Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XX CHAPTER XXI
Legends and Sagas
How Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawaine did battle together,
and how Sir Gawaine was overthrown and hurt
THEN Sir Gawaine and Sir Launcelot departed a great
way asunder, and then they came together with all their
horses' might as they might run, and either smote other
in midst of their shields; but the knights were so strong,
and their spears so big, that their horses might not endure
their buffets, and so their horses fell to the earth; and
then they avoided their horses, and dressed their shields
afore them. Then they stood together and gave many sad
strokes on divers places of their bodies, that the blood
brast out on many sides and places. Then had Sir
Gawaine such a grace and gift that an holy man had
given to him, that every day in the year, from underne
till high noon, his might increased those three hours as
much as thrice his strength, and that caused Sir Gawaine
to win great honour. And for his sake King Arthur
made an ordinance, that all manner of battles for any
quarrels that should be done afore King Arthur should
begin at underne; and all was done for Sir Gawaine's love,
that by likelihood, if Sir Gawaine were on the one part,
he should have the better in battle while his strength
endureth three hours; but there were but few knights
that time living that knew this advantage that Sir Gawaine
had, but King Arthur all only.
Thus Sir Launcelot fought with Sir Gawaine, and
when Sir Launcelot felt his might evermore increase, Sir
Launcelot wondered and dread him sore to be shamed.
For as the French book saith, Sir Launcelot weened, when
he felt Sir Gawaine double his strength, that he had been
a fiend and none earthly man; wherefore Sir Launcelot
traced and traversed, and covered himself with his shield,
and kept his might and his braide during three hours;
and that while Sir Gawaine gave him many sad brunts,
and many sad strokes, that all the knights that beheld
Sir Launcelot marvelled how that he might endure him;
but full little understood they that travail that Sir
Launcelot had for to endure him. And then when it was
past noon Sir Gawaine had no more but his own might.
When Sir Launcelot felt him so come down, then he
stretched him up and stood near Sir Gawaine, and said
thus: My lord Sir Gawaine, now I feel ye have done;
now my lord Sir Gawaine, I must do my part, for many
great and grievous strokes I have endured you this day
with great pain.
Then Sir Launcelot doubled his strokes and gave Sir
Gawaine such a buffet on the helmet that he fell down
on his side, and Sir Launcelot withdrew him from him.
Why withdrawest thou thee? said Sir Gawaine; now turn
again, false traitor knight, and slay me, for an thou leave
me thus, when I am whole I shall do battle with thee
again. I shall endure you, Sir, by God's grace, but wit
thou well, Sir Gawaine, I will never smite a felled knight.
And so Sir Launcelot went into the city; and Sir Gawaine
was borne into King Arthur's pavilion, and leeches were
brought to him, and searched and salved with soft ointments.
And then Sir Launcelot said: Now have good
day, my lord the king, for wit you well ye win no worship
at these walls; and if I would my knights outbring, there
should many a man die. Therefore, my lord Arthur,
remember you of old kindness; and however I fare, Jesu
be your guide in all places.