The Story of the Champions of the Round Table
Part 2 out of 6
And Sir Launcelot rushed Sir Turquine's helmet from off his head. And he
lifted his sword and smote Sir Turquine's head from off his shoulders, so
that it rolled down upon the ground.
Then for a while Sir Launcelot stood there panting for to catch his breath
after that sore battle, for he was nearly stifled with the heat and fury
thereof. Then he went down into the water, and he staggered like a drunken
man as he went, and the water ran all red at his coming. And Sir Launcelot
stooped and slaked his thirst, which was very furious and hot.
Thereafter he came up out of the water again, all dripping, and he went to
where the damsel was and he said to her; "Damsel, lo, I have overcome Sir
Turquine; now I am ready to go with thee upon that other adventure, as I
promised thee I would."
At this the damsel was astonished beyond measure, wherefore she cried:
"Sir, thou art sorely hurt, and in need of rest for two or three days, and
maybe a long time more, until thy wounds are healed."
"Nay," said Sir Launcelot, "no need to wait; I will go with thee now."
Then Sir Launcelot went to Sir Gaheris--for Sir Gaheris had been sitting
for all that while upon that slab of stone. Sir Launcelot said to Sir
Gaheris: "Fair Lord, be not angry if I take your horse, for I must
presently go with this damsel, and you see mine own horse hath broke his
"Sir Knight," said Sir Gaheris, "this day you have saved both me and my
horse, wherefore it is altogether fitting that my horse or anything that is
mine should be yours to do with as you please. So I pray you take my horse,
only tell me your name and what knight you are; for I swear by my sword
that I never saw any knight in all the world do battle so wonderfully as
you have done to-day."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot makes himself known to Sir Gaheris] "Sir," said
Sir Launcelot, "I am called Sir Launcelot of the Lake, and I am a knight of
King Arthur's. So it is altogether fitting that I should do such service
unto you as this, seeing that you are the brother of that dear knight, Sir
Gawaine. For if I should not do this battle that I have done for your sake,
I should yet do it for the sake of my lord, King Arthur, who is your uncle
and Sir Gawaine's uncle."
Now when Sir Gaheris heard who Sir Launcelot was, he made great exclamation
of amazement. "Ha, Sir Launcelot!" he cried, "and is it thou! Often have I
heard of thee and of thy prowess at arms! I have desired to meet thee more
than any knight in the world; but never did I think to meet thee in such a
case as this." Therewith Sir Gaheris arose, and went to Sir Launcelot, and
Sir Launcelot came to him and they met and embraced and kissed one another
upon the face; and from that time forth they were as brethren together.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot bids Sir Gaheris to free the castle captives]
Then Sir Launcelot said to Sir Gaheris: "I pray you, Lord, for to go up
unto yonder castle, and bring succor to those unfortunates who lie therein.
For I think you will find there many fellow-knights of the Round Table. And
I believe that you will find therein my brother, Sir Ector, and my cousin,
Sir Lionel. And if you find any other of my kindred I pray you to set them
free and to do what you can for to comfort them and to put them at their
ease. And if there is any treasure in that castle, I bid you give it unto
those knights who are prisoners there, for to compensate them for the pains
they have endured. Moreover, I pray you tell Sir Ector and Sir Lionel not
to follow after me, but to return to court and wait for me there, for I
have two adventures to undertake and I must essay them alone."
Then Sir Gaheris was very much astonished, and he cried out upon Sir
Launcelot: "Sir! Sir! Surely you will not go forth upon another adventure
at this time, seeing that you are so sorely wounded."
But Sir Launcelot said: "Yea, I shall go now; for I do not think that my
wounds are so deep that I shall not be able to do my devoirs when my time
cometh to do them."
At this Sir Gaheris was amazed beyond measure, for Sir Launcelot was very
sorely wounded, and his armor was much broken in that battle, wherefore Sir
Gaheris had never beheld a person who was so steadfast of purpose as to do
battle in such a case.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot departs with the damsel] So Sir Launcelot mounted
Sir Gaheris' horse and rode away with that young damsel, and Sir Gaheris
went to the castle as Sir Launcelot had bidden him to do.
[Sidenote: Sir Gaheris frees the castle captives] In that castle he found
five score and eight prisoners in dreadful case, for some who were there
had been there for a long time, so that the hair of them had grown down
upon their shoulders, and their beards had grown down upon their breasts.
And some had been there but a short time, as was the case of Sir Lionel and
Sir Ector. But all were in a miserable sorry plight; and all of those sad
prisoners but two were knights of King Arthur's court, and eight of them
were knights of the Round Table. All these crowded around Sir Gaheris, for
they saw that he was wounded and they deemed that it was he had set them
free, wherefore they gave him thanks beyond measure.
"Not so," said Sir Gaheris, "it was not I who set you free; it was Sir
Launcelot of the Lake. He overcame Sir Turquine in such a battle as I never
before beheld. For I saw that battle with mine own eyes, being at a little
distance seated upon a stone slab and wounded as you see. And I make my
oath that I never beheld so fierce and manful a combat in all of my life.
But now your troubles are over and done, and Sir Launcelot greets you all
with words of good cheer and bids me tell you to take all ease and comfort
that you can in being free, and in especial he bids me greet you, Sir
Ector, and you, Sir Lionel, and to tell you that you are to follow him no
farther, but to return to court and bide there until he cometh; for he
goeth upon an adventure which he must undertake by himself."
[Sidenote: Sir Lionel and Sir Ector and Sir Kay follow after Sir
Launcelot] "Not so," said Sir Lionel, "I will follow after him, and find
him." And so said Sir Ector likewise, that he would go and find Sir
Launcelot. Then Sir Kay the Seneschal said that he would ride with those
two; so the three took horse and rode away together to find Sir Launcelot.
As for those others, they ransacked throughout the castle of Sir Turquine,
and they found twelve treasure-chests full of treasure, both of silver and
of gold, together with many precious jewels; and they found many bales of
cloth of silk and of cloth of gold. So, as Sir Launcelot had bid them do
so, they divided the treasure among themselves, setting aside a part for
Sir Ector and a part for Sir Lionel and a part for Sir Kay. Then, whereas
before they had been mournful, now they were joyful at having been made so
rich with those precious things.
Thus happily ended that great battle with Sir Turquine which was very
likely the fiercest and most dolorous fight that ever Sir Launcelot had in
all of his life. For, unless it was Sir Tristram, he never found any other
knight so big as Sir Turquine except Sir Galahad, who was his own son.
And now it shall be told how Sir Launcelot fared upon that adventure which
he had promised the young damsel to undertake.
[Illustration: Sir Launcelot sits with Sir Hilaire and Croisette]
_How Sir Launcelot Went Upon an Adventure with the Damsel Croisette as
Companion, and How He Overcame Sir Peris of the Forest Sauvage._
Now after Sir Launcelot had finished that battle with Sir Turquine as
aforetold, and when he had borrowed the horse of Sir Gaheris, he rode away
from that place of combat with the young damsel, with intent to carry out
the other adventure which he had promised her to undertake.
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot's wounds pain him] But though he rode with
her, yet, for a while, he said very little to her, for his wounds ached him
sorely and he was in a great deal of pain. So, because of this, he had
small mind to talk, but only to endure what he had to endure with as much
patience as he might command. And the damsel upon her part was somewhat
aware of what Sir Launcelot was suffering and she was right sorry for him,
wherefore she did not trouble him with idle discourse at that moment, but
waited for a while before she spake.
Then by and by she said to him: "Messire, I would that thou wouldst rest
for some days, and take thine ease, and have thy wounds searched and
dressed, and have thy armor looked to and redded. Now there is a castle at
some distance from this, and it is my brother's castle, and thither we may
go in a little pass. There thou mayst rest for this night and take thine
ease. For I know that my brother will be wonderfully glad to see thee
because thou art so famous."
Then Sir Launcelot turned his eyes upon the damsel: "Fair maiden," quoth
he, "I make confession that I do in sooth ache a very great deal, and that
I am somewhat aweary with the battle I have endured this day. Wherefore I
am very well content to follow thy commands in this matter. But I prithee,
damsel, tell me what is thy name, for I know not yet how thou art called."
"Sir," she said, "I am called Croisette of the Dale, and my brother is
called Sir Hilaire of the Dale, and it is to his castle that I am about to
take thee to rest for this time."
Then Sir Launcelot said: "I go with thee, damsel, wherever it is thy will
to take me."
[Sidenote: Of how Sir Launcelot and the damsel ride together] So they two
rode through that valley at a slow pace and very easily. And toward the
waning of the afternoon they left the valley by a narrow side way, and so
in a little while came into a shallow dale, very fertile and smiling, but
of no great size. For the more part that dale was all spread over with
fields and meadow-lands, with here and there a plantation of trees in full
blossom and here and there a farm croft. A winding river flowed down
through the midst of this valley, very quiet and smooth, and brimming its
grassy banks, where were alder and sedge and long rows of pollard willows
overreaching the water.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot and Croisette come to a fair valley] At the
farther end of the valley was a castle of very comely of appearance, being
built part of stone and part of bright red bricks; and the castle had many
windows of glass and tall chimneys, some a-smoke. About the castle and nigh
to it was a little village of thatched cottages, with many trees in blossom
and some without blossom shading the gables of the small houses that took
shelter beneath them.
Now when Sir Launcelot and Croisette came into that little valley it was at
the declining of the day and the sky was all alight with the slanting sun,
and the swallows were flying above the smooth shining surface of the river
in such multitudes that it was wonderful to behold them. And the lowing
herds were winding slowly along by the river in their homeward way, and all
was so peaceful and quiet that Sir Launcelot drew rein for pure pleasure,
and sat for some while looking down upon that fair, happy dale. Then by and
by he said: "Croisette, meseems I have never beheld so sweet and fair a
country as this, nor one in which it would be so pleasant to live."
Upon this Croisette was very much pleased, and she smiled upon Sir
Launcelot. "Think you so, Sir Launcelot?" quoth she. "Well, in sooth, I am
very glad that this valley pleasures you; for I love it beyond any other
place in all the world. For here was I born and here was I raised in that
castle yonder. For that is my brother's castle and it was my father's
castle before his time; wherefore meseems that no place in all the world
can ever be so dear to my heart as this dale."
[Sidenote: Croisette bringeth Sir Launcelot to her brother's house]
Thereupon they went forward up that little valley, and along by the
smoothly flowing river, and the farther they went the more Sir Launcelot
took pleasure in all that he beheld. Thus they came through the pretty
village where the folk stood and watched with great admiration how that
noble knight rode that way; and so they came to the castle and rode into
the court-yard thereof. Then presently there came the lord of that castle,
who was Sir Hilaire of the Dale. And Sir Hilaire greeted Sir Launcelot,
saying: "Welcome, Sir Knight. This is great honor you do me to come into
this quiet dale with my sister, for we do not often have with us travellers
of such quality as you."
"Brother," said Croisette, "you may well say that it is an honor to have
this knight with us, for this is none other knight than the great Sir
Launcelot of the Lake. This day I beheld him overcome Sir Turquine in fair
and honorable battle. So he doth indeed do great honor for to visit us in
Then Sir Hilaire looked at Sir Launcelot very steadily, and he said: "Sir
Launcelot, your fame is so great that it hath reached even unto this
peaceful outland place; wherefore it shall not soon be forgotten here how
you came hither. Now, I pray you, come in and refresh yourself, for I see
that you are wounded and I doubt not you are weary."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot is made at ease] Upon this several attendants
came, and they took Sir Launcelot and led him to a pleasant chamber. There
they unarmed him and gave him a bath in tepid water, and there came a leech
and searched his wounds and dressed them. Then those in attendance upon him
gave him a soft robe of cloth of velvet, and when Sir Launcelot had put it
on he felt much at ease, and in great comfort of body.
By and by, when evening had fallen, a very good, excellent feast was spread
in the hall of the castle, and there sat down thereto Sir Launcelot and Sir
Hilaire and the damsel Croisette. As they ate they discoursed of various
things, and Sir Launcelot told many things concerning his adventures, so
that all who were there were very quiet, listening to what he said. For it
was as though he were a visitor come to them from some other world, very
strange and distant, of which they had no knowledge, wherefore they all
listened so as not to lose a single word of what he told them. So that
evening passed very pleasantly, and Sir Launcelot went to his bed with
great content of spirit.
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot abides at the castle of Sir Hilaire] So Sir
Launcelot abided for several days in that place until his wounds were
healed. Then one morning, after they had all broken their fast, he made
request that he and the damsel might be allowed to depart upon that
adventure which he had promised her to undertake, and unto this Sir Hilaire
gave his consent.
Now, during this while, Sir Launcelot's armor had been so pieced and mended
by the armor-smiths of that castle that when he donned it it was, in a
measure, as sound as it had ever been, and of that Sir Launcelot was very
glad. So having made ready in all ways he and Croisette took leave of that
place, and all they who were there bade them adieu and gave Sir Launcelot
God-speed upon that adventure.
Now some while after they left that dale they rode through a very ancient
forest, where the sod was exceedingly soft underfoot and silent to the
tread of the horses, and where it was very full of bursting foliage
overhead. And as they rode at an easy pace through that woodland place they
talked of many things in a very pleasant and merry discourse.
Quoth the damsel unto Sir Launcelot: "Messire, I take very great wonder
that thou hast not some special lady for to serve in all ways as a knight
should serve a lady."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot and Croisette discourse together] "Ha, damsel,"
said Sir Launcelot, "I do serve a lady in that manner and she is peerless
above all other ladies; for that lady is the Lady Guinevere, who is King
Arthur's queen. Yet though I am her servant I serve her from a very great
distance. For in serving her I am like one who standeth upon the earth, yet
looketh upward ever toward the bright and morning star. For though such an
one may delight in that star from a distance, yet may he never hope to
reach an altitude whereon that star standeth."
"Heyday!" quoth Croisette, "for that matter, there are other ways of
serving a lady than that wise. Were I a knight meseems I would rather serve
a lady nearer at hand than at so great distance as that of which thou
speakest. For in most cases a knight would rather serve a lady who may
smile upon him nigh at hand, and not stand so far off from him as a star in
the sky." But to this Sir Launcelot made no reply but only smiled. Then in
a little Croisette said: "Dost thou never think of a lady in that wise, Sir
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot speaketh of the Lady Guinevere] "Nay," said Sir
Launcelot, "and neither do I desire so to serve any lady. For it is thus
with me, Croisette--for all that while of my life until I was eighteen
years of age I lived in a very wonderful land beneath a magical lake, of
which I may not tell thee. Then I came out of that lake and into this world
and King Arthur made me a knight. Now because I was so long absent from
this world of mankind and never saw aught of it until I was grown into a
man, meseems I love that world so greatly that I cannot tell thee how
beautiful and wonderful it seems to me. For it is so wonderful and so
beautiful that methinks my soul can never drink its fill of the pleasures
thereof. Yea; methinks I love every blade of grass upon the fields, and
every leaf upon every tree: and that I love everything that creepeth or
that flyeth, so that when I am abroad under the sky and behold those things
about me I am whiles like to weep for very joy of them. Wherefore it is,
Croisette, that I would rather be a knight-errant in this world which I
love so greatly than to be a king seated upon a throne with a golden crown
upon my head and all men kneeling unto me. Yea; meseems that because of my
joy in these things I have no room in my heart for such a love of lady as
thou speakest of, but only for the love of knight-errantry, and a great
wish for to make this world in which I now live the better and the happier
for my dwelling in it. Thus it is, Croisette, that I have no lady for to
serve in the manner thou speakest of. Nor will I ever have such, saving
only the Lady Guinevere, the thought of whom standeth above me like that
bright star afore spoken of."
"Ha," quoth Croisette, "then am I sad for the sake of some lady, I know not
who. For if thou wert of another mind thou mightest make some lady very
glad to have so great a knight as thou art to serve her." Upon this Sir
Launcelot laughed with a very cheerful spirit, for he and the damsel were
grown to be exceedingly good friends, as you may suppose from such
discourse as this.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot perceives the Castle of Sir Peris] So they wended
their way in this fashion until somewhat after the prime of day, and by
that time they had come out of that forest and into a very rugged country.
For this place into which they were now come was a sort of rocky valley,
rough and bare and in no wise beautiful. When they had entered into it they
perceived, a great way off, a castle built up upon the rocks. And that
castle was built very high, so that the roofs and the chimneys thereof
stood wonderfully sharp and clear against the sky; yet the castle was so
distant that it looked like a toy which you might easily take into your
hand and hold betwixt your fingers.
Then Croisette said to Sir Launcelot: "Yonder is the castle of that
evil-minded knight of whom I spake to thee yesterday, and his name is Sir
Peris of the Forest Sauvage. Below that castle, where the road leads into
that woodland, there doth he lurk to seize upon wayfarers who come
thitherward. And indeed he is a very catiff knight, for, though he is
strong and powerful, he doth not often attack other knights, but only
ladies and demoiselles who come hither. For these he may take captive
without danger to himself. For I believe that though he is so big of frame
yet is he a coward in his heart."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot advises Croisette what to do] Then Sir Launcelot
sat for a while and regarded that castle, and fell into thought; and he
said, "Damsel, if so be this knight is such a coward as thou sayest,
meseems that if I travel with thee I shall have some ado to come upon him;
because, if he sees me with thee, he may keep himself hidden in the thicket
of the forest from my sight. Now I will have it this way; do thou ride
along the highway in plain sight of the castle, and I will keep within the
woodland skirts, where I may have thee in sight and still be hidden from
the sight of others. Then if this knight assail thee, as I think it likely
he may do, I will come out and do battle with him ere he escapes."
So it was arranged as Sir Launcelot said and they rode in that wise:
Croisette rode along the highway, and Sir Launcelot rode under the trees in
the outskirts of the forest, where he was hidden from the eyes of anyone
who might be looking that way. So they went on for a long pass until they
came pretty nigh to where the castle was.
[Sidenote: Sir Peris attacks Croisette] Then, as they came to a certain
part of the road that dipped down toward a small valley, they were suddenly
aware of a great noise, and immediately there issued out from the forest a
knight, large and strong of frame, and followed close behind by a squire
dressed altogether in scarlet from head to foot. This knight bore down with
great speed upon where Croisette was, and the esquire followed close behind
him. When these two had come near to Croisette, the esquire leaped from off
his horse and caught her palfrey by the bridle, and the knight came close
to her and catched her as though to drag her off from her horse.
With that Croisette shrieked very loud, and immediately Sir Launcelot broke
out from the woods and rode down upon where all this was toward with a
noise like to thunder. As he came he cried aloud in a great and terrible
voice: "Sir Knight, let go that lady, and turn thou to me and defend
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overthrows Sir Peris] Then Sir Peris of the
Forest Sauvage looked this way and that with intent to escape, but he was
aware that he could not escape from Sir Launcelot, wherefore he took his
shield in hand and drew his sword and put himself into a position of
defence; for, whereas he could not escape, he was, perforce, minded to do
battle. Then Sir Launcelot threw aside his spear, and he set his shield
before him and he took his sword in his hand, and he drave his horse
against Sir Peris. And when he had come nigh to Sir Peris he raised himself
in his stirrups and struck him such a buffet that I believe nothing in the
world could withstand its force. For though Sir Peris raised his shield
against that blow, yet the sword of Sir Launcelot smote through the shield
and it smote down the arm that held the shield, and it smote with such a
terrible force upon the helm of Sir Peris that Sir Peris fell down from his
horse and lay in a swoon without any motion at all.
Then Sir Launcelot leaped down from his horse and rushed off the helm of
Sir Peris, and lifted his sword with intent to strike off his head.
Upon that the senses of Sir Peris came somewhat back to him, and he set his
palms together and he cried out, though in a very weak voice: "Spare me,
Sir Knight! I yield myself to thee!"
"Why should I spare thee?" said Sir Launcelot.
"Sir," said Sir Peris, "I beseech thee, by thy knighthood, to spare me."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "since thou hast besought me upon my knighthood
I cannot do else than spare thee. But if I do spare thee, thou shalt have
to endure such shame that any true knight in thy stead would rather die
than be spared in such a manner."
"Sir Knight," said Sir Peris, "I am content with anything thou mayst do, so
be that thou wilt spare my life."
Upon this Sir Launcelot bade Sir Peris rise. And he took the halter of Sir
Peris's horse, and he bound Sir Peris's arms behind his back, and when he
had done this he drove him up to his castle at the point of his lance. And
when they came to the castle he bade Sir Peris have open the castle; and
Sir Peris did so; and thereupon Sir Launcelot and Sir Peris entered the
castle and the damsel and the squire followed after them.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot liberates the captive ladies] In that castle were
fourteen ladies of high degree held captive for ransom; and some of these
had been there for a considerable time, to their great discomfort. All
these were filled with joy when they were aware that Sir Launcelot had set
them free. So they came to Sir Launcelot and paid their court to him and
gave him great thanks beyond measure.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot gives the castle treasure to the captive ladies]
Sir Launcelot and Croisette abode in that castle all that night, and when
the next morning had come Sir Launcelot made search all over that castle,
and he found a considerable treasure of silver and gold, which had been
gathered there by the ransom of the ladies and the damsels of degree whom
Sir Peris had made prisoner aforetime. All this treasure Sir Launcelot
divided among those ladies who were prisoners, and a share of the treasure
he gave to the damsel Croisette, because that they two were such good
friends and because Croisette had brought him thither to that adventure,
and thereof Croisette was very glad. But Sir Launcelot kept none of that
treasure for himself.
Then Croisette said: "How is this, Sir Launcelot? You have not kept any of
this treasure for yourself, yet you won it by your own force of arms,
wherefore it is altogether yours to keep if you will to do so."
"Croisette," said Sir Launcelot, "I do not care for such things as this
treasure; for when I lived within that lake of which I have spoken to thee,
such things as this treasure were there as cheap as pebbles which you may
gather up at any river-bed, wherefore it has come to pass that such things
have no value to me."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot makes Sir Peris a dishonored captive] Now, after
all this had been settled, Sir Launcelot had Sir Peris of the Forest
Sauvage haled before him, and Sir Launcelot said: "Catiff Knight, now is it
time for thy shame to come upon thee." Therewith he had Sir Peris stripped
of all armor and raiment, even to his jerkin and his hose, and he had his
arms tied behind his back, and he had a halter set about his neck; and Sir
Launcelot tied the halter that was about the neck of Sir Peris to the horn
of the saddle of his own horse, so that when he rode away with Croisette
Sir Peris must needs follow behind him at whatever gait the horse of Sir
Launcelot might take.
[Sidenote: Sir Hilaire sendeth Sir Peris to King Arthur] So Sir Launcelot
and Croisette rode back to the manor of Sir Hilaire of the Dale with Sir
Peris running behind them, and when they had come there Sir Launcelot
delivered Sir Peris unto Sir Hilaire, and Sir Hilaire had Sir Peris bound
upon a horse's back with his feet underneath the belly of the horse; and
sent him to Camelot for King Arthur to deal with him as might seem to the
King to be fit.
But Sir Launcelot remained with Sir Hilaire of the Dale all the next day
and he was very well content to be in that pleasant place. And upon the day
after that, which was Sunday, he set forth at about the prime of the day to
go to that abbey of monks where he had appointed to meet the damsel Elouise
the Fair, as aforetold.
And now you shall hear how Sir Launcelot behaved at the tournament of King
Bagdemagus, if it please you to read that which herewith immediately
[Illustration: Sir Launcelot and Elouise the Fair]
_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._
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot rode to find Elouise the Fair] Sir Launcelot
rode by many highways and many byways at a very slow pace, stopping now and
then when it pleased him to do so, for he took great joy in being free in
the open air again. For the day was warm and that time the clouds were very
thick, drifting in great abundance across the sky. And anon there would
fall a sudden shower of rain, and anon the sun would shine forth again,
very warm and strong, so that all the world sparkled as with incredible
myriads of jewels. Then the cock crowed lustily because the shower was
past, and another cock answered him far away, and all the world suddenly
smiled, and the water trickled everywhere, and the little hills clapped
their hands for joy. So Sir Launcelot took great pleasure in the day and he
went his way at so easy a pace that it was night-time ere he reached that
abbey of monks where he was to meet Elouise the Fair.
Now that evening Elouise was sitting in a certain apartment of the abbey
overlooking the court-yard, and a maiden was reading to her by the light of
several waxen tapers from a book of painted pictures. And the maiden read
in a voice that was both high and clear; meanwhile, Elouise sat very still
and listened to what she read. Now while Elouise the Fair sat so, there was
of a sudden the sound of a great horse coming on the stone pavement of the
court below. Therewith Elouise arose hastily and ran to the window and
looked down into that court-yard. Then she saw who he was that came, and
that it was Sir Launcelot of the Lake. For the light was not yet altogether
gone from the sky, which was all shining with gray, so that she could see
who it was who came there.
Then Elouise gave great exclamation of joy, and clapped her hands. And she
ran down to the court where Sir Launcelot was, and several of her maidens
went with her.
[Sidenote: Elouise the Fair gives welcome to Sir Launcelot] When she had
come to the court she gave great welcome to Sir Launcelot, and she summoned
many attendants and she bade them look to Sir Launcelot. So some of them
aided Sir Launcelot to dismount and some took his horse, and some brought
him up to a chamber that had been set apart for him, and there unarmed and
served him, and set him at his ease.
Then Elouise sent to him a soft robe of purple cloth of velvet, lined with
fur, and Sir Launcelot put it upon him and took great comfort in it.
After that Sir Launcelot descended to where Elouise was, and he found that
a fair supper had been set for his refreshment. So he sat and ate, and
Elouise the Fair herself served him.
[Sidenote: Elouise sends for King Bagdemagus] Meanwhile she had sent for
her father, King Bagdemagus, who was at that time no great distance away,
and a little after Sir Launcelot had finished his supper King Bagdemagus
came to that place, much wondering why Elouise had sent for him.
When King Bagdemagus came, Elouise took him by the hand and led him to Sir
Launcelot, and she said: "Sire, here is a knight who, for my sake, is come
to help you in this tournament upon Tuesday."
Now King Bagdemagus had never before seen Sir Launcelot, so he knew not who
that knight was. Wherefore he said to him: "Messire, I am much beholden to
you for coming to my aid in this battle. Now I pray you that you tell me
your name and what knight you are."
"Lord," said Sir Launcelot, "I am hight Launcelot, and am surnamed 'He of
Now when King Bagdemagus heard this he was astonished beyond measure,
wherefore he cried out, "This is wonderful, that you who are the very
flower of knighthood should be here, and that you should come to aid me in
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot talks with King Bagdemagus] "Sire," said Sir
Launcelot, "I know not how much aid I may be to thee until that matter is
proven. But of a surety I owe it to this damsel to do what I am able at her
request, in return for all that she hath done for me to aid me in my time
of great peril. So it is a very small repayment for me to aid thee, her
father, in thy time of difficulties. Wherefore if, by good hap, I may be of
use to thee in this battle which is nigh at hand, then I shall be glad
beyond measure that I have paid some part of that debt which I owe to this
"Messire," said King Bagdemagus, "I give thee grammercy for thy good will
in this matter. I am sure that, with thy aid, I shall be successful in this
battle, and that it will always be most renowned in the history of chivalry
because thou hast taken part in it."
So spake they with great courtesy to one another. Then, by and by, Sir
Launcelot said: "Sir, I pray you tell me who are those knights of King
Arthur's court who are upon the part of the King of North Wales? For I
would fain know against whom I am to do battle." To which King Bagdemagus
said: "Messire, those three knights of the Round Table are as
follows--there is Sir Mordred, nephew unto King Arthur, and there is Sir
Galahantine, and there is Sir Mador de la Porte."
"Ha," quoth Sir Launcelot, "these are three very good knights indeed, and I
am not at all astonished that the King of North Wales should have had such
good fortune aforetime in that other tournament with you, seeing that he
had three such knights as they to do battle upon his side."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot arranges the order of battle with King
Bagdemagus] After this they fell into discourse as to the manner in which
they should do battle upon the morrow, and Sir Launcelot advised in this
wise: "Lord, let me take three knights of yours, such as you trust, and
such as you hold to be the strongest knights of your party. Let these three
knights paint their shields altogether white and I will paint mine white,
and then no man will know who we are. For I would have it so that I should
not be known to be in this battle until I shall have approved myself in it.
Now, when you have chosen those three knights, we four will take hiding in
some wood or glade nigh to the place of combat, and when you are most
busily engaged, and when you begin to be hard-pressed, then we will come
forth and fall upon the flank of the party of the King of North Wales with
intent to throw them into confusion. Then you will push your assault very
hard, and I doubt not by the grace of God that we shall betwixt us be able
to bear back their array in confusion."
This advice seemed very good to King Bagdemagus, and so he did as Sir
Launcelot said. He chose him three very strong, worthy, honorable knights,
and these made their shields white as Sir Launcelot directed.
Thus, all things being arranged as Sir Launcelot willed, it came to be the
eve before the battle. So a little after sunset Sir Launcelot and those
three knights whom King Bagdemagus had chosen rode over toward the place of
tourney (which was some twelve miles from the abbey where the damsel
Elouise was lodged). There they found a little woodland of tall, leafy
trees fit for Sir Launcelot's purpose, and that wood stood to one side of
the meadow of battle and at about the distance of three furlongs from it.
In this little wood Sir Launcelot and the three knights-companion whom King
Bagdemagus had chosen laid themselves down upon the ground and wrapped,
each man, his cloak about him. So they slept there until the morrow, when
the battle was ordained to be.
Now there had been very great preparation made for this tournament for on
three sides of the meadow of battle scaffolds had been built and rows of
seats had been placed. These were covered over with tapestries and hangings
of divers colors--some of figured and some of plain weaving--so that the
green and level meadow-land was hung all about with these gay and gaudy
Now when the morning had come, the folk who came to witness that tournament
began to assemble from all directions--lords and ladies of high degree,
esquires and damsels of lesser rank, burghers and craftsmen with their
wives, townspeople from the town, yeomen from the woodlands, and
freeholders from the farm crofts. With these came many knights of the two
parties in contest, and with the knights came their esquires in attendance.
Now these knights were all in full armor, shining very bright, and the
esquires were clad in raiment of many textures and various colors, so that
they were very gay and debonair. So, with all this throng moving along the
highway toward the meadow of battle, it seemed as though the entire world
was alive with gay and moving figures.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot and his companions lie near the place of
tournament] Now the place where Sir Launcelot and those three knights who
were with him lay hidden was not far from the highway, so, whence they lay,
they could see all that goodly procession of folk taking their way toward
the lists, and they could look down upon the meadow of battle, which, as
hath been said, was not more than three furlongs distant, and they could
see the crowds of people of high and low degree taking their places upon
those seats according to their rank and station. And they could see how the
knights-contestant arrayed themselves upon this side of the field and upon
that, and how the esquires and attendants hurried hither and thither,
busying themselves in making their lords ready for the encounter that was
soon to befall. Yea, all this could they see as plainly as though it lay
upon the palm of a hand.
So they saw that about noontide all those who had come thither had taken
their places, and that the field was clean, and that the two parties of
combat were arrayed in order for battle.
Then Sir Launcelot perceived that the party of the King of North Wales was
very much greater than the party of King Bagdemagus; for while the party of
the King of North Wales had nigh eight score of helms, the party of King
Bagdemagus had hardly four score of helms. So Sir Launcelot perceived that
that party of King Bagdemagus would have much labor to do if it was to win
in the battle.
[Sidenote: How the battle began] Now, all being prepared, the marshal
stood forth and blew upon his trumpet, and therewith those two parties of
knights rushed the one against the other, each in so great a cloud of dust
that one could hardly see the knights in their passage. Therewith they met
in the midst of the meadow of battle, with such a crash and uproar of
splintered lances as was terrible to hear.
And for a while no man could see what was toward, so great was the dust and
the tumult. But by and by the dust raised itself a little and then Sir
Launcelot perceived that the party of King Bagdemagus had been pushed back
by that other party, as might have been supposed in such a case.
So Sir Launcelot looked upon the battle for some while and he saw that the
party of King Bagdemagus was pushed farther and farther back. Then by and
by Sir Launcelot said to his knights-companion: "Messires, methinks now is
our time to enter this engagement."
Therewith he and they rode forth out of that woods, and they rode down the
hill and across the fields and so came into that meadow-of-battle.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot and his companions enter the battle] At that time
the party of the King of North Wales was so busily engaged in its assault
upon the party of King Bagdemagus that very few of those knights engaged
were aware of those four knights coming, and those who were aware of them
thought but very little of the coming of so small a number. So no one
interfered with their coming, wherefore they were able to bear down with
great speed upon the flank of the party of the King of North Wales.
Therewith they struck that flank with such force that both horses and
horsemen were overturned by their assault.
In that encounter Sir Launcelot carried a spear that was wonderfully strong
and tough. With it he ran with great fierceness into the very thickest of
the press, and before he was checked he struck down five knights with that
one spear. And likewise those three knights that were with him did such
good service that all that flank of the party of the King of North Wales
was thrown into great confusion and wist not what to do for to guard
themselves against that fierce, furious onset.
Then Sir Launcelot and his three companions bore back a little, and when
they got their distance they ran again into the press, and this time Sir
Launcelot overthrew the King of North Wales himself, and that with such
violence that the bone of his thigh was broken, and he had to be carried
away out of that field by his attendants. And in this second assault Sir
Launcelot and the three knights who were with him overthrew eleven knights
besides the King of North Wales, wherefore all that part of the press began
to break away from them and to seek some place where they could defend
themselves from such another assault.
Now when the party of King Bagdemagus saw into what confusion the other
party were thrown by these four knights-champion, they began a very fierce
and furious attack, and with such vehemence that in a little the party of
the King of North Wales began to bear back before them. So, what with those
who withdrew before Sir Launcelot's assault, and what with those who
withdrew from the assault of King Bagdemagus, there was a great deal of
confusion in the ranks of the party of the King of North Wales.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overthrows Sir Mordred] Now those three knights
who were of King Arthur's court perceived how Sir Launcelot and his
knights-companion were throwing the ranks of the party of the King of North
Wales into confusion, and they knew that unless the onset of Sir Launcelot
was checked, the day would of a surety be lost unto them. Wherefore said
Sir Mador de la Porte: "Yonder is a very strong and fierce-fighting knight;
if we do not check his onset we will very likely be brought to shame in
this battle." "Yea," said Sir Mordred, "that is so. Now I will take it upon
me to joust with that knight and to overthrow him." Upon that those other
two knights bade him go and do as he said. So Sir Mordred made way to where
Sir Launcelot was, coming forward very fiercely and with great violence,
and Sir Launcelot was aware of Sir Mordred's coming and made him ready for
that assault. So the two came together with terrible violence and Sir
Launcelot struck Sir Mordred such a buffet that the breast-band of Sir
Mordred's saddle brake, and both the saddle and Sir Mordred flew over his
horse's tail. Therewith Sir Mordred fell upon his head and struck with such
violence upon the ground that his neck was nigh broken, and he lay
altogether in a dead swoon and had to be carried out of the lists by his
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overthrows Sir Mador] This saw Sir Mador de la
Porte, and he cried out: "Ha! see what hath befallen Sir Mordred!" And
therewith he also bare down upon Sir Launcelot with all his might and main
with intent to overthrow him. And Sir Launcelot ran against him, and they
struck together so fiercely that it was terrible to behold. But the spear
of Sir Mador de la Porte burst into pieces, whilst the spear of Sir
Launcelot held, so that both Sir Mador and his horse were overthown, the
horse rolling upon the man. And in that encounter Sir Mador's shoulder went
out of place, and he also had to be borne away by his attendants.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot strikes Sir Galahantine a sad blow] Then Sir
Galahantine took a great spear from his esquire, who was nigh him, and he
also ran against Sir Launcelot with all his might; and Sir Launcelot met
him in full course and that onset was more terrible than either of the
other two. For the spear of each knight was burst into splinters, even to
the butt thereof. Then each threw away the butt of his spear and drew out
his sword, and Sir Galahantine struck Sir Launcelot such a blow that the
legs of Sir Launcelot's horse trembled under him because of the weight of
that stroke. At this Sir Launcelot waxed wroth beyond measure and he rose
in his stirrups and he smote Sir Galahantine such a buffet that the blood
burst out from his nose and his ears, and all his senses so went away from
him that he might hardly behold the light of day because of the swimming of
Therewith Sir Galahantine's head hung down upon his breast and he had no
power to guide his horse, wherefore his horse made way out of the press and
galloped off, bearing Sir Galahantine away, whether he would or no. And
after the horse had galloped a little distance Sir Galahantine could not
any longer sit upon his saddle, but he fell off of his horse and rolled
over upon the ground and had not strength to rise therefrom.
Then Sir Launcelot catched another spear, great and strong, from the
esquire who followed him, and before ever that spear broke he overthrew
sixteen knights therewith. Wherefore all who beheld him were amazed and
terrified at what he did.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot wins the battle for King Bagdemagus] By now the
party of the King of North Wales began to bear more and more aback and in a
little they broke, and then the party of King Bagdemagus pursued them
hither and thither, and those who did not surrender were overthrown so that
it was not possible for them to make any new order of battle. Then that
party surrendered itself as conquered, one and all, and so King Bagdemagus
won that tournament with the greatest glory that it was possible for him to
have. For it had never been heard of before that a party of four-score
knights should overcome in that way a party of eight-score knights, with
three knights of the Round Table to champion them. Nor would such a victory
have been possible only for what Sir Launcelot did in that battle.
So Sir Launcelot won that tournament for King Bagdemagus, and after the
battle was over and done King Bagdemagus came to Sir Launcelot and said to
him: "Messire, thou hast brought to me the greatest glory this day that
ever fell to my lot in all of my life. Now I prithee come with me and
refresh thyself with me, so that I may give thee fitting thanks for all
thou hast done, and so that I may reward thee in such a way as is fit for a
king to reward a knight-champion such as thou art."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot departs without reward] Unto this Sir Launcelot
made reply: "Lord, I give you thanks for your courtesy, but I need no
reward; for it is meet that I should have done what I could for the sake of
the demoiselle Elouise the Fair, seeing that she rescued me from the
mischiefs that Queen Morgana had intent to do me."
Then King Bagdemagus besought Sir Launcelot that he would tarry awhile and
rest, but Sir Launcelot would not do so, but would be going upon his way
without any tarrying. But he said to King Bagdemagus: "I prithee greet your
daughter for me, and say to her that if ever she hath need of my services
again let her send to me, and I will come to her even if it be to the end
of the earth. For I have not yet repaid her for what she hath done for me."
Therewith Sir Launcelot went his way from that meadow of battle, and,
coming to the skirts of the forest he entered therein, and those who were
there at the meadow of battle did not see him any more.
So endeth the history of that famous tournament betwixt King Bagdemagus and
the King of North Wales.
[Illustration: Sir Launcelot climbs to catch the lady's falcon]
_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._
Now Sir Launcelot wandered errant for many days, meeting no adventure of
any moment, but taking great joy in all that he beheld of the wide world
about him, and in that time he found lodging wheresoever he chanced to be
(if not in house, then beneath the skies), and he endured all sorts of
weather, both wet and dry.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot cometh to a fair valley with a castle] Upon a
certain day, in the prime of the morning, he came across a hilltop, and
beheld beneath him a valley, very fertile and well-tilled, with fields and
meadow-lands spread all over it like to a fair green carpet woven in divers
patterns. And in the midst of the valley was a very large and noble castle,
with many towers, and tall, steep roofs, and clustering chimneys. So Sir
Launcelot descended into that valley, and the road which he took ended in
front of the castle and under the shade of the tall gray walls thereof. But
he did not stop at that castle but went on by it.
Now after Sir Launcelot had passed by that castle it seemed to him that he
heard very delicate silver bells ringing sweetly in the air above him, and
when he looked up he beheld that a falcon was flying over his head toward a
high elm tree that stood at a little distance, and he wist that it was the
bells upon the cap of the falcon that rang so sweetly. And Sir Launcelot
beheld that long lunes hung from the feet of the falcon as she flew,
wherefore he was aware that the falcon had slipped her lunes and had flown
from her owner.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot beholdeth a falcon entangled] So Sir Launcelot
watched the falcon, and he beheld that she lit in a tall elm tree, where
she took her perch and rested, balancing with her wings part spread. Then
by and by she would have taken her flight again, but the lunes about her
feet had become entangled around the bough on which she sat, so that when
she would have flown she could not do so. Now Sir Launcelot was very sorry
to see the falcon beating herself in that wise, straining to escape from
where she was prisoner, but he knew not what to do to aid her, for the tree
was very high, and he was no good climber of trees.
While he stood there watching that falcon he heard the portcullis of the
castle lifted, with a great noise, and the drawbridge let fall, and
therewith there came a lady riding out of the castle very rapidly upon a
white mule, and she rode toward where Sir Launcelot watched the falcon upon
the tree. When that lady had come nigh to Sir Launcelot, she cried out to
him: "Sir Knight, didst thou see a falcon fly this way?" Sir Launcelot
said: "Yea, Lady, and there she hangs, caught by her lunes in yonder
Then when that lady beheld how that her falcon hung there she smote her
hands together, crying out: "Alas, alas! what shall I do? That falcon is my
lord's favorite hawk! While I was playing with her a while since, she
slipped from me and took flight, and has sped as thou dost see. Now when my
lord findeth that I have lost his hawk in that wise he will be very angry
with me, and will haply do me some grievous hurt."
[Sidenote: The Lady beseeches Sir Launcelot to get her the falcon again]
Quoth Sir Launcelot: "Lady, I am very sorry for you." "Sir," she said, "it
boots nothing for you to be sorry for me unless you can aid me." "How may I
aid you in this?" said Sir Launcelot. "Messire," quoth she, "how otherwise
could you aid me than by climbing up into this tree for my hawk? For if you
aid me not in such a fashion, I know not what I shall do, for my lord hath
a very hot and violent temper, and he is not likely to brook having his
favorite hawk lost to him, as it is like to be."
Upon this Sir Launcelot was put to a great pass and knew not what to do,
for he had no good mind to climb that tree. "Lady," quoth he, "I prithee
tell me what is thy lord's name." "Messire," she replied, "he is hight Sir
Phelot, and is a knight of the court of the King of North Wales."
"Well, Lady," said Sir Launcelot, "thou dost put upon me a very sore task
in this, for God knoweth I am no climber of trees. Yea, I would rather do
battle with twenty knights than to climb one such tree as this.
Nevertheless, I cannot find it in me to refuse the asking of any lady, if
so be it lieth at all in my power to perform her will. Now if you will aid
me to unarm myself, I will endeavor to climb this tree and get your hawk."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot climbs the tree] So the lady dismounted from her
mule, and Sir Launcelot dismounted from his horse, and the lady aided Sir
Launcelot to unarm himself. And when he had unarmed himself he took off all
his clothes saving only his hosen and his doublet. Then he climbed that
tree, though with great labor and pain to himself, and with much dread lest
he should fall. So he, at last, reached the falcon where it was, and he
loosened the lunes from where they were entangled about the branch, and he
freed the bird. Then he brake off a great piece of rotten bough of the tree
and he tied the lunes of the falcon to it and he tossed the falcon down to
where the lady was; and the lady ran with great joy and caught the falcon
and loosed it from the piece of branch and tied the lunes to her wrist, so
that it could not escape again.
Then Sir Launcelot began to descend the tree with as great labor and pain
as he had climbed into it.
[Sidenote: Sir Phelot threatens Sir Launcelot's life] But he had not come
very far down when he perceived a knight who came riding very rapidly
toward that tree, and he saw that the knight was in full armor. When this
knight came to the tree he drew rein and bespoke the lady who was there,
though Sir Launcelot could not hear what he said. So, after he had spoken
for a little, the knight dismounted from his horse and went to Sir
Launcelot's shield and looked upon the face of it very carefully. Then
presently he looked upward toward Sir Launcelot, and he said: "Art thou Sir
Launcelot of the Lake?" And Sir Launcelot said: "Yea." "Very well," said
the knight, "I am pleased beyond measure at that. For I am Sir Phelot, the
lord of this castle, and the brother of that Sir Peris of the Forest
Sauvage, whom thou didst treat so shamefully after thou hadst overcome him
"Sir," said Sir Launcelot, "I treated him nowise differently from what he
deserved." "No matter for that," said Sir Phelot, "he was my brother, and
thou didst put great despite and shame upon him. So now I will be revenged
upon thee, for now I have thee where I would have thee, and I will slay
thee as shamefully as thou didst put shame upon him. So say thy prayers
where thou art, for thou shalt never go away from this place alive."
"Sir Knight," said Sir Launcelot, "I do not believe that thou wouldst
really assault a naked and harmless man, for it would certainly be a great
shame to thee to do me a harm in that wise. For lo! thou art armed in full,
and I am a naked man, and to slay me as I am would be both murder and
"No matter for that," said Sir Phelot; "as for the shame of it, I take no
thought of it. I tell thee thou shalt have no grace nor mercy from me.
Wherefore make thy peace with Heaven, for thine hour is come."
"Sir Knight," said Sir Launcelot, "I ask only one boon of thee; if thou art
of a mind to take so much shame upon thee, as appears to be the case, let
me not, at least, die like a felon without any weapon. Let me have my sword
in my hand, even if I have no other defence. For if a knight must die, it
is a shame for him to die without weapons. So hang my sword upon yonder
bough, where I may reach it, and then thou mayst slay me."
"Nay," said Sir Phelot, "I will not do that, for I know very well how
wonderful is thy prowess. Wherefore I believe that even if thou wert
otherwise unarmed thou mightst overcome me if thou hadst thy sword. So I
will give thee no such chance, but will have my will of thee as thou art."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot is put to a sad pass to escape] Then Sir
Launcelot was put to a great pass of anxiety, for he wist not what to do to
escape from that danger in which he lay. Wherefore he looked all about him
and above him and below him, and at last he beheld a great branch of the
elm tree just above his head, very straight and tough. So he catched this
branch and broke it off from the tree and shaped it to a club of some sort.
Then he came lower, and the knight waited to strike him with his sword,
when he was low enough; but Sir Launcelot did not come low enough for that.
Then Sir Launcelot perceived that his horse stood below him and a little to
one side, so of a sudden he ran out along the branch whereon he stood and
he leaped quickly down to the earth upon the farther side of his horse from
where the knight stood.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overcomes Sir Phelot with a strange weapon] At
this Sir Phelot ran at him and lashed at him with his sword, thinking to
slay him before he had recovered from his leap. But Sir Launcelot was
quicker than he, for he recovered his feet and put away the blow of Sir
Phelot with his club which he held. Then he ran in upon Sir Phelot under
his sword arm, and before he could use his sword he struck Sir Phelot with
all his might upon the side of his head. And he struck him very quickly
again, and he struck him the third time, all in the space whilst one might
count two. And those blows he struck were so direful that Sir Phelot fell
down upon his knees, all stunned and bedazed, and the strength went out of
his thews because of faintness. Then Sir Launcelot took the sword out of
the hand of Sir Phelot and Sir Phelot did not have strength to deny him.
And Sir Launcelot plucked off Sir Phelot's helm and catched him by the hair
and dragged his neck forward so as to have ease to strike his head from off
Now all this while the lady had been weeping and watching what befell. But
when she saw the great danger Sir Phelot was in, she ran and clasped her
arms about him, and cried out in a very loud and piercing voice upon Sir
Launcelot to spare Sir Phelot and to slay him not. But Sir Launcelot, still
holding him by the hair of the head, said: "Lady, I cannot spare him, for
he has treated me more treacherously than any other knight with whom I ever
had dealings." But the lady cried out all the more vehemently, "Sir
Launcelot, thou good knight, I beseech thee, of thy knighthood, to spare
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot spares Sir Phelot's life] "Well," said Sir
Launcelot, "it hath yet to be said of me that I have denied anything that I
was able to grant unto any lady that hath asked it of me upon my
knighthood. And yet I know not how to trust either of ye. For thou didst
not say one word in my behalf when I was in danger of being slain so
treacherously just now. As for this knight, I perceive that he is every
whit as great a traitor and a coward as was his brother Sir Peris of the
Sauvage Forest. So I will spare him, but I will not trust him, lest he turn
against me ere I arm myself again. Wherefore give me hither the halter rein
of your mule." So the lady gave Sir Launcelot the halter rein, weeping
amain as she did so. And Sir Launcelot took the halter rein and he tied the
arms of Sir Phelot behind him. Then he bade the lady of Sir Phelot to help
him arm himself from head to foot, and she did so, trembling a very great
deal. Then, when she had done so, quoth Sir Launcelot: "Now I fear the
treachery of no man." Therewith he mounted his horse and rode away from
that place And he looked not behind him at all, but rode away as though he
held too much scorn of that knight and of that lady to give any more
thought to them.
So after that Sir Launcelot travelled for a while through the green fields
of that valley, till by and by he passed out of that valley, and came into
a forest through which he travelled for a very long time.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot cometh to a marish country] For it was about the
slanting of the afternoon ere he came forth out of that forest and under
the open sky again. And when he came out of the forest he beheld before him
a country of perfectly level marish, very lush and green, with many ponds
of water and sluggish streams bordered by rushes and sedge, and with
pollard willows standing in rows beside the waters. In the midst of this
level plain of green (which was like to the surface of a table for
flatness) there stood a noble castle, part built of brick and part of
stone, and a town of no great size and a wall about the town. And this
castle and town stood upon an island surrounded by a lake of water, and a
long bridge, built upon stone buttresses, reached from the mainland to the
island. And this castle and town were a very long distance away, though
they appeared very clear and distinct to the sight across the level marish,
like, as it were, to a fine bit of very small and cunning carving.
Now the way that Sir Launcelot travelled, led somewhat toward that town,
wherefore he went along that way with intent to view the place more near
by. So he conveyed by that road for some time without meeting any soul upon
the way. But at last he came of a sudden upon an archer hiding behind an
osier tree with intent to shoot the water-fowl that came to a pond that was
there--for he had several such fowl hanging at his girdle. To him Sir
Launcelot said: "Good fellow, what town is that yonderway?" "Sir," said the
yeoman, "that is called the Town of the Marish because it stands in these
Fenlands. And that castle is called the Castle of the Fenlands for the same
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot talks with a yeoman] Quoth Sir Launcelot: "What
manner of place is that? Is it a good place, or is it otherwise?" "Sir,"
said the archer, "that place was one while a very good, happy place; for in
times gone by there was a lord who dwelt there who was both just and noble,
and kind to all folk, wherefore he was loved by all the people. But one
night there came two very grim and horrible giants thither from the Welsh
Mountains and these entered into the castle by treachery and made prisoner
of the lord of the castle. Him they cast into the dungeon of the castle,
where they held him prisoner as an hostage. For they threaten that if
friends of that lord's should send force against them to dispossess them,
they will slay him. As for any other rescue, there is no knight who dareth
to go against them because of their terrible size, and their strength, and
their dreadful, horrible countenances."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "that is a pity and I am sorry for that noble
lordling. Now, since there is no other single knight who dareth to
undertake this adventure, I myself will go and encounter these giants."
"Nay, Sir Knight," said the yeoman, "do not do so, for they are not like
mortal men, but rather like monsters that are neither beast nor man.
Wherefore anyone who beholdeth them, feareth them."
"Grammercy for thy thought of me, good fellow," quoth Sir Launcelot, "but
if I shall refuse an adventure because I find it perilous, then I am not
like to undertake any adventure at all."
Therewith he bade good den to that yeoman and rode upon his way, directing
his course toward that town at an easy pass.
So he came at last to the long bridge that reached from the land to the
island, and he saw that at the farther end of the bridge was the gateway of
the town and through the arch thereof he could perceive a street of the
town, and the houses upon either side of the street, and the people thereof
coming and going.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot crosses the bridge to the town] So he rode forth
upon the bridge and at the noise of his coming (for the hoofs of his horse
sounded like thunder upon the floor of the bridge) the people of the town
came running to see who it was that dared to come so boldly into their
These, when Sir Launcelot came nigh, began to call to him on high, crying:
"Turn back, Sir Knight! Turn back! Else you will meet your death at this
But Sir Launcelot would not turn back, but advanced very steadfastly upon
Now somewhat nigh the farther end of that bridge there stood a little lodge
of stone, built to shelter the warden of the bridge from stress of weather.
When Sir Launcelot came nigh to this lodge there started suddenly out from
it a great churl, above seven feet high, who bore in his hand a huge club,
shod with iron and with great spikes of iron at the top. This churl ran to
Sir Launcelot and catched his horse by the bridle-rein and thrust it back
upon its haunches, crying out in a great hoarse voice: "Whither goest thou,
Sir Knight, for to cross this bridge?" Sir Launcelot said: "Let go my
horse's rein, Sir Churl." Whereunto the churl made answer: "I will not let
go thy horse's rein, and thou shalt not cross this bridge."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot slays the huge churl] At this Sir Launcelot waxed
very angry, and he drew his sword and struck the churl a blow with the flat
thereof upon the shoulder, so that he dropped the rein very quickly.
Therewith that churl drew back and took his great iron-shod club in both
hands and struck at Sir Launcelot a blow that would have split a millstone.
But Sir Launcelot put by the blow with his sword so that it did him no
harm. But therewith he waxed so wroth that he ground his teeth together
with anger, and, rising in his stirrups, he lashed that churl so woeful a
blow that he cleft through his iron cap and his head and his breast even to
[Sidenote: The folk warn Sir Launcelot] Now when the people of the town
beheld that terrible blow they lifted up their voices in a great outcry,
crying out: "Turn back, Sir Knight! Turn back! For this is a very woful
thing for thee that thou hast done!" and some cried out: "Thou hast killed
the giants' warder of the bridge!" And others cried: "Thou art a dead man
unless thou make haste away from this." But to all this Sir Launcelot paid
no heed, but wiped his sword and thrust it back into its sheath. Then he
went forward upon his way across the bridge as though nothing had befallen,
and so came to the farther side. Then, without paying any heed to all the
people who were there, he rode straight to the castle and into the gate of
the castle and into the court-yard thereof.
Now by this time all the castle was astir, and in great tumult, and many
people came running to the windows and looked down upon Sir Launcelot. And
Sir Launcelot sat his horse and looked all about him. So he perceived that
beyond the court-yard was a fair space of grass, very smooth and green,
well fitted for battle, wherefore he dismounted from his horse and tied it
to a ring in the wall, and then he went to that green field and made him
ready for whatever might befall.
Meantime all those people who were at the windows of the castle cried out
to him, as the people of the town had done: "Go away, Sir Knight! Go away
whilst there is still time for you to escape, or else you are a dead man!"
But Sir Launcelot replied not, but stood there and waited very steadfastly.
Then the great door of the castle hall opened, and there came forth
therefrom those two giants of whom he had heard tell.
[Sidenote: Two giants attack Sir Launcelot] And in truth Sir Launcelot had
never beheld such horrible beings as they; for they were above ten feet
high, and very huge of body and long of limb. And they were clad in armor
of bull-hide with iron rings upon it, and each was armed with a great club,
huge and thick, and shod with iron, and studded with spikes. These came
toward Sir Launcelot swinging their clubs and laughing very hideously and
gnashing their long white teeth, for they thought to make easy work of him.
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot slays the first giant] Then Sir Launcelot,
seeing them coming thus, set his shield before him, and made ready for that
assault with great calmness of demeanor. Then the giants rushed suddenly
upon him and struck at him, the both of them together; for they deemed that
by so doing the enemy could not escape both blows, but if one failed the
other would slay him. But Sir Launcelot put aside the blow of one giant
with his sword and of the other with his shield, with marvellous dexterity.
Thereupon, ere they could recover themselves, he turned upon that giant who
was upon his left hand and he struck him so terrible a blow upon the
shoulder that he cut through the armor and through the shoulder and
half-way through the body, so that the head and one arm of the giant leaned
toward one way, and the other arm and the shoulder leaned toward the other
way. Therewith the giant fell down upon the ground bellowing, so that it
was most terrible to hear; and in a little he had died where he had fallen.
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot slays the second giant] Now when the fellow
of that giant beheld that dreadful, horrible stroke, he was so possessed
with terror that he stood for a while trembling and like one in a maze. But
when he saw Sir Launcelot turn upon him with intent to make at him also, he
let fall his club and ran away with great and fearful outcry. Therewith he
ran toward the castle and would have entered therein, but those within the
castle had closed the doors and the gates against him, so that he could not
escape in that way. So the giant ran around and around the court with great
outcry, seeking for some escape from his pursuer, and Sir Launcelot ran
after him. And Sir Launcelot struck him several times with his sword, so
that at last, what with terror and pain and weariness, that giant stumbled
and fell upon the ground. Therewith Sir Launcelot ran at him, and, ere he
could rise, he took his sword in both hands and smote off his head so that
it rolled down upon the ground like a ball. Then Sir Launcelot stood there
panting for breath, for he had raced very hard after the giant, and could
hardly catch his breath again. As he stood so, many of those of the castle
and many of those who were of the town came to him from all sides; and they
crowded around him and gave him great acclaim for ridding that place of
Then Sir Launcelot said to them: "Where is your lord?" Whereunto they made
reply: "Sir, he lieth in the dungeon of the castle under the ground chained
to the walls thereof, and there he hath been for three years or more, and
no one hath dared to bring him succor until you came hither." "Go find
him," said Sir Launcelot, "and set him free, and lose no time in doing so.
And put him at all ease that you can."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot departs without refreshment] They say: "Will you
not stay and see him, Messire, and receive his acknowledgements for what
you have done?" But Sir Launcelot replied: "Nay, not so." Then they say:
"Will you not have some refreshment after this battle?" Whereunto Sir
Launcelot said: "I do not need such refreshment." Then they say: "But will
you not rest a little?" "Nay," said Sir Launcelot: "I may not tarry, for I
have far to go and several things to do, so that I do not care to stay." So
he loosed his horse from the ring in the wall, and mounted upon it and rode
away from that castle and from that town and across the bridge whence he
had come. And all the people followed after him, giving him great acclaim.
So Sir Launcelot left the castle, not because he needed no rest, but
because he could not endure to receive the thanks of those whom he
benefited. For though he loved to bring aid to the needy, yet he did not
love to receive their thanks and their praise. Wherefore, having freed the
lord of that castle from that brood of giants, he was content therewith and
went his way without resting or waiting for thanks.
For so it was with those noble gallant knights of those days; that whilst
they would perform signal service for mankind, yet they were not pleased to
receive thanks or reward for the same, but took the utmost satisfaction,
not in what they gained by their acts, but in the doing of knightly deeds,
for they found all their reward in their deeds, because that thereby they
made the world in which they lived better; and because they made the glory
of the King, whose servants they were, the more glorious.
And I hold that such behavior upon the part of anyone makes him the peer of
Sir Launcelot or Sir Tristram or Sir Lamorack or Sir Percival; yea, of Sir
Galahad himself. For it does not need either the accolade or the bath to
cause a man to be a true knight of God's making; nor does it need that a
mortal King should lay sword upon shoulder to constitute a man the fellow
of such knightly company as that whose history I am herewith writing; it
needs only that he should prove himself at all times worthy in the
performance of his duty, and that he shall not consider the hope of reward,
or of praise of others in the performance of that duty.
So look to it that in all your services you take example of the noble Sir
Launcelot of the Lake, and that you do your uttermost with might and main,
and that you therewith rest content with having done your best, maugre any
praise. So you shall become a worthy fellow of Sir Launcelot and of his
[Illustration: Sir Launcelot takes the armor of Sir Kay]
_How Sir Launcelot Rescued Sir Kay From a Perilous Pass. Also How He
Changed Armor with Sir Kay and what Befell._
One day Sir Launcelot came at early nightfall to a goodly manor-house and
there he besought lodging for the night, and lodging was granted to him
[Sidenote: The old gentlewoman makes Sir Launcelot welcome] Now there was
no lord of that manor, but only an old gentlewoman of very good breeding
and address. She made Sir Launcelot right welcome and gave such cheer as
she could, setting before him a very good supper, hot and savory, and a
great beaker of humming mead wherewith to wash it down. Whilst Sir
Launcelot ate, the gentlewoman inquired of him his name and he told her it
was Sir Launcelot of the Lake. "Ha!" quoth she, "I never heard that name
before, but it is a very good name."
At this Sir Launcelot laughed: "I am glad," said he, "that my name belikes
thee. As for thy not having heard of it--well, I am a young knight as yet,
having had but three years of service. Yet I have hopes that by and by it
may be better known than it is at this present."
"Thou sayest well," quoth she, "for thou art very young yet, wherefore thou
mayst not know what thou canst do till thou hast tried." And therewith Sir
Launcelot laughed again, and said: "Yea, that is very true."
Now after Sir Launcelot had supped, his hostess showed him to the lodging
she had provided for him wherein to sleep, and the lodging was in a fair
garret over the gateway of the court. So Sir Launcelot went to his bed and,
being weary with journeying, he presently fell into a deep and gentle
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot is aroused from sleep] Now about the middle of
the night there fell of a sudden the noise of someone beating upon the gate
and calling in a loud voice and demanding immediate admittance thereat.
This noise awoke Sir Launcelot, and he arose from his couch and went to the
window and looked out to see who it was that shouted so loudly and made
The moon was shining at that time, very bright and still, and by the light
thereof Sir Launcelot beheld that there was a knight in full armor seated
upon horseback without the gate, and that the knight beat upon the gate
with the pommel of his sword, and shouted that they should let him in.
But ere anyone could run to answer his call there came a great noise of
horses upon the highroad, and immediately after there appeared three
knights riding very fiercely that way, and these three knights were plainly
pursuing that one knight. For, when they perceived him, they rode very
violently to where he was, and fell upon him fiercely, all three at one
time; wherefore, though that one knight defended himself as well as he
could, yet was he in a very sorry way, and altogether likely to be
overborne. For those three surrounded him so close to the gate that he
could do little to shift himself away from their assaults.
Now when Sir Launcelot beheld how those three knights attacked that one
knight, he said to himself: "Of a surety, yonder knight is in a very sorry
way. I will do what I can to help him; for it is a shame to behold three
knights attack one knight in that way. And if he be slain in this assault,
meseems I shall be a party to his death."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot goeth to the rescue of the knight assaulted]
Therewith he ran and put his armor upon him, and made ready for battle.
Then he drew the sheet from his bed, and he tied the sheet to the bar of
the window and by it he let himself quickly down to the ground not far from
where those knights were doing battle. So being safely arrived in that way
he cried out in a very loud voice: "Messires, leave that knight whom ye
assail, and turn to me, for I have a mind to do battle with you myself."
Then one of those knights, speaking very fiercely, said: "Who are you, and
what business have you here?"
"It matters not who I am," said Sir Launcelot, "but I will not have it that
you three shall attack that one without first having had to do with me."
"Very well," said that knight who had spoken, "you shall presently have
your will of that."
Therewith he and his fellows immediately descended from their horses, and
drew their swords and came at Sir Launcelot upon three sides at once. Then
Sir Launcelot set his back against the gate and prepared to defend himself.
Therewith that knight whom he would defend immediately got down from his
horse with intent to come to the aid of Sir Launcelot, but Sir Launcelot
forbade him very fiercely, saying: "Let be, Sir Knight, this is my quarrel,
and you shall not meddle in it."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot does battle with three knights] Upon this, those
three knights rushed upon him very furiously, and they struck at him all at
once, smiting at him wherever they could and with all their might and main.
So Sir Launcelot had much ado to defend himself from their assault. But he
made shift that they should not all rush in upon him at once, and by and by
he found his chance with one of them. Whereupon he turned suddenly upon
that one, and suddenly he lashed so terrible a buffet at him that the
knight fell down and lay as though he had been struck dead with the force
Then, ere those other two had recovered themselves, he ran at a second and
struck him so fierce a blow that his wits left him, and he staggered like a
drunken man and ran around and around in a circle, not knowing whither he
went. Then he rushed upon the third and thrust him back with great
violence, and as he went back Sir Launcelot struck him, too, as he had
struck his companions and therewith that knight dropped his sword and fell
down upon his knees and had not power to raise himself up.
Then Sir Launcelot ran to him and snatched off his helmet, and catched him
by the hair with intent to cut off his head. But at that the fallen knight
embraced Sir Launcelot about the knees, crying out: "Spare my life!"
"Why should I spare you?" said Sir Launcelot. "Sir," cried the knight, "I
beseech you of your knighthood to spare me."
"What claim have you upon knighthood," said Sir Launcelot, "who would
attack a single knight, three men against one man?"
Then the other of those knights who had been staggered by Sir Launcelot's
blow, but who had by now somewhat recovered himself, came and kneeled to
Sir Launcelot, and said: "Sir, spare his life, for we all yield ourselves
unto you, for certes, you are the greatest champion in all the world."
Then Sir Launcelot was appeased, but he said: "Nay, I will not take your
yielding unto me. For as you three assaulted this single knight, so shall
you all three yield to him."
"Messire," said the knight who kneeled: "I am very loth to yield us to that
knight, for we chased him hither, and he fled from us, and we would have
overcome him had you not come to his aid."
"Well," said Sir Launcelot, "I care nothing for all that, but only that you
do as I will. And if ye do not do it, then I must perforce slay your
companions and you two. Wherefore you may take your choice."
[Sidenote: The three knights must yield to the one knight] Then said that
knight who kneeled: "Messire, I see no other thing to do than to yield us
as you would have, wherefore we submit ourselves unto this knight whom you
have rescued from us."
Then Sir Launcelot turned to that knight to whom he had brought aid in that
matter, and he said: "Sir Knight, these knights yield themselves unto you
to do as you command them. Now I pray you of your courtesy to tell me your
name and who you are."
"Sir," said that knight, "I am Sir Kay the Seneschal, and am King Arthur's
foster-brother, and a knight of the Round Table. I have been errant now for
some time in search of Sir Launcelot of the Lake. Now, I deem either that
you are Sir Launcelot, or else that you are the peer of Sir Launcelot."
"Thou art right, Sir Kay," said Sir Launcelot, "and I am Sir Launcelot of
the Lake." So thereat they two made great joy over one another, and
embraced one another as brothers-in-arms should do.
Then Sir Kay told Sir Launcelot how it was with those three knights who had
assailed him; that they were three brethren, and that he had overthrown the
fourth brother in an adventure at arms and had hurt him very sorely
thereby. So those three had been pursuing him for three days with intent to
do him a harm.
[Sidenote: Sir Kay taketh submission of the three knights] Now Sir Kay was
very loath to take submission of those three knights, but Sir Launcelot
would have it so and no other way. So Sir Kay consented to let it be as Sir
Launcelot willed. Thereupon those three knights came and submitted
themselves to Sir Kay, and Sir Kay ordained that they should go to Camelot
and lay their case before King Arthur, and that King Arthur should adjudge
their case according to what he considered to be right and fitting.
Then those three knights mounted upon their horses and rode away, and when
they had done so the gates of the manor were opened, and Sir Launcelot and
Sir Kay entered in. But when the old lady who was his hostess beheld Sir
Launcelot come in, she was very greatly astonished, for she wist he was
still asleep in his bed-chamber. Wherefore she said: "Sir, methought you
were in bed and asleep." "So indeed I was," said Sir Launcelot, "but when I
saw this knight in peril of his life against three knights, I leaped out of
my window and went to his aid." "Well," said his hostess, "meseems that you
will sometime be a very good knight, if you have so much courage whilst you
are so young." And at that both Sir Launcelot and Sir Kay laughed a great
Then the chatelaine set bread and wine before Sir Kay, and he ate and
refreshed himself, and thereafter he and Sir Launcelot went to that garret
above the gate, and there fell asleep with great ease of body.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot takes Sir Kay's armor] Now before the sun arose
Sir Launcelot awoke but Sir Kay still slept very soundly. Then Sir
Launcelot beheld how Sir Kay slept, and he had a mind for a jest. So he
clad himself in Sir Kay's armor altogether from head to foot, and he took
Sir Kay's shield and spear, and he left his armor and shield and spear for
Sir Kay to use. Then he went very softly from that room, and left Sir Kay
still sleeping. And he took Sir Kay's horse and mounted upon it and rode
away; and all that while Sir Kay knew not what had befallen, but slept very
Now after a while Sir Kay awoke, and he found that Sir Launcelot was gone,
and when he looked he found that his own armor was gone and that Sir
Launcelot's armor was left. Then he wist what Sir Launcelot had done, and
he said: "Ha! what a noble, courteous knight is the gentleman. For he hath
left me his armor for my protection, and whilst I wear it and carry his
shield and ride his horse, it is not likely that anyone will assail me upon
my way. As for those who assail him, I do not believe that they will be
likely to find great pleasure in their battle."
Therewith he arose and clad himself in Sir Launcelot's armor, and after he
had broken his fast he thanked his hostess for what she had given him, and
rode upon his way with great content of spirit.
(And it was as Sir Kay had said, for when he met other knights upon the
road, and when they beheld the figure upon his shield, they all said: "It
is not well to meddle with that knight, for that is Sir Launcelot." And so
he came to Camelot without having to do battle with any man.)
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot travels toward Camelot] As for Sir Launcelot,
he rode upon his way with great cheerfulness of spirit, taking no heed at
all of any trouble in the world, but chanting to himself as he rode in the
pleasant weather. But ever he made his way toward Camelot, for he said: "I
will return to Camelot for a little, and see how it fares with my friends
at the court of the King."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot perceives three knights at feast] So by and by he
entered into the country around about Camelot, which is a very smooth and
fertile country, full of fair rivers and meadows with many cots and
hamlets, and with fair hedge-bordered highways, wonderfully pleasant to
journey in. So travelling he came to a very large meadow where were several
groves of trees standing here and there along by a river. And as he went
through this meadow he saw before him a long bridge, and at the farther
side of the bridge were three pavilions of silk of divers colors, which
pavilions had been cast in the shade of a grove of beech-trees. In front of
each pavilion stood a great spear thrust in the earth, and from the spear
hung the shield of the knight to whom the pavilion belonged. These shields
Sir Launcelot read very easily, and so knew the knights who were there. To
wit: that they were Sir Gunther, Sir Gylmere, and Sir Raynold, who were
three brothers of the Court of King Arthur. As Sir Launcelot passed their
pavilions, he saw that the three knights sat at feast in the midmost
pavilion of the three, and that a number of esquires and pages waited upon
them and served them, for those knights were of very high estate, and so
they were established as high lords should be.
[Sidenote: The three knights bid Sir Launcelot come to feast with them]
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overthrows Sir Gunther] Now when those knights
perceived Sir Launcelot they thought it was Sir Kay because of the armor he
wore, and Sir Gunther, who was the eldest of the three brothers, cried out:
"Come hither, Sir Kay, and eat with us!" But to this Sir Launcelot made no
reply, but rode on his way. Then said Sir Gunther: "Meseems Sir Kay hath
grown very proud this morning. Now I will go and bring him back with me, or
else I will bring down his pride to earth." So he made haste and donned his
helmet and ran and took his shield and his spear, and mounted his horse and
rode after Sir Launcelot at a hard gallop. As he drew nigh to Sir Launcelot
he cried out: "Stay, Sir Knight! Turn again, and go with me!" "Why should I
go with you?" said Sir Launcelot. Quoth Sir Gunther: "Because you must
either return with me or do battle with me." "Well," said Sir Launcelot, "I
would rather do battle than return against my will." And at that Sir
Gunther was astonished, for Sir Kay was not wont to be so ready for a
battle. So Sir Launcelot set his shield and spear and took his stand, and
Sir Gunther took his stand. Then, when they were in all ways prepared, each
set spur to his horse and rushed together with terrible speed. So each
knight struck the other in the midst of his shield, but the onset of Sir
Launcelot was so terrible that it was not to be withstood, wherefore both
Sir Gunther and his horse were overthrown in such a cloud of dust that
nothing at all was to be seen of them until that cloud lifted.
At this both Sir Raynold and Sir Gylmere were astonished beyond measure,
for Sir Gunther was reckoned to be a much better knight than Sir Kay,
wherefore they wist not how it was that Sir Kay should have overthrown him
in that fashion.
So straightway Sir Gylmere, who was the second of those brothers, called
out to Sir Launcelot to tarry and do battle. "Very well," said Sir
Launcelot, "if I cannot escape thee I must needs do battle. Only make
haste, for I would fain be going upon my way."
So Sir Gylmere donned his helm in haste and ran and took his shield and
spear and mounted upon his horse. So when he had made himself ready in all
ways he rushed upon Sir Launcelot with all his might and Sir Launcelot
rushed against him.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overthrows Sir Gylmere] In that encounter each
knight struck the other in the midst of his shield, and the spear of Sir
Gylmere burst into pieces, but Sir Launcelot's spear held, so the
breast-strap of Sir Gylmere's saddle bursting, both saddle and knight were
swept entirely off the horse and to the earth, where Sir Gylmere lay
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot wins from Sir Raynold] Then Sir Raynold came
against Sir Launcelot in like manner as the others had done, and in that
encounter Sir Launcelot overthrew both horse and man so that, had not Sir
Raynold voided his horse, he would likely have been very sadly hurt.
Then Sir Raynold drew his sword and cried out in a loud voice: "Come, Sir
Knight, and do me battle afoot!" But Sir Launcelot said: "Why will you have
it so, Sir Knight? I have no such quarrel with you as to do battle with
swords." "Ha!" said Sir Raynold, "you shall fight with me. For though you
wear Sir Kay's armor, I wot very well that you are not Sir Kay, but a great
deal bigger man than ever Sir Kay is like to be."
"Nay," said Sir Launcelot, "I will not do any more battle with you." And
therewith he drew rein and rode away, leaving Sir Raynold standing very
angry in the middle of the highway.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot meets four noble knights] After that Sir
Launcelot rode very easily at a quiet gait, with no great thought whither
he rode, until after a while he came to a place where a road went across a
level field with two rows of tall poplar trees, one upon either side of the
highway. Then Sir Launcelot perceived where, beneath the shade of these
poplar trees, were four knights standing each by his horse. And these four
knights were conversing very pleasantly together. Now as Sir Launcelot drew
nigh he perceived that those were four very famous noble knights of the
Round Table; to wit: one of those knights was his own brother, Sir Ector de
Maris, another was Sir Gawain, another was Sir Ewain, and the fourth was
Sir Sagramore le Desirous.
Now as Sir Launcelot drew nigh Sir Gawain said: "Look, yonder cometh Sir
Kay the Seneschal." Unto this Sir Sagramore le Desirous said: "Yea, this is
he; now bide you here for a little while, and I will go and take a fall of
So straightway he mounted upon his horse, and he rode toward Sir Launcelot,
and he cried out: "Stay, Sir Knight, you cannot go farther until you have
had to do with me." "What would you have of me?" quoth Sir Launcelot.
"Sir," said Sir Sagramore, "I will have a fall of you." "Well," said Sir
Launcelot, "I suppose I must pleasure you, since it cannot be otherwise."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overthrows Sir Sagramore] Therewith he dressed
his shield and his spear and Sir Sagramore dressed his shield and his
spear, and when they were in all ways prepared they ran together at full
tilt. In that encounter Sir Sagramore's spear broke, but Sir Launcelot
struck so powerful a blow that he overthrew both horse and man into a ditch
of water that was near-by.
Then Sir Ector de Maris said: "Ha, surely some very ill chance has befallen
Sir Sagramore for to be overthrown by Sir Kay. Now I will go and have ado
with him, for if the matter rests here there will be no living at court
with the jests which will be made upon us."
So he took horse and rode to where Sir Launcelot was, and he went at a very
fast gallop. When he had come near to Sir Launcelot he cried out: "Have at
thee, Sir Kay, for it is my turn next!" "Why should I have at thee?" said
Sir Launcelot, "I have done thee no harm." "No matter," said Sir Ector,
"you can go no farther until you have had to do with me." "Well," said Sir
Launcelot, "if that is so, the sooner I have to do with thee, the sooner
shall I be able to go upon my way."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot overthrows Sir Ector] Therewith each knight made
himself ready and when they were in all ways prepared they came together
with such force that Sir Launcelot's spear went through Sir Ector's shield
and smote him upon the shoulder, and Sir Ector was thrown down upon the
ground with such violence that he lay where he had fallen, without power to
Then said Sir Ewain to Sir Gawain where they stood together: "That is the
most wonderful thing that ever I beheld, for never did I think to behold
Sir Kay bear himself in battle in such a fashion as that. Now bide thee
here and let me have a try at him." Therewith Sir Ewain mounted his horse
and rode at Sir Launcelot, and there were no words spoken this time, but
each knight immediately took his stand to do battle. Then they ran their
horses together, and Sir Launcelot gave Sir Ewain such a buffet that he was
astonished, and for a little he knew not where he was, for his spear fell
down out of his hand, and he bore his shield so low that Sir Launcelot
might have slain him where he stood if he had been minded to do so.
[Sidenote: Sir Ewain yields to Sir Launcelot] Then Sir Launcelot said:
"Sir Knight, I bid thee yield to me." And Sir Ewain said: "I yield me. For
I do not believe that thou art Sir Kay but a bigger man than he shall ever
be. Wherefore I yield me." "Then that is well," said Sir Launcelot. "Now
stand thou a little aside where thou mayst bring succor unto these other
two knights, for I see that Sir Gawain has a mind to tilt with me."
[Sidenote: Sir Gawain fails with Sir Launcelot] And it was as Sir
Launcelot said, for Sir Gawain also had mounted his horse and had made
himself ready for that encounter. So Sir Gawain and Sir Launcelot took
stand at such place as suited them. Then each knight set spurs to his horse
and rushed together like thunder, and each knight smote the other knight in
the midst of his shield; and in that encounter the spear of Sir Gawain
brake in twain but the spear of Sir Launcelot held, and therewith he gave
Sir Gawain such a buffet that Sir Gawain's horse reared up into the air,
and it was with much ado that he was able to void his saddle ere his horse
fell over backward. For if he had not leaped to earth the horse would have
fallen upon him.
Then Sir Gawain drew his sword and cried very fiercely: "Come down and
fight me, Sir Knight! For thou art not Sir Kay!"
"Nay, I will not fight thee that way," said Sir Launcelot, and therewith he
passed on his way without tarrying further.
But he laughed to himself behind his helmet as he rode, and he said: "God
give Sir Kay joy of such a spear as this, for I believe there came never so
good a spear as this into my hand. For with it I have overthrown seven
famous knights in this hour."
As for those four knights of the Round Table, they comforted one another as
best they could, for they knew not what to think of that which had befallen
them. Only Sir Ector said: "That was never Sir Kay who served us in this
wise, but such a man as is better than ten Sir Kays, or twice ten Sir Kays,
for the matter of that."
[Sidenote: How Sir Launcelot returned to Camelot] Now Sir Launcelot came
to Camelot about eventide, what time King Arthur and his court were
assembled at their supper. Then there was great joy when news was brought
of his coming and they brought him in to the court and set him beside the
King and the Lady Guinevere all armed as he was. Then King Arthur said:
"Sir Launcelot, how is it with thee?" and Sir Launcelot said: "It is well."
Then King Arthur said: "Tell us what hath befallen thee." And Sir Launcelot
told all that had happened in that month since he had left court. And all
they who were there listened, and were much astonished.
But when Sir Launcelot told how he had encountered those seven knights, in
the armor of Sir Kay, all laughed beyond measure excepting those of the
seven who were there, for they took no very good grace to be laughed at in
* * * * *
So now I hope I have made you acquainted with Sir Launcelot of the Lake,
who was the greatest knight in the world. For not only have I told you how
he was created a knight at the hands of King Arthur, but I have also led
you errant along with him, so that you might see for yourself how he
adventured his life for other folk and what a noble and generous gentleman
he was; and how pitiful to the weak and suffering, and how terrible to the
evil-doer. But now I shall have to leave him for a while (but after a while
in another book that shall follow this, I shall return to him to tell you a
great many things concerning other adventures of his), for meantime it is
necessary that I should recount the history of another knight, who was held
by many to be nearly as excellent a knight as Sir Launcelot was himself.
_Here endeth the story of Sir Launcelot. That which followeth is the story
of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, who was knit with Sir Launcelot into such
close ties of friendship that if they had been brothers of the same blood,
with the same father and mother, they could not have loved one another more
than they did.
For indeed it would not be possible to tell any history of Sir Launcelot of
the Lake without telling that of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse as well, for as
the web of a fair fabric is woven in with the woof thereof, so were the
lives of Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram woven closely together.
Wherefore you shall now hear tell of the goodly adventures of Sir Tristram
of Lyonesse; and God grant that you may have the same joy in reading
thereof that I shall have in telling of them to you._
The Book of Sir Tristram
[Illustration: Sir Tristram of Lyonesse]
There was a certain kingdom called Lyonesse, and the King of that country
was hight Meliadus, and the Queen thereof who was hight the Lady Elizabeth,
was sister to King Mark of Cornwall.
In the country of Lyonesse, there was a very beautiful lady, who was a
cunning and wicked sorceress. This lady took great love for King Meliadus,
who was of an exceedingly noble appearance, and she meditated continually
how she might bring him to her castle so as to have him near her.
[Sidenote: King Meliadus rides a-hunting] Now King Meliadus was a very
famous huntsman, and he loved the chase above all things in the world,
excepting the joy he took in the love of his Queen, the Lady Elizabeth. So,
upon a certain day, in the late autumn season he was minded to go forth
a-hunting, although the day was very cold and bleak.
About the prime of the day the hounds started, of a sudden, a very
wonderful stag. For it was white and its horns were gilded very bright,
shining like pure gold, so that the creature itself appeared like a living
miracle in the forest. When this stag broke cover, the hounds immediately
set chase to it with a great outcry of yelling, as though they were
suddenly gone frantic, and when the King beheld the creature, he also was
immediately seized as with a great fury for chasing it. For, beholding it,
he shouted aloud and drove spurs into his horse, and rushed away at such a
pass that his court was, in a little while, left altogether behind him, and
he and the chase were entirely alone in the forest.
[Sidenote: King Meliadus chases the stag] The stag, with the hounds close
behind it, ran at a great rate through the passes of the woodlands, and
King Meliadus pursued it with might and main until the chase burst out of
the forest into an open plain beyond the woodland. Then King Meliadus
beheld that in the midst of the plain was a considerable lake of water; and
that in the midst of the water was an island; and that upon the island was
a very tall and stately castle. Toward this castle the stag ran with great
speed, and so, coming to the lake, it leaped into the water and swam across
to the island--and there was a thin sheet of clear ice upon the water close
to either bank.
But when the hounds that pursued the stag came to that frozen water, they
stinted their pursuit and stood whimpering upon the brink, for the ice and
the water repelled them. But King Meliadus made no such pause, but
immediately leaped off from his horse, and plunged into the water and swam
across in pursuit of the stag. And when he reached the other side, he
chased the stag afoot with great speed, and therewith the stag ran to the
castle and into the court-yard thereof, and King Meliadus ran after it.
Then, immediately he had entered in, the gates of the castle were shut and
King Meliadus was a prisoner.
[Sidenote: King Meliadus is made prisoner at an enchanted castle] (Now you
are to know that that castle was the abode of the beautiful enchantress
afore spoken of, and you are to know that she had sent that enchanted stag
to beguile King Meliadus to her court, and so she made King Meliadus her
captive. Further, it is to be told that when she had him there within her
castle, she wove a web of enchantment all about him so that he forgot the
Lady Elizabeth and his court and his kingdom and thought of nothing but
that beautiful sorceress who had thus beguiled him into her power.)
[Sidenote: The Lady Elizabeth grieves to distraction] Now, when those who
were with the King returned to the castle of Lyonesse without him, and when
the King did not return that day nor the next day nor at any time, the Lady
Elizabeth grew more and more distracted in her anxiety because of him. And
when a fortnight had gone by and still there was no news of the King, her
grief and apprehension became so great that she turned distracted and they
had to set watch and ward upon her lest she do herself a harm in her
So for a long time they kept her within the castle; but upon a certain day
she broke away from her keepers and ran out from the castle and into the
forest ere those in attendance upon her knew she had gone. Only one
gentlewoman saw her, and she called upon a young page to follow her, and
thereupon ran after the Queen whither she went, with intent to bring her
[Sidenote: The Lady Elizabeth escapes into the forest] But the Lady
Elizabeth ran very deep into the forest, and the gentlewoman and the page
ran after her; and the Queen thought that she was going to find her lord in
the forest. So she ran very rapidly for a great distance, until by and by
she waxed faint with weariness from running and sank down upon the ground;
and there they that followed her found her lying. And they found that the
Queen was in a great passion of pain and sick to death. For the day was
very wintry, with a fine powder of snow all over the ground, so that the
cold of the weather pierced through the garments of the Lady Elizabeth and
entered into her body and chilled her to the heart.
Now the gentlewoman, seeing how it was with the Queen, called the page to
her and said: "Make haste! Go back to the castle of Lyonesse, and bring
some of the knights of the castle with all speed, else the Queen will die
at this place." And upon that the page ran off with great speed to do her
bidding and the Queen was left alone with her gentlewoman.
Then the gentlewoman said, "Lady, what cheer?" And the Queen said, "Alas, I
am sick to death." The gentlewoman said, "Lady, cannot you bear up a little
until help cometh?" Thereupon the Lady Elizabeth fell to weeping very
piteously, and said, "Nay, I cannot bear up any longer, for the cold hath
entered into my heart." (Yea, even at that time death was upon her because
of the cold at her heart.)
Then by and by in the midst of her tears and in very sore travail a
man-child was born to the Queen, and when that came to pass a great peace
fell suddenly upon her.
[Sidenote: How Tristram is born in the forest] Then she said, speaking to
the nurse like one in great weariness, "What child is it that I have given
unto the world?" The nurse said, "It is a man-child." The Queen said to
her, "Hold him up until I see him." Thereupon the nurse held the child up
and the Queen looked at him, though she could hardly see him because it was
as though a mist lay upon her eyes which she could not clear away from her
sight; for at that time she was drawing deep draughts of death. Then, when
she had seen the child and had beheld that he was very strong and lusty and
exceedingly comely, she said: "Behold, this is my child, born in the midst
of sore travail and great sorrow; wherefore his name shall be called
Tristram because he hath caused so many tears to be shed."
Then in a little while the Lady died, and the gentlewoman stood weeping
beside her, making great outcry in that cold and lonely forest.
Anon there came those knights who were sent from the castle to find the
Queen; and when they came to that place, they beheld that she lay upon the
ground all cold and white like to a statue of marble stone. So they lifted
her up and bare her away upon a litter, and the gentlewoman followed
weeping and wailing in great measure, and bearing the child wrapped in a
So Tristram was born in that wise, and so his name was given to him because
of the tears that were shed at his birth.
And now it is to be told how King Meliadus returned from that castle of
enchantment where he was held prisoner.
[Sidenote: King Meliadus is released from durance] At this time Merlin was
still living in the world, for Vivien had not yet bewitched him, as hath
been told in the Book of King Arthur. So by and by it came to pass that he
discovered where King Meliadus was imprisoned and how it fared with him in
the castle of that enchantress. So he made greater spells than those that
enmeshed King Meliadus, and he brought King Meliadus back into his memory
of the Queen and his kingdom. Then straightway the King broke out from the
castle of the enchantress and returned to his kingdom. But when he came
there it was to find everything in great sorrow and dole; for the Lady
Elizabeth was no longer upon this earth to bring joy to the heart of the
King. So for a long while after his return King Meliadus lay altogether
stricken down with the grief of that bereavement.
Here followeth the story of Tristram, how he passed his youth, and how he
became a knight of Cornwall of King Mark's making.
The Story of Sir Tristram and the Lady Belle Isoult
_Here followeth the story of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, who, with Sir
Launcelot of the Lake, was deemed to be one of the two most worthy and
perfect knights champion of his day.
Likewise herein shall be told the story of the Lady Belle Isoult, who next
to Queen Guinevere, was reckoned to be the most fair, gentle lady in all of
[Illustration: Tristram succors the Lady Moeya]
_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
So King Meliadus grieved very bitterly for the Lady Elizabeth for the space
of seven years, and in that time he took but little pleasure in life, and
still less pleasure in that son who had been born to him in that wise. Then
one day a certain counsellor who was in great favor with the King came to
him and said: "Lord, it is not fitting that you should live in this wise
and without a mate; for you should have a queen, and you should have other
children besides Tristram, else all the fate of this kingdom shall depend
upon the life of that one small child."
[Sidenote: King Meliadus taketh the Lady Moeya to second wife] And King
Meliadus took this counsel to heart, and after a while he said: "What you
tell me is true, and so I shall take another Queen, even though it is not
in me to love any other woman in all of the world but that dear one who is
dead and gone." So a while after that he took to wife the Lady Moeya, who
was the daughter of King Howell of Britain.
Now Queen Moeya had been married to an Earl of Britain, and by him she had
a son who was about the age of Tristram. So she brought this son to
Lyonesse with her, and he and Tristram were very good companions.
But the Lady Moeya took great hatred of Tristram, for she said in her
heart: "Except for this Tristram, mayhap my son might be King and overlord
of this land." And these thoughts brooded with her, so that after a while
she began to meditate how she might make away with Tristram so that her own
son might come into his inheritance.
Now at that time Tristram was about thirteen years of age and very large
and robust of form and of extraordinary strength of body and beauty of
countenance. But the son of Queen Moeya was not of such a sort, so the more
beautiful and noble Tristram was the more the Queen hated him. So one day
she called to her a very cunning chemist and she said to him: "Give me a
drink of such and such a sort, so that he who drinks thereof shall
certainly die, maugre help of any kind." And the chemist gave her what she
desired, and it was in a phial and was of a golden color.
[Sidenote: The Lady Moeya devises mischief against Tristram] Now Tristram
and the son of the Lady Moeya were wont to play ball in a certain court of
the castle, and when they would play there they would wax all of a heat
with their sport. This the Lady Moeya was well aware of; so one day she
took that phial of poison and she poured a part of it into a chalice and
she filled the chalice with clear water and she set the chalice upon a
bench where those two would play at ball. For she said to herself: "When
they grow warm with their play, Tristram will certainly drink of this water
to quench his thirst, and then my son will maybe enter into his
[Sidenote: The son of the Queen drinks of the poison] So the two youths
played very fiercely at their game, and they waxed exceedingly hot and
presently were both very violently athirst. Then Tristram said, "I would I
had somewhat to drink," and his stepbrother said, "Look, yonder is a
chalice of water; drink! and when thou hast quenched thy thirst, then I
will drink also." But Tristram said: "Nay, brother, drink thou first, for
thou art more athirst than I." Then at first the son of the Lady Moeya
would not have it so, but would have Tristram drink; but afterward he did
as Tristram bade him, and, taking the chalice in both hands, he drank
freely of that poison which his own mother had prepared. Then when he had
drunk his fill, Tristram took the chalice and would have drunk too; but the
other said, "Stay, Tristram, there is great bitterness in that chalice";
and then he said, "Methinks I feel a very bitter pang within my vitals,"
and then he cried out, "Woe is me! I am in great pain!" Therewith he fell
down upon the ground and lay there in a great passion of agony. Then
Tristram cried aloud for help in a piercing voice; but when help came
thither it was too late, for the son of the Lady Moeya was dead.
Then the Lady Moeva was in great torment of soul, and beat her breast and
tore her hair and King Meliadus had much ado for to comfort her. And after
this she hated Tristram worse than ever before, for she would say to
herself: "Except for this Tristram, my own son would yet be alive!"
So she brooded upon these things until she could not rest, whether by day
or night. Then one day she took the rest of the poison that was in the
phial and poured it into a goblet of yellow wine. This goblet she gave to
one of her pages, saying: "Take this to Tristram, and offer it to him when
I shall tell you to do so!"
[Sidenote: The Lady Moeya seeks Tristram's life a second time] Therewith
she went down to the hall where Tristram was, and she said, "Tristram, let
there be peace betwixt us." And Tristram said: "Lady, that meets my wishes,
for I have never had in my heart aught but loving-kindness toward you, and
so I would have it in your heart toward me." With this the page came in the
hall with that goblet of yellow wine. Then the Lady Moeya took the goblet
and said: "Take this cup, and drink of the wine that is in it, and so there
shall be peace betwixt us forever." And as she said that she looked very
strangely upon Tristram, but Tristram was altogether innocent of any evil
against him. So he reached out his hand to take the cup which the page
brought to him.
Now at that moment King Meliadus came into the hall fresh from the chase,
and he was much heated and greatly athirst, wherefore, when he saw that cup
of wine he said: "Stay, Tristram, let me drink, for I am greatly athirst.
After I have quenched my thirst, then thou shalt drink."
Therewith he took the goblet of wine and made to lift it to his lips. But
at that the Lady Moeya cried out, in a very loud and piercing voice, "Do
not drink of that wine!" The King said, "Why should I not drink of it?" "No
matter," said the Lady Moeya, "thou shalt not drink of it, for there is
death in it."
Therewith she ran to the King and catched him by the hand, and she plucked
away the goblet so that the wine was spilled out of it upon the ground.
[Sidenote: King Meliadus threatens to slay the Queen] Then King Meliadus
gazed at the Lady Moeya, and he thought of many things in very little time.
Thereupon he seized her by the hair and dragged her forward, so that she
fell down upon her hands and knees to the pavement of the hall. And King
Meliadus drew his great sword so that it flashed like lightning, and he
cried: "Tell me what thou hast done, and tell me quickly, or thou shalt not
be able to tell me at all!" Then the Lady Moeya clutched King Meliadus
about the thighs, and she cried out: "Do not slay me with thine own hand,
or else my blood will stain thee with dishonor! I will tell thee all, and
then thou mayst deal with me according to the law, for indeed I am not fit
to live." So therewithal the Lady Moeya confessed everything to the King.
Then King Meliadus shouted aloud and called the attendants and said: "Take
this woman and cast her into prison, and see that no harm befall her there;
for the lords of this country shall adjudge her, and not I." And therewith
he turned away and left her.
And thereafter, in due season, the Lady Moeya was brought to trial and was
condemned to be burned at the stake.
[Sidenote: Tristram begs mercy for the Queen] Now when the day came that
she was to be burnt, Tristram was very sorry for her. So when he beheld her
tied fast to the stake he came to where King Meliadus was and he kneeled
before him, and he said, "Father, I crave a boon of thee." Thereupon King
Meliadus looked upon Tristram, and he loved him very tenderly and he said:
"My son, ask what thou wilt, and it shall be thine." Then Tristram said:
"Father, I pray thee, spare the life of this lady, for methinks she hath
repented her of her evil, and surely God hath punished her very sorely for
the wickedness she hath tried to do."
Then King Meliadus was very wroth that Tristram should interfere with the
law; but yet he had granted that boon to his son and could not withdraw. So
after a while of thought he said: "Well, I have promised, and so I will
perform my promise. Her life is thine; go to the stake and take her. But
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