Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell



SCENE VI.—France—A Tent on the Field near LAUNCELOT's Castle. ARTHUR paces to and fro.

     Arthur.     I would I were on British soil again
This leaguer goes but feebly. I am sick
Of losing battles to this Launcelot,
Whose strength and prowess in far kinder days,
Was my heart’s pride. Arthur thy star grows dark.
Thou canst not keep the love of woman. Nay,
Men's friendships turn to traitor on the lips.
Oh, Merlin; couldst thou now but see thine Arthur.


Enter Messenger.


     Arthur.     Well!


     Mess.     Sir Launcelot met Sir Gwaine beneath the wall.
And of all the bloody fights betwixt them two,
Which have enhorrored this ensanguined war,
This was the bloodiest.


     Arthur.     Speak on!


     Mess.     Sir Gwaine be mortal wounded, so it seemeth.


     Arthur.     Nay!


     Mess.     He even fought on after he was down,
Till his blade fell from out his palsied hand.


     Arthur.     This time maketh thrice that he hath been defeated,
And surely this will cool his fiery blood.
He is the strongest hater I have known
In all my royalty. He would as lief go
To Hell, so that his foe might forfeit Heaven.


Enter GWAINE, borne by Squires and Attendants.


     Gwaine.     Let me forth—forth, I say! Hell! catiffs, I be better now.
I would at him. Oh!


     Attendants.     Sire, if he rest not he will die.
The blood runneth from him in streams
So we cannot quench it, do he not lie still.


     Gwaine.     King, I be a shamed man. Damn this world!
I will shut it out o’ my knowledge. I be in pieces.


     Arthur.     Thou hast had enough, temper thy hates.
And do thy brothers more they lodge in Hell.
I am for England.


     Gwaine.     Nay, King, let me but once more.


     Arthur.     Thou canst scarce utter, thou wilt die.


     Gwaine.     Nay, I will stand his front so long as I may hold a blade,

  and shake it at him!


Enter a Messenger in great haste.


     Arthur.     Whence come you?


     Mess.     From England. Mordred hath made him King.


     Arthur.     Nay! nay!


     Mess.     Tis true, and seized the Queen.


     Arthur.     Great Heaven!


     Mess.     Even now he sitteth robed in thy late state,
And wieldeth puissance.


     Gwaine.     The damned hunchback!


     Arthur.     Oh World, would I were gone! My Queen untrue,
My heart’s best brother traitor, even my son,
Mine ill-got son doth rend me. Who would now
Hold fate with sunken Arthur?
(To the Messenger.) Be there more?


     Mess.     Nay, Sire, I came in haste at the first news,
Though it is said that he would wed the Queen?


     Arthur.     A thousand devils take him!—Nay, not that
Not that most foul completion!
Ho! Sire Hake, Sir Mark. Ho Knights without!


Enter Knights.


     Arthur.     Mordred’s usurped the kingdom. We must haste to
  England now. The siege is raised. Yea I will blot him out or make an end righting mine old glory.


     Gwaine.     (Borne out.) Now are my chances gone. Gwaine is

  disgraced. This is a world of woe. I’ll fight no more. But one more bout, and my sword might ha’ done it.