James Knowles.

The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights online

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none shall harm ye, or your ladies; neither shall any that belong to thee
be hurt; but the Duke must abide my judgment." Then he commanded to stay
the assault and took the keys from the Duke's eldest son, who brought them
kneeling. Anon the Duke was sent a prisoner to Dover for his life, and
rents and taxes were assigned for dowry of the Duchess and her children.

Then went he on with all his hosts, winning all towns and castles, and
wasting them that refused obedience, till he came to Viterbo. From thence
he sent to Rome, to ask the senators whether they would receive him for
their lord and governor. In answer, came out to him all the Senate who
remained alive, and the Cardinals, with a majestic retinue and procession;
and laying great treasures at his feet, they prayed him to come in at once
to Rome, and there be peaceably crowned as Emperor. "At this next
Christmas," said King Arthur, "will I be crowned, and hold my Round Table
in your city."

Anon he entered Rome, in mighty pomp and state; and after him came all his
hosts, and his knights, and princes, and great lords, arrayed in gold and
jewels, such as never were beheld before. And then was he crowned Emperor
by the Pope's hands, with all the highest solemnity that could be made.

Then after his coronation, he abode in Rome for a season, settling his
lands and giving kingdoms to his knights and servants, to each one after
his deserving, and in such wise fashion that no man among them all
complained. Also he made many dukes and earls, and loaded all his
men-at-arms with riches and great treasures.

When all this was done, the lords and knights, and all the men of great
estate, came together before him, and said, "Noble Emperor! by the
blessing of Eternal God, thy mortal warfare is all finished, and thy
conquests all achieved; for now in all the world is none so great and
mighty as to dare make war with thee. Wherefore we beseech and heartily
pray thee of thy noble grace, to turn thee homeward, and to give us also
leave to see our wives and homes again, for now we have been from them a
long season, and all thy journey is completed with great honour and
worship."

"Ye say well," replied he, "and to tempt God is no wisdom; therefore make
ready in all haste, and turn we home to England."

So King Arthur returned with his knights and lords and armies, in great
triumph and joy, through all the countries he had conquered, and commanded
that no man, upon pain of death, should rob or do any violence by the way.
And crossing the sea, he came at length to Sandwich, where Queen Guinevere
received him, and made great joy at his arrival. And through all the realm
of Britain was there such rejoicing as no tongue can tell.




CHAPTER IX

_The Adventures of Sir Lancelot du Lake_


Then, at the following Pentecost, was held a feast of the Round Table at
Caerleon, with high splendour; and all the knights thereof resorted to the
court, and held many games and jousts. And therein Sir Lancelot increased
in fame and worship above all men, for he overthrew all comers, and never
was unhorsed or worsted, save by treason and enchantment.

When Queen Guinevere had seen his wondrous feats, she held him in great
favour, and smiled more on him than on any other knight. And ever since he
first had gone to bring her to King Arthur, had Lancelot thought on her as
fairest of all ladies, and done his best to win her grace. So the queen
often sent for him, and bade him tell of his birth and strange adventures:
how he was only son of great King Ban of Brittany, and how, one night, his
father, with his mother Helen and himself, fled from his burning castle;
how his father, groaning deeply, fell to the ground and died of grief and
wounds, and how his mother, running to her husband, left himself alone;
how, as he thus lay wailing, came the lady of the lake, and took him in
her arms and went with him into the midst of the waters, where, with his
cousins Lionel and Bors he had been cherished all his childhood until he
came to King Arthur's court; and how this was the reason why men called
him Lancelot du Lake.

Anon it was ordained by King Arthur, that in every year at Pentecost there
should be held a festival of all the knights of the Round Table at
Caerleon, or such other place as he should choose. And at those festivals
should be told publicly the most famous adventures of any knight during
the past year.

So, when Sir Lancelot saw Queen Guinevere rejoiced to hear his wanderings
and adventures, he resolved to set forth yet again, and win more worship
still, that he might more increase her favour. Then he bade his cousin Sir
Lionel make ready, "for," said he, "we two will seek adventure." So they
mounted their horses - armed at all points - and rode into a vast forest;
and when they had passed through it, they came to a great plain, and the
weather being very hot about noontide, Sir Lancelot greatly longed to
sleep. Then Sir Lionel espied a great apple-tree standing by a hedge, and
said, "Brother, yonder is a fair shadow where we may rest ourselves and
horses."

"I am full glad of it," said Sir Lancelot, "for all these seven years I
have not been so sleepy."

So they alighted there, and tied their horses up to sundry trees; and Sir
Lionel waked and watched while Sir Lancelot fell asleep, and slept passing
fast.

In the meanwhile came three knights, riding as fast flying as ever they
could ride, and after them followed a single knight; but when Sir Lionel
looked at him, he thought he had never seen so great and strong a man, or
so well furnished and apparelled. Anon he saw him overtake the last of
those who fled, and smite him to the ground; then came he to the second,
and smote him such a stroke that horse and man went to the earth; then
rode he to the third, likewise, and struck him off his horse more than a
spear's length. With that he lighted from his horse, and bound all three
knights fast with the reins of their own bridles.

When Sir Lionel saw this he thought the time was come to prove himself
against him, so quietly and cautiously, lest he should wake Sir Lancelot,
he took his horse and mounted and rode after him. Presently overtaking
him, he cried aloud to him to turn, which instantly he did, and smote Sir
Lionel so hard that horse and man went down forthwith. Then took he up Sir
Lionel, and threw him bound over his own horse's back; and so he served
the three other knights, and rode them away to his own castle. There they
were disarmed, stripped naked, and beaten with thorns, and afterwards
thrust into a deep prison, where many more knights, also, made great moans
and lamentations, saying, "Alas, alas! there is no man can help us but Sir
Lancelot, for no other knight can match this tyrant Turquine, our
conqueror."

But all this while, Sir Lancelot lay sleeping soundly under the
apple-tree. And, as it chanced, there passed that way four queens, of high
estate, riding upon four white mules, under four canopies of green silk
borne on spears, to keep them from the sun. As they rode thus, they heard
a great horse grimly neigh, and, turning them about, soon saw a sleeping
knight that lay all armed under an apple-tree; and when they saw his
face, they knew it was Lancelot of the Lake.

Then they began to strive which of them should have the care of him. But
Queen Morgan le Fay, King Arthur's half sister, the great sorceress, was
one of them, and said "We need not strive for him, I have enchanted him,
so that for six hours more he shall not wake. Let us take him to my
castle, and, when he wakes, himself shall choose which one of us he would
rather serve." So Sir Lancelot was laid upon his shield and borne on
horseback between two knights, to the castle, and there laid in a cold
chamber, till the spell should pass.

Anon, they sent him a fair damsel, bearing his supper, who asked him,
"What cheer?"

"I cannot tell, fair damsel," said he, "for I know not how I came into
this castle, if it were not by enchantment."

"Sir," said she, "be of good heart, and to-morrow at the dawn of day, ye
shall know more."

And so she left him alone, and there he lay all night. In the morning
early came the four queens to him, passing richly dressed; and said, "Sir
knight, thou must understand that thou art our prisoner, and that we know
thee well for King Ban's son, Sir Lancelot du Lake. And though we know
full well there is one lady only in this world may have thy love, and she
Queen Guinevere - King Arthur's wife - yet now are we resolved to have thee
to serve one of us; choose, therefore, of us four which thou wilt serve. I
am Queen Morgan le Fay, Queen of the land of Gore, and here also is the
Queen of Northgales, and the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Out
Isles. Choose, then, at once, for else shall thou abide here, in this
prison, till thy death."

"It is a hard case," said Sir Lancelot, "that either I must die, or choose
one of you for my mistress! Yet had I rather die in this prison than serve
any living creature against my will. So take this for my answer. I will
serve none of ye, for ye be false enchantresses. And as for my lady, Queen
Guinevere, whom lightly ye have spoken of, were I at liberty I would prove
it upon you or upon yours she is the truest lady living to her lord the
king."

"Well," said the queen, "is this your answer, that ye refuse us all?"

"Yea, on my life," said Lancelot, "refused ye be of me."

So they departed from him in great wrath, and left him sorrowfully
grieving in his dungeon.

At noon the damsel came to him and brought his dinner, and asked him as
before, "What cheer?"

"Truly, fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "in all my life never so ill."

"Sir," replied she, "I grieve to see ye so, but if ye do as I advise, I
can help ye out of this distress, and will do so if you promise me a
boon."

"Fair damsel," said Sir Lancelot, "right willingly will I grant it thee,
for sorely do I dread these four witch-queens, who have destroyed and
slain many a good knight with their enchantments."

Then said the damsel, "Sir, wilt thou promise me to help my father on next
Tuesday, for he hath a tournament with the King of Northgales, and last
Tuesday lost the field through three knights of King Arthur's court, who
came against him. And if next Tuesday thou wilt aid him, to-morrow,
before daylight, by God's grace, I will deliver thee."

"Fair maiden," said Sir Lancelot, "tell me thy father's name and I will
answer thee."

"My father is King Bagdemagus," said she.

"I know him well," replied Sir Lancelot, "for a noble king and a good
knight; and by the faith of my body I will do him all the service I am
able on that day."

"Grammercy to thee, Sir knight," said the damsel.

"To-morrow, when thou art delivered from this place, ride ten miles hence
unto an abbey of white monks, and there abide until I bring my father to
thee."

"So be it," said Sir Lancelot, "as I am a true knight."

So she departed, and on the morrow, early, came again, and let him out of
twelve gates, differently locked, and brought him to his armour; and when
he was all armed, she brought him his horse also, and lightly he saddled
him, and took a great spear in his hand, and mounted and rode forth,
saying, as he went, "Fair damsel, I shall not fail thee, by the grace of
God."

And all that day he rode in a great forest, and could find no highway, and
spent the night in the wood; but the next morning found his road, and came
to the abbey of white monks. And there he saw King Bagdemagus and his
daughter waiting for him. So when they were together in a chamber, Sir
Lancelot told the king how he had been betrayed by an enchantment, and how
his brother Lionel was gone he knew not where, and how the damsel had
delivered him from the castle of Queen Morgan le Fay. "Wherefore while I
live," said he, "I shall do service to herself and all her kindred."

"Then am I sure of thy aid," said the king, "on Tuesday now next coming?"

"Yea, sir, I shall not fail thee," said Sir Lancelot; "but what knights
were they who last week defeated thee, and took part with the King of
Northgales?"

"Sir Mador de la Port, Sir Modred, and Sir Gahalatine," replied the king.

"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "as I understand, the tournament shall take
place but three miles from this abbey; send then to me here, three knights
of thine, the best thou hast, and let them all have plain white shields,
such as I also will; then will we four come suddenly into the midst
between both parties, and fall upon thy enemies, and grieve them all we
can, and none will know us who we are."

So, on the Tuesday, Sir Lancelot and the three knights lodged themselves
in a small grove hard by the lists. Then came into the field the King of
Northgales, with one hundred and sixty helms, and the three knights of
King Arthur's court, who stood apart by themselves. And when King
Bagdemagus had arrived, with eighty helms, both companies set all their
spears in rest and came together with a mighty clash, wherein were slain
twelve knights of King Bagdemagus, and six of the King of Northgales; and
the party of King Bagdemagus was driven back.

With that, came Sir Lancelot, and thrust into the thickest of the press,
and smote down with one spear five knights, and brake the backs of four,
and cast down the King of Northgales, and brake his thigh by the fall.
When the three knights of Arthur's court saw this, they rode at Sir
Lancelot, and each after other attacked him; but he overthrew them all,
and smote them nigh to death. Then taking a new spear, he bore down to the
ground sixteen more knights, and hurt them all so sorely, that they could
carry arms no more that day. And when his spear at length was broken, he
took yet another, and smote down twelve knights more, the most of whom he
wounded mortally, till in the end the party of the King of Northgales
would joust no more, and the victory was cried to King Bagdemagus.

[Illustration: Sir Lancelot smote down with one spear five knights, and
brake the backs of four, and cast down the King of Northgales.]

Then Sir Lancelot rode forth with King Bagdemagus to his castle, and there
he feasted with great cheer and welcome, and received many royal gifts.
And on the morrow he took leave and went to find his brother Lionel.

Anon, by chance, he came to the same forest where the four queens had
found him sleeping, and there he met a damsel riding on a white palfrey.
When they had saluted each other, Sir Lancelot said, "Fair damsel, knowest
thou where any adventures may be had in this country?"

"Sir knight," said she, "there are adventures great enough close by if
thou darest prove them."

"Why should I not," said he, "since for that cause I came here?"

"Sir," said the damsel, "hard by this place there dwelleth a knight that
cannot be defeated by any man, so great and perilously strong he is. His
name is Sir Turquine, and in the prisons of his castle lie three score
knights and four, mostly from King Arthur's court, whom he hath taken with
his own hands. But promise me, ere thou undertakest their deliverance, to
go and help me afterwards, and free me and many other ladies that are
distressed by a false knight." "Bring me but to this felon Turquine,"
quoth Sir Lancelot, "and I will afterwards fulfil all your wishes."

So the damsel went before, and brought him to a ford, and a tree whereon a
great brass basin hung; and Sir Lancelot beat with his spear-end upon the
basin, long and hard, until he beat the bottom of it out, but he saw
nothing. Then he rode to and fro before the castle gates for well-nigh
half an hour, and anon saw a great knight riding from the distance,
driving a horse before him, across which hung an armed man bound. And when
they came near, Sir Lancelot knew the prisoner for a knight of the Round
Table. By that time, the great knight who drove the prisoner saw Sir
Lancelot, and each of them began to settle his spear, and to make ready.

"Fair sir," then said Sir Lancelot, "put off that wounded knight, I pray
thee, from his horse, and let him rest while thou and I shall prove our
strength upon each other; for, as I am told, thou doest, and hast done,
great shame and injury to knights of the Round Table. Wherefore, I warn
thee now, defend thyself."

"If thou mayest be of the Round Table," answered Turquine, "I defy thee,
and all thy fellows."

"That is saying overmuch," said Sir Lancelot.

Then, setting their lances in rest, they spurred their horses towards each
other, as fast as they could go, and smote so fearfully upon each other's
shields, that both their horses' backs brake under them. As soon as they
could clear their saddles, they took their shields before them, and drew
their swords, and came together eagerly, and fought with great and
grievous strokes; and soon they both had many grim and fearful wounds, and
bled in streams. Thus they fought two hours and more, thrusting and
smiting at each other, wherever they could hit.

Anon, they both were breathless, and stood leaning on their swords.

"Now, comrade," said Sir Turquine, "let us wait awhile, and answer me what
I shall ask thee."

"Say on," said Lancelot.

"Thou art," said Turquine, "the best man I ever met, and seemest like one
that I hate above all other knights that live; but if thou be not he, I
will make peace with thee, and for sake of thy great valour, will deliver
all the three score prisoners and four who lie within my dungeons, and
thou and I will be companions evermore. Tell me, then, thy name."

"Thou sayest well," replied Sir Lancelot; "but who is he thou hatest so
above all others?"

"His name," said Turquine, "is Sir Lancelot of the Lake; and he slew my
brother Sir Carados, at the dolorous tower; wherefore, if ever I shall
meet with him, one of us two shall slay the other; and thereto I have
sworn by a great oath. And to discover and destroy him I have slain a
hundred knights, and crippled utterly as many more, and many have died in
my prisons; and now, as I have told thee, I have many more therein, who
all shall be delivered, if thou tell me thy name, and it be not Sir
Lancelot."

"Well," said Lancelot, "I am that knight, son of King Ban of Benwick, and
Knight of the Round Table; so now I defy thee to do thy best!"

"Aha!" said Turquine, with a shout, "is it then so at last! Thou art more
welcome to my sword than ever knight or lady was to feast, for never
shall we part till one of us be dead."

Then did they hurtle together like two wild bulls, slashing and lashing
with their shields and swords, and sometimes falling both on to the
ground. For two more hours they fought so, and at the last Sir Turquine
grew very faint, and gave a little back, and bare his shield full low for
weariness. When Sir Lancelot saw him thus, he leaped upon him fiercely as
a lion, and took him by the crest of his helmet, and dragged him to his
knees; and then he tore his helmet off and smote his neck asunder.

Then he arose, and went to the damsel who had brought him to Sir Turquine,
and said, "I am ready, fair lady, to go with thee upon thy service, but I
have no horse."

"Fair sir," said she, "take ye this horse of the wounded knight whom
Turquine but just now was carrying to his prisons, and send that knight on
to deliver all the prisoners."

So Sir Lancelot went to the knight and prayed him for the loan of his
horse.

"Fair lord," said he, "ye are right welcome, for to-day ye have saved both
me and my horse; and I see that ye are the best knight in all the world,
for in my sight have ye slain the mightiest man and the best knight,
except thyself, I ever saw."

"Sir," said Sir Lancelot, "I thank thee well; and now go into yonder
castle, where thou shall find many noble knights of the Round Table, for I
have seen their shields hung on the trees around. On yonder tree alone
there are Sir Key's, Sir Brandel's, Sir Marhaus', Sir Galind's, and Sir
Aliduke's, and many more; and also my two kinsmen's shields, Sir Ector de
Maris' and Sir Lionel's. And I pray you greet them all from me, Sir
Lancelot of the Lake, and tell them that I bid them help themselves to any
treasures they can find within the castle; and that I pray my brethren,
Lionel and Ector, to go to King Arthur's court and stay there till I come.
And by the high feast at Pentecost I must be there; but now I must ride
forth with this damsel to fulfil my promise."

So, as they went, the damsel told him, "Sir, we are now near the place
where the foul knight haunteth, who robbeth and distresseth all ladies and
gentlewomen travelling past this way, against whom I have sought thy aid."

Then they arranged that she should ride on foremost, and Sir Lancelot
should follow under cover of the trees by the roadside, and if he saw her
come to any mishap, he should ride forth and deal with him that troubled
her. And as the damsel rode on at a soft ambling pace, a knight and page
burst forth from the roadside and forced the damsel from her horse, till
she cried out for help.

Then came Sir Lancelot rushing through the wood as fast as he might fly,
and all the branches of the trees crackled and waved around him. "O thou
false knight and traitor to all knighthood!" shouted he, "who taught thee
to distress fair ladies thus?"

The foul knight answered nothing, but drew out his sword and rode at Sir
Lancelot, who threw his spear away and drew his own sword likewise, and
struck him such a mighty blow as clave his head down to the throat. "Now
hast thou the wages thou long hast earned!" said he; and so departed from
the damsel.

Then for two days he rode in a great forest, and had but scanty food and
lodging, and on the third day he rode over a long bridge, when suddenly
there started up a passing foul churl, and smote his horse across the
nose, so that he started and turned back, rearing with pain. "Why ridest
thou over here without my leave?" said he.

"Why should I not?" said Sir Lancelot; "there is no other way to ride."

"Thou shalt not pass by here," cried out the churl, and dashed at him with
a great club full of iron spikes, till Sir Lancelot was fain to draw his
sword and smite him dead upon the earth.

At the end of the bridge was a fair village, and all the people came and
cried, "Ah, sir! a worse deed for thyself thou never didst, for thou hast
slain the chief porter of the castle yonder!" But he let them talk as they
pleased, and rode straight forward to the castle.

There he alighted, and tied his horse to a ring in the wall; and going in,
he saw a wide green court, and thought it seemed a noble place to fight
in. And as he looked about, he saw many people watching him from doors and
windows, making signs of warning, and saying, "Fair knight, thou art
unhappy." In the next moment came upon him two great giants, well armed
save their heads, and with two horrible clubs in their hands. Then he put
his shield before him, and with it warded off one giant's stroke, and
clove the other with his sword from the head downward to the chest. When
the first giant saw that, he ran away mad with fear; but Sir Lancelot ran
after him, and smote him through the shoulder, and shore him down his
back, so that he fell dead.

Then he walked onward to the castle hall, and saw a band of sixty ladies
and young damsels coming forth, who knelt to him, and thanked him for
their freedom. "For, sir," said they, "the most of us have been prisoners
here these seven years; and have been kept at all manner of work to earn
our meat, though we be all great gentlewomen born. Blessed be the time
that thou wast born, for never did a knight a deed of greater worship than
thou hast this day, and thereto will we all bear witness in all times and
places! Tell us, therefore, noble knight, thy name and court, that we may
tell them to our friends!" And when they heard it, they all cried aloud,
"Well may it be so, for we knew that no knight save thou shouldst ever
overcome those giants; and many a long day have we sighed for thee; for
the giants feared no other name among all knights but thine."

Then he told them to take the treasures of the castle as a reward for
their grievances, and to return to their homes, and so rode away into many
strange and wild countries. And at last, after many days, by chance he
came, near the night time, to a fair mansion, wherein he found an old
gentlewoman, who gave him and his horse good cheer. And when bed time was
come, his host brought him to a chamber over a gate, and there he unarmed,
and went to bed and fell asleep.

But soon thereafter came one riding in great haste, and knocking
vehemently at the gate below, which when Sir Lancelot heard, he rose and


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Online LibraryJames KnowlesThe Legends of King Arthur and His Knights → online text (page 9 of 21)