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Smiles clothed his roseate cheeks; but in his eyes
B. ii. p. 34. Arthur resigns himself to the counsel and instruction of the sage Merlin, who, however, gratified by the deference which is paid him, soon perceives that a portion of it is to be attributed to another and
very different cause—to a mutual attachment, in short, which had taken place between the prince and his daughter.
It is soon after this discovery that Uthur holds a tournament in commemoration of the day of his son's return, inviting the brave of every nation to honour it with their presence. He and Arthur sit as judges of the field, whilst the beautiful Inogen is destined to bestow the conqueror's prize. For some days the British knights meet with no equal opponents; but, at length, Valdemar and Hengist, the kings of Dacia and of Saxony, and the first amongst the warriors of the North, enter the lists; and the latter, bearing down all before him, is proclaimed by the marshals to have won the meed of victory. He accordingly receives from the hands of Inogen the reward due to his valour; but pre
suming at the same moment to avow his love for her, and to claim a return, on the pretext of being unrivalled in the field, Arthur, unable to repress his indignation, rushes forward to repel the boast, and a deadly combat between the two chiefs and their followers would immediately have ensued, had not the intervention of the knights and marshals repressed their fury; when Uther, rising from his seat, and exclaiming against the breach of hospitality, in assaulting the invited guest, banishes Arthur from his court. In fact, astonished at the unequalled prowess of the Saxon king, and trembling for his son, he was happy to avail himself of this plea, in order, as his affectionate fears suggested, to save the life of the latter. In the meanwhile he offers to Hengist, whilst the festival lasts, the liberty of preferring his suit, declaring, at the same time, that should the maid contemn his love, no force shall be put upon her inclinations.
Inogen, as may be concluded, is unable to conceal her aversion for the Saxon; and Hengist, in the spirit of his haughty character, not only avenges himself on Uther and the Britons, by behaving towards them with insolence, but, by daily increasing around him the circle of his friends and followers,
seems to menace a more serious aggression. Uther, alarmed, secretly issues his orders to recall his son and absent knights, determined that if a mild intimation failed to induce Hengist to leave Carlisle, force should compel him to retire.
It was in this state of affairs that one evening, whilst Merlin sate in his bower, pensive and absorbed in thought, Cador, a kinsman and bosom friend of Arthur, suddenly enters and informs him, that from motives of affection, and in the hope of lightening the anguish of the prince, he had fol. lowed his steps shortly after he had quitted his father's court, and had found him, after long search, on the shores of the Humber, where, with ten of his bravest knights, he saw him embark for the desert isle of Ligon, at which place Hengist, to whom he had sent a defiance, had promised to meet him with a similar force, in order to decide their pretensions to Inogen by combat. He adds, that Arthur refusing to allow his accompanying their expedition, he had returned, at his express desire, with a message of filial piety to his father, and with assurances of fidelity and protection to Inogen ; but that on his way he had learnt, to his inexpressible grief, that Britain was already invaded in various
parts by the Danes and Saxons ; that Hengist, regardless of his honour, had forfeited his engagement to meet Arthur; that he was, in fact, preparing to besiege Carlisle; and, to aggravate these misfortunes, that Uther, worn out with
age was actually dying.
Under these circumstances, he and Lancelot, who had been left by Arthur to aid and support the venerable monarch, urge Merlin instantly to seek safety for himself and daughter in flight, leaving them to defend the walls of the city. With this advice, conscious that age and beauty can be of no avail in such an einergency, he willingly complies, and he and Inogen regain, under the friendly shades of night, their former retreat. The sentiments, however, with which they re-enter this abode are widely different from those which they had once entertained beneath its shelter, and the effect of this change on the objects around them is most feelingly and beautifully expressed in the following lines :
Through various toils our calm retreat we found,
As sweet the blushing flowers perfumed the air;
But, ah! our minds were changed-to them no more
The narrative now proceeds to inform us, that one morning, lost in deep reflection, Merlin wandered a considerable distance from his abode, when at length, the heat of the noontide sun having compelled him to seek for shade, he enters a forest; an incident of which the poet has availed himself to introduce an admirable picture of the locality of a Druidical circle, and of the awful rites which were wont to accompany that sanguinary form of religion :
Before my view a gloomy forest rose :