Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XXI CHAPTER IV

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CHAPTER IV

How by misadventure of an adder the battle began, where
Mordred was slain, and Arthur hurt to the death


THEN were they condescended that King Arthur and
Sir Mordred should meet betwixt both their hosts, and
everych of them should bring fourteen persons; and they
came with this word unto Arthur.  Then said he:  I am
glad that this is done: and so he went into the field.  And
when Arthur should depart, he warned all his host that an
they see any sword drawn:  Look ye come on fiercely, and
slay that traitor, Sir Mordred, for I in no wise trust him.
In like wise Sir Mordred warned his host that:  An ye see
any sword drawn, look that ye come on fiercely, and so
slay all that ever before you standeth; for in no wise I
will not trust for this treaty, for I know well my father
will be avenged on me.  And so they met as their appointment
was, and so they were agreed and accorded thoroughly;
and wine was fetched, and they drank.  Right
soon came an adder out of a little heath bush, and it stung
a knight on the foot.  And when the knight felt him
stung, he looked down and saw the adder, and then he
drew his sword to slay the adder, and thought of none
other harm.  And when the host on both parties saw that
sword drawn, then they blew beams, trumpets, and horns,
and shouted grimly.  And so both hosts dressed them
together.  And King Arthur took his horse, and said:
Alas this unhappy day! and so rode to his party.  And
Sir Mordred in like wise.  And never was there seen a
more dolefuller battle in no Christian land; for there was
but rushing and riding, foining and striking, and many a
grim word was there spoken either to other, and many a
deadly stroke.  But ever King Arthur rode throughout
the battle of Sir Mordred many times, and did full nobly
as a noble king should, and at all times he fainted never;
and Sir Mordred that day put him in devoir, and in great
peril.  And thus they fought all the long day, and never
stinted till the noble knights were laid to the cold earth;
and ever they fought still till it was near night, and by
that time was there an hundred thousand laid dead upon
the down.  Then was Arthur wood wroth out of measure,
when he saw his people so slain from him.

Then the king looked about him, and then was he
ware, of all his host and of all his good knights, were left
no more alive but two knights; that one was Sir Lucan
the Butler, and his brother Sir Bedivere, and they were
full sore wounded.  Jesu mercy, said the king, where are
all my noble knights become?  Alas that ever I should
see this doleful day, for now, said Arthur, I am come to
mine end.  But would to God that I wist where were that
traitor Sir Mordred, that hath caused all this mischief.
Then was King Arthur ware where Sir Mordred leaned
upon his sword among a great heap of dead men.  Now
give me my spear, said Arthur unto Sir Lucan, for yonder
I have espied the traitor that all this woe hath wrought.
Sir, let him be, said Sir Lucan, for he is unhappy; and if
ye pass this unhappy day ye shall be right well revenged
upon him.  Good lord, remember ye of your night's
dream, and what the spirit of Sir Gawaine told you this
night, yet God of his great goodness hath preserved you
hitherto.  Therefore, for God's sake, my lord, leave off
by this, for blessed be God ye have won the field, for here
we be three alive, and with Sir Mordred is none alive;
and if ye leave off now this wicked day of destiny is past.
Tide me death, betide me life, saith the king, now I see
him yonder alone he shall never escape mine hands, for at
a better avail shall I never have him.  God speed you
well, said Sir Bedivere.

Then the king gat his spear in both his hands, and ran
toward Sir Mordred, crying:  Traitor, now is thy death-day
come.  And when Sir Mordred heard Sir Arthur, he
ran until him with his sword drawn in his hand.  And
there King Arthur smote Sir Mordred under the shield,
with a foin of his spear, throughout the body, more than
a fathom.  And when Sir Mordred felt that he had his
death wound he thrust himself with the might that he
had up to the bur of King Arthur's spear.  And right
so he smote his father Arthur, with his sword holden in
both his hands, on the side of the head, that the sword
pierced the helmet and the brain-pan, and therewithal Sir
Mordred fell stark dead to the earth; and the noble
Arthur fell in a swoon to the earth, and there he swooned
ofttimes.  And Sir Lucan the Butler and Sir Bedivere
ofttimes heaved him up.  And so weakly they led him
betwixt them both, to a little chapel not far from
the seaside.  And when the king was there he thought him well
eased.

Then heard they people cry in the field.  Now go
thou, Sir Lucan, said the king, and do me to wit what
betokens that noise in the field.  So Sir Lucan departed,
for he was grievously wounded in many places.  And so
as he yede, he saw and hearkened by the moonlight, how
that pillers and robbers were come into the field, to pill
and to rob many a full noble knight of brooches, and
beads, of many a good ring, and of many a rich jewel;
and who that were not dead all out, there they slew them
for their harness and their riches.  When Sir Lucan
understood this work, he came to the king as soon as he might,
and told him all what he had heard and seen.  Therefore
by my rede, said Sir Lucan, it is best that we bring you
to some town.  I would it were so, said the king.