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Sir Launcelot greets Queen Guinevere
How Sir Launcelot Came Forth From the Enchanted Castle of the Lake and Entered Into the World Again, and How King Arthur Made Him Knight.
I KNOW not any time of the year that is more full of joyfulness than the early summer season; for that time the sun is wonderfully lusty and strong, yet not so very hot; that time the trees and shrubs are very full of life and very abundant of shade and yet have not grown dry with the heats and droughts of later days; that time the grass is young and lush and green, so that when you walk athwart the meadow-lands it is as though you walked through a fair billowy lake of magical
|Of the springtime of long ago.|
Now it chanced upon the day before Saint John's day in the fulness of a summer-time such as this, that King Arthur looked forth from his chamber very early in the morning and beheld how exceedingly fair and very lusty was the world out-of-doors-all in the freshness of the young daylight. For the sun had not yet risen, though he was about to rise, and the sky was like to pure gold for brightness; all the grass and leaves and flowers were drenched with sweet and fragrant dew, and the birds were singing so vehemently that the heart of any man could not but rejoice in the fulness of life that lay all around about him.
There were two knights with King Arthur at that time, one was Sir Ewain, the son of Morgana le Fay (and he was King Arthur's nephew), and the other was Sir Ector de Maris, the son of King Ban of Benwick and of Queen Helen--this latter a very noble, youthful knight, and the youngest of all the Knights of the Round Table who were at that time elected. These stood by King Arthur and looked forth out of the window with him and they also took joy with him in the sweetness of the summer season. Unto them, after a while, King Arthur spake, saying: "Messires,
|King Arthur and two knights ride a-hunting.|
So they all did as King Arthur bade; they made them each man ready with his own hands, and they bade the huntsmen and the foresters to attend thereupon as the King had ordained. Then they rode forth from the castle and out into the wide world that lay beyond, and it was yet so early in the morning that none of the castle folk were astir to know of their departure.
All that day they hunted in the forest with much joy and with great sport, nor did they turn their faces toward home again until the day was so far spent that the sun had sunk behind the tops of the tall leafy trees. Then, at that time, King Arthur gave command that they should bend their ways toward Camelot once more.
Now this time, being the Eve of Saint John, fairies and those folk who are fay come forth, as is very well known, into the world from which they dwell apart at other times. So when King Arthur and those two knights and their several foresters and huntsmen came to a certain outlying part of the forest, they were suddenly aware of a damsel and a dwarf waiting where the road upon which they were travelling crossed another road, and they perceived, from her very remarkable appearance, that the damsel was very likely Fay. For both she and her dwarf sat
|King Arthur and his companions find a strange damsel and a dwarf.|
"Damsel," quoth King Arthur, "it is very singular that you should know who we are and that we should not know you. Now, will you not tell us your name and whence you come and whither you go? For of a surety I believe you are Fay."
"Lord," said the damsel, "it matters not who I am, saving that I am of the court of a wonderful lady who is your very good friend. She hath sent me here to meet you and to beseech you to come with me whither I shall lead you, and I shall lead you unto her."
"Damsel," said King Arthur, "I shall be right glad to go with you as you desire me to do. So, if, you will lead me to your lady, I and my knights will gladly follow you thitherway to pay our court unto her."
Upon this the damsel waved her hand, and drawing her bridle-rein she led the way, accompanied by the dwarf, and King Arthur
|King Arthur and his knights follow the damsel.|
By this time the sun had set and the moon had risen very fair and round and as yellow as gold, making a great light above the silent tree-tops. Everything now was embalmed in the twilight, and all the world was enshrouded in the mystery of the midsummer eve. Yet though the sun
had gone the light was wonderfully bright, wherefore all that the eye could see stood sharp-cut and very clear to the vision.
So the damsel and the dwarf led the way for somewhat of a distance, though not for so very far, until they came of a sudden to where was an open meadow in the forest, hedged all around with the trees of the wood land. And here the King and his knights were aware of a great bustle of many people, some working very busily in setting up several pavilions of white samite, and others preparing a table as for a feast, and others upon this business and others upon that; and there were various sumpter-mules and pack-horses and palfreys all about, as though belonging to a party of considerable estate.
Then King Arthur and those who were with him beheld that, at some distance away upon the other side of the meadow, there were three people sitting under a crab-apple tree upon a couch especially prepared for them, and they were aware that these people were the chief of all that company. The first party of the three was a knight of very haughty and noble appearance, clad all in armor as white as silver; and his jupon was white embroidered with silver, and the scabbard of the sword and the sword-belt were white, and his shield bung in the crab-tree above him and that, too, was all white as of silver. This knight still wore his helmet, so that his countenance was not to be seen. The second party of the three was a lady clad all in white raiment. Her face was covered by her wimple so that her countenance also was not to be seen very clearly, but her garments were of wonderful sort, being of white sarcenet embroidered over with silver in
|King Arthur and his companions are brought to speak with strange folk.|
Then when King Arthur approached near enough he perceived by certain
signs that the lady was the chiefest of those three, wherefore he paid his court to her especially, saying to her: "Lady, it seems that I have been brought hitherward unto you and that you were aware of my name and estate when you sent for me. Now I should be exceedingly glad if you would enlighten me in the same manner as to yourself."
"Sir," she said, "that I shall be glad to do; for if I have known you aforetime, you have also seen me aforetime and have known me as your friend." Therewith the lady lowered the wimple from her face and King Arthur perceived that it was the Lady of the Lake.
Upon this he kneeled down upon one knee and took her hand and set it to his lips. "Lady," quoth he, "I have indeed cause to know you very well, for you have, as you affirm, been a friend to me and to my friends upon many several occasions." Then King Arthur turned to
|King Arthur findeth Sir Pellias again.|
Now it hath already been very fully told about Sir Pellias in the Book of King Arthur, and those of you who read of him therein will remember, no doubt, how sorely he was wounded in a combat with Sir Gawaine, who was his best friend, and of how the Lady of the Lake took him to dwell with her in that wonderful city that was hidden by the appearance as of an enchanted lake, and of how it was Sir Gawaine who last beheld him upon that occasion. But if Sir Gawaine was the dearest friend that Sir Pellias had at that time, then Sir Ewain was only less dear to him. Therefore, when Sir Ewain beheld that the strange knight was Sir Pellias, he wist not what to think for pure wonder; for no mortal eyes had ever beheld Sir Pellias since he had gone into the lake with the Lady of the Lake that time as foretold, and it was not thought that anyone would ever see him again.
So when Sir Ewain beheld that the knight was Sir Pellias he emitted a great cry of joy and ran to him and catched him in his arms, and Sir Pellias forbade him not. For though at most times those who are of Faëry do not suffer themselves to be touched by mortal hands, yet, upon the Eve of Saint John's Day, fairies and mortals may commune as though they were of the same flesh and blood. Wherefore Sir Pellias did not forbid Sir Ewain, and they embraced, as one-time brethren-in-arms should embrace. And each kissed the other upon the face, and each made great joy the one
over the other. Yea, so great was their joy that all those who stood about were moved with pure happiness at beholding them.
Then Sir Pellias came to King Arthur and kneeled down before him and kissed his hand, as is the bounden duty of every knight unto his lord. "Ha, Messire," quoth King Arthur, "methought when I beheld this lady, that you would not be very far distant from her." Then he said unto the Lady of the Lake: "Lady, I prithee tell me, who is this fair youth who is with you. For methinks I never beheld before so noble and so beautiful a countenance as his. Maybe you will make us acquainted with him also."
"Lord," said the Lady Nymue, "who he is, and of what quality, shall, I hope, be made manifest in due time; just now I would not wish that he should be known even unto you. But touching him, I may say that it was for his sake that I sent my damsel to meet you at the cross-roads awhile ago. But of that, more anon; for see! the feast is now spread which we have prepared for your entertainment. So let us first eat and drink and make merry together, and then we shall speak further of this matter."
So they all six went and sat down to the table that had been spread for them in the open meadow-land. For the night was very pleasant and warm and a wonderful full moon shone down upon them with a marvellous lustre, and there was a: pleasant air, soft and warm, from the forest, and, what with the scores of bright waxen tapers that stood in silver candlesticks
|The Lady of the Lake prepareth a feast for King Arthur.|
Then, after the feast was ended, the Lady of the Lake said to King Arthur: Sir, an I have won your favor in any way, there is a certain thing I would ask of you." To the which King Arthur made reply: "Ask it, Lady, and it shall be granted thee, no matter what it may be." "Sir," said the Lady of the Lake, "this is what I would ask of you. I would ask you to look upon this youth who sits beside me. He is so dear to me that I cannot very well make you know how dear he is. I have brought him hither from our dwelling-place for one certain reason; to wit, that you should make him
knight. That is the great favor I would ask of you. To this intent I have brought armor and all the appurtenances of knighthood; for he is of such noble lineage that no armor in the world could be too good for him."
"Lady," quoth King Arthur, "I will do what you ask with much pleasure and gladness. But, touching that armor of which you speak, it is my custom to provide anyone whom I make a knight with armor of mine own choosing."
To this the Lady of the Lake smiled very kindly, saying, "Lord, I pray you, let be in this case, for I daresay that the armor which hath been provided for this youth shall be so altogether worthy of your nobility and of his future credit that you will be entirely contented with it." And with that, King Arthur was altogether satisfied.
And, touching that armor, the ancient history that speaketh of these matters saith that it was of such a sort as this that followeth, and that it was brought from that enchanted court of the lake in this wise; to wit, in the front came two youths, leading two white mules, and the mules bore two chests studded with silver bosses. In one chest was the hauberk of that armor and in the other were the iron boots. These were bright like to silver and were inlaid with cunningly devised figures, all of pure gold. Next to them came two esquires, clad in white robes and mounted
|Of the armor, etc., of Sir Launcelot.|
Now there was in that part of the forest border a small abbey of monks, and in the chapel of that abbey Launcelot watched his armor for that night and Sir Ewain was with him for all that time. Meantime
|Launcelot guards his armor at night.|
In the morning Sir Ewain took Launcelot to the bath and bathed him, for such was the custom of those who were being prepared for knighthood.
Now, whilst Sir Ewain was bathing the youth, he beheld that on his
shoulder was a mark in the likeness of a golden star and he marvelled very much thereat; but he made no mention of it at that time, but held his peace concerning what he saw; only he marvelled very greatly thereat.
Then, after Sir Ewain had bathed Launcelot, he clothed him in raiment fitted for that ceremony unto which he was ordained, and when the youth
|King Arthur creates Launcelot a Knight-Royal.|
So Sir Launcelot was made knight with great estate and ceremony, whereof I have told you all, unto every particular. For it is fitting that all things should be so told concerning that most great and famous knight.
After King Arthur had so dubbed Sir Launcelot knight, it was time that those two parties should part company--to wit, the party of the Lady of the Lake and the party of King Arthur. But when they were about to leave one another the Lady of the Lake took Sir Launcelot aside, and she spake to him after this manner:
"Launcelot, forget not that you are a king's son, and that your lineage is as noble as that of anyone upon earth--for so I have often told you aforetime. Wherefore, see to it that your worthiness shall be as great as your beauty, and that your courtesy and gentleness shall be as great as your prowess. To-day you shall go unto Camelot with King Arthur to make yourself known unto that famous Court of Chivalry. But do not tarry there, but, ere the night cometh, depart and go forth into the world to prove your knighthood as worthily as God shall give you grace to do. For I would not have you declare yourself to the world until you have
|The Lady of the Lake gives Sir Launcelot good advice.|
[paragraph continues] Launcelot set the ring upon his finger and it was so that it never left his finger whilst he drew the breath of life.
Then King Arthur and Sir Ewain and Sir Ector de Maris and the young Sir Launcelot laid their ways toward Camelot. And, as they journeyed so together, Sir Ewain communicated privily to Sir Ector de Maris how that the youth had a mark as of a golden star upon the skin of his shoulder, and upon this news Sir Ector fell very silent. For Sir Ector knew that that sign was upon his own brother's shoulder, and he did not know how it could be upon the shoulder of any other man. Wherefore, he wist not what to think that it should be upon the shoulder of this youth. But he said naught of these thoughts to Sir Ewain, but held his peace.
So they reached Camelot whilst it was still quite early in the morning and all they who were there made great joy at the coming of
|Sir Launcelot cometh to Camelot.|
Then, after a while, King Arthur said: "Let us go and see if, haply, this youth's name is marked upon any of the seats of the Round Table, for I think it should be there." So all they of the court went to that pavilion afore described, where the Round Table was established, and they looked; and lo! upon the seat that King Pellinore had one time occupied was this name:
THE KNIGHT OF THE LAKE.
So the name stood at first, nor did it change until the name of Sir Launcelot of the Lake became so famous in all the world. Then it became changed to this:
SIR LAUNCELOT OF THE LAKE.
So Sir Launcelot remained at Camelot for that entire day and was made acquainted with a great many of the lords and ladies and knights and dames of King Arthur's court. And all that while he was like one that walked in a dream, for he had never before beheld anything of the world of mankind since he had been carried away into the lake,
|Sir Launcelot becometh knight of the Round Table.|
beautiful, yet he felt his heart go forth to this other and less beautiful land as it did not go forth to that, because he was human and this was human.
Nevertheless, though that was so joyful a day for him, yet Sir Launcelot did not forget what the Lady of the Lake had said concerning the time he was to abide there! Wherefore, when it drew toward evening he besought leave of King Arthur to depart from that place in search of adventures, and King Arthur gave him leave to do as he desired.
So Sir Launcelot prepared to depart, and whilst he was in his chamber making ready there came in unto him Sir Ector de Maris. And Sir Ector said unto him: "Sir, I prithee tell me--is it true that you bear upon your right shoulder a mark like unto a golden star?" And Sir Launcelot made reply: "Yea, that is true." Then Sir Ector said: "I beseech you to tell me if your name is Launcelot." And Sir Launcelot said: "Yea, that is my name."
Upon this Sir Ector broke out into great weeping and he catched Sir Launcelot in his arms and he cried out: "Launcelot, thou art mine own brother! For thy father was my father, and my mother was thy mother I For we are both sons unto King Ban of Benwick, and Queen Helen was our
|Of the brotherhood of Sir Ector and Sir Launcelot.|
For when Sir Launcelot went out into the world in that wise he undertook several very weighty achievements and brought them all to a successful issue, so that his name very quickly became known in every court of chivalry.
First he removed an enchantment that overhung a castle, hight Dolorous Gard; and he freed that castle and liberated all the sad, sorry captives that lay therein. (And this castle he held for his own and changed the name from Dolorous Gard to Joyous Gard and the castle became very famous afterward as his best-loved possession. For this was the first of all his possessions that he won by the prowess of his arms and he loved it best of all and considered it always his home.) After that Sir Launcelot, at the
|Of sundry adventures of Sir Launcelot.|
sent him captive to the court of King Arthur (and afterward Sir Gallehaut and Sir Launcelot became great friends for aye). So in a little while all the world spoke of Sir Launcelot, for it was said of him, and truly, that he had never been overcome by any other knight, whether upon horseback or upon foot, and that he always succeeded in every adventure which he undertook, whether that adventure were great or whether it were small. So it was as the Lady of the Lake desired it to be, for Sir Launcelot's name became famous, not because he was his father's son, but because of the deeds which he performed upon his own account.
So Sir Launcelot performed all these famous adventures, and after that he returned again to the court of King Arthur crowned with the glory of his successful knighthood, and there he was received with joy and acclaim and was duly installed in that seat of the Round Table that was his. And in that court he was held in the greatest honor and esteem of all the knights who were there. For King Arthur spake many times concerning him to this effect: that he knew not any honor or glory that could belong to a king greater than having such a knight for to serve him as was Sir Launcelot of the Lake. For a knight like Sir Launcelot came hardly ever into the world, and when he did come his glory must needs illuminate with its effulgence the entire reign of that king whose servant he was.
So it was that Sir Launcelot was greatly honored by everybody at the court of King Arthur, and he thereafter abided at that court for the most part of his life.
And now I must needs make mention of that friendship that existed betwixt Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere, for after he thus returned to the court of the king, they two became such friends that no two people could be greater friends than they were.
Now I am aware that there have been many scandalous things said concerning that friendship, but I do not choose to believe any such evil sayings. For there are always those who love to think and say evil things of others. Yet though it is not to be denied that Sir Launcelot never had for his lady any other dame than the Lady Guinevere, still no one hath ever said with truth that she regarded Sir Launcelot otherwise than as her
|Of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere.|
[paragraph continues] King Arthur departed from this life in so singular a manner as he did? Wherefore I choose to believe good of such noble souls as they, and not evil of them.
Yet, though Sir Launcelot thus abided at the court of the King, he ever loved the open world and a life of adventure above all things else. For he
|How Sir Launcelot dwelt at Camelot.|
So now shall be told of several excellent adventures that Sir Launcelot undertook, and which he carried through with entire success, and to the great glory and renown of the Round Table, of which he was the foremost knight.