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Grief swells swells the breast of Arthur as he contemplates his fallen foe:
Perchance, he cries, not mortal is the blow:
Sweno, however, meets death not only with calm and heroic firmness, but, acting up to the stern creed of his country, with welcome, rejoicing that instead of living vanquished, he had fallen beneath the arm of the valiant; and his only suit is, that his arms and his body may be given to his father, a request which still further excites the commiseration of his conqueror :
Farewell, brave youth! thus Uther's generous son Mournful exclaim'd, what glory hadst thou won If fate vouchsafed thee but a longer day ! Sweno, farewell! thou bright, but transient rayApproach, ye sacred bards, to whom belong The warbling lyre, and joy-diffusing song. Not against you the vengeful blade we raise, Who bid the hero live to future daysApproach in safety, and dismiss your fear : To his sad sire the breathless warrior bear; And (may it soothe his troubled breast), relate He fell by Arthur, who bewail'd his fate.—B. v. p. 154.
The distress of Hacon on learning the event is
poignant in the extreme; he views the dead body of his son in speechless agony, and, at length, throwing himself on the corpse, refuses to rise or to be comforted. His friends are alarmed, and Oswald, one of his bards, indignantly exclaims
Is this the haughty chief,
The voice of Nature, however, cannot be suppressed, and the reply of the bereaved parent is full of truth and tenderness :
Cease, cease, he cried : can words relief impart,
Recovered in some degree from the paroxysm of his grief, his first thought is to rush upon the enemy and avenge the death of his son ; but his bards reminding him that unless sepulchral honours are now paid to Sweno, his body, from the chance of war, may be left a prey to wolves, he alters his resolution, and retires with them in order to celebrate the funeral rites.
Whilst these things are passing in one part of the field, the forces under Lancelot and Valdemar. are contending in the other with as yet undecided fortune. The two leaders, however, at length meet, and every eye is fixed upon them in silent expectation. The combat is long and obstinately maintained; but, at last, Valdemar's horse, trampling on a splintered spear, is wounded in the hoof and falls, whilst Lancelot, disdaining to take advantage of the accident, dismounts and continues the contest on foot. At this moment the Danes, trembling for the life of their monarch, assail the British chieftain from a distance with missile weapons, and he is wounded severely though not fatally. The outrage is instantly retaliated by the friends of Lancelot, who sweep all before them, and the engagement again becomes general. Valdemar meantime
having obtained another war-steed, flies to the aid of his warriors, and turns the tide of victory. He slays Urien; and Hoel, the Armorican king, is about to experience a similar fate, when loud groans and shrieks are heard from the other division of the Saxon army, and Ida, one of its leaders, bleeding and desperately wounded, is seen crossing the plain and rushing into the presence of Valdemar : he implores him to hasten to their assistance, for that Arthur had slain their noblest knights, and that his friend, the brave Biorno, was no more. Having said this, and again urged immediate vengeance, he drops down dead, exhausted from fatigue and loss of blood.
Valdemar, who, whilst the Saxon was yet speaking, had beheld the shameful rout, now hastens to the support of his friends, trusting to arrest the arm of Arthur, and calling upon him in defiance as he advances. Arthur hears and instantly confronts him ; but the weird sisters, fearful of the issue of the combat, strike the horse of Valdemar with frenzy, and immediately, impelled by rage and terror, he rushes with irresistible impetuosity through the ranks, bearing his enraged and reluctant master from the field, in spite of every effort to impede his
Arthur pursues, taunting and defying the unhappy Saxon, who had rather have met the deadliest wounds which his enemy could inflict, than the threats and reproaches he was now condemned to hear. The preternatural speed of his courser, however, soon releases him from this vexation; the voice of Arthur and the roar of the distant battle die upon his ear, and, as evening closes in, he enters the remote forest of Celidon, where his horse, released from the maddening pest, sinks beneath him, and expires without a groan.
Harassed in mind, and fatigued in body, the disappointed chieftain rests for a while on the bank of a gushing streamlet. Then starting with anguish from the spot, he lifts his eyes to heaven, and whilst the recollection of this compulsory flight presses heavy on his heart, bursts forth into the following pathetic appeal, which, with the reflection naturally arising from it, furnishes us with a graceful and very interesting close of this division of the poem.
O sun! who, sinking from thy towering height, Hast seen me borne reluctant from the fight! Thou conscious moon! ye glittering orbs on high, That grace her course and gild the glowing sky;