Part 11 out of 19
said, "We will be there, as ye command us, sire, but in peaceable
wise, and bear no armor upon us."
So the queen was led forth, and her ghostly father was brought to
her to shrive her, and there was weeping and wailing of many lords
and ladies. And one went and told Sir Launcelot that the queen was
led forth to her death. Then Sir Launcelot and the knights that
were with him fell upon the troop that guarded the queen, and
dispersed them, and slew all who withstood them. And in the
confusion Sir Gareth and Sir Gaheris were slain, for they were
unarmed and defenceless. And Sir Launcelot carried away the queen
to his castle of La Joyeuse Garde.
Then there came one to Sir Gawain and told him how that Sir
Launcelot had slain the knights and carried away the queen. "O
Lord, defend my brethren!" said Sir Gawain. "Truly," said the man,
"Sir Gareth and Sir Gaheris are slain." "Alas!" said Sir Gawain,
"now is my joy gone." And then he fell down and swooned, and long
he lay there as he had been dead.
When he arose out of his swoon Sir Gawain ran to the king, crying,
"O King Arthur, mine uncle, my brothers are slain." Then the king
wept and he both. "My king, my lord, and mine uncle," said Sir
Gawain, "bear witness now that I make you a promise that I shall
hold by my knighthood, and from this day I will never fail Sir
Launcelot until the one of us have slain the other. I will seek
Sir Launcelot throughout seven kings' realms, but I shall slay him
or he shall slay me." "Ye shall not need to seek him," said the
king, "for as I hear, Sir Launcelot will abide me and you in the
Joyeuse Garde; and much people draweth unto him, as I hear say."
"That may I believe," said Sir Gawain; "but, my lord, summon your
friends, and I will summon mine." "It shall be done," said the
king. So then the king sent letters and writs throughout all
England, both in the length and breadth, to summon all his
knights. And unto Arthur drew many knights, dukes, and earls, so
that he had a great host. Thereof heard Sir Launcelot, and
collected all whom he could; and many good knights held with him,
both for his sake and for the queen's sake. But King Arthur's host
was too great for Sir Launcelot to abide him in the field; and he
was full loath to do battle against the king. So Sir Launcelot
drew him to his strong castle, with all manner of provisions. Then
came King Arthur with Sir Gawain, and laid siege all about La
Joyeuse Garde, both the town and the castle; but in no wise would
Sir Launcelot ride out of his castle, neither suffer any of his
knights to issue out, until many weeks were past.
Then it befell upon a day in harvest-time, Sir Launcelot looked
over the wall, and spoke aloud to King Arthur and Sir Gawain, "My
lords both, all is in vain that ye do at this siege, for here ye
shall win no worship, but only dishonor; for if I list to come
out, and my good knights, I shall soon make an end of this war."
"Come forth," said Arthur, "if thou darest, and I promise thee I
shall meet thee in the midst of the field." "God forbid me," said
Sir Launcelot, "that I should encounter with the most noble king
that made me knight." "Fie upon thy fair language," said the king,
"for know thou well I am thy mortal foe, and ever will be to my
dying day." And Sir Gawain said, "What cause hadst thou to slay my
brother, Sir Gaheris, who bore no arms against thee, and Sir
Gareth, whom thou madest knight, and who loved thee more than all
my kin? Therefore know thou well I shall make war to thee all the
while that I may live."
When Sir Bohort, and Sir Hector de Marys, and Sir Lionel heard
this outcry, they called to them Sir Palamedes, and Sir Saffire
his brother, and Sir Lawayn, with many more, and all went to Sir
Launcelot. And they said, "My lord, Sir Launcelot, we pray you, if
you will have our service keep us no longer within these walls,
for know well all your fair speech and forbearance will not avail
you." "Alas!" said Sir Launcelot, "to ride forth and to do battle
I am full loath." Then he spake again unto the king and Sir
Gawain, and willed them to keep out of the battle; but they
despised his words. So then Sir Launcelot's fellowship came out of
the castle in full good array. And always Sir Launcelot charged
all his knights, in any wise, to save King Arthur and Sir Gawain.
Then came forth Sir Gawain from the king's host and offered
combat, and Sir Lionel encountered with him, and there Sir Gawain
smote Sir Lionel through the body, that he fell to the earth as if
dead. Then there began a great conflict, and much people were
slain; but ever Sir Launcelot did what he might to save the people
on King Arthur's party, and ever King Arthur followed Sir
Launcelot to slay him; but Sir Launcelot suffered him, and would
not strike again. Then Sir Bohort encountered with King Arthur,
and smote him down; and he alighted and drew his sword, and said
to Sir Launcelot, "Shall I make an end of this war?" for he meant
to have slain King Arthur. "Not so," said Sir Launcelot, "touch
him no more, for I will never see that most noble king that made
me knight either slain or shamed;" and therewith Sir Launcelot
alighted off his horse, and took up the king, and horsed him
again, and said thus: "My lord Arthur, for God's love, cease this
strife." And King Arthur looked upon Sir Launcelot, and the tears
burst from his eyes, thinking on the great courtesy that was in
Sir Launcelot more than in any other man; and therewith the king
rode his way. Then anon both parties withdrew to repose them, and
buried the dead.
But the war continued, and it was noised abroad through all
Christendom, and at last it was told afore the pope; and he,
considering the great goodness of King Arthur, and of Sir
Launcelot, called unto him a noble clerk, which was the Bishop of
Rochester, who was then in his dominions, and sent him to King
Arthur, charging him that he take his queen, dame Guenever, unto
him again, and make peace with Sir Launcelot.
So, by means of this bishop, peace was made for the space of one
year; and King Arthur received back the queen, and Sir Launcelot
departed from the kingdom with all his knights, and went to his
own country. So they shipped at Cardiff, and sailed unto Benwick,
which some men call Bayonne. And all the people of those lands
came to Sir Launcelot, and received him home right joyfully. And
Sir Launcelot stablished and garnished all his towns and castles,
and he greatly advanced all his noble knights, Sir Lionel and Sir
Bohort, and Sir Hector de Marys, Sir Blamor, Sir Lawayne, and many
others, and made them lords of lands and castles; till he left
himself no more than any one of them.
"Then Arthur made vast banquets, and strange knights
From the four winds came in: and each one sat,
Tho' served with choice from air, land, stream and sea,
Oft in mid-banquet measuring with his eyes
His neighbor's make and might."
--Pelleas and Ettarre.
But when the year was passed, King Arthur and Sir Gawain came with
a great host, and landed upon Sir Launcelot's lands, and burned
and wasted all that they might overrun. Then spake Sir Bohort and
said, "My lord, Sir Launcelot, give us leave to meet them in the
field, and we shall make them rue the time that ever they came to
this country." Then said Sir Launcelot, "I am full loath to ride
out with my knights for shedding of Christian blood; so we will
yet a while keep our walls, and I will send a messenger unto my
lord Arthur, to propose a treaty; for better is peace than always
war." So Sir Launcelot sent forth a damsel, and a dwarf with her,
requiring King Arthur to leave his warring upon his lands; and so
she started on a palfrey, and the dwarf ran by her side. And when
she came to the pavilion of King Arthur, she alighted, and there
met her a gentle knight, Sir Lucan, the butler, and said, "Fair
damsel, come ye from Sir Launcelot du Lac?" "Yea, sir," she said,
"I come hither to speak with the king." "Alas!" said Sir Lucan,
"my lord Arthur would be reconciled to Sir Launcelot, but Sir
Gawain will not suffer him." And with this Sir Lucan led the
damsel to the king, where he sat with Sir Gawain, to hear what she
would say. So when she had told her tale, the tears ran out of the
king's eyes; and all the lords were forward to advise the king to
be accorded with Sir Launcelot, save only Sir Gawain; and he said,
"My lord, mine uncle, what will ye do? Will you now turn back, now
you are so far advanced upon your journey? If ye do all the world
will speak shame of you." "Nay," said King Arthur, "I will do as
ye advise me; but do thou give the damsel her answer, for I may
not speak to her for pity."
Then said Sir Gawain, "Damsel, say ye to Sir Launcelot, that it is
waste labor to sue to mine uncle for peace, and say that I, Sir
Gawain, send him word that I promise him, by the faith I owe unto
God and to knighthood, I shall never leave him till he have slain
me or I him." So the damsel returned; and when Sir Launcelot had
heard this answer the tears ran down his cheeks.
Then it befell on a day Sir Gawain came before the gates, armed at
all points, and cried with a loud voice, "Where art thou now, thou
false traitor, Sir Launcelot? Why hidest thou thyself within holes
and walls like a coward? Look out now, thou traitor knight, and I
will avenge upon thy body the death of my three brethren." All
this language heard Sir Launcelot, and the knights which were
about him; and they said to him, "Sir Launcelot, now must ye
defend you like a knight, or else be shamed for ever, for you have
slept overlong and suffered overmuch." Then Sir Launcelot spake on
high unto King Arthur, and said, "My lord Arthur, now I have
forborne long, and suffered you and Sir Gawain to do what ye
would, and now must I needs defend myself, inasmuch as Sir Gawain
hath appealed me of treason." Then Sir Launcelot armed him and
mounted upon his horse, and the noble knights came out of the
city, and the host without stood all apart; and so the covenant
was made that no man should come near the two knights, nor deal
with them, till one were dead or yielded.
Then Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawain departed a great way asunder,
and then they came together with all their horses' might, and each
smote the other in the middle of their shields, but neither of
them was unhorsed, but their horses fell to the earth. And then
they leapt from their horses, and drew their swords, and gave many
sad strokes, so that the blood burst out in many places. Now Sir
Gawain had this gift from a holy man, that every day in the year,
from morning to noon, his strength was increased threefold, and
then it fell again to its natural measure. Sir Launcelot was aware
of this, and therefore, during the three hours that Sir Gawain's
strength was at the height, Sir Launcelot covered himself with his
shield, and kept his might in reserve. And during that time Sir
Gawain gave him many sad brunts, that all the knights that looked
on marvelled how Sir Launcelot might endure them. Then, when it
was past noon, Sir Gawain had only his own might; and when Sir
Launcelot felt him so brought down he stretched himself up, and
doubled his strokes, and gave Sir Gawain such a buffet that he
fell down on his side; and Sir Launcelot drew back and would
strike no more. "Why withdrawest thou, false traitor?" then said
Sir Gawain; "now turn again and slay me, for if thou leave me thus
when I am whole again, I shall do battle with thee again." "I
shall endure you, sir, by God's grace," said Sir Launcelot, "but
know thou well Sir Gawain, I will never smite a felled knight."
And so Sir Launcelot went into the city, and Sir Gawain was borne
into King Arthur's pavilion, and his wounds were looked to.
Thus the siege endured, and Sir Gawain lay helpless near a month;
and when he was near recovered came tidings unto King Arthur that
made him return with all his host to England.
Sir Modred was left ruler of all England, and he caused letters to
be written, as if from beyond sea, that King Arthur was slain in
battle. So he called a Parliament, and made himself be crowned
king; and he took the queen Guenever, and said plainly that he
would wed her, but she escaped from him and took refuge in the
Tower of London. And Sir Modred went and laid siege about the
Tower of London, and made great assaults thereat, but all might
not avail him. Then came word to Sir Modred that King Arthur had
raised the siege of Sir Launcelot, and was coming home. Then Sir
Modred summoned all the barony of the land; and much people drew
unto Sir Modred, and said they would abide with him for better and
for worse; and he drew a great host to Dover, for there he heard
say that King Arthur would arrive.
"I hear the steps of Modred in the west,
And with him many of thy people, and knights
Once thine, whom thou hast loved, but grosser grown
Than heathen, spitting at their vows and thee"
--The Passing of Arthur.
And as Sir Modred was at Dover with his host, came King Arthur,
with a great number of ships and galleys, and there was Sir Modred
awaiting upon the landing. Then was there launching of great boats
and small, full of noble men of arms, and there was much slaughter
of gentle knights on both parts. But King Arthur was so
courageous, there might no manner of knights prevent him to land,
and his knights fiercely followed him; and so they landed, and put
Sir Modred aback so that he fled, and all his people. And when the
battle was done, King Arthur commanded to bury his people that
were dead. And then was noble Sir Gawain found, in a great boat,
lying more than half dead. And King Arthur went to him, and made
sorrow out of measure. "Mine uncle," said Sir Gawain, "know thou
well my death-day is come, and all is through mine own hastiness
and wilfulness, for I am smitten upon the old wound which Sir
Launcelot gave me, of which I feel I must die. And had Sir
Launcelot been with you as of old, this war had never begun, and
of all this I am the cause." Then Sir Gawain prayed the king to
send for Sir Launcelot, and to cherish him above all other
knights. And so at the hour of noon Sir Gawain yielded up his
spirit, and then the king bade inter him in a chapel within Dover
Castle; and there all men may see the skull of him, and the same
wound is seen that Sir Launcelot gave him in battle.
Then was it told the king that Sir Modred had pitched his camp
upon Barrendown; and the king rode thither, and there was a great
battle betwixt them, and King Arthur's party stood best, and Sir
Modred and his party fled unto Canterbury.
And there was a day assigned betwixt King Arthur and Sir Modred
that they should meet upon a down beside Salisbury, and not far
from the sea-side, to do battle yet again. And at night, as the
king slept, he dreamed a wonderful dream. It seemed him verily
that there came Sir Gawain unto him, with a number of fair ladies
with him. And when King Arthur saw him, he said, "Welcome, my
sister's son; I weened thou hadst been dead; and now I see thee
alive great is my joy. But, O fair nephew, what be these ladies
that hither be come with you?" "Sir," said Sir Gawain, "all these
be ladies for whom I have fought when I was a living man; and
because I did battle for them in righteous quarrel they have given
me grace to bring me hither unto you to warn you of your death, if
ye fight to-morrow with Sir Modred. Therefore take ye treaty, and
proffer you largely for a month's delay; for within a month shall
come Sir Launcelot and all his noble knights, and rescue you
worshipfully, and slay Sir Modred and all that hold with him." And
then Sir Gawain and all the ladies vanished. And anon the king
called to fetch his noble lords and wise bishops unto him. And
when they were come, the king told them his vision, and what Sir
Gawain had told him. Then the king sent Sir Lucan, the butler, and
Sir Bedivere, with two bishops, and charged them in any wise to
take a treaty for a month and a day with Sir Modred. So they
departed, and came to Sir Modred; and so, at the last, Sir Modred
was agreed to have Cornwall and Kent during Arthur's life, and all
England after his death.
"Sir Modred; he the nearest to the king,
His nephew, ever like a subtle beast
Lay couchant with his eyes upon the throne,
Ready to spring, waiting a chance."
Then was it agreed that King Arthur and Sir Modred should meet
betwixt both their hosts, and each of them should bring fourteen
persons, and then and there they should sign the treaty. And when
King Arthur and his knights were prepared to go forth, he warned
all his host, "If so be ye see any sword drawn, look ye come on
fiercely, and slay whomsoever withstandeth, for I in no wise trust
that traitor, Sir Modred." In like wise Sir Modred warned his
host. So they met, and were agreed and accorded thoroughly. And
wine was brought, and they drank. Right then came an adder out of
a little heath-bush, and stung a knight on the foot. And when the
knight felt him sting, he looked down and saw the adder, and then
he drew his sword to slay the adder, and thought of no other harm.
And when the host on both sides saw that sword drawn, they blew
trumpets and horns, and shouted greatly. And King Arthur took his
horse, and rode to his party, saying, "Alas, this unhappy day!"
And Sir Modred did in like wise. And never was there a more
doleful battle in Christian land. And ever King Arthur rode
throughout the battle, and did full nobly, as a worthy king
should, and Sir Modred that day did his devoir, and put himself in
great peril. And thus they fought all the long day, till the most
of all the noble knights lay dead upon the ground. Then the king
looked about him, and saw of all his host were left alive but two
knights, Sir Lucan, the butler, and Sir Bedivere, his brother, and
they were full sore wounded. Then King Arthur saw where Sir Modred
leaned upon his sword among a great heap of dead men. "Now give me
my spear," said Arthur unto Sir Lucan; "for yonder I espy the
traitor that hast wrought all this woe." "Sir, let him be," said
Sir Lucan; "for if ye pass this unhappy day, ye shall be right
well revenged upon him. Remember what the sprite of Sir Gawain
told you, and leave off now, for ye have won the field; and if ye
leave off now this evil day of destiny is past." "Betide me life,
betide me death," said King Arthur, "he shall not now escape my
hands." Then the king took his spear in both hands, and ran toward
Sir Modred, crying, "Traitor, now is thy death-day come." And
there King Arthur smote Sir Modred under the shield, with a thrust
of his spear through the body. And when Sir Modred felt that he
had his death-wound, with the might that he had he smote King
Arthur, with his sword holden in both his hands, on the side of
the head, that the sword pierced the helmet and the brain-pan; and
then Sir Modred fell stark dead upon the earth. And the noble
Arthur fell in a swoon to the earth. And Sir Lucan, the butler,
and Sir Bedivere raised him up, and gently led him betwixt them
both to a little chapel not far from the sea-side. And when the
king was there he thought him well eased. Then heard they people
cry in the field. And Sir Lucan went to see what that cry
betokened; and he saw by the moonlight that pillers and robbers
were come to rob the dead. And he returned, and said to the king,
"By my rede, it is best that we bring you to some town." "I would
it were so," said the king. And when the king tried to go he
fainted. Then Sir Lucan took up the king on the one part, and Sir
Bedivere on the other part; and in the lifting, Sir Lucan fell in
a swoon to the earth, for he was grievously wounded. And then the
noble knight's heart burst. And when the king awoke he beheld Sir
Lucan how he lay foaming at the mouth, and speechless. "Alas!"
said the king, "this is to me a full heavy sight, to see this
noble duke so die for my sake; for he would have holpen me that
had more need of help than I, and he would not complain, his heart
was so set to help me." Then Sir Bedivere wept for his brother.
"Leave this mourning and weeping," said the king, "for wilt thou
well, if I might live myself, the death of Sir Lucan would grieve
me evermore; but my time hieth fast. Therefore," said Arthur unto
Sir Bedivere, "take thou Excalibar, my good sword, and go with it
to yonder water-side; and when thou comest there I charge thee
throw my sword in that water, and come again and tell me what thou
there seest." "My lord," said Sir Bedivere, "your commandment
shall be done." So Sir Bedivere departed, and by the way he beheld
that noble sword, that the pommel and the haft were all of
precious stones; and then he said to himself, "If I throw this
rich sword into the water no good shall come thereof, but only
harm and loss." And then Sir Bedivere hid Excalibar under a tree.
And so, as soon as he might, he came again to the king. "What
sawest thou there?" said the king. "Sir," he said, "I saw
nothing." "Alas! thou hast deceived me," said the king. "Go thou
lightly again, and as thou love me, spare not to throw it in."
Then Sir Bedivere went again, and took the sword in his hand to
throw it; but again it beseemed him but sin and shame to throw
away that noble sword, and he hid it away again, and returned, and
told the king he had done his commandment. "What sawest thou
there?" said the king. "Sir," he said, "I saw nothing but waters
deep and waves wan." "Ah, traitor untrue!" said King Arthur, "now
hast thou betrayed me twice. And yet thou art named a noble
knight, and hast been lief and dear to me. But now go again, and
do as I bid thee, for thy long tarrying putteth me in jeopardy of
my life." Then Sir Bedivere went to the sword, and lightly took it
up, and went to the water-side, and he bound the girdle about the
hilt, and then he threw the sword as far into the water as he
might. And there came an arm and a hand out of the water, and met
it, and caught it, and shook it thrice and brandished it, and then
vanished away the hand with the sword in the water.
Then Sir Bedivere came again to the king, and told him what he
saw. "Help me hence," said the king, "for I fear I have tarried
too long." Then Sir Bedivere took the king on his back, and so
went with him to that water-side; and when they came there, even
fast by the bank there rode a little barge with many fair ladies
in it, and among them was a queen; and all had black hoods, and
they wept and shrieked when they saw King Arthur.
"Now put me in the barge," said the king. And there received him
three queens with great mourning, and in one of their laps King
Arthur laid his head. And the queen said, "Ah, dear brother, why
have ye tarried so long? Alas! this wound on your head hath caught
over-much cold." And then they rowed from the land, and Sir
Bedivere beheld them go from him. Then he cried: "Ah, my lord
Arthur, will ye leave me here alone among mine enemies?" "Comfort
thyself," said the king, "for in me is no further help; for I will
to the Isle of Avalon, to heal me of my grievous wound." And as
soon as Sir Bedivere had lost sight of the barge, he wept and
wailed; then he took the forest, and went all that night, and in
the morning he was ware of a chapel and a hermitage.
Then went Sir Bedivere thither; and when he came into the chapel,
he saw where lay an hermit on the ground, near a tomb that was
newly graven. "Sir," said Sir Bedivere, "what man is there buried
that ye pray so near unto?" "Fair son," said the hermit, "I know
not verily. But this night there came a number of ladies, and
brought hither one dead, and prayed me to bury him." "Alas!" said
Sir Bedivere, "that was my lord, King Arthur." Then Sir Bedivere
swooned; and when he awoke he prayed the hermit he might abide
with him, to live with fasting and prayers. "Ye are welcome," said
the hermit. So there bode Sir Bedivere with the hermit; and he put
on poor clothes, and served the hermit full lowly in fasting and
Thus of Arthur I find never more written in books that be
authorized, nor more of the very certainty of his death; but thus
was he led away in a ship, wherein were three queens; the one was
King Arthur's sister, Queen Morgane le Fay; the other was Viviane,
the Lady of the Lake; and the third was the queen of North Galis.
And this tale Sir Bedivere, knight of the Table Round, made to be
Yet some men say that King Arthur is not dead, but hid away into
another place, and men say that he shall come again and reign over
England. But many say that there is written on his tomb this
"Hie facet Arthurus, Rex quondam, Rexque futurus."
Here Arthur lies, King once and King to be.
And when Queen Guenever understood that King Arthur was slain, and
all the noble knights with him, she stole away, and five ladies
with her; and so she went to Almesbury, and made herself a nun,
and ware white clothes and black, and took great penance as ever
did sinful lady, and lived in fasting, prayers, and alms-deeds.
And there she was abbess and ruler of the nuns.
"And when she came to Almesbury she spake
There to the nuns, and said, 'Mine enemies
Pursue me, but, O peaceful Sisterhood,
Receive, and yield me sanctuary, nor ask
Her name to whom ye yield it, till her time
To tell you;' and her beauty, grace and power
Wrought as a charm upon them, and they spared
To ask it."
Now turn we from her, and speak of Sir Launcelot of the Lake.
When Sir Launcelot heard in his country that Sir Modred was
crowned king of England, and made war against his own uncle, King
Arthur, then was Sir Launcelot wroth out of measure, and said to
his kinsmen: "Alas, that double traitor, Sir Modred! now it
repenteth me that ever he escaped out of my hands." Then Sir
Launcelot and his fellows made ready in all haste, with ships and
galleys, to pass into England; and so he passed over till he came
to Dover, and there he landed with a great army. Then Sir
Launcelot was told that King Arthur was slain. "Alas!" said Sir
Launcelot, "this is the heaviest tidings that ever came to me."
Then he called the kings, dukes, barons, and knights, and said
thus: "My fair lords, I thank you all for coming into this country
with me, but we came too late, and that shall repent me while I
live. But since it is so," said Sir Launcelot, "I will myself ride
and seek my lady, Queen Guenever, for I have heard say she hath
fled into the west; therefore ye shall abide me here fifteen days,
and if I come not within that time, then take your ships and your
host, and depart into your country."
So Sir Launcelot departed and rode westerly, and there he sought
many days; and at last he came to a nunnery, and was seen of Queen
Guenever as he walked in the cloister; and when she saw him she
swooned away. And when she might speak she bade him to be called
to her. And when Sir Launcelot was brought to her she said: "Sir
Launcelot, I require thee and beseech thee, for all the love that
ever was betwixt us, that thou never see me more, but return to
thy kingdom and take thee a wife, and live with her with joy and
bliss; and pray for me to my Lord, that I may get my soul's
health." "Nay, madam," said Sir Launcelot, "wit you well that I
shall never do; but the same destiny that ye have taken you to
will I take me unto, for to please and serve God." And so they
parted, with tears and much lamentation; and the ladies bare the
queen to her chamber, and Sir Launcelot took his horse and rode
And at last Sir Launcelot was ware of a hermitage and a chapel,
and then he heard a little bell ring to mass; and thither he rode
and alighted, and tied his horse to the gate, and heard mass. And
he that sang the mass was the hermit with whom Sir Bedivere had
taken up his abode; and Sir Bedivere knew Sir Launcelot, and they
spake together after mass. But when Sir Bedivere had told his
tale, Sir Launcelot's heart almost burst for sorrow. Then he
kneeled down, and prayed the hermit to shrive him, and besought
that he might be his brother. Then the hermit said, "I will
gladly;" and then he put a habit upon Sir Launcelot, and there he
served God day and night, with prayers and fastings.
And the great host abode at Dover till the end of the fifteen days
set by Sir Launcelot, and then Sir Bohort made them to go home
again to their own country; and Sir Bohort, Sir Hector de Marys,
Sir Blamor, and many others, took on them to ride through all
England to seek Sir Launcelot. So Sir Bohort by fortune rode until
he came to the same chapel where Sir Launcelot was; and when he
saw Sir Launcelot in that manner of clothing he, prayed the hermit
that he might be in that same. And so there was an habit put upon
him, and there he lived in prayers and fasting. And within half a
year came others of the knights, their fellows, and took such a
habit as Sir Launcelot and Sir Bohort had. Thus they endured in
great penance six years.
And upon a night there came a vision to Sir Launcelot, and charged
him to haste toward Almesbury, and "by the time thou come there,
thou shalt find Queen Guenever dead." Then Sir Launcelot rose up
early and told the hermit thereof. Then said the hermit, "It were
well that ye disobey not this vision." And Sir Launcelot took his
seven companions with him, and on foot they went from Glastonbury
to Almesbury, which is more than thirty miles. And when they were
come to Almesbury, they found that Queen Guenever died but half an
hour before. Then Sir Launcelot saw her visage, but he wept not
greatly, but sighed. And so he did all the observance of the
service himself, both the "dirige" at night, and at morn he sang
mass. And there was prepared an horse-bier, and Sir Launcelot and
his fellows followed the bier on foot from Almesbury until they
came to Glastonbury; and she was wrapped in cered clothes, and
laid in a coffin of marble. And when she was put in the earth Sir
Launcelot swooned, and lay long as one dead.
And Sir Launcelot never after ate but little meat, nor drank; but
continually mourned. And within six weeks Sir Launcelot fell sick;
and he sent for the hermit and all his true fellows, and said,
"Sir hermit, I pray you give me all my rights that a Christian man
ought to have." "It shall not need," said the hermit and all his
fellows; "it is but heaviness of your blood, and to-morrow morn
you shall be well" "My fair lords," said Sir Launcelot, "my
careful body will into the earth; I have warning more than now I
will say; therefore give me my rights." So when he was houseled
and aneled, and had all that a Christian man ought to have, he
prayed the hermit that his fellows might bear his body to Joyous
Garde. (Some men say it was Alnwick, and some say it was
Bamborough.) "It repenteth me sore," said Sir Launcelot, "but I
made a vow aforetime that in Joyous Garde I would be buried." Then
there was weeping and wringing of hands among his fellows. And
that night Sir Launcelot died; and when Sir Bohort and his fellows
came to his bedside the next morning they found him stark dead;
and he lay as if he had smiled, and the sweetest savor all about
him that ever they knew.
And they put Sir Launcelot into the same horse-bier that Queen
Guenever was laid in, and the hermit and they altogether went with
the body till they came to Joyous Garde. And there they laid his
corpse in the body of the quire, and sang and read many psalms and
prayers over him. And ever his visage was laid open and naked,
that all folks might behold him. And right thus, as they were at
their service, there came Sir Hector de Maris, that had seven
years sought Sir Launcelot, his brother, through all England,
Scotland and Wales. And when Sir Hector heard such sounds in the
chapel of Joyous Garde he alighted and came into the quire. And
all they knew Sir Hector. Then went Sir Bohort, and told him how
there lay Sir Launcelot, his brother, dead. Then Sir Hector threw
his shield, his sword, and helm from him. And when he beheld Sir
Launcelot's visage it were hard for any tongue to tell the doleful
complaints he made for his brother. "Ah, Sir Launcelot!" he said,
"there thou liest. And now I dare to say thou wert never matched
of none earthly knight's hand. And thou wert the courteousest
knight that ever bare shield; and thou wert the truest friend to
thy lover that ever bestrode horse; and thou wert the truest
lover, of a sinful man, that ever loved woman; and thou wert the
kindest man that ever struck with sword. And thou wert the
goodliest person that ever came among press of knights. And thou
wert the meekest man, and the gentlest, that ever ate in hall
among ladies. And thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe
that ever put spear in the rest." Then there was weeping and dolor
out of measure. Thus they kept Sir Launcelot's corpse fifteen
days, and then they buried it with great devotion.
Then they went back with the hermit to his hermitage. And Sir
Bedivere was there ever still hermit to his life's end. And Sir
Bohort, Sir Hector, Sir Blamor, and Sir Bleoberis went into the
Holy Land. And these four knights did many battles upon the
miscreants, the Turks; and there they died upon a Good Friday, as
it pleased God.
Thus endeth this noble and joyous book, entitled "La Morte
d'Arthur;" notwithstanding it treateth of the birth, life, and
acts of the said King Arthur, and of his noble Knights of the
Round Table, their marvellous enquests and adventures, the
achieving of the Sangreal, and, in the end, le Morte d'Arthur,
with the dolorous death and departing out of this world of them
all. Which book was reduced into English by Sir Thomas Mallory,
Knight, and divided into twenty-one books, chaptered and imprinted
and finished in the Abbey Westmestre, the last day of July, the
year of our Lord MCCCCLXXXV.
Caxton me fieri fecit.
It has been well known to the literati and antiquarians of Europe
that there exist in the great public libraries voluminous
manuscripts of romances and tales once popular, but which on the
invention of printing had already become antiquated, and fallen
into neglect. They were therefore never printed, and seldom
perused even by the learned, until about half a century ago, when
attention was again directed to them, and they were found very
curious monuments of ancient manners, habits, and modes of
thinking. Several have since been edited, some by individuals, as
Sir Walter Scott and the poet Southey, others by antiquarian
societies. The class of readers which could be counted on for such
publications was so small that no inducement of profit could be
found to tempt editors and publishers to give them to the world.
It was therefore only a few, and those the most accessible, which
were put in print. There was a class of manuscripts of this kind
which were known, or rather suspected, to be both curious and
valuable, but which it seemed almost hopeless to expect ever to
see in fair printed English. These were the Welsh popular tales
called Mabinogeon, a plural word, the singular being Mabinogi, a
tale. Manuscripts of these were contained in the Bodleian Library
at Oxford and elsewhere, but the difficulty was to find
translators and editors. The Welsh is a spoken language among the
peasantry of Wales, but is entirely neglected by the learned,
unless they are natives of the principality. Of the few Welsh
scholars none were found who took sufficient interest in this
branch of learning to give these productions to the English
public. Southey and Scott, and others, who like them, loved the
old romantic legends of their country, often urged upon the Welsh
literati the duty of reproducing the Mabinogeon. Southey, in the
preface of his edition of "Moted'Arthur," says: "The specimens
which I have seen are exceedingly curious; nor is there a greater
desideratum in British literature than an edition of these tales,
with a literal version, and such comments as Mr. Davies of all men
is best qualified to give. Certain it is that many of the round
table fictions originated in Wales, or in Bretagne, and probably
might still be traced there."
Again, in a letter to Sir Charles W. W. Wynn, dated 1819, he says:
"I begin almost to despair of ever seeing more of the Mabinogeon;
and yet if some competent Welshman could be found to edit it
carefully, with as literal a version as possible, I am sure it
might be made worth his while by a subscription, printing a small
edition at a high price, perhaps two hundred at five guineas. I
myself would gladly subscribe at that price per volume for such an
edition of the whole of your genuine remains in prose and verse.
Till some such collection is made, the 'gentlemen of Wales' ought
to be prohibited from wearing a leek; ay, and interdicted from
toasted cheese also. Your bards would have met with better usage
if they had been Scotchmen."
Sharon Turner and Sir Walter Scott also expressed a similar wish
for the publication of the Welsh manuscripts. The former took part
in an attempt to effect it, through the instrumentality of a Mr.
Owen, a Welshman, but, we judge, by what Southey says of him,
imperfectly acquainted with English. Southey's language is
"William Owen lent me three parts of the Mabinogeon, delightfully
translated into so Welsh an idiom and syntax that such a
translation is as instructive as an original." In another letter
he adds, "Let Sharon make his language grammatical, but not alter
their idiom in the slightest point."
It is probable Mr. Owen did not proceed far in an undertaking
which, so executed, could expect but little popular patronage. It
was not till an individual should appear possessed of the
requisite knowledge of the two languages, of enthusiasm sufficient
for the task, and of pecuniary resources sufficient to be
independent of the booksellers and of the reading public, that
such a work could be confidently expected. Such an individual has,
since Southey's day and Scott's, appeared in the person of Lady
Charlotte Guest, an English lady united to a gentleman of property
in Wales, who, having acquired the language of the principality,
and become enthusiastically fond of its literary treasures, has
given them to the English reader, in a dress which the printer's
and the engraver's arts have done their best to adorn. In four
royal octavo volumes containing the Welsh originals, the
translation, and ample illustrations from French, German, and
other contemporary and affiliated literature, the Mabinogeon is
spread before us. To the antiquarian and the student of language
and ethnology an invaluable treasure, it yet can hardly in such a
form win its way to popular acquaintance. We claim no other merit
than that of bringing it to the knowledge of our readers, of
abridging its details, of selecting its most attractive portions,
and of faithfully preserving throughout the style in which Lady
Guest has clothed her legends. For this service we hope that our
readers will confess we have laid them under no light obligation.
The earliest inhabitants of Britain are supposed to have been a
branch of that great family known in history by the designation of
Celts. Cambria, which is a frequent name for Wales, is thought to
be derived from Cymri, the name which the Welsh traditions apply
to an immigrant people who entered the island from the adjacent
continent. This name is thought to be identical with those of
Cimmerians and Cimbri, under which the Greek and Roman historians
describe a barbarous people, who spread themselves from the north
of the Euxine over the whole of Northwestern Europe.
The origin of the names Wales and Welsh has been much canvassed.
Some writers make them a derivation from Gael or Gaul, which names
are said to signify "woodlanders;" others observe that Walsh, in
the northern languages, signifies a stranger, and that the
aboriginal Britons were so called by those who at a later era
invaded the island and possessed the greater part of it, the
Saxons and Angles.
The Romans held Britain from the invasion of Julius Caesar till
their voluntary withdrawal from the island, A.D. 420,--that is,
about five hundred years. In that time there must have been a wide
diffusion of their arts and institutions among the natives. The
remains of roads, cities, and fortifications show that they did
much to develop and improve the country, while those of their
villas and castles prove that many of the settlers possessed
wealth and taste for the ornamental arts. Yet the Roman sway was
sustained chiefly by force, and never extended over the entire
island. The northern portion, now Scotland, remained independent,
and the western portion, constituting Wales and Cornwall, was only
Neither did the later invading hordes succeed in subduing the
remoter sections of the island. For ages after the arrival of the
Saxons under Hengist and Horsa, A.D. 449, the whole western coast
of Britain was possessed by the aboriginal inhabitants, engaged in
constant warfare with the invaders.
It has, therefore, been a favorite boast of the people of Wales
and Cornwall that the original British stock flourishes in its
unmixed purity only among them. We see this notion flashing out in
poetry occasionally, as when Gray, in "The Bard," prophetically
describing Queen Elizabeth, who was of the Tudor, a Welsh race,
"Her eye proclaims her of the Briton line;"
and, contrasting the princes of the Tudor with those of the Norman
race, he exclaims:
"All hail, ye genuine kings, Britannia's issue, hail!"
THE WELSH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
The Welsh language is one of the oldest in Europe. It possesses
poems the origin of which is referred with probability to the
sixth century. The language of some of these is so antiquated that
the best scholars differ about the interpretation of many
passages; but, generally speaking, the body of poetry which the
Welsh possess, from the year 1000 downwards, is intelligible to
those who are acquainted with the modern language.
Till within the last half-century these compositions remained
buried in the libraries of colleges or of individuals, and so
difficult of access that no successful attempt was made to give
them to the world. This reproach was removed after ineffectual
appeals to the patriotism of the gentry of Wales, by Owen Jones, a
furrier of London, who at his own expense collected and published
the chief productions of Welsh literature, under the title of the
Myvyrian Archaeology of Wales. In this task he was assisted by Dr.
Owen and other Welsh scholars.
After the cessation of Jones' exertions the old apathy returned,
and continued till within a few years. Dr. Owen exerted himself to
obtain support for the publication of the Mabinogeon or Prose
Tales of the Welsh, but died without accomplishing his purpose,
which has since been carried into execution by Lady Charlotte
Guest. The legends which fill the remainder of this volume are
taken from this work, of which we have already spoken more fully
in the introductory chapter to the First Part.
THE WELSH BARDS
The authors to whom the oldest Welsh poems are attributed are
Aneurin, who is supposed to have lived A.D. 500 to 550, and
Taliesin, Llywarch Hen (Llywarch the Aged), and Myrddin or Merlin,
who were a few years later. The authenticity of the poems which
bear their names has been assailed, and it is still an open
question how many and which of them are authentic, though it is
hardly to be doubted that some are so. The poem of Aneurin
entitled the "Gododin" bears very strong marks of authenticity.
Aneurin was one of the Northern Britons of Strath-Clyde, who have
left to that part of the district they inhabited the name of
Cumberland, or Land of the Cymri. In this poem he laments the
defeat of his countrymen by the Saxons at the battle of Cattraeth,
in consequence of having partaken too freely of the mead before
joining in combat. The bard himself and two of his fellow-warriors
were all who escaped from the field. A portion of this poem has
been translated by Gray, of which the following is an extract:
"To Cattraeth's vale, in glittering row,
Twice two hundred warriors go;
Every warrior's manly neck
Chains of regal honor deck,
Wreathed in many a golden link;
From the golden cup they drink
Nectar that the bees produce,
Or the grape's exalted juice.
Flushed with mirth and hope they burn,
But none to Cattraeth's vale return,
Save Aeron brave, and Conan strong,
Bursting through the bloody throng,
And I, the meanest of them all,
That live to weep, and sing their fall."
The works of Taliesin are of much more questionable authenticity.
There is a story of the adventures of Taliesin so strongly marked
with mythical traits as to cast suspicion on the writings
attributed to him. This story will be found in the subsequent
The Triads are a peculiar species of poetical composition, of
which the Welsh bards have left numerous examples. They are
enumerations of a triad of persons, or events, or observations,
strung together in one short sentence. This form of composition,
originally invented, in all likelihood, to assist the memory, has
been raised by the Welsh to a degree of elegance of which it
hardly at first sight appears susceptible. The Triads are of all
ages, some of them probably as old as anything in the language.
Short as they are individually, the collection in the Myvyrian
Archaeology occupies more than one hundred and seventy pages of
double columns. We will give some specimens, beginning with
personal triads, and giving the first place to one of King
Arthur's own composition:
"I have three heroes in battle:
Mael the tall, and Llyr, with his army,
And Caradoc, the pillar of Wales."
"The three principal bards of the island of Britain:--
Merlin the son of Mprfyn, called also Merlin the Wild,
And Taliesin, the chief of the bards."
"The three golden-tongued knights of the court of Arthur:--
Gawain, son of Gwyar,
Drydvas, son of Tryphin,
And Ehwlod, son of Madag, ap Uther."
"The three honorable feasts of the island of Britain:--
The feast of Caswallaun, after repelling Julius Caesar from this
The feast of Aurelius Ambrosius, after he had conquered the
And the feast of King Arthur, at Carleon upon Usk."
"Guenever, the daughter of Laodegan the giant,
Bad when little, worse when great."
Next follow some moral triads:
"Hast thou heard what Dremhidydd sung,
An ancient watchman on the castle walls?
A refusal is better than a promise unperformed."
"Hast thou heard what Llenleawg sung,
The noble chief wearing the golden torques?
The grave is better than a life of want."
"Hast thou heard what Garselit sung,
The Irishman whom it is safe to follow?
Sin is bad, if long pursued."
"Hast thou heard what Avaon sung,
The son of Taliesin, of the recording verse?
The cheek will not conceal the anguish of the heart."
"Didst thou hear what Llywarch sung,
The intrepid and brave old man?
Greet kindly, though there be no acquaintance."
THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN
King Arthur was at Caerleon upon Usk; and one day he sat in his
chamber, and with him were Owain, the son of Urien, and Kynon, the
son of Clydno, and Kay, the son of Kyner, and Guenever and her
handmaidens at needlework by the window. In the centre of the
chamher King Arthur sat, upon a seat of green rushes, [Footnote:
The use of green rushes in apartments was by no means peculiar to
the court of Carleon upon Usk. Our ancestors had a great
predilection for them, and they seem to have constituted an
essential article, not only of comfort, but of luxury. The custom
of strewing the floor with rushes is well known to have existed in
England during the Middle Ages, and also in France.] over which
was spread a covering of flame-covered satin, and a cushion of red
satin was under his elbow.
Then Arthur spoke. "If I thought you would not disparage me," said
he, "I would sleep while I wait for my repast; and you can
entertain one another with relating tales, and can obtain a flagon
of mead and some meat from Kay." And the king went to sleep. And
Kynon the son of Clydno asked Kay for that which Arthur had
promised them. "I too will have the good tale which he promised
me," said Kay. "Nay," answered Kynon; "fairer will it be for thee
to fulfil Arthur's behest in the first place, and then we will
tell thee the best tale that we know." So Kay went to the kitchen
and to the mead-cellar, and returned, bearing a flagon of mead,
and a golden goblet, and a handful of skewers, upon which were
broiled collops of meat. Then they ate the collops, and began to
drink the mead. "Now," said Kay, "it is time for you to give me my
story." "Kynon," said Owain, "do thou pay to Kay the tale that is
his due." "I will do so," answered Kynon.
"I was the only son of my mother and father, and I was exceedingly
aspiring, and my daring was very great. I thought there was no
enterprise in the world too mighty for me: and after I had
achieved all the adventures that were in my own country, I
equipped myself, and set forth to journey through deserts and
distant regions. And at length it chanced that I came to the
fairest valley in the world, wherein were trees all of equal
growth; and a river ran through the valley, and a path was by the
side of the river. And I followed the path until midday, and
continued my journey along the remainder of the valley until the
evening; and at the extremity of the plain I came to a large and
lustrous castle, at the foot of which was a torrent. And I
approached the castle, and there I beheld two youths with yellow
curling hair, each with a frontlet of gold upon his head, and clad
in a garment of yellow satin; and they had gold clasps upon their
insteps. In the hand of each of them was an ivory bow, strung with
the sinews of the stag, and their arrows and their shafts were of
the bone of the whale, and were winged with peacock's feathers.
The shafts also had golden heads. And they had daggers with blades
of gold, and with hilts of the bone of the whale. And they were
shooting at a mark.
"And a little away from them I saw a man in the prime of life,
with his beard newly shorn, clad in a robe and mantle of yellow
satin, and round the top of his mantle was a band of gold lace. On
his feet were shoes of variegated leather, [Footnote: Cordwal is
the word in the original, and from the manner in which it is used
it is evidently intended for the French Cordouan or Cordovan
leather, which derived its name from Cordova, where it was
manufactured. From this comes also our English word cordwainer.]
fastened by two bosses of gold. When I saw him I went towards him
and saluted him; and such was his courtesy, that he no sooner
received my greeting than he returned it. And he went with me
towards the castle. Now there were no dwellers in the castle,
except those who were in one hall. And there I saw four and twenty
damsels, embroidering satin at a window. And this I tell thee,
Kay, that the least fair of them was fairer than the fairest maid
thou didst ever behold in the island of Britain; and the least
lovely of them was more lovely than Guenever, the wife of Arthur,
when she appeared loveliest, at the feast of Easter. They rose up
at my coming, and six of them took my horse, and divested me of my
armor, and six others took my arms and washed them in a vessel
till they were perfectly bright. And the third six spread cloths
upon the tables and prepared meat. And the fourth six took off my
soiled garments and placed others upon me, namely, an under vest
and a doublet of fine linen, and a robe and a surcoat, and a
mantle of yellow satin, with a broad gold band upon the mantle.
And they placed cushions both beneath and around me, with
coverings of red linen, and I sat down. Now the six maidens who
had taken my horse unharnessed him as well as if they had been the
best squires in the island of Britain.
"Then behold they brought bowls of silver, wherein was water to
wash and towels of linen, some green and some white; and I washed.
And in a little while the man sat down at the table. And I sat
next to him, and below me sat all the maidens, except those who
waited on us. And the table was of silver, and the cloths upon the
table were of linen. And no vessel was served upon the table that
was not either of gold or of silver or of buffalo horn. And our
meat was brought to us. And verily, Kay, I saw there every sort of
meat, and every sort of liquor that I ever saw elsewhere; but the
meat and the liquor were better served there than I ever saw them
in any other place.
"Until the repast was half over, neither the man nor any one of
the damsels spoke a single word to me; but when the man perceived
that it would be more agreeable for me to converse than to eat any
more, he began to inquire of me who I was. Then I told the man who
I was and what was the cause of my journey, and said that I was
seeking whether any one was superior to me, or whether I could
gain mastery over all. The man looked upon me, and he smiled and
said, 'If I did not fear to do thee a mischief, I would show thee
that which thou seekest.' Then I desired him to speak freely. And
he said: 'Sleep here to-night, and in the morning arise early, and
take the road upwards through the valley, until thou readiest the
wood. A little way within the wood thou wilt come to a large
sheltered glade, with a mound in the centre. And thou wilt see a
black man of great stature on the top of the mound. He has but one
foot, and one eye in the middle of his forehead. He is the wood-
ward of that wood. And thou wilt see a thousand wild animals
grazing around him. Inquire of him the way out of the glade, and
he will reply to thee briefly, and will point out the road by
which thou shalt find that which thou art in quest of.'
"And long seemed that night to me. And the next morning I arose
and equipped myself, and mounted my horse, and proceeded straight
through the valley to the wood, and at length I arrived at the
glade. And the black man was there, sitting upon the top of the
mound; and I was three times more astonished at the number of wild
animals that I beheld than the man had said I should be. Then I
inquired of him the way and he asked me roughly whither I would
go. And when I had told him who I was and what I sought, 'Take,'
said he, 'that path that leads toward the head of the glade, and
there thou wilt find an open space like to a large valley, and in
the midst of it a tall tree. Under this tree is a fountain, and by
the side of the fountain a marble slab, and on the marble slab a
silver bowl, attached by a chain of silver, that it may not be
carried away. Take, the bowl and throw a bowlful of water on the
slab. And if thou dost not find trouble in that adventure, thou
needest not seek it during the rest of thy life.'
"So I journeyed on until I reached the summit of the steep. And
there I found everything as the black man had described it to me.
And I went up to the tree, and beneath it I saw the fountain, and
by its side the marble slab, and the silver bowl fastened by the
chain. Then I took the bowl, and cast a bowlful of water upon the
slab, and immediately I heard a mighty peal of thunder, so that
heaven and earth seemed to tremble with its fury. And after the
thunder came a, shower; and of a truth I tell thee, Kay, that it
was such a shower as neither man nor beast could endure and live.
I turned my horse's flank toward the shower, and placed the beak
of my shield over his head and neck, while I held the upper part
of it over my own neck. And thus I withstood the shower. And
presently the sky became clear, and with that, behold, the birds
lighted upon the tree, and sang. And truly, Kay, I never heard any
melody equal to that, either before or since. And when I was most
charmed with listening to the birds, lo! a chiding voice was heard
of one approaching me and saying: 'O knight, what has brought thee
hither? What evil have I done to thee that thou shouldst act
towards me and my possessions as thou hast this day? Dost thou not
know that the shower to-day has left in my dominions neither man
nor beast alive that was exposed to it?' And thereupon, behold, a
knight on a black horse appeared, clothed in jet-black velvet, and
with a tabard of black linen about him. And we charged each other,
and, as the onset was furious, it was not long before I was
overthrown. Then the knight passed the shaft of his lance through
the bridle-rein of my horse, and rode off with the two horses,
leaving me where I was. And he did not even bestow so much notice
upon me as to imprison me, nor did he despoil me of my arms. So I
returned along the road by which I had come. And when I reached
the glade where the black man was, I confess to thee, Kay, it is a
marvel that I did not melt down into a liquid pool, through the
shame that I felt at the black man's derision. And that night I
came to the same castle where I had spent the night preceding. And
I was more agreeably entertained that night than I had been the
night before. And I conversed freely with the inmates of the
castle; and none of them alluded to my expedition to the fountain,
neither did I mention it to any. And I remained there that night.
When I arose on the morrow I found ready saddled a dark bay
palfrey, with nostrils as red as scarlet. And after putting on my
armor, and leaving there my blessing, I returned to my own court.
And that horse I still possess, and he is in the stable yonder.
And I declare that I would not part with him for the best palfrey
in the island of Britain.
"Now, of a truth, Kay, no man ever before confessed to an
adventure so much to his own discredit; and verily it seems
strange to me that neither before nor since have I heard of any
person who knew of this adventure, and that the subject of it
should exist within King Arthur's dominions without any other
person lighting upon it."
THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN (Continued)
[Footnote: Amongst all the characters of early British history
none is the more interesting, or occupies more conspicuous place,
than the hero of this tale. Urien, his father, was prince of
Rheged, a district comprising the present Cumberland and part of
the adjacent country. His valor, and the consideration in which he
was held, are a frequent theme of Bardic song, and form the
subject of several very spirited odes by Taliesin. Among the
Triads there is one relating to him; it is thus translated:
"Three Knights of Battle were in court of Arthur Cadwr, the Earl
of Cornwall, Launcelot du Lac, and Owain, the son of Urien. And
this was their characteristic--that they would not retreat from
battle, neither for spear, nor for arrow, nor for sword. And
Arthur never had shame in battle the day he saw their faces there.
And they were called the Knights of Battle."]
"Now," quoth Owain, "would it not be well to go and endeavor to
discover that place?"
"By the hand of my friend," said Kay, "often dost thou utter that
with thy tongue which thou wouldest not make good with thy deeds."
"In very truth," said Guenever, "it were better thou wert hanged,
Kay, than to use such uncourteous speech towards a man like
"By the hand of my friend, good lady," said Kay, "thy praise of
Owain is not greater than mine."
With that Arthur awoke, and asked if he had not been sleeping a
"Yes, lord," answered Owain, "thou hast slept awhile."
"Is it time for us to go to meat?"
"It is, lord," said Owain.
Then the horn for washing was sounded, and the king and all his
household sat down to eat. And when the meal was ended Owain
withdrew to his lodging, and made ready his horse and his arms.
On the morrow with the dawn of day he put on his armor, and
mounted his charger, and travelled through distant lands, and over
desert mountains. And at length he arrived at the valley which
Kynon had described to him, and he was certain that it was the
same that he sought. And journeying along the valley, by the side
of the river, he followed its course till he came to the plain,
and within sight of the castle. When he approached the castle he
saw the youths shooting with their bows, in the place where Kynon
had seen them, and the yellow man, to whom the castle belonged,
standing hard by. And no sooner had Owain saluted the yellow man,
than he was saluted by him in return.
And he went forward towards the castle, and there he saw the
chamber; and when he had entered the chamber, he beheld the
maidens working at satin embroidery, in chains of gold. And their
beauty and their comeliness seemed to Owain far greater than Kynon
had represented to him. And they arose to wait upon Owain, as they
had done to Kynon. And the meal which they set before him gave
even more satisfaction to Owain than it had done to Kynon.
About the middle of the repast the yellow man asked Owain the
object of his journey. And Owain made it known to him, and said,
"I am in quest of the knight who guards the fountain." Upon this
the yellow man smiled, and said that he was as loth to point out
that adventure to him as he had been to Kynon. However, he
described the whole to Owain, and they retired to rest.
The next morning Owain found his horse made ready for him by the
damsels, and he set forward and came to the glade where the black
man was. And the stature of the black man seemed more wonderful to
Owain than it had done to Kynon; and Owain asked of him his road,
and he showed it to him. And Owain followed the road till he came
to the green tree; and he beheld the fountain, and the slab beside
the fountain, with the bowl upon it. And Owain took the bowl and
threw a bowlful of water upon the slab. And, lo! the thunder was
heard, and after the thunder came the shower, more violent than
Kynon had described, and after the shower the sky became bright.
And immediately the birds came and settled upon the tree and sang.
And when their song was most pleasing to Owain he beheld a knight
coming towards him through the valley; and he prepared to receive
him, and encountered him violently. Having broken both their
lances, they drew their swords and fought blade to blade. Then
Owain struck the knight a blow through his helmet, head-piece, and
visor, and through the skin, and the flesh, and the bone, until it
wounded the very brain. Then the black knight felt that he had
received a mortal wound, upon which he turned his horse's head and
fled. And Owain pursued him and followed close upon him, although
he was not near enough to strike him with his sword. Then Owain
descried a vast and resplendent castle; and they came to the
castle gate. And the black knight was allowed to enter, and the
portcullis was let fall upon Owain; and it struck his horse behind
the saddle, and cut him in two, and carried away the rowels of the
spurs that were upon Owains' heels. And the portcullis descended
to the floor. And the rowels of the spurs and part of the horse
were without, and Owain with the other part of the horse remained
between the two gates, and the inner gate was closed, so that
Owain could not go thence; and Owain was in a perplexing
situation. And while he was in this state, he could see through an
aperture in the gate a street facing him, with a row of houses on
each side. And he beheld a maiden, with yellow, curling hair, and
a frontlet of gold upon her head; and she was clad in a dress of
yellow satin, and on her feet were shoes of variegated leather.
And she approached the gate, and desired that it should be opened.
"Heaven knows, lady," said Owain, "it is no more possible for me
to open to thee from hence, than it is for thee to set me free."
And he told her his name, and who he was. "Truly," said the
damsel, "it is very sad that thou canst not be released; and every
woman ought to succor thee, for I know there is no one more
faithful in the service of ladies than thou. Therefore," quoth
she, "whatever is in my power to do for thy release, I will do it.
Take this ring and put it on thy finger, with the stone inside thy
hand, and close thy hand upon the stone. And as long as thou
concealest it, it will conceal thee. When they come forth to fetch
thee, they will be much grieved that they cannot find thee. And I
will await thee on the horseblock yonder, and thou wilt be able to
see me, though I cannot see thee. Therefore come and place thy
hand upon my shoulder, that I may know that thou art near me. And
by the way that I go hence do thou accompany me."
Then the maiden went away from Owain, and he did all that she had
told him. And the people of the castle came to seek Owain to put
him to death; and when they found nothing but the half of his
horse, they were sorely grieved.
And Owain vanished from among them, and went to the maiden, and
placed his hand upon her shoulder; whereupon she set off, and
Owain followed her, until they came to the door of a large and
beautiful chamber, and the maiden opened it, and they went in. And
Owain looked around the chamber, and behold there was not a single
nail in it that was not painted with gorgeous colors, and there
was not a single panel that had not sundry images in gold
portrayed upon it.
The maiden kindled a fire, and took water in a silver bowl, and
gave Owain water to wash. Then she placed before him a silver
table, inlaid with gold; upon which was a cloth of yellow linen,
and she brought him food. And, of a truth, Owain never saw any
kind of meat that was not there in abundance, but it was better
cooked there than he had ever found it in any other place. And
there was not one vessel from which he was served that was not of
gold or of silver. And Owain eat and drank until late in the
afternoon, when lo! they heard a mighty clamor in the castle, and
Owain asked the maiden what it was. "They are administering
extreme unction," said she, "to the nobleman who owns the castle."
And she prepared a couch for Owain which was meet for Arthur
himself, and Owain went to sleep.
And a little after daybreak he heard an exceeding loud clamor and
wailing, and he asked the maiden what was the cause of it. "They
are bearing to the church the body of the nobleman who owned the
And Owain rose up, and clothed himself, and opened a window of the
chamber, and looked towards the castle; and he could see neither
the bounds nor the extent of the hosts that filled the streets.
And they were fully armed; and a vast number of women were with
them, both on horseback and on foot, and all the ecclesiastics in
the city singing. In the midst of the throng he beheld the bier,
over which was a veil of white linen; and wax tapers were burning
beside and around it; and none that supported the bier was lower
in rank than a powerful baron.
Never did Owain see an assemblage so gorgeous with silk [Footnote:
Before the sixth century all the silk used by Europeans had been
brought to them by the Seres, the ancestors of the present
Boukharians, whence it derived its Latin name of Serica. In 551
the silkworm was brought by two monks to Constantinople, but the
manufacture of silk was confined to the Greek empire till the year
1130, when Roger, king of Sicily, returning from a crusade,
collected some manufacturers from Athens and Corinth, and
established them at Palermo, whence the trade was gradually
disseminated over Italy. The varieties of silk stuffs known at
this time were velvet, satin (which was called samite), and
taffety (called cendal or sendall), all of which were occasionally
stitched with gold and silver.] and satin. And, following the
train, he beheld a lady with yellow hair falling over her
shoulders, and stained with blood; and about her a dress of yellow
satin, which was torn. Upon her feet were shoes of variegated
leather. And it was a marvel that the ends of her fingers were not
bruised from the violence with which she smote her hands together.
Truly she would have been the fairest lady Owain ever saw, had she
been in her usual guise. And her cry was louder than the shout of
the men or the clamor of the trumpets. No sooner had he beheld the
lady than he became inflamed with her love, so that it took entire
possession of him.
Then he inquired of the maiden who the lady was. "Heaven knows,"
replied the maiden, "she is the fairest and the most chaste, and
the most liberal, and the most noble of women. She is my mistress,
and she is called the Countess of the Fountain, the wife of him
whom thou didst slay yesterday." "Verily," said Owain, "she is the
woman that I love best." "Verily," said the maiden, "she shall
also love thee, not a little."
Then the maiden prepared a repast for Owain, and truly he thought
he had never before so good a meal, nor was he ever so well
served. Then she left him, and went towards the castle. When she
came there, she found nothing but mourning and sorrow; and the
Countess in her chamber could not bear the sight of any one
through grief. Luned, for that was the name of the maiden, saluted
her, but the Countess answered her not. And the maiden bent down
towards her, and said, "What aileth thee, that thou answereth no
one to-day?" "Luned," said the Countess, "what change hath
befallen thee, that thou hast not come to visit me in my grief. It
was wrong in thee, and I so sorely afflicted." "Truly," said
Luned, "I thought thy good sense was greater than I find it to be.
Is it well for thee to mourn after that good man, or for anything
else that thou canst not have?" "I declare to Heaven," said the
Countess, "that in the whole world there is not a man equal to
him." "Not so," said Luned, "for an ugly man would be as good as
or better than he." "I declare to Heaven," said the Countess,
"that were it not repugnant to me to put to death one whom I have
brought up, I would have thee executed for making such a
comparison to me. As it is, I will banish thee." "I am glad," said
Luned, "that thou hast no other cause to do so than that I would
have been of service to thee, where thou didst not know what was
to thine advantage. Henceforth, evil betide whichever of us shall
make the first advance towards reconciliation to the other,
whether I should seek an invitation from thee, or thou of thine
own accord should send to invite."
With that Luned went forth; and the Countess arose and followed
her to the door of the chamber, and began coughing loudly. And
when Luned looked back, the Countess beckoned to her, and she
returned to the Countess. "In truth," said the Countess, "evil is
thy disposition; but if thou knowest what is to my advantage,
declare it to me." "I will do so," said she.
"Thou knowest that, except by warfare and arms, it is impossible
for thee to preserve thy possessions; delay not, therefore, to
seek some one who can defend them." "And how can I do that?" said
the Countess. "I will tell thee," said Luned; "unless thou canst
defend the fountain, thou canst not maintain thy dominions; and no
one can defend the fountain except it be a knight of Arthur's
household. I will go to Arthur's court, and ill betide me if I
return not thence with a warrior who can guard the fountain as
well as, or even better than, he who defended it formerly." "That
will be hard to perform," said the Countess. "Go, however, and
make proof of that which thou hast promised,"
Luned set out under the pretence of going to Arthur's court; but
she went back to the mansion where she had left Owain, and she
tarried there as long as it might have taken her to travel to the
court of King Arthur and back. And at the end of that time she
apparelled herself, and went to visit the Countess. And the
Countess was much rejoiced when she saw her, and inquired what
news she brought from the court. "I bring thee the best of news,"
said Luned, "for I have compassed the object of my mission. When
wilt thou that I should present to thee the chieftain who has come
with me hither?" "Bring him here to visit me to-morrow," said the
Countess, "and I will cause the town to be assembled by that
And Luned returned home. And the next day at noon, Owain arrayed
himself in a coat and a surcoat, and a mantle of yellow satin,
upon which was a broad band of gold lace; and on his feet were
high shoes of variegated leather, which were fastened by golden
clasps, in the form of lions. And they proceeded to the chamber of
Right glad was the Countess of their coming. And she gazed
steadfastly upon Owain, and said, "Luned, this knight has not the
look of a traveller." "What harm is there in that, lady?" said
Luned. "I am certain," said the Countess, "that no other man than
this chased the soul from the body of my lord." "So much the
better for thee, lady," said Luned, "for had he not been stronger
than thy lord, he could not have deprived him of life. There is no
remedy for that which is past, be it as it may." "Go back to thine
abode," said the Countess, "and I will take counsel."
The next day the Countess caused all her subjects to assemble, and
showed them that her earldom was left defenceless, and that it
could not be protected but with horse and arms, and military
skill. "Therefore," said she, "this is what I offer for your
choice: either let one of you take me, or give your consent for me
to take a husband from elsewhere, to defend my dominions."
So they came to the determination that it was better that she
should have permission to marry some one from elsewhere; and
thereupon she sent for the bishops and archbishops, to celebrate
her nuptials with Owain. And the men of the earldom did Owain
And Owain defended the fountain with lance and sword. And this is
the manner in which he defended it. Whensoever a knight came
there, he overthrew him, and sold him for his full worth. And what
he thus gained he divided among his barons and his knights, and no
man in the whole world could be more beloved than he was by his
subjects. And it was thus for the space of three years.
[Footnote: There exists an ancient poem, printed among those of
Taliesin, called the "Elegy of Owain ap Urien," and containing
several very beautiful and spirited passages It commences
"The soul of Owain ap Urien,
May its Lord consider its exigencies'
Reged's chief the green turf covers."
In the course of this Elegy the bard, alluding to the incessant
warfare with which this chieftain harassed his Saxon foes,
"Could England sleep with the light upon her eyes'"]
THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN (Continued)
It befell that, as Gawain went forth one day with King Arthur, he
perceived him to be very sad and sorrowful. And Gawain was much
grieved to see Arthur in his state, and he questioned him, saying,
"O my lord, what has befallen thee?" "In sooth, Gawain," said
Arthur, "I am grieved concerning Owain, whom I have lost these
three years; and I shall certainly die if the fourth year pass
without my seeing him. Now I am sure that it is through the tale
which Kynon, the son of Clydno, related, that I have lost Owain."
"There is no need for thee," said Gawain, "to summon to arms thy
whole dominions on this account, for thou thyself, and the men of
thy household, will be able to avenge Owain if he be slain or to
set him free if he be in prison; and, if alive, to bring him back
with thee." And it was settled according to what Gawain had said.
Then Arthur and the men of his household prepared to go and seek
Owain. And Kynon, the son of Clydno, acted as their guide. And
Arthur came to the castle where Kynon had been before. And when he
came there, the youths were shooting in the same place, and the
yellow man was standing hard by. When the yellow man saw Arthur,
he greeted him, and invited him to the castle. And Arthur accepted
his invitation, and they entered the castle together. And great as
was the number of his retinue, their presence was scarcely
observed in the castle, so vast was its extent. And the maidens
rose up to wait on them. And the service of the maidens appeared
to them all to excel any attendance they had ever met with; and
even the pages, who had charge of the horses, were no worse served
that night than Arthur himself would have been in his own palace.
The next morning Arthur set out thence, with Kynon for his guide,
and came to the place where the black man was. And the stature of
the black man was more surprising to Arthur than it had been
represented to him. And they came to the top of the wooded steep,
and traversed the valley, till they reached the green tree, where
they saw the fountain and the bowl and the slab. And upon that Kay
came to Arthur, and spoke to him. "My lord," said he, "I know the
meaning of all this, and my request is that thou wilt permit me to
throw the water on the slab, and to receive the first adventure
that may befall." And Arthur gave him leave.
Then Kay threw a bowlful of water upon the slab, and immediately
there came the thunder, and after the thunder the shower. And such
a thunder-storm they had never known before. After the shower had
ceased, the sky became clear, and on looking at the tree, they
beheld it completely leafless. Then the birds descended upon the
tree. And the song of the birds was far sweeter than any strain
they had ever heard before. Then they beheld a knight, on a coal-
black horse, clothed in black satin, coming rapidly towards them.
And Kay met him and encountered him, and it was not long before
Kay was overthrown. And the knight withdrew. And Arthur and his
host encamped for the night.
And when they arose in the morning, they perceived the signal of
combat upon the lance of the knight. Then, one by one, all the
household of Arthur went forth to combat the knight, until there
was not one that was not overthrown by him, except Arthur and
Gawain. And Arthur armed himself to encounter the knight. "O my
lord," said Gawain, "permit me to fight with him first." And
Arthur permitted him. And he went forth to meet the knight, having
over himself and his horse a satin robe of honor, which had been
sent him by the daughter of the Earl of Rhangyr, and in this dress
he was not known by any of the host. And they charged each other,
and fought all that day until the evening. And neither of them was
able to unhorse the other. And so it was the next day; they broke
their lances in the shock, but neither of them could obtain the
And the third day they fought with exceeding strong lances. And
they were incensed with rage, and fought furiously, even until
noon. And they gave each other such a shock that the girths of
their horses were broken, so that they fell over their horses'
cruppers to the ground. And they rose up speedily and drew their
swords, and resumed the combat. And all they that witnessed their
encounter felt assured that they had never before seen two men so
valiant or so powerful. And had it been midnight, it would have
been light, from the fire that flashed from their weapons. And the
knight gave Gawain a blow that turned his helmet from off his
face, so that the knight saw that it was Gawain. Then Owain said,
"My lord Gawain, I did not know thee for my cousin, owing to the
robe of honor that enveloped thee; take my sword and my arms."
Said Gawain, "Thou, Owain, art the victor; take thou my sword."
And with that Arthur saw that they were conversing, and advanced
toward them. "My lord Arthur," said Gawam, "here is Owain who has
vanquished me, and will not take my arms." "My lord," said Owain,
"it is he that has vanquished me, and he will not take my sword."
"Give me your swords," said Arthur, "and then neither of you has
vanquished the other." Then Owain put his arms around Arthur's
neck, and they embraced. And all the host hurried forward to see
Owain, and to embrace him. And there was nigh being a loss of
life, so great was the press.
And they retired that night, and the next day Arthur prepared to
depart. "My lord," said Owain, "this is not well of thee. For I
have been absent from thee these three years, and during all that
time, up to this very day, I have been preparing a banquet for
thee, knowing that thou wouldst come to seek me. Tarry with me,
therefore, until thou and thy attendants have recovered the
fatigues of the journey, and have been anointed."
And they all proceeded to the castle of the Countess of the
Fountain, and the banquet which had been three years preparing was
consumed in three months. Never had they a more delicious or
agreeable banquet. And Arthur prepared to depart. Then he sent an
embassy to the Countess to beseech her to permit Owain to go with
him, for the space of three months, that he might show him to the
nobles and the fair dames of the island of Britain. And the
Countess gave her consent, although it was very painful to her. So
Owain came with Arthur to the island of Britain. And when he was
once more amongst his kindred and friends, he remained three
years, instead of three months, with them.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE LION
And as Owain one day sat at meat, in the city of Caerleon upon
Usk, behold a damsel entered the hall, upon a bay horse, with a
curling mane, and covered with foam; and the bridle, and as much
as was seen of the saddle, were of gold. And the damsel was
arrayed in a dress of yellow satin. And she came up to Owain, and
took the ring from off his hand. "Thus," said she, "shall be
treated the deceiver, the traitor, the faithless, the disgraced,
and the beardless." And she turned her horse's head and departed.
[Footnote: The custom of riding into a hall while the lord and his
guests sat at meat might be illustrated by numerous passages of
ancient romance and history. But a quotation from Chaucer's
beautiful and half-told tale of "Cambuscan" is sufficient:
"And so befell that after the thridde cours,
While that this king sat thus in his nobley,
Herking his minstralles thir thinges play,
Beforne him at his bord deliciously,
In at the halle door all sodenly
Ther came a knight upon a stede of bras,
And in his hond a brod mirrour of glas;
Upon his thombe he had of gold a ring,
And by his side a naked sword hanging;
And up he rideth to the highe bord.
In all the halle ne was ther spoke a word,
For meryaille of this knight; him to behold
Full besily they waiten, young and old."]
Then his adventure came to Owain's remembrance, and he was
sorrowful. And having finished eating, he went to his own abode,
and made preparations that night. And the next day he arose, but
did not go to the court, nor did he return to the Countess of the
Fountain, but wandered to the distant parts of the earth and to
uncultivated mountains. And he remained there until all his
apparel was worn out, and his body was wasted away, and his hair
was grown long. And he went about with the wild beasts, and fed
with them, until they became familiar with him. But at length he
became so weak that he could no longer bear them company. Then he
descended from the mountains to the valley, and came to a park,
that was the fairest in the world, and belonged to a charitable
One day the lady and her attendants went forth to walk by a lake
that was in the middle of the park. And they saw the form of a
man, lying as if dead. And they were terrified. Nevertheless they
went near him, and touched him, and they saw that there was life
in him. And the lady returned to the castle, and took a flask full
of precious ointment and gave it to one of her maidens. "Go with
this," said she, "and take with thee yonder horse, and clothing,
and place them near the man we saw just now; and anoint him with
this balsam near his heart; and if there is life in him, he will
revive, through the efficiency of this balsam. Then watch what he
And the maiden departed from her, and went and poured of the
balsam upon Owain, and left the horse and the garments hard by,
and went a little way off and hid herself to watch him. In a short
time, she saw him begin to move; and he rose up, and looked at his
person, and became ashamed of the unseemliness of his appearance.
Then he perceived the horse and the garments that were near him.
And he clothed himself, and with difficulty mounted the horse.
Then the damsel discovered herself to him, and saluted him. And he
and the maiden proceeded to the castle, and the maiden conducted
him to a pleasant chamber, and kindled a fire, and left him.
And he stayed at the castle three months, till he was restored to
his former guise, and became even more comely than he had ever
been before. And Owain rendered signal service to the lady, in a
controversy with a powerful neighbor, so that he made ample
requital to her for her hospitality; and he took his departure.
And as he journeyed he heard a loud yelling in a wood. And it was
repeated a second and a third time. And Owain went towards the
spot, and beheld a huge craggy mound, in the middle of the wood,
on the side of which was a gray rock. And there was a cleft in the
rock, and a serpent was within the cleft. And near the rock stood
a black lion, and every time the lion sought to go thence the
serpent darted towards him to attack him. And Owain unsheathed his
sword, and drew near to the rock; and as the serpent sprung out he
struck him with his sword and cut him in two. And he dried his
sword, and went on his way as before. But behold the lion followed
him, and played about him, as though it had been a greyhound that
he had reared.
They proceeded thus throughout the day, until the evening. And
when it was time for Owain to take his rest he dismounted, and
turned his horse loose in a flat and wooded meadow. And he struck
fire, and when the fire was kindled, the lion brought him fuel
enough to last for three nights. And the lion disappeared. And
presently the lion returned, bearing a fine large roebuck. And he
threw it down before Owain, who went towards the fire with it.
And Owain took the roebuck, and skinned it, and placed collops of
its flesh upon skewers round the fire. The rest of the buck he
gave to the lion to devour. While he was so employed, he heard a
deep groan near him, and a second, and a third. And the place
whence the groans proceeded was a cave in the rock; and Owain went
near, and called out to know who it was that groaned so piteously.
And a voice answered, "I am Luned, the hand-maiden of the Countess
of the Fountain." "And what dost thou here?" said he. "I am
imprisoned," said she, "on account of the knight who came from
Arthur's court, and married the Countess. And he staid a short
time with her, but he afterwards departed for the court of Arthur,
and has not returned since. And two of the Countess's pages
traduced him, and called him a deceiver. And because I said I
would vouch for it he would come before long and maintain his
cause against both of them, they imprisoned me in this cave, and
said that I should be put to death, unless he came to deliver me,
by a certain day; and that is no further off than to-morrow, and I
have no one to send to seek him for me. His name is Owain, the son
of Urien." "And art thou certain that if that knight knew all
this, he would come to thy rescue?" "I am most certain of it,"
When the collops were cooked, Owain divided them into two parts,
between himself and the maiden, and then Owain laid himself down
to sleep; and never did sentinel keep stricter watch over his lord
than the lion that night over Owain.
And the next day there came the two pages with a great troop of
attendants to take Luned from her cell, and put her to death. And
Owain asked them what charge they had against her. And they told
him of the compact that was between them; as the maiden had done
the night before. "And," said they, "Owain has failed her,
therefore we are taking her to be burnt." "Truly," said Owain, "he
is a good knight; and if he knew that the maiden was in such
peril, I marvel that he came not to her rescue. But if you will
accept me in his stead, I will do battle with you." "We will,"
said the youth.
And they attacked Owain, and he was hard beset by them. And with
that, the lion came to Owain's assistance, and they two got the
better of the young men And they said to him, "Chieftain, it was
not agreed that we should fight save with thyself alone, and it is
harder for us to contend with yonder animal than with thee." And
Owain put the lion in the place where Luned had been imprisoned,
and blocked up the door with stones. And he went to fight with the
young men as before. But Owain had not his usual strength, and the
two youths pressed hard upon him. And the lion roared incessantly
at seeing Owain in trouble. And he brust through the wall, until
he found a way out, and rushed upon the young men and instantly
slew them. So Luned was saved from being burned.
Then Owain returned with Luned to the castle of the Lady of the
Fountain. And when he went thence, he took the Countess with him
to Arthur's court, and she was his wife as long as she lived.
GERAINT, THE SON OF ERBIN
Arthur was accustomed to hold his court at Caerleon upon Usk. And
there he held it seven Easters and five Christmases. And once upon
a time he held his court there at Whitsuntide. For Caerleon was
the place most easy of access in his dominions, both by sea and by
land. And there were assembled nine crowned kings, who were his
tributaries, and likewise earls and barons. For they were his
invited guests at all the high festivals, unless they were
prevented by any great hinderatice. And when he was at Caerleon
holding his court, thirteen churches were set apart for mass. And
thus they were appointed: one church for Arthur and his kings, and
his guests; and the second for Guenever and her ladies; and the
third for the steward of the household and the suitors; and the
fourth for the Franks and the other officers; and the other nine
churches were for the nine masters of the household, and chiefly
for Gawain, for he, from the eminence of his warlike fame, and
from the nobleness of his birth, was the most exalted of the nine.
And there was no other arrangement respecting the churches than
that which we have here mentioned.
And on Whit-Tuesday, as the king sat at the banquet, lo, there
entered a tall, fair-headed youth, clad in a coat and surcoat of
satin, and a golden-hilted sword about his neck, and low shoes of
leather upon his feet. And he came and stood before Arthur. "Hail
to thee, lord," said he. "Heaven prosper thee," he answered, "and
be thou welcome. Dost thou bring any new tidings?" "I do, lord,"
he said. "I am one of thy foresters, lord, in the forest of Dean,
and my name is Madoc, son of Turgadarn. In the forest I saw a
stag, the like of which beheld I never yet." "What is there about
him," asked Arthur, "that thou never yet didst see his like?" "He
is of pure white, lord, and he does not herd with any other
animal, through stateliness and pride, so royal is his bearing.
And I come to seek thy counsel, lord, and to know thy will
concerning him." "It seems best to me," said Arthur, "to go and
hunt him to-morrow at break of day, and to cause general notice
thereof to be given to-night, in all quarters of the court."
"For Arthur on the Whitsuntide before
Held court at old Caerleon upon Usk.
There on a day, he sitting high in hall,
Before him came a forester of Dean,
Wet from the woods, with notice of a hart
Taller than all his fellows, milky-white,
First seen that day: these things he told the king.
Then the good king gave order to let blow
His horns for hunting on the morrow morn."
And Arryfuerys was Arthur's chief huntsman, and Arelivri his chief
page. And all received notice; and thus it was arranged.
Then Guenever said to Arthur, "Wilt thou permit me, lord, to go
to-morrow to see and hear the hunt of the stag of which the young
man spoke?" "I will gladly," said Arthur. And Gawain said to
Arthur, "Lord, if it seem well to thee, permit that into whose
hunt soever the stag shall come, that one, be he a knight or one
on foot, may cut off his head, and give it to whom he pleases,
whether to his own lady-love, or to the lady of his friend." "I
grant it gladly," said Arthur, "and let the steward of the
household be chastised, if all things are not ready to-morrow for
And they passed the night with songs, and diversions, and
discourse, and ample entertainment. And when it was time for them
all to go to sleep, they went. And when the next day came, they
arose. And Arthur called the attendants who guarded his couch. And
there were four pages whose names were Cadyrnerth, the son of
Gandwy, and Ambreu, the son of Bedwor and Amhar, the son of Arthur
and Goreu, the son of Custennin. And these men came to Arthur and
saluted him, and arrayed him in his garments. And Arthur wondered
that Guenever did not awake, and the attendants wished to awaken
her. "Disturb her not," said Arthur, "for she had rather sleep
than go to see the hunting."
Then Arthur went forth, and he heard two horns sounding, one from
near the lodging of the chief huntsman, and the other from near
that of the chief page. And the whole assembly of the multitudes
came to Arthur, and they took the road to the forest.
And after Arthur had gone forth from the palace, Guenever awoke,
and called to her maidens, and apparalled herself. "Maidens," said
she, "I had leave last night to go and see the hunt. Go one of you
to the stable, and order hither a horse such as a woman may ride."
And one of them went, and she found but two horses in the stable;
and Guenever and one of her maidens mounted them, and went through
the Usk, and followed the track of the men and the horses. And as
they rode thus, they heard a loud and rushing sound; and they
looked behind them, and beheld a knight upon a hunter foal of
mighty size. And the rider was a fairhaired youth, bare-legged,
and of princely mien; and a golden-hilted sword was at his side,
and a robe and a surcoat of satin were upon him, and two low shoes
of leather upon his feet; and around him was a scarf of blue
purple, at each corner of which was a golden apple.
"For Prince Geraint,
Late also, wearing neither hunting-dress
Nor weapon, save a golden-hilted brand,
Came quickly flashing through the shallow ford."
And his horse stepped stately, and swift, and proud; and he
overtook Guenever, and saluted her. "Heaven prosper thee,
Geraint," said she; "and why didst thou not go with thy lord to
hunt?" "Because I knew not when he went," said he. "I marvel too,"
said she, "how he could go, unknown to me. But thou, O young man,
art the most agreeable companion I could have in the whole
kingdom; and it may be I shall be more amused with the hunting
than they; for we shall hear the horns when they sound and we
shall hear the dogs when they are let loose and begin to cry."
So they went to the edge of the forest, and there they stood.
"From this place," said she, "we shall hear when the dogs are let
loose." And thereupon they heard a loud noise; and they looked
towards the spot whence it came, and they beheld a dwarf riding
upon a horse, stately and foaming and prancing and strong and
spirited. And in the hand of the dwarf was a whip. And near the
dwarf they saw a lady upon a beautiful white horse, of steady and
stately pace; and she was clothed in a garment of gold brocade.
And near her was a knight upon a war-horse of large size, with
heavy and bright armor both upon himself and upon his horse. And
truly they never before saw a knight, or a horse, or armor, of
such remarkable size.
"Geraint," said Guenever, "knowest thou the name of that tall
knight yonder?" "I know him not," said he, "and the strange armor
that he wears prevents my either seeing his face or his features."
"Go, maiden," said Guenever, "and ask the dwarf who that knight
is." Then the maiden went up to the dwarf; and she inquired of the
dwarf who the knight was. "I will not tell thee," he answered.
"Since thou art so churlish," said she, "I will ask him, himself."
"Thou shalt not ask him, by my faith," said he. "Wherefore not?"
said she. "Because thou art not of honor sufficient to befit thee
to speak to my lord." Then the maiden turned her horse's head
towards the knight, upon which the dwarf struck her with the whip
that was in his hand across the face and the eyes, so that the
blood flowed forth. And the maiden returned to Guenever,
complaining of the hurt she had received. "Very rudely has the
dwarf treated thee," said Geraint, and he put his hand upon the
hilt of his sword. But he took counsel with himself, and
considered that it would be no vengeance for him to slay the
dwarf, and to be attacked unarmed by the armed knight; so he
"Lady," said he, "I will follow him, with thy permission, and at
last he will come to some inhabited place, where I may have arms,
either as a loan or for a pledge, so that I may encounter the
knight." "Go," said she, "and do not attack him until thou hast
good arms; and I shall be very anxious concerning thee, until I
hear tidings of thee." "If I am alive," said he, "thou shalt hear
tidings of me by to-morrow afternoon;" and with that he departed.
And the road they took was below the palace of Caerleon, and
across the ford of the Usk; and they went along a fair and even
and lofty ridge of ground, until they came to a town, and at the
extremity of the town they saw a fortress and a castle. And as the
knight passed through the town all the people arose and saluted
him, and bade him welcome. And when Geraint came into the town, he
looked at every house to see if he knew any of those whom he saw.
But he knew none, and none knew him, to do him the kindness to let
him have arms, either as a loan or for a pledge. And every house
he saw was full of men, and arms, and horses. And they were
polishing shields, and burnishing swords, and washing armor, and
shoeing horses. And the knight and the lady and the dwarf rode up
to the castle, that was in the town, and every one was glad in the
castle. And from the battlements and the gates they risked their
necks, through their eagerness to greet them, and to show their
Geraint stood there to see whether the knight would remain in the
castle; and when he was certain that he would do so, he looked
around him. And at a little distance from the town he saw an old
palace in ruins, wherein was a hall that was falling to decay.
"And high above a piece of turret-stair,
Worn by the feet that now were silent, wound
Bare to the sun"
And as he knew not any one in the town, he went towards the old
palace. And when he came near to the palace, he saw a hoary-headed
man, standing by it, in tattered garments. And Geraint gazed
steadfastly upon him. Then the hoary-headed man said to him,
"Young man, wherefore art thou thoughtful?" "I am thoughtful,"
said he, "because I know not where to pass the night." "Wilt thou
come forward this way, chieftain," said he, "and thou shalt have
of the best that can be procured for thee." So Geraint went
forward. And the hoary-headed man led the way into the hall. And
in the hall he dismounted, and he left there his horse. Then he
went on to the upper chamber with the hoary-headed man. And in the
chamber he beheld an old woman, sitting on a cushion, with old,
worn-out garments upon her; yet it seemed to him that she must
have been comely when in the bloom of youth. And beside her was a
maiden, upon whom were a vest and a veil that were old and
beginning to be worn out. And truly he never saw a maiden more
full of comeliness and grace and beauty than she. And the hoary-
headed man said to the maiden, "There is no attendant for the
horse of this youth but thyself." "I will render the best service
I am able," said she, "both to him and to his horse." And the
maiden disarrayed the youth, and then she furnished his horse with
straw and corn; and then she returned to the chamber. And the
hoary-headed man said to the maiden, "Go to the town and bring
hither the best that thou canst find, both of food and of liquor."
"I will gladly, lord," said she. And to the town went the maiden.
And they conversed together while the maiden was at the town. And,
behold, the maiden came back, and a youth with her, bearing on his
back a costrel full of good purchased mead, and a quarter of a
young bullock. And in the hands of the maiden was a quantity of
white bread, and she had some manchet bread in her veil, and she
came into the chamber. "I would not obtain better than this," said
she, "nor with better should I have been trusted." "It is good
enough," said Geraint. And they caused the meat to be boiled; and
when their food was ready, they sat down. And it was in this wise.
Geraint sat between the hoary-headed man and his wife, and the
maiden served them. And they ate and drank.
And when they had finished eating, Geraint talked with the hoary-
headed man, and he asked him in the first place to whom belonged
the palace that he was in. "Truly," said he, "it was I that built
it, and to me also belonged the city and the castle which thou
sawest." "Alas!" said Geraint, "how is it that thou hast lost them
now?" "I lost a great earldom as well as these," said he, "and
this is how I lost them. I had a nephew, the son of my brother,
and I took care of his possessions; but he was impatient to enter
upon them, so he made war upon me, and wrested from me not only
his own, but also my estates, except this castle." "Good sir,"
said Geraint, "wilt thou tell me wherefore came the knight and the
lady and the dwarf just now into the town, and what is the
preparation which I saw, and the putting of arms in order?" "I
will do so," said he. "The preparations are for the game that is
to be held to-morrow by the young earl, which will be on this
wise. In the midst of a meadow which is here, two forks will be
set up, and upon the two forks a silver rod, and upon the silver
rod a sparrow-hawk, and for the sparrow-hawk there will be a
tournament. And to the tournament will go all the array thou didst
see in the city, of men and of horses and of arms. And with each
man will go the lady he loves best; and no man can joust for the
sparrow-hawk, except the lady he loves best be with him. And the
knight that thou sawest has gained the sparrow-hawk these two
years; and if he gains it the third year, he will be called the
Knight of the Sparrow-hawk from that time forth." "Sir," said
Geraint, "what is thy counsel to me concerning this knight, on
account of the insult which the maiden of Guenever received from
the dwarf?" And Geraint told the hoary-headed man what the insult
was that the maiden had received. "It is not easy to counsel thee,
inasmuch as thou hast neither dame nor maiden belonging to thee,
for whom thou canst joust. Yet I have arms here, which thou
couldst have, and there is my horse also, if he seem to thee
better than thine own." "Ah, sir," said he, "Heaven reward thee!
But my own horse to which I am accustomed, together with thine
arms, will suffice me. And if, when the appointed time shall come
to-morrow thou wilt permit me, sir, to challenge for yonder maiden
that is thy daughter, I will engage, if I escape from the
tournament, to love the maiden as long as I live." "Gladly will I
permit thee," said the hoary-headed man; "and since thou dost thus
resolve, it is necessary that thy horse and arms should be ready
to-morrow at break of day. For then the Knight of the Sparrow-hawk
will make proclamation, and ask the lady he loves best to take the
sparrow-hawk; and if any deny it to her, by force will he defend
her claim. And therefore," said the hoary-headed man, "it is
needful for thee to be there at daybreak, and we three will be
with thee." And thus was it settled.
And at night they went to sleep. And before the dawn they arose
and arrayed themselves; and by the time that it was day, they were
all four in the meadow. And there was the Knight of the Sparrow-
hawk making the proclamation, and asking his lady-love to take the
sparrow-hawk. "Take it not," said Geraint, "for here is a maiden
who is fairer, and more noble, and more comely, and who has a
better claim to it than thou." Then said the knight, "If thou
maintainest the sparrow-hawk to be due to her, come forward and do
battle with me." And Geraint went forward to the top of the
meadow, having upon himself and upon his horse armor which was
heavy and rusty, and of uncouth shape. Then they encountered each
other, and they broke a set of lances; and they broke a second
set, and a third. And when the earl and his company saw the Knight
of the Sparrow-hawk gaining the mastery, there was shouting and
joy and mirth amongst them; and the hoary-headed man and his wife
and his daughter were sorrowful. And the hoary-headed man served
Geraint with lances as often as he broke them, and the dwarf
served the Knight of the Sparrow-hawk. Then the hoary-headed man
said to Geraint, "O chieftain, since no other will hold with thee,
behold, here is the lance which was in my hand on the day when I
received the honor of knighthood, and from that time to this I
never broke it, and it has an excellent point." Then Geraint took
the lance, thanking the hoary-headed man. And thereupon the dwarf
also brought a lance to his lord. "Behold, here is a lance for
thee, not less good than his," said the dwarf. "And bethink thee
that no knight ever withstood thee so long as this one has done."
"I declare to Heaven," said Geraint, "that unless death takes me
quickly hence, he shall fare never the better for thy service."
And Geraint pricked his horse towards him from afar, and, warning
him, he rushed upon him, and gave him a blow so severe, and
furious, and fierce, upon the face of his shield, that he cleft it
in two, and broke his armor, and burst his girths, so that both he
and his saddle were borne to the ground over the horse's crupper.
And Geraint dismounted quickly. And he was wroth, and he drew his
sword, and rushed fiercely upon him. Then the knight also arose,
and drew his sword against Geraint. And they fought on foot with
their swords until their arms struck sparks of fire like stars
from one another; and thus they continued fighting until the blood
and sweat obscured the light from their eyes. At length Geraint
called to him all his strength, and struck the knight upon the
crown of his head, so that he broke all his head-armor, and cut
through all the flesh and the skin, even to the skull, until he
wounded the bone.
Then the knight fell upon his knees, and cast his sword from his
hand, and besought mercy from Geraint. "Of a truth," said he, "I
relinquish my overdaring and my pride, and crave thy mercy; and
unless I have time to commit myself to Heaven for my sins, and to
talk with a priest, thy mercy will avail me little." "I will grant
thee grace upon this condition," said Geraint, "that thou go to
Guenever, the wife of Arthur, to do her satisfaction for the
insult which her maiden received from thy dwarf. Dismount not from
the time thou goest hence until thou comest into the presence of
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