And now the litter of the King drew near,
Attended by a retinue of knights.
High on the couch the King Amfortas lay,
His pale face lined with suffering and care;
And looking toward the King, then Gurnemanz
Spake with his own sad heart: “He comes, my King,—
A helpless burden to his servitors.
Alas, alas! That these mine eyes should see
The sovereign of a strong and noble race,
Now in the very flower and prime of life,
Brought low, and made a bounden slave
Unto a shameful and a stubborn sickness!...
Ye servitors, be careful of this couch!
Careful! Set down the litter tenderly!
I hear the King, our Master, groan in pain.”
Then they set down the couch, and soon the King,
Raising himself a little, spake to them:
“My loving thanks, sir knights. Rest here awhile.
How sweet this morning and these fragrant woods
To one who tossed the weary night in pain.
And this pure lake with all its freshening waves
Will lighten pain and brighten my dark woe.
Where is my dear Gawain?”
And one spake up:
“My Lord Gawain has hasted quick away.
For when the healing herb that he had brought
After such daring toils, did disappoint,
Then he set forth upon another quest.”
Then said the King: “Without our word?
Alas that he should go on useless quests
And seem to do despite unto the Grail!
For it is ordered by divine command
That I should suffer for my grievous sin,
And naught can help me but one single thing.
O woe, if in his far-off quests for me
He is ensnared by Klingsor’s hateful arts!
I pray you, sirs, venture no more for me,—
It only breaks my peace, and grieves my heart.
Naught will avail. I only wait for Him,—
’By pity ‘lightened.’ Was not this the word?”
And Gurnemanz: “So thou hast said to us.”
And softly yet spake on the suffering King: “‘The guileless One.’ Methinks I know him now! His name is Death, for only Death can free me!”
Then Gurnemanz to ease the King’s sad thoughts
Held forth the crystal flask with soothing words:
“Nay, nay, my King. Essay once more a cure,—
A balsam brought for thee from Araby.”
And the King asked: “Whence came this balsam
So strange in form, and who has brought it here?”
And Gurnemanz: “There lies the woman now!
The wild-eyed Kundry, weak and weary-worn,
As if the journey sapped her very life....
Up, Kundry! Here’s his majesty the King!”
But Kundry would not rise, or could not else.
Then spake the King: “O Kundry, restless,
Am I again thy debtor for such help?
Yet I will try thy balsam for my wound,
And for thy service take my grateful thanks.”
But Kundry muttered: “Give no thanks to
What will it help,—or this, or e’en the bath?
And yet, away, I say! On to the bath!”
Then the King left her, lying on the ground,
And off he moved upon the couch of pain,
Longing to bathe him in the shining lake,
Hoping against all hope to ease his soul,
And quiet in his body the fierce pains.