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'Twas Whitsunday morn, and King Arthur held
Round Table at Kenedon Hall,
But vowed at Pentecost never to eat
Till adventure strange should befall.
So his hundred and fifty arméd knights
Sat patiently waiting at noon,
And only Sir Launcelot murmur'd aloud,
"God send meat and adventure soon!"
But sudden and curious silence fell,
As enter'd the door of the hall
Two men, on whose shoulders another lean'd,
Fair-handed, well-visaged, and tall,
And spoke to the king, as he rear'd him straight,
"My monarch, I come here to pray
Three gifts of thy grace; but of only one
I crave the fulfillment to-day."
"We grant thy demand," the sovereign said;
"Sure thine is some lofty desire,"
"But meat and drink for a year," he replied.
"Faith!" cried Arthur, "a valiant squire!"
So strong as thou seemest, why askest not
For knighthood, armor, or steed?
Such hand as thine could Excalibur wield;
And is food thine uttermost need?"
"'Tis all I now wish: for mine other boons
I will sue at next Whitsuntide."
And the knights all sneer'd, as they broke their fast,
"More size has the varlet than pride."
Sir Kaye, the steward, in mocking despite,
Gave him place where the lackeys ate;
And only Sir Gawaine and Launcelot swore
That his mien was of nobler state.
The twain were right; for when Arthur again
The Pentecost holyday kept,
When adventure rare claim'd the bravest heart,
'Twas this Beaumains forward stept,
And boldly implored two boons of the king.
The first was this perilous quest;
And then that Sir Launcelot should dub him knight.
Quoth Sir Launcelot, "Not without test."
From the palace forth went the royal chief,
With his mail'd and warrior train,
To witness Sir Launcelot and Beaumains try
A tilt on the tournament-plain.
Short joust did they hold; for the far-famed knight
Had sore work to keep him unshamed.
"'Twas right gallantly fought," said the king and lords,
As the stranger promise claim'd.
Then, spurr'd and belted, he mounted his horse,
With Sir Launcelot's sword on his thigh;
For Sir Launcelot learn'd ere the accolade,
His name, kin, and lineage high.
And little the haughty Sir Gawaine deem'd,
As Sir Gareth rode proudly away,
That his brother had kept a vow unbroke
At court for a year and a day.