Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Index  BOOK XX  Previous  Next 


How King Arthur and Sir Gawaine made a great host ready
to go over sea to make war on Sir Launcelot

SO leave we Sir Launcelot in his lands, and his noble
knights with him, and return we again unto King Arthur
and to Sir Gawaine, that made a great host ready, to the
number of threescore thousand; and all thing was made
ready for their shipping to pass over the sea, and so they
shipped at Cardiff.  And there King Arthur made Sir
Mordred chief ruler of all England, and also he put
Queen Guenever under his governance; because Sir
Mordred was King Arthur's son, he gave him the rule
of his land and of his wife; and so the king passed the
sea and landed upon Sir Launcelot's lands, and there he
brent and wasted, through the vengeance of Sir Gawaine,
all that they might overrun.

When this word came to Sir Launcelot, that King
Arthur and Sir Gawaine were landed upon his lands, and
made a full great destruction and waste, then spake Sir
Bors, and said:  My lord Sir Launcelot, it is shame that
we suffer them thus to ride over our lands, for wit you
well, suffer ye them as long as ye will, they will do you
no favour an they may handle you.  Then said Sir Lionel
that was wary and wise:  My lord Sir Launcelot, I will
give this counsel, let us keep our strong walled towns
until they have hunger and cold, and blow on their nails;
and then let us freshly set upon them, and shred them
down as sheep in a field, that aliens may take example for
ever how they land upon our lands.

Then spake King Bagdemagus to Sir Launcelot:  Sir,
your courtesy will shende us all, and thy courtesy hath
waked all this sorrow; for an they thus over our lands
ride, they shall by process bring us all to nought whilst
we thus in holes us hide.  Then said Sir Galihud unto Sir
Launcelot:  Sir, here be knights come of kings' blood,
that will not long droop, and they are within these walls;
therefore give us leave, like as we be knights, to meet
them in the field, and we shall slay them, that they shall
curse the time that ever they came into this country.
Then spake seven brethren of North Wales, and they
were seven noble knights; a man might seek in seven
kings' lands or he might find such seven knights.  Then
they all said at once:  Sir Launcelot, for Christ's sake let
us out ride with Sir Galihud, for we be never wont to
cower in castles nor in noble towns.

Then spake Sir Launcelot, that was master and
governor of them all:  My fair lords, wit you well I
am full loath to ride out with my knights for shedding
of Christian blood; and yet my lands I understand be full
bare for to sustain any host awhile, for the mighty wars
that whilom made King Claudas upon this country, upon
my father King Ban, and on mine uncle King Bors; howbeit
we will as at this time keep our strong walls, and
I shall send a messenger unto my lord Arthur, a treaty
for to take; for better is peace than always war.

So Sir Launcelot sent forth a damosel and a dwarf
with her, requiring King Arthur to leave his warring
upon his lands; and so she start upon a palfrey, and the
dwarf ran by her side.  And when she came to the
pavilion of King Arthur, there she alighted; and there
met her a gentle knight, Sir Lucan the Butler, and said:
Fair damosel, come ye from Sir Launcelot du Lake?
Yea sir, she said, therefore I come hither to speak with
my lord the king.  Alas, said Sir Lucan, my lord Arthur
would love Launcelot, but Sir Gawaine will not suffer
him.  And then he said:  I pray to God, damosel, ye may
speed well, for all we that be about the king would Sir
Launcelot did best of any knight living.  And so with
this Lucan led the damosel unto the king where he sat
with Sir Gawaine, for to hear what she would say.  So
when she had told her tale, the water ran out of the king's
eyen, and all the lords were full glad for to advise the
king as to be accorded with Sir Launcelot, save all only
Sir Gawaine, and he said:  My lord mine uncle, what will
ye do?  Will ye now turn again, now ye are passed thus
far upon this journey? all the world will speak of your
villainy.  Nay, said Arthur, wit thou well, Sir Gawaine,
I will do as ye will advise me; and yet meseemeth, said
Arthur, his fair proffers were not good to be refused; but
sithen I am come so far upon this journey, I will that ye
give the damosel her answer, for I may not speak to her
for pity, for her proffers be so large.