Part 1 out of 10
Originally written in Old French, sometime in the early half of
the 13th Century A.D., as a continuation of Chretien DeTroyes'
unfinished work "Perceval, or the Knight of the Grail". Author
unknown. Translation by Sebastian Evans, 1898.
This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@EnterAct.COM)
The High History of the Holy Graal
ORIGINAL TEXT --
Potvin, Ch. (Ed.): "Perceval le Gallois ou le conte du Graal",
Vol. I (Soc. Bibl. Belges., Mons., 1866).
RECOMMENDED READING --
Anonymous (Trans. P.M. Matarasso): "The Quest for the Holy Graal"
(Penguin Classics, London, 1969).
DeTroyes, Chretien (Trans. William W. Kibler & Carleton W.
Carroll): "Arthurian Romances" (Penguin Classics, London, 1991).
Contains the unfinished work "Perceval".
Eschenbach, Wolfram von (Trans. A.T. Hatto): "Parzival" (Penguin
Classics, London, 1980).
Malory, Sir Thomas (Ed. Janet Cowen): "Le Morte D'Arthur", Vol. I
& II (Penguin Classics, London, 1969).
This book is translated from the first volume of "Perceval le
Gallois ou le conte du Graal"; edited by M. Ch. Potvin for `La
Societe des Bibliophiles Belges' in 1866, (1) from the MS.
numbered 11,145 in the library of the Dukes of Burgundy at
Brussels. This MS. I find thus described in M. F. J. Marchal's
catalogue of that priceless collection: `"Le Roman de Saint
Graal", beginning "Ores lestoires", in the French language; date,
first third of the sixteenth century; with ornamental capitals.'
(2) Written three centuries later than the original romance, and
full as it is of faults of the scribe, this manuscript is by far
the most complete known copy of the "Book of the Graal" in
existence, being defective only in Branch XXI. Titles 8 and 9,
the substance of which is fortunately preserved elsewhere. Large
fragments, however, amounting in all to nearly one-seventh of the
whole, of a copy in handwriting of the thirteenth century, are
preserved in six consecutive leaves and one detached leaf bound
up with a number of other works in a MS. numbered 113 in the City
Library at Berne. The volume is in folio on vellum closely
written in three columns to the page, and the seven leaves follow
the last poem contained in it, entitled "Duremart le Gallois".
The manuscript is well known, having been lent to M. de Sainte
Palaye for use in the Monuments of French History issued by the
Benedictines of the Congregation of St Maur. Selections from the
poems it contains are given in Sinner's "Extraits de Poesie du
XIII. Siecle", (3) and it is described, unfortunately without any
reference to these particular leaves, by the same learned
librarian in the "Catalogus Codicum MSS. Bibl. Bernensis", J.R.
M. Potvin has carefully collated for his edition all that is
preserved of the Romance in this manuscript, comprising all the
beginning of the work as far as Branch III. Title 8, about the
middle, and from Branch XIX. Title 23, near the beginning, to
Branch XXX. Title 5, in the middle. Making allowance for
variations of spelling and sundry minor differences of reading,
by no means always in favour of the earlier scribe, the Berne
fragments are identical with the corresponding portions of the
Brussels manuscript, and it is therefore safe to assume that the
latter is on the whole an accurate transcript of the entire
The only note of time in the book itself is contained in the
declaration at the end. From this it appears that it was written
by order of the Seingnor of Cambrein for Messire Jehan the
Seingnor of Neele. M. Potvin, without giving any reason for so
doing, assumes that this Lord of Cambrein is none other than the
Bishop of Cambrai. If this assumption be correct, the person
referred to was probably either John of Berhune, who held the see
from 1200 till July 27, 1219, or his successor Godfrey of
Fontaines (Conde), who held it till 1237. To me, however, it
seems more likely that the personage intended was in reality the
'Seingnor' of Cambrin, the chef-lieu of a canton of the same
name, on a small hill overlooking the peat-marshes of Bethune,
albeit I can find no other record of any such landed proprietor's
Be this as it may, the Messire Jehan, Seingnor of Neele, can
hardly be other than the John de Nesle who was present at the
battle of Bouvines in 1214, and who in 1225 sold the lordship of
Bruges to Joan of Flanders. (5) These dates therefore may be
regarded as defining that of the original Romance within fairly
This conclusion is confirmed by other evidence. An early Welsh
translation of the story was published with an English version
and a glossary by the Rev. Robert Williams in the first volume of
his "Selections from the Hengwrt MSS". (6) The first volume of
this work is entitled "Y Seint Greal, being the adventures of
King Arthur's knights of the Round Table, in the quest of the
Holy Grail, and on other occasions. Originally written about the
year 1200". The volume, following the manuscript now in the
library of W.W.E. Wynne, Esq., at Peniarth, is divided into two
parts. The first, fol. 1-109 of the manuscript, represents the
thirteenth to the seventeenth book of Sir Thomas Malory's "Morte
d'Arthur". Of the second, which represents the Romance here
translated, Mr Williams writes: "The second portion of the Welsh
Greal, folios 110-280, contains the adventures of Gwalchmei
Peredur and Lancelot, and of the knights of the Round Table; but
these are not found in the "Morte d'Arthur". The Peniarth MS. is
beautifully written on vellum, and in perfect preservation, and
its date is that of Henry VI., the early part of the fifteenth
century. The orthography and style of writing agrees literally
with that of the "Mabinogion of the Llyvr Coch Hergest", which is
of that date. This, of course, is a transcript of an earlier
copy; but there is no certainty when it was first translated into
Welsh, though Aneurin Owen in his "Catalogue of the Hengwrt MSS."
assigns it to the sixth year of Henry I. It is mentioned by
Davydd ab Gwilym, who died in 1368."
Whatever may be the date of the Welsh version, the translator had
no great mastery of French, and is often at fault as to the
meaning both of words and sentences, and when in a difficulty is
only too apt to cut the knot by omitting the passage bodily. The
book itself, moreover, is not entire. On page 275, all between
Branch IX. Title 16 and Branch XI. Title 2, twenty-two chapters
in all, is missing. Again, on page 355, Titles 10-16 in Branch
XXI. are left out, while the whole of the last Branch, containing
28 Titles, is crumpled up into one little chapter, from which it
would seem that the Welshman had read the French, but thought it
waste of pains to translate it. In all, not to speak of other
defects, there are fifty-six whole chapters in the present book,
of which there is not a word in the Welsh.
In one matter, however, Mr Williams' English translation has
stood me in good stead. In Branch XXI., as I have said, the
French manuscript makes default of two Titles, but almost the
whole of their substance is supplied by the Welsh version. By an
unlucky accident, before the hiatus in the French is fully filled
up, the Welsh version itself becomes defective, though the gap
thus left open can hardly extend beyond a very few words.
Without this supplement, incomplete as it is, it would have been
impossible to give the full drift of one of the Romancer's best
stories, which is equally unintelligible in both the French and
Welsh texts in their present state.
As the Welsh version gives a number of names both of persons and
places widely differing from those in the French, it may be
useful here to note the principal changes made. Perceval in the
Welsh is called Peredur, which is said to mean "steel suit". The
Welshman, however, adds that the name in French is "Peneffresvo
Galief", which, unless it be a misreading or miswriting for
Perceval le Galois, is to me wholly unintelligible. Perceval's
father, Alain li Gros, is in the Welsh Earl Evrawg, and his
sister Dindrane, Danbrann. King Arthur is Emperor Arthur, his
Queen Guenievre, Gwenhwyvar, and their son Lohot, Lohawt or
Llacheu. Messire Gawain is Gwalchmei; Chaus, son of Ywain li
Aoutres, Gawns, son of Owein Vrych; Messire Kay or Kex is Kei the
Long; Ahuret the Bastard, Anores; Ygerne, wife of Uther
Pendragon, Eigyr; Queen Jandree, Landyr; and King Fisherman for
the most part King Peleur. Of places, Cardoil is Caerlleon on
Usk, Pannenoisance, Penvoisins; Tintagel, Tindagoyl; and Avalon,
By a double stroke of ill-luck, the complete and wholly
independent Romance here translated has thus been printed by its
two former editors as if it were only a part of some other story.
M. Potvin describes it as the "First Part, the Romance in Prose,"
of his "Perceval le Gallois", and Mr Williams accepts it as the '
"Second Portion" of his "Y Seint Greal". This unhappy
collocation has led not a few of M. Potvin's readers to neglect
his First Part, under the impression that the story is retold in
the other volumes containing the Romance in verse; while not a
few of Mr Williams' readers have neglected his Second Portion
under the impression that there could be nothing of any special
importance in an adjunct referred to by the Editor in so
perfunctory a manner. In very truth, however, the Story of the
Holy Graal here told is not only the most coherent and poetic of
all the many versions of the Legend, but is also the first and
This seems to be proved beyond doubt by a passage in the History
of Fulke Fitz-Warine, originally written apparently between the
years 1256 and 1264. The passage occurs at the end of the
History, and is printed in verse of which I give a literal prose
"Merlin saith that in Britain the Great a Wolf shall come
from the White Launde. Twelve sharp teeth shall he have,
six below and six above. He shall have so fierce a look
that he shall chase the Leopard forth of the White Launde,
so much force shall he have and great virtue. We now know
that Merlin said this for Fulke the son of Waryn, for each
of you ought to understand of a surety how in the time of
the King Arthur that was called the White Launde which is
now named the White Town. For in this country was the
chapel of S. Austin that was fair, where Kahuz, the son of
Ywein, dreamed that he carried off the candlestick and that
he met a man who hurt him with a knife and wounded him in
the side. And he, on sleep, cried out so loud that King
Arthur hath heard him and awakened from sleep. And when
Kahuz was awake, he put his hand to his side. There hath he
found the knife that had smitten him through. SO TELLETH US
THE GRAAL, THE BOOK OF THE HOLY VESSEL. There the King
Arthur recovered his bounty and his valour when he had lost
all his chivalry and his virtue. From this country issued
forth the Wolf as saith Merlin the Wise, and the twelve
sharp teeth have we known by his shield. He bore a shield
indented as the heralds have devised. In the shield are
twelve teeth of gules and argent. By the Leopard may be
known and well understood King John, for he bore in his
shield the leopards of beaten gold." (7)
The story of Kahuz or Chaus here indicated by the historian is
told at length in the opening chapters of the present work and,
so far as is known, nowhere else. The inference is therefore
unavoidable that we have here "The Graal, the Book of the Holy
Vessel" to which the biographer of Fulke refers. The use,
moreover, of the definite article shows that the writer held this
book to be conclusive authority on the subject. By the time he
retold the story of Fulke, a whole library of Romances about
Perceval and the Holy Graal had been written, with some of which
it is hard to believe that any historian of the time was
unacquainted. He nevertheless distinguishes this particular
story as "The Graal", a way of speaking he would scarce have
adopted had he known of any other "Graals" of equal or nearly
Several years later, about 1280, the trouveur Sarrazin also cites
"The Graal" ("li Graaus") in the same manner, in superfluous
verification of the then-accepted truism that King Arthur was at
one time Lord of Great Britain. This appeal to "The Graal" as
the authority for a general belief shows that it was at that time
recognised as a well-spring of authentic knowledge; while the
fact that the trouveur was not confounding "The Graal" with the
later version of the story is further shown by his going on
presently to speak of "the Romance that Chrestien telleth so
fairly of Perceval the adventures of the Graal." (8)
Perhaps, however, the most striking testimony to the fact that
this work is none other than the original "Book of the Graal" is
to be found in the "Chronicle of Helinand", well known at the
time the Romance was written not only as a historian but as a
troubadour at one time in high favour at the court of Philip
Augustus, and in later years as one of the most ardent preachers
of the Albigensian Crusade. The passage, a part of which has
been often quoted, is inserted in the Chronicle under the year
720, and runs in English thus:
"At this time a certain marvellous vision was revealed by an
angel to a certain hermit in Britain concerning S. Joseph,
the decurion who deposed from the cross the Body of Our
Lord, as well as concerning the paten or dish in the which
Our Lord supped with His disciples, whereof the history was
written out by the said hermit and is called "Of the Graal"
(de Gradali). Now, a platter, broad and somewhat deep, is
called in French "gradalis" or "gradale", wherein costly
meats with their sauce are wont to be set before rich folk
by degrees ("gradatim") one morsel after another in divers
orders, and in the vulgar speech it is called "graalz", for
that it is grateful and acceptable to him that eateth
therein, as well for that which containeth the victual, for
that haply it is of silver or other precious material, as
for the contents thereof, to wit, the manifold courses of
costly meats. I have not been able to find this history
written in Latin, but it is in the possession of certain
noblemen written in French only, nor, as they say, can it
easily be found complete. This, however, I have not
hitherto been able to obtain from any person so as to read
it with attention. As soon as I can do so, I will translate
into Latin such passages as are more useful and more likely
to be true." (9)
A comparison of this passage with the Introduction to the present
work (10) leaves no doubt that Helinand here refers to this "Book
of the Graal", which cannot therefore be of a later date than
that at which he made this entry in his "Chronicle". At the same
time, the difficulty he experienced in obtaining even the loan of
the volume shows that the work had at that time been only lately
written, as in the course of a few years, copies of a book so
widely popular must have been comparatively common. The date,
therefore, at which Helinand's "Chronicle" was written determines
approximately that of the "Book of the Graal".
In its present state, the "Chronicle" comes to an end with a
notice of the capture of Constantinople by the French in 1204,
and it has been hastily assumed that Helinand's labours as a
chronicler must have closed in that year. As a matter of fact
they had not then even begun. At that time Helinand was still a
courtly troubadour, and had not yet entered on the monastic
career during which his "Chronicle" was compiled. He was
certainly living as late as 1229, and preached a sermon, which
assuredly shows no signs of mental decrepitude, in that year at a
synod in Toulouse. (11)
Fortunately a passage in the "Speculum Historiale" of Vincent of
Beauvais, himself a younger contemporary and probably a personal
acquaintance of Helinand, throws considerable light on the real
date of Helinand's "Chronicle". After recounting certain matters
connected with the early years of the thirteenth century, the
last date mentioned being 1209, Vincent proceeds: --
"In those times, in the diocese of Beauvais, was Helinand
monk of Froid-mont, a man religious and distinguished for
his eloquence, who also composed those verses on Death in
our vulgar tongue which are publicly read, so elegantly and
so usefully that the subject is laid open clearer than the
light. He also diligently digested into a certain huge
volume a Chronicle from the beginning of the world down to
his own time. But in truth this work was dissipated and
dispersed in such sort that it is nowhere to be found
entire. For it is reported that the said Helinand lent
certain sheets of the said work to one of his familiars, to
wit, Guarin, Lord Bishop of Senlis of good memory, and thus,
whether through forgetfulness or negligence or some other
cause, lost them altogether. From this work, however, as
far as I have been able to find it, I have inserted many
passages in this work of mine own also."
It will thus be seen that about 1209, Helinand became a monk at
Froid-mont, and it is exceedingly improbable that any portion of
his "Chronicle" was written before that date. On the other hand,
his `familiar' Guarin only became Bishop of Senlis in 1214, and
died in 1227, (12) so that it is certain Helinand wrote the last
part of his "Chronicle" not later than the last-mentioned year.
The limits of time, therefore, between which the "Chronicle" was
written are clearly circumscribed; and if it is impossible to
define the exact year in which this particular entry was made, it
is not, I fancy, beyond the legitimate bounds of critical
On the first page of the Romance, Helinand read that an Angel
had appeared to a certain hermit in Britain and revealed to him
the history of the Holy Graal. In transferring the record of
this event to his "Chronicle", he was compelled by the exigencies
of his system, which required the insertion of every event
recorded under some particular year, to assign a date to the
occurrence. A vague "five hundred years ago" would be likely to
suggest itself as an appropriate time at which the occurrence
might be supposed to have taken place; and if he were writing in
1220, the revelation to the hermit would thus naturally be
relegated to the year 720, the year under which the entry
actually appears. This, of course, is pure guesswork, but the
fact remains that the "Chronicle" was written in or about 1220,
and the "Book of the Graal" not long before it.
The name of the author is nowhere recorded. He may possibly be
referred to in the "Elucidation" prefixed to the rhymed version
of "Percival le Gallois" under the name of "Master Blihis", but
this vague and tantalising pseudonym affords no hint of his real
identity. (13) Whoever he may have been; I hope that I am not
misled by a translator's natural partiality for the author he
translates in assigning him a foremost rank among the masters of
medieval prose romance.
With these testimonies to its age and genuineness, I commend the
"Book of the Graal" to all who love to read of King Arthur and
his knights of the Table Round. They will find here printed in
English for the first time what I take to be in all good faith
the original story of Sir Perceval and the Holy Graal, whole and
incorrupt as it left the hands of its first author.
-- Sebastian Evans,
Coombe Lea, Bickley, Kent
(1) 6 vols. 8vo. Mons, 1866-1871.
(2) Marchal "Cat.", 2 vols. Brussels, 1842. Vol i.p. 223.
(3) Lausanne, 1759.
(4) 3 vols. 8vo. Berne, 1770, etc. Vol. ii., Introduc. viii.
and p. 389 et seq.
(5) Rigord. "Chron." 196, p. 288. Wm. le Breton, "Phil." xi.
547. See also Birch-Hirschfeld, "Die Gralsage", p. 143.
(6) 2 vols. 8vo. London, Richards, 1876-1892.
(7) "L'histoire de Foulkes Fitz-Warin". Ed. F. Michel, Paris,
1840; p. 110. Ed. T. Wright (Warton Club), London, 1855; p.
179. Ed. J. Stevenson ("Roll, Pub. Chron." of R.
Coggeshall), London, 1875; p. 412. The MS. containing the
history (MS. Reg. 12. c. XII.) was first privately printed
for the late Sir T. Duffus Hardy from a transcript by A.
(8) "Le Roman de Ham", in the Appendix to F. Michel's "Histoire
des Ducs de Normandie". Soc. de l'Hist. de France, 1840,
pp. 225, 230.
(9) Helinandi Op. Ed. Migne. "Patrol." Vol. ccxii. col. 814.
The former part of the passage is quoted with due
acknowledgment by Vincent of Beauvais, "Spec. Hist." B.
xxiii. c. 147. Vincent, however, spells the French word
"grail", and, by turning Helinand's "nec" into "nune", makes
him say that the French work can now easily be found
complete. Vincent finished his "Speculum Historialz in 1244
B. xxi. c. 105.
(10) Vol. i. p. 1, etc.
(11) Sermon xxvi., printed in Minge, u.s. col. 692. It has been
doubted whether this sermon, preached in the church of S.
Jacques, was addressed to the Council held at Toulouse in
1219, or to the one held in 1229, but a perusal of the
sermon itself decides the question. It is wholly irrelevant
to the topics discussed at the former gathering, while it is
one continued commentary on the business transacted at the
latter. See also Dom Brial, "Hist. Litt. de la France",
(12) "De Mas Latrie. Tres. de Chron.", col. 1488.
(13) Cf. Potvin, "P. le G." ii. 1 and 7, with vol. i. p. 131 and
vol. ii. p. 112 of the present work (See also the
Proceedings of the "Hon. Soc. of Cymmrodorion", 1908-9. Ed.)
THE HIGH HISTORY OF THE HOLY GRAAL
Hear ye the history of the most holy vessel that is called Graal,
wherein the precious blood of the Saviour was received on the day
that He was put on rood and crucified in order that He might
redeem His people from the pains of hell. Josephus set it in
remembrance by annunciation of the voice of an angel, for that
the truth might be known by his writing of good knights, and good
worshipful men how they were willing to suffer pain and to
travail for the setting forward of the Law of Jesus Christ, that
He willed to make new by His death and by His crucifixion.
The High Book of the Graal beginneth in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. These three Persons are
one substance, which is God, and of God moveth the High Story of
the Graal. And all they that hear it ought to understand it, and
to forget all the wickednesses that they have in their hearts.
For right profitable shall it be to all them that shall hear it
of the heart. For the sake of the worshipful men and good
knights of whose deeds shall remembrance be made, doth Josephus
recount this holy history, for the sake of the lineage of the
Good Knight that was after the crucifixion of Our Lord. Good
Knight was he without fail, for he was chaste and virgin of his
body and hardy of heart and puissant, and so were his conditions
without wickedness. Not boastful was he of speech, and it seemed
not by his cheer that he had so great courage; Natheless, of one
little word that he delayed to speak came to pass so sore
mischances in Greater Britain, that all the islands and all the
lands fell thereby into much sorrow, albeit thereafter he put
them back into gladness by the authority of his good knighthood.
Good knight was he of right, for he was of the lineage of Joseph
of Abarimacie. And this Joseph was his mother's uncle, that had
been a soldier of Pilate's seven years, nor asked he of him none
other guerdon of his service but only to take down the body of
Our Saviour from hanging on the cross. The boon him seemed full
great when it was granted him, and full little to Pilate seemed
the guerdon; for right well had Joseph served him, and had he
asked to have gold or land thereof, willingly would he have given
it to him. And for this did Pilate make him a gift of the
Saviour's body, for he supposed that Joseph should have dragged
the same shamefully through the city of Jerusalem when it had
been taken down from the cross, and should have left it without
the city in some mean place. But the Good Soldier had no mind
thereto, but rather honoured the body the most he might, rather
laid it along in the Holy Sepulchre and kept safe the lance
whereof He was smitten in the side and the most Holy Vessel
wherein they that believed on Him received with awe the blood
that ran down from His wounds when He was set upon the rood. Of
this lineage was the Good Knight for whose sake is this High
History treated. Yglais was his mother's name: King Fisherman
was his uncle, and the King of the Lower Folk that was named
Pelles, and the King that was named of the Castle Mortal, in whom
was there as much bad as there was good in the other twain, and
much good was there in them; and these three were his uncles on
the side of his mother Yglais, that was a right good Lady and a
loyal; and the Good Knight had one sister, that hight Dindrane.
He that was head of the lineage on his father's side was named
Nichodemus. Gais li Gros of the Hermit's Cross was father of
Alain li Gros. This Alain had eleven brethren, right good
knights, like as he was himself. And none of them all lived in
his knighthood but twelve years, and they all died in arms for
their great hardiment in setting forward of the Law that was made
new. There were twelve brethren. Alain li Gros was the eldest;
Gorgalians was next; Bruns Brandnils was the third; Bertholez 1i
Chauz the fourth; Brandalus of Wales was the fifth; Elinant of
Escavalon was the sixth; Calobrutus was the seventh; Meralis of
the Palace Meadow was the eighth; Fortunes of the Red Launde was
ninth; Melaarmaus of Abanie was the tenth; Galians of the White
Tower the eleventh; Alibans of the Waste City was the twelfth.
All these died in arms in the service of the Holy Prophet that
had renewed the Law by His death, and smote His enemies to the
uttermost of their power. Of these two manner of folk, whose
names and records you have heard, Josephus the good clerk telleth
us was come the Good Knight of whom you shall well hear the name
and the manner presently.
The authority of the scripture telleth us that after the
crucifixion of Our Lord, no earthly King set forward the Law of
Jesus Christ so much as did King Arthur of Britain, both by
himself and by the good knights that made repair to his court.
Good King Arthur after the crucifixion of Our Lord, was such as I
tell you, and was a puissant King, and one that well believed in
God, and many were the good adventures that befel at his court.
And he had in his court the Table Round that was garnished of the
best knights in the world. King Arthur after the death of his
father led the highest life and most gracious that ever king led,
in such sort that all the princes and all the barons took
ensample of him in well-doing. For ten years was King Arthur in
such estate as I have told you, nor never was earthly king so
praised as he, until that a slothful will came upon him and he
began to lose the pleasure in doing largesse that he wont to
have, nor was he minded to hold court neither at Christmas-tide
nor at Easter nor at Pentecost. The knights of the Table Round
when they saw his well-doing wax slack departed thence and began
to hold aloof from his court, insomuch as that of three hundred
and three-score knights and six that he wont to have of his
household, there were now not more than a five-and-twenty at
most, nor did no adventure befal any more at his court. All the
other princes had slackened of their well-doing for that they saw
King Arthur maintain so feebly. Queen Guenievre was so sorrowful
thereof that she knew not what counsel to take with herself, nor
how she might so deal as to amend matters so God amended them
not. From this time beginneth the history.
It was one Ascension Day that the King was at Cardoil. He was
risen from meat and went through the hall from one end to the
other, and looked and saw the Queen that was seated at a window.
The King went to sit beside her, and looked at her in the face
and saw that the tears were falling from her eyes.
"Lady," saith the King, "What aileth you, and wherefore do you
"Sir," saith she, "And I weep, good right have I; and you
yourself have little right to make joy."
"Certes, Lady, I do not."
"Sir," saith she, "You are right. I have seen on this high day,
or on other days that were not less high than this, when you have
had such throng of knights at your court that right uneath might
any number them. Now every day are so few therein that much
shame have I thereof, nor no more do no adventures befal therein.
Wherefore great fear have I lest God hath put you into
"Certes, Lady," saith the King, "No will have I to do largesse
nor aught that turneth to honour. Rather is my desire changed
into feebleness of heart. And by this know I well that I lose my
knights and the love of my friends."
"Sir," saith the Queen, "And were you to go to the chapel of S.
Augustine, that is in the White Forest, that may not be found
save by adventure only, methinketh that on your back-repair you
would again have your desire of well-doing, for never yet did
none discounselled ask counsel of God but he would give it for
love of him so he asked it of a good heart."
"Lady," saith the King, "And willingly will I go, forasmuch as
that you say have I heard well witnessed in many places where I
"Sir," saith she, "The place is right perilous and the chapel
right adventurous. But the most worshipful hermit that is in the
Kingdom of Wales hath his dwelling beside the chapel, nor liveth
he now any longer for nought save only the glory of God."
"Lady," saith the King, "It will behove me go thither all armed
and without knights."
"Sir," saith she, "You may well take with you one knight and a
"Lady," saith the King, "That durst not I, for the place is
perilous, and the more folk one should take thither, the fewer
adventures there should he find."
"Sir," saith she, "One squire shall you take by my good will nor
shall nought betide you thereof save good only, please God!"
"Lady," saith the King, "At your pleasure be it, but much dread I
that nought shall come of it save evil only."
Thereupon the King riseth up from beside the Queen, and looketh
before him and seeth a youth tall and strong and comely and
young, that was hight Chaus, and he was the son of Ywain li
"Lady," saith he to the Queen, "This one will I take with me and
you think well."
"Sir," saith she, "It pleaseth me well, for I have heard much
witness to his valour."
The King calleth the squire, and he cometh and kneeleth down
before him. The King maketh him rise and saith unto him,
"Chaus," saith he, "You shall lie within to-night, in this hall,
and take heed that my horse be saddled at break of day and mine
arms ready. For I would be moving at the time I tell you, and
yourself with me without more company."
"Sir," saith the squire, "At your pleasure."
And the evening drew on, and the King and Queen go to bed. When
they had eaten in hall, the knights went to their hostels. The
squire remained in the hall, but he would not do off his clothes
nor his shoon, for the night seemed him to be too short, and for
that he would fain be ready in the morning at the King's
commandment. The squire was lying down in such sort as I have
told you, and in the first sleep that he slept, seemed him the
King had gone without him. The squire was sore scared thereat,
and came to his hackney and set the saddle and bridle upon him,
and did on his spurs and girt on his sword, as it seemed him in
his sleep, and issued forth of the castle a great pace after the
King. And when he had ridden a long space he entered into a
great forest and looked in the way before him and saw the slot of
the King's horse and followed the track a long space, until that
he came to a launde of the forest whereat he thought that the
King had alighted. The squire thought that the hoof-marks on the
way had come to an end and so thought that the King had alighted
there or hard by there. He looketh to the right hand and seeth a
chapel in the midst of the launde, and he seeth about it a great
graveyard wherein were many coffins, as it seemed him. He
thought in his heart that he would go towards the chapel, for he
supposed that the King would have entered to pray there. He went
thitherward and alighted. When the squire was alighted, he tied
up his hackney and entered into the chapel. None did he see
there in one part nor another, save a knight that lay dead in the
midst of the chapel upon a bier, and he was covered of a rich
cloth of silk, and had around him waxen tapers burning that were
fixed in four candlesticks of gold. This squire marvelled much
how this body was left there so lonely, insomuch that none were
about him save only the images, and yet more marvelled he of the
King that he found him not, for he knew not in what part to seek
him. He taketh out one of the tall tapers, and layeth hand on
the golden candlestick, and setteth it betwixt his hose and his
thigh and issueth forth of the chapel, and remounteth on his
hackney and goeth his way back and passeth beyond the grave-yard
and issueth forth of the launde and entereth into the forest and
thinketh that he will not cease until he hath found the King.
So, as he entereth into a grassy lane in the wood, he seeth come
before him a man black and foul-favoured, and he was somewhat
taller afoot than was himself a-horseback. And he held a great
sharp knife in his hand with two edges as it seemed him. The
squire cometh over against him a great pace and saith unto him,
"You, that come there, have you met King Arthur in this forest?"
"In no wise," saith the messenger, "But you have I met, whereof
am I right glad at heart, for you have departed from the chapel
as a thief and a traitor. For you are carrying off thence the
candlestick of gold that was in honour of the knight that lieth
in the chapel dead. Wherefore I will that you yield it up to me
and so will I carry it back, otherwise, and you do not this, you
do I defy!"
"By my faith," saith the squire, "Never will I yield it you!
rather will I carry it off and make a present thereof to King
"By my faith," saith the other, "Right dearly shall you pay for
it, and you yield it not up forthwith."
Howbeit, the squire smiteth with his spurs and thinketh to pass
him by, but the other hasteth him, and smiteth the squire in the
left side with the knife and thrusteth it into his body up to the
haft. The squire, that lay in the hall at Cardoil, and had
dreamed this, awoke and cried in a loud voice: "Holy Mary! The
priest! Help! Help, for I am a dead man!"
The King and the Queen heard the cry, and the chamberlain leapt
up and said to the King: "sir, you may well be moving, for it is
The King made him be clad and shod. And the squire crieth with
such strength as he hath: "Fetch me the priest, for I die!"
The King goeth thither as fast as he may, and the Queen and the
chamberlain carry great torches and candles. The King asketh him
what aileth him, and he telleth him all in such wise as he had
dreamed it. "Ha," saith the King, "Is it then a dream?"
"Yea, sir," saith he, "But a right foul dream it is for me, for
right foully hath it come true!" He lifted his left arm. "Sir,"
saith he, "Look you there! Lo, here is the knife that was run
into my side up to the haft!" After that, he setteth his hand to
his hose where the candlestick was. He draweth it forth and
showeth it to the King. "Sir," saith he, "For this candlestick
that I present to you, am I wounded to the death!"
The King taketh the candlestick, and looketh thereat in
wonderment for none so rich had he never seen tofore. The King
showeth it to the Queen. "Sir," saith the squire, "Draw not
forth the knife of my body until that I be shriven."
The King sent for one of his own chaplains that made the squire
confess and do his houselling right well. The King himself
draweth forth the knife of the body, and the soul departed
forthwith. The King made do his service right richly and his
shrouding and burial. Ywain li Aoutres that was father to the
squire was right sorrowful of the death of his son. King Arthur,
with the good will of Ywain his father, gave the candlestick to
S. Paul in London, for the church was newly founded, and the King
wished that this marvellous adventure should everywhere be known,
and that prayer should be made in the church for the soul of the
squire that was slain on account of the candlestick.
King Arthur armed himself in the morning, as I told you and began
to tell, to go to the chapel of S. Augustine. Said the Queen to
him. "Whom will you take with you?"
"Lady," saith he, "No company will I have thither, save God only,
for well may you understand by this adventure that hath befallen,
that God will not allow I should have none with me."
"Sir," saith she, "God be guard of your body, and grant you
return safely so as that you may have the will to do well,
whereby shall your praise be lifted up that is now sore cast
"Lady," saith he, "May God remember it."
His destrier was brought to the mounting-stage, and the King
mounted thereon all armed. Messire Ywain li Aoutres lent him his
shield and spear. When the King had hung the shield at his neck
and held the spear in his hand, sword-girt, on the tall destrier
armed, well seemed he in the make of his body and in his bearing
to be a knight of great pith and hardiment. He planteth himself
so stiffly in the stirrups that he maketh the saddlebows creak
again and the destrier stagger under him that was right stout and
swift, and he smiteth him of his spurs, and the horse maketh
answer with a great leap. The Queen was at the windows of the
hall, and as many as five-and-twenty knights were all come to the
mounting-stage. When the King departed, "Lords," saith the
Queen, "How seemeth you of the King? Seemeth he not a goodly
"Yea, certes, Lady, and sore loss is it to the world that he
followeth not out his good beginning, for no king nor prince is
known better learned of all courtesy nor of all largesse than he,
so he would do like as he was wont." With that the knights hold
their peace, and King Arthur goeth away a great pace. And he
entereth into a great forest adventurous, and rideth the day long
until he cometh about evensong into the thick of the forest. And
he espied a little house beside a little chapel, and it well
seemed him to be a hermitage. King Arthur rode thitherward and
alighteth before this little house, and entereth thereinto and
draweth his horse after him, that had much pains to enter in at
the door, and laid his spear down on the ground and leant his
shield against the wall, and hath ungirded his sword and unlaced
his ventail. He looked before him and saw barley and provender,
and so led his horse thither and smote off his bridle, and
afterwards hath shut the door of the little house and locked it.
And it seemed him that there was a strife in the chapel. The
ones were weeping so tenderly and sweetly as it were angels, and
the other spake so harshly as it were fiends. The King heard
such voices in the chapel and marvelled much what it might be.
He findeth a door in the little house that openeth on a little
cloister whereby one goeth to the chapel. The King is gone
thither and entereth into the little minster, and looketh
everywhere but seeth nought there, save the images and the
crucifixes. And he supposeth not that the strife of these voices
cometh of them. The voices ceased as soon as he was within. He
marvelleth how it came that this house and hermitage were
solitary, and what had become of the hermit that dwelt therein.
He drew nigh the altar of the chapel and beheld in front thereof
a coffin all discovered, and he saw the hermit lying therein all
clad in his vestments, and seeth the long beard down to his
girdle, and his hands crossed upon his breast. There was a cross
above him, whereof the image came as far as his mouth, and he had
life in him yet, but he was nigh his end, being at the point of
death. The King was before the coffin a long space, and looked
right fainly on the hermit, for well it seemed him that he had
been of a good life. The night was fully come, but within was a
brightness of light as if a score of candles were lighted. He
had a mind to abide there until that the good man should have
passed away. He would fain have sate him down before the coffin,
when a voice warned him right horribly to begone thence, for that
it was desired to make a judgment within there, that might not be
made so long as he were there. The King departed, that would
willingly have remained there, and so returned back into the
little house, and sate him down on a seat whereon the hermit wont
to sir. And he heareth the strife and the noise begin again
within the chapel, and the ones he heareth speaking high and the
others low, and he knoweth well by the voices, that the ones are
angels and the others devils. And he heareth that the devils are
distraining on the hermit's soul, and that judgment will
presently be given in their favour, whereof make they great joy.
King Arthur is grieved in his heart when he heareth that the
angels' voices are stilled. The King is so heavy, that no desire
hath he neither to eat nor to drink. And while he sitteth thus,
stooping his head toward the ground, full of vexation and
discontent, he heareth in the chapel the voice of a Lady that
spake so sweet and clear, that no man in this earthly world, were
his grief and heaviness never so sore, but and he had heard the
sweet voice of her pleading would again have been in joy. She
saith to the devils: "Begone from hence, for no right have ye
over the soul of this good man, whatsoever he may have done
aforetime, for in my Son's service and mine own is he taken, and
his penance hath he done in this hermitage of the sins that he
"True, Lady," say the devils, "But longer had he served us than
he hath served you and your Son. For forty years or more hath he
been a murderer and robber in this forest, whereas in this
hermitage but five years hath he been. And now you Wish to
thieve him from us."
"I do not. No wish have I to take him from you by theft, for had
he been taken in your service in suchwise as he hath been taken
in mine, yours would he have been, all quit."
The devils go their way all discomfit and aggrieved; and the
sweet Mother of our Lord God taketh the soul of the hermit, that
was departed of his body, and so commendeth it to the angels and
archangels that they make present thereof to Her dear Son in
Paradise. And the angels take it and begin to sing for joy "Te
Deum laudamus". And the Holy Lady leadeth them and goeth her way
along with them. Josephus maketh remembrance of this history and
telleth us that this worthy man was named Calixtus.
King Arthur was in the little house beside the chapel, and had
heard the voice of the sweet Mother of God and the angels. Great
joy had he, and was right glad of the good man's soul that was
borne thence into Paradise. The King had slept right little the
night and was all armed. He saw the day break clear and fair,
and goeth his way toward the chapel to cry God mercy, thinking to
find the coffin discovered there where the hermit lay; but so did
he not! Rather, was it covered of the richest tomb-stone that
any might ever see, and had on the top a red cross, and seemed it
that the chapel was all incensed. When the King had made his
orison therein, he cometh back again and setteth on his bridle
and saddle and mounteth, and taketh his shield and spear and
departeth from the little house and entereth into the forest and
rideth a great pace, until he cometh at right hour of tierce to
one of the fairest laundes that ever a man might see. And he
seeth at the entrance a spear set bar-wise, and looketh to the
right or ever he should enter therein, and seeth a damsel sitting
under a great leafy tree, and she held the reins of her mule in
her hand. The damsel was of great beauty and full seemly clad.
The King turneth thitherward and so saluteth her and saith:
"Damsel," saith he, "God give you joy and good adventure."
"Sir," saith she, "So may He do to you!"
"Damsel," saith the King, "Is there no hold in this launde?"
"Sir," saith the damsel, "No hold is there save a most holy
chapel and a hermit that is beside S. Augustine's chapel."
"Is this then S. Augustine's chapel?" saith the King.
"Yea, Sir, I tell it you for true, but the launde and the forest
about is so perilous that no knight returneth thence but he be
dead or wounded; but the place of the chapel is of so great
worthiness that none goeth thither, be he never so discounselled,
but he cometh back counselled, so he may thence return on live.
And Lord God be guard of your body, for never yet saw I none
aforetime that seemed more like to be good knight, and sore pity
would it be and you were not, and never more shall I depart me
hence and I shall have seen your end."
"Damsel," saith the King, "Please God, you shall see me repair
"Certes," saith the damsel, "Thereof should I be! right fain,
for then should I ask you tidings at leisure of him that I am
The King goeth to the bar whereby one entereth into the launde,
and looketh to the right into a combe of the forest and seeth the
chapel of S. Augustine and the right fair hermitage. Thitherward
goeth he and alighteth, and it seemeth him that the hermit is
apparelled to sing the mass. He reineth up his horse to the
bough of a tree by the side of the chapel and thinketh to enter
thereinto, but, had it been to conquer all the kingdoms of the
world, thereinto might he not enter, albeit there was none made
him denial thereof, for the door was open and none saw he that
might forbid him. Sore ashamed is the King thereof. Howbeit, he
beholdeth an image of Our Lord that was there within and crieth
Him of mercy right sweetly, and looketh toward the altar. And he
looketh at the holy hermit that was robed to sing mass and said
his "Confiteor", and seeth at his right hand the fairest Child
that ever he had seen, and He was clad in an alb and had a golden
crown on his head loaded with precious stones that gave out a
full great brightness of light. On the left hand side, was a
Lady so fair that all the beauties of the world might not compare
them with her beauty. When the holy hermit had said his
"Confiteor" and went to the altar, the Lady also took her Son and
went to sit on the right hand side towards the altar upon a right
rich chair and set her Son upon her knees and began to kiss Him
full sweetly and saith: "Sir," saith she, "You are my Father and
my Son and my Lord, and guardian of me and of all the world."
King Arthur heareth the words and seeth the beauty of the Lady
and of the Child, and marvelleth much of this that She should
call Him her Father and her Son. He looketh at a window behind
the altar and seeth a flame come through at the very instant that
mass was begun, clearer than any ray of sun nor moon nor star,
and evermore it threw forth a brightness of light such that and
all the lights in the world had been together it would not have
been the like. And it is come down upon the altar. King Arthur
seeth it who marvelleth him much thereof. But sore it irketh him
of this that he may not enter therewithin, and he heareth, there
where the holy hermit was singing the mass, right fair responses,
and they seem him to be the responses of angels. And when the
Holy Gospel was read, King Arthur looked toward the altar and saw
that the Lady took her Child and offered Him into the hands of
the holy hermit, but of this King Arthur made much marvel, that
the holy hermit washed not his hands when he had received the
offering. Right sore did King Arthur marvel him thereof, but
little right would he have had to marvel had he known the reason.
And when the Child was offered him, he set Him upon the altar and
thereafter began his sacrament. And King Arthur set him on his
knees before the chapel and began to pray to God and to beat his
breast. And he looked toward the altar after the preface, and it
seemed him that the holy hermit held between his hands a man
bleeding from His side and in His palms and in His feet, and
crowned with thorns, and he seeth Him in His own figure. And
when he had looked on Him so long and knoweth not what is become
of Him, the King hath pity of Him in his heart of this that he
had seen, and the tears of his heart come into his eyes. And he
looketh toward the altar and thinketh to see the figure of the
man, and seeth that it is changed into the shape of the Child
that he had seen tofore.
When the mass was sung, the voice of a holy angel said "Ite,
missa est". The Son took the Mother by the hand, and they
evanished forth of the chapel with the greatest company and the
fairest that might ever be seen. The flame that was come down
through the window went away with this company. When the hermit
had done his service and was divested of the arms of God, he went
to King Arthur that was still without the chapel. "Sir," saith
he to the King, "Now may you well enter herein and well might you
have been joyous in your heart had you deserved so much as that
you might have come in at the beginning of the mass."
King Arthur entered into the chapel without any hindrance.
"Sir," saith the hermit to the King, "I know you well, as did I
also King Uther Pendragon your father. On account of your sins
and your deserts might you not enter here while mass was being
sung. Nor will you to-morrow, save you shall first have made
amends of that you have misdone towards God and towards the saint
that is worshipped herewithin. For you are the richest King of
the world and the most adventurous, wherefore ought all the world
to take ensample of you in well-doing and in largesse and in
honour; whereas you are now an ensample of evil-doing to all rich
worshipful men that be now in the world. Wherefore shall right
sore mishap betide you and you set nor back your doing to the
point whereat you began. For your court was the sovran of all
courts and the most adventurous, whereas now is it least of
worth. Well may he be sorry that goeth from honour to shame, but
never may he have reproach that shall do him ill, that cometh
from shame to honour, for the honour wherein he is found rescueth
him to God, but blame may never rescue the man that hath
renounced honour for shame, for the shame and wickedness wherein
he is found declare him guilty."
"Sir," saith King Arthur, "To amend me have I come hither, and to
be better counselled than I have been. Well do I see that the
place is most holy, and I beseech you that you pray God that He
counsel me and I will do my endeavour herein to amend me."
"God grant you may amend your life," saith the holy hermit, "in
such sort that you may help to do away the evil Law and to exalt
the Law that is made new by the crucifixion of the Holy Prophet.
But a great sorrow is befallen in the land of late through a
young knight that was harboured in the hostel of the rich King
Fisherman, for that the most Holy Graal appeared to him and the
Lance whereof the point runneth of blood, yet never asked he to
whom was served thereof nor whence it came, and for that he asked
it not are all the lands commoved to war, nor no knight meeteth
other in the forest but he runneth upon him and slayeth him and
he may, and you yourself shall well perceive thereof or ever you
shall depart of this launde."
"Sir," saith King Arthur, "God defend me from the anguish of an
evil death and from wickedness, for hither have I come for none
other thing but to amend my life, and this will I do, so God
bring me back in safety."
"Truly," saith the hermit, "He that hath been bad for three years
out of forty, he hath not been wholly good."
"Sir," saith the King, "You speak truth."
The hermit departeth and so commendeth him to God. The King
cometh to his horse and mounteth the speediest that ever he may,
and setteth his shield on his neck, and taketh his spear in his
hand and turneth him back a great pace. Howbeit, he had not gone
a bowshot's length when he saw a knight coming disorderly against
him, and he sate upon a great black horse and he had a shield of
the same and a spear. And the spear was somewhat thick near the
point and burned with a great flame, foul and hideous, and the
flame came down as far as over the knight's fist. He setteth his
spear in rest and thinketh to smite the King, but the King
swerveth aside and the other passeth beyond. "Sir knight,
wherefor hate you me?"
"Of right ought I not to love you," saith the knight.
"Wherefore?" saith the King.
"For this, that you have had my brother's candlestick that was
foully stolen from him!"
"Know you then who I am?" saith the King.
"Yea," saith the knight; "You are the King Arthur that aforetime
were good and now are evil. Wherefore I defy you as my mortal
He draweth him back so that his onset may be the weightier. The
King seeth that he may not depart without a stour. He setteth
his spear in rest when he seeth the other come towards him with
his own spear all burning. The King smiteth his horse with his
spurs as hard as he may, and meeteth the knight with his spear
and the knight him. And they melled together so stoutly that the
spears bent without breaking, and both twain are shifted in their
saddles and lose their stirrups. They hurtle so strongly either
against other of their bodies and their horses that their eyes
sparkle as of stars in their heads and the blood rayeth out of
King Arthur by mouth and nose. Either draweth away from other
and they take their breath. The King looketh at the Black
Knight's spear that burneth, and marvelleth him right sore that
it is not snapped in flinders of the great buffet he had received
thereof, and him thinketh rather that it is a devil and a fiend.
The Black Knight is not minded to let King Arthur go so soon, but
rather cometh toward him a great career. The King seeth him come
toward him and so covereth him of his shield for fear of the
flame. The King receiveth him on the point of his spear and
smiteth him with so sore a shock that he maketh him bend backward
over his horse croup. The other, that was of great might,
leapeth back into the saddle-bows and smiteth the King upon the
boss of his shield so that the burning point pierceth the shield
and the sleeve of his habergeon and runneth the sharp iron into
his arm. The King feeleth the wound and the heat, whereof is he
filled with great wrath, and the knight draweth back his spear to
him, and hath great joy at heart when he feeleth the King
wounded. The King was rejoiced not a whit, and looked at the
spear that was quenched thereof and burned no longer.
"Sir," saith the knight,"I cry you mercy. Never would my spear
have been quenched of its burning, save it were bathed in your
"Now may never God help me," saith King Arthur, "whenever I shall
have mercy on you, and I may achieve!"
He pricketh towards him a great run, and smiteth him in the broad
of the breast and thrusted his spear half an ell into his body,
and beareth him to the ground, both him and his horse all in a
heap, and draweth his spear back to him and looketh at the knight
that lay as dead and leaveth him in the launde, and draweth him
towards the issue incontinent. And so as the King went, he heard
a great clashing of knights coming right amidst the forest, so as
it seemed there were a good score or more of them, and he seeth
them enter the launde from the forest, armed and well horsed.
And they come with great ado toward the knight that lay dead in
the midst of the launde. King Arthur was about to issue forth,
when the damsel that he had left under the tree cometh forward to
"Sir," saith she, "For God's sake, return back and fetch me the
head of the knight that lieth there dead."
The King looketh back, and seeth the great peril and the
multitude of knights that are there all armed. "Ha, damsel,"
saith he, "You are minded to slay me."
"Certes, Sir, that I am not, but sore need will there be that I
should have it, nor never did knight refuse to do the thing I
asked nor deny me any boon I demanded of him. Now God grant you
be not the most churlish."
"Ha, damsel, I am right sore wounded in the arm whereon I hold my
"Sir," saith she, "I know it well, nor never may you be heal
thereof save you bring me the head of the knight."
"Damsel," he saith, "I will essay it whatsoever may befal me
King Arthur looketh amidst the launde and seeth that they that
have come thither have cut the knight to pieces limb by limb, and
that each is carrying off a foot or a thigh or an arm or a hand
and are dispersing them through the forest. And he seeth that
the last knight beareth on the point of his spear the head. The
King goeth after him a great gallop and crieth out to him: "Ha,
Sir knight, abide and speak to me!"
"What is your pleasure?" saith the knight.
"Fair Sir," saith the King, "I beseech you of all loves that you
deign to give me the head of this knight that you are carrying on
the point of your lance."
"I will give it you," saith the knight, "on condition."
"What condition?" saith the King.
"That you tell me who slew the knight whose head I carry that you
ask of me."
"May I not otherwise have it?" saith the King.
"In no wise," saith he.
"Then will I tell you," saith the King. "Know of a very truth
that King Arthur slew him."
"And where is he?" saith the knight.
"Seek him until you shall have found him," saith King Arthur,
"For I have told you the truth thereof. Give me the head."
"Willingly," saith the knight. He lowereth his spear and the
King taketh the head. The knight had a horn at his neck. He
setteth it to his mouth and soundeth a blast right loud. The
knights that were set within the forest hear the horn and return
back a great gallop, and King Arthur goeth his way toward the
oak-tree at the issue of the launde where the damsel is awaiting
him. And the knights come presently to him that had given the
head to the King and ask him wherefore he hath sounded the horn.
"For this," saith he, "That this knight that is going away yonder
hath told me that King Arthur slew the Black Knight, and I was
minded you should know it that we may follow him."
"We will not follow him," say the knights, "For it is King Arthur
himself that is carrying off the head, and no power have we to do
evil to him nor other sith that he hath passed the bar. But you
shall aby it that let him go when he was so nigh you!"
They rush in upon him and slay him and cut him up, and each one
carrieth off his piece the same as they had done with the other.
King Arthur is issued forth of the bar, and cometh to the maiden
that is waiting for him and presenteth her the head.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "Gramercy."
"Damsel," saith he, "With a good will!"
"Sir," saith the damsel, "You may well alight, for nought have
you to fear on this side the bar." With that, the King
"Sir," saith she, "Do off your habergeon heedfully and I will
bind up the wound in your arm, for of none may you be made whole
save of me only."
The King doeth off his habergeon, and the damsel taketh of the
blood of the knight's head that still ran all warm, and therewith
washeth King Arthur his wound, and thereafter maketh him do on
his habergeon again.
"Sir," saith she, "Never would you have been whole save by the
blood of this Black Knight. And for this carried they off the
body piecemeal and the head, for that they well knew you were
wounded; and of the head shall I have right sore need, for
thereby shall a castle be yielded up to me that was reft from
me by treason, so I may find the knight that I go seek, through
whom it ought to be yielded up to me."
"Damsel," saith the King, "And who is the knight?"
"Sir," saith she, "He was the son of Alain li Gros of the Valleys
of Camelot, and is named Perlesvax."
"Wherefore Perlesvax?" saith the King.
"Sir," saith she, "When he was born, his father was asked how he
should be named in right baptism, and he said that he would he
should have the name Perlesvax, for the Lord of the Moors had
reft him of the greater part of the Valleys of Camelot, and
therefore he would that his son should by this name be reminded
thereof, and God should so multiply him as that he should be
knight. The lad was right comely and right gentle and began to
go by the forests and launch his javelins, Welsh-fashion, at hart
and hind. His father and his mother loved him much, and one day
they were come forth of their hold, whereunto the forest was
close anigh, to enjoy them. Now, there was between the hold and
the forest, an exceeding small chapel that stood upon four
columns of marble; and it was roofed of timber and had a little
altar within, and before the altar a right fair coffin, and
thereupon was the figure of a man graven. Sir," saith the damsel
to the King, "The lad asked his father and mother what man lay
within the coffin. The father answered: `Fair son,' saith he,
`Certes, I know not to tell you, for the tomb hath been here or
ever that my father's father was born, and never have I heard
tell of none that might know who it is therein, save only that
the letters that are on the coffin say that when the Best Knight
in the world shall come hither the coffin will open and the
joinings all fall asunder, and then will it be seen who it is
that lieth therein.'"
"Damsel," saith the King, "Have many knights passed thereby
sithence that the coffin was set there?"
"Yea, sir, so many that neither I nor none other may tell the
number. Yet natheless hath not the coffin removed itself for
none. When the lad heareth his father and mother talking thus,
he asketh what a knight may be? `Fair son,' saith his mother,
`Of right ought you well to know by your lineage.' She telleth
the lad that he had eleven uncles on his father's side that had
all been slain in arms, and not one of them lived knight but
twelve years. Sir," saith she to the King, "The lad made answer
that this was nor that he had asked, but how knights were made?
And the father answered that they were such as had more valour
than any other in the world. After that he said, `Fair son, they
are clad in habergeons of iron to protect their bodies, and helms
laced upon their heads, and shields and spears and swords girded
wherewithal to defend their bodies.'"
"Sir," saith the damsel to the King, "When that the father had
thus spoken to the lad, they returned together to the castle.
When the morrow morning came, the lad arose and heard the birds
sing and bethought him that he would go for disport into the
forest for the day sith that it was fair. So he mounted on one
of his father's horses of the chase and carried his javelins
Welshman-fashion and went into the forest and found a stag and
followed him a good four leagues Welsh, until that he came into a
launde and found two knights all armed that were there doing
battle, and the one had a red shield and the other a white. He
left of tracking the stag to look on at the melly and saw that
the Red Knight was conquering the White. He launched one of his
javelins at the Red Knight so hard that he pierced his habergeon
and made it pass through the heart. The knight fell dead.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "The knight of the white shield made
great joy thereof, and the lad asked him, `were knights so easy
to slay? Methought,' saith the lad, `that none might never
pierce nor damage a knight's armour, otherwise would I not have
run him through with my javelin,' saith the lad. Sir, the lad
brought the destrier home to his father and mother, and right
grieved were they when they heard the tidings of the knight he
had slain. And right were they, for thereof did sore trouble
come to them thereafter. Sir, the squire departed from the house
of his father and mother and came to the court of King Arthur.
Right gladly did the King make him knight when he knew his will,
and afterward he departed from the land and went to seek
adventure in every kingdom. Now is he the Best Knight that is in
the world. So go I to seek him, and full great joy shall I have
at heart and I may find him. Sir, and you should meet him by any
adventure in any of these forests, he beareth a red shield with a
white hart. And so tell him that his father is dead, and that
his mother will lose all her land so he come not to succour her;
and that the brother of the knight of the Red shield that he slew
in the forest with his javelin warreth upon her with the Lord
of the Moors."
"Damsel," saith the King, "And God grant me to meet him, right
fain shall I be thereof, and right well will I set forth your
"Sir," saith she, "Now that I have told you him that I seek, it
is your turn to tell me your name."
"Damsel," saith the King, "Willingly. They that know me call me
"Arthur? Have you indeed such name?"
"Yea, damsel," saith he.
"So help me God," saith she, "Now am I sorrier for you than
tofore, for you have the name of the worst King in the world, and
I would that he were here in such sort as you are now. But never
again will he move from Cardoil, do what he may, such dread hath
the Queen lest any should take him from her, according as I have
heard witness, for never saw I neither the one nor the other. I
was moved to go to his court, but I have met full a score knights
one after other, of whom I asked concerning him, and one told me
the same tale as another, for each told me that the court of King
Arthur is the vilest in the world, and that all the knights of
the Table Round have renounced it for the badness thereof."
"Damsel," saith the King, "Hereof may he well be sorry, but at
the beginning I have heard say he did right well."
"And who careth," saith the damsel, "for his good beginning when
the end is bad? And much it misliketh me that so seemly knight
and so worshipful man as are you should have the name of so evil
"Damsel," saith the King, "A man is not good by his name, but by
"You say true," saith the damsel, "But for the King's name have I
despite of yours. And whitherward are you going?"
"I shall go to Cardoil, where I shall find King Arthur when I
shall come thither."
"Go to, then, and bestir!" saith she.
"One bad man with another! No better hope have I of you, sith
that you go thither!"
"Damsel, you may say your pleasure, for thither I go! God be
"And may never God guide you," saith she, "and you go the court
of King Arthur!"
With that the King mounted again and departed, and left the
damsel under the tree and entered into the deep forest and rode
with much ado as fast as he might to come to Cardoil. And he had
ridden a good ten leagues Welsh when he heard a Voice in the
thick of the forest that began to cry aloud: "King Arthur of
Great Britain, right glad at heart mayst thou be of this that God
hath sent me hither unto thee. And so He biddeth thee that thou
hold court at the earliest thou mayst, for the world, that is now
made worse of thee and of thy slackness in well-doing, shall
thereof be greatly amended!"
With that the Voice is silent, and the King was right joyous in
his heart of that he had heard. The story speaketh no more here
of other adventure that befel King Arthur in his returning nor on
his arriving. Anyway, he hath ridden so long that he is come
back to Cardoil. The Queen and the knights made great feast of
him and great joy. The King was alighted on the mounting-stage
and went up into the hall and made him be disarmed. And he
showed the Queen the wound that he had on his arm, that had been
right great and painful, but it was healing full fairly. The
King goeth into the chamber and the Queen with him, and doeth the
King be apparelled in a robe of cloth of silk all furred of
ermine, with coat, surcoat and mantle.
"Sir," saith the Queen, "Sore pain and travail have you had."
"Lady, in such wise behoveth worshipful man to suffer in order
that he may have honour, for hardly shall none without travail
come to honour." He recounteth to the Queen all the adventures
that have befallen him sithence that he was departed, and in what
manner he was wounded in the arm, and of the damsel that had so
blamed him of his name.
"Sir," saith the queen, "Now may you well know how meet it is
that a man high and rich and puissant should have great shame of
himself when he becometh evil."
"Lady," saith the King, "So much did the damsel do me well to
wot, but greatly did a Voice recomfort me that I heard in the
forest, for it told me that God bade me hold court presently, and
that I shall see there the fairest adventure befal that ever I
"Sir," saith she, "Right joyous ought you to be that your Saviour
hath had you in remembrance. Now, therefore, fulfil His
"Certes, Lady, so will I do. For never had none better desire of
well-doing than have I as at this time, nor of honour nor of
"Sir," saith she, "God be praised thereof."
Now beginneth here the second branch of the Holy Graal the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
King Arthur was at Cardoil with the Queen and right few knights.
By God's pleasure, the wish and the will had come back to him to
win honour and to do largesse as most he might. He made seal his
letters and sent them throughout all his lands and all the
islands, and gave notice to the barons and knights that he would
hold court at Pannenoisance, that is situate the sea of Wales, at
the feast of S. John after Whitsuntide. And he was minded to put
it off until that day, for that suntide was already too nigh, and
they that should be thereat might not all come by the earlier
day. The tidings went through all lands, so that knights come in
great plenty thereunto, for well-doing had so waxed feeble in all
the kingdoms, that every one had avoided King Arthur as one that
should do nought more for ever. Wherefore all began now to
marvel whence his new desire had come. The knights of the Table
Round that were scattered through the lands and the forests, by
God's will learnt the tidings and right great joy had they
thereof, and came back to the court with great ado. But neither
Messire Gawain nor Lancelot came thither on that day. But all
the other came that were then on live. S. John's day came, and
the knights were come from all parts, marvelling much that the
King had not held the court at Whitsuntide, but they knew not the
occasion thereof. The day was fair and clear and the air fresh,
and the hall was wide and high and garnished of good knights in
great plenty. The cloths were spread on the tables whereof were
great plenty in the hall. The King and the Queen had washen and
went to sit at the head of one table and the other knights sate
them down, whereof were full five score and five as the story
telleth. Kay the Seneschal and Messire Ywain the son of King
Urien served that day at the tables at meat, and five-and-twenty
knights beside. And Lucan the Butler served the golden cup
before the King. The sun shone through the windows everywhere
amidst the hall that was strown of flowers and rushes and sweet
herbs and gave out a smell like as had it been sprinkled of balm.
And straightway after the first meat had been served, and while
they were yet awaiting the second, behold you three damsels where
they enter into the hall! She that came first sate upon a mule
white as driven snow and had a golden bridle and a saddle with a
bow of ivory banded with precious stones and a saddle-cloth of a
red samite dropped of gold. The damsel that was seated on the
mule was right seemly of body but scarce so fair of face, and she
was robed in a rich cloth of silk and gold and had a right rich
hat that covered all her head. And it was all loaded of costly
stones that flamed like fire. And great need had she that her
head were covered, for she was all bald without hair, and carried
on her neck her right arm slung in a stole of cloth of gold. And
her arm lay on a pillow, the richest that ever might be seen, and
it was all charged of little golden bells, and in this hand held
she the head of a King sealed in silver and crowned with gold.
The other damsel that came behind rode after the fashion of a
squire, and carried a pack trussed behind her with a brachet
thereupon, and at her neck she bore a shield banded argent and
azure with a red cross, and the boss was of gold all set with
precious stones. The third damsel came afoot with her kirtle
tucked up like a running footman; and she had in her hand a whip
wherewith she drove the two steeds. Each of these twain was
fairer than the first, but the one afoot surpassed both the
others in beauty. The first cometh before the King, there where
he sitteth at meat with the Queen.
"Sir," saith she, "The Saviour of the world grant you honour and
joy and good adventure and my Lady the Queen and all them of this
hall for love of you! Hold it not churlishness and I alight not,
for there where knights be may I not alight, nor ought I until
such time as the Graal be achieved."
"Damsel," saith the King, "Gladly would I have it so."
"Sir," saith she, "That know I well, and may it not mislike you
to hear the errand whereon I am come,"
"It shall not mislike me," saith the King, "say your pleasure!"
"Sir," saith she, "The shield that this damsel beareth belonged
to Joseph, the good soldier knight that took down Our Lord of
hanging on the rood. I make you a present thereof in such wise
as I shall tell you, to wit, that you keep the shield for a
knight that shall come hither for the same, and you shall make
hang it on this column in the midst of your hall, and guard it in
such wise as that none may take it and hang at his neck save he
only. And of this shield shall he achieve the Graal, and another
shield shall he leave here in the hall, red, with a white hart;
and the brachet that the damsel carrieth shall here remain, and
little joy will the brachet make until the knight shall come."
"Damsel," saith the King, "The shield and the brachet will we
keep full safely, and right heartily we thank you that you have
deigned to bring them hither."
"Sir," saith the damsel, "I have not yet told you all that I have
in charge to deliver. The best King that liveth on earth and the
most loyal and the most righteous, sendeth you greeting; of whom
is sore sorrow for that he hath fallen into a grievous
"Damsel," saith the King, "Sore pity is it and it be so as you
say; and I pray you tell me who is the King?"
"Sir," saith she, "It is rich King Fisherman, of whom is great
"Damsel," saith the King, "You say true; and God grant him his
"Sir," saith she, "Know you wherefore he hath fallen into
"Nay, I know not at all, but gladly would I learn."
"And I will tell you," saith she. "This languishment is come
upon him through one that harboured in his hostel, to whom the
most Holy Graal appeared. And, for that he would not ask unto
whom one served thereof, were all the lands commoved to war
thereby, nor never thereafter might knight meet other but he
should fight with him in arms without none other occasion. You
yourself may well perceive the same, for your well-doing hath
greatly slackened, whereof have you had much blame, and all the
other barons that by you have taken ensample, for you are the
mirror of the world alike in well-doing and in evil-doing. Sir,
I myself have good right to plain me of the knight, and I will
show you wherefore."
She lifteth the rich hat from her head and showeth the King and
Queen and the knights in the hall her head all bald without hair.
"Sir," saith she, "My head was right seemly garnished of hair
plaited in rich tresses of gold at such time as the knight came
to the hostel of the rich King Fisherman, but I became bald for
that he made not the demand, nor never again shall I have my hair
until such time as a knight shall go thither that shall ask the
question better than did he, or the knight that shall achieve the
Graal. Sir, even yet have you not seen the sore mischief that
hath befallen thereof. There is without this hall a car that
three white harts have drawn hither, and lightly may you send to
see how rich it is. I tell you that the traces are of silk and
the axletrees of gold, and the timber of the car is ebony. The
car is covered above with a black samite, and below is a cross of
gold the whole length, and under the coverlid of the car are the
heads of an hundred and fifty knights whereof some be sealed in
gold, other some in silver and the third in lead. King Fisherman
sendeth you word that this loss I hath befallen of him that
demanded not unto whom one serveth of the Graal. Sir, the damsel
that beareth the shield holdeth in her hand the head of a Queen
that is sealed in lead and crowned with copper, and I tell you
that by the Queen whose head you here behold was the King
betrayed whose head I bear, and the three manner of knights whose
heads are within the car. Sir, send without to see the
costliness and fashion of the car."
The King sent Kay the Seneschal to see. He looked straitly
thereat within and without and thereafter returned to the King.
"Sir," saith he, "Never beheld I car so rich, and there be three
harts withal that draw the car, the tallest and fattest one might
ever see. But and you will be guided by me, you will take the
foremost, for he is scarce so far, and so might you bid make
right good collops thereof."
"Avoid there, Kay!" saith the King. "Foul churlishness have you
spoken! I would not such a deed were done for another such
kingdom as is this of Logres!"
"Sir," saith the damsel, "He that hath been wont to do
churlishness doth right grudgingly withdraw himself therefrom.
Messire Kay may say whatsoever him pleaseth, but well know I that
you will pay no heed to his talk. Sir," saith the damsel,
"Command that the shield be hung on this column and that the
brachet be put in the Queen's chamber with the maidens. We will
go on our way, for here have we been long enough."
Messire Ywain laid hold on the shield and took it off the
damsel's neck by leave of the King, and hung it on the column in
the midst of the hall, and one of the Queen's maidens taketh the
brachet and carrieth him to the Queen's chamber. And the damsel
taketh her leave and turneth again, and the King commendeth her
to God. When the King eaten in hall, the Queen with the King and
the knights go to lean at the windows to look at the three
damsels and the three white harts that draw the car, and the more
part said that the damsel afoot that went after the two that were
mounted should have the most misease. The bald damsel went
before, and set not her hat on her head until such time as
behoved her enter into the forest; and the knights that were at
the windows might see them no longer. Then set she her hat again
upon her head. The King, the Queen, and the knights when they
might see them no more, came down from the windows, and certain
of them said that never until this time had they seen bald-headed
damsel save this one only.
Hereupon the story is silent of King Arthur, and turneth again to
speak of the three damsels and the car that was drawn by the
three white harts. They are entered into the forest and ride on
right busily. When they had left the castle some seven leagues
Welsh behind them, they saw a knight coming toward them on the
way they had to go. The knight sat on a tall horse, lean and
bony. His habergeon was all rusty and his shield pierced in more
than a dozen places, and the colour thereon was so fretted away
that none might make out the cognizance thereof. And a right
thick spear bore he in his hand. When he came anigh the damsel,
he saluted her right nobly.
"Fair welcome, damsel, to you and your company."
"Sir," saith she, "God grant you joy and good adventure!"
"Damsel," saith the knight, "Whence come you?"
"Sir, from a court high-plenary that King Arthur holdeth at
Pannenoisance. Go you thither, sir knight," saith the damsel,
"to see the King and the Queen and the knights that are there?"
"Nay, not so!" saith he. "Many a time have I seen them, but
right glad am I of King Arthur that he hath again taken up his
well-doing, for many a time hath he been accustomed thereof."
"Whitherward have you now emprised your way?" saith the damsel.
"To the land of King Fisherman, and God allow me."
"Sir," saith she, "Tell me your name and bide awhile beside me."
The knight draweth bridle and the damsels and the car come to a
stay. "Damsel," saith he, "Well behoveth me tell you my name.
Messire Gawain am I called, King Arthur's nephew."
"What? are you Messire Gawain? my heart well told me as much."
"Yea, damsel," saith he, "Gawain am I."
"God be praised thereof, for so good knight as are you may well
go see the rich King Fisherman. Now am I fain to pray you of the
valour that is in you and the courtesy, that you return with me
and convoy me beyond a certain castle that is in this forest
whereof is some small peril."
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Willingly, at your pleasure."
He returneth with the damsel through the midst of the forest that
was tall and leafy and little haunted of folk. The damsel
relateth to him the adventure of the heads that she carried and
that were in the car, like as she did at the court of King
Arthur, and of the shield and the brachet she had left there, but
much it misliked Messire Gawain of the damsel that was afoot
behind them. "Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Wherefore doth
not this damsel that goeth afoot mount upon the car?"
"Sir," saith she, "This shall she not, for behoveth her go not
otherwise than afoot. But and you be so good knight as men say,
betimes will she have done her penance."
"How so?" saith Gawain.
"I will tell you," saith she. "And it shall so be that God bring
you to the hostel of rich King Fisherman, and the most Holy Graal
appear before you and you demand unto whom is served thereof,
then will she have done her penance, and I, that am bald, shall
receive again my hair. And so you also make not demand thereof,
then will it behove us suffer sore annoy until such time as the
Good knight shall come and shall have achieved the Graal. For on
account of him that first was there and made not the demand, are
all the lands in sorrow and warfare, and the good King Fisherman
is yet in languishment."
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "God grant me courage and will
herein that I may come to do this thing according to your wish,
whereof may I win worship both of God and of the world."
Messire Gawain and the damsels go on their way a great pace
through the high forest, green and leafy, where the birds are
singing, and enter into the most hideous forest and most horrible
that any might ever see, and seemed it that no greenery never
there had been, so bare and dry were all the branches and all the
trees black and burnt as it had been by fire, and the ground all
parched and black atop with no green, and full of great cracks.
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Right loathly is this forest and
right hideous. Goeth it on far like this?"
"Sir." saith she, "For nine leagues Welsh goeth it on the same,
but we shall pass not through the whole thereof."
Messire Gawain 1ooketh from time to time on the damsel that
cometh arbor, and sore it irketh him that he may not amend her
estate. They ride on until that they come to a great valley and
Messire Gawain looketh along the bottom and seeth appear a black
castle that was enclosed within a girdle of wall, foul and
evilseeming. The nigher he draweth to the castle the more
hideous it seemeth him, and he seeth great halls appear that were
right foully mis-shapen, and the forest about it he seeth to be
like as he had found it behind. He seeth a water come down from
the head of a mountain, foul and horrible and black, that went
amidst the castle roaring so loud that it seemed to be thunder.
Messire Gawain seeth the entrance of the gateway foul and
horrible like as it had been hell, and within the castle heard he
great outcries and lamentations, and the most part heard he
saying: "Ha, God! What hath become of the Good Knight, and when
will he come?"
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "What is this castle here that is
so foul and hideous, wherein is such dolour suffered and such
weary longing for the coming of the Good Knight?"
"Sir, this is the castle of the Black Hermit. Wherefore am I
fain to pray you that you meddle not herein for nought that they
within may do to me, for otherwise it may well be that your death
is at hand, for against them will you have no might nor power."
They come anigh the castle as it were a couple of bow-shots, and
behold, through the gateway come knights armed on black horses
and their arms all black and their shields and spears, and there
were a hundred and fifty and two, right parlous to behold. And
they come a great gallop toward the damsel, and toward the car,
and take the hundred and fifty-two heads, each one his own, and
set them upon their spears and so enter into the castle again
with great joy. Messire Gawain seeth the insolence that the
knights have wrought, and right great shame hath he of himself
that he hath not moved withal.
"Messire Gawain," saith the damsel, "Now may you know how little
would your force have availed you herein."
"Damsel, an evil castle is this where folk are robbed on such
"Sir, never may this mischief be amended, nor this outrage be
done away, nor the evil-doer therein be stricken down, nor they
that cry and lament within the prison there be set free until
such time as the Good Knight shall come for whom are they
yearning as you have heard but now."
"Damsel, right glad may the knight be that by his valour and his
hardiment shall destroy so many evil folk!"
"Sir, therefore is he the Best Knight in the world, and he is yet
young enough of age, but right sorrowful am I at heart that I
know not true tidings of him; for better will have I to see him
than any man on live."
"Damsel, so also have I," saith Messire Gawain, "For then by your
leave would I turn me again."
"Not so, sir, but and you shall come beyond I the castle, then
will I teach you the way whereby you ought to go."
With that they go toward the castle all together. Just as they
were about to pass beyond the castle wall, behold you where a
knight cometh forth of a privy postern of the castle, and he was
sitting upon a tall horse, his spear in his fist, and at his neck
had he a red shield whereon was figured a golden eagle. "Sir
knight," saith he to Messire Gawain, "I pray you bide."
"What is your pleasure?"
"You must needs joust with me," saith he "and conquer this
shield, or otherwise I shall conquer you. And full precious is
the shield, insomuch as that great pains ought you to take to
have it and conquer it, for it belonged to the best knight of his
faith that was ever, and the most puissant and the wisest."
"Who, then, was he?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Judas Machabee was he, and he it was that first wrought how by
one bird to take another."
"You say true," saith Messire Gawain; "A good knight was he."
"Therefore right joyful may you be," saith he, "and you may
conquer the same, for your own is the poorest and most battered
that ever saw I borne by knight. For hardly may a man know the
"Thereby may you well see," saith the damsel to the knight, "that
his own shield hath not been idle, nor hath the horse whereon he
sitteth been stabled so well as yours."
"Damsel," saith the knight, "No need is here of long pleading.
Needs must he joust with me, for him do I defy."
Saith Messire Gawain, "I hear well that you say."
He draweth him back and taketh his career and the knight
likewise, and they come together as fast as their horses may
carry them, spear in rest. The knight smiteth Messire Gawain on
the shield whereof he had no great defence, and passeth beyond,
and in the by-pass the knight to-brake his spear; and Messire
Gawain smiteth him with his spear in the midst of his breast and
beareth him to the ground over the croup of his horse, all pinned
upon his spear, whereof he had a good full hand's breadth in his
breast. He draweth his spear back to him, and when the knight
felt himself unpinned, he leaped to his feet and came straight to
his horse and would fain set his foot in the stirrup when the
damsel of the car crieth out: "Messire Gawain, hinder the knight!
for and he were mounted again, too sore travail would it be to
When the knight heard name Messire Gawain, he draweth him back:
"How?" saith he; "Is this then the good Gawain, King Arthur's
"Yea," saith the damsel, "He it is without fail!"
"Sir," saith the knight to Messire Gawain, "Are you he?"
"Yea," saith he, "Gawain I am!"
"Sir, so please you," saith he, "I hold me conquered, and right
sorry am I that I knew you not or ever I had ado with you."
He taketh the shield from his neck and holdeth it to him. "Sir,"
saith he, "Take the shield that belonged to the best knight that
was in his time of his faith, for none know I of whom it shall be
better employed than of you. And of this shield were vanquished
all they that be in prison in this castle." Messire Gawain
taketh the shield that was right fair and rich.
"Sir," saith the knight, "Now give me yours, for you will not
bear two shields."
"You say true," saith Messire Gawain.
He taketh the guige from his neck and would have given him the
shield, when the damsel afoot: "Hold, sir knight, you that are
named Messire Gawain! What would you do? And he bear your
shield into the castle there, they of the castle will hold you
recreant and conquered, and will come forth thence and carry you
into the castle by force, and there will you be cast into his
grievous prison; for no shield is borne thereinto save of a
vanquished knight only."
"Sir knight," saith Messire Gawain, "No good you wish me,
according to that this damsel saith."
"Sir," saith the knight, "I cry you mercy, and a second time I
hold me conquered, and right glad should I have been might I have
borne your shield within yonder, and right great worship should I
have had thereof, for never yet hath entered there the shield of
knight so good. And now ought I to be right well pleased of your
coming, sith that you have set me free of the sorest trouble that
ever knight had."
"What is the trouble?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir," saith he, "I will tell you. Heretofore many a time hath
there been a passing by of knights both of hardy and of coward,
and it was my business to contend and joust with them and do
battle, and I made them present of the shield as did I you. The
more part found I hardy and well able to defend themselves, that
wounded me in many places, but never was knight so felled me to
the ground nor dealt me so sore a buffet as have you. And sith
that you are carrying away the shield and I am conquered, never
here-after shall knight that passeth before this castle have no
dread of me nor of no knight that is herein."
"By my head," saith Messire Gawain, "Now am I gladder of my
conquest than I was before."
"Sir," saith the knight, "By your leave will I go my way, for,
and I may hide not my shame in the castle, needs must I show it
"God grant you do well!" saith Messire Gawain.
"Messire Gawain," saith the Damsel of the Car, "give me your
shield that the knight would fain have carried off."
"Willingly, damsel," saith he. The damsel that went afoot taketh
the shield and setteth it in the car. Howbeit, the knight that
was conquered mounted again upon his horse, and entered again
into the castle, and when he was come thereinto, arose a noise
and great outcry so loud that all the forest and all the valley
began to resound thereof. "Messire Gawain," saith the Damsel of
the Car, "the knight is shamed and there cast in prison another
time. Now haste, Messire Gawain! for now may you go!"
With that they all set forward again upon their way together, and
leave the castle an English league behind. "Damsel," saith
Messire Gawain, "When it shall please you, I shall have your
leave to go."
"Sir," saith she, "God be guard of your body, and right great
thanks of your convoy."
"Lady," saith he, "My service is always ready at your command."
"Sir," saith the damsel, "Gramercy, and your own way see you
there by yonder great cross at the entrance of yonder forest.
And beyond that, will you find the fairest forest and most
delightsome when you shall have passed through this that sore is
Messire Gawain turneth him to go, and the damsel afoot crieth out
to him: "Sir, not so heedful are you as I supposed."
Messire Gawain turneth his horse's head as he that was startled:
"Wherefore say you so, damsel?" saith he.
"For this," saith she, "That you have never asked of my Damsel
wherefore she carrieth her arm slung at her neck in this golden
stole, nor what may be the rich pillow whereon the arm lieth.
And no greater heed will you take at the court of the rich King
"Sweet, my friend," saith the Damsel of the Car, "blame not
Messire Gawain only, but King Arthur before him and all the
knights that were in the court. For not one of them all that
were there was so heedful as to ask me. Go your ways, Messire
Gawain, for in vain would you now demand it, for I will tell you
not, nor shall you never know it save only by the most coward
knight in the world, that is mine own knight and goeth to seek me
and knoweth not where to find me."
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "I durst not press you further."
With that the Damsel departeth, and Messire Gawain setteth him
forward again on the way that she had taught him.
Here beginneth another branch of the Graal in the name of the
Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy
Here is the story silent of the three damsels and the Car and
saith that Messire Gawain hath passed throughout the evil forest
and is entered into the forest passing fair, the broad, the high,
the plenteous of venison. And he rideth a great pace, but sore
abashed is he of that the damsel had said to him, and misdoubteth
him but he shall have blame thereof in many places. He rode hard
the day long till that it was evensong and the sun was about to
set. And he looketh before him and seeth the house of a hermit
and the chapel in the thick of the forest; and a spring flowed
forth in front of the chapel right clear and fresh, and above it
was a tree full broad and tall that threw a shadow over the
spring. A damsel sate under the tree and held a mule by the
reins and at the saddle-bow had she the head of a knight hanging.
And Messire Gawain cometh thitherward and alighteth.
"Damsel," saith he, "God give you good adventure!"
"Sir," saith she, "And you always."
When she was risen up over against him, "Damsel," saith he, "For
whom are you a-waiting here?"
"Sir," saith she, "I am waiting for the hermit of this holy
chapel, that is gone into the forest, and I would fain ask him
tidings of a knight."
"Think you he will tell you them and he knoweth any?"
"Yea, sir, I think so, according to that I have been told."
Therewithal behold you the hermit that was coming, and saluteth
the damsel and Messire Gawain and openeth the door of the house
and setteth the two steeds within and striketh off the bridles
and giveth them green-meat first and barley after, and fain would
he have taken off the saddles when Messire Gawain leapeth before:
"Sir," saith he, "Do not so! This business is not for you!"
"Hermit though I be," saith he, "yet well know I how to deal
withal, for at the court of King Uther Pendragon have I been
squire and knight two-score years, and a score or mort have I
been in this hermitage."
And Messire Gawain looketh at him in wonderment. "Sir," saith he,
"Meseemeth you are not of more than forty years."