Bulfinch's Mythology
Thomas Bulfinch

Part 9 out of 19

been recovered by Gawain had arrived, and informed the mayor and
citizens of the danger of their deliverer. The arrival of the
Londoners soon decided the contest. The enemy fled in all
directions, and Gawain and his friends, escorted by the grateful
citizens, entered London, and were received with acclamations.


ARTHUR (Continued)

After the great victory of Mount Badon, by which the Saxons were
for the time effectually put down, Arthur turned his arms against
the Scots and Picts, whom he routed at Lake Lomond, and compelled
to sue for mercy. He then went to York to keep his Christmas, and
employed himself in restoring the Christian churches which the
Pagans had rifled and overthrown. The following summer he
conquered Ireland, and then made a voyage with his fleet to
Iceland, which he also subdued. The kings of Gothland and of the
Orkneys came voluntarily and made their submission, promising to
pay tribute. Then he returned to Britain, where, having
established the kingdom, he dwelt twelve years in peace.

During this time he invited over to him all persons whatsoever
that were famous for valor in foreign nations, and augmented the
number of his domestics, and introduced such politeness into his
court as people of the remotest countries thought worthy of their
imitation. So that there was not a nobleman who thought himself of
any consideration unless his clothes and arms were made in the
same fashion as those of Arthur's knights.

Finding himself so powerful at home, Arthur began to form designs
for extending his power abroad. So, having prepared his fleet, he
first attempted Norway, that he might procure the crown of it for
Lot, his sister's husband. Arthur landed in Norway, fought a great
battle with the king of that country, defeated him, and pursued
the victory till he had reduced the whole country under his
dominion, and established Lot upon the throne. Then Arthur made a
voyage to Gaul and laid siege to the city of Paris. Gaul was at
that time a Roman province, and governed by Flollo, the Tribune.
When the siege of Paris had continued a month, and the people
began to suffer from famine, Flollo challenged Arthur to single
combat, proposing to decide the conquest of the province in that
way. Arthur gladly accepted the challenge, and slew his adversary
in the contest, upon which the citizens surrendered the city to
him. After the victory Arthur divided his army into two parts, one
of which he committed to the conduct of Hoel, whom he ordered to
march into Aquitaine, while he with the other part should endeavor
to subdue the other provinces. At the end of nine years, in which
time all the parts of Gaul were entirely reduced, Arthur returned
to Paris, where he kept his court, and, calling an assembly of the
clergy and people, established peace and the just administration
of the laws in that kingdom. Then he bestowed Normandy upon
Bedver, his butler, and the province of Andegavia upon Kay, his
steward, [Footnote: This name, in the French romances, is spelled
Queux, which means head cook. This would seem to imply that it was
a title, and not a name; yet the personage who bore it is never
mentioned by any other. He is the chief, if not the only, comic
character among the heroes of Arthur's court. He is the Seneschal
or Steward, his duties also embracing those of chief of the cooks.
In the romances, his general character is a compound of valor and
buffoonery, always ready to fight, and generally getting the worst
of the battle. He is also sarcastic and abusive in his remarks, by
which he often gets into trouble. Yet Arthur seems to have an
attachment to him, and often takes his advice, which is generally
wrong.] and several other provinces upon his great men that
attended him. And, having settled the peace of the cities and
countries, he returned back in the beginning of spring to Britain.

Upon the approach of the feast of Pentecost, Arthur, the better to
demonstrate his joy after such triumphant successes, and for the
more solemn observation of that festival, and reconciling the
minds of the princes that were now subject to him, resolved during
that season to hold a magnificent court, to place the crown upon
his head, and to invite all the kings and dukes under his
subjection to the solemnity. And he pitched upon Caerleon, the
City of Legions, as the proper place for his purpose. For, besides
its great wealth above the other cities, its situation upon the
river Usk, near the Severn sea, was most pleasant and fit for so
great a solemnity. For on one side it was washed by that noble
river, so that the kings and princes from the countries beyond the
seas might have the convenience of sailing up to it. On the other
side the beauty of the meadows and groves, and magnificence of the
royal palaces, with lofty gilded roofs that adorned it, made it
even rival the grandeur of Rome. It was also famous for two
churches, whereof one was adorned with a choir of virgins, who
devoted themselves wholly to the service of God, and the other
maintained a convent of priests. Besides, there was a college of
two hundred philosophers, who, being learned in astronomy and the
other arts, were diligent in observing the courses of the stars,
and gave Arthur true predictions of the events that would happen.
In this place, therefore, which afforded such delights, were
preparations made for the ensuing festival.

[Footnote: Several cities are allotted to King Arthur by the
romance-writers. The principal are Caerleon, Camelot, and

Caerleon derives its name from its having been the station of one
of the legions, during the dominion of the Romans. It is called by
Latin writers Urbs Legionum, the City of Legions. The former word
being rendered into Welsh by Caer, meaning city, and the latter
contracted into lleon. The river Usk retains its name in modern
geography, and there is a town or city of Caerleon upon it, though
the city of Cardiff is thought to be the scene of Arthur's court.
Chester also bears in Welsh the name of Caerleon; for Chester,
derived from castra, Latin for camp, is the designation of
military headquarters.

Camelot is thought to be Winchester.

Shalott is Guilford.

Hamo's Port is Southampton.

Carlisle is the city still retaining that name, near the Scottish
border. But this name is also sometimes applied to other places,
which were, like itself, military stations.]

Ambassadors were then sent into several kingdoms, to invite to
court the princes both of Gaul and of the adjacent islands.
Accordingly there came Augusel, king of Albania, now Scotland,
Cadwallo, king of Venedotia, now North Wales, Sater, king of
Demetia, now South Wales; also the archbishops of the metropolitan
sees, London and York, and Dubricius, bishop of Caerleon, the City
of Legions. This prelate, who was primate of Britain, was so
eminent for his piety that he could cure any sick person by his
prayers. There were also the counts of the principal cities, and
many other worthies of no less dignity.

From the adjacent islands came Guillamurius, king of Ireland,
Gunfasius, king of the Orkneys, Malvasius, king of Iceland, Lot,
king of Norway, Bedver, the butler, Duke of Normandy, Kay, the
sewer, Duke of Andegavia; also the twelve peers of Gaul, and Hoel,
Duke of the Armorican Britons, with his nobility, who came with
such a train of mules, horses, and rich furniture as it is
difficult to describe. Besides these there remained no prince of
any consideration on this side of Spain who came not upon this
invitation. And no wonder, when Arthur's munificence, which was
celebrated over the whole world, made him beloved by all people.

When all were assembled upon the day of the solemnity the
archbishops were conducted to the palace, in order to place the
crown upon the king's head. Then Dubricius, inasmuch as the court
was held in his diocese, made himself ready to celebrate the
office. As soon as the king was invested with his royal
habiliments he was conducted in great pomp to the metropolitan
church, having four kings, viz., of Albania, Cornwall, Demetia,
and Venedotia, bearing four golden swords before him. On another
part was the queen, dressed out in her richest ornaments,
conducted by the archbishops and bishops to the Church of Virgins;
the four queens, also, of the kings last mentioned, bearing before
her four white doves, according to ancient custom. When the whole
procession was ended so transporting was the harmony of the
musical instruments and voices, whereof there was a vast variety
in both churches, that the knights who attended were in doubt
which to prefer, and therefore crowded from the one to the other
by turns, and were far from being tired of the solemnity, though
the whole day had been spent in it. At last, when divine service
was over at both churches, the king and queen put off their
crowns, and, putting on their lighter ornaments, went to the
banquet. When they had all taken their seats according to
precedence, Kay, the sewer, in rich robes of ermine, with a
thousand young noblemen all in like manner clothed in rich attire,
served up the dishes. From another part Bedver, the butler, was
followed by the same number of attendants, who waited with all
kinds of cups and drinking-vessels. And there was food and drink
in abundance, and everything was of the best kind, and served in
the best manner. For at that time Britain had arrived at such a
pitch of grandeur that in riches, luxury, and politeness it far
surpassed all other kingdoms.

As soon as the banquets were over they went into the fields
without the city to divert themselves with various sports, such as
shooting with bows and arrows, tossing the pike, casting of heavy
stones and rocks, playing at dice, and the like, and all these
inoffensively, and without quarrelling. In this manner were three
days spent, and after that they separated, and the kings and
noblemen departed to their several homes.

After this Arthur reigned five years in peace. Then came
ambassadors from Lucius Tiberius, Procurator under Leo, Emperor of
Rome, demanding tribute. But Arthur refused to pay tribute, and
prepared for war. As soon as the necessary dispositions were made
he committed the government of his kingdom to his nephew Modred
and to Queen Guenever, and marched with his army to Hamo's Port,
where the wind stood fair for him. The army crossed over in
safety, and landed at the mouth of the river Barba. And there they
pitched their tents to wait the arrival of the kings of the

As soon as all the forces were arrived Arthur marched forward to
Augustodunum, and encamped on the banks of the river Alba. Here
repeated battles were fought, in all which the Britons, under
their valiant leaders, Hoel, Duke of Armorica, and Gawain, nephew
to Arthur, had the advantage. At length Lucius Tiberius determined
to retreat, and wait for the Emperor Leo to join him with fresh
troops. But Arthur, anticipating this event, took possession of a
certain valley, and closed up the way of retreat to Lucius,
compelling him to fight a decisive battle, in which Arthur lost
some of the bravest of his knights and most faithful followers.
But on the other hand Lucius Tiberius was slain, and his army
totally defeated. The fugitives dispersed over the country, some
to the by-ways and woods, some to cities and towns, and all other
places where they could hope for safety.

Arthur stayed in those parts till the next winter was over, and
employed his time in restoring order and settling the government.
He then returned into England, and celebrated his victories with
great splendor.

Then the king stablished all his knights, and to them that were
not rich he gave lands, and charged them all never to do outrage
nor murder, and always to flee treason; also, by no means to be
cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asked mercy, upon pain of
forfeiture of their worship and lordship; and always to do ladies,
damosels, and gentlewomen service, upon pain of death. Also that
no man take battle in a wrongful quarrel, for no law, nor for any
world's goods. Unto this were all the knights sworn of the Table
Round, both old and young. And at every year were they sworn at
the high feast of Pentecost.


While the army was encamped in Brittany, awaiting the arrival of
the kings, there came a countryman to Arthur, and told him that a
giant, whose cave was on a neighboring mountain, called St.
Michael's Mount, had for a long time been accustomed to carry off
the children of the peasants to devour them. "And now he hath
taken the Duchess of Brittany, as she rode with her attendants,
and hath carried her away in spite of all they could do." "Now,
fellow," said King Arthur, "canst thou bring me there where this
giant haunteth?" "Yea, sure," said the good man; "lo, yonder where
thou seest two great fires, there shalt thou find him, and more
treasure than I suppose is in all France beside." Then the king
called to him Sir Bedver and Sir Kay, and commanded them to make
ready horse and harness for himself and them; for after evening he
would ride on pilgrimage to St. Michael's Mount.

So they three departed, and rode forth till they came to the foot
of the mount. And there the king commanded them to tarry, for he
would himself go up into that mount. So he ascended the hill till
he came to a great fire, and there he found an aged woman sitting
by a new-made grave, making great sorrow. Then King Arthur saluted
her, and demanded of her wherefore she made such lamentation; to
whom she answered: "Sir knight, speak low, for yonder is a devil,
and if he hear thee speak, he will come and destroy thee. For ye
cannot make resistance to him, he is so fierce and so strong. He
hath murdered the Duchess, which here lieth, who was the fairest
of all the world, wife to Sir Hoel, Duke of Brittany." "Dame,"
said the king, "I come from the noble conqueror, King Arthur, to
treat with that tyrant." "Fie on such treaties," said she; "he
setteth not by the king, nor by no man else." "Well," said Arthur,
"I will accomplish my message for all your fearful words." So he
went forth by the crest of the hill, and saw where the giant sat
at supper, gnawing on the limb of a man, and baking his broad
limbs at the fire, and three fair damsels lying bound, whose lot
it was to be devoured in their turn. When King Arthur beheld that,
he had great compassion on them, so that his heart bled for
sorrow. Then he hailed the giant, saying, "He that all the world
ruleth give thee short life and shameful death. Why hast thou
murdered this Duchess? Therefore come forth, for this day thou
shalt die by my hand." Then the giant started up, and took a great
club, and smote at the king, and smote off his coronal; and then
the king struck him in the belly with his sword, and made a
fearful wound. Then the giant threw away his club, and caught the
king in his arms, so that he crushed his ribs. Then the three
maidens kneeled down and prayed for help and comfort for Arthur.
And Arthur weltered and wrenched, so that he was one while under,
and another time above. And so weltering and wallowing they rolled
down the hill, and ever as they weltered Arthur smote him with his
dagger; and it fortuned they came to the place where the two
knights were. And when they saw the king fast in the giant's arms
they came and loosed him. Then the king commanded Sir Kay to smite
off the giant's head, and to set it on the truncheon of a spear,
and fix it on the barbican, that all the people might see and
behold it. This was done, and anon it was known through all the
country, wherefor the people came and thanked the king. And he
said, "Give your thanks to God; and take ye the giant's spoil and
divide it among you." And King Arthur caused a church to be
builded on that hill, in honor of St. Michael.


One day King Arthur rode forth, and on a sudden he was ware of
three churls chasing Merlin, to have slain him. And the king rode
unto them and bade them, "Flee, churls!" Then were they afraid
when they saw a knight, and fled. "O Merlin," said Arthur, "here
hadst thou been slain, for all thy crafts, had I not been by."
"Nay," said Merlin, "not so, for I could save myself if I would;
but thou art more near thy death than I am." So, as they went thus
talking, King Arthur perceived where sat a knight on horseback, as
if to guard the pass. "Sir knight," said Arthur, "for what cause
abidest thou here?" Then the knight said, "There may no knight
ride this way unless he just with me, for such is the custom of
the pass." "I will amend that custom," said the king. Then they
ran together, and they met so hard that their spears were
shivered. Then they drew their swords and fought a strong battle,
with many great strokes. But at length the sword of the knight
smote King Arthur's sword in two pieces. Then said the knight unto
Arthur, "Thou art in my power, whether to save thee or slay thee,
and unless thou yield thee as overcome and recreant, thou shalt
die." "As for death," said King Arthur, "welcome be it when it
cometh; but to yield me unto thee as recreant, I will not." Then
he leapt upon the knight, and took him by the middle and threw him
down; but the knight was a passing strong man, and anon he brought
Arthur under him, and would have razed off his helm to slay him.
Then said Merlin, "Knight, hold thy hand, for this knight is a man
of more worship than thou art aware of." "Why, who is he?" said
the knight. "It is King Arthur." Then would he have slain him for
dread of his wrath, and lifted up his sword to slay him; and
therewith Merlin cast an enchantment on the knight, so that he
fell to the earth in a great sleep. Then Merlin took up King
Arthur, and set him on his horse. "Alas!" said Arthur, "what hast
thou done, Merlin? hast thou slain this good knight by thy
crafts?" "Care ye not," said Merlin; "he is wholer than ye be. He
is only asleep, and will wake in three hours."

Then the king and he departed, and went till they came to a
hermit, that was a good man and a great leech. So the hermit
searched all his wounds, and applied good salves; and the king was
there three days, and then were his wounds well amended, that he
might ride and go. So they departed, and as they rode Arthur said,
"I have no sword." "No matter," said Merlin; "hereby is a sword
that shall be yours." So they rode till they came to a lake, which
was a fair water and broad. And in the midst of the lake Arthur
was aware of an arm clothed in white samite, [Footnote: Samite, a
sort of silk stuff.] that held a fair sword in the hand. "Lo!"
said Merlin, "yonder is that sword that I spake of. It belongeth
to the Lady of the Lake, and, if she will, thou mayest take it;
but if she will not, it will not be in thy power to take it."

So Sir Arthur and Merlin alighted from their horses, and went into
a boat. And when they came to the sword that the hand held Sir
Arthur took it by the handle and took it to him, and the arm and
the hand went under the water.

Then they returned unto the land and rode forth. And Sir Arthur
looked on the sword and liked it right well.

So they rode unto Caerleon, whereof his knights were passing glad.
And when they heard of his adventures they marvelled that he would
jeopard his person so alone. But all men of worship said it was a
fine thing to be under such a chieftain as would put his person in
adventure as other poor knights did.



Sir Gawain was nephew to King Arthur, by his sister Morgana,
married to Lot, king of Orkney, who was by Arthur made king of
Norway. Sir Gawain was one of the most famous knights of the Round
Table, and is characterized by the romancers as the SAGE and
COURTEOUS Gawain. To this Chaucer alludes in his "Squiere's Tale,"
where the strange knight "salueth" all the court

"With so high reverence and observance,
As well in speeche as in countenance,
That Gawain, with his olde curtesie,
Though he were come agen out of faerie,
Ne coude him not amenden with a word."

Gawain's brothers were Agrivain, Gahariet, and Gareth.


Once upon a time King Arthur held his court in merry Carlisle,
when a damsel came before him and craved a boon. It was for
vengeance upon a caitiff knight, who had made her lover captive
and despoiled her of her lands. King Arthur commanded to bring him
his sword, Excalibar, and to saddle his steed, and rode forth
without delay to right the lady's wrong. Ere long he reached the
castle of the grim baron, and challenged him to the conflict. But
the castle stood on magic ground, and the spell was such that no
knight could tread thereon but straight his courage fell and his
strength decayed. King Arthur felt the charm, and before a blow
was struck, his sturdy limbs lost their strength, and his head
grew faint. He was fain to yield himself prisoner to the churlish
knight, who refused to release him except upon condition that he
should return at the end of a year, and bring a true answer to the
question, "What thing is it which women most desire?" or in
default thereof surrender himself and his lands. King Arthur
accepted the terms, and gave his oath to return at the time
appointed. During the year the king rode east, and he rode west,
and inquired of all whom he met what thing it is which all women
most desire. Some told him riches; some, pomp and state; some,
mirth; some, flattery; and some, a gallant knight. But in the
diversity of answers he could find no sure dependence. The year
was well-nigh spent, when one day, as he rode thoughtfully through
a forest, he saw sitting beneath a tree a lady of such hideous
aspect that he turned away his eyes, and when she greeted him in
seemly sort, made no answer. "What wight art thou," the lady said,
"that will not speak to me? It may chance that I may resolve thy
doubts, though I be not fair of aspect." "If thou wilt do so,"
said King Arthur, "choose what reward thou wilt, thou grim lady,
and it shall be given thee." "Swear me this upon thy faith," she
said, and Arthur swore it. Then the lady told him the secret, and
demanded her reward, which was that the king should find some fair
and courtly knight to be her husband.

King Arthur hastened to the grim baron's castle and told him one
by one all the answers which he had received from his various
advisers, except the last, and not one was admitted as the true
one. "Now yield thee, Arthur," the giant said, "for thou hast not
paid thy ransom, and thou and thy lands are forfeited to me." Then
King Arthur said:

"Yet hold thy hand, thou proud baron,
I pray thee hold thy hand,
And give me leave to speak once more,
In rescue of my land.
This morn as I came over a moor,
I saw a lady set,
Between an oak and a green holly,
All clad in red scarlett.
This is their chief desire;
Now yield, as thou art a baron true,
That I have paid my hire."

"It was my sister that told thee this," the churlish baron
exclaimed. "Vengeance light on her! I will some time or other do
her as ill a turn."

King Arthur rode homeward, but not light of heart, for he
remembered the promise he was under to the loathly lady to--give
her one of his young and gallant knights for a husband. He told
his grief to Sir Gawain, his nephew, and he replied, "Be not sad,
my lord, for I will marry the loathly lady." King Arthur replied:

"Now nay, now nay, good Sir Gawaine,
My sister's son ye be;
The loathly lady's all too grim,
And all too foule for thee."

But Gawain persisted, and the king at last, with sorrow of heart,
consented that Gawain should be his ransom. So one day the king
and his knights rode to the forest, met the loathly lady, and
brought her to the court. Sir Gawain stood the scoffs and jeers of
his companions as he best might, and the marriage was solemnized,
but not with the usual festivities. Chaucer tells us:

"... There was no joye ne feste at alle;
There n' as but hevinesse and mochel sorwe,
For prively he wed her on the morwe,
And all day after hid him as an owle,
So wo was him his wife loked so foule!"

[Footnote: N'AS is NOT WAS, contracted; in modern phrase, THERE

When night came, and they were alone together, Sir Gawain could
not conceal his aversion; and the lady asked him why he sighed so
heavily, and turned away his face. He candidly confessed it was on
account of three things, her age, her ugliness, and her low
degree. The lady, not at all offended, replied with excellent
arguments to all his objections. She showed him that with age is
discretion, with ugliness security from rivals, and that all true
gentility depends, not upon the accident of birth, but upon the
character of the individual.

Sir Gawain made no reply; but, turning his eyes on his bride, what
was his amazement to perceive that she wore no longer the unseemly
aspect that had so distressed him. She then told him that the form
she had worn was not her true form, but a disguise imposed upon
her by a wicked enchanter, and that she was condemned to wear it
until two things should happen: one, that she should obtain some
young and gallant knight to be her husband. This having been done,
one-half of the charm was removed. She was now at liberty to wear
her true form for half the time, and she bade him choose whether
he would have her fair by day, and ugly by night, or the reverse.
Sir Gawain would fain have had her look her best by night, when he
alone would see her, and show her repulsive visage, if at all, to
others. But she reminded him how much more pleasant it would be to
her to wear her best looks in the throng of knights and ladies by
day. Sir Gawain yielded, and gave up his will to hers. This alone
was wanting to dissolve the charm. The lovely lady now with joy
assured him that she should change no more, but as she now was, so
would she remain by night as well as by day.

"Sweet blushes stayned her rud-red cheek,
Her eyen were black as sloe,
The ripening cherrye swelled her lippe,
And all her neck was snow.
Sir Gawain kist that ladye faire
Lying upon the sheete,
And swore, as he was a true knight,
The spice was never so swete."

The dissolution of the charm which had held the lady also released
her brother, the "grim baron," for he too had been implicated in
it. He ceased to be a churlish oppressor, and became a gallant and
generous knight as any at Arthur's court.



Caradoc was the son of Ysenne, the beautiful niece of Arthur. He
was ignorant who his father was, till it was discovered in the
following manner: When the youth was of proper years to receive
the honors of knighthood, King Arthur held a grand court for the
purpose of knighting him. On this occasion a strange knight
presented himself, and challenged the knights of Arthur's court to
exchange blow for blow with him. His proposal was this--to lay his
neck on a block for any knight to strike, on condition that, if he
survived the blow, the knight should submit in turn to the same
experiment. Sir Kay, who was usually ready to accept all
challenges, pronounced this wholly unreasonable, and declared that
he would not accept it for all the wealth in the world. And when
the knight offered his sword, with which the operation was to be
performed, no person ventured to accept it, till Caradoc, growing
angry at the disgrace which was thus incurred by the Round Table,
threw aside his mantle and took it. "Do you do this as one of the
best knights?" said the stranger. "No," he replied, "but as one of
the most foolish." The stranger lays his head upon the block,
receives a blow which sends it rolling from his shoulders, walks
after it, picks it up, replaces it with great success, and says he
will return when the court shall be assembled next year, and claim
his turn. When the anniversary arrived, both parties were punctual
to their engagement. Great entreaties were used by the king and
queen, and the whole court, in behalf of Caradoc, but the stranger
was inflexible. The young knight laid his head upon the block, and
more than once desired him to make an end of the business, and not
keep him longer in so disagreeable a state of expectation. At last
the stranger strikes him gently with the side of the sword, bids
him rise, and reveals to him the fact that he is his father, the
enchanter Eliaures, and that he gladly owns him for a son, having
proved his courage and fidelity to his word.

But the favor of enchanters is short-lived and uncertain. Eliaures
fell under the influence of a wicked woman, who, to satisfy her
pique against Caradoc, persuaded the enchanter to fasten on his
arm a serpent, which remained there sucking at his flesh and
blood, no human skill sufficing either to remove the reptile or
alleviate the torments which Caradoc endured.

Caradoc was betrothed to Guimier, sister to his bosom friend,
Cador, and daughter to the king of Cornwall. As soon as they were
informed of his deplorable condition, they set out for Nantes,
where Caradoc's castle was, that Guimier might attend upon him.
When Caradoc heard of their coming, his first emotion was that of
joy and love. But soon he began to fear that the sight of his
emaciated form, and of his sufferings, would disgust Guimier; and
this apprehension became so strong, that he departed secretly from
Nantes, and hid himself in a hermitage. He was sought far and near
by the knights of Arthur's court, and Cador made a vow never to
desist from the quest till he should have found him. After long
wandering, Cador discovered his friend in the hermitage, reduced
almost to a skeleton, and apparently near his death. All other
means of relief having already been tried in vain, Cador at last
prevailed on the enchanter Eliaures to disclose the only method
which could avail for his rescue. A maiden must be found, his
equal in birth and beauty, and loving him better than herself, so
that she would expose herself to the same torment to deliver him.
Two vessels were then to be provided, the one filled with sour
wine, and the other with milk. Caradoc must enter the first, so
that the wine should reach his neck, and the maiden must get into
the other, and, exposing her bosom upon the edge of the vessel,
invite the serpent to forsake the withered flesh of his victim for
this fresh and inviting food. The vessels were to be placed three
feet apart, and as the serpent crossed from one to the other. a
knight was to cut him in two. If he failed in his blow, Caradoc
would indeed be delivered, but it would be only to see his fair
champion suffering the same cruel and hopeless torment. The sequel
may be easily foreseen. Guimier willingly exposed herself to the
perilous adventure, and Cador, with a lucky blow, killed the
serpent. The arm in which Caradoc had suffered so long recovered
its strength, but not its shape, in consequence of which he was
called Caradoc Briefbras, Caradoc of the Shrunken Arm.

Caradoc and Guimier are the hero and heroine of the ballad Of the
"Boy and the Mantle," which follows:


"In Carlisle dwelt King Arthur,
A prince of passing might,
And there maintained his Table Round,
Beset with many a knight.

"And there he kept his Christmas,
With mirth and princely cheer,
When lo! a strange and cunning boy
Before him did appear.

"A kirtle and a mantle
This boy had him upon,
With brooches, rings, and ouches,
Full daintily bedone.

"He had a sash of silk
About his middle meet;
And thus with seemly curtesie
He did King Arthur greet:

"'God speed thee, brave King Arthur.
Thus feasting in thy bower,
And Guenever, thy goodly queen,
That fair and peerless flower.

"'Ye gallant lords and lordlings,
I wish you all take heed,
Lest what ye deem a blooming rose
Should prove a cankered weed.'

"Then straightway from his bosom
A little wand he drew;
And with it eke a mantle,
Of wondrous shape and hue.

"'Now have thou here, King Arthur,
Have this here of me,
And give unto thy comely queen,
All shapen as you see.

"'No wife it shall become,
That once hath been to blame.'
Then every knight in Arthur's court
Sly glanced at his dame.

"And first came Lady Guenever,
The mantle she must try.
This dame she was new-fangled, [1]
And of a roving eye.

"When she had taken the mantle,
And all with it was clad,
From top to toe it shivered down,
As though with shears beshred.

"One while it was too long,
Another while too short,
And wrinkled on her shoulders,
In most unseemly sort.

"Now green, now red it seemed,
Then all of sable hue;
'Beshrew me,' quoth King Arthur,
'I think thou be'st not true!'

"Down she threw the mantle,
No longer would she stay;
But, storming like a fury,
To her chamber flung away.

"She cursed the rascal weaver,
That had the mantle wrought;
And doubly cursed the froward imp
Who thither had it brought.

I had rather live in deserts,
Beneath the greenwood tree,
Than here, base king, among thy grooms
The sport of them and thee.'

"Sir Kay called forth his lady,
And bade her to come near:
'Yet dame, if thou be guilty,
I pray thee now forbear.'

"This lady, pertly giggling,
With forward step came on,
And boldly to the little boy
With fearless face is gone.

"When she had taken the mantle,
With purpose for to wear,
It shrunk up to her shoulder,
And left her back all bare.

"Then every merry knight,
That was in Arthur's court,
Gibed and laughed and flouted,
To see that pleasant sport.

"Down she threw the mantle,
No longer bold or gay,
But, with a face all pale and wan
To her chamber slunk away.

"Then forth came an old knight
A pattering o'er his creed,
And proffered to the little boy
Five nobles to his meed:

"'And all the time of Christmas
Plum-porridge shall be thine,
If thou wilt let my lady fair
Within the mantle shine.'

"A saint his lady seemed,
With step demure and slow,
And gravely to the mantle
With mincing face doth go.

"When she the same had taken
That was so fine and thin,
It shrivelled all about her,
And showed her dainty skin.

"Ah! little did her mincing,
Or his long prayers bestead;
She had no more hung on her
Than a tassel and a thread.

"Down she threw the mantle,
With terror and dismay,
And with a face of scarlet
To her chamber hied away.

"Sir Cradock called his lady,
And bade her to come near:
'Come win this mantle, lady,
And do me credit here:

"'Come win this mantle, lady,
For now it shall be thine,
If thou hast never done amiss,
Since first I made thee mine.'

"The lady, gently blushing,
With modest grace came on;
And now to try the wondrous charm
Courageously is gone.

"When she had ta'en the mantle,
And put it on her back,
About the hem it seemed
To wrinkle and to crack.

"'Lie still,' she cried, 'O mantle!
And shame me not for naught;
I'll freely own whate'er amiss
Or blameful I have wrought.

"'Once I kissed Sir Cradock
Beneath the greenwood tree;
Once I kissed Sir Cradock's mouth,
Before he married me.'

"When she had thus her shriven,
And her worst fault had told,
The mantle soon became her,
Right comely as it should.

"Most rich and fair of color,
Like gold it glittering shone,
And much the knights in Arthur's court
Admired her every one."

[Footnote 1: New-fangled--fond of novelty.]

The ballad goes on to tell of two more trials of a similar kind,
made by means of a boar's head and a drinking horn, in both of
which the result was equally favorable with the first to Sir
Cradock and his lady. It then concludes as follows:

"Thus boar's head, horn, and mantle
Were this fair couple's meed;
And all such constant lovers,
God send them well to speed"

--Percy's Reliques.



King Ban, of Brittany, the faithful ally of Arthur was attacked by
his enemy Claudas, and after a long war saw himself reduced to the
possession of a single fortress, where he was besieged by his
enemy. In this extremity he determined to solicit the assistance
of Arthur, and escaped in a dark night, with his wife Helen and
his infant son Launcelot, leaving his castle in the hands of his
seneschal, who immediately surrendered the place to Claudas. The
flames of his burning citadel reached the eyes of the unfortunate
monarch during his flight and he expired with grief. The wretched
Helen, leaving her child on the brink of a lake, flew to receive
the last sighs of her husband, and on returning perceived the
little Launcelot in the arms of a nymph, who, on the approach of
the queen, threw herself into the lake with the child. This nymph
was Viviane, mistress of the enchanter Merlin, better known by the
name of the Lady of the Lake. Launcelot received his appellation
from having been educated at the court of this enchantress, whose
palace was situated in the midst, not of a real, but, like the
appearance which deceives the African traveller, of an imaginary
lake, whose deluding resemblance served as a barrier to her
residence. Here she dwelt not alone, but in the midst of a
numerous retinue, and a splendid court of knights and damsels.

The queen, after her double loss, retired to a convent, where she
was joined by the widow of Bohort, for this good king had died of
grief on hearing of the death of his brother Ban. His two sons,
Lionel and Bohort, were rescued by a faithful knight, and arrived
in the shape of greyhounds at the palace of the lake, where,
having resumed their natural form, they were educated along with
their cousin Launcelot.

The fairy, when her pupil had attained the age of eighteen,
conveyed him to the court of Arthur for the purpose of demanding
his admission to the honor of knighthood; and at the first
appearance of the youthful candidate the graces of his person,
which were not inferior to his courage and skill in arms, made an
instantaneous and indelible impression on the heart of Guenever,
while her charms inspired him with an equally ardent and constant
passion. The mutual attachment of these lovers exerted, from that
time forth, an influence over the whole history of Arthur. For the
sake of Guenever, Launcelot achieved the conquest of
Northumberland, defeated Gallehaut, King of the Marches, who
afterwards became his most faithful friend and ally, exposed
himself in numberless encounters, and brought hosts of prisoners
to the feet of his sovereign.


After King Arthur was come from Rome into England all the knights
of the Table Round resorted unto him and made him many justs and
tournaments. And in especial Sir Launcelot of the Lake in all
tournaments and justs and deeds of arms, both for life and death,
passed all other knights, and was never overcome, except it were
by treason or enchantment; and he increased marvellously in
worship, wherefore Queen Guenever had him in great favor, above
all other knights. And for certain he loved the queen again above
all other ladies; and for her he did many deeds of arms, and saved
her from peril, through his noble chivalry. Thus Sir Launcelot
rested him long with play and game, and then he thought to prove
himself in strange adventures; so he bade his nephew, Sir Lionel,
to make him ready,-- "for we two will seek adventures." So they
mounted on their horses, armed at all sights, and rode into a
forest, and so into a deep plain. And the weather was hot about
noon, and Sir Launcelot had great desire to sleep. Then Sir Lionel
espied a great apple-tree that stood by a hedge, and he said:
"Brother, yonder is a fair shadow--there may we rest us and our
horses." "It is well said," replied Sir Launcelot. So they there
alighted, and Sir Launcelot laid him down, and his helm under his
head, and soon was asleep passing fast. And Sir Lionel waked while
he slept. And presently there came three knights riding as fast as
ever they might ride, and there followed them but one knight. And
Sir Lionel thought he never saw so great a knight before. So
within a while this great knight overtook one of those knights,
and smote him so that he fell to the earth. Then he rode to the
second knight and smote him, and so he did to the third knight.
Then he alighted down and bound all the three knights fast with
their own bridles. When Sir Lionel saw him do thus, he thought to
assay him, and made him ready silently, not to awake Sir
Launcelot, and rode after the strong knight, and bade him turn.
And the other smote Sir Lionel so hard that horse and man fell to
the earth; and then he alighted down and bound Sir Lionel, and
threw him across his own horse; and so he served them all four,
and rode with them away to his own castle. And when he came there
he put them in a deep prison, in which were many more knights in
great distress.

Now while Sir Launcelot lay under the apple-tree sleeping, there
came by him four queens of great estate. And that the heat should
not grieve them, there rode four knights about them, and bare a
cloth of green silk on four spears, betwixt them and the sun. And
the queens rode on four white mules.

Thus as they rode they heard by them a great horse grimly neigh.
Then they were aware of a sleeping knight, that lay all armed
under an apple-tree; and as the queens looked on his face, they
knew it was Sir Launcelot. Then they began to strive for that
knight, and each one said she would have him for her love. "We
will not strive," said Morgane le Fay, that was King Arthur's
sister, "for I will put an enchantment upon him, that he shall not
wake for six hours, and we will take him away to my castle; and
then when he is surely within my hold, I will take the enchantment
from him, and then let him choose which of us he will have for his
love." So the enchantment was cast upon Sir Launcelot. And then
they laid him upon his shield, and bare him so on horseback
between two knights, and brought him unto the castle and laid him
in a chamber, and at night they sent him his supper. And on the
morning came early those four queens, richly dight, and bade him
good morning, and he them again. "Sir knight," they said, "thou
must understand thou art our prisoner; and we know thee well, that
thou art Sir Launcelot of the Lake, King Ban's son, and that thou
art the noblest knight living. And we know well that there can no
lady have thy love but one, and that is Queen Guenever; and now
thou shalt lose her for ever, and she thee; and therefore it
behooveth thee now to choose one of us. I am the Queen Morgane le
Fay, and here is the Queen of North Wales, and the Queen of
Eastland, and the Queen of the Isles. Now choose one of us which
thou wilt have, for if thou choose not, in this prison thou shalt
die." "This is a hard case," said Sir Launcelot, "that either I
must die, or else choose one of you; yet had I liever to die in
this prison with worship, than to have one of you for my paramour,
for ye be false enchantresses." "Well," said the queens, "is this
your answer, that ye will refuse us." "Yea, on my life it is,"
said Sir Launcelot. Then they departed, making great sorrow.

Then at noon came a damsel unto him with his dinner, and asked
him, "What cheer?" "Truly, fair damsel," said Sir Launcelot,
"never so ill." "Sir," said she, "if you will be ruled by me, I
will help you out of this distress. If ye will promise me to help
my father on Tuesday next, who hath made a tournament betwixt him
and the king of North Wales; for last Tuesday my father lost the
field." "Fair maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "tell me what is your
father's name, and then will I give you an answer." "Sir knight,"
she said, "my father is King Bagdemagus." "I know him well," said
Sir Launcelot, "for a noble king and a good knight; and, by the
faith of my body, I will be ready to do your father and you
service at that day."

So she departed, and came on the next morning early and found him
ready, and brought him out of twelve locks, and brought him to his
own horse, and lightly he saddled him, and so rode forth.

And on the Tuesday next he came to a little wood where the
tournament should be. And there were scaffolds and holds, that
lords and ladies might look on, and give the prize. Then came into
the field the king of North Wales, with eightscore helms, and King
Badgemagus came with fourscore helms. And then they couched their
spears, and came together with a great dash, and there were
overthrown at the first encounter twelve of King Bagdemagus's
party and six of the king of North Wales's party, and King
Bagdemagus's party had the worse.

With that came Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and thrust in with his
spear in the thickest of the press; and he smote down five knights
ere he held his hand; and he smote down the king of North Wales,
and he brake his thigh in that fall. And then the knights of the
king of North Wales would just no more; and so the gree was given
to King Bagdemagus.

And Sir Launcelot rode forth with King Bagdemagus unto his castle;
and there he had passing good cheer, both with the king and with
his daughter. And on the morn he took his leave, and told the king
he would go and seek his brother, Sir Lionel, that went from him
when he slept. So he departed, and by adventure he came to the
same forest where he was taken sleeping. And in the highway he met
a damsel riding on a white palfrey, and they saluted each other.
"Fair damsel," said Sir Launcelot, "know ye in this country any
adventures?" "Sir knight," said the damsel, "here are adventures
near at hand, if thou durst pursue them." "Why should I not prove
adventures?" said Sir Launcelot, "since for that cause came I
hither." "Sir," said she, "hereby dwelleth a knight that will not
be overmatched for any man I know, except thou overmatch him. His
name is Sir Turquine, and, as I understand, he is a deadly enemy
of King Arthur, and he has in his prison good knights of Arthur's
court, threescore and more, that he hath won with his own hands."
"Damsel," said Launcelot, "I pray you bring me unto this knight."
So she told him, "Hereby, within this mile, is his castle, and by
it on the left hand is a ford for horses to drink of, and over
that ford there groweth a fair tree, and on that tree hang many
shields that good knights wielded aforetime, that are now
prisoners; and on the tree hangeth a basin of copper and latten,
and if thou strike upon that basin thou shalt hear tidings." And
Sir Launcelot departed, and rode as the damsel had shown him, and
shortly he came to the ford, and the tree where hung the shields
and the basin. And among the shields he saw Sir Lionel's and Sir
Hector's shields, besides many others of knights that he knew.

Then Sir Launcelot struck on the basin with the butt of his spear;
and long he did so, but he saw no man. And at length he was ware
of a great knight that drove a horse before him, and across the
horse there lay an armed knight bounden. And as they came near,
Sir Launcelot thought he should know the captive knight. Then Sir
Launcelot saw that it was Sir Gaheris, Sir Gawain's brother, a
knight of the Table Round. "Now, fair knight," said Sir Launcelot,
"put that wounded knight off the horse, and let him rest awhile,
and let us two prove our strength. For, as it is told me, thou
hast done great despite and shame unto knights of the Round Table,
therefore now defend thee." "If thou be of the Table Round," said
Sir Turquine, "I defy thee and all thy fellowship." "That is
overmuch said," said Sir Launcelot.

Then they put their spears in the rests, and came together with
their horses as fast as they might run. And each smote the other
in the middle of their shields, so that their horses fell under
them, and the knights were both staggered; and as soon as they
could clear their horses they drew out their swords and came
together eagerly, and each gave the other many strong strokes, for
neither shield nor harness might withstand their strokes. So
within a while both had grimly wounds, and bled grievously. Then
at the last they were breathless both, and stood leaning upon
their swords. "Now, fellow," said Sir Turquine, "thou art the
stoutest man that ever I met with, and best breathed; and so be it
thou be not the knight that I hate above all other knights, the
knight that slew my brother, Sir Carados, I will gladly accord
with thee; and for thy love I will deliver all the prisoners that
I have."

"What knight is he that thou hatest so above others?" "Truly,"
said Sir Turquine, "his name is Sir Launcelot of the Lake." "I am
Sir Launcelot of the Lake, King Ban's son of Benwick, and very
knight of the Table Round; and now I defy thee do thy best." "Ah!"
said Sir Turquine, "Launcelot, thou art to me the most welcome
that ever was knight; for we shall never part till the one of us
be dead." And then they hurtled together like two wild bulls,
rashing and lashing with their swords and shields, so that
sometimes they fell, as it were, headlong. Thus they fought two
hours and more, till the ground where they fought was all
bepurpled with blood.

Then at the last Sir Turquine waxed sore faint, and gave somewhat
aback, and bare his shield full low for weariness. That spied Sir
Launcelot, and leapt then upon him fiercely as a lion, and took
him by the beaver of his helmet, and drew him down on his knees.
And he raised off his helm, and smote his neck in sunder.

And Sir Gaheris, when he saw Sir Turquine slain, said, "Fair lord,
I pray you tell me your name, for this day I say ye are the best
knight in the world, for ye have slain this day in my sight the
mightiest man and the best knight except you that ever I saw."
"Sir, my name is Sir Launcelot du Lac, that ought to help you of
right for King Arthur's sake, and in especial for Sir Gawain's
sake, your own dear brother. Now I pray you, that ye go into
yonder castle, and set free all the prisoners ye find there, for I
am sure ye shall find there many knights of the Table Round, and
especially my brother Sir Lionel. I pray you greet them all from
me, and tell them I bid them take there such stuff as they find;
and tell my brother to go unto the court and abide me there, for
by the feast of Pentecost I think to be there; but at this time I
may not stop, for I have adventures on hand." So he departed, and
Sir Gaheris rode into the castle, and took the keys from the
porter, and hastily opened the prison door and let out all the
prisoners. There was Sir Kay, Sir Brandeles, and Sir Galynde, Sir
Bryan, and Sir Alyduke, Sir Hector de Marys, and Sir Lionel, and
many more. And when they saw Sir Gaheris they all thanked him, for
they thought, because he was wounded, that he had slain Sir
Turquine. "Not so," said Sir Gaheris; "it was Sir Launcelot that
slew him, right worshipfully; I saw it with mine eyes."

Sir Launcelot rode till at nightfall he came to a fair castle, and
therein he found an old gentlewoman, who lodged him with good-
will, and there he had good cheer for him and his horse. And when
time was, his host brought him to a fair chamber over the gate to
his bed. Then Sir Launcelot unarmed him, and set his harness by
him, and went to bed, and anon he fell asleep. And soon after,
there came one on horseback and knocked at the gate in great
haste; and when Sir Launcelot heard this, he arose and looked out
of the window, and saw by the moonlight three knights riding after
that one man, and all three lashed on him with their swords, and
that one knight turned on them knightly again and defended
himself. "Truly," said Sir Launcelot, "yonder one knight will I
help, for it is shame to see three knights on one." Then he took
his harness and went out at the window by a sheet down to the four
knights; and he said aloud, "Turn you knights unto me, and leave
your fighting with that knight." Then the knights left Sir Kay,
for it was he they were upon, and turned unto Sir Launcelot, and
struck many great strokes at Sir Launcelot, and assailed him on
every side. Then Sir Kay addressed him to help Sir Launcelot, but
he said, "Nay, sir, I will none of your help; let me alone with
them." So Sir Kay suffered him to do his will, and stood one side.
And within six strokes Sir Launcelot had stricken them down.

Then they all cried, "Sir knight, we yield us unto you." "As to
that," said Sir Launcelot, "I will not take your yielding unto me.
If so be ye will yield you unto Sir Kay the Seneschal, I will save
your lives, but else not." "Fair knight," then they said, "we will
do as thou commandest us." "Then shall ye," said Sir Launcelot,
"on Whitsunday next, go unto the court of King Arthur, and there
shall ye yield you unto Queen Guenever, and say that Sir Kay sent
you thither to be her prisoners." "Sir," they said, "it shall be
done, by the faith of our bodies;" and then they swore, every
knight upon his sword. And so Sir Launcelot suffered them to

On the morn Sir Launcelot rose early and left Sir Kay sleeping;
and Sir Launcelot took Sir Kay's armor, and his shield, and armed
him, and went to the stable and took his horse, and so he
departed. Then soon after arose Sir Kay, and missed Sir Launcelot.
And then he espied that he had taken his armor and his horse.
"Now, by my faith, I know well," said Sir Kay, "that he will
grieve some of King Arthur's knights, for they will deem that it
is I, and will be bold to meet him. But by cause of his armor I am
sure I shall ride in peace." Then Sir Kay thanked his host and

Sir Launcelot rode in a deep forest, and there he saw four
knights, under an oak, and they were of Arthur's court. There was
Sir Sagramour le Desirus, and Hector de Marys, and Sir Gawain, and
Sir Uwaine. As they spied Sir Launcelot they judged by his arms it
had been Sir Kay. "Now, by my faith," said Sir Sagramour, "I will
prove Sir Kay's might;" and got his spear in his hand, and came
towards Sir Launcelot. Therewith Sir Launcelot couched his spear
against him, and smote Sir Sagramour so sore that horse and man
fell both to the earth. Then said Sir Hector, "Now shall ye see
what I may do with him." But he fared worse than Sir Sagramour,
for Sir Launcelot's spear went through his shoulder and bare him
from his horse to the ground. "By my faith," said Sir Uwaine,
"yonder is a strong knight, and I fear he hath slain Sir Kay, and
taken his armor." And therewith Sir Uwaine took his spear in hand,
and rode toward Sir Launcelot; and Sir Launcelot met him on the
plain and gave him such a buffet that he was staggered, and wist
not where he was. "Now see I well," said Sir Gawain, "that I must
encounter with that knight." Then he adjusted his shield, and took
a good spear in his hand, and Sir Launcelot knew him well. Then
they let run their horses with all their mights, and each knight
smote the other in the middle of his shield. But Sir Gawain's
spear broke, and Sir Launcelot charged so sore upon him that his
horse fell over backward. Then Sir Launcelot passed by smiling
with himself, and he said, "Good luck be with him that made this
spear, for never came a better into my hand." Then the four
knights went each to the other and comforted one another. "What
say ye to this adventure," said Sir Gawain, "that one spear hath
felled us all four?" "I dare lay my head it is Sir Launcelot,"
said Sir Hector; "I know it by his riding."

And Sir Launcelot rode through many strange countries, till by
fortune he came to a fair castle; and as he passed beyond the
castle he thought he heard two bells ring. And then he perceived
how a falcon came flying over his head, toward a high elm; and she
had long lunys [Footnote: LUNYS, the string with which the falcon
is held.] about her feet, and she flew unto the elm to take her
perch, and the lunys got entangled in the bough; and when she
would have taken her flight, she hung by the legs fast, and Sir
Launcelot saw how she hung, and beheld the fair falcon entangled,
and he was sorry for her. Then came a lady out of the castle and
cried aloud, "O Launcelot, Launcelot, as thou art the flower of
all knights, help me to get my hawk; for if my hawk be lost, my
lord will slay me, he is so hasty." "What is your lord's name?"
said Sir Launcelot. "His name is Sir Phelot, a knight that
belongeth to the king of North Wales." "Well, fair lady, since ye
know my name, and require me of knighthood to help you, I will do
what I may to get your hawk; and yet in truth I am an ill climber,
and the tree is passing high, and few boughs to help me." And
therewith Sir Launcelot alighted and tied his horse to the tree,
and prayed the lady to unarm him. And when he was unarmed, he put
off his jerkin, and with might and force he clomb up to the
falcon, and tied the lunys to a rotten bough, and threw the hawk
down with it; and the lady got the hawk in her hand. Then suddenly
there came out of the castle her husband, all armed, and with his
naked sword in his hand, and said, "O Knight Launcelot, now have I
got thee as I would," and stood at the boll of the tree to slay
him. "Ah, lady!" said Sir Launcelot, "why have ye betrayed me?"
"She hath done," said Sir Phelot, "but as I commanded her; and
therefore there is none other way but thine hour is come, and thou
must die." "That were shame unto thee," said Sir Launcelot; "thou
an armed knight to slay a naked man by treason." "Thou gettest
none other grace," said Sir Phelot, "and therefore help thyself if
thou canst." "Alas!" said Sir Launcelot, "that ever a knight
should die weaponless!" And therewith he turned his eyes upward
and downward; and over his head he saw a big bough leafless, and
he brake it off from the trunk. And then he came lower, and
watched how his own horse stood; and suddenly he leapt on the
further side of his horse from the knight. Then Sir Phelot lashed
at him eagerly, meaning to have slain him. But Sir Launcelot put
away the stroke, with the big bough, and smote Sir Phelot
therewith on the side of the head, so that he fell down in a swoon
to the ground. Then Sir Launcelot took his sword out of his hand
and struck his head from the body. Then said the lady, "Alas! why
hast thou slain my husband?" "I am not the cause," said Sir
Launcelot, "for with falsehood ye would have slain me, and now it
is fallen on yourselves." Thereupon Sir Launcelot got all his
armor, and put it upon him hastily, for fear of more resort, for
the knight's castle was so nigh. And as soon as he might, he took
his horse and departed, and thanked God he had escaped that

And two days before the feast of Pentecost, Sir Launcelot came
home; and the king and all the court were passing glad of his
coming. And when Sir Gawain, Sir Uwaine, Sir Sagramour, and Sir
Hector de Marys saw Sir Launcelot in Sir Kay's armor then they
wist well it was he that smote them down, all with one spear. Then
there was laughing and merriment among them; and from time to time
came all the knights that Sir Turquine had prisoners, and they all
honored and worshipped Sir Launcelot. Then Sir Gaheris said, "I
saw all the battle from the beginning to the end," and he told
King Arthur all how it was. Then Sir Kay told the king how Sir
Launcelot had rescued him, and how he "made the knights yield to
me, and not to him." And there they were, all three, and confirmed
it all "And, by my faith," said Sir Kay, "because Sir Launcelot
took my harness and left me his, I rode in peace, and no man would
have to do with me."

And so at that time Sir Launcelot had the greatest name of any
knight of the world, and most was he honored of high and low.



It befell in the month of May, Queen Guenever called to her
knights of the Table Round, and gave them warning that early upon
the morrow she would ride a-maying into the woods and fields
beside Westminster; "and I warn you that there be none of you but
he be well horsed, and that ye all be clothed in green, either
silk or cloth; and I shall bring with me ten ladies, and every
knight shall have a lady behind him, and every knight shall have a
squire and two yeoman, and all well horsed."

"For thus it chanced one morn when all the court,
Green-suited, but with plumes that mock'd the May,
Had been, their wont, a-maying"


So they made them ready; and these were the names of the knights:
Sir Kay the Seneschal, Sir Agrivaine, Sir Brandiles, Sir Sagramour
le Desirus, Sir Dodynas le Sauvage, Sir Ozanna, Sir Ladynas, Sir
Persant of Inde, Sir Ironside, and Sir Pelleas; and these ten
knights made them ready, in the freshest manner, to ride with the
queen. So upon the morn they took their horses with the queen, and
rode a-maying in woods and meadows, as it pleased them, in great
joy and delight. Now there was a knight named Maleagans, son to
King Brademagus, who loved Queen Guenever passing well, and so had
he done long and many years. Now this knight, Sir Maleagans,
learned the queen's purpose, and that she had no men of arms with
her but the ten noble knights all arrayed in green for maying; so
he prepared him twenty men of arms, and a hundred archers, to take
captive the queen and her knights.

"In the merry month of May,
In a morn at break of day,
With a troop of damsels playing,
The Queen, forsooth, went forth a-maying."

--Old Song.

So when the queen had mayed, and all were bedecked with herbs,
mosses, and flowers in the best manner and freshest, right then
came out of a wood Sir Maleagans with eightscore men well
harnessed, and bade the queen and her knights yield them
prisoners. "Traitor knight," said Queen Guenever, "what wilt thou
do? Wilt thou shame thyself? Bethink thee how thou art a king's
son, and a knight of the Table Round, and how thou art about to
dishonor all knighthood and thyself?" "Be it as it may," said Sir
Maleagans, "know you well, madam, I have loved you many a year and
never till now could I get you to such advantage as I do now; and
therefore I will take you as I find you." Then the ten knights of
the Round Table drew their swords, and the other party run at them
with their spears, and the ten knights manfully abode them, and
smote away their spears. Then they lashed together with swords
till several were smitten to the earth. So when the queen saw her
knights thus dolefully oppressed, and needs must be slain at the
last, then for pity and sorrow she cried, "Sir Maleagans, slay not
my noble knights and I will go with you, upon this covenant, that
they be led with me wheresoever thou leadest me." "Madame," said
Maleagans, "for your sake they shall be led with you into my own
castle, if that ye will be ruled, and ride with me." Then Sir
Maleagans charged them all that none should depart from the queen,
for he dreaded lest Sir Launcelot should have knowledge of what
had been done.

Then the queen privily called unto her a page of her chamber that
was swiftly horsed, to whom she said, "Go thou when thou seest thy
time, and bear this ring unto Sir Launcelot, and pray him as he
loveth me, that he will see me and rescue me. And spare not thy
horse," said the queen, "neither for water nor for land." So the
child espied his time, and lightly he took his horse with the
spurs and departed as fast as he might. And when Sir Maleagans saw
him so flee, he understood that it was by the queen's commandment
for to warn Sir Launcelot. Then they that were best horsed chased
him, and shot at him, but the child went from them all. Then Sir
Maleagans said to the queen, "Madam, ye are about to betray me,
but I shall arrange for Sir Launcelot that he shall not come
lightly at you." Then he rode with her and them all to his castle,
in all the haste that they might. And by the way Sir Maleagans
laid in ambush the best archers that he had to wait for Sir
Launcelot. And the child came to Westminster and found Sir
Launcelot and told his message and delivered him the queen's ring.
"Alas!" said Sir Launcelot, "now am I shamed for ever, unless I
may rescue that noble lady." Then eagerly he asked his armor and
put it on him, and mounted his horse and rode as fast as he might;
and men say he took the water at Westminster Bridge, and made his
horse swim over Thames unto Lambeth. Then within a while he came
to a wood where was a narrow way; and there the archers were laid
in ambush. And they shot at him and smote his horse so that he
fell. Then Sir Launcelot left his horse and went on foot, but
there lay so many ditches and hedges betwixt the archers and him
that he might not meddle with them. "Alas! for shame," said Sir
Launcelot, "that ever one knight should betray another! but it is
an old saw, a good man is never in danger, but when he is in
danger of a coward." Then Sir Launcelot went awhile and he was
exceedingly cumbered by his armor, his shield, and his spear, and
all that belonged to him. Then by chance there came by him a cart
that came thither to fetch wood.

Now at this time carts were little used except for carrying offal
and for conveying criminals to execution. But Sir Launcelot took
no thought of anything but the necessity of haste for the purpose
of rescuing the queen; so he demanded of the carter that he should
take him in and convey him as speedily as possible for a liberal
reward. The carter consented, and Sir Launcelot placed himself in
the cart and only lamented that with much jolting he made but
little progress. Then it happened Sir Gawain passed by and seeing
an armed knight travelling in that unusual way he drew near to see
who it might be. Then Sir Launcelot told him how the queen had
been carried off, and how, in hastening to her rescue, his horse
had been disabled and he had been compelled to avail himself of
the cart rather than give up his enterprise. Then Sir Gawain said,
"Surely it is unworthy of a knight to travel in such sort;" but
Sir Launcelot heeded him not.

At nightfall they arrived at a castle and the lady thereof came
out at the head of her damsels to welcome Sir Gawain. But to admit
his companion, whom she supposed to be a criminal, or at least a
prisoner, it pleased her not; however, to oblige Sir Gawain, she
consented. At supper Sir Launcelot came near being consigned to
the kitchen and was only admitted to the lady's table at the
earnest solicitation of Sir Gawain. Neither would the damsels
prepare a bed for him. He seized the first he found unoccupied and
was left undisturbed.

Next morning he saw from the turrets of the castle a train
accompanying a lady, whom he imagined to be the queen. Sir Gawain
thought it might be so, and became equally eager to depart. The
lady of the castle supplied Sir Launcelot with a horse and they
traversed the plain at full speed. They learned from some
travellers whom they met, that there were two roads which led to
the castle of Sir Maleagans. Here therefore the friends separated.
Sir Launcelot found his way beset with obstacles, which he
encountered successfully, but not without much loss of time. As
evening approached he was met by a young and sportive damsel, who
gayly proposed to him a supper at her castle. The knight, who was
hungry and weary, accepted the offer, though with no very good
grace. He followed the lady to her castle and ate voraciously of
her supper, but was quite impenetrable to all her amorous
advances. Suddenly the scene changed and he was assailed by six
furious ruffians, whom he dealt with so vigorously that most of
them were speedily disabled, when again there was a change and he
found himself alone with his fair hostess, who informed him that
she was none other than his guardian fairy, who had but subjected
him to tests of his courage and fidelity. The next day the fairy
brought him on his road, and before parting gave him a ring, which
she told him would by its changes of color disclose to him all
enchantments, and enable him to subdue them.

Sir Launcelot pursued his journey, without being much incommoded
except by the taunts of travellers, who all seemed to have
learned, by some means, his disgraceful drive in the cart. One,
more insolent than the rest, had the audacity to interrupt him
during dinner, and even to risk a battle in support of his
pleasantry. Launcelot, after an easy victory, only doomed him to
be carted in his turn.

At night he was received at another castle, with great apparent
hospitality, but found himself in the morning in a dungeon, and
loaded with chains. Consulting his ring, and finding that this was
an enchantment, he burst his chains, seized his armor in spite of
the visionary monsters who attempted to defend it, broke open the
gates of the tower, and continued his journey. At length his
progress was checked by a wide and rapid torrent, which could only
be passed on a narrow bridge, on which a false step would prove
his destruction. Launcelot, leading his horse by the bridle, and
making him swim by his side, passed over the bridge, and was
attacked as soon as he reached the bank by a lion and a leopard,
both of which he slew, and then, exhausted and bleeding, seated
himself on the grass, and endeavored to bind up his wounds, when
he was accosted by Brademagus, the father of Maleagans, whose
castle was then in sight, and at no great distance. This king, no
less courteous than his son was haughty and insolent, after
complimenting Sir Launcelot on the valor and skill he had
displayed in the perils of the bridge and the wild beasts, offered
him his assistance, and informed him that the queen was safe in
his castle, but could only be rescued by encountering Maleagans.
Launcelot demanded the battle for the next day, and accordingly it
took place, at the foot of the tower, and under the eyes of the
fair captive. Launcelot was enfeebled by his wounds, and fought
not with his usual spirit, and the contest for a time was
doubtful; till Guenever exclaimed, "Ah, Launcelot! my knight,
truly have I been told that thou art no longer worthy of me!"
These words instantly revived the drooping knight; he resumed at
once his usual superiority, and soon laid at his feet his haughty

He was on the point of sacrificing him to his resentment, when
Guenever, moved by the entreaties of Brademagus, ordered him to
withhold the blow, and he obeyed. The castle and its prisoners
were now at his disposal. Launcelot hastened to the apartment of
the queen, threw himself at her feet, and was about to kiss her
hand, when she exclaimed, "Ah, Launcelot! why do I see thee again,
yet feel thee to be no longer worthy of me, after having been
disgracefully drawn about the country in a--" She had not time to
finish the phrase, for her lover suddenly started from her, and,
bitterly lamenting that he had incurred the displeasure of his
sovereign lady, rushed out of the castle, threw his sword and his
shield to the right and left, ran furiously into the woods, and

It seems that the story of the abominable cart, which haunted
Launcelot at every step, had reached the ears of Sir Kay, who had
told it to the queen, as a proof that her knight must have been
dishonored. But Guenever had full leisure to repent the haste with
which she had given credit to the tale. Three days elapsed, during
which Launcelot wandered without knowing where he went, till at
last he began to reflect that his mistress had doubtless been
deceived by misrepresentation, and that it was his duty to set her
right. He therefore returned, compelled Maleagans to release his
prisoners, and, taking the road by which they expected the arrival
of Sir Gawain, had the satisfaction of meeting him the next day;
after which the whole company proceeded gayly towards Camelot.



King Arthur proclaimed a solemn tournament to be held at
Winchester. The king, not less impatient than his knights for this
festival, set off some days before to superintend the
preparations, leaving the queen with her court at Camelot. Sir
Launcelot, under pretence of indisposition, remained behind also.
His intention was to attend the tournament--in disguise; and
having communicated his project to Guenever, he mounted his horse,
set off without any attendant, and, counterfeiting the feebleness
of age, took the most unfrequented road to Winchester, and passed
unnoticed as an old knight who was going to be a spectator of the
sports. Even Arthur and Gawain, who happened to behold him from
the windows of a castle under which he passed, were the dupes of
his disguise. But an accident betrayed him. His horse happened to
stumble, and the hero, forgetting for a moment his assumed
character, recovered the animal with a strength and agility so
peculiar to himself, that they instantly recognized the inimitable
Launcelot. They suffered him, however, to proceed on his journey
without interruption, convinced that his extraordinary feats of
arms must discover him at the approaching festival.

In the evening Launcelot was magnificently entertained as a
stranger knight at the neighboring castle of Shalott. The lord of
this castle had a daughter of exquisite beauty, and two sons
lately received into the order of knighthood, one of whom was at
that time ill in bed, and thereby prevented from attending the
tournament, for which both brothers had long made preparation.
Launcelot offered to attend the other, if he were permitted to
borrow the armor of the invalid, and the lord of Shalott, without
knowing the name of his guest, being satisfied from his appearance
that his son could not have a better assistant in arms, most
thankfully accepted the offer. In the meantime the young lady, who
had been much struck by the first appearance of the stranger
knight, continued to survey him with increased attention, and,
before the conclusion of supper, became so deeply enamoured of
him, that after frequent changes of color, and other symptoms
which Sir Launcelot could not possibly mistake, she was obliged to
retire to her chamber, and seek relief in tears. Sir Launcelot
hastened to convey to her, by means of her brother, the
information that his heart was already disposed of, but that it
would be his pride and pleasure to act as her knight at the
approaching tournament. The lady, obliged to be satisfied with
that courtesy, presented him her scarf to be worn at the

Launcelot set off in the morning with the young knight, who, on
their approaching Winchester, carried him to the castle of a lady,
sister to the lord of Shalott, by whom they were hospitably
entertained. The next day they put on their armor, which was
perfectly plain and without any device, as was usual to youths
during the first year of knighthood, their shields being only
painted red, as some color was necessary to enable them to be
recognized by their attendants. Launcelot wore on his crest the
scarf of the maid of Shalott, and, thus equipped, proceeded to the
tournament, where the knights were divided into two companies, the
one commanded by Sir Galehaut, the other by King Arthur. Having
surveyed the combat for a short time from without the lists, and
observed that Sir Galehaut's party began to give way, they joined
the press and attacked the royal knights, the young man choosing
such adversaries as were suited to his strength, while his
companion selected the principal champions of the Round Table, and
successively overthrew Gawain, Bohort, and Lionel. The
astonishment of the spectators was extreme, for it was thought
that no one but Launcelot could possess such invincible force; yet
the favor on his crest seemed to preclude the possibility of his
being thus disguised, for Launcelot had never been known to wear
the badge of any but his sovereign lady. At length Sir Hector,
Launcelot's brother, engaged him, and, after a dreadful combat,
wounded him dangerously in the head, but was himself completely
stunned by a blow on the helmet, and felled to the ground; after
which the conqueror rode off at full speed, attended by his

They returned to the castle of Shalott, where Launcelot was
attended with the greatest care by the good earl, by his two sons,
and, above all, by his fair daughter, whose medical skill probably
much hastened the period of his recovery. His health was almost
completely restored, when Sir Hector, Sir Bohort, and Sir Lionel,
who, after the return of the court to Camelot, had undertaken the
quest of their relation, discovered him walking on the walls of
the castle. Their meeting was very joyful; they passed three days
in the castle amidst constant festivities, and bantered each other
on the events of the tournament. Launcelot, though he began by
vowing vengeance against the author of his wound, yet ended by
declaring that he felt rewarded for the pain by the pride he took
in witnessing his brother's extraordinary prowess. He then
dismissed them with a message to the queen, promising to follow
immediately, it being necessary that he should first take a formal
leave of his kind hosts, as well as of the fair maid of Shalott.

The young lady, after vainly attempting to detain him by her tears
and solicitations, saw him depart without leaving her any ground
for hope.

It was early summer when the tournament took place; but some
months had passed since Launcelot's departure, and winter was now
near at hand. The health and strength of the Lady of Shalott had
gradually sunk, and she felt that she could not live apart from
the object of her affections. She left the castle, and descending
to the river's brink placed herself in a boat, which she loosed
from its moorings, and suffered to bear her down the current
toward Camelot.

One morning, as Arthur and Sir Lionel looked from the window of
the tower, the walls of which were washed by a river, they
descried a boat richly ornamented, and covered with an awning of
cloth of gold, which appeared to be floating down the stream
without any human guidance. It struck the shore while they watched
it, and they hastened down to examine it. Beneath the awning they
discovered the dead body of a beautiful woman, in whose features
Sir Lionel easily recognized the lovely maid of Shalott. Pursuing
their search, they discovered a purse richly embroidered with gold
and jewels, and within the purse a letter, which Arthur opened,
and found addressed to himself and all the knights of the Round
Table, stating that Launcelot of the Lake, the most accomplished
of knights and most beautiful of men, but at the same time the
most cruel and inflexible, had by his rigor produced the death of
the wretched maiden, whose love was no less invincible than his
cruelty. The king immediately gave orders for the interment of the
lady with all the honors suited to her rank, at the same time
explaining to the knights the history of her affection for
Launcelot, which moved the compassion and regret of all.

Tennyson has chosen the story of the "Lady of Shalott" for the
subject of a poem. The catastrophe is told thus:

"Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
A corse between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
'The Lady of Shalott'

"Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,

All the knights at Camelot.
But Launcelot mused a little space;
He said, 'She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.'"



It happened at this time that Queen Guenever was thrown into great
peril of her life. A certain squire who was in her immediate
service, having some cause of animosity to Sir Gawain, determined
to destroy him by poison, at a public entertainment. For this
purpose he concealed the poison in an apple of fine appearance,
which he placed on the top of several others, and put the dish
before the queen, hoping that, as Sir Gawain was the knight of
greatest dignity, she would present the apple to him. But it
happened that a Scottish knight of high distinction, who arrived
on that day, was seated next to the queen, and to him as a
stranger she presented the apple, which he had no sooner eaten
than he was seized with dreadful pain, and fell senseless. The
whole court was, of course, thrown into confusion; the knights
rose from table, darting looks of indignation at the wretched
queen, whose tears and protestations were unable to remove their
suspicions. In spite of all that could be done the knight died,
and nothing remained but to order a magnificent funeral and
monument for him, which was done.

Some time after Sir Mador, brother of the murdered knight, arrived
at Arthur's court in quest of him. While hunting in the forest he
by chance came to the spot where the monument was erected, read
the inscription, and returned to court determined on immediate and
signal vengeance. He rode into the hall, loudly accused the queen
of treason, and insisted on her being given up for punishment,
unless she should find by a certain day a knight hardy enough to
risk his life in support of her innocence. Arthur, powerful as he
was, did not dare to deny the appeal, but was compelled with a
heavy heart to accept it, and Mador sternly took his departure,
leaving the royal couple plunged in terror and anxiety.

During all this time Launcelot was absent, and no one knew where
he was. He fled in anger from his fair mistress, upon being
reproached by her with his passion for the Lady of Shalott, which
she had hastily inferred from his wearing her scarf at the
tournament. He took up his abode with a hermit in the forest, and
resolved to think no more of the cruel beauty, whose conduct he
thought must flow from a wish to get rid of him. Yet calm
reflection had somewhat cooled his indignation, and he had begun
to wish, though hardly able to hope, for a reconciliation when the
news of Sir Mador's challenge fortunately reached his ears. The
intelligence revived his spirits, and he began to prepare with the
utmost cheerfulness for a contest which, if successful, would
insure him at once the affection of his mistress and the gratitude
of his sovereign.

The sad fate of the Lady of Shalott had ere this completely
acquitted Launcelot in the queen's mind of all suspicion of his
fidelity, and she lamented most grievously her foolish quarrel
with him, which now, at her time of need, deprived her of her most
efficient champion.

As the day appointed by Sir Mador was fast approaching, it became
necessary that she should procure a champion for her defence; and
she successively adjured Sir Hector, Sir Lionel, Sir Bohort, and
Sir Gawain to undertake the battle. She fell on her knees before
them, called heaven to witness her innocence of the crime alleged
against her, but was sternly answered by all that they could not
fight to maintain the innocence of one whose act, and the fatal
consequence of it, they had seen with their own eyes. She retired,
therefore, dejected and disconsolate; but the sight of the fatal
pile on which, if guilty, she was doomed to be burned, exciting
her to fresh effort, she again repaired to Sir Bohort, threw
herself at his feet, and piteously calling on him for mercy, fell
into a swoon. The brave knight was not proof against this. He
raised her up, and hastily promised that he would undertake her
cause, if no other or better champion should present himself. He
then summoned his friends, and told them his resolution; and as a
mortal combat with Sir Mador was a most fearful enterprise, they
agreed to accompany him in the morning to the hermitage in the
forest, where he proposed to receive absolution from the hermit,
and to make his peace with Heaven before he entered the lists. As
they approached the hermitage, they espied a knight riding in the
forest, whom they at once recognized as Sir Launcelot. Overjoyed
at the meeting, they quickly, in answer to his questions,
confirmed the news of the queen's imminent danger, and received
his instructions to return to court, to comfort her as well as
they could, but to say nothing of his intention of undertaking her
defence, which he meant to do in tne character of an unknown

On their return to the castle they found that mass was finished,
and had scarcely time to speak to the queen before they were
summoned into the hall to dinner. A general gloom was spread over
the countenances of all the guests. Arthur himself was unable to
conceal his dejection, and the wretched Guenever, motionless and
bathed in tears, sat in trembling expectation of Sir Mador's
appearance. Nor was it long ere he stalked into the hall, and with
a voice of thunder, rendered more impressive by the general
silence, demanded instant justice on the guilty party. Arthur
replied with dignity, that little of the day was yet spent, and
that perhaps a champion might yet be found capable of satisfying
his thirst for battle. Sir Bohort now rose from table, and shortly
returning in complete armor, resumed his place, after receiving
the embraces and thanks of the king, who now began to resume some
degree of confidence. Sir Mador, growing impatient, again repeated
his denunciations of vengeance, and insisted that the combat
should no longer be postponed.

In the height of the debate there came riding into the hall a
knight mounted on a black steed, and clad in black armor, with his
visor down, and lance in hand. "Sir," said the king, "is it your
will to alight and partake of our cheer?" "Nay, sir," he replied;
"I come to save a lady's life. The queen hath ill bestowed her
favors, and honored many a knight, that in her hour of need she
should have none to take her part. Thou that darest accuse her of
treachery, stand forth, for to-day shalt thou need all thy might."

Sir Mador, though surprised, was not appalled by the stern
challenge and formidable appearance of his antagonist, but
prepared for the encounter. At the first shock both were unhorsed.
They then drew their swords, and commenced a combat which lasted
from noon till evening, when Sir Mador, whose strength began to
fail, was felled to the ground by Launcelot, and compelled to sue
for mercy. The victor, whose arm was already raised to terminate
the life of his opponent, instantly dropped his sword, courteously
lifted up the fainting Sir Mador, frankly confessing that he had
never before encountered so formidable an enemy. The other, with
similar courtesy, solemnly renounced all further projects of
vengeance for his brother's death; and the two knights, now become
fast friends, embraced each other with the greatest cordiality. In
the meantime Arthur, having recognized Sir Launcelot, whose helmet
was now unlaced, rushed down into the lists, followed by all his
knights, to welcome and thank his deliverer. Guenever swooned with
joy, and the place of combat suddenly exhibited a scene of the
most tumultuous delight.

The general satisfaction was still further increased by the
discovery of the real culprit. Having accidentally incurred some
suspicion, he confessed his crime, and was publicly punished in
the presence of Sir Mador.

The court now returned to the castle, which, with the title of "La
Joyeuse Garde" bestowed upon it in memory of the happy event, was
conferred on Sir Launcelot by Arthur, as a memorial of his



Meliadus was king of Leonois, or Lionesse, a country famous in the
annals of romance, which adjoined the kingdom of Cornwall, but has
now disappeared from the map, having been, it is said, overwhelmed
by the ocean. Meliadus was married to Isabella, sister of Mark,
king of Cornwall. A fairy fell in love with him, and drew him away
by enchantment while he was engaged in hunting. His queen set out
in quest of him, but was taken ill on her journey, and died,
leaving an infant son, whom, from the melancholy circumstances of
his birth, she called Tristram.

Gouvernail, the queen's squire, who had accompanied her, took
charge of the child, and restored him to his father, who had at
length burst the enchantments of the fairy, and returned home.

Meliadus after seven years married again, and the new queen, being
jealous of the influence of Tristram with his father, laid plots
for his life, which were discovered by Gouvernail, who in
consequence fled with the boy to the court of the king of France,
where Tristram was kindly received, and grew up improving in every
gallant and knightly accomplishment, adding to his skill in arms
the arts of music and of chess. In particular, he devoted himself
to the chase and to all woodland sports, so that he became
distinguished above all other chevaliers of the court for his
knowledge of all that relates to hunting. No wonder that Belinda,
the king's daughter, fell in love with him; but as he did not
return her passion, she, in a sudden impulse of anger, excited her
father against him, and he was banished the kingdom. The princess
soon repented of her act, and in despair destroyed herself, having
first written a most tender letter to Tristram, sending him at the
same time a beautiful and sagacious dog, of which she was very
fond, desiring him to keep it as a memorial of her. Meliadus was
now dead, and as his queen, Tristram's stepmother, held the
throne, Gouvernail was afraid to carry his pupil to his native
country, and took him to Cornwall, to his uncle Mark, who gave him
a kind reception.

King Mark resided at the castle of Tintadel, already mentioned in
the history of Uther and Igerne. In this court Tristram became
distinguished in all the exercises incumbent on a knight; nor was
it long before he had an opportunity of practically employing his
valor and skill. Moraunt, a celebrated champion, brother to the
queen of Ireland, arrived at the court, to demand tribute of King
Mark. The knights of Cornwall are in ill repute in romance for
their cowardice, and they exhibited it on this occasion. King Mark
could find no champion who dared to encounter the Irish knight,
till his nephew Tristram, who had not yet received the honors of
knighthood, craved to be admitted to the order, offering at the
same time to fight the battle of Cornwall against the Irish
champion. King Mark assented with reluctance; Tristram received
the accolade, which conferred knighthood upon him, and the place
and time were assigned for the encounter.

Without attempting to give the details of this famous combat, the
first and one of the most glorious of Tristram's exploits, we
shall only say that the young knight, though severely wounded,
cleft the head of Moraunt, leaving a portion of his sword in the
wound. Moraunt, half dead with his wound and the disgrace of his
defeat, hastened to hide himself in his ship, sailed away with all
speed for Ireland, and died soon after arriving in his own

The kingdom of Cornwall was thus delivered from its tribute.
Tristram, weakened by loss of blood, fell senseless. His friends
flew to his assistance. They dressed his wounds, which in general
healed readily; but the lance of Moraunt was poisoned, and one
wound which it made yielded to no remedies, but grew worse day by
day. The surgeons could do no more. Tristram asked permission of
his uncle to depart, and seek for aid in the kingdom of Loegria
(England). With his consent he embarked, and after tossing for
many days on the sea, was driven by the winds to the coast of
Ireland. He landed, full of joy and gratitude that he had escaped
the peril of the sea; took his rote,[Footnote: A musical
instrument.] and began to play. It was a summer evening, and the
king of Ireland and his daughter, the beautiful Isoude, were at a
window which overlooked the sea. The strange harper was sent for,
and conveyed to the palace, where, finding that he was in Ireland,
whose champion he had lately slain, he concealed his name, and
called himself Tramtris. The queen undertook his cure, and by a
medicated bath gradually restored him to health. His skill in
music and in games occasioned his being frequently called to
court, and he became the instructor of the princess Isoude in
minstrelsy and poetry, who profited so well under his care, that
she soon had no equal in the kingdom, except her instructor.

At this time a tournament was held, at which many knights of the
Round Table, and others, were present. On the first day a Saracen
prince, named Palamedes, obtained the advantage over all. They
brought him to the court, and gave him a feast, at which Tristram,
just recovering from his wound, was present. The fair Isoude
appeared on this occasion in all her charms. Palamedes could not
behold them without emotion, and made no effort to conceal his
love. Tristram perceived it, and the pain he felt from jealousy
taught him how dear the fair Isoude had already become to him.

Next day the tournament was renewed. Tristram, still feeble from
his wound, rose during the night, took his arms, and concealed
them in a forest near the place of the contest, and, after it had
begun, mingled with the combatants. He overthrew all that
encountered him, in particular Palamedes, whom he brought to the
ground with a stroke of his lance, and then fought him hand to
hand, bearing off the prize of the tourney. But his exertions
caused his wound to reopen; he bled fast, and in this sad state,
yet in triumph, they bore him to the palace. The fair Isoude
devoted herself to his relief with an interest which grew more
vivid day by day; and her skilful care soon restored him to

It happened one day that a damsel of the court, entering the
closet where Tristram's arms were deposited, perceived that a part
of the sword had been broken off. It occurred to her that the
missing portion was like that which was left in the skull of
Moraunt, the Irish champion. She imparted her thought to the
queen, who compared the fragment taken from her brother's wound
with the sword of Tristram, and was satisfied that it was part of
the same, and that the weapon of Tristram was that which reft her
brother's life. She laid her griefs and resentment before the
king, who satisfied himself with his own eyes of the truth of her
suspicions. Tristram was cited before the whole court, and
reproached with having dared to present himself before them after
having slain their kinsman. He acknowledged that he had fought
with Moraunt to settle the claim for tribute, and said that it was
by force of winds and waves alone that he was thrown on their
coast. The queen demanded vengeance for the death of her brother;
the fair Isoude trembled and grew pale, but a murmur rose from all
the assembly that the life of one so handsome and so brave should
not be taken for such a cause, and generosity finally triumphed
over resentment in the mind of the king. Tristram was dismissed in
safety, but commanded to leave the kingdom without delay, and
never to return thither under pain of death Tristram went back,
with restored health, to Cornwall.

King Mark made his nephew give him a minute recital of his
adventures. Tristram told him all minutely; but when he came to
speak of the fair Isoude he described her charms with a warmth and
energy such as none but a lover could display. King Mark was
fascinated with the description, and, choosing a favorable time,
demanded a boon[Footnote: "Good faith was the very corner-stone of
chivalry. Whenever a knight's word was pledged (it mattered not
how rashly) it was to be redeemed at any price. Hence the sacred
obligation of the boon granted by a knight to his suppliant.
Instances without number occur in romance, in which a knight, by
rashly granting an indefinite boon, was obliged to do or suffer
something extremely to his prejudice. But it is not in romance
alone that we find such singular instances of adherence to an
indefinite promise. The history of the times presents authentic
transactions equally embarrassing and absurd"--SCOTT, note to Sir
Tristram.] of his nephew, who readily granted it. The king made
him swear upon the holy reliques that he would fulfil his
commands. Then Mark directed him to go to Ireland, and obtain for
him the fair Isoude to be queen of Cornwall.

Tristram believed it was certain death for him to return to
Ireland; and how could he act as ambassador for his uncle in such
a cause? Yet, bound by his oath, he hesitated not for an instant.
He only took the precaution to change his armor. He embarked for
Ireland; but a tempest drove him to the coast of England, near
Camelot, where King Arthur was holding his court, attended by the
knights of the Round Table, and many others, the most illustrious
in the world.

Tristram kept himself unknown. He took part in many justs; he
fought many combats, in which he covered himself with glory. One
day he saw among those recently arrived the king of Ireland,
father of the fair Isoude. This prince, accused of treason against
his liege sovereign, Arthur, came to Camelot to free himself from
the charge. Blaanor, one of the most redoubtable warriors of the
Round Table, was his accuser, and Argius, the king, had neither
youthful vigor nor strength to encounter him. He must therefore
seek a champion to sustain his innocence. But the knights of the
Round Table were not at liberty to fight against one another,
unless in a quarrel of their own. Argius heard of the great renown
of the unknown knight; he also was witness of his exploits. He
sought him, and conjured him to adopt his defence, and on his oath
declared that he was innocent of the crime of which he was
accused. Tristram readily consented, and made himself known to the
king, who on his part promised to reward his exertions, if
successful, with whatever gift he might ask.

Tristram fought with Blaanor, and overthrew him, and held his life
in his power. The fallen warrior called on him to use his right of
conquest, and strike the fatal blow. "God forbid," said Tristram,
"that I should take the life of so brave a knight!" He raised him
up and restored him to his friends. The judges of the field
decided that the king of Ireland was acquitted of the charge
against him, and they led Tristram in triumph to his tent. King
Argius, full of gratitude, conjured Tristram to accompany him to
his kingdom. They departed together, and arrived in Ireland; and
the queen, forgetting her resentment for her brother's death,
exhibited to the preserver of her husband's life nothing but
gratitude and good-will.

How happy a moment for Isoude, who knew that her father had
promised his deliverer whatever boon he might ask! But the unhappy
Tristram gazed on her with despair, at the thought of the cruel
oath which bound him. His magnanimous soul subdued the force of
his love. He revealed the oath which he had taken, and with
trembling voice demanded the fair Isoude for his uncle.

Argius consented, and soon all was prepared for the departure of
Isoude. Brengwain, her favorite maid of honor, was to accompany
her. On the day of departure the queen took aside this devoted
attendant, and told her that she had observed that her daughter
and Tristram were attached to one another, and that to avert the
bad effects of this inclination she had procured from a powerful
fairy a potent philter (love-draught), which she directed
Brengwain to administer to Isoude and to King Mark on the evening
of their marriage.

Isoude and Tristram embarked together. A favorable wind filled the
sails, and promised them a fortunate voyage. The lovers gazed upon
one another, and could not repress their sighs. Love seemed to
light up all his fires on their lips, as in their hearts. The day
was warm; they suffered from thirst. Isoude first complained.
Tristram descried the bottle containing the love-draught, which
Brengwain had been so imprudent as to leave in sight. He took it,
gave some of it to the charming Isoude, and drank the remainder
himself. The dog Houdain licked the cup. The ship arrived in
Cornwall, and Isoude was married to King Mark, The old monarch was
delighted with his bride, and his gratitude to Tristram was
unbounded. He loaded him with honors, and made him chamberlain of
his palace, thus giving him access to the queen at all times.

In the midst of the festivities of the court which followed the
royal marriage, an unknown minstrel one day presented himself,
bearing a harp of peculiar construction. He excited the curiosity
of King Mark by refusing to play upon it till he should grant him
a boon. The king having promised to grant his request, the
minstrel, who was none other than the Saracen knight, Sir
Palamedes, the lover of the fair Isoude, sung to the harp a lay,
in which he demanded Isoude as the promised gift. King Mark could
not by the laws of knighthood withhold the boon. The lady was
mounted on her horse, and led away by her triumphant lover.
Tristram, it is needless to say, was absent at the time, and did
not return until their departure. When he heard what had taken
place he seized his rote, and hastened to the shore, where Isoude
and her new master had already embarked. Tristram played upon his
rote, and the sound reached the ears of Isoude, who became so
deeply affected, that Sir Palamedes was induced to return with her
to land, that they might see the unknown musician. Tristram
watched his opportunity, seized the lady's horse by the bridle,
and plunged with her into the forest, tauntingly informing his
rival that "what he had got by the harp he had lost by the rote."
Palamedes pursued, and a combat was about to commence, the result
of which must have been fatal to one or other of these gallant
knights; but Isoude stepped between them, and, addressing
Palamedes, said, "You tell me that you love me; you will not then
deny me the request I am about to make?" "Lady," he replied, "I
will perform your bidding." "Leave, then," said she, "this
contest, and repair to King Arthur's court, and salute Queen
Guenever from me; tell her that there are in the world but two
ladies, herself and I, and two lovers, hers and mine; and come
thou not in future in any place where I am." Palamedes burst into
tears. "Ah, lady," said he, "I will obey you; but I beseech you
that you will not for ever steel your heart against me."
"Palamedes," she replied, "may I never taste of joy again if I
ever quit my first love." Palamedes then went his way. The lovers
remained a week in concealment, after which Tristram restored
Isoude to her husband, advising him in future to reward minstrels
in some other way.

The king showed much gratitude to Tristram, but in the bottom of
his heart he cherished bitter jealousy of him. One day Tristram
and Isoude were alone together in her private chamber. A base and
cowardly knight of the court, named Andret, spied them through a
keyhole. They sat at a table of chess, but were not attending to
the game. Andret brought the king, having first raised his
suspicions, and placed him so as to watch their motions. The king
saw enough to confirm his suspicions, and he burst into the
apartment with his sword drawn, and had nearly slain Tristram
before he was put on his guard. But Tristram avoided the blow,
drew his sword, and drove before him the cowardly monarch, chasing
him through all the apartments of the palace, giving him frequent
blows with the flat of his sword, while he cried in vain to his
knights to save him. They were not inclined, or did not dare, to
interpose in his behalf.

A proof of the great popularity of the tale of Sir Tristram is the
fact that the Italian poets, Boiardo and Ariosto, have founded
upon it the idea of the two enchanted fountains, which produced


Back to Full Books