An Arthurian Miscellany at sacred-texts.com
KING ARTHUR'S DEATH
from RELIQUES OF ANCIENT ENGLISH POETRY
BISHOP THOMAS PERCY
On Trinitye Mondaye in the morne,
&This sore battayle was doom'd to bee,
Where manye a knighte cry'd, Well-awaye!
&Alacke, it was the more pittìe.
Ere the first crowinge of the cocke,
&When as the kinge in his bed laye,
He thoughte Sir Gawaine to him came,
&And there to him these wordes did saye:
"Nowe, as you are mine unkle deare,
&And as you prize your life, this daye
O meet not with your foe in fight;
&Putt off the battayle, if yee maye.
"For Sir Launcelot is nowe in Fraunce,
&And with him many an hardye knighte:
Who will within this moneth be backe,
&And will assiste yee in the fighte."
The kinge then call'd his nobles all,
&Before the breakinge of the daye;
And told them howe Sir Gawaine came,
&And there to him these wordes did saye.
His nobles all this counsayle gave,
&That earlye in the morning, hee
Shold send awaye an herauld-at-armes,
&To aske a parley faire and free.
Then twelve good knightes King Arthur chose,
&The best of all that with him were,
To parley with the foe in field,
&And make with him agreement faire.
The king he charged all his hoste,
&In readinesse there for to bee;
But noe man shold noe weapon sturre,
&Unlesse a sword drawne they shold see.
And Mordred, on the other parte,
&Twelve of his knights did likewise bringe,
The best of all his companye,
&To hold the parley with the kinge.
Sir Mordred alsoe charged his hoste,
&In readinesse there for to bee;
But noe man sholde noe weapon sturre,
&But if a sworde drawne they shold see.
For he durste not his unkle truste,
&Nor he his nephewe, sothe to tell;
Alacke! it was a woefulle case,
&As ere in Christentye befelle.
But when they were together mette,
&And both to faire accordance broughte,
And a month's league betweene them sette,
&Before the battayle sholde be foughte,
An addere crept forth of a bushe,
&Stunge one o' th' king's knightes on the knee;
Alacke! It was a woefulle chance,
&As ever was in Christentìe.
When the knighte found him wounded sore,
&And sawe the wild-worm hanginge there,
His sworde he from his scabberde drewe;
&A piteous case, as ye shall heare.
For when the two hostes sawe the sworde,
&They joyned battayle instantlye;
Till of soe manye noble knightes,
&On one side there were left but three.
For all were slain that durst abide,
&And but some fewe that fled awaye:
Ay mee! it was a bloodye fielde,
&As ere was foughte on a summer's daye.
Upon King Arthur's own partyè,
&Onlye himselfe escaped there,
And Lukyn Duke of Gloster free,
&And the king's butler Bedevere.
And when the king beheld his knightes
&All dead and scattered on the molde,
The teares fast trickled downe his face;
&That manlye face in fight so bolde.
"Nowe reste yee all, brave knights," he said,
&"Soe true and faithful to your trust:
And must ye then, ye valiant hearts,
&Be lefte to moulder into dust!
"Most loyal have yee been to mee,
&Most true and faithful unto deathe:
And, oh! to rayse yee up againe,
&How freelye could I yield my breathe!
"But see, the traitor's yet alive!
&Lo where hee stalkes among the deade!
Nowe bitterlye he shall abye:
&And vengeance fall upon his head."
"O staye, my liege," then sayd the duke;
&"O staye for love and charitìe;
Remember what the vision spake,
&Nor meete your foe, if it may bee."
"O staye mee not, thou worthye wight,
&This debt my loyal knights I owe:
Betide my life, betide me death,
&I will avenge them of their foe."
Then straite he grasp'd his trustye speare,
&And on his horse then mounted hee:
As his butler holpe him to his horse,
&His bowels gushed to his knee.
"Alas!" then sayd the noble king,
&"That I should live this sight to see!
To see this good knight here be slaine,
&All for his love in helping mee!
He put his speare into his reste.
&And to Sir Mordred loud gan crye:
"Nowe sette thyself upon thy guarde,
&For, traitor, nowe thy death is nye."
Sir Mordred lifted up his sworde,
&And fierce to meet the king ran hee:
The king his speare he through him thrust,
&A fathom thorow his bodìe.
When Mordered felt the stroke of death,
&And found that he was wounded soe,
He thrust himselfe upon the speare,
&And strucke the king a deadlye blowe.
Then grimmlye dyed Sir Mordered,
&Presentlye upon that tree:
And bloody streames ranne from the kinge,
&Ere to the duke returned hee.
Sir Lukyn then he thus bespake:
&"Sir Knighte, thou hast been faithfulle tryde;
Nowe take my sworde Excalibar,
&That hangs so freelye by my syde;
"O take my sword Excalibar,
&And there into the river throwe:
For here, henceforth, benethe this tree,
&All use of weapons I forgoe.
"And fare thee well, thou trustye sword,
& A better neer had valiant knighte;
With thee full ofte, and many a daye,
&Have I withstood my foe in fighte.
&With this good fauchion in my hande,
&Oft have I reapd the bloody feelde:
But nowe the fatalle houre is come,
&That never more I may thee weelde."
The duke to the river side he went,
&And there his owne sword in threwe he;
But he kept back Excalibar,
&He kept it back in privitie.
For all of coleyne was the blade,
&And all the hilte of precious stone:
"And ever alacke!" then sayd the knighte,
&"Must such a sword awaye be throwne?"
Then backe he came unto the kinge,
&Who sayd, Sir Lukyn, what did yee see?"
"Nothing, my liege, save that the winde
&Blewe oer the waters faire and free."
"O goe againe," then said the kinge,
&"O good Sir Lukyn, goe againe:
Into the rivere throwe my sword,
&Nor keepe me lingering here in paine."
The duke then to the river went,
&And the kings scabberd in threwe hee;
But he kept backe Excalibar,
&And hid it undernethe a tree.
Then backe he came to tell the kinge,
&Who sayde, "Sir Lukyn, sawe ye oughte?"
"Nothinge, my liege, save that the winde
&Nowe with the angrye waters fought."
"O Lukyn, Lukyn," said the kinge,
&"Twice haste thou dealt deceytfullye:
Alacke, whom may wee ever truste,
&When suche a knighte soe false can bee!
"Saye, wouldst thou have thy master dead,
&All for a sword that wins thine eye?
Now goe againe, and throwe it in,
&Or here the one of us shall dye."
The duke, all shent with this rebuke,
&No aunswere made unto the kinge;
But to the rivere tooke the sworde,
&And threwe it far as he coulde flinge.
A hande and an arme did meete the sworde,
&And flourishd three times in the air;
Then sunke benethe the renninge streme,
&And of the duke was seene noe mair.
All sore astonied stood the duke,
&He stood as still, as still mote bee;
Then hastened backe to telle the kinge,
&But he was gone from under the tree.
But to what place he cold not tell,
&For never after hee did him spye;
But hee sawe a barge goe from the land,
&And hee heard ladyes howle and crye.
And whether the kinge were there or not,
&Hee never knewe, nor ever colde,
For from that sad and direfulle daye,
&Hee never more was seene on molde.
Next: King Ryence's Challenge, by Bishop Thomas Percy