Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XVI CHAPTER VI
Legends and Sagas
How Sir Bors met with an hermit, and how he was confessed
to him, and of his penance enjoined to him.
WHEN Bors was departed from Camelot he met with a
religious man riding on an ass, and Sir Bors saluted him.
Anon the good man knew him that he was one of the
knights-errant that was in the quest of the Sangreal.
What are ye? said the good man. Sir, said he, I am
a knight that fain would be counselled in the quest of the
Sangreal, for he shall have much earthly worship that may
bring it to an end. Certes, said the good man, that is sooth,
for he shall be the best knight of the world, and the fairest
of all the fellowship. But wit you well there shall none
attain it but by cleanness, that is pure confession.
So rode they together till that they came to an hermitage.
And there he prayed Bors to dwell all that night
with him. And so he alighted and put away his armour,
and prayed him that he might be confessed; and so they
went into the chapel, and there he was clean confessed, and
they ate bread and drank water together. Now, said the
good man, I pray thee that thou eat none other till that
thou sit at the table where the Sangreal shall be. Sir, said
he, I agree me thereto, but how wit ye that I shall sit
there. Yes, said the good man, that know I, but there
shall be but few of your fellows with you. All is welcome,
said Sir Bors, that God sendeth me. Also, said the good
man, instead of a shirt, and in sign of chastisement, ye
shall wear a garment; therefore I pray you do off all your
clothes and your shirt: and so he did. And then he took
him a scarlet coat, so that should be instead of his shirt till
he had fulfilled the quest of the Sangreal; and the good
man found in him so marvellous a life and so stable, that
he marvelled and felt that he was never corrupt in fleshly
lusts, but in one time that he begat Elian le Blank.
Then he armed him, and took his leave, and so
departed. And so a little from thence he looked up into
a tree, and there he saw a passing great bird upon an old
tree, and it was passing dry, without leaves; and the bird
sat above, and had birds, the which were dead for hunger.
So smote he himself with his beak, the which was great
and sharp. And so the great bird bled till that he died
among his birds. And the young birds took the life by
the blood of the great bird. When Bors saw this he wist
well it was a great tokening; for when he saw the great
bird arose not, then he took his horse and yede his way.
So by evensong, by adventure he came to a strong tower
and an high, and there was he lodged gladly.