The Sermon of the Gentlewoman the Which Was Sister to Sir Percivale; Shewing to Sir Galahad the Virtue of the Sword

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The Sermon of the Gentlewoman the Which Was Sister to Sir Percivale; Shewing to Sir Galahad the Virtue of the Sword

by: Ernest Rhys (Author)

"By my faith," said Galahad, "I would draw this sword out of the sheath,
but the offending is so great, that I shall not set my hand thereto."
Of divers fashions was the sword:
   The pommel of the onyx stone:
      To dress the haft great beasts had died
      That break the wood and the breast the tide:
      And one Euphrates' flood doth ride
   And one doth hide in Calidon.

Great beasts did give their strength to it,
   And give the curve of their breast-bone:
      And one the Fiend hath in fee,
      The serpent wound around that tree
      (Whose fruit wrought Eve's calamity)
   That midmost grows in Calidon.

The other, men call Ertanax:
   A fish, a four-legg'd fish, he is:
      They call him so, for his bone is good:
       He cunningly doth choose his food,
       Three fathom deep amid the mud,
   That drinks the flood of Euphrates.

His bones be of such manner of kind,
   That whoso handleth them forthright,
       Shall never weary, nor never sorrow;
       Nor lose his heart, nor fear the morrow,
       Nor yester-night;—but from them borrow
   High courage, honour, peerless might.

Of divers colours was the sword:
   The blade's left side was red as blood:
      And letters, black as coal, engross't,—
      "He that shall take, to praise me most,
      Shall find me fail, and at his cost,
   Lose all his trust, and hardihood!
"

But on the scabbard of the serpent's skin,
   Letters of gold and silver inlaid:
      "By the body of him, that should me bear,
      If he wield me truly as never were,
      He shall never be shamed, but surely fare
   An my girdle be girt with a virgin maid.
"

Yea, divers virtue was in the sword
   And in the scabbard of serpent's skin:
      Take heed then: think of King Hurlame
      That thought to wear it and died in shame:
      Take heed now, knight, of your fair fame;
   For Grace misused is Deadly Sin