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Thursday, April 29, 2010


This penultimate idyll switches locations from Camelot to a convent, to which Guinevere fled after Modred discovered her and Lancelot giving each other their final farewells.    Lancelot flees to his homeland while Guinevere rides to the convent in Almesbury, where her identity is unknown to the nuns.  She meets a young nun who tries to comfort hert but adds to her misery by condemning the action of the Queen to whom she is speaking.  The nun states that all the evil in the land is the result of Guinevere's entrance into the kingdom.  Guinevere sends the nun away, but Arthur appears and further condemn's the Queen's actions.  He declares she ruined his court by being untrue to him; nevertheless, he still loves her and will make sure she is protected after his death.  He blesses her and leaves, causing Guinevere to realize the greatness of the man to whom she was married but did not love.  She remains in the convent until her death.

One theme in this idyll is that it is too late to change what has been done.  The young nun sings the following song: 

'Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

'No light had we: for that we do repent;
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

'No light: so late! and dark and chill the night!
O let us in, that we may find the light!
Too late, too late: ye cannot enter now.

'Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet?
O let us in, though late, to kiss his feet!
No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now.'

The song describes the Lancelot/Guinevere affair.  The couple thought they could meet one last time before departing and were caught by Modred.  Then they think they can repent for their ignorance and all can be forgiven, but it  is too late for that to happen.  Lastly they think the can appeal to Arthur and have everything return to normal, but Arthur makes it clear that Guinevere can never return to Camelot:

I hold that man the worst of public foes
Who either for his own or children's sake,
To save his blood from scandal, lets the wife
Whom he knows false, abide and rule the house.

Finally, Guinevere realizes too late the greatness of the King:

Thou art the highest and most human too,
Not Lancelot, nor another. Is there none
Will tell the King I love him though so late?
Now--ere he goes to the great Battle? none:
Myself must tell him in that purer life,
But now it were too daring.

It is too late to fix what has been done and Guinevere must live (though Arthur dies) with the consequences.

The above drawing is Arthur farewell to Guinevere (1867) by Gustave Dore.

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