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Chapter 3

CHAPTER III.
ARTHUR.

WE shall begin our history of King Arthur by giving those
particulars of his life which appear to rest on historical evidence;
and then proceed to record those legends concerning him which form the
earliest portion of British literature.
Arthur was a prince of the tribe of Britons called Silures, whose
country was South Wales,- the son of Uther, named Pendragon, a title
given to an elective sovereign, paramount over the many kings of
Britain. He appears to have commenced his martial career about the
year 500, and was raised to the Pendragonship about ten years later.
He is said to have gained twelve victories over the Saxons. The most
important of them was that of Badon, by some supposed to be Bath, by
others Berkshire. This was the last of his battles with the Saxons,
and checked their progress so effectually that Arthur experienced no
more annoyance from them, and reigned in peace, until the revolt of
his nephew Modred, twenty years later, which led to the fatal battle
of Camlan, in Cornwall, in 542. Modred was slain, and Arthur, mortally
wounded, was conveyed by sea to Glastonbury, where he died, and was
buried. Tradition preserved the memory of the place of his interment
within the abbey, as we are told by Giraldus Cambrensis, who was
present when the grave was opened by command of Henry II. in 1150, and
saw the bones and sword of the monarch, and a leaden cross let into
his tombstone, with the inscription in rude Roman letters, "Here
lies buried the famous King Arthur, in the island Avolonia." This
story has been elegantly versified by Warton. A popular traditional
belief was long entertained among the Britons that Arthur was not
dead, but had been carried off to be healed of his wounds in
Fairy-land, and that he would reappear to avenge his countrymen, and
reinstate them in the sovereignty of Britain. In Wharton's Ode a
bard relates to King Henry the traditional story of Arthur's death,
and closes with these lines:-

"Yet in vain a paynim foe
Armed with fate the mighty blow;
For when he fell, the Elfin queen,
All in secret and unseen,
O'er the fainting hero threw
Her mantle of ambrosial blue,
And bade her spirits bear him far,
In Merlin's agate-axled car,
To her green isle's enamelled steep,
Far in the navel of the deep.
O'er his wounds she sprinkled dew
From flowers that in Arabia grew.

There he reigns a mighty king,
Thence to Britain shall return,
If right prophetic rolls I learn,
Borne on victory's spreading plume,
His ancient sceptre to resume,
His knightly table to restore,
And brave the tournaments of yore."

After this narration another bard came forward, who recited a
different story:-

"When Arthur bowed his haughty crest,
No princess veiled in azure vest
Snatched him, by Merlin's powerful spell,
In groves of golden bliss to dwell;
But when he fell, with winged speed,
His champions, on a milk-white steed,
From the battle's hurricane
Bore him to Joseph's towered fane,*

In the fair vale of Avalon;
There, with chanted orison
And the long blaze of tapers clear,
The stoled fathers met the bier;
Through the dim aisles, in order dread
Of martial woe, the chief they led,
And deep entombed in holy ground,
Before the altar's solemn bound."

* Glastonbury Abbey, said to be founded by Joseph of Arimathea, in a
spot anciently called the island or valley of Avalonia.
Tennyson, in his Palace of Art, alludes to the legend of Arthur's
rescue by the Fairy queen, thus:-

"Or mythic Uther's deeply wounded son,
In some fair space of sloping greens,
Lay dozing in the vale of Avalon,
And watched by weeping queens."

It must not be concealed, that the very existence of Arthur has been
denied by some. Milton says of him: "As to Arthur, more renowned in
songs and romances than in true stories, who he was, and whether
ever any such reigned in Britain, hath been doubted heretofore, and
may again, with good reason." Modern critics, however, admit that
there was a prince of this name, and find proof of it in the
frequent mention of him in the writings of the Welsh bards. But the
Arthur of romance, according to Mr. Owen, a Welsh scholar and
antiquarian, is a mythological person. "Arthur," he says, "is the
Great Bear, as the name literally implies (Arctos, Arcturus), and
perhaps this constellation, being so near the pole, and visibly
describing a circle in a small space, is the origin of the famous
Round Table." Let us now turn to the history of King Arthur, as
recorded by the romantic chroniclers.
Constans, king of Britain, had three sons, Moines, Ambrosius,
otherwise called Uther, and Pendragon. Moines, soon after his
accession to the crown, was vanquished by the Saxons, in consequence
of the treachery of his seneschal, Vortigern, and growing unpopular
through misfortune, he was killed by his subjects, and the traitor
Vortigern chosen in his place.
Vortigern was soon after defeated in a great battle by Uther and
Pendragon, the surviving brothers of Moines, and Pendragon ascended
the throne.
This prince had great confidence in the wisdom of Merlin, and made
him his chief adviser. About this time a dreadful war arose between
the Saxons and Britons. Merlin obliged the royal brothers to swear
fidelity to each other, but predicted that one of them must fall in
the first battle. The Saxons were routed, and Pendragon, being
slain, was succeeded by Uther, who now assumed, in addition to his own
name, the appellation of Pendragon.
Merlin still continued a favorite counsellor. At the request of
Uther, he transported by magic art enormous stones from Ireland, to
form the sepulchre of Pendragon. These stones constitute the
monument now called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain.
Merlin next proceeded to Carlisle to prepare the Round Table, at
which he seated an assemblage of the great nobles of the country.
The companions admitted to this high order were bound by oath to
assist each other at the hazard of their own lives, to attempt
singly the most perilous adventures, to lead, when necessary, a life
of monastic solitude, to fly to arms at the first summons, and never
to retire from battle till they had defeated the enemy, unless night
intervened and separated the combatants.
Soon after this institution, the king invited all his barons to
the celebration of a great festival, which he proposed holding
annually at Carlisle.
As the knights had obtained the sovereign's permission to bring
their ladies along with them, the beautiful Igerne accompanied her
husband, Gerlois, Duke of Tintadiel, to one of these anniversaries.
The king became deeply enamored of the Duchess, and disclosed his
passion; but Igerne repelled his advances, and revealed his
solicitations to her husband. On hearing this, the Duke instantly
removed from court with Igerne, and without taking leave of Uther. The
king complained to his council of this want of duty, and they
decided that the Duke should be summoned to court, and, if refractory,
should be treated as a rebel. As he refused to obey the citation,
the king carried war into the estates of his vassal, and besieged
him in the strong castle of Tintadiel. Merlin transformed the king
into the likeness of Gerlois, and enabled him to have many stolen
interviews with Igerne. At length the Duke was killed in battle, and
the king espoused Igerne.
From this union sprang Arthur, who succeeded his father, Uther, upon
the throne.

ARTHUR CHOSEN KING.

Arthur, though only fifteen years old at his father's death, was
elected king, at a general meeting of the nobles. It was not done
without opposition, for there were many ambitious competitors; but
Bishop Brice, a person of great sanctity, on Christmas eve addressed
the assembly, and represented that it would well become them, at
that solemn season, to put up their prayers for some token which
should manifest the intentions of Providence respecting their future
sovereign. This was done, and with such success, that the service
was scarcely ended, when a miraculous stone was discovered, before the
church door, and in the stone was firmly fixed a sword, with the
following words engraven on its hilt:-

"I am hight Escalibore,
Unto a king fair tresore."

Bishop Brice, after exhorting the assembly to offer up their
thanksgivings for this signal miracle, proposed a law, that whoever
should be able to draw out the sword from the stone, should be
acknowledged as sovereign of the Britons; and his proposal was decreed
by general acclamation. The tributary kings of Uther, and the most
famous knights, successively put their strength to the proof, but
the miraculous sword resisted all their efforts. It stood till
Candlemas; it stood till Easter, and till Pentecost, when the best
knights in the kingdom usually assembled for the annual tournament.
Arthur, who was at that time serving in the capacity of squire to
his foster-brother, Sir Kay, attended his master to the lists. Sir Kay
fought with great valor and success, but had the misfortune to break
his sword, and sent Arthur to his mother for a new one. Arthur
hastened home, but did not find the lady; but having observed near the
church a sword sticking in a stone, he galloped to the place, drew out
the sword with great ease, and delivered it to his master. Sir Kay
would willingly have assumed to himself the distinction conferred by
the possession of the sword; but when, to confirm the doubters, the
sword was replaced in the stone, he was utterly unable to withdraw it,
and it would yield a second time to no hand but Arthur's. Thus
decisively pointed out by Heaven as their king, Arthur was by
general consent proclaimed such, and an early day appointed for his
solemn coronation.
Immediately after his election to the crown, Arthur found himself
opposed by eleven kings and one duke, who with a vast army were
actually encamped in the forest of Rockingham. By Merlin's advice
Arthur sent an embassy to Brittany to solicit aid of King Ban and King
Bohort, two of the best knights in the world. They accepted the
call, and with a powerful army crossed the sea, landing at Portsmouth,
where they were received with great rejoicing. The rebel kings were
still superior in numbers; but Merlin by a powerful enchantment,
caused all their tents to fall down at once, and in the confusion
Arthur with his allies fell upon them and totally routed them.
After defeating the rebels, Arthur took the field against the
Saxons. As they were too strong for him unaided, he sent an embassy to
Armorica, beseeching the assistance of Hoel, who soon after brought
over an army to his aid. The two kings joined their forces, and sought
the enemy, whom they met, and both sides prepared for a decisive
engagement. "Arthur himself," as Geoffrey of Monmouth relates,
"dressed in a breastplate worthy of so great a king, places on his
head a golden helmet engraved with the semblance of a dragon. Over his
shoulders he throws his shield called Priwen, on which a picture of
the Holy Virgin constantly recalled her to his memory. Girt with
Caliburn, a most excellent sword, and fabricated in the isle of
Avalon, he graces his right hand with the lance named Ron. This was
a long and broad spear, well contrived for slaughter." After a
severe conflict, Arthur, calling on the name of the Virgin, rushes
into the midst of his enemies, and destroys multitudes of them with
the formidable Caliburn, and puts the rest to flight. Hoel, being
detained by sickness, took no part in this battle.
This is called the victory of Mount Badon, and, however disguised by
fable, it is regarded by historians as a real event.
The feats performed by Arthur at the battle of Badon Mount are
thus celebrated in Drayton's verse:-

"They sung how he himself at Badon bore, that day,
When at the glorious goal his British scepter lay;
Two dais together how the battle stronglie stood;
Pendragon's worthie son, who waded there in blood,
Three hundred Saxons slew with his owne valiant hand."
Song IV.

MERLIN.

"-The most famous man of all those times,
Merlin, who knew the range of all their arts,
Had built the King his havens, ships and halls,
Was also Bard, and knew the starry heavens;
The people called him wizard."- TENNYSON.

Now Merlin, of whom we have already heard somewhat and shall hear
more, was the son of no mortal father, but of an Incubus, one of a
class of beings not absolutely wicked, but far from good, who
inhabit the regions of the air. Merlin's mother was a virtuous young
woman, who, on the birth of her son, intrusted him to a priest, who
hurried him to the baptismal fount, and so saved him from sharing
the lot of his father, though he retained many marks of his
unearthly origin.
At this time Vortigern reigned in Britain. He was a usurper, who had
caused the death of his sovereign, Moines, and driven the two brothers
of the late king, whose names were Uther and Pendragon, into
banishment. Vortigern, who lived in constant fear of the return of the
rightful heirs of the kingdom, began to erect a strong tower for
defence. The edifice, when brought by the workmen to a certain height,
three times fell to the ground, without any apparent cause. The king
consulted his astrologers on this wonderful event, and learned from
them that it would be necessary to bathe the cornerstone of the
foundation with the blood of a child born without a mortal father.
In search of such an infant, Vortigern sent his messengers all
over the kingdom, and they by accident discovered Merlin, whose
lineage seemed to point him out as the individual wanted. They took
him to the king; but Merlin, young as he was, explained to the king
the absurdity of attempting to rescue the fabric by such means, for he
told him the true cause of the instability of the tower was its
being placed over the den of two immense dragons, whose combats
shook the earth above them. The king ordered his workmen to dig
beneath the tower, and when they had done so they discovered two
enormous serpents, the one white as milk, the other red as fire. The
multitude looked on with amazement, till the serpents, slowly rising
from their den, and expanding their enormous folds, began the
combat, when every one fled in terror, except Merlin, who stood by
clapping his hands and cheering on the conflict. The red dragon was
slain, and the white one, gliding through a cleft in the rock,
disappeared.
These animals typified, as Merlin afterwards explained, the invasion
of Uther and Pendragon, the rightful princes, who soon after landed
with a great army. Vortigern was defeated, and afterwards burned alive
in the castle he had taken such pains to construct. On the death of
Vortigern, Pendragon ascended the throne. Merlin became his chief
adviser, and often assisted the king by his magical arts. Among
other endowments, he had the power to transform himself into any shape
he pleased. At one time he appeared as a dwarf, at others as a damsel,
a page, or even a greyhound or a stag. This faculty he often
employed for the service of the king, and sometimes also for the
diversion of the court and the sovereign.
Merlin continued to be a favorite counsellor through the reigns of
Pendragon, Uther, and Arthur, and at last disappeared from view, and
was no more found among men, through the treachery of his mistress,
Viviane, the Fairy, which happened in this wise.
Merlin, having become enamored of the fair Viviane, the Lady of
the Lake, was weak enough to impart to her various important secrets
of his art, being impelled by a fatal destiny, of which he was at
the same time fully aware. The lady, however, was not content with his
devotion, unbounded as it seems to have been, but "cast about," the
Romance tells us, how she might "detain him for evermore," and one day
addressed him in these terms: "Sir, I would that we should make a fair
place and a suitable, so contrived by art and by cunning that it might
never be undone, and that you and I should be there in joy and
solace." "My lady," said Merlin, "I will do all this." "Sir," said
she, "I would not have you do it, but you shall teach me, and I will
do it, and then it will be more to my mind." "I grant you this,"
said Merlin. Then he began to devise, and the damsel put it all in
writing. And when he had devised the whole, then had the damsel full
great joy, and showed him greater semblance of love than she had
ever before made, and they sojourned together a long while. At
length it fell out that, as they were going one day in hand through
the forest of Breceliande, they found a bush of white-thorn, which was
laden with flowers; and they seated themselves, under the shade of
this white-thorn, upon the grass, and Merlin laid his head upon the
damsel's lap, and fell asleep. Then the damsel rose, and made a ring
with her wimple round the bush, and round Merlin, and began her
enchantments, such as he himself had taught her; and nine times she
made the ring, and nine times she made the enchantment, and then she
went and sat down by him, and placed his head again upon her lap.
And when he awoke, and looked round him, it seemed to him that he
was enclosed in the strongest tower in the world, and laid upon a fair
bed. Then said he to the dame: "My lady, you have deceived me,
unless you abide with me, for no one hath power to unmake this tower
but you alone." She then promised that she would be often there, and
in this she held her covenant with him. And Merlin never went out of
that tower where his Mistress Viviane had enclosed him; but she
entered and went out again when she listed.
After this event Merlin was never more known to hold converse with
any mortal but Viviane, except on one occasion. Arthur, having for
some time missed him from his court, sent several of his knights in
search of him, and among the number Sir Gawain, who met with a very
unpleasant adventure while engaged in this quest. Happening to pass
a damsel on his road, and neglecting to salute her, she revenged
herself for his incivility by transforming him into a hideous dwarf.
He was bewailing aloud his evil fortune as he went through the
forest of Breceliande, when suddenly he heard the voice of one
groaning on his right hand; and, looking that way, he could see
nothing save a kind of smoke, which seemed like air, and through which
he could not pass. Merlin then addressed him from out the smoke, and
told him by what misadventure he was imprisoned there. "Ah, sir!" he
added, "you will never see me more, and that grieves me, but I
cannot remedy it; I shall never more speak to you, nor to any other
person, save only my mistress. But do thou hasten to King Arthur,
and charge him from me to undertake, without delay, the quest of the
Sacred Graal. The knight is already born, and has received
knighthood at his hands, who is destined to accomplish this quest."
And after this he comforted Gawain under his transformation,
assuring him that he should speedily be disenchanted; and he predicted
to him that he should find the king at Carduel, in Wales, on his
return, and that all the other knights who had been on like quest
would arrive there the same day as himself. And all this came to
pass as Merlin had said.
Merlin is frequently introduced in the tales of chivalry, but it
is chiefly on great occasions, and at a period subsequent to his
death, or magical disappearance. In the romantic poems of Italy, and
in Spenser, Merlin is chiefly represented as a magical artist. Spenser
represents him as the artificer of the impenetrable shield and other
armor of Prince Arthur (Faery Queene, Book I., Canton vii.), and of
a mirror, in which a damsel viewed her lover's shade. The Fountain
of Love, in the Orlando Innamorato, is described as his work; and in
the poem of Ariosto we are told of a hall adorned with prophetic
paintings, which demons had executed in a single night, under the
direction of Merlin.
The following legend is from Spenser's Faery Queene (Book III.,
Canto iii.):-

CAER-MERDIN, OR CAERMARTHEN (IN WALES), MERLIN'S TOWER, AND THE
IMPRISONED FIENDS.

Forthwith themselves disguising both, in straunge
And base attire, that none might them bewray,
To Maridunum, that is now by chaunge
Of name Caer-Merdin called, they took their way:
There the wise Merlin, whylome wont (they say)
To make his wonne, low underneath the ground
In a deep delve, far from the view of day,
That of no living wight he mote be found,
Whenso he counselled with his sprights encompassed round.

And if thou ever happen that same way
To travel, go to see that dreadful place;
It is a hideous hollow cave (they say)
Under a rock that lies a little space,
From the swift Barry, tombling down apace
Amongst the woody hills of Dynevor;
But dare not thou, I charge, in any case,
To enter into that same baleful bower,
For fear the cruel fiends should thee unwares devour.

But standing high aloft, low lay thine ear,
And there such ghastly noise of iron chains
And brazen cauldrons thou shalt rumbling hear,
Which thousand sprites with long enduring pains
Do toss, that it will stun thy feeble brains;
And oftentimes great groans, and grievous stounds,
When too huge toil and labor them constrains;
And oftentimes loud strokes and ringing sounds
From under that deep rock most horribly rebounds.

The cause some say is this. A little while
Before that Merlin died, he did intend
A brazen wall in compas to compile
About Caermerdin, and did it commend
Unto these sprites to bring to perfect end;
During which work the Lady of the Lake,
Whom long he loved, for him in haste did send;
Who, thereby forced his workmen to forsake,
Them bound till his return their labor not to slack.

In the meantime, through that false lady's train,
He was surprised, and buried under beare,*
Ne ever to his work returned again;
Natheless those fiends may not their work forbear,
So greatly his commandement they fear;
But there do toil and travail day and night,
Until that brazen wall they up do rear.
For Merlin had in magic more insight
Than ever him before or after living wight.

* Buried under beare. Buried under something which enclosed him like
a coffin or bier.

GUENEVER.

"Leodogran, the King of Cameliard,
Had one fair daughter, and none other child,
And she was fairest of all flesh on earth,
Guenevere, and in her his one delight."
TENNYSON.

Merlin had planned for Arthur a marriage with the daughter of King
Laodegan* of Carmalide. By his advice Arthur paid a visit to the court
of that sovereign, attended only by Merlin and by thirty-nine
knights whom the magician had selected for that service. On their
arrival they found Laodegan and his peers sitting in council,
endeavoring, but with small prospect of success, to devise means for
resisting the impending attack of Ryence, King of Ireland, who, with
fifteen tributary kings and an almost innumerable army, had nearly
surrounded the city. Merlin, who acted as leader of the band of
British knights, announced them as strangers, who came to offer the
king their services in his wars; but under the express condition
that they should be at liberty to conceal their names and quality
until they should think proper to divulge them. These terms were
thought very strange, but were thankfully accepted, and the strangers,
after taking the usual oath to the king, retired to the lodging
which Merlin had prepared for them.

* The spelling of these proper names is very often only a matter
of taste. I think, however, Leodogran and Guenevere are less common
than Laodegan and Guenever.

A few days after this, the enemy, regardless of a truce into which
they had entered with King Laodegan, suddenly issued from their camp
and made an attempt to surprise the city. Cleodalis, the king's
general, assembled the royal forces with all possible despatch. Arthur
and his companions also flew to arms, and Merlin appeared at their
head, bearing a standard on which was emblazoned a terrific dragon.
Merlin advanced to the gate, and commanded the porter to open it,
which the porter refused to do, without the king's order. Merlin
thereupon took up the gate, with all its appurtenances of locks, bars,
and bolts, and directed his troop to pass through, after which he
replaced it in perfect order. He then set spurs to his horse, and
dashed, at the head of the little troop, into a body of two thousand
Pagans. The disparity of numbers being so enormous, Merlin cast a
spell upon the enemy, so as to prevent their seeing the small number
of their assailants; notwithstanding which the British knights were
hard pressed. But the people of the city, who saw from the walls
this unequal contest, were ashamed of leaving the small body of
strangers to their fate, so they opened the gate and sallied forth.
The numbers were now more nearly equal, and Merlin revoked his
spell, so that the two armies encountered on fair terms. Where Arthur,
Ban, Bohort, and the rest fought, the king's army had the advantage;
but in another part of the field the king himself was surrounded and
carried off by the enemy. This sad sight was seen by Guenever, the
fair daughter of the king, who stood on the city wall and looked at
the battle. She was in dreadful distress, tore her hair, and swooned
away.
But Merlin, aware of what passed in every part of the field,
suddenly collected his knights, led them out of the battle,
intercepted the passage of the party who were carrying away the
king, charged them with irresistible impetuosity, cut in pieces or
dispersed the whole escort, and rescued the king. In the fight
Arthur encountered Caulang, a giant fifteen feet high, and the fair
Guenever, who already began to feel a strong interest in the
handsome young stranger, trembled for the issue of the contest. But
Arthur, dealing a dreadful blow on the shoulder of the monster, cut
through his neck so that his head hung over on one side, and in this
condition his horse carried him about the field, to the great horror
and dismay of the Pagans. Guenever could not refrain from expressing
aloud her wish that the gentle knight, who dealt with giants so
dexterously, were destined to become her husband, and the wish was
echoed by her attendants. The enemy soon turned their backs, and
fled with precipitation, closely pursued by Laodegan and his allies.
After the battle Arthur was disarmed and conducted to the bath by
the Princess Guenever, while his friends were attended by the other
ladies of the court. After the bath the knights were conducted to a
magnificent entertainment, at which they were diligently served by the
same fair attendants. Laodegan, more and more anxious to know the name
and quality of his generous deliverers, and occasionally forming a
secret wish that the chief of his guests might be captivated by the
charms of his daughter, appeared silent and pensive, and was
scarcely roused from his reverie by the banter of his courtiers.
Arthur, having had an opportunity of explaining to Guenever his
great esteem for her merit, was in the joy of his heart, and was still
further delighted by hearing from Merlin the late exploits of Gawain
at London, by means of which his immediate return to his dominions was
rendered unnecessary, and he was left at liberty to protract his
stay at the court of Laodegan. Every day contributed to increase the
admiration of the whole court for the gallant strangers, and the
passion of Guenever for their chief; and when at last Merlin announced
to the king that the object of the visit of the party was to procure a
bride for their leader, Laodegan at once presented Guenever to Arthur,
telling him that, whatever might be his rank, his merit was sufficient
to entitle him to the possession of the heiress of Carmalide. Arthur
accepted the lady with the utmost gratitude, and Merlin then proceeded
to satisfy the king of the rank of his son-in-law; upon which
Laodegan, with all his barons, hastened to do homage to their lawful
sovereign, the successor of Uther Pendragon. The fair Guenever was
then solemnly betrothed to Arthur, and a magnificent festival was
proclaimed, which lasted seven days. At the end of that time, the
enemy appearing again with renewed force, it became necessary to
resume military operations.*

* Guenever, the name of Arthur's queen, also written Genievre and
Geneuras, is familiar to all who are conversant with chivalric lore.
It is to her adventures, and those of her true knight, Sir
Launcelot, that Dante alludes in the beautiful episode of Francesca da
Rimini.

We must now relate what took place at or near London while Arthur
was absent from his capital. At this very time a band of young
heroes were on their way to Arthur's court, for the purpose of
receiving knighthood from him. They were Gawain and his three
brothers, nephews of Arthur, sons of King Lot, and Galachin, another
nephew, son of King Nanters. King Lot had been one of the rebel chiefs
whom Arthur had defeated, but he now hoped by means of the young men
to be reconciled to his brother-in-law. He equipped his sons and his
nephew with the utmost magnificence, giving them a splendid retinue of
young men, sons of earls and barons, all mounted on the best horses,
with complete suits of choice armor. They numbered in all seven
hundred, but only nine had yet received the order of knighthood; the
rest were candidates for that honor, and anxious to earn it by an
early encounter with the enemy. Gawain, the leader, was a knight of
wonderful strength; but what was most remarkable about him was that
his strength was greater at certain hours of the day than at others.
From nine o'clock till noon his strength was doubled, and so it was
from three to even-song; for the rest of the time it was less
remarkable, though at all times surpassing that of ordinary men.
After a march of three days they arrived in the vicinity of
London, where they expected to find Arthur and his court; and very
unexpectedly fell in with a large convoy belonging to the enemy,
consisting of numerous carts and wagons, all loaded with provisions,
and escorted by three thousand men, who had been collecting spoil from
all the country round. A single charge from Gawain's impetuous cavalry
was sufficient to disperse the escort and to recover the convoy, which
was instantly despatched to London. But before long a body of seven
thousand fresh soldiers advanced to the attack of the five princes and
their little army. Gawain, singling out a chief named Choas, of
gigantic size, began the battle by splitting him from the crown of the
head to the breast. Galachin encountered King Sanagran, who was also
very huge, and cut off his head. Agrivain and Gahariet also
performed prodigies of valor. Thus they kept the great army of
assailants at bay, though hard pressed, till of a sudden they
perceived a strong body of the citizens advancing from London, where
the convoy which had been recovered by Gawain had arrived, and
informed the mayor and citizens of the danger of their deliverer.
The arrival of the Londoners soon decided the contest. The enemy
fled in all directions, and Gawain and his friends, escorted by the
grateful citizens, entered London, and were received with
acclamations.
After the great victory of Mount Badon, by which the Saxons were for
the time effectually put down, Arthur turned his arms against the
Scots and Picts, whom he routed at Lake Lomond, and compelled to sue
for mercy. He then went to York to keep his Christmas, and employed
himself in restoring the Christian churches which the Pagans had
rifled and overthrown. The following summer he conquered Ireland,
and then made a voyage with his fleet to Iceland, which he also
subdued. The kings of Gothland and of the Orkneys came voluntarily and
made their submission, promising to pay tribute. Then he returned to
Britain, where, having established the kingdom, he dwelt twelve
years in peace.
During this time, he invited over to him all persons whatsoever that
were famous for valor in foreign nations, and augmented the number
of his domestics, and introduced such politeness into his court as
people of the remotest countries thought worthy of their imitation. So
that there was not a nobleman who thought himself of any consideration
unless his clothes and arms were made in the same fashion as those
of Arthur's knights.
Finding himself so powerful at home, Arthur began to form designs
for extending his power abroad. So, having prepared his fleet, he
first attempted Norway, that he might procure the crown of it for Lot,
his sister's husband. Arthur landed in Norway, fought a great battle
with the king of that country, defeated him, and pursued the victory
till he had reduced the whole country under his dominion, and
established Lot upon the throne. Then Arthur made a voyage to Gaul and
laid siege to the city of Paris. Gaul was at that time a Roman
province, and governed by Flollo, the Tribune. When the siege of Paris
had continued a month, and the people began to suffer from famine,
Flollo challenged Arthur to single combat, proposing to decide the
conquest in that way. Arthur gladly accepted the challenge, and slew
his adversary in the contest, upon which the citizens surrendered
the city to him. After the victory Arthur divided his army into two
parts, one of which he committed to the conduct of Hoel, whom he
ordered to march into Aquitaine, while he with the other part should
endeavor to subdue the other provinces. At the end of nine years, in
which time all the parts of Gaul were entirely reduced, Arthur
returned to Paris, where he kept his court, and calling an assembly of
the clergy and people, established peace and the just administration
of the laws in that kingdom. Then he bestowed Normandy upon Bedver,
his butler, and the province of Andegavia upon Kay, his steward,*
and several others upon his great men that attended him. And, having
settled the peace of the cities and countries, he returned back in the
beginning of spring to Britain.

* This name, in the French romances, is spelled Queux, which means
head cook. This would seem to imply that it was a title, and not a
name; yet the personage who bore it is never mentioned by any other.
He is the chief, if not the only, comic character among the heroes
of Arthur's court. He is the Seneschal or Steward, his duties also
embracing those of chief of the cooks. In the romances his general
character is a compound of valor and buffoonery, always ready to
fight, and generally getting the worst of the battle. He is also
sarcastic and abusive in his remarks, by which he often gets into
trouble. Yet Arthur seems to have an attachment to him, and often
takes his advice, which is generally wrong.

Upon the approach of the feast of Pentecost, Arthur, the better to
demonstrate his joy after such triumphant successes, and for the
more solemn observation of that festival, and reconciling the minds of
the princes that were now subject to him, resolved during that
season to hold a magnificent court, to place the crown upon his
head, and to invite all the kings and dukes under his subjection to
the solemnity. And he pitched upon Caerleon, the City of Legions, as
the proper place for his purpose. For, besides its great wealth
above the other cities,* its situation upon the river Usk, near the
Severn sea, was most pleasant and fit for so great a solemnity. For on
one side it was washed by that noble river, so that the kings and
princes from the countries beyond the seas might have the
convenience of sailing up to it. On the other side the beauty of the
meadows and groves, and magnificence of the royal palaces, with
lofty gilded roofs that adorned it, made it even rival the grandeur of
Rome. It was also famous for two churches, whereof one was adorned
with a choir of virgins, who devoted themselves wholly to the
service of God, and the other maintained a convent of priests.
Besides, there was a college of two hundred philosophers, who, being
learned in astronomy and the other arts, were diligent in observing
the courses of the stars, and gave Arthur true predictions of the
events that would happen. In this place, therefore, which afforded
such delights, were preparations made for the ensuing festival.

* Several cities are allotted to King Arthur by the romance-writers.
The principal are Caerleon, Camelot, and Carlisle.
Caerleon derives its name from its having been the station of one of
the legions during the dominion of the Romans. It is called by Latin
writers Urbs Legionum, the City of Legions,- the former word being
rendered into Welsh by Caer, meaning city, and the latter contracted
into lleon. The river Usk retains its name in modern geography, and
there is a town or city of Caerleon upon it, though the city of
Cardiff is thought to be the scene of Arthur's court. Chester also
bears the Welsh name of Caerleon; for Chester, derived from castra,
Latin for camp, is the designation of military headquarters.
Camelot is thought to be Winchester.
Shalott is Guildford.
Hamo's Port is Southampton.
Carlisle is the city still retaining that name, near the Scottish
border. But this name is also sometimes applied to other places, which
were, like itself, military stations.

Ambassadors were then sent into several kingdoms, to invite to court
the princes both of Gaul and of the adjacent islands. Accordingly
there came Augusel, king of Albania, now Scotland, Cadwallo, king of
Venedotia, now North Wales, Sater, king of Demetia, now South Wales;
also the archbishops of the metropolitan sees, London and York, and
Dubricius, bishop of Caerleon, the City of Legions. This prelate,
who was primate of Britain, was so eminent for his piety that he could
cure any sick person by his prayers. There were also the counts of the
principal cities, and many other worthies of no less dignity.
From the adjacent islands came Guillamurius, king of Ireland,
Gunfasius, king of the Orkneys, Malvasius, king of Iceland, Lot,
king of Norway, Bedver the butler, Duke of Normandy, Kay the sewer,
Duke of Andegavia; also the twelve peers of Gaul, and Hoel, Duke of
the Armorican Britons, with his nobility, who came with such a train
of mules, horses, and rich furniture, as is difficult to describe.
Besides these, there remained no prince of any consideration on this
side of Spain who came not upon this invitation, and no wonder, when
Arthur's munificence, which was celebrated over the whole world,
made him beloved by all people.
When all were assembled, upon the day of the solemnity, the
archbishops were conducted to the palace in order to place the crown
upon the king's head. Then Dubricius, inasmuch as the court was held
in his diocese, made himself ready to celebrate the office. As soon as
the king was invested with his royal habiliments, he was conducted
in great pomp to the metropolitan church, having four kings, viz.,
of Albania, Cornwall, Demetia, and Venedotia, bearing four golden
swords before him. On another part was the queen, dressed out in her
richest ornaments, conducted by the archbishops and bishops to the
Church of Virgins; the four queens, also, of the kings last mentioned,
bearing before her four white doves, according to ancient custom. When
the whole procession was ended, so transporting was the harmony of the
musical instruments and voices, whereof there was a vast variety in
both churches, that the knights who attended were in doubt which to
prefer, and therefore crowded from one to the other by turns, and were
far from being tired of the solemnity, though the whole day had been
spent in it. At last, when divine service was over at both churches,
the king and queen put off their crowns, and, putting on their lighter
ornaments, went to the banquet. When they had all taken their seats
according to precedence, Kay the sewer, in rich robes of ermine,
with a thousand young noblemen all in like manner clothed in rich
attire, served up the dishes. From another part Bedver the butler
was followed by the same number of attendants, who waited with all
kinds of cups and drinking-vessels. And there was food and drink in
abundance, and everything was of the best kind, and served in the best
manner. For at that time Britain had arrived at such a pitch of
grandeur that in riches, luxury, and politeness it far surpassed all
other kingdoms.
As soon as the banquets were over they went into the fields
without the city, to divert themselves with various sports, such as
shooting with bows and arrows, tossing the pike, casting of heavy
stones and rocks, playing at dice, and the like, and all these
inoffensively, and without quarrelling. In this manner were three days
spent, and after that they separated, and the kings and noblemen
departed to their several homes.
After this Arthur reigned five years in peace. Then came ambassadors
from Lucius Tiberius, Procurator under Leo, Emperor of Rome, demanding
tribute. But Arthur refused to pay tribute, and prepared for war. As
soon as the necessary dispositions were made, he committed the
government of his kingdom to his nephew Modred and to Queen
Guenever, and marched with his army to Hamo's Port, where the wind
stood fair for him. The army crossed over in safety, and landed at the
mouth of the river Barba. And there they pitched their tents to wait
the arrival of the kings of the islands.
As soon as all the forces were arrived, Arthur marched forward to
Augustodunum, and encamped on the banks of the river Alba. Here
repeated battles were fought, in all which the Britons, under their
valiant leaders, Hoel, Duke of Armorica, and Gawain, nephew to Arthur,
had the advantage. At length Lucius Tiberius determined to retreat,
and wait for the Emperor Leo to join him with fresh troops. But
Arthur, anticipating this event, took possession of a certain
valley, and closed up the way of retreat to Lucius, compelling him
to fight a decisive battle, in which Arthur lost some of the bravest
of his knights and most faithful followers. But on the other hand
Lucius Tiberius was slain, and his army totally defeated. The
fugitives dispersed over the country, some to the by-ways and woods,
some to the cities and towns, and all other places where they could
hope for safety.
Arthur stayed in those parts till the next winter was over, and
employed his time in restoring order and settling the government. He
then returned into England, and celebrated his victories with great
splendor.
Then the king established all his knights, and to them that were not
rich he gave lands, and charged them all never to do outrage nor
murder, and always to flee treason; also, by no means to be cruel, but
to give mercy unto him that asked mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of
their worship and lordship; and always to do ladies, damosels, and
gentlewomen service, upon pain of death. Also that no man take
battle in a wrongful quarrel, for no law, nor for any world's goods.
Unto this were all the knights sworn of the Table Round, both old
and young. And at every year were they sworn at the high feast of
Pentecost.

KING ARTHUR SLAYS THE GIANT OF ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT

While the army was encamped in Brittany, awaiting the arrival of the
kings, there came a countryman to Arthur, and told him that a giant,
whose cave was in a neighboring mountain, called St. Michael's
Mount, had for a long time been accustomed to carry off the children
of the peasants, to devour them. "And now he hath taken the Duchess of
Brittany, as she rode with her attendants, and hath carried her away
in spite of all they could do." "Now, fellow," said King Arthur,
"canst thou bring me there where this giant haunteth?" "Yea, sure,"
said the good man; "lo, yonder where thou seest two great fires, there
shalt thou find him, and more treasure than I suppose is in all France
beside." Then the king called to him Sir Bedver and Sir Kay, and
commanded them to make ready horse and harness for himself and them;
for after evening he would ride on pilgrimage to St. Michael's Mount.
So they three departed, and rode forth till they came to the foot of
the mount. And there the king commanded them to tarry, for he would
himself go up into that mount. So he ascended the hill till he came to
a great fire, and there he found an aged woman sitting by a new-made
grave, making great sorrow. Then King Arthur saluted her, and demanded
of her wherefore she made such lamentation; to whom she answered: "Sir
Knight, speak low, for yonder is a devil, and if he hear thee speak he
will come and destroy thee. For ye cannot make resistance to him, he
is so fierce and so strong. He hath murdered the Duchess, which here
lieth, who was the fairest of all the world, wife to Sir Hoel, Duke of
Brittany." "Dame," said the king, "I come from the noble conqueror,
King Arthur, to treat with that tyrant." "Fie on such treaties,"
said she; "he setteth not by the king, nor by no man else." "Well,"
said Arthur, "I will accomplish my message for all your fearful
words." So he went forth by the crest of the hill, and saw where the
giant sat at supper, gnawing on the limb of a man, and baking his
broad limbs at the fire, and three fair damsels lying bound, whose lot
it was to be devoured in their turn. When King Arthur beheld that he
had great compassion on them, so that his heart bled for sorrow.
Then he hailed the giant, saying, "He that all the world ruleth give
thee short life and shameful death. Why hast thou murdered this
Duchess? Therefore come forth, thou caitiff, for this day thou shalt
die by my hand." Then the giant started up, and took a great club, and
smote at the king, and smote off his coronal; and then the king struck
him in the belly with his sword, and made a fearful wound. Then the
giant threw away his club, and caught the king in his arms, so that he
crushed his ribs. Then the three maidens kneeled down and prayed for
help and comfort for Arthur. And Arthur weltered and wrenched, so that
he was one while under, and another time above. And so weltering and
wallowing they rolled down the hill, and ever as they weltered
Arthur smote him with his dagger; and it fortuned they came to the
place where the two knights were. And when they saw the king fast in
the giant's arms they came and loosed him. Then the king commanded Sir
Kay to smite off the giant's head, and to set it on the truncheon of a
spear, and fix it on the barbican, that all the people might see and
behold it. This was done, and anon it was known through all the
country, wherefor the people came and thanked the king. And he said,
"Give your thanks to God; and take ye the giant's spoil and divide
it among you." And King Arthur caused a church to be builded on that
hill, in honor of St. Michael.

KING ARTHUR GETS A SWORD FROM THE LADY OF THE LAKE.

One day King Arthur rode forth, and on a sudden he was ware of three
churls chasing Merlin to have slain him. And the king rode unto them
and bade them, "Flee, churls!" Then were they afraid when they saw a
knight, and fled. "O Merlin," said Arthur, "here hadst thou been
slain, for all thy crafts, had I not been by." "Nay," said Merlin,
"not so, for I could save myself if I would; but thou art more near
thy death than I am." So, as they went thus walking, King Arthur
perceived where sat a knight on horseback, as if to guard the pass.
"Sir knight," said Arthur, "for what cause abidest thou here?" Then
the knight said, "There may no knight ride this way unless he joust
with me, for such is the custom of the pass." "I will amend that
custom," said the king. Then they ran together, and they met so hard
that their spears were shivered. Then they drew their swords and
fought a strong battle, with many great strokes. But at length the
sword of the knight smote King Arthur's sword in two pieces. Then said
the knight unto Arthur, "Thou art in my power, whether to save thee or
slay thee, and unless thou yield thee as overcome and recreant thou
shalt die." "As for death," said King Arthur, "welcome be it when it
cometh; but to yield me unto thee as recreant I will not." Then he
leapt upon the knight, and took him by the middle and threw him
down; but the knight was a passing strong man, and anon he brought
Arthur under him, and would have razed off his helm to slay him.
Then said Merlin, "Knight, hold thy hand, for this knight is a man
of more worship than thou art aware of." "Why, who is he?" said the
knight. "It is King Arthur." Then would he have slain him for dread of
his wrath, and lifted up his sword to slay him; and therewith Merlin
cast an enchantment on the knight, so that he fell to the earth in a
great sleep. Then Merlin took up King Arthur and set him on his horse.
"Alas!" said Arthur, "what hast thou done, Merlin? hast thou slain
this good knight by thy crafts?" "Care ye not," said Merlin; "he is
wholer than ye be. He is only asleep, and will wake in three hours."
Right so the king and he departed, and went unto an hermit that
was a good man and a great leech. So the hermit searched all his
wounds and gave him good salves; so the king was there three days, and
then were his wounds well amended that he might ride and go, and so
departed. And as they rode Arthur said, "I have no sword." "No force,"
said Merlin; "hereby is a sword that shall be yours." So they rode
till they came to a lake, the which was a fair water and broad, and in
the midst of the lake Arthur was ware of an arm clothed in white
samite, that held a fair sword in that hand. "So," said Merlin,
"yonder is that sword that I spake of." With that they saw a damsel
going upon the lake. "What damsel is that?" said Arthur. "That is
the Lady of the Lake," said Merlin; "and within that lake is a rock,
and therein is as fair a place as any on earth, and richly beseen, and
this damsel will come to you anon, and then speak ye fair to her and
she will give thee that sword." Anon withal came the damsel unto
Arthur and saluted him, and he her again. "Damsel," said Arthur, "what
sword is that that yonder the arm holdeth above the waves? I would
it were mine, for I have no sword." "Sir Arthur king," said the
damsel, "that sword is mine, and if ye will give me a gift when I
ask it you ye shall have it." "By my faith," said Arthur, "I will give
ye what gift ye shall ask." "Well," said the damsel, "go you into
yonder barge and row yourself to the sword, and take it and the
scabbard with you, and I will ask my gift when I see my time." So
Arthur and Merlin alighted, and tied their horses to two trees, and so
they went into the ship, and when they came to the sword that the hand
held, Arthur took it by the handles, and took it with him. And the arm
and the hand went under the water.
Then they returned unto the land and rode forth. And Sir Arthur
looked on the sword and liked it right well.
So they rode unto Caerleon, whereof his knights were passing glad.
And when they heard of his adventures they marvelled that he jeopard
his person so alone. But all men of worship said it was a fine thing
to be under such a chieftain as would put his person in adventure as
other poor knights did.

Thomas Bulfinch