The Story of the Champions of the Round Table
Part 5 out of 6
madness of rage, he looked about for some weapon with which to destroy Sir
Tristram, and he perceived a great sword where it hung against the wall.
Thereupon he ran to the sword and took it down from where it was, and ran
with all speed to that place where Sir Tristram and the Lady Isoult were,
and Sir Andred guided him thither.
[Sidenote: King Mark assaults Sir Tristram] And when King Mark reached the
bower of the Lady Isoult he flung open the door and found Sir Tristram and
the Lady Isoult sitting together in the seat of a deep window. And he
perceived that the Lady Isoult wept and that Sir Tristram's face was very
sorrowful because of her sorrow. Then King Mark twisted him about and bent
double as with a great pain, and then he cried out thrice in a voice very
hoarse and loud: "Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!" Saying those words three
times. Therewith he ran at Sir Tristram and struck furiously at him with
that sword he held, with intent to slay him.
Now Sir Tristram was at that time altogether without armor and was clad in
clothes of scarlet silk. Accordingly, he was able to be very quick and
alert in his movements. So perceiving King Mark rushing upon him with
intent to slay him he leaped aside and so avoided the blow. Then
immediately he rushed in upon King Mark and catched him by the wrist and
wrenched the sword out of his hand.
Then Sir Tristram was blinded with his rage and might have slain his uncle,
but the Lady Isoult, beholding the fury in his face, shrieked in a very
piercing voice, "Forbear! Forbear!" And therewith he remembered him how
that King Mark was his mother's brother and that it was his hand that had
made him a knight.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram beats King Mark] So he turned the sword in his
hand and he smote King Mark with the flat thereof again and again, and at
those blows King Mark was filled with terror so that he howled like a wild
beast. And King Mark fled away from that place, striving to escape, but Sir
Tristram ever pursued him, grinding his teeth like a wild boar in rage, and
smiting the King as he ran, over and over again, with the flat of the sword
so that the whole castle was filled with the tumult and uproar of that
Then many of the knights of Cornwall came running with intent to defend the
King, and with them came Sir Andred. But when Sir Tristram saw them, his
rage suddenly left the King and went out toward them; so therewith, naked
of armor as he was, he rushed at them, and he struck at them so fiercely
that they were filled with the terror of his fury, and fled away from
before his face. And Sir Tristram chased them through the courts of the
castle, striking right and left until he was weary with striking, and many
he struck down with the fierceness of his blows, and amongst them was Sir
Andred who was sorely wounded. So after a while Sir Tristram grew weary of
that battle, and he cried out, "Certes, these are not knights, but swine!"
And therewith he ceased striking, and allowed those who could do so to
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram departs from Tintagel] Thereafter he went to his
chamber and armed himself without summoning Gouvernail, and after that he
took horse and rode away altogether from that place. And not even
Gouvernail went with him, but only his favorite hound, hight Houdaine,
which same followed him into the forest as he rode thitherward. And in his
going Sir Tristram looked neither to the right nor to the left but straight
before him very proudly and haughtily, and no one dared to stay him in his
Yet, though he appeared so steadfast, he was like one who was
brokenhearted, for he wist that in going away from that place he was
leaving behind him all that he held dear in the world, wherefore he was
like one who rode forth from a pleasant garden into an empty wilderness of
sorrow and repining.
[Sidenote: Gouvernail finds Sir Tristram in the forest] Then, some little
while after Sir Tristram had gone, Gouvernail also took horse and rode into
the forest, and he searched for a long while in the forest without finding
his master. But after a while he came upon Sir Tristram seated under a tree
with his head hanging down upon his breast. And Houdaine lay beside Sir
Tristram and licked his hand, but Sir Tristram paid no heed to him, being
so deeply sunk in his sorrow that he was unaware that Houdaine licked his
hand in that wise.
Then Gouvernail dismounted from his horse and came to where Sir Tristram
was, and Gouvernail wept at beholding the sorrow of Sir Tristram. And
Gouvernail said: "Messire, look up and take cheer, for there must yet be
joy for thee in the world."
Then Sir Tristram raised his eyes very slowly (for they were heavy and dull
like lead) and he looked at Gouvernail for some while as though not seeing
him. Then by and by he said: "Gouvernail, what evil have I done that I
should have so heavy a curse laid upon me?" Gouvernail said, still weeping:
"Lord, thou hast done no ill, but art in all wise a very noble, honorable
gentleman." "Alas!" quoth Sir Tristram, "I must unwittingly have done some
great evil in God's sight, for certes the hand of God lieth grievously
heavy upon me." Gouvernail said: "Lord, take heart, and tell me whither
shall we go now?" And Sir Tristram said, "I know not."
Then Gouvernail said: "Lord, let us go hence, I care not where, for I
reckon nothing of storm or rain or snow or hail if it so be that I am with
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram bids Gouvernail return to Tintagel] Then Sir
Tristram looked upon Gouvernail and smiled, and he said: "Gouvernail, it is
great joy to me that you should love me so greatly as you do. But this time
you may not go with me whither I go, for the Lady Belle Isoult hath few
friends at the court of Cornwall, and many enemies, wherefore I would have
you return unto her for my sake, so that you may befriend her and cherish
her when that I am no longer by her for to stand her friend in her hour of
need. And take this dog Houdaine with you and bid the Lady Belle Isoult for
to keep him by her to remind her of my faithfulness unto her. For even as
this creature is faithful unto me under all circumstances, so am I faithful
unto her whether she be glad or sorry, or in good or evil case. So return
to Tintagel as I bid thee, and see that thou pay thy duty unto that lady
even as thou payst it unto me. For she is so singularly dear unto me that,
even as a man's heart is the life of his body, so is her happiness the life
of my life."
Then Gouvernail wept again in very great measure, and he said, "Lord, I
obey." Therewith he mounted his horse, still weeping with a great passion
of sorrow, and rode away from that place, and Houdaine followed after him
and Sir Tristram was left sitting alone in the deep forest.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram wanders in the forest mad] After that Sir Tristram
wandered for several days in the forest, he knew not whither for he was
bewildered with that which had happened; so that he ate no food and took no
rest of any sort for all that time. Wherefore, because of the hardship he
then endured, he by and by became distraught in his mind. So, after a
while, he forgot who he himself was, and what was his condition, or whence
he came or whither he wended. And because his armor weighed heavily upon
him, he took it off and cast it away from him, and thereafter roamed half
naked through the woodlands.
Now upon the sixth day of this wandering he came to the outskirts of the
forest and nigh to the coast of the sea at a spot that was not very far
away was the castle of the Lady Loise, where he had once stayed at the time
that he undertook the adventure against Sir Nabon as aforetold. There,
being exhausted with hunger and weariness, he laid himself down in the
sunlight out beyond the borders of the forest and presently fell into a
deep sleep that was like to a swoon.
Now it chanced at that time that there came that way a certain damsel
attendant upon the Lady Loise. She perceiving that a man lay there on the
grass at the edge of the forest was at first of a mind to quit that place.
Then, seeing that the man lay very strangely still as though he were dead,
she went forward very softly and looked into his face.
Now that damsel had beheld Sir Tristram a great many times when he was at
the castle of the Lady Loise; wherefore now, in spite of his being so
starved and shrunken, and so unkempt and unshaved, she remembered his face
and she knew that this was Sir Tristram.
Therewith the damsel hurried away to the Lady Loise (and the lady was not a
very great distance away) and she said: "Lady, yonder way there lieth a man
by the forest side and I believe that it is Sir Tristram of Lyonesse. Yet
he is but half-clad and in great distress of body so that I know not of a
surety whether it is really Sir Tristram or not. Now I pray you come with
me and look upon his face and see if you may know him."
So the Lady Loise went with the damsel to where Sir Tristram lay and looked
into his face, and she knew Sir Tristram in spite of his ill condition.
[Sidenote: The Lady Loise finds Sir Tristram] Then the Lady Loise touched
Sir Tristram upon the shoulder and shook him, and thereupon Sir Tristram
awoke and sat up. Then the Lady Loise said, "Sir Tristram, is it thou who
liest here?" And Sir Tristram said, "I know not who I am." The Lady Loise
said, "Messire, how came you here in this sad case?" And Sir Tristram said:
"I know not whence I came, nor how I came hither, nor who I am, nor what it
is that ails me, for I cannot hold my mind with enough steadiness to
remember those things." Then the lady sighed for sorrow of Sir Tristram,
and she said: "Alas, Sir Tristram, that I should find you thus! Now I pray
you, lord, for to come with me to my castle which is hard by. There we may
care for you and may perhaps bring you back to health again."
To this Sir Tristram said: "Lady, I may not go with you. For though I
cannot remember whence I came, nor who I am, this much I know--I know that
I am mad, and that the forest is the only fit place for such as I am come
The lady said: "Alas, Sir Tristram, thou wilt die if thou art left alone
here in the forest." And Sir Tristram said: "Lady, I know not what you mean
when you say I am to die. What is it to die?" So at these words the Lady
Loise saw how it was with Sir Tristram; that his brains were altogether
turned; and she wist that some sore trouble must have befallen to bring him
to such a pass. Then she bethought her of how dearly he loved the music of
the harp, and she said to herself: "Mayhap by means of music I may bring
him back into his senses again." So she said to that damsel who had brought
her thither: "Go thou and bring hither my little harp of gold, and let us
see if music may charm him to remembrance."
So the damsel ran to the castle and brought the harp thence, and the Lady
Loise took the harp and tuned it and struck it and played upon it. And the
lady sang very sweetly a ballad that she knew Sir Tristram loved.
[Sidenote: The Lady Loise harps to Sir Tristram] Then when Sir Tristram
heard the sound of the music and singing he aroused himself. For first he
listened with great pleasure, and then he said, "Give it to me! Give it to
me!" and he reached out his hands and would have taken the harp from the
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram comes to the Lady's castle] But the Lady Loise
laughed and shook her head, and she walked away from Sir Tristram and
toward the castle, still playing upon the little harp and singing; and Sir
Tristram followed close after, saying ever, "Give it to me! Give it to me!"
and reaching out his hands for the harp. So the Lady Loise led him away
from that place across the meadows; and she led him to the castle and into
the castle; and ever Sir Tristram followed after her, beseeching her for to
give the harp unto him. And the lady led Sir Tristram that way until she
had brought him to a fair room, and there she gave him the harp, and Sir
Tristram took it very eagerly into his hands and struck upon it and played
and sang most sweetly and with great joy and pleasure.
Afterward, being so much comforted, he ate and drank with appetite, and
then fell into a fair sound sleep.
Yet, though he so slept, still Sir Tristram's wits in no wise recovered
themselves; for when he awoke from that slumber he still could not remember
who he was or whence he came, neither could he remember the faces of any of
those who were around about him. But, though he was thus mad, he was still
gentle and kind in his madness and courteous and civil to all those who
came nigh him.
So Sir Tristram remained a gentle captive in the castle of the Lady Loise
for nigh upon a month, and somewhiles she would sing and harp to him, and
otherwhiles he himself would harp and sing. But ever and anon, when he
found the chance for to do so, he would escape from the captivity of the
castle and seek the forest; for he was aware of his madness and he ever
sought to hide that madness in the deep and shady woodland where only the
wild creatures of the forest might see him.
Yet always when he so escaped the Lady Loise would take her little golden
harp and go forth to the skirts of the forest and play upon it, and when
the music thereof would reach Sir Tristram's ears he would return to the
castle, being led thither by the music.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram quits the Lady's castle] But one day he wandered
so far astray that the music of the harp could not reach his ears, and then
he wandered on farther and farther until he was altogether lost. At that
Lady Loise took much sorrow for she had much love for Sir Tristram. So she
sent many of her people to search the forest for him, but none of these
were able to find him and thereafter he came no more to the castle.
Thus Sir Tristram escaped from that castle and after that he wandered in
the forest as he had done at the first. And in that time he took no food
and but little rest. And the brambles tore his clothes, so that in a short
time he was wellnigh altogether naked.
And somewhiles during this time of wandering he would be seized as with a
fury of battle, and in such case he would shout aloud as though in
challenge to an enemy. And then he would rend and tear great branches from
the trees in the fury of his imaginings. But otherwhiles he would wander
through the leafy aisles of the forest in gentler mood, singing so sweetly
that had you heard him you would have thought that it was some fairy spirit
of the forest chanting in those solitudes.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram dwells with the swineherds] So he wandered until
he failed with faintness, and sank down into the leaves; and I believe that
he would then have died, had it not been that there chanced to come that
way certain swineherds of the forest who fed their swine upon acorns that
were to be therein found. These found Sir Tristram lying there as though
dead, and they gave him to eat and to drink so that he revived once more.
After that they took him with them, and he dwelt with them in those
woodlands. There these forest folk played with him and made merry with him,
and he made them great sport. For he was ever gentle and mild like a little
child for innocence so that he did no harm to anyone, but only talked in
such a way that the swineherds found great sport in him.
Now Sir Andred of Cornwall very greatly coveted the possessions of Sir
Tristram, so that when several months had passed by and Sir Tristram did
not return to Tintagel, he said to himself: "Of a surety, Tristram must now
be dead in the forest, and, as there is no one nigher of kin to him than I,
it is altogether fitting that I should inherit his possessions."
But as Sir Andred could not inherit without proof of the death of Sir
Tristram, he suborned a certain very beautiful but wicked lady who dwelt in
the forest, persuading her that she should give false evidence of Sir
Tristram's death. Accordingly, he one day brought that lady before King
Mark, and she gave it as her evidence that Sir Tristram had died in the
forest and that she had been with him when he died. And she showed them a
new-made grave in the forest, and she said: "That is the grave of Sir
Tristram, for I saw him die and I saw him buried there with mine own eyes."
[Sidenote: Sir Adred seizes Sir Tristram's possessions] So everybody
believed this evidence, and thought that Sir Tristram was really dead, and
so Sir Andred seized upon all the possessions of Sir Tristram. And there
were many who were very sorry that Sir Tristram was dead and there were
others who were glad thereof in the same measure. But when the news was
brought to Belle Isoult that Sir Tristram was dead, she shrieked aloud and
swooned away. And she lay in that swoon so long that they thought for a
while she would never recover from it. But by and by she awoke therefrom,
crying, "Would to God that I were dead with Tristram and had never
And thereafter she mourned continually for Sir Tristram and would not be
comforted; for she was like to a woman who hath been widowed from a lover
of her youth.
And now it shall be told of how it fared with Sir Tristram in the forest
where he dwelt with the swineherds, and of how he achieved a very notable
[Illustration: Sir Kay and the Forest Madman]
_How Sir Tristram got him a sword from Sir Kay and how he slew therewith a
huge knight in the forest and rescued a lady in very great distress. Also
how Sir Launcelot found Sir Tristram in the forest and brought him thence
to Tintagel again._
Now it chanced one day that Sir Kay the Seneschal came riding through those
parts of the forest where Sir Tristram abided with the swineherds, and with
Sir Kay there came a considerable court of esquires. And with him besides
there travelled Sir Dagonet, King Arthur's Fool.
[Sidenote: Sir Kay and Sir Dagonet come to the forest] Now, you are to
know that though Sir Dagonet was the King's jester, and though he was slack
of wit, yet he was also a knight of no mean prowess. For he had performed
several deeds of good repute and was well held in all courts of chivalry.
So Sir Dagonet always went armed; though he bore upon his shield the device
of a cockerel's head as a symbol of his calling.
The time that Sir Kay and his court travelled as aforesaid was in the
summer season and the day was very warm, so that Sir Kay was minded to take
rest during the midday and until the coolness of the afternoon should come.
So they all dismounted from their horses and sat them down under the shade
of the trees where it was cool and pleasant and where the breezes reached
them to breathe upon their faces.
[Sidenote: Sir Dagonet wanders in the woodland] But whilst Sir Kay and his
court thus rested themselves, Sir Dagonet must needs be gadding, for he was
of a very restless, meddlesome disposition. So, being at that time clad
only in half armor, he wandered hither and thither through the forest as
his fancy led him. For somewhiles he would whistle and somewhiles he would
gape, and otherwhiles he would cut a caper or two. So, as chance would have
it, he came by and by to that open glade of the forest where the swineherds
were gathered; and at that time they were eating their midday meal of black
bread and cheese, and were drinking beer; some talking and laughing and
others silent as they ate their food. Unto these Sir Dagonet appeared,
coming out of the forest in very gay attire, and shining in the half armor
he wore, so that he appeared like a bright bird of the woodland.
Then Sir Dagonet, seeing where those rude boors were eating their meal of
food, came to them and stood amongst them. And he said, "Who are ye
fellows?" Whereunto they replied, "We are swineherds, Messire; who be ye?"
Quoth Sir Dagonet: "I am King Arthur's Fool. And whilst there are haply
many in the world with no more wits than I possess, yet there are few so
honest as I to confess that they are fools."
At these words those swineherds laughed very loudly. "Well," quoth one, "if
King Arthur hath his fool, so have we, and yonder he is," and therewith he
pointed to where Sir Tristram lay in the shade of the trees some distance
away and beside a deep well of the forest.
Upon that Sir Dagonet must needs go to where Sir Tristram lay, nearly
naked, upon the ground. And when he had come there he said, "Arise, fool."
Whereunto Sir Tristram replied: "Why should I arise? Lo! I am weary."
Then Sir Dagonet said: "It is not fitting that thou, who art the fool of
swineherds shouldst lie upon the grass, whilst I who am the fool of a king
stand upright upon my shanks. So, fool, I bid thee bestir thyself and
But Sir Tristram said, "I will not arise." And therewith Sir Dagonet took
his sword and pricked the thigh of Sir Tristram with the point thereof with
intent to make him bestir himself.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram souses Sir Dagonet in the well] Now when Sir
Tristram felt the prick of Sir Dagonet's sword, a certain part of his
memory of knighthood came back to him and he was seized with a sudden fury
against Sir Dagonet. So he arose and ran at Sir Dagonet and catched him in
his arms, and lifted Sir Dagonet off his feet and he soused him in the well
four or five times so that he was like to have drowned him.
As for those swineherds, when they saw what their fool did to that other
fool, they roared with laughter so that some of them rolled down upon the
ground and lay grovelling there for pure mirth. But others of them called
out to Sir Tristram, "Let be, or thou wilt drown that man"; and therewith
Sir Tristram let Sir Dagonet go, and Sir Dagonet ran away.
Nor did Sir Dagonet cease to run until he came to his party under the shade
of the trees. But when Sir Kay perceived what a sorry plight it was in
which Sir Dagonet appeared, he said, "What hath befallen thee?"
To this Sir Dagonet replied as follows: "Messire, I, who am a fool, went
into the forest and met another fool. I fool would have a jest with he
fool, but he fool catched I fool and soused I fool in a well of cold water.
So it came about that while I fool had the jest, he fool had the sport of
[Sidenote: Sir Kay seeks to avenge Sir Dagonet] Then Sir Kay understood in
some manner what had befallen, and he was very angry that Sir Dagonet
should have been so served. Wherefore he said, "Where did this befall
thee?" And Sir Dagonet said, "Over yonder ways." Then Sir Kay said: "I will
avenge thee for the affront that hath been put upon thee. For no boor shall
serve a knight of King Arthur's court in such a fashion!" So therewith Sir
Kay arose and put on his armor and mounted his horse and rode away; and
after a while he came to that place where the swineherds were.
Then Sir Kay said very sternly: "Which of ye is that boor who put so
grievous an affront upon a gentleman of my party?" The swineherds say:
"Yonder he is lying by the well; but he is slack of wit, wherefore we
beseech you to do him no harm."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram souses Sir Kay in the water] Then Sir Kay rode to
where Sir Tristram was, and he said: "Sirrah, why did you souse Sir Dagonet
into the water?" To this Sir Tristram did not reply, but only looked at Sir
Kay and laughed, for it pleased him wonderfully to behold that knight all
in shining armor. But when Sir Kay beheld Sir Tristram laugh in that wise,
he waxed exceedingly wroth. Wherefore he drew his sword straightway, and
rode at Sir Tristram with intent to strike him with the blade thereof. But
when Sir Tristram saw the sword of Sir Kay shining like lightning in the
sunlight, somewhat of his knightly spirit arose within him and took wing
like to a bird springing up out of the marish grass into the clear air. For
beholding that bright flashing sword he cried out aloud and arose and came
very steadily toward Sir Kay, and Sir Kay rode toward Sir Tristram. Then
when Sir Kay had come near enough to strike, he arose in his stirrups and
lifted the blade on high with intent to strike Sir Tristram with it. But
therewith Sir Tristram ran very quickly in beneath the blow, so that the
stroke of Sir Kay failed of its mark. Then Sir Tristram leaped up and
catched Sir Kay around the body and dragged him down from off his horse
very violently upon the ground, and with that the sword of Sir Kay fell
down out of his hands and lay in the grass. Then Sir Tristram lifted up Sir
Kay very easily and ran with him to the well of water and soused him
therein several times until Sir Kay cried out, "Fellow, spare me or I
strangle!" Upon that Sir Tristram let go Sir Kay, and Sir Kay ran to his
horse and mounted thereon and rode away from that place with might and
main, all streaming with water like to a fountain.
And all that while those swineherds roared with great laughter, ten times
louder than they had laughed when Sir Tristram had soused Sir Dagonet into
Then Sir Tristram beheld the sword of Sir Kay where it lay in the grass and
forthwith he ran to it and picked it up. And when he held it in his hands
he loved it with a great passion of love, wherefore he hugged it to his
bosom and kissed the pommel thereof.
But when the swineherds beheld the sword in Sir Tristram's hands, they
said, "That is no fit plaything for a madman to have," and they would have
taken it from him, but Sir Tristram would not permit them, for he would not
give them the sword, and no one dared to try to take it from him.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram keeps the sword of Sir Kay] So thereafter he kept
that sword ever by him both by night and by day, and ever he loved it and
kissed it and fondled it; for, as aforesaid, it aroused his knightly spirit
to life within him, wherefore it was he loved it.
So it hath been told how Sir Tristram got him a sword, and now it shall be
told how well he used it.
Now there was at that time in the woodlands of that part of Cornwall a
gigantic knight hight Sir Tauleas, and he was the terror of all that
district. For not only was he a head and shoulders taller than the tallest
of Cornish men, but his strength and fierceness were great in the same
degree that he was big of frame. Many knights had undertaken to rid the
world of this Sir Tauleas, but no knight had ever yet encountered him
without meeting some mishap at his hands.
(Yet it is to be said that heretofore no such knight as Sir Launcelot or
Sir Lamorack had come against Sir Tauleas, but only the knights of Cornwall
and Wales, whose borders marched upon that district where Sir Tauleas
[Sidenote: Sir Daynant and his lady come to the forest] Now one day there
came riding through the forest a very noble, gallant young knight, hight
Sir Daynant, and with him rode his lady, a beautiful dame to whom he had
lately been wedded with a great deal of love. These wayfarers in their
travelling came to that part of the forest where the swineherds abode, and
where were the open glade of grass and the fair well of water aforespoken
Hereunto coming, and the day being very warm, these two travellers
dismounted and besought refreshment of the swineherds who were there, and
those rude good fellows gladly gave them to eat and to drink of the best
[Sidenote: Sir Daynant regards Sir Tristam] Whilst they ate, Sir Tristram
came and sat nigh to Sir Daynant and his lady and smiled upon them, for he
loved them very greatly because of their nobility and beauty. Then Sir
Daynant looked upon Sir Tristram and beheld how strong and beautiful of
body and how noble of countenance he was, and he saw that beautiful shining
sword that Sir Tristram carried ever with him. And Sir Daynant said, "Fair
friend, who are you, and where gat ye that sword?"
"I know not who I am," said Sir Tristram, "nor know I whence I came nor
whither I go. As for this sword, I had it from a gentleman who came hither
to us no great while ago."
Then the chiefest of the swineherds said: "Lord, this is a poor madman whom
we found naked and starving in the forest. As for that sword, I may tell
you that he took it away from a knight who came hither to threaten his
life, and he soused that knight into the well so that he was wellnigh
Sir Daynant said: "That is a very strange story, that a naked madman should
take the sword out of the hands of an armed knight and treat that knight as
ye tell me. Now maybe this is some famous hero or knight who hath lost his
wits through sorrow or because of some other reason, and who hath so come
to this sorry pass."
(So said Sir Daynant, and it may here be said that from that time those
rude swineherds began to look upon Sir Tristram with different eyes than
before, saying amongst themselves: "Maybe what that knight said is true,
and this is indeed no common madman.")
Now whilst Sir Daynant sat there with his lady, holding converse with the
swineherds concerning Sir Tristram in that wise, there came a great noise
in the forest, and out therefrom there came riding with great speed that
huge savage knight Sir Tauleas aforetold of. Then Sir Daynant cried out,
"Alas, here is misfortune!" And therewith he made all haste to put his
helmet upon his head.
[Sidenote: Sir Tauleas strikes down Sir Daynant] But ere he could arm
himself in any sufficient wise, Sir Tauleas drave down very fiercely upon
him. And Sir Tauleas rose up in his stirrups and lashed so terrible a blow
at Sir Daynant that it struck through Sir Daynant's helmet and into his
brain-pan, wherefore Sir Daynant immediately fell down to the ground as
though he had been struck dead.
[Sidenote: Sir Tauleas bears away the lady] Then Sir Tauleas rode
straightway to where the lady of Sir Daynant was, and he said: "Lady, thou
art a prize that it is very well worth while fighting for! And lo! I have
won thee." Therewith he catched her and lifted her up, shrieking and
screaming and struggling, and sat her upon the saddle before him and held
her there maugre all her struggles. Then straightway he rode away into the
forest, carrying her with him; and all that while Sir Tristram stood as
though in a maze, gazing with a sort of terror upon what befell and not
rightly knowing what it all meant. For there lay Sir Daynant as though dead
upon the ground, and he could yet hear the shrieks of the lady sounding out
from the forest whither Sir Tauleas had carried her.
Then the chief of the swineherds came to Sir Tristram, and said: "Fellow,
as thou hast a sword, let us see if thou canst use it. If thou art a hero
as that knight said of thee a while since, and not a pure madman, then
follow after that knight and bring that lady back hither again."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram follows Sir Tauleas] Then Sir Tristram awoke from
that maze and said, "I will do so." And therewith he ran away very rapidly
into the forest, pursuing the direction that Sir Tauleas had taken. And he
ran for a great distance, and by and by, after a while, he beheld Sir
Tauleas before him where he rode. And by that time the lady was in a deep
swoon and lay as though dead across the saddle of Sir Tauleas. Then Sir
Tristram cried out in a great voice: "Stay, Sir Knight, and turn this way,
for I come to take that lady away from thee and to bring her back unto her
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram slays Sir Tauleas] Then Sir Tauleas turned him and
beheld a naked man running after him with a sword in his hand, whereupon he
was seized with a great rage of anger, so that he put that lady he carried
down to the ground. And he drew his sword and rushed at Sir Tristram very
violently with intent to slay him. And when he came nigh to Sir Tristram he
arose up on his stirrups and lashed so terrible a blow at him that, had it
met its mark, it would have cloven Sir Tristram in twain. But Sir Tristram
leaped aside and turned the blow very skilfully; and therewith a memory of
his knightly prowess came upon him and he, upon his part, lashed a blow at
Sir Tauleas that Sir Tauleas received very unexpectedly. And that blow
struck Sir Tauleas so terrible a buffet upon the head that the brain of Sir
Tauleas swam, and he swayed about and then fell down from off his horse.
Therewith Sir Tristram ran to him and rushed his helmet from off his head.
And when he beheld the naked head of Sir Tauleas he catched it by the hair
and drew the neck of Sir Tauleas forward. Then Sir Tauleas cried out,
"Spare me, fellow!" But Sir Tristram said, "I will not spare thee for thou
art a wicked man!" And therewith he lifted his sword on high and smote off
the head of Sir Tauleas so that it rolled down upon the ground.
After that, Sir Tristram went to the Lady and he chafed her hands and her
face so that she revived from her swoon. And when she was revived, he said:
"Lady, take cheer; for look yonder and thou wilt see thy enemy is dead, and
so now I may take thee back again unto thy friend." And therewith the lady
smiled upon Sir Tristram and catched his hand in hers and kissed it.
Then Sir Tristram lifted the lady upon the horse of Sir Tauleas, and after
that he went back again to where he had left Sir Daynant and the
swineherds; and he led the horse of Sir Tauleas by the bridle with the lady
upon the back thereof and he bore the head of Sir Tauleas in his hand by
But when those swineherds saw Sir Tristram come forth thus out of the
forest bringing that lady and bearing the head of Sir Tauleas, they were
amazed beyond measure, and they said to one another: "Of a certainty what
this young knight hath just said is sooth and this madman is indeed some
great champion in distress. But who he is no one may know, since he himself
doth not know."
And when Sir Daynant had recovered from that blow that Sir Tauleas had
given him, he also gave Sir Tristram great praise for what he had done. And
Sir Tristram was abashed at all the praise that was bestowed upon him.
Then Sir Daynant and his lady besought Sir Tristram that he would go with
them to their castle so that they might care for him, but Sir Tristram
would not, for he said: "I wist very well that I am mad, and so this forest
is a fit place for me to dwell and these kind rude fellows are fit
companions for me at this time whilst my wits are wandering."
Thus it was with this adventure. And now you shall hear how Sir Launcelot
found Sir Tristram in the forest and how he brought him out thence and
likewise what befell thereafter.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot enters the forest] For only the next day after
all these things had happened, Sir Launcelot came riding through the forest
that way, seeking for Sir Tauleas with intent to do battle with him because
of his many evil deeds. For Sir Launcelot purposed either to slay him or
else to bring him captive to King Arthur.
So it came to pass that Sir Launcelot came to that place where Sir Tristram
and the swineherds abode.
There Sir Launcelot made pause for to rest and to refresh himself, and
whilst he sat with his helmet lying beside him so that the breezes might
cool his face, all those rude swineherds gathered about and stared at him.
And Sir Launcelot smiled upon them, and he said: "Good fellows, I pray you
tell me; do you know where, hereabouts, I shall find a knight whom men call
Unto this the chief swineherd made reply, saying: "Lord, if you come hither
seeking Sir Tauleas, you shall seek him in vain. For yesterday he was
slain, and if you look yonder way you may see his head hanging from a
branch of a tree at the edge of the glade."
Upon this Sir Launcelot cried out in great amazement, "How hath that come
to pass?" and therewith he immediately arose from where he sat and went to
that tree where the head hung. And he looked into the face of the head, and
therewith he saw that it was indeed the head of Sir Tauleas that hung
there. Then Sir Launcelot said: "This is very wonderful. Now I pray you,
tell me what knight was it who slew this wicked wretch, and how his head
came to be left hanging here?"
To this the chief of the swineherds made reply: "Messire, he who slew Sir
Tauleas was no knight, but a poor madman whom we found in the forest and
who has dwelt with us now for a year past. Yonder you may see him, lying
half naked, sleeping beside that well of water."
Sir Launcelot said, "Was it he who did indeed slay Sir Tauleas?" And the
swineherd said, "Yea, lord, it was he."
Sir Launcelot said, "Do ye not then know who he is?" The swineherd replied:
"No, lord, we only know that one day we found him lying in the forest naked
and nigh to death from hunger and that we fed him and clothed him, and that
since then he hath dwelt ever with us, showing great love for us all."
Then Sir Launcelot went to where Sir Tristram lay, and he looked upon him
as he slept and he knew him not; for the beard and the hair of Sir Tristram
had grown down all over his breast and shoulders and he was very ragged and
beaten by the weather. But though Sir Launcelot knew him not, yet he beheld
that the body of Sir Tristram was very beautiful and strong, for he saw how
all the muscles and thews thereof were cut very smooth and clean as you
might cut them out of wax, wherefore Sir Launcelot gazed for a long while
and felt great admiration for his appearance.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot regards Sir Tristam] Then Sir Launcelot beheld
how the sleeping man held a naked sword in his arms very caressingly, as
though he loved it, and thereat he was very much surprised to find such a
sword as that in the hands of this forest madman. Wherefore he said to
those swineherds, "Where got this man that sword?"
"Messire," said the swineherd who had afore spoken, "some while since there
came a knight hitherward who ill-treated him. Thereupon this poor man ran
at the knight and overthrew him and took the sword away from him and soused
him several times in the well. After that he hath ever held fast to this
sword and would not give it up to any of us."
"Ha!" said Sir Launcelot, "that is a very wonderful story, that a naked man
should overthrow an armed knight and take his sword away from him. Now I
deem that this is no mere madman, but some noble knight in misfortune."
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot awakens Sir Tristram] Therewith he reached
forward and touched Sir Tristram very gently on the shoulder, and at that
Sir Tristram awoke and opened his eyes and sat up. And Sir Tristram looked
upon Sir Launcelot, but knew him not, albeit some small memory moved very
deeply within him. Nevertheless, though he knew not Sir Launcelot, yet he
felt great tenderness for that noble knight in arms, and he smiled very
lovingly upon him. And Sir Launcelot felt in return a very great deal of
regard for Sir Tristram, but wist not why that was; yet it seemed to Sir
Launcelot that he should know the face of Sir Tristram, and that it was not
altogether strange to him.
Then Sir Launcelot said, "Fair friend, was it thou who slew Sir Tauleas?"
And Sir Tristram said, "Ay." Sir Launcelot said, "Who art thou?" Whereunto
Sir Tristram made reply: "I know not who I am, nor whence I come, nor how I
Then Sir Launcelot felt great pity and tenderness for Sir Tristram, and he
said: "Friend, wilt thou go with me away from this place and into the
habitations of men? There I believe thy mind maybe made whole again, and
that it may be with thee as it was beforetime. And verily, I believe that
when that shall come to pass, the world shall find in thee some great
knight it hath lost."
Sir Tristram said: "Sir Knight, though I know not who I am, yet I know that
I am not sound in my mind; wherefore I am ashamed to go out in the world
and amongst mankind, but would fain hide myself away in this forest. Yet I
love thee so much that, if thou wert to bid me go with thee to the ends of
the world, I believe I would go with thee."
Then Sir Launcelot smiled upon Sir Tristram very kindly and said, "I do bid
thee come with me away from here," and Sir Tristram said, "I will go."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram quits the forest with Sir Launcelot] So Sir
Launcelot bade the swineherds clothe Sir Tristram in such a wise that his
nakedness might be covered, and he bade them give Sir Tristram hosen and
shoon, and when Sir Tristram was thus decently clad, Sir Launcelot made
ready to take his departure from that place.
But ere the two left, all those good fellows crowded around Sir Tristram,
and embraced him and kissed him upon the cheek; for they had come to love
him a very great deal.
Then the two went away through the forest, Sir Launcelot proudly riding
upon his great horse and Sir Tristram running very lightly beside him.
But Sir Launcelot had other business at that time than to seek out Sir
Tauleas as aforetold. For at that time there were three knights of very
ill-repute who harried the west coast of that land that overlooked the sea
toward the Kingdom of Ireland, and Sir Launcelot was minded to seek them
out after he had finished with Sir Tauleas. So ere he returned to the court
of King Arthur he had first of all to go thitherward.
Now you are to know that the castle of Tintagel lay upon the way that he
was to take upon that adventure, and so it was that he brought Sir Tristram
to the castle of Tintagel, where King Mark of Cornwall was then holding
court. For Sir Launcelot was minded to leave Sir Tristram there whilst he
went upon that adventure aforetold of.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram comes to Tintagel] And Sir Launcelot was received
in Tintagel with very great honor and acclaim, for it was the first time he
had ever been there. And King Mark besought Sir Launcelot for to abide a
while in Tintagel; but Sir Launcelot refused this hospitality, saying: "I
have an adventure to do for the sake of my master, King Arthur, and I may
not abide here at this present. But I pray you to grant me a favor, and it
is this: that you cherish this poor madman whom I found in the forest, and
that you keep him here, treating him kindly until I shall return from the
quest I am upon. For I have great love for this poor fellow and I would not
have any harm befall him whilst I am away."
Then King Mark said: "I am sorry you will not remain with us, but as to
this thing it shall be done as you desire, for we will cherish and care for
this man while you are away." So said King Mark, speaking with great
cheerfulness and courtesy; for neither he nor any of his court at that time
wist who Sir Tristram was.
So Sir Launcelot went upon his way, and King Mark gave orders that Sir
Tristram should be well-clothed and fed, and it was done as he commanded.
* * * * *
Thus it was that Sir Tristram was brought back to the castle of Tintagel
again. And now it shall be told how it befell with him thereat.
[Illustration: Sir Tristram leaps into ye Sea]
_How Sir Tristram was discovered at Tintagel and of what befell thereby._
Now during the time that Sir Tristram abode thus unknown at the court of
Tintagel, he was allowed to wander thereabouts whithersoever he chose, and
no one hindered him either in going or in coming. For none in all that
place suspected who he was, but everyone thought that he was only a poor
gentle madman of the forest; so he was allowed to wander at will as his
fancy led him.
[Sidenote: How Sir Tristram dwelt at Tintagel] And Sir Tristram's memory
never awoke; but though it awoke not, yet it stirred within him. For though
he could not remember what this place was whereunto he had come, yet it was
very strangely familiar to him, so that whithersoever he went, he felt that
those places were not altogether strange to him. And in some of those
places he felt great pleasure and in other places somewhat of pain, yet he
knew not why he should have the one feeling or the other.
Now of all those places whereunto he wandered, Sir Tristram found most
pleasure in the pleasance of the castle where was a fair garden and fruit
trees; for it was there that he and the Lady Belle Isoult had walked
together aforetime ere his affliction had befallen him, and he remembered
this place better than any other, and took more pleasure in it. Now one day
Sir Tristram came wandering thus into that pleasance and, the day being
warm, he sat under the shade of an appletree beside a marble fountain of
water; and the appletree above his head was all full of red and golden
fruit. So Sir Tristram sat there, striving to remember how it was that he
had once aforetime beheld that fountain and that garden and that appletree
beneath which he sat.
So whilst he sat there pondering in that wise, there came the Lady Belle
Isoult into the garden of that pleasance and her lady, the dame Bragwaine,
was with her, and the hound, hight Houdaine, which Sir Tristram had sent to
her by Gouvernail, walked beside her on the other side. Then Belle Isoult
perceived that there was a man sitting under the appletree, and she said to
dame Bragwaine: "Who is yonder man who hath dared to come hither into our
privy garden?" Unto this, dame Bragwaine replied: "That, lady, is the
gentle madman of the forest whom Sir Launcelot brought hither two days
Then the Lady Belle Isoult said, "Let us go nearer and see what manner of
man he is"; and so they went forward toward where Sir Tristram sat, and the
dog Houdaine went with them.
Then Sir Tristram was aware that someone was nigh; and therewith he turned
his face and beheld the Lady Isoult for the first time since he had gone
mad in the forest; and the lady was looking at him, but knew him not.
Then of a sudden, because of his great love for Belle Isoult, the memory of
Sir Tristram came all back to him in the instant, and upon that instant he
knew who he was and all that had befallen him, and how he had been brought
there as a madman out of the forest. But though he knew her in that wise,
yet, as has been said, she knew not him.
Then Sir Tristram was all overwhelmed with shame that he should be thus
found by that dear lady; wherefore he turned away his face and bowed his
head so that she might not remember him, for he perceived that as yet she
did not know him who he was.
Now at that moment the dog, Houdaine, was aware of the savor of Sir
Tristram; wherefore he leaped away from the Lady Belle Isoult and ran to
Sir Tristram and smelt very eagerly of him. And with that he knew his
[Sidenote: Houdaine knoweth Sir Tristram] Then the two ladies who looked
beheld Houdaine fall down at the feet of Sir Tristram and grovel there with
joy. And they beheld that he licked Sir Tristram's feet and his hands, and
that he leaped upon Sir Tristram and licked his neck and face, and at that
they were greatly astonished.
Then of a sudden a thought came to dame Bragwaine, and she catched the Lady
Isoult by the arm and she said: "Lady, know you not who yonder madman is?"
But the Lady Belle Isoult said: "Nay, I know not who he is. Who is he,
Bragwaine?" And Bragwaine said: "Certes, that is Sir Tristram, and no one
else in all the world."
[Sidenote: Belle Isoult knows Sir Tristram] Therewith, at those words, the
scales suddenly fell from Lady Belle Isoult's eyes and she knew him. Then,
for a little space, she stood as though turned into stone; then she emitted
a great loud cry of joy and ran to Sir Tristram where he sat, and flung
herself down upon the ground at the feet of Sir Tristram and embraced him
about the knees. And she cried out in a voice of great passion: "Tristram!
Tristram! Is it thou? They told me thou wert dead, and lo! thou art come to
life again!" And with that she fell to weeping with such fury of passion
that it was as though the soul of her were struggling to escape from her
Then Sir Tristram got to his feet in great haste and agitation and he said:
"Lady! Lady! This must not be--arise, and stay your passion or else it will
be our ruin. For behold, I am alone and unarmed in this castle, and there
are several herein who seek my life. So if it be discovered who I am, both
thou and I are lost."
Then, perceiving how that Belle Isoult was in a way distracted and out of
her mind with joy and grief and love, he turned him unto Bragwaine and said
to her: "Take thy lady hence and by and by I will find means whereby I may
come to speech with her in private. Meanwhile it is death both for her and
for me if she remain here to betray me unto the others of this castle."
So Bragwaine and Sir Tristram lifted up the Lady Belle Isoult, and
Bragwaine led her thence out of that place; for I believe that Belle Isoult
knew not whither she went but walked like one walking half in a swoon.
[Sidenote: Sir Andred knoweth Sir Tristram] Now it chanced at that time
that Sir Andred was in a balcony overlooking that pleasance, and, hearing
the sound of voices and the sound of a disturbance that was suppressed, he
looked out and beheld all that passed. Then he also wist who was that
madman whom Sir Launcelot had fetched to that place out of the forest, and
that he was Sir Tristram.
Therewith he was filled with a great rage and fury and was likewise
overwhelmed with great fear lest, if Sir Tristram should escape from that
castle with his life, he would reclaim those possessions that he, Sir
Andred, had seized upon.
[Sidenote: Sir Andres betrays Sir Tristram to King Mark] So therewith he
withdrew himself from that balcony very softly, into the apartment behind.
And he sat down in that apartment for a little while as though not knowing
rightly what to do. But after a little while he arose and went to King
Mark; and King Mark looked up and beheld him and said, "What news do you
bring, Messire?" Thereunto Sir Andred made reply: "Lord, know you who that
madman is whom Sir Launcelot hath fetched hither?" King Mark said, "Nay, I
know not who he is." But with that he fell to trembling throughout his
entire body, for he began to bethink him who that madman was. "Lord," said
Sir Andred, "it is Sir Tristram, and me-seems Sir Launcelot was aware who
it was, and that he was plotting treason when he fetched him hither."
At that King Mark smote his hands together and he cried in a terrible
voice, "I know it! I know it!" And then he said: "Blind! Blind! How was it
that I knew him not?" Then after a little he fell to laughing and he said
to Sir Andred: "Lo! God hath assuredly delivered that traitor, Sir
Tristram, into mine hands so that I may punish him for his treasons. For,
behold! he is here in our midst and he is altogether unarmed. Go, Messire,
with all haste, gather together such force as may be needful, and seize
upon him and bind him so that he may do no further harm to any man. Then
let justice be executed upon him so soon as it is possible to do so." And
Sir Andred said: "Lord, it shall be done according to your demands and upon
Therewith Sir Andred went forth from where the King was, and he armed
himself in complete armor, and he gathered together a number of knights and
esquires and he led them to that place where he knew Sir Tristram would be;
and there he found Sir Tristram sitting sunk in thought. And when Sir
Tristram beheld those armed men come in thus upon him, he arose to defend
himself. But then Sir Andred cried out in a loud voice: "Seize him ere he
can strike and bind him fast, for he is unarmed and may do you no harm!"
[Sidenote: The castle folk seize Sir Tristram] With that a dozen or more
of those who were with Sir Andred flung themselves upon Sir Tristram,
shouting and roaring like wild beasts. And they bore him to the earth by
numbers, and after a while, by dint of great effort, they held him and
bound his hands together by the wrists. Then they lifted up Sir Tristram
and stood him upon his feet, and lo! his bosom heaved with his struggles,
and his eyes were all shot with blood and his lips afroth with the fury of
his fighting; and his clothes were torn in that struggle so that his body
was half naked. And they held him there, a knight in armor with a naked
sword standing upon his right hand and another armed knight with a naked
sword standing upon his left hand.
Then Sir Andred came and stood in front of Sir Tristram and taunted him,
saying: "Ha, Tristram, how is it with thee now? Lo! thou camest like a spy
into this place, and now thou art taken with all thy treason upon thee. So
thou shalt die no knightly death, but, in a little while, thou shalt be
hanged like a thief."
Then he came close to Sir Tristram, and he laughed and said: "Tristram
where is now the glory of thy strength that one time overcame all thine
enemies? Lo! thou art helpless to strike a single blow in defence of thine
honor." And therewith Sir Andred lifted his hand and smote Sir Tristram
upon the face with the palm thereof.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram slays Sir Andred] At that blow the rage of Sir
Tristram so flamed up in him that his eyes burned as with pure green fire.
And in an instant, so quickly that no man wist what he did, he turned with
amazing suddenness upon that knight who stood at his left hand, and he
lifted up both hands that were bound, and he smote that knight such a blow
upon the face that the knight fell down upon the ground and his sword fell
out of his hand. Then Sir Tristram snatched the sword and, turning with
astonishing quickness, he smote the knight upon his right hand such a
buffet that he instantly fell down upon his knees and then rolled over upon
the ground in a swoon. Then Sir Tristram turned upon Sir Andred, and
lifting high the sword with both hands tied, he smote him so terrible a
blow that the blade cut through his epulier and half through his body as
far as the paps. At that great terrible blow the breath fled out of Sir
Andred with a deep groan, and he fell down upon the ground and immediately
Now all this had happened so suddenly that they who beheld it were
altogether amazed and stood staring as though bewitched by some spell. But
when they beheld Sir Tristram turn upon them and make at them with that
streaming sword lifted on high, the terror of his fury so seized upon them
that they everywhere broke from before him and fled, yelling, and with the
fear of death clutching them in the vitals. And Sir Tristram chased them
out of that place and into the courtyard of the castle, and some he smote
down and others escaped; but all who could do so scattered away before him
like chaff before the wind.
Then, when they were gone, Sir Tristram stood panting and glaring about him
like a lion at bay. Then he set the point of his sword upon the pavement of
the court and the pommel thereof he set against his breast, and he drew the
bonds that held his wrists across the edge of the sword so that they were
cut and he was free.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram defends the chapel] But Sir Tristram wist that in
a little the whole castle would be aroused against him, and that he would
certainly be overwhelmed by dint of numbers, wherefore he looked about him
for some place of refuge; and he beheld that the door of the chapel which
opened upon the courtyard stood ajar. So he ran into the chapel and shut to
that door and another door and locked and bolted them both, and set a heavy
bar of wood across both of them so that for a while he was safe.
But yet he was only safe for a little while, for about the time of early
nightfall, which came not long thereafter, a great party of several score
of King Mark's people came against the chapel where he was. And when they
found that the doors were locked and barred, they brought rams for to
batter in the chief door of the chapel.
Then Sir Tristram beheld how parlous was his case, and that he must in a
little while die if he did not immediately do something to save himself. So
with that he ran to a window of the chapel and opened it and looked out
thence. And lo! below him and far beneath was the sea, and the rocks of the
shore upon which the castle was built; and the sea and the rocks lay twelve
fathoms beneath him.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram leaps into the sea] But Sir Tristram said, "Better
death there than here;" and therewith finding that the door was now falling
in beneath the rams, he leaped out from the window-ledge, and thence he
dived down into the sea; and no one saw that terrible leap that he made. So
he sank down deep into the sea, but met no rocks, so that he presently came
up again safe and sound. Then, looking about him, he perceived in the
twilight a cave in the rocks, and thither he swam with the intent to find
shelter for a little.
Now when they who had come against him had broken into the chapel they all
ran in in one great crowd, for they expected to find Sir Tristram and to do
battle with him. But lo! Sir Tristram was not there, but only the empty
walls. Then at first they were greatly astonished, and knew not what to
think. And some who came cried out: "Is that man then a spirit that he can
melt away into thin air?" But after a little, one of them perceived where
the window of the chapel stood open, and therewith several of them ran
thereunto and looked out, and they wist that Sir Tristram had leaped out
thence into the sea.
Then they said to one another: "Either that knight is now dead, or else he
will perish when the tide rises and covers the rocks; so to-night we will
do no more with this business; but to-morrow we will go and find his body
where it lies among the rocks of the shore." So thereupon they shut the
window and went their ways.
Now Gouvernail was not at that time at Tintagel, nor did he return
thereunto until all this affair was over and done. But when he came there,
there were many voices to tell him what had befallen, and to all of them
Gouvernail listened without saying anything.
But afterward Gouvernail went and sought out a certain knight hight Sir
Santraille de Lushon, who, next to himself, was the most faithful friend to
Sir Tristram at that place. To him Gouvernail said: "Messire, I do not
think that Sir Tristram is dead, for he hath always been a most wonderful
swimmer and diver. But if he be alive, and we do not save him, he will
assuredly perish when the tide comes up and covers over those rocks amongst
which he may now be hidden."
So Gouvernail and Sir Santraille went to that chapel unknown to anyone, and
they went to that window whence Sir Tristram had leaped, and they opened
the window, and leaned out and called upon Sir Tristram in low voices: "Sir
Tristram, if thou art alive, arise and answer us, for we are friends!"
Then after a while Sir Tristram recognized Gouvernail's voice and answered
them: "I am alive; but save me, or I perish in a little while." Then
Gouvernail said: "Lord, are you hurt, or are you whole?" Sir Tristram
replied, "I am strong and well in body, but the tide rises fast."
Gouvernail said, "Messire, can you wait a little?" Sir Tristram said, "Ay;
for a little, but not for too long."
[Sidenote: Gouvernail and Sir Santraille rescue Sir Tristram] Then
Gouvernail and Sir Santraille withdrew from where they were and they made
all haste, and they got together a great number of sheets and napkins, and
tied these together and made a rope, and lowered the rope down to the rocks
where Sir Tristram was. Then Sir Tristram climbed up the rope of linen and
so reached the chapel in safety. And at that time it was nigh to midnight
and very dark.
But when Sir Tristram stood with them in the chapel, he gave them hardly
any greeting, but said at once: "Messires, how doth it fare with the Lady
Belle Isoult?" For he thought of her the first of all and above all things
To this Sir Santraille made reply: "Sir, the lady hath been shut into a
tower, and the door thereof hath been locked upon her, and she is a close
Then Sir Tristram said: "How many knights are there in the place who are my
friends, and who will stand with me to break out hence?" To this Gouvernail
said: "Lord, there are twelve besides ourselves, and that makes fourteen in
all who are with thee in this quarrel unto life or death."
Sir Tristram said: "Provide me presently with arms and armor and bring
those twelve hither armed at all points. But first let them saddle horses
for themselves and for us, and for the Lady Belle Isoult and for her
waiting-woman, Dame Bragwaine. When this is done, we will depart from this
place unto some other place of refuge, and I do not think there will be any
in the castle will dare stop or stay us after we are armed."
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram arms himself] So it was done as Sir Tristram
commanded, and when all those were gathered together, and their horses
ready, Sir Tristram and several of the knights of his party went openly to
that tower where the Lady Belle Isoult was prisoner. And they burst open
the doors and went in with torches, and found Belle Isoult and her
attendant in the upper part of the castle.
But when Belle Isoult beheld the face of Sir Tristram, she said: "Is it
thou, my love; and art thou still alive, and art thou come tome?" Sir
Tristram said: "Yea, I am still alive nor will I die, God willing, until I
have first brought thee out of this wicked castle and into some place of
safety. And never again will I entrust thee unto King Mark's hands; for I
have great fear that if he have thee in his hands he will work vengeance
upon thee so as to strike at my heart through thee. So, dear love, I come
to take thee away from this place; and never again right or wrong, shalt
thou be without the shelter of my arm."
Then the Lady Belle Isoult smiled very wonderfully upon Sir Tristram so
that her face appeared to shine with a great illumination of love. And she
said: "Tristram, I will go with thee whithersoever thou wilt. Yea, I would
go with thee even to the grave, for I believe that I should be happy even
there, so that thou wert lying beside me."
Then Sir Tristram groaned in spirit and he said: "Isoult, what have I done,
that I should always bring unhappiness upon thee?" But the Lady Belle
Isoult spake very steadily, saying: "Never unhappiness, Tristram, but
always happiness; for I have thy love for aye, and thou hast mine in the
same measure, and in that is happiness, even in tears and sorrow, and never
With that Sir Tristram kissed Belle Isoult upon the forehead, and then he
lifted her up and carried her in his arms down the stairs of the tower and
sat her upon her horse. And Bragwaine followed after, and Gouvernail lifted
her up upon her horse.
[Sidenote: Sir Tristram taketh Belle Isoult away from Tintagel] Now all
they of that castle were amazed beyond measure to find all those knights
armed and prepared for battle so suddenly in their midst. And most of all
were they filled with terror to find Sir Tristram at the head of these
knights. Wherefore when Sir Tristram made demand that they should open the
portcullis of the castle and let fall the drawbridge, the porters thereof
dared not refuse him, but did as he said.
So Sir Tristram and his knights rode forth with the Lady Belle Isoult and
Bragwaine and no one stayed them. And they rode into the forest, betaking
their way toward a certain castle of Sir Tristram's, which they reached in
the clear dawning of the daytime.
And so Sir Tristram brought the Lady Belle Isoult away from Tintagel and
[Illustration: King Mark broods mischief]
_How Sir Tristram and the Lady Belle Isoult returned to Cornwall and how
they ended their days together._
And now remaineth to be told the rest of these adventures of Sir Tristram
as briefly as may be.
For indeed I thought not, when I began this history, to tell you as much
concerning him as I have done. But as I have entered into this history I
have come so strongly to perceive how noble and true and loyal was the
knighthood of Sir Tristram, that I could not forbear telling you of many
things that I had not purposed to speak of.
Yet, as I have said before this, there are a great many adventures that I
have not spoken of in this book. For I have told only those things that
were necessary for to make you understand how it fared with him in his
So now shall be told those last things that concerned him.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot reproves King Mark] Now two days after those
things aforesaid had come to pass, Sir Launcelot returned unto Tintagel
from that quest which he had been upon, and so soon as he came thither he
made inquiry of King Mark concerning the welfare of that madman of the
forest whom he had left in the care of King Mark. But when he heard that
that madman was Sir Tristram, he was astonished beyond all measure; but
when he heard how Sir Tristram had been served by King Mark and by the
people of the castle under the lead of Sir Andred, he was filled with a
great and violent indignation. So he arose and stood before King Mark and
said: "Lord King, I have heard much ill said of thee and shameful things
concerning thy unknightliness in several courts of chivalry where I have
been; and now I know that those things were true; for I have heard from the
lips of many people here, how thou didst betray Sir Tristram into bringing
the Lady Belle Isoult unto thee; and I have heard from many how thou dost
ever do ill and wickedly by him, seeking to take from him both his honor
and his life. And yet Sir Tristram hath always been thy true and faithful
knight, and hath served thee in all ways thou hast demanded of him. I know
that thou hast jealousy for Sir Tristram in thy heart and that thou hast
ever imputed wickedness and sin unto him. Yet all the world knoweth that
Sir Tristram is a true knight and altogether innocent of any evil. For all
the evil which thou hast imputed to him hath no existence saving only in
thine own evil heart. Now I give thee and all thy people to know that had
ill befallen Sir Tristram at your hands I should have held you accountable
therefor and should have punished you in such a way that you would not soon
have forgotten it. But of that there is no need, for Sir Tristram himself
hath punished you in full measure without any aid from me. So now I will go
away from this place and will never come hither again; nor will I
acknowledge you should I meet you in court or in field."
So saying, Sir Launcelot turned and went away from that place very proudly
and haughtily, leaving them all abashed at his rebuke.
[Sidenote: Sir Launcelot findeth Sir Tristram and Belle Isoult in the
forest] So that day Sir Launcelot went forward through the forest until he
reached that castle whereunto Sir Tristram had taken the Lady Belle Isoult,
and there he was received by Sir Tristram with all joy and honor. And Sir
Launcelot abided at that place for two days, with great pleasure to himself
and to Sir Tristram and to Belle Isoult.
At the end of that time Sir Launcelot said to Sir Tristram: "Messire, it is
not well that you and this dear lady should abide here so nigh to Tintagel.
For, certes, King Mark will some time work some grievous ill upon you. So I
beseech you to come with me unto my castle of Joyous Gard. There this lady
shall reign queen paramount and we shall be her very faithful servants to
do her pleasure in all ways. That castle is a very beautiful place, and
there she may dwell in peace and safety and tranquillity all the days of
her life if she chooses to do so."
[Sidenote: They depart for Joyous Gard] Now that saying of Sir Launcelot's
seemed good to Sir Tristram and to Belle Isoult; wherefore in three days
all they and their court made ready to depart. And they did depart from
that castle in the forest unto Joyous Gard, where they were received with
great honor and rejoicing.
So the Lady Belle Isoult abided for three years at Joyous Gard, dwelling
there as queen paramount in all truth and innocence of life; and Sir
Launcelot and Sir Tristram were her champions and all their courts were her
servants. And during those three years there were many famous joustings
held at Joyous Gard, and several bel-adventures were performed both by Sir
Launcelot and Sir Tristram in her honor.
And indeed I believe that this was the happiest time of all the Lady Belle
Isoult's life, for she lived there in peace and love and tranquillity and
she suffered neither grief nor misfortune in all that time.
[Sidenote: King Arthur comes to Joyous Gard] Then one day there came King
Arthur to Joyous Gard, and he was received with such joy and celebration as
that place had never before beheld. A great feast was set in his honor, and
after the feast King Arthur and Sir Tristram and Belle Isoult withdrew to
one side and sat together in converse.
Then after a while King Arthur said, "Lady, may I ask you a question?" And
at that Lady Belle Isoult lifted up her eyes and looked very strangely upon
the King, and after a while she said, "Ask thy question, Lord King, and I
will answer it if I can." "Lady," said King Arthur, "answer me this
question: is it better to dwell in honor with sadness or in dishonor with
Then Belle Isoult began to pant with great agitation, and by and by she
said, "Lord, why ask you me that?" King Arthur said: "Because, lady, I
think your heart hath sometimes asked you the selfsame question." Then the
Lady Belle Isoult clasped her hands together and cried out: "Yea, yea, my
heart hath often asked me that question, but I would not answer it." King
Arthur said: "Neither shalt thou answer me, for I am but a weak and erring
man as thou art a woman. But answer thou that question to God, dear lady,
and then thou shalt answer it in truth."
Therewith King Arthur fell to talking of other things with Sir Tristram,
but the lady could not join them in talk, but sat thenceforth in silence,
finding it hard to breathe because of the oppression of tears that lay upon
And Belle Isoult said no more concerning that question that King Arthur had
asked. But three days after that time she came to Sir Tristram and said:
"Dear lord, I have bethought me much of what King Arthur said, and this
hath come of it, that I must return again unto Cornwall."
Then Sir Tristram turned away his face so that she might not see it, and he
said, "Methought it would come to that." And then in a little he went away
from that place, leaving her standing there.
So it came about that peace was made betwixt Sir Tristram and King Mark,
and Belle Isoult and King Mark, and King Arthur was the peacemaker.
[Sidenote: Belle Isoult scorns King Mark] Thereafter Sir Tristram and his
court and the Lady Belle Isoult returned unto Cornwall, and there they
dwelt for some time in seeming peace. But in that time the Lady Belle
Isoult would never see King Mark nor exchange a word with him, but lived
entirely apart from him and in her own life in a part of the castle; and at
that King Mark was struck with such bitterness of despair that he was like
to a demon in torment. For he saw, as it were, a treasure very near and yet
afar, for he could not come unto it. And the more he suffered that torment,
the more he hated Sir Tristram, for in his suffering it appeared to him
that Sir Tristram was the cause of that suffering.
So it came about that King Mark set spies to watch Sir Tristram, for in his
evil heart he suspected Sir Tristram of treason, and he hoped that his
spies might discover Sir Tristram in some act for which he might be
punished. So those spies watched Sir Tristram both night and day, but they
could find nothing that he did that was amiss.
Now one day Belle Isoult felt such a longing for Sir Tristram that she
could not refrain from sending a note to him beseeching him for to come to
her so that they might see one another again; and though Sir Tristram
misdoubted what he did, yet he went as she desired, even if it should mean
the peril of death to him.
Then came those spies to King Mark and told him that Sir Tristram was gone
to the bower of the Lady Belle Isoult, and that she had bidden him to come
At that the vitals of King Mark were twisted with such an agony of hatred
and despair that he bent him double and cried out, "Woe! Woe! I suffer
[Sidenote: King Mark spies upon Sir Tristram and Isoult] Therewith he
arose and went very quickly to that part of the castle where the Lady Belle
Isoult inhabited; and he went very softly up by a back way and through a
passage to where was a door with curtains hanging before it; and when he
had come there he parted the curtains and peeped within. And he beheld that
the Lady Belle Isoult and Sir Tristram sat at a game of chess, and he
beheld that they played not at the game but that they sat talking together
very sadly; and he beheld that Dame Bragwaine sat in a deep window to one
side--for Belle Isoult did not wish it to be said that she and Sir Tristram
All this King Mark saw and trembled with a torment of jealousy. So by and
by he left that place and went very quietly back into that passageway
whence he had come. And when he had come there he perceived a great glaive
upon a pole two ells long. This he took into his hand and returned unto
that curtained doorway again.
Then being in all ways prepared he parted the curtains silently and stepped
very quickly and without noise into the room. And the back of Sir Tristram
was toward him.
Then King Mark lifted the glaive on high and he struck; and Sir Tristram
sank without a sound.
Yea, I believe that that good knight knew naught of what had happened until
he awoke in Paradise to find himself in that realm of happiness and peace.
[Sidenote: Of the passing of Tristram and Isoult] Then Belle Isoult arose,
overturning the table of chessmen as she did so, but she made no outcry nor
sound of any sort. But she stood looking down at Sir Tristram for a little
space, and then she kneeled down beside his body and touched the face
thereof as though to make sure that it was dead. Therewith, as though being
assured, she fell down with her body upon his; and King Mark stood there
looking down upon them.
All this had passed so quickly that Dame Bragwaine hardly knew what had
befallen; but now, upon an instant, she suddenly fell to shrieking so
piercingly that the whole castle rang with the sound thereof.
Now there were in the outer room several of the knights of the court of Sir
Tristram who had come thither with him as witnesses that he performed no
treason to the King. These, when Dame Bragwaine shrieked in that wise, came
running into the room and therewith beheld what had happened. Then all they
stood aghast at that sight.
[Sidenote: Sir Alexander slays King Mark] But there was in the court of
Sir Tristram a very young, gallant knight hight Sir Alexander. This knight
came to where King Mark stood looking down upon his handiwork as though
entranced with what he had done. Then Sir Alexander said to King Mark, "Is
this thy work?" And King Mark raised his eyes very heavily and looked at
Sir Alexander and he answered, "Ay!" Then Sir Alexander cried out, "Thou
hast lived too long!" And therewith drawing his misericordia, he catched
King Mark by the left wrist and lifted his arm. And Sir Alexander drave the
dagger into the side of King Mark, and King Mark groaned and sank down upon
the ground, and in a little while died where he lay.
Then those knights went to where the Lady Belle Isoult lay and lifted her
up; but, lo! the soul had left her, and she was dead. For I believe that it
was not possible for one of those loving souls to leave its body with out
the other quitting its body also, so that they might meet together in
Paradise. For there never were two souls in all the history of chivalry
that clave to one another so tenderly as did the souls of Tristram and
So endeth this story of Sir Tristram, with only this to say, that they two
were buried with the graves close together, and that it is said by many who
have written of them that there grew a rose-tree up from Sir Tristram's
grave, and down upon the grave of Belle Isoult; and it is said that this
rose-tree was a miracle, for that upon his grave there grew red roses, and
upon her grave there grew pure white roses. For her soul was white like to
thrice-carded wool, and so his soul was red with all that was of courage or
And I pray that God may rest the souls of those two as I pray He may rest
the souls of all of us who must some time go the way that those two and so
many others have travelled before us. Amen.
The Book of Sir Percival
_Here beginneth the story of Sir Percival of Gales, who was considered to
be one of the three great knights of the Round Table at that time. For, if
Sir Launcelot was the chiefest of all the knights who ever came unto King
Arthur's court, then it is hard to say whether Sir Tristram of Lyonesse or
Sir Percival of Gales was second unto him in renown_.
_And I pray that it shall be given unto all of ye to live as brave and
honorable and pure a life as he did; and that you, upon your part, may
claim a like glory and credit in the world in which you dwell by such noble
behavior as he exhibited_.
[Illustration: Sir Percival of Gales]
The father of Sir Percival was that king hight Pellinore who fought so
terrible a battle with King Arthur as has been told in the Book of King
Arthur. For it was after that fight that King Arthur obtained his famous
sword Excalibur, as was therein told.
Now, King Pellinore was one of those eleven kings who, in the beginning of
King Arthur's reign, were in rebellion against King Arthur as hath been
told in the book aforesaid, and he was one of the last of all those kings
to yield when he was overcome. So King Arthur drove him from town to town
and from place to place until, at last, he was driven away from the
habitations of men and into the forests like to a wild beast.
[Sidenote: King Pellinore fleeth to the wilderness] Now, King Pellinore
took with him into the wilderness his wife and his four sons; to wit,
Lamorack and Aglaval and Dornar and Percival. Of these, Percival was but
three years of age; the others, excepting Dornar, being nigh to the estate
of manhood. Thereafter that noble family dwelt in the forest like hunted
animals, and that was a very great hardship for the lady who had been
queen; and, likewise, it was greatly to the peril of the young child,
Now, Percival was extraordinarily beautiful and his mother loved him above
all her other sons. Wherefore she feared lest the young child should die of
those hardships in the wilderness.
So one day King Pellinore said: "Dear love, I am now in no wise prepared
for to defend thee and this little one. Wherefore, for a while, I shall put
ye away from me so that ye may remain in secret hiding until such time as
the child shall have grown in years and stature to the estate of manhood
and may so defend himself.
"Now of all my one-time possessions I have only two left to me. One of
these is a lonely castle in this forest (unto which I am now betaking my
way), and the other is a solitary tower at a great distance from this, and
in a very desolate part of the world where there are many mountains. Unto
that place I shall send ye, for it will not be likely that mine enemies
will ever find ye there.
"So my will is this: that if this child groweth in that lonely place to
manhood, and if he be weak in body or timid in spirit, thou shalt make of
him a clerk of holy orders. But if when he groweth, he shall prove to be
strong and lusty of frame and high of spirit, and shall desire to undertake
deeds of knighthood, thou then shalt not stay him from his desires, but
shall let him go forth into the world as he shall have a mind to do.
"And if a time should come when he desireth to go thus into the world
behold! here is a ring set with a very precious ruby; let him bring that
ring to me or to any of our sons wheresoever he may find us, and by that
ring we shall know that he is my son and their brother, and we will receive
him with great gladness."
[Sidenote: Percival's mother taketh him to the mountains] And King
Pellinore's lady said, "It shall be done as thou dost ordain." So it was
that King Pellinore betook himself to that lonely castle where King Arthur
found him and fought with him; and Percival's mother betook herself to that
dwelling-place in the mountains of which King Pellinore had spoken--which
was a single tower that reached up into the sky, like unto a finger of
There she abided with Percival for sixteen years, and in all that time
Percival knew naught of the world nor of what sort it was, but grew
altogether wild and was entirely innocent like to a little child.
In the mean time, during those years, it happened very ill to the house of
King Pellinore. For though King Arthur became reconciled to King Pellinore,
yet there were in King Arthur's court many who were bitter enemies to that
good, worthy knight. So it came about that first King Pellinore was slain
by treachery, and then Sir Aglaval and Sir Dornar were slain in the same
way, so that Sir Lamorack alone was left of all that noble family.
(And it was said that Sir Gawaine and his brothers were implicated in those
murders--they being enemies unto King Pellinore--and great reproach hath
always clung to them for the treacherous, unknightly way in which those
noble knights of the house of Pellinore were slain.)
[Sidenote: Percival's mother grieveth for the death of her dear ones] Now
the news of those several deaths was brought to that lonely tower of the
mountain wilderness and to Sir Percival's mother; and when she heard how
her husband and two of her sons were dead she gave great outcry of grief,
and smote her hands together and wept with great passion. And she cried
out: "Mefeareth it will be the time of Lamorack next to be slain. As for
Percival; never shall I be willing for him to go out into that cruel world
of wicked murderers. For if he should perish also, my heart would surely
[Sidenote: How Percival dwelt in the mountains] So she kept Percival
always with her and in ignorance of all that concerned the world of
knighthood. And though Percival waxed great of body and was beautiful and
noble of countenance, yet he dwelt there among those mountains knowing no
more of the world that lay beyond that place in which he dwelt than would a
little innocent child. Nor did he ever see anyone from the outside world,
saving only an old man who was a deaf-mute. And this old man came and went
betwixt that tower where Percival and his mother dwelt and the outer world,
and from the world he would come back with clothing and provisions loaded
upon an old sumpter horse for Percival and his mother and their few
attendants. Yet Percival marvelled many times whence those things came, but
no one told him and so he lived in entire ignorance of the world.
And Percival's mother would not let him touch any weapon saving only a
small Scot's spear which same is a sort of javelin. But with this Percival
played every day of his life until he grew so cunning in handling it that
he could pierce with it a bird upon the wing in the air.
Now it chanced upon a time when Percival was nineteen years of age that he
stood upon a pinnacle of rock and looked down into a certain valley. And it
was very early in the spring-time, so that the valley appeared, as it were,
to be carpeted all with clear, thin green. There was a shining stream of
water that ran down through the midst of the valley, and it was a very fair
and peaceful place to behold.
[Sidenote: Percival beholds a knight-rider] So Percival stood and gazed
into that low-land, and lo! a knight rode up through that valley, and the
sun shone out from behind a cloud of rain and smote upon his armor so that
it appeared to be all ablaze as with pure light, and Percival beheld that
knight and wist not what it was he saw. So, after the knight had gone away
from the valley, he ran straightway to his mother, all filled with a great
wonder, and he said: "Mother! Mother! I have beheld a very wonderful
thing." She said, "What was it thou didst see?" Percival said: "I beheld
somewhat that was like a man, and he rode upon a horse, and he shone very
brightly and with exceeding splendor. Now, I prithee tell me what it was I
Then Percival's mother knew very well what it was he had seen, and she was
greatly troubled at heart, for she wist that if Percival's knightly spirit
should be awakened he would no longer be content to dwell in those peaceful
solitudes. Wherefore she said to herself: "How is this? Is it to be that
this one lamb also shall be taken away from me and nothing left to me of
all my flock?" Then she said to Percival: "My son, that which thou didst
behold was doubtless an angel." And Percival said, "I would that I too were
an angel!" And at that speech the lady, his mother, sighed very deeply.
Now it chanced upon the next day after that that Percival and his mother
went down into the forest that lay at the foot of the mountain whereon that
tower stood, and they had intent to gather such early flowers of the
spring-time as were then abloom. And whilst they were there, lo! there came
five knights riding through the forest, and, the leaves being thin like to
a mist of green, Percival perceived them a great way off. So he cried out
in a loud voice: "Mother! Mother! Behold! Yonder is a whole company of
angels such as I saw yesterday! Now I will go and give them greeting."
But his mother said: "How now! How now! Wouldst thou make address unto
angels!" And Percival said: "Yea; for they appear to be both mild of face
and gentle of mien." So he went forward for to greet those knights.
[Sidenote: Percival holds discourse with five knights] Now the foremost of
that party of knights was Sir Ewaine, who was always both gentle and
courteous to everybody. Wherefore, when Sir Ewaine saw Percival nigh at
hand, he gave him greeting and said, "Fair youth, what is thy name?" Unto
this Percival made reply: "My name is Percival." Sir Ewaine said: "That is
a very good name, and thy face likewise is so extraordinarily comely that I
take thee to be of some very high lineage. Now tell me, I prithee, who is
thy father?" To this Percival said, "I cannot tell thee what is my lineage,
for I do not know," and at that Sir Ewaine marvelled a very great deal.
Then, after a little while, he said: "I prithee tell me, didst thou see a
knight pass this way to-day or yesterday?" And Percival said, "I know not
what sort of a thing is a knight." Sir Ewaine said, "A knight is such a
sort of man as I am."
Upon this Percival understood many things that he did not know before, and
he willed with all his soul to know more than those. Wherefore he said: "If
thou wilt answer several questions for me, I will gladly answer thine."
Upon this Sir Ewaine smiled very cheerfully (for he liked Percival
exceedingly), and he said: "Ask what thou wilt and I will answer thee in so
far as I am able."
So Percival said, "I prithee tell me what is this thing?" And he laid his
hand thereon. And Sir Ewaine said, "That is a saddle." And Percival said,
"What is this thing?" And Sir Ewaine said, "That is a sword." And Percival
said, "What is this thing?" And Sir Ewaine said, "That is a shield." And so
Percival asked him concerning all things that appertained to the
accoutrements of a knight, and Sir Ewaine answered all his questions. Then
Percival said: "Now I will answer thy question. I saw a knight ride past
this way yesterday, and he rode up yonder valley and to the westward."
Upon this Sir Ewaine gave gramercy to Percival and saluted him, and so did
the other knights, and they rode their way.
After they had gone Percival returned to his mother, and he beheld that she
sat exactly where he had left her, for she was in great travail of soul
because she perceived that Percival would not now stay with her very much
longer. And when Percival came to where she sat he said to her: "Mother,
those were not angels, but very good, excellent knights." And upon this the
lady, his mother, burst into a great passion of weeping, so that Percival
stood before her all abashed, not knowing why she wept. So by and by he
said, "Mother, why dost thou weep?" But she could not answer him for a
while, and after a while she said, "Let us return homeward." And so they
walked in silence.
Now when they had come to the tower where they dwelt, the lady turned of a
sudden unto Percival and she said to him, "Percival, what is in thy heart?"
And he said, "Mother, thou knowest very well what is there." She said, "Is
it that thou wouldst be a knight also?" And he said, "Thou sayst it." And
upon that she said, "Thou shalt have thy will; come with me."
So Percival's mother led him to the stable and to where was that poor
pack-horse that brought provisions to that place, and she said: "This is a
sorry horse but I have no other for thee. Now let us make a saddle for
him." So Percival and his mother twisted sundry cloths and wisps of hay and
made a sort of a saddle thereof. And Percival's mother brought him a scrip
with bread and cheese for his refreshment and she hung it about his
shoulder. And she brought him his javelin which he took in his hand. And
then she gave him the ring of King Pellinore with that precious ruby jewel
inset into it, and she said: "Take thou this, Percival, and put it upon thy
finger, for it is a royal ring. Now when thou leavest me, go unto the court
of King Arthur and make diligent inquiry for Sir Lamorack of Gales. And
when thou hast found him, show him that ring, and he will see that thou art
made a very worthy knight; for, Percival, Sir Lamorack is thy brother. One
time thou hadst a father alive, and thou hadst two other brothers. But all
they were slain by treachery of our enemies, and only thou and Lamorack are
left; so look to it that thou guard thyself when thou art in the world and
in the midst of those enemies; for if thou shouldst perish at their hands,
I believe my heart would break."
[Sidenote: Percival's mother giveth him advice] Then she gave Percival
advice concerning the duty of one who would make himself worthy of
knighthood, and that advice was as follows: "In thy journeying thou art to
observe these sundry things: When thou comest to a church or a shrine say a
pater-noster unto the glory of God; and if thou hearest a cry of anyone in
trouble, hasten to lend thine aid--especially if it be a woman or a child
who hath need of it; and if thou meet a lady or a damosel, salute her in
seemly fashion; and if thou have to do with a man, be both civil and
courageous unto him; and if thou art an-hungered or athirst and findest
food and wine, eat and drink enough to satisfy thee, but no more; and if
thou findest a treasure or a jewel of price and canst obtain those things
without injustice unto another, take that thing for thine own--but give
that which thou hast with equal freedom unto others. So, by obeying these
precepts, thou shalt become worthy to be a true knight and, haply, be also
worthy of thy father, who was a true knight before thee."
And Percival said, "All these things will I remember and observe to do."
And Percival's mother said, "But thou wilt not forget me, Percival?"
[Sidenote: Percival departs from the mountain] And he said: "Nay, mother;
but when I have got me power and fame and wealth, then will I straightway
return thitherward and take thee away from this place, and thou shalt be
like to a Queen for all the glory that I shall bestow upon thee." Upon this
the lady, his mother, both laughed and wept; and Percival stooped and
kissed her upon the lips. Then he turned and left her, and he rode away
down the mountain and into the forest, and she stood and gazed after him as
long as she could see him. And she was very lonely after he had gone.
So I have told you how it came that Percival went out into the world for to
become a famous knight.
[Illustration: The Lady Yvette the Fair]
_How Percival departed into the world and how he found a fair damsel in a
pavilion; likewise how he came before Queen Guinevere and how he undertook
his first adventure_.
[Sidenote: Percival maketh himself armor of willow twigs] Now after
Percival had ridden upon his way for a very long time, he came at last out
of that part of the forest and unto a certain valley where were many osiers
growing along beside a stream of water. So he gathered branches of the
willow-trees and peeled them and wove them very cunningly into the likeness
of armor such as he had seen those knights wear who had come into his
forest. And when he had armed himself with wattled osiers he said unto
himself, "Now am I accoutred as well as they." Whereupon he rode upon his
way with an heart enlarged with joy.
By and by he came out of the forest altogether and unto a considerable
village where were many houses thatched with straw. And Percival said to
himself: "Ha! how great is the world; I knew not that there were so many
people in the world."
[Sidenote: How Percival rode in the world] But when the folk of that place
beheld what sort of a saddle was upon the back of the pack-horse; and when
they beheld what sort of armor it was that Percival wore--all woven of
osier twigs; and when they beheld how he was armed with a javelin and with
no other weapon, they mocked and laughed at him and jeered him. But
Percival understood not their mockery, whereupon he said: "Lo! how pleasant
and how cheerful is the world. I knew not it was so merry a place." So he
laughed and nodded and gave them greeting who mocked him in that manner.
And some of them said, "That is a madman." And others said, "Nay, he is a
silly fool." And when Percival heard these he said to himself: "I wonder
whether there are other sorts of knights that I have not yet heard tell
So he rode upon his way very happy, and whenever he met travellers, they
would laugh at him; but he would laugh louder than they and give them
greeting because of pure pleasure that the great world was so merry and
Now in the declining of the afternoon, he came to a certain pleasant glade,
and there he beheld a very noble and stately pavilion in among the trees,
And that pavilion was all of yellow satin so that it shone like to gold in
the light of the declining sun.
Then Percival said to himself: "Verily, this must be one of those churches
concerning which my mother spake to me." So he descended from his horse and
went to that pavilion and knelt down and said a pater-noster.
[Sidenote: Percival enters the golden pavilion] And when he had ended that
prayer, he arose and went into the pavilion, and lo! he beheld there a
wonderfully beautiful young damsel of sixteen years of age who sat in the
pavilion upon a carved bench and upon a cushion of cloth of gold, and who
bent over a frame of embroidery, which she was busy weaving in threads of
silver and gold. And the hair of that damosel was as black as ebony and her
cheeks were like rose leaves for redness, and she wore a fillet of gold
around her head, and she was clad in raiment of sky blue silk. And near by
was a table spread with meats of divers sorts and likewise with several
wines, both white and red. And all the goblets were of silver and all the
pattens were of gold, and the table was spread with a napkin embroidered
with threads of gold.
Now you are to know that the young lady who sat there was the Lady Yvette
the Fair, the daughter of King Pecheur.
When Percival came to that pavilion the Lady Yvette looked up and beheld
him with great astonishment, and she said to herself: "That must either be
a madman or a foolish jester who comes hither clad all in armor of wattled
willow twigs." So she said to him, "Sirrah, what dost thou here?" He said,
"Lady, is this a church?" Upon that she was angered thinking that he had
intended to make a jest and she said: "Begone, fool, for if my father, who
is King Pecheur, cometh and findeth thee here, he will punish thee for this
jest." But Percival replied, "Nay; I think he will not, lady."
Then the damosel looked at Percival more narrowly and she beheld how noble
and beautiful was his countenance and she said to herself: "This is no fool
nor a jester, but who he is or what he is I know not."
[Sidenote: Percival breaks bread in the golden pavilion] So she said to
Percival, "Whence comest thou?" and he said, "From the mountains and the
wilderness." Then he said: "Lady, when I left my mother she told me that
whenever I saw good food and drink and was an-hungered, I was to take what
I needed. Now I will do so in this case." Whereupon he sat him down to that
table and fell to with great appetite.
Then when that damosel beheld what he did she laughed in great measure and
clapped her hands together in sport. And she said: "If my father and
brothers should return and find thee at this, they would assuredly punish
thee very sorely, and thou couldst not make thyself right with them."
Percival said, "Why would they do that, lady?" And she said: "Because that
is their food and drink, and because my father is a king and my brethren
are his sons." Then Percival said, "Certes, they would be uncourteous to
begrudge food to a hungry man"; and thereat the damsel laughed again.
Now when Percival had eaten and drunk his fill, he arose from where he sat.
And he beheld that the damsel wore a very beautiful ring of carved gold set
with a pearl of great price. So he said to her: "Lady, my mother told me
that if I beheld a jewel or treasure and desired it for my own, I was to
take it if I could do so without offence to anyone. Now I prithee give me
that ring upon thy finger, for I desire it a very great deal." At this the
maiden regarded Percival very strangely, and she beheld that he was comely
beyond any man whom she had ever seen and that his countenance was very
noble and exalted and yet exceedingly mild and gentle. So she said to him,
speaking very gently, "Why should I give thee my ring?" Whereunto he made
reply: "Because thou art the most beautiful lady whom mine eyes ever beheld
and I find that I love thee more than I had thought possible to love
At that the damosel smiled upon him and said, "What is thy name?" And he
said, "It is Percival." She said, "That is a good name; who is thy father?"
Whereunto he said: "That I cannot tell thee for my mother hath bidden me
tell his name to no one yet whiles." She said, "I think he must be some
very noble and worthy knight," and Percival said, "He is all that, for he
too was a king."
[Sidenote: The damsel giveth Percival her ring] Then the damsel said,
"Thou mayst have my ring," and she gave it to him. And when Percival had
placed it upon his finger he said: "My mother also told me that I should
give freely of what is mine own, wherefore I do give thee this ring of mine
in exchange for thine, and I do beseech thee to wear it until I have proved
myself worthy of thy kindness. For I hope to win a very famous knighthood
and great praise and renown, all of which, if I so accomplish my desires,
shall be to thy great glory. I would fain come to thee another time in that
wise instead of as I am at this present."
At that the damsel said: "I know not what thou art or whence thou comest
who should present thyself in such an extraordinary guise as thou art
pleased to do, but, certes, thou must be of some very noble strain.
Wherefore I do accept thee for my knight, and I believe that I shall some
time have great glory through thee."
[Sidenote: Percival salutes the damsel of the golden pavilion] Then
Percival said: "Lady, my mother said to me that if I met a damosel I was to
salute her with all civility. Now have I thy leave to salute thee?" And she
said, "Thou hast my leave." So Percival took her by the hand, and kissed
her upon the lips (for that was the only manner in which he knew how to
salute a woman) and, lo! her face grew all red like to fire. Thereupon
Percival quitted that pavilion and mounted his horse and rode away. And it
seemed to him that the world was assuredly a very beautiful and wonderful
place for to live in.
Yet he knew not what the world was really like nor of what a sort it was
nor how passing wide, else had he not been so certainly assured that he
would win him credit therein, or that he could so easily find that young
damsel again after he had thus parted from her.
That night Percival came to a part of the forest where were many huts of
folk who made their living by gathering fagots. These people gave him
harborage and shelter for the night, for they thought that he was some
harmless madman who had wandered afar. And they told him many things he had
never known before that time, so that it appeared to him that the world was
still more wonderful than he had thought it to be at first.
So he abided there for the night, and when the next morning had come he
arose and bathed himself and went his way; and, as he rode upon his poor
starved horse, he brake his fast with the bread and cheese that his mother
had put into his wallet, and he was very glad at heart and rejoiced
exceedingly in the wonderfulness and the beauty of the world in which he
found himself to be.
[Sidenote: How Percival travelled in the forest] So Percival journeyed on
into that forest, and he took such great delight in the beauty of the world
in which he travelled that he was at times like to shed tears of pure
happiness because of the joy he felt in being alive. For that forest path
he travelled led beneath the trees of the woodland; and the trees at that
time were in their early tender leaf, so that they appeared to shed showers
of golden light everywhere down upon the earth. And the birds of the
woodland sang in every bush and thicket; and, anon, the wood pigeon cooed
so softly that the heart of Percival yearned with great passion for he knew
Thus he rode, somewhiles all in a maze of green, and somewhiles out thence
into an open glade where the light was wide and bright; and other whiles he
came to some forest stream where was a shallow pool of golden gravel, and
where the water was so thin and clear that you might not tell where it
ended and the pure air began. And therethrough he would drive his horse,
splashing with great noise, whilst the little silvery fish would dart away
upon all sides, hither and thither, like sparks of light before his coming.
So, because of the beauty of this forest land in its spring-time verdure
and pleasantness, the heart of Percival was uplifted with so much joy and
delight that he was like to weep for pure pleasure as aforesaid.
Now it chanced at that time that King Arthur and several of his court had
come into that forest ahawking; but, the day being warm, the Queen had
grown weary of the sport, so she had commanded her attendants to set up a
pavilion for her whilst the King continued his hawking. And the pavilion
was pitched in an open glade of the forest whereunto Percival came riding.
Then Percival perceived that pavilion set up among the trees, and likewise
he saw that the pavilion was of rose colored silk. Also he perceived that
not far from him was a young page very gayly and richly clad.
[Sidenote: Percival bespeaketh the Lady Guinevere's page] Now when the
page beheld Percival and what a singular appearance he presented, he
laughed beyond all measure, and Percival, not knowing that he laughed in
mockery, laughed also and gave him a very cheerful greeting in return. Then
Percival said to the page: "I prithee tell me, fair youth, whose is that
pavilion yonder?" And the page said: "It belongeth to Queen Guinevere; for
King Arthur is coming hither into the forest with his court."
At this Percival was very glad, for he deemed that he should now find Sir
Lamorack. So he said: "I pray thee tell me, is Sir Lamorack of Gales with
the court of the King, for I come hither seeking that good worthy knight?"
Then the page laughed a very great deal, and said: "Who art thou to seek
Sir Lamorack? Art thou then a jester?" And Percival said, "What sort of a
thing is a jester?" And the page said, "Certes, thou art a silly fool." And
Percival said, "What is a fool?"
Upon this the page fell alaughing as though he would never stint his mirth
so that Percival began to wax angry for he said to himself: "These people
laugh too much and their mirth maketh me weary." So, without more ado, he
descended from his horse with intent to enter the Queen's pavilion and to
make inquiry there for Sir Lamorack.
Now when that page saw what Percival had a mind to do, he thrust in to
prevent him, saying, "Thou shalt not go in!" Upon that Percival said, "Ha!
shall I not so?" And thereupon he smote the page such a buffet that the
youth fell down without any motion, as though he had gone dead.
Then Percival straightway entered the Queen's pavilion.
[Sidenote: Percival beholdeth Queen Guinevere] And the first thing he saw
was a very beautiful lady surrounded by a court of ladies. And the Queen
was eating a mid-day repast whilst a page waited upon her for to serve her,
bearing for her refreshment pure wine in a cup of entire gold. And he saw
that a noble lord (and the lord was Sir Kay the Seneschal), stood in the
midst of that beautiful rosy pavilion directing the Queen's repast; for Sir
Kay of all the court had been left in charge of the Queen and her ladies.
Now when Percival entered the tent Sir Kay looked up, and when he perceived
what sort of a figure was there, he frowned with great displeasure. "Ha!"
he said, "what mad fool is this who cometh hitherward?"
Unto him Percival made reply: "Thou tall man, I prithee tell me, which of
these ladies present here is the Queen?" Sir Kay said, "What wouldst thou
have with the Queen?" To this Percival said: "I have come hither for to lay
my case before King Arthur, and my case is this: I would fain obtain
knighthood, and meseems that King Arthur may best help me thereunto."
[Sidenote: Sir Kay chides Percival] When the Queen heard the words of
Percival she laughed with great merriment. But Sir Kay was still very
wroth, and he said: "Sirrah, thou certainly art some silly fool who hath
come hither dressed all in armor of willow twigs and without arms or
equipment of any sort save only a little Scots spear. Now this is the
Queen's court and thou art not fit to be here."
"Ha," said Percival, "it seems to me that thou art very foolish--thou tall
man--to judge of me by my dress and equipment. For, even though I wear such
poor apparel as this, yet I may easily be thy superior both in birth and
[Sidenote: Sir Boindegardus enters the Queen's pavilion] Then Sir Kay was
exceedingly wroth and would have made a very bitter answer to Percival, but
at that moment something of another sort befell. For, even as Percival
ceased speaking, there suddenly entered the pavilion a certain very large
and savage knight of an exceedingly terrible appearance; and his
countenance was very furious with anger. And this knight was one Sir
Boindegardus le Savage, who was held in terror by all that part of King
Arthur's realm. For Sir Boindegardus was surnamed the Savage because he
dwelt like a wild man in the forest in a lonely dismal castle of the
woodland; and because that from this castle he would issue forth at times
to rob and pillage the wayfarers who passed by along the forest byways.
Many knights had gone against Sir Boindegardus, with intent either to slay
him or else to make him prisoner; but some of these knights he had
overcome, and from others he had escaped, so that he was as yet free to
work his evil will as he chose.
So now this savage knight entered that pavilion with his helmet upon his
hip and his shield upon his shoulder, and all those ladies who were there
were terrified at his coming, for they wist that he came in anger with
intent of mischief.
As for Sir Kay (he being clad only in a silken tunic of green color and
with scarlet hosen and velvet shoes, fit for the court of a lady) he was
afraid, and he wist not how to bear himself in the presence of Sir
Boindegardus. Then Sir Boindegardus said, "Where is King Arthur?" And Sir
Kay made no reply because of fear. Then one of the Queen's damsels said,
"He is hawking out beyond here in the outskirts of the forest." Then Sir
Boindegardus said: "I am sorry for that, for I had thought to find him here
at this time and to show challenge to him and his entire court, for I fear
no one of them. But, as King Arthur is not here, I may, at least, affront
[Sidenote: Sir Boindegardus affronts the Queen] With that he smote the
elbow of the page who held the goblet for the Queen, and the wine was
splashed all in the Queen's face and over her stomacher.
Thereupon the Queen shrieked with terror, and one of her maidens ran to her
aid and others came with napkins and wiped her face and her apparel and
gave her words of cheer.
Then Sir Kay found courage to say: "Ha! thou art a churlish knight to so
affront a lady."
With that Sir Boindegardus turned very fiercely upon him and said: "And
thou likest not my behavior, thou mayst follow me hence into a meadow a
little distance from this to the eastward where thou mayst avenge that
affront upon my person if thou art minded to do so."
Then Sir Kay knew not what to reply for he wist that Sir Boindegardus was a
very strong and terrible knight. Wherefore he said, "Thou seest that I am
altogether without arms or armor." Upon that Sir Boindegardus laughed in
great scorn, and therewith seized the golden goblet from the hands of the
page and went out from the pavilion, and mounting his horse rode away
bearing that precious chalice with him.
[Sidenote: Percival berates Sir Kay] Then the Queen fell aweeping very
sorely from fright and shame, and when young Percival beheld her tears, he
could not abide the sight thereof. So he cried out aloud against Sir Kay,
saying: "Thou tall man! that was very ill done of thee; for, certes, with
or without armor thou shouldst have taken the quarrel of this lady upon
thee. For my mother told me I should take upon me the defence of all such
as needed defence, but she did not say that I was to wait for arms or armor
to aid me to do what was right. Now, therefore, though I know little of
arms or of knighthood, I will take this quarrel upon myself and will do
what I may to avenge this lady's affront, if I have her leave to do so."
And Queen Guinevere said: "Thou hast my leave, since Sir Kay does not
choose to assume my quarrel."
[Sidenote: The damsel praises Percival] Now there was a certain very
beautiful young damsel of the court of the Queen hight Yelande, surnamed
the "Dumb Maiden," because she would hold no commerce with any knight of
the court. For in all the year she had been at the court of the King, she
had spoken no word to any man, nor had she smiled upon any. This damsel
perceiving how comely and noble was the countenance of Percival, came to
him and took him by the hand and smiled upon him very kindly. And she said
to him: "Fair youth, thou hast a large and noble heart, and I feel very
well assured that thou art of a sort altogether different from what thine
appearance would lead one to suppose. Now I do affirm that if thou art able
to carry this adventure through with thy life, thou wilt some time become
one of the greatest knights in all of the world. For never did I hear tell
of one who, without arm or armor, would take up a quarrel with a
well-approved knight clad in full array. But indeed thy heart is as brave
as thy face is comely, and I believe that thou art as noble as thy speech
and manner is gentle."
[Sidenote: Sir Kay strikes the damsel] Then Sir Kay was very angry with
that damsel and he said: "Truly, thou art ill taught to remain for all this
year in the court of King Arthur amid the perfect flower of chivalry and
yet not to have given to one of those noble and honorable knights a single
word or a smile such as thou hast bestowed upon this boor." So saying, he
lifted his hand and smote that damsel a box on the ear so that she screamed
out aloud with pain and terror.
Upon this Percival came very close to Sir Kay and he said: "Thou
discourteous tall man; now I tell thee, except that there are so many
ladies here present, and one of these a Queen, I would have to do with thee
in such a manner as I do not believe would be at all to thy liking. Now,
first of all I shall follow yonder uncivil knight and endeavor to avenge
this noble Queen for the affront he hath put upon her, and when I have done
with him, then will I hope for the time to come in which I shall have to do
with thee for laying hands upon this beautiful young lady who was so kind
to me just now. For, in the fulness of time, I will repay the foul blow
thou gavest her, and that twenty-fold."
Thereupon Percival straightway went out from that pavilion and mounted upon
his sorry horse and rode away in the direction that Sir Boindegardus had
taken with the golden goblet.
[Sidenote: Percival follows Sir Boindegardus] Now after a long time, he
came to another level meadow of grass, and there he beheld Sir Boindegardus
riding before him in great state with the golden goblet hanging to the horn
of his saddle. And Sir Boindegardus wore his helmet and carried his spear
in his right hand and his shield upon his other arm, and he was in all ways
prepared for an encounter at arms. And when he perceived Percival come
riding out of the forest in pursuit of him, he drew rein and turned. And
when Percival had come nigh enough Sir Boindegardus said, "Whence comest
thou, fool?" Percival replied, "I come from Queen Guinevere, her pavilion."
Then Sir Boindegardus said, "Does that knight who was there follow me
hitherward?" Unto which Percival made reply: "Nay, but I have followed thee
with intent to punish thee for the affront which thou didst put upon Queen
Then Sir Boindegardus was very wroth and he said: "Thou fool; I have a very
good intention for to slay thee." Therewith he raised his spear and smote
Percival with it upon the back of the neck so terrible a blow that he was
flung violently down from off his horse. Upon this Percival was so angry
that the sky all became like scarlet before his eyes. Wherefore, when he
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