Lake. She had slain his own mother, and he had sought her three years. He went to her and said; "Evil be upon ye. Ye would have my head, and therefore ye shall lose yours!" And with his sword lightly he smote off her head, in the presence of King Arthur.

"Alas! for shame," said the king. "Why have you done so? This was a lady that I was much beholden unto. I shall never forgive that trespass."

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My lord," said Balin, "this lady was the untruest lady living. By her enchantment she hath destroyed many good knights."

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