Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XVI CHAPTER III
Legends and Sagas
How Sir Gawaine and Sir Ector came to an hermitage to be
confessed, and how they told to the hermit their advisions.
ALAS, said Gawaine, that ever this misadventure is befallen
me. No force, said Uwaine, sith I shall die this death, of
a much more worshipfuller man's hand might I not die;
but when ye come to the court recommend me unto my
lord, King Arthur, and all those that be left alive, and for
old brotherhood think on me. Then began Gawaine to
weep, and Ector also. And then Uwaine himself and Sir
Gawaine drew out the truncheon of the spear, and anon
departed the soul from the body. Then Sir Gawaine and
Sir Ector buried him as men ought to bury a king's son,
and made write upon his name, and by whom he was
Then departed Gawaine and Ector, as heavy as they
might for their misadventure, and so rode till that they
came to the rough mountain, and there they tied their
horses and went on foot to the hermitage. And when
they were come up they saw a poor house, and beside
the chapel a little courtelage, where Nacien the hermit
gathered worts, as he which had tasted none other meat
of a great while. And when he saw the errant knights he
came toward them and saluted them, and they him again.
Fair lords, said he, what adventure brought you hither?
Sir, said Gawaine, to speak with you for to be confessed.
Sir, said the hermit, I am ready. Then they told him so
much that he wist well what they were. And then he
thought to counsel them if he might.
Then began Gawaine first and told him of his advision
that he had had in the chapel, and Ector told him all as it is
afore rehearsed. Sir, said the hermit unto Sir Gawaine, the
fair meadow and the rack therein ought to be understood the
Round Table, and by the meadow ought to be understood
humility and patience, those be the things which be always
green and quick; for men may no time overcome humility
and patience, therefore was the Round Table founded,
and the chivalry hath been at all times so by the fraternity
which was there that she might not be overcome; for men
said she was founded in patience and in humility. At the
rack ate an hundred and fifty bulls; but they ate not in
the meadow, for their hearts should be set in humility and
patience, and the bulls were proud and black save only
three. By the bulls is to understand the fellowship of
the Round Table, which for their sin and their wickedness
be black. Blackness is to say without good or virtuous
works. And the three bulls which were white save only
one that was spotted: the two white betoken Sir Galahad
and Sir Percivale, for they be maidens clean and without
spot; and the third that had a spot signifieth Sir Bors de
Ganis, which trespassed but once in his virginity, but
sithen he kept himself so well in chastity that all is forgiven
him and his misdeeds. And why those three were
tied by the necks, they be three knights in virginity and
chastity, and there is no pride smitten in them. And the
black bulls which said: Go we hence, they were those
which at Pentecost at the high feast took upon them to go
in the quest of the Sangreal without confession: they
might not enter in the meadow of humility and patience.
And therefore they returned into waste countries, that
signifieth death, for there shall die many of them: everych
of them shall slay other for sin, and they that shall
escape shall be so lean that it shall be marvel to see them.
And of the three bulls without spot, the one shall come
again, and the other two never.