Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell




Scene VI.—An outer room in the Castle—GUINEVERE walking back and forth. Enter LAUNCELOT, kneels, would take her hand.

     Laun.     Madam!

(Guievere draws back coldly.)


     Laun.     Madam, what means this coldness?

Thou wert not ever wont to meet me thus?


     Guin.     Where hast thou left the maid of Astolat?


     Laun.     Maid of Astolat!


     Guin.     Yea that frail pink-and-white that pillowed thy breast,

What time thou did’st faint, some slim cowslip miss
Such as do flatter you strong men by their weakness.
Go flippant knight and seek your skim-milk love.
Guinevere would hate thee but for scorn.
God curse the day I ever let thee love!


     Laun.     Madam each word thou utterest, like a dagger,

Doth stab with cruel agonies my heart.
If Launcelot hath sinned in loving thee,
That love is maiden unto all save thee.
Yea I am damnèd daily for thy face,
And even thou dost scorn me.


     Guin.     A truce of words, I saw with mine own eyes,

What all the Court and all the world doth know.
Launcelot’s Love, the Maid of Astolat,
Is mouthed by all fool’s lips in all men’s ears,
Till Guinevere is even Mordred’s scorn.
I’d slay thee, were I only but a man.


     Laun.     Madam! by my love!—


     Guin.     By thy love, a flimsy foresworn thing,

A toylet of a moment! Such as thou!
And I! I gave—, By Heaven! I pluck thee out,
And thrust thee from me, thou false handsome face!
Thou devil-eyed to lead hearts on to ruin!


     Laun.     Madam, wilt thou not hear?


     Guin.     Nay, nay, begone! I scorn thee, yea, I hate!


     Laun.     (Sadly.) Yea Guinevere I go, to come no more.

It is well seen that thou hast tired of me.
Thou hast driven Launcelot mad! mad!
The world reels round me, I am all alone.
All else the visions of a noisome dream.
I am mad, mad, Guinevere!
And dost thou smile? here’s for the lonely dark!
Ho! ho! The world’s one hideous mockery.
(Leaps from the casement.)


     Guin.     Nay, nay, Launcelot! Launcelot!

Come back! I love thee, I forgive thee all!
(Falls on her face.) Oh Heaven! I have driven him away,
Nevermore, Oh, never to return.
O Love! O Love! my maddened heart will break.
O foolish stars! why smile on this grim night
Lighting the heartless heaven with your eyes?
O foolish birds, why pipe across the dark,
Calling the rosy morn, the false-faced morn,
While hearts are breaking here amid the dark?
Launcelot! Launcelot! Hark! he returns.
Nay, ’tis the foolish wind wooing the silly trees.
He never will return, nor will forgive.
O poor white hand! he nevermore will clasp,
O wayward lips! he nevermore will kiss.
O heart, break! break!
(Enter a maid.) Madam, here cometh the King.
(Guin. Rises.)


     Arthur.     Madam, watchest thou alone the splendor of the night?


     Guin.     Yea, there is a burden in the distant sea,

And a soft sadness from the far-off night
Of ghost-winds footing under the haunted dark.
It groweth chill, my Lord.


     Arthur.     We will go within. (Exit both.)




     Gwaine.     Yea, mad! mad! stark raving mad, you say?


     Dagonet.     Yea, mad. His eyes were like balls ’o fire.

An’ his face fixed like he followed a vision,
Or walked ’i his sleep.
An’ his hands did beat the air the while he shouted a war song.
It hath frighted me out of a week’s sleep.


     Gwaine.     Yea, he is indeed mad. ’Tis this crazy love.

And he such a man, the best ’i the world.
I will take horse and follow him.
Drop that lanthorn, Fool, and help me wi’ this buskin,
’Tis new to me. The best ’i the world, damn this love!
Fool, wert thou ever in love?


     Dagonet.     Yea, thou knowest I be a fool.


     Gwaine.     Then be wise like Gwaine, Fool, and scorn love;

’Tis but a mad fever ’o the head and marrow.
It creepeth in by the eyes and spoileth a good man.
It killeth sleep and maketh a mock at feeding.
It heateth the blood and routeth caution.
’Ware of love, Fool, an’ thou would’st be wise.


     Dagonet.     Yea, thy words be like what the wind said to the wall.


     Gwaine.     And what be that?


     Dagonet.     Stand up while I blow thee down!

Art thou off now?


     Gwaine.     Yea, till I find him.

Tell the King Gwaine hath ta’en French leave, but he will come again
  when he bringeth the best man ’i the Kingdom.
Ho! without there! Fool, go ahead with that lanthorn.