|The Forest of the Dartmoors
The purple heather flowers are dark
In the hollow of the hill,
Though far along each rocky peak
The sunlight lingers still ;
Dark hang the rushes o’er the stream—
There is no sound below,
Save when the fern, by the night’s wind stirred,
Waves gently to and fro.
Thou old wild forest ! many a dream
Of far-off glamoury,
Of gentle knight and solemn sage,
Is resting still on thee.
Still float the mists across the fells
As when those barons bold,
Sir Tristram and Sir Percival,
Sped o’er the weary wold.
Still wave the grasses o’er the hills,
And still the streams below,
Under the wild boughs thick with moss,
Sing gladly as they go ;
Still over all the lonely land
The mountain elves are dwelling,
And ofttimes notes from fairy horns
On the free winds are swelling.
Then through the glens of the folding hills,
And over the heath so brown,
King Arthur leads his belted knights
Homewards to Carlyoun ;
A goodly band, with long bright spears
Upon their shoulders set,
And first of all that Flower of Kings
With his golden coronet.
And sometimes, by the clear hill streams,
A knight rides on alone ;
He rideth ever beside the river,
Although the day be done ;
For he looketh toward the western land
Where watcheth his ladye,
On the shore of the rocky Cornewayle,
In the castle by the sea.
And o’er the green paths of the moors,
When the burning sun is high,
Queen Guinevere comes forth in state
Beneath her canopy.
Her squires in robes of sendal bright
Bear up the silken shade,
And the ringing of their bridal reins
Fills all the forest glade.
|And when the stars are few above,
And hills are dark below,
The fay, Morgana, sits alone
Beside the river’s flow.
She sitteth alone beneath the boughs
That look on the waters clear,
And a low sweet song she singeth there—
The Lady of the Mere.
She telleth of glad, free wanderings
By haunted spring and wave,
And how, beneath a fairy thorn,
She dug old Merlin’s grave ;
All snowy white with blossomings
The knotted arms outspread,
All snowy white the blossoms fall
Upon his darksome bed.
Thou old wild forest ! through thy glens
Once rang the hart’s bell free,
The mountain wolf led forth her cubs
Beneath the dark pine-tree ;
And where the broom and the birchen sprays
Hang o’er the sparkling rills,
The giant deer with branching horns
Passed upward to the hills.
And now thy rocks are silent all,
The kingly chase is o’er,
Yet none may take from thee, old land,
Thy memories of yore.
In many a green and solemn place
Girt with the wild hills round,
The shadow of the holy cross
Yet sleepeth on the ground.
In many a glen where the ash keys hang
All golden ‘midst their leaves,
The knights’ dark strength is rising yet,
Clad in its wild-flower wreaths.
And yet along the mountain-paths
Rides forth that stately band,
A vision of the dim old days—
A dream of fairyland.
Richard John King