Poetical Tragedies

Mordred: A Tragedy in Five Acts.

by William Wilfred Campbell



SCENE III.—Night on the battle field. The royal tent, ARTHUR's Camp.

     Arthur.     Ho! there without. (Enter a Page.) Send me Sir Bedivere.

[Exit Page.




     Arthur.     Is all safe ’i the camp?


     Sir B.     Yea, Sire, the sentries are set and watch fires ablaze. And

  all ready for battle i’ the first dawn.


     Arthur.     What of the enemy?


     Sir B.     They be the same, Sire, all seemeth quiet ’i the camp.


     Arthur.     Remember all watchfulness, so there be no surprise. Thou

  canst go Bedivere, I would fain sleep.


     Sir B.     Yea, I go, Sire, and God keep thee this night.


     Arthur.     Stay, Knight, Arthur of England is a lonely man,
Betrayed of those who should have loved him best.
To-night perchance he fronts the brink of death,
In bloody battle for his rightful kingdom.
Take this ring, Knight, in memory of thy King,
(Gives him a ring.) Survive he not the morrow.


     Sir B.     God keep thee, Sire!



     Arthur.     Now what will morrow’s dawn rise bring to Arthur?
Will it bring bloody victory or defeat?
How like an autumn wood is stript my glory,
Who short since was sole monarch of this realm.
Oh! evil Spite, that ruleth this sad world!
Come joy, come hope, there’s nothing sure but death.
Yea, I will sleep and muffle out my sorrows
A little while. (Goes to the couch.)
Nay, Arthur will not pillow till he beds with death,
Or doth regain his kingdom. I will rest here.

(Seats himself on a chair and wraps his cloak about him.)

Now for Oblivion’s peace!
O stricken King, thou art the loneliest to-night.
In any realm. (Leans forward falls asleep. A Page steals in.)


     Page.     He sleeps. (Exit Page.) (ARTHUR starts and mutters

  “Launcelot! Launcelot! My friend! My friend! Guinevere! Ah! Guinevere!


Ghost of Merlin rises.


     Ghost.     Arthur of England!


     Arthur.     (In his sleep.) Merlin! Ah! Merlin!


     Ghost.     I come to tell thy doom. To-morrow! Arthur, to-morrow!


     Arthur.     Away Spirit! Afright me not. Away! Away!
(Ghost vanishes, ARTHUR starts up.)
Ah, Merlin! did I dream of Merlin? ’Twas but the fancy.
Oh, great Mage, to-night thy portents wander back
Unto my mind, Oh couldst thou see thine Arthur.
To-morrow, said the voice within my dream.
To-morrow! Yea, to-morrow!

(Sits down again and folds his cloak. Sleeps. Mutters, “Mordred! my son Mordred!


Ghost of GWAINE rises.


     Ghost.     King!


     Arthur.     Ah! ’Tis thou! Away! away!


     Ghost.     King, fight not tomorrow.


     Arthur.     (In his sleep.) Nay, I will!


     Ghost.     King, fight not to-morrow.


Ghost vanishes, ARTHUR wakes.


     Arthur.     Yea, sleep is but the border land o’ death.
’Tis twice! ’Tis twice! It is a certain portent.
Yea, Arthur fights, though Arthur dies, to-morrow.
Yea now I’ll sleep, for I am over-weary.
Weary of life, yea I am over-tired.
I would fain sleep though night should have no morning.
This night is sweet and restful. To-morrow comes doom,
This hour for soft oblivion.