The Story of the Champions of the Round Table
Part 1 out of 6
THE STORY OF THE CHAMPIONS OF THE ROUND TABLE
Written and Illustrated by
In 1902 the distinguished American artist Howard Pyle undertook to retell
and illustrate the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round
Table. His four-volume work has long been considered one of the outstanding
interpretations of the Arthur cycle.
_The Story of the Champions of the Round Table_, the second of Pyle's
volumes, was originally published in 1905. Reissued now, identical in
format to the original volume, with Pyle's superb illustrations and
decorations, it is destined to reach new generations of readers. _The Story
of the Champions of the Round Table_ recounts the full and moving saga of
three of Arthur's famous knights: Percival, Tristram, and Launcelot of the
* * * * *
_"The period in which Howard Pyle did his work frequently has been spoken
of as that Golden Age in children's literature that was to last for the
decade to follow. It is difficult to do justice to his contribution to the
shining quality of that era. The magnitude and diversity of his work eludes
definition. Creative artist and born storyteller, each aspect of his
twofold genius enriched and interpreted the other."_
--Elizabeth Nesbitt, in _A Critical History of Children's Literature_
[Illustration: Sir Launcelot of the Lake]
In a book which was written by me aforetime, and which was set forth in
print, I therein told much of the history of King Arthur; of how he
manifested his royalty in the achievement of that wonderful magic sword
which he drew forth out of the anvil; of how he established his royalty; of
how he found a splendid sword yclept Excalibur in a miraculously wonderful
manner; of how he won the most beautiful lady in the world for his queen;
and of how he established the famous Round Table of noble worthy knights,
the like of whose prowess the world hath never seen, and will not be likely
ever to behold again.
Also I told in that book the adventures of certain worthy knights and
likewise how the magician Merlin was betrayed to his undoing by a sorceress
Now, if you took any joy in reading that book, I have great hope that that
which follows may be every whit as pleasing to you; for I shall hereinafter
have to do with the adventures of certain other worthies with whom you may
have already become acquainted through my book and otherwise; and likewise
of the adventures of certain other worthies, of whom you have not yet been
told by me.
More especially, I believe, you will find entertainment in what I shall
have to tell you of the adventures of that great knight who was altogether
the most noble of spirit, and the most beautiful, and the bravest of heart,
of any knight who ever lived--excepting only his own son, Galahad, who was
the crowning glory of his house and of his name and of the reign of King
However, if Sir Launcelot of the Lake failed now and then in his behavior,
who is there in the world shall say, "I never fell into error"? And if he
more than once offended, who is there shall have hardihood to say, "I never
Yea, that which maketh Launcelot so singularly dear to all the world, is
that he was not different from other men, but like other men, both in his
virtues and his shortcomings; only that he was more strong and more brave
and more untiring than those of us who are his brethren, both in our
endeavors and in our failures.
The Story of Launcelot
How Sir Launcelot Came Forth From the Enchanted Castle of the
Lake and Entered Into the World Again, and How King Arthur
Made Him Knight
How Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel Rode Forth Errant Together
and How Sir Lionel Met Sir Turquine to His Great Dole. Also
How Sir Ector Grieved for the Departure of His Brother Launcelot
and So, Following Him, Fell into a Very Sorry Adventure
How Sir Launcelot was Found in a Sleep by Queen Morgana
le Fay and Three Other Queens who were with Her, and How He
was Taken to a Castle of Queen Morgana's and of What Befell Him
How Sir Launcelot Sought Sir Lionel and How a Young Damsel
Brought Him to the Greatest Battle that Ever He Had in All His
How Sir Launcelot Went Upon an Adventure with the Damsel
Croisette as Companion, and How He Overcame Sir Peris of the
How Sir Launcelot Took Part in the Tournament Between King
Bagdemagus and the King of North Wales, and How He Won that
Battle for King Bagdemagus
How Sir Launcelot Fell Into the Greatest Peril that Ever He Encountered
in all His Life. Also How He Freed a Misfortunate Castle
and Town From the Giants Who Held Them, and How He Released
the Lord Thereof From a Dungeon
How Sir Launcelot Rescued Sir Kay From a Perilous Pass Also
How He Changed Armor with Sir Kay and what Befell
The Book of Sir Tristram
THE STORY OF SIR TRISTRAM AND THE LADY
How the new Queen of Lyonesse sought Tristram's life; how he went
to France, and how he Returned again to Lyonesse and was Received
With Love at that Place
How Sir Tristram was made Knight by the King of Cornwall,
and how he Fought a Battle with a Famous Champion
How Sir Tristram went to Ireland to be healed of his Wound by
the King's Daughter of Ireland, and of how he came to love the Lady
Belle Isoult. Also concerning Sir Palamydes and the Lady Belle
How Sir Tristram encountered Sir Palamydes at the Tournament
and of what befell. Also how Sir Tristram was Forced to leave the
Kingdom of Ireland
How Sir Tristram was sent by Command of King Mark to go to
Ireland to Bring the Lady the Belle Isoult from Ireland to Cornwall
and how it fared with him
How Sir Tristram had to do in Battle with Three Knights of the
Round Table. Also how he had Speech with King Arthur
How Sir Tristram had Speech with King Angus of Ireland; how
he Undertook to Champion the Cause of King Angus and of what Happened
THE STORY OF SIR TRISTRAM AND SIR LAMORACK
How Sir Lamorack of Gales came to Tintagel and how he and Sir
Tristram Sware Friendship Together in the Forest
How Sir Tristram Started to go to Camelot, and how he Stayed by
the Way to do Battle with Sir Nabon le Noir
How Sir Tristram did justice in the island, and Thereby Released
Sir Lamorack from Captivity. Also how Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack
Renewed their Great Tenderness Toward one another
THE MADNESS OF SIR TRISTRAM
How Sir Tristram was Discovered with the Lady Belle Isoult;
how he Assaulted King Mark, and how he Escaped from Tintagel into
How Sir Tristram got him a Sword from Sir Kay, and how he Slew
Therewith a Huge Knight in the Forest and Rescued a Lady in very
Great Distress. Also how Sir Launcelot found Sir Tristram in the
Forest and Brought him Thence to Tintagel again
How Sir Tristram was Discovered at Tintagel and of what Befell
How Sir Tristram and the Lady Belle Isoult Returned to Cornwall,
and how they Ended their Days Together
The Book of Sir Percival
How Percival Departed into the World and how he Found a Fair
Damsel in a Pavilion; likewise how he came before Queen Guinevere
and how he Undertook his First Adventure
How Sir Percival was made Knight by King Arthur; how he rode
Forth with Sir Lamorack and how he Left Sir Lamorack in quest
of Adventure upon his own Account; likewise how a Great Knight
Taught him craft in Arms
How Sir Percival met two Strange People in the Forest, and how
he Succored a Knight who was in very Great Sorrow and Dole
How Sir Percival Undertook the Adventure of the Castle of Beaurepaire
and how he Fared Therein after Several Excellent Adventures
How Sir Percival Repaid Sir Kay the Buffet he one time gave
Yelande the Dumb Maiden, and how, Thereafter, he went Forth to
Seek his own Lady of Love
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Head Piece--Table of Contents
Tail Piece--Table of Contents
Head Piece--List of Illustrations
Tail Piece--List of Illustrations
The Lady Nymue beareth away Launcelot into the Lake
Sir Launcelot greets Queen Guinevere
Head Piece--The Story of Launcelot
Sir Lionel of Britain
Queen Morgana appears unto Sir Launcelot
Sir Launcelot doeth battle with Sir Turquine
Sir Launcelot sits with Sir Hilaire and Croisette
Sir Launcelot and Elouise the Fair
Sir Launcelot climbs to catch the lady's falcon
Sir Launcelot takes the armor of Sir Kay
Tail Piece--The Story of Launcelot
Sir Tristram of Lyonesse
Tristram succors the Lady Moeya
Head Piece--The Story of Sir Tristram and the Lady Belle Isoult
King Mark of Cornwall
The Lady Belle Isoult
The Queen of Ireland seeks to slay Sir Tristram
Sir Tristram harpeth before King Mark
Sir Tristram sits with Sir Launcelot
Belle Isoult and Sir Tristram drink the love draught
Tail Piece--The Story of Sir Tristram and the Lady Belle Isoult
Sir Lamorack of Gales
Head Piece--The Story of Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack
Sir Tristram cometh to ye castle of Sir Nabon
Sir Lamorack herds the swine of Sir Nabon
Tail Piece--The Story of Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack
Sir Tristram assaults King Mark
Head Piece--The Madness of Sir Tristram
Sir Kay and the Forest Madman
Sir Tristram leaps into ye Sea
King Mark broods mischief
Tail Piece--The Madness of Sir Tristram
Sir Percival of Gales
The Lady Yvette the Fair
Sir Percival and Sir Lamorack ride together
Sir Percival overcometh ye Enchantress Vivien
The Demoiselle Blanchefleur
Sir Kay interrupts ye meditations of Sir Percival
Tail Piece--The Book of Sir Percival
[Illustration: The Lady Nymue beareth away Launcelot into the Lake]
It hath already been set forth in print in a volume written by me
concerning the adventures of King Arthur when he first became king, how
there were certain lesser kings who favored him and were friendly allies
with him, and how there were certain others of the same sort who were his
Among those who were his friends was King Ban of Benwick, who was an
exceedingly noble lord of high estate and great honor, and who was of a
lineage so exalted that it is not likely that there was anyone in the world
who was of a higher strain.
[Sidenote: Of King Ban and his misfortunes] Now, upon a certain time, King
Ban of Benwick fell into great trouble; for there came against him a very
powerful enemy, to wit, King Claudas of Scotland. King Claudas brought unto
Benwick a huge army of knights and lords, and these sat down before the
Castle of Trible with intent to take that strong fortress and destroy it.
This noble Castle of Trible was the chiefest and the strongest place of
defence in all King Ban's dominions, wherefore he had intrenched himself
there with all of his knights and with his Queen, hight Helen, and his
youngest son, hight Launcelot.
Now this child, Launcelot, was dearer to Queen Helen than all the world
besides, for he was not only large of limb but so extraordinarily beautiful
of face that I do not believe an angel from Paradise could have been more
beautiful than he. He had been born with a singular birth-mark upon his
shoulder, which birth-mark had the appearance as of a golden star enstamped
upon the skin; wherefore, because of this, the Queen would say: "Launcelot,
by reason of that star upon thy shoulder I believe that thou shalt be the
star of our house and that thou shalt shine with such remarkable glory that
all the world shall behold thy lustre and shall marvel thereat for all time
to come." So the Queen took extraordinary delight in Launcelot and loved
him to the very core of her heart--albeit she knew not, at the time she
spake, how that prophecy of hers concerning the star was to fall so
Now, though King Ban thought himself very well defended at his Castle of
Trible, yet King Claudas brought so terribly big an army against that place
that it covered the entire plain. A great many battles were fought under
the walls of the castle, but ever King Claudas waxed greater and stronger,
and King Ban's party grew weaker and more fearful.
[Sidenote: King Ban bethinks him of King Arthur] So by and by things came
to such a pass that King Ban bethought him of King Arthur, and he said to
himself: "I will go to my lord the King and beseech help and aid from him,
for he will certainly give it me. Nor will I trust any messenger in this
affair other than myself; for I myself will go to King Arthur and will
speak to him with my own lips."
Having thus bethought him, he sent for Queen Helen to come into his privy
closet and he said to her: "My dear love, nothing remaineth for me but to
go unto the court of King Arthur and beseech him to lend his powerful aid
in this extremity of our misfortunes; nor will I trust any messenger in
this affair but myself. Now, this castle is no place for thee, when I am
away, therefore, when I go upon this business, I will take thee and
Launcelot with me, and I will leave you both in safety at King Arthur's
court with our other son, Sir Ector, until this war be ended and done." And
to these Queen Helen lent her assent.
So King Ban summoned to him the seneschal of the castle, who was named Sir
Malydor le Brun, and said to him: "Messire, I go hence to-night by a secret
pass, with intent to betake me unto King Arthur, and to beseech his aid in
this extremity. Moreover, I shall take with me my lady and the young child
Launcelot, to place them within the care of King Arthur during these
dolorous wars. But besides these, I will take no other one with me but only
my favorite esquire, Foliot. Now I charge thee, sir, to hold this castle in
my behalf with all thy might and main, and yield it not to our enemies upon
any extremity; for I believe I shall in a little while return with
sufficient aid from King Arthur to compass the relief of this place."
[Sidenote: King Ban with Queen Helen and Launcelot escape from Trible] So
when night had fallen very dark and still, King Ban, and Queen Helen, and
the young child Launcelot, and the esquire Foliot left the town privily by
means of a postern gate. Thence they went by a secret path, known only to a
very few, that led down a steep declivity of rocks, with walls of rock upon
either side that were very high indeed, and so they came out in safety
beyond the army of King Claudas and into the forest of the valley below.
And the forest lay very still and solemn and dark in the silence of the
Having thus come out in safety into the forest, that small party journeyed
on with all celerity that they were able to achieve until, some little time
before dawn, they came to where was a lake of water in an open meadow of
the forest. Here they rested for a little while, for Queen Helen had fallen
very weary with the rough and hasty journey which they had traveled.
[Sidenote: Foliot seeth a light] Now whilst they sat there resting, Foliot
spake of a sudden, saying unto King Ban: "Lord, what is that light that
maketh the sky so bright yonder-ways?" Then King Ban looked a little and
presently said: "Methinks it must be the dawn that is breaking." "Lord,"
quoth Foliot, "that cannot very well be; for that light in the sky lieth in
the south, whence we have come, and not in the east, where the sun should
Then King Ban's heart misgave him, and his soul was shaken with a great
trouble. "Foliot," he said, "I believe that you speak sooth and that that
light bodes very ill for us all." Then he said: "Stay here for a little and
I will go and discover what that light may be." Therewith he mounted his
horse and rode away in the darkness.
[Sidenote: King Ban beholdeth the burning of Trible] Now there was a very
high hill near-by where they were, and upon the top of the hill was an open
platform of rock whence a man could see a great way off in every direction.
So King Ban went to this place, and, when he had come there, he cast his
eyes in the direction of the light and he straightway beheld with a manner
of terror that the light came from Trible; and then, with that terror still
growing greater at his heart, he beheld that the town and the castle were
all in one great flame of fire.
When King Ban saw this he sat for a while upon his horse like one turned
into a stone. Then, after a while, he cried out in a great voice: "Woe!
Woe! Woe is me!" And then he cried out still in a very loud voice, "Certes,
God hath deserted me entirely."
[Sidenote: The death of King Ban] Therewith a great passion of grief took
hold upon him and shook him like to a leaf, and immediately after that he
felt that something brake within him with a very sharp and bitter pain, and
he wist that it was his heart that had broken. So being all alone there
upon the hilltop, and in the perfect stillness of the night, he cried out,
"My heart! My heart!" And therewith, the shadows of death coming upon him,
he could not sit any longer upon his horse, but fell down upon the ground.
And he knew very well that death was nigh him, so, having no cross to pray
upon, he took two blades of grass and twisted them into that holy sign, and
he kissed it and prayed unto it that God would forgive him his sins. So he
died all alone upon that hilltop.
Meanwhile, Queen Helen and Foliot sat together waiting for him to return
and presently they heard the sound of his horse's hoofs coming down that
rocky path. Then Queen Helen said: "Foliot, methinks my lord cometh." So in
a little came the horse with the empty saddle. When Foliot beheld that he
said: "Lady, here meseems is great trouble come to us, for methinks
something hath befallen my lord, and that he is in sore travail, for here
is his horse without him."
Then it seemed to Queen Helen as though the spirit of life suddenly went
away from her, for she foresaw what had befallen. So she arose like one in
a dream, and, speaking very quietly, she said: "Foliot, take me whither my
lord went awhile since!" To this Foliot said: "Lady, wait until the
morning, which is near at hand, for it is too dark for you to go
thitherward at this present." Whereunto the Lady Helen replied: "Foliot, I
cannot wait, for if I stay here and wait I believe I shall go mad." Upon
this, Foliot did not try to persuade her any more but made ready to take
her whither she would go.
Now the young child Launcelot was then asleep upon the Queen's knees,
wherefore she took her cloak and wrapped the child in it and laid him very
gently upon the ground, so that he did not wake. Then she mounted upon her
palfrey and Foliot led the palfrey up the hill whither King Ban had gone a
short time since.
[Sidenote: The Lady Helen findeth the King] When they came to that place
of open rocks above told of, they found King Ban lying very quiet and still
upon the ground and with a countenance of great peace. For I believe of a
surety that God had forgiven him all his sins, and he would now suffer no
more because of the cares and the troubles of this life. Thus Queen Helen
found him, and finding him she made no moan or outcry of any kind, only she
looked for a long while into his dead face, which she could see very
plainly now, because that the dawn had already broken. And by and by she
said: "Dear Lord, thou art at this time in a happier case than I." And by
and by she said to Foliot: "Go and bring his horse to this place, that we
may bear him hence." "Lady," said Foliot, "it is not good for you to be
left here alone." "Foliot," said the Queen, "thou dost not know how much
alone I am; thy leaving me here cannot make me more alone." Therewith she
fell to weeping with great passion.
Then Foliot wept also in great measure and, still weeping like rain, he
went away and left her. When he came again with King Ban's horse the sun
had risen and all the birds were singing with great jubilation and
everything was so blithe and gay that no one could have believed that care
and trouble could dwell in a world that was so beautiful.
[Sidenote: The Lady Helen bringeth her dead down from the Mountain] So
Queen Helen and Foliot lifted the dead king to his horse and then the Queen
said: "Come thou, Foliot, at thine own gait, and I will go ahead and seek
my child, for I have yet Launcelot to be my joy. Haply he will be needing
me at this moment." So the Queen made haste down the steep hill ahead of
Foliot and by and by she came to the margin of that little lake where they
had rested awhile since.
By now the sun had risen very strong and warm so that all the lake, and the
meadows circumadjacent, and the forest that stood around about that meadow
were illumined with the glory of his effulgence.
Now as Queen Helen entered that meadow she beheld that a very wonderful
lady was there, and this lady bare the child Launcelot in her arms. And the
lady sang to Launcelot, and the young child looked up into her face and
laughed and set his hand against her cheek. All this Queen Helen beheld;
and she likewise beheld that the lady was of a very extraordinary
appearance, being clad altogether in green that glistered and shone with a
wonderful brightness. And she beheld that around the neck of the lady was a
necklace of gold, inset with opal stones and emeralds; and she perceived
that the lady's face was like ivory--very white and clear--and that her
eyes, which were very bright, shone like jewels set into ivory. And she saw
that the lady was very wonderfully beautiful, so that the beholder, looking
upon her, felt a manner of fear--for that lady was Fay.
(And that lady was the Lady of the Lake, spoken of aforetime in the Book of
King Arthur, wherein it is told how she aided King Arthur to obtain that
wonderful, famous sword yclept Excalibur, and how she aided Sir Pellias,
the Gentle Knight, in the time of his extremity, and took him into the lake
with her. Also divers other things concerning her are told of therein.)
Then the Queen came near to where the lady was, and she said to her,
"Lady, I pray you give me my child again!" Upon this the Lady of the Lake
smiled very strangely and said: "Thou shalt have thy child again, lady, but
not now; after a little thou shalt have him again." Then Queen Helen cried
out with great agony of passion: "Lady, would you take my child from me?
Give him to me again, for he is all I have left in the world. Lo, I have
lost house and lands and husband, and all the other joys that life has me
to give, wherefore, I beseech you, take not my child from me." To this the
Lady of the Lake said: "Thou must endure thy sorrow a while longer; for it
is so ordained that I must take thy child; for I take him only that I may
give him to thee again, reared in such a wise that he shall make the glory
of thy house to be the glory of the world. For he shall become the greatest
knight in the world, and from his loins shall spring a greater still than
he, so that the glory of the House of King Ban shall be spoken of as long
as mankind shall last." But Queen Helen cried out all the more in a great
despair: "What care I for all this? I care only that I shall have my little
child again! Give him to me!"
[Sidenote: The Lady of the Lake taketh Launcelot into the Lake] Therewith
she would have laid hold of the garments of the Lady of the Lake in
supplication, but the Lady of the Lake drew herself away from Queen Helen's
hand and said: "Touch me not, for I am not mortal, but Fay." And thereupon
she and Launcelot vanished from before Queen Helen's eyes as the breath
vanishes from the face of a mirror.
For when you breathe upon a mirror the breath will obscure that which lieth
behind; but presently the breath will disappear and vanish, and then you
shall behold all things entirely clear and bright to the sight again. So
the Lady of the Lake vanished away, and everything behind her where she had
stood was clear and bright, and she was gone.
Then Queen Helen fell down in a swoon, and lay beside the lake of the
meadow like one that is dead; and when Foliot came he found her so and wist
not what to do for her. There was his lord who was dead and his lady who
was so like to death that he knew not whether she was dead or no. So he
knew not what to do but sat down and made great lamentation for a long
[Sidenote: The Lady Helen taketh to a Nunnery] What time he sat thus there
came that way three nuns who dwelt in an abbey of nuns which was not a
great distance away from that place. These made great pity over that
sorrowful sight, and they took away from there the dead King and the woeful
Queen, and the King they buried in holy ground, and the Queen they let live
with them and she was thereafter known as the "Sister of Sorrows."
[Sidenote: How Launcelot dwelt in the lake] Now Launcelot dwelt for nigh
seventeen years with the Lady Nymue of the Lake in that wonderful,
beautiful valley covered over with the appearance of such a magical lake as
hath been aforetime described in the Book of King Arthur.
And that land of the lake was of this sort that shall here be described:--
Unto anyone who could enter into the magic water of that lake (and there
were very few of those who were mortal who were allowed to come to those
meadows of Faery that were there concealed beneath those enchanted waters)
he would behold before him a wide and radiant field of extraordinary
beauty. And he would behold that that field was covered all over with such
a multitude of exquisite and beautiful flowers that the heart of the
beholder would be elated with pure joy to find himself in the midst of that
waving sea of multitudinous and fragrant blossoms. And he would behold many
fair and shady groves of trees that here and there grew up from that
valley, each glade overshadowing a fountain of water as clear as crystal.
And he would perhaps behold, at such pleasant places beneath the shade of
those trees, some party of the fair and gentle folk of that country; and he
would see them playing in sport, or he would hear them chanting to the
music of shining golden harps. And he would behold in the midst of that
beautiful plain a wonderful castle with towers and roofs uplifted high into
the sky, and all shining in the peculiar radiance of that land, like to
castles and battlements of pure gold.
Such was the land unto which Launcelot was brought, and from what I have
told you you may see what a wonderful, beautiful place it was.
And the mystery of that place entered into the soul of Launcelot, so that
thereafter, when he came out thence, he was never like other folk, but
always appeared to be in a manner remote and distant from other of his
fellow-mortals with whom he dwelt.
For though he smiled a great deal, it was not often that he laughed; and if
he did laugh, it was never in scorn, but always in loving-kindness.
* * * * *
It was here in this land that Sir Pellias had now dwelt for several years,
with great peace and content. (For it hath been told in the Book of King
Arthur how, when he was upon the edge of death, the Lady Nymue of the Lake
brought him back to life again, and how, after that time, he was half fay
and half mortal.)
And the reason why Launcelot was brought to that place was that Sir Pellias
might teach him and train him in all the arts of chivalry. For no one in
all the world was more skilful in arms than Sir Pellias, and no one could
so well teach Launcelot the duties of chivalry as he.
So Sir Pellias taught Launcelot all that was best of knighthood, both as to
conduct of manner, and as to the worthiness and skill at arms, wherefore it
was that when Launcelot was completely taught, there was no knight in all
the world who was his peer in strength of arms or in courtesy of behavior,
until his own son, Sir Galahad, appeared in the courts of chivalry as shall
by and by be told of.
So when Launcelot came forth into the world again he became the greatest
knight in all the history of chivalry, wherefore that prophecy of his
mother was fulfilled as to his being like to a bright star of exceeding
Accordingly, I have herein told you with great particularity all these
circumstances of his early history so that you may know exactly how it was
that he was taken away into the lake, and why it was that he was afterward
known as Sir Launcelot, surnamed of the Lake.
As to how he came into the world to achieve that greatness unto which he
had been preordained, and as to how King Arthur made him knight, and as to
many very excellent adventures that befell him, you shall immediately read
in what followeth.
The Story of Launcelot
_Here beginneth the story of Sir Launcelot, surnamed of the Lake, who was
held by all men to be the most excellent, noble, perfect knight-champion
who was ever seen in the world from the very beginning of chivalry unto the
time when his son, Sir Galahad, appeared like a bright star of
extraordinary splendor shining in the sky of chivalry.
In this Book it shall be told how he was taken into a magic lake, how he
came out thence to be made knight by King Arthur, and of how he undertook
several of those adventures that made him at once the wonder and the
admiration of all men, and the chiefest glory of the Round Table of
[Illustration: Sir Launcelot greets Queen Guinevere]
_How Sir Launcelot Came Forth From the Enchanted Castle of the Lake and
Entered Into the World Again, and How King Arthur Made Him Knight._
[Sidenote: Of the springtime of long ago] I know not any time of the year
that is more full of joyfulness than the early summer season; for that time
the sun is wonderfully lusty and strong, yet not so very hot; that time the
trees and shrubs are very full of life and very abundant of shade and yet
have not grown dry with the heats and droughts of later days; that time the
grass is young and lush and green, so that when you walk athwart the
meadow-lands it is as though you walked through a fair billowy lake of
magical verdure, sprinkled over with a great multitude of little flowers;
that time the roses are everywhere a-bloom, both the white rose and the
red, and the eglantine is abundant; that time the nests are brimful of
well-fledged nestlings, and the little hearts of the small parent fowls
are so exalted with gladness that they sing with all their mights and
mains, so that the early daytime is filled full of the sweet jargon and the
jubilant medley of their voices. Yea; that is a goodly season of the year,
for though, haply, the spirit may not be so hilarious as in the young and
golden springtime, yet doth the soul take to itself so great a content in
the fulness of the beauty of the world, that the heart is elated with a
great and abundant joy that it is not apt to feel at another season.
[Sidenote: King Arthur and two knights ride a-hunting] Now it chanced upon
the day before Saint John's day in the fulness of a summer-time such as
this, that King Arthur looked forth from his chamber very early in the
morning and beheld how exceedingly fair and very lusty was the world
out-of-doors--all in the freshness of the young daylight. For the sun had
not yet risen, though he was about to rise, and the sky was like to pure
gold for brightness; all the grass and leaves and flowers were drenched
with sweet and fragrant dew, and the birds were singing so vehemently that
the heart of any man could not but rejoice in the fulness of life that lay
all around about him.
There were two knights with King Arthur at that time, one was Sir Ewain,
the son of Morgana le Fay (and he was King Arthur's nephew), and the other
was Sir Ector de Maris, the son of King Ban of Benwick and of Queen
Helen--this latter a very noble, youthful knight, and the youngest of all
the Knights of the Round Table who were at that time elected. These stood
by King Arthur and looked forth out of the window with him and they also
took joy with him in the sweetness of the summer season. Unto them, after a
while, King Arthur spake, saying: "Messires, meseems this is too fair a day
to stay within doors. For, certes, it is a shame that I who am a king
should be prisoner within mine own castle, whilst any ploughman may be free
of the wold and the green woods and the bright sun and the blue sky and the
wind that blows over hill and dale. Now, I too would fain go forth out of
doors and enjoy these things; wherefore I ordain that we shall go
a-hunting this day and that ye and I shall start before any others of the
lords and the ladies that dwell herein are awake. So let us take our horses
and our hounds and let us take certain foresters and huntsmen, and let us
go forth a-hunting into the green forest; for this day shall be holiday for
me and for you and we shall leave care behind us, and for a while we shall
disport ourselves in pleasant places."
So they all did as King Arthur bade; they made them each man ready with his
own hands, and they bade the huntsmen and the foresters to attend thereupon
as the King had ordained. Then they rode forth from the castle and out into
the wide world that lay beyond, and it was yet so early in the morning that
none of the castle folk were astir to know of their departure.
All that day they hunted in the forest with much joy and with great sport,
nor did they turn their faces toward home again until the day was so far
spent that the sun had sunk behind the tops of the tall leafy trees. Then,
at that time, King Arthur gave command that they should bend their ways
toward Camelot once more.
[Sidenote: King Arthur and his companions find a strange damsel and a
dwarf] Now this time, being the Eve of Saint John, fairies and those folk
who are fay come forth, as is very well known, into the world from which
they dwell apart at other times. So when King Arthur and those two knights
and their several foresters and huntsmen came to a certain outlying part of
the forest, they were suddenly aware of a damsel and a dwarf waiting where
the road upon which they were travelling crossed another road, and they
perceived, from her very remarkable appearance, that the damsel was very
likely Fay. For both she and her dwarf sat each upon a milk-white horse,
very strangely still, close to where was a shrine by a hedge of hawthorne;
and the damsel was so wonderfully fair of face that it was a marvel to
behold her. Moreover, she was clad all in white samite from top to toe and
her garments were embroidered with silver; and the trappings and garniture
of her horse were of white samite studded with bright silver bosses,
wherefore, because of this silver, she glistered with a sudden lustre
whensoever she moved a little. When King Arthur and the two knights who
were with him drew nigh this damsel, much marvelling at her appearance, she
hailed him in a voice that was both high and clear, crying: "Welcome, King
Arthur! Welcome, King Arthur! Welcome, King Arthur!" saying three words
three times; and "Welcome, Sir Ewain!" "Welcome, Sir Ector de Maris!"
addressing each of those lords by his name.
"Damsel," quoth King Arthur, "it is very singular that you should know who
we are and that we should not know you. Now, will you not tell us your name
and whence you come and whither you go? For of a surety I believe you are
"Lord," said the damsel, "it matters not who I am, saving that I am of the
court of a wonderful lady who is your very good friend. She hath sent me
here to meet you and to beseech you to come with me whither I shall lead
you, and I shall lead you unto her."
"Damsel," said King Arthur, "I shall be right glad to go with you as you
desire me to do. So, if you will lead me to your lady, I and my knights
will gladly follow you thitherway to pay our court unto her."
[Sidenote: King Arthur and his knights follow the damsel] Upon this the
damsel waved her hand, and drawing her bridle-rein she led the way,
accompanied by the dwarf, and King Arthur and the two knights followed her,
and all their party of foresters and huntsmen and hounds and beagles
By this time the sun had set and the moon had risen very fair and round and
as yellow as gold, making a great light above the silent tree-tops.
Everything now was embalmed in the twilight, and all the world was
enshrouded in the mystery of the midsummer eve. Yet though the sun had gone
the light was wonderfully bright, wherefore all that the eye could see
stood sharp-cut and very clear to the vision.
So the damsel and the dwarf led the way for somewhat of a distance, though
not for so very far, until they came of a sudden to where was an open
meadow in the forest, hedged all around with the trees of the woodland. And
here the King and his knights were aware of a great bustle of many people,
some working very busily in setting up several pavilions of white samite,
and others preparing a table as for a feast, and others upon this business
and others upon that; and there were various sumpter-mules and pack-horses
and palfreys all about, as though belonging to a party of considerable
Then King Arthur and those who were with him beheld that, at some distance
away upon the other side of the meadow, there were three people sitting
under a crab-apple tree upon a couch especially prepared for them, and they
were aware that these people were the chief of all that company.
[Sidenote: King Arthur and his companions are brought to speak with strange
folk] The first party of the three was a knight of very haughty and noble
appearance, clad all in armor as white as silver; and his jupon was white
embroidered with silver, and the scabbard of the sword and the sword-belt
were white, and his shield hung in the crab-tree above him and that, too,
was all white as of silver. This knight still wore his helmet, so that his
countenance was not to be seen. The second party of the three was a lady
clad all in white raiment. Her face was covered by her wimple so that her
countenance also was not to be seen very clearly, but her garments were of
wonderful sort, being of white sarcenet embroidered over with silver in the
pattern of lily flowers. Also she wore around her breast and throat a chain
of shining silver studded with bright and sparkling gems of divers sorts.
The third party of the three was a youth of eighteen years, so beautiful of
face that it seemed to King Arthur that he had never beheld so noble a
being. For his countenance was white and shining, and his hair was as soft
as silk and as black as it was possible to be, and curled down upon his
shoulders; and his eyes were large and bright and extraordinarily black,
and his eyebrows arched so smoothly that if they had been painted they
could not have been marked upon his forehead more evenly than they were;
and his lips, which pouted a little, though not very much, were as red as
coral, and his upper lip was shaded with a soft down of black. Moreover,
this youth was clad altogether in white cloth of satin with no ornaments
whatsoever saving only a fine chain of shining silver set with opal-stones
and emeralds that hung about his neck.
Then when King Arthur approached near enough he perceived by certain signs
that the lady was the chiefest of those three, wherefore he paid his court
to her especially, saying to her: "Lady, it seems that I have been brought
hitherward unto you and that you were aware of my name and estate when you
sent for me. Now I should be exceedingly glad if you would enlighten me in
the same manner as to yourself."
"Sir," she said, "that I shall be glad to do; for if I have known you
aforetime, you have also seen me afore time and have known me as your
friend." Therewith the lady lowered the wimple from her face and King
Arthur perceived that it was the Lady of the Lake.
[Sidenote: King Arthur findeth Sir Pellias again] Upon this he kneeled
down upon one knee and took her hand and set it to his lips. "Lady," quoth
he, "I have indeed cause to know you very well, for you have, as you
affirm, been a friend to me and to my friends upon many several occasions."
Then King Arthur turned to that knight who was with that Lady of the Lake,
and he said unto him: "Messire, if I mistake not, I should know you also;
and I doubt not, if you will lift the umbril of your helmet, we shall all
three know your face." Upon this the knight without more ado lifted his
umbril as King Arthur had desired him to do and the three beheld that it
was Sir Pellias, the Gentle Knight.
Now it hath already been very fully told about Sir Pellias in the Book of
King Arthur, and those of you who read of him therein will remember, no
doubt, how sorely he was wounded in a combat with Sir Gawaine, who was his
best friend, and of how the Lady of the Lake took him to dwell with her in
that wonderful city that was hidden by the appearance as of an enchanted
lake, and of how it was Sir Gawaine who last beheld him upon that occasion.
But if Sir Gawaine was the dearest friend that Sir Pellias had at that
time, then Sir Ewain was only less dear to him. Therefore, when Sir Ewain
beheld that the strange knight was Sir Pellias, he wist not what to think
for pure wonder; for no mortal eyes had ever beheld Sir Pellias since he
had gone into the lake with the Lady of the Lake that time as foretold, and
it was not thought that anyone would ever see him again.
So when Sir Ewain beheld that the knight was Sir Pellias he emitted a great
cry of joy and ran to him and catched him in his arms, and Sir Pellias
forbade him not. For though at most times those who are of Faery do not
suffer themselves to be touched by mortal hands, yet, upon the Eve of Saint
John's Day, fairies and mortals may commune as though they were of the same
flesh and blood. Wherefore Sir Pellias did not forbid Sir Ewain, and they
embraced, as one-time brethren-in-arms should embrace. And each kissed the
other upon the face, and each made great joy the one over the other. Yea,
so great was their joy that all those who stood about were moved with pure
happiness at beholding them.
Then Sir Pellias came to King Arthur and kneeled down before him and kissed
his hand, as is the bounden duty of every knight unto his lord.
"Ha, Messire," quoth King Arthur, "methought when I beheld this lady, that
you would not be very far distant from her." Then he said unto the Lady of
the Lake: "Lady, I prithee tell me, who is this fair youth who is with you.
For methinks I never beheld before so noble and so beautiful a countenance
as his. Maybe you will make us acquainted with him also."
"Lord," said the Lady Nymue, "who he is, and of what quality, shall, I
hope, be made manifest in due time; just now I would not wish that he
should be known even unto you. But touching him, I may say that it was for
his sake that I sent my damsel to meet you at the cross-roads awhile ago.
But of that, more anon; for see! the feast is now spread which we have
prepared for your entertainment. So let us first eat and drink and make
merry together, and then we shall speak further of this matter."
[Sidenote: The Lady of the Lake prepareth a feast for King Arthur] So they
all six went and sat down to the table that had been spread for them in the
open meadow-land. For the night was very pleasant and warm and a wonderful
full moon shone down upon them with a marvellous lustre, and there was a
pleasant air, soft and warm, from the forest, and, what with the scores of
bright waxen tapers that stood in silver candlesticks upon the table (each
taper sparkling as bright as any star), the night was made all illuminate
like to some singular mid-day. There was set before them a plenty of divers
savory meats and of several excellent wines, some as yellow as gold, and
some as red as carbuncle, and they ate and they drank and they made merry
in the soft moonlight with talk and laughter. Somewhiles they told Sir
Pellias and the lady of all that was toward at court at Camelot;
otherwhiles Sir Pellias and the lady told them such marvellous things
concerning the land in which they two dwelt that it would be hard to
believe that the courts of Heaven could be fairer than the courts of
Fairyland whence they had come.
Then, after the feast was ended, the Lady of the Lake said to King Arthur,
"Sir, an I have won your favor in any way, there is a certain thing I would
ask of you." To the which King Arthur made reply: "Ask it, Lady, and it
shall be granted thee, no matter what it may be." "Sir," said the Lady of
the Lake, "this is what I would ask of you. I would ask you to look upon
this youth who sits beside me. He is so dear to me that I cannot very well
make you know how dear he is. I have brought him hither from our
dwelling-place for one certain reason; to wit, that you should make him
knight. That is the great favor I would ask of you. To this intent I have
brought armor and all the appurtenances of knighthood; for he is of such
noble lineage that no armor in the world could be too good for him."
"Lady," quoth King Arthur, "I will do what you ask with much pleasure and
gladness. But, touching that armor of which you speak, it is my custom to
provide anyone whom I make a knight with armor of mine own choosing."
To this the Lady of the Lake smiled very kindly, saying, "Lord, I pray you,
let be in this case, for I daresay that the armor which hath been provided
for this youth shall be so altogether worthy of your nobility and of his
future credit that you will be entirely contented with it." And with that,
King Arthur was altogether satisfied.
[Sidenote: Of the armor, etc., of Sir Launcelot] And, touching that armor,
the ancient history that speaketh of these matters saith that it was of
such a sort as this that followeth, and that it was brought from that
enchanted court of the lake in this wise; to wit, in the front came two
youths, leading two white mules, and the mules bore two chests studded with
silver bosses. In one chest was the hauberk of that armor and in the other
were the iron boots. These were bright like to silver and were inlaid with
cunningly devised figures, all of pure gold. Next to them came two
esquires, clad in white robes and mounted upon white horses, bearing the
one a silver shield and the other a shining helmet, as of silver--it
likewise being very wonderfully inlaid with figures of pure gold. After
these came two other esquires, the one bearing a sword in a white sheath
embossed with studs of silver (the belt whereof was of silver with facets
of gold) and the other leading a white charger, whose coat was as soft and
as shining as silk. And all the gear and furniture of this horse was of
silver and of white samite embellished with silver. So from this you can
see how nobly that young acolyte was provided with all that beseemed his
future greatness. For, as you may have guessed, this youth was Launcelot,
King Ban's son of Benwick, who shortly became the greatest knight in the
[Sidenote: Launcelot guards his armor at night] Now there was in that part
of the forest border a small abbey of monks, and in the chapel of that
abbey Launcelot watched his armor for that night and Sir Ewain was with him
for all that time. Meantime King Arthur and Sir Ector de Maris slept each
in a silken pavilion provided for them by the Lady of the Lake.
In the morning Sir Ewain took Launcelot to the bath and bathed him, for
such was the custom of those who were being prepared for knighthood.
Now, whilst Sir Ewain was bathing the youth, he beheld that on his shoulder
was a mark in the likeness of a golden star and he marvelled very much
thereat; but he made no mention of it at that time, but held his peace
concerning what he saw; only he marvelled very greatly thereat.
[Sidenote: King Arthur creates Sir Launcelot a Knight-Royal] Then, after
Sir Ewain had bathed Launcelot, he clothed him in raiment fitted for that
ceremony unto which he was ordained, and when the youth was so clothed, Sir
Ewain brought him to King Arthur, and King Arthur knighted Launcelot with
great ceremony, and buckled the belt around him with his own hands. After
he had done this Sir Ewain and Sir Ector de Maris set the golden spurs to
his heels, and Sir Ector wist not that he was performing such office for
his own brother.
So Sir Launcelot was made knight with great estate and ceremony, whereof I
have told you all, unto every particular. For it is fitting that all things
should be so told concerning that most great and famous knight.
After King Arthur had so dubbed Sir Launcelot knight, it was time that
those two parties should part company--to wit, the party of the Lady of the
Lake and the party of King Arthur. But when they were about to leave one
another the Lady of the Lake took Sir Launcelot aside, and she spake to him
after this manner:
[Sidenote: The Lady of the Lake gives Sir Launcelot good advice]
"Launcelot, forget not that you are a king's son, and that your lineage is
as noble as that of anyone upon earth--for so I have often told you
aforetime. Wherefore, see to it that your worthiness shall be as great as
your beauty, and that your courtesy and gentleness shall be as great as
your prowess. To-day you shall go unto Camelot with King Arthur to make
yourself known unto that famous Court of Chivalry. But do not tarry there,
but, ere the night cometh, depart and go forth into the world to prove your
knighthood as worthily as God shall give you grace to do. For I would not
have you declare yourself to the world until you have proved your
worthiness by your deeds. Wherefore, do not yourself proclaim your name,
but wait until the world proclaimeth it; for it is better for the world to
proclaim the worthiness of a man than that the man should proclaim his own
worthiness. So hold yourself ready to undertake any adventure whatsoever
that God sendeth to you to do, but never let any other man complete a task
unto which you yourself have set your hand." Then, after the Lady of the
Lake had so advised Sir Launcelot, she kissed him upon the face, and
therewith gave him a ring curiously wrought and set with a wonderful purple
stone, which ring had such power that it would dissolve every enchantment.
Then she said: "Launcelot, wear this ring and never let it be from off your
finger." And Launcelot said: "I will do so." So Sir Launcelot set the ring
upon his finger and it was so that it never left his finger whilst he drew
the breath of life.
Then King Arthur and Sir Ewain and Sir Ector de Maris and the young Sir
Launcelot laid their ways toward Camelot. And, as they journeyed so
together, Sir Ewain communicated privily to Sir Ector de Maris how that the
youth had a mark as of a golden star upon the skin of his shoulder, and
upon this news Sir Ector fell very silent. For Sir Ector knew that that
sign was upon his own brother's shoulder, and he did not know how it could
be upon the shoulder of any other man. Wherefore, he wist not what to think
that it should be upon the shoulder of this youth. But he said naught of
these thoughts to Sir Ewain, but held his peace.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot cometh to Camelot] So they reached Camelot whilst
it was still quite early in the morning and all they who were there made
great joy at the coming of so wonderfully fair and noble a young knight as
Sir Launcelot appeared to be. Wherefore, there was great sound of rejoicing
at his coming.
Then, after a while, King Arthur said: "Let us go and see if, haply, this
youth's name is marked upon any of the seats of the Round Table, for I
think it should be there." So all they of the court went to that pavilion
afore described, where the Round Table was established, and they looked;
and lo! upon the seat that King Pellinore had one time occupied was this
THE KNIGHT OF THE LAKE
So the name stood at first, nor did it change until the name of Sir
Launcelot of the Lake became so famous in all the world. Then it became
changed to this:
SIR LAUNCELOT OF THE LAKE.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot becometh knight of the Round Table] So Sir
Launcelot remained at Camelot for that entire day and was made acquainted
with a great many of the lords and ladies and knights and dames of King
Arthur's court. And all that while he was like one that walked in a dream,
for he had never before beheld anything of the world of mankind since he
had been carried away into the lake, wherefore he wist not very well
whether what he saw was real or whether he beheld it in a vision of
enchantment. For it was all very new and wonderful to him and he took great
delight in it because that he was a man and because this world was the
world of mankind. Wherefore, though that Castle of the Lake was so
beautiful, yet he felt his heart go forth to this other and less beautiful
land as it did not go forth to that, because he was human and this was
Nevertheless, though that was so joyful a day for him, yet Sir Launcelot
did not forget what the Lady of the Lake had said concerning the time he
was to abide there! Wherefore, when it drew toward evening he besought
leave of King Arthur to depart from that place in search of adventures, and
King Arthur gave him leave to do as he desired.
So Sir Launcelot prepared to depart, and whilst he was in his chamber
making ready there came in unto him Sir Ector de Maris. And Sir Ector said
unto him: "Sir, I prithee tell me--is it true that you bear upon your right
shoulder a mark like unto a golden star?" And Sir Launcelot made reply:
"Yea, that is true." Then Sir Ector said: "I beseech you to tell me if your
name is Launcelot." And Sir Launcelot said: "Yea, that is my name."
[Sidenote: Of the brotherhood of Sir Ector and Sir Launcelot] Upon this
Sir Ector broke out into great weeping and he catched Sir Launcelot in his
arms and he cried out: "Launcelot, thou art mine own brother! For thy
father was my father, and my mother was thy mother! For we are both sons
unto King Ban of Benwick, and Queen Helen was our mother." Therewith he
kissed Sir Launcelot with great passion upon the face. And Sir Launcelot
upon his part kissed Sir Ector with a great passion of joy that he had
found a brother in this strange world into which he had so newly come. But
Sir Launcelot charged Sir Ector that he should say nothing of this to any
man; and Sir Ector pledged his knightly word to that effect. (Nor did he
ever tell anyone who Sir Launcelot was until Sir Launcelot had performed
such deeds that all the world spake his name.)
For when Sir Launcelot went out into the world in that wise he undertook
several very weighty achievements and brought them all to a successful
issue, so that his name very quickly became known in every court of
[Sidenote: Of sundry adventures of Sir Launcelot] First he removed an
enchantment that overhung a castle, hight Dolorous Gard; and he freed that
castle and liberated all the sad, sorry captives that lay therein. (And
this castle he held for his own and changed the name from Dolorous Gard to
Joyous Gard and the castle became very famous afterward as his best-loved
possession. For this was the first of all his possessions that he won by
the prowess of his arms and he loved it best of all and considered it
always his home.) After that Sir Launcelot, at the bidding of Queen
Guinevere, took the part of the Lady of Nohan against the King of
Northumberland, and he overcame the King of Northumberland and made him
subject unto King Arthur. Then he overcame Sir Gallehaut, King of the
Marches, and sent him captive to the court of King Arthur (and afterward
Sir Gallehaut and Sir Launcelot became great friends for aye). So in a
little while all the world spoke of Sir Launcelot, for it was said of him,
and truly, that he had never been overcome by any other knight, whether
upon horseback or upon foot, and that he always succeeded in every
adventure which he undertook, whether that adventure were great or whether
it were small. So it was as the Lady of the Lake desired it to be, for Sir
Launcelot's name became famous, not because he was his father's son, but
because of the deeds which he performed upon his own account.
So Sir Launcelot performed all these famous adventures, and after that he
returned again to the court of King Arthur crowned with the glory of his
successful knighthood, and there he was received with joy and acclaim and
was duly installed in that seat of the Round Table that was his. And in
that court he was held in the greatest honor and esteem of all the knights
who were there. For King Arthur spake many times concerning him to this
effect: that he knew not any honor or glory that could belong to a king
greater than having such a knight for to serve him as was Sir Launcelot of
the Lake. For a knight like Sir Launcelot came hardly ever into the world,
and when he did come his glory must needs illuminate with its effulgence
the entire reign of that king whose servant he was.
So it was that Sir Launcelot was greatly honored by everybody at the court
of King Arthur, and he thereafter abided at that court for the most part of
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere] And now I must needs make
mention of that friendship that existed betwixt Sir Launcelot and Queen
Guinevere, for after he thus returned to the court of the king, they two
became such friends that no two people could be greater friends than they
Now I am aware that there have been many scandalous things said concerning
that friendship, but I do not choose to believe any such evil sayings. For
there are always those who love to think and say evil things of others. Yet
though it is not to be denied that Sir Launcelot never had for his lady any
other dame than the Lady Guinevere, still no one hath ever said with truth
that she regarded Sir Launcelot otherwise than as her very dear friend. For
Sir Launcelot always avouched with his knightly word, unto the last day of
his life, that the Lady Guinevere was noble and worthy in all ways,
wherefore I choose to believe his knightly word and to hold that what he
said was true. For did not he become an hermit, and did not she become a
nun in their latter days, and were they not both broken of heart when King
Arthur departed from this life in so singular a manner as he did? Wherefore
I choose to believe good of such noble souls as they, and not evil of them.
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot dwelt at Camelot] Yet, though Sir Launcelot
thus abided at the court of the King, he ever loved the open world and a
life of adventure above all things else. For he had lived so long in the
Lake that these things of the sturdy life of out-of-doors never lost their
charm for him. So, though he found, for a while, great joy in being at the
court of the King (for there were many jousts held in his honor, and,
whithersoever he rode forth, men would say to one another: "Yonder goeth
that great knight, Sir Launcelot, who is the greatest knight in the
world"), yet he longed ever to be abroad in the wide world again. So one
day he besought King Arthur for leave to depart thence and to go forth for
a while in search of adventures; and King Arthur gave him leave to do as he
So now shall be told of several excellent adventures that Sir Launcelot
undertook, and which he carried through with entire success, and to the
great glory and renown of the Round Table, of which he was the foremost
[Illustration: Sir Lionel of Britain]
_How Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel Rode Forth Errant Together and How Sir
Lionel Met Sir Turquine to His Great Dole. Also How Sir Ector Grieved for
the Departure of His Brother Launcelot and So, Following Him, Fell into a
Very Sorry Adventure_.
Now after King Arthur had thus given Sir Launcelot leave to go errant and
whilst Sir Launcelot was making himself ready to depart there came to him
Sir Lionel, who was his cousin germain, and Sir Lionel besought leave to go
with him as his knight-companion, and Sir Launcelot gave him that leave.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel depart in search of adventure] So
when King Arthur confirmed Sir Launcelot's permission Sir Lionel also made
himself ready very joyfully, and early of the morning of the next day they
two took their leave of the court and rode away together; the day being
very fair and gracious and all the air full of the joy of that
season--which was in the flower of the spring-time.
So, about noon-tide, they came to a certain place where a great apple-tree
stood by a hedge, and by that time they had grown an-hungered. So they tied
their horses near-by in a cool and shady place and straightway sat them
down under the apple-tree in the soft tall grass, which was yet fresh with
the coolness of the morning.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot sleepeth beneath an apple-tree] Then when they
had ended their meal Sir Launcelot said: "Brother, I have a great lust to
sleep for a little space, for I find myself so drowsy that mine eyelids are
like scales of lead." Unto which Sir Lionel made reply: "Very well; sleep
thou for a while, and I will keep watch, and after that thou shalt watch,
and I will sleep for a little space." So Sir Launcelot put his helmet
beneath his head and turned upon his side, and in a little had fallen into
a sleep which had neither dream nor thought of any kind, but which was deep
and pure like to a clear well of water in the forest.
And, whilst he slept thus, Sir Lionel kept watch, walking up and down in
the shade of a hedge near-by.
[Sidenote: Sir Lionel perceives how one knight pursues three knights]
Where they were was upon the side of a hill, and beneath them was a little
valley; and a road ran through the valley, very white and shining in the
sunlight, like a silken ribbon, and the road lay between growing fields of
corn and pasture-land. Now as Sir Lionel walked beside the hedge he beheld
three knights come riding into that valley and along that road with very
great speed and in several clouds of dust; and behind them came a fourth
knight, who was very huge of frame and who was clad altogether in black
armor. Moreover, this knight rode upon a black horse and his shield was
black and his spear was black and the furniture of his horse was black, so
that everything appertaining to that knight was as black as any raven.
And Sir Lionel beheld that this one knight pursued those other three
knights and that his horse went with greater speed than theirs, so that by
and by he overtook the hindermost knight. And Sir Lionel beheld that the
sable knight smote the fleeing knight a great buffet with his sword, so
that that knight fell headlong from his horse and rolled over two or three
times upon the ground and then lay as though he were dead. Then the black
knight catched the second of the three, and served him as he had served his
fellow. Then the third of the three, finding that there was no escape for
him, turned as if to defend himself; but the black knight drave at him, and
smote him so terrible a blow that I believe had a thunderbolt smitten him
he would not have fallen from his horse more suddenly than he did. For,
though that combat was full three furlongs away, yet Sir Lionel heard the
sound of that blow as clearly as though it had been close by.
Then after the black knight had thus struck down those three knights he
went to each in turn and tied his hands behind his back. Then, lifting each
man with extraordinary ease, he laid him across the saddle of that horse
from which he had fallen, as though he were a sack of grain. And all this
Sir Lionel beheld with very great wonder, marvelling much at the strength
and prowess of that black knight. "Ha," quoth he to himself, "I will go and
inquire into this business, for it may haply be that yonder black knight
shall not find it to be so easy to deal with a knight of the Round Table as
with those other three knights."
So, with this, Sir Lionel loosed his horse very quietly and went his way so
softly that Sir Launcelot was not awakened. And after he had gone some way,
he mounted his steed and rode off at a fast gallop down into that valley.
[Sidenote: Sir Lionel addresses the sable knight] When Sir Lionel had come
to that place where the knight was, he found that he had just bound the
last of the three knights upon the saddle of his horse as aforetold. So Sir
Lionel spoke to the sable knight in this wise: "Sir, I pray you tell me
your name and degree and why you treat those knights in so shameful a
fashion as I behold you to do."
"Messire," said the black knight very fiercely, "this matter concerns you
not at all; yet I may tell you that those knights whom I have overthrown
are knights of King Arthur's court, and so I serve all such as come into
this place. So will I serve you, too, if you be a knight of King Arthur's."
"Well," said Sir Lionel, "that is a very ungracious thing for you to say.
And as for that, I too am a knight of King Arthur's court, but I do not
believe that you will serve me as you have served those three. Instead of
that, I have great hope that I shall serve you in such a fashion that I
shall be able to set these knights free from your hands."
[Sidenote: The sable knight overcomes Sir Lionel] Thereupon, without more
ado, he made him ready with spear and shield, and the black knight,
perceiving his design, also made him ready. Then they rode a little
distance apart so as to have a fair course for a tilt upon the roadway.
Then each set spur to his horse and the two drave together with such
violence that the earth shook beneath them. So they met fair in the middle
of the course, but lo! in that encounter the spear of Sir Lionel broke into
as many as thirty or forty pieces, but the spear of the black knight held,
so that Sir Lionel was lifted clean out from his saddle and over the
crupper of his horse with such violence that when he smote the ground he
rolled three times over ere he ceased to fall. And because of that fierce,
terrible blow he swooned away entirely, and all was black before his eyes,
and he knew nothing.
Therewith the black knight dismounted and tied Sir Lionel's arms behind his
back and he laid him across the saddle of his horse as he had laid those
others across the saddles of their horses; and he tied him there very
securely with strong cords so that Sir Lionel could not move.
And all this while Sir Launcelot slept beneath the apple-tree upon the
hillside, for he was greatly soothed by the melodious humming of the bees
in the blossoms above where he lay.
[Sidenote: Of Sir Turquine the sable knight] Now you are to know that he
who had thus taken Sir Lionel and those three knights prisoner was one Sir
Turquine, a very cruel, haughty knight, who had a great and strong castle
out beyond the mouth of that valley in which these knights took combat as
aforetold. Moreover, it was the custom of Sir Turquine to make prisoner all
the knights and ladies who came that way; and all the knights and ladies
who were not of King Arthur's court he set free when they had paid a
sufficient ransom unto him; but the knights who were of King Arthur's
court, and especially those who were of the Round Table, he held prisoner
for aye within his castle. The dungeon of that castle was a very cold,
dismal, and unlovely place, and it was to this prison that he proposed to
take those four knights whom he had overcome, with intent to hold them
prisoner as aforetold.
And now turn we to King Arthur's court and consider what befell there after
Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel had left it in search of adventures.
[Sidenote: Sir Ector follows Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel] When Sir Ector
found that Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel had gone away in that fashion he
was very much grieved in spirit; wherefore he said to himself, "Meseems my
brother might have taken me with him as well as our cousin." So he went to
King Arthur and besought his leave to quit the court and to ride after
those other two and to join in their adventures, and King Arthur very
cheerfully gave him that leave. So Sir Ector made him ready with all
despatch, and rode away at a great gait after Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel.
And ever as Sir Ector rode he made diligent inquiry and he found that those
two knights had ridden before him, so he said to himself: "By and by I
shall overtake them--if not to-day, at least by night, or by to-morrow
[Sidenote: Sir Ector seeks adventure] But after a while he came to a
cross-roads, and there he took a way that Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel had
not taken; so that, after he had gone a distance, he found that he had
missed them by taking that road. Nevertheless, he went on until about the
prime of the day, what time he met a forester, to whom he said: "Sirrah,
saw you two knights ride this way--one knight clad in white armor with a
white shield upon which was depicted the figure of a lady, and the other
knight clad in red armor with the figure of a red gryphon upon his shield?"
"Nay," said the forester, "I saw not such folk." Then said Sir Ector, "Is
there any adventure to be found hereabouts?" Upon this the forester fell to
laughing in great measure. "Yea," he said, "there is an adventure to be
found hard by and it is one that many have undertaken and not one yet hath
ever fulfilled." Then Sir Ector said, "Tell me what that adventure is and I
will undertake it."
"Sir," said the forester, "if you will follow along yonder road for a
distance you will find a very large, strong castle surrounded by a broad
moat. In front of that castle is a stream of water with a fair, shallow
ford, where the roadway crosses the water. Upon this side of that ford
there groweth a thorn-tree, very large and sturdy, and upon it hangs a
basin of brass. Strike upon that basin with the butt of your spear, and you
shall presently meet with that adventure concerning which I have just now
spoken." "Fellow," said Sir Ector, "grammercy for your news." And,
therewith, straightway he rode off in search of that adventure.
He rode a great distance at a very fast gait and by and by he came to the
top of a hill and therewith he saw before him the mouth of a fair valley.
Across from where he stood was another hill not very large or high, but
exceedingly steep and rocky. Upon this farther hill was builded a tall,
noble castle of gray stone with many towers and spires and tall chimneys
and with several score of windows, all shining bright in the clear weather.
A fair river ran down into the mouth of that valley and it was as bright
and as smooth as silver, and on each side of it were smooth level
meadow-lands--very green--and here and there shady groves of trees and
plantations of fruit-trees. And Sir Ector perceived that the road upon
which he travelled crossed the aforesaid river by a shallow ford, and he
wist that this must be the ford whereof the forester had spoken. So he rode
down unto that ford, and when he had come nigh he perceived the thorn-tree
of which the forester had told him, and he saw that a great basin of brass
hung to the thorn-tree, just as the forester had said.
[Sidenote: Sir Ector smites upon the brazen basin] Then Sir Ector rode to
that thorn-tree and he smote upon that basin of brass with the butt of his
spear, so that the basin rang with a noise like thunder; and he smote it
again and again, several times over. But though he was aware of a great
commotion within that fair castle, yet no adventure befell him, although he
smote the brazen basin several times.
Now, his horse being athirst, Sir Ector drove him into the ford that he
might drink, and whilst he was there he was suddenly aware where, on the
other side of the stream, was a singular party coming along the roadway.
For first of all there rode a knight entirely clad in black, riding upon a
black horse, and all the harness and furniture of that horse entirely of
black. Behind him, that knight led four horses as though they were
pack-horses, and across each one of those four horses was a knight in full
armor, bound fast to the saddle like to a sack of grain, whereat Sir Ector
was very greatly astonished.
As soon as that sable knight approached the castle, several came running
forth and relieved him of those horses he led and took them into the
castle, and as soon as he had been thus relieved the sable knight rode very
violently up to where Sir Ector was. As soon as he had come to the water's
edge he cried out: "Sir Knight, come forth from out of that water and do me
"Very well," said Sir Ector, "I will do so, though it will, I think, be to
thy very great discomfort."
[Sidenote: Sir Ector essays battle with the sable knight] With that he
came quickly out from the ford, the water whereof was all broken and
churned into foam at his passing, and straightway he cast aside his spear
and drew his sword and, driving against that sable knight, he smote him
such a buffet that his horse turned twice about.
"Ha," said the black knight, "that is the best blow that ever I had struck
me in all of my life." Therewith he rushed upon Sir Ector, and without
using a weapon of any sort he catched him about the body, underneath the
arms, and dragged him clean out of his saddle, and flung him across the
horn of his own saddle. Thereupon, having accomplished this marvellous
feat, and with Sir Ector still across his saddle-bow, he rode up unto his
castle, nor stopped until he had reached the court-yard of the keep. There
he set Sir Ector down upon the stone pavement. Then he said: "Messire, thou
hast done to me this day what no other knight hath ever done to me before,
wherefore, if thou wilt promise to be my man from henceforth, I will let
thee go free and give thee great rewards for thy services as well."
But Sir Ector was filled very full of shame, wherefore he cried out
fiercely, "Rather would I lie within a prison all my life than serve so
catiff a knight as thou, who darest to treat other knights as thou hast
just now treated me."
"Well," said the black knight very grimly, "thou shalt have thy choice."
Therewith he gave certain orders, whereupon a great many fierce fellows set
upon Sir Ector and stripped him of all his armor, and immediately haled him
off, half-naked, to that dungeon aforementioned.
[Sidenote: The sable knight makes prisoner of Sir Ector] There he found
many knights of King Arthur's court, and several of the Round Table, all of
whom he knew, and when they beheld Sir Ector flung in unto them in that
fashion they lifted up their voices in great lamentation that he should
have been added to their number, instead of freeing them from their
dolorous and pitiable case. "Alas," said they, "there is no knight alive
may free us from this dungeon, unless it be Sir Launcelot. For this Sir
Turquine is, certes, the greatest knight in all the world, unless it be Sir
[Illustration: Queen Morgana appears unto Sir Launcelot]
_How Sir Launcelot was Found in a Sleep by Queen Morgana le Fay and Three
Other Queens who were with Her, and How He was Taken to a Castle of Queen
Morgana's and of What Befell Him There._
[Sidenote: Four Queens and their courts pass by where Sir Launcelot lies
sleeping] So Sir Launcelot lay in deep slumber under that apple-tree, and
knew neither that Sir Lionel had left him nor what ill-fortune had befallen
that good knight. Whilst he lay there sleeping in that wise there came by,
along the road, and at a little distance from him, a very fair procession
of lordly people, making a noble parade upon the highway. The chiefest of
this company were four ladies, who were four queens. With them rode four
knights, and, because the day was warm, the four knights bore a canopy of
green silk by the four corners upon the points of their lances in such wise
as to shelter those queens from the strong heat of the sun. And those four
knights rode all armed cap-a-pie on four noble war-horses, and the four
queens, bedight in great estate, rode on four white mules richly
caparisoned with furniture of divers colors embroidered with gold. After
these lordly folk there followed a very excellent court of esquires and
demoiselles to the number of a score or more; some riding upon horses and
some upon mules that ambled very easily.
Now all these folk of greater or lesser degree were entirely unaware that
Sir Launcelot lay sleeping so nigh to them as they rode by chattering very
gayly together in the spring-time weather, taking great pleasure in the
warm air, and in growing things, and the green fields, and the bright sky;
and they would have had no knowledge that the knight was there, had not Sir
Launcelot's horse neighed very lustily. Thereupon, they were aware of the
horse, and then they were aware of Sir Launcelot where he lay asleep under
the apple-tree, with his head lying upon his helmet.
Now foremost of all those queens was Queen Morgana le Fay (who was King
Arthur's sister, and a potent, wicked enchantress, of whom much hath been
told in the Book of King Arthur), and besides Queen Morgana there was the
Queen of North Wales, and the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Outer
Now when this party of queens, knights, esquires, and ladies heard the
war-horse neigh, and when they beheld Sir Launcelot where he lay, they
drew rein and marvelled very greatly to see a knight sleeping so soundly at
that place, maugre all the noise and tumult of their passing. So Queen
Morgana called to her one of the esquires who followed after them, and she
said to him: "Go softly and see if thou knowest who is yonder knight; but
do not wake him."
[Sidenote: An esquire knoweth Sir Launcelot] So the esquire did as she
commanded; he went unto that apple-tree and he looked into Sir Launcelot's
face, and by hap he knew who it was because he had been to Camelot
erstwhiles and he had seen Sir Launcelot at that place. So he hastened back
to Queen Morgana and he said to her: "Lady, I believe that yonder knight is
none other than the great Sir Launcelot of the Lake, concerning whom there
is now such report; for he is reputed to be the most powerful of all the
knights of King Arthur's Round Table, and the greatest knight in the world,
so that King Arthur loves him and favors him above all other knights."
Now when Queen Morgana le Fay was aware that the knight who was asleep
there was Sir Launcelot, it immediately entered her mind for to lay some
powerful, malignant enchantment upon him to despite King Arthur. For she
too knew how dear Sir Launcelot was to King Arthur, and so she had a mind
to do him mischief for King Arthur's sake. So she went softly to where Sir
Launcelot lay with intent to work some such spell upon him. But when she
had come to Sir Launcelot she was aware that this purpose of mischief was
not possible whilst he wore that ring upon his finger which the Lady of the
Lake had given him; wherefore she had to put by her evil design for a
[Sidenote: Queen Morgana le Fay sets a mild enchantment upon Sir
Launcelot] But though she was unable to work any malign spell upon him,
she was able to cause it by her magic that that sleep in which he lay
should remain unbroken for three or four hours. So she made certain
movements of her hands above his face and by that means she wove the
threads of his slumber so closely together that he could not break through
them to awake.
After she had done this she called to her several of the esquires who were
of her party, and these at her command fetched the shield of Sir Launcelot
and laid him upon it. Then they lifted him and bore him away, carrying him
in that manner to a certain castle in the forest that was no great distance
away. And the name of that castle was Chateaubras and it was one of Queen
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot awakens in a fair chamber] And all that while Sir
Launcelot wist nothing, but lay in a profound sleep, so that when he awoke
and looked about him he was so greatly astonished that he knew not whether
he was in a vision or whether he was awake. For whilst he had gone asleep
beneath that apple-tree, here he now lay in a fair chamber upon a couch
spread with a coverlet of flame-colored linen.
Then he perceived that it was a very fair room in which he lay, for it was
hung all about with tapestry hangings representing fair ladies at court and
knights at battle. And there were woven carpets upon the floor, and the
couch whereon he lay was of carved wood, richly gilt. There were two
windows to that chamber, and when he looked forth he perceived that the
chamber where he was was very high from the ground, being built so loftily
upon the rugged rocks at its foot that the forest lay far away beneath him
like a sea of green. And he perceived that there was but one door to this
chamber and that the door was bound with iron and studded with great bosses
of wrought iron, and when he tried that door he found that it was locked.
So Sir Launcelot was aware from these things that he was a prisoner--though
not a prisoner in a hard case--and he wist not how he had come thither nor
what had happened to him.
[Sidenote: A fair damsel beareth light and food unto Sir Launcelot] Now
when the twilight of the evening had fallen, a porter, huge of frame and
very forbidding of aspect, came and opened the door of the chamber where
Sir Launcelot lay, and when he had done so there entered a fair damsel,
bearing a very good supper upon a silver tray. Moreover, she bore upon the
tray three tapers of perfumed wax set in three silver candlesticks, and
these gave a fair light to the entire room. But, when Sir Launcelot saw the
maiden coming thus with intent to serve him, he arose and took the tray
from her and set it himself upon the table; and for this civility the
damsel made acknowledgement to him. Then she said to him: "Sir Knight, what
cheer do you have?" "Ha, damsel," said Sir Launcelot, "I do not know how to
answer you that, for I wist not what cheer to have until I know whether I
be with friends or with enemies. For though this chamber wherein I lie is
very fair and well-bedight, yet meseems I must have been brought here by
some enchantment, and that I am a prisoner in this place; wherefore I know
not what cheer to take."
[Sidenote: The damsel has pity for Sir Launcelot] Then the damsel looked
upon Sir Launcelot, and she was very sorry for him. "Sir," quoth she, "I
take great pity to see you in this pass, for I hear tell you are the best
knight in the world and, of a surety, you are of a very noble appearance. I
must tell you that this castle wherein you lie is a castle of enchantment,
and they who dwell here mean you no good; wherefore I would advise you to
be upon your guard against them."
"Maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "I give you grammercy for your kind words,
and I will be upon my guard as you advise me."
Then the damsel would have said more, but she durst not for fear that she
should be overheard and that evil should befall her, for the porter was
still without the door. So in a little she went away and Sir Launcelot was
But though the damsel bade Sir Launcelot have good cheer, yet he had no
very good cheer for that night, as anyone may well suppose, for he wist not
what was to befall him upon the morrow.
Now when the morning had come Sir Launcelot was aware of someone at his
chamber door, and when that one entered it was Queen Morgana le Fay.
[Sidenote: How Queen Morgana cometh to Sir Launcelot] She was clad in all
the glory at her command, and her appearance was so shining and radiant
that when she came into that room Sir Launcelot knew not whether it was a
vision his eyes beheld or whether she was a creature of flesh and blood.
For she came with her golden crown upon her head, and her hair, which was
as red as gold, was bound around with ribbons of gold; and she was clad all
in cloth of gold; and she wore golden rings with jewels upon her fingers
and golden bracelets upon her arms and a golden collar around her
shoulders; wherefore, when she came into the room she shone with an
extraordinary splendor, as if she were a marvellous statue made all of pure
gold--only that her face was very soft and beautiful, and her eyes shone
exceedingly bright, and her lips, which were as red as coral, smiled, and
her countenance moved and changed with all the wiles of fascination that
she could cause it to assume.
When Sir Launcelot beheld her come thus gloriously into his room he rose
and greeted her with a very profound salutation, for he was astonished
beyond measure at beholding that shining vision. Then Queen Morgana gave
him her hand, and he kneeled, and took her jewelled fingers in his and set
her hand to his lips. "Welcome, Sir Launcelot!" quoth she; "welcome to this
place! For it is indeed a great honor to have here so noble and famous a
knight as you!"
"Ha, Lady," said Sir Launcelot, "you are gracious to me beyond measure! But
I pray you tell me how I came to this place and by what means? For when I
fell asleep yesterday at noon I lay beneath an apple-tree upon a hillside;
and when I awoke--lo! I found myself in this fair chamber."
[Sidenote: Queen Morgana seeks to beguile Sir Launcelot] To this Queen
Morgana le Fay made smiling reply as follows: "Sir, I am Queen Morgana le
Fay, of whom you may have heard tell, for I am the sister of King Arthur,
whose particular knight you are. Yesterday, at noon, riding with certain
other queens and a small court of knights, esquires, and demoiselles, we
went by where you lay sleeping. Finding you lying so, alone and without any
companion, I was able, by certain arts which I possess, to lay a gentle
enchantment upon you so that the sleep wherein you lay should remain
unbroken for three or four hours. So we brought you to this place in hopes
that you would stay with us for two or three days or more, and give us the
pleasure of your company. For your fame, which is very great, hath reached
even as far as this place, wherefore we have made a gentle prisoner of you
for this time being."
"Lady," said Sir Launcelot, "such constraint as that would be very pleasing
to me at another time. But when I fell asleep I was with my cousin, Sir
Lionel, and I know not what hath become of him, and haply he will not know
what hath become of me should he seek me. Now I pray you let me go forth
and find my cousin, and when I have done so I will return to you again at
this place with an easy spirit."
"Well, Messire," said Queen Morgana, "it shall be as you desire, only I
require of you some pledge of your return." (Herewith she drew from her
finger a golden ring set very richly with several jewels.) "Now take this
ring," she said, "and give me that ring which I see upon your finger, and
when you shall return hither each shall have his ring again from the
"Lady," said Sir Launcelot, "that may not be. For this ring was placed upon
my finger with such a pledge that it may never leave where it is whilst my
soul abideth in my body. Ask of me any other pledge and you shall have it;
but I cannot give this ring to you."
[Sidenote: Queen Morgana hath anger for Sir Launcelot] Upon this Queen
Morgana's cheeks grew very red, and her eyes shone like sparks of fire.
"Ha, Sir Knight," she said, "I do not think you are very courteous to
refuse a lady and a queen so small a pledge as that. I am much affronted
with you that you should have done so. Wherefore, I now demand of you, as
the sister of King Arthur whom you serve, that you give me that ring."
"Lady," said Sir Launcelot, "I may not do that, though it grieveth me much
to refuse you."
Then Queen Morgana looked at Sir Launcelot awhile with a very angry
countenance, but she perceived that she was not to have her will with him,
wherefore she presently turned very quickly and went out of the room,
leaving Sir Launcelot much perturbed in spirit. For he knew how great were
the arts of Queen Morgana le Fay, and he could not tell what harm she might
seek to work upon him by those arts. But he ever bore in mind how that the
ring which he wore was sovereign against such malignant arts as she
practised, wherefore he took what comfort he could from that circumstance.
Nevertheless, he abode in that chamber in great uncertainty for all that
day, and when night came he was afraid to let himself slumber, lest they of
the castle should come whilst he slept and work him some secret ill;
wherefore he remained awake whilst all the rest of the castle slept. Now at
the middle of the night, and about the time of the first cock-crow, he was
aware of a sound without and a light that fell through the crack of the
door. Then, in a little, the door was opened and there entered that young
damsel who had served him with his supper the night before, and she bare a
lighted taper in her hand.
[Sidenote: The damsel cometh again to Sir Launcelot] When Sir Launcelot
perceived that damsel he said: "Maiden, do you come hither with good intent
or with evil intent?" "Sir," she said, "I come with good intent, for I take
great pity to see you in such a sorry case as this. I am a King's daughter
in attendance upon Queen Morgana le Fay, but she is so powerful an
enchantress that, in good sooth, I am in great fear lest she some time do
me an ill-hap. So to-morrow I leave her service and return unto my father's
castle. Meantime, I am of a mind to help you in your adversity. For Queen
Morgana trusts me, and I have knowledge of this castle and I have all the
keys thereof, wherefore I can set you free. And I will set you free if you
will, upon your part, serve me in a way that you can very easily do."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "provided I may serve you in a way fitting my
knightly honor, I shall be glad to do so under any condition. Now I pray
you tell me what it is you would have of me."
[Sidenote: The damsel speaketh to Sir Launcelot of her father, King
Bagdemagus] "Sir," said the damsel, "my father hath made a tournament
betwixt him and the King of North Wales upon Tuesday next, and that is just
a fortnight from this day. Now, already my father hath lost one such a
tournament, for he hath no very great array of knights upon his side, and
the King of North Wales hath three knights of King Arthur's Round Table to
aid his party. Because of the great help of these knights of the Round
Table, the King of North Wales won the last tournament and my father lost
it, and now he feareth to lose the tournament that is to be. Now if you
will enter upon my father's side upon the day of the tournament, I doubt
not that he shall win that tournament; for all men say that you are the
greatest knight in the world at this time. So if you will promise to help
my father and will seal that promise with your knightly word, then will I
set you free of this castle of enchantment."
"Fair maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "tell me your name and your father's
name, for I cannot give you my promise until I know who ye be."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot promises to aid King Bagdemagus] "Sir," said the
demoiselle, "I am called Elouise the Fair, and my father is King
Bagdemagus." "Ha!" quoth Sir Launcelot, "I know your father, and I know
that he is a good king and a very worthy knight besides. If you did me no
service whatsoever, I would, at your simple asking, were I free of this
place, lend him such aid as it is in my power to give."
At this the damsel took great joy and gave Sir Launcelot thanks beyond
measure. So they spoke together as to how that matter might be brought
about so that Sir Launcelot should be brought to talk to King Bagdemagus.
And the damsel Elouise said: "Let it be this way, Sir Launcelot.
Imprimis--thou art to know that somewhat of a long distance to the
westward of that place where thou didst fall asleep yesterday, there
standeth a very large, fair abbey known as the Abbey of Saint James the
Lesser. This abbey is surrounded by an exceedingly noble estate that lieth
all around about it so that no man that haps in that part of the country
can miss it if he make inquiry for it. Now I will go and take lodging at
that abbey a little while after I leave this place. So when it suits thee
to do so, come thou thither and thou wilt find me there and I will bring
thee to my father."
"Very well," said Sir Launcelot, "let it be that way. I will come to that
place in good time for the tournament. Meantime, I prithee, rest in the
assurance that I shall never forgot thy kindness to me this day, nor thy
gracious behavior and speech unto me. Wherefore I shall deem it not a duty
but a pleasure to serve thee."
[Sidenote: The damsel bringeth Sir Launcelot to freedom] So, having
arranged all these matters, the damsel Elouise opened the door of that room
and led Sir Launcelot out thence; and she led him through various passages
and down several long flights of steps, and so brought him at last unto a
certain chamber, where was his armor. Then the damsel helped Sir Launcelot
to encase him in his armor, so that in a little while he was altogether
armed as he had been when he fell asleep under that apple-tree. Thereafter
the damsel brought him out past the court-yard and unto the stable where
was Sir Launcelot's horse, and the horse knew him when he came. So he
saddled the horse by the light of a half-moon which sailed like a boat high
up in the sky through the silver, floating clouds, and therewith he was
ready to depart. Then the damsel opened the gate and he rode out into the
night, which was now drawing near the dawning of the day.
Thus Elouise the Fair aided Sir Launcelot to escape from that castle of
enchantment, where else great ill might have befallen him.
* * * * *
And now it shall be told how Sir Launcelot did battle with Sir Turquine and
of what happened thereat.
[Illustration: Sir Launcelot doeth battle with Sir Turquine]
_How Sir Launcelot Sought Sir Lionel and How a Young Damsel Brought Him to
the Greatest Battle that Ever He Had in All His Life_.
So Sir Launcelot rode through the forest, and whilst he rode the day began
to break. About sunrise he came out into an open clearing where certain
charcoal-burners were plying their trade.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot breaks his fast in the forest] To these rude
fellows he appeared out of the dark forest like some bright and shining
vision; and they made him welcome and offered him to eat of their food, and
he dismounted and sat down with them and brake his fast with them. And when
he had satisfied his hunger, he gave them grammercy for their
entertainment, and took horse and rode away.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot cometh again to the place of the apple-tree] He
made forward until about the middle of the morning, what time he came
suddenly upon that place where, two days before, he had fallen asleep
beneath the blooming apple-tree. Here he drew rein and looked about him for
a considerable while; for he thought that haply he might find some trace of
Sir Lionel thereabouts. But there was no trace of him, and Sir Launcelot
wist not what had become of him.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot perceives a damsel upon a palfrey] Now whilst Sir
Launcelot was still there, not knowing what to do to find Sir Lionel, there
passed that way a damsel riding upon a white palfrey. Unto her Sir
Launcelot made salutation, and she made salutation to him and asked him
what cheer. "Maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "the cheer that I have is not
very good, seeing that I have lost my companion-at-arms and know not where
he is." Then he said: "Did you haply meet anywhere with a knight with the
figure of a red gryphon upon his shield?" whereunto the damsel answered:
"Nay, I saw none such." Then Sir Launcelot said: "Tell me, fair damsel,
dost thou know of any adventure hereabouts that I may undertake? For, as
thou seest, I am errant and in search of such."
Upon this the damsel fell a-laughing: "Yea, Sir Knight," said she, "I know
of an adventure not far away, but it is an adventure that no knight yet
that ever I heard tell of hath accomplished. I can take thee to that
adventure if thou hast a desire to pursue it."
"Why should I not pursue it," said Sir Launcelot, "seeing that I am here
for that very cause--to pursue adventure?"
"Well," said the damsel, "then come with me, Sir Knight, I will take thee
to an adventure that shall satisfy thee."
[Sidenote: The damsel leads Sir Launcelot to an adventure] So Sir
Launcelot and that damsel rode away from that place together; he upon his
great war-horse and she upon her ambling palfrey beside him. And the sun
shone down upon them, very pleasant and warm, and all who passed them
turned to look after them; for the maiden was very fair and slender, and
Sir Launcelot was of so noble and stately a mien that few could behold him
even from a distance without looking twice or three times upon him. And as
they travelled in that way together they fell into converse, and the damsel
said to Sir Launcelot: "Sir, thou appearest to be a very good knight, and
of such a sort as may well undertake any adventure with great hope of
success. Now I prithee to tell me thy name and what knight thou art."
"Fair maiden," said Sir Launcelot, "as for telling you my name, that I will
gladly do. I am called Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and I am a knight of King
Arthur's court and of his Round Table."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot and the maiden discourse together] At this the
damsel was very greatly astonished and filled with admiration. "Hah!" quoth
she, "it is a great pleasure to me to fall in with you, Sir Launcelot, for
all the world now bespeaketh your fame. Little did I ever think to behold
your person, much less speak with you, and ride in this way with you. Now I
will tell you what this adventure is on which we are set; it is this--there
is, some small distance from this, a castle of a knight hight Sir Turquine,
who hath in his prison a great many knights of King Arthur's court, and
several knights of his Round Table. These knights he keepeth there in great
dole and misery, for it is said that their groans may be heard by the
passers along the high-road below the castle. This Sir Turquine is held to
be the greatest knight in the world (unless it be thou) for he hath never
yet been overcome in battle, whether a-horseback or a-foot. But, indeed, I
think it to be altogether likely that thou wilt overcome him."
"Fair damsel," quoth Sir Launcelot, "I too have hope that I shall hold mine
own with him, when I meet him, and to that I shall do my best endeavor. Yet
this and all other matters are entirely in the hands of God."
Then the damsel said, "If you should overcome this Sir Turquine, I know of
still another adventure which, if you do not undertake it, I know of no one
else who may undertake to bring it to a successful issue."
Quoth Sir Launcelot, "I am glad to hear of that or of any other adventure,
for I take great joy in such adventuring. Now, tell me, what is this other
[Sidenote: The maiden tells Sir Launcelot of the savage forest knight]
"Sir," said the damsel, "a long distance to the west of this there is a
knight who hath a castle in the woods and he is the evilest disposed knight
that ever I heard tell of. For he lurks continually in the outskirts of the
woods, whence he rushes forth at times upon those who pass by. Especially
he is an enemy to all ladies of that country, for he hath taken many of
them prisoners to his castle and hath held them in the dungeon thereof for
ransom; and sometimes he hath held them for a long while. Now I am fain
that thou undertake that adventure for my sake."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "I believe it would be a good thing for any
knight to do to rid the world of such an evil-disposed knight as that, so
if I have the good fortune to overcome this Sir Turquine, I give my
knightly word that I will undertake this adventure for thy sake, if so be
thou wilt go with me for to show me the way to his castle."
"That I will do with all gladness," said the damsel, "for it is great pride
for any lady to ride with you upon such an adventure."
Thus they talked, and all was arranged betwixt them. And thus they rode
very pleasantly through that valley for the distance of two leagues or a
little more, until they came to that place where the road crossed the
smooth stream of water afore told of; and there was the castle of Sir
Turquine as afore told of; and there was the thorn-bush and the basin
hanging upon the thorn-bush as afore told of. Then the maiden said: "Sir
Launcelot, beat upon that basin and so thou shalt summon Sir Turquine to
battle with thee."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot smites upon the basin] So Sir Launcelot rode to
that basin where it hung and he smote upon it very violently with the butt
of his spear. And he smote upon that basin again and again until he smote
the bottom from out it; but at that time immediately no one came.
Then, after a while, he was ware of one who came riding toward him, and he
beheld that he who came riding was a knight very huge of frame, and long
and strong of limb. And he beheld that the knight was clad entirely in
black, and that the horse upon which he rode and all the furniture of the
horse was black. And he beheld that this knight drave before him another
horse, and that across the saddle of that other horse there lay an armed
knight, bound hand and foot; and Sir Launcelot wist that the sable knight
who came riding was that Sir Turquine whom he sought.
[Sidenote: The sable knight bringeth Sir Gaheris captive] So Sir Turquine
came very rapidly along the highway toward where Sir Launcelot sat, driving
that other horse and the captive knight before him all the while. And as
they came nearer and nearer Sir Launcelot thought that he should know who
the wounded knight was and when they came right close, so that he could see
the markings of the shield of that captive knight, he wist that it was Sir
Gaheris, the brother of Sir Gawaine, and the nephew of King Arthur, whom
Sir Turquine brought thither in that wise.
At this Sir Launcelot was very wroth; for he could not abide seeing a
fellow-knight of the Round Table treated with such disregard as that which
Sir Gaheris suffered at the hands of Sir Turquine; wherefore Sir Launcelot
rode to meet Sir Turquine, and he cried out: "Sir Knight! put that wounded
man down from his horse, and let him rest for a while, and we two will
prove our strength, the one against the other! For it is a shame for thee
to treat a noble knight of the Round Table with such despite as thou art
treating that knight."
"Sir," said Sir Turquine, "as I treat that knight, so treat I all knights
of the Round Table--and so will I treat thee if thou be of the Round
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "as for that, I am indeed of the Round Table,
and I have come hither for no other reason than for to do battle with
"Sir Knight," said Sir Turquine, "thou speakest very boldly; now I pray
thee to tell me what knight thou art and what is thy name."
"Messire," said Sir Launcelot, "I have no fear to do that. I am called Sir
Launcelot of the Lake, and I am a knight of King Arthur's, who made me
knight with his own hand."
"Ha!" said Sir Turquine, "that is very good news to me, for of all knights
in the world thou art the one I most desire to meet, for I have looked for
thee for a long while with intent to do battle with thee. For it was thou
who didst slay my brother Sir Caradus at Dolorous Gard, who was held to be
the best knight in all the world. Wherefore, because of this, I have the
greatest despite against thee of any man in the world, and it was because
of that despite that I waged particular battle against all the knights of
King Arthur's court. And in despite of thee I now hold five score and eight
knights, who are thy fellows, in the dismallest dungeon of my castle. Also
I have to tell thee that among those knights is thine own brother, Sir
Ector, and thy kinsman, Sir Lionel. For I overthrew Sir Ector and Sir
Lionel only a day or two ago, and now they lie almost naked in the lower
parts of that castle yonder. I will put down this knight as thou biddst me,
and when I have done battle with thee I hope to tie thee on his
saddle-horn in his place."
So Sir Turquine loosed the cords that bound Sir Gaheris and set him from
off the horse's back, and Sir Gaheris, who was sorely wounded and very
weak, sat him down upon a slab of stone near-by.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot and Sir Turquine do battle together] Then Sir
Launcelot and Sir Turquine made themselves ready at all points, and each
took such stand as seemed to him to be best; and when each was ready for
the assault, each set spurs to his horse and rushed the one against the
other with such terrible violence that they smote together like a clap of
So fierce was that onset that each horse fell back upon the ground and only
by great skill and address did the knight who rode him void his saddle, so
as to save himself from a fall. And in that meeting the horse of Sir
Turquine was killed outright and the back of Sir Launcelot's horse was
broken and he could not rise, but lay like dead upon the ground.
Then each knight drew his sword and set his shield before him and they came
together with such wrath that it appeared as though their fierce eyes shot
sparks of fire through the oculariums of their helmets. So they met and
struck; and they struck many scores of times, and their blows were so
violent that neither shield nor armor could withstand the strokes they
gave. For their shields were cleft and many pieces of armor were hewn from
their limbs, so that the ground was littered with them. And each knight
gave the other so many grim wounds that the ground presently was all
sprinkled with red where they stood.
Now that time the day had waxed very hot, for it was come high noontide, so
presently Sir Turquine cried out: "Stay thee, Sir Launcelot, for I have a
boon to ask!" At this Sir Launcelot stayed his hand and said: "What is it
thou hast to ask, Sir Knight?" Sir Turquine said: "Messire, I am
athirst--let me drink." And Sir Launcelot said: "Go and drink."
So Sir Turquine went to that river and entered into that water, which was
presently stained with red all about him. And he stooped where he stood and
drank his fill, and presently came forth again altogether refreshed.
Therewith he took up his sword once more and rushed at Sir Launcelot and
smote with double strength, so that Sir Launcelot bent before him and had
much ado to defend himself from these blows.
Then by and by Sir Launcelot waxed faint upon his part and was athirst, and
he cried out: "I crave of thee a boon, Sir Knight!" "What wouldst thou
have?" said Sir Turquine. "Sir Knight," said Sir Launcelot, "bide while I
drink, for I am athirst." "Nay," said Sir Turquine, "thou shalt not drink
until thou quenchest thy thirst in Paradise." "Ha!" cried Sir Launcelot,
"thou art a foul churl and no true knight. For when thou wert athirst, I
let thee drink; and now that I am athirst, thou deniest me to quench my
Therewith he was filled with such anger that he was like one gone wode;
wherefore he flung aside his shield and took his sword in both hands and
rushed upon Sir Turquine and smote him again and again; and the blows he
gave were so fierce that Sir Turquine waxed somewhat bewildered and bore
aback, and held his shield low for faintness.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overcometh Sir Turquine] Then when Sir Launcelot
beheld that Sir Turquine was faint in that wise, he rushed upon him and
catched him by the beaver of his helmet and pulled him down upon his knees.
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