The Defence of Guenevere

Supplementary Material

May Morris on Morris's unused later alterations for the 1875 edition, CW, vol. 1, intro., xvi-xix.

In the Guenevere volume certain alterations were made by the author in a copy of the first edition, made, I should think, at the time of the Ellis reprint in 1875, but not used except for small erratum (p. 89, line 11, for than read for).

In “The Chapel in Lyoness” (p. 31 in this present edition) he substitutes “a rose lay by my face” for “a rose lay on my face.”

The further corrections I give consecutively and print the alterations in italics, for convenience in reading:

SIR GALAHAD
All day long and every day
Till dreams and madness pass’d away
I watched Ozana as he lay
      Within the gilded screen.

I sung, my singing moved him not;
I held my peace; my heart grew hot,
About the quest and Launcelot
      Far away, I ween.

So I went a little space
From out the chapel, bathed my face
Amid the stream that runs apace
      By the churchyard wall.

There in my rest I plucked a rose
Where neath the lime a garden blows
And winds run through the trembling rows
      Of lilies slim and tall.

I bore him water for his drouth,
I laid the flower beside his mouth,
He smiled, turned round towards the south,
      Held up a golden tress.

The light smote on it from the west:
He drew the covering from his breast,
Against his heart that hair he prest;
      Death draws anigh to bless.

            Next, in Sir Bors’ speech, the two first verses are cancelled and these three take their place; the verse following is altered, as below:

SIR BORS
The western door wide open lay
      About the time when we grew sad,
And close beside the door there lay
      The red crossed shield of Galahad.

I entered, and despite of fear,
       My sword lay quiet in its sheath,
Across the rood-screen gilded clear
      I heard the sound of deep drawn breath.

 I said: “If all be found and lost?”
      And pushed the doors and raised my head,
And o’er the marble threshold crossed
     And saw the seeker nowise dead.

 I heard Ozana murmur low,
      The King of many hopes he seemed,
But Galahad stooped and kissed his brow,
      And triumph in his eyen gleamed.

After Ozana dies, the next verse is altered to:

SIR BORS
Galahad gazeth dreamily
      On wondrous things his eyes may see
Amidst the air ‘twixt him and me—
      On his soul, Lord, have mercy.

            In “Sir Peter Harpdon’s End” there are two alterations. On page 43, in the scene between Sir Peter and Sir Lambert outside the castle, one passage in Sir Peter’s longest speech is thus altered:

                                                             Now
Why should I not do this thing that I think,
For even when I come to count the gains,
I have them my side: men will talk of us
‘Twixt talk of Hector dead so long agone;
Will talk of us long dead, and how we clung
To what we loved; perchance of how one died
Hoping for naught, doing some desperate deed…

            In the French camp before the castle, page 48, in Sir Peter’s speech, line 2 from the bottom, for then reads for; page 49, line 3, for

Fear not death so,

read

Nor fear—so; for I can tilt right well—
Let me not say, “I could”…

I think I am right in this reading; the correction is a little ambiguous, but my father often made a word with a vowel sound of the same value as in fear to stand for two syllables.

I have followed the first edition here, except in the case of obvious misprints. The question of the author’s later corrections brings me to a point which I have considered carefully, and about which there may well be difference of opinion. I have been guided by what my father did when the question arose of a corrected poem by Keats. “I shall never forget your father’s rage,” writes Mr Cockerell, “when he found a late version of ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ in the proofs of the Kelmscott Press Keats, and with what alacrity the sheet was cancelled and reprinted.” I do not mean it to be inferred that he was a fanatic on this point, but he had a certain feeling about the first-published form of other men’s work, if not about that of his own; I am bound to confess that if the alteration made by Keats had been in his judgement an improvement to the poem, I feel sure he would have let it stand.

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