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_The_ KINGS TREASURIES OF LITERATURE

GENERAL EDITOR
SIR A.T. QUILLER COUCH


[Illustration: THE LADY OF THE LAKE TELLETH ARTHUR
OF THE SWORD EXCALIBUR]

NEW YORK - E.P. DUTTON & COMPANY


[Illustration: FIRST AND CHIEF OF ALL THE
THREE BEST MOST CHRISTIAN
AND WORTHY, KING ARTHUR]

STORIES FROM LE MORTE D'ARTHUR
AND THE MABINOGION

RETOLD BY
BEATRICE CLAY

LONDON & TORONTO - J.M. DENT & SONS Ltd.


SOLE AGENT FOR SCOTLAND
THE GRANT EDUCATIONAL CO. LTD.
GLASGOW

FIRST EDITION, 1920
REPRINTED, 1922, 1924

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN




CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION


BOOK I. - THE COMING OF ARTHUR

I. OF ARTHUR'S BIRTH; AND HOW HE BECAME KING
II. THE ROUND TABLE
III. OF THE FINDING OF EXCALIBUR
IV. OF THE TREACHERY OF QUEEN MORGAN LE FAY
V. HOW THE SCABBARD OF EXCALIBUR WAS LOST
VI. MERLIN
VII. BALIN AND BALAN


BOOK II. - SIR LAUNCELOT

VIII. SIR LAUNCELOT DU LAC
IX. THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHAPEL PERILOUS
X. SIR LAUNCELOT AND THE FALCON


BOOK III. - SIR TRISTRAM

XI. OF THE BIRTH OF ST. TRISTRAM
XII. HOW TRISTRAM FOUGHT WITH SIR MARHAUS OF IRELAND
XIII. THE FAIR ISOLT
XIV. HOW KING MARK SENT SIR TRISTRAM TO FETCH HIM A WIFE
XV. HOW SIR TRISTRAM AND THE FAIR ISOLT DRANK OF THE MAGIC POTION
XVI. OF THE END OF SIR TRISTRAM


BOOK IV. - KING ARTHUR'S NEPHEWS

XVII. SIR GAWAIN AND THE LADY
XVIII. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GARETH


BOOK V. - SIR GERAINT

XIX. THE ADVENTURES OF GERAINT
XX. GERAINT AND ENID


BOOK VI. - THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN

XXI. THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN


BOOK VII. - SIR PEREDUR

XXII. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR PEREDUR


BOOK VIII. - THE HOLY GRAIL

XXIII. THE COMING OF SIR GALAHAD
XXIV. HOW SIR GALAHAD WON THE RED-CROSS SHIELD
XXV. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR PERCIVALE
XXVI. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR BORS
XXVII. THE ADVENTURES OF SIR LAUNCELOT
XXVIII. HOW SIR LAUNCELOT SAW THE HOLY GRAIL
XXIX. THE END OF THE QUEST


BOOK IX. - THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT

XXX. THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT


BOOK X. - QUEEN GUENEVERE

XXXI. HOW MORDRED PLOTTED AGAINST SIR LAUNCELOT
XXXII. THE TRIAL OF THE QUEEN
XXXIII. HOW SIR GAWAIN DEFIED SIR LAUNCELOT
XXXIV. HOW KING ARTHUR AND SIR GAWAIN WENT TO FRANCE


BOOK XI. - THE MORTE D'ARTHUR

XXXV. MORDRED THE TRAITOR
XXXVI. THE BATTLE IN THE WEST
XXXVII. THE PASSING OF ARTHUR
XXXVIII. THE DEATH OF SIR LAUNCELOT AND OF THE QUEEN




INTRODUCTION


Among the stories of world-wide renown, not the least stirring are
those that have gathered about the names of national heroes. The
_Æneid_, the _Nibelungenlied_, the _Chanson de Roland_, the _Morte
D'Arthur_, - they are not history, but they have been as National
Anthems to the races, and their magic is not yet dead.

In olden times our forefathers used to say that the world had seen
nine great heroes, three heathen, three Jewish, and three
Christian; among the Christian heroes was British Arthur, and of
none is the fame greater. Even to the present day, his name
lingers in many widely distant places. In the peninsula of Gower, a
huge slab of rock, propped up on eleven short pillars, is still
called Arthur's Stone; the lofty ridge which looks down upon
Edinburgh bears the name of Arthur's Seat; and - strangest, perhaps,
of all - in the Franciscan Church of far-away Innsbrück, the finest
of the ten statues of ancestors guarding the tomb of the Emperor
Maximilian I. is that of King Arthur. There is hardly a country in
Europe without its tales of the Warrior-King; and yet of any real
Arthur history tells us little, and that little describes, not the
knightly conqueror, but the king of a broken people, struggling for
very life.

More than fifteen centuries ago, this country, now called England,
was inhabited by a Celtic race known as the Britons, a warlike
people, divided into numerous tribes constantly at war with each
other. But in the first century of the Christian era they were
conquered by the Romans, who added Britain to their vast empire and
held it against attacks from without and rebellions from within by
stationing legions, or troops of soldiers, in strongly fortified
places all over the country. Now, from their conquerors, the
Britons learnt many useful arts, to read and to write, to build
houses and to make roads; but at the same time, they unlearnt some
of their own virtues and, among others, how to think and act for
themselves. For the Romans never allowed a Briton any real part in
the government of his own country, and if he wished to become a
soldier, he was sent away from Britain to serve with a legion
stationed in some far-distant part of the empire. Thus it came
about that when, in the fifth century, the Romans withdrew from
Britain to defend Rome itself from invading hordes of savages, the
unhappy Britons had forgotten how to govern and how to defend
themselves, and fell an easy prey to the many enemies waiting to
pounce on their defenceless country. Picts from Scotland invaded
the north, and Scots from Ireland plundered the west; worst of all,
the heathen Angles and Saxons, pouring across the seas from their
homes in the Elbe country, wasted the land with fire and sword.
Many of the Britons were slain; those who escaped sought refuge in
the mountainous parts of the west from Cornwall to the Firth of
Clyde. There, forgetting, to some extent, their quarrels, they took
the name of the Cymry, which means the "Brethren," though the
English, unable to understand their language, spoke of them
contemptuously as the "Welsh," or the "Strangers."

For a long time the struggle went on between the two races, and
nowhere mere fiercely than in the south-west, where the invaders set
up the Kingdom of Wessex; but at last there arose among the Britons a
great chieftain called Arthur. The old histories speak of him as
"Emperor," and he seems to have been obeyed by all the Britons;
perhaps, therefore, he had succeeded to the position of the Roman
official known as the Comes Britanniæ, whose duty it was to hasten to
the aid of the local governors in defending any part of Britain where
danger threatened. At all events, under his leadership, the oppressed
people defeated the Saxons in a desperate fight at Mons Badonicus,
perhaps the little place in Dorsetshire known as Badbury, or, it may
be, Bath itself, which is still called Badon by the Welsh. After that
victory, history has little to say about Arthur. The stories tell that
he was killed in a great battle in the west; but, nowadays, the wisest
historians think it more probable that he met his death in a conflict
near the River Forth.

And so, in history, Arthur, the hero of such a mass of romantic
story, is little more than a name, and it is hardly possible to
explain how he attained to such renown as the hero of marvellous
and, sometimes, magical feats, unless on the supposition that he
became confused with some legendary hero, half god, half man, whose
fame he added to his own. Perhaps not the least marvel about him is
that he who was the hero of the Britons, should have become the
national hero of the English race that he spent his life in
fighting. Yet that is what did happen, though not till long
afterwards, when the victorious English, in their turn, bent before
their conquering kinsmen, the Normans.

Now in the reign of the third Norman king, Henry I., there lived a
certain Welsh priest known as Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey seems
to have been much about the Court, and perhaps it was the Norman
love of stories that first made him think of writing his _History
of the British Kings_. A wonderful tale he told of all the British
kings from the time that Brut the Trojan settled in the country and
called it, after himself, Britain! For Geoffrey's book was history
only in name. What he tells us is that he was given an ancient
chronicle found in Brittany, and was asked to translate it from
Welsh into the better known language, Latin. It is hardly likely,
however, that Geoffrey himself expected his statement to be taken
quite seriously. Even in his own day, not every one believed in
him, for a certain Yorkshire monk declared that the historian had
"lied saucily and shamelessly"; and some years later, Gerald the
Welshman tells of a man who had intercourse with devils, from whose
sway, however, he could be freed if a Bible were placed upon his
breast, whereas he was completely under their control if Geoffrey's
_History_ were laid upon him, just because the book was so full of
lies.

It is quite certain that Geoffrey did not write history, but he did
make a capital story, partly by collecting legends about British
heroes, partly by inventing stories of his own; so that though he
is not entitled to fame as an historian, he may claim to rank high
as a romantic story-teller who set a fashion destined to last for
some three centuries.

So popular was his book that, not only in England, but, in an even
greater degree, on the Continent, writers were soon at work,
collecting and making more stories about the greatest of his kings,
Arthur. By some it is thought that the Normans took such delight in
the knightly deeds of Geoffrey's heroes that they spread the story
in France when they visited their homes in Normandy. Moreover, they
were in a good position to learn other tales of their favourite
knights, for Normandy bordered on Brittany, the home of the
Bretons, who, being of the same race as the Welsh, honoured the
same heroes in their legends. So in return for Geoffrey's tales,
Breton stories, perhaps, found their way into England; at all
events, marvellous romances of King Arthur and his Round Table were
soon being told in England, in France, in Germany and in Italy.

Now, to some it may seem strange that story-tellers should care to
weave their stories so constantly about the same personages;
strange, too, that they should invent stories about men and women
who were believed actually to have existed. But it must be
remembered that, in those early days, very few could read and
write, and that, before printing was invented, books were so scarce
that four or five constituted quite a library. Those who knew how
to read, and were so fortunate as to have books, read them again
and again. For the rest, though kings and great nobles might have
poets attached to their courts, the majority depended for their
amusement on the professional story-teller. In the long winter
evening, no one was more welcome than the wandering minstrel. He
might be the knightly troubadour who, accompanied by a jongleur to
play his accompaniments, wandered from place to place out of sheer
love of his art and of adventure; more often, however, the minstrel
made story-telling his trade, and gained his living from the bounty
of his audience - be it in castle, market-place, or inn. Most
commonly, the narratives took the form of long rhyming poems; not
because the people in those days were so poetical - indeed, some of
these poems would be thought, in present times, very dreary
doggerel - but because rhyme is easier to remember than prose.
Story-tellers had generally much the same stock-in-trade - stories
of Arthur, Charlemagne, Sir Guy of Warwick, Sir Bevis of
Southampton, and so on. If a minstrel had skill of his own, he
would invent some new episode, and so, perhaps, turn a compliment
to his patron by introducing the exploit of an ancestor, at the
same time that he made his story last longer. People did not weary
of hearing the same tales over and over again, any more than little
children get tired of nursery rhymes, or their elders turn away
from "Punch and Judy," though the same little play has been
performed for centuries. As for inventing stories about real
people, that may well have seemed permissible in an age when
historians recorded mere hearsay as actual fact. Richard III.,
perhaps, had one shoulder higher than the other, but within a few
years of his death grave historians had represented him as a
hunchbacked deformity.

The romances connected with King Arthur and his knights went on
steadily growing in number until the fifteenth century; of them,
some have survived to the present day, but undoubtedly many have
been lost. Then, in the latter half of the fifteenth century, the
most famous of all the Arthurian stories was given to the world in
Sir Thomas Malory's _Morte D'Arthur_. By good luck, the great
printer who made it one of his first works, has left an account of
the circumstances that led to its production. In the reign of
Edward IV., William Caxton set up his printing-press (the first in
England) in the precincts of Westminster Abbey. There he was
visited, as he himself relates, by "many noble and divers gentlemen"
demanding why he had not printed the "noble history of the Saint Grail
and of the most-renowned Christian King ... Arthur." To please them,
and because he himself loved chivalry, Caxton printed Sir Thomas
Malory's story, in which all that is best in the many Arthurian
romances is woven into one grand narrative.

Since then, in our own days, the story of Arthur and his knights
has been told in beautiful verse by Lord Tennyson; but for the
originals of some of his poems it would be useless to look in
Malory. The story of Geraint and Enid, Tennyson derived from a very
interesting collection of translations of ancient Welsh stories
made by Lady Charlotte Guest, and by her called _Mabinogion_,[1]
although not all Welsh scholars would consider the name quite
accurate.

[Footnote 1: Meaning the apprentices of the bards.]

And now it is time to say something about the stories themselves.
The Arthur of history was engaged in a life-long struggle with an
enemy that threatened to rob his people of home, of country, and of
freedom; in the stories, the king and his knights, like Richard
Coeur-de-Lion, sought adventure for adventure's sake, or, as in the
case of Sir Peredur, took fantastic vows for the love of a lady.
The Knights of the Round Table are sheathed from head to foot in
plate armour, although the real Arthur's warriors probably had only
shirts of mail and shields with which to ward off the blows of the
enemy. They live in moated castles instead of in halls of wood,
and they are more often engaged in tournaments than in struggles
with the heathen. In fact, those who wrote the stories represented
their heroes as living such lives as they themselves led. Just in
the same way, Dutch painters used to represent the shepherds in the
Bible story as Dutch peasants; just so David Garrick, the great
actor of the eighteenth century, used to act the part of a Roman in
his own full-bottomed wig and wide-skirted coat.

It must not be forgotten that, in those far-away days when there
were few who could even read or write, there was little that, in
their ignorance, people were not prepared to believe. Stories of
marvels and magic that would deceive no one now, were then eagerly
accepted as truth. Those were the days when philosophers expected
to discover the Elixir of Life; when doctors consulted the stars in
treating their patients; when a noble of the royal blood, such as
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, could fall into disgrace because his
wife was accused of trying to compass the king's death by melting a
wax image of him before a slow fire.

Of all the stories, perhaps the most mystical is that of the Quest
of the Holy Grail, and it has features peculiar to itself. Nuns
take the place of fair ladies; there are hermitages instead of
castles; and the knights themselves, if they do not die, become
monks or hermits. The reason for this change in scene and character
is, that this is a romance in which the Church was trying to teach
men, by means of a tale such as they loved, the lesson of devotion
and purity of heart.

The story sprang from certain legends which had grown up about the
name of Joseph of Arimathea. It was related that, when our Lord was
crucified, Joseph caught in a dish, or vessel, the blood which
flowed from His wounded side. In later years, the pious Jew left
his home and, taking with him the precious vessel, sailed away on
unknown seas until he came to the land of Britain. In that country
he landed, and at Glastonbury he built himself a hermitage, where
he treasured the sacred dish which came to be known as the Saint
Grail. After Joseph's death, the world grew more wicked, and so the
Holy Grail disappeared from the sight of sinful men, although, from
time to time, the vision of it was granted, as in the story, to the
pure in heart.

In later days, legend said that where Joseph's hermitage had stood,
there grew up the famous monastery of Glastonbury, and it came to
have a special importance of its own in the Arthurian romance. In
the reign of Henry II., by the king's orders, the monks of
Glastonbury made search for the grave of King Arthur, and, in due
time, they announced that they had found it, nine feet below the
soil, the coffin covered with a stone in which was inlaid a leaden
cross bearing this inscription: "Hic iacet sepultus inclitus rex
Arthurius in insula Avalonia." Some, however, suggested that the
monks, less honest than anxious to please the masterful king, had
first placed the stone in position and then found it!

One more feature of the tales remains to be mentioned: their
geography. There is no atlas that will make it plain in all cases; and
this is hardly wonderful, for so little was known of this subject
that, even in the reign of Henry VIII., the learned Lord Berners was
quite satisfied that his hero should journey to Babylon by way of the
Nile! Some of the places mentioned in the stories are, of course,
familiar, and others, less well known, can, with a little care, be
traced; but to identify all is not possible. Caerleon, where King
Arthur so often held his Court, still bears the same name, though its
glory has sorely shrank since the days when it had a bishop of its
own. Camelot, where stood the marvellous palace built for the king by
Merlin, is perhaps the village of Queen's Camel in Somersetshire. If
it is borne in mind that the French call Wales _Pays de Galles_, it is
not difficult to see that North Galis may well be North Wales. Gore is
the peninsula of Gower; Liones probably the land south-west of
Cornwall, now sunk beneath the sea; and Avalonia was the name given to
one of the many small islands of the once marshy, low-lying shore of
Somersetshire, which became afterwards better known as Glastonbury.

Happily, it is neither on their history nor on their geography that
the tales depend for their interest. As long as a story of adventure
thrills; as long as gentleness, courtesy and consideration for the
weak excite respect, so long will be read the tales of the brave times

"When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight."




STORIES FROM LE MORTE D'ARTHUR AND THE MABINOGION




BOOK I

THE COMING OF ARTHUR




CHAPTER I

OF ARTHUR'S BIRTH; AND HOW HE BECAME KING


Long years ago, there ruled over Britain a king called Uther
Pendragon. A mighty prince was he, and feared by all men; yet, when
he sought the love of the fair Igraine of Cornwall, she would have
naught to do with him, so that, from grief and disappointment,
Uther fell sick, and at last seemed like to die.

Now in those days, there lived a famous magician named Merlin, so
powerful that he could change his form at will, or even make
himself invisible; nor was there any place so remote but that he
could reach it at once, merely by wishing himself there. One day,
suddenly he stood at Uther's bedside, and said: "Sir King, I know
thy grief, and am ready to help thee. Only promise to give me, at
his birth, the son that shall be born to thee, and thou shalt have
thy heart's desire." To this the king agreed joyfully, and Merlin
kept his word: for he gave Uther the form of one whom Igraine had
loved dearly, and so she took him willingly for her husband.

When the time had come that a child should be born to the King and
Queen, Merlin appeared before Uther to remind him of his promise;
and Uther swore it should be as he had said. Three days later, a
prince was born, and, with pomp and ceremony, was christened by the
name of Arthur; but immediately thereafter, the King commanded that
the child should be carried to the postern-gate, there to be given
to the old man who would be found waiting without.

Not long after, Uther fell sick, and he knew that his end was come;
so, by Merlin's advice, he called together his knights and barons,
and said to them: "My death draws near. I charge you, therefore,
that ye obey my son even as ye have obeyed me; and my curse upon
him if he claim not the crown when he is a man grown." Then the
King turned his face to the wall and died.

Scarcely was Uther laid in his grave before disputes arose. Few of
the nobles had seen Arthur or even heard of him, and not one of
them would have been willing to be ruled by a child; rather, each
thought himself fitted to be king, and, strengthening his own
castle, made war on his neighbours until confusion alone was
supreme, and the poor groaned because there was none to help them.

Now when Merlin carried away Arthur - for Merlin was the old man who
had stood at the postern-gate - he had known all that would happen,
and had taken the child to keep him safe from the fierce barons
until he should be of age to rule wisely and well, and perform all
the wonders prophesied of him. He gave the child to the care of the
good knight Sir Ector to bring up with his son Kay, but revealed
not to him that it was the son of Uther Pendragon that was given
into his charge.

At last, when years had passed and Arthur was grown a tall youth
well skilled in knightly exercises, Merlin went to the Archbishop
of Canterbury and advised him that he should call together at
Christmas-time all the chief men of the realm to the great
cathedral in London; "For," said Merlin, "there shall be seen a
great marvel by which it shall be made clear to all men who is the
lawful King of this land." The Archbishop did as Merlin counselled.
Under pain of a fearful curse, he bade barons and knights come to
London to keep the feast, and to pray heaven to send peace to the
realm.

The people hastened to obey the Archbishop's commands, and, from
all sides, barons and knights came riding in to keep the
birth-feast of our Lord. And when they had prayed, and were coming
forth from the cathedral, they saw a strange sight. There, in the
open space before the church, stood, on a great stone, an anvil
thrust through with a sword; and on the stone were written these
words: "Whoso can draw forth this sword, is rightful King of
Britain born."

At once there were fierce quarrels, each man clamouring to be the
first to try his fortune, none doubting his own success. Then the
Archbishop decreed that each should make the venture in turn, from
the greatest baron to the least knight; and each in turn, having
put forth his utmost strength, failed to move the sword one inch,
and drew back ashamed. So the Archbishop dismissed the company, and
having appointed guards to watch over the stone, sent messengers
through all the land to give word of great jousts to be held in
London at Easter, when each knight could give proof of his skill
and courage, and try whether the adventure of the sword was for
him.

Among those who rode to London at Easter was the good Sir Ector,
and with him his son, Sir Kay, newly made a knight, and the young
Arthur. When the morning came that the jousts should begin, Sir Kay
and Arthur mounted their horses and set out for the lists; but
before they reached the field, Kay looked and saw that he had left
his sword behind. Immediately Arthur turned back to fetch it for
him, only to find the house fast shut, for all were gone to view
the tournament. Sore vexed was Arthur, fearing lest his brother Kay
should lose his chance of gaining glory, till, of a sudden, he
bethought him of the sword in the great anvil before the cathedral.
Thither he rode with all speed, and the guards having deserted
their post to view the tournament, there was none to forbid him the
adventure. He leaped from his horse, seized the hilt, and instantly
drew forth the sword as easily as from a scabbard; then, mounting
his horse and thinking no marvel of what he had done, he rode after
his brother and handed him the weapon.

When Kay looked at it, he saw at once that it was the wondrous


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