Chrétien de Troyes

Lancelot (Or The Knight of the Cart)

Part IV

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved.

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Lines 5379-5514 Lancelot hears news of the tournament

WHILE the queen was, as I believe,

Out of the country, she did leave

Many a maid disconsolate,

Many a lady, and their debate

Had them declare that they would

Be wed as soon as e’er they could.

And this being now their intent,

They agreed they would foment

A contest, and arrange a tourney;

The lady of Pomelegloi to see

To this, with the lady of Noauz.

They’d have naught to do with those

Who fared ill, but would receive

In marriage those who did achieve

Something worthy on that field.

Its date the criers now revealed

To all the countryside nearby

And all that furthest from the eye,

Giving the time well in advance

And every other circumstance,

So that more folk would thus attend.

And now the queen returned again

Before the date that they had set;

As soon as they heard, they met,

And knowing the queen was there

Most to the court did then repair,

And, finding the king was at court,

Once before him, they all sought

That a favour he might bestow,

And fulfil their every longing so.

And the king promised them this,

Before he even knew their wish;

Thus he’d grant all they required.

Then they told him they desired

That he should allow the queen

To, presently, attend the scene.

He, unaccustomed to say no,

Said yes, if they wished it so.

So, gratified and well-content,

Off to see the queen, they went,

And said to her, immediately:

‘Do not deprive us now, lady,

Of all that the king has granted.’

And when the queen demanded:

‘What then? Hide it not from me!’

They answered: ‘To our tourney

If you should desire to come,

He will not keep you at home,

And nor will he quarrel with it.’

Then she said that she would visit

Since the king had given her leave.

Through all the realm, I do believe,

Those ladies sent word that they

Would bring the queen on the day

They had announced formerly,

On which the tournament would be.

The news travelled everywhere,

Far and wide, here and there,

Until, progressing on its way,

It came to where that kingdom lay

From which, before, none returned,

But now to which whoever learned

Of it had entry, and might leave,

And no challenge would receive.

Far throughout that country went

The latest news of their intent,

Until it reached a seneschal,

Of Maleagant, the disloyal,

The traitor, whom may hellfire burn!

This man had Lancelot interned,

Entrusted with his captivity

By Meleagant, whose enmity

Towards Lancelot was great.

The latter learned now of the date

And the hour of the tournament,

Nor were his eyes then innocent

Of tears, nor indeed his heart light.

Seeing the sad and pensive knight,

The lady of the house in person

Offered him counsel and wisdom:

‘Sir, for God’s and your soul’s sake,

Tell me truly,’ she said, ‘what makes

You sad, and whence this change in you?

Both food and drink you now refuse,

I see you neither laugh nor smile.

You may tell me, without guile,

Of those thoughts that trouble you.’

‘Ah, lady! If I’m sad, for true

It is, by God, be not surprised.

Grieving I go, with downcast eyes,

For that brave field I shall not see

Where the best in the world must be,

At the tourney, where all assemble,

It seems to me, whom I resemble.

Nevertheless, if you so pleased,

If God would set your mind at ease,

Such that you let me travel there,

Then be assured, to you I swear,

That I would behave such that I

Should return to you, by and by.’

‘Surely I would, most willingly,’

She said, ‘were it not that I see

In that my death and destruction,

So greatly do I fear the actions

Of Meleagant, our vile master,

Thus I dare not; such disaster

It would bring upon my lord.

No wonder if we fear his sword,

For evil he is, as well you know.’

‘Lady, if you still fear though

That after the tournament there

I’ll not return, then will I swear

On oath to you, for your own sake,

An oath that I will never break,

That there is naught that shall detain

Me from returning here again

As soon as the tourney is done.’

‘I’faith,’ said she, ‘I have but one

Condition.’ ‘What is that, lady?’

‘Sir, that you will swear to me

To return, but promise no less

Than that your love I’ll possess.’

He answered her, without pause:

‘Lady, all that I have is yours,

And I do swear to return here.’

‘Then shall I have naught, I fear,’

Said the lady, full of laughter,

‘For I know that to another

You have pledged and granted

The very love that I demanded.

Nevertheless, I’ll not disdain

To take whatever may remain.

Thus I will keep all that I can,

And your assurances command,

That you will prove true to me,

And return to your captivity.’

Lines 5515-5594 Lancelot travels to the tourney and finds lodgings

SUBMITTING to this lady’s law,

By Holy Church Lancelot swore

He would return thus, without fail.

Then the lady lent him the mail

And vermilion arms of her lord,

And his war-horse did him afford,

Wondrous fine, and brave, and strong.

He thanked her, mounted, and was gone,

Splendid in his fine new armour,

Armed with weapons, riding ever

Until to Noauz he came.

There, concealing his true name,

He took lodgings near the town.

Never has such a great man found

So poor and low a dwelling-place;

But, there, he would avoid his face

Being recognised, and so his name.

Many a knight well-known to fame

Were gathered there in the town,

Yet many others lodged around;

For so many flocked to that affair

Since the queen herself was there,

A fifth part had to dwell outside.

For every one who would so ride

To tourney, there were seven who

Were there because the queen was too.

For a good five leagues around

The barons lay about the town,

In lodges, tents and pavilions.

And twas a wonder, all the sum

Of maidens and fine ladies there.

Outside his lodgings’ door, with care,

Lancelot had placed his shield.

And then his armour he did yield

For comfort, and so down he lay

On the bed, which in every way

He disdained, for it was narrow,

The mattress thin, to his sorrow,

With but a coarse hemp coverlet.

Thus disarmed, while he as yet

Still lay there in his poor estate,

A fellow came, as he did wait;

A shirt-sleeved herald-at-arms,

Who to the tavern and its charms

Had left his coat and his shoes

As a pledge, barefoot, abused

By the wind, came at the trot;

He saw this shield of Lancelot’s

Before the door, but knew it not,

For though he gazed he’d never

Seen it, and knew not its master,

Nor who might here be its bearer.

The door lay open to any farer,

And, entering, on the bed he saw

Lancelot there, and what is more

Crossed himself for he knew him.

And Lancelot gazed hard at him,

Then ordered him to say naught

Of it, where’er he was, at court

Or elsewhere; for if he should say

A word, better for him that day

If he were blinded, or his neck

Were broken. ‘Sire, in great respect

I ever held you, and shall do still,

And so, as I live, I never will,’

Said the herald, ‘do aught that may

Bring you displeasure in any way.’

Then from the house he did go

Crying aloud, both high and low:

‘Here comes one who’ll take your measure!

Here comes one who’ll take your measure!’

He went crying it everywhere,

And all the folk they came to stare

And ask the meaning of his cry.

But not so rash as to reply,

He went on calling out the same,

From his mouth the same cry came:

‘Here comes one who’ll take your measure!’

The herald granted us that treasure,

He taught us all to say the phrase,

Who used it first in olden days.

Lines 5595-5640 The crowd gathers

NOW there gathered for the tourney,

The queen herself and all her ladies,

And all the knights and other folk,

And men-at-arms, there to invoke

The rules, in all parts, left and right.

Near the place where they would fight,

Here were stands, built from wood,

Where, near the queen, there sat or stood

All the maidens, and the ladies;

There were never seen so many

Stands, so large and finely-made,

Where all the women now displayed

Themselves, drawn there by the queen,

Wishing to see, while being seen,

Which knights fared better or worse.

The knights arrived in tens at first,

Then in twenties, thirties, and more,

Eight there, and ninety they saw,

A hundred plus, and yonder yet

Twice the number; so many met

Before the stands, and all around,

The commencement now did sound.

Armed, unarmed, they all assembled;

Their lances a forest resembled,

For those knights come to the sport

Had so many weapons brought

There was naught on that scene

But lances, standards, to be seen.

The jousters then the joust began,

Each finding many another man

Arrived there with the same intent;

While others sought to represent

The various skills of chivalry.

So full of knights were the fields,

The meadows and the untilled land,

To seek the number there on hand

Was idle, none could count the lot.

And yet no sign of Lancelot

Was seen at this first encounter,

But when he came, a little later,

The herald, seeing him nearby,

Could not then forebear to cry:

‘Here comes one who’ll take your measure!

Here comes one who’ll take your measure!’

Then ‘Who is he?’ the folk did cry,

But not a word would he reply.

Lines 5641-6104 The tournament

WHEN Lancelot now made his entry

He was worth of knights the twenty

Best, so well there did he fight,

Such that all must turn their sight

On him, wherever he might be.

For Pomelegloi fought valiantly

A brave and most skilful knight,

While faster than a stag in flight

Was his steed, that tall did stand;

He was a king’s son, of Ireland,

And well and handsomely did ride,

But many times more they sighed

For him whose name they knew not,

Hastening to ask whence or what

He was: ‘He fights well, who is he?’

Meanwhile the queen, most covertly,

Spoke to her maid, both wise and clever,

‘A message now you must deliver,

She said, and do it now and swiftly,

And in brief words, and privately.

Go down quickly from the stand

And find the knight there on hand

Who carries a vermilion shield,

And secretly this message yield

That ‘au noauz’, he do his ‘worst’.

Swiftly, but cautiously at first,

The maid did as the queen wished;

For as soon as she’d accomplished

The finding of him, she stood close

And in a voice, so soft and low

That his neighbours could not hear,

‘The queen, sir,’ whispered in his ear,

‘Sends you these words, by me,

To do your worst.’ ‘Most willingly,’

On hearing her words, he replied,

Like one all hers, and then did ride 

Against another knight as swiftly

As his steed would go, while he

Deliberately missed his thrust.

And from that moment until dusk

He fought as badly as he could

As the queen desired he should.

And yet the other knight made no

Mistake, and struck him such a blow,

That Lancelot indeed took flight;

Nor that day toward any knight

Did he now turn his horse’s head;

On pain of death he chose instead

To do naught that day unless he

Shame in its outcome did foresee,

And deep disgrace and dishonour,

And, moreover, he feigned terror,

As the knights passed to and fro.

And the very men who had so

Prized Sir Lancelot, formerly,

Now mocked this knight, derisively,

And the herald who was wont to cry:

‘He’ll beat them all now, by and by!’

Was baffled and discomfited,

Hearing all that, in jest, they said,

With utter scorn: ‘Be silent, friend,

His measure-taking is at an end,

So much he’s measured of this host,

His measure’s done for, and your boast.’

Many said: ‘What will he do now?

For he seemed brave, you must allow,

Yet now appears so cowardly,

He turns from every knight he sees.

He seemed so fine, you may be sure,

Because he’d never fought before,

In his first onslaught was so strong

None could withstand him among

All the great host of knights, in short

Fought as a wild man might have fought.

Now of arms he has learnt so much

Doubtless he’ll not dare to touch

Arms again, his whole life through.

His heart could not endure it, true,

For none’s as cowardly as his.’

And the queen, watching all this,

Was pleased, nay delighted, in short,

For she knew, though she said naught,

That he, in truth, was Lancelot.

Thus all the day, till day was not,

Lancelot played the coward’s part,

Until near vespers all did depart.

On leaving there was much debate

As to who had fought best to date.

Thus the king of Ireland’s son

Thought, despite contradiction,

He’d won the glory and renown.

Yet he did not deserve the crown,

Many there had proved his equal.

Even that knight had pleased all

The ladies and the maids, at first,

And of those fairest not the worst,

He with the vermilion armour,

Such that they’d watched him more

Than any other, seeing how well

He then fought, and how skilful

And brave he had seemed to be.

Though then he’d proved cowardly,

And dared not face a single knight,

Till even the humblest in the fight,

Could defeat him if they wished.

And they, at their departure, insist

They will return on the morrow,

And will choose, for joy or sorrow,

Those who win honours that day,

As their husbands, come what may.

All folk then to their lodgings go,

And, reaching their lodgings so,

Demand of each other, outright:

‘What has become of that knight,

The worst and the most despised?

Where did he go to? Where hide?

Where to seek, how to ascertain?

Doubtless we’ll ne’er see him again,

Whom Cowardice has chased away,

That of which he’s so full, I say,

There’s none as cowardly as he.

Nor is he wrong, for the cowardly

Are a hundred times more at ease

Than fighting men, if you please.

Cowardice is pleasant and easy,

Thus in peace he kissed her sweetly,

And had from her whate’er she had.

But Courage proves never so bad

As to lodge herself with such a one,

Or close, as Cowardice has done,

For she has lodged with him entire,

And found the host she doth desire,

Who’ll so honour her, and serve,

He’ll forsake his honour for her.’

Thus all night they slander him,

Competing to speak ill of him,

Though men oft slander another

Who are worse than their brother

They pour shame on and despise.

All spoke of him and in such wise.

And with the dawn on the next day

The crowd, returned to the display,

All gathered at the jousting-place.

And to the stand the queen retraced

Her steps, and the ladies and maids,

And with them there were arrayed

Unarmed knights, whom they treated 

As captives, having been defeated,

Who gave the arms, shield by shield,

Of those they prized most in the field,

Remarking: ‘See him who doth hold

That shield there with band of gold

On a red field; full brave and quick

Is Governauz of Roberdic.

And there, not far from him, another

Who, on the shield at his shoulder,

Bears an eagle and a dragon?

He’s son to the King of Aragon,

And to this country he has come

That fame and honour might be won.

See, of his neighbour I can tell,

He who thrusts and jousts so well,

Half his shield is painted green,

On that a leopard may be seen,

The other half is clear azure;

Tis Ignaures, whom all adore,

He’s both amorous and pleasant.

He who with pheasant to pheasant,

Beak to beak, his shield doth deck?

That’s Coguillanz of Mautirec.

And see those two next each other

On dappled greys, like as brothers,

A lion black on each gold shield?

The one his name I cannot yield,

But his dear friend is Semiramis,

And like shields they bear in this.

Then do you see he that, in state,

Bears on his shield an open gate,

With a stag issuing from it there. 

I’faith, that knight is King Ider.’

Thus, high in the stands, they gloze:

‘That shield was made in Limoges,

Brought here today by Pilades;

He loves tourneys such as these,

Eager for battle, win or lose.

That other was made at Toulouse,

The breast-strap, and bridle also,

Brought here by Kay of Estrau.

That came from Lyons on the Rhone,

Under heaven no better’s known,

Given for merit and so proffered

To that knight, Taulas of the Desert,

Who bears it well, and skilfully.

That other was worked artfully

In England, and in London made,

A pair of swallows there displayed,

That seem as if about to fly,

But never move, yet feel, say I,

Many a Poitevin lance and more;

And he is Thoas, called the Poor.

So they describe and explicate

The coats of arms of those they rate.

But of him they catch no sight

Whom they hold in such despite,

Suspecting he has slipped away

Finding him absent from the fray;

While the queen on seeing him not

Considers if he should be sought

Amongst the crowd till he is found.

She knows of none better to sound

Than she whom she sent his way,

With her message, but yesterday.

So calling the maiden to her side

‘Go, demoiselle,’ she says, ‘go ride,

Mount your palfrey, and search for

That knight to whom I sent before,

But yesterday, go search and find.

Linger here for naught else, mind;

To him repeat your last refrain,

Tell him to do his worst again.

And, when you’ve done so, then, say I,

Attend full closely to his reply.’

The maiden suffered no delay,

For she indeed recalled the way

He had gone the evening before,

And she had known that more

Than once she’d be asked to go.

And thus through the ranks she rode,

Till she came across the knight

Whom at once she bade to fight,

But do his worst and ever waver,

If he wished the love and favour

Of the queen, which she now brought.

And he: ‘Whatever twas she sought

Would win my thanks, is my reply!’

The maiden leaves him, by and by,

Then valets, sergeants, squires, begin

To raise a shout, amidst the din,

Crying: ‘Now, behold this wonder,

The knight in the vermilion armour

Is here again. What can he wish?’

For ne’er so vile a knight as he,

So worthless and so cowardly,

Exists in all the world, this hour.

Cowardice has him in her power,

Such that he cannot oppose her.’

Meanwhile the maid herself doth stir

To hasten, and inform the queen,

Who keeps her close by, I ween,

Asking her what says the knight.

Then her heart fills with delight,

Knowing now, whate’er befall,

That it is him to whom she’s all,

And she his own, without fail.

She tells the maiden she must sail

Swiftly to him, and must say

The queen doth command him, pray,

To do the best now that he can.

And she says she’ll find the man

Again, and now, without delay.

From the stand, she makes her way

To where the lad waits patiently,

Keeping tight hold of her palfrey,

And she mounts, and off she rides

Till she finds him where he bides,

The knight, to whom at once says she:

‘Sir, the word now from my lady,

Is you must do ‘the best’ you can!’

And he replied: ‘I am her man;

Tell her tis no hardship ever

To do her will, for whatever

Pleases her, that’s my delight.’

Nor was the maiden slow in flight

Returning to the queen, for she

Thought indeed his words would greatly

Please, and so delight, the queen.

As soon then as she could, I ween,

She made her way towards the stand

And the queen, seeing at her hand,

Rose swiftly, and went to greet her,

Yet did not descend, to meet her,

Waiting at the head of the stair.

So the maid approached her there,

Happy her message to recount,

And thus the stair she did mount,

And once she had reached its head:

‘Lady I never saw,’ she said,

‘A knight quite so debonair,

And one so eager, in this affair,

To do whatever it is you ask,

For truth be told, whate’er the task,

He accepts, with the same face,

Good or ill, and ever with grace.

‘I’faith, she said, ‘good let it be.’

Then back to the window went she,

To gaze again at all the knights.

And Lancelot, swift as he might,

Seized his shield by the leathers,

Desiring to display his feathers,

Show all his skill and his prowess.

His horse he doth now address

Show all his skill and his prowess. His horse he doth now address

Show all his skill and his prowess. His horse he doth now address
St. Nicholas [serial] (p558, 1873), Mary Mapes Dodge (1830-1905)
Internet Archive Book Images

And runs him between the lines.

Soon they’ll be troubled in mind

The misguided and deluded men

Who all day long, and then again

At night, heaped him with ridicule.

Much have they played the fool,

Disporting themselves in fun.

Now the King of Ireland’s son

Gripping his own shield tightly,

Spurs apace, galloping lightly,

To meet him in close encounter.

So fiercely do they come together,

That the son of the Irish king

His lance, thereby splintering,

Seeks no more of the tournament,

For Lancelot blunted his intent;

It was no mossy board he struck,

But good hard wood to his ill luck,

And Lancelot thus did him harm,

Pinning his shield to his left arm,

Pinning his arm then to his side,

Downing his horse to end his ride.

Then knights fly out, spurring on

Then knights fly out, spurring on

Then knights fly out, spurring on
St. Nicholas [serial] (p558, 1873), Mary Mapes Dodge (1830-1905)
Internet Archive Book Images

From either side, to the king’s son,

One party to save him from distress,

The other to savour their success.

These men think to aid their lord,

While many are lost overboard,

Their saddles emptied in the fray.

And yet absent from that melee,

Was Gawain, his weapons at rest,

Though he was there, with the best,

For such pleasure did he take

In all the moves the knight did make,

With arms and armour painted red,

Others’ deeds seemed pale instead,

And failed indeed to compare,

With all the red knight did there.

The herald now was full of cheer,

Shouting aloud so all could hear:

‘Now he’s here to take your measure!

Today you’ll marvel, at your leisure.

Today his prowess shall appear.’

Then the knight his steed did veer,

And made a very skilful thrust,

And laid a knight there in the dust,

Hurled from his steed so far, be sure

He sailed a hundred feet or more.

Lancelot commenced his advance,

With the sword and with the lance,

So well, that none watching there,

Failed to delight in that affair.

And many an armed knight indeed

Found pleasure in Lancelot’s deeds.

It was fine sport to watch how he

Floored horse and rider with ease,

Tumbling to the ground together.

Hardly a knight did he encounter

Who in his saddle still remained,

While the mounts he thereby gained

He gave to whomever he desired.

Those who taunts and jibes had sired,

At his expense, said: ‘Shamed are we,

And mortified; fools, utterly,

To deride and vilify this knight,

For he is worth a thousand quite

Of such as those upon this field,

For he conquers and makes yield

Every knight that meets with him,

Such that none will fight with him.’

And the maidens who with wonder

Watched him said to one another

And the maidens who with wonder Watched him

And the maidens who with wonder Watched him
St. Nicholas [serial] (p460, 1873), Mary Mapes Dodge (1830-1905)
Internet Archive Book Images

That he might take them now to wife,

For none there trusted, on her life,

In her beauty, or her dower,

Or her status, or her power;

For not for their wealth or beauty

Would this knight seek to marry

Any there, such was his prowess.

Yet most of them, nevertheless,

Are so enamoured of the man

They declare that, except they can

Wed with him, they’ll not be wed

To any other lord instead.

And the queen who hears it all,

All the words that they let fall,

Smiles to herself with delight

For she knows that this knight

Were he to have before him set

All Arabia’s gold, would yet

Refuse the best, the most fair,

The noblest of the maidens there;

Not one of them would he take,

Not one of them, for her dear sake.

One wish is common, each alone

Would yet have him for her own;

And each is filled with jealousy

As if her husband now is he,

All because of his great prowess

In the field, such that all confess

No knight in arms, nary a one,

Could e’er do as he has done.

So fine his deeds, as he departs

All say, without a lie, his arts

Are such that he of the red shield

Has no equal, upon that field.

All spoke of it and it was true,

Yet in the lists as he withdrew

He left his shield, there where he

The centre of the crowd did see,

And his trappings and his lance,

Then took himself to a distance;

So swift he went, so secretly,

That none gathered there did see

Him leave, which way he went,

Nor noticed that he was absent,

Swift and sure to that very same

Place, he rode, from which he came,

In order to fulfil his oath.

At the tourney, the knights both

Asked for him, and likewise sought

Where he might be, and yet naught

Found of one who’d not be known.

Great sorrow and distress they own,

Who if they could have found the knight

Would have greeted him with delight.

Yet if the knights now feel dismay

That he has left them thus this day,

The maidens, when they also knew,

Felt greater sorrow and, anew,

They swore that they, by Saint John,

Would ne’er, that year, wed anyone,

And if denied the man they wished

Then all the rest must be dismissed.

Thus the tournament has ended,

Without their finding their intended.

And Lancelot to the road doth turn,

Soon to his prison to return.

But its seneschal reached the spot,

Two or three days ere Lancelot,

And asked where he might be.

And the lady who had freely

Loaned him the accoutrements,

Had his vermilion armour lent,

His horse and harness and all,

Confessed all to the seneschal;

And how she had sent him so

To the tournament at Noauz;

All the truth she did rehearse.

‘You could have done no worse,

My lady,’ said the seneschal.

‘In truth, I doubt not, I shall

Suffer for all this, and my lord

Meleagant shall to me afford

Less aid than sailors in distress

Win from the cruel and merciless.

Dead, or in exile, I shall be.

He will show no pity to me.’

‘Now, fair sir, be not dismayed,

He will not halt, or be delayed,’

Said the lady, ‘so have no fear,

For you need not, he will appear;

By all the saints, he swore he would

Return as swiftly as he could.’

Lines 6105-6166 Lancelot is imprisoned in the tower

NOW the seneschal mounts his horse

And comes to his lord, in due course,

And tells him all the sorry tale.

But reassures him without fail,

That Lancelot, upon his life,

Has sworn an oath to his wife

That to prison he will return.

‘I know,’ said Meleagant, in turn,

‘That his word he will not break,

Nonetheless, your wife’s mistake

Fills me with displeasure, withal.

I’d not have him, for aught at all,

Present now at that tournament,

But go now, make it your intent

That once he is with you again,

His liberty he’ll not regain;

Hold him tightly then in prison,

His body deprived of freedom.

And make sure to send me word.’

‘Thus shall I do, as I have heard.’

The seneschal, on leaving, learned,

That Lancelot had now returned,

And was a prisoner in his court.

Therefore he sent a brief report

Swiftly flying on its way

To Meleagant, which did say

To his liege lord that Lancelot

Had now returned. On learning what

That message contained, his master

Gathered masons and carpenters,

Who would or must do his bidding.

The country’s finest summoning,

He ordered them to fashion there

A tower, and give it all their care,

And build it well and skilfully.

The stone was quarried by the sea,

For on this side, and close to Gorre

There is an island, set offshore

In a long wide stretch of water,

Of which Meleagant was master.

Thus the stone was carried over,

And all materials for the tower.

In less than two months, I’d say,

The tower was fit in every way,

Well-founded, strong, and tall.

When his men had seen to all,

Lancelot was brought, by night,

And prisoned there, out of sight.

Then they walled up the door,

And all the masons duly swore

That they, forever and a day,

Naught of that tower would say.

For Meleagant wished it sealed,

Such that its bare walls revealed

But one small window that remained.

Within, Lancelot is detained,

And but poor and meagre fare

Is delivered to him there,

Through the tiny window’s grate,

At certain hours, as they dictate,

Thus he is treated cruelly,

By that master of treachery.

Lines 6167-6220 Meleagant issues the summons

NOW, all being done as required,

Meleagant, at once, desired

To take himself to Arthur’s court.

There, behold, he is now brought,

And as he stands before the king,

Bold, arrogant in everything,

He begins his speech, and says:

‘King, before you, in this place,

I do hereby summon Lancelot

To a contest, but see him not,

Who did agree to meet me here.

Nevertheless, as all now hear,

In the presence of those I see,

I offer to fight, as is my duty.

If he is present, let him appear,

And to his agreement adhere

In a year’s time at your court.

I know not if any have sought

To tell in what manner or guise

This agreement was realised,

But I see knights I might mention

Who were there at its inception,

And are here today, who could

Tell you the truth, if they would.

Should he deny it, before me,

I’d employ none other, but he

Upon his body would see it proved.’

The queen, who was seated, moved

To draw to her the king beside her,

And to him she now did murmur:

‘Sire, know you not who this is?

Meleagant, who did me seize

Besides Sir Kay the Seneschal,

Bringing him much shame and ill.’

And the king straight replied to her:

‘Lady, I well know who stands there;

I see that it is the one, no less,

Who held my people in duress.’

The queen said not another word,

But the king, having thus conferred,

Toward Meleagant turned his head:

‘God save me, friend,’ the king said,

Of Lancelot now we have had no

News, indeed it brings us sorrow.

‘King and sire,’ said Meleagant,

‘Lancelot told me he would stand

Here, to meet me, without fail.

And nowhere else might I avail

Myself of the oath that he swore,

But at your court, and all these lords

Shall bear true witness to what I say:

I summon him, a year from today,

To the battle here, thus decreed

When the covenant was agreed.’

Lines 6221-6458 King Bademagu’s daughter plans to free Lancelot

AT his words, Gawain now rose

Grieved by what he had disclosed,

Troubled by all that he had heard:

‘Sire, of Lancelot not a word

Has come to us in all this land,

But we shall set a search on hand

And, if God please, he will be here

Before the last day of the year,

Unless he’s dead or in prison.

If he cannot attend in person

Grant me the contest; I will fight,

For Lancelot I’ll act the knight

If he returns not ere that day.’

‘Ah! By God,’ this boon, I pray,

Which he desires, do you grant,

To him, for I’ said Meleagant,

‘Know not of any other knight,

 In all the world, I’d rather fight

Except for Lancelot alone,

Of a surety, let it be known:

If I fight not one of these two

I’ll meet no other substitute,

For one of the pair it must be.’

And the king did so agree,

If Lancelot failed to appear.

Meleagant now left his peers,

Parting from King Arthur’s court,

For now indeed he sought,

His father King Bademagu.

Once before him, to pursue

The appearance of bravery,

He feigned an air of jollity,

A happy face did now employ.

That day the king full of joy

Held court at Bade, his city.

Twas the day of his nativity,

So he was fine and generous,

While full many and various

Were those who there did gather.

The palace was in high fever,

All full of maidens and knights;

And one of the maidens bright

Was sister to Meleagant;

Of her I’ll not speak in advance

Of my thoughts and intention,

Here I’ll make no further mention

Of her, for I’d not confuse

My matter but instead I choose

Not to muddle things mid-course,

Nor interrupt my true discourse,

But keep to the straight and narrow.

And so I now will have you know

That Meleagant in his father’s hall

In all men’s hearing, great or small,

Said to his father, clear and loud:

‘So help me God, do tell me now,

And tell me truly, if you please,

Is he not the seat of bravery,

Should not that man be full of joy,

Who, at the threat that he’ll employ

His arms, brings fear to Arthur’s court?’

His father, then, without a thought,

To his question at once replied:

‘My son, no good man can deny

That he should e’er honour and serve

One who doth such respect deserve,

And seek out that man’s company.’

Then begged him, using flattery,

To say, and naught from him conceal,

Why to him he doth thus appeal,

His wishes, and whence come hither.

‘Sire, I know not if you remember,’

Said his son, Meleagant,

‘The conditions and the covenant

Which were recorded and agreed,

When your terms we did concede,

Lancelot and I together.

We committed, one and the other,

It seems to me, and before all,

That, ere a year, should befall

We’d fight at King Arthur’s court.

At the due time, there, I sought

Him; I myself ready, waiting

For whate’er my fate might bring.

Thus all that I ought I have done,

For Lancelot I searched, but none

Had seen him, that I might fight,

And yet of him had nary a sight;

He had hidden himself or fled.

When I came away, twas said

By Sir Gawain, in pledge to me,

If Lancelot was dead, and he

Could not within the time set

Thus appear, then even yet

No respite would be sought,

But he himself, before the court,

Would fight in place of Lancelot.

Arthur not one knight has got,

As all men know, as fine as he;

But ere the springtime we shall see,

When he and I attempt that same,

Whether his deeds match his fame;

And I would wish to prove it now!’

‘Son,’ said his father, ‘I do avow,

You seek to play the fool, for sure.

Any who knew it not before,

May learn of it from your own lips.

A good heart doth itself eclipse,

Bows low, but that the boastful fool

Ne’er ends his folly, tis the rule.

Son, as for you, now, I do say,

That your own self it is alway

So harsh and dry that I do see

No sweetness there, nor amity.

Your heart all devoid of pity,

You are wholly gripped by folly.

Tis why I do chastise you so,

Tis what, indeed, will lay you low.

If you are brave, men will concede

That very same, whene’er you need.

The virtuous man seeks not to praise

His courage that his actions may

Seem greater; they themselves extol.

Self-praise will not achieve your goal

Of advancing in men’s esteem,

One jot; no, it lessens you, I deem.

Son, I reprove you; to what end?

Tis vain to hope a fool will mend.

He wastes his strength utterly

Who’d rid a fool of his folly.

All the wisdom men expound,

Is worthless if it be not found

To bring reform; wasted, lost.’

Meleagant, being thus crossed,

Now sore enraged, waxed furious.

I may say that never, among us,

Could you see man born of woman

As full of anger as was this man,

And now the last bond he broke

Between them, as these words he spoke

Ungraciously, to his father

Seeking not to yield or flatter:

‘Are you asleep, or do you dream,

You who claim that mad I seem

Who speak but of my situation?

I thought to a father I had come,

As to my lord and my master,

But that appears untrue, rather

You insult me, outrageously,

Beyond all right, it seems to me,

Nor can you give any reason

For treating me with derision.’

‘I can indeed.’ ‘What reason then?’

‘That I see naught in you, again,

But anger, and foolishness.

I know you’ve courage in excess,

And what ill it will bring to you.

Now cursed be any man who

Thinks Lancelot, the virtuous,

Who is so prized by all of us

Except for you, has fled from fear,

For I am certain it will appear

That he’s buried, or held hard

In some prison, the door barred

So tight that he cannot leave.

Surely I would sorely grieve

If it should be the case that he

Is dead, or in sad captivity.

A mighty loss it would be

If a creature full of chivalry

So fine, so brave, so serene,

Vanished thus from the scene,

God please, it may not be true.’

Then words failed Bademagu.

But one of his daughters heard

What he had said, every word,

She listened to him thoughtfully,

And you must know that it was she

Whom I spoke of earlier, and

Is saddened now to understand

The likely fate of Lancelot.

It must surely be that he cannot

Be free, for news of him none know.

‘May God not look upon me though,

She said, ‘if I rest till I have found

Fresh trace of him, sight or sound;

Some news both certain and assured.’

Now, without waiting to hear more,

She, without noise, without murmur,

Leading it to a quiet corner,

Mounted a mule, fine, well-paced;

Though I must say she left that place

Not knowing the way she should go,

After departing the courtyard so.

She seeks no advice, travelling blind,

Taking the first road she doth find,

Riding swiftly, doth so adventure,

Not knowing where, at a venture,

Without knight or squire for guide.

Most eagerly, and with haste allied,

She seeks the object of her quest.

She presses on, and may not rest,

But her search will not end soon!

She may not rest, night or noon,

Nor linger in one place for long,

If she wishes to right this wrong,

As she herself has thought to do,

Can she but find, and then rescue

Lancelot, if she has the power.

But I think she’ll first devour

Many a mile, in many a land,

Far and wide, on either hand,

Before fresh news of him she hears.

What point for me to fill your ears

With stories of inns and journeys,

The paths she rode were so many,

Both up and down, by hill and dale,

A month or more, upon the trail?

She’d learned nothing by it though

More than she before did know,

And that was nothing, certainly.

But one day, upon her journey,

Crossing a field, with a sigh,

She saw afar a tower set high

Upon the shore, beside the sea,

And there was not within a league

House or cottage or dwelling there.

And she was yet all unaware

That Meleagant had built it so

That Lancelot therein might go.

As soon as she had sight of it

She fixed all her gaze upon it,

Nor cast her two eyes elsewhere,

For her heart assured her, there

Lay the object that she sought.

Now she had reached the port,

To which Fortune had led her,

Once she had made her suffer.

Lines 6459-6656 Lancelot is freed from prison

NOW the maid draws near the tower,

Till touching it’s within her power.

She walks around it listening,

Gives her attention to the thing,

Seeking, I would think, to hear

Any sound that meets the ear.

She looks down and to the sky:

The tower is solid, strong, and high;

Amazed to find but one narrow

Opening, a little window,

And no sign there of a door.

Around the tower, what’s more,

Is neither scaffolding nor stair.

She therefore thinks it made with care

To prison Lancelot inside,

But, ere she eats, she will try

To find if it is true or not.

She thinks to call out ‘Lancelot’,

And so summon him by name,

Yet ere she can pronounce the same,

She hears a voice that deters her,

A voice lamenting from the tower,

Marvellously sad, its breath

Calling upon naught but death.

Death it seeks, ‘too great’ its cry,

‘Too great these ills’ and longs to die:

Life and the body it despises,

Condemning them, the voice rises,

But weakly, both hoarse and low,

‘Ah! Fortune, how your wheel hath, so

Disastrously, turned for me!

You have mocked me shamefully,

For I was up and now am down;

I who was well, now ill am found.

Once you smiled, now you weep,

Why did you faith with one keep,

Poor wretch, who deserts you so!

A moment and she brings you low.

Truly ‘the depths from the height’:

To scorn you Fortune is not right.

I wrought ill, but what care you?

Tis naught to you what doth ensue.

Oh! Sacred Cross, oh, Holy Ghost,

How I am lost, half-dead almost!

How, in all, now, from all, I fall!

Ah Gawain, matched by none at all

In goodness, of such worth are you,

I wonder why your help, tis due,

Comes not; why you deny me aid?

For sure, your help is long delayed,

And thus you show scant courtesy!

Your aid he ought now to receive

He to whom such love you showed!

For in truth I would have followed,

Sought to find where you might be

On this or that side of the sea,

Where’er you were, on either shore,

A good ten years at least, and more,

If you were in prison, and I knew,

Ere I would thus abandon you.

But why do I with myself debate?

You care too little about my fate,

To wish to trouble yourself so.

The saying’s true, all men do know,

Tis hard these days to find a friend.

On whom, that is, we may depend,

We swiftly prove in time of need.

More than a year has passed, indeed,

Alas, since I was here enclosed.

And I feel such pain, God knows,

That you, Gawain, have not sought

To find me; mayhap you know naught,

Yet I seek to lay the blame on you.

I see it clearly; it must be true,

My ill thoughts I now abjure,

For, thinking on it, I am sure

Heaven and earth, without fail,

You’d move to free me from this gaol,

From this misfortune, and constraint,

Without your needing my complaint,

If but the truth your ears had found.

Indeed, to do so you’d be bound

From love and friendship no less,

If no other reason you’d profess. 

But this is naught, such cannot be.

May he who has so shamefully

Prisoned me, be damned forever,

By God and by Saint Sylvester!

The vilest man alive is he,

This Meleagant, who of envy

Has done me all the ill he can!’

To silence then returns the man

Who wears away his life in grief.

But when she, who waits beneath

The window, hears all he doth say

She seeks to act, without delay,

Knowing now what she must do,

She calls to him, and wisely too:

‘Lancelot!’ Loudly as she can,

‘Friend above,’ calls to the man,

Speak now to your friend below!’

He fails to hear her calling so.

She calls again and louder yet,

Until he hears at last, and yet

Wonders, in his weakness, who

It could be, as she calls anew.

He heard the voice, and its call,

But knew not who it was at all:

He thought a spirit it might be.

He looked around so as to see

Its source, but saw, at that hour,

Naught but himself and the tower.

‘God,’ said he, ‘what’s this I hear?

The sound is speech, yet none are here!

I’faith, tis more than marvellous;

Since I sleep not, well then I must

Be wide awake; were it in dream

A mere illusion it would seem;

But I’m awake, at which I grieve.’

Then painfully he rose to leave

The spot and so, little by little,

Went towards the window-sill.

Once he was there he spied

Up and down, and side to side,

All outside, the best he might,

Till of the maiden he had sight.

He knew her not, but him she knew;

Thus she said: ‘Lancelot, for you,

From afar, I’ve come in search;

God be thanked, for my search

Is over, and I’ve found you now.

I’m she to whom you did allow,

As to the Bridge of the Sword

You went, a plea, and did accord

Me a boon, when I asked of you:

It was the head I sought, that you

Cut from the knight that I did fear,

Whom at no time did I hold dear.

Because of that boon your guerdon

Is all this trouble to which I’ve gone,

And your reward is: I’ll set you free.’

‘Fair maid,’ he said, ‘I’ll thankful be,

If you can pluck me from prison,

Then shall I have a pretty guerdon

For that small service rendered you,

If I can from this tower issue.

If you can bring me liberty,

I promise and engage to be

Yours forever, by the Gospel, 

And Saint Paul the Apostle!

And, if I’d see God face to face,

No day there’ll be that I’ll not grace

With whate’er you may demand.

Naught there is that I command

But you may ask for it any day,

It will be yours without delay.’

‘Friend, you shall be, do not fear,

Released from this prison here.

You shall be freed this very day;

Not for a thousand livres, I say,

Would I see you here one day more;

Then to a better place, be sure,

I shall bring you, where you may rest.

There shall you have whate’er is best

What pleases you, it shall be yours.

Therefore trouble yourself no more:

But first I must by searching trace

Where there might be, in this place,

Some lever, with which, once found,

You might this narrow window sound,

Such that through it you might pass.’

‘God grant you find the thing, my lass!’

Said he, commending thus her plan;

‘And I have plenty of rope to hand,

Which my gaolers have given me

To drag aloft my food, hard barley

Bread, and buckets of foul water,

That harm my body, fair daughter.’

Then that child of Bademagu

Sought out a pick, a sharp one too,

Strong and sound, roped it, and he

Raised it, then grasping it tightly

Hammered and struck, despite the pain,

Till a wide opening he did gain,

Through which he issued easily.

He was delighted to be free,

As you’ll imagine, now that he,

Having achieved his liberty,

Was removed from that ward

Where so long he’d been immured.

Now he’s at large, in the clear air,

Nor would wish to be back there,

Not if all the gold in the world

Was in one pile together hurled,

You understand, and to him given,

With all the silver under heaven.

Lines 6657-6728 Lancelot is restored by the maidens’ care

BEHOLD, released is Lancelot,

And yet to stumble is his lot,

From weakness and feebleness.

Without causing him distress,

On her mule she sets him though,

And quickly on their way they go,

Except the byways she doth try,

That none may see them passing by,

And takes the hidden paths, for fear

If travelling openly they appear,

And then are seen and recognised,

Dire harm would thus be realised,

Such is not what she doth wish.

From the open road they vanish,

To reach at last a mansion where

She often stays; she doth repair

To it for its charm and beauty.

And this retreat was hers entirely

With its people; and twas the case,

That well-furnished was the place,

And healthy, private, and secure.

She brought Lancelot to her door,

As soon as he had entered there,

And shed his clothes, pale and bare,

The maiden placed the knight gently

On a couch both fine and lofty,

Then she bathed and massaged him

So scrupulously, limb by limb,

I could not tell of half her care.

She treats him as gently there

As if he might be her father:

Tends to him, him doth alter,

Renewing him, so wondrously,

Now fair as an angel is he,

And more fit and lively, say I,

Than any that you could espy; 

No longer haggard now and pale,

But handsome and strong and hale.

And now for him the maiden sought

The finest robes, and these she brought

To clothe him now, as he arose;

And gladly he donned the clothes,

Swift as a bird doth soar in flight.

Kissing the maiden then the knight

Said to her most graciously:

‘I have but God and yourself only,

To render thanks to, my dear friend,

For my return to health again.

Since my escape from prison is due

To you, my heart, and body too,

And all my service and estate,

Whene’er you please, you may take.

Such deeds you’ve done, I am your own,

Yet long it is since I have shown

My face at King Arthur’s court,

And much there is that I, in short,

Must do there; so, my sweet friend,

For Love, I pray you will extend

Me leave to go, that I may, then,

Go freely, and with your consent;

For he hath done me honour there.’

‘Lancelot, friend most dear and fair,’

Said the maid, ‘such is my desire,

For your good and honour, sire,

I wish above all, there and here.’

A wondrous steed she hath near,

Of all steeds known the very best,

This she gives him, and with zest,

Of stirrups taking small account,

Without a word now, up he mounts,

Then to God, He of falsehood free,

They commend each other, he and she.

Lines 6729-7004 Lancelot returns to King Arthur’s court

NOW Lancelot rode on his way

So joyfully, I swear, that day,

That I cannot describe the joy

He felt, delight without alloy,

That he was thus at liberty,

And freed from his captivity.

Yet he said often, and forcefully,

Woe to the traitor, who wrongfully

Had him in prison, one who now

He had fooled, as all must allow.

‘For despite him I am at liberty.’

Then he did swear, soul and body,

By Him who made the world entire,

That not for the riches men desire,

The gold from Babylon to Ghent,

Would he free Meleagant, or relent,

If he held him, no, not for an hour,

When once he had him in his power,

For he had harmed him shamefully.

And that same thing may come to be,

For it so happened, as we now see,

That Meleagant himself whom he

Proposed to imprison when caught,

Had but that day arrived at court,

Unsummoned by anyone, and he’d

First sought where Gawain might be,

Found him, and asked for Lancelot,

And whether he’d been found or not,

The traitor making his request

As if upon some innocent quest,

Though he knew the facts he sought.

Yet, truth be told, he knew them not

Indeed, but only thought he knew.

Gawain informed him, as was true,

That he’d not come there, nor been seen.

‘Since he’s not to be found, I wean,’

Said Meleagant, ‘then you must come

And keep the promise, and be done; 

For I can no longer wait.’

Gawain said, ‘I’ll not hesitate,

If God please, in whom I trust,

To pay the debt, as well I must,

And I will keep my word to you,

And I’ll not cease until I do,

For if it comes to keeping score,

And I do throw as many and more,

Then, by God and the Holy Faith,

I’ll end all, and pocket the stakes.’

Then Gawain, without more ado,

The usual order doth issue;

Demands a carpet be unrolled,

And set before him, as of old.

Without demurring in any way,

At his command, the squires lay

The carpet where they are told.

There he sits, that place doth hold, 

And orders them to fit his armour,

Those squires who do him honour,

Standing before him, at that spot,

Nephews or cousins, I know not,

But all accomplished, that is true.

And they knew all they had to do:

They armed him skilfully and well,

Such that none on earth could tell

Of any fault they could discover,

Nor could detect the slightest error

In anything that they had done.

When he was fully armed, then one

Of the squires brought a Spanish steed,

That could run more swiftly, indeed,

O’er hill and dale, by field and wood,

Than e’er the good Bucephalus could.

Such was the horse my Lord Gawain

Now mounted, he of noblest strain,

The finest knight the age displayed

O’er whom the sign of the Cross was made.

Yet as he prepared to grasp his shield,

There, before him, unexpectedly,

Lancelot, dismounting, appeared.

He gazed in wonder as he neared,

Since he’d arrived so suddenly,

As much surprised, believe me,

As if he’d wondrously descended

Upon him from the clouds, and ended

By standing there before him now.

Yet naught could stop him, I vow,

No greater business of his own,

On seeing tis none but he alone,

From leaping, himself, to the ground,

Embracing him, for he is found,

And welcoming him with a kiss.

Now has he joy, great ease in this,

Greeting thus his dear companion.

And I shall give my true opinion,

And, think you, what I say is not

Some tale: unless his Lancelot

Were with him, he would yet decline

To be crowned king, however fine.

Now the King heard, as did the rest,

That Lancelot whom, at his behest,

They’d long watched for, despite all

Had come safe and sound to the hall.

So they all rejoice together,

And those at court swiftly gather,

To welcome him they’d long looked for.

Great or small, they do him honour,

None there is lacks joy that day.

Their joy dispels and drives away

The sorrow that they felt before.

Grief doth flee, they joy the more,

Sadness replaced by true delight.

And did the queen enjoy the sight

Of Lancelot, and smile withal?

Yes, truly, she beyond them all.

How? Dear God, what felt she then,

If not the greatest joy again

She ever felt, at his return?

And did she not towards him turn?

In truth she did, and drew so near

That her body well-nigh, I fear,

Followed her heart, they were so close.

Where was the heart, do you suppose?

It kissed and embraced her Lancelot.

And why did the body touch him not?

Why was her joy incomplete?

Did anger or hatred there meet?

No, indeed, but twas lest, by chance,

The king might note the circumstance,

Or one of the other persons there,

Who were watching the whole affair,

Might on those two cast their eyes

And thus see all, if they were wise;

If she simply followed her heart.

Thus Reason kept the two apart,

For if it had not banished thence

Her wild thoughts, if common-sense

Had not concealed her heart’s excess,

Revealed had been her foolishness.

So feelings Reason hid, and thought,

Restraining both, before the court,

Postponing the issue for a while,

Till it might, without undue guile,

Find some fine, more private place,

Where they might better embrace

Than where they were at that hour.

The king doth Lancelot endower

With honour, and after joyful word

Says: ‘My friend, I have not heard

For a great while, word of anyone

That cheers my heart as this has done,

This news of you, but it troubles me

To know in what land, what country,

You have sojourned for so long.

All winter and all summer long

I’ve had men search, up and down,

But none, of you, had sight or sound.

‘Indeed,’ said Lancelot, ‘fair sire,

Brief words may answer your desire,

As to how it has fared with me.

Meleagant, that fount of treachery,

Has held me far off, in prison,

Ever since that joyful season

When the prisoners were freed,

And in a tower, beside the sea,

Forced me to suffer great shame.

There by the power of his name,

I was, and would yet be, penned

If it were not for my dear friend,

A maiden, for whom I once did

Some small service, when she bid.

For that little gift I had done

She repaid me with large guerdon,

Bringing great good to Lancelot.

But that fellow whom I love not,

Who devised, and later wrought

Ill, and shame upon me brought,

Here and now, I would him repay,

All he deserves, without delay.

He comes to seek it; his shall it be.

He need not wait here endlessly,

For all is here at his own behest,

Both principal and interest.

But God be hoped he enjoy it not.’

Then said Gawain to Lancelot,

‘The slightest favour it would be

If this debt were repaid by me,

Since I am ever in debt to you.

And I am already mounted too,

And all prepared as you may see.

Fair friend, do not deny it me,

This boon I do covet, moreover.’

But he replied he would rather

Lose an eye than forfeit there

His part in the present affair;

He swore that it could never be.

He owed the debt and it was he

Who would render it, faithfully.

Gawain who could clearly see

Naught he might say would avail,

Freed himself of his coat of mail,

And disarmed himself completely;

Lancelot arming himself swiftly,

For now he would brook no delay,

Impatient to settle, in his own way,

The debt he owed to Meleagant,

Who was amazed, in that instant,

Beyond measure, to see him there,

Before his eyes, and could but stare.

What he was owed he’d now receive,

Almost beside himself, indeed,

To fainting he came well-nigh.

‘Surely,’ said he, ‘a fool was I

Not to go, before coming here,

And see if I still held him near,

In my prison, and in my tower;

He who has tricked me this hour.

Yet, my God, why should I so?

What reason had I to suppose

He might thus escape ere long?

Are not the walls good and strong,

Is not the tower sound and high?

There was no opening, to the eye,

Through which he might issue forth,

Unless he were aided of course.

His prison must have been revealed.

If the walls where he was concealed

Had fallen, and the tower grounded,

Would he not have been confounded

Trapped, and wounded or killed?

Yes, God help me, if so willed!

Thus he’d have died without fail;

But unless of force men did avail, 

Before e’er those walls would falter,

The sea would dry and all its water

And not a drop be left, for sure,

Nor could the world itself endure.

That was not it, some other way

He was helped to the light of day.

Not otherwise could he have fled,

I have been tricked and so misled.

However it was, he’s now abroad

Yet if I had kept him in closer ward,

None of this had happened though,

Nor at court would I see him so.

But tis too late now to repent,

The farmer says, with true intent,

And speaks the truth at his table,

In claiming it’s too late the stable

Door to bolt, the horse being fled.

I know I’ve brought upon my head

Great shame and humiliation,

If not worse my expectation.

What must I suffer and endure?

Yet as long as I might live for

I will deal him measure enough,

Please God, in whom I place my trust.’

So he cheers himself and doth ask

Of himself no more than this task

That in the field they meet together.

He will not wait for long, however,

For Lancelot goes to seek him out,

Expecting the better of the bout.

But, before the contest may start,

The king requests that they depart

To the plain where a tower doth stand

The best place this side of Ireland

For a fight; and there do they go,

To meet on the plain down below.

The king goes there, and so too

All the rest, in a crowd, to view.

All depart, not one doth remain;

And to the tower windows, amain,

Go the queen, her maids and ladies,

Amongst whom are many beauties.

Lines 7005-7119 Lancelot slays Meleagant

IN the field stood a sycamore

As fair as any a tree, and more.

Its branches spread far and wide,

And it was ringed on every side

With short grass, fresh and fine,

Which was green all winter time.

Under this fine and noble tree,

Planted in Abel’s century,

A little fountain from its spring

Sends its clear water issuing.

Its bed of translucent water,

Shines as brightly as silver,

And its channel, I would hold,

Is made of true refined gold;

And through the fields it doth sail

Between two woods, along a dale.

There sat the king, where all was green,

And nothing ill was to be seen.

The crowd were made to stand aside

Then Lancelot began his ride,

Against Meleagant, at speed,

As at one whom he hates indeed.

Yet first, ere he prepares to strike,

He shouts, as loudly as you like:

‘I defy you, so now beware,

 For you, indeed, I shall not spare,

Then Lancelot began his ride, Against Meleagant, at speed

Then Lancelot began his ride, Against Meleagant, at speed
The Romance of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (p118, 1917)
Sir Thomas Malory (15th cent), Alfred William Pollard (1859-1944), Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)
Internet Archive Book Images

My word you have, it shall be so!’

An arrow’s flight from the bow

He drew back, and then indeed

Most violently spurred on his steed.

Thus they let their mounts rush on,

Until the two knights meet head on,

And so furiously do they meet

That their lances loudly beat

Upon, and even pierce, the shields,

Yet, neither wounded neither yields,

The flesh untouched at first assault.

They pass, and then, without delay,

Return as fast as e’er they may,

Dealing mighty blows sidelong,

On those shields fine and strong;

For the knights give brave account,

And swift and hardy is each mount.

So fierce are the blows that peck

At those shields about their necks,

That the lances pierce right through,

And fail to break or splinter too

With such force through chain mesh

They glide, to reach the bare flesh.

Each strikes the other man so hard

That both men are borne earthward,

For no breast-strap, stirrup, or girth

Could save them from striking earth,

Knocked backward o’er the saddle-bow,

With but an empty saddle to show.

The horses are left to run astray,

Gone over the hills and far away.

One kicks hard, the other doth bite,

With mortal hatred, in their flight.

As for the knights, though grounded,

Swiftly to their feet they bounded,

And at once each drew his blade

That with letters was engraved,

Set his shield before his face,

And did the fight again embrace,

Seeking to make the other feel

The keen edge of his bright steel.

Lancelot feared no man that day,

For he knew more of swordplay

By far than his enemy, forsooth,

Having learnt well in his youth.

They each dealt such mighty blows

On each other’s shields, God knows,

And on their helms barred with gold,

They shattered them, if truth be told.

But Lancelot pressed in strongly,

And launched such a blow that he

Struck Meleagant’s mail-clad arm,

His right, all unshielded from harm,

And severed the arm at a stroke.

His enemy, at the pain, now spoke

Out at the loss; cried that its cost

Should be repaid, for dearly bought

It was, and its full price he sought;

For now with fury he did engage,

Beside himself with pain and rage,

And thought a wretch he must be

Could he not conquer this enemy.

He rushed at Lancelot, his intent

To seize him now, or such he meant,

But Lancelot forestalled his plan,

And with his sword dealt the man

Such a blow he’d not recover

Till April and May were over;

Struck his nose-guard gainst his teeth,

Shattering three of them beneath.

And Meleagant felt such anger

That not a word could he utter.

A cry for mercy he doth disdain,

His foolish heart doth so constrain

His action still, and grips him tight.

Lancelot doth approach the knight,

Frees the helm, and takes his head.

Meleagant’s done with and, dead,

He’ll trouble Lancelot no more.

Meleagant’s done with and, deadr

Meleagant’s done with and, dead
The Romance of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (p148, 1917)
Sir Thomas Malory (15th cent), Alfred William Pollard (1859-1944), Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)
Internet Archive Book Images

Nor shall any of those who saw

The battle, I now declare to you,

Feel pity at such a dreadful view.

The king and all the others there

Know great joy of the whole affair.

Happier than ever now they prove;

Lancelot’s armour they remove,

And lead him away most joyfully.

Lines 7120-7134 Godefroi’s envoi

MY Lords, did I prolong the story,

Beside the purpose it would seem,

Thus to its end I draw our theme:

Here the arrow doth find its mark.

Godefroi de Leigni, the clerk,

Has finished the Tale of the Cart;

But let none blame his feeble art

In completing Chrétien’s intent,

For Chrétien gave it his consent.

He began it, and I, from where

Lancelot was imprisoned there,

Took up the story and my pen,

And so continue it to the end.

Such will I, but no further, sail,

Not least for fear I mar the tale.

The End of Part IV of Lancelot