[ Full Modern English spelling version of original text printed by William Caxton in 1485 ]
Of great jousts done all a Christmas, and of a great jousts and tourney ordained by King Arthur, and of Sir Launcelot.
THUS it passed on till Christmas, and then every day there was jousts made for a diamond, who that jousted best should have a diamond. But Sir Launcelot would not joust but if it were at a great jousts cried. But Sir Lavaine jousted there all that Christmas passingly well, and best was praised, for there were but few that did so well. Wherefore all manner of knights deemed that Sir Lavaine should be made knight of the Table Round at the next feast of Pentecost. So at-after Christmas King Arthur let call unto him many knights, and there they advised together to make a party and a great tournament and jousts. And the King of Northgalis said to Arthur, he would have on his party King Anguish of Ireland, and the King with the Hundred Knights, and the King of Northumberland, and Sir Galahad, the haut prince. And so these four kings and this mighty duke took part against King Arthur and the knights of the Table Round. And the cry was made that the day of the jousts should be beside Westminster upon Candlemas Day, whereof many knights were glad, and made them ready to be at that jousts in the freshest manner.
Then Queen Guenever sent for Sir Launcelot, and said thus: I warn you that ye ride no more in no jousts nor tournaments but that your kinsmen may know you. And at these jousts that shall be ye shall have of me a sleeve of gold; and I pray you for my sake enforce yourself there, that men may speak of you worship; but I charge you as ye will have my love, that ye warn your kinsmen that ye will bear that day the sleeve of gold upon your helmet. Madam, said Sir Launcelot, it shall be done. And so either made great joy of other. And when Sir Launcelot saw his time he told Sir Bors that he would depart, and have no more with him but Sir Lavaine, unto the good hermit that dwelt in that forest of Windsor; his name was Sir Brasias; and there he thought to repose him, and take all the rest that he might, because he would be fresh at that day of jousts.
So Sir Launcelot and Sir Lavaine departed, that no creature wist where he was become, but the noble men of his blood. And when he was come to the hermitage, wit ye well he had good cheer. And so daily Sir Launcelot would go to a well fast by the hermitage, and there he would lie down, and see the well spring and burble, and sometime he slept there. So at that time there was a lady dwelt in that forest, and she was a great huntress, and daily she used to hunt, and ever she bare her bow with her; and no men went never with her, but always women, and they were shooters, and could well kill a deer, both at the stalk and at the trest; and they daily bare bows and arrows, horns and wood-knives, and many good dogs they had, both for the string and for a bait. So it happed this lady the huntress had abated her dog for the bow at a barren hind, and so this barren hind took the flight over hedges and woods. And ever this lady and part of her women costed the hind, and checked it by the noise of the hounds, to have met with the hind at some water; and so it happed, the hind came to the well whereas Sir Launcelot was sleeping and slumbering. And so when the hind came to the well, for heat she went to soil, and there she lay a great while; and the dog came after, and umbecast about, for she had lost the very perfect feute of the hind. Right so came that lady the huntress, that knew by the dog that she had, that the hind was at the soil in that well; and there she came stiffly and found the hind, and she put a broad arrow in her bow, and shot at the hind, and over-shot the hind; and so by misfortune the arrow smote Sir Launcelot in the thick of the buttock, over the barbs. When Sir Launcelot felt himself so hurt, he hurled up woodly, and saw the lady that had smitten him. And when he saw she was a woman, he said thus: Lady or damosel, what that thou be, in an evil time bear ye a bow; the devil made you a shooter.
How Launcelot after that he was hurt of a gentlewoman came to an hermit, and of other matters.
NOW mercy, fair sir, said the lady, I am a gentlewoman that useth here in this forest hunting, and God knoweth I saw ye not; but as here was a barren hind at the soil in this well, and I weened to have done well, but my hand swerved. Alas, said Sir Launcelot, ye have mischieved me. And so the lady departed, and Sir Launcelot as he might pulled out the arrow, and left that head still in his buttock, and so he went weakly to the hermitage ever more bleeding as he went. And when Sir Lavaine and the hermit espied that Sir Launcelot was hurt, wit you well they were passing heavy, but Sir Lavaine wist not how that he was hurt nor by whom. And then were they wroth out of measure.
Then with great pain the hermit gat out the arrow’s head out of Sir Launcelot’s buttock, and much of his blood he shed, and the wound was passing sore, and unhappily smitten, for it was in such a place that he might not sit in no saddle. Have mercy, Jesu, said Sir Launcelot, I may call myself the most unhappiest man that liveth, for ever when I would fainest have worship there befalleth me ever some unhappy thing. Now so Jesu me help, said Sir Launcelot, and if no man would but God, I shall be in the field upon Candlemas Day at the jousts, whatsomever fall of it: so all that might be gotten to heal Sir Launcelot was had.
So when the day was come Sir Launcelot let devise that he was arrayed, and Sir Lavaine, and their horses, as though they had been Saracens; and so they departed and came nigh to the field. The King of Northgalis with an hundred knights with him, and the King of Northumberland brought with him an hundred good knights, and King Anguish of Ireland brought with him an hundred good knights ready to joust, and Sir Galahad, the haut prince, brought with him an hundred good knights, and the King with the Hundred Knights brought with him as many, and all these were proved good knights. Then came in King Arthur’s party; and there came in the King of Scots with an hundred knights, and King Uriens of Gore brought with him an hundred knights, and King Howel of Brittany brought with him an hundred knights, and Chaleins of Clarance brought with him an hundred knights, and King Arthur himself came into the field with two hundred knights, and the most part were knights of the Table Round, that were proved noble knights; and there were old knights set in scaffolds for to judge, with the queen, who did best.
How Sir Launcelot behaved him at the jousts, and other men also.
THEN they blew to the field; and there the King of Northgalis encountered with the King of Scots, and there the King of Scots had a fall; and the King of Ireland smote down King Uriens; and the King of Northumberland smote down King Howel of Brittany; and Sir Galahad, the haut prince, smote down Chaleins of Clarance. And then King Arthur was wood wroth, and ran to the King with the Hundred Knights, and there King Arthur smote him down; and after with that same spear King Arthur smote down three other knights. And then when his spear was broken King Arthur did passingly well; and so therewithal came in Sir Gawaine and Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred, and there everych of them smote down a knight, and Sir Gawaine smote down four knights; and then there began a strong medley, for then there came in the knights of Launcelot’s blood, and Sir Gareth and Sir Palomides with them, and many knights of the Table Round, and they began to hold the four kings and the mighty duke so hard that they were discomfit; but this Duke Galahad, the haut prince, was a noble knight, and by his mighty prowess of arms he held the knights of the Table Round strait enough.
All this doing saw Sir Launcelot, and then he came into the field with Sir Lavaine as it had been thunder. And then anon Sir Bors and the knights of his blood espied Sir Launcelot, and said to them all: I warn you beware of him with the sleeve of gold upon his head, for he is himself Sir Launcelot du Lake; and for great goodness Sir Bors warned Sir Gareth. I am well apaid, said Sir Gareth, that I may know him. But who is he, said they all, that rideth with him in the same array? That is the good and gentle knight Sir Lavaine, said Sir Bors. So Sir Launcelot encountered with Sir Gawaine, and there by force Sir Launcelot smote down Sir Gawaine and his horse to the earth, and so he smote down Sir Agravaine and Sir Gaheris, and also he smote down Sir Mordred, and all this was with one spear. Then Sir Lavaine met with Sir Palomides, and either met other so hard and so fiercely that both their horses fell to the earth. And then were they horsed again, and then met Sir Launcelot with Sir Palomides, and there Sir Palomides had a fall; and so Sir Launcelot or ever he stint, as fast as he might get spears, he smote down thirty knights, and the most part of them were knights of the Table Round; and ever the knights of his blood withdrew them, and made them ado in other places where Sir Launcelot came not.
And then King Arthur was wroth when he saw Sir Launcelot do such deeds; and then the king called unto him Sir Gawaine, Sir Mordred, Sir Kay, Sir Griflet, Sir Lucan the Butler, Sir Bedivere, Sir Palomides, Sir Safere, his brother; and so the king with these nine knights made them ready to set upon Sir Launcelot, and upon Sir Lavaine. All this espied Sir Bors and Sir Gareth. Now I dread me sore, said Sir Bors, that my lord, Sir Launcelot, will be hard matched. By my head, said Sir Gareth, I will ride unto my lord Sir Launcelot, for to help him, fall of him what fall may, for he is the same man that made me knight. Ye shall not so, said Sir Bors, by my counsel, unless that ye were disguised. Ye shall see me disguised, said Sir Gareth; and therewithal he espied a Welsh knight where he was to repose him, and he was sore hurt afore by Sir Gawaine, and to him Sir Gareth rode, and prayed him of his knighthood to lend him his shield for his. I will well, said the Welsh knight. And when Sir Gareth had his shield, the book saith it was green, with a maiden that seemed in it.
Then Sir Gareth came driving to Sir Launcelot all that he might and said: Knight, keep thyself, for yonder cometh King Arthur with nine noble knights with him to put you to a rebuke, and so I am come to bear you fellowship for old love ye have shewed me. Gramercy, said Sir Launcelot. Sir, said Sir Gareth, encounter ye with Sir Gawaine, and I shall encounter with Sir Palomides; and let Sir Lavaine match with the noble King Arthur. And when we have delivered them, let us three hold us sadly together. Then came King Arthur with his nine knights with him, and Sir Launcelot encountered with Sir Gawaine, and gave him such a buffet that the arson of his saddle brast, and Sir Gawaine fell to the earth. Then Sir Gareth encountered with the good knight Sir Palomides, and he gave him such a buffet that both his horse and he dashed to the earth. Then encountered King Arthur with Sir Lavaine, and there either of them smote other to the earth, horse and all, that they lay a great while. Then Sir Launcelot smote down Sir Agravaine, and Sir Gaheris, and Sir Mordred; and Sir Gareth smote down Sir Kay, and Sir Safere, and Sir Griflet. And then Sir Lavaine was horsed again, and he smote down Sir Lucan the Butler and Sir Bedevere and then there began great throng of good knights.
Then Sir Launcelot hurtled here and there, and raced and pulled off helms, so that at that time there might none sit him a buffet with spear nor with sword; and Sir Gareth did such deeds of arms that all men marvelled what knight he was with the green shield, for he smote down that day and pulled down mo than thirty knights And, as the French book saith, Sir Launcelot marvelled; when he beheld Sir Gareth do such deeds, what knight he might be; and Sir Lavaine pulled down and smote down twenty knights. Also Sir Launcelot knew not Sir Gareth for an Sir Tristram de Liones, outher Sir Lamorak de Galis had been alive, Sir Launcelot would have deemed he had been one of them twain. So ever as Sir Launcelot Sir Gareth, Sir Lavaine fought, and on the one side Sir Bors, Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Lionel, Sir Lamorak de Galis, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Galihud, Sir Galihodin, Sir Pelleas, and with mo other of King Ban’s blood fought upon another party, and held the King with the Hundred Knights and the King of Northumberland right strait.
How King Arthur marvelled much of the jousting in the field, and how he rode and found Sir Launcelot.
SO this tournament and this jousts dured long, till it was near night, for the knights of the Round Table relieved ever unto King Arthur; for the king was wroth out of measure that he and his knights might not prevail that day. Then Sir Gawaine said to the king: I marvel where all this day [be] Sir Bors de Ganis and his fellowship of Sir Launcelot’s blood, I marvel all this day they be not about you: it is for some cause said Sir Gawaine. By my head, said Sir Kay, Sir Bors is yonder all this day upon the right hand of this field, and there he and his blood do more worshipfully than we do. It may well be, said Sir Gawaine, but I dread me ever of guile; for on pain of my life, said Sir Gawaine, this knight with the red sleeve of gold is himself Sir Launcelot, I see well by his riding and by his great strokes; and the other knight in the same colours is the good young knight, Sir Lavaine. Also that knight with the green shield is my brother, Sir Gareth, and yet he hath disguised himself, for no man shall never make him be against Sir Launcelot, because he made him knight. By my head, said Arthur, nephew, I believe you; therefore tell me now what is your best counsel. Sir, said Sir Gawaine, ye shall have my counsel: let blow unto lodging, for an he be Sir Launcelot du Lake, and my brother, Sir Gareth, with him, with the help of that good young knight, Sir Lavaine, trust me truly it will be no boot to strive with them but if we should fall ten or twelve upon one knight, and that were no worship, but shame. Ye say truth, said the king; and for to say sooth, said the king, it were shame to us so many as we be to set upon them any more; for wit ye well, said King Arthur, they be three good knights, and namely that knight with the sleeve of gold.
So then they blew unto lodging; but forthwithal King Arthur let send unto the four kings, and to the mighty duke, and prayed them that the knight with the sleeve of gold depart not from them, but that the king may speak with him. Then forthwithal King Arthur alighted and unarmed him, and took a little hackney and rode after Sir Launcelot, for ever he had a spy upon him. And so he found him among the four kings and the duke; and there the king prayed them all unto supper, and they said they would with good will. And when they were unarmed then King Arthur knew Sir Launcelot, Sir Lavaine, and Sir Gareth. Ah, Sir Launcelot, said King Arthur, this day ye have heated me and my knights.
So they yede unto Arthur’s lodging all together, and there was a great feast and great revel, and the prize was given unto Sir Launcelot; and by heralds they named him that he had smitten down fifty knights, and Sir Gareth five-and-thirty, and Sir Lavaine four-and-twenty knights. Then Sir Launcelot told the king and the queen how the lady huntress shot him in the forest of Windsor, in the buttock, with an broad arrow, and how the wound thereof was that time six inches deep, and in like long. Also Arthur blamed Sir Gareth because he left his fellowship and held with Sir Launcelot. My lord, said Sir Gareth, he made me a knight, and when I saw him so hard bestead, methought it was my worship to help him, for I saw him do so much, and so many noble knights against him; and when I understood that he was Sir Launcelot du Lake, I shamed to see so many knights against him alone. Truly, said King Arthur unto Sir Gareth, ye say well, and worshipfully have ye done and to yourself great worship; and all the days of my life, said King Arthur unto Sir Gareth, wit you well I shall love you, and trust you the more better. For ever, said Arthur, it is a worshipful knight’s deed to help another worshipful knight when he seeth him in a great danger; for ever a worshipful man will be loath to see a worshipful man shamed; and he that is of no worship, and fareth with cowardice, never shall he show gentleness, nor no manner of goodness where he seeth a man in any danger, for then ever will a coward show no mercy; and always a good man will do ever to another man as he would be done to himself. So then there were great feasts unto kings and dukes, and revel, game, and play, and all manner of noblesse was used; and he that was courteous, true, and faithful, to his friend was that time cherished.
How true love is likened to summer.
AND thus it passed on from Candlemass until after Easter, that the month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in like wise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May, in something to constrain him to some manner of thing more in that month than in any other month, for divers causes. For then all herbs and trees renew a man and woman, and likewise lovers call again to their mind old gentleness and old service, and many kind deeds that were forgotten by negligence. For like as winter rasure doth alway arase and deface green summer, so fareth it by unstable love in man and woman. For in many persons there is no stability; for we may see all day, for a little blast of winter’s rasure, anon we shall deface and lay apart true love for little or nought, that cost much thing; this is no wisdom nor stability, but it is feebleness of nature and great disworship, whosomever useth this. Therefore, like as May month flowereth and flourisheth in many gardens, so in like wise let every man of worship flourish his heart in this world, first unto God, and next unto the joy of them that he promised his faith unto; for there was never worshipful man or worshipful woman, but they loved one better than another; and worship in arms may never be foiled, but first reserve the honour to God, and secondly the quarrel must come of thy lady: and such love I call virtuous love.
But nowadays men can not love seven night but they must have all their desires: that love may not endure by reason; for where they be soon accorded and hasty heat, soon it cooleth. Right so fareth love nowadays, soon hot soon cold: this is no stability. But the old love was not so; men and women could love together seven years, and no licours lusts were between them, and then was love, truth, and faithfulness: and lo, in like wise was used love in King Arthur’s days. Wherefore I liken love nowadays unto summer and winter; for like as the one is hot and the other cold, so fareth love nowadays; therefore all ye that be lovers call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as did Queen Guenever, for whom I make here a little mention, that while she lived she was a true lover, and therefore she had a good end.
Explicit liber Octodecimus. And here followeth liber xix.
Back to previous chapters...
See also Arthurian Legend homepage.
Copyright © 2004-2013