Under King Constantine
By Katrina Trask
To My Husband.
The following tales, which have no legendary warrant, are supposed to belong to the time, lost in obscurity, immediately subsequent to King Arthur’s death; when, says Malory, in the closing chapter of LA MORT D’ARTHURE, “Sir Constantine, which was Sir Cadors son of Cornwaile, was chosen king of England; and hee was a full noble knight, and worshipfully hee ruled this realme"
The great King Constantine is at the hunt;
The brilliant cavalcade of knights and dames,
On palfreys and on chargers trapped in gold
And silver and red purple, ride in mirth
Along the winding way, by hill and tarn
And violet-sprinkled dell. Impatient hounds
Sniff the keen morning air, and startled birds
Rustle the foliage redolent with spring.
From time to time some courtier reins his steed
Beside the love-enkindling Gwendolaine,
Whose wayward moods do vary as the winds,—
Now wooing with her soft, seductive grace;
Now fascinating with her stately pride;
Anon, bewitching by her recklessness
Of wilful daring in some wild caprice
Which no one could anticipate or stay.
How fair she is to-day! How beautiful!
Her hunting-robe is bluer than the sky,—
Matching one phase of her great, changeful eyes,—
Clasped with twin falcons of unburnished gold,
The colour of her brown hair in the sun.
The white plumes, drooping from her hunting-cap,
Leave her alluring lips in tempting sight,
But hide the growing shadow in her eyes.
For she marks none of all the court to-day
Save Sir Sanpeur, the passing noble knight
Whose bearing doth bespeak heroic deeds,
There where he rides with the sweet maid Ettonne.
Sir Torm, the husband of fair Gwendolaine,
Is all unconscious of aught else beside
The outward seeming, ’tis enough for him
That she is gay and beautiful, and smiles.
He has a nature small and limited
By sight, and sense, and self, and his desires;
A heart as open as the day to all
That touches his quick impulse, when it costs
Him naught of sacrifice. The needy poor
Flock to his castle for the careless gift
Of falling dole, but his esquire is faint
From his exacting service, night and day
His Lady Gwendolaine is satiate
With costly gems, palfreys, and samite thick
With threads of gold and silver, but the sweet
Heart subtleties and fair observances
Are lost in the of course of married life.
He sees, too quickly, does she fail to smile,
But never sees the shadow in her eyes
His hounds are beaten till they scarce draw breath,
And then caressed beyond the worth of hounds.
His vassals know not if, from day to day,