Sir Bedivere's Last Battle


When that day of blood was done
two armies lay in silence on the field
of death -- and I still stood, sore wounded
but sole warden of the battleground
in all that host of noble knights.

The stillness broke:
a single raven wheeled above the rout
and cried out hoarsely, cawed to bring
his fellows to the feast of fresh-slain
carrion that had been men.

Stumbling like a drunken churl,
I sought to find a place to rest,
regain some strength. A grove
of willows beckoned me
and there I found my lord the King,
his once-bright armour hacked, axed
like so much firewood, his helm
half-shattered -- blood flowed
through his snowy hair, an ebbing tide
fast leaving land.

He saw me in the fading light, summoned all
his will and dwindling breath, bade me take
Excalibur and cast that peerless blade
into the waters of a lake close by,
then come again and tell him what befell.

The consecrated sword shone cold as starlight
when the moon has waned, but also glowed
with warmth from inlaid jewels about its guard --
its loss was surely simple waste, and so
I left it at the lake, and lied to my dear liege
that I'd seen nothing save calm waters'
shallow ripples, heard no more than
sword's smooth cleaving of the surface.

"That is untruly said of thee.
Go thou lightly now
and do my commandment." I barely
heard his words, dearly wished
to tend the wounds which drained his life
into the dirt, but, duty-bound,
I tried once more and failed again --

somehow it seemed a shameful sin
to throw away that noble sword
and all its power to slay those knaves
who might still haunt the land's dark places,
and so I went back to my King
and lied again with clumsy words.

He stood, I know not how, and cried out
"Untrue traitor, now hast thou betrayed me twice --
thou art named a noble knight, yet would
betray me for the richness of the sword?"

With that he fell; I ran right lightly
to the water, and flung the sword
into the lake as far as my heart-worn fatigue
allowed. A white-clad arm rose up
from the depths, deftly caught Excalibur
in slim fingers, saluted thrice
then plunged to unknown realms.

My battle ended, I returned to tell
my lord the wonder I had seen.
He heard me out, then smiled
and died. I wiped my tears away,
returned alone to broken walls
and tumbled towers
in silent Camelot.



© David Nourse 2010


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