THE HIGH HISTORY OF

                              GOOD SIR PALAMEDES

                              THE SARACEN KNIGHT

                             AND OF HIS FOLLOWING

                            OF THE QUESTING BEAST


                             BY ALEISTER CROWLEY

                          RIGHTLY SET FORTH IN RIME

                      TO ALLAN BENNETT

                  "Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya"

      my good knight comrade in the quest, I dedicate this

      imperfect account of it, in some small recognition of

                   his suggestion of its form.

        MANDALAY, "November" 1905

        1WEH NOTE:  This work is read to best effect after Crowley's

"          "Confessions".  The sections are metaphoric accounts of Crowley's

          own search for enlightenment, sometimes with changed details or

          settings.  "E.g.", the general focus on Arthur that comes in at III

          should be taken to represent Crowley's lasting but frustrated

          desire to serve and save "all the Britains".  Acts of killing by

          the principal character represent renunciations of attachment.


   i. Sir Palamede, the Saracen knight, riding on the shore of Syria, findeth

his father's corpse, around which an albatross circleth.  He approveth the

vengeance of his peers.

  ii. On the shore of Arabia he findeth his mother in the embrace of a loathly

negro beneath blue pavilions.  Her he slayeth, and burneth all that


  iii. Sir Palamede is besieged in his castle by Severn mouth, and his wife

and son are slain.

  iv. Hearing that his fall is to be but the prelude to an attack of Camelot,

he maketh a desperate night sortie, and will traverse the wilds of Wales.

  v. At the end of his resources among the Welsh mountains, he is compelled to

put to death his only remaining child.  By this sacrifice he saves the world

of chivalry.

  vi. He having become an holy hermit, a certain dwarf, splendidly clothed,

cometh to Arthur's court, bearing tidings of a Questing Beast.  The knights

fail to lift him, this being the test of worthiness.

  vii. Lancelot findeth him upon Scawfell, clothed in his white beard.  he

returneth, and, touching the dwarf but with his finger, herleth him to the


  viii. Sir Palamede, riding forth on the quest, seeth a Druid worship the sun

upon Stonehenge.  He rideth eastward, and findeth the sun setting in the west.

Furious he taketh a Viking ship, and by sword and whip fareth seaward.

  ix. Coming to India, he learneth that It glittereth.  Vainly fighting the

waves,the leaves, and the snows, he is swept in the Himalayas as by an

avalanche into a valley where dwell certain ascetics, who pelt him with their


  x. Seeking It as Majesty, he chaseth an elephant in the Indian jungle.  The

elephant escapeth; but he, led to Trichinopoli by an Indian lad, seeth an

elephant forced to dance ungainly before the Mahalingam.

  xi. A Scythian sage declareth that It transcendeth Reason.  Therefore Sir

Palamede unreasonably decapitateth him.

  xii. An ancient hag prateth of It as Evangelical.  Her he hewed in pieces.


  xiii. At Naples he thinketh of the Beast as author of Evil, because Free of

Will.  The Beast, starting up, is slain by him with a poisoned arrow; but at

the moment of Its death It is reborn from the knight's own belly.

  xiv. At Rome he meeteth a red robber in a Hat, who speaketh nobly of It as

of a king-dove-lamb.  He chaseth and slayeth it; it proves but a child's toy.

  xv. In a Tuscan grove he findeth, from the antics of a Satyr, that the Gods

sill dwell with men.  Mistaking orgasm for ecstasty, he is found ridiculous.

  xvi. Baiting for It with gilded corn in a moonlit vale of Spain, he findeth

the bait stolen by bermin.

  xvii. In Crete a metaphysician weaveth a labyrinth.  Sir Palamede compelleth

him to pursue the quarry in this same fashion.  Running like hippogriffs, they

plunge over the precipice; and the hermit, dead, appears but a mangy ass.  Sir

Palamede, sore wounded, is borne by fishers to an hut.

  xviii. Sir Palamede noteth the swiftness of the Beast.  He therefore

climbeth many mountains of the Alps.  Yet can he not catch It; It outrunneth

him easily, and at last, stumbling, he falleth.

  xix. Among the dunes of Brittany he findeth a witch dancing and conjuring,

until she disappeareth in a blaze of light.  He then learneth music, from a

vile girl, until he is as skilful as Orpheus.  In Paris he playeth in a public

place.  The people, at first throwing him coins, soon desert him to follow a

foolish Egyptian wizard.  No Beast cometh to his call.

  xx. He argueth out that there can be but on Beast.  Following single tracks,

he at length findeth the quarry, but on pursuit It eldueth hi by multiplying

itself.  This on the wide plains of France.

  xxi. He gathereth an army sufficient to chase the whole herd.  In England's

midst they rush upon them; but the herd join together, leading on the kinghts,

who at length rush together into a "mˆl‚e," wherein all but Sir Palamede are

slain, while the Beast, as ever, standeth aloof, laughing.

  xxii. He argueth Its existence from design of the Cosmos, noting that Its

tracks form a geometrical figure.  But seeth that this depends upon his sense

of geometry; and is therefore no proof.  Meditating upon this likeness to

himself --- Its subjectivity, in short --- he seeth It in the Blue Lake.

Thither plunging, all is shattered.

  xxiii. Seeking It in shrines he findeth but a money-box; while they that

helped him (as they said) in his search, but robbed him.

  xxiv. Arguing Its obscurity, he seeketh It within the bowels of Etna,

cutting off all avenues of sense.  His own thoughts pursue him into madness.


  xxv. Upon the Pacific Ocean, he, thinking that It is not-Self, throweth

himself into the sea.  But the Beast setteth him ashore.

  xxvi. Rowed by Kanakas to Japan, he praiseth the stability of Fuji-Yama.

But, an earthquake arising, the pilgrims are swallowed up.

  xxvii. Upon the Yang-tze-kiang he contemplateth immortal change.  Yet,

perceiving that the changes themselves constitute stability, he is again

baulked, and biddeth his men bear him to Egypt.

  xxviii. In an Egyptian temple he hath performed the Bloody Sacrifice, and

cursed Osiris.  Himself suffering that curse, he is still far from the


  xxix. In the land of Egypt he performeth many miracles.  But from the statue

of Memnon issueth the questing, and he is recalled from that illusion.

  xxx. Upon the plains of Chaldea he descendeth into the bowels of the earth,

where he beholdeth the Visible Image of the soul of Nature for the Beast.  Yet

Earth belcheth him forth.

  xxxi. In a slum city he converseth with a Rationalist.  Learning nothing,

nor even hearing the Beast, he goeth forth to cleanse himself.

  xxxii. Seeking to imitate the Beast, he goeth on all-fours, questing

horribly.  The townsmen cage him for a lunatic.  Nor can he imitate the

elusiveness of the Beast.  Yet at one note of that questing the prison is

shattered, and Sir Palamede rusheth forth free.

  xxiii. Sir Palamede hath gone to the shores of the Middle Sea to restore his

health.  There he practiseth devotion to the Beast, and becometh maudlin and

sentimental.  His knaves mocking him, he beateth one sore; from whose belly

issueth the questing.

  xxiv. Being retired into an hermitage in Fenland, he traverseth space upon

the back of an eagle.  He knoweth all things --- save only It.  And

incontinent beseedheth the eagle to set him down again.

  xxxv. He lectureth upon metaphysics --- for he is now totally insane --- to

many learned monks of Cantabrig.  They applaud him and detain him, though he

hath heard the question and would away.  But so feeble is he that he fleeth by


  xxxvi. It hath often happened to Sir Palamede that he is haunted by a

shadow, the which he may not recognise.  But at last, in a sunlit wood, this

is discovered to be a certain hunchback, who doubteth whether there be at all

any Beast or any quest, or if the whole life of Sir Palamede be not a vain

illusion.  Him, without seeing to conquer with words, he slayeth incontinent.

  xxxvii. In a cave by the sea, feeding on limpets androots, Sir Palamede

abideth, sick unto death.  Himseemeth the Beast questeth within his own

bowels; he is the {vii} Beast.  Standing up, that he may enjoy the reward, he

findeth another answer to the riddle.  Yet abideth in the quest.

  xxxviii. Sir Palamede is confronted by a stranger knight, whose arms are his

own, as also his features.  This knight mocketh Sir OPalamede for an impudent

pretender, and impersonator of the chosen knight.  Sir Palamede in all

humility alloweth that there is no proof possible, and offereth ordeal of

battle, in which the stranger is slain.  Sir Palamede heweth him into the

smallest dust without pity.

  xxxix. In a green valley he obtaineth the vision of Pan.  Thereby he

regaineth all that he had expended of strength and youth; is gladdened

thereat, for he now devoteth again his life to the quest; yet more utterly

cast down than ever, for that this supreme vision is not the Beast.

  xl. Upon the loftiest summit of a great mountain he perceiveth Naught.  Even

this is, however, not the Beast.

  xli. Returning to Camelot to announce his failure, he maketh entrance into

the King's hall, whence he started out upon the quest.  The Beast cometh

nestling to him.  All the knights attain the quest.  The voice of Christ is

heard: "well done."  He sayeth that each failure is a step in the Path.  The

poet prayeth success therein for himself and his readers.


                               THE HIGH HISTORY

                                   OF GOOD

                                SIR PALAMEDES



                              THE QUESTING BEAST


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Rode by the marge of many a sea:

               He had slain a thousand evil men

                 And set a thousand ladies free.

               Armed to the teeth, the glittering kinght

                 Galloped along the sounding shore,

               His silver arms one lake of light,

                 Their clash one symphony of war.

               How still the blue enamoured sea

                 Lay in the blaze of Syria's noon!

               The eternal roll eternally

                 Beat out its monotonic tune.

               Sir Palamede the Saracen

                 A dreadful vision here espied,

               A sight abhorred of gods and men,

                 Between the limit of the tide.

               The dead man's tongue was torn away;

                 The dead man's throat was slit across;

               There flapped upon the putrid prey

                 A carrion, screaming albatross.       {3}

               So halted he his horse, and bent

                 To catch remembrance from the eyes

               That stared to God, whose ardour sent

                 His radiance from the ruthless skies.

               Then like a statue still he sate;

                 Nor quivered nerve, nor muscle stirred;

               While round them flapped insatiate

                 The fell, abominable bird.

               But the coldest horror drave the light

                 From knightly eyes.  How pale thy bloom,

               Thy blood, O brow whereon that night

                 Sits like a serpent on a tomb!

               For Palamede those eyes beheld

                 The iron image of his own;

               On those dead brows a fate he spelled

                 To strike a Gorgon into stone.

               He knew his father.  Still he sate,

                 Nor quivered nerve, nor muscle stirred;

               While round them flapped insatiate

                 The fell, abominable bird.

               The knight approves the justice done,

                 And pays with that his rowels' debt;

               While yet the forehead of the son

                 Stands beaded with an icy sweat.            {4}

               God's angel, standing sinister,

                 Unfurls this scroll --- a sable stain:

               "Who wins the spur shall ply the spur

                 Upon his proper heart and brain."

               He gave the sign of malison

                 On traitor knights and perjured men;

               And ever by the sea rode on

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen.


               BEHOLD!  Arabia's burning shore

                 Rings to the hoofs of many a steed.

               Lord of a legion rides to war

                 The indomitable Palamede.

               The Paynim fly; his troops delight

                 In murder of many a myriad men,

               Following exultant into fight

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen.

               Now when a year and day are done

                 Sir Palamedes is aware

               Of blue pavilions in the sun,

                 And bannerets fluttering in the air.

               Forward he spurs; his armour gleams;

                 Then on his haunches rears the steed;

               Above the lordly silk there streams

                 The pennon of Sir Palamede!

               Aflame, a bridegroom to his spouse,

                 He rides to meet with galliard grace

               Some scion of his holy house,

                 Or germane to his royal race.      {6}

               But oh! the eyes of shame!  Beneath

                 The tall pavilion's sapphire shade

               There sport a band with wand and wreath,

                 Languorous boy and laughing maid.

               And in the centre is a sight

                 Of hateful love and shameless shame:

               A recreant Abyssianian knight

                 Sports grossly with a wanton dame.

               How black and swinish is the knave!

                 His hellish grunt, his bestial grin;

               Her trilling laugh, her gesture suave,

                 The cool sweat swimming on her skin!

               She looks and laughs upon the knight,

                 Then turns to buss the blubber mouth,

               Draining the dregs of that black blight

                 Of wine to ease their double drouth!

               God! what a glance!  Sir Palamede

                 Is stricken by the sword of fate:

               His mother it is in very deed

                 That gleeful goes the goatish gait.

               His mother it his, that pure and pale

                 Cried in the pangs that gave him birth;

               The holy image he would veil

                 From aught the tiniest taint of earth.  {7}

               She knows him, and black fear bedim

                 Those eyes; she offers to his gaze

               The blue-veined breasts that suckled him

                 In childhood's sweet and solemn days.

               Weeping she bares the holy womb!

                 Shrieks out the mother's last appeal:

               And reads irrevocable doom

                 In those dread eyes of ice and steel.

               He winds his horn: his warriors pour

                 In thousands on the fenceless foe;

               The sunset stains their hideous war

                 With crimson bars of after-glow.

               He winds his horn; the night-stars leap

                 To light; upspring the sisters seven;

               While answering flames illume the deep,

                 The blue pavilions blaze to heaven.

               Silent and stern the northward way

                 They ride; alone before his men

               Staggers through black to rose and grey

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen. {8}


               THERE is a rock by Severn mouth

                 Whereon a mighty castle stands,

               Fronting the blue impassive South

                 And looking over lordly lands.

               Oh! high above the envious sea

                 This fortress dominates the tides;

               There, ill at heart, the chivalry

                 Of strong Sir Palamede abides.

               Now comes irruption from the fold

                 That live by murder: day by day

               The good knight strikes his deadly stroke;

                 The vultures claw the attended prey.

               But day by day the heathen hordes.

                 Gather from dreadful lands afar,

               A myriad myriad bows and swords,

                 As clouds that blot the morning star.

               Soon by an arrow from the sea

                 The Lady of Palamede is slain;

               His son, in sally fighting free,

                 Is struck through burgonet and brain.    {9}

               But day by day the foes increase,

                 Though day by day their thousands fall:

               Laughs the unshaken fortalice;

                 The good knights laugh no more at all.

               Grimmer than heather hordes can scowl,

                 The spectre hunger rages there;

               He passes like a midnight owl,

                 Hooting his heraldry, despair.

               The knights and squires of Palamede

                 Stalk pale and lean through court and hall;

               Though sharp and swift the archers speed

                 Their yardlong arrows from the wall.

               Their numbers thin; their strength decays;

                 Their fate is written plain to read:

               These are the dread deciduous days

                 Of iron-souled Sir Palamede.

               He hears the horrid laugh that rings

                 From camp to camp at night; he hears

               The cruel mouths of murderous kings

                 Laugh out one menace that he fears.

               No sooner shall the heroes die

                 Than, ere their flesh begin to rot,

               The heathen turns his raving eye

                 To Caerlon and Camelot.

               King Arthur in ignoble sloth

                 Is sunk, and dalliance with his dame,

               Forgetful of his knightly oath,

                 And careless of his kingly name.

               Befooled and cuckolded, the king

                 Is yet the king, the king most high;

               And on his life the hinges swing

                 That close the door of chivalry.

               'Sblood! shall it sink, and rise no more,

                 That blaze of time, when men were men?

               That is thy question, warrior

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!     {11}


               Now, with two score of men in life

                 And one fair babe, Sir Palamede

               Resolves one last heroic strife,

                 Attempts forlorn a desperate deed.

               At dead of night, a moonless night,

                 A night of winter storm, they sail

               In dancing dragons to the fight

                 With man and sea, with ghoul and gale.

               Whom God shall spare, ride, ride! (so springs

                 The iron order).  Let him fly

               On honour's steed with honour's wings

                 To warn the king, lest honour die!

               Then to the fury of the blast

                 Their fury adds a dreadful sting:

               The fatal die is surely cast.

                 To save the king --- to save the king!

               Hail! horror of the midnight surge!

                 The storms of death, the lashing gust,

               The doubtful gleam of swords that urge

                 Hot laughter with high-leaping lust! {12}

               Though one by one the heroes fall,

                 Their desperate way they slowly win,

               And knightly cry and comrade-call

                 Rise high above the savage din.

               Now, now they land, a dwindling crew;

                 Now, now fresh armies hem them round.

               They cleave their blood-bought avenue,

                 And cluster on the upper ground.

               Ah! but dawn's dreadful front uprears!

                 The tall towers blaze, to illume the fight;

               While many a myriad heathen spears

                 March northward at the earliest light.

               Falls thy last comrade at thy feet,

                 O lordly-souled Sir Palamede?

               Tearing the savage from his seat,

                 He leaps upon a coal-black steed.

               He gallops raging through the press:

                 The affrighted heathen fear his eye.

               There madness gleams, there masterless

                 The whirling sword shrieks shrill and high.

               The shrink, he gallops.  Closely clings

                 The child slung at his waist; and he

               Heeds nought, but gallops wide, and sings

                 Wild war-songs, chants of gramarye!  {13}

                 Sir Palamded the Saracen

                 Rides like a centaur mad with war;

               He sabres many a million men,

                 And tramples many a million more!

               Before him lies the untravelled land

                 Where never a human soul is known,

               A desert by a wizard banned,

                 A soulless wilderness of stone.

               Nor grass, nor corn, delight the vales;

                 Nor beast, nor bird, span space.  Immense,

               Black rain, grey mist, white wrath of gales,

                 Fill the dread armoury of sense.

               NOr shines the sun; nor moon, nor star

                 Their subtle light at all display;

               Nor day, nor night, dispute the scaur:

                 All's one intolerable grey.

               Black llyns, grey rocks, white hills of snow!

                 No flower, no colour: life is not.

               This is no way for men to go

                 From Severn-mouth to Camelot.

               Despair, the world upon his speed,

                 Drive (like a lion from his den

               Whom hunger hunts) the man at need,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen.  {14}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath cast his sword and arms aside.

               To save the world of goodly men,

                 He sets his teeth to ride --- to ride!

               Three days: the black horse drops and dies.

                 The trappings furnish them a fire,

               The beast a meal.  With dreadful eyes

                 Stare into death the child, the sire.

               Six days: the gaunt and gallant knight

                 Sees hateful visions in the day.

               Where are the antient speed and might

                 Were wont to animate that clay?

               Nine days; they stumble on; no more

                 His strength avails to bear the child.

               Still hangs the mist, and still before

                 Yawns the immeasurable wild.

               Twelve days: the end.  Afar he spies

                 The mountains stooping to the plain;

               A little splash of sunlight lies

                 Beyond the everlasting rain.  {15}

               His strength is done; he cannot stir.

                 The child complains --- how feebly now!

               His eyes are blank; he looks at her;

                 The cold sweat gathers on his brow.

               To save the world --- three days away!

                 His life in knighthood's life is furled,

               And knighthood's life in his --- to-day! ---

                 His darling staked against the world!

               Will he die there, his task undone?

                 Or dare he live, at such a cost?

               He cries against the impassive sun:

                 The world is dim, is all but lost.

               When, with the bitterness of death

                 Cutting his soul, his fingers clench

               The piteous passage of her breath.

                 The dews of horror rise and drench

               Sir Palamede the Saracen.

                 Then, rising from the hideous meal,

               He plunges to the land of men

                 With nerves renewed and limbs of steel.

               Who is the naked man that rides

                 Yon tameless stallion on the plain,

               His face like Hell's?  What fury guides

                 The maniac beast without a rein?   {16}

               Who is the naked man that spurs

                 A charger into Camelot,

               His face like Christ's?  what glory stirs

                 The air around him, do ye wot?

               Sir Arthur arms him, makes array

                 Of seven times ten thousand men,

               And bids them follow and obey

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen.    {17}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                  The earth from murder hath released,

               Is hidden from the eyes of men.

               Sir Arthur sits again at feast.

                 The holy order burns with zeal:

               Its fame revives from west to east.

               Now, following Fortune's whirling-wheel,

                 There comes a dwarf to Arthur's hall,

               All cased in damnascenŠd steel.

               A sceptre and a golden ball

                 He bears, and on his head a crown;

               But on his shoulders drapes a pall

               Of velvet flowing sably down

                 Above his vest of cramoisie.

               Now doth the king of high renown

               Demand him of his dignity.

                 Whereat the dwarf begins to tell

               A quest of loftiest chivalry.  {18}

               Quod he: "By Goddes holy spell,

                 So high a venture was not known,

               Nor so divine a miracle.

               A certain beast there runs alone,

                 That ever in his belly sounds

               A hugeous cry, a monster moan,

               As if a thirty couple hounds

                 Quested with him.  Now God saith

               (I swear it by His holy wounds

               And by His lamentable death,

                 And by His holy Mother's face!)

               That he shall know the Beauteous Breath

               And taste the Goodly Gift of Grace

                 Who shall achieve this marvel quest."

               Then Arthur sterte up from his place,

               And sterte up boldly all the rest,

                 And sware to seek this goodly thing.

               But now the dwarf doth beat his breast,

               And speak on this wise to the king,

                 That he should worthy knight be found

               Who with his hands the dwarf should bring

               By might one span from off the ground.

                 Whereat they jeer, the dwarf so small,

               The knights so strong: the walls resound {19}

               With laughter rattling round the hall.

                 But Arthur first essays the deed,

               And may not budge the dwarf at all.

               Then Lancelot sware by Goddes reed,

                 And pulled so strong his muscel burst,

               His nose and mouth brake out a-bleed;

               Nor moved he thus the dwarf.  From first

                 To last the envious knights essayed,

               And all their malice had the worst,

               Till strong Sir Bors his prowess played ---

                 And all his might availŠd nought,.

               Now once Sir Bors had been betrayed

               To Paynim; him in traitrise caught,

                 They bound to four strong stallion steers,

               To tear asunder, as they thought,

               The paladin of Arthur's peers.

                 But he, a-bending, breaks the spine

               Of three, and on the fourth he rears

               His bulk, and rides away.  Divine

                 the wonder when the giant fails

               To stir the fatuous dwarf, malign

               Who smiles!  But Boors on Arthur rails

                 That never a knight is worth but one.

               "By Goddes death" (quod he), "what ails {20}

               Us marsh-lights to forget the sun?

                 There is one man of mortal men

               Worthy to win this benison,

               Sir Palamede the Saracen."

                 Then went the applauding murmur round:

               Sir Lancelot girt him there and then

               To ride to that enchanted ground

                 Where amid timeless snows the den

               Of Palamedes might be found.2           {21}

        2WEH NOTE:  See "Confessions".  This refers to that portion of

          Crowley's life spent at Boleskine as Alastor, the "Spirit of



               BEHOLD Sir Lancelot of the Lake

                 Breasting the stony screes: behold

               How breath must fail and muscle ache

               Before he reach the icy fold

                 That Palamede the Saracen

               Within its hermitage may hold.

               At last he cometh to a den

                 Perched high upon the savage scaur,

               Remote from every haunt of men,

               From every haunt of life afar.

                 There doth he find Sit Palamede

               Sitting as steadfast as a star.

               Scarcely he knew the knight indeed,

                 For he was compassed in a beard

               White as the streams of snow that feed

               The lake of Gods and men revered

                 That sitteth upon Caucasus.

               So muttered he a darkling weird,  {22}

               And smote his bosom murderous.

                 His nails like eagles' claws were grown;

               His eyes were wild and dull; but thus

               Sir Lancelot spake: "Thy deeds atone

                 By knightly devoir!"  He returned

               That "While the land was overgrown

               With giant, fiend, and ogre burned

                 My sword; but now the Paynim bars

               Are broke, and men to virtue turned:

               Therefore I sit upon the scars

                 Amid my beard, even as the sun

               Sits in the company of the stars!"

               Then Lancelot bade this deed be done,

                 The achievement of the Questing Beast.

               Which when he spoke that holy one

               Rose up, and gat him to the east

                 With Lancelot; when as they drew

               Unto the palace and the feast

               He put his littlest finger to

                 The dwarf, who rose to upper air,

               Piercing the far eternal blue

               Beyond the reach of song or prayer.

                 Then did Sir Palamede amend

               His nakedness, his horrent hair,   {23}

               His nails, and made his penance end,

                 Clothing himself in steel and gold,

               Arming himself, his life to spend

               IN vigil cold and wandering bold,

                 Disdaining song and dalliance soft,

               Seeking one purpose to behold,

               And holding ever that aloft,

                 Nor fearing God, nor heeding men.

               So thus his hermit habit doffed

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen.  {24}


               KNOW ye where Druid dolmens rise

                 In Wessex on the widow plain?

               Thither Sir Palamedes plies

               The spur, and shakes the rattling rein.

                 He questions all men of the Beast.

               None answer.  Is the quest in vain?

               With oaken crown there comes a priest

                 In samite robes, with hazel wand,

               And worships at the gilded East.

               Ay! thither ride!  The dawn beyond

                 Must run the quarry of his quest.

               He rode as he were wood or fond,

               Until at night behoves him rest.

                 --- He saw the gilding far behind

               Out on the hills toward the West!

               With aimless fury hot and blind

                 He flung him on a Viking ship.

               He slew the rover, and inclined  {25}

               The seamen to his stinging whip.

                 Accurs'd of God, despising men,

               Thy reckless oars in ocean dip,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!    {26}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Sailed ever with a favouring wind

               Unto the smooth and swarthy men

               That haunt the evil shore of Hind:

                 He queried eager of the quest.

               "Ay! Ay!" their cunning sages grinned:

               "It shines!  It shines!  Guess thou the rest!

                 For naught but this our Rishis know."

               Sir Palamede his way addressed

               Unto the woods: they blaze and glow;

                 His lance stabs many a shining blade,

               His sword lays many a flower low

               That glittering gladdened in the glade.

                 He wrote himself a wanton ass,

               And to the sea his traces laid,

               Where many a wavelet on the glass

                 His prowess knows.  But deep and deep

               His futile feet in fury pass,   {27}

               Until one billow curls to leap,

                 And flings him breathless on the shore

               Half drowned.  O fool! his God's asleep,

               His armour in illusion's war

                 It self illusion, all his might

               And courage vain.  Yet ardours pour

               Through every artery.  The knight

                 Scales the Himalaya's frozen sides,

               Crowned with illimitable light,

               And there in constant war abides,

                 Smiting the spangles of the snow;

               Smiting until the vernal tides

               Of earth leap high; the steady flow

                 Of sunlight splits the icy walls:

               They slide, they hurl the knight below.

               Sir Palamede the mighty falls

                 Into an hollow where there dwelt

               A bearded crew of monachals

               Asleep in various visions spelt

                 By mystic symbols unto men.

               But when a foreigner they smelt

               They drive him from their holy den,

                 And with their glittering eyeballs pelt

               Sir Palamede the Saracen.3   {28}

        3WEH NOTE:  In other words, when Crowley went searching for an

          eastern master in and about the Indian sub-continent, the local

          teachers just stared at him until he went away.


               Now findeth he, as all alone

                 He moves about the burning East,

               The mighty trail of some unknown,

                 But surely some majestic beast.

               So followeth he the forest ways,

                 Remembering his knightly oath,

               And through the hot and dripping days

                 Ploughs through the tangled undergrowth.

               Sir Palamede the Saracen

                 Came on a forest pool at length,

               Remote from any mart of men,

                 Where there disported in his strength

               The lone and lordly elephant.

                 Sir Palamede his forehead beat.

               "O amorous!  O militant!

                 O lord of this arboreal seat!"

               Thus worshipped he, and stalking stole

                 Into the presence: he emerged.

               The scent awakes the uneasy soul

                 Of that Majestic One: upsurged {29}

               The monster from the oozy bed,

                 And bounded through the crashing glades.

               --- but now a staring savage head

                 Lurks at him through the forest shades.

               This was a naked Indian,

                 Who led within the city gate

               The fooled and disappointed man,

                 Already broken by his fate.

               Here were the brazen towers, and here

                 the scupltured rocks, the marble shrine

               Where to a tall black stone they rear

                 The altars due to the divine.

               The God they deem in sensual joy

                 Absorbed, and silken dalliance:

               To please his leisure hours a boy

                 Compels an elephant to dance.

               So majesty to ridicule

                 Is turned.  To other climes and men

               Makes off that strong, persistent fool

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen.   {30}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath hied him to an holy man,

               Sith he alone of mortal men

               Can help him, if a mortal can.

                 (So tell him all the Scythian folk.)

               Wherefore he makes a caravan,

               And finds him.  When his prayers invoke

                 The holy knowledge, saith the sage:

               "This Beast is he of whom there spoke

               The prophets of the Golden Age:

                 'Mark! all that mind is, he is not.'"

               Sir Palamede in bitter rage

               Sterte up: "Is this the fool, 'Od wot,

                 To see the like of whom I came

               From castellated Camelot?"

               The sage with eyes of burning flame

                 Cried: "Is it not a miracle?

               Ay! for with folly travelleth shame,  {31}

               And thereto at the end is Hell

                 Believe!  And why believe?  Because

               It is a thing impossible."

               Sir Palamede his pulses pause.

                 "It is not possible" (quod he)

               "That Palamede is wroth, and draws

               His sword, decapitating thee.

                 By parity of argument

               This deed of blood must surely be."

               With that he suddenly besprent

                 All Scythia with the sage's blood,

               And laughting in his woe he went

               Unto a further field and flood,

                 Aye guided by that wizard's head,

               That like a windy moon did scud

               Before him, winking eyes of red

                 And snapping jaws of white: but then

               What cared for living or for dead

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen?   {32}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Follows the Head to gloomy halls

                 Of sterile hate, with icy walls.

               A woman clucking like a hen

                 Answers his lordly bugle-calls.

               She rees him in ungainly rede

                 Of ghosts and virgins, doves and wombs,

                 Of roods and prophecies and tombs ---

               Old pagan fables run to seed!

                 Sir Palamede with fury fumes.

               So doth the Head that jabbers fast

                 Against that woman's tangled tale.

                 (God's patience at the end must fail!)

               Out sweeps the sword --- the blade hath passed

                 Through all her scraggy farthingale.

               "This chatter lends to Thought a zest"

                 (Quod he), "but I am all for Act.

                 Sit here, until your Talk hath cracked

               The addled egg in Nature's nest!"

                 With that he fled the dismal tract.  {33}

               He was so sick and ill at ease

                 And hot against his fellow men,

                 He thought to end his purpose then ---

               Nay! let him seek new lands and seas,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!



               SIR PALAMEDE is come anon

                 Into a blue delicious bay.

               A mountain towers thereupon,

               Wherein some fiend of ages gone

               Is whelmed by God, yet from his breast

                 Spits up the flame, and ashes grey.

               Hereby Sir Palamede his quest

               Pursues withouten let or rest.

               Seeing the evil mountain be,

                 Remembering all his evil years,

               He knows the Questing Beast runs free ---

               Author of Evil, then, is he!

               Whereat immediate resounds

                 The noise he hath sought so long: appears

               There quest a thirty couple hounds

               Within its belly as it bounds.

               Lifting his eyes, he sees at last

                 The beast he seeks: 'tis like an hart.

               Ever it courseth far and fast.

               Sir Palamede is sore aghast,  {35}

               But plucking up his will, doth launch

                 A might poison-dippŠd dart:

               It fareth ever sure and staunch,

               And smiteth him upon the haunch.

               Then as Sir Palamede overhauls

                 The stricken quarry, slack it droops,

               Staggers, and final down it falls.

               Triumph!  Gape wide, ye golden walls!

               Lift up your everlasting doors,

                 O gates of Camelot!  See, he swoops

               Down on the prey!  The life-blood pours:

               The poison works: the breath implores

               Its livelong debt from heart and brain.

                 Alas! poor stag, thy day is done!

               The gallant lungs gasp loud in vain:

               Thy life is spilt upon the plain.

               Sir Palamede is stricken numb

                 As one who, gazing on the sun,

               Sees blackness gather.  Blank and dumb,

               The good knight sees a thin breath come

               Out of his proper mouth, and dart

                 Over the plain: he seeth it

               Sure by some black magician art

               Shape ever closer like an hart:   {36}

               While such a questing there resounds

                 As God had loosed the very Pit,

               Or as a thirty couple hounds

               Are in its belly as it bounds!

               Full sick at heart, I ween, was then

                 The loyal knight, the weak of wit,

               The butt of lewd and puny men,

               Sir Palamede the Saracen.  {37}


               NORTHWARD the good knight gallops fast,

                 Resolved to seek his foe at home,

               When rose that Vision of the past,

                 The royal battlements of Rome,

                 A ruined city, and a dome.

               There in the broken Forum sat

               A red-robed robber in a Hat.

                 "Whither away, Sir Knight, so fey?"

               "Priest, for the dove on Ararat

                 I could not, nor I will not, stay!"

               "I know thy quest.  Seek on in vain

                 A golden hart with silver horns!

               Life springeth out of divers pains.

                 What crown the King of Kings adorns?

                 A crown of gems?  A crown of thorns!

               The Questing Beast is like a king

               In face, and hath a pigeon's wing

                 And claw; its body is one fleece

               Of bloody white, a lamb's in spring.

                 Enough.  Sir Knight, I give thee peace."  {38}

               The Knight spurs on, and soon espies

                 A monster coursing on the plain.

               he hears the horrid questing rise

                 And thunder in his weary brain.

                 This time, to slay it or be slain!

               Too easy task!  The charger gains

               Stride after stride with little pains

                 Upon the lumbering, flapping thing.

               He stabs the lamb, and splits the brains

                 Of that majestic-seeming king.

               He clips the wing and pares the claw ---

                 What turns to laughter all his joy,

               To wondering ribaldry his awe?

                 The beast's a mere mechanic toy,

                 Fit to amuse an idle boy!  {39}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath come to an umbrageous land

               Where nymphs abide, and Pagan men.

                 The Gods are nigh, say they, at hand.

               How warm a throb from Venus stirs

               The pulses of her worshippers!

               Nor shall the Tuscan God be found

                 Reluctant from the altar-stone:

               His perfume shall delight the ground,

                 His presence to his hold be known

               In darkling grove and glimmering shrine ---

               O ply the kiss and pour the wine!

               Sir Palamede is fairly come

                 Into a place of glowing bowers,

               Where all the Voice of Time is dumb:

                 Before an altar crowned with flowers

               He seeth a satyr fondly dote

               And languish on a swan-soft goat.

               Then he in mid-caress desires

                 The ear of strong Sir Palamede.   {40}

               "We burn," qouth he, "no futile fires,

                 Nor play upon an idle reed,

               Nor penance vain, nor fatuous prayers ---

               The Gods are ours, and we are theirs."

               Sir Palamedes plucks the pipe

                 The satyr tends, and blows a trill

               So soft and warm, so red and ripe,

                 That echo answers from the hill

               In eager and voluptuous strain,

               While grows upon the sounding plain

               A gallop, and a questing turned

                 To one profound melodious bay.

               Sir Palamede with pleasure burned,

                 And bowed him to the idol grey

               That on the altar sneered and leered

               With loose red lips behind his beard.

               Sir Palamedes and the Beast

                 Are woven in a web of gold

               Until the gilding of the East

                 Burns on the wanton-smiling wold:

               And still Sir Palamede believed

               His holy quest to be achieved!

               But now the dawn from glowing gates

                 Floods all the land: with snarling lip

               The Beast stands off and cachinnates.

                 That stings the good knight like a whip,  {41}

               As suddenly Hell's own disgust

               Eats up the joy he had of lust.

               The brutal glee his folly took

                 For holy joy breaks down his brain.

               Off bolts the Beast: the earth is shook

                 As out a questing roars again,

               As if a thirty couple hounds

               Are in its belly as it bounds!

               The peasants gather to deride

                 The knight: creation joins in mirth.

               Ashamed and scorned on every side,

                 There gallops, hateful to the earth,

               The laughing-stock of beasts and men,

               Sir Palamede the Saracen.  {42}


               WHERE shafts of moonlight splash the vale,

                 Beside a stream there sits and strains

               Sir Palamede, with passion pale,

               And haggard from his broken brains.

                 Yet eagerly he watches still

               A mossy mound where dainty grains

               Of gilded corn their beauty spill

                 To tempt the quarry to the range

               Of Palamede his archer skill.

               All might he sits, with ardour strange

                 And hope new-fledged.  A gambler born

               Aye things the luck one day must change,

               Though sense and skill he laughs to scorn.

                 so now there rush a thousand rats

               In sable silence on the corn.

               They sport their square or shovel hats,

                 A squeaking, tooth-bare brotherhood,

               Innumerable as summer gnats  {43}

               Buzzing some streamlet through a wood.

                 Sir Palamede grows mighty wroth,

               And mutters maledictions rude,

               Seeing his quarry far and loth

                 And thieves despoiling all the bait.

               Now, careless of the knightly oath,

               The sun pours down his eastern gate.

                 The chase is over: see ye then,

               Coursing afar, afoam at fate

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!  {44}


               SIR PALAMEDE hath told the tale

                 Of this misfortune to a sage,

               How all his ventures nought avail,

               And all his hopes dissolve in rage.

                 "Now by thine holy beard," quoth he,

               "And by thy venerable age

               I charge thee this my riddle ree."

                 Then said that gentle eremite:

               "This task is easy unto me!

               Know then the Questing Beast aright!

                 One is the Beast, the Questing one:

               And one with one is two, Sir Knight!

               Yet these are one in two, and none

                 disjoins their substance (mark me well!),

               Confounds their persons.  Rightly run

               Their attributes: immeasurable,


               Unspeakable, inaudible, {45}

               Intangible, ingustable,

                 Insensitive to human smell,

               Invariable, implacable,

               Invincible, insciable,




                 Such is its nature: without parts,

               Places, or persons, plumes, or pell,

               Having nor lungs nor lights nor hearts,

                 But two in one and one in two.

               Be he accursŠd that disparts

               Them now, or seemeth so to do!

                 Him will I pile the curses on;

               Him will I hand, or saw him through,

               Or burn with fire, who doubts upon

                 This doctrine, hotototon spells

               The holy word otototon."

               The poor Sir Palamedes quells

                 His rising spleen; he doubts his ears.

               "How may I catch the Beast?" he yells.

               The smiling sage rebukes his fears:

                 "'Tis easier than all, Sir Knight!

               By simple faith the Beast appears.  {46}

               By simple faith, not heathen might,

                 Catch him, and thus achieve the quest!"

               Then quoth that melancholy wight:

               "I will believe!"  The hermit blessed

                 His convert: on the horizon

               Appears the Beast.  "To thee the rest!"

               He cries, to urge the good knight on.

                 But no!  Sir Palamedes grips

               The hermit by the woebegone

               Bear of him; then away he rips,

                 Wood as a maniac, to the West,

               Where down the sun in splendour slips,

               And where the quarry of the quest

                 Canters.  They run like hippogriffs!

               Like men pursued, or swine possessed,

               Over the dizzy Cretan cliffs

                 they smash.  And lo! it comes to pass

               He sees in no dim hieroglyphs,

               In knowledge easy to amass,

                 This hermit (while he drew his breath)

               Once dead is like a mangy ass.

               Bruised, broken, but not bound to death,

                 He calls some passing fishermen

               To bear him.  Presently he saith:  {47}

               "Bear me to some remotest den

                 To Heal me of my ills immense;

                 For now hath neither might nor sense

               Sir Palamede the Saracen."   {48}


               SIR PALAMEDES for a space

                 Deliberates on his rustic bed.

               "I lack the quarry's awful pace"

               (Quod he); "my limbs are slack as lead."

                 So, as he gets his strength, he seeks

               The castles where the pennons red

               Of dawn illume their dreadful peaks.

                 There dragons stretch their horrid coils

               Adown the winding clefts and creeks:

               From hideous mouths their venom boils.

                 But Palamede their fury 'scapes,

               Their malice by his valour foils,

               Climbing aloft by bays and capes

                 Of rock and ice, encounters oft

               The loathly sprites, the misty shapes

               Of monster brutes that lurk aloft.

                 O! well he works: his youth returns

               His heart revives: despair is doffed {49}

               And eager hope in brilliance burns

                 Within the circle of his brows

               As fast he flies, the snow he spurns.

               Ah! what a youth and strength he vows

                 To the achievement of the quest!

               And now the horrid height allows

               His mastery: day by day from crest

                 To crest he hastens: faster fly

               His feet: his body knows not rest,

               Until with magic speed they ply

                 Like oars the snowy waves, surpass

               In one day's march the galaxy

               Of Europe's starry mountain mass.

                 "Now," quoth he, "let me find the quest!"

               The Beast sterte up.  Sir Knight, Alas!

               Day after day they race, nor rest

                 Till seven days were fairly done.

               Then doth the Questing Marvel crest

               The ridge: the knight is well outrun.

                 Now, adding laughter to its din,

               Like some lewd comet at the sun,

               Around the panting paladin

                 It runs with all its splendid speed.

               Yet, knowing that he may not win,  {50}

               He strains and strives in very deed,

                 So that at last a boulder trips

               The hero, that he bursts a-bleed,

               And sanguine from his bearded lips

                 The torrent of his being breaks.

               The Beast is gone: the hero slips

               Down to the valley: he forsakes

                 The fond idea (every bone

               In all his body burns and aches)

               By speed to attain the dear Unknown,

                 By force to achieve the great Beyond.

               Yet from that brain may spring full-grown

                 Another folly just as fond.  {51}


               THE knight hath found a naked girl

                 Among the dunes of Breton sand.

               She spinneth in a mystic whirl,

               And hath a bagpipe in her hand,

                 Wherefrom she draweth dismal groans

               The while her maddening saraband

               She plies, and with discordant tones

                 Desires a certain devil-grace.

               She gathers wreckage-wood, and bones

               Of seamen, jetsam of the place,

                 And builds therewith a fire, wherein

               She dances, bounding into space

               Like an inflated ass's skin.

                 She raves, and reels, and yells, and whirls

               So that the tears of toil begin

               To dew her breasts with ardent pearls.

                 Nor doth she mitigate her dance,

               The bagpipe ever louder skirls,  {52}

               Until the shapes of death advance

                 And gather round her, shrieking loud

               And wailing o'er the wide expanse

               Of sand, the gibbering, mewing crowd.

                 Like cats, and apes, they gather close,

               Till, like the horror of a cloud

               Wrapping the flaming sun with rose,

                 They hide her from the hero's sight.

               Then doth he must thereat morose,

               When in one wild cascade of light

                 The pageant breaks, and thunder roars:

               Down flaps the loathly wing of night.

               He sees the lonely Breton shores

                 Lapped in the levin: then his eyes

               See how she shrieking soars and soars

               Into the starless, stormy skies.

                 Well! well! this lesson will he learn,

               How music's mellowing artifice

               May bid the breast of nature burn

                 And call the gods from star and shrine.

               So now his sounding courses turn

               To find an instrument divine

                 Whereon he may pursue his quest.

               How glitter green his gleeful eyne {53}

               When, where the mice and lice infest

                 A filthy hovel, lies a wench

               Bearing a baby at her breast,

               Drunk and debauched, one solid stench,

                 But carrying a silver lute.

               'Boardeth her, nor doth baulk nor blench,

               And long abideth brute by brute

                 Amid the unsavoury denzens,

               Until his melodies uproot

               The oaks, lure lions from their dens,

                 Turn rivers back,and still the spleen

               Of serpents and of Saracens.

               Thus then equipped, he quits the quean,

                 And in a city fair and wide

               Calls up with music wild and keen

               The Questing Marvel to his side.

                 Then do the sportful city folk

               About his lonely stance abide:

               Making their holiday, they joke

                 The melancholy ass: they throw

               Their clattering coppers in his poke.

               so day and night they come and go,

                 But never comes the Questing Beast,

               Nor doth that laughing people know  {54}

               How agony's unleavening yeast

                 Stirs Palamede.  Anon they tire,

               And follow an Egyptian priest

               Who boasts him master of the fire

                 To draw down lightning, and invoke

               The gods upon a sandal pyre,

               And bring up devils in the smoke.

                 Sir Palamede is all alone,

               Wrapped in his misery like a cloak,

               Despairing now to charm the Unknown.

                 So arms and horse he takes again.

               Sir Palamede hath overthrown

               The jesters.  Now the country men,

                 Stupidly staring, see at noon

               Sir Palamede the Saracen

               A-riding like an harvest moon

                 In silver arms, with glittering lance,

               With plumŠd helm, and wingŠd shoon,

                 Athwart the admiring land of France.  {55}


               SIR PALAMEDE hat reasoned out

               Beyond the shadow of a doubt

                 That this his Questing Beast is one;

               For were it Beasts, he must suppose

               An earlier Beast to father those.

                 So all the tracks of herds that run

               Into the forest he discards,

               And only turns his dark regards

                 On single prints, on marks unique.

               Sir Palamede doth now attain

               Unto a wide and grassy plain,

                 Whereon he spies the thing to seek.

               Thereat he putteth spur to horse

               And runneth him a random course,

                 The Beast a-questing aye before.

               But praise to good Sir Palamede!

               'Hath gotten him a fairy steed

                 Alike for venery and for war,

               So that in little drawing near

               The quarry, lifteth up his spear

                 To run him of his malice through.  {56}

               With that the Beast hopes no escape,

               Dissolveth all his lordly shape,

                 Splitteth him sudden into two.

               Sir Palamede in fury runs

               Unto the nearer beast, that shuns

                 The shock, and splits, and splits again,

               Until the baffled warrior sees

               A myriad myriad swarms of these

                 A-questing over all the plain.

               The good knight reins his charger in.

               "Now, by the faith of Paladin!

                 The subtle quest at last I hen."

               Rides off the Camelot to plight

               The faith of many a noble knight,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen.  {57}


               Now doth Sir Palamede advance

               The lord of many a sword and lance.

                 in merrie England's summer sun

               Their shields and arms a-glittering glance

               And laugh upon the mossy mead.

               Now winds the horn of Palamede,

                 As far upon the horizon

               He spies the Questing Beast a-feed.

               With loyal craft and honest guile

               They spread their ranks for many a mile.

                 for when the Beast hat heard the horn

               he practiseth his ancient wile,

               And many a myriad beasts invade

               The stillness of that armŠd glade.

                 Now every knight to rest hath borne

               His lance, and given the accolade,

               And run upon a beast: but they Slip from the fatal point away

                 And course about, confusing all

               That gallant concourse all the day,  {58}

               Leading them ever to a vale

               With hugeous cry and monster wail.

                 then suddenly their voices fall,

               And in the park's resounding pale

               Only the clamour of the chase

               is heard: oh! to the centre race

                 The unsuspicious knights: but he

               The Questing Beast his former face

               Of unity resumes: the course

               Of warriors shocks with man and horse.

                 In mutual madness swift to see

               They shatter with unbridled force

               One on another: down they go

               Swift in stupendous overthrow.

                 Out sword! out lance!  Curiass and helm

               Splinter beneath the knightly blow.

               they storm, they charge, they hack and hew,

               They rush and wheel the press athrough.

                 The weight, the murder, over whelm

               One, two, and all.  Nor silence knew

               His empire till Sir Palamede

               (The last) upon his fairy steed

                 Struck down his brother; then at once

               Fell silence on the bloody mead,  {59}

               Until the questing rose again.

               For there, on that ensanguine plain

                 Standeth a-laughing at the dunce

               The single Beast they had not slain.

               There, with his friends and followers dead,

               His brother smitten through the head,

                 Himself sore wounded in the thigh,

               Weepeth upon the deed of dread,

               Alone among his murdered men,

               The champion fool, as fools were then,

                 Utterly broken, like to die,

               Sir Palamede the Saracen.  {60}


               SIR PALAMEDE his wits doth rally,

                 Nursing his wound beside a lake

               Within an admirable valley,

               Whose walls their thirst on heaven slake,

                 And in the moonlight mystical

               Their countless spears of silver shake.

               Thus reasons he: "In each and all

                 Fyttes of this quest the quarry's track

               Is wondrous geometrical.

               In spire and whorl twists out and back

                 The hart with fair symmetric line.

               And lo! the grain of wit I lack ---

               This Beast is Master of Design.

                 So studying each twisted print

               In this mirific mind of mine,

               My heart may happen on a hint."

                 Thus as the seeker after gold

               Eagerly chases grain or glint,  {61}

               The knight at last wins to behold

                 The full conception.  Breathless-blue

               The fair lake's mirror crystal-cold

               Wherein he gazes, keen to view

                 The vast Design therein, to chase

               The Beast to his last avenue.

               then --- O thou gosling scant of grace!

                 The dream breaks, and Sir Palamede

               Wakes to the glass of his fool's face!

               "Ah, 'sdeath!" (quod he), "by thought and deed

                 This brute for ever mocketh me.

               The lance is made a broken reed,

               The brain is but a barren tree ---

                 For all the beautiful Design

               Is but mine own geometry!"

               With that his wrath brake out like wine.

                 He plunged his body in, and shattered

               The whole delusion asinine.

               All the false water-nymphs that flattered

                 He killed with his resounding curse ---

               O fool of God! as if it mattered!

               So, nothing better, rather worse,

                 Out of the blue bliss of the pool

                 Came dripping that inveterate fool!  {62}


               NOW still he holdeth argument:

                 "So grand a Beast must house him well;

               hence, now beseemeth me frequent

                 Cathedral, palace, citadel."

               So, riding fast among the flowers

                 Far off, a Gothic spire he spies,

               That like a gladiator towers

                 Its spear-sharp splendour to the skies.

               The people cluster round, acclaim:

                 "Sir Knight, good knight, thy quest is won.

               Here dwells the Beast in orient flame,

                 Spring-sweet, and swifter than the sun!"

               Sir Palamede the Saracen

                 Spurs to the shrine, afire to win

               The end; and all the urgent men

                 Throng with him eloquently in.

               Sir Palamede his vizor drops;

                 He lays his loyal lance in rest;

               He drives the rowels home --- he stops!

                 Faugh! but a black-mouthed money-chest!  {63}

               He turns --- the friendly folk are gone,

                 gone with his sumpter-mules and train

               Beyond the infinite horizon

                 Of all he hopes to see again!

               His brain befooled, his pocket picked ---

                 How the Beast cachinnated then,

               Far from that doleful derelict

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!  {64}


               "ONE thing at least" (quoth Palamede),

                 "Beyond dispute my soul can see:

               This Questing Beast that mocks my need

                 Dwelleth in deep obscurity."

               So delveth he a darksome hole

                 Within the bowels of Etna dense,

               Closing the harbour of his soul

                 To all the pirate-ships of sense.

               And now the questing of the Beast

                 Rolls in his very self, and high

               Leaps his while heart in fiery feast

                 On the expected ecstasy.

               But echoing from the central roar

                 Reverberates many a mournful moan,

               And shapes more mystic than before

                 Baffle its formless monotone!

               Ah! mocks him many a myriad vision,

                 Warring within him masterless,

               Turning devotion to derision,

                 Beatitude to beastliness.  {65}

               They swarm, they grow, they multiply;

                 The Strong knight's brain goes all a-swim,

               Paced by that maddening minstrelsy,

                 Those dog-like demons hunting him.

               The last bar breaks; the steel will snaps;

                 The black hordes riot in his brain;

               A thousand threatening thunder-claps

                 Smite him --- insane --- insane --- insane!

               His muscles roar with senseless rage;

                 The pale knight staggers, deathly sick;

               Reels to the light that sorry sage,

                 Sir Palamede the Lunatick.  {66}


               A SAVAGE sea without a sail,

                 Grey gulphs and green a-glittering,

               Rare snow that floats --- a vestal veil

                 Upon the forehead of the spring.

               Here in a plunging galleon

                 Sir Palamede, a listless drone,

               Drifts desperately on --- and on ---

                 And on --- with heart and eyes of stone.

               The deep-scarred brain of him is healed

                 With wind and sea and star and sun,

               The assoiling grace that God revealed

                 For gree and bounteous benison.

               Ah! still he trusts the recreant brain,

                 Thrown in a thousand tourney-justs;

               Still he raves on in reason-strain

                 With senseless "oughts" and fatuous "musts."

               "All the delusions" (argueth

                 The ass), "all uproars, surely rise

               From that curst Me whose name is Death,

                 Whereas the Questing beast belies  {67}

               The Me with Thou; then swift the quest

                 To slay the Me should hook the Thou."

               With that he crossed him, brow and breast,

                 And flung his body from the prow.

               An end?  Alas! on silver sand

                 Open his eyes; the surf-rings roar.

               What snorts there, swimming from the land?

                 The Beast that brought him to the shore!

               "O Beast!" quoth purple Palamede,

                 "A monster strange as Thou am I.

               I could not live before, indeed;

                 And not I cannot even die!

               Who chose me, of the Table Round

                 By miracle acclaimed the chief?

               Here, waterlogged and muscle-bound,

                 Marooned upon a coral reef!"  {68}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath gotten him a swift canoe,

               Paddled by stalwart South Sea men.

               They cleave the oily breasts of blue,

                 Straining toward the westering disk

               Of the tall sun; they battle through

               Those weary days; the wind is brisk;

                 The stars are clear; the moon is high.

               Now, even as a white basilisk

               That slayeth all men with his eye,

                 Stands up before them tapering

               The cone of speechless sanctity.

               Up, up its slopes the pilgrims swing,

                 Chanting their pagan gramarye

               Unto the dread volcano-king.

               "Now, then, by Goddes reed!" quod he,

                 "Behold the secret of my quest

               In this far-famed stability! {69}

               For all these Paynim knights may rest

                 In the black bliss they struggle to."

               But from the earth's full-flowered breast

               Brake the blind roar of earthquake through,

                 Tearing the belly of its mother,

               Engulphing all that heathen crew,

               That cried and cursed on one another.

                 Aghast he standeth, Palamede!

               For twinned with Earthquake laughs her brother

               The Questing Beast.  As Goddes reed

                 Sweats blood for sin, so now the heart

               Of the good knight begins to bleed.

               Of all the ruinous shafts that dart

                 Within his liver, this hath plied

               The most intolerable smart.

               "By Goddes wounds!" the good knight cried,

                 "What is this quest, grown daily dafter,

               Where nothing --- nothing --- may abide?

               Westward!"  They fly, but rolling after

                 Echoes the Beast's unsatisfied

               And inextinguishable laughter!  {70}


               SIR PALAMEDE goes aching on

                 (Pox of despair's dread interdict!)

               Aye to the western horizon,

               Still meditating, sharp and strict,

                 Upon the changes of the earth,

               Its towers and temples derelict,

               The ready ruin of its mirth,

                 The flowers, the fruits, the leaves that fall,

               The joy of life, its growing girth ---

               And nothing as the end of all.

                 Yea, even as the Yang-tze rolled

               Its rapids past him, so the wall

               Of things brake down; his eyes behold

                 The mighty Beast serenely couched

               Upon its breast of burnished gold.

               "Ah! by Christ's blood!" (his soul avouched),

                 "Nothing but change (but change!) abides.

               Death lurks, a leopard curled and crouched,  {71}

               In all the seasons and the tides.

                 But ah! the more it changed and changed" ---

               (The good knight laughed to split his sides!)

               "What?  Is the soul of things deranged?

                 The more it changed, and rippled through

               Its changes, and still changed, and changed,

               The liker to itself it grew.

                 Bear me," he cried, "to purge my bile

               To the old land of Hormakhu,

               That I may sit and curse awhile

                 At all these follies fond that pen

               My quest about --- on, on to Nile!

               Tread tenderly, my merry men!

                 For nothing is so void and vile

               As Palamede the Saracen."  {72}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath clad him in a sable robe;

               Hath curses, writ by holy men

                 From all the gardens of the globe.

               He standeth at an altar-stone;

                 The blood drips from the slain babe's throat;

               His chant rolls in a magick moan;

                 His head bows to the crownŠd goat.

               His wand makes curves and spires in air;

                 The smoke of incense curls and quivers;

               His eyes fix in a glass-cold stare:

                 The land of Egypt rocks and shivers!

               "Lo! by thy Gods, O God, I vow

                 To burn the authentic bones and blood

               Of curst Osiris even now

                 To the dark Nile's upsurging flood!

               I cast thee down, oh crowned and throned!

                 To black Amennti's void profane.

               Until mine anger be atoned

                 Thou shalt not ever rise again."    {73}

               With firm red lips and square black beard,

               Osiris in his strength appeared.

               He made the sign that saveth men

               On Palamede the Saracen.

               'Hath hushed his conjuration grim:

               The curse comes back to sleep with him.

               'Hath fallen himself to that profane

               Whence none might ever rise again.

               Dread torture racks him; all his bones

               Get voice to utter forth his groans.

               The very poison of his blood

               Joins in that cry's soul-shaking flood.

               For many a chiliad counted well

               His soul stayed in its proper Hell.

               Then, when Sir Palamedes came

                 Back to himself, the shrine was dark.

               Cold was the incense, dead the flame;

                 The slain babe lay there black and stark.

               What of the Beast?  What of the quest?

                 More blind the quest, the Beast more dim.

               Even now its laughter is suppressed,

                 While his own demons mock at him!  {74}

               O thou most desperate dupe that Hell's

                 Malice can make of mortal men!

               Meddle no more with magick spells,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!  {75}


               HA! but the good knight, striding forth

                 From Set's abominable shrine,

               Pursues the quest with bitter wrath,

                 So that his words flow out like wine.

               And lo! the soul that heareth them

                 Is straightway healed of suffering.

               His fame runs through the land of Khem:

                 They flock, the peasant and the king.

               There he works many a miracle:

                 The blind see, and the cripples walk;

               Lepers grow clean; sick folk grow well;

                 The deaf men hear, the dumb men talk.

               He casts out devils with a word;

                 Circleth his wand, and dead men rise.

               No such a wonder hath been heard

                 Since Christ our God's sweet sacrifice.

               "Now, by the glad blood of our Lord!"

                 Quoth Palamede, "my heart is light.

               I am the chosen harpsichord

                 Whereon God playeth; the perfect knight,  {76}

               The saint of Mary" --- there he stayed,

                 For out of Memnon's singing stone

               So fierce a questing barked and brayed,

                 It turned his laughter to a groan.

               His vow forgot, his task undone,

                 His soul whipped in God's bitter school!

               (He moaned a mighty malison!)

                 The perfect knight?  The perfect fool!

               "Now, by God's wounds!" quoth he, "my strength

                 Is burnt out to a pest of pains.

               Let me fling off my curse at length

                 In old Chaldea's starry plains!

               Thou blessŠd Jesus, foully nailed

                 Unto the cruel Calvary tree,

               Look on my soul's poor fort assailed

                 By all the hosts of devilry!

               Is there no medicine but death

                 That shall avail me in my place,

               That I may know the Beauteous Breath

                 And taste the Goodly Gift of Grace?

               Keep Thou yet firm this trembling leaf

                 My soul, dear God Who died for men;

               Yea! for that sinner-soul the chief,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!"  {77}


               STARRED is the blackness of the sky;

                 Wide is the sweep of the cold plain

               Where good Sir Palamede doth lie,

                 Keen on the Beast-slot once again.

               All day he rode; all night he lay

                 With eyes wide open to the stars,

               Seeking in many a secret way

                 The key to unlock his prison bars.

               Beneath him, hark! the marvel sounds!

                 The Beast that questeth horribly.

               As if a thirty couple hounds

                 Are in his belly questeth he.

               Beneath him?  Heareth he aright?

                 He leaps to'sfeet --- a wonder shews:

               Steep dips a stairway from the light

                 To what obscurity God knows.

               Still never a tremor shakes his soul

                 (God praise thee, knight of adamant!);

               He plungers to that gruesome goal

                 Firm as an old bull-elephant!  {78}

               The broad stair winds; he follows it;

                 Dark is the way; the air is blind;

               Black, black the blackness of the pit,

                 The light long blotted out behind!

               His sword sweeps out; his keen glance peers

                 For some shape glimmering through the gloom:

               Naught, naught in all that void appears;

                 More still, more silent than the tomb!

               Ye now the good knight is aware

                 Of some black force, of some dread throne,

               Waiting beneath that awful stair,

                 Beneath that pit of slippery stone.

               Yea! though he sees not anything,

                 Nor hears, his subtle sense is 'ware

               That, lackeyed by the devil-king,

                 The Beast --- the Questing Beast --- is there!

               So though his heart beats close with fear,

                 Though horror grips his throat, he goes,

               Goes on to meet it, spear to spear,

                 As good knight should, to face his foes.

               Nay! but the end is come.  Black earth

                 Belches that peerless Paladin

               Up from her gulphs --- untimely birth!

                 --- Her horror could not hold him in!  {79}

               White as a corpse, the hero hails

                 The dawn, that night of fear still shaking

               His body.  All death's doubt assails

                 Him.  Was it sleep or was it waking?

               "By God, I care not, I!" (quod he).

                 "Or wake or sleep, or live or dead,

               I will pursue this mystery.

                 So help me Grace of Godlihead!"

               Ay! with thy wasted limbs pursue

                 That subtle Beast home to his den!

               Who know but thou mayst win athrough,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen?  {80}


               FROM God's sweet air Sir Palamede

                 Hath come unto a demon bog,

               A city where but rats may breed

               In sewer-stench and fetid fog.

                 Within its heart pale phantoms crawl.

               Breathless with foolish haste they jog

               And jostle, all for naught!  They scrawl

                 Vain things all night that they disown

               Ere day.  They call and bawl and squall

               Hoarse cries; they moan, they groan.  A stone

                 Hath better sense!  And these among

               A cabbage-headed god they own,

               With wandering eye and jabbering tongue.

                 He, rotting in that grimy sewer

               And charnel-house of death and dung,

               Shrieks: "How the air is sweet and pure!

                 Give me the entrails of a frog

               And I will teach thee!  Lo! the lure  {81}

               Of light!  How lucent is the fog!

                 How noble is my cabbage-head!

               How sweetly fragrant is the bog!

               "God's wounds!"  (Sir Palamedes said),

                 "What have I done to earn this portion?

               Must I, the clean knight born and bred,

               Sup with this filthy toad-abortion?"

                 Nathless he stayed with him awhile,

               Lest by disdain his mention torsion

               Slip back, or miss the serene smile

                 Should crown his quest; for (as onesaith)

               The unknown may lurk within the vile.

               So he who sought the Beauteous Breath,

                 Desired the Goodly Gift of Grace,

               Went equal into life and death.

               But oh! the foulness of his face!

                 Not here was anything of worth;

               He turned his back upon the place,

               Sought the blue sky and the green earth,

                 Ay! and the lustral sea to cleanse

               That filth that stank about his girth,  {82}

               The sores and scabs, the warts and wens,

                 The nameless vermin he had gathered

               In those insufferable dens,

               The foul diseases he had fathered.

                 So now the quest slips from his brain:

               "First (Christ!) let me be clean again!"  {83}


               "HA!" cries the knight, "may patient toil

               Of brain dissolve this cruel coil!

                 In Afric they that chase the ostrich

               Clothe them with feathers, subtly foil

               Its vigilance, come close, then dart

               Its death upon it.  Brave my heart!

                 Do thus!"  And so the knight disguises

               Himself, on hands and knees doth start

               His hunt, goes questing up and down.

               So in the fields the peasant clown

                 Flies, shrieking, from the dreadful figure.

               But when he came to any town

               They caged him for a lunatic.

               Quod he: "Would God I had the trick!

                 The beast escaped from my devices;

               I will the same.  The bars are thick,

               But I am strong."  He wrenched in vain;

               Then --- what is this?  What wild, sharp strain

                 Smites on the air?  The prison smashes.

               Hark! 'tis the Questing Beast again!   {84}

               Then as he rushes forth the note

               Roars from that Beast's malignant throat

                 With laughter, laughter, laughter, laughter!

               The wits of Palamedes float

               In ecstasy of shame and rage.

               "O Thou!" exclaims the baffled sage;

                 "How should I match Thee?  Yet, I will so,

               Though Doomisday devour the Age.

               Weeping, and beating on his breast,

               Gnashing his teeth, he still confessed

                 The might of the dread oath that bound him:

               He would not yet give up the quest.

               "Nay! while I am," quoth he, "though Hell

               Engulph me, though God mock me well,

                 I follow as I sware; I follow,

               Though it be unattainable.

               Nay, more!  Because I may not win,

               Is't worth man's work to enter in!

                 The Infinite with mighty passion

               Hath caught my spirit in a gin.

               Come! since I may not imitate

               The Beast, at least I work and wait.

                 We shall discover soon or late

               Which is the master --- I or Fate!"  {85}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath passed unto the tideless sea,

                   That the keen whisper of the wind

               May bring him that which never men

                 Knew --- on the quest, the quest, rides he!

                   So long to seek, so far to find!

               So weary was the knight, his limbs

                 Were slack as new-slain dove's; his knees

                   No longer gripped the charger rude.

               Listless, he aches; his purpose swims

                 Exhausted in the oily seas

                   Of laxity and lassitude.

               The soul subsides; its serious motion

                 Still throbs; by habit, not by will.

                   And all his lust to win the quest

               Is but a passive-mild devotion.

                 (Ay! soon the blood shall run right chill

                   --- And is not death the Lord of Rest?)

               There as he basks upon the cliff

                 He yearns toward the Beast; his eyes

                   Are moist with love; his lips are fain  {86}

               To breathe fond prayers; and (marry!) if

                 Man's soul were measured by his sighs

                   He need not linger to attain.

               Nay! while the Beast squats there, above

                 Him, smiling on him; as he vows

                   Wonderful deeds and fruitless flowers,

               He grows so maudlin in his love

                 That even the knaves of his own house

                   Mock at him in their merry hours.

               "God's death!" raged Palamede, not wroth

                 But irritated, "laugh ye so?

                   Am I a jape for scullions?"

               His curse came in a flaky froth.

                 He seized a club, with blow on blow

                   Breaking the knave's unreverent sconce!

               "Thou mock the Questing Beast I chase,

                 The Questing Beast I love?  'Od's wounds!"

                   Then sudden from the slave there brake

               A cachinnation scant of grace,

                 As if a thirty couple hounds

                   Were in his belly!  Knight, awake!

               Ah! well he woke!  His love an scorn

                 Grapple in death-throe at his throat.

                   "Lead me away" (quoth he), "my men!

               Woe, woe is me was ever born

                 So blind a bat, so gross a goat,

                   As Palamede the Saracen!"  {87}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath hid him in an hermit's cell

               Upon an island in the fen

               Of that lone land where Druids dwell.

                 There came an eagle from the height

               And bade him mount.  From dale to dell

               They sank and soared.  Last to the light

                 Of the great sun himself they flew,

               Piercing the borders of the night,

               Passing the irremeable blue.

                 Far into space beyond the stars

               At last they came.  And there he knew

               All the blind reasonable bars

                 Broken, and all the emotions stilled,

               And all the stains and all the scars

               Left him; sop like a child he thrilled

                 With utmost knowledge; all his soul,

               With perfect sense and sight fulfilled,  {88}

               Touched the extreme, the giant goal!

                 Yea! all things in that hour transcended,

               All power in his sublime control,

               All felt, all thought, all comprehended ---

                 "How is it, then, the quest" (he saith)

               "Is not --- at last! --- achieved and ended?

               Why taste I not the Bounteous Breath,

                 Receive the Goodly Gift of Grace?

               Now, kind king-eagle (by God's death!),

               Restore me to mine ancient place!

                 I am advantaged nothing then!"

               Then swooped he from the Byss of Space,

               And set the knight amid the fen.

                 "God!" quoth Sir Palamede, "that I

               Who have won nine should fail at ten!

                 I set my all upon the die:

                 There is no further trick to try.

               Call thrice accursŠd above men

               Sir Palamede the Saracen!"  {89}


               "YEA!" quoth the knight, "I rede the spell.

               This Beast is the Unknowable.

               I seek in Heaven, I seek in Hell;

               Ever he mocks me.  Yet, methinks,

               I have the riddle of the Sphinx.

               For were I keener than the lynx

               I should not see within my mind

               One thought that is not in its kind

               In sooth That Beast that lurks behind:

               And in my quest his questing seems

               The authentic echo of my dreams,

               The proper thesis of my themes!

               I know him?  Still he answers: No!

               I know him not?  Maybe --- and lo!

               He is the one sole thing I know!

               Nay! who knows not is different

               From him that knows.  Then be content;

               Thou canst not alter the event!  {90}

               Ah! what conclusion subtly draws

               From out this chaos of mad laws?

               An I, the effect, as I, the cause?

               Nay, the brain reels beneath its swell

               Of pompous thoughts.  Enough to tell

               That He is known Unknowable!"

               Thus did that knightly Saracen

               In Cantabrig's miasmal fen

               Lecture to many learned men.

               So clamorous was their applause ---

               "His mind" (said they) "is free of flaws:

               The Veil of God is thin as gauze!" ---

               That almost they had dulled or drowned

               The laughter (in its belly bound)

               Of that dread Beast he had not found.

               Nathless --- although he would away ---

               They forced the lack-luck knight to stay

               And lecture many a weary day.

               Verily, almost he had caught

               The infection of their costive thought,

               And brought his loyal quest to naught.

               It was by night that Palamede

               Ran from that mildewed, mouldy breed,

               Moth-eathen dullards run to seed!  {91}

               How weak Sir Palamedes grows!

               We hear no more of bouts and blows!

               His weapons are his ten good toes!

               He that was Arthur's peer, good knight

               Proven in many a foughten fight,

               Flees like a felon in the night!

               Ay! this thy quest is past the ken

               Of thee and of all mortal men,

               Sir Palamede the Saracen!  {92}


               OFT, as Sir Palamedes went

                 Upon the quest, he was aware

               Of some vast shadow subtly bent

                 With his own shadow in the air.

               It had no shape, no voice had it

                 Wherewith to daunt the eye or ear;

               Yet all the horror of the pit

                 Clad it with all the arms of fear.

               Moreover, though he sought to scan

                 Some feature, though he listened long,

               No shape of God or fiend or man,

                 No whisper, groan, shriek, scream, or song

               Gave him to know it.  Now it chanced

                 One day Sir Palamedes rode

               Through a great wood whose leafage danced

                 In the thin sunlight as it flowed

               From heaven.  He halted in a glade,

                 Bade his horse crop the tender grass;

               Put off his armour, softly laid

                 Himself to sleep till noon should pass.  {93}

               He woke. Before him stands and grins

                 A motley hunchback.  "Knave!" quoth he,

               "Hast seen the Beast?  The quest that wins

                 The loftiest prize of chivalry?"

               Sir Knight," he answers, "hast thou seen

                 Aught of that Beast?  How knowest thou, then,

               That it is ever or hath been,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen?"

               Sir Palamede was well awake.

                 "Nay!  I deliberate deep and long,

               Yet find no answer fit to make

                 To thee.  The weak beats down the strong;

               The fool's cap shames the helm.  But thou!

                 I know thee for the shade that haunts

               My way, sets shame upon my brow,

                 My purpose dims, my courage daunts.

               Then, since the thinker must be dumb,

                 At least the knight may knightly act:

               The wisest monk in Christendom

                 May have his skull broke by a fact."

               With that, as a snake strikes, his sword

                 Leapt burning to the burning blue;

               And fell, one swift, assured award,

                 Stabbing that hunchback through and through.  {94}

               Straight he dissolved, a voiceless shade.

                 "Or scotched or slain," the knight said then,

               "What odds?  Keep bright and sharp thy blade,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!"  {95}


               SIR PALAMEDE is sick to death!

                 The staring eyen, the haggard face!

               God grant to him the Beauteous breath!

                 god send the Goodly Gift of Grace!

               There is a white cave by the sea

                 Wherein the knight is hid away.

               Just ere the night falls, spieth he

                 The sun's last shaft flicker astray.

               All day is dark.  There, there he mourns

                 His wasted years, his purpose faint.

               A million whips, a million scorns

                 Make the knight flinch, and stain the saint.

               For now! what hath he left?  He feeds

                 On limpets and wild roots.  What odds?

               There is no need a mortal needs

                 Who hath loosed man's hope to grasp at God's!

               How his head swims!  At night what stirs

                 Above the faint wash of the tide,

               And rare sea-birds whose winging whirrs

                 About the cliffs?  Now good betide!  {96}

               God save thee, woeful Palamede!

                 The questing of the Beast is loud

               Within thy ear.  By Goddes reed,

                 thou has won the tilt from all the crowd!

               Within thy proper bowels it sounds

                 Mighty and musical at need,

               As if a thirty couple hounds

                 Quested within thee, Palamede!

               Now, then, he grasps the desperate truth

                 He hath toiled these many years to see,

               Hath wasted strength, hath wasted youth --0-

                 He was the Beast; the Beast was he!

               He rises from the cave of death,

                 Runs to the sea with shining face

               To know at last the Bounteous Breath,

                 To taste the Goodly Gift of Grace.

               Ah!  Palamede, thou has mistook!

                 Thou art the butt of all confusion!

               Not to be written in my book

                 Is this most drastic disillusion!

               so weak and ill was he, I doubt

                 if he might hear the royal feast

               Of laughter that came rolling out

                 Afar from that elusive Beast.  {97}

               Yet, those white lips were snapped, like steel

                 Upon the ankles of a slave!

               That body broken on the wheel

                 Of time suppressed the groan it gave!

               "Not there, not here, my quest!" he cried.

                 "Not thus!  Not now!  do how and when

               Matter?  I am, and I abide,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!"  {98}


               SIR PALAMEDE of great renown

                 rode through the land upon the quest,

               His sword loose and his vizor down,

                 His buckler braced, his lance in rest.

               Now, then, God save thee, Palamede!

                 Who courseth yonder on the field?

               Those silver arms, that sable steed,

                 The sun and rose upon his shield?

               The strange knight spurs to him.  disdain

                 Curls that proud lip as he uplifts

               His vizor.  "Come, an end!  In vain,

                 Sir Fox, thy thousand turns and shifts!"

               Sir Palamede was white with fear.

                 Lord Christ! those features were his own;

               His own that voice so icy clear

                 That cuts him, cuts him to the bone.

               "False knight! false knight!" the stranger cried.

                 "Thou bastard dog, Sir Palamede?

               I am the good knight fain to ride

                 Upon the Questing Beast at need.  {99}

               Thief of my arms, my crest, my quest,

                 My name, now meetest thou thy shame.

               See, with this whip I lash thee back,

                 Back to the kennel whence there came

               So false a hound."  "Good knight, in sooth,"

                 Answered Sir Palamede, "not I

               Presume to asset the idlest truth;

                 And here, by this good ear and eye,

               I grant thou art Sir Palamede.

                 But --- try the first and final test

               If thou or I be he.  Take heed!"

                 He backed his horse, covered his breast,

               Drove his spurs home, and rode upon

                 That knight.  His lance-head fairly struck

               The barred strength of his morion,

                 And rolled the stranger in the muck.

               "Now, by God's death!" quoth Palamede,

                 His sword at work, "I will not leave

               So much of thee as God might feed

                 His sparrows with.  As I believe

               The sweet Christ's mercy shall avail,

                 so will I not have aught for thee;

               Since every bone of thee may rail

                 Against me, crying treachery.  {100}

               Thou hast lied.  I am the chosen knight

                 To slay the Questing beast for men;

               I am the loyal son of light,

                 Sir Palamede the Saracen!

               Thou wast the subtlest fiend that yet

                 hath crossed my path.  to say thee nay

               I dare not, but my sword is wet

                 With thy knave's blood, and with thy clay

               fouled!  Dost thou think to resurrect?

                 O sweet Lord Christ that savest men!

               From all such fiends do thou protect

                 Me, Palamede the Saracen!"  {101}


               GREEN and Grecian is the valley,

                 Shepherd lads and shepherd lasses

                   Dancing in a ring

               Merrily and musically.

                 How their happiness surpasses

                   The mere thrill of spring!

               "Come" (they cry), "Sir Knight, put by

                 All that weight of shining armour!

               Here's a posy, here's a garland, there's a chain of daisies!

                 Here's a charmer!  There's a charmer!

               Praise the God that crazes men, the God that raises

                 All our lives toe ecstasy!"

               Sir Palamedes was too wise

                 To mock their gentle wooing;

               He smiles into their sparkling eyes

                 While they his armour are undoing.

               "For who" (quoth he) "may say that this

               Is not the mystery I miss?"

               Soon he is gathered in the dance,

                 And smothered in the flowers.  {102}

               A boy's laugh and a maiden's glance

                 Are sweet as paramours!

               Stay! is thee naught some wanton wight

               May do to excite the glamoured knight?

               Yea! the song takes a sea-wild swell;

                 The dance moves in a mystic web;

               Strange lights abound and terrible;

                 The life that flowed is out at ebb.

               The lights are gone; the night is come;

                 The lads and lasses sink, awaiting

               Some climax --- oh, how tense and dumb

                 The expectant hush intoxicating!

               Hush! the heart's beat!  Across the moor

               Some dreadful god rides fast, be sure!

               the listening Palamede bites through

                 his thin white lips --- what hoofs are those?

               Are they the Quest?  How still and blue

                 The sky is!  Hush --- God knows --- God knows!

               Then on a sudden in the midst of them

                 is a swart god, from hoof to girdle a goat,

               Upon his brow the twelve-star diadem

                 And the King's Collar fastened on this throat.

               Thrill upon thrill courseth through Palamede.

                 Life, live, pure life is bubbling in his blood.

               All youth comes back, all strength, all you indeed

                 Flaming within that throbbing spirit-flood!  {103

               Yet was his heart immeasurably sad,

               For that no questing in his ear he had.

               Nay! he saw all.  He saw the Curse

                 That wrapped in ruin the World primaeval.

               He saw the unborn Universe,

                 And all its gods coeval.

               He saw, and was, all things at once

                 In Him that is; he was the stars,

               The moons, the meteors, the suns,

                 All in one net of triune bars;

               Inextricably one, inevitably one,

                 Immeasurable, immutable, immense

               Beyond all the wonder that his soul had won

                 By sense, in spite of sense, and beyond sense.

               "Praise God!" quoth Palamede, "by this

               I attain the uttermost of bliss. ...

               God's wounds!  but that I never sought.

                 The Questing Beast I sware to attain

               And all this miracle is naught.

                 Off on my travels once again!

               I keep my youth regained to foil

               Old Time that took me in his toil.

               I keep my strength regained to chase

                 The beast that mocks me now as then

               Dear Christ!  I pray Thee of Thy grace

               Take pity on the forlorn case

                 Of Palamede the Saracen!"  {104}


               SIR PALAMEDE the Saracen

                 Hath see the All; his mind is set

               To pass beyond that great Amen.

               Far hath he wandered; still to fret

                 His soul against that Soul.  He breaches

               The rhododendron forest-net,

               His body bloody with its leeches.

                 Sternly he travelleth the crest

               Of a great mountain, far that reaches

               Toward the King-snows; the rains molest

                 The knight, white wastes updriven of wind

               In sheets, in torrents, fiend-possessed,

               Up from the steaming plains of Ind.

                 They cut his flesh, they chill his bones:

               Yet he feels naught; his mind is pinned

               To that one point where all the thrones

                 Join to one lion-head of rock,

               Towering above all crests and cones  {105}

               That crouch like jackals.  Stress and shock

                 Move Palamede no more.  Like fate

               He moves with silent speed.   They flock,

               The Gods, to watch him.  Now abate

                 His pulses; he threads through the vale,

               And turns him to the mighty gate,

               The glacier.  Oh, the flowers that scale

                 those sun-kissed heights!  The snows that crown

               The quarts ravines!  The clouds that veil

               The awful slopes!  Dear God! look down

                 And see this petty man move on.

               Relentless as Thine own renown,

               Careless of praise or orison,

                 Simply determined.  Wilt thou launch

               (this knight's presumptuous head upon)

               The devastating avalancehe?

                 He knows too much, and cares too little!

               His wound is more than Death can staunch.

               He can avoid, though by one tittle,

                 Thy surest shaft!  And now the knight,

               Breasting the crags, may laugh and whittle

               Away the demon-club whose might

                 Threatened him.  Now he leaves the spur;

               And eager, with a boy's delight, {106}

               Treads the impending glacier.

                 Now, now he strikes the steep black ice

               That leads to the last neck.  By Her

               That bore the lord, by what device

                 May he pass there?  Yet still he moves,

               Ardent and steady, as if the price

               Of death were less than life approves,

                 As if on eagles' wings he mounted,

               Or as on angels' wings --- or love's!

               So, all the journey he discounted,

                 Holding the goal.  Supreme he stood

               Upon the summit; dreams uncounted,

               Worlds of sublime beatitude!

                 He passed beyond.  The All he hath touched,

               And dropped to vile desuetude.

               What lay beyond?  What star unsmutched

                 By being?  His poor fingers fumble,

               And all the Naught their ardour clutched,

               Like all the rest, begins to crumble.

                 Where is the Beast?  His bliss exceeded

               All that bards sing of or priests mumble;

               No man, no God, hath known what he did.

                 Only this baulked him --- that he lacked

               Exactly the one thing he needed.  {107}

               "Faugh!" cried the knight.  "Thought, word, and act

                 Confirm me.  I have proved the quest

               Impossible.  I break the pact.

               Back to the gilded halls, confessed

                 A recreant!  Achieved or not,

               This task hath earned a foison --- rest.

               In Caerlon and Camelot

                 Let me embrace my fellow-men!

               To buss the wenches, pass the pot,

               Is now the enviable lot

                 Of Palamede the Saracen!"  {108}


               SIR ARTHUR sits again at feast

                 Within the high and holy hall

               Of Camelot.  From West to East

               The Table Round hath burst the thrall

                 Of Paynimrie.  The goodliest gree

               Sits on the gay knights, one and all;

               Till Arthur: "Of your chivalry,

                 Knights, let us drink the happiness

               Of the one knight we lack" (quoth he);

               "For surely in some sore distress

                 May be Sir Palamede."  Then they

               Rose as one man in glad liesse

               To honour that great health.  "god's way

                 Is not as man's" (quoth Lancelot).

               "Yet, may god send him back this day,

               His quest achieve, to Camelot!"

                 "Amen!" they cried, and raised the bowl;

               When --- the wind rose, a blast as hot {109}

               As the simoom, and forth did roll

                 A sudden thunder.  Still they stood.

               Then came a bugle-blast.  The soul

               Of each knight stirred.  With vigour rude,

                 The blast tore down the tapestry

               That hid the door.  All ashen-hued

               The knights laid hand to sword.  But he

                 (Sir Palamedes) in the gap

               Was found --- God knoweth --- bitterly

               Weeping.  Cried Arthur: "Strange the hap!

                 My knight, my dearest knight, my friend!

               What gift had Fortune in her lap

               Like thee?  Em,brace me!"  "Rather end

                 Your garments, if you love me, sire!"

               (Quod he).  "I am come unto the end.

               All mine intent and my desire,

                 My quest, mine oath --- all, all is done.

               Burn them with me in fatal fire!

               Fir I have failed.  All ways, each one

                 I strove in, mocked me.  If I quailed

               Or shirked, God knows.  I have not won:

               That and no more I know.  I failed."

                 King Arthur fell a-weeping.  Then

               Merlin uprose, his face unveiled;  {110}

               Thrice cried he piteously then

                 Upon our Lord.  Then shook this head

               Sir Palamede the Saracen,

               As knowing nothing might bestead,

                 When lo! there rose a monster moan,

               A hugeous cry, a questing dread,

               As if (God's death!) there coursed alone

                 The Beast, within whose belly sounds

               That marvellous music monotone

               As if a thirty couple hounds

                 Quested within him.  Now, by Christ

               And by His pitiful five wounds! ---

               Even as a lover to his tryst,

                 That Beast came questing in the hall,

               One flame of gold and amethyst,

               Bodily seen then of them all.

                 then came he to Sir Palamede,

               Nestling to him, as sweet and small

               As a young babe clings at its need

                 To the white bosom of its mother,

               As Christ clung to the gibbet-reed!

               Then every knight turned to his brother,

                 Sobbing and signing for great gladness;

               And, as they looked on one another,  {111}

               Surely there stole a subtle madness

                 Into their veins, more strong than death:

               For all the roots of sin and sadness

               Were plucked.  As a flower perisheth,

                 So all sin died.  And in that place

               All they did know the Beauteous Breath

               And taste the Goodly Gift of Grace.

                 Then fell the night.  Above the baying

               Of the great Beast, that was the bass

               To all the harps of Heaven a-playing,

                 There came a solemn voice (not one

               But was upon his knees in praying

               And glorifying God).  The Son

                 Of God Himself --- men thought --- spoke then.

               "Arise! brave soldier, thou hast won

               The quest not given to mortal men.

                 Arise!  Sir Palamede Adept,

               Christian, and no more Saracen!

               On wake or sleeping, wise, inept,

                 Still thou didst seek.  Those foolish ways

               On which thy folly stumbled, leapt,

               All led to the one goal.  Now praise

                 Thy Lord hat He hat brought thee through

               To win the quest!"  The good knight lays  {112}

               His hand upon the Beast.  Then blew

                 Each angel on his trumpet, then

               All Heaven resounded that it knew

               Sir Palamede the Saracen

                 Was master!  Through the domes of death,

               Through all the mighty realms of men

               And spirits breathed the Beauteous Breath:

                 They taste the Goodly Gift of Grace.

               --- Now 'tis the chronicler that saith:

               Our Saviour grant in little space

                 That also I, even I, be blest

               Thus, though so evil is my case ---

               Let them that read my rime attest

                 The same sweet unction in my pen ---

               That writes in pure blood of my breast;

               For that I figure unto men

                 The story of my proper quest

                 As thine, first Eastern in the West,

               Sir Palamede the Saracen!  {113}

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