Part 4 out of 7
him and he said, "Damosel, God thee bless."
"Sir," said she, "for God's sake say me where Sir Launcelot is."
"Yonder ye may see him," said the King.
Then she went unto Launcelot and said, "Sir Launcelot, I require you to
come along with me hereby into a forest."
"What will ye with me?" said Sir Launcelot.
"Ye shall know," said she, "when ye come thither."
"Well," said he, "I will gladly go with you."
So Sir Launcelot bade him his squire saddle his horse and bring his
Right so departed Sir Launcelot with the gentlewoman and rode until he
came into a forest, and into a great valley, where they saw an abbey of
nuns; and there was a squire ready and opened the gates, and so they
entered and descended off their horses; and there came a fair fellowship
about Sir Launcelot, and welcomed him and were passing glad of his
And they led him into the Abbess's chamber and unarmed him; and therein
came twelve nuns that brought with them Galahad, the which was passing
fair and well made, that unnethe in the world men might not find his
match: and all those ladies wept.
[Footnote 1: This is an old word meaning _with difficulty_.]
"Sir," said they all, "we bring you here this child the which we have
nourished, and we pray you to make him a knight, for of a worthier man's
hand may he not receive the order of knighthood."
Then said Sir Launcelot, "Cometh this desire of himself?"
He and all they said, "Yea."
"Then shall he," said Sir Launcelot, "receive the high order of
knighthood as to-morn at the reverence of the high feast."
That night Sir Launcelot had passing good cheer; and on the morn at
Galahad's desire, he made him knight and said, "God make him a good man,
for of beauty faileth you not as any that liveth."
THE MARVELOUS SWORD
"Fair sir," said Sir Launcelot, "will ye come with me unto the court of
"Nay," said he, "I will not go with you at this time."
Then he departed from them and came to Camelot by the hour of underne
on Whitsunday. By that time the King and Queen were gone to the minster
to hear their service.
[Footnote 2: _Underne_ meant, according to ancient reckoning, nine
o'clock in the morning.]
So when the King and all the knights were come from service, the barons
espied in the sieges of the Round Table all about, written with golden
letters: "Here ought to sit he, and he ought to sit here." And thus
they went so long till they came to the Siege Perilous where they found
letters newly written of gold which said: "Four hundred winters and four
and fifty accomplished after the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ ought
this siege to be fulfilled."
[Footnote 3: That is, "Such a one should sit here, and such another one
Then all they said, "This is a marvelous thing and an adventurous."
"In the name of God," said Sir Launcelot; and then accounted the term of
the writing from the birth of our Lord unto that day. "It seemeth me,"
said Sir Launcelot, "this siege ought to be fulfilled this same day, for
this is the feast of Pentecost after the four hundred and four and fifty
years; and if it would please all parties, I would none of these letters
were seen this day, till he be come that ought to achieve this
Then made they to ordain a cloth of silk, for to cover these letters on
the Siege Perilous. Then the King bade haste unto dinner.
So as they stood, in came a squire and said unto the King, "Sir, I bring
unto you marvelous tidings."
"What be they?" said the King.
"Sir, there is here beneath at the river a great
stone which I saw fleet above the water, and therein
I saw sticking a sword."
[Footnote 4: _Fleet_ here means _float_.]
The King said: "I will see that marvel."
So all the knights went with him, and when they came to the river they
found there a stone fleeting, as it were of red marble, and therein
stuck a fair rich sword, and in the pommel thereof were precious stones
wrought with subtle letters of gold. Then the barons read the letters
which said in this wise: "Never shall man take me hence, but only he by
whose side I ought to hang, and he shall be the best knight in the
When the King had seen the letters he said unto Sir Launcelot: "Fair
sir, this sword ought to be yours, for I am sure ye be the best knight
of the world."
Then Sir Launcelot answered full soberly: "Certes, sir, it is not my
sword; also, sir, wit ye well I have no hardiness to set my hand to it,
for it longed not to hang by my side. Also, who that assayeth to take
the sword and faileth of it, he shall receive a wound by that sword that
he shall not be whole long after. And I will that ye wit that this same
day shall the adventures of the Sangreal, that is called the Holy
[Footnote 5: The Holy Grail (Graal) was the cup used by Christ at the
Last Supper. It is said to have been carved from an emerald, and
to have been used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch the last drops
of blood from the body of Christ when he was taken down from the
cross. The legend continues that Joseph carried the cup to Britain.
The grail would not stay in possession of any one unless he were
pure and unsullied in character. In the time of King Arthur, one
of the descendants of Joseph sinned, and the holy vessel disappeared
and was lost. Only the pure could look upon the holy chalice, and
so although many of the knights sought it, but one achieved it.
_Sangreal_ is the old French for _Holy Grail_.]
"Now, fair nephew," said the King unto Sir Gawaine, "assay ye, for my
"Sir," said Gawaine, "your commandment will I obey."
And therewith he took the sword up by the handles, but he might not stir
"I thank you," said the King to Sir Gawaine.
"My lord, Sir Gawaine," said Sir Launcelot, "now wit ye well this sword
shall touch you so sore that ye shall will ye had never set your hand
thereto for the best castle of this realm."
"Sir," he said, "I might not withsay mine uncle's will and commandment."
But when the King heard this he repented it much, and said unto Sir
Percivale, that he should assay for his love.
And he said, "Gladly, for to bear Sir Gawaine fellowship."
And therewith he set his hand on the sword and drew it strongly, but he
might not move it. Then there were more that durst be so hardy to set
their hands thereto.
So the King and all went unto the court, and every knight knew his own
place, and set him therein, and young men that were knights served them.
* * * * *
GALAHAD IN THE SIEGE PERILOUS
So when they were served and all the sieges fulfilled, save only the
Siege Perilous, anon there came in a good old man, and an ancient,
clothed all in white, and there was no knight knew from whence he came.
And with him he brought a young knight, both on foot, in red arms,
without sword or shield, save a scabbard hanging by his side.
And these words he said: "Peace be with you fair lords." Then the old
man said unto Arthur: "Sir, I bring here a young knight, the which is of
king's lineage, and of the kindred of Joseph of Arimathie, whereby the
marvels of this court, and of strange realms, shall be fully
The King was right glad of his words, and said unto the good man: "Sir,
ye be right welcome, and the young knight with you."
Then the old man made the young knight to unarm him, and he was in a
coat of red sandal, and bare a mantle upon his shoulder that was furred
with ermine, and put that upon him. And the old knight said unto the
young knight: "Sir, follow me."
And anon he led him unto the Siege Perilous, where beside sat Sir
Launcelot; and the good man lift up the cloth, and found these letters
that said thus: "This is the siege of Sir Galahad, the haut prince."
[Footnote 6: _Haut_ is an old form of _haughty_]
"Sir," said the old knight, "wit ye well that place is yours." And then
he set him down surely in that siege.
And then he said to the old man: "Sir, ye may now go your way, for well
have ye done that ye were commanded to do."
So the good man departed. Then all the knights of the Round Table
marveled greatly of Sir Galahad, that he durst sit there in that Siege
Perilous, and was so tender of age; and wist not from whence he came,
but all only by God; and said, "This is he by whom the Sangreal shall be
achieved, for there never sat none but he, but he were mischieved."
[Footnote 7: That is, _harmed_.]
Then came King Arthur unto Galahad and said:
"Sir, ye be welcome, for ye shall move many good
knights to the quest of the Sangreal, and ye shall
achieve that never knights might bring to an end."
* * * * *
GALAHAD DRAWS THE SWORD OF BALIN LE SAVAGE
Then the King took him by the hand, and went down from the palace to
shew Galahad the adventures of the stone.
"Sir," said the King unto Sir Galahad, "here is a great marvel as I ever
saw, and right good knights have assayed and failed."
"Sir," said Galahad, "that is no marvel, for this adventure is not
theirs but mine; and for the surety of this sword I brought none with
me, for here by my side hangeth the scabbard."
And anon he laid his hand on the sword, and lightly drew it out of the
stone, and put it in the sheath, and said unto the King, "Now it goeth
better than it did aforehand."
"Sir," said the King, "a shield God shall send you."
"Now have I that sword that was sometime the good knight's, Balin le
Savage, and he was a passing good man of his hands; and with this sword
he slew his brother Balan, and that was great pity, for he was a good
knight, and either slew other through a dolorous stroke."
* * * * *
THE HOLY GRAIL APPEARS
"I am sure," said the King, "at this quest of the Sangreal shall all ye
of the Table Round depart, and never shall I see you whole together;
therefore, I will see you all whole together in the meadow of Camelot to
joust and to tourney, that after your death men may speak of it that
such good knights were wholly together such a day."
As unto that counsel and at the King's request they accorded all, and
took on their harness that longed unto jousting. But all this moving of
the King was for this intent, for to see Galahad proved; for the King
deemed he should not lightly come again unto the court after his
departing. So were they assembled into the meadow both more and less.
[Footnote 8: That is, the greater and the lesser knights.]
Then Sir Galahad began to break spears marvelously, that all men had
wonder of him; for he there surmounted all other knights, for within a
while he had defouled many good knights of the Table Round save twain,
that was Sir Launcelot and Sir Percivale.
And then the King and all estates went home unto Camelot, and so went
to evensong to the great minster, and so after upon that to supper, and
every knight sat in his own place as they were toforehand. Then anon
they heard cracking and crying of thunder, that them thought the place
should all to-drive.
[Footnote 9: _Estate_ formerly meant _a person of high rank_.]
[Footnote 10: _To-drive_ is an old expression meaning _break apart_.]
In the midst of this blast entered a sunbeam more clearer by seven times
than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of
the Holy Ghost. Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw
other, by their seeming, fairer than ever they saw afore. Not for then
there was no knight might speak one word a great while, and so they
looked every man on other as they had been dumb.
[Footnote 11: _Alighted of_ means _lighted by_.]
Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail covered with white
samite, but there was none might see it, nor who bare it. And there was
all the hall fulfilled with good odours, and every knight had such
meats and drinks as he best loved in this world. And when the Holy Grail
had been borne through the hall, then the Holy Vessel departed suddenly,
that they wist not where it became: then had they all breath to speak.
And then the King yielded thankings to God, of His good grace that he
had sent them.
[Footnote 12: _Fulfilled_ is here used with its original meaning of
"Now," said Sir Gawaine, "we have been served this day of what meats and
drinks we thought on; but one thing beguiled us, we might not see the
Holy Grail, it was so preciously covered. Wherefore I will make here
avow, that to-morn, without longer abiding, I shall labour in the
quest of the Sangreal, that I shall hold me out a twelvemonth and a day,
or more if need be, and never shall I return again unto the court till I
have seen it more openly than it hath been seen here; and if I may not
speed I shall return again as he that may not be against the will of our
Lord Jesu Christ."
[Footnote 13: _To-morn_ is an old expression for _to morrow_]
When they of the Table Round heard Sir Gawaine say so, they arose up the
most part and made such avows as Sir Gawaine had made.
And then they went to rest them, and in honor of the highness of Sir
Galahad he was led into King Arthur's chamber, and there rested in his
own bed. And as soon as it was day the King arose, for he had no rest of
all that night for sorrow.
And anon Launcelot and Gawaine commanded their men to bring their arms.
And when they all were armed save their shields and their helms, then
they came to their fellowship, which were all ready in the same wise,
for to go to the minster to hear their service.
Then after the service was done the King would wit how many had
undertaken the quest of the Holy Grail; and to account them he prayed
them all. Then found they by tale an hundred and fifty, and all were
knights of the Round Table. And then they put on their helms and
departed, and recommended them all wholly unto the Queen; and there was
weeping and great sorrow.
And so they mounted upon their horses and rode through the streets of
Camelot; and there was weeping of the rich and poor, and the King turned
away and might not speak for weeping.
And on the morrow they were all accorded that they should depart each
from other; and then they departed on the morrow with weeping and
mourning cheer, and every knight took the way that him best liked.
* * * * *
GALAHAD GETS HIS SHIELD
Rideth Sir Galahad yet without shield, and so he rode four days without
any adventure. And at the fourth day after evensong he came to a White
Abbey, and there he was received with great reverence, and led to a
chamber, and there he was unarmed; and then was he ware of two knights
of the Round Table, one was King Bagdemagus, and that other was Sir
Uwaine. And when they saw him they went unto him and made of him great
solace, and so they went to supper.
"Sirs," said Sir Galahad, "what adventure brought you hither?"
"Sir," said they, "it is told us that within this place is a shield that
no man may bear about his neck but if that he be mischieved or dead
within three days, or else maimed for ever."
"Ah, sir," said King Bagdemagus, "I shall it bear to-morrow for to assay
this strange adventure."
"In the name of God," said Sir Galahad.
"Sir," said Bagdemagus, "an I may not achieve the adventure of this
shield ye shall take it upon you, for I am sure ye shall not fail."
"Sir," said Galahad, "I agree right well thereto, for I have no shield."
So on the morn they arose and heard mass. Anon a monk led them behind an
altar where the shield hung as white as any snow, but in the middes
was a red cross.
[Footnote 14: _Middes_ is an old word for _midst_]
"Sir," said the monk, "this shield ought not to be hanged about no
knight's neck but he be the worthiest knight of the world, and therefore
I counsel you knights to be well advised."
"Well," said King Bagdemagus, "I wot well that I am not the best knight
of the world, but yet shall I assay to bear it."
And so he bare it out of the monastery; and then he said unto Sir
Galahad: "If it will please you I pray you abide here still, till ye
know how I shall speed."
"I shall abide you here," said Galahad. Then King Bagdemagus took with
him a squire, the which should bring tidings unto Sir Galahad how he
Then when they had ridden a two mile and came in a fair valley afore an
hermitage, then they saw a goodly knight come from that part in white
armour, horse and all; and he came as fast as his horse might run, with
his spear in the rest, and King Bagdemagus dressed his spear against him
and brake it upon the white knight. But the other struck him so hard
that he brake the mails, and thrust him through the right shoulder, for
the shield covered him not at that time; and so he bare him from his
[Illustration: SIR GALAHAD]
And therewith he alighted and took the white shield from him, saying:
"Knight, thou hast done thyself great folly, for this shield ought not
to be borne but by him that shall have no peer that liveth." And then he
came to King Bagdemagus' squire and said: "Bear this shield unto the
good knight Sir Galahad, that thou left in the abbey, and greet him well
from me, for this shield behoveth unto no man but unto Galahad."
[Footnote 15: That is, _belongeth_.]
"Sir Galahad," said the squire, when he had come to the White Abbey,
"that knight that wounded Bagdemagus sendeth you greeting, and bade that
ye should bear this shield, where through great adventures should
"Now blessed be God and fortune," said Galahad. And then he asked his
arms, and mounted upon his horse, and hung the white shield about his
neck, and commended them unto God.
Then within a while came Galahad thereas the White knight abode him
by the hermitage, and every each saluted other courteously.
[Footnote 16: _Thereas_ is an old word meaning _where_.]
"Sir," said Galahad, "by this shield be many marvels fallen?"
"Sir," said the knight, "it befell after the passion of our Lord Jesu
Christ thirty-two year, that Joseph of Arimathie, the gentle knight, the
which took down our Lord off the holy Cross, at that time he departed
from Jerusalem with a great party of his kindred with him. And so he
laboured till that they came to a city that hight Sarras.
[Footnote 17: _Hight_ means _was called_.]
"And at that same hour that Joseph came to Sarras there was a King that
hight Evelake, that had great war against the Saracens, and in especial
against one Saracen, the which was King Evelake's cousin, a rich king
and a mighty, which marched nigh this land. So on a day these two met to
do battle. Then Joseph, the son of Joseph of Arimathie, went to King
Evelake and told him he should be discomfit and slain, but if he left
his belief of the old law and believed upon the new law. And then there
he shewed him the right belief of the Holy Trinity, to the which he
agreed unto with all his heart; and there this shield was made for King
Evelake, in the name of Him that died upon the Cross.
"And when Evelake was in the battle there was a cloth set afore the
shield, and when he was in the greatest peril he let put away the cloth,
and then his enemies saw a figure of a man on the Cross, wherethrough
they all were discomfit.
"Then soon after there fell a great marvel, that the cross of the shield
at one time vanished away that no man wist where it became.
"Not long after that Joseph was laid in his deadly bed. And when King
Evelake saw that he made much sorrow, and said: 'For thy love I have
left my country, and sith ye shall depart out of this world, leave me
some token of yours that I may think on you.' Joseph said: 'That will I
do full gladly; now bring me your shield that I took you.' Then Joseph
bled sore at the nose, so that he might not by no mean be staunched. And
there upon that shield he made a cross of his own blood.
"'Now may ye see a remembrance that I love you, for ye shall never see
this shield but ye shall think on me, and it shall always be as fresh as
it is now. And never shall man bear this shield about his neck but he
shall repent it, unto the time that Galahad, the good knight, bear it;
and he last of my lineage shall have it about his neck, that shall do
many marvelous deeds.'"
THE GRAIL ACHIEVED
So departed Galahad from thence, and he rode five days till that he came
to the maimed king. And ever followed Percivale the five days, asking
where he had been.
So on a day it befell that they came out of a great forest, and there
they met at traverse with Sir Bors, the which rode alone. It is none
need to tell if they were glad; and them he saluted, and they yielded
him honour and good adventure, and every each told other.
Then rode they a great while till that they came to the castle of
Carbonek. And when they entered within the castle King Pelles knew
them; then there was great joy, for they wist well by their coming that
they had fulfilled the quest of the Sangreal.
[Footnote 18: King Pelles was the grandfather of Galahad.]
Then Eliazar, King Pelles' son, brought tofore them the broken sword
wherewith Joseph was stricken through the thigh. Then Bors set his hand
thereto, if that he might have soldered it again; but it would not be.
Then he took it to Percivale, but he had no more power thereto than he.
"Now have ye it again," said Percivale to Galahad, "for an it be ever
achieved by any bodily man ye must do it."
And then he took the pieces and set them together, and they seemed that
they had never been broken, and as well as it had been first forged. And
when they within espied that the adventure of the sword was achieved,
then they gave the sword to Bors; for he was a good knight and a worthy
man. And anon alit a voice among them, and said: "They that ought not to
sit at the table of Jesu Christ arise, for now shall very knights be
fed." So they went thence, all save King Pelles and Eliazar, his son,
the which were holy men, and a maid which was his niece; and so these
three fellows and they three were there, no more.
[Footnote 19: _Fellows_ had not formerly the rather contemptuous meaning
that it has now; it meant simply _comrades_.]
Anon they saw knights all armed come in at the hall door, and did off
their helms and their arms, and said unto Galahad: "Sir, we have hied
right much for to be with you at this table where the holy meat shall be
Then said he: "Ye be welcome, but of whence be ye?"
So three of them said they were of Gaul, and other three said they were
of Ireland, and the other three said they were of Denmark.
Therewith a voice said: "There be two among you that be not in the quest
of the Sangreal, and therefore depart ye."
Then King Pelles and his son departed. And therewithal beseemed them
that there came a man, and four angels from heaven, clothed in likeness
of a bishop, and had a cross in his hand; and these four angels bare him
in a chair, and set him down before the table of silver whereupon the
Sangreal was; and it seemed that he had in middes of his forehead
letters the which said: "See ye here Joseph, the first bishop of
Christendom, the same which Our Lord succoured in the city of Sarras in
the spiritual place."
Then the knights marveled, for that bishop was dead more than three
hundred year tofore. "O knights," said he, "marvel not, for I was
sometime an earthly man."
With that they heard the chamber door open, and there they saw angels;
and two bare candles of wax, and the third a towel, and the fourth a
spear which bled marvelously, that three drops fell within a box which
he held with his other hand. And they set the candles upon the table,
and the third the towel upon the vessel, and the fourth the holy spear
even upright upon the vessel. And then the bishop made semblaunt as
though he would have gone to the sacring of the mass. And then he
did that longed to a priest to do a mass. And then he went to
Galahad and kissed him, and bade him go and kiss his fellows: and so he
[Footnote 20: _Semblaunt_ meant _show, appearance_.]
[Footnote 21: _Sacring_ is from _sacre_, an old word meaning
[Footnote 22: That is, _belonged_.]
"Now," said he, "servants of Jesu Christ, ye shall be fed afore this
table with sweetmeats that never knights tasted."
And when he had said, he vanished away. And they set them at the table
in great dread, and made their prayers.
Then looked they and saw a man come out of the Holy Vessel, that had all
the signs of the passion of Jesu Christ, bleeding all openly, and said:
"My knights, and my servants, and my true children, which be come out of
deadly life into spiritual life, I will now no longer hide me from you,
but ye shall see now a part of my secrets and of my hidden things: now
hold and receive the high meat which ye have so much desired." Then took
he himself the Holy Vessel and came to Galahad; and he kneeled down, and
there he received his Saviour, and after him so received all his
fellows; and they thought it so sweet that it was marvelous to tell.
Then said he to Galahad: "Son, wottest thou what I hold betwixt my
"Nay," said he, "but if ye will tell me." "This is," said he, "the holy
dish wherein I ate the lamb on Sher-Thursday. And now hast thou seen
that thou most desire to see, but yet hast thou not seen it so openly as
thou shalt see it in the city of Sarras in the spiritual place.
Therefore thou must go hence and bear with thee this Holy Vessel; for
this night it shall depart from the realm of Logris, that it shall never
be seen more here. And wottest thou wherefor? For he is not served nor
worshipped to his right by them of this land, for they be turned to evil
living; therefore I shall disinherit them of the honour which I have
done them. And therefore go ye three to-morrow unto the sea, where ye
shall find your ship ready, and with you take no more but Sir Percivale
and Sir Bors." Then gave he them his blessing and vanished away.
[Footnote 23: _Sher-Thursday_ or _Maundy Thursday_ is the name given to
Thursday of the Holy Week, the day on which the Last Supper was
That same night about midnight came a voice among them which said: "My
sons and not my chief sons, my friends and not my warriors, go ye hence
where ye hope best to do and as I bade you."
"Ah, thanked be Thou, Lord, that Thou wilt vouchsafe to call us, Thy
sinners. Now may we well prove that we have not lost our pains."
And anon in all haste they took their harness and departed. But the
three knights of Gaul, one of them hight Claudine, King Claudas' son,
and the other two were great gentlemen. Then prayed Galahad to every
each of them, that if they come to King Arthur's court that they should
salute Sir Launcelot, his father, and of them of the Round Table; and
prayed them if that they came on that part that they should not forget
Right so departed Galahad, Percivale and Bors with him; and so they rode
three days, and then they came to a rivage, and found a ship. And
when they came to the board they found in the middes the table of silver
and the Sangreal which was covered with red samite.
[Footnote 24: _Rivage_ is an old word meaning _bank_.]
Then were they glad to have such things in their fellowship; and so they
entered and made great reverence thereto; and Galahad fell in his prayer
long time to Our Lord, that at what time he asked, that he should pass
out of this world. So much he prayed till a voice said to him: "Galahad,
thou shalt have thy request; and when thou askest the death of thy body
thou shalt have it, and then shalt thou find the life of the soul."
Percivale heard this, and prayed him to tell him wherefore he asked such
"That shall I tell you," said Galahad; "the other day when we saw a part
of the adventures of the Sangreal I was in such joy of heart, that I
trow never man was that was earthly. And therefore I wot well, when my
body is dead my soul shall be in great joy to see the blessed Trinity
every day, and the Majesty of Our Lord, Jesu Christ."
So long were they in the ship that they said to Galahad: "Sir, in this
bed ought ye to lie, for so sayeth the scripture."
[Illustration: THE SHIP APPROACHES THE CITY OF SARRAS]
And so he laid him down and slept a great while; and when he awaked he
looked afore him and saw the city of Sarras. Then took they out of the
ship the table of silver, and he took it to Percivale and to Bors, to go
tofore, and Galahad came behind. And right so they went to the city, and
at the gate of the city they saw an old man crooked. Then Galahad called
him and bade him help to bear this heavy thing.
"Truly," said the old man, "it is ten years ago that I might not go but
"Care thou not," said Galahad, "and arise up and shew thy good will."
And so he assayed, and found himself as whole as ever he was. Then ran
he to the table, and took one part against Galahad.
And anon arose there great noise in the city, that a cripple was made
whole by knights marvelous that entered into the city. And when the king
of the city, which was cleped Estorause, saw the fellowship, he
asked them of whence they were, and what thing it was that they had
brought upon the table of silver. And they told him the truth of the
Sangreal, and the power which that God had set there. Then the king was
a tyrant, and was come of the line of paynims, and took them and put
them in prison in a deep hole.
[Footnote 25: _Cleped_ meant _named_]
[Footnote 26: A _paynim_ is an infidel.]
But as soon as they were there Our Lord sent them the Sangreal, through
whose grace they were alway fulfilled while that they were in prison.
So at the year's end it befell that this King Estorause lay sick, and
felt that he should die. Then he sent for the three knights, and they
came afore him; and he cried them mercy of that he had done to them, and
they forgave it him goodly; and he died anon.
When the king was dead all the city was dismayed, and wist not who might
be their king. Right so as they were in counsel there came a voice among
them, and bade them choose the youngest knight of them three to be their
king: "For he shall well maintain you and all yours." So they made
Galahad king by all the assent of the holy city.
[Illustration: THE LAST APPEARANCE OF THE SANGREAL]
Now at the year's end, and the self day after Galahad had borne the
crown of gold, he arose up early and his fellows, and came to the
palace, and saw tofore them the Holy Vessel, and a man kneeling on his
knees in likeness of a bishop, that had about him a great fellowship of
angels as it had been Jesu Christ himself; and then he arose and began a
mass of Our Lady. And when he came to the sacrament of the mass, and had
done, anon he called Galahad, and said to him: "Come forth the servant
of Jesu Christ, and thou shalt see that thou hast much desired to see."
Then Galahad held up his hands toward heaven and said: "Lord, I thank
thee, for now I see that that hath been my desire many a day. Now,
blessed Lord, would I not longer live, if it might please thee, Lord."
And therewith the good man took Our Lord's body betwixt his hands, and
proffered it to Galahad, and he received it right gladly and meekly.
"Now wottest thou what I am?" said the good man.
"Nay," said Galahad. "I am Joseph of Arimathie, the which Our Lord hath
sent here to thee to bear thee fellowship; and wottest thou wherefore
that he hath sent me more than any other? For thou hast resembled me in
two things; in that thou hast seen the marvels of the Sangreal, in that
thou hast been a clean maiden, as I have been and am."
And when he had said these words Galahad went to Percivale and kissed
him, and commended him to God; and so he went to Sir Bors and kissed
him, and commended him to God, and said: "Fair lord, salute me to my
lord, Sir Launcelot, my father, and as soon as ye see him, bid him
remember of this unstable world."
And therewith he kneeled down tofore the table and made his prayers, and
then suddenly his soul departed to Jesu Christ, and a great multitude of
angels bare his soul up to heaven, that the two fellows might well
behold it. Also the two fellows saw come from heaven an hand, but they
saw not the body. And then it came right to the Vessel, and took it and
the spear, and so bare it up to heaven. Sithen was there never man
so hardy to say that he had seen the Sangreal.
[Footnote 27: _Sithen_ is another form of _sith_, and means _since_.]
DISSENSIONS AT KING ARTHUR'S COURT
The quest of the Holy Grail cost King Arthur many of his best knights,
and the new ones who joined him by no means took the place of those
tried and trusty men who had made his Round Table famous. Moreover,
quarrels and dissensions broke out among them, and many of them forgot
their vows and lost the high character they held in the days of Galahad.
The queen and Sir Launcelot incurred the hatred of some of the knights,
and there were many complaints made to discredit the queen with Arthur.
Finally she was accused of treason, and Arthur, broken-hearted, was
compelled to sit in judgment upon his wife as upon any other of his
subjects. The punishment for treason in those days was burning at the
stake, and the queen was condemned to death in this horrible manner.
In those times all great questions might be settled by trial of battle.
There was a possibility of saving the queen's life if some knight would
volunteer to fight her accusers. For some time she was unable to find
any volunteer, and it was only under certain trying conditions that at
last Sir Bors agreed to enter the lists. He bore himself manfully in the
fray, but would not have succeeded had not Sir Launcelot appeared in
disguise and taken the battle upon himself. By his mighty prowess,
however, Launcelot established the queen's innocence of treason and
restored her to the king.
This was only temporary relief, however, for in the combat some of the
best remaining knights were slain; among them were Sir Gareth and Sir
Gaheris, both among the closest of Launcelot's friends and both killed
by his own hand. Gawaine, their brother, one of the most powerful
knights in the court, vowed vengeance for their death and swore to
follow Launcelot to the ends of the earth. Launcelot protested that he
should never cease to mourn for Sir Gareth and that he would as soon
have slain his own nephew as to harm the man whom he made knight and
whom he loved as a brother.
"Liar and traitor," cried Sir Gawaine, "you are a traitor both to the
king and to me."
Launcelot replied, "I see that never again shall I have your love,
though I pray you remember that at one time we were friends, and that
once you were indebted to me for your life."
"I care not," said Sir Gawaine, fiercely; "nor do I care for the
friendship of the king. As for you, in open combat or by stealth, your
life will I have; and as for the king, if he will not aid me now I shall
leave his kingdom and fight even against him."
"Cease this brawling before me," said the king. "It is better for us all
that Launcelot should depart." Thus was Arthur's greatest knight
banished from the kingdom.
This, however, did not terminate the difficulty. Arthur and Gawaine
followed Launcelot to France, where in a terrible battle Gawaine was
unhorsed and borne to the ground by Sir Launcelot, who, however,
declined to kill the valiant knight, although Gawaine still accused him
of being a traitor and declared that his enmity should never cease while
life lasted. Launcelot had gathered a large following in France, and
while Gawaine was being healed of his wounds there was peace between the
In the meantime, Sir Mordred, the traitorous nephew of King Arthur,
remained in England and instigated a rebellion against the king. He
summoned a parliament and caused himself to be elected king. Queen
Guinevere hid herself in the tower of London and could not be induced to
leave by threat or entreaty, for she knew that Mordred's purpose was to
make her his wife.
This news came to Arthur while he was encamped at Benwick where the
battle between his forces and Launcelot's had taken place. Arthur
immediately gathered his forces together and set sail for Britain.
Mordred learned of his approach and gathered a great army at Dover,
where he expected Sir Arthur to arrive, and where he lay in wait in the
harbor with a great array of ships of all kinds.
Nothing daunted King Arthur, however, and in a fierce naval battle the
forces of Mordred were defeated, while the traitor fled westward, where
he gathered his scattered hosts. There were among his men many of King
Arthur's favorite knights, men whom he had showed every favor and who
were indebted to him for all that they possessed. The desertion of these
men made Arthur sorry at heart and left him little joy in his successful
battle. As soon as he could he landed and went about among the wounded
of his own army and of his enemies, binding up their wounds and giving
comfort to those who were dying. The dead he buried with honors of war
whether they were his opponents or his friends.
As he went about among the boats he espied Sir Gawaine lying more dead
than alive, for in the battle he had received a blow which had reopened
the wound Launcelot had given him. When Arthur saw Gawaine he cried to
the stricken knight, "My sister's son, here you lie at the point of
death, the one man in the world I love most. Now is my joy all gone. Sir
Launcelot had all my friendship and you all my love, both of which are
gone utterly from me. Now indeed is my earthly joy all departed."
"My uncle, King Arthur," said Gawaine, "you know that this is my death
day, and that all has come through my own hastiness; for now am I
smitten on an old wound which Sir Launcelot gave me, and I know well I
must die. If Sir Launcelot had been with you, this unhappy war had never
begun. Now am I the cause of all this, for now I know it was Sir
Launcelot that kept his enemies in subjection. I could not join in
friendship with him while I lived, but now as I die I pray you give me
paper, pen and ink that I may write to Launcelot with mine own hand."
When the writing materials were brought Gawaine sat weakly up and wrote
this, "Unto Sir Launcelot, flower of all noble knights that I have heard
or saw by my days; I, Sir Gawaine, nephew of King Arthur, send you
greeting and let you know that I have been smitten upon the wound that
you gave me before the city of Benwick and that I have come to my death
day. I wish all the world to know that I, Sir Gawaine, knight of the
Round Table, came by my death by my own seeking and not through your
fault. So I beseech you, Sir Launcelot, return again to England and
sometime see my tomb and say a prayer or two for my soul. Alas, Sir
Launcelot, I beseech you by all the love that ever was between us, lose
no time but cross the sea in all haste that you may rescue the noble
king that made you knight, for he is in peril from that false traitor,
my half-brother, Sir Mordred.
"This letter was written but two hours and a half before my death with
my own hand and sealed with my heart's blood."
Then King Arthur wept, and sadness fell upon all who stood about. At the
hour of noon, after Sir Gawaine had received the sacrament and had
begged King Arthur to send for Launcelot, he yielded up the spirit.
After the burial of Sir Gawaine, King Arthur, old before his time, with
all his sorrows fresh upon him, made ready to go against Sir Mordred,
who had gathered a great army in the west.
THE PASSING OF ARTHUR[*]
[Footnote *: Note.--_The Passing of Arthur_ gives us the story of King
Arthur from the time of Sir Gawaine's death.]
_By_ ALFRED TENNYSON
That story which the bold Sir Bedivere,
First made and latest left of all the knights,
Told, when the man was no more than a voice
In the white winter of his age, to those
With whom he dwelt, new faces, other minds.
For on their march to westward, Bedivere,
Who slowly paced among the slumbering host,
Heard in his tent the moanings of the King:
"I found Him in the shining of the stars,
I mark'd Him in the flowering of His fields,
But in His ways with men I find Him not.
I waged His wars, and now I pass and die.
O me! for why is all around us here
As if some lesser god had made the world,
But had not force to shape it as he would,
Till the High God behold it from beyond,
And enter it, and make it beautiful?
Or else as if the world were wholly fair,
But that these eyes of men are dense and dim,
And have not power to see it as it is:
Perchance, because we see not to the close;--
For I, being simple, thought to work His will,
And have but stricken with the sword in vain;
And all whereon I lean'd in wife and friend
Is traitor to my peace, and all my realm
Reels back into the beast, and is no more.
My God, thou hast forgotten me in my death:
Nay--God my Christ--I pass but shall not die."
Then, ere that last weird battle in the west,
There came on Arthur sleeping, Gawain kill'd
In Lancelot's war, the ghost of Gawain blown
Along a wandering wind, and past his ear
Went shrilling, "Hollow, hollow all delight!
Hail, King! to-morrow thou shalt pass away.
Farewell! there is an isle of rest for thee.
And I am blown along a wandering wind,
And hollow, hollow, hollow all delight."
And fainter onward, like wild birds that change
Their season in the night and wail their way
From cloud to cloud, down the long wind the dream
Shrill'd; but in going mingled with dim cries
Far in the moonlit haze among the hills,
As of some lonely city sack'd by night,
When all is lost, and wife and child with wail
Pass to new lords; and Arthur woke and call'd,
"Who spake? A dream. O light upon the wind,
Thine, Gawain, was the voice--are these dim cries
Thine? or doth all that haunts the waste and wild
Mourn, knowing it will go along with me?"
This heard the bold Sir Bedivere and spake:
"O me, my King, let pass whatever will,
Elves, and the harmless glamour of the field;
But in their stead thy name and glory cling
To all high places like a golden cloud
For ever: but as yet thou shalt not pass.
Light was Gawain in life, and light in death
Is Gawain, for the ghost is as the man;
And care not thou for dreams from him, but rise--
I hear the steps of Modred in the west,
And with him many of thy people, and knights
Once thine, whom thou has loved, but grosser grown
Than heathen, spitting at their vows and thee.
Right well in heart they know thee for the King.
Arise, go forth and conquer as of old."
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
"Far other is this battle in the west
Whereto we move, than when we strove in youth,
And brake the petty kings, and fought with Rome,
Or thrust the heathen from the Roman wall,
And shook him thro' the north. Ill doom is mine
To war against my people and my knights.
The king who fights his people fights himself.
And they my knights, who loved me once, the stroke
That strikes them dead is as my death to me.
Yet let us hence, and find or feel a way
Thro' this blind haze, which ever since I saw
One lying in the dust at Almesbury,
Hath folded in the passes of the world."
[Footnote 1: Shortly after his accession to the throne, according to the
legend, Arthur was called upon to send tribute to Rome. He refused,
however, and was successful in the battle against Rome which his refusal
caused. The heathen in his own country he also defeated, driving them
beyond the "Roman wall"--the wall which had been set up by the Romans at
the time of their occupancy of Britain to mark the northern boundary of
[Footnote 2: Queen Guinevere, after her falseness to Arthur had been
proved, had withdrawn to a nunnery at Almesbury. Here Arthur had had an
interview with her before setting out on his last campaign.]
Then rose the King and moved his host by night,
And ever push'd Sir Modred, league by league,
Back to the sunset bound of Lyonnesse--
A land of old upheaven from the abyss
By fire, to sink into the abyss again;
Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt,
And the long mountains ended in a coast
Of ever-shifting sand, and far away
The phantom circle of a moaning sea.
There the pursuer could pursue no more,
And he that fled no further fly the King;
And there, that day when the great light of heaven
Burn'd at his lowest in the rolling year,
On the waste sand by the waste sea they closed.
Nor ever yet had Arthur fought a fight
Like this last, dim, weird battle of the west.
A deathwhite mist slept over sand and sea:
Whereof the chill, to him who breathed it, drew
Down with his blood, till all his heart was cold
With formless fear; and ev'n on Arthur fell
Confusion, since he saw not whom he fought.
For friend and foe were shadows in the mist,
And friend slew friend not knowing whom he slew;
And some had visions out of golden youth,
And some beheld the faces of old ghosts
Look in upon the battle; and in the mist
Was many a noble deed, many a base,
And chance and craft and strength in single fights,
And ever and anon with host to host
Shocks, and the splintering spear, the hard mail hewn,
Shield-breakings, and the clash of brands, the crash
Of battle-axes on shatter'd helms, and shrieks
After the Christ, of those who falling down
Look'd up for heaven, and only saw the mist;
And shouts of heathen and the traitor knights,
Sweat, writhings, anguish, laboring of the lungs
In that close mist, and cryings for the light,
Moans of the dying, and voices of the dead.
[Footnote 3: Can you tell from this on about what day Arthur fought this
Last, as by some one deathbed after wail
Of suffering, silence follows, or thro' death
Or deathlike swoon, thus over all that shore,
Save for some whisper of the seething seas,
A dead hush fell; but when the dolorous day
Grew drearier toward twilight falling, came
A bitter wind, clear from the North, and blew
The mist aside, and with that wind the tide
Rose, and the pale King glanced across the field
Of battle: but no man was moving there;
Nor any cry of Christian heard thereon,
Nor yet of heathen; only the wan wave
Brake in among dead faces, to and fro
Swaying the helpless hands, and up and down
Tumbling the hollow helmets of the fallen,
And shiver'd brands that once had fought with Rome,
And rolling far along the gloomy shores
The voice of days of old and days to be.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere,
And whiter than the mist that all day long
Had held the field of battle was the King:
"Hearest thou this great voice that shakes the world,
And wastes the narrow realm whereon we move,
And beats upon the faces of the dead,
My dead, as tho' they had not died for me?--
O Bedivere, for on my heart hath fall'n
Confusion, till I know not what I am,
Nor whence I am, nor whether I be King.
Behold, I seem but King among the dead."
Then spake the bold Sir Bedivere: "My King,
King everywhere! and so the dead have kings,
There also will I worship thee as King.
Yet still thy life is whole, and still I live
Who love thee; but who hates thee, he that brought
The heathen back among us, yonder stands,
Modred, unharm'd, the traitor of thine house."
Then spake the King: "My house hath been my doom.
But call not thou this traitor of my house
Who hath but dwelt beneath one roof with me.
My house are rather they who sware my vows,
Yea, even while they break them, own'd me King.
And well for thee, saying in my dark hour,
When all the purport of my throne hath failed,
That quick or dead thou holdest me for King.
King am I, whatsoever be their cry;
And one last act of kinghood shalt thou see
Yet, ere I pass." And uttering this the King
Made at the man: then Modred smote his liege
Hard on that helm which many a heathen sword
Had beaten thin; while Arthur at one blow,
Striking the last stroke with Excalibur,
Slew him, and all but slain himself, he fell.
So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur's Table, man by man,
Had fall'n in Lyonnesse about their lord,
King Arthur. Then, because his wound was deep,
The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,
A broken chancel with a broken cross,
That stood on a dark strait of barren land:
On one side lay the Ocean, and on one
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
"The sequel of to-day unsolders all
The goodliest fellowship of famous knights
Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep
They sleep--the men I loved. I think that we
Shall never more, at any future time,
Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds,
Walking about the gardens and the halls
Of Camelot, as in the days that were.
I perish by this people which I made,--
Tho' Merlin sware that I should come again
To rule once more; but, let what will be, be,
I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm
That without help I cannot last till morn.
Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur,
Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how
In those old days, one summer noon, an arm
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
Holding the sword--and how I row'd across
And took it, and have worn it, like a king;
And, wheresoever I am sung or told
In aftertime, this also shall be known:
But now delay not: take Excalibur,
And fling him far into the middle mere:
Watch what thou seest, and lightly bring me word."
[Footnote 4: _Mere_ is a poetic word for _lake_.]
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere:
"It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus,
Aidless, alone, and smitten thro' the helm--
A little thing may harm a wounded man;
Yet I thy best will all perform at full,
Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word."
So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he stept,
And in the moon athwart the place of tombs,
Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men,
Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang
Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down
By zigzag paths, and juts of pointed rock,
Came on the shining levels of the lake.
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
And o'er him, drawing it, the winter moon,
Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth
And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:
For all-the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewelry. He gazed so long
That both his eyes were dazzled as he stood,
This way and that dividing the swift mind,
In act to throw: but at the last it seem'd
Better to leave Excalibur conceal'd
There in the many-knotted waterflags
That whistled stiff and dry about the marge.
So strode he back slow to the wounded King.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere:
"Hast thou perform'd my mission which I gave?
What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"I heard the ripple washing in the reeds,
And the wild water lapping on the crag."
To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale:
"Thou hast betray'd thy nature and thy name,
Not rendering true answer, as beseem'd
Thy fealty, nor like a noble knight:
For surer sign had follow'd, either hand,
Or voice, or else a motion of the mere.
This is a shameful thing for men to lie.
Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again,
As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing
I bade thee, watch, and lightly bring me word."
[Footnote 5: _Lief_ is an old word meaning _beloved._]
Then went Sir Bedivere the second time
Across the bridge, and paced beside the mere,
Counting the dewy pebbles, fix'd in thought;
But when he saw the wonder of the hilt,
How curiously and strangely chased, he smote
His palms together, and he cried aloud:
"And if indeed I cast the brand away,
Surely a precious thing, one worthy note,
Should thus be lost for ever from the earth,
Which might have pleased the eyes of many men.
What good should follow this, if this were done?
What harm, undone? Deep harm to disobey,
Seeing obedience is the bond of rule.
Were it well to obey then, if a king demand
An act unprofitable, against himself?
The King is sick, and knows not what he does.
What record, or what relic of my lord
Should be to aftertime, but empty breath
And rumors of a doubt? But were this kept,
Stored in some treasure-house of mighty kings,
Some one might show it at a joust of arms,
Saying, 'King Arthur's sword, Excalibur,
Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake.
Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps
Upon the hidden bases of the hills.'
So might some old man speak in the aftertime
To all the people, winning reverence.
But now much honor and much fame were lost."
So spake he, clouded with his own conceit,
And hid Excalibur the second time,
And so strode back slow to the wounded King.
[Footnote 6: _Conceit_ here means _fancy_.]
Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily:
"What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"I heard the water lapping on the crag,
And the long ripple washing in the reeds."
To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath:
"Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue,
Unknightly, traitor-hearted! Woe is me!
Authority forgets a dying king,
Laid widow'd of the power in his eye
That bowed the will. I see thee what thou art,
For thou, the latest-left of all my knights,
In whom should meet the offices of all,
Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt;
Either from lust of gold, or like a girl
Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice,
And the third time may prosper, get thee hence:
But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur,
I will arise and slay thee with my hands."
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran,
And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged
Among the bulrush beds, and clutch'd the sword,
And strongly wheel'd and threw it. The great brand
Made lightnings in the splendor of the moon,
And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch,
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
By night, with noises of the Northern Sea.
So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur:
But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.
And lightly went the other to the King.
Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath:
"Now see I by thine eyes that this is done.
Speak out: what is it thou hast heard, or seen?"
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Should blind my purpose, for I never saw,
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Not tho' I live three lives of mortal men,
So great a miracle as yonder hilt.
Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him;
But when I looked again, behold an arm,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere."
And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard:
"My end draws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight.
And bear me to the margin; yet I fear
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."
So saying, from the pavement he half rose,
Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm,
And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes
As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere
Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears,
And would have spoken, but he found not words:
Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee,
O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands,
And rising bore him thro' the place of tombs.
But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted hard,
Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed
When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King,
Muttering and murmuring at his ear, "Quick, quick!
I fear it is too late, and I shall die."
But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge,
Clothed, with his breath, and looking, as he walk'd,
Larger than human on the frozen hills.
He heard the deep behind him, and a cry
Before. His own thought drove him like a goad.
Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels--
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.
[Footnote 7: This sentence is a striking example of Tennyson's ability
to make the sound of a passage help in conveying the sense. The harsh
_e_ and short _a_ sounds in the earlier part are intended to imitate the
clash of armor and the ring of "armed heels" on the rock; while the
smooth _l_ and _o_ sounds in the last two lines bring to us the quiet
and peacefulness of the scene upon which Bedivere came forth.]
Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge,
Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern,
Beneath them; and descending they were ware
That all the decks were dense with stately forms,
Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream--by these
Three Queens with crowns of gold: and from them rose
A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars,
And, as it were one voice, an agony
Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills
All night in a waste land, where no one comes,
Or hath come, since the making of the world.
Then murmur'd Arthur, "Place me in the barge."
So to the barge they came. There those three Queens
Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.
But she, that rose the tallest of them all
And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,
And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands,
And call'd him by his name, complaining loud,
And dropping bitter tears against a brow
Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white
And colorless, and like the wither'd moon
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east;
And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with drops
Of onset; and the light and lustrous curls--
That made his forehead like a rising sun
High from the dais-throne--were parch'd with dust,
Or, clotted into points and hanging loose,
Mix'd with the knightly growth that fringed his lips.
So like a shatter'd column lay the King;
Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest,
From spur to plume a star of tournament,
Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and charged
Before the eyes of ladies and of kings.
Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
[Footnote 8: The Elders are the wise men who, with their gifts of myrrh.
came to worship Christ in the manger.]
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
And slowly answer'd Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest--if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)--
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."
So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.
But when that moan had past for evermore,
The stillness of the dead world's winter dawn
Amazed him, and he groan'd, "The King is gone."
And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme,
"From the great deep to the great deep he goes."
Whereat he slowly turn'd and slowly clomb
The last hard footstep of that iron crag;
Thence mark'd the black hull moving yet, and cried,
"He passes to be King among the dead,
And after healing of his grievous wound
He comes again; but--if he come no more--
O me, be yon dark Queens in yon black boat,
Who shriek'd and wail'd, the three whereat we gazed
On that high day, when, clothed with living light,
They stood before his throne in silence, friends
Of Arthur, who should help him at his need?"
Then from the dawn it seem'd there came, but faint
As from beyond the limit of the world,
Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Around a king returning from his wars.
Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb
Ev'n to the highest he could climb, and saw,
Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the King,
[Illustration: THE BARGE MOVED FROM THE BRINK]
Down that long water opening on the deep
Somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go
From less to less and vanish into light.
And the new sun rose bringing the new year.
HENRY HUDSON'S FOURTH VOYAGE
[Footnote 1: This sketch of Henry Hudson's fourth voyage is taken from
the _Life of Henry Hudson_ by Henry R. Cleveland, which appears in Jared
Sparks's series of books on American biography.]
_By_ HENRY R. CLEVELAND
Note.--It should be remembered that Hudson had already made three
voyages in search of the Northwestern Passage. On his first voyage he
tried to sail around the northern part of Greenland, but was driven back
by the ice and returned to England, whence he had sailed.
On his second voyage he attempted to find a northeastern passage around
the North Cape and north of Europe. He reached Nova Zembla but was
unable to get any farther.
On his third voyage he sailed under the management of the Dutch East
India Company and left the port of Amsterdam, expecting to go north
around the continent of America. In this he was disappointed; but he
proceeded west to the Banks of Newfoundland and thence south along the
coast of the United States. He visited Penobscot Bay in Maine, sailed
around Cape Cod and southward at some distance from the coast, to
Virginia, deciding by this time that he could not find a passage
westward in that direction. As he knew of the discoveries along the
coast of Virginia he returned north, and on his way discovered Delaware
Bay and the outlet of the Hudson River. After some delay he explored the
river to the present site of Albany, where he again found that his
Northwestern Passage was barred by the shallowing waters of the river.
This was the extent of the explorations of this voyage, from which he
finally returned in safety to London.
China was well known to the people of Hudson's time, but had been
reached always by water around the Cape of Good Hope and along the
southern shore of Asia, or by the long and perilous land journey across
Europe and Asia. It was the dream of all these early navigators to find
a water passage much shorter than the one around the Cape, and for this
they naturally looked to the northwest, where they knew the distance
must be much shorter. They little knew that this search was to continue
for hundreds of years--so long, in fact, that no practicable passage of
that sort is even now known.
The success of Hudson's last voyage probably stimulated the London
Company to take him again into their employment, and to fit out another
vessel in search of that great object of discovery, the northwest
passage. We find him setting out on a voyage, under their auspices,
early in the spring of 1610. His crew numbered several persons, who were
destined to act a conspicuous part in the melancholy events of this
expedition. Among these were Robert Juet, who had already sailed with
him as mate in two of his voyages; Habakuk Pricket, a man of some
intelligence and education, who had been in the service of Sir Dudley
Digges, one of the London Company, and from whose Journal we learn
chiefly the events of the voyage; and Henry Greene, of whose character
and circumstances it is necessary here to give a brief account.
It appears from the Journal, that Greene was a young man of good
abilities, and education, born of highly respectable parents, but of
such abandoned character, that he had forced his family to cast him off.
Hudson found him in this condition, took pity upon him, and received him
into his house in London. When it was determined that he should command
this expedition, Hudson resolved to take Greene with him, in the hope,
that, by exciting his ambition, and by withdrawing him from his
accustomed haunts, he might reclaim him. Greene was also a good penman,
and would be useful to Hudson in that capacity. With much difficulty
Greene's mother was persuaded to advance four pounds, to buy clothes for
him; and, at last, the money was placed in the hands of an agent, for
fear that it would be wasted if given directly to him. He was not
registered in the Company's books, nor did he sail in their pay, but
Hudson, to stimulate him to reform, promised to give him wages, and on
his return to get him appointed one of the Prince's guards, provided he
should behave well on the voyage.
Hudson was also accompanied, as usual, by his son. The crew consisted of
twenty-three men, and the vessel was named the _Discovery_. The London
Company had insisted upon Hudson's taking in the ship a person, who was
to aid him by his knowledge and experience, and in whom they felt great
confidence. This arrangement seems to have been very disagreeable to
Hudson, as he put the man into another vessel before he reached the
mouth of the Thames, and sent him back to London, with a letter to his
employers stating his reasons for so doing. What these reasons were, we
can form no conjecture, as there is no hint given in the Journal.
He sailed from London on the 17th of April, 1610. Steering north from
the mouth of the Thames, and passing in sight of the northern part of
Scotland, the Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe Isles, and having, in a little
more than a month, sailed along the southern coast of Iceland, where he
could see the flames ascending from Mount Hecla, he anchored in a bay on
the western side of that island. Here they found a spring so hot, that
"it would scald a fowl," in which the crew bathed freely. At this place,
Hudson discovered signs of a turbulent and mutinous disposition in his
crew. The chief plotter seems to have been Robert Juet, the mate. Before
reaching Iceland, Juet had remarked to one of the crew, that there would
be bloodshed before the voyage was over; and he was evidently at that
time contriving some mischief. While the ship was at anchor in this bay,
a circumstance occurred, which gave Juet an opportunity to commence his
intrigues. It is thus narrated by Pricket.
"At Iceland, the surgeon and he (Henry Greene) fell out in Dutch, and he
beat him ashore in English, which set all the company in a rage, so that
we had much ado to get the surgeon aboard. I told the master of it, but
he bade me let it alone; for, said he, the surgeon had a tongue that
would wrong the best friend he had. But Robert Juet, the master's mate,
would needs burn his finger in the embers, and told the carpenter a long
tale, when he was drunk, that our master had brought in Greene to crack
his credit that should displease him; which words came to the master's
ears, who, when he understood it, would have gone back to Iceland, when
he was forty leagues from thence, to have sent home his mate, Robert
Juet, in a fisherman. But, being otherwise persuaded, all was well. So
Henry Greene stood upright, and very inward with the master, and was a
serviceable man every way for manhood; but for religion, he would say,
he was clean paper, whereon he might write what he would."
He sailed from Iceland on the 1st of June, and for several days Juet
continued to instigate the crew to mutiny, persuading them to put the
ship about and return to England. This, as we have seen, came to the
knowledge of Hudson, and he threatened to send Juet back, but was
finally pacified. In a few days he made the coast of Greenland, which
appeared very mountainous, the hills rising like sugar loaves, and
covered with snow. But the ice was so thick all along the shore, that it
was found impossible to land. He therefore steered for the south of
Greenland, where he encountered great numbers of whales. Two of these
monsters passed under the ship, but did no harm; for which the
journalist was devoutly thankful. Having doubled the southern point of
Greenland, he steered northwest, passed in sight of Desolation Island,
in the neighborhood of which he saw a huge island or mountain of ice,
and continued northwest till the latter part of June, when he came in
sight of land bearing north, which he supposed to be an island set down
in his chart in the northerly part of Davis's Strait. His wish was to
sail along the western coast of this island, and thus get to the north
of it; but adverse winds and the quantities of ice which he encountered
every day, prevented him.
Being south of this land, he fell into a current setting westwardly,
which he followed, but was in constant danger from the ice. One day, an
enormous mountain of ice turned over near the ship, but fortunately
without touching it. This served as a warning to keep at a distance from
these masses, to prevent the ship from being crushed by them. He
encountered a severe storm, which brought the ice so thick about the
ship, that he judged it best to run her among the largest masses, and
there let her lie. In this situation, says the journalist, "some of our
men fell sick; I will not say it was of fear, although I saw small sign
of other grief." As soon as the storm abated, Hudson endeavoured to
extricate himself from the ice. Wherever any open space appeared, he
directed his course, sailing in almost every direction; but the longer
he contended with the ice, the more completely did he seem to be
enclosed, till at last he could go no further. The ship seemed to be
hemmed in on every side, and in danger of being soon closely wedged, so
as to be immovable. In this perilous situation, even the stout heart of
Hudson almost yielded to the feeling of despair; and, as he afterwards
confessed to one of the men, he thought he should never escape from the
ice, but that he was doomed to perish there.
He did not, however, allow his crew, at the time, to be aware what his
apprehensions really were; but, assembling them all around him, he
brought out his chart, and showed them that they had advanced in this
direction a hundred leagues further than any Englishman had done before;
and gave them their choice whether to proceed, or to return home. The
men could come to no agreement; some were in favor of returning, others
were for pushing forward. This was probably what Hudson expected; the
men were mutinous, and yet knew not what they wanted themselves. Having
fairly convinced them of this, it was easier to set them at work to
extricate the ship from her immediate danger. After much time and labor,
they made room to turn the ship round, and then by little and little
they worked their way along for a league or two, when they found a clear
The scene which has just been described, seems indeed a subject worthy
of the talents of a skilful painter. The fancy of the artist would
represent the dreary and frightful appearance of the ice-covered sea,
stretching away as far as the eye could reach, a bleak and boundless
waste; the dark and broken clouds driving across the fitful sky; the
ship motionless amidst the islands and mountains of ice, her shrouds and
sails being fringed and stiffened with the frozen spray. On the deck
would appear the form of Hudson himself, displaying the chart to his
men; his countenance careworn and sad, but still concealing, under the
appearance of calmness and indifference, the apprehensions and
forebodings, which harrowed his mind. About him would be seen the rude
and ruffian-like men; some examining the chart with eager curiosity,
some glaring on their commander with eyes of hatred and vengeance, and
expressing in their looks those murderous intentions, which they at last
so fatally executed.
Having reached a clear sea, Hudson pursued his course northwest, and in
a short time saw land bearing southwest, which appeared very mountainous
and covered with snow. This he named _Desire Provokes_. He had now
entered the Strait which bears his name, and, steering west, he occupied
nearly the whole month of July in passing through it. To the various
capes, islands, and promontories which he saw, he gave names, either in
commemoration of some circumstance, which happened at the time, or in
honor of persons and places at home, or else for the reward of the
Some islands, near which he anchored, and where his ship was but just
saved from the rocks, he called the _Isles of God's Mercies_. On the
19th, he passed a point of land, which he named _Hold with Hope_. To the
main land, which he soon after discovered, he gave the name of _Magna
Britannia_. On the 2d of September, he saw a headland on the northern
shore, which he named _Salisbury's Foreland_; and, running southwest
from this point about fourteen leagues, he entered a passage not more
than five miles in width, the southern cape at the entrance of which he
named _Cape Worsenholme_, and that on the north side, _Cape Digges_.
He now hoped that the passage to the western sea was open before him,
and that the great discovery was at length achieved. He therefore sent a
number of the men on shore at Cape Digges, to ascend the hills, in the
hope that they would see the great ocean open to them beyond the Strait.
The exploring party, however, were prevented from making any discovery,
by a violent thunder storm, which soon drove them back to the ship. They
saw plenty of deer, and soon after espied a number of small piles of
stones, which they at first supposed must be the work of some civilized
person. On approaching them, and lifting up one of the stones, they
found them to be hollow, and filled with fowls, hung by the neck. They
endeavored to persuade their commander to wait here, till they could
provision the ship from the stores, which were thus remarkably provided
for them. But his ardor was so great to find his way into the ocean,
which he felt convinced was immediately in the vicinity, that he could
suffer no delay, but ordered his men to weigh anchor at once; a
precipitancy which he had afterwards reason bitterly to regret. Having
advanced about ten leagues through the Strait, he came into the great
open Bay or sea which bears his name.
Having entered the Bay, he pursued a southerly course for nearly a
month, till he arrived at the bottom of the Bay; when, finding that he
was disappointed in his expectation of thus reaching the western seas,
he changed his course to the north, in order to retrace his steps. On
the 10th of September, he found it necessary to inquire into the conduct
of some of the men, whose mutinous disposition had manifested itself a
good deal of late. Upon investigation, it appeared, that the mate,
Robert Juet, and Francis Clement, the boatswain, had been the most
forward in exciting a spirit of insubordination. The conduct of Juet at
Iceland was again brought up, and, as it appeared that both he and
Clement had been lately plotting against the commander, they were both
deposed, and Robert Billet was appointed mate, and William Wilson
The remaining part of September and all October were passed in exploring
the great Bay. At times the weather was so bad, that they were compelled
to run into some bay and anchor; and in one of the storms they were
obliged to cut away the cable, and so lost their anchor. At another time
they ran upon a sunken ledge of rocks, where the ship stuck fast for
twelve hours, but was at last got off without being much injured. The
last of October having now arrived, and winter beginning to set in,
Hudson ran the vessel into a small bay, and sent a party in search of a
good place to intrench themselves till the spring. They soon found a
convenient station; and, bringing the ship thither, they hauled her
aground. This was on the 1st of November. In ten days they were
completely frozen in, and the ship firmly fixed in the sea.
The prospect for Hudson and his men was now dreary and disheartening. In
addition to the rigors of a long winter, in a high northern latitude,
they had to apprehend the suffering which would arise from a scarcity of
provisions. The vessel had been victualled for six months, and that time
having now expired, and their stores falling short, while, at the same
time, the chance of obtaining supplies from hunting and fishing was very
precarious, it was found necessary to put the crew upon an allowance. In
order, however, to stimulate the men to greater exertions, Hudson
offered a reward or bounty for every beast, fish, or fowl, which they
should kill; hoping, that in this way the scanty stock of provisions
might be made to hold out till the breaking up of the ice in the spring.
About the middle of November, John Williams, the gunner, died. We are
not informed what was his disease, but we are led to suppose from the
Journal, that his death was hastened, if not caused, by the unkind
treatment he experienced from Hudson. It appears very evident from the
simple narration by Pricket, that "the master," as he calls him, had
become hasty and irritable in his temper. This is more to be regretted,
than wondered at. The continual hardships and disappointments, to which
he had been exposed, and especially the last unhappy failure in
discovering the northwest passage, when he had believed himself actually
within sight of it, must have operated powerfully upon an ardent and
enthusiastic mind like his, in which the feeling of regret at failure is
always proportionate to the strength and confidence of hope when first
formed. In addition to this, the troublesome disposition of the crew,
which must have caused ceaseless anxiety, undoubtedly contributed much
to disturb his calmness and self-possession, and render him precipitate
and irritable in his conduct. Many proofs of this soon occurred.
[Footnote 2: In reading the account of this Arctic expedition, we must
remember that the author has followed very closely the journal of
Pricket and has not tried to determine the truth or falseness of
that man's statements. It does not seem probable that a man of
Hudson's character should so suddenly become peevish and irritable,
nor that his judgment should so suddenly become weak. The journal
was probably written to defend Pricket's share in the disgraceful
transaction, and so events were colored to suit himself.]
The death of the gunner was followed by consequences which may be
regarded as the beginning of troubles that in the end proved fatal. It
appears that it was the custom in those times, when a man died at sea,
to sell his clothes to the crew by auction. In one respect, Hudson
violated this custom, and probably gained no little ill will thereby.
The gunner had a gray cloth gown or wrapper, which Henry Greene had set
his heart upon possessing; and Hudson, wishing to gratify his favorite,
refused to put it up to public sale, and gave Greene the sole choice of
Not long after this, Hudson ordered the carpenter to go on shore, and
build a house, or hut, for the accommodation of the crew. The man
replied, that it would now be impossible to do such a piece of work,
from the severity of the weather, and the quantity of snow. The house
ought to have been erected when they had first fixed their station
there, but now it was too late, and Hudson had refused to have it done
at first. The carpenter's refusal to perform the work excited the anger
of the master to such a degree, that he drove him violently from the
cabin, using the most opprobrious language, and finally threatening to
Greene appeared to take sides with the carpenter, which made Hudson so
angry, that he gave the gown, which Greene had coveted so much, to
Billet, the mate; telling Greene, with much abusive language, that, as
not one of his friends at home would trust him to the value of twenty
shillings, he could not be expected to trust him for the value of the
gown; and that, as for wages, he should have none if he did not behave
better. These bitter taunts sunk deep into Greene's heart, and no doubt
incited him to further mutinous conduct.
The sufferings of the men were not less, during the winter, than they
had had reason to apprehend. Many of them were made lame, probably from
chilblains and freezing their feet; and Pricket complains in the
Journal, written after the close of the voyage, that he was still
suffering from the effects of this winter. They were, however, much
better supplied with provisions than they had anticipated. For three
months they had such an abundance of white partridges about the ship,
that they killed a hundred dozen of them; and, on the departure of
these, when spring came, they found a great plenty of swans, geese,
ducks, and other waterfowl.
Hudson was in hopes, when he saw these wild fowl, that they had come to
breed in these regions, which would have rendered it much easier to
catch them; but he found that they went still further north for this
purpose. Before the ice had broken up, these birds too had disappeared,
and the horror of starvation began to stare them in the face. They were
forced to search the hills, woods, and valleys, for anything that might
afford them subsistence; even the moss growing on the ground, and
disgusting reptiles, were not spared. Their sufferings were somewhat
relieved at last, by the use of a bud, which is described as "full of
turpentine matter." Of these buds the surgeon made a decoction, which he
gave the men to drink, and also applied them hot to their bodies,
wherever any part was affected. This was undoubtedly very effectual in
curing the scurvy.
About the time that the ice began to break up, they were visited by a
savage, whom Hudson treated so well, that he returned the day after to
the ship, bringing several skins, some of which he gave in return for
presents he had received the day before. For others Hudson traded with
him, but made such hard bargains, that he never visited them again. As
soon as the ice would allow of it, some of the men were sent out to
fish. The first day they were very successful, catching about five
hundred fish; but after this, they never succeeded in taking a quarter
part of this number in one day. Being greatly distressed by want of
provisions, Hudson took the boat and coasted along the bay to the
southwest, in the hope of meeting some of the natives, from whom he
might obtain supplies. He saw the woods blazing at a distance, where
they had been set on fire by the natives; but he was not able at any
time to come within sight of the people themselves. After an absence of
several days, he returned unsuccessful to the ship.
The only effect of this little expedition was defeating a conspiracy,
formed by Greene, Wilson, and some others, to seize the boat and make
off with her. They were prevented from putting this scheme in execution
by Hudson's unexpected determination to use the boat himself. Well would
it have been for him, if they had been allowed to follow their wishes.
Having returned to the ship, and finding everything now prepared for
their departure according to his directions, before weighing anchor he
went through the mournful task of distributing to his crew the small
remnant of the provisions, about a pound of bread to each man; which he
did with tears in his eyes. He also gave them a bill of return, as a
sort of certificate for any who might live to reach home. Some of the
men were so ravenous, that they devoured in a day or two the whole of
their allowance of bread.
They sailed from the bay, in which they had passed the winter, about the
middle of June, and, in three or four days, being surrounded with ice,
were obliged to anchor. The bread he had given the men, and a few pounds
of cheese, which had remained, were consumed. Hudson now intimated to
one of the crew, that the chests of all the men would be searched, to
find any provisions that might have been concealed there; and ordered
him at the same time to bring all that was in his. The man obeyed, and
produced thirty cakes in a bag. This indiscretion on the part of Hudson
appears to have greatly exasperated his crew, and to have been the
immediate cause of open mutiny.
They had been detained at anchor in the ice about a week, when the first
signs of this mutiny appeared. Greene, and Wilson, the boatswain, came
in the night to Pricket, who was lying in his berth very lame, and told
him, that they and several of the crew had resolved to seize Hudson, and
set him adrift in the boat, with all on board who were disabled by
sickness; that there were but few days' provisions left, and the master
appeared entirely irresolute which way to go; that for themselves they
had eaten nothing for three days; their only hope, therefore, was in
taking command of the ship, and escaping from these regions as quickly
as possible; and that they would carry their plot unto execution, or
perish in the attempt.
Pricket remonstrated with them in the most earnest manner, entreating
them to abandon such a wicked intention, and reminding them of their
wives and children, from whom they would be banished forever, if they
stained themselves with so great a crime. But all he could say had no
effect. He then besought them to delay the execution for three days, for
two days, for only twelve hours; but they sternly refused. Pricket then
told them, that it was not their safety for which they were anxious, but
that they were bent upon shedding blood and revenging themselves, which
made them so hasty. Upon this, Greene took up the Bible which lay there,
and swore upon it, that he would do no man harm, and that what he did
was for the good of the voyage, and for nothing else. Wilson took the
same oath, and after him came Juet and the other conspirators
separately, and swore in the same words. The words of the oath are
recorded by Pricket, because, after his return to England, he was much
blamed for administering any oath, as he seemed by so doing to side with
the mutineers. The oath, as administered by him, ran as follows:
"You shall swear truth to God, your Prince, and Country; you shall do
nothing but to the glory of God and the good of the action in hand, and
harm to no man." How little regard was paid to this oath by the
mutineers, will shortly appear.
It was decided, that the plot should be put in execution at daylight;
and, in the meantime, Greene went into Hudson's cabin to keep him
company and prevent his suspicions from being excited. They had
determined to put the carpenter and John King into the boat with Hudson
and the sick, having some grudge against them for their attachment to
the master. King and the carpenter had slept upon deck this night. But
about daybreak, King was observed to go down into the hold with the
cook, who was going for water. Some of the mutineers ran and shut down
the hatch over them, while Greene and another engaged the attention of
the carpenter, so that he did not observe what was going on.
Hudson now came up from the cabin, and was immediately seized by Thomas,
and Bennet, the cook, who had come up from the hold, while Wilson ran
behind and bound his arms. He asked them what they meant, and they told
him he would know when he was in the shallop. Hudson called on the
carpenter to help him, telling him that he was bound; but he could
render him no assistance, being surrounded by mutineers. In the
meantime, Juet had gone down into the hold, where King was; but the
latter, having armed himself with a sword, attacked Juet, and would have
killed him, if the noise had not been heard upon deck by the
conspirators, some of whom ran down and overpowered him. While this was
done, two of the sick men, Lodlo and Bute, boldly reproached their
shipmates for their wickedness, telling them, that their knavery would
show itself, and that their actions were prompted by mere vengeance, not
the wish to preserve their lives. But their words had no effect.
The boat was now hauled alongside, and the sick and lame were called up
from their berths. Pricket crawled upon deck as well as he could, and
Hudson, seeing him, called to him to come to the hatchway to speak with
him. Pricket entreated the men, on his knees, for the love of God to
remember their duty, and do as they would be done by; but they only told
him to go back to his berth, and would not allow him to have any
communication with Hudson. When Hudson was in the boat, he called again
to Pricket, who was at the horn window, which lighted his cabin, and
told him that Juet would "overthrow" them all. "Nay," said Pricket, "it
is that villain, Henry Greene;" and this he said as loud as he could.
After Hudson was put into the boat, the carpenter was set at liberty,
but he refused to remain in the ship unless they forced him; so they
told him he might go in the boat, and allowed him to take his chest with
him. Before he got into the boat, he went down to take leave of Pricket,
who entreated him to remain in the ship; but the carpenter said he
believed that they would soon be taken on board again, as there was no
one left who knew enough to bring the ship home; and that he was
determined not to desert the master. He thought the boat would be kept
in tow; but, if they should be parted, he begged Pricket to leave some
token for them if he should reach Digges's Cape first. They then took
leave of each other with tears in their eyes, and the carpenter went
into the boat, taking a musket and some powder and shot, an iron pot, a
small quantity of meal, and other provisions. Hudson's son and six of
the men were also put into the boat. The sails were now hoisted, and
they stood eastward with a fair wind, dragging the shallop from the
stern; and in a few hours, being clear of the ice, they cut the rope by
which the boat was dragged, and soon after lost sight of her forever.
[Illustration: CUT ADRIFT IN HUDSON'S BAY]
The account here given of the mutiny, is nearly in the words of Pricket,
an eyewitness of the event. It is difficult at first to perceive the
whole enormity of the crime. The more we reflect upon it, the blacker it
appears. Scarcely a circumstance is wanting, that could add to the
baseness of the villainy, or the horror of the suffering inflicted. The
principal conspirators were men who were bound to Hudson by long
friendship, by lasting obligations, and by common interests, adventures
and sufferings. Juet had sailed with him on two of his former voyages,
and had shared in the glory of his discoveries. Greene had been received
into his house, when abandoned even by his own mother; had been kindly
and hospitably entertained, encouraged to reform, and taken, on Hudson's
private responsibility, into a service in which he might gain celebrity
and wealth. Wilson had been selected from among the crew, by the
approving eye of the commander, and appointed to a place of trust and
honor. Yet these men conspired to murder their benefactor, and
instigated the crew to join in their execrable scheme.
Not contented with the destruction of their commander, that nothing
might be wanting to fill up the measure of their wickedness, they formed
the horrible plan of destroying, at the same time, all of their
companions whom sickness and suffering had rendered a helpless and
unresisting prey to their cruelty. The manner of effecting this massacre
was worthy of the authors of such a plot. To have killed their unhappy
victims outright would have been comparatively merciful; but a long,
lingering, and painful death was chosen for them. The imagination turns
with intense and fearful interest to the scene. The form of the
commander is before us, bound hand and foot, condescending to no
supplication to the mutineers, but calling in vain for assistance from
those who would gladly have helped him, but who were overpowered by
numbers, or disabled by sickness. The cry of the suffering and dying
rings in our ears, as they are dragged from their beds, to be exposed to
the inclemencies of the ice-covered sea in an open boat. Among them
appears the young son of Hudson, whose tender years can wake no
compassion in the cold-blooded murderers.
[Footnote 3: It is impossible to tell very much about this young son of
Henry Hudson. In some accounts he is said to be but a lad of seven
years old, but as he appears in the journal of the voyage as a sailor,
it is probable that he was much older. He had accompanied his
father on two of his earlier voyages and possibly on the third.]
We refrain from following them, even in fancy, through their sufferings
after they are separated from the ship; their days and nights of agony,
their cry of distress, and the frenzy of starvation, their hopes of
relief defeated, their despair, and their raving as death comes on. Over
these awful scenes the hand of God has hung a veil, which hides them
from us forever. Let us not seek to penetrate, even in imagination, the
terrors which it conceals.
How far Pricket's account, in regard to the course pursued by Hudson, is
worthy of confidence, must be left to conjecture. It should be
remembered, however, that Pricket was not free from the suspicion of
having been in some degree implicated in the conspiracy, and that his
narrative was designed in part as a vindication of himself. The
indiscreet severity charged upon Hudson, and the hasty temper he is
represented to have shown, in embroiling himself with his men, for
apparently trifling reasons, are not consistent with the moderation,
good sense, and equanimity, with which his conduct had been marked in
all his preceding voyages. It is moreover hardly credible, that, knowing
as he did the mutinous spirit of some of the crew he should so rashly
inflame this spirit, at a time when he was surrounded by imminent
dangers, and when his safety depended on the united support of all the
men under his command. Hence, whatever reliance may be placed on the
veracity of Pricket, it is due to the memory of Hudson not to overlook
the circumstances by which his pen may have been biased.
When Hudson and the men were deposited in the boat, the mutineers busied
themselves with breaking open chests and pillaging the ship. They found
in the cabin a considerable quantity of biscuit, and a butt of beer; and
there were a few pieces of pork, some meal, and a half bushel of peas in
the hold. These supplies were enough to save them from immediate
starvation; and they expected to find plenty of game at Digges's Cape.
Henry Greene was appointed commander, though evidently too ignorant for
the place. It was a full month before they could find their way to the
Strait, which leads out of the great Bay in which _they_ had wintered.
Part of this time they were detained by the ice; but several days were
spent in searching for the passage into Davis's Strait. During this time
they landed often, and sometimes succeeded in catching a few fish or
wild fowl; but supplied their wants principally by gathering the
cockle-grass, which was growing in abundance on every part of the shore.
They arrived within sight of Digges's Cape about the last of July, and
immediately sent the boat on shore for provisions. The men who landed
found considerable quantities of game, as it was a place where the wild
fowl breed. There were great numbers of savages about the shore, who
appeared very friendly, and testified their joy by lively gestures.
The next day Henry Greene went ashore, accompanied by Wilson, Thomas,
Perse, Moter, and Pricket. The last was left in the boat, which was made
fast to a large rock, and the others went on shore in search of
provisions. While some of the men were busy in gathering sorrel from the
rocks, and Greene was surrounded by the natives, with whom he was
trading, Pricket, who was lying in the stern of the boat, observed one
of the savages coming in at the bows. Pricket made signs to him to keep
off; and while he was thus occupied, another savage stole round behind
him. Pricket suddenly saw the leg and foot of a man by him, and looking
up, perceived a savage with a knife in his hand, aiming a blow at him.
He prevented the wound from being fatal, by raising his arm and warding
off the blow; but was still severely cut. Springing up, he grappled with
the savage, and drawing his dagger, at length put him to death.
[Illustration: SAVAGES ON THE SHORE]
In the meantime, Greene and the others were assaulted by the savages on
shore, and with difficulty reached the boat, all of them wounded except
Perse and Moter. The latter saved his life by plunging into the water,
and catching hold of the stern of the boat. No sooner had they pushed
off, than the savages let fly a shower of arrows, which killed Greene
outright, and mortally wounded some of the others, among them Perse, who
had hitherto escaped. Perse and Moter began to row toward the ship, but
Perse soon fainted, and Moter was left to manage the boat alone, as he
had escaped unwounded. The body of Greene was thrown immediately into
the sea. Wilson and Thomas died that day in great torture, and Perse two
The remainder of the crew were glad to depart from the scene of this
fatal combat, and immediately set sail, with the intention of reaching
Ireland as soon as possible. While they were in the Strait, they managed
to kill a few wild fowl occasionally; but the supply was so small, that
they were obliged to limit the crew to half a fowl a day, which they
cooked with meal; but this soon failed, and they were forced to devour
the candles. The cook fried the bones of the fowls in tallow, and mixed
this mess with vinegar, which, says Pricket, was "a great daintie."
Before they reached Ireland, they were so weakened, that they were
forced to sit at the helm to steer, as no one among them was able to
stand. Just before they came in sight of land, Juet died of want, thus
meeting the very fate, to avoid which he had murdered his commander and
friend. The men were now in utter despair. Only one fowl was left for
the subsistence, and another day would be their last. They abandoned all
care of the vessel, and prepared to meet their fate, when the joyful cry
of "a sail," was heard. It proved to be a fishing vessel, which took
them into a harbor in Ireland, from which they hired a pilot to take
them to England; where they all arrived in safety, after an absence of a
year and five months.