The Story of Lancelot of the Lake

[In Preparation]

Transcription Calligraphic Manuscript, Society of Antiquaries MS. 905.3, vol. 3, ff. 1-307

[f 1]

King Arthur dreams dreams

How King Arthur dreamed many dreams, and sent thereon for all the wise clerks of his realm to know the meaning of them.


NOW saith the tale that King Arthur had abided long at Cardueil: and because no great haps had befallen there, the fellows of the King were aweary of that long sojourn, wherein they beheld nought of what they would: and chief of all was Kay the Seneschal exceeding weary, and spake often, saying that their abiding there had been weary and overlong: then said the King; “Kay, what wouldst thou that we do?”
“Certes,” said Kay, “I counsel that we go to Camelot, for that city is the most adventurous that thou hast, and there often we see and hear marvels that we see not here; and here have we already abided two months, and beheld no great tidings.”
“Let us go to Kamalot [sic] then,” said the King since so thou givest counsel.”
And on the morrow the King was to depart, but a marvelous hap befel him in the night; for he dreamed that all the hairs of his head, and of his beard fell off; and sore afeared he was thereof; and because of this he abode yet in the town; and the third night thereafter he dreamed that all the fingers fell from his hands saving his thumbs only; whereat he was more abashed than afore.
€ But on another night he dreamed that all the toes fell from his feet saving the great toes, whereof he was so sore troubled that more might not be: then said his chaplain to whom he had told hereof, “Sir, trouble thee not, for in the dreams is nought to trow.”
Then the King told it to his Queen, and she answered even as the chaplain.
“Of a sooth,” said he, “I will not leave the matter thus.”
And he summoned to him at Camelot within nine days’ space all his bishops and archbishops, and that they should bring with them all the wisest clerks they had, or might find: then he departed from

[f 2]

The clerks come to Camelot



Cardueil, and went by his castles and cities, till on the ninth day he was come to Camelot, and thither also were come the clerks of the land. Of them he asked counsel of his dreams, and they chose ten of their wisest, and the King let shut them up, and said that they should never out of prison till they had told him the meaning of his dreams. So for nine days’ space they proved the might of their science, and then came to the King and told him that they had found nought.
“So may God help me,” said the King, “ye shall not escape me thus!”
Then they asked for respite till the third day after, and he gave it them: the three days passed they came before the King, and said that nought they had found, and asked for yet more delay, and gat it: then again they came to crave other three days respite even as the King had dreamed every third night.
“Wot ye well,” said the King, “that ye get no more.”
And so when it was come to the third day they said they had found nought.
“This availeth nothing,” said the King, “I will destroy you all, but ye tell me the sooth.”
And they said: “Sir we know not what to say.”
Then the King thought to fear them with death; and he let make a great fire, and commanded in their presence that five of them should be cast therein, and other five hanged: but privily he bade the bailifs to bring them but to the fear of death: so when the five who were to be led unto the gallows had the ropes about their necks they feared the death, and said that if the other five would tell the truth, so would they.
This tidings came to the five who were to be burned, who also said that they would speak if the others would: then were they brought together before the King, and the wisest of them said: “Sir we would say that we have found, but we would not that thou shouldst account us liars if it cometh not to pass; for soothly we would not that it should: and we will that however it fall, we shall never have ill of thee therefor.” So he promised them; and then said he who spake for all:

[f 3]

the areding of the dreams.


“Sir, know that thou must needs lose this land, and all thine honour, and that those in whom thou most trustest shall fail thee; this is the substance and the significance of thy dreams.”
Hereof was the King all abashed: “Tell me,’ said he, “if there is a thing that may keep me from this?”
“Certes,” said the master, “one thing have we seen, but it is the greatest of marvels, and we durst not tell thee.”
“Speak in all surety,” said the King, “for worse ye may not say than ye have said.”
“Sir” said they, “nought may keep thee from losing all earthly honour, save the Wild Lion and the Leech without medicine by the rede of the Flower: now this seemeth to be such folly as we dare not say to thee, for a wild lion there may not be, or leech without medicine, nor a flower which speaketh.”
Now was the King all distraught with this matter; yet made he better cheer than his heart would.
And on a day went the King a hunting in the wood betimes of a morning, and had with him Sir Gawain and Kay the Seneschal, and such other as pleased him.
But here leaveth the tale to tell of him, and goeth back to telling of the knight whose name Sir Gawain brought to the court.
FOR when the knight who had vanquished the Assembly had departed from the place where he had fought with his host he wandered all day without finding other adventure. He lay that night at the house of a widow lady some five leagues English from Camelot: he rose betimes on the morrow, and went, he and his squires, and the damsel, till they met a certain squire: “Varlet,” said he, [“]knowst thou any tidings?”
“Yea,” said he, “my lady the Queen is here hard by Camelot.”
“What Queen?” said the knight.
“The wife of King Arthur,” said the squire.
So the knight departed, and rode till he came to a strong house, and saw there a lady in her surcoat looking on the meads and the forest; and she had a damsel with her.

[f 4]

Lancelot sees the Queen


And the knight stayed and regarded the lady a long while till he forgat all things else: and therewith came by a knight armed at all arms who said to him: “Sir knight, what abidest thou?”
But he answered him never a word, for he heard him not: then the knight thrust him, and aked what he beheld thus: said he: “I behold even that I will;” and scantly art thou courteous who hast driven away my thought.”
“By the faith thou owest to God,” said the stranger knight, “knowest thou who is the lady thou lookest upon?”
“Meseems I know somewhat,” said he.
“Yea, and who is she?” said the other.
“My lady the Queen,” said the knight.
“So may God help me, thou knowest her strangely: in the devil[’]s name art thou a looking on ladies.”
“Wherefore?” said he.
“Because thou durst not follow me before the Queen whither I will go.”
“Certes,” said the good knight, “if thou durst go, where I dare follow thou wilt pass in courage all the greatest dare-devils that ever were.”
Then departed the knight, and the good knight followed after him: and when they were gone a while the other said to him: “Thou shalt abide tonight with me, and on the morrow I will lead thee whither I said.”
And the good knight asked him whether he must needs so do.
“Yea” said he.
So he said he would do even so; and he lay at the knight’s that even hard by the river of Camelot, and had right good lodging; both he and his squires, and the damsel.

€ How the King of the Outer Marches named Gallehault sent to defy King Arthur: and how Lancelot slew two giants hard by Camelot


NOW the King returned from the wood by high noon,

[f 5]

King Arthur defied

and sat him down to supper before vespers: then came a knight well enow stricken in years, who seemed a good man: armed was he all save the hand and the head and girt with his sword withal: he saluted not the King, but spake to him thus: “King, to thee am I sent by the best man of the World; to wit Gallehault son of the giant-wife, who biddeth thee render to him all thy land: for thirty realms hath he won, yet will he not be crowned king ere he have won the realm of Logres: therefore he biddeth thee pay rent to him of thy land, or hold it of him, and he will hold thee dearer than any king he hath won heretofore.”
“Fair Sir,” said King Arthur, “of God only do I hold my land, nor will I hold it of this man.”
“Surely am I heavy thereof,” said the knight, “for thou shalt lose honour and lands both.”
“Of all thou sayest I am not troubled,” said the King, “for if God will I shall have no harm thereof.”
“King Arthur,” said the knight, “know that my lord defieth thee; and I tell thee on his part that he will be in thy land within seven days; and from the hour that he hath entered therein he will not depart till he have conquered all; and he will take from thee Guenevere thy wife, of whom he hath heard say that she is the prize of beauty and goodliness of all women earthly.”
“Sir knight,” said the King, “I have heard what thou hast said, and wot well that I am nought afeard for all thy great menaces: let each do the best he may.”
So the knight went his ways; but when he was at the hall door he turned about to the King and said; “Ah God what grief and evil hap!” and so gat to horse without more words: and two knights abode him without the door.
Now the King asked Gawain if he had ever seen Gallehault, and he said nay; and so said diverse that were there: but Gallegantin le Gallois, who had been in many a place, said to the King: “Sir I have seen Gallehault; he is greater than

[f 6]

Lancelot follows a certain knight


than any man here by a full foot, and is a right young man: and one of the most liberal men of the world: yet ever I deem him not to be of might to overcome thee; and if I wotted otherwise, liefer were I to die and not live.”
So then they left that speech, and on the morrow the king went a hunting: But here leave we of the King and Queen, and return to telling of the knight who won the Assembly.
WHEN the knight who had won the assembly had lain in the house of him who had drawn him from his thinking, he arose betimes in the morning, and went with his host whither he would lead him, but left the damsel and his squires in the house; for thither he thought to return: so the host went on before, and the good knight followed him till they were come hard by Camelot; and the good knight looked on the town and knew that it was Camelot wherein he was made knight: therewith he fell a thinking a long while, and rode more leisurely; and his host went on afore a great pace to know if he abode for cowardice: but he looked on the lodges, and beheld the Queen leaning out thence. [S]he had been abroad that morning with the King, and was all wrapped about for the cold, which was great as then betwixt All hallows and Yule-tide.
So he said to the Queen: “Dame, art thou Queen Guenevere?”
“Yea,” she said, [“]wherefore askest thou?”
“Certes,” said he, “because such thou seemest verily: or if thou be not she, thou art like to her; and I behold thee now as the foolishest of all knights.”
“Art thou such?” said the Queen.
“Nay,” said he, “but rather he that followeth after.”
Therewith he went his ways toward the forest, and right so came the other knight going down the river-side: he stayed in the meadows, and saw women washing cloths, of whom he asked if they had seen a knight pass thereby; and they said nay, that they were but newcome there.
WHEN the Queen saw the knight and heard what he was asking she called him, and said: “Sir knight I have seen him whom thou seekest, and he is gone his ways to the forest.”

[f 7]

Lancelot like to drown.


So he raised his head, and saw the Queen calling him, and knew her well by her speech: “Dame,” said he, “hast thou seen aught of him?”
“Yea,” said she.
“And whither went he, lady?”
“Right thitherwise,” said she[.]
So he smote his horse with the spurs as soon as she had spoken, yet let him go whither he would; for he thought not but of beholding the Queen; and the horse, desiring to drink, leapt into the river; the water was deep and fordless there, and the horse began to drown, and might not gain the shore because the bank was high; and he sank till the knight was in the water up to his shoulders.
Then the Queen beheld him and fell a crying: “Saint Mary! here is a knight a drowning!”
And Sir Yrain heard her, who was on horse hard by, having been minded to go to the wood with the King, but had arisen over late: he asked the Queen where it was, and she showed him: then went Sire Yrain and took the horse by the bridle and lead him out of the river, and the knight was all drenched: then Sir Yrain asked of him: “Fair Sir how gat ye into the water?”
And he said he had been minded to water his horse.
“In evil wise hast thou watered him,” said Sir Yrain, “for it was a near thing but ye were drowned: but whither goest thou?”
Said he, “I am following after a knight.”
Now Sir Yrain had known him had he born the shield he bare at the Assembly, but he had left it at the house of his host, and had taken one old and worn, because his host feared lest he should be stayed in the house of King Arthur: therefore Sir Yrain had him of the less account, deeming him but of poor and little life: so he asked him if he would follow the knight, and he said yea, so he brought him across the ford: and then fell the knight to looking at the Queen as his horse bore him out of the river.
A little after he met Dagonet the Fool, and Dagonet saluted him, and the knight answered him never a word, for his thoughts were otherwhere: then said Dagonet: “I take thee then,” and led him back with no defence

[f 8]

Dagonet leads away Lancelot

made.
Now Sir Yrain was gone back to the Queen, who said to him: “verily drowned had been the knight but for thee.”
“And overmuch scathe were that, lady,” said he, “for he was full fair.”
“Withal he hath done marvels,” said the Queen, “for he hath won over the water, and will be following the knight.”
And as they talked thus, lo the knight and Dagonet: “See ye,” said the Queen, “someone bringeth back our knight.”
Then went Sir Yrain to the ford, and when he saw that it was Dagonet he was all abashed, and led him before the Queen.
“Dame,” said he, “Dagonet hath taken this knight.”
“Dagonet,” said she, “by the faith thou owest the King, how didst thou take him?”
Said he: “I met him hard by the river, and saluted him, and he answered me never a word; so I took him by the bridle and led him away without defence made.”
“I trow well that thus thou tookest him,” said Sire Yrain, “and I will lodge him.”
“So will I well,” said Dagonet: and the Queen fell a laughing, and all they that heard.
NOW this Dagonet was a knight, but a fool innocent withal; witless was he, and as faintheart as might be; and all and some made game of him for the great follies that he did; and how he would say that he would go seek adventures, and come back with a tale of two knights or three slain by him.
The Queen looked on the knight and beheld him so well fashioned of his body and members that better might not be, and she said: “Dagonet, by the faith thou owest my lord the King and me knowest thou not who he is?”
“Nay my lady,” said he, “so God help me, for he spake never a word to me.”
And the knight held his spear athwart by the thickest; and when he heard the Queen speak he raised his head, and the spear fell in such wise that it pierced the samite of the Queen’s mantle; and she looked on him and said to Sir Yrain: “The knight seemeth to be not right wise.”
“Thou sayest sooth,” said Sir Yrain, “else had he not suffered himself to be led away by Dagonet: and moreover he hath said no word

[f 9]

Lancelot follows the knight again


since he came hither: I have will to ask him who he is: [“]Sir Knight,” said he, “who art thou?”
So he looked up and saw that he was amidst of the hall: “Sir,” said he, “I am a knight.”
“And what seekest thou here? thou art in prison,” said Sir Yrain.
“Even so meseemeth,” said he.
“And wilt thou not tell us more, Sir Knight?”
“I know not what to say,” said he.
“Dame,” said Sir Yrain, “I have him in my keeping, but if thou wilt be my surety I will let him go: shall it suffice, Dagonet?”
“Yea Dame,” said he.
So she laughed: “I will be good surety,” said she.
“Then will I let him go,” said Sir Yrain, and led him out, and showed him the ford, saying: “Fair Sir, lo the ford and the way the knight took whom thou followest.”
So he passed the ford and went his ways after the knight toward the forest. But Sir Yrain went presently to his house, and gat spurless on a horse, and followed the knight from afar, for he would not be known. But the knight entered into the forest and fell a listening if perchance he might hear aught of the knight whom he sought: and he saw a spear standing on a mound and a penon hanging thereto; so thitherward he went, and saw the knight coming down to meet him: “Sir knight,” said he, “I have followed thee till I have found thee.”
“In evil tide,[”] said he, “hast thou found me for thou shalt leave me somewhat of thine.”
“What wouldst thou?” said the good knight.
“I would have thy horse and arms,” said he.
“So shall it not be,” said the knight.
Then he who was come down from the mound, gat somewhat away, and took shield and spear, and dressed himself against him, who arrayed him for defence, and they smote their horses with the spurs, and let run one against the other; and the knight of the mound smote him on the shield that his spear flew apieces; and the other smote him so mightily that he bore him to earth over his horse[’]s crupper; and he took his horse by the bridle and brought it to him.
“Take thy horse,” said he, “and let me go, for I have to do elsewhere.”
Then that knight arose, and said: “Nay not thus dost thou depart from me; needs must

[f 10]

Lancelot and the giants


thou fight with me.”
“Nay,” said he.
“Yea so,” said that other.
So the knight drew aback when he saw he must needs fight, and lighted down, and drew his sword, and they met full fiercely and smote each other on helm and shield; and the knight whom Dagonet had taken enforced himself, and set on full mightily, and made the other give place, till he saw well he might not endure against him, and said: “Stay, I will fight no more with thee; but come thou whither I will lead thee, and I will show thee marvels.”
“And where is it?” said the knight[.]
“Hard hereby,” said he.
“I will go then,” said the knight.
So they mounted on their horses, and Dagonet’s knight had yet his spear unbroken as for the other.
Sir Yrain heard all that they had done and said; and he said to himself that he would yet follow after them.
WHEN the knight who led had gone a space, he said, “Lo there the two giants who have destroyed and wasted a great part of the land: and hereby durst pass no knight that loveth King Arthur, nor the Queen nor those of his house; go meet them if thou darest.”
Then the knight made no words, but took his shield, and set his spear under his saddle, and smote his horse with his spurs, and turned toward one of them: and the giant cried: [“]Sir Knight, if thou hatest King Arthur and the Queen, come on well assured and have no fear of us: but dead art thou if thou lovest them.”
“By my faith do I love them,” said the knight: Then hove up the giant a mace and thought to smite him; but huge he was, and had arms so long that the stroke fell to earth behind the knight and his horse: and the knight smote him so stoutly with his spear amidst the body that he overthrew him dead to earth: then the other giant smote the horse with his mace so mightily that he brake the thighs of him, and he fell adown: but the knight leapt to his feet all wroth that his horse was slain, and drew his sword, and set his shield before him, and came on the giant: and the giant hove up his mace and smote him

[f 11]

Yrain tells of Lancelot’s deeds


on the shield, but the stoke fell to earth, and this knight smote the giant that he smote off his arm from the shoulder: then the giant hove up his foot and thought to smite him, but the knight smote him on the leg that the foot flew off.
Therewith when the giant was dead came a fair maiden before Sir Yrain, and looked on him. “Sir knight,” said she, “it is the third?”
And Sir Yrain wotted not why she spake that word: so he passed on toward the knight, who as soon as he saw him said: “Sir Knight lo you how these evil giants have slain my horse so that I must needs go afoot.”
“Not so,” said Sir Yrain, “for I will give thee mine; but speak to this knight here to lend me his unto Camelot.”
“Sir,” said the good knight, “I thank thee much for thy horse, for at greater need mightest thou not give him me.”
Then he said unto the knight who had brought him thither: “Light down, Sir Knight;” and he did so: then he said to Sir Yrain, “get thou up into the saddle, and he shall mount behind thee.”
So Sir Yrain leapt into the saddle, and the knight behind him, all armed as he was, and so departed; and the knight who had slain the giant went his own ways.
Sir Yrain, and the other knight came to Camelot, and found clad and arrayed after mass heard, and Sir Gawain was bringing her from the minster: the hall was all full of knights; and they who were at the windows said: “Lo a marvel; here cometh Sir Yrain bringing an armed knight.”
And when Sir Yrain was at the foot of the hall he lighted down on to the stair; and the knight said, “I will away.”
But Sir Yrain went up into the hall, and met Sir Gawain and the Queen new-come from the minster.
“Sir Gawain,” said he, folk speak of marvels in Camelot, and that many a hap is there; and certes they say sooth: but I deem not that there be any knight here, who hath seen such marvels as have I this day.
“Tell us thereof.” said Sir Gawain.
So he fell to telling them, and told before all the others what he had seen of the knight; and how he had fought with that knight, and had worsted him at the utterance, had he willed, and how he had slain the giants.

[f 12]

Gawain talks to the Queen of Lancelot


Then leapt forth Dagonet, and cried; “It is the knight I took.”
“Yea forsooth, so is it,” said Sir Yrain.
“Ah ah!” said Dagonet, such knights have I good skill to take.” [A]nd he said to Sir Gawain: “Hadst thou taken him as I, what talk had been of thy prowess!”
Then said Sir Yrain to Sir Gawain: “Furthermore, Sir, have I to tell thee: when the knight had overcome the giants there came a maiden by me who said: “Sir knight it is the third.”
And when Sir Gawain heard this he sunk his head and smiled; and the Queen saw it and took him by the hand, and they went and sat in a window together.
“Gawain,” said she, “by the faith thou owest to the King and to me, tell me wherefore thou smiledst even now.”
“I will tell thee,” said he; “I smiled of what Sir Yrain said concerning the damsel’s word, the third it is: mindest thou not what the damsel said to thee in the Dolorous Gard who was in prison in the tower there?”
“Nay I mind me not,” said the Queen.
Quoth Gawain: “She said to us that we should hear tidings of the knight who let us enter into the Dolorous Gard, at the first Assembly which should be in the realm of Logres, at the second and at the third to wit: and this is the third,” said Sir Gawain; “and know of a sooth that the knight who hath slain the giants is Sir Lancelot of the Lake.”
“I trow it well,” said the Queen.
But now Dagonet made such a noise and stir that men might scarce bear him, and said to everyone, [“]I have taken the knight who won the giants.[”]
So abode they the coming of the King at Vesper-tide, and told him of the knight who had slain the giants: and great joy had the King thereof, and all his company and the folk of the land.”
But Dagonet came to the [K]ing and said: “Sir I have taken the good knight.”
And the King laughed loud with a right good will.

€ How Lancelot slew a knight who said he loved the wounded less than the wounder; and how he was assailed of forty knights, and set in prison the Lady of Mallehault


[f 13]

Lancelot well lodged.

SO long rode the knight through the forest, that he passed throughout it, and night-fall was nigh: then he met a vavassor who was riding in the wood with his squire, and had taken a fawn: the vavassor saluted him and said; “Sir it is time to house you; and so please you a good lodging shall ye have of me.”
The knight agreed thereto and went with him: and therewith came the damsel who said to Sir Yrain; [“]It is the third;[”] and they went all four to the house of the vavassor and were well lodged that night.
On the morrow the knight went his ways with the damsel, and they came at the hour of tierce to the entry of a causeway which endured well nigh a league, and on either side were quagmires great and deep: at the entry of the causeway was a knight armed at all arms, and when the good knight drew near to go on his ways the other stood forth and asked him who he was, and the good knight answered that he was a knight of King Arthur’s house.
“Of a sooth then,” quote the knight of the causeway, “thou passest not hereby.”
“Wherefore?,” said the good knight[.]
“Because they of the King’s house have wrought my kinsman scathe.”
“What scathe?” said the good knight.
“If befell,” said the other, “that a wounded knight came a while agone before King Arthur, and prayed him to let rid him by such a knight as would swear by the holy things to avenge him on all such as said they loved and wounder better than wounded: now this wounded knight had slain a cousin germain of mine, a right valiant man: and because there was a knight of King Arthur’s house who took in hand to fulfill the will of the wounded, I am abiding in this place with the intent to avenge the death of my cousin: and wot well that he who hath taken this deed on him hath still enough to do.”
“Hour,” said the good knight, “art thou of the number of those that love better the dead than the living.”
“Of good right were I,” said he, “for the dead man was my kinsman as I have told thee.”

[f 14]

Lancelot slayeth his host


“Verily,” said the good knight, “that grieveth me, for I must needs fight with thee, whenas I was deeming to go my ways freely.”
“Art thou then,” said he, “the knight who would avenge the wounded?”
He said he would do his might thereto.
“Of a sooth then,” said the other, “thou shalt slay me or I will avenge my kinsman.”
So they departed each from other, and came together as fast as the horses might drive, and he of the causeway brake his spear, but the other smote him so rudely that he bare him to earth: but young and lithe he was, and gat straightway to his feet, and put his shield before him, and drew his sword: but the good knight lighted down on foot, and took the shield from his neck and drew his sword, and they fell on each other briskly enow, but in the end the knight of the causeway began to draw aback and give place, and the good knight enforced him much, for he had yet heart and might enow, and he gave him such a stroke that he made a great piece of his shield fly about the place; and his foe had lost much blood and one of the laces of his helm was broken which grieved him sore. Therewith the good knight tore the helm from the head of him, and cast it away as far as he could, and then said to him: “Now must thou grant that thou lovest the wounded better than the wounder.”
“I see nought as yet to make me say so,” said the other.
“Needs must thou say so or die,” said the good knight, and fell on him therewith; but he set what of shield he had above his head, and defended him right valiantly a long while, but in the end he might not endure, and began again to give place: and again the good knight prayed him to say that he loved better the wounded than the wounder, but he would not: and the good knight fetched him a blow on the left arm, and wounded him sore and his shield felt to earth; then he fell on him with all his might, and smote him on his head all bare of helm, and clave it to the teeth, and dead fell the aforesaid knight of the causeway; whereof the other was sore grieved; but he might not amend it.   

[f 15]

Lancelot set in prison of the Lady of Mallehault.

THEN he came to his horse which the maiden held, and mounted thereon; and they twain rode along the causeway, and until they came to a city called the Pike of Mallehault: then came up with them two squires, whereof one bare the shield, and the other the helm of the new-slain knight: these passed straight before going a great gallop, and spake never a word: But the knight went on toward the city he and his maiden, and as they drew nigh a great cry arose, and there came to meet them knights and men-at-arms more than forty, coming on all together with their spears dressed against him and his horse; and they assailed him till they bore him to earth and slew his horse, and he abode on foot defending himself right valiantly with his sword, smiting asunder their spears and slaying their horses: but when he saw that he might not abide them he cast himself under the stair of a strong house that was thereby, and defended him as long as he might.
Then came thither the lady of the city and bade him yield him to her.
“Dame,” said he,” wherein have I done amiss?”
“Thou hast slain the son of my seneschal here.”
“Dame,” said he, “I might none otherwise do, for need drave me.”
“Yield thee to me,” said she, “I counsel thee.”
So he reached his sword to her, and she led him into her house into prison, and set him in a jail which was tiled with stone; and was two toises square, and as high as the paring of the hall which was full fair within: and in each square of the jail were two windows of glass, so clear that whoso was therein might see all who entered into the hall.
Of that jail knew the maiden nought, for she departed from before the gate, deeming surely that the knight was dead: so she went forth making her moan, nor durst she go back to the Lady of the Lake; but betook her to the first house of religion she might find: but now the tale leaveth to tell of her awhile, and of the knight who was in prison, and returneth to King Arthur.

[f 16]

King Arthur summoned to help the Lady of Selices

€ How Gallehault gathered together against King Arthur on a day while Lancelot was yet in prison: and how on the morrow Lancelot was delivered from prison, and vanquished the assembly between the two Kings.
IT befell on a day while the King abode at Camelot that the lady of the Marches of Selices sent him a message to wit how that Gallehault the son of the Giantwife was come into her land, and had taken it away from her, saving two castles which she had in the land there: “Wherefore King Arthur,” quoth the message, “my Lady biddeth thee come and defend thy land, for she may not hold long but if thou come.”
“I will come speedily” said the King, “hath he a many men?”
“He hath two hundred thousand men a-horseback.”
“Fair friend, go tell thy lady that I will depart tomorrow to go against Gallehault.”
“Sir,” said his men, “do it not, but wait for thy folk, for overmany hath he; and thou shouldest not put thyself in adventure.”
“Never may God help me,” said the King, “if folk fall on my land, and I abide more than one night in any town till I meet them.[”]
So on the morrow the King departed and went till he came to the castle wherein was the Maiden of the Marches; and he had but seven thousand knights; but he had let cry and command, according to the custom that then was, to have together all his power[.]
Gallehault held siege before the said castle, and had brought thither a manner of folk who shot poisoned arrows, and were well armed as for footmen: and he had brought thither engines of iron in carts and in chariots so many that they environed about his host so that no enemies might fall on them unwares from behind.
Now Gallehault heard say that King Arthur was come with but few folk: so he bade to him his men, to wit, the thirty Kings he had conquered, and of the others as many as he would[.]

[f 17]

Gallehault[’]s Assembling 

“Lords,” said he, “King Arthur is come, and hath but few folk as I hear tell: now it sorteth not with my honour that my proper host should be arrayed against him, while he hath but few folk; yet would I that my men should go against his.”
“Sir,” said the King of the Hundred Knights, [“]so please thee I will go tomorrow morning and look on his host.”
“It is well said,” quoth Gallehault.
ON the morrow came the King of the Hundred Knights and drew nigh the castle wherein was the King to look on the host of King Arthur: now about a seven leagues English herefrom, was a city called the Pike of Mallehault, and thereby was a high mount nigher to the host than the city: thereon mounted the King of the Hundred Knights, to espy the host of King Arthur, and by his deeming they were not more than seven thousand: so he gat back to Gallehault and said to him: “Sir, I have held account of their folk, and deem them not more than ten thousand.”
He spake thus measurely for that he would not be blamed of Gallehault’s men.
So Gallehault said: “Take ten thousand men according to thy will, and go deal with them.”
“With a good will Sir,” said the King of the Hundred Knights.
So he chose ten thousand men such as he would, and they armed them at all points, and went without array against the host of King Arthur; and neither was muster made of them, nor battle arrayed.
Then came tidings into the host of King Arthur that Gallenhault[’]s folk were coming on in disarray, and they armed them speedily: Gawain came to King Arthur his uncle and said: “Sir the Knights of Gallehault come on us to draw us to the gathering.”
“Fair nephew,” said King Arthur, go thou against them with as many men as we have: but divide your bands and array your battles, and look to it that it be done wisely; for they have many more folk than we have as yet.”
“Sir,” said Sir Gawain, it shall be done in the best wise we may.”

[f 18]

The two hosts meet in battle. 

So Sir Gawain and the others passed the ford; for the host was on a river; and when they were over the water they divided their bands and arrayed their battles: but the folk of Gallenhault came on without array: so Sir Gawain sent a battle against them to join the fight; and they of Gallehault fell on, and King Arthurs’ folk abode them full well, and marvellously began the play.
But the folk of King Arthur were put to the worse, for they might not abide their foes, who were overmany; so when Sir Gawain saw that it was timely he sent them another battle, and then a third and then a fourth; and so even as he saw that the foes enforced them he sent men to meet them; and when he saw that the ten thousand knights were come, he rode to gather against them: now all they did well, but Sir Gawain overpast all other: many there were of King Arthur’s house who did marvels of arms, and in likewise of Gallehault’s. A long while lasted the play and enow of knights were slain of either side: the folk of Gallehault might not abide the folk of King Arthur, and for all that they were the more they were discomfited, and the seven thousand of King Arthur chaced them away.
BUT when the King of the Hundred Knights saw his folk turn to flight he was full sorry; for there he himself had played full manly: so he sent to Gallehault to have more knights, whereas he might not endure nor suffer the power of King Arthur: so Gallehault sent him thirty thousand who came flock-meal into the fray so that the dust flew up into the air: and when Sir Gawain saw them, and the other folk of King Arthur, it is no marvel that they were afeard: but the King of the Hundred Knights saw them with great joy; and they turned again, he and his folk and fell fiercely upon those of King Arthur: and Sir Gawain drew him aback, him and his folk, and held them together; for they doubted their enemies, who came on

 [f 19]

Great deeds of Sir Gawain

desiring to join battle: Then said Sir Gawain to his folk: “Now, let see who shall do well; or else shall we lose all and therewith ourselves!”
So Sir Gawain and his folk plucked up heart, and smote so lustily that their spears flew a pieces, and many a man beat down either the other: there was the play marvellous, and the King’s folk endured well, and defended them stoutly; but so many were there of the other side that but for the might of Sir Gawain all they of the King had been taken and slain: but he did so well that never knight did better: none the less his great deeds might not avail them long, for overmany were they of the other side, who by the force of many folk chaced them down to the ford: there Sir Gawain and the knights of King Arthur’s house abode so much that never knights abade more: and Sir Gawain passed them over the ford before, and then began a battle full great before the said castle; but Sir Gawain so played that the folk of King Arthur gat them therein: but ever had they lost a many; for Gallehault’s folk had taken many knights.
Then they drew back on either side for the night-season: but Sir Gawain had that day suffered so much of anguish and travail, and had so enforced him to do well that he was now in such a plight that he fell fainting from his horse, and needs was to bear him home to his lodging: the King and the Queen, and the other knights were afraid for him lest he were undone with the battle he had sustained daylong so mightily.
Now the castle appertained to a lady right noble, wise, and good, a widow with a child; and she was much beloved of all those that knew her; and the folk of the land loved and prized her so much, that when other folk asked them, who is your lady? they would answer, “The Queen of all ladies.” THIS lady had a knight in prison in her jail, which was great enow, and so light that he might well see all

[f 20]

The Lady of Mallehault talks with the prisoner

folk of that place: now on the night of the day whereon the battle had been the knights of that city came before the lady and told her all the tidings thereof: and she asked them who had done best, and they said, “Sir Gawain, for us seemeth that no knight ever did so well.”
The knight who was in prison heard these tidings, and when the sergeants who guarded him brought him his meat he asked them: “Who is the knight who is most privy with your lady?” So they named him.
“Prithee,” said the prisoner, “bring him to speech with me.”
“Right willingly” said they, and went to him and said: “The knight who is in prison would speak with thee.”
And he went thither straightway: to whom said the knight: “So please thee pray my lady to speak with me for for this cause have I sent for thee.”
[“]Right willingly fair Sir,” said he; and departed from the jail and came to the lady and said to her, “Dame, give me a gift.”
“What gift?” said she.
“Grant it me,” said he, [“]and then will I tell thee.”
“Speak assuredly,” said she, if thou hast need of aught I will give it to thee.”
“I thank thee dame, and now hast thou granted me that thou wilt speak with the knight who is in prison here.”
“Lead him hither then,” said she.
The knight brought him thither and departed leaving them to speak together.
“What wouldest thou fair Sir,” said the lady, “that thou wouldst speak with me?”
“Lady,” said he, “I would pray thee to deliver me: for I have heard that King Arthur is in this land, and I am a poor batchelor, but yet know diverse of his folk who would speedily give me my ransom.”
“Fair Sir,” said she, “I hold thee not for any covetise of ransom but for justice, whereas thou knowest well thou hast done great outrage.”
“Dame,” said he, “the deed I may not deny, nor may it be otherwise with my honour saved; yet wilt thou do well to deliver me, for I have heard say that there was an Assembly in this land

[f 21]

The Lady gives the prisoner leave to go to the Assembly

and that three days hence there will be yet another; so spake the knights today amidst the hall: wherefore if thou wilt not deliver me, let me go and I pledge myself to thee that I will come back at the night-tide into they prison, if I have not forfeited my body.”
“With a good will,” said she, “so that I know thy name.”
“It may not be,” said he.
“Then thou goest not,” she said.
“Ha lady,” said he, “let me go, and I promise that I will tell thee my name timely.”
“Thou promisest me?” said she.
“Yea,” said he.
“Go then, said she, “on such covenant that thou come back at even to my prison, if so be thou have not made forfeit of thy body.”
“I promise,” said he.
So she took his pledge, and he went back into the jail, and abode there all that day and the next.
Now there came folk from all parts to King Arthur; and on the other side Gallehault’s men came to him and said: “Sir gather we together tomorrow against them of King Arthur?”
“Yea,” said Gallehault, “I will choose such as shall go.”
“To choose,” said they, “ availed nought but ye send away such as be ready to flee: send away now those who will flee, and keep only such as shall flee not.”
“It is well said,” quoth he, “and I will those forty thousand, who fled not that other time go; and in three days from tomorrow I will let my own host go forth.[”]
The night wore away, and King Arthur charged his folk that none should cross the water against them, and they did even as the King commanded: and the knights from all the countryside were come to the King’s host: then the Lady of the city delivered to the knight she held in prison a horse and a red shield, and the same arms that he had when she took him, for he would none other.
ON the morrow he went forth all-armed from the city and went toward the host of King Arthur, which lay above the ford: thereby was a lodge wherein were the King and

 [f 22]

The Red Knight pensive by the river

the Queen set to look on with divers dames and damsels; and Sir Gawain also, for as sick as he was let himself be borne thither.
The knight of the red shield stayed him by the ford resting on his spear; and the folk of Gallehault came on to the fray led on by a king of them he had conquered, who as they drew nigh departed from his folk, and went forth alone with his shield about his neck.
Then they of the host of King Arthur fell a crying on the Knight of the red shield, “Lo one who abideth thee; this long while he goeth all alone.”
So said they, but he answered never a word: and the said afore-conquered King drew very nigh, and the varlets grew a-weary of crying on the Knight of the red shield; but a certain lad brisk and light came to him, and took the red shield from his neck, and hung it to his own, nor ever did the Knight take any heed thereof: and another lad who was a foot deemed he was witless, and took up a clod of earth, and cast at him and smote him on the nose-piece of his helm, and cried: “Knight foredone, what dreamest thou!”
Now the clod was somewhat wet, and the water therefrom ran into his eyes, and when he felt it he opened his eyes, and lo the afore-conquered King coming on him: so he smote his horse with the spurs, and sunk his spear, and met him with great might: the King smote him on the foot, but the hauberk was good and perished not, and the spear flew a-pieces: but the Knight smote him so stoutly and mightily that he fell, man and horse even on the ground they stood on.
So after the Knight had striken this stroke the lad who had taken the shield from his neck came to the Knight, and took him by the rein and hung his shield about his neck, saying: “Sir take it, for thou shalt use it better than I deemed ye would.”
The Knight looked on him and saw that he hung his shield to his neck, took it, but made no semblance of heeding him.
The folk of the King overthrown when they saw him fall pricked on to his help: and therewith the battles of King Arthur arrayed them: and when they were

[f 23]

The Red Knight vanquisheth all.

arrayed they passed the ford, and the knights drew one to the other.
Then the Knight of the red shield let run on a fellow of the King he had beaten down, and smote him so hard that he bare him to earth, and the spear flew a-pieces; and a right fair play began on both sides.
The battles of King Arthur crossed the ford thronging thick one on another; and from the other side came the folk of Gallehault sore desiring to join battle with the men of Arthur; which same received them on the iron of their spears that left many dead and many wounded that day: nevertheless the men of Gallehault bore themselves valiantly; but Arthur’s men more valiantly yet: and good need there was thereof, for they were but a twenty thousand, and the others sixty thousand.
A long while endured the said medley, and right good was the play, and Gallehault’s folk did well, and well did King Arthur[’]s folk; but he of the red arms vanquished all, and at vespers he departed, and so privily that none knew where he had betaken him.

€ How King Arthur was reproved of his vices and was right well counselled by a knight who came into his host; and how Gallehault gave truce to King Arthur for a year’s space.


RIGHT great fear had King Arthur to lose his lands and honour, and to be bewrayed of his men as those this clerks foretold him: on the other side Gallehault spake to his men saying that it was no honour to war against the King in this wise: “For overfew folk hath he, and if I conquer him and his land I shall have no honour therewith.”

“Sir,” said his men, “what wouldest thou say?”

“I shall tell you,” said he, “it liketh me not to war in this wise; so I shall give him truce for a year, on the covenant that he will bring all his might at the year’s end: thus shall I have greater honour if I conquer his land than I should

[f 24]

King Arthur reproved of his sins.

have otherwise.”
Now there came herewith into the host of King Arthur a man of great wisdom, whereof the King was much comforted, for he deemed well that God had sent him help: so he gat to horse, and went to meet him with a great company and saluted him, but the good-man saluted him not again, but said as one wroth: “Of thy healeh have I no keep, for thou art the greatest sinner of all sinners; therefore I love thee not: and well it seemeth, for all honour earthly hast thou gone nigh to lose.”
Then the folk drew them aback, and those twain rode alone together, and the King said: “Ha fair master, tell me why thou hast no heed of my health, and why I am so vile a sinner.”
“I will tell thee,” said the good man, “for I know better what thou art than thou thyself: for know well that thou wert not born in lawful wedlock but in the great sin of adultery: and also ought thou to know that mortal man never gave thee thy lordship to keep, but God only, to the end that thou migtest keep it in goodly wise: but so evilly dost thou keep it, that thou thyself destroyest it who ought to guard it: for the right of the poor man and the feeble may not come before thee, when ever by his might is the rich man disloyal before thy face: poor in thy lordship is the right of the widow and the orphan; wherefore God shall punish thee full cruelly, who hath said by the mouth of the prophet David that he is the guard of the widows, and sustaineth the orphans, and will destroy the way of the ungodly.
What wilt thou say to God of thy people he hath given thee? therefore shalt thou come to destruction, for if God destroyeth the ungodly thee first of all will he destroy; for of all the ungodly art thou the ungodliest.”
“Ha fair sweet master,” said the King, “for God’s love counsel me; for certes I am sore afraid.”
“The foot asketh counsel, and troweth it not?” said the master.
“By my faith,” said the King, “whatso thou biddest that will I do.”
And therewithal came the twain talking to the

[f 25]

King Arthur doeth penance

tent of the King; and the King took up the word again, and said: “Fair master, for God’s love counsel me, for great is my need thereof.”
Then said the goodman: “Timely yet is the counsel if thou wilt trow in me, and I shall teach thee the beginning of the way of health: go thou into thy chapel, and bid to thee the best clerks and the wisest that thou mayst find in thy land, and there to all of them together confess all the sins that thy heart[’]s memory may teach thy tongue: and look to it that heart and mouth go together, for nought availeth the confession if the heart repenteth not: far art thou put from the love of our Lord God, and mayst not win it again save by three things: first by confession of the mouth, secondly by contrition of the heart, and thirdly by pain of the body and by works of alms and charity: such is the right way to the love of God. Go thy ways then and shrive thee in such wise and receive the discipline at the hands of thy confessors; for it is a token of well-closing, and were I appointed to hear confessions thine would I hear: but none may do but according to ordinance: then after thy confession come to me, and I hope that God will give thee good counsel, if misdoing undo thee not. Go thy ways and do as I have bidden.”
Then bade the King his bishops to him, whereof were many in the host, and they came all into his chapel: and he came before them all naked and weeping, and holding his hands full of little rods, which he threw ever before them sighing, and bidding them take vengeance on him: “For I am the vilest sinner and the most disloyal of the world.”
And they, when they heard were all abashed, and said: “Sir, what aileth thee?”
Said he, “I come before you as my fathers, and before you all would I confess to God all my great sins and felonies; for I am the greatest sinner of all sinners.”
The bishops and prelates had great pity of him hereat, and fell a weeping; but he cast him on his keens before them all naked and unshod till he had confessed to his deeming all his

[f 26]

King Arthur prayeth counsel of the good man

great sins that he might call to mind; and afterwards he received the discipline of them, and full sweetly withal he took it.
Then he went back to the master, and he asked him how he had done; and he answered that he had confessed him of all his sins whereof he had memory; but the good man said to him: “Art thou shriven of thy great sin against King Ban of Benwyk, who died in thy service; and against his wife who was disinherited by the death of her lord? [O]f her son whom she lost I speak not, for one loss was lighter than the other.”
Then was the King all abashed, and said; “Certes master nay:” for I have forgotten it, yet great was the sin.”
And he returned straightway to his chapel, and found the clerks yet there speaking of his confession, and he told them of that sin: but they gave him no penance either for that or for the others, for on one matter they were not of accord: so he had respite of them till more counsel should be holden.
THEN returned the King to his master, who asked him what he had done; and he said: “Fair Sir, give me counsel, and I will trow in whatso thou sayest; for much am I adread of my men falling from me.”
“No marvel if they fail thee,” said the good man, “for if a man fail himself well may other fail him; and whereas thou hast misdone against the maker of the great lordship he hath given thee, and hast set it at nought, needs must thy folk fail thee: notwithstanding some shall fail thee with their will, and othersome against their will: they shall fail thee of their own will whom thou shouldest have honoured greatly, to wit, the common folk of the land by whom thou shouldest be maintained: for no realm may be upheld if the commons will not have it: so shall these fail thee of their own will. But the others who without their will shall fail thee, are they of thine house to whom thou hast given great riches; and these by God[’]s will shall fail thee against their will; and so both one and other shall fail thee.

[f 27]

The counsel of the good man

For these come into they power perforce, because they must needs hold safe their lands and honour; but those come to thee for the good thou hast done to them, and yet doest. But they who come to thee perforce, avail thee nothing more that if they were dead, for the heartless body no might may have. Think thou how much may avail shield or hauberk or helm, spear or sword, or speed of horse without the heart of a man: sure for nought might they avail: yea and if thou hadst all men which have been since the world’s beginning, and all garnished and arrayed with arms, yet if they lacked the heart, of no more aid were they unto thee than if they were otherwhere. Lo these are they, who perforce come under thee; of whom thou hast gained the bodies and lost the hearts. What! deemest thou I say thee sooth?”
“Certes,” said the King, “meseemeth ‘tis over-true: but for God’s sake counsel me what I may do: for right so do they tell me, who expound my dreams to me, that it will befal me: wherefore for God’s love, since thou hast taken in hand to counsel me, counsel me so much that I may have help thereof, if it may be.”
“I will counsel thee,” said the good man, “unto thine honour, and the profit of thy soul: and the fairest of crafts will I learn thee, for I will learn thee to heal the sick heart, and make it whole, a fair feat of medecine! give me thy word then to do as I will have thee.”
“Certes Master,” said he, “so will I.”
“Then will I tell thee,” said the goodman, what thou shalt do to have aid and counsel; and make thou no long delay therein. Thou shalt go and abide in they country, passing through thy good towns, and dwelling in each more or less according to the greatness and worth thereof: but take thou heed to abide long enow to hear the rights and the wrongs of great and small.

[f 28] 

King Arthur counselled

for the poor man shall be far more joyous if he have right in his quarrel before thee than before any other, and will say everywhere that thou hast guarded his right for him: and thus ought a King to do who will win the love of God and the World. Moreover I shall tell thee what thou shouldest do: thou shalt summon to thee the great men of the country when thou art abiding in any town, and the knights, both rich and poor; and they shall come to thee willingly or perforce, and thou shalt go to meet them and shall give them great welcome and honour: and whereas thou seest batchelor in poverty, and that he hath not forgotten prowess of heart, but is left among poor folk, forget him not for his poverty, nor for his lowly lineage; for under lack of goods lieth oft a wealthy heart; and oft times is a poor heart wrapped about with great store of gold and land.
But whereas thou by thyself alone mayst not know the good and evil of every country-side, meet it is that thou wheresoever thou comest seek for the loyallest knight thereof, and the best furnished with goodness and prowess: by whose report shalt thou do good to the knights of his country; for none knoweth so well a valiant man as he who is endowed with valiancy: and when he shall do thee to wit of the good needy man who keepeth him afar from thee, take heed that thou holdest notso dear the company of the great, as not to visit him and make him thy friend: for so with thou win the love of all men by thy lowliness: nor mayst thou see any man, be he never so high, in whom is wit and kindness, but if thou rise from before him, to go into the fellowship of the needy, he will hold it wisely done and valiantly: and if fools account it evil, trouble not thyself: for the word of the fool waneth ever; and ever waxeth the praise of the wise.

[f 29]

King Arthur counselled

Furthermore hold fellowship with the barons of thy realm, for never ought one to be worsened by other.
NOW when thou hast sojourned in the town according to thy pleasure, thou mayst depart to such fellowship as thou hast had. Then are arrayed good horses, rich cloths, vessels of gold and silver, and money good store, and whenso thou seest a good knight and needy whom thou knowest, draw nigh to him and make him good cheer; light down from thy horse and give it unto him, saying that thou wilt have him keep it for the love of thee, and after let give him of thy gold; which same thou shalt give him for the defraying of his costs, but the horse for his prowess sake: so shalt thou give to the needy valiant.
But otherwise shalt thou give to the vavassor; for if he be well at ease in his house thou shalt give him robes and palfreys to serve him at need; but take heed that thou hast sat thereon first, for then shall he say that he hath the palfrey whereon thou hast ridden.
Take heed that thou increasest ever the fiefs of the needy according to their substance; for so shalt thou win the hearts of them, and better shall the lands be warded; for thou mayst do therewith what thou wilt by them alone: and thou shouldst be better content that valiant men should have some part in the honour of thy lands than that thou shouldest lose both land and honour in shameful wise.
Furthermore to great men shalt thou give gifts: and what? rich vessels forsooth, and jewels, and fair cloths of silk; and thou shalt not look so much to the richness of the said gifts as to the beauty of them and the pleasantness: for why give riches to the rich: but to the poor man is it good to give things good rather than fair; for the needy needeth not but amending; and the rich may not give richly to all but he will love all his riches, nor is it mastery to give to a man whereof he hath enow.

[f 30]

King Arthur would be counselled of his dreams.

Moreover thou must give according to right; and so doing must thou cause the Queen to give to the dames and the damsels of the country whereunto she cometh. Needs also must thou give as the wise man biddeth; and be as joyous in giving as the other in taking gift; nor give with sour cheer, but making joyous countenance. For in two wise is a gift given, and that which is given grudgingly is no gift. Thou wettest well that by giving loseth no man his heritage, but by overmuch holding fast mayst thou come to ill: by bounty never was man destroyed, but there have been whom love hath exiled. Ever give enough, and ever shalt thou have enough wherewith; for if thou givest ever thy land shalt thou have: wherefore look to it to give and not to spare: which if thou doest, thou shalt win the honour of the world, the hearts of folk and the love of our Lord God: and by the lack of these three things cometh a man to nought; nor should any turn his mind to the gaining of aught else.
WHAT seemeth thee; have I counselled thee faithfully?”
“Certes Master,” said he, “well hast thou counselled me; and even so shall I do, if God lead me back in honour to my country. But for God’s sake counsel me concerning the great marvel which they told me who expounded my dream to me, how that nought might keep me from the losing of my lands save the Wild lion and the Leech without Medecine by the counsel of the Flower: make me wise of these three things if so it may be; for I may not understand them.”
“Hearken,” said the good man, “I have shown thee why thou hast lost the heart of the folk, and how thou mayst regain it; and furthermore I will tell thee of these three things that thou prayest me of: and wot that they said not thus causeless; for this Lion is God; and

 [f 31]

The good man interpreteth the dreams

God is betokened by the Lion because of the nature of the lion which are diverse from other beasts: but whereas them seemed he was wild a great marvel is that: they called him wild because they seemed to see him in the water; which water is the World; for even as the fishes may live not save in the water, even so may we live not without the World, that is to say the things of the World; and in this World are enwrapped they who saw the Lion; and because they were stained with the sin of the World it befel them to see the Lion in the water: for had they been such as they should have been, loyal to wit, chaste, truthful, piteous and religious, they had seen the Lion in Heaven: for Heaven is the abode everlasting ordained for man, if he will enter it according to the commandment of his Creator: nought such is the Earth, but a ditch digged rather, and a grave for man that liveth contrary to Reason, that is to say in Pride, in Cruelty, in Felony, in Avarice, in Covetise, in Luxury. Even such were those clerks who interpreted thy dream for thee: yet for the might of the priesthood that was in them were they able to see the power of the Lion: but such earthly priesthood might see nought save the Lion; for nought knew they what it might betoken; moreover they deemed they saw it in the water, wherein were they deceived; and therefore they called it Wild.
[“]But the Lion is Jesus Christ, for even as the Lion is lord of all beasts, so is God lord of all things: other conditions hath the Lion also whereby he betokeneth God, whereof I will not speak as now: but so much I say unto thee that this is that Lion by whom thou shalt be holpen if ever thou art holpen.”
“Master,” said the King, “I have well heard the interpretation of the Lion, and right well hast thou showed it me: now tell me of the Leech without Medecine, for Leech without Medecine deemed I never might be

 [f 32]

The dreams interpreted

“The more I behold thee,” said the Master, “the greater thy folly seemeth to me; for hadst thou good wit thou hadst known these things one by the other; but since I have begun to counsel a King’s Crown, I will tell thee what is the Leech without Medecine.[”]
“KNOW,” said the good man, that the leech without Medecine is God, and that all other leeches have of him what wit is in them to know the ills of the body and the healing of them: and all that they do is by him: for he giveth them herbs whereby they bring about the healing of the body: but he without herbs healeth well: wherefore hath he the name of the Leech without Medicine, and by him mayst thou be healed if he will.
[“]Now,” said the good man, “hast thou well understood that I have told thee?”
“Certes Master,” said he, right well hast thou shown it me: but yet me marvelleth of the Flower that should give me counsel; for I see in no manner wise how a flower may speak or give me any counsel.”
“Ha,” said the good man, “I shall show thee well, and do thee to wit: the Flower is the Mother of our Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ, wherein the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost enshadowed them without corrupting her virginity, or the flower which is in her; and she it is who prayeth for all poor sinner to her dear son, and she it is who, if thou dost her commandment, shall make thy peace with the Wild Lion and the Leech without Medecine, if so be thou doest as I have bidden.”
So he said that so he would if God led him into his own country with honour.
“Even so will he do,” said the good man.
“So may God give me ease my Master,” said the King “thou hast learned me well to know the Flower, by the counsel whereof the Wild Lion may aid me, and the Leech without Medecine.

 [f 33]

Gallehault will have truce

So when they had finished their counsel came two knights, Kings both of them, who were from the host of Gallehault, and one was the King of the Hundred Knights, and the other the King first conquered; the King turned him to meet them; albeit he deemed not that they had been kings.
“Sir,” said the King of the Hundred Knights, “Gallehault sendeth me to thee, and would have thee give him truce tomorrow for a year, and ye both to return to this self same place, on such covenant that either shall bring all his might hither: for he deemeth it no honour to tourney with thee in this wise, ye being but a few folk; and him seemeth there is no King in the the World so high as thou.”
“I grant it,” said King Arthur.
“And moreover he would have the Good Knight,[”] saith he, [“]if he may be found.”
Therewith they departed, and returned to their lord.
The King abode full pensive for love of the Good Knight of the red arms, because Gallehault claimed him: but the good man areded the King and said: “King Arthur, now mayst thou see that the counsel of the Flower hath been good at need, and hath already prayed for thee; for thou wert at point to lose they land.”
“Sir, thou sayest sooth; but tell me if the good knight who hath vanquished this assembly shall be with Gallehault?”
“Nay sure,” said the good man.
“Ah,” said the King, “for God’s sake bring me to know him.”
“Such things will easily befall thee,” said the good man, “nor wilt thou learn more of me.”
So on the morrow King Arthur departed, and came into his own land, and had Gawain with him in a litter: a long while he dwelt at Carduel, and forgat not the teaching of the good man.

 [f 34]

Tidings of the Assembly brought to the Lady of Mallehault.

But Gallehault brought his host into his own country.

€ How after Lancelot had vanquished the assembly he returned to the prison of the Lady of Mallehault; and how she knew him by his horse and his hurts, which were even such as the knight had who vanquished the assembly.

TELLS the tale, that the night whereon Lancelot departed from the assembly as ye have heard, he came to Mallehault, and it was night when he came; so he entered into the hall as privily as might be, and there the Lady let wait for him, being well assured that he would return; and when he was disarmed he entered into the jail, and laid him down, for nought might he eat.
The same night came back the knights whom the Lady of Mallehault had sent to the host; of whom the Lady asked news concerning the assembly, and how men had done on this side or that: and they said that the knight with the red shield had conquered all: and as she heard this she fell a looking on a maiden her cousin german who was lady of all her household: then she abode till the knights were departed thence, and so soon as she was rid of them, she called her cousin and said to her: “May not this be our knight?”
“Dame,” said she, “we may soon know if ye will.”
“Yea, but I will,” said the Lady, “that none know thereof, saving us twain.”
“Dame,” said she, [“]with a good will.” And therewith the damsel cleared the house so that there was none left save they twain: and the damsel bore a handful of candles, and they entered into the stable, and found the horse wounded in many places and lying before the manger, for he might not eat.
Then said the Lady, “So may God be good to me, thou seemest well to be the horse of a valiant man! what

[f 35]

The Lady goeth to see the knight in prison

sayest thou, cousin?”
“Madam, meseemeth he hath had more labour than rest; but he is not him that the knight led away hence.”
“Yea, but wot ye,” said the Lady, “that he hath used more than one: come let us go look on the arms, and see what seemeth of them.”
So they went into the chamber wherein they were, and found the hauberk all perished and full of great rents, and the shield cloven and clipped and shorn with great strokes of swords this way and that, and the helm to shattered and dinted, with the nasal cut back from it: then said the Lady to her cousin: “What seemeth thee of these arms?”
“Certes,” said she, “meseemeth that whoso bore them was not over idle.”
“Thou mayst well say,” said the Lady, “that the most valiant man who ever came hither hath borne them.”
“Dame,” said she, “it may well be.”
“Now go we,” said the Lady, “and look on the knight; I have not yet seen enow to be full sure.”
So they came to the door of the jail and found it open, and the lady took a candle, and put her head in at the door, and saw the knight lying on his bed all naked, but he had drawn the coverlet up from his feet, but his arms were cast without because of the heat, and full fast he slept: his face and his forehead were torn and his hands swollen and full of blood, and his shoulders all cut about and wounded.  So she looked on her damsel and and fell a laughing; “Certes thou shalt see marvels,[”] said she.
Then she entered into the jail and looked all about, and gave the candles to the damsel to hold, and walked a little forward and the damsel said; “What wilt thou?”

[f 36]

The Lady would kiss the knight

Said the Lady: “Never shall I be at such good point to kiss him as now.”
“Come away my Lady,” said she, “and do no such folly; for if he knew thereof he should account the less of thee:  be not, as all women, so surprised by him, that he may mind you of the shame hereafter.”
Said the Lady, “What shame in God’s name may I have of such a valiant man?”
“Ah dame,” said the damsel, “with his pleasure will he please him; and if this be not his pleasure then shall the shame be double: and such an one may he be as hath all valiancy of body but lacketh valiancy of heart: and as I deem thou mayst do him all joy, and all thy joy shall turn within his heart into outrage and envy; and so is all thy service lost.”
So much said the young maiden to the Lady, that she led her away without more done: but when they were come into the chamber she fell a weeping and speaking of the knight: but the damsel restrained her words all she might; for she saw well the love wherewith the Lady loved him; and in the end she said to her: “Dame, I deem that this knight thinketh of other things than thou deemest.”
“So may God help,” said the Lady,” I deem that he thinketh of things higher than ever man hath, and that God, who hath made him fairer and better than any other hath granted to him also a good end to turn his thoughts toward[.]”
Many things that night they said of him, and sore marvelled the Lady wherefore he was doing such deeds of arms; and well she deemed he loved lovesomely in a high place.

€ How Sir Gawain with forty fellows took on him the quest of finding the knight who bore the red

[f 37] 

King Arthur is pensive

arms at the Assembly between King Arthur and Gallehault.

NOW saith the tale that King Arthur went first to Carduel when he came into his land; and there he dwelt twenty days, and every day held solemn court, doing right well the commandment of his Master.
On the fifteenth day was Sir Gawain healed, whereof was all the court full joyous.
But at the end of thirteen days it befel that the King sat at dinner, but when he had eaten a while he fell a-thinking full sorely; and it was well seen of his thinking that his heart had no ease thereof: then came Sir Gawain who was serving before him and said: “Sir, thou art over much thinking at thy meat; which shall turn to thy harm, for here are many knights, who shall blame thee.”
Then answered the King right wrathfully: “Gawain, Gawain, thou hast drawn me from the kindest thought that ever I had, whereof none might blame me, for I was a thinking on the valiantest and the best of all good Knights: him, to wit, who vanquished the Assembly between me and Gallehault; and Gallehault hath boasted that he will have him on his side at this Assembly coming. Time has been when the fellows of my house had they done a thing I desired would have sought him, were never so far in the outlands: for folk were wont to say that all earthly prowess was in my court; but I say that so it is no longer, since this knight is out of it.”
“Certes,” said Sir Gawain, “thou art right, and thou shalt have the knight if he may be found in all the world.”
Therewith Sir Gawain turned away, and when he was come to the door of the hall he turned back toward the table, where was sitting at     

  [f 38] 

Sir Gawain goeth on his quest.

meat many a good knight, and spake so loud that all might hear him saying: “Lords and knights who would enter on the highest quest that ever was saving that of the Graal, follow after me: herein is all prize and all honour ready for him to whom God will give the honour of finding so high a treasure!”

            Therewith departed Sir Gawain, and knights sprang up to follow him, and the tables were voided, and Sir Gawain was now come on to the stair: then waked the King wroth that none abode behind; and he called to him Sir Gawain, and said to him; “Fair nephew I am angry with thee, that thou wouldst thus lead away my fellowship from me, and great shame thou dost me therein, and I withal in case where I must needs maintain me more joyously than my wont: and who forsooth saw ever such assembly made for the finding of one knight. Wouldst thou take perforce all the knights of my land, when the lesser thy folk is the more is the honour to gain.”

            Thereat Sir Gawain acknowledged that the King spake but truth, and said: “Sir, they alone shall come whom ye will; and I spake not but to have fellows for courtesy-sake; for all alone had I gone on this quest, if need were: and yet if many knights seek him the sooner shall he be found.”

             “Thou sayest well,” quoth King Arthur, “choose thou forty as thou wilt.”

            So he chose them whom he would, and they entered on their quest, swearing not to leave it till the Assembly between King Arthur and Gallehault.

 

€ How the Lady of Mallehault put to ransom the knight whom she had held in prison, and let him go when she saw that she might not know his name.

            SAITH the tale that on a day the Lady let bring

  [f 39]

The Lady of Mallehault would know the Knight’s name

him out of jail to talk with him; and when he came before her he went and sat him down at her feet; but she full desirous to honour him made him sit on high beside her, and said to him: “Sir knight, I have held thee a long while in my prison and in all honour against the will of my seneschal and all my kin, so great thanks thou owest me.”

            “Dame,” said he, “even such thanks that I am ever thy knight at need[.]”

            “Gramercy,” said she, “and that shalt thou show me well: for I pray thee to tell me in reward who thou art, and what thine intent is?”

            “God’s mercy, Dame,” said he, “thou mayst never know it, for unto none will I tell it.”

            “Nay?” said she, “thou wilt not tell me in any wise?”

            “Dame,” said he, “thou mayst do thy pleasure with me, for even if thou mays must smite off my head, I will not tell thee.”

            “An evil word forsooth; for by all that I love most thou goest not forth from my prison before the Assembly; and moreover till that day shalt thou have shame enow, and there is yet a year thereto: but and if thou hadst told me shouldst thou have been quit this very night: and thy name I shall know in thy despite for I shall go into such a place as I shall learn it well therein.”

            “Yea and where, Dame?” said he.

            Said she: “At the court of King Arthur.”

            “Dame,” said he, “I may do no more.”

            So the Lady sent him back to the jail, making semblance to be very wroth with him; but it was not so; for she loved him beyond measure, and day by day waxed her love for him.

            But in no long space she came to the court of King

 [f 40]

 

Ransom offered to the Knight

Arthur to gather tidings, but found none to tell her aught: moreover King Arthur said that his nephew Sir Gawain was gone a-seeking him with a company of forty. And when she heard it she gat her back full heavy that she might not know his name: but so much had she been told that he was not of the House of King Arthur, nor of his land.

            WHEN she was come back she bade bring the knight whom she held in prison, and made semblance of great ire to him: “Sir knight,” said she “that other day thou didst gainsay mine asking of thy name; but so much have I learned of thee, that I will quit thee if thou wilt pay me ransom.”

            “Dame” said he, “gramercy; for God’s love tell me of my ransom!”

            “Wot ye,” said she, “what it shall be? I will name three to thee, and if thou take not one thereof, never goest thou forth from my prison.”

            “Say thy will then, Dame,” said he.

            Quoth she. “First, if thou tell me thy name thou art quit: next if thou wilt say thou lovest me with hot love: but if thou wilt not say either one or other then tell me if thou lookest to do ever again such deeds of arms as thou didest at the Assembly.”

            When he heard this he fell a sighing sorely and said: “Dame, I see now that thou hatest me grievously; for thou wilt have none but shameful ransom of me: and now thou thou hast told me thy pleasure of my great shame, what surety have I that thou wilt quit me for this word?”

            “I swear to thee,” said she, “that so soon as thou hast taken one of these three ransoms thou shalt go quit.”

            Then fell the knight a weeping tenderly, and said: “Dame, I see well that by shameful ransom must I needs

 [f 41]

 

The Knight payeth ransom.

escape if I will begone, and since it is better that I myself tell my shame than another, I tell thee that I look to do more deeds of arms than I have ever done if so I am commanded. And now that that hast wrought me shame tell me if I may go now according to thy pleasure.”

            “Enough hast thou said,” quoth she, “and thou mayst begone now when it pleaseth thee; yet since I have held thee so honourably, I pray thee give me a gift, which shall cost thee nought.”

            “Dame,” said he, thou shalt have thy pleasure herein if it be possible to me.”

            “Gramercy,” said she, “I pry thee to abide here until the Assembly, and I will furnish thee forth a good horse, and arms such as thou wilt bear; then depart hence to the Assembly, and I shall forewarn thee of the day appointed.”

            “Dame,” said he, “I will do thy pleasure.”

            “I will tell thee,” said she, “what thou shalt do; thou shalt abide in thy jail and have all that pleaseth thee, and I will bear thee company full oft; and I will that none know what thou hast done for me. But say now what arms thou wouldst bear.”

            So he said arms all black; and therewith gat him back to his jail. And the Lady let array for him a shield all black, and a horse of like colour, and coat armour and coverings of the like: but here leaveth the Tale of the Lady and the knight and telleth of King Arthur.

 

€ How Sir Gawain and his fellows returned from their quest with nought done; and how, the truce being out worn, Gallehault let draw together against King Arthur.

            KING Arthur abode in his land doing well the

  [f 42]

The Kings go to the Assembly

commandment of his Master in the honouring of his folk, so that by then half the year was worn he had in such wise gained the hearts of his folk, that there were more than a thousand houses in that spot of land; and all said that they had liefer die than that the King should lose his land. So came they to King Arthur as thronging as they might fifteen days before the Nativity; then too on the other hand come Sir Gawain and his fellows from the quest, wherein they had done nought and were well ashamed thereof: but the sore need of King Arthur brought them back, and Sir Gawain said that better it were to die for the honour of their King, than that he should be left alone to be shamed or disinherited. So by these words of Sire Gawain came the forty fellows to the court, and the King received them with full great joy, for he had been somewhat afeared lest they should not come betimes. So went the King arrayed to defend his land.

            On the other part came Gallehault with a many folk: for whereas he had one man that other time, now had he two, so that the chains of iron wherewith all that first host had been enclosed withal might not now go about the half of it.

            WHEN the truce was outworn both one and other desired sore to draw to a meeting: then they asked of Gallehault that he would send the first to the Assembly, and how many men withal: and he said that his body would not bear arms but if need drave him thereto; and as at this first time he would not that his folk did aught save look on the folk of King Arthur: “but on another day, let us meet so fiercely that one or other be utterly discomforted.”

            Then he commanded that the King first conquered should assemble with thirty thousand men, according to to what he deemed was the measure of King Arthur’s

 [f 43]

The beginning of the battle

folk, but that if need were of more he should send nought doubting to the host. So spake Gallehault to his men; and on the other side spake Sir Gawain to King Arthur, and said: “If Gallehault beareth not arms tomorrow neither wilt thou?”

            “Fair nephew, thou sayest sooth,” said he, “but thou shalt arm and lead a many of my men: and look to it to do well as thou wottest need is.”

            “Sir,” said he, “we will do thy pleasure.”

            So on the morrow they arose betimes both on one part and the other, and when they had heard mass they went to arm. The folk of the King passed the lists little by little, and they gathered thick on either side; and fair justs befel in many places.

            Now drew forth a good man of Gallehault’s folk, a valiant man who was afterward in King Arthur’s court, Estarans the Needy he hight, and was a full good man at arms. He all alone fell on where was a band of more than a hundred knights, and ran so fiercely that all looked on him; and admidst of that band were many valiant men, who let him smite where he would: he brake his glaive where he thought to do best, and went through the ranks with the truncheon to smite one called Gallegrignans brother of Sir Yrain the Little, who was coming to the justing, and with such might they met, that they were borne to earth, and lay there long: then knights of King Arthur[’]s house, five of them ran thither to take Estarans: there was the melee full hard, and stout defence made they of Gallehault, but they might not long endure, for they were nought so good knights as they of King Arthur: so was Gallegrignans recovered, and the other six, and Estarance was beat down again. And at this rescue of Estarance and Gallegrignance [sic] drew together what

  [f 44]

Great deeds of Sir Gawain

on one side what on the other more than fifty thousand men.

            Right well did King Arthur’s folk, for but twenty thousand were they, and the others thirty thousand or more, yet had they the better part in the battle. Then came in the host of the King first conquered, who was a full valiant knight and trusty: but when Sir Gawain gathered against him the folk of the King first conquered held their own but little and began to flee shamefully; and when Gawain saw it he was right joyous, and Gallehault was full of grief; and he sent them so many folk that the field was all covered with them. But when Sir Gawain saw them he drew together again, and prayed the folk sore to do right well. Then came their enemies to the fray and smote on them as hard as they might, and they received them full stoutly.

            There did Sir Gawain marvels, and all his fellows followed after his well doing: yet might their deeds avail nought, because for one man of Gawain’s had Gallehault three; but they endured a great while very great scathe, and in the end must give place and were borne aback to the lists. There shewed Sir Gawain some deal of his prowess, for he endured so much, that all his fellows marvelled, yea and they of Gallehault even were astonied at him.

            WHEN King Arthur saw that they might not more endure, he said they had already borne overmuch, and he sent them as many knights as he had aforetime sent, and prayed them to play wisely. And now had they already passed the lists, and Sir Gawain’s horse was slain, and he afoot, and in great need of succor.

            And when they came thither they abode till the King came pricking thither and with him twenty thousand all told: there befel a great medley, and right well they did both on one side and the other; and such deeds did Sir Yrain, that never erst had he done so well: thrice he re-horsed Sir Gawain,

[f 45]

Sir Gawain sore hurt.

who was by now so battered as never worse had he been. Then began the prowess of Sir Yrain; and so endured the battle day long until vespers, and when one side was discomforted their folk sent them succour, till either side began to draw aback; but with his folk went not Sir Gawain, who was gone to the rescue of one of his fellows hight Gahus of Karahew; whereof nought knew Sir Yrain or any of his fellows as they went their ways, till a squire called on Sir Yrain, saying that his fellow and his friend was dead; “Or at the least so will he be speedily, or taken else, but if ye go succor him.”

            Then turned back Sir Yrain as fast as his horse might go, so abashed as he had never been more, and after him followed many valiant men: and when he came into the battle he found Sir Gawain so sore hurt that the blood was coming from out his mouth, and he looked to die unshriven; yet was he still a horseback. There was the medley mightier and more than all that day it had been; but ever had the folk of Sir Gawain the better part, and the others fled away.

            Then retured Sir Gawain, and Sir Ywain [sic] and had with them captives enow, and the King gave them welcome full goodly.

            But when Sir Gawain was come before the tent he fell fainting, whereat was the King all abashed: then were the leeches brought, who said that three ribs of him were broken; and they deemed well that he would die; yet durst they not say so much to the King, but said that they would heal him.

            Great grief was there over Sir Gawain, and great and small bewailed him; saying that never had died so valiant a man.

            NOW when Sir Gawain fainted before the lent, that saw well the knights of Mallehault: so when their Lady asked of them who had done best, they

  [f 46]

The Knight in prison talks with the Lady

said that Sir Gawain had overcome all, but was hurt deadly.

            Of this tidings was the Lady right sorry, and said: “Ah Gawain, never died a man more gentle!”

            So spread the rumour thereabout, that there was no knight but spake thereof, till the knight of the jail heard the tidings, who if the others had held their peace alone had made moan enough for all, and said: “If this be true never may the loss be made good.”

            And when the knights were gone to their lodgings the knight of the jail did so much that he spake with the Lady and said: “Dame, is it sooth that Sir Gawain is dead?”

            “Nay,” said she, “but he is hurt: great scathe is that; and on the day of his death should all joy cease.”

            Then he said to her; “Dame, why hast thou so shamefully bewrayed me? thou covenantedst while agone to do me to wit of the day of the Assembly.”

            “If I gave covenant,” said the Lady, “now I acquit me thereof, for enough have our folk lost.”

            “Dame,” said he, “it is over late.”

            “Not so,” said she, “but timely rather; for the Assembly shall be in three days hence; I have arrayed for thee horse and arms such as I promised thee, but I counsel stir not for three days, and then go straight to the place.”

            “Dame at thy pleasure,” said he.

            THEN went he to rest him in the jail; but the Lady departed on the morrow to go into the host of King Arthur and look on the Assembly; for she would fain be there before the coming of the knight with the black arms. So she went till she came to the host, and the Queen made great joy of her: she found Sir Gawain in better cheer than had been told her, so was she full joyous.

            On the third day the knight arose betimes, and the

  [f 47]

The Black Knight pensive by the river

cousin of the Lady[’]s helped him arm, and when he was armed he commended the maiden to God, and went his ways. So journeyed he till he came to the very place whereas the lad took the shield from his neck; there he fell a looking on the galleries to behold the ladies that were therein: thither was now come Sir Gawain and the Lady of Mallehault, and King Arthur’s folk were armed, and were thronging over the water; and in likewise did the folk of Gallehault, and in no long while the meadows were covered with justing men and medleys of fight: but the knight abode leaning on his spear all pensive, and looking on the gallery.

            “Ah God,” said the Queen, “the knight I see yonder on the river-side, who may he be?”

            Then all, both men and women, fell a looking on him; and Sir Gawain asked if he might see him, and the Lady of Mallehault said that she would turn him in such wise that he might behold all down the meadow: and so did she. Then he looked down and saw the knight with the black shield, and said to the Queen: “Mindest thou not when I was even as sore hurt as now I am, and was lying here, and on a morning there passed a knight over that river? this is either he or another: but then he bore red arms, and he it was who vanquished the Assembly.”

            “Fair nephew,” said the Queen, “it may well be so; but why speakest thou thereof?”

            “I speak thereof because I were fain that he it were; no prowess of a knight would I gladlier behold than his; and I deem that we shall good store thereof today.”

            A long while they spake of him, and never stirred he from his place the while.

            But now had King Arthur ordered his battles, and had four thereof; and in each well nigh fifteen thousand knights*.

            Sir Yrain led the first, and did full well that day. The

*and a fifth wherein were more than twenty thousand.

  [f 48]

The Lady of Mallehault and the Black Knight

second led Hervey of Rivel, one of the wisest in war of all men of the world. The third led Anguisance, King of Scotland, cousin of King Arthur. The fourth led King Yons, and the fifth Sir Yrain son of King Uriens.

            In likewise did Gallehault, and in each one of four battles twenty thousand men, and in the fifth forty thousand: the first led Malanges seneschal of the King of the Hundred Knigths [sic]; the second the King first conquered: the third the King of Hadeban; the fourth king Clamadeus: and the fifth King Vendemalengin, a man right valiant in knighthood, and wise in council.

            That day Gallehault bore not knight’s arms; but was armed as a sergeant, and held a staff in his hand sitting on a horse meet for a valiant man. So rode they into the field on one side and the other.

            But the knight of the black arms still stood pensive on the riverbank: so the Lady of Mallehault called to the Queen and said: “Dame, bid yonder knight do some deed of arms for the love of thee, and show thee what he is: so shall we see what he may do.”

            “Fair lady,” said the Queen, “I have other matter on hand.”

            “Yea and what?” said the Lady of Mallehault.

            “I shall tell thee,” said the Queen, “my lord is in adventure to lose land and honour, and my nephew lieth sore hurt as ye may see, wherefore I am over heavy to have heart for disport as my wont was: but do thou and all these other ladies lay that charge on him.”

            “Certes Dame,” said she of Mallehault, “I am all ready thereto: but if thou wert to bid him I were gladly thy fellow therein.”

            “Dame,” said the Queen, “I will not meddle with it: bid him thou, and these other ladies if ye will.”

            Then said the Lady of Mallehault that if the other ladies would bid him so would she with a good will;

 [f 49]

The ladies bid the Black Knight do a deed of arms

and they all granted it to her; and so the Queen sent him a damsel to do the message, and the Lady of Mallehault devised the message: and Sir Gawain sent him two spears of his by a squire who bore them.

            Then said the Lady to the damsel: “Go thou to yonder knight, and say to him that all the dames and damsels of the court, and my Lady the Queen salute him, saving my Lady the Queen all only, and command and pray him if he would at any time be winning honour, or have any courtesy, to do some deed of arms today for their love: also give to him these two spears which Sir Gawain sendeth to him.”

            Then gat the damsel a horseback, and the squire who bore the glaives, and she came to the knight and gave her message.

            WHEN he heard it what she bade him, he looked up and took leave of the maiden and bade the varlet follow him: he looked to his legs and settled them in the stirrups, and Sir Gawain who was beholding him deemed he had waxed half a foot higher, as he went off good speed pricking with spur: and Sire Gawain seeing him said to the Queen: “Dame, dame, lo there a knight peerless in the world!”

            Then ran they to the windows and battlemented places and saw the knight going as fast as his horse might drive: and they saw on the right and on the left fall fair justs, for great plenty of the King’s folk were already past the lists; so went he through all the Assembly till he came upon a certain band, wherein might be well an {an? on?} hundred knights; he struck in amongst them, and smote one knight so rudely that he bore him to earth, horse and man; and when his glaive was perished he smote with the truncheon as long as it held out: then he drave forth out of the press to the squire who bare the two glaives

[f 50]

Sir Gawain’s counsel to the Queen

and took another, and drave among them so freely that all other left their justs to behold him: so wrought he with the three glaives while they endured, so that Sir Gawain testified that never man had done so much: and so soon as the three glaives were broken he came to the same place by the river where he had been erst, and turned his visage toward the gallery.

            Then spake Sir Gawain to the Queen: “Look on yonder knight, and wot ye well that he is the best in the World: and now whereas thou wouldst not be named in the bidding, peradventure he held it for pride in thee, and deemeth thou accountest but little of him, since thou deignedst not to bid him do arms for the love of thee.”

            “By by faith,” said the Lady of Mallehault,” it seemeth well that for us he will do no more.”

            “Dame,” said Sir Gawain to the Queen, “what deemest thou have I spoken rightly.”

            “Fair newphew,” said she, “what wouldest thou that I do?”

            “Dame,” said he, “this is a great treasure to have—a good man: for by the body of one good man only have many great deeds been brought about, and many valliancies: so my lady I shall tell thee what thou shalt do: send greeting to him and cry him mercy, saying that the honour of my lord the King and thine shall this day come to nought but if God and he help not; and that if he look ever to have joy and honour where thou hast might let him do some deed of arms that thou mayest owe him thanks therefore: for wot ye well that if he take on him the defence of the King, he shall not be taken for all Gallehault’s might: and I will send him ten glaives, wherewith this day thou shalt see great deeds of arms wrought, and three good horses withal housed with my arms: and wot thou that if he will but put forth all his might he will bring them to

  [f 51]

The Black Knight bidden to arms for the Queen’s love

nought.

            Then the Queen bade Sir Gawain give him what message he would in her name, for that she was well content. Thereat was the Lady of Mallehault marvellous glad.

            THEN Sir Gawain called to him the damsel who had done the message, and set forth to her what he had shown to the Queen; then he called three squires, and let lead three horses all garnished with his coat armour, and another bare three glaives: then departed the damsel, and came to the knight, and told him what Sir Gawain and the Queen bade him, and therewith delivered to him the gifts, and the knight asked: “Where is my lady?”

            “Sir,” said she, “up in yonder gallery; and wot well that thou shalt be well looked on.”

            Then said the knight: “Say thou to my lady and Sir Gawain that I will do their pleasure, and great thanks I give them.”

            Then he took the strongest of the glaives that the varlet bore, and bade the said squires to follow him; and the damsel went to the Queen and Sir Gawain and told them the message of the knight.

            The knight let run down the meadow where were many good knights gathered of either side; for by now were all passed the lists and great battle there was, and either side did well.

            But he eschewed all the medleys, making semblance of knowing none, and passed all through the battle unto the King First Conquered where were twenty thousand knights: on them he turned and fell among them whereso he thought best to deal in strokes, till there was none stood before him, for all he bore to earth till his glaive was broken.

            This marvel saw many knights of King Arthur’s House; Kay the Seneschal to wit, and Sagramor le Desirée, and Girflet, and Yrain the bastard, and Sir Brandelis, and Gaheriet

[f 52]

Great deeds of the Black Knight

the brother of Sir Gawain, who were coming to the fray all ready for well doing: and Kay said to them: “Lo lords here have we a fair fight since all is done by the body of one only knight: hither are we come to win honour and prize, nor ever shall we be anywhere where we may work to such good account; and as for me I will hasten to follow him, for he is hardy and valiant, and I would have honour in his following, nor will I leave him today but I be dead or maimed.” Then he smote his horse with his spurs, and the others in likewise.

            And the Black knight having broken his glaives drew out of the press, and took another, and came again into the medley; and they who followed after him smote after him in the battle, and fell to beating down knights and horses, and tearing shields from off of necks and wresting helms from heads.

            So much did the Good Knight in short space that all his ten glaives were broken, and one of his horses dead under him: and as he was there in the press came the six fellows to him, and one of the squires bringing him a horse: so he leapt into the saddle and went back into the medley, as fresh as if he had stricken no stroke that day[.]

            WHEN the six fellows saw the horse arrayed in the arms of Sir Gawain they marvelled much, and knew well that he was a good knight. And in this play no knight took other by the bridle, nor did they fall on one by two or three, but whoso might most of arms most he did.

            So did the Black Knight marvels in arms, he and his company, yet they but a little longer endured but for an adventure that befel: for the battle of the King of the Hundred Knights was discomforted, and might no longer hold them against their foes: thereof had

  [f 53]

The Black Knight hard bestead.

the King of the Hundred Knights great dole for he was a good knight of his hands.

            Thereafter fell the folk of King Arthur on the battle of the King First Conquered who was more than they, being forty thousand in two battles, but with King Yons were but fifteen thousand. There was well seen the prowess of the Black Knight; he beat down knights and horses, and sheared though with his sword whatso he touched, and oft it befel that he found none anigh to smite; but wheresoever he smote fairly, nought might endure before him; and so well he did that all they anigh him marvelled thereat. And the rumour of him ran all about the host of King Arthur so that none was told of save he; yea and in the host of Gallehault also: and all they who saw him said that he was the best knight of the world.

            A great while he held him thus, and ever the six fellows followed after him: then was his horse slain and straight way he leapt on another, but presently was dismounted anew; then began the company to worsen, who all day long had done well; wherewith called Kay the Seneschal to his squire and said: “Go thou to Hervey of Rivel, where thou seest that banner broidered of gold and sinople, and give him this my message, that soon shall all the world cry out on him: for he letteth die now the best knight that ever hung shield on neck; and wot well that if he die all the knighthood of King Arthur shall die with him; and he who should have succoured him shall be evil accounted of for ever thereafter.[”]

            SO departed the squire and came to Hervey and did his message to him, and when he heard it he was all ashamed, and said: “Ah God certes treason did I never, nor will I fall to it now I am old.”

            Then he bade his folk look to their array, and said to the squire: [“]Go thou and tell Kay the Seneschal

[f 54]

The onset of Hervey of Rivel

that if he may endure till I come he shall no more account me a traitor.”

            So the varlet went and told Kay the word of Hervey, and Kay laughed for as little ease as he was in: then he asked of the varlet who was the Black Knight, and he said he knew not. “Wherefore then hath Sir Gawain given him his horses,” said Sir Kay.

            “Nay no more I know than I have told thee,” said the other.

            So Kay did on his helm that he had taken off, and turned back to the medley. Therewith came Hervey of Rivel with all his battle well arrayed, and as they fell on they cried our so loud that all the host rang again.

            Great there was the medley, so that many horses ran loose, and many a knight was slain or hurt. Then began Hervey of Rivel to do marvels about all men; for because of that word of Kay’s did he enforce him to do more than need was, for he was passed of eighty winters.

            Right well as at this time did the folk of King Arthur, but above all did the black Knight do well: for such marvels of arms he did as it was a great matter to behold.

            Never after the coming of Hervey might the folk of Gallehault hold their own, though they were more by the fourth part than the others: Vengart saw that his folk were put to the worse, so he succoured them with his battle, and came on as fast as the horses might go: then great scathe befel the folk of Hervey, for they of Gallehault were full two against one: but when they had been beaten back a little, King Anguisance brought them succor, and then they held them stoutly.

            Then fell on King Clamadeus and King Yrain against him, and now were four battles on either side in the field, but they of Gallehault were full twenty thousand more than the others, and notwithstanding so wrought the Black Knight, and the

[f 55]

Gallehault cometh to battle

Knights of King Arthur that they gave aback a long space, and the Black Knight followed them up cruelly, and none durst abide his great strokes.

            So gave aback the folk of Gallehault; and when he saw them giving aback he marvelled what might ail them, for they were many more than the others; and he asked what was toward: “Sir,” said a knight who had no lust to turney, “whoso will see marvels, let him go see there whence we are come, and greater shall he see than ever were, or ever will be.”

            “How,” said Gallehault, “what marvels them?”

            “What,” said he, “why down there is a knight whose body beareth down all, nor may any endure him.”

            “By my faith,” said Gallehault,” I will believe it when I see it.”

            Therewith he set aside ten thousand men, and bade King Vendemalengrin not to stir till he came to him, and in likewise bade he the ten thousand.

            THEN gat he to the battle, and caused all draw aback with him whom he met; and when Clamadeus saw him coming, he turned full fiercely on his foes, and Gallehault called on them he led to thrust on into the fray, and they let run at the commandment of that valiant man: then was well descried a dawning the banner of Gallehault and both one side and other deemed that much folk were drawing near to their helping.

            And now full evilly had the folk of King Arthuf been dealt with had the Black Knight not been, but he all only took the brunt upon him, and in every place they found him ready to defend him. There was his horse slain, which was the last of those that Sir Gawain had given him: but he fell to his defence so stoutly that none durst draw nigh him; neither might his own folk remount him. There did he such valiant deeds of arms, that all marvelled at him; and Gallehault himself was all abashed how the body of one only knight might do all this;

[f 56]

Gallehault giveth his horse to the Black Knight.

and he said to himself that he would not conquer all lands beneath the heavens, if such a man must die therefor. Then he smote his horse with his spurs, and thrust into the press to depart the medley; and he called to the knight of the Black shield, saying; “Have no fear!”

            Who answered that he had none.

            “Wottest thou,” said Gallehault, “what I would say to thee; I would teach thee one of my customs: wot ye that I have forbidden all my men to lay hand on thee whiles thou art afoot: and I make thee sure that if being overcome thou leave to do feats of arms, there is none shall take thee: and if thy horse be dead dismay thee not, for I will give thee one so long as thy body may use him, and thy squire will I be daylong today; and then if I may not win thy body never shall man living win it.”

            Therewith he lighted down from his horse and gave it to the knight, who leaped on him without more stay; and Gallehault mounted another and came to his company. Then he had with him the ten thousand and bade them draw forward: “But thou, said he to the King, thou shalt follow after, nor full on till these are in the fray; but when the last of these be come into the fight, then fall on, and I myself will come to seek you.” Then he led on the ten thousand to the onset; and when he was entered into the battle he let blow up the horns so that all rang again. And when the Black Knight heard him coming him seemed that much folk was there; so he drew him aback a little to his own folk, and called them about him, and said to them: “Lords yeare all friends of the King, so see ye to it what ye will do.”

            And Sir Yrain when he saw them come on said to his folk: “Be ye full sure that we shall not be overthrown today by much folk.”

            And this he said because he deemed that Gallehault’s

  [f 57]

Gallehault followeth after the Black Knight

men were all come.

            WHEN the ten thousand of Gallehault[’]s fell on full great was the stir, and much folk they beat a down at their coming: but when Sir Yrain came he greatly recomforted the folk of King Arthur, and all the fleers turned back with him, and Gallehault drew aback to his company and bade them come on stoutly, and smite the folk of King Arthur in such wise, that none of them should abide on his horse: “All fresh ye are; so look to it how ye do!”

            Then rode these companies before their folk who had already been worsted; and when the company of Gallehault was come, then was the play all changed about, for much folk he had; and at their coming was the Black Knight beaten to earth, and those six fellos also, who all day long had been anigh him.

            Then came Gallehault, who remounted him on the very horse whereon his own body sat: and so soon as he was horsed he turned back into the medley, as fresh as he had been that day: and when he came to handy strokes all who saw him marvelled. So endured the battle till night-fall, and at night-tide they drew apart; and ever the folk of king Arthur had had the better.

            The good knight departed from the host the most privily he might, going by a way betwixt the meadows and a hill, and deemed that none saw him; but Gallehault took good heed to it, and spurred his horse in such wise that he gat before him by craft, and came to meet him at the hills foot, and saluted him, and bade God guide him. But he looked at him askance, and scarce at all gave him back greeting.

            “Fair friend,” said Gallehault, “what art thou?”

            “Sir,” said he, “I am a knight as thou mayst see.”

            “Certes” said Gallehault, “knight art thou, and the best that may be: and thou art the man in the world

  [f 58]

Gallehault promiseth great things

whom I would most honour: and I am come to pray thee to lodge with me this night.”

            And this he said even as if he had never seen him erst.

            “What art thou sir, who prayest me to lodge and abide with thee?”

            Quoth he, “I am Gallehault lord of this folk hereby, from whom thou hast this day saved the kingdom of Logres, which I had conquered by now had not thy body been.”

            “How!” said the other, thou art the foe of King Arthur, and thou prayest me to lodge with thee? with thee will I lodge never, as the matter goeth.”

            “Ah Sir,” said Gallehault, “more had I done for thee, but I had to begin: I pray thee to abide with me on covenant that I do to thee all thou mayst ask of me.”

            Then the knight made stay, and said to Gallehault: “Sir, enough thou promisest, but I wot how thou wilt hold thereto.”

            Said Gallehault: “Sir if thou wilt lodge with me tonight, I will give thee all thou durst ask with mouth, and well assured shalt thou be.”

            And he sware to him, and promised to give good pledges thereafter; so they went both together into the host.

 € How Gallehault followed the knight of the black arms, and did so much by fair words that he brought him into his host, whereof King Arthur and all his folk were sore troubled.

            NOW Sir Gawain had seen the knight of the black shield depart; and with a good will had he followed him, might he but have sat his horse: then he looked down the river and saw Gallehault and the Black Knight coming back thence to go to the host, and he said to the Queen: “Ha Lady, now may we well say that we are a lost people: lo who Gallehault hath by

 [f 59]

The Black Knight cometh to Gallehault’s host.

craft conquered.”

            So she looked and saw that it was the Black knight whom Gallehault was leading away, and waxed so wroth that not one word might she say: and Sir Gawain fainted thrice in short space.

            King Arthur came thither and heard them all acrying, “He is dead, he is dead!”

            So he came to him and embraced him, and fell a weeping full tenderly, and Sir Gawain came to himself: and when he saw King Arthur, he reproached him, saying: “Now is come the end which the clerks foretold thee; look upon the treasure thou hast lost! This man shall take from thee thy land, that all day long he hath guarded with his very body; hadst thou been a valiant man, thou wouldst have kept him, as hath done the most valiant man alive, who leadeth him away yonder.”

            Then passed by King Gallehault leading the knight, whereof had King Arthur such dole that it lacked but a little of his falling down; and from weeping he might not refrain; but ever he made the best cheer that he might for the recomforting of his nephew: but when he came into the hall he made great moan and so made every valiant man.

            NOW Gallehault and the knight went till they were come before the host; then said the knight to him: “Sir now I am entering into thine host, bring me to speech of the two most valiant men thou hast.”

            And Gallehault granted it; and went into his camp, and took the two men whom he trusted most in the world, and said to them; “Come with me, and ye shall see the mightiest man of the world.”

            “How,” said they, “art thou not the mightiest of the world?”

            “Nay,” said he; “but I may be ere I sleep.”

 

[f 60]

The Black Knight taketh witness of Gallehault.

Now these twain were the King First Conquered, and the King of the Hundred Knights; and when they saw the knight they made him great joy, for they knew him well by his arms; then the knight asked them what they were, and they named themselves even as ye have heard; and he said to them: “Lords, your lord hath done you great honour, for he hath said that ye are the two men of the world whom most he loveth; now betwitxt him and me is a covenant which I would have you hearken; for he hath sworn if I lodge this night with him, he will give me therefore whatso I may ask of him; [“]Sir,” said the knight, “I would have withal the surety of these men.”

            Gallehault said; “Tell me in what wise.”

            Said the knight: “They shall swear that if thou failest in thy covenant with me, they shall leave thee, and come with me whitherso I bid them.[”]

            Then Gallehault called the King First Conquered apart, and said to him: “Go on before, and bid my barons to assemble presently as fairly as they may; and take heed that in my tent be all the delights that may be found in the host.”

            Then went he spurring to fulfill the commandment of his lord, and Gallehault held the knight in talk, he and his seneschal till his bidding were done: so in no long while he came to meet them two hundred barons, who were all men of Gallehault, twenty eight kings to wit and the others dukes and counts. There was the knight so honoured, that never was such joy made over one man unknown, as was made for him as at that time; and great and little said to him; “welcome Flower of the knighthood of the World.” Whereof was

 [f 61]

The Black Knight in Gallehault’s tent.

he sore ashamed.

            Then came they to the tent of Gallehault, nor may the tale be told of the delights and the minstrelsy that was there in. With such joy was he received.

            And when he was unarmed Gallehault let bring him a robe right rich and clad him therewith; and when supper was arrayed and ready, they sat at table and were full richly served, and exceeding honour had the knight. After meat Gallehault commanded men to make four beds whereof one was larger than the others, and when they were all richly arrayed Gallehault led the knight to bed, saying; “Sir, thou wilt lie here.”

            “And who will lie there?” said the knight.

            “Four sergeants, who shall serve thee,” said Gallehault, but I will go into a chamber hard by to the end that thou mayst be the more in peace.”

            “Ha Sir, God’s sake let me not lie in more ease than the other knights; for that shall be accounted churlishness in me.”

            “Take no keep,” said Gallehault, “for for nought thou mayst do wilt thou be held churlish of me.”

            Therewith departed Gallehault, and the knight fell a-thinking of the great honour Gallehault did him, and held him of great account: then he laid him down, and slept presently, for he was exceeding weary.

            But when Gallehault knew that he was sleeping, he came as privily as he might, and lay in another bed beside him, and in the two other beds were laid two other knights; and there were no more in the chamber than they four.

            In the night-season the knight bewailed him much as he slept, and Gallehault heard it well, for he slept not much; for all the night he was athinking how he might keep him.

 

[f 62]

The Black Knight asketh his gift

On the morrow the knight arose, and went to hear mass; Gallehault was risen already, for he would not that the knight should be ware of him.

            So when they came from the minster the knight prayed for his arms, and Gallehault asked him wherefore; and he said that he would depart.

            Gallehault said; “Fair friend, abide with me, and deem not that I would deceive thee; for thou shalt not know how to ask for aught that thou shalt not have: and wot ye, that; though thou mayst well have fellowship with a mightier man than I; yet shalt thou never have one who loveth thee better.”

            “Sir,” said the knight, “I will abide with thee then, since it pleaseth thee; for better fellowship than thine may I never have; yet shall I tell thee presently for what gift I will abide with thee, and if I have it not, I will not abide.”

            “Sir,” said Gallehault, “speak assuredly, and thou shalt have it if I may accomplish it for thee.”

            Then the knight called the two {unreadable insertion} and spake before them: “I ask that so soon as thou hast overcome King Arthur thou shalt go cry him mercy, so soon as I shall summon thee thereto.”

            When Gallehault heard this, he was all abashed, and fell a-thinking: but the two kings said to him: “On what art thou musing now? thou hast run so far, that thou mayst not turn again.”

            “How,” said Gallehault, “deemest thou that I repent me? if all the world were mind I should have heart to give it him: but I was a-thinking on one word that he spake—yet may God help me not if thou have not thy gift; for nought may I do for thee which shall be shame to me: yet I pray thee that thou take not thy fellowship from me to give it to another.”

            And the knight sware to him that he would not.

 [f 63]

The Black Knight comes into the field

So he abode, and they sat down to table, which was now dight: and great joy they made throughout all the host that the knight was to abide with them.

            So wore they away that night; but on the morrow they went to hear mass, Gallehault and his fellow, and Gallehault said to him: “Sir today is the day of the Assembly; wilt thou bear arms?”

            “Yea,” said he.

            “Then bear thou mine in the beginning,” said Gallehault.

            So he said he would bear them with a good will: “but bear thou no arms,” said he to Gallehault, “save as any sergeant.”

            “Nay,” said he.

            Then they let bring in the arms, and armed the knight in a strong hawberk and mail-hosen long and close. Then the folk of Gallehault armed them, and the folk of King Arthur in likewise, and passed the lists, with such as there were; though ever the King had forbidden that many should pass them: so in short space were fair justings, and all the hosts assembled before the lists, and fell to deeds of arms.

            King Arthur abode by his banner, and had bidden men lead the Queen into safe-guard if perchance they were discomfited.

            So when all the hosts were assembled, and the good knight was armed, all deemed it had been Gallehault; and cried out all Lo Gallehault, Lo Gallehault! But Sir Gawain knew him well and said: “this is not Gallehault, but the Knight of the Black arms, the best knight of the world.”

            Now so soon as they fell on together, no whit might King Arthur and his men hold against them since the coming in of the good knight, and overmuch were they discomforted that he was against them; so were they beaten aback to the barriers, for very many mighty men were with Gallehault

[f 64]

King Arthur overcome

            At the barriers’ ending they held them a while, and endured for long, but nought it availed them: great was the scathe among the men of King Arthur, and, saith the Tale, the Knight had little less pain in holding back the folk of Gallehault that they passed not beyond the barriers, than in chacing of the folk of King Arthur: nevertheless much had he borne them up, for he might have thrust them out perforce had he willed, but he abode amidmost the battle for the holding back of the others.

            But now he looked about him, and fell acrying: “Gallehault! Gallehault!”

            And Gallehault came speedily, and said; “Fair friend, what wouldst thou?”

            “What?” said he, “I would that thou hold covenant with me.”

            “By my faith,” said Gallehault,” I am all ready to accomplish it, since it pleaseth thee.”

            So he pricked his horse with the spurs, and came to the banner, where was King Arthur making so great dole that he had well nigh slain himself because of his overthrow: but the Queen was now gotten a horseback, and forty knights were leading her away. And Sir Gawain were they fain to bear away in a litter; but he said that he had liefer die there and then, than see all knighthood dead and shamed: and he fainted in such wise, that they deemed well he would die straightway[.]

 € How Lancelot by his prowess conquered all, and did so much that Gallehault cried mercy of King Arthur.

WHEN the knight saw Gallehault ready to accomplish his covenant, he swore that never was found so loyal a fellow: such pity he had that he sighed heavily, and

  [f 65]

Gallehault crieth mercy of King Arthur

said between his teeth: “Ah God! who may deserve it?”

            But Gallehault rode up to the banner, and cried on King Arthur, who came forth sore grieving, as one who hath lost all honour and joy on earth. And when Gallehault saw him he said to him: “Sir King Arthur, come forth, and be not afeard, for I would speak with thee.”

            And when the King heard it he marvelled much what it might be.

            But so soon as Gallehault saw the King drawing near, he lighted down from his horse, and knelt adown, and said: “Sir I am come to do thee right for my misdoing against thee; I repent me, and put me to they mercy.”

            When the King heard that he had marvellous great joy, and lifted his hands up to heaven, praising God of that adventure: and if the King made good cheer, yet better made Gallehault, and rose up from his knees, and they kissed together, and either made other right great cheer.

            Then said Gallehault: “Sir do thy pleasure on me; for my body give I into thine hands to work thy will upon: but if it please thee I will draw aback my folk, and return to thee presently.”

            “Go then,” said the King, “for I would speak with thee.”

            Then departed Gallehault, and came to his folk, and made them go their ways.

            But the King sent after the Queen, who went on her way making great moan; and the messengers rode on till they reached her, and they came to her, and told her of the joy which was befallen: but she might not believe it till she saw the tokens that the King had sent her.

            Withal so spread these tidings that Sir Gawain knew thereof, who had great joy over all other, and said to the King: “Sir, how was it?”

[f 66]

Gallehault goeth to the court of King Arthur

            “Certes I know not,” said he, “but I trow that so our Lord God would have it.”

            Full great was the joy, and much did all men marvel how it came to pass.

            Now said Gallehault to his fellow: What wilt thou that I do; I have done thy commandment, and the King hath bidden me return; but I will go with thee first into thine own land.”

            “Ha Sir,” said the knight “go thou to the King, and do him all the honour thou mayst: so much hast thou done for me as I may never deserve: yet so much I pray of thee yet for God’s sake, and for the love thou hast for me, that none may know where I am.”

            So they went to their tents; and all men knew that peace is made; and yet were many sorry thereof, for they loved war better than peace.

            Now lighted down the two fellows; and so soon as they were unarmed Gallehault took of his best robes to go into the court, and let cry throughout all the host, that every man should begone, saving they of his house only. Thereafter he called to him the two kings, and delivered his fellow to them, bidding them do as much for him as they would for his very body.

            Then mounted Gallehault and went to the court of King Arthur; and the King came to meet him, and the Queen, who was now come back, and the Lady of Mallehault, and many dames and damsesls.

            Then went they into the gallery where Sir Gawain lay sick, who, when he knew that Gallehault was come, enforced him to make him good cheer, as he who had never erst seen him so nigh. And he said: “Thou art welcome, and much have I desired to know thee; for thou art the man of all the world who aright should most be prized and loved of all folk; and I deem that none knoweth where to find so valiant a

 [f 67]

Gallehault speaketh of the Queen

man as thou; and well is it seen of thee.”

            So spake Sir Gawain to Gallehault, who asked how it went with him; and Gawain said: “I have been at death’s door; but the great love which hath befallen betwixt thee and the King hath healed me.”

            Exceeding great joy had King Arthur and the Queen and Sir Gawain of the coming of Gallehault, and all the day they spake of love and fair acquaintance, but of the Black Knight were no words spoken.

            So wore the day in rejoicing one the other until vespers, and then Gallenhault asked leave to go see his folk, and the King gave it: “But come thou back presently,” said he; and Gallehault granted it.

            Then he gat him back to his fellow and asked him how it fared with him; and he answered Well.

            “Sir,” said Gallehault, “what do I? the King hath prayed me sore to return to him; but it grieveth one to leave thee in this plight.”

            “Ha Sir Knight,” said he, “I will that thou do what the King would have thee; for a more valiant man hast thou never known: yet would I have thee give me a gift.”

            Said Gallehault; “Ask what thou wilt I will never gainsay thee.”

            “Sir,” said he, “I thank thee; thou hast granted me herein not to ask my name of me before I tell it thee.”

            “Thereto will I hold since thou wilt have it so,” said Gallehault[, “] though doubt thou not that it had been the first of my askings; yet now will I hold my peace.”

            Then asked the knight of his friendliness with King Arthur, but name not the Queen. And Gallehault said that the King was a right valiant man; “And it grieveth me that I knew him not while agone; for much had I been amended thereby: but my lady the Queen is so valiant, that never have I seen lady so glorious.”

            But when the knight heard him tell of the Queen, he

 

[f 68]

The Black Knight bewaileth him in his sleep.

turned away, and sighed heavily: and Gallehault looked on him and marvelled much, for the tears were falling from his eyes. Then he fell a-talking of other matters.

            BUT when they had long talked together, the Black Knight said “Go thou keep company with the King, and hearken if so be thou hear any word spoken of me, and tell me thereof on the morrow.”

            “With a good will,” said Gallehault. Then he kissed him, and said to the Kings; “I give this man into your keeping, as if he were the heart in my bosom.”

            Therewith departed Gallehault, and the knight abode in the keeping of those two valiant men of Gallehault’s land; nor is need to ask if he were honoured, for they would fain do more for him than he might desire.

            That night lay the two kings in Gallehault for the love of the knight and did him to wit that they would not lie down: but he made them lie down, even as Gallehault had done the other night.

            At the first the knight slept fast; but as it drew toward midnight he began to turn about, and made such moan, that all they who were about him waked; and in his moan he said oft; “Ah wretched me, what may I do?” And all night long he kept on such-like dole.

            On the morrow uprose the two kings as secretly as they might, marvelling much what ailed him.

            On the other hand Gallehault arose and came to his tent to see his fellow, and asked of the two kings how his fellow had fared: who said that nightlong he had made great moan. Then he came into the chamber where he was; but so soon as he heard him coming, he shut his eyes; whereon Gallehault deemed he slept yet, and went out; but no sooner was he gone than the knight arose. Then Gallehault saw that his eyes were red and swollen: so he took him by the hand, and drew him apart, and said to him: “Fair sweet fellow, wherefore slayest thou thyself in this wise?”             

Transcribed by Karen Carcia, 2015.    

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