Part 2 out of 10
"That know I well of a truth," saith the hermit, and Messire
Gawain taketh off the saddles and bethinketh him more of the
damsel's mule than of his own horse. And the hermit taketh
Messire Gawain by the hand and the damsel and leadeth them into
the chapel. And the place was right fair.
"Sir," saith the hermit to Messire Gawain, "You will disarm you
not," saith he, "for this forest is passing adventurous, and no
worshipful man behoveth be disgarnished."
He goeth for his spear and for his shield and setteth them within
the chapel. He setteth before them such meat as he hath, and
when they have eaten giveth them to drink of the spring.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "Of a knight that I go seek am I come to
ask you tidings."
"Who is the knight?" saith the hermit.
"Sir, he is the Chaste Knight of most holy lineage. He hath a
heart of gold, the look of a lion, the navel of a virgin maid, a
heart of steel, the body of an elephant, and without wickedness
are all his conditions."
"Damsel," saith the hermit, "Nought will I tell you concerning
him, for I know not of a certainty where he is, save this, that
he hath lain in this chapel twice, not once only, within this
"Sir," saith she, "Will you tell me no more of him, nor none
"In no wise," saith the hermit.
"And you, Messire Gawain?" saith she.
"Damsel," saith he, "As fainly would I see him as you, but none
find I that may tell me tidings of him."
"And the damsel of the Car, Sir, have you seen her?"
"Yea, lady," saith he, "It is but just now sithence that I left
"Carried she still her arm slung at her neck?"
"Yea," saith Messire Gawain, "in such wise she carried it."
"Of a long while," saith the damsel, "hath she borne it thus."
"Sir," saith the hermit, "how are you named?"
"Sir," saith he, "Gawain am I called, King Arthur's nephew."
"Thereof I love you the better," saith the hermit.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "You are of kindred to the worst King
"Of what King speak you?" saith Messire Gawain.
"I speak," saith she, "of King Arthur, through whom is all the
world made worser, for he began doing well and now hath become
evil. For hatred of him hate I a knight that found me nigh S.
Augustine's Chapel, and yet was he the comeliest knight that saw
I ever. He slew a knight within the bar right hardily. I asked
him for the head of the knight and he went back for the same and
set himself in sore peril. He brought it me, and I made him
great joy, but when he told me his name was Arthur I had no
fainness of the bounty he had done me, for that he had the name
of that evil King."
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "You may say your pleasure. I
tell you that King Arthur hath held the richest court that he
hath held ever, and these evil conditions whereof you blame him
is he minded to put away for evermore, and more will he do of
good and more of largesse than was ever known aforetime so long
as he shall live; nor know I none other knight that beareth his
"You are right," saith the damsel, "to come to his rescue, for
that he is your uncle, but your rescue will scarce avail him and
he deliver not himself."
"Sir," saith the hermit to Messire Gawain, "The damsel will say
her pleasure. May God defend King Arthur, for his father made me
knight. Now am I priest, and in this hermitage ever sithence
that I came hither have I served King Fisherman by the will of
Our Lord and His commandment, and all they that serve him do well
partake of his reward, for the place of his most holy service is
a refuge so sweet that unto him that hath been there a year, it
seemeth to have been but a month for the holiness of the place
and of himself, and for the sweetness of his castle wherein have
I oftentimes done service in the chapel where the Holy Graal
appeareth. Therefore is it that I and all that serve him are so
youthful of seeming."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "By what way may a man go to his
"Sir," saith the hermit, "None may teach you the way, save the
will of God lead you therein. And would you fain go thither?"
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "It is the most wish that I have."
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Now God give you grace and courage to
ask the question that the others to whom the Graal hath appeared
would ask not, whereof have many mischances sithence befallen
With that, they left of talking, and the hermit led Messire
Gawain into his house to rest, and the damsel abode still in the
chapel. On the morrow when dawn appeared, Messire Gawain that
had lain all armed, arose and found his saddle ready and the
damsel, and the bridles set on, and cometh to the chapel and
findeth the hermit that was apparelled to sing mass, and seeth
the damsel kneeling before an image of Our Lady, and she prayed
God and the sweet Lady that they would counsel her that whereof
she had need, and wept right tenderly so that the tears ran down
her face. And when she had prayed of a long space she ariseth,
and Messire Gawain biddeth her God give her good day, and she
returneth his salute.
"Damsel," saith he, "Meseemeth you are not over joyous."
"Sir," saith she, "I have right, for now am I nigh unto my
desolation, sith that I may not find the Good Knight. Now must I
needs go to the castle of the Black Hermit, and bear thither the
head that hangeth at my saddle-bow, for otherwise shall I not be
able to pass through the forest but my body should there be cast
in prison or shamed, and this shall be the quittance for my
passing. Then will I seek the Damsel of the Car and so shall I
go in safer through the forest."
With that the hermit had begun the mass and Messire Gawain and
the damsel heard it. When mass was sung, Messire Gawain took
leave of the hermit and the damsel also. And Messire Gawain
goeth one way and the damsel the other, and either biddeth other
Hereupon the story is now silent of the damsel, and saith that
Messire Gawain goeth through the high forest and rideth a great
pace, and prayeth God right sweetly that He will set him in such
way as that thereby he may go to the land of the rich King
Fisherman. And he rideth until the hour of noon, and cometh into
the fulness of the forest and seeth under a tree a squire
alighted of a horse of the chase. Messire Gawain saluteth him,
and the squire saith: "Sir, right welcome may you be!"
"Fair sweet friend," saith Messire Gawain, "Whither go you?"
"Sir, I go to seek the lord of this forest."
"Whose is the forest?" saith Messire Gawain. "Sir, it belongeth
to the best knight in the world."
"Can you tell me tidings of him?"
"He ought to bear a shield banded azure and argent with a red
cross thereon and a boss of gold. I say that he is good knight,
but little call have I to praise him, for he slew my father in
this forest with a javelin. The Good Knight was squire what time
he slew him, and fain would I avenge my father upon him and I may
find him, for he reft me of the best knight that was in the realm
of Logres when he slew my father. Well did he bereave me of him
what time he slew him with his javelin without defiance, nor
shall I never be at ease nor at rest until I shall have avenged
"Fair sweet friend," saith Messire Gawain, "Sith that he is
knight so good take heed you increase not your wrong of your own
act, and I would fain that you had found him, so as that no evil
had befallen him thereof."
"So would not I," saith the squire, "for never shall I see him in
this place but I shall run upon him as my mortal enemy!"
"Fair sweet friend," saith Messire Gawain, "you may say your
pleasure, but tell me is there no hold in this forest wherein I ú
may harbour me the night?"
"Sir," saith the squire, "No hold know I within twenty league of
your way in any quarter. Wherefore no leisure have you to tarry,
for it is high noon already."
So Messire Gawain saluteth the squire and goeth a great pace as
he that knoweth neither highway nor byway save only as adventure
may lead him. And the forest pleaseth him well for that it is so
fair and that he seeth the deer pass by before him in great
herds. He rode on until it drew toward evensong at a corner of
the forest. The evening was fair and calm and the sun was about
to set. And a score league Welsh had he ridden sithence that he
parted from the squire, and sore he misdoubted him that he should
find no hold. He found the fairest meadow-land in the world, and
looked before him when he had ridden a couple of bow-shot lengths
and saw a castle appear nigh the forest on a mountain. And it
was enclosed of high walls with battlements, and within were fair
halls whereof the windows showed in the outer walls, and in the
midst was an ancient tower that was compassed round of great
waters and broad meadow-lands. Thitherward Messire Gawain
draweth him and looketh toward the gateway of the castle and
seeth a squire issue forth a great pace upon a hackney, and he
came the way that Messire Gawain was coming. And when the squire
seeth him, and hath drawn somewhat anigh, he saluteth him right
"Sir, right welcome may you be!"
"Good adventure may you have!" saith Messire Gawain. "Fair sweet
friend, what is this castle here, sir?"
"Sir, it is the castle of the Widow Lady."
"What is the name thereof;"
"Camelot; and it belonged to Alain li Gros, that was a right
loyal knight and worshipful man. He is dead this long time, and
my Lady hath remained without succour and without counsel.
Wherefore is the castle warred upon of them that would fain reave
her thereof by force. The Lord of the Moors and another knight
are they that war upon her and would fain reave her of this
castle as they have reft he of seven other already. Greatly
desireth she the return of her son, for no counsel hath she save
only of her one daughter and of five old knights that help her to
guard the castle. Sir," saith he, "The door is made fast and the
bridge drawn up, for they guard the castle closely, but, so
please you, you will tell me your name and I will go before and
make the bridge be 1owered and the gate unfastened, and will say
that you will lodge within to-night."
"Gramercy," saith Messire Gawain, "right well shall my name be
known or ever I depart from the castle."
The squire goeth his way a great pace, and Messire Gawain tided
softly at a walk for he had yet a long way to go. And he found a
chapel that stood between the forest and the castle, and it was
builded upon four columns of marble and within was a right fair
sepulchre. The chapel had no fence of any kind about it so that
he seeth the coffin within full clearly, and Messire Gawain
bideth awhile to look thereon. And the squire entered into the
castle and hath made the bridge be lowered and the door opened.
He alighteth and is come into the hall when was the Widow Lady
and her daughter. Saith the Lady to the squire: "Wherefore have
you returned from doing my message? Lady, for the comeliest
knight that I have seen ever, and fain would he harbour within
to-night, and he is garnished of all arms and rideth without
"And what name hath he?" saith the Lady.
"Lady, he told me you should know it well or ever he depart
from this castle."
Therewithal the Lady gan weep for joy and her daughter also, and,
lifting her hands towards heaven, "Fair Lord God!" saith the
Widow Lady, "And this be indeed my son, never before have I had
joy that might be likened to this! Now shall I not be disherited
of mine honour, neither shall I lose my castle whereof they would
fain reave me by wrong, for that no Lord nor champion have I!"
Thereupon the Widow Lady ariseth up and her daughter likewise,
and they go over the bridge of the castle and see Messire Gawain
that was yet looking on the coffin within the chapel.
"Now haste!" saith the Lady; "At the tomb shall we be well able
to see whether it be he!"
They go to the chapel right speedily, and Messire Gawain seeth
them coming and alighteth. "Lady, saith he, "Welcome may you be,
you and your company."
The Lady answereth never a word until that they are come to the
tomb. When she findeth it not open she falleth down in a swoon.
And Messire Gawain is sore afraid when he seeth it. The Lady
cometh back out of her swoon and breaketh out into great
"Sir," saith the damsel to Messire Gawain, "Welcome may you be!
But now sithence my mother supposed that you had been her son and
made great joy thereof, and now seeth she plainly that you are
not he, whereof is she sore sorrowful, for so soon as he shall
return, this coffin behoveth open, nor until that hour shall none
know who it is that lieth therein."
The Lady riseth up and taketh Messire Gawain by the hand. "Sir,"
saith she, "What is your name?"
"Lady," saith he, "I am called Gawain, King Arthur's nephew."
"Sir," saith she, "You shall be he that is welcome both for the
sake of my son and for your own sake."
The Lady biddeth a squire lead his horse into the castle and
carry his shield and spear. Then they enter into the castle and
lead Messire Gawain into the hall, and make disarm him. After
that, they fetch him water to wash his hands and his face, for he
was distained of the rust of his habergeon. The Lady maketh
apparel him in a rich robe of silk and gold, and furred of
ermine. The Widow Lady cometh forth of her chamber and maketh
Messire Gawain sit beside her. "Sir," saith she, "Can you tell
me any tidings of my son that I have not seen of this long time
past, and of whom at this present am I sore in need?"
"Lady," saith he, "No tidings of him know I to tell you, and
right heavy am I thereof, for he is the knight of the world that
fainest I would see and he be your son as I am told. What name
"Sir," saith she, "His name in right baptism is Perceval, and a
right comely squire was he when he departed hence. Now as at
this time is it said that he is the comeliest knight on live and
the most hardy and the cleanest of all wickedness. And sore need
have I of his hardiment, for what time that he departed hence he
left me in the midst of a great warfare on behalf of the Knight
of the Red Shield that he slew. Within the se'nnight thereafter
he went away, nor never once have I seen him sithence, albeit a
full seven year hath passed already. And now the brother of the
knight that he slew and the Lord of the Moors are warring upon me
and are fain to reave me of my castle and God counsel me not.
For my brothers are too far away from me, and King Pelles of the
Lower Folk hath renounced his land for God's sake and entered
into a hermitage. But the King of Castle Mortal hath in him as
much of wickedness and felony as these twain have in them of
good, and enough thereof have they. But neither succour nor help
may they give me, for the King of Castle Mortal challengeth my
Lord King Fisherman both of the most Holy Graal and of the Lance
whereof the point bleedeth every day, albeit God forbid he should
ever have them."
"Lady," saith Messire Gawain, "There was at the hostel of King
Fisherman a knight before whom the Holy Graal appeared three
times, yet never once would he ask whereof it served nor whom it
"Sir," saith the Widow Lady's daughter, "You say true, and the
Best Knight is he of the world. This say I for love of my
brother, and I love all knights for the love of him, but by the
foolish wit of the knight hath mine uncle King Fisherman fallen
"Sir," saith the Lady, "Behoveth all good knights go see the rich
King Fisherman. Will you not therefore go?"
"Lady," saith Messire Gawain, "Yea, that will I, so speedily as I
may, for not elsewhither have I emprised my way."
"Sir," saith she, "Then are you going to see my son, wherefore
tell my son, and you see him, of mine evil plight and my misease,
and King Fisherman my brother. But take heed, Messire Gawain,
that you be better mindful than was the knight."
"Lady," saith Messire Gawain, "I shall do as God shall teach me."
In the meanwhile as they were speaking thus together, behold you
therewithal the Widow Lady's five knights that were come in from
the forest and make bring harts and hinds and wild swine. So
they alighted and made great joy of Messire Gawain when they knew
who he was.
When the meat was ready they sate to eat, and full plenteously
were they provided and right well were they served. Thereupon,
behold, cometh the squire that had opened the door for Messire
Gawain, and kneeleth before the Widow Lady.
"And what tidings?" saith she.
"Lady, there is to be a right great assembly of tourney in the
valleys that aforetime were ours. Already have they spread the
Welsh booths, and thither are come these two that are warring
upon you and great store other knights. And they have ordained
that he which shall do best at the assembly shall undertake the
garrison of this castle in such sort as that he shall hold it for
his own alone against all other."
The Widow Lady beginneth to weep: "Sir," saith she to Messire
Gawain, "Now may you understand that the castle is not mine own,
sith that these knights say it is theirs as you hear."
"Certes, Lady," saith he, "Herein do they great dishonour and a
When the table was removed the damsel fell at Messire Gawain's
feet, weeping. He raiseth her forthwith and saith to her,
"Damsel, herein do you ill."
"For God's sake, Sir, take pity on my Lady mother and me!"
"Certes, damsel, great pity have I of you."
"Sir, now shall it be seen in this strait whether you be good
knight, for good is the knighthood that doeth well for God's
The Widow Lady and her daughter go into the chamber, and Messire
Gawain's bed was made in the midst of the hall. So he went and
lay down as did also the five knights. All the night was Messire
Gawain in much thought. The morrow, when he was risen, he went
to hear mass in a chapel that was within and ate thereafter three
sops in wine and then armed him, and at the same time asked the
five knights that were there in the hall whether they would go
see the assembly.
"Yea, Sir," say they, "and you be going thither."
"In faith, thither verily will I go!" saith Messire Gawain.
The knights are armed forthwith, and their horses brought and
Messire Gawain's, and he goeth to take leave of the Widow Lady
and her daughter. But great joy make they of this that they have
heard say that he will go with their knights to the assembly.
Messire Gawain and the five knights mounted and issued forth of
the castle and rode a great gallop before a forest. Messire
Gawain looketh before him about the foreclose of the forest, and
seeth the fairest purlieus that he had seen ever, and so broad
they be that he may not see nor know the fourth part thereof.
They are garnished of tall forests on one hand and on the other,
and there are high rocks in the midst with wild deer among.
"Sir," say the knights, "Lo, these be the Valleys of Camelot
whereof my Lady and her daughter have been bereft, and bereft
also hath she been of the richest castles that be in Wales to the
number of seven."
"A wrong is it and a sin!" saith Messire Gawain.
So far have they ridden that they see the ensigns and the shields
there where the assembly is to be held, and they see already
mounted the more part of the knights all armed and running their
horses down the meadow-land. And they see the tents stretched on
the one hand and on another. And Messire Gawain bideth, and the
five knights under a tree, and see the knights assembling on one
hand and on another. One of the five knights that were with him
gave him witting of the Lord of the Moors and the brother of the
knight of the Red Shield that had to name Chaos the Red. So soon
as the tournament was assembled, Messire Gawain and the knights
come to the assembly, and Messire Gawain goeth to a Welsh knight
and beareth him to the ground, both him and his horse, all in a
heap. And the five come after at a great gallop and each
overthroweth his own, and greatly pride they themselves of
Messire Gawain. Chaos the Red seeth Messire Gawain but knoweth
him not. He goeth toward him a full career, and Messire Gawain
receiveth him on the point of his spear and hurtleth against him
so sore that he all to-brast his collarbone and maketh the spear
fly from his fist. And Messire Gawain searcheth the fellowships
of one part and the other, and findeth not nor encountereth no
knight before him in his way but he putteth him off his horse or
woundeth him, either by himself or by one of the five knights,
that make right great joy of that they see him do. They show him
the Lord of the Moors that was coming with a full great
fellowship of folk. He goeth thitherward a great gallop. They
mell together either upon other of their spears that they bent
and all to-brast in flinders, and hurtle together so stoutly both
of their horses and their bodies that the Lord of the Moors
loseth his stirrups and hath the hinder saddlebow to-frushed, and
falleth down to the ground over his horse croup in such sort that
the peak of his helm dinteth a full palm's breadth into the turf.
And Messire Gawain taketh the horse that was right rich and good,
maugre all of his fellowship, and giveth it to one of the five
knights that maketh it be led to Camelot of a squire. Messire
Gawain searcheth the ranks on the one hand and on the other, and
doeth such feats of arms as never no knight might do the same
again. The five knights also showed great hardiment, and did
more of arms that day than ever had they done tofore, for not one
of them but had overthrown at least a single knight and won his
horse. The Lord of the Moors was mounted again on another rich
horse and had great shame for that Messire Gawain had overthrown
him. He espieth Messire Gawain and goeth toward him a great
gallop and thinketh to avenge his shame. They come together
either on other with a great shock, and Messire Gawain smiteth
him with the truncheon of his spear that he had still left, in
the midst of his breast, so that it was all to-splintered. The
Lord of the Moors likewise again to-brast his spear upon him.
Messire Gawain draweth his sword and flingeth the truncheon to
the ground. The Lord of the Moors doth likewise and commandeth
his folk not to mell betwixt them twain, for never yet had he
found no knight that he had not conquered. They deal them great
buffets on the helms, either upon other, in such sort that the
sparks fly thereout and their swords are blunted. The buffets of
Messire Gawain are heavier than the other's, for he dealeth them
so mighty and horrible that the blood rayeth out from the Lord of
the Moors by the mouth and the nose so that his habergeon is all
bloody thereof and he may no more endure. Thereupon he yieldeth
him prisoner to Messire Gawain, that is right glad thereof and
his live knights likewise. The Lord of the Moors goeth to his
tent to alight, and Messire Gawain with him and alighteth. And
Messire Gawain taketh the horse and saith to one of the knights,
"Keep this for me."
And all the knights are repaired to their tents, and with one
accord say they all that the knight of the Red Shield with the
eagle of gold thereon hath done better than we, and they ask the
Lord of the Moors whether he accordeth with them, and he saith
" Sir," saith he to Messire Gawain, "You, then, are the warden of
this castle of Camelot."
"Gramercy, lord!" saith Messire Gawain. He calleth the five
knights and saith unto them: "Lords, my will is that you be there
on my behalf and that you shall safeguard the same by consent of
the knights that are here present."
"Sir, right gladly do we agree thereto."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain to the Lord of the Moors, "I give you
moreover as my prisoner to the Widow Lady that harboured me last
"Sir," saith he, "This have you no right to do. Assembly of
tourney is not war. Hence have you no right to imprison my body
in castle, for well am I able to pay my ransom here. But tell
me, what is your name?"
"I am called Gawain."
"Ha, Messire Gawain, many a time have I heard tell of you albeit
never tofore have I seen you. But sith that the castle of
Camelot is in your keeping, I promise you loyally that before a
year and a day neither the castle nor none of the Lady's land
need fear nought from me nor from any other so far forth as I may
hinder him, and hereto do I pledge me in the presence of all
these knights that are here. And, so you would have of me gold
or silver, thereof will I give you at your will."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "Gramercy! I consent freely to as
much as you have said."
Messire Gawain taketh leave and turneth him again toward the
castle of Camelot, and sendeth by a squire the horse of the Lord
of the Moors to the daughter of the Widow Lady, that made great
joy thereof. And the five knights drive before them the horses
they have taken booty. Whereof great also was the joy. No need
to wonder whether Messire Gawain were well harboured that night
at the castle. He recounted to the Lady how the castle was in
the keeping of these knights. When it came to morning-tide,
Messire Gawain took leave and departed from the castle, but not
before he had heard mass, for such was his custom. The Widow
Lady and her daughter commend him to God, and the castle
remaineth in better keeping than he had found it.
Here beginneth another branch of the Graal in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
And the story is silent here of the mother of the Good Knight,
and saith that Messire Gawain goeth so as God and adventure lead
him toward the land of the rich King Fisherman. And he entereth
into a great forest, all armed, his shield at his neck and his
spear in his hand. And he prayeth Our Lord that He counsel him
of this holy errand he hath emprised so as that he may honourably
achieve it. He rode until that he came at evensong to a hold
that was in the midst of the forest. And it was compassed about
of a great water, and had about it great clumps of trees so as
that scarce with much pains might he espy the hall, that was
right large. The river that compassed it about was water royal,
for it lost not its right name nor its body as far as the sea.
And Messire Gawain bethought him that it was the hold of a
worshipful man, and draweth him thitherward to lodge. And as he
drew anigh the bridge of the hold, he looketh and seeth a dwarf
sitting on a high bench. He leapeth up: "Messire Gawain," saith
he, "Welcome may you be!"
"Fair, sweet friend," saith Messire Gawain, "God give you good
adventure! You know me, then?" saith he.
"Well do I know you," saith the dwarf, "For I saw you at the
tournament. At a better moment could you not have come hither,
for my lord is not here. But you will find my lady, the fairest
and most gentle and most courteous in the realm of Logres, and as
yet is she not of twenty years."
"Fair friend," saith Messire Gawain, "What name hath the lord of
"Sir, he is called of Little Gomeret. I will go tell my lady
that Messire Gawain is come, the good knight, and bid her make
Howbeit, Messire Gawain marvelleth much that the dwarf should
make him such cheer, for many knaveries hath he found in many
places within the bodies of many dwarfs. The dwarf is come into
the chamber where the lady was.
"Now, haste, Lady!" saith he, "Make great joy, for Messire Gawain
is come to harbour with you."
"Certes," saith she, "Of this am I right glad and right sorry;
glad, for that the good knight will lie here to-night, sorry, for
that he is the knight that my lord most hateth in the world.
Wherefore he warneth me against him for love of him, for
oftentimes hath he told me that never did Messire Gawain keep
faith with dame nor damsel but he would have his will of them."
"Lady," saith the dwarf, "It is not true albeit it is so said."
Thereupon Messire Gawain entereth into the courtyard and
alighteth, and the lady cometh to meet him and saith to him: "May
you be come to joy and good adventure."
"Lady," saith he, "May you also have honour and good adventure."
The lady taketh him by the hand and leadeth him into the hall and
maketh him be seated on a cushion of straw. And a squire leadeth
his horse to stable. And the dwarf summoneth two other squires
and doeth Messire Gawain be disarmed, and helpeth them right
busily, and maketh fetch water to wash his hands and his face.
"Sir," saith the dwarf, "Your fists are still all swollen of the
buffets you gave and received at the tournament."
Messire Gawain answered him nought. And the dwarf entereth into
the chamber and bringeth a scarlet robe furred of ermine and
maketh it be done on Messire Gawain. And meat was made ready and
the table set, and the lady sate to eat. Many a time looked he
upon the lady by reason of her great beauty, and, had he been
minded to trust to his heart and his eyes, he would have all
to-changed his purpose; but so straitly was his heart bound up,
and so quenched the desires thereof, that nought would he allow
himself to think upon that might turn to wickedness, for the sake
of the high pilgrimage he had emprised. Rather 'gan he withdraw
his eyes from looking at the lady, that was held to be of passing
great beauty. After meat Messire Gawain's bed was made, and he
apparelled himself to lie down. The lady bade him God give him
good adventure, and he made answer the like. When the lady was
in her chamber, the dwarf said to Messire Gawain: "Sir, I will
lie before you, so as to keep you company until you be asleep."
"Gramercy," saith he, "And God allow me at some time to reward
you of the service."
The dwarf laid himself down on a mattress before Messire Gawain,
and when he saw that he slept, he ariseth as quickly as he may,
and cometh to a boat that was on the river that ran behind the
hall, and entereth thereinto and roweth up-stream of the river.
And he cometh to a fishery, where was a right fair hall on a
little eyot enclosed by a marshy arm of the river. The jealous
knight was come thither for disport, and lay in the midst of the
hall upon a couch. The dwarf cometh forth of his boat thereinto,
and lighteth a great candle in his fist and cometh before the
couch. "What ho, there!" saith the dwarf, "Are you sleeping?"
And the other waketh up sore startled, and asketh what is the
matter and wherefore is he come?
"In God's name," saith he, "You sleep not so much at your ease as
doth Messire Gawain!"
"How know you that?" saith he.
"Well know I," saith the dwarf, "For I left him but now in your
hall, and methinketh he and your lady are abed together arm to
"How?" saith he, "I forbade her she should ever harbour Messire
"In faith," said the dwarf, "She hath made him greater cheer than
ever saw I her make to none other! But haste you and come, for
great fear have I lest he carry her away!"
"By my head!" saith the knight; "I will go not, howsoever it be!
But she shall pay for it, even though she go!"
"Then of wrong will it be!" saith the dwarf, "as methinketh!"
Messire Gawain lay in the hall that was ware of nought of this.
He seeth that day hath broken fair and clear, and ariseth up.
The lady cometh to the door of the hall and seeth not the dwarf,
whereby well she understandeth his treachery. She saith to
Messire Gawain, "Sir, for God's sake have pity upon me, for the
dwarf hath betrayed me! And you withdraw yourself forth of our
forest and help not to rescue me from the smart that my lord
will make me suffer, great sin will you have thereof. For well
know you. that of right ought I not to be held guilty toward my
lord nor toward any other, for aught that you have done toward me
or I toward you."
"You say true," saith Messire Gawain. Thereupon is he armed, and
taketh leave of the lady and issueth forth of the fair hold and
setteth him in an ambush in the forest nigh thereby. Straightway
behold the jealous knight where he cometh, he and his dwarf. He
entereth into the hall. The lady cometh to meet him.
"Sir," saith she, "Welcome may you be!"
"And you," saith he, "Shame and evil adventure may you have, as
the most disloyal dame on live, for that this night have you
harboured in my hostel and in my bed him that most have I warned
"Sir," saith she, "In your hostel did I harbour him, but never
hath your bed been shamed by me, nor never shall be!"
"You lie!" saith he, "like a false woman!"
He armeth himself all incontinent and maketh his horse be armed,
then maketh the lady go down and despoil her to her shirt, that
crieth him mercy right sweetly and weepeth. He mounteth his
horse and taketh his shield and his spear, and maketh the lady be
taken of the dwarf by her tresses and maketh her be led before
him into the forest. And he bideth above a pool where was a
spring, and maketh her enter into the water that flowed forth
full cold, and gathereth saplings in the forest for rods and
beginneth to smite and beat her across upon her back and her
breast in such sort that the stream from the spring was all
bloody therewithal. And she began to cry out right loud, until
at last Messire Gawain heareth her and draweth forth of the
ambush wherein he was, and cometh thitherward a great gallop.
"By my faith," saith the dwarf, "Look you here where Messire
"By my faith," saith the knight, "Now know I well that nought is
there here but treachery, and that the matter is well proven!"
By this time, Messire Gawain is come, and saith: "Avoid, Sir
knight! Wherefore slay you the best lady and most loyal that
ever have I seen? Never tofore have I found lady that hath done
me so much honour, and this ought you to be well pleased to know,
for neither in her bearing, nor in her speech, nor in herself
found I nought save all goodness only. Wherefore I pray you of
franchise and of love that you forbear your wrath and that you
set her forth of the water. And so will I swear on all the
sacred hallows in this chapel that never did I beseech her of
evil nor wantonness nor never had I no desire thereof."
The knight was full of great wrath when he saw that Messire
Gawain had not gone his way thence, and an anguish of jealousy
burneth him heart and body and overburdeneth him of folly and
outrage, and Messire Gawain that is still before him moveth him
to yet further transgression. Natheless, for the fear that he
hath of him he speaketh to him: "Messire Gawain," saith he, "I
will set her forth thence on one condition, that you joust at me
and I at you, and, so you conquer me, quit shall she be of
misdoing and of blame, but and if I shall conquer you, she shall
be held guilty herein. Such shall be the judgment in this
"I ask no better," saith Messire Gawain.
Thereupon, the knight biddeth the dwarf make set the lady forth
of the pool of the spring and make her sit in a launde whereas
they were to joust. The knight draweth him back the better to
take his career, and Messire Gawain cometh as fast as his horse
may carry him toward Marin the Jealous. And when Marin seeth him
coming, he avoideth his buffet and lowereth his spear and cometh
to his wife that was right sore distraught, and wept as she that
suffered blameless, and smote her through, out the body and slew
her, and then turneth him again so fast as his horse might carry
him toward his hold. Messire Gawak seeth the damsel dead and the
dwarf that fleeth full speed after his lord. He overtaketh him
and trampleth him under his horses feet so that he bursteth his
belly in the midst. Then goeth he toward the hold, for he
thinketh to enter therein. But he found the bridge shut up and
the gate barred. And Marin crieth out upon him.
"This shame and misadventure hath befallen me along of you, but
you shall pay for it yet and I may live."
Messire Gawain hath no mind to argue with him, but rather draweth
him back and cometh again to where the lady lay dead, and setteth
her on the neck of his horse all bleeding, and then beareth her
to a chapel that was without the entrance of the hold. Then he
alighted and laid her within the chapel as fairly as most he
might, as he that was sore grieved and wrathful thereof. After
that, he shut the door of the chapel again as he that was afeared
of the body for the wild beasts, and bethought him that one
should come thither to set her in her shroud and bury her after
that he was departed.
Thereupon Messire Gawain departeth, sore an-angered, for it
seemed him that never had no thing tofore befallen him that
weighed so heavy on his heart. And he rideth thoughtful and
down-cast through the forest, and seeth a knight coming along the
way he came. And in strange fashion came he. He bestrode his
horse backwards in right outlandish guise, face to tail, and he
had his horse's reins right across his breast and the base of his
shield bore he topmost and the chief bottommost, and his spear
upside down and his habergeon and chausses of iron trussed about
his neck. He seeth Messire Gawain coming beside the forest, that
hath great wonderment of him when he seeth him. Natheless, when
they draw nigh, he turneth him not to look at Messire Gawain, but
crieth to him aloud: "Gentle knight, you that come there, for
God's sake do me no hurt, for I am the Knight Coward."
"By God," saith Messire Gawain, "You look not like a man to whom
any ought to do hurt!" And, but for the heaviness of his heart
and the sore wrath that he had, he would have laughed at his
bearing with a right good will.
"Sir Knight," saith Messire Gawain, "nought have you to be afeard
of from me!"
With that he draweth anigh and looketh on him in the face and the
Knight Coward on him. "Sir," saith he, "Welcome may you be!"
"And you likewise!" saith Messire Gawain. "And whose man are
you, Sir knight?"
"The Damsel's man of the Car."
"Thereof I love you the better," saith Messire Gawain.
"God be praised thereof," saith the Knight Coward, "For now shall
I have no fear of you."
"Nay, truly," saith Messire Gawain, "Thereof be well assured!"
The Knight Coward seeth Messire Gawain"s shield and knoweth it.
"Ha, Sir," saith he, "Now know I well who you are. Now will I
alight and ride the right way and set my arms to rights. For you
are Messire Gawain, nor hath none the right to claim this shield
but only you."
The knight alighteth and setteth his armour to rights, and
prayeth Messire Gawain abide until he be armed. So he abideth
right willingly, and helpeth him withal. Thereupon behold you a
knight where he cometh a great gallop athwart the forest like a
tempest, and he had a shield party black and white. "Abide,
Messire Gawain!" saith he, "For on behalf of Marin the Jealous do
I defy you, that hath slain his wife on your account."
"Sir knight," saith Messire Gawain, "Thereof am I right heavy of
heart, for death had she not deserved."
"That availeth nor," saith the Party Knight, "For I hold you to
answer for the death. So I conquer you, the wrong is yours; but,
and you conquer me, my lord holdeth his blame and shame for known
and will hold you to forfeit and you allow me to escape hence on
"To this will I not agree," saith Messire Gawain, "For God well
knoweth that no blame have I herein."
"Ha, Messire Gawain," saith the Knight Coward, "Fight him not as
having affiance in me, for of me will you have neither succour
"Heretofore," saith Messire Gawain, "have I achieved adventures
without you, and this also, and God help me, will I yet achieve."
They come together a full career and break their lances on their
shields, and Messire Gawain hurtleth against the horse and
passeth beyond and overthroweth him and his horse together. Then
draweth he his sword and runneth upon him. And the knight crieth
out: "Hold, Messire Gawain! Are you minded to slay me? I yield
me conquered, for no mind have I to die for another's folly, and
so I cry you mercy hereof."
Messire Gawain thinketh that he will do him no further harm, for
that of right behoveth him do his lord's bidding. Messire Gawain
holdeth his hands, and he doth him homage on behalf of his lord
for his hold and all of his land and becometh his man.
Thereupon the knight departeth and Messire Gawain remaineth
"Sir," saith the Knight Coward to Messire Gawain, "I have no mind
to be so hardy as are you; for, so God help me, had he defied me
in such-wise as he defied you, should have fled away forthwith,
or elsewise I should hay fallen at his feet and cried him of
"You wish for nought but peace," saith Messire Gawain.
"By S. James," saith the Coward, "Therein are you quite right,
for of war cometh nought but evil; nor never have I had no hurt
nor wound saw some branch of a tree or the like gave it me, and I
see your face all seamed and scarred in many places. So God help
me, of such hardiesse make I but small account, and every day I
pray God that He defend me. And so to God I commend you, for I
am going after my Damsel of the Car."
"Not thus shall you go," saith Messire Gawain, "save you tell me
first wherefore your Damsel of the Car beareth her arm slung to
her neck in such-wise."
"Sir, this may I will tell you. With this hand serve she of the
most Holy-Graal the knight that was in the hostel of King
Fisherman that would not ask whereof the Graal served; for that
she held therein the precious vessel whereinto the glorious blood
fell drop by drop from the point of the lance, so that none other
thing is she minded to hold therein until such time as she shall
come back to the holy place where it is. Sir," saith the Knight
Coward, "Now, so please you, may I well go hence, and see, here
is my spear that I give you, for nought is there that I have to
Messire Gawain taketh it, for his own was broken short, and
departeth from the knight and commendeth him to God. And he
goeth his way a great pace, and Messire Gawain also goeth amidst
the forest, and full weary is he and forspent with travail. And
he rode until the sun was due to set. And he meeteth a knight
that was coming athwart the forest and came toward Messire Gawain
a great gallop like as he were smitten through the body, and
crieth over all the forest: "What is your name, Sir knight?"
"My name is Gawain."
"Ha, Messire Gawain," saith the other, "In your service am I
"How in my service?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir, I was minded to bury the damsel that you bare into the
chapel, and Marin the Jealous ran upon me and wounded me in many
places in such manner as you see. And I had already dug a grave
with my sword to bury the body when he seized it from me and
abandoned it to the wild beasts. Now go I hence yonder to the
chapel of a hermit that is in this forest to confess me, for well
know I that I have not long to live for that the wound lieth me
so nigh my heart. But I shall die the more easily now that I
have found you and shown you the hurt that hath been done me for
"Certes," saith Messire Gawain, "this grieveth me."
Therewithal the knights depart asunder, and Messire Gawain rode
on until he found in the forest a castle right fair and rich, and
met an ancient knight that was issued forth of the castle for
disport, and held a bird on his fist. He saluteth Messire Gawain
and he him again, and he asked him what castle is this that he
seeth show so fair? And he telleth him it is the castle of the
Proud Maiden that never deigned ask a knight his name.
"And we, that are her men, durst not do it on her behalf. But
right well will you be lodged in the castle, for right courteous
is she otherwise and the fairest that ever any may know. Nor
never hath she had any lord, nor deigned to love no knight save
she heard tell that he was the best knight in the world. And I
will go to her with you of courtesy."
"Gramercy, Sir," saith Messire Gawain. They enter into the
castle both twain together, and alight at the mounting-stage
before the hall. The knight taketh Messire Gawain by the hand
and leadeth him up, and maketh disarm him, and bringeth him a
surcoat of scarlet purfled of vair and maketh him do it on. Then
leadeth he the lady of the castle to Messire Gawain, and he
riseth up to meet her.
"Lady," saith he "Welcome may you be!"
"And you, Sir, be welcome!" saith she, "Will you see my chapel?"
"Damsel," saith he, "At your pleasure."
And she leadeth him and taketh Messire Gawain by the hand, and he
looketh at the chapel and it well seemeth him that never before
had he come into none so fair nor so rich, and he seeth four
tombs within, the fairest that he had seen ever. And on the
right hand side of the chapel were three narrow openings in the
wall that were wrought all about with gold and precious stones,
and beyond the three openings he seeth great circlets of lighted
candles that were before three coffers of hallows that were
there, and the smell thereof was sweeter than balm.
"Sir knight," saith the damsel, "See you these tombs?"
"Yea, damsel," saith Messire Gawain.
"These three are made for the three best knights in the world and
the fourth for me. The one hath for name Messire Gawain and the
second Lancelot of the Lake. Each of them do I love for love's
sake, by my faith! And the third hath for name Perceval. Him
love I better than the other two. And within these three
openings are the hallows set for love of them. And behold what I
would do to them and their three heads were therein; and so I
might not do it to the three together, yet would I do it to two,
or even to one only."
She setteth her hand toward the openings and draweth forth a pin
that was fastened into the wall, and a cutting blade of steel
droppeth down, of steel sharper than any razor, and closeth up
the three openings.
"Even thus will I cut off their heads when they shall set them
into those three openings thinking to adore the hallows that are
beyond. Afterward will I make take the bodies and set them in
the three coffins, and do them be honoured and enshrouded right
richly, for joy of them in their life may I never have. And when
the end of my life shall be come as God will, even so will I make
set me in the fourth coffin, and so shall I have company of the
three good knights."
Messire Gawain heard the word. whereof he marvelled right sore,
and would right fain that the night were overpassed. They issue
forth of the chapel. The damsel maketh Messire Gawain be greatly
honoured that night, and there was great company of knights
within that served him and helped guard the castle. They show
Messire Gawain much worship, but they knew not that it was he,
nor did none ask him, for such was the custom of the castle. But
well she knew that he oftentimes passed to and fro amidst the
forest, and four of the knights that watched the forest and the
passers-by had she commanded that and if any of these three
knights should pass they should bring him to her without gainsay,
and she would increase the land of each for so doing.
Messire Gawain was in the castle that night until the morrow, and
went to hear mass in the chapel or ever he removed thence.
Afterward, when he had heard mass and was armed, he took leave of
the damsel and issued forth of the castle as he that had no
desire to abide there longer. And he entereth into the forest
and rideth a long league Welsh and findeth two knights sitting by
a narrow path in the forest. And when they see him coming they
leap up on their horses all armed and come against Messire
Gawain, shields on sides and spears in fists.
"Bide, Sir knight!" say they, "And tell us your name without
"Lords," saith he, "Right willingly! never hath my name been
withholden when it hath been asked for. I am called Gawain, King
"Nay, then, Sir, welcome may you be! One other demand have we to
make of you. Will you come with us to the lady in the world who
most desireth you, and will make much joy of you at Castle
Orguelleux where she is?"
"Lord," saith Messire Gawain, "No leisure have I at this time,
for I have emprised my way else-whither."
"Sir," say they, "Needs must you come thither without fail, for
in such wise hath she commanded us that we shall take you thither
by force an you come not of your own good-will."
"I have told you plainly that thither will I not go," saith
Messire Gawain. With that, they leap forward and take him by the
bridle, thinking to lead him away by force. And Messire Gawain
hath shame thereof, and draweth his sword and smiteth one of them
in such wrath that he cutteth off his arm. And the other letteth
the bridle go and turneth him full speed; and his fellow with him
that was maimed. And away go they toward Castle Orguelleux and
the Proud Maiden of the castle and show her the mischief that
hath befallen them.
"Who hath mis-handled you thus?" saith she.
"Certes, lady, Messire Gawain."
"Where found you him?"
"Lady," say they, "In the forest, where he came toward us a full
gallop, and was minded to pass by the narrows of the way, when we
bade him abide and come to you. But come he would not. We
offered him force, and he smote my fellow"s arm off."
She biddeth a horn be sounded incontinent, and the knights of the
castle arm, and she commandeth them follow Messire Gawain, and
saith that she will increase the land and the charge of him that
shall bring him to her. They were a good fifteen knights armed.
Just as they were about to issue out of the castle, behold you
forthwith two keepers of the forest where they come, both twain
of them smitten through the body. The damsel and the knights ask
who hath done this to them, and they say it was Messire Gawain
that did it, for that they would have brought him to the castle.
"Is he far away?" saith the damsel.
"Yea," say they, "Four great leagues Welsh."
"Wherefore the greater folly would it be to follow him," saith
one of the sixteen knights, "For nought should we increase
thereby save only our own shame and hurt, and my Lady hath lost
him through her own default, for well know we that he it was that
lay within, for that he beareth a shield sinople with a golden
"Yea," saith the wounded knight, "Without fail."
"Is this then he?" saith the damsel. "I know him well now that I
have lost him by my pride and by my outrage; nor never more will
knight lie in my hostel sith that he will be estranged for that I
ask not his name. But it is too late! Herein have I failed of
this one for ever and ever save God bring him back to me, and
through this one shall I lose the other two!"
Herewithal cometh to a stay the pursuit of Messire Gawain, that
goeth his way and prayeth God that He send him true counsel of
that he hath emprised, and that He allow him to come into some
place where he may hear true witting of the hostel of King
Fisherman. And while he was thus thinking, he heareth a brachet
questing, and he cometh toward him a great pace. When he is come
anigh Messire Gawain he setteth his nose to the ground and
findeth a track of blood through a grassy way in the forest, and
when Messire Gawain was minded to leave the way where the track
of blood was, the brachet came over against him and quested.
Messire Gawain is minded not to abandon the track, wherefore he
followeth the brachet a great pace until he cometh to a marish in
the midst of the forest, and seeth there in the marish a house,
ancient and decayed. He passeth with the brachet over the
bridge, that was right feeble, and there was a great water under
it, and cometh to the hall, that was wasted and old. And the
brachet leaveth of his questing. Messire Gawain seeth in the
midst of house a knight that was stricken right through the
breast unto the heart and there lay dead. A damsel was issuing
forth of the chamber and bare the winding-sheer wherein to
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Good adventure may you have!"
The damsel that was weeping right tenderly, saith to him: "Sir, I
will answer you not."
She cometh toward the dead knight, thinking that his wounds
should have begun to bleed afresh, but they did not.
"Sir," saith she to Messire Gawain, "Welcome may you be!"
"Damsel," saith he. "God grant you greater joy than you have!"
And the damsel saith to the brachet: "It was not this one I sent
you back to fetch, but him that slew this knight."
"Know you then, damsel, who hath slain him?" saith Messire
"Yea," saith she, "well! Lancelot of the Lake slew him in this
forest, on whom God grant me vengeance, and on all them of King
Arthur's court, for sore mischief and great hurt have they
wrought us! But, please God, right well shall this knight yet be
avenged, for a right fair son hath he whose sister am I, and so
hath he many good friends withal."
"Damsel, to God I commend you!" saith Messire Gawain. With that,
he issueth forth of the Waste Manor and betaketh him back to the
way he had abandoned, and prayeth God grant he may find Lancelot
of the Lake.
Here beginneth again another branch of the Graal in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Messire Gawain goeth his way and evening draweth on; and on his
right hand was there a narrow pathway that seemed him to be
haunted of folk. Thitherward goeth he, for that he seeth the sun
waxeth low, and findeth in the thick of the forest a great
chapel, and without was a right fair manor. Before the chapel
was an orchard enclosed of a wooden fence that was scarce so high
as a tall man. A hermit that seemed him a right worshipful man
was leaning against the fence, and looked into the orchard and
made great cheer from time to time. He seeth Messire Gawain, and
cometh to meet him, and Messire Gawain alighteth.
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Welcome may you be."
"God grant you the joy of Paradise," saith Messire Gawain. The
hermit maketh his horse be stabled of a squire, and then taketh
him by the hand and maketh him sit beside him to look on the
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Now may you see that whereof I was
Messire Gawain looketh therewithin and seeth two damsels and a
squire and a child that were guarding a lion.
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Here see my joy, which is this child.
Saw you ever so fair a child his age?"
"Never," saith Messire Gawain. They go into the orchard to sit,
for the evening was fair and calm. He maketh disarm him, and
thereupon the damsel bringeth him a surcoat of right rich silk
furred of ermine. And Messire Gawain looketh at the child that
rode upon the lion right fainly.
"Sir," saith the hermit, "None durst guard him or be master over
him save this child only, and yet the lad is not more than six
years of age. Sir, he is of right noble lineage, albeit he is
the son of the most cruel man and most felon that is. Marin the
Jealous is his father, that slew his wife on account of Messire
Gawain. Never sithence that his mother was dead would not the
lad be with his father, for well knoweth he that he slew her of
wrong. And I am his uncle, so I make him be tended here of these
damsels and these two squires, but no one thing is there that he
so much desireth to see as Messire Gawain. For after his
father's death ought he of right to be Messire Gawain's man. Sir,
if any tidings you know of him, tell us them."
"By my faith, Sir," saith he, "Tidings true can I give you. Lo,
there is his shield and his spear, and himself shall you have
this night for guest."
"Fair sir, are you he?" saith the hermit.
"So men call me," saith Messire Gawain, "And the lady saw I slain
in the forest, whereof was I sore an-angered."
"Fair nephew," saith the hermit, "See here your desire. Come to
him and make him cheer."
The lad alighteth of the lion and smiteth him with a whip and
leadeth him to the den and maketh the door so that he may not
issue forth, and cometh to Messire Gawain, and Messire Gawain
receiveth him between his arms. "Sir," saith the child, "Welcome
may you be!"
"God give you growth of honour!" saith Messire Gawain. He
kisseth him and maketh cheer with him right sweetly.
"Sir," saith the hermit, "He will be of right your man, wherefore
ought you to counsel him and help him, for through you came his
mother by her death, and right sore need will he have of your
succour." The child kneeleth before him and holdeth up his
"Look, Sir," saith the hermit, "Is he not right pitiful? He
offereth you his homage."
And Messire Gawain setteth his hands within his own: "Certes,"
saith Messire Gawain, "Both your honour and your homage receive I
gladly, and my succour and my counsel shall you have so often as
you shall have need thereof. But fain would I know your name?"
"Sir, I am called Meliot of Logres."
"Sir," saith the hermit, "He saith true, for his mother was
daughter of a rich earl of the kingdom of Logres."
Messire Gawain was well harboured the night and lay in a right
fair house and right rich. In the morning, when Messire Gawain
had heard mass, the hermit asked him, "Whitherward go you?" and
he said, "Toward the land of King Fisherman, and God allow me."
"Messire Gawain," saith the hermit, "Now God grant you speed your
business better than did the other knight that was there before
you, through whom are all the lands fallen into sorrow, and the
good King Fisherman languisheth thereof."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "God grant me herein to do His
Thereupon he taketh his leave and goeth his way, and the hermit
commendeth him to God. And Messire Gawain rideth on his journeys
until he hath left far behind the forest of the hermitage, and
findeth the fairest land in the world and the fairest meadowlands
that ever had he seen, and it lasted a good couple of great
leagues Welsh. And he seeth a high forest before him, and
meeteth a squire that came from that quarter, and seeth that he
is sore downcast and right simple.
"Fair friend," saith Messire Gawain, "Whence come you?"
"Sir," saith he, "I come from yonder forest down below."
"Whose man are you?" saith Messire Gawain.
"I belong to the worshipful man that owneth the forest."
"You seem not over joyful," saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir, I have right to be otherwise," saith the squire, "For he
that loseth his good lord ought not to be joyful."
"And who is your lord?"
"The best in the world."
"Is he dead?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Nay, of a truth, for that would be right sore grief to the
world, but in joy hath he not been this long time past."
"And what name hath he?"
"They call him Parlui there where he is."
"And where then, is he, may I know?"
"In no wise, Sir, of me; but so much may I well tell you that he
is in this forest, but I ought not to learn you of the place more
at large, nor ought I to do any one thing that may be against my
Messire Gawain seeth that the squire is of passing comeliness and
seeth him forthwith bow his head toward the ground and the tears
fall from his eyes. Thereupon he asketh what aileth him.
"Sir," saith he, "Never may I have joy until such time as I be
entered into a hermitage to save my soul. For the greatest sin
that any man may do have I wrought; for I have slain my mother
that was a Queen, for this only that she told me I should not be
King after my father's death, for that she would make me monk or
clerk, and that my other brother, who is younger-born than I,
should have the kingdom. When my father knew that I had slain my
mother, he withdrew himself into this forest, and made a
hermitage and renounced his kingdom. I have no will to hold the
land for the great disloyalty that I have wrought, and therefore
am I resolved that it is meeter I should set my body in
banishment than my father."
"And what is your name?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir, my name is Joseus, and I am of the lineage of Joseph of
Abarimacie. King Pelles is my father, that is in this forest,
and King Fisherman mine uncle, and the King of Castle Mortal, and
the Widow Lady of Camelot my aunt, and the Good Knight Par-lui-
fet is of this lineage as near akin as I."
With that, the squire departeth and taketh leave of Messire
Gawain, and he commendeth him to God and hath great pity of him,
and entereth into the forest and goeth great pace, and findeth
the stream of a spring that ran with a great rushing, and nigh
thereunto was a way that was much haunted. He abandoneth his
high-way, and goeth all along the stream from the spring that
lasteth a long league plenary, until that he espieth a right fair
house and right fair chapel well enclosed within a hedge of wood.
He looketh from without the entrance under a little tree and
seeth there sitting one of the seemliest men that he had ever
seen of his age. And he was clad as a hermit, his head white and
no hair on his face, and he held his hand to his chin, and made a
squire hold a destrier right fair and strong and tail, and a
shield with a sun thereon; and he was looking at a habergeon and
chausses of iron that he had made bring before him. And when he
seeth Messire Gawain he dresseth him over against him and saith:
"Fair sir," saith he, "Ride gently and make no noise, for no need
have we of worse than that we have."
And Messire Gawain draweth rein, and the worshipful man saith to
him: "Sir, for God's sake take it not of discourtesy; for right
fainly would I have besought you to harbour had I not good cause
to excuse me, but a knight lieth within yonder sick, that is held
for the best knight in the world. Wherefore fain would I he
should have no knight come within this close, for and if he
should rise, as sick as he is, none might prevent him nor hold
him back, but presently he should arm him and mount on his horse
and joust at you or any other; and so he were here, well might we
be the worse thereof. And therefore do I keep him so close and
quiet within yonder, for that I would not have him see you nor
none other, for and he were so soon to die, sore loss would it be
to the world."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "What name hath he?"
"Sir," saith he, "He hath made him of himself, and therefore do I
call him Par-lui-fer, of dearness and love."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "May it not be in any wise that I
may see him?"
"Sir," saith the hermit, "I have told you plainly that nowise may
it not be. No strange man shall not see him within yonder until
such time as he be whole and of good cheer."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "Will you in nowise do nought for me
whatsoever I may say?"
"Certes, sir, no one thing is there in the world that I would
tell him, save he spake first to me."
Hereof is Messire Gawain right sorrowful that he may not speak to
the knight. "Sir," saith he to the hermit, "Of what age is the
knight, and of what lineage?"
"Of the lineage of Joseph of Abarimacie the Good Soldier."
Thereupon behold you a damsel that cometh to the door of the
chapel and calleth very low to the hermit, and the hermit riseth
up and taketh leave of Messire Gawain, and shutteth the door of
the chapel; and the squire leadeth away the destrier and beareth
the arms within door and shutteth the postern door of the house.
And Messire abideth without and knoweth not of a truth whether it
be the son of the Widow Lady, for many good men there be of one
lineage. He departeth all abashed and entereth again into the
forest. The history telleth not all the journeys that he made.
Rather, I tell you in brief words that he wandered so far by
lands and kingdoms that he found a right fair land and a rich,
and a castle seated in the midst thereof. Thitherward goeth he
and draweth nigh the castle and seeth it compassed about of high
walls, and he seeth the entrance of the castle far without. He
looketh and seeth a lion chained that lay in the midst of the
entrance to the gate, and the chain was fixed in the wall. And
on either side of the gate he seeth two serjeants of beaten
copper that were fixed to the wall, and by engine shot forth
quarrels from their cross-bows with great force and great wrath.
Messire Gawain durst not come anigh the gate for that he seeth
the lion and these folk. He looketh above on the top of the wall
and seeth a sort of folk that seemed him to be of holy life, and
saw there priests clad in albs and knights bald and ancient that
were clad in ancient seeming garments. And in each crenel of the
wall was a cross and a chapel. Above the wall, hard by an issue
from a great hall that was in the castle, was another chapel, and
above the chapel was a tall cross, and on either side of this
cross another that was somewhat lower, and on the top of each
cross was a golden eagle. The priests and the knights were upon
the walls and knelt toward this chapel, and looked up to heaven
and made great joy, and well it seemed him that they beheld God
in Heaven with His Mother. Messire Gawain looketh at them from
afar, for he durst not come anigh the castle for these that shoot
their arrows so strongly that none armour might defend him. Way
seeth he none to right nor left save he go back again. He
knoweth not what to do. He looketh before him and seeth a priest
issue forth of the gateway. "Fair sir," saith Messire Gawain,
"Welcome may you be!"
"Good adventure to you also," saith the good man, "What is your
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "So please you, I would fain ask you
to tell me what castle is this?"
"It is," saith he, "the entrance to the land of the rich King
Fisherman, and within yonder are they beginning the service of
the Most Holy Graal."
"Allow me then," saith Messire Gawain, "that I may pass on
further, for toward the land of King Fisherman have I emprised my
"Sir," saith the priest, "I tell you of a truth that you may not
enter the castle nor come nigher unto the Holy Graal, save you
bring the sword wherewith S. John was beheaded."
"What?" saith Messire Gawain, "Shall I be evilly entreated and I
bring it not?"
"So much may you well believe me herein," saith the priest, "And
I tell you moreover that he who hath it is the fellest
misbelieving King that lives. But so you bring the Sword, this
entrance will be free to you, and great joy will be made of you
in all places wherein King Fisherman hath power."
"Then must I needs go back again," saith Messire Gawain, "Whereof
I have right to be sore sorrowful."
"So ought you not to be," saith the priest, "For, so you bring
the sword and conquer it for us, then will it be well known that
you are worthy to behold the Holy Graal. But take heed you
remember him who would not ask whereof it served."
Thereupon Messire Gawain departeth so sorrowful and full of
thought that he remembereth not to ask in what land he may find
the sword nor the name of the King that hath it. But he will
know tidings thereof when God pleaseth.
The history telleth us and witnesseth that he rode so far that he
came to the side of a little hill, and the day was right fair and
clear. He looketh in front of him before a chapel and seeth a
tall burgess sitting on a great destrier that was right rich and
fair. The burgess espieth Messire Gawain and cometh over against
him, and saluteth him right courteously and Messire Gawain him.
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "God give you joy."
"Sir," saith the goodman, "Right sorrowful am I of this that you
have a horse so lean and spare of flesh. Better would it become
so worshipful man as you seem to be that he were better horsed."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "I may not now amend it, whereof am
I sorry; another shall I have when it shall please God."
"Fair sir," saith the burgess, "Whither are you bound to go?"
"I go seek the sword wherewith the head of S. John Baptist was
"Ha, sir," saith the burgess, "You are running too sore a peril.
A King hath it that believeth not in God, and is sore fell and
cruel. He is named Gurgalain, and many knights have passed
hereby that went thither for the sword, but never thence have
they returned. But, and you are willing to pledge me your word
that so God grant you to conquer the sword, you will return
hither and show it me on your return, I will give you this
destrier, which is right rich, for your own."
"Will you?" saith Messire Gawain, "Then are you right courteous,
for you know me not."
"Certes, sir," saith he, "So worshipful man seem you to be, that
you will hold well to this that you have covenanted with me."
"And to this do I pledge you my word," saith Messire Gawain,
"that, so God allow me to conquer it, I will show it to you on my
Thereupon the burgess alighteth and mounteth upon Messire
Gawain's horse, and Messire Gawain upon his, and taketh leave of
the burgess and goeth his way and entereth into a right great
forest beyond the city, and rideth until sundown and findeth
neither castle nor city. And he findeth a meadow in the midst of
the forest, right broad, and it ran on beyond, like as there were
the stream of a spring in the midst. He looketh toward the foot
of the meadow close by the forest, and seeth a right large tent,
whereof the cords were of silk and the pegs of ivory fixed in the
ground, and the tops of the poles of gold and upon each was a
golden eagle. The tent was white round about, and the hanging
above was of the richest silk, the same as red samite.
Thitherward goeth Messire Gawain and alighteth before the door of
the tent, and smiteth off the bridle of his horse, and letteth
him feed on the grass, and leaneth his spear and his shield
without the tent, and looketh narrowly within"and seeth a right
rich couch of silk and gold, and below was a cloth unfolded as it
were a feather-bed, and above a coverlid of ermine and vair
without any gold, and at the head of the couch two pillows so
rich that fairer none ever saw, and such sweet smell gave they
forth that it seemed the tent was sprinkled of balm. And round
about the couch were rich silken cloths spread on the ground.
And at the head of the couch on the one side and the other were
two seats of ivory, and upon them were two cushions stuffed with
straw, right rich, and at the foot of the couch, above the bed,
two candlesticks of gold wherein were two tall waxen tapers. A
table was set in the midst of the tent, that was all of ivory
banded of gold, with rich precious stones, and upon the table was
the napkin spread and the basin of silver and the knife with an
ivory handle and the rich set of golden vessels. Messire Gawain
seeth the rich couch and setteth him down thereon all armed in
the midst, and marvelleth him wherefore the tent is so richly
apparelled and yet more that therein he seeth not a soul.
Howbeit, he was minded to disarm him.
Thereupon, behold you, saluteth a dwarf that entereth the tent
and saluteth Messire Gawain. Then he kneeleth before him and
would fain disarm him. Then Messire Gawain remembereth him of
the dwarf through whom the lady was slain.
"Fair sweet friend, withdraw yourself further from me, for as at
this time I have no mind to disarm."
"Sir," saith the dwarf, "Without misgiving may you do so, for
until to-morrow have you no occasion to be on your guard, and
never were you more richly lodged than to-night you shall be, nor
With that Messire Gawain began to disarm him, and the dwarf
helpeth him. And when he was disarmed, he setteth his arms nigh
the couch and his spear and sword and shield lying within the
tent, and the dwarf taketh a basin of silver and a white napkin,
and maketh Messire Gawain wash his hands and his face.
Afterward, he unfasteneth a right fair coffer, and draweth forth
a robe of cloth of gold furred of ermine and maketh Messire
Gawain be clad therewithal.
"Sir," saith the dwarf, "Be not troubled as touching your
destrier, for you will have him again when you rise in the
morning. I will lead him close hereby to be better at ease, and
then will I return to you."
And Messire Gawain giveth him leave. Thereupon, behold you, two
squires that bear in the wine and set the meats upon the table
and make Messire Gawain sit to eat, and they have great torches
lighted on a tall cresset of gold and depart swiftly. Whilst
Messire Gawain was eating, behold you, thereupon, two damsels
that come into the tent and salute him right courteously. And he
maketh answer, the fairest he may.
"Sir," say the damsels, "God grant you force and power tomorrow
to destroy the evil custom of this tent."
"Is there then any evil custom herein, damsel?" saith he.
"Yea, sir, a right foul custom, whereof much it grieveth me, but
well meseemeth that you are the knight to amend it by the help of
Therewith he riseth from the table, and one of the squires was
apparelled to take away the cloths. And the two damsels take him
by the hand and lead him without the tent, and they set them down
in the midst of the meadow. "Sir," saith the elder damsel, "What
is your name?"
"Damsel," saith he, "Gawain is my name."
"Thereof do we love you the better, for well we know that the
evil custom of the tent shall be done away on condition that you
choose to-night the one of us two that most shall please you."
"Damsel, gramercy," saith he. Thereupon he riseth up, for he was
weary, and draweth him toward the couch, and the damsels help him
and wait upon his going to bed. And when he was lien down, they
seated themselves before him and lighted the taper and leant over
the couch and prospered him much service. Messire Gawain
answered them naught save "Gramercy," for he was minded to sleep
and take his rest.
"By God," saith the one to the other, "And this were Messire
Gawain, King Arthur's nephew, he would speak to us after another
sort, and more of disport should we find in him than in this one.
But this is a counterfeit Gawain, and the honour we have done him
hath been ill bestowed. Who careth? To-morrow shall he pay his
Thereupon, lo you, the dwarf where he cometh. "Fair friend," say
they, "Keep good watch over this knight that he flee not away,
for he goeth a-cadging from, hostel to hostel and maketh him be
called Messire Gawain, but Messire Gawain meseemeth is he not.
For, and it were he, and we had been minded to watch with him two
nights, he would have wished it to be three or four."
"Damsel," saith the dwarf, "He may not flee away save he go
afoot, for his horse is in my keeping."
And Messire Gawain heareth well enough that which the damsels
say, but he answereth them never a word. Thereupon they depart,
and say: God give him an ill night, for an evil knight and a
vanquished and recreant, and command the dwarf that he move not
on any occasion. Messire Gawain slept right little the night,
and so soon as he saw the day, arose and found his arms ready and
his horse that had been led all ready saddled before the tent.
He armed himself as swiftly as he might, and the dwarf helpeth
him and saith to him: "Sir, you have not done service to our
damsels as they would fain you should, wherefore they make sore
complaint of you."
"That grieveth me," saith Messire Gawain, "if that I have
"It is great pity," saith the dwarf, "when knight so comely as be
you is so churlish as they say."
"They may say their pleasure," saith he, "for it is their right.
I know not to whom to render thanks for the good lodging that I
have had save to God, and if I shall see the lord of the tent or
the lady I shall con them much thanks thereof."
Thereupon, lo you, where two knights come in front of the tent on
their horses, all armed, and see Messire Gawain that was mounted
and had his shield on his neck and his spear in his fist, as he
that thinketh to go without doing aught further. And the knights
come before him: "Sir," say they, "Pay for your lodging! Last
night did we put ourselves to misease on your account and left
you the tent and all that is therein at your pleasure, and now
you are fain to go in this fashion."
"What pleaseth it you that I should do?" saith Messire Gawain.
"It is meet I should requite you of my victual and the honour of
Thereupon, lo you, where the two damsels come that were of right
great beauty. "Sir Knight," say they, "Now shall we see whether
you be King Arthur's nephew!"
"By my faith," saith the dwarf, "Methinketh this is not he that
shall do away the evil custom whereby we lose the coming hither
of knights! Albeit if he may do it, I will forego mine ill will
Messire Gawain thus heard himself mocked by day as well as by
night and had great shame thereof. He seeth that he may not
depart without a fight. One of the knights drew to backward and
was alighted; the other was upon his horse all armed, his shield
on his neck and grasping his spear in his fist. And he cometh
toward Messire Gawain full career and Messire Gawain toward him,
and smiteth him so wrathfully that he pierceth his shield and
pinneth his shield to his arm and his arm to his rib and
thrusteth his spear into his body, and hurtleth against him so
sore that he beareth him to the ground, him and his horse
together at the first blow.
"By my head! Look at Messire Gawain the counterfeit! Better
doth he to-day than he did last night!"
He draweth back his spear, and pulleth forth his sword and
runneth upon him, when the knight crieth him mercy and saith that
he holdeth himself vanquished. Messire Gawain bethinketh him
what he shall do and whether the damsels are looking at him.
"Sir knight," saith the elder, "Need you not fear the other
knight until such time as this one be slain, nor will the evil
custom be done away so long as this one is on live. For he is
the lord of the other and because of the shameful custom hath no
knight come hither this right long space."
"Hearken now," saith the knight, "the great disloyalty of her!
Nought in the world is there she loved so well in seeming as did
she me, and now hath she adjudged me my death!"
"Again I tell you plainly," saith she, "that never will it be
done away unless he slay you."
Thereupon Messire Gawain lifteth the skirt of his habergeon and
thrusteth his sword into his body. Thereupon, lo you, the other
knight, right angry and sorrowful and full of wrath for his
fellow that he seeth dead, and cometh in great rage to Messire
Gawain and Messire Gawain to him, and so stoutly they mell
together that they pierce the shields and pierce the habergeons
and break the flesh of the ribs with the points of their spears,
and the bodies of the knights and their horses hurtle together so
stiffly that saddle-bows are to-frushed and stirrups loosened and
girths to-brast and fewtres splintered and spears snapped short,
and the knights drop to the ground with such a shock that the
blood rayeth forth at mouth and nose. In the fall that the
knight made, Messire Gawain brake his collar-bone in the hurtle.
Thereupon the dwarf crieth out: "Damsel, your counterfeit Gawain
doth it well!"
"Our Gawain shall he be," say they, "so none take him from us!"
Messire Gawain draweth from over the knight and cometh toward his
horse, and right fain would he have let the knight live had it
not been for the damsels. For the knight crieth him mercy and
Messire Gawain had right great pity of him. Howbeit the damsels
cry to him; "And you slay him not, the evil custom will not be
"Sir," saith the younger damsel, "And you would slay him, smite
him in the sole of his foot with your sword, otherwise will he
not die yet."
"Damsel," saith the knight, "Your love of me is turned to shame!
Never more ought knight to set affiance nor love on damsel. But
God keep the other that they be not such as you!"
Messire Gawain marvelleth at this that the damsel saith to him,
and draweth him back, and hath great pity of the knight, and
cometh to the other side whither the horses were gone, and taketh
the saddle of the knight that was dead and setteth it on his own
horse and draweth him away. And the wounded knight was
remounted, for the dwarf had helped him, and fleeth toward the
forest a great gallop. And the damsels cry out, "Messire Gawain,
your pity will be our death this day! For the Knight without
Pity is gone for succour, and if he escape, we shall be dead and
Thereupon Messire Gawain leapeth on his horse and taketh a spear
that was leaning against the tent and followeth the knight in
such sort that he smiteth him to the ground. Afterward he saith
to him: "No further may you go!"
"That grieveth me," saith the knight, "For before night should I
have been avenged of you and of the damsels."
And Messire Gawain draweth his sword and thrusteth it into the
sole of his foot a full palm's breadth, and the knight stretcheth
himself forth and dieth. And Messire Gawain returneth back, and
the damsels make great joy of him and tell him that never
otherwise could the evil custom have been done away. For, and he
had gone his way, all would have been to begin over again, for he
is of such kind seeing that he was of the kindred of Achilles,
and that all his ancestors might never otherwise die. And
Messire Gawain alighteth, and the damsels would have searched the
wound in his side, and he telleth them that he taketh no heed
"Sir," say they, "Again do we proffer you our service, for well
we know that you are a good knight. Take for your lady-love
which of us you will."
"Gramercy, damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Your love do I refuse
not and to God do I commend you."
"How?" say the damsels, "Will you go your way thus? Certes,
meeter were it to-day for you to sojourn in this tent and be at
"It may not be," saith he, "for leisure have I none to abide
"Let him go!" saith the younger, "for the falsest knight is he of
"By my head," saith the elder, "it grieveth me that he goeth, for
stay would have pleased me well."
Therewithal Messire Gawain departeth and is remounted on his
horse. Then he entereth into the forest.
Another branch that Josephus telleth us recounteth and witnesseth
of the Holy Graal, and here beginneth for us in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Messire Gawain rode until he came to a forest, and seeth a land
right fair and rich in a great enclosure of wall, and round the
land and country-side within, the wall stretched right far away.
Thitherward he cometh and seeth but one entrance thereinto, and
he seeth the fairest land that ever he beheld and the best
garnished and the fairest orchards. The country was not more
than four leagues Welsh in length, and in the midst thereof was a
tower on a high rock. And on the top was a crane that kept watch
over it and cried when any strange man came into the country.
Messire Gawain rode amidst the land and the crane cried out so
loud that the King of Wales heard it, that was lord of the land.
Thereupon, behold you, two knights that come after Messire Gawain
and say to him: "Hold, Sir knight, and come speak with the king
of this country, for no strange knight passeth through his land
but he seeth him."
"Lords," saith Messire Gawain, "I knew not of the custom.
Willingly will I go."
They led him thither to the hall where the King was, and Messire
Gawain alighteth and setteth his shield and his spear leaning
against a mounting stage and goeth up into the hall. The King
maketh great joy of him and asketh him whither he would go?
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "Into a country where I was never."
"Well I know," saith the king, "where it is, for that you are
passing through my land. You are going to the country of King
Gurgalain to conquer the sword wherewith S. John was beheaded."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "You say true. God grant me that I
may have it!"
"That may not be so hastily," saith the King, "For you shall not
go forth of my land before a year."
"Ha, Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "For God's sake, mercy!"
"None other mercy is here," saith the King. Straightway he
maketh Messire Gawain be disarmed and afterward maketh bring a
robe wherewith to apparel him, and showeth him much honour. But
ill is he at ease, wherefore he saith to him: "Sir, wherefore are
you fain to hold me here within so long?"
"For this, that I know well you will have the sword and will not
return by me."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "I pledge you my word that, so God
give me to conquer it, I will return by you."
"And I will allow you to depart from me at your will. For nought
is there that I so much desire to see."
He lay the night therewithin, and on the morrow departed thence
and issued forth of the land right glad and joyful. And he goeth
toward the land of King Gurgalain. And he entereth into a
noisome forest at the lower part and findeth at the right hour of
noon a fountain that was enclosed of marble, and it was
overshadowed of the forest like as it were with leaves down
below, and it had rich pillars of marble all round about with
fillets of gold and set with precious stones. Against the
master-pillar hung a vessel of gold by a silver chain, and in the
midst of the fountain was an image so deftly wrought as if it had
been alive. When Messire appeared at the fountain, the image set
itself in the water and was hidden therewith. Messire Gawain
goeth down, and would fain have taken hold on the vessel of gold
when a voice crieth out to him: "You are not the Good Knight unto
whom is served thereof and who thereby is made whole."
Messire Gawain draweth him back and seeth a clerk come to the
fountain that was young of age and clad inú white garments, and
he had a stole on his arm and held a little square vessel of
gold, and cometh to the little vessel that was hanging on the
marble pillar and looketh therein, and then rinseth out the other
little golden vessel that he held, and then setteth the one that
he held in the place of the other. Therewithal, behold, three
damsels that come of right great beauty, and they had white
garments and their heads were covered with white cloths, and they
carried, one, bread in a little golden vessel, and the other wine
in a little ivory vessel, and the third flesh in one of silver.
And they come to the vessel of gold that hung against the pillar
and set therein that which they have brought, and afterward they
make the sign of the cross over the pillar and come back again.
But on their going back, it seemed to Messire Gawain that only
one was there. Messire Gawain much marvelled him of this
miracle. He goeth after the clerk that carried the other vessel
of gold, and saith unto him: "Fair Sir, speak to me."
"What is your pleasure?" saith the clerk.
"Whither carry you this golden vessel and that which is therein?"
"To the hermits," saith he, "that are in this forest, and to the
Good knight that lieth sick in the house of his uncle King
"Is it far from hence?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Yea, Sir," saith the clerk, "to yourself. But I shall be there
sooner than will you."
"By God," saith Messire Gawain, "I would fain I were there now,
so that I might see him and speak to him."
"That believe I well," saith the clerk, "But now is the place not
Messire Gawain taketh leave and goeth his way and rideth until he
findeth a hermitage and seeth the hermit therewithout. He was
old and bald and of good life.
"Sir," saith he to Messire Gawain, "Whither go you?"
"To the land of King Gurgalain, Sir; is this the way?"
"Yea," saith the hermit, "But many knights have passed hereby
that hither have never returned."
"Is it far?" saith he.