Le Morte Darthur
Thomas Malory

Part 2 out of 9

high upon the helm, a great stroke, and astonied him sore. Then
King Ban was wroth with him, and followed on him fiercely; the
other saw that, and cast up his shield, and spurred his horse
forward, but the stroke of King Ban fell down and carved a cantel
off the shield, and the sword slid down by the hauberk behind his
back, and cut through the trapping of steel and the horse even in
two pieces, that the sword felt the earth. Then the King of the
Hundred Knights voided the horse lightly, and with his sword he
broached the horse of King Ban through and through. With that
King Ban voided lightly from the dead horse, and then King Ban
smote at the other so eagerly, and smote him on the helm that he
fell to the earth. Also in that ire he felled King Morganore,
and there was great slaughter of good knights and much people.
By then came into the press King Arthur, and found King Ban
standing among dead men and dead horses, fighting on foot as a
wood lion, that there came none nigh him, as far as he might
reach with his sword, but he caught a grievous buffet; whereof
King Arthur had great pity. And Arthur was so bloody, that by
his shield there might no man know him, for all was blood and
brains on his sword. And as Arthur looked by him he saw a knight
that was passingly well horsed, and therewith Sir Arthur ran to
him, and smote him on the helm, that his sword went unto his
teeth, and the knight sank down to the earth dead, and anon
Arthur took the horse by the rein, and led him unto King Ban, and
said, Fair brother, have this horse, for he have great myster
thereof, and me repenteth sore of your great damage. It shall be
soon revenged, said King Ban, for I trust in God mine ure is
<29>not such but some of them may sore repent this. I will well,
said Arthur, for I see your deeds full actual; nevertheless, I
might not come at you at that time.

But when King Ban was mounted on horseback, then there began new
battle, the which was sore and hard, and passing great slaughter.
And so through great force King Arthur, King Ban, and King Bors
made their knights a little to withdraw them. But alway the
eleven kings with their chivalry never turned back; and so
withdrew them to a little wood, and so over a little river, and
there they rested them, for on the night they might have no rest
on the field. And then the eleven kings and knights put them on
a heap all together, as men adread and out of all comfort. But
there was no man might pass them, they held them so hard together
both behind and before, that King Arthur had marvel of their
deeds of arms, and was passing wroth. Ah, Sir Arthur, said King
Ban and King Bors, blame them not, for they do as good men ought
to do. For by my faith, said King Ban, they are the best
fighting men, and knights of most prowess, that ever I saw or
heard speak of, and those eleven kings are men of great worship;
and if they were longing unto you there were no king under the
heaven had such eleven knights, and of such worship. I may not
love them, said Arthur, they would destroy me. That wot we well,
said King Ban and King Bors, for they are your mortal enemies,
and that hath been proved aforehand; and this day they have done
their part, and that is great pity of their wilfulness.

Then all the eleven kings drew them together, and then said King
Lot, Lords, ye must other ways than ye do, or else the great loss
is behind; ye may see what people we have lost, and what good men
we lose, because we wait always on these foot-men, and ever in
saving of one of the foot-men we lose ten horsemen for him;
therefore this is mine advice, let us put our foot-men from us,
for it is near night, for the noble Arthur will not tarry on the
footmen, for they may save themselves, the wood is near hand.
And when we horsemen be together, look every each of you kings
let make such ordinance that none break upon <30>pain of death.
And who that seeth any man dress him to flee, lightly that he be
slain, for it is better that we slay a coward, than through a
coward all we to be slain. How say ye? said King Lot, answer me
all ye kings. It is well said, quoth King Nentres; so said the
King of the Hundred Knights; the same said the King Carados, and
King Uriens; so did King Idres and King Brandegoris; and so did
King Cradelment, and the Duke of Cambenet; the same said King
Clariance and King Agwisance, and sware they would never fail
other, neither for life nor for death. And whoso that fled, but
did as they did, should be slain. Then they amended their
harness, and righted their shields, and took new spears and set
them on their thighs, and stood still as it had been a plump of


Yet more of the same battle, and how it was ended by Merlin.

WHEN Sir Arthur and King Ban and Bors beheld them and all their
knights, they praised them much for their noble cheer of
chivalry, for the hardiest fighters that ever they heard or saw.
With that, there dressed them a forty noble knights, and said
unto the three kings, they would break their battle; these were
their names: Lionses, Phariance, Ulfius, Brastias, Ector, Kay,
Lucas the butler, Griflet le Fise de Dieu, Mariet de la Roche,
Guinas de Bloi, Briant de la Forest Savage, Bellaus, Morians of
the Castle [of] Maidens, Flannedrius of the Castle of Ladies,
Annecians that was King Bors' godson, a noble knight, Ladinas de
la Rouse, Emerause, Caulas, Graciens le Castlein, one Blois de la
Case, and Sir Colgrevaunce de Gorre; all these knights rode on
afore with spears on their thighs, and spurred their horses
mightily as the horses might run. And the eleven kings with part
of their knights rushed with their horses as fast as they might
with their spears, and there they did on both parties marvellous
deeds of <31>arms. So came into the thick of the press, Arthur,
Ban, and Bors, and slew down right on both hands, that their
horses went in blood up to the fetlocks. But ever the eleven
kings and their host was ever in the visage of Arthur. Wherefore
Ban and Bors had great marvel, considering the great slaughter
that there was, but at the last they were driven aback over a
little river. With that came Merlin on a great black horse, and
said unto Arthur, Thou hast never done! Hast thou not done
enough? of three score thousand this day hast thou left alive but
fifteen thousand, and it is time to say Ho! For God is wroth
with thee, that thou wilt never have done; for yonder eleven
kings at this time will not be overthrown, but an thou tarry on
them any longer, thy fortune will turn and they shall increase.
And therefore withdraw you unto your lodging, and rest you as
soon as ye may, and reward your good knights with gold and with
silver, for they have well deserved it; there may no riches be
too dear for them, for of so few men as ye have, there were never
men did more of prowess than they have done today, for ye have
matched this day with the best fighters of the world. That is
truth, said King Ban and Bors. Also said Merlin, withdraw you
where ye list, for this three year I dare undertake they shall
not dere you; and by then ye shall hear new tidings. And then
Merlin said unto Arthur, These eleven kings have more on hand
than they are ware of, for the Saracens are landed in their
countries, more than forty thousand, that burn and slay, and have
laid siege at the castle Wandesborow, and make great destruction;
therefore dread you not this three year. Also, sir, all the
goods that be gotten at this battle, let it be searched, and when
ye have it in your hands, let it be given freely unto these two
kings, Ban and Bors, that they may reward their knights withal;
and that shall cause strangers to be of better will to do you
service at need. Also you be able to reward your own knights of
your own goods whensomever it liketh you. It is well said, quoth
Arthur, and as thou hast devised, so shall it be done. When it
was delivered to Ban and Bors, they gave the <32>goods as freely
to their knights as freely as it was given to them. Then Merlin
took his leave of Arthur and of the two kings, for to go and see
his master Bleise, that dwelt in Northumberland; and so he
departed and came to his master, that was passing glad of his
coming; and there he told how Arthur and the two kings had sped
at the great battle, and how it was ended, and told the names of
every king and knight of worship that was there. And so Bleise
wrote the battle word by word, as Merlin told him, how it began,
and by whom, and in likewise how it was ended, and who had the
worse. All the battles that were done in Arthur's days Merlin
did his master Bleise do write; also he did do write all the
battles that every worthy knight did of Arthur's court.

After this Merlin departed from his master and came to King
Arthur, that was in the castle of Bedegraine, that was one of the
castles that stand in the forest of Sherwood. And Merlin was so
disguised that King Arthur knew him not, for he was all befurred
in black sheep-skins, and a great pair of boots, and a bow and
arrows, in a russet gown, and brought wild geese in his hand, and
it was on the morn after Candlemas day; but King Arthur knew him
not. Sir, said Merlin unto the king, will ye give me a gift?
Wherefore, said King Arthur, should I give thee a gift, churl?
Sir, said Merlin, ye were better to give me a gift that is not in
your hand than to lose great riches, for here in the same place
where the great battle was, is great treasure hid in the earth.
Who told thee so, churl? said Arthur. Merlin told me so, said
he. Then Ulfius and Brastias knew him well enough, and smiled.
Sir, said these two knights, it is Merlin that so speaketh unto
you. Then King Arthur was greatly abashed, and had marvel of
Merlin, and so had King Ban and King Bors, and so they had great
disport at him. So in the meanwhile there came a damosel that
was an earl's daughter: his name was Sanam, and her name was
Lionors, a passing fair damosel; and so she came thither for to
do homage, as other lords did after the great battle. And King
Arthur set his love greatly upon her, and so did she upon him,
and the king <33>had ado with her, and gat on her a child: his
name was Borre, that was after a good knight, and of the Table
Round. Then there came word that the King Rience of North Wales
made great war on King Leodegrance of Cameliard, for the which
thing Arthur was wroth, for he loved him well, and hated King
Rience, for he was alway against him. So by ordinance of the
three kings that were sent home unto Benwick, all they would
depart for dread of King Claudas; and Phariance, and Antemes, and
Gratian, and Lionses [of] Payarne, with the leaders of those that
should keep the kings' lands.


How King Arthur, King Ban, and King Bors rescued
King Leodegrance, and other incidents.

AND then King Arthur, and King Ban, and King Bors departed with
their fellowship, a twenty thousand, and came within six days
into the country of Cameliard, and there rescued King
Leodegrance, and slew there much people of King Rience, unto the
number of ten thousand men, and put him to flight. And then had
these three kings great cheer of King Leodegrance, that thanked
them of their great goodness, that they would revenge him of his
enemies; and there had Arthur the first sight of Guenever, the
king's daughter of Cameliard, and ever after he loved her. After
they were wedded, as it telleth in the book. So, briefly to make
an end, they took their leave to go into their own countries, for
King Claudas did great destruction on their lands. Then said
Arthur, I will go with you. Nay, said the kings, ye shall not at
this time, for ye have much to do yet in these lands, therefore
we will depart, and with the great goods that we have gotten in
these lands by your gifts, we shall wage good knights and
withstand the King Claudas' malice, for by the grace of God, an
we have need we will send to you for your <34>succour; and if ye
have need, send for us, and we will not tarry, by the faith of
our bodies. It shall not, said Merlin, need that these two kings
come again in the way of war, but I know well King Arthur may not
be long from you, for within a year or two ye shall have great
need, and then shall he revenge you on your enemies, as ye have
done on his. For these eleven kings shall die all in a day, by
the great might and prowess of arms of two valiant knights (as it
telleth after); their names be Balin le Savage, and Balan, his
brother, that be marvellous good knights as be any living.

Now turn we to the eleven kings that returned unto a city that
hight Sorhaute, the which city was within King Uriens', and there
they refreshed them as well as they might, and made leeches
search their wounds, and sorrowed greatly for the death of their
people. With that there came a messenger and told how there was
come into their lands people that were lawless as well as
Saracens, a forty thousand, and have burnt and slain all the
people that they may come by, without mercy, and have laid siege
on the castle of Wandesborow. Alas, said the eleven kings, here
is sorrow upon sorrow, and if we had not warred against Arthur as
we have done, he would soon revenge us. As for King Leodegrance,
he loveth Arthur better than us, and as for King Rience, he hath
enough to do with Leodegrance, for he hath laid siege unto him.
So they consented together to keep all the marches of Cornwall,
of Wales, and of the North. So first, they put King Idres in the
City of Nauntes in Britain, with four thousand men of arms, to
watch both the water and the land. Also they put in the city of
Windesan, King Nentres of Garlot, with four thousand knights to
watch both on water and on land. Also they had of other men of
war more than eight thousand, for to fortify all the fortresses
in the marches of Cornwall. Also they put more knights in all
the marches of Wales and Scotland, with many good men of arms,
and so they kept them together the space of three year, and ever
allied them with mighty kings and dukes and lords. And to them
fell King Rience of North Wales, the which <35>and Nero that was
a mighty man of men. And all this while they furnished them and
garnished them of good men of arms, and victual, and of all
manner of habiliment that pretendeth to the war, to avenge them
for the battle of Bedegraine, as it telleth in the book of
adventures following.


How King Arthur rode to Carlion, and of his dream,
and how he saw the questing beast.

THEN after the departing of King Ban and of King Bors, King
Arthur rode into Carlion. And thither came to him, King Lot's
wife, of Orkney, in manner of a message, but she was sent thither
to espy the court of King Arthur; and she came richly beseen,
with her four sons, Gawaine, Gaheris, Agravine, and Gareth, with
many other knights and ladies. For she was a passing fair lady,
therefore the king cast great love unto her, and desired to lie
by her; so they were agreed, and he begat upon her Mordred, and
she was his sister, on his mother's side, Igraine. So there she
rested her a month, and at the last departed. Then the king
dreamed a marvellous dream whereof he was sore adread. But all
this time King Arthur knew not that King Lot's wife was his
sister. Thus was the dream of Arthur: Him thought there was
come into this land griffins and serpents, and him thought they
burnt and slew all the people in the land, and then him thought
he fought with them, and they did him passing great harm, and
wounded him full sore, but at the last he slew them. When the
king awaked, he was passing heavy of his dream, and so to put it
out of thoughts, he made him ready with many knights to ride a-
hunting. As soon as he was in the forest the king saw a great
hart afore him. This hart will I chase, said King Arthur, and so
he spurred the horse, and rode after long, and so by fine force
oft he <36>was like to have smitten the hart; whereas the king
had chased the hart so long, that his horse lost his breath, and
fell down dead. Then a yeoman fetched the king another horse.

So the king saw the hart enbushed, and his horse dead, he set him
down by a fountain, and there he fell in great thoughts. And as
he sat so, him thought he heard a noise of hounds, to the sum of
thirty. And with that the king saw coming toward him the
strangest beast that ever he saw or heard of; so the beast went
to the well and drank, and the noise was in the beast's belly
like unto the questing of thirty couple hounds; but all the while
the beast drank there was no noise in the beast's belly: and
there.with the beast departed with a great noise, whereof the
king had great marvel. And so he was in a great thought, and
therewith he fell asleep. Right so there came a knight afoot
unto Arthur and said, Knight full of thought and sleepy, tell me
if thou sawest a strange beast pass this way. Such one saw I,
said King Arthur, that is past two mile; what would ye with the
beast? said Arthur. Sir, I have followed that beast long time,
and killed mine horse, so would God I had another to follow my
quest. Right so came one with the king's horse, and when the
knight saw the horse, he prayed the king to give him the horse:
for I have followed this quest this twelvemonth, and either I
shall achieve him, or bleed of the best blood of my body.
Pellinore, that time king, followed the Questing Beast, and after
his death Sir Palamides followed it.


How King Pellinore took Arthur's horse and followed the
Questing Beast, and how Merlin met with Arthur.

SIR knight, said the king, leave that quest, and suffer me
to have it, and I will follow it another twelvemonth. Ah,
fool, said the knight unto Arthur, it is in vain thy desire,
<37>for it shall never be achieved but by me, or my next kin.
Therewith he started unto the king's horse and mounted into the
saddle, and said, Gramercy, this horse is my own. Well, said the
king, thou mayst take my horse by force, but an I might prove
thee whether thou were better on horseback or I.--Well, said the
knight, seek me here when thou wilt, and here nigh this well thou
shalt find me, and so passed on his way. Then the king sat in a
study, and bade his men fetch his horse as fast as ever they
might. Right so came by him Merlin like a child of fourteen year
of age, and saluted the king, and asked him why he was so
pensive. I may well be pensive, said the king, for I have seen
the marvellest sight that ever I saw. That know I well, said
Merlin, as well as thyself, and of all thy thoughts, but thou art
but a fool to take thought, for it will not amend thee. Also I
know what thou art, and who was thy father, and of whom thou wert
begotten; King Uther Pendragon was thy father, and begat thee on
Igraine. That is false, said King Arthur, how shouldest thou
know it, for thou art not so old of years to know my father?
Yes, said Merlin, I know it better than ye or any man living. I
will not believe thee, said Arthur, and was wroth with the child.
So departed Merlin, and came again in the likeness of an old man
of fourscore year of age, whereof the king was right glad, for he
seemed to be right wise.

Then said the old man, Why are ye so sad? I may well be heavy,
said Arthur, for many things. Also here was a child, and told me
many things that meseemeth he should not know, for he was not of
age to know my father. Yes, said the old man, the child told you
truth, and more would he have told you an ye would have suffered
him. But ye have done a thing late that God is displeased with
you, for ye have lain by your sister, and on her ye have gotten a
child that shall destroy you and all the knights of your realm.
What are ye, said Arthur, that tell me these tidings? I am
Merlin, and I was he in the child's likeness. Ah, said King
Arthur, ye are a marvellous man, but I marvel much of thy words
that I must die in battle. Marvel not, said Merlin, for it is
<38>God's will your body to be punished for your foul deeds; but
I may well be sorry, said Merlin, for I shall die a shameful
death, to be put in the earth quick, and ye shall die a
worshipful death. And as they talked this, came one with the
king's horse, and so the king mounted on his horse, and Merlin on
another, and so rode unto Carlion. And anon the king asked Ector
and Ulfius how he was begotten, and they told him Uther Pendragon
was his father and Queen Igraine his mother. Then he said to
Merlin, I will that my mother be sent for that I may speak with
her; and if she say so herself then will I believe it. In all
haste, the queen was sent for, and she came and brought with her
Morgan le Fay, her daughter, that was as fair a lady as any might
be, and the king welcomed Igraine in the best manner.


How Ulfius impeached Queen Igraine, Arthur's mother, of treason;
and how a knight came and desired to have the death of his master

RIGHT SO came Ulfius, and said openly, that the king and all
might hear that were feasted that day, Ye are the falsest lady of
the world, and the most traitress unto the king's person.
Beware, said Arthur, what thou sayest; thou speakest a great
word. I am well ware, said Ulfius, what I speak, and here is my
glove to prove it upon any man that will say the contrary, that
this Queen Igraine is causer of your great damage, and of your
great war. For, an she would have uttered it in the life of King
Uther Pendragon, of the birth of you, and how ye were begotten ye
had never had the mortal wars that ye have had; for the most part
of your barons of your realm knew never whose son ye were, nor of
whom ye were begotten; and she that bare you of her body should
have made it known openly in excusing of her worship and yours,
and in like <39>wise to all the realm, wherefore I prove her
false to God and to you and to all your realm, and who will say
the contrary I will prove it on his body.

Then spake Igraine and said, I am a woman and I may not fight,
but rather than I should be dishonoured, there would some good
man take my quarrel. More, she said, Merlin knoweth well, and ye
Sir Ulfius, how King Uther came to me in the Castle of Tintagil
in the likeness of my lord, that was dead three hours to-fore,
and thereby gat a child that night upon me. And after the
thirteenth day King Uther wedded me, and by his commandment when
the child was born it was delivered unto Merlin and nourished by
him, and so I saw the child never after, nor wot not what is his
name, for I knew him never yet. And there, Ulfius said to the
queen, Merlin is more to blame than ye. Well I wot, said the
queen, I bare a child by my lord King Uther, but I wot not where
he is become. Then Merlin took the king by the hand, saying,
This is your mother. And therewith Sir Ector bare witness how he
nourished him by Uther's commandment. And therewith King Arthur
took his mother, Queen Igraine, in his arms and kissed her, and
either wept upon other. And then the king let make a feast that
lasted eight days.

Then on a day there came in the court a squire on horseback,
leading a knight before him wounded to the death, and told him
how there was a knight in the forest had reared up a pavilion by
a well, and hath slain my master, a good knight, his name was
Miles; wherefore I beseech you that my master may be buried, and
that some knight may revenge my master's death. Then the noise
was great of that knight's death in the court, and every man said
his advice. Then came Griflet that was but a squire, and he was
but young, of the age of the king Arthur, so he besought the king
for all his service that he had done him to give the order of


How Griflet was made knight, and jousted with a knight

THOU art full young and tender of age, said Arthur, for to take
so high an order on thee. Sir, said Griflet, I beseech you make
me knight. Sir, said Merlin, it were great pity to lose Griflet,
for he will be a passing good man when he is of age, abiding with
you the term of his life. And if he adventure his body with
yonder knight at the fountain, it is in great peril if ever he
come again, for he is one of the best knights of the world, and
the strongest man of arms. Well, said Arthur. So at the desire
of Griflet the king made him knight. Now, said Arthur unto Sir
Griflet, sith I have made you knight thou must give me a gift.
What ye will, said Griflet. Thou shalt promise me by the faith
of thy body, when thou hast jousted with the knight at the
fountain, whether it fall ye be on foot or on horseback, that
right so ye shall come again unto me without making any more
debate. I will promise you, said Griflet, as you desire. Then
took Griflet his horse in great haste, and dressed his shield and
took a spear in his hand, and so he rode a great wallop till he
came to the fountain, and thereby he saw a rich pavilion, and
thereby under a cloth stood a fair horse well saddled and
bridled, and on a tree a shield of divers colours and a great
spear. Then Griflet smote on the shield with the butt of his
spear, that the shield fell down to the ground. With that the
knight came out of the pavilion, and said, Fair knight, why smote
ye down my shield? For I will joust with you, said Griflet. It
is better ye do not, said the knight, for ye are but young, and
late made knight, and your might is nothing to mine. As for
that, said Griflet, I will joust with you. That is me loath,
said the knight, but sith I must needs, I will dress me thereto.
Of whence be ye? said the knight. Sir, I am of Arthur's court.
So the two knights ran <41>together that Griflet's spear all to-
shivered; and there withal he smote Griflet through the shield
and the left side, and brake the spear that the truncheon stuck
in his body, that horse and knight fell down.


How twelve knights came from Rome and asked truage for this land
of Arthur, and how Arthur fought with a knight.

WHEN the knight saw him lie so on the ground, he alighted, and
was passing heavy, for he weened he had slain him, and then he
unlaced his helm and gat him wind, and so with the truncheon he
set him on his horse, and so betook him to God, and said he had a
mighty heart, and if he might live he would prove a passing good
knight. And so Sir Griflet rode to the court, where great dole
was made for him. But through good leeches he was healed and
saved. Right so came into the court twelve knights, and were
aged men, and they came from the Emperor of Rome, and they asked
of Arthur truage for this realm, other else the emperor would
destroy him and his land. Well, said King Arthur, ye are
messengers, therefore ye may say what ye will, other else ye
should die therefore. But this is mine answer: I owe the emperor
no truage, nor none will I hold him, but on a fair field I shall
give him my truage that shall be with a sharp spear, or else with
a sharp sword, and that shall not be long, by my father's soul,
Uther Pendragon. And therewith the messengers departed passingly
wroth, and King Arthur as wroth, for in evil time came they then;
for the king was passingly wroth for the hurt of Sir Griflet.
And so he commanded a privy man of his chamber that or it be day
his best horse and armour, with all that longeth unto his person,
be without the city or to-morrow day. Right so or to-morrow day
he met with his man and his horse, and so mounted up and
<42>dressed his shield and took his spear, and bade his
chamberlain tarry there till he came again. And so Arthur rode a
soft pace till it was day, and then was he ware of three churls
chasing Merlin, and would have slain him. Then the king rode
unto them, and bade them: Flee, churls! then were they afeard
when they saw a knight, and fled. O Merlin, said Arthur, here
hadst thou been slain for all thy crafts had I not been. Nay,
said Merlin, not so, for I could save myself an I would; and thou
art more near thy death than I am, for thou goest to the
deathward, an God be not thy friend.

So as they went thus talking they came to the fountain, and the
rich pavilion there by it. Then King Arthur was ware where sat a
knight armed in a chair. Sir knight, said Arthur, for what cause
abidest thou here, that there may no knight ride this way but if
he joust with thee? said the king. I rede thee leave that
custom, said Arthur. This custom, said the knight, have I used
and will use maugre who saith nay, and who is grieved with my
custom let him amend it that will. I will amend it, said Arthur.
I shall defend thee, said the knight. Anon he took his horse and
dressed his shield and took a spear, and they met so hard either
in other's shields, that all to-shivered their spears. Therewith
anon Arthur pulled out his sword. Nay, not so, said the knight;
it is fairer, said the knight, that we twain run more together
with sharp spears. I will well, said Arthur, an I had any more
spears. I have enow, said the knight; so there came a squire and
brought two good spears, and Arthur chose one and he another; so
they spurred their horses and came together with all their
mights, that either brake their spears to their hands. Then
Arthur set hand on his sword. Nay, said the knight, ye shall do
better, ye are a passing good jouster as ever I met withal, and
once for the love of the high order of knighthood let us joust
once again. I assent me, said Arthur. Anon there were brought
two great spears, and every knight gat a spear, and therewith
they ran together that Arthur's spear all to-shivered. But the
other knight hit him so hard in midst of the <43>shield, that
horse and man fell to the earth, and therewith Arthur was eager,
and pulled out his sword, and said, I will assay thee, sir
knight, on foot, for I have lost the honour on horseback. I will
be on horseback, said the knight. Then was Arthur wroth, and
dressed his shield toward him with his sword drawn. When the
knight saw that, he alighted, for him thought no worship to have
a knight at such avail, he to be on horseback and he on foot, and
so he alighted and dressed his shield unto Arthur. And there
began a strong battle with many great strokes, and so hewed with
their swords that the cantels flew in the fields, and much blood
they bled both, that all the place there as they fought was
overbled with blood, and thus they fought long and rested them,
and then they went to the battle again, and so hurtled together
like two rams that either fell to the earth. So at the last they
smote together that both their swords met even together. But the
sword of the knight smote King Arthur's sword in two pieces,
wherefore he was heavy. Then said the knight unto Arthur, Thou
art in my daunger whether me list to save thee or slay thee, and
but 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 had liefer die than to be so
shamed. And therewithal the king leapt unto Pellinore, and took
him by the middle and threw him down, and raced off his helm.
When the knight felt that he was adread, for he was a passing big
man of might, and anon he brought Arthur under him, and raced off
his helm and would have smitten off his head.


How Merlin saved Arthur's life, and threw an enchantment
on King Pellinore and made him to sleep.

THEREWITHAL came Merlin and said, Knight, hold thy hand, for an
thou slay that knight thou puttest this realm <44>in the greatest
damage that ever was realm: for this knight is a man of more
worship than thou wotest of. Why, who is he? said the knight.
It is King Arthur. Then would he have slain him for dread of his
wrath, and heaved up his sword, and therewith Merlin cast an
enchantment to the knight, that he fell to the earth in a great
sleep. Then Merlin took up King Arthur, and rode forth on the
knight's horse. Alas! said Arthur, what hast thou done, Merlin?
hast thou slain this good knight by thy crafts? There liveth not
so worshipful a knight as he was; I had liefer than the stint of
my land a year that he were alive. Care ye not, said Merlin, for
he is wholer than ye; for he is but asleep, and will awake within
three hours. I told you, said Merlin, what a knight he was; here
had ye been slain had I not been. Also there liveth not a bigger
knight than he is one, and he shall hereafter do you right good
service; and his name is Pellinore, and he shall have two sons
that shall be passing good men; save one they shall have no
fellow of prowess and of good living, and their names shall be
Percivale of Wales and Lamerake of Wales, and he shall tell you
the name of your own son, begotten of your sister, that shall be
the destruction of all this realm.


How Arthur by the mean of Merlin gat Excalibur his sword of the
Lady of the Lake.

RIGHT SO the king and he departed, and went unto an hermit that
was a good man and a great leech. So the hermit searched all his
wounds and gave him good salves; so the king was there three
days, and then were his wounds well amended that he might ride
and go, and so departed. And as they rode, Arthur said, I have
no sword. No force, said Merlin, hereby is a sword that shall be
yours, an I may. So they rode till they came to a lake, the
which <45>was a fair water and broad, and in the midst of the
lake Arthur was ware of an arm clothed in white samite, that held
a fair sword in that hand. Lo! said Merlin, yonder is that sword
that I spake of. With that they saw a damosel going upon the
lake. What damosel is that? said Arthur. That is the Lady of
the Lake, said Merlin; and within that lake is a rock, and
therein is as fair a place as any on earth, and richly beseen;
and this damosel will come to you anon, and then speak ye fair to
her that she will give you that sword. Anon withal came the
damosel unto Arthur, and saluted him, and he her again. Damosel,
said Arthur, what sword is that, that yonder the arm holdeth
above the water? I would it were mine, for I have no sword. Sir
Arthur, king, said the damosel, that sword is mine, and if ye
will give me a gift when I ask it you, ye shall have it. By my
faith, said Arthur, I will give you what gift ye will ask. Well!
said the damosel, go ye into yonder barge, and row yourself to
the sword, and take it and the scabbard with you, and I will ask
my gift when I see my time. So Sir Arthur and Merlin alighted
and tied their horses to two trees, and so they went into the
ship, and when they came to the sword that the hand held, Sir
Arthur took it up by the handles, and took it with him, and the
arm and the hand went under the water. And so [they] came unto
the land and rode forth, and then Sir Arthur saw a rich pavilion.
What signifieth yonder pavilion? It is the knight's pavilion,
said Merlin, that ye fought with last, Sir Pellinore; but he is
out, he is not there. He hath ado with a knight of yours that
hight Egglame, and they have foughten together, but at the last
Egglame fled, and else he had been dead, and he hath chased him
even to Carlion, and we shall meet with him anon in the highway.
That is well said, said Arthur, now have I a sword, now will I
wage battle with him, and be avenged on him. Sir, you shall not
so, said Merlin, for the knight is weary of fighting and chasing,
so that ye shall have no worship to have ado with him; also he
will not be lightly matched of one knight living, and therefore
it is my counsel, let him pass, for he shall do you good service
in short time, and his sons after <46>his days. Also ye shall
see that day in short space, you shall be right glad to give him
your sister to wed. When I see him, I will do as ye advise, said

Then Sir Arthur looked on the sword, and liked it passing well.
Whether liketh you better, said Merlin, the sword or the
scabbard? Me liketh better the sword, said Arthur. Ye are more
unwise, said Merlin, for the scabbard is worth ten of the swords,
for whiles ye have the scabbard upon you, ye shall never lose no
blood, be ye never so sore wounded; therefore keep well the
scabbard always with you. So they rode unto Carlion, and by the
way they met with Sir Pellinore; but Merlin had done such a
craft, that Pellinore saw not Arthur, and he passed by without
any words. I marvel, said Arthur, that the knight would not
speak. Sir, said Merlin, he saw you not, for an he had seen you,
ye had not lightly departed. So they came unto Carlion, 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 merry to be under such
a chieftain, that would put his person in adventure as other poor
knights did.


How tidings came to Arthur that King Rience had overcome eleven
kings, and how he desired Arthur's beard to trim his mantle.

THIS meanwhile came a messenger from King Rience of North Wales,
and king he was of all Ireland, and of many isles. And this was
his message, greeting well King Arthur in this manner wise,
saying that King Rience had discomfited and overcome eleven
kings, and everych of them did him homage, and that was this,
they gave him their beards clean flayed off, as much as there
was; wherefore the messenger came for King Arthur's beard. For
King Rience had purfled a mantle with kings' beards, and there
<47>lacked one place of the mantle; wherefore he sent for his
beard, or else he would enter into his lands, and burn and slay,
and never leave till he have the head and the beard. Well, said
Arthur, thou hast said thy message, the which is the most
villainous and lewdest message that ever man heard sent unto a
king; also thou mayest see my beard is full young yet to make a
purfle of it. But tell thou thy king this: I owe him none
homage, nor none of mine elders; but or it be long to, he shall
do me homage on both his knees, or else he shall lose his head,
by the faith of my body, for this is the most shamefulest message
that ever I heard speak of. I have espied thy king met never yet
with worshipful man, but tell him, I will have his head without
he do me homage. Then the messenger departed.

Now is there any here, said Arthur, that knoweth King Rience?
Then answered a knight that hight Naram, Sir, I know the king
well; he is a passing good man of his body, as few be living, and
a passing proud man, and Sir, doubt ye not he will make war on
you with a mighty puissance. Well, said Arthur, I shall ordain
for him in short time.


How all the children were sent for that were born on
May-day, and how Mordred was saved.

THEN King Arthur let send for all the children born on May-day,
begotten of lords and born of ladies; for Merlin told King Arthur
that he that should destroy him should be born on May-day,
wherefore he sent for them all, upon pain of death; and so there
were found many lords' sons, and all were sent unto the king, and
so was Mordred sent by King Lot's wife, and all were put in a
ship to the sea, and some were four weeks old, and some less.
And so by fortune the ship drave unto a castle, and was all to-
riven, and destroyed the most part, save that Mordred was cast
up, and a good man found him, and nourished him till he <48>was
fourteen year old, and then he brought him to the court, as it
rehearseth afterward, toward the end of the Death of Arthur. So
many lords and barons of this realm were displeased, for their
children were so lost, and many put the wite on Merlin more than
on Arthur; so what for dread and for love, they held their peace.
But when the messenger came to King Rience, then was he wood out
of measure, and purveyed him for a great host, as it rehearseth
after in the book of Balin le Savage, that followeth next after,
how by adventure Balin gat the sword.

Explicit liber primus. Incipit liber secundus



Of a damosel which came girt with a sword for to find a
man of such virtue to draw it out of the scabbard.

AFTER the death of Uther Pendragon reigned Arthur his son, the
which had great war in his days for to get all England into his
hand. For there were many kings within the realm of England, and
in Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall. So it befell on a time when
King Arthur was at London, there came a knight and told the king
tidings how that the King Rience of North Wales had reared a
great number of people, and were entered into the land, and burnt
and slew the king's true liege people. If this be true, said
Arthur, it were great shame unto mine estate but that he were
mightily withstood. It is truth, said the knight, for I saw the
host myself. Well, said the king, let make a cry, that all the
lords, knights, and gentlemen of arms, should draw unto a castle
called Camelot in those days, and there the king would let make a
council-general and a great jousts.

So when the king was come thither with all his baronage, and
lodged as they seemed best, there was come a damosel the which
was sent on message from the great lady Lile of Avelion. And
when she came before King Arthur, she told from whom she came,
and how she was sent on message unto him for these causes. Then
she let her mantle fall that was richly furred; and then was she
girt with a noble sword whereof the king had marvel, and
<50>said, Damosel, for what cause are ye girt with that sword? it
beseemeth you not. Now shall I tell you, said the damosel; this
sword that I am girt withal doth me great sorrow and cumbrance,
for I may not be delivered of this sword but by a knight, but he
must be a passing good man of his hands and of his deeds, and
without villainy or treachery, and without treason. And if I may
find such a knight that hath all these virtues, he may draw out
this sword out of the sheath, for I have been at King Rience's it
was told me there were passing good knights, and he and all his
knights have assayed it and none can speed. This is a great
marvel, said Arthur, if this be sooth; I will myself assay to
draw out the sword, not presuming upon myself that I am the best
knight, but that I will begin to draw at your sword in giving
example to all the barons that they shall assay everych one after
other when I have assayed it. Then Arthur took the sword by the
sheath and by the girdle and pulled at it eagerly, but the sword
would not out.

Sir, said the damosel, you need not to pull half so hard, for he
that shall pull it out shall do it with little might. Ye say
well, said Arthur; now assay ye all my barons; but beware ye be
not defiled with shame, treachery, nor guile. Then it will not
avail, said the damosel, for he must be a clean knight without
villainy, and of a gentle strain of father side and mother side.
Most of all the barons of the Round Table that were there at that
time assayed all by row, but there might none speed; wherefore
the damosel made great sorrow out of measure, and said, Alas! I
weened in this court had been the best knights without treachery
or treason. By my faith, said Arthur, here are good knights, as
I deem, as any be in the world, but their grace is not to help
you, wherefore I am displeased.


How Balin, arrayed like a poor knight, pulled out the sword,
which afterward was the cause of his death.

THEN fell it so that time there was a poor knight with King
Arthur, that had been prisoner with him half a year and more for
slaying of a knight, the which was cousin unto King Arthur. The
name of this knight was called Balin, and by good means of the
barons he was delivered out of prison, for he was a good man
named of his body, and he was born in Northumberland. And so he
went privily into the court, and saw this adventure, whereof it
raised his heart, and he would assay it as other knights did, but
for he was poor and poorly arrayed he put him not far in press.
But in his heart he was fully assured to do as well, if his grace
happed him, as any knight that there was. And as the damosel
took her leave of Arthur and of all the barons, so departing,
this knight Balin called unto her, and said, Damosel, I pray you
of your courtesy, suffer me as well to assay as these lords;
though that I be so poorly clothed, in my heart meseemeth I am
fully assured as some of these others, and meseemeth in my heart
to speed right well. The damosel beheld the poor knight, and saw
he was a likely man, but for his poor arrayment she thought he
should be of no worship without villainy or treachery. And then
she said unto the knight, Sir, it needeth not to put me to more
pain or labour, for it seemeth not you to speed there as other
have failed. Ah! fair damosel, said Balin, worthiness, and good
tatches, and good deeds, are not only in arrayment, but manhood
and worship is hid within man's person, and many a worshipful
knight is not known unto all people, and therefore worship and
hardiness is not in arrayment. By God, said the damosel, ye say
sooth; therefore ye shall assay to do what ye may. Then Balin
took the sword by the girdle <52>and sheath, and drew it out
easily; and when he looked on the sword it pleased him much.
Then had the king and all the barons great marvel that Balin had
done that adventure, and many knights had great despite of Balin.
Certes, said the damosel, this is a passing good knight, and the
best that ever I found, and most of worship without treason,
treachery, or villainy, and many marvels shall he do. Now,
gentle and courteous knight, give me the sword again. Nay, said
Balin, for this sword will I keep, but it be taken from me with
force. Well, said the damosel, ye are not wise to keep the sword
from me, for ye shall slay with the sword the best friend that ye
have, and the man that ye most love in the world, and the sword
shall be your destruction. I shall take the adventure, said
Balin, that God will ordain me, but the sword ye shall not have
at this time, by the faith of my body. Ye shall repent it within
short time, said the damosel, for I would have the sword more for
your avail than for mine, for I am passing heavy for your sake;
for ye will not believe that sword shall be your destruction, and
that is great pity. With that the damosel departed, making great

Anon after, Balin sent for his horse and armour, and so would
depart from the court, and took his leave of King Arthur. Nay,
said the king, I suppose ye will not depart so lightly from this
fellowship, I suppose ye are displeased that I have shewed you
unkindness; blame me the less, for I was misinformed against you,
but I weened ye had not been such a knight as ye are, of worship
and prowess, and if ye will abide in this court among my
fellowship, I shall so advance you as ye shall be pleased. God
thank your highness, said Balin, your bounty and highness may no
man praise half to the value; but at this time I must needs
depart, beseeching you alway of your good grace. Truly, said the
king, I am right wroth for your departing; I pray you, fair
knight, that ye tarry not long, and ye shall be right welcome to
me, and to my barons, and I shall amend all miss that I have done
against you; God thank your great lordship, said Balin, and
therewith made him ready to depart. Then the most <53>part of
the knights of the Round Table said that Balin did not this
adventure all only by might, but by witchcraft.


How the Lady of the Lake demanded the knight's head that
had won the sword, or the maiden's head.

THE meanwhile, that this knight was making him ready to depart,
there came into the court a lady that hight the Lady of the Lake.
And she came on horseback, richly beseen, and saluted King
Arthur, and there asked him a gift that he promised her when she
gave him the sword. That is sooth, said Arthur, a gift I
promised you, but I have forgotten the name of my sword that ye
gave me. The name of it, said the lady, is Excalibur, that is as
much to say as Cut-steel. Ye say well, said the king; ask what
ye will and ye shall have it, an it lie in my power to give it.
Well, said the lady, I ask the head of the knight that hath won
the sword, or else the damosel's head that brought it; I take no
force though I have both their heads, for he slew my brother, a
good knight and a true, and that gentlewoman was causer of my
father's death. Truly, said King Arthur, I may not grant neither
of their heads with my worship, therefore ask what ye will else,
and I shall fulfil your desire. I will ask none other thing,
said the lady. When Balin was ready to depart, he saw the Lady
of the Lake, that by her means had slain Balin's mother, and he
had sought her three years; and when it was told him that she
asked his head of King Arthur, he went to her straight and said,
Evil be you found; ye would have my head, and therefore ye shall
lose yours, and with his sword lightly he smote off her head
before King Arthur. Alas, for shame! said Arthur, why have ye
done so? ye have shamed me and all my court, for this was a lady
that I was beholden to, and hither she came under my safe-
conduct; I shall never forgive you that <54>trespass. Sir, said
Balin, me forthinketh of your displeasure, for this same lady was
the untruest lady living, and by enchantment and sorcery she hath
been the destroyer of many good knights, and she was causer that
my mother was burnt, through her falsehood and treachery. What
cause soever ye had, said Arthur, ye should have forborne her in
my presence; therefore, think not the contrary, ye shall repent
it, for such another despite had I never in my court; therefore
withdraw you out of my court in all haste ye may.

Then Balin took up the head of the lady, and bare it with him to
his hostelry, and there he met with his squire, that was sorry he
had displeased King Arthur and so they rode forth out of the
town. Now, said Balin, we must depart, take thou this head and
bear it to my friends, and tell them how I have sped, and tell my
friends in Northumberland that my most foe is dead. Also tell
them how I am out of prison, and what adventure befell me at the
getting of this sword. Alas! said the squire, ye are greatly to
blame for to displease King Arthur. As for that, said Balin, I
will hie me, in all the haste that I may, to meet with King
Rience and destroy him, either else to die therefore; and if it
may hap me to win him, then will King Arthur be my good and
gracious lord. Where shall I meet with you? said the squire. In
King Arthur's court, said Balin. So his squire and he departed
at that time. Then King Arthur and all the court made great dole
and had shame of the death of the Lady of the Lake. Then the
king buried her richly.


How Merlin told the adventure of this damosel.

AT that time there was a knight, the which was the king's son of
Ireland, and his name was Lanceor, the which was an orgulous
knight, and counted himself one of the best <55>of the court; and
he had great despite at Balin for the achieving of the sword,
that any should be accounted more hardy, or more of prowess; and
he asked King Arthur if he would give him leave to ride after
Balin and to revenge the despite that he had done. Do your best,
said Arthur, I am right wroth with Balin; I would he were quit of
the despite that he hath done to me and to my court. Then this
Lanceor went to his hostelry to make him ready. In the meanwhile
came Merlin unto the court of King Arthur, and there was told him
the adventure of the sword, and the death of the Lady of the
Lake. Now shall I say you, said Merlin; this same damosel that
here standeth, that brought the sword unto your court, I shall
tell you the cause of her coming: she was the falsest damosel
that liveth. Say not so, said they. She hath a brother, a
passing good knight of prowess and a full true man; and this
damosel loved another knight that held her to paramour, and this
good knight her brother met with the knight that held her to
paramour, and slew him by force of his hands. When this false
damosel understood this, she went to the Lady Lile of Avelion,
and besought her of help, to be avenged on her own brother.


How Balin was pursued by Sir Lanceor, knight of Ireland,
and how he jousted and slew him.

AND so this Lady Lile of Avelion took her this sword that she
brought with her, and told there should no man pull it out of the
sheath but if he be one of the best knights of this realm, and he
should be hard and full of prowess, and with that sword he should
slay her brother. This was the cause that the damosel came into
this court. I know it as well as ye. Would God she had not come
into this court, but she came never in fellowship of worship to
do good, but always great harm; and that <56>knight that hath
achieved the sword shall be destroyed by that sword, for the
which will be great damage, for there liveth not a knight of more
prowess than he is, and he shall do unto you, my Lord Arthur,
great honour and kindness; and it is great pity he shall not
endure but a while, for of his strength and hardiness I know not
his match living.

So the knight of Ireland armed him at all points, and dressed his
shield on his shoulder, and mounted upon horseback, and took his
spear in his hand, and rode after a great pace, as much as his
horse might go; and within a little space on a mountain he had a
sight of Balin, and with a loud voice he cried, Abide, knight,
for ye shall abide whether ye will or nill, and the shield that
is to-fore you shall not help. When Balin heard the noise, he
turned his horse fiercely, and said, Fair knight, what will ye
with me, will ye joust with me? Yea, said the Irish knight,
therefore come I after you. Peradventure, said Balin, it had
been better to have holden you at home, for many a man weeneth to
put his enemy to a rebuke, and oft it falleth to himself. Of
what court be ye sent from? said Balin. I am come from the court
of King Arthur, said the knight of Ireland, that come hither for
to revenge the despite ye did this day to King Arthur and to his
court. Well, said Balin, I see well I must have ado with you,
that me forthinketh for to grieve King Arthur, or any of his
court; and your quarrel is full simple, said Balin, unto me, for
the lady that is dead, did me great damage, and else would I have
been loath as any knight that liveth for to slay a lady. Make
you ready, said the knight Lanceor, and dress you unto me, for
that one shall abide in the field. Then they took their spears,
and came together as much as their horses might drive, and the
Irish knight smote Balin on the shield, that all went shivers off
his spear, and Balin hit him through the shield, and the hauberk
perished, and so pierced through his body and the horse's croup,
and anon turned his horse fiercely, and drew out his sword, and
wist not that he had slain him; and then he saw him lie as a dead


How a damosel, which was love to Lanceor, slew herself
for love, and how Balin met with his brother Balan.

THEN he looked by him, and was ware of a damosel that came riding
full fast as the horse might ride, on a fair palfrey. And when
she espied that Lanceor was slain, she made sorrow out of
measure, and said, O Balin, two bodies thou hast slain and one
heart, and two hearts in one body, and two souls thou hast lost.
And therewith she took the sword from her love that lay dead, and
fell to the ground in a swoon. And when she arose she made great
dole out of measure, the which sorrow grieved Balin passingly
sore, and he went unto her for to have taken the sword out of her
hand, but she held it so fast he might not take it out of her
hand unless he should have hurt her, and suddenly she set the
pommel to the ground, and rove herself through the body. When
Balin espied her deeds, he was passing heavy in his heart, and
ashamed that so fair a damosel had destroyed herself for the love
of his death. Alas, said Balin, me repenteth sore the death of
this knight, for the love of this damosel, for there was much
true love betwixt them both, and for sorrow might not longer
behold him, but turned his horse and looked toward a great
forest, and there he was ware, by the arms, of his brother Balan.
And when they were met they put off their helms and kissed
together, and wept for joy and pity. Then Balan said, I little
weened to have met with you at this sudden adventure; I am right
glad of your deliverance out of your dolorous prisonment, for a
man told me, in the castle of Four Stones, that ye were
delivered, and that man had seen you in the court of King Arthur,
and therefore I came hither into this country, for here I
supposed to find you. Anon the knight Balin told his brother of
his adventure of the sword, and of the death of the Lady of the
Lake, and how King Arthur was <58>displeased with him. Wherefore
he sent this knight after me, that lieth here dead, and the death
of this damosel grieveth me sore. So doth it me, said Balan, but
ye must take the adventure that God will ordain you. Truly, said
Balin, I am right heavy that my Lord Arthur is displeased with
me, for he is the most worshipful knight that reigneth now on
earth, and his love will I get or else will I put my life in
adventure. For the King Rience lieth at a siege at the Castle
Terrabil, and thither will we draw in all haste, to prove our
worship and prowess upon him. I will well, said Balan, that we
do, and we will help each other as brethren ought to do.


How a dwarf reproved Balin for the death of Lanceor, and how King
Mark of Cornwall found them, and made a tomb over them.

Now go we hence, said Balin, and well be we met. The meanwhile
as they talked, there came a dwarf from the city of Camelot on
horseback, as much as he might; and found the dead bodies,
wherefore he made great dole, and pulled out his hair for sorrow,
and said, Which of you knights have done this deed? Whereby
askest thou it? said Balan. For I would wit it, said the dwarf.
It was I, said Balin, that slew this knight in my defence, for
hither he came to chase me, and either I must slay him or he me;
and this damosel slew herself for his love, which repenteth me,
and for her sake I shall owe all women the better love. Alas,
said the dwarf, thou hast done great damage unto thyself, for
this knight that is here dead was one of the most valiantest men
that lived, and trust well, Balin, the kin of this knight will
chase you through the world till they have slain you. As for
that, said Balin, I fear not greatly, but I am right heavy that I
have displeased my lord King Arthur, for the death of this
knight. So <59>as they talked together, there came a king of
Cornwall riding, the which hight King Mark. And when he saw
these two bodies dead, and understood how they were dead, by the
two knights above said, then made the king great sorrow for the
true love that was betwixt them, and said, I will not depart till
I have on this earth made a tomb, and there he pight his
pavilions and sought through all the country to find a tomb, and
in a church they found one was fair and rich, and then the king
let put them both in the earth, and put the tomb upon them, and
wrote the names of them both on the tomb. How here lieth Lanceor
the king's son of Ireland, that at his own request was slain by
the hands of Balin; and how his lady, Colombe, and paramour, slew
herself with her love's sword for dole and sorrow.


How Merlin prophesied that two the best knights of the world
should fight there, which were Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristram.

THE meanwhile as this was a-doing, in came Merlin to King Mark,
and seeing all his doing, said, Here shall be in this same place
the greatest battle betwixt two knights that was or ever shall
be, and the truest lovers, and yet none of them shall slay other.
And there Merlin wrote their names upon the tomb with letters of
gold that should fight in that place, whose names were Launcelot
de Lake, and Tristram. Thou art a marvellous man, said King Mark
unto Merlin, that speakest of such marvels, thou art a boistous
man and an unlikely to tell of such deeds. What is thy name?
said King Mark. At this time, said Merlin, I will not tell, but
at that time when Sir Tristram is taken with his sovereign lady,
then ye shall hear and know my name, and at that time ye shall
hear tidings that shall not please you. Then said Merlin to
Balin, Thou <60>hast done thyself great hurt, because that thou
savest not this lady that slew herself, that might have saved her
an thou wouldest. By the faith of my body, said Balin, I might
not save her, for she slew herself suddenly. Me repenteth, said
Merlin; because of the death of that lady thou shalt strike a
stroke most dolorous that ever man struck, except the stroke of
our Lord, for thou shalt hurt the truest knight and the man of
most worship that now liveth, and through that stroke three
kingdoms shall be in great poverty, misery and wretchedness
twelve years, and the knight shall not be whole of that wound for
many years. Then Merlin took his leave of Balin. And Balin
said, If I wist it were sooth that ye say I should do such a
perilous deed as that, I would slay myself to make thee a liar.
Therewith Merlin vanished away suddenly. And then Balan and his
brother took their leave of King Mark. First, said the king,
tell me your name. Sir, said Balan, ye may see he beareth two
swords, thereby ye may call him the Knight with the Two Swords.
And so departed King Mark unto Camelot to King Arthur, and Balin
took the way toward King Rience; and as they rode together they
met with Merlin disguised, but they knew him not. Whither ride
you? said Merlin. We have little to do, said the two knights, to
tell thee. But what is thy name? said Balin. At this time, said
Merlin, I will not tell it thee. It is evil seen, said the
knights, that thou art a true man that thou wilt not tell thy
name. As for that, said Merlin, be it as it be may, I can tell
you wherefore ye ride this way, for to meet King Rience; but it
will not avail you without ye have my counsel. Ah! said Balin,
ye are Merlin; we will be ruled by your counsel. Come on, said
Merlin, ye shall have great worship, and look that ye do
knightly, for ye shall have great need. As for that, said Balin,
dread you not, we will do what we may.


How Balin and his brother, by the counsel of Merlin, took
King Rience and brought him to King Arthur.

THEN Merlin lodged them in a wood among leaves beside the
highway, and took off the bridles of their horses and put them to
grass and laid them down to rest them till it was nigh midnight.
Then Merlin bade them rise, and make them ready, for the king was
nigh them, that was stolen away from his host with a three score
horses of his best knights, and twenty of them rode to-fore to
warn the Lady de Vance that the king was coming; for that night
King Rience should have lain with her. Which is the king? said
Balin. Abide, said Merlin, here in a strait way ye shall meet
with him; and therewith he showed Balin and his brother where he

Anon Balin and his brother met with the king, and smote him down,
and wounded him fiercely, and laid him to the ground; and there
they slew on the right hand and the left hand, and slew more than
forty of his men, and the remnant fled. Then went they again to
King Rience and would have slain him had he not yielded him unto
their grace. Then said he thus: Knights full of prowess, slay
me not, for by my life ye may win, and by my death ye shall win
nothing. Then said these two knights, Ye say sooth and truth,
and so laid him on a horse-litter. With that Merlin was
vanished, and came to King Arthur aforehand, and told him how his
most enemy was taken and discomfited. By whom? said King Arthur.
By two knights, said Merlin, that would please your lordship, and
to-morrow ye shall know what knights they are. Anon after came
the Knight with the Two Swords and Balan his brother, and brought
with them King Rience of North Wales, and there delivered him to
the porters, and charged them with him; and so they two returned
again in the dawning of the day. King Arthur <62>came then to
King Rience, and said, Sir king, ye are welcome: by what
adventure come ye hither? Sir, said King Rience, I came hither
by an hard adventure. Who won you? said King Arthur. Sir, said
the king, the Knight with the Two Swords and his brother, which
are two marvellous knights of prowess. I know them not, said
Arthur, but much I am beholden to them. Ah, said Merlin, I shall
tell you: it is Balin that achieved the sword, and his brother
Balan, a good knight, there liveth not a better of prowess and of
worthiness, and it shall be the greatest dole of him that ever I
knew of knight, for he shall not long endure. Alas, said King
Arthur, that is great pity; for I am much beholden unto him, and
I have ill deserved it unto him for his kindness. Nay, said
Merlin, he shall do much more for you, and that shall ye know in
haste. But, sir, are ye purveyed, said Merlin, for to-morn the
host of Nero, King Rience's brother, will set on you or noon with
a great host, and therefore make you ready, for I will depart
from you.


How King Arthur had a battle against Nero and King Lot of Orkney,
and how King Lot was deceived by Merlin, and how twelve kings
were slain.

THEN King Arthur made ready his host in ten battles and Nero was
ready in the field afore the Castle Terrabil with a great host,
and he had ten battles, with many more people than Arthur had.
Then Nero had the vanguard with the most part of his people, and
Merlin came to King Lot of the Isle of Orkney, and held him with
a tale of prophecy, till Nero and his people were destroyed. And
there Sir Kay the seneschal did passingly well, that the days of
his life the worship went never from him; and Sir Hervis de Revel
did marvellous deeds with King Arthur, and King Arthur slew that
day twenty knights <63>and maimed forty. At that time came in
the Knight with the Two Swords and his brother Balan, but they
two did so marvellously that the king and all the knights
marvelled of them, and all they that beheld them said they were
sent from heaven as angels, or devils from hell; and King Arthur
said himself they were the best knights that ever he saw, for
they gave such strokes that all men had wonder of them.

In the meanwhile came one to King Lot, and told him while he
tarried there Nero was destroyed and slain with all his people.
Alas, said King Lot, I am ashamed, for by my default there is
many a worshipful man slain, for an we had been together there
had been none host under the heaven that had been able for to
have matched with us; this faiter with his prophecy hath mocked
me. All that did Merlin, for he knew well that an King Lot had
been with his body there at the first battle, King Arthur had
been slain, and all his people destroyed; and well Merlin knew
that one of the kings should be dead that day, and loath was
Merlin that any of them both should be slain; but of the twain,
he had liefer King Lot had been slain than King Arthur. Now what
is best to do? said King Lot of Orkney; whether is me better to
treat with King Arthur or to fight, for the greater part of our
people are slain and destroyed? Sir, said a knight, set on
Arthur for they are weary and forfoughten and we be fresh. As
for me, said King Lot, I would every knight would do his part as
I would do mine. And then they advanced banners and smote
together and all to-shivered their spears; and Arthur's knights,
with the help of the Knight with the Two Swords and his brother
Balan put King Lot and his host to the worse. But always King
Lot held him in the foremost front, and did marvellous deeds of
arms, for all his host was borne up by his hands, for he abode
all knights. Alas he might not endure, the which was great pity,
that so worthy a knight as he was one should be overmatched, that
of late time afore had been a knight of King Arthur's, and wedded
the sister of King Arthur; and for King Arthur lay by King Lot's
<64>wife, the which was Arthur's sister, and gat on her Mordred,
therefore King Lot held against Arthur. So there was a knight
that was called the Knight with the Strange Beast, and at that
time his right name was called Pellinore, the which was a good
man of prowess, and he smote a mighty stroke at King Lot as he
fought with all his enemies, and he failed of his stroke, and
smote the horse's neck, that he fell to the ground with King Lot.
And therewith anon Pellinore smote him a great stroke through the
helm and head unto the brows. And then all the host of Orkney
fled for the death of King Lot, and there were slain many
mothers' sons. But King Pellinore bare the wite of the death of
King Lot, wherefore Sir Gawaine revenged the death of his father
the tenth year after he was made knight, and slew King Pellinore
with his own hands. Also there were slain at that battle twelve
kings on the side of King Lot with Nero, and all were buried in
the Church of Saint Stephen's in Camelot, and the remnant of
knights and of others were buried in a great rock.


Of the interment of twelve kings, and of the prophecy of
Merlin, and how Balin should give the dolorous stroke.

SO at the interment came King Lot's wife Margawse with her four
sons, Gawaine, Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth. Also there came
thither King Uriens, Sir Ewaine's father, and Morgan le Fay his
wife that was King Arthur's sister. All these came to the
interment. But of all these twelve kings King Arthur let make
the tomb of King Lot passing richly, and made his tomb by his
own; and then Arthur let make twelve images of latten and copper,
and over-gilt it with gold, in the sign of twelve kings, and each
one of them held a taper of wax that burnt day and night; and
King Arthur was made in sign of a figure standing above them with
a sword drawn in his hand, and <65>all the twelve figures had
countenance like unto men that were overcome. All this made
Merlin by his subtle craft, and there he told the king, When I am
dead these tapers shall burn no longer, and soon after the
adventures of the Sangreal shall come among you and be achieved.
Also he told Arthur how Balin the worshipful knight shall give
the dolorous stroke, whereof shall fall great vengeance. Oh,
where is Balin and Balan and Pellinore? said King Arthur. As for
Pellinore, said Merlin, he will meet with you soon; and as for
Balin he will not be long from you; but the other brother will
depart, ye shall see him no more. By my faith, said Arthur, they
are two marvellous knights, and namely Balin passeth of prowess
of any knight that ever I found, for much beholden am I unto him;
would God he would abide with me. Sir, said Merlin, look ye keep
well the scabbard of Excalibur, for ye shall lose no blood while
ye have the scabbard upon you, though ye have as many wounds upon
you as ye may have. So after, for great trust, Arthur betook the
scabbard to Morgan le Fay his sister, and she loved another
knight better than her husband King Uriens or King Arthur, and
she would have had Arthur her brother slain, and therefore she
let make another scabbard like it by enchantment, and gave the
scabbard Excalibur to her love; and the knight's name was called
Accolon, that after had near slain King Arthur. After this
Merlin told unto King Arthur of the prophecy that there should be
a great battle beside Salisbury, and Mordred his own son should
be against him. Also he told him that Bagdemegus was his cousin,
and germain unto King Uriens.


How a sorrowful knight came before Arthur, and how Balin
fetched him, and how that knight was slain by a knight invisible.

WITHIN a day or two King Arthur was somewhat sick, and he let
pitch his pavilion in a meadow, and there he <66>laid him down on
a pallet to sleep, but he might have no rest. Right so he heard
a great noise of an horse, and therewith the king looked out at
the porch of the pavilion, and saw a knight coming even by him,
making great dole. Abide, fair sir, said Arthur, and tell me
wherefore thou makest this sorrow. Ye may little amend me, said
the knight, and so passed forth to the castle of Meliot. Anon
after there came Balin, and when he saw King Arthur he alighted
off his horse, and came to the King on foot, and saluted him. By
my head, said Arthur, ye be welcome. Sir, right now came riding
this way a knight making great mourn, for what cause I cannot
tell; wherefore I would desire of you of your courtesy and of
your. gentleness to fetch again that knight either by force or
else by his good will. I will do more for your lordship than
that, said Balin; and so he rode more than a pace, and found the
knight with a damosel in a forest, and said, Sir knight, ye must
come with me unto King Arthur, for to tell him of your sorrow.
That will I not, said the knight, for it will scathe me greatly,
and do you none avail. Sir, said Balin, I pray you make you
ready, for ye must go with me, or else I must fight with you and
bring you by force, and that were me loath to do. Will ye be my
warrant, said the knight, an I go with you? Yea, said Balin, or
else I will die therefore. And so he made him ready to go with
Balin, and left the damosel still. And as they were even afore
King Arthur's pavilion, there came one invisible, and smote this
knight that went with Balin throughout the body with a spear.
Alas, said the knight, I am slain under your conduct with a
knight called Garlon; therefore take my horse that is better than
yours, and ride to the damosel, and follow the quest that I was
in as she will lead you, and revenge my death when ye may. That
shall I do, said Balin, and that I make vow unto knighthood; and
so he departed from this knight with great sorrow. So King
Arthur let bury this knight richly, and made a mention on his
tomb, how there was slain Herlews le Berbeus, and by whom the
treachery was done, the knight Garlon. But ever the <67>damosel
bare the truncheon of the spear with her that Sir Herlews was
slain withal.


How Balin and the damosel met with a knight which was
in likewise slain, and how the damosel bled for the
custom of a castle.

So Balin and the damosel rode into a forest, and there met with a
knight that had been a-hunting, and that knight asked Balin for
what cause he made so great sorrow. Me list not to tell you,
said Balin. Now, said the knight, an I were armed as ye be I
would fight with you. That should little need, said Balin, I am
not afeard to tell you, and told him all the cause how it was.
Ah, said the knight, is this all? here I ensure you by the faith
of my body never to depart from you while my life lasteth. And
so they went to the hostelry and armed them, and so rode forth
with Balin. And as they came by an hermitage even by a
churchyard, there came the knight Garlon invisible, and smote
this knight, Perin de Mountbeliard, through the body with a
spear. Alas, said the knight, I am slain by this traitor knight
that rideth invisible. Alas, said Balin, it is not the first
despite he hath done me; and there the hermit and Balin buried
the knight under a rich stone and a tomb royal. And on the morn
they found letters of gold written, how Sir Gawaine shall revenge
his father's death, King Lot, on the King Pellinore. Anon after
this Balin and the damosel rode till they came to a castle, and
there Balin alighted, and he and the damosel went to go into the
castle, and anon as Balin came within the castle's gate the
portcullis fell down at his back, and there fell many men about
the damosel, and would have slain her. When Balin saw that, he
was sore aggrieved, for he might not help the damosel. Then he
went up into the tower, and leapt over walls into the ditch, and
hurt him not; <68>and anon he pulled out his sword and would have
foughten with them. And they all said nay, they would not fight
with him, for they did nothing but the old custom of the castle;
and told him how their lady was sick, and had lain many years,
and she might not be whole but if she had a dish of silver full
of blood of a clean maid and a king's daughter; and therefore the
custom of this castle is, there shall no damosel pass this way
but she shall bleed of her blood in a silver dish full. Well,
said Balin, she shall bleed as much as she may bleed, but I will
not lose the life of her whiles my life lasteth. And so Balin
made her to bleed by her good will, but her blood helped not the
lady. And so he and she rested there all night, and had there
right good cheer, and on the morn they passed on their ways. And
as it telleth after in the Sangreal, that Sir Percivale's sister
helped that lady with her blood, whereof she was dead.


How Balin met with that knight named Garlon at a feast,
and there he slew him, to have his blood to heal therewith
the son of his host.

THEN they rode three or four days and never met with adventure,
and by hap they were lodged with a gentle man that was a rich man
and well at ease. And as they sat at their supper Balin
overheard one complain grievously by him in a chair. What is
this noise? said Balin. Forsooth, said his host, I will tell
you. I was but late at a jousting, and there I jousted with a
knight that is brother unto King Pellam, and twice smote I him
down, and then he promised to quit me on my best friend; and so
he wounded my son, that cannot be whole till I have of that
knight's blood, and he rideth alway invisible; but I know not his
name. Ah! said Balin, I know that knight, his name is Garlon, he
hath slain two knights of mine in the same manner, therefore I
had liefer meet with that knight <69>than all the gold in this
realm, for the despite he hath done me. Well, said his host, I
shall tell you, King Pellam of Listeneise hath made do cry in all
this country a great feast that shall be within these twenty
days, and no knight may come there but if he bring his wife with
him, or his paramour; and that knight, your enemy and mine, ye
shall see that day. Then I behote you, said Balin, part of his
blood to heal your son withal. We will be forward to-morn, said
his host. So on the morn they rode all three toward Pellam, and
they had fifteen days' journey or they came thither; and that
same day began the great feast. And so they alighted and stabled
their horses, and went into the castle; but Balin's host might
not be let in because he had no lady. Then Balin was well
received and brought unto a chamber and unarmed him; and there
were brought him robes to his pleasure, and would have had Balin
leave his sword behind him. Nay, said Balin, that do I not, for
it is the custom of my country a knight always to keep his weapon
with him, and that custom will I keep, or else I will depart as I
came. Then they gave him leave to wear his sword, and so he went
unto the castle, and was set among knights of worship, and his
lady afore him.

Soon Balin asked a knight, Is there not a knight in this court
whose name is Garlon? Yonder he goeth, said a knight, he with
the black face; he is the marvellest knight that is now living,
for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible. Ah
well, said Balin, is that he? Then Balin advised him long: If I
slay him here I shall not escape, and if I leave him now,
peradventure I shall never meet with him again at such a steven,
and much harm he will do an he live. Therewith this Garlon
espied that this Balin beheld him, and then he came and smote
Balin on the face with the back of his hand, and said, Knight,
why beholdest me so? for shame therefore, eat thy meat and do
that thou came for. Thou sayest sooth, said Balin, this is not
the first despite that thou hast done me, and therefore I will do
what I came for, and rose up fiercely and clave his head to the
shoulders. <70>Give me the truncheon, said Balin to his lady,
wherewith he slew your knight. Anon she gave it him, for alway
she bare the truncheon with her. And therewith Balin smote him
through the body, and said openly, With that truncheon thou hast
slain a good knight, and now it sticketh in thy body. And then
Balin called unto him his host, saying, Now may ye fetch blood
enough to heal your son withal.


How Balin fought with King Pellam, and how his sword
brake, and how he gat a spear wherewith he smote the
dolorous stroke.

ANON all the knights arose from the table for to set on Balin,
and King Pellam himself arose up fiercely, and said, Knight, hast
thou slain my brother? thou shalt die therefore or thou depart.
Well, said Balin, do it yourself. Yes, said King Pellam, there
shall no man have ado with thee but myself, for the love of my
brother. Then King Pellam caught in his hand a grim weapon and
smote eagerly at Balin; but Balin put the sword betwixt his head
and the stroke, and therewith his sword burst in sunder. And
when Balin was weaponless he ran into a chamber for to seek some
weapon, and so from chamber to chamber, and no weapon he could
find, and always King Pellam after him. And at the last he
entered into a chamber that was marvellously well dight and
richly, and a bed arrayed with cloth of gold, the richest that
might be thought, and one lying therein, and thereby stood a
table of clean gold with four pillars of silver that bare up the
table, and upon the table stood a marvellous spear strangely
wrought. And when Balin saw that spear, he gat it in his hand
and turned him to King Pellam, and smote him passingly sore with
that spear, that King Pellam fell down in a swoon, and therewith
the castle roof and walls brake and fell to the earth, and Balin
fell down so that he might <71>not stir foot nor hand. And so
the most part of the castle, that was fallen down through that
dolorous stroke, lay upon Pellam and Balin three days.


How Balin was delivered by Merlin, and saved a knight
that would have slain himself for love.

THEN Merlin came thither and took up Balin, and gat him a good
horse, for his was dead, and bade him ride out of that country.
I would have my damosel, said Balin. Lo, said Merlin, where she
lieth dead. And King Pellam lay so, many years sore wounded, and
might never be whole till Galahad the haut prince healed him in
the quest of the Sangreal, for in that place was part of the
blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that Joseph of Arimathea brought
into this land, and there himself lay in that rich bed. And that
was the same spear that Longius smote our Lord to the heart; and
King Pellam was nigh of Joseph's kin, and that was the most
worshipful man that lived in those days, and great pity it was of
his hurt, for through that stroke, turned to great dole, tray and
tene. Then departed Balin from Merlin, and said, In this world
we meet never no more. So he rode forth through the fair
countries and cities, and found the people dead, slain on every
side. And all that were alive cried, O Balin, thou hast caused
great damage in these countries; for the dolorous stroke thou
gavest unto King Pellam three countries are destroyed, and doubt
not but the vengeance will fall on thee at the last. When Balin
was past those countries he was passing fain.

So he rode eight days or he met with adventure. And at the last
he came into a fair forest in a valley, and was ware of a tower,
and there beside he saw a great horse of war, tied to a tree, and
there beside sat a fair knight on the ground and made great
mourning, and he was a likely <72>man, and a well made. Balin
said, God save you, why be ye so heavy? tell me and I will amend
it, an I may, to my power. Sir knight, said he again, thou dost
me great grief, for I was in merry thoughts, and now thou puttest
me to more pain. Balin went a little from him, and looked on his
horse; then heard Balin him say thus: Ah, fair lady, why have ye
broken my promise, for thou promisest me to meet me here by noon,
and I may curse thee that ever ye gave me this sword, for with
this sword I slay myself, and pulled it out. And therewith Balin
stert unto him and took him by the hand. Let go my hand, said
the knight, or else I shall slay thee. That shall not need, said
Balin, for I shall promise you my help to get you your lady, an
ye will tell me where she is. What is your name? said the
knight. My name is Balin le Savage. Ah, sir, I know you well
enough, ye are the Knight with the Two Swords, and the man of
most prowess of your hands living. What is your name? said
Balin. My name is Garnish of the Mount, a poor man's son, but by
my prowess and hardiness a duke hath made me knight, and gave me
lands; his name is Duke Hermel, and his daughter is she that I
love, and she me as I deemed. How far is she hence? said Balin.
But six mile, said the knight. Now ride we hence, said these two
knights. So they rode more than a pace, till that they came to a
fair castle well walled and ditched. I will into the castle,
said Balin, and look if she be there. So he went in and searched
from chamber to chamber, and found her bed, but she was not
there. Then Balin looked into a fair little garden, and under a
laurel tree he saw her lie upon a quilt of green samite and a
knight in her arms, fast halsing either other, and under their
heads grass and herbs. When Balin saw her lie so with the
foulest knight that ever he saw, and she a fair lady, then Balin
went through all the chambers again, and told the knight how he
found her as she had slept fast, and so brought him in the place
there she lay fast sleeping.


How that knight slew his love and a knight lying by her,
and after, how he slew himself with his own sword, and
how Balin rode toward a castle where he lost his life.

AND when Garnish beheld her so lying, for pure sorrow his mouth
and nose burst out a-bleeding, and with his sword he smote off
both their heads, and then he made sorrow out of measure, and
said, O Balin, much sorrow hast thou brought unto me, for hadst
thou not shewed me that sight I should have passed my sorrow.
Forsooth, said Balin, I did it to this intent that it should
better thy courage, and that ye might see and know her falsehood,
and to cause you to leave love of such a lady; God knoweth I did
none other but as I would ye did to me. Alas, said Garnish, now
is my sorrow double that I may not endure, now have I slain that
I most loved in all my life; and therewith suddenly he rove
himself on his own sword unto the hilts. When Balin saw that, he
dressed him thenceward, lest folk would say he had slain them;
and so he rode forth, and within three days he came by a cross,
and thereon were letters of gold written, that said, It is not
for no knight alone to ride toward this castle. Then saw he an
old hoar gentleman coming toward him, that said, Balin le Savage,
thou passest thy bounds to come this way, therefore turn again
and it will avail thee. And he vanished away anon; and so he
heard an horn blow as it had been the death of a beast. That
blast, said Balin, is blown for me, for I am the prize and yet am
I not dead. Anon withal he saw an hundred ladies and many
knights, that welcomed him with fair semblant, and made him
passing good cheer unto his sight, and led him into the castle,
and there was dancing and minstrelsy and all manner of joy. Then
the chief lady of the castle said, Knight with the Two Swords, ye
must have ado and joust with a <74>knight hereby that keepeth an
island, for there may no man pass this way but he must joust or
he pass. That is an unhappy custom, said Balin, that a knight
may not pass this way but if he joust. Ye shall not have ado but
with one knight, said the lady.

Well, said Balin, since I shall thereto I am ready, but
travelling men are oft weary and their horses too, but though my
horse be weary my heart is not weary, I would be fain there my
death should be. Sir, said a knight to Balin, methinketh your
shield is not good, I will lend you a bigger. Thereof I pray
you. And so he took the shield that was unknown and left his
own, and so rode unto the island, and put him and his horse in a
great boat; and when he came on the other side he met with a
damosel, and she said, O knight Balin, why have ye left your own
shield? alas ye have put yourself in great danger, for by your
shield ye should have been known; it is great pity of you as ever
was of knight, for of thy prowess and hardiness thou hast no
fellow living. Me repenteth, said Balin, that ever I came within
this country, but I may not turn now again for shame, and what
adventure shall fall to me, be it life or death, I will take the
adventure that shall come to me. And then he looked on his
armour, and understood he was well armed, and therewith blessed
him and mounted upon his horse.


How Balin met with his brother Balan, and how each of
them slew other unknown, till they were wounded to death.

THEN afore him he saw come riding out of a castle a knight, and
his horse trapped all red, and himself in the same colour. When
this knight in the red beheld Balin, him thought it should be his
brother Balin by cause of his two <75>swords, but by cause he
knew not his shield he deemed it was not he. And so they
aventryd their spears and came marvellously fast together, and
they smote each other in the shields, but their spears and their
course were so big that it bare down horse and man, that they lay
both in a swoon. But Balin was bruised sore with the fall of his
horse, for he was weary of travel. And Balan was the first that
rose on foot and drew his sword, and went toward Balin, and he
arose and went against him; but Balan smote Balin first, and he
put up his shield and smote him through the shield and tamed his
helm. Then Balin smote him again with that unhappy sword, and
well-nigh had felled his brother Balan, and so they fought there
together till their breaths failed. Then Balin looked up to the
castle and saw the towers stand full of ladies. So they went
unto battle again, and wounded everych other dolefully, and then
they breathed ofttimes, and so went unto battle that all the
place there as they fought was blood red. And at that time there
was none of them both but they had either smitten other seven
great wounds, so that the least of them might have been the death
of the mightiest giant in this world.

Then they went to battle again so marvellously that doubt it was
to hear of that battle for the great blood-shedding, and their
hauberks unnailed that naked they were on every side. At last
Balan the younger brother withdrew him a little and laid him
down. Then said Balin le Savage, What knight art thou? for or
now I found never no knight that matched me. My name is, said
he, Balan, brother unto the good knight, Balin. Alas, said
Balin, that ever I should see this day, and therewith he fell
backward in a swoon. Then Balan yede on all four feet and hands,
and put off the helm off his brother, and might not know him by
the visage it was so ful hewn and bled; but when he awoke he
said, O Balan, my brother, thou hast slain me and I thee,
wherefore all the wide world shall speak of us both. Alas, said
Balan, that ever I saw this day, that through mishap I might not
know you, for I espied well your <76>two swords, but by cause ye
had another shield I deemed ye had been another knight. Alas,
said Balin, all that made an unhappy knight in the castle, for he
caused me to leave my own shield to our both's destruction, and
if I might live I would destroy that castle for ill customs.
That were well done, said Balan, for I had never grace to depart
from them since that I came hither, for here it happed me to slay
a knight that kept this island, and since might I never depart,
and no more should ye, brother, an ye might have slain me as ye
have, and escaped yourself with the life.

Right so came the lady of the tower with four knights and six
ladies and six yeomen unto them, and there she heard how they
made their moan either to other, and said, We came both out of
one tomb, that is to say one mother's belly, and so shall we lie
both in one pit. So Balan prayed the lady of her gentleness, for
his true service, that she would bury them both in that same
place there the battle was done. And she granted them, with
weeping, it should be done richly in the best manner. Now, will
ye send for a priest, that we may receive our sacrament, and
receive the blessed body of our Lord Jesus Christ? Yea, said the
lady, it shall be done; and so she sent for a priest and gave
them their rights. Now, said Balin, when we are buried in one
tomb, and the mention made over us how two brethren slew each
other, there will never good knight, nor good man, see our tomb
but they will pray for our souls. And so all the ladies and
gentlewomen wept for pity. Then anon Balan died, but Balin died
not till the midnight after, and so were they buried both, and
the lady let make a mention of Balan how he was there slain by
his brother's hands, but she knew not Balin's name.


How Merlin buried them both in one tomb, and of
Balin's sword.

IN the morn came Merlin and let write Balin's name on the tomb
with letters of gold, that Here lieth Balin le Savage that was
the Knight with the Two Swords, and he that smote the Dolorous
Stroke. Also Merlin let make there a bed, that there should
never man lie therein but he went out of his wit, yet Launcelot
de Lake fordid that bed through his noblesse. And anon after
Balin was dead, Merlin took his sword, and took off the pommel
and set on another pommel. So Merlin bade a knight that stood
afore him handle that sword, and he assayed, and he might not
handle it. Then Merlin laughed. Why laugh ye? said the knight.
This is the cause, said Merlin: there shall never man handle this
sword but the best knight of the world, and that shall be Sir
Launcelot or else Galahad his son, and Launcelot with this sword
shall slay the man that in the world he loved best, that shall be
Sir Gawaine. All this he let write in the pommel of the sword.
Then Merlin let make a bridge of iron and of steel into that
island, and it was but half a foot broad, and there shall never
man pass that bridge, nor have hardiness to go over, but if he
were a passing good man and a good knight without treachery or
villainy. Also the scabbard of Balin's sword Merlin left it on
this side the island, that Galahad should find it. Also Merlin
let make by his subtilty that Balin's sword was put in a marble
stone standing upright as great as a mill stone, and the stone
hoved always above the water and did many years, and so by
adventure it swam down the stream to the City of Camelot, that is
in English Winchester. And that same day Galahad the haut prince
came with King Arthur, and so Galahad brought with him the
scabbard and achieved the sword that was there in the marble
stone <78>hoving upon the water. And on Whitsunday he achieved
the sword as it is rehearsed in the book of Sangreal.

Soon after this was done Merlin came to King Arthur and told him
of the dolorous stroke that Balin gave to King Pellam, and how
Balin and Balan fought together the marvellest battle that ever
was heard of, and how they were buried both in one tomb. Alas,
said King Arthur, this is the greatest pity that ever I heard
tell of two knights, for in the world I know not such two
knights. Thus endeth the tale of Balin and of Balan, two
brethren born in Northumberland, good knights.

Sequitur iii liber.


How King Arthur took a wife, and wedded Guenever,
daughter to Leodegrance, King of the Land of Cameliard,
with whom he had the Round Table.

IN the beginning of Arthur, after he was chosen king by adventure
and by grace; for the most part of the barons knew not that he
was Uther Pendragon's son, but as Merlin made it openly known.
But yet many kings and lords held great war against him for that
cause, but well Arthur overcame them all, for the most part the
days of his life he was ruled much by the counsel of Merlin. So
it fell on a time King Arthur said unto Merlin, My barons will
let me have no rest, but needs I must take a wife, and I will
none take but by thy counsel and by thine advice. It is well
done, said Merlin, that ye take a wife, for a man of your bounty
and noblesse should not be without a wife. Now is there any that
ye love more than another? Yea, said King Arthur, I love
Guenever the king's daughter, Leodegrance of the land of
Cameliard, the which holdeth in his house the Table Round that ye
told he had of my father Uther. And this damosel is the most
valiant and fairest lady that I know living, or yet that ever I
could find. Sir, said Merlin, as of her beauty and fairness she
is one of the fairest alive, but, an ye loved her not so well as
ye do, I should find you a damosel of beauty and of goodness that
should like you and please you, an your heart were not set; but
there as a man's heart is set, he <80>will be loath to return.
That is truth, said King Arthur. But Merlin warned the king
covertly that Guenever was not wholesome for him to take to wife,
for he warned him that Launcelot should love her, and she him
again; and so he turned his tale to the adventures of Sangreal.

Then Merlin desired of the king for to have men with him that
should enquire of Guenever, and so the king granted him, and
Merlin went forth unto King Leodegrance of Cameliard, and told
him of the desires of the king that he would have unto his wife
Guenever his daughter. That is to me, said King Leodegrance, the
best tidings that ever I heard, that so worthy a king of prowess
and noblesse will wed my daughter. And as for my lands, I will
give him, wist I it might please him, but he hath lands enow, him
needeth none; but I shall send him a gift shall please him much
more, for I shall give him the Table Round, the which Uther
Pendragon gave me, and when it is full complete, there is an
hundred knights and fifty. And as for an hundred good knights I
have myself, but I faute fifty, for so many have been slain in my
days. And so Leodegrance delivered his daughter Guenever unto
Merlin, and the Table Round with the hundred knights, and so they
rode freshly, with great royalty, what by water and what by land,
till that they came nigh unto London.


How the Knights of the Round Table were ordained and
their sieges blessed by the Bishop of Canterbury.

WHEN King Arthur heard of the coming of Guenever and the hundred
knights with the Table Round, then King Arthur made great joy for
her coming, and that rich present, and said openly, This fair
lady is passing welcome unto me, for I have loved her long, and
therefore there is nothing so lief to me. And these knights with
the Round Table please me more than right great riches. And in
all <81>haste the king let ordain for the marriage and the
coronation in the most honourable wise that could be devised.
Now, Merlin, said King Arthur, go thou and espy me in all this
land fifty knights which be of most prowess and worship. Within
short time Merlin had found such knights that should fulfil
twenty and eight knights, but no more he could find. Then the
Bishop of Canterbury was fetched, and he blessed the sieges with
great royalty and devotion, and there set the eight and twenty
knights in their sieges. And when this was done Merlin said,
Fair sirs, ye must all arise and come to King Arthur for to do
him homage; he will have the better will to maintain you. And so
they arose and did their homage, and when they were gone Merlin
found in every sieges letters of gold that told the knights'
names that had sitten therein. But two sieges were void. And so
anon came young Gawaine and asked the king a gift. Ask, said the
king, and I shall grant it you. Sir, I ask that ye will make me
knight that same day ye shall wed fair Guenever. I will do it
with a good will, said King Arthur, and do unto you all the
worship that I may, for I must by reason ye are my nephew, my
sister's son.


How a poor man riding upon a lean mare desired King
Arthur to make his son knight.

FORTHWITHAL there came a poor man into the court, and brought
with him a fair young man of eighteen years of age riding upon a
lean mare; and the poor man asked all men that he met, Where
shall I find King Arthur? Yonder he is, said the knights, wilt
thou anything with him? Yea, said the poor man, therefore I came
hither. Anon as he came before the king, he saluted him and
said: O King Arthur, the flower of all knights and kings, I
beseech Jesu save thee. Sir, it was told me that at this time of
your marriage ye would give any man the gift that <82>he would
ask, out except that were unreasonable. That is truth, said the
king, such cries I let make, and that will I hold, so it apair
not my realm nor mine estate. Ye say well and graciously, said
the poor man; Sir, I ask nothing else but that ye will make my
son here a knight. It is a great thing thou askest of me, said
the king. What is thy name? said the king to the poor man. Sir,
my name is Aries the cowherd. Whether cometh this of thee or of
thy son? said the king. Nay, sir, said Aries, this desire cometh
of my son and not of me, for I shall tell you I have thirteen
sons, and all they will fall to what labour I put them, and will
be right glad to do labour, but this child will not labour for
me, for anything that my wife or I may do, but always he will be
shooting or casting darts, and glad for to see battles and to
behold knights, and always day and night he desireth of me to be
made a knight. What is thy name? said the king unto the young
man. Sir, my name is Tor. The king beheld him fast, and saw he
was passingly well-visaged and passingly well made of his years.
Well, said King Arthur unto Aries the cowherd, fetch all thy sons
afore me that I may see them. And so the poor man did, and all
were shaped much like the poor man. But Tor was not like none of
them all in shape nor in countenance, for he was much more than
any of them. Now, said King Arthur unto the cow herd, where is
the sword he shall be made knight withal? It is here, said Tor.
Take it out of the sheath, said the king, and require me to make
you a knight.

Then Tor alighted off his mare and pulled out his sword,
kneeling, and requiring the king that he would make him knight,
and that he might be a knight of the Table Round. As for a
knight I will make you, and therewith smote him in the neck with
the sword, saying, Be ye a good knight, and so I pray to God so
ye may be, and if ye be of prowess and of worthiness ye shall be
a knight of the Table Round. Now Merlin, said Arthur, say
whether this Tor shall be a good knight or no. Yea, sir, he
ought to be a good knight, for he is come of as good a man as any
is alive, and of kings' blood. How <83>so, sir? said the king.
I shall tell you, said Merlin: This poor man, Aries the cowherd,
is not his father; he is nothing sib to him, for King Pellinore
is his father. I suppose nay, said the cowherd. Fetch thy wife
afore me, said Merlin, and she shall not say nay. Anon the wife
was fetched, which was a fair housewife, and there she answered
Merlin full womanly, and there she told the king and Merlin that
when she was a maid, and went to milk kine, there met with her a
stern knight, and half by force he had my maidenhead, and at that
time he begat my son Tor, and he took away from me my greyhound
that I had that time with me, and said that he would keep the
greyhound for my love. Ah, said the cowherd, I weened not this,
but I may believe it well, for he had never no tatches of me.
Sir, said Tor unto Merlin, dishonour not my mother. Sir, said
Merlin, it is more for your worship than hurt, for your father is
a good man and a king, and he may right well advance you and your
mother, for ye were begotten or ever she was wedded. That is
truth, said the wife. It is the less grief unto me, said the


How Sir Tor was known for son of King Pellinore,
and how Gawaine was made knight.

SO on the morn King Pellinore came to the court of King Arthur,
which had great joy of him, and told him of Tor, how he was his
son, and how he had made him knight at the request of the
cowherd. When Pellinore beheld Tor, he pleased him much. So the
king made Gawaine knight, but Tor was the first he made at the
feast. What is the cause, said King Arthur, that there be two
places void in the sieges? Sir, said Merlin, there shall no man
sit in those places but they that shall be of most worship. But
in the Siege Perilous there shall no man sit therein but one, and
if there be any so hardy to <84>do it he shall be destroyed, and
he that shall sit there shall have no fellow. And therewith
Merlin took King Pellinore by the hand, and in the one hand next
the two sieges and the Siege Perilous he said, in open audience,
This is your place and best ye are worthy to sit therein of any
that is here. Thereat sat Sir Gawaine in great envy and told
Gaheris his brother, yonder knight is put to great worship, the
which grieveth me sore, for he slew our father King Lot,
therefore I will slay him, said Gawaine, with a sword that was
sent me that is passing trenchant. Ye shall not so, said
Gaheris, at this time, for at this time I am but a squire, and
when I am made knight I will be avenged on him, and therefore,
brother, it is best ye suffer till another time, that we may have
him out of the court, for an we did so we should trouble this
high feast. I will well, said Gawaine, as ye will.


How at feast of the wedding of King Arthur to Guenever,
a white hart came into the hall, and thirty couple
hounds, and how a brachet pinched the hart which
was taken away.

THEN was the high feast made ready, and the king was wedded at
Camelot unto Dame Guenever in the church of Saint Stephen's, with
great solemnity. And as every man was set after his degree,
Merlin went to all the knights of the Round Table, and bade them
sit still, that none of them remove. For ye shall see a strange
and a marvellous adventure. Right so as they sat there came
running in a white hart into the hall, and a white brachet next
him, and thirty couple of black running hounds came after with a
great cry, and the hart went about the Table Round as he went by
other boards. The white brachet bit him by the buttock and
pulled out a piece, wherethrough the hart leapt a great leap and
overthrew a knight that sat at the <85>board side; and therewith
the knight arose and took up the brachet, and so went forth out
of the hall, and took his horse and rode his way with the
brachet. Right so anon came in a lady on a white palfrey, and
cried aloud to King Arthur, Sir, suffer me not to have this
despite, for the brachet was mine that the knight led away. I
may not do therewith, said the king.

With this there came a knight riding all armed on a great horse,
and took the lady away with him with force, and ever she cried
and made great dole. When she was gone the king was glad, for
she made such a noise. Nay, said Merlin, ye may not leave these
adventures so lightly; for these adventures must be brought again
or else it would be disworship to you and to your feast. I will,
said the king, that all be done by your advice. Then, said
Merlin, let call Sir Gawaine, for he must bring again the white
hart. Also, sir, ye must let call Sir Tor, for he must bring
again the brachet and the knight, or else slay him. Also let
call King Pellinore, for he must bring again the lady and the
knight, or else slay him. And these three knights shall do
marvellous adventures or they come again. Then were they called
all three as it rehearseth afore, and each of them took his
charge, and armed them surely. But Sir Gawaine had the first
request, and therefore we will begin at him.


How Sir Gawaine rode for to fetch again the hart, and how
two brethren fought each against other for the hart.

SIR GAWAINE rode more than a pace, and Gaheris his brother that
rode with him instead of a squire to do him service. So as they
rode they saw two knights fight on horseback passing sore, so Sir
Gawaine and his brother rode betwixt them, and asked them for
what cause they fought so. The one knight answered and said, We
fight <86>for a simple matter, for we two be two brethren born
and begotten of one man and of one woman. Alas, said Sir
Gawaine, why do ye so? Sir, said the elder, there came a white
hart this way this day, and many hounds chased him, and a white
brachet was alway next him, and we understood it was adventure
made for the high feast of King Arthur, and therefore I would


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