Bulfinch's Mythology
Thomas Bulfinch

Part 10 out of 19

the opposite effects of love and hatred. Boiardo thus describes
the fountain of hatred:

"Fair was that fountain, sculptured all of gold,
With alabaster sculptured, rich and rare;
And in its basin clear thou might'st behold
The flowery marge reflected fresh and fair.
Sage Merlin framed the font,--so legends bear,--
When on fair Isoude doated Tristram brave,
That the good errant knight, arriving there,
Might quaff oblivion in the enchanted wave,
And leave his luckless love, and 'scape his timeless grave.

'But ne'er the warrior's evil fate allowed
His steps that fountain's charmed verge to gain.
Though restless, roving on adventure proud,
He traversed oft the land and oft the main."



After this affair Tristram was banished from the kingdom, and
Isoude shut up in a tower, which stood on the bank of a river.
Tristram could not resolve to depart without some further
communication with his beloved; so he concealed himself in the
forest, till at last he contrived to attract her attention, by
means of twigs which he curiously peeled, and sent down the stream
under her window. By this means many secret interviews were
obtained. Tristram dwelt in the forest, sustaining himself by
game, which the dog Houdain ran down for him; for this faithful
animal was unequalled in the chase, and knew so well his master's
wish for concealment, that, in the pursuit of his game, he never
barked. At length Tristram departed, but left Houdain with Isoude,
as a remembrancer of him.

Sir Tristram wandered through various countries, achieving the
most perilous enterprises, and covering himself with glory, yet
unhappy at the separation from his beloved Isoude. At length King
Mark's territory was invaded by a neighboring chieftain, and he
was forced to summon his nephew to his aid. Tristram obeyed the
call, put himself at the head of his uncle's vassals, and drove
the enemy out of the country. Mark was full of gratitude, and
Tristram, restored to favor and to the society of his beloved
Isoude, seemed at the summit of happiness. But a sad reverse was
at hand.

Tristram had brought with him a friend named Pheredin, son of the
king of Brittany. This young knight saw Queen Isoude, and could
not resist her charms. Knowing the love of his friend for the
queen, and that that love was returned, Pheredin concealed his
own, until his health failed, and he feared he was drawing near
his end. He then wrote to the beautiful queen that he was dying
for love of her.

The gentle Isoude, in a moment of pity for the friend of Tristram,
returned him an answer so kind and compassionate that it restored
him to life. A few days afterwards Tristram found this letter. The
most terrible jealousy took possession of his soul; he would have
slain Pheredin, who with difficulty made his escape. Then Tristram
mounted his horse, and rode to the forest, where for ten days he
took no rest nor food. At length he was found by a damsel lying
almost dead by the brink of a fountain. She recognized him, and
tried in vain to rouse his attention. At last recollecting his
love for music she went and got her harp, and played thereon.
Tristram was roused from his reverie; tears flowed; he breathed
more freely; he took the harp from the maiden, and sung this lay,
with a voice broken with sobs:

"Sweet I sang in former days,
Kind love perfected my lays:
Now my art alone displays
The woe that on my being preys.

"Charming love, delicious power,
Worshipped from my earliest hour,
Thou who life on all dost shower,
Love! my life thou dost devour.

"In death's hour I beg of thee,
Isoude, dearest enemy,
Thou who erst couldst kinder be,
When I'm gone, forget not me.

"On my gravestone passers-by
Oft will read, as low I lie,
'Never wight in love could vie
With Tristram, yet she let him die.'"

Tristram, having finished his lay, wrote it off and gave it to the
damsel, conjuring her to present it to the queen.

Meanwhile Queen Isoude was inconsolable at the absence of
Tristram. She discovered that it was caused by the fatal letter
which she had written to Pheredin. Innocent, but in despair at the
sad effects of her letter, she wrote another to Pheredin, charging
him never to see her again. The unhappy lover obeyed this cruel
decree. He plunged into the forest, and died of grief and love in
a hermit's cell.

Isoude passed her days in lamenting the absence and unknown fate
of Tristram. One day her jealous husband, having entered her
chamber unperceived, overheard her singing the following lay:

"My voice to piteous wail is bent,
My harp to notes of languishment;
Ah, love! delightsome days be meant
For happier wights, with hearts content.

"Ah, Tristram' far away from me,
Art thou from restless anguish free?
Ah! couldst thou so one moment be,
From her who so much loveth thee?"

The king hearing these words burst forth in a rage; but Isoude was
too wretched to fear his violence. "You have heard me," she said;
"I confess it all. I love Tristram, and always shall love him.
Without doubt he is dead, and died for me. I no longer wish to
live. The blow that shall finish my misery will be most welcome."

The king was moved at the distress of the fair Isoude, and perhaps
the idea of Tristram's death tended to allay his wrath. He left
the queen in charge of her women, commanding them to take especial
care lest her despair should lead her to do harm to herself.

Tristram meanwhile, distracted as he was, rendered a most
important service to the shepherds by slaying a gigantic robber
named Taullas, who was in the habit of plundering their flocks and
rifling their cottages. The shepherds, in their gratitude to
Tristram, bore him in triumph to King Mark to have him bestow on
him a suitable reward. No wonder Mark failed to recognize in the
half-clad, wild man, before him his nephew Tristram; but grateful
for the service the unknown had rendered he ordered him to be well
taken care of, and gave him in charge to the queen and her women.
Under such care Tristram rapidly recovered his serenity and his
health, so that the romancer tells us he became handsomer than
ever. King Mark's jealousy revived with Tristram's health and good
looks, and, in spite of his debt of gratitude so lately increased,
he again banished him from the court.

Sir Tristram left Cornwall, and proceeded into the land of Loegria
(England) in quest of adventures. One day he entered a wide
forest. The sound of a little bell showed him that some inhabitant
was near. He followed the sound, and found a hermit, who informed
him that he was in the forest of Arnantes, belonging to the fairy
Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, who, smitten with love for King
Arthur, had found means to entice him to this forest, where by
enchantments she held him a prisoner, having deprived him of all
memory of who and what he was. The hermit informed him that all
the knights of the Round Table were out in search of the king, and
that he (Tristram) was now in the scene of the most grand and
important adventures.

This was enough to animate Tristram in the search. He had not
wandered far before he encountered a knight of Arthur's court, who
proved to be Sir Kay the Seneschal, who demanded of him whence he
came. Tristram answering, "From Cornwall," Sir Kay did not let
slip the opportunity of a joke at the expense of the Cornish
knight. Tristram chose to leave him in his error, and even
confirmed him in it; for meeting some other knights Tristram
declined to just with them. They spent the night together at an
abbey, where Tristram submitted patiently to all their jokes. The
Seneschal gave the word to his companions that they should set out
early next day, and intercept the Cornish knight on his way, and
enjoy the amusement of seeing his fright when they should insist
on running a tilt with him. Tristram next morning found himself
alone; he put on his armor, and set out to continue his quest. He
soon saw before him the Seneschal and the three knights, who
barred the way, and insisted on a just. Tristram excused himself a
long time; at last he reluctantly took his stand. He encountered
them, one after the other, and overthrew them all four, man and
horse, and then rode off, bidding them not to forget their friend
the knight of Cornwall.

Tristram had not ridden far when he met a damsel, who cried out,
"Ah, my lord! hasten forward, and prevent a horrid treason!"
Tristram flew to her assistance, and soon reached a spot where he
beheld a knight, whom three others had borne to the ground, and
were unlacing his helmet in order to cut off his head.

Tristram flew to the rescue, and slew with one stroke of his lance
one of the assailants. The knight, recovering his feet, sacrificed
another to his vengeance, and the third made his escape. The
rescued knight then raised the visor of his helmet, and a long
white beard fell down upon his breast. The majesty and venerable
air of this knight made Tristram suspect that it was none other
than Arthur himself, and the prince confirmed his conjecture.
Tristram would have knelt before him, but Arthur received him in
his arms, and inquired his name and country; but Tristram declined
to disclose them, on the plea that he was now on a quest requiring
secrecy. At this moment the damsel who had brought Tristram to the
rescue darted forward, and, seizing the king's hand, drew from his
finger a ring, the gift of the fairy, and by that act dissolved
the enchantment. Arthur, having recovered his reason and his
memory, offered to Tristram to attach him to his court, and to
confer honors and dignities upon him; but Tristram declined all,
and only consented to accompany him till he should see him safe in
the hands of his knights. Soon after, Hector de Marys rode up, and
saluted the king, who on his part introduced him to Tristram as
one of the bravest of his knights. Tristram took leave of the king
and his faithful follower, and continued his quest.

We cannot follow Tristram through all the adventures which filled
this epoch of his history. Suffice it to say, he fulfilled on all
occasions the duty of a true knight, rescuing the oppressed,
redressing wrongs, abolishing evil customs, and suppressing
injustice, thus by constant action endeavoring to lighten the
pains of absence from her he loved. In the meantime Isoude,
separated from her dear Tristram, passed her days in languor and
regret. At length she could no longer resist the desire to hear
some news of her lover. She wrote a letter, and sent it by one of
her damsels, niece of her faithful Brengwain. One day Tristram,
weary with his exertions, had dismounted and laid himself down by
the side of a fountain and fallen asleep. The damsel of Queen
Isoude arrived at the same fountain, and recognized Passebreul,
the horse of Tristram, and presently perceived his master asleep.
He was thin and pale, showing evident marks of the pain he
suffered in separation from his beloved. She awakened him, and
gave him the letter which she bore, and Tristram enjoyed the
pleasure, so sweet to a lover, of hearing from and talking about
the object of his affections. He prayed the damsel to postpone her
return till after the magnificent tournament which Arthur had
proclaimed should have taken place, and conducted her to the
castle of Persides, a brave and loyal knight, who received her
with great consideration.

Tristram conducted the damsel of Queen Isoude to the tournament,
and had her placed in the balcony among the ladies of the queen.

"He glanced and saw the stately galleries,
Dame, damsel, each through worship of their Queen
White-robed in honor of the stainless child,
And some with scatter'd jewels, like a bank
Of maiden snow mingled with sparks of fire.
He looked but once, and veiled his eyes again."

--The Last Tournament.

He then joined the tourney. Nothing could exceed his strength and
valor. Launcelot admired him, and by a secret presentiment
declined to dispute the honor of the day with a knight so gallant
and so skilful. Arthur descended from the balcony to greet the
conqueror; but the modest and devoted Tristram, content with
having borne off the prize in the sight of the messenger of
Isoude, made his escape with her, and disappeared.

The next day the tourney recommenced. Tristram assumed different
armor, that he might not be known; but he was soon detected by the
terrible blows that he gave, Arthur and Guenever had no doubt that
it was the same knight who had borne off the prize of the day
before. Arthur's gallant spirit was roused. After Launcelot of the
Lake and Sir Gawain he was accounted the best knight of the Round
Table. He went privately and armed himself, and came into the
tourney in undistinguished armor. He ran a just with Tristram,
whom he shook in his seat; but Tristram, who did not know him,
threw him out of the saddle. Arthur recovered himself, and content
with having made proof of the stranger knight bade Launcelot
finish the adventure, and vindicate the honor of the Round Table.
Sir Launcelot, at the bidding of the monarch, assailed Tristram,
whose lance was already broken in former encounters. But the law
of this sort of combat was that the knight after having broken his
lance must fight with his sword, and must not refuse to meet with
his shield the lance of his antagonist. Tristram met Launcelot's
charge upon his shield, which that terrible lance could not fail
to pierce. It inflicted a wound upon Tristram's side, and,
breaking, left the iron in the wound. But Tristram also with his
sword smote so vigorously on Launcelot's casque that he cleft it,
and wounded his head. The wound was not deep, but the blood flowed
into his eyes, and blinded him for a moment, and Tristram, who
thought himself mortally wounded, retired from the field.
Launcelot declared to the king that he had never received such a
blow in his life before.

Tristram hastened to Gouvernail, his squire, who drew forth the
iron, bound up the wound, and gave him immediate ease. Tristram
after the tournament kept retired in his tent, but Arthur, with
the consent of all the knights of the Round Table, decreed him the
honors of the second day. But it was no longer a secret that the
victor of the two days was the same individual, and Gouvernail,
being questioned, confirmed the suspicions of Launcelot and Arthur
that it was no other than Sir Tristram of Leonais, the nephew of
the king of Cornwall.

King Arthur, who desired to reward his distinguished valor, and
knew that his Uncle Mark had ungratefully banished him, would have
eagerly availed himself of the opportunity to attach Tristram to
his court,--all the knights of the Round Table declaring with
acclamation that it would be impossible to find a more worthy
companion. But Tristram had already departed in search of
adventures, and the damsel of Queen Isoude returned to her



Sir Tristram rode through a forest and saw ten men fighting, and
one man did battle against nine. So he rode to the knights and
cried to them, bidding them cease their battle, for they did
themselves great shame, so many knights to fight against one. Then
answered the master of the knights (his name was Sir Breuse sans
Pitie, who was at that time the most villanous knight living):
"Sir knight, what have ye to do to meddle with us? If ye be wise
depart on your way as you came, for this knight shall not escape
us." "That were pity," said Sir Tristram, "that so good a knight
should be slain so cowardly; therefore I warn you I will succor
him with all my puissance."

Then Sir Tristram alighted off his horse, because they were on
foot, that they should not slay his horse. And he smote on the
right hand and on the left so vigorously that well-nigh at every
stroke he struck down a knight. At last they fled, with Breuse
sans Pitie, into the tower, and shut Sir Tristram without the
gate. Then Sir Tristram returned back to the rescued knight, and
found him sitting under a tree, sore wounded. "Fair knight," said
he, "how is it with you?" "Sir knight," said Sir Palamedes, for he
it was, "I thank you of your great goodness, for ye have rescued
me from death." "What is your name?" said Sir Tristram. He said,
"My name is Sir Palamedes." "Say ye so?" said Sir Tristram; "now
know that thou art the man in the world that I most hate;
therefore make thee ready, for I will do battle with thee." "What
is your name?" said Sir Palamedes. "My name is Sir Tristram, your
mortal enemy." "It may be so," said Sir Palamedes; "but you have
done overmuch for me this day, that I should fight with you.
Moreover, it will be no honor for you to have to do with me, for
you are fresh and I am wounded. Therefore, if you will needs have
to do with me, assign me a day, and I shall meet you without
fail." "You say well, "said Sir Tristram; "now I assign you to
meet me in the meadow by the river of Camelot, where Merlin set
the monument." So they were agreed. Then they departed and took
their ways diverse. Sir Tristram passed through a great forest
into a plain, till he came to a priory, and there he reposed him
with a good man six days.

Then departed Sir Tristram, and rode straight into Camelot to the
monument of Merlin, and there he looked about him for Sir
Palamedes. And he perceived a seemly knight, who came riding
against him all in white, with a covered shield. When he came nigh
Sir Tristram said aloud, "Welcome, sir knight, and well and truly
have you kept your promise." Then they made ready their shields
and spears, and came together with all the might of their horses,
so fiercely, that both the horses and the knights fell to the
earth. And as soon as they might they quitted their horses, and
struck together with bright swords as men of might, and each
wounded the other wonderfully sore, so that the blood ran out upon
the grass. Thus they fought for the space of four hours and never
one would speak to the other one word. Then at last spake the
white knight, and said, "Sir, thou fightest wonderful well, as
ever I saw knight; therefore, if it please you, tell me your
name." "Why dost thou ask my name?" said Sir Tristram; "art thou
not Sir Palamedes?" "No, fair knight," said he, "I am Sir
Launcelot of the Lake." "Alas!" said Sir Tristram, "what have I
done? for you are the man of the world that I love best." "Fair
knight," said Sir Launcelot, "tell me your name." "Truly," said
he, "my name is Sir Tristram de Lionesse." "Alas! alas!" said Sir
Launcelot, "what adventure has befallen me!" And therewith Sir
Launcelot kneeled down and yielded him up his sword; and Sir
Tristram kneeled down and yielded him up his sword; and so either
gave other the degree. And then they both went to the stone, and
sat them down upon it and took off their helms and each kissed the
other a hundred times. And then anon they rode toward Camelot, and
on the way they met with Sir Gawain and Sir Gaheris, that had made
promise to Arthur never to come again to the court till they had
brought Sir Tristram with them.

"Return again," said Sir Launcelot, "for your quest is done; for I
have met with Sir Tristram. Lo, here he is in his own person."
Then was Sir Gawain glad, and said to Sir Tristram, "Ye are
welcome." With this came King Arthur, and when he wist there was
Sir Tristram, he ran unto him, and took him by the hand, and said,
"Sir Tristram, ye are as welcome as any knight that ever came to
this court." Then Sir Tristram told the king how he came thither
for to have had to do with Sir Palamedes, and how he had rescued
him from Sir Breuse sans Pitie and the nine knights. Then King
Arthur took Sir Tristram by the hand, and went to the Table Round,
and Queen Guenever came, and many ladies with her, and all the
ladies said with one voice, "Welcome, Sir Tristram." "Welcome,"
said the knights. "Welcome," said Arthur, "for one of the best of
knights, and the gentlest of the world, and the man of most
worship; for of all manner of hunting thou bearest the prize, and
of all measures of blowing thou art the beginning, and of all the
terms of hunting and hawking ye are the inventor, and of all
instruments of music ye are the best skilled; therefore, gentle
knight," said Arthur, "ye are welcome to this court." And then
King Arthur made Sir Tristram knight of the Table Round with great
nobley and feasting as can be thought.


Tristram is often alluded to by the Romancers as the great
authority and model in all matters relating to the chase. In the
"Faery Queene," Tristram, in answer to the inquiries of Sir
Calidore, informs him of his name and parentage, and concludes:

"All which my days I have not lewdly spent,
Nor spilt the blossom of my tender years
In idlesse; but, as was convenient,
Have trained been with many noble feres
In gentle thewes, and such like seemly leers;
'Mongst which my most delight hath always been
To hunt the salvage chace, amongst my peers,
Of all that rangeth in the forest green,
Of which none is to me unknown that yet was seen.

"Ne is there hawk which mantleth on her perch,
Whether high towering or accosting low,
But I the measure of her flight do search,
And all her prey, and all her diet know.
Such be our joys, which in these forests grow."

[Footnote: Feres, companions; thewes, labors; leers, learning.]



The famous enchanter, Merlin, had exerted all his skill in
fabricating the Round Table. Of the seats which surrounded it he
had constructed thirteen, in memory of the thirteen Apostles.
Twelve of these seats only could be occupied, and they only by
knights of the highest fame; the thirteenth represented the seat
of the traitor Judas. It remained always empty. It was called the
PERILOUS SEAT, ever since a rash and haughty Saracen knight had
dared to place himself in it, when the earth opened and swallowed
him up.

"In our great hall there stood a vacant chair,
Fashion'd by Merlin ere he past away,
And carven with strange figures; and in and out
The figures, like a serpent, ran a scroll
Of letters in a tongue no man could read
And Merlin call'd it 'The Siege perilous,'
Perilous for good and ill; 'for there,' he said,
'No man could sit but he should lose himself.'"

--The Holy Grail.

A magic power wrote upon each seat the name of the knight who was
entitled to sit in it. No one could succeed to a vacant seat
unless he surpassed in valor and glorious deeds the knight who had
occupied it before him; without this qualification he would be
violently repelled by a hidden force. Thus proof was made of all
those who presented themselves to replace any companions of the
order who had fallen.

One of the principal seats, that of Moraunt of Ireland, had been
vacant ten years, and his name still remained over it ever since
the time when that distinguished champion fell beneath the sword
of Sir Tristram. Arthur now took Tristram by the hand and led him
to that seat. Immediately the most melodious sounds were heard,
and exquisite perfumes filled the place; the name of Moraunt
disappeared, and that of Tristram blazed forth in light. The rare
modesty of Tristram had now to be subjected to a severe task; for
the clerks charged with the duty of preserving the annals of the
Round Table attended, and he was required by the law of his order
to declare what feats of arms he had accomplished to entitle him
to take that seat. This ceremony being ended, Tristram received
the congratulations of all his companions. Sir Launcelot and
Guenever took the occasion to speak to him of the fair Isoude, and
to express their wish that some happy chance might bring her to
the kingdom of Loegria.

While Tristram was thus honored and caressed at the court of King
Arthur, the most gloomy and malignant jealousy harassed the soul
of Mark. He could not look upon Isoude without remembering that
she loved Tristram, and the good fortune of his nephew goaded him
to thoughts of vengeance. He at last resolved to go disguised into
the kingdom of Loegria, attack Tristram by stealth, and put him to
death. He took with him two knights, brought up in his court, who
he thought were devoted to him; and, not willing to leave Isoude
behind, named two of her maidens to attend her, together with her
faithful Brengwain, and made them accompany him.

Having arrived in the neighborhood of Camelot, Mark imparted his
plan to his two knights, but they rejected it with horror; nay,
more, they declared that they would no longer remain in his
service; and left him, giving him reason to suppose that they
should repair to the court to accuse him before Arthur. It was
necessary for Mark to meet and rebut their accusation; so, leaving
Isoude in an abbey, he pursued his way alone to Camelot.

Mark had not ridden far when he encountered a party of knights of
Arthur's court, and would have avoided them, for he knew their
habit of challenging to a just every stranger knight whom they
met. But it was too late. They had seen his armor, and recognized
him as a Cornish knight, and at once resolved to have some sport
with him. It happened they had with them Daguenet, King Arthur's
fool, who, though deformed and weak of body, was not wanting in
courage. The knights as Mark approached laid their plan that
Daguenet should personate Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and challenge
the Cornish knight. They equipped him in armor belonging to one of
their number who was ill, and sent him forward to the cross-road
to defy the strange knight. Mark, who saw that his antagonist was
by no means formidable in appearance, was not disinclined to the
combat; but when the dwarf rode towards him, calling out that he
was Sir Launcelot of the Lake, his fears prevailed, he put spurs
to his horse, and rode away at full speed, pursued by the shouts
and laughter of the party.

Meanwhile Isoude, remaining at the abbey with her faithful
Brengwain, found her only amusement in walking occasionally in a
forest adjoining the abbey. There, on the brink of a fountain
girdled with trees, she thought of her love, and sometimes joined
her voice and her harp in lays reviving the memory of its pains or
pleasures. One day the caitiff knight, Breuse the Pitiless, heard
her voice, concealed himself, and drew near. She sang:

"Sweet silence, shadowy bower, and verdant lair,
Ye court my troubled spirit to repose,
Whilst I, such dear remembrance rises there,
Awaken every echo with my woes

"Within these woods, by nature's hand arrayed,
A fountain springs, and feeds a thousand flowers;
Ah! how my groans do all its murmurs aid!
How my sad eyes do swell it with their showers!

"What doth my knight the while? to him is given
A double meed; in love and arms' emprise,
Him the Round Table elevates to heaven!
Tristram! ah me! he hears not Isoude's cries."

Breuse the Pitiless, who like most other caitiffs had felt the
weight of Tristram's arm, and hated him accordingly, at hearing
his name breathed forth by the beautiful songstress, impelled by a
double impulse, rushed forth from his concealment and laid hands
on his victim. Isoude fainted, and Brengwain filled the air with
her shrieks. Breuse carried Isoude to the place where he had left
his horse; but the animal had got away from his bridle, and was at
some distance. He was obliged to lay down his fair burden, and go
in pursuit of his horse. Just then a knight came up, drawn by the
cries of Brengwain, and demanded the cause of her distress. She
could not speak, but pointed to her mistress lying insensible on
the ground.

Breuse had by this time returned, and the cries of Brengwain,
renewed at seeing him, sufficiently showed the stranger the cause
of the distress. Tristram spurred his horse towards Breuse, who,
not unprepared, ran to the encounter. Breuse was unhorsed, and lay
motionless, pretending to be dead; but when the stranger knight
left him to attend to the distressed damsels, he mounted his
horse, and made his escape.

The knight now approached Isoude, gently raised her head, drew
aside the golden hair which covered her countenance, gazed thereon
for an instant, uttered a cry, and fell back insensible. Brengwain
came; her cares soon restored her mistress to life, and they then
turned their attention to the fallen warrior. They raised his
visor, and discovered the countenance of Sir Tristram. Isoude
threw herself on the body of her lover, and bedewed his face with
her tears. Their warmth revived the knight, and Tristram on
awaking found himself in the arms of his dear Isoude.

It was the law of the Round Table that each knight after his
admission should pass the next ten days in quest of adventures,
during which time his companions might meet him in disguised armor
and try their strength with him. Tristram had now been out seven
days, and in that time had encountered many of the best knights of
the Round Table, and acquitted himself with honor. During the
remaining three days, Isoude remained at the abbey, under his
protection, and then set out with her maidens, escorted by Sir
Tristram, to rejoin King Mark at the court of Camelot.

This happy journey was one of the brightest epochs in the lives of
Tristram and Isoude. He celebrated it by a lay upon the harp in a
peculiar measure, to which the French give the name of Triolet.

"With fair Isoude, and with love,
Ah! how sweet the life I lead!
How blest for ever thus to rove,
With fair Isoude, and with love!
As she wills, I live and move,
And cloudless days to days succeed:
With fair Isoude, and with love,
Ah! how sweet the life I lead!

"Journeying on from break of day,
Feel you not fatigued, my fair?
Yon green turf invites to play;
Journeying on from day to day,
Ah! let us to that shade away,
Were it but to slumber there!
Journeying on from break of day,
Feel you not fatigued, my fair?"

They arrived at Camelot, where Sir Launcelot received them most
cordially. Isoude was introduced to King Arthur and Queen
Guenever, who welcomed her as a sister. As King Mark was held in
arrest under the accusation of the two Cornish knights, Queen
Isoude could not rejoin her husband, and Sir Launcelot placed his
castle of La Joyeuse Garde at the disposal of his friends, who
there took up their abode.

King Mark, who found himself obliged to confess the truth of the
charge against him, or to clear himself by combat with his
accusers, preferred the former, and King Arthur, as his crime had
not been perpetrated, remitted the penalty, only enjoining upon
him, under pain of his signal displeasure, to lay aside all
thoughts of vengeance against his nephew. In the presence of the
king and his court all parties were formally reconciled; Mark and
his queen departed for their home, and Tristram remained at
Arthur's court.



While Sir Tristram and the fair Isoude abode yet at La Joyeuse
Garde, Sir Tristram rode forth one day, without armor, having no
weapon but his spear and his sword. And as he rode he came to a
place where he saw two knights in battle, and one of them had
gotten the better and the other lay overthrown. The knight who had
the better was Sir Palamedes. When Sir Palamedes knew Sir
Tristram, he cried out, "Sir Tristram, now we be met, and ere we
depart we will redress our old wrongs." "As for that," said Sir
Tristram, "there never yet was Christian man that might make his
boast that I ever fled from him, and thou that art a Saracen shalt
never say that of me." And therewith Sir Tristram made his horse
to run, and with all his might came straight upon Sir Palamedes,
and broke his spear upon him. Then he drew his sword and struck at
Sir Palamedes six great strokes, upon his helm. Sir Palamedes saw
that Sir Tristram had not his armor on, and he marvelled at his
rashness and his great folly; and said to himself, "If I meet and
slay him, I am shamed wheresoever I go." Then Sir Tristram cried
out and said, "Thou coward knight, why wilt thou not do battle
with me? for have thou no doubt I shall endure all thy malice."
"Ah, Sir Tristram!" said Sir Palamedes, "thou knowest I may not
fight with thee for shame; for thou art here naked, and I am
armed; now I require that thou answer me a question that I shall
ask you." "Tell me what it is," said Sir Tristram. "I put the
case," said Palamedes, "that you were well armed, and I naked as
ye be; what would you do to me now, by your true knighthood?"
"Ah!" said Sir Tristram, "now I understand thee well, Sir
Palamedes; and, as God bless me, what I shall say shall not be
said for fear that I have of thee. But if it were so, thou
shouldest depart from me, for I would not have to do with thee."
"No more will I with thee," said Sir Palamedes, "and therefore
ride forth on thy way." "As for that, I may choose," said Sir
Tristram, "either to ride or to abide. But, Sir Palamedes, I
marvel at one thing,--that thou art so good a knight, yet that
thou wilt not be christened." "As for that," said Sir Palamedes,
"I may not yet be christened, for a vow which I made many years
ago; yet in my heart I believe in our Saviour and his mild mother,
Mary; but I have yet one battle to do, and when that is done I
will be christened, with a good will." "By my head," said Sir
Tristram, "as for that one battle, thou shalt seek it no longer;
for yonder is a knight, whom you have smitten down. Now help me to
be clothed in his armor, and I will soon fulfil thy vow." "As ye
will," said Sir Palamedes, "so shall it be." So they rode both
unto that knight that sat on a bank; and Sir Tristram saluted him,
and he full weary saluted him again. "Sir," said Sir Tristram, "I
pray you to lend me your whole armor; for I am unarmed, and I must
do battle with this knight." "Sir," said the hurt knight, "you
shall have it, with a right good will," Then Sir Tristram unarmed
Sir Galleron, for that was the name of the hurt knight, and he as
well as he could helped to arm Sir Tristram. Then Sir Tristram
mounted upon his own horse, and in his hand he took Sir Galleron's
spear. Thereupon Sir Palamedes was ready, and so they came hurling
together, and each smote the other in the midst of their shields.
Sir Palamedes' spear broke, and Sir Tristram smote down the horse.
Then Sir Palamedes leapt from his horse, and drew out his sword.
That saw Sir Tristram, and therewith he alighted and tied his
horse to a tree. Then they came together as two wild beasts,
lashing the one on the other, and so fought more than two hours;
and often Sir Tristram smote such strokes at Sir Palamedes that he
made him to kneel, and Sir Palamedes broke away Sir Tristram's
shield, and wounded him. Then Sir Tristram was wroth out of
measure, and he rushed to Sir Palamedes and wounded him passing
sore through the shoulder, and by fortune smote Sir Palamedes'
sword out of his hand And if Sir Palamedes had stooped for his
sword Sir Tristram had slain him. Then Sir Palamedes stood and
beheld his sword with a full sorrowful heart. "Now," said Sir
Tristram, "I have thee at a vantage, as thou hadst me to-day; but
it shall never be said, in court, or among good knights, that Sir
Tristram did slay any knight that was weaponless; therefore take
thou thy sword, and let us fight this battle to the end." Then
spoke Sir Palamedes to Sir Tristram: "I have no wish to fight this
battle any more. The offence that I have done unto you is not so
great but that, if it please you, we may be friends. All that I
have offended is for the love of the queen, La Belle Isoude, and I
dare maintain that she is peerless among ladies; and for that
offence ye have given me many grievous and sad strokes, and some I
have given you again. Wherefore I require you, my lord Sir
Tristram, forgive me all that I have offended you, and this day
have me unto the next church; and first I will be clean confessed,
and after that see you that I be truly baptized, and then we will
ride together unto the court of my lord, King Arthur, so that we
may be there at the feast of Pentecost." "Now take your horse,"
said Sir Tristram, "and as you have said, so shall it be done." So
they took their horses, and Sir Galleron rode with them. When they
came to the church of Carlisle, the bishop commanded to fill a
great vessel with water; and when he had hallowed it, he then
confessed Sir Palamedes clean, and christened him, and Sir
Tristram and Sir Galleron were his godfathers. Then soon after
they departed, and rode towards Camelot, where the noble King
Arthur and Queen Guenever were keeping a court royal. And the king
and all the court were glad that Sir Palamedes was christened.
Then Sir Tristram returned again to La Joyeuse Garde, and Sir
Palamedes went his way.

Not long after these events Sir Gawain returned from Brittany, and
related to King Arthur the adventure which befell him in the
forest of Breciliande, how Merlin had there spoken to him, and
enjoined him to charge the king to go without delay upon the quest
of the Holy Greal. While King Arthur deliberated Tristram
determined to enter upon the quest, and the more readily, as it
was well known to him that this holy adventure would, if achieved,
procure him the pardon of all his sins. He immediately departed
for the kingdom of Brittany, hoping there to obtain from Merlin
counsel as to the proper course to pursue to insure success.



On arriving in Brittany Tristram found King Hoel engaged in a war
with a rebellious vassal, and hard pressed by his enemy. His best
knights had fallen in a late battle, and he knew not where to turn
for assistance. Tristram volunteered his aid. It was accepted; and
the army of Hoel, led by Tristram, and inspired by his example,
gained a complete victory. The king, penetrated by the most lively
sentiments of gratitude, and having informed himself of Tristram's
birth, offered him his daughter in marriage. The princess was
beautiful and accomplished, and bore the same name with the Queen
of Cornwall; but this one is designated by the Romancers as Isoude
of the White Hands, to distinguish her from Isoude the Fair.

How can we describe the conflict that agitated the heart of
Tristram? He adored the first Isoude, but his love for her was
hopeless, and not unaccompanied by remorse. Moreover, the sacred
quest on which he had now entered demanded of him perfect purity
of life. It seemed as if a happy destiny had provided for him in
the charming princess Isoude of the White Hands the best security
for all his good resolutions. This last reflection determined him.
They were married, and passed some months in tranquil happiness at
the court of King Hoel. The pleasure which Tristram felt in his
wife's society increased day by day. An inward grace seemed to
stir within him from the moment when he took the oath to go on the
quest of the Holy Greal; it seemed even to triumph over the power
of the magic love-potion.

The war, which had been quelled for a time, now burst out anew.
Tristram as usual was foremost in every danger. The enemy was
worsted in successive conflicts, and at last shut himself up in
his principal city. Tristram led on the attack of the city. As he
mounted a ladder to scale the walls he was struck on the head by a
fragment of rock, which the besieged threw down upon him. It bore
him to the ground, where he lay insensible.

As soon as he recovered consciousness he demanded to be carried to
his wife. The princess, skilled in the art of surgery, would not
suffer any one but herself to touch her beloved husband. Her fair
hands bound up his wounds; Tristram kissed them with gratitude,
which began to grow into love. At first the devoted cares of
Isoude seemed to meet with great success; but after a while these
flattering appearances vanished, and, in spite of all her care,
the malady grew more serious day by day.

In this perplexity, an old squire of Tristram's reminded his
master that the princess of Ireland, afterwards queen of Cornwall,
had once cured him under circumstances quite as discouraging. He
called Isoude of the White Hands to him, told her of his former
cure, added that he believed that the Queen Isoude could heal him,
and that he felt sure that she would come to his relief, if sent

Isoude of the White Hands consented that Gesnes, a trusty man and
skilful navigator, should be sent to Cornwall. Tristram called
him, and, giving him a ring, "Take this," he said, "to the Queen
of Cornwall. Tell her that Tristram, near to death, demands her
aid. If you succeed in bringing her with you, place white sails to
your vessel on your return, that we may know of your success when
the vessel first heaves in sight. But if Queen Isoude refuses, put
on black sails; they will be the presage of my impending death."

Gesnes performed his mission successfully. King Mark happened to
be absent from his capital, and the queen readily consented to
return with the bark to Brittany. Gesnes clothed his vessel in the
whitest of sails, and sped his way back to Brittany.

Meantime the wound of Tristram grew more desperate day by day. His
strength, quite prostrated, no longer permitted him to be carried
to the seaside daily, as had been his custom from the first moment
when it was possible for the bark to be on the way homeward. He
called a young damsel, and gave her in charge to keep watch in the
direction of Cornwall, and to come and tell him the color of the
sails of the first vessel she should see approaching.

When Isoude of the White Hands consented that the queen of
Cornwall should be sent for, she had not known all the reasons
which she had for fearing the influence which renewed intercourse
with that princess might have on her own happiness. She had now
learned more, and felt the danger more keenly. She thought, if she
could only keep the knowledge of the queen's arrival from her
husband, she might employ in his service any resources which her
skill could supply, and still avert the dangers which she
apprehended. When the vessel was seen approaching, with its white
sails sparkling in the sun, the damsel, by command of her
mistress, carried word to Tristram that the sails were black.

Tristram, penetrated with inexpressible grief, breathed a profound
sigh, turned away his face, and said, "Alas, my beloved! we shall
never see one another again!" Then he commended himself to God,
and breathed his last.

The death of Tristram was the first intelligence which the queen
of Cornwall heard on landing. She was conducted almost senseless
into the chamber of Tristram, and expired holding him in her arms.

Tristram, before his death, had requested that his body should be
sent to Cornwall, and that his sword, with a letter he had
written, should be delivered to King Mark. The remains of Tristram
and Isoude were embarked in a vessel, along with the sword, which
was presented to the king of Cornwall. He was melted with
tenderness when he saw the weapon which slew Moraunt of Ireland,--
which had so often saved his life, and redeemed the honor of his
kingdom. In the letter Tristram begged pardon of his uncle, and
related the story of the amorous draught.

Mark ordered the lovers to be buried in his own chapel. From the
tomb of Tristram there sprung a vine, which went along the walls,
and descended into the grave of the queen. It was cut down three
times, but each time sprung up again more vigorous than before,
and this wonderful plant has ever since shaded the tombs of
Tristram and Isoude.

Spenser introduces Sir Tristram in his "Faery Queene." In Book
VI., Canto ii., Sir Calidore encounters in the forest a young
hunter, whom he thus describes:

"Him steadfastly he marked, and saw to be
A goodly youth of amiable grace,
Yet but a slender slip, that scarce did see
Yet seventeen yeares; but tall and faire of face,
That sure he deemed him borne of noble race.
All in a woodman's jacket he was clad
Of Lincoln greene, belayed with silver lace;
And on his head an hood with aglets sprad,
And by his side his hunter's horne he hanging had.

[Footnote: Aglets, points or tags]

"Buskins he wore of costliest cordawayne,
Pinckt upon gold, and paled part per part,
As then the guize was for each gentle swayne.
In his right hand he held a trembling dart,
Whose fellow he before had sent apart;
And in his left he held a sharp bore-speare,
With which he wont to launch the salvage heart
Of many a lyon, and of many a beare,
That first unto his hand in chase did happen neare."

[Footnote: PINCKT UPON GOLD, ETC., adorned with golden points, or
eyelets, and regularly intersected with stripes. PALED (in
heraldry), striped]



The father and two elder brothers of Perceval had fallen in battle
or tournaments, and hence, as the last hope of his family, his
mother retired with him into a solitary region, where he was
brought up in total ignorance of arms and chivalry. He was allowed
no weapon but "a lyttel Scots spere," which was the only thing of
all "her lordes faire gere" that his mother carried to the wood
with her. In the use of this he became so skilful, that he could
kill with it not only the animals of the chase for the table, but
even birds on the wing. At length, however, Perceval was roused to
a desire of military renown by seeing in the forest five knights
who were in complete armor. He said to his mother, "Mother, what
are those yonder?" "They are angels, my son," said she. "By my
faith, I will go and become an angel with them." And Perceval went
to the road and met them. "Tell me, good lad," said one of them,
"sawest thou a knight pass this way either today or yesterday?" "I
know not," said he, "what a knight is." "Such an one as I am,"
said the knight. "If thou wilt tell me what I ask thee, I will
tell thee what thou askest me." "Gladly will I do so," said Sir
Owain, for that was the knight's name. "What is this?" demanded
Perceval, touching the saddle. "It is a saddle," said Owain. Then
he asked about all the accoutrements which he saw upon the men and
the horses, and about the arms, and what they were for, and how
they were used. And Sir Owain showed him all those things fully.
And Perceval in return gave him such information as he had

Then Perceval returned to his mother, and said to her, "Mother,
those were not angels, but honorable knights." Then his mother
swooned away. And Perceval went to the place where they kept the
horses that carried firewood and provisions for the castle, and he
took a bony, piebald horse, which seemed to him the strongest of
them. And he pressed a pack into the form of a saddle, and with
twisted twigs he imitated the trappings which he had seen upon the
horses. When he came again to his mother, the countess had
recovered from her swoon. "My son," said she, "desirest thou to
ride forth?" "Yes, with thy leave," said he. "Go forward, then,"
she said, "to the court of Arthur, where there are the best and
the noblest and the most bountiful of men, and tell him thou art
Perceval, the son of Pelenore, and ask of him to bestow knighthood
on thee. And whenever thou seest a church, repeat there thy pater-
noster; and if thou see meat and drink, and hast need of them,
thou mayest take them. If thou hear an outcry of one in distress,
proceed toward it, especially if it be the cry of a woman, and
render her what service thou canst. If thou see a fair jewel, win
it, for thus shalt thou acquire fame; yet freely give it to
another, for thus thou shalt obtain praise. If thou see a fair
woman, pay court to her, for thus thou wilt obtain love."

After this discourse Perceval mounted the horse and taking a
number of sharp-pointed sticks in his hand he rode forth. And he
rode far in the woody wilderness without food or drink. At last he
came to an opening in the wood where he saw a tent, and as he
thought it might be a church he said his pater-noster to it. And
he went towards it; and the door of the tent was open. And
Perceval dismounted and entered the tent. In the tent he found a
maiden sitting, with a golden frontlet on her forehead and a gold
ring on her hand. And Perceval said, "Maiden, I salute you, for my
mother told me whenever I met a lady I must respectfully salute
her." Perceiving in one corner of the tent some food, two flasks
full of wine, and some boar's flesh roasted, he said, "My mother
told me, whenever I saw meat and drink to take it." And he ate
greedily, for he was very hungry. The maiden said, "Sir, thou
hadst best go quickly from here, for fear that my friends should
come, and evil should befall you." But Perceval said, "My mother
told me wheresoever I saw a fair jewel to take it," and he took
the gold ring from her finger, and put it on his own; and he gave
the maiden his own ring in exchange for hers; then he mounted his
horse and rode away.

Perceval journeyed on till he arrived at Arthur's court. And it so
happened that just at that time an uncourteous knight had offered
Queen Guenever a gross insult. For when her page was serving the
queen with a golden goblet, this knight struck the arm of the page
and dashed the wine in the queen's face and over her stomacher.
Then he said, "If any have boldness to avenge this insult to
Guenever, let him follow me to the meadow." So the knight took his
horse and rode to the meadow, carrying away the golden goblet. And
all the household hung down their heads and no one offered to
follow the knight to take vengeance upon him. For it seemed to
them that no one would have ventured on so daring an outrage
unless he possessed such powers, through magic or charms, that
none could be able to punish him. Just then, behold, Perceval
entered the hall upon the bony, piebald horse, with his uncouth
trappings. In the centre of the hall stood Kay the Seneschal.
"Tell me, tall man," said Perceval, "is that Arthur yonder?" "What
wouldst thou with Arthur?" asked Kay. "My mother told me to go to
Arthur and receive knighthood from him." "By my faith," said he,
"thou art all too meanly equipped with horse and with arms." Then
all the household began to jeer and laugh at him. But there was a
certain damsel who had been a whole year at Arthur's court, and
had never been known to smile. And the king's fool [Footnote: A
fool was a common appendage of the courts of those days when this
romance was written. A fool was the ornament held in next
estimation to a dwarf. He wore a white dress with a yellow bonnet,
and carried a bell or bawble in his hand. Though called a fool,
his words were often weighed and remembered as if there were a
sort of oracular meaning in them.] had said that this damsel would
not smile till she had seen him who would be the flower of
chivalry. Now this damsel came up to Perceval and told him,
smiling, that if he lived he would be one of the bravest and best
of knights. "Truly," said Kay, "thou art ill taught to remain a
year at Arthur's court, with choice of society, and smile on no
one, and now before the face of Arthur and all his knights to call
such a man as this the flower of knighthood;" and he gave her a
box on the ear, that she fell senseless to the ground. Then said
Kay to Perceval, "Go after the knight who went hence to the
meadow, overthrow him and recover the golden goblet, and possess
thyself of his horse and arms, and thou shalt have knighthood." "I
will do so, tall man," said Perceval. So he turned his horse's
head toward the meadow. And when he came there, the knight was
riding up and down, proud of his strength and valor and noble
mien. "Tell me," said the knight, "didst thou see any one coming
after me from the court?" "The tall man that was there," said
Perceval, "told me to come and overthrow thee, and to take from
thee the goblet and thy horse and armor for myself." "Silence!"
said the knight; "go back to the court, and tell Arthur either to
come himself, or to send some other to fight with me; and unless
he do so quickly, I will not wait for him." "By my faith," said
Perceval, "choose thou whether it shall be willingly or
unwillingly, for I will have the horse and the arms and the
goblet." Upon this the knight ran at him furiously, and struck him
a violent blow with the shaft of his spear, between the neck and
the shoulder. "Ha, ha, lad!" said Perceval, "my mother's servants
were not used to play with me in this wise; so thus will I play
with thee." And he threw at him one of his sharp-pointed sticks,
and it struck him in the eye, and came out at the back of his
head, so that he fell down lifeless.

"Verily," said Sir Owain, the son of Urien, to Kay the Seneschal,
"thou wast ill-advised to send that madman after the knight, for
he must either be overthrown or flee, and either way it will be a
disgrace to Arthur and his warriors; therefore will I go to see
what has befallen him." So Sir Owain went to the meadow, and he
found Perceval trying in vain to get the dead knight's armor off,
in order to clothe himself with it. Sir Owain unfastened the
armor, and helped Perceval to put it on, and taught him how to put
his foot in the stirrup, and use the spur; for Perceval had never
used stirrup nor spur, but rode without saddle, and urged on his
horse with a stick. Then Owain would have had him return to the
court to receive the praise that was his due; but Perceval said,
"I will not come to the court till I have encountered the tall man
that is there, to revenge the injury he did to the maiden. But
take thou the goblet to Queen Guenever, and tell King Arthur that,
wherever I am, I will be his vassal, and will do him what profit
and service I can." And Sir Owain went back to the court, and
related all these things to Arthur and Guenever, and to all the

And Perceval rode forward. And he came to a lake on the side of
which was a fair castle, and on the border of the lake he saw a
hoary-headed man sitting upon a velvet cushion, and his attendants
were fishing in the lake. When the hoary-headed man beheld
Perceval approaching, he arose and went into the castle. Perceval
rode to the castle, and the door was open, and he entered the
hall. And the hoary-headed man received Perceval courteously, and
asked him to sit by him on the cushion. When it was time the
tables were set, and they went to meat. And when they had finished
their meat the hoary-headed man asked Perceval if he knew how to
fight with the sword "I know not," said Perceval, "but were I to
be taught, doubtless I should." And the hoary-headed man said to
him, "I am thy uncle, thy mother's brother; I am called King
Pecheur.[Footnote: The word means both FISHER and SINNER.] Thou
shalt remain with me a space, in order to learn the manners and
customs of different countries, and courtesy and noble bearing.
And this do thou remember, if thou seest aught to cause thy
wonder, ask not the meaning of it; if no one has the courtesy to
inform thee, the reproach will not fall upon thee, but upon me
that am thy teacher." While Perceval and his uncle discoursed
together, Perceval beheld two youths enter the hall bearing a
golden cup and a spear of mighty size, with blood dropping from
its point to the ground. And when all the company saw this they
began to weep and lament. But for all that, the man did not break
off his discourse with Perceval. And as he did not tell him the
meaning of what he saw, he forebore to ask him concerning it. Now
the cup that Perceval saw was the Sangreal, and the spear the
sacred spear; and afterwards King Pecheur removed with those
sacred relics into a far country.

One evening Perceval entered a valley, and came to a hermit's
cell; and the hermit welcomed him gladly, and there he spent the
night. And in the morning he arose, and when he went forth,
behold! a shower of snow had fallen in the night, and a hawk had
killed a wild-fowl in front of the cell. And the noise of the
horse had scared the hawk away, and a raven alighted on the bird.
And Perceval stood and compared the blackness of the raven and the
whiteness of the snow and the redness of the blood to the hair of
the lady that best he loved, which was blacker than jet, and to
her skin, which was whiter than the snow, and to the two red spots
upon her cheeks, which were redder than the blood upon the snow.

Now Arthur and his household were in search of Perceval, and by
chance they came that way. "Know ye," said Arthur, "who is the
knight with the long spear that stands by the brook up yonder?"
"Lord," said one of them, "I will go and learn who he is." So the
youth came to the place where Perceval was, and asked him what he
did thus, and who he was. But Perceval was so intent upon his
thought that he gave him no answer. Then the youth thrust at
Perceval with his lance; and Perceval turned upon him, and struck
him to the ground. And when the youth returned to the king, and
told how rudely he had been treated, Sir Kay said, "I will go
myself." And when he greeted Perceval, and got no answer, he spoke
to him rudely and angrily. And Perceval thrust at him with his
lance, and cast him down so that he broke his arm and his
shoulder-blade. And while he lay thus stunned his horse returned
back at a wild and prancing pace.

Then said Sir Gawain, surnamed the Golden-Tongued, because he was
the most courteous knight in Arthur's court: "It is not fitting
that any should disturb an honorable knight from his thought
unadvisedly; for either he is pondering some damage that he has
sustained, or he is thinking of the lady whom best he loves. If it
seem well to thee, lord, I will go and see if this knight has
changed from his thought, and if he has, I will ask him
courteously to come and visit thee."

And Perceval was resting on the shaft of his spear, pondering the
same thought, and Sir Gawain came to him, and said: "If I thought
it would be as agreeable to thee as it would be to me, I would
converse with thee. I have also a message from Arthur unto thee,
to pray thee to come and visit him. And two men have been before
on this errand." "That is true," said Perceval; "and uncourteously
they came. They attacked me, and I was annoyed thereat" Then he
told him the thought that occupied his mind, and Gawain said,
"This was not an ungentle thought, and I should marvel if it were
pleasant for thee to be drawn from it." Then said Perceval, "Tell
me, is Sir Kay in Arthur's court?" "He is," said Gawain; "and
truly he is the knight who fought with thee last." "Verily," said
Perceval, "I am not sorry to have thus avenged the insult to the
smiling maiden. "Then Perceval told him his name, and said, "Who
art thou?" And he replied, "I am Gawain." "I am right glad to meet
thee," said Perceval, "for I have everywhere heard of thy prowess
and uprightness; and I solicit thy fellowship." "Thou shalt have
it, by my faith; and grant me thine," said he. "Gladly will I do
so," answered Perceval.

So they went together to Arthur, and saluted him.

"Behold, lord," said Gawain, "him whom thou hast sought so long."
"Welcome unto thee, chieftain," said Arthur. And hereupon there
came the queen and her handmaidens, and Perceval saluted them. And
they were rejoiced to see him, and bade him welcome. And Arthur
did him great honor and respect and they returned towards



The Sangreal was the cup from which our Saviour drank at his last
supper. He was supposed to have given it to Joseph of Arimathea,
who carried it to Europe, together with the spear with which the
soldier pierced the Saviour's side. From generation to generation,
one of the descendants of Joseph of Arimathea had been devoted to
the guardianship of these precious relics; but on the sole
condition of leading a life of purity in thought, word, and deed.
For a long time the Sangreal was visible to all pilgrims, and its
presence conferred blessings upon the land in which it was
preserved. But at length one of those holy men to whom its
guardianship had descended so far forgot the obligation of his
sacred office as to look with unhallowed eye upon a young female
pilgrim whose robe was accidentally loosened as she knelt before
him. The sacred lance instantly punished his frailty,
spontaneously falling upon him, and inflicting a deep wound. The
marvellous wound could by no means be healed, and the guardian of
the Sangreal was ever after called "Le Roi Pescheur,"--The Sinner
King. The Sangreal withdrew its visible presence from the crowds
who came to worship, and an iron age succeeded to the happiness
which its presence had diffused among the tribes of Britain.

"But then the times
Grew to such evil that the Holy cup
Was caught away to heaven and disappear'd."
--The Holy Grail.

We have told in the history of Merlin how that great prophet and
enchanter sent a message to King Arthur by Sir Gawain, directing
him to undertake the recovery of the Sangreal, informing him at
the same time that the knight who should accomplish that sacred
quest was already born, and of a suitable age to enter upon it.
Sir Gawain delivered his message, and the king was anxiously
revolving in his mind how best to achieve the enterprise, when, at
the vigil of Pentecost, all the fellowship of the Round Table
being met together at Camelot, as they sat at meat, suddenly there
was heard a clap of thunder, and then a bright light burst forth,
and every knight, as he looked on his fellow, saw him, in seeming,
fairer than ever before. All the hall was filled with sweet odors,
and every knight had such meat and drink as he best loved. Then
there entered into the hall the Holy Graal, covered with white
samite, so that none could see it, and it passed through the hall
suddenly, and disappeared. During this time no one spoke a word,
but when they had recovered breath to speak King Arthur said,
"Certainly we ought greatly to thank the Lord for what he hath
showed us this day." Then Sir Gawain rose up, and made a vow that
for twelve months and a day he would seek the Sangreal, and not
return till he had seen it, if so he might speed. When they of the
Round Table heard Sir Gawain say so, they arose, the most part of
them, and vowed the same. When King Arthur heard this, he was
greatly displeased, for he knew well that they might not gainsay
their vows. "Alas!" said he to Sir Gawain, "you have nigh slain me
with the vow and promise that ye have made, for ye have bereft me
of the fairest fellowship that ever were seen together in any
realm of the world; for when they shall depart hence, I am sure
that all shall never meet more in this world."


At that time there entered the hall a good old man, and with him
he brought a young knight, and these words he said: "Peace be with
you, fair lords." Then the old man said unto King Arthur, "Sir, I
bring you here a young knight that is of kings' lineage, and of
the kindred of Joseph of Arimathea, being the son of Dame Elaine,
the daughter of King Pelles, king of the foreign country." Now the
name of the young knight was Sir Galahad, and he was the son of
Sir Launcelot du Lac; but he had dwelt with his mother, at the
court of King Pelles, his grandfather, till now he was old enough
to bear arms, and his mother had sent him in the charge of a holy
hermit to King Arthur's court. Then Sir Launcelot beheld his son,
and had great joy of him. And Sir Bohort told his fellows, "Upon
my life, this young knight shall come to great worship." The noise
was great in all the court, so that it came to the queen. And she
said, "I would fain see him, for he must needs be a noble knight,
for so is his father." And the queen and her ladies all said that
he resembled much unto his father; and he was seemly and demure as
a dove, with all manner of good features, that in the whole world
men might not find his match. And King Arthur said, "God make him
a good man, for beauty faileth him not, as any that liveth."

Then the hermit led the young knight to the Siege Perilous; and he
lifted up the cloth, and found there letters that said, "This is
the seat of Sir Galahad, the good knight;" and he made him sit in
that seat. And all the knights of the Round Table marvelled
greatly at Sir Galahad, seeing him sit securely in that seat, and
said, "This is he by whom the Sangreal shall be achieved, for
there never sat one before in that seat without being mischieved."

On the next day the king said, "Now, at this quest of the Sangreal
shall all ye of the Round Table depart, and never shall I see you
again altogether; therefore I will that ye all repair to the
meadow of Camelot, for to just and tourney yet once more before ye
depart." But all the meaning of the king was to see Sir Galahad
proved. So then were they all assembled in the meadow. Then Sir
Galahad, by request of the king and queen, put on his harness and
his helm, but shield would he take none for any prayer of the
king. And the queen was in a tower, with all her ladies, to behold
that tournament. Then Sir Galahad rode into the midst of the
meadow; and there he began to break spears marvellously, so that
all men had wonder of him, for he surmounted all knights that
encountered with him, except two, Sir Launcelot and Sir Perceval.

"So many knights, that all the people cried,
And almost burst the barriers in their heat,
Shouting 'Sir Galahad and Sir Perceval!'"

--Sir Galahad

Then the king, at the queen's request, made him to alight, and
presented him to the queen; and she said, "Never two men resembled
one another more than he and Sir Launcelot, and therefore it is no
marvel that he is like him in prowess."

Then the king and the queen went to the minster, and the knights
followed them. And after the service was done they put on their
helms and departed, and there was great sorrow. They rode through
the streets of Camelot, and there was weeping of the rich and
poor; and the king turned away, and might not speak for weeping.
And so they departed, and every knight took the way that him best

Sir Galahad rode forth without shield, and rode four days, and
found no adventure. And on the fourth day he came to a white
abbey; and there he was received with great reverence, and led to
a chamber. He met there two knights, King Bagdemagus and Sir
Uwaine, and they made of him great solace. "Sirs," said Sir
Galahad, "what adventure brought you hither?" "Sir," said they,
"it is told us that within this place is a shield, which no man
may bear unless he be worthy; and if one unworthy should attempt
to bear it, it shall surely do him a mischief." Then King
Bagdemagus said, "I fear not to bear it, and that shall ye see to-

So on the morrow they arose, and heard mass; then King Bagdemagus
asked where the adventurous shield was. Anon a monk led him behind
an altar, where the shield hung, as white as snow; but in the
midst there was a red cross. Then King Bagdemagus took the shield,
and bare it out of the minster; and he said to Sir Galahad, "If it
please you, abide here till ye know how I shall speed."

Then King Bagdemagus and his squire rode forth: and when they had
ridden a mile or two, they saw a goodly knight come towards them,
in white armor, horse and all; and he came as fast as his horse
might run, with his spear in the rest; and King Bagdemagus
directed his spear against him, and broke it upon the white
knight, but the other struck him so hard that he broke the mails,
and thrust him through the right shoulder, for the shield covered
him not, and so he bare him from his horse. Then the white knight
turned his horse and rode away.

Then the squire went to King Bagdemagus, and asked him whether he
were sore wounded or not. "I am sore wounded," said he, "and full
hardly shall I escape death." Then the squire set him on his
horse, and brought him to an abbey; and there he was taken down
softly, and unarmed, and laid in a bed, and his wound was looked
to, for he lay there long, and hardly escaped with his life. And
the squire brought the shield back to the abbey.

The next day Sir Galahad took the shield, and within a while he
came to the hermitage, where he met the white knight, and each
saluted the other courteously. "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "can you
tell me the marvel of the shield?" "Sir," said the white knight,
"that shield belonged of old to the gentle knight, Joseph of
Arimathea; and when he came to die he said, 'Never shall man bear
this shield about his neck but he shall repent it, unto the time
that Sir Galahad the good knight bear it, the last of my lineage,
the which shall do many marvellous deeds.'" And then the white
knight vanished away.


After Sir Gawain departed, he rode many days, both toward and
forward, and at last he came to the abbey where Sir Galahad took
the white shield. And they told Sir Gawain of the marvellous
adventure that Sir Galahad had done. "Truly," said Sir Gawain, "I
am not happy that I took not the way that he went, for, if I may
meet with him, I will not part from him lightly, that I may
partake with him all the marvellous adventures which he shall
achieve." "Sir," said one of the monks, "he will not be of your
fellowship." "Why?" said Sir Gawain. "Sir," said he, "because ye
be sinful, and he is blissful." Then said the monk, "Sir Gawain,
thou must do penance for thy sins." "Sir, what penance shall I
do?" "Such as I will show," said the good man. "Nay," said Sir
Gawain, "I will do no penance, for we knights adventurous often
suffer great woe and pain." "Well," said the good man; and he held
his peace. And Sir Gawain departed.

Now it happened, not long after this, that Sir Gawain and Sir
Hector rode together, and they came to a castle where was a great
tournament. And Sir Gawain and Sir Hector joined themselves to the
party that seemed the weaker, and they drove before them the other
party. Then suddenly came into the lists a knight, bearing a white
shield with a red cross, and by adventure he came by Sir Gawain,
and he smote him so hard that he clave his helm and wounded his
head, so that Sir Gawain fell to the earth. When Sir Hector saw
that, he knew that the knight with the white shield was Sir
Galahad, and he thought it no wisdom to abide him, and also for
natural love, that he was his uncle. Then Sir Galahad retired
privily, so that none knew where he had gone. And Sir Hector
raised up Sir Gawain, and said, "Sir, me seemeth your quest is
done." "It is done," said Sir Gawain; "I shall seek no further."
Then Gawain was borne into the castle, and unarmed, and laid in a
rich bed, and a leech found to search his wound. And Sir Gawain
and Sir Hector abode together, for Sir Hector would not away till
Sir Gawain were whole.


THE SANGREAL (Continued)


Sir Launcelot rode overthwart and endlong in a wide forest, and
held no path but as wild adventure lee him.

"My golden spurs now bring to me,
And bring to me my richest mail,
For to-morrow I go over land and sea
In search of the Holy, Holy Grail

Shall never a bed for me be spread,
Nor shall a pillow be under my head,
Till I begin my vow to keep.
Here on the rushes will I sleep,
And perchance there may come a vision true
Ere day create the world anew"

--Lowell's Holy Grail.

And at last he came to a stone cross. Then Sir Launcelot looked
round him, and saw an old chapel. So he tied his horse to a tree,
and put off his shield, and hung it upon a tree; and then he went
into the chapel, and looked through a place where the wall was
broken. And within he saw a fair altar, full richly arrayed with
cloth of silk; and there stood a fair candlestick, which bare six
great candles, and the candlestick was of silver. When Sir
Launcelot saw this sight, he had a great wish to enter the chapel,
but he could find no place where he might enter. Then was he
passing heavy and dismayed. And he returned and came again to his
horse, and took off his saddle and his bridle, and let him
pasture; and unlaced his helm, and ungirded his sword, and laid
him down to sleep upon his shield before the cross.

And as he lay, half waking and half sleeping, he saw come by him
two palfreys, both fair and white, which bare a litter, on which
lay a sick knight. And when he was nigh the cross, he there abode
still. And Sir Launcelot heard him say, "O sweet Lord, when shall
this sorrow leave me, and when shall the holy vessel come by me
whereby I shall be healed?" And thus a great while complained the
knight, and Sir Launcelot heard it. Then Sir Launcelot saw the
candlestick, with the lighted tapers, come before the cross, but
he could see nobody that brought it. Also there came a salver of
silver and the holy vessel of the Sangreal; and therewithal the
sick knight sat him upright, and held up both his hands, and said,
"Fair, sweet Lord, which is here within the holy vessel, take heed
to me, that I may be whole of this great malady." And therewith,
upon his hands and upon his knees, he went so nigh that he touched
the holy vessel and kissed it. And anon he was whole. Then the
holy vessel went into the chapel again, with the candlestick and
the light, so that Sir Launcelot wist not what became of it.

Then the sick knight rose up and kissed the cross; and anon his
squire brought him his arms and asked his lord how he did. "I
thank God right heartily," said he, "for, through the holy vessel,
I am healed. But I have great marvel of this sleeping knight, who
hath had neither grace nor power to awake during the time that the
holy vessel hath been here present." "I dare it right well say,"
said the squire, "that this same knight is stained with some
manner of deadly sin, whereof he was never confessed." So they

Then anon Sir Launcelot waked, and set himself upright, and
bethought him of what he had seen and whether it were dreams or
not. And he was passing heavy, and wist not what to do. And he
said: "My sin and my wretchedness hath brought me into great
dishonor. For when I sought worldly adventures and worldly
desires, I ever achieved them, and had the better in every place,
and never was I discomfited in any quarrel, were it right or
wrong. And now I take upon me the adventure of holy things, I see
and understand that mine old sin hindereth me, so that I had no
power to stir nor to speak when the holy blood appeared before
me." So thus he sorrowed till it was day, and heard the fowls of
the air sing. Then was he somewhat comforted.

Then he departed from the cross into the forest. And there he
found a hermitage, and a hermit therein, who was going to mass. So
when mass was done Sir Launcelot called the hermit to him, and
prayed him for charity to hear his confession. "With a good will,"
said the good man. And then he told that good man all his life,
and how he had loved a queen unmeasurably many years. "And all my
great deeds of arms that I have done I did the most part for the
queen's sake, and for her sake would I do battle, were it right or
wrong, and never did I battle all only for God's sake, but for to
win worship, and to cause me to be better beloved; and little or
naught I thanked God for it. I pray you counsel me."

"I will counsel you," said the hermit, "if ye will insure me that
ye will never come in that queen's fellowship as much as ye may
forbear." And then Sir Launcelot promised the hermit, by his
faith, that he would no more come in her company. "Look that your
heart and your mouth accord," said the good man, "and I shall
insure you that ye shall have more worship than ever ye had."

Then the good man enjoined Sir Launcelot such penance as he might
do, and he assailed Sir Launcelot and made him abide with him all
that day. And Sir Launcelot repented him greatly.


Sir Perceval departed and rode till the hour of noon; and he met
in a valley about twenty men of arms. And when they saw Sir
Perceval, they asked him whence he was; and he answered: "Of the
court of King Arthur." Then they cried all at once, "Slay him."
But Sir Perceval smote the first to the earth, and his horse upon
him. Then seven of the knights smote upon his shield all at once,
and the remnant slew his horse, so that he fell to the earth. So
had they slain him or taken him, had not the good knight Sir
Galahad, with the red cross, come there by adventure. And when he
saw all the knights upon one, he cried out, "Save me that knight's
life." Then he rode toward the twenty men of arms as fast as his
horse might drive, with his spear in the rest, and smote the
foremost horse and man to the earth. And when his spear was
broken, he set his hand to his sword, and smote on the right hand
and on the left, that it was marvel to see; and at every stroke he
smote down one, or put him to rebuke, so that they would fight no
more, but fled to a thick forest, and Sir Galahad followed them.
And when Sir Perceval saw him chase them so, he made great sorrow
that his horse was slain. And he wist well it was Sir Galahad.
Then he cried aloud, "Ah, fair knight, abide, and suffer me to do
thanks unto thee; for right well have ye done for me." But Sir
Galahad rode so fast that at last he passed out of his sight. When
Sir Perceval saw that he would not turn, he said, "Now am I a very
wretch, and most unhappy above all other knights." So in his
sorrow he abode all that day till it was night; and then he was
faint, and laid him down and slept till midnight; and then he
awaked and saw before him a woman, who said unto him, "Sir
Perceval, what dost thou here?" He answered, "I do neither good,
nor great ill." "If thou wilt promise me," said she, "that thou
wilt fulfil my will when I summon thee, I will lend thee my own
horse, which shall bear thee whither thou wilt." Sir Perceval was
glad of her proffer, and insured her to fulfil all her desire.
"Then abide me here, and I will go fetch you a horse." And so she
soon came again, and brought a horse with her that was inky black.
When Perceval beheld that horse he marvelled, it was so great and
so well apparelled. And he leapt upon him and took no heed of
himself. And he thrust him with his spurs, and within an hour and
less he bare him four days' journey thence, until he came to a
rough water, which roared, and his horse would have borne him into
it. And when Sir Perceval came nigh the brim and saw the water so
boisterous he doubted to overpass it. And then he made the sign of
the cross on his forehead. When the fiend felt him so charged, he
shook off Sir Perceval, and went into the water crying and
roaring; and it seemed unto him that the water burned. Then Sir
Perceval perceived it was a fiend that would have brought him unto
his perdition. Then he commended himself unto God, and prayed our
Lord to keep him from all such temptations; and so he prayed all
that night till it was day. Then he saw that he was in a wild
place, that was closed with the sea nigh all about. And Sir
Perceval looked forth over the sea, and saw a ship come sailing
towards him; and it came and stood still under the rock. And when
Sir Perceval saw this, he hied him thither, and found the ship
covered with silk; and therein was a lady of great beauty, and
clothed so richly that none might be better.

And when she saw Sir Perceval, she saluted him, and Sir Perceval
returned her salutation. Then he asked her of her country and her
lineage. And she said, "I am a gentlewoman that am disinherited,
and was once the richest woman of the world." "Damsel," said Sir
Perceval, "who hath disinherited you? for I have great pity of
you." "Sir," said she, "my enemy is a great and powerful lord, and
aforetime he made much of me, so that of his favor and of my
beauty I had a little pride more than I ought to have had. Also I
said a word that pleased him not. So he drove me from his company
and from mine heritage. Therefore I know no good knight nor good
man, but I get him on my side if I may. And for that I know that
thou art a good knight, I beseech thee to help me."

Then Sir Perceval promised her all the help that he might, and she
thanked him.

And at that time the weather was hot, and she called to her a
gentlewoman, and bade her bring forth a pavilion. And she did so,
and pitched it upon the gravel. "Sir," said she, "now may ye rest
you in this heat of the day." Then he thanked her, and she put off
his helm and his shield, and there he slept a great while. Then he
awoke, and asked her if she had any meat, and she said yea, and so
there was set upon the table all manner of meats that he could
think on. Also he drank there the strongest wine that ever he
drank, and therewith he was a little chafed more than he ought to
be. With that he beheld the lady, and he thought she was the
fairest creature that ever he saw. And then Sir Perceval proffered
her love, and prayed her that she would be his. Then she refused
him in a manner, for the cause he should be the more ardent on
her, and ever he ceased not to pray her of love. And when she saw
him well enchafed, then she said, "Sir Perceval, wit you well I
shall not give ye my love, unless you swear from henceforth you
will be my true servant, and do no thing but that I shall command
you. Will you insure me this, as ye be a true knight?" "Yea," said
he, "fair lady, by the faith of my body." And as he said this, by
adventure and grace, he saw his sword lie on the ground naked, in
whose pommel was a red cross, and the sign of the crucifix
thereon. Then he made the sign of the cross on his forehead, and
therewith the pavilion shrivelled up, and changed into a smoke and
a black cloud. And the damsel cried aloud, and hasted into the
ship, and so she went with the wind roaring and yelling that it
seemed all the water burned after her. Then Sir Perceval made
great sorrow, and called himself a wretch, saying, "How nigh was I
lost!" Then he took his arms, and departed thence.


THE SANGREAL (Continued)


When Sir Boliort departed from Camelot he met with a religious
man, riding upon an ass; and Sir Bohort saluted him. "What are
ye?" said the good man. "Sir," said Sir Bohort, "I am a knight
that fain would be counselled in the quest of the Sangreal." So
rode they both together till they came to a hermitage; and there
he prayed Sir Bohort to dwell that night with him. So he alighted,
and put away his armor, and prayed him that he might be confessed.
And they went both into the chapel, and there he was clean
confessed. And they ate bread and drank water together. "Now,"
said the good man, "I pray thee that thou eat none other till thou
sit at the table where the Sangreal shall be." "Sir," said Sir
Bohort, "but how know ye that I shall sit there?" "Yea," said the
good man, "that I know well; but there shall be few of your
fellows with you." Then said Sir Bohort, "I agree me thereto" And
the good man when he had heard his confession found him in so pure
a life and so stable that he marvelled thereof.

On the morrow, as soon as the day appeared, Sir Bohort departed
thence, and rode into a forest unto the hour of midday. And there
befell him a marvellous adventure. For he met, at the parting of
two ways, two knights that led Sir Lionel, his brother, all naked,
bound upon a strong hackney, and his hands bound before his
breast; and each of them held in his hand thorns wherewith they
went beating him, so that he was all bloody before and behind; but
he said never a word, but, as he was great of heart, he suffered
all that they did to him as though he had felt none anguish. Sir
Bohort prepared to rescue his brother. But he looked on the other
side of him, and saw a knight dragging along a fair gentlewoman,
who cried out, "Saint Mary! succor your maid!" And when she saw
Sir Bohort, she called to him, and said, "By the faith that ye owe
to knighthood, help me!" When Sir Bohort heard her say thus he had
such sorrow that he wist not what to do. "For if I let my brother
be he must be slain, and that would I not for all the earth; and
if I help not the maid I am shamed for ever." Then lift he up his
eyes and said, weeping, "Fair Lord, whose liegeman I am, keep Sir
Lionel, my brother, that none of these knights slay him, and for
pity of you, and our Lady's sake, I shall succor this maid."

Then he cried out to the knight, "Sir knight, lay your hand off
that maid, or else ye be but dead." Then the knight set down the
maid, and took his shield, and drew out his sword. And Sir Bohort
smote him so hard that it went through his shield and habergeon,
on the left shoulder, and he fell down to the earth. Then came Sir
Bohort to the maid, "Ye be delivered of this knight this time."
"Now," said she, "I pray you lead me there where this knight took
me." "I shall gladly do it," said Sir Bohort. So he took the horse
of the wounded knight, and set the gentlewoman upon it, and
brought her there where she desired to be. And there he found
twelve knights seeking after her; and when she told them how Sir
Bohort had delivered her, they made great joy, and besought him to
come to her father, a great lord, and he should be right welcomed.
"Truly," said Sir Bohort, "that may not be; for I have a great
adventure to do." So he commended them to God and departed.

Then Sir Bohort rode after Sir Lionel, his brother, by the trace
of their horses. Thus he rode seeking, a great while. Then he
overtook a man clothed in a religious clothing, who said, "Sir
Knight, what seek ye?" "Sir," said Sir Bohort, "I seek my brother,
that I saw within a little space beaten of two knights." "Ah, Sir
Bohort, tiouble not thyself to seek for him, for truly he is
dead." Then he showed him a new-slain body, lying in a thick bush;
and it seemed him that it was the body of Sir Lionel. And then he
made such sorrow that he fell to the ground in a swoon, and lay
there long. And when he came to himself again, he said, "Fair
brother, since the fellowship of you and me is sundered, shall I
never have joy again; and now He that I have taken for my Master,
He be my help!" And when he had said thus he took up the body in
his arms, and put it upon the horse. And then he said to the man,
"Canst thou tell me the way to some chapel, where I may bury this
body?" "Come on," said the man, "here is one fast by." And so they
rode till they saw a fair tower, and beside it a chapel. Then they
alighted both, and put the body into a tomb of marble.

Then Sir Bohort commended the good man unto God, and departed. And
he rode all that day, and harbored with an old lady. And on the
morrow he rode unto the castle in a valley, and there he met with
a yeoman. "Tell me," said Sir Bohort, "knowest thou of any
adventure?" "Sir," said he, "here shall be, under this castle, a
great and marvellous tournament." Then Sir Bohort thought to be
there, if he might meet with any of the fellowship that were in
quest of the Sangreal; so he turned to a hermitage that was on the
border of the forest. And when he was come hither, he found there
Sir Lionel his brother, who sat all armed at the entry of the
chapel door. And when Sir Bohort saw him, he had great joy, and he
alighted off his horse, and said. "Fair brother, when came ye
hither?" As soon as Sir Lionel saw him he said, "Ah, Sir Bohort,
make ye no false show, for, as for you, I might have been slain,
for ye left me in peril of death to go succor a gentlewoman; and
for that misdeed I now assure you but death, for ye have right
well deserved it." When Sir Bohort perceived his brother's wrath
he kneeled down to the earth and cried him mercy, holding up both
his hands, and prayed him to forgive him. "Nay," said Sir Lionel,
"thou shalt have but death for it, if I have the upper hand;
therefore leap upon thy horse and keep thyself, and if thou do not
I will run upon thee there as thou standest on foot, and so the
shame shall be mine, and the harm thine, but of that I reck not."
When Sir Bohort saw that he must fight with his brother or else
die, he wist not what to do. Then his heart counselled him not so
to do, inasmuch as Sir Lionel was his elder brother, wherefore he
ought to bear him reverence. Yet kneeled he down before Sir
Lionel's horse's feet, and said, "Fair brother, have mercy upon me
and slay me not." But Sir Lionel cared not, for the fiend had
brought him in such a will that he should slay him. When he saw
that Sir Bohort would not rise to give him battle, he rushed over
him, so that he smote him with his horse's feet to the earth, and
hurt him sore, that he swooned of distress. When Sir Lionel saw
this he alighted from his horse for to have smitten off his head;
and so he took him by the helm, and would have rent it from his
head. But it happened that Sir Colgrevance, a knight of the Round
Table, came at that time thither, as it was our Lord's will; and
then he beheld how Sir Lionel would have slain his brother, and he
knew Sir Bohort, whom he loved right well.

Then leapt he down from his horse and took Sir Lionel by the
shoulders, and drew him strongly back from Sir Bohort, and said,
"Sir Lionel, will ye slay your brother?" "Why," said Sir Lionel,
"will ye stay me? If ye interfere in this I will slay you, and him
after." Then he ran upon Sir Bohort, and would have smitten him;
but Sir Colgrevance ran between them, and said, "If ye persist to
do so any more, we two shall meddle together." Then Sir Lionel
defied him, and gave him a great stroke through the helm. Then he
drew his sword, for he was a passing good knight, and defended
himself right manfully. So long endured the battle, that Sir
Bohort rose up all anguishly, and beheld Sir Colgrevance, the good
knight, fight with his brother for his quarrel. Then was he full
sorry and heavy, and thought that if Sir Colgrevance slew him that
was his brother he should never have joy, and if his brother slew
Sir Colgrevance the shame should ever be his.

Then would he have risen for to have parted them, but he had not
so much strength to stand on his feet; so he staid so long that
Sir Colgrevance had the worse; for Sir Lionel was of great
chivalry and right hardy. Then cried Sir Colgrevance, "Ah, Sir
Bohort, why come ye not to bring me out of peril of death, wherein
I have put me to succor you?" With that, Sir Lionel smote off his
helm and bore him to the earth. And when he had slain Sir
Colgrevance he ran upon his brother as a fiendly man, and gave him
such a stroke that he made him stoop. And he that was full of
humility prayed him, "for God's sake leave this battle, for if it
befell, fair brother, that I slew you, or ye me, we should be dead
of that sin." "Pray ye not me for mercy," said Sir Lionel. Then
Sir Bohort, all weeping, drew his sword, and said, "Now God have
mercy upon me, though I defend my life against my brother." With
that Sir Bohort lifted up his sword, and would have smitten his
brother. Then he heard a voice that said, "Flee, Sir Bohort, and
touch him not." Right so alighted a cloud between them, in the
likeness of a fire and a marvellous flame, so that they both fell
to the earth, and lay there a great while in a swoon. And when
they came to themselves, Sir Bohort saw that his brother had no
harm; and he was right glad, for he dread sore that God had taken
vengeance upon him. Then Sir Lionel said to his brother, "Brother,
forgive me, for God's sake, all that I have trespassed against
you." And Sir Bohort answered, "God forgive it thee, and I do."

With that Sir Bohort heard a voice say, "Sir Bohort, take thy way
anon, right to the sea, for Sir Perceval abideth thee there." So
Sir Bohort departed, and rode the nearest way to the sea. And at
last he came to an abbey that was nigh the sea. That night he
rested him there, and in his sleep there came a voice unto him and
bade him go to the sea-shore. He started up, and made a sign of
the cross on his forehead, and armed himself, and made ready his
horse and mounted him, and at a broken wall he rode out, and came
to the sea-shore. And there he found a ship, covered all with
white samite. And he entered into the ship; but it was anon so
dark that he might see no man, and he laid him down and slept till
it was day. Then he awaked, and saw in the middle of the ship a
knight all armed, save his helm. And then he knew it was Sir
Perceval de Galis, and each made of other right great joy. Then
said Sir Perceval, "We lack nothing now but the good knight Sir


It befell upon a night Sir Launcelot arrived before a castle,
which was rich and fair. And there was a postern that was opened
toward the sea, and was open without any keeping, save two lions
kept the entry; and the moon shined clear. Anon Sir Launcelot
heard a voice that said, "Launcelot, enter into the castle, where
thou shalt see a great part of thy desire." So he went unto the
gate, and saw the two lions; then he set hands to his sword, and
drew it. Then there came suddenly as it were a stroke upon the
arm, so sore that the sword fell out of his hand, and he heard a
voice that said, "O man of evil faith, wherefore believest thou
more in thy armor than in thy Maker?" Then said Sir Launcelot,
"Fair Lord, I thank thee of thy great mercy, that thou reprovest
me of my misdeed; now see I well that thou holdest me for thy
servant." Then he made a cross on his forehead, and came to the
lions; and they made semblance to do him harm, but he passed them
without hurt, and entered into the castle, and he found no gate
nor door but it was open. But at the last he found a chamber
whereof the door was shut; and he set his hand thereto, to have
opened it, but he might not. Then he listened, and heard a voice
which sung so sweetly that it seemed none earthly thing; and the
voice said, "Joy and honor be to the Father of heaven." Then Sir
Launcelot kneeled down before the chamber, for well he wist that
there was the Sangreal in that chamber. Then said he, "Fair, sweet
Lord, if ever I did anything that pleased thee, for thy pity show
me something of that which I seek." And with that he saw the
chamber door open, and there came out a great clearness, that the
house was as bright as though all the torches of the world had
been there. So he came to the chamber door, and would have
entered; and anon a voice said unto him, "Stay, Sir Launcelot, and
enter not." And he withdrew him back, and was right heavy in his
mind. Then looked he in the midst of the chamber, and saw a table
of silver, and the holy vessel, covered with red samite, and many
angels about it; whereof one held a candle of wax burning, and
another held a cross, and the ornaments of the altar.

"O, yet methought I saw the Holy Grail,
All pall'd in crimson samite, and around
Great angels, awful shapes, and wings and eyes"

--The Holy Grail.

Then for very wonder and thankfulness Sir Launcelot forgot himself
and he stepped forward and entered the chamber. And suddenly a
breath that seemed intermixed with fire smote him so sore in the
visage that therewith he fell to the ground, and had no power to
rise. Then felt he many hands about him, which took him up and
bare him out of the chamber, without any amending of his swoon,
and left him there, seeming dead to all the people. So on the
morrow, when it was fair daylight, and they within were arisen,
they found Sir Launcelot lying before the chamber door. And they
looked upon him and felt his pulse, to know if there were any life
in him. And they found life in him, but he might neither stand nor
stir any member that he had. So they took him and bare him into a
chamber, and laid him upon a bed, far from all folk, and there he
lay many days. Then the one said he was alive, and the others said
nay. But said an old man, "He is as full of life as the mightiest
of you all, and therefore I counsel you that he be well kept till
God bring him back again." And after twenty-four days he opened
his eyes; and when he saw folk he made great sorrow, and said,
"Why have ye wakened me? for I was better at ease than I am now."
"What have ye seen?" said they about him. "I have seen," said he,
"great marvels that no tongue can tell, and more than any heart
can think." Then they said, "Sir, the quest of the Sangreal is
achieved right now in you, and never shall ye see more of it than
ye have seen." "I thank God," said Sir Launcelot, "of his great
mercy, for that I have seen, for it sufficeth me." Then he rose up
and clothed himself; and when he was so arrayed they marvelled
all, for they knew it was Sir Launcelot the good knight. And after
four days he took his leave of the lord of the castle, and of all
the fellowship that were there, and thanked them for their great
labor and care of him. Then he departed, and turned to Camelot,
where he found King Arthur and Queen Guenever; but many of the
knights of the Round Table were slain and destroyed, more than
half. Then all the court was passing glad of Sir Launcelot; and he
told the king all his adventures that had befallen him since he


Now, when Sir Galahad had rescued Perceval from the twenty
knights, he rode into a vast forest, wherein he abode many days.
Then he took his way to the sea, and it befell him that he was
benighted in a hermitage. And the good man was glad when he saw he
was a knight-errant. And when they were at rest, there came a
gentlewoman knocking at the door; and the good man came to the
door to wit what she would. Then she said, "I would speak with the
knight which is with you." Then Galahad went to her, and asked her
what she would. "Sir Galahad," said she, "I will that ye arm you,
and mount upon your horse, and follow me; for I will show you the
highest adventure that ever knight saw." Then Galahad armed
himself and commended himself to God, and bade the damsel go
before, and he would follow where she led.

So she rode as fast as her palfrey might bear her, till she came
to the sea; and there they found the ship where Sir Bohort and Sir
Perceval were, who cried from the ship, "Sir Galahad, you are
welcome; we have waited you long." And when he heard them, he
asked the damsel who they were. "Sir," said she, "leave your horse
here, and I shall leave mine, and we will join ourselves to their
company." So they entered into the ship, and the two knights
received them both with great joy. For they knew the damsel, that
she was Sir Perceval's sister. Then the wind arose and drove them
through the sea all that day and the next, till the ship arrived
between two rocks, passing great and marvellous; but there they
might not land, for there was a whirlpool; but there was another
ship, and upon it they might go without danger. "Go we thither,"
said the gentlewoman, "and there we shall see adventures, for such
is our Lord's will." Then Sir Galahad blessed him, and entered
therein, and then next the gentlewoman, and then Sir Bohort and
Sir Perceval. And when they came on board they found there the
table of silver, and the Sangreal, which was covered with red
samite. And they made great reverence thereto, and Sir Galahad
prayed a long time to our Lord, that at what time he should ask to
pass out of this world he should do so; and a voice said to him,
"Galahad, thou shalt have thy request; and when thou askest the
death of thy body, thou shalt have it, and then shalt thou find
the life of thy soul."

And anon the wind drove them across the sea, till they came to the
city of Sarras. Then took they out of the ship the table of
silver, and Sir Perceval and Sir Bohort took it before, and Sir
Galahad came behind, and right so they went to the city. And at
the gate of the city they saw an old man, a cripple.

"And Sir Launfal said, 'I behold in thee
An image of Him who died on the tree
Thou also hast had thy crown of thorns,
Thou also hast had the world's buffets and scorns;
And to thy life were not denied
The wounds in thy hands and feet and side
Mild Mary's son, acknowledge me;
Behold, through Him I give to thee!'"

--Lowell's Holy Grail.

Then Galahad called him, and bade him help to bear this heavy
thing. "Truly," said the old man, "it is ten years since I could
not go but with crutches." "Care thou not," said Sir Galahad, "but
arise up, and show thy good will." Then the old man rose up, and
assayed, and found himself as whole as ever he was; and he ran to
the table, and took one part with Sir Galahad.

When they came to the city it chanced that the king was just dead,
and all the city was dismayed, and wist not who might be their
king. Right so, as they were in counsel, there came a voice among
them, and bade them choose the youngest knight of those three to
be their king. So they made Sir Galahad king, by all the assent of
the city. And when he was made king, he commanded to make a chest
of gold and of precious stones to hold the holy vessel. And every
day the three companions would come before it and make their

Now at the year's end, and the same day of the year that Sir
Galahad received the crown, he got up early, and, with his
fellows, came to where the holy vessel was; and they saw one
kneeling before it that had about him a great fellowship of
angels; and he called Sir Galahad, and said, "Come, thou servant
of the Lord, and thou shalt see what thou hast much desired to
see." And Sir Galahad's mortal flesh trembled right hard when he
began to behold the spiritual things. Then said the good man, "Now
wottest thou who I am?" "Nay," said Sir Galahad. "I am Joseph of
Arimathea, whom our Lord hath sent here to thee, to bear thee
fellowship." Then Sir Galahad held up his hands toward heaven, and
said, "Now, blessed Lord, would I not longer live, if it might
please thee." And when he had said these words, Sir Galahad went
to Sir Perceval and to Sir Bohort and kissed them, and commended
them to God. And then he kneeled down before the table, and made
his prayers, and suddenly his soul departed, and a great multitude
of angels bare his soul up to heaven, so as the two fellows could
well behold it. Also they saw come from heaven a hand, but they
saw not the body; and the hand came right to the vessel and bare
it up to heaven. Since then was there never one so hardy as to say
that he had seen the Sangreal on earth any more.



When Sir Perceval and Sir Bohort saw Sir Galahad dead they made as
much sorrow as ever did two men. And if they had not been good men
they might have fallen into despair. As soon as Sir Galahad was
buried Sir Perceval retired to a hermitage out of the city, and
took a religious clothing; and Sir Bohort was always with him, but
did not change his secular clothing, because he purposed to return
to the realm of Loegria. Thus a year and two months lived Sir
Perceval in the hermitage a full holy life, and then passed out of
this world, and Sir Bohort buried him by his sister and Sir
Galahad. Then Sir Bohort armed himself and departed from Sarras,
and entered into a ship, and sailed to the kingdom of Loegria, and
in due time arrived safe at Camelot, where the king was. Then was
there great joy made of him in the whole court, for they feared he
had been dead. Then the king made great clerks to come before him,
that they should chronicle of the high adventures of the good
knights. And Sir Bohort told him of the adventures that had
befallen him, and his two fellows, Sir Perceval and Sir Galahad.
And Sir Launcelot told the adventures of the Sangreal that he had
seen. All this was made in great books, and put up in the church
at Salisbury.

So King Arthur and Queen Guenever made great joy of the remnant
that were come home, and chiefly of Sir Launcelot and Sir Bohort.
Then Sir Launcelot began to resort unto Queen Guenever again, and
forgot the promise that he made in the quest: so that many in the
court spoke of it, and in especial Sir Agrivain, Sir Gawain's
brother, for he was ever open-mouthed. So it happened Sir Gawain
and all his brothers were in King Arthur's chamber, and then Sir
Agrivain said thus openly, "I marvel that we all are not ashamed
to see and to know so noble a knight as King Arthur so to be
shamed by the conduct of Sir Launcelot and the queen. "Then spoke
Sir Gawain, and said, "Brother, Sir Agrivain, I pray you and
charge you move not such matters any more before me, for be ye
assured I will not be of your counsel." "Neither will we," said
Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth. "Then will I," said Sir Modred. "I
doubt you not," said Sir Gawain, "for to all mischief ever were ye
prone; yet I would that ye left all this, for I know what will
come of it."

"Modred's narrow foxy face,
Heart-hiding smile, and gray persistent eye:
Henceforward, too, the Powers that tend the soul
To help it from the death that cannot die,
And save it even in extremes, began
To vex and plague."


"Fall of it what fall may," said Sir Agrivain, "I will disclose it
to the king." With that came to them King Arthur. "Now, brothers,
hold your peace," said Sir Gawain. "We will not," said Sir
Agrivain. Then said Sir Gawain, "I will not hear your tales nor be
of your counsel." "No more will I," said Sir Gareth and Sir
Gaheris, and therewith they departed, making great sorrow.

Then Sir Agrivain told the king all that was said in the court of
the conduct of Sir Launcelot and the queen, and it grieved the
king very much. But he would not believe it to be true without
proof. So Sir Agrivain laid a plot to entrap Sir Launcelot and the
queen, intending to take them together unawares. Sir Agrivain and
Sir Modred led a party for this purpose, but Sir Launcelot escaped
from them, having slain Sir Agrivain and wounded Sir Modred. Then
Sir Launcelot hastened to his friends, and told them what had
happened, and withdrew with them to the forest; but he left spies
to bring him tidings of whatever might be done.

So Sir Launcelot escaped, but the queen remained in the king's
power, and Arthur could no longer doubt of her guilt. And the law
was such in those days that they who committed such crimes, of
what estate or condition soever they were, must be burned to
death, and so it was ordained for Queen Guenever. Then said King
Arthur to Sir Gawain, "I pray you make you ready, in your best
armor, with your brethren, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, to bring my
queen to the fire, there to receive her death." "Nay, my most
noble lord," said Sir Gawain, "that will I never do; for know thou
well, my heart will never serve me to see her die, and it shall
never be said that I was of your counsel in her death." Then the
king commanded Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth to be there, and they


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