by: Larry D. Benson (Editor) , Edward E. Foster (Revisor)
from: King Arthur's Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure 1994
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Lordinges that are lef and dere
Listeneth, and I shall you tell,
By olde dayes what aunters were
Among our eldres that befell;
In Arthur dayes, that noble king,
Befell aunters ferly fele,
And I shall tell of their ending,
That mikel wiste of wo and wele.
The knightes of the Table Round,
The Sangrail when they had sought,
Aunters they before them found
Finished and to ende brought;
Their enemies they bette and bound
For gold on life they left them nought.
Four yere they lived sound,
When they had these workes wrought.
Til on a time that it befell
The king in bed lay by the queen;
Of aunters they began to tell,
Many that in that land had been:
"Sir, yif that it were your will,
Of a wonder thing I wolde you mene,
How that your court beginneth to spill
Of doughty knightes all bydene;
"Sir, your honour beginnes to fall,
That wont was wide in world to sprede,
Of Launcelot and other all,
That ever so doughty were in deed."
"Dame, there to thy counsel I call:
What were best for such a need?"
"Yif ye your honour holde shall,
A tournament were best to bede,
"For-why that aunter shall begin
And be spoke of on every side,
That knightes shall there worship win
To deed of armes for to ride.
Sir, lettes thus your court no blinne,
But live in honour and in pride."
"Certes, dame," the king said then,
"This ne shall no lenger abide."
A tournament the king let bede;
At Winchester sholde it be
Young Galehod was good in need;
The cheftain of the cry was he,
With knightes that were stiff on steed,
That ladies and maidens might see
Who that beste were of deed,
Through doughtiness to have the gree.
Knightes arme them bydene
To the tournament to ride,
With sheldes brode and helmes sheen
To win grete honour and pride.
Launcelot left with the queen,
And seke he lay that ilke tide;
For love that was them between,
He made enchesoun for to abide.
The king sat upon his steed,
And forth is went upon his way;
Sir Agravain for such a need,
At home beleft, for sooth to say,
For men told in many a thede
That Launcelot by the queen lay;
For to take them with the deed,
He awaites both night and day.
Launcelot forth wendes he
Unto the chamber to the queen,
And set him down upon his knee
And salues there that lady sheen
"Launcelot, what dostou here with me?
The king is went and the court bydene;
I drede we shall discovered be
Of the love is us between.
"Sir Agravain at home is he;
Night and day he waites us two."
"Nay, " he said, "my lady free,
I ne think not it shall be so;
I come to take my leve of thee,
Out of court ere that I go."
"Ya, swithe that thou armed be,
For thy dwelling me is full wo."
Launcelot to his chamber yede
There rich attire lay him before,
Armed him in noble weed,
Of that armour gentylly was shore. 1
Sword and sheld were good at need
In many batailes that he had bore,
And horsed him on a grey steed
King Arthur had him geve before.
Holdes he none highe way, 2
The knight that was hardy and free,
But hastes both night and day
Fast toward that riche citee
(Winchester it hight, for sooth to say)
There the tournament sholde be;
King Arthur in a castle lay,
Full much there was of game and glee.
For-why wolde men Launcelot behold,
And he ne wolde not himselfe show
With his shouldres gan he fold
And down he hanged his hed full low,
As he ne might his limmes weld;
Keeped he no bugle blow;
Well he seemed as he were old,
For-thy ne couth him no man know.
The king stood on a towr on hight;
Sir Ewain clepes he that tide:
"Sir Ewain, knowestou any wight
This knight that rides here beside?"
Sir Ewain spekes wordes right
(That ay is hende is not to hide):
"Sir, it is some olde knight
Is come to see the yonge knightes ride."
They beheld him both anon
A stounde for the steedes sake;
His horse stomeled at a stone
That all his body there-with gan shake;
The knight then braundished ich a bone,
As he the bridle up gan take;
There-by wiste they both anon
That it was Launcelot du Lake.
King Arthur then spekes he
To Sir Ewain these wordes right:
"Well may Launcelot holden be
Of all the world the beste knight,
Of beautee and of bountee,
And sithe is none so much of might,
At every deede best is he,
And sithe he nolde it wiste no wight, 3
"Sir Ewain, will we don him bide;
He weenes that we know him nought."
"Sir, it is better let him ride,
And let him don as he hath thought;
He will be here ner beside,
Sithe he thus fer hider hath sought;
We shall know him by his deed
And by the horse that he hath brought."
An erl wonned there beside,
The Lord of Ascolot was hight;
Launcelot gan thider ride,
And said he will there dwell all night;
They received him with grete pride;
A riche soper there was dight;
His name gan he hele and hide.
And said he was a strange knight.
Then had the erle sonnes two,
That were noble knightes maked new.
In that time was the manner so, 4
When yonge knightes sholde sheldes shew,
Til the first yere were ago
To bere armes of one hew,
Red or white, yellow or blo;
There-by men yonge knightes knew.
As they sat at their soper,
Launcelot to the erl spake there:
"Sir, is here any bacheler
That to the tournament will fare?"
"I have two sonnes that me is dere,
And now that one is seke full sore,
So that in company he were,
Mine other son I wolde were there."
"Sir, and thy son will thider right,
The lenger I will him abide,
And help him there with all my might,
That him none harme shall betide."
"Sir, thee seemes a noble knight,
Courtais and hende, is not to hide;
At morrow shall ye dine and dight,
Togeder I rede well that ye ride."
"Sir, of one thing I will you minne,
And beseech you for to speed,
Yif here were any armour in
That I might borrow it to this deed."
"Sir, my son lieth seke here-in;
Take his armour and his steed;
For my sonnes men shall you ken,
Of red shall be your bothes weed."
Th'erl had a doughter that was him dere;
Mikel Launcelot she beheld;
Her rode was red as blossom on brere
Or flowr that springeth in the feld;
Glad she was to sit him ner,
The noble knight under sheld;
Weeping was her moste cheer, 5
So mikel on him her herte gan helde.
Up then rose that maiden still,
And to her chamber went she tho;
Down upon her bed she fell,
That nigh her herte brast in two.
Launcelot wiste what was her will,
Well he knew by other mo; 6
Her brother cleped he him til,
And to her chamber gonne they go.
He sat him down for the maidens sake,
Upon her bedde there she lay;
Courtaisly to her he spake,
For to comfort that faire may.
In her armes she gan him take,
And these wordes gan she say:
"Sir, but yif that ye it make,
Save my life no leche may."
"Lady," he said, "thou moste let;
For me ne gif thee nothing ill; 7
In another stede mine herte is set;
It is not at mine owne will;
In erthe is nothing that shall me let
To be thy knight loud and still;
Another time we may be met
When thou may better speke thy fill."
"Sithe I of thee ne may have more,
As thou art hardy knight and free,
In the tournament that thou wolde bere
Some sign of mine that men might see."
"Lady, thy sleve thou shalt of-shere;
I will it take for the love of thee;
So did I never no ladies ere,
But one that most hath loved me."
On the morrow when it was day,
They dined and made them yare,
And then they went forth on their way,
Togeder as they brethern were.
They met a squier by the way
That from the tournament gan fare,
And asked him yif he couth them say
Which party was the bigger there.
"Sir Galahod hath folk the more,
For sooth, lordinges, as I you tell,
But Arthur is the bigger there;
He hath knightes stiff and fell;
They are bold and breme as bore,
Ewain, and Bors, and Lionel."
Th'erles son to him spake there:
"Sir, with them I rede we dwell."
Launcelot spake, as I you rede;
"Sithe they are men of grete valour,
How might we among them speed,
There all are stiff and strong in stour?
Help we them that hath most need;
Again the best we shall well doure;
And we might there do any deed,
It wolde us turn to more honour."
Launcelot spekes in that tide
As knight that was hardy and free:
"Tonight without I rede we bide;
The press is grete in that citee."
"Sir, I have an aunt here beside,
A lady of swithe grete beautee;
Were it your will thider to ride,
Glad of us then wolde she be."
Tho to the castle gonne they fare,
To the lady fair and bright;
Blithe was the lady there
That they wolde dwell with her that night;
Hastely was their soper yare
Of mete and drink richly dight.
On the morrow gonne they dine and fare,
Both Launcelot and that other knight.
When they come into the feld,
Much there was of game and play;
A while they hoved and beheld
How Arthurs knightes rode that day.
Galehodes party began to held,
On foot his knightes are led away.
Launcelot - stiff was under sheld -
Thinkes to help, yif that he may.
Beside him come then Sir Ewain,
Breme as any wilde bore;
Launcelot springes him again
In redde armes that he bore;
A dint he gave with mikel main;
Sir Ewain was unhorsed there,
That all men wend he had been slain,
So was he wounded wonder sore.
Sir Bors thought nothing good,
When Sir Ewain unhorsed was;
Forth he springes as he were wode,
To Launcelot, withouten lees;
Launcelot hit him on the hood,
The nexte way to ground he chese;
Was none so stiff again him stood;
Full thin he made the thickest press.
Sir Lionel began to teen,
And hastely he made him boune;
To Launcelot with herte keen,
He rode with helm and sworde brown;
Launcelot hit him, as I ween,
Through the helm into the crown,
That ever after it was seen
Both horse and man there yede adown.
The knightes gadered togeder there
And gonne with craft their counsel take;
Such a knight was never ere
But it were Launcelot du Lake;
But, for the sleeve on his crest was there,
For Launcelot wolde they him not take,
For he bore never none such before,
But it were for the queenes sake.
"Of Ascolot he never was
That thus well beres him today!"
Ector said, withouten lees,
What he was he wolde assay.
A noble steed Ector him chese,
And forthe rides glad and gay;
Launcelot he met amid the press,
Between them was no childes play.
Ector smote with herte good
To Launcelot that ilke tide;
Through helm into his hed it yode
That nighe lost he all his pride.
Launcelot hit him on the hood
That his horse fell and he beside.
Launcelot blindes in his blood;
Out of the feld full fast gan ride.
Out of the feld they riden tho
To a forest high and hore.
When they come by them one two, 8
Off his helm he takes there.
"Sir," he said, "me is full wo;
I drede that ye be hurt full sore."
"Nay," he said, "it is not so,
But fain I wolde at rest we were."
"Sir, mine aunt is here beside,
There we bothe were all night;
Were it your will thider to ride,
She will us help with all her might,
And send for leches this ilke tide,
Your woundes for to hele and dight;
And I myself will with you abide,
And be your servaunt and your knight."
To the castle they took the way,
To the lady fair and hende.
She sent for leches, as I you say,
That wonned both fer and hende,
But by the morrow that it was day,
In bed he might himself not wend;
So sore wounded there he lay
That well nigh had he sought his end.
Tho King Arthur with mikel pride
Called his knightes all him by,
And said a month he wolde there bide,
And in Winchester lie.
Heraudes he did go and ride
Another tournament for to cry;
"This knight will be here beside,
For he is wounded bitterly."
When the lettres made were,
The heraudes forth with them yede,
Through Yngland for to fare,
Another tournament for to bede;
Bade them busk and make them yare,
All that stiff were on steed.
Thus these lettres sente were
To tho that doughty were of deed.
Til on a time that it befell
An heraud comes by the way
And at the castle a night gan dwell
There as Launcelot wounded lay,
And of the tournament gan tell
That sholde come on the Sunday;
Launcelot sighes wonder still
And said: "Alas and wele-away!
"When knightes win worship and pride,
Some aunter shall hold me away,
As a coward for to abide.
This tournament, for sooth to say,
For me is made this ilke tide;
Though I sholde die this ilke day,
Certes, I shall thider ride."
The leche answered also soon
And said: "Sir, what have ye thought?
All the craft that I have done
I ween it will you help right nought.
There is no man under the moon,
By Him that all this world hath wrought,
Might save your life to that time come
That ye upon your steed were brought!"
"Certes, though I die this day,
In my bed I will not lie;
Yet had I lever do what I may
Than here to die thus cowardly!"
The leche anon then went his way
And wolde no lenger dwell him by;
His woundes scrived and still he lay,
And in his bed he swooned thrie.
The lady wept as she were wode,
When she saw he dede wolde be;
Th'erles son with sorry mood
The leche again clepes he
And said: "Thou shalt have yiftes good
For-why that thou wilt dwell with me."
Craftily then staunched he his blood
And of good comfort bade him be.
The heraud then went on his way
At morrow when the day was light,
Also swithe as ever he may,
To Winchester that ilke night;
He salued the king, for sooth to say
(By him sat Sir Ewain the knight),
And sithe he told upon his play 9
What he had herde and seen with sight:
"Of all that I have seen with sight,
Wonder thought me never more 10
Than me did of a fooled knight
That in his bed lay wounded sore;
He might not heve his hed up-right
For all the world have wonne there; 11
For anguish that he ne ride might
All his woundes scrived there."
Sir Ewain then spekes wordes free,
And to the kinge said he there:
"Certes, no coward knight is he;
Alas, that he nere hole and fere!
Well I wot that it is he
That we all of unhorsed were.
The tournament is best let be,
Forsooth, that knight may not come there."
There tournament was then no more,
But thus departeth all the press;
Knightes took their leve to fare;
Ichon his owne way him chese.
To Camelot the king went there,
There as Queen Gaynor was;
He wend have found Launcelot there;
Away he was, withouten lees.
Launcelot sore wounded lay;
Knightes sought him full wide;
Th'erles son night and day
Was alway him beside.
Th'erl himself, when he ride may,
Brought him home with mikel pride
And made him both game and play
Til he might bothe go and ride.
Bors and Lionel then swore,
And at the king their leve took there,
Again they wolde come never more,
Til they wiste where Launcelot were.
Ector went with them there
To seech his broder that was him dere.
Many a land they gonne through fare
And sought him bothe fer and ner.
Til on a time that it befell
That they come by that ilke way,
And at the castle at mete gonne dwell,
There as Launcelot wounded lay.
Launcelot they saw, as I you tell,
Walk on the walles him to play;
On knees for joy all they fell,
So blithe men they were that day.
When Launcelot saw tho ilke three
That he in worlde loved best,
A merrier meeting might no man see,
And sithe he led them to rest.
Th'erl himself, glad was he
That he had gotten such a guest;
So was the maiden fair and free
That all her love on him had cast.
When they were to soper dight
Bordes were set and clothes spredde;
Th'erles doughter and the knight
Togeder was set, as he them bade;
Th'erles sonnes that both were wight,
To serve them were never sad,
And th'erl himself with all his might,
To make them both blithe and glad.
But Bors ever in mind he thought
That Launcelot had been wounded sore:
"Sir, were it your will to hele it nought 12
But tell where ye thus hurte were?"
"By Him that all this world hath wrought,"
Launcelot himselfe swore,
"The dint shall be full dere bought,
Yif ever we may meet us more!"
Ector ne liked that no wight,
The wordes that he herde there;
For sorrow he lost both strength and might;
The colours changed in his lere.
Bors then said these wordes right:
"Ector, thou may make ivel cheer;
For sooth, it is no coward knight
That thou art of ymanased here."
"Ector," he said, "were thou it were
That wounded me thus wonder sore?"
Ector answered with simple cheer:
"Lord, I ne wiste that ye it were;
A dint of you I had there;
Felled I never none so sore."
Sir Lionel by God then swore
That "Mine will seen be ever more!" 13
Sir Bors then answerd as tite
As knight that wise was under weed:
"I hope that none of us was quite;
I had one that to ground I yede;
Sir, your broder shall ye not wite;
Now knowes either others deed;
Now know ye how Ector can smite,
To help you when ye have need."
Launcelot lough with herte free
That Ector made so mikel site:
"Brother, nothing drede thou thee,
For I shall be both hole and quite.
Though thou have sore wounded me,
There-of I shall thee never wite,
But ever the better love I thee,
Such a dint that thou can smite."
Then upon the thridde day,
They took their leve for to fare;
To the court they will away,
For he will dwell a while there:
"Greet well my lord, I you pray,
And tell my lady how I fare,
And say I will come when I may,
And biddeth her long nothing sore."
They took their leve, withouten lees,
And wightly went upon their way;
To the court the way they chese,
There as the Queen Gaynor lay.
The king to the forest is,
With knightes him for to play;
Good space they had withouten press
Their errand to the queen to say.
They kneeled down before the queen,
The knightes that were wise of lore,
And said that they had Launcelot seen
And three dayes with him were,
And how that he had wounded been,
And seke he had lie full sore:
"Ere ought long ye shall him seen;
He bade you longe nothing sore."
The queen lough with herte free,
When she wiste he was on life:
"O worthy God, what wele is me!
Why ne wiste my lord it also swithe!" 15
To the forest rode these knightes three,
To the king it to kithe;
Jesu Crist then thankes he,
For was he never of word so blithe.
He cleped Sir Gawain him ner,
And said: "Certes, that was he
That the red armes bore,
But now he lives, wele is me!"
Gawain answerd with milde cheer,
As he that ay was hende and free:
"Was never tithandes me so dere,
But sore me longes Launcelot to see."
At the king and at the queen
Sir Gawain took his leve that tide,
And sithe at all the court bydene,
And buskes him with mikel pride,
Til Ascolot, withouten ween,
Also fast as he might ride;
Til that he have Launcelot seen,
Night ne day ne will he bide.
By that was Launcelot hole and fere
Buskes him and makes all yare;
His leve hath he take there;
The maiden wept for sorrow and care:
"Sir, yif that your willes were,
Sithe I of thee ne may have more,
Some thing ye wolde beleve me here,
To look on when me longeth sore."
Launcelot spake with herte free,
For to comfort that lady hende:
"Mine armour shall I leve with thee,
And in thy brothers will I wende;
Look thou ne longe not after me,
For here I may no lenger lende;
Long time ne shall it nought be
That I ne shall either come or sende."
Launcelot is redy for to ride,
And on his way he went forth right;
Sir Gawain come after on a tide,
And askes after such a knight.
They received him with grete pride
(A riche soper there was dight),
And said, in herte is nought to hide,
Away he was for fourtenight.
Sir Gawain gan that maiden take
And sat him by that sweete wight,
And spake of Launcelot du Lake;
In all the world nas such a knight.
The maiden there of Launcelot spake,
Said all her love was on him lighte:
"For his leman he hath me take;
His armour I you shewe might."
"Now damesel," he said anon,
"And I am glad that it is so;
Such a leman as thou hast one,
In all this world ne be no mo.
There is no lady of flesh ne bone
In this worlde so thrive or thro,
Though her herte were steel or stone,
That might her love holde him fro.
"But damesel, I beseech thee,
His shelde that ye wolde me shew;
Launcelotes yif that it be
By the coloures I it knew."
The maiden was both hende and free,
And led him to a chamber new;
Launcelotes sheld she let him see,
And all his armour forth she drew.
Hendely then Sir Gawain
To the maiden there he spake:
"Lady," he said, "withouten laine,
This is Launcelotes sheld du Lake.
Damesel," he said, "I am full fain
That he thee wolde to leman take
And I with all my might and main
Will be thy knight for his sake."
Gawain thus spake with that sweete wight
What his will was for to say.
Til he was to bed ydight,
About him was game and play.
He took his leve at erl and knight
On the morrow when it was day,
And sithen at the maiden bright,
And forth he went upon his way.
He niste where that he might,
Ne where that Launcelot wolde lende,
For when he was out of sight,
He was full ivel for to find.
He takes him the way right.
And to the courte gan he went;
Glad of him was king and knight,
For he was both courtais and hende.
Then it befell upon a tide,
The king stood by the queen and spake:
Sir Gawain standes him beside;
Ichon til other their mone gan make,
How long they might with bale abide
The coming of Launcelot du Lake;
In the court was little pride,
So sore they sighed for his sake.
"Certes, yif Launcelot were on life,
So long fro court he nolde not be."
Sir Gawain answerd also swithe:
"There-of no wonder thinketh me;
The fairest lady that is on life
Til his leman chosen hath he;
Is none of us but wolde be blithe
Such a seemly for to see."
The King Arthur was full blithe
Of that tithinges for to lere,
And asked Sir Gawain also swithe
What maiden that it were.
"Th'erles doughter," he said as swithe,
Of Ascolot, as ye may here,
There I was made glad and blithe;
His sheld the maiden shewed me there."
The queen then said wordes no mo,
But to her chamber soon she yede,
And down upon her bed fell so
That nigh of wit she wolde wede.
"Alas, " she said, "and wele-a-wo,
That ever I ought life in lede! 16
The beste body is lost me fro
That ever in stour bestrode steed."
Ladies that about her stood,
That wiste of her privitee,
Bade her be of comfort good;
Let no man such semblaunt see.
A bed they made with sorry mood,
Therein they brought that lady free;
Ever she wept as she were wode;
Of her they had full grete pitee.
So sore seke the queen lay,
Of sorrow might she never let,
Til it fell upon a day
Sir Lionel and Ector yede
Into the forest, them to play.
That flowred was and braunched sweet,
And as they wente by the way,
With Launcelot gonne they meet.
What wonder was though they were blithe,
When they their master saw with sight!
On knees they felle also swithe,
And all they thanked God all-might;
Joy it was to see and lithe
The meeting of the noble knight.
And sithe he frained also swith:
"How fares my lady bright?"
Then answered the knightes free,
And said that she was seke full sore:
"Grete dole it is to here and see,
So mikel she is in sorrow and care;
The king a sorry man is he,
In court for that ye come no more;
Dede he weenes that ye be,
And all the court, both less and more.
"Sir, were it your will with us to fare,
For to speke with the queen,
Blithe I wot well that she were
Yif that she had you ones seen.
The king is mikel in sorrow and care,
And so is all the court bydene;
Dede they ween well that ye are
From court for ye so long have been."
He grauntes them at that ilke sithe
Home that he will with them ride;
Therefore the knightes were full blithe
And busked them with mikel pride
To the court also swithe;
Night ne day they nolde abide;
The king and all the court was blithe
The tidandes when they herde that tide.
The king stood in a towr on high,
Besides him standes Sir Gawain;
Launcelot when that they sigh
Were never men on molde so fain.
They ran as swithe as ever they might
Out at the gates him again;
Was never tidandes to them so light;
The king him kissed and knight and swain.
To a chamber the king him led;
Fair in armes they gonne him fold,
And set him on a riche bed,
That spredde was with a cloth of gold;
To serve him there was no man sad,
Ne dight him as himselfe wolde
To make him both blithe and glad,
And sithe aunters he them told.
Three dayes in court he dwelled there
That he ne spake not with the queen,
So muche press was ay them ner;
The king him led and court bydene.
The lady, bright as blossom on brere,
Sore she longed him to sen;
Weeping was her moste cheer,
Though she ne durst her to no man mene.
Then it fell upon a day
The king gan on hunting ride,
Into the forest him to play,
With his knightes by his side.
Launcelot long in bedde lay;
With the queen he thought to bide.
To the chamber he took the way
And salues her with mikel pride.
First he kissed that lady sheen,
And salues her with herte free,
And sithe the ladies all bydene;
For joy the teres ran on their blee.
"Wele-away," then said the queen,
"Launcelot, that I ever thee see!
The love that hath us be between,
That it shall thus departed be!
"Alas, Launcelot du Lake,
Sithe thou hast all my herte in wold,
Th'erles doughter that thou wolde take
Of Ascolot, as men me told!
Now thou levest for her sake
All thy deed of armes bold;
I may wofully weep and wake
In clay til I be clongen cold! 17
"But, Launcelot, I beseech thee here,
Sithe it needelinges shall be so,
That thou never more diskere
The love that hath been betwix us two,
Ne that she never be with thee so dere, 18
Deed of armes that thou be fro,
That I may of thy body here,
Sithe I shall thus beleve in wo."
Launcelot full still then stood:
His herte was hevy as any stone;
So sorry he wex in his mood,
For rewth him thought it all to-torne.
"Madame," he said, "For Cross and Rood,
What betokeneth all this mone?
By Him that bought me with His blood,
Of these tidandes know I none.
"But by these wordes thinketh me
Away ye wolde that I were;
Now have good day, my lady free,
For sooth, thou seest me never more!"
Out of the chamber then wendes he;
Now whether his herte was full of wo!
The lady swoones sithes three;
Almost she slew herselfe there.
Launcelot to his chamber yede,
There his own attire in lay,
Armed him in an noble weed,
Though in his herte were little play;
Forth he sprang as spark of glede,
With sorry cheer, for sooth to say;
Up he worthes upon his steed,
And to a forest he wendes away.
Tithinges come into the hall
That Launcelot was upon his steed;
Out then ran the knightes all,
Of their wit as they wolde wede;
Bors de Gawnes and Lionel
And Ector that doughty was of deed,
Followen him on horses snell,
Full loude gonne they blow and grede.
There might no man him overtake;
He rode into a forest green;
Muche mone gonne they make,
The knightes that were bold and keen.
"Alas," they said, "Launcelot du Lake,
That ever sholdestou see the queen!"
And her they cursed for his sake,
That ever love was them between.
They ne wiste never where to fare,
Ne to what land that he wolde;
Again they went with sighing sore,
The knightes that were keen and bold;
The queen they found in swooning there,
Her comely tresses all unfold;
They were so full of sorrow and care,
There was none her comforte wolde.
The king then hastes him for his sake,
And home then come that ilke day,
And asked after Launcelot du Lake,
And they said: "He is gone away."
The queen was in her bed all naked,
And sore seke in her chamber lay;
So muche mone the king gan make,
There was no knight that lust to play.
The king clepes Gawain that day,
And all his sorrow told him til:
"Now is Launcelot gone away,
And come, I wot, he never will."
He said: "Alas and wele-away,"
Sighed sore and gave him ill;
"The lord that we have loved alway,
In court why nill he never dwell?"
Gawain spekes in that tide,
And to the king said he there:
"Sir, in this castle shall ye bide,
Comfort you and make good cheer,
And we shall both go and ride,
In alle landes fer and ner;
So prively he shall him not hide
Through hap that we ne shall of him here."
Knightes then sought him wide;
Of Launcelot might they not here,
Til it fell upon a tide,
Queen Gaynor, bright as blossom on brere,
To mete is set that ilke tide,
And Sir Gawain sat her ner,
And upon that other side
A Scottish knight that was her dere.
A squier in the court hath thought
That ilke day, yif that he might,
With a poison that he hath wrought
To slay Gawain, yif that he might;
In frut he hath it forthe brought
And set before the queene bright;
An apple overest lay on loft,
There the poison was in dight.
For he thought the lady bright
Wolde the best to Gawain bede;
But she it gave to the Scottish knight,
For he was of an uncouthe stede.
There-of he ete a little wight;
Of tresoun took there no man heed;
There he lost both main and might
And died soon, as I you rede.
They niste not what it might bemene,
But up him stert Sir Gawain
And sithen all the court bydene,
And over the borde they have him drayn.
"Wele-away," then said the queen,
"Jesu Crist, what may I sayn?
Certes, now will all men ween
Myself that I the knight have slain."
Triacle there was anon forth brought;
The queene wend to save his life;
But all that might help him nought,
For there the knight is dede as swithe.
So grete sorrow the queen then wrought,
Grete dole it was to see and lithe:
"Lord, such sites me have sought!
Why ne may I never be blithe?"
Knightes don none other might
But buried him with dole ynow
At a chapel with riche light,
In a forest by a clough;
A riche tomb they did be dight,
A crafty clerk the lettres drow,
How there lay the Scottish knight
The queen Gaynor with poison slogh.
After this a time befell
To the court there come a knight;
His broder he was, as I you tell,
And Sir Mador for sooth he hight;
He was an hardy man and snell
In tournament and eek in fight,
And mikel loved in court to dwell,
For he was man of muche might.
Then it fell upon a day
Sir Mador went with mikel pride
Into the forest, him for to play, 19
That flowred was and braunched wide;
He fand a chapel in his way,
As he came by the cloughes side,
There his owne broder lay,
And there at mass he thought to abide.
A riche tomb he fand there dight
With lettres that were fair ynow;
A while he stood and redde it right;
Grete sorrow then to his herte drow;
He fand the name of the Scottish knight
The Queen Gaynor with poison slogh.
There he lost both main and might,
And over the tomb he fell in swough.
Of swooning when he might awake,
His herte was hevy as any lede;
He sighed for his brothers sake;
He ne wiste what was beste rede.
The way to court gan he take,
Of nothing ne stood he drede;
A loude cry on the queen gan make,
In challenging of his brothers dede.
The king full sore then gan him drede,
For he might not be again the right;
The queen of wit wolde nighe wede,
Though that she aguilte had no wight.
She moste there beknow the deed
Or find a man for her to fight,
For well she wiste to dethe she yede,
Yif she were on a quest of knightes.
Though Arthur were king the land to weld,
He might not be again the right;
A day he took with spere and sheld
To find a man for her to fight,
That she shall either to dethe her yeld
Or put her on a quest of knightes;
There-to both their handes upheld
And trewly their trouthes plight.
When they in certain had set a day
And that quarrel undertake,
The word sprang soon through ech countree
What sorrow that Queen Gaynor gan make;
So at the last, shortly to say,
Word come to Launcelot du Lake,
There as he seke ywounded lay;
Men told him holly all the wrake,
How that Queen Gaynor the bright
Had slain with grete tresoun
A swithe noble Scottish knight
At the mete with strong poisoun;
Therefore a day was taken right
That she sholde find a knight full boun
For her sake for to fight
Or elles be brent without ransoun.
When that Launcelot du Lake
Had herde holly all this fare,
Grete sorrow gan he to him take,
For the queen was in such care,
And swore to venge her of that wrake,
That day yif that he livand were;
Then pained he him his sorrows to slake
And wex as breme as any bore.
Now leve we Launcelot there he was,
With the ermite in the forest green
And tell we forth of the case
That toucheth Arthur, the king so keen.
Sir Gawain on the morn to counsel he tas,
And morned sore for the queen;
Into a towr then he him has
And ordained the best there them between.
And as they in their talking stood
To ordain how it best might be,
A fair river under the towr yode,
And soon there-in gonne they see
A little bote of shape full good
To them-ward with the streme gan te;
There might none fairer sail on flood
Ne better forged as of tree.
When King Arthur saw that sight,
He wondred of the rich apparail
That was about the bote ydight;
So richly was it covered sanzfail,
In manner of a vout with clothes ydight
All shinand as gold as it gan sail.
Then said Sir Gawain the goode knight:
"This bote is of a rich entail."
"For sooth, sir," said the king tho,
"Such one saw I never ere;
Thider I rede now that we go;
Some adventures shall we see there,
And yif it be within dight so
As without, or gayer more,
I dare savely say there-to
Begin will aunters ere ought yare." 20
Out of the towr adown they went,
The King Arthur and Sir Gawain;
To the bote they yede withoute stint,
They two alone, for sooth to sayn;
And when they come there as it lente,
They beheld it fast, is not to laine;
A cloth that over the bote was bent
Sir Gawain lift up, and went in bain.
When they were in, withouten lees,
Full richly arrayed they it fand,
And in the middes a fair bed was
For any king of Cristen land.
Then as swithe, ere they wolde sese,
The coverlet lift they up with hand;
A dede woman they sigh there was,
The fairest maid that might be fand.
To Sir Gawain then said the king:
"For sooth, deth was too unhende,
When he wolde thus fair a thing
Thus yonge out of the world do wend;
For her beautee, without leesing,
I wolde fain wite of her kind, 21
What she was, this sweet derling,
And in her life where she gan lende."
Sir Gawain his eyen then on her cast
And beheld her fast with herte free,
So that he knew well at the last,
That the Maid of Ascolot was she,
Which he some time had wooed fast
His owne leman for to be,
But she answerd him ay in haste
To none but Launcelot wolde she te.
To the king then said Sir Gawain tho:
"Think ye not on this endres day,
When my lady the queen and we two
Stood togeder in your play,
Of a maid I told you tho,
That Launcelot loved paramour ay?"
"Gawain, for sooth," the king said tho,
"When thou it saidest well think I may."
"For sooth, sir," then said Sir Gawain,
"This is the maid that I of spake;
Most in this world, is not to laine,
She loved Launcelot du Lake."
"Forsooth," the king then gan to sayn,
"Me reweth the deth of her for his sake;
The enchesoun wolde I wite full fain; 22
For sorrow I trow deth gan her take."
Then Sir Gawain, the goode knight,
Sought about her withoute stint
And fand a purse full rich aright,
With gold and perles that was ybent;
All empty seemed it nought to sight;
That purse full soon in hand he hent;
A letter there-of then out he twight;
Then wite they wolde fain what it ment. 23
What was there writen wite they wolde,
And Sir Gawain it took the king,
And bade him open it that he sholde.
So did he soon, withoute leesing;
Then fand he when it was unfold
Both the end and the beginning
(Thus was it writen as men me told)
Of that fair maidens dying:
"To King Arthur and all his knightes
That longe to the Round Table,
That courtais been and most of mightes
Doughty and noble, trew and stable,
And most worshipful in alle fightes,
To the needful helping and profitable,
The Maid of Ascolot to rightes
Sendeth greeting, withouten fable;
"To you all my plaint I make
Of the wrong that me is wrought,
But nought in manner to undertake
That any of you sholde mend it ought,
But only I say for this sake,
That, though this world were through sought,
Men sholde nowhere find your make,
All noblesse to find that might be sought. 24
"Therefore to you to understand
That for I trewly many a day
Have loved leliest in land,
Deth hath me fette of this world away;
To wite for whom, yif ye will fonde,
That I so long for in langour lay,
To say the sooth will I not wonde,
For gaines it nought for to say nay.
"To say you the soothe tale,
For whom I have suffred this wo,
I say deth hath me take with bale,
For the noblest knight that may go;
Is none so doughty dintes to dele,
So real ne so fair there-to;
But so churlish of manners in feld ne hall,
Ne know I none of frend ne fo.
"Of fo ne frend, the sooth to say,
So unhende of thewes is there none;
His gentilness was all away,
All churlish manners he had in wone;
For no thing that I coude pray,
Kneeling ne weeping with rewful mone,
To be my leman he said ever nay,
And said shortly he wolde have none.
"Forthy, lordes, for his sake
I took to herte grete sorrow and care,
So at the last deth gan me take,
So that I might live no more;
For trewe loving had I such wrake
And was of bliss ybrought all bare;
All was for Launcelot du Lake,
To wite wisely for whom it were."
When that King Arthur, the noble king,
Had redde the letter and ken the name,
He said to Gawain, without leesing,
That Launcelot was gretly to blame,
And had him won a reproving,
For ever, and a wicked fame;
Sithe she died for grete loving,
That he her refused it may him shame.
To the king then said Sir Gawain:
"I gabbed on him this ender day,
That he longed, when I gan sayn, 25
With lady other with some other maye.
But sooth then said ye, is not to laine,
That he nolde not his love lay 26
In so low a place in vain,
But on a pris lady and a gay."
"Sir Gawain," said the king tho,
"What is now thy beste rede?
How may we with this maiden do?"
Sir Gawain said: "So God me speed,
Yif that ye will assent there-to,
Worshipfully we shull her lede
Into the palais and bury her so
As falles a dukes doughter in-deed."
There-to the king assented soon;
Sir Gawain did men soon be yare,
And worshipfully, as fell to don,
Into the palais they her bore.
The king then told, withoute lone,
To all his barons, less and more,
How Launcelot nolde not graunt her boon,
Therefore she died for sorrow and care.
To the queen then went Sir Gawain
And gan to tell her all the case:
"For sooth, madame," he gan to sayn,
"I yeld me guilty of a trespas.
I gabbed on Launcelot, is not to laine,
Of that I told you in this place;
I said that his bidding bain
The dukes doughter of Ascolot was.
"Of Ascolot that maiden free
I said you she was his leman;
That I so gabbed it reweth me,
And all the sooth now tell I can;
He nolde her not, we mowe well see; 27
For-thy dede is that white as swan;
This letter there-of warrant will be;
She plaineth on Launcelot to eche man."
The queen was wroth as wind,
And to Sir Gawain said she then:
"For sooth, sir, thou were too unkind
To gabbe so upon any man,
But thou haddest wiste the sooth in mind,
Whether that it were sooth or none;
Thy courtaisy was all behind
When thou tho sawes first began.
"Thy worship thou undidest gretlich,
Such wrong to wite that goode knight;
I trow that he ne aguilt thee never much 28
Why that thou oughtest with no right
To gabbe on him so vilainlich,
Thus behind him, out of his sight.
And, sir, thou ne wost not right wiselich 29
What harm hath falle there-of and might.
"I wend thou haddest be stable and trew
And full of all courtaisy,
But now me think thy manners new;
They ben all turned to vilainy,
Now thou on knightes makest thy glewe
To lie upon them for envy;
Who that thee worshippeth, it may them rew;
Therefore, devoied my company!"
Sir Gawain then slyly went away;
He sigh the queen agreved sore;
No more to her then wolde he say,
But trowed her wrath have ever more.
The queen then, as she nigh wode were,
Wringed her handes and said: "Wele-away!
Alas! in world that I was bore!
That I am wretched well say I may!"
"Herte, alas! Why were thou wode
To trowe that Launcelot du Lake
Were so false and fikel of mood
Another leman than thee to take?
Nay, certes, for all this worldes good,
He nolde to me have wrought such wrake!"
(At this point one leaf from the manuscript has been lost; evidently it told
of the burial of the Maid of Ascolot and of the queen's distress, the material in
chapters 74 and 78 of the French Mort Artu, our poet's source. Probably not more
than ninety lines are missing, but I follow the line-numbering in Bruce's edition.)
To find a man for her to fight
Or elles yeld her to be brent;
If she were on a quest of knightes
Well she wiste she sholde be shent;
Though that she aguilt had no wight,
No lenger life might her be lent.
The king then sighed and gave him ill,
And to Sir Gawain then he yede,
To Bors de Gawnes and Lionel,
To Ector that doughty was in deed,
And asked if any were in will
To help him in that mikel need.
The queen on knees before them fell,
That nigh out of her wit she yede.
The knightes answerd with little pride -
Their hertes was full of sorrow and wo -
Said: "All we saw and sat beside
The knight when she with poison slogh,
And sithe, in herte is not to hide,
Sir Gawain over the borde him drow;
Again the right we will not ride,
We saw the sooth verily ynow."
The queene wept and sighed sore;
To Bors de Gawnes went she tho,
On knees before him fell she there,
That nigh her herte brast in two;
"Lord Bors," she said, "thine ore!
Today I shall to dethe go,
But yif thy worthy will were
To bring my life out of this wo."
Bors de Gawnes stille stood,
And wrothe away his eyen went;
"Madame," he said, "By Cross on Rood,
Thou art well worthy to be brent!
The noblest body of flesh and blood,
That ever was yet in erthe lente,
For thy will and thy wicked mood,
Out of our company is went."
Then she wept and gave her ill,
And to Sir Gawain then she yede;
On knees down before him fell,
That nigh out of her wit she yede;
"Mercy!" she cried loud and shrill,
"Lord, as I no guilt have of this deed,
Yif it were thy worthy will
Today to help me in this need?"
Gawain answerd with little pride;
His herte was full of sorrow and wo:
"Dame, saw I not and sat beside
The knight when thou with poison slogh?
And sithe, in herte is not to hide,
Myself over the borde him drow.
Again the right will I not ride;
I saw the sooth very ynow."
Then she went to Lionel,
That ever had been her owne knight;
On knees adown before him fell,
That nigh she loste main and might.
"Mercy," she cried loud and shrill,
"Lord, as I ne have aguilte no wight,
Yif it were thy worthy will
For my life to take this fight?"
"Madame, how may thou to us take 30
And wot thyself so witterly
That thou hast Launcelot du Lake
Brought out of ower company?
We may sigh and moning make
When we see knightes keen in cry;
By Him that me to man gan shape,
We are glad that thou it abye!"
Then full sore she gan her drede;
Well she wiste her life was lorn;
Loude gan she weep and grede,
And Ector kneeles she beforn:
"For Him that on the Rood gan sprede
And for us bore the crown of thorn,
Ector, help now in this need,
Or, certes, today my life is lorn!"
"Madame, how may thou to us take,
Or how sholde I for thee fight?
Take thee now Launcelot du Lake,
That ever has been thine owne knight.
My dere brother, for thy sake
I ne shall him never see with sight!
Cursed be he that the batail take
To save thy life again the right!"
There wolde no man the batail take;
The queen went to her chamber so;
So dolefully mone gan she make,
That nigh her herte brast in two;
For sorrow gan she shiver and quake,
And said: "Alas and wele-a-wo!
Why nadde I now Launcelot du Lake?
All the court nolde me not slo!
"Ivel have I beset the deed,
That I have worshipped so many a knight,
[And I have no man in my need]
For my love dare take a fight.
Lord, King of alle thede,
That all the world shall rede and right, 31
Launcelot Thou save and heed,
Sithe I ne shall never him see with sight."
The queene wept and gave her ill;
When she saw the fire was yare,
Then morned she full still.
To Bors de Gawnes went she there,
Besought him, yif it were his will,
To help her in her mikel care;
In swooning she before him fell;
The wordes might she speke no more.
When Bors saw the queen so bright,
Of her he hadde grete pitee;
In his armes he held her up-right,
Bade her of good comfort be:
"Madame, but there come a better knight
That wolde the batail take for thee,
I shall myselfe for thee fight,
While any life may last in me."
Then was the queene wonder blithe,
That Bors de Gawnes wolde for her fight,
That ner for joy she swooned swithe,
But as that he her held up-right;
To her chamber he led her blithe,
To ladies and to maidens bright,
And bade she sholde it no man kithe,
Til he were armed an redy dight.
Bors, that was bold and keen,
Cleped all his other knightes,
And tooken counsel them between,
The beste that they couthe and might,
How that he hath hight the queen
That ilke day for her to fight
Against Sir Mador, full of teen,
To save her life, yif that he might.
The knightes answerd with wo and wrake
And said they wiste witterly
That "She hath Launcelot du Lake
Brought out of ower company.
Nis none that nolde this batail take 32
Ere she had any vilainy,
But we will not so glad her make,
Before we ne suffer her to be sorry."
Bors and Lionel the knight,
Ector, that doughty was of deed,
To the forest then went they right
Their orisons at the chapel to bede
To our Lord God, all full of might,
That day sholde lene him well to speed, 33
A grace to vanquish the fight;
Of Sir Mador they had grete drede.
beloved; (see note)
adventures wondrous many
much knew; joy
shall no longer
commanded to be announced
strong on horses
feats of strength; prize
shields broad; bright
sick; same time
in the act
do not think
lingering to me; painful
is called; truth
Because; desired to see
did not want to
did turn away
As if; control his limbs
i.e., had no trumpeter
tower; on high
knowest thou in any way
So that; did
since there is no one
so far hither
young; (see note)
Providing that he had company
if; wants to go directly there
In the morning; prepare
Together I advise
put in mind
both your garments
nearly; heart broke
called; to him
unless you do it (save my life)
ever (at any time)
Since; may not
for any; before
In the morning
together as if
i.e., more powerful
fierce as a boar
Where; unwavering; battle
Let us help those
outside; advise; remain
very great beauty
ate; set forth
Intends; if; can
blow; much force
as if; crazy
without lies (I tell it)
shining sword; (see note)
chose for himself
helmet; (see note)
is blinded; his own
(it) is very sad to me
dread; very painfully
physicians; very time
heal; prepare (dress)
lived; far; near
Then; much pomp
Heralds; caused to
woe is me
honor; admiration; (see note)
believe; not at all
if the time should come
dead would be
could not ride
is not healthy and sound
By whom all of us were unhorsed
Each one; took
far and near
tablecloths; (see note)
not a bit
evil (sour) expression
was it you who
suppose; free (of wounds)
brother; must; blame
healthy; free (of harm)
without a crowd
Before much longer; see
languish not sorely
Because; of a word so happy
ever; courteous; noble
if it were your wish
more (i.e., better)
withhold from him
would know it
Launcelot du Lake's shield; (see note)
as a beloved
did not know; could go
evil (i.e, difficult)
Each to; complaint
away from; would not
it seems to me
As his beloved
seemly (i.e., lovely) one
nearly; go mad
woe is me
had sweet branches
then he quickly asked
Dead he supposes
Glad; would be
on earth so happy
against (i.e., toward)
But served him whatever he wanted
most [frequent] expression
dared not speak to any man
salutes; great honor
in [your] possession
sorrow; was destroyed
Cross; (see note)
it seems to me
from a live coal
would go mad
blow horns; cry
you should have seen
who would comfort her
made himself sick
far and near
By chance; hear
dear to her
squire; intended; (see note)
could do nothing else
i.e., expensive candles
nearly run mad
of guilt; not a bit
must; confess; (see note)
submit herself to judgment by
i.e., Mador and Gaynor
pledged their words
heard completely; affair
for that trouble
if he were living
grew fierce; wild boar
made of wood
went without delay
without lies (truly)
as a lover forever
gave it to the king
who are courteous
by right (justly)
without lying (truly)
fetched me from
know; wish to discover
For denying it gains nothing
blows; deal out
friend nor foe
discourteous in manners
lied about him; other; (see note)
As God may save me
fitting to do
would not grant her plea
lied about; hide
lover ready at his bidding
lied; pains me
complains about; every
lie so about
Unless you knew
honor; damaged greatly
So wrongly to blame
saw; sorely aggrieved
believed; would last forever
of guilt; no trace
to her; granted
made himself ill
angrily; eyes turned
Body (?); Cross; (see note)
made herself sick
[I ask] if it
harmed no one; (see note)
[I ask] if it
fear for herself
come to us; (see note)
Entrust yourself to
do I not have
would not be able to slay me
Evilly (i.e., uselessly); used
made herself sick
tell no man of it
knew how; could do