The Defence of Guenevere, by William Morris

Old Love

You must be very old, Sir Giles,

I said; he said: Yea, very old!

Whereat the mournfullest of smiles

Creased his dry skin with many a fold.

They hammer’d out my basnet point

Into a round salade, he said,

The basnet being quite out of joint,

Natheless the salade rasps my head.

He gazed at the great fire awhile:

And you are getting old, Sir John;

(He said this with that cunning smile

That was most sad) we both wear on;

Knights come to court and look at me,

With eyebrows up; except my lord,

And my dear lady, none I see

That know the ways of my old sword.

(My lady! at that word no pang

Stopp’d all my blood). But tell me, John,

Is it quite true that Pagans hang

So thick about the east, that on

The eastern sea no Venice flag

Can fly unpaid for? True, I said,

And in such way the miscreants drag

Christ’s cross upon the ground, I dread

That Constantine must fall this year.

Within my heart, these things are small;

This is not small, that things outwear

I thought were made for ever, yea, all,

All things go soon or late, I said.

I saw the duke in court next day;

Just as before, his grand great head

Above his gold robes dreaming lay,

Only his face was paler; there

I saw his duchess sit by him;

And she, she was changed more; her hair

Before my eyes that used to swim,

And make me dizzy with great bliss

Once, when I used to watch her sit,

Her hair is bright still, yet it is

As though some dust were thrown on it.

Her eyes are shallower, as though

Some grey glass were behind; her brow

And cheeks the straining bones show through,

Are not so good for kissing now.

Her lips are drier now she is

A great duke’s wife these many years,

They will not shudder with a kiss

As once they did, being moist with tears.

Also her hands have lost that way

Of clinging that they used to have;

They look’d quite easy, as they lay

Upon the silken cushions brave

With broidery of the apples green

My Lord Duke bears upon his shield.

Her face, alas! that I have seen

Look fresher than an April field,

This is all gone now; gone also

Her tender walking; when she walks

She is most queenly I well know,

And she is fair still. As the stalks

Of faded summer-lilies are,

So is she grown now unto me

This spring-time, when the flowers star

The meadows, birds sing wonderfully.

I warrant once she used to cling

About his neck, and kiss’d him so,

And then his coming step would ring

Joy-bells for her; some time ago.

Ah! sometimes like an idle dream

That hinders true life overmuch,

Sometimes like a lost heaven, these seem.

This love is not so hard to smutch.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07