THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KMIGHTS
King Arthur conquers Rome, and is crowned Emperor
And now again the second time there came ambassadors from Lucius
Emperor of Rome, demanding, under pain of war, tribute and homage from
King Arthur, and the restoration of all Gaul, which he had conquered
the tribune Flollo.
When they had delivered their message, the king bade them withdraw
he consulted with his knights and barons what reply to send. Then some
the younger knights would have slain the ambassadors, saying that their
speech was a rebuke to all who heard the king insulted by it. But when
King Arthur heard that, he ordered none to touch them upon pain of
and sending officers, he had them taken to a noble lodging, and there
entertained with the best cheer. "And," said he, "let no dainty be
for the Romans are great lords; and though their message please me not,
yet must I remember mine honour."
Then the lords and knights of the Round Table were called on to
their counsel--what should be done upon this matter; and Sir Cador of
Cornwall speaking first, said, "Sir, this message is the best news I
heard for a long time, for we have been now idle and at rest for many
days, and I trust that thou wilt make sharp war upon the Romans,
I doubt not, we shall all gain honour."
"I believe well," said Arthur, "that thou art pleased, Sir Cador; but
is scarce an answer to the Emperor of Rome, and his demand doth grieve
sorely, for truly I will never pay him tribute; wherefore, lords, I pray
ye counsel me. Now, I have understood that Belinus and Brennius, knights
of Britain, held the Roman Empire in their hands for many days, and also
Constantine, the son of Helen, which is open evidence, not only that we
owe Rome no tribute, but that I, being descended from them, may, of
myself claim the empire."
Then said King Anguish of Scotland, "Sir, thou oughtest of right to
above all other kings, for in all Christendom is there not thine equal;
and I counsel thee never to obey the Romans. For when they reigned here
they grievously distressed us, and put the land to great and heavy
burdens; and here, for my part, I swear to avenge me on them when I may,
and will furnish thee with twenty thousand men-at-arms, whom I will pay
and keep, and who shall wait on thee with me, when it shall please
Then the King of Little Britain rose and promised King Arthur thirty
thousand men; and likewise many other kings, and dukes, and barons,
promised aid--as the lord of West Wales thirty thousand men, Sir Ewaine
and his cousin thirty thousand men, and so forth; Sir Lancelot also, and
every other knight of the Round Table, promised each man a great host.
So the king, passing joyful at their courage and good will, thanked
all heartily, and sent for the ambassadors again, to hear his answer. "I
will," said he, "that ye now go back straightway unto the Emperor your
master and tell him that I give no heed to his words, for I have
all my kingdoms by the will of God and by my own right arm, and I am
strong enough to keep them, without paying tribute to any earthly
creature. But, on the other hand, I claim both tribute and submission
himself, and also claim the sovereignty of all his empire, whereto I am
entitled by the right of my own ancestors--sometime kings of this land.
And say to him that I will shortly come to Rome, and by God's grace will
take possession of my empire and subdue all rebels. Wherefore, lastly, I
command him and all the lords of Rome that they forthwith pay me their
homage, under pain of my chastisement and wrath."
Then he commanded his treasurers to give the ambassadors great gifts,
defray all their charges, and appointed Sir Cador to convey them
worshipfully out of the land.
So when they returned to Rome and came before Lucius, he was sore
their words, and said, "I thought this Arthur would have instantly
my orders and have served me as humbly as any other king; but because of
his fortune in Gaul, he hath grown insolent."
"Ah, lord," said one of the ambassadors, "refrain from such vain
for truly I and all with me were fearful at his royal majesty and angry
countenance. I fear me thou hast made a rod for thee more sharp than
hast counted on. He meaneth to be master of this empire; and is another
kind of man than thou supposest, and holdeth the most noble court of all
the world. We saw him on the new year's day, served at his table by nine
kings, and the noblest company of other princes, lords, and knights that
ever was in all the world; and in his person he is the most
man that liveth, and looketh like to conquer all the earth."
Then Lucius sent messengers to all the subject countries of Rome, and
brought together a mighty army, and assembled sixteen kings, and many
dukes, princes, lords, and admirals, and a wondrous great multitude of
people. Fifty giants also, born of fiends, were set around him for a
body-guard. With all that host he straightway went from Rome, and passed
beyond the mountains into Gaul, and burned the towns and ravaged all the
country of that province, in rage for its submission to King Arthur.
he moved on towards Little Britain.
Meanwhile, King Arthur having held a parliament at York, left the
charge of Sir Badewine and Sir Constantine, and crossed the sea from
Sandwich to meet Lucius. And so soon as he was landed, he sent Sir
Sir Bors, Sir Lionel, and Sir Bedivere to the Emperor, commanding him
move swiftly and in haste out of his land, and, if not, to make himself
ready for battle, and not continue ravaging the country and slaying
harmless people." Anon, those noble knights attired themselves and set
forth on horseback to where they saw, in a meadow, many silken tents of
divers colours, and the Emperor's pavilion in the midst, with a golden
eagle set above it.
Then Sir Gawain and Sir Bors rode forward, leaving the other two
in ambush, and gave King Arthur's message. To which the Emperor replied,
"Return, and tell your lord that I am come to conquer him and all his
At this, Sir Gawain burned with anger, and cried out, "I had rather
all France that I might fight with thee alone!"
"And I also," said Sir Bors.
Then a knight named Ganius, a near cousin of the Emperor, laughed out
aloud, and said, "Lo! how these Britons boast and are full of pride,
bragging as though they bare up all the world!"
At these words, Sir Gawain could refrain no longer, but drew forth
sword and with one blow shore oft Ganius' head; then with Sir Bors, he
turned his horse and rode over waters and through woods, back to the
ambush, where Sir Lionel and Sir Bedivere were waiting. The Romans
followed fast behind them till the knights turned and stood, and then
Bors smote the foremost of them through the body with a spear, and slew
him on the spot. Then came on Calibere, a huge Pavian, but Sir Bors
overthrew him also. And then the company of Sir Lionel and Sir Bedivere
brake from their ambush and fell on the Romans, and slew and hewed them
down, and forced them to return and flee, chasing them to their tents.
But as they neared the camp, a great host more rushed forth, and
the battle backwards, and in the turmoil, Sir Bors and Sir Berel fell
the Romans' hands. When Sir Gawain saw that, he drew his good sword
Galotine, and swore to see King Arthur's face no more if those two
were not delivered; and then, with good Sir Idrus, made so sore an
onslaught that the Romans fled and left Sir Bors and Sir Berel to their
friends. So the Britons returned in triumph to King Arthur, having slain
more than ten thousand Romans, and lost no man of worship from amongst
When the Emperor Lucius heard of that discomfiture he arose, with all
army, to crush King Arthur, and met him in the vale of Soissons. Then
speaking to all his host, he said, "Sirs, I admonish you that this day
fight and acquit yourselves as men; and remembering how Rome is chief of
all the earth, and mistress of the universal world, suffer not these
barbarous and savage Britons to abide our onset." At that, the trumpets
blew so loud, that the ground trembled and shook.
Then did the rival hosts draw near each other with great shoutings;
when they closed, no tongue can tell the fury of their smiting, and the
sore struggling, wounds, and slaughter. Then King Arthur, with his
mightiest knights, rode down into the thickest of the fight, and drew
Excalibur, and slew as lightning slays for swiftness and for force. And
the midmost crowd he met a giant, Galapas by name, and struck off both
legs at the knee-joints; then saying, "Now art thou a better size to
with!" smote his head off at a second blow: and the body killed six men
Anon, King Arthur spied where Lucius fought and worked great deeds of
prowess with his own hands. Forthwith he rode at him, and each attacked
the other passing fiercely; till at the last, Lucius struck King Arthur
with a fearful wound across the face, and Arthur, in return, lifting up
Excalibur on high, drove it with all his force upon the Emperor's head,
shivering his helmet, crashing his head in halves, and splitting his
to the breast. And when the Romans saw their Emperor dead they fled in
hosts of thousands; and King Arthur and his knights, and all his army
followed them, and slew one hundred thousand men.
Then returning to the field, King Arthur rode to the place where
lay dead, and round him the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia, and seventeen
other kings, with sixty Roman senators, all noble men. All these he
ordered to be carefully embalmed with aromatic gums, and laid in leaden
coffins, covered with their shields and arms and banners. Then calling
three senators who were taken prisoners, he said to them, "As the ransom
of your lives, I will that ye take these dead bodies and carry them to
Rome, and there present them for me, with these letters saying I will
myself be shortly there. And I suppose the Romans will beware how they
again ask tribute of me; for tell them, these dead bodies that I send
are for the tribute they have dared to ask of me; and if they wish for
more, when I come I will pay them the rest."
So, with that charge, the three senators departed with the dead
and went to Rome; the body of the Emperor being carried in a chariot
blazoned with the arms of the empire, all alone, and the bodies of the
kings two and two in chariots following.
After the battle, King Arthur entered Lorraine, Brabant, and
thence, subduing all the countries as he went, passed into Germany, and
beyond the mountains into Lombardy and Tuscany. At length he came before
city which refused to obey him, wherefore he sat down before it to
it. And after a long time thus spent, King Arthur called Sir Florence,
and told him they began to lack food for his hosts--"And not far from
hence," said he, "are great forests full of cattle belonging to my
enemies. Go then, and bring by force all that thou canst find; and take
with thee Sir Gawain, my nephew, and Sir Clegis, Sir Claremond the
of Cardiff, and a strong band."
Anon, those knights made ready, and rode over holts and hills, and
forests and woods, till they came to a great meadow full of fair flowers
and grass, and there they rested themselves and their horses that night.
And at the dawn of the next day, Sir Gawain took his horse and rode away
from his fellows to seek some adventure. Soon he saw an armed knight
walking his horse by a wood's side, with his shield laced to his
and no attendant with him save a page, bearing a mighty spear; and on
shield were blazoned three gold griffins. When Sir Gawain spied him, he
put his spear in rest, and riding straight to him, asked who he was. "A
Tuscan," said he; "and they mayest prove me when thou wilt, for thou
be my prisoner ere we part."
Then said Sir Gawain, "Thou vauntest thee greatly, and speakest proud
words; yet I counsel thee, for all thy boastings, look to thyself the
At that they took their spears and ran at each other with all the
they had, and smote each other through their shields into their
and then drawing swords smote with great strokes, till the fire sprang
of their helms. Then was Sir Gawain enraged, and with his good sword
Galotine struck his enerny through shield and hauberk, and splintered
pieces all the precious stones of it, and made so huge a wound that men
might see both lungs and liver. At that the Tuscan, groaning loudly,
rushed on to Sir Gawain, and gave him a deep slanting stroke, and made a
mighty wound and cut a great vein asunder, so that he bled fast. Then he
cried out, "Bind thy wound quickly up, Sir knight, for thou be-bloodest
all thy horse and thy fair armour, and all the surgeons of the world
never staunch thy blood; for so shall it be to whomsoever is hurt with
this good sword."
Then answered Sir Gawain, "It grieveth me but little, and thy
words give me no fear, for thou shalt suffer greater grief and sorrow
we part; but tell me quickly who can staunch this blood."
"That can I do," said the strange knight, "and will, if thou wilt aid
succour me to become christened, and to believe on God, which now I do
require of thee upon thy manhood."
"I am content," said Sir Gawain; "and may God help me to grant all
wishes. But tell mefirst, what soughtest thou thus here alone, and of
land art thou?"
"Sir," said the knight, "my name is Prianius, and my father is a
prince, who hath rebelled against Rome. He is descended from Alexander
Hector, and of our lineage also were Joshua and Maccabaeus. I am of
the king of Alexandria, and Africa, and all the outer isles, yet I would
believe in the Lord thou worshippest, and for thy labour I will give
treasure enough. I was so proud in heart that I thought none my equal,
now have I encountered with thee, who hast given me my fill of fighting;
wherefore, I pray thee, Sir knight, tell me of thyself."
"I am no knight," said Sir Gawain; "I have been brought up many years
the wardrobe of the noble prince King Arthur, to mind his armour and
"Ah," said Prianius, "if his varlets be so keen and fierce, his
must be passing good! Now, for the love of heaven, whether thou be
or knave, tell me thy name."
"By heaven!" said Gawain, "now will I tell thee the truth. My name is
Gawain, and I am a knight of the Round Table."
"Now am I better pleased," said Prianius, "than if thou hadst given
the province of Paris the rich. I had rather have been torn by wild
than that any varlet should have won such victory over me as thou hast
done. But now, Sir knight, I warn thee that close by is the Duke of
Lorraine, with sixty thousand good men of war; and we had both best flee
at once, for he will find us else, and we be sorely wounded and never
likely to recover. And let my page be careful that he blow no horn, for
hard by are a hundred knights, my servants; and if they seize thee, no
ransom of gold or silver would acquit thee."
Then Sir Gawain rode over a river to save himself, and Sir Prianius
him, and so they both fled till they came to his companions who were in
the meadow, where they spent the night. When Sir Whishard saw Sir Gawain
so hurt, he ran to him weeping, and asked him who it was had wounded
and Sir Gawain told him how he had fought with that man--pointing to
Prianius--who had salves to heal them both. "But I can tell ye other
tidings," said he--"that soon we must encounter many enemies, for a
army is close to us in our front."
Then Prianius and Sir Gawain alighted and let their horses graze
they unarmed, and when they took their armour and their clothing off,
hot blood ran down freshly from their wounds till it was piteous to see.
But Prianius took from his page a vial filled from the four rivers that
flow out of Paradise, and anointed both their wounds with a certain
and washed them with that water, and within an hour afterwards they were
both as sound and whole as ever they had been. Then, at the sound of a
trumpet, all the knights were assembled to council; and after much
talking, Prianius said, "Cease your words, for I warn you in yonder wood
ye shall find knights out of number, who will put out cattle for a decoy
to lead you on; and ye are not seven hundred!"
"Nevertheless," said Sir Gawain, "let us at once encounter them, and
what they can do; and may the best have the victory."
Then they saw suddenly an earl named Sir Ethelwold, and the Duke of
Duchmen come leaping out of ambush of the woods in front, with many a
thousand after them, and all rode straight down to the battle. And Sir
Gawain, full of ardour and courage, comforted his knights, saying, "They
all are ours." Then the seven hundred knights, in one close company, set
spurs to their horses and began to gallop, and fiercely met their
And then were men and horses slain and overthrown on every side, and in
and out amidst them all, the knights of the Round Table pressed and
thrust, and smote down to the earth all who withstood them, till at
the whole of them turned back and fled.
"By heaven!" said Sir Gawain, "this gladdeneth well my heart, for now
behold them as they flee! they are full seventy thousand less in number
than they were an hour ago!"
Thus was the battle quickly ended, and a great host of high lords and
knights of Lombardy and Saracens left dead upon the field. Then Sir
and his company collected a great plenty of cattle, and of gold and
silver, and all kind of treasure, and returned to King Arthur, where he
still kept the siege.
"Now God be thanked," cried he; "but who is he that standeth yonder
himself, and seemeth not a prisoner?"
"Sir," said Sir Gawain, "he is a good man with his weapons, and hath
matched me; but cometh hither to be made a Christian. Had it not been
his warnings, we none of us should have been here this day. I pray thee,
therefore, let him be baptized, for there can be few nobler men, or
So Prianius was christened, and made a duke and knight of the Round
Presently afterwards, they made a last attack upon the city, and
by the walls on every side; and as the men were rushing to the pillage,
came the Duchess forth, with many ladies and damsels, and kneeled before
King Arthur; and besought him to receive their submission. To whom the
king made answer, with a noble countenance, "Madam, be well assured that
none shall harm ye, or your ladies; neither shall any that belong to
be hurt; but the Duke must abide my judgment." Then he commanded to stay
the assault and took the keys from the Duke's eldest son, who brought
kneeling. Anon the Duke was sent a prisoner to Dover for his life, and
rents and taxes were assigned for dowry of the Duchess and her children.
Then went he on with all his hosts, winning all towns and castles,
wasting them that refused obedience, till he came to Viterbo. From
he sent to Rome, to ask the senators whether they would receive him for
their lord and governor. In answer, came out to him all the Senate who
remained alive, and the Cardinals, with a majestic retinue and
and laying great treasures at his feet, they prayed him to come in at
to Rome, and there be peaceably crowned as Emperor. "At this next
Christmas," said King Arthur, "will I be crowned, and hold my Round
in your city."
Anon he entered Rome, in mighty pomp and state; and after him came
hosts, and his knights, and princes, and great lords, arrayed in gold
jewels, such as never were beheld before. And then was he crowned
by the Pope's hands, with all the highest solemnity that could be made.
Then after his coronation, he abode in Rome for a season, settling
lands and giving kingdoms to his knights and servants, to each one after
his deserving, and in such wise fashion that no man among them all
complained. Also he made many dukes and earls, and loaded all his
men-at-arms with riches and great treasures.
When all this was done, the lords and knights, and all the men of
estate, came together before him, and said, "Noble Emperor! by the
blessing of Eternal God, thy mortal warfare is all finished, and thy
conquests all achieved; for now in all the world is none so great and
mighty as to dare make war with thee. Wherefore we beseech and heartily
pray thee of thy noble grace, to turn thee homeward, and to give us also
leave to see our wives and homes again, for now we have been from them a
long season, and all thy journey is completed with great honour and
"Ye say well," replied he, "and to tempt God is no wisdom; therefore
ready in all haste, and turn we home to England."
So King Arthur returned with his knights and lords and armies, in
triumph and joy, through all the countries he had conquered, and
that no man, upon pain of death, should rob or do any violence by the
And crossing the sea, he came at length to Sandwich, where Queen
received him, and made great joy at his arrival. And through all the
of Britain was there such rejoicing as no tongue can tell.
The Adventures of Sir Lancelot du Lake
Then, at the following Pentecost, was held a feast of the Round Table
Caerleon, with high splendour; and all the knights thereof resorted to
court, and held many games and jousts. And therein Sir Lancelot
in fame and worship above all men, for he overthrew all comers, and
was unhorsed or worsted, save by treason and enchantment.
When Queen Guinevere had seen his wondrous feats, she held him in
favour, and smiled more on him than on any other knight. And ever since
first had gone to bring her to King Arthur, had Lancelot thought on her
fairest of all ladies, and done his best to win her grace. So the queen
often sent for him, and bade him tell of his birth and strange
how he was only son of great King Ban of Brittany, and how, one night,
father, with his mother Helen and himself, fled from his burning castle;
how his father, groaning deeply, fell to the ground and died of grief
wounds, and how his mother, running to her husband, left himself alone;
how, as he thus lay wailing, came the lady of the lake, and took him in
her arms and went with him into the midst of the waters, where, with his
cousins Lionel and Bors he had been cherished all his childhood until he
came to King Arthur's court; and how this was the reason why men called
him Lancelot du Lake.
Anon it was ordained by King Arthur, that in every year at Pentecost
should be held a festival of all the knights of the Round Table at
Caerleon, or such other place as he should choose. And at those
should be told publicly the most famous adventures of any knight during
the past year.
So, when Sir Lancelot saw Queen Guinevere rejoiced to hear his
and adventures, he resolved to set forth yet again, and win more worship
still, that he might more increase her favour. Then he bade his cousin
Lionel make ready, "for," said he, "we two will seek adventure." So they
mounted their horses--armed at all points--and rode into a vast forest;
and when they had passed through it, they came to a great plain, and the
weather being very hot about noontide, Sir Lancelot greatly longed to
sleep. Then Sir Lionel espied a great apple-tree standing by a hedge,
said, "Brother, yonder is a fair shadow where we may rest ourselves and
"I am full glad of it," said Sir Lancelot, "for all these seven years
have not been so sleepy."
So they alighted there, and tied their horses up to sundry trees; and
Lionel waked and watched while Sir Lancelot fell asleep, and slept
In the meanwhile came three knights, riding as fast flying as ever
could ride, and after them followed a single knight; but when Sir Lionel
looked at him, he thought he had never seen so great and strong a man,
so well furnished and apparelled. Anon he saw him overtake the last of
those who fled, and smite him to the ground; then came he to the second,
and smote him such a stroke that horse and man went to the earth; then
rode he to the third, likewise, and struck him off his horse more than a
spear's length. With that he lighted from his horse, and bound all three
knights fast with the reins of their own bridles.
When Sir Lionel saw this he thought the time was come to prove
against him, so quietly and cautiously, lest he should wake Sir
he took his horse and mounted and rode after him. Presently overtaking
him, he cried aloud to him to turn, which instantly he did, and smote
Lionel so hard that horse and man went down forthwith. Then took he up
Lionel, and threw him bound over his own horse's back; and so he served
the three other knights, and rode them away to his own castle. There
were disarmed, stripped naked, and beaten with thorns, and afterwards
thrust into a deep prison, where many more knights, also, made great
and lamentations, saying, "Alas, alas! there is no man can help us but
Lancelot, for no other knight can match this tyrant Turquine, our
But all this while, Sir Lancelot lay sleeping soundly under the
apple-tree. And, as it chanced, there passed that way four queens, of
estate, riding upon four white mules, under four canopies of green silk
borne on spears, to keep them from the sun. As they rode thus, they
a great horse grimly neigh, and, turning them about, soon saw a sleeping
knight that lay all armed under an apple-tree; and when they saw his
face, they knew it was Lancelot of the Lake.
Then they began to strive which of them should have the care of him.
Queen Morgan le Fay, King Arthur's half sister, the great sorceress, was
one of them, and said "We need not strive for him, I have enchanted him,
so that for six hours more he shall not wake. Let us take him to my
castle, and, when he wakes, himself shall choose which one of us he
rather serve." So Sir Lancelot was laid upon his shield and borne on
horseback between two knights, to the castle, and there laid in a cold
chamber, till the spell should pass.
Anon, they sent him a fair damsel, bearing his supper, who asked him,
"I cannot tell, fair damsel," said he, "for I know not how I came
this castle, if it were not by enchantment."
"Sir," said she, "be of good heart, and to-morrow at the dawn of day,
shall know more."
And so she left him alone, and there he lay all night. In the morning
early came the four queens to him, passing richly dressed; and said,
knight, thou must understand that thou art our prisoner, and that we
thee well for King Ban's son, Sir Lancelot du Lake. And though we know
full well there is one lady only in this world may have thy love, and
Queen Guinevere--King Arthur's wife--yet now are we resolved to have
to serve one of us; choose, therefore, of us four which thou wilt serve.
am Queen Morgan le Fay, Queen of the land of Gore, and here also is the
Queen of Northgales, and the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Out
Isles. Choose, then, at once, for else shall thou abide here, in this
prison, till thy death."
"It is a hard case," said Sir Lancelot, "that either I must die, or
one of you for my mistress! Yet had I rather die in this prison than
any living creature against my will. So take this for my answer. I will
serve none of ye, for ye be false enchantresses. And as for my lady,
Guinevere, whom lightly ye have spoken of, were I at liberty I would
it upon you or upon yours she is the truest lady living to her lord the
"Well," said the queen, "is this your answer, that ye refuse us all?"
"Yea, on my life," said Lancelot, "refused ye be of me."
So they departed from him in great wrath, and left him sorrowfully
grieving in his dungeon.
At noon the damsel came to him and brought his dinner, and asked him
before, "What cheer?"
"Truly, fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "in all my life never so
"Sir," replied she, "I grieve to see ye so, but if ye do as I advise,
can help ye out of this distress, and will do so if you promise me a
"Fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "right willingly will I grant it
for sorely do I dread these four witch-queens, who have destroyed and
slain many a good knight with their enchantments."
Then said the damsel, "Sir, wilt thou promise me to help my father on
Tuesday, for he hath a tournament with the King of Northgales, and last
Tuesday lost the field through three knights of King Arthur's court, who
came against him. And if next Tuesday thou wilt aid him, to-morrow,
before daylight, by God's grace, I will deliver thee."
"Fair maiden," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy father's name and I
"My father is King Bagdemagus," said she.
"I know him well," replied Sir Lancelot, "for a noble king and a good
knight; and by the faith of my body I will do him all the service I am
able on that day."
"Grammercy to thee, Sir knight," said the damsel.
"To-morrow, when thou art delivered from this place, ride ten miles
unto an abbey of white monks, and there abide until I bring my father to
"So be it," said Sir Lancelot, "as I am a true knight."
So she departed, and on the morrow, early, came again, and let him
twelve gates, differently locked, and brought him to his armour; and
he was all armed, she brought him his horse also, and lightly he saddled
him, and took a great spear in his hand, and mounted and rode forth,
saying, as he went, "Fair damsel, I shall not fail thee, by the grace of
And all that day he rode in a great forest, and could find no
spent the night in the wood; but the next morning found his road, and
to the abbey of white monks. And there he saw King Bagdemagus and his
daughter waiting for him. So when they were together in a chamber, Sir
Lancelot told the king how he had been betrayed by an enchantment, and
his brother Lionel was gone he knew not where, and how the damsel had
delivered him from the castle of Queen Morgan le Fay. "Wherefore while I
live," said he, "I shall do service to herself and all her kindred."
"Then am I sure of thy aid," said the king, "on Tuesday now next
"Yea, sir, I shall not fail thee," said Sir Lancelot; "but what
were they who last week defeated thee, and took part with the King of
"Sir Mador de la Port, Sir Modred, and Sir Gahalatine," replied the
"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "as I understand, the tournament shall take
place but three miles from this abbey; send then to me here, three
of thine, the best thou hast, and let them all have plain white shields,
such as I also will; then will we four come suddenly into the midst
between both parties, and fall upon thy enemies, and grieve them all we
can, and none will know us who we are."
So, on the Tuesday, Sir Lancelot and the three knights lodged
in a small grove hard by the lists. Then came into the field the King of
Northgales, with one hundred and sixty helms, and the three knights of
King Arthur's court, who stood apart by themselves. And when King
Bagdemagus had arrived, with eighty helms, both companies set all their
spears in rest and came together with a mighty clash, wherein were slain
twelve knights of King Bagdemagus, and six of the King of Northgales;
the party of King Bagdemagus was driven back.
With that, came Sir Lancelot, and thrust into the thickest of the
and smote down with one spear five knights, and brake the backs of four,
and cast down the King of Northgales, and brake his thigh by the fall.
When the three knights of Arthur's court saw this, they rode at Sir
Lancelot, and each after other attacked him; but he overthrew them all,
and smote them nigh to death. Then taking a new spear, he bore down to
ground sixteen more knights, and hurt them all so sorely, that they
carry arms no more that day. And when his spear at length was broken, he
took yet another, and smote down twelve knights more, the most of whom
wounded mortally, till in the end the party of the King of Northgales
would joust no more, and the victory was cried to King Bagdemagus.
Then Sir Lancelot rode forth with King Bagdemagus to his castle, and
he feasted with great cheer and welcome, and received many royal gifts.
And on the morrow he took leave and went to find his brother Lionel.
Anon, by chance, he came to the same forest where the four queens had
found him sleeping, and there he met a damsel riding on a white palfrey.
When they had saluted each other, Sir Lancelot said, "Fair damsel,
thou where any adventures may be had in this country?"
"Sir knight," said she, "there are adventures great enough close by
thou darest prove them."
"Why should I not," said he, "since for that cause I came here?"
"Sir," said the damsel, "hard by this place there dwelleth a knight
cannot be defeated by any man, so great and perilously strong he is. His
name is Sir Turquine, and in the prisons of his castle lie three score
knights and four, mostly from King Arthur's court, whom he hath taken
his own hands. But promise me, ere thou undertakest their deliverance,
go and help me afterwards, and free me and many other ladies that are
distressed by a false knight." "Bring me but to this felon Turquine,"
quoth Sir Lancelot, "and I will afterwards fulfil all your wishes."
So the damsel went before, and brought him to a ford, and a tree
great brass basin hung; and Sir Lancelot beat with his spear-end upon
basin, long and hard, until he beat the bottom of it out, but he saw
nothing. Then he rode to and fro before the castle gates for well-nigh
half an hour, and anon saw a great knight riding from the distance,
driving a horse before him, across which hung an armed man bound. And
they came near, Sir Lancelot knew the prisoner for a knight of the Round
Table. By that time, the great knight who drove the prisoner saw Sir
Lancelot, and each of them began to settle his spear, and to make ready.
"Fair sir," then said Sir Lancelot, "put off that wounded knight, I
thee, from his horse, and let him rest while thou and I shall prove our
strength upon each other; for, as I am told, thou doest, and hast done,
great shame and injury to knights of the Round Table. Wherefore, I warn
thee now, defend thyself."
"If thou mayest be of the Round Table," answered Turquine, "I defy
and all thy fellows."
"That is saying overmuch," said Sir Lancelot.
Then, setting their lances in rest, they spurred their horses towards
other, as fast as they could go, and smote so fearfully upon each
shields, that both their horses' backs brake under them. As soon as they
could clear their saddles, they took their shields before them, and drew
their swords, and came together eagerly, and fought with great and
grievous strokes; and soon they both had many grim and fearful wounds,
bled in streams. Thus they fought two hours and more, thrusting and
smiting at each other, wherever they could hit.
Anon, they both were breathless, and stood leaning on their swords.
"Now, comrade," said Sir Turquine, "let us wait awhile, and answer me
I shall ask thee."
"Say on," said Lancelot.
"Thou art," said Turquine, "the best man I ever met, and seemest like
that I hate above all other knights that live; but if thou be not he, I
will make peace with thee, and for sake of thy great valour, will
all the three score prisoners and four who lie within my dungeons, and
thou and I will be companions evermore. Tell me, then, thy name."
"Thou sayest well," replied Sir Lancelot; "but who is he thou hatest
above all others?"
"His name," said Turquine, "is Sir Lancelot of the Lake; and he slew
brother Sir Carados, at the dolorous tower; wherefore, if ever I shall
meet with him, one of us two shall slay the other; and thereto I have
sworn by a great oath. And to discover and destroy him I have slain a
hundred knights, and crippled utterly as many more, and many have died
my prisons; and now, as I have told thee, I have many more therein, who
all shall be delivered, if thou tell me thy name, and it be not Sir
"Well," said Lancelot, "I am that knight, son of King Ban of Benwick,
Knight of the Round Table; so now I defy thee to do thy best!"
"Aha!" said Turquine, with a shout, "is it then so at last! Thou art
welcome to my sword than ever knight or lady was to feast, for never
shall we part till one of us be dead."
Then did they hurtle together like two wild bulls, slashing and
with their shields and swords, and sometimes falling both on to the
ground. For two more hours they fought so, and at the last Sir Turquine
grew very faint, and gave a little back, and bare his shield full low
weariness. When Sir Lancelot saw him thus, he leaped upon him fiercely
a lion, and took him by the crest of his helmet, and dragged him to his
knees; and then he tore his helmet off and smote his neck asunder.
Then he arose, and went to the damsel who had brought him to Sir
and said, "I am ready, fair lady, to go with thee upon thy service, but
have no horse."
"Fair sir," said she, "take ye this horse of the wounded knight whom
Turquine but just now was carrying to his prisons, and send that knight
to deliver all the prisoners."
So Sir Lancelot went to the knight and prayed him for the loan of his
"Fair lord," said he, "ye are right welcome, for to-day ye have saved
me and my horse; and I see that ye are the best knight in all the world,
for in my sight have ye slain the mightiest man and the best knight,
except thyself, I ever saw."
"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "I thank thee well; and now go into yonder
castle, where thou shall find many noble knights of the Round Table, for
have seen their shields hung on the trees around. On yonder tree alone
there are Sir Key's, Sir Brandel's, Sir Marhaus', Sir Galind's, and Sir
Aliduke's, and many more; and also my two kinsmen's shields, Sir Ector
Maris' and Sir Lionel's. And I pray you greet them all from me, Sir
Lancelot of the Lake, and tell them that I bid them help themselves to
treasures they can find within the castle; and that I pray my brethren,
Lionel and Ector, to go to King Arthur's court and stay there till I
And by the high feast at Pentecost I must be there; but now I must ride
forth with this damsel to fulfil my promise."
So, as they went, the damsel told him, "Sir, we are now near the
where the foul knight haunteth, who robbeth and distresseth all ladies
gentlewomen travelling past this way, against whom I have sought thy
Then they arranged that she should ride on foremost, and Sir Lancelot
should follow under cover of the trees by the roadside, and if he saw
come to any mishap, he should ride forth and deal with him that troubled
her. And as the damsel rode on at a soft ambling pace, a knight and page
burst forth from the roadside and forced the damsel from her horse, till
she cried out for help.
Then came Sir Lancelot rushing through the wood as fast as he might
and all the branches of the trees crackled and waved around him. "O thou
false knight and traitor to all knighthood!" shouted he, "who taught
to distress fair ladies thus?"
The foul knight answered nothing, but drew out his sword and rode at
Lancelot, who threw his spear away and drew his own sword likewise, and
struck him such a mighty blow as clave his head down to the throat. "Now
hast thou the wages thou long hast earned!" said he; and so departed
Then for two days he rode in a great forest, and had but scanty food
lodging, and on the third day he rode over a long bridge, when suddenly
there started up a passing foul churl, and smote his horse across the
nose, so that he started and turned back, rearing with pain. "Why ridest
thou over here without my leave?" said he.
"Why should I not?" said Sir Lancelot; "there is no other way to
"Thou shalt not pass by here," cried out the churl, and dashed at him
a great club full of iron spikes, till Sir Lancelot was fain to draw his
sword and smite him dead upon the earth.
At the end of the bridge was a fair village, and all the people came
cried, "Ah, sir! a worse deed for thyself thou never didst, for thou
slain the chief porter of the castle yonder!" But he let them talk as
pleased, and rode straight forward to the castle.
There he alighted, and tied his horse to a ring in the wall; and
he saw a wide green court, and thought it seemed a noble place to fight
in. And as he looked about, he saw many people watching him from doors
windows, making signs of warning, and saying, "Fair knight, thou art
unhappy." In the next moment came upon him two great giants, well armed
save their heads, and with two horrible clubs in their hands. Then he
his shield before him, and with it warded off one giant's stroke, and
clove the other with his sword from the head downward to the chest. When
the first giant saw that, he ran away mad with fear; but Sir Lancelot
after him, and smote him through the shoulder, and shore him down his
back, so that he fell dead.
Then he walked onward to the castle hall, and saw a band of sixty
and young damsels coming forth, who knelt to him, and thanked him for
their freedom. "For, sir," said they, "the most of us have been
here these seven years; and have been kept at all manner of work to earn
our meat, though we be all great gentlewomen born. Blessed be the time
that thou wast born, for never did a knight a deed of greater worship
thou hast this day, and thereto will we all bear witness in all times
places! Tell us, therefore, noble knight, thy name and court, that we
tell them to our friends!" And when they heard it, they all cried aloud,
"Well may it be so, for we knew that no knight save thou shouldst ever
overcome those giants; and many a long day have we sighed for thee; for
the giants feared no other name among all knights but thine."
Then he told them to take the treasures of the castle as a reward for
their grievances, and to return to their homes, and so rode away into
strange and wild countries. And at last, after many days, by chance he
came, near the night time, to a fair mansion, wherein he found an old
gentlewoman, who gave him and his horse good cheer. And when bed time
come, his host brought him to a chamber over a gate, and there he
and went to bed and fell asleep.
But soon thereafter came one riding in great haste, and knocking
vehemently at the gate below, which when Sir Lancelot heard, he rose and
looked out of the window, and, by the moonlight, saw three knights come
riding fiercely after one man, and lashing on him all at once with their
swords, while the one knight nobly fought all.
Then Sir Lancelot quickly armed himself, and getting through the
let himself down by a sheet into the midst of them, crying out, "Turn ye
on me, ye cowards, and leave fighting with that knight!" Then they all
left Sir Key, for the first knight was he, and began to fall upon Sir
Lancelot furiously. And when Sir Key would have come forward to assist
him, Sir Lancelot refused, and cried, "Leave me alone to deal with
And presently, with six great strokes, he felled them all.
Then they cried out, "Sir knight, we yield us unto thee, as to a man
"I will not take your yielding!" said he; "yield ye to Sir Key, the
seneschal, or I will have your lives."
"Fair knight," said they, "excuse us in that thing, for we have
Key thus far, and should have overcome him but for thee."
"Well," said Sir Lancelot, "do as ye will, for ye may live or die;
ye live, ye shall be holden to Sir Key."
Then they yielded to him; and Sir Lancelot commanded them to go unto
Arthur's court at the next Pentecost, and say, Sir Key had sent them
prisoners to Queen Guinevere. And this they sware to do upon their
Then Sir Lancelot knocked at the gate with his sword-hilt till his
came and let him in again, and Sir Key also. And when the light came,
Key knew Sir Lancelot, and knelt and thanked him for his courtesy, and
gentleness, and kindness. "Sir," said he, "I have done no more than what
ought to do, and ye are welcome; therefore let us now take rest."
So when Sir Key had supped, they went to sleep, and Sir Lancelot and
slept in the same bed. On the morrow, Sir Lancelot rose early, and took
Sir Key's shield and armour and set forth. When Sir Key arose, he found
Sir Lancelot's armour by his bedside, and his own arms gone. "Now, by my
faith," thought he, "I know that he will grieve some knights of our
court; for those who meet him will be bold to joust with him, mistaking
him for me, while I, dressed in his shield and armour, shall surely ride
Then Sir Lancelot, dressed in Sir Key's apparel, rode long in a great
forest, and came at last to a low country, full of rivers and fair
meadows, and saw a bridge before him, whereon were three silk tents of
divers colours, and to each tent was hung a white shield, and by each
shield stood a knight. So Sir Lancelot went by without speaking a word.
And when he had passed, the three knights said it was the proud Sir Key,
"who thinketh no knight equal to himself, although the contrary is full
often proved upon him."
"By my faith!" said one of them, named Gaunter, "I will ride after
attack him for all his pride, and ye shall watch my speed."
Then, taking shield and spear, he mounted and rode after Sir
cried, "Abide, proud knight, and turn, for thou shalt not pass free!"
So Sir Lancelot turned, and each one put his spear in rest and came
all his might against the other. And Sir Gaunter's spear brake short,
Sir Lancelot smote him down, both horse and man.
When the other knights saw this, they said, "Yonder is not Sir Key,
"I dare wager my head," said Sir Gilmere, "yonder knight hath slain
Key, and taken his horse and harness."
"Be it so, or not," said Sir Reynold, the third brother; "let us now
our brother Gaunter's rescue; we shall have enough to do to match that
knight, for, by his stature, I believe it is Sir Lancelot or Sir
Anon, they took their horses and galloped after Sir Lancelot; and Sir
Gilmere first assailed him, but was smitten down forthwith, and lay
stunned on the earth. Then said Sir Reynold, "Sir knight, thou art a
strong man, and, I believe, hast slain my two brothers, wherefore my
is sore against thee; yet, if I might with honour, I would avoid thee.
Nevertheless, that cannot be, so keep thyself." And so they hurtled
together with all their might, and each man shivered his spear to
and then they drew their swords and lashed out eagerly.
And as they fought, Sir Gaunter and Sir Gilmere presently arose and
mounted once again, and came down at full tilt upon Sir Lancelot. But,
when he saw them coming, he put forth all his strength, and struck Sir
Reynold off his horse. Then, with two other strokes, he served the
Anon, Sir Reynold crept along the ground, with his head all bloody,
came towards Sir Lancelot. "It is enough," said Lancelot, "I was not far
from thee when thou wast made a knight, Sir Reynold, and know thee for a
good and valiant man, and was full loth to slay thee."
"Grammercy for thy gentleness!" said Sir Reynold. "I and my brethren
straightway yield to thee when we know thy name, for well we know that
thou art not Sir Key."
"As for that," said Sir Lancelot, "be it as it may, but ye shall
Queen Guinevere at the next feast of Pentecost as prisoners, and say
Sir Key sent ye."
Then they swore to him it should be done as he commanded. And so Sir
Lancelot passed on, and the three brethren helped each other's wounds as
best they might.
Then rode Sir Lancelot forward into a deep forest, and came upon four
knights of King Arthur's court, under an oak tree--Sir Sagramour, Sir
Ector, Sir Gawain, and Sir Ewaine. And when they spied him, they thought
he was Sir Key. "Now by my faith," said Sir Sagramour, "I will prove Sir
Key's might!" and taking his spear he rode towards Sir Lancelot.
But Sir Lancelot was aware of him, and, setting his spear in rest,
him so sorely, that horse and man fell to the earth.
"Lo!" cried Sir Ector, "I see by the buffet that knight hath given
fellow he is stronger than Sir Key. Now will I try what I can do against
him!" So Sir Ector took his spear, and galloped at Sir Lancelot; and Sir
Lancelot met him as he came, and smote him through shield and shoulder,
that he fell, but his own spear was not broken.
"By my faith," cried Sir Ewaine, "yonder is a strong knight, and must
slain Sir Key, and taken his armour! By his strength, I see it will be
hard to match him." So saying he rode towards Sir Lancelot, who met him
halfway and struck him so fiercely, that at one blow he overthrew him
"Now," said Sir Gawain, "will I encounter him." So he took a good
his hand, and guarded himself with his shield. And he and Sir Lancelot
rode against each other, with their horses at full speed, and furiously
smote each other on the middle of their shields; but Sir Gawain's spear
broke short asunder, and Sir Lancelot charged so mightily upon him, that
his horse and he both fell, and rolled upon the ground.
"Ah," said Sir Lancelot, smiling, as he rode away from the four
"heaven give joy to him who made this spear, for never held I better in
But the four knights said to each other, "Truly one spear hath felled
"I dare lay my life," said Sir Gawain, "it is Sir Lancelot. I know
So they all departed for the court.
And as Sir Lancelot rode still in the forest, he saw a black
running with its head towards the ground, as if it tracked a deer. And
following after it, he came to a great pool of blood. But the hound,
and anon looking behind, ran through a great marsh, and over a bridge,
towards an old manor house. So Sir Lancelot followed, and went into the
hall, and saw a dead knight lying there, whose wounds the hound licked.
And a lady stood behind him, weeping and wringing her hands, who cried,
knight! too great is the sorrow which thou hast brought me!"
"Why say ye so?" replied Sir Lancelot; "for I never harmed this
and am full sorely grieved to see thy sorrow."
"Nay, sir," said the lady, "I see it is not thou hast slain my
for he that truly did that deed is deeply wounded, and shall never more
"What is thy husband's name?" said Sir Lancelot.
"His name," she answered, "was Sir Gilbert--one of the best knights
the world; but I know not his name who hath slain him."
"God send thee comfort," said Sir Lancelot, and departed again into
And as he rode, he met with a damsel who knew him, who cried out,
found, my lord! I pray ye of your knighthood help my brother, who is
wounded and ceases not to bleed, for he fought this day with Sir
and slew him, but was himself well nigh slain. And there is a sorceress,
who dwelleth in a castle hard by, and she this day hath told me that my
brother's wound shall never be made whole until I find a knight to go
the Chapel Perilous, and bring from thence a sword and the bloody cloth
which the wounded knight was wrapped."
"This is a marvellous thing!" said Sir Lancelot; "but what is your
"His name, sir," she replied, "is Sir Meliot de Logres."
"He is a Fellow of the Round Table," said Sir Lancelot, "and truly
do my best to help him."
"Then, sir," said she, "follow this way, and it will bring ye to the
Chapel Perilous. I will abide here till God send ye hither again; for if
ye speed not, there is no living knight who may achieve that adventure."
So Sir Lancelot departed, and when he came to the Chapel Perilous he
alighted, and tied his horse to the gate. And as soon as he was within
the churchyard, he saw on the front of the chapel many shields of
whom he had known, turned upside down. Then saw he in the pathway thirty
mighty knights, taller than any men whom he had ever seen, all armed in
black armour, with their swords drawn; and they gnashed their teeth upon
him as he came. But he put his shield before him, and took his sword in
hand, ready to do battle with them. And when he would have cut his way
through them, they scattered on every side and let him pass. Then he
into the chapel, and saw therein no light but of a dim lamp burning.
he was aware of a corpse in the midst of the chapel, covered with a
cloth, and so stooped down and cut off a piece of the cloth, whereat the
earth beneath him trembled. Then saw he a sword lying by the dead
and taking it in his hand, he hied him from the chapel. As soon as he
in the churchyard again, all the thirty knights cried out to him with
fierce voices, "Sir Lancelot! lay that sword from thee, or thou diest!"
"Whether I live or die," said he, "ye shall fight for it ere ye take
With that they let him pass.
And further on, beyond the chapel, he met a fair damsel, who said,
Lancelot, leave that sword behind thee, or thou diest."
"I will not leave it," said Sir Lancelot, "for any asking."
"Then, gentle knight," said the damsel, "I pray thee kiss me once."
"Nay," said Sir Lancelot, "that God forbid!"
"Alas!" cried she, "I have lost all my labour! but hadst thou kissed
thy life's days had been all done!"
"Heaven save me from thy subtle crafts!" said Sir Lancelot; and
took his horse and galloped forth.
And when he was departed, the damsel sorrowed greatly, and died in
days. Her name was Ellawes, the sorceress.
Then came Sir Lancelot to Sir Meliot's sister, who, when she saw him,
clapped her hands and wept for joy, and took him to the castle hard by,
where Sir Meliot was. And when Sir Lancelot saw Sir Meliot, he knew him,
though he was pale as ashes for loss of blood. And Sir Meliot, when he
Sir Lancelot, kneeled to him and cried aloud, "O lord, Sir Lancelot!
And thereupon, Sir Lancelot went to him and touched his wounds with
sword, and wiped them with the piece of bloody cloth. And immediately he
was as whole as though he had been never wounded. Then was there great
between him and Sir Meliot; and his sister made Sir Lancelot good cheer.
So on the morrow, he took his leave, that he might go to King Arthur's
court, "for," said he, "it draweth nigh the feast of Pentecost, and
by God's grace, shall ye then find me."
And riding through many strange countries, over marshes and valleys,
came at length before a castle. As he passed by he heard two little
ringing, and looking up, he saw a falcon flying overhead, with bells
to her feet, and long strings dangling from them. And as the falcon flew
past an elm-tree, the strings caught in the boughs, so that she could
In the meanwhile, came a lady from the castle and cried, "Oh, Sir
Lancelot! as thou art the flower of all knights in the world, help me to
get my hawk, for she hath slipped away from me, and if she be lost, my
lord my husband is so hasty, he will surely slay me!"
"What is thy lord's name?" said Sir Lancelot.
"His name," said she, "is Sir Phelot, a knight of the King of
"Fair lady," said Sir Lancelot, "since you know my name, and require
on my knighthood, to help you, I will do what I can to get your hawk."
And thereupon alighting, he tied his horse to the same tree, and
the lady to unarm him. So when he was unarmed, he climbed up and reached
the falcon, and threw it to the lady.
Then suddenly came down, out of the wood, her husband, Sir Phelot,
armed, with a drawn sword in his hand, and said, "Oh, Sir Lancelot! now
have I found thee as I would have thee!" and stood at the trunk of the
tree to slay him.
"Ah, lady!" cried Sir Lancelot, "why have ye betrayed me?"
"She hath done as I commanded her," said Sir Phelot, "and thine hour
come that thou must die."
"It were shame," said Lancelot, "for an armed to slay an unarmed
"Thou hast no other favour from me," said Sir Phelot.
"Alas!" cried Sir Lancelot, "that ever any knight should die
And looking overhead, he saw a great bough without leaves, and wrenched
off the tree, and suddenly leaped down. Then Sir Phelot struck at him
eagerly, thinking to have slain him, but Sir Lancelot put aside the
with the bough, and therewith smote him on the side of the head, till he
fell swooning to the ground. And tearing his sword from out his hands,
shore his neck through from the body. Then did the lady shriek dismally,
and swooned as though she would die. But Sir Lancelot put on his armour,
and with haste took his horse and departed thence, thanking God he had
escaped that peril.
And as he rode through a valley, among many wild ways, he saw a
with a drawn sword, chasing a lady to slay her. And seeing Sir Lancelot,
she cried and prayed to him to come and rescue her.
At that he went up, saying, "Fie on thee, knight! why wilt thou slay
lady? Thou doest shame to thyself and all knights."
"What hast thou to do between me and my wife?" replied the knight. "I
slay her in spite of thee."
"Thou shall not harm her," said Sir Lancelot, "till we have first
"Sir," answered the knight, "thou doest ill, for this lady hath
"He speaketh falsely," said the lady, "for he is jealous of me
cause, as I shall answer before Heaven; but as thou art named the most
worshipful knight in the world, I pray thee of thy true knighthood to
me, for he is without mercy."
"Be of good cheer," said Sir Lancelot; "it shall not lie within his
to harm thee."
"Sir," said the knight, "I will be ruled as ye will have me."
So Sir Lancelot rode between the knight and the lady. And when they
ridden awhile, the knight cried out suddenly to Sir Lancelot to turn and
see what men they were who came riding after them; and while Sir
thinking not of treason, turned to look, the knight, with one great
stroke, smote off the lady's head.
Then was Sir Lancelot passing wroth, and cried, "Thou traitor! Thou
shamed me for ever!" and, alighting from his horse, he drew his sword to
have slain him instantly; but the knight fell on the ground and clasped
Sir Lancelot's knees, and cried out for mercy. "Thou shameful knight,"
answered Lancelot, "thou mayest have no mercy, for thou showedst none,
therefore arise and fight with me."
"Nay," said the knight, "I will not rise till thou dost grant me
"Now will I deal fairly by thee," said Sir Lancelot; "I will unarm me
my shirt, and have my sword only in my hand, and if thou canst slay me
thou shall be quit for ever."
"That will I never do," said the knight.
"Then," answered Sir Lancelot, "take this lady and the head, and bear
with thee, and swear to me upon thy sword never to rest until thou
to Queen Guinevere."
"That will I do," said he.
"Now," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy name."
"It is Pedivere," answered the knight.
"In a shameful hour wert thou born," said Sir Lancelot.
So Sir Pedivere departed, bearing with him the dead lady and her
when he came to Winchester, where the Queen was with King Arthur, he
them all the truth; and afterwards did great and heavy penance many
years, and became an holy hermit.
"So, two days before the Feast of Pentecost, Sir Lancelot returned to
court, and King Arthur was full glad of his coming. And when Sir Gawain,
Sir Ewaine, Sir Sagramour, and Sir Ector, saw him in Sir Key's armour,
they knew well it was he who had smitten them all down with one spear.
Anon, came all the knights Sir Turquine had taken prisoners, and gave
worship and honour to Sir Lancelot. Then Sir Key told the King how Sir
Lancelot had rescued him when he was in near danger of his death; "and,"
said Sir Key, "he made the knights yield, not to himself, but me. And by
Heaven! because Sir Lancelot took my armour and left me his, I rode in
peace, and no man would have aught to do with me." Then came the knights
who fought with Sir Lancelot at the long bridge and yielded themselves
also to Sir Key, but he said nay, he had not fought with them. "It is
Lancelot," said he, "that overcame ye." Next came Sir Meliot de Logres,
and told King Arthur how Sir Lancelot had saved him from death.
And so all Sir Lancelot's deeds and great adventures were made known;
the four sorceress-queens had him in prison; how he was delivered by the
daughter of King Bagdemagus, and what deeds of arms he did at the
tournament between the King of North Wales and King Bagdemagus. And so,
that festival, Sir Lancelot had the greatest name of any knight in all
world, and by high and low was he the most honoured of all men.
Adventures of Sir Beaumains or Sir Gareth
Again King Arthur held the Feast of Pentecost, with all the Table
and after his custom sat in the banquet hall, before beginning meat,
waiting for some adventure. Then came there to the king a squire and
"Lord, now may ye go to meat, for here a damsel cometh with some strange
adventure." So the king was glad, and sat down to meat.
Anon the damsel came in and saluted him, praying him for succour.
wilt thou?" said the king. "Lord," answered she, "my mistress is a lady
great renown, but is at this time besieged by a tyrant, who will not
suffer her to go out of her castle; and because here in thy court the
knights are called the noblest in the world, I come to pray thee for thy
succour. "Where dwelleth your lady?" answered the king. "What is her
and who is he that hath besieged her?" "For her name," replied the
"as yet I may not tell it; but she is a lady of worship and great lands.
The tyrant that besiegeth her and wasteth her lands is called the Red
Knight of the Redlands." "I know him not," said Arthur. "But I know him,
lord," said Sir Gawain, "and he is one of the most perilous knights in
the world. Men say he hath the strength of seven; and from him I myself
once hardly escaped with life." "Fair damsel," said the king, "there be
here many knights that would gladly do their uttermost to rescue your
lady, but unless ye tell me her name, and where she dwelleth, none of my
knights shall go with you by my leave."
Now, there was a stripling at the court called Beaumains, who served
the king's kitchen, a fair youth and of great stature. Twelve months
before this time he had come to the king as he sat at meat, at
Whitsuntide, and prayed three gifts of him. And being asked what gifts,
answered, "As for the first gift I will ask it now, but the other two
gifts I will ask on this day twelve months, wheresoever ye hold your
feast." Then said King Arthur, "What is thy first request?" "This,
said he, "that thou wilt give me meat and drink enough for twelve months
from this time, and then will I ask my other two gifts." And the king
seeing that he was a goodly youth, and deeming that he was come of
honourable blood, had granted his desire, and given him into the charge
Sir Key, the steward. But Sir Key scorned and mocked the youth, calling
him Beaumains, because his hands were large and fair, and putting him
the kitchen, where he had served for twelve months as a scullion, and,
spite of all his churlish treatment, had faithfully obeyed Sir Key. But
Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain were angered when they saw Sir Key so
to a youth that had so worshipful a bearing, and ofttimes had they given
him gold and clothing.
And now at this time came young Beaumains to the king, while the
was there, and said, "Lord, now I thank thee well and heartily that I
been twelve months kept in thy kitchen, and have had full sustenance.
will I ask my two remaining gifts." "Ask," said King Arthur, "on my good
faith." "These, lord," said he, "shall be my two gifts--the one, that
wilt grant me this adventure of the damsel, for to me of right it
belongeth; and the other, that thou wilt bid Sir Lancelot make me a
knight, for of him only will I have that honour; and I pray that he may
ride after me and make me a knight when I require him." "Be it as thou
wilt," replied the king. But thereupon the damsel was full wroth, and
said, "Shall I have a kitchen page for this adventure?" and so she took
horse and departed.
Then came one to Beaumains, and told him that a dwarf with a horse
armour were waiting for him. And all men marvelled whence these things
came. But when he was on horseback and armed, scarce any one at the
was a goodlier man than he. And coming into the hall, he took his leave
the king and Sir Gawain, and prayed Sir Lancelot to follow him. So he
after the damsel, and many of the court went out to see him, so richly
arrayed and horsed; yet he had neither shield nor spear. Then Sir Key
cried, "I also will ride after the kitchen boy, and see whether he will
obey me now." And taking his horse, he rode after him, and said, "Know
not me, Beaumains?" "Yea," said he, "I know thee for an ungentle knight,
therefore beware of me." Then Sir Key put his spear in rest and ran at
him, but Beaumains rushed upon him with his sword in his hand, and
therewith, putting aside the spear, struck Sir Key so sorely in the
that he fell down, as if dead. Then he alighted, and took his shield and
spear, and bade his dwarf ride upon Sir Key's horse.
By this time, Sir Lancelot had come up, and Beaumains offering to
with him, they both made ready. And their horses came together so
that both fell to the earth, full sorely bruised. Then they arose, and
Beaumains, putting up his shield before him, offered to fight Sir
Lancelot, on foot. So they rushed upon each other, striking, and
thrusting, and parrying, for the space of an hour. And Lancelot
at the strength of Beaumains, for he fought more like a giant than a
and his fighting was passing fierce and terrible. So, at the last, he
said, "Fight not so sorely, Beaumains; our quarrel is not such that we
not now cease." "True," answered Beaumains; "yet it doth me good to feel
thy might, though I have not yet proved my uttermost." "By my faith,"
Lancelot, "I had as much as I could do to save myself from you unshamed,
therefore be in no doubt of any earthly knight." "May I, then, stand as
proved knight?" said Beaumains. "For that will I be thy warrant,"
Lancelot. "Then, I pray thee," said he, "give me the order of
"First, then, must thou tell me of thy name and kindred," said Sir
Lancelot. "If thou wilt tell them to no other, I will tell thee,"
he. "My name is Gareth of Orkney, and I am own brother to Sir Gawain."
"Ah!" said Sir Lancelot, "at that am I full glad; for, truly, I deemed
thee to be of gentle blood." So then he knighted Beaumains, and, after
that, they parted company, and Sir Lancelot, returning to the court,
up Sir Key on his shield. And hardly did Sir Key escape with his life,
from the wound Beaumains had given him; but all men blamed him for his
ungentle treatment of so brave a knight.
Then Sir Beaumains rode forward, and soon overtook the damsel; but
said to him, in scorn, "Return again, base kitchen page! What art thou,
but a washer-up of dishes!" "Damsel," said he, "say to me what thou
I will not leave thee; for I have undertaken to King Arthur to relieve
adventure, and I will finish it to the end, or die." "Thou finish my
adventure!" said she--"anon, thou shalt meet one, whose face thou wilt
even dare to look at." "I shall attempt it," answered he. So, as they
thus, into a wood, there met them a man, fleeing, as for his life.
"Whither fleest thou?" said Sir Beaumains. "O lord!" he answered, "help
me; for, in a valley hard by, there are six thieves, who have taken my
lord, and bound him, and I fear will slay him." "Bring me thither," said
Sir Beaumains. So they rode to the place, and Sir Beaumains rushed after
the thieves, and smote one, at the first stroke, so that he died; and
then, with two other blows, slew a second and third. Then fled the other
three, and Sir Beaumains rode after them, and overtook and slew them
Then he returned and unbound the knight. And the knight thanked him, and
prayed him to ride to his castle, where he would reward him. "Sir,"
answered Sir Beaumains, "I will have no reward of thee, for but this day
was I made knight by the most noble Sir Lancelot; and besides, I must go
with this damsel." Then the knight begged the damsel to rest that night
his castle. So they all rode thither, and ever the damsel scoffed at Sir
Beaumains as a kitchen boy, and laughed at him before the knight their
host, so that he set his meat before him at a lower table, as though he
were not of their company.
And on the morrow, the damsel and Sir Beaumains took their leave of
knight, and thanking him departed. Then they rode on their way till they
came to a great forest, through which flowed a river, and there was but
one passage over it, whereat stood two knights armed to hinder the way.
"Wilt thou match those two knights," said the damsel to Sir Beaumains,
return again?" "I would not return," said he, "though they were six."
Therewith he galloped into the water, and swam his horse into the middle
of the stream. And there, in the river, one of the knights met him, and
they brake their spears together, and then drew their swords, and smote
fiercely at each other. And at the last, Sir Beaumains struck the other
mightily upon the helm, so that he fell down stunned into the water, and
was drowned. Then Sir Beaumains spurred his horse on to the land, where
instantly the other knight fell on him. And they also brake their spears
upon each other, and then drew their swords, and fought savagely and
together. And after many blows, Sir Beaumains clove through the knight's
skull down to the shoulders. Then rode Sir Beaumains to the damsel, but
ever she still scoffed at him, and said, "Alas! that a kitchen page
chance to slay two such brave knights! Thou deemest now that thou hast
done a mighty deed, but it is not so; for the first knight's horse
stumbled, and thus was he drowned--not by thy strength; and as for the
second knight, thou wentest by chance behind him, and didst kill him
shamefully." "Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, "say what ye list, I care not
so I may win your lady; and wouldst thou give me but fair language, all
my care were past; for whatsoever knights I meet, I fear them not."
shalt see knights that shall abate thy boast, base kitchen knave,"
she; "yet say I this for thine advantage, for if thou followest me thou
wilt be surely slain, since I see all thou doest is but by chance, and
by thy own prowess." "Well damsel," said he, "say what ye will, wherever
ye go I will follow."
So they rode on until the eventide, and still the damsel evermore
chiding Sir Beaumains. Then came they to a black space of land, whereon
was a black hawthorn tree, and on the tree there hung a black banner,
on the other side was a black shield and spear, and by them a great
horse, covered with silk; and hard by sat a knight armed in black
whose name was the Knight of the Blacklands. When the damsel saw him,
cried out to Beaumains, "Flee down the valley, for thy horse is not
saddled!" "Wilt thou for ever deem me coward?" answered he. With that
the Black Knight to the damsel, and said, "Fair damsel, hast thou
this knight from Arthur's court to be thy champion?" "Not so, fair
knight," said she; "he is but a kitchen knave." "Then wherefore cometh
in such array?" said he; "it is a shame that he should bear thee
"I cannot be delivered from him," answered she: "for in spite of me he
rideth with me; and would to Heaven you would put him from me, or now
him, for he hath slain two knights at the river passage yonder, and done
many marvellous deeds through pure mischance." "I marvel," said the
Knight, "that any man of worship will fight with him." "They know him
not," said the damsel, "and think, because he rideth with me, that he is
well born." "Truly, he hath a goodly person, and is likely to be a
man," replied the knight; "but since he is no man of worship, he shall
leave his horse and armour with me, for it were a shame for me to do him
When Sir Beaumains heard him speak thus, he said, "Horse or armour
thou none of me, Sir knight, save thou winnest them with thy hands;
therefore defend thyself, and let me see what thou canst do." "How
thou?" answered the Black Knight. "Now quit this lady also, for it
beseemeth not a kitchen knave like thee to ride with such a lady." "I am
of higher lineage than thou," said Sir Beaumains, "and will straightway
prove it on thy body." Then furiously they drove their horses at each
other, and came together as it had been thunder. But the Black Knight's
spear brake short, and Sir Beaumains thrust him through the side, and
spear breaking at the head, left its point sticking fast in the Black
Knight's body. Yet did the Black Knight draw his sword, and smite at Sir
Beaumains with many fierce and bitter blows; but after they had fought
hour and more, he fell down from his horse in a swoon, and forthwith
Then Sir Beaumains lighted down and armed himself in the Black Knight's
armour, and rode on after the damsel. But notwithstanding all his
still she scoffed at him, and said, "Away! for thou savourest ever of
kitchen. Alas! that such a knave should by mishap destroy so good a
knight; yet once again I counsel thee to flee, for hard by is a knight
shall repay thee!" "It may chance that I am beaten or slain," answered
Beaumains, "but I warn thee, fair damsel, that I will not flee away, nor
leave thy company or my quest, for all that ye can say."
Anon, as they rode, they saw a knight come swiftly towards them,
all in green, who, calling to the damsel said, "Is that my brother, the
Black Knight, that ye have brought with you?" "Nay, and alas!" said she,
"this kitchen knave hath slain thy brother through mischance." "Alas!"
said the Green Knight, "that such a noble knight as he was should be
by a knave's hand. Traitor!" cried he to Sir Beaumains, "thou shalt die
for this! Sir Pereard was my brother, and a full noble knight." "I defy
thee," said Sir Beaumains, "for I slew him knightly and not shamefully."
Then the Green Knight rode to a thorn whereon hung a green horn, and,
he blew three notes, there came three damsels forth, who quickly armed
him, and brought him a great horse and a green shield and spear. Then
they run at one another with their fullest might, and break their spears
asunder; and, drawing their swords, they closed in fight, and sorely
and wounded each other with many grievous blows.
At last, Sir Beaumains' horse jostled against the Green Knight's
and overthrew him. Then both alighted, and, hurtling together like mad
lions, fought a great while on foot. But the damsel cheered the Green
Knight, and said, "My lord, why wilt thou let a kitchen knave so long
stand up against thee?" Hearing these words, he was ashamed, and gave
Beaumains such a mighty stroke as clave his shield asunder. When Sir
Beaumains heard the damsel's words, and felt that blow, he waxed passing
wroth, and gave the Green Knight such a buffet on the helm that he fell
his knees, and with another blow Sir Beaumains threw him on the ground.
Then the Green Knight yielded, and prayed him to spare his life. "All
prayers are vain," said he, "unless this damsel who came with me pray
thee." "That will I never do, base kitchen knave," said she. "Then shall
he die," said Beaumains. "Alas! fair lady," said the Green Knight,
me not to die for a word! O, Sir knight," cried he to Beaumains, "give
my life, and I will ever do thee homage; and thirty knights, who owe me
service, shall give allegiance to thee." "All availeth not," answered
Beaumains, "unless the damsel ask me for thy life;" and thereupon he
as though he would have slain him. Then cried the damsel, "Slay him not;
for if thou do thou shalt repent it." "Damsel," said Sir Beaumains, "at
thy command, he shall obtain his life. Arise, Sir knight of the green
armour, I release thee!" Then the Green Knight knelt at his feet, and
him homage with his words. "Lodge with me this night," said he, "and
to-morrow will I guide ye through the forest." So, taking their horses,
they rode to his castle, which was hard by.
Yet still did the damsel rebuke and scoff at Sir Beaumains, and would
suffer him to sit at her table. "I marvel," said the Green Knight to
"that ye thus chide so noble a knight, for truly I know none to match
and be sure, that whatsoever he appeareth now, he will prove, at the
of noble blood and royal lineage." But of all this would the damsel take
no heed, and ceased not to mock at Sir Beaumains. On the morrow, they
arose and heard mass; and when they had broken their fast, took their
horses and rode on their way, the Green Knight conveying them through
forest. Then, when he had led them for a while, he said to Sir
"My lord, my thirty knights and I shall always be at thy command
whensoever thou shalt send for us." "It is well said," replied he; "and
when I call upon you, you shall yield yourself and all your knights unto
King Arthur." "That will we gladly do," said the Green Knight, and so
And the damsel rode on before Sir Beaumains, and said to him, "Why
thou follow me, thou kitchen boy? I counsel thee to throw aside thy
and shield, and flee betimes, for wert thou as mighty as Sir Lancelot or
Sir Tristram, thou shouldest not pass a valley near this place, called
Pass Perilous." "Damsel," answered he, "let him that feareth flee; as
me, it were indeed a shameful thing to turn after so long a journey." As
he spake, they came upon a tower as white as snow, with mighty
battlements, and double moats round it, and over the tower-gate hung
shields of divers colours. Before the tower walls, they saw a fair
wherein were many knights and squires in pavilions, for on the morrow
there was a tournament at that castle.
Then the lord of the castle, seeing a knight armed at all points,
damsel and a page, riding towards the tower, came forth to meet them;
his horse and harness, with his shield and spear, were all of a red
colour. When he came near Sir Beaumains, and saw his armour all of
he thought him his own brother, the Black Knight, and so cried aloud,
"Brother! what do ye here, within these borders?" "Nay!" said the
"it is not thy brother, but a kitchen knave of Arthur's court, who hath
slain thy brother, and overcome thy other brother also, the Green
"Now do I defy thee!" cried the Red Knight to Sir Beaumains, and put his
spear in rest and spurred his horse. Then both knights turned back a
little space, and ran together with all their might, till their horses
fell to the earth. Then, with their swords, they fought fiercely for the
space of three hours. And at last, Sir Beaumains overcame his foe, and
smote him to the ground. Then the Red Knight prayed his mercy, and said,
"Slay me not, noble knight, and I will yield to thee with sixty knights
that do my bidding." "All avails not," answered Sir Beaumains, "save
damsel pray me to release thee." Then did he lift his sword to slay him;
but the damsel cried aloud, "Slay him not, Beaumains, for he is a noble
knight." Then Sir Beaumains bade him rise up and thank the damsel, which
straightway he did, and afterwards invited them to his castle, and made
them goodly cheer.
But notwithstanding all Sir Beaumains' mighty deeds, the damsel
to revile and chide him, at which the Red Knight marvelled much; and
caused his sixty knights to watch Sir Beaumains, that no villainy might
happen to him. And on the morrow, they heard mass and broke their fast,
and the Red Knight came before Sir Beaumains, with his sixty knights,
proffered him homage and fealty. "I thank thee," answered he; "and when
call upon thee thou shalt come before my lord King Arthur at his court,
and yield yourselves to him." "That will we surely do," said the Red
Knight. So Sir Beaumains and the damsel departed.
And as she constantly reviled him and tormented him, he said to her,
"Damsel, ye are discourteous thus always to rebuke me, for I have done
service; and for all your threats of knights that shall destroy me, all
they who come lie in the dust before me. Now, therefore, I pray you
rebuke me no more till you see me beaten or a recreant, and then bid me
from you." "There shall soon meet thee a knight who shall repay thee all
thy deeds, thou boaster," answered she, "for, save King Arthur, he is
man of most worship in the world." "It will be the greater honour to
encounter him," said Sir Beaumains.
Soon after, they saw before them a city passing fair, and between
the city was a meadow newly mown, wherein were many goodly tents. "Seest
thou yonder blue pavilion?" said the damsel to Sir Beaumains; "it is Sir
Perseant's, the lord of that great city, whose custom is, in all fair
weather, to lie in this meadow, and joust with his knights."
And as she spake, Sir Perseant, who had espied them coming, sent a
messenger to meet Sir Beaumains, and to ask him if he came in war or
peace. "Say to thy lord," he answered, "that I care not whether of the
twain it be." So when the messenger gave this reply, Sir Perseant came
to fight with Sir Beaumains. And making ready, they rode their steeds
against each other; and when their spears were shivered asunder, they
fought with their swords. And for more than two hours did they hack and
hew at each other, till their shields and hauberks were all dinted with
many blows, and they themselves were sorely wounded. And at the last,
Beaumains smote Sir Perseant on the helm, so that he fell grovelling on
the earth. And when he unlaced his helm to slay him, the damsel prayed
his life. "That will I grant gladly," answered Sir Beaumains, "for it
pity such a noble knight should die." "Grammercy!" said Sir Perseant,
"for now I certainly know that it was thou who slewest my brother, the
Black Knight, Sir Pereard; and overcame my brothers, the Green Knight,
Pertolope, and the Red Knight, Sir Perimones; and since thou hast
me also, I will do thee homage and fealty, and place at thy command one
hundred knights to do thy bidding."
But when the damsel saw Sir Perseant overthrown, she marvelled
the might of Sir Beaumains, and said, "What manner of man may ye be, for
now am I sure that ye be come of noble blood? And truly, never did woman
revile knight as I have done thee, and yet ye have ever courteously
with me, which surely never had been were ye not of gentle blood and
"Lady," replied Sir Beaumains, "a knight is little worth who may not
with a damsel; and so whatsoever ye said to me I took no heed, save only
that at times when your scorn angered me, it made me all the stronger
against those with whom I fought, and thus have ye furthered me in my
battles. But whether I be born of gentle blood or no, I have done you
gentle service, and peradventure will do better still, ere I depart from
"Alas!" said she, weeping at his courtesy, "forgive me, fair Sir
Beaumains, all that I have missaid and misdone against you." "With all
heart," said he; "and since you now speak fairly to me, I am passing
of heart, and methinks I have the strength to overcome whatever knights
shall henceforth encounter."
Then Sir Perseant prayed them to come to his pavilion, and set before
wines and spices, and made them great cheer. So they rested that night;
and on the morrow, the damsel and Sir Beaumains rose, and heard mass.
when they had broken their fast, they took their leave of Sir Perseant.
"Fair damsel," said he "whither lead ye this knight?" "Sir," answered
"to the Castle Dangerous, where my sister is besieged by the Knight of
Redlands." "I know him well," said Sir Perseant, "for the most perilous
knight alive--a man without mercy, and with the strength of seven men.
save thee, Sir Beaumains, from him! and enable thee to overcome him, for
the Lady Lyones, whom he besiegeth, is as fair a lady as there liveth in
this world." "Thou sayest truth, sir," said the damsel; "for I am her
sister; and men call me Linet, or the Wild Maiden." "Now, I would have
thee know," said Sir Perseant to Sir Beaumains, "that the Knight of the
Redlands hath kept that siege more than two years, and prolongeth the
hoping that Sir Lancelot, or Sir Tristram, or Sir Lamoracke, may come
battle with him; for these three knights divide between them all
knighthood; and thou if thou mayest match the Knight of the Redlands,
shall well be called the fourth knight of the world." "Sir," said Sir
Beaumains, "I would fain have that good fame; and truly, I am come of
great and honourable lineage. And so that you and this fair damsel will
conceal it, I will tell ye my descent." And when they swore to keep it
secret, he told them, "My name is Sir Gareth of Orkney, my father was
Lot, and my mother the Lady Belisent, King Arthur's sister. Sir Gawain,
Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris, are my brethren, and I am the youngest of
them all. But, as yet King Arthur and the court know me not, who I am."
When he had thus told them, they both wondered greatly.
And the damsel Linet sent the dwarf forward to her sister, to tell
their coming. Then did Dame Lyones inquire what manner of man the knight
was who was coming to her rescue. And the dwarf told her of all Sir
Beaumains' deeds by the way: how he had overthrown Sir Key, and left him
for dead; how he had battled with Sir Lancelot, and was knighted of him;
how he had fought with, and slain, the thieves; how he had overcome the
two knights who kept the river passage; how he had fought with, and
the Black Knight; and how he had overcome the Green Knight, the Red
Knight, and last of all, the Blue Knight, Sir Perseant. Then was Dame
Lyones passing glad, and sent the dwarf back to Sir Beaumains with great
gifts, thanking him for his courtesy, in taking such a labour on him for
her sake, and praying him to be of good heart and courage. And as the
dwarf returned, he met the Knight of the Redlands, who asked him whence
came. "I came here with the sister of my lady of the castle," said the
dwarf, "who hath been now to King Arthur's court and brought a knight
her to take her battle on him." "Then is her travail lost," replied the
knight; "for, though she had brought Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristram, Sir
Lamoracke, or Sir Gawain, I count myself their equal, and who besides
shall be so called?" Then the dwarf told the knight what deeds Sir
Beaumains had done; but he answered, "I care not for him, whosoever he
for I shall shortly overcome him, and give him shameful death, as to so
many others I have done."
Then the damsel Linet and Sir Beaumains left Sir Perseant, and rode
through a forest to a large plain, where they saw many pavilions, and
by, a castle passing fair.
But as they came near Sir Beaumains saw upon the branches of some
which grew there, the dead bodies of forty knights hanging, with rich
armour on them, their shields and swords about their necks, and golden
spurs upon their heels. "What meaneth this?" said he, amazed. "Lose not
thy courage, fair sir," replied the damsel, "at this shameful sight, for
all these knights came hither to rescue my sister; and when the Knight
the Redlands had overcome them, he put them to this piteous death,
mercy; and in such wise will he treat thee also unless thou bearest thee
more valiantly than they." "Truly he useth shameful customs," said Sir
Beaumains; "and it is a marvel that he hath endured so long."
So they rode onward to the castle walls, and found them
heard the sea waves dashing on one side the walls. Then said the damsel,
"See you that ivory horn hanging upon the sycamore-tree? The Knight of
Redlands hath hung it there, that any knight may blow thereon, and then
will he himself come out and fight with him. But I pray thee sound it
till high noontide, for now it is but daybreak, and till noon his
increases to the might of seven men." "Let that be as it may, fair
damsel," answered he, "for were he stronger knight than ever lived, I
would not fail him. Either will I defeat him at his mightiest, or die
knightly in the field." With that he spurred his horse unto the
and blew the ivory horn so eagerly, that all the castle rang its echoes.
Instantly, all the knights who were in the pavilions ran forth, and
within the castle looked out from the windows, or above the walls. And
Knight of the Redlands, arming himself quickly in blood-red armour, with
spear, and shield, and horse's trappings of like colour, rode forth into
little valley by the castle walls, so that all in the castle, and at the
siege, might see the battle.
"Be of good cheer," said the damsel Linet to Sir Beaumains, "for thy
deadly enemy now cometh; and at yonder window is my lady and sister,
Lyones." "In good sooth," said Sir Beaumains, "she is the fairest lady I
have ever seen, and I would wish no better quarrel than to fight for
With that, he looked up to the window, and saw the Lady Lyones, who
her handkerchief to her sister and to him to cheer them. Then called the
Knight of the Redlands to Sir Beaumains, "Leave now thy gazing, Sir
knight, and turn to me, for I warn thee that lady is mine." "She loveth
none of thy fellowship," he answered; "but know this, that I love her,
will rescue her from thee, or die." "Say ye so!" said the Red Knight.
"Take ye no warning from those knights that hang on yonder trees?" "For
shame that thou so boastest!" said Sir Beaumains. "Be sure that sight
raised a hatred for thee that will not lightly be put out, and given me
not fear, but rage." "Sir knight, defend thyself," said the Knight of
Redlands, "for we will talk no longer."
Then did they put their spears in rest, and came together at the
speed of their horses, and smote each other in the midst of their
so that their horses' harness sundered by the shock, and they fell to
ground. And both lay there so long time, stunned, that many deemed their
necks were broken. And all men said the strange knight was a strong man,
and a noble jouster, for none had ever yet so matched the Knight of the
Redlands. Then, in a while, they rose, and putting up their shields
them, drew their swords, and fought with fury, running at each other
wild beasts--now striking such buffets that both reeled backwards, now
hewing at each other till they shore the harness off in pieces, and left
their bodies naked and unarmed. And thus they fought till noon was past,
when, for a time they rested to get breath, so sorely staggering and
bleeding, that many who beheld them wept for pity. Then they renewed the
battle--sometimes rushing so furiously together, that both fell to the
ground, and anon changing swords in their confusion. Thus they endured,
and lashed, and struggled, until eventide, and none who saw knew which
the likeliest to win; for though the Knight of the Redlands was a wily
subtle warrior, his subtlety made Sir Beaumains wilier and wiser too. So
once again they rested for a little space, and took their helms off to
But when Sir Beaumains' helm was off, he looked up to Dame Lyones,
she leaned, gazing and weeping, from her window. And when he saw the
sweetness of her smiling, all his heart was light and joyful, and
up, he bade the Knight of the Redlands make ready. Then did they lace
their helms and fight together yet afresh, as though they had never
before. And at the last, the Knight of the Redlands with a sudden stroke
smote Sir Beaumains on the hand, so that his sword fell from it, and
a second stroke upon the helm he drove him to the earth. Then cried
the damsel Linet, "Alas! Sir Beaumains, see how my sister weepeth to
behold thee fallen!" And when Sir Beaumains heard her words, he sprang
upon his feet with strength, and leaping to his sword, he caught it; and
with many heavy blows pressed so sorely on the Knight of the Redlands,
that in the end he smote his sword from out his hand, and, with a mighty
blow upon the head, hurled him upon the ground.
Then Sir Beaumains unlaced his helm, and would have straightway slain
but the Knight of the Redlands yielded, and prayed for mercy. "I may not
spare thee," answered he, "because of the shameful death which thou hast
given to so many noble knights." "Yet hold thy hand, Sir knight," said
"and hear the cause. I loved once a fair damsel, whose brother was
as she told me, by a knight of Arthur's court, either Sir Lancelot, or
Gawain; and she prayed me, as I truly loved her, and by the faith of my
knighthood, to labour daily in deeds of arms, till I should meet with
and to put all knights of the Round Table whom I should overcome to a
villainous death. And this I swore to her." Then prayed the earls, and
knights, and barons, who stood round Sir Beaumains, to spare the Red
Knight's life. "Truly," replied he, "I am loth to slay him,
notwithstanding he hath done such shameful deeds. And inasmuch as what
did was done to please his lady and to gain her love, I blame him less,
and for your sakes I will release him. But on this agreement only shall
hold his life--that straightway he depart into the castle, and yield him
to the lady there, and make her such amends as she shall ask, for all
trespass he hath done upon her lands; and afterwards, that he shall go
unto King Arthur's court, and ask the pardon of Sir Lancelot and Sir
Gawain for all the evil he hath done against them." "All this, Sir
I swear to do," said the Knight of the Redlands; and therewith he did
homage and fealty.
Then came the damsel Linet to Sir Beaumains and the Knight of the
Redlands, and disarmed them, and staunched their wounds. And when the
Knight of the Redlands had made amends for all his trespasses, he
for the court.
Then Sir Beaumains, being healed of his wounds, armed himself, and
his horse and spear and rode straight to the castle of Dame Lyones, for
greatly he desired to see her. But when he came to the gate they closed
fast, and pulled the drawbridge up. And as he marvelled thereat, he saw
the Lady Lyones standing at a window, who said, "Go thy way as yet, Sir
Beaumains, for thou shalt not wholly have my love until thou be among
worthiest knights of all the world. Go, therefore, and labour yet in
for twelve months more, and then return to me." "Alas! fair lady," said
Sir Beaumains, "I have scarce deserved this of thee, for sure I am that
have bought thy love with all the best blood in my body." "Be not
aggrieved, fair knight," said she, "for none of thy service is forgot or
lost. Twelve months will soon be passed in noble deeds; and trust that
my death I shall love thee and not another." With that she turned and
So Sir Beaumains rode away from the castle very sorrowrul at heart,
rode he knew not whither, and lay that night in a poor man's cottage. On
the morrow he went forward, and came at noon to a broad lake, and
he alighted, being very sad and weary, and rested his head upon his
shield, and told his dwarf to keep watch while he slept.
Now, as soon as he had departed, the Lady Lyones repented, and
longed to see him back, and asked her sister many times of what lineage
was; but the damsel would not tell her, being bound by her oath to Sir
Beaumains, and said his dwarf best knew, So she called Sir Gringamors,
her brother, who dwelt with her, and prayed him to ride after Sir
Beaumains till he found him sleeping, and then to take his dwarf away
bring him back to her. Anon Sir Gringamors departed, and rode till he
to Sir Beaumains, and found him as he lay sleeping by the water-side.
stepping stealthily behind the dwarf he caught him in his arms and rode
off in haste. And though the dwarf cried loudly to his lord for help,
woke Sir Beaumains, yet, though he rode full quickly after him, he could
not overtake Sir Gringamors.
When Dame Lyones saw her brother come back, she was passing glad of
and forthwith asked the dwarf his master's lineage. "He is a king's
said the dwarf, "and his mother is King Arthur's sister. His name is Sir
Gareth of Orkney, and he is brother to the good knight, Sir Gawain. But
pray you suffer me to go back to my lord, for truly he will never leave
this country till he have me again." But when the Lady Lyones knew her
deliverer was come of such a kingly stock, she longed more than ever to
see him again.
Now as Sir Beaumains rode in vain to rescue his dwarf, he came to a
green road and met a poor man of the country, and asked him had he seen
knight on a black horse, riding with a dwarf of a sad countenance behind
him. "Yea," said the man, "I met with such a knight an hour agone, and
name is Sir Gringamors. He liveth at a castle two miles from hence; but
is a perilous knight, and I counsel ye not to follow him save ye bear
goodwill." Then Sir Beaumains followed the path which the poor man
him, and came to the castle. And riding to the gate in great anger, he
drew his sword, and cried aloud, "Sir Gringamors, thou traitor! deliver
me my dwarf again, or by my knighthood it shall be ill for thee!" Then
Gringamors looked out of a window and said, "Sir Gareth of Orkney, leave
thy boasting words, for thou wilt not get thy dwarf again." But the Lady
Lyones said to her brother, "Nay brother, but I will that he have his
dwarf, for he hath done much for me, and delivered me from the Knight of
the Redlands, and well do I love him above all other knights." So Sir
Gringamors went down to Sir Gareth and cried him mercy, and prayed him
alight and take good cheer.
Then he alighted, and his dwarf ran to him. And when he was in the
came the Lady Lyones dressed royally like a princess. And Sir Gareth was
right glad of heart when he saw her. Then she told him how she had made
her brother take away his dwarf and bring him back to her. And then she
promised him her love, and faithfully to cleave to him and none other
the days of her life. And so they plighted their troth to each other.
Sir Gringamors prayed him to sojourn at the castle, which willingly he
did. "For," said he, "I have promised to quit the court for twelve
though sure I am that in the meanwhile I shall be sought and found by my
lord King Arthur and many others." So he sojourned long at the castle.
Anon the knights, Sir Perseant, Sir Perimones, and Sir Pertolope,
Gareth had overthrown, went to King Arthur's court with all the knights
who did them service, and told the king they had been conquered by a
knight of his named Beaumains. And as they yet were talking, it was told
the king there came another great lord with five hundred knights, who,
entering in, did homage, and declared himself to be the Knight of the
Redlands. "But my true name," said he, "is Ironside, and I am hither
by one Sir Beaumains, who conquered me, and charged me to yield unto
grace." "Thou art welcome," said King Arthur, "for thou hast been long a
foe to me and mine, and truly I am much beholden to the knight who sent
thee. And now, Sir Ironside, if thou wilt amend thy life and hold of me,
will entreat thee as a friend, and make thee Knight of the Round Table;
but thou mayst no more be a murderer of noble knights." Then the Knight
the Redlands knelt to the king, and told him of his promise to Sir
Beaumains to use never more such shameful customs; and how he had so
but at the prayer of a lady whom he loved. Then knelt he to Sir Lancelot
and Sir Gawain, and prayed their pardon for the hatred he had borne
But the king and all the court marvelled greatly who Sir Beaumains
"For," said the king, "he is a full noble knight." Then said Sir
"Truly he is come of honourable blood, else had I not given him the
of knighthood; but he charged me that I should conceal his secret."
Now as they talked thus it was told King Arthur that his sister, the
of Orkney, was come to the court with a great retinue of knights and
ladies. Then was there great rejoicing, and the king rose and saluted
sister. And her sons, Sir Gawain, Sir Agravain, and Sir Gaheris knelt
before her and asked her blessing, for during fifteen years last past
had not seen her. Anon she said, "Where is my youngest son, Sir Gareth?
for I know that he was here a twelvemonth with you, and that ye made a
kitchen knave of him. Then the king and all the knights knew that Sir
Beaumains and Sir Gareth were the same. "Truly," said the king, "I knew
him not." "Nor I," said Sir Gawain and both his brothers. Then said the
king, "God be thanked, fair sister, that he is proved as worshipful a
knight as any now alive, and by the grace of Heaven he shall be found
forthwith if he be anywhere within these seven realms." Then said Sir
Gawain and his brethren, "Lord, if ye will give us leave we will go seek
him." But Sir Lancelot said, "It were better that the king should send a
messenger to Dame Lyones and pray her to come hither with all speed, and
she will counsel where ye shall find him." "It is well said," replied
king; and sent a messenger quickly unto Dame Lyones.
When she heard the message she promised she would come forthwith, and
Sir Gareth what the messenger had said, and asked him what to do. "I
you," said he, "tell them not where I am, but when my lord King Arthur
asketh for me, advise him thus--that he proclaim a tournament before
castle on Assumption Day, and that the knight who proveth best shall win
yourself and all your lands." So the Lady Lyones departed and came to
Arthur's court, and there was right nobly welcomed. And when they asked
her where Sir Gareth was, she said she could not tell. "But, lord," said
she, "with thy goodwill I will proclaim a tournament before my castle on
the Feast of the Assumption, whereof the prize shall be myself and all
lands. Then if it be proclaimed that you, lord, and your knights will be
there, I will find knights on my side to fight you and yours, and thus
I sure ye will hear tidings of Sir Gareth." "Be it so done," replied the
So Sir Gareth sent messengers privily to Sir Perseant and Sir
and charged them to be ready on the day appointed, with their companies
knights to aid him and his party against the king. And when they were
arrived he said, "Now be ye well assured that we shall be matched with
best knights of the world, and therefore must we gather all the good
knights we can find."
So proclamation was made throughout all England, Wales, Scotland,
and Cornwall, and in the out isles and other countries, that at the
of the Assumption of our Lady, next coming, all knights who came to
at Castle Perilous should make choice whether they would side with the
king or with the castle. Then came many good knights on the side of the
castle. Sir Epinogris, the son of the King of Northumberland, and Sir
Palomedes the Saracen, and Sir Grummore Grummorsum, a good knight of
Scotland, and Sir Brian des Iles, a noble knight, and Sir Carados of the
Tower Dolorous, and Sir Tristram, who as yet was not a knight of the
Table, and many others. But none among them knew Sir Gareth, for he took
no more upon him than any mean person.
And on King Arthur's side there came the King of Ireland and the King
Scotland, the noble prince Sir Galahaut, Sir Gawain and his brothers Sir
Agravain and Sir Gaheris, Sir Ewaine, Sir Tor, Sir Perceval, and Sir
Lamoracke, Sir Lancelot also and his kindred, Sir Lionel, Sir Ector, Sir
Bors and Sir Bedivere, likewise Sir Key and the most part of the Table
Round. The two queens also, Queen Guinevere and the Queen of Orkney, Sir
Gareth's mother, came with the king. So there was a great array both
within and without the castle, with all manner of feasting and
Now before the tournament began, Sir Gareth privily prayed Dame
Sir Gringamors, Sir Ironside, and Sir Perseant, that they would in
disclose his name, nor make more of him than of any common knight. Then
said Dame Lyones, "Dear lord, I pray thee take this ring, which hath the
power to change the wearer's clothing into any colour he may will, and
guardeth him from any loss of blood. But give it me again, I pray thee,
when the tournament is done, for it greatly increaseth my beauty
whensoever I wear it." "Grammercy, mine own lady," said Sir Gareth, "I
wished for nothing better, for now I may be certainly disguised as long
I will." Then Sir Gringamors gave Sir Gareth a bay courser that was a
passing good horse, with sure armour, and a noble sword, won by his
from a heathen tyrant. And then every knight made him ready for the
So on the day of the Assumption, when mass and matins were said, the
heralds blew their trumpets and sounded for the tourney. Anon came out
knights of the castle and the knights of King Arthur, and matched
Then Sir Epinogris, son of the King of Northumberland, a knight of
castle, encountered Sir Ewaine, and both broke off their spears short to
their hands. Then came Sir Palomedes from the castle, and met Sir
and they so hardly smote each other, that both knights and horses fell
the earth. Then Sir Tristram, from the castle, encountered with Sir
Bedivere, and smote him to the earth, horse and man. Then the Knight of
the Redlands and Sir Gareth met with Sir Bors and Sir Bleoberis; and the
Knight of the Redlands and Sir Bors smote together so hard that their
spears burst, and their horses fell grovelling to the ground. And Sir
Bleoberis brake his spear upon Sir Gareth, but himself was hurled upon
the ground. When Sir Galihodin saw that, he bade Sir Gareth keep him,
Sir Gareth lightly smote him to the earth. Then Sir Galihud got a spear
avenge his brother, but was served in like manner. And Sir Dinadam, and
his brother La-cote-male-taile, and Sir Sagramour le Desirous, and
le Savage, he bore down all with one spear.
When King Anguish of Ireland saw this, he marvelled what that knight
be who seemed at one time green and at another blue; for so at every
course he changed his colour that none might know him. Then he ran
him and encountered him, and Sir Gareth smote the king from his horse,
saddle and all. And in like manner he served the King of Scotland, and
King Urience of Gore, and King Bagdemagus.
Then Sir Galahaut, the noble prince, cried out, "Knight of the many
colours! thou hast jousted well; now make thee ready to joust with me."
When Sir Gareth heard him, he took a great spear and met him swiftly.
the prince's spear broke off, but Sir Gareth smote him on the left side
the helm, so that he reeled here and there, and had fallen down had not
his men recovered him. "By my faith," said King Arthur, "that knight of
the many colours is a good knight. I pray thee, Sir Lancelot du Lake,
encounter with him." "Lord," said Sir Lancelot, "by thy leave I will
forbear. I find it in my heart to spare him at this time, for he hath
enough work for one day; and when a good knight doth so well it is no
knightly part to hinder him from this honour. And peradventure his
is here to-day, and he may be the best beloved of the Lady Lyones of all
that be here; for I see well he paineth and forceth himself to do great
deeds. Therefore, as for me, this day he shall have the honour; for
though I were able to put him from it, I would not." "You speak well and
truly," said the king.
Then after the tilting, they drew swords, and there began a great
tournament, and there Sir Lancelot did marvellous deeds of arms, for
he fought with both Sir Tristram and Sir Carados, albeit they were the
most perilous in all the world. Then came Sir Gareth and put them
but would not smite a stroke against Sir Lancelot, for by him he had
knighted. Anon Sir Gareth's helm had need of mending, and he rode aside
see to it and to drink water, for he was sore athirst with all his
feats of strength. And while he drank, his dwarf said to him, "Give me
your ring, lest ye lose it while ye drink." So Sir Gareth took it off.
when he had finished drinking, he rode back eagerly to the field, and in
his haste forgot to take the ring again. Then all the people saw that he
wore yellow armour. And King Arthur told a herald, "Ride and espy the
cognizance of that brave knight, for I have asked many who he is, and
can tell me."
Then the herald rode near, and saw written round about his helmet in
letters of gold, "Sir Gareth of Orkney." And instantly the herald cried
his name aloud, and all men pressed to see him.
But when he saw he was discovered, he pushed with haste through all
crowd, and cried to his dwarf, Boy, thou hast beguiled me foully in
keeping my ring; give it me again, that I may be hidden." And as soon as
he had put it on, his armour changed again, and no man knew where he had
gone. Then he passed forth from the field; but Sir Gawain, his brother,
rode after him.
And when Sir Gareth had ridden far into the forest, he took off his
and sent it back by the dwarf to the Lady Lyones, praying her to be true
and faithful to him while he was away.
Then rode Sir Gareth long through the forest, till night fell, and
to a castle he went up to the gate, and prayed the porter to let him in.
But churlishly he answered "that he should not lodge there." Then said
Gareth, "Tell thy lord and lady that I am a knight of King Arthur's
and for his sake I pray their shelter." With that the porter went to the
duchess who owned the castle. "Let him in straightway," cried she; "for
the king's sake he shall not be harbourless!" and went down to receive
him. When Sir Gareth saw her coming, he saluted her, and said, "Fair
I pray you give me shelter for this night, and if there be here any
champion or giant with whom I must needs fight, spare me till to-morrow,
when I and my horse shall have rested, for we are full weary." "Sir
knight," she said, "thou speakest boldly; for the lord of this castle is
foe to King Arthur and his court, and if thou wilt rest here to-night
must agree, that wheresoever thou mayest meet my lord, thou must yield
him as a prisoner." "What is thy lord's name, lady?" said Sir Gareth.
Duke de la Rowse," said she. "I will promise thee," said he, "to yield
him, if he promise to do me no harm; but if he refuse, I will release
myself with my sword and spear."
"It is well," said the duchess; and commanded the drawbridge to be
down. So he rode into the hall and alighted. And when he had taken off
armour, the duchess and her ladies made him passing good cheer. And
supper his bed was made in the hall, and there he rested that night. On
the morrow he rose and heard mass, and having broken his fast, took his
leave and departed.
And as he rode past a certain mountain there met him a knight named
Bendelaine, and cried unto him "Thou shalt not pass unless thou joust
me or be my prisoner!" "Then will we joust," replied Sir Gareth. So they
let their horses run at full speed, and Sir Gareth smote Sir Bendelaine
through his body so sorely that he scarcely reached his castle ere he
dead. And as Sir Gareth presently came by the castle, Sir Bendelaine's
knights and servants rode out to revenge their lord. And twenty of them
fell on him at once, although his spear was broken. But drawing his
he put his shield before him. And though they brake their spears upon
one and all, and sorely pressed on him, yet ever he defended himself
a noble knight. Anon, finding they could not overcome him, they agreed
slay his horse; and having killed it with their spears, they set upon
Gareth as he fought on foot. But every one he struck he slew, and drave
them with fearful blows, till he had slain them all but four, who fled.
Then taking the horse of one of those that lay there dead, he rode upon
Anon he came to another castle and heard from within a sound as of
women moaning and weeping. Then said he to a page who stood without,
noise is this I hear?" "Sir knight," said he, "there be within thirty
ladies, the widows of thirty knights who have been slain by the lord of
this castle. He is called the Brown Knight without pity, and is the most
perilous knight living, wherefore I warn thee to flee." "That will I
do," said Sir Gareth, "for I fear him not." Then the page saw the Brown
Knight coming and said to Gareth, "Lo! my lord is near."
So both knights made them ready and galloped their horses towards
other, and the Brown Knight brake his spear upon Sir Gareth's shield;
Sir Gareth smote him through the body so that he fell dead. At that he
rode into the castle and told the ladies he had slain their foe. Then
they right glad of heart and made him all the cheer they could, and
thanked him out of measure. But on the morrow as he went to mass he
the ladies weeping in the chapel upon divers tombs that were there. And
knew that in those tombs their husbands lay. Then he bade them be
comforted, and with noble and high words he desired and prayed them all
be at Arthur's court on the next Feast of Pentecost.
So he departed and rode past a mountain where was a goodly knight
who said to him, "Abide, Sir knight, and joust with me!" "How are ye
named?" said Sir Gareth. "I am the Duke de la Rowse," answered he. "In
good sooth," then said Sir Gareth, "not long ago I lodged within your
castle, and there promised I would yield to you whenever we might meet."
"Art thou that proud knight," said the duke, "who was ready to fight
me? Guard thyself therefore and make ready." So they ran together, and
Gareth smote the duke from his horse. Then they alighted and drew their
swords, and fought full sorely for the space of an hour; and at the last
Sir Gareth smote the duke to the earth and would have slain him, but he
yielded. "Then must ye go," said Sir Gareth, "to my lord King Arthur at
the next Feast of Pentecost and say that I, Sir Gareth, sent ye." "As ye
will be it," said the duke; and gave him up his shield for pledge.
And as Sir Gareth rode alone he saw an armed knight coming towards
And putting the duke's shield before him he rode fast to tilt with him;
and so they ran together as it had been thunder, and brake their spears
upon each other. Then fought they fiercely with their swords and lashed
together with such mighty strokes that blood ran to the ground on every
side. And after they had fought together for two hours and more, it
chanced the damsel Linet passed that way; and when she saw them she
out, "Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth, leave your fighting, for ye are
brethren!" At that they threw away their shields and swords, and took
other in their arms and wept a great while ere they could speak. And
gave to the other the honour of the battle, and there was many a kind
between them. Then said Sir Gawain, "O my brother, for your sake have I
had great sorrow and labour! But truly I would honour you though ye were
not my brother, for ye have done great worship to King Arthur and his
court, and sent more knights to him than any of the Table Round, except
Then the damsel Linet staunched their wounds, and their horses being
she rode her palfrey to King Arthur and told him of this strange
adventure. When she had told her tidings, the king himself mounted his
horse and bade all come with him to meet them. So a great company of
and ladies went forth to meet the brothers. And when King Arthur saw
he would have spoken hearty words, but for gladness he could not. And
Sir Gawain and Sir Gareth fell down at their uncle's knees and did him
homage, and there was passing great joy and gladness among them all.
Then said the king to the damsel Linet, "Why cometh not the Lady
visit her knight, Sir Gareth, who hath had such travail for her love?"
"She knoweth not, my lord, that he is here," replied the damsel, "for
truly she desireth greatly to see him." "Go ye and bring her hither,"
said the king. So the damsel rode to tell her sister where Sir Gareth
and when she heard it she rejoiced full heartily and came with all the
speed she could. And when Sir Gareth saw her, there was great joy and
comfort between them.
Then the king asked Sir Gareth whether he would have that lady for
wife? "My lord," replied Sir Gareth, "know well that I love her above
ladies living." "Now, fair lady," said King Arthur, "what say ye?" "Most
noble king," she answered, "my lord, Sir Gareth, is my first love and
shall be my last, and if I may not have him for my husband I will have
none." Then said the king to them, "Be well assured that for my crown I
would not be the cause of parting your two hearts."
Then was high preparation made for the marriage, for the king desired
should be at the Michaelmas next following, at Kinkenadon-by-the-Sea.
So Sir Gareth sent out messages to all the knights whom he had
battle that they should be there upon his marriage-day.
Therefore, at the next Michaelmas, came a goodly company to
Kinkenadon-by-the-Sea. And there did the Archbishop of Canterbury marry
Sir Gareth and the Lady Lyones with all solemnity. And all the knights
whom Sir Gareth had overcome were at the feast; and every manner of
and games was held with music and minstrelsy. And there was a great
jousting for three days. But because of his bride the king would not
suffer Sir Gareth to joust. Then did King Arthur give great lands and
fair, with store of gold, to Sir Gareth and his wife, that so they might
live royally together to their lives' end.
The Adventures of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse
Again King Arthur held high festival at Caerleon, at Pentecost, and
gathered round him all the fellowship of the Round Table, and so,
according to his custom, sat and waited till some adventure should
or some knight return to court whose deeds and perils might be told.
Anon he saw Sir Lancelot and a crowd of knights coming through the
and leading in their midst the mighty knight, Sir Tristram. As soon as
King Arthur saw him, he rose up and went through half the hall, and held
out both his hands and cried, "Right welcome to thee, good Sir Tristram,
as welcome art thou as any knight that ever came before into this court.
long time have I wished for thee amongst my fellowship." Then all the
knights and barons rose up with one accord and came around, and cried
"Welcome." Queen Guinevere came also, and many ladies with her, and all
with one voice said the same.
Then the king took Sir Tristram by the hand and led him to the Round
and said, "Welcome again for one of the best and gentlest knights in all
the world; a chief in war, a chief in peace, a chief in field and
a chief in the ladies' chamber--right heartily welcome to this court,
mayest thou long abide in it."
When he had so said he looked at every empty seat until he came to
had been Sir Marhaus', and there he found written in gold letters, "This
is the seat of the noble knight, Sir Tristram." Whereat they made him,
with great cheer and gladness, a Fellow of the Round Table.
Now the story of Sir Tristram was as follows:--
There was a king of Lyonesse, named Meliodas, married to the sister
King Mark of Cornwall, a right fair lady and a good. And so it happened
that King Meliodas hunting in the woods was taken by enchantment and
prisoner in a castle. When his wife Elizabeth heard it she was nigh mad
with grief, and ran into the forest to seek out her lord. But after many
days of wandering and sorrow she found no trace of him, and laid her
in a deep valley and prayed to meet her death. And so indeed she did,
ere she died she gave birth in the midst of all her sorrow to a child, a
boy, and called him with her latest breath Tristram; for she said, "His
name shall show how sadly he hath come into this world."
Therewith she gave up her ghost, and the gentlewoman who was with her
the child and wrapped it from the cold as well as she was able, and lay
down with it in her arms beneath the shadow of a tree hard by, expecting
death to come to her in turn.
But shortly after came a company of lords and barons seeking for the
queen, and found the lady and the child and took them home. And on the
next day came King Meliodas, whom Merlin had delivered, and when he
of the queen's death his sorrow was greater than tongue can tell. And
he buried her solemnly and nobly, and called the child Tristram as she
Then for seven years King Meliodas mourned and took no comfort, and
that time young Tristram was well nourished; but in a while he wedded
the daughter of Howell, King of Brittany, who, that her own children
enjoy the kingdom, cast about in her mind how she might destroy
So on a certain day she put poison in a silver cup, where Tristram and
children were together playing, that when he was athirst he might drink
it and die. But so it happened that her own son saw the cup, and,
it must hold good drink, he climbed and took it, and drank deeply of it,
and suddenly thereafter burst and fell down dead.
When the queen heard that, her grief was very great, but her anger
envy were fiercer than before, and soon again she put more poison in the
cup. And by chance one day her husband finding it when thirsty, took it
and was about to drink therefrom, when, seeing him, she sprang up with a
mighty cry and dashed it from his hands.
At that King Meliodas, wondering greatly, called to mind the sudden
of his young child, and taking her fiercely by the hand he cried:
"Traitress, tell me what drink is in this cup or I will slay thee in
moment;" and therewith pulling out his sword he swore by a great oath to
slay her if she straightway told him not the truth.
"Ah, mercy, lord," said she, and fell down at his feet; "mercy, and I
tell thee all."
And then she told him of her plot to murder Tristram, that her own
might enjoy the kingdom.
"The law shall judge thee," said the king.
And so anon she was tried before the barons, and condemned to be
But when the fire was made, and she brought out, came Tristram
his father's feet and besought of him a favour.
"Whatsoever thou desirest I will give thee," said the king.
"Give me the life, then, of the queen, my stepmother," said he.
"Thou doest wrong to ask it," said Meliodas; "for she would have
thee with her poisons if she could, and chiefly for thy sake she ought
"Sir," said he, "as for that, I beseech thee of thy mercy to forgive
her, and for my part may God pardon her as I do; and so I pray thee
me my boon, and for God's sake hold thee to thy promise."
"If it must be so," said the king, "take thou her life, for to thee I
it, and go and do with her as thou wilt."
Then went young Tristram to the fire and loosed the queen from all
bonds and delivered her from death.
And after a great while by his good means the king again forgave and
in peace with her, though never more in the same lodgings.
Anon was Tristram sent abroad to France in care of one named
And there for seven years he learned the language of the land, and all
knightly exercises and gentle crafts, and especially was he foremost in
music and in hunting, and was a harper beyond all others. And when at
nineteen years of age he came back to his father, he was as lusty and
strong of body and as noble of heart as ever man was seen.
Now shortly after his return it befell that King Anguish of Ireland
to King Mark of Cornwall for the tribute due to Ireland, but which was
seven years behindhand. To whom King Mark sent answer, if he would have
he must send and fight for it, and they would find a champion to fight
So King Anguish called for Sir Marhaus, his wife's brother, a good
of the Round Table, who lived then at his court, and sent him with a
knightly retinue in six great ships to Cornwall. And, casting anchor by
the castle of Tintagil, he sent up daily to King Mark for the tribute or
the champion. But no knight there would venture to assail him, for his
fame was very high in all the realm for strength and hardihood.
Then made King Mark a proclamation throughout Cornwall, that if any
would fight Sir Marhaus he should stand at the king's right hand for
evermore, and have great honour and riches all the rest of his days.
this news came to the land of Lyonesse, and when young Tristram heard it
he was angry and ashamed to think no knight of Cornwall durst assail the
Irish champion. "Alas," said he, "that I am not a knight, that I might
match this Marhaus! I pray you give me leave, sir, to depart to King
Mark's court and beg of his grace to make me knight."
"Be ruled by thy own courage," said his father.
So Tristram rode away forthwith to Tintagil to King Mark, and went up
boldly to him and said, "Sir, give me the order of knighthood and I will
fight to the uttermost with Sir Marhaus of Ireland."
"What are ye, and whence come ye?" said the king, seeing he was but a
young man, though strong and well made both in body and limb.
"My name is Tristram," said he, "and I was born in the country of
"But know ye," said the king, "this Irish knight will fight with none
be not come of royal blood and near of kin to kings or queens, as he
himself is, for his sister is the Queen of Ireland."
Then said Tristram, "Let him know that I am come both on my father's
my mother's side of blood as good as his, for my father is King Meliodas
and my mother was that Queen Elizabeth, thy sister, who died in the
at my birth."
When King Mark heard that he welcomed him with all his heart, and
him forthwith, and made him ready to go forth as soon as he would
and armed him royally in armour covered with gold and silver.
Then he sent Sir Marhaus word, "That a better man than he should
with him, Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, son of King Meliodas and of King
Mark's own sister." So the battle was ordained to be fought in an island
near Sir Marhaus' ships, and there Sir Tristram landed on the morrow,
Governale alone attending him for squire, and him he sent back to the
when he had made himself ready.
When Sir Marhaus and Sir Tristram were thus left alone, Sir Marhaus
"Young knight Sir Tristram what doest thou here? I am full sorry for thy
rashness, for ofttimes have I been assailed in vain, and by the best
knights of the world. Be warned in time, return to them that sent thee."
"Fair knight, and well-proved knight," replied Sir Tristram, "be sure
I shall never quit this quarrel till one of us be overcome. For this
have I been made knight, and thou shalt know before we part that though
yet unproved, I am a king's son and first-born of a queen. Moreover I
promised to deliver Cornwall from this ancient burden, or to die. Also,
thou shouldst have known, Sir Marhaus, that thy valour and thy might are
but the better reasons why I should assail thee; for whether I win or
I shall gain honour to have met so great a knight as thou art."
Then they began the battle, and tilted at their hardest against each
other, so that both knights and horses fell to the earth. But Sir
spear smote Sir Tristram a great wound in the side. Then, springing up
from their horses, they lashed together with their swords like two wild
boars. And when they had stricken together a great while they left off
strokes and lunged at one another's breasts and visors; but seeing this
availed not they hurtled together again to bear each other down.
Thus fought they more than half the day, till both were sorely spent
blood ran from them to the ground on every side. But by this time Sir
Tristram remained fresher than Sir Marhaus and better winded, and with a
mighty stroke he smote him such a buffet as cut through his helm into
brain-pan, and there his sword stuck in so fast that thrice Sir Tristram
pulled ere he could get it from his head. Then fell Sir Marhaus down
his knees, and the edge of Sir Tristram's sword broke off into his
brain-pan. And suddenly when he seemed dead, Sir Marhaus rose and threw
his sword and shield away from him and ran and fled into his ship. And
Tristram cried out after him, "Aha! Sir knight of the Round Table, dost
thou withdraw thee from so young a knight? it is a shame to thee and all
thy kin; I would rather have been hewn into a hundred pieces than have
fled from thee."
But Sir Marhaus answered nothing, and sorely groaning fled away.
"Farewell, Sir knight, farewell," laughed Tristram, whose own voice
was hoarse and faint with loss of blood; "I have thy sword and shield in
my safe keeping, and will wear them in all places where I ride on my
adventures, and before King Arthur and the Table Round."
Then was Sir Marhaus taken back to Ireland by his company; and as
he arrived his wounds were searched, and when they searched his head
found therein a piece of Tristram's sword; but all the skill of surgeons
was in vain to move it out. So anon Sir Marhaus died.
But the queen, his sister, took the piece of sword-blade and put it
by, for she thought that some day it might help her to revenge her
Meanwhile, Sir Tristram, being sorely wounded, sat down softly on a
mound and bled passing fast; and in that evil case was found anon by
Governale and King Mark's knights. Then they gently took him up and
brought him in a barge back to the land, and lifted him into a bed
the castle, and had his wounds dressed carefully.
But for a great while he lay sorely sick, and was likely to have died
the first stroke Sir Marhaus had given him with the spear, for the point
of it was poisoned. And, though the wisest surgeons and leeches--both
and women--came from every part, yet could he be by no means cured. At
last came a wise lady, and said plainly that Sir Tristram never should
healed, until he went and stayed in that same country whence the poison
came. When this was understood, the king sent Sir Tristram in a fair and
goodly ship to Ireland, and by fortune he arrived fast by a castle where
the king and queen were. And as the ship was being anchored, he sat upon
his bed and harped a merry lay, and made so sweet a music as was never
When the king heard that the sweet harper was a wounded knight, he
for him, and asked his name. "I am of the country of Lyonesse," he
answered, "and my name is Tramtrist;" for he dared not tell his true
lest the vengeance of the queen should fall upon him for her brother's
"Well," said King Anguish, "thou art right welcome here, and shalt
all the help this land can give thee; but be not anxious if I am at
cast down and sad, for but lately in Cornwall the best knight in the
world, fighting for my cause, was slain; his name was Sir Marhaus, a
knight of King Arthur's Round Table." And then he told Sir Tristram all
the story of Sir Marhaus' battle, and Sir Tristram made pretence of
surprise and sorrow, though he knew all far better than the king
Then was he put in charge of the king's daughter, La Belle Isault, to
healed of his wound, and she was as fair and noble a lady as men's eyes
might see. And so marvellously was she skilled in medicine, that in a
days she fully cured him; and in return Sir Tristram taught her the
so, before long, they two began to love each other greatly.
But at that time a heathen knight, Sir Palomedes, was in Ireland, and
cherished by the king and queen. He also loved mightily La Belle Isault,
and never wearied of making her great gifts, and seeking for her favour,
and was ready even to be christened for her sake. Sir Tristram therefore
hated him out of measure, and Sir Palomedes was full of rage and envy
And so it befell that King Anguish proclaimed a great tournament to
held, the prize whereof should be a lady called the Lady of the Launds,
near kindred to the king: and her the winner of the tournament should
in three days afterwards, and possess all her lands. When La Belle
told Sir Tristram of this tournament, he said, "Fair lady! I am yet a
feeble knight, and but for thee had been a dead man now: what wouldest
thou I should do? Thou knowest well I may not joust."
"Ah, Tristram," said she, "why wilt thou not fight in this
Palomedes will be there, and will do his mightiest; and therefore be
there, I pray thee, or else he will be winner of the prize."
"Madam," said Tristram, "I will go, and for thy sake will do my best;
let me go unknown to all men; and do thou, I pray thee, keep my counsel,
and help me to a disguise."
So on the day of jousting came Sir Palomedes, with a black shield,
overthrew many knights. And all the people wondered at his prowess; for
the first day he put to the worse Sir Gawain, Sir Gaheris, Sir
Sir Key, and many more from far and near. And on the morrow he was
conqueror again, and overthrew the king with a hundred knights and the
King of Scotland. But presently Sir Tristram rode up to the lists,
been let out at a privy postern of the castle, where none could see. La
Belle Isault had dressed him in white armour and given him a white horse
and shield, and so he came suddenly into the field as it had been a
As soon as Sir Palomedes saw him he ran at him with a great spear in
but Sir Tristram was ready, and at the first encounter hurled him to the
ground. Then there arose a great cry that the knight with the black
was overthrown. And Palomedes sorely hurt and shamed, sought out a
way and would have left the field; but Tristram watched him, and rode
after him, and bade him stay, for he had not yet done with him. Then did
Sir Palomedes turn with fury, and lash at Sir Tristram with his sword;
at the first stroke Sir Tristram smote him to the earth, and cried, "Do
now all my commands, or take thy death." Then he yielded to Sir
mercy, and promised to forsake La Belle Isault, and for twelve months to
wear no arms or armour. And rising up, he cut his armour off him into
shreds with rage and madness, and turned and left the field: and Sir
Tristram also left the lists, and rode back to the castle through the
Then was Sir Tristram long cherished by the King and Queen of
ever with La Belle Isault. But on a certain day, while he was bathing,
came the queen with La Belle Isault by chance into his chamber, and saw
his sword lie naked on the bed: anon she drew it from the scabbard and
looked at it a long while, and both thought it a passing fair sword; but
within a foot and a half of the end there was a great piece broken out,
and while the queen was looking at the gap, she suddenly remembered the
piece of sword-blade that was found in the brain-pan of her brother Sir
Therewith she turned and cried, "By my faith, this is the felon
slew thy uncle!" And running to her chamber she sought in her casket for
the piece of iron from Sir Marhaus' head and brought it back, and fitted
it in Tristram's sword; and surely did it fit therein as closely as it
been but yesterday broke out.
[Illustration: And running to her chamber, she sought in her casket
the piece of iron ... and fitted it in Tristram's sword.]
Then the queen caught the sword up fiercely in her hand, and ran into
room where Sir Tristram was yet in his bath, and making straight for
had run him through the body, had not his squire, Sir Hebes, got her in
his arms, and pulled the sword away from her.
Then ran she to the king, and fell upon her knees before him, saying,
"Lord and husband, thou hast here in thy house that felon knight who
my brother Marhaus!"
"Who is it?" said the king.
"It is Sir Tristram!" said she, "whom Isault hath healed."
"Alas!" replied the king, "I am full grieved thereat, for he is a
knight as ever I have seen in any field; but I charge thee leave thou
and let me deal with him."
Then the king went to Sir Tristram's chamber and found him all armed
ready to mount his horse, and said to him, "Sir Tristram, it is not to
prove me against thee I come, for it were shameful of thy host to seek
life. Depart in peace, but tell me first thy name, and whether thou
slewest my brother, Sir Marhaus."
Then Sir Tristram told him all the truth, and how he had hid his
be unknown in Ireland; and when he had ended, the king declared he held
him in no blame. "Howbeit, I cannot for mine honour's sake retain thee
this court, for so I should displease my barons, and my wife, and all
"Sir," said Sir Tristram, "I thank thee for the goodness thou hast
me here, and for the great goodness my lady, thy daughter, hath shown
and it may chance to be more for thy advantage if I live than if I die;
for wheresoever I may be, I shall ever seek thy service, and shall be my
lady thy daughter's servant in all places, and her knight in right and
wrong, and shall never fail to do for her as much as knight can do."
Then Sir Tristram went to La Belle Isault, and took his leave of her.
gentle knight," said she, "full of grief am I at your departing, for
yet I saw a man to love so well."
"Madam," said he, "I promise faithfully that all my life I shall be
Then Sir Tristram gave her a ring, and she gave him another, and
that he left her, weeping and lamenting, and went among the barons, and
openly took his leave of them all, saying, "Fair lords, it so befalleth
that I now must depart hence; therefore, if there be any here whom I
offended or who is grieved with me, let him now say it, and before I go
will amend it to the utmost of my power. And if there be but one who
would speak shame of me behind my back, let him say it now or never, and
here is my body to prove it on--body against body."
And all stood still and said no word, though some there were of the
queen's kindred who would have assailed him had they dared.
So Sir Tristram departed from Ireland and took the sea and came with
fair wind to Tintagil. And when the news came to King Mark that Sir
Tristram was returned, healed of his wound, he was passing glad, and so
were all his barons. And when he had visited the king his uncle, he rode
to his father, King Meliodas, and there had all the heartiest welcome
could be made him. And both the king and queen gave largely to him of
their lands and goods.
Anon he came again to King Mark's court, and there lived in great joy
pleasure, till within a while the king grew jealous of his fame, and of
the love and favour shown him by all damsels. And as long as King Mark
lived, he never after loved Sir Tristram, though there was much fair
speech between them.
Then it befell upon a certain day that the good knight Sir Bleoberis
Ganis, brother to Sir Blamor de Ganis, and nigh cousin to Sir Lancelot
the Lake, came to King Mark's court and asked of him a favour. And
the king marvelled, seeing he was a man of great renown, and a knight of
the Round Table, he granted him all his asking. Then said Sir Bleoberis,
"I will have the fairest lady in your court, at my own choosing."
"I may not say thee nay," replied the king; "choose therefore, but
all the issues of thy choice."
So when he had looked around, he chose the wife of Earl Segwarides,
took her by the hand, and set her upon horseback behind his squire, and
rode forth on his way.
Presently thereafter came in the earl, and rode out straightway after
in rage. But all the ladies cried out shame upon Sir Tristram that he
not gone, and one rebuked him foully and called him coward knight, that
would stand and see a lady forced away from his uncle's court. But Sir
Tristram answered her, "Fair lady, it is not my place to take part in
quarrel while her lord and husband is here to do it. Had he not been at
this court, peradventure I had been her champion. And if it so befall
he speed ill, then may it happen that I speak with that foul knight
he pass out of this realm."
Anon ran in one of Sir Segwarides' squires, and told that his master
sore wounded, and at the point of death. When Sir Tristram heard that,
was soon armed and on his horse, and Governale, his servant, followed
with shield and spear.
And as he rode, he met his cousin Sir Andret, who had been commanded
King Mark to bring home to him two knights of King Arthur's court who
roamed the country thereabouts seeking adventures.
"What tidings?" said Sir Tristram.
"God help me, never worse," replied his cousin; "for those I went to
have beaten and defeated me, and set my message at naught."
"Fair cousin," said Sir Tristram, "ride ye on your way, perchance if
should meet them ye may be revenged."
So Sir Andret rode into Cornwall, but Sir Tristram rode after the two
knights who had misused him, namely, Sir Sagramour le Desirous, and Sir
Dodinas le Savage. And before long he saw them but a little way before
"Sir," said Governale, "by my advice thou wilt leave them alone, for
be two well-proved knights of Arthur's court."
"Shall I not therefore rather meet them?" said Sir Tristram, and,
swiftly after them, he called to them to stop, and asked them whence
came, and whither they were going, and what they were doing in those
Sir Sagramour looked haughtily at Sir Tristram, and made mocking of
words, and said, "Fair knight, be ye a knight of Cornwall?"
"Wherefore askest thou that?" said Tristram.
"Truly, because it is full seldom seen," replied Sir Sagramour, "that
Cornish knights are valiant with their arms as with their tongues. It is
but two hours since there met us such a Cornish knight, who spoke great
words with might and prowess, but anon, with little mastery, he was laid
on earth, as I trow wilt thou be also."
"Fair lords," said Sir Tristram, "it may chance I be a better man
but, be that as it may, he was my cousin, and for his sake I will assail
ye both; one Cornish knight against ye two."
When Sir Dodinas le Savage heard this speech, he caught at his spear
said, "Sir knight, keep well thyself;" and then they parted and came
together as it had been thunder, and Sir Dodinas' spear split asunder;
Sir Tristram smote him with so full a stroke as hurled him over his
horse's crupper, and nearly brake his neck. Sir Sagramour, seeing his
fellow's fall, marvelled who this new knight might be, and dressed his
spear, and came against Sir Tristram as a whirlwind; but Sir Tristram
smote him a mighty buffet, and rolled him with his horse down on the
ground; and in the falling he brake his thigh.
Then, looking at them both as they lay grovelling on the grass, Sir
Tristram said, "Fair knights, will ye joust any more? Are there no
knights in King Arthur's court? Will ye soon again speak shame of
"Thou hast defeated us, in truth," replied Sir Sagramour, "and on the
faith of knighthood I require thee tell us thy right name?"
"Ye charge me by a great thing," said Sir Tristram, "and I will
And when they heard his name the two knights were right glad that
met Sir Tristram, for his deeds were known through all the land, and
prayed him to abide in their company.
"Nay," said he, "I must find a fellow-knight of yours, Sir Bleoberis
Ganis, whom I seek."
"God speed you well," said the two knights; and Sir Tristram rode
Soon he saw before him in a valley Sir Bleoberis with Sir Segwarides'
riding behind his squire upon a palfrey. At that he cried out aloud,
"Abide, Sir knight of King Arthur's court, bring back again that lady or
deliver her to me."
"I will not," said Bleoberis, "for I dread no Cornish knight."
"Why," said Sir Tristram, "may not a Cornish knight do well as any
This day, but three miles back, two knights of thy own court met me, and
found one Cornish knight enough for both before we parted."
"What were their names?" said Sir Bleoberis.
"Sir Sagramour le Desirous and Sir Dodinas le Savage," said Sir
"Ah," said Sir Bleoberis, amazed; "hast thou then met with them? By
faith, they were two good knights and men of worship, and if thou hast
beat both thou must needs be a good knight; but for all that thou shalt
beat me also ere thou hast this lady."
"Defend thee, then," cried out Sir Tristram, and came upon him
with his spear in rest. But Sir Bleoberis was as swift as he, and each
bore down the other, horse and all, on to the earth.
Then they sprang clear of their horses, and lashed together full
and mightily with their swords, tracing and traversing on the right hand
and on the left more than two hours, and sometimes rushing together with
such fury that they both lay grovelling on the ground. At last Sir
Bleoberis started back and said, "Now, gentle knight, hold hard awhile,
and let us speak together."
"Say on," said Sir Tristram, "and I will answer thee."
"Sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I would know thy name, and court, and
"I have no shame to tell them," said Sir Tristram. "I am King
son, and my mother was sister to King Mark, from whose court I now come.
My name is Sir Tristram de Lyonesse." "Truly," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am
right glad to hear it, for thou art he that slew Sir Marhaus
fighting for the Cornish tribute; and overcame Sir Palomedes at the
Irish tournament, where also thou didst overthrow Sir Gawain and his
"I am that knight," said Sir Tristram, "and now I pray thee tell me
"I am Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, cousin of Sir Lancelot of the Lake, one
the best knights in all the world," he answered.
"Thou sayest truth," said Sir Tristram; "for Sir Lancelot, as all men
know, is peerless in courtesy and knighthood, and for the great love I
bear to his name I will not willingly fight more with thee his kinsman."
"In good faith, sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am as loth to fight thee
more; but since thou hast followed me to win this lady, I proffer thee
kindness, courtesy, and gentleness; this lady shall be free to go with
which of us she pleaseth best."
"I am content," said Sir Tristram, "for I doubt not she will come to
"That shalt thou shortly prove," said he, and called his squire, and
the lady in the midst between them, who forthwith walked to Sir
and elected to abide with him. Which, when Sir Tristram saw, he was in
wondrous anger with her, and felt that he could scarce for shame return
King Mark's court. But Sir Bleoberis said, "Hearken to me, good knight,
Sir Tristram, because King Mark gave me free choice of any gift, and
because this lady chose to go with me, I took her; but now I have
fulfilled my quest and my adventure, and for thy sake she shall be sent
back to her husband at the abbey where he lieth."
So Sir Tristram rode back to Tintagil, and Sir Bleoberis to the abbey
where Sir Segwarides lay wounded, and there delivered up his lady, and
departed as a noble knight.
After this adventure Sir Tristram abode still at his uncle's court,
in the envy of his heart King Mark devised a plan to be rid of him. So
a certain day he desired him to depart again for Ireland, and there
La Belle Isault on his behalf, to be his queen--for ever had Sir
praised her beauty and her goodness, till King Mark desired to wed her
himself. Moreover, he believed his nephew surely would be slain by the
queen's kindred if he once were found again in Ireland.
But Sir Tristram, scorning fear, made ready to depart, and took with
the noblest knights that could be found, arrayed in the richest fashion.
And when they were come to Ireland, upon a certain day Sir Tristram
his uncle's message, and King Anguish consented thereto.
But when La Belle Isault was told the tidings she was very sorrowful
loth--yet made she ready to set forth with Sir Tristram, and took with
Dame Bragwaine, her chief gentlewoman. Then the queen gave Dame
and Governale, Sir Tristram's servant, a little flask, and charged them
that La Belle Isault and King Mark should both drink of it on their
marriage day, and then should they surely love each other all their
Anon, Sir Tristram and Isault, with a great company, took the sea and
departed. And so it chanced that one day sitting in their cabin they
athirst, and saw a little flask of gold which seemed to hold good wine.
Sir Tristram took it up, and said, "Fair lady, this looketh to be the
of wines, and your maid, Dame Bragwaine, and my servant, Governale, have
kept it for themselves." Thereat they both laughed merrily, and drank
after other from the flask, and never before had they tasted any wine
which seemed so good and sweet. But by the time they had finished
they loved each other so well that their love nevermore might leave them
for weal or woe. And thus it came to pass that though Sir Tristram might
never wed La Belle Isault, he did the mightiest deeds of arms for her
only all his life.
Then they sailed onwards till they came to a castle called Pluere,
they would have rested. But anon there ran forth a great company and
them prisoners. And when they were in prison, Sir Tristram asked a
and lady whom they found therein wherefore they were so shamefully dealt
with; "for," said he, "it was never the custom of any place of honour
I ever came unto to seize a knight and lady asking shelter and thrust
into prison, and a full evil and discourteous custom is it."
"Sir," said the knight, "know ye not that this is called the Castle
Pluere, or the weeping castle, and that it is an ancient custom here
whatsoever knight abideth in it must needs fight the lord of it, Sir
Brewnor, and he that is the weakest shall lose his head. And if the lady
he hath with him be less fair than the lord's wife, she shall lose her
head; but if she be fairer, then must the lady of the castle lose her
"Now Heaven help me," said Sir Tristram, "but this is a foul and
custom. Yet have I one advantage, for my lady is the fairest that doth
live in all the world, so that I nothing fear for her; and as for me, I
will full gladly fight for my own head in a fair field."
Then said the knight, "Look ye be up betimes to-morrow, and make you
and your lady."
And on the morrow came Sir Brewnor to Sir Tristram, and put him and
forth out of prison, and brought him a horse and armour, and bade him
ready, for all the commons and estates of that lordship waited in the
field to see and judge the battle.
Then Sir Brewnor, holding his lady by the hand, all muffled, came
and Sir Tristram went to meet him with La Belle Isault beside him,
also. Then said Sir Brewnor, "Sir knight, if thy lady be fairer than
with thy sword smite off my lady's head; but if my lady be fairer than
thine, with my sword I will smite off thy lady's head. And if I overcome
thee thy lady shall be mine, and thou shalt lose thy head."
"Sir knight," replied Sir Tristram, "this is a right foul and felon
custom, and rather than my lady shall lose her head will I lose my own."
"Nay," said Sir Brewnor, "but the ladies shall be now compared
and judgment shall be had."
"I consent not," cried Sir Tristram, "for who is here that will give
rightful judgment? Yet doubt not that my lady is far fairer than thine
own, and that will I prove and make good." Therewith Sir Tristram lifted
up the veil from off La Belle Isault, and stood beside her with his
sword drawn in his hand.
Then Sir Brewnor unmuffled his lady and did in like manner. But when
saw La Belle Isault he knew that none could be so fair, and all there
present gave their judgment so. Then said Sir Tristram, "Because thou
thy lady have long used this evil custom, and have slain many good
and ladies, it were a just thing to destroy thee both."
"In good sooth," said Sir Brewnor, "thy lady is fairer than mine, and
all women I never saw any so fair. Therefore, slay my lady if thou wilt,
and I doubt not but I shall slay thee and have thine."
"Thou shalt win her," said Sir Tristram, "as dearly as ever knight
lady; and because of thy own judgment and of the evil custom that thy
hath consented to, I will slay her as thou sayest."
And therewithal Sir Tristram went to him and took his lady from him,
smote off her head at a stroke.
"Now take thy horse," cried out Sir Brewnor, "for since I have lost
lady I will win thine and have thy life."
So they took their horses and came together as fast as they could
Sir Tristram lightly smote Sir Brewnor from his horse. But he rose right
quickly, and when Sir Tristram came again he thrust his horse through
the shoulders, so that it reeled and fell. But Sir Tristram was light
nimble, and voided his horse, and rose up and dressed his shield before
him, though meanwhile, ere he could draw out his sword, Sir Brewnor gave
him three or four grievous strokes. Then they rushed furiously together
like two wild boars, and fought hurtling and hewing here and there for
nigh two hours, and wounded each other full sorely. Then at the last Sir
Brewnor rushed upon Sir Tristram and took him in his arms to throw him,
for he trusted greatly in his strength. But Sir Tristram was at that
called the strongest and biggest knight of the world; for he was bigger
than Sir Lancelot, though Sir Lancelot was better breathed. So anon he
thrust Sir Brewnor grovelling to the earth, and then unlaced his helm
struck off his head. Then all they that belonged to the castle came and
did him homage and fealty, and prayed him to abide there for a season
put an end to that foul custom.
But within a while he departed and came to Cornwall, and there King
was forthwith wedded to La Belle Isault with great joy and splendour.
And Sir Tristram had high honour, and ever lodged at the king's
for all he had done him such services King Mark hated him, and on a
certain day he set two knights to fall upon him as he rode in the
But Sir Tristram lightly smote one's head off, and sorely wounded the
other, and made him bear his fellow's body to the king. At that the king
dissembled and hid from Sir Tristram that the knights were sent by him;
yet more than ever he hated him in secret, and sought to slay him.
So on a certain day, by the assent of Sir Andret, a false knight, and
forty other knights, Sir Tristram was taken prisoner in his sleep and
carried to a chapel on the rocks above the sea to be cast down. But as
they were about to cast him in, suddenly he brake his bonds asunder, and
rushing at Sir Andret, took his sword and smote him down therewith.
leaping down the rocks where none could follow, he escaped them. But one
shot after him and wounded him full sorely with a poisoned arrow in the
Anon, his servant Governale, with Sir Lambegus sought him and found
safe among the rocks, and told him that King Mark had banished him and
his followers to avenge Sir Andret's death. So they took ship and came
Now Sir Tristram, suffering great anguish from his wound, was told to
Isoude, the daughter of the King of Brittany, for she alone could cure
such wounds. Wherefore he went to King Howell's court, and said, "Lord,
am come into this country to have help from thy daughter, for men tell
none but she may help me." And Isoude gladly offering to do her best,
within a month he was made whole.
While he abode still at that court, an earl named Grip made war upon
Howell, and besieged him; and Sir Kay Hedius, the king's son, went forth
against him, but was beaten in battle and sore wounded. Then the king
praying Sir Tristram for his help, he took with him such knights as he
could find, and on the morrow, in another battle, did such deeds of arms
that all the land spake of him. For there he slew the earl with his own
hands, and more than a hundred knights besides.
When he came back King Howell met him, and saluted him with every
and rejoicing that could be thought of, and took him in his arms, and
said, "Sir Tristram, all my kingdom will I resign to thee."
"Nay," answered he, "God forbid, for truly am I beholden to you for
for your daughter's sake."
Then the king prayed him to take Isoude in marriage, with a great
lands and castles. To this Sir Tristram presently consenting anon they
were wedded at the court.
But within a while Sir Tristram greatly longed to see Cornwall, and
Kay Hedius desired to go with him. So they took ship; but as soon as
were at sea the wind blew them upon the coast of North Wales, nigh to
Castle Perilous, hard by a forest wherein were many strange adventures
ofttimes to be met. Then said Sir Tristram to Sir Kay Hedius, "Let us
prove some of them ere we depart." So they took their horses and rode
When they had ridden a mile or more, Sir Tristram spied a goodly
before him well armed, who sat by a clear fountain with a strong horse
near him, tied to an oak-tree. "Fair sir," said he, when they came near,
"ye seem to be a knight errant by your arms and harness, therefore make
ready now to joust with one of us, or both."
Thereat the knight spake not, but took his shield and buckled it
neck, and leaping on his horse caught a spear from his squire's hand.
Then said Sir Kay Hedius to Sir Tristram, "Let me assay him."
"Do thy best," said he.
So the two knights met, and Sir Kay Hedius fell sorely wounded in the
"Thou hast well jousted," cried Sir Tristram to the knight; "now make
ready for me!"
"I am ready," answered he, and encountered him, and smote him so
that he fell down from his horse. Whereat, being ashamed, he put his
shield before him, and drew his sword, crying to the strange knight to
likewise. Then they fought on foot for well nigh two hours, till they
At last Sir Tristram said, "In all my life I never met a knight so
and well-breathed as ye be. It were a pity we should further hurt each
other. Hold thy hand, fair knight, and tell me thy name."
"That will I," answered he, "if thou wilt tell me thine."
"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse."
"And mine, Sir Lamoracke of Gaul."
Then both cried out together, "Well met;" and Sir Lamoracke said,
for your great renown, I will that ye have all the worship of this
and therefore will I yield me unto you." And therewith he took his sword
by the point to yield him.
"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "ye shall not do so, for well I know ye do
courtesy, and not of dread." And therewith he offered his sword to Sir
Lamoracke, saying, "Sir, as an overcome knight, I yield me unto you as
unto the man of noblest powers I have ever met with."
"Hold," said Sir Lamoracke, "let us now swear together nevermore to
against each other."
Then did they swear as he said.
Then Sir Tristram returned to Sir Kay Hedius, and when he was whole
wounds, they departed together in a ship, and landed on the coast of
Cornwall. And when they came ashore, Sir Tristram eagerly sought news of
La Belle Isault. And one told him in mistake that she was dead. Whereat,
for sore and grievous sorrow, he fell down in a swoon, and so lay for
three days and nights.
When he awoke therefrom he was crazed, and ran into the forest and
there like a wild man many days; whereby he waxed lean and weak of body,
and would have died, but that a hermit laid some meat beside him as he
slept. Now in that forest was a giant named Tauleas, who, for fear of
Tristram, had hid himself within a castle, but when they told him he was
mad, came forth and went at large again. And on a certain day he saw a
knight of Cornwall, named Sir Dinaunt, pass by with a lady, and when he
had alighted by a well to rest, the giant leaped out from his ambush,
took him by the throat to slay him. But Sir Tristram, as he wandered
through the forest, came upon them as they struggled; and when the
cried out for help, he rushed upon the giant, and taking up Sir
sword, struck off therewith the giant's head, and straightway
among the trees.
Anon, Sir Dinaunt took the head of Tauleas, and bare it with him to
court of King Mark, whither he was bound, and told of his adventures.
"Where had ye this adventure?" said King Mark.
"At a fair fountain in thy forest," answered he.
"I would fain see that wild man," said the king.
So within a day or two he commanded his knights to a great hunting in
forest. And when the king came to the well, he saw a wild man lying
asleep, having a sword beside him; but he knew not that it was Sir
Tristram. Then he blew his horn, and summoned all his knights to take
gently up and bear him to the court.
And when they came thereto they bathed and washed him, and brought
somewhat to his right mind. Now La Belle Isault knew not that Sir
was in Cornwall; but when she heard that a wild man had been found in
forest, she came to see him. And so sorely was he changed, she knew him
not. "Yet," said she to Dame Bragwaine, "in good faith I seem to have
beheld him ofttimes before."
As she thus spoke a little hound, which Sir Tristram had given her
she first came to Cornwall, and which was ever with her, saw Sir
lying there, and leapt upon him, licking his hands and face, and whined
and barked for joy.
"Alas," cried out La Belle Isault, "it is my own true knight, Sir
And at her voice Sir Tristram's senses wholly came again, and
wept for joy to see his lady living.
But never would the hound depart from Tristram; and when King Mark
other knights came up to see him, it sat upon his body and bayed at all
who came too near. Then one of the knights said, "Surely this is Sir
Tristram; I see it by the hound."
"Nay," said the king, "it cannot be," and asked Sir Tristram on his
who he was.
"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, and now ye may do
ye list with me."
Then the king said, "It repents me that ye are recovered," and sought
make his barons slay him. But most of them would not assent thereto, and
counselled him instead to banish Tristram for ten years again from
Cornwall, for returning without orders from the king. So he was sworn to
And as he went towards the ship a knight of King Arthur, named Sir
Dinadan, who sought him, came and said, "Fair knight, ere that you pass
out of this country, I pray you joust with me!"
"With a good will," said he.
Then they ran together, and Sir Tristram lightly smote him from his
Anon he prayed Sir Tristram's leave to bear him company, and when he had
consented they rode together to the ship.
Then was Sir Tristram full of bitterness of heart, and said to all
knights who took him to the shore, "Greet well King Mark and all mine
enemies from me, and tell them I will come again when I may. Well am I
rewarded for slaying Sir Marhaus, and delivering this kingdom from its
bondage, and for the perils wherewithal I brought La Belle Isault from
Ireland to the king, and rescued her at the Castle Pluere, and for the
slaying of the giant Tauleas, and all the other deeds that I have done
Cornwall and King Mark." Thus angrily and passing bitterly he spake, and
went his way.
And after sailing awhile the ship stayed at a landing-place upon the
of Wales; and there Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan alighted, and on the
shore they met two knights, Sir Ector and Sir Bors. And Sir Ector
encountered with Sir Dinadan and smote him to the ground; but Sir Bors
would not encounter with Sir Tristram, "For," said he, "no Cornish
are men of worship." Thereat Sir Tristram was full wroth, but presently
there met them two more knights, Sir Bleoberis and Sir Driant; and Sir
Bleoberis proffered to joust with Sir Tristram, who shortly smote him
"I had not thought," cried out Sir Bors, "that any Cornish knight
Then Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan departed, and rode into a forest,
they rode a damsel met them, who for Sir Lancelot's sake was seeking any
noble knights to rescue him. For Queen Morgan le Fay, who hated him, had
ordered thirty men-at-arms to lie in ambush for him as he passed, with
intent to kill him. So the damsel prayed them to rescue him.
Then said Sir Tristram, "Bring me to that place, fair damsel."
But Sir Dinadan cried out, "It is not possible for us to meet with
knights! I will take no part in such a hardihood, for to match one or
or three knights is enough; but to match fifteen I will never assay."
"For shame," replied Sir Tristram, "do but your part."
"That will I not," said he; "wherefore, I pray ye, lend me your
for it is of Cornwall, and because men of that country are deemed
ye are but little troubled as ye ride with knights to joust with."
"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "I will never give my shield up for her
gave it me; but if thou wilt not stand by me to-day I will surely slay
thee; for I ask no more of thee than to fight one knight, and if thy
will not serve thee that much, thou shalt stand by and look on me and
"Would God that I had never met with ye!" cried Sir Dinadan; "but I
promise to look on and do all that I may to save myself."
Anon they came to where the thirty knights lay waiting, and Sir
rushed upon them, saying, "Here is one who fights for love of Lancelot!"
Then slew he two of them at the first onset with his spear, and ten more
swiftly after with his sword. At that Sir Dinadan took courage, and
assailed the others with him, till they turned and fled.
But Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan rode on till nightfall, and meeting
a shepherd, asked him if he knew of any lodging thereabouts.
"Truly, fair lords," said he, "there is good lodging in a castle hard
but it is a custom there that none shall lodge therein save ye first
with two knights, and as soon as ye be within, ye shall find your
"That is an evil lodging," said Sir Dinadan; "lodge where ye will, I
not lodge there."
"Shame on thee!" said Sir Tristram; "art thou a knight at all?"
Then he required him on his knighthood to go with him, and they rode
together to the castle. As soon as they were near, two knights came out
and ran full speed against them; but both of them they overthrew, and
within the castle, and had noble cheer. Now, when they were unarmed and
ready to take rest, there came to the castle-gate two knights, Sir
Palomedes and Sir Gaheris, and desired the custom of the castle.
"I would far rather rest than fight," said Sir Dinadan.
"That may not be," replied Sir Tristram, "for we must needs defend
custom of the castle, seeing we have overcome its lords; therefore, make
"Alas that I ever came into your company," said Sir Dinadan.
So they made ready, and Sir Gaheris encountered Sir Tristram and fell
before him; but Sir Palomedes overthrew Sir Dinadan. Then would all
on foot save Sir Dinadan, for he was sorely bruised and frighted by his
fall. And when Sir Tristram prayed him to fight, "I will not," answered
he, "for I was wounded by those thirty knights with whom we fought this
morning; and as to you, ye are in truth like one gone mad, and who would
cast himself away! There be but two knights in the world so mad, and the
other is Sir Lancelot, with whom I once rode forth, who kept me evermore
at battling so that for a quarter of a year thereafter I lay in my bed.
Heaven defend me again from either of your fellowships!"
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "if it must be, I will fight them both."
Therewith he drew his sword and assailed Sir Palomedes and Sir
together; but Sir Palomedes said, "Nay, but it is a shame for two to
with one." So he bade Sir Gaheris stand by, and he and Sir Tristram
long together; but in the end Sir Tristram drave him backward, whereat
Gaheris and Sir Dinadan with one accord sundered them. Then Sir Tristram
prayed the two knights to lodge there; but Sir Dinadan departed and rode
away into a priory hard by, and there he lodged that night.
And on the morrow came Sir Tristram to the priory to find him, and
him so weary that he could not ride, he left him, and departed. At that
same priory was lodged Sir Pellinore, who asked Sir Dinadan Sir
name, but could not learn it, for Sir Tristram had charged that he
remain unknown. Then said Sir Pellinore, "Since ye will not tell it me,
will ride after him and find it myself."
"Beware, Sir knight," said Sir Dinadan, "ye will repent it if ye
But Sir Pellinore straightway mounted and overtook him, and cried to
to joust; whereat Sir Tristram forthwith turned and smote him down, and
wounded him full sorely in the shoulder.
On the day after, Sir Tristram met a herald, who told him of a
proclaimed between King Carados of Scotland, and the King of North
to be held at the Maiden's Castle. Now King Carados sought Sir Lancelot
fight there on his side, and the King of North Wales sought Sir
And Sir Tristram purposed to be there. So as he rode, he met Sir Key,
seneschal, and Sir Sagramour, and Sir Key proffered to joust with him.
he refused, desiring to keep himself unwearied for the tourney. Then Sir
Key cried, "Sir knight of Cornwall, joust with me, or yield as
When Sir Tristram heard that, he fiercely turned and set his spear in
rest, and spurred his horse towards him. But when Sir Key saw him so
coming on, he in his turn refused, whereat Sir Tristram called him
till for shame he was compelled to meet him. Then Sir Tristram lightly
smote him down, and rode away. But Sir Sagramour pursued him, crying
loudly to joust with him also. So Sir Tristram turned and quickly
overthrew him likewise, and departed.
Anon a damsel met him as he rode, and told him of a knight
did great harm thereby, and prayed him for his help. But as he went with
her he met Sir Gawain, who knew the damsel for a maiden of Queen Morgan
Fay. Knowing, therefore, that she needs must have evil plots against Sir
Tristram, Sir Gawain demanded of him courteously whither he went.
"I know not whither," said he, "save as this damsel leadeth me."
"Sir," said Sir Gawain, "ye shall not ride with her, for she and her
never yet did good to any;" and, drawing his sword, he said to the
damsel, "Tell me now straightway for what cause thou leadest this knight
or else shalt thou die; for I know of old thy lady's treason."
"Mercy, Sir Gawain," cried the damsel, "and I will tell thee all."
she told him that Queen Morgan had ordained thirty fair damsels to seek
out Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristram, and by their wiles persuade them to
castle, where she had thirty knights in wait to slay them.
"Oh shame!" cried Sir Gawain, "that ever such foul treason should be
wrought by a queen, and a king's sister." Then said he to Sir Tristram,
"Sir knight, if ye will stand with me, we will together prove the malice
of these thirty knights."
"I will not fail you," answered he, "for but few days since I had to
with thirty knights of that same queen, and trust we may win honour as
lightly now as then."
So they rode together, and when they came to the castle, Sir Gawain
aloud, "Queen Morgan le Fay, send out thy knights that we may fight with
Then the queen urged her knights to issue forth, but they durst not,
they well knew Sir Tristram, and feared him greatly.
So Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain went on their way, and as they rode
saw a knight, named Sir Brewse-without-pity, chasing a lady, with intent
to slay her. Then Sir Gawain prayed Sir Tristram to hold still and let
assail that knight. So he rode up between Sir Brewse and the lady, and
cried, "False knight, turn thee to me and leave that lady." Then Sir
Brewse turned and set his spear in rest, and rushed against Sir Gawain
and overthrew him, and rode his horse upon him as he lay, which when Sir
Tristram saw, he cried, "Forbear that villainy," and galloped at him.
when Sir Brewse saw by the shield it was Sir Tristram, he turned and
And though Sir Tristram followed swiftly after him, yet he was so well
horsed that he escaped.
Anon Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain came nigh the Maiden's Castle, and
an old knight named Sir Pellonnes gave them lodging. And Sir Persides,
son of Sir Pellonnes, a good knight, came out to welcome them. And, as
they stood talking at a bay window of the castle, they saw a goodly
ride by on a black horse, and carrying a black shield. "What knight is
that?" asked Tristram.
"One of the best knights in all the world," said Sir Persides.
"Is he Sir Lancelot?" said Sir Tristram.
"Nay," answered Sir Persides, "it is Sir Palomedes, who is yet
Within a while one came and told them that a knight with a black
had smitten down thirteen knights. "Let us go and see this jousting,"
Sir Tristram. So they armed themselves and went down. And when Sir
Palomedes saw Sir Persides, he sent a squire to him and proffered him to
joust. So they jousted, and Sir Persides was overthrown. Then Sir
made ready to joust, but ere he had his spear in rest, Sir Palomedes
him at advantage, and struck him on the shield so that he fell. At that
Sir Tristram was wroth out of measure and sore ashamed, wherefore he
a squire and prayed Sir Palomedes to joust once again. But he would not,
saying, "Tell thy master to revenge himself to-morrow at the Maiden's
Castle, where he shall see me again."
So on the morrow Sir Tristram commanded his servant to give him a
shield with no cognizance thereon, and he and Sir Persides rode into the
tournament and joined King Carados' side.
Then the knights of the King of North Wales came forth, and there was
great fighting and breaking of spears, and overthrow of men and horses.
Now King Arthur sat above in a high gallery to see the tourney and
the judgment, and Sir Lancelot sat beside him. Then came against Sir
Tristram and Sir Persides, two knights with them of North Wales, Sir
Bleoberis and Sir Gaheris; and Sir Persides was smitten down and nigh
slain, for four horsemen rode over him. But Sir Tristram rode against
Gaheris and smote him from his horse, and when Sir Bleoberis next
encountered him, he overthrew him also. Anon they horsed themselves
and with them came Sir Dinadan, whom Sir Tristram forthwith smote so
sorely, that he reeled off his saddle. Then cried he, "Ah! Sir knight, I
know ye better than ye deem, and promise nevermore to come against ye."
Then rode Sir Bleoberis at him the second time, and had a buffet that
felled him to the earth. And soon thereafter the king commanded to cease
for that day, and all men marvelled who Sir Tristram was, for the prize
the first day was given him in the name of the Knight of the Black
Now Sir Palomedes was on the side of the King of North Wales, but
Sir Tristram again. And, when he saw his marvellous deeds, he sent to
his name. "As to that," said Sir Tristram, "he shall not know at this
time, but tell him he shall know when I have broken two spears upon him,
for I am the knight he smote down yesterday, and whatever side he
I will take the other."
So when they told him that Sir Palomedes would be on King Carados'
side--for he was kindred to King Arthur--"Then will I be on the King of
North Wales' side," said he, "but else would I be on my lord King
Then on the morrow, when King Arthur was come, the heralds blew unto
tourney. And King Carados jousted with the King of a Hundred Knights and
fell before him, and then came in King Arthur's knights and bare back
those of North Wales. But anon Sir Tristram came to aid them and bare
the battle, and fought so mightily that none could stand against him,
he smote down on the right and on the left, so that all the knights and
common people shouted his praise.
"Since I bare arms," said King Arthur, "never saw I a knight do more
Then the King of the Hundred Knights and those of North Wales, set
twenty knights who were of Sir Lancelot's kin, who fought all together,
none failing the others. When Sir Tristram beheld their nobleness and
valour, he marvelled much. "Well may he be valiant and full of prowess,"
said he, "who hath such noble knights for kindred." So, when he had
on them awhile, he thought it shame to see two hundred men assailing
twenty, and riding to the King of a Hundred Knights, he said, "I pray
thee, Sir king, leave your fighting with those twenty knights, for ye be
too many and they be too few. For ye shall gain no honour if ye win, and
that I see verily ye will not do unless ye slay them; but if ye will not
stay, I will ride with them and help them."
"Nay," said the king, "ye shall not do so; for full gladly I will do
courtesy," and with that he withdrew his knights.
Then Sir Tristram rode his way into the forest, that no man might
him. And King Arthur caused the heralds to blow that the tourney should
end that day, and he gave the King of North Wales the prize, because Sir
Tristram was on his side. And in all the field there was such a cry that
the sound thereof was heard two miles away--"The knight with the black
shield hath won the field."
"Alas!" said King Arthur, "where is that knight? it is shame to let
thus escape us." Then he comforted his knights, and said, "Be not
dismayed, my friends, howbeit ye have lost the day; be of good cheer;
to-morrow I myself will be in the field, and fare with you." So they all
rested that night.
And on the morrow the heralds blew unto the field. So the King of
Wales and the King of a Hundred Knights encountered with King Carados
the King of Ireland, and overthrew them. With that came King Arthur, and
did mighty deeds of arms, and overthrew the King of North Wales and his
fellows, and put twenty valiant knights to the worse. Anon came in Sir
Palomedes, and made great fight upon King Arthur's side. But Sir
rode furiously against him, and Sir Palomedes was thrown from his horse.
Then cried King Arthur, "Knight of the Black Shield, keep thyself." And
he spake he came upon him, and smote him from his saddle to the ground,
and so passed on to other knights. Then Sir Palomedes having now another
horse rushed at Sir Tristram, as he was on foot, thinking to run over
But he was aware of him, and stepped aside, and grasped Sir Palomedes by
the arms, and pulled him off his horse. Then they rushed together with
their swords, and many stood still to gaze on them. And Sir Tristram
Sir Palomedes with three mighty strokes upon the helm, crying at each
stroke, "Take this for Sir Tristram's sake," and with that Sir Palomedes
fell to the earth.
Anon the King of North Wales brought Sir Tristram another horse, and
Palomedes found one also. Then did they joust again with passing rage,
both by now were like mad lions. But Sir Tristram avoided his spear, and
seized Sir Palomedes by the neck, and pulled him from his saddle, and
him onward ten spears' length, and so let him fall. Then King Arthur
forth his sword and smote the spear asunder, and gave Sir Tristram two
three sore strokes ere he could get at his own sword. But when he had it
in his hand he mightily assailed the king. With that eleven knights of
Lancelot's kin went forth against him, but he smote them all down to the
earth, so that men marvelled at his deeds.
And the cry was now so great that Sir Lancelot got a spear in his
and came down to assay Sir Tristram, saying, "Knight with the black
shield, make ready." When Sir Tristram heard him he levelled his spear,
and both stooping their heads, they ran together mightily, as it had
thunder. And Sir Tristram's spear brake short, but Sir Lancelot struck
with a deep wound in the side and broke his spear, yet overthrew him
Therewith Sir Tristram, smarting at his wound, drew forth his sword, and
rushing at Sir Lancelot, gave him mighty strokes upon the helm, so that
the sparks flew from it, and Sir Lancelot stooped his head down to the
saddle-bow. But then Sir Tristram turned and left the field, for he felt
his wound so grievous that he deemed he should soon die. Then did Sir
Lancelot hold the field against all comers, and put the King of North
Wales and his party to the worse. And because he was the last knight in
the field the prize was given him.
But he refused to take it, and when the cry was raised, "Sir Lancelot
won the day," he cried out, "Nay, but Sir Tristram is the victor, for he
first began and last endured, and so hath he done each day." And all men
honoured Lancelot more for his knightly words than if he had taken the
Thus was the tournament ended, and King Arthur departed to Caerleon,
the Whitsun feast was now nigh come, and all the knights adventurous
their ways. And many sought Sir Tristram in the forest whither he had
gone, and at last Sir Lancelot found him, and brought him to King
court, as hath been told already.
The Quest of the Sangreal, and the Adventures of Sir Percival, Sir
and Sir Galahad
After these things, Merlin fell into a dotage of love for a damsel of
Lady of the Lake, and would let her have no rest, but followed her in
every place. And ever she encouraged him, and made him welcome till she
had learned all his crafts that she desired to know.
Then upon a time she went with him beyond the sea to the land of
and as they went he showed her many wonders, till at length she was
afraid, and would fain have been delivered from him.
And as they were in the forest of Broceliande, they sat together
oak-tree, and the damsel prayed to see all that charm whereby men might
shut up yet alive in rocks or trees. But he refused her a long time,
fearing to let her know, yet in the end, her prayers and kisses overcame
him, and he told her all. Then did she make him great cheer, but anon,
he lay down to sleep, she softly rose, and walked about him waving her
hands and muttering the charm, and presently enclosed him fast within
tree whereby he slept. And therefrom nevermore he could by any means
out for all the crafts that he could do. And so she departed and left
At the vigil of the next Feast of Pentecost, when all the Knights of
Round Table were met together at Camelot, and had heard mass, and were
about to sit down to meat, there rode into the hall a fair lady on
horseback, who went straight up to King Arthur where he sat upon his
throne, and reverently saluted him.
"God be with thee, fair damsel," quoth the king; "what desirest thou
"I pray thee tell me, lord," she answered, "where Sir Lancelot is."
"Yonder may ye see him," said King Arthur.
Then went she to Sir Lancelot and said, "Sir, I salute thee in King
Pelles' name, and require thee to come with me into the forest hereby."
Then asked he her with whom she dwelt, and what she wished of him.
"I dwell with King Pelles," said she, "whom Balin erst so sorely
when he smote the dolorous stroke. It is he who hath sent me to call
"I will go with thee gladly," said Sir Lancelot, and bade his squire
straightway saddle his horse and bring his armour.
Then came the queen to him and said, "Sir Lancelot, will ye leave me
at this high feast?"
"Madam," replied the damsel, "by dinner-time to-morrow he shall be
"If I thought not," said the queen, "he should not go with thee by my
Then Sir Lancelot and the lady rode forth till they came to the
and in a valley thereof found an abbey of nuns, whereby a squire stood
ready to open the gates. When they had entered, and descended from their
horses, a joyful crowd pressed round Sir Lancelot and heartily saluted
him, and led him to the abbess's chamber, and unarmed him. Anon he saw
cousins likewise there, Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, who also made great joy
at seeing him, and said, "By what adventure art thou here, for we
to have seen thee at Camelot to-morrow?"
"A damsel brought me here," said he, "but as yet I know not for what
As they thus talked twelve nuns came in, who brought with them a
passing fair and well made, that in all the world his match could not be
found. His name was Galahad, and though he knew him not, nor Lancelot
Sir Lancelot was his father.
"Sir," said the nuns, "we bring thee here this child whom we have
nourished from his youth, and pray thee to make him a knight, for from
worthier hand can he receive that order."
Then Sir Lancelot, looking on the youth, saw that he was seemly and
as a dove, with every feature good and noble, and thought he never had
beheld a better fashioned man of his years. "Cometh this desire from
himself?" said he.
"Yea," answered Galahad and all the nuns.
"To-morrow, then, in reverence for the feast, he shall have his
said Sir Lancelot.
And the next day at the hour of prime, he knighted him, and said,
make of thee as good a man as He hath made thee beautiful."
Then with Sir Lionel and Sir Bors he returned to the court, and found
gone to the minster to hear service. When they came into the
each knight and baron found his name written in some seat in letters of
gold, as "here ought to sit Sir Lionel," "here ought to sit Sir
Gawain,"--and so forth. And in the Perilous Seat, at the high centre of
the table, a name was also written, whereat they marvelled greatly, for
living man had ever yet dared sit upon that seat, save one, and him a
flame leaped forth and drew down under earth, so that he was no more
Then came Sir Lancelot and read the letters in that seat, and said,
counsel is that this inscription be now covered up until the knight be
come who shall achieve this great adventure." So they made a veil of
and put it over the letters.
In the meanwhile came Sir Gawain to the court and told the king he
message to him from beyond the sea, from Merlin.
"For," said he, "as I rode through the forest of Broceliande but five
since, I heard the voice of Merlin speaking to me from the midst of an
oak-tree, whereat, in great amazement, I besought him to come forth. But
he, with many groans, replied he never more might do so, for that none
could free him, save the damsel of the Lake, who had enclosed him there
his own spells which he had taught her. 'But go,' said he, 'to King
Arthur, and tell him, that he now prepare his knights and all his Table
Round to seek the Sangreal, for the time is come when it shall be
When Sir Gawain had spoken thus, King Arthur sat pensive in spirit,
mused deeply of the Holy Grale an what saintly knight should come who
might achieve it.
Anon he bade them hasten to set on the banquet. "Sir," said Sir Key,
seneschal, "if ye go now to meat ye will break the ancient custom of
court, for never have ye dined at this high feast till ye have seen some
"Thou sayest truly," said the king, "but my mind was full of wonders
musings, till I bethought me not of mine old custom."
As they stood speaking thus, a squire ran in and cried, "Lord, I
thee marvellous tidings."
"What be they?" said King Arthur.
"Lord," said he, "hereby at the river is a marvellous great stone,
myself saw swim down hitherwards upon the water, and in it there is set
sword, and ever the stone heaveth and swayeth on the water, but floateth
down no further with the stream."
"I will go and see it," said the king. So all the knights went with
and when they came to the river, there surely found they a mighty stone
red marble floating on the water, as the squire had said, and therein
stuck a fair and rich sword, on the pommel whereof were precious stones
wrought skilfully with gold into these words: "No man shall take me
but he by whose side I should hang, and he shall be the best knight in
When the king read this, he turned round to Sir Lancelot, and said,
sir, this sword ought surely to be thine, for thou art the best knight
all the world."
But Lancelot answered soberly, "Certainly, sir, it is not for me; nor
I have the hardihood to set my hand upon it. For he that toucheth it and
faileth to achieve it shall one day be wounded by it mortally. But I
not, lord, this day will show the greatest marvels that we yet have
for now the time is fully come, as Merlin hath forewarned us, when all
prophecies about the Sangreal shall be fulfilled."
Then stepped Sir Gawain forward and pulled at the sword, but could
move it, and after him Sir Percival, to keep him fellowship in any peril
he might suffer. But no other knight durst be so hardy as to try.
"Now may ye go to your dinner," said Sir Key, "for a marvellous
ye have had."
So all returned from the river, and every knight sat down in his own
place, and the high feast and banquet then was sumptuously begun, and
the hall was full of laughter and loud talk and jests, and running to
fro of squires who served their knights, and noise of jollity and mirth.
Then suddenly befell a wondrous thing, for all the doors and windows
the hall shut violently of themselves, and made thick darkness; and
presently there came a fair and gentle light from out the Perilous Seat,
and filled the palace with its beams. Then a dead silence fell on all
knights, and each man anxiously beheld his neighbour.
But King Arthur rose and said, "Lords and fair knights, have ye no
but rejoice; we have seen strange things to-day, but stranger yet
For now I know we shall to-day see him who may sit in the Siege
and shall achieve the Sangreal. For as ye all well know, that holy
wherefrom at the Supper of our Lord before His death He drank the wine
with His disciples, hath been held ever since the holiest treasure of
world, and wheresoever it hath rested peace and prosperity have rested
with it on the land. But since the dolorous stroke which Balin gave King
Pelles none have seen it, for Heaven, wroth with that presumptuous blow,
hath hid it none know where. Yet somewhere in the world it still may be,
and may be it is left to us, and to this noble order of the Table Round,
to find and bring it home, and make of this our realm the happiest in
earth. Many great quests and perilous adventures have ye all taken and
achieved, but this high quest he only shall attain who hath clean hands
and a pure heart, and valour and hardihood beyond all othermen."
While the king spoke there came in softly an old man robed all in
leading with him a young knight clad in red from top to toe, but without
armour or shield, and having by his side an empty scabbard.
The old man went up to the king, and said, "Lord, here I bring thee
young knight of royal lineage, and of the blood of Joseph of Arimathea,
whom the marvels of thy court shall fully be accomplished."
The king was right glad at his words, and said, "Sir, ye be right
welcome, and the young knight also."
Then the old man put on Sir Galahad (for it was he) a crimson robe
with fine ermine, and took him by the hand and led him to the Perilous
Seat, and lifting up the silken cloth which hung upon it, read these
written in gold letters, "This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the good
"Sir," said the old man, "this place is thine."
Then sat Sir Galahad down firmly and surely, and said to the old man,
"Sir, ye may now go your way, for ye have done well and truly all ye
commanded, and commend me to my grandsire, King Pelles, and say that I
shall see him soon." So the old man departed with a retinue of twenty
But all the knights of the Round Table marvelled at Sir Galahad, and
his tender age, and at his sitting there so surely in the Perilous Seat.
Then the king led Sir Galahad forth from the palace, to show him the
adventure of the floating stone. "Here" said he, "is as great a marvel
I ever saw, and right good knights have tried and failed to gain that
"I marvel not thereat," said Galahad, "for this adventure is not
but mine; and for the certainty I had thereof, I brought no sword with
as thou mayst see here by this empty scabbard."
Anon he laid his hand upon the sword, and lightly drew it from the
and put it in his sheath, and said, "This sword was that enchanted one
which erst belonged to the good knight, Sir Balin, wherewith he slew
through piteous mistake his brother Balan; who also slew him at the same
time: all which great woe befell him through the dolorous stroke he gave
my grandsire, King Pelles, the wound whereof is not yet whole, nor shall
be till I heal him."
As he stood speaking thus, they saw a lady riding swiftly down the
bank towards them, on a white palfrey; who, saluting the king and queen,
said, "Lord king, Nacien the hermit sendeth thee word that to thee shall
come to-day the greatest honour and worship that hath yet ever befallen
king of Britain; for this day shall the Sangreal appear in thy house."
With that the damsel took her leave, and departed the same way she
"Now," said the king, "I know that from to-day the quest of the
shall begin, and all ye of the Round Table will be scattered so that
nevermore shall I see ye again together as ye are now; let me then see a
joust and tournament amongst ye for the last time before ye go."
So they all took their harness and met together in the meadows by
and the queen and all her ladies sat in a tower to see.
Then Sir Galahad, at the prayer of the king and queen, put on a coat
light armour, and a helmet, but shield he would take none, and grasping
lance, he drove into the middle of the press of knights, and began to
break spears marvellously, so that all men were full of wonder. And in
short a time he had surmounted and exceeded the rest, save Sir Lancelot
and Sir Percival, that he took the chief worship of the field.
Then the king and all the court and fellowship of knights went back
palace, and so to evensong in the great minster, a royal and goodly
company, and after that sat down to supper in the hall, every knight in
his own seat, as they had been before.
Anon suddenly burst overhead the cracking and crying of great peals
thunder, till the palace walls were shaken sorely, and they thought to
them riven all to pieces.
And in the midst of the blast there entered in a sunbeam, clearer by
times than ever they saw day, and a marvellous great glory fell upon
all. Then each knight, looking on his neighbour, found his face fairer
than he had ever seen, and so--all standing on their feet--they gazed as
dumb men on each other, not knowing what to say.
Then entered into the hall the Sangreal, borne aloft without hands
the midst of the sunbeam, and covered with white samite, so that none
might see it. And all the hall was filled with perfume and incense, and
every knight was fed with the food he best loved. And when the holy
had been thus borne through the hall, it suddenly departed, no man saw
When they recovered breath to speak, King Arthur first rose up, and
yielded thanks to God and to our Lord.
Then Sir Gawain sprang up and said, "Now have we all been fed by
with whatsoever food we thought of or desired; but with our eyes we have
not seen the blessed vessel whence it came, so carefully and preciously
was concealed. Therefore, I make a vow, that from to-morrow I shall
twelve months and a day in quest of the Sangreal, and longer if need be;
nor will I come again into this court until mine eyes have seen it
When he had spoken thus, knight after knight rose up and vowed
the same quest, till the most part of the Round Table had thus sworn.
But when King Arthur heard them all, he could not refrain his eyes
tears, and said, "Sir Gawain, Sir Gawain, thou hast set me in great
sorrow, for I fear me my true fellowship shall never meet together here
again; and surely never Christian king had such a company of worthy
knights around his table at one time."
And when the queen and her ladies and gentlewomen heard the vows,
such grief and sorrow as no tongue could tell; and Queen Guinevere cried
out, "I marvel that my lord will suffer them to depart from him." And
of the ladies who loved knights would have gone with them, but were
forbidden by the hermit Nacien, who sent this message to all who had
themselves to the quest: "Take with ye no lady nor gentlewoman, for into
so high a service as ye go in, no thought but of our Lord and heaven may
On the morrow morning all the knights rose early, and when they were
armed, save shields and helms, they went in with the king and queen to
service in the minster. Then the king counted all who had taken the
adventure on themselves, and found them a hundred and fifty knights of
Round Table; and so they all put on their helms, and rode away together
the midst of cries and lamentations from the court, and from the ladies,
and from all the town.
But the queen went alone to her chamber, that no man might see her
and Sir Lancelot followed her to say farewell.
When she saw him she cried out, "Oh, Sir Lancelot, thou hast betrayed
thou hast put me to death thus to depart and leave my lord the king."
"Ah, madam," said he, "be not displeased or angry, for I shall come
as soon as I can with honour."
"Alas!" said she, "that ever I saw thee; but He that suffered death
the cross for all mankind be to thee safety and good conduct, and to all
Then Sir Lancelot saluted her and the king, and went forth with the
and came with them that night to Castle Vagon, where they abode, and on
the morrow they departed from each other on their separate ways, every
knight taking the way that pleased him best.
Now Sir Galahad went forth without a shield, and rode so four days
adventure; and on the fourth day, after evensong, he came to an abbey of
white monks, where he was received in the house, and led into a chamber.
And there he was unarmed, and met two knights of the Round Table, King
Bagdemagus, and Sir Uwaine.
"Sirs," said Sir Galahad, "what adventure hath brought ye here?"
"Within this place, as we are told," they answered, "there is a
man may bear around his neck without receiving sore mischance, or death
within three days."
"To-morrow," said King Bagdemagus, "I shall attempt the adventure;
I fail, do thou, Sir Galahad, take it up after me."
"I will willingly," said he; "for as ye see I have no shield as yet."
So on the morrow they arose and heard mass, and afterwards King
asked where the shield was kept. Then a monk led him behind the altar,
where the shield hung, as white as any snow, and with a blood-red cross
the midst of it.
"Sir," said the monk, "this shield should hang from no knight's neck
unless he be the worthiest in the world. I warn ye, therefore, knights;
consider well before ye dare to touch it."
"Well," said King Bagdemagus, "I know well that I am far from the
knight in all the world, yet shall I make the trial;" and so he took the
shield, and bore it from the monastery.
"If it please thee," said he to Sir Galahad, "abide here till thou
how I speed."
"I will abide thee," said he.
Then taking with him a squire who might return with any tidings to
Galahad, the king rode forth; and before he had gone two miles, he saw
a fair valley a hermitage, and a knight who came forth dressed in white
armour, horse and all, who rode fast against him. When they encountered,
Bagdemagus brake his spear upon the White Knight's shield, but was
struck through the shoulder with a sore wound, and hurled down from his
horse. Then the White Knight alighting, came and took the white shield
from the king, and said, "Thou hast done great folly, for this shield
ought never to be borne but by one who hath no living peer." And turning
to the squire, he said, "Bear thou this shield to the good knight, Sir
Galahad, and greet him well from me."
"In whose name shall I greet him?" said the squire.
"Take thou no heed of that," he answered; "it is not for thee or any
earthly man to know."
"Now tell me, fair sir, at the least," said the squire, "why may this
shield be never borne except its wearer come to injury or death?"
"Because it shall belong to no man save its rightful owner, Galahad,"
replied the knight.
Then the squire went to his master, and found him wounded nigh to
wherefore he fetched his horse, and bore him back with him to the abbey.
And there they laid him in a bed, and looked to his wounds; and when he
had lain many days grievously sick, he at the last barely escaped with
"Sir Galahad," said the squire, "the knight who overthrew King
sent you greeting, and bade you bear this shield."
"Now blessed be God and fortune," said Sir Galahad, and hung the
about his neck, and armed him, and rode forth.
Anon he met the White Knight by the hermitage, and each saluted
courteously the other.
"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "this shield I bear hath surely a full
"Thou sayest rightly," answered he. "That shield was made in the days
Joseph of Arimathea, the gentle knight who took our Lord down from the
cross. He, when he left Jerusalem with his kindred, came to the country
King Evelake, who warred continually with one Tollome; and when, by the
teaching of Joseph, King Evelake became a Christian, this shield was
for him in our Lord's name; and through its aid King Tollome was
For when King Evelake met him next in battle, he hid it in a veil, and
suddenly uncovering it, he showed his enemies the figure of a bleeding
nailed to a cross, at sight of which they were discomfited and fled.
Presently after that, a man whose hand was smitten off touched the cross
upon the shield, and had his hand restored to him; and many other
it worked. But suddenly the cross that was upon it vanished away. Anon
both Joseph and King Evelake came to Britain, and by the preaching of
Joseph the people were made Christians. And when at length he lay upon
death-bed, King Evelake begged of him some token ere he died. Then,
calling for his shield, he dipped his finger in his own blood, for he
bleeding fast, and none could staunch the wound, and marked that cross
upon it, saying, 'This cross shall ever show as bright as now, and the
last of my lineage shall wear this shield about his neck, and go forth
all the marvellous deeds he will achieve.'"
When the White Knight had thus spoken he vanished suddenly away, and
Galahad returned to the abbey.
As he alighted, came a monk, and prayed him to go see a tomb in the
churchyard, wherefrom came such a great and hideous noise, that none
hear it but they went nigh mad, or lost all strength. "And sir," said
"I deem it is a fiend."
"Lead me thither," said Sir Galahad.
When they were come near the place, "Now," said the monk, "go thou to
tomb, and lift it up."
And Galahad, nothing afraid, quickly lifted up the stone, and
came out a foul smoke, and from the midst thereof leaped up the
figure that ever he had seen in the likeness of man; and Galahad blessed
himself, for he knew it was a fiend of hell. Then he heard a voice
out, "Oh, Galahad, I cannot tear thee as I would; I see so many angels
round thee, that I may not come at thee."
Then the fiend suddenly disappeared with a marvellous great cry; and
Galahad, looking in the tomb, saw there a body all armed, with a sword
beside it. "Now, fair brother," said he to the monk, "let us remove this
cursed body, which is not fit to lie in a churchyard, for when it lived,
false and perjured Christian man dwelt in it. Cast it away, and there
shall come no more hideous noises from the tomb."
"And now must I depart," he added, "for I have much in hand, and am
the holy quest of the Sangreal, with many more good knights."
So he took his leave, and rode many journeys backwards and forwards
adventure would lead him; and at last one day he departed from a castle
without first hearing mass, which was it ever his custom to hear before
left his lodging. Anon he found a ruined chapel on a mountain, and went
and kneeled before the altar, and prayed for wholesome counsel what to
and as he prayed he heard a voice, which said, "Depart, adventurous
knight, unto the Maiden's Castle, and redress the violence and wrongs
Hearing these words he cheerfully arose, and mounted his horse, and
but half a mile, when he saw before him a strong castle, with deep
round it, and a fair river running past. And seeing an old churl hard
he asked him what men called that castle.
"Fair sir," said he, "it is the Maiden's Castle."
"It is a cursed place," said Galahad, "and all its masters are but
full of mischief and hardness and shame."
"For that good reason," said the old man, "thou wert well-advised to
"For that same reason," quoth Sir Galahad, "will I the more certainly
Then, looking at his armour carefully, to see that nothing failed
went forward, and presently there met him seven damsels, who cried out,
"Sir knight, thou ridest in great peril, for thou hast two waters to
"Why should I not pass over them?" said he, and rode straight on.
Anon he met a squire, who said, "Sir knight, the masters of this
defy thee, and bid thee go no further, till thou showest them thy
"Fair fellow," said Sir Galahad, "I am come here to destroy their
"If that be thy purpose," answered he, "thou wilt have much to do."
"Go thou," said Galahad, "and hasten with my message."
In a few minutes after rode forth furiously from the gateways of the
castle seven knights, all brothers, and crying out, "Knight, keep thee,"
bore down all at once upon Sir Galahad. But thrusting forth his spear,
smote the foremost to the earth, so that his neck was almost broken, and
warded with his shield the spears of all the others, which every one
off from it, and shivered into pieces. Then he drew out his sword, and
upon them hard and fiercely, and by his wondrous force drave them before
him, and chased them to the castle gate, and there he slew them.
At that came out to him an ancient man, in priest's vestments,
"Behold, sir, here, the keys of this castle."
Then he unlocked the gates, and found within a multitude of people,
cried out, "Sir knight, ye be welcome, for long have we waited thy
deliverance," and told him that the seven felons he had slain had long
enslaved the people round about, and killed all knights who passed that
way, because the maiden whom they had robbed of the castle had foretold
that by one knight they should themselves be overthrown.
"Where is the maiden?" asked Sir Galahad.
"She lingereth below in a dungeon," said they.
So Sir Galahad went down and released her, and restored her her
inheritance; and when he had summoned the barons of the country to do
homage, he took his leave, and departed.
Presently thereafter, as he rode, he entered a great forest, and in a
glade thereof met two knights, disguised, who proffered him to joust.
These were Sir Lancelot, his father, and Sir Percival, but neither knew
the other. So he and Sir Lancelot encountered first, and Sir Galahad
down his father. Then drawing his sword, for his spear was broken, he
fought with Sir Percival, and struck so mightily that he clave Sir
Percival's helm, and smote him from his horse.
Now hard by where they fought there was a hermitage, where dwelt a
woman, a recluse, who, when she heard the sound, came forth, and seeing
Sir Galahad ride, she cried, "God be with thee, the best knight in the
world; had yonder knights known thee as well as I do, they would not
encountered with thee."
When Sir Galahad heard that, fearing to be made known, he forthwith
his horse with his spurs, and departed at a great pace.
Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival heard her words also, and rode fast
him, but within awhile he was out of their sight. Then Sir Percival rode
back to ask his name of the recluse; but Sir Lancelot went forward on
quest, and following any path his horse would take, he came by-and-by
after nightfall to a stone cross hard by an ancient chapel. When he had
alighted and tied his horse up to a tree, he went and looked in through
the chapel door, which was all ruinous and wasted, and there within he
an altar, richly decked with silk, whereon there stood a fair
of silver, bearing six great lights. And when Sir Lancelot saw the
he tried to get within the chapel, but could find no place. So, being
passing weary and heavy, he came again to his horse, and when he had
unsaddled him, and set him free to pasture, he unlaced his helm, and
ungirded his sword, and laid him down to sleep upon his shield before
And while he lay between waking and sleeping, he saw come by him two
palfreys bearing a litter, wherein a sick knight lay, and the palfreys
stood still by the cross. Then Sir Lancelot heard the sick man say, "O
sweet Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me, and the holy vessel pass by
me, wherethrough I shall be blessed? for I have long endured."
With that Sir Lancelot saw the chapel open, and the candlestick with
six tapers come before the cross, but he could see none who bare it.
came there also a table of silver, and thereon the holy vessel of the
Sangreal. And when the sick knight saw that, he sat up, and lifting both
his hands, said, "Fair Lord, sweet Lord, who art here within this holy
vessel, have mercy on me, that I may be whole;" and therewith he crept
upon his hands and knees so nigh, that he might touch the vessel; and
he had kissed it, he leaped up, and stood and cried aloud, "Lord God, I
thank Thee, for I am made whole." Then the Holy Grale departed with the
table and the silver candlestick into the chapel, so that Sir Lancelot
it no more, nor for his sins' sake could he follow it. And the knight
was healed went on his way.
Then Sir Lancelot awake, and marvelled whether he had seen aught but
dream. And as he marvelled, he heard a voice saying, "Sir Lancelot, thou
are unworthy, go thou hence, and withdraw thee from this holy place."
when he heard that, he was passing heavy, for he bethought him of his
So he departed weeping, and cursed the day of his birth, for the
went into his heart, and he knew wherefore he was thus driven forth.
he went to seek his arms and horse, but could not find them; and then he
called himself the wretchedest and most unhappy of all knights, and
"My sin hath brought me unto great dishonour: for when I sought earthly
honours, I achieved them ever; but now I take upon me holy things, my
guilt doth hinder me, and shameth me; therefore had I no power to stir
speak when the holy blood appeared before me."
So thus he sorrowed till it was day, and he heard the birds sing;
he somewhat comforted, and departing from the cross on foot, he came
a wild forest, and to a high mountain, and there he found a hermitage;
and, kneeling before the hermit down upon both his knees, he cried for
mercy for his wicked works, and prayed him to hear his confession. But
when he told his name, the hermit marvelled to see him in so sore a
and said, "Sir, ye ought to thank God more than any knight living, for
hath given thee more honour than any; yet for thy presumption, while in
deadly sin to come into the presence of His flesh and blood, He suffered
thee neither to see nor follow it. Wherefore, believe that all thy
strength and manhood will avail thee little, when God is against thee."
Then Sir Lancelot wept and said, "Now know I well ye tell me truth."
Then he confessed to him, and told him all his sins, and how he had
fourteen years served but Queen Guinevere only, and forgotten God, and
done great deeds of arms for her, and not for Heaven, and had little or
nothing thanked God for the honour that he won. And then Sir Lancelot
said, "I pray you counsel me."
"I will counsel thee," said he: "never more enter into that queen's
company when ye can avoid it."
So Sir Lancelot promised him.
"Look that your heart and your mouth accord," said the good man, "and
shall have more honour and more nobleness than ever ye have had."
Then were his arms and horse restored to him, and so he took his
and rode forth, repenting greatly.
Now Sir Percival had ridden back to the recluse, to learn who that
was whom she had called the best in the world. And when he had told her
that he was Sir Percival, she made passing great joy of him, for she was
his mother's sister, wherefore she opened her door to him, and made him
good cheer. And on the morrow she told him of her kindred to him, and
both made great rejoicing. Then he asked her who that knight was, and
told him, "He it is who on Whit Sunday last was clad in the red robe,
bare the red arms; and he hath no peer, for he worketh all by miracle,
shall be never overcome by any earthly hands."
"By my goodwill," said Sir Percival, "I will never after these
have to do with Sir Galahad but in the way of kindness; and I would fain
learn where I may find him."
"Fair nephew," said she, "ye must ride to the Castle of Goth, where
hath a cousin; by him ye may be lodged, and he will teach you the way to
go; but if he can tell you no tidings, ride straight to the Castle of
Carbonek, where the wounded king is lying, for there shall ye surely
true tidings of him."
So Sir Percival departed from his aunt, and rode till evensong time,
he was ware of a monastery closed round with walls and deep ditches,
he knocked at the gate, and anon was let in. And there he had good cheer
that night, and on the morrow heard mass. And beside the altar where the
priest stood, was a rich bed of silk and cloth of gold; and on the bed
there lay a man passing old, having a crown of gold upon his head, and
his body was full of great wounds, and his eyes almost wholly blind; and
ever he held up his hands and said, "Sweet Lord, forget not me!"
Then Sir Percival asked one of the brethren who he was.
"Sir," said the good man, "ye have heard of Joseph of Arimathea, how
was sent of Jesus Christ into this land to preach and teach the
faith. Now, in the city of Sarras he converted a king named Evelake, and
this is he. He came with Joseph to this land, and ever desired greatly
see the Sangreal; so on a time he came nigh thereto, and was struck
blind. Then he cried out for mercy, and said, 'Fair Lord, I pray thee
me never die until a good knight of my blood achieve the Sangreal, and I
may see and kiss him.' When he had thus prayed, he heard a voice that
said, 'Thy prayers be heard and answered, for thou shalt not die till
knight kiss thee; and when he cometh shall thine eyes be opened and thy
wounds be healed.' And now hath he lived here for three hundred winters
a holy life, and men say a certain knight of King Arthur's court shall
shortly heal him."
Thereat Sir Percival marvelled greatly, for he well knew who that
should be; and so, taking his leave of the monk, departed.
Then he rode on till noon, and came into a valley where he met twenty
men-at-arms bearing a dead knight on a bier. And they cried to him,
"Whence comest thou?"
"From King Arthur's court," he answered.
Then they all cried together, "Slay him," and set upon him.
But he smote down the first man to the ground, and his horse upon
whereat seven of them all at once assailed him, and others slew his
Thus he had been either taken or slain, but by good chance Sir Galahad
passing by that way, who, seeing twenty men attacking one, cried, "Slay
him not," and rushed upon them; and, as fast as his horse could drive,
encountered with the foremost man, and smote him down. Then, his spear
being broken, he drew forth his sword and struck out on the right hand
on the left, at each blow smiting down a man, till the remainder fled,
he pursued them.
Then Sir Percival, knowing that it was Sir Galahad, would fain have
overtaken him, but could not, for his horse was slain. Yet followed he
foot as fast as he could go; and as he went there met him a yeoman
on a palfrey, and leading in his hand a great black steed. So Sir
prayed him to lend him the steed, that he might overtake Sir Galahad.
he replied, "That can I not do, fair sir, for the horse is my master's,
and should I lend it he would slay me." So he departed, and Sir Percival
sat down beneath a tree in heaviness of heart. And as he sat, anon a
knight went riding past on the black steed which the yeoman had led. And
presently after came the yeoman back in haste, and asked Sir Percival if
he had seen a knight riding his horse.
"Yea," said Sir Percival.
"Alas," said the yeoman, "he hath reft him from me by strength, and
master will slay me."
Then he besought Sir Percival to take his hackney and follow, and get
his steed. So he rode quickly, and overtook the knight, and cried,
"Knight, turn again." Whereat he turned and set his spear, and smote Sir
Percival's hackney in the breast, so that it fell dead, and then went on
his way. Then cried Sir Percival after him, "Turn now, false knight, and
fight with me on foot;" but he would not, and rode out of sight.
Then was Sir Percival passing wroth and heavy of heart, and lay down
rest beneath a tree, and slept till midnight. When he awoke he saw a
standing by him, who said to him right fiercely, "Sir Percival, what
"I do neither good nor evil," said he.
"If thou wilt promise me," said she, "to do my will whenever I shall
thee, I will bring thee here a horse that will bear thee wheresoever
At that he was full glad, and promised as she asked. Then anon she
again, with a great black steed, strong and well apparelled. So Sir
Percival mounted, and rode through the clear moonlight, and within less
than an hour had gone a four days' journey, till he came to a rough
that roared; and his horse would have borne him into it, but Sir
would not suffer him, yet could he scarce restrain him. And seeing the
water so furious, he made the sign of the cross upon his forehead,
the horse suddenly shook him off, and with a terrible sound leaped into
the water and disappeared, the waves all burning up in flames around
Then Sir Percival knew it was a fiend which had brought him the horse;
he commended himself to God, and prayed that he might escape
and continued in prayer till it was day.
Then he saw that he was on a wild mountain, nigh surrounded on all
by the sea, and filled with wild beasts; and going on into a valley, he
saw a serpent carrying a young lion by the neck. With that came another
lion, crying and roaring after the serpent, and anon overtook him, and
began to battle with him. And Sir Percival helped the lion, and drew his
sword, and gave the serpent such a stroke that it fell dead. Thereat the
lion fawned upon him like a dog, licking his hands, and crouching at his
feet, and at night lay down by him and slept at his side.
And at noon the next day Sir Percival saw a ship come sailing before
strong wind upon the sea towards him, and he rose and went towards it.
when it came to shore, he found it covered with white samite, and on the
deck there stood an old man dressed in priest's robes, who said, "God be
with you, fair sir; whence come ye?"
"I am a knight of King Arthur's court," said he, "and follow the
the Sangreal; but here have I lost myself in this wilderness."
"Fear nothing," said the old man, "for I have come from a strange
to comfort thee."
Then he told Sir Percival it was a fiend of hell upon which he had
to the sea, and that the lion, whom he had delivered from the serpent,
meant the Church. And Sir Percival rejoiced at these tidings, and
into the ship, which presently sailed from the shore into the sea.
Now when Sir Bors rode forth from Camelot to seek the Sangreal, anon
met a holy man riding on an ass, and courteously saluted him.
"Who are ye, son?" said the good man.
"I am a knight," said he, "in quest of the Sangreal, and would fain
thy counsel, for he shall have much earthly honour who may bring it to a
"That is truth," said the good man, "for he shall be the best knight
the world; yet know that none shall gain it save by sinless living."
So they rode to his hermitage together, and there he prayed Sir Bors
abide that night, and anon they went into the chapel, and Sir Bors was
confessed. And they eat bread and drank water together.
"Now," said the hermit, "I pray thee eat no other food till thou sit
the table where the Sangreal shall be." Thereto Sir Bors agreed.
"Also," said the hermit, "it were wise that ye should wear a
garment next your skin, for penance;" and in this also did Sir Bors as
was counselled. And afterwards he armed himself and took his leave.
Then rode he onwards all that day, and as he rode he saw a passing
bird sit in an old dry tree, whereon no leaves were left; and many
birds lay round the great one, nigh dead with hunger. Then did the big
bird smite himself with his own bill, and bled till he died amongst his
little ones, and they recovered life in drinking up his blood. When Sir
Bors saw this he knew it was a token, and rode on full of thought. And
about eventide he came to a tower, whereto he prayed admission, and he
received gladly by the lady of the castle. But when a supper of many
and dainties was set before him, he remembered his vow, and bade a
to bring him water, and therein he dipped his bread, and ate.
Then said the lady, "Sir Bors, I fear ye like not my meat."
"Yea, truly," said he; "God thank thee, madam; but I may eat no other
After supper came a squire, and said, "Madam, bethink thee to provide
champion for thee to-morrow for the tourney, or else shall thy sister
At that the lady wept, and made great sorrow. But Sir Bors prayed her
be comforted, and asked her why the tournament was held. Then she told
how she and her sister were the daughters of King Anianse, who left them
all his lands between them; and how her sister was the wife of a strong
knight, named Sir Pridan le Noir, who had taken from herself all her
lands, save the one tower wherein she dwelt. "And now," said she, "this
also will they take, unless I find a champion by to-morrow."
Then said Sir Bors, "Be comforted; to-morrow I will fight for thee;"
whereat she rejoiced not a little, and sent word to Sir Pridan that she
was provided and ready. And Sir Bors lay on the floor, and in no bed,
ever would do otherwise till he had achieved his quest.
On the morrow he arose and clothed himself, and went into the chapel,
where the lady met him, and they heard mass together. Anon he called for
his armour, and went with a goodly company of knights to the battle. And
the lady prayed him to refresh himself ere he should fight, but he
to break his fast until the tournament were done. So they all rode
together to the lists, and there they saw the lady's eldest sister, and
her husband, Sir Pridan le Noir. And a cry was made by the heralds that,
whichever should win, his lady should have all the other's lands.
Then the two knights departed asunder a little space, and came
with such force, that both their spears were shivered, and their shields
and hauberks pierced through; and both fell to the ground sorely
with their horses under them. But swiftly they arose, and drew their
swords, and smote each other on the head with many great and heavy
till the blood ran down their bodies; and Sir Pridan was a full good
knight, so that Sir Bors had more ado than he had thought for to
But at last Sir Pridan grew a little faint; that instantly perceived
Bors, and rushed upon him the more vehemently, and smote him fiercely,
till he rent off his helm, and then gave him great strokes upon his
with the flat of his sword, and bade him yield or be slain.
And then Sir Pridan cried him mercy, and said, "For God's sake slay
not, and I will never war against thy lady more." So Sir Bors let him
and his wife fled away with all her knights.
Then all those who had held lands of the lady of the tower came and
homage to her again, and swore fealty. And when the country was at peace
Sir Bors departed, and rode forth into a forest until it was midday, and
there befell him a marvellous adventure.
For at a place where two ways parted, there met him two knights,
Sir Lionel, his brother, all naked, bound on a horse, and as they rode,
they beat him sorely with thorns, so that the blood trailed down in more
than a hundred places from his body; but for all this he uttered no word
or groan, so great he was of heart. As soon as Sir Bors knew his
he put his spear in rest to run and rescue him; but in the same moment
heard a woman's voice cry close beside him in the wood, "St. Mary,
thy maid;" and, looking round, he saw a damsel whom a felon knight
after him into the thickets; and she, perceiving him, cried piteously
help, and adjured him to deliver her as he was a sworn knight. Then was
Sir Bors sore troubled, and knew not what to do, for he thought within
himself, "If I let my brother be, he will be murdered; but if I help not
the maid, she is shamed for ever, and my vow compelleth me to set her
free; wherefore must I first help her, and trust my brother unto God."
So, riding to the knight who held the damsel, he cried out, "Sir
lay your hand off that maid, or else ye be but dead."
At that the knight set down the maid, and dropped his shield, and
forth his sword against Sir Bors, who ran at him, and smote him through
both shield and shoulder, and threw him to the earth; and when he pulled
his spear forth, the knight swooned. Then the maid thanked Sir Bors
heartily, and he set her on the knight's horse, and brought her to her
men-at-arms, who presently came riding after her. And they made much
and besought him to come to her father, a great lord, and he should be
right welcome. But "truly," said he, "I may not at this time, for I have
great adventure yet to do;" and commending them to God, he departed in
great haste to find his brother.
So he rode, seeking him by the track of the horses a great while.
met a seeming holy man riding upon a strong black horse, and asked him,
had he seen pass by that way a knight led bound and beaten with thorns
"Yea, truly, such an one I saw," said the man; "but he is dead, and
his body is hard by in a bush."
Then he showed him a newly slain body lying in a thick bush, which
indeed to be Sir Lionel. Then made Sir Bors such mourning and sorrow
by-and-by he fell into a swoon upon the ground. And when he came to
himself again, he took the body in his arms and put it on his horse's
saddle, and bore it to a chapel hard by, and would have buried it. But
when he made the sign of the cross, he heard a full great noise and cry
though all the fiends of hell had been about him, and suddenly the body
and the chapel and the old man vanished all away. Then he knew that it
the devil who had thus beguiled him, and that his brother yet lived.
Then held he up his hands to heaven, and thanked God for his own
from hurt, and rode onwards; and anon, as he passed by an hermitage in a
forest, he saw his brother sitting armed by the door. And when he saw
he was filled with joy, and lighted from his horse, and ran to him and
said, "Fair brother, when came ye hither?"
But Sir Lionel answered, with an angry face, "What vain words be
when for you I might have been slain? Did ye not see me bound and led
to death, and left me in that peril to go succouring a gentlewoman, the
like whereof no brother ever yet hath done? Now, for thy false misdeed,
do defy thee, and ensure thee speedy death."
Then Sir Bors prayed his brother to abate his anger, and said, "Fair
brother, remember the love that should be between us twain."
But Sir Lionel would not hear, and prepared to fight and mounted his
and came before him, crying, "Sir Bors, keep thee from me, for I shall
to thee as a felon and a traitor; therefore, start upon thy horse, for
thou wilt not, I will run upon thee as thou standest."
But for all his words Sir Bors would not defend himself against his
brother. And anon the fiend stirred up Sir Lionel to such rage, that he
rushed over him and overthrew him with his horse's hoofs, so that he lay
swooning on the ground. Then would he have rent off his helm and slain
him, but the hermit of that place ran out, and prayed him to forbear,
shielded Sir Bors with his body.
Then Sir Lionel cried out, "Now, God so help me, sir priest, but I
slay thee else thou depart, and him too after thee."
And when the good man utterly refused to leave Sir Bors, he smote him
the head until he died, and then he took his brother by the helm and
unlaced it, to have stricken off his head, and so he would have done,
suddenly was pulled off backwards by a knight of the Round Table, who,
the will of Heaven, was passing by that place--Sir Colgrevance by name.
"Sir Lionel," he cried, "will ye slay your brother, one of the best
knights of all the world? That ought no man to suffer."
"Why," said Sir Lionel, "will ye hinder me and meddle in this strife?
beware, lest I shall slay both thee and him."
And when Sir Colgrevance refused to let them be, Sir Lionel defied
and gave him a great stroke through the helmet, whereat Sir Colgrevance
drew his sword, and smote again right manfully. And so long they fought
together that Sir Bors awoke from his swoon, and tried to rise and part
them, but had no strength to stand upon his feet.
Anon Sir Colgrevance saw him, and cried out to him for help, for now
Lionel had nigh defeated him. When Sir Bors heard that, he struggled to
his feet, and put his helmet on, and took his sword. But before he could
come to him, Sir Lionel had smitten off Sir Colgrevance's helm, and
him to the earth and slain him. Then turned he to his brother as a man
possessed by fiends, and gave him such a stroke as bent him nearly
But still Sir Bors prayed him for God's sake to quit that battle,
it befell us that we either slew the other we should die for care of
"Never will I spare thee if I master thee," cried out Sir Lionel.
Then Sir Bors drew his sword all weeping, and said, "Now, God have
on me, though I defend my life against my brother;" with that he lifted
his sword to strike, but suddenly he heard a mighty voice, "Put up thy
sword, Sir Bors, and flee, or thou shalt surely slay him." And then
fell upon them both a fiery cloud, which flamed and burned their
and they fell to the earth in sore dread.
Anon Sir Bors rose to his feet, and saw that Sir Lionel had taken no
Then came the voice again, and said, "Sir Bors, go hence and leave thy
brother, and ride thou forward to the sea, for there Sir Percival
Then he said to his brother, "Brother, forgive me all my trespass
And Sir Lionel answered, "God forgive it thee, as I do."
Then he departed and rode to the sea, and on the strand he found a
all covered with white samite, and as soon as he had entered thereinto,
it put forth from the shore. And in the midst of the ship there stood an
armed knight, whom he knew to be Sir Percival. Then they rejoiced
over each other, and said, "We lack nothing now but the good knight Sir
Now when Sir Galahad had rescued Sir Percival from the twenty knights
rode into a vast forest. And after many days it befell that he came to a
castle whereat was a tournament. And the knights of the castle were put
the worse; which when he saw, he set his spear in rest and ran to help
them, and smote down many of their adversaries. And as it chanced, Sir
Gawain was amongst the stranger knights, and when he saw the white
with the red cross, he knew it was Sir Galahad, and proffered to joust
with him. So they encountered, and having broken their spears, they drew
their swords, and Sir Galahad smote Sir Gawain so sorely on the helm
he clove it through, and struck on slanting to the earth, carving the
horse's shoulder in twain, and Sir Gawain fell to the earth. Then Sir
Galahad beat back all who warred against the castle, yet would he not
for thanks, but rode away that no man might know him.
And he rested that night at a hermitage, and when he was asleep, he
a knocking at the door. So he rose, and found a damsel there, who said,
"Sir Galahad, I will that ye arm you, and mount upon your horse and
me, for I will show you within these three days the highest adventure
ever any knight saw."
Anon Sir Galahad armed him, and took his horse, and commended himself
God, and bade the gentlewoman go, and he would follow where she liked.
So they rode onwards to the sea as fast as their horses might gallop,
at night they came to a castle in a valley, inclosed by running water,
by strong and high walls, whereinto they entered and had great cheer,
the lady of the castle was the damsel's mistress.
And when he was unarmed, the damsel said to her lady, "Madam, shall
abide here this night?"
"Nay," said she, "but only till he hath dined and slept a little."
So he ate and slept a while, till the maid called him, and armed him
torchlight; and when he had saluted the lady of the castle, the damsel
Sir Galahad rode on.
Anon they came to the seaside, and lo! the ship, wherein were Sir
and Sir Bors, abode by the shore. Then they cried, "Welcome, Sir
for we have awaited thee long."
Then they rejoiced to see each other, and told of all their
temptations. And the damsel went into the ship with them, and spake to
Percival: "Sir Percival, know ye not who I am?"
And he replied, "Nay, certainly, I know thee not."
Then said she, "I am thy sister, the daughter of King Pellinore, and
sent to help thee and these knights, thy fellows, to achieve the quest
which ye all follow."
So Sir Percival rejoiced to see his sister, and they departed from
shore. And after a while they came upon a whirlpool, where their ship
could not live. Then saw they another greater ship hard by and went
towards it, but saw neither man nor woman therein. And on the end of it
these words were written, "Thou who shalt enter me, beware that thou be
steadfast belief, for I am Faith; and if thou doubtest, I cannot help
thee." Then were they all adread, but, commending themselves to God,
As soon as they were on board they saw a fair bed; whereon lay a
silk, and at the foot was a fair and rich sword drawn from its scabbard
half a foot and more. The pommel was of precious stones of many colours,
every colour having a different virtue, and the scales of the haft were
two ribs of different beasts. The one was bone of a serpent from
forest, named the serpent of the fiend; and its virtue saveth all men
hold it from weariness. The other was of a fish that haunteth the floods
of Euphrates, named Ertanax; and its virtue causeth whoever holdeth it
forget all other things, whether of joy or pain, save the thing he seeth
"In the name of God," said Sir Percival, "I shall assay to handle
sword; "and set his hand to it, but could not grasp it. "By my faith,"
said he, "now have I failed."
Sir Bors set his hand to it, and failed also.
Then came Sir Galahad, and saw these letters written red as blood,
shall draw me forth save the hardiest of all men; but he that draweth me
shall never be shamed or wounded to death." "By my faith," said Sir
Galahad, "I would draw it forth, but dare not try."
"Ye may try safely," said the gentlewoman, Sir Percival's sister,
ye well assured the drawing of this sword is forbid to all but you. For
this was the sword of David, King of Israel, and Solomon his son made
it this marvellous pommel and this wondrous sheath, and laid it on this
bed till thou shouldest come and take it up; and though before thee some
have dared to raise it, yet have they all been maimed or wounded for
"Where," said Sir Galahad, "shall we find a girdle for it?"
"Fair sir," said she, "dismay you not;" and therewith took from out a
a girdle, nobly wrought with golden thread, set full of precious stones
and with a rich gold buckle. "This girdle, lords," said she, "is made
the most part of mine own hair, which, while I was yet in the world, I
loved full well; but when I knew that this adventure was ordained me, I
cut off and wove as ye now see."
Then they all prayed Sir Galahad to take the sword, and so anon he
it in his fingers; and the maiden girt it round his waist, saying, "Now
reck I not though I die, for I have made thee the worthiest knight of
"Fair damsel," said Sir Galahad, "ye have done so much that I shall
your knight all the days of my life."
Then the ship sailed a great way on the sea, and brought them to land
the Castle of Carteloise. When they were landed came a squire and asked
them, "Be ye of King Arthur's court?"
"We are," said they.
"In an evil hour are ye come," said he, and went back swiftly to the
Within a while they heard a great horn blow, and saw a multitude of
well-armed knights come forth, who bade them yield or die. At that they
ran together, and Sir Percival smote one to the earth and mounted his
horse, and so likewise did Sir Bors and Sir Galahad, and soon had they
routed all their enemies and alighted on foot, and with their swords
them downright, and entered into the castle.
Then came there forth a priest, to whom Sir Galahad kneeled and said,
sooth, good father, I repent me of this slaughter; but we were first
assailed, or else it had not been."
"Repent ye not," said the good man, "for if ye lived as long as the
lasted ye could do no better deed, for these were all the felon sons of
good knight, Earl Hernox, whom they have thrown into a dungeon, and in
name have slain priests and clerks, and beat down chapels far and near."
Then Sir Galahad prayed the priest to bring him to the earl; who,
saw Sir Galahad, cried out, "Long have I waited for thy coming, and now
pray thee hold me in thine arms that I may die in peace."
And therewith, when Sir Galahad had taken him in his arms, his soul
departed from his body.
Then came a voice in the hearing of them all, "Depart now, Sir
and go quickly to the maimed king, for he hath long abided to receive
health from thy hand."
So the three knights departed, and Sir Percival's sister with them,
came to a vast forest, and saw before them a white hart, exceeding fair,
led by four lions; and marvelling greatly at that sight, they followed.
Anon they came to a hermitage and a chapel, whereunto the hart
and the lions with it. Then a priest offered mass, and presently they
the hart change into the figure of a man, most sweet and comely to
and the four lions also changed and became a man, an eagle, a lion, and
ox. And suddenly all those five figures vanished without sound. Then the
knights marvelled greatly, and fell upon their knees, and when they rose
they prayed the priest to tell them what that sight might mean.
"What saw ye, sirs?" said he, "for I saw nothing." Then they told
"Ah, lords!" said he, "ye are full welcome; now know I well ye be the
knights who shall achieve the Sangreal, for unto them alone such
mysteries are revealed. The hart ye saw is One above all men, white and
without blemish, and the four lions with Him are the four evangelists."
When they heard that they heartily rejoiced, and thanking the priest,
Anon, as they passed by a certain castle, an armed knight suddenly
after them, and cried out to the damsel, "By the holy cross, ye shall
go till ye have yielded to the custom of the castle."
"Let her go," said Sir Percival, "for a maiden, wheresoever she
"Whatever maiden passeth here," replied the knight, "must give a
of her blood from her right arm."
"It is a foul and shameful custom," cried Sir Galahad and both his
fellows, "and sooner will we die than let this maiden yield thereto."
"Then shall ye die," replied the knight, and as he spake there came
from a gate hard by, ten or twelve more, and encountered with them,
running upon them vehemently with a great cry. But the three knights
withstood them, and set their hands to their swords, and beat them down
and slew them.
At that came forth a company of threescore knights, all armed. "Fair
lords," said Sir Galahad, "have mercy on yourselves and keep from us."
"Nay, fair lords," they answered, "rather be advised by us, and yield
to our custom."
"It is an idle word," said Galahad, "in vain ye speak it."
"Well," said they, "will ye die?"
"We be not come thereto as yet," replied Sir Galahad.
Then did they fall upon each other, and Sir Galahad drew forth his
and smote on the right hand and on the left, and slew so mightily that
all who saw him thought he was a monster and no earthly man. And both
comrades helped him well, and so they held the field against that
multitude till it was night. Then came a good knight forward from the
enemy and said, "Fair knights, abide with us to-night and be right
welcome; by the faith of our bodies as we are true knights, to-morrow ye
shall rise unharmed, and meanwhile maybe ye will, of your own accord,
accept the custom of the castle when ye know it better."
So they entered and alighted and made great cheer. Anon, they asked
whence that custom came. "The lady of this castle is a leper," said
"and can be no way cured save by the blood of a pure virgin and a king's
daughter; therefore to save her life are we her servants bound to stay
every maid that passeth by, and try if her blood may not cure our
Then said the damsel, "Take ye of my blood as much as ye will, if it
avail your lady."
And though the three knights urged her not to put her life in that
peril, she replied, "If I die to heal another's body, I shall get health
to my soul," and would not be persuaded to refuse.
So on the morrow she was brought to the sick lady, and her arm was
and a vein thereof was opened, and the dish filled with her blood. Then
the sick lady was anointed therewith, and anon she was whole of her
malady. With that Sir Percival's sister lifted up her hand and blessed
her, saying, "Madam, I am come to my death to make you whole; for God's
love pray for me;" and thus saying she fell down in a swoon.
Then Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir Bors started to lift her up
staunch her blood, but she had lost too much to live. So when she came
herself she said to Sir Percival, "Fair brother, I must die for the
healing of this lady, and now, I pray thee, bury me not here, but when I
am dead put me in a boat at the next haven and let me float at venture
the sea. And when ye come to the city of Sarras, to achieve the Sangreal,
shall ye find me waiting by a tower, and there I pray thee bury me, for
there shall Sir Galahad and ye also be laid." Thus having said, she
Then Sir Percival wrote all the story of her life and put it in her
hand, and so laid her in a barge and covered it with silk. And the wind
arising drove the barge from land, and all the knights stood watching it
till it was out of sight.
Anon they returned to the castle, and forthwith fell a sudden tempest
thunder and lightning and rain, as if the earth were broken up: and half
the castle was thrown down. Then came a voice to the three knights which
said, "Depart ye now asunder till ye meet again where the maimed king is
lying." So they parted and rode divers ways.
Now after Sir Lancelot had left the hermit, he rode a long while till
knew not whither to turn, and so he lay down to sleep, if haply he might
dream whither to go.
And in his sleep a vision came to him saying, "Lancelot, rise up and
thine armour, and enter the first ship that thou shalt find."
When he awoke he obeyed the vision, and rode till he came to the
sea-shore, and found there a ship without sails or oars, and as soon as
was in it he smelt the sweetest savour he had ever known, and seemed
filled with all things he could think of or desire. And looking round he
saw a fair bed, and thereon a gentlewoman lying dead, who was Sir
Percival's sister. And as Sir Lancelot looked on her he spied the
in her right hand, and, taking it, he read therein her story. And more
than a month thereafter he abode in that ship and was nourished by the
grace of Heaven, as Israel was fed with manna in the desert.
And on a certain night he went ashore to pass the time, for he was
somewhat weary, and, listening, he heard a horse come towards him, from
which a knight alighted and went up into the ship; who, when he saw Sir
Lancelot, said, "Fair sir, ye be right welcome to mine eyes, for I am
son Galahad, and long time I have sought for thee." With that he kneeled
and asked his blessing, and took off his helm and kissed him, and the
great joy there was between them no tongue can tell.
Then for half a year they dwelt together in the ship, and served God
and day with all their powers, and went to many unknown islands, where
but wild beasts haunted, and there found many strange and perilous
And upon a time they came to the edge of a forest, before a cross of
stone, and saw a knight armed all in white, leading a white horse. Then
the knight saluted them, and said to Galahad, "Ye have been long time
enough with your father; now, therefore, leave him and ride this horse
till ye achieve the Holy Quest."
Then went Sir Galahad to his father and kissed him full courteously,
said, "Fair father, I know not when I shall see thee again."
And as he took his horse a voice spake in their hearing, "Ye shall
more in this life."
"Now, my son, Sir Galahad," said Sir Lancelot, "since we must so part
see each other never more, I pray the High Father of Heaven to preserve
both you and me."
Then they bade farewell, and Sir Galahad entered the forest, and Sir
Lancelot returned to the ship, and the wind rose and drove him more than
month through the sea, whereby he slept but little, yet ever prayed that
he might see the Sangreal.
So it befell upon a certain midnight, the moon shining clear, he came
before a fair and rich castle, whereof the postern gate was open towards
the sea, having no keeper save two lions in the entry.
Anon Sir Lancelot heard a voice: "Leave now thy ship and go within
castle, and thou shalt see a part of thy desire."
Then he armed and went towards the gate, and coming to the lions he
out his sword, but suddenly a dwarf rushed out and smote him on the arm,
so that he dropt his sword, and heard again the voice, "Oh, man of evil
faith, and poor belief, wherefore trustest thou thine arms above thy
Maker?" Then he put up his sword and signed the cross upon his forehead,
and so passed by the lions without hurt.
And going in, he found a chamber with the door shut, which in vain he
tried to open. And listening thereat he heard a voice within, which sang
so sweetly that it seemed no earthly thing, "Joy and honour be to the
Father of Heaven!" Then he kneeled down at the door, for he knew well
Sangreal was there within.
Anon the door was opened without hands, and forthwith came thereout
great a splendour as if all the torches of the world had been alight
together. But when he would have entered in, a voice forbad him;
he drew back, and looked, standing upon the threshold of the door. And
there he saw a table of silver, and the holy vessel covered with red
samite, and many angels round it holding burning candles and a cross and
all the ornaments of the altar.
Then a priest stood up and offered mass, and when he took the vessel
he seemed to sink beneath that burden. At that Sir Lancelot cried, "O
Father, take it not for sin that I go in to help the priest, who hath
need thereof." So saying, he went in, but when he came towards the table
he felt a breath of fire which issued out therefrom and smote him to the
ground, so that he had no power to rise.
Then felt he many hands about him, which took him up and laid him
outside the chapel door. There lay he in a swoon all through that night,
and on the morrow certain people found him senseless, and bore him to an
inner chamber and laid him on a bed. And there he rested, living, but
moving no limbs, twenty-four days and nights.
On the twenty-fifth day he opened his eyes and saw those standing
and said, "Why have ye waked me? for I have seen marvels that no tongue
can tell, and more than any heart can think."
Then he asked where he was, and they told him, "In the Castle of
"Tell your lord, King Pelles," said he, "that I am Sir Lancelot."
At that they marvelled greatly, and told their lord it was Sir
who had lain there so long.
Then was King Pelles wondrous glad and went to see him, and prayed
abide there for a season. But Sir Lancelot said, "I know well that I
now seen as much as mine eyes may behold of the Sangreal; wherefore I
return to my own country." So he took leave of King Pelles, and departed
Now after Sir Galahad had parted from Sir Lancelot, he rode many
till he came to the monastery where the blind King Evelake lay, whom Sir
Percival had seen. And on the morrow, when he had heard mass, Sir
desired to see the king, who cried out, "Welcome, Sir Galahad, servant
the Lord! long have I abided thy coming. Take me now in thine arms, that
may die in peace."
At that Sir Galahad embraced him; and when he had so done the king's
were opened, and he said, "Fair Lord Jesus, suffer me now to come to
Thee;" and anon his soul departed.
Then they buried him royally, as a king should be; and Sir Galahad
Within a while he came to a chapel in a forest, in the crypt whereof
saw a tomb which always blazed and burnt. And asking the brethren what
that might mean, they told him, "Joseph of Arimathea's son did found
monastery, and one who wronged him hath lain here these three hundred
fifty years and burneth evermore, until that perfect knight who shall
achieve the Sangreal doth quench the fire."
Then said he, "I pray ye bring me to the tomb."
And when he touched the place immediately the fire was quenched, and
voice came from the grave and cried, "Thanks be to God, who now hath
purged me of my sin, and draweth me from earthly pains into the joys of
Then Sir Galahad took the body in his arms and bore it to the abbey,
on the morrow put it in the earth before the high altar.
Anon he departed from thence and rode five days in a great forest;
after that he met Sir Percival, and a little further on Sir Bors. When
they had told each other their adventures, they rode together to the
Castle of Carbonek: and there King Pelles gave them hearty welcome, for
knew they should achieve the Holy Quest.
As soon as they were come into the castle, a voice cried in the midst
the chamber, "Let them who ought not now to sit at the table of the Lord
rise and depart hence!" Then all, save those three knights, departed.
Anon they saw other knights come in with haste at the hall doors and
their harness off, who said to Sir Galahad, "Sir, we have tried sore to
with you at this table."
"Ye be welcome," said he, "but whence are ye?"
So three of them said they were from Gaul; and three from Ireland;
three from Denmark.
Then came forth the likeness of a bishop, with a cross in his hand,
four angels stood by him, and a table of silver was before them, whereon
was set the vessel of the Sangreal. Then came forth other angels
bearing burning candles, and the third a towel, and the fourth a spear
which bled marvellously, the drops wherefrom fell into a box he held in
his left hand. Anon the bishop took the wafer up to consecrate it, and
the lifting up, they saw the figure of a Child, whose visage was as
as any fire, which smote itself into the midst of the wafer and
so that all saw the flesh made bread.
Thereat the bishop went to Galahad and kissed him, and bade him go
kiss his fellows; and said, "Now, servants of the Lord, prepare for food
such as none ever yet were fed with since the world began."
With that he vanished, and the knights were filled with a great dread
Then saw they come forth from the holy vessel the vision of a man
all openly, whom they knew well by the tokens of His passion for the
Himself. At that they fell upon their faces and were dumb. Anon he
the Holy Grale to them and spake high words of comfort, and, when they
drank therefrom, the taste thereof was sweeter than any tongue could
or heart desire. Then a voice said to Galahad, "Son, with this blood
drippeth from the spear anoint thou the maimed king and heal him. And
thou hast this done, depart hence with thy brethren in a ship that ye
shall find, and go to the city of Sarras. And bear with thee the holy
vessel, for it shall no more be seen in the realm of Logris."
At that Sir Galahad walked to the bleeding spear, and therefrom
his fingers went out straightway to the maimed King Pelles, and touched
his wound. Then suddenly he uprose from his bed as whole a man as ever
was, and praised God passing thankfully with all his heart.
Then Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Percival departed as they had
told; and when they had ridden three days they came to the sea-shore,
found the ship awaiting them. Therein they entered, and saw in the midst
the silver table and the vessel of the Sangreal, covered with red
Then were they passing glad, and made great reverence thereto. And Sir
Galahad prayed that now he might leave the world and pass to God. And
presently, the while he prayed, a voice said to him, "Galahad, thy
is heard, and when thou asketh the death of the body thou shalt have it,
and find the life of thy soul."
But while they prayed and slept the ship sailed on, and when they
they saw the city of Sarras before them, and the other ship wherein was
Sir Percival's sister. Then the three knights took up the holy table and
the Sangreal and went into the city; and there, in a chapel, they buried
Sir Percival's sister right solemnly.
Now at the gate of the town they saw an old cripple sitting, whom Sir
Galahad called to help them bear their weight.
"Truly," said the old man, "it is ten years since I have gone a step
without these crutches."
"Care ye not," said Sir Galahad; "rise now and show goodwill."
So he assayed to move, and found his limbs as strong as any man's
be, and running to the table helped to carry it.
Anon there rose a rumour in the city that a cripple had been healed
certain marvellous strange knights.
But the king, named Estouranse, who was a heathen tyrant, when he
thereof took Sir Galahad and his fellows, and put them in prison in a
hole. Therein they abode a great while, but ever the Sangreal was with
them and fed them with marvellous sweet food, so that they fainted not,
but had all joy and comfort they could wish.
At the year's end the king fell sick and felt that he should die.
sent he for the three knights, and when they came before him prayed
mercy for his trespasses against them. So they forgave him gladly, and
anon he died.
Then the chief men of the city took counsel together who should be
his stead, and as they talked, a voice cried in their midst, "Choose ye
the youngest of the three knights King Estouranse cast into prison for
your king." At that they sought Sir Galahad and made him king with the
assent of all the city, and else they would have slain him.
But within a twelvemonth came to him, upon a certain day, as he
before the Sangreal, a man in likeness of a bishop, with a great company
of angels round about him, who offered mass, and afterwards called to
Galahad, "Come forth, thou servant of the Lord, for the time hath come
thou hast desired so long."
Then Sir Galahad lifted up his hands and prayed, "Now, blessed Lord!
I no longer live if it might please Thee."
Anon the bishop gave him the sacrament, and when he had received it
unspeakable gladness, he said, "Who art thou, father?"
"I am Joseph of Arimathea," answered he, "whom our Lord hath sent to
When he heard that, Sir Galahad went to Sir Percival and Sir Bors and
kissed them and commended them to God, saying, "Salute for me Sir
Lancelot, my father, and bid him remember this unstable world."
Therewith he kneeled down and prayed, and suddenly his soul departed,
a multitude of angels bare it up to heaven. Then came a hand from heaven
and took the vessel and the spear and bare them out of sight.
Since then was never man so hardy as to say that he had seen the
And after all these things, Sir Percival put off his armour and
to an hermitage, and within a little while passed out of this world. And
Sir Bors, when he had buried him beside his sister, returned, weeping
for the loss of his two brethren, to King Arthur, at Camelot.
Sir Lancelot and the Fair Maid of Astolat
Now after the quest of the Sangreal was fulfilled and all the knights
were left alive were come again to the Round Table, there was great joy
the court. And passing glad were King Arthur and Queen Guinevere to see
Sir Lancelot and Sir Bors, for they had been long absent in that quest.
And so greatly was Sir Lancelot's fame now spread abroad that many
and damsels daily resorted to him and besought him for their champion;
all right quarrels did he gladly undertake for the pleasure of our Lord
Christ. And always as much as he might he withdrew him from the queen.
Wherefore Queen Guinevere, who counted him for her own knight, grew
with him, and on a certain day she called him to her chamber, and said
thus: "Sir Lancelot, I daily see thy loyalty to me doth slack, for ever
thou art absent from this court, and takest other ladies' quarrels on
more than ever thou wert wont. Now do I understand thee, false knight,
therefore shall I never trust thee more. Depart now from my sight, and
come no more within this court upon pain of thy head." With that she
turned from him and would hear no excuses.
So Sir Lancelot departed in heaviness of heart, and calling Sir Bors,
Ector, and Sir Lionel, he told them how the queen had dealt with him.
"Fair sir," replied Sir Bors, "remember what honour ye have in this
country, and how ye are called the noblest knight in the world;
go not, for women are hasty, and do often what they sore repent of
afterwards. Be ruled by my advice. Take horse and ride to the hermitage
beside Windsor, and there abide till I send ye better tidings."
To that Sir Lancelot consented, and departed with a sorrowful
Now when the queen heard of his leaving she was inwardly sorry, but
no show of grief, bearing a proud visage outwardly. And on a certain day
she made a costly banquet to all the knights of the Round Table, to show
she had as great joy in all others as in Sir Lancelot. And at the
were Sir Gawain, and his brothers Sir Agravaine, Sir Gaheris, and Sir
Gareth; also Sir Modred, Sir Bors, Sir Blamor, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Ector,
Sir Lionel, Sir Palomedes, Sir Mador de la Port, and his cousin Sir
Patrice--a knight of Ireland, Sir Pinell le Savage, and many more.
Now Sir Pinell hated Sir Gawain because he had slain one of his
treason; and Sir Gawain had a great love for all kinds of fruit, which,
when Sir Pinell knew, he poisoned certain apples that were set upon the
table, with intent to slay him. And so it chanced as they ate and made
merry, Sir Patrice, who sat next to Sir Gawain, took one of the poisoned
apples and eat it, and when he had eaten he suddenly swelled up and fell
At that every knight leapt from the board ashamed and enraged nigh
their wits, for they knew not what to say, yet seeing that the queen had
made the banquet they all had suspicion of her.
"My lady the queen," said Sir Gawain, "I wit well this fruit was
me, for all men know my love for it, and now had I been nearly slain;
wherefore, I fear me, ye will be ashamed."
"This shall not end so," cried Sir Mador de la Port; "now have I lost
noble knight of my own blood, and for this despite and shame I will be
revenged to the uttermost."
Then he challenged Queen Guinevere concerning the death of his
she stood still, sore abashed, and anon with her sorrow and dread, she
At the noise and sudden cry came in King Arthur, and to him appealed
Mador, and impeached the queen.
"Fair lords," said he, "full sorely am I troubled at this matter, for
must be rightful judge, and therein it repenteth me I may not do battle
for my wife, for, as I deem, this deed was none of hers. But I suppose
will not lack a champion, and some good knight surely will put his body
jeopardy to save her."
But all who had been bidden to the banquet said they could not hold
queen excused, or be her champions, for she had made the feast, and
by herself or servants must it have come.
"Alas!" said the queen, "I made this dinner for a good intent, and no
evil, so God help me in my need."
"My lord the king," said Sir Mador, "I require you heartily as you be
righteous king give me a day when I may have justice."
"Well," said the king, "I give ye this day fifteen days, when ye
ready and armed in the meadow beside Westminster, and if there be a
knight to fight with you, God speed the right, and if not, then must my
queen be burnt."
When the king and queen were alone together he asked her how this
"I wot not how or in what manner," answered she.
"Where is Sir Lancelot?" said King Arthur, "for he would not grudge
battle for thee."
"Sir," said she, "I cannot tell you, but all his kinsmen deem he is
"These be sad tidings," said the king; "I counsel ye to find Sir
pray him for Sir Lancelot's sake to do this battle for you."
So the queen departed and sent for Sir Bors to her chamber, and
"Madam," said he, "what would you have me do? for I may not with my
take this matter on me, for I was at that same dinner, and all the other
knights would have me ever in suspicion. Now do ye miss Sir Lancelot,
he would not have failed you in right nor yet in wrong, as ye have often
proved, but now ye have driven him from the country."
"Alas! fair knight," said the queen, "I put me wholly at your mercy,
all that is done amiss I will amend as ye will counsel me."
And therewith she kneeled down upon both her knees before Sir Bors,
besought him to have mercy on her.
Anon came in King Arthur also, and prayed him of his courtesy to help
saying, "I require you for the love of Lancelot."
"My lord," said he, "ye require the greatest thing of me that any man
ask, for if I do this battle for the queen I shall anger all my fellows
the Table Round; nevertheless, for my lord Sir Lancelot's sake, and for
yours, I will that day be the queen's champion, unless there chance to
come a better knight than I am to do battle for her." And this he
on his faith.
Then were the king and queen passing glad, and thanked him heartily,
But Sir Bors rode in secret to the hermitage where Sir Lancelot was,
told him all these tidings.
"It has chanced as I would have it," said Sir Lancelot; "yet make ye
for the battle, but tarry till ye see me come."
"Sir," said Sir Bors, "doubt not but ye shall have your will."
But many of the knights were greatly wroth with him when they heard
to be the queen's champion, for there were few in the court but deemed
Then said Sir Bors, "Wit ye well, fair lords, it were a shame to us
suffer so fair and noble a lady to be burnt for lack of a champion, for
ever hath she proved herself a lover of good knights; wherefore I doubt
not she is guiltless of this treason."
At that were some well pleased, but others rested passing wroth.
And when the day was come, the king and queen and all the knights
the meadow beside Westminster, where the battle should be fought. Then
queen was put in ward, and a great fire was made round the iron stake,
where she must be burnt if Sir Mador won the day.
So when the heralds blew, Sir Mador rode forth, and took oath that
Guinevere was guilty of Sir Patrice's death, and his oath he would prove
with his body against any who would say the contrary. Then came forth
Bors, and said, "Queen Guinevere is in the right, and that will I prove
with my hands."
With that they both departed to their tents to make ready for the
But Sir Bors tarried long, hoping Sir Lancelot would come, till Sir
cried out to King Arthur, "Bid thy champion come forth, unless he dare
not." Then was Sir Bors ashamed, and took his horse and rode to the end
But ere he could meet Sir Mador he was ware of a knight upon a white
horse, armed at all points, and with a strange shield, who rode to him
said, "I pray you withdraw from this quarrel, for it is mine, and I have
ridden far to fight in it."
Thereat Sir Bors rode to King Arthur, and told him that another
come who would do battle for the queen.
"Who is he?" said King Arthur.
"I may not tell you," said Sir Bors; "but he made a covenant with me
here to-day, wherefore I am discharged."
Then the king called that knight, and asked him if he would fight for
"Therefore came I hither, Sir king," answered he; "but let us tarry
longer, for anon I have other matters to do. But wit ye well," said he
the Knights of the Round Table, "it is shame to ye for such a courteous
queen to suffer this dishonour."
And all men marvelled who this knight might be, for none knew him
Then Sir Mador and the knight rode to either end of the lists, and
couching their spears, ran one against the other with all their might;
Sir Mador's spear broke short, but the strange knight bore both him and
his horse down to the ground. Then lightly they leaped from their
and drew their swords, and so came eagerly to the battle, and either
the other many sad strokes and sore and deep wounds.
Thus they fought nigh an hour, for Sir Mador was a full strong and
knight. But at last the strange knight smote him to the earth, and gave
him such a buffet on the helm as wellnigh killed him. Then did Sir Mador
yield, and prayed his life.
"I will but grant it thee," said the strange knight, "if thou wilt
the queen from this quarrel for ever, and promise that no mention shall
made upon Sir Patrice's tomb that ever she consented to that treason."
"All this shall be done," said Sir Mador.
Then the knights parters took up Sir Mador and led him to his tent,
the other knight went straight to the stair foot of King Arthur's
and by that time was the queen come to the king again, and kissed him
Then both the king and she stooped down, and thanked the knight, and
prayed him to put off his helm and rest him, and to take a cup of wine.
And when he put his helmet off to drink, all people saw it was Sir
Lancelot. But when the queen beheld him she sank almost to the ground
weeping for sorrow and for joy, that he had done her such great goodness
when she had showed him such unkindness.
Then the knights of his blood gathered round him, and there was great
and mirth in the court. And Sir Mador and Sir Lancelot were soon healed
their wounds; and not long after came the Lady of the Lake to the court,
and told all there by her enchantments how Sir Pinell, and not the
was guilty of Sir Patrice's death. Whereat the queen was held excused of
all men, and Sir Pinell fled the country.
So Sir Patrice was buried in the church of Winchester, and it was
on his tomb that Sir Pinell slew him with a poisoned apple, in error for
Sir Gawain. Then, through Sir Lancelot's favour, the queen was
to Sir Mador, and all was forgiven.
Now fifteen days before the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady, the
proclaimed a tourney to be held that feast-day at Camelot, whereat
and the King of Scotland would joust with all who should come against
them. So thither went the King of North Wales, and King Anguish of
Ireland, and Sir Galahaut the noble prince, and many other nobles of
And King Arthur made ready to go, and would have had the queen go
him, but she said that she was sick. Sir Lancelot, also, made excuses,
saying he was not yet whole of his wounds.
At that the king was passing heavy and grieved, and so departed alone
towards Camelot. And by the way he lodged in a town called Astolat, and
lay that night in the castle.
As soon as he had gone, Sir Lancelot said to the queen, "This night I
rest, and to-morrow betimes will I take my way to Camelot; for at these
jousts I will be against the king and his fellowship."
"Ye may do as ye list," said Queen Guinevere; "but by my counsel ye
not be against the king, for in his company are many hardy knights, as
"Madam," said Sir Lancelot, "I pray ye be not displeased with me, for
will take the adventure that God may send me."
And on the morrow he went to the church and heard mass, and took his
of the queen, and so departed.
Then he rode long till he came to Astolat, and there lodged at the
of an old baron called Sir Bernard of Astolat, which was near the castle
where King Arthur lodged. And as Sir Lancelot entered the king espied
and knew him. Then said he to the knights, "I have just seen a knight
will fight full well at the joust toward which we go."
"Who is it?" asked they.
"As yet ye shall not know," he answered smiling.
When Sir Lancelot was in his chamber unarming, the old baron came to
saluting him, though as yet he knew not who he was.
Now Sir Bernard had a daughter passing beautiful, called the Fair
Astolat, and when she saw Sir Lancelot she loved him from that instant
with her whole heart, and could not stay from gazing on him.
On the morrow, Sir Lancelot asked the old baron to lend him a strange
shield. "For," said he, "I would be unknown."
"Sir," said his host, "ye shall have your desire, for here is the
of my eldest son, Sir Torre, who was hurt the day he was made knight, so
that he cannot ride; and his shield, therefore, is not known. And, if it
please you, my youngest son, Sir Lavaine, shall ride with you to the
jousts, for he is of his age full strong and mighty; and I deem ye be a
noble knight, wherefore I pray ye tell me your name."
"As to that," said Sir Lancelot, "ye must hold me excused at this
but if I speed well at the jousts, I will come again and tell you; but
anywise let me have your son, Sir Lavaine, with me, and lend me his
Then, ere they departed, came Elaine, the baron's daughter, and said
Sir Lancelot, "I pray thee, gentle knight, to wear my token at
"If I should grant you that, fair damsel," said he, "ye might say
did more for you than ever I have done for lady or damsel."
Then he bethought him that if he granted her request he would be the
disguised, for never before had he worn any lady's token. So anon he
"Fair damsel, I will wear thy token on my helmet if thou wilt show it
Thereat was she passing glad, and brought him a scarlet sleeve
with pearls, which Sir Lancelot took, and put upon his helm. Then he
prayed her to keep his shield for him until he came again, and taking
Torre's shield instead, rode forth with Sir Lavaine towards Camelot.
On the morrow the trumpets blew for the tourney, and there was a
press of dukes and earls and barons and many noble knights; and King
Arthur sat in a gallery to behold who did the best. So the King of
Scotland and his knights, and King Anguish of Ireland rode forth on King
Arthur's side; and against them came the King of North Wales, the King
a Hundred Knights, the King of Northumberland, and the noble prince Sir
But Sir Lancelot and Sir Lavaine rode into a little wood behind the
which was against King Arthur, to watch which side should prove the
Then was there a strong fight between the two parties, for the King
Hundred Knights smote down the King of Scotland; and Sir Palomedes, who
was on King Arthur's side, overthrew Sir Galahaut. Then came fifteen
Knights of the Round Table and beat back the Kings of Northumberland and
North Wales with their knights.
"Now," said Sir Lancelot to Sir Lavaine, "if ye will help me, ye
see yonder fellowship go back as fast as they came."
"Sir," said Sir Lavaine, "I will do what I can."
Then they rode together into the thickest of the press, and there,
one spear, Sir Lancelot smote down five Knights of the Round Table, one
after other, and Sir Lavaine overthrew two. And taking another spear,
his own was broken, Sir Lancelot smote down four more knights, and Sir
Lavaine a fifth. Then, drawing his sword, Sir Lancelot fought fiercely
the right hand and the left, and unhorsed Sir Safire, Sir Epinogris, and
Sir Galleron. At that the Knights of the Round Table withdrew themselves
as well as they were able.
"Now, mercy," said Sir Gawain, who sat by King Arthur; "what knight
that who doth such marvellous deeds of arms? I should deem him by his
force to be Sir Lancelot, but that he wears a lady's token on his helm
never Lancelot doth."
"Let him be," said King Arthur; "he will be better known, and do more
Thus the party against King Arthur prospered at this time, and his
were sore ashamed. Then Sir Bors, Sir Ector, and Sir Lionel called
together the knights of their blood, nine in number, and agreed to join
together in one band against the two strange knights. So they
Sir Lancelot all at once, and by main force smote his horse to the
and by misfortune Sir Bors struck Sir Lancelot through the shield into
side, and the spear broke off and left the head in the wound.
When Sir Lavaine saw that, he ran to the King of Scotland and struck
off his horse, and brought it to Sir Lancelot, and helped him to mount.
Then Sir Lancelot bore Sir Bors and his horse to the ground, and in like
manner served Sir Ector and Sir Lionel; and turning upon three other
knights he smote them down also; while Sir Lavaine did many gallant
But feeling himself now sorely wounded Sir Lancelot drew his sword,
proffered to fight with Sir Bors, who, by this time, was mounted anew.
as they met, Sir Ector and Sir Lionel came also, and the swords of all
three drave fiercely against him. When he felt their buffets, and his
wound that was so grievous, he determined to do all his best while he
could yet endure, and smote Sir Bors a blow that bent his head down
to the ground and razed his helmet off and pulled him from his horse.
Then rushing at Sir Ector and Sir Lionel, he smote them down, and
have slain all three, but when he saw their faces his heart forbade him.
Leaving them, therefore, on the field, he hurled into the thickest of
press, and did such feats of arms as never were beheld before.
And Sir Lavaine was with him through it all, and overthrew ten
but Sir Lancelot smote down more than thirty, and most of them Knights
the Round Table.
Then the king ordered the trumpets to blow for the end of the
the prize to be given by the heralds to the knight with the white shield
who bore the red sleeve.
But ere Sir Lancelot was found by the heralds, came the King of the
Hundred Knights, the King of North Wales, the King of Northumberland,
Sir Galahaut, and said to him, "Fair knight, God bless thee, for much
ye done this day for us; wherefore we pray ye come with us and receive
the honour and the prize as ye have worshipfully deserved it."
"My fair lords," said Sir Lancelot, "wit ye well if I have deserved
thanks, I have sore bought them, for I am like never to escape with my
life; therefore I pray ye let me depart, for I am sore hurt. I take no
thought of honour, for I had rather rest me than be lord of all the
world." And therewith he groaned piteously, and rode a great gallop away
And Sir Lavaine rode after him, sad at heart, for the broken spear
stuck fast in Sir Lancelot's side, and the blood streamed sorely from
wound. Anon they came near a wood more than a mile from the lists, where
he knew he could be hidden.
Then said he to Sir Lavaine, "O gentle knight, help me to pull out
spear-head from my side, for the pain thereof nigh killeth me."
"Dear lord," said he, "I fain would help ye; but I dread to draw it
lest ye should die for loss of blood."
"I charge you as you love me," said Sir Lancelot, "draw it out."
So they dismounted, and with a mighty wrench Sir Lavaine drew the
forth from Sir Lancelot's side; whereat he gave a marvellous great
and ghastly groan, and all his blood leaped forth in a full stream. Then
he sank swooning to the earth, with a visage pale as death.
"Alas!" cried Sir Lavaine, "what shall I do now?"
And then he turned his master's face towards the wind, and sat by him
half an hour while he lay quiet as one dead. But at the last he lifted
his eyes, and said, "I pray ye bear me on my horse again, and lead me to
hermit who dwelleth within two miles hence, for he was formerly a knight
of Arthur's court, and now hath mighty skill in medicine and herbs."
So with great pain Sir Lavaine got him to his horse, and led him to
hermitage within the wood, beside a stream. Then knocked he with his
upon the door, and prayed to enter. At that a child came out, to whom he
said, "Fair child, pray the good man thy master to come hither and let
a knight who is sore wounded."
Anon came out the knight-hermit, whose name was Sir Baldwin, and
"Who is this wounded knight?"
"I know not," said Sir Lavaine, "save that he is the noblest knight I
met with, and hath done this day such marvellous deeds of arms against
King Arthur that he hath won the prize of the tourney."
Then the hermit gazed long on Sir Lancelot, and hardly knew him, so
he was with bleeding, yet said he at the last, "Who art thou, lord?"
Sir Lancelot answered feebly, "I am a stranger knight adventurous,
laboureth through many realms to win worship."
"Why hidest thou thy name, dear lord, from me?" cried Sir Baldwin;
sooth I know thee now to be the noblest knight in all the world--my lord
Sir Lancelot du Lake, with whom I long had fellowship at the Round
"Since ye know me, fair sir," said he, "I pray ye, for Christ's sake,
help me if ye may."
"Doubt not," replied he, "that ye shall live and fare right well."
Then he staunched his wound, and gave him strong medicines and
till he was refreshed from his faintness and came to himself again.
Now after the jousting was done King Arthur held a feast, and asked
the knight with the red sleeve that he might take the prize. So they
him how that knight had ridden from the field wounded nigh to death.
"These be the worst tidings I have heard for many years," cried out the
king; "I would not for my kingdom he were slain."
Then all men asked, "Know ye him, lord?"
"I may not tell ye at this time," said he; "but would to God we had
tidings of him."
Then Sir Gawain prayed leave to go and seek that knight, which the
gladly gave him. So forthwith he mounted and rode many leagues round
Camelot, but could hear no tidings.
Within two days thereafter King Arthur and his knights returned from
Camelot, and Sir Gawain chanced to lodge at Astolat, in the house of Sir
Bernard. And there came in the fair Elaine to him, and prayed him news
the tournament, and who won the prize. "A knight with a white shield,"
said he, "who bare a red sleeve in his helm, smote down all comers and
At that the visage of Elaine changed suddenly from white to red, and
heartily she thanked our Lady.
Then said Sir Gawain, "Know ye that knight?" and urged her till she
him that it was her sleeve he wore. So Sir Gawain knew it was for love
that she had given it; and when he heard she kept his proper shield he
prayed to see it.
As soon as it was brought he saw Sir Lancelot's arms thereon, and
"Alas! now am I heavier of heart than ever yet."
"Wherefore?" said fair Elaine.
"Fair damsel," answered he, "know ye not that the knight ye love is
all knights the noblest in the world, Sir Lancelot du Lake? With all my
heart I pray ye may have joy of each other, but hardly dare I think that
ye shall see him in this world again, for he is so sore wounded he may
scarcely live, and is gone out of sight where none can find him."
Then was Elaine nigh mad with grief and sorrow, and with piteous
prayed her father that she might go seek Sir Lancelot and her brother.
in the end her father gave her leave, and she departed.
And on the morrow came Sir Gawain to the court, and told how he had
Sir Lancelot's shield in Elaine's keeping, and how it was her sleeve
he had worn; whereat all marvelled, for Sir Lancelot had done for her
than he had ever done for any woman.
But when Queen Guinevere heard it she was beside herself with wrath,
sending privily for Sir Bors, who sorrowed sorely that through him Sir
Lancelot had been hurt--"Have ye now heard," said she, "how falsely Sir
Lancelot hath betrayed me?"
"I beseech thee, madam," said he, "speak not so, for else I may not
"Shall I not call him traitor," cried she, "who hath worn another
token at the jousting?"
"Be sure he did it, madam, for no ill intent," replied Sir Bors, "but
he might be better hidden, for never did he in that wise before."
"Now shame on him, and thee who wouldest help him," cried the queen.
"Madam, say what ye will," said he; "but I must haste to seek him,
send me soon good tidings of him."
So with that he departed to find Sir Lancelot.
Now Elaine had ridden with full haste from Astolat, and come to
and there she sought throughout the country for any news of Lancelot.
so it chanced that Sir Lavaine was riding near the hermitage to exercise
his horse, and when she saw him she ran up and cried aloud, "How doth my
lord Sir Lancelot fare?"
Then said Sir Lavaine, marvelling greatly, "How know ye my lord's
So she told him how Sir Gawain had lodged with Sir Bernard, and knew
Then prayed she to see his lord forthwith, and when she came to the
hermitage and found him lying there sore sick and bleeding, she swooned
for sorrow. Anon, as she revived, Sir Lancelot kissed her, and said,
maid, I pray ye take comfort, for, by God's grace, I shall be shortly
whole of this wound, and if ye be come to tend me, I am heartily bounden
to your great kindness." Yet was he sore vexed to hear Sir Gawain had
discovered him, for he knew Queen Guinevere would be full wroth because
the red sleeve.
So Elaine rested in the hermitage, and ever night and day she watched
waited on Sir Lancelot, and would let none other tend him. And as she
him more, the more she set her love upon him, and could by no means
withdraw it. Then said Sir Lancelot to Sir Lavaine, "I pray thee set
to watch for the good knight Sir Bors, for as he hurt me, so will he
surely seek for me."
Now Sir Bors by this time had come to Camelot, and was seeking for
Lancelot everywhere, so Sir Lavaine soon found him, and brought him to
And when he saw Sir Lancelot pale and feeble, he wept for pity and
that he had given him that grievous wound. "God send thee a right speedy
cure, dear lord," said he; "for I am of all men most unhappy to have
wounded thee, who art our leader, and the noblest knight in all the
"Fair cousin," said Sir Lancelot, "be comforted, for I have but
what I sought, and it was through pride that I was hurt, for had I
ye of my coming it had not been; wherefore let us speak of other
So they talked long together, and Sir Bors told him of the queen's
Then he asked Sir Lancelot, "Was it from this maid who tendeth you so
lovingly ye had the token?"
"Yea," said Sir Lancelot; "and would I could persuade her to withdraw
love from me."
"Why should ye do so?" said Sir Bors; "for she is passing fair and
I would to heaven ye could love her."
"That may not be," replied he; "but it repenteth me in sooth to
Then they talked of other matters, and of the great jousting at
Allhallowtide next coming, between King Arthur and the King of North
"Abide with me till then," said Sir Lancelot, "for by that time I
be all whole again, and we will go together."
So Elaine daily and nightly tending him, within a month he felt so
he deemed himself full cured. Then on a day, when Sir Bors and Sir
were from the hermitage, and the knight-hermit also was gone forth, Sir
Lancelot prayed Elaine to bring him some herbs from the forest.
When she was gone he rose and made haste to arm himself, and try if
were whole enough to joust, and mounted on his horse, which was fresh
lack of labour for so long a time. But when he set his spear in the rest
and tried his armour, the horse bounded and leapt beneath him, so that
Lancelot strained to keep him back. And therewith his wound, which was
wholly healed, burst forth again, and with a mighty groan he sank down
swooning on the ground.
At that came fair Elaine and wept and piteously moaned to see him
so. And when Sir Bors and Sir Lavaine came back, she called them
to let him rise, or to know any rumour of the tournament. Anon the
returned and was wroth to see Sir Lancelot risen, but within a while he
recovered him from his swoon and staunched the wound. Then Sir Lancelot
told him how he had risen of his own will to assay his strength for the
tournament. But the hermit bad him rest and let Sir Bors go alone, for
else would he sorely peril his life. And Elaine, with tears, prayed him
the same wise, so that Sir Lancelot in the end consented.
So Sir Bors departed to the tournament, and there he did such feats
arms that the prize was given between him and Sir Gawain, who did like
And when all was over he came back and told Sir Lancelot, and found
nigh well that he could rise and walk. And within a while thereafter he
departed from the hermitage and went with Sir Bors, Sir Lavaine, and
Elaine to Astolat, where Sir Bernard joyfully received them.
But after they had lodged there a few days Sir Lancelot and Sir Bors
needs depart and return to King Arthur's court.
So when Elaine knew Sir Lancelot must go, she came to him and said,
mercy on me, fair knight, and let me not die for your love."
Then said Sir Lancelot, very sad at heart, "Fair maid, what would ye
I should do for you?"
"If I may not be your wife, dear lord," she answered, "I must die."
"Alas!" said he, "I pray heaven that may not be; for in sooth I may
your husband. But fain would I show ye what thankfulness I can for all
your love and kindness to me. And ever will I be your knight, fair
and if it chance that ye shall ever wed some noble knight, right
will I give ye such a dower as half my lands will bring."
"Alas! what shall that aid me?" answered she; "for I must die," and
therewith she fell to the earth in a deep swoon.
Then was Sir Lancelot passing heavy of heart, and said to Sir Bernard
Sir Lavaine, "What shall I do for her?"
"Alas!" said Sir Bernard, "I know well that she will die for your
And Sir Lavaine said, "I marvel not that she so sorely mourneth your
departure, for truly I do as she doth, and since I once have seen you,
lord, I cannot leave you."
So anon, with a full sorrowful heart, Sir Lancelot took his leave,
Lavaine rode with him to the court. And King Arthur and the Knights of
Round Table joyed greatly to see him whole of his wound, but Queen
Guinevere was sorely wroth, and neither spake with him nor greeted him.
Now when Sir Lancelot had departed, the Maid of Astolat could neither
nor drink, not sleep for sorrow; and having thus endured ten days, she
felt within herself that she must die.
Then sent she for a holy man, and was shriven and received the
But when he told her she must leave her earthly thoughts, she answered,
"Am I not an earthly woman? What sin is it to love the noblest knight of
all the world? And, by my truth, I am not able to withstand the love
whereof I die; wherefore, I pray the High Father of Heaven to have mercy
on my soul."
Then she besought Sir Bernard to indite a letter as she should
said, "When I am dead put this within my hand, and dress me in my
clothes, and lay me in a barge all covered with black samite, and steer
down the river till it reach the court. Thus, father, I beseech thee let
Then, full of grief, he promised her it should be so. And anon she
and all the household made a bitter lamentation over her.
Then did they as she had desired, and laid her body, richly dressed,
a bed within the barge, and a trusty servant steered it down the river
towards the court.
Now King Arthur and Queen Guinevere sat at a window of the palace,
the barge come floating with the tide, and marvelled what was laid
therein, and sent a messenger to see, who, soon returning, prayed them
When they came to the shore they marvelled greatly, and the king
the serving-men who steered the barge what this might mean. But he made
signs that he was dumb, and pointed to the letter in the damsel's hands.
So King Arthur took the letter from the hand of the corpse, and found
thereon written, "To the noble knight, Sir Lancelot du Lake."
Then was Sir Lancelot sent for, and the letter read aloud by a clerk,
thus it was written:--
"Most noble knight, my lord Sir Lancelot, now hath death for ever
us. I, whom men call the Maid of Astolat, set my love upon you, and have
died for your sake. This is my last request, that ye pray for my soul
give me burial. Grant me this, Sir Lancelot, as thou art a peerless
At these words the queen and all the knights wept sore for pity.
Then said Sir Lancelot, "My lord, I am right heavy for the death of
fair damsel; and God knoweth that right unwillingly I caused it, for she
was good as she was fair, and much was I beholden to her; but she loved
beyond measure, and asked me that I could not give her."
"Ye might have shown her gentleness enough to save her life,"
"Madam," said he, "she would but be repaid by my taking her to wife,
that I could not grant her, for love cometh of the heart and not by
"That is true," said the king; "for love is free."
"I pray you," said Sir Lancelot, "let me now grant her last asking,
buried by me."
So on the morrow, he caused her body to be buried richly and
ordained masses for her soul, and made great sorrow over her.
Then the queen sent for Sir Lancelot, and prayed his pardon for her
against him without cause. "This is not the first time it hath been so,"
answered he; "yet must I ever bear with ye, and so do I now forgive
So Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot were made friends again; but anon
favour did she show him, as in the end brought many evils on them both
all the realm.
The War between King Arthur and Sir Lancelot and the Death of King
Within a while thereafter was a jousting at the court, wherein Sir
Lancelot won the prize. And two of those he smote down were Sir
the brother of Sir Gawain, and Sir Modred, his false brother--King
Arthur's son by Belisent. And because of his victory they hated Sir
Lancelot, and sought how they might injure him.
So on a night, when King Arthur was hunting in the forest, and the
sent for Sir Lancelot to her chamber, they two espied him; and thinking
now to make a scandal and a quarrel between Lancelot and the king, they
found twelve others, and said Sir Lancelot was ever now in the queen's
chamber, and King Arthur was dishonoured.
Then, all armed, they came suddenly round the queen's door, and
"Traitor! now art thou taken."
"Madam, we be betrayed," said Sir Lancelot; "yet shall my life cost
Then did the queen weep sore, and dismally she cried, "Alas! there is
armour here whereby ye might withstand so many; wherefore ye will be
slain, and I be burnt for the dread crime they will charge on me."
But while she spake the shouting of the knights was heard without,
"Traitor, come forth, for now thou art snared!"
"Better were twenty deaths at once than this vile outcry," said Sir
Then he kissed her and said, "Most noble lady, I beseech ye, as I
ever been your own true knight, take courage; pray for my soul if I be
slain, and trust my faithful friends, Sir Bors and Sir Lavaine, to save
you from the fire."
But ever bitterly she wept and moaned, and cried, "Would God that
would take and slay me, and that thou couldest escape."
"That shall never be," said he. And wrapping his mantle round his arm
unbarred the door a little space, so that but one could enter.
Then first rushed in Sir Chalaunce, a full strong knight, and lifted
his sword to smite Sir Lancelot; but lightly he avoided him, and struck
Sir Chalaunce, with his hand, such a sore buffet on the head as felled
dead upon the floor.
Then Sir Lancelot pulled in his body and barred the door again, and
dressed himself in his armour, and took his drawn sword in his hand.
But still the knights cried mightily without the door, "Traitor, come
[Illustration: But still the knights cried mightily without the door,
"Traitor, come forth!"]
"Be silent and depart," replied Sir Lancelot; "for be ye sure ye will
take me, and to-morrow will I meet ye face to face before the king."
"Ye shall have no such grace," they cried; "but we will slay thee, or
thee as we list."
"Then save yourselves who may," he thundered, and therewith suddenly
unbarred the door and rushed forth at them. And at the first blow he
Sir Agravaine, and after him twelve other knights, with twelve more
buffets. And none of all escaped him save Sir Modred, who, sorely
fled away for life.
Then returned he to the queen, and said, "Now, madam, will I depart,
if ye be in any danger I pray ye come to me."
"Surely will I stay here, for I am queen," she answered; "yet if
any harm come to me I trust to thee for rescue."
"Have ye no doubt of me," said he, "for ever while I live am I your
Therewith he took his leave, and went and told Sir Bors and all his
kindred of this adventure. "We will be with thee in this quarrel," said
they all; "and if the queen be sentenced to the fire, we certainly will
Meanwhile Sir Modred, in great fear and pain, fled from the court,
rode until he found King Arthur, and told him all that had befallen. But
the king would scarce believe him till he came and saw the bodies of Sir
Agravaine and all the other knights.
Then felt he in himself that all was true, and with his passing grief
heart nigh broke. "Alas!" cried he, "now is the fellowship of the Round
Table for ever broken: yea, woe is me! I may not with my honour spare my
Anon it was ordained that Queen Guinevere should be burned to death,
because she had dishonoured King Arthur.
But when Sir Gawain heard thereof, he came before the king, and said,
lord, I counsel thee be not too hasty in this matter, but stay the
judgment of the queen a season, for it may well be that Sir Lancelot was
in her chamber for no evil, seeing she is greatly beholden to him for so
many deeds done for her sake, and peradventure she had sent to him to
thank him, and did it secretly that she might avoid slander."
But King Arthur answered, full of grief, "Alas! I may not help her;
judged as any other woman."
Then he required Sir Gawain and his brethren, Sir Gaheris and Sir
to be ready to bear the queen to-morrow to the place of execution.
"Nay, noble lord," replied Sir Gawain, "that can I never do; for
will my heart suffer me to see the queen die, nor shall men ever say I
of your counsel in this matter."
Then said his brothers, "Ye may command us to be there, but since it
against our will, we will be without arms, that we may do no battle
So on the morrow was Queen Guinevere led forth to die by fire, and a
mighty crowd was there, of knights and nobles, armed and unarmed. And
the lords and ladies wept sore at that piteous sight. Then was she
by a priest, and the men came nigh to bind her to the stake and light
At that Sir Lancelot's spies rode hastily and told him and his
who lay hidden in a wood hard by; and suddenly, with twenty knights, he
rushed into the midst of all the throng to rescue her.
But certain of King Arthur's knights rose up and fought with them,
there was a full great battle and confusion. And Sir Lancelot drave
fiercely here and there among the press, and smote on every side, and at
every blow struck down a knight, so that many were slain by him and his
Then was the queen set free, and caught up on Sir Lancelot's saddle
fled away with him and all his company to the Castle of La Joyous Garde.
Now so it chanced that, in the turmoil of the fighting, Sir Lancelot
unawares struck down and slain the two good knights Sir Gareth and Sir
Gaheris, knowing it not, for he fought wildly, and saw not that they
When King Arthur heard thereof, and of all that battle, and the
the queen, he sorrowed heavily for those good knights, and was passing
wroth with Lancelot and the queen.
But when Sir Gawain heard of his brethren's death he swooned for
and wrath, for he wist that Sir Lancelot had killed them in malice. And
soon as he recovered he ran in to the king, and said, "Lord king and
uncle, hear this oath which now I swear, that from this day I will not
fail Sir Lancelot till one of us hath slain the other. And now, unless
haste to war with him, that we may be avenged, will I myself alone go
Then the king, full of wrath and grief, agreed thereto, and sent
throughout the realm to summon all his knights, and went with a vast
to besiege the Castle of La Joyous Garde. And Sir Lancelot, with his
knights, mightily defended it; but never would he suffer any to go forth
and attack one of the king's army, for he was right loth to fight
So when fifteen weeks were passed, and King Arthur's army wasted
vain against the castle, for it was passing strong, it chanced upon a
Sir Lancelot was looking from the walls and espied King Arthur and Sir
Gawain close beside.
"Come forth, Sir Lancelot," said King Arthur right fiercely, "and let
two meet in the midst of the field."
"God forbid that I should encounter with thee, lord, for thou didst
me a knight," replied Sir Lancelot.
Then cried Sir Gawain, "Shame on thee, traitor and false knight, yet
well assured we will regain the queen and slay thee and thy company;
double shame on ye to slay my brother Gaheris unarmed, Sir Gareth also,
who loved ye so well. For that treachery, be sure I am thine enemy till
"Alas!" cried Sir Lancelot, "that I hear such tidings, for I knew not
had slain those noble knights, and right sorely now do I repent it with
heavy heart. Yet abate thy wrath, Sir Gawain, for ye know full well I
it by mischance, for I loved them ever as my own brothers."
"Thou liest, false recreant," cried Sir Gawain, fiercely.
At that Sir Lancelot was wroth, and said, "I well see thou art now
enemy, and that there can be no more peace with thee, or with my lord
king, else would I gladly give back the queen."
Then the king would fain have listened to Sir Lancelot, for more than
his own wrong did he grieve at the sore waste and damage of the realm,
Sir Gawain persuaded him against it, and ever cried out foully on Sir
When Sir Bors and the other knights of Lancelot's party heard the
words of Sir Gawain, they were passing wroth, and prayed to ride forth
be avenged on him, for they were weary of so long waiting to no good.
in the end Sir Lancelot, with a heavy heart, consented.
So on the morrow the hosts on either side met in the field, and there
a great battle. And Sir Gawain prayed his knights chiefly to set upon
Lancelot; but Sir Lancelot commanded his company to forbear King Arthur
and Sir Gawain.
So the two armies jousted together right fiercely, and Sir Gawain
proffered to encounter with Sir Lionel, and overthrew him. But Sir Bors,
and Sir Blamor, and Sir Palomedes, who were on Sir Lancelot's side, did
great feats of arms, and overthrew many of King Arthur's knights.
Then the king came forth against Sir Lancelot, but Sir Lancelot
him and would not strike again.
At that Sir Bors rode up against the king and smote him down. But Sir
Lancelot cried, "Touch him not on pain of thy head," and going to King
Arthur he alighted and gave him his own horse, saying, "My lord, I pray
thee forbear this strife, for it can bring to neither of us any honour."
And when King Arthur looked on him the tears came to his eyes as he
thought of his noble courtesy, and he said within himself, "Alas! that
ever this war began."
But on the morrow Sir Gawain led forth the army again, and Sir Bors
commanded on Sir Lancelot's side. And they two struck together so
that both fell to the ground sorely wounded; and all the day they fought
till night fell, and many were slain on both sides, yet in the end
gained the victory.
But by now the fame of this fierce war spread through all
when the Pope heard thereof he sent a Bull, and charged King Arthur to
make peace with Lancelot, and receive back Queen Guinevere; and for the
offence imputed to her absolution should be given by the Pope.
Thereto would King Arthur straightway have obeyed, but Sir Gawain
urged him to refuse.
When Sir Lancelot heard thereof, he wrote thus to the king: "It was
in my thought, lord, to withhold thy queen from thee; but since she was
condemned for my sake to death, I deemed it but a just and knightly part
to rescue her therefrom; wherefore I recommend me to your grace, and
within eight days will I come to thee and bring the queen in safety."
Then, within eight days, as he had said, Sir Lancelot rode from out
castle with Queen Guinevere, and a hundred knights for company, each
carrying an olive branch, in sign of peace. And so they came to the
and found King Arthur sitting on his throne, with Sir Gawain and many
other knights around him. And when Sir Lancelot entered with the queen,
they both kneeled down before the king.
Anon Sir Lancelot rose and said, "My lord, I have brought hither my
the queen again, as right requireth, and by commandment of the Pope and
you. I pray ye take her to your heart again and forget the past. For
myself I may ask nothing, and for my sin I shall have sorrow and sore
punishment; yet I would to heaven I might have your grace."
But ere the king could answer, for he was moved with pity at his
Sir Gawain cried aloud, "Let the king do as he will, but be sure, Sir
Lancelot, thou and I shall never be accorded while we live, for thou has
slain my brethren traitorously and unarmed."
"As heaven is my help," replied Sir Lancelot, "I did it ignorantly,
loved them well, and while I live I shall bewail their death; but to
war with me were no avail, for I must needs fight with thee if thou
assailest, and peradventure I might kill thee also, which I were right
loth to do."
"I will forgive thee never," cried Sir Gawain, "and if the king
with thee he shall lose my service."
Then the knights who stood near tried to reconcile Sir Gawain to Sir
Lancelot, but he would not hear them. So, at the last, Sir Lancelot
"Since peace is vain, I will depart, lest I bring more evil on my
And as he turned to go, the tears fell from him, and he said, "Alas,
noble Christian realm, which I have loved above all others, now shall I
see thee never more!" Then said he to the queen, "Madam, now must I
ye and this noble fellowship for ever. And, I beseech ye, pray for me,
if ye ever be defamed of any, let me hear thereof, and as I have been
thy true knight in right and wrong, so will I be again."
With that he kneeled and kissed King Arthur's hands, and departed on
way. And there was none in all that court, save Sir Gawain alone, but
to see him go.
So he returned with all his knights to the Castle of La Joyous Garde,
for his sorrow's sake, he named it Dolorous Garde thenceforth.
Anon he left the realm, and went with many of his fellowship beyond
sea to France, and there divided all his lands among them equally, he
sharing but as the rest.
And from that time forward peace had been between him and King
for Sir Gawain, who left the king no rest, but constantly persuaded him
that Lancelot was raising mighty hosts against him.
So in the end his malice overcame the king, who left the government
charge of Modred, and made him guardian of the queen, and went with a
great army to invade Sir Lancelot's lands.
Yet Sir Lancelot would make no war upon the king, and sent a message
gain peace on any terms King Arthur chose. But Sir Gawain met the herald
ere he reached the king, and sent him back with taunting and bitter
Whereat Sir Lancelot sorrowfully called his knights together and
the Castle of Benwicke, and there was shortly besieged by the army of
And every day Sir Gawain rode up to the walls, and cried out foully
Lancelot, till, upon a time, Sir Lancelot answered him that he would
him in the field and put his boasting to the proof. So it was agreed on
both sides that there should none come nigh them or separate them till
had fallen or yielded; and they two rode forth.
Then did they wheel their horses apart, and turning, came together as
had been thunder, so that both horses fell, and both their lances broke.
At that they drew their swords and set upon each other fiercely, with
passing grievous strokes.
Now Sir Gawain had through magic a marvellous great gift. For every
from morning till noon, his strength waxed to the might of seven men,
after that waned to his natural force. Therefore till noon he gave Sir
Lancelot many mighty buffets, which scarcely he endured. Yet greatly he
forbore Sir Gawain, for he was aware of his enchantment, and smote him
slightly till his own knights marvelled. But after noon Sir Gawain's
strength sank fast, and then, with one full blow, Sir Lancelot laid him
the earth. Then Sir Gawain cried out, "Turn not away, thou traitor
but slay me if thou wilt, or else I will arise and fight with thee again
some other time."
"Sir knight," replied Sir Lancelot, "I never yet smote a fallen man."
At that they bore Sir Gawain sorely wounded to his tent, and King
withdrew his men, for he was loth to shed the blood of so many knights
his own fellowship.
But now came tidings to King Arthur from across the sea, which caused
to return in haste. For thus the news ran, that no sooner was Sir Modred
set up in his regency, than he had forged false tidings from abroad that
the king had fallen in a battle with Sir Lancelot. Whereat he had
proclaimed himself the king, and had been crowned at Canterbury, where
had held a coronation feast for fifteen days. Then he had gone to
Winchester, where Queen Guinevere abode, and had commanded her to be his
wife; whereto, for fear and sore perplexity, she had feigned consent,
under pretext of preparing for the marriage, had fled in haste to London
and taken shelter in the Tower, fortifying it and providing it with all
manner of victuals, and defending it against Sir Modred, and answering
all his threats that she would rather slay herself than be his queen.
Thus was it written to King Arthur. Then, in passing great wrath and
haste, he came with all his army swiftly back from France and sailed to
England. But when Sir Modred heard thereof, he left the Tower and
with all his host to meet the king at Dover.
Then fled Queen Guinevere to Amesbury to a nunnery, and there she
herself in sackcloth, and spent her time in praying for the king and in
good deeds and fasting. And in that nunnery evermore she lived, sorely
repenting and mourning for her sin, and for the ruin she had brought on
all the realm. And there anon she died.
And when Sir Lancelot heard thereof, he put his knightly armour off,
bade farewell to all his kin, and went a mighty pilgrimage for many
and after lived a hermit till his death.
When Sir Modred came to Dover, he found King Arthur and his army but
landed; and there they fought a fierce and bloody battle, and many great
and noble knights fell on both sides.
But the king's side had the victory, for he was beyond himself with
and passion, and all his knights so fiercely followed him, that, in
of all their multitude, they drove Sir Modred's army back with fearful
wounds and slaughter, and slept that night upon the battle-field.
But Sir Gawain was smitten by an arrow in the wound Sir Lancelot gave
and wounded to the death. Then was he borne to the king's tent, and King
Arthur sorrowed over him as it had been his own son. "Alas!" said he;
Sir Lancelot and in you I had my greatest earthly joy, and now is all
And Sir Gawain answered, with a feeble voice, "My lord and king, I
well my death is come, and through my own wilfulness, for I am smitten
the wound Sir Lancelot gave me. Alas! that I have been the cause of all
this war, for but for me thou hadst been now at peace with Lancelot, and
then had Modred never done this treason. I pray ye, therefore, my dear
lord, be now agreed with Lancelot, and tell him, that although he gave
my death-wound, it was through my own seeking; wherefore I beseech him
come back to England, and here to visit my tomb, and pray for my soul."
When he had thus spoken, Sir Gawain gave up his ghost, and the king
grievously mourned for him.
Then they told him that the enemy had camped on Barham Downs,
with all his hosts, he straightway marched there, and fought again a
bloody battle, and overthrew Sir Modred utterly. Howbeit, he raised yet
another army, and retreating ever from before the king, increased his
numbers as he went, till at the farthest west in Lyonesse, he once more
made a stand.
Now, on the night of Trinity Sunday, being the eve of the battle,
Arthur had a vision, and saw Sir Gawain in a dream, who warned him not
fight with Modred on the morrow, else he would be surely slain; and
him to delay till Lancelot and his knights should come to aid him.
So when King Arthur woke he told his lords and knights that vision,
all agreed to wait the coming of Sir Lancelot. Then a herald was sent
a message of truce to Sir Modred, and a treaty was made that neither
should assail the other.
But when the treaty was agreed upon, and the heralds returned, King
said to his knights, "Beware, lest Sir Modred deceive us, for I in no
trust him, and if swords be drawn be ready to encounter!" And Sir Modred
likewise gave an order, that if any man of the king's army drew his
they should begin to fight.
And as it chanced, a knight of the king's side was bitten by an adder
the foot, and hastily drew forth his sword to slay it. That saw Sir
Modred, and forthwith commanded all his army to assail the king's.
So both sides rushed to battle, and fought passing fiercely. And when
king saw there was no hope to stay them, he did right mightily and nobly
as a king should do, and ever, like a lion, raged in the thickest of the
press, and slew on the right hand and on the left, till his horse went
fetlock deep in blood. So all day long they fought, and stinted not till
many a noble knight was slain.
But the king was passing sorrowful to see his trusty knights lie dead
every side. And at the last but two remained beside him, Sir Lucan, and
his brother, Sir Bedivere, and both were sorely wounded.
"Now am I come to mine end," said King Arthur; "but, lo! that traitor
Modred liveth yet, and I may not die till I have slain him. Now, give me
my spear, Sir Lucan."
"Lord, let him be," replied Sir Lucan; "for if ye pass through this
unhappy day, ye shall be right well revenged upon him. My good lord,
remember well your dream, and what the spirit of Sir Gawain did forewarn
"Betide me life, betide me death," said the king; "now I see him
alone, he shall never escape my hands, for at a better vantage shall I
never have him."
"God speed you well," said Sir Bedivere.
Then King Arthur got his spear in both his hands, and ran towards Sir
Modred, crying, "Traitor, now is thy death-day come!" And when Sir
heard his words, and saw him come, he drew his sword and stood to meet
him. Then King Arthur smote Sir Modred through the body more than a
fathom. And when Sir Modred felt he had his death wound, he thrust
with all his might up to the end of King Arthur's spear, and smote his
father, Arthur, with his sword upon the head, so that it pierced both
And therewith Sir Modred fell down stark dead to the earth, and King
Arthur fell down also in a swoon, and swooned many times.
Then Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere came and bare him away to a little
by the sea-shore. And there Sir Lucan sank down with the bleeding of his
own wounds, and fell dead.
And King Arthur lay long in a swoon, and when he came to himself, he
Sir Lucan lying dead beside him, and Sir Bedivere weeping over the body
Then said the king to Sir Bedivere, "Weeping will avail no longer,
would I grieve for evermore. Alas! now is the fellowship of the Round
Table dissolved for ever, and all my realm I have so loved is wasted
war. But my time hieth fast, wherefore take thou Excalibur, my good
and go therewith to yonder water-side and throw it in, and bring me word
what thing thou seest."
So Sir Bedivere departed; but as he went he looked upon the sword,
hilt whereof was all inlaid with precious stones exceeding rich. And
presently he said within himself, "If I now throw this sword into the
water, what good should come of it?" So he hid the sword among the
and came again to the king.
"What sawest thou?" said he to Sir Bedivere.
"Lord," said he, "I saw nothing else but wind and waves."
"Thou hast untruly spoken," said the king; "wherefore go lightly back
throw it in, and spare not."
Then Sir Bedivere returned again, and took the sword up in his hand;
when he looked on it, he thought it sin and shame to throw away a thing
noble. Wherefore he hid it yet again, and went back to the king.
"What saw ye?" said King Arthur.
"Lord," answered he, "I saw nothing but the water ebbing and
"Oh, traitor and untrue!" cried out the king; "twice hast thou now
betrayed me. Art thou called of men a noble knight, and wouldest betray
for a jewelled sword? Now, therefore, go again for the last time, for
tarrying hath put me in sore peril of my life, and I fear my wound hath
taken cold; and if thou do it not this time, by my faith I will arise
slay thee with my hands."
Then Sir Bedivere ran quickly and took up the sword, and went down to
water's edge, and bound the girdle round the hilt and threw it far into
the water. And lo! an arm and hand came forth above the water, and
the sword, and brandished it three times, and vanished.
So Sir Bedivere came again to the king and told him what he had seen.
"Help me from hence," said King Arthur; "for I dread me I have
Then Sir Bedivere took the king up in his arms, and bore him to the
water's edge. And by the shore they saw a barge with three fair queens
therein, all dressed in black, and when they saw King Arthur they wept
"Now put me in the barge," said he to Sir Bedivere, and tenderly he
Then the three queens received him, and he laid his head upon the lap
one of them, who cried, "Alas! dear brother, why have ye tarried so
for your wound hath taken cold?"
With that the barge put from the land, and when Sir Bedivere saw it
departing, he cried with a bitter cry, "Alas! my lord King Arthur, what
shall become of me now ye have gone from me?"
"Comfort ye," said King Arthur, "and be strong, for I may no more
I go to the Vale of Avilion to heal me of my grievous wound, and if ye
me no more, pray for my soul."
Then the three queens kneeled down around the king and sorely wept
wailed, and the barge went forth to sea, and departed slowly out of Sir