Text of the Poem
In a while they rose and went out aimlessly riding, Leaving their drained cups on the table round. Merlin, Merlin, their hearts cried, where are you hiding? In all the world was no unnatural sound. Mystery watched them riding glade by glade; 5 They saw it darkle from under leafy brows; But leaves were all its voice, and squirrels made An alien fracas in the ancient boughs. Once by a lake-edge something made them stop. Yet what they found was the thumping of a frog, 10 Bugs skating on the shut water-top, Some hairlike algae bleaching on a log. Gawen thought for a moment that he heard A whitehorn breathe Niniane. That Siren’s daughter Rose in a fort of dreams and spoke the word 15 Sleep, her voice like dark diving water; And Merlin slept, who had imagined her Of water-sounds and the deep unsoundable swell A creature to bewitch a sorcerer, And lay there now within her towering spell. 20 Slowly the shapes of searching men and horses Escaped him as he dreamt on that high bed: History died; he gathered in its forces; The mists of time condensed in the still head Until his mind, as clear as mountain water, 25 Went raveling toward the deep transparent dream Who bade him sleep. And then the Siren’s daughter Received him as the sea receives a stream. Fate would be fated; dreams desire to sleep. This the forsaken will not understand. 30 Arthur upon the road began to weep And said to Gawen Remember when this hand Once haled a sword from stone; now no less strong It cannot dream of such a thing to do. Their mail grew quainter as they clopped along. 35 The sky became a still and woven blue.