Part 7 out of 10
power hath she in this forest."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "I have sithence spoken to her and she to
me, and so hath she told me her will and her wish."
Thereupon the knight bade the knights take water, and the lady
taketh the basins and presenteth water to the knights.
"Avoid, damsel," saith the King, "Take it away! Never, please
God, shall it befall that we should accept such service from
"By my head," saith the knight, "But so must you needs do, for
other than she shall not serve you to-night in this matter, or
otherwise shall you not eat with me this night there within."
Lancelot understandeth that the knight is not overburdened of
courtesy, and he seeth the table garnished of good meat, and
bethinketh him he will not do well to lose such ease, for misease
enough had they the night before. He maketh the King take water
of the lady, and the same service did she for all of them. The
knight biddeth them be seated. The King would have made the lady
sit beside him at the table, but the knight said that there she
should not sit. She goeth to sit among the squires as she was
wont to do. The knights are sorry enough thereof, but they durst
not gainsay the will of her lord. When they had eaten, the
knight said to Lancelot, "Now may you see what she hath gained of
me by your making me take her perforce, nor never, so help me
God, so long as I live shall she be honoured otherwise by me, for
so have I promised her that I love far more."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "To my thinking you do ill herein and a
sin, and meseemeth you should have great blame thereof of them
that know it, and may your churlishness be your own, for nought
thereof take I to myself."
Lancelot telleth the King and Messire Gawain that were he not
lodged in his hostel, and had him outside of the hold, he would
willingly have set the blood of his body on it but he would have
handled him in such sort as that the lady should be maintained in
greater honour, either by force or by prayer, in like manner as
he did when he made him marry her. They were right well lodged
the night and lay in the hold until the morrow, when they
departed thence, and rode right busily on their journeys until
they came into a very different land, scarce inhabited of any
folk, and found a little castle in a combe. They came
thitherward and saw that the enclosure of the castle was fallen
down into an abysm, so that none might approach it on that side,
but it had a right fair gateway and a door tall and wide whereby
one entered. They beheld a chapel that was right fair and rich,
and below was a great ancient hall. They saw a priest appear in
the midst of the castle, bald and old, that had come forth of the
chapel. They are come thither and alighted, and asked the priest
what the castle was, and he told them that it was the great
"And how is this ground all caved in about the castle?"
"Sir," saith the priest, "I will tell you. Sir," saith he, "King
Uther Pendragon, that was father of King Arthur, held a great
court and summoned all his barons. The King of this castle that
then was here was named Gorlois. He went to the court and took
his wife with him, that was named Ygerne, and she was the fairest
dame in any kingdom. King Uther sought acquaintance of her for
her great beauty, and regarded her and honoured her more than all
the others of his court. King Gorlois departed thence and made
the Queen come back to this castle for the dread that he had of
King Uther Pendragon. King Uther was very wroth with him, and
commanded him to send back the Queen his wife. King Godois said
that he would not. Thereupon King Uther Pendragon defied him,
and then laid siege about this castle where the Queen was. King
Gorlois was gone to seek for succour. King Uther Pendragon had
Merlin with him of whom you have heard tell, that was so crafty.
He made him be changed into the semblance of King Gorlois, so
that he entered there within by Merlin's art and lay that night
with the Queen, and so begat King Arthur in a great hall that was
next to the enclosure there where this abysm is. And for this
sin hath the ground sunken in on this wise."
He cometh with them toward the chapel that was right fair, and
had a right rich sepulchre therein.
"Lords, in this sepulchre was placed the body of Merlin, but
never mought it be set inside the chapel, wherefore perforce it
remained outside. And know of a very truth that the body lieth
not within the sepulchre, for, so soon as it was set therein, it
was taken out and snatched away, either on God's behalf or the
Enemy's, but which we know not."
"Sir," saith King Arthur, "And what became of King Gorlois?"
"Sir." saith he, "The King slew him on the morrow of the night he
lay with his wife, and so forthwith espoused Queen Ygerne, and in
such manner as I tell you was King Arthur conceived in sin that
is now the best King in the world."
King Arthur hath heard this as concerning his birth that he knew
not, and is a little shamed thereof and confounded on account of
Messire Gawain and Lancelot. He himself marvelleth much thereof,
and much it misliketh him that the priest hath said so much. They
lay the night in the hold, and so departed thence on the morrow
when they had heard mass. Lancelot and Messire Gawain, that
thought they knew the forest, found the land so changed and
different that they knew not whither they were become, and such
an one as should come into the land that had been King
Fisherman's, and he should come again another time within forty
days, should not find the castle within a year.
Josephus telleth us that the semblances of the islands changed
themselves by reason of the divers adventures that by the
pleasure of God befell therein, and that the quest of adventures
would not have pleased the knights so well and they had not found
them so different. For, when they had entered into a forest or
an island where they had found any adventure, and they came there
another time, they found holds and castles and adventures of
another kind, so that their toils and travails might not weary
them, and also for that God would that the land should be
conformed to the New Law. And they were the knights that had
more toil and travail in seeking adventures than all the knights
of the world before them, and in holding to that whereof they had
made covenant; nor of no court of no king in the world went forth
so many good knights as went forth from the court of King Arthur,
and but that God loved them so much, never might they have
endured such toil and travail as they did from day to day; for
without fait, good knights were they, and good knights not only
to deal hard buffets, but rather in that they were loyal and
true, and had faith in the Saviour of the World and His sweet
Mother, and therefore dreaded shame and loved honour. King
Arthur goeth on his way and Messire Gawain and Lancelot with him,
and they pass through many strange countries, and so enter into a
great forest. Lancelot called to remembrance the knight that he
had slain in the Waste City whither behoved him to go, and knew
well that the day whereon he should come was drawing nigh. He
told King Arthur as much, and then said, that and he should go
not, he would belie his covenant. They rode until they came to a
cross where the ways forked.
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "Behoveth me go to acquit me of my pledge,
and I go in great adventure and peril of death, nor know I
whether I may live at all thereafter, for I slew the knight,
albeit I was right sorry thereof, but or ever I slew him, I had
to swear that I would go set my head in the like jeopardy as he
had set his. Now the day draweth nigh that I must go thither,
for I am unwilling to fail of my covenant, whereof I should be
blamed, and, so God grant me to escape therefrom, I will follow
The King embraceth him and kisseth him at parting and Messire
Gawain also, and they pray God preserve his body and his life,
and that they may see him again ere it be long. Lancelot would
willingly have sent salute to the Queen had he durst, for she lay
nearer his heart than aught beside, but he would not that the
King nor Messire Gawain should misdeem of the love they might
carry to their kinswoman. The love is so rooted in his heart
that he may not leave it, into what peril soever he may go;
rather, he prayeth God every day as sweetly as he may, that He
save the Queen, and that he may deliver his body from this
jeopardy. He hath ridden until that he cometh at the hour of
noon into the Waste City, and findeth the city empty as it was
the first time he was there.
In the city wherein Lancelot had arrived were many waste houses
and rich palaces fallen down. He had scarce entered within the
city when he heard a great cry and lamentation of dames and
damsels, but he knew not on which side it was, and they say: "Ha,
God, how hath the knight betrayed us that slew the knight,
inasmuch as he returneth not! This day is the day come that he
ought to redeem his pledge! Never again ought any to put trust
in knight, for that he cometh not! The others that came hither
before him have failed us, and so will he also for dread of
death; for he smote off the head of the comeliest knight that was
in this kingdom and the best, wherefore ought he also to have his
own smitten off, but good heed taketh he to save it if he may!"
Thus spake the damsels. Lancelot much marvelled where they might
be, for nought could he espy of them, albeit he cometh before the
palace, there where he slew the knight. He alighteth, then
maketh fast his horse's reins to a ring that was fixed in the
mounting-stage of marble. Scarce hath he done so, when a knight
alighteth, tall and comely and strong and deliver, and he was
clad in a short close-fitted jerkin of silk, and held the axe in
his hand wherewith Lancelot had smitten off the head of the other
knight, and he came sharpening it on a whetstone to cut the
better. Lancelot asketh him, "What will you do with this axe?"
"By my head," saith the knight, "That shall you know in such sort
as my brother knew when you cut off his head, so I may speed of
"How?" saith Lancelot, "Will you slay me then?"
"That shall you know," saith he, "or ever you depart hence. Have
you not loyally promised hereof that you would set your head in
the same jeopardy as the knight set his, whom you slew without
defence? And no otherwise may you depart therefrom. Wherefore
now come forward without delay and kneel down and stretch your
neck even as my brother did, and so will I smite off your head,
and, if you do nor this of your own good will, you shall soon
find one that shall make you do it perforce, were you twenty
knights as good as you are one. But well I know that you have
not come hither for this, but only to fulfil your pledge, and
that you will raise no contention herein."
Lancelot thinketh to die, and is minded to abide by that he hath
in covenant without fail, wherefore he lieth down on the ground
as it were on a cross, and crieth mercy of God. He mindeth him
of the Queen, and crieth God of mercy and saith, "Ha, Lady" saith
he, "Never shall I see you more! but, might I have seen you yet
once again before I die, exceeding great comfort had it been to
me, and my soul would have departed from me more at ease. But
this, that never shall I see you more, as now it seemeth me,
troubleth me more than the death whereby behoveth me to die, for
die one must when one hath lived long enough. But faithfully do
I promise you that my love shall fail you not yet, and never
shall it be but that my soul shall love you in the other world
like as my body hath loved you in this, if thus the soul may
With that the tears fell from his eyes, nor, never sithence that
he was knight, saith the story, had he wept for nought that had
befallen him nor for heaviness of heart, but this time and one
other. He taketh three blades of grass and so eateth thereof in
token of the holy communion, then signeth him of the cross and
blesseth him, riseth up, setteth himself on his knees and
stretcheth forth his neck. The knight lifteth up the axe.
Lancelot heareth the blow coming, boweth his head and the axe
misseth him. He saith to him, "Sir Knight, so did not my brother
that you slew; rather, he held his head and neck quite still, and
so behoveth you to do!"
Two damsels appeared at the palace-windows of passing great
beauty, and they knew Lancelot well. So, as the knight was
aiming a second blow, one of the damsels crieth to him, "And you
would have my love for evermore, throw down the axe and cry the
knight quit! Otherwise have you lost me for ever!"
The knight forthwith flingeth down the axe and falleth at
Lancelot's feet and crieth mercy of him as of the most loyal
knight in the world.
"But you? Have mercy on me, you! and slay me not!" saith
Lancelot, "For it is of you that I ought to pray mercy!"
"Sir," saith the knight, "Of a surety will I not do this! Rather
will I help you to my power to save your life against all men,
for all you have slain my brother."
The damsels come down from the palace and are come to Lancelot.
"Sir," say they to Lancelot, "Greatly ought we to love you, yea,
better than all knights in the world beside. For we are the two
damsels, sisters, that you saw so poor at the Waste Castle where
you lay in our brother's house. You and Messire Gawain and
another knight gave us the treasure and the hold of the robber-
knights that you slew; for this city which is waste and the Waste
Castle of my brother would never again be peopled of folk, nor
should we never have had the land again, save a knight had come
hither as loyal as are you. Full a score knights have arrived
here by chance in the same manner as you came, and not one of
them but hath slain a brother or a kinsman and cut off his head
as you did to the knight, and each one promised to return at the
day appointed; but all failed of their covenant, for not one of
them durst come to the day; and so you had failed us in like
manner as the others, we should have lost this city without
recovery and the castles that are its appanages."
So the knight and the damsels lead Lancelot into the palace and
then make him be disarmed. They hear presently how the greatest
joy in the world is being made in many parts of the forest, that
was nigh the city.
"Sir," say the damsels, "Now may you hear the joy that is made of
your coming. These are the burgesses and dwellers in the city
that already know the tidings."
Lancelot leaneth at the windows of the hall, and seeth the city
peopled of the fairest folk in the world, and great thronging in
the broad streets and the great palace, and clerks and priests
coming in long procession praising God and blessing Him for that
they may now return to their church, and giving benison to the
knight through whom they are free to repair thither. Lancelot
was much honoured throughout the city. The two damsels are at
great pains to wait upon him, and right great worship had he of
all them that were therewithin and them that came thither, both
clerks and priests.
Therewithal the history is silent of Lancelot, and speaketh word
of the King and Messire Gawain, that are in sore misgiving as
concerning him, for right gladly would they have heard tidings of
him. They met a knight that was coming all armed, and Messire
Gawain asketh him whence he came, and he said that he came from
the land of the Queen of the Golden Circlet, to whom a sore loss
hath befallen; for the Son of the Widow Lady had won the Circlet
of Gold for that he had slain the Knight of the Dragon, and she
was to keep it safe for him and deliver it up to him at his will.
"But now hath Nabigant of the Rock reft her thereof, and a right
outrageous knight is he and puissant; wherefore hath he commanded
a damsel that she bring it to an assembly of knights that is to
be held in the Meadow of the Tent of the two damsels, there where
Messire Gawain did away the evil custom. The damsel that will
bring the Golden Circlet will give it to the knight that shall do
best at the assembly. Nabigant is keenly set upon having it, and
maketh the more sure for that once aforetime he hath had it by
force of arms. And I am going to the knights that know not these
tidings, in order that when they shall hear them, they shall go
to the assembly."
Therewithal the knight departeth. The King and Messire Gawain
have ridden so far that they come to the tent where Messire
Gawain destroyed the evil custom by slaying the two knights. He
found the tent garnished within and without in like manner as it
was when he was there, and Messire Gawain made the King be seated
on a quilted mattress of straw, right costly, and thereafter be
disarmed of a squire, and he himself disarmed him, and they
washed their hands and faces for the rust wherewith both of them
were besmuttered. And Messire Gawain found the chests unlocked
that were at the head of the couch, and made the King be
apparelled of white rich stuffs that he found, and a robe of
cloth of silk and gold, and he clad himself in the like manner,
neither was the chest not a whit disfurnished thereby, for the
tent was all garnished of rich adornments. When they were thus
dight, a man might have sought far or ever he should find so
Thereupon, behold you the two Damsels of the Tent coming.
"Damsels," saith Messire Gawain, "Welcome may you be."
"Sir," say they, "Good adventure may you have both twain. It
seemeth us that you take right boldly that which is ours, yet
never for neither of us would you do a thing whereof you were
"Messire Gawain" saith the elder, "No knight is there in this
kingdom but would be right joyous and he supposed that I loved
him, and I prayed you of your love on a day that is past, for the
valour of your knighthood, yet never did you grant it me. How
durst you have affiance in me of aught, and take the things that
are mine own so boldly, when I may not have affiance in you?"
"Damsel, for your courtesy and the good custom of the land; for
you told me when the evil customs were overthrown, that all the
honours and all the courtesies that are due to knights should
ever be ready within for all them that should come hither for
"Messire Gawain, you say true, but of right might one let the
courtesy tarry and pay back churlishness by churlishness."
"The assembly of knights will begin to-morrow in this launde that
is so fair. There will be knights in plenty, and the prize will
be the Circlet of Gold. Now shall we see who will do best. The
assembly will last three whole days, and of one thing at least
you may well make boast between you and your comrade, that you
have the fairest hostel and the most pleasant and the most quiet
of any knights at the assembly."
The younger damsel looketh at King Arthur. "And you," saith she,
What will you do? Will you be as strange toward us as Messire
Gawain is friendly with others?"
"Damsel," saith the king, "Messire Gawain will do his pleasure
and I mine. Strange shall I not be in respect of you, nor toward
other damsels; rather shall they be honoured on my part so long
as I live, and I myself will be at your commandment."
"Sir," saith she, "Gramercy greatly. I pray you, therefore, that
you be my knight at the tournament."
"Damsel, this ought I not to refuse you, and right glad at heart
shall I be and I may do aught that shall please you; for all
knights ought to be at pains for the sake of dame or damsel."
"Sir," saith she, "what is your name?"
"Damsel," saith he, "My name is Arthur, and I am of Tincardoil."
"Have you nought to do with King Arthur?"
"Damsel, already have I been many times at his court, and, if he
loved me not nor I him, I should not be in Messire Gawain's
company. In truth, he is the King in the world that I love
The damsel looketh at King Arthur, but wotteth not a whir that it
is he, and full well is she pleased with the seeming and
countenance of him. As for the King, lightly might he have
trusted that he should have her as his lady-love so long as he
remained with her; but there is much to say betwixt his semblant
and his thought, for he showeth good semblant toward the damsel,
that hath over much affiance therein, but his thought is on Queen
Guenievre in what place soever he may be. For nought loveth he
so well as her.
The damsels made stable the horses and purvey for the bodies of
the knights right richly at night, and they lay in two right rich
beds in the midst of the hall, and their arms were all set ready
before. The damsels would not depart until such time as they
were asleep. The harness of the knights that came to the
assembly came on the morrow from all parts. They set up their
booths and stretched their tents all round about the launde of
the forest. King Arthur and Messire Gawain were risen in the
morning and saw the knights come from all parts. The elder
damsel cometh to Messire Gawain and saith unto him, "Sir," saith
she, "I will that you bear to-day red arms that I will lend you,
for the love of me, and take heed that they be well employed, and
I desire that you should not be known by your arms; rather let it
be said that you are the Red Knight, and you shall allow it
"Damsel, Gramercy greatly!" saith Messire Gawain, "I will do my
endeavour in arms the best I may for love of you."
The younger damsel cometh to King Arthur; "Sir," saith she, "My
sister hath made her gift and I will make mine. I have a suit of
arms of gold, the richest that knight may wear, that I will lend
you, for methinketh they will be better employed on you than on
ever another knight; so I pray you that you remember me at the
assembly in like manner as I shall ofttimes remember you."
"Damsel," saith the King, "Gramercy! No knight is there that
should see you but ought to have you in remembrance in his heart
for your courtesy and your worth."
The knights were come about the tents. The King and Messire
Gawain were armed and had made caparison their horses right
richly. The damsel that should give the Golden Circlet was come.
Nabigant of the Rock had brought great fellowships of knights
together with him, and ordinance was made for the assembly.
The younger damsel saith to King Arthur: "Well may you know that
no knight that is here this day hath better arms than are yours,
wherefore take heed that you show you to be good knight for love
"Damsel," saith King Arthur, "God grant that I be so."
So they laid hold on their reins and mounted their horses, that
made great leaping and went away a great gallop. Saith the
younger damsel to her sister: "What think you of my knight, doth
he not please you?"
"Yea," saith the elder, "But sore misliketh me of Messire Gawain
for that he is not minded to do as I would have him. But he
shall yet aby it dear."
King Arthur and Messire Gawain strike into the midst of the
assembly like as it were two lions unchained, and at their first
coming they smite down two knights to the ground under the feet
of their horses. Messire Gawain taketh the two horses and
sendeth them by a squire to the Damsels of the Tent, that made
much joy thereof. After that were they not minded to take more
booty as of horses or arms, but searched the fellowships on one
side and the other; nor was there no knight that came against
them but they pierced his shield or bore him to the ground,
insomuch as none was there that might endure their buffets.
Nabigant espieth Messire Gawain and cometh toward him, and
Messire Gawain toward him again, and they hurtle together either
on other so strongly that Messire Gawain beareth Nabigant to the
ground, him and his horse together all in a heap. And King
Arthur was not idle, for no knight durst come against him but he
overthrew him, so as that all withdrew them back and avoided his
buffets. And many knights did well that day at the assembly, but
none might be the match of either of them twain in deeds of arms,
for, save it were Lancelot or Perceval, were no knights on live
that had in them so much hardiment and valour. After that it was
evensong the knights drew them back to their tents, and they say
all that the Knight of the Golden Arms and the Knight of the Red
Arms had done better than they all at the assembly. King Arthur
and Messire Gawain come back to the tent of the damsels, that
make disarm them and do upon them the rich robes and make great
joy of them. Thereupon, behold you, a dwarf that cometh:
"Damsels, make great joy! for all they of the assembly say with
one accord that your knights have done best this day."
King Arthur and Messire Gawain sate to eat, and right well were
they served of every kind of meats and of great cups of wine and
sops in wine. King Arthur made the younger damsel sit beside
him, and Messire Gawain the elder in like manner, and when they
had eaten they went to lie down and fell on sleep, for right sore
weary were they and forespent of the many buffets they had given
and received, and they slept until the morrow.
When the day appeared they rose up. Thereupon, behold you the
younger damsel where she cometh and saluteth King Arthur. "And
you, damsel!" saith King Arthur, "God give you joy and good
"Sir," saith she, "I will that you bear to-day these white arms
that you see here, and that you do no worse to-day than yesterday
you did, sith that better you may not do."
"Messire Gawain," saith the elder damsel, "Remember you of the
King there where his land was compassed about of a wall of stone,
and you harboured one night in his castle, what time you went to
seek for the sword wherewith John Baptist was beheaded, when he
was fain to take away the sword from you, whereof you had so sore
misliking? Natheless, he yielded you up the sword upon covenant
that you should do that which a damsel should first ask you to do
thereafter, and you promised him loyally that so would you do?"
"Certes, damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Well do I remember the
"Now, therefore," saith the damsel, "would I fain prove whether
you be indeed so loyal as men say, and whether you will hold your
covenant that you made. Wherefore I pray and beseech you that
this day you shall be he that doth worst of all the knights at
the assembly, and that you bear none other arms save your own
only, so as that you shall be known again of all them that are
there present. And, so you will not do this, then will you have
failed of your covenant, and myself will go tell the King that
you have broken the promise that you made to him right loyally."
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Never yet brake I covenant with
none, so it were such as I might fulfil or another on my behalf."
King Arthur made arm him of the white arms that the younger
damsel had given him, and Messire Gawain of his own, but sore it
irked him of this that the damsel hath laid upon him to do, sith
that needs must he lose worship and he hold to his covenant,
albeit not for nought that is in the world will he fail of the
promise he hath made. So they come into the assembly.
King Arthur smiteth with his spurs like a good knight and
overthroweth two knights in his onset, and Messire Gawain rideth
a bandon betwixt two fellowships to be the better known. The
most part say, "See! There is Messire Gawain, the good knight
that is King Arthur's nephew."
Nabigant of the Rock cometh toward him as fast as his horse may
carry him, lance in rest. Messire Gawain seeth him coming toward
him right furiously. He casteth his shield down on the ground
and betaketh him to flight as swiftly as he may. They that
beheld him, some two score or more, marvel thereof, and say, "Did
ever one see the like overpassing cowardize!"
Nabigant saith that he never yet followed a knight that was
vanquished, nor never will follow one of such conditions, for no
great prize would it be to take him and win his horse. Other
knights come to joust with him, but Messire Gawain fleeth and
avoideth them the best he may, and maketh semblance that none is
there he durst abide. He draweth toward King Arthur for safety.
"The King hath great shame of this that he seeth him do, and
right sore pains hath he of defending Messire Gawain, for he
holdeth as close to him as the pie doth to the bramble when the
falcon would take her. In such shame and dishonour was Messire
Gawain as long as the assembly lasted, and the knights said that
he had gotten him off with much less than he deserved, for that
never had they seen so craven knight at assembly or tournament as
was he, nor never henceforth would they have dread of him as they
had heretofore. From this day forward may many lightly avenge
themselves upon him of their kinsfolk and friends that he hath
slain by the forest. The assembly brake up in the evening,
whereof the King and Messire Gawain were right well pleased. The
knights disarm them at their hostels and the King and Messire
Gawain at the damsels' tent.
With that, behold you the dwarf that cometh.
"By my head, damsels, your knights go from bad to worse! Of him
in the white arms one may even let pass, but Messire Gawain is
the most coward ever saw I yet, and so he were to run upon me
to-morrow and I were armed like as is he, I should think me right
well able to defend me against him. 'Tis the devil took him to a
place where is such plenty of knights, for the more folk that are
there the better may one judge of his ill conditions. And you,
Sir," saith he to the King, "Wherefore do you keep him company?
You would have done best to-day had he not been there. He
skulked as close by you, to be out of the buffets, as a hare doth
to the wood for the hounds. No business hath good knight to hold
company with a coward. I say not this for that I would make him
out worse that he is, for I remember the two knights he slew
before this tent."
The damsel heareth the dwarf talking and smileth thereat, for she
understandeth that blame enough hath Messire Gawain had at the
assembly. The knights said at their hostels that they knew not
to whom to give the Circlet of Gold, sith that the Knight of the
Golden Armour and he of the Red Armour were not there; for they
did the best the first day of the assembly, and much they
marvelled that they should not come when it was continued on the
"Gawain," saith the King, "Sore blame have you had this day, and
I myself have been all shamed for your sake. Never thought I
that so good a knight as you might ever have known how to
counterfeit a bad knight as you did. You have done much for the
love of the damsel, and right well had she avenged herself of you
and you had done her great annoy. Howbeit, and to-morrow your
cowardize be such as it hath been to-day, never will the day be
when you shall not have blame thereof."
"By my faith." saith Messire Gawain, "Behoveth me do the damsel's
pleasure sith that we have fallen by ill-chance into her power."
They went to bed at night and took their rest as soon as they had
eaten, and on the morrow the damsel came to Messire Gawain.
"I will," saith she, "that you be clad in the same arms as was
your comrade on the first day, right rich, that I will lend you,
and I will, moreover, that you be knight so good as that never on
any day were you better. But I command you, by the faith you
pledged me the other day, to obey this caution, that you make
yourself known to none, and so any man in the world shall ask
your name, you shall say that you are the knight of the Golden
"Damsel," saith Gawain, "Gramercy, I will do your pleasure."
The younger damsel cometh back to the King: "Sir," saith she, "I
will that you wear new arms: You shall bear them red, the same as
Messire Gawain bore the first day, and I pray you be such as you
were the first day, or better."
"Damsel, I will do my best to amend myself and my doings, and
right well pleased am I of that it pleaseth you to say."
Their horses were caparisoned and the knights mounted, all armed.
They come together to the tournament with such an onset as that
they pass through the thickest of the press and overthrew knights
and horses as many as they encountered. King Arthur espieth
Nabigant that came right gaily caparisoned, and smiteth him so
passing strong a buffet in the midst of his breast that he
beareth him down from his horse, in such sort that he breaketh
his collar-bone, and presenteth the destrier, by his squire, to
the younger damsel, that maketh great joy thereof. And Messire
Gawain searcheth the fellowships on all sides, and so well did he
search that scarce was one might endure his blows. King Arthur
is not idle, but pierceth shields and beateth in helms, the while
all look on in wonderment at him and Messire Gawain. The story
saith that the King would have done still better, but that he put
not forth his full strength in deeds of arms, for that Messire
Gawain had done so ill the day before, and now he would fain that
he should have the prize.
The damsel that held the Golden Circlet was in the midst of the
assembly of knights, and had set it in a right rich casket of
ivory with precious stones, right worshipfully. When the damsel
saw that the assembly was at an end, she made all the knights
stay, and prayed them they should speak judgment true, concealing
nought, who had best deserved of arms, and ought therefore of
right to have the Golden Circle. They said all, that of right
judgment the Knight of the Golden Arms and he of the Red Arms
ought to have the prize above all the others, but that of these
two, he of the Golden Arms ought to have the prize, for so well
did he the first day as that no knight might do better, and on
the last day likewise, and that if he of the Red Arms had put
forth his full strength on the last day, he would have done full
as well or better. The Circlet of Gold was brought to Messire
Gawain, but it was not known that it was he; and Messire Gawain
would fain that it had been given to my Lord King Arthur. The
knights departed from the assembly. The King and Messire Gawain
came back to the tent and brought the Golden Circlet, whereof the
damsels made great joy. Thereupon, behold you! the dwarf that
"Damsels, better is it to lodge knights such as these than
Messire Gawain the coward, the craven that had so much shame at
the assembly! You yourselves would have been sore blamed had you
lodged him. This knight hath won the Golden Circlet by force of
arms, and Messire Gawain nought but shame and reproach."
The damsel laugheth at this that the dwarf saith, and biddeth him
on his eyes and head, begone!
The King and Messire Gawain were disarmed.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "What will you do with the Golden
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "I will bear it to him that first
won it in sore peril of death, and delivered it to the Queen that
ought to have kept it safe, of whom it hath been reft by force."
The King and Messire Gawain lay the night in the tent. The
younger damsel cometh to the King.
"Sir, many feats of arms have you done at the assembly, as I have
been told, for love of me, and I am ready to reward you."
"Damsel, right great thanks. Your reward and your service love I
much, and your honour yet more, wherefore I would that you should
have all the honour that any damsel may have, for in damsel
without honour ought none to put his affiance. Our Lord God
grant you to preserve yours."
"Damsel," saith she to the other that sitteth before Messire
Gawain, "This Knight and Messire Gawain have taken counsel
together. There is neither solace nor comfort in them. Let us
leave them to go to sleep, and ill rest may they have, and Lord
God defend us ever hereafter from such guests."
"By my head," saith the eider damsel, "were it not for the Golden
Circlet that he is bound of right to deliver again to the Queen
that had it in charge, who is my Lady, they should not depart
from this land in such sort as they will. But, and Messire
Gawain still be nice as concerneth damsels, at least I now know
well that he is loyal in anotherwise, so as that he will not fail
of his word."
With that the damsels departed, as did likewise the King and
Messire Gawain as soon as they saw the day. Nabigant, that was
wounded at the tournament, was borne away on a litter. Meliot of
Logres was in quest of Messire Gawain. He met the knights and
the harness that came from the assembly, and asked of many if
they could tell him tidings of King Arthur's nephew, Messire
Gawain, and the most part answer, "Yea, and right bad tidings
Then they ask him wherefore he demandeth.
"Lords," saith he, "His liege man am I, and he ought of right to
defend my land against all men, that Nabigant hath taken from me
without right nor reason, whom they are carrying from thence in a
litter, wherefore I am fain to beseech Messire Gawain that he
help me to recover my land."
"In faith, Sir Knight," say they, "We know not of what avail he
may be to others that may not help himself. Messire Gawain was
at the assembly, but we tell you for true, it was he that did
"Alas," saith Meliot of Logres, "Then have I lost my land, and he
hath become even such an one as you tell me."
"You would readily believe us," say they, "had you seen him at
Meliot turneth him back, right sorrowful.
King Arthur and Messire Gawain depart from the tent, and come a
great pace as though they fain would escape thence to come nigher
the land where they would be, and great desire had they of the
coming of Lancelot. They rode until that they came one night to
the Waste Manor whither the brachet led Messire Gawain when he
found the dead knight that Lancelot had slain. They lodged there
the night, and found there knights and damsels of whom they were
known. The Lady of the Waste Manor sent for succour to her
knights, saying that she held there King Arthur that slew other
knights, and that his nephew Messire Gawain was also there
within, but dearly would she have loved that Lancelot had been
with them that slew her brother. Knights in plenty came to her
to do hurt to King Arthur and Messire Gawain, but she had at
least so much courtesy in her that she would not suffer any of
them to do them ill within her hold, albeit she kept seven of
their number, full of great hardiment, to guard the entrance of
the bridge, so that King Arthur and Messire Gawain might not
depart thence save only amidst the points of their spears.
This high history witnesseth us that Lancelot was departed from
the Waste City wherein he was much honoured, and rode until that
he came to a forest where he met Meliot of Logres, that was sore
dismayed of the tidings he had heard of Messire Gawain. Lancelot
asketh him whence he cometh, and he saith from seeking Messire
Gawain, of whom he had tidings whereof he was right sorrowful.
"How," saith Lancelot, "Is he then otherwise than well?"
"Yea," saith he, "As I have heard tell: for he wont to be good
knight and hath now become evil. He was at the assembly of
knights whereof I met the harness and the fellowships, and they
told me that never yet was such cowardize in any knight, but that
a knight who was with him did right well. But howsoever he may
have borne himself, right fain am I to find him, for, maugre what
any may say, I may scarce believe that he is so bad after all."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "I will seek him for you, and you can come
along with me and it seemeth you good."
Meliot of Logres betaketh him back with Lancelot. They ride
until they happen by chance upon the Waste Manor where the King
and Messire Gawain were lodged; and they were armed, and were
minded to go forth from thence. But the seven knights guarded
the issue, all armed. The King and Messire Gawain saw that no
good would it do them to remain there within, wherefore they
passed over the bridge and came perforce to the place where the
seven knights were watching for them. Thereupon, they went
toward them all armed and struck among them, and the knights
received them on the points of their lances.
Thereupon, behold you! Lancelot and the knight with him, whom
they had not been looking for. Lancelot espied the King and
Messire Gawain; then the knights cried out and struck among them
as a hawk striketh amongst larks, and made them scatter on one
side and the other. Lancelot hath caught one at his coming, and
smiteth him with his spear through the body, and Meliot of Logres
slayeth another. King Arthur knew Lancelot, and right glad was
he to see him safe and sound, as was Messire Gawain likewise.
Lancelot and Meliot of Logres made clear the passage for them.
The knights departed, for longer durst they not abide. The
damsel of the castle held a squire by the hand, that was right
passing comely. She knew Lancelot, and when she saw him she
"Lancelot, you slew this squire's brother, and, please God,
either he or another shall take vengeance thereof."
Lancelot holdeth his peace when he heareth the dame speak, and
departeth from the Waste Hold. Meliot of Logres knew Messire
Gawain and Messire Gawain him again, and great joy made they the
one of the other.
"Sir," saith Meliot, "I am come to lay plaint before you of
Nabigant of the Rock that challengeth me of the land whereof I am
your man, and saith that he will defend it against none but you
only. Sir, the day is full nigh, and if you come not to the day,
I shall have lost my quarrel, and you held me thereof in covenant
what time I became your man."
"Right fainly will I go," saith Messire Gawain.
He goeth his way thither accordingly by leave of the King and
Lancelot, and saith that he will return to them the speediest he
King Arthur and Lancelot go their way as fast as they may toward
the land that was King Fisherman's. Messire Gawain rideth until
he cometh to the land of Nabigant of the Rock. Meliot doeth
Nabigant to wit that Messire Gawain was come, and that he was
ready to uphold his right by him that was his champion. Nabigant
was whole of the wound he gat at the assembly, and held Messire
Gawain of full small account for the cowardize that he saw him
do, and bid his knights not meddle betwixt them two, for, and
Messire Gawain had been four knights he thought to vanquish them
all. He issueth forth of his castle all armed, and is come there
where Messire Gawain awaited him. Messire Gawain seeth him
coming, and so draweth on one side, and Nabigant, that was stark
outrageous, setteth his spear in rest and cometh toward Messire
Gawain without another word, and smiteth him on the shield so
that he maketh his spear fly all in pieces. And Messire Gawain
catcheth him right in the midst of his breast, and pierceth him
with his spear through the thick of his heart, and he falleth to
the ground dead; and the knights run upon Messire Gawain; but he
lightly delivereth himself of them, and Meliot of Logres
likewise. Messire Gawain entereth the castle by force, doing
battle against all the knights, and holdeth them in such a pass
as that he maketh them do homage to Meliot of Logres, and deliver
up to him the keys of the castle. He maketh them come to an
assembly from the whole of the land they had reft away from him,
and thereafter departeth and followeth after King Arthur. In the
forest, he overtaketh a damsel that was going on her way a great
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Lord God guide you, whither away
"Sir," saith she, "I am going to the greatest assembly of knights
you saw ever."
"What assembly?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir," saith she, "At the Palace Meadow, but the knight I am
seeking is he that won the Circlet of Gold at the Meadow of the
Tent. Fair Sir, can you give me any tidings of him?" saith she.
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "What would you do herein?"
"Certes, Sir, I would right fain find him. My Lady, that kept
the Circlet of Gold for the son of the Widow Lady, that won it
aforetime, hath sent me to seek him."
"For what intent, damsel?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir, my Lady sendeth for him and beseecheth him by me, for the
sake of the Saviour of the World, that if he had ever pity of
dame or damsel, he will take vengeance on Nabigant that hath
slain her men and destroyed her land, for she hath been told how
he that won back the Golden Circlet ought of right to take
vengeance upon him."
"Damsel," saith Messire Gawain, "Be not any longer troubled
hereof, for I tell you that the knight that won the Golden
Circlet by prize of arms hath killed Nabigant already."
"Sir," saith she, "How know you this?"
"I know the knight well," saith he, "And I saw him slay him, and
behold, here is the Circlet of Gold that I have as a token
hereof, for that he beareth it to him that hath won the Graal, to
the intent that your Lady may be quit of her charge."
Messire Gawain showeth her the Golden Circlet in the casket of
ivory, that he kept very nigh himself. Right joyful was the
damsel that the matter had thus fallen out, and goeth her way
back again to tell her Lady of her joy. Messire Gawain goeth on
his way toward the assembly, for well knoweth he that, and King
Arthur and Lancelot have heard the tidings, there will they be.
He goeth thitherward as fast as he may, and as straight, and
scarce hath he ridden away or ever he met a squire that seemed
right weary, and his hackney sore worn of the way. Messire
Gawain asked him whence he came, and the squire said to him.
"From the land of King Arthur, where is great war toward, for
that none knoweth not what hath become of him. Many folk go
about saying that he is dead, for never sithence that he departed
from Cardoil, and Messire Gawain and Lancelot with him, have no
tidings been heard of him; and he left the Queen at Cardoil to
take his place, and also on account of her son's death, and the
most part say that he is dead. Briant of the Isles and my Lord
Kay with him are burning his land, and carrying off plunder
before all the castles. Of all the Knights of the Table Round
are there now no more than five and thirty, and of these are ten
sore wounded, and they are in Cardoil, and there protect the land
the best they may."
When Messire Gawain heareth these tidings, they touch his heart
right sore, so that he goeth the straightest he may toward the
assembly, and the squire with him that was sore fordone. Messire
Gawain found King Arthur and Lancelot, and the knights were come
from all the kingdom to the piece of ground. For a knight was
come thither that had brought a white destrier and borne thither
a right rich crown of gold, and it was known throughout all the
lands that marched with this, that the knight that should do best
at the assembly should have the destrier and the crown, for the
Queen that ware it was dead, and it would behove him to guard and
defend the land whereof she had been Lady. On account of these
tidings had come thither great plenty of folk and of folk. King
Arthur and Messire Gawain and Lancelot set them of one side. The
story saith that at this assembly King Arthur bare the red shield
that the damsel gave him; Messire Gawain had his own, such as he
was wont to bear, and Lancelot a green shield that he bare for
the love of the knight that was slain for helping him in the
forest. They struck into the assembly like lions unchained, and
cast down three knights at their first onset. They searched the
fellowships on every side, smote down knights and overthrew
King Arthur overtook no knight but he clave his shield to the
boss: all swerved aside and avoided his buffets. And Messire
Gawain and Lancelot are not idle on the other hand, but each held
well his place. But the more part had wonderment looking at the
King, for he holdeth him at bay like a lion when the staghounds
would attack him. The assembly lasted throughout on such wise,
and when it came to an end, the knights said and adjudged that
the Knight of the Red Shield had surpassed all other in doing
well. The knight that had brought the crown came to the King,
but knew him not a whit: "Sir," saith he, "You have by your good
deeds of arms won this crown of gold and this destrier, whereof
ought you to make great joy, so only you have so much valour in
you as that you may defend the land of the best earthly Queen
that is dead, and whether the King be alive or dead none knoweth,
wherefore great worship will it be to yourself and you may have
prowess to maintain the land, for right broad is it and right
rich and of high sovranty.
Saith King Arthur, "Whose was the land, and what was the name of
the Queen whose crown I see?"
"Sir, the King's name was Arthur, and the best king in the world
was he; but in his kingdom the more part say that he is dead.
And this crown was the crown of Queen Guenievre that is dead and
buried, whereof is sore sorrow. The knights that may not leave
Cardoil lest Briant of the Isles should seize the city, they sent
me to the kingdom of Logres and charged me with the crown and
destrier for that I have knowledge of the isles and foreign
lands; wherefore they prayed me I should go among the assemblies
of knights, that so I might hear tidings of my Lord King Arthur
and my Lord Gawain and Lancelot, and, so I might find them, that
I should tell them how the land hath fallen into this grievous
King Arthur heareth tidings whereof he is full sorrowful. He
draweth on one side, and the knights make the most grievous dole
in the world. Lancelot knoweth not what he may do, and saith
between his teeth that now hath his joy come to an end and his
knighthood is of no avail, for that he hath lost the high Queen,
the valiant, that heart and comfort gave him and encouragement to
do well. The tears ran down from his comely eyes right amidst
his face and through the ventail, and, had he durst make other
dole, yet greater would it have been. Of the mourning the King
made is there nought to speak, for this sorrow resembleth none
other. He holdeth the crown of gold, and looketh full oft at the
destrier for love of her, for he had given it her; and Messire
Gawain may not stint of making dole.
"Certes", saith he, "Now may I well say that the best Queen in
the world and of most understanding is dead, nor never hereafter
shall be none of equal worth."
"Sir," saith Lancelot to the King, "So it please you, and Messire
Gawain be willing, I will go back toward Cardoil, and help to
defend your land to the best I may, for sore is it discounselled,
until such time as you shall be come from the Graal."
"Certes," saith Messire Gawain to the King, "Lancelot hath spoken
well, so you grant him your consent."
"That do I with right good will," saith the Kind, "And I pray him
right heartily that he go thither and be guardian of my land and
the governance thereof, until such a time as God shall have
brought me back."
Lancelot taketh leave of the King and goeth his way back, all
sorrowing and full of discontent.
Of Lancelot the story is here silent, and so beginneth another
branch of the Graal in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost.
You may well understand that King Arthur is no whit joyful. He
maketh the white destrier go after him, and hath the crown of
gold full near himself. They ride until they come to the castle
that belonged to King Fisherman, and they found it as rich and
fair as you have heard told many a time. Perceval, that was
there within, made right great joy of their coming, as did all
the priests and ancient knights. Perceval leadeth King Arthur,
when he was disarmed, into the chapel where the Graal was, and
Messire Gawain maketh present to Perceval of the Golden Circlet,
and telleth him that the Queen sendeth it to him, and relateth
also how Nabigant had seized it, and moreover, how Nabigant was
dead. The King offereth the crown that had been Queen
Guenievre's. When Perceval knew that she was dead, he was right
sorrowful thereof in his heart, and wept and lamented her right
sweetly. He showeth them the tomb of King Fisherman, and telleth
them that none had set the tabernacle there above the coffin, but
only the commandment of Our Lord, and he showeth them a rich pall
that is upon the coffin, and telleth them that every day they see
a new one there not less rich than is this one. King Arthur
looketh. at the sepulchre and saith that never tofore hath he
seen none so costly. A smell issueth therefrom full delicate and
sweet of savour. The King sojourneth in the castle and is highly
honoured, and beholdeth the richesse and the lordship and the
great abundance that is everywhere in the castle, insomuch that
therein is nought wanting that is needful for the bodies of noble
folk. Perceval had made set the bodies of the dead knights in a
charnel beside an old chapel in the forest, and the body of his
uncle that had slain himself so evilly. Behind the castle was a
river, as the history testifieth, whereby all good things came to
the castle, and this river was right fair and plenteous.
Josephus witnesseth us that it came from the Earthly Paradise and
compassed the castle around and ran on through the forest as far
as the house of a worshipful hermit, and there lost the course
and had peace in the earth. All along the valley thereof was
great plenty of everything continually, and nought was ever
lacking in the rich castle that Perceval had won. The castle, so
saith the history, had three names.
One of the names was Eden, the second, Castle of Joy, and the
third, Castle of Souls. Now Josephus saith that none never
passed away therein but his soul went to Paradise. King Arthur
was one day at the castle windows with Messire Gawain. The King
seeth coming before him beyond the bridge a great procession of
folk one before another; and he that came before was all clad in
white, and bare a full great cross, and each of the others a
little one, and the more part came singing with sweet voices and
bear candles burning, and there was one behind that carried a
bell with the clapper and all at his neck.
"Ha, God," saith King Arthur, "What folk be these?"
"Sir," saith Perceval, "I know them all save the last. They be
hermits of this forest, that come to chant within yonder before
the Holy Graal, three days in the week."
When the hermits came nigh the castle, the King went to meet
them, and the knights adore the crosses and bow their heads
before the good men. As soon as they were come into the holy
chapel, they took the bell from the last and smote thereon at the
altar, and then set it on the ground, and then began they the
service, most holy and most glorious. The history witnesseth us
that in the land of King Arthur at this time was there not a
single chalice. The Graal appeared at the sacring of the mass,
in five several manners that none ought not to tell, for the
secret things of the sacrament ought none to tell openly but he
unto whom God hath given it. King Arthur beheld all the changes,
the last whereof was the change into a chalice. And the hermit
that chanted the mass found a brief under the corporal and
declared the letters, to wit, that our Lord God would that in
such vessel should His body be sacrificed, and that it should be
set upon record. The history saith not that there were no
chalices elsewhere, but that in all Great Britain and in the
whole kingdom was none. King Arthur was right glad of this that
he had seen, and had in remembrance the name and the fashion of
the most holy chalice. Then he asked the hermit that bare the
bell, whence this thing came?
"Sir," saith he to Messire Gawain, "I am the King for whom you
slew the giant, whereby you had the sword wherewith St John was
beheaded, that I see on this altar. I made baptize me before you
and all those of my kingdom, and turn to the New Law, and
thereafter I went to a hermitage by the sea, far from folk, where
I have been of a long space. I rose one night at matins and
looked under my hermitage and saw that a ship had taken haven
there. I went thither when the sea was retreated, and found
within the ship three priests and their clerks, that told me
their names and how they were called in baptism. All three were
named Gregory, and they came from the Land of Promise, and told
me that Solomon had cast three bells, one for the Saviour of the
World, and one for His sweet Mother, and one for the honour of
His saints, wherefore they had brought this hither by His
commandment into this kingdom for that we had none here. They
told me that and I should bear it into this castle, they would
take all my sins upon themselves, by Our Lord's pleasure, in such
sort as that I should be quit thereof. And I in like manner have
brought it hither by the commandment of God, who willeth that
this should be the pattern of all those that shall be fashioned
in the realm of this island where never aforetime have been
"By my faith," saith Messire Gawain to the hermit, "I know you
right well for a worshipful man, for you held your covenant truly
King Arthur was right glad of this thing, as were all they that
were within. It seemed him that the noise thereof was like the
noise that he had heard sound ever since he had moved from
Cardoil. The hermits went their way each to his hermitage when
they had done the service.
One day, as the King sate at meat in the hall with Perceval and
Messire Gawain and the ancient knights, behold you therewithal
one of the three Damsels of the Car that cometh, and she was
smitten all through her right arm.
"Sir," saith she to Perceval, "Have mercy on your mother and your
sister and on us. Aristor of Moraine, that is cousin to the Lord
of the Moors that you slew, warreth upon your mother, and hath
carried off your sister by force into the castle of a vavasour of
his, and saith that he will take her to wife and will have all
her land that your mother ought to hold of right, maugre your
head. But never had knight custom so cruel as he, for when he
shall have espoused the damsel, whomsoever she may be, yet will
he never love her so well but that he shall cut off her head with
his own hand, and so thereafter go seek for another to slay in
like manner. Natheless in one matter hath he good custom, that
never will he do shame to none until such time as he hath
espoused her. Sir, I was with my Lady your sister when he maimed
me in this manner. Wherefore your mother sendeth you word and
prayeth you that you succour her, for you held her in covenant
that so you would do and she should have need thereof and you
should know it; for and you consent to her injury and loss, the
shame will be your own."
Perceval heard these tidings, and sore sorrowful was he thereof.
"By my head," saith the King to Perceval, "I and my nephew, so
please you, will go to help you."
"Sir," saith he, "Gramercy, but go and achieve your own affair
also, for sore need have you thereof; wherefore I pray and
beseech you that you be guardian of the castle of Camelot, if
that my lady mother shall come thither, for thereof make I you
lord and champion, and albeit the castle be far away from you,
yet garnish it and guard it, for it is builded in a place right
Lords, think not that it is this Camelot whereof these tellers
of tales do tell their tales, there, where King Arthur so often
held his court. This Camelot that was the Widow Lady's stood
upon the uttermost headland of the wildest isle of Wales by the
sea to the West. Nought was there save the hold and the forest
and the waters that were round about it. The other Camelot, of
King Arthur's, was situate at the entrance of the kingdom of
Logres, and was peopled of folk and was seated at the head of the
King's land, for that he had in his governance all the lands that
on that side marched with his own.
Of Perceval the story is here silent, and saith that King Arthur
and Messire Gawain have taken leave of Perceval and all them of
the castle. The King leaveth him the good destrier that he won,
with the golden crown. They have ridden, he and Messire Gawain
together, until they are come to a waste ancient castle that
stood in a forest. The castle would have been right fair and
rich had any folk wonned therein, but none there were save one
old priest and his clerk that lived within by their own toil.
The King and Messire Gawain lodged there the night, and on the
morrow went into a right rich chapel that was therein to hear
mass, and it was painted all around of right rich colours of gold
and azure and other colours. The images were right fair that
were there painted, and the Figures of them for whom the images
were made. The King and Messire Gawain looked at them gladly.
When the mass was said, the priest cometh to them and saith:
"Lords," saith he, "These imagings are right fair, and he that
had them made is full loyal, and dearly loved the lady and her
son for whom he had them made. Sir," saith the priest, "It is a
"Of whom is the history, fair Sir?" saith King Arthur.
"Of a worshipful vavasour that owned this hold, and of Messire
Gawain, King Arthur's nephew, and his mother. Sir," saith the
priest, "Messire Gawain was born there within and held up and
baptized, as you may see here imaged, and he was named Gawain for
the sake of the lord of this castle that had that name. His
mother, that had him by King Lot, would not that it should be
known. She set him in a right fair coffer, and prayed the good
man of this castle that he would carry him away and leave him
where he might perish, but and if he would not do so, she would
make another do it. This Gawain, that was loyal and would not
that the child should be put to death, made seal letters at the
pillow-bere of his cradle that he was of lineage royal on the one
side and the other, and set therein gold and silver so as that
the child might be nurtured in great plenty, and spread above the
child a right rich coverlid. He carried him away to a far
distant country, and so came one early morning to a little
homestead where dwelt a right worshipful man. He delivered the
child to him and his wife, and bade them they should keep him and
nurture him well, and told them that it might be much good should
come to them thereof. The vavasour turned him back, and they
took charge of the child and nurtured him until that he were
grown, and then took him to Rome to the Holy Father, and showed
him the sealed letters. The Holy Father saw them and understood
that he was the son of a King. He had pity upon him, and gave
him to understand that he was of his kindred. After that, he was
elected to be Emperor of Rome. But he would not be Emperor lest
he should be reproached of his birth that had before been
concealed from him. He departed thence, and lived afterwards
within yonder. Now is it said that he is one of the best knights
in the world, insomuch that none durst take possession of this
castle for dread of him, nor of this great forest that lieth
round about it. For, when the vavasour that dwelt here was dead,
he left to Messire Gawain, his foster-son, this castle, and made
me guardian thereof until such time as Messire Gawain should
The King looketh at Messire Gawain, and seeth him stoop his head
toward the ground for shame.
"Fair nephew, be not ashamed, for as well might you reproach me
of the same. Of your birth hath there been great joy, and dearly
ought one to love the place and honour it, where so good a knight
as are you was born."
When the priest understood that it was Messire Gawain, he made
great cheer to him, and was all ashamed of that he had recorded
as concerning his birth. But he saith to him: "Sir, small blame
ought you to have herein, for you were confirmed in the law that
God hath established and in loyalty of marriage of King Lot and
your mother. This thing King Arthur well knoweth, and our Lord
God be praised for that, you have come hither!"
Here the story is silent of the kingdom, and of King Arthur and
Messire Gawain that remain in the castle to maintain and guard it
until they shall have garnished it of folk. Here speaketh it
word of the knight's son of the Waste Manor, there whither the
brachet led Messire Gawain where he found the knight that
Lancelot had slain. He had one son whose name was Meliant, and
he had not forgotten his father's death; rather, thereof did
wrath rankle in his heart. He heard tell that Briant of the
Isles had great force and great puissance, and that he warred
upon King Arthur's land, insomuch as that he had already slain
many of his knights. Thitherward goeth he, and is come to where
Briant was in a castle of his own. He telleth him how Lancelot
had slain his father in such sort, and prayeth him right
courteously that he would make him knight, for that right fain
would he avenge his father, and therefore would he help him in
the war the best he might. Briant made much joy thereof, and
made him knight in right costly sort, and he was the comeliest
knight and the most valiant of his age in Briant's court, and
greatly did he desire to meet with Lancelot. They marvelled much
in the land and kingdom what had become of him. The more part
thought that he was dead, albeit dead he was not, but rather
sound and hale and whole, had it not been for the death of Queen
Guenievre, whereof the sorrow so lay at his heart that he might
not forget it. He rode one day amidst a forest, and overtook a
knight and a damsel that made great joy together, singing and
"By God," saith the damsel, "If this knight that cometh here will
remain, he shall have right good lodging. It is already nigh
eventide, and never will he find hostel so good to-day."
"Damsel." saith Lancelot, "Of good hostel have I sore need, for I
am more than enough weary."
"So be all they," saith she, "that come from the land of the rich
King Fisherman, for none may suffer the pain and travail and he
be not good knight."
"Ah, damsel," saith Lancelot, "Which is the way to the castle
whereof you speak?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "You will go by this cross that you see
before you, and we will go by that other way, to a certain hold.
Haply we shall find you at the castle or ever you depart thence."
Lancelot goeth his way and leaveth them.
"By my head," saith the damsel to the knight, "This that goeth
there is Lancelot. He knoweth me not, albeit I know him well,
and I hear that he is sore troubled of his sorrow and mis-ease.
Natheless, please God, I will have vengeance of him or ever he
departeth from the castle whither he goeth to harbour. He made
marry perforce a knight that loved me better than aught beside,
and to a damsel that he loved not a whit. And so much might he
still better perceive when he saw that she ate not at his table,
but was seated along with the squires, and that none did aught
for her at the castle. But the knight will not abandon her for
his own honour, and for that I should be blamed thereof."
The evening draweth on and Lancelot goeth toward the castle, that
was right uneath to find and in an unfrequented part. He espieth
it at the head of the forest, and seeth that it is large and
strong, with strong barbicans embattelled, and at the entrance of
the gateway were fifteen heads of knights hanging. He found
without a knight that came from the forest, and asked him what
castle it was, and he made answer that it was called the Castle
of the Griffon.
"And why are these heads hanging at this door?"
"Sir," saith he, "The daughter of the lord of the castle is the
fairest in the world and that is known in any kingdom, and needs
must she be offered to wife to all knights that harbour within.
He that can draw a sword that is fixed in a column in the midst
of the hall, and fetch it forth, he shall have her of right
"All these have made assay whose heads you see hanging at the
door, but never might none of them remove the sword, and on this
occasion were they beheaded. Now is it said that none may draw
it forth, unless he that draweth be better knight than another,
and needs must he be one of them that have been at the Graal.
But, and you be minded to believe me, fair Sir," saith the
knight, "You will go elsewhither, for ill lodging is it in a
place where one must needs set body and life in adventure of
death, and none ought to be blamed for escaping from his own
harm. Sir, the castle is right fell, for it hath underground, at
the issue of a cavern that is there, a lion and a griffon that
have devoured more than half a hundred knights."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "It is evening, nor know I how I may go
farther this day, for I know not whither I go sith that I know
not the places nor the ways of the forest."
"Sir," saith the knight, "I speak only for your own good, and God
grant you depart hence, honour safe."
Lancelot findeth the door of the castle all open, and entereth in
all armed, and alighteth before the master-hall. The King was
leaning at the windows, and biddeth stall his horse.
Lancelot is entered into the hall, and findeth knights and
damsels at the tables and playing at the chess, but none did he
find to salute him nor make him cheer of his coming save the lord
only, for such was the custom of the castle. The lord bade him
"Sir," saith he, "Right well may you allow me wear my arms, for
they be the fairest garniture and the richest I have."
"Sir," saith the lord of the castle, "No knight eateth armed
within yonder, but he that cometh armed in hither disarmeth
himself by my leave. He may take his arms again without gainsay,
so neither I nor other desire to do him a hurt."
With that two squires disarm him. The lord of the Castle maketh
bring a right rich robe wherein to apparel him. The tables were
set and the meats served. The damsel issued forth of her chamber
and was accompanied of two knights as far as the hall. She
looketh at Lancelot, and seeth that he is a right comely knight,
and much liketh her of his bearing and countenance, and she
thinketh to herself that sore pity would it be so comely knight
should have his head smitten off.
Lancelot saluted the damsel and made great cheer, and when they
had eaten in hall, forthwith behold you, the damsel where she
cometh that Lancelot overtook in the forest with the knight.
"Sir," saith she to the lord of the castle, "You have harboured
this night your deadly enemy that slew your brother at the Waste
"By my faith," saith the lord of the manor, "I think not so, for
him would I not have harboured, nor will I not believe it for
true until such time as I have proved it. Sir," saith he to
Lancelot, "Make the demand that the others make!"
"What is it?" saith Lancelot.
"See there my daughter! Ask her of me, and if you be such as you
ought to be, I will give her to you."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "No knight is there in the world so good
but ought to plume him upon having her to wife, so always she
were willing, and, so I thought that you would be willing to give
her to me, I would willingly ask you."
Lancelot spake otherwise than as he thought, for the departing of
the Queen and the sorrow thereof lay so at his heart that never
again might he lean upon any love in the world, neither of dame
nor damsel. He asked his daughter of the knight of the castle,
and came before him to save the custom so that he might not have
blame thereof. And he showed him the sword that is in the
column, all inlaid with gold.
"Go," saith he, "and fulfil the custom, as other knights have
"What is it?" saith Lancelot.
"They might not draw forth the sword from this column, and so
failed of my daughter and of their lives."
"Lord God," saith Lancelot, "Defend me from this custom!"
And he cometh toward the column as fast as he may, and seizeth
the sword with both hands. So soon as he touched it, the sword
draweth it forth with such a wrench that the column quaked
thereof. The damsel was right joyful thereat, albeit she
misdoubted the fellness and cruelty of her father, for never yet
had she seen knight that pleased her so much to love as he.
"Sir," saith the other damsel, "I tell you plainly, this is
Lancelot, the outrageous, that slew your brother. Natheless, is
it no lie that he is one of the best knights of the world, albeit
by the stoutness of his knighthood and his valour many an outrage
hath he done, and more shall he yet do and he escape you, and, so
you will believe me, you will never allow him to depart thus;
sith that and you kill him or slay him you will save the life of
many a knight."
The daughter of the lord of the castle is sore displeased of the
damsel for this that she saith, and looketh at Lancelot from time
to time and sigheth, but more durst she not do. Much marvelleth
she, sith that Lancelot hath drawn the sword forth of the column,
that he asketh her not of her father as his own liege woman, but
he was thinking of another thing, and never was he so sorrowful
of any lady as he was for the Queen. But whatsoever thought or
desire he may have therein, he telleth the lord of the castle
that he holdeth him to his covenant made at such time as the
sword was still fixed in the column.
"I have a right not to hold thereto," saith the lord of the
castle, "Nor shall I break not my vow and I fail you herein; for
no man is bound to give his daughter to his mortal enemy. Sith
that you have slain my brother, you are my mortal enemy, and were
I to give her to you, she ought not to wish it, and were she to
grant you her love she would be a fool and a madwoman."
Right sorrowful is the damsel or this that she heareth her father
say. She would fain that Lancelot and she were in the forest,
right in the depth thereof. But Lancelot had no mind to be as
she was thinking. The lord of the castle made guard the gateway
of the castle well, in such sort that Lancelot might issue
therefrom on no side. Afterward he bade his knights privily that
they take heed on their lives that they be all ready on the
morrow and all garnished of their arms, for that it was his
purpose to smite off Lancelot's head and hang it above all the
The daughter of the lord knew these tidings and was right
sorrowful thereof, for she thinketh never more to have joy at
heart and he shall be slain in such manner. She sendeth him
greeting by her own privy messenger, as she that loveth him
better than aught else living in the world, and so biddeth and
prayeth him be garnished of his arms, and ready to protect his
life, for that her father is fain to smite off his head.
"Sir," saith the messenger, "Your force would avail you nought as
against my lord, for to-morrow there will be a dozen knights all
armed at the issue of the gate whereby you entered to-night, and
he saith that he purposeth to cut off your head there where he
cut the heads off the other knights. Without the gate there will
likewise be another dozen knights all armed. No knight is there
in the world so good as that he might issue forth of this castle
through the midst of these four and twenty knights, but my lady
sendeth you word that there is a cavern under this castle that
goeth therefrom underground as far as the forest, so that a
knight may well pass thereby all armed, but there is therein a
lion, the fiercest and most horrible in the world, and two
serpents that are called griffons, that have the face of a man
and the beaks of birds and eyes of an owl and teeth of a dog and
ears of an ass and feet of a lion and tail of a serpent, and they
have couched them therewithin, but never saw no man beasts so
fell and felonous. Wherefore the damsel biddeth you go by that
way, by everything that you have ever loved, and that you fail
her not, for she would fain speak with you at the issue of the
cavern in an orchard that is nigh a right broad river not far
from this castle, and will make your destrier be brought after
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "And she had not conjured me in
such sort, and were it not for love of herself, I would have
rather set myself in hazard with the knights than with the wild
beasts, for far father would I have delivered myself from them,
and so I might, than go forth in such-wise."
"She sendeth you word," saith the messenger, "that so you do not
thus, no further trouble will she take concerning you. She doth
it of dread lest she lose your love; and here behold a brachet
that she sendeth you by me that you will carry with you into the
cavern. So soon as you shalt see the serpent griffons that have
couched them therein, you shall show them this and cast her down
before them. The griffons love her as much as one beast may love
another, and shall have such joy and such desire to play with the
brachet that they will leave you alone, and have such good will
toward you that they will not look at you after to do you any
hurt. But no man is there in the world, no matter how well
soever he were armed, nor how puissant soever he were in himself,
might never pass them otherwise, but he should be devoured of
them. But no safeguard may you have as against the lion but of
God only and your own hardiment."
"Tell my damsel," saith Lancelot, "that all her commandment will
I do, but this cowardize resembleth none other, that I shall go
fight with beasts and leave to do battle with knights."
This was then repeated to the damsel, that marvelled her much
thereat, and said that he was the hardiest knight in the world.
Lancelot armed him toward daybreak, and had his sword girt, his
shield at his neck, and his spear in his hand. So he entered
into the cavern, all shamefast, and the brachet followeth after,
that he deigned not to carry, and so cometh he to the place where
the griffons were. So soon as they heard him coming they dress
them on their feet, and then writhe along as serpents, then cast
forth such fire, and so bright a flame amidst the rock, as that
all the cavern is lighted up thereof, and they see by the
brightness of light of their jaws the brachet coming. So soon as
they have espied her, they carry her in their claws and make her
the greatest cheer in the world. Lancelot passeth beyond without
gainsay, and espieth, toward the issue of the cavern, the lion
that was come from the forest all famished. He cometh thither
right hardily, sword drawn. The lion cometh toward him, jaws
yawning, and claws bared, thinking to fix them in his habergeon,
but Lancelot preventeth him and smiteth him so stoutly that he
cutteth off thigh and leg together. When the lion feeleth
himself thus maimed, he seizeth him by the teeth and the claws of
his fore feet and rendeth away half the skirt of his habergeon.
Thereupon Lancelot waxeth wroth. He casteth his shield to the
ground and approacheth the lion closer. He seeth that he openeth
his jaws wide to avenge himself, and thrusteth his sword the
straightest he may into his gullet, and the lion giveth out a
roar and falleth dead. The damsel, that had come into the
cavern, heareth that the lion is dead.
Lancelot issued forth and so cometh into the orchard beside the
forest, and wiped his sword on the freshness of the green grass.
Thereupon behold you the damsel that cometh.
"Sir," saith she to Lancelot, "Are you wounded in any place?"
"Damsel, nowhere, thank God!"
Another damsel leadeth a horse into the orchard. The damsel of
the castle looketh at Lancelot.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "Meseemeth that you are not over
"Damsel," saith he, "If I be not, I have good right, for I have
lost the thing in the world that most I loved."
"And you have won me," saith she, "so you remain not here, that
am the fairest damsel in this kingdom, and I have saved you your
life for this, that you grant me your love, for mine own would I
fain give unto you."
"Gramercy, damsel," saith Lancelot, "Your love and your good
will fain would I have; but neither you nor none other damsel
ought not to have affiance in me, and I might so soon set
carelessly aside the love to whom my heart owed its obedience,
for the worthiness and the courtesy that were lodged in her. Nor
never hereafter, so long as I live, shall I love none other in
like manner; wherefore all others commend I to God, and to
yourself, as for leave-taking to one at whose service I fain
would be; I say that if you shall have need of me, and so I be in
place and free, I will do all I may to protect your honour."
"Ha, God!" saith the damsel, "How am I betrayed, sith that I am
parted from the best knight in the world! Lancelot, you have
done that which never yet no knight might do! Now am I grieved
that you should escape on such wise, and that your life hath been
saved in this manner by me. Better should I love you mine own
dead, than another's living. Now would I fain that you had had
your head smitten off, and that it were hanging with the others!
So would I solace myself by beholding it!"
Lancelot took no account of that he heard, for the grief that lay
at his heart of the Queen. He mounteth on his horse and issueth
forth of the orchard by a postern gate, and entereth into the
forest, and commendeth him to God. The lord of the Castle of the
Griffons marvelleth much that Lancelot delayeth so long. He
thinketh that he durst not come down, and saith to his knights,
"Let us go up and cut off his head, sith that he durst not come
He maketh search for him all through the hall and the chambers,
but findeth him not.
"He hath gone," saith he, "through the cavern, so have the
griffons devoured him."
So he sendeth the twain most hardy of his knights to see. But
the brachet had returned after the damsel, whereof the griffons
were wroth, and they forthwith seized on the two knights that
entered into their cavern and slew them and devoured.
When the lord of the castle knew it, he went into the chamber
where his daughter was, and found her weeping, and thinketh that
it is for the two knights that are dead. News is brought him
that the lion is dead at the issue of the cavern, and thereby
well knoweth he that Lancelot is gone. He biddeth his knights
follow after him, but none was there so hardy as that he durst
follow. The damsel was right fain they should go after him, if
only they might bring him back to the castle, for so mortally was
she taken of his love that she thought of none other thing. But
Lancelot had her not in remembrance, but only another, and rode
on sadly right amidst the forest, and looked from time to time at
the rent the lion had made in his habergeon. He rideth until he
is come toward evening to a great valley where was forest on the
one side and the other, and the valley stretched onward half a
score great leagues Welsh. He looketh to the right, and on the
top of the mountain beside the valley he seeth a chapel newly
builded that was right fair and rich, and it was covered of lead,
and had at the back two quoins that seemed to be of gold. By the
side of this chapel were three houses dight right richly, each
standing by itself facing the chapel. There was a right fair
grave-yard round about the chapel, that was enclosed at the
compass of the forest, and a spring came down, full clear, from
the heights of the forest before the chapel and ran into the
valley with a great rushing; and each of the houses had its own
orchard, and the orchard an enclosure. Lancelot heareth vespers
being chanted in the chapel, and seeth the path that turned
thitherward, but the mountain is so rugged that he could not go
along it on horseback. So he alighteth and leadeth his horse
after him by the reins until he cometh nigh the chapel.
There were three hermits therewithin that had sung their vespers,
and came over against Lancelot. They bowed their heads to him
and he saluted them, and then asked of them what place was this?
And they told him that the place there was Avalon. They make
stable his horse. He left his arms without the chapel and
entereth therein, and saith that never hath he seen none so fair
nor so rich. There were within three other places, right fair
and seemly dight of rich cloths of silk and rich corners and
fringes of gold. He seeth the images and the crucifixes all
newly fashioned, and the chapel illumined of rich colours; and
moreover in the midst thereof were two coffins, one against the
other, and at the four corners four tall wax tapers burning, that
were right rich, in four right rich candlesticks. The coffins
were covered with two pails, and there were clerks that chanted
psalms in turn on the one side and the other.
"Sir," saith Lancelot to one of the hermits, "For whom were these
"For King Arthur and Queen Guenievre."
"King Arthur is not yet dead," saith Lancelot.
"No, in truth, please God! but the body of the Queen lieth in
the coffin before us and in the other is the head of her son,
until such time as the King shall be ended, unto whom God grant
long life! But the Queen bade at her death that his body should
be set beside her own when he shall end. Hereof have we the
letters and her seal in this chapel, and this place made she be
builded new on this wise or ever she died."
When Lancelot heareth that it is the Queen that lieth in the
coffin, he is so straitened in his heart and in his speech that
never a word may he say. But no semblant of grief durst he make
other than such as might not be perceived, and right great
comfort to him was it that there was an image of Our Lady at the
head of the coffin. He knelt down the nighest he might to the
coffin, as it had been to worship the image, and set his race and
his mouth to the stone of the coffin, and sorroweth for her right
"Ha, Lady," saith he, "But that I dread the blame of the people,
never again would I seek to depart from this place, but here
would I save my soul and pray for yours; so would it be much
recomforting to me that I should be so nigh, and should see the
sepulchre wherein your body lieth that had so great sweetness and
bounty. God grant me of your pleasure, that at my death I may
still be a-nigh, and that I may die in such manner and in such
place as that I may be shrouded and buried in this holy chapel
where this body lieth."
The night cometh on. A clerk cometh to the hermits and saith,
"Never yet did no knight cry mercy of God so sweetly, nor of His
sweet Mother, as did this knight that is in the chapel."
And the hermits make answer that knights for the most part do
well believe in God. They come to the chapel for him and bid him
come thence, for that meat is ready and he should come to eat,
and after that go to sleep and rest, for it is full time so to
do. He telleth them that as for his eating this day it is stark
nought, for a desire and a will hath taken him to keep vigil in
the chapel before one of the images of Our Lady. No wish had he
once to depart thence before the day, and he would fain that the
night should last far longer than it did. The good men durst not
force him against his will; they say, rather, that the worshipful
man is of good life who will keep watch in such manner throughout
the night without drink or meat, for all that he seemeth to be
Lancelot was in the chapel until the morrow before the tomb. The
hermits apparelled them to do the service that they chanted each
day, mass for the soul of the Queen and her son. Lancelot
heareth them with right good will. When the masses were sung, he
taketh leave of the hermits and looketh at the coffin right
tenderly. He commendeth the body that lieth therein to God and
His sweet Mother; then findeth he without the chapel his horse
accoutred ready, and mounteth forthwith, and departeth, and
looketh at the place and the chapel so long as he may see them.
He hath ridden so far that he is come nigh Cardoil, and findeth
the land wasted and desolate, and the towns burnt, whereof is he
sore grieved. He meeteth a knight that came from that part, and
he was wounded full sore. Lancelot asketh him whence he cometh,
and he saith, "Sir, from towards Cardoil. Kay the Seneschal,
with two other knights, is leading away Messire Ywain li Aoutres
toward the castle of the Hard Rock. I thought to help to rescue
him, but they have wounded me in such sort as you see."
"Are they ever so far away?" saith Lancelot.
"Sir, they will pass just now at the head of this forest; and so
you are fain to go thither, I will return with you right
willingly and help you to the best I may."
Lancelot smiteth his horse with the spurs forthwith, and the
knight after him, and espieth Kay the Seneschal, that was
bringing Messire Ywain along at a great pace, and had set him
upon a trotting hackney, for so he thought that none would know
him. Lancelot overtaketh him and crieth, "By my head, Kay the
Seneschal, shame had you enough of that you did to King Arthur
when you slew his son, and as much more ought you now to have of
thus warring upon him again!"
He smiteth his horse of his spurs, lance in rest, and Kay the
Seneschal turneth toward him, and they mell together with their
spears on their shields, and pierce them in such sort that an
ells-length of each shaft passeth through beyond.
The lances were strong so as that they brast not. They draw them
back to themselves so stoutly and come together so fiercely that
their horses stagger and they lose the stirrups. Lancelot
catcheth Kay the Seneschal at the passing beyond, in the midst of
the breast, and thrusteth his spear into him so far that the
point remained in the flesh, and Kay to-brast his own; and sore
grieved was he when he felt himself wounded. The knight that was
wounded overthrew one of the two knights. Kay is on the ground,
and Lancelot taketh his horse and setteth Messire Ywain li
Aoutres thereupon, that was right sore wounded so as that he
scarce might bear it. Kay the Seneschal maketh his knight
remount, and holdeth his sword grasped in his fist as though he
had been stark wood. Lancelot seeth the two knights sore badly
wounded, and thinketh that and he stay longer they may remain on
the field. He maketh them go before him, and Kay the Seneschal
followeth them behind, himself the third knight, that is right
wroth of the wound he feeleth and the blood that he seeth.
Lancelot bringeth off his knights like as the wild-boar goeth
among the dogs, and Kay dealeth him great buffets of his sword
when he may catch him, and Lancelot him again, and so they
depart, fencing in such sort.
When Kay the Seneschal seeth that he may not harm him, he turneth
him back, full of great wrath, and his heart pricketh to avenge
him thereof and he may get at him, for he is the knight of the
court that most he hateth. He is come back to the Castle of the
Hard Rock. Briant of the Isles asketh him who hath wounded him
in such sort, and he telleth him that he was bringing thither
Ywain li Aoutres when Lancelot rescued him.
"And the King," saith Briant, "Is he repaired thither?"
"I have heard no tidings of him at all," saith Kay, "For no
leisure had I to ask of any."
Briant and his knights take much thought as concerning Lancelot's
coming, for they are well persuaded that Lancelot hath come for
that the King is dead and Messire Gawain, whereof they make right
great joy. Kay the Seneschal maketh him be disarmed and his
wound searched. They tell him he need not fear it shall be his
death, but that he is right sore wounded.
Lancelot is entered into the castle of Cardoil, and his wounded
knights withal, and findeth the folk in sore dismay. Great dole
make they in many places and much lamentation for King Arthur,
and say that now nevermore may they look for succeur to none, and
he be dead and Messire Gawain. But they give Lancelot joy of
that he hath rescued Messire Ywain li Aoutres, and were so
somewhat comforted and made great cheer. The tidings thereof
came to the knights that were in the castle, and they all come
forward to meet him save they that were wounded, and so led him
up to the castle, and Messire Ywain with him and the other knight
that was wounded. All the knights of the castle were right glad,
and ask him tidings of King Arthur, and whether he were dead or
no. And Lancelot telleth them that he was departed from him at
the Palace Meadow, where he won the white destrier and the crown
of gold there where the tidings were brought to him that Queen
Guinievre was dead.
"Then you tell us of a truth that the King is on live, and
"Both, you may be certain!" saith Lancelot.
Thereupon were they gladder than before. They told him of their
own mischance, how Briant of the Isles had put them to the worse,
and how Kay the Seneschal was with him to do them hurt. For he
it is that taketh most pains to do them evil.
"By my head," saith Lancelot, "Kay the Seneschal ought of right
to take heed and with-hold him from doing you ill, but he
departed from the field with the point of my spear in him when I
rescued Messire Ywain."
The knights are much comforted of the coming of Lancelot, but he
is much grieved that he findeth so many of them wounded. Meliant
of the Waste Manor is at the castle of the Hard Rock, and good
fellow is it betwixt him and Kay the Seneschal. He is right glad
of the tidings he hath heard, that Lancelot is come, and saith