Book Of Sir Galahad
( Originally Published A Long Time Ago )
AT the vigil of Pentecost, when all the fellowship of the Round Table were come unto Camelot, and there they all heard their service, and then all the tables were covered, ready to set thereon the meat, right so entered into the hall a full fair gentlewoman on horseback, that had ridden full fast, for her horse was all besweat. Then she there alighted, and came before King Arthur and saluted him. And then the King said, "Damsel, God bless you." "Sir," said she, "for God's sake show me where Sir Launcelot is." "Yonder may ye see him," said King Arthur. Then she went unto Sir Launcelot, and said, "Sir Launcelot, I salute you on King Pelleas' behalf, and I require you to come with me hereby into a forest." Then Sir Launcelot asked her with whom she dwelled. "I dwell," said she, "with King Pelleas." "What is your will with me?" said Sir Launcelot. "Ye shall know and understand," said she, "when ye come thither." "Well," said he, "I shall gladly go with you." So Sir Launcelot bade his squire to saddle his horse, and bring his armour; and in all the haste he did his commandment. Then came the Queen unto Sir Launcelot, and said, "Will ye leave us at this high feast?" "Madame," said the gentlewoman, "wit ye well he shall be with you to-morrow by dinner-time." "If I wist," said the Queen, "that he should not be with us here to-morrow, he should not go with you by my good will." Right so departed Sir Launcelot with the gentlewoman, and rode till they came into a forest, and into a great valley, where he saw an abbey of nuns, and there was a squire ready to open the gates: and so they entered in and descended from their horses, and there came a fair fellowship about Sir Launcelot and welcomed him, and were passing glad of his coming; and then they led him into the abbess's chamber, and unarmed him. Right so he saw, lying upon a bed, two of his cousins, Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, and then he awaked them; and when they saw him they made great joy. "Sir," said Sir Bors unto Sir Launcelot, "what adventure hath brought you hither, for we weened to-morrow to have found you at Camelot." "So God me help," said Sir Launcelot, "a gentlewoman hath brought me hither, but I know not the cause." In the meanwhile, as they stood thus talking together, there came in twelve nuns, which brought with them Galahad, the which was passing fair and well made, thus scarcely men in the world might not find his match. And all those ladies wept. "Sir," said the ladies, "we bring here this child, the which ye have nourished ; and we pray you for to make him a knight, for of a more worthier man's hand may be not receive the order of knighthood." Sir Launcelot beheld that young squire, and saw he was seemly and demure as a dove, with all manner of good features, that he weened of his age never to have seen so fair a man of form. Then said Sir Launcelot, "Cometh this desire of himself ?" He and all, they said, "Yea." "Then shall he," said Sir Launcelot, "receive the high order of knighthood as to-morrow at the reverence of the high feast." That night Sir Launcelot had passing good cheer, and on the morrow, at the hour of prime, at Galahad's desire, he made him a knight, and said, "God make him a good man, for beauty faileth him not as any that liveth."
"Now, fair sir," said Sir Launcelot, "will ye come with me unto the court of my lord King Arthur?" "Nay," said hé, "I will not go with you as at this time." Then he departed from them, and took his two cousins with him; and so they came unto Camelot, by the hour of nine on Whitsunday morning. By that time the King and the Queen were gone to the minster to hear their service ; then the King and the Queen were passing glad of Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, and so was all the fellow-ship. So when the King and all the knights were come from the service, the barons espied in the sieges of the Round Table all about written with letters of gold, "Here ought to sit he ;" and "He ought to sit here." And thus they went so long, until they came unto the Perilous Siege, where they found letters newly written of gold, and said : "Four hundred winters, and four and fifty (A. D. 454) accomplished, after the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, ought this siege to be fulfilled." Then they all said, "This is a full marvellous thing, and an adventurous." "In the name of God !" said Sir Launcelot ; and then he accounted the term of the writing, from the birth of our Lord unto that day. "It seemeth me," said Sir Launcelot, "this Siege ought to be fulfilled this same day ; for this is the feast of Pentecost, after the hundred and four and fiftieth year ; and if it would please all parties, I would that none of these letters were seen this day, till he be come that ought to achieve this adventure." Then made they for to ordain a cloth of silk for to cover these letters in the Perilous Siege. Then the King had haste unto dinner. "Sir," said Sir Kaye, the steward, "if ye go now unto your meat, ye shall break the old custom of your court; for ye have not used upon this day to sit at your neat, or that ye have seen some adventure." "Ye say truth," said King Arthur, "but I had so great joy of Sir Launcelot and of his cousins, which be come to the court whole and sound, that I bethought me not of mine old custom." So as they stood speaking, in came a squire, and said unto the King, "Sir, I bring unto you marvelous tidings." "What be they?" said King Arthur. "Sir, there is here beneath, at the river, a great stone, which I saw float above the water, and therein saw I a sword sticking." "Then," said the King, "I will see that marvel." So all the knights went with him, and when they came unto the river, they found there a stone floating, as if it had been of red marble, and therein stuck a fair and a rich sword, and in the pommel thereof were precious stones wrought with subtle letters of gold. Then the barons read the letters, which said in this wise :—"Never shall man take me hence, but only he by whom I ought to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world." When the King had seen these letters, he said unto Sir Launcelot, "Fair sir, this sword ought to be yours ; for I am sure that ye be the best knight of the world." Then Sir Launcelot answered soberly, "Certainly, sir, it is not my sword ; also, sir, wit ye well I have no hardiness to set my hand to it, for it belongeth not to hang by my side : also, who assayeth for to take that sword, and faileth of it, he shall receive a wound by that sword, that he shall not be whole long after. And I will that ye wit that this same day will be the adventures of the Sancgreal (that is called the holy vessel) begin."
"Now, my fair nephew," said the King unto Sir Gawaine, "assay ye once for my love." "Sir," said he, "save your grace, I shall do that." "Sir," said the King, "assay to take the sword at my command." "Sir," said Sir Gawaine, "your command I will obey." And therewithal he took the sword by the handle, but he might not stir it. "I thank you," said King Arthur unto Sir Gawaine. "My lord Sir Gawaine," said Sir Launcelot, "now wit ye well this sword shall touch you so sore, that ye shall will ye had never set your hand thereto, for the best castle of this realm." "Sir," said Sir Gawaine, "I might not withstand mine uncle's will and commandment."
But when King Arthur heard this, he repented it much : and then he bade Sir Percivale that he should assay for his love, and he said gladly for to bear Sir Gawaine fellowship. And therewithal he set his hand upon the sword, and drew at it strongly ; but, he might not once move it. Then were there no more that durst be so hardy to set their hands thereto. "Now may ye go unto your dinner," said Sir Kaye unto King Arthur, "for a marvelous adventure have ye seen." So the King and all his knights went unto the court, and every knight knew his own place, and set them therein : and the young men that were no knights served them. So then they were served, and all the sieges fulfilled, save only the Perilous Siege. And there befel a marvellous adventure, that all the doors and the windows of the palace shut by themselves ; but, for all that, the hall was not greatly darkened, and therewith they were all abashed both one and other. Then King Arthur spake first and said: "By God, fair fellows and lords, we have seen this day marvels ; but or night I suppose we shall see greater marvels." In the meanwhile came in a good old man and an ancient, clothed all in white; and there was no knight that knew from whence he came. And with him he brought a young knight, both on foot, in red arms, without sword or shield, save a scabbard hanging by his side, and these words he said : "Peace be with you, fair lords." Then the old man said unto King Arthur, "Sir, I bring you here a young knight that is of king's lineage, and of the kindred of Joseph of Arimathy : wherefore the marvels of this court, and of strange realms, shall be fully accomplished."
THE King was right glad of his words, and said unto the good man, "Sir, ye be right heartily welcome, and the young knight with you." Then the old man made the young knight to unarm him, and he was in a coat of red sandal, and bear a mantle upon his shoulder, that was furred with fine ermines, and put that upon him : and the old man said unto the young knight, "Sir, follow after." And anon he brought him unto the Perilous Siege, where beside sat Sir Launcelot; and the good old man lift up the cloth, and found there letters that said, "This is the siege of Sir Galahad, the good knight." "Sir," said the old man, "wit ye well this place is yours." And then he set him down surely in that siege, and then he said to the old man, "Sir, ye may now go your way, for ye have well done that ye were commanded to do; and recommend me unto my . grandsire King Pelleas, and unto my Lord Pechere, and say unto them on my behalf, 'that I shall come and see them as soon as I may.' " So the good man departed, and there met him twenty noble squires, and so they took their horses and went their way. Then all the knights of the Round Table marveled them greatly of Sir Galahad, that he durst sit there in that Perilous Siege, and was so tender of age ; and wist not. from whence he came, but only by God, and said he, "This is by whom the Sancgreal shall be achieved, for there sat never none but that he were mischieved." Then Sir Launcelot beheld his son, and had great joy of him. Then Sir Bors told his fellows, "Upon pain of my life, this young knight shall come unto great worship." This noise was great in all the court, so that it came to the Queen : then she had great marvel what knight it might be, that durst adventure him to sit in the Perilous Siege. Many said unto the Queen, that he resembled much unto Sir Launcelot. "I may well suppose," said the Queen, "that Sir Launcelot begat him upon King Pelleas' daughter, which was by enchantment, and his name is Sir Galahad : I would fain see him," said the Queen, "for he must needs be a nobleman, for so is his father than him begat ; I report me unto all the knights of the Round Table." So when dinner was done, and that the King and all were risen, the King went unto the Perilous Siege, and lift up the cloth, and found there the name of Sir Galahad ; and then he showed it unto Sir Gawaine, and said. "Fair nephew, now we have among us Sir Galahad, the good knight, that shall worship us all ; and upon pain of my life, he shall achieve the Sancgreal, as Sir Launcelot bath done us to understand." Then came King Arthur unto Sir Galahad, and said, "Sir, ye be welcome, for ye shall move many good knights unto the quest of the Sancgreal, and ye shall achieve that never knight might bring to an end." Then the King took him by the hand, and went down from the palace, to show Sir Galahad the adventure of the stone.
THE Queen heard thereof, and came after with many ladies, and showed the stone which hoved on the water. "Sir," said the King to Sir Galahad, "here is a great marvel as ever I saw, and right good knights have assayed and failed." "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "that is no marvel, for this adventure is not theirs, but mine; and for the surety of this sword I brought none with me, for here by my side hangeth the scabbard." And anon he laid his hand on the sword, and lightly drew it out of the stone, and then 'he put it into the scabbard, and said unto the King: "Now it goeth better than it did aforehand." "Sir," said the King, "then a shield God shall send unto you." "Now have I," said Sir Galahad, "that sword that sometime was belonging unto the good knight Sir Balin le Savage, and he was a passing good man of his hands ; and with that sword he slew his brother Balan, and that was great pity, for he was a good knight, and either slew other through a notorious stroke that Sir Balan gave unto my grandfather, King Pelleas, the which is not yet whole, nor shall not be till I heal him." Therewith the King and all other espied where came riding down the river a lady on a while palfrey, towards them, and she saluted the King and the Queen, and asked if Sir Launcelot was there : and then Sir Launcelot answered himself—"I am here, fair lady." Then she said, all weeping, "Your great doings be changed since today in the morning." "Damsel, why say ye so?" said Sir Launcelot. "I say you sooth," said the damsel, "for ye were this day the best knight in the world ; but who should say so now should be openly proved a liar, for there is one better than ye, and well is it proved by the ad-venture of the sword, whereto ye durst not set your hand, and that is the change and leaving of your name; wherefore I make unto you a remembrance, that ye shall not ween from hence-forth that ye be the best knight of the world." "As touching that," said Sir Launcelot, "I know well I was never the best."
"Yes," said the damsel, "that were ye, and yet are of any sinful man of the world: and sir, King Nacien, the hermit, sendeth thee word that to thee shall befal the greatest worship that ever befell king in Britain, and shall tell you wherefore, for this day the Sancgreal appeared in this thy house, and fed thee and all thy fellowship of the Round Table." And so the damsel took her leave, and departed the same way that she came.
"Now," said the King, "I am sure at this quest of the Sancgreal, shall all ye of the Round Table depart, and never shall I see you again whole together ; therefore I will see you all whole together in the meadow of Camelot, for to joust and to tourney, that after your death men may speak of it, that such good knights were wholly together such a day." And unto that counsel, and at the King's request, they accorded all, and took on their harness that longed to jousting. But all the meaning of the King was to see Sir Galahad proved, for the King deemed he should not lightly come again unto the court after his departing : so were they all assembled in the meadow, both more and less. Then Sir Galahad, by the prayer of the King and the Queen, did upon him a noble jesserance, and also he did on his helm, but shield would he take none, for no prayer of the King. And then Sir Gawaine and other knights prayed him for to take a spear, and so he did : and the Queen was in a tower with all her ladies to behold that tournament. There Sir Galahad dressed him in the middest of the meadow, and there he began to break spears marvellously, that all men had wonder of him, for he there sur- mounted and exceeded all other knights, for within a little while he had thrown down many good knights of the Round Table, save twain, that was Sir Launcelot and Sir Percivale.
THEN the King, at the Queen's request, made him to alight and to unlace his helm, that Queen Guenever might see him in the visage : and when she beheld 'him she said, "Soothly I dare say that Sir Launcelot begat him, for never two men resembled more in likeness, therefore it is no marvel though he be of great prowess." So a lady that stood by the Queen said, "Madam, for God's sake ought he of right to be so good a knight." "Yea forthwith," said the Queen, "for he is of all parties come of the best knights of the world, and of the highest lineage, for Sir Launcelot is come but of the eighth degree from our Lord, Jesu Christ, and Sir Galahad is of the ninth degree of our Lord, Jesu Christ, therefore I dare well say that they be the greatest gentlemen of all the world." And then the King and all the estate went home unto Camelot's minster : and so, after that they went to supper, and every. knight sat in their place as they were before-hand, then anon they heard cracking and crying of thunder, that they thought the place should all to rive. In the midst of the blast entered a sunbeam more clear by seven times than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw other by their seeming / fairer than ever they saw other, not for then there was no knight that might speak any word a great while ; and so they looked every man on other as they had been dumb. Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail covered with white samite, but there was none that might see it, nor who bare it, and there was all the hall fulfilled with great odours, and every knight had such meat and drink as he best loved in this world, and when the Holy Grail had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became. Then had they breath to speak, and then the King yielded thanks unto God of his grace that he had sent them. "Certainly," said King Arthur, "we ought greatly to thank our Lord, Jesus Christ, for that he hath showed us this day at the reverance of this high feast of Pentecost." "Now," said Sir Gawaine, "we have been served this day of meats and drinks we thought on, but one thing beguiled us, we might not see the Holy Grail, it was so preciously covered, wherefore I will make here a vow, that to-morrow, without any longer abiding, I shall labour in quest of the Sancgreal, that I shall hold me out a twelvemonth and a day, or more if need be, and never shall I return again unto the court till I have seen it more openly than it bath been seen here. And if I may not speed I shall return again, as he that may not be against the will of our Lord, Jesus Christ." When they of the Round Table heard Sir Gawaine say so, they arose the most part of them and avowed the same. And anon as King Arthur heard this, he was greatly displeased, for he wist well that they might not gainsay their vows. "Alas," said King Arthur unto Sir Gawaine, "ye have nigh slain me with the vow and promise that ye have made, for through you ye have bereft me of the fairest fellowship, and the truest of knight-hood, that ever were seen together in any realm of the world, for when they shall depart from hence I am sure that all shall never meet more in this world, for there shall many die in the quest, and so it forethinketh me a little, for I have loved them as well as my life; wherefore it shall grieve me right sore the separation of this fellowship, for I have had an old custom to have them in my fellowship."
AND therewith the tears fell into his eyes, and he said, "Sir Gawaine, Sir Gawaine, ye have set me in great sorrow, for I have great doubt that my true fellowship shall never meet more here again." "Ah," said Sir Launcelot, "comfort your-self, for it shall be unto us as a great honour, and much more than if we died in any other places, for of death we be sure." "Ah, Sir Launcelot," said the King, "the great love that I have had unto you all the days of my life, maketh me to say such doleful words; for never Christian king had never so many worthy men at his table as I have had this day at the Round Table, and that is to me great sorrow." When the Queen, ladies, and gentlewomen wist these tidings, they had such sorrow and heaviness, that no tongue might tell it, for those knights had holden them in honour and charity ; but among all other Queen Guenever made great sorrow. "I marvel," said she, "my lord will suffer them to depart from him." Thus was all the court troubled, because those knights should depart ; and many of those ladies that loved knights would have gone with their lovers : and so had they done, had not an old knight come among them in religious clothing, and then he spake all on high and said, "Fair lords, that have sworn in the Quest of the Sancgreal, thus sendeth your nation the hermit word, that none in this quest lead lady nor gentlewoman with him, for it is not to do in so high a service as they labour in; for I warn you plain, he that is not clean out of sin, he shall not see the mysteries of our Lord Jesu Christ." For this cause they left their ladies and gentlewomen. After this the Queen came unto Sir Galahad, and asked him of whence he was, and of what country. He told her of whence he was, 'and son unto Sir Launcelot she said he was ; as to that he said neither yea nor nay. "So God me help," said the Queen, "of your father ye need not to shame you, for he is the goodliest knight, and of the best men come, and of the race of all parts of kings, and of so therefore ye ought of right to be of your deeds a passing good man, and certainly," she said, "ye resemble him much." Then was Sir Galahad a little ashamed, and said unto the Queen, "Madam, inasmuch as ye know it of a certainty, wherefore do ye ask it of me? for he that is my father shall be known openly, and all betimes." And then they went to rest them ; and, in the honour of the highness of Sir Galahad, he was led into King Arthur's chamber, and there he rested him in his own bed. And, as soon as it was daylight, the King arose; for he had taken no rest of all that night for sorrow. Then went he unto Sir Gawaine, and unto Sir Launcelot, that were risen for to hear mass. And then King Arthur said again, "Ah! Sir Gawaine, Sir Gawaine ! ye have betrayed me; for never shall my court be amended by you, but ye will never be sorry for me as I am for you." And therewith the tears began to run down by his visage, and therewith the King said, "Ah! knight, Sir Launcelot ! I require thee that thou will counsel me, for I would this quest were undone, and it might be." "Sir," said Sir Launcelot, "ye saw yesterday so many worthy knights that then were sworn, that they may not leave it in no manner of wise." "That wot I will," said the King, "but it shall so heavy me their departing, that I wot well that there shall no manner of joy remedy me." And then the King and the Queen went to the minster : so anon Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawaine commanded their men to bring their arms ; and when they were all armed, save their shields and their helms, then they came to their fellowship, which all were ready in the same wise for to go to the minster to hear their service. Then, after the service was done, the King would wit how many had taken the quest of the Sancgreal, and to account them he prayed them all. Then found they by tale an hundred and fifty, and all were knights of the Round Table : and then they put on their helms and departed, and recommended them all wholly unto the Queen, and there was weeping and great sorrow. Then the Queen departed into her chamber, so that no man should perceive her great sorrows. When Sir Launcelot missed the Queen he went into her chamber, and when she saw him, she cried aloud, "O! Sir Launcelot ! ye have betrayed me and put me to death, for to leave thus my lord," " Ah ! madam," said Sir Launcelot, "I pray you be not displeased, for I shall come again as soon as I may with my worship." "Alas !" said she, "that ever I saw you ; but He that suffered death upon the cross for all mankind be to you good conduct and safety, and all the whole fellowship." Right so departed Sir Launcelot, and found his fellowship that abode his coming : and so they mounted upon their horses, and rode through the streets of Camelot, and there was weeping of the rich and poor, and the King returned away, and might not speak for weeping. So within a while they came to a city and a castle that hight Vagon; there they entered into the castle. And the lord of that castle was an old man, that bight Vagon, and he was a good man of his living, and set open the gates, and made them all the good cheer that he might. And so, on the morrow, they were all accorded that they should depart every each from other. And then they departed on the morrow with weeping and mourning cheer, and every knight took the way that him best liked.
Now rideth Sir Galahad yet without shield, and so he rode four days without any adventure; and, at the fourth day, after even-song, he came to a white abbey, and there he was received with great reverence, and led to a chamber, and there he was unarmed; and then was he ware of two knights of the Round Table, one was King Bagdemagus, and the other was Sir Uwaine ; and when they saw him they went unto him, and made of him great solace, and so they went to supper. "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "what adventure brought you hither?" "Sir," said they, "it is told us that within this place is a shield that no man may bear about his neck, but if that he be mischieved or dead within three days, or else maimed forever." "Ah! sir," said King Bagdemagus, "I shall bear it to-morrow for to essay this strange adventure." "In the name of God," said Sir Galahad. "Sir," said King Bagdemagus, "and I may not achieve the adventure of this shield, ye shall take it upon you, for I am sure ye shall not fail." "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "I agree right well thereto, for I have no shield." So on the morrow they arose and heard mass ; then King Bagdemagus asked where the adventurous shield was. Anon a monk led him behind an altar, where the shield hung as white as any snow, but in the midst was a red cross. "Sir," said the monk, "this shield ought not to hang about any knight's neck, but he be the worthiest knight of the world, and therefore I counsel you knights to be well advised." "Well," said King Bagdemagus, "I wot well that I am not the best knight of the world, but yet shall I essay to bear it." And so he bare it out of the monastery, and then he said unto Sir Galahad, "If it will please you, I pray you abide here still, till ye know how I shall speed." "I shall abide you here," said Sir Galahad. Then King Bagdemagus took with him a squire, the which should bring tidings unto Sir Galahad how he sped. Then when they had ridden a two mile, and came in a fair valley before a her-mitage, then they saw a goodly knight come from that party in white armour, horse and all, and he came as fast as his horse might run, with' his spear in the rest, and King Bagdemagus dressed his spear against him, and brake it upon the white knight ; but the other struck him so hard, that he brake the mails, and thrust him through the right shoulder, for the shield covered him not as at that time; and so he bear him from his horse, and therewith he alighted and took the white shield from him, saying, "Knight, thou hast done thyself great folly, for this shield ought not to be borne but by him that shall have no peer that liveth." And then he came to King Bagdemagus' squire and said, "Bear this shield unto the good knight, Sir Galahad, that thou left in the abbey, and greet him well from me." "Sir," said the squire, "what is your name?" "Take thou no heed of my name," said the knight, "for it is not for thee to know, nor none earthly man." "Now, fair sir," said the squire, "at the reverence of Jesu Christ tell me for what cause this shield may not be borne, but if the bearer thereof be mischieved." "Now sith thou hast conjured me so," said the knight, "this shield behoveth to no man but unto Sir Galahad." Then the squire went unto King Bagdemagus, and asked him whether he were sore wounded or not. "I am sore wounded," said he, "and full hardly I shall escape from the death." Then he set his horse, and brought him with great pain to an abbey : then was he taken down softly and unarmed, and laid in a bed, and his wound was looked unto; for he lay there long, and escaped hard with his life.
"SIR GALAHAD," said the squire, "that knight that wounded King Bagdemagus sendeth you greeting, and bid that ye should bear this shield, wherethrough great adventures shall befall." "Now blessed be God and fortune," said Sir Galahad, and then he asked for his armour, and mounted upon his horse, and hung the white shield about his neck, and commended them to God. And Sir Uwaine said he would bear him fellow-ship if it please him. "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "that may ye not, for I must go alone, save this squire, that shall bear me fellowship :" and so departed Sir Uwaine. Then within awhile came Sir Galahad there as the white knight abode him by the hermitage, and every each saluted other courteously. "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "by this shield have been full many marvels." "Sir," said the knight, "it befell after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ thirty years that Joseph of Arimathy, the gentle knight that took down our Lord from the cross, and at that time he departed from Jerusalem with a great part of his kindred with him. And so they laboured till they came to a city, that hight Sarras; and, at that same hour that Joseph came unto Sarras, there was a king, that hight Evelake, that had great war against the Saracens, and in especial against one Saracen, the which was King Evelake's cousin, a rich and mighty king; the which marched nigh this land, and his name was called Tollome le'Feintes : so upon a day these two met to do battle.
"Then Joseph, the son of Joseph of Arimathy, went unto King Evelake, and told him that he would be discomfited and slain, but if he left his belief of the old law, and believed upon the new law. And then he showed him the right belief of the Holy Trinity, the which he agreed with all his heart, and then this shield was made for King Evelake, in the name of Him that died upon the cross. And then, through his good belief, he had the better of King Tollome ; for when King Evelake was in the battle, there was a cloth set before the shield ; and, when he was in the greatest peril, he let put away the cloth, and then anon his enemies saw a figure of a man upon the cross, wherethrough they were discomforted. And so it befell that a man of King Evelake's had his hand smitten off, and bear his hand in his other hand. And Joseph called that man unto him, and bid him go with good devotion and touch the cross : and as soon as that man had touched the cross with his hand, it was as whole as ever it was before. Then soon after there befell a great marvel that the cross of the shield at one time vanished away, that no man wist where it became. And then was the King Evelake baptised, and, for the most part, all the people of that city. So, soon after, Joseph would de-part, and King Evelake would go with him, whether he would go or not. And so by fortune they came into this land, which at that time was called Great Britain, and there they found a great felon paynim that put Joseph in prison. And so, by fortune, tidings came unto a worthy man, that hight Mon-drames, and he assembled all his people, for the great renown that he had heard of Joseph, and so he came unto the land of Great Britain, and deserted his felon paynim, and consumed him, and therewith delivered Joseph out of prison ; and after that all the people were turned to the Christian faith.
"Not long after that Joseph was laid in his death-bed, and when King Evelake saw that he made great sorrow and said, "For thy love I have left my country, and sith thou shall out of this world, leave me some token that I may think on thee." "That will I do right gladly," said Joseph : "now bring me the shield that I took from you when ye went into the battle against King Tollome." Then Joseph bled sore at the nose, that he might not by no means be stenched ; and there-upon that same shield be made a cross of his own blood. "Now may ye see a remembrance that I love you ; for ye shall never see this shield but ye shall think of me, and it shall be always as fresh as it is now, and never shall no man bear this shield about his neck but he shall repent it, unto the time that Sir Galahad, the good knight, bear it, and the last of my lineage shall have it about his neck, the which shall do many marvellous deeds." "Now," said King Evelake, "where shall I put this shield, that this worthy knight may have it?" "Ye shall have it there at Nacien, where the hermit shall be put after his death; for thither shall the good knight come the fifteenth day after that he shall receive the order of knighthood, and so that day that they set, is this time that ye have his shield ; and in the same abbey Beth Nacien, the hermit." And then the white knight vanished away. Anon as the squire had heard these words, he alighted from his hackney, and kneeled down at Sir Galahad's feet, and besought him that he might go with him till that he had made him a knight. "If l would not refuse you, and then will ye make me a knight," said the squire, "and that high order, by the grace of God, shall be well set upon me." And Sir Galahad granted him, and then they returned again unto the abbey that they came from. And there men made full great joy of Sir Galahad : and anon as he was alighted, there was a monk brought him unto a tomb in a churchyard, whereas was such a noise that who heard it should very nigh be made to lose his strength. "And, sir," said he, "I deem it is a fiend."
"Now lead me thither," said Sir Galahad. And so they did, all armed save his helm. "Now," said the good man, "go to the tomb, and lift it up." And so he did, and heard a great noise, and piteously he said, that all men might hear it, "Sir Galahad, the servant of God, come thou not near me, for thou shalt make me go again there where I have been so long." But Sir Galahad was nothing afraid, but quickly lift up the stone, and there came out a foul smoke, and after he saw the foulest figure leap out thereof that ever he saw in the likeness of a man, and then he blest him, and wist well that it was a fiend of hell. Then heard he a voice that said, "Galahad, I see thereabout thee so many angels, that my power may not hurt thee." Right so Sir Galahad saw a body, all armed, lie in the tomb, and beside him there lay a sword. "Now, fair brother," said Sir Galahad, "let us remove this cursed body : for it is not worthy to lie in the churchyard, for he was a false Christian man." And therewith they all departed and went to the abbey And anon as he was unarmed, a good man carne and set him down by him, and said, "Sir, I shall tell you what betokeneth all that ye saw. That covered body betokeneth the hardness of the world, and the great sin that our Lord found in the world; for there was such wretchedness, that the father loved not the son, nor the son loved not the father, and that was one of the causes that our Lord took flesh and blood of a clean maiden ; for our sins were so great at that time, that well nigh all was but wickedness." "Truly," said Sir Galahad, "I believe you are right well." So Sir Galahad rested him there all that night, and on the morrow he made the squire a knight, and asked him his name, and of what kindred he was come. "Sir," said he, "men call me Melias de Lile, and I am the son of the King of Denmark." "Now, fair sir," said Sir Galahad, "sith ye be come of kings and queens, now look that knighthood be well set upon you, for ye ought to be a mirror unto all chivalry." "Sir," said Melias, "ye say sooth ; but, sir, sith ye have made me a knight, ye must of right grant me my first desire that is reasonable." "Ye say sooth," said Sir Galahad. "Then," said Sir Melias, "that ye will suffer me to ride with you in this Quest of the Sancgreal, till some adventure do part us." "I grant you," said Sir Galahad.
The men brought Sir Melias his armour, and his spear, and his horse; and so Sir Galahad and he rode forth all that week ere they found any adventure. And then upon a Monday, in the morning, as they were departing from an abbey, they came unto a cross which departed two ways ; and on that cross were letters written, that said thus : "Now ye knights-errant, the which goeth for to seek adventures, see here two ways, that one way defendeth thee, that thou go not that way, for he shall not go out of that way again, but if he be a good man, and a worthy knight; and if thou go on the left hand, thou shalt not there lightly win prowess, for thou shalt in this way be soon assayed." "Sir," and Sir Melias unto Sir Galahad, "if liketh you to suffer me for to take the way on the left hand, tell it me, for there I shall well prove my strength." "It were better," said Sir Galahad, "that ye rode not that way, for I deem I should better escape in that way than ye." "Nay, I pray you, my lord, let me have that adventure." "Take it in God's name," said Sir Galahad.
AND then Sir Melias rode into an old forest, and therein he rode two days and more, and then he came into a fair meadow, and there was a fair lodge of boughs, and then he espied in that lodge a chair, wherein was a crown of gold, subtly wrought ; also there were cloths covered upon the earth, and many delicious meats were set thereon. Sir Melias beheld this adventure, and thought it marvellous, but he had no hunger ; but of the crown of gold he took much keep, and therewith he stooped down and took it up, and rode his way with it. And anon he saw a knight come riding after him, that said, "Knight, set down that crown which is not yours, and therefore defend you." Then Sir Melias blessed him, and said, "Fair Lord of heaven, help and save thy new-made knight." And then they let their horses run as fast as they might, so that the other knight smote Sir Melias through the hawberk and through the left side, that he fell to the earth nigh dead ; and then he took the crown and went his way, and Sir Melias lay still, and had no power to stir.
In the meanwhile, by fortune, there came Sir Galahad, and found him there in peril of death, and then he said, "Ah! Sir Melias, who hath wounded you ? therefore it had been better to have ridden that other way." And when Sir Melias heard him speak, he said, "Sir, for God's love, let me not die in this forest, but bear me unto the abbey here beside, that I may be confessed and have my rites." "It shall be done," said Sir Galahad, "but where is he that hath wounded you?" With that Sir Galahad heard in the leaves cry on high, "Knight, keep thee from me." "Ah! sir," said Sir Melias, "beware, for that is he that hath slain me." Sir Galahad answered, "Sir knight, come on at your peril." Then either dressed them to other, and came together as fast as their horses might run; and Sir Galahad smote him so that his spear went through his shoulder, and smote him down off his horse, and in the falling Sir Galahad's spear broke. With that came out of the leaves another knight, and broke a spear upon Sir Galahad, or he might turn him ; and then Sir Galahad drew out his sword, and smote off the left arm of him, so that it fell unto the ground, and then he fled, and Sir Galahad followed fast after him. And then he returned again unto Sir Melias, and there he alighted and dressed him softly upon his horse before him ; for the truncheon of the spear was in this body, and Sir Galahad started up behind him, and held him in his armour, and so brought him to an abbey, and there he unarmed him, and brought him to his chamber, and then he asked for the Sacrament of his Saviour. And when he had received him, he said unto Sir Galahad, "Sir, let death come when it pleaseth God." And therewith he drew out the truncheon of the spear out of his body, and then he swooned. Then came there an old monk, which had been sometime a knight, and beheld Sir Melias, and anon he ransacked him, and he said unto Sir Galahad, "I shall heal him of his wound, by the grace of God, within the space of seven weeks." Then was Sir Galahad glad, and unarmed him, and said, "He should abide there three days." And he asked Sir Melias "how it stood with him ?" Then he said he was turned unto healing, God be thanked.
"Now will I depart," said Sir Galahad, "for I have much in hand; for many good knights be full busy about it; and this knight and I were in the same quest of the Sancgrael." "Sir," said a good man, "for his sin he was thus wounded; and I marvel," said the good man to Sir Melias, " how ye durst take upon you so rich a thing as the high order of knighthood with-out clean confession, and that was the cause ye were so bitterly wounded : for the way on the right hand betokeneth the high way of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the way of a true and good liver; and the other way betokeneth the way of sinners and misbelievers ; and, when the devil saw your pride and presumption for to take you in the quest of the Holy Sancgreal, that made you for to be overthrown ; for it may not be achieved but by virtuous living : also, the writing on the cross was a signification of heavenly deeds, and of knightly deeds in God's works; and pride is the head of all deadly sins, that caused this knight to depart, Sir Galahad; and where thou tookest the crown of gold thou sinned in covetousness and in theft, and these were no knight's deeds : and the two knights which fought with this holy knight, Sir Galahad, doth signify the two deadly sins which were entirely in you, but they might not withstand Sir Galahad, for he is without deadly sin." Now departed Sir Galahad from thence, and commended him all unto God. Sir Melias said, "My lord, Sir Galahad, as soon as I may ride I shall see you." "God send you good help," said Sir Galahad. And so he took his horse and departed, and rode many journeys forward and backward, as adventure would lead him; and at the last it happened him to depart from a place or a castle, that was named Abblasour, and he had not heard no mass, the which he was always wont to hear or that he depart out of any castle or place, and kept that for a custom. Then Sir Galahad came unto a mountain, where he found an old chapel, and found there nobody ; for all was desolate. And there he kneeled before the altar, and besought God of whole-some counsel. So as he prayed he heard a voice that said thus : "Go now, thou adventurous knight unto the Castle of Maidens, and there do thou away all the wicked customs."
THEN as Sir Galahad heard this he thanked God, and took his horse, and he had not ridden but half-a-mile, when he saw in a valley before him a strong castle with deep ditches; and there ran beside a fair river, the which hight Severn, and there he met with a man of great age, and either saluted other, and Sir Galahad asked him what was the castle's name. "Pair sir," said he, "it is the Castle of Maidens." "That is a cursed castle," said Sir Galahad, "and all they that have been conversant therein ; for all pity is out thereof, and all hardiness and mischief is therein." "Therefore I counsel you, sir knight," said the old man, "to return again." "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "wit ye well I shall not return again.' Then looked Sir Gala-had on his armour that nothing failed him, and then he put his shield afore him, and anon there met him seven maidens, that said unto him, "Sir knight, ye ride herein at great folly, for ye have the waters for to pass over." "Why should I not pass here over this water?" said Sir Galahad. And so he departed away from them, and then he met with a squire that said, "Sir Knight, those knights in the castle defy you, and forbid you that ye go no farther, till that they wit what ye would." "Fair fellow," said Sir Galahad, " I am come to destroy the wicked custom of this castle." "Sir," said the squire, "and ye will abide by that, ye shall have enough to do." "Go ye now," said Sir Galahad, "and haste my matters."
Then the squire entered into the castle. And anon after there came out of the castle seven knights, and all were brethren ; and, when they saw Sir Galahad, they cried, "Knight keep thee,; for we assure thee nothing but death." "Why," said Sir Galahad, "will ye all have to do with me at once?" "Yea," said they all ; "for thereto mayest thou trust." Then Sir Galahad put forth his spear, and smote the foremost to the earth, that almost he had broken his neck ; and therewith all the others smote on his shield great strokes, so that all their spears break. Then Sir Galahad drew out his sword, and set upon them so hard, that it was a marvel to see it ; and so through great force, he made them to forsake the field; and Sir Galahad chased them until they entered into the castle, and so passed through the castle at another gate. And there met Sir Galahad an old man, clothed in religious clothing, the which said to him, "Sir, have here the keys of the castle." Then Sir Galahad opened the gates, and saw so much people in the street, that he might not number them; and they said, "Sir, ye be welcome; for long have we been forbidden our deliverance." And then there came unto him a gentlewoman, and said, "These knights be fled; but they will come again this night, and here begin again their evil and wicked custom." "What will ye that I shall do?" said Sir Galahad. "Sir," said the gentlewoman, "that ye send after all those knights hither, that hold their lands of this castle, and make them swear for to use the customs that were used heretofore of old time." "I will well," said Sir Galahad. And then the gentlewoman brought him a horn of ivory, richly bound with gold, and said, "Sir, blow ye this horn, which will be heard two miles about this castle." And when Sir Galahad had blown the horn, he set him down upon a bed. Then came there a priest unto Sir Galahad, and said, "Sir, it is past a seven year since that these seven brethren came into this castle, and harboured with the lord of this castle, which hight the Duke Lianour; and he was lord of all this country. And so, when they espied the duke's daughter, that was a fair woman, then by their false cunning they made debate between themselves, and the duke of his goodness would have departed them. And there they slew him and his eldest son ; and then they took the maiden, and the treasure of the castle. And then, by great force, they held all the knights of this castle, against their will, under their obeisance, and in great servage and truage, robbing and pillaging the poor common-people of all that they had. So it happened upon a day that the duke's daughter said, "Ye have done to me great wrong, to slay mine own father and my brother, and thus to hold our lands. For them," said she, "ye shall not hold this castle for many years ; for by one knight ye shall be overcome." Thus she prophesied seven years before. "Well," said the seven knights, "since ye say so, there shall never lady nor knight pass this castle, but they shall abide, maugre their heads : die, therefore, till that knight be come by whom we shall lose this castle." And, therefore, it is called the Maidens' Castle; for they have devoured many maidens." "Now," said Sir Galahad, "is she here for whom this castle was lost?" "Nay," said the priest, "she died within three nights after she was thus enforced; and since they have kept her young sister, which endureth great pains with more other ladies." By this were the knights of the country come ; and then he made them to do homage and fealty to the duke's daughter, and set them in great peace of heart. And, on the morrow, there came one unto Sir Galahad, and told him how Sir Gawaine and Sir Gareth and Sir Uwaine had slain the seven brethren. "I suppose well," said Sir Galahad. And then he took his armour and his horse, and commended them to God.
So when Sir Galahad was departed from the Castle, he rode till he came unto a vast forest, and there he met with Sir Launcelot and Sir Percivale; but either of them knew him not, for he was new disguised. Right so Sir Launcelot, his father, dressed his spear, and break it upon his son, Sir Galahad; and Sir Galahad smote him so hard again, that he smote down both horse and man. And then he drew his sword, and dressed him unto Sir Percivale, and smote him so on his helm, that it rove the coif of steel, and, if the sword had not swerved, Sir Percival had been slain; and, with the stroke, he fell out of his saddle. These jousts were done before the hermitage, where a recluse dwelled ; and, when she saw Sir Galahad ride, she said, "God be with thee, the best knight of the world. Ah ! certainly," said she all aloud, that Sir Launcelot and Sir Percivale might hear it, "and yonder two knights had known thee as well as I do, they would not have encountered with thee." When Sir Galahad heard her say so, he was sore adread to be known : therewithal he smote his horse with his spurs, and rode a great pace forward them. Then perceived they both that it was Sir Galahad, and up they gat on their horses, and rode fast after him ; but, within a while, he was out of their sight, and then they turned again with a heavy cheer. "Let us ask some tidings," said Sir Percivale, " at yonder recluse." "Do as ye list," said Sir Launcelot. When Sir Percivale came unto the recluse, she knew him well enough, and in likewise she knew Sir Launcelot. But Sir Launcelot rode overthwart and endlong in a wild forest, and held no path, but as wild adventure led him. And at the last he came unto a stone cross, which departed two ways in waste land ; and by the cross was a stone that was of marble; but it was so dark, that Sir Launcelot might not well know what it was. Then Sir Launcelot looked by him, and saw an old chapel, and there he weened to have found much people. And so Sir Launcelot tied his horse to a tree, and there he put off his shield, and hung it upon a tree ; and then he went unto the chapel door, and found it wasted and broken : and within he found a fair altar, full richly arrayed with cloth of silk ; and their stood a fair candlestick, which bare six great candles, and the candle-stick was of silver. And when Sir Launcelot saw this light, he had a great will for to enter into the chapel, but he could find no place where he might enter. Then was he passing heavy and dismayed; then he returned to his horse, and took of his saddle and his bridle, and let him pasture; and unlaced his helm, and ungirded his sword, and laid him down to sleep upon his shield before the cross.
AND so he fell on sleep, and, half waking and half sleeping, he saw come by him two palfreys, both fair and white, the which bear a litter, therein lying a sick knight; and, when he was nigh the cross, he there abode still. All this Sir Launcelot saw and beheld, for he slept not verily, and he heard him say, "Oh, sweet Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me, and when shall the holy vessel come by me, wherethrough I shall be blessed? for I have endured thus long for little trespass ;" and thus a great while complained the knight, and always Sir Launcelot heard it. With that Sir Launcelot saw the candle-stick with the fire tapers come before the cross, be he could see nobody that brought it; also there came a table of silver, and the holy vessel of the Sancgreal, the which Sir Launcelot had seen before that time in King Petchour's house. And therewithal the sick knight sat him upright, and held up both his hands, and said, "Fair sweet Lord, which is here within the holy vessel, take heed to me that I may be whole of this great malady ;" and therewith, upon his hands and upon his knees, he went so nigh that he touched the holy vessel, and kissed it : and anon he was whole ; and then he said, "Lord God I thank thee, for I am healed of this malady." So when the holy vessel had been there a great while, it went unto the chapel again, with the candlestick and the light; so that Sir Launcelot wist not where it became, for he was overtaken with sin, that he had no power to arise against the holy vessel ; wherefore afterward many men said of him shame : but he took repentance afterward. Then the sick knight dressed him upright, and kissed the cross. Then anon his squire brought him his arms, and asked his lord how he did. "Certainly," said he, "I thank God right heartily, for through the holy vessel I am healed. But I have right great marvel of this sleeping knight, which hath had neither grace nor power to awake during the time that this holy vessel hath been here present." "I dare it right well say," said the squire, "that this same knight is befouled with some manner of deadly sin, whereof he has never confessed." "By my faith," said the knight, "whatsoever he be, he is unhappy ; for, as I deem, he is of the fellowship of the Round Table, the which is entered into the quest of the Sancgreal." "Sir," said the squire, "here I have brought you all your arms, save your helm and your sword ; and therefore, by mine assent, now may ye take this knight's helm and his sword ;" and so he did. And when he was clean armed, he took Sir Launcelot's horse, for he was better than his own : and so they departed from the cross.
THEN anon Sir Launcelot awaked, and set himself upright, and bethought him what he had there seen, and whether it were dreams, or not right so, he heard a voice that said, "Sir Launcelot, more hardy than is the stone, and more bitter than is the wood, and more naked and bare than is the leaf of the fig-tree, therefore go thou from hence, and withdraw thee from this holy place." And when Sir Launcelot heard this, he was passing heavy, and wist not what to do ; and so he departed, sore weeping, and cursed the time that he was born. For then he deemed never to have had more worship : for the words went unto his heart, till that he knew wherefore that he was so called. Then Sir Launcelot went to the cross, and found that his helm, his sword, and his horse, were taken away; and then he called himself a very wretch, and most unhappy of all' knights. And there he said, "My sin and my wretchedness hath brought me unto great dishonour : for when I sought worldly adventures, and worldly desires, I ever achieved them, and had the better in every place, and never was I discomfited in any quarrel, were it right or wrong ; and now I take upon me the adventures of holy things : and now I see and under-stand that mine old sin hindereth me, and also shamed me, so that I had no power to stir, nor to speak, when the holy blood appeared before me." So thus he sorrowed till it was day, and heard the fowls of the air sing; then was he somewhat comforted. But when Sir Launcelot missed his horse and his harness, then wist ye well that God was displeased with him. Then he departed from the cross on foot, into a wild forest, and so by prime he came unto a high mountain, and there he found a hermitage, and a hermit therein, which was going to mass. And then Sir Launcelot kneeled down upon both his knees, and cried our Lord mercy, for his wicked works that he had done. So when mass was done, Sir Launcelot called the hermit to him, and prayed him for charity to bear his confession. "With a good will," said the good man. "Sir," said he, "be ye of King Arthur's court, and of the noble fellowship of the Round Table.?" "Yea, forsooth, and my name is Sir Launcelot du Lake, which hath been right well said of, and greatly magnified; and now it is so, my good fortune is changed, for I am the most wretch and captive of the world." Then the hermit beheld him, and had great marvel how he was so sore abashed. "Sir," said the hermit, "ye ought to thank God more than any knight living; for he hath caused you to have more worldly worship than any knight that now liveth. And, for your presumption to take upon you, in deadly sin, for to be in his presence, where his flesh and his blood was, that caused you ye might not see it with your worldly eye : for he will not appear where such sinners be, but if it be unto their great hurt, and unto their great shame. And there is no knight living that ought for to give unto God so great thanks as ye : for he hath given unto you beauty, seemliness, and great strength, above all other knights, and therefore ye are the more beholding unto God than any other man, to love him, and to dread him, for your strength and manhood will little avail you, and God be against you."
THEN Sir Launcelot wept, and made full heavy cheer, and said, "Now I know well, ye tell me truth." "Sir," said the good man, "hide none old sin from me." "Then," said Sir Launcelot, "that were me full loth to discover : for this four-teen years I never discovered any thing which I have used, and that may I now wit my shame, and my misadventure." And then he told that good man all his life, and how he had loved a Queen unmeasurably many years ; "an* all my great deeds of arms that I have done, I did for the most part for the Queen's sake; and for her sake would I do battle, were it right or wrong; and never did I battle at all only for God's sake, but for to win worship, and to cause me to be the better beloved, and little or nought I thanked God of it." Then Sir Launcelot said, "I pray you counsel me." "I will counsel you," said the hermit, "if ye will ensure me that ye will never come into that Queen's fellowship as much as ye may forbear." And then Sir Launcelot promised the hermit, by his faith, that he would no more come into her company. "Look that your heart and your mouth accord," said the good old man, "and I shall ensure you that ye shall have more worship than ever ye had." "Holy father," said Sir Launcelot, "I marvel of the voice that said to me marvellous words, and ye have heard here before." "Have ye no marvel thereof," said the good man, "for it seemeth well that God loveth you, for men may understand that a stone is hard of kind, and namely one more than another; and that is to understand, by Sir Launcelot, for thou wilt not leave thy sin for no goodness that God hath sent thee, therefore thou art more harder than any stone; and never would thou be made soft, neither by water nor by fire, and that is the heat of the Holy Ghost may not enter into thee. Now take heed in all the world, men shall not find one knight to whom our Lord hath given so much grace, as our Lord hath given you: for he hath given you fairness with seemliness; he hath given you wit and discretion, for to know good from evil; he bath given you prowess and hardiness, and hath given you to work so largely, that ye have had at all times the better, whatsoever ye came. And now our Lord will suffer you no longer, but that ye shall know him whether ye will or not; and why the voice called thee bitterer than wood; for where overmuch sin dwelleth there may be but little sweetness, where-fore thou are likened to an old rotten tree. Now I have showed thee why thou art harder than the stone, and bitterer than the tree;, now I shall show thee why thou art more naked and bare than the fig tree. It befell that our Lord Jesus Christ preached on Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, and there he found in the people that all hardness was harboured in them, and there he could not find one in all the town that would harbour him, and then he went without the town, and found in the midst of the way a fig tree, the which was right fair and well-garnished with leaves, but fruit had it none; then our Lord caused the tree to bear no fruit, that betokeneth the fig tree unto Jerusalem, that had leaves and no fruit. So thou, Sir Launcelot, when the Holy Grail was brought before thee, he found in thee no fruit, neither good thought, nor good will, and defouled with lechery." "Certainly," said Sir Launcelot, "all that ye have said in true, and from henceforward, I cast me, by the grace of God, never to be so wicked as I have been, but as to follow knighthood, and to do feats of arms." Then the good man enjoined Sir Launcelot such penance as he might do, and to show knighthood; and so he assailed Sir Launcelot, and prayed him to abide with him all that day. "I will well," said Sir Launcelot, "for I have neither helm, nor horse, nor sword." "As for that," said the good man, "I shall help you or to-morrow at even of a horse, and all that belongeth unto you." And then Sir Launcelot repented him greatly.
Now when the hermit had kept Sir Launcelot three days, the hermit got him a horse, a helm, and a sword, and then he departed, about the hour of noon, and then he saw a little house; and when he came near he saw a chapel, and there be-side he saw an old man, that was clothed all in white, full richly : then Sir Launcelot said, "God save you." "God keep you well," said the good man, "and make you a good knight." Then Sir Launcelot alighted, and entered into a chapel, and there he saw an old man dead, in a white shirt, of passing fine cloth. "Sir," said he, "this good man, that is here dead, ought not to be in such clothing as ye see him in, for that he break the oath of his order; for he hath been more than a hundred winters a religious man." And then the good man and Sir Launcelot went into the chapel, and the good man took a stole about his neck, and a book, and then he conjured on that book, and with that they saw a hideous figure, and a horrible, that there was no man so hard-hearted, nor so hardy, but that he would have been afraid. Then said the fiend, "Thou hast travailed me greatly ; now tell me what thou wilt with me." "I will," said the good man, "that thou tell me how my fellow became dead, and whether he be saved or damned." Then he said, with a horrible voice, "He is not lost, but saved." "How may that be," said the good man, "it seemed to me that he lived not well, for he break his order, for to wear a shirt, whereas he ought to wear none : and who that trespasseth against our order doth not well." "Not so," said the fiend, "this man, that lieth here dead, was come of great lineage; and there was a lord, that hight the Earl de Vale, that held great war against this man's nephew, which hight Aguarus. And so this Aguarus saw that earl was bigger than he, then went he for to take counsel of his uncle, which lieth now dead, as ye may see; and then he asked leave, and went out of his hermitage, for to maintain his nephew, the mighty earl; and so it happened, that this man, that lieth here dead, did so much by his wisdom and hardiness, that the earl was taken, and three of his lords, by force of this dead man.
"THEN was there peace between the earl and this Aguarus, and great surety, that the earl should never war against him. Then this dead man, that there lieth, came to this hermitage again : and then the earl made two of his nephews to be avenged upon this man. So they came upon a day, and found this dead man at the sacrificing of mass, and they abode till he had said his mass, and then they set upon him, and drew out their swords for to have slain him. But there would no sword bite on him, no more than upon a gad of steel; for the high Lord, which he served, preserved him. Then made they a great fire, and did off his clothes, and the hair of his back: and then this dead man, the hermit, said unto them, "Ween ye burn me, it shall not lie in your power, nor to perish me as much as a thread, and there were any upon my body." "No," said one of them, "it shall be essayed." And then they spoiled him, and put upon him this shirt, and threw him in the fire, and he lay all that night, till it was day, in that fire, and yet was he not dead. And so on the morrow I came and found him dead, but I found neither thread nor skin perished, and so took him out of the fire with great fear, and laid him here, as you may see: and now ye may suffer me to go my way, for I have told you the truth." And then he departed, with a horrible tempest. Then was the good man and Sir Launcelot more gladder than they were before, and then Sir Launcelot dwelled with the good man that night. "Sir," said the good man, "be ye not Sir Launcelot du Lake?" "Yes, sir," said he. "What seek ye in this country?" said the good man. "Sir," said Sir Launcelot, "I go to seek the adventures of the Sancgreal." "Well," said he, "seek it may ye well; but, though it were here, ye shall have no power to see it, no more than a blind man should see a bright sword, and that is long of your sin, and else were ye more abler than any man living." And then Sir Launcelot began to weep. Then said the good man, "Were ye confessed sith ye entered into the quest of the Sancgreal?" "Yea," said Sir Launcelot. Then on the morrow, when the good man had sung his mass, they buried the dead man. Then said Sir Launcelot, "Father, what shall I do?" "Now," said the good man, "I require you to take this hair, that was this holy man's, and put it next your skin, and greatly shall it prevail you." "Sir, and I will do it," said Sir Launcelot. "And I charge you," said the good man, "that ye eat no flesh as long as ye be in the quest of the Holy Sancgreal, nor ye shall drink no wine, and that ye hear mass daily ; and he may do it." So he took the hair and put, it upon him, and so he departed at even-song time; and so he rode into a forest, and there he met with a gentlewoman riding upon a white palfrey, and she asked him, "Sir knight, whither ride ye?" "Certainly, damsel," said Sir Launcelot, "I wot not whither I ride but as fortune leadeth me." "Ah! Sir Launcelot," said she, "I wot not what adventure ye seek, for ye were aforetime more nearer than ye be now ; and yet shall ye see it more openly than ever ye did, and that shall ye understand in short time." Then Sir Launcelot asked her where he might be harboured that night. "Ye shall none find this day nor night, but to-morrow ye shall find good harbour, and ease you of that ye be in doubt of." And then he commended her unto God. Then he rode till that he came to a cross, and took that for his host, as for that night.
THE morning he mounted upon his horse and rode into a forest, and held no highway; and as he looked before him he saw a fair plain, and beside that plain stood a fair castle, and before that castle were many pavilions of silk, and of divers hue. And him seemed that he saw there five hundred knights riding on horseback, and there were two parties; they that were of the castle were all in black, their horses and their trappings black : and they that were without were all upon white horses with white trappings. And every each hurled to other, whereas Sir Launcelot marvelled greatly : and, at last, he thought that they of the castle were put unto the worst : and then thought Sir Launcelot to help the weaker party, in in-creasing of his chivalry. And so Sir Launcelot thrust in among the parties of the castle, and smote down a knight, both horse and man to the earth ; and then he rushed here and there, and did marvelous deeds of arms. And then he drew out his sword, and struck many knights to the earth, so that all those that saw him marvelled that ever one knight might do such deeds of arms. But always the white knights held them nigh about Sir Launcelot, for to weary him and wind him.
And, at the last, as a man might not ever endure, Sir Launcelot waxed so faint of fighting and of traveling, and was so weary of great deeds, that he might not lift up his arms for to give one stroke, so that he weened never to have borne arms. And then all they took him and led him away into a forest, and there they made him to alight and to rest him. And then all the fellowship of the castle were overcome for the default of him : and then all they said unto Sir Launcelot, "Blessed be God that he be now of our fellowship, for we shall hold you in our prison." And so they left him with few words ; and then Sir Launcelot made great sorrow and said, "Never till now was I at tournament nor jousts but that I had the better, and now I am shamed;" and then he said, "Now I am sure that I am more sinful than ever I was." Then he rode sorrowing, and half a day he was in despair, till that he came into a deep valley; and when Sir Launcelot saw he might not ride up into the mountain, he alighted there under an apple-tree, and there he left his helm and his shield, and put his horse to pasture, and then he laid him down to sleep, and then he thought there came an old man before him which said, "Ah, Sir Launcelot, of evil faith and poor belief, wherefore is thy will turned toward thy deadly sin." And when he had thus said, he vanished away, and Sir Launcelot wist not where he became. Then he armed him, and took his horse, and as he rode that way, he saw a chapel where was a recluse, which had a window that she might see up to the altar, and all aloud she called Sir Launcelot, because he seemed a knight-errant. And then he came, and she asked him what he was, and of what place, and what he seeked.
AND then he told her altogether, word by word, and the truth how it befell him at the tournament, and after he told her his vision that he had that night in his sleep, and prayed her for to tell him what it might mean, for he was not well content with it. "Ah, Sir Launcelot," said she, "as long as ye were knight of earthly knighthood, ye were the most marvellous man of the world, and the most adventurous. Now," said the lady, "since that ye be set among the knights of heavenly adventures, if adventure fell the contrary of that tournament, have thou no marvel, for that tournament yesterday was but a tokening of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not for them there was none enchantment, for they at the tournament were earthly knights. The tournament was a token for to see who should have most knights, either Eliazar, the son of good King Pelleas, or Augustus, the son of King Harlon. But Eliazar was all clothed in white, and Augustus was clothed in black, the which were come : all what this betokeneth I shall tell thee. On the day of Pentecost, when King Arthur held his court, it befell that earthly kings and knights took a tournament together, that is to say, the quest of the Sancgreal. The earthly knights were they the which were clothed all in black, and the covering betokeneth the sins, whereof they be not confessed; and they with the covering of white betokeneth virginity, and they that choose chastity, and thus was the quest began in them. Then thou beholdest the sinners and the good men ; and when thou sawest the sinners overcome, thou inclinest unto that part, for pomp and pride of the world, and all that must be in the quest ; for in this quest thou shalt have many fellows, and thy betters, for thou are so feeble of evil trust and good belief. This made it when thou were there where they took thee and led thee into the forest. And anon there appeared the Sancgreal unto the white knights, but thou wert so feeble of good belief and faith, that thou might not abide it, for all the teaching of the good man, but anon turned unto the sinners ; and thou caused thy misadventure that thou shouldst know good from evil, and the vain glory of the world, the which is not worth a pear. And for great pride thou madest great sorrow thou hadst not overcome all the white knights with the covering of white, by whom was betokened virginity and chastity ; and, therefore, God was wrath with thee, for God loveth not such deeds in his quest. And this vision signifieth that thou were of evil faith, and of poor belief, the which will make thee to fall into the deep pit of hell, if thou keep thee not. Now have I warned thee of thy vain glory, and of thy pride, that thou hast many times erred against thy Maker. Beware of everlasting pain, for of all earthly knights I have most pity of thee ; for I know well thou hast not thy peer of any earthly sinful man." And so she commanded Sir Launcelot to dinner : and after dinner he commended her unto God, and took his horse, and so rode into a deep valley, and there he saw a river and a high mountain, and through the water he must needs pass, the which was full hideous ; and then in the name of God, he took the water with a good heart : and when he came over he saw an armed knight, horse and man as black as any deer, and without any word speaking, he smote Sir Launcelot's horse to the earth ; and so he passed forth, and wist not where he became. And then he took his helm and his shield, and thanked God of his adventure.