Part 3 out of 10
"He and his land are hard by, but far away is the castle wherein
is the sword."
Messire Gawain lay the night therewithin. On the morrow when he
had heard mass, he departed and rode until he cometh to the land
of King Gurgalain, and heareth the folk of the land making dole
right sore. And he meeteth a knight that cometh a great pace to
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "Wherefore make the folk of this
castle such dole, and they of all this land and all this country?
For I hear them weep and beat their palms together on every
"Sir," saith he, "I will tell you. King Gurgalain had one only
son of whom he hath been bereft by a Giant that hath done him
many mischiefs and wasted much of his land. Now hath the King
let everywhere be cried that to him that shall bring back his son
and slay the Giant he will give the fairest sword of the world,
the which sword he hath, and of all his treasure so much as he
may be fain to take. As at this time, he findeth no knight so
hardy that he durst go; and much more blameth he his own law than
the law of the Christians, and he saith that if any Christian
should come into his land, he would receive him."
Right joyous is Messire Gawain of these tidings, and departeth
from the castle and rideth on until he cometh to the castle of
King Gurgalain. The tidings come to the King that there is a
Christian come into his castle. The King maketh great joy
thereof, and maketh him come before him and asketh him of his
name and of what land he is.
"Sir," saith he, "My name is Gawain and I am of the land of King
"You are," saith he, "of the land of the Good Knight. But of
mine own land may I find none that durst give counsel in a matter
I have on hand. But if you be of such valour that you be willing
to undertake to counsel me herein, right well will I reward you.
A Giant hath carried off my son whom I loved greatly, and so you
be willing to set your body in jeopardy for my son, I will give
you the richest sword that was ever forged, whereby the head of
S. John was cut off. Every day at right noon is it bloody, for
that at that hour the good man had his head cut off."
The King made fetch him the sword, and in the first place showeth
him the scabbard that was loaded of precious stones and the
mountings were of silk with buttons of gold, and the hilt in
likewise, and the pommel of a most holy sacred stone that Enax, a
high emperor of Rome, made be set thereon. Then the King draweth
it forth of the scabbard, and the sword came forth thereof all
bloody, for it was the hour of noon. And he made hold it before
Messire Gawain until the hour was past, and thereafter the sword
becometh as clear as an emerald and as green. And Messire
looketh at it and coveteth it much more than ever he did before,
and he seeth that it is as long as another sword, albeit, when it
is sheathed in the scabbard, neither scabbard nor sword seemeth
of two spans length.
"Sir Knight," saith the King, "This sword will I give you, and
another thing will I do whereof you shall have joy."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "And I will do your need, if God
please and His sweet Mother."
Thereupon he teacheth him the way whereby the Giant went, and the
place where he had his repair, and Messire Gawain goeth his way
thitherward and commendeth himself to God. The country folk pray
for him according to their belief that he may back repair with
life and health, for that he goeth in great peril. He hath
ridden until that he cometh to a great high mountain that lay
round about a land that the Giant had all laid waste, and the
enclosure of the mountain went round about for a good three
leagues Welsh, and therewithin was the Giant, so great and cruel
and horrible that he feared no man in the world, and for a long
time had he not been sought out by any knight, for none durst won
in that quarter. And the pass of the mountain whereby he went to
his hold was so strait that no horse might get through; wherefore
behoveth Messire Gawain leave his horse and his shield and spear
and to pass beyond the mountain by sheer force, for the way was
like a cut between sharp rocks. He is come to level ground and
looketh before him and seeth a hold that the Giant had on the top
of a rock, and espieth the Giant and the lad where they were
sitting on the level ground under a tree. Messire Gawain was
armed and had his sword girt on, and goeth his way thitherward.
And the Giant seeth him coming and leapeth up and taketh in hand
a great axe that was at his side, and cometh toward Messire
Gawain all girded for the fight and thinketh to smite him a
two-handed stroke right amidst the head. But Messire Gawain
swerveth aside and bestirreth him with his sword and dealeth him
a blow such that he cut off his arm, axe and all. And the Giant
returneth backward when he feeleth himself wounded, and taketh
the King's son by the neck with his other hand and grippeth him
so straitly that he strangleth and slayeth him. Then he cometh
back to Messire Gawain and falleth upon him and grippeth him sore
strait by the flanks, and lifteth him three foot high off the
ground and thinketh to carry him to his hold that was within the
rock. And as he goeth thither he falleth, Messire Gawain and
all, and he lieth undermost. Howbeit, he thinketh to rise, but
cannot, for Messire Gawain sendeth him his sword right through
his heart and beyond. Afterward, he cut off the head and cometh
there where the King's child lay dead, whereof is he right
sorrowful. And he beareth him on his neck, and taketh the
Giant's head in his hand and returneth there where he had left
his horse and shield and spear, and mounteth and cometh back and
bringeth the King's son before the King and the head of the Giant
The King and all they of the castle come to meet him with right
great joy, but when they see the young man dead, their great joy
is turned into right great dole thereby. And Messire Gawain
alighteth before the castle and presenteth to the King his son
and the head of the Giant.
"Certes," said he, "might I have presented him to you on live,
much more joyful should I have been thereof."
"This believe I well," saith the King, "Howbeit, of so much as
you have done am I well pleased, and your guerdon shall you
And he looketh at his son and lamenteth him right sweetly, and
all they of the castle after him. Thereafter he maketh light a
great show of torches in the midst of the city, and causeth a
great fire to be made, and his son be set thereon in a brazen
vessel all full of water, and maketh him be cooked and sodden
over this fire, and maketh the Giant's head be hanged at the
When his son was well cooked, he maketh him be cut up as small as
he may, and biddeth send for all the high men of his land and
giveth thereof to each so long as there was any left. After that
he maketh bring the sword and giveth it to Messire Gawain, and
Messire Gawain thanketh him much thereof.
"More yet will I do for you," saith the King. He biddeth send
for all the men of his land to come to his hall and castle.
"Sir," saith he, "I am fain to baptize me."
"God be praised thereof," saith Messire Gawain. The King biddeth
send for a hermit of the forest, and maketh himself be baptized,
and he had the name of Archis in right baptism; and of all them
that were not willing to believe in God, he commanded Messire
Gawain that he should cut off their heads.
In such wise was this King baptized that was the lord of Albanie,
by the miracle of God and the knighthood of Messire Gawain, that
departeth from the castle with right great joy and rideth until
he has come into the land of the King of Wales and bethought him
he would go fulfil his pledge. He alighted before the hall, and
the King made right great cheer when he saw him come. And
Messire Gawain hath told him: "I come to redeem my pledge.
Behold, here is the sword."
And the King taketh it in his hand and looketh thereon right
fainly, and afterward maketh great joy thereof and setteth it in
his treasury and saith: "Now have I done my desire."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "Then have you betrayed me."
"By my head," saith the King, "That have I not, for I am of the
lineage of him that beheaded S. John, wherefore have I better
right to it than you."
"Sir," say the knights to the King, "Right loyal and courteous
knight is Messire Gawain, wherefore yield him that which he hath
conquered, for sore blame will you have of evil-treating him."
"I will yield it," saith the King "on such condition that
the first damsel that maketh request of him, what thing soever
she may require and whatsoever it be shall not be denied of him."
And Messire Gawain agreeth thereto, and of this agreement
thereafter did he suffer much shame and anguish and was blamed of
many knights. And the King yielded him the Sword. He lay the
night therewithin, and on the morrow so soon as he might, he
departed and rode until he came without the city where the
burgess gave him the horse in exchange for his own. And he
remembered him of his covenant, and abideth a long space and
leaneth him on the hilt of his sword until the burgess cometh.
Therewithal made they great joy the one of the other, and Messire
showeth him the sword, and the burgess taketh it and smiteth his
horse with his spurs and goeth a great gallop toward the city.
And Messire Gawain goeth after a great pace and crieth out that
he doth great treachery.
"Come not after me into the city," saith the burgess, "for the
folk have a commune."
Howbeit, he followeth after into the city for that he might not
overtake him before, and therein he meeteth a great procession of
priests and clerks that bore crosses and censers. And Messire
Gawain alighteth on account of the procession, and seeth the
burgess that hath gone into the church and the procession after.
"Lords," saith Messire Gawain, "Make yield me the sword whereof
this burgess that hath entered your church hath plundered me."
"Sir," say the priests, "Well know we that it is the sword
wherewith S. John was beheaded, wherefore the burgess hath
brought it to us to set with our hallows in yonder, and saith
that it was given him."
"Ha, lords!" saith Messire Gawain, "Not so! I have but shown it
to him to fulfil my pledge. And he hath carried it off by
Afterward he telleth them as it had befallen him, and the priests
make the burgess give it up, and with great joy Messire Gawain
departeth and remounteth his horse and issueth forth of the city.
He hath scarce gone far before he meeteth a knight that came all
armed, as fast as his horse could carry him, spear in rest.
"Sir," saith he to Messire Gawain, "I have come to help you. We
were told that you had been evil-entreated in the city, and I am
of the castle that succoureth all strange knights that pass
hereby whensoever they have need thereof."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "Blessed be the castle! I plain me
not of the trespass for that right hath been done me. And how is
the castle named?"
"Sir, they call it the Castle of the Ball. Will you return back
thither with me, since you are delivered, and lodge there the
night with Messire, that is a right worshipful man, and of good
Therewith they go together to the castle, that was right fair and
well-seeming. They enter in, and when they were within, the
Lord, that sate on a mounting-stage of marble, had two right fair
daughters, and he made them play before him with a ball of gold,
and looked at them right fainly. He seeth Messire Gawain alight
and cometh to meet him and maketh him great cheer. Afterward, he
biddeth his two daughters lead him into the hall.
When he was disarmed, the one brought him a right rich robe, and
after meat the two maidens sit beside him and make him right
great cheer. Thereupon behold you, a dwarf that issueth forth of
a chamber, and he holdeth a scourge. And he cometh to the
damsels and smiteth them over their faces and their heads.
"Rise up," saith he, "ye fools, ill-taught! Ye make cheer unto
him whom you ought to hate! For this is Messire Gawain, King
Arthur's nephew, by whom was your uncle slain!"
Thereupon they rise, all ashamed, and go into the chamber, and
Messire Gawain remaineth there sore abashed. But their father
comforteth him and saith: "Sir, be not troubled for aught that he
saith, for the dwarf is our master: he chastiseth and teacheth my
daughters, and he is wroth for that you have slain his brother,
whom you slew the day that Marin slew his wife on your account,
whereof we are right sorrowful in this castle."
"So also am I," saith Messire Gawain, "But no blame of her death
have I nor she, as God knoweth of very truth."
Messire Gawain lay the night at the castle, and departed on the
morrow, and rode on his journeys until he cometh to the castle at
the entrance to the land of the rich King Fisherman, where he
seeth that the lion is not at the entrance nor were the serjeants
of copper shooting. And he seeth in great procession the priests
and them of the castle coming to meet him, and he alighteth, and
a squire was apparelled ready, that took his armour and his
horse, and he showeth the sword to them that were come to meet
him. It was the hour of noon. He draweth the sword, and seeth
it all bloody, and they bow down and worship it, and sing `Te
Deum laudamus'. With such joy was Messire Gawain received at the
castle, and he set the sword back in his scabbard, and kept it
right anigh him, and made it not known in all the places where he
lodged that it was such. The priests and knights of the castle
make right great joy, and pray him right instantly that so God
should lead him to the castle of King Fisherman, and the Graal
should appear before him, he would not be so forgetful as the
other knights. And he made answer that he would do that which
God should teach him.
"Messire Gawain," saith the master of the priests, that was right
ancient: "Great need have you to take rest, for meseemeth you
have had much travail."
"Sir, many things have I seen whereof I am sore abashed, nor know
I what castle this may be."
"Sir," saith the priest, "This Castle is the Castle of Inquest,
for nought you shall ask whereof it shall not tell you the
meaning, by the witness of Joseph, the good clerk and good hermit
through whom we have it, and he knoweth it by annunciation of the
"By my faith," saith Messire Gawain, "I am much abashed of the
three damsels that were at the court of King Arthur. Two of them
carried, the one the head of a king and the other of a queen, and
they had in a car an hundred and fifty heads of knights whereof
some were sealed in gold, other in silver, and the rest in lead."
"True," saith the priest, "For as by the queen was the king
betrayed and killed, and the knights whereof the heads were in
the car, so saith she truth as Joseph witnesseth to us, for he
saith of remembrance that by envy was Adam betrayed, and all the
people that were after him and the people that are yet to come
shall have dole thereof for ever more. And for that Adam was the
first man is he called King, for he was our earthly father, and
his wife Queen. And the heads of the knights sealed in gold
signify the new law, and the heads sealed in silver the old, and
the heads sealed in lead the false law of the Sarrazins. Of
these three manner of folk is the world stablished."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "I marvel of the castle of the Black
Hermit, there where the heads were all taken from her, and the
Damsel told me that the Good Knight should cast them all forth
when he should come. And the other folk that are therewithin are
longing for him."
"Well know you," saith the priest, "that on account of the apple
that Eve gave Adam to eat, all went to hell alike, the good as
well as the evil, and to cast His people forth from hell did God
become man, and cast these souls forth from hell of His bounty
and of His puissance. And to this doth Joseph make us allusion
by the castle or the Black Hermit which signifieth hell, and the
Good Knight that shall thence cast forth them that are within.
And I tell you that the Black Hermit is Lucifer, that is Lord of
hell in like manner as he fain would have been Lord of Paradise."
"Sir," saith the priest, "By this significance is he fain to draw
the good hermits on behalt of the new law wherein the most part
are not well learned, wherefore he would fain make allusion by
"By God," saith Messire Gawain, "I marvel much of the Damsel that
was all bald, and said that never should she have her hair again
until such time as the Good Knight should have achieved the Holy
"Sir," saith the good man, "Each day full bald behoveth her to
be, ever since bald she became when the good King fell into
languishment on account of the knight whom he harboured that made
not the demand. The bald damsel signifieth Joseu Josephus, that
was bald before the crucifixion of Our Lord, nor never had his
hair again until such time as He had redeemed His people by His
blood and by His death. The car that she leadeth after her
signifieth the wheel of fortune, for like as the car goeth on the
wheels, doth she lay the burden of the world on the two damsels
that follow her; and this you may see well, for the fairest
followeth afoot and the other was on a sorry hackney, and they
were poorly clad, whereas the third had costlier attire. The
shield whereon was the red cross, that she left at the court of
King Arthur, signifieth the most holy shield of the rood that
never none durst lift save God alone."
Messire Gawain heareth these significances and much pleaseth him
thereof, and thinketh him that none durst set his hand to nor
lift the shield that hung in the King's hall, as he had heard
tell in many places; wherefore day by day were they waiting for
the Good Knight that should come for the shield.
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "By this that you tell me you do me
to wit that whereof I was abashed, but I have been right
sorrowful of a lady that a knight slew on my account albeit no
blame had she therein, nor had I."
"Sir," saith the priest, "Right great significance was there in
her death, for Josephus witnesseth us that the old law was
destroyed by the stroke of a sword without recover, and to
destroy the old law did Our Lord suffer Himself to be smitten in
the side of a spear. By this stroke was the old law destroyed,
and by His crucifixion. The lady signifieth the old law. Would
you ask more of me?" saith the priest.
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "I met a knight in the forest that
rode behind before and carried his arms upside down. And he said
that he was the Knight Coward, and his habergeon carried he on
his neck, and so soon as he saw me he set his arms to rights and
rode like any other knight."
"The law was turned to the worse," saith the priest, "before Our
Lord's crucifixion, and so soon as He was crucified, was again
restored to right."
"Even yet have I not asked you of all," saith Messire Gawain,
"For a knight came and jousted with me party of black and white,
and challenged me of the death of the lady on behalf of her
husband, and told me and I should vanquish him that he and his
men would be my men. I did vanquish him and he did me homage."
"It is right," saith the priest, "On account of the old law that
was destroyed were all they that remained therein made subject,
and shall be for ever more. Wish you to enquire of aught
further?" saith the priest.
"I marvel me right sore," saith Messire Gawain, "of a child that
rode a lion in a hermitage, and none durst come nigh the lion
save the child only, and he was not of more than six years, and
the lion was right fell. The child was the son of the lady that
was slain on my account."
"Right well have you spoken," saith the priest, "in reminding me
thereof. The child signifieth the Saviour of the world that was
born under the old law and was circumcised, and the lion whereon
he rode signifieth the world and the people that are therein, and
beasts and birds that none may govern save by virtue of Him
"God!" saith Messire Gawain, "How great joy have I at heart of
that you tell me! Sir, I found a fountain in a forest, the
fairest that was ever seen, and an image had it within that hid
itself when it saw me, and a clerk brought a golden vessel and
took another golden vessel that hung at the column that was
there, and set his own in place thereof. Afterward, came three
damsels and filled the vessel with that they had brought thither,
and straightway meseemed that but one was there."
"Sir, saith the priest, "I will tell you no more thereof than you
have heard, and therewithal ought you to hold yourself well
apaid, for behoveth not discover the secrets of the Saviour, and
them also to whom they are committed behoveth keep them
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "I would fain ask you of a King.
When I had brought him his son back dead, he made him be cooked
and thereafter made him be eaten of all the folk of his land."
"Sir," saith the priest, "Already had he leant his heart upon
Jesus Christ, and would fain make sacrifice of his flesh and
blood to Our Lord, and for this did he make all those of his land
eat thereof, and would fain that their thoughts should be even
such as his own. And therefore was all evil belief uprooted from
his land, so that none remained therein."
"Blessed be the hour," saith Messire Gawain, "that I came
"Mine be it!" saith the priest.
Messire Gawain lay therewithin the night, and right well lodged
was he. The morrow, when he had heard mass, he departed and went
forth of the castle when he had taken leave. And he findeth the
fairest land of the world and the fairest meadow-grounds that
were ever seen, and the fairest rivers and forests garnished of
wild deer and hermitages. And he rideth until he cometh one day
as evening was about to draw on, to the house of a hermit, and
the house was so low that his horse might not enter therein. And
his chapel was scarce taller, and the good man had never issued
therefrom of forty years past. The Hermit putteth his head out
of the window when he seeth Messire Gawain and saith, "Sir,
welcome may you be," saith he.
"Sir, God give you joy, Will you give me lodging to-night?" saith
"Sir, herewithin none harboureth save the Lord God alone, for
earthly man hath never entered herewithin but me this forty year,
but see, here in front is the castle wherein the good knights are
"What is the castle?"
"Sir, the good King Fisherman's, that is surrounded with great
waters and plenteous in all things good, so the lord were in joy.
But behoveth them harbour none there save good knights only."
"God grant," saith Messire Gawain, "that I may come therein."
When he knoweth that he is nigh the castle, he alighteth and
confesseth him to the hermit, and avoweth all his sins and
repenteth him thereof right truly.
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Now forget not, so God be willing to
allow you, to ask that which the other knight forgat, and be not
afeard for ought you may see at the entrance of the castle, but
ride on without misgiving and adore the holy chapel you will see
appear in the castle, there where the flame of the Holy Spirit
descendeth each day for the most Holy Graal and the point of the
lance that is served there."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "God teach me to do His will!"
He taketh leave, and goeth his way and rideth until the valley
appeareth wherein the castle is seated garnished of all things
good, and he seeth appear the most holy chapel. He alighteth,
and then setteth him on his knees and boweth him down and adoreth
right sweetly. Thereafter he remounteth and rideth until he
findeth a sepulchre right rich, and it had a cover over, and it
lay very nigh the castle, and it seemed to be within a little
burial-ground that was enclosed all round about, nor were any
other tombs therein. A voice crieth to him as he passeth the
burial-ground: "Touch not the sepulchre, for you are not the Good
Knight through whom shall it be known who lieth therein."
Messire Gawain passeth beyond when he had heard the voice and
draweth nigh the entrance of the castle, and seeth that three
bridges are there, right great and right horrible to pass. And
three great waters run below, and him seemeth that the first
bridge is a bowshot in length and in breadth not more than a
foot. Strait seemeth the bridge and the water deep and swift and
wide. He knoweth not what he may do, for it seemeth him that
none may pass it, neither afoot nor on horse.
Thereupon, lo you, a knight that issueth forth of the castle and
cometh as far as the head of the bridge, that was called the
Bridge of the Eel, and shouteth aloud: "Sir Knight, pass quickly
before it shall be already night, for they of the castle are
"Ha," saith Messire Gawain, "Fair sir, but teach me how I may
"Certes, Sir Knight, no passage know I to this entrance other
than this, and if you desire to come to the castle, pass on
Messire Gawain hath shame for that he hath stayed so long, and
forthinketh him of this that the Hermit told him, that of no
mortal thing need he be troubled at the entrance of the castle,
and therewithal that he is truly confessed of his sins, wherefore
behoveth him be the less adread of death. He crosseth and
blesseth himself and commendeth himself to God as he that
thinketh to die, and so smiteth his horse with his spurs and
findeth the bridge wide and large as soon as he goeth forward,
for by this passing were proven most of the knights that were
fain to enter therein. Much marvelled he that he found the
bridge so wide that had seemed him so narrow. And when he had
passed beyond, the bridge, that was a drawbridge, lifted itself
by engine behind him, for the water below ran too swiftly for
other bridge to be made. The knight draweth himself back beyond
the great bridge and Messire Gawain cometh nigh to pass it, and
this seemed him as long as the other. And he seeth the water
below, that was not less swift nor less deep, and, so far as he
could judge, the bridge was of ice, feeble and thin, and of a
great height above the water, and he looked at it with much
marvelling, yet natheless not for that would he any the more hold
back from passing on toward the entrance. He goeth forward and
commendeth himself to God, and cometh in the midst thereof and
seeth that the bridge was the fairest and richest and strongest
he had ever beheld, and the abutments thereof were all full of
images. When he was beyond the bridge, it lifted itself up
behind him as the other had done, and he looketh before him and
seeth not the knight, and is come to the third bridge and nought
was he adread for anything he might see. And it was not less
rich than the other, and had columns of marble all round about,
and upon each a knop so rich that it seemed to be of gold. After
that, he beholdeth the gate over against him, and seeth Our Lord
there figured even as He was set upon the rood, and His Mother of
the one side and S. John of the other, whereof the images were
all of gold, with rich precious stones that flashed like fire.
And on the right hand he seeth an angel, passing fair, that
pointed with his finger to the chapel where was the Holy Graal,
and on his breast had he a precious stone, and letters written
above his head that told how the lord of the castle was the like
pure and clean of all evil-seeming as was this stone.
Thereafter at the entrance of the gate he seeth a lion right
great and horrible, and he was upright upon his feet. So soon as
he seeth Messire Gawain, he croucheth to the ground, and Messire
Gawain passeth the entrance without gainsay and cometh to the
castle, and alighteth afoot, and setteth his shield and his spear
against the wall of the hall, and mounteth up a flight of marble
steps and cometh into a hall right fair and rich, and here and
there in divers places was it painted with golden images. In the
midst thereof he findeth a couch right fair and rich and high,
and at the foot of this couch was a chess-board right fair and
rich, with an orle of gold all full of precious stones, and the
pieces were of gold and silver and were not upon the board.
Meanwhile, as Messire Gawain was looking at the beauty of the
chess-board and the hall, behold you two knights that issue forth
of a chamber and come to him.
"Sir," say the knights, "Welcome may you be."
"God give you joy and good. adventure," saith Messire Gawain.
They make him sit upon the couch and after that make him be
disarmed. They bring him, in two basins of gold, water to wash
his face and hands. After that, come two damsels that bring him
a rich robe of silk and cloth of gold. Then they make him do on
the same. Then say the two damsels to him, "Take in good part
whatsoever may be done to you therewithin, for this is the hostel
of good knights and loyal."
"Damsels," saith Messire Gawain, "So will I do. Gramercy of your
He seeth well that albeit the night were dark, within was so
great brightness of light without candles that it was marvel.
And it seemed him the sun shone there. Wherefore marvelled he
right sore whence so great light should come.
When Messire Gawain was clad in the rich robe, right comely was
he to behold, and well seemed he to be a knight of great valour.
"Sir," say the knights, "May it please you come see the lord of
"Right gladly will I see him," saith he, "For I would fain
present him with a rich sword."
They lead him into the chamber where lay King Fisherman, and it
seemed as it were all strown and sprinkled of balm, and it was
all strown with green herbs and reeds. And King Fisherman lay on
a bed hung on cords whereof the stavs were of ivory; and therein
was a mattress of straw whereon he lay, and above a coverlid of
sables whereof the cloth was right rich. And he had a cap of
sables on his head covered with a red samite of silk, and a
golden cross, and under his head was a pillow all smelling sweet
of balm, and at the four corners of the pillow were four stones
that gave out a right great brightness of light; and over against
him was a pillar of copper whereon sate an eagle that held a
cross of gold wherein was a piece of the true cross whereon God
was set, as long as was the cross itself; the which the good man
adored. And in four tall candle sticks of gold were four tall
wax tapers set as often as was need. Messire Gawain cometh
before the King and saluteth him. And the King maketh him right
great cheer, and biddeth him be welcome.
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, I present you with the sword whereof
John was beheaded."
"Gramercy." saith the King: "Certes, I knew well that you would
bring it, for neither you nor other might have come in hither
without the sword, and if you had not been of great valour you
would not have conquered it."
He taketh the sword and setteth it to his mouth and so kisseth it
right sweetly and maketh right great joy thereof. And a damsel
cometh to sit at the head of the bed, to whom he giveth the sword
in keeping. Two others sit at his feet that look at him right
"What is your name?" saith the King.
"Sir, my name is Gawain."
"Ha, Messire Gawain," saith he, "This brightness of light that
shineth there within cometh to us of God for love of you. For
every time that a knight cometh hither to harbour within this
castle it appeareth as brightly as you see it now. And greater
cheer would I make you than I do were I able to help myself, but
I am fallen into languishment from the hour that the knight of
whom you have heard tell harboured herewithin. On account of
one single word he delayed to speak, did this languishment come
upon me. Wherefore I pray you for God's sake that you remember
to speak it, for right glad should you be and you may restore me
my health. And see here is the daughter of my sister that hath
been plundered of her land and disinherited in such wise that
never can she have it again save through her brother only whom
she goeth to seek; and we have been told that he is the Best
Knight of the world, but we can learn no true tidings of him."
"Sir," saith the damsel to her uncle the King, "Thank Messire
Gawain of the honour he did to my lady-mother when he came to her
hostel. He stablished our land again in peace, and conquered the
keeping of the castle for a year, and set my lady-mother's
five knights there with us to keep it. The year hath now passed,
wherefore will the war be now renewed against us and God succour
us not, and I find not my brother whom we have lost so long."
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "I helped you so far as I might,
and so would I again and I were there. And fainer am I to see
your brother than all the knights of the world. But no true
tidings may I hear of him, save so much, that I was at a
hermitage where was a King hermit and he bade me make no noise
for that the Best Knight of the world lay sick therewithin, and
he told me that name was Par-lui-fet. I saw his horse being led
by a squire before the chapel, and his arms and shield whereon
was a sun figured."
"Sir," saith the damsel, "My brother's name is not Par-lui-fet,
but Perlesvax in right baptism, and it is said of them that have
seen him that never comelier knight was known."
"Certes," saith the King, "Never saw I comelier than he that came
in hither nor better like to be good knight, and I know of a
truth that such he is, for otherwise never might he have entered
hereinto. But good reward of harbouring him had I not, for I may
help neither myself nor other. For God's sake, Messire Gawain,
hold me in remembrance this night, for great affiance have I in
"Certes, Sir, please God, nought will I do within yonder, whereof
I may be blamed of right."
Thereupon Messire Gawain was led into the hall and findeth twelve
ancient knights, all bald, albeit they seemed not to be so old as
they were, for each was of a hundred year of age or more and yet
none of them seemed as though he were forty. They have set
Messire Gawain to eat at a right rich table of ivory and seat
themselves all round about him.
"Sir," saith the Master of the Knights, "Remember you of that the
good King hath prayed of you and told you this night as you have
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "God remember it!"
With that bring they larded meats of venison and wild-boar's
flesh and other in great plenty, and on the table was rich array
of vessels of silver and great cups of gold with their covers,
and the rich candlesticks where the great candles were burning,
albeit their brightness was hidden of the great light that
Thereon, lo you, two damsels that issue forth of a chapel,
whereof the one holdeth in her hands the most Holy Graal, and the
other the Lance whereof the point bleedeth thereinto. And the
one goeth beside the other in the midst of the hall where the
knights and Messire Gawain sat at meat, and so sweet a smell and
so holy came to them therefrom that they forgat to eat. Messire
Gawain looketh at the Graal, and it seemed him that a chalice was
therein, albeit none there was as at this time, and he seeth the
point of the lance whence the red blood ran thereinto, and it
seemeth him he seeth two angels that bear two candlesticks of
gold filled with candles. And the damsels pass before Messire
Gawain, and go into another chapel. And Messire Gawain is
thoughtful, and so great a joy cometh to him that nought
remembereth he in his thinking save of God only. The knights are
all daunted and sorrowful in their hearts, and look at Messire
Gawain. Thereupon behold you the damsels that issue forth of the
chamber and come again before Messire Gawain, and him seemeth
that he seeth three there where before he had seen
but two, and seemeth him that in the midst of the Graal he seeth
the figure of a child. The Master of the Knights beckoneth to
Messire Gawain. Messire Gawain looketh before him and seeth
three drops of blood fall upon the table. He was all abashed to
look at them and spake no word.
Therewith the damsels pass forth and the knights are all adread
and look one at the other. Howbeit Messire Gawain may not
withdraw his eyes from the three drops of blood, and when he
would fain kiss them they vanish away, whereof he is right
sorrowful, for he may not set his hand nor aught that of him is
to touch thereof. Therewithal behold you the two damsels that
come again before the table and seemeth to Messire Gawain that
there are three, and he looketh up and it seemeth him to be the
Graal all in flesh, grid he seeth above, as him thinketh, a King
crowned, nailed upon a rood, and the spear was still fast in his
side. Messire Gawain seeth it and hath great pity thereof, and
of nought doth he remember him save of the pain that this King
suffereth. And the Master of the Knights summoneth him again by
word of mouth, and telleth him that if he delayeth longer, never
more will he recover it. Messire Gawain is silent, as he that
heareth not the knight speak, and looketh upward. But the
damsels go back into the chapel and carry back the most Holy
Graal and the Lance, and the knights make the tablecloths be
taken away and rise from meat and go into another hall and leave
Messire Gawain all alone. And he looketh all around and seeth
the doors all shut and made fast, and looketh to the foot of the
hall and seeth two candlesticks with many candles burning round
about the chessboard, and he seeth that the pieces are set,
whereof the one sort are silver and the other gold. Messire
Gawain sitteth at the game, and they of gold played against him
and mated him twice. At the third time, when he thought to
revenge himself and saw that he had the worse, he swept the
pieces off the board. And the damsel issued forth of a chamber
and made a squire take the chess-board and the pieces and so
carry them away. And Messire Gawain, that was way-worn of his
wanderings to come thither where he now hath come, slept upon the
couch until the morrow when it was day, and he heard a horn sound
Thereupon he armeth him and would fain go to take leave of King
Fisherman, but he findeth the doors bolted so that he may not get
forth. And right fair service seeth he done in a chapel, and
right sorrowful is he for that he may not hear the mass. A
damsel cometh into the hall and saith to him: "Sir, now may you
hear the service and the joy that is made on account of the sword
you presented to the good King, and right glad at heart ought you
to have been if you had been within the chapel. But you lost
entering therein on account of a right little word. For the
place of the chapel is so hallowed of the holy relics that are
therein that man nor priest may never enter therein from the
Saturday at noon until the Monday after mass."
And he heard the sweetest voices and the fairest services that
were ever done in chapel. Messire Gawain answereth her not a
word so is he abashed. Howbeit the damsel saith to him: "Sir,
God be guardian of your body, for methinketh that it was not of
your own default that you would not speak the word whereof this
castle would have been in joy."
With that the damsel departeth and Messire Gawain heareth the
horn sound a second time and a voice warning him aloud: "He that
is from without, let him go hence! for the bridges are lowered
and the gate open, and the lion is in his den. And thereafter
behoveth the bridge be lifted again on account of the King of the
Castle Mortal, that warreth against this castle, and therefore
of this thing shall he die."
Thereupon Messire Gawain issueth forth of the hall and findeth
his horse all made ready at the mounting-stage, together with his
arms. He goeth forth and findeth the bridges broad and long, and
goeth his way a great pace beside a great river that runneth in
the midst of the valley. And he seeth in a great forest a mighty
rain and tempest, and so strong a thunderstorm ariseth in the
forest that it seemeth like all the trees should be uprooted. So
great is the rain and the tempest that it compelleth him set his
shield over his horse's head lest he be drowned of the abundance
of rain. In this mis-ease rideth he down beside the river that
runneth in the forest until he seeth in a launde across the river
a knight and a damsel right gaily appointed riding at pleasure,
and the knight carrieth a bird on his fist, and the damsel hath a
garland of flowers on her head. Two brachets follow the knight.
The sun shineth right fair on the meadow and the air is right
clear and fresh. Messire Gawain marvelleth much of this, that it
raineth so heavily on his way, whereas, in the meadow where the
knight and the damsel are riding, the sun shineth clear and the
weather is bright and calm. And he seeth them ride joyously. He
can ask them naught for they are too far away. Messire Gawain
looketh about and seeth on the other side the river a squire
nearer to him than is the knight.
"Fair friend" saith Messire Gawain, "How is this that it raineth
upon me on this side the river, but on the other raineth it not
"Sir," saith the squire, "This have you deserved, for such is the
custom of the forest."
"Will this tempest that is over me last for ever?" saith Messire
"At the first bridge you come to will it be stayed upon you,"
saith the squire.
Therewith the squire departeth, and the tempest rageth
incontinent until he is come to the bridge; and he rideth beyond
and cometh to the meadow, and the storm is stayed so that he
setteth his shield to rights again upon his neck. And he seeth
before him a castle where was a great company of folk that were
making great cheer. He rideth until he cometh to the castle and
seeth right great throng of folk, knights and dames and damsels.
Messire Gawain alighteth, but findeth in the castle none that is
willing to take his reins, so busied are they making merry.
Messire Gawain presenteth himself on the one side and the other,
but all of them avoid him, and he seeth that he maketh but an ill
stay therewithin for himself, wherefore he departeth from the
castle and meeteth a knight at the gate.
"Sir," saith he, "What castle is this?"
"And see you not," saith the knight, "that it is a castle of
"By my faith" saith Messire Gawain, "They of the castle be not
over-courteous, for all this time hath none come to take my
"Not for this lose they their courtesy," saith the knight, "For
this is no more than you have deserved. They take you to be as
slothful of deed as you are of word, and they saw that you were
come through the Forest Perilous whereby pass all the
discomfited, as well appeareth by your arms and your horse."
Therewith the knight departeth, and Messire Gawain hath ridden a
great space sorrowful and sore abashed, until he cometh to a land
parched and poor and barren of all comfort, and therein findeth
he a poor castle, whereinto he cometh and seeth it much wasted,
but that within was there a hall that seemed haunted of folk.
And Messire Gawain cometh thitherward and alighteth, and a knight
cometh down the steps of the hall right poorly clad.
"Sir," saith the knight to Messire Gawain, "Welcome may you be!"
After that, he taketh him by the hand and leadeth him upward to
the hall, that was all waste. Therewithal issue two damsels from
a chamber, right poorly clad, that were of passing great beauty,
and make great cheer to Messire Gawain. So, when he was fain to
disarm, behold you thereupon a knight that entereth into the
hall, and he was smitten with the broken end of a lance through
his body. He seeth Messire Gawain, whom he knoweth.
"Now haste!" saith he, "and disarm you not! Right joyful am I
that I have found you! I come from this forest wherein have I
left Lancelot fighting with four knights, whereof one is dead,
and they think that it is you, and they are of kindred to the
knight that you slew at the tent where you destroyed the evil
custom. I was fain to help Lancelot, when one of the knights
smote me as you may see."
Messire Gawain goeth down from the hall and mounteth all armed
upon his horse.
"Sir," saith the knight of the hall, "I would go help you to my
power, but I may not issue forth of the castle until such time as
it be replenished of the folk that are wont to come therein and
until my land be again given up to me through the valour of the
Messire Gawain departeth from the castle as fast as horse may
carry him, and entereth the forest and followeth the track of the
blood along the way the knight had come, and rideth so far in the
forest as that he heareth the noise of swords, and seeth in the
midst of the launde Lancelot and the three knights, and the
fourth dead on the ground. But one of the knights had drawn him
aback, for he might abide the combat no longer, for the knight
that brought the tidings to Messire Gawain had sore wounded him.
The two knights beset Lancelot full sore, and right weary was he
of the buffets that he had given and received. Messire Gawain
cometh to one of the knights and smiteth him right through the
body and maketh him and his horse roll over all of a heap.
When Lancelot perceiveth Messire Gawain, much joy maketh he
thereof. In the meanwhile as the one held the other, the fourth
knight fled full speed through the midst of the forest, and he
that the knight had wounded fell dead. They take their horses,
and Messire Gawain telleth Lancelot he hath the most poverty-
stricken host that ever he hath seen, and the fairest damsels
known, but that right poorly are they clad. "Shall we therefore
take them of our booty?"
"I agree," saith Lancelot, "But sore grieveth me of the knight
that hath thus escaped us."
"Take no heed," saith Messire Gawain, "We shall do well enough
Thereupon they return back toward the poor knight's hostel and
alight before the hall, and the Poor Knight cometh to meet them,
and the two damsels, and they deliver to them the three horses of
the three knights that were dead. The knight hath great joy
thereof, and telleth them that now is he a rich man and that
betimes will his sisters be better clad than are they now, as
well as himself.
Thereupon come they into the hall. The knight maketh one of his
own squires stable the horses and the two damsels help disarm
Lancelot and Messire Gawain.
"Lords," saith the knight, "So God help me, nought have I to lend
you wherewith to clothe you, for robe have I none save mine own
Lancelot hath great pity thereof and Messire Gawain, and the two
damsels take off their kirtles that were made like surcoats of
cloth that covered their poor shirts, and their jackets that,
were all to-torn and ragged and worn, and present them to the
knights to clothe them. They were fain not to refuse, lest the
damsels should think they held them not in honour, and did on the
two kirtles right poor as they were. The damsels had great joy
thereof that so good knights should deign wear garments so poor.
"Lords," saith the Poor Knight, "The knight that brought the
tidings hither, and was stricken through of a lance-shaft, is
dead and lieth on a bier in a chapel within the castle, and he
confessed himself right well to a hermit and bade salute you
both, and was right fain you should see him after that he were
dead, and he prayed me instantly that I would ask you to be
to-morrow at his burial, for better knights than be ye might not
be thereat, so he told me."
"Certes," saith Lancelot, "A good knight was he, and much
mischief is it of his death; and sore grieveth me that I know not
his name nor of what country he was."
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "He said that you should yet know it
The two good knights lay the night at the castle, and the Poor
Knight lodged them as well as he might. When it cometh to
morning, they go to the chapel to hear mass and to be at the
burial of the body. After that they take leave of the Poor
Knight and the two damsels and depart from the castle all armed.
"Messire Gawain," saith Lancelot, "They know not at court what
hath become of you, and they hold you for dead as they suppose."
"By my faith," saith Messire Gawain, "thitherward will I go, for
I have had sore travail, and there will I abide until some will
shall come to me to go seek adventure."
He recounteth to Lancelot how the Graal hath appeared to him at
the court of King Fisherman: "And even as it was there before me,
I forgat to ask how it served and of what?"
"Ha, Sir," saith Lancelot, "Have you then been there?"
"Yea," saith he, "And thereof am I right sorry and glad: glad for
the great holiness I have seen, sorry for that I asked not that
whereof King Fisherman prayed me right sweetly."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "Right sorely ill have you wrought, nor is
there not whereof I have so great desire as I have to go to his
"By my faith," saith Messire Gawain, "Much shamed was I there,
but this doth somewhat recomfort me, that the Best Knight was
there before me that gat blame thereof in like manner as I."
Lancelot departeth from Messire Gawain, and they take leave
either of other. They issue forth of a forest, and each taketh
his own way without saying a word.
Here the story is silent of Messire Gawain and beginneth to speak
of Lancelot, that entereth into a forest and rideth with right
great ado and meeteth a knight in the midst of the forest that
was coming full speed and was armed of all arms.
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "Whence come you?"
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "I come from the neighbourhood of King
"Ha, Sir, can you tell me tidings of a knight that beareth a
green shield such as I bear? If so, he is my brother."
"What name hath he?" saith Lancelot.
"Sir," saith he, "His name is Gladoens, and he is a good knight
and a hardy, and he hath a white horse right strong and swift."
"Be there other knights in your country that bear such arms as
your shield and his besides you and he?"
"Certes, Sir, none."
"And wherefore do you ask?" saith Lancelot.
"For this, that a certain man hath reft him of one of his castles
for that he was not there. Howbeit, I know well that he will
have it again through his good knighthood."
"Is he so good knight?" saith Lancelot.
"Certes, Sir, yea! He is the best of the Isles of the Moors."
"Sir, of your mercy, lower your coif."
He quickly thereon lowereth his coif, and Lancelot looketh at him
in the face. "Certes, Sir Knight," saith he, "you very much
"Ha, Sir," saith the knight, "Know you then any tidings of him?"
"Certes, Sir," saith he, "Yea! and true tidings may I well say,
for he rode at my side five leagues Welsh, nor never saw I one
man so like another as are you to him."
"Good right hath he to resemble me," saith the knight, "for we
are twins, but he was born first and hath more sense and
knighthood than I; nor in all the Isles of the Moors is there
damsel that hath so much worth and beauty as she of whom he is
loved of right true love, and more she desireth to see him than
aught else that liveth, for she hath not seen him of more than a
year, wherefore hath she gone seek her prize, my brother, by all
the forests of the world. Sir," saith the knight, "Let me go seek
my brother, and tell me where I may find him."
"Certes," saith Lancelot, "I will tell you though it grieve me
"Wherefore?" saith the knight, "Hath he done you any mis-deed?"
"In no wise," saith Lancelot, "Rather hath he done so much for me
that I love you thereof and offer you my service."
"Sir," saith the knight, "I am going my way, but for God's sake
tell me where I shall find my brother."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "I will tell you. This morning did I bid
his body farewell and help to bury him."
"Ha, Sir," saith the knight, "Do you tell me true?"
"Certes," saith Lancelot, "True it is that I tell you."
"Is he slain then, my brother?" saith the knight.
"Yea, and of succouring me," saith Lancelot.
"Ha, sir," saith the knight, "For God's sake tell me nought that
is not right."
"By God, Sir," saith he, "Sore grieved am I to tell it you, for
never loved I knight so much in so brief a time as I loved him.
He helped to save me from death, and therefore will I do for you
according to that he did for me."
"Sir," saith the knight, "If he be dead, a great grief is it to
myself, for I have lost my comfort and my life and my land
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "He helped me to save my life, and yours
will I help to save henceforth for ever and so be that I shall
know of your jeopardy."
The knight heareth that his brother is dead and well believeth
Lancelot, and beginneth to make dole thereof the greatest that
was ever heard. And Lancelot saith to him, "Sir Knight, let be
this dole, for none recovery is there; but my body do I offer you
and my knighthood in any place you please, where I may save your
"Sir," saith the knight, "With good will receive I your help and
your love, sith that you deign to offer me the same, and now have
I sorer need of them than ever. Sir," saith the knight, "Sith
that my brother is dead, I will return back and bear with my
wrong, though well would he have amended it had he been on live."
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "I will go with you, that so may I
reward you of that he hath done for me. He delivered his body to
the death for me, and in like manner freely would I fain set mine
own in jeopardy for love of you and of him."
"Sir," saith the knight, "Right good will do I owe you of this
that you say to me, so your deeds be but the same herein."
"Yea, so help me God," saith Lancelot, "The same shall they be,
if God lend me the power."
With that, they go on their way together, and the knight
comforteth him much of that which Lancelot hath said to him, but
of the death of his brother was he right sorrowful. And they
ride until they come to the land of the Moors; then espy they a
castle upon a rock, and below was a broad meadow-land.
"Sir," saith the Knight of the Green Shield to Lancelot, "This
castle was my brother's and is now mine, and much it misliketh me
that it hath fallen to me on this wise. And the knight that reft
it of my brother is of so great hardihood that he feareth no
knight on live, and you will presently see him issue forth of
this castle so soon as he shall perceive you."
Lancelot and the knight ride until they draw nigh the castle.
And the knight looketh in the way before him, and seeth a squire
coming on a hackney, that was carrying before him a wild boar
dead. The Knight of the Green Shield asketh him whose man he
is, and the squire maketh answer: "I am man of the Lord of the
Rock Gladoens, that cometh there behind, and my lord cometh all
armed, he and others, for the brother of Gladoens hath defied him
on behalf of his brother, but right little recketh my lord of his
Lancelot heareth how he that is coming is the enemy of him to
whom had he been alive, his love most was due. The Knight of the
Green Shield pointed him out so soon as he saw him.
"Sir," saith he to Lancelot, "Behold him by whom I am disherited,
and yet worse would he do to me and he knew that my brother were
Lancelot, without saving more, so soon as he had espied the
Knight of the Rock, smiteth his horse with his spurs and cometh
toward him. The Lord of the Rock, that was proud and hardy,
seeth Lancelot coming and smiteth with his spurs the horse
whereon he sitteth. They come with so swift an onset either upon
other that they break their spears upon their shields, and hurtle
together so sore that the Knight of the Rock Gladoens falleth
over the croup of his horse. Lancelot draweth his sword and
cometh above him, and he crieth him mercy and asketh him
wherefore he wisheth to slay him? Lancelot saith for the sake of
Gladoens from whom he hath reft his land and his castle. "And
what is that to you?" saith the knight. "Behoveth his brother
challenge me thereof."
"As much it behoveth me as his brother," saith Lancelot.
"For this," saith Lancelot, "That as much as he did for me will I
do to you."
He cutteth off his head and giveth it incontinent to the Knight
of the Green Shield.
"Now tell me," saith Lancelot, "Sith that he is dead, is he
purged of that whereof you appeached him?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "I hold him rightly quit thereof, for,
sith that he is dead, all claim on behalf of his kindred is
abated by his death."
"And I pledge you my faith loyally," saith Lancelot, "as I am a
knight, that never shall you be in peril nor in jeopardy of aught
wherein I may help you, so I be in place and free, but my help
shall you have for evermore, for that your brother staked his
life to help me."
Lancelot and the knight lay the night at the Rock Gladoens, and
the Knight of the Green Shield had his land at his pleasure, and
all were obedient to him. And the upright and loyal were right
glad, albeit when they heard the tidings of Gladoens' death they
were right sorrowful thereof. Lancelot departed from the castle
on the morrow, and the knight remained therein, sorrowful for his
brother that he had lost, and glad for the land that he had
gotten again. Lancelot goeth back right amidst the forest and
rideth the day long, and meeteth a knight that was coming,
groaning sore. And he was stooping over the fore saddle-bow for
the pain that he had. He meeteth Lancelot and saith to him:
"Sir, for God's sake, turn back, for you will find there the most
cruel pass in the world there where I have been wounded through
the body. Wherefore I beseech you not go thither."
"What pass is it then?" saith Lancelot.
"Sir," saith he, "It is the pass of the Castle of Beards, and it
hath the name of this, that every knight that passeth thereby
must either leave his beard there or challenge the same, and in
such sort have I challenged my beard that meseemeth I shall die
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "I hold not this of cowardize, sith
that you were hardy to set your life in jeopardy to challenge
your beard, but now would you argue me of cowardize when you
would have me turn back. Rather would I be smitten through the
body with honour, so and I had not my death thereof, than lose
with shame a single hair of my beard."
"Sir," saith the knight, "May God preserve you, for the castle is
far more cruel than you think, and God guide the knight that may
destroy the evil custom of the castle, for right shameful is the
custom to strange knights that pass thereby."
Lancelot departeth from the knight and cometh toward the castle.
Just as he had passed over a great bridge, he looketh about and
seeth two knights come all armed to the entrance of the castle,
and they made hold their horses before them, and their shields
and spears are before them leaning against the wall. Lancelot
looketh at the gateway of the castle and seeth the great door all
covered with beards fastened thereon, and heads of knights in
great plenty hung thereby. So, as he was about to enter the
gate, two knights issue therefrom over against him.
"Sir," saith the one, "Abide and pay your toll!"
"Do knights, then, pay toll here?" saith Lancelot.
"Yea!" say the knights, "All they that have beards, and they that
have none are quit. Sir, now pay us yours, for a right great
beard it is, and thereof have we sore need."
"For what?" saith Lancelot.
"I will tell you," saith the knight. "There be hermits in this
forest that make hair-shirts thereof."
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "Never shall they have hair-shirt
of mine, so I may help it."
"That shall they," say the knights, "Of yours as of the other, or
dearly shall you pay therefor!"
Right wroth waxeth Sir Lancelot, and cometh to the knight, and
smiteth him with his spear amidst the breast with such a thrust
that it passeth half an ell beyond, and overthroweth him and his
horse together. The other knight seeth his fellow wounded to the
death, and cometh towards him with a great sweep and breaketh his
spear upon his shield. Howbeit, Lancelot beareth him to the
ground right over his horse-croup and maketh him fall so heavily
that he breaketh one of his legs. The tidings are come to the
Lady of the Castle that a knight hath come to the pass that hath
slain one of her knights and wounded the other. The Lady is come
thither, and bringeth two of her damsels with her. She seeth
Lancelot that is fain to slay the knight that lieth wounded on
"Sir," saith the Lady to Lancelot, "Withdraw yourself back and
slay him not, but alight and speak to me in safety."
"Lady," saith one of the maidens, "I know him well. This is
Lancelot of the Lake, the most courteous knight that is in the
court of King Arthur."
He alighteth and cometh before the Lady. "Lady," saith he, "what
is your pleasure?"
"I desire," saith she, "that you come to my hostel to harbour,
and that you make me amends of the shame you have done me."
"Lady," saith Lancelot, "Shame have I never done you nor shall
do, but the knights took in hand too shameful a business when
they were minded to take the beards of stranger knights by
"Sir," saith she, "I will forego mine ill-will on condition that
you harbour herewithin to-night."
"Lady," saith Lancelot, "I desire not your ill-will, wherefore
will I gladly do your pleasure."
He setteth him within the castle and maketh his horse be led in
after him, and the Lady hath the dead knight brought into the
chapel and buried. The other she biddeth be disarmed and clothed
and commandeth that his wounds be searched. Then maketh she
Lancelot be disarmed and clad right richly in a good robe, and
telleth him that she knoweth well who he is.
"Lady," saith Lancelot, "It is well for me."
Thereupon they sit to eat, and the first course is brought in by
knights in chains that had their noses cut off; the second by
knights in chains that had their eyes put out; wherefore they
were led in by squires. The third course was brought in by
knights that had but one hand and were in chains. After that,
came other knights that had each but one foot and brought in the
fourth course. At the fifth course came knights right fair and
tall, and each brought a naked sword in his hand and presented
their heads to the Lady.
Lancelot beheld the martyrdom of these knights, and sore
misliking had he of the services of such folk. They are risen
from meat and the lady goeth to her chamber and sitteth on a
"Lancelot," saith the Lady, "you have seen the justice and the
lordship of my castle. All these knights have been conquered at
the passing of my door."
"Lady," saith Lancelot, "foul mischance hath befallen them."
"The like mischance would have befallen you had you not been
knight so good. And greatly have I desired to see you this long
time past. And I will make you lord of this castle and myself."
"Lady," saith he, "the lordship of this castle hold I of yourself
without mesne, and to you have I neither wish nor right to refuse
it. Rather am I willing to be at your service."
"Then," saith she, "you will abide with me in this castle, for
more do I love you than any other knight that liveth."
"Lady," saith Lancelot, "Gramercy, but in no castle may I abide
more than one night until I have been thither whither behoveth me
"Whither are you bound?" saith she.
"Lady, saith he, "to the Castle of Souls."
"Well know I the castle," saith she. "The King hath the name
Fisherman, and lieth in languishment on account of two knights
that have been at his castle and made not good demand. Would you
fain go thither?" saith the Lady.
"Yea," saith Lancelot.
"Then pledge me your faith that you will return by me to speak to
me, so the Graal shall appear to you and you ask whereof it
"Yea, truly, saith Lancelot, "were you beyond sea!"
"Sir," saith one of the damsels, "So much may you well promise,
for the Graal appeareth not to no knight so wanton as be ye. For
you love the Queen Guenievre, the wife of your lord, King Arthur,
nor so long as this love lieth at your heart may you never behold
Lancelot heard the damsel and blushed of despite.
"Ha, Lancelot," saith the Lady, "Love you other than me?"
"Lady," saith he, "the damsel may say her pleasure."
Lancelot lay the night at the castle, and right wroth was he of
the damsel that calleth the love of him and the Queen disloyal.
And the morrow when he had heard mass, he took leave of the Lady
of the Castle, and she besought him over and over to keep his
covenant, and he said that so would he do without fail.
Therewithal he issueth forth of the castle and entereth into a
tall and ancient forest, and rideth the day long until he cometh
to the outskirt of the forest, and seeth a tall cross at the
entrance of a burying-ground enclosed all round about with a
hedge of thorns. And the way lay through the burying ground.
Lancelot entered therein and the night was come. He seeth the
graveyard full of tombs and sepulchres. He looketh behind and
seeth a chapel wherein were candles burning. Thitherward goeth
he, and passeth beyond without saying aught more by the side of a
dwarf that was digging a grave in the ground.
"Lancelot," saith the dwarf, "you are right not to salute me, for
you are the man of all the world that most I hate; and God grant
me vengeance of your body. So will He what time you are stricken
down here within!"
Lancelot heard the dwarf, but deigned not to answer him of
nought. He is come to the chapel, and alighteth and maketh fast
the bridle of his horse to a tree, and leaneth his shield and
spear without. After that he entereth into the chapel, and
findeth a damsel laying out a knight in his winding-sheen. As
soon as Lancelot was entered therewithin the wounds of the knight
were swollen up and began to bleed afresh.
"Ha, Sir Knight, now see I plainly that you slew him that I am
wrapping in his windingsheet!"
Thereupon, behold you, two knights that are carrying other two
knights dead. They alight and then set them in the chapel. And
the dwarf crieth out to them: "Now shall it be seen how you
avenge your friends of the enemy that fell upon you!"
The knight that had fled from the forest when Messire Gawain came
thither where the three lay dead, was come therewithin and knew
Lancelot, whereupon saith he: "Our mortal enemy are you, for by
you were these three knights slain."
"Well had they deserved it," saith Lancelot, "and in this chapel
am I in no peril of you, wherefore as at this time will I depart
not hence, for I know not the ways of the forest."
He was in the chapel until the day broke, when he issued forth
thereof, and sore it weighed upon him that his horse was still
fasting. He taketh his arms and is mounted. The dwarf crieth out
aloud: "What aileth you?" saith he to the two knights, "Will you
let your mortal enemy go thus?"
With that the two knights mount their horses and go to the two
issues of the grave-yard, thinking that Lancelot is fain to flee
therefrom; but no desire hath he thereof, wherefore he cometh to
the knight that was guarding the entrance whereby he had to issue
out, and smiteth him so stiffly that he thrusteth the point of
his spear right through his body. The other knight that was
guarding the other entrance, that had fled out of the forest
before, had no mind to avenge his fellow, and fled incontinent so
fast as he might. And Lancelot taketh the horse of the knight he
had slain and driveth him before him, for he thinketh that some
knight may haply have need thereof. He rideth on until he cometh
to a hermitage in the forest where he alighteth and hath his
horses stabled, and the Hermit giveth them of the best he hath.
And Lancelot heard mass, and afterward are a little and fell on
sleep. Thereafter, behold you, a knight that cometh to the
Hermit and seeth Lancelot that was about to mount.
"Sir," saith he, "Whither go you?"
"Sir Knight," saith Lancelot, "thither shall I go where God may
please; but you, whitherward are you bound to go?"
"Sir, I go to see one of my brethren and my two sisters, for I
have been told that he hath fallen on such mishap as that he is
called the Poor Knight, whereof am I sore sorrowful."
"Certes," saith Lancelot, "poor he is, the more the pity!
Howbeit, will you do him a message from me?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "Right willingly!"
"Will you present him with this horse on my behalf, and tell him
how Lancelot that harboured with him hath sent it?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "Right great thanks, and blessed may you
be, for he that doth a kindness to a worshipful man loseth it
"Salute the two damsels for me," saith Lancelot.
"Sir, right willingly!"
The knight delivereth the horse to his squire, and taketh leave
Thereupon, Lancelot departeth from the hermitage and rideth on
until he cometh forth of the forest, and findeth a waste land, a
country broad and long wherein wonned neither beast nor bird, for
the land was so poor and parched that no victual was to be found
therein. Lancelot looketh before him and seeth a city appear far
away. Thither rideth he full speed and seeth that the city is so
great that it seemeth him to encompass a whole country. He seeth
the walls that are falling all around, and the gates ruined with
age. He entereth within and findeth the city all void of folk,
and seeth the great palaces fallen down and waste, and the great
grave-yards full of sepulchres, and the tall churches all lying
waste, and the markets and exchanges all empty. He rideth amidst
the streets, and findeth a great palace that seemeth him to be
better and more ancient than all the others. He bideth awhile
before it and heareth within how knights and ladies are making
great dole. And they say to a knight: "Ha, God, sore grief and
pity is this of you, that you must needs die in such manner, and
that your death may not be respited! Sore hatred ought we to
bear toward him that hath adjudged you such a death."
The knights and ladies swoon over him as he departeth. Lancelot
hath heard all this and much marvelleth he thereof, but nought
thereof may he see.
Thereupon, lo you, the knight that cometh down into the midst of
the hall, clad in a short red jerkin; and he was girt with a rich
girdle of gold, and had a rich clasp at his neck wherein were
many rich stones, and on his head had he a great cap of gold, and
he held great axe. The knight was of great comeliness and young
of age. Lancelot seeth him coming, and looketh upon him right
fainly when he seeth him appear. And the knight saith to him,
"Certes," saith Lancelot, "Willingly."
He alighteth and maketh his horse fast to a ring of silver that
was on the mounting-stage, and putteth his shield from his neck
and his spear from his hand.
"Sir," saith he to the knight, "What is your pleasure?"
"Sir, needs must you cut me off my head with this axe, for of
this weapon hath my death been adjudged, but and you will not, I
will cut off your own therewith."
"Hold, Sir," saith Lancelot, "What is this you tell me?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "you must needs do even as I say, sith
that you are come into this city."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "Right foolish were he that in such a
jeopardy should not do the best for himself, but blamed shall I
be thereof and I shall slay you when you have done me no wrong."
"Certes," saith the Knight, "In no otherwise may you go hence."
"Fair Sir," saith Lancelot, "So gentle are you and so well
nurtured, how cometh it that you take your death so graciously?
You know well that I shall kill you before you shall kill me,
sith that so it is."
"This know I well for true," saith the Knight, "But you will
promise me before I die, that you will return into this city
within a year from this, and that you will set your head in the
same jeopardy without challenge, as I have set mine."
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "Needeth no argument that I shall
choose respite of death to dying here on the spot. But I marvel
me of this that you are so fairly apparelled to receive your
"Sir," saith the Knight, "He that would go before the Saviour of
the World ought of right to apparel him as fairly as he may. I
am by confession purged of all wickedness and of all the misdeeds
that ever I have committed, and do repent me truly thereof,
wherefore at this moment am I fain to die."
Therewithal he holdeth forth the axe, and Lancelot taketh it and
seeth that it is right keen and well whetted.
"Sir," saith the Knight, "Hold up your hand toward the minster
that you see yonder."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "Willingly."
"Thus, then, will you swear to me upon the holy relics that are
within this minster, that on this day year at the hour that you
shall have slain me, or before, you yourself will come back here
and place your head in the very same peril as I shall have placed
mine, without default?"
"Thus," saith Lancelot, "do I swear and give you thereto my
With that, the Knight kneeleth and stretcheth his neck as much as
he may, and Lancelot taketh the axe in his hands, and then saith
to him, "Sir Knight, for God's sake, have mercy on yourself!"
"Let cut off my head!" saith the Knight, "For otherwise may I not
have mercy upon you!"
"In God's name," saith Lancelot, "fain would I deny you!"
With that, he swingeth the axe and cutteth off the head with such
a sweep that he maketh it fly seven foot high from the body. The
Knight fell to the ground when his head was cut off, and Lancelot
flung down the axe, and thinketh that he will make but an ill
stay there for himself. He cometh to his horse, and taketh his
arms and mounteth and looketh behind him, but seeth neither the
body of the Knight nor the head, neither knoweth he what hath
become of them all, save only that he heard much dole and a great
cry far off in the city of knights and ladies, saying that he
shall be avenged, please God, at the term set, or before.
Lancelot hath heard and understood all that the knights say and
the ladies, and issueth forth of the city.
Of the most Holy Graal here beginneth another branch in such wise
as the authority witnesseth and Joseph that made recoverance
thereof, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
This high history and profitable witnesseth us that the son of
the Widow Lady sojourned still with his uncle King Pelles in the
hermitage, and through distress of the evil that he had had since
he came forth of the house of King Fisherman, was he confessed to
his uncle and told him of what lineage he was, and that his name
was Perceval. But the good Hermit the good King had given him
the name of Parluifet, for that he was made of himself. King
Hermit was one day gone into the forest, and the good knight
Parluifet felt himself sounder of health and lustier than he wont
to be. He heard the birds sing in the forest, and his heart
began to swell of knighthood, and he minded him of the adventures
he wont to find in the forest and of the damsels and knights that
he wont to meet, and never was he so fain of arms as was he at
that time, for that he had been sojourning so long within doors.
He felt courage in his heart and lustiness in his limbs and
fainness in his thought. Right soon armeth he himself and
setteth the saddle on his horse and mounteth forthwith. He
prayeth God give him adventure that he may meet good knight,
setteth himself forth of his uncle's hermitage and entereth into
the forest that was broad and shady. He rideth until he cometh
into a launde that was right spacious, and seeth a leafy tree
that was at the head of the launde. He alighteth in the shadow,
and thinketh to himself that two knights might joust on this bit
of ground fair and well, for the place was right broad. And,
even as he was thinking on this wise, he heard a horse neigh full
loud in the forest three times, and right glad was he thereof and
said: "Ha, God, of your sweetness grant that there be a knight
with that horse, so may I prove whether there be any force or
valour or knighthood in me. For I know not now what strength I
may have, nor even whether my heart be sound and my limbs whole.
For on a knight that hath neither hardihood nor valour in
himself, may not another knight that hath more force in him
reasonably prove his mettle, for many a time have I heard say
that one is better than other. And for this pray I to the
Saviour and this be a knight that cometh there, that he may have
strength and hardihood and mettle to defend his body against mine
own, for great desire have I to run upon him. Grant now that he
slay me not, nor I him!"
Therewithal, he looketh before him, and seeth the knight issue
from the forest and enter into the launde. The knight was armed
and had at his neck a white shield with a cross of gold. He
carried his lance low, and sate upon a great destrier and rode at
a swift pace. As soon as Perceval seeth him, he steadieth him in
his stirrups and setteth spear in rest and smiteth his horse with
his spurs, right joyous, and goeth toward the knight a great
gallop. Then he crieth: "Sir Knight, cover you of your shield to
guard you as I do of mine to defend my body, for you do I defy on
this side slaying, and our Lord God grant that I find you so good
knight as shall try what hardihood of heart I may have, for I am
not such as I have been aforetime, and better may one learn of a
good knight than of a bad."
With that he smiteth the knight upon his shield with such a sweep
that he maketh him lose one of his stirrups and pierceth his
shield above the boss, and passeth beyond full speed. And the
knight marvelleth much, and maketh demand, saying, "Fair Sir,
what misdeed have I done you?"
Perceval is silent, and hath no great joy of this that he hath
not overthrown the knight, but not so easy was he to overthrow,
for he was one of the knights of the world that could most of
defence of arms. He goeth toward Perceval as fast as his horse
may carry him and Perceval toward him. They mell together upon
their shields right stiffly, so that they pierce and batter them
with the points of their spears. And Perceval thrusteth his
spear into the flesh two finger-breadths, and the knight doth not
amiss, for he passeth his spear right through his arm so that the
shafts of the lances were splintered. They hurtle together
either against other at the passing so mightily, that the
flinders of iron from the mail of their habergeons stick into
their foreheads and faces, and the blood leapeth forth by mouth
and nose so that their habergeons were all bloody. They drew
their swords with a right great sweep. The knight of the white
shield holdeth Perceval's rein and saith: "Gladly would I know
who you are and wherefore you hate me, for you have wounded me
right sore, and sturdy knight have I found you and of great
Perceval saith not a word to him and runneth again upon him sword
drawn, and the knight upon him, and right great buffets either
giveth other on the helm, so that their eyes all sparkle of stars
and the forest resoundeth of the clashing of their swords. Right
tough was the battle and right horrible, for good knights were
both twain. But the blood that ran down from their wounds at
last slackened their sinews, albeit the passing great wrath that
the one had against the other, and the passing great heat of
their will, had so enchafed them they scarce remembered the
wounds that they had, and still dealt each other great buffets
King Hermit cometh from labouring in the forest and findeth not
his nephew in the hermitage, whereof is he right sorrowful, and
he mounteth on a white mule that he had therewithin. She was
starred in the midst of her forehead with a red cross. Josephus
the good clerk witnesseth us that this same mule had belonged to
Joseph of Abarimacie at the time he was Pilate's soldier, and
that he bequeathed her to King Pelles. King Hermit departeth
from the hermitage and prayeth God grant him to find his nephew.
He goeth through the forest and rideth until he draweth nigh the
launde where the two knights were. He heareth the strokes of the
swords, and cometh towards them full speed and setteth him
between the twain to forbid them.
"Ha, sir," saith he to the Knight of the White Shield, "Right
great ill do you to combat against this knight that hath lain
sick this long time in this forest, and fight sorely have you
"Sir," saith the-knight, "As much hath he done by me, and never
would I have run upon him now had he not challenged me, and he is
not minded to tell me who he is nor whence ariseth his hatred of
"Fair Sir," saith the Hermit, "And you, who are you?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "I will tell you. I am the son of King
Ban of Benoic."
"Ha, fair nephew," saith King Hermit to Perceval, "See here your
cousin, for King Ban of Benoic was your father's cousin-german.
Make him right great cheer!"
He maketh them take off their helmets and lower their ventails,
and then kiss one another, afterward he leadeth them to his
hermitage. They alight together. He calleth his own squire that
waited upon him, and made them be disarmed right tenderly. There
was a damsel within that was cousin-german to King Pelles and had
tended Perceval within in his sickness. She washeth their wounds
right sweetly and cleanseth them of the blood. And they see that
Lancelot is sorer wounded than Perceval.
"Damsel," saith the Hermit, "How seemeth you?"
"Sir," saith she, "Needs must this knight sojourn here, for his
wound is in a right perilous place."
"Hath he danger of death?"
"Sir," saith she, "In no wise of this wound, but behoveth him
take good heed thereto."
"God be praised!" saith he, "and of my nephew how seemeth you?"
"Sir, the wound that he hath will be soon healed. He will have
none ill thereof."
The damsel, that was right cunning of leech-craft, tended the
wounds of the knights, and made them whole as best she might, and
King Hermit himself gave counsel therein. But and Perceval had
borne his shield that was there within, of sinople with a white
hart, Lancelot would have known him well, nor would there have
been any quarrel between them, for he had heard tell of this
shield at the court of King Arthur. The authority of this story
recordeth that the two knights are in hermitage, and that
Perceval is well-nigh whole; but Lancelot hath sore pain of his
wound and is still far from his healing.
Now the story is silent about the two knights for a little time,
and speaketh of the squire that Messire Gawain meeteth in the
midst of the forest, that told him he went seek the son of the
Widow Lady that had slain his father. And the squire saith that
he will go to avenge him, wherefore cometh he to the court of
King Arthur, for that he had heard tell how all good knights
repaired thither. And he seeth the shield hang on the column in
the midst of the hall that the Damsel of the Car had brought
thither. The squire knoweth it well, and kneeleth before the
King and saluteth him, and the King returneth his salute and
asketh who he is.
"Sir," saith he, "I am the son of the Knight of the Red Shield of
the Forest of Shadows, that was slain of the Knight that ought to
bear the shield that hangeth on this column, wherefore would I
right gladly hear tidings of him."
"As gladly would I," saith the King, "so that no evil came to him
thereof, for he is the knight of the world that I most desire."
"Sir," saith the Squire, "Well behoveth me to hate him for that
he slew my father. He that ought to bear this shield was squire
when he slew him, wherefore am I the more sorrowful for that I
thought to be avenged upon him squire. But this I may not do,
wherefore I pray you for God's sake that you will make me knight,
for the like favour are you accustomed to grant unto others."
"What is your name, fair friend?" saith the King.
"Sir," saith he, "I am called Clamados of the Shadows."
Messire Gawain that had repaired to court, was in the hall, and
said to the King: "If this squire be enemy of the Good Knight
that ought to bear this shield, behoveth you not set forward his
mortal enemy but rather set him back, for he is the Best Knight
of the world and the most chaste that liveth in the world and of
the most holy lineage, and therefore have you sojourned right
long time in this castle to await his coming. I say not this for
the hindering of the squire's advancement, but that you may do
nought whereof the Good Knight may have cause of complaint
"Messire Gawain," saith Queen Guenievre, "well know I that you
love my Lord's honour, but sore blame will he have if he make not
this one knight, for so much hath he never refused to do for any;
nor yet will the Good Knight have any misliking thereof, for
greater shame should he have, and greater despite of the hatred
of a squire than of a knight; for never yet was good knight that
was not prudent and well-advised and slow to take offence.
Wherefore I tell you that he will assuredly listen to reason, and
I commend my Lord the rather that he make him knight, for much
blame would he have of gainsaying him."
"Lady," saith Messire Gawain, "So you are content, I am happy."
The King made him knight right richly, and when he was clad in
the robes, they of the court declare and witness that never this
long time past had they seen at the court knight of greater
comeliness. He sojourned therein long time, and , was much
honoured of the King and all the barons. He was every day on the
watch for the Good Knight that should come for the shield, but
the hour and the place were not as yet.
When he saw that he did not come, he took leave of the King and
the Queen and all them of the court, and departed, thinking him
that he would go prove his knighthood in some place until he
should have heard tidings of his mortal enemy. He rideth amidst
the great forests bearing a red shield like as did his father,
and he was all armed as for defending of his body. And a long
space of time he rideth, until one day he cometh to the head of a
forest, and he espied his way that ran between two mountains and
saw that he had to pass along the midst of the valley that lay at
a great depth. He looketh before him and seeth a tree far away
from him, and underneath were three damsels alighted, and one
prayed God right heartily aloud that He would send them betimes a
knight that durst convoy them through this strait pass.
Clamodos heareth the damsel and cometh thitherward. When they
espied him, great joy have they thereof and rise up to meet him.
"Sir, say they, "Welcome may you be!"
"Damsels," saith he, "Good adventure may you have! And whom
await you here?" saith he.
"We await," saith the Mistress of the damsels, "some knight that
shall clear this pass, for no knight durst pass hereby."
"What is the pass; then, damsel?" saith he.
"It is the one of a lion, and a lion, moreover, so fell and
horrible that never was none seen more cruel. And there is a
knight with the lion between the two mountains that is right good
knight and hardy and comely. Howbeit none durst pass without
great company of folk. But the knight that hath repair with the
lion is seldom there, for so he were there we need fear no
danger, for much courtesy is there in him and valour."
And the knight looketh and seeth in the shadow of the forest
three fair stags harnessed to a car.
"Ha," saith he, "you are the Damsel of the Car, wherefore may you
well tell me tidings of the knight of whom I am in quest."
"Who is he?" saith the Damsel.
"It is he that should bear a shield banded argent and azure with
a red cross."
"Of him am I likewise in quest," saith the Damsel; "please God,
we shall hear tidings of him betimes."
"Damsel" saith the knight, "that would I. And for that you are
in quest of him as am I likewise, I will convoy you beyond this
The Damsel maketh her Car go on before, and the damsels go before
the knight; and so enter they into the field of the lion, and
right fair land found they therewithin. Clamados looketh and
seeth the hall within an enclosure and seeth the lion that lay at
the entrance of the gateway. As soon as he espieth Clamados and
the damsels, he cometh toward them full speed, mouth open and
ears pricked up.
"Sir," saith the Damsel, "and you defend not your horse on foot,
he is dead at the first onset."
Clamados is alighted to his feet, by her counsel, and holdeth his
spear in his fist, and the lion rampeth toward him all in a fury.
Clamados receiveth him on the point of his spear, and smiteth him
therewith so stoutly that it passeth a fathom beyond his neck.