Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK I CHAPTER V

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How Arthur was chosen king, and of wonders and marvels
of a sword taken out of a stone by the said Arthur.

THEN stood the realm in great jeopardy long while, for every lord
that was mighty of men made him strong, and many weened to have
been king.  Then Merlin went to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and
counselled him for to send for all the lords of the realm, and
all the gentlemen of arms, that they should to London come by
Christmas, upon pain of cursing; and for this cause, that Jesus,
that was born on that night, that he would of his great mercy
show some miracle, as he was come to be king of mankind, for to
show some miracle who should be rightwise king of this realm.  So
the Archbishop, by the advice of Merlin, sent for all the lords
and gentlemen of arms that they should come by Christmas even
unto London.  And many of them made them clean of their life,
that their prayer might be the more acceptable unto God.  So in
the greatest church of London, whether it were Paul's or not the
French book maketh no mention, all the estates were long or day
in the church for to pray.  And when matins and the first mass
was done, there was seen in the churchyard, against the high
altar, a great stone four square, like unto a marble stone; and
in midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and
therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there
were written in gold about the sword that said thus:--Whoso
pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king
born of all England.  Then the people marvelled, and told it to
the Archbishop.  I command, said the Archbishop, that ye keep you
within your church and pray unto God still, that no man touch the
sword till the high mass be all done.  So when all masses were
done all the lords went to behold the stone and the sword.  And
when they saw the scripture some assayed, such as <8>would have
been king.  But none might stir the sword nor move it.  He is not
here, said the Archbishop, that shall achieve the sword, but
doubt not God will make him known.  But this is my counsel, said
the Archbishop, that we let purvey ten knights, men of good fame,
and they to keep this sword.  So it was ordained, and then there
was made a cry, that every man should assay that would, for to
win the sword.  And upon New Year's Day the barons let make a
jousts and a tournament, that all knights that would joust or
tourney there might play, and all this was ordained for to keep
the lords together and the commons, for the Archbishop trusted
that God would make him known that should win the sword.

So upon New Year's Day, when the service was done, the barons
rode unto the field, some to joust and some to tourney, and so it
happened that Sir Ector, that had great livelihood about London,
rode unto the jousts, and with him rode Sir Kay his son, and
young Arthur that was his nourished brother; and Sir Kay was made
knight at All Hallowmass afore.  So as they rode to the jousts-
ward, Sir Kay lost his sword, for he had left it at his father's
lodging, and so he prayed young Arthur for to ride for his sword. 
I will well, said Arthur, and rode fast after the sword, and when
he came home, the lady and all were out to see the jousting. 
Then was Arthur wroth, and said to himself, I will ride to the
churchyard, and take the sword with me that sticketh in the
stone, for my brother Sir Kay shall not be without a sword this
day.  So when he came to the churchyard, Sir Arthur alighted and
tied his horse to the stile, and so he went to the tent, and
found no knights there, for they were at the jousting.  And so he
handled the sword by the handles, and lightly and fiercely pulled
it out of the stone, and took his horse and rode his way until he
came to his brother Sir Kay, and delivered him the sword.  And as
soon as Sir Kay saw the sword, he wist well it was the sword of
the stone, and so he rode to his father Sir Ector, and said: Sir,
lo here is the sword of the stone, wherefore I must be king of
this land.  When Sir Ector beheld the sword, he <9 CH. VI  HOW HE
PULLED OUT THE SWORD>returned again and came to the church, and
there they alighted all three, and went into the church.  And
anon he made Sir Kay swear upon a book how he came to that sword. 
Sir, said Sir Kay, by my brother Arthur, for he brought it to me. 
How gat ye this sword? said Sir Ector to Arthur.  Sir, I will
tell you.  When I came home for my brother's sword, I found
nobody at home to deliver me his sword; and so I thought my
brother Sir Kay should not be swordless, and so I came hither
eagerly and pulled it out of the stone without any pain.  Found
ye any knights about this sword? said Sir Ector.  Nay, said
Arthur.  Now, said Sir Ector to Arthur, I understand ye must be
king of this land.  Wherefore I, said Arthur, and for what cause? 
Sir, said Ector, for God will have it so; for there should never
man have drawn out this sword, but he that shall be rightwise
king of this land.  Now let me see whether ye can put the sword
there as it was, and pull it out again.  That is no mastery, said
Arthur, and so he put it in the stone; wherewithal Sir Ector
assayed to pull out the sword and failed.