Stanzaic Morte Arthur, Part 2
STANZAIC MORTE ARTHUR: FOOTNOTES1 From which his armor was nobly (gentylly) fashioned (shore)
2 He does not keep to the high (main) road
3 And since he wants no one to know it
4 At that time it was the custom that, / When young knights were to show their shields for the first time, / They should bear arms all of one color (without any heraldic device) / Until the first year had passed
5 She was most often seen weeping, / So firmly was her heart set
6 He knew well by other signs in addition to her weeping
7 Do not make yourself sick for my sake
8 When they came alone by themselves (those two alone)
9 And then he told them about his amusements
10 Never a greater wonder did it seem to me
11 Even if by doing so he could have won the whole world
12 Sir, would it be your desire not to conceal it
13 That "My (wound) will be seen forevermore!"
14 And tell her not to long sorely for me
15 If only my husband knew this quickly!
16 That I ever had life in this nation (was ever born)!
17 Until I am clasped in cold clay (dead and buried)
18 May she never be so dear to you / That you give up performing deeds of arms; / Since I must remain alone in sorrow, / I would at least like to hear of your deeds of prowess
19 To amuse himself [he went] into the forest, / Which was in flower and had wide branches overhead
20 Adventures will begin very soon
21 I would like to know about her family lineage
22 I would very much like to know the cause
23 Then they wanted to know what it said
24 Though they searched out all the nobleness in the world
25 When I said that he belonged / To a lady or to some other maid
26 That he would not waste his love / In so low a place (a mere maiden) / But would rather love some noble and gay lady
27 He did not want her, as we can well see, / And therefore, that maiden, as white as a swan, is dead
28 I believe he never wronged you so much / That you ought so unjustly / To lie about him so churlishly
29 And, sir, you do not know right wisely (realize) / What harm has and could yet come from what you said
30 Madame, how can you come to us / When you yourself know so well
31 May You save and care for Launcelot
32 There is not one who would have refused this battle / Before her behavior became criminal
33 That he might grant him (Bors) success, / Give him the grace to win the battle
34 You who accuse her of treason, / Quickly see that you are ready to fight
35 Neither would flee nor advance one foot
36 One among all the squires there admitted
37 Of all the nights that you have gone to her, / None ever bothered me in any way / Or made my heart so sick / As this one does tonight
38 He had absolutely no fear of treason (betrayal); / He supposed there was no man on earth / Who would dare attempt to do him harm
39 I know that this news will be widely told
40 Can it be that Gahariet is dead and away from me?
41 Nothing but good ails Gahariet (he is all right)
42 prove [the accusation] false
43 Even if he could not prove it, he would slay some of my men
44 Unless no steel (sword) will go in him
45 Although their great sorrow was for the knight that was dead and away from them
46 Let not my lord (Arthur) be in the field of battle / And see that you yourself do not fight with me
47 And yet he rode about as fast as he could / To see that no man should be slain
48 He would place the land under interdict
49 Until one has sought (with a sword) the other's heart
50 [To see] on the field [of battle] who should have the prize
51 Nay, you may never expect reconciliation
52 Where the men were most eager to stay
53 And knelt and kissed Launcelot's foot and hand / And acknowledged him to be their lord, / And (promised) to obey his decrees / And to heed his laws
54 Arthur would not submit for lack of courage
55 With knobs on the tent poles bright as golden rings
56 Like a knight who was wise in his armor
57 She was very eager to succeed by (means of) her speech
58 That we shall turn aside for no obstacle
59 Each one arranged himself correctly (for battle)
60 But he had no sooner realized that attack, / Than out all his knights rushed
61 Gawain protected himself as he well knows how
62 He lacked not a bit of equipment; / He lacked no garment (armor) for war
63 Until one of them was dead or had surrendered
64 And yet, if you would come near me
65 Because of love (for you) and because you are the king's kinsman
66 Hardly any life remained in him
67 Launcelot proved he knew about war
68 So that she and her maidens could be clad [in new clothes for the wedding]
69 You can be sure it will be paid for
70 Do you expect to forbid me my desire?
71 Therefore he will not stop his evil deeds
72 Which he liked best to dwell in
73 But by the time that perilous battle was ended
74 And stirred the blood and bones of knights
75 Driven through with bright swords
76 They made a mound over each body, / So that all that ever walk or ride by / Might know some of them by their markers (on the mounds)
77 He went ever forth by the south side (of England)
78 And each (of the fiends) caught him by a limb
79 Like a troubled man with a disturbed mind
80 I have been beset by strong (painful) dreams
81 And try to set another day (for the battle), / Or truly this day I must be put to shame
82 By the time all (blows) are dealt on this down
83 And certainly, if we fail to keep our promises, / Let Arthur leap upon a steed
84 Let broad banners be brought forth (as a signal to attack)
85 But they lowered their spears; rushed
86 And fiercely they began to test each other
87 They robbed them of Byzantine coins, brooches, and rings
88 And, you can be sure, it must be paid for
89 You have been too long away from medical attention
90 Whatever may happen to us in this land (as we go) / To hear what lord has lost his life, / See that you do not rush to ride out (to help us)
91 Like one who did not know good from evil (in a daze)
92 Our desire (passion) has been too painfully bought and paid for
93 We must be determined to abstain / From what we once delighted in
94 He who saw that sorrow could tell of it forever
95 knew not evil from (i.e., in a daze)
96 Once I pledged my word to that; / Alas, I repent that I did so!
97 And cleansed himself of his sins by confession
98 Because they were all in a religious ecstasy, / They neither knew him nor did he know them
99 When they closely embrace that fair one (Ector, Bors' brother)
100 He wanted very much to know who this corpse was
101 But decided to dwell with them all and lead his life there
STANZAIC MORTE ARTHUR: NOTESIn the textual notes, corrections and emendations made by J. D. Bruce (see Bibliography) are accepted without comment. Additional changes made by Larry D. Benson in the edition on which this volume is based (see Preface to the Revised Edition) are indicated: Be.
Explanatory notes are Benson's, either verbatim or with minor changes to fit the format of this revision. Additional explanatory material is cited as follows:
F: Edward E. Foster, editor of this revision
M: Charles and Ruth Moorman, An Arthurian Dictionary. Oxford, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press, 1978.
OED: Oxford English Dictionary
1 Lordinges: a familiar form of address for the audience at the beginning of romances. See, e.g., Havelok and the Pardoner's address to the other pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales. It implies nothing about the social status of the audience. (F)
152 The convention noted in lines 147-152 was not the case in actual life.
284 brown: the word is used in the sense of "shining, gleaming, or burnished" only with regard to swords or steel. (F)
309 MS hitte: hit him. (Be)
hood: "The part of a suit of armor that covers the head; applied to the helmet itself, or to a flexible head-covering inside the helmet" (OED).
361 The stanza beginning at 361 has only seven lines as does the stanza beginning at 1483; the stanza beginning at 3678 has only four lines; the stanzas beginning at 1176, 1318, 1490, 1920, 2318, 2716, 3130, and 3416 have only six lines. Nothing seems lost to the sense by these omissions or variations, although the six line stanzas beginning at 1176 and 1318 are at the beginning and end of the long gap in the MS.
457 The boards are set on trestles to form tables. Permanently assembled tables were still rare at this time.
603 Launcelotes sheld du Lake: Launcelot du Lake's shield. The inflectional ending is placed on the primary noun rather than on the last word of the noun phrase. The construction was disappearing in the fourteenth century but can be observed in Chaucer's "Wyves Tale of Bath" ("Wife of Bath's Tale"). (F)
764 Cross and Rood. The redundancy perhaps implies urgency. Benson notes, however, that the expression Cross on (or and) Rood is frequently used in this poem; the word cross is probably a metathesis of cors - body, as in line 2880, where Cors on Rood does appear.
840 No reason is provided as to why the squire wishes to poison Gawain and, within the narrative conventions of romance, none is needed: our interest is in what the effects will be for Guinevere. (F)
916 Guinevere has two choices: to be "defended" in combat or be tried by a group of the knights. She knows that if the latter occurs she is doomed.
1105 ender (Be). MS: [yogh]ender.
1350 Cross on Rood. See note to line 764.
1377 aguilte (Be). MS: gilte.
1396 Identical to line 1380.
1414 A missing line is provided here by Furnivall's conjecture, accepted by Br and Be. (F)
1472 Sometimes blake has the meaning white and Be glosses it thus. I think, however, that it is more likely that Lancelot is dressed in black and the more ordinary meaning can stand. (F)
1617-18 Compare Priamus's words to Gawain in the Alliterative Morte Arthure, lines 2646-49.
1831 hauberk: "Originally intended for the defense of the neck and shoulders; but already in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries developed into a long coat of mail, or military tunic, usually of ring or chain mail, which adapted itself readily to the motions of the body" (OED).
1951 The smock is a loose, usually white, simple sleeveless dress over which the other garments were put; the counterpart of a modern slip, though it would usually show beneath the vest, sleeves, cloaks, and such that were put over it.
2025 Launcelot apparently thinks Gaheriet fought against him.
2052 Launcelot offers to take part in a judicial duel of the sort he previously fought to prove Guenevere's innocence of the charge of poisoning.
2253 A papal interdict would deny the sacraments of the Church to everyone in the country.
2305 Benwick is Bayonne (or Beune), a city in southwestern France. See Alliterative Morte Arthure, line 587. (F)
2345 Joyous Gard then they (Be). MS: Ioyus gard the they. Joyous Gard is Lancelot's castle (fortress) in Northern England. (F)
2361 The heathen nations are in the Orient, from which silk came.
2466 Caerleon, in South Wales on the River Usk near the Bristol Channel, was one of the chief Arthurian cities. See Alliterative Morte Arthure, note to line 61. (F)
2639 The phrase wise . . . under weed has little real meaning and conveys only the idea of a "good knight."
2837 Gawain is Arthur's nephew.
2934 oute. Br reads cute.
2954 That false traitour, applied here to Mordred, is a commonplace epithet for Satan, who led the rebellion against God. (F)
2955 Mordred was the product of an incestuous union between Arthur and his own sister. Though little is made of it in this poem, Arthur's fall is partly a consequence of his own sin.
2957 The motif of the false steward, who evilly abuses his stewardship, is a familiar literary and folk motif. (F)
2960 Thus Mordred intends to commit incest, made worse since Guenevere is also his father's wife. (Compare line 2987.)
3121 his (Be). MS: hye.
3160 The Feast of the Trinity is the first Sunday after Pentecost.
3179 Besaunt: a coin of Byzantine origin, sometimes used as ornamental jewelry. (F)
3357 fewtered: placed spears against the "fewter," the spear rest on the saddle, into which the spear would be placed when the knight prepared to attack.
3376 Brutus. MS: Britain. Be notes the error but does not emend (F). Brutus is the legendary hero who, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (Book I), conquered what is now England from a race of giants and founded the nation to which he gave his name.
3413 names seven. The number seven commonly signifies a totality. Thus the seven names implies all the names of Jesus. But traditions reaching far back into the rabbinical commentaries often, in fact, identify seven specific names for God. According to The Jewish Encyclopedia, "The number of divine names that require the scribe's special care is seven: El, Elohim, Adonai, YHWH, Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, Shaddai, and Zeba'ot" (9, 163). The seven names of the Lord are also referred to in The Second Shepherd's Play (lines 190-91), where Mak says: "Now lord, for thy naymes sevyn, that made both moyn and starnes /Well mo then I can neuen thi will, lorde, of me tharnys [is unclear]." See also Brian P. Copenhaver, "Names of God," in A Dictionary of Biblical Traditions in English Literature, ed. David Lyle Jeffrey (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1992), pp. 535-37, who notes more than one hundred and fifty substitute names for God and, in the New Testament, more than forty names and titles for Jesus.
3504 Possibly Morgan le Fay, Arthur's half-sister. Although often antagonistic to Arthur and Guenevere, she often helps heal Arthurian knights and assists in transporting Arthur to Avalon. (M)
3507 leching. In the fourteenth century, leeching had no necessary connection with the therapeutic application of leeches. It means simply "medical care" from OE laece, to heal.
3569 Aumsbury: Almesbury (or Amesbury): a town in Wiltshire where Guenevere retreats to a convent after Arthur's death. (M, F)
3628 nun (Be). MS: man.
3709 black and white (Be). MS: whyte and blak.
3759 The "recent events" are Mordred's treachery and Arthur's death.
3815 ring a bell (Be). MS: a bell ring.
3862 received in this line refers to receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, after having been forgiven (shriven) one's sins.
3896 fifth (Be). MS: fyfty.
from: King Arthur's Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure 1994
As they came by the forest side,
Their orisons for to make,
The noblest knight then saw they ride
That ever was in erthe shape;
His loreme lemed all with pride;
Steed and armour all was blake;
His name is nought to hele and hide:
He hight Sir Launcelot du Lake!
What wonder was though they were blithe,
When they their master see with sight!
On knees fell they as swithe,
And thanked all to God All-might.
Joy it was to here and lithe
The meeting of the noble knight;
And after he asked also swithe:
"How now fares my lady bright?"
Bors then told him all the right,
It was no lenger for to hide,
How there died a Scottish knight,
At the mete the queen beside:
"Today, sir, is her deth all dight,
It may no lenger be to bide,
And I for her have take the fight.
"Sir Mador, strong though that he be,
I hope he shall well prove his might."
"To the court now wend ye three
And recomfort my lady bright;
But look ye speke no word of me;
I will come as a strange knight."
Launcelot, that was mikel of might,
Abides in the forest green;
To the courte went these other knightes
For to recomfort the queen.
To make her glad with all their might
Grete joy they made them between;
For-why she ne sholde drede no wight,
Of good comfort they bade her ben.
Bordes were set and clothes spredde;
The king himself is gone to sit;
The queen is to the table led,
With cheekes that were wan and wet;
Of sorrow were they never unsad;
Might they neither drink ne ete;
The queen of dethe was sore adredde,
That grimly teres gan she let.
And as they were at the thridde mese,
The king and all the court bydene,
Sir Mador all redy was,
With helm and sheld and hauberk sheen;
Among them all before the dese,
He bloweth out upon the queen
To have his right withouten lees,
As were the covenantes them between.
The king looked on all his knightes;
Was he never yet so wo;
Saw he never on him dight
Against Sir Mador for to go.
Sir Mador swore by Goddes might,
As he was man of herte thro,
But yif he hastely have his right
Among them all he sholde her slo.
Then spake the king of mikel might,
That ay was courtais and hende:
"Sir, let us ete and sithen us dight;
This day nis not yet gone to the end.
Yet might there come such a knight,
Yif Goddes will were him to send,
To finde thee thy fill of fight
Ere the sun to grounde wend.
Bors then lough on Lionel;
Wiste no man of their hertes word;
His chamber anon he wendes til,
Withoute any other word,
Armed him at all his will,
With helm and hauberk, spere and sword;
Again then comes he full still
And set him down to the borde.
The teres ran on the kinges knee
For joy that he saw Bors adight;
Up he rose with herte free
And Bors in armes clippes right,
And said: "Bors, God foryeld it thee,
In this need that thou wolde fight;
Well acquitest thou it me
That I have worshipped any knight!"
Then as Sir Mador loudest spake
The queen of tresoun to becall,
Comes Sir Launcelot du Lake,
Ridand right into the hall.
His steed and armour all was blake,
His visor over his eyen fall;
Many a man began to quake;
Adrede of him nigh were they all.
Then spake the king, mikel of might,
That hende was in ich a sithe:
"Sir, is it your will to light,
Ete and drink and make you blithe?"
Launcelot spake as a strange knight:
"Nay, sir," he said as swithe,
"I herde tell here of a fight;
I come to save a ladyes life.
"Ivel hath the queen beset her deedes
That she hath worshipped many a knight,
And she hath no man in her needes
That for her life dare take a fight.
Thou that her of tresoun gredes 34
Hastely that thou be dight;
Out of thy wit though that thou wedes,
Today thou shalt prove all thy might."
Then was Sir Mador also blithe
As fowl of day after the night;
To his steed he went that sithe,
As man that was of muche might.
To the feld then ride they swithe;
Them followes both king and knight,
The batail for to see and lithe;
Saw never no man stronger fight!
Unhorsed were bothe knightes keen,
They metten with so muche main,
And sithe they fought with swordes keen.
Both on foot, the sooth to sayn.
In all the batailes that Launcelot had been,
With hard acountres him again,
In pointe had he never been
So nigh-hand for to have been slain.
There was so wonder strong a fight,
O foot nolde nouther flee ne found, 35
From lowe noon til late night,
But given many a woful wound.
Launcelot then gave a dint with might;
Sir Mador falles at last to ground;
"Mercy!" cries that noble knight,
For he was seke and sore unsound.
Though Launcelot were breme as bore,
Full sternely he gan up stand;
O dint wolde he smite no more;
His sword he threw out of his hand.
Sir Mador by God then swore:
"I have fought in many a land,
With knightes both less and more,
And never yet ere my match I fand;
"But, Sir, a prayer I wolde make,
For thing that ye love most on life,
And for Our Sweete Lady sake,
Your name that ye wolde me kithe."
Launcelot gan his visor up take,
And hendely him shewed that sithe;
When he saw Sir Launcelot du Lake,
Was never man on molde so blithe.
"Lord," then said he, "Wele is me,
Mine avauntement that I may make
That I have stande one dint of thee,
And foughten with Launcelot du Lake;
My brothers deth forgiven be
To the queen for thy sake."
Launcelot him kist with herte free,
And in his armes gan him up take.
King Arthur then loude spake
Among his knightes to the queen:
"Ya, yonder is Launcelot du Lake,
Yif I him ever with sight have seen!"
They riden and ronne then for his sake,
The king and all his knightes keen;
In his armes he gan him take;
The king him kist and court bydene.
Then was the queene glad ynow,
When she saw Launcelot du Lake,
That nigh for joy she fell in swough,
But as the lordes her gan up take.
The knightes alle wept and loughe
For joy as they togeder spake;
With Sir Mador, withouten wo,
Full soon acordement gonne they make.
It was no lenger for to abide
But to the castle they rode as swithe,
With trompes and with mikel pride,
That joy it was to here and lithe;
Though Sir Mador might not go ne ride,
To the court is he brought that sithe,
And knightes upon ich a side
To make him both glad and blithe.
The squiers then were taken all,
And they are put in harde pain,
Which that had served in the hall
When the knight was with poisun slain.
There he graunted among them all 36
(It might no lenger be to laine)
How in an apple he did the gall,
And had it thought to Sir Gawain.
When Sir Mador herde all the right,
That no guilt had the lady sheen,
For sorrow he lost main and might
And on knees fell before the queen.
Launcelot then him held up right,
For love that was them between;
He kist both king and knight
And sithen all the court bydene.
The squier then was done to shende,
As it was bothe law and right,
Drawen and honged and for-brende,
Before Sir Mador, the noble knight.
In the castel they gonne forth lende,
The Joyous Gard then was it hight;
Launcelot, that was so hende,
They honoured him with all their might.
A time befell, sooth to sayn,
The knightes stood in chamber and spake,
Both Gaheriet and Sir Gawain,
And Mordred, that mikel couthe of wrake,
"Alas!" then said Sir Agravain,
"How false men shall we us make?
How long shall we hele and laine
The tresoun of Launcelot du Lake?
"Well we wote, withouten ween,
The king Arthur our eme sholde be,
And Launcelot lies by the queen;
Again the king traitour is he,
And that wote all the court bydene,
And iche day it here and see;
To the king we sholde it mene,
Yif ye will do by the counsel of me."
"Well wote we," said Sir Gawain,
"That we are of the kinges kin,
And Launcelot is so mikel of main
That suche wordes were better blinne.
Well wot thou, brother Agravain,
Thereof sholde we but harmes win;
Yet were it better to hele and laine
Than war and wrake thus to begin.
"Well wot thou, brother Agravain,
Launcelot is hardy knight and thro;
King and court had oft been slain
Nadde he been better than we mo,
And sithen might I never sayn
The love that has been between us two;
Launcelot shall I never betrayn,
Behind his back to be his fo.
"Launcelot is kinges son full good,
And thereto hardy knight and bold,
And sithen, and him need bestood,
Many a land wolde with him hold.
Shed there sholde be mikel blood
For this tale, yif it were told;
Sir Agravain, he were full wode,
That such a thing beginne wolde."
Then thus-gates as the knightes stood,
Gawain and all the other press,
In come the king with milde mood;
Gawain then said: "Fellowes, pees!"
The king for wrath was nighe wode
For to wite what it was;
Agravain swore by Cross and Rood:
"I shall it you tell withoute lees."
Gawain to his chamber went;
Of this tale nolde he nought here;
Gaheriet and Gaheries of his assent,
With their brother went they there;
Well they wiste that all was shent,
And Sir Gawain by God then swere:
"Here now is made a comsement
That beth not finished many a yere."
Agravain told all bydene
To the king with simple cheer,
How Launcelot ligges by the queen,
And so has done full many a yere,
And that wot all the court bydene
And iche day it see and here:
"And we have false and traitours been
That we ne wolde never to you diskere."
"Alas!" then said the kinge there,
"Certes, that were grete pitee;
So as man nadde never yet more
Of beautee ne of bountee,
Ne man in world was never yet ere
Of so mikel nobilitee.
Alas, full grete dole it were
In him sholde any tresoun be!
"But sithe it is so, withouten fail,
Sir Agravain, so God thee rede,
What were now thy best counsel,
For to take him with the deed?
He is man of such apparail,
Of him I have full mikel drede;
All the court nolde him assail
Yif he were armed upon his steed."
"Sir, ye and all the court bydene
Wendeth tomorrow on hunting right,
And sithen send word to the queen
That ye will dwell without all night,
And I and other twelve knightes keen
Full prively we shall us dight;
We shall him have withouten ween
Tomorrow ere any day be light."
On the morrow with all the court bydene
The king gan on hunting ride,
And sithen he sent word to the queen
That he wolde all night out abide.
Agravain with twelve knightes keen
Atte home beleft that ilke tide
Of all the day they were not seen,
So privily they gonne them hide.
Tho was the queene wonder blithe
That the king wolde at the forest dwell;
To Launcelot she sent as swithe
And bade that he sholde come her til.
Sir Bors de Gawnes began to lithe,
Though his herte liked ill;
"Sir," he said, "I wolde you kithe
A word, yif that it were your will.
"Sir, tonight I rede ye dwell;
I drede there be some tresoun dight
With Agravain, that is so fell,
That waites you both day and night.
Of all that ye have gone her til, 37
Ne greved me never yet no wight,
Ne never yet gave mine herte to ill,
So mikel as it doth tonight."
"Bors," he said, "holde still;
Such wordes are not to kithe;
I will wend my lady til,
Some new tithandes for to lithe;
I ne shall nought but wite her will;
Look ye make you glad and blithe;
Certainly I nill not dwell,
But come again to you all swithe."
For-why he wend have comen soon
For to dwell had he not thought,
None armour he did him upon
But a robe all single wrought;
In his hand a sword he fone,
Of tresoun dredde he him right nought; 38
There was no man under the moon
He wend with harm durst him have sought.
When he come to the lady sheen
He kist and clipped that sweete wight;
For sooth, they never wolde ween
That any tresoun was there dight;
So mikel love was them between
That they not departe might;
To bed he goeth with the queen,
And there he thought to dwell all night.
He was not busked in his bed,
Launcelot in the queenes bowr,
Come Agravain and Sir Mordred,
With twelve knightes stiff in stour;
Launcelot of tresoun they begredde,
Calld him false and kinges traitour,
And he so strongly was bestedde,
There-in he had none armour.
"Wele-away," then said the queen,
"Launcelot, what shall worthe of us two?
The love that hath been us between,
To such ending that it sholde go!
With Agravain, that is so keen,
That night and day hath been our foe,
Now I wot, withouten ween,
That all our wele is turned to wo!"
"Lady," he said, "thou must blinne;
Wide I wot these wordes beth rife; 39
But is here any armour in
That I may have to save my life?"
"Certes, nay," she said then,
"This aunter is so wonder strife
That I ne may to none armour win
Helm ne hauberk, sword ne knife."
Ever Agravain and Sir Mordred
Calld him recreant false knight,
Bade him rise out of his bed,
For he moste needes with them fight.
In his robe then he him cledde,
Though he none armour gette might;
Wrothly out his sword he gredde;
The chamber door he set up right.
An armed knight before in went
And wend Launcelot well to slo,
But Launcelot gave him such a dint,
That to the grounde gan he go;
The other all again then stent;
After him durste follow no mo;
To the chamber door he sprent
And clasped it with barres two.
The knight that Launcelot has slain,
His armour fand he fair and bright;
Hastely he hath them off-drayn
And there-in himselfe dight.
"Now know thou well, Sir Agravain,
Thou prisouns me no more tonight!"
Out then sprang he with mikel main,
Himself against them all to fight.
Launcelot then smote with herte good;
Wite ye well, withouten lees,
Sir Agravain to dethe yode,
And sithen all the other press;
Was none so strong that him withstood,
By he had made a little rese,
But Mordred fled as he were wode,
To save his life full fain he was.
Launcelot to his chamber yode,
To Bors and to his other knightes;
Bors, armed, before him stood;
To bedde yet was he not dight.
The knightes for fere was nighe wode,
So were they dreched all that night;
But blithe wexed they in their mood
When they their master saw with sight.
"Sir," said Bors, the hardy knight,
"After you have we thought full long;
To bedde durst I me not dight,
For drede ye had some aunter strong;
Our knightes have be dreched tonight
That some naked out of bedde sprong,
For-thy we were full sore affright,
Lest some tresoun were us among."
"Ya, Bors, drede thee no wight,
But beth of herte good and bold,
And swithe awaken up all my knightes
And look which wille with us hold;
Look they be armed and redy dight,
For it is sooth that thou me told;
We have begonne this ilke night
That shall bring many a man full cold."
Bors then spake with drery mood:
"Sir," he said, "sithe it is so,
We shall be of hertes good,
After the wele to take the wo."
The knightes sprent as they were wode,
And to their harnes gonne they go;
At the morrow armed before him stood
A hundreth knightes and squiers mo.
When they were armed and redy dight,
A softe pas forth gonne they ride,
As men that were of mikel might,
To a forest there beside.
Launcelot arrayes all his knightes,
And there they lodgen them to bide.
Til they herde of the lady bright,
What aunter of her sholde betide.
Mordred then took a way full gain,
And to the forest went he right,
His aunters told, for sooth to sayn,
That were befallen that ilke night.
"Mordred, have ye that traitour slain,
Or how have ye with him dight?"
"Nay, sir, but dede is Agravain,
And so are all our other knightes."
When it herde Sir Gawain,
That was so hardy knight and bold:
"Alas! Is my brother slain?"
Sore his herte began to colde:
"I warned well Sir Agravain,
Ere ever yet this tale was told,
Launcelot was so much of main
Against him was strong to hold."
It was no lenger for to bide;
King and all his knightes keen
Took their counsel in that tide,
What was best do with the queen.
It was no lenger for to bide;
That day forbrent sholde she ben.
The fire then made they in the feld;
There-to they brought that lady free;
All that ever might wepen weld
About her armed for to be.
Gawain, that stiff was under sheld,
Gaheriet, ne Gaheries ne wolde not see;
In their chamber they them held;
Of her they hadde grete pitee.
The king Arthur that ilke tide
Gawain and Gaheries for sent;
Their answers were not for to hide;
They ne wolde not be of his assent;
Gawain wolde never be ner beside
There any woman sholde be brent;
Gaheriet and Gaheries with little pride,
All unarmed thider they went.
A squier gan tho tithandes lithe,
That Launcelot to court hath sent;
To the forest he went as swithe,
There Launcelot and his folk was lente,
Bade them come and haste blithe:
"The queen is ledde to be brent!"
And they to horse and armes swithe,
And ich one before other sprent.
The queen by the fire stood,
And in her smok all redy was;
Lordinges was there many and good,
And grete power, withouten lees;
Launcelot sprent as he were wode;
Full soone parted he the press;
Was none so stiff before him stood
By he had made a little rese.
There was no steel stood them again,
Though fought they but a little stound;
Lordinges that were much of main,
Many good were brought to ground;
Gaheriet and Gaheries both were slain
With many a doleful dethes wound;
The queen they took withoute laine,
And to the forest gonne they found.
The tithinges is to the kinge brought,
How Launcelot has tan away the queen:
"Such wo as there is wrought!
Slain are all our knightes keen!"
Down he fell and swooned oft;
Grete dole it was to here and seen;
So ner his herte the sorrow sought,
Almost his life wolde no man ween.
"Jesu Crist! What may I sayn?
In erthe was never man so wo;
Such knightes as there are slain,
In all this world there is no mo.
Let no man telle Sir Gawain
Gaheriet his brother is dede him fro,
But wele-away, the rewful reyne,
That ever Launcelot was my fo!"
Gawain gan in his chamber him hold;
Of all the day he nolde not out go;
A squier then the tithandes told;
What wonder though his herte were wo?
"Alas," he said, "My brother bold,
Were Gaheriet be dede me fro?" 40
So sore his herte began to colde,
Almost he wolde himselfe slo.
The squier spake with drery mood
To recomfort Sir Gawain:
"Gaheriet ailes nought but good; 41
He will soon come again."
Gawain sprent as he were wode
To the chamber there they lay slain;
The chamber floor all ran on blood
And clothes of gold were over them drayn.
A cloth he heves then upon height;
What wonder though his herte were sore,
So dolefully to see them dight,
That ere so doughty knightes were!
When he his brother saw with sight,
A word might he speke no more;
There he lost both main and might
And over him fell in swooning there.
Of swooning when he might awake,
The hardy knight, Sir Gawain,
By God he swore and loude spake,
As man that muche was of main:
"Betwix me and Launcelot du Lake,
Nis man on erthe, for sooth to sayn,
Shall trewes set and pees make
Ere either of us have other slain!"
A squier that Launcelot to court had sent
Of the tithandes gan he lithe;
To the forest is he went
And told Launcelot also swithe
How lordinges that were rich of rent,
Fele good had lost their life,
Gaheriet and Gaheries sought their end;
But then was Launcelot nothing blithe.
"Lord," he said, "What may this ben?"
Jesu Crist! What may I sayn?
The love that hath betwixt us been!
That ever Gaheriet me was again!
Now I wot for all bydene
A sorry man is Sir Gawain;
Accordement thar me never ween
Til either of us have other slain."
Launcelot gan with his folk forth wend,
With sorry herte and drery mood.
To queenes and countesses fele he send
And grete ladies of gentle blood,
That he had oft their landes defend
And foughten when them need bestood.
Ichon her power him lend
And made his party stiff and good.
Queenes and countesses that riche were
Send him erles with grete meyne;
Other ladies that might no more
Sent him barons or knightes free.
So mikel folk to him gan fare
Hidous it was his host to see;
To the Joyous Gard went he there
And held him in that strong citee.
Launcelotes herte was full sore
For the lady fair and bright;
A damesel he did be yare,
In rich apparail was she dight,
Hastely in message for to fare
To the king of mikel might,
To prove it false - what might he more? - 42
But profferes him therefore to fight.
The maiden is redy for to ride,
In a full rich apparailment
Of samite green, with mikel pride,
That wrought was in the Orient;
A dwarf sholde wende by her side;
Such was Launcelotes commaundement;
So were the manneres in that tide,
When a maid on message went.
To the castle when she come,
In the palais gan she light;
To the king her errand she saide soon
(By him sat Sir Gawain the knight),
Said that lies were said him upon;
Trew they were by day and night;
To prove it as a knight sholde don
Launcelot profferes him to fight.
The king Arthur spekes there
Wordes that were keen and thro:
"He ne might prove it never more, 43
But of my men that he wolde slo.
By Jesu Crist," the king swore
And Sir Gawain then also,
"His deedes shall be bought full sore,
But yif no steel nill in him go!" 44
The maiden hath her answer;
To the Joyous Gard gan she ride;
Such as the kinges wordes were
She told Launcelot in that tide.
Launcelot sighed wonder sore,
Teres from his eyen gan glide.
Bors de Gawnes by God then swore:
"In middes the feld we shall them bide!"
Arthur wolde no lenger abide,
But hastes him with all his might.
Messengeres did he go and ride,
That they ne sholde let for day ne night,
Throughout Yngland by ich a side,
To erle, baron, and to knight,
Bade them come that ilke tide,
With horse strong and armour bright.
Though the knight that were dede them fro, 45
Thereof was all their mikel care,
Three hundreth they made mo,
Out of castle ere they wolde fare,
Of Yngland and Ireland also,
Of Wales and Scottes that beste were,
Launcelot and his folkes to slo
With hertes breme as any bore.
When this host was all boun,
It was no lenger for to bide,
Raises spere and gonfanoun,
As men that were of mikel pride;
With helm and sheld and hauberk brown,
Gawain himself before gan ride
To the Joyous Gard, that riche town,
And set a sege on ech a side.
About the Joyous Gard they lay
Seventeen weekes and well more,
Til fell upon a day
Launcelot home bade them fare:
"Breke your sege! Wendes away!
You to slay grete pitee it were."
He said: "Alas and wele-away,
That ever began this sorrow sore!"
Ever the king and Sir Gawain
Calld him false recreant knight,
And said he had his brethern slain,
And traitour was by day and night,
Bade him come and prove his main
In the feld with them to fight.
Launcelot sighed, for sooth to sayn;
Grete dole it was to see with sight.
So loud they Launcelot gonne ascry,
With vois and hidous hornes bere,
Bors de Gawnes standes him by,
And Launcelot makes ivel cheer.
"Sir," he said, "wherefore and why
Sholde we these proude wordes here?
Me think ye fare as cowardly
As we ne durst no man nighe ner.
"Dight we us in rich array,
Both with spere and with sheld,
As swithe as ever that we may,
And ride we out into the feld.
While my life laste may,
This day I ne shall my wepen yeld;
Therefore my life I dare well lay
We two shall make them all to held."
"Alas," quod Launcelot, "Wo is me,
That ever sholde I see with sight
Again my lord for to be,
The noble king that made me knight!
Sir Gawain, I beseeche thee,
As thou art man of muche might,
In the feld let not my lord be, 46
Ne that thyself with me not fight."
It may no lenger for to bide,
But busked them and made all boun;
When they were redy for to ride,
They raised spere and gonfanoun;
When these hostes gan samen glide,
With vois and hidous hornes soun,
Grete pitee was on either side,
So fele good there were laid down.
Sir Lionel with muche main,
With a spere before gan found;
Sir Gawain rides him again,
Horse and man he bore to ground,
That all men wend he had been slain;
Sir Lionel had such a wound
Out of the feld was he drayn,
For he was seke and sore unsound.
In all the feld that ilke tide
Might no man stand Launcelot again,
And sithen as fast as he might ride 47
To save that no man sholde be slain.
The king was ever ner beside
And hew on him with all his main,
And he so courtais was that tide
O dint that he nolde smite again.
Bors de Gawnes saw at last,
And to the king then gan he ride,
And on his helm he hit so fast
That ner he lost all his pride;
The steede rigge under him brast,
That he to grounde fell that tide;
And sithen wordes loud he cast,
With Sir Launcelot to chide:
"Sir, shaltou all day suffer so
That the king thee assail,
And sithe his herte is so thro,
Thy courtaisy may not avail?
Batailes shall there never be mo,
And thou wilt do by my counsel:
Giveth us leve them all to slo,
For thou hast vanquished this batail."
"Alas," quod Launcelot, "Wo is me,
That ever sholde I see with sight
Before me him unhorsed be,
The noble king that made me knight!"
He was then so courtais and free
That down of his steed he light;
The king there-on then horses he,
And bade him flee, yif that he might.
When the king was horsed there,
Launcelot lookes he upon,
How courtaisy was in him more
Than ever was in any man.
He thought on thinges that had been ere;
The teres from his eyen ran;
He said, "Alas," with sighing sore,
"That ever yet this war began!"
The parties arn withdrawen away,
Of knightes were they wexen thin;
On morrow on that other day
Sholde the batail eft begin;
They dight them on a rich array
And parted their hostes both in twinne;
He that began this wretched play,
What wonder though he had grete sin?
Bors was breme as any bore,
And out he rode to Sir Gawain;
For Lionel was wounded sore,
Venge his brother he wolde full fain.
Sir Gawain gan again him fare,
As man that muche was of main;
Either through other body bore
That well ner were they bothe slain.
Both to ground they fell in fere;
Therefore were fele folk full wo.
The kinges party redy were
Away to take them bothe two.
Launcelot himself come ner,
Bors rescues he them fro;
Out of the feld men him bere;
So were they wounded bothe two.
Of this batail were to tell
A man that it well understood,
How knightes under saddles fell
And sitten down with sorry mood;
Steedes that were bold and snell
Among them waden in the blood;
But by the time of even-bell
Launcelot party the better stood.
Of this batail was no more,
But thus departen they that day;
Folk their frendes home led and bore,
That slain in the feldes lay.
Launcelot gan to his castle fare,
The batail vanquished, for sooth to say;
There was dole and weeping sore;
Among them was no childes play.
Into all landes north and south
Of this war the word sprong,
And yet at Rome it was full couthe
In Yngland was such sorrow strong;
There-of the Pope had grete rewth;
A letter he seled with his hand:
But they accorded well in trewth 48
Enterdite he wolde the land.
Then was a bishop at Rome,
Of Rochester, withouten lees;
Til Yngland he, the message, come,
To Carlisle there the king was;
The Popes letter out he nome,
In the palais, before the dese,
And bade them do the Popes doom
And hold Yngland in rest and pees.
Redde it was before all bydene,
The letter that the Pope gan make,
How he must have again the queen
And accord with Launcelot du Lake,
Make a pees them between
For ever more, and trewes make,
Or Yngland enterdited sholde ben
And turn to sorrow for their sake.
The king again it wolde not ben,
To do the Popes commaundement,
Blithely again to have the queen;
Wolde he not that Yngland were shent;
But Gawain was of herte so keen
That to him wolde he never assent
To make accord them between
While any life were in him lente.
Through the sent of all bydene,
Gan the king a letter make;
The bishop in message yede between
To Sir Launcelot du Lake,
And asked if he wolde the queen
Courtaisly to him betake,
Or Yngland enterdite sholde ben
And turn to sorrow for their sake.
Launcelot answerd with grete favour,
As knight that hardy was and keen:
"Sir, I have stand in many a stour,
Both for the king and for the queen;
Full cold had been his beste towr
Yif that I nadde myselfe been;
He quites me with little honour,
That I have served him all bydene."
The bishop spake withoute fail,
Though he were nothing afrought:
"Sir, think that ye have vanquished many a batail,
Through grace that God hath for you wrought;
Ye shall do now by my counsel;
Think on Him that you dere bought;
Women are frele of their entail;
Sir, lettes not Yngland go to nought!"
"Sir Bishop, castelles for to hold,
Wite you well, I have no need;
I might be king, yif that I wolde,
Of all Benwick, that riche thede,
Ride into my landes bold,
With my knightes stiff on steed;
The queen, yif that I to them yolde,
Of her life I have grete drede."
"Sir, by Mary, that is maiden flowr,
And by God that all shall rede and right,
She ne shall have no dishonour;
There-to my trowth I shall you plight,
But boldly brought into her bowr,
To ladies and to maidens bright,
And holden in well more honour
Than ever she was by day or night."
"Now, yif I graunt such a thing
That I deliver shall the queen,
Sir Bishop, say my lord, the king,
Sir Gawain and them all bydene,
That they shall make me a sekering,
A trews to holde us between."
Then was the bishop wonder blithe
That Launcelot gave him this answer;
Til his palfrey he went as swithe,
And til Carlisle gan he fare.
Tithandes soon were done to lithe,
Which that Launcelotes wordes were;
The king and court was all full blithe;
A trews they set and sekered there.
Through the assent of all bydene
A seker trews there they wrought;
Though Gawain were of herte keen,
There-against was he nought,
To hold a trewes them between
While Launcelot the queen home brought;
But cordement thar him never ween
Ere either other herte have sought. 49
A seker trews gonne they make
And with their seles they it band;
There-to they three bishoppes gonne take,
The wisest that were in all the land,
And sent to Launcelot du Lake;
At Joyous Gard then they him fand;
The lettres there they him betake,
And there-to Launcelot held his hand.
The bishoppes then went on their way,
To Carlisle there the king was;
Launcelot shall come that other day,
With the lady proud in press.
He dight him in a rich array,
Wite ye well, withouten lees;
An hundreth knightes, for sooth to say,
The best of all his host he chese.
Launcelot and the queen were cledde
In robes of a riche weed,
Of samite white, with silver shredde,
Ivory saddle and white steed,
Sambues of the same thred,
That wrought was in the hethen thede;
Launcelot her bridle led,
In the romaunce as we rede.
The other knightes everychone,
In samite green of hethen land,
And in their kirtels ride alone,
And iche knight a green garland;
Saddles set with riche stone;
Ichon a braunch of olive in hand;
All the feld about them shone;
The knightes rode full loud singand.
To the castle when they come
In the palais gonne they light;
Launcelot the queen off her palfrey nome;
They said it was a seemly sight.
The king then salues he full soon,
As man that was of muche might;
Fair wordes were there fone,
But weeping stood there many a knight.
Launcelot spake, as I you mene,
To the king of mikel might:
"Sir, I have thee brought thy queen,
And saved her life with the right,
As lady that is fair and sheen
And trew is both day and night;
If any man sayes she is not clene,
I proffer me therefore to fight."
The king Arthur answeres there
Wordes that were keen and thro:
"Launcelot, I ne wend never more
That thou wolde me have wrought this wo;
So dere as we samen were,
There-under that thou was my fo;
But nought-for-thy me rewes sore
That ever was war betwixt us two."
Launcelot then answerd he,
When he had listened long:
"Sir, thy wo thou witest me,
And well thou wost it is with wrong;
I was never fer from thee
When thou had any sorrow strong;
But liers listenes thou to lie,
Of whom all this word out sprong."
Then bespake him Sir Gawain,
That was hardy knight and free:
"Launcelot, thou may it not withsayn
That thou hast slain my brethern three;
For-thy shall we prove our main
In feld whether shall have the gree. 50
Ere either of us shall other slayn,
Blithe shall I never be."
Launcelot answerd with herte sore,
Though he were nothing afrought:
"Gawain," he said, "Though I were there,
Myself thy brethern slogh I nought;
Other knightes fele there were
That sithen this war dere han bought."
Launcelot sighed wonder sore;
The teres of his eyen sought.
Launcelot spake, as I you mene,
To the king and Sir Gawain:
"Sir, shall I never of cordement ween,
That we might frendes be again?"
Gawain spake with herte keen
As man that muche was of main:
"Nay, cordement thar thee never ween 51
Til one of us have other slain!"
"Sithe it never may betide
That pees may be us between,
May I into my landes ride,
Safely with my knightes keen?
Then will I here no lenger bide,
But take leve of you all bydene;
Where I wend in worlde wide,
Yngland will I never sen."
The king Arthur answerd there -
The teres from his eyen ran -
"By Jesu Crist," he there swore,
"That all this world wrought and won,
Into thy landes when thou wilt fare,
Thee shall let no livand man."
He said, "Alas!" with sighing sore,
"That ever yet this war began!"
"Sithe that I shall wend away,
And in mine owne landes wonne,
May I safely wonne there ay,
That ye with war not come me on?"
Sir Gawain then said: "Nay,
By Him that made sun and moon,
Dight thee well as ever thou may,
For we shall after come full soon."
Launcelot his leve hath taken there;
It was no lenger for to bide;
His palfrey fand he redy yare,
Made him redy for to ride;
Out of the castel gonne they fare;
Grimly teres let they glide;
There was dole and weeping sore;
At the parting was little pride.
To the Joyous Gard, the riche town,
Rode Launcelot, the noble knight;
Busked them and made all boun,
As men that were of muche might.
With spere in hand and gonfanoun
(Let they neither day ne night)
To an haven hight Kerlioun;
Rich galleys there they fande dight.
Now are they shipped on the flood,
Launcelot and his knightes hende;
Wederes had they fair and good
Where their will was for to wend,
To an haven there it stood,
As men were levest for to lende; 52
Of Benwick blithe was their mood,
When Jesu Crist them thider send.
Now are they arrived on the strand;
Of them was fele folk full blithe;
Grete lordes of the land,
Again him they come as swithe,
And fellen him to foot and hand; 53
For their lord they gonne him kithe,
At his doomes for to stand,
And at his lawes for to lithe.
Bors made he king of Gawnes,
As it was both law and right;
Lionel made king of Fraunce,
By olde time Gawle hight;
All his folk he gan avaunce
And landes gave to ich a knight,
And stored his casteles for all chaunce,
For mikel he hoped more to fight.
Ector he crownes with his hand,
So says the book, withouten lees,
Made him king of his fader land,
And prince of all the riche press,
Bade nothing him sholde withstand,
But hold him king, as worthy was,
For there no more himself wolde fonde
Til he wiste to live in pees.
Arthur will he no lenger abide;
Night and day his herte was sore.
Messengeres did he go and ride,
Throughout Yngland to fare,
To erles and barons on ich a side,
Bade them busk and make all yare,
On Launcelot landes for to ride,
To bren and slee and make all bare.
At his knightes all bydene
The king gan his counsel take,
And bade them ordain them between
Who beste steward were for to make,
The reme for to save and yeme,
And beste were for Britaines sake;
Full mikel they drede them all bydene,
That aliens the land wolde take.
The knightes answerd, withoute lees,
And said, for sooth, that so them thought
That Sir Mordred the sekerest was
Though men the reme throughoute sought,
To save the reme in trews and pees.
Was a book before him brought;
Sir Mordred they to steward chese;
That many a bold sithen abought.
It was no lenger for to bide,
But buskes them and made all boun;
When they were redy for to ride,
They raised spere and gonfanoun;
Forth they went with mikel pride
Til an haven hight Kerlioun,
And graithes by the lande side
Galleys grete of fele fasoun.
Now are they shipped on the se
And wenden over the water wide;
Of Benwick when they mighte see,
With grete rout they gonne up ride;
Withstood them neither stone ne tree,
But brent and slogh on ich a side;
Launcelot is in his best citee;
There he batail will abide.
Launcelot clepes his knightes keen,
His erles and his barons bold;
Bade them ordain them between,
To wite their will, what they wolde,
To ride again them all bydene
Or their worthy walles hold,
For well they wiste, withouten ween,
For no fantysé Arthur nolde fold. 54
Bors de Gawnes, the noble knight,
Sternly spekes in that stound:
"Doughty men, that ye be dight,
Foundes your worship for to fonde
With spere and sheld and armes bright,
Again your fomen for to founde;
King and duke, erl and knight,
We shall them bete and bring to ground!"
Lionel spekes in that tide,
That was of warre wise and bold:
"Lordinges, yet I rede we bide
And our worthy walles hold;
Let them prik with all their pride,
Til they have caught both hunger and cold;
Then shall we out upon them ride,
And shred them down as sheep in fold."
Sir Bangdemagew, that bolde king,
To Launcelot spekes in that tide:
"Sir, courtaisy and your suffering
Has wakend us wo full wide;
Avise you well upon this thing;
Yif that they over our landes ride,
All to nought they might us bring,
While we in holes here us hide."
Galyhod, that ay was good,
To Launcelot he spekes there:
"Sir, here are knightes of kinges blood,
That long will not droop and dare;
Give me leve, for Cross on Rood,
With my men to them to fare;
Though they be worse than outlawes wode,
I shall them slee and make full bare."
Of North-Gales were brethern seven,
Ferly mikel of strength and pride;
Not full fele that men coude neven
Better durst in batail bide;
And they said with one steven:
"Lordinges, how long will ye chide?
Launcelot, for Goddes love in Heven,
With Galyhod forth let us ride!"
Then spake the lord that was so hende,
Himself, Sir Launcelot du Lake:
"Lordinges, a while I rede we lende
And our worthy walles wake;
A message will I to them send,
A trews between us for to take;
My lord is so courtais and hende
That yet I hope a pees to make.
"Though we might with worship win,
Of a thing mine herte is sore:
This land is full of folk full thin,
Batailes have made it full bare;
Wite ye well it were grete sin
Cristen folk to slee thus more;
With mildeness we shall begin
And God shall wisse us well to fare."
And at this assent all they were,
And set a watch for to wake,
Knightes breme as any bore
And derf of drede as is the drake;
A damesel they did be yare,
And hastely gonne her lettres make;
A maid sholde on the message fare,
A trews between them for to take.
The maid was full sheen to shew,
Upon her steed when she was set;
Her parail all of one hew,
Of a green velvet;
In her hand a braunch new,
For-why that no man sholde her let;
There-by men messengeres knew,
In hostes when that men them met.
The king was loked in a feld,
By a river brode and dregh;
A while she hoved and beheld,
Paviliouns that were pight on high;
She saw there many comely telde,
With pommels bright as goldes bee; 55
On one hung the kinges sheld;
That pavilioun she drew her nigh.
The kinges banner out was set;
That pavilioun she drew her ner;
With a knight full soon she met,
Hight Sir Lucan de Botteler;
She hailsed him and he her grette,
The maid with full mild cheer;
Her errand was not for to let;
He wiste she was a messenger.
Sir Lucan down gan her take
And in his armes forth gan lede;
Hendely to her he spake,
As knight that wise was under weed: 56
"Thou comest from Launcelot du Lake,
The best that ever strode on steed;
Jesu, for his Moderes sake,
Give thee grace well to speed!"
Fair was pight upon a plain
The pavilioun in rich apparail;
The king himself and Sir Gawain
Comely sitten in the hall;
The maiden kneeled the king again,
So low to grounde gan she fall;
Her lettres were not for to laine;
They were yredde among them all.
Hendely and fair the maiden spake,
Full fain of speche she wolde be speed: 57
"Sir, God save you all from wo and wrake,
And all your knightes in riche weed;
You greetes well Sir Launcelot du Lake,
That with you hath been ever at need;
A twelve-month trews he wolde take,
To live upon his owne lede,
"And sithen, yif ye make an hest,
He will it hold with his hand
Between you for to make pees,
Stabely ever for to stand;
He will rap him on a rese
Mildly to the Holy Land,
There to live, withouten lees,
While he is man livand."
The king then cleped his counsel,
His doughty knightes all bydene;
First he said, withouten fail:
"Me think it were best to sen;
He were a fool, withouten fail,
So fair forwardes for to fleme."
The king the messenger thus did assail:
"It were pity to set war us between."
"Certes, nay!" said Sir Gawain,
"He hath wrought me wo ynow,
So traitourly he hath my brethern slain,
All for your love, sir; that is trouth!
To Yngland will I not turn again
Til he be hanged on a bough;
While me lasteth might or main,
There-to I shall find peple ynow."
The king himself, withouten lees,
And ich a lord, is not to laine,
All they spake to have pees,
But himselfe, Sir Gawain;
To batail hath he made his hest,
Or elles never to turn again.
They made them redy to that rese;
Therefore was fele folk unfain.
The king is comen into the hall,
And in his royal see him set;
He made a knight the maiden call,
Sir Lucan de Botteler, withouten let:
"Say to Sir Launcelot and his knightes all,
Such an hest I have him hette,
That we shall wend for no wall, 58
Til we with mightes ones have met."
The maid had her answer;
With drery herte she gan her dight;
Her fair palfrey fand she yare,
And Sir Lucan led her thider right.
So through a forest gan she fare
And hasted her with all her might,
There Launcelot and his knightes were,
In Benwick the brough with bemys bright.
Now is she went within the wall,
The worthy damesel fair in weed;
Hendely she came into that hall;
A knight her took down off her steed.
Among the princes proud in palle
She took her lettres for to rede;
There was no counsel for to call,
But redyly buskes them to that deed.
As folkes that preste were to fight,
From felde wolde they never flee;
But by the morrow that day was light,
About beseged was all their fee;
Ichon them rayed in all rightes; 59
Neither party thought to flee.
Erly as the day gan spring,
The trompets upon the walles went;
There might they see a wonder thing,
Of teldes rich and many a tent.
Sir Arthur then, the comely king,
With his folkes there was lente,
To give assaut, without leesing,
With alblasters and bowes bent.
Launcelot all forwondered was
Of the folk before the wall;
But he had rather knowen that rese 60
Out had run his knightes all.
He said: "Princes, beth in pees,
For follies fele that might befall;
Yif they will not their sege sese,
Full sore I hope forthink them shall."
Then Gawain, that was good at every need,
Graithed him in his good armour,
And stiffly stert upon a steed,
That seker was in ilk a stour;
Forth he sprang as spark on glede,
Before the gates again the towr;
He bade a knight come kithe main,
A course of war for his honour.
Bors de Gawnes buskes him boun,
Upon a steed that sholde him bere,
With helme, sheld, and hauberk brown,
And in his hand a full good spere;
Out he rode a grete randoun;
Gawain kydde he coude of war;
Horse and man both bore he down,
Such a dint he gave him there.
Sir Lionel was all redy then,
And for his brother was wonder wo;
Redyly with his steed out ran,
And wend Gawain for to slo.
Gawain him kept as he well can, 61
As he that ay was keen and thro;
Down he bore both horse and man,
And every day some served he so.
And so more than half a yere,
As long as they there layn,
Every day men might see there
Men wounded and some slain;
But how that ever in world it were,
Such grace had Sir Gawain,
Ever he passed hole and clere;
There might no man stand him again.
hear; listen to
So that; nothing
dais (raised platform)
raises an outcry against
anyone prepare himself
afterwards prepare ourselves
reward you for it
Well do you repay me for it
eyes; was lowered
To no effect; employed
low noon (about ten a.m.)
Lady's (i.e., Virgin Mary's)
boast; (see note)
put the poison
squire; put to death
Drawn; hanged; burned
knew much of trouble-making
conceal and hide
know; without doubt
Had he not
And, moreover, if he had need
i.e., be his ally
in this manner
would not hear any
will not be
no man ever had more
in the act
outside (the court)
At home remained
it ill-pleased his heart
i.e., if you please
know what she wants
will not remain
Because; return immediately
put upon himself
kissed; embraced; creature
He had hardly gotten in his bed
bold in battle
circumstance; very bad
must; by necessity
stood close to
locked; two bars
the armor drawn off
then the rest of the gang
By the time; attack
disturbed by dreams
At a gentle pace
arranges in formation
heard the news
By the time; attack
Almost no one expected him to live
lifts; up high
There is no man
was against me; (see note)
I may never expect reconciliation
Each one; granted
commanded to be ready
as a messenger
they (Lancelot and Guinevere)
on every side
braying of horns
As if we dared approach no man
voice; hideous; sound
would not strike in return
shalt thou; allow
Avenge; eagerly desired
Unless; truth; (see note)
as a messenger went
If I had not been there
nation; (see note)
flower of maidens
give me assurance
truce; pledged themselves to it
found; (see note)
the next day
amidst the company
heathen lands; (see note)
romance (French book)
gowns (i.e., without armor)
were to each other
I.e., despite this
nevertheless it sorely pains me
your troubles you blame on me
you know well you do wrongly
you listen to lying liars
ran from his eyes
No living man shall stop you
named Caerleon; (see note)
Gaul was called
supplied; every emergency
try [to do]
knew [he could]
they bustle about
burned; slew; every
brought us great woe
crouch from fear
Body (?); Cross
slay and plunder
very many; name
fearsome as the dragon
branch; i.e., green
By that (i.e., green branch)
hasten in a rush
see (about this)
To flee (reject) such fair offers
for that attack
seat; (i.e., throne)
castle; trumpets brilliant
All their holdings were besieged
rich dwellings (tents)
I suppose they will regret it sorely
prove his strength
makes himself ready
at a rapid pace
proved he knew of war
Go to Stanzaic Morte Arthur, Part III