"The Boys King Arthur"
OF SIR GALAHAD AND SIR PERCIVAL AND
THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL
The Boys King Arthur
by Sidney Lanier
Illustrated By N.C Wyeth
The Boys King Arthur
OF SIR GALAHAD AND SIR PERCIVAL AND
THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL
AT the vigil of Pentecost, when all the fellowship of the Round Table were come unto
Camelot, and there they all heard their service, and all the tables were covered, ready to set
thereon the meat, right so entered into the hall a full fair gentlewoman on horseback, that had
ridden full fast, for her horse was all to-besweat; [and she beought Sir Launcelot that he would
come forth with her into the forest for to dub a knight.] Right so departed Sir Launcelot with
the gentlewoman, and rode till they came into a forest, and into a great valley, where he saw an
abbey )of nuns; and there was a squire ready to open the gates. so there came in twelve nuns,
which brought with them Galahad, the which was passing fair and well made, that inneth [hardly]
men in the world might not find his match; and all those ladies wept.
"Sir," said the ladies, "we bring here this child, the which we have nourished, and we pray
you for to make him a knight; for of a more worthier man's hand may he not receive the order of
Sir Launcelot beheld that young squire, and saw he was seemly and demure as a dove, with all
manner of good features, that he wend of his age never to have seen so fair a man of form.
Then said Sir Launcelot, "Cometh this desire of himself?"
He and all they said, "Yea."
"Then shall he," said Sir Launcelot, "receive the high order of knighthood as to-morrow at
the reverence of the high feast."
That night Sir Launcelot had passing good cheer, and on the morrow at the hour of prime, at
Galahad's desire, he made him knight; and said, "God make him a good man, for beauty faileth him
not as any that liveth."
So when the king and all the knights were come from service, the barons espied in the sieges
of the Round Table, all about written with gold letters: "Here ought to sit" he, and he "ought
to sit here." And thus they went so long until that they came to the Siege Perilous, where they
found letters newly written of gold, that said: "Four hundred winters and fifty-four
accomplished after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ ought this siege to be fulfilled."
Then all they said, "This is a marvellous thing, and an adventurous."
"In the name of God," said Sir Launcelot; and then he accounted the term of the writing,
from the birth of our Lord unto that day.
"It seemeth me," said Sir Launcelot, "this siege ought to be fulfilled this same day, for
this is the feast of Pentecost after the four hundred and four and fifty year; and if it would
please all parties, I would none of these letters
were seen this day, till he be come that ought to achieve this adventure."
Then made they to ordain a cloth of silk for to cover these letters in the Siege Perilous.
Then the king bade haste unto dinner.
"Sir," said Sir Kay the steward, "if ye go now unto your meat, ye shall break your old
custom of your court. For ye have not used on this day to sit at your meat or that ye have seen
"Ye say sooth," said the king, "but I had so great joy of Sir Launcelot and of his cousins,
which be come to the court whole and sound, that I bethought me not of my old custom."
So as they stood speaking, in came a squire, and said unto the king, "Sir, I bring unto you
"What be they?" said the king.
"Sir, there is here beneath at the river a great stone, which I saw fleet [float] above the
water, and therein saw I sticking a sword."
The king said, "I will see that marvel."
So all the knights went with him, and when they came unto the river, they found there a
stone fleeting, as it were of red marble, and therein stuck a fair and a rich sword, and in the
pommel thereof were precious stones, wrought with subtle letters of gold. Then the barons read
the letters, which said in this wise: Never shall man take me hence, but only he by whom I ought
to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world."
When the king had seen these letters, he said unto Sir Launcelot, "Fair sir, this sword
ought to be yours, for I am sure that ye be the best knight of the world."
Then Sir Launcelot answered soberly, "Certainly, sir, it is not my sword. Also, sir, wit ye
well I have no hardiness to set my hand to it, for it belongeth not to hang by my side. Also,
who assayeth for to take that sword, and faileth of it, he shall receive a wound by that sword
that he shall not be whole long after. And I will that ye wit that this same day will the
adventures of the Sancgreal (that is called the holy vessel) begin."
So when they were served, and all the sieges fulfilled save only the Siege Perilous, anon
there befell a marvellous adventure, that all the doors and the windows of the palace shut by
themselves, but for all that the hall was not greatly darked, and therewith they were all
abashed both one and other. Then King Arthur spake first, and said, "Fair fellows and lords, we
have seen this day marvels, but or night I suppose we shall see greater marvels."
In the meanwhile came in a good old man and an ancient, clothed all in white; and there was
no knight that knew from whence he came. And with him he brought a young knight, both on foot,
in red arms, without sword or shield, save a scabbard hanging by his side; and these words he
said, "Peace be with you, fair lords." Then the old man said unto King Arthur, "Sir, I bring you
here a young knight that is of king's lineage, and of the kindred of Joseph of Arimathea,
whereby the marvels of this court and of strange realms shall be fully accomplished."
The king was right glad of his words, and said unto the good man, "Sir, ye be right
heartily welcome, and the young knight with you."
Then the old man made the young knight to unarm him; and he was in a coat of red sendall,
and bare a mantle upon his shoulder that was furred with fine ermines, and put that upon him.
And the old man said unto the young knight, "Sir, follow after."
And anon he led him unto the Siege Perilous, where beside sat Sir Launcelot; and the good
man lifted up the cloth, and found there letters that said thus: " This is the siege of Galahad
the haut [high] prince.
Then all the knights of the Table Round marvelled them greatly of Sir Galahad, that he durst
sit there in that Siege Perilous, and was so tender of age, and wist not from whence he came,
but all only by God, and said, This is he by whom the Sancgreal shall be achieved, for there sat
never none but he, but he were mischieved. Then Sir Launcelot beheld his son, and had great joy
Then came King Arthur unto Sir Galahad, and said, "Sir, ye be welcome, for ye shall move
many good knights unto the quest of the Sancgreal, and ye shall achieve that never knight might
bring to an end."
Then the king took him by the hand, and went down from the palace to show Sir Galahad the
adventure of the stone.
The queen heard thereof, and came after with many ladies, and showed them the stone where it
hoved on the water. "Sir," said the king unto Sir Galahad, "here is a great marvel as ever I
saw, and right good knights have assayed and failed."
"Sir," said Galahad, "that is no marvel, for this adventure is not theirs, but mine, and for
the surety of this sword I brought none with me; for here by my side hangeth the scabbard."
And anon he laid his hand on the sword, and lightly drew it out of the stone, and put it in
the sheath, and said unto the king, "Now it goeth better than it did aforehand."
"Sir," said the king, "a shield God shall send you."
"Now have I," said Sir Galahad, "that sword that sometime was the good knight's Balm le
Savage, and he was a passing good man of his hands. And with this sword he slew his brother
Balan, and that was great pity, for he was a good knight, and either slew other through a
dolorous stroke that Balan gave unto my grandfather King Pelles, the which is not yet whole, nor
not shall be till I heal him."
Therewith the king and all espied where came riding down the river a lady on a white palfrey
towards them. Then she saluted the king and the queen, and asked if that Sir Launcelot was
there? And then he answered himself, "I am here, fair lady."
Then she said, all with weeping, "How your great doing is changed sith this day in the
"Damsel, why say ye so?" said Launcelot.
"I say you sooth," said the damsel, "for ye were this day the best knight of the world, but
who should say so now should be a liar, for there is now one better than ye. And well it is
proved by the adventures of the sword whereto ye durst not set your hand, and that is in
remembrance, that ye shall not ween from henceforth that ye be the best knight of the world."
"As touching that," said Sir Launcelot, "I know well I was never the best."
"Yes," said the damsel, "that were ye, and yet are of any sinful man of the world; and, sir
king, Nacien the hermit sendeth thee word that to thee shall befall the greatest worship that
ever befell king in Britain, and I shall tell you wherefore, for this day the Sancgreal appeared
in this thy house, and fed thee and all thy fellowship of the Round Table."
And so the damsel took her leave, and departed the same way that she came.
Then the king [caused that Queen Guenever should see Sir Galahad] in the visage; and when
she beheld him she said, "Soothly I dare well say that he is Sir Launcelot's son, for never two
men resembled more in likeness, therefore it is no marvel though he be of great prowess.
So a lady that stood by the queen said: "Madam, for God's sake, ought he of right to be so
good a knight ?"
"Yea, forsooth," said the queen, "for he is of all parties come of the best knights of the
world, and of the highest lineage, for Sir Launcelot is come but of the eighth degree from our
Lord Jesu Christ, and Sir Galahad is of the ninth degree from our Lord Jesu Christ, therefore I
dare well say that they be the greatest gentlemen of all the world."
And then the king and all the estates went home unto Camelot, and so went to even-song to
the great minster; and so after that they went to supper, and every knight sat in their place as
they were beforehand. Then anon they heard cracking and crying of thunder, that them thought the
place should all to-rive [burst]; in the midst of the blast entered a sunbeam more clear by
seven times than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of the Holy Ghost.
Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw other by their seeming fairer than ever
they saw afore, [and] there was no knight that might speak one word a great while, and so they
looked every man on other, as they had been dumb. Then there entered into the hall the Holy
Grail covered with white samite, but there was none might see it, nor who bare it. And there was
all the hall full filled with good odors, and every knight had such meats and drinks as he best
loved in this world; and when the Holy Grail had been borne through the hail, then the holy
vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became. Then had they all breath to speak.
And then the king yielded thankings unto God of His good grace that He had sent them.
"Now," said Sir Gawaine, "we have been served this day of what meats and drinks we thought
on, but one thing beguiled us, we might not see the Holy Grail, it was so preciously covered:
wherefore I will make here avow, that tomorn, without longer abiding, I shall labor in the quest
of the Sancgreal, that I shall hold me out a twelvemonth and a day, or more if need be, and
never shall I return again unto the court till I have seen it more openly than it hath been seen
here: and if I may not speed, I shall return again as he that may not be against the will of our
Lord Jesu Christ."
When they of the Table Round heard Sir Gawaine say so, they arose up the most part, and made
such avows as Sir Gawaine had made.
Anon as King Arthur heard this he was greatly displeased, for he wist well that they might
not gainsay their avows. "Alas !" said King Arthur unto Sir Gawaine, "ye have nigh slain me with
the avow and promise that ye have made. For through you ye have bereft me of the fairest
fellowship and the truest of knighthood that ever were seen together in any realm of the world.
For when they depart from hence, I am sure they all shall never meet more in this world, for
they shall die many in the quest. And so it forethinketh [repenteth] me a little, for I have
loved them as well as my life, wherefore it shall grieve me right sore the departing of this
fellowship. For I have had an old custom to have them in my fellowship."
And therewith the tears fell into his eyes, and he said: "Sir Gawaine, Sir Gawaine, ye have
set me in great sorrow, for I have great doubt that my true fellowship shall never meet more
When the queen, ladies, and gentlewomen wist these tidings, they had such sorrow and
heaviness that no tongue might tell it, for those knights had holden them in honor and charity,
but among all other, Queen Guenever made great sorrow. "I marvel," said she, "my lord will
suffer them to depart from him." Thus was all the court troubled, because those knights should
After this the queen came unto Sir Galahad, and asked him of whence he was, and of what
country; he told her of whence he was, and son unto Sir Launcelot she said he was. And then they
went to rest them; and in the honor of the highness of Sir Galahad he was led into King Arthur's
chamber, and there he rested him in his own bed; and as soon as it was daylight the king arose,
for he had taken no rest of all that night for sorrow.
So anon Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawaine commanded their men to bring their arms; and when they
[were all armed, then the king would know how many they were, and they found by tale [count]
that they were an hundred and fifty, and all knights of the Round Table.]
And so they mounted their horses, and rode through the streets of Camelot, and there was
weeping of the rich and poor, and the king turned away and might not speak for weeping. So
within a while they came to a city and a castle that hight [was named] Vagon; there they entered
into the castle, and the lord of that castle was an old man that hight Vagon, and he was a good
man of his living, and set open the gates, and made them all the good cheer that he might.
And then they departed on the morrow with weeping and mourning cheer, and every knight took
the way that him best liked.
Now rideth Sir Galahad yet without shield; and so he rode four days without any adventures
and at the fourth day after even-song he came to a white abbey, and there he was received with
great reverence, and led to a chamber; and there he was unarmed, and then was he ware of two
knights of the Round Table, one was King Bagdemagus, and that other was Sir Uwaine. And when
they saw him, they went unto him and made of him great solace, and so they went to supper.
"Sirs," said Sir Galahad, "what adventure brought you hither ?"
"Sir," said they, "it is told us that within this place is a shield that no man may bear
about his neck but if that he be mischieved or dead within three days, or else maimed forever."
"Ah, sir," said King Bagdemagus, "I shall bear it tomorrow for to assay this strange
"In the name of God," said Sir Galahad.
"Sir, said King Bagdemagus, "and I may not achieve the adventure of this shield, ye shall
take it upon you, for I am sure ye shall not fail."
"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "I agree right well thereto, for I have no shield."
So on the morrow they arose and heard mass. Then King Bagdemagus asked where the adventurous
shield was; anon a monk led him behind an altar, where the shield hung as white as any snow, but
in the midst was a red cross.
"Sir," said the monk, "this shield ought not to be hanged about no knight's neck, but he be
the worthiest knight of the world, and therefore I counsel you knights to be well advised."
"Well," said King Bagdemagus, "I wot well that I am not the best knight of the world, but
yet shall I assay to bear it." And so he bare it out of the monastery; and then he said unto Sir
Galahad, "If it will please you, I pray you abide here still, till ye know how I shall speed."
"I shall abide you here," said Galahad.
Then King Bagdemagus took with him a squire, the which should bring tidings unto Sir Galahad
how he sped. Then when they had ridden a two mile, and came in a fair valley afore an hermitage,
then they saw a goodly knight come from that part in white armor, horse and all, and he came as
fast as his horse might run with his spear in the rest, and King Bagdemagus dressed his spear
against him, and brake it upon the white knight; but the other struck him so hard that he brake
the mails, and thrust him through the right shoulder, for the shield covered him not as at that
time, and so he bare him from his horse, and therewith he alighted and took the white shield
from him, saying, "Knight, thou hast done thyself great folly, for this shield ought not to be
borne but by him that shall have no peer that liveth."
And then he came to King Bagdemagus' squire and said, "Bear this shield unto the good knight
Sir Galahad, that thou left in the abbey, and greet him well from me. And the squire went unto
Bagdemagus and asked him whether he were sore wounded or not? "Yea, forsooth," said he, "I shall
escape hard from the death." Then he fetched his horse, and brought him with great pain unto an
abbey. Then was he taken down softly, and unarmed, and laid in a bed, and there was looked to
his wounds. And he lay there long, and escaped hard with the life.
"Sir Galahad," said the squire, "that knight that wounded Bagdemagus sendeth you greeting,
and bade that ye should bear this shield, wherethrough great adventures should befall."
"Now blessed be God and fortune," said Sir Galahad.
And then he asked his arms, and mounted upon his horse, and hung the white shield about his
neck, and commended them unto God. And Sir Uwaine said he would bear him fellowship, if it
"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "that may ye not, for I must go alone, save this squire that shall
bear me fellowship." And so departed Sir Uwaine.
Then within a while came Sir Galahad there as the white knight abode him by the hermitage,
and every each saluted other courteously.
"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "by this shield been fall many marvels."
"Sir," said the knight, "it befell, after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ thirty year,
that Joseph of Arimathea, the gentle knight that took down our Lord from the cross, at that time
he departed from Jerusalem with a great part of his kindred with him, and so they labored till
they came to a city that hight Sarras. And at that same hour that Joseph came unto Sarras, there
was a king that hight Evelake, that had great war against the Saracens, and in especial against
one Saracen, the which was King Evelake's cousin, a rich king and a mighty, the which marched
nigh this land, and his name was called Tollome le Feintes. So upon a day these two met to do
battle. Then Joseph, the son of Joseph of Arimathea, went unto King Evelake, and told him that
he would be discomfited and slain but if he left his believe of the old law and believe upon the
new law. And then he showed him the right believe of the Holy Trinity, the which he agreed with
all his heart, and there this shield was made for King Evelake, in the name of Him that died
upon the cross; and then through his good believe he had the better of King Tollome. For when
King Evelake was in the battle, there was a cloth set afore the shield, and when he was in the
greatest peril he let put away the cloth, and then anon his enemies saw a figure of a man upon
the cross, wherethrough they were discomfited. And so it befell that a man of King Evelake's had
his hand smitten off, and bare his hand in his other hand, and Joseph called that man unto him,
and bade him go with good devotion and touch the cross; and as soon as that man had touched the
cross with his hand it was as whole as ever it was before. Not long after that, Joseph was laid
in his death bed, and when King Evelake saw that, he made great sorrow, and said: 'For thy love
I have left my country, and sith [since] thou shalt out of this world, leave me some token that
I may think on thee.' 'That will I do right gladly,' said Joseph. 'Now bring me the shield that
I took you when ye went into the battle against King Tollome.' Then Joseph bled sore that he
might not by no means be stanched, and there upon that same shield he made a cross of his own
blood. Now ye shall never see this shield but that ye shall think on me, and it shall be
always as fresh as it is now, and never shall no man bear this shield about his neck but he
shall repent it, unto the time that Galahad the good knight bear it, and the last of my lineage
shall have it about his neck, that shall do many marvellous deeds.' 'Now,' said King Evelake,
'where shall I put this shield, that this worthy knight may have it?' 'Ye shall leave it there
as Nacien the hermit shall be put after his death. For thither shall that good knight come the
fifteenth day after that he shall receive the order of knighthood. And so that day that they set
is this time that ye have his shield. And in the same abbey lieth Nacien the hermit.'"
And then the white knight vanished away. Anon, as the squire had heard these words, he
alighted off his hackney, and kneeled down at Galahad's feet, and prayed him that he might go
with him till he had made him knight. So Sir Galahad granted him, and turned again unto the
abbey there they came from. And there men made great joy of Sir Galahad.
Then as Sir Galahad heard this, he thanked God, and took his horse, and he had not ridden
but half a mile, he saw in a valley before him a strong castle with deep ditches, and there ran
beside a fair river, the which hight Sevarne; and there he met with a man of great age, and
either saluted other, and Sir Galahad asked him what was the castle's name.
"Fair sir," said he, "it is the Castle of Maidens."
"That is a cursed castle," said Sir Galahad, "and all they that been conversant therein, for
all pity is out thereof, and all hardiness and mischief is therein."
"Therefore I counsel you, sir knight," said the old man, "to return again."
"Sir," said Sir Galahad, "wit ye well I shall not return again.
Then looked Sir Galahad on his armor that nothing failed him, and then he put his shield
afore him; and anon there met him seven maidens, that said unto him, "Sir knight, ye ride here
in a great folly, for ye have the waters for to pass over."
"Why should I not pass the water ?" said Sir Galahad.
So rode he away from them, and met with a squire that said, "Knight, those knights in the
castle defy you, and forbid you ye go no further till that they wit what ye would."
"Fair sir," said Galahad, "I come for to destroy the wicked custom of this castle."
"Sir, and ye will abide by that, ye shall have enough to do."
"Go you now," said Galahad, "and haste my needs."
Then the squire entered into the castle. And anon after there came out of the castle seven
knights, and all were brethren. And when they saw Galahad, they cried, "Knight, keep thee, for
we assure thee nothing but death."
"Why," said Galahad, "will ye all have ado with me at once
"Yea," said they, "thereto mayest thou trust."
Then Galahad put forth his spear, and smote the foremost to the earth, that near he brake
his neck. And there- with all the other smote him on his shield great strokes, so that their
spears brake. Then Sir Galahad drew out his sword, and set upon them so hard that it was marvel
to see it, and so, through great force, he made them to forsake the field; and Galahad chased
them till they entered into the castle, and so passed through the castle at another gate. And
there met Sir Galahad an old man clothed in religious clothing, and said, "Sir, have here the
keys of this castle."
Then Sir Galahad opened the gates, and saw so much people in the streets that he might not
number them, and all said, "Sir, ye be welcome, for long have we abiden here our deliverance."
Then came to him a gentlewoman, and said, "These knights be fled, but they will come again
this night, and here to begin again their evil custom."
"What will ye that I shall do ?" said Galahad.
"Sir," said the gentlewoman, "that ye send after all the knights hither that hold their
lands of this castle, and make them to swear for to use the customs that were used hereto- fore
of old time."
"I will well," said Galahad.
And there she brought him an horn of ivory, bounden with gold, and said, "Sir, blow ye this
horn, which will be heard two mile about this castle."
And when Sir Galahad had blown the horn, he set him down upon a bed. Then came there a
priest unto Sir Gala- had, and said, "Sir, it is past a seven year that these seven brethren
came into this castle, and herborowed [harbored] with the lord of this castle, which hight the
duke Lianour; and he was lord of all this country. And so when they espied the duke's daughter
that was a fair woman, then by their false covin [conspiracy] they slew him and his eldest son,
and then they took the maiden and the treasure of the castle. And then by great force they held
all the knights of this castle against their will under their obeisance, and in great servage
and truage, robbing and pilling [pillaging] the poor common people of all that they had. So it
happened upon a day that the duke's daughter said, 'Ye have done to me great wrong to slay mine
own father and my brother, and thus to hold our lands; not for then,' said she, 'ye shall not
hold this castle for many years; for by one knight ye shall be overcome.' Thus she prophesied
seven year before. 'Well,' said the seven knights, 'sithence [since] ye say so, there shall
never lady nor knight pass this castle, but they shall abide mauger [spite of] their heads, or
die therefore, till that knight be come by whom we shall leese [lose] this castle.' And
therefore it is called the maidens' castle, for they have devoured many maidens."
"Now," said Sir Galahad, "is she here for whom this castle was lost?"
"Nay," said the priest, "she died within three nights after, and sithence have they kept her
young sister, which endureth great pain, with moe other ladies."
By this were the knights of the country come. And then he made them do homage and fealty to
the duke's daughter, and set them in great ease of heart. And in the morn there came one to Galahad
and told him how that Gawaine, Gareth, and Uwaine had slain the seven brethren.
When Sir Percival came nigh the brim,
and saw the water so boisterous, he doubted to overpass it
"I suppose well," said Sir Galahad: and took his armor and his horse, and commended them
So when Sir Galahad was departed from the Castle of Maidens, he rode till he came to a waste
forest, and there he met with Sir Launcelot and Sir Percival, but they knew him not, for he was
new disguised. Right so, Sir Launcelot his father dressed his spear, and brake it upon Sir
Galahad, and Sir Galahad smote him so again, that he smote down horse and man. And then he drew
his sword, and dressed him unto Sir Percival, and smote him so on the helm that it rove to the
coif of steel, and had not the sword swerved Sir Percival had been slain, and with the stroke he
fell out of his saddle. This joust was done before the hermitage where a recluse dwelled. And
when she saw Sir Galahad ride, she said, "God be with thee, best knight of the world. Ah,
certes," said she all aloud, that Launcelot and Percival might hear it, "and yonder two knights
had known thee as well as I do, they would not have encountered with thee."
When Sir Galahad heard her say so he was sore adread to be known: therewith he smote his
horse with his spurs, and then rode a great pace forward them. Then perceived they both that he
was Galahad, and up they gat on their horses, and rode fast after him, but in a while he was out
of their sight.
[Then it fell that Sir Percival's horse was slain; and he gat him a hackney from a yeoman
that he met, and the hackney was slain. Then Sir Percival] cast away his helm and sword, and
said, "Now am I a very wretch, cursed, and most unhappy above all other knights."
So in this sorrow he abode all that day, till it was night, and then he was faint, and laid
him down and slept till it was midnight. And then he awaked, and saw afore him a woman which
said unto him, "Abide me here, and I shall go fetch you an horse."
And so she came soon again, and brought an horse with her that was black. When Sir Percival
beheld that horse, he marvelled that it was so great and so well apparelled; and for then he was
so hardy, he leaped upon him, and took none heed of himself. And so anon as he was upon him he
thrust to him with his spurs, and so rode by a forest, and the moon shone clear. And within an
hour and less, he bare him four days' journey thence, till he came to a rough water the which
roared, and his horse would have borne him into it.
And when Sir Percival came nigh the brim, and saw the water so boisterous, he doubted to
overpass it. And then he made the sign of the cross in his forehead. When the fiend felt him so
charged, he shook off Sir Percival, and he went into the water, crying and roaring, making great
sorrow; and it seemed unto him that the water burnt. Then Sir Percival perceived it was a fiend,
the which would have brought him unto his perdition.
And so he prayed all that night, till on the morn that it was day. Then he saw that he was
in a wild mountain the which was closed with the sea nigh all about, that he might see no land
about him which might relieve him, but wild beasts. And then he went into a valley, and there he
saw a young serpent bring a young lion by the neck, and so he came by Sir Percival. With that
came a great lion crying and roaring after the serpent. And as fast as Sir Percival saw this, he
marvelled, and hied him thither, but anon the lion had overtaken the serpent, and began battle
with him. And then Sir Percival thought to help the lion, for he was the more natural beast of
the two; and therewith he drew his sword, and set his shield afore him, and there gave the
serpent such a buffet that he had a deadly wound. When the lion saw that, he made no semblant to
fight with him, but made him all the cheer that a beast might make a man. Then Sir Percival
perceived that, and cast down his shield, which was broken, and then he did off his helm for to
gather wind, for he was greatly enchafed with the serpent. And the lion went alway about him
fawning as a spaniel. And then he stroked him on the neck and on the shoulders. And then he
thanked God of the fellowship of that beast. And about noon, the lion took his little whelp, and
trussed him, and bare him there he came from. Then was Sir Percival alone.
Thus when Sir Percival had prayed, he saw the lion come towards him, and then he couched
down at his feet. And so all that night the lion and he slept together; and when Sir Percival
slept he dreamed a marvellous dream, that there two ladies met with him, and that one sat upon a
lion, and that other sat upon a serpent, and that one of them was young, and the other was old,
and the youngest him thought said, "Sir Percival, my lord saluteth thee, and sendeth thee word
that thou array thee and make thee ready, for to-morrow thou must fight with the strongest
champion of the world."
[Then, after many great deeds, it befell on a certain day that as the good knight Galahad
rode, he was met by a damsel on a palfrey, and she led him towards the sea. And so at the
seaside they found a ship wherein they entered, and Sir Bors and Sir Percival being in that ship
greeted them with joy.]
By then the ship went from the land of Logris, and by adventure it arrived up betwixt two
rocks passing great and marvellous, but there they might not land, for there was a swallow of
the sea, save there was another ship, and upon it they might go without danger.
"Go we thither," said the gentlewoman, "and there shall we see adventures, for so is our
And when they came thither, they found the ship rich enough, but they found neither man nor
woman therein. But they found in the end of the ship two fair letters written, which said a
dreadful word and a marvellous:--
"Thou man which shall enter into this ship, beware thou be in steadfast belief, for I am
faith, and therefore beware how thou enterest, for and thou fail I shall not help thee."
Then said the gentlewoman, "Percival, wot ye what I am
"Certainly," said he, "not to my witting."
"'Wit ye well," said she, "I am thy sister, that am daughter of King Pellinore, and
therefore wit ye well that ye are the man in the world that I most love; and if ye be not in
perfect belief, enter not in no manner of wise, for then should ye perish in the ship, for it is
so perfect it will suffer no sin in it."
And when Sir Percival knew that she was his sister, he was inwardly glad, and said, "Fair
sister, I shall enter therein, for if I be a miss-creature or an untrue knight, there shall I
In the meanwhile Sir Galahad blessed him, and entered therein, and then next the
gentlewoman, and then Sir Bors and Sir Percival. And when they were therein, they found it so
marvellous fair and rich, that they had great marvel thereof. And in the midst of the ship was a
fair bed, and Sir Galahad went thereto, and found there a crown of silk, and at the feet was a
sword rich and fair, and it was drawn out of the sheath half a foot and more, and the sword was
of divers fashions, and the pommel was of stone, and there was in him all manner of colors that
any man might find, and every each of the colors had divers virtues, and the scales of the haft
were of two ribs of divers beasts. The one beast was a serpent, which was conversant in
Calidone, and is called the serpent of the fiend. And the bone of him is of such a virtue, that
there is no hand that handleth him shall never be weary nor hurt. And the other beast is a fish
which is not right great, and haunteth the flood of Eufrates; and that fish is called Ertanax,
and his bones be of such a manner of kind, that who that handleth them shall have so much will
that he shall never be weary, and he shall not think on joy nor sorrow that he hath had, but
only that thing that he beholdeth before him. And as for this sword there shall never man
begripe it at the handle but one, but he shall pass all other.
"In the name of God," said Sir Percival, "I shall essay to handle it."
So he set his hand to the sword, but he might not begripe it.
"By my faith," said he, "now have I failed."
Sir Bors set his hand thereto and failed. Then Sir Galahad beheld the sword, and saw the
letters like blood, that said, "Let see who shall assay to draw me out of my sheath, but if he
be more hardier than other, and who that draweth me, wit ye well that he shall never fail of
shame of his body, or to be wounded to the death."
"By my faith," said Galahad, "I would draw this sword out of the sheath, but the offending
is so great that I shall not set my hand thereto."
"Now sir," said the gentlewoman, "wit ye well that the drawing of this sword is forbidden to
all men, save all only unto you. Also this ship arrived in the realm of Logris [England], and
that time was deadly war between King Labor, which was father unto the maimed king, and King
Hurlame, which was a Saracen. But then was he newly christened, so that men held him afterwards
one of the wittiest men of the world. And so upon a day it befell that King Labor and King
Hurlame had assembled their folk upon the sea, where this ship was arrived, and there King
Hurlame was discomfit, and his men slain, and he was afeared to be dead, and fled to his ship,
and there found this sword, and drew it, and came out and found King Labor, the man in the world
of all Christendom in whom was then the greatest faith. And when King Hurlame saw King Labor, he
dressed this sword, and smote him upon the helm so hard, that he dave him and his horse to the
earth with the first stroke of his sword. And it was in the realm of Logris; and so befell great
pestilence and great harm to both realms. For sith increased corn nor grass, nor well nigh no
fruit, nor in the water was no fish, wherefore men call it the lands of the two marches, the
waste land for the dolorous stroke. And when King Jzlurlame saw that this sword was so kerving
[sharp], he returned again to fetch the scabbard, and so came into this ship, and entered and
put the sword into the scabbard; and as soon as he had done so, he fell down dead before the
bed. Thus was the sword proved, that none that drew it but he were dead or maimed."
"Sir," said she, "there was a king that hight Pelles the Maimed King. And while he might
ride, he supported much Christendom, and holy Church. So upon a day he hunted in a wood of his
which lasted unto the sea, and at the last he lost his hounds and his knights, save only one;
and there he and his knight went till that they came toward Ireland, and there he found the
ship. And when he saw the letters and understood them, yet he entered, for he was right perfect
of his life; but his knight had none hardiness to enter, and there found he this sword, and drew
it out as much as ye may see. So therewith entered a spear, wherewith he was smitten through
both the thighs, and never sith might he be healed, nor nought shall, tofore we come to him.
Thus," said she, "was King Pelles, your grandsire, maimed for his hardiness."
"In the name of God, damsel," said Galahad.
So they went toward the bed to behold all about it, and above the head there hung two
swords. Also there were two spindles which were as white as any snow, and other that were as red
as blood, and other above green as any emerald: of these three colors were the spindles, and of
natural color within, and without any painting.
"These spindles," said the damsel, "were when sinful Eve came to gather fruit, for which
Adam and she were put out of paradise, she took with her the bough on which the apple hung. Then
perceived she that the branch was fair and green, and she remembered her the loss which came
from the tree, then she thought to keep the branch as long as she might; and because she had no
coffer to keep it in, she put it into the ground. So by the will of our Lord the branch grew to
a great tree within a little while, and was as white as any snow, branches, boughs, and leaves,
that it was a token a maid planted it. And anon the tree, that was white, became as green as any
grass, and all that came of it. And so it befell many days after, under the same tree, Cain slew
his brother Abel, whereof befell full great marvel; for anon as Abel had received the death
under the green tree, it lost the green color and became red, and that was in tokening of the
blood; and anon all the plants died thereof, but the tree grew and waxed marvellous fair, and it
was the fairest tree and the most delectable that any man might behold; and so died the plants
that grew out of it before the time that Abel was slain under it. So long endured the tree till
that Solomon, King David's son, reigned and held the land after his father. This Solomon was
wise and knew the virtues of stones and of trees, and so he knew the course of the stars, and
many other things. This King Solomon had an evil wife, wherethrough he wend that there had never
been no good woman; and so he despised them in his books. So a voice answered him once,
'Solomon, if heaviness come unto a man by a woman, ne reck thou never; for yet shall there come
a woman whereof there shall come greater joy unto man an hundred times more than this heaviness
giveth sorrow, and that woman shall be born of thy lineage.' Then when Solomon heard these
words, he held himself but a fool, and the truth he perceived by old books. Also the Holy Ghost
showed him the coming of the glorious Virgin Mary. Then asked he of the voice if it should be in
the end of his lineage. 'Nay,' said the voice, 'but there shall come a man which shall be a
[pure man] of your blood, and he shall be as good a knight as Duke Josua thy brother-in-law.
"'Now have I certified thee of that thou stoodst in doubt.' Then was Solomon glad that there
should come any such of his lineage, but ever he marvelled and studied who that should be, and
what his name might be. His wife perceived that he studied, and thought that she would know it
at some season, and so she waited her time, and asked of him the cause of his studying, and
there he told her altogether how the voice told him. 'Well,' said she, 'I shall let make a ship
of the best wood and most durable that men may find.' So Solomon sent for all the carpenters of
the land and the best. And when they had made the ship, the lady said to Solomon, 'Sir,' said
she, 'since it is so that this knight ought to pass all other knights of chivalry which have
been tofore him, and shall come after him, moreover I shall tell you,' said she, 'ye shall go
into our Lord's temple, whereas is King David's sword, your father, the which is the
marvellousest and sharpest that ever was taken in any knight's hand. Therefore take that, and
take off the pommel, and thereto make ye a pommel of precious stones, that it be so subtilly
made that no man perceive it but that they be all one. And after make there an hilt so
marvellously and wonderly that no man may know it; and after make a marvellous sheath; and when
you have made all this, I shall let make a girdle thereto, such as shall please you.' All this
King Solomon let make as she devised, both the ship and all the remnant. And when the ship was
ready in the sea for to sail, the lady let make a great bed and marvellous rich, and set her
upon the bed's head covered with silk, and laid the sword at the bed's feet; and the girdles
were of hemp. And therewith was the king angry. 'Sir, wit ye well,' said she, 'that I have none
so high a thing that were worthy to sus- tain so big a sword, and a maid shall bring other
knights thereto, but I wot not when it shall be, nor what time.' And there she let make a
covering to the ship, of cloth of silk that shall never rot for no manner of weather. Yet went
that lady and made a carpenter to come to that tree which Abel was slain under. 'Now,' said she,
'carve me out of this tree as much wood as will make me a spindle.' 'Ah! madam,' said the
carpenter, 'this is the tree the which our first mother planted.' 'Do it,' said she, 'or else I
shall destroy thee.' Anon, as the carpenter began to work, there came out drops of blood, and
then would he have left, but she would not suffer him. And so he took away as much wood as might
well make a spindle; and so she made him to take as much of the green tree and of the white
tree. And when these three spindles were shapen, she made them to be fast- ened on the bed. When
Solomon saw this he said to his wife, 'Ye have done marvellously, for though all the world were
here now, they could not tell wherefore all this was made, but our Lord himself, and thou that
hast done it wottest not what it shall betoken.' 'Now let it be,' said she, 'for ye shall hear
tidings sooner than ye ween.
"That night lay King Solomon before the ship with a small fellowship. And when King Solomon
was on sleep, him thought there came from heaven a great company of angels, and alighted into
the ship and took water which was brought by an angel in a vessel of silver, and besprent
[besprinkled] all the ship; and after he came to the sword, and drew letters on the hilt. And
after went to the ship's board, and wrote there other letters, which said: 'Thou man that wilt
enter within me, beware that thou be full within the faith, for I ne [not] am but faith and
belief.' When Solomon espied these letters he was abashed, so that he durst not enter, and so
drew him aback, and the ship was anon shoven in the sea, and he went so fast that he lost sight
of him within a little while. And then a little voice said, 'Solomon, the last knight of thy
lineage shall rest in this bed.' Then went Solomon and awaked his wife and told her of the
adventures of the ship."
Now a great while the three fellows [Galahad, and his two friends] beheld the bed and the
three spindles. Then they were at certain that they were of natural colors, without painting.
Then they lifted up a cloth which was above the ground, and there they found a rich purse by
seeming. And Percival took it, and found therein a writ, and so he read it, and devised the
manner of the spindles, and of the ship, whence it came, and by whom it was made.
"Now," said Galahad, "where shall we find the gentlewoman that shall make new girdles to the
"Fair sir," said Percival's sister, "dismay you not, for by the leave of God I shall let
make a girdle to the sword, such one as shall belong thereto.
And then she opened a box, and took out girdles which were seemly wrought with golden
threads, and thereupon were set full of precious stones, and a rich buckle of gold.
"Lo, lords," said the gentlewoman, "here is a girdle that ought to be set about the sword;
and wit ye well that the greatest part of this girdle was made of my hair, the which I loved
full well while I was a woman of the world; but as soon as I wist that this adventure was
ordained me, I clipped off my hair, and made this girdle in the name of God."
"Ye are well found," said Sir Bors, "for truly ye have put us out of a great pain, wherein
we should have entered ne had your teaching been."
Then went the gentlewoman and set it upon the girdle of the sword.
"Now," said the three fellows, "what is the right name of the sword, and what shall we call
"Truly," said she, "the name of the sword is the Sword with the Strange Girdles, and the
scabbard, Mover of Blood; for no man that hath blood in him shall never see the one part of the
scabbard which was made of the tree of life."
Then they said unto Sir Galahad, "In the name of Jesu Christ, we pray you that ye gird you
with this sword, which hath been so much desired in the realm of Logris."
"Now let me begin," said Sir Galahad, "to grip this sword for to give you courage; but wot
ye well that it belongeth no more to me than it doth to you."
And then he gripped about it with his fingers a great deal, and then she girded him about
the middle with the sword.
"Now reck I not though I die, for now I hold me one of the blessed maidens of the world,
which hath made thee the worthiest knight of the world."
"Fair damsel," said Sir Galahad, "ye have done so much that I shall be your knight all the
days of my life."
Then they went from that ship, and went into the other ship; and anon the wind drove them
into the sea a great pace, but they had no victual. But it happened that they came on the morrow
to a castle which men call Courteloise that was in the marches of Scotland. And when they had
passed the port, the gentlewoman said, "Lords, here be men arriven that, and they wist that ye
were of King Arthur's court, ye should be assailed anon."
"Damsel," said Galahad, "he that cast us out of the rock shall deliver us from them."
[And it happened after that Sir Percival's sister of her own wish died for the healing of a
certain lady, and the lady was healed. Then, as she had desired beforehand, Sir Percival laid
her in a barge and] covered it with silk; and the wind arose and drove the barge from land, and
all knights beheld it till it was out of their sight.
When Sir Launcelot was come to the water of Mortaise, he was in great peril, and so he laid
him down and slept, and took his adventure that God would send him. So when he was asleep, there
came a vision unto him, and said, "Launcelot, arise up and take thine armor, and enter into the
first ship that thou shalt find."
And when he had heard these words, he started up, and saw a great clearness about him; and
then he lifted up his hand and blessed him, and so took his armor, and made him ready. And by
adventure he came by a strand, and found a ship the which was without sail or oars; and as soon
as he was within the ship, there he felt the most sweetest savor that ever he felt, and he was
fulfilled with all things that he thought on or desired. And so in this joy he lay him down on
the ship-board, and slept till daylight. And when he awoke, he found there a fair bed, and
therein lying a gentlewoman dead, the which was Sir Percival's sister. And as Sir Launcelot
beheld her, he espied in her right hand a writing, the which he read, wherein he found all the
adventures as ye have heard before, and of what lineage she was come. So with this gentlewoman
Sir Launcelot was a month and more.
So upon a night he went to play him by the water's side, for he was somewhat weary of the
ship, and then he listened, and heard an horse come, and one riding upon him. And when he came
nigh he seemed a knight. And so he let him pass, and went there as the ship was, and there he
alighted, and took the saddle and the bridle and put the horse from him, and went into the ship.
And then Launcelot dressed unto him and said, "Ye be welcome."
And he answered and saluted him again, and asked him, "What is your name? for much my heart
giveth unto you."
"Truly," said he, "my name is Launcelot du Lake."
"Sir," said he, "then be ye welcome, for ye were the beginner of me in this world."
"Ah," said he, "are ye Galahad?"
"Yea forsooth," said he.
And so he kneeled down and asked him his blessing, and after took off his helm and kissed
him. And there was great joy between them, for there is no tongue can tell the joy that they
made either of other, and many a friendly word spoken between, as kind [nature] would, the which
is no need here to be rehearsed. And there every each told other of their adventures and marvels
that were befallen to them in many journeys, sith that they departed from the court. Anon as
Galahad saw the gentlewoman dead in the bed, he knew her well enough, and told great worship of
her, and that she was the best maid living, and it was great pity of her death. But when
Launcelot heard how the marvellous sword was gotten, and who made it, and all the marvels
rehearsed atore, then he prayed Galahad his son that he would show him the sword, and so he did.
And anon he kissed the pommel, and the hilts, and the scabbard.
"Truly," said Launcelot, "never erst knew I of so high adventures done, and so marvellous
and strange." So dwelled Launcelot and Galahad within that ship half a year, and served God
daily and nightly with all their power. And often they arrived in isles far from folk, where
there repaired none but wild beasts; and there they found many strange adventures and perilous,
which they brought to an end.
[Then on a certain day, a knight in white called to Sir Galahad from the shore to leave that
ship and fare on his quest, and Sir Galahad departed from his father Sir Launcelot, and rode off
upon the shore. But Sir Launcelot drove a month through the sea, ever praying for news of the
So it befell on a night, at midnight he arrived afore a castle, on the back side, which was
rich and fair. And there was a postern opened towards the sea, and was open without any keeping,
save two lions kept the entry; and the moon shone clear. Anon Sir Launcelot heard a voice that
said, "Launcelot, go out of this ship, and enter into the castle, where thou shalt see a great
part of thy desire." Then he ran to his arms, and so armed him, and so he went to the gate, and
saw the lions. Then set he hand to his sword, and drew it. Then there came a dwarf suddenly, and
smote him on the arm so sore that the sword fell out of his hand. Then took he again his sword,
and put it up in his sheath, and make a cross in his forehead, and came to the lions, and they
made semblant to do him harm. Notwithstanding he passed by them without hurt, and entered into
the castle to the chief fortress, and there were they all at rest. Then Launcelot entered in so
armed, for he found no gate nor door but it was open. And at the last he found a chamber whereof
the door was shut, and he set his hand thereto to have opened it, but he might not.
Then he enforced him mickle [much] to undo the door. Then he listened, and heard a voice
which sang so sweetly that it seemed none earthly thing. Then Sir Launcelot kneeled down before
the chamber, for well wist he that there was the Sancgreal within that chamber. Then said he,
"Fair sweet Father Jesu Christ, if ever I did thing that pleased the Lord, for thy pity have me
not in despite for my sins done aforetime, and that thou show me something of that I seek!"
And with that he saw the chamber door open, and there came out a great clearness, that the
house was as bright as all the torches of the world had been there. So came he to the chamber
door, and would have entered. And anon a voice said to him, "Flee, Launcelot, and enter not, for
thou oughtest not to do it: and if thou enter thou shalt forthink it." Then he withdrew him
aback right heavy. Then looked he up in the midst of the chamber, and saw a table of silver, and
the holy vessel covered with red samite, and many angels about it.
Right soon he entered into the chamber, and came towards the table of silver; and, when he
came nigh, he felt a breath, that him thought was entermedled [mingled] with fire, which smote
him so sore in the visage, that him thought it all to-burnt his visage, and therewith he fell to
the ground, and had no power to arise. Then felt he many hands about him, which took him up, and
bare him out of the chamber without any amending of his sowne [swoon], and left him there seeming
dead to all the people. So on the morrow, when it was fair daylight, they within were
arisen, and found Sir Launcelot lying before the chamber door: all they marvelled how he came
in. And so they took him by every part of the body, and bare him into a chamber, and laid him in
a rich bed far from all folk.
[Thus lay Sir Launcelot twenty-four days and nights, like as it were a punishment for the
twenty-four years that he had been a sinner. And at the last he recovered himself.]
So Sir Launcelot departed, and took his armor, and said that he would go see the realm of
Logris, "which I have not seen in a twelvemonth." And therewith he [took his leave and] rode
through many realms. And he turned unto Camelot, where he found King Arthur and the queen. But
many of the knights of the Round Table were slain and destroyed, more than half. And so three
were come home, Ector, Gawaine, and Lionel, and many other that need not to be rehearsed. And
all the court was passing glad of Sir Launcelot; and the king asked him many tidings of his son
Galahad. And there Launcelot told the king of his adventures that had befallen him since he
departed. And also he told him of the adventures of Galahad, Percival, and Bors, which that he
knew by the letter of the dead damsel, and as Galahad had told him.
"Now, God would," said the king, "that they were all three here."
"That shall never be," said Launcelot, "for two of them shall ye never see, but one of them
shall come again."
[Now Sir Galahad rode many journeys in vain, and afterward, meeting with Sir Bors and Sir
Percival, they knew many wonders and adventures; till on a certain day they came down into a
ship, and in the midst thereof they found a table of silver and the Holy Grail all covered with
white samite. And the Holy Grail wrought many miracles, comforting them in prison, feeding
them, and healing the sick. And it befell that the Paynim king who had cast them in prison died,
and the people by one accord chose Sir Galahad to be king, and he reigned there a year. And on a
certain morning Sir Galahad, having risen early, and come unto the palace, saw before him the
Holy Grail, and a man kneeling, and about him a great fellowship of angels. Then Sir Galahad
knew that his hour was come. And he] went to Sir Percival, and kissed him and commended him to
God; and he went to Sir Bors, and kissed him and commended him to God, and said, "Fair lord,
salute me to my lord Sir Launcelot, my father."
And therewith he kneeled down before the table and made his prayers; and then suddenly his
soul departed, and a great multitude of angels bare his soul up to heaven. Also the two fellows
saw come from heaven an hand, but they saw not the body; and then it came to the [Holy Grail]
and took it, and the spear, and so bare it to heaven.
Since was there never man so hardy to say that he had seen the Holy Grail.
[Then after a year and two months, Sir Percival, having lived a holy life in a hermitage,
departed away from this world. And having buried him by his sister and Sir Galahad, Sir Bors
entered into a ship and came at last to Logris, and rode fast to Camelot where King Arthur was.
And there was great joy made of him, for they weened he had been dead.]
And anon Sir Bors said to Sir Launcelot, "Galahad, your own son saluted you by me, and after
you King Arthur, and all the court, and so did Sir Percival: for I buried them with mine own
hands in the city of Sarras. Also, Sir Launcelot, Galahad prayeth you to remember of this
uncertain world, as ye behight him when ye were together more than half a year.
"This is true," said Launcelot; "now I trust to God his prayer shall avail me.
Then Launcelot took Sir Bors in his arms, and said, "Gentle cousin, ye are right welcome to
me, and all that ever I may do for you and for yours, ye shall find my poor body ready at all
times whiles the spirit is in it, and that I promise you faithfully, and never to fail. And wit
ye well, gentle cousin Sir Bors, that ye and I will never depart in sunder whilst our lives may
"Sir," said he, "I will as ye will."
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The illustrations are by N.C. Wyeth (1882 - 1945) first published Scribner's 1924)