Tristram Crazed

HE strode across the room and flung
The letter at her feet: ‘Now tell
Your treachery, harlot!’ He was gone
Ere Iseult fainting fell.
He rode out from Tintagel gate,
He heard his charger slowly pace,
And ever hung a cloud of gnats
Three feet before his face.
At a wood’s border he turned round
And saw the distant castle side,
Iseult looking towards the wood,
Mark’s window gaping wide.
He turned again and slowly rode
Into the forest’s flickering shade,
And now as sunk in waters green
Were armor, helm, and blade.
First he awoke with night around
And heard the wind, and woke again
At noon within a cirque of hills,
At sunset on a plain.
And now he saw a tower, and now,
Slow moving past a spectral brake,
Amid black hills a gleaming swan
Upon an ebon lake.
And hill and plain and wood and tower
Passed on and on and turning came
Back to him, tower and wood and hill,
Now different, now the same.
There was a castle by a lake.
The castle doubled in the mere
Confused him, his uncertain eye
Wavered from there to here.
A window on the wall had held
Iseult upon a summer’s day,
While he and Palomide below
Circled in deadly fray.
But now he searched the towers, the sward,
And struggled something to recall,
A stone, a shadow. Blank the lake,
And empty every wall!
He freed his horse, doffed sword and helm,
And went into the woods and tore
The branches from the straining trees
Until his rage was o’er.
And now he wandered on the hills
In peace. Among the shepherds’ flocks
Often he lay so long, he seemed
As rooted as the rocks.
The shepherds called and made him run
Like a tame cur to round the sheep.
At night he lay among the dogs
Beside a well to sleep.
And he forgot Iseult and all.
Dagonet once and two came by
Like tall escutcheoned animals,
With antlers towering high.
He snapped their spears, rove off their helms,
And soused them in the well, and sent
Them onward with a bitter heart,
But knew not where they went.
They came to Mark and told him how
A madman ruled the hinds and kept
The sheep; Mark sent and haled him to
Tintagel while he slept.
He saw Mark sitting down at chess,
And Iseult with her maids at play,
The arras where the scarlet knights
And ladies stood all day.
None knew him. In the garden once
Iseult walked in the afternoon;
Her hound leapt up and licked his face,
Iseult fell in a swoon.
There as he leaned, the misted grass
Cleared blade by blade below his face,
The round walls hardened as he looked,
And he was in his place.