Amesbury is the abbey to where Queen Guinevere retired after Arthur was killed by Mordred. It is located in Wiltshire near the eastern edge of Salisbury Plain and Stonehenge. A British religious community existed here in the Middle Ages and had a monastery and convent. One of the Welsh triads claims to have founded the original monastery, but more likely is that he stationed a camp of Ambrosius Aurelianus' troops here and the place was named after the leader: Ambrosiani.
At Amesbury Guenevere became a nun and supposedly spent the rest of her days. Many modern writers place more emphasis on the role of Amesbury in Arthurian legend than did the earlier lore. Some literature insinuates that although she had joined the cloister, her thoughts still turned to Lancelot:
So Arthur passed, but country-folk believe He will return, to triumph and achieve; Men watch for him on each Midsummer Eve. They watch in vain, for ere that night was sped, That ship reached Avalon with Arthur dead; I, Gwenivere, helped cere him, within lead. I, Gwenivere, helped bury him in crypt, Under cold flagstones that the ringbolts shipped; The hangings waved, the yellow candles dripped. Anon I made profession, and took vows As nun encloistered: I became Christ's spouse, At Amesbury, as Abbess to the house. I changed my ermines for a goathair stole, I broke my beauty there, with dule and dole, But love remained a flame within my soul. What though I watched and fasted and did good Like any saint among any sisterhood, God could not be deceived, God understood How nigth and day my love was as a cry Calling my lover out of earth and sky The while I shut the bars against reply Years thence a messenger came: I stood to deal The lepers' portions through the bars of the steel; A pilgrim thrust me something shut with seal. I could not know him in his hoodings hid; Besides, he fled: his package I undid; Lancelot's leopard-crest was on the lid. Within, on scarlet ivory, there lay A withered branchlet, having leaves of gray. A writing said: "This is an olive spray Picked for your blessing from a deathless tree That shades the garden of Gethsemane; May it give peace, as is has given me." Did it give peace? Alas, a woman knows The rind without may deaden inder blows; But who has peace when all within's a rose?
--Guenevere at Amesbury (Bowley)
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