The Legends Of King Arthur And His Knights
Part 4 out of 5
"Thou hast defeated us, in truth," replied Sir Sagramour, "and on the
faith of knighthood I require thee tell us thy right name?"
"Ye charge me by a great thing," said Sir Tristram, "and I will answer
And when they heard his name the two knights were right glad that they had
met Sir Tristram, for his deeds were known through all the land, and they
prayed him to abide in their company.
"Nay," said he, "I must find a fellow-knight of yours, Sir Bleoberis de
Ganis, whom I seek."
"God speed you well," said the two knights; and Sir Tristram rode away.
Soon he saw before him in a valley Sir Bleoberis with Sir Segwarides' wife
riding behind his squire upon a palfrey. At that he cried out aloud,
"Abide, Sir knight of King Arthur's court, bring back again that lady or
deliver her to me."
"I will not," said Bleoberis, "for I dread no Cornish knight."
"Why," said Sir Tristram, "may not a Cornish knight do well as any other?
This day, but three miles back, two knights of thy own court met me, and
found one Cornish knight enough for both before we parted."
"What were their names?" said Sir Bleoberis.
"Sir Sagramour le Desirous and Sir Dodinas le Savage," said Sir Tristram.
"Ah," said Sir Bleoberis, amazed; "hast thou then met with them? By my
faith, they were two good knights and men of worship, and if thou hast
beat both thou must needs be a good knight; but for all that thou shalt
beat me also ere thou hast this lady."
"Defend thee, then," cried out Sir Tristram, and came upon him swiftly
with his spear in rest. But Sir Bleoberis was as swift as he, and each
bore down the other, horse and all, on to the earth.
Then they sprang clear of their horses, and lashed together full eagerly
and mightily with their swords, tracing and traversing on the right hand
and on the left more than two hours, and sometimes rushing together with
such fury that they both lay grovelling on the ground. At last Sir
Bleoberis started back and said, "Now, gentle knight, hold hard awhile,
and let us speak together."
"Say on," said Sir Tristram, "and I will answer thee."
"Sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I would know thy name, and court, and
"I have no shame to tell them," said Sir Tristram. "I am King Meliodas'
son, and my mother was sister to King Mark, from whose court I now come.
My name is Sir Tristram de Lyonesse." "Truly," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am
right glad to hear it, for thou art he that slew Sir Marhaus hand-to-hand,
fighting for the Cornish tribute; and overcame Sir Palomedes at the great
Irish tournament, where also thou didst overthrow Sir Gawain and his nine
"I am that knight," said Sir Tristram, "and now I pray thee tell me thy
"I am Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, cousin of Sir Lancelot of the Lake, one of
the best knights in all the world," he answered.
"Thou sayest truth," said Sir Tristram; "for Sir Lancelot, as all men
know, is peerless in courtesy and knighthood, and for the great love I
bear to his name I will not willingly fight more with thee his kinsman."
"In good faith, sir," said Sir Bleoberis, "I am as loth to fight thee
more; but since thou hast followed me to win this lady, I proffer thee
kindness, courtesy, and gentleness; this lady shall be free to go with
which of us she pleaseth best."
"I am content," said Sir Tristram, "for I doubt not she will come to me."
"That shalt thou shortly prove," said he, and called his squire, and set
the lady in the midst between them, who forthwith walked to Sir Bleoberis
and elected to abide with him. Which, when Sir Tristram saw, he was in
wondrous anger with her, and felt that he could scarce for shame return to
King Mark's court. But Sir Bleoberis said, "Hearken to me, good knight,
Sir Tristram, because King Mark gave me free choice of any gift, and
because this lady chose to go with me, I took her; but now I have
fulfilled my quest and my adventure, and for thy sake she shall be sent
back to her husband at the abbey where he lieth."
So Sir Tristram rode back to Tintagil, and Sir Bleoberis to the abbey
where Sir Segwarides lay wounded, and there delivered up his lady, and
departed as a noble knight.
After this adventure Sir Tristram abode still at his uncle's court, till
in the envy of his heart King Mark devised a plan to be rid of him. So on
a certain day he desired him to depart again for Ireland, and there demand
La Belle Isault on his behalf, to be his queen--for ever had Sir Tristram
praised her beauty and her goodness, till King Mark desired to wed her for
himself. Moreover, he believed his nephew surely would be slain by the
queen's kindred if he once were found again in Ireland.
But Sir Tristram, scorning fear, made ready to depart, and took with him
the noblest knights that could be found, arrayed in the richest fashion.
And when they were come to Ireland, upon a certain day Sir Tristram gave
his uncle's message, and King Anguish consented thereto.
But when La Belle Isault was told the tidings she was very sorrowful and
loth--yet made she ready to set forth with Sir Tristram, and took with her
Dame Bragwaine, her chief gentlewoman. Then the queen gave Dame Bragwaine,
and Governale, Sir Tristram's servant, a little flask, and charged them
that La Belle Isault and King Mark should both drink of it on their
marriage day, and then should they surely love each other all their lives.
Anon, Sir Tristram and Isault, with a great company, took the sea and
departed. And so it chanced that one day sitting in their cabin they were
athirst, and saw a little flask of gold which seemed to hold good wine. So
Sir Tristram took it up, and said, "Fair lady, this looketh to be the best
of wines, and your maid, Dame Bragwaine, and my servant, Governale, have
kept it for themselves." Thereat they both laughed merrily, and drank each
after other from the flask, and never before had they tasted any wine
which seemed so good and sweet. But by the time they had finished drinking
they loved each other so well that their love nevermore might leave them
for weal or woe. And thus it came to pass that though Sir Tristram might
never wed La Belle Isault, he did the mightiest deeds of arms for her sake
only all his life.
[Illustration: By the time they had finished drinking they loved each
other so well that their love never more might leave them.]
Then they sailed onwards till they came to a castle called Pluere, where
they would have rested. But anon there ran forth a great company and took
them prisoners. And when they were in prison, Sir Tristram asked a knight
and lady whom they found therein wherefore they were so shamefully dealt
with; "for," said he, "it was never the custom of any place of honour that
I ever came unto to seize a knight and lady asking shelter and thrust them
into prison, and a full evil and discourteous custom is it."
"Sir," said the knight, "know ye not that this is called the Castle
Pluere, or the weeping castle, and that it is an ancient custom here that
whatsoever knight abideth in it must needs fight the lord of it, Sir
Brewnor, and he that is the weakest shall lose his head. And if the lady
he hath with him be less fair than the lord's wife, she shall lose her
head; but if she be fairer, then must the lady of the castle lose her
"Now Heaven help me," said Sir Tristram, "but this is a foul and shameful
custom. Yet have I one advantage, for my lady is the fairest that doth
live in all the world, so that I nothing fear for her; and as for me, I
will full gladly fight for my own head in a fair field."
Then said the knight, "Look ye be up betimes to-morrow, and make you ready
and your lady."
And on the morrow came Sir Brewnor to Sir Tristram, and put him and Isault
forth out of prison, and brought him a horse and armour, and bade him make
ready, for all the commons and estates of that lordship waited in the
field to see and judge the battle.
Then Sir Brewnor, holding his lady by the hand, all muffled, came forth,
and Sir Tristram went to meet him with La Belle Isault beside him, muffled
also. Then said Sir Brewnor, "Sir knight, if thy lady be fairer than mine,
with thy sword smite off my lady's head; but if my lady be fairer than
thine, with my sword I will smite off thy lady's head. And if I overcome
thee thy lady shall be mine, and thou shalt lose thy head."
"Sir knight," replied Sir Tristram, "this is a right foul and felon
custom, and rather than my lady shall lose her head will I lose my own."
"Nay," said Sir Brewnor, "but the ladies shall be now compared together
and judgment shall be had."
"I consent not," cried Sir Tristram, "for who is here that will give
rightful judgment? Yet doubt not that my lady is far fairer than thine
own, and that will I prove and make good." Therewith Sir Tristram lifted
up the veil from off La Belle Isault, and stood beside her with his naked
sword drawn in his hand.
Then Sir Brewnor unmuffled his lady and did in like manner. But when he
saw La Belle Isault he knew that none could be so fair, and all there
present gave their judgment so. Then said Sir Tristram, "Because thou and
thy lady have long used this evil custom, and have slain many good knights
and ladies, it were a just thing to destroy thee both."
"In good sooth," said Sir Brewnor, "thy lady is fairer than mine, and of
all women I never saw any so fair. Therefore, slay my lady if thou wilt,
and I doubt not but I shall slay thee and have thine."
"Thou shalt win her," said Sir Tristram, "as dearly as ever knight won
lady; and because of thy own judgment and of the evil custom that thy lady
hath consented to, I will slay her as thou sayest."
And therewithal Sir Tristram went to him and took his lady from him, and
smote off her head at a stroke.
"Now take thy horse," cried out Sir Brewnor, "for since I have lost my
lady I will win thine and have thy life."
So they took their horses and came together as fast as they could fly, and
Sir Tristram lightly smote Sir Brewnor from his horse. But he rose right
quickly, and when Sir Tristram came again he thrust his horse through both
the shoulders, so that it reeled and fell. But Sir Tristram was light and
nimble, and voided his horse, and rose up and dressed his shield before
him, though meanwhile, ere he could draw out his sword, Sir Brewnor gave
him three or four grievous strokes. Then they rushed furiously together
like two wild boars, and fought hurtling and hewing here and there for
nigh two hours, and wounded each other full sorely. Then at the last Sir
Brewnor rushed upon Sir Tristram and took him in his arms to throw him,
for he trusted greatly in his strength. But Sir Tristram was at that time
called the strongest and biggest knight of the world; for he was bigger
than Sir Lancelot, though Sir Lancelot was better breathed. So anon he
thrust Sir Brewnor grovelling to the earth, and then unlaced his helm and
struck off his head. Then all they that belonged to the castle came and
did him homage and fealty, and prayed him to abide there for a season and
put an end to that foul custom.
But within a while he departed and came to Cornwall, and there King Mark
was forthwith wedded to La Belle Isault with great joy and splendour.
And Sir Tristram had high honour, and ever lodged at the king's court. But
for all he had done him such services King Mark hated him, and on a
certain day he set two knights to fall upon him as he rode in the forest.
But Sir Tristram lightly smote one's head off, and sorely wounded the
other, and made him bear his fellow's body to the king. At that the king
dissembled and hid from Sir Tristram that the knights were sent by him;
yet more than ever he hated him in secret, and sought to slay him.
So on a certain day, by the assent of Sir Andret, a false knight, and
forty other knights, Sir Tristram was taken prisoner in his sleep and
carried to a chapel on the rocks above the sea to be cast down. But as
they were about to cast him in, suddenly he brake his bonds asunder, and
rushing at Sir Andret, took his sword and smote him down therewith. Then,
leaping down the rocks where none could follow, he escaped them. But one
shot after him and wounded him full sorely with a poisoned arrow in the
Anon, his servant Governale, with Sir Lambegus sought him and found him
safe among the rocks, and told him that King Mark had banished him and all
his followers to avenge Sir Andret's death. So they took ship and came to
Now Sir Tristram, suffering great anguish from his wound, was told to seek
Isoude, the daughter of the King of Brittany, for she alone could cure
such wounds. Wherefore he went to King Howell's court, and said, "Lord, I
am come into this country to have help from thy daughter, for men tell me
none but she may help me." And Isoude gladly offering to do her best,
within a month he was made whole.
While he abode still at that court, an earl named Grip made war upon King
Howell, and besieged him; and Sir Kay Hedius, the king's son, went forth
against him, but was beaten in battle and sore wounded. Then the king
praying Sir Tristram for his help, he took with him such knights as he
could find, and on the morrow, in another battle, did such deeds of arms
that all the land spake of him. For there he slew the earl with his own
hands, and more than a hundred knights besides.
When he came back King Howell met him, and saluted him with every honour
and rejoicing that could be thought of, and took him in his arms, and
said, "Sir Tristram, all my kingdom will I resign to thee."
"Nay," answered he, "God forbid, for truly am I beholden to you for ever
for your daughter's sake."
Then the king prayed him to take Isoude in marriage, with a great dower of
lands and castles. To this Sir Tristram presently consenting anon they
were wedded at the court.
But within a while Sir Tristram greatly longed to see Cornwall, and Sir
Kay Hedius desired to go with him. So they took ship; but as soon as they
were at sea the wind blew them upon the coast of North Wales, nigh to
Castle Perilous, hard by a forest wherein were many strange adventures
ofttimes to be met. Then said Sir Tristram to Sir Kay Hedius, "Let us
prove some of them ere we depart." So they took their horses and rode
When they had ridden a mile or more, Sir Tristram spied a goodly knight
before him well armed, who sat by a clear fountain with a strong horse
near him, tied to an oak-tree. "Fair sir," said he, when they came near,
"ye seem to be a knight errant by your arms and harness, therefore make
ready now to joust with one of us, or both."
Thereat the knight spake not, but took his shield and buckled it round his
neck, and leaping on his horse caught a spear from his squire's hand.
Then said Sir Kay Hedius to Sir Tristram, "Let me assay him."
"Do thy best," said he.
So the two knights met, and Sir Kay Hedius fell sorely wounded in the
"Thou hast well jousted," cried Sir Tristram to the knight; "now make
ready for me!"
"I am ready," answered he, and encountered him, and smote him so heavily
that he fell down from his horse. Whereat, being ashamed, he put his
shield before him, and drew his sword, crying to the strange knight to do
likewise. Then they fought on foot for well nigh two hours, till they were
At last Sir Tristram said, "In all my life I never met a knight so strong
and well-breathed as ye be. It were a pity we should further hurt each
other. Hold thy hand, fair knight, and tell me thy name."
"That will I," answered he, "if thou wilt tell me thine."
"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse."
"And mine, Sir Lamoracke of Gaul."
Then both cried out together, "Well met;" and Sir Lamoracke said, "Sir,
for your great renown, I will that ye have all the worship of this battle,
and therefore will I yield me unto you." And therewith he took his sword
by the point to yield him.
"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "ye shall not do so, for well I know ye do it of
courtesy, and not of dread." And therewith he offered his sword to Sir
Lamoracke, saying, "Sir, as an overcome knight, I yield me unto you as
unto the man of noblest powers I have ever met with."
"Hold," said Sir Lamoracke, "let us now swear together nevermore to fight
against each other."
Then did they swear as he said.
Then Sir Tristram returned to Sir Kay Hedius, and when he was whole of his
wounds, they departed together in a ship, and landed on the coast of
Cornwall. And when they came ashore, Sir Tristram eagerly sought news of
La Belle Isault. And one told him in mistake that she was dead. Whereat,
for sore and grievous sorrow, he fell down in a swoon, and so lay for
three days and nights.
When he awoke therefrom he was crazed, and ran into the forest and abode
there like a wild man many days; whereby he waxed lean and weak of body,
and would have died, but that a hermit laid some meat beside him as he
slept. Now in that forest was a giant named Tauleas, who, for fear of
Tristram, had hid himself within a castle, but when they told him he was
mad, came forth and went at large again. And on a certain day he saw a
knight of Cornwall, named Sir Dinaunt, pass by with a lady, and when he
had alighted by a well to rest, the giant leaped out from his ambush, and
took him by the throat to slay him. But Sir Tristram, as he wandered
through the forest, came upon them as they struggled; and when the knight
cried out for help, he rushed upon the giant, and taking up Sir Dinaunt's
sword, struck off therewith the giant's head, and straightway disappeared
among the trees.
Anon, Sir Dinaunt took the head of Tauleas, and bare it with him to the
court of King Mark, whither he was bound, and told of his adventures.
"Where had ye this adventure?" said King Mark.
"At a fair fountain in thy forest," answered he.
"I would fain see that wild man," said the king.
So within a day or two he commanded his knights to a great hunting in the
forest. And when the king came to the well, he saw a wild man lying there
asleep, having a sword beside him; but he knew not that it was Sir
Tristram. Then he blew his horn, and summoned all his knights to take him
gently up and bear him to the court.
And when they came thereto they bathed and washed him, and brought him
somewhat to his right mind. Now La Belle Isault knew not that Sir Tristram
was in Cornwall; but when she heard that a wild man had been found in the
forest, she came to see him. And so sorely was he changed, she knew him
not. "Yet," said she to Dame Bragwaine, "in good faith I seem to have
beheld him ofttimes before."
As she thus spoke a little hound, which Sir Tristram had given her when
she first came to Cornwall, and which was ever with her, saw Sir Tristram
lying there, and leapt upon him, licking his hands and face, and whined
and barked for joy.
"Alas," cried out La Belle Isault, "it is my own true knight, Sir
And at her voice Sir Tristram's senses wholly came again, and wellnigh he
wept for joy to see his lady living.
But never would the hound depart from Tristram; and when King Mark and
other knights came up to see him, it sat upon his body and bayed at all
who came too near. Then one of the knights said, "Surely this is Sir
Tristram; I see it by the hound."
"Nay," said the king, "it cannot be," and asked Sir Tristram on his faith
who he was.
"My name," said he, "is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, and now ye may do what
ye list with me."
Then the king said, "It repents me that ye are recovered," and sought to
make his barons slay him. But most of them would not assent thereto, and
counselled him instead to banish Tristram for ten years again from
Cornwall, for returning without orders from the king. So he was sworn to
And as he went towards the ship a knight of King Arthur, named Sir
Dinadan, who sought him, came and said, "Fair knight, ere that you pass
out of this country, I pray you joust with me!"
"With a good will," said he.
Then they ran together, and Sir Tristram lightly smote him from his horse.
Anon he prayed Sir Tristram's leave to bear him company, and when he had
consented they rode together to the ship.
Then was Sir Tristram full of bitterness of heart, and said to all the
knights who took him to the shore, "Greet well King Mark and all mine
enemies from me, and tell them I will come again when I may. Well am I now
rewarded for slaying Sir Marhaus, and delivering this kingdom from its
bondage, and for the perils wherewithal I brought La Belle Isault from
Ireland to the king, and rescued her at the Castle Pluere, and for the
slaying of the giant Tauleas, and all the other deeds that I have done for
Cornwall and King Mark." Thus angrily and passing bitterly he spake, and
went his way.
And after sailing awhile the ship stayed at a landing-place upon the coast
of Wales; and there Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan alighted, and on the
shore they met two knights, Sir Ector and Sir Bors. And Sir Ector
encountered with Sir Dinadan and smote him to the ground; but Sir Bors
would not encounter with Sir Tristram, "For," said he, "no Cornish knights
are men of worship." Thereat Sir Tristram was full wroth, but presently
there met them two more knights, Sir Bleoberis and Sir Driant; and Sir
Bleoberis proffered to joust with Sir Tristram, who shortly smote him
"I had not thought," cried out Sir Bors, "that any Cornish knight could do
Then Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan departed, and rode into a forest, and as
they rode a damsel met them, who for Sir Lancelot's sake was seeking any
noble knights to rescue him. For Queen Morgan le Fay, who hated him, had
ordered thirty men-at-arms to lie in ambush for him as he passed, with the
intent to kill him. So the damsel prayed them to rescue him.
Then said Sir Tristram, "Bring me to that place, fair damsel."
But Sir Dinadan cried out, "It is not possible for us to meet with thirty
knights! I will take no part in such a hardihood, for to match one or two
or three knights is enough; but to match fifteen I will never assay."
"For shame," replied Sir Tristram, "do but your part."
"That will I not," said he; "wherefore, I pray ye, lend me your shield,
for it is of Cornwall, and because men of that country are deemed cowards,
ye are but little troubled as ye ride with knights to joust with."
"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "I will never give my shield up for her sake who
gave it me; but if thou wilt not stand by me to-day I will surely slay
thee; for I ask no more of thee than to fight one knight, and if thy heart
will not serve thee that much, thou shalt stand by and look on me and
"Would God that I had never met with ye!" cried Sir Dinadan; "but I
promise to look on and do all that I may to save myself."
Anon they came to where the thirty knights lay waiting, and Sir Tristram
rushed upon them, saying, "Here is one who fights for love of Lancelot!"
Then slew he two of them at the first onset with his spear, and ten more
swiftly after with his sword. At that Sir Dinadan took courage, and
assailed the others with him, till they turned and fled.
But Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan rode on till nightfall, and meeting with
a shepherd, asked him if he knew of any lodging thereabouts.
"Truly, fair lords," said he, "there is good lodging in a castle hard by,
but it is a custom there that none shall lodge therein save ye first joust
with two knights, and as soon as ye be within, ye shall find your match."
"That is an evil lodging," said Sir Dinadan; "lodge where ye will, I will
not lodge there."
"Shame on thee!" said Sir Tristram; "art thou a knight at all?"
Then he required him on his knighthood to go with him, and they rode
together to the castle. As soon as they were near, two knights came out
and ran full speed against them; but both of them they overthrew, and went
within the castle, and had noble cheer. Now, when they were unarmed and
ready to take rest, there came to the castle-gate two knights, Sir
Palomedes and Sir Gaheris, and desired the custom of the castle.
"I would far rather rest than fight," said Sir Dinadan.
"That may not be," replied Sir Tristram, "for we must needs defend the
custom of the castle, seeing we have overcome its lords; therefore, make
"Alas that I ever came into your company," said Sir Dinadan.
So they made ready, and Sir Gaheris encountered Sir Tristram and fell
before him; but Sir Palomedes overthrew Sir Dinadan. Then would all fight
on foot save Sir Dinadan, for he was sorely bruised and frighted by his
fall. And when Sir Tristram prayed him to fight, "I will not," answered
he, "for I was wounded by those thirty knights with whom we fought this
morning; and as to you, ye are in truth like one gone mad, and who would
cast himself away! There be but two knights in the world so mad, and the
other is Sir Lancelot, with whom I once rode forth, who kept me evermore
at battling so that for a quarter of a year thereafter I lay in my bed.
Heaven defend me again from either of your fellowships!"
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "if it must be, I will fight them both."
Therewith he drew his sword and assailed Sir Palomedes and Sir Gaheris
together; but Sir Palomedes said, "Nay, but it is a shame for two to fight
with one." So he bade Sir Gaheris stand by, and he and Sir Tristram fought
long together; but in the end Sir Tristram drave him backward, whereat Sir
Gaheris and Sir Dinadan with one accord sundered them. Then Sir Tristram
prayed the two knights to lodge there; but Sir Dinadan departed and rode
away into a priory hard by, and there he lodged that night.
And on the morrow came Sir Tristram to the priory to find him, and seeing
him so weary that he could not ride, he left him, and departed. At that
same priory was lodged Sir Pellinore, who asked Sir Dinadan Sir Tristram's
name, but could not learn it, for Sir Tristram had charged that he should
remain unknown. Then said Sir Pellinore, "Since ye will not tell it me, I
will ride after him and find it myself."
"Beware, Sir knight," said Sir Dinadan, "ye will repent it if ye follow
But Sir Pellinore straightway mounted and overtook him, and cried to him
to joust; whereat Sir Tristram forthwith turned and smote him down, and
wounded him full sorely in the shoulder.
On the day after, Sir Tristram met a herald, who told him of a tournament
proclaimed between King Carados of Scotland, and the King of North Wales,
to be held at the Maiden's Castle. Now King Carados sought Sir Lancelot to
fight there on his side, and the King of North Wales sought Sir Tristram.
And Sir Tristram purposed to be there. So as he rode, he met Sir Key, the
seneschal, and Sir Sagramour, and Sir Key proffered to joust with him. But
he refused, desiring to keep himself unwearied for the tourney. Then Sir
Key cried, "Sir knight of Cornwall, joust with me, or yield as recreant."
When Sir Tristram heard that, he fiercely turned and set his spear in
rest, and spurred his horse towards him. But when Sir Key saw him so madly
coming on, he in his turn refused, whereat Sir Tristram called him coward,
till for shame he was compelled to meet him. Then Sir Tristram lightly
smote him down, and rode away. But Sir Sagramour pursued him, crying
loudly to joust with him also. So Sir Tristram turned and quickly
overthrew him likewise, and departed.
Anon a damsel met him as he rode, and told him of a knight adventurous who
did great harm thereby, and prayed him for his help. But as he went with
her he met Sir Gawain, who knew the damsel for a maiden of Queen Morgan le
Fay. Knowing, therefore, that she needs must have evil plots against Sir
Tristram, Sir Gawain demanded of him courteously whither he went.
"I know not whither," said he, "save as this damsel leadeth me."
"Sir," said Sir Gawain, "ye shall not ride with her, for she and her lady
never yet did good to any;" and, drawing his sword, he said to the
damsel, "Tell me now straightway for what cause thou leadest this knight
or else shalt thou die; for I know of old thy lady's treason."
"Mercy, Sir Gawain," cried the damsel, "and I will tell thee all." Then
she told him that Queen Morgan had ordained thirty fair damsels to seek
out Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristram, and by their wiles persuade them to her
castle, where she had thirty knights in wait to slay them.
"Oh shame!" cried Sir Gawain, "that ever such foul treason should be
wrought by a queen, and a king's sister." Then said he to Sir Tristram,
"Sir knight, if ye will stand with me, we will together prove the malice
of these thirty knights."
"I will not fail you," answered he, "for but few days since I had to do
with thirty knights of that same queen, and trust we may win honour as
lightly now as then."
So they rode together, and when they came to the castle, Sir Gawain cried
aloud, "Queen Morgan le Fay, send out thy knights that we may fight with
Then the queen urged her knights to issue forth, but they durst not, for
they well knew Sir Tristram, and feared him greatly.
So Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain went on their way, and as they rode they
saw a knight, named Sir Brewse-without-pity, chasing a lady, with intent
to slay her. Then Sir Gawain prayed Sir Tristram to hold still and let him
assail that knight. So he rode up between Sir Brewse and the lady, and
cried, "False knight, turn thee to me and leave that lady." Then Sir
Brewse turned and set his spear in rest, and rushed against Sir Gawain
and overthrew him, and rode his horse upon him as he lay, which when Sir
Tristram saw, he cried, "Forbear that villainy," and galloped at him. But
when Sir Brewse saw by the shield it was Sir Tristram, he turned and fled.
And though Sir Tristram followed swiftly after him, yet he was so well
horsed that he escaped.
Anon Sir Tristram and Sir Gawain came nigh the Maiden's Castle, and there
an old knight named Sir Pellonnes gave them lodging. And Sir Persides, the
son of Sir Pellonnes, a good knight, came out to welcome them. And, as
they stood talking at a bay window of the castle, they saw a goodly knight
ride by on a black horse, and carrying a black shield. "What knight is
that?" asked Tristram.
"One of the best knights in all the world," said Sir Persides.
"Is he Sir Lancelot?" said Sir Tristram.
"Nay," answered Sir Persides, "it is Sir Palomedes, who is yet
Within a while one came and told them that a knight with a black shield
had smitten down thirteen knights. "Let us go and see this jousting," said
Sir Tristram. So they armed themselves and went down. And when Sir
Palomedes saw Sir Persides, he sent a squire to him and proffered him to
joust. So they jousted, and Sir Persides was overthrown. Then Sir Tristram
made ready to joust, but ere he had his spear in rest, Sir Palomedes took
him at advantage, and struck him on the shield so that he fell. At that
Sir Tristram was wroth out of measure and sore ashamed, wherefore he sent
a squire and prayed Sir Palomedes to joust once again. But he would not,
saying, "Tell thy master to revenge himself to-morrow at the Maiden's
Castle, where he shall see me again."
So on the morrow Sir Tristram commanded his servant to give him a black
shield with no cognizance thereon, and he and Sir Persides rode into the
tournament and joined King Carados' side.
Then the knights of the King of North Wales came forth, and there was a
great fighting and breaking of spears, and overthrow of men and horses.
Now King Arthur sat above in a high gallery to see the tourney and give
the judgment, and Sir Lancelot sat beside him. Then came against Sir
Tristram and Sir Persides, two knights with them of North Wales, Sir
Bleoberis and Sir Gaheris; and Sir Persides was smitten down and nigh
slain, for four horsemen rode over him. But Sir Tristram rode against Sir
Gaheris and smote him from his horse, and when Sir Bleoberis next
encountered him, he overthrew him also. Anon they horsed themselves again,
and with them came Sir Dinadan, whom Sir Tristram forthwith smote so
sorely, that he reeled off his saddle. Then cried he, "Ah! Sir knight, I
know ye better than ye deem, and promise nevermore to come against ye."
Then rode Sir Bleoberis at him the second time, and had a buffet that
felled him to the earth. And soon thereafter the king commanded to cease
for that day, and all men marvelled who Sir Tristram was, for the prize of
the first day was given him in the name of the Knight of the Black Shield.
Now Sir Palomedes was on the side of the King of North Wales, but knew not
Sir Tristram again. And, when he saw his marvellous deeds, he sent to ask
his name. "As to that," said Sir Tristram, "he shall not know at this
time, but tell him he shall know when I have broken two spears upon him,
for I am the knight he smote down yesterday, and whatever side he taketh,
I will take the other."
So when they told him that Sir Palomedes would be on King Carados'
side--for he was kindred to King Arthur--"Then will I be on the King of
North Wales' side," said he, "but else would I be on my lord King
Then on the morrow, when King Arthur was come, the heralds blew unto the
tourney. And King Carados jousted with the King of a Hundred Knights and
fell before him, and then came in King Arthur's knights and bare back
those of North Wales. But anon Sir Tristram came to aid them and bare back
the battle, and fought so mightily that none could stand against him, for
he smote down on the right and on the left, so that all the knights and
common people shouted his praise.
"Since I bare arms," said King Arthur, "never saw I a knight do more
Then the King of the Hundred Knights and those of North Wales, set upon
twenty knights who were of Sir Lancelot's kin, who fought all together,
none failing the others. When Sir Tristram beheld their nobleness and
valour, he marvelled much. "Well may he be valiant and full of prowess,"
said he, "who hath such noble knights for kindred." So, when he had looked
on them awhile, he thought it shame to see two hundred men assailing
twenty, and riding to the King of a Hundred Knights, he said, "I pray
thee, Sir king, leave your fighting with those twenty knights, for ye be
too many and they be too few. For ye shall gain no honour if ye win, and
that I see verily ye will not do unless ye slay them; but if ye will not
stay, I will ride with them and help them."
"Nay," said the king, "ye shall not do so; for full gladly I will do you
courtesy," and with that he withdrew his knights.
Then Sir Tristram rode his way into the forest, that no man might know
him. And King Arthur caused the heralds to blow that the tourney should
end that day, and he gave the King of North Wales the prize, because Sir
Tristram was on his side. And in all the field there was such a cry that
the sound thereof was heard two miles away--"The knight with the black
shield hath won the field."
"Alas!" said King Arthur, "where is that knight? it is shame to let him
thus escape us." Then he comforted his knights, and said, "Be not
dismayed, my friends, howbeit ye have lost the day; be of good cheer;
to-morrow I myself will be in the field, and fare with you." So they all
rested that night.
And on the morrow the heralds blew unto the field. So the King of North
Wales and the King of a Hundred Knights encountered with King Carados and
the King of Ireland, and overthrew them. With that came King Arthur, and
did mighty deeds of arms, and overthrew the King of North Wales and his
fellows, and put twenty valiant knights to the worse. Anon came in Sir
Palomedes, and made great fight upon King Arthur's side. But Sir Tristram
rode furiously against him, and Sir Palomedes was thrown from his horse.
Then cried King Arthur, "Knight of the Black Shield, keep thyself." And as
he spake he came upon him, and smote him from his saddle to the ground,
and so passed on to other knights. Then Sir Palomedes having now another
horse rushed at Sir Tristram, as he was on foot, thinking to run over him.
But he was aware of him, and stepped aside, and grasped Sir Palomedes by
the arms, and pulled him off his horse. Then they rushed together with
their swords, and many stood still to gaze on them. And Sir Tristram smote
Sir Palomedes with three mighty strokes upon the helm, crying at each
stroke, "Take this for Sir Tristram's sake," and with that Sir Palomedes
fell to the earth.
Anon the King of North Wales brought Sir Tristram another horse, and Sir
Palomedes found one also. Then did they joust again with passing rage, for
both by now were like mad lions. But Sir Tristram avoided his spear, and
seized Sir Palomedes by the neck, and pulled him from his saddle, and bore
him onward ten spears' length, and so let him fall. Then King Arthur drew
forth his sword and smote the spear asunder, and gave Sir Tristram two or
three sore strokes ere he could get at his own sword. But when he had it
in his hand he mightily assailed the king. With that eleven knights of
Lancelot's kin went forth against him, but he smote them all down to the
earth, so that men marvelled at his deeds.
And the cry was now so great that Sir Lancelot got a spear in his hand,
and came down to assay Sir Tristram, saying, "Knight with the black
shield, make ready." When Sir Tristram heard him he levelled his spear,
and both stooping their heads, they ran together mightily, as it had been
thunder. And Sir Tristram's spear brake short, but Sir Lancelot struck him
with a deep wound in the side and broke his spear, yet overthrew him not.
Therewith Sir Tristram, smarting at his wound, drew forth his sword, and
rushing at Sir Lancelot, gave him mighty strokes upon the helm, so that
the sparks flew from it, and Sir Lancelot stooped his head down to the
saddle-bow. But then Sir Tristram turned and left the field, for he felt
his wound so grievous that he deemed he should soon die. Then did Sir
Lancelot hold the field against all comers, and put the King of North
Wales and his party to the worse. And because he was the last knight in
the field the prize was given him.
But he refused to take it, and when the cry was raised, "Sir Lancelot hath
won the day," he cried out, "Nay, but Sir Tristram is the victor, for he
first began and last endured, and so hath he done each day." And all men
honoured Lancelot more for his knightly words than if he had taken the
Thus was the tournament ended, and King Arthur departed to Caerleon, for
the Whitsun feast was now nigh come, and all the knights adventurous went
their ways. And many sought Sir Tristram in the forest whither he had
gone, and at last Sir Lancelot found him, and brought him to King Arthur's
court, as hath been told already.
_The Quest of the Sangreal, and the Adventures of Sir Percival, Sir Bors,
and Sir Galahad_
After these things, Merlin fell into a dotage of love for a damsel of the
Lady of the Lake, and would let her have no rest, but followed her in
every place. And ever she encouraged him, and made him welcome till she
had learned all his crafts that she desired to know.
Then upon a time she went with him beyond the sea to the land of Benwicke,
and as they went he showed her many wonders, till at length she was
afraid, and would fain have been delivered from him.
And as they were in the forest of Broceliande, they sat together under an
oak-tree, and the damsel prayed to see all that charm whereby men might be
shut up yet alive in rocks or trees. But he refused her a long time,
fearing to let her know, yet in the end, her prayers and kisses overcame
him, and he told her all. Then did she make him great cheer, but anon, as
he lay down to sleep, she softly rose, and walked about him waving her
hands and muttering the charm, and presently enclosed him fast within the
tree whereby he slept. And therefrom nevermore he could by any means come
out for all the crafts that he could do. And so she departed and left
[Illustration: Waving her hands and muttering the charm, and presently
enclosed him fast within the tree.]
At the vigil of the next Feast of Pentecost, when all the Knights of the
Round Table were met together at Camelot, and had heard mass, and were
about to sit down to meat, there rode into the hall a fair lady on
horseback, who went straight up to King Arthur where he sat upon his
throne, and reverently saluted him.
"God be with thee, fair damsel," quoth the king; "what desirest thou of
"I pray thee tell me, lord," she answered, "where Sir Lancelot is."
"Yonder may ye see him," said King Arthur.
Then went she to Sir Lancelot and said, "Sir, I salute thee in King
Pelles' name, and require thee to come with me into the forest hereby."
Then asked he her with whom she dwelt, and what she wished of him.
"I dwell with King Pelles," said she, "whom Balin erst so sorely wounded
when he smote the dolorous stroke. It is he who hath sent me to call
"I will go with thee gladly," said Sir Lancelot, and bade his squire
straightway saddle his horse and bring his armour.
Then came the queen to him and said, "Sir Lancelot, will ye leave me thus
at this high feast?"
"Madam," replied the damsel, "by dinner-time to-morrow he shall be with
"If I thought not," said the queen, "he should not go with thee by my
Then Sir Lancelot and the lady rode forth till they came to the forest,
and in a valley thereof found an abbey of nuns, whereby a squire stood
ready to open the gates. When they had entered, and descended from their
horses, a joyful crowd pressed round Sir Lancelot and heartily saluted
him, and led him to the abbess's chamber, and unarmed him. Anon he saw his
cousins likewise there, Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, who also made great joy
at seeing him, and said, "By what adventure art thou here, for we thought
to have seen thee at Camelot to-morrow?"
"A damsel brought me here," said he, "but as yet I know not for what
As they thus talked twelve nuns came in, who brought with them a youth so
passing fair and well made, that in all the world his match could not be
found. His name was Galahad, and though he knew him not, nor Lancelot him,
Sir Lancelot was his father.
"Sir," said the nuns, "we bring thee here this child whom we have
nourished from his youth, and pray thee to make him a knight, for from no
worthier hand can he receive that order."
Then Sir Lancelot, looking on the youth, saw that he was seemly and demure
as a dove, with every feature good and noble, and thought he never had
beheld a better fashioned man of his years. "Cometh this desire from
himself?" said he.
"Yea," answered Galahad and all the nuns.
"To-morrow, then, in reverence for the feast, he shall have his wish,"
said Sir Lancelot.
And the next day at the hour of prime, he knighted him, and said, "God
make of thee as good a man as He hath made thee beautiful."
Then with Sir Lionel and Sir Bors he returned to the court, and found all
gone to the minster to hear service. When they came into the banquet-hall
each knight and baron found his name written in some seat in letters of
gold, as "here ought to sit Sir Lionel," "here ought to sit Sir
Gawain,"--and so forth. And in the Perilous Seat, at the high centre of
the table, a name was also written, whereat they marvelled greatly, for no
living man had ever yet dared sit upon that seat, save one, and him a
flame leaped forth and drew down under earth, so that he was no more seen.
Then came Sir Lancelot and read the letters in that seat, and said, "My
counsel is that this inscription be now covered up until the knight be
come who shall achieve this great adventure." So they made a veil of silk
and put it over the letters.
In the meanwhile came Sir Gawain to the court and told the king he had a
message to him from beyond the sea, from Merlin.
"For," said he, "as I rode through the forest of Broceliande but five days
since, I heard the voice of Merlin speaking to me from the midst of an
oak-tree, whereat, in great amazement, I besought him to come forth. But
he, with many groans, replied he never more might do so, for that none
could free him, save the damsel of the Lake, who had enclosed him there by
his own spells which he had taught her. 'But go,' said he, 'to King
Arthur, and tell him, that he now prepare his knights and all his Table
Round to seek the Sangreal, for the time is come when it shall be
When Sir Gawain had spoken thus, King Arthur sat pensive in spirit, and
mused deeply of the Holy Grale an what saintly knight should come who
might achieve it.
Anon he bade them hasten to set on the banquet. "Sir," said Sir Key, the
seneschal, "if ye go now to meat ye will break the ancient custom of your
court, for never have ye dined at this high feast till ye have seen some
"Thou sayest truly," said the king, "but my mind was full of wonders and
musings, till I bethought me not of mine old custom."
As they stood speaking thus, a squire ran in and cried, "Lord, I bring
thee marvellous tidings."
"What be they?" said King Arthur.
"Lord," said he, "hereby at the river is a marvellous great stone, which I
myself saw swim down hitherwards upon the water, and in it there is set a
sword, and ever the stone heaveth and swayeth on the water, but floateth
down no further with the stream."
"I will go and see it," said the king. So all the knights went with him,
and when they came to the river, there surely found they a mighty stone of
red marble floating on the water, as the squire had said, and therein
stuck a fair and rich sword, on the pommel whereof were precious stones
wrought skilfully with gold into these words: "No man shall take me hence
but he by whose side I should hang, and he shall be the best knight in the
When the king read this, he turned round to Sir Lancelot, and said, "Fair
sir, this sword ought surely to be thine, for thou art the best knight in
all the world."
But Lancelot answered soberly, "Certainly, sir, it is not for me; nor will
I have the hardihood to set my hand upon it. For he that toucheth it and
faileth to achieve it shall one day be wounded by it mortally. But I doubt
not, lord, this day will show the greatest marvels that we yet have seen,
for now the time is fully come, as Merlin hath forewarned us, when all the
prophecies about the Sangreal shall be fulfilled."
Then stepped Sir Gawain forward and pulled at the sword, but could not
move it, and after him Sir Percival, to keep him fellowship in any peril
he might suffer. But no other knight durst be so hardy as to try.
"Now may ye go to your dinner," said Sir Key, "for a marvellous adventure
ye have had."
So all returned from the river, and every knight sat down in his own
place, and the high feast and banquet then was sumptuously begun, and all
the hall was full of laughter and loud talk and jests, and running to and
fro of squires who served their knights, and noise of jollity and mirth.
Then suddenly befell a wondrous thing, for all the doors and windows of
the hall shut violently of themselves, and made thick darkness; and
presently there came a fair and gentle light from out the Perilous Seat,
and filled the palace with its beams. Then a dead silence fell on all the
knights, and each man anxiously beheld his neighbour.
But King Arthur rose and said, "Lords and fair knights, have ye no fear,
but rejoice; we have seen strange things to-day, but stranger yet remain.
For now I know we shall to-day see him who may sit in the Siege Perilous,
and shall achieve the Sangreal. For as ye all well know, that holy vessel,
wherefrom at the Supper of our Lord before His death He drank the wine
with His disciples, hath been held ever since the holiest treasure of the
world, and wheresoever it hath rested peace and prosperity have rested
with it on the land. But since the dolorous stroke which Balin gave King
Pelles none have seen it, for Heaven, wroth with that presumptuous blow,
hath hid it none know where. Yet somewhere in the world it still may be,
and may be it is left to us, and to this noble order of the Table Round,
to find and bring it home, and make of this our realm the happiest in the
earth. Many great quests and perilous adventures have ye all taken and
achieved, but this high quest he only shall attain who hath clean hands
and a pure heart, and valour and hardihood beyond all othermen."
While the king spoke there came in softly an old man robed all in white,
leading with him a young knight clad in red from top to toe, but without
armour or shield, and having by his side an empty scabbard.
The old man went up to the king, and said, "Lord, here I bring thee this
young knight of royal lineage, and of the blood of Joseph of Arimathea, by
whom the marvels of thy court shall fully be accomplished."
The king was right glad at his words, and said, "Sir, ye be right heartily
welcome, and the young knight also."
Then the old man put on Sir Galahad (for it was he) a crimson robe trimmed
with fine ermine, and took him by the hand and led him to the Perilous
Seat, and lifting up the silken cloth which hung upon it, read these words
written in gold letters, "This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the good
"Sir," said the old man, "this place is thine."
Then sat Sir Galahad down firmly and surely, and said to the old man,
"Sir, ye may now go your way, for ye have done well and truly all ye were
commanded, and commend me to my grandsire, King Pelles, and say that I
shall see him soon." So the old man departed with a retinue of twenty
But all the knights of the Round Table marvelled at Sir Galahad, and at
his tender age, and at his sitting there so surely in the Perilous Seat.
Then the king led Sir Galahad forth from the palace, to show him the
adventure of the floating stone. "Here" said he, "is as great a marvel as
I ever saw, and right good knights have tried and failed to gain that
"I marvel not thereat," said Galahad, "for this adventure is not theirs,
but mine; and for the certainty I had thereof, I brought no sword with me,
as thou mayst see here by this empty scabbard."
Anon he laid his hand upon the sword, and lightly drew it from the stone,
and put it in his sheath, and said, "This sword was that enchanted one
which erst belonged to the good knight, Sir Balin, wherewith he slew
through piteous mistake his brother Balan; who also slew him at the same
time: all which great woe befell him through the dolorous stroke he gave
my grandsire, King Pelles, the wound whereof is not yet whole, nor shall
be till I heal him."
As he stood speaking thus, they saw a lady riding swiftly down the river's
bank towards them, on a white palfrey; who, saluting the king and queen,
said, "Lord king, Nacien the hermit sendeth thee word that to thee shall
come to-day the greatest honour and worship that hath yet ever befallen a
king of Britain; for this day shall the Sangreal appear in thy house."
With that the damsel took her leave, and departed the same way she came.
"Now," said the king, "I know that from to-day the quest of the Sangreal
shall begin, and all ye of the Round Table will be scattered so that
nevermore shall I see ye again together as ye are now; let me then see a
joust and tournament amongst ye for the last time before ye go."
So they all took their harness and met together in the meadows by Camelot,
and the queen and all her ladies sat in a tower to see.
Then Sir Galahad, at the prayer of the king and queen, put on a coat of
light armour, and a helmet, but shield he would take none, and grasping a
lance, he drove into the middle of the press of knights, and began to
break spears marvellously, so that all men were full of wonder. And in so
short a time he had surmounted and exceeded the rest, save Sir Lancelot
and Sir Percival, that he took the chief worship of the field.
Then the king and all the court and fellowship of knights went back to the
palace, and so to evensong in the great minster, a royal and goodly
company, and after that sat down to supper in the hall, every knight in
his own seat, as they had been before.
Anon suddenly burst overhead the cracking and crying of great peals of
thunder, till the palace walls were shaken sorely, and they thought to see
them riven all to pieces.
And in the midst of the blast there entered in a sunbeam, clearer by seven
times than ever they saw day, and a marvellous great glory fell upon them
all. Then each knight, looking on his neighbour, found his face fairer
than he had ever seen, and so--all standing on their feet--they gazed as
dumb men on each other, not knowing what to say.
Then entered into the hall the Sangreal, borne aloft without hands through
the midst of the sunbeam, and covered with white samite, so that none
might see it. And all the hall was filled with perfume and incense, and
every knight was fed with the food he best loved. And when the holy vessel
had been thus borne through the hall, it suddenly departed, no man saw
When they recovered breath to speak, King Arthur first rose up, and
yielded thanks to God and to our Lord.
Then Sir Gawain sprang up and said, "Now have we all been fed by miracle
with whatsoever food we thought of or desired; but with our eyes we have
not seen the blessed vessel whence it came, so carefully and preciously it
was concealed. Therefore, I make a vow, that from to-morrow I shall labour
twelve months and a day in quest of the Sangreal, and longer if need be;
nor will I come again into this court until mine eyes have seen it
When he had spoken thus, knight after knight rose up and vowed himself to
the same quest, till the most part of the Round Table had thus sworn.
But when King Arthur heard them all, he could not refrain his eyes from
tears, and said, "Sir Gawain, Sir Gawain, thou hast set me in great
sorrow, for I fear me my true fellowship shall never meet together here
again; and surely never Christian king had such a company of worthy
knights around his table at one time."
And when the queen and her ladies and gentlewomen heard the vows, they had
such grief and sorrow as no tongue could tell; and Queen Guinevere cried
out, "I marvel that my lord will suffer them to depart from him." And many
of the ladies who loved knights would have gone with them, but were
forbidden by the hermit Nacien, who sent this message to all who had sworn
themselves to the quest: "Take with ye no lady nor gentlewoman, for into
so high a service as ye go in, no thought but of our Lord and heaven may
On the morrow morning all the knights rose early, and when they were fully
armed, save shields and helms, they went in with the king and queen to
service in the minster. Then the king counted all who had taken the
adventure on themselves, and found them a hundred and fifty knights of the
Round Table; and so they all put on their helms, and rode away together in
the midst of cries and lamentations from the court, and from the ladies,
and from all the town.
But the queen went alone to her chamber, that no man might see her sorrow;
and Sir Lancelot followed her to say farewell.
When she saw him she cried out, "Oh, Sir Lancelot, thou hast betrayed me;
thou hast put me to death thus to depart and leave my lord the king."
"Ah, madam," said he, "be not displeased or angry, for I shall come again
as soon as I can with honour."
"Alas!" said she, "that ever I saw thee; but He that suffered death upon
the cross for all mankind be to thee safety and good conduct, and to all
Then Sir Lancelot saluted her and the king, and went forth with the rest,
and came with them that night to Castle Vagon, where they abode, and on
the morrow they departed from each other on their separate ways, every
knight taking the way that pleased him best.
Now Sir Galahad went forth without a shield, and rode so four days without
adventure; and on the fourth day, after evensong, he came to an abbey of
white monks, where he was received in the house, and led into a chamber.
And there he was unarmed, and met two knights of the Round Table, King
Bagdemagus, and Sir Uwaine.
"Sirs," said Sir Galahad, "what adventure hath brought ye here?"
"Within this place, as we are told," they answered, "there is a shield no
man may bear around his neck without receiving sore mischance, or death
within three days."
"To-morrow," said King Bagdemagus, "I shall attempt the adventure; and if
I fail, do thou, Sir Galahad, take it up after me."
"I will willingly," said he; "for as ye see I have no shield as yet."
So on the morrow they arose and heard mass, and afterwards King Bagdemagus
asked where the shield was kept. Then a monk led him behind the altar,
where the shield hung, as white as any snow, and with a blood-red cross in
the midst of it.
"Sir," said the monk, "this shield should hang from no knight's neck
unless he be the worthiest in the world. I warn ye, therefore, knights;
consider well before ye dare to touch it."
"Well," said King Bagdemagus, "I know well that I am far from the best
knight in all the world, yet shall I make the trial;" and so he took the
shield, and bore it from the monastery.
"If it please thee," said he to Sir Galahad, "abide here till thou hearest
how I speed."
"I will abide thee," said he.
Then taking with him a squire who might return with any tidings to Sir
Galahad, the king rode forth; and before he had gone two miles, he saw in
a fair valley a hermitage, and a knight who came forth dressed in white
armour, horse and all, who rode fast against him. When they encountered,
Bagdemagus brake his spear upon the White Knight's shield, but was himself
struck through the shoulder with a sore wound, and hurled down from his
horse. Then the White Knight alighting, came and took the white shield
from the king, and said, "Thou hast done great folly, for this shield
ought never to be borne but by one who hath no living peer." And turning
to the squire, he said, "Bear thou this shield to the good knight, Sir
Galahad, and greet him well from me."
"In whose name shall I greet him?" said the squire.
"Take thou no heed of that," he answered; "it is not for thee or any
earthly man to know."
"Now tell me, fair sir, at the least," said the squire, "why may this
shield be never borne except its wearer come to injury or death?"
"Because it shall belong to no man save its rightful owner, Galahad,"
replied the knight.
Then the squire went to his master, and found him wounded nigh to death,
wherefore he fetched his horse, and bore him back with him to the abbey.
And there they laid him in a bed, and looked to his wounds; and when he
had lain many days grievously sick, he at the last barely escaped with his
"Sir Galahad," said the squire, "the knight who overthrew King Bagdemagus
sent you greeting, and bade you bear this shield."
"Now blessed be God and fortune," said Sir Galahad, and hung the shield
about his neck, and armed him, and rode forth.
Anon he met the White Knight by the hermitage, and each saluted
courteously the other.
"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "this shield I bear hath surely a full marvellous
"Thou sayest rightly," answered he. "That shield was made in the days of
Joseph of Arimathea, the gentle knight who took our Lord down from the
cross. He, when he left Jerusalem with his kindred, came to the country of
King Evelake, who warred continually with one Tollome; and when, by the
teaching of Joseph, King Evelake became a Christian, this shield was made
for him in our Lord's name; and through its aid King Tollome was defeated.
For when King Evelake met him next in battle, he hid it in a veil, and
suddenly uncovering it, he showed his enemies the figure of a bleeding man
nailed to a cross, at sight of which they were discomfited and fled.
Presently after that, a man whose hand was smitten off touched the cross
upon the shield, and had his hand restored to him; and many other miracles
it worked. But suddenly the cross that was upon it vanished away. Anon
both Joseph and King Evelake came to Britain, and by the preaching of
Joseph the people were made Christians. And when at length he lay upon his
death-bed, King Evelake begged of him some token ere he died. Then,
calling for his shield, he dipped his finger in his own blood, for he was
bleeding fast, and none could staunch the wound, and marked that cross
upon it, saying, 'This cross shall ever show as bright as now, and the
last of my lineage shall wear this shield about his neck, and go forth to
all the marvellous deeds he will achieve.'"
When the White Knight had thus spoken he vanished suddenly away, and Sir
Galahad returned to the abbey.
As he alighted, came a monk, and prayed him to go see a tomb in the
churchyard, wherefrom came such a great and hideous noise, that none could
hear it but they went nigh mad, or lost all strength. "And sir," said he,
"I deem it is a fiend."
"Lead me thither," said Sir Galahad.
When they were come near the place, "Now," said the monk, "go thou to the
tomb, and lift it up."
And Galahad, nothing afraid, quickly lifted up the stone, and forthwith
came out a foul smoke, and from the midst thereof leaped up the loathliest
figure that ever he had seen in the likeness of man; and Galahad blessed
himself, for he knew it was a fiend of hell. Then he heard a voice crying
out, "Oh, Galahad, I cannot tear thee as I would; I see so many angels
round thee, that I may not come at thee."
[Illustration: Galahad ... quickly lifted up the stone, and forthwith came
out a foul smoke.]
Then the fiend suddenly disappeared with a marvellous great cry; and Sir
Galahad, looking in the tomb, saw there a body all armed, with a sword
beside it. "Now, fair brother," said he to the monk, "let us remove this
cursed body, which is not fit to lie in a churchyard, for when it lived, a
false and perjured Christian man dwelt in it. Cast it away, and there
shall come no more hideous noises from the tomb."
"And now must I depart," he added, "for I have much in hand, and am upon
the holy quest of the Sangreal, with many more good knights."
So he took his leave, and rode many journeys backwards and forwards as
adventure would lead him; and at last one day he departed from a castle
without first hearing mass, which was it ever his custom to hear before he
left his lodging. Anon he found a ruined chapel on a mountain, and went in
and kneeled before the altar, and prayed for wholesome counsel what to do;
and as he prayed he heard a voice, which said, "Depart, adventurous
knight, unto the Maiden's Castle, and redress the violence and wrongs
Hearing these words he cheerfully arose, and mounted his horse, and rode
but half a mile, when he saw before him a strong castle, with deep ditches
round it, and a fair river running past. And seeing an old churl hard by,
he asked him what men called that castle.
"Fair sir," said he, "it is the Maiden's Castle."
"It is a cursed place," said Galahad, "and all its masters are but felons,
full of mischief and hardness and shame."
"For that good reason," said the old man, "thou wert well-advised to turn
"For that same reason," quoth Sir Galahad, "will I the more certainly ride
Then, looking at his armour carefully, to see that nothing failed him, he
went forward, and presently there met him seven damsels, who cried out,
"Sir knight, thou ridest in great peril, for thou hast two waters to pass
"Why should I not pass over them?" said he, and rode straight on.
Anon he met a squire, who said, "Sir knight, the masters of this castle
defy thee, and bid thee go no further, till thou showest them thy business
"Fair fellow," said Sir Galahad, "I am come here to destroy their wicked
"If that be thy purpose," answered he, "thou wilt have much to do."
"Go thou," said Galahad, "and hasten with my message."
In a few minutes after rode forth furiously from the gateways of the
castle seven knights, all brothers, and crying out, "Knight, keep thee,"
bore down all at once upon Sir Galahad. But thrusting forth his spear, he
smote the foremost to the earth, so that his neck was almost broken, and
warded with his shield the spears of all the others, which every one brake
off from it, and shivered into pieces. Then he drew out his sword, and set
upon them hard and fiercely, and by his wondrous force drave them before
him, and chased them to the castle gate, and there he slew them.
At that came out to him an ancient man, in priest's vestments, saying,
"Behold, sir, here, the keys of this castle."
Then he unlocked the gates, and found within a multitude of people, who
cried out, "Sir knight, ye be welcome, for long have we waited thy
deliverance," and told him that the seven felons he had slain had long
enslaved the people round about, and killed all knights who passed that
way, because the maiden whom they had robbed of the castle had foretold
that by one knight they should themselves be overthrown.
"Where is the maiden?" asked Sir Galahad.
"She lingereth below in a dungeon," said they.
So Sir Galahad went down and released her, and restored her her
inheritance; and when he had summoned the barons of the country to do her
homage, he took his leave, and departed.
Presently thereafter, as he rode, he entered a great forest, and in a
glade thereof met two knights, disguised, who proffered him to joust.
These were Sir Lancelot, his father, and Sir Percival, but neither knew
the other. So he and Sir Lancelot encountered first, and Sir Galahad smote
down his father. Then drawing his sword, for his spear was broken, he
fought with Sir Percival, and struck so mightily that he clave Sir
Percival's helm, and smote him from his horse.
Now hard by where they fought there was a hermitage, where dwelt a pious
woman, a recluse, who, when she heard the sound, came forth, and seeing
Sir Galahad ride, she cried, "God be with thee, the best knight in the
world; had yonder knights known thee as well as I do, they would not have
encountered with thee."
When Sir Galahad heard that, fearing to be made known, he forthwith smote
his horse with his spurs, and departed at a great pace.
Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival heard her words also, and rode fast after
him, but within awhile he was out of their sight. Then Sir Percival rode
back to ask his name of the recluse; but Sir Lancelot went forward on his
quest, and following any path his horse would take, he came by-and-by
after nightfall to a stone cross hard by an ancient chapel. When he had
alighted and tied his horse up to a tree, he went and looked in through
the chapel door, which was all ruinous and wasted, and there within he saw
an altar, richly decked with silk, whereon there stood a fair candlestick
of silver, bearing six great lights. And when Sir Lancelot saw the light,
he tried to get within the chapel, but could find no place. So, being
passing weary and heavy, he came again to his horse, and when he had
unsaddled him, and set him free to pasture, he unlaced his helm, and
ungirded his sword, and laid him down to sleep upon his shield before the
And while he lay between waking and sleeping, he saw come by him two white
palfreys bearing a litter, wherein a sick knight lay, and the palfreys
stood still by the cross. Then Sir Lancelot heard the sick man say, "O
sweet Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me, and the holy vessel pass by
me, wherethrough I shall be blessed? for I have long endured."
With that Sir Lancelot saw the chapel open, and the candlestick with the
six tapers come before the cross, but he could see none who bare it. Then
came there also a table of silver, and thereon the holy vessel of the
Sangreal. And when the sick knight saw that, he sat up, and lifting both
his hands, said, "Fair Lord, sweet Lord, who art here within this holy
vessel, have mercy on me, that I may be whole;" and therewith he crept
upon his hands and knees so nigh, that he might touch the vessel; and when
he had kissed it, he leaped up, and stood and cried aloud, "Lord God, I
thank Thee, for I am made whole." Then the Holy Grale departed with the
table and the silver candlestick into the chapel, so that Sir Lancelot saw
it no more, nor for his sins' sake could he follow it. And the knight who
was healed went on his way.
Then Sir Lancelot awake, and marvelled whether he had seen aught but a
dream. And as he marvelled, he heard a voice saying, "Sir Lancelot, thou
are unworthy, go thou hence, and withdraw thee from this holy place." And
when he heard that, he was passing heavy, for he bethought him of his
So he departed weeping, and cursed the day of his birth, for the words
went into his heart, and he knew wherefore he was thus driven forth. Then
he went to seek his arms and horse, but could not find them; and then he
called himself the wretchedest and most unhappy of all knights, and said,
"My sin hath brought me unto great dishonour: for when I sought earthly
honours, I achieved them ever; but now I take upon me holy things, my
guilt doth hinder me, and shameth me; therefore had I no power to stir or
speak when the holy blood appeared before me."
So thus he sorrowed till it was day, and he heard the birds sing; then was
he somewhat comforted, and departing from the cross on foot, he came into
a wild forest, and to a high mountain, and there he found a hermitage;
and, kneeling before the hermit down upon both his knees, he cried for
mercy for his wicked works, and prayed him to hear his confession. But
when he told his name, the hermit marvelled to see him in so sore a case,
and said, "Sir, ye ought to thank God more than any knight living, for He
hath given thee more honour than any; yet for thy presumption, while in
deadly sin to come into the presence of His flesh and blood, He suffered
thee neither to see nor follow it. Wherefore, believe that all thy
strength and manhood will avail thee little, when God is against thee."
Then Sir Lancelot wept and said, "Now know I well ye tell me truth."
Then he confessed to him, and told him all his sins, and how he had for
fourteen years served but Queen Guinevere only, and forgotten God, and
done great deeds of arms for her, and not for Heaven, and had little or
nothing thanked God for the honour that he won. And then Sir Lancelot
said, "I pray you counsel me."
"I will counsel thee," said he: "never more enter into that queen's
company when ye can avoid it."
So Sir Lancelot promised him.
"Look that your heart and your mouth accord," said the good man, "and ye
shall have more honour and more nobleness than ever ye have had."
Then were his arms and horse restored to him, and so he took his leave,
and rode forth, repenting greatly.
Now Sir Percival had ridden back to the recluse, to learn who that knight
was whom she had called the best in the world. And when he had told her
that he was Sir Percival, she made passing great joy of him, for she was
his mother's sister, wherefore she opened her door to him, and made him
good cheer. And on the morrow she told him of her kindred to him, and they
both made great rejoicing. Then he asked her who that knight was, and she
told him, "He it is who on Whit Sunday last was clad in the red robe, and
bare the red arms; and he hath no peer, for he worketh all by miracle, and
shall be never overcome by any earthly hands."
"By my goodwill," said Sir Percival, "I will never after these tidings
have to do with Sir Galahad but in the way of kindness; and I would fain
learn where I may find him."
"Fair nephew," said she, "ye must ride to the Castle of Goth, where he
hath a cousin; by him ye may be lodged, and he will teach you the way to
go; but if he can tell you no tidings, ride straight to the Castle of
Carbonek, where the wounded king is lying, for there shall ye surely hear
true tidings of him."
So Sir Percival departed from his aunt, and rode till evensong time, when
he was ware of a monastery closed round with walls and deep ditches, where
he knocked at the gate, and anon was let in. And there he had good cheer
that night, and on the morrow heard mass. And beside the altar where the
priest stood, was a rich bed of silk and cloth of gold; and on the bed
there lay a man passing old, having a crown of gold upon his head, and all
his body was full of great wounds, and his eyes almost wholly blind; and
ever he held up his hands and said, "Sweet Lord, forget not me!"
Then Sir Percival asked one of the brethren who he was.
"Sir," said the good man, "ye have heard of Joseph of Arimathea, how he
was sent of Jesus Christ into this land to preach and teach the Christian
faith. Now, in the city of Sarras he converted a king named Evelake, and
this is he. He came with Joseph to this land, and ever desired greatly to
see the Sangreal; so on a time he came nigh thereto, and was struck almost
blind. Then he cried out for mercy, and said, 'Fair Lord, I pray thee let
me never die until a good knight of my blood achieve the Sangreal, and I
may see and kiss him.' When he had thus prayed, he heard a voice that
said, 'Thy prayers be heard and answered, for thou shalt not die till that
knight kiss thee; and when he cometh shall thine eyes be opened and thy
wounds be healed.' And now hath he lived here for three hundred winters in
a holy life, and men say a certain knight of King Arthur's court shall
shortly heal him."
Thereat Sir Percival marvelled greatly, for he well knew who that knight
should be; and so, taking his leave of the monk, departed.
Then he rode on till noon, and came into a valley where he met twenty
men-at-arms bearing a dead knight on a bier. And they cried to him,
"Whence comest thou?"
"From King Arthur's court," he answered.
Then they all cried together, "Slay him," and set upon him.
But he smote down the first man to the ground, and his horse upon him;
whereat seven of them all at once assailed him, and others slew his horse.
Thus he had been either taken or slain, but by good chance Sir Galahad was
passing by that way, who, seeing twenty men attacking one, cried, "Slay
him not," and rushed upon them; and, as fast as his horse could drive, he
encountered with the foremost man, and smote him down. Then, his spear
being broken, he drew forth his sword and struck out on the right hand and
on the left, at each blow smiting down a man, till the remainder fled, and
he pursued them.
Then Sir Percival, knowing that it was Sir Galahad, would fain have
overtaken him, but could not, for his horse was slain. Yet followed he on
foot as fast as he could go; and as he went there met him a yeoman riding
on a palfrey, and leading in his hand a great black steed. So Sir Percival
prayed him to lend him the steed, that he might overtake Sir Galahad. But
he replied, "That can I not do, fair sir, for the horse is my master's,
and should I lend it he would slay me." So he departed, and Sir Percival
sat down beneath a tree in heaviness of heart. And as he sat, anon a
knight went riding past on the black steed which the yeoman had led. And
presently after came the yeoman back in haste, and asked Sir Percival if
he had seen a knight riding his horse.
"Yea," said Sir Percival.
"Alas," said the yeoman, "he hath reft him from me by strength, and my
master will slay me."
Then he besought Sir Percival to take his hackney and follow, and get back
his steed. So he rode quickly, and overtook the knight, and cried,
"Knight, turn again." Whereat he turned and set his spear, and smote Sir
Percival's hackney in the breast, so that it fell dead, and then went on
his way. Then cried Sir Percival after him, "Turn now, false knight, and
fight with me on foot;" but he would not, and rode out of sight.
Then was Sir Percival passing wroth and heavy of heart, and lay down to
rest beneath a tree, and slept till midnight. When he awoke he saw a woman
standing by him, who said to him right fiercely, "Sir Percival, what doest
"I do neither good nor evil," said he.
"If thou wilt promise me," said she, "to do my will whenever I shall ask
thee, I will bring thee here a horse that will bear thee wheresoever thou
At that he was full glad, and promised as she asked. Then anon she came
again, with a great black steed, strong and well apparelled. So Sir
Percival mounted, and rode through the clear moonlight, and within less
than an hour had gone a four days' journey, till he came to a rough water
that roared; and his horse would have borne him into it, but Sir Percival
would not suffer him, yet could he scarce restrain him. And seeing the
water so furious, he made the sign of the cross upon his forehead, whereat
the horse suddenly shook him off, and with a terrible sound leaped into
the water and disappeared, the waves all burning up in flames around him.
Then Sir Percival knew it was a fiend which had brought him the horse; so
he commended himself to God, and prayed that he might escape temptations,
and continued in prayer till it was day.
Then he saw that he was on a wild mountain, nigh surrounded on all sides
by the sea, and filled with wild beasts; and going on into a valley, he
saw a serpent carrying a young lion by the neck. With that came another
lion, crying and roaring after the serpent, and anon overtook him, and
began to battle with him. And Sir Percival helped the lion, and drew his
sword, and gave the serpent such a stroke that it fell dead. Thereat the
lion fawned upon him like a dog, licking his hands, and crouching at his
feet, and at night lay down by him and slept at his side.
And at noon the next day Sir Percival saw a ship come sailing before a
strong wind upon the sea towards him, and he rose and went towards it. And
when it came to shore, he found it covered with white samite, and on the
deck there stood an old man dressed in priest's robes, who said, "God be
with you, fair sir; whence come ye?"
"I am a knight of King Arthur's court," said he, "and follow the quest of
the Sangreal; but here have I lost myself in this wilderness."
"Fear nothing," said the old man, "for I have come from a strange country
to comfort thee."
Then he told Sir Percival it was a fiend of hell upon which he had ridden
to the sea, and that the lion, whom he had delivered from the serpent,
meant the Church. And Sir Percival rejoiced at these tidings, and entered
into the ship, which presently sailed from the shore into the sea.
Now when Sir Bors rode forth from Camelot to seek the Sangreal, anon he
met a holy man riding on an ass, and courteously saluted him.
"Who are ye, son?" said the good man.
"I am a knight," said he, "in quest of the Sangreal, and would fain have
thy counsel, for he shall have much earthly honour who may bring it to a
"That is truth," said the good man, "for he shall be the best knight of
the world; yet know that none shall gain it save by sinless living."
So they rode to his hermitage together, and there he prayed Sir Bors to
abide that night, and anon they went into the chapel, and Sir Bors was
confessed. And they eat bread and drank water together.
"Now," said the hermit, "I pray thee eat no other food till thou sit at
the table where the Sangreal shall be." Thereto Sir Bors agreed.
"Also," said the hermit, "it were wise that ye should wear a sackcloth
garment next your skin, for penance;" and in this also did Sir Bors as he
was counselled. And afterwards he armed himself and took his leave.
Then rode he onwards all that day, and as he rode he saw a passing great
bird sit in an old dry tree, whereon no leaves were left; and many little
birds lay round the great one, nigh dead with hunger. Then did the big
bird smite himself with his own bill, and bled till he died amongst his
little ones, and they recovered life in drinking up his blood. When Sir
Bors saw this he knew it was a token, and rode on full of thought. And
about eventide he came to a tower, whereto he prayed admission, and he was
received gladly by the lady of the castle. But when a supper of many meats
and dainties was set before him, he remembered his vow, and bade a squire
to bring him water, and therein he dipped his bread, and ate.
Then said the lady, "Sir Bors, I fear ye like not my meat."
"Yea, truly," said he; "God thank thee, madam; but I may eat no other meat
After supper came a squire, and said, "Madam, bethink thee to provide a
champion for thee to-morrow for the tourney, or else shall thy sister have
At that the lady wept, and made great sorrow. But Sir Bors prayed her to
be comforted, and asked her why the tournament was held. Then she told him
how she and her sister were the daughters of King Anianse, who left them
all his lands between them; and how her sister was the wife of a strong
knight, named Sir Pridan le Noir, who had taken from herself all her
lands, save the one tower wherein she dwelt. "And now," said she, "this
also will they take, unless I find a champion by to-morrow."
Then said Sir Bors, "Be comforted; to-morrow I will fight for thee;"
whereat she rejoiced not a little, and sent word to Sir Pridan that she
was provided and ready. And Sir Bors lay on the floor, and in no bed, nor
ever would do otherwise till he had achieved his quest.
On the morrow he arose and clothed himself, and went into the chapel,
where the lady met him, and they heard mass together. Anon he called for
his armour, and went with a goodly company of knights to the battle. And
the lady prayed him to refresh himself ere he should fight, but he refused
to break his fast until the tournament were done. So they all rode
together to the lists, and there they saw the lady's eldest sister, and
her husband, Sir Pridan le Noir. And a cry was made by the heralds that,
whichever should win, his lady should have all the other's lands.
Then the two knights departed asunder a little space, and came together
with such force, that both their spears were shivered, and their shields
and hauberks pierced through; and both fell to the ground sorely wounded,
with their horses under them. But swiftly they arose, and drew their
swords, and smote each other on the head with many great and heavy blows,
till the blood ran down their bodies; and Sir Pridan was a full good
knight, so that Sir Bors had more ado than he had thought for to overcome
But at last Sir Pridan grew a little faint; that instantly perceived Sir
Bors, and rushed upon him the more vehemently, and smote him fiercely,
till he rent off his helm, and then gave him great strokes upon his visage
with the flat of his sword, and bade him yield or be slain.
And then Sir Pridan cried him mercy, and said, "For God's sake slay me
not, and I will never war against thy lady more." So Sir Bors let him go,
and his wife fled away with all her knights.
Then all those who had held lands of the lady of the tower came and did
homage to her again, and swore fealty. And when the country was at peace
Sir Bors departed, and rode forth into a forest until it was midday, and
there befell him a marvellous adventure.
For at a place where two ways parted, there met him two knights, bearing
Sir Lionel, his brother, all naked, bound on a horse, and as they rode,
they beat him sorely with thorns, so that the blood trailed down in more
than a hundred places from his body; but for all this he uttered no word
or groan, so great he was of heart. As soon as Sir Bors knew his brother,
he put his spear in rest to run and rescue him; but in the same moment
heard a woman's voice cry close beside him in the wood, "St. Mary, succour
thy maid;" and, looking round, he saw a damsel whom a felon knight dragged
after him into the thickets; and she, perceiving him, cried piteously for
help, and adjured him to deliver her as he was a sworn knight. Then was
Sir Bors sore troubled, and knew not what to do, for he thought within
himself, "If I let my brother be, he will be murdered; but if I help not
the maid, she is shamed for ever, and my vow compelleth me to set her
free; wherefore must I first help her, and trust my brother unto God."
So, riding to the knight who held the damsel, he cried out, "Sir knight,
lay your hand off that maid, or else ye be but dead."
At that the knight set down the maid, and dropped his shield, and drew
forth his sword against Sir Bors, who ran at him, and smote him through
both shield and shoulder, and threw him to the earth; and when he pulled
his spear forth, the knight swooned. Then the maid thanked Sir Bors
heartily, and he set her on the knight's horse, and brought her to her
men-at-arms, who presently came riding after her. And they made much joy,
and besought him to come to her father, a great lord, and he should be
right welcome. But "truly," said he, "I may not at this time, for I have a
great adventure yet to do;" and commending them to God, he departed in
great haste to find his brother.
So he rode, seeking him by the track of the horses a great while. Anon he
met a seeming holy man riding upon a strong black horse, and asked him,
had he seen pass by that way a knight led bound and beaten with thorns by
"Yea, truly, such an one I saw," said the man; "but he is dead, and lo!
his body is hard by in a bush."
Then he showed him a newly slain body lying in a thick bush, which seemed
indeed to be Sir Lionel. Then made Sir Bors such mourning and sorrow that
by-and-by he fell into a swoon upon the ground. And when he came to
himself again, he took the body in his arms and put it on his horse's
saddle, and bore it to a chapel hard by, and would have buried it. But
when he made the sign of the cross, he heard a full great noise and cry as
though all the fiends of hell had been about him, and suddenly the body
and the chapel and the old man vanished all away. Then he knew that it was
the devil who had thus beguiled him, and that his brother yet lived.
Then held he up his hands to heaven, and thanked God for his own escape
from hurt, and rode onwards; and anon, as he passed by an hermitage in a
forest, he saw his brother sitting armed by the door. And when he saw him
he was filled with joy, and lighted from his horse, and ran to him and
said, "Fair brother, when came ye hither?"
But Sir Lionel answered, with an angry face, "What vain words be these,
when for you I might have been slain? Did ye not see me bound and led away
to death, and left me in that peril to go succouring a gentlewoman, the
like whereof no brother ever yet hath done? Now, for thy false misdeed, I
do defy thee, and ensure thee speedy death."
Then Sir Bors prayed his brother to abate his anger, and said, "Fair
brother, remember the love that should be between us twain."
But Sir Lionel would not hear, and prepared to fight and mounted his horse
and came before him, crying, "Sir Bors, keep thee from me, for I shall do
to thee as a felon and a traitor; therefore, start upon thy horse, for if
thou wilt not, I will run upon thee as thou standest."
But for all his words Sir Bors would not defend himself against his
brother. And anon the fiend stirred up Sir Lionel to such rage, that he
rushed over him and overthrew him with his horse's hoofs, so that he lay
swooning on the ground. Then would he have rent off his helm and slain
him, but the hermit of that place ran out, and prayed him to forbear, and
shielded Sir Bors with his body.
Then Sir Lionel cried out, "Now, God so help me, sir priest, but I shall
slay thee else thou depart, and him too after thee."
And when the good man utterly refused to leave Sir Bors, he smote him on
the head until he died, and then he took his brother by the helm and
unlaced it, to have stricken off his head, and so he would have done, but
suddenly was pulled off backwards by a knight of the Round Table, who, by
the will of Heaven, was passing by that place--Sir Colgrevance by name.
"Sir Lionel," he cried, "will ye slay your brother, one of the best
knights of all the world? That ought no man to suffer."
"Why," said Sir Lionel, "will ye hinder me and meddle in this strife?
beware, lest I shall slay both thee and him."
And when Sir Colgrevance refused to let them be, Sir Lionel defied him,
and gave him a great stroke through the helmet, whereat Sir Colgrevance
drew his sword, and smote again right manfully. And so long they fought
together that Sir Bors awoke from his swoon, and tried to rise and part
them, but had no strength to stand upon his feet.
Anon Sir Colgrevance saw him, and cried out to him for help, for now Sir
Lionel had nigh defeated him. When Sir Bors heard that, he struggled to
his feet, and put his helmet on, and took his sword. But before he could
come to him, Sir Lionel had smitten off Sir Colgrevance's helm, and thrown
him to the earth and slain him. Then turned he to his brother as a man
possessed by fiends, and gave him such a stroke as bent him nearly double.
But still Sir Bors prayed him for God's sake to quit that battle, "For if
it befell us that we either slew the other we should die for care of that
"Never will I spare thee if I master thee," cried out Sir Lionel.
Then Sir Bors drew his sword all weeping, and said, "Now, God have mercy
on me, though I defend my life against my brother;" with that he lifted up
his sword to strike, but suddenly he heard a mighty voice, "Put up thy
sword, Sir Bors, and flee, or thou shalt surely slay him." And then there
fell upon them both a fiery cloud, which flamed and burned their shields,
and they fell to the earth in sore dread.
Anon Sir Bors rose to his feet, and saw that Sir Lionel had taken no harm.
Then came the voice again, and said, "Sir Bors, go hence and leave thy
brother, and ride thou forward to the sea, for there Sir Percival abideth
Then he said to his brother, "Brother, forgive me all my trespass against
And Sir Lionel answered, "God forgive it thee, as I do."
Then he departed and rode to the sea, and on the strand he found a ship
all covered with white samite, and as soon as he had entered thereinto,
it put forth from the shore. And in the midst of the ship there stood an
armed knight, whom he knew to be Sir Percival. Then they rejoiced greatly
over each other, and said, "We lack nothing now but the good knight Sir
Now when Sir Galahad had rescued Sir Percival from the twenty knights he
rode into a vast forest. And after many days it befell that he came to a
castle whereat was a tournament. And the knights of the castle were put to
the worse; which when he saw, he set his spear in rest and ran to help
them, and smote down many of their adversaries. And as it chanced, Sir
Gawain was amongst the stranger knights, and when he saw the white shield
with the red cross, he knew it was Sir Galahad, and proffered to joust
with him. So they encountered, and having broken their spears, they drew
their swords, and Sir Galahad smote Sir Gawain so sorely on the helm that
he clove it through, and struck on slanting to the earth, carving the
horse's shoulder in twain, and Sir Gawain fell to the earth. Then Sir
Galahad beat back all who warred against the castle, yet would he not wait
for thanks, but rode away that no man might know him.
And he rested that night at a hermitage, and when he was asleep, he heard
a knocking at the door. So he rose, and found a damsel there, who said,
"Sir Galahad, I will that ye arm you, and mount upon your horse and follow
me, for I will show you within these three days the highest adventure that
ever any knight saw."
Anon Sir Galahad armed him, and took his horse, and commended himself to
God, and bade the gentlewoman go, and he would follow where she liked.
So they rode onwards to the sea as fast as their horses might gallop, and
at night they came to a castle in a valley, inclosed by running water, and
by strong and high walls, whereinto they entered and had great cheer, for
the lady of the castle was the damsel's mistress.
And when he was unarmed, the damsel said to her lady, "Madam, shall we
abide here this night?"
"Nay," said she, "but only till he hath dined and slept a little."
So he ate and slept a while, till the maid called him, and armed him by
torchlight; and when he had saluted the lady of the castle, the damsel and
Sir Galahad rode on.
Anon they came to the seaside, and lo! the ship, wherein were Sir Percival
and Sir Bors, abode by the shore. Then they cried, "Welcome, Sir Galahad,
for we have awaited thee long."
Then they rejoiced to see each other, and told of all their adventures and
temptations. And the damsel went into the ship with them, and spake to Sir
Percival: "Sir Percival, know ye not who I am?"
And he replied, "Nay, certainly, I know thee not."
Then said she, "I am thy sister, the daughter of King Pellinore, and am
sent to help thee and these knights, thy fellows, to achieve the quest
which ye all follow."
So Sir Percival rejoiced to see his sister, and they departed from the
shore. And after a while they came upon a whirlpool, where their ship
could not live. Then saw they another greater ship hard by and went
towards it, but saw neither man nor woman therein. And on the end of it
these words were written, "Thou who shalt enter me, beware that thou be in
steadfast belief, for I am Faith; and if thou doubtest, I cannot help
thee." Then were they all adread, but, commending themselves to God, they
As soon as they were on board they saw a fair bed; whereon lay a crown of
silk, and at the foot was a fair and rich sword drawn from its scabbard
half a foot and more. The pommel was of precious stones of many colours,
every colour having a different virtue, and the scales of the haft were of
two ribs of different beasts. The one was bone of a serpent from Calidone
forest, named the serpent of the fiend; and its virtue saveth all men who
hold it from weariness. The other was of a fish that haunteth the floods
of Euphrates, named Ertanax; and its virtue causeth whoever holdeth it to
forget all other things, whether of joy or pain, save the thing he seeth
"In the name of God," said Sir Percival, "I shall assay to handle this
sword; "and set his hand to it, but could not grasp it. "By my faith,"
said he, "now have I failed."
Sir Bors set his hand to it, and failed also.
Then came Sir Galahad, and saw these letters written red as blood, "None
shall draw me forth save the hardiest of all men; but he that draweth me
shall never be shamed or wounded to death." "By my faith," said Sir
Galahad, "I would draw it forth, but dare not try."
"Ye may try safely," said the gentlewoman, Sir Percival's sister, "for be
ye well assured the drawing of this sword is forbid to all but you. For
this was the sword of David, King of Israel, and Solomon his son made for
it this marvellous pommel and this wondrous sheath, and laid it on this
bed till thou shouldest come and take it up; and though before thee some
have dared to raise it, yet have they all been maimed or wounded for their
"Where," said Sir Galahad, "shall we find a girdle for it?"
"Fair sir," said she, "dismay you not;" and therewith took from out a box
a girdle, nobly wrought with golden thread, set full of precious stones
and with a rich gold buckle. "This girdle, lords," said she, "is made for
the most part of mine own hair, which, while I was yet in the world, I
loved full well; but when I knew that this adventure was ordained me, I
cut off and wove as ye now see."
[Illustration: "This girdle, lords," said she, "is made for the most part
of mine own hair, which, while I was yet in the world, I loved full
Then they all prayed Sir Galahad to take the sword, and so anon he gripped
it in his fingers; and the maiden girt it round his waist, saying, "Now
reck I not though I die, for I have made thee the worthiest knight of all
"Fair damsel," said Sir Galahad, "ye have done so much that I shall be
your knight all the days of my life."
Then the ship sailed a great way on the sea, and brought them to land near
the Castle of Carteloise. When they were landed came a squire and asked
them, "Be ye of King Arthur's court?"
"We are," said they.
"In an evil hour are ye come," said he, and went back swiftly to the
Within a while they heard a great horn blow, and saw a multitude of
well-armed knights come forth, who bade them yield or die. At that they
ran together, and Sir Percival smote one to the earth and mounted his
horse, and so likewise did Sir Bors and Sir Galahad, and soon had they
routed all their enemies and alighted on foot, and with their swords slew
them downright, and entered into the castle.
Then came there forth a priest, to whom Sir Galahad kneeled and said, "In
sooth, good father, I repent me of this slaughter; but we were first
assailed, or else it had not been."
"Repent ye not," said the good man, "for if ye lived as long as the world
lasted ye could do no better deed, for these were all the felon sons of a
good knight, Earl Hernox, whom they have thrown into a dungeon, and in his
name have slain priests and clerks, and beat down chapels far and near."
Then Sir Galahad prayed the priest to bring him to the earl; who, when he
saw Sir Galahad, cried out, "Long have I waited for thy coming, and now I
pray thee hold me in thine arms that I may die in peace."
And therewith, when Sir Galahad had taken him in his arms, his soul
departed from his body.
Then came a voice in the hearing of them all, "Depart now, Sir Galahad,
and go quickly to the maimed king, for he hath long abided to receive
health from thy hand."
So the three knights departed, and Sir Percival's sister with them, and
came to a vast forest, and saw before them a white hart, exceeding fair,
led by four lions; and marvelling greatly at that sight, they followed.
Anon they came to a hermitage and a chapel, whereunto the hart entered,
and the lions with it. Then a priest offered mass, and presently they saw
the hart change into the figure of a man, most sweet and comely to behold;
and the four lions also changed and became a man, an eagle, a lion, and an
ox. And suddenly all those five figures vanished without sound. Then the
knights marvelled greatly, and fell upon their knees, and when they rose
they prayed the priest to tell them what that sight might mean.
"What saw ye, sirs?" said he, "for I saw nothing." Then they told him.
"Ah, lords!" said he, "ye are full welcome; now know I well ye be the
knights who shall achieve the Sangreal, for unto them alone such
mysteries are revealed. The hart ye saw is One above all men, white and
without blemish, and the four lions with Him are the four evangelists."
When they heard that they heartily rejoiced, and thanking the priest,
Anon, as they passed by a certain castle, an armed knight suddenly came
after them, and cried out to the damsel, "By the holy cross, ye shall not
go till ye have yielded to the custom of the castle."
"Let her go," said Sir Percival, "for a maiden, wheresoever she cometh, is
"Whatever maiden passeth here," replied the knight, "must give a dishful
of her blood from her right arm."
"It is a foul and shameful custom," cried Sir Galahad and both his
fellows, "and sooner will we die than let this maiden yield thereto."
"Then shall ye die," replied the knight, and as he spake there came out
from a gate hard by, ten or twelve more, and encountered with them,
running upon them vehemently with a great cry. But the three knights
withstood them, and set their hands to their swords, and beat them down
and slew them.
At that came forth a company of threescore knights, all armed. "Fair
lords," said Sir Galahad, "have mercy on yourselves and keep from us."
"Nay, fair lords," they answered, "rather be advised by us, and yield ye
to our custom."
"It is an idle word," said Galahad, "in vain ye speak it."
"Well," said they, "will ye die?"
"We be not come thereto as yet," replied Sir Galahad.
Then did they fall upon each other, and Sir Galahad drew forth his sword,
and smote on the right hand and on the left, and slew so mightily that
all who saw him thought he was a monster and no earthly man. And both his
comrades helped him well, and so they held the field against that
multitude till it was night. Then came a good knight forward from the
enemy and said, "Fair knights, abide with us to-night and be right
welcome; by the faith of our bodies as we are true knights, to-morrow ye
shall rise unharmed, and meanwhile maybe ye will, of your own accord,
accept the custom of the castle when ye know it better."
So they entered and alighted and made great cheer. Anon, they asked them
whence that custom came. "The lady of this castle is a leper," said they,
"and can be no way cured save by the blood of a pure virgin and a king's
daughter; therefore to save her life are we her servants bound to stay
every maid that passeth by, and try if her blood may not cure our
Then said the damsel, "Take ye of my blood as much as ye will, if it may
avail your lady."
And though the three knights urged her not to put her life in that great
peril, she replied, "If I die to heal another's body, I shall get health
to my soul," and would not be persuaded to refuse.
So on the morrow she was brought to the sick lady, and her arm was bared,
and a vein thereof was opened, and the dish filled with her blood. Then
the sick lady was anointed therewith, and anon she was whole of her
malady. With that Sir Percival's sister lifted up her hand and blessed
her, saying, "Madam, I am come to my death to make you whole; for God's
love pray for me;" and thus saying she fell down in a swoon.
Then Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir Bors started to lift her up and
staunch her blood, but she had lost too much to live. So when she came to
herself she said to Sir Percival, "Fair brother, I must die for the
healing of this lady, and now, I pray thee, bury me not here, but when I
am dead put me in a boat at the next haven and let me float at venture on
the sea. And when ye come to the city of Sarras, to achieve the Sangreal,
shall ye find me waiting by a tower, and there I pray thee bury me, for
there shall Sir Galahad and ye also be laid." Thus having said, she died.
Then Sir Percival wrote all the story of her life and put it in her right
hand, and so laid her in a barge and covered it with silk. And the wind
arising drove the barge from land, and all the knights stood watching it
till it was out of sight.
Anon they returned to the castle, and forthwith fell a sudden tempest of
thunder and lightning and rain, as if the earth were broken up: and half
the castle was thrown down. Then came a voice to the three knights which
said, "Depart ye now asunder till ye meet again where the maimed king is
lying." So they parted and rode divers ways.
Now after Sir Lancelot had left the hermit, he rode a long while till he
knew not whither to turn, and so he lay down to sleep, if haply he might
dream whither to go.
And in his sleep a vision came to him saying, "Lancelot, rise up and take
thine armour, and enter the first ship that thou shalt find."
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