The Story of the Champions of the Round Table
Part 4 out of 6
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram yields to Sir Launcelot] Then, having so spoken,
Sir Tristram immediately kneeled down upon his knees and said: "Messire, I
yield myself unto thee, being overcome not more by thy prowess than by thy
courtesy. For I freely confess that thou art the greatest knight in the
world, against whom no other knight can hope to stand; for I could fight no
more and thou mightest easily have slain me when I fell down a while
"Nay, Sir Tristram," said Sir Launcelot, "arise, and kneel not to me, for I
am not willing to accept thy submission, for indeed it is yet to be proved
which of us is the better knight, thou or I. Wherefore let neither of us
yield to the other, but let us henceforth be as dear as brothers-in-arms
the one toward the other."
Then Sir Tristram rose up to his feet again. "Well, Sir Launcelot," he
said, "whatsoever thou shalt ordain shall be as thou wouldst have it. But
there is one thing I must do because of this battle."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram breaks his sword] Then he looked upon his sword
which he held naked and ensanguined in his hand and he said: "Good sword;
thou hast stood my friend and hast served me well in several battles, but
this day thou hast served me for the last time." Therewith he suddenly took
the blade of the sword in both hands--the one at the point and the other
nigh the haft--and he brake the blade across his knee and flung the pieces
Upon this Sir Launcelot cried out in a loud voice: "Ha, Messire! why didst
thou do such a thing as that? To break thine own fair sword?"
"Sir," quoth Sir Tristram, "this sword hath this day received the greatest
honor that is possible for any blade to receive; for it hath been baptized
in thy blood. So, because aught else that might happen to it would diminish
that honor, I have broken it so that its honor might never be made less
than it is at this present time."
Upon this Sir Launcelot ran to Sir Tristram and catched him in his arms,
and he cried out: "Tristram, I believe that thou art the noblest knight
whom ever I beheld!" And Sir Tristram replied: "And thou, Launcelot, I love
better than father or kindred." Therewith each kissed the other upon the
face, and all they who stood by were so moved at that sight that several of
them wept for pure joy.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram and Sir Launcelot feast together] Thereafter they
two went into Sir Tristram's pavilion and disarmed themselves. Then there
came sundry attendants who were excellent leeches and these searched their
hurts and bathed them and dressed them. And several other attendants came
and fetched soft robes and clothed the knights therein so that they were
very comfortable in their bodies. Then still other attendants brought them
good strong wine and manchets of bread and they sat together at table and
ate very cheerfully and were greatly refreshed.
So I have told you of that famous affair-at-arms betwixt Sir Launcelot and
Sir Tristram, and I pray God that you may have the same pleasure in reading
of it that I had in writing of it.
[Sidenote: King Arthur comes to Sir Tristram's pavilion] Now, as Sir
Launcelot and Sir Tristram sat in the pavilion of Sir Tristram making
pleasant converse together, there suddenly entered an esquire to where they
were sitting. This esquire proclaimed: "Messires, hither cometh King
Arthur, and he is very near at hand." Thereupon, even as that esquire
spoke, there came from without the pavilion a great noise of trampling
horses and the pleasant sound of ringing armor, and then immediately a loud
noise of many voices uplifted in acclamation.
Therewith Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram arose from where they sat, and as
they did so the curtains at the doorway of the pavilion were parted and
there entered King Arthur himself enveloped, as it were, with all the glory
of his royal estate.
Unto him Sir Tristram ran, and would have fallen upon his knees, but King
Arthur stayed him from so doing. For the great king held him by the hand
and lifted him up, and he said, "Sir, are you Sir Tristram of Lyonesse?"
"Yea," said Sir Tristram, "I am he." "Ha," said King Arthur, "I am gladder
to see you than almost any man I know of in the world," and therewith he
kissed Sir Tristram upon the face, and he said: "Welcome, Messire, to these
parts! Welcome! And thrice welcome!"
Then Sir Tristram besought King Arthur that he would refresh himself, and
the King said he would do so. So Sir Tristram brought him to the chiefest
place, and there King Arthur sat him down. And Sir Tristram would have
served him with wine and with manchets of bread with his own hand, but King
Arthur would not have it so, but bade Sir Tristram to sit beside him on his
right hand, and Sir Tristram did so. After that, King Arthur spake to Sir
Tristram about many things, and chiefly about King Meliadus, the father of
Sir Tristram, and about the court of Lyonesse.
Then, after a while King Arthur said: "Messire, I hear tell that you are a
wonderful harper." And Sir Tristram said, "Lord, so men say of me." King
Arthur said, "I would fain hear your minstrelsy." To which Sir Tristram
made reply: "Lord, I will gladly do anything at all that will give you
So therewith Sir Tristram gave orders to Gouvernail, and Gouvernail brought
him his shining golden harp, and the harp glistered with great splendor in
the dim light of the pavilion.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram sings before King Arthur] Sir Tristram took the
harp in his hands and tuned it and struck upon it. And he played upon the
harp, and he sang to the music thereof so wonderfully that they who sat
there listened in silence as though they were without breath. For not one
of them had ever heard such singing as that music which Sir Tristram sang;
for it was as though some angel were singing to those who sat there
harkening to his chanting.
So after Sir Tristram had ended, all who were there gave loud acclaim and
much praise to his singing. "Ha, Messire!" quoth King Arthur, "many times
in my life have I heard excellent singing, but never before in my life have
I heard such singing as that. Now I wish that we might always have you at
this court and that you would never leave us." And Sir Tristram said:
"Lord, I too would wish that I might always be with you and with these
noble knights of your court, for I have never met any whom I love as I love
So they sat there in great joy and friendliness of spirit, and, for the
while, Sir Tristram forgot the mission he was upon and was happy in heart
and glad of that terrible storm that had driven him thitherward.
And now I shall tell you the conclusion of all these adventures, and of how
it fared with Sir Tristram.
[Illustration: Belle Isoult and Sir Tristram drink the love draught]
_How Sir Tristram had speech with King Angus of Ireland; how he undertook
to champion the cause of King Angus and of what happened thereafter_.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram hears news of King Angus] Now, as Sir Tristram and
King Arthur and Sir Launcelot sat together in the pavilion of Sir Tristram
in pleasant, friendly discourse, as aforetold, there came Gouvernail of a
sudden into that place. He, coming to Sir Tristram, leaned over his
shoulder and he whispered into his ear: "Sir, I have just been told that
King Angus of Ireland is at this very time at Camelot at the court of the
Upon this Sir Tristram turned to King Arthur and said: "Lord, my esquire
telleth me that King Angus of Ireland is here at Camelot; now I pray you
tell me, is that saying true?" "Yea," said King Arthur, "that is true; but
what of it?" "Well," said Sir Tristram, "I had set forth to seek King Angus
in Ireland, when I and my companions were driven hither by a great storm of
wind. Yet when I find him, I know not whether King Angus may look upon me
as a friend or as an unfriend."
[Sidenote: How Sir Bertrand was killed in Ireland] "Ha," said King Arthur,
"you need not take trouble concerning the regard in which King Angus shall
hold you. For he is at this time in such anxiety of spirit that he needs to
have every man his friend who will be his friend, and no man his enemy whom
he can reconcile to him. He is not just now in very good grace, either with
me or with my court, for the case with him is thus: Some while ago, after
you left the court of Ireland, there came to that place Sir Blamor de Ganys
(who is right cousin to Sir Launcelot of the Lake) and with Sir Blamor a
knight-companion hight Sir Bertrand de la Riviere Rouge. These two knights
went to Ireland with intent to win themselves honor at the court of
Ireland. Whilst they were in that kingdom there were held many jousts and
tourneys, and in all of them Sir Blamor and Sir Bertrand were victorious,
and all the knights of Ireland who came against them were put to shame at
their hands. Many of the Irish knights were exceedingly angry at this, and
so likewise was the King of Ireland. Now it happened one day that Sir
Bertrand was found dead and murdered at a certain pass in the King's
forest, and when the news thereof was brought to Sir Blamor, he was very
wroth that his knight-companion should have been thus treacherously slain.
So he immediately quitted Ireland and returned hither straightway, and when
he had come before me he accused King Angus of treason because of that
murder. Now at this time King Angus is here upon my summons for to answer
that charge and to defend himself therefrom; for Sir Blamor offers his body
to defend the truth of his accusation, and as for the King of Ireland, he
can find no knight to take his part in that contention. For not only is Sir
Blamor, as you very well know, one of the best knights in the world, but
also nearly everybody here hath doubt of the innocence of King Angus in
this affair. Now from this you may see that King Angus is very much more in
need of a friend at this time than he is of an enemy."
"Lord," said Sir Tristram, "what you tell me is very excellent good news,
for now I know that I may have talk with King Angus with safety to myself,
and that he will no doubt receive me as a friend."
So after King Arthur and his court had taken their departure--it being then
in the early sloping of the afternoon--Sir Tristram called Gouvernail to
him and bade him make ready their horses, and when Gouvernail had done so,
they two mounted and rode away by themselves toward that place where King
Angus had taken up his lodging. When they had come there, Sir Tristram made
demand to have speech with the King, and therewith they in attendance
ushered him in to where the King Angus was.
[Sidenote: King Angus welcomes Sir Tristram] But when King Angus saw Sir
Tristram who he was, and when he beheld a face that was both familiar and
kind, he gave a great cry of joy, and ran to Sir Tristram and flung his
arms about him, and kissed him upon the cheek; for he was rejoiced beyond
measure to find a friend in that unfriendly place.
Then Sir Tristram said, "Lord, what cheer have you?" Unto that King Angus
replied: "Tristram, I have very poor cheer; for I am alone amongst enemies
with no one to befriend me, and unless I find some knight who will stand my
champion to-morrow or the next day I am like to lose my life for the murder
of Sir Bertrand de la Riviere Rouge. And where am I to find any one to act
as my champion in defence of my innocence in this place, where I behold an
enemy in every man whom I meet? Alas, Tristram! There is no one in all the
world who will aid me unless it be you, for you alone of all the knights in
the world beyond the circle of the knights of the Round Table may hope to
stand against so excellent and so strong a hero!"
"Lord," quoth Sir Tristram, "I know very well what great trouble overclouds
you at this time, and it is because of that that I am come hither for to
visit you. For I have not at any time forgotten how that I told you when
you spared my life in Ireland that mayhap the time might come when I might
serve as your friend in your day of need. So if you will satisfy me upon
two points, then I myself will stand for your champion upon this occasion."
"Ah, Tristram," quoth King Angus, "what you say is very good news to me
indeed. For I believe there is no other knight in all the world (unless it
be Sir Launcelot of the Lake) who is so strong and worthy a knight as you.
So tell me what are those two matters concerning which you would seek
satisfaction, and, if it is possible for me to do so, I will give you such
an answer as may please you."
"Lord," said Sir Tristram, "the first matter is this: that you shall
satisfy me that you are altogether innocent of the death of Sir Bertrand.
And the second matter is this: that you shall grant me whatsoever favor it
is that I shall have to ask of you."
[Sidenote: King Angus swears innocence to Sir Tristram] Then King Angus
arose and drew his sword and he said: "Tristram, behold; here is my
sword--and the guard thereof and the blade thereof and the handle thereof
make that holy sign of the cross unto which all Christian men bow down to
worship. Look! See! Here I kiss that holy sign and herewith I swear an oath
upon that sacred symbol, and I furthermore swear upon the honor of my
knighthood, that I am altogether guiltless of the death of that noble,
honorable knight aforesaid. Nor do I at all know how it was he met his
death, for I am innocent of all evil knowledge thereof. Now, Messire, art
thou satisfied upon that point?" And Sir Tristram said, "I am satisfied."
Then King Angus said: "As to the matter of granting you a favor, that I
would do in any case for the love I bear you. So let me hear what it is
that you have to ask of me."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram asks his boon] "Lord," cried out Sir Tristram,
"the favor is one I had liever die than ask. It is this: that you give me
your daughter, the Lady Belle Isoult, for wife unto mine uncle, King Mark
Upon these words, King Angus sat in silence for a long while, gazing very
strangely upon Sir Tristram. Then by and by he said: "Messire, this is a
very singular thing you ask of me; for from what you said to me aforetime
and from what you said to my daughter I had thought that you desired the
Lady Belle Isoult for yourself. Now I can in no wise understand why you do
not ask for her in your name instead of asking for her in the name of King
Then Sir Tristram cried out as in great despair: "Messire, I love that dear
lady a great deal more than I love my life; but in this affair I am
fulfilling a pledge made upon the honor of my knighthood and unto the King
of Cornwall, who himself made me knight. For I pledged him unaware, and now
I am paying for my hastiness. Yet I would God that you might take the sword
which you hold in your hand and thrust it through my heart; for I had
liefer die than fulfil this obligation to which I am pledged."
"Well," said King Angus, "you know very well that I will not slay you, but
that I will fulfil your boon as I have promised. As for what you do in this
affair, you must answer for it to God and to the honor of your own
knighthood whether it is better to keep that promise which you made to the
King of Cornwall or to break it."
Then Sir Tristram cried out again in great travail of soul: "Lord, you know
not what you say, nor what torments I am at this present moment enduring."
And therewith he arose and went forth from that place, for he was ashamed
that anyone should behold the passion that moved him.
And now is to be told of that famous battle betwixt Sir Tristram and Sir
Blamor de Ganys of which so much hath been written in all the several
histories of chivalry that deal with these matters.
Now when the next morning had come--clear and fair and with the sun shining
wonderfully bright--a great concourse of people began to betake themselves
to that place where the lists had been set up in preparation for that
ordeal of battle. That place was on a level meadow of grass very fair
bedight with flowers and not far from the walls of the town nor from the
high road that led to the gate of the same.
[Sidenote: Of the meadow of battle] And, indeed, that was a very beautiful
place for battle, for upon the one hand was the open countryside, all gay
with spring blossoms and flowers; and upon the other hand were the walls of
the town. Over above the top of those walls was to be seen a great many
tall towers--some built of stone and some of brick--that rose high up into
the clear, shining sky all full of slow-drifting clouds, that floated, as
it were, like full-breasted swans in a sea of blue. And beyond the walls of
the town you might behold a great many fair houses with bright windows of
glass all shining against the sky. So you may see how fair was all that
place, where that fierce battle was presently to be fought.
Meanwhile, great multitudes of people had gathered all about the meadow of
battle, and others stood like flies upon the walls of the town and looked
down into that fair, pleasant meadow-land, spread with its carpet of
flowers. All along one side of the ground of battle was a scaffolding of
seats fair bedraped with fabrics of various colors and textures. In the
midst of all the other seats were two seats hung with cloth of scarlet, and
these seats were the one for King Arthur and the other for King Angus of
In the centre of the meadow-land Sir Blamor rode up and down very proudly.
He was clad in red armor, and the trappings and the furniture of his horse
were all of red, so that he paraded the field like a crimson flame of fire.
"Sir." quoth King Arthur to King Angus, "yon is a very strong, powerful,
noble knight; now where mayst thou find one who can hope to stand against
him in this coming battle?"
[Sidenote: King Angus presents Sir Tristram for his champion] "Lord," said
King Angus, "I do believe that God hath raised up a defender for me in this
extremity. For Sir Tristram of Lyonesse came to me yesterday, and offered
for to take this quarrel of mine upon him. Now I do not believe that there
is any better knight in all of Christendom than he, wherefore I am to-day
uplifted with great hopes that mine innocence shall be proved against mine
"Ha!" quoth King Arthur, "if Sir Tristram is to stand thy champion in this
affair, then I do believe that thou hast indeed found for thyself a very
excellent, worthy defender."
So anon there came Sir Tristram riding to that place, attended only by
Gouvernail. And he was clad all in bright, polished armor so that he shone
like a star of great splendor as he entered the field of battle. He came
straight to where King Arthur sat and saluted before him. King Arthur said,
"Sir, what knight art thou?" "Lord," answered he, "I am Sir Tristram of
Lyonesse, and I am come to champion King Angus who sits beside you. For I
believe him to be innocent of that matter of which he is accused, and I
will emperil my body in that belief for to prove the truth of the same."
"Well," quoth King Arthur, "this King accused hath, certes, a very noble
champion in thee. So go and do thy devoirs, and may God defend the right."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram does battle with Sir Blamor] Thereupon each knight
took a good stout spear into his hand and chose his place for the
encounter, and each set his shield before him and feutered his lance in
rest. Then, when each was ready, the marshal blew a great blast upon his
trumpet, and thereupon, in an instant, each knight launched against the
other like a bolt of thunder. So they met in the very middle of the course
with such violence that the spear of each knight was shattered all into
pieces unto the very truncheon thereof. Each horse fell back upon his
haunches, and each would no doubt, have fallen entirely, had not the
knight-rider recovered his steed with the greatest skill and address.
Then each knight voided his saddle and each drew his sword and set his
shield before him. Therewith they came to battle on foot like two wild
boars--so fiercely and felly that it was terrible to behold. For they
traced this way and that and foined and struck at one another so that whole
pieces of armor were hewn from the bodies of each.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram overcomes Sir Blamor] But in all this battle Sir
Tristram had so much the better that, by and by after they had fought for
above an hour, Sir Blamor de Ganys began to bare back before him, and to
give ground, holding his shield low for weariness. This Sir Tristram
perceived, and, running in suddenly upon Sir Blamor, he struck him so
terrible a blow upon the right shoulder that Sir Blamor's arm was
altogether benumbed thereby, and he could no longer hold his sword in his
So the sword of Sir Blamor fell down into the grass, and Sir Tristram,
perceiving this, ran and set his foot upon it. Then Sir Blamor could not
stand any longer, but fell down upon his knees because of a great weariness
and faintness that lay upon him like the weariness and faintness of
Then Sir Tristram said: "Sir Knight, thou canst fight no longer. Now I bid
thee for to yield thyself to me as overcome in this battle."
Thereunto Sir Blamor made reply, speaking very deep and hollow from out of
his helmet: "Sir Knight, thou hast overcome me by thy strength and prowess,
but I will not yield myself to thee now nor at any time. For that would be
so great shame that I would rather die than endure it. I am a knight of the
Round Table, and have never yet been overcome in this wise by any man. So
thou mayst slay me, but I will not yield myself to thee."
Then Sir Tristram cried out: "Sir Knight, I beseech thee to yield thyself,
for thou art not fit to fight any more this day."
Sir Blamor said, "I will not yield, so strike and have done with it."
So Sir Tristram wist not what to do, but stood there in doubt looking down
upon Sir Blamor. Then Sir Blamor said, again: "Strike, Sir Knight, and have
done with it."
Upon this Sir Tristram said: "I may not strike thee, Sir Blamor de Ganys,
to slay thee, for thou art very nigh of blood to Sir Launcelot of the Lake,
and unto him I have sworn brotherhood in arms; wherefore I pray thee now to
yield thyself to me."
Sir Blamor said, "Nay, I will not yield me to thee."
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "then I must fain act this day in a manner like
as I acted yesterday."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram gives Sir Blamor back his sword] Therewith
speaking, he took his sword into both his hands and he swung it several
times around his head and when he had done that he flung it to a great
distance away, so that he was now entirely unarmed saving only for his
misericordia. After that he gave Sir Blamor his hand and lifted him up upon
his feet. And he stooped and picked up Sir Blamor's sword out of the grass
and gave it back to Sir Blamor into his hands, and he said: "Sir Knight,
now thou art armed and I am entirely unarmed, and so thou hast me at thy
mercy. Now thou shalt either yield thyself to me or slay me as I stand here
without any weapon; for I cannot now strike thee, and though I have
overcome thee fairly yet thou hast it now in thy power to slay me. So now
do thy will with me in this matter."
Then Sir Blamor was greatly astonished at the magnanimity of Sir Tristram,
and he said, "Sir Knight, what is thy name?" Sir Tristram said, "It is
Tristram, surnamed of Lyonesse."
Upon this Sir Blamor came to Sir Tristram and put his arms about his
shoulders, and he said: "Tristram, I yield myself to thee, but in love and
not in hate. For I yield myself not because of thy strength of arms (and
yet I believe there is no knight in the world, unless it be my cousin Sir
Launcelot of the Lake, who is thy peer), but I yield me because of thy
exceeding nobility. Yet I would that I might only be satisfied that this
King of Ireland is no traitor."
"Messire," said Sir Tristram, "of that I have assured myself very strongly
ere I entered into this contest, wherefore I may now freely avouch upon
mine own knightly word that he is innocent."
"Then," said Sir Blamor, "I also am satisfied, and I herewith withdraw all
my impeachment against him."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram and Sir Blamor are reconciled] Then those two
noble, excellent knights took one another by the hand and went forward
together to where King Arthur sat in high estate, and all those who looked
on and beheld that reconciliation gave loud acclaim. And when King Arthur
beheld them coming thus, he arose from where he sat and met them and
embraced them both, and he said: "I do not believe that any king can have
greater glory in his life than this, to have such knights about him as ye
So ended this famous battle with great glory to Sir Tristram and yet with
no disregard to that famous knight against whom he did battle.
After that, they and King Arthur and King Angus of Ireland and all the
court went up unto the castle of Camelot, and there the two
knights-combatant were bathed in tepid water and their wounds were searched
and dressed and they were put at their ease in all ways that it was
Now that very day, as they all sat at feast in the castle of Camelot, there
came one with news that the name of Sir Tristram had suddenly appeared upon
one of the seats of the Round Table. So after they had ended their feast
they all immediately went to see how that might be. When they came to the
pavilion of the Round Table, there, behold! was his name indeed upon that
seat that had once been the seat of King Pellinore. For this was the name
that now was upon that seat:
SIR TRISTRAM OF LYONESSE
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram becomes knight of the Round Table] So the next day
Sir Tristram was duly installed as a knight-companion of the Round Table
with a great pomp and estate of circumstance, and a day or two after that
he set sail for Ireland with King Angus, taking with him Gouvernail and
those Cornish knights who were his companions.
So they all reached Ireland in safety, and, because Sir Tristram had aided
the King of Ireland in the day of his extremity, the Queen forgave him all
the despite she held against him, so that he was received at the court of
the King and Queen with great friendship and high honor.
[Sidenote: How Sir Tristram dwelt in Ireland] For a while Sir Tristram
dwelt in Ireland and said nothing concerning that purpose for which he had
come. Then one day he said to King Angus: "Lord, thou art not to forget to
fulfil that promise which thou madst to me concerning the Lady Belle
To this King Angus made reply: "I had hoped that now we were come to
Ireland you had changed your purpose in that matter. Are you yet of the
same mind as when you first spake to me?"
"Yea," said Sir Tristram, "for it cannot be otherwise."
"Well, then," said King Angus, "I shall go to prepare my daughter for this
ill-hap that is to befall her, though indeed it doth go against my heart to
do such a thing. After I have first spoken to her, you are to take the
matter into your own hands, for, to tell you the truth, I have not the
heart to contrive it further."
So King Angus went away from where Sir Tristram was, and he was gone a long
while. When he returned he said: "Sir, go you that way and the Lady Belle
Isoult will see you."
So Sir Tristram went in the direction King Angus had said, and a page
showed him the way. So by and by he came to where the Lady Belle Isoult
was, and it was a great chamber in a certain tower of the castle and high
up Under the eaves of the roof.
[Sidenote: How Lady Belle Isoult appeared to Sir Tristram] The Lady Belle
Isoult stood upon the farther side of this chamber so that the light from
the windows shone full upon her face, and Sir Tristram perceived that she
was extraordinarily beautiful, and rather like to a shining spirit than to
a lady of flesh and blood. For she was clad altogether in white and her
face was like to wax for whiteness and clearness, and she wore ornaments of
gold set with shining stones of divers colors about her neck and about her
arms so that they glistered with a wonderful lustre. Her eyes shone very
bright and clear like one with a fever, and Sir Tristram beheld that there
were channels of tears upon her face and several tears stood upon her white
cheeks like to shining jewels hanging suspended there.
So, for a while, Sir Tristram stood still without speaking and regarded her
from afar. Then after a while she spake and said, "Sir, what is this you
have done?" "Lady," he said, "I have done what God set me to do, though I
would rather die than do it."
She said, "Tristram, you have betrayed me." Upon the which he cried out in
a very loud and piercing voice, "Lady, say not so!"
She said: "Tristram, tell me, is it better to fulfil this pledge you have
made, knowing that in so doing you sacrifice both my happiness and your
happiness to satisfy your pride of honor; or is it better that you
sacrifice your pride and break this promise so that we may both be happy?
Tristram, I beseech you to break this promise you have made and let us be
At this Sir Tristram cried out in a very loud voice: "Lady, did you put
your hand into my bosom and tear my naked heart, you could not cause me so
much pain as that which I this moment endure. It cannot be as you would
have it, for it is thus with me: were it but myself whom I might consider,
I would freely sacrifice both my life and my honor for your sake. But it
may not be so, lady; for I am held to be one of the chiefest of that order
of knighthood to which I belong, wherefore I may not consider myself, but
must ever consider that order. For if I should violate a pledge given upon
my knighthood, then would I dishonor not myself, but that entire order to
which I belong. For, did I so, all the world would say, what virtue is
there in the order of knighthood when one of the chiefest of that order may
violate his pledge when it pleases him to do so? So, lady, having assumed
that great honor of knighthood I must perform its obligations even to the
uttermost; yea, though in fulfilling my pledge I sacrifice both Thee and
Then Belle Isoult looked upon Sir Tristram for some little while, and by
and by she smiled very pitifully and said: "Ah, Tristram, I believe I am
more sorry for thee than I am for myself."
"Lady," said Tristram, "I would God that I lay here dead before you. But I
am not able to die, but am altogether strong and hale--only very sorrowful
at heart." And therewith he turned and left that place. Only when he had
come to a place where he was entirely by himself with no one but God to see
him, he hid his face in his hands and wept as though his heart were
altogether broken. So it was that Sir Tristram fulfilled his pledge.
[Sidenote: Belle Isoult and Sir Tristram depart for Cornwall] After that,
King Angus furnished a very noble and beautiful ship with sails of satin
embroidered with figures of divers sorts, and he fitted the ship in all
ways such as became the daughter of a king and the wife of a king to embark
upon. And that ship was intended for the Lady Belle Isoult and Sir Tristram
in which to sail to the court of Cornwall.
And it was ordained that a certain very excellent lady of the court of the
Queen, who had been attendant upon the Lady Belle Isoult when she was a
little child and who had been with her in attendance ever since that time,
should accompany her to the Court of Cornwall. And the name of this lady
was the Lady Bragwaine.
[Sidenote: The Queen of Ireland provides a love potion for King Mark and
Belle Isoult] Now the day before the Lady Belle Isoult was to take her
departure from Ireland, the Queen of Ireland came to the Lady Bragwaine and
she bare with her a flagon of gold very curiously wrought. And the Queen
said: "Bragwaine, here is a flask of a very singular and precious sort of
an elixir; for that liquor it is of such a sort that when a man and a woman
drink of it together, they two shall thereafter never cease to love one
another as long as they shall have life. Take this flask, and when you have
come to Cornwall, and when the Lady Belle Isoult and King Mark have been
wedded, then give them both to drink of this elixir; for after they have
drunk they shall forget all else in the world and cleave only to one
another. This I give you to the intent that the Lady Isoult may forget Sir
Tristram, and may become happy in the love of King Mark whom she shall
Soon thereafter the Lady Belle Isoult took leave of the King and the Queen
and entered into that ship that had been prepared for her. Thus, with Sir
Tristram and with Dame Bragwaine and with their attendants, she set sail
Now it happened that, whilst they were upon that voyage, the Lady Bragwaine
came of a sudden into the cabin of that ship and there she beheld the Lady
Belle Isoult lying upon a couch weeping. Dame Bragwaine said, "Lady, why do
you weep?" Whereunto the Lady Belle Isoult made reply: "Alas, Bragwaine,
how can I help but weep seeing that I am to be parted from the man I love
and am to be married unto another whom I do not love?"
Dame Bragwaine laughed and said: "Do you then weep for that? See! Here is a
wonderful flask as it were of precious wine. When you are married to the
King of Cornwall, then you are to quaff of it and he is to quaff of it and
after that you will forget all others in the world and cleave only to one
another. For it is a wonderful love potion and it hath been given to me to
use in that very way. Wherefore dry your eyes, for happiness may still lay
When the Lady Belle Isoult heard these words she wept no more but smiled
very strangely. Then by and by she arose and went away to where Sir
When she came to him she said, "Tristram, will you drink of a draught with
me?" He said, "Yea, lady, though it were death in the draught."
She said, "There is not death in it, but something very different," and
thereupon she went away into the cabin where that chalice aforesaid was
hidden. And at that time Dame Bragwaine was not there.
Then the Lady Belle Isoult took the flagon from where it was hidden, and
poured the elixir out into a chalice of gold and crystal and she brought it
to where Sir Tristram was. When she had come there, she said, "Tristram, I
drink to thee," and therewith she drank the half of the elixir there Was in
the chalice. Then she said, "Now drink thou the rest to me."
Upon that Sir Tristram took the chalice and lifted it to his lips, and
drank all the rest of that liquor that was therein.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram and Belle Isoult drink the love potion] Now
immediately Sir Tristram had drunk that elixir he felt it run like fire
through every vein in his body. Thereupon he cried out, "Lady, what is this
you have given me to drink?" She said: "Tristram, that was a powerful love
potion intended for King Mark and me. But now thou and I have drunk of it
and never henceforth can either of us love anybody in all of the world but
Then Sir Tristram catched her into his arms and he cried out: "Isoult!
Isoult! what hast thou done to us both? Was it not enough that I should
have been unhappy but that thou shouldst have chosen to be unhappy also?"
Thereat the Lady Belle Isoult both wept and smiled, looking up into Sir
Tristram's face, and she said: "Nay, Tristram; I would rather be sorry with
thee than happy with another." He said, "Isoult, there is much woe in this
for us both." She said, "I care not, so I may share it with thee."
Thereupon Sir Tristram kissed her thrice upon the face, and then
immediately put her away from him and he left her and went away by himself
in much agony of spirit.
Thereafter they reached the kingdom of Cornwall in safety, and the Lady
Belle Isoult and King Mark were wedded with much pomp and ceremony and
after that there was much feasting and every appearance of rejoicing.
The Story of Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack
And now shall be told the story of Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack of Gales,
how they became brothers-in-arms; how Sir Lamorack took offence at Sir
Tristram, and how they became reconciled again.
But first of all you must know that Sir Lamorack of Gales was deemed to be
one of the greatest knights alive. For it was said that there were three
knights that were the greatest in all of the world, and those three were
Sir Launcelot of the Lake, Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, and Sir Lamorack of
Sir Lamorack was the son of King Pellinore, of whom it hath already been
told in the Book of King Arthur that he was the greatest knight during that
time; and he was the brother of Sir Percival, of whom it is to be told
hereinafter that he was the peer even of Sir Launcelot of the Lake. So
because that house produced three such great and famous knights, the house
of King Pellinore hath always been singularly renowned in all histories of
chivalry. For indeed there was not any house so famous as it saving only
the house of King Ban of Benwick, which brought forth those two peerless
knights beyond all compare:--to wit, Sir Launcelot of the Lake and Sir
Galahad, who achieved the quest of the San Grail.
So I hope that you may find pleasure in the story of how Sir Tristram and
Sir Lamorack became acquainted, and of how they became brothers-in-arms.
[Illustration: Sir Lamorack of Gales]
_How Sir Lamorack of Gales came to Tintagel and how he and Sir Tristram
sware friendship together in the forest._
After these happenings, Sir Tristram abode for awhile at the Court of
Cornwall, for so King Mark commanded him to do. And he sought in every way
to distract his mind from his sorrows by deeds of prowess. So during this
time he performed several adventures of which there is not now space to
tell you. But these adventures won such credit to his knighthood that all
the world talked of his greatness.
And ever as he grew more and more famous, King Mark hated him more and
more. For he could not bear to see Sir Tristram so noble and so sorrowful
with love of the Lady Belle Isoult.
Also Sir Tristram spent a great deal of time at chase with hawk and hound;
for he hoped by means also of such sports to drive away, in some measure,
his grief for the loss of Belle Isoult.
Now the season whereof this chapter speaketh was in the autumn of the year,
what time all the earth is glorious with the brown and gold of the
woodlands. For anon, when the wind would blow, then the leaves would fall
down from the trees like showers of gold so that everywhere they lay heaped
like flakes of gold upon the russet sward, rustling dry and warm beneath
the feet, and carpeting all the world with splendor. And the deep blue sky
overhead was heaped full of white, slow-moving clouds, and everywhere the
warm air was fragrant with the perfume of the forest, and at every strong
breeze the nuts would fall pattering down upon the ground like hailstones.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram rides ahunting] And because the world was so
beautiful and so lusty, Sir Tristram took great pleasure in life in spite
of that trouble that lay upon him. So he and his court rode very joyfully
amid the trees and thickets, making the woodlands merry with the music of
winding horns and loud-calling voices and with the baying of hounds
sounding like sweet tolling bells in the remoter aisles of the forest
Thus Sir Tristram made sport all one morning, in such an autumn season, and
when noon had come he found himself to be anhungered. So he gave orders to
those who were in attendance upon him that food should be spread at a
certain open space in the forest; and therewith, in accordance with those
orders, they in attendance immediately opened sundry hampers of wicker, and
therefrom brought forth a noble pasty of venison, and manchets of bread and
nuts and apples and several flasks and flagons of noble wine of France and
the Rhine countries. This abundance of good things they set upon a cloth as
white as snow which they had laid out upon the ground.
Now just as Sir Tristram was about to seat himself at this goodly feast he
beheld amid the thin yellow foliage that there rode through a forest path
not far away a very noble-seeming knight clad all in shining armor and with
vestments and trappings of scarlet so that he shone like a flame of fire in
Then Sir Tristram said to those who stood near him, "Know ye who is yonder
knight who rides alone?" They say, "No, Lord, we know him not." Sir
Tristram said, "Go and bid that knight of his courtesy that he come hither
and eat with me."
So three or four esquires ran to where that knight was riding, and in a
little they came attending him to where Sir Tristram was, and Sir Tristram
went to meet him.
Then Sir Tristram said: "Sir Knight, I pray you for to tell me your name
and degree, for it seems to me that you are someone very high in order of
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack meets Sir Tristam] "Messire," quoth the other, "I
shall be very glad to tell you my name if so be you will do the like
courtesy unto me. I am Sir Lamorack of Gales, and I am son of the late King
Pellinore, who was in his days held to be the foremost knight in this
realm. I come to these parts seeking Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, of whose
fame I hear told in every court of chivalry whither I go. For I have never
beheld Sir Tristram, and I have a great desire to do so."
"Well," quoth Sir Tristram, "meseems I should be greatly honored that you
should take so much trouble for nothing else than that; for lo! I am that
very Sir Tristram of Lyonesse whom you seek."
Then Sir Lamorack immediately leaped down from his war-horse and putting up
the umbril of his helmet, he came to Sir Tristram and took him by the hand
and kissed him upon the cheek. And Sir Tristram kissed Sir Lamorack again,
and each made great joy of the other.
After that, Sir Lamorack, with the aid of these esquires attendant upon Sir
Tristram, put aside his armor, and bathed his face and neck and hands in a
cold forest brook, as clear as crystal, that came brawling down out of the
woodlands. Therewith, being greatly refreshed he and Sir Tristram sat down
to that bountiful feast together, and ate and drank with great joy and
content of spirit. And whiles they ate each made inquiry of the other what
he did, and each told the other many things concerning the goodly
adventures that had befallen him.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram sings to Sir Lamorack] And after they were through
eating and drinking, Sir Tristram took his harp in hand and sang several
excellent ballads and rondels which he had made in honor of Belle Isoult,
and Sir Lamorack listened and made great applause at each song that Sir
Tristram sang. And so each knight loved the other more and more the longer
they sat together.
Then, after a while, Sir Tristram said: "Dear friend, let us swear
brotherhood to one another, for I find that my heart goeth out to thee with
a wonderful strength."
"Ha, Tristram," said Sir Lamorack, "I would rather live in brotherhood with
thee than with any man whom I know, for I find that the longer I am with
thee, the greater and the stronger my love groweth for thee."
Then Sir Tristram drew from his finger a very splendid ring (for the ring
held an emerald carved into the likeness of the head of a beautiful woman,
and that emerald was set into the gold of the ring) and Sir Tristram said:
"Give me that ring upon thy finger, O Lamorack! and take thou this ring in
its stead; so we shall have confirmed our brotherhood to one another."
Then Sir Lamorack did very joyfully as Sir Tristram bade him, and he took
the ring that Sir Tristram gave him and kissed it and put it upon his
finger; and Sir Tristram kissed the ring that Sir Lamorack gave him and put
it upon his finger.
Thus they confirmed brotherhood with one another that day as they sat
together in the forest at feast, with the golden leaves falling about them.
And so they sat together all that afternoon and until the sun began to hang
low in the west; after that, they arose and took horse, and rode away
together toward Tintagel in great pleasure of companionship.
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack is honored at Tintagel] Now all the court at
Tintagel was greatly rejoiced at the presence of so famous a knight as Sir
Lamorack of Gales; so there was great celebration upon that account, and
everybody did the most that he was able to give pleasure to Sir Lamorack.
And during the time that Sir Lamorack was at Tintagel there were several
joustings held in his honor, and in all these assays at arms Sir Lamorack
himself took part and overthrew everyone who came against him, so that he
approved himself to be so wonderful a champion that all men who beheld his
performance exclaimed with astonishment at his prowess.
But from all these affairs at arms Sir Tristram held himself aloof, and
would not take part in them. For he took such pleasure in Sir Lamorack's
glory that he would not do anything that might imperil the credit that his
friend thus gained by his prowess. For though Sir Tristram dearly loved
such affairs, he would ever say to himself: "Perhaps if I should enter the
lists against my friend it might be my mishap to overthrow him and then his
glory would be forfeited unto me."
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack does famous battle] Now upon a certain time there
was held a great day of jousting in honor of Sir Lamorack, and in that
affair at arms twenty of the best knights, both of Cornwall and the
countries circumadjacent, took the field to hold it against all comers. Of
these knights, several were well-known champions, so that they maintained
the field for a long while, to the great credit both of themselves and of
Cornwall. But some while after the prime of day, there came Sir Lamorack
into that field, and, the day being cool and fresh, he was filled with a
wonderful strength and spirit of battle. So he challenged first one of
those Cornish champions and then another, and in all such challenges he was
successful, so that he overthrew of those knights, the one after the other,
fifteen men, some of whom were sorely hurt in the encounter. Upon this, the
other five of those champions, beholding the prowess and strength and skill
of Sir Lamorack said to one another: "Why should we venture against this
man? Of a verity, this knight is no mere man, but a demon of strength and
skill. Wherefore no man may hope to stand against him in an assault of
arms; for lo! if he doth but touch a man with his lance that man
straightway falleth from his saddle." So they withdrew themselves from that
encounter and would not have to do with Sir Lamorack.
Now at that time Sir Tristram was sitting with the court of the King, and
not far from the Lady Belle Isoult, overlooking the meadow of battle.
To him King Mark said: "Messire, why do you take no part against this
knight? Is it that you fear him?"
To this Sir Tristram replied with great calmness: "Nay, I fear not him nor
any man alive, and that you know, Lord, better than anyone in all of the
"I am glad to hear of your courage and fearlessness," quoth King Mark, "for
meseems it is a great shame to all of us that this gentleman, who is a
stranger amongst us, should win so much credit to the disadvantage of all
the knights of Cornwall. Now, as you say you have no fear of him, I pray
you go down into the field and do battle with him in our behalf." So said
King Mark, for he thought to himself: "Perhaps Sir Lamorack may overthrow
Sir Tristram, and so bring him into disrepute with those who praise him so
But Sir Tristram said: "No; I will not go down to battle against Sir
Lamorack this day whatever I may do another day. For I have sworn
brotherhood to that noble and gentle champion, and it would ill beseem me
to assault him now, when he is weary and short of breath from this great
battle which he hath done to-day against such odds. For if I should
overthrow him now, it would bring great shame upon him. Some other day and
in some other place I may assay him in friendliness, with honor and credit
both to myself and him."
[Sidenote: King Mark commands Sir Tristram to do battle] "Well," said King
Mark, "as for that, I do not choose to wait. Nor am I pleased that you
should sit by and suffer this knight to carry away all the credit of arms
from Cornwall in despite of the knights of Cornwall. For not only would
this be a great shame to the knights of Cornwall (of whom you are the
acknowledged champion), but it would be equally a shame unto this lady whom
you have fetched hither from Ireland to be Queen of Cornwall. So I lay this
command upon you--not only because I am your King, but because I am he who
made you knight--that you straightway go down into yonder meadow and do
battle with this knight who beareth himself so proudly in our midst."
Then Sir Tristram looked upon King Mark with great anger and bitterness,
and he said: "This is great shame and despite which you seek to put upon me
by giving such commands unto me. Verily, it would seem that in all ways you
seek to put shame and sorrow upon me. And yet I have ever been your true
knight, and have saved your kingdom from truage to Ireland and have served
you very faithfully in all ways. Would to God I had been made knight by any
man in the world rather than by you."
At this King Mark smiled very bitterly upon Tristram. "Sirrah," quoth he,
"meseems you speak very outrageously to me who am your King. Now I herewith
command you to go straightway down into that field without any further
words and to do my bidding against yonder knight."
Then Sir Tristram groaned in spirit, and then he said, "I go."
So Sir Tristram arose and went away from that place very full of bitterness
and anger against the King and his court. For whiles there were some of
that court who were sorry for the affront that King Mark had put upon him
in public before the eyes of the entire court, yet there were others who
smiled and were glad of his humiliation. For even so true and noble a
gentleman as Sir Tristram, when he groweth great and famous, is like to
have as many enemies as friends. For there are ever those who envy truth
and nobility in a man, as well as others who hate meanness and falsity, and
so Sir Tristram ever had many enemies whithersoever he went. And that also
was the case with Sir Launcelot and Sir Lamorack, and with other noble
knights at that time.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram arms himself] But though Sir Tristram was so
filled with indignation he said nothing to any man, but went to his lodging
and summoned Gouvernail, and bade Gouvernail to help him to his armor and
Gouvernail said: "Lord, what would you do for to arm and horse yourself at
this hour?" Sir Tristram made reply: "The King hath commanded me to do
battle with Sir Lamorack, and yet Sir Lamorack is my very dear friend and
sworn brother-in-arms. He is already weary with battle, and of a surety I
shall be very likely to overthrow him in an assault at arms at this time."
Gouvernail said, "Lord, that would be great shame to you as well as to
him." And Sir Tristram said, "Yea, it is great shame." Then Gouvernail
beheld Sir Tristram's face, how it was all filled with a passion of shame
and indignation, and so he guessed what had passed, and held his peace.
So when Sir Tristram was armed and mounted, he rode down into the meadow of
battle, where was Sir Lamorack parading with great glory before the
applause of all who looked down upon that field.
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack speaks to Sir Tristram] But when Sir Lamorack
beheld that it was Sir Tristram who came against him, he was greatly
astonished, and cried out: "Ha, Tristram, how is this? Is it you who come
against me? Have you then forgot that I am your brother-in-arms and a
fellow of the Round Table?"
To this Sir Tristram said: "Messire, I come not of my own free will, but
only because I must needs come, being so commanded by the King of
"Very well," said Sir Lamorack, "so be it as you will, though I am very
much surprised that you should do battle against me, after all that hath
passed betwixt us. More especially at this season when, as you very well
know, I am weary and winded with battle."
Thereupon and without further parley, each knight took stand for the
encounter at the position assigned to him. Then when they were in all ways
prepared, the marshal of the field blew upon his trumpet a call for the
So rushed those two together like two stones, flung each out of a catapult;
and therewith they two smote together in the midst of their course like to
a clap of thunder.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram overthrows Sir Lamorack] In that encounter the
spear of Sir Lamorack brake into as many as twenty or thirty pieces; but
the spear of Sir Tristram held, so that the horse of Sir Lamorack, which
was weary with the several charges he had made, was overthrown into a great
cloud of dust.
But Sir Lamorack did not fall with his steed; for he voided his saddle with
a very wonderful agility and dexterity, so that he himself kept his feet,
although his horse fell as aforesaid. Then he was filled with great rage
and shame that he had been so overthrown before all those who looked upon
him; wherefore he immediately drew his sword and cried out aloud: "Come
down, Sir Knight, and do battle with me afoot, for though my horse hath
failed me because of his weariness, yet you shall find that my body shall
not so fail me."
But that while Sir Tristram sat very sorrowful, and he said: "Nay, I will
not have to do with thee again this day, for it was against my will that I
came hither to do battle with thee, and it is to my shame that I did so.
Wherefore I will not now do further battle with thee. But wait until
to-morrow and until thou art fresh, and then I will give thee the chance of
To this Sir Lamorack made answer very bitterly: "Sir, I think you talk to
amuse me; for first you put shame upon me in this encounter, and then you
bid me wait until to-morrow ere I purge me of that shame. Now I demand of
you to do battle with me upon this moment and not to-morrow."
Sir Tristram said: "I will not do battle with thee, Lamorack, for I have
done wrong already, and I will not do more wrong."
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack reproves Sir Tristram] Upon this, Sir Lamorack was
so filled with anger that he scarce knew what to say or to do. Wherefore he
turned him to several who had come down into the meadow of battle, and he
said: "Hear ye all, and listen to my words: This knight came against me in
this field after I had had to do with fifteen other knights. In that
encounter he overthrew me, because of the weariness of my horse. Having
done that unknightly deed, he now refuseth me any further test of battle,
but allows me to lie beneath that shame which he put upon me. Now I bid you
who stand here to take this word to Sir Launcelot of the Lake; I bid ye
tell Sir Launcelot that Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, having sworn
brother-hood-in-arms to me, and being a fellow-knight of the Round Table,
hath come against me when I was weary with battle and he was fresh. Tell
Sir Launcelot that so Sir Tristram overthrew me with shame to himself and
with discredit to me, and that he then refused me all satisfaction such as
one true knight should afford another."
Then Sir Tristram cried out in a loud voice, "I pray you, hear me speak,
Messire!" But Sir Lamorack replied, "I will not hear thee!" and therewith
turned and went away, leaving Sir Tristram where he was. And Sir Tristram
sat there without movement, like to a statue of stone.
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack leaves Tintagel] After that Sir Lamorack did not
tarry longer at Tintagel, but immediately left the King's court without
making speech with anyone. And thereafter he went down to the seashore and
embarked in a boat with intent to sail to Camelot where King Arthur was
then holding court. For his heart was still so bitter against Sir Tristram
that he intended to lay complaint against him before the court of chivalry
But Sir Lamorack did not reach Camelot upon that voyage; for, whilst he was
in passage, there suddenly arose a great tempest of wind, and in spite of
all that the mariners could do, that small ship wherein he sailed was
driven upon a cruel headland of rocks and cliffs where it was dashed to
But Sir Lamorack had foreseen that that small boat was to be wrecked,
wherefore, before the end came, he stripped himself entirely naked and
leaped into the waters and swam for his life.
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack is shipwrecked upon a strange land] So he swam for
a long time until he was wellnigh exhausted and upon the point of drowning
in the waters. But at that moment he came by good hap to where was a little
bay of quiet water, whereinto he swam and so made shift to come safe to
land--but faint and weak, and so sick that he feared that he was nigh to
death. Then Sir Lamorack perceived that there was heather at that place
growing upon the rocks of the hillside, so he crawled into the heather and
lay him down therein in a dry spot and immediately fell into such a deep
sleep of weariness that it was more like to the swoon of death than to
[Sidenote: Of Sir Nabon le Noir] Now the lord of that country whereunto
Sir Lamorack had come was a very wicked knight, huge of frame and very
cruel and hard of heart. The name of this knight was Sir Nabon, surnamed le
Noir; for he was very swarth of hue, and he always wore armor entirely of
black. This knight had several years before slain the lord of that land,
and had seized upon all of the island as his own possession, and no one
dared to come against him for to recover these possessions, for his prowess
was so remarkable and his body so huge that all the world was afraid of
him. So he dwelt there unmolested in a strong castle of stone built up upon
a rock near to the seashore, whence he might behold all the ships that
passed him by. Then, whenever he would see such a ship pass by, he would
issue forth in his own ships and seize upon that other vessel, and either
levy toll upon it or sink it with all upon board. And if he found any folk
of high quality aboard such a ship, that one he would seize and hold for
ransom. So Sir Nabon made himself the terror of all that part of the world,
and all men avoided the coasts of so inhospitable a country. Such was the
land upon which Sir Lamorack had been cast by the tempest.
[Sidenote: The fisher-folk disarm Sir Lamorack] Now whilst Sir Lamorack
lay sleeping in the heather in that wise as aforetold, there came by that
way several fisher-folk; these, when they saw him lying there, thought at
first that he was dead. But as they stood talking concerning him, Sir
Lamorack was aware of their voices and woke and sat up and beheld them.
Then the chiefest of those fisher-folk spake and said, "Who are you, and
how came you here?" Him Sir Lamorack answered: "Alas! friend! I am a poor
soul who was cast ashore from a shipwreck, naked as you see me. Now I pray
you, give me some clothes to cover my nakedness, and give me some food to
eat, and lend me such succor as man may give to man in distress."
Then the chief fisherman perceived the ring upon Sir Lamorack's finger that
Sir Tristram had given him, and he said, "How got you that ring upon your
finger?" Sir Lamorack said, "He who was my friend gave it to me." "Well,"
quoth the fisherman, "I will give you clothes to wear and food to eat, but
if I do so you must give me that ring that I see upon your hand. As for
lending you aid, I must tell you that the lord of this island hath ordained
upon peril of our lives that all who come hither must straightway be
brought before him to be dealt with as he may deem fitting. Wherefore,
after I have fed you and clothed you I must immediately take you to him."
[Sidenote: The fisher-folk give Sir Lamorack clothes and food] "Alas!"
quoth Sir Lamorack, "this is certes an inhospitable land into which I have
come! Ne'ertheless, as I am naked and starving, I see that I have no choice
other than that which ye put upon me." So therewith he gave the chief of
the fisher-folk the ring that Sir Tristram had given him, and in return the
fishermen gave him such garments as they could spare to cover his
nakedness; and they gave him black bread and cheese to eat, and bitter ale
to drink from a skin that they carried with them. After that they tied Sir
Lamorack's hands behind his back, and so, having made him prisoner, they
brought him to the castle of Sir Nabon, and before Sir Nabon who was there
at that time.
Now it chanced that the swineherd of Sir Nabon's castle had been slain in a
quarrel with one of his fellows, so that when Sir Nabon beheld Sir
Lamorack, that he was big and sturdy of frame, he said: "I will spare this
fellow his life, but I will make him my swineherd. So take ye him away and
let him herd my swine."
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack turns swineherd] So they led Sir Lamorack away,
and he became swineherd to Sir Nabon surnamed le Noir, and presently in a
little while he grew so rough and shaggy that his own mother would hardly
have known him had she beheld him.
So endeth this adventure of Sir Lamorack. And now it shall be told how it
befel with Sir Tristram after Sir Lamorack had left Tintagel as aforetold.
[Illustration: Sir Tristram cometh to ye castle of Sir Nabon]
_How Sir Tristram started to go to Camelot, and how he stayed by the way to
do battle with Sir Nabon le Noir._
Now after Sir Lamorack had quit the court of King Mark of Cornwall as
aforetold, Sir Tristram was very sad at heart for a long while.
Nevertheless, he tried to comfort himself by saying: "Well, it was not by
my will that I did battle with my friend and brother-in-arms, for I had no
choice as to that which I was compelled to do." So he spake to himself, and
took what comfort he was able from such considerations, and that comfort
was not very great.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot sends a letter to Sir Tristram] Then one day
there came from Sir Launcelot of the Lake a letter in which Sir Launcelot
said that he had heard that Sir Tristram had assailed Sir Lamorack when
that knight was weary and spent with battle. And in that letter Sir
Launcelot further said: "It is very strange to me, Messire, that such
things should be said of you, and that by several mouths. Now, I pray you,
set this matter at right, for I do not choose to have such a thing said of
you; that you would wait until a knight was weary with fighting before you
would do battle with him. Moreover, Sir Lamorack is your sworn
brother-at-arms, and a fellow-knight of the Round Table, and is, besides,
one of the noblest and gentlest knights in Christendom. Wherefore I beseech
you to set this matter right, so that those who accuse you of
unknightliness may be brought to confusion."
So wrote Sir Launcelot, and at those words Sir Tristram was cast into a
great deal of pain and trouble of spirit; for he wist not how to answer
that letter of Sir Launcelot's so as to make the matter clear to that
knight. Wherefore he said: "I will straightway go to Camelot and to Sir
Launcelot and will speak to him by word of mouth, and so will make him
understand why I did that which I had to do."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram rides to Camelot] So when the next day had come
Sir Tristram arose and took horse and rode away from Tintagel with intent
to betake himself to Camelot where King Arthur was then holding court, and
where he might hope to find Sir Launcelot abiding. And Sir Tristram took no
companion with him, not even Gouvernail.
And now I shall tell you how Sir Tristram rode: the way that he took led
him down by the seashore, and by and by to a deep forest, which was then
nearly altogether devoid of leaves, so that the branches above him were in
some places like to the meshes of a net spread against the sky. Here that
young knight rode upon a deep carpet of leaves, so that the steps of his
war-horse were silenced save only for the loud and continued rustling of
his footfalls in the dry and yellow foliage. And as Sir Tristram rode he
sang several songs in praise of the Lady Belle Isoult, chanting in a voice
that was both clear and loud and very sweet, and that sounded to a great
distance through the deep, silent aisles of the forest.
Thus he travelled, anon singing as aforetold of, and anon sank in
meditation, so travelling until the day declined and the early gray of the
evening began to fall. Then he began to bethink him how he should spend the
night, and he thought he would have to sleep abroad in the forest. But just
as the gray of the evening was fading away into darkness he came to a
certain place of open land, where, before him, he perceived a tall castle,
partly of stone and partly of red bricks, built up upon a steep hill of
rocks. And upon one side of this castle was the forest, and upon the other
side was the wide and open stretch of sea.
And Sir Tristram perceived that there were lights shining from several
windows of that castle, and that all within was aglow with red as of a
great fire in the hall of the castle; and at these signs of good cheer, his
heart was greatly expanded with joy that he should not after all have to
spend that night in the darkness and in the chill of the autumn wilds.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram comes to a friendly castle] So Sir Tristram set
spurs to his good horse and rode up to the castle and made request for rest
and refreshment for the night. Then, after a little parley, the drawbridge
was lowered, and the portcullis was raised, and he rode with a great noise
into the stone-paved courtyard of the castle.
Thereupon there came several attendants of the castle, and took his horse
and aided him to descend from the saddle; and then other attendants came
and led him away into the castle and so to an apartment where there was a
warm bath of tepid water, and where were soft towels and napkins of linen
for to dry himself upon after he was bathed. And when he had bathed and
refreshed himself, there came still other attendants bearing soft warm
robes for him in which to clothe himself after his journey; and Sir
Tristram clothed himself and felt greatly at his ease, and was glad that he
had come to that place.
For thus it was that worthy knights like Sir Tristram travelled the world
in those days so long ago; and so they were received in castle and hall
with great pleasure and hospitality. For all folk knew the worth of these
noble gentlemen and were glad to make them welcome whithersoever they went.
And so I have told to you how Sir Tristram travelled, that you might,
perchance, find pleasure in the thought thereof.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram meets the lady of the castle] Now after Sir
Tristram had refreshed himself and clothed himself as aforesaid, there came
the steward of the castle and besought him that he would come to where the
lady of the castle was awaiting him for to welcome him. And Sir Tristram
went with the steward, and the steward brought him where the lady sat at a
table prepared for supper. And Sir Tristram perceived that the lady was
very beautiful, but that she was clad in the deep weeds of a widow.
When the lady perceived Sir Tristram, she arose and went to meet him, and
gave him welcome, speaking in a voice both soft and very sweet. "Messire,"
quoth she, "I am grieved that there is no man here to welcome you in such a
manner as is fitting. But, alas! as you may see by the weeds in which I am
clad, I am alone in the world and without any lord of the castle to do the
courtesies thereof as is fitting. Yet such as I am, I give you welcome with
my entire heart."
"Lady," quoth Sir Tristram, "I give you gramercy for your courtesy. And
indeed I am grieved to see you in such sorrow as your dress foretells. Now
if there is any service I may render to you, I beseech you to call upon me
for whatever aid I may give you."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram feasts with the chatelaine] "Nay," quoth she,
"there is nothing you can do to help me." And therewith the lady, who was
hight Loise, took Sir Tristram by the hand and led him to the table and sat
him down beside her. Then straightway there came sundry attendants, and set
a noble feast before them, with good excellent wines, both white and red;
and they two ate and drank together with great appetite and enjoyment.
Now after that feast was over and done, Sir Tristram said: "Lady, will you
not of your courtesy tell me why you wear the weeds of sorrow in which you
are clad? This I ask, not from idle humor, but because, as I said before, I
may haply be able to aid you in whatever trouble it is under which you
[Sidenote: The Lady telleth Sir Tristram of Sir Nabon le Noir] "Alas, Sir
Knight!" quoth she, "my trouble lieth beyond your power to aid or to amend.
For can you conquer death, or can you bring the dead back to life again?
Nevertheless, I will tell you what my sorrow is, and how it came unto me.
You must know that some distance away across the sea, which you may behold
from yonder window, there lieth an island. The present lord of that island
is a very wicked and cruel knight, huge of frame and big of limb, hight Sir
Nabon surnamed le Noir. One time the noble and gentle knight who was my
husband was the lord of that island and the castle thereon, and of several
other castles and manors and estates upon this mainland as well. But one
evil day when I and my lord were together upon that island, this Sir Nabon
came thither by night, and with certain evil-disposed folk of the island he
overcame my lord and slew him very treacherously. Me also he would have
slain, or else have taken into shameful captivity, but, hearing the noise
of that assault in which my lord was slain, I happily escaped, and so, when
night had come, I got away from that island with several attendants who
were faithful to me, and thus came to this castle where we are. Since that
time Sir Nabon has held that castle as his own, ruling it in a very evil
fashion. For you are to know that the castle sits very high upon the crags
overlooking the sea, and whenever a vessel passeth by that way, Sir Nabon
goeth forth to meet it; and upon some of these crafts he levies toll, and
other ships he sinks after slaying the mariners and sailor-folk who may by
evil hap be aboard thereof. And if anyone is by chance cast ashore upon
that island, that one he either slays or holds for ransom, or makes thereof
a slave for to serve him. Because of this, very few ships now go by that
way, for all people shun the coasts of so evil a country as that. So Sir
Nabon took that land away from me; nor have I any kin who will take up this
quarrel for me, and so I must endure my losses as best I may."
"Ha!" quoth Sir Tristram, "and is there then no good knight-champion in
this country who will rid the world of such an evil being as that Sir Nabon
of whom you speak?"
"Nay," said the lady, "there is no one who cares to offer challenge to that
knight, for he is as strong and as doughty as he is huge of frame, and he
is as fierce and cruel as he is strong and masterful, wherefore all men
hold him in terror and avoid him."
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "meseems it is the business of any knight to rid
the world of such a monster as that, whatever may be the danger to himself.
Now as there is no knight hereabouts who hath heart to undertake such an
adventure, I myself shall undertake it so soon as to-morrow shall have
"Sir," said the lady, "I beseech you to think twice before you enter into
such an affair as that. Or rather be ruled by me and do not undertake this
quest at all; for I misdoubt that anyone could conquer this huge and
powerful champion, even if that knight were such as Sir Launcelot of the
Lake or Sir Tristram of Lyonesse."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram confesses his degree to the chatelaine] At this
Sir Tristram laughed with great good-will, and he said, "Lady, do you not
then know who I am?" "Nay," said she, "I know you not." "Well," said Sir
Tristram, "then I may tell you that I am that Sir Tristram of Lyonesse of
whom you spoke just now. And I also tell you that I shall undertake this
adventure to-morrow morning."
Now when the lady found that the stranger she had taken in was Sir Tristram
of Lyonesse, she made great exclamation of surprise and pleasure at having
him at that place, for at that time all the world was talking of Sir
Tristram's performances. So she took great pleasure and pride that her
castle should have given him shelter. She made many inquiries concerning
his adventures, and Sir Tristram told her all she asked of him.
Then the lady said: "Messire, I hear tell that you sing very sweetly, and
that you are a wonderful harper upon the harp. Now will you not chaunt for
me a song or two or three?" And Sir Tristram said: "Lady, I will do
whatsoever you ask me that may give you pleasure."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram sings to the lady] So the lady bade them bring a
harp and they did so. And Sir Tristram took the harp and set it before him
and tuned it and played upon it, and sang so sweetly that they of the
castle said: "Certes, this is no knight-errant who sings, but an angel from
Paradise who hath come among us. For surely no one save an angel from
Paradise could sing so enchantingly."
So passed that evening very pleasantly until the hours waxed late. Then Sir
Tristram retired to a very noble apartment where a soft couch spread with
flame-colored linen had been prepared for him, and where he slept a soft
sleep without disturbance of any kind.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram departs for the island of Sir Nabon] Now when the
next morning had come, Sir Tristram armed himself and mounted upon his
war-horse, and rode him to a certain place on the shore. There he found
some mariners in haven with a large boat, and to these he paid ten pieces
of silver money to bear him across the sea to that island where Sir Nabon
le Noir abided. At first these mariners said they would not sail to such a
coast of danger and death; but afterward they said they would, and they did
do so. But still they would not bring Sir Tristram to land nigh to the
castle, but only at a place that was a great way off, and where they deemed
themselves to be more safe from the cruel lord of that land.
As for Sir Tristram he made merry with their fear, saying: "It is well that
we who are knights-errant have more courage than you who are sailor-men,
else it would not be possible that monsters such as this Sir Nabon should
ever be made an end of."
Upon this the captain of these sailors replied: "Well, Messire, for the
matter of that, it is true that mariners such as we have not much courage,
for we are the first of our order who have dared to come hither. But it is
also true that you are the first errant-knight who hath ever had courage to
come hither. So what say you for the courage of your own order?" And at
that Sir Tristram laughed with great good will and rode his way.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram arrives at the castle of Sir Nabon] Thereafter he
rode forward along the coast of that land for several leagues, with the
noise of the sea ever beating in his ears, and the shrill clamor of the
sea-fowl ever sounding in the air about him. By and by he came to a place
of certain high fells, and therefrom perceived before him in the distance a
tall and forbidding castle standing upon a high headland of the coast. And
the castle was built of stone, that was like the rocks upon which it stood,
so that at first one could not tell whether what one beheld was a part of
the cliffs or whether it was the habitation of man. But when Sir Tristram
had come somewhat nearer, he perceived the windows of the castle shining
against the sky, and he saw the gateway thereof, and the roofs and the
chimneys thereof, so that he knew that it was a castle of great size and
strength and no wall of rock as he had at first supposed it to be; and he
wist that this must be the castle of that wicked and malignant knight, Sir
Nabon, whom he sought.
Now as Sir Tristram wended his way toward that castle by a crooked path
meditating how he should come at Sir Nabon for to challenge him to battle,
he was by and by aware of a fellow clad in pied black and white, who walked
along the way in the direction that he himself was taking. At the first
that fellow was not aware of Sir Tristram; then presently he was aware of
him and turned him about, and beheld that a strange knight was riding
rapidly down toward him upon a horse.
Then at first that fellow stood like one struck with amazement; but in a
moment he cried out aloud as with a great fear, and instantly turned again
and ran away, yelling like one who had gone mad.
But Sir Tristram thundered after him at speed, and, in a little, came up
with him, and catched him by the collar of his jerkin and held him fast.
And Sir Tristram said: "Fellow, who are you?"
"Lord," quoth the fellow, "I am an attendant upon the knight of yonder
castle, which same is hight Sir Nabon surnamed le Noir."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram talks with a knave of the earth] Then Sir Tristram
said: "Sirrah, why did you run from me when you first beheld me?" And the
fellow replied: "Messire, you are the first stranger who hath dared to come
hither to this country; wherefore, seeing you, and seeing that you rode
upon horseback, and not knowing how you came to this land, I wist not
whether you were a man of flesh and blood, or whether you were a spirit
come hither for to punish us for our sins; so I ran away from you."
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "as you see, I am no spirit, but a man of flesh
and blood. Yet I have great hope that I have indeed been sent hither for to
punish those who have done evil, for I come hither seeking the knight of
yonder castle for to do battle with him in behalf of that lady whose lord
he slew so treacherously as I have heard tell. And I hope to take away from
him this island and return it to the Lady Loise, to whom it belongeth."
"Alas, Messire," quoth the fellow, "this is for you a very sorry quest upon
which you have come. For this Sir Nabon whom you seek is accounted to be
the most potent knight in all of the world. Yea; he is held to be a bigger
knight than even Sir Launcelot of the Lake or Sir Tristram of Lyonesse or
Sir Lamorack of Gales. Wherefore I beseech you to turn about and go away
whither you have come whilst there is still the chance for you to escape."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram sends challenge to Sir Nabon] "Gramercy for your
pity, good fellow," quoth Sir Tristram, "and may God grant that it may not
be deserved. Nevertheless, in spite of the danger in this quest, I am still
of the same mind as I was when I came hither. So do you presently go to
your lord and tell him from me that a knight hath come to do battle with
him upon the behalf of the lady to whom this island by rights belongeth."
Therewith Sir Tristram let the fellow go, and he ran off with great speed
and so away to the postern of the castle and entered in and shut the door
Now at that time Sir Nabon le Noir was walking along the wall of the
castle, and his son, who was a lad of seventeen years, was with him. There
the messenger from Sir Tristram found him and delivered his message.
Thereupon Sir Nabon looked over the battlements and down below and he
beheld that there was indeed a tall and noble knight seated upon horseback
in a level meadow that reached away, descending inland from the foot of the
crags whereon the castle stood.
But when Sir Nabon perceived that a stranger knight had dared to come thus
into his country, he was filled with amazement at the boldness of that
knight that he wist not what to think. Then, presently a great rage got
hold upon him, and he ground his teeth together, and the cords on his neck
stood out like knots on the trunk of a tree. For a while he stood as though
bereft of speech; then anon he roared out in a voice like that of a bull,
crying to those who were near him: "Go! Haste ye! Fetch me straightway my
horse and armor and I will go immediately forth and so deal with yonder
champion of ladies that he shall never take trouble upon their account
Then those who were in attendance upon Sir Nabon were terrified at his
words and ran with all speed to do his bidding, and presently fetched his
armor and clad him in it; and they fetched his horse into the courtyard of
the castle and helped him to mount upon it. And lo! the armor of Sir Nabon
was as black as ink; and the great horse upon which he sat was black; and
all the trappings and furniture of the armor and of the horse were black,
so that from top to toe he was altogether as black and as forbidding as
[Sidenote: Sir Nabon rides forth to meet Sir Tristram] So when Sir Nabon
was thus in all wise prepared for battle, the portcullis of the castle was
lifted up, and he rode forth to meet Sir Tristram; and his young son rode
with him as his esquire. Then all the people of the castle gathered
together upon the walls to see that battle that was to be, and not one of
those several score of folk thought otherwise than that Sir Tristram would
certainly be overcome in that encounter.
Sir Nabon rode straight up to Sir Tristram and he said very fiercely,
"Sirrah, what is it brings you hither to this land?"
"As to that," said Sir Tristram, "the messenger whom I have sent to you
hath, I believe, told you what I come for, and that it is to redeem this
island from your possession, and to restore it to the Lady Loise, to whom
it belongeth. Likewise that I come to punish you for all the evil you have
"And what business is all this of yours?" quoth Sir Nabon, speaking with
great fury of voice.
"Messire," quoth Sir Tristram, "know ye not that it is the business of
every true knight to rid the world of all such evil monsters as you be?"
"Ha!" quoth Sir Nabon, "that was very well said, for whatever mercy I
should have been willing before this to show you hath now been forfeited
unto you. For now I shall have no mercy upon you but shall slay you."
"Well," quoth Sir Tristram, "as for that, meseems it will be time enough to
offer me mercy after you have overcome me in battle."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram does battle with Sir Nabon] So thereupon each
knight took his place for assault, and when they were in all ways prepared,
each set spurs to his horse and dashed the one against the other, with a
dreadful, terrible fury of onset. Each smote the other in the very midst of
his shield, and at that blow the lance of each was altogether shivered into
pieces to the very truncheon thereof. But each knight recovered his horse
from the fall and each leaped to earth and drew his sword, and each rushed
against the other with such fury that it was as though sparks of pure fire
flew out from the oculariums of the helmets. Therewith they met together,
and each lashed and smote at the other such fell strokes that the noise
thereof might easily have been heard several furlongs away. Now in the
beginning of that battle Sir Tristram was at first sore bestead and wist
that he had met the biggest knight that ever he had encountered in all of
his life, unless it was Sir Launcelot of the Lake, whom he had encountered
as aforetold of in this history. So at first he bore back somewhat from the
might of the blows of Sir Nabon. For Sir Nabon was so huge of frame and the
blows he struck were so heavy that they drove Sir Tristram back as it were
in spite of himself.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram slays Sir Nabon] Then Sir Tristram began to say to
himself: "Tristram, if you indeed lose this battle, then there will be no
one to defend your honor before Sir Launcelot who hath impeached it."
Therewith it was as though new strength and life came back to him, and of a
sudden he rushed that battle, and struck with threefold fury, and gave
stroke upon stroke with such fierceness of strength that Sir Nabon was
astonished and fell back before his assault. Then Sir Tristram perceived
how Sir Nabon held his shield passing low, and therewith he rushed in upon
him and smote him again and again and yet again. And so he smote Sir Nabon
down upon his knees. Then he rushed in upon him and catched his helmet and
plucked it off from his head. And he catched Sir Nabon by the hair of his
head and drew his head forward. And Sir Tristram lifted his sword on high
and he smote Sir Nabon's head from off his body so that it rolled down into
the dust upon the ground.
Now when the son of Sir Nabon perceived how that his father was slain, he
shrieked like a woman. And he fell down upon his knees and crawled upon his
knees to Sir Tristram and catched him about the thighs, crying out to him,
"Spare me, and slay me not!"
But Sir Tristram thrust him away and said, "Who art thou?"
"Messire," said the youth, "I am the son of him whom thou hast just slain."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram slays the son of Sir Nabon] Then Sir Tristram
looked closely into his face, and he perceived that it was wicked and
treacherous and malevolent like to the face of Sir Nabon. Thereupon Sir
Tristram said: "If a man shall slay the wolf and spare the whelp of the
wolf, what shall the world be the better therefor?" Therewith he catched
the son of Sir Nabon by the hair and dragged him down and smote off his
head likewise as he had smitten off the head of his father, so that it fell
upon the ground beside the head of Sir Nabon.
And now it shall be told how Sir Tristram discovered Sir Lamorack upon the
island and how he made amends to him, so that they became friends and
brethren-in-arms once more as they had been before.
[Illustration: Sir Lamorack herds the swine of Sir Nabon]
_How Sir Tristram did justice in the island, and thereby released Sir
Lamorack from captivity. Also how Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack renewed
their great tenderness toward one another._
Now after Sir Tristram had overcome Sir Nabon le Noir, and had slain the
son of Sir Nabon as has been just told, he went straightway to the castle
that had been Sir Nabon's, and commanded that they should bring forth the
seneschal and the officers thereof unto him. Meantime, being a little
wounded in that battle, he sat himself down upon a bench of wood that stood
in the hall of the castle, and there he held his court.
So, in a little while, there came the seneschal and several of the officers
of the household to where Sir Tristram was, and when the seneschal came
before Sir Tristram, he fell down upon his knees and besought pardon and
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram talks with the castle help] Then Sir Tristram
said: "I will consider thy case anon, and if I may assure myself that thou
and these others are truly repentant, and if I may have assurity that ye
will henceforth be faithful in your duty toward that lady who is now again
the mistress of this castle and land, then I shall have mercy. But if ye
show yourselves recreant and treacherous, according to the manners of this
Sir Nabon who is dead, then I shall of a surety return hither and shall
punish you even as ye beheld me punish that wicked knight and his young
Then Sir Tristram said, "Who is the porter of this castle?" And the porter
lifted his hand and said, "Lord, I am he." Sir Tristram said, "What
captives have ye in this place?" The porter said: "Lord, there be four
knights and three ladies who are held captive here for ransom." Then Sir
Tristram said, "Bring them forth hither to me."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram comforts the captives] So the porter and several
other of the castle folk departed with all speed and presently returned
bringing with them those miserable captives whom they had liberated from
the dungeons of the castle. These they led to where Sir Tristram still sat
in justice upon the bench of wood. And Sir Tristram looked upon them with
pity and beheld that they were in a very sad and forlorn condition and so
sorrowful from their captivity that some of them wept from pure weakness of
heart. Then Sir Tristram said: "Comfort ye, and take no more sorrow to
yourselves, for now your troubles are past and gone, and happiness lieth
before you. Sir Nabon is dead, and so is his son, and there is no one now
to torment you. Moreover, I dare say that there is much treasure gathered
at this place by Sir Nabon, and all that treasure shall be divided amongst
you, for to comfort ye, wherefore when ye leave this place, ye shall go
away a great deal richer than ye were when ye came."
So spake Sir Tristram, promising them much for to comfort them a little.
As to that treasure he spake of, ye shall immediately be told how it was.
For when Sir Tristram had summoned the treasurer of that place, he brought
Sir Tristram down into the vaults of the castle and there he beheld seven
strong chests bolted and locked. Then Sir Tristram summoned the locksmith
of that castle; and the smith came and burst open the chests; and lo! the
eyes of all were astonished and bedazzled with the treasure which they
therewith beheld; for in those chests was heaped an incalculable treasure
of gold and silver and precious gems of many divers sorts.
And besides this treasure, you are to know that they found in that vault
many bales of cloths--some of silk and velvet, and some of tissues of cloth
of gold and silver; and they found many precious ornaments, and many fine
suits of armor, and many other valuable things. For in several years Sir
Nabon had gathered all that treasure in toll from those ships that had
sailed past that land.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram divides the treasure amongst the captives] All
this treasure Sir Tristram had them bring forth into the light of day, and
he divided it into seven equal parcels. Then he said to those sad,
sorrowful captives: "Look! See! all this shall be yours for to comfort ye!
Take each of you one parcel and depart hence in joy!" Then all they were
greatly astonished at Sir Tristram's generosity, and they said: "Lord, how
is this? Do you not then take any of this treasure for yourself?"
To them Sir Tristram made reply: "Nay, why should I take it? I am not sad,
nor sick, nor troubled at heart as you poor captives are. All this I have
taken for to comfort you, and not for to satisfy my own covetousness. So
let each take his share of it and see that ye all use it in comfort and
peace and for the advantage of other men and women who are in trouble as ye
have been. For, as hitherto this treasure hath been used for evil purpose,
so shall it be henceforth that it shall be used to good purpose."
So there was great rejoicing amongst all those poor people who had been so
sad and sorrowful before.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram appoints Sir Segwarides governor of the castle]
Now, after all this had been settled, Sir Tristram cast about how he might
put that land under good government upon behalf of the Lady Loise. To this
intent he chose from amongst those captives whom he had liberated a certain
very worthy honorable knight of Cornwall hight Sir Segwarides. Him Sir
Tristram appointed to be governor of that island, giving him liberty to
rule it as he chose saving only that he should do homage to the Lady Loise
as lady paramount. And Sir Tristram ordained that Sir Segwarides should pay
tribute to that lady every year such an amount as should be justly
determined upon betwixt them. For Sir Tristram wist that some strong worthy
knight should rule that island, or else, from its position, it might again
some time fall from the Lady Loise's possession into the hands of such an
evil and malignant overlord as Sir Nabon had been.
So it was done as Sir Tristram had ordained. And it may here be said that
Sir Segwarides ruled that land very justly and that he and the Lady Loise
became dear friends, so that at the end of three years from that time he
and she were made husband and wife.
Now Sir Tristram remained in that island several days, with intent to see
to it that the power of Sir Segwarides should be established. And he made
all the people of that land come before Sir Segwarides for to pledge
obedience to him.
Amongst these came Sir Lamorack in the guise of a swineherd, and Sir
Tristram knew him not, because that he was clad in rags and in the skins of
animals and because that his beard and his hair were uncut and unkempt, and
hung down very shaggy upon his breast. But Sir Lamorack knew Sir Tristram
yet would not acknowledge him, being ashamed that Sir Tristram should
discover him in such a guise and so ragged and forlorn as he then was. So
he kept his eyes from Sir Tristram, and Sir Tristram passed him by and knew
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram beholds Sir Lamorack's ring] But amongst other of
the people of the castle that passed before Sir Tristram, there came a
woman, very fair to look upon, and she had been a house-slave to Sir Nabon.
As this woman passed before Sir Tristram, he beheld that she wore upon her
thumb a very fair and shining ring, that bare a green stone set in wrought
gold. And when he looked again he saw it was that ring of carven emerald
that he had given to Sir Lamorack as aforetold.
At this Sir Tristram was astonished beyond measure, and he ordered that
woman to come before him, and she came and stood before him trembling. Then
Sir Tristram said: "Fear not, but tell me where got ye that ring that I
behold upon your hand?" And the woman said: "Lord, I will tell you the very
truth. My husband is the chief fisherman of this place, and one day, some
while ago, he gave me this ring when I had favor in his sight."
Sir Tristram said, "Where is your husband?" The slave-woman said, "Yonder
he stands." Then Sir Tristram said: "Come hither, Sirrah!" And therewith
the fisherman came and stood before Sir Tristram as his wife had done, and
he also trembled with fear as she had done.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram questions the fisherman] To him Sir Tristram said,
"Why do you tremble so?" And the fisher-man said, "Lord, I am afeard!" Sir
Tristram said: "Have no fear, unless you have done wrong, but tell me the
truth. Where got ye that ring that yonder woman weareth?" "Lord," said the
fisherman, "I will tell you the perfect truth. One day I and several of my
fellows found a man lying naked in a bed of heather near the seaside. At
first we thought he was dead, but he awoke and arose when he heard our
voices. He was naked and hungry, and he besought us for clothes to cover
his nakedness and for food to eat. So we gave him what we could, demanding
that ring in payment. So he gave the ring to me, who am the chief of the
fishermen, and I gave it to that woman who is my wife; and that, lord, is
the very truth."
Then Sir Tristram was very much disturbed in mind, for he feared that it
might have gone ill with Sir Lamorack. And he said, "Where now is that man
of whom ye speak?" The fisherman replied: "Lord, he was set to keep the
swine, and he is the swineherd of the castle to this day."
At this Sir Tristram was very glad that no more ill had befallen Sir
Lamorack, and that he was yet alive.
Then, after the fisherman had departed from that place, Sir Tristram sat
for a while sunk into deep thought. And he said to himself: "Alas, that so
noble a knight should be brought to such a pass as that! How greatly must
my friend be abased when he would not acknowledge himself to me nor claim
my assistance because of the shame of his appearance! Meseems it is not
fitting for me to send for him to come to me in the guise which he now
wears, for it would be discourteous a thing for me to do, to make him so
declare himself. So first I shall see to it that he is clothed in such a
manner as shall be fitting to his high estate, and then haply he will be
willing to make himself manifest to me. After that, perhaps his love will
return to me again, and remain with me as it was at first."
So Sir Tristram called to him several of the people of that castle, and he
bade them do certain things according to his command, and straightway they
departed to do as he ordained.
Now turn we to Sir Lamorack: whilst he sat keeping watch over his swine
there came to him four men from the castle. These say to him, "You must
come straightway with us." Sir Lamorack said, "Whither would you take me?"
They say: "That we are not permitted to tell you, only that you are to go
with us as we bid you."
So Sir Lamorack arose and went with those four, much wondering what it was
that was to befall him, and whether that which was to happen was good or
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack is brought to the castle] The four men brought him
to the castle and they entered in thereat, and they escorted Sir Lamorack,
still greatly wondering, up the stairway of the castle, and so into a noble
and stately apartment, hung with tapestries and embroidered hangings. And
there Sir Lamorack beheld a great bath of tepid water, hung within and
without with linen. There were at this place several attendants; these took
Sir Lamorack and unclothed him and brought him to the bath, and bathed him
and dried him with soft linen and with fine towels. Then there came the
barber and he shaved Sir Lamorack and clipped his hair, and when he was
thus bathed and trimmed, his nobility shone forth again as the sun shines
forth from a thick cloud that hides its effulgence for a while, only to
withdraw so that the glorious day-star may shine forth again with redoubled
[Sidenote: Sir Lamorack is armed in armor] Then there came divers other
attendants and clothed Sir Lamorack in rich and handsome garments such as
were altogether fitting for a knight-royal to wear. And after that there
came several esquires and brought a very splendid suit of armor; and they
clad Sir Lamorack in that armor; and the armor gleamed as bright as
daylight, being polished to a wonderful clearness, and inlaid with figures
of arabesqued silver.
Then Sir Lamorack said, "What means all this that ye do to me?" And they
said, "Wait, Messire, and you shall see."
So after all these things were done, five other esquires appeared to
conduct Sir Lamorack away from that place. These led him through several
passages and hallways until at last they came to a great space of hall
wherein stood a single man; and that man was Sir Tristram.
And Sir Tristram gazed upon Sir Lamorack and his heart yearned over him
with great loving-kindness. But he would not betray his love to those who
had come with Sir Lamorack, so he contained himself for a little, and he
said to those in attendance, "Get ye gone," and straightway they departed.
Then Sir Lamorack lifted up his eyes and he came to where Sir Tristram was
standing and he said: "Is it thou, Tristram, who hath bestowed all these
benefits upon me?" And he said: "From thy nobility of soul such things may
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack are reconciled] Then Sir Tristram
wept for joy, and he said: "Lamorack, it is little that I have done to
pleasure thee, and much that I have done to affront thee." Then Sir
Lamorack said: "Nay; it is much that thou hast done to comfort me, and
little to cause me discomfort. For lo! thou hast uplifted me from misery
into happiness, and thou hast brought me from nakedness and want into
prosperity and ease, and what more may one man do for another man than
"Lamorack," said Sir Tristram, "there is much more than one man may do for
another man than that. For if one man hath given offence to another man, he
may be reconciled to that one so offended, and so the soul of that other
shall be clothed with peace and joy, even as thy body hath been clothed
with garments of silk and fine linen." Then Sir Tristram took Sir Lamorack
by the hand, and he said, "Dear friend, art thou now strong and fresh of
body?" And Sir Lamorack, greatly wondering, said, "Ay."
"Then," said Sir Tristram, "I may now offer thee reparation for that
offence which I one time unwillingly committed against thee. For lo! I have
had thee clad in the best armor that it is possible to provide, and now
that thou art fresh and hale and strong, I am ready to do battle with thee
at any time thou mayst assign. For if, before, thou wert overcome because
thou wert weary with battle, now thou mayst prove thy prowess upon me being
both strong and sound in wind and limb."
But upon this Sir Lamorack ran to Sir Tristram and catched him in his arms
and kissed him upon the cheek. And he said: "Tristram, thou art indeed a
very noble soul. I will do no battle with thee, but instead I will take
thee into my heart and cherish thee there forever."
Sir Tristram said, "Art thou altogether satisfied?" And Sir Lamorack said,
"Yea." And therewith Sir Tristram wept for pure joy.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack depart from the island] Then Sir
Tristram said: "Let us go to Sir Launcelot of the Lake, so that I may make
my peace with him also. For he hath writ me a letter chiding me for having
done battle with thee when thou wert weary and winded with fighting. And I
was upon my way to see Sir Launcelot and to plead my cause with him when I
came hither by good hap, and was able to uplift thee out of thy distress."
To this Sir Lamorack said: "I will go with thee to Sir Launcelot whenever
it shall please thee; and I will bear full testimony to thy knightliness
and to thy courtesy."
So when the next morning had come they took boat and sailed away from that
island. And the night of that day they abided at the castle of the Lady
Loise, who gave thanks without measure to Sir Tristram for ridding the
world of so wicked and malign a being as Sir Nabon, and for restoring her
inheritance of that land unto her again. And upon the morning of the next
day those two good knights betook their way to Camelot, where they found
Sir Launcelot. There Sir Lamorack exculpated Sir Tristram, and Sir
Launcelot immediately withdrew his rebuke for that battle which Sir
Tristram had aforetime done against Sir Lamorack.
After that Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorack abode at the court of King Arthur
for nigh a year, and during that time they went upon many quests and
adventures of various sorts--sometimes alone, sometimes together. All these
have been set down in ancient histories that tell of the adventures of Sir
Tristram and Sir Lamorack. Some of them I would like right well to tell you
of, but should I undertake to do so, the story of those happenings would
fill several volumes such as this. Nevertheless, I may tell you that they
did together many knightly deeds, the fame whereof hath been handed down to
us in several histories of chivalry. Therein you may read of those things
if you should care to do so.
All this I leave to tell you how Sir Tristram returned into Cornwall, and
likewise to tell you of one more famous adventure that he did at this time.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram hears from Cornwall of Sir Palamydes] Sir Tristram
had been at the court of King Arthur for about a year when one day there
came a messenger unto the court at Camelot with news that Sir Palamydes,
the Saracen knight aforetold of in this history, had through a cunning
trick seized the Lady Belle Isoult and had carried her away to a lonely
tower in the forest of Cornwall. The messenger bore a letter from King Mark
beseeching Sir Tristram to return as immediately as possible unto Cornwall
and to rescue that lady from her captivity. And the letter further said
that two knights of Cornwall had already essayed to rescue the Lady Belle
Isoult, but that they had failed, having been overcome and sorely wounded
in battle by Sir Palamydes. And the letter said that it was acknowledged by
all men that Sir Tristram was the only knight of Cornwall who could achieve
the rescue of Belle Isoult from so wonderful and puissant a knight as Sir
So in answer to that letter, Sir Tristram immediately left the court of
King Arthur and returned in all haste to Cornwall, and there he found them
all in great perturbation that the Lady Belle Isoult had thus been stolen
But Sir Tristram did not remain at court very long for, after he had
obtained such information as he desired, he immediately left Tintagel and
plunged into the forest with Gouvernail as his companion in quest of that
lonely tower where Belle Isoult was said to be held prisoner.
After several adventures of no great note he came at last very, very deep
into the forest and into an open space thereof; and in the midst of that
open space he beheld a lonely tower surrounded by a moat. And he wist that
that must be the place where the Lady Belle Isoult was held prisoner.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram finds Sir Palamydes in the forest] But when Sir
Tristram drew nigh to this tower he perceived a single knight sitting at
the base of the tower with head hanging down upon his breast as though he
were broken-hearted with sorrow. And when he came still more nigh, Sir
Tristram was astonished to perceive that that mournful knight was Sir
Palamydes the Saracen, and he wondered why Sir Palamydes should be so
And now it must be told why it was that Sir Palamydes came to be in such a
sorry case as that; for the truth was that he was locked and shut outside
of the tower, whilst the Lady Belle Isoult was shut and locked inside
Now it hath already been told how the letter of King Mark had said to Sir
Tristram that two knights of Cornwall went both against Sir Palamydes for
to challenge him and to rescue the Lady Belle Isoult.
The second of these knights was Sir Adthorp, and he had followed Sir
Palamydes so closely through the forest that he had come to the forest
tower not more than an hour after Sir Palamydes had brought the Lady Belle
Therewith Sir Adthorp gave loud challenge to Sir Palamydes to come forth
and do him battle, and therewith Sir Palamydes came immediately out against
him, full of anger that Sir Adthorp should have meddled in that affair.
But immediately Sir Palamydes had thus issued forth to do battle with Sir
Adthorp, the Lady Belle Isoult ran down the tower stairs and immediately
shut the door through which he had passed, and she locked it and set a
great bar of oak across the door.
[Sidenote: How Sir Palamydes came without the tower] So when Sir Palamydes
had overthrown the Cornish knight, and when he would have returned to the
tower, he could not, for lo! it was fastened against him. So now for three
days he had set there at the foot of the tower and beside the moat, sunk in
sorrow like to one who had gone out of his mind.
So Sir Tristram found him, and perceiving that it was Sir Palamydes who was
sitting there, he said to Gouvernail: "Go thou and bid that knight to come
and do battle with me."
So Gouvernail went to Sir Palamydes and he said: "Sir, arise, for here is a
knight would speak with you!" But Sir Palamydes would not move. Then
Gouvernail touched him with his lance, and said: "Sir Palamydes, arise and
bestir yourself, for here is Sir Tristram come to do battle with you." With
that, Sir Palamydes awoke from his stupor and arose very slowly and
stiffly. And he gathered up his helmet which was lying beside him and put
it upon his head. Then he took down his shield from where it hung against
the wall and he mounted upon his horse, doing all as though he were moving
in a dream.
But as soon as he was upon horseback he suddenly aroused himself, for his
fierce spirit had come back to him once more. Then he gnashed his teeth,
crying out in a loud voice, "Tristram, this time either thou or I shall
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram overcomes Sir Palamydes] Therewith he rushed upon
Sir Tristram and smote him so violently that Sir Tristram had much ado to
defend himself. And Sir Palamydes smote him again and again; and with that
Sir Tristram smote in return. And if the blows of Sir Palamydes were
terrible, the blows of Sir Tristram were terrible likewise. Then by and by
Sir Tristram smote Sir Palamydes so sore a buffet that the Saracen knight
fell down from his horse and was unable immediately to arise. Then Sir
Tristram ran to him and rushed off his helmet and catched him by the hair
with intent to cut his head from off his body.
But with that the Lady Belle Isoult came running from out the tower and
cried out: "Tristram, is it thou? Spare that mistaken knight and have mercy
upon him as thou hopest for mercy."
"Lady," said Sir Tristram, "for thy sake and at thy bidding I will spare
him." Then he said to Sir Palamydes, "Arise." And Sir Palamydes arose very
painfully, and Sir Tristram said: "Get thee hence, and go to the court of
King Arthur and make thy confession to the King and ask him to forgive
thee, and if he forgive thee, then also I will forgive thee."
Therewith Sir Palamydes mounted upon his horse and rode away without
speaking another word, his head bowed with sorrow upon his breast for shame
Then Sir Tristram took the Lady Belle Isoult up behind him on his horse,
and he and she and Gouvernail departed from that place.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram brings Belle Isoult back to Cornwall] So Sir
Tristram brought the Lady Isoult back to Cornwall, and there he was
received with loud praise and great rejoicing, for everybody was glad that
Belle Isoult had been brought safely back again.
And now it shall be told what reward Sir Tristram received for this deed of
For, though at first King Mark was greatly beholden to Sir Tristram, that
he had thus rescued the Lady Belle Isoult, yet, by little and little, he
grew to hate that noble knight more bitterly than ever. For he heard men
say to one another: "Lo, Sir Tristram is, certes, the very champion of
Cornwall, for who is there in this country is his equal?" So King Mark,
hearing these things said to himself: "The more noble Tristram is, the more
ignoble will men deem me to be who am under obligations to such an enemy."
So he would say in his heart, "Yea, Tristram; I hate thee more than death."
The Madness of Sir Tristram
_Here followeth the story of how Sir Tristram was driven out of Cornwall
and of how he went mad because of his troubles. Likewise it shall be told
how he performed several very wonderful adventures whilst he was in that
state, and of how he was brought back into his senses again._
[Illustration: Sir Tristram assaults King Mark]
_How Sir Tristram was discovered with the Lady Belle Isoult; how he
assaulted King Mark, and how he escaped from Tintagel into the forest._
After Sir Tristram had thus rescued the Lady Belle Isoult from the hand of
Sir Palamydes, he dwelt very peacefully at the court of Cornwall for all of
that winter and until the spring that followed, and during that time he was
given every meed of praise and honor. But although King Mark and his court
gave praise to Sir Tristram with the lips, yet he and many of his people
hated Sir Tristram at heart, and there were many mischief-makers about the
court who were ever ready to blow the embers of the King's wrath into a
Now the chiefest of all these mischief-makers was Sir Andred, who was
nephew unto King Mark, and cousin-germaine unto Sir Tristram. Sir Andred
was a fierce strong knight, and one very dextrous at arms; but he was as
mean and as treacherous as Sir Tristram was generous and noble, wherefore
he hated Sir Tristram with great bitterness (though he dissembled that
hatred) and sought for every opportunity to do Sir Tristram a harm by
bringing him and the King into conflict.
[Sidenote: Sir Andred of Cornwall sets spies upon Sir Tristram] So Sir
Andred set spies upon Sir Tristram, and he himself spied upon his cousin,
yet neither he nor they were able to find anything with which to accuse Sir
Tristram. Then one day Sir Andred came to Sir Tristram and said: "Sir, the
Lady Belle Isoult wishes to see you to talk with you." Sir Tristram said,
"Where is she?"
And Sir Andred said, "She is in her bower." Then Sir Tristram said, "Very
well, I will go to her."
So Sir Tristram arose and departed from where he was with intent to find
the lady; and therewith Sir Andred hurried to where King Mark was, and
said: "Lord, arise, for Sir Tristram and the Lady Isoult are holding
King Mark said, "Where are they?" And Sir Andred said, "They are in the
bower of the Queen." At that King Mark's rage and jealousy blazed up into a
flame, so that he was like one seized with a sudden frensy. So, in that
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