The Works of Sydney Fowler Wright 1874 - 1965

The Song Of Arthur - part 2

by S. Fowler Wright

The Riding Of Lancelot.

Of Benoic's lords to Arthur's court who came,
Was none of lowlier mien or loftier name
Than Lancelot, when before the king he bent
To take the vows of knighthood. None was there
More heavenward-high to dream, more bold to dare
The gins of middle earth to hell's descent
For search of worship, or his vows, than he
Who learnt the rule of life from Nimue.

And as two flames to larger flame unite,
So Arthur looked on whom he made his knight,
And he on Arthur, and at once they knew
In knighthood's high resolve they were not two,
But single in all thought and all they did.
Twofold in strength thereby to all attain,
Or all by discord render void and vain.

And as two flames a common wind will fan,
So, as it hath been since Love's days began,
Though honour fail thereby, though God forbid,
On Lancelot looked the queen, and he no less
Owned, and was conquered by her loveliness,
That every glance they changed, or word they said,
Stirred their hot pulses. In her private thought,
'Mine shall he be', she vowed, 'though God retort
With all His thunder. But I well believe
To better fruitage shall this toil be brought,
For he who knoweth naught for naught shall grieve.'

While Lancelot thought: 'There were no height so hard
But it were tamed for this: no price too high,
Excepting honour, which my hope hath barred
Beyond attempt to take it. God defend
That I were traitor to a trusting friend.
From sorrow here doth no far comfort lie.'

But frustrate longing and desire were seen
More than perchance from love's relief had been.
The talk of Arthur's friend and Arthur's queen
Went through the world, the while in truth that she,
Adulteress in her heart, and deemed to be
False only in desire for Lancelot.

That which alike they would, but he would not
At the high purchase that its price required,
Remained a fruit unplucked, but yet desired
By both, and purposed by the lust of one
Who thought, before her summer days were done,
Greatly she cared not at what cost or how,
To reach the yield of any favoured bough.


Men died, and peace was born. The noise of war
Clamoured and fell. In Camelot's halls the King,
Strife-weary, rested. There the High Feast saw
Lords of far lands their settled tributes bring. -
Those lords that once in banded strife withstood
The rule he sought; and now but as he would
Their tributary kingdoms held, nor durst
Divulge the enduring hate they felt. But though
Bold front of issuing war they might not show,
Contempts of law and byepath treasons grew
In lands that ordered life had left since first
The lifting of the Roman heel they knew;
When paths grew green beneath infrequent feet,
And wolf-packs howled along the noonday street,
And many a king in many a hold abode,
Who ruled no further than his lances rode,
And ruled no longer when their lines withdrew.

But peace secure the towers of Camelot knew,
And all Logre; and those strong knights who dwelt
In the full daylight of a great renown,
Not swordhilts to their customed hands had felt,
In war's hard bicker, since its final bout
On Badon's plain the flying heathen slew.

And hence, to more the further realm subdue,
Did Arthur send them forth, by one, by two,
With charge to deal his justice: each to ride
At random hazard; and at Whitsuntide,
Yearly assembling all, to then relate
Of whom they pardoned, or of why they slew,
To right establish, or to wrong abate.

Of these, Sir Lancelot was not last to rise,
Nor stayed for whispered word, or angered eyes
Of whom he loved. For what was use to stay?
For yet one year he chose the nobler way;
And taking that young knight, Sir Lionel,
His nephew, as his comrade, save for him,
Rode forth untended.

                        Fair before him lay
Northward the woods, the wolds; and south the sea.
Far northward, to the wider lands rode he.


Far rode Sir Lancelot and Sir Lionel
In unfrequented ways. A dawn of gold
In misty heaven did noontide heat foretell.
While turned they downward from the windier wold
By paths that toward the infolding woodland fell.
Awhile they joyed in cool deep lanes, beneath
Briar roses: all the uncounted flowers of June
On either bank; awhile a broad highway,
White in the full glare of the sultry noon,
No shelter gave. A windless silence lay
In hazing heat, but broken from the wood
With seldom sounds of song, and faint between
The distant cooing of doves. The sheltering green
Of that near wood Sir Lancelot marked, nor long
Its cool allure his tempted thought withstood.
Aside they turned, and there dismounting cast
Their weight of arms: their steeds secured: no wrong
In that lone silence seemed, to wake their dread;
Beneath the offering shade their cloaks they spread,
And Lancelot, weary, soon to slumber passed.

Now while he slept, Sir Lionel watched, and knew
The swift approach of three strong knights who fled
A fear behind. But following these their dread
Was one knight only; but Sir Lionel thought
Not midst the glorious crowd of that great court
He left could equal to that knight be met.
Hopeless of flight, he saw them turn, and set
Vain spears to rest, and each to ground was cast.
Where on the victor knight, dismounting, fast
With their own bridles bound them where they lay.

Then Lionel thought that hard attempt to try,
And cautious arming lest should sound betray
His purpose to Sir Lancelot, rode the way
The knight had passed. Through woods that closed the sky,
And glades of opening blue, the pathway fell
To where a wide stream flowed, and Lionel
Reined at a hurrying water eddying wide
And ribbed with rocks that broke the impetuous wave.

But near he marked, upon the further side,
The knight he sought had passed the ford, and drave
On those three steeds their living burden bound,
Toward a wide and high-walled hold that rose
With strong stockades begirt, and moated round
From that broad stream. Once those strong bounds within,
Well knew he naught his single lance could win.

Wherefore, in haste his following to disclose,
He plunged the stream as chance should guide, and high
Above the trampling hooves arose his cry:
"Turn, coward; or yield thy cumbering spoil, and fly
Ere rescue reach."

                The insulted knight, surprised -
Seldom they sought who might avoid his way -
Returned his course the bold pursuit to stay.
"Seest thou not these bound dogs, that late as thou
Bayed at my heel," he said, "till more avised
Vainly they fled the wrath they raised, and now
Their doom await?"

                And Lionel answered: "Yea,
I saw it; and therefore would thy might essay,
Thou knighthood's shame."

                "Thy beaten like abound,"
He answered, "in my dungeons near; but chain
And gyve and space for thee may yet remain."

Then on wide lawn, that gave fair fighting-ground,
As strong knights meet they met. Sir Lionel fell,
Hard-flung to earth, but yet so knightly well
He gained his seat again, that seemed his foe
Achieved slight vantage of that overthrow.

As some swift kestrel, having stooped in vain,
Indignant turns and soars to stoop again,
So did that knight in further circle bend,
And came again, hard-spurred, with more intend
To maim or slay. Sir Lionel, breathless yet
And dazed by that rude fall which late he met,
Scarce to the aim his fewtred lance had set,
Ere vain it snapped against his foeman's shield,
Whose strong lance held and threw him, that on the field,
Charger and knight, a foundered heap they fell.

Nor rose he from that fall: nor more he knew
Till with rude force his ruthless victor threw
Those others and he the where chained captives lay,
In dungeon vaults so deep the noon of day
Gave them no light, its heat no warmth, its drought
No dryness. Of the fair wide life without,
Its changing moons, its rainbowed skies, of all
Its drowsing calms, and winds that rise and fall,
They nothing knew. Nor hope was theirs. They lay
In those damp vaults and foul that knew no day,
Awaiting death, that should not long delay.


It chanced, as Lancelot slept, while noon was high,
Down that white road, bare to the sultry sky,
With flutter of silk and shine of steel, and gay
And glittering train of penselled lances, drew
Four queens, that on white mules were borne.

                        When through
Those woods they heard a great horse grimly neigh,
They halted on their road, and bade a squire
Among the covering boughs its cause enquire.

Four knights a silken curtain gold and green
On lifted lances spread, a glimmering screen
From dust and heat. Queen Morgan's snakes of gold
Their broidered blazons showed. These white mules bore,
Beneath that silken shade, the Queens of Gore,
North Gales, and Eastland, and the Outer Isles.
Friends were they in the bonds of treacherous wiles,
And arts unnamed, and wanton ways and bold.

The squire's report, a sleeping knight that told,
Caused those four queens a common end pursue.
Alighted each that knight unknown to view;
And there beneath the bending boughs, that made
A welcome shelter of slow-moving shade,
They found Sir Lancelot.

                Him Queen Morgan knew,
And ere he waked a loathly discord grew,
Where those four Queens within that shaded grove
For Lancelot's love with shameless anger strove,
Who yet not knew them any; till Morgan's guile
With subtle counsel stilled their strifes awhile.

"Behold," she said, "and if we awake him here,
Think ye to any his grace will grant us cheer?
No damsel of the Court, nor where he rides,
Saving the queen, but in her heart she hides
Vain longing of his love; and hence my rede
Shall charm him long to sleep, and bear him so
Between strong walls, and there, our spoil indeed,
Himself must choose our best his love to know."

This counsel pleased them well, for each of all
Esteemed that on herself his choice should fall.

So when that spell till eve his sleep had sealed,
She bade two knights to raise him, and on his shield
They laid, and bore him to her hold nearby,
The Castle Chariot.

                        When the sunset sky
Defied the earlier glory of the dawn,
And lit the long west with its losing gold,
The level rays assailed those dungeons cold
Where Morgan's helpless captives learnt to mourn.

That sunset light on Lancelot sleeping fell,
And as it touched him broke the sorcerous spell,
And, entering as he waked, a damsel
Came with a meal well dight, and asked what cheer.
"Nay, that thyself shouldst better tell. For here
I know not how I came, except it be
Wrought by some false enchantress' perfidy."

"Strange paths," she said, "may wind to stranger ends,
But only on thyself thine ease depends;
And if such knight as well I count you be,
Tomorrow's prime our more converse may see."

"Therefore I trust," he said, "thy courtesy."


Lone seemed he left, and lonely sought his rest,
But Morgan wrought her secret spells, and there
She gave him dreams of Freyga's leaning breast,
And the loose gold of Freyga's falling hair.
Until from amorous quest he waked aware
Of those four queens that knelt, and every queen
In rich allurements clad, and well beseen.

Queen Morgan first he knew. Her hair was night.
Her vesture, as the sunset west alight,
Cloud-like, a snowy shoulder gave to sight,
And one peaked breast, in lure to love's delight,
Showed as she bent.

                Beside her, purple-dight,
The consort of North Gales' unyielding king,
Of life that no regard had ruled or shamed,
Could but the wrecks of one time beauty bring.
The scarlet promise of her lips proclaimed
No weariness of years her lusts could tame.
Chalk-hollows to the mind of Lancelot came,
Where poppies showed like blood.

                        The island queen
Was next, in sendal sheen from neck to knee;
Sea-born and bold, and nobler of form and mien,
Though lawless as her own seawinds, had been
His worthier mate, if any his choice could be.

At her left hand the queen of Eastland knelt.
In billowy white her slender form was clad,
Save only that a golden broidered belt,
Linked with fine pearls she wore. Her eyes were glad
With surance of his choice, so fair was she.

Queen Morgan spake: "Lord Lancelot, - that thou art
Is past denial, - although what chance apart
Had left thee in these woods we may not tell;
Long have we loved and longed in vain, and when
We found thee sleeping, by strange chance our own,
The goodliest-known of knights, the flower of men,
We needs must take the meed our fortune gave.
Behold us, queens, low-kneeling to thy will,
That at thy choosing one thy grace may save,
And three despair. This fair behest fulfil,
Consent thy queen to choose, her knight to live,
Free offer is ours of all that queens can give
In wealth and love. Our pleaded suit deny,
Lone must thou languish here, and dungeoned die."

Hard choice was Lancelot's. That he paused, is true;
For well the heart of that fierce queen he knew,
And all her thwarted wrath could work; and few
More loved free air, and wandering days; but still,
With glance unmoved, and never flexing will,
He met those dark desiring eyes, that drew
Allegiance of a hundred knights, and knew
No fixed regard, that whom she sought she slew
With veer of will; and answered:

                        "Foul or fair
You may be to such knights as seek or care;
You are naught to me, and naught these others, and I
Would choose long years between cold walls to lie,
Than thou shouldst gain me, by such threats reversed."

Nor wrath, nor guile, nor those sweet-pleading eyes
Of Eastland's gentler queen, that maiden-wise
Her shy love showed, could move him: "Work thy worst,"
In equal wrath he said, "till Arthur clean
The fouled land from thee."

                        "Arthur first, I ween,
Might break the bond that shares his bride between
Himself and thee." Queen Morgan spake, more skilled
Than he, to wound with words, if wound she willed.

"Queen," he replied, "you speak as ladies may.
Returning slanders of yourselves you say,
And knights are dumb. That falsehood foul you name,
If any knight aloud should dare proclaim,
On horse or foot, with lance or sword, would I
With good steel down his throat refuse the lie."

Then with most wrath they left. At later day,
That last-night's damsel came again, and he
With more regard beheld, well pleased to see
In hoped-for friend such gentle mien to be.

"Lord" - first she spake, - "meseems I judged thee right;
You gave such comfort as I weened ye might
To those who came. Among themselves they say
You are the great Sir Lancelot. Wroth are they
That you refuse them. Surely, here ye lie
At peril dire, if here ye more remain,
And of your fixed resolve refuse them still."

"Damsel," he said, "it is not of my will
I here remain"

                "One granted boon," she said,
"Might see the snare sprung, and the captive fled."

"Damsel, at freedom's call, the boons are few,
Within my power, I might not grant or do."

"My father's towers," she said, "nine leagues away,
But late I left; and on the earlier day,
Beneath their walls had wide-known tourney been,
From Usk to Reged loud proclaimed between
My father's friends, and all who came to test
What fortune would. Fourscore good knights and strong
And loyal, that to my father's rule belong,
He banded in one vow, in hope to wrest
Such wreaths of honour as might his heart console,
And break the bondage of an earlier dole,
By which afore he took, in wrathful pride,
A vow that holds him from King Arthur's side.

"The rules of equal force he laid aside,
And all that came he in one rank defied,
Or more or few. Thus was the tourney cried.

"Strong knights and many to prove that tourney came,
Of Arthur, and the heathen North, and knights
Far-wandering from the further lands, their fame
In western jousts to try, or war's delights.

"The tourney-morn arrived: the ranks were set:
With twice their force those fourscore warriors met.
What chance have any against such odds? And yet
Awhile they dured, and honour was theirs, until
Three knights of Arthur joined their foes, and bare
Our bravest back, and gained that joust; but still
My father, not with one repulse content,
For seven days hence hath called new tournament,
The same strong knights to meet: him wouldst thou aid,
It might be that their soaring pride were stayed."

"Whate'er my need, I may not blindly lend
Mine aid for gain of foe, or loss of friend.
First shalt thou show thy father's rank and name,
And if, and how, to Arthur's peace he came."

"Lord Lancelot, if you be," the maid replied,
"May fitly rank him on my father's side.
King Baudemagus he, and as thine own
His name is stainless held."

                "I long have known
Thy father for a noble knight and king,
And guerdon for thy good delivering
Is thine to thy desire in all I may."

She answered: "Wait thee till the dawning day
Pursues the night, and I will loose thee free,
With thine own arms and steed; and point thy way
Toward a priory where our tryst shall be.
Myself will follow with the later day,
By paths I might not to thine heeding tell,
Which I from childhood's days have known so well
That sleep could walk them now. The broad highway
Thy path shall be. With evening meet we there.
Soft couch thy need shalt find, and seemly fare.
The following day my father comes thereto,
And much will thank thine aid."

                        "Thy part fulfil,
And by God's grace," he said, "and of my will,
I shall not fail thy heart's desire to do."


As warders from the battled walls they tread,
With gladness, pacing their cold rounds, behold
The pale sky changing into orient gold,
So Lancelot, sleepless, with more joy beheld
The paling moon, the faltering stars, that told
How sooner from their loftier watch they knew
That dawn beneath the dark horizon grew, -
The dawn, that if that damsel's pledge she held,
Should find him freed.

                He did not doubt her true,
But hindering chance, or Morgan's art, must dread,
Till her light steps his anxious thought repelled.
With caution at his stride, and soundless tread,
By tortuous darkened ways the damsel led,
Through twelve strong wards. Their mastering keys they knew.
With short demur the groaning bolts withdrew.
No warders stirred, no ban-dogs bayed; 'twas all
Death-silent. Upward through the outer wall
A winding stair she took, that led them through
A vacant guard. A secret door she knew,
In peaceful days unthought, and waiting near
By earlier toil his arms were piled, and here
His lioned shield, his sword, his mighty spear,
Unmeet for maiden's hands to lift, were laid.

With careful haste he armed, and thanked her aid;
And issuing thence, in outer stall he saw
His charger, groomed and fed, and barbed for war;
And mounting, once again fair thanks he gave,
And took the path she showed, and turned to wave
His hand to that king's daughter where she stood,
And rode the green glades of the wildering wood.

Awhile she watched him pass from sight, and then
In that still dawn, ere movement came of men,
She sought her palfrey in the stall, and left,
Serene as owning all, and quiet as theft,
Those towers of dread the secret postern through;
And toward that priory, by the woodland way
She told, she rode toward the widening day;
And fearless in the woodland paths she knew,
Sang as she rode: of Love and Death she sang
Clear-toned through those green bowers the accents rang.
Delight she were to hear: delight to view.
For fair as any dawn across the wold
Lifted the light-poised head's unclouded gold;
And sweet as any mavis in the brake
The song she sang of death for dear love's sake;
And sad as any death beneath the boughs
The song she sang of fate that God allows.
She sang of love that holds, and wrath that rends;
Desire that cries, and death, desire that ends.


Light oath Sir Lancelot sware, by God His grace,
To keep his morn-tryst at that meeting-place;
And light at heart from near release to feel
Once more the saddle-seat, the trusted steel,
The forward path his own, perchance he rode
Too careless down those forest wastes, that showed
No certain issue to the wide highway
The damsel told; and all the rise of day,
And all its noon, and all its wane, - aware
Too late of error, - sought with useless care
Some exit from such wilderness-depths as grew
More dense and pathless.

                Wide he ranged unto
The threshold of the summer night in vain.
Then, wearied with long quest, he sought to gain
Such sheltering in those wilds as nature made,
And turning downward by a falling slade
Clear space he found, the where, before his sight,
A darker shadow on the darkening night,
A silk pavilion rose.

                        Around he gazed,
Wondering, and sought, and called aloud, but found
Motion nor voice. Nor on the grassy ground
Was sign of pathway trod. At length he raised
The curtained screen, and found it furnished fair;
And called, but none replied, for none was there.

Yet was fair meal and welcome couch bespread
For weary knight: "Now by my faith," he said,
"Some friending fey my need hath known." Well pleased,
Of cuish and greave his straitened limbs he eased;
But ere he rested more, his waiting steed
Disburdened, and turned it loose to seek its need.

And soon, with liberal cates and wines refreshed,
He sought that couch that gave luxurious rest;
And thinking best he sleeps who sleeps prepared,
Near for his hand his ready sword he bared.


That noble knight Sir Pelleas named had set
The fair pavilion there his love to meet,
Who only might in such wild ways be met.
The bondage of her arms and dalliance sweet
His heart foretold, as forth with eve he fared
That tryst to prove.

                His charger, stumbling lame,
His urgent path delayed till late, and now
Slow-pacing by the clouded moon he came.

In surance that his love would hold her vow,
Nor doubtful that a waiting tryst she kept,
Midst such sweet dreams as rivals naught allow,
Nor thinking aught but peace, approached he there.
Soft on the grassy ground his charger stept,
And soft to earth he slid, and all unware
Entered, - and all unstirred Sir Lancelot slept.

In utter darkness, as the tent-flap fell,
Sir Pelleas felt toward that couch, and laid
His groping reach on no love-motioned maid
Or woodland fey, but Lancelot's hardened hand,
That still the sword-hilt held in sleep, his own
Encountered; and at the touch the idle brand
Leapt living, for with his mind awaked the fear
In Lancelot that those sorcerous queens were near.
That would he surely with his life withstand.
Twice his blind strokes clave through the whistling air,
Then rang on mail, and in blind wrath he drove
Sir Pelleas backward from the tent, and there,
In the vague light of the veiled moon they strove.

Well happed it then for Pelleas' life that he,
Though bare of shield, his fensive harness wore;
For Lancelot, ware of his more jeopardy,
Called all his strength, and smote one stroke that shore
And shredded the hard mail through, and yet not stayed,
That deep in Pelleas' side he felt the blade.

"Smite not again," he cried, "I yield, - I die."

Then Lancelot, - "Mercy I grant, but rede me why
My rest ye broke."

                And Pelleas: "Nay, but I
Would learn of thee, how in that couch you lay,
Which I myself for other use designed,
And surely different greeting looked to find.

"That damsel of the dawn, - or maid or fey,
What know we? - first that in these woods I met,
Nimue herself, herself this night assigned
Her love to show. That fair-found tent, designed
For such dear joys, last noon myself I set, -
And here, by all mischance, my life is let."

"Fair lord," Sir Lancelot said, "I much repent
Thy wounds, that hapless from my wrong arise,
Who wandering in these woods was lost, and went
Of witch crafts fearful, and such sorceries
As thralled me late, and but one night ago
I had not scaped. Behold, I might not know
In that close gloom, if friend or likelier foe
My rest assailed. But in most faith I trust,
Not to thy life my luckless blade hath thrust;
And wilt thou to thy tent return, may I
Sufficient succour for thy need supply."

Then to that tent returned, as light they found,
And while his wound Sir Lancelot staunched and bound,
Through the still night they heard the hastening sound
Of palfrey's feet, and in the torch's glare,
- Her eyes dim stars aware of dawn, her hair
Mid-darkness when the moonless heavens are bare
Of all beside, - the lake-born Nimue stood.

Aloud she cried, that piteous wound to view,
And then to Lancelot keen reproaching gave:
"This meeting long my boding heart foreknew,
Yet might not at the last my dear love save.
Its time I could not of my art forecast,
And what God wills it chanceth, late or last.
Why couldst thou not this knight in mercy,
Who wronged thee naught, and whom none else could grieve?"

"Peace, of thy love," Sir Pelleas said, "you see
The harm, nor greatly of the cause enquire.
It came not of plain wrong, nor perfidy,
But blind mischance, that waked our mutual ire.
Mishappening strife hath been, but no way guilt
Belongs, nor seems it that my life is spilt.
And freely, when I thus disabled fell,
This knight accorded, and hath holpen well
My need."

        And Lancelot next, - "I can but plead
The darkening night, that caused and hid the deed."

"Then, lord," she said, "this knight I pray thee show
The name of him to whom such wounds we owe.

"Damsel, Sir Lancelot is the name I bear
Most known of men."

        "Fair lord, the name I knew
Before you spake, and if requital due
Ye own for this disastrous stroke, I pray,
Ye will advance my lord in Arthur's sight.
There were not at his court a nobler knight,
Thyself unless; nor hold I worthier they
Than he the best you count in Camelot are.
A mighty lord of lands in isles afar,
Strong of his hands, and bold of heart, and keen
Of honour, and wise of counsel, as well was seen
In Reged, and if against the king he fought
In those first wars, meseems of right he ought,
Allied to Neutres and to Lot was he."

And Lancelot answered: "Fair one, best from thee
Such pleading were to Arthur made. If plea
Good knight requires from any, for in the end
His fate can only on himself depend.
And thou thyself, if whom I deem you be,
Would Arthur welcome with good heart. For me,
In all I may, this knight may count me friend.

"But tell me, damsel, of thy courtesy,
Art not the famed lake-maiden Nimue,
Who Morgan's treason bared, and saved thereby
King Arthur's life; and gained that perilous fight,
Where Merlin tilted for a life's delight,
And thou for freedom, and he lost his own?"

"Yea," she replied, "though not to mortal known,
Save as I will, such name I bear; for I
Walk often in the ways of men, as now,
And mortal joys I share, and mortal woe."

Freely she spake, who felt her heart allow
The kinship, not of blood, she knew. For he,
Though mortal, cradled in her arms had lain,
And well she knew that round him, following fain,
Were shadows of the world that walks unseen.

So spake they till the faint dawn showed between
Those curtain walls, and dulled the torch's glare,
And Lancelot, of his broken tryst aware,
Would forth, at failure of the hindering night.


Some space, to guide him on that quest aright
Through those dim coppice-depths, aloud with song,
Rode Nimue. Wariest knight had wandered wrong
Unguided in the pathless wilds she knew.

Later, as toward the plainer path they drew,
And her first riding to his side returned,
In less regard of tracks to seek or show,
With broader way the loftier boughs below,
While the wide rose-glow of the dawning spurned
From its last thicket-holds the lurking night,
There came to Nimue's visioned eyes a sight
Of woes to be.

                Guenever's self she knew,
But doomed and bound, as Arthur's wrath decreed,
Midst faggots piled to wait the leaping flame;
And that strong guard of chosen knights that drew
Around her, not to fend, but close her in,
Lest rescue save her from the dole of sin.

Sudden a whirlwind charge of champions came,
And lances pierced their guard, and swords hewed through;
And first of those his dearest friends who slew,
Sir Lancelot's riding and his shield she knew,
As bold knights broke from his blind-smiting wrath.
So rescue seemed; but when the queen came forth,
Her steps were in the blood of Arthur's best,
Who might have been her bulwark at her need,
Against the leagued might of a world at war.

This vision in her clouded mind she saw;
Yet not short rein she drew, nor knee she pressed
Harder on flank, nor doubt in anywise
Disturbed the dreaming quiet of her eyes.

At length to Lancelot, who through bower and brake
In silence rode beside, content to view
The lifting of the morning's misty blue,
She turned, and slowly, of her mood, she spake.

"Lancelot, our greatest gave you, where ye go,
Moon-silence and the meaning of night to know.
All that she might she gave; she did not give
The shadows of dooms foreknown, in which we live.

"Such presage told, when Pelleas first I met,
Thy sword alone in strife his life could let;
And in this fear, I wrought with ceaseless pain,
And of my love contrived with careful thought
To keep him from thee; even from Arthur's court,
Lest there ye met; a labour void and vain,
For lo! God willed it, and the rest was naught.

"We may not grant this weird in which we see
Less of things present than of things to be,
Not that which cometh may we largely show.
It were but loss to man that he should know,
Who bold in hope his life doth spend away,
That failures shall resolve, and slander pay
The toils that he with largest purpose wrought,
Deeming he built as heaven secure. Forethought
To mortal man it were but curse to give
Of friends shown false, and love found fugitive,
And age left lone, and hope to darkness brought.
But we, who tread the walks of night, although
In dim presage envisioned we rede the woe
That cometh, and may not change the fate we know,
Yet further vision doth more end foreshow,
Beyond the habit of earth; and though to thee
I may not speak the shadowed thing I see.
Yet may I of lost hopes, long years away,
And shades of wrong they show, this counsel say:
Though of thyself thy heart despair, though all
Thine honour from thee as a cloak should fall,
It were not vain thy last devoirs to do.
Though truth were falsehood shown, and falsehood true,
The storm may cloud, it doth not sink the star:
Behold, God ruleth. and the end is far."


Now while Sir Pelleas watched the moving shade
The back-looped curtain showed him where he lay,
On the green sward that peaked pavilion made,
He heard the palfrey of the hurrying fey,
Who, faster than she outward rode, again
Returned. Swiftly she searched, and eased its pain,
And closed his wound, with cool requiring hands,
And spells, that with the night as whole he grew
As ever. If more she gave at love's demands,
The rising moon, the wide night-silence knew.


Deep in a shadowed vale that priory lay
Of Lancelot sought, fair-seen in dawning day,
A home of peace, that in the name was built
Of Christ, but many a stain of life-blood spilt
Its courtyard showed; and towers rectangular,
High battled for the shocks of heathen war,
Its walls controlled. But now slight guard was kept
In quieter days, and Lancelot rode below
Grey walls and worn that housed the clamorous daw
Unchallenged, and that king's daughter where she slept
Heard the loud hooves as Lancelot's charger stept
The pavement stones, and through the casement saw,
Though later than his tryst, he came; and glad
She rose to greet him. Fair converse they had,
Until the long day spent.

                        At even-fall
King Baudemagus came. Strong knights and tall,
Armed in device of war, around him rode.
Above their heads in gold and purple flowed
His banner of the Hindered Flame. But he,
The crown and centre of that company
Of knights war-proven, - vigil-spent and spare,
Too slight he seemed the weight of arms to bear;
But in his eyes the soul high deeds to dare
Was deathless.

                Fair in mutual courtesy
And like regard they met. The damsel told
How from the walls of Morgan's sorcerous hold
Sir Lancelot compassed there her hand had freed,
And hence his aid for that near tourney plight.
And answer gave the king: "No nobler knight
At need, my heart could wish. I well believe
That with such aid we may their boldest grieve."

But Lancelot doubted: "Hard the odds we seek,
And well the noblest knights may prove too weak
Such test to try. Yet chance of counselled fray
Oft to the weaker deals the prize away,
And we must all dispose as best we may.

"You know the rule, that numbered knights may bide
To rearward, in reserve, on either side,
And inward at their choosing charge to break
Their forward-forcing foes, or overtake
A scattering rout mayhap. That part to me,
With three good knights you choose for comrades, be.

"The number of thy held reserve convey
To those thy foes, but naught you need to say
Of whom we are; and when the strife begins,
Ere thy lean lines the loss of conflict thins,
If with strong hearts ye hold that tournament
Until their earliest force be spoiled and spent,
Then, when ye break, ourselves such course may cleave
As lightly shall thy driven ranks relieve,
And gain, if fortune hold, the doubtful day.

"And therefore shalt thou here in secrecy,
Three knights of worth and four white shields purvey,
And three white steeds the like to mine, that they
In all things outward as myself may be."

This counsel pleased the king: "In all," he said,
"I will thy will, and thank the chance that led
Thee to us; for as we were, we were but sped."


Beneath the walls of stormworn towers and grey,
Fresh-mown and fair, a levelled lawn there lay,
Wide to the wood, for ordered tourney fit.
Beyond the lawn were pitched pavilions gay,
That with all hues of earth and heaven were lit,
And further stretched than sight beheld; for there
The pennons of the knights assailant flew,
Eight score, and round their countless followers drew;
And wide between the barriered space was bare.

Now from the gate King Baudemagus led
Those four-score knights, so late discomfited;
And twice their tale the ranked pavilions gave,
And blazoned on their serried shields were read
The arms of many a feared and famous name.

Behind them in reserve, their need to save,
Four chosen knights of all their strongest came.
North Gales' fierce king was there, Gahalatine,
Modred and Mador. Bold their blazons shine.

Not so those four that from the wood forth rode,
And rearward of the castle knights incline.
Bare of device their shields: no crests they showed:
White streamers only from their lances flowed:
White the strong steeds they reined in restless pride.

On those high walls, and round the barriers wide,
Were crowding thousands that fair strife to view.
They marked the entrance of the knights they knew,
That various crests and blazoned shields denote;
The pencelled lances and the plumes afloat;
The dazzle of arms, the barded steeds restrained
That hard the alike impatient riders reined;
Till loud and clear the clarions rose, and then
On either hand the uplifted lances sank,
And in full charge they crashed, spurred rank on rank,
Confusion wild of struggling steeds and men.
Beneath, the entrampled turf the hot blood drank
Of knights unknowing, so fierce they strove, as though
Valour and high heart could thwart death's overthrow.

But those thin ranks King Baudemagus led
With longer strife their greater weakness knew;
Until their line, back-driven, and half pierced through,
No more their foemen's weight sustained, and slow
Their strongest gave their ground, their best were sped.

Sir Lancelot then, with those three knights he led,
Their moment chose, their rested lances set.
An opening lane in those torn ranks, that yet
Endured their foes, they marked, and charging through,
Right hand and left the countering knights they threw.

No war-cry loud as through the rout they drave
Sounded: their naked shields no warning gave
Of what they were. Pierced through, the exultant press
Recoiled: the back flung steeds ran riderless.
They charged as through dense clouds a sunshaft smites:
Resistless they.

                        His heavy lance aligns
North Gales' strong king, on those white-shielded knights.

Through opening ranks his silvered harness shines.
The foremost of those four he makes his foe.
Loud in the midst they meet with shattering shock:
The acclaiming walls resound: the barriers rock:
North Gales is down, his rolling steed below.

Behind Sir Mador, waiting in the rear,
Sank his proud crest, and sank his mighty spear,
And on the victor spurred. Sir Lancelot, ware
Of his nigh coming, aroused like speed, and bare
Sir Mador backward and down, from selle flung clear.

Then Modred, that mis-shapen child of sin,
- Not hunched nor dwarfed, but of the soul within
Made monstrous, - deadly of intent and skill,
At Lancelot charged, and he with equal will,
Countered, and on the point of his good spear,
Backward from out the saddle he bore him sheer.
Twelve paces from his rearing steed he fell.

Then grasped Gahalatine a ponderous spear.
With driving force he came. Now here was knight
On makeless charger borne, accoutred well,
Of finest furnished skill, and hardiest might,
No mortal knight in single strife that feared.
Space for their strife a common purpose cleared.
Their equal spears to-brast: their swords out-flang.
Such blows they changed as words were weak to tell;
Till hard on helm Sir Lancelot's blade down-rang,
And senseless from his steed his foeman fell.

Loud waked the acclaiming lists from side to side;
And ere the applause of that thronged concourse died,
King Baudemagus on their foes arrayed
His heartened ranks, in such strong charge as drave
Their boldest back. Good knights were many who then
Saw vantage in that refluent tide of men,
And harder pressed, and harder smote, and gave
Strong aid; but that king's daughter, where she sate,
With breathless lips and beating heart elate,
One striving knight alone, one white shield knew;
That even her father's plume, that backward blew
From that wild front she saw not, though, but one,
Such deeds of arms he did as likened none.

Now the king's knights their foes before them swept;
Midst foes, not comrades now, their chargers stept;
Disordered all, a spent and struggling wrack,
Perforce they drove them to the barriers back,
Where bold knights broke, as fluttering doves that find
The dovecote shuttered, and the hawk behind.

High then to heaven the heralds' trumpets blew.
They clave that eddying noise of combat through:
And in mid-stroke the lifted blow was stayed;
Rose the red lance, and sank the swinging blade.
Swift silence followed on that broken roar,
But movement waked again a livelier din,
As knights to earth to aid their foes before
Leapt, and from barriers dropt there crowded in
Page, groom and squire, to first their lords relieve,
And loosened chargers rein, and arms retrieve.

Then one great shout rose to the echoing skies,
As Baudemagus there, dishelmed and rent
And reddened, approached on wounded steed and spent,
And from the tourney-lord the tourney-prize
He took. A dying wreath of deathless fame,
By blazoned scroll and minstrel harp to live;
And gained thereby to such renown of name
As could nor gold nor rank nor kingdom give.


Two days of revel from the tourney's close,
Did Lancelot at that king's desire remain;
Till restless on the third fair morn he rose,
Longing to take his forward path again.
He armed, and when the king in hall he met,
His steadfast purpose in fair words he set,
But would not change. Thereat from stall they brought
His rested steed, and him to God betaught.

That damsel, who his late release had wrought,
Last left him, parting on the broad highway.
"Lord Lancelot," said she, "if you list to go,
We would not hold thee more, yet should you know
That we would well entreat thy longer stay,
And thy good pleasing serve in all we may."

But Lancelot answered: "Not such ease to find
As in these halls belongs, I left behind
Camelot's high towers, but venturous paths to know.
And needful, truly, of this time I go
To seek Sir Lionel, who from what ye tell,
It seems had left me ere this venture fell,
If him ye saw not where I slept, nor he
Was captived of that false queen's wizardry.
But damsel, dream not that thy kindness shown
I deem repaid. Let ever thy need be known,
That I may serve it."

                Thus they parted there;
And he, soon wearying of the dust and glare,
Left the broad light that vexed the white highway.
Cool and green aisles he rode. The calling jay,
The cuckoo's voice, the wood's noon-silence broke.
Nor seemed that bolder life its depths contained,
Till came there down those aisles of beech and oak
A damsel, that a fair white palfrey reined;
Clothed in the deep sheath-green the iris knows
Was she, and in her hair the wreathing rose
Trailed wanton. Neither wife nor maid was she,
But one who lightly lent her beauty's flower
To speed the passing of an idle hour,
As moved her mood or thralling fancy led,
Or guerdon of high deeds accomplished,
And now to knight approved gay greeting gave.

Courteous he answered: "Now may Christ thee save,
O fair one! Knowest thou any good ventures near,
For knight of Arthur meet?" She answered: "Yea,
The quest may hap, but not the knight is here."

"Seem I," he smiled, "a knight should ventures daunt?"

"A likely knight thou art, myself shall say,
An thou wilt give me name to match thy vaunt."

"Damsel, I take no force to tell thee, called
Sir Lancelot of the Lake am I."

                        "Fair lord,
I erred that mocked thee. Surely, if but thou,
No knight may win it. Thou knowest Sir Turquin, how
He one time joined Rience, and since thy sword
Slew Caradoc at the Dolorous Tower, hath warred
Against the knights of Arthur, lying in wait
To meet them singly and subdue. Nearby,
His hold a score containeth. Of his hate,
Dungeoned, scourged, starved and maimed they lie."

"O damsel, speak not to thy more delay,
But of thy kindness turn, and guide the way.

Instant he spake, but slowlier, pausing, she:
"Nay, if I lead to thy desire, wilt be
Thy later part of mine to guerdon me,
To all content?"

        "Yea, speak and take," he said.

Then down these shadowy ways the damsel led,
Until by grove and glade the pathway sank
To where beneath their gaze a fair stream spread.
Deep in the wave the burdened charger drank;
And while Sir Lancelot paused a space to scan
The hurrying water, and the towers that broad,
In battled strength, along the further bank,
Their foes defied, that damsel's less delay
Foremost had pushed her palfrey at the ford,
"For knights must learn that ladies lead," said she.
Though lower by far than erst the swift stream ran,
Sometime the murmuring water lapped her knee.

The weighted warhorse stepped a cautious way,
Following the customed palfrey's tracks, and so
They gained the bank, and came where, gnarled and low,
A twisted thorn before the gate-way grew
Of those dark towers, and swinging thereupon
A silver horn, and when its use he knew,
Instant a deep and deadly note he blew.
Its echoes waked the walls and wandered on
To distant hills. Full soon he thought to see
Turquin forth ride to prove his perilous might.
But came nor warder's call, nor issuing knight,
Though there in restless wrath long waited he.

At length, and as the summer noon from high
Had waned, and wearied of much waiting they,
That damsel marked a knight approaching nigh,
Who drave before him, down the long highway
A captive knight, who in contempt was tied
Athwart his steed. "Behold, he comes," she cried,
"And brings he witness of his vowed despite
To Arthur's rule."

                Sir Lancelot knew the knight
That bounden in such shameful wise he led,
And spake in wrath: "Now if he hold his prize,
Then surely, as Heaven me save at last," he said,
"This knight must be the higher of hardihed,
Than any I met till now. For he that lies
Fast bounden, for a fellow of mine I know.
I well believe my kinsmen starve below
In that foul hold."

                The approaching knight espied
The path they held, and spake in wondering pride:
"What do ye here? Strange knights that hove a nigh
My hold, may longer than their pleasing lie
Its walls within. Now with this captive won
My heart is well content: be wise and go."

And Lancelot answered: "These good knights fordone
You boast, are comrades mine for wealth or woe;
And twixt us twain if any peace may be
Thy heart must bend to set thy captives free,
And yield thy life to Arthur's grace."

Rash knight, though rich my recent spoils," he said,
"My stables yet can stall thy steed, my bed
A damsel lacks."

        That damsel laughed: "The bed
Good fortune grant, shall lack me long," she said,
"That waits thee now."

                Then Lancelot: "Vaunts avail
Our lives how long, if chance our lances fail?
For mortal strife is here, and yet remains
Thy boast to prove."

                He ceased, and backward reins
Each knight his steed, well taught such strife to try.
Thunderous they crashed, and reared their chargers high,
As their strong lances held, and either knight
Was hurled to earth, and either, leaping light,
His feet regained, and loosed his sword, and stern
The blows they met, and gave in like return.
Such blows could never forged steel withstand, nor guard
Of shifting shield for long their end retard.

With reddening arms and hauberks torn, and bare
And piteous wounds, of these as men not ware
They fought, till Turquin backward stepped, and stayed
To heave again aloft his blood-drenched blade,
And called for truce awhile, with labouring breath.

Lancelot, who seldom in the eyes of death
Had looked so nearly, signed assent, and low
His wearied sword he sank, and either so
Some space withdrew, their needed rest to take;
And wondering at his foe, Sir Turquin spake:
"Bold knight, whoe'er you be, wilt yield thee? Nay?
Then surely, though thy fate somewhile delay,
Thou diest; and but that in thy swift swordplay
Thou art like to one that most I seek to slay,
I might repent it. Hearken. Ere this strife
In death we close, I proffer thee, not thy life
Alone, but freedom for these knights thy friends
In durance held, that here all difference ends.
For never I met thy like, and thou and I,
As comrades sworn, might any of all defy
That chance might bring. I only ask thee swear
Ye are not he to whom most hate I bear,
Lancelot du Lake, that in the Dolorous Tower
My brother he slew, and ever I wait the hour
That I may meet him, and that stroke repay."

And Lancelot answered: "Well, from all ye say,
I may perceive that on my word depends
Our fair accord: but not for that will I
The name I bear, nor that good deed deny.
I am he you seek; and therefore rise and try
What end remains."

                That rest had Turquin shown
How much from wounds and toil had weakness grown:
Yet strength with wrath and pride renewed, to know
In this strong knight his sought and hated foe.
Lightly he rose, and each alike addressed
His heart in strife their final strength to test.
Then hard Sir Turquin smote on Lancelot's shield
A stroke of might: a cantel large he lopt:
Deep wound he gave. Yet not that might concealed
His labouring breath, nor how his sword sunk low
He raised with pain; and Lancelot knew it, and dropt
His shield, and round his swinging blade he swept,
Felling his strong foe with one great stroke, and leapt
Upon him, and by the banneret seized, and smote
The head clean from him.

                        The damsel, reined remote
From those wide-sweeping blades, their strife did view,
Content, as one its certain end that knew,
So confident of Lancelot's sword was she.
And now, dismounting that bound knight beside,
Whose shield she knew, to loose his bonds she tried.
"You would not that your loved, Lynette, should see
How here ye lie?" she laughed.

                        "God's death!" said he
Wrothed of that shame, the while he wrenched him free,
"Me thought not knight was living that so could seize
Such strength as mine, and whose that strength that frees
My life may be, God knoweth; but thank I ought
Who with like peril of his my life hath bought.
Fair knight," he said, "Gaheris of Orkney I,
And this good deed's desert I well can pay,
If whom you be, and your desire to say,
May please thee."

                Lancelot, smiling, made reply,
"The name I bear is Lancelot of the Lake,
And so to help thy need, for Arthur's sake,
Of right I ought, and guerdon is no way due.
Yet this thing of thy love I pray thee do,
These towers to search, and every captive knight
Release; for if the shields I read aright,
Hung o'er the gateway shamed in all men's view,
Comrades and kinsmen they, ye well shall greet
From me, and pray their grace that next we meet
At Camelot, at the King's High Feast."

                        Most glad
No meaner knight for life to thank he had,
Nor bond nor homage for his rescue pay,
This charge Gaheris received.

                        Before him lay
A gate, from which the affrighted warder fled.
For many their dread lord's fate had seen and told,
And still the vision of Lancelot's sword blade, red
With Turquin's blood they saw, - and entering bold
As Camelot's halls he trod, from ward to ward
He passed. Was no man there that faced his sword,
Or closed his way, but trustless menials came
His will to do, with words that fouled the name
Of their late lord, and his new service sought.
To whom, of evil or good, he answered naught,
But bade them those pent knights release forthright.

So these they brought forth to the blinding light,
In sickness sore, and starved and piteous plight,
But dauntless all; for in these dungeons lay
Ector de Maris, Lionel, Brandel, Kay,
Aliduke, and Brian of Listonaise, beside
A score of loyal bold knights of lowlier pride,
That Arthur's halls belonged.

                        When him they knew,
Who met them in soiled arms and wounded score, -
For hard had been the strife that overbore
Such knight as he, - they deemed he overthrew
Their tyrant, and their grateful thanks would pay,
For life at desperate strait renewed. But he
Rejoined, that in like thrall to theirs he lay:
"And maugre my desire I came, and we
Were dungeon-comrades now, our deaths to wait,
But there was one that hoved before the gate.
And in such strife as erst I seldom knew,
Encountering its fierce lord, subdued and slew.
Lancelot it was. His hawberk riven and red
Disclosed such wounds as many a knight had sped,
Yet heedless he his path resumed. To me,
This charge he gave, to break your bonds, and sent
Greeting, and prayed, not following where he went,
That ye would seek the Court, and wait him there."

"I will not rest," Sir Ector spake, "before
His safe retreat I see. Who knoweth how sore
His wounds may be? His wont was ever as though
There were no wound the where no wound we show."

                But Lionel counselled: "Lo,
Yourself to climb a steed art nigh too weak,
And soon might succour from the knight you seek
Require, if strengthless yet such toil you try."

Then came there word of mules approaching nigh,
With venison burdened, and thereat Sir Kay:
"Now wilt thou but for one good meal delay,
Myself thy search wilt share."

                But most would stay;
And plunder of these princely halls they made.

Meanwhile without, to Lancelot, where he stayed,
That wondering damsel spake: "These towers contain
A kingdom's wealth, and thou their lord hast slain,
And all is thine."

                "I will naught of it," he said,
"For life, to bring me gain, I will not slay.
But of thy kindness shown, disclose, I pray,
Some quiet abode from hostile eyes secure;
For more I may not of my strength endure
The hurts I bear."

                "Lord," said she, "where I dwell
None cometh, and there thou shouldst be tended well,
If thou wouldst deign so lowly."

                "Lead," said he,
"Haply my strength shall last till there we be."

Yet not to where she dwelt she led, but where
The trackless forest closed them round, and there
A secret bower in deepest woodland hid,
Compact of leafy branches bent and tied,
Seemed meet for summer loves, and naught beside,
And yet was framed such densest growth amid
Its plaited roof the rustling rain defied,
And cool in heat it lay.

                        "Behold," she said,
"Here may ye rest and sleep devoid of dread.
When Turquin's sword my leman's life had spilt,
Whom loved I well, this secret bower I built,
And vowed that here I would that knight repay
In all he would, whose sword should Turquin slay.

"Himself I told, I would his life undo,
Whereat in wrath he did my path pursue
Long miles, until my palfrey's pace he knew,
And wiser that he came he went, perde.

"Yet summer months have passed, and knights besought
Have cowardly shunned a vain emprise, or fought
And lost themselves thereby, the while that he
New spoils achieved and larger fear, that few
Remained of heart to face his might by now.
And little with this rising morn I thought,
As wandering in these ways bold knight I sought
Hither with eve to bring such guest as thou;
Beyond my worth to serve."

                        The while she spake,
She wrought his harness from his wounds to take
With least offence, and searched and bound them well.
Then meats and wine from secret store she brought,
And, largely at her hest, he ate, for low
The pulse of life exhausted beat; and fell
To needed sleep; nor heard that damsel go,
His charger's bridle to her palfrey's caught;
And in that lone bower rested, more secure
Than in strong towers, that first the lightnings dure.

Not long had moved the light, nor waked the bird,
Nor the quiet boughs the morning breeze had stirred,
Before her hastened palfrey's feet he heard
Returning. Hearing, hard to rise he sought,
But found the weakness that his wounds had brought,
His lord remained; and thus that damsel found
Her helpless champion laid. She bent her aid
To meet his need: his opening wounds rebound:
And all the length of summer light she stayed,
The while, to ease his mood, strange tales she told
Of wandering knights, and ventures lone and bold,
Herself had seen; for court and camp and wild
Alike she knew.

                "Damsel, thy steps have been
As mine," he said, "and much thine eyes have seen;
And yet thy name - "

                "My name is naught," said she.
"There is no man that knoweth of whom I be."

Seven days within that damsel's bower he lay,
Renewing the strength that strife had drained away.
Then to his prayer she brought his tended steed,
And hawberk all re-linked to guard his need,
Where Turquin's sword had gapped and rent it sore.
And shield new-wrought, his painted arms that bore
The last alike; and lance; and chosen store
Of all by-wandering knight should need, supplied
Beyond his will. Full soon his strength he tried,
And climbed his steed, and out forthright would ride,
New paths to try. She might not more dissuade
His restless will, but lent reluctant aid,
And held at last her path his path beside.


Now rode Sir Lancelot in a woodland way,
And prayed that damsel her pledged boon to show,
That he might grant her will. "Large thanks I owe
Thy tendance, and the debt would largely pay."

Whereat she answered: "Lord, a knight devoid
Of honour, these woods doth haunt, by whom distrest
Are damsels, seized in violence, or decoyed
His hold to enter, who depart at best
Ravished and spoiled. He doth the path molest
Of all who ride in thought security."

"This use you name," he said, "myself would see,
That justice may be dealt where such things be.
Go forward therefore. I some space will ride
Behind, and rescue at thy need provide."

Forward she rode thereat, and swift from sight
Lost in the darkening depths of green was she,
And soon by-riding where that treasonous knight,
From covert ambush watched. Well pleased to see
Without escort a damsel formed so fair.
He marked the deep-green robe of sendal rare
She wore, that all in cunning wise was wrought,
And roses white entwined in dusky hair.
The goodly palfrey for his spoil he thought
With all it bore. It seemed was none to save,
And none to hear, as down her path he drave,
And stooping, in strong hand, her rein he caught.

From the high warhorse that he rode he bent,
And seized her with rude hands. One cry she sent,
Clear-voiced and shrill thereat, and laughed content

"Why dost thou laugh?" he cried.

                        "I laugh," she said,
"That this time hath thy lust thy life misled.
To fear thee further were to fear the dead.
Behold who cometh behind! His sword the stain
Of Turquin's life-blood bears, and soon shall drain
Thine own from thee." She laughed again.

                        The knight
Loosed her in haste, and turned, too late for flight,
Too fearing for defence. Its own award.
His coward heart gave the strife, ere Lancelot's sword
Went through it.

        Awhile she watched that slain knight die,
As round her palfrey's feet his life-blood spread,
Scorn on her lips. "No more shall damsel's cry
Disturb these woods through that good thrust," she said,
"Sir Peris of the Savage Land was he."

And Lancelot answered: "In good hour he died."
And while he spake resumed his forward way."
But hast thou, damsel, no desire beside,
That I may work thy need? For I would ride
In farther lands, and would not long delay,
Except to serve thy will."

                        One upward glance
To that plumed helm, from doubtful brows she gave,
And then, left hand, to scape the hindering lance,
Close at his side, her palfrey's pace she stayed.
Upon the shining cuish light hand she laid,
And answered: "Lancelot, more than mortal brave
Men call thee, more than mortal hold thy skill
In use of war, but mortal that thou art
Well know I, and ask thee soothly ere we part,
So long dost wander these lone ways, and still
No damsel to rejoice thee at thy will
Thy heart desires? For save the Queen, men say
Of ladies none thy longed-for love may know.
And damsels many of high estates and low
Are left thereby to grieve uncomforted."

"O fair one, idly, what they choose," he said,
"Men speak, and foolish words I may not stay.
Freedom I love, and that my fated way
From youth's release hath strife and wandering known,
It needs must follow that I ride it lone.
For he that bears the thought of babes and wife
In every perilous pass accounts his life
Too dearly for his right devoirs; and knights
Who take of paramours their dear delights
Are seldom first where good blows fall; and I
Love honour, and this fair rule of life, whereby
At every damsel's service is my sword,
And none are held in fear of claimed reward.
Naught would it tend to mine enduring praise
That any errant damsel thus repays
The price of my shield-shelter by the way."

"Behold," she said, "what laws should bind thee thus!
Thou art first of all good knights adventurous.
And while that limbs are strong, and life beats high,
Thy name may on thy lance's point rely.
The aftermath of fame, - regard it naught.
To either be the gain that either sought."

"Damsel," he said, "I sought no gain, nor deem
But mine hath been the gain, and mine the debt.
That which thou wilt, I will. Thou must not dream
I disregard thee: where thy heart is set,
To all desires, and ever, command me then."

"Nay, lord," she said, "not any; but God thee rest
In other loves than mine, Who hast made thee best,
Noblest and gentlest known of knights and men."


Sir Lancelot rode in forests dark and dense,
Pathless and sunless, silent, drear and dread
Where seemed had no man entered erst; and thence
Emerging by strong heart and hardihed,
Though worn with breaking difficult way, free air,
Free light, free path he found, and pausing scanned
A place of birch woods, and of quiet streams
Wandering uncertain in a level land.

Stretched in still light beneath him, wide and fair,
A strange land lay. 'Now here,' he thought, 'meseems,
Some place of rest should be.' Ere daylight died,
A herdsman's hut his simpler needs supplied.

Forth, with first light, he fared, to prove anew
A wandering path, and that fair land to view
Where quiet peace seemed, and signs of labouring man
The faint dawn showed; till doubtful rein he drew
Where far through eddying mist a causeway ran.

The only path it showed, for all beside
The autumn floods had covered, and near and wide
Returned again the misty gold of dawn.
And through that mist slow-rising, sunward-drawn,
Wind-trailed, he rode, now opening wide, and now
A closing cloud. Till from the misty way
A foul churl rose, resolved his course to stay;
And on the mouth Sir Lancelot's steed smote he.

Thereat the startled charger suddenly
Reared and reversed. His practised seat to lose
He came full nigh; and with much wrath restrained,
He spake: "Now wherefore close mine only way?
I may not pass beside."

                        "Thou shalt not choose,"
Cried that strong churl. A monstrous club tough-grained
And spiked with steel he swung, and treacherous-low
At Lancelot's steed he smote, but naught he gained.
The sheathed sword, suddenly lifted, glanced the blow
Which else had surely the goodly charger felled;
And he thereat let loose the wrath withheld
And smote and slew.

                Short space beyond he found
The causeway joined the land, and there around
The concourse of a timorous crowd, who cried:
"O knight, unhappy art thou! And if thou bide,
No better than dead, for he thy sword hath slain
Our lords had placed there."

                "With thy lords," he said,
"My words shall be." And passed those clamorous cries,
And took the path toward their hold that led.

Vague in wreathed mist to heaven its towers did rise.
A vacant gate he passed: a drawbridge down,
An outer dyke to span. It seemed renown
Of those who dwelt therein sufficed to guard
Its portals bare. To venturous knight retard,
Nor warders stood, nor signal bugle blew,
Nor ponderous gratings fell, nor bridge was raised.
Within the outer ward his steed he tied,
And forward still through vacant gates and wide
He passed, till on the inmost keep he gazed.

A wide green court of levelled lawn was there,
For tourney-throng or single fighting fair
As ever he saw, and while he paused, thereto
Two loathly giants came running. Huge clubs they bore,
And in contempt of strength slight harness wore.
But Lancelot at the foremost smote, and shore
With one great stroke the head clean from him, at which
The second ran bellowing back, and in the ditch
Fell prone; and Lancelot stooped, and thrust him through.

That timorous crowd his death-cries heard, and they,
As warblers when the gorged hawk wings away,
Stirred with new life, and, boldly entering, drew
Around Sir Lancelot there; and pressed to view
Their tyrants in their life bloods weltering.

They cried, "the issue of thy vengeful sword
Doth with new life a slaughtered land endow.
Ten years these monstrous giants our maids have slain,
And face them boldly would no knight till now.
Thine are we to thy will, and thine shall be
These towers, and all the garnered wealth ye see."

"Friends," he replied, "I seek nor land nor gain.
To slay these giants, that from the marshes rise,
And feed on men, is every knight's emprise.
No thanks are due. Yet heed, and hear my will.
The plundered wealths of men, these halls that fill,
Ye shall commit to one ye trust, that so
He may with just and equal hand divide
To each compensate to his loss and woe;
And that he giveth ye not compare, but take
As from the hand of God. This rule I make
In Arthur's name; and that ye next restore
These towers to him that owned them erst, or they
Who heired his death, if by these giants he died."

He ceased, and left them there, and held his way.


In pathless wilds Sir Lancelot rode from now,
While darker days and lengthening nights he knew,
The last leaves drifted from the autumn bough,
And cold the northern winds of winter blew.

Bleak heights that barred his path he clomb, and through
Great vales, sheer-sided, where the pine-trees clave;
He heard above the encountering storm-winds rave,
And strong storm-waters in the gorge below.
And sometime riding through the rattling hail,
And sometime pacing o'er the silent snow,
Wind-opened heaven or clouded, calm or gale,
By steep ascent, or loose and falling way,
His course he held. In caves of earth he lay,
Or ruins long left of man. At length, and through
Such toils as few of many might live to say,
Beneath his gaze the Perilous Land he knew.

Far to his sight, in naked light it lay,
A world of mighty woods, in thronged array,
Interminable stretched. One straitened way
Through that close growth for seven days' journey ran;
Nor other in all that land was known of man;
And those of heart to dare its depths, again
Came seldom. Hunted men, that else were slain,
Outlawed, who foully in some sort had wronged
Their kind, passed inward, and their memories went.
Vague tales and terrors to its nights belonged,
Of monstrous shapes its glooming branches hid,
And visions that madness wrought its shades amid,
And fears by which the veil of death was rent.
Yet not for those he dred; such fears before
Faith and high heart, and knightly rule, which taught
That honour of life is all, and life is naught,
Were harmless, as to those the steel he wore.

Thus with good heart that path he tried, nor met
With shade of fear through all its length, and yet,
At last, when widening tracks before him showed
That all that fearful wild behind him lay,
Heart-weary, from no certained cause he rode.

For when the long hours passed him, with but change
Of scene, and shadow, and shift of light, then strange
Forebodings formless in his heart would grow.

The woes that watched his birth, the woes that still
Pursued, and still delayed to work their will,
Drew nearer; even the shadow of that far woe
That in the distant days should overthrow
All that he held most dear in land and love.

Glad was he at last the reddening west to see,
And gabled roofs the naked boughs above;
Of hope of peaceful harbour glad was he.

Black rose, against the glare of sunset fire,
The walls he sought, where all might entrance win,
Who wandered in those lands. For dwelt therein
An aged recluse, who in lost days of old
Had borne strong sons to some dead king's desire,
And given them all the lore of love could give,
And seen them wander forth to lose or live,
As fate should send. And then, when silence told
What words would never, beleft in friendless age,
In the Lone Lands had built this courtelage,
Where wandering knights might rest.

                Though reft of law
That land, yet even the fell red hand of war
Spared it: the raiding plunderers passed it by.

Soon as was known that halting knight was nigh,
Came welcoming damsels forth. His name unsought,
Sir Lancelot to the banquet hall they brought,
As honoured guest and known. A chamber fair,
Above the angle of the porch, their care
His needful rest assigned, and here he lay,
While the long night forgot the wintry day.


It chanced from sleep that Lancelot restless stirred.
And set the casement wide awhile to view
The open night, that more for friend he knew
In wakeful hours than closing walls, and heard,
Through the still air, the sound of feet that fled.

The moon in open heaven had gained her height.
Black ranged the pines: clear gleamed the roadway white.
Fast flying adown it came a panting knight;
And in the porchway of that courtelage,
Fenced in the angle of the wall he stayed,
And turned, and swang aloft a sheathless blade.

Then three strong knights, whose swords alike were bare,
In hot pursuit and close Sir Lancelot saw.
They marked their prey, that desperate turned, and there
Closed on him at once, devoid of knightly law.

Forth from the casement wide did Lancelot lean,
Sometime that desperate swording, all unseen,
He watched, and while he judged their blows, he thought:
'Hard strives this knight, yet in the end out-fought,
He can but die. Naught know I of wrong or right,
Or whence their discords grew, or why they fight
So foully, one to three; but rede I well
That none may right the dead, and naught can tell,
Except I stint their strife, where right may be.'

Then from the coverings of the couch he wrought
A rope of length to break his fall, and caught
His armour to him in haste, and where they fought
Down-leapt amidst their strife, and charged them stay,
And rede the meaning of their wrath; but they
Fierce answer flung, and when the voice of Kay
From that pressed knight he knew, then: "Stand away,
And let me deal," he bade. His sword he swang,
Two-handed, high, and thrice on helm it rang,
And felled its foe.

        The amazed, out-foughten three
Yielded: "For more than mortal knight ye be,"
They spake, "and shameless may we yield."

                                But he
Gave answer: "Would ye peace, I charge ye ride
To yield ye to Guenever's grace, and say,
Recreant ye come, the conquered knights of Kay."

"Nay, lord, we yield," with one protest they cried,
"To thee, not him who at our hands had died.
It is not meet we yield to him we sped."

"It is not meet three knights should join to slay
One knight alone. I take no force," he said,
"Of that your prides prefer. Ye are but dead,
Except ye swear."

                And thus they swore perforce;
And slowlier than they came, returned their course.

Then courteous to Sir Kay did Lancelot turn:
"Cowards are they ever who knightly rule forget;
And doubt I naught thy sword, before we met,
Their earlier might had tamed. But I would learn,
Why wend ye in these naked lands, and why
This strife began."

                "Thyself to seek," he said,
"In sooth I came, but further tale to try
The hour is late, and I since eve have fled;
And if that here may hungered knight be fed,
That most I would. Though first my heart must give
Due thanks to thee, by whose strong aid I live,
To hunger now."

                And Lancelot answered: "Nay,
For comrades we in many a former fray,
And thanks are naught to take, and naught to pay.
And in this chance the less, that sooth to say,
I knew not whom I leapt to save or slay."

By this, within the hall were menials raised,
That forth the clangour of that strife had brought.
Soon on the smouldering hearth the logs were blazed,
And meats and wine to his content they sought.
And Lancelot gave his couch; and when Sir Kay
In such deep sleep as feared no waking lay,
His comrade's shield, and gilded arms and gay,
Himself assumed, and left, of these in lieu,
The azure couchant lions that all men knew.

Long space Sir Kay in that deep slumber passed,
And when with hungering noon he waked at last,
And saw those arms his couch beside, and heard
That Lancelot ere the dawn had left, there stirred
Laughter within him thereat .

                "Now well I wot,
Who rideth in the arms of Lancelot
May pass in peace. But wherefore is it? Not I
Have seen him oft of mirth such jest to try.
Meant he safe way through these wild lands to give,
Or proof that whom I sought I found provide?
Content am I, who need no further ride;
For who should wander in these wilds and live?"


Sir Lancelot passed the Perilous Land unstayed,
And came at length where level waters strayed,
Slow-moving through the meadows. Here, beside
The path he rode, left-hand, a causeway wide
Gave firm approach to one grey tower, that rose
Isled by the flood.

                This sole approach to close,
Aflank the path, three fair pavilions stood.
The white shields of three venturous knights and good
Beside them hung, and at the cold wind's will
Their pennons from their planted lances blew.

By these Sir Lancelot rode, and thought no ill,
Heedless, but those begilded arms they knew.

"Now yonder," Gautier spake, "the proud Sir Kay
Passeth, for greeting or regard too vain
In his great name or fancied might to deign.
The two good blows he dealt on Humber side,
Must needs suffice him for a life of pride.
God's truth! I will his boasted worth essay."

And on Sir Lancelot's path he pricked, and cried
To him that held his way: "Bold knight, abide,
And prove that proud pretence in which you ride."

Then swift he turned, against the opprobrious word
Silent; and sank an instant spear, and spurred
On that rash foe, who thus his might defied;
And flung Sir Gautier heavily on the way.

"Methinks that knight is larger made than Kay,
And wears the arms his hardier might hath won,"
Spake Gillimere, and young Reynold answered: "Yea,
Well may he leave our earlier vaunt undone.
For what but Tristram's strength, or Lancelot' skill,
Or that fine might of Pelleas, so could cast
Our strongest thus, belike to maim or kill,
And hold unshaken seat? But lose or last,
Needs must we now to venge or rescue seek."

Then Gillimere next, of strong repute, but weak
As Gautier at the test, assailed and fell.

And spake young Reynold ere he closed: "To well,
O knight unknown, thy hardy might I see,
Thyself unscathed, my brethren slain maybe.
But I must hold me with the part they chose.
Guard now thyself."

                With swords they closed. Awhile
With equal strength perchance, or generous guile,
Sir Lancelot matched Sir Reynold, stroke for stroke.
Till Gautier breathless, bruised and dazed, arose,
And Gillmere slowlier from deep swoon awoke;
And these amazed that conflict viewed, and knew
How stoutly Reynold held in hard ado
Their victor else.

                To either hand they drew,
And Lancelot saw it, and all his strength came forth
In one strong blow that strife to stint, that hard
At helm he swung. It clave the shield's vain guard,
It clave the helm, and through it grim wound it dealt.
Yet Reynold rose, and with recruited wrath,
Assailed anew, so much that heat of strife
His wound contemned, and soon had spilt his life
In vain contest; but Lancelot charged him: "Nay,
Withhold! God's truth, I was not far away,
When thou wast knighted. Loth I were to slay
A friend afore."

                Whereat they answered: "Lo,
We yield us to thy will, for well we know
Thou art not Kay."

                He answered: "As it may,
Be that; ye shall to Arthur's queen, and say,
That through the might of her good knight, Sir Kay,
Ye come."

And this with light accord they sware;
And so to nurse their hurts he left them there.


Still rode Sir Lancelot, in the arms of Kay,
In the waste lands.

Now gloomed the shortening day,
And under a grey sky that burdened rain
A cold wind rose. In hope some stall to gain,
His charger splashed along the wintry way.

Four knights the while that rode on such lone quest,
In that wild land of silent dearth, as best
Themselves they knew, in covert counsel lay,
Deep in a glade of holly and stunted oak.
Of Camelot's knightly halls known knights were they,
Ector, Gawain, Ewaine, and Sagramore.

The warhorse' tramp their secret converse broke,
And Lancelot when they saw, themselves unseen:
"Now, by my faith," said Sagramore, "I ween,
There rideth Kay. What doth he alone, so far
From his most need? These lands, the feast is o'er
Ere feast is set. Me thinks to prove his pride."

And forth he rode, and Lancelot knew him, and fast
Spurred to the shock, and charger and knight he cast
To ground alike. Foul fall had Sagramore.

"Lo!" Said Sir Ector, "sure this knight is more
In prowess than ever was Kay.... Fair knight," he cried,
"For venging of my friend, I charge thee bide."

Sir Lancelot bode. With skilful lance controlled
To work his will to subtlest end, and shield
Dressed to his need, his kinsman's charge he met,
And lightly when they shocked he overset.

"Yea, by God's life," Ewaine to Gawain said,
"This knight unknown of his great hardihed,
Hath slain Sir Kay. Sir Kay's good lance could ne'er
Lightly to earth such knight as Ector bear.
Hard trial is mine."

                He charged, and hard to ground,
From that spear's point a kindred fall he found.

Lord Gawain, frowning dark, his charger sate,
The while his comrades thus sustained the fate
Their rashness won.

                'It seems,' in wrath he thought,
'Myself must jeopard life, these fools outfought
To rescue, in such highway strife as naught
Of gain or honour may bring.'

                        With keen regard
For vantage aught that ground or light supplied,
Forward he rode, and Lancelot's path he barred.

"Sir knight," he said, "the stubborn strength you hide
In arms not thine, a further course must try,
Before you seize these knights the where they lie.
Unless you choose to yield thy spoil and go,
Ere fortunes change."

                And Lancelot answered: "Lo,
In open peace I rode, whoe'er I be,
The ambushed charge of not one knight but three
To find. If friend of these flung knights you be,
Them rescue if ye may." Full well knew he
Sir Gawain's shield, and well at heart was glad
His might to try, who yet no deeming had
Of whom he met.

                Their equal ground they chose,
With care alike. That those late overthrows
His lance had strained, Sir Lancelot inly dred.
That risk the near result must prove. Again
Fewtred for hardier foe than erst it lay.

Not Camelot's lists their crowded galleries gay
Showed oft such joust as now that wintry way.
Lord Gawain fair the strong lance aimed, and well
Hard in mid-shield it smote, and snapped in vain;
But that good lance he met endured the strain,
And bore him back. To such mischance adept,
His high repute he held: his seat he kept,
Until the up rearing charger backward fell.

Then from the falling steed perforce he leapt
With feet on earth, and hand that still the rein
Controlled, that soon his rolling steed he raised.
Swift motion next to loose his sword he made,
A further strife to try, - then hard he gazed
At Lancelot waiting mute, and sheathed his blade.

Slow turned Sir Lancelot, with a passing smile,
And raised the spear that those four knights had sped,
And yet was whole. "Who made this lance," he said,
"God gave him joy in the work."

                        Those knights the while
Their scattered chargers sought, and reached with pain,
And when to Gawain they returned again,
Yet wrath: "What think ye of this jest," said he,
"That one strange knight should cast such knights as we?"

"We to the devil commend him," they replied,
"From whom belike he came, for hardier pride,
And more contempt of strength we shall not see,
That lightly flung us down, and left us free."

"Truly to praise his might ye say but well,
If whom I count he be, for those that dwell
Hereafter in these wasted lands, may tell, -
'Hereby the great Sir Lancelot passed, and here
Four knights he flung with one unbroken spear.'
Haply our names forgotten."

                        "Sooth ye tell,
We nothing doubt," the fey-born knight replied,
"But earlier wit to warn us ere we fell,
Had more availed us, and thyself beside."


Still eastward rode Sir Lancelot, deep amid
Such wintered wastes as moving life forbid.
Lone days he rode, long nights unsheltered knew
The while the hand of winter half withdrew,
Half gripped a land forsaken. Far and few
The abodes of men therein, so oft before
Tides of advancing or receding war
Had swept and left it silent.

                                Came a day
When, as Sir Lancelot rode the woodland way,
Through the clear air and cold he chanced to hear,
As on the fealty of a wounded deer,
A bracket quest; and turned aside to see
What in those solitary woods might be.

Alone upon the forest path he found,
Following a trail of blood, the questing hound,
That whined, and stayed, and went again ahead;
And Lancelot, wondering, followed where it led
Till, in a little space, again it stayed.

Here the path widened to a narrow glade,
Where bloodshed in the scanty winter shade,
And trampling feet a horrid mire had made,
Since frozen. Well the signs he knew, - for here
Where first they met, the long lance-splinters lay;
And there a broken gauntlet cast away.
On his lance-point he turned it, keen to know
Far-wandering friend, or ware the wasteland foe.
Reddened and hewn, no certain sign it showed,
And still the bracket led, and still he rode
In watchful doubt a narrowing path, that strayed
Midst stretching fens and reach of reed and sedge,
Where oft the weighted charger paused afraid,
Or swerved in caution of the treacherous edge.

But footprints tracked the marsh, and following these
And the impatient hound, at length he sees
A ruined manor, moated, midst a ridge
Of eastward-leaning poplars; crossed the bridge, -
The rotten timbers swaying beneath the weight
Of horse and man, - and passed a fallen gate,
And through the courtyard rode, and further found
A silent hall and bare, and on the ground
A dead knight laid.

                Then to the hall there came
A lady weeping: "Canst thou view for shame
The issue of thy fatal wrath?" she cried.
"Or other sorrow wouldst thou work beside
On mine and me?"

                "Nay, but I came," he said,
"By trace of blood and by the bracket led,
That haply I might aid in any wise
A woe beyond my helping, - but thine eyes
Through tears behold me not, mine arms unsoiled,
My charger and myself from strife untoiled,
And from your lover's blood my sword is clean."

"Yea, that is truth," she answered, "for, I ween,
He died not as an unresisting maid;
Stroke answered stroke, and wound for wound was paid;
And though my champion died, his fate is worse,
Abandoned, conscious, to the sorceress' curse
That drains his life aware, - unless she lied
In promise."

        And Sir Lancelot grave replied:
"Lady, I hear you, and were loth to show
Default of pity, or contemn thy woe.
Yet if, indeed, because thy knight hath died
In open strife, thou hast by sorcery tried
A secret vengeance, then I hold thy thought
Full evil. Gladly would I bring to naught
Such knowledge, evil used as evil learned.
God give you better comfort."

                        Then he turned
And left her.

                On the path regained he met
A damsel known before in different guise. Sir
Meliot's sister she. With glad surprise
She gave him greeting due.

                        "And never yet
Came knight more welcome to a maid beset!
My brother born, and thine in arms," she said,
"Sir Meliot of the Table, lies hereby;
And wounded, not to death, but doomed to die
By sorcerous arts, except that one may dare
The Chapel Perilous, and entering there
Bring forth the sword that by a dead knight lies,
Together with a cantel of the pall,
And search his wounds therewith before he dies."

"Light task," Sir Lancelot smiled, "if that were all."

"Nay, knowest thou not," she cried, "the common bruit
That fiends pollute the place, - perchance the fruit
Of some old sacrilege, - and whom they may
Within the accursed bounds they seize and slay?

"Nigh hidden in the lonely woods it lies,
And many and valiant knights of proved emprise,
Lured by the various meeds which valour earns,
Have boldly entered, - and no man returns."

"Damsel, we wandering knights, who ventures seek,
Live but to aid the wounded and the weak.
Ill were the hour when any knight afraid
For shadowed peril should withhold his aid.
Point thou the path, - already fails the day, -
And guard thy brother's life as best you may,
While I the heart of this strange evil learn;
And rest expectant of my soon return."


Fast through the winter twilight fading wan
Rode Lancelot, till the abandoned haunt of prayer
Showed through the sombre boughs; and leaving there
His charger at the confines of the wood,
Crossed the cleared space whereon the chapel stood.

A grey wall bounded it, and thereupon
Known shields of knights of the Table hung reversed,
Dishonoured by unearthly hands accursed.
Hardened his glance thereat. Awhile he stayed
Musing, and closed his helm, and loosed his blade.
'The impotent spent valour of brave men slain,
It calls too loud for me to turn again.'

Silent the scene. The brief day waned. Unbarred
The gate gave entrance. To the chapel-yard
Sir Lancelot passed unhindered. Midst the glooms
Of twilight gathering in the place of tombs
Murmurs and motions seemed and passed, and then
Huge shadowy shapes, that were and were not men,
With weaponed menace barred the path; their hue
Night-black and hideous. Vaguely they withdrew
On either hand, as Lancelot undismayed
Advanced with lifted shield and challenging blade.

Yet as he onward strode from tomb to tomb
Demoniac hands clutched from the ominous gloom.
Laughter of fiends rejoicing in a prey
Came from the closing night that round him lay.

Deep-shadowed lay the chapel. One low light
Burned red before the altar. The dead knight
Laid there before, in that strange light and dim,
It seemed to Lancelot showed the face of him
Whom Meliot slew. Beside the bier was laid
The sword he sought: a straight and naked blade,
Hilted in gems. He reached it, and it seemed
The high altar trembled. Doubting if he dreamed,
Sir Lancelot stooped, and shore a yard away
From the rich pall that on the dead man lay.
The earth shook surely now. In haste he rose,
Alike for earthly or unearthly foes
His point all ways, his eyes alert, aware;
And from the darkness of that place of prayer,
Now desecrate, passed outward.

                        Here he found,
Between a low sky and a swaying ground,
Fiend-shapes, dim-seen in darkness, narrowing round,
Clamouring for the sword, and offering life in fee.
Fear rose in tide about his heart, but he
For any fear had little thought to flee,
And hardily he turned, and answered high.

"Loud were your late and present threats, but I,
Who bear the scars of many a chance, as yet
No time have yielded for a vaunting threat,
And now, in Christ His name, thy worst defy."

He spoke, and smote; and from the imminent sky
Reverberate thunder answered, and anigh
Reached on all sides the fiends' abhorrent hands.
Alone his constant mind his fate withstands
Lost was the gate in darkness: sank and swayed
All else: nor knew he surely if his blade
Clove air or mail; and while he groped and smote
Blindly, his mind was vexed by woes remote,
Forgotten fears, and ills which had not been.

The fatal front of battle round him swayed
And broke, and while he strove to reach in vain
His father died unrescued. Never pain,
Past or to be, except he felt it then.
Saw Gareth's death, and knew Guenever's shame:
Learnt the great price which saved her from the flame,
In deaths of innocent and valiant men,
And ruin of all he lived for. Hope of life
Died from his heart; yet not the less the strife
His heart upheld; nor less the sword he gained
Against those fiendly hands his grasp maintained.
Till, mazed and spent, he found himself the gate
Without, in silence, and the cool night-air
Of moon rise, and his waiting steed was there.

Clear in the moonlit issue of the wood
In rich attire and fair, a damsel stood.
Red-gold her hair: red-gold her eyes: in mien,
In garb, in grace, she seemed a suppliant queen.

"O Lancelot, for thy lady's sake," she said,
"Take not the doom of him who lieth dead
On thyself also. - Cast the sword aside,
Ere the fate fall."

                But coldly he replied:
"I will not loose it, nor for life, nor death,
Nor any treaties."

                "Hast thou so," she saith,
"Thou hadst never known Guenever more."

                        "Then I
Were the more fool to loose it."

                        His reply
Passed her unheeded.

                "Gentle Lancelot," - low
She pleaded, - "prithee kiss me, ere ye go."

"Now God defend," said Lancelot, "damsel none
Hath kiss of love from me, by treaties won."
And pressed to pass her.

                "Yea," she said, "pass on.
For hadst thou kissed me, thy life-days were done.

"Yet first I charge thee hear the truth, and less
Perchance in justice than in gentleness,
Forgiveness mayst thou grant for love denied.
'Tis through my love for thee these knights have died
Whose shields hang yonder shamed. Alone for thee,
I conquered fiends by art of gramerye,
And bound them to this purpose, offering here
A lure of death to all who ventured near;
That as the noise grew, and the lengthening list
Of strong knights from thy narrowing Table missed,
Thy wrath aroused, thou hadst thyself essayed
To avenge the dead, or captived friends to aid.

"And many came whose faith or courage failed,
That God's strong shield withdrew, and fiends prevailed;
And Gawain last, and paused before the gate,
And turned his horse and laughed, - 'The fiends may wait
Long, ere I enter their elect abode.'
And Gilbert, who waylaid him on the road,
Lost his left hand thereby, from Gawain's sword.
But had he entered, doubtless the great lord,
Sir Lancelot, had been called to avenge his fate, -
Not he the knight to pass again the gate."

Answered Sir Lancelot: "Gawain is a knight
Importunate of purpose. In his mood
He turns for nothing save the sacred rood:
All hell might howl in vain. But if I came,
What vantage thee my triumph or my shame?"

"Nay, hadst thou died," she said, "as well might be,
(Nor thought I ever mortal man to see
Repass the gate), thou hadst been mine indeed.
Denied in life, by death the bond were freed, -
Guenever's spell, - might I not then rejoice?
Love, unrepulsed, the unresisting clay,
Preserved by curious arts from earth's decay?
For mine the hard resolve, the barren choice,
To lose thee living, or to love thee dead."

"I hear ye. From your subtle crafts," he said,
"Jesu preserve me! Gawain hadst thou told
So foul a tale, his sword had left thee cold.
But I, who never blood of damsel spilt,
I leave thy frustrate purpose and thy guilt
To other doom than mine."

                        And old report
Tells, that before Sir Lancelot reached the court,
At the near feast of Pentecost, she died.


A ruined tower Sir Meliot's need had found,
And there, cold-couched upon the strawless ground,
While that slow stream of life was drained away,
Died living, all the long-enduring day.

Alert with desperate hope, and sick with fear,
His sister hoved upon the pathway near,
The sound of those returning hooves to hear.

Sir Lancelot, mindful of that piteous need,
Along the dark and unfamiliar way,
At hazard, urged his over-wearied steed.

Yet late he entered where Sir Meliot lay,
Through such cold guidance as the moonlight gave,
And touched his wounds with that enchanted glaive,
And with the fragment of the pall; and they
Marvellously healed thereat; and Meliot there
Rose, weak but whole, with grateful speech and fair,
And hopes Sir Lancelot somewhat to repay
With service of that life which else had died.

And he with customed courtesy replied.
Lightly he weighed a scathless service done;
And spoke his purpose there that night to bide,
And ride for Camelot with the rising sun.
Near was the feast-day which King Arthur set,
Year following year, when all their order met, -
Except they wounded were, or bond, or slain, -
With full delight of concourse once again,
In banquet, at the call of Pentecost.

And those whose lives in venturous quest were lost
Since last they met, in minstrel song were praised,
Not mourned, having knightly died; and Arthur raised
Young knights of crescent fame those seats to fill,
And leave their numbered blazons knightlier still.

Brief ease was Lancelot's here; the while his mind
Forgotten visions vexed that mocked recall;
Till, loathing rest, he roused himself to find
The moon had failed, and darkness held the hall.
Yet rose, and armed himself as best he might,
And found his steed, and passed into the night.

Loose-reined he rode, his charger wont to find
Unhastened way, the while dis-easeful mind,
Or dreaming, separate dwelt. A shade unsure
The seeking of his anxious thought withstood;
Secret, as shy wild creatures of the wood,
Neighboured by night, or housed in earth secure,
From hidden birth, till in the dark they die,
Known only by the footfall and the cry.

Vext his vain-following thought such dreams, and still
As blind he rode, his steed's unhindered will
Controlled his path by copse and marsh, until
Rose in the east the gradual gold, and then
The glory of full dawn across the fen.


The time was middle March. The wooing thrush
Sang from bare boughs: scarcely the night could hush
The voices of the wood. By marsh and reed,
By forest wastes and woods, by mere and mead,
Retracing that long path Sir Lancelot rode.
Day following day the later sunset glowed;
The earlier daylight dawned. No hindrance stayed,
No tale of wrong or violence claimed his aid.
In dreaming peace he rode, till o'er him fell
A shadow of towers. In moated strength they stood
Between a wide mere and a circling wood.

Grey menace gave those silent walls, but he,
Through confidence of strength from caution free,
Regardless rode the unsheltered pathway near,
Till roused to more regard he paused to hear
The sound of falcon bells; and soaring high,
Where one tall elm reached toward the windier sky,
Above the close concourse of trees beside,
With trailing lines and loose, a falcon flew,
And lit therein; and when again she tried
To wing her soaring course aloft anew,
The trailed lines held, and fluttering back she fell.

Sore vexed was Lancelot's heart, for loved he well
Those noble birds; and while he gazed there came
A lady from those towers, and cried on high;
And seeing Sir Lancelot there, in knighthood's name,
She charged his help: "For by my fault he flew,
And if such loss my wandering lord but knew
My life should pay it, before his wrath he reined."

Sir Lancelot wondered that she hailed not out
Some churl from those wide towers such toil to try,
The while with urgent words her loss she plained,
And his swift aid implored.

                        A shadow of doubt
Hindering his mind a moment ere he spake,
"Lady," at length he answered, "never but now
I paused to take devoir for damsel's sake;
And, that ye charge me by my knighthood, I
Will venture, though, as any I saw till now,
This elm is scant of boughs, and bare and high;
And those who know me will for sooth allow
I climb but ill." He lost the thought of guile.
Hawberk and helm, alighting, down he laid,
And lance, and all the trust of shield and blade;
And she with restless, hastening hands the while
Aided, that soon in fenceless garb he stood.

Then valorous heart that toilsome climb made good,
Mounting until the struggling bird at last
He reached, and there the trailing lines around
A broken branch he tied, and thus to ground
In safety at the lady's feet he cast.

Now downward from the swaying height he sought,
From branch to branch that hard descent began,
When from those silent walls a deadly mort
Their warder blew, and by that signal brought,
An armed knight outward from the postern ran.

Aloud he laughed, Sir Lancelot there to see,
And waited with drawn sword beneath the tree
To slay him: "Ah! Lady, why betray me thus?"
Sir Lancelot cried, and that knight orgulous
Made answer: "As I willed she did: for thee
The stakes are lost: the debt remains to pay;
And naught the cowardice of thy more delay
Thy life avails."

                And Lancelot answered: "Nay.
I may not think thou wouldst me fenceless slay;
If wrong be thine, though naught of wrong I know,
Full knightly would I meet a knightly foe,
And vantage grant thee to thine utmost will,
If more you count me proved in strength or skill;
And make or here or hence the meeting-place.
It would but scorn thee to thy long disgrace
To slay me thus."

                "I care not what ye say,"
The knight replied, "I wait thy life to slay.
I know you more than like you deem: nor dare
In any vantage mine our strifes compare."

At this sharp need Sir Lancelot glanced around,
Searching some shift his life to save; nor found
Aught to his will, except that overhead
A round-spike from the trunk projecting dead,
Rude weapon at such perilous pass might be,
If toil in desperate need could rend it free.
With life to win, his utmost strength he bent,
Till for his use a monstrous spike he rent
Clear from the trunk, and then his last descent
Began; beneath him moved his charger tied;
And feinting, widely to the further side
He leapt; and, as his waiting foeman thrust,
Caught on the spike, and turned the stroke aside,
And faced the desperate strife, as needs he must;
And swung his weapon round and smote so well
That senseless from the stroke his foeman fell;
And there that knight's own sword Sir Lancelot took
From out his hand: and from the trunk he strook
The head, at which that lady sharply cried,
In grief and fear her champion's death to see.

And all that chanced he overthought awhile;
And mercy died as he recalled her guile.

"Now," said he, "that I should pass and leave thee free
To work like loss to others, may God forbid."

But when she urged: "Whatever wrong I did,
My lord enforced me to it," he weighed the plea.

"Ye shall but reap the seed ye sowed," he said;
And when she swooned beside her lord, in dread
Of more resort from that dark hold, with haste
Sir Lancelot as he might his harness braced
About him, and left them where they lay, and gained
His steed, God thanking that his life remained.


The year was young: the flying cloud was pale.
The crying lapwing shouldered 'gainst the gale:
The slant of fields was varying light and shade;
The lake was wrinkled silver.

                        Yet delayed
The calling south to blow: not yet was seen
Through the dark weald the earliest mist of green;
Not yet the wold her golden pensels flew,
As her gay daffodils awaked anew.

Toward the dark weald Sir Lancelot's path inclined.
He passed the wold: he left the lake behind:
A pathway through the mossy boles to find
Of beeches naked in the need of Spring.
When, as he rode a lofty aisle and wide,
Across his path a flying damsel came,
And toward him turned, and caught his rein, and cried:
"Lord, save me."

                "Stand thou on my further side,
And nothing fear."

                His glance he bent to where
Her fierce pursuer, with sword to urge his claim
Bare in his hand, in hard-pressed chase appeared,
And seeing her stand, he roused his pace anew,
As some fell beast his trembling prey that neared.
But Lancelot rode between them: "First declare
What rightful cause you hold, such shame to do."

He turned thereat, as one that not till now
Had Lancelot seen, and scarce would wrath allow
The moment's pause required his wrong to say.
"I do the thing," he cried, "of right I may.
She is my wife, not thine, to save or slay.
Thou hast nor right to judge it, nor part herein."

"Nay, by the mother of God, I swear," she said,
"My lord's fierce anger hath his heart misled,
Because my cousin I cherished, nor thought of sin."

"Yet will I slay her," he cried, "despite thy head;
Nor her false swearing shall her life prolong."

"Fair knight," Sir Lancelot spake, "of right or wrong
I may not judge too soon; but here were shame
Her death to see, where proofs of guilt are none."

"Her death she earned by her late deeds misdone."

"Nay but I know not that she sinned," he said,
"A doubtful cause may cooler counsels claim.
In quieter hour ye shall your pleadings show:
And if ye know me, surely both ye know
That justly shall your pleas be heard and tried."

He ceased, but still that fearful damsel cried,
"Lord, save me," clinging in unquietened dread,
"His wrath you see, you heard the threats he said;
Though, by God's life, my very thoughts were clean
Of evil, and naught of all he dreams hath been.
Yet, surely, whatsoe'er constrained he say,
He will but wait the while his time to slay."

"Truly," Sir Lancelot said, "while here you be,
It rests not in his power to do it." And he
Assented: "Lord, I shall be ruled by thee."

Then Lancelot placed the damsel at his right side,
For sure safeguard, and caused the knight to bide
To left-ward, and their path continued thus.

Now that false knight took counsel treasonous,
In his base mind, some murdering chance to find,
And sudden exclaimed: "Look, lord, there is death behind."

And as Sir Lancelot swept a glance that searched
The backward trees, that false knight forward lurched,
Swang out his sword, and swerved afront, and smote
The helpless damsel at the unguarded throat;
Severing the white neck, and shearing short the cry
Her terror that told; and mocked to mark her die.

That flame of murderous fury, while he gazed,
Sank to cold ash, before such wrath as blazed
In Lancelot's eyes.

                "I am shamed for ever," he cried,
"That trusting in my faith this damsel died.
Defend thee, liar."

                And leapt to earth, and drew
Upon him in haste. But he no knighthood knew.
He grovelled, and caught Sir Lancelot by the thighs,
And clamoured with shameless oaths: "I will not rise
Except ye grant me mercy: ye may not slay
A kneeling knight."

                In wrath Sir Lancelot spake:
"I may not grant thee mercy. Rise and take
Such vantage as you will. This craven fear
Put from thee. Lo, myself will meet thee here.

Save but my sword, of arms and buckler bare.
Surely you may so much for knighthood dare."
Then, as he grovelled the lower: "It seems the earth,
That surely hath been fouler for thy birth,
Must more endure thee. Rise, and hear my will.
As thy life's price thou shalt the burden bear
To Camelot of this damsel slain, and there
At the Queen's feet, and in full hall declare
Thy treason, and yield thee to her, and there fulfil
Such further penance as her mercy will."

Then on the cross-hilt of the sword he sware,
And by such oaths as such men bind, to bear
That piteous burden thus; and forth he set;
And with the maimed corse of that damsel dead,
As one that flies the tracks of plague he fled,
While in himself he bears the plague he met.

He, the third noon, to Camelot came, and there
Beneath the bannered arches rode, to where
King Arthur held his court. His throne anear,
Thronged those strong knights that held the world in fear.
To Camelot for the approaching feast they came,
Kings of great lands, and knights of lordlier fame,
From wandering quests and ventures wild and wide.
Ulfius and Brastius of the older day,
And he that with the Hundred knights did ride;
Ector and Blamor, Lionel, Villiars, Kay,
And Bors; and seated at King Arthur's side,
Lord Gawain; and the bulk of Agravain;
Gaheris; and the fey-born knight Ewaine.

And there was Griflet, called Le Fils de Dieu,
Whose land or birth there was not man that knew;
And Dodinas there, and there was Sagramore;
And there came Dinadan of the silver tongue,
His sword beside, his harp behind him hung;
Most loved of all to whom in right belong
The glamours of the life of sword and song.

And thereward came the knight of Winchelsea;
And Clarence from the windy moors and bare;
And there the strange lake-maiden Nimue,
Sir Pelleas, her love-chosen knight, was there;
And there the sons renowned of Pellinor,
Lamorack de Galis, Aglovale, and Tor;
Brian of the Woods, and Mador of the Wild;
Brian of the Isles, and Fergus of the Fen;

Through the high throng, that murder-burdened knight
Passed to the throne, and at Guenever's feet
Did from his urged and panting steed alight;
And there, in mood too wrothed for reverence meet,
With fierce hot words he urged his bitterest wrong,
And rights that must to outraged trust belong.
How could he fight with Lancelot, makeless known?
How let the traitress live? Her flight her own
Confession of guilt. Should vows be sworn for naught?
Spurred knight was he. His honour a wanton's sport?
Nay, by God's death! He thanked High Heaven that he
Had spilt her life, ere further mock might be.

The while he spake, on that gay throng that heard,
A listening silence sank, that only stirred
As Lancelot's name he gave. He ceased his plea;
And forward leaned the Queen: "O, Pedevere,
Lancelot ye saw?" She said: "The place how near?
And wandering further hence, or came he here?"

And Arthur watched the knight, and heeded naught
That with closed lips her shortened breath she caught,
The silent instant that the answer hung.

"Queen, it was he; though not his shield he bore,
And tarnished gold the painted arms he wore,
Unlike his wont. Yet had I known him among
A thousand else. The hither path he held,
But if himself he cometh he did not say.
Belike he rides at no such haste as I,
This three days' death my comrade of the way."

Then at that headless corse, that late rebelled
At life's controls, that haply sought to take
The bait of sin, and then its price to fly
So vainly, glanced the queen: "Dear lord," she said,
"I pray thee judge it," and Arthur paused, and spake.

"O knight unhappy! Who hast the burden dead
Of thine own deed, that once ye loved; for me,
I would not doom, and may not loose thee free;
Lest so should seem that I the dead condemn,
Whose guilt we know not; by thy perfidy
Whose lips are silent. Thou didst first contemn
Thy knightly word to Lancelot. Who may so
Believe thee now? And therefore shalt thou go,
Still with that load of woe, but meetly hid
From sight of men, to Rome's High Throne, and there
To him who stands for God Himself, declare
The truth indeed; and take such penance as he
Decrees; there holding as thou wilt thy way,
So that two nights in no one place you stay,
Nor part from that ye bear till there you be."

This doom he took, and forth he fared, and sought,
Where ruled that Pontiff in the Holy Court,
And the foul truth of that deed treasonous
Confessed to Heaven, nor shrank the fate enforced.

Penance and prayer and scourge and frequent fast
His days endured, and haply reached at last
Such gains as Heaven may hold for those who thus
Turn Godward, when the prize of life is lost.


Two days before the Feast of Pentecost,
Sir Lancelot, on his long way-wearied steed,
Passed the east gate; no weight his heart had lost
Of that which vexed him erst, and made his need
Of wandering days to know. Yet strong desire
Again, high-piled in middle heaven, to view
Those towers from which the dragoned banner flew,
Had caused him, past his wont, his steed to tire.

With morn he had risen; through dewy ways and dim
His path to take, before the mounting sun
Surrender of the willing earth had won,
While frosted yet the windier uplands lay.
But naught of these he saw: as naught to him
The wont-loved splendours of the lightening day.
Unheeded, paled in heaven the wide rose-glow
The advancing dawn that told. Unheeded he
The flowers that met the red dawn's call, - for though
Of sunlight woo'd, of northborn winds afraid,
Aware of frost, the white anemone
The opening of shy petals long delayed,
Yet the drenched primrose from the grasses wet
Bared its brave heart to heaven on bank and lea,
And from its own dark leaves the violet
Lifted, the enpurpling light of morn to see:
But blindly on his hastened path he set.

Longed he the applauding of his peers, that he
Alone had Meliot freed, and Turquin slain?
Or welcome of his kin? Or hungered he
His dear-won peace to deal for dearer pain?
Once more to know, with bitter longing vain,
The pleading of the sign he would not see?

In the great hall, from banquet cleared, that day
Were grouped, of Dinadan's harp to take delight,
A throng gay-hued, of damsel, dame and knight;
Few were there in that throng but loved his lay.
For he could rise to song's heroic height;
Though most he loved a japing strain to play,
That laughed at maiden's lure, and warrior's might,
And toil of errant knight's adventurous way.
Tale of bold deed he would with jest requite;
And speak of Spring, he mocked the breathing May.

And now of Pelleas and his chosen fey
In idle mirth he framed a japing lay:

    Behold, are mortal maids so few,
    Are mortal maids so cold to woo,
    That fey must mortal knight pursue?

    Such bond, I ween, it will not stay;
    But knight shall leave that foolish fey,
    As light as dream with waking day.

As passed the fey, the mocking strain he tried;
And Nimue, careless of his jest replied:
"Behold, you pass and jest at life, and lo!
You know not if all life be jest or no.
But I would gladly hear thy harp again,
If you would wake it to some worthier strain,
As well you may."

                "My better songs are fled
My vagrant memory long."

                        "Wilt sing," she said,
"That song that all men speak? The song they sung
At Badon Mount, when Arthur backward flung
Nine miles in ruining rout the heathen host,
And brake their pride thereby, and Lothian's boast."

"Now heaven thee teach!" He said, "thy mystic lore,
And Merlin-gyving wiles, can rede no more
Than childhood might. The songs that morn we made
Were rung on helm and shield with hammering blade.
Tuned song might serve to pass the night before,
But when we crashed against their heathen roar,
Out! Out! For Christ! For Christ! For Christ! We cried,
And those wild ranks that shocked us broke and died."

"Say what thou wilt," she said, "so wilt thou sing."

"Yea, ye shall have it," he said, but ere the string
He touched, the thronged approach was stirred where-through
From mouth to mouth the name of Lancelot flew.

And loud aloft the shout of welcome leapt,
Up the long hall as Lancelot's charger stept;
And Arthur saw him, and hastened from his seat
His greatest and his best-loved knight to greet.


Rose the next morn through heaven serene and fair.
Above the royal towers of Camelot high
The dragon banner in the windless air
Drooped, as the drowsing hour of noon was nigh.

The king a practice of young knights controlled,
Contending in the court below. There rose
Laughter, and clanging falls, and echoing blows

                Meanwhile the queen, love-bold,
Sir Lancelot called, and laced the curtain fold
That closed her bower, with light swift hands, and led
Even to its last recess, and turned, and said:
"Oh, Lancelot, this long year! Why went you forth,
And left me fearful? In the hostile north
Why rode you friendless in waste lands and far?
Thy name was made. Men know the knight you are.
Too high thou wert to rise. - But Lancelot, say,
Did always naught but fruitless words repay
Thy rescues done? Of giants and tyrants slain,
Of knights o'erthrown for injured maidens' plain,
Tales have we heard. But naught, when need was past,
Of grateful damsel's pledged reward at last.
Didst never turn thee from the forward way,
Didst never in the heated noon delay,
Beneath some cool pavilion-shade to find
The welcome of a damsel kissed and kind?"

And Lancelot answered: "Dear my queen, to me
The damsels of desire are none but thee,
Since first my service to thy name I vowed,
And took thy gage, as loyal faith allowed,
In Arthur's sight."

                "Let be the King," she said,
"For only to thine own my heart is wed.
Have I not waited these long months to give
Thy most desire? Through days I did but live
To hear thy name renowned in court and street,
And lowly in my heart have kissed thy feet?
And lain long nights in secret fear to learn
With morn, that only should such tales return,
And thou come never? And when your life you gave,
Dear hostage to the hosts of night, to save
Such life as Meliot's!" - (did her heart foretell
That Carlisle stair at last where Meliot fell?) -
"Recked ye my grief? And now, thy will to do,
So lowly must thy sovran lady sue?
Disloyal!" And following to her mood he bent,
And kissed, and gave her of her first intent.


King Meliodas ruled the land that lay
West beyond Cornwall, which a later day
Saw one wild tide of tempest sweep away,
Saving a cluster of small isles, to be
The signs of where it sank beneath the sea.
Lyonesse men call it, and a land more fair
There was not.

        While the doubt of Uther's heir
Confused the realm, and all were kings, and none
Was chief among them, Cornwall's Ida gave
His daughter to the youthful Lyonesse king,
Thinking alliance of their rules to bring,
To make an added strength where naught was sure,
Which likely might beyond his life endure
To buttress Mark, his heir, of whom was said
That little king-like was his furtive mien.
Cunning for wisdom, words for deeds, must be
Shield of the land which Gorlois ruled, if he
Should rein it

                But King Ida's daughter bore
A different name. Of better speech was she,
Loyal, fair-natured, more than fair to see;
And with so loving and so fair a bride,
Joyed the young king.

                Such was the opening year;
But when the cold of winter nights was near,
And she was great with child, as best should be,
Snared were they by witch Ringwan's sorcery.

In part of lust, which would not long contain,
But more of envy that these twain should share
A joy which all her arts could noway gain,
She witched the king, and in so shrewd a snare
She wiled him that for three long weeks he lay
Mured in a secret hold, her dungeoned prey,
With freedom for a price he would not pay.

This was while Merlin yet his crafts could try.
And by that friendly aid the Lyonesse king
Was freed at last, but little gained thereby,
Or only speedier woe. An hour too late
His freedom came, for chance misfortunate
Had brought sure tidings in the earlier day
Of in what jeopard dire, and where he lay;
At which Elizabeth, his wife, forgot
Even the heavy burden that she bore.

'Here,' thought she, 'surely force shall availeth not,
But only mercy can my lord restore.
I have no arts with Ringwan's arts to vie.
Only my weakness and my need have I.
I will go instant at her feet to plead.'

So taking but one damsel for her need,
Nor apt the hardness of the way to heed,
- A way of forests, and of falling snow -
She rode her palfrey at its urgent speed
Till night was near, when, in a lonely place,
The spreading shelter of great oaks below,
She halted. "More," she said, "I may not go,
For pain is mine that only birth will stay."

In the poor covert of the snow she lay,
Her handmaid helping all as best might be....

Led by the hoofmarks in the fallen snow,
Pursued her lord, a piteous sight to see:
A babe that lived, but she he loved was dead,
Failing good aid or sheltering warmth to know.

"She charged me, ere she died," the handmaid said,
"To tell thee this: 'My greatest grief to die
Is that I leave him who hath loved me well.
For better none was ever loved than I.
Give him this babe for that love's victory,
And say Heaven's gentle Queen hath shielded me
That he shall live; and for short sorrowing
Honour and length of joy his life shall bring,
And splendours of great deeds his hands shall do,
For even at his birth one life he slew.
Yet call him Tristram for that deed of woe.'
So from the hostile winds to God she went,
Sad for thee and thy love, but else content."

Soothly she spake that he had loved her well.
Such was his grief that never words shall tell.
Nor chase nor tourney would that grief abate,
Not others for that loss could consolate.
He sought no freedom, by his grief enchained.
The days went past him, but the wound remained.

Yet came the time when, for his kingdom's gain,
He who so long in no love's arms had lain,
Being urged by all the barons of the land,
King Howel's sister wed, of Brittany.

Cold was she of her blood, and cold was he,
And little comfort of their meeting came.
Yet sons were theirs, and jealous hate she had
That Tristram's life to those she bore forbad
The Lyonesse throne; and stirred her hate no less
That both in courage and in comeliness
Was Tristram more than even love could say
That in their aspects or their deeds were they.

So flowered black hatred to a seed of sin.
A cup of wine she poured, and dropped therein
Such poison that who drank should surely die.
By Tristram's platter was it placed, but by
Some chance (if chance it were) a serving hand
Transposed it, and the evil fate she planned
Glanced sideward, that her eldest drank and died.

That was her grief, but yet could none suspect
Such deed was hers; and soon again she tried
To sail a surer course where once she wrecked.
Another cup she mixed, and placed aside,
Waiting her chance. But here mischance again
Diverted that she willed. The king himself
Disturbed the goblet on its secret shelf.
Ridden had he long beneath a sultry sky.
"Good wine, is welcome when athirst am I."
So said he, wondering at its place.

                                To taste
He raised it, half resolved. The queen stood by.
Would he not drain it at one draught? In haste
His arm she caught. His eyes met hers. A doubt
Disturbed him, while she sought the likely lie
She could not quickly frame. The poisoned child
Came to his mind. His sudden sword was out.
"Traitress, the truth! The utter truth!" He said.
"The instant of one lie will see thee dead."

"Mercy, dear lord," she cried, "the truth I tell."
And bitter truth she told. "My lord too well
I knew thy love was never mine. I knew
Naught could I leave undone, and naught could do
To win that favour thy first consort had.
Not even for our sons thy heart was glad
As for that other, who should take from them
The royal right my king-born son should know.
Thine acts, thy looks, if not thy words, contemn
My sons too often in that hard contrast
For patience to contain an endless woe."

"This was for Tristram?"

                "Lord, forgive! Forgive!"

"You practise for his death, and think to live?
That must my barons and good law decide.
I will not shield thee."

                So her fault was tried,
Not harshly, but with weight of every plea
Defending law could urge, but yet could be
One only issue, and one penalty.
The crime was treason, and such crimes require
(So ran the Lyonesse law) a death by fire,
Except the largesse of the king should be
Her cloak of pardon, and should loose her free.

But while they dragged her screaming to the flame,
Before his father's throne young Tristram came.
Kneeling he spake: "A boon I ask."

Are few things vainly shouldst thou ask of me."

"I ask her life who is thy queen."

                        "Thy plea
Is void of reason. That thyself shouldst die
She surely practised."

                        "Therefore only I
May ask this boon of thee. If I forgive
May not thy mercy grant her grace to live?
I pray thee by God's love this boon allow.
For then no life was lost, nor should be now."

"She is thine to bind or loose," the king replied,
And Tristram hastened to the traitress' side.
"Loose her," he said, "the king relents," and she
Stood in the open street, alone and free,
While all men round her to a distance drew.

"She is my wife," King Meliodas said,
"But to my board, and surely to my bed,
She comes no more." The doom was just; but yet
Much will the years forgive, and much forget.
And by the pleading of the generous child
She wholly to his sire was reconciled.

Yet thought the king that well for all it were,
Nor least for Tristram, that he went afar,
While that foul memory died: "Behold," he said,
"Much may be learnt, and much of worth be brought,
From other lands where other customs are,
By one whom arduous fate forecasts to be
His country's lord. And for his company
Choice shall be made of one of good degree,
Taught and accomplished both of sword and pen,
To be his comrade and his guide."

                        He chose
Govenale, one gentle by consent of men,
As also by his birth. Companioned so,
To the wide realms of France did Tristram go,
And learned in those fair lands good nurturing,
And skill in arms, and both to harp and sing,
Till talk of wandering bards enlarged his fame,
Which reached his home before himself he came,
As in six years he did, well-grown and tall,
Welcomed by many and approved by all.

Glad was his father now, and even she
Who once his life had sought, although she knew
In all things goodlier than her sons was he,
Gave him fair greeting, and was glad to see
Who by his boyhood's magnanimity
Had saved her; for the words of Christ are true:
No justice shall prevail as mercy may;
Forgiveness hath the keener sword to slay.


Ere died King Lot, and Arthur broke the pride
Of all his league, the Cornish Ida died
And Mark, his son, by Arthur's loth consent,
Maintained his throne. King Anguish, Ireland's king,
To Arthur's peace, by Merlin's counselling,
Was brought alike. But though these thrones allowed
The right of Arthur as their overlord,
Yet did not Ireland loose an earlier cord
Which Cornwall meanly at her feet had bowed,
Constrained to there a yearly tribute bring.

This tribute Mark by many a wile delayed,
And what at times with grudging hand was paid
Still left it larger, till King Anguish sent
More hard demand. Seven years evasion went
To its high total when the Irish word
Sharpened to threats. Mark with his lords conferred,
And all denied. "The realm is Arthur's now.
No more to Ireland's claims our necks we bow."

"Yea," said the pursuivant, "his lieges we,
Yet each is stablished to his just degree.
Law is it liege to liege may tribute pay.
To Arthur will we turn to hear our cause."

Mark liked not that. He said: "By Arthur's laws
Ordeal of duel is my certain right.
Send whom thou wilt for Ireland's claim to fight,
And we will meet him." Thus his craft replied,
Choosing a doubtful chance were else were none,
And taking comfort in his secret mind
That Ireland's champion might be hard to find.

So to King Anguish this rebellious word
Went backward, which with little peace he heard.
Where should such champion for his need be found?

Few were the knights of worth on Irish ground.
But, by good fortune, as it seemed, there came
That morn Sir Marhaus to the court. To him
Spake the chafed king: "For Ireland's rightful claim
Wilt thou not aid me? Save thyself are few
Of courage and of arms allied thereto,
Equal to bring this strife to victory."

"Yea, surely, for thy queen, my sister's sake,
And for thine own, I would such combat take
Though Arthur's best (and well his best I know)
Were named against me for a likely foe.
But Camelot's jest the knights of Cornwall are."

Glad was King Anguish. In good haste he manned
The stoutest barques he had, and all purveyed
That such a knight should need his strength to aid,
Or that for comfort should his ease demand.

South sailed Sir Marhaus, anchoring fast below
Tintagel's height. Cold fear had Mark to know
So great a champion came. No thought had he
Himself to venture, nor could think to see
That any of his court more hardily
Their lives would jeopard.

                Long at anchor lay
The Irish ships. Each morn a pursuivant
Sir Marhaus sent, with curt demand to pay
The tale of tribute, or no more delay
The champion that themselves were pledged to name.

"So shall I," said the King Mark, but day by day
His abject court, beneath its cloud of shame
Emptied, until the silent knights were few
Around his throne. For only those remained
Whom age or wound or weakness evident
Unfitted lance to couch, or sword to sway.

Through the whole land King Mark his trumpet sent
Proclaiming rich reward to whom would rise
To save the honour of the land, but none
Of all who dwelt beneath the Cornish skies
Would meet Sir Marhaus: "What avail," they said,
"Would be to Cornwall? For our deaths were sure.
We should not for an hour his might endure,
Who is of Arthur's strongest knights the peer."

Then some gave counsel: "If no knight be here
Sufficient for this need, we well may send
To Camelot, for the Table's might to lend
Some errant champion to extend its fame."

But others answered: "That were vain to sue.
For Marhaus is himself a Table knight.
They will not ever with their comrades fight,
Excepting in disguise or courtesy."

While yet this craven paused endured, there came
Its jest to Lyonesse court. In wrath thereat
Tristram before his father spake: "Perde,
Shame is it, thus mine uncle's land to see
The Irish mock."

        "There is no help from that,"
King Meliodas said, "for wit ye well
Sir Marhaus is a knight, mere sooth to say,
That none in Cornwall would be like to fell."

"Alas that knighthood is not mine today!
For, if it were, he should his vaunt defend,
Or never worship would I seek to win....
Father, approve me that to Mark I go,
And if he knight me, being close of kin,
Mine were it fitly to this grief amend."

"Son, if thy courage call, decide it so.
I will not thwart thee."

                In this free consent,
With Govenale constant at his side, he went
To Mark's derided court. But ere he rode,
There came a courier from the court of France
With letters pireous in the love they showed
From the king's daughter there. A careless glance
He gave them, for his eager heart inclined
In hardier lists than love's his fame to find.

So to the wild wind-beaten coast he came
Where rose Tintagel, still a virgin name,
Impregnable upon the high cliff-brow,
Though worthless was the king who ruled it now.

Straight were his words to Mark: "Lord king, I hear
That none is bold in Cornwall's cause to fight;
But wilt thou of thy grace to make me knight,
The Irish prince shall meet a practised spear."

"Thou art full young for such a mastery."

"I learned in Paris and in Burgundy
Both sword and lance to use with knightly skill."

Mark looked and weighed. Young was he. Life is dear
To those who lift a cup they have not drained.
If worsted, would he hold a steadfast will
To yield not recreant while that life remained?

"Who and whence art thou?"

                "From Lyonesse land.
Thy nephew, Tristram."

                "Wilt thou soothly swear
To take this combat to the doubt of death,
And never, to the last of human breath,
Speak the loth word?"

                "That word I would not say
For any life to buy that recreants may."

"Then shalt thy wish be thine."

                With speed forthright,
He knighted Tristram. Never baser knight
Gave accolade to one of fame to be
So excellent of song and sword as he;
Nor less for what he did not seek, for yet
Love was not in his thoughts. But here was set
A snare that would not fail his feet to net,
A bond of fate, that, while their lives should last,
Beyond device of wit should hold him fast
To this false-hearted and most craven king;
And all the evils that to love belong
So compass him that, past all sundering,
Honour should dwell with shame, and right with wrong,
And grief with joy. A thousand years should sing
The loveliest and the saddest height of song.

But now to Marhaus was the trumpet cried:
"Our champion waits."

                        The Irish prince replied:
"Your gutter-search hath found him? Knave or knight?
I came not with a Cornish churl to fight.
You have searched the land endlong and athwart.
How know I whom your mercenary bribes have bought?"

"He is Lyonesse' heir. King Meliodas' son.
The whole wide realm contains no lordlier one."

"I am well content. Some neutral space prepare.
And I tomorrow morn will meet him there."


Out from Tintagel, on that distant day,
Beyond a space of sea an island lay,
Level and bare enough for knightly need,
And where without molest of friend or foe
Such combat might be waged; and here agreed
Was either champion with no train to go,
And not till one should yield, or one should die,
Should any rescue reach, or boat thereby
Hover to take them off.

                        In this consent,
Sir Tristram, while the dawn was less than light,
Entered the royal barge King Mark had lent,
With horse and arms, and all that needs a knight.

Over the dawn-waters, threshed to white
By rythemic oars, the while the stars withdrew
It moved, and as the sun's rim rose anew,
Gently it grounded on a beach of sand;
And Sir Tristram led his horse aland
He saw Sir Marhaus, on the further side
Already landed, mount, and forward ride.

Then, with his hand upon the charger's rein,
Taking the lance that Govenale brought, he said:
"You may not longer at my side remain,
Nor loiter, lest the act be wrongly read.
Return thou in all haste to Mark, and say
I will not fail him, though my proofless skill
May be no match for Arthur's knight; and will,
However fixed, may find no victoring way.
Yet, be I slain, as very like I may,
There shall be naught to lose, and naught to pay,
For yielden in this strife I will not be.

"So charge him straitly, if I yield or flee,
Never in any Christianed ground to lay
A recreant corse; but if unshamed I die,
Then may I in High God's protection lie,
For naught mine uncle will have lost through me."

Thereat they kissed, and with some tears, as those
Who know not if fair dawn be even-close,
Or if high noon to sudden night shall fall,
They parted.

                Marhaus then to Tristram spake:
"Young knight," he said, "for very knighthood's sake
I would not slay thee. Think. With Arthur's best
I stand approved in many a hard contest.
The best knights of the whole fair world are they."

And Tristram answered: "Less than sooth you say,
I nothing doubt, well-proven knight and fair.
Yet not less surely would I have thee ware
That here resolved I stand to gain or die.
For knighted solely for this cause am I,
And queenly was I born, and king-begot;
And here I entered by mine own request.
And for the name thou hast with Arthur's best,
My heart is lifted. If I fall, Got wot,
My shame is less. And if bechance I win,
My fame is more."

        "If three good strokes you bide,
You may long vaunt it as a tale of pride,
Should life remain for any boast to be."

"I count to bide thee many more than three."

From this debate their slanting spears they set,
And with such fury in mid-space they met
That both themselves and both their chargers fell.

To those who watched it seemed that knightly well
Had either ridden and most equally.
The hopes of Cornwall rose. They could not see
How deep the older knight's practised spear
Scored the close mail on Tristram's side, and left
A weakening wound.

        From struggling chargers clear
Alike they rose, alike their swords they drew;
And as two boars that for the herd contend,
Thoughtless of life, their shields they forward threw,
And lashed together. Hard their strokes down-hew;
And hardily those strokes alike they fend:
Till with bruised helms and battered shields down-cleft
Their earlier strength abates. More cautious now
They thrust and foin, and backward steps allow,
Not quickly followed.

                But from caution vain,
And sleights escaped, with gathered strength again,
Like horn-locked rams they hurtle, each intent
By weight and violence to his foe downbear.
But naught avails it. Equal wounds they share.
Alike their shields are carved, their mails are rent.

To its full height the noon in heaven was spent
When Tristram, ware of his much weariness,
Thought: 'Though I tire, he may not tire the less.
But the full strength for one prevailing blow
Soon should I lack against a failing foe.
Now is it, or naught.'

                His sword he upward swang.
Forward as swift as one unarmed he sprang.
Hard into helm and coif the downward blade
Smote, and was held. Two steps Sir Marhaus made,
Stumbling, till forward to his knees he fell,
While Tristram, striving, must his strength excel
To win the sword's release.

                        From nerveless hands
Fell weapon and shield, as Marhaus blindly rose.
And turned, and ran. Toward the narrow sands
A boat, to make his rescue, quickly drew.
And he who fled, but whom did none pursue,
Fell in it, and lay. For when his ship was gained
They searched his wound, and found that there remained
A fragment of Sir Tristram's sword, that split,
Fixed in the bone, as he had wrenched at it.


They bore Sir Marhaus to his land, and there
His sister nursed him, but nor skill nor care
Could aught avail. From out the bone the steel
They could not loose, and such a hurt to heal
No leechcraft equalled. In few days he died.
His sister laid the broken steel aside,
Pondering revenge.

                But Tristram watched him flee,
Marvelling: "If thus the knights of Arthur be,
Much meed of honour may I gain," he cried.
"I thought not that unless the weaker died
The strife had parted."

                Then his wounds he knew.
Toward a hillock with slow steps he drew,
And rested as he might, the while at speed
Came Govenale from the land to serve his need,
And rowed him from the isle, and on the shore
King Mark, among his barons, royally met,
And there embraced him, midst the loud acclaim
Of all who crowding to that welcome came.

Then, for his strength was spent, his wounds were sore,
Slow climbing, to Tintagel's gates they led,
And entering there he found as soft a bed
As hard his travail in the hours before.

Searched were his wounds and bound, but so they bled,
And were so many, that the doubt was said
Of if his life would dure, at which the king
Lamented: "Not for any mortal thing
Would I so barter that my nephew die,"
And meant, or thought he meant, his words.

                        Too long
In doubt of life he lay, and surgeons came,
And leeches, brought by various ways, but none,
Women or men, could help him, till that one,
A woman wise in venoms, counselled: "Lo,
Those who the poison find its cure should know.
The wound that festers from an Irish spear
The leeches of that land to healing clear
Alone can bring."

                Thereat King Mark purveyed
A vessel small, but fairly dight, wherein
Sir Tristram, with his sword and harp, was laid,
But not his arms, nor aught that showed his kin;
And Govenale with him went, his needs to aid.

There rose a hostile wind when close they drew
To Irish cliffs, and as they northward beat
It gained a fury that they could not meet.
Wherefore they sought a narrow estuary,
And there, well sheltered from the rising sea,
Green woods, that shook to feel the storm, they knew.
Woods that abruptly rose, and shagged a hill
Which at its height with circling walls was crowned.
All sides they swept its levelled crest around,
Lost in low clouds.

                "Now here should harbour be
For seamen stressed of storm," Sir Tristram said.
And Govenale went ashore, and aid he pled,
And soon returned, with words well comforted,
But doubtful in his mind.

                "King Anguish there,"
He told, "is lodged. With gracious words and fair
He welcome gave. An injured knight, I said,
Who for a lady's right was hurt, besought
Good shelter till the rising storm be spent.
And he replied, his walls were not so strait
But he could harbour, as of right he ought,
A hundred such, if stress of storm had sent
Their sails to seek his shelter. There beside
His queen I saw, and there, more worth to see,
Iseult, his daughter. Dark of hair is she,
With eyes a mountain tarn's reflected blue."

And Tristram answered: "Overbold are we
To seek their healing whom we hurt, but yet
Oft is it safe the likeless thing to do.
How should they come to light of whom I be,
Known in this land to none, and none to me?
And of repute King Anguish is not one
In felon coin to pay, whate'er his debt.
Naught did I surely but was knightly done."

And Govenale gave assent: "We need but show
That lately from the Lyonesse land we came.
Of fancied ventures need we naught to claim.
And simply shall we speak of that we know."

The while to this accord they came, they saw
A litter from the castle path appear,
Sent by the king his wounded guest to bear
Up the rough stones; and fitly welcomed there,
Well was he chambered, to a knight's degree,
Though for that time the king they did not see.

But with next morn, while still the clouds were low,
- Though the sun's shafts, from heaven's shining bow,
The chasing winds allied to make them flee -
Sir Tristram roused himself from where he lay,
So light a song upon his harp to play
That all who heard would pause, the more to hear.

Unheard before of any Irish ear,
Its dancing measure to the king was told,
Who sought thereat to greet this wandering knight,
Whose wound denied not that a song so light
Should those around him in gay bondage hold.

And with the king his queen as curious came,
And asked Sir Tristram's needs, and asked his name.
Tramtrist he called himself, a wandering knight,
But sorely wounded for a lady's right -
A wound that festered, which no leech could cure.

To which King Anguish answered: "Rest ye sure,
You shall not long that draining weakness feel,
If skill be in this land such hurt to heal.
Not such a wound is thine as brought me woe,
Our brother slaying, as belike you know,
Sir Marhaus named. A noble knight was he,
Whom Arthur honoured to his proved degree.
Were few more careless of their foes could ride.

"Heir was he to mine throne since Lanceor died;
And champion to uphold our Cornish right
By worth and place. A young unproven knight
By most mischance so aimed a random blow
That through the coif it tore, and there-below
The sword-blade in the brainpan snapt, and left
A fatal cantal, that no leech could draw.
Whereof he died, and leaves my kingdom reft
Of kindly heir, a bitter dole to me."

"He was a noble knight, and proved in war,"
Sir Tristram answered. "Much I grieve to know
He died unsuccoured from that overthrow;
But none who makes his trade of arms may cast
To be so valiant but he fail at last."

"Fair knight," Iseult, who stood beside the king,
Said softly, "if the end so well you see,
Much in thine own behoof it marvels me
That you, who have the gifts to harp and sing
As few men may, should jeopard all to try
Such boasts to gain - such few short boasts - as lie
Before the sure event of which you die."

"Fairest," he answered, "if the heart be high,
Then will the song to reach an equal sky
Soar on sufficient wings, which else would fall.
Song must foretell of heights, or heights recall.
Scantly they live, who never risk to die."

'High is the price of all things worth,' she thought,
'And foolish was I.' But she answered naught.
Her eyes accepted, but her lips were still.

King Anguish spake again: "My daughter's care
Should fail not, by God's grace, to cure thine ill.
Much is she learnt in lore of poisons rare,
And all belonging to a leech's skill,
As every lady of good birth should be."

"That shall I do," she said, "of right good will."

Whereon the wound she searched, and there she found
The evil that she sought, and salved, and bound,
So that its anger ceased, and easefully
He sank to rest.

                It were not hard to guess
That, as regaining strength long hours he lay,
The bondage of her voice and gentleness
More hardly held him every lengthened day:
Days that were long in hours of lonely thought,
Too seldom broken by a sight too short.

Yet would she linger as his strength returned,
And he would harp, her turning steps to hold.
Of little might he speak, but more he learned,
For soon what was but common talk she told.
Half to herself a hope, and half a fear.

"My father, since Sir Marhaus died," said she,
"For surety of the realm, and more for me,
Lest he should leave me in an heirless land,
With no one likely for my right to stand,
(For by our laws I may not reach the crown,
Which only kings may wear) hath now proclaimed
A tournament, where knights of far renown
Already for its hard contest are named.
Wide lands will be its prize, and - if I will -
Myself therewith. For if such knight I wed,
I shall be shielded for good days or ill,
Dowered by the lands the victor knight may claim,
And sheltered surely by a valiant name."

"Joy should be yours in such a choice," he said.

"So might it be. And for my father's care
My thanks are paid. But if a knight be there
Whom for King Arthur's throne I would not wed
And he be mightiest, as belike he may,
What vantage have I then? What ease have I,
Who now with constant irk his suit deny?"

Then told she whom she feared. A knight was he
Sir Palomides called in Western speech,
A Saracen, tall, and swart, and comely. One
Whom Arthur, for good service paid, had raised
To honour, and but that he the Cross denied,
Had joined him to the Table. Widely praised,
Well was that praise deserved; but more his pride
Himself required. Of fabled wealth was he,
And ruled broad lands beyond the tideless sea.

"But he, a Christless knight," Sir Tristram said,
"Even though yourself desired, you could not wed."

"Nay, for my sake he would our faith allow,
If that would gain me."

                "Were I equal now
The weight of harness and of lance to bear,
Would you my service in such cause require?"

"Much would I thank it. Much I dread to see
The Paynim vanquish all."

                "But as for me,
I am feeble yet to win so high degree,
How should I, for whatever lands, aspire?
But wouldst thou then my better lady be,
And counting that my life is debt to thee,
I would adventure."

                "Shall I ask again?"

"Nay, for to ask it twice were shame to me.
Yet two things must I ask, if this shall be,
That none beyond the trusted of thy train
Shall know my purpose; and thyself provide,
In secret, arms to wear and steed to ride."

"More might you ask, and would not ask in vain.
If better arms to bear, or steed to rein,
The tourney knights can find in anywise,
Then were I worth to be the Paynim's prize."

So was it bargained, and we well may wit
It drew them nearer, through the short delay
Of shining hours before the tourney day,
While knights assembling at the call of it
Thronged the high towers, and all the town below.

Yet loth he was with gaining strength to go
Out from his chamber far, for only there
Iseult he met as one of like degree,
And lonely when she came. For who was he
In the great hall? A lowly place he took,
And lowlier than he need, lest envious look
Should question or recall of whom he were.
Hope was there in his heart, but yet despair
At colder moments came. For should he win
The tourney prize, and should Iseult be kind,
Yet lowered the cloud of falsehood dark behind.
He who had baulked her land, and slain her kin,
How could he count to find forgiveness there,
If the bold lie by which he came were bare?
And bared it must be at the last he knew.

Then looked he round the hall, and thought: 'I fret
Fondly on that which is not like to be.
Though once by chance I won, I am not yet
Proved equal to the least of these I see.'
For here were Kay, and Griflet fils de Dieu,
Gunret, and Dodinas and Sagramore,
King Baudemagus, Lucan, Agravain,
Lords of old battles by the arms they bore,
Who for his single vaunt could count a score
Of tourney rivals thrown, or foemen slain.
'Yet,' thought he, 'boldly shall this test be tried,
Although I know not to what end I ride.'


King Anguish saw the bright assembled throng
Of knights so numerous in their splendid pride,
So fit alike to deal or take a wrong
And yet endure a further bout to ride,
So fixed of will that princely prize to gain,
If blows could gain it, that the hope were vain
That one day's trial would their worth decide.

"Two days," he said, "the lists shall open lie,
That all behold full proof of mastery."

Yet seemed it that one day sufficed to show
Who was the mightiest there, for only he,
The Paynim knight, his tale of victory
Unbroken kept. Was many a hard success,
But only he had felt no overthrow.
None could be more than he: and all were less.

Then came the second day. For those whose claim
Most nearly to Sir Palomides' came,
One chance remained. Himself to counter there,
And who had overborne to overbear.

For that the king the Hundred Knights who led
His spear advanced, and Caradoc next, but they,
Though well they rode, alike defeated lay.
So looked it that would close the tourney day
With the black shield the swarthy Paynim bore
Alone aloft and undiscomfited.
But when it seemed his victoring toils were o'er,
Rode down the emptying lists a nameless knight.
White was his spotless charger: silver-white
His glittering arms: and white his plume: and white
His unasserting shield, that no man told
Of whom or whence he was. An angel bright
Men thought him, as the sable shield unscrolled
He faced. As Hell's and Heaven's high champions met,
So might it to the murmuring crowd appear.

Sir Palomides called his mightiest spear,
Retired his length, and charged, and hard and well
He drave it at the shining shield, but fell
More hardly smitten, and degraced the more,
For the high plaudits he received before.

Sore bruised and dazed, though hot with wrath, he rose,
Like to withdraw, but Tristram followed, and cried:
"Hast thou no lust that further strife be tried?"
Whereat he drew, but Tristram's livelier stroke
Impetuous through his guard unweakened broke,
And felled him, that he might not rise: "Now say,
Why should my sword a second stroke delay?"

"Because I yield perforce," the Paynim said.

"All I require you swear?"

                With death to dread,
Sir Palomides swore.

                "Then this shall be
Thy life's release. A twelve months' time from now
Thou shalt not mount a steed, nor harness wear,
Nor sword, nor any feir of war shalt bear.
Nor shalt thou more molest with suit or vow
One without motion of response to thee,
But leave her wholly."

                Such the shame he had.
But doubt not if Iseult were light and glad.

Forthright that strife Sir Tristram left, as though
A shaft of light from Thetis' glorious bow
Assailed the deep gloom of the woods that lay
Beyond the meadow where the lists were set.
He sought to enter by a backward way
To where Iseult would wait; but first he met
A damsel who had wide Sir Lancelot sought
Since his lone sword the Dolorous Garde had won,
To call it Joyous in the future day.

Here was the ending of her quest, she thought,
For surely, save himself, there else was none
Could conquer whom upon the previous day
Had ten strong knights of Arthur's Table sped.

"Fair knight," she said, "a wondrous tale they tell,
That by thy spear Sir Palomides fell,
Who all our Christian knights discomfited.
Art thou not Lancelot in good truth?"

                        "Not I.
Why dost thou ask?"

                        "For I would wit."

                        "More high
Sir Lancelot's prowess and his fame than mine.
Yet in the world's width other lights may shine,
And other venturous deeds may well befall.
So shall I seek to prove. With God is all."

"Knight, wilt thou show me of thy courtesy,
In proof beyond debate of whom ye be,
A face unvisored?"

                        "Surely that will I."

The damsel thought she had not lived to scan
The naked visage of a goodlier man.
Yet all unlike to him she sought, and so
With finish of fair words, she turned to go,
While Tristram to that privy postern went
Which, by a narrow winding stair of stone,
Allowed the freedom of his swift ascent
To that fair chamber where, alert, alone,
Waited Iseult, glad-eyed, her thanks to pay.

"Fair lord," she laughed, "of greater lands than I
Now art thou! Hear them shout thy nameless name!
Now shalt thou show in truth from whence ye came.
I have no wit to think thee less than they
Who all by this fair test art less than thou."

"I am Tramtrist, as I told, of Lyonesse."

"Be whom thou wilt! But all shall know thee now
As one than whom a hundred knights are less."

"I did it only that thy graciousness
I somewhat might, in ruder sort, repay."

"Paid is it - at what price is thine to say."

Clear were the words, however softly said.
Why paused he on the path to which they led?
How should he give his name, her country's foe?
How could he hope for long that none would know?
How could he hope to hold an ampler lie
Than that which scarce sufficed for meaner days?
"Fairest," he said, "to have thy single praise
Is more than lordship or than lands to me."

Courteous, he kissed her hand, and half was she
Pleased, and yet distanced, by that courtesy.


What of Sir Tristram now? Some days was he
Of all that royal court and concourse free.
Wide lands were his to take: high praise to hear.
Iseult's kind glances held a meaning clear.
The king was gracious, and the queen no less.
It pleased them that he was not quick to claim
All that he might: "Perchance a lowly name
He will not yet for very pride confess
While mighty princes at our table throng.
Soon they depart. Will all be known ere long.
He lacks not of good parts, or gentleness,
Though from the meanest Lyonesse tower he came."
So said the king; and said the queen the same.

But came a day when Tristram bathed, and while
He left his chamber void, the Irish queen,
That all things in good wise be overseen,
Disposed it, with Iseult, and marking there
His arms at random laid on couch and chair,
Turned curious eyes, and then, by most mishap,
Drew the great sword, till all its length was bare,
Well-cared, and wondrous edged to smite, but there
Far down, though somewhat from the point, a gap
Indentured deep the blade, itself as though
It broke from that same strength that felled its foe.

So thought the queen. 'A good stroke here,' she said,
'Tells a great bout, and who that faced it dead,
Save some good saint - ' But as she spake, her thought
Such stroke recalled. Still in her casket stored
Lay that steel shard which all the spells she wrought,
And all her arts, and all her prayers, fordid.
From grasp relaxed down clanged the sword. She said:
"Belike is here whom most I hate." She sped
To where a coffer in her chamber stood,
Wrenched round the key, and raised the ponderous lid,
Drew forth the casket, found the shard, and ran
Back to the sword, and found the fragment fit.

Aloft, with hate-born strength, she brandished it,
The great two-handed sword, and smote aside
Iseult's restraining hand: "Thine uncle died
Stricken by this sword, by which alike shall die
His shameless slayer, false and insolent,
Who came disguised a deeper wrong to try,
Seeking thy love to snare."

                Forthright she went
Into that chamber where Sir Tristram lay,
And with his own sword would have thrust him through,
But Govenale caught her arm: "You shall not do
An act so foul, a naked man to slay."

"Then shall he perish in a lewder way,"
She answered, frantic with fierce hate, and ran
To find King Anguish.

                "Dear my lord," she cried,
"Here falsely in thy house, ourselves beside,
The traitor sits my brother's life who slew.
Justice I ask."

                "Then tell me where and who
This covert knight."

                "That harping knight is he
Iseult hath healed."

                She told the proof.

                        The king
Answered in quieter words: "The tale you bring
I do not greatly doubt, and would not be
Unmindful of my realm, nor false to thee.
Yet pity is it. For I have not met
A youth more noble, or more meet to set
Even on my throne hereafter."

                Vexed of heart,
And anxious at such pass his part to do
As knightly custom urged, the careful king
Sir Tristram's chamber sought, and found him there
Arming in haste, for bitter harbouring
He thought to know, if waked that tower aware
Of whom he was, before he rode away.

Across the bed, his broken sword was bare,
Since Govenale snatched it from the wrathful queen.
Mute witness to King Anguish' eyes it lay,
And as his glance upon its fracture fell,
Sir Tristram spake: "I will not here deny
Deeds no way shameful, nor the name I bear.
Yet of the hates they breed I will not die
At lighter cost than later days may tell
As larger marvel than thy champion's fall."

Answered the king: "Against my power to strive
It were but vain, for at my lightest call
Or clash of weapons, would my guards arrive,
An instant score against thee. More to friend,
Frank truth, and pliance to my grace shall be.
For mine own worship, and my love for thee,
More strongly than thy sword, thy life defend.
Who art thou surely?"

                "Lord, I do not lie
By natural use. But in this strait was I:
The wound I took from Marhaus' deadlier spear
Would no way heal, though leeches far and near
Mine uncle sought. But at the last was said
That only one could mend it. Where was bred
The poison of the spear the healing lay.

"So came I here a peril-haunted way,
Nameless and faithless, half my words a lie.
Yet clean of hostile act or perfidy.
Healing alone I sought, and healed am I;
And therefore grateful. Friendships yet might be
Not all and wholly lost, for all I did
Not knighthood's oaths, nor knightly use, forbid
To those who consort at a later day.
For at mine uncle's and my country's need
Fairly I fought a single strife agreed,
Till Marhaus, casting shield and sword away,
Fled from me unpursued."

                        The king replied:
"Fair are thy words, and that thou dost not hide,
So God me help, whatever grief it bore,
Contracts its shame as swells thy fame the more.
That which thou didst for Cornwall and thy kin
Was no way treasoned, nor is cause therein
For vengeance, or enduring enmity.
Yet, for his sister's sake, if not for me,
Thy swift departure must I urge, for not
With worship might I here thy peace maintain
Against my barons, who would have thee slain,
Belike with treason while their wrath is hot."

"Sire," Tristram answered, "of thy courtesy
I much have gained, and more at last I owe
For thy fair dealing to thy country's foe.
For all of this, and more for kindness shown
By fair Iseult, beyond my worth, will be
My lasting hope that thou shalt largelier gain
In later days, than if thy word had slain
One who so nearly in thy danger lies.

"And for Iseult, whatever alien skies,
Horizoned by the furthest dawns, shall see
My footsteps in the exiled years to be,
Shall hear the high notes of the harp I bear
To every passing wind her praise declare....
Her, and thy barons, of thy grace permit
Once more I meet again before I go,
The feignless friendship of my heart to show
To whom but this last hour my comrades were."

"That will I grant," and in this free consent
Sir Tristram to Iseult's high chamber went,
And found her with sad eyes disconsolate
Down-gazing at the barred and guarded gate,
Listening if outrage from the keep should break,
And doubting how a single knight could make
- Even he - clear path across the court, and tear
The strong-barred gates apart.... And if he fled,
Or if he failed, alike her dream was dead.

"Fairest," he said, "I will not feign to hide
That which my sword betrayed, and least to thee,
Healer, and friend, and more than friend to me.
But years will pass not, nor are lands so wide,
That time or distance shall too far divide
Thy memory from me for my heart to lie
Beneath thy feet till all in darkness die.
That triumph foils me now, but wit ye true,
That for the land I loved, the friends I knew,
The honour I sought, I might in nowise do
Save as I did."

                "Oh, gentle knight," she said,
"I know it surely. But my hope is dead,
Whose heart was drawn to thine with more goodwill
Than had I felt before, and toward thee still
Cries vainly. Severed by my kinsman's fall
We may be ever, but my heart will call
Toward thee through the friendless years to be,"
And piteously she wept.

                        "Iseult," he said
"Though seas may part us, never doubt to hear
When armies meet, or where great tourneys are,
Thy name shall fence my shield and point my spear,
Till shines no loftier and no lovelier star
In all God's Heaven. A thousand years from now
Shall men look back to praise it."

                "Nay," she said,
"I am not worthy of a vaunt so high,
Whose hope was rather in thine arms to lie
Than to be lifted in the mouths of men;
But this I swear, though every dream be dead,
Consentless of thyself I will not wed
A seven years to be."

                With this lament,
And change of rings, they parted.

                Forth he went
To where the Irish lords in open hall
Were gathered, and bold words before them all
He spake, though yet full courteous: "Lords, I go,
Who am not in my heart your country's foe,
Though that I did hath left me rated so.
But if be any here to whom I owe
Amend for grievance wrought, he need but say,
And I will right his charge the best I may;
Or if be any here who think me ill,
Now should they speak aloud, or long be still.
The time is present, and the place is here,
That they may solve their quarrel, spear to spear,
And as God wills it shall the verdict be."

But all stood silent, though some lords were there
Of Marhaus' blood, for none the strife would dare;
And he went forth, and turned a southward prow
To Lyonesse land, and in his father's hold
Some time he rested, and the tale was told
Of his high venture, when no Cornish knight
Was valiant to defend his country's right.

And then from rest he rose, and went anew
To Cornwall, rich with goods his father gave,
And welcomed well by Mark, and all but few
Of that fair land he gaged his life to save,
For those of loyal mood were fain and glad
Of his good fairing, and the fame he had.


King Mark, for aid in war at earlier need,
The Paynim knight, Sir Segwarides sought;
And service rendered with broad lands he fee'd,
To bind him wholly to his cause and court.

Warden of Terribil made, his wife he brought
Thereto, a dame for his delight full fair,
But wanton was she as the changeful air.
Little her body's price, or wholly naught
To one who sued her, or her fancy caught.

And when abroad the Paynim knight had gone
At Mark's require, and left his lady free
To vex her heart with idle days, thereon
Even to Mark her glance she cast, and he
With avid caution bit the fruit she threw.

Little he took, though taking all, for she,
In all things faithless, had no faith to sell.
Naught had been known, and naught had been but well,
Except to Tristram that her lust anew
Veered when she saw him at the court. To him
She was love's miracle at the first, for he
Was wiled by every wanton art she knew.
Who thirsts with lips that touch the goblet's brim?
Fresher and fairer than a flower was she.
And who shall blame the flower, or blame the bee?

One morn, that lady's dwarf to Tristram came.
He brought no missive, for the craftful dame
On proofless words relied: "Fair lord," he said,
"My lady bids thee, if thy love be true,
When in the west tomorrow's eve is red,
To arm, and ere the laggard moon is due,
Through the dark woods to ride, her hold to gain
In private wise, and she shall greet thee there
As one so lonely left is like to do."

A secret path he told: a secret stair.


        "Yea, her absent lord is much to fear,
Though surely is she warned he comes not near."

"Return, and greet thy lady well from me,
And say that as she wills shall all things be."

So from lost hope to love's pretence he fell,
As those whose heaven is barred make home of hell.

A wrathful page of Mark came to him, and said:
"I saw the dwarf of that fair dame you know
In the noon heat to Tristram's chamber go,
While thou wast resting. In the court below
He lingers yet."

                Mark answered: "Bid the guard
Conduct him here."

                A trembling dwarf they brought
And in brief space by fear and greed they wrought
That all was told: "Before the moon is bare
Above the pines: beneath the postern stair
That well thou knowest..... My lady waits him there."

Gold was his gain, and warning: "Shouldst thou dare
Breathe that I know, then dost thou dare to die."

"Nay," said the dwarf, "that surely dare not I."

Then called King Mark Sir Andret. "Bring," he said,
"Two knights of trust in secret wise tonight
To wait me at the western port, and see
Proved arms they wear, and if that men they be,
Sir Tristram's lands, and all he heirs are thine."

Next midnight, having passed the lonely wolds,
As Sir Tristram, by the path the dwarf had told,
Entered the darker shadows of the wood,
King Mark came hurtling on him. Steel withstood
The lance upon his breast that broke. As yet
He knew not that his blood the surcoat wet.

But much in wrath, and deeming, as he might,
He faced not peril from an equal knight,
But plundering knaves were round him, hard he dealt
Such deathful blows that he the first who felt
No second needed for his end to be.
Well happed it to King Mark to senseless lie.
How showed the darkness were he hurt or sped,
Or whom he were? Sir Tristram passed them by.
His thoughts were on the path, and where it led.
Nothing he needed that the deep wound bled:
Nothing he thought but whom he longed to see.

Dark was the tower, but as his horse's feet
Told of one rider from the woods who came,
Flickered a torch, and by its windy flame
He saw the raised face of that fair deceit,
And lightly downward to her side he slid.

She led him inward by the secret stair,
Unloosed his arms, and when the wound was bare
Laughed it to naught, though what she must she did
To staunch and cleanse it, yet reluctfully
Of all that hindered that she sought, and he,
Roused by her wanton eyes, and fain as she,
Contemned it likely.

                To her couch she led,
Love's short delight at honour's loss to win.
His was she to his mood to halse and kiss:
Hers was he, entered to so sweet a sin.
Most might forget a deeper wound for this...
Too late he saw the nether sheet was red:
Pillow and bolster both were all bebled.

Then was a voice upon the stair that cried:
"Our lord returns. The castle gate is wide."
Alert she leapt, with frightened eyes: "Do thou
Arm - arm - and fly, or death will find us now."

Sir Tristram rose in haste. His arms he caught,
But not for strife. In honour's sharp defeat,
Flight unregarded was his urgent thought.
To gain the privy stair - the steed below.
Her trembling hands the bracing helped; and so
He from the postern rode; the while her lord
Passed the great hall, and climbed the stair, to greet,
After long absense, that light dame, and know
Such joys as Tristram in his place had gained.
To wake that wanton fair, who slumber feigned,
He bent, and lo! The bolster of the bed
Was tumbled from its place, the sheet bebled.
Wrothly he roused her: "Speak! If life be dear,
The name of him so late who held ye here."

She answered in contend of fear and shame:
"Lord, there was none," at which his sword outcame.
"Traitress, you die except the knight you name."
The point pricked in her. At such extreme the dame
The court of Mark had given her life to save.
"Lord, it was Tristram. Of thy much neglect
His tempting came."

        Back rang in sheath the blade.
"At leisure shalt thou with good blows be paid.
Where went he?"

        "Lord, but now - the leftward way."

"Wise art thou if - "

                "The very truth I say."

His horse he called again, and hastefully
Took the dark road, and Tristram found, and cried:
"False knight, for guarding of thy life abide."

"Fair knight, I have no heart to call thee foe.
My strength is more than thine. Be wise, and go."

"Nay, for thy choice is naught. Is one shall die
Ere one depart."

                Said Tristram: "Likelier I
Depart than thou. But at thine own require,
And no way at my door, thy death shall lie."

Then Tristram's sword outswang, his horse he swerved,
One stroke he gave, for all his need it served.
Waist-wounded, from his horse the Paynim fell.

Sir Tristram stayed not. With what haste he might,
Choosing wide ways, and while endured the night,
He gained his lodging. There his wound he dressed,
But yet to none the secret hurt confessed.

Not on cold ground Sir Segwarides lay
A passing hour, for down the moonlit way
His servants following came. Their lord they laid
Upon the round and hollow shield whose aid
For better use had failed him. Days were long
Before he rose again, renewed and strong,
For much he suffered from that single stroke.
Through strong-linked mail to tender flesh that broke.
But when he rose, no word he spake of who
His wound had dealt. For little heart he had
To bicker more with Tristram, nor to do
Aught to make known his wrong. For who were glad
With private hurt a public shame to buy?
Neither would Mark, (who when his wits returned
Regained the court) the different shame he earned
Bare to the laughter or the scorn of men.
And Tristram knew not, nor for life he guessed,
Into whose ambush in the night he fell.

So might it seem that all was ended then
With heal of wounds. The Paynim knight no less
Regarding her whose wanton worthlessness
He knew before; and Tristram, well content
To leave her, whose approach herself had meant
The more than he, for better venturings
Engaged his days; but never Mark again
Had love for Tristram. Fair his words might be,
But in his heart there lurked black enmity
Waiting its time, which would not wait in vain.

The short night-flowering of that sin was o'er,
But years must wait the baleful fruit it bore.


The while sin's price in Heaven's slow scales was weighed,
Tristram, of naught of Earth or Heaven afraid,
Knew not, nor cared he, that fair words should hide
Enduring malice, like a snake await,
Patient and still, its venom's chance to bide.

So passed the easeful hours, till came a day
When summer in the arms of autumn lay,
Too warmly kissed for any fear to see
How cold next moon that parting kiss would be.

To Mark's high seat a knight of Arthur drew,
Hawk-plumed, and on his shield the chevrons blue
Told that of Lancelot's closest kin was he.
Great was he of limbs and girth, and seeming slow
In motion and in thought, but humour lay
In shrewd eyes; and in his hasteless way
He ventured greatly, and his days were good.

At the king's seat the black reined charger stood,
While Bleoberis, with slight reverence made,
Still mounted sate: "Lord king, a boon," he cried,
"A boon I ask."

                "Fair knight," the king replied,
"A boon is seldom to thy like denied.
Is gold thy need, or strength of warrior aid?"

"Lord king," he said, "I would such choice to take
Of ladies from thy court as proof will make
Of Camelot's doubt that Cornish dames, perde,
As fair of form as Arthur's best may be."

And Mark smooth-voiced, too cautious-wise to jar
With Arthur's knights, except occasion far
Beyond the range of this jest-sounding plea
Constrained him, answered: "That you ask shall be.
Take who consent that here you fairest find,
And leave one less the dice of strife behind."

Thereat the knight, with glances shrewd and slow,
Swept the bright throng, and from its glittering show
Held the bold eyes that asked and yet defied
Of Segwarides' wife, and thus replied:
"I take that lady there apart who stands,
As seems she lordless, save a good knight's hands,
Or her own word withhold her."

                        Round he gazed
On those who looked amused, or looked amazed,
Or feigned indifference, but from all the rout
No forward step was made, no sword was out.


Down to the level of the sounding sea
Rode Arthur's knight, with his consenting prey
Behind his mounted squire. What thought had he?
A tale of mirth to end a wintry day?

Lust stirred the whim perchance, but more a jest.
He thought in mocking mood to thus protest
How craven and how weak Mark's minions were.

He left a court where murmuring rose, as when
The hawk flies upward, with a fluttering wren
Taloned to feed his brood, and brake and bough
Chatter with anger as the fear is gone.
Where was her lord? Her lord was entering now.

In the swart Paynim's eyes black anger shone,
But little grief he showed, and naught of fear.
Instant for arms he called, and horse, and spear.
"Freely she went?" She freely went, they said.
Belike she would. Her little worth he knew.
But his she was, and till his life was sped
Who spoiled her from his arms his theft should rue.
Urgent on Bleoberis' tracks he rode,
And let the voices die.

                        But some there were
Who whispered first, and then, in bolder mode,
Spake Tristram's name aloud. His sword to bare
They had not thought him of such tardy kind!
One damsel was her friend - and such was she
As friend of one so light was like to be.
Quick was her tongue reviling words to find.
Knights are there who will take the most they may
Of kindness shown, but any debt to pay
They think not..... Surely how she looked his way
All eyes had seen!

                "Fair one," Sir Tristram said,
"That which she did not do was none to see.
And wisdom in thy words is none to hear.
What should I proffer while her lord was near?
But if it go not as of right should be,
Perchance in Cornwall's cause a word from me
That knight may hear."

                While yet the sun was high
Came a sure word that Segwarides lay
Sore wounded, nigh to death. No longer stay
Would Tristram make, but Govenale called, to try
What swift pursuit would win.

                A southward way
He rode, that left the hills and left the sea,
Entering deep woods that glowed autumnal red,
Where on unfallen leaves the frost had fed.

Anigh the boundary of the woods they met
A draggled knight and soiled. His arms they knew:
Sir Andret:"Cousin," Tristram said, "reveal
What evil fortune doth thy path pursue?"

"So God me help, was never worse. The king
Bade me two wandering knights of Arthur bring
For welcome to the court. But when the name
Of Mark I spake, full-spurred against me came
The nearer of the two, and then - God wot,
I had not thought the might of Lancelot
So far would cast me. In the thorns I lay,
The while they looked, and laughed, and rode away."

"Who was he?"

                "By his shield, Sir Sagramore.
Dodinas le Savage shared his mirth."

                        "They share,
Men say, in all they do, and all they dare.
What path will find them?"

                Govenale spake: "My lord,
Be wise, for proved of lance, and proved of sword,
Are these two knights of Arthur."

                        "Proved or no,
How fare I if another road I go?
How fares my worship? Course I have not run
Since lonely from the Irish land we came."

"Well, as thou wilt."

                Then those two knights to tame
Sir Tristram turned his path. He rode not far.
He found the twain anear an oaken shaw.
"Tell me what here ye do, and whence ye are,"
His short demand was made. Sir Sagramore
Gave shorter question: "Art a Cornish knight?
The roads for all in Arthur's realm are free.
But here another knight full lately came.
His shield was shaped as thine, his helm the same.
Of Cornwall was his prate, and Cornwall's king.
Great words he spake, but little might he had.
That Cornish earth is hard, and brambles sting,
Lightly he learned, and if I rightly guess,
Thou, who wouldst also in his fault transgress,
Must learn thine error in a kindred way."

Answered Sir Tristram: "Partly sooth ye say,
But all the hour will prove, and wit ye well,
It was my cousin to your spears who fell,
And therefore is it mine your seats to test.
Haply I may a harder bout provide.
Warned are ye."

        As he spake his shield he dressed,
And backward reined, the longer course to ride.
Sir Dodinas turned alike. Aloud he cried:
"Keep well thyself." Amazed, Sir Sagramore
Beheld him on the point of Tristram's spear
Clear from the saddle borne, and flung so far
That nigh neck-broken on the ground he lay.

Here was a nameless knight whom most should fear!
The hope of fame he never sought was here!
A need for all his strength:"Who'er you are,"
He cried, "Defend!" A rapid course he ran.
But leapt his splintering spear, and horse and man
Rolled on the ground:"Doth Arthur's court supply
No bigger knights than ye?" Sir Tristram said.
"Is Cornwall still your scorn?"

                        Sir Sagramore,
Sore bruised, and slow to rise, gave fair reply:
"Good night - God's truth, the better knight than I -
I charge thee by the faith alike we owe
To knighthood's courteous vows, thy name to show,
That we may speak thy praise."

                        "A charge so high,
I may not lightly, if I would, deny.
Sir Tristram, nephew of King Mark am I.
King Meliodas' son."

                        "Then blithe we meet,
However bruised thereby, and fair entreat
That thou wilt ride beside us."

                        "That would I,
Except that on another quest I go.
Another knight of Arthur's court I seek,
Sir Bleoberis de Ganis."

                        "Seek ye so?
He is a perilous knight. God speed ye well."

With such fair words they parted.

                        More at haste
For brief delay, Sir Tristram spurred, until
When sideward climbed the road a lift of hill,
Down looked he on a wide-extending waste,
Grey-bouldered, greened by many an oaken shaw
The seawinds vexed, and through the shaws a road
Struck straightly, and upon that road he saw
Those whom he sought, no equal haste who showed.


Then hard Sir Tristram spurred that valley wide,
And over-reached them where they rode, and cried:
"Thou knight of Arthur's court, awhile abide.
Return that raptured prey to whence she came,
Or I assert than thine the stronger claim."

Thereat Sir Bleoberis laughed, and said:
"Scarce do I ride in such exceeding dread
Of Cornish clamour in mine ears, that I
My spoil must render to a single cry."

"False falls thy jape. Beneath the pinewood height,
Two knights of thine have found a Cornish knight
Not less then either ere they bade adieu."

"Dread warrior," laughed he, "rede me whence and who,
That I may spread thy lofty fame the more."

"They owned thy Table by the shields they bore.
Sir Dodinas le Savage: Sagramore,
Called the Desirous."

                        "God defend!" He said,
"Two knights of valiant worth thy spear hath sped.
Yet shall I not the less thy claim decline.
If thou be avid for this prize of mine,
Then must you take it by most hard debate."

"Hold that thou canst," said Tristram.

                        Height and weight
And strong war-chargers matched they showed, as so
They faced at distance fair, and so they met
That neither dealt the more than matched his debt.
For each was overthrown, and overthrew;
And if a fell he gave, a fall he knew.

Hard-breathed but whole, those strong knights rose and drew,
And matched alike in might and stedfastness,
Great swinging strokes they gave, and such they met.
Now would the one retire, and one would press.
Now foot to foot and shield to shield were set
Too closely for the swords' full force to play.
One would augment his might, and one delay
With skilful tracing, till that strength outwore.
Strife they protracted and maintained the more
From their high valours than the cause they had,
Till Bleoberis backward stepped, and said:
"Oh, gentle knight, thy courage rein awhile,
And let us talk together."

                        Tristram led
To where a new-felled beech great branches spread,
Its dying leaves yet dyed with autumn's red.
Upon its severed bole as friends they sate.
"Say on, and I will answer."

                        "Ask I then
Who art thou, who by this shrewd test I rate
As one who might the boasted pride abate
Of many of Arthur's knights?"

                        "No cause I know
To hide it from thee. Tristram is my name:
King Meliodas' son."

                        "Then here I came
In no misfortunate hour, nor hence I go
With honour dimmed, who that clipped sword of thine
So long have countered. For thy deeds are told
By all who seek high tales of ventures bold
In Camelot's halls. The larger gain is mine,
Though but an equal bout we share."

                        "You say
For short exploits too loud a praise. But who
Half ware I ask, and half of what praise are you?
None have I met a harder sword could sway."

"That tell I with goodwill. Of Ganis I:
Sir Bleoberis. Sister's sons are we
- Sir Blamor and myself - to Lancelot. He
Whom first we call, whatever knights are met."

"You call him rightly, for the name he bears,
Peerless for knighthood and fair courtesy,
Shall shine when all our meaner stars are set.
And for his sake I would not lightly be
Accordless with thyself."

                        "As loth am I
Death in this cause to deal, or else to die.
Yet must we face the quest on which you came,
And so resolve it that no recreant name
Shall cling to either when the tale be said.
This wanton that I brought is naught to me,
And little dearer to thyself is she,
To state the hazard of a likely guess.
So will I this propose in gentleness:
To set her freely down between us two;
And we will ask her what she wills to do,
Either with you to stay, or me to go,
And as herself decides, accord it so."

"That will I gladly. For I doubt it naught
She will come with me, as of right she ought."

"Soon is it to prove."

        The dame, between them set,
Her freedom heard, and with no long delay,
And eyes, that ever-ready tears had wet,
Fixed on Sir Tristram in no doubtful way,
Her choice with bitter words pronounced: "I thought
You were my lover, once so dearly met.
Held to me surely by so deep a debt,
Though parted by my lord's too-sure surmise
Of what had been between us. Fond was I
To think thee of such might and constancy
As made my rescue sure: and I would pay
- So thought I - meetly on the homeward way.
But didst thou move? It was my lord who came!
Thy laggard rising, urged by Cornwall's shame,
Rather, I well suppose, than care of me,
I thank not. Nor, to match so poor a claim,
Will feed thy praise by coming back with thee.
The fairest of the court were standing by
When this great knight (beyond thine own defeat)
Desired me from them. His I stay content.
Scorned be thy name where ever ladies meet."

So speaking, and with mocking eyes, she went
To Bleoberis' side.

                The sharp rebuke,
So largely false, and yet so subtly true,
Astounded Tristram, that no fit retort
Came to his lips. Return to Cornwall's court
How should he with such a tale? His discontent
Sir Bleoberis saw: "Fair knight," he said,
"If all be as her facile tongue avows,
Some blame is here which is not mine to weigh.
But this in friendship and fair truth I say:
The ripe fruit hangs from other laden boughs,
Which I would liever pluck, and leave you this,
Than that its tasting should be held amiss
In recollection through the days to be.
Rather I would that she should ride with thee
-Kind may she be once more, who kind hath been -
And all be called a jest I did not mean."

"Nay," said the dame, "for so to hold with thee
Free choice you gave. I would more blithely go
Back to my lord than he should hold me so;
For now I loathe him whom I loved before."

"Yea? Would ye so?" Sir Bleoberis said.
Her eyes' bold challenge met contemptful eyes,
And fell before them. "Then thy word supplies
That which I sought; and ere yon sunset red
Yield to the conquering stars, thy wish shall be.
For we will seek thy lord, and he shall see,
So God me help, his own, unscathed of me,
Back to his side returned. A witless quest,
Of idlesse born in part, and part of jest,
I will not further to confusion take.
And thou, Sir Tristram, good report shalt make
That all hath fallen as it best should be."

"That will I; and in future days beware
Of whom I trust. For while her lord was there
How could I that which was his part to do?
And when his fall I heard, no pause I knew,
But hereward rode forthright."

                        "I well believe;
And little is her loss thy heart to grieve."

So from fair words they took the parting way.
Back to Tintagel Tristram rode apace;
The while Sir Bleoberis sought to trace
The abbey where Sir Segwarides lay.
There came he later than the dark of day,
Lessening his boast, and that fair perfidy
Relinquished to her lord. If loth were she
To be so cast about from man to man
She showed not, nor he cared. Content was he
To close high folly in a nobler way
Than likely seemed whattime its course began.

But glad was Segwarides' heart to know
His errant dame returned, and glad was he
Her tale to hear. The venomed words to him
Gave grace to Tristram which she did not see.


Now sate King Mark upon an heirless throne,
And watched Sir Tristram's name and greatness grow.
Andret, or Tristram, at his end he knew
The crown would take, and little doubt was there
That, if his death should leave no certain heir,
Of these two nephews would the choice alight
Upon the comelier and more noble knight.

But while he watched with furtive hateful eyes
Sir Tristram's favour grow, a thought was bred,
By cunning craftful wiles and treasons fed,
Till to such shape it came that seemed it showed
Alternate issues which, by either road,
To his sure gain and Tristram's evil led.

So to such barons as were like to lend
Approving ears he spake: "Too long unwed,
I reign without an heir my throne to take,
Wherein is peril for the days to be.
A fault to see should be a fault to mend,
And I would fainly, for the kingdom's sake,
Choose some young bride this barren doubt to end.

"Whom should I seek? A king must first design
His kingdom's vantage. Ireland's late defeat
Hath left us foes, and though in Arthur's peace
We rest secure, yet should his power decline,
Then should the Irish might in swift release
Invade our coast. This ever threat to meet
I think, and turn it ere its time. And so
Shall Tristram shortly to King Anguish go,
To ask his daughter for me. If he fail,
What loss were ours? Or should his words prevail
- And who so gracious and adroit as he? -
Then have we bought a friend and lost a foe."

This counsel pleased his lords, but went his thought
Beyond his words: "I buy, who barter naught.
For either brings he me a bride to bear,
Against his own advance, a lively heir,
Or else he comes not from that land alive.
He had not erst, except so fast he fled!
If Anguish falter, will his queen contrive
Relentless vengeance for her nearest dead."

To Tristram next he spake: "So well you praise
The princess of the Irish land, that I
Would on thy warrant as my consort raise
Her rank to queenhood of this realm, for why
Should discord longer hold our states apart,
Breeding new wars, as fresh occasions start?"

What thought Sir Tristram as he heard? That he
Should thus return to Irish land, or see
Whom he would once have gladly wed, must be
Of barren comfort. Yet, when hope is dead,
And sorrow dulled by differing days, may seem
Faint pleasure to recall an ended dream,
And once again forbidden scenes to tread.

Would he that any other went than he?
He would not that..... With little self-debate,
And haply drawn by bonds he did not see,
Unware or heedless of his uncle's hate,
Without reserve of thought, he answered: "Yea,
Go will I gladly.... What the king will say,
I may not guess."

        "King Anguish," Mark replied,
"Hath ever sought to hold the safer side.
Win thou his lords, himself he will not stay."

So pledged, Sir Tristram turned an eager thought
To deck and furnish in the goodliest wise
The best of Cornwall's fleet, and those who sought
To share the hazard of that enterprise,
Being of good worth, he welcomed.

                        Soon was seen
A long-beaked warship on the tide astrain,
Waiting the flood with wings aloft, that fain
Had opened wider to the winds they knew.

Bedecked with painted shields, and crimsoned gay,
And prankt with gold and fluttering flags she lay
Yearning release; the while the bright waves shone
And sparkled round her, as the light thereon
Flashed backward to the skies from whence it grew.

Stark were her chosen crew; her hold was stored
With blast and bolt, with pike and axe and sword,
Lest rovers of the lawless seas should board
A prize so proud, and in the well-like waist
Was choice of chargers ranged for Tristram's need,
The goodliest of the land, for well was he
Appointed richly for that embassy,
In all things noble as a king might be.

So sailed they on a sunlit morn of spring
Out from the bay. Not any thought had he
Of danger that the rising winds should bring,

And skies at first were clear, and winds were kind,
But as their course to wider seas inclined
Wild tempest waked. The winds' own path they kept,
The while the whitening waves behind them leapt,
Out to the waters where no land is known,.
Boundless, or bounded by the sun's red pit.

Then from the west the veering tempest swept
Their wild course backward over seas as lone,
But with more hope of friendly shores to find
Than in the landless waters left behind.

So, at the last, across subsiding waves,
A shore of red sea-cliffs, and deep sea-caves,
They viewed and skirted, till an opening bay
Allowed their entrance. There the spent ship lay
While Tristram, landing with his following train,
Felt the glad freedom of firm earth again.

Where were they? Far from where they sought to be.
Driven to the friendly shore of wide Logre:
Not two score miles from Camelot. There to ride
He thought, who cared not in that port to bide
While toiled the crew, and harbour craftsmen there,
Torn cordage to renew, rent sails repair,
Sprung timbers heal. The thirsting chargers, led
To wealth of streamside meadows, drank and fed,
Stretched their stiff limbs, and found their strength renew.

Soon were they fit to rank in order due
The road to take to that far-famous court
Where Tristram journeyed, with fain heart to meet
Those whom he knew not, save by fame's report,
And reap fair vantage from the sea's defeat.

But ere to Camelot's southward towers he came
Was twice occasion to advance his fame.
For first Sir Ector and Sir Morganore
He met, and in fair conflict overbore.

And next a lady crossed his path, who cried
His knightly aid: "For I am shamed," she said,
"Except thy rescue to my hand restore
A child of Lancelot's kin, in Benoic bred,
Whom he had charged me bring, to here provide
His nurture fitly. Being burdened so,
Through the near woods I rode, in peace to go
To Camelot's walls secure, to there await
Sir Lancelot's coming. Should I danger fear
In Arthur's own Logre? But even here
It seems is treason, for a knight I met
Who seized the child, and when his ruth I pled,
My palfrey and myself he overset,
And laughed upon me. 'Much the gold', he said,
'That for its safe release its kin will pay'.
And his great charger turned, and rode away."

Answered Sir Tristram: "In the name you use
I would not lightly at less need refuse
A heavier plea. Content you here, and I
The child will rescue, or attempting die."

Thereat the path of that false knight she showed,
And Tristram followed, and such pace he rode
That soon he reached, and after brief debate
He overcast him: "Bring the child," he said,
And meekly that thrown knight the palfrey led
On which the child, unfeared and curious, sate.

"What is thy name?"

        "My name is Breuse. My foes
Call me Sans Pitie. But no labour goes
The slanderous words to speak."

                "I scantly know
But it were evil judged to let thee go."

"Fair knight, the child is thine."

                "Then go; but heed
Thy later ways, or else a different meed
From some true knight will fall thee."

                This consent
The felon seized. With flying hooves he went
To seek the shelter of his distant hold.
But long that grace must Tristram's heart repent,
For Breuse was one whose lusts to murders bent,
Plunders and rapes, as noble hearts incline
To share God's bounty. Such a knight to slay
Is guilt of gentleness, and mercy's way.


The King far north to Joyous Garde had gone,
Sir Lancelot's guest. In Camelot, crowded gay
For the near feast; and in the green of may
Bowered, and made fragrant with the flower thereon,
Ruled Caradoc for the King.

                        From peace secure
And concord of great knights that feastward drew,
Unthought, a lightning flame of discord broke,
Born of reproach that Blamor spake, who knew
By word that reached him, secret, swift and sure,
From friends of trust, that dead by miscreant stroke
In Anguish' court, Gahalt, his kinsman lay;
And with this word the rumoured tale was told
That through safe hands the murderers' dole of gold
King Anguish paid. Who all denied, and said,
He knew not of Gahalt, alive or dead.

Thereon had Blamor flung at Anguish' feet
A gage of death, in mortal strife to meet,
Or champion find, or else allowed to be
Murderer, and outcast of the Table he.
And Anguish lifted that cast gage, and knew
Himself unfit such strife to hold, and thought
There was not in the range of Arthur's Court
A friend to help him at such pass. But few
Of all, in mortal field would dare ado
With Blamor. Few, beside, but first would weigh
The cause, and Blamor's clean repute, that they
Should stake not rashly life where all men know
Who falsehood aids shall meet God's overthrow.

Such fears confounded all his heart, the while
He answered: "If in any craft or guile
I wrought thy kinsman's loss, may God to me
Do likewise. Seven days hence our proof shall be."

And Caradoc granted that claimed grace, and so
Were six days past, and that last morn too near
Of lasting shame, except his weaker spear
Should Blamor cast, his older sword should slay.

But came to Anguish' tent at fall of day
The squire of Tristram, seeking speech; and though
Of that strange embassy he might not know,
That Mark had given; nor how the rumoured word
Of his strait need that morn had Tristram heard
With joy that such fair-offering chance should be;
Not less, as one that kinghood long had taught
Conceal of grief, and in his separate thought
Contending needs to bear, with welcome free
His audience gave, and asked Sir Tristram's will.
Answered the squire: "My lord - and none but he
In lands he left, could larger ends fulfil -
Near-resting now, and moved of old goodwill,
Desires thy grace and tenders service."

Was Anguish at the word, remembering well
That island strife, where Ireland's champion fell;
And Tristram's valour, and the praise he had
In tourney, ere they learnt that later day
Their nation's foe. He would not chance delay,
But rose, called horse, and where Sir Tristram lay
Rode a good pace, and found, and greeted fair,
And asked the cause that from his distant land
He came where Lyonesse knights were welcomed few.

And Tristram: "Wings of adverse tempest blew
My seaward course, and led that here I stand,
Remembering kindness at thy daughter's hand,
And healing, and thine own fair courtesy,
And wouldst that thou resolve if here I may
Do aught to thy content that bond to pay."

"O Tristram," said the king, "fair words let be,
Nor blindly plight thy faith too deep. In me,
One time thy friend, at naked need ye see
A hunted man. Of murderous wrong appealed,
Where proof is none, the gage of mortal field
Lies at my feet, and if such strife I take,
Vain lance against a younger knight I break,
More strong, more skilled, of larger worth than I,
That shamed alike I live, or shamed I die.
No hope in strife, no hope in flight I find:
Dishonour yawns beneath, and bays behind."

"King for a kindness shown when need as sore
Was mine to thee, who had caused thy grief, and more
For her whose mercy healed mine hurt, and pled
My life, allowed her house's foe, if I
Thy champion stand in this strait pass, wilt thou
Swear by God's Cross ye did not work to shed
This dead knight's life, nor with slant glance allow
A hireling's stroke? And if this strife I take
For thine and for Iseult thy daughter's sake,
Wilt swear, that freely as my life I lend
In strife not mine, if fair thy cause I speed,
Ye shall in reason grant the largest meed
I claim?

King Anguish answered: "Sooth I swear,
All oaths ye will, in God His sight, that ne'er
I practised gainst Gahalt, nor heard his end
Till here I came. For aught of mine ye need
Ask as thine own, and if I less fulfil
It shall be past my power, but not my will,
For fail this hope at utter loss am I.
How else should warrior for my need be found?
No knight who holdeth with the Table Round
Will 'gainst Sir Lancelot's kin his life ally.
Nor might I doubt thee, nor my cause despair,
Though Lancelot self their chosen champion were."

"Nay, but Sir Lancelot is the first," he said,
"Of all knights living. Shame his kindred dread,
And naught beside, and though their weakest take
This combat, yet for their great leader's sake
Well know I that naught but death shall gain, and none
Of that great house but such high deeds has done
As more exalt it. I have joined before
With Blamor's brother in no light strife, that more
Than mutual grace I might not hope, and he
Though less than Bleoberis in girth and height,
Yet is he widely noised the hardier knight."

Answered the careful king: "Good sooth ye tell,
The valour of that great house I know too well
For fear to leave me."

                "Doubt ye naught," replied
His champion knight, "has seldom yet been tried
A harder strife than waits his morn to be."


With morn, at Caradoc's word, the lists were set,
And those that there for mortal strife were met
Before his seat he called, their charge to hear,
That in good faith, and holding God in fear,
His judgment there to prove they joined; and they
The rules of conflict aware to both obey
To utterance fought, from guile or treasons free.

Then Bleoberis to Blamor spake apart,
The while with testing care his arms they braced
"O brother, I know thee, and thy dauntless heart
I doubt not; but this Cornish knight, perde,
As ever I saw a stalwart knight is he,
And therewithal great hearted, as men say.
Nor mercy here belongs, except ye may
Speak the loth word."

                And Blamor answered: "Nay
Well may I of his noble might be sped,
Yet doubt not death, ere the loth word be said,
Mine end shall be; and, brother, chance what chance,
He in the rightful cause who rests his lance
Hath Heaven to aid."

                And forth he passed to where
Sir Tristram from his tent in like prepare
Had mounted at the lists' confines and there
With short await the trumpets called, and they
Shocked in the midst, with here no tourney play,
But deadliest aim of lance to maim or slay,
As most might be.

                Sir Blamor's lance to meet
Sir Tristram's shield sufficed, and turned, nor seat
He lost, the while in Camelot's wondering view,
His foeman from a rolling steed he threw,
Three spears' length backward cast in hard defeat.

But Blamor leapt, and laughing, from the dust:
"A mare's son failed me, yet to God I trust,
His earth will never." And ready sword he drew,
And Tristram lighted, and that strife anew
Joined in like guise, and with that cautioned skill
Which oft before his sure defence had been,
Strove with contained resolve; but Blamor smote
With wrath so swift, so fierce, so tireless seen,
That either ground he gained, or beaten back
Returned more furious in resumed attack;
The while that watched that strife the appraising crowd
So rapt they knew not that they cried aloud,
As the blades rang, for good blows given, or swift
Avoidance of the perilling chance, and shift
Continuous of effectual shields.

                                The end
Came instant. Blamor had foined, and bent aside
But Tristram's blade so hard on helm replied,
Unsensed, oblivious of his fate, he fell.

Looked all to see the last stroke given, with breath
Withheld unware, in that suspense of death;
But Tristram motioned not to strike but stayed
As weary: leaned on his strong sword: and so
Gazed in long silence on his fallen foe.

Slowly the while to Blamor's darkened brain
The pulse of painful life awaked again,
And twice he strove to rise, and failed, and knew
That mortal weakness held him bound, and through
The wavering mist that veiled his sight he saw
The waiting victor of that ended war;
And, raising on his arm, he spake - "Behold,
Why wait ye? Think ye I yield? I tell ye nay,
Ye shall not gain except my life ye slay.
For reached I all the wealth and honour of earth
If the loth word had won it, it were not worth.
That will I never to say, so if ye dare
I charge ye that ye slay me."

                        Tristram there
Stood some still space, the while he thought: "Alas!
At jeopard of life he lies, but heavier pass
Is mine, for slain or recreant save he be,
My part I fail, and Anguish' trust betray;
And if his life at this sore choice I slay
Is feud with Lancelot to the ending day
Nor heart is mine to do it."

                        And fixed in mind
Some fairer issue from that pass to find
To Caradoc's seat he turned: "Lord King," he said,
"Thou seest he yields not, though his strength be sped,
But holds his word unchanged, refusing fate,
That here thy judgment waits. To God I pray
That not be mine such knight to shame or slay."

Then Caradoc, who desired his life, but sate
As judge, not pleader, bade his seat attend
Sir Bleoberis, to whom he spake: "This end
Unwont of ordeal of set strife requires
More counsels than mine own. His brother art thou
Whose life lies forfeit. Not that life desires
His victor, noble as any knight here; but how
Can rule I his release, and grant acquit
To Anguish also, as must needs? I sit
A murderous charge to try, and this must be
Proved or retract."

                He answered: "Lord, to me
No choice is left; for not I think that though
Sate Lancelot there, our house's chief, would he
Desire or take it at such price; and we,
Our kin so close, and his repute so high,
Unshamed would conquer, or unshamed would die."

But Anguish spake: "Fair lords, the victor's right
Myself may claim. My champion's part is through.
And if content this ended strife I see,
Nor that loth word to shame his heart be said,
Ye well may take it at my hand. For me,
Naught will I more of this to speak or do,
But in good faith, without impute or blame,
Our old accords and comrade trusts renew
And this believe, that not in act or breath
Held I consenting to thy kinsman's death,
Nor knew I of it from any, till here I came."

And answered Bleoberis: "Hadst thou so,
Thou hadst not knightly on thy part, as now,
Such grace allowed, but in his loss he died.
And I, with Blamor in this charge allied,
Not lothly, at the point of loss, but free
And gladly meet thine own in equal vow
Of faith and concord, and acquit thy name
Of slanderous; wrong too soon believed; and he
Whose sword delayed a forfeit life to shed,
There is not one so base of Benoic bred
But were his friend, whatever pass should be,

So Tristram first to Camelot came.


The skies blue heights were clear, the winds were fair,
The white gulls circled in the sunlit air,
When Tristram sailed again in pride redressed,
The stout ship, victor of its tempest-test,
Refurbished all. But now the barques were two,
And from the next the harp of Ireland blew.
For no unlooked-for or unwelcomed guest
Would Tristram, following now his hindered quest,
Return to that green land whence hate before
Had thrust him. Rather from its grateful lord
Would gifts too lavish at his hand be set.

"Were half my realm thine own," King Anguish said,
"It would not quittance of thine aid afford,
Nor lift my burden of enduring debt."

So came he where no hostile voice was heard,
And with more depth of joy Iseult he met
Than memory held, though like a scorpion stirred
The thought of that irrevocable word
He gave King Mark. Before, a foe concealed,
Faint hope was his; but now that hope was less
With memory of his mission unrevealed,
Which from short moments of forgetfulness
Would wake to sting him.

                        Equal love to yield
To eyes that sought his own he might not dare.
Yet well she counted that such love was there,
Wondered, and waited, and at last was sad.

No less, good converse, and accord they had,
As joyous youth prevailed, and well content
King Anguish watched them, and his thought he bent
To Ireland's future rule: a strong ally
Should Lyonesse prove; and Cornwall's cowardly hate
For that claimed tribute, should such league abate -
And idly thus the summer days went by.

The tower in which Iseult's high chamber stood
Looked westward to the city wall below,
And on to scenes of meadow, tilth and wood,
That fell toward the river's glittering bow.
There on its roof they met where none was nigh.
Naught was above them but the height of sky:
Naught was around them but the depths of air.
As lone and single to themselves they were
As those who first in Eden dwelt; but more
Aware of distance than they felt before
When at the crowded board apart they sate.

As one who bares a wound to probe its pain,
Lightly she spake, with low clear words that long
Her thoughts had held: "The while thy heart is fain
For larger pleasures than our walls contain,
We would not hold thee. Grateful thoughts and dear
Will follow always where you bide; but here,
Prevented from full life of song and deed,
Why should we hold thee on a restless chain?"

He answered: "Nay, you all misdeem, for I
Am where I would, and grudge the hours that fly.
For in thy service my delights have been
Innumerable as the shades of the spring green
In Severn woodlands at the break of May."

"Nay," said she, "what am I to thee? No strength is mine
The lance to lift: no sleight the harp to play.
Nor can I frame, although I love, the lay
The woodwinds teach thee. Song that soars as thine
Our bards knew never before you came. Art fey,
Gnome of the caves, or merman of the deep,
Or soothly wanderer from the changing lands
Where the long wave along the sunset sands
Breaks, and the land goes with it, or so men tell,
That no firm towers or certain coasts you keep,
But each dissolving with the fluctuant spell
Of those fair sunsets underwhere you dwell?"

And Tristram answered: "Lyonesse land is mine,
Of which men speak the visioned things you say.
And part is sooth, for fairer sunsets shine
On no sea-wastes; and once its landings lay
Far west, where heaven and ocean meet alway,
And no stout barque hath striven, except that they
Took with bold hearts an unreturning way.

"A land it lies beleagued from shore to shore
With sieging seas, whose roots in ocean grow,
Fierce-born from out the uncharted vast, that so
Rushing of strong tides, and hurrying winds at war
Reduce it ever. But yet wide leagues remain
Of weird lone woods, and last of naked plain
Where the sea-wind sings ever. The lays I frame,
Not mine of right, from out that sea-wind came,
One time the friend of else the friendless day.

"But deign you learn of one not skilled to show
An art self-born, the dearer songs I know
Are thine for thee, and those the winds I give
Forgetting, immortalled by thy lips shall live."

Sweet were such words from one well-loved, but why
Were other words unsaid, and distance held?
Why not the trouble in her eyes dispelled
By comfort from his own? She knew not why,
But knew she heard divorcing words. She went
To seek her father.

                "Dear my lord," she said,
"If more we hold him, will his heart repent
The aid he gave? He doth not seek to wed,
But with fair words would answer all, for he
Loves his far-wandering life, though courtesy
Hinders rejection of a worthless prize.
Therefore I ask thee, where plain words are best,
To speak them for me. Where his purpose lies
Let him go freely, with the thanks we owe."

And the king answered: "Be thy heart at rest.
All shall be as thou wilt. And dealing so
May serve thee better than thy fears protest."

Then went he to Sir Tristram: "Fair my lord,
If aught to thy content my hand can give,
My promise holds me, and thy most reward
Were yet too paltry. By thine aid to me
Was honour rescued for the world to see.
Ask largely, and in better peace I live."

"Yet might I ask beyond thine utmost will."

"I swear, as God me save, to grant it still."

"No welcome oath I hear. I ask Iseult,
To wed mine uncle, and the Cornish throne."

"Why ask a boon you do not seek to gain?"

"Bound am I by an oath to match thine own."

"To take her for thyself thy heart is fain.
So had I thought. Since Jephthah's daughter died,
Hath none been trammelled in so hard a net."

"Yet am I shamed if I mine oath forget,
And take her for myself."

                "It well may be.
But I stand only on mine oath to thee,
Which bids me give her to thy hand. Do thou
Whatever faith's and honour's bonds allow.
If to thyself she fall, the more to me
Contentment comes."

                There was no more to say.
Blindly they went from summer day to day
With words evasive, and avoiding eyes,
Restraining hungered lips that did not kiss,
As though, if naught were told, was naught amiss,
While at the quay the barque of Cornwall lay,
And the morn neared them when its sail must rise
For their reluctant voyage.

                The queen the while
(Her hate of Tristram cloaked with careful guile)
Counselled her daughter that a throne secure,
Rather than consort with a wandering knight
(Though a king's heir, for what in life is sure?),
Should be her jocund choice, for short the night
And long the pleasure of the regnant day:
"Believe my urgent love, for all I say
Comes from more knowledge than your own. Accept
The golden future which the prospect shows."
She spoke with love's support, and mind adept
Her daughter's thoughts to guide. With no disclose
Of what those thoughts might be, her daughter heard.

Then went the queen to Bragwaine. Maid was she
Since childhood to Iseult. A flask she stirred
Of rich dark wine, and herbs she dropped therein
Gathered by moonlight when the winds were still.
"This," said she, "shall a magic potion be
To stir desire beyond the leash of will,
And bind her to King Mark, and him to win.
You shall contrive they drink it when they wed."

"I would do more to serve her," Bragwaine said,
And took the flask and hid it.

                        So the day
Came when she took the unreturning way,
Never again her native land to see
Till sorrow's cup was filled, and death should strike
At all she feared and all she loved alike.

The barque of Cornwall cast her hawsers free,
Left the sure refuge of the sheltered quay,
And sank its strong bows in a windy sea.


Out from the land, the fading land alee,
Beat the good barque against a breaking sea,
Close-hauled to meet the threatening wind that blew
From the clear east, and while its tumult grew,
And whelmed more deep the breaching bows which threw
Attempting seas, on that decked poop and high
Long watched Iseult, beneath the windy sky
Her birth-land fade, until at last she knew
Naught but wide leagues of dazzling white and blue,
A world of flying cloud and heaving sea.

Then turned she from the west, where now the sun
Glowed through the clouds, like an archangel's shield
Hung over heaven's red battlements, to the field
Of windlashed waters eastward. Low there lay
The clouds' grey twilight on the fading day.

Forward she looked. A sombre prospect veiled
Was menace of dark fate to which she sailed.
Fearful she looked; for hopeless grief had drained
The gentle courage which her heart contained.

Then Tristram sought her side, and found her there,
Wind on her face, and on her loosened hair;
With eyes that brightened as he came, aware
She had no sorrow which he did not share.

"Cold blows the seawind from the east," he said.

"But we go southward. Much I long to see
Not Cornwall only, or the seacliffs red
That coast the lands of Arthur's wide Logre,
But thine own Lyonesse most."

                        "It well may be
That such a chance may rise."

                        But from the word
Long silence held them bound, the while they heard
The wind, and murmurs of the passing sea.


Kind was the morn. The wind, to northward veered,
Was cool and light. The summer sun was high.
Its heat was fervent from a cloudless sky.

"I thirst," said Tristram. "Is no wine anigh?
Or is there none to bring it?"

                        "That can I,"
Bragwaine made answer. By a short descent
She reached the cabin which they shared by day.
There, in a locked recess, the casket lay
Wherein the queen's drugged wine she kept; and so
Whether from impulse or preformed intent,
She bore it to them.

                        "Here is vintage rare,
The queen's last gift, her mother-love to show,
But for Sir Tristram's lips it was not meant."

"Wine," said Iseult, "is that which all men share
Their friends among." And poured it, sparkling red.
"Here is good measure for thy thirst," she said.
Deep was his solace from the fateful cup;
As he laid it down she raised it up,
And drained it wholly, and the love that lay
Downheld within him, rose and broke its way,
Bondless, and in no other mood was she.
Fearful of thought, and yet too fain to flee.

And half she turned, and turning half she stayed,
And all her sense her beating heart dismayed,
Hindering her breath, that there her hand she laid,
Where, in the golden girdle-clasp, between
Her breasts, beneath the samite folds half-seen,
White roses of her own dear land she wore,
Now falling. In their failing life she sought
The love-theme of the instant song he wrought.

Bend thou not down to chide me, sweet,
Those brows where night and morning meet,
Though of that Heaven my harp shall tell
Which those may dream who dare not dwell,
In that white cleft where roses lie,
Shamed by the fairer beauty nigh.

Deign to me, sweet, that I may know
How much of Heaven thou canst bestow
From the close folds that half confess
And half conceal the loveliness
Of that dear vale where roses lie
And vainly with its beauties vie.

Deem not that zone no theft shall break.
All Heavens by force the violent take.
All Heavens to those less worth must fall,
Lest in one equalled loss be all,
As those spent flowers which round thee lie,
And hopeless of thy beauty die.

The song was done. The harp aside was laid.
She felt his lips in that white lane of love
Which opened to the faint-flushed throat above,
And downward to such joys as thought may scarce
Invade, or any height of song rehearse.

She trembled as his hand her zone untied,
To bare a loveliness of breast and side
First seen of man. But no repulse she gave;
Nor felt she near regret nor distant dread,
So was she fixed on him her fate who led.

There is not in the tales of Earth contained
A love more constant, or a bond more strong
Than theirs whose lips that hell-brewed draught had drained,
Caught in a snare where very right was wrong,
Without reversal or avoiding way.

Soundless and windless closed the sunset hour.
The light, rose-hearted, like a falling flower,
Died in the quiet horizon-mists away.


Calm on the summer seas delayed their sails,
Whatever tempest in their hearts they knew,
The while they watched the near wild hills of Wales
Slow-moving past, against the drift that drew
The slow keel inward.

                Where the sea-crags high
Were opened by a severing vale that lay
Far inland, widening down its effluent bay,
They took the tide, in sheltered space to lie
And anchoring here they landed.

                        Wild woodways
Slept in the summer peace of windless days,
Through long vale-clefts the frequent hills between,
Wherein some time they wandered.

                        Short delay
Well might they long from that voyage-end that lay
A voidless evil of near days. But green,
And cool, and quiet, the woodland depths that seemed
As though time were not, where in peace they dreamed
Nor any wrath, nor noise of outer wrong,
Nor change invade to cease their sleep.

And daily, in frequentless vales, more far
From that moored barque they wandered.

                        Sound of war
Nor violence offering out on alien beach,
Where no man moved, nor fear of ambush set
In voiceless woods was theirs. Such friend they felt
In that strong sword which from his shoulder-belt
Swung as he strode: so blindly each on each
They spent themselves in glamour of thought and speech,
Not curious of its rule, nor knowing its name,
Unheedful, to the Castle of Tears they came.

Such name those towers for one shamed usage bore
From Lyonesse wastes to Orkney's louder shore.

For ever, if knight and lady, driven by stress
Of storm, or wandering in unwariness,
Claimed guest-rights at the gate, the drawbridge fell,
The echoing doors clanged back, and welcomed well,
Full feast they found, soft rest in chambers fair,
And all their needs forethought; but when farewell
At following morn, with thanks, to speak they sought,
To him that ruled that hold, they found prepare
For mortal strife and on this risk was made,
That save himself that mighty, lord outstayed
In bout of sword, his forfeit life was let;
And whom he brought, by that lord's lady set,
For choice of fairer, and the loser slain,
That might that lord with each won conflict gain
A lovelier consort for his rule. And still,
Through the long years, for strong in strife was he,
His place he held, the while his sword would kill
All guests that first he honoured, and loathfully
Their ladies, or his own, in choice had bled.

Here came Iseult and Tristram. Light had fled
The eastward vales. A pale moon showed. Too long
For short return their careless feet had strayed,
By wild hill path and hollow of luring glade,
When here they came, and thought and recked no wrong,
But boldly at the gate their need they pled.

Morn came, and meetly all their needs were met,
But that tower's lord, Sir Brewlor, at the meal
Gazed at Iseult, and in such scant conceal
Of purpose weighed her life to spoil or let,
That she, responsive as the lake that lies
Blue to blue heaven, or grey to cloudier skies,
Stirred inly with disquiet vague and dim;
And Brewlor's dame, as though in feared appeal,
Glanced at Iseult, and then again at him.

Then closed the meal, and Tristram rose, and fair
The thanks he spake for boon of sheltering care
To nameless wanderers shown: and friendship true
To Brewlor pledged, if ere to grant or do
Were his, or aught he owned at need to share.

He answered: "Thanks for rest and meat ye may.
No stint was there, and naught of price ye pay.
But those are through. And ere ye further wend,
Our custom learn. For came ye guest or friend,
Alike must rule it. Mortal strife we try
Where here we stand, and gain thou life or I,
From our two ladies here, to reign or die,
The victor's choice remains. If might be thine
To overbear me, so that here ye slay
The one reject, will all men else obey
Thy lordship as mine own. If this ye fail,
Should naught to save thy forfeit life avail,
For vowed are all the castle's use to stay."

Round looked Sir Tristram, as the boar at bay
Eyes the near pack, and sees no rescuing way
Of more retreat, the desperate odds to shun,
And saw closed ranks down that long hall, and knew
Alone he might, but bear Iseult therethrough
He might not hope, and doubtful sword he drew,
And toward her turned, her surer place to set
Clear of that strife, and spake no word, but met
Her answering glance, where no fear dwelt, but love
Made confident, the while her footsteps trod
The indelible stains of slaughters past, and then
Remorseless in that strait - no thought had he
If failed his sword at last, Iseult to leave
At hazard of such foul choice - he leapt, and smote
At that lord's dame against the unguarded throat,
And with such swift and deadly stroke that she,
Who from like scene had grasped her loathly gain
And in the turn of fate was likely slain,
Sank with no cry.

        "Is no choice here," he said,
"Left for thy doom of which be live or dead,
Even though thou gain in this shamed strife, that I
The gladlier take that in thy death may die
The use ye hold."

        And Brewlor answered: "Yea,
Is one shall die full soon that craft to pay."
And in both hands his sword he raised full high,
And rushed at Tristram. With swift feint aside
Who passed a stroke he should not lightly bide,
And in full weight returned. Side-smiting so
That near the hilts of Brewlor's blade the blow
Crashed, ere again it reared, and beat it low
To ground, and brake it from the haft. His foe
Paused for one moment's maze, and wrothed the more,
Leapt at him again, and with bare hands he tore
The gorget, for the throat, and Tristram threw
His own sword from him, and closed, and over-bore,
And cast, back-broken, on those stains a fore.


Oft will it chance that those of gentle breed
Have offspring baser than themselves appear;
And oft will sons of lewder sires exceed
Their father's compass both in thought and deed.
So was it with Sir Brewlor. Sire was he
Of that Haut Prince renowned for courtesy,
Wisdom in counsel, valour in the fray,
Galahalt, who from the first with Arthur stood.

Now from the yard a varlet slipped away
To the close thicket, and beyond the wood
Found in the fields a mount, and rode at speed
To Galahalt's tower: "A stranger knight," he cried,
"Sir Brewlor's guest, in common peace agreed,
Assailed thy father at the meal. He died
In his own hall. From that reproachful deed
This felon seeks Sir Brewlor's rights to seize.
The bold usurper strides thy heritage,
Aping its natural lord."

                Sir Galahalt sate
At the noon board, and at his side was set
He of the Hundred. Loyal friends were they
Since first on Arthur's part allied they met
In battle pregnant with a kingdom's fate,
Where the leagued kings with Lot and Neros fell.

Galahalt, who saw no cause the tale to doubt,
Rose with few words, but such as waked a cry
From hall to court for saddle steeds, and out,
Flauntless, but grimly armed, and grimly set
Hard death to deal, they rode with spurs blood-wet,
By mountain road, and stream and estuary,
Until the salt breath of the nearing sea
The west wind brought, and where the hills divide
Rose the black barrier of that tower of shame
Which bore its menace in its dolorous name.

Here, at the pleading call of those he freed,
Had Tristram, for their service sworn, agreed
Some space to stay, and better rule provide.
Now from the court he heard a voice that cried:
"Come forth, thou caitiff knight, thy life defend!"
Forth looked he, and a noble knight he saw,
Whose shield he knew not: "Art thou Brewlor's friend?
Foes are we by that word to mortal war.
Nay," - to Iseult - "be blithe of heart, for I
Am rested well this lighter strife to try."

But no light strife he met. The prince's spear
Broke not, but bore him down. 'What knight is here?'
He wondered, as he rose and watched his foe
Rising alike from equal overthrow.

He of the Hundred, who beheld the fray,
Had equal wonder. 'Nearly matched are they.
Who in these hills could Brewlor boldly slay,
And deal with Galahalt thus?' But matched they were,
And those who watched allowed in close compare,
In strength, in valour, in the subtler play
By which the sword-point passed the shield. So strong,
So valiant, and so skilled, it could not be
But strife prolonged, and with no certainty
Of its hard issue those who watched should see.

Yet saw they at the last Sir Tristram's blade
Fell harder, and more swift regain it made.
Tired were they both, but Galahalt tired the more.
Thereat the King the Hundred Knights who led
Came forward to his side: "False knight," he said,
"Think not the slaughter that you wrought before
To here repeat, for others here, as I
Have swords besides." He aimed a stroke that shore
Sir Tristram's plume, though swift he bent. Alike
Sir Galahalt's knights advanced, all sides to strike.

Back drew Sir Tristram: "Gentle knight," he said,
"Is this done knightly?"

                "Was it knightly shed -
The blood of Brewlor in his peaceful hall?"

"Yea, in his evil coin he bought his fall.
Either ye know not, or alike are ye.
How should a single sword resist ye all?
I yield perforce, but thine the infamy."

Sir Galahalt answered: "Either yield or die.
No choice is thine."

                Sir Tristram cast away
A useless sword. "No better choice have I,
So compassed. Yet thy name I charge thee say.
Thou art Lancelot?"

        "Lancelot with more short delay
Had tamed thy valour."

                "So it well might be.
Nor call his minions to his aid would he.
Who art thou?"

        "Know me for Sir Brewlor's heir.
He was my father. For the end he met,
Fair trial shall be thine, but mercy none."

"I ask no mercy. That his life I let
Should even to his son be short regret,
If he be knightly. It was knightly done.
And his foul custom had a stench so rank
That all the chivalry of Christ should thank
The arm that slew him."

                Then the whole he told,
And those around gave witness. Galahalt knew
That all was likely, and that much was true.
His own bright weapon to the ground he threw:
"There is nor yielding here nor conquering,
But fair accord; and that thine own degree
Be worshipped as it should, I charge thee show
By what good right the Lyonesse blazoning
Quarters thy shield?"

                "I am Tristram."

                "Wandering so?
Lone in these hills?"

                "I come from Ireland."

Too much for Marhaus' death would Tristram pay
If there he went."

                "You all misdeem. The king,
For service rendered, is good lord to me.
His daughter for a Cornish bride I bring."

Then all he told, and Galahalt turned to see
Where stood Iseult in watchful dubiety,
Being no less for all her fears aware
That ladies of good birth, when blades are bare,
Distract not valour with a vain lament.

Sir Galahalt's plume, and then his knees he bent,
Her hand to kiss: "To royal rank," said he,
"The formal homage that it claims I give.
Pride stoops to pride, and worth to worth, princess,
But all of valiance kneels to loveliness,
Being the high thought of God, by which they live."

And then to Tristram: "If no more I ask
Such leigance as the yielden wont to pay,
Yet may I charge thee with a grateful task,
Such as shall honour with no stain obey:
To seek Sir Lancelot on the earliest day
That larger claims allow, and him consort
As comrade of thy choice at Arthur's court.
For he hath sought thee since he heard the tale
Of Cornwall's rescue at thy hand."

                                To this
Sir Tristram answered: "That you charge, I wis,
Is my most hope, for such enfellowship
Hath been my object since my homeward sail
Left the fair land of France."

                "And on my side,
Freely I pledge that that foul usage here,
By which fair women and strong knights have died,
Shall cease, the while a better name shall hide
That which was pregnant of its curse of fear."


Once more the strong barque cleft the shining sea,
Wide-winged to bear them where they would not be.
So to Tingagel's castled crags they came,
And he whose deeds the swifter feet of fame
Had borne already, found such welcoming
As might be rendered to a victor king.
Nor less Iseult, his valour's prize, was hailed,
And her sweet beauty and shy grace availed
More than all else to lift his crown of praise.

Even Mark was gracious such a bride to see,
Though Tristram must he hate for all his days
- Being compact of jealous perfidy -
For all his deeds of sword and song, nor less
Because men lauded that high nobleness
More than his own, although their king was he.

Then with much feasting and great mirth were wed
These twain, so diverse, by no fair love led,
But cause of state, and Tristram's snaring vow.
Nor was King Mark of such form or grace
- Furtive of foot, and mean of heart and face -
That with occasion love should enter now.

Hence is it of Iseult have some men said
That never in the arms of Mark she lay,
But Bragwaine took her place at dusk of day
Beside a king whom wine bemused. But why
Believe that only with false words she wed?
Rather than that, she sought her part to do
As best she might, who was by nature true.
Took the hard path that honour's doubtful hand
Pointed, as though, by love and duty led,
Two different roads at once her feet could tread.


More than the maidens that King Mark supplied
To serve the wishes of his Irish bride,
Best loved Iseult Dame Bragwaine, whom she brought
From her dear homeland; and the Cornish court
- That court of craven plots, and mean intrigue -
Hated her therefor, and a secret league
Of those less favoured joined to work her ill.

It was in converse at the common task
That talk arose of her reputed skill
In lore of herbs - that healing juice distil
And one took vantage of the chance to ask
Her aid to search the deeper woods; and she
Undreaming of their malice, gave assent.

Then to a lone wolf-haunted glade they went,
And seized, and left her there, against a tree
Bound for the beasts. But Palomides came
Riding thereby, and loosed, and heard her name,
And left her at a nunnery in the wood,
Where envious hates the lore of Christ withstood.

Then with a wild design Iseult he sought,
And in the castle garth, her own resort,
He found her sad, and asked her why she grieved.

She answered: "Of that dearest friend bereaved,
Who of her choice had never left my side,
What can I?"

                And the Saracen knight replied:
"Queen, if I brought her, rescued safe and soon
From deadliest peril, would you grant the boon
I ask in guerdon?"

                "Gladly yea," she said.

"Then wait ye here," he cried, and fast he sped
That woodland path to the nunnery led,
And one still fain to serve Iseult he brought,
Though fearful of the hate that now she knew.

Glad greetings given, Sir Palomides sought
His boon to claim, at which Iseult, aware
Of the rash word her heedless grief had said,
Made answer: "Surely, though I know not how,
I would requite thee to thine utmost prayer,
Being so debtored, but good heed have thou
I meant not, and I will naught evil do."

"Hold I thy word," he asked, "for less than true?
The gain desired is thine: the pledged reward
I ask thee in full hall, before thy lord."

With morn rerisen, Sir Palomides drew
Full-armed toward the court of Mark, and through
The wide approaches of the audience-hall,
Even to the king's high throne, contemning all
The assembled knights around, in boldness rode.

A glance that with audacious purpose glowed
Belied word-courteous greeting: "King," he cried,
"Whose fame through all these western isles is wide,
And through the winning of so fair a bride
Most envied! Guest and stranger, here I plead
For justice at thy hand."

                "Not thine the need,"
King Mark replied, "to doubt me ere I speak.
Believe it granted that of right ye seek."

"Last morn," the knight replied, "Queen Iseult gave
Hard quest to me, her servant lost to save
From deadly peril, and her faith she bound
To grant what boon I would. The maid returned,
I claim of right the meed my service earned."

Then turned the king where Iseult sate beside:
"How pledge ye unrestrained a boon so wide?"

To which she answered: "Lord, I meant no wrong.
Lightly he asked, and overlightly I
Gave answer in my grief, for overlong
And strangely had I lost her. If I erred,
His knighthood was my surety."

                        Then the king:
"Now if I judge she hold her plighted word,
What would ye?"

        "Even herself to rule and guide,
Rest where I rest, and where I ride to ride,
Till at the close of our fair wandering
A far throne waits her."

                Then the wily king
Pondered, and thought of Tristram, smiled, and spake:
"I judge she hold her word. Be bold to take
The adventure that befalleth. Not for long
Thy prize is thine except thy lance be strong."

And Palomides answered: "Surely naught
Beyond such test to prove could reach my thought.
Except his lance be strong, his heart be bold,
A prize so high might no man vaunt to hold."

This heard Iseult as one who meets in dreams
Black horror instant, where nor rescue seems,
Nor any force to strive, nor fence to stay.
Neither she spake nor strove nor guiled delay
When Palomides from the warhorse bent,
And raised her to the selle.

                        One glance he sent
Round the wide throng that watched with wondering dark.
"Doth none contest," he mocked, "so dear a prize?"
The still ring of the ignoble knights of Mark
Shrank from the Paynim's bold provoking eyes.
Not any gage was flung, nor voice did rise
Defiant of him that jeered them. Only one,
Lambegus, marvelling at their land's disgrace,
Half drew.

But scatheless from that court, and down
The long street, crowded by the gaping town,
As past his lieges rides their natural lord,
Rode Palomides at no hastened pace,
In light derision of that craven horde.

Then rose a cry for Tristram through the court,
And through Tintagel's towers and town they sought,
And while they searched in haste, to Mark in hall
Spake the young knight, Lambegus: "Though I fall
- No match for Palomides - yet," he prayed,
"By strife he may be wounded or delayed
Till Tristram reach." Full gladly gave assent
The careful king, while far and fast he sent,
Seeking for Tristram, who, the daylong while,
Pursued the chase for many a woodland mile.

With fall of night he came. To Govenale
He cried in haste for arms: "And bring from stall
Two strong and lasting steeds, for rest I naught
Until this heathen knight be found and fought.
Lambegus hath nor skill, nor might, nor breath,
To win from Palomides aught but death."


Long watched Iseult in lessening hope to hear
Beat of far hooves, or glint of following spear
To mark afar; till in the grasp of fear
Hope ended, and the hostile night was near.
But yet she searched the darkening path, with clear
Courageous eyes that hid the heart's despair;
And still the road ran backward, white and bare.

Lastly she spake: "If some fantastic vow,
Such as the laws of knightly use allow,
Hath led thee thus, unsoiled of base intent;
Or if the mercy in thy heart relent;
That lonely I return and unconstrained,
Would leave my honour and thy shield unstained."

And Palomides answered: "Oh my queen,
I seek thy love to gain, not forced but free.
For waste are all my days desiring thee.
My deeds of daylight all thy service seem,
And not for all the earth and all the sea
Could yield in tribute would I turn from thee.

"In mine own land who boasts a nobler name?
Who in these western isles, since first I came,
Seeking to learn thy faith, and finding thee,
Hath overborne me? What hath been will be.
Grant but thy love, and all our following days
Shall lift my valour, and extend thy praise."

Answered Iseult: "And is thy land so rude
Thou deemest that a queen may well be wooed
By such base vantage of a word she gave
In courtesy and honour? Oh, most brave
And very gentle knight! To lead me forth
Thy bargained slave."

                And he replied in wrath:
"In mine own land would never queen deny
The large reward of such a deed as I
Have compassed for thy love. I hold thee here
Won by the challenge of my single spear
Against a realm grown silent. Was there one
To strike a loyal blow? For honour, none?
Where is thy natural lord? This Tristram where?
Were wisdom thine to give me answer fair."

But Iseult answered boldly: "Well for thee
If, when my knight's opposing shield ye see,
Thy mind be clear of ill, that I may stand
And when thou failest bid him hold his hand,
And leave thee living."

                Even with the word,
The thunder of pursuing hooves they heard.

Then Palomides turned. Aside he set
Iseult, and hailed Lambegus, ere they met:
"Art Tristram?"

                "Nay, I have a lowlier name,
Lost in the shadow of his larger fame."

"I would thou wert."

                "I well believe," he cried,
"Thou wouldst, yet something of thy scornful pride
May Tristram tame ere long."

                        No more he spoke,
But spurred and charged, and when the lances broke,
Against that knight renowned, so knightly well
He dured the shock, nor steed nor rider fell.

Casting the shafts aside, to earth they sprang,
And furious closed. On helm and hawberk rang
Blows that nor blade could meet nor shield could turn.
Back from the beaten path, knee-deep in fern,
Sir Palomides bore the young knight,
Till vainly striving to sustain the fight,
Till to the force of one down-breaking blow,
Alive with death, his weakened fence too low
Shifting an ineffectual shield, he fell.

Iseult had watched the strife. Had seen too well
Its certain issue. While Lambegus, borne
Far backward, yet delayed that final stroke,
A pathway through the further copse she broke,
By boughs delayed, by brambles held and torn,
To gain the shelter of the deepest wood.

Because one fear all lighter fears withstood,
The darkness seemed a safety: beasts that cried
Like-hunted friends, by like alarms allied,
By common shades secured. And when the moon
Ascended heaven toward her silver noon,
The bracken couched her, sunk in slumber light.

But waked she fearful at the fail of night,
To wander till the turning path revealed
- His arms made glorious by the dawn, his shield
A second sunlight in the morning's gold -
An aged knight, Sir Adthrep.

                        Him she told
Of how the Paynim for her capture wrought;
And how Lambegus, knightly, vainly, fought;
And how she fled the while, and how she lay
All night the consort of the beasts of prey.

The old knight answered: "Queen, my hold is near,
Where you may rest in safety freed of fear.
The path lies yonder. While you take the way,
Here will I hove, and any search delay."

So came she to his gate, and there the guard,
Who knew her surely, dropped their bolts, and barred
All further entrance. While, by that same path,
From sleepless seeking hours, and wood with wrath,
Came Palomides, and Sir Adthrep there
He countered. Short and hard their greetings were.

For Palomides: "Hither passed the Queen?"

"Yea, her who fled thee have I lately seen,
And heard a tale of treason."

                "False ye heard.
Mine was she justly by her plighted word.
King Mark allowed it."

                "That King Mark allowed,
Showed only that a coward heart was cowed."

"Even so.... With change of words let priests contend.
Show me the path she went, I count thee friend,
Thy words be what thou wilt. - This aid deny,
Is here thy mortal strife, to gain or die."

Sir Adthrep answered naught. His shield he drest.
Backward he reined his steed, and lance in rest
Charged as he might. No equal force was here
To meet the violence of the Paynim spear,
Nor skill, in strength's default, the course to gain.
Far-flung from that devoir, so valiant-vain,
To earth he sank, and rose not.

                "Wilt thou now,
If I in meed thy forfeit life allow,
Guide to the queen?" His easy conqueror cried,
"Fair hast thou striven, and well may yield unblamed."

"Nay, if I would," the fallen knight replied,
"I could not, whom thy downward lance hath lamed,
And count I sure that while you railed and fought
The queen her safety in my hold hath sought,
Whence none will yield her."

                Even as he heard,
Forgetful of his foe, the Paynim spurred
Hard on the path, and vain that tower he tried.
The cold grey walls his ardent hopes denied,
For neither warder showed, nor voice replied.


Fast through the summer twilight, knee to knee
With Govenale - for comrade more was he
Than squire - rode Tristram to the rising night,
Searching the woods with all a hunter's sight
For signs of those they followed. Fail of light
Delayed them only till the moonrise clear
With shortening shadows stained the roadway white.

So rode they through the night till loud and near
A charger neighed in welcome. At the sound,
Tightening his rein, Sir Tristram leapt to ground,
And by the moon a wounded knight they found
By whom lone guard the patient charger kept.

Needs must they succour, lest alone he die -
Lambegus, seeming dead. But him they bore
To where a woodman's shelter showed nearby,
And left well-tended.

                Urged in haste the more
By this retard, and surer now, they ride,
Covering the moonlit land in reaches wide.
Oft they retrace a failing path, or stay
To weigh the doubt of some dividing way,
Or wake the ward of friendly hold to know
What recent parties passed their walls below.

Moonset, and dawning, and advancing day
Yet knew them tireless, till the path they sped
Where Adthrep, wounded, rested by the way.
Briefly he told them how the queen had fled,
And how in chase Sir Palomides came,
Alight with ire.... "His wrath, a raging flame,
Sought fuel, and when he knew mine aid denied,
Instant the vain appeal of arms he tried;
To learn too late that while he railed and fought
The queen the surety of my hold had sought;
And learning, left me in such heat of haste
As might no hindering thought on vengeance waste."

Answered Sir Tristram: "Though thy lance were weak,
Thy selfless valour did her safety seek,
Regardless of thine own, and hence shall shine
All knighthood fairer for this deed of thine.
To me thy dealing leaves a welcome debt
That only life can close, or death forget."


The shame of failure, and the wrath of loss,
- Desire left empty, having held its prey -
Drove cloud on cloud of deepening gloom across
The mind of that foiled knight who held his stay
Before the entrance of the silent hold.

The heat of that desire which made him bold
To hundreds at the court of Mark, and hid
The unknightly baseness of the deed he did
Even from the chamber of his secret thought,
Though hope were low, its stubborn purpose sought
With blind resolve; and while the long day rose,
And held mid-heaven, and turned toward its close,
Close ground he kept, till Tristram's urged approach
Stirred the still noon.

        When that prone knight he knew,
Govenale toward his side alighting drew,
And with the spear-butt stirred him, while he cried:
"Bold thief, arise! Lest death's cold night encroach
To end too-amorous dreams. For here doth bide
Sir Tristram, first of all thy mortal foes."

Awhile he sate as one who list not heed,
And then without regard or word arose,
And in tranced silence turned to lance and steed.

Then waked that silent hold to life: its wall
Was lined by those who watched, in hope to see
Such deeds of death or life as needs must be
When famed world-champions meet in arms, while she
For whom they hardly strive beholds.

                        They met
At height of speed, with shattering shock, perde.
Hard seat Sir Tristram held; unseated fell
The eastern knight, but quickly rose, and set
Shield against shield. No choice of words may tell
The fury of that strife which now befell,
When strength unmatched with strength scare matched before
In stress of deadliest conflict closed. No more
Found Palomides, as his wont, a foe
Whom by sufficient might he backward drove
With tempest of fast-following blows.

                                Not so.
The knight who faced him now gave strokes that clove
Deep downward through the covering shield, or shore
The hawberk's tempered steel. The ceaseless clang
Waked echoes from the answering walls that died
In hills afar.

        Long hours that strife was tried.
For Palomides, now perforce confest
Not equal, yet maintained the fierce contest
Unyielding, and the long blades leapt and rang
Strong were the stokes he dealt, but stronger yet
From that relentless wrath the strokes he met,
For scantly space would Tristram's haste allow
For fence or foin, but where his chance he viewed,
Careless of counter, there forthright he hewed
With ruthless strength.

        The Paynim, beaten now
As erst he beat Lambegus, stooped, but still
With guard adroit, and stubborn furious will,
That knew no wound the while, avoided fate.

Iseult beheld. No doubt her mind possest,
Nor fear for whom she trusted. Proven best
Aforetime. With the leaping steel elate,
Her leaping blood rejoiced with every blow.
Till, seeing the Paynim fail, bethought she then:
'Though one I love the best of earthly men,
One less than naught, yet pity were to see
The death of that good knight whose love to me
Hath brought him near to his last overthrow.
Behold how hardly he his fate withstands!
How weak each difficult stroke! His shield how low!'

Downward, and through the postern gate, she sped.
Between their swords she broke with pleading hands.
Her knight she cried to cease that strife, and he
Sank sword, and answered, wondering: "Would ye so
Prevail to my dishonour, since ye know
I heed to your beseeching?"

                "Nay," she said,
"Except I sued ye now, he were but dead.
Thine is the strife already. Worsted he
In sight of all beholders. Canst thou take
Life pitiless?"

                Palomides, while she spake,
Gazed with uncertain sight, and weak of knee,
Leaned on his shield. Then Tristram: "If he will
To yield his life to whom he wronged: fulfil
Thy purpose ever, making thy command
His law; or else to seek his native land,
Returning never, I am content."

                                And he
Answered: "Between that choice, my queen, to thee
I yield me gladly."

                Light command is mine,
That thou shalt ride forthright to Arthur's queen,
And tell her all that through thy fault hath been,
And with this greeting close: There be but four
True lovers in this realm whose faith is more
Than wedlock, truer than vows. Who hold their bond
Dear as their honour, dearer than delight;
Nor heed what life may lose, nor Heaven requite."


Latent the hate of Mark for Tristram lay,
But live, as in a sleeping beast of prey
Lives the fierce thirst of blood, the furtive crawl,
The death leap at the last. But peaceful all
Within the wide sweep of the bounding wall
Passed the grey months of winter. Storm without
Beat on Tintagel, or the white snow lay
Sparkling in sunlight on the platform high
Which for wide views of ocean, earth and sky,
Were paced in warmer days. But warm were they
In the great hall, while mirth and jest and play,
The chess-board's cunning strife, and harp and song,
And old long tales that did not seem too long,
Shortened the sheltering days.

                No doubtful thought
Of treason in Iseult for Mark had wrought
New cause of quarrel. Had Sir Tristram brought
One whom himself desired? To Mark could be
But one reply. Nor in the snowbound tower,
Great though its girth, to find a lonely hour
Through the long days for aught of secrecy
Might even love contrive, such throng was there.

But when spring dried the ways, and warmer air
Blew from the south, the castle waked anew,
Aware of wider life. An affluent train
Each morning saw, nor all returned again
As darkness neared; and when rejoicing May
Wore its full vesture, oft the noon of day
Showed vacant hall, and its surrounding bowers,
Where lodged the single knights, were empty all.

Then once it was that in those chanceful hours
Iseult and Tristram in a window stood.
Words of sad love they spake, and vain regret,
And first their hands, and then their lips had met
When Andret saw them.

                Close to Mark was he,
Even as Tristram was, a sister's child,
But closer in device of perfidy,
Baseness and greed. He knew Mark's enmity;
And if were Tristram slain, or far exiled,
Himself was Cornwall's heir. Now Heaven was kind
To his most hope. He ran the king to find.

Mark at that hour was with his seneschal,
Sir Dinas, counting coin with eager lust.
Sir Dinas was not one to loosen trust,
A man precise, exact and punctual,
And too fair-dealing for the full content
Of Cornwall's king. Now through the tale they went
Of port and market dues, of toll and rent,
Which Mark in grudging words allowed was true.

On them Sir Andret burst: "I saw thy queen
In Tristram's lewd embrace."

                "They saw not you?"

"Only each other to themselves was seen,
They were so blindly fixed on that they did."

"His sword he bears?"

                "He wears no arms at all.
In the far alcove, by the chantry wall,
Their treason mocks thee."

                Mark his sword outslid.
Quickly he ran, but came too late to find
More than Sir Tristram; who with speedy mind
Had Iseult, at footsteps sound, perfect hid.

"False traitor, take thy death."

                Sir Tristram turned.
He saw more danger than his fault had earned.
Swiftly he stooped. Beneath the sword he ran.
He seized and wrenched it from a weaker hand.
Mark called for aid. Were many gathering now;
But none made motion at the king's command
To face Sir Tristram. From the naked blade,
Mark shrank and fled; while Tristram, laughing loud,
Pursued him through the hall, by no man stayed,
Though hindered somewhat by a wildered crowd.

Short was the chase. The sword, brought flatly down
On neck and shoulders, forward cast the king;
And with good blows, as one who smites a clown,
Sir Tristram beat him: "Didst thou think to slay
A knight unarmed? Then take a caitiff's pay.
This shall be meat for thy remembering.
Howl louder, mongrel, lest I smite the more."

So left he the ignoble king, who lay
Abject; and called his men, and armed, and bore
His gear unhindered from that hold away.


Mark called a council: "In the woods anear
Sir Tristram lingers, but his force is few.
I think to seize him."

                "That you seek to do,"
Sir Dinas answered, "were not lightly done
By Arthur's greatest; and what knight is here
To equal Tristram? Nor thy count is sure
Of thy full numbers, for too many a one
Would stand beside him, were he hard bested.
Bethink ye further: should he make repair
To Camelot, and with grace be welcomed there,
What of our malice were he left to dread?"

Like words, as echoes, from all sides were said.
"He is Cornwall's glory now, and that were lost."
"His were the gain to go, and ours the cost."
"Restore him to thy peace. His fault was less,
Perchance, than Andret told. If treasonless
His life were dangered, was his wrath too great
For later pardon? Is Sir Andret's word
More than the queen's?"

        They spoke with reason here,
For Mark had asked her if his charge was true,
And she had answered in short words and clear:
"The tale is false, as God me save. To you
When have I lied? Consider where we met.
It counters reason."

        Simple truth she said.
Sir Andret, both by hate and haste misled,
And swift to add surmise to all he saw,
Had so beyond the fact the queen decried,
That she with reason and plain truth denied
That which the deed outran.

        The king looked round
On those from whom no sure support he found,
And from his craftful eyes his purpose died.
Smoothly he spake: "Whatever wrong I had,
It shall not to the kingdom's loss prevail.
Let one with letters to Sir Tristram ride
Which soothly for his fair return provide,
Pledging the honour of us all that naught
Be further spoken of the things that were,
If he such silence will alike declare.
Rashly the evil word that Andret brought
My fears believed, and through that evil word,
By blind and sudden wrath too lightly stirred,
His life I menaced, and must needs forgive
His own rude violence, which let me live."

Loosed from reluctant strife by this consent,
Sir Dinas frankly to Sir Tristram went,
With fair entreaty for his peace: "To you
We owe so greatly. For our bold release
From Ireland's yoke; and every deed you do
Shines through the world, to bring its bright increase
To Cornwall's fame. The envious gibe which slurs
Our knighthood, by thy name rebuked, is still;
And even she whose worth this discord stirs,
Won by thy valour and thy courtesy,
Is as thy gift to Cornwall. All goodwill
Awaits thee at Tintagel. Even he
Who felt thy blows entreats thee."

                        Light accord
Sir Tristram made: "If nothing more be said,
Naught will I say. The king's unseemly sword,
Perilling my life unarmed, excuse must be
For that I dealt him. In thy warrantry,
Doubtless of evil, will I make return."

So with Sir Dinas rode he boldly back,
Devoid of rancour or of wariness,
And found fair welcome, and no word was said,
Even by Andret, to his peace prevent.
So was it bargained on both sides; and gay
Passed the long days of June in mirth and play,
Until Mark called a meadow tournament,
Where thirty of his knights, the best he had,
Would joust with all who came. Few knights, he thought,
Would likely to the Cornish lands resort,
They might not equal; and if such should be,
Was there not Tristram at his call?

                        His tent,
Of argent silk and kingly ornament,
He pitched on level land. The sylvan scene,
Backed by great woods, and with fair space between
A bending river and the groves behind,
As though by nature for such sport designed,
Was soon with many bright pavilions gay.
Barriers were built, and terraced seats were set,
And ladies thronged to watch the martial play.

But few the knights who came that westward way,
So sunk from bold repute was Cornwall's name.
Why should they choose where some surprising shame
Might hap, but meagre hope of glory lay?

So for some days their boasts the thirty held.
If fell the first, another knight repelled
The best who challenged. Till two knights there came:
One with a crestless helm, but all men knew
On Driant's shield the crossing lances blue.

Then on the tourney field high deeds began.
Driant with different knights twelve courses ran.
The tale of those he cast were long to tell.
Yet at the last he tired, and tiring fell.

Then like a bolt from out blue heaven there came
His comrade down the field, and overbore
Him who had spoiled Sir Driant's pride before.
No arms he showed, and none had learnt his name,
But now his strength the thirty learnt, for all
Who dared his challenge found an abject fall.

Soon was he single on the field for none
Would further venture. Worn with strife was he,
And wearied was his steed, but victory
Was doubtless. Roughly taught his lance to shun
The Cornish knights resigned that rivalry.

Wood wrath was Mark thereat: "This shame shall be
The whole world's mock for many years from now.
Wilt thou sit idle, and such jest allow?"
So spake he to Sir Tristram.

                        "Lord, I ween
I might not change it. Here have all men seen
A deed of arms most noble. If I cast
A knight so wearied to his loss at last,
What would be said? If I should heed thy plea,
Two shames were ours, where only one must be."

But Mark still urged: "If not for Cornwall's claim,
If not for me, then for thy queen's content,
Let not the memory of this tournament
Be ever bitter on a Cornish tongue.
This nameless knight - "

        "I do not doubt his name."

"Who is he?"

        "Once to France's court he came
When I was there in youth. His mien I know.
Lamorack de Galis is his name. Among
The greatest Table knights he holds degree."

"Then is he worthy of thy mastery."

"Yea, were he fresh of arms and steed as I."

"No more than that he asks our spears supply.
Art thou not Cornwall?"

                "Had I first appeared - "

"Is it his order how our ranks are feired?"

"Naught but thy strait command - "

                "That word you hear."

Reluctant, Tristram rose. The crowd's acclaim
Loud to Sir Lamorack gave their champion's name.
Thereat a spear of pliant strength he chose.
'Lo,' thought he, 'of a score of various foes,
Last comes their greatest, as it should not be.
Yet, if my steed endure, they may not see
That which they would.'

                As rushing clouds contend
When the black skies two meeting tempests rend,
So came, so crashed they. High the lances leapt,
Shivering. His seat unthrown Sir Tristram kept.
But though Sir Lamorack held firm seat in selle,
His weary stumbling steed beneath him fell.

Wroth rose he. "Dost thou turn too soon aside?
Nay, for another bout I charge thee bide."
Now was his shield advanced, his sword was bare.
"Is sword-play more than Cornish knights can dare!
A mare's son failed me, but I count, God wot,
His earth will never, and my sword may not."

"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "that to ground you came
Was my dishonour, and your further fame."

"What use are words? A wearied charger fell.
What boots it to allow thou didst not well?
To such unknightly course could naught compel.
Alight and draw."

                "It were my heavier shame."

"You talk of that too late. If Tristram's name
Be thine, defend it."

                "That I will not do.
Thou art too wearied."

                "Ask I grace of you?
Rather I bid thee that thou dost not dare.
I call thee recreant."

                "Call me what thou wilt.
Of mine own honour is my larger care,
Which in such bicker were too plainly spilt,
Even should I conquer, as I might not do."

"You seek to conjure with fair words away
A deed discourteous. More I will not say,
But wait a time which may not long delay."


Sir Lamorack parted from that tournament
With wrath unsated, though his words were few.
Far northward to the Severn vale he went,
Seeking high ventures and great deeds to do
Beyond this tale.

                        As to the ford he drew
Which those may use, when falls the high sea-tide,
Who shortest road from Gore to Camelot ride,
He met a damsel with a slender train,
But richly dight. No shine of steel was there:
No champion gardant rode beside her rein,
At honour's need to strike. But broidered gay
He saw the gold harp of the queen Le Fey
On the white sendal of the cloak she wore.

So, scatheless through the whole wild land she went,
In impotence of weakness insolent,
Through that feared symbol of the Queen of Gore.

Short halt upon the narrow road was called
To order passage which the close woods walled,
And Driant, who was Lamorack's comrade still,
Said idly: "Fair one, on what embassy
Bear ye that crest, which few in all Logre
Love well, though in its fear thy safety lies?"

And she, with smiling lips, and craftful eyes,
Made answer: "Lo, so rich a boon I bear
That all will hail me." Then a horn of gold
Begemmed, she showed beneath her mantle's fold.
"This horn Queen Morgan to King Arthur sends,
The fault of past unkindness to repair.
For such strange virtue in its depths is hid
That any dame whose secret life offends
Chaste honour, should she drink, the wine will spill,
According to the privy wrongs she did,
Largely or less. But she of single will
To worship whom she wed will drink it clean.
No equal marvel in our time hath been,
Nor one so potent to reveal a wrong."

"Yea," said Sir Driant, "some may thank thee well,
And those who do not may be slow to tell
Their cause of wrath."

                But Lamorack reined beside:
"Thinkst thou from Gore to Arthur's court to ride,
Bearing such challenge to the virtue there,
And see again thy brackened hills? Perde!
What did the damsel with the mantle see?
Bold is thy heart King Arthur's mood to dare."

The damsel answered with bent brows: "Fair knight,
I know my jeopard. But what use is fear?
Those who Queen Morgan serve, beyond her sight
Go never. But no deathful lure is here
Against his life. A different gift should bring
A different welcome. This is aimed to snare
Her whose adulterous life insults the king
With open treason to the throne they share."

"Damsel, I would not to thy loss profess
To give fair counsel. In good faith, I show
A path more certain to thine own success,
Though somewhat longer. Morgan might I tell,
And soothly her good wits would thank me well."

"Freedom is mine a wileful use to try."

"Then ride thou to Tintagel first, for there
Will Mark accept thee well, and, if they dare,
The ladies of his court may drain it dry."

"What boot were that?"

                "It were thy gain to say
That not from Gore, but by the western way,
You came to Camelot. Why should mention be
Of Morgan, or of Gore? But if the tale
Be known of whence the horn was brought, no less
It would be open for all eyes to see
That aimed thy queen all faithful wives to bless
With warrant of their chaste integrity
Through the wide realm, and in mere casualness
You took the road to Camelot."

                        "Wise as thou,
Are knights but seldom met."

                        "Prefer the way
To rightward, when the highway parts... Adieu.
All demons speed thee."

                        "Greater far than they,
My mistress rules them."

                "That I hold for true."

"Why didst thou?" Driant asked, as on they rode.
"The favour to thyself that Morgan showed
I cannot well recall."

                "It hath not been.
But largely was my thought for Arthur's queen,
And more the fall that Tristram gave to pay,
As later may I in a knightlier way."

"Well, evil take her!"

                "Evil close pursues
Those who with demons deal, their powers to use."


So went that damsel to the Cornish court,
And told the wondrous tale that Morgan taught.
"Hither I came," she said, "at Lamorack's word.
He told that talk in Camelot's halls is heard
Of damsels lewd, and wives proved virtueless,
Here in Tintagel; and this horn, he said,
Would prove to all men's eyes its falsity."

She ended, and the court of Mark was stirred
By many murmurs, but no voice would be
The first or loudest to reject the test;
And Mark said smoothly: "Such report to still,
I nothing doubt that all with equal zest,
Being virtuous all, will drink, and naught will spill.
First shall my queen -" He stretched his hand to fill
That ominous horn, and to Iseult he gave,
With smiling lips, and eyes that mocked.

                                She took
The horn, and answered: "Yea, as God me save,
I have no falsehood done." But somewhat shook
The hand that raised it; and some drops thereby
Fell ere she drank.

                Then through the silent hall
It passed, and drank perforce the ladies all,
Lest by denial were they more convict
Than by the horn's debateful sorcery.

Five score there were the horn who raised. Five score
Spilled as they drank, excepting only four;
And wrothed were many knights who thought before
That, though alone of all, their dames were true.

Mark spake: "Each knight may to his liking do
A traitress to retain, or else to slay.
But we who rule may take no gentler way:
My queen's shown treason well her life shall pay.
And if my counsel in your ears be good,
She will not singly at the stake be stood,
But all who spilled shall share it."

                        Then there rose
Clamour, and protests, and reproachful cries,
And shrill denials from the lips of those
Who drank not cleanly. With contending lies,
And counter accusations, false or true,
They fought their honour, or their lives to win.

As rain will follow when the west wind blows,
Such were the dreads, the discords, and the din
That ever by its use that horn would bring
To lowliest cot or hall of mightiest king,
Through malice of Queen Morgan's sorcery.

But, at the last, a general voice prevailed,
Refusing that so many dames should die.
For those would perish in that equity
Whom best they loved, though wives they might not be.
And who would lust so many deaths to see?
And would they find more faithful, or more fair?

"Lo, said they, "who shall here the truth declare?
Did Morgan form it with a false intent
True lovers to divide? It was not meant
For any gracious gain is sure to say.
Nor shall the queen be brent, for how condemn
One only, and excuse the most of them
Who are more guilty by the floods that fell.
For how few drops she spilled! It well may be
That consort chaster, or as chaste, as she
In the wide realm there is not."

                        So was said;
And hearing all, Queen Morgan's damsel fled,
Bearing the horn, before their wrath inclined
To vengeance, as it might. But Tristram thought:
'Sir Lamorack sent her for no random sport,
But to requite my first discourtesy;
More in due season shall of that be said."


From some lone hold amid the distant hills
Which yet were dark to Arthur's power, although
Its light they looked to, came a youth who sought
The grace of life which Camelot's knighthood taught.

Strong-thewed, fair fashioned was he, and richly clad,
Save only that a tattered cloak he had.
Cloth was it of gold, but rent so beggarly
That hang it as he would, it hung awry.

With two good squires, and with some train, he came;
Brewnor le Noyre he gave his outland name;
And being lodged, as with good ease he might,
Where hostels thronged to serve a wandering knight,
He entered where in hall King Arthur sate.

"Lord," said he, "knighthood at thy hand I seek,
And proffer service to support thy state."

"Who and whence art thou first," replied the king,
"I needs must know. You ask too great a thing
For casual largesse to a stranger's plea.
But tell me first why that rent cloak you wear.
I well believe its tale of stain and tear
Will show some cause of weight that thus you go."

Thereat his name he told, whereat Sir Kay
Jested: "If Brewnor be his name or no,
He will not need it. With that cloak atrail,
He may be better called Le Cote-Male-Taile,
And none will doubt the truth of whom he be."

No glance gave Brewnor to the japing Kay,
But answered to the king: "The cloak I bear
In heat of summer noon my father wore.
Long had he hunted from the dawn of day.
Faint was he. In the hawthorn shade he lay,
And heedless slept, for none beside was there.

"But evil was the chance. A knight there came
By-riding. One who bore old enmity
For no good cause. And there a deed of shame
God's sunlight saw. It saw his sword descend
On him who slept. This cloak I will not mend
Bears token of each felon stroke he dealt.
I swore by every wound my father felt
That I will wear it till that knight I slay.
If then I mend it, as perchance I may,
It will be record of a mended wrong."

"You swore not basely," said the king, "but still
Why should I knight thee? High requests belong
To knights of mine."

        "Good lord," Sir Lamorack said,
"I count him fit a vacant seat to fill,
Even at our Table, to its further fame."

"Belike it were a chance you should not blame
In later days when all his strength ye see,"
Gaheris counselled: "So Sir Lancelot came,
Young, strange, and proofless of his parentage,
And surely proved him of no mean degree."

Then laughed the king: "Now by my crown," said he,
"Not often with one counsel Orkney's voice
Accords de Galis. Where you link your choice
I will not hinder. Here shall Brewnor stay,
And I may knight him on no distant day."


Next morn the king rode forth a hart to chase,
And with him rode such knights of good degree
As then were resting at the court. Perde,
Few of bold heart in idle walls remained!

A captive lion the royal towers contained
It chanced that morn his bars outbroke. He ran
Through scattering menials till he reached the place
Where with her ladies walked the queen; and she,
Either too noble or too feared to flee,
Stood in his path.

        Some knights of name were there.
But Brewnor's was the sword that first was bare,
And Brewnor was the first to reach her side.

Leapt the great beast. But in midair he met
Such thrust that, falling, on the sword he bit.
Too deep within his vital parts was it
For rage to move it. Soon did Brewnor set
His heel upon the fallen, to regain
The blade by which the raging beast was slain.

The king returned, and called his court, and there
Gave thanks to Brewnor for the service done:
"Well may I knight thee now, for few but none
Have wrought so much to earn my bounty's share.
All in my hands that lies of fair and good
You need but ask."

        The while the words were said,
Before his throne a wandering damsel stood.
Clear-eyed, and like a windy dawn was she,
Wild as the hills, and tameless as the sea.
Lovelier than most, but bold of mien, and less
Formed to invite or yield love's tenderness
Than hardier ways to take; and round her neck,
For such rude burden formed too slight and thin,
Was hanged a darkly blazoned shield that showed
A bleeding sword that drave.

                        The king required
What boon she sought, and why she bore that load
Unfit, and she, shrill-voiced, as one much ired:
"Long have I ridden, and hard, through dark and day,
Many a lone path, and many a wasted way,
And here at last, my latest hope to know.

"Now shalt thou heed the sombre cause I show.
A deed of arms, none loftier, dark and dread,
This shield belongs, which he who bears must take
Not for sure meed of lands, or lady's sake,
But blindly, as the dubious chance may bring.

"And one there was, and nobler none than he,
Who took it in good hope its end to see;
But on his opening path a knight he met
Who deadliest greeting gave. Too hard beset,
He scarce with life won through, though proved and bold;
And feeling wounds too wide his life to hold,
He called me to him, and charged with weakening speech
That I should bear this shield, desiring each
Of all the worthiest of the knights I met
To take the quest in which his life was let,
Even to thy court, O king."

                "Now who will care
Level to life's loss this deadly shield to bear?"
King Arthur cried; but those good knights who heard,
Daunted by Merlin's warning, given old,
Who darkly in veiled speech this quest foretold,
Or by the shield's black menace, spake no word.

Was one knight only from the throng advanced.
Loose from her side he raised the shield, and glanced
At that dark symbol, but perchance he read
Such message there as chilled his hardihed;
And while he paused his name the damsel
Required, and he made answer: "Wit ye well
My name is Kay, the seneschal, wide-away
Known with the best."

        She answered: "Great Sir Kay
You may be; yet a better knight than thou
This quest requires." And: "Damsel," answered he,
"I raised this shield to view it, without design
Of foolish riding on this tale of thine."

Then round the ring she swept her scornful sight,
While no man spake, but on the hall there fell
Long silence, broken by the new-made knight,
Sir Brewnor: "If no other counts the quest
More worthy, damsel, then a sword untried
I tender."

"Fair young knight, what name is thine?"

"Men call me Le Cote Male Taile."

Thy garment holds it. But this quest of mine
Not the coat only, but the flesh shall tear.
Be wise, and leave it."

                        "Not my coat's repair
I need of thee, nor any hurt I take
Shall ask thy salving."

                While they spake, there came
Two squires a charger piled with arms who led,
With lances for his need; and armed was he.
Though said the king: "It is not of my will
This hard venture for thy choice should be."

"Lord," he replied, "it is my natural right,
It coming at the noon that made me knight."

Meantime that damsel turned the court to leave,
As one who would not of her choice receive
The weakling's aid he would. But undeterred
By that cold welcome, on her path he spurred.


Now to Sir Kay a japing thought there came,
Engendered by that damsel's cold rebuff,
To send Sir Dagonet, Arthur's knighted fool,
To joust with Brewnor. Only different shame,
He thought, would follow, whether force enough
To overthrow, or in so light a school
His seat to lose were his.

                                Not lothfully
Went the wise fool, though different thoughts had he,
Chased, challenged, jousted well, though not so well
But in fair course to Brewnor's spear he fell.

With laughing words he rose: "Young knight," he said,
"To cast down folly at thy first essay
Approves thy wisdom. Naught thy victoring way
Should hinder now, whatever nets be spread."

With wave of hand he went, and Brewnor turned
To heed of her whose words his service spurned.
"Lo," said she, "glory at thy feet should bow!
Thy name is joined to Arthur's fool from now.
A cockscomb rampant for thy crest should be.
Fools but with fools contend for mastery."

The while she railed, a noble knight they met,
Larger than he in limbs and girth, but set
On such huge steed as bore with ease his weight.
Whereat that damsel, Maldisaunt, who knew
Sir Bleoberis' hawk-plumage, and the blue
Shield-chevrons, to Sir Brewnor mocked anew:
"Flee while you may, Sir Fool, a knight is nigh
Who soon should leave thee all too faint to fly."

Mocked in such wise, to Brewnor naught remained,
Except to challenge, and alone he gained
Such fall as youth from seasoned use must take.

And wrath thereat to feel the damsel's scorn,
Even as he gained his feet, his sword was drawn
In harder strife his manhood's proof to make.

But Bleoberis, with slow appraising eyes
Viewed him; and with a silent smile, as loth
To stoop his might so low, or sunk in sloth,
Yawned, and passed on. Whereat, in courteous wise
That mockery veiled, the maid his fall condoned,
As fate of one who lacked the wit to flee.
"But safelier will you ride again," said she,
"When wisely those deluding arms are sold."

So with sharp words that hindered amity
Two days they journeyed, till by chance they met
Sir Palomides, and such fall he gave
As Bleoberis dealt before; and he
Alike declined dismounted strife to try.

Thereat she japed with fuller scorn: "Perde!
Knights must be classed of high and low degree.
The least of knighthood and the loftiest knave
A common dish may share. But only I
Am championed by a flinger of fools."

Sir Brewnor answered with the patience due
To such reproaches as his failures brought:
"Say what thou wilt. But little shame or naught
It brings, beneath such famous spear to fall. -
The more, that final strife we did not try."

"Ye did not close in final strife? And why?
They would not grant thee for so lewd a brawl
The grace of their dismounting."

                        While she spake
There came Sir Modred on their path. To make
A wayside bicker little thought had he.
Unless for danger or cupidity
His lance full seldom in the rest was set.

But Maldisaunt with courteous words he met.
And Brewnor fell behind; and riding thus
They came before the Castle Orgulous,
Which had this custom, that a passing knight
Must either for his name and freedom fight,
Or yield him captive, or, at least despite,
Give horse and harness as his freedom's fee.

Now outward came two knights of bold address,
Of which the foremost at Sir Modred rode.
Sir Modred doubted naught his fall to see,
But proved of strength, or sleight, or fortune less:
Flung backward to the summer dust was he.

Maldisaunt, half in hope, and half in fear,
Beheld Sir Brewnor sink his proofless spear.
Hard in midpath the second knight he met.
The countering chargers reared, and overset
Both knights alike. In such a dust they rose
That neither at first grasp his charger knows:
Remounted, but with change of steeds, are they.

In saddle first, Sir Brewnor swerved aside
With purpose to Sir Modred's aid to ride:
Boldly his victor to the ground he bore.

Then turned he to the knight he faced before.
But he, who found that bout too hard a play,
Gave ground, and through the castle gate he fled.
Close following, Brewnor smote, and cleft his head
That miscreant in the castle yard he died.

But now was outrush from the central keep.
Round Brewnor clamour arose from every side.
Bare swords and lifted shields around him sweep.
Yet with good blows the further wall is won,
A score of knights against him. Exit none
Or refuge round him lay, but overhead
Was one who from her casement leaned, and saw,
And privily by a postern forth she sped,
And caught his steed, and by the portal tied,
And so returned; and from the casement wide
Leaned forth again to watch that desperate war,
The where, with life to guard and death to take,
His blade stabbed swifter than the darting snake,
And lightened backward where his fence was bare.

Then clear beneath the clamour and the clang
Of shouts that ringed him, and of blows that rang,
A soft voice sounded: "Oh, young knight," it said,
"Recall thou with more hope thy hardihed
For one great bout to be; and cast aside
The thought of death. Thy charger waiteth, tied
By the near gate."

                Sir Brewnor heard. His heart
Beat with new hope. For of such sort was he
That higher for blurred sight and falling knee
Rose the resistant flame of life, and gave
A moment's vigour of sight and hand, retrieved
From shadowing death. Upon them he leapt. He clave
The foremost helm. Across a fallen foe
Stumbled the next. His stooping crest received
Like boon, and rose not ever. Of these relieved,
He raised his shield, and through their hinder press
Charged shouldering past, a driven bolt of death
That broke them in disorder apart; and thus
Came victoring from the Castle Orgulous,
With four dead knights behind him.

                        Soon the day
When Camelot heard the tale; and not Sir Kay
Could dim it with the steam of envious breath.


Meantime that damsel to Sir Modred said:
"I ween my foolish knight is lost, but thou
Canst thank his sword that saved thee. Wilt thou now
We prove his fate, or while the road is free
Like loss avoid?"

                And Modred answered: "Nay,
For he who threw me, ere thy knight was sped
I deem he paid, and more I care not. See
How like a wakened hive the portway hums
And stirs in menace! Ere the outrush comes,
Well may we leave it."

        "Prudent choice," she said,
"Your wisdom takes. Outraging foes to meet
Small force is ours," and turned her steed, but still
Watched the thronged gate with anxious eyes, until
Forth rode Sir Brewnor, in his foes' defeat
Unfollowed. He cleansed a naked sword and red,
And sheathed it.

        Breathless yet, and in some heat
And exaltation from that strife, he said:
"I ween the pride of that Tower Orgulous
Some loss hath felt. Of all the best they had
Was none to stay me: of the final four
Who barred me, two will boast their deeds no more."

And she, with eyes that mocked and yet were glad,
Laughed on him: "Belike you caught their taint, that thus
You boast against them, as your childhood dreamt.
They let thee pass unscathed in mere contempt
I more believe."

        "It waits thy proof," he said.

Thereat a caitiff to enquire she sent
From out her train; and to that hold he went
And asked the issue of the strife; and they
Gave angry answer: "Evil fall the day!
Fiend was he surely, of our best to slay,
And then break through us in our most despite.
We thought not Lancelot were so bold a knight,
Nor Gawain thus to flout us."

                        With the word
He back returned, and when that damsel heard
Her glance fell somewhat, and no more she said.

But answer made Sir Modred: "By my head,
Well are ye named, and, damsel, much to blame
To have such champion thine, and speak him shame.
For even Lancelot, when he first essayed
Jousts with strong knights, fell oft, but undismayed
Would hardily at the swords point regain
His fair renown, and leave them mired or slain.

"And marked thou not that those two knights he met
Were blithe of heart to prove his seat, but yet
Shunned sword-strife, being wily, and old in war;
For that you will not see they lightlier saw.
Long practice only makes a knight's seat sure
When the strong chargers rear. But if he endure,
I warn thee that thou hast, to prove thy quest,
One who may ride unshamed where ride the best."


When Brewnor three days' time the court had left,
Came Lancelot from an evil quest and long,
Hungered for ease and rest. At evensong
He came, and scantly were his arms aside
Before the tale he heard. They told him all.
The coat awry. The lion so stoutly cleft.
The quest on which the proofless youth would ride.
Sir Kay's sharp jest, and Dagonet's bruising fall.

They told it lightly, as a laughing tale,
Met Lancelot's eyes, and found their laughter fail.

"So God me save," he spake, in scorn and wrath,
"Shamed are ye all who watched him issuing forth,
Unproved, unpractised, ardent, young and bold,
His sombre tryst with bitter death to hold.
That damsel Maldisaunt is called: 'twas she
Whose shield by Breuse was reft so thievishly,
And Tristram rescued and returned. Perde!
Long years she hath borne it through wide lands in vain
Some champion for her nameless quest to gain.
Surely I cast me on their trail to ride."

Then for fresh steeds he called, and would not bide
For ease nor banquet nor the angered glance
Guenever scarce veiled, but chose his mightiest lance,
Bade his squire follow, and took the road anew.

Such pace he rode that as to evening drew
The seventh June-long day, there came in view
Bare heights, and belting pines, and glens below
Growth-choked, and vocal with the impatient flow
Of hindered streams; and on a pathway there
He saw the train of those he sought; but ere
They joined, Sir Modred, of his shield aware,
Left them, who loved not Lancelot. Can the kite
The eagle cherish, or sustain its height
In the clear breathing of the cloudless blue?

So Lancelot came upon them alone. Not she
Nor Brewnor knew him, and when she railed anew
And Lancelot answered, on himself he drew
Like jibes, which with no bate of courtesy
He passed, as one not caring.

                        Soon behind
In hard pursuit a courier-damsel came.
A letter which she bore from Brittany
To Lancelot's hand she gave.

                        "Thy path to find
Of all knight's living," she said, "the worst I deem."
But chanced she did not speak Sir Lancelot's name,
Which surely all might think that all would know.

Forthright Sir Lancelot broke the seal, and read
Sir Tristram's missive. 'Do not think,' it said,
'That aught is ever as its aspects seem.
False to Iseult I have not dealt to be;
But should your wanderings turn that her you see,
This comfort give her, with what oaths you may.
For I (so much you know me) would not lie,
That you thereby should be foresworn for me.

'And tell her further that no distant day
Will see me land again on Cornish soil,
When for long absence greater joys shall be.
Thee also at that time I count to see,
For more thy friendship than a kingdom's spoil.'

This letter to his chamber's quietude
He bore, to ponder all it told, and write
Fair answer, which would grant the grace it sued
With such fine courtesy as knight to knight
Would render, when of such good blood were they
That nobleness alike to think and say
Came natural to them as no baseness might.

But Brewnor by his damsel's guidance rode
A further way, and at high noon he came
To where an old tower bore an ancient name,
Pendragon, that proclaimed its earlier fame,
Though later holds of greater strength might be.

Here were six knights arrayed for rivalry,
Of whom the first at Brewnor charged; but he
Tumbled him hard his horse's croup behind.
At which fair sight the five, of equal mind
Not to adventure for a like rebuff,
Rode on him at once, and bore him down, and so
Bound him, unrisen from that foul overthrow,
And to their castle as a captive thrall
They bore him.

                At the following morn arose
Sir Lancelot. More he wrote, recounting all
The many happenings of the realm, that one
So exiled might not hear, and surance gave
That in his hearing unrebuked should none
Miscall Sir Tristram as a knight untrue.

This letter to the damsel's hand he gave,
And armed, and rode upon Sir Brewnor's track.
He would not ride as one too close who clave,
Nor would he the young knight good aid should lack,
If evil chance beyond his might he met.

But not for Brewnor's aid his lance was set
When next it levelled to the rest, for nigh
A bridge too narrow for two knights to ride,
Was one who would a peaceful path deny.

On the smooth bank their practised strength they tried,
And hard to ground that bold opponent fell.
Yet in good heart he rose, and knightly well
His sword he wielded, till Sir Lancelot thought
Not oft extended to such toil he fought;
Though, at the last, so haut a stroke he swang
It brought the strange knight to a stumbling knee.
"I yield me to thee as I must," said he.

"Nay," said Sir Lancelot, "for it need not be
That either yield. A lively bout is through."

"Tell me thy name, most courteous knight."

                                "I well
Accord, if first thine own thyself shalt tell."

"I am Neroveus de Lyle. I hold
My knighthood from the great Sir Lancelot's hand."

"Then I am joyed I made a knight so bold."

Much was the beaten knight discomfited:
"Much evil have I paid where most I owe."

"You paid good dealing. Let us mount and go."

"Here am I vowed for three full moons to stay.
But, for thine ease, avoid the leftward way.
There is Pendragon Tower; and thereabout
Will hove its lord. Brian of the Wilds is he.
He would not meet thee in one equal bout,
But knights like questing hounds would compass thee,
To deal thee basely some unguarded blow.
So hath he brought to hard captivity
Those who in single strife had cast him low.

"If truth be told, it was but yesterday
That such a one - A Table knight, men say -
Who with a damsel rode his peaceful way
Those snares have caught."

                "Were any debt to pay,"
Sir Lancelot answered, "ready coin is thine.
He was a comrade and a friend of mine.
Him will I rescue, if by force I may."

Leftward he rode, and in short hour he saw
Pendragon's moss-grey walls, and there below
Six watchful knights who owned no knightly law,
But basely sank their spears, and charged anew,
That scantly to the rest his own he set.
Before the foremost in full course he met.

Such wrath they roused that all his strength he let
Upon that midmost knight, and cast him far.
He lay back-broken, in short hours to die.
Three spears went wide, and two availed to mar
His painted shield, and wrench his plume awry.
For so they jostled in that craven press
That strength was naught, and skill was feebleness.

Round reined Sir Lancelot, as he passed them through,
And at the first who turned he charged anew.
Pierced the strong lance the countering shield. It went
Deep through the hawberk ere its force was spent,
Came out behind, and in the rearward rim
Of the peaked saddle broke at last. The four
Who yet remained at once their swords outswang.
And Lancelot in good heart their onset bore.
It was but spoil of wayside weeds to him.
Swerved the trained steed. The sword its discord rang
On broken helm and splintering shield, his way
They could not hinder.

                Straight Sir Lancelot rode
Through gates that for their own return were wide.
"Come forth! Come down! Oh, craven knight!" He cried.
"A knight of Arthur for thy doom is here."

"A meddling knight I hate, but do not fear,"
Sir Brian answered. "While I arm, remain
To add one more to those my spear hath slain."

"Little I doubt but here a death may be."

Sir Brian armed. Of greater might was he
Than those his minions of the outer ward.
Their lances broke alike and sword to sword
On foot they strove, with furious blows that fell
On steel that proved too weak, though tested well,
Such blows to dure. By one good stroke at last
Sir Brian reeling to the ground was cast.

"Now yield thee."

                "Yield I must."

                "Then faithly swear
Wrongs to bywandering knights to all repair,
With full release and restitution fair;
And more I ask not, save that arm and heart
Be pledged henceforth to King Arthur's part."

So was it sworn, and thirty knights thereby,
With various damsels of their company,
Saw the clear light of unobstructed sky,
Sir Brewnor with them.

                As to meat they came,
A damsel entered whom Neroveus sent
To learn how Lancelot fared. They told her: "None
But marvels how his hard release was won,
Against six knights at once, and after those
Sir Brewnor tamed."

                "Rejoice, but marvel not,"
She answered, "for the great Sir Lancelot
Is he." At which Sir Brian's heart was glad
That from no meaner hand his fall he had;
But Brewnor's damsel heard with no delight
That whom she jibed should prove so great a knight.

'Now am I shamed beyond remede,' she thought,
'And his full courtesy, that answered naught,
Was contrast that contemns my part the more.'

Nor was it solace to her grief that he,
As though no more a common road he sought,
Alone and early from the postern door
Resumed his way. "Fair courteous knight," said she
To Brewnor, waiting in the outer court,
While from the stalls their rested steeds were brought,
"It is but for a mile, or maybe two,
Sir Lancelot rides ahead. With least delay
I will that we his softer pace pursue....
Whom I miscalled? ... But that was yesterday.
The dawn requires another word to say."

"Well, as thou wilt."

                Then heel to flank they set,
And still the brakes with morning dews were wet
When Lancelot at a leisured pace they knew
Riding before them. Soon his rein he drew,
And turned to see what hot pursuit should hold
His peaceful path (for ever peace he would,
Riding abroad where evil ways were rife,
Desiring gentleness, and dealing strife);
But when no foes he saw, at ease he stood
To wait them.

                "Say what sudden haste," he said,
"Hath brought thee here? Hath Brewnor failed his part?
Not long shall be before his craven heart
My sword shall feel."

                The damsel laughed: "Perde,
Bold are thy foes! For surely foes of thee
Bold hearts must own. No fault of him we tell.
Mine was the wrong, who did thy deeds miscall,
Thyself degrade with mocking words, the while
There was no bating of thy courtesy."

"Nay, but I won the guerdon of my guise,
Who nameless rode. And for the name I bear,
I seek its honour, but I know too well
Shame at the last its brightest deeds must share."

"No shame be thine till honour's tale be done!
Unless Sir Tristram, in this land is none
Of deeds so splendid, or of speech so fair.
Him only would I count thy fame to share,
As only he mine equal aid hath been.
For once, when Breuse sans Pitie's lustful greed
My shield had reft, and I my vow to heed,
Was held thereby, Sir Tristram was but seen
Armed for its rescue, and the caitiff thief
Restored it lightly for his fear's relief."

"Fair damsel, gladly Tristram's praise to hear
I heed thy tale. But should you seek to bide
With one who in these lands doth random ride,
Speak of me as thou wilt, but speak not ill
Of him who doth thy sombre quest fulfil,
For worth thy worship, by my faith, is he.
And lest that quest beyond his reach should be
I would not distance from his danger's call."

To which she answered: "Yea. But wit ye well
Not the sought end the cast of speech may tell.
And tenderest thoughts a bitter word may bear.
Of no sharp scorn I spake, but felt despair
His noble ardent proofless youth to see
Raised in a scale unequal. Shouldst thou weigh
That youth unskilled, that seat unsure, that heart
Unguiled, you well may judge the desperate part
From which I thought he should but would not flee.

"I sought to turn him from his loss away,
And meet therefore thy condemnation? ... Nay,
With thought and purpose of no different name,
Yourself hard-riding to his rescue came,
Nor wilt thou that for any wrath deny."

"Now in God's name," said Lancelot, "soothly ye say.
And when men call ye Maldisaunt will I
Call thee Bienpensaunt."

                So, accorded well,
Long days they rode, until Surluse's bound
They passed, and there the shield's black venture found.


"Who beareth that black shield," the yeomen said,
"May pass, but only unaccompanied.
So choose ye which shall pass, and which shall stay."

Sir Lancelot looked. The broad stream swiftly ran.
The bridge was bastioned, and defended well,
Like to some great hold's outer barbican.
And on the farther side a citadel
With walls of height and flanking towers was set.

If Brewnor entered there, and ill befell,
He might be compassed in too close a net
For those who vainly watched his death to stay.
Valour nor might of any earthly man
Could scale its strength to force a rescuing way.

"Fair sirs, we come in mood of peace," he said,
We show no cause of fear our course to ban."

"We may but loose our bars on that consent,"
The yeomen said, "that he the shield who bears
- Be it which ye will - across the bridge may go
Alone and squireless, as the single foe
Of those who will his further path prevent."

"For this hard rule a seemly cause ye show?"

"We may not tell thee that we do not know."

Lancelot to Brewnor spake: "Of courtesy
I pray ye yield that sable shield to me.
Fain am I at heart this castle's lord to see."

"Fair lord," the young knight answered, "think ye well
How to accept such aid and stand aside
Would suit my honour? Nay, this quest is mine.
I do beseech thee that thy generous aid
Be - as thyself wouldst have it - so long delayed
That I may challenge that high citadel,
And he who rules it. If perchance I fall -
Well, there it goeth. If perchance I win,
Then shall the gates be wide to let thee in.
Or if within that hold I captive lie,
Then for my rescue shall I think on thee."

"Then Jesu be thine aid."

                                Alone he went
Through gates that one by one their strength unbarred
When that behind was closed. And then to guard
The open bridge two knights appeared. The two,
One after one, Sir Brewnor overthrew
On the strait bridge, and these, dismounted now,
Assailed him doubly. Flashed their swords and fell
On shield that turned them, or avoiding casque
From which they glanced and faltered. Knightly well
Sir Brewnor met them, and their force sustained.
Nor found their doubled blows too hard a task
For one who countered to at times reply
With strokes more wounding.

                Yet was naught he gained,
Till, of lost blood and lessening strength aware,
He thought at last a desperate sleight to try.
To lose his footing as he smote he feigned,
And as the nearer knight against him came
Drave upward with a thrust forethought, that slit
The cuish's thong, and to the haunch-bone bit,
Leaving one foe for further strife too lame.

The second single now, with less pretence
Of forward valour, raised a shifting shield,
As one more seeking to prolong defence
Than that a wearied foe be forced to yield.
Who on defence replies invites defeat.
Soon on his crest the sword of Brewnor beat
Beyond his fortitude to more sustain.
"I yield," he cried, and cast his sword away.

"Then with thy comrade shalt thou here remain,
Until my death release thy longer stay,
Or I shall more direct ye. As for now,
My purpose forward lies."

                        The best he chose
Of those three chargers that around them stood,
Looked to his arms, and one unbroken lance
Picked from the cumbered ground, and called it good,
Then rode the bridge to find what further foe
Might still remain his wearied strength to test.

All this his friends had seen. Her watchful eyes
Maldisaunt's dubious hope and fear contest.
And like a leopard from his meal delayed
Sir Lancelot restless raged. His heel that prest
His charger's flank the tightened rein denied.

"Can he," she asked, "two swords at once endure?"

"His sword is used aright: his fence is sure.
He may outlast them."

                "God it grant."

The first is sped."

                "I thought him down."

                        "But he
Feinted the fall. If he this hour survive
He may be equalled by few knights alive."

"The second hath no heart."

                        "He yields."

                        "But how
Shall my young knight so worn go forward now,
Another bout to try?"

                        As thus she spake,
Sir Brewnor rode the bridge. Its further end
Did the like strength of gate and tower defend
As that he passed before. Such strength to break
He could not deem unless their bars withdrew
As had the first to pass him. But more near
His danger came. For thence a knight outrode
And spurred towards him with a rested spear.

No truce for parley and no choice was here.
Alike Sir Brewnor spurred; alike he showed
Naught but the stooped helmed head, the covering shield,
The point of the approaching lance to meet.
So crashed they, falling in the same defeat,
But rose sound-limbed, and in no mood to yield,
And sword to sword in bitter strife they set.

Hardly they fought, for now Sir Brewnor met
The castle's lord himself, Plenorious,
A knight full noble, and reputed well.
Cause had he in past days for meeting thus
The bearer of that shield, and him to quell,
(A tale too distant and too long to tell)
Wherefore he ravaged in most hard attack,
And pace by pace he drove Sir Brewnor back
- For weakened by his previous toil was he,
And bleeding from deep wounds at side and knee -
Until he prayed him of his courtesy
Some while to rest: "For I am worn," he said,
"And little fit to meet thy hardihed.
Knightly it were to grant."

                "But nay," said he,
"Expect not rest nor any grace from me.
Long have I waited that black shield to see,
And pay in coin of steel too old a debt."

"Then must I bide thy worst offence; and yet
I know not what it mean, nor whom you be; -
Being blindly charged to bear it."

                "Soothly you swear?
You are not of its two-fold curse aware?"

                "I swear it."

        "Then this vanquishing strife resign.
Yield to me recreant, and thy life is thine."

                "That will I never."

                "Then thy choice is made.
Heaven is my friend, and thine a demon's aid.
Defend thee as thou canst."

                        In swift reply
Sir Brewnor swung his heavy blade on high,
And lopped a cantal from the lifted shield,
Fiercely they fought again, but how deny
Life's failing strength? With never thought to yield,
Yet was he beaten down to earth, and lay
Beneath Plenorious' blade to save or slay.

Then stooped that noble knight his foe to raise.
"No loss is thine," he said, "and no dismay
Should vex thee for thy fall. My most amaze,
Is that thy strength of arm, and valiant will,
Endured and victored that first strife, and still
Had mood to meet me. He I sought to slay
Belike hath ended on some earlier day,
Caught in such dangers as such sort as he
May fitly find. I do not deem thee less
Either in strength of arm or valiantness
Because I foiled thee. Had I fought as thou,
More than thyself I had been fallen now.
Expect not aught but grace and courtesy
While here you bide."

        As these good words were said,
He raised him, and with aiding arms he led
Through the far exit of the bridge, to where
Rose his great towers in solid strength and bare
Against the background of the larches green
The further height that clad.

                        Not wholly seen
From the far bank, and what such sight might mean
Not wholly guessed, Sir Brewnor's loss the two
Who watched that end of strife too surely knew.
Maldisaunt's clouded and ambiguous eyes
Shone with fierce light thereat: "He helped him rise,
Or so I thought. What might it mean?"

                        "He rose
I saw not how. Outworn by earlier blows
How could he on a fresher knight prevail?
Yet was he better than their best. To fail,
So matched, is honour, though its shame remain.
Less is the loss of those in combat slain."

"Nay," said she, "in thyself his rescue lies.
I will not doubt it."

                "On such walls as those
A lance breaks vainly. Yet remains to see
If the gates' warders still our path oppose,
Or if our transit of the bridge be free."

Then to the yeomen who were placed to guard
Those double gates of oak and triply barred
He spake: "Good warders, is it still denied
That we, our turn who wait, the bridge may ride?"

"Lord," said they, "neither charge to hold thee back,
Nor license of our lord to let thee through
Is clearly ours; and while this word we lack
We know not what the further ward may do.
Go forward if thou wilt, but take the doubt:
To give thee entrance doth not pass thee out."

"Then give me entrance with what speed ye may.
I think not ever on that bridge to stay
But with the castle's lord a word would I."

So was it done, but while this parley held
Was Brewnor kindly by Plenorious led
To where fair tendance and regard dispelled
The thought of shame by barren failure bred.
As for an honoured guest the meal was spread.
As for a brother's life solicitous
His captor urged him that his wounds be drest.

And being welcomed and attended thus
He gave good warning to Plenorious:
"Lord, I have found thee a most noble knight,
And would such dealing in its kind requite,
Therefore I warn thee that a harder test
Awaits thy valour. For my comrade stands
At the far entrance to the bridge. His hands
The lance to govern or sword to sway
Are tenfold more than mine. He will not stay
For either depth of stream or height of tower
Until he reive me from a captor's power.
Thus were it largely to thy gain to tell
That thou with knightly grace hath served me well,
Before his valour at thy gates protest."

"Young knight, I thank thee; but I do not fear."

"Yet in good sooth before he seeks thee here
Well were it to accord."

                "What name of dread
Belongs this lord of whom such praise is said
By one not worthless for his own defence?"

"I have no freedom to reveal his name."

"Then can I move not for such light pretence.
Bold may he be, but if a hundred came
I would not challenge of their best refuse."

"Well, here he cometh."

                From the court without
The voice of Lancelot rose. With no retard,
Through ponderous gratings raised, and gates unbarred
By those whom Brewnor's fall had left in doubt
Of how their orders for his snaring lay,
He had outpassed the bridge, and found the way
To the great court beyond was wide and bare.

"Come forth," he cried, "thou caitiff knight, to meet
The just requital of thine own defeat,
Who didst so foully gain by one to three;
Or else release him if thou dost not dare
A single strife to try."

                        Then wrathfully
Plenorious rose: "Belike thy fate to share
Thy boisterous friend with such insistence cries."

"Nay, let me greet him first, and all compose."

"The answer to such words is harder blows.
Even at my gates! I nigh my grace repent
To one so leaguerd with one so insolent!"

Forth, with his sword outdrawn, Plenorious ran:
"Stint that loud clamour, and defend! For thee
Alone I come, with little need for three
To tame thine ardour. If so much ye can,
Avoid my danger ere ye boast more high
Of rescuing others."

                Sword to sword was set,
Lashing with great strokes that equal anger rained.
Seldom had Lancelot with such fury met:
Never Plenorious such assault sustained.

Plenorious knew the wall behind him lay,
And as Sir Lancelot forced relentless way,
Step following forward step most hardly won,
His strong opponent traced to left and right,
Striving to turn his front as best he might,
But found such traverse by his foe foredone,
And nearer to his back the danger grew.

"Now yield ye," cried Sir Lancelot, "while ye may.
Yield to my grace, for very sooth to say
I know thee for a knight too good to slay."

No word Plenorious spake, but smote anew
On Lancelot's helm, and harder than before.
Dazzling his eyes the sparks of impact flew.
Most had it ended. But his heart the more
Rose to the challenge of the stroke. On high
Swept his great blade to such a hard reply
That to his knees Plenorious came. Perforce
He yielded, lacking strength to further strive.

"Now," said Sir Lancelot, "wouldst thou stand alive,
This fortressed bridge and these high towers shall be
Thy gift to him who was no foe to thee,
But was entrapped, and with no courtesy
Outnumbered, that, as most would fall, he fell."

"Thine is it to say. Yet that which brought his loss,
The shield's black challenge, doth acquit me well."

But Brewnor heard and spake: "I thank thy grace
Which would so dower me, but thou dost not know
How when I failed, he proved a gentle foe,
And further than he took I could not take.
When that he thought me in his hands to lie
Beyond all rescue, then good words he spake,
And life and freedom of his bounty gave.
Wherefore for this high-hearted knight I crave
An equal freedom, if he soothly swear
That he to Arthur's part his strength ally,
Our friends, our ventures, and our vows to share."

And answer made Plenorious: "That shall I,
As one not bound, but with consenting will;
For to be lowly there would all fulfil
That pride may reach for."

                "That," Sir Lancelot said,
"Shall be the fruit of this relenting fray.
And Arthur's word, I do not doubt to say,
Will lift thee upward till thy name be read
With those the sieges of the Table show."

So did their strife its glad conclusion know,
And in that hold, Sir Brewnor's wounds to mend,
They stayed and watched the autumn suns descend.
And through the winter days in more delay
They had good rest, and jocund game and play,
And warmth and cheer, and many a tale was told
Of love's fair service, and of ventures bold,
Till the dark solstice of the year was through,
And spring's gay daffodils awaked anew.


While in Plenorious' hold Sir Lancelot lay,
There to resort Brandiles came with Kay,
And with them rode upon the homeward way
To Camelot's towers. In that long course they drew
To where the victor flag of Arthur flew
Above Pendragon's ancient battlement,
Which Lancelot's valour had subdued before.

Here made he halt, and for Neroveus sent,
To whom he spake: "Fair knight, your warning gave
The chance a foe to foil, a friend to save;
And this great hold of antique strength thereby
With all its lands I won. No need have I
Of fields to coulter, or of gold to pay,
Or walls to hold me from my foes away,
And Brewnor's are they, on this plight, that he
(Who from his fiefs remote hath subsidy)
Appoint thee to command them, and keep
Such portion in thy hands as guardians reap."

With this resolved, their further journey lay
Through the green woodlands of a laughing May,
Until to Camelot's crowding halls returned,
Where those of other wanderings told or learned
All that had chanced on their adventuring ways.

Hard were it to enlarge Sir Lancelot's fame,
But honour to the crest of Brewnor came
For good blows given and borne; and more his praise
For fortitude of heart and outrage bold
When compassed in the Castle Orgulous.

Yet little had he cared for praise or gold
Or lordships won, if she his course who led
Had meet his pleadings with rejection cold,
Or jibes of scorn to mate her name had said.
But her clear eyes were kind, and tremulous
With words of love the lips that once denied
All worth to him whom now her heart allied.
Not only from her neck the shield's black weight
Was loosed, but from her heart its burden fell,
And Maldisaunt, with love's close gain elate,
Became Beauvivant.

                Thus these twain were wed
While yet blithe summer held her conquest well,
And faithful were they for long years to be;
And those deep joys which root in constancy
Gained with the years, as only those deny
Who love reject, in baser marts to buy.

A nearer day, when winter's storms were past,
Saw the rent cloak aside as refuse cast.
To end a tale we would, but may not, tell.
How should we turn to every sideward track,
Its furthest turns explore and wander back?

Tristram And Iseult.

From when Queen Morgan's horn to Cornwall came,
Like tinder waiting to be touched to flame
Was Mark's fierce hate of Tristram. Only now
Was Tristram ware thereof, and all men knew
That Mark's fair consort, were she false or true,
He hated likely, and no more they met,
Save in full hall, or seldom.

                        Lonelier yet,
Unless by Bragwaine's loss, she could not be.
No other friends were hers, and desolate thought
To Tristram turned, as very surely he
Desired and hungered, and occasion sought
For meeting as they might. And how should she,
So compassed and so judged, as days went by,
Ever, and in all moods, her heart deny?

Clear honour told her that she did not well,
Yet, as Mark thought her, to that depth she fell
Who might not else have fallen. From the thought
Of that she once through witch-bound weakness wrought,
Which charged her dreams, desire took shape and flame,
And when by narrowest chance occasion came,
And Tristram's mood, as steel to sheath allied,
Met hers, no more her lips her need denied,
But to short joy they fell, and, once allowed,
Was the sin greater that its sum was more?

Well knew she that her faith to Mark was vowed,
Nor that dishonour which she wrought before
Reduced it. Yet the tales that Bragwaine brought
Showed him regardless of his own to her.
But why recite what many hearts have thought
To silence honour, when too sharp a spur
Was love's desire? Again - again - they met:
And Andret round them drew too close a net
For long evasion.

                So one night was set
For meeting safely, as they thought they might,
While still was summer, and the moon at height
Had been fair guidance for their meant delight,
But Andret snared them.

                Twelve strong knights he took,
Full-armed, so much his craven purpose shook,
To break upon them. With no arms at all,
Even his sword, and with no friends at call,
What could Sir Tristram but to yield? Unclad
They bound him, and in mockery then they led
To Mark, who waited: "Use good ropes," he said,
"And hold him till the morn."

                They bound him hard,
And in the chantry, with ten knights at guard,
They left him till bright dawn across the sky
Made splendour of the chantry windows high.
Full bitter were his thoughts, but bootless now
Was all regret. To Mark, his doom to hear,
They led him, gibing. Either arm was tied
To knights who strode beside him. At his rear
Were others crowding, lest should friends appear
In mood for rescue.

                "Fair my lords," he said,
When in set hall the deadly charge was read,
"I will not vainly that I sought deny,
But something may assert that puts it by
From separate judgement. Is it naught to weigh
That Ireland's tribute is no more to pay?
That Queen Iseult through many risks I brought,
A pledge of lasting peace, from Ireland's court?
When there, at wager of my life, I went,
I might have wed her with her king's consent.
Naught is it that, to hold a plighted word,
To yield her to King Mark my choice preferred?
Naught is it that, from Palomides' spear,
I won her scatheless, and I brought her here?
Think ye what other to this court attached
Had dared that hazard, and the Paynim matched.
Not Andret surely."

                "Yea," Sir Andret said,
"Boast as thou wilt. For who regards the dead?
And dead thou shalt be ere yon sun be low."

"Oh, Andret," Tristram answered, "wilt thou show
No natural kinship even now? In thee,
So close my cousin, should my surance be,
Who hast been all these days my liveliest foe.
Yet if alone we stood, myself and thou,
I should not fear the worst thy sword could do."

"No?" Said Sir Andret, as that sword he drew,
"Yet art thou doomed its fatal point to know,
For I must slay thee by the king's decree."

Bare stood Sir Tristram of all fence, and tied,
Arm against arm, to those on either side,
Whom Andret did not doubt would hold him well.
But called he now on all his strength, and flung
His arms aloft, that those two knights were flung
Feet-forward on the sword, and as they fell
The strong cords brast, and Andret, stumbling back,
To ground he smote, and snatched the sword, and fast
His captors, from his naked, blind attack,
To either doorway ran, while those he slew
Whose feet were laggard, or who started last.

So, like a blast of storm, when winds renew
Full tempest, after pause fresh breath to gain,
Out from Tintagel's walls he broke unstayed,
For those of heart to cross his path were few,
And these were flung aside, or else were slain.

Then on the high cliff-edge sometime dismayed
He stood, with cooling blood the more aware
Of naked peril which he might not flee;
And when an arrow through the singing air
Beside him passed, he tried the sharp descent
Of crags that hollowed to the breaking sea.

There lurked he like a hunted beast. He lay
In narrow fissure till the long day went
Its western way. But when the moonlight came,
Were some of friendlier sort who cried his name,
To whom he answered: "Here, I know not how,
I scatheless came, but yet I see not now
How backward might I climb, nor further way
Is downward, save I fall."

                        Lambegus called:
"No foes are near thee now. A rope we fling."
Thereat he waited for its inward swing,
And snatched it, and spun out, and so was hauled
With bruises upward.

                "To the queen," he asked,
"No evil came?"

                Sir Sentraile answered: "Nay,
Not to her life, as yet. A further day
Her judgement waits. But in his mood the king
Said no clean place should hold her. Till she dies,
He ruled that in the lazer-cote she lies."

"Then hath he wrought for her delivering,
As, had he practised in a kinglier way,
We had not found. I deem that for her sake
The castle walls were ours, to scale or break."

All had they furnished for Sir Tristram's needs
For strife or flight. Good arms and waiting steeds.
So through the night the evil cote they sought.
Remote was built that lepers' curst resort,
And even those to guard the queen were set
Some distance from it. Past their partial guard
The rescuers broke. The doors, too slightly barred,
Fell inward at the axe's first descent.

With Bragwaine only was the queen, and they
Furnished and clad the road to take, intent
That rescue should not wait, and hope alight
That friends would find them while endured the night.

"Art there, my queen?"

                "Oh, Tristram, art thou here?"

"Thou didst not doubt me?"

                "Nay, I would not fear:
I could not fear who know thee."

                        "Horses wait
In the near vale."

                The sound of swords' debate
Rose loudly in the night, and shouts of men.
But quickly died they, for Sir Sentraile clove
The boldest helm, and hard Lambegus strove,
And Govenale, though he bore a knightless name,
Used a good sword, and close behind them came

So slew they till the routed remnant fled,
Then sought their steeds, and rode by wild and way
Their foes' pursuit to foil, but lift of day
Showed lances on their trace, for Mark had heard
Too quickly of their flight, and wrothly stirred
His utmost strength to reach them.

                        Tristram now
Looked back, and in his heart he mocked the men
Who urged their steeds to take him: "Lo," said he,
"Will those who fled my path, they cared not how,
When bare was I, of better temper be
Now that I ride in knighthood's panoply?
It were but jest to think it."

                        But no word
Came likewise from the lips of her who heard,
Nor gave her eyes their glad response, for she,
Disastered by the event's adversity,
Lost even in him her buoyant faith, and dread
Traitored, unwont, her nobler mood, that when
He reined at rise of ground, and laughed to see
The numbers who pursued: "Is Andret there?
Comes he again a second sword to share?"
She answered: "Would you tempt high Heaven again?"

"Think ye to see me by these weaklings slain?
Hast known my sword to fail thee?"

                        "Nay?" She said,
Searching pursuit with eyes uncomforted,
"The sword divine between our loins that lay,
And failed to hold us from our joys away,
At our last hour may fail us."

                        "Might it fail,
And that base rout which bays our heels prevail,
There were nor God in Heaven nor faith in thee
Its end to assure. So weak, with hilt to hand,
Was found I ever that Andret's horde should stand
Their deaths to take who know me? Heed ye well,
In this wide land, since Palomides fell,
Is none of heart our open path to stay."

"Yet must I fear, if such a strife betide,
Thy charger is too worn a course to ride."

"Are theirs less worn?"

                "A fall were worse for thee.
We have no hope of life except we flee."

"Well. As thou wilt! But other hope had I.
From ten good blows it were their part to fly."

Eastward he looked again. Dense woods were spread
Beneath them to the right, and long ahead.
"Here should be covert to thy choice," he said.
"We thus may foil them." Down the slope he led,
And soon cool shadows, and close boughs above,
From those who followed hid the path they chose,
And for the clamour of the chase that rose,
The jay's harsh challenge, and the calling dove
Were all they heard. Before the sun was low,
Weary to death, a struggling line and slow,
To a lone manor that Sir Sentraile knew
They came, and in that place remote and hid,
These twain, whom evil fate so long fordid,
Found a short joy, that was no less to find
For the cold days and griefs that lay behind
- Behind, but not too far to overtake,
Await for some reminding word to wake
With the dark menace of their further threat.
Would outraged Heaven forgive? Would Mark forget?

No lift of leaves that any breeze might bring,
No bird that beat an unexpected wing,
But was their warning. When again they met
From separate ways, however short had been
The urgent moments that they passed unseen,
So had they doubted of that hour's delay
That bliss was theirs beyond our words to say;
Nor once the lucent glades of Eden had
Diviner joys than in their hearts were glad,
Finding the moments of embrace more dear
For the spent shadow of the former fear.


But what did Mark the while? His ways were slow,
Devious, but fixed of purpose. First he sought
Of Tristram's dwelling and his strength to know,
And learned it, smiling: "Had he made resort
To Camelot's girdling walls, or isles afar
Where but the seawinds and the seabirds are,
I yet had reached him at the last; but now,
No hind that grazes where the stakes are set,
No fish that sports within the narrowing net,
Is doomed more surely. Bring me word of how
His days are spent; and when a swift attack
Might seize Iseult, and bring her lothly back
To learn her duty to my realm and me.
Die should she; but a living bait may be
Of more avail to snare him."

                        So he planned.
For few were round him now of heart and hand
To face Sir Tristram; and the best he had
He trusted least.

                With coward craft he hired
A caitiff bowman. One of practised skill
Conies, and deer, and flying birds to kill
From covert of green boughs, and him required
To ambush Tristram when abroad he went.
"But wait," he counselled, "as wise patience may,
That not from far a doubtful bow be bent,
Lest at long range the arrow fell astray,
And so give warning."

                Long he lurked unseen
In the dense woods. He watched Sir Tristram's ways,
And saw that at the noon of sultry days
Sometimes he slept beneath the branches green
Of a wide-shadowing beech. He did not wear
The weight of harness, but his sword was bare,
Ever beside his hand.

                        A brake nearby
Gave covert whence a fatal shaft might fly,
At leisure aimed. A better chance than this
Were vain to hope. At such a range to miss
He did not fear. And soon occasion came.
At one who drowsed he took deliberate aim.
The whizzing shaft he loosed, and watched it fly.
Full straightly was it aimed, and yet too high
For deadliest hurt. It gored Sir Tristram's thigh,
And in the smooth bole of the mighty tree
Quivered awhile and stilled.

                        Sir Tristram slept
Ever of danger ware. Alert he leapt,
Instant. The wound he felt: the shaft he saw.
The ready sword he had no pause to draw,
But snatched, and ran toward the brake from whence
The arrow surely came.

                        No heart had he,
That hireling, with a second shaft to try
The narrowing chance, but out he sprang, and thence
Fled, but not far. Fate ruled that equity,
That he who sought to kill should learn to die.

Faint from the loss of blood he could not stay,
And with each step of the returning way
More doubtful than the last, Sir Tristram drew
Toward the manor gates, and found them wide,
And one dishinged and broken. All inside
Was silent. Marks of many hooves without
Had warned him first. But here disorder wild,
Cast weapons, and fair palls with blood defiled,
And torn and trampled, left no space for doubt
Of what had been. And soon the tale was bare
From minions who had shunned hot strife to share,
But now from hiding came.

                        His knights but ten,
But with a numerous rout of meaner men,
Had Mark with Andret on them burst, and caught
Iseult and Bragwaine in the outer court,
Mounted to ride the forest ways. They might
Have borne them off with scarce a changing blow
Had they not sought Sir Tristram loft and low,
Thinking perchance to find him bare of steel,
And vengeance on a naked foe to deal.

Govenale, some fancy of Iseult to serve,
Was absent. Sentraile, like a searing flame,
Pierced to the core those caitiff ranks, but fell,
Sore wounded from behind. Lambegus came
Late on the scene. He could no more than ride
Upon the captor's rear, their path to tell,
Or chance of rescue, should it rise, to bide.

But no such chance there came. The queen was mured
In high Tintagel's outmost tower. She lay
In prisoned durance by strong guards assured,
With barred approaches of more strength than they,
While Tristram, of a venomed wound uncured,
Cursed the slow passing of the frustrate day.

Closely Iseult was held, but much she heard
Through talk around her, or the whispered word
That gold would win. By which bright argument,
A letter to Sir Tristram's hand she sent:
'Attempt not,' so she wrote, 'a vain essay
Of rescue, nor my peril falsely weigh.
Mark hath no purpose in his heart to slay,
But thinks to use me as a bait for thee,
With ambush of mailed knights, and archery
To be thy death. But as thy love be true,
Avoid so plain a snare. Thy wound must be
Thy first regard to cure, and if not I,
Who is there like Iseult of Brittany
A festered wound to charm? If there ye go,
Soon shall I gain the longed-for peace to know
Thy life and welfare have not failed through me.

'Believe that worthless at this time it were
To seek my freedom, wert thou whole, and now
It were to give to Mark the gain he would,
Which were more sorrow than I need to see.
To seek me now were death. But oversea
Are life and healing. Better days to be
May wait us than the days that once were good,
If so God willeth, though I know not how.'

So wrote she in good faith, but most intent
That further from the hate of Mark he went,
Than thinking that his wound none else could heal.
And as she counselled, in good faith he did,
Seeking a cure for that which mended ill,
Yet used that pretext largely to conceal
What had been, that to Howel's court he came
As one who healing sought, and did not name
Mark's malice, nor its cause.

                        He found goodwill
And friendship, while, with gentle care and skill,
Iseult - men called her Of the Healing Hands -
Drew forth the poison of his hurt, until
Fair healing came, and as the months went by
It seemed that time relaxed the lawless bands
Which bound him to his own Iseult, so fair,
So gentle was this new-found friend; and they,
Being noble and like-natured as they were,
Good converse held of kindred hearts and young.
Should never more another song be sung,
Because was joyance in an ended day?

And sweet as some unbroken rose was she,
Fragrant in all, and more than fair to see,
Fashioned for service at love's call, and he
Was godlike in her eyes. What else could be,
As winter yielded to the gain of spring,
But love's recall, a better gift to bring,
Flawless of honour, and devoid of fear?

Love's consummation was not hindered here,
But urged of all around. These twain were wed
With gifts and blessings, and rejoicings said
By all of Breton speech.

                        But memory lay
A waiting snake in Tristram's heart, and rose
To frustrate that it had not stirred to stay.
For when in love's desired embrace to close
He halsed Iseult, by love's diviner law,
Again his own Iseult's dear breasts he saw,
And felt her lips that loved him.

                        Naught he told
To her who slackened in too loose a hold,
But kissed her, kind in coldness, where she lay,
And spake fair words awhile, and turned away.

Much have men praised this carnal constancy
Which held them separate through long months to be,
While she, too ignorant her loss to weigh,
Took quiet pleasure from the friendly day.

But wherefore should we take with slight regard
That causeless by such course her life was marred?

For proved was here the word the Christ had said
- He who His own with no false comfort fed -
That mortal lives are seeds flung wide and blind,
That some good earth and kindly nurture find,
And some fall sterile on a stoney way,
And some, on which the flocks of starlings prey,
Give life to those by which themselves are sped.

So with Iseult it fared. Her life had found
The sterile verdict of a stony ground,
Nor knew she that a better soil might be,
But chanced it that a woodland path she rode
With Tristram and Key Hedius - heir was he
To that fair land, her brother, Autumn showed
Not yet, save in that fall of earliest leaves
Which the cool depth of meadow grass receives
As summer spoils unheeded.

                        Down the way,
Aisled by great elms, the summer wind at play
To meet them came, and by its largesse free
The light leaves drifting in her girdle caught,
Thereat, in idle mood of laughing sport,
She loosed and shook them from her: "How bold they dare!
And closer even than my lord would care
My zone to reach."

                And Hedius caught the word,
But hardly, and in doubt of half he heard,
He answered - half of doubt and half of jest -
"Nay, where they closer than thy lord would rest?
Then is he frugal of the wealth he won."

Thereat she frowned a puzzled doubt, as one
Vexed by a vain essay to grasp his thought,
Till in her eyes a troubled wonder wrought,
And on she rode, and answer gave him none.


Tristram, who reined a narrow space ahead,
Heard, as he must, yet naught he looked or said,
But heedless seemed, and Hedius guessed thereby
More than her words had held, and so the three,
As though bright dawn had clouded, silently
Rode homeward, each of that one thought aware,
A shadow, which they did, and did not, share.

But Hedius later to Sir Tristram came.
"I would not think," he said, "so strange a shame,
And leave it secret, lest the doubt prevent
Fair friendship. Is my sister in thy sight
As leprous deemed, in whom thy most delight
Were fitly found?"

                And Tristram: "Lo, we be
Blood-brothers, and this bond should bear with me
The while a tale of seeming wrong I tell,
That neither haste should judge too soon, nor then
Too hardly."

                Then the tale he told of how
He met his own Iseult, and enmity
Exiled him: and again how Anguish' vow
Constrained them, that their double oath's required
That she whom more than life himself desired,
And who had wed him with glad heart, must he
To Mark resign. And how desire had been
Their later snare, and all that chanced, and how
He fled from Mark, and so from Cornwall's queen
Was parted, past all hope: "And memory now
Will never at occasion's height allow
That other pleasures may I take, so keen
The recollection of what once hath been
Will raise its head to thwart me. Hadst thou seen
Of whom I speak, thou wouldst not chide, but know
The bondage which betrays thy sister so
Is past my breaking. For Iseult compared
With other ladies shines more bright, as though
A moving cloud the sun's full glory bared.

"Not Pelleas in the night with Nimue
Such joy could find, though more than mortal she,
And more than mortal be her loveliness.
Morgan, for all her practised wiles, were less;
And less Guenever and Morgause, though they
May draw good knights from honour's path away,
To find high solace in that shamed regress."

"I fain would see her whom you praise so well."

"There is nor harp could sound, nor voice could tell,
How much I long it."

                "Yet should Cornwall learn
Thy marriage here, were never safe return
By casual passage, or entreated right?"

"You know not Mark, There is no Christian knight
More base, more hateful, nor more false than he."

"Yet might I lonely go this queen to see."

"You need not that, for wilt thou come with me
A secret venture shall we join to try."

"That will I gladly."

                "Should I chance to die,
As well may hap if Cornish land I tread,
Thy sister will be well released thereby,
And naught of any wrong be known or said."

So, when the skies were kind, a barque they manned,
And northward sailed to reach the Cornish land.
The wind, from out the summer south that blew,
Was light at noon, but as the darkness drew,
It came in fury from the west. No more
Their course they kept, but strove, from shore to shore,
Making the wind's way theirs, a path to steer
Where the wild waters held no rocks to fear.
Yet when the coast of Servage isle was near,
That hope was lost, so hard the tempest blew,
Verring again to south, and ere they knew
It bore them where destruction waiting lay,
Snapt the strained mast, and swept the lurching deck,
And then to leeward rolled a broken wreck,
That sharp rocks tore, and sucking waters drew.

Scantly with life and loss of all besides,
By mercy of flat sands and shoreward tides.
The strongest came ashore, and only they.
Tristram of these, with Govenale and Key,
Found covert refuge at the rise of day
In woods which those unarmed might well prefer
To open fields, while little yet they knew
Of mainland or of separate isle, or who
Its laws controlled.

                But little comfort there
They found, and berries were no princely fare
For hungered men; and when a knight they met
Who closely in a narrow glade had set
His strait pavilion, for a change of woes,
Or better hope belike, they boldly stood.

"What do ye, Tristram, in this lonely wood,
And less to grace thyself than please thy foes,
Draggled and bare?"

                "And of my foes art thou?"

"Haply I have been, but I am not now,"
Sir Segwarides answered. "Wantons light
Should have no force to sunder knight and knight,
Where both be knightly in their moods."

I thank thee for thy grace and courtesy,
Which more perchance than barren words shall pay
At different times from these."

                "Good fare ye need?"

"We starve."

        "We here on birds and conies feed,
And find no lack."

                Toward the tent he led.
"I am not lonely in these woods," he said.
And showed a damsel who, with laughing eyes,
His guests received. And while two squires supplied
Their urgent needs, that damsel's light replies
To Tristram's asking no response denied.

"Where are ye?"

                "On the isle of Servage we."

"Why lurk we here so close?"

                "Because we fear
The island's lord, if he should find us here.
A boisterous tyrant is Sir Naban called,
Whose jests are savage, and who will not be
Rivalled by any in his seigneury."

"Yet must his rule to Arthur's peace conform."

"Believe ye that? The straits of severing sea
That part this diamond isle from fair Logre,
Are moats so deep that never stronghold walled
Could give such warrant of security
To him who keeps it for himself; and he
This custom holds, that none of Arthur's knights
He to the freedom of his fields invites;
So that they come not save by trespassing."

"How came ye then?"

                "We came where none we know
Would think to find us."

                "Well, I came perforce.
How should he chide it? But ye well may wit,
Had I sure lance to lift, sure steed to sit,
It might be largely to Sir Naban's loss
That he should irk me."

                "That I well believe
For well I know thee."

                "You from Cornwall came?"

"There was I born and bred till yesterweek."

"The queen is well?"

                "Was naught her peace to grieve
Since Tristram left her."

                        "Jape not."

                        "Might I speak
So lightly had I tale of grief to tell?"

"Then speak thou as thou wilt, if all be well."


Not only Tristram was the seawind's sport.
Ere noon was word to Segwarides brought
By fishers, who had been his friends before
To add sea-harvest to his meagre store,
That, cast as flotsam on the further shore,
A knight of Arthur had they breathless found.
His arms and steed were lost. His squire was drowned.
Save for their succour had he also died.
The raiment that he lacked their huts supplied:
Food had they given, and warmth, and kindly care.
His name they knew not: "But was plain to see
A man of mighty heart and thews is he,
The strong to order, or the weak to spare.
Even he laughed our lord's dread name to hear.
"Give me a rest," he said, "and find a spear,
And he shall learn that knights of Arthur ride
By any road they will."

                        "If knight he be,"
Sir Tristram said, "of Arthur's court, belike
I met him once at Camelot. Bring him here,
And I will tell ye."

                        "Yea," the damsel said,
"Here bring him, and we raise the bolder head
If Naban find us."

                        When the night had gone
And through the woods a cloudless morning shone,
They brought him. Clad in fisher's weeds was he,
Yet none might question of his high degree,
Who watched his motions in that garb.

Sir Tristram said, "fair knight, is plain to see
Hard fortune hast thou had, and yet to me
The likeness of thy fairer days remains."

"I may be known by those I do not know."

"So may we all; and thy true name to show
I charge thee in good faith, for all our gains."

"Art thou Sir Naban? Of his part or no?"

"Nay, by the tales I hear, I call him foe."

"My name is Lamorack."

                "That before I knew."

"Then tell me whom thou art thyself."

                "My name
Is Tristram."

        "He who caused my Cornish shame,
And would not meet me on firm earth to try
What different fate had been?"

                        "That did not I
From greed of vantage gained, nor fear of thee,
But all was meant in grace and courtesy,
For thou wast worn by striving. Yet was paid
That kindness in a coin of baser die,
For that false horn that Morgan's craft had made
Was sent to Cornwall of a set design
To do me evil, at no doubtful guess."

"I will not surely that I did deny.
But this I answer: Should the choice be mine
Once more, I would, and not in wantonness,
Do as I did, because, as all men know,
The honour of the court of Mark is not
As that of Arthur."

                "That I know full well.
Still was thy malice to myself, and so
I might requite thine evil, yet, God wot,
I was not greatly hurt; and now should we
Put malice wholly from our hearts, to see
How, and soon, this Naban's pride may be
Abashed, and in his place a gentler set."

"Now," said Sir Lamorack, "that before I heard
I witness of thy ways magnanimous;
And gladly will I of my part forget
All that I once misdeemed of deed or word,
Repenting that I ever held thee thus,
And largelier of mine own discourtesy."

So to accord they came, as well may be
When those of noble hearts, whom wraths divide,
Recall their honour, and forget their pride.


Sir Naban called a tournament. His son
To knighthood's age had reached, and all should see
And feast his entering to that high degree;
And mark the day with deeds of valiance done.

All for this hour, from every realm around,
Might enter Servage. All who dwelt therein,
Unless by crippling hurt or sickness bound,
Must make assemblage to exalt the day.

"We dare not further, lest our lives should pay,
Conceal that here ye lurk," the knights were told.
"But, in the freedom of this tourney bold,
Rebukeless may ye walk the where ye will,
So that ye witness and applaud the play."

And Tristram answered: "That belike we may.
And haply with a further word to say,
Even for thy lord to heed."

                Unarmed they went
To watch the marshal of that tournament,
But, as its clarions were about to blow,
Before its lord's high seat Sir Lamorack stood.
"I am a knight misfortunate, that I go
Unarmed, but had I steed and harness good,
None may be here I need too greatly dread."

"Fellow," the burly lord of Servage said,
"Or strong or weak, and be thou knight or no,
Thou shalt not miss thy sport, and nor will we,
Either a boastful churl well cast to see,
Or proud knights humbled by a baser spear."
No lack of harness or good steeds is here.
Choose from my stable and mine armoury,
And the first challenge shall be called for thee."

Mirth moved that concourse as the word was spread.
"A churl gives challenge to the knights," they said.
"It is Sir Naban's jest, good sport to show."
But others: "Yet he looks a likely man.
And should he danger to their overthrow
His mockers, blither yet our sport would be."

"Nay, but is none, since knighthood's use began,
To joust unpractised, but to earth he fall."

But at the barriers soon was silence all
As Lamorack, sheathed in shining armour now,
And on such steed as could his weight sustain,
Bent to the charge. A strong Northumbrian knight,
Thinking perchance a light success to gain,
Against him rode, but crashed, and knew not how
His failure came, so hard to earth he fell.

And while the shouting barriers yet were loud,
Lamorack again, as lightening cleaves the cloud
Deadly and swift some massive oak to tear,
Countered the next and cast.

                        Short tale to tell,
So through the morning hours, till noon was there,
He conquered all who came.

                Sir Naban sate
Biting his nails, and in his eyes irate
Black purpose grew. If knave or knight were here,
Alike was insult. Should one spear confound
All Servage? Should the talk, wide realms around,
For many a year with tears of laughter tell
Sir Naban's tourney, where a fifty fell
Before a nameless churl's rough mastery?
Worn would he by high noon, and breathless be,
And then would Naban from his seat arise,
From ample shoulders cast his cloak away,
Bare his huge bulk, and call for arms, and say
That he for Servage would redeem the day.

How should this blusterer, tired with taking blows,
To his fresh strength sufficient strength oppose
His life to guard? "Fellow," Sir Naban said,
"Have but one bout with me. Should that be won,
I name thee the victor, and the tourney done."

"That will I lightly."

                "Lifts thy pride so high?
I chase thee backward to thy native sty."

So to the field he came. But when they met
Low in the rest a caitiff spear he set
That not at Lamorack aimed, but pierced the throat
Of the good steed he rode. Sir Lamorack rose,
And in his ears a mocking laughter rang.
Down came the giant to ground. His sword outswang.
Before Sir Lamorack's shield was dressed, he smote
So hard that from the helm the hot sparks flew.
Wood wrath was Lamorack, yet he soothly knew
How dire his danger. Making short retreat,
He freed his sword, and raised his shield to meet
A boisterous tempest of descending blows.

"Fellow," Sir Naban, as he lashed him, said,
"Die wilt thou surely, as thy steed is dead,
Except ye kneel to plead my grace, and take
The wage that to my stable knaves I pay."

"You boast belike too soon, but were I dead,
Short time for triumph would thy life allow.
I have good comrades who thy bane would be."

"Why," laughed Sir Naban, "are there more? Perde,
Of this churls' harvest would I reap the crop.
If one hath heart to help thee, stand aside.
But well I warn thee that hard blows to bide
Must be his portion ere the tempest stop
For talk of mercy to himself or thee."

Then Tristram from the barrier called: "A sword
I ask, and how it fall will proof afford
Of him who boasts too high."

                Sir Naban turned
Deriding eyes. "A likely knave," he said.
"Fellow, in yon pavilion swords enough,
And other harness of good proof are spread.
Choose that thou wilt, and if the play be rough
It will be only that thy choice hath earned."

Sir Tristram armed him, but a steed declined.
"It were to ride it to its death," said he.
Sir Naban laughed: "Is here a craftful hind,
Who knows his limit. Less the toil for me,
Who need not mount again. It spares delay.
Now, fellow, heave thy sword, and play thy play."

He asked for that which did not pause. Aloft
The sword of Tristram's choice wide-circling rose,
And swept to meet him. Shifting shields oppose
The flashing tireless blades, that hard and oft
Down-beat them, and on helm and shoulder ring.

Soon, to his wrath, Sir Naban marvelling found
He faced a foe who gave nor grace nor ground,
But gave good measure in that bartering.

Backward he stepped: "A moment's space," he said,
"I charge thee tell me who in truth thou art."

"Tristram of Lyonesse is my name."

By thy churl's garb was I. But ere we part
I think to pay thee. Save Sir Lancelot,
Is none I would more gladly meet."

                        No more
Sir Tristram answered, but his sword replied.
Wholly from Naban's arm the shield it shore,
Nor stayed, but through the woven mail it tore,
Sinking too deeply in the blusterer's side
For life to last.

                But as he sank and died,
Came from the crowd a cry: "Beware! Beware!"
And Tristram turned in haste, and nigh too late.
For Naban's son, new-knighted, faced him there,
His virgin sword for the unknightly blow
Already lifted.

                "Learned ye knighthood so?
Then for its honour should thy days be few."

As Tristram spake, a sudden shield he threw
Upward to turn the blade, and thrusting through
The unpractised knight's too-open guard, he gave
Such wound that never leech the life could save
Of him who felt it.

                Round he looked to view
How those of Servage took this deed, and knew
That well they thought it. Clamorous praise arose,
Not only from the foreign throng, but those
Who leigance to Sir Naban owed. For he
Had ruled by fear, and love's high loyalty
He had not sought.

                "Be thou our lord," they cried,
"For else, now Naban and his heir have died,
We were but lordless for the strong to prey."

Answered Sir Tristram: "Though thy lord I slew,
Tired was he surely by the strife before.
And he who all the weight of tourney bore
Should take alike the garner of the day."

But Lamorack: "Nay, I will not more. I owe
Enough already to the courtesy
Which spared me at our meeting first, and though
I paid thee in such base coin, thy grace to me
Gave rescue now, when, very sooth to say,
I was too wearied for his boisterous play.
Take that the sword hath earned; or else may he
Who nursed us at our need so comradely,
When seemed his succour should be guerdonless."

"That yield I gladly; and with gladlier will
Because I wronged him once in wantonness,
And he of noble heart that wrong forgot
When came I suppliant to his tent."

                        "God wot,"
Sir Segwarides answered, "didst thou ill,
It was that temptress whom alike we know
Who thought it first; and this high seigneury,
Which not my valour nor my worth had won,
Outweighs too largely that which once was done.

"Yet must I with good thanks thine almsman be,
The more for that which halves thy debt to me,
For she who shamed us have I left behind,
The difference in her lighter loves to find
From that she did not price. My leman here
(In lawless love more constant and more dear)
Hath taught me to forget the bond I knew.
For stablished here I shall not fear to learn
How cold are strangers' hearths, nor yet return
To her I loved too long."

                        Thus came that two
Whom Tristram wronged before had large redress,
Which came not of mere chance, but nobleness
Of heart, and generous mood to yield or do.


Peace and good rule to Servage came; and all
Who Naban's violence feared, and hailed his fall
Gave laud to Tristram's name; but how was he
To journey further, who most secretly
Would enter Cornwall?

                "Ride awhile with me,"
Sir Lamorack counselled, "till the talk is dead.
And if in Cornwall any word be said,
It will not seem that there your course you bore.
For who shall guess that chasing storm afore
To Servage turned thee? At the later day
You may continue on a landward way,
With sudden venture overseen of none."

So prudence urged it, and reluctantly
Assented Tristram, lest be all fordone.
They crossed a narrow strait of sundering sea
That Servage from the mainland parts. Logre
Lay round them, richly valed and gently hilled.
Its forest wilds were tamed, its fields were tilled.
By Arthur's rule in fertile peace it lay.
Rapine and death were northward, far away,
But came not here, except that tales were told,
As men, when winter's days were dark and cold,
Gathered at night their log-fed fires around:
Tales of fierce strife and valiant ventures done
Where yet were heathen lords or sorcerous found -
The price at which that windless peace was won.

Avoiding Camelot, but without conceal,
Northward they rode by lonelier ways, to feel
The chill of autumn in the morning air,
Though yet its eves were soft, its noons were fair
As Severn's ford they passed, and westward bore
For that wild land which Pellinor ruled of yore,
And now was parted for his sons to share.

"Ride softly," Lamorack to Sir Tristram said,
"Steel in the sunlit boskage gleams ahead."

Forward they sent a squire the fact to find,
And rode alert with levelled spears behind.
Another twain they found, as ware as they.
"Why lurk ye thus beside the vacant way?"

"We seek ye not. We wait a wrong to pay.
We wait a knight our brother dear who slew.
Hereby he cometh at noon."

                "What knight is he?"

"It is Sir Lancelot."

                "Then for hard ado
Your hearts are set. He will not blench for two,
Nor for a dozen of such knights as ye,
Should all assail him."

                "That is yet to see."

"So would we soothly."

                "Pray ye, onward ride."

"Then so we shall."

                A further mile they rode,
And met Sir Lancelot. When were greetings said,
They warned him: "Forward ware two knights who bide
To do thee evil."

                "Well, with God is all."

"Halt we," Sir Tristram said. "What chance befall
I would not miss."

                They watched Sir Lancelot ride
The shaws between as though no bout to bide
He feared or thought. But from the ambushed side
No spear shone forward. As he passed away,
Sir Tristram to the place returned, and they
Who spake so boldly still were there: "Perde,"
He told them, "of such craven sort ye be
As shames all knighthood."

                "Dost thou witly blame
Thine own reproof, from which our caution came?"

On went Sir Lamorack, for his home was near,
But Tristram and Key Hedius halted here,
Their eager thoughts to Cornwall turned again.
Lone path they chose, and with a slender train
Rode southward for wide Severn's estuary.

But far they rode not through that woodland way
Till one there came at speed, her horse who turned,
That those who could not pass perforce must stay.
No haste was in her voice, but that she said
Was instant in demand: "If glory earned,
Or noble service be thy goal, I claim
Your swords, the kingliest in the world to save."

"Fair one," Sir Tristram said, "if whom ye name
Be equal to thy praise, or knight or knave,
A sword not backward for his need have I."

"If fail thy succour will King Arthur die."

"Now Heaven defend! In what strange jeopardy
Can the high lord of all our kingdoms be?"

"His need," said Nimue, "for a longer word
The time forbids."

        She swung her horse, and spurred
Down the long aisle the meeting boughs below.
Hard rode Sir Tristram on her trace, and so
They came to where a widening glade revealed
A tower, that rather on those woods relied
Than on its strength of morticed stone for shield,
Should those intent on rape or plunder ride
From the wild hills that still the might defied
Of Arthur's juster rule.

                        In this retreat,
With two strong knights a sudden need to meet,
The Lady Annwe dwelt. The sort was she
Who lived by lust, and wrought by sorcery
That lust to feed. Not Morgan's glamorous art
Contrived more evil. As a snake will start
From summer grass the heedless heel to bite,
So would she on some unregarding knight
Her thoughts direct. While peril naught he knew,
The trammels round him of her spells she threw,
And true love failed, and honour fenceless fell.

Now boldly had she wrought by lure and spell,
Even at Caerleon, while the king was there.
At Arthur's self she aimed. If sooth it were
That wizard art alone his strength subdued,
Or idle days in some ignoble mood
His honour lightly to her lust betrayed,
Who knoweth? But the craftful snare she laid

        She left the court, and he pursued
In secret haste. Yet when her tower he gained,
And she, who first perverse refusal feigned,
In swift reverse to amorous softness fell,
He changed alike. For then to guard him came
Those powers who by the arts we may not name
From birth had shielded whom their sleights begot.

Then, when she wooed and he consented not
- His longing to his own fair queen returned -
With foiled desire and bitter hate she burned,
And roused her knights against him.

                        Strength and craft
Were theirs, but knightly use they did not know.
Half-armed they caught him, while their lady laught
As one applauding at a tourney show
The deadly strife to which one end must be.

Against two knights at once, no shield had he;
And no good sword, however featly swayed,
May parry other than a single blade.

Both sides at once the caitiff knights assailed,
And while to right the ready sword availed,
And oversmote the hewing stroke it met,
To left as deadly was the stroke he let,
Which on his helm so hardly rang that he
Came sideward to the ground on hand and knee.

To rise he strove, but blow succeeding blow
Down beat him till his helm to earth was low.
Death came, it seemed, too close for rescuing.
But Annwe stayed her knights: "To slay the king
Be mine alone." A knight's long sword she took
In hands that seemed too light its weight to brook,
But as with ease she held it; and her look
Was venomed on the fallen, while it sought
The gorget's loosest brace, that opening gave
A fatal thrust to deal.

                        But as she thought
To work that treason, ere the point she drave,
She heard Sir Tristram. Swift to earth he sprang.
Through the cleft air his sword its purpose sang.
Even as she turned her gaze the deathful blade
Swept through her neck, and held its course unstayed,
While the shorn head leapt like bouncing ball,
And deep bracken hid it.

                        Naught its fall
Sir Tristram heeded, but in close pursuit
Her hirling knights he chased, for fast they fled,
But not so fast that to the gate they won.
Lightly he slew them, while his sword's best fruit
Did Nimue raise: "Not yet its use is done."
Before her saddle-bow the traitress' head
By its long hair she hung: "Caerleon shall see
What comes when treason works by sorcery."

Slow rose the king and dazed. But wit remained
For thanks to those his perilled life who gained:
"For this fair deed," he said, "I would not fail
To give large guerdon. Yea, I would not tale
The gold to thy content my hand should give,
Which still would leave a debt too large to pay."

"I have no need of gold, nor count it much,
Nor worthy of large gifts such scum to slay.
We need but clean our swords who slaughter such,
And turn our thoughts toward some princelier play."

"I would thy name."

                "My name I would not say.
But, if thou wilt, I ride thy backward way
With these my friends who come behind, until
Those of thy court, as soon we must, we meet,
And safe thou art from any following ill."

So rode they southward in one company;
And Arthur reined to Nimue's side, and said:
"I marvel whom this nameless knight may be.
For, by all signs, of Cornwall's court is he,
And Tristram only - "

                        "Nay," said Nimue,
"How should I know it, if he would not tell?"

"I ask unknightly, and you answer well."


When at Caerleon the knights of Arthur knew
His place was vacant, in short hour they rose
To search through Usk's wild vale, and further through
The wilder lands which blacker mountains close.
So rose Brandiles first, and Lancelot,
With others whom the later tale forgot,
Among them, Ector.

                Riding lone was he
When Tristram with his train and Nimue
Came with the noise such numbers make. They came
With sound of trampling feet, and bursts of song,
Down from the hills, a narrow path along.

Sir Ector's leopards, lithe and fierce as flame,
Sir Tristram knew, but in more doubt was he
Who had no thought in such a company
The king to meet, nor those he might not name
In that known land to counter.

                        "Dost thou ride
In Arthur's peace?" He asked.

                        "In Arthur's peace,"
Sir Tristram answered, "doth our freedom bide.
Yet wouldst thou in fair bout thy strength release,
The sward is level at the copsewood side."

"Thou art not of the Table?"

                        "Nay, not I."

"Then am I of good heart to prove thy pride."

Short words sufficed where both alike would try
A test unfeared. On the near sward they met.
Hard jolt Sir Tristram felt, but harder yet
Sir Ector fell, and ere his feet he gained
Tristram to Arthur rode: "Lord king, is here
A knight most valiant of thine own, and so
Forgive that to my former road I go,
For hindered am I on a quest most dear."

"Fair knight, the more I thank thee, and the more
Entreat to know thee."

                        "By thy pardon, nay.
The less my name be known, the fairer day
I think to find."

                "Then God, Who all can see,
For thy good deed thy long companion be."

So with fair words they parted. Short the way
Sir Tristram rode in peace. At fall of day
Through the dark woods a noise they heard, as though
A score of hounds were in full-throated cry.
Deep-hidden from their sight, a beast went by
- For single beast it was - through brushwood low
That forced its way where never steed could go,
So that who chased it must be turned aside,
And oft was near, but never quite espied.
Near by the sound: yet never quite so near
That he might reach it with a thrusting spear.

Once Pellinor for this beast glatisant
(For in his kingdom was its frequent haunt)
Sought long and tirelessly, through night and day,
Till men his quest would call it; but he came
No nearer than the slim lithe form to see
Shaped like a leopard, and the eyes of flame
That in its serpent's head malignantly
Glowed as it turned a backward glance.

                                It went
Bellowing, and after came a knight who drew
Short rein as he beheld them. Tristram knew
Well the black shield that Palomides bore.
But Palomides knew not whom he met.

"Wilt joust?" Said Tristram.

                "Surely. Seldom yet
Have I made cavil such chance to try,"
Sir Palomides answered, confident
These wandering wayside knights to overset.

"Allow that first I ride," Key Hedius said,
And Tristram granted. But a fall had he
From which he rose not.

                "Guard thee!" Tristram said.
His heart was doubtless to abate the pride
Of that strong victor. But the stroke he dealt
The Paynim dured, the while himself he felt
Such buffet that to humbling earth he fell.

So was it shown that never knight so high
His crest may bear, nor do his part so well,
But in the lowly dust his vaunt shall lie,
Or late or soon.

                The strength that anger gave
Raised Tristram slowly from no gentle fall.
But nothing might he do his pride to save,
For Palomides, with no thought at all
The wayside challenge to regard, went on
The crying beast to seek, that far had gone
While these two courses had been tried.

                        They laid
The wounded Key upon his failing shield,
And bore him to a forest lodge that stood
In the dense covert of the mighty wood,
Which yet the red autumnal boughs concealed.


Meantime Sir Lamorack to his father's tower
Had ridden, not thinking of a likely foe
In that mid-eyrie of De Galis' power
Nor seemed it that the Table knight was so,
Whom lonely at a wayside shrine he met.
A young knight, and of splendid strength was he,
And royally born: King Baudemagus' son,
Sir Meligraunt, whose hopeless eyes were set
On Arthur's queen, who might not constant be
Her vows to keep, but evil use had none
For random lusts or infidelity.

Yet was his folly unrestrained to show
How passion moved his heart, and here to say
In words which all might hear, that soon would she
Relent her coldness, and his love would be.
"For she is fairest of the world," he said,
"Alike of damsels or of ladies wed.
There is none other of a close compare."

"Sir," said Sir Lamorack, "each for each is fair,
And whom you praise would no good knight decry.
Yet there be other queens high praise to share;
And different choice in Orkney's queen have I."

Wrath moved Sir Meligraunt: "Now wouldst thou dare
A foolish word defend?"

                "Yea, that would I."

"Then in a better cause I could not die,
Who shall not, as I think."

                In cooler mood,
And yet as constant to his own conceit,
Sir Lamorack answered, as to ground he came:
"Well, as thou wilt. The Queen Morgause I name
As loveliest of all ladies, and most sweet,
Between the frozen north and Afric's heat,
From furthest Orient to the shoreless sea."

"Next, if thou wilt, but first she may not be.
That will I prove upon thee."

                        Swords were bare
As thus they spake; and soon the yielding air
Such strokes allowed as waked rebellious flame
From shield and helm. Bold front Sir Lamorack met,
And strength that most might dread. But strokes as hard,
And aimed and timed with more exact regard
Ever to where and with what force they fell
He gave relentless, till, short tale to tell,
To those who watched, the coming end was sure.

But when doth aught to looked-for end conclude?
As seemed Sir Meligraunt to more endure
Lacked all but resolution, came the sound
Of many hoofbeats on the hardened ground.

Lancelot and Bleoberis, reining, viewed
A closing strife, and asked them why they fought,
Who both were Christian knights of Arthur's court.
To which they answered truly; and thereat
Lancelot to Lamorack spake: "What praise belongs
To Arthur's knight his gracious queen who wrongs,
To call her less than those who loveliest are?
Now strength be mine that high pretence to mar,
Though he may be too weak who fronts thee now!"

Down from the saddle he came. His sword he drew.
But Lamorack paused: "I would not strive anew
With any knight of worth, and least with you,
Whom most I honour. That I said before
I will not alter, and again I say.
Yet shouldst thou think that that all knighthood may:
Each whom he loves to serve and worship more
Than any other who may fairest be."

Then Bleoberis gave his word's support:
"My lord Sir Lancelot, as of right he ought
He speaks. My lady is the most to me,
And well we wot Sir Lamorack's worth, and know
Friend hath he been to us, and constant foe
To those who vex Logre. From Arthur's side
I pray thee that no rash offence divide
Pellinor's strong sons."

                And Lancelot answered: "Yea,
I spake in haste, and as I knightly may
I will amend it "

                Said Sir Lamorack: "Nay,
Amends between us twain were short to say."


There came to Cornwall on the wandering wind
Of rumour, ere the reddening leaves had thinned,
Word of the marriage of Tristram. At the meal,
Mark told it, smiling; glancing while he spake
At her whom seldom now his words could wake
To either aught deny or aught reveal;
And she, from long resolve of suffering wise,
Heard him, and gave no sign from guarded eyes.

But when the night came, and alone she lay
(For Mark and she were wholly parted now),
And heard beneath her from the rock-bound bay
That which God knoweth that the waters say
In the long strife they may not lose nor win,
She looked upon the end of old delight,
The night of love before its natural night,
And saw that in her hands the verdict lay,
Either its fairness with reproach to slay,
Or close it in the wiser, nobler way,
That memory, if no more, might yet remain
Without the cloud of discord's final stain.

So at the morn she wrote. Her words she chose
With the high courage of her gentleness,
Her changeless love to in such sort express
As would not with a late reproach oppose
His freedom's choice; but in fair words allow
His fealty where she deemed he owed it now:
"Think not because I hear, and hold it true,
Another knows the love that once I knew,
I therefore with resenting thoughts regard
The path of separate days too hopeless-hard;
And all that hath been by refusal so
Degrade from that dear height that both we know.

"Shamed am I. Surely were I shamed the more
If I should cease to love thee. Deeper yet
If in this life made separate might I cease
Desiring thine advantage: might I dare,
Because my lonelier life is waste and bare,
Device of bitter words to vex thy peace;
Or seek, while distance mocks, and hope is dead,
To bind thee to me by a broken thread.
Think not I doubt that other loves are true;
Nor dream because I love thee need I hate
Her who doth for thee what I may not do.

"For though to me remain but arms that fall
Empty, and sightless eyes, and after all
The weary night the ever wearier day,
Shall I not thank God therefor? Shall I not
Find refuge, dwelling in the unforgot,
The unforgettable days when first we met?

"Doubt I for all my loss that ever need
Of mine should call thee vainly? Ever change
Thy loving-kindness toward me? Aught divide,
Or aught estrange, whatever else may be?
For still, through all, the constant memory stays
Of the swift passing of those dearer days
Before you left me lonely. This believe:
Never for all my grief regret shall grieve
That once you loved as few of earthly men
Have equalled ever. As you loved me then,
Reproachless in my heart, I love thee now."

This missive to Dame Bragwaine's care she gave,
Thinking to send it, by Sir Dinas' aid,
When journey should be made to Brittany
By one he trusted. But a shorter road
Sufficed to reach Sir Tristram's hand, for he
With Hedius, and his train, most secretly,
Had landed on the Cornish coast, and rode
Through the dark night at speed to Dinas' hold.
For knew he Dinas, in his prudent way,
Might meet him with closed gates, but not betray
Who sought his shelter.

                        Better welcoming
Than his most thought he had. For Dinas now,
Having good friends in those whom least the king
Could rule, and who would least his worth allow
(For, as the years went by, his friends were less
Alike in numbers and in nobleness),
Feared not to deal as better choice preferred,
And met Mark's anger with an equal word.
Than Mark to him, much more to Mark was he,
Alike by prudence and by probity.

Now Tristram and his train he welcomed well,
And friendship's freedom used to ask and tell
Of all things that had been since last they met.
Iseult was guarded in too close a net
(He said) to reach her by a light contrive.
But as on that Sir Tristram's heart was set,
Caution might compass much, and purpose thrive
Even in Tintagel's towers, where all men met
With trustless eyes and treacherous wits, alive
To cast suspicion on a natural deed.
For friends were his of better sort, and some
Were faithful to the queen; and none might heed
How those who served himself might leave or come.
Disguise, and silence, and a moonless night
- The nights were lengthening now - perchance they might.

Prudent, but not faint-hearted, weighed he thus
A desperate chance, which yet for friendship's sake
He would not shun, and while they held debate,
There came the letter that Iseult had writ,
By Bragwaine brought, and Tristram, reading it,
Was moved so greatly by desire to see
And comfort whom he loved, that naught would he
Hear more of counsel that allowed delay.

Then rode they swiftly at the fall of day,
And to Tintagel entered secretly
To the strait compass of a single tower
In which Iseult was lodged; and only they
Of her own service entered through the day,
Though from the noontide to the midnight hour,
And from the midnight to the noon again
Its stair was guarded, by Dame Bragwaine's wile,
Who practised for one moment to beguile
Those who grew careless by long use. Unseen,
Tristram and Hedius came, and found the queen.

Not only words of careful art were vain
To tell their joys whose lips were joined again
After the forfeiture of hopeless days,
But no man even to himself may tell,
Excepting only he have loved as well,
And borne the burden of divided ways.
And who, since sorrow taught men's hearts to pray,
Who, in love's regiment, have loved as they?

So in that joy, as one to Heaven arrived,
Tristram remained through days that autumn dyed
With crimson through the woods. (For beauty goes
Reluctant from the land: the fallen rose
The haw succeeds.) But that which sleight contrived
Could not be varied. Here was safe to hide,
But not to issue and return; and so,
While to her outer calls the queen must go,
Lest doubt bring danger, Tristram lonely stayed,
Planning an outrage bold, to all evade,
Or all fling off, and bear her, gladly free,
Where Arthur's rule sufficient shield should be
From Mark's most rancour. So the days went by.

But what of Hedius? Not the dear delight
Of love's close bondage with the close of night
Was his to reckon through the lengthened day.
But ever where he ate or where he lay
Either Iseult herself he watched anigh,
Or on the darkness would her eyes be bright,
Her smile be kind; till love's imperious call
He heard, her tender grace to gain. Should all
Seen loveliest in two realms to Tristram fall?
The Queen of Cornwall here: his sister there.
And this Iseult - if false to Mark she were,
Why should she be to lighter leigance true?

"Is she not peerless?" Tristram asked, and he
Gave welcome answer: "Of all times are few
Most lauded of report, who would not be
Unseen beside her."

        "Dost thou blame me now?"

"I do not blame thee."

        Tristram turned content.

But to his narrow room Key Hedius went,
And wrote such words as love unreined will write,
If fault of honour their release allow:
"Such torment for thy hands, thy lips, have I -
Grant me some favour, lest for grief I die."

This letter, lonely to Iseult conveyed,
She read with wonder. Did he fail to see
Her love for Tristram? Then her heart dismayed
Saw further. Was her lost fidelity
To Mark a signal to the minds of men
That honour's barriers were not closed for her?
Those who are false to one, love's deeds to do,
How should they scruple to be false to two?
How should it by strange minds be understood
That she was wanton in no random way?

To face Key Hedius was her heart too shy.
From warring thoughts she wrote unwise reply,
Where more persuasion than reproof was said;
And ere she sent it, Tristram found the scroll,
And of its meaning much his heart misread,
But not Key Hedius' perfidy.

Wrath stirred him past restraint, its fruit of dole
Long months to bear. No word he said to her
But sought Key Hedius: "Ere thy death, confess
Thy treason to me."

                        "If I love no less
Mark's queen than thou dost, am I treasoned so?"

"Thinkst thou that thou shouldst live her love to know?"
Out came his sword. No moment's thought had Key
To meet his anger. By the short delay
A swung door gave, he gained the winding stair,
Leapt down it, and the startled guards were ware
That one rushed past them whom they scantly saw,
And one in hot pursuit behind him came,
At whom they smote too late, and did not draw
His eyes to heed them, or his haste delay.

Sir Key, to whom Tintagel's towers were strange,
And all men hostile, fled with no sure aim
Of exit or conceal. A door stood wide.
He found a vacant chamber. At one side
There was a broad-silled window, wide and low
And open. Heedless to what end he went,
With Tristram close behind, incontinent
He leapt therethrough.

                Beneath a terrace lay,
Held private for the king, where only those
Whom for his hours of sport or rest he chose
Might enter. Here the chess-board's wily play
He waged with Andret. On the table crashed
A leaping man, and overturned it. Dazed
And bruised he rose; while Mark, alarmed, amazed,
Wrenched out his sword, and would have blindly lashed
At whom he knew not. But Sir Andret stood
Between them: "Tell us what this means," he said.
And Hedius, as one dazed and wildered still,
Made halting answer: "On the open sill
I slept, methinks, and fell."

                        The likely lie
Acceptance for the moment gained, and ere
Should further query probe of whom he were,
Key Hedius fled those threatening towers. To know
That Mark was less than friend, and Tristram foe,
Had winged the pace of bolder feet to fly.


Meanwhile had Tristram downward looked, and seen
That Hedius talked with Mark. He could not hear
What words were said; but be they what they might,
They could not loose him from his threatful plight.
How should he past the guards rejoin the queen?
What hope was his but in most urgent flight?
With lack of lance and steed it needs must be.
But boldly through the outer wards went he,
Unchallenged. Safety oft is lightlier won
From dangers that we face than those we shun.

Free was he, nor pursuit behind he heard.
But what was freedom, whilst his heart was stirred
By doubt and misery, and reproach which said
That hasteful anger had his life misled?

For either had Iseult been false, or else
His wrath, misreading, had their joys fordone,
With all his hope to bear her forth; and so
Was here no comfort, but a choice of woe.
If to the younger knight her heart had veered,
Against Key Hedius now were barrier none.
Or if from doubt so base love's skies were cleared,
What could he feel but passion-wild remorse
Whose folly brought to both so large a loss?

Not to Tintagel might he dare return,
Yet would not leave it, lurking near to learn
How fared Iseult. And when a knight he met,
Sir Fergus, one who owed too large a debt
For light refusal, of his courtesy,
He prayed him to enquire how thrived the queen,
And what the sequel to his flight had been.

Short time Sir Fergus took, and tale as short
Was his to tell. He heard of Hedius naught.
But ill, and nigh to death, Queen Iseult lay,
Or so men said, with nothing sure to say.
For doubled were her guards, and none might go
Out from her tower or in, except he show
An order from the king.

                Sir Tristram heard.
But gave no sign thereof, nor answering word.
Only as one whose use of life was done,
He turned, and wandered blindly. Warmth of sun,
Or cold of autumn night, to seek or shun,
No care remained. Upon the unfriending ground,
Exhausted at the last, some swineherds found,
And kindly tended whom they did not know.
But naught he thanked them. And a damsel came
With orders from the lady of the land,
Seeking these herds, who paused, and asked his name,
Seeing with wonder one so formed and clad
Consorting with them, but the hinds replied:
"We know not. Tendence naught nor food he had
When thus we found him to cold ground allied,
Dew-drenched, nor seemed he of our aid aware.
He either doth not heed or doth not care."

Back to her lady with this tale she went.

"A goodly man - most like Sir Tristram he -
And by his raiment one of good degree,
Lies with the swineherds, being tranced with woe,
Or so it seemeth."

                "Tristram all would know."

"Well, so I thought him."

                "Bring the harp he lent,
When in light hour a jocund song he taught
My simpler art to play."

                        The harp was brought.
They bore it through the woods, and Tristram there
They found, and meat and drink his strength to save
They laid around him, but he heeded naught.

Yet when the harp she touched, and waked again
The song he taught her, from the ground he rose,
And took it from her offering hands, and struck
A different weirder, sadder, wilder strain,
A music pregnant with the whole world's pain,
Despairing at the gates of life and God,
At the closed gates, where any prayer is vain,
And wailing into silence.

                        "That," he said,
"Is Earth's long protest to the headless skies,
Where no love lights, nor any mercy lies,
But cold repluse, whatever tears be shed."

"Nay, lord," she answered, "that which grief may say
Is known for treason on a brighter day:
Faint-hearted doubt, which better faith denies."

As one by pain possessed, or grief distraught,
He heard not, or he heard and answered naught.


Andret in Cornwall kept a secret dame
As paramour, and these apart contrived
Such plot that to the court of Mark she came
As stranger from a wandering path arrived.
She told with tears a piteous tale of how
In nameless woods a dying knight she met
Friendless and lone, that on bare ground he lay.
The day she found him was his parting day,
And kindly death for his near friend he knew.
Thereat he spake his name, and charged her bear
His dying message to King Mark, that he
Was Lyonesse lord, Sir Tristram; as his heir
(For at death's door he felt no enmity)
He named Sir Andret; and King Mark he sued
His cousin's right to further. So she said;
For Andret thought that Tristram, likely dead,
Was else far wandering, and the chance was his
To seize a kingdom by this wile pursued.

King Mark believed and pondered: "Much," he said,
"My throne was buttressed by his might." The hate
He felt toward the living left the dead.
But Iseult wept upon her lonely bed
Vain tears that no way might her loss abate,
Nor lead to consolation. Tears she shed
Till tears were dry. And then a sword she took,
And bore in secret to an orchard nook
Where she and Tristram once, in happier days,
Had found that height of bliss which time betrays.

"Jesu," she prayed, "forgive the life I spill,
For he was my love first, and my love still
Hath been and shall be. Wherefor must I tread
Along the path he leads me, live or dead.
For life before: for death I thank Thee now."

Then on the low fork of a leaning bough
Level to her heart the sword she fixed. To run
On the sharp point she aimed, and all were done.
But Mark, who watched, and heard her while she prayed,
Seized her in stronger hands than hers could be.

"Would ye such end?" He laughed, and snapt the blade.
"Forget the dead, for life again with me."

He closed her in her tower, and watched her well,
While lay she in such grief no words can tell,
Still nigh that gate she did not seek to flee.

Meanwhile Sir Tristram, in his naked rage,
Wit-wandering still, a humble hermitage
Found in the wood, and in its sheltering lay.
The hermit there returned at fall of day,
And found him sleeping, and against his hand
His sword was bare.

        The hermit mused: 'I see
A woeful wildness here, and if to me
He wake a friend, or blind and furious foe,
I may not tell; and that I do not know
I will not chance, though surely friend am I.'

He took the sword, which in the brake he hid,
And meat he brought, which in its place he laid.
Sir Tristram hungering waked. Good meal he made.
Such service for his needs that hermit did
That there content for ten days space he stayed,
Dimly aware of that which round him lay.


There was a knight to Cornwall's court who came,
Sir Dinant, with a lady at his side.
They brought a tale of terror. "Both had died,"
- So said they - "but that one we may not name
Gave wondrous rescue. On the Tamer's bank
We rested. Of the flowing stream we drank,
And made good banquet of the swineherds' fare
A groat had bought us. Chill the autumn air,
And short our sojourn, while the horses stood
Tied near us, at the border of the wood.

"But as we rose, out-issuing thence we saw
A monster, past the height and girth of man,
Who came between us and the steeds. To draw
A useless sword was scantly time."

                                They said
He struck the sword to earth, and roughly caught
Sir Dinant by the neck, and soon his head
With a huge knife he held had sliced away.
But from the thicket shade was one that ran,
Naked of arms, but loud he shouted: "Stay!
Or surely for his life thy life shall pay."

The giant laughed thereat. "I need thee not.
Yet should I thank thy legs, that so provide
Another for the spit, to roast and flay."

No word to this the naked knight replied,
(If knight he were who such a rescue tried.
A deed most knightly.) But the fallen sword
He snatched, and as the monster's grasp withdrew
From Dinant's neck, he thrust it upward, through
The unguarded armpit, such a wound to give
That he who felt it should be short to live.

The monster spouting blood, and bellowing rage,
Swept with his knife one wide avoided blow,
And stumbled in his stride, and sank full low,
Rose to his knees, and in that posture died.
For, as he purposed for Dinant, his wage
Was fairly paid. The bright sword circling came
To meet a neck that now at all men's height
Was guardless shown. The gross head leapt aside
From the huge shoulders. Were he knave or knight
Who dealt that stroke, full many a knight of name
Had failed it. But his own they could not say.
As from a sportive mime, he slipped away
Through woods too tangled for pursuit, and they,
Rescued from such extreme, no more could do
Than lift the ponderous head, and bring it where
It would the truth of such a tale declare
As else were doubtful.

                        Mark the grisly neck
Turned upward: "Smoothly at a single blow
Shorn was it surely. Such a knave to know
Well would I, and to hold a porter's place
At the main gate would hire him. Tell me where
This headless monster lies."

                        And when they told
He said no more, but called next morn a chase
To rouse the deer along the Tamer's side.
But when the stag was found, he did not ride
Where the hooves sounded, and the full pack cried,
But sought apart, and on the trampled ground
Bones scattered, of a monstrous size, he found,
On which the wolves had fed.

                        'The tale was true;
And likely lurks the madman near,' he thought.
'I would not meet him, save in peace.'

                                He sought
The swineherds by the sound of rooting swine,
And asked them: "Whom do these cold woods contain
Equal to slay him whose huge bones remain
In proof that more than natural strength had he?"

"Lord," they replied, "is little tale to tell,
But that most wondrous. In these woods doth dwell
A man of comely and most gentle mien,
As ever in a kingly court were seen,
Yet arms or any crest he doth not bear.
Nor seemeth that hard ground, or wintry air,
His frame regards. But as of naught aware,
And seeing surely what we do not see,
Through the long hours he lies, or seldomly,
At sight of weakness or of need, he wakes
To gentle succour, or such wrath as takes
Wild tribute from who stirs it.

                        "Chanced it so
That he who held this land two days ago,
A monster, Talus, (that he bade us live
Was for the fattened swine he made us give)
Had seized a good knight for his bestial prey
- A lady with him - while this wanderer lay
In the near brake, at which he rose and slew.
A marvel were it should Sir Lancelot do
A deed so sudden with a helmless head.
So, by God's mercy, was our torment dead.
And he who slew him to his leafy lair
Retired, as one of nothing else aware
Than the black shadow of his mute despair."

"Where is he now?"

                "By yonder oak he lies.
For oft he roams beneath the midnight skies,
And sleeps when pale November sunlight shines
Through the bare larches or the shadowing pines.
Then lay we victuals for his waking need,
Which the dogs touch not."

                        Mark a bugle blew,
Which called his huntsmen. To the swineherds: "Lead,"
He said, "for he will know ye."

                        Whom he knew
They had no cause to doubt, for there he lay
Sleeping regardless of or friend or foe,
Nor like to challenge that he did not know.

They brought a litter at the king's command,
And laid him in soft ease, nor might they guess
Whether fair pillows more than wintry mire
He welcomed, or remained in weariness
Indifferent to themselves, or what they did.

But half aware, from sleep to sleep he slid,
His old strength slackened by neglectful ways
He had not long endured the harder days
Save Mark (whatever spiteful purpose hid
In his dark heart) had moved his life to save.
Chance he thought Iseult's proud faith to shame
With sight of one so marred, and sunk so low;
Perchance to cast in some contemptuous grave
One who no service now would heal, and so
With mean dishonour of a lofty name
The memory of immortal deeds to blur.

He ordered: "Bear him to the garth below
The turret chamber of the queen. To her
Say only that a lout she would not know,
Picked by my mercy from his native mire,
Being stricken with some sickness of his kind,
Is laid, warm-wrapped; for later days to hire
Haply as porter or as labouring hind.
One not to fear; nor, lest a stench offend,
Too closely to regard."

                These words they spake;
To which, with doubtful eyes, the queen replied:
"More could be said."

                "We have no more to say."

She thought: 'What reason to my garth should send
A churl so succoured? For what mercy's sake
Should Mark so practise? Little doubt he lied!'
Yet seeking truth she went a wrongful way.
'It is some foul disease he sends,' she thought,
'By which to slay me.'

                "Yet," Dame Bragwaine said,
"The men who bore him came as fearing naught,
Nor hastened as his careful couch they spread."

"Well, go not near."

        That night Sir Tristram lay
Beneath cold stars, nor any comfort came
Until the full noon of the following day,
When, with her ladies, through the leafless garth,
Iseult, but holding to the midmost path,
Passed with a glance that reached, but did not see,
Who most she loved. And wildered still was he
By cold and fasting, and the weight of woe
That darkened all his waking hours, and so,
Thoughtless of him, and of himself unthought,
She would have passed, but one beside was there
More than herself alert, and more aware.
For at her side there came a brindled hound
That Tristram gave in happier days, and naught
Would part him from her of free choice, but now,
With one sharp joyful cry, and with one bound,
He reached the sick man's side, and changed his sound
To whimpering protest as so quiet he lay,
And the licked hand was listless.

                "Come," she cried.
And with a whining cry the hound replied.
And half he came, and then returned, as though
To tell her that it seemed she did not know.

"It is my lord Sir Tristram," Bragwaine said.
As instant thought Iseult, and fast she sped
To where he lay. Within her heart was fear
Transcending joy. "Mark's malice brought him here
Sick beyond hope, or maimed, or likelier dead."

Sick was he surely. He who Talus' head
Had shorn so featly few short days before,
Moved with swift feet and raised strong arms no more.
Leap of a dying flame that deed had been,
Exhaustant. Now his baffled senses heard
Distant the dear voice of his constant queen
Recall him to the days that change had slain,
And bitter was the chord that memory stirred.

"Come not," he said, "with phantom mockery vain
To rouse those thoughts from whose pursuit I fly.
Delay not with that voice to let me die."

The voice that called, obedient, died away,
For Iseult sank across him, speech and sight
Failing, and falling to an equal night.
Joy that he lived, and grief that there he lay,
So soiled and savaged, brought her God's delay
To pain or pleasure past the extreme bound
Of mortal durance: brought the moment's peace
The slackened pulses know at thought's release.

Long thus she lay, and when she waked again
She waked to clouded joy and livelier fear.
"Hath Mark been told? Are all my ladies here?
Where can he lie? He cannot thus remain.
Oh, Bragwaine, will he live, or must he die?
What purpose had the king? What road of pain
Hath marred him thus, and brought his strength so low?
How is he near me, and he doth not know?"

"Nay, but he knows thee. When thy voice he heard,
Some words he murmured, and his hand he stirred."

"To mine own chamber bear him as ye may."

"Queen, were it wise?"

        "What else should wisdom say?
Be sure Mark knoweth whom he laid so near.
Fear must we, but we have no flight from fear.
In that known chamber may his heart revive.
Restore him to his strength, and all may thrive;
But fail we there, we fail in all."

                        The queen
No further doubt allowed, and gentle hands
A litter brought, and softest sheets they spread,
And bore his wasted form, who once had been,
In comeliness and strength and hardihed,
The lordliest that Tintagel's walls contained,
And laid him in Iseult's long-lonely bed.

So much, so little, was the joy she gained.
Hope for his life arose, but fear remained.
Nor was it causeless. All she spake or did
Mark heard. He asked: "He dies?"

                "He doth not die."

"Death halts," he thought, "but hath not passed him by,
Knowing my justice will his life forbid."

He said: "We seek the queen." What else he sought
He said not. But with those who held his court,
Andret, and others of the baser sort,
He entered that close garth which only led
To Iseult's solitary tower.

                                That day
Tristram, whose strength with loving care revived,
And who, with strength regained, resumed control
Of those dark forces which surround the soul,
Seeking its empire when by pain deprived,
Or grief, or passion, of its reason's shield,
Lay resting, from the cold winds wrapped, nearby
To where Mark's bearers first had left him lie.
And Iseult, whose dear lips his hurt had healed,
Sate near him, watching while he slept.

                                To these
There came the noise of Mark's approaching crew,
And Iseult, with the sudden danger clear,
Moved from him, to divert their eyes. But near
The brindled hound who first his master knew
Lay watchful. Mark he held the natural foe
Of whom he served, with that fine sense to know
A lurking malice which belongs his kind.
Now rose he growling, and with bristling hair.

Sir Andret marked him: "Why, what guards he there?"
Nearer he drew. "Sir Tristram's self is he."

"Nay, but you jest," said Mark, "it could not be."
Feigning rejection of a likeless thing.

But now Sir Tristram rose to face the king.
"Yea, that am I, the outlawed knight ye name.
But not of mine intent or craft I came,
But borne by others while asleep I lay,
Or brought by sickness low. Can that be blame?"

Mark answered: "Not for that, but earlier wrong,
My barons shall their judgement hold." He bade
That Tristram be secured in ward too strong
For outrage to be forced, or rescue made.
And Tristram, who that hour had well forseen,
No violence offered, for his life relied
On those who were his friends, or loved the queen
With loyal hearts. And when the cause was tried
It seemed he had not wholly erred, for though
Andret was cunning for his overthrow,
And Mark's base minions hailed it; yet were they
For better counsel known loud-voiced to say
That Cornwall's honour would be brought too low,
If by their doom they should unmercied slay
One who had served her in such sort as he,
Her neck from Ireland's irking yoke to free.

Fergus of these was loud, and Dinas urged,
With seeming hardness, that the land be purged
By exile of the traitor. Here agreed
Alike the cold friend and the cautious foe,
And Mark, with thwarted hate, the doom decreed
That on the Four Evangelists he swear
Cornwall to leave, and not re-enter there
For ten years' space, for any cause to show.

Even was Andret half appeased thereby,
Thinking. 'As pass the years, the king may die,
And he be distant and condemned, and I
May take a throne left vacant..

They gave him arms. They crowded down the quay
Where lay the ship that for his outlawry
The king provided. Many friends he had
Among the nameless crowd, and these were glad
To know his safety, and himself to see
Restored to strength, however worn and sad.
And through the throng there pressed Sir Dinadan,
A knight of Arthur, known for jesting song,
And japing wit, that dull men feared, but still
Full knightly of his deeds. Of Arthur's will,
He came to seek Sir Tristram.

                        "Lord," said he,
"I pray you fairly that you joust with me,
Before you leave the land."

                        With light assent,
Sir Tristram answered: "Yea, if this be meant
In friendship, as I deem; and these allow
Who drive me forth."

                The barons answered: "Yea,
Ride, if thou wilt, a course."

                        With short delay,
Sir Tristram armed and mounted. So they ran
A joust that jarred his shield, but Dinadan
With heavier force from selle to ground he threw.

"I pay for learning that before I knew,"
The fallen laughed; "but of thy grace I pray
That I may join thee on thy doubtful way."

"Right welcome art thou."

                        In this fair accord,
They took their chargers and themselves aboard
The waiting barque, but ere it left the quay,
Sir Tristram stood beside the rail, and said:
"Greet well King Mark, and all my foes, and say
That they shall see me on a later day,
Who maybe then will have no mirth to see
One of whose strength themselves their hates misled."


While watched Iseult the grey monotony
Of rain, and beating of the ceaseless sea,
Long lost from sight in mist and meeting cloud,
The barque of Tristram, as strong tides allowed,
And changing gales, or hindered, stoutly bore,
Northward, toward the opposing coast, until
Reaching against a varying gale, they wore
Too close beneath the wizard cliffs of Gore.

Some while anear a perilous land they drove,
But found at last fair landing in a cove

                Tristram here and Dinadan
Left that blown barque. Cramped steed and wearier man
Like glad to lose its compassed hold, and know
Free stride and firm, whatever wind might blow.

And now could Tristram, spite the wrath and pain
That vexed his mind, feel other moods regain
Dominion; not his heart could all disown
Delight of hazardous life and paths unknown
Even from the worst reverse that fate could give,
And loss of all that love could lose and live.

It chanced, as ventures met, that while they pressed
Along the upland path that liked them best,
Four knights of Arthur in that land astray,
Beside a gorge that broke the westward way,
Paused, where a turbulent beating stream below,
Storm-filled, and clamorous in its straitened flow,
Sprayed to the bridge; and while their course they stayed
Along the opposite path that edged the lynn -
Their riding silenced by the clamorous din
Of that loud stream - Tristram and Dinadan
Some space did these four knights unnoticed scan;
And well their various arms Sir Dinadan knew;
Sir Ector's leopards, and the lances blue
On Driant's shield that crossed, and there beside,
Sir Bors' white dove soared in its azure field,
And there the hawk-plume, and the chevroned shield
Of Bleoberis. Such strong knights to bide
Showed force assured or friendship known; but they
With different deemings held their upward way.

For Tristram: "Fair is here our chance to try
Our rested strength," and Dinadan answered: "Why,
When but to speak our names were friends to find,
Should thoughts of hazardous strife intrude thy mind?"
And Tristram: "Never a knight in arms I meet,
Or friend or foe, but I would test his seat,
And look to find him feel the like desire."

"Then may full many a fall thy folly tire,"
Laughed Dinadan, "but since a knight so curst
Is comrade to my loss, myself the first
The test will take, and if I fall, perde,
More rescue than mine own is left in thee."

Forthwith Sir Ector and Sir Dinadan
Closed on the level bridge, and horse and man
Before Sir Ector's lance were rolled, and rose
Sore bruised, but whole. Sir Tristram then from those
Three waiting knights, Sir Bors, their mightiest chose,
But he thereat, who more than Dinadan
Loved not the unceasing strife of emulous spears:
"Methinks the valour of the sons of Ban
Is not so dimmed that any need appears
With wandering Cornish knights perforce to joust."
But Bleoberis challenged, and 'neath the thrust
Of Tristram's spear went down; and Bors, who gazed
At that slow-rising knight, exclaimed, amazed:
"Now false my scorn that mocked his Cornish spear;
What valiant nameless champion meet we here?"

Then nobly those four knights gave courteous way.

Now chanced it where they rode that near at hand
Sir Lancelot, riding from the Desolate Land,
Beyond Surluse, was noised to pass that way
Before the nightfall of the following day,
And there the malice of the Queen Le Fey,
The deadly ambush for his life had planned
Of thirty knights of Gore.
                                A damsel
Who served that queen, but loved Sir Lancelot well,
Riding to frustrate their design intent,
Such wandering knights she sought as might prevent
Its treason, or reverse.

                        Nearby she came
To those four knights, and told the attempted shame,
And gained their surance at the need to be
Her champions as they might; and seeking yet,
Ranging the woods or larger rescue set,
More late with Tristram there and Dinadan met,
And stayed their path with her repeated plea.
And Tristram answered: "Since these knights ye know,
Their purpose and their path, now couldst thou show
Some earlier ambush than their own, we well
Might thin their numbers ere this meeting fell."

But spoke Sir Dinadan with swift protest:
"What would ye now? The fabled monster fights
Alone with thirty or unnumbered knights
And ever he proves his single strength the best,
But mortal knight, however bold and sure,
Two knights he may, or three at most, endure,
If men they be. For two alone to break
These affluent ranks were vain. I'd undertake
Two knights perchance to one, or five to two,
But more we may not, and I will not do."

But Tristram: "Likelier what ye dare ye can,
And more ye may not that ye dare no more."

"Ye be the maddest knight." said Dinadan,
"Save Lancelot, of the Table, whom I rode
Three days beside, and then three months abode
Full quiet to heal me of the wounds I bore."

"Do but thy part," Sir Tristram cried, "for shame!"

"Nay, shame were mine and many a jibing name,
To cast my life to measureless venture so.
Have I not heard thy deeds, and seen, and know
How thy dense bulk thy denser wits should drive
Through shouldering foes, and with thy life arrive,
Where I, in similar chance, should vainly end?
But, if thy madness last, I pray thee lend
The Cornish shield ye bear, for well ye know
Their stronger knights will seek the worthier foe,
And that scorned crest should win me safely through."

Wood wroth was Tristram then: "Now truce adieu!
This Cornish shield ye scorn more dear I hold
Than any wreath of fame or wealth of gold,
For her dear sake that gave it. Truth I swear,
Myself will slay ye here, except ye bide
One knight to answer, if no more ye dare,
While I shall counter all their spears beside.
Or, if your heart should fail one course to run,
Stand idly near and watch the strife ye shun."

But Dinadan mocked the wrath he roused: "Go to!
Here be enough of foes, and friends are few
And needs, or soon or later, must I do
Enough, perchance, to guard my life; but yet,
Evil I count the noon our wanderings met."


Sir Tristram hoved beneath a shadowing oak,
While those four knights whom first the damsel spoke
Held the near path to watch what fate befell.
And ere the lengthening shades to evening drew,
Following a silence through the woods, they knew
The ring and glitter of thirty appointed knights,
Pennoned and plumed and armed and mounted well.
These the four knights beheld but did not stay,
Counselling to watch the event awhile; and they
No earlier strife than with Sir Lancelot sought.
As dogs that bare their teeth, though neither bites,
Their wary parties passed: when loud above
Continual tramp and clang of steed and steel,
"Now here's a knight will strike for Lancelot's love,"
Rang from the wood. Ere lance to rest, or heel
To flank was laid, out from the shadowing oak,
Down the slope pathway, hard Sir Tristram broke.

Back from the imminent impact horse and man
With common impulse swerved, and swerving spread
Confusion downward through the lines they led.
Severing a lane of death his course he ran,
And after, meteor swift, Sir Dinadan
Flashed in the rear. Alike they turned: alike
Through that plunged rout their thrusting swords did strike
Wounds instant, and confusion offering death.
The refluent press increased disorder breeds;
Steeds wounded reared unruly; foundered steeds
Kicked in the dust. Who now continueth?
Full few there be that list to strive and die;
The most in jostling press disordered fly;
And scatheless those two knights, but barren of breath
Paused on the cumbered way.

                        To these there came
Sir Bors and his great comrades, who the while
Had wondering watched that deed its end fulfil,
And prayed Sir Tristram's grace to yield a name
"Not surely strange throughout this warrior isle,
Who singly, to that height of overthrow,
Intrepid courage had shown, and strength and skill,
A marvel in the eyes of men that know."

But answered Tristram: "Generous thanks I owe
To knights of fame assured, and loftier pride;
Knights whose fine courtesy could wait aside,
And portion in such glorious strife forego,
And these I render. For the name ye seek,
Shamed and exiled, till deeds shall loudlier speak,
And make it new, I count that name as naught
Abandoned even from my secret thought."

Thereat they parted with the severing way.

Green gloomed the path, and downward from the day
Sank into shade. Their careful chargers stept
A path which now some hurrying streamlet leapt,
And now was ridged with rocks, and slantly fell;
And then by shadowy pool and leafy dell
At ease they rode, the while did Dinadan tell
Those first fierce strifes of Arthur waged, and not
As came to Lyonesse the rumoured war,
But live with words of one that fought and saw.

And Tristram answered: "Knowing thy name so high
Of those who did the Five Kings' might defy,
Their tenfold strength to break, I marvel yet
That one whose place hath fame so surely set
Among the noblest, hath no shame to shun
The wayside chance."

                And Dinadan: "Like as one,
Twain things ye join. Nine years this silver shield
In hazard of tourney strife, or mortal field,
Not all devoid of honour or won success,
I bore, in ranks not backward. Hence the less
Vain strife I seek, and if a knight I know
More worth than I, why should I, to prove it so,
Take hurt, or bruise, or loss of life may be?
(And he, Sir Bors, with whom ye sought to strive,
Learnt lance-craft from the deadliest lance alive),
Or knowing myself the better knight than he
His shame require?"

                Said Tristram: "Better than I,
I would not lightly grant: and that ye can
Are few to match."

                Now came a clearer sky.
A green vale widened. Meadow depths began
To open past the branches. Herds they met
Pastured, and flocks, and hinds to watch them set.

These hinds, at fall of day, they hailed, to find
Night-harbour, near at need: "Yon copse behind,"
The herdmen answered, "leftward turns the way,
Where those whom fortune serves good harbour may
And grateful tendence meet. Twin brethren there
Manorial rights and castle custom share.
Their stronghold fronts the path. No plunderers they:
Who wills may ride thereby and pass his way.
But who would lodge, by ancient ordering must,
One knight or more, with these twin brethren joust;
And he that shows the manlier seat in selle,
Unhindered in luxurious ease may dwell
(The castle's use maintained): who fails the test,
Without must fare, or leave, as likes him best."

Swift spoke Sir Dinadan: "Now lodge ye where
Your rashness may. I will not harbour there."

And wroth, Sir Tristram answered: "Nay, for shame;
Thus would ye slight your Table's glorious name,
Your own renown and merited worship lose,
Cowardly this wayside custom to refuse."

And answered Dinadan: "Sure knights are they,
Such hardy use to hold, nor lightly shent,
And doubtless rested all the langorous day,
While I my strength have in thy ventures spent,
Wounded and bruised thereby, and strained and tired."
But Tristram of his knighthood him required,
And there they rode, and there, short tale to tell,
Beneath their spears those strong twin brethren fell.


Well were they welcomed there. They bathed and dressed
In easeful garb, and found delight in rest,
And lavish banquet laid, and harp and song.
But mirth and feast they might not yet prolong,
For from the outer ward there came report
That two strong knights, Gaheris of the Court,
And Palomides, for night-harbour sought,
And claimed the custom.

                "What," said Dinadan,
"Is there no rest? Do those who conquer meet
More toil than would be from their first defeat?
Do what thou wilt. But hope no more from me."

But Tristram answered: "By our own success
We hold the place we won. We may not less
Than now defend it."

                        "I will not so.
Tell them the custom died an hour ago."

"Am I alone against them both to be?"

"The devil led me to thy company."

In this debate they armed, and Tristram first
Gaheris overcame; but Dinadan
To Palomides fell: "I knew," said he,
"Surely I was of us four knights the worst.
Why must I fall to prove it?"

                        "Nay, perde,"
Sir Tristram said, "the test is not yet through.
Our swords remain, and with fair aid from you
I may resolve it as we would."

                        "Not so.
Bruised am I here. And I was bruised the more
In that wild strife with thirty knights before.
Why should I ever for thy madness bleed?"

"Then stand thee back. Is here the knightlier deed
Single to take the two."

                        "If that ye would,"
Gaheris said, "we may abate thy pride."

Then those strong knights at once on either side
Assailed Sir Tristram. Loth, Sir Dinadan
Thrust in, but with so little heart thereto
That Palomides cried: "It were but shame
This bout to gain, for still as one to two
Our blows we change. But leave it all to me,
And that he did not deem this knight shall see."

Then backward drew Gaheris. Gladly so
Withdrew Sir Dinadan. And downward came
The Paynim's sword on Tristram's helm, but he
Replied so fiercely that good paces three
Sir Palomides, with his shield too low,
Went stumbling back. But not a further blow
His helm sustained, for with an equal will
Their comrades thrust between, and bade them stay.
"Enough for honour is done. It were too much,
For custom not our own, dear life to touch."

"I am content," Sir Tristram said, "for still
Are here the victors, and resolve we may
That four remain, and none shall ride away."

"Resolve thou what thou wilt, but as for me,
I would not count, or count the four as three,"
Sir Dinadan said: "From where such customs are,
I cannot ride too fast, or ride too far."

"But nay," Sir Tristram said, "it shall not be
That thus we sever. Let us here enquire
Some lodging to thy will."

                The lords they sought
Of that contentious hold, who mirthfully
To aid their absence joined, and sent a squire
To guide them to a forest priory,
Where for some space Sir Dinadan easeless lay;
While Tristram for new ventures rode away.


Those four good knights who knew not Tristram's name,
But had beheld the thirty's overthrow,
Together with the tale to Lancelot came:
"Nameless he may be now, but all will know
A name so splendid at no distant day."

Sir Lancelot asked: "His shield no blazon bore?"

"Blank was it. Only did its shape aver
That it was of a Cornish armourer."

"Then was it Tristram."

                "So it well may be.
Who else of Cornwall hath such name as he?"

As thus they spake, a common purpose led
Their steps and Tristram's by converging ways
Toward the Castle of Maidens, where the king
Had blown a tourney which, for three great days,
Should test the valour and should prove the praise
Of Scotland's knights against North Gales. And there
Might all good knights to either part repair,
To aid their choice; and these to more recruit
With names of hardihed and fine repute,
And to their part persuade, had either king
Sent pursuivants abroad. King Caradoc
Sir Lancelot sought; and for his countering
North Gales on Tristram would alone rely.

So said the pursuivant whom Tristram met,
To which he gave a less than full reply:
"There shall I be, but have not certained yet,
Of two such parties, on which part am I.
I am no foe to Lancelot, but, perde,
It is not to the death such jousts should be.
I shall be likely on thy side, God wot,
Yet must ye tell your lord I pledge me not."

As nearer to the Severn bank he came,
The road was cut with hooves, and mounted men
Passed, or he passed them, all who took the way
Himself he followed, for such tourney-day
Called to all kinds, for service, gain, or fame,
Or for delight some shining deed to see.

Then to his side came Kay and Sagramore
(Surely he knew them, but unknown was he).
They talked of tourneys held on days afore
Where Tristram had not been; and boastfully
Kay spake his part, confusing false and true
(For much he did, though all he did not do).
And Tristram answered: "Though but young am I,
And little practised such high deeds to try,
And most of whom ye speak I have not seen,
Nor ever at so large a tourney been,
I trust some merit to my name may be,
Ere all things end."

                        Sir Kay his Cornish shield
Viewed with no dread. That here were knight concealed
Of more than youthful and unpractised skill
He did not think: "Then have ye heart to try,"
He asked, "the weight of such a knight as I?"

The half-scornful challenge met a meek reply:
"I thank thee, but I would not of my will
Take risk of bruise or stiffening wound, until
I have my part in this high tourney nigh."

"It is a Cornish answer," said Sir Kay,
"Which makes who speaks it as a recreant man,
Who will henceforth a better pord obey."

And Tristram, angered: "Must thy pride construe
A gentle answer in so base a way?
Then must I meet thee, as perchance I can....
Govenale, a spear."

                "But have I wrothed thee? Nay,
More than we mean a jesting word will say."

"No jest was thine."

                "My mind is changed."

                        "But mine
Is steel toward thee now. Defend or fall,
Or yield thee recreant by thine own decree."

But slow was Kay to answer. Loth was he
Against so bold a call that bout to try.
But Tristram stayed not: "Back or breast," he cried,
"Fenceful or fenceless shall my spear be tried."

So, with no choice, Sir Kay that counter ran,
And Tristram cast him to the ground asprawl,
But gave to Sagramore a lighter fall,
When came he forward at his comrade's call.

It was a lone league of the varied way
That Tristram rode, and now companionless,
When hoved a damsel there who charged him stay
Her need to meet.

        "I have prayed four knights," she said,
"Who would not pause to give my loss redress,
Being more bent a wider praise to win
In the bold bicker of the tourney din,
Than single to prevail where no men see."

Sir Tristram halted. Soft of mien was she,
And softly robed, though torn disorderly;
And soft her speech, and soft her pleading eyes.

"Damsel, who wronged ye?"

                "Ten miles hence there lies,
Deep hidden in the closing woods, a tower
Wherein there dwells a foul and ruthless knight,
Who to all damsels doth the same despite
As I have suffered, if their hapless fate
Betray them to his lust inordinate.
Much on his secret tower his heart relies,
But more that any who his might defies
Is overcast, and then unmercied dies,
Such is the cruel strength he shows."

                        "But I
Have little fear in such extreme to lie.
Do thou to this lone tower thy guidance give,
And which of two shall die, and which shall live,
Will soon be shown."

                        Aside that damsel led
Through the lone woodlands, where the conies fled
The bracken-bordered path. Six miles away,
A beaten road they crossed, and there they knew
A knight by-riding on a steed of might,
With service as belongs a noble knight,
And the bold arms of Orkney, vert and blue,
His prideful lineage showed. Lord Gawain he,
Who halted, much in wrath, these twain to see.

"Sir stranger knight, of that poor shield," he said,
"Art thou in service of the queen Le Fey?"

"Is little worship such a word to say
To one who by that word thou dost not know.
Why shouldst thou offer to miscall me so?"

"I needs must judge thee by thy company.
Where dost thou ride?"

                "This damsel best can tell."

"Fair knight, if this be truth, thou dost not well.
I know her for Queen Morgan's trained decoy,
Whose craftful treasons will such knights destroy
As heed her falsehoods or her lusts allow."

"How wilt thou prove it?"

                "This, God's sooth, is how...
Damsel, this sword is very deadly steel."
- His sword he bared - "And this thy throat shall feel
Except thy lips reprieve it. If they lie,
They lie not twice."

                The frightened damsel cried:
"Lord Gawain, mercy! I would naught conceal,
Who came not gladly, but the fear I feel
For her who sent me gave no choice."

                        And so,
As from the closer fear the further fled,
She told: "But one of thirty damsels I,
Sent by the queen, by divers ways to go
Lord Lancelot to beguile, that he be led
To where she harbours now, three miles away,
Or else Sir Tristram. Thirty knights who lie
Either within or ambushed round her gate,
To slay them as they come, their moment wait.
Another thirty range abroad to try
Some lurking treason, that Sir Lancelot die."

"Such dealing," said Sir Gawain, "cries the shame
Of one so close of blood to Arthur's name
That hard it is to reach belief."

                                "But I,"
Sir Tristram answered, "well believe. For late
That errant thirty in the woods I met;
And with a comrade mine we overset
Haply enough to in some sort abate
Their previous pride."

        "Then wilt thou side with me
Another count of thirty knights to see?"

"Yea lightly."

        "Damsel, then is thine to lead.
But think ye of a throat that yet may bleed,
If any treason in thy heart remain."

So to the castle where Queen Morgan lay
They rode; and there on high did Gawain say:
"Queen, all thy treasons and thy wiles are bare;
And all ye thirty, if so much ye dare,
Come forth and slay us, or yourselves be slain."

But from the wall the thirty made reply:
"Lord Gawain, here alone, except to die,
You had not come. But well thy wits rely
On whom is silent at thy side; for we
Know him too surely to the gate unbar."

And Gawain answered: "From the curs ye are
Such words are native, and your praise would be
The larger menace to a fair repute."

Thereat they turned, and left that hindering wall,
And that false damsel to her own device;
And to the Castle of Maidens' fairer call
Once more were heedful. Riding hastefully,
They joined again with Kay and Sagramore,
And bordered that wild land where Breuse had power.

Here the high path declined a curving way,
And twisted backward to a vale that lay
Clothed in great oaks beneath it. Downward far
They looked, and saw the path their feet should tread,
That through the level of the woodlands led
To towers that there the girdling oaks concealed,
Where Breuse sans Pitie tamed with scourge and bar
The guiltless knights he seized but did not kill.
Like a crouched beast it laired in that lone weald,
Seen only from the height on which they stood.

Still was the scene. The summer wind alone
Gave motion; and of sound its varying tone
Was single through the spaces of the wood;
Till from the boskage of the pathless shaw
An outcry burst, and Breuse himself they saw
In hard pursuit of one most impotent:
A lady whom he chased and sought to slay
In anger at the bitter words she said
When her loved comrade by his hands was spent.

Her nimble palfrey now the upward way
Took with good heart, and felt her urgent dread
Rowel his panting sides, but not for long
Had she outdistanced death, except her wrong
These knights had seen.

                "Now if ye stand away,"
Sir Gawain said, "and leave this bout to me,
Before a single knight he will not flee,
And I may all his ruthless wrongs repay."

Then drew they sideward to the shading trees,
And Gawain downward rode.

                        "Avoid to prey
On one whose weakness from thy danger flees,
And meet an equal spear," he cried, whereat
Sir Breuse must rein, and much in wrath he ran
On one who surely was no weakling foe.

Then trackless through the trees the lady fled
To seek such solace as the wild can give
In its deep heart to sorrow fugitive,
While Gawain with the felon clashed, but he,
Who should have fallen by all knightly law,
Swayed in a seat he did not lose, and saw
Sir Gawain, senseless, cast across the way.

Round reined the victor knight, in haste to stay
A rising foe, and with his hooves to beat
The fallen backward, as his use would be
With all he threw, in fashion infamous.

But Tristram, seeing Sir Gawain tumbled thus,
Shouted, and forward hurled at speed, to free
His comrade from that lewd iniquity
Of villain habit, worst in knighthood's name.
But Breuse, as thundering down the path he came,
Swung round, and through the thicket broke away.
For such his wont, the single knight to slay,
Or capture for despitious use, but not
Would honour, or the rules of chivalry
(Of which, if aught he knew, his heart forgot),
Withhold him from a second force to flee.

Much in a steed well-tested trusted he,
And now, at mortal need, it served him well.
For swerved it through the trees regardlessly
Of any guidance his of heel or rein.
For best its way to choose itself could tell,
To foil pursuit and further distance gain.

Soon Tristram nothing saw, though half he heard,
And soon from then he neither heard nor saw.
He could not win a chase he did not see,
He would not leave a chase he might not win.
So rode he wrathful till the empery
Of early darkness those dense woods within
Constrained his halting, and such ease he found
As summer woods can give, and grassy ground,
And such refreshing as a woodland brook
Could furnish ere his tentless rest he took.

So couched beneath the moving stars he lay,
Till by a wildering chance, at dawn of day,
Dame Bragwaine, who in likelier ways too long
Had wandered in his search, and wandered wrong,
Came where he lay. Himself she did not know,
And might have passed, but well the steed she knew,
Which once, Iseult to save, did hard pursue
The Saracen knight.

                The while he slept she laid
Food for his need beneath the morning shade,
That else he had not found; nor waked he till
Her menials all had wrought to meet her will.

So from hard ground to rich repast he stirred,
That different from his drowsing thoughts must be,
Who nothing from those wilds had looked to see,
Till further toil had found it. Yet his word
Was not for this, but for a nearer need:
"What tidings of the queen? Are all things well?
What hast thou brought to show, and what to tell?"

"I bring," she said, "the queen's own script. I bring
Good tidings of her peace, for still the king
Quails for thy vengeance should he work her wrong."

"Then wise his guess. Were never tower so strong,
Nor fosse so deep, nor any sea so wide,
That he behind their vast defence should bide,
Should he that warning word forget to fear,
And evil for her of his kind contrive."

Then did he read the longing words and sad
She wrote, and surely all his heart was glad
The desolation of her grief to know,
For woe is love's relief, and laughter woe.

"Now," said he, "somewhat shall your steps delay
Their straight return. For you shall ride with me
To this near tourney, all its deeds to see.
For that shall dower you with the more to say
Of how I prosper; while I well prepare
Such letters as shall be your gain to bear."

Then to an ancient knight, Sir Pellones,
Who all the menace of that mighty wood
Within the shelter of such walls withstood
That Breuse's malice could not bate his ease,
By Bragwaine's guidance in good hour they drew;
And Govenale there rejoined them. Blithe was he
That dame of previous friendship there to see,
And past accords of amorous sort renew.

There at the board their anxious host enquired:
"In all your wanderings did you meet with one,
Sir Persides? For he, my single son,
For two years past I have not seen."

                                "I well
Recall him," Tristram answered. "Sooth to tell,
Good knight is he, as one so nobly sired
Is like to be. In Cornish hills we met,
And there a wound he gave that irks me yet."

"You are from Cornwall?"

                "Cornish knight am I.
He was but errant: idly riding by."

But even while they spake the word was said
That in the outer court Sir Persides
Was now dismounting. That great tourney-day,
Which drew great knights from half the world away,
Had called him homeward. In good hope he came
Where many rising from inferior fame
Should earn repute; or in their just degrees
Establish it for others.

                        So the day
Failed into night, and night in like retreat
Allowed the day. And Tristram rose and trod
The battled wall, and chanced thereon to meet
Sir Persides, who spake in courtesy:
"You are from Cornwall, as I hear?"

                        And he:
"So is it. Born in Lyonesse wilds was I."

"Haply ye know Sir Tristram? Well I fared
Among the knights of Mark, till no man dared
Resist my pleasure, when a damsel there
I claimed for mine; until Sir Tristram rose,
And reft her from me, whom he did not need.
It was a mischief, as I well suppose,
That, if I bide my time, will time repair."

"Is Tristram then so weak he needs must care
That yet thou art not to thy loss agreed?"

"I say not that. A noble knight is he;
And stronger far than any strength in me
Can equal. Yet the strongest knight should heed
The weakest who waits his hour of need."

"Well, God be with thee, if thy reason fail."

"But tell me if by any chance ye know
That knight, black-horsed, black-armed, who rides below?
Seest thou his shield besides is blank and black,
Though such device meseems it should not lack
As knightly use may win."

                        "I know him well.
There are few better that the world contains."

"Then it is Lancelot?"

                        "Nay, it is not he.
I know him, for but late he rode with me;
The Christless knight who yet doth most excel
In Christian lands, and in these lands remains
For that which never shall requite his pains,
Unless Sir Tristram first he chase or slay."

"Ye speak of Palomides."

                        "Who but he?"

Awhile they watched contending knights below;
For those who gathered for the tourney show
Were active now, in battle harness drest,
New arms to custom, or new steeds to test,
In hurtling ranks, or bouts of single play.

"Fair brother," said Sir Tristram, "shall we now
Cast on our cloaks, and to the court descend
To learn by others' falls, or cheer a friend?"

But answered Persides: "I would not so
At mercy midst that battling crowd to go,
But as strong knights, with never cause to heed,
Who neither mercy ask nor mercy need."

"Be it as thou wilt." And so, with light assent,
Together by the outer stair they went
Down to the court, and called their steeds, and clad
Strong limbs in steel, and gat great spears in hand,
And being unknown to those they met, full fain
Were those their seats to prove.

                        But one was there
Who knew Sir Persides. With greeting fair
He sent his squire: "Dost mark that knight," he said,
"On whose gay shield a lion of gold is seen,
That rageth rampant on a field of green?
Tell him Sir Palomides long hath meant
With one so prankt a friendly course to try."

And answered Persides: "The like would I."
And fair that course he rode, and yet with ease
The Paynim knight bore down Sir Persides.

Then spake Sir Tristram: "For my comrade's fall
Thyself to ride a further course I call."
And at the word, and in too swift retort,
Sir Palomides charged, and chanceless caught
Sir Tristram with his lance unsurely set.

Wrath from the bruising fall that failure met
Rose Tristram, as the Paynim turned away.
"Go to him Govenale, in haste, and say
A second course I will."

                But Govenale came
With answer that increased his master's ire.
"Saith the black knight that here you have no claim
To tourney rules, or second bouts require,
And him you may not know, but whom you be
He knoweth full well. And then these words he said:
'Tell him tomorrow at the tournament,
When all who will with all who will may meet,
I may in more men's sight that fall repeat.'"

That fall had Dinadan seen, for, sooth to say,
Better he loved to watch than share the play,
And see perchance some deed of praise or wrong,
Such as is potent for the birth of song.

He mocked not, when Sir Tristram's wrath he saw:
"Why chafe ye vainly at the chance of war?
There is none born who shall in all prevail.
A steed will stumble, or a lance will fail.
For, were it other, all that moves were still.
Not God Himself should cleanse our lives of ill,
And leave our honours at the height they are."

"Well," said Sir Tristram, "be it near or far,
My honour waits the day that sees him lie
Rolled and dishevelled in such dust as I.
- And here again he cometh!"

                        "It is not he,"
Said Dinadan: "Are all black shields to thee
Become as scarlet to a blundering bull?
I know him well. The North Gales knight is he,
Sir Briant, of a mind too jestless-dull
To either ventures seek or dangers shun."

The while they spake, another knight was nigh,
Sir Lancelot, who his dreaded strength concealed
With the light mockery of a Cornish shield.
To Briant now he sent his squire, and pled
That he would ride a course for hardihed.
And Briant answered: "Thank thy lord, and say
I will not stint to do the most I may."

Faultless and feintless both, in sober strength,
Sir Briant jousted well, but stretched his length
Prone on the ground.

        "Now soothly," Tristram said,
"He rode a course that earned a fairer fate.
His shield was dressed aright, his spear was straight,
His steed well reined. I marvel who could be
The careless victor of such knight as he.
But this I know, though all besides I guess,
That shield of Cornwall hath no seemliness
Hanged from the neck of one whose might were few
Of Arthur's mightiest names to overdo."

"One guess," Sir Dinadan said, "that will not stray,
Is lightly made, that, be he whom he may,
He cometh of the kingly race of Ban.
For equalled are they, counting man by man,
Neither by Orkney's best, nor all Logre,
Nor Pellinor's sons, nor knights of Soldanry,
Nor any else of Arthur's part who be;
Alike in numbers and in nobleness,
Without defect of any."

                        "I well believe,"
Sir Tristram answered, "strength is theirs to grieve
A world in arms against them. Dost thou see
The Cornish knight (but not of Cornwall he)
Takes more offence?"

                So was it seen, for two
Called of the Mount, Sir Madoc and Sir Hue,
Bold for rebuff, came riding side by side,
And seeing how much that Cornish knight could do,
Defied him in their haste a course to ride;
And he assented, and reduced their pride,
Flinging them both, and did not change his spear.

With that he turned away, but one was there
Who found no pleasure in a sight so fair.
The warworn king who ruled North Gales was he,
Chosen for tomorrow's jousts the chief to be
Of those who should the Table Knights oppose.

He saw these three on whom he well relied
Cast casual to the ground, and spake aside
To Palomides, where he watched the show.

"Seest thou that Cornish knight? Good knights are those
Whom he hath flung so hard. What knight is he?
He was too strong for them. But not to thee
His force were fearful."

                "King," the Paynim said,
"I think to hold me fresh thy part to aid."

"Nay, better now were that conceit dismayed."

"Lord, as thou wilt," he said, "yet well may fall
That not for honour but defeat I call."

"I will not think it."

                "Well, with God is all.
Yet may we shortly ask and long repent."

Sir Palomides' squire to Lancelot went:
"My master prays thee of thy courtesy
That thou wilt ease him of his idleness."

"What is the name he bears? Which knight is he?"

"His name is Palomides."

I will endure him. Seven years past have I
Desired this meeting."

                Then alike they sent
For spears of tested weight and length whereby
They should not be reduced unworthily,
The while Sir Tristram said: "I look to see
The Paynim hold his seat."

                "It will not be.
I have not seen the like, unless for thee,
Of him disguised who cast the previous three,"
Sir Dinadan answered.

                "Well, we need not guess,
For instant is the proof."

                The while they spake
The twain had fewtred their great spears: they dress
Their ample shields the coming shock to take:
They spur their chargers to their speed.

                        The lance
Of Palomides struck its mark so fair
That high the shivering splinters leapt in air.
But Lancelot's was so straightly aimed to meet
The countering steel that there it did not break.
Through shield and hawberk such a path it clave
That had Sir Palomides held his seat
No surety had been his his life to save.
But backward far behind his charger cast
The straw-strewn ground received him.

                Those who saw
Were numerous of North Gales, and wroth were they
To know their strongest in so hard a play
Unhorsed and tumbled: "That he doth today
Will not tomorrow, if so long he last,
Repeated see?" In scorn of knightly law,
Their basest banded to contrive his fall.
They watched him leave the field, and gathering all
Their evil strength - twelve spears that hardening war
Had taught themselves to save, and foes to slay -
Pursued, and when for ease he next alit
Beside a fountain, thinking there to sit
By woodland girt, and of the peace of it
Partaking gladly, and its cooling shade,
He heard pursuit, and heard these knights invade,
Clamorous, the green approaches of the glade.

"We have thee here at vantage. Yield or die.
Thou shalt not arm thee," with one voice they cried.

"Yield?" said he, in wonder. "Surely will not I,
Who have seen such odds before, and have not died."

He had no time his helm to take. He snatched
The spear his squire advanced. He leapt to selle.
Upon the foremost knight he rode; outmatched,
Transfixed upon the breaking spear who fell.

Instant his sword was out. To left, to right,
He smote, as who but he was skilled to smite?
Each stroke a wound, each wound a death might be.
Widely and fast they fled, excepting three
Who were too valiant or too late to flee,
And whom he felled.

        From that contention free,
A surer rest he sought. That night he lay
In the safe hold from which at morn he rode.
Worn was he with the toils of joust and fray,
And though he would not from the tourney stay,
He did not arm him on the opening day,
But on the scaffold with the king he bode,
Among those knights whom Arthur chose to share
His voice of judgement, and the prize declare.


The telling of the tournament the king
Held at the Castle of Maidens where the pride
Of Scotland's and of Ireland's lords allied
North Gales' fierce king with all his friends defied.

Mainly the Table knights to Caradoc
Of friendship and fair choice their strength supplied.
Yet had North Gales their haughty ranks to shock
A reasoned hope, for to his part preferred
All those who were not ruled by Arthur's word,
Either who served him with reluctant will,
Or from remoter wilds were kingless still.
And those besides were his who thought to add
Some further to the crescent fame they had
By meeting Arthur's mightiest unsubdued.
The calls of private hate or public feud
The baser stirred, but more of nobleness
Sought only on the weaker side to be.
For all had freedom in their choice, to range
On either part; or even sides to change
If either overborne they else should see.

Here came Sir Tristram and Sir Persides:
One with the rampant lion, vert and or,
Like to his dreadless bearer boldly gay;
But Tristram (who the Lyonesse arms he bore
In happier days had wholly cast away)
Now said: "If better arms by choice I lack,
Be mine the habit here of blank and black.
Am only I who may not take the field
Enigma'd by a blank but Cornish shield?"
And Govenale brought him that he wished, and thus
They joined the ranks of Caradoc.

                        Now began
Hurtling and hurling in the crowded press
Of old knights ware, and young knights emulous,
In ranks withheld, or in the hazardous van.
And rearing of great chargers riderless,
And splintering of strong spears, and swinging out
Of trusted swords their failures to redress.

Backward awhile the ranks of Caradoc bore
North Gales, and all his knights. The King, who feared
That in too-soon defeat, ere even neared,
The weaker side might fail its front to dress,
Spake to such knights as still around his seat
Watched the stern play in cloaks of idleness:
"Fair friends, while yet the daylight hours are long,
The tide of Scotland's battle runs too strong.
Were it not well the weaker to recruit
While yet its valour holds reverse away?"

"Lord," said Gawain, "two spears we well might send.
And, that no party there our course offend,
Let one of Orkney, one of Benoic, go."

"It is a prudent counsel. Choose ye so."

Then Bleoberis rose, and soon as he
Gaheris, where he sat beside Lynette.
"Dear lord," she said, "you shall not stint for me
The chance to take. But ware that Cornish knight
Whose shield hath no remembrance."

                        "Ware I will.
But you shall think us equal to fulfil
The king's require."

                        "I will not doubt."

                                And so
They armed and entered. Where the strife was hot,
Through the wide field they ranged and faltered not,
Till came they doubly where Sir Persides,
Excellent alike in fence and overthrow,
His previous self outdid. But here he fell.
For who, opposed against so strong a twain,
By any swordcraft, might to seat and rein
Adhere, and rooted in his place remain?

Forward North Gales, with many blades asway,
Swung like a surgent wave to cast or slay,
And underneath their hooves, and nighly slain,
Lay Persides, his golden lion bemired,
His sword divided from a nerveless hand.

Tristram, who somewhat to the rear had reined,
Watched this recoil, with fall of who might be
No friend to him, but who full comradely
Had joined himself to whom he did not know.
Forward he drave, and as the front he gained
Gaheris he faced, and clashed, and left him low.
Naught had availed Lynette's forecasting dread.

But Bleoberis next did Tristram meet,
Who cast him backward from his surer seat,
As seldom fell the knights of Lancelot's kin.

That landless king the Hundred knights who led,
By neither wealth nor rank whose fame was spread,
But by such deeds as other days will tell
When wealth is spent, and pomp of days is through,
Saw this reverse. With rushing charge anew
The refluent tide he turned. His knights and he
So forward drave, and held their place so well,
That Arthur's knights arose from where they fell,
With space their steeds to gain, their arms to dress.

Such turmoil followed, in so close a press,
That blows were dealt on whom they did not see,
And seldom twice would one opponent be.
But shouldering through, and disregarding all,
Sir Bleoberis, to avenge his fall,
Toward Sir Tristram strove; and there did they
Close in bold bicker to his loss repay.

Then spake the king to Lancelot: "Dost thou see
How fiercely Bleoberis strives to take
His sword's requital for his spear's mistake?"

"Yea. But to him the verdict will not be.
Of all the realm contains, I count but three
That nameless knight to match."

                Good sooth he spake.
For even then Sir Tristram's sword they saw
Deal such a buffet to the helm it met
That Bleoberis, dazed and overset,
Was rudely from his saddle earthward cast.

As fell that stroke, at Arthur's word, the blast
Of the dividing trumpets loudly blew.
Breathless and bruise, the striving ranks withdrew
To either exit of the lists, wherethrough
They crowded outward in a jostling throng;
And thereamong Sir Tristram, seen of few,
To seek a hired pavilion moved away.

Then Arthur heard the voices of debate
Of kings and lords that round his judgement sate,
And found them few who did not join to say
That the blank shield all blazoned arms excelled:
"Yet is it only of the opening day.
Most often fails the height at first beheld."


To Tristram's tent by night a damsel came
Whom Palomides sent, the truth to learn
Of whom he was; but at her soon return
He little gained: "The black knight's squire," she said,
"Allowed his nameless master for the same
Who faltered from thy lance but yesterday.
But more for good or ill he would not say,
Save only that he asked which side wouldst thou
Prefer, and I, who knew thy will, replied
That where the noblest rode thy place would be,
With Arthur's knights and Caradoc. Answered he:
"Then with North Gales my master takes his side,
Who else had chosen as he chose today."

Passed the short night, and while the dawn was low
Came churl and groom the vacant field to clear
Of links of mail off-hewn, and splintered spear,
And cantals of stout shields that still might show
Their boastful arms, and plume and harness shed;
And churned and slippery turf they sanded well,
And buttressed barriers where the straining throng
Had done their earlier work a heedless wrong.

So the wide field where knight and steed had bled,
In triumph some, and some discomfited,
Was smoothed and cleared another tale to tell,
Loud as the last, and to endure as long
Alike in warrior's talk and minstrel's song.
Soon the draped scaffolds filled. The glittering throng
Of lords, and ladies who such lords belong,
Came to their places ranged around the king.
The armourers' booths, and rich pavilions, rang
With tramp of gathering steeds and armour's clang,
And babel of confused and urgent cries,
While from disorder came good ordering,
And either party through the lists' confines
Filed its first warriors, and arrayed its lines,
With many plumes afloat, and richly gay
With coloured pensels, and, as bright as they,
The broad shields, painted gules and vert and or,
Azure and sable and blanche, with quartered arms,
Chevroned and bent, and scrolled with many a vaunt
Of high device, a fronting foe to daunt
With boast of kindred or ancestral blood.

"Sound," said the king, and high the trumpets blew
Those notes that well the knights of Arthur knew,
Which loosed them on their foes incontinent.
First, from the ranks North Gales' fierce lord arrayed,
Outstrode that king the Hundred knights who led.
For so had counsel ruled, with shrewd intent
That first success the fainter hearts should aid
Of those who by the common voice were said
To be less mightful than the spears they met.

And well the event that counsel justified,
For Scotland's king himself was overset,
Downcast and rolled in ignominious dust,
Till for his rescue those who held his side,
As with one rein, as with one single thrust,
Charged down the field. Their rescued leader rose.
Their impulse bore them past King Arthur's seat,
All the lists' width, and backward flung their foes
From brief exulting. This assault to meet,
Sustain and turn, was Tristram singly seen.
He did so roughly in that turbulence,
His foes to tumble and his friends to screen,
That on him only were the eyes of men,
And good knights fared as though they had not been
For other deeds of praise they compassed then.

He to the height who wins the blast must meet
Which ever round its crest doth bleakly beat.
He who forgetful names hath cast aside
Must counter those who flaunt a loftier pride.
Now from the ranks that Caradoc ruled converged
Lancelot's strong kin, their common purpose urged
By sight of that black shield's triumphant way.
Sir Bors, Sir Ector, and Sir Blamor now,
As steeds impeding and swung swords allow,
Thrust from three sides against him. Here was play
For firelight talk on many an afterday
Of Tristram's valour; with what might and how
His sword repelled them. Yet that sword alone
Had not availed him long, but overthrown
His fame had left him, save the king who led
The Hundred, seeing him closed and hard bested,
The intervening ranks asunder clave
Till his first rescue rose a mounting wave
Of those of equal heart from flank and rear
Who crowded on the course he rendered clear.

Hard-breathed, Sir Tristram for a time withdrew,
As every bickering knight awhile must do;
And Lancelot, from his place beside the king,
Arose and armed him: "Have I grown so weak
That fame I may not win, or do not seek,
Further than that which younger deeds have brought?"

But as he gained the field he changed his thought,
For Tristram, now returned, had seen Sir Kay,
With forty knights like-minded to delay
Their advent till they might the likelier meet
With knights forwearied, in good line advance
Their cautious lances. But the single lance
He drave among them proved their more mischance
Than had they looked from any score to meet.

Then with his sword, to deal their more defeat,
He raged among them. As the conies fly,
Ere at the greyhound's snapping jaws they die,
So broke they from him. One Sir Lancelot met,
Who helmless fled the lists, his gorget wet
With the bright blood that Tristram's sword had let.
"Good friend," said Lancelot, "who hath served thee so?"

"The knight with the black shield, if knight he be,
But rather devil by his deeds is he."

"Then must I meet him."

                With his sword outdrawn,
Sir Lancelot entered the wide lists. A score
Sir Tristram chased. With every stroke was shorn
Gay crest; or hammered helm, by dent and slit,
Showed why its wearer reeled away from it.
And Lancelot, at the sight, was moved the more
The driven side to aid, but checked his rein
As came a thought: 'Against a wearied man,
Or, if not wearied, who the toil began
Earlier than I, what praise were victory?
Fame might I wrest from him, but not the gain,
Nor any heart's content, were changed to me.'

Then turned he, looking to the leftward field,
Where his strong kin, close-ranked, would noway yield,
But made firm front against their thronging foes.
'Strifeworn,' he thought, 'alike are these and those.
I would not at the first. I will not now.'

So rode he from the lists, disarmed, and sought
Once more his peaceful seat at Arthur's side.

"Lo," said the king, "that knight, I marvel how,
Sustains his part as one who lives untaught
Of how weak flesh betrays the fault of pride."

"His deeds," Sir Lancelot to the king replied,
"Are surely wonder, and today shall be
His to a cloudless close, at least for me.
Tomorrow is another tale to tell."

"But heed," said Arthur, "what is happening now."

He spake with cause, for Tristram, sated well
With scattering of the flank he faced, had turned
The wider field to view. The Benoic knights,
Distressed by failure of their comrades round,
Yet in themselves sufficient force had found
To yield no inch of their contested ground.

So close, so firm, their battered line they kept
That only here the tide which forward swept
Broke on a rock it might not move nor drown.
They were but twenty, and around them thronged
Led by North Gales, and he to whom belonged
The Hundred knights, a tenfold strength; but they,
Like to wild swine, whose bristling herds at bay
No openings yield, their rank contained. For none
A separate aim pursued, nor swept his blade
More for his own than for his comrades' aid.
And Tristram, yet some space apart, who viewed
Their strength, their valour, and their fortitude,
Thought: 'Is it wonder that their greatest one
Is first of prowess and of nobleness
By all consents of knights and meaner men?'

Then as he rode toward the hardest press
He seemed the coming of a new support,
But to the king the Hundred knights who brought,
And to North Gales he spake: "Fair lords, to me
No call is here, for such a sight I see
As offers only to our foes renown.
Outnumbered are they, but they will not flee:
Encompassed, but their steady ring sustains.
From such encounter what repute remains?
High praise, if to the last their line endure,
Which to their numerous foes is less than sure,
Even though they drive them. Fixed of heart are they.
And if for given aid a grace I pray,
It is that ye forebear them. Leiver I
Than that such knights were shamed, or shameless die,
Would change my side to friend them."

                                He who led
The Hundred sheathed his sword: "Fair knight," he said,
"Fair nameless knight, with other eyes we see
Thy constant valour and thy courtesy
Than those which frown refusal. All men know
Like draws to like, and noble hearts forgo
Such vantage as requires their overthrow."

So from the Benoic knights his knights withdrew
As its high note the ceasing trumpet blew.

Then the king's judgement spake: "As truth prevails,
My knights were less than those they clashed. North Gales,
Through the black knight, hath won." At which, men say,
The cries that rose were heard two miles away:
The sable knight, the sable knight, hath won.

"Where is he?" Asked the king. But voice was none
That gave reply, for he with Dinadan
Both from the field and his pavilion rode,
To seek night-harbour in a lone abode
Which Dinadan knew. And as that cry they heard
He asked: "Wilt turn and take thy favour?"

What gain is favour till the final day?
But marvelled am I that I did not see
The shield of Palomides. Where was he
To counter whom the baser side I took?"

Meantime Sir Lancelot sought the knight unknown,
Wroth as a lion who faulted of his fill,
For ever nobleness of heart is shown
By thirst for others of as bold a will;
While Arthur, rising from his tourney throne,
Reproached a slackness which expressed so ill
His court's high courtesy: "Is shame to all
Who let him pass, and failed in gentle thrall
Here to pursuade his steps, that I might see
And welcome that good knight, who'er he be,
Who hath so many endured and overcome."

Then to his knights he spake, of whom were some
Bruised but yet whole, and some whose hurts were sore:
"Though for this day ye lost the field," he said,
"Ye should not therefore be discomfited,
The third day often will such loss restore.
New lances also will recruit your line,
And I will aid it as I may with mine.
Be blithe the hearts that join our feast tonight;
But short that feast, that all may rest aright."


Receding sunset barred the western sky,
And in the east a gibbous moon was high,
When Govenale came to Tristram with the tale
That Palomides, where the downward vale
Met the wide stream, in mood of madness sate,
Lamenting that his deeds defeating fate
Would ever yet their final crown deny.
Much did he more lament of love reject,
And speak of Tristram, whom he needs must hate
For many sore despites, and not the less
For his much valour and his gentleness
Which raised his honour to such high reflect.

"Such," Dinadan said, "his times of madness are
Who knighthood seeks in Christless ways to show,
And hath the guidance of no constant star.
What wilt thou therefor?"

                        "To his aid to go
Clean knighthood calls our feet," Sir Tristram said.
And so they came to where, as Govenale led,
Sir Palomides, in his most despair,
Contemning his good sword, had cast it bare
Into the weeded margin of the stream.

"Alas!" He cried, "that ever sword I drew
To be the cause of others' fame. To me
Comes but reverse, and though the light I see
I may not reach it." Then the belt he threw,
Following the sword; and then, with changing mood,
Plunged in the flood, and groped to find again
That which he flung before, and groped in vain.

Deeper he waded in the weeds. Thereat
Sir Tristram followed: "Hold," he cried, "the stream
May sink more sharply than perchance ye deem.
The weeds may snare thee if a hole betray."

Yet further still he plunged and groped; and still
Sir Tristram followed, weighted both alike
With greaves and body mail which yet they wore.
Then Tristram seized his arm. Toward the shore
He urged him backward, and the Paynim cried:
"What wouldst..... Who art thou? Loose thine hold!"

                        "But nay,"
Sir Tristram said. "Thou hadst ungloried died
In the cold flood. The nameless knight am I
Who fain would meet thee in a place more fit."

"Ungloried? That my fatal end shall be
By any path I take or mode I die.
That knowledge must I needs lament."

                        "But why?
Thou art a knight of valour, strength, and skill;
And wert thou of accept and changeless will
Would few surpass thee."

                "All thy praise could say
I might be, yet would one exceed me still.
I mean Sir Tristram, who, in Ireland first,
And then in Cornwall, hath my fame reversed.
Gentle men call him, but athwart to me
He hath been ever."

                "Shouldst thou meet him here,
What wouldst thou?"

                "Hardly, with a chosen spear,
I would give battle for my just degree."

"Thou wouldst? And surely of like mind were he.
And therefore shouldst thou all thy heart address
To fit thee for the chance, ye know not when,
That will not fail thee. Rest this night with me.
Thy belt is here. The sword can lightly lie.
Good sooth! There are enough of swords to buy
In armourers booths that round the exits lie.
Believe me for thy friend, and come with me."

"Fair nameless knight, I thank thy courtesy.
Rest will I with thee till the dawn is nigh."

Then Tristram to Sir Dinadan sent ahead
A word of counsel, that no japes be said,
Nor aught which would reveal him. All of cheer
That Tristram could was Palomides' then.
Yet while that Tristram slept, when dawn was near,
He who had slept not rose and rode away.


Now for the third high bout the trumpets blew,
And who had gained or failed alike anew,
With arms reburnished and with pensels gay,
With shields repainted, and bright plumes aplay
In the light breezes of the mounting day,
Thronged to the lists a further test to try.

And first it seemed that what had been before
Repeat of challenge would but prove the more.
Again North Gales unhorsed the Irish king.
Again King Caradoc lacked the force to fling
Him of the Hundred. Knights exampled thus
Themselves outdid, till Palomides' spear,
As some strong wind throws back resisting seas,
Against them drave. His chequered shield they knew.
The shout along the roaring barriers grew:
The Paynim lasts. The Paynim knight is through.
Nor was he sole North Gales' bold ranks to tame,
For nearly at his side King Arthur came,
With skill not matchless, but resolve as high.

They led such onfall as could naught defy,
Till Tristram, with one only purpose fired,
Showing his black shield where weaker knights retired,
With Palomides clashed, and flung him far;
While those who watched were still, or changed acclaim.

But soon the Saracen knight, and soon the king,
Were horsed again, and Arthur's eagerness
Drave at Sir Tristram with so shrewd a thrust
That earth he felt, nor in the thronging press
Could rise, while Palomides merciless
Reined round to trample whom he did not fling.

Wood wrothed was Tristram at that lewd despite.
Half risen, the ankle of the Paynim knight
He seized, and dragged him from his steed. Was then
Such bout of swords as seldom wondering men
Have had God's fortune to observe and weigh.
But Tristram's blade, although it did not slay,
Beat down that other at last, and rang such tune
Upon the Paynim helm, that, dazed and blind,
He reached toward a foe he could not find,
Dismissed to darkness in the August noon.

Only the press of comrades saved him then
From heavier dole, while Tristram, horsed again,
Sought other excellence. And sore his might
Gored Caradoc's ranks, till loth his force to bide
So many from his course retired aside
That Arthur, lanceless now, in all men's sight
With single valour held his place, and so
Lone in the path of Tristram waited.

Sank the great lance against him. Lanceless he
Paused till the spear was on him, and swerved, and smote
The passing point, and severed. Such feat to see,
The straining barriers roared acclaim. The king,
Ere Tristram loose his heavy sword could swing,
Nigh clave his helm. Some space he drave him. The throng
Of broken knights behind advanced anew.
Now Tristram backward bore him in turn. But through
That eddying strife pressed Lancelot toward the king,
And seeing him countered in such sort, he cried:
"Defend thee here!" And at Sir Tristram's side
Such thrust he made as on cold ground had cast
All knights but they. But he not wavering,
Broke in his side the entering point.

                                To last
Long in such strait he might not hope. To throw
His foremost foes disordered from him awhile
Was first his thought; and this he achieved, and then
So felt his wound that from the eyes of men
Only he longed unseen, unsought, to go,
A dying peace in forest ways to find.

Outward he broke, and left the struggling press.
Lone path he found. With eddying sense and blind,
And draining life, slow-paced, a woodland mile
Erect he rode from hard resolve, till less
Than will might rule, the vital course declined,
Whereat he fell, not knowing.

                        But near behind
Sir Dinadan came. His friending thought could guess
Deep wound alone from that augmenting fray
Had drawn him forth. Was little heed he gave
To honour's loss of knight who turns away,
Still hurtless, from the high tide of strife, but swift
Pursuit he tried, and where the beechen shade
Widened, and golden showed the lighted glade,
Sun-pierced amid the shadows, beheld adrift
His friend's black charger feeding by the way.

Sharp pricked he then, and with short ride arrived
Where in the summer dust Sir Tristram lay.
And as beneath his hands spent life revived,
He mocked the folly of the shield's disguise
That brought that fall. Sir Tristram answered: "Nay,
Why should we blame the high concept we dare,
Though to the sought success we do not rise?"

"The high concept? Both sides you missed your gain!
To slay the king, or else of Lancelot slain
Here, lost, to lie."

                The while he spake he sought
With careful haste the draining wound to bare,
To search, to staunch, to bind with easeful hold,
That strength to Tristram's heart returned, while there
They rested, as the failing light foretold
Night's empire of the woods resumed, and cold
The wind that stirred the sighing boughs. To stay
Unsheltered there were evil choice, unfed,
Unwarmed, deep wounded.

                "Weight of arms to bear,
Or motion of thy steed," Sir Dinadan said,
"Ye are all unfit. There is no surer way
To bring thee aid than hence awhile I go
Short space, at speed. There is no likely foe
Thy covered rest would find, nor beast of prey
Ye might not scare with clang of arms away."

"Nay," said Sir Tristram, "whole at heart am I,
Although I failed before, and shamed that so
I overdeemed it. Let thine arm supply
Aid as the stirrup I gain, and once in selle,
I shall not falter, but endure it well."

Sir Dinadan stooped thereat, his aid to give,
But rose more sharply than he bent: "Perde!
Behold who cometh."

                "A flying knight I see,"
Sir Tristram answered. "Must we for his need
Ourselves adventure?"

                "Nay, not fugitive
He rides so fast; but like a hound is he
Keen on the scent. And on thy life to feed
His heart is hungered, if his lust I guess.
Is he so distant that you do not know
How Palomides rideth, bent and low?
Unstable ever in his moods is he,
And, named or nameless as you chance to be,
Still art thou he who foils his fantasies."

"Well, let him come. The summer woods are free."

"That will he surely; but thy wound denies
The strength to meet him. Heed my counsel now.
It is in flight alone thy safety lies.
Seek some safe tower. Or where the meeting bough
Makes a deep secret of a woodland dell.
Irk not thy wound, but else, the most ye may,
Be speed thy shield. Meantime, his course to stay,
I will encounter, and at least delay,
A stronger knight than I. And if I fall
I trust thee surely for my soul to pray."

"Good friend," Sir Tristram laughed, "my thanks I owe.
But I would have thy selfless knighthood know
That yet good heart and haply strength remain
To meet his fury, and to overthrow
A charger overridden, as his must be.
Aid me to arm and mount. A comrade slain
To gain my safety would such scorn supply
That better were it in reverse to die,
As well thou knowest."

                "Never wits had I
To match thy wisdom..... Heed this girth awry."

Then forward rode Sir Tristram soberly,
Aware the less the strength the more the skill
Occasion calls; and his black shield aright
He drest, at which, as at no welcome sight,
Sir Palomides checked his speed. But he,
Fair truth to tell, but reined his steed until
Gaheris, softlier in his rear who rode,
Should join him, that they came as two to two.

"What would ye?" Asked Sir Tristram.

                "What would you?"

"I seek but harbour for the night's abode."

"But I requite for much indignity."

"Seek ye to joust again?"

                "I seek to show
Not thou, but fortune, wast too hard a foe."

"Joust will I freely in this fair accord,
That shouldst thou fall, no after-bout of sword
Thou wilt require; but should thy lance prevail
I must defend me, or my freedom fail."

So spake he, doubting that his strength should last,
Though yet sufficient to the ground to cast
The Saracen knight. But Palomides thought
The gain was all to him, the loss was naught,
That treaty gave; which yet no difference made,
For he so hardly to the ground was laid
That strength to rise he lacked. But no regard
Sir Tristram gave him. In a bout as hard
He met Gaheris, who had more preferred
Aside to stand. No inch Sir Tristram erred
The lance to guide, for in his heart he knew
His strength was strained its last attempt to do.
Flung as the first the knight of Arthur fell.

Then rode Sir Tristram with Sir Dinadan
To where a tower above the woods was high,
Black on the scarlet of the evening sky.
Harbour they asked and had. An aged knight
Received them well, the while his wandering sight
Searched the bare road, and then, as half in fear
To ask, and hasten that he would not hear:
"Ye come from the great tourney?"

                        "Sooth to tell,
We had some part therein."

                        "And surely well
Prevailed your fortunate spears?"

                        "Beshrew me, nay.
Only I took this wound, and rode away."

"I may not think it. Yet so much ye saw
That the three leopards couchant, vert and or,
Ye did not miss?"

                "The battled field was bright
With many painted shields, and much beside
Our minds to hinder and our eyes to draw.
Three golden leopards? All with gold alight
Glowed the ranged fronts, and rank on rank arear
As insolent shone."

                "Nay, but my sons were five;
And every one the same high symbol bore."

"They were?" Said Dinadan. "Say they are. For we
Who chance the tourney, year on year may see
The same confronting shields we met before.
Doubt not they shortly in one troup arrive,
Nor vex thy heart to fear the five are four."

Even as he spake it proved. As ere they came
With shields discoloured; beaten, bruised and lame,
But yet sound-limbed for later proofs to see.
For evil comes to all, but comes it first
To who forethinks it, and its most and worst
Fangless to that which urgent fears foresee.


After Sir Tristram from the strife withdrew,
Surpassing were the deeds that Lancelot did,
As one no risk who weighed, no hurt who knew.
In single strife, or bustling groups amid,
First was he ever, while the king returned
To his high seat of judgement. But that sight,
In which Sir Lancelot, as an only knight
Against a legion, bore their boldest back,
So stirred him that he cried: "As God me save,
Is here our shame to see, whose hands are slack
To aid that valour."

                Then his place he gave
To Gawain, seated near, and knights around
Who had not striven as yet, or strife had found
Enough before, their purple mantles threw
To pages' hands, and in bright steel anew
Behind him came.

                Their entrance made but sure,
Or sooner, that which those who watched foreknew.
No longer might North Gales' bold front endure:
He of the Hundred found that faint and few
Were those who rode around him. Gawain saw.
Above the din the final trumpet blew.

Then to Sir Lancelot was the first award
Judged with good right, for he with lance and sword
Had long and last prevailed, but not would he
That right allow: "It were no grace to me
From Tristram's grasp so late a wreath to snatch.
For three full days he had no mortal match;
And late to rise, for shorter bouts, was I."

Neither could lords nor ladies, low nor high,
Not kings' entreaties, nor the people's cry,
Avail to change him. Yet may all men see
That were he first or last by might's degree,
Surely, by this rejection, first was he.
For tourney victor was he called no less,
And more applauded for his gentleness
Than had five hundred from his single spear
Fallen to flat earth.

                Yet little comfort came
From any source to him. The praising word,
The king's persuasion, left his heart unstirred.
Only he thought of that disastrous chance
By which Sir Tristram's side had felt his lance,
And by that chance the former deeds he did
Perversely from their just reward forbid.
So to the king he spake. And Arthur said:
"The prize was thine. But not with less dismay
Than is thine own, Sir Tristram's loss I view.
Of all the knights I know, of all I knew
In earlier days, there is no name to say
Nobler or knightlier, or of courteousness
More constant to sustain the fame he wins
Assertless. Let us, ere the night begins,
Follow and find. And, be he hurt or whole,
Bring him to couch or feast."

                        In this consent,
And joined by Dodinas (who with them went
Because Sir Sagramore, his constant friend,
Could stir not, with a laming wound to mend,
A score of paces from his leech's tent),
They found Sir Persides, and sure was he
That Tristram in his hired pavilion lay.

But there they found him not, nor where away
His feet had wandered could they learn, and so
In heavy mood for that they feared to be
(For worse is that we doubt than that we know)
They turned toward the castle again, and there
Gaheris met them: "Now, good faith," said he,
"Vainly ye rode a dying knight to seek.
His arm from any wound was not too weak
Sir Palomides to the ground to cast.
I count not of myself. Mere truth to speak,
I had no will to meet him."

                        Arthur said:
"Hurt was he, as we know, too sore to last
The tourney through. And that the Paynim did
Was of the unknightly kind that God forbid
A knight of mine should do."

                "He came so fast,
No choice was mine."

                "He strove in haste, unsure
That longer might his ebbing strength endure,"
Sir Lancelot guessed aright. And said the king:
"Oft is it that the steadfast heart will hold
The weak reluctant flesh to deeds controlled
Beyond a fainter will's accomplishing.
And though he might not to the last fulfil
His three days' purpose, this remains, that he
Longest of all endured, and all excelled.

"Fair lords and princes all, of sooth I say
I have not surely such devoir beheld
Through all high ventures since the distant day
When from the magic stone the sword I drew.
And though to Lancelot's spear at last he fell,
What of it? When two noble knights contend,
Each of high heart, and each with God to friend,
Needs must be one (and that will God decide)
The worse to meet."

                "It is no boast to tell,"
Sir Lancelot answered, "that such strife I tried.
For all my Father's lands I own today,
For all I have done, and for all I may,
I would not Tristram to his hurt have met,
For mine too recent and too great the debt.
Did he not break that thirty who designed
My fatal ambush? Riding straightly through
The crowded lances of that craven crew,
With only Dinadan's weaker spear behind?"

"So was it," said the king, "and yet by you
We lose him now."

        "But that you shall not do,
If any search can find him. Hear me swear.
That wrong which in the heat of arms I did
I will at need with twelve months' toil repair,
Seeking him ever, never twice to rest
One roof beneath, until the weary quest
Be ended by success. Are nine beside,
For mine or Tristram's love, this quest to ride?"

"I will," Sir Ector said. "And that will I,"
The words from Bors and Bleoberis came.
Blamor, Ewaine, and Lucan swore the same,
Galahalt and Galihodin. Lionel last
The ten completed. In one company
They rode to reach that cross where diverse ways
Strike through the waste to every wind, and there
They parted, taking all the ways that were.

Meanwhile Sir Tristram, for some space of days,
In Darras' hold was lodged and tended well,
But hurt too sorely from his couch to raise
His fevered limbs; and while he bided so
Came Palomides there, but did not know
He moved so nearly to his mortal foe,
For Dinadan, whom he met, of words was spare,
Except good purpose for their speaking were.

Yet jibed he, as it was his use to do:
"Ye seek Sir Tristram? So do hounds pursue
The fleeing deer, whose fleetness at the last
Will naught avail the scent aside to cast,
Or to outpace implacable toil behind."

"I seek him, as ye guess, and think to find.
Then will be dawning of his evil day."

"Surely no more than modest sooth ye say,
Who hast so often chased and seen him flee."

"Thou dost not mock?"

                "Could thought of mockery be
When Palomides' fearsome name is said?"

"Yet wast thou Tristram's friend."

                "Thy deeds of dread
I dare not lessen, lest my life should pay."

"That which thy words would hide thy tones betray.
I think thee less than friend."

                        But more to say
No time was theirs, for Darras entered, wroth
For that which from Sir Lucan's lips had he
But shortly heard. For there had Lucan reined,
Resting short while his steed to ease, and told
How went the tourney: "Of all knights were three
Most boisterous. Others at their feet were rolled.
These three (but Lancelot was a victoring fourth)
All who withstood them without mercy baned.
Who were they? Tristram first, and one beside
Who oft in friendship at his rein doth ride.
And Palomides. Leopards vert and or?
Yea, surely such beneath their feet I saw,
One side or other. But I wot not which."

Careless he spake, nor all was truth, but all
To him who sired those beaten knights was gall.
'And here,' he thought, 'they come, my board to take,
And revel at my humbled hold to make.
Indifferent that their hooves so lately trod
My sons' gay leopards, but, so aid me God,
A lowlier note shall soon be theirs.'

                                He went
Where Dinadan with Palomides spake,
"Fair knights," he said, "your comrade's hours are spent
Too lonely from your much neglect."

Sir Palomides said, "of such to me
I nothing know."

                        "Yet, whom," said Dinadan,
"Your tongue hath chased through seven realms is he."

"Then would I see him."

                "So in sooth ye may."

Then Darras led to where Sir Tristram lay,
But, as they neared his couch, a backward stride
Regained the door that yawned behind them wide,
Studded with iron, of one great timber stout.
They heard it clang. They heard the bolt without
Grind in the slot. They heard their captor's voice
In mockery call them: "Where ye came of choice,
Here shall ye longer than your choosing bide."

So did they for long weeks. The Paynim knight,
Holding Sir Tristram in his most despite,
Abused him at the first; but answers fair,
Or silence at some times, such bucklers were
To turn the strings of hate, that soon accord
Made quiet haven of that dismal ward.
And Tristram's weakness, which was slow to change,
Brought pity to the Paynim's Christless heart,
Which not its nobler nor its baser part
Would wholly rule; but it would lawless range,
Having no goal to seek, nor guide to trust,
Impulsed by hate or envy, ruth or lust,
Or emulous of the nobler rarer heights
Sought, if not conquered, by the Christian knights.


Gaheris rode to Cornwall. Here the king,
Cold-hearted, of the dull days wearying,
Received him gladly for the tales he brought.

At Mark's high table, with Iseult, he sate.
Little she said, with listening heart await
For news of Tristram. Much of Arthur's court
They heard from lips that no restraint forbid;
Of ventures offering, who would doubt or dare;
Of virtues challenged, who would keep or share;
What said its dames, and what its damsels did.

So told he lastly of the tournament
Held at the Castle of Maidens: "All Logre,
And all North Gales were there; and first to see
Was one black shield that bore no blazonment.
The greatest knights of Arthur, where they lay,
Looked up to see it above them."

                        "That, perde,"
King Mark allowed, "was Lancelot of the Lake;
Or Palomides else, the Paynim knight."

"Not so. They were not of his side."

                        "Then he
Was likely Tristram?"

                        "That he was."

                        "Got wot,
He is a perilous knight."

                Smooth words he spake,
Hiding his hate, the while Iseult was glad.
For that high honour that Sir Tristram had
Gave her such joy as brought her heart to ease,
Although no longer in his arms she lay.

Then to Tintagel came Ewaine of Gore,
Wandering at will on no forethoughten way.
Whom Mark entreated with fair words to stay
For a near feast; and Ewaine answered: "Yea,
I would thy knights encounter." And the king
Thought craftfully: 'My Cornish knights are more
Than one knight only, be he whom he may,
Alone can counter. Though a score he fling,
There will be one shall cast him, and the fame
Of Cornwall surely be advanced thereby.'

But on the day was none would foremost be
That doubt to prove. Before Sir Ewaine's name
They daunted; till the king Sir Andret moved
To arm; but little gain his venture proved:
So hard he fell that swooned on earth he lay.

Then to Sir Dinas pled the king, and he
Of knightly temper rode, though lothfully,
A course from which as hard a fall he took.

"Is none who will abate the boast of Gore?"
Cried the wrothed king, and at his urgent look
Gaheris answered: "As your board I share,
I will adventure."

                Then he armed, and rode
Against Ewaine. Content was Mark, who knew
His fell repute; but Ewaine backward drew.
"Wouldst thou for Cornwall joust? I will not so
Thy fame reduce. For thou art sworn as I
Not with thy comrades in strange lists to vie,
But to uphold our Table's conquering name.
I know thee surely, as my shield you know,
And do not fear thee. But mine oath I keep.
And we be sisters' sons!"

                        Perforce of shame
Gaheris turned away, and Mark excused,
With liberal words that held no faith, his plea:
"I asked too largely. Hadst thou first refused,
I had not held it as thy fault."

                        But then
He privily armed, and so, unseen of men,
With one squire only, rode a secret way
That joined the road Ewaine would take, and lay
Between grey rocks beside it. Covertly,
He watched the knight of Arthur unsuspect
Pass where he lurked, and charging on his rear
Cast him to ground sore hurt, the caitiff spear
Goring his side; and then, unrecognised,
Fled back to that high tower his life defamed.

Neighboured to death, with open wound, Ewaine
Lay where he fell, nor more had risen, but there
Sir Kay came riding, and an idle rein
Turned at the sight, perchance its spoil to share.
Ewaine he knew: "Now who thy life hath lamed,
And left thee thus?"

                        "I saw not whom it were,
And that I would not swear I will not say.
But aid me, or I die."

                        The while they spake
Came Andret, seeking Mark, to whom Sir Kay
In generous wrath: "Was thine this dastard blow
That backward entered? Could I prove it so
I would not spare thee."

                "Nay, but naught I know
More than thyself."

                "Yet are ye most alike,
Ye Cornish knights. So foul a blow to strike
What other knights would dream? There is but one
Who lifts your fame, and he is exiled now."

While thus they spake, the wounded knight to aid
They joined, and to an abbey near conveyed,
Where through long weeks in doubt of life he lay,
But healed at last. From which good deed Sir Kay
Came to Tintagel. Fair the welcoming,
If words be welcome, from its perjured king
He smoothly heard; and on the following day
Mark told him of a venture near-away,
Save by a knight of Arthur hard to win,
With gold for its reward strong walls within,
Beside a lake whose sullen depths returned
Black rocks that rose around it. Craftfully
He flattered strength and stirred cupidity,
Until Sir Kay with avid heart agreed
That quest to challenge. But Gaheris said:
Being lonely with him: "Hath thy heart no heed
Of Mark's much treasons? Hast thou eyes to see?
As with Ewaine he dealt, alike with thee
He seeks to deal."

        But Kay, though counselled well,
His purpose held, and with no more debate
Gaheris from Tintagel rode away.

Few were the miles he rode before the day
Gained its full heat, and he dismounting lay
In easeful rest, but bade his squire await
Who next should come: "For here I think Sir Kay
Will deathward ride."

                        And at a later hour
The squire espied him in a distant vale,
Shortening the track toward them. Lightly rose
Gaheris, and rode to meet him.

                        "Friend," he said,
"Be warned by one the ways of Mark who knows.
No light access to treasure-burdened tower,
But ambush in dark ways from treasoned foes,
Where not will valour nor will strength avail,
His craft intends."

                "I will not turn me now.
My word I hold. But if ye well believe
So foul his cunning, wilt thou knightly dare
To ride beside me, and its end to share?"

"That will I, for our Table's oath."

                        And so
They rode together till the sunset glow
Turned half the Perilous Lake's black gloom to red.
By which they camped, till better light should be
With coming of dawn.

                That while King Mark had called
Andret, who turned not from his perfidy,
And varlets of their kind. Most secretly
They armed them in black arms, and chargers black
They ordered, harnessed black, and blackly palled.

Witless of barons or of ladies there,
They left Tintagel by a secret stair,
Mounted, and rode the way that Kay was told
Would bring him to the tower of garnered gold.

So bright the moon that many a winter day
Less light would cast upon the treeless way,
As to the lake's black marge they came, and Kay
Saw their approach. Was here the knight he thought,
The knight of darkness who would there resort
To counter all the golden bait should draw.
Forward he rode to meet him. Mark, who saw
Him only, and despised, to Andret said:
"Wait while I charge, and if I fall do thou
Charge also, ere his steed he rein, for so
The meanest spear should prove his overthrow."

Then clashed they, and the king's more ponderous steed
Bore down Sir Kay's, that cast and bruised he lay.
But fast thereat a better knight than Kay
Out to the moonlight from the rock's black shade
Rode with a cry: "Thou felon knight, take heed."

Gaheris' voice he knew. At craven's speed
He met whom gladlier had he sought to shun.
He fell; and Andret, in no haste to aid,
Spake parleying words to him who, heeding none,
Cast him as abject as his uncle lay.

Then the two Table knights dismounted went
To where the fallen groaned beside the way.
"Here is but carrion for our swords to slay,"
Spake the fierce anger of the fallen Kay.

But Andret: "Here ye, lest ye much repent.
For here is Cornwall's king, and near am I
His cousin in blood."

                "Ye are but whom we deemed,"
Gaheris answered, "vermin meet to die,
Contriving treasons while ye falsely seemed
Hosts and good friends to grant us rest and cheer,
With purpose to mislead and end us here."

"We sought not thee."

                "Ye sought the weaker prey.
Now the snare fails, and comes the price to pay."

Gaheris smote a risen knight, and Mark
His shield opposed. On that lone roadway, dark
With shadowing rocks, and with the moon alight,
Was deadly flicker of swift swords, for he,
Guileful alike in craft of sword or tongue,
Some moments strove, but when his loss he knew,
Abject his weapon to the ground he threw,
And grovelling in the dust for mercy cried.

Never, he swore, an errant knight should ride
In doubt or danger through the Cornish land
The while he lived, if act of mercy now
Should pardon grant; and he would straitly vow,
Yea, by God's Cross, he would not more withstand
That Tristram should return, nor more contrive
Against him.

                Nearly now Sir Andret lay,
As craven, fallen to the sword of Kay.
"Shall we not make an end?" Sir Kay required.
"For this man is not as varlet hired,
Or feud-incited, or by oath compelled.
He is Tristram's cousin, who yet through perfidy
Hath ever wrought against him."

                        "Let them be,"
Gaheris answered, "lest that men should say
Manly they perished who are less than man.
They are not fit to save, nor worth to slay."

With this consent, the fallen rose and ran.
And said Gaheris: "Wouldst thou hold with me,
Ye must to Camelot."

                        "That I would, but I
Am hurt and bruised too sore to reach Logre.
A nearer rest I need."

                        "Then close from here
Sir Dinas' castle stands, and there will we.
He is not of the sort of Mark, although
He holds thy place in Cornwall."

                                Choosing so,
They rode through darkness till the changing hour
Brought dawn, and half the dawn Sir Dinas' tower,
Black-rising, hindered, though it could not hide.

Here were they well received, as knights of pride
Are welcomed in all lands by those akin
Of noble nature. But their host they found
In wrathful mood for haps which late had been,
As in short words he told.

                        "A paramour
Was mine, as fair as any seedless flower,
But one that any wind could bend aside.
She was too false to count her falsehood sin,
For ever to herself she was but true.
Constant inconstancy to speak or do
Being her essence as a rose is red.

"It chanced a wandering knight, to whom I gave
Good harbour, drew her by his light regard.
I blamed him naught therefor, but straitly barred
The gate when next I rode, that wrong to save.
But she, outwitting in her wantonness
My careful guard, a rope of sheets did get,
And down herself beyond the walls did let,
And fled to him perchance whose will was less
Than hers to tangle in so dire a net.

"More to my wrath, she took my dearest hound,
Which when I knew, in hard pursuit I went.
The twain within a forest bower I found,
And bade that knight conclude his merriment,
To prove himself her better lord than I.

"When from that bout I cast him hard to ground,
Limb-broken as he lay, and like to die,
She fawned upon me: 'Well thy lance was spent.
Tired of him ere ye came at heart was I.
Forgive my fault, and much thy gain shall be.
More will I love and sport than erst,' said she.

"To which I answered: 'Nay, I sought thee not.
I sought a better than thyself, God wot.
I sought the true: the false are best unfound.'
So lightly rode I back. I brought my hound.
I left her there to nurse, as best she might,
Her weakling choice."

                "Ye did them equal right,"
Gaheris answered. "Were we all as thou,
Our dames were chaster than we prove them now."

Lightly he spake, who owed so dear a debt
To one who loved him, as he loved, Lynette.


But this long time in Darras' hold immured
Lay Tristram, sick of body and mind. The day
Dawned with no hope, the night no comfort brought,
But only weary pain and torturing thought.

With health, much evil may be long endured:
With hope, much sickness may in time be cured.
But here was neither health nor hope to see
Not all that evil seems may evil be.

Yet was it so; for when that damsel came
Who gave them earlier, in their jailer's name,
Assurance of their lives, and saw how spent
Sir Tristram lay, with such report she went
To Darras as he must not choose but hear.

"That knight," she said, "that mightful knight, who bore
The sable shield, so sick of heart doth lie,
That if he more be mured he will but die,
To thy dishonour for too long a year."

"Now God defend!" He answered. "Those who came
To seek my succour, though their deeds appear
Despiteous and malign to mine and me,
Must yet not perish, lest a larger shame
Be ours than loss of dearer lives should be.
Fetch them before me."

                Then the bondaged three
They brought, unarmed, and Tristram, weak of knee,
On Dinadan leaning.

                "Knights," Sir Darras said,
"Whatever woes through thee my house hath felt,
I would not that your lives be evil sped
For my three sons, whose wounds untimely dealt
I needs must mourn. But I will ask of thee
Who raised so high the sable shield, and now
Art brought so low by this captivity,
Two things before I set thee free.
First, that thy name I know; and next that thou
In friendship to me and my house remain
Pledged from this day."

        "Lord, though thy sons were slain,
(As haply was not) all was knightly done
In equal strife. By kin or friendship none
Is wholly barred from such extremity.
Had I by treason or by treachery
Contrived against them, then my death should be
Thy natural right. I am Lyonesse born, and bear
The name of Tristram, Meliodas' heir;
And nephew am I to the Cornish king."

"All that," Sir Darras answered, "weighed have I.
It were but to my grief that here should die
A knight so noble, who but knightly did.
That wrath should lead so far may God forbid!"

"Fair lord," Sir Tristram answered, "to forgive,
If wrong there were, and let its authors live,
Shall be thy praise, and never doubt that I
To thy most worthy sons, except I die,
Shall be a friend enduring."

                        From that day
Sir Tristram strengthened. Soon he dured to sit
His restless charger, stalled too long, and fit
His hands for lance and shield. No more to stay
In that dark-memoried hold, though altered now,
His heart inclined. Forth rode the comrades three,
Till came they where three roads before them lay,
And lonely took they each a different way.


Lone rode Sir Dinadan, with naught to guide,
Deep in the Solitary Land, and there,
Searching the forest glades, his glance espied
A damsel weeping by a lone wellside;
And down the mossy pathway, unaware
He came, and bent above her, and spake her fair:
"Oh, damsel, wherefore, while thy life is young,
Finds grief's occasion with no comrade here,
Dimming those eyes which else in courts were sung,
When love should call thee from the needless tear.
I would to reach the cause for which you grieve,
If idle, errant knight you deign to tell,
That comfort may console, or lance relieve,
Or counsel close the grief in which you dwell."

Light were the words: the tone was light and low.
Scarcely the lifted visor served to show
More than the searching eyes that sought her own;
But whatso'er she judged from glance and tone,
She trusted.

        "Lord," she said, "the half my woe
Is death, which no man alters. Hither drew
My knight and I, twelve summer days ago,
To wander in the woods our childhood knew.
Six days of heaven were ours, until there came
A treasonous knight, and my dear lord he slew,
And holds me in the bonds of simple shame,
Who lack the strength to strive, or heart to die."

And Dinadan answered her: "So is it? But I
Lack neither heart to die nor strength to strive.
And likely, should this ruthless knight arrive,
Death may be no way distant. That you know,
Meanwhile, his name, his race, I charge you show."

While yet he asked and learned the hated name
Of Breuse, far-known for many a murderous wrong,
Himself adown the forest aisle he came,
Riding at arrogant ease. A charger strong,
Not often matched in strife or chase, he rode.
A raven, full in flight, his balzon showed.

But when the silver shield engaged his glance,
Instant he spurred and charged, and lance to lance
Countered the knight of Arthur. Never so
Drave he the lance at any tourney show,
With the light mockery of his heart awake,
As then he drave it for that damsel's sake,
So hard, so sure, that the assaulting knight,
Who seldom yet was flung in single flight,
Fell headlong. But the while Sir Dinadan
Lit from his horse, the caitiff rose and ran,
The nearby shelter of his hold to gain,
Through the known woods, that all pursuit were vain.

In safety, as his knighthood's vows required,
And kind as one that wooed a maid desired,
Sir Dinadan the rescued damsel led
To friendly neighbouring towers. Ere eve was red
Following alone his errant quest again.


The long day closed: the summer light was low:
Nameless the towers to Tristram: friend or foe
Might different greetings give; but careless he,
Who held that bolder fortune oft shall see
The clearer path, and tread it, than who relies
On cautious-counselled crafts, before the gate
His calling bugle blew.

                        Nor long await
Allowed his doubt, nor grudged consent he knew,
Nor found he, when the outward guard was through,
A threatful sign in aught he saw, for steel
Was sheathed. The hedgeway growths that snakes conceal
Are no more peaceful to the wareless eye.

"Whose be these towers?" He asked.

                        The porter said:
"Queen Morgan here will give thee greeting fair.
What name is thine?"

                        "An errant knight am I.
Account me nameless when a queen is nigh."

So to high banquet was he brought, and there
King Arthur's sister bade them place him high,
Even beside her. Royal of mien was she,
As one of Gorlois' daughters well should be.
And bright the twisted gold that queened her head
Shone through the flame-shot folds of dusky red,
As, with low voice and gracious hands' extend,
She greeted knight unknown as guest and friend,
And gave him place beside her where she sate,
At her right hand, while at her left was set
Her passing paramour, Sir Hemison.

With wrath he saw her eyes for Tristram were,
And all her words, and had his heart him let,
Except for shame, had there his sword been wet
With Tristram's blood.

                But naught did Morgan care.
She to such bondage of her will could bring
The knights she favoured, till she cast them by.

"Fair knight," she said, "a likely mind have I
To hold thee prisoner for my wantoning."

"Now Christ defend that ye should serve me so,
For I was prisoner held but late ago,
And much I wearied of it."

                "But nay," she said,
"Those whom I ward have little irk to dread;
And more of pleasure may be theirs, perde,
Than most shall find who ride from sea to sea,
Or in deep woods, or on the heights of snow."

"Yet were it kindlier thought to let me go."

"To ask is vain, except thy name I know."

"My name is Tristram."

                "Had I guessed it so,
I had not pledged thy freedom. If I yet
Release thee, wilt thou pay so dear a debt
By bearing to my praise the shield I give,
Even at the Castle of Granite Walls, whereat
The king hath called high tourney? So shall live
My name in legend of that splendid day,
Perchance beyond thy deeming."

                                If I so
Traffic for freedom, wilt thou please to show
The shield which shall this huckster's deal display?"

"That will I," she said. A gilded shield was brought
Which showed a royal and queenly crown
In consort, and a knight who trod them down
With either heel. The shield was richly wrought,
Of tempered steel, for any champion fit;
But much he questioned the device of it,
And prayed her show. To which she answered: "Nay.
But I will ask that on the tourney day
You bear it, and to all who ask you say:
'Naught of its meaning can I rede. Le Fey
Gave it, and showed its strange device, and said:
Is here the whole land's lord discomfited.'
And thence shall chance, as by mine arts I see,
Doubt and discord, and loss at last shall be,
Ruining; but naught at once, and naught to thee."

"I will not bear a shield I do not know."

"Nay, but thus only shall I let thee go.
And thou canst shameless act and knightly so
For only if the weight of truth it bear,
Then only, Arthur will its meaning tell;
And if it beareth truth, it warneth well."

As by no other means he might be free,
And worse had likelier seemed, assented he
To this fair urging with no more deny.
Something he guessed, but yet he did not see
That straight it touched at Lancelot.

                        With the morn,
Lothly, but for that shield in part content,
Queen Morgan loosed him. In good heart and high
For his new freedom gained, he rode in scorn
Of whom on open road his course should stay.

But rose Sir Hemison.

                "What would ye now?"
Queen Morgan asked.

                "I marked the path he went.
I think to follow."

                "Nay, fair friend, delay.
I see more surely than my lips can say
There is no worship on that road for thee."

"You think a Cornish knight I should not dare?
You call me smaller than I am, perde.
Except Sir Tristram's self, no knight is there
Who is not cowardly as its craven king."

"What if that very knight disguised he be?"

"Love is a blinding light to even thee.
Boasts he so falsely? Tristram, dallying,
Lies with La Beale Iseult. I needs must show
That for thy sake I can the best defeat.
Death shall be his, or such large overthrow
As those who scorn thee should not fail to meet."

Forth rode he, heedless of her warning word,
Wroth that she favoured Tristram, wroth no less
That he her love contemned. As hard he spurred
As not pursuer, but in sharp distress
Of swift pursuit he fled. Sir Tristram turned:
"Who art thou?"

                "Keep thyself."

                The meed he earned
He did not miss. His spear its target found
On Tristram's hawberk, which endured the strain,
And tore not, though the strong lance broke thereon.
But not the harness of Sir Hemison
The harder stroke sustained. Upon the ground
Far-cast he lay. His sword Sir Tristram drew
Even as he saw that further strife were vain.
Sprawled lay the fallen, and so fast he bled
He judged him dying if he were not slain,
And left him, when by that pierced shield he knew
That Morgan's paramour his lance had sped.


Faint were the words the varlet heard: "I die.
But yet some hours my life may hold, and I
Have things of moment to the queen to say.
For else I dare not to a priest confess,
And my lost soul shall wander rescueless
In Hell's dread flames that burn but do not slay."

The varlet staunched the wound the most he might,
And brought him living to Queen Morgan's sight;
But speechless there he died, and if he dwell
In Heaven, or in the flame-lit vaults of Hell,
Is none that knoweth. But a tomb she built
In which she laid him, and a scroll she wrote:
"Here lieth Sir Hemison, whose life was spilt
By the great knight, Sir Tristram."

                        So it came,
His death was not his own, but Tristram's fame,
As it may be she willed it.

                        Tristram rode
Till twilight fell, and found a fair abode,
Where an old knight of past repute was glad
To barter for the ancient tales he had
New gossip of the court or of the way
From those who harbour sought at fail of day.

"Last night," he said, "a knight of Arthur came,
Ector de Maris, of as great a fame
As any who live. A damsel at his side
So told me. Who should better know than she?"

But Tristram, laughing, that high boast denied:
"To Ector's damsel, truth it well may be,
And yet be largely less than truth to me.
Sir Ector is a knight for most to shun,
But of his kin alone are more than one
He might not rival. Lancelot's self I call
Their greatest, and Sir Bors, and next of all
Blamor and Bleoberis. If we turn
To Arthur's native knights, he well might learn
His limit from Gaheris' deadlier spear."

"But Gawain is the better knight than he."

"Not as I think; and I have felt his might.
I judge Gaheris for the hardier knight,
Firm in his seat, and mortal in his aim.
And Lamorack next to him my choice would name,
As mate to all but Lancelot."

                "Would ye so?
Why name ye not Sir Tristram?"

                "Naught I know
Of any Cornish knight. I will not set
The place of those I have not knightly met."

So talked they till they tired, and rested well;
And with the morn Sir Tristram rode away.
Nor met he venture more until the day
When to the Granite Tower he came, and saw
A hundred tents around it. Here the pride
Of Arthur's Table Scotland's king defied,
With Ireland's aid, whose fortunes opened well,
Until Sir Tristram, on the Table's side,
Came hurtling in, and drave a lane so wide
That Arthur marvelled.

                        "Is there none can tell
That strong knight's name?" The shield he soon espied,
And questioned more. What might its meaning be?
So asked he of the queen, whose spoken guess
Outpaced his own in its unlikeliness,
Raising his jest. But she, with guiltier wit,
And heavy-hearted, knew the truth of it.

Then, in a chamber, when the tourney paused,
A damsel passed him in the mingled press
Of ladies and of knights: "Sir King," she said,
"Thy queen well knoweth what that shield hath caused.
And save thyself are few who do not see
The knight who treadeth on herself and thee."

Wroth was the king, and sore perplexed, thereby,
And sought that damsel, but in exit sly
She vanished, and to Morgan, whence she came,
By privy ways returned. The king anew
The tourney watched, and that strange shield beheld
Still victor, till the Scottish spears withdrew.
Yielded were some, some slain, and most were quelled,
Whattime Guenever to Sir Ector said:
"That shield is Morgan's work. Full deep I dread
Her wiles will soon our plenteous days betray,
Losing my life, and all this realm. I would
I had Sir Lancelot at my side today.
He would not trifle long that knight to slay,
And prove his falsehood so."

                        "He is not far."

"He cannot surely be too near for me."

"Peace, for the king regards us."

                        Arthur said:
"I marvel who that victoring knight can be.
I know so surely who my greatest are.
It is not Tristram?"

                        "Far beyond the sea,
Couched with Iseult of the White Hands is he.
We else had found him," many knights replied.

"I will not stint until his name I know.
Ewaine, come with me, that he doth not go,
Now that the tourney press its heat declines."

So, with Ewaine of Gore, he armed, and fast
As Tristram singly from the tourney passed,
Pursued, and with short words, as justly ired,
The meaning of that pictured shield required.
And Tristram, inly wrath, replied: "The shield
Came of Le Fey, who gave it undesired.
Its meaning, of her mood, she naught revealed,
Nor charged me of it. Nor care I. More I heed
Its honour while I bear it."

                "Not to rede
The arms ye bear is little praise. I pray
Thy name, sir knight."

                "My name I will not say.
What is it to thee?"

                "I ask for I would wit."

"As for this time thou shalt not."

                "Failing it,
We shall do battle for the shield you show."

"Now wherefor," asked Sir Tristram, "bait me so?
My name to thee were little use to know.
And little worship to thy name shall be
To thus constrain me, knowing what hard travail
I late endured. Yet not for fear of thee
My heart is doubtful, nor my lance may fail."

"Well," said the king, "the ready proof is here."

Forthright he charged, but Tristram's deadlier spear
And younger might prevailed. The impetuous king
Fell with an irksome wound. As Tristram stilled
A rearing steed, Ewaine for rescue cried:
"Knight, guard thee now."

                His utmost force he tried.
But from a knight too strong, a spear too skilled,
Fell, as the king had fallen.

                        Tristram said:
"Fair knights, ye asked it. Worn by previous play
I fain had spared ye, but ye would not nay."

Then rose the king, despite his wound, to reach
His fallen friend, and while he raised him spake,
Answering Sir Tristram: "Hard the truths you teach,
O nameless knight, and for such lady's sake
As few of Arthur's court would own, who know
Her treasons past; and if our wrath forgot
Your previous toils, and strove unknightly, lo!
Our prideful haste is meetly paid, God wot."

But Tristram, answering nothing, turned to go.
His heart was in the search for Lancelot.
This byway bicker lightly left his thought.

Far thence abroad he rode, and vainly sought,
Until, as from deep woods he came, he saw
A strong hold, that the marsh on either hand
Moated, but all in front was firmer land.

And on the meadow side of that fair tower
Ten knights contended. As he neared, he knew
There was one only held in hard ado
With nine at once, and he, outnumbered thus,
In strength and speed and valour marvellous,
Now one apart in level course to meet,
Now more to baffle by adroit retreat,
That five to ground in little time he laid.
Loose on the sward their scattered chargers ran.

'Shrewdly he fights, yet if they be not stayed,'
Thought Tristram, 'but one end is here to see.
I know him, if that shield I rightly scan,
And Palomides is no friend to me.
Yet shall I watch his end outnumbered here?'

Forward he rode, and his intruding spear
Divided those who strove: "For shame," he cried,
"Stand back! For though a single course ye ride,
One after one, against your single foe,
Enough of odds his wearied arm should know."

Sir Breuse sans Pitie, who those caitiffs led,
Gave hectoring answer: "Heed thyself," he said,
"Avoiding dangerous ways. Except ye do,
Who sought one captive may return with two.
Who made ye meddler here? Be wise, and go."

No answer Tristram made. To ground he slid,
Lest those dismounted some foul violence did
Against his steed. Were little here to tell.
The wiser fled: the hardier faced and fell.
Sir Breuse sans Pitie, hoving well behind
For some coward's vantage, found an altered mind.
To reach the gate's strong guard the flight he led.
And Tristram, on the heels of those who fled,
Stayed when it clanged against him.

                        Slowlier then
He turned to where the knight he rescued sate
Against an oak's broad side: "Fair knight," he said,
"Well be ye found."

                "Gramercy! Well for me.
Death was the price I have not paid through thee."

"I did but follow that thy lance began.
Feebly the caitiffs fought, though well they ran.
Who art thou?"


                "God His grace
Had brought me surely to this time and place.
For my most foe thou art. It should not be
That thou shouldst fall at last, except to me.
Arm ye, and guard thy life."

                "I first would know
The name of him who is both friend and foe."

"I am Tristram."

                "Foe thou art. But this regard.
It were no honour to be slain or slay,
Rescuer or rescued, on the selfsame day
That saw thy succour. I am spent beside,
With scantly strength a single course to ride,
And wounded and bebled. Assign a day,
And name what place thou wilt, and far away
I shall not be."

                "I doubt it naught. I name
The tomb by Camelot's stream that Merlin made:
The tomb where Lanceor and Columbe are laid,
And two weeks hence, and at the prime of day."

"I shall not fail thee."

                "So I trust, but say
What brought thee lonely to this hard debate?"

"In yonder forest whence you came I rode,
And halted where a lady wept beside
A late-slain knight. 'Why dost thou weep?' I said."

"'I can but weep, who cannot venge the dead,
Most basely by a felon thrust who died.
Sir Breuse sans Pitie, with no cause at all
But caitiff malice, reft his life.' And I:
'Put grief aside, for vengeance yet may fall.
Regain thy palfrey. If he still be nigh,
We both may find him.' So beneath my shield,
And in my surety, did she ride. But here
This Breuse ran at me with a warnless spear,
And cast me from my steed, the damsel's cry
Too late to warn me, or herself thereby
To save; for while upon the ground I lay,
Ruthless he smote, her harmless life to slay.

"And when too late I rose, and sword I drew,
I may have held him in more hard ado
Than well he liked, for loud the note he blew
That brought those nine upon me."

                        "Good thy cause.
Against such tale the sharpest hate would pause
To test thee now. But on the chosen day
I trust to meet thee."

                "So thou shalt."

We leave inferior foes, I will we ride
Together, comrades to this caitiff crew."

"Spent as I am, I can but thank thy will."

So rode they as familiar friends may do
Beneath the forest boughs, and came to where
A clear spring bubbled. At the water fair
Sir Tristram, lusting, gazed.

                "Now halt we here,"
He said, "for I would drink."

                The spring beside
Alit they, and a warhorse, slackly tied,
Lifted its head from where it grazed, and drew
With eager neighing to the chargers two.

Then in the bracken, at a closer view,
They saw a strong knight resting. Helm alone
Of his full harness had his caution shed,
And used as pillow for a sleeping head.

"Here lies a goodly knight as sight shall see.
What wilt thou that we do?" Sir Tristram said.

"Arouse him, if thou wilt."

                The wakened knight
Spake but brief words and wrathful. Hastefully,
His helm replaced, a heavy spear he gat,
Mounted, and first Sir Tristram overset,
And then to Palomides paid his debt,
Giving him a fall as hard; and ere they rose
They saw the low-branched path before them close
Their nameless victor from their angered sight.

"Now," Palomides asked, "what list ye do?"

"For me, I will that proudful haste pursue,
And haply bring him to a lowlier way."

"And I will rest me at a friendlier tower."

"So were it wise to do. But look you well
You do not fail me. Much I doubt to see
Thy shield uplifted at the chosen hour;
For well thou knowest thou art no match for me."

"The larger cause is mine to doubt of thee,
Seeing that on the trail of one you ride
Who lightly flung you from his path aside,
As some strong boar will cast a vexing hound."

With no more words they parted. Tristram rode
Upon that strong knight's track, but naught he found,
Nor word could hear, until a sight he met
Such as too often was the vain regret
Of some quick bicker of contending spears:
A fallen knight, and one who wept beside.

"Fair one, how came it thus?" Sir Tristram said
To one who lying overthwart the dead
Cried vainly to the love that did not hear,
The voice that would not answer.

                        "Lord," said she,
As here we rested, came a knight who bore
A blank shield only. 'Whence,' he asked, 'are ye?'
And my lord answered: 'From the court are we.'
'I strive with all of Arthur's knights,' said he,
Giving no reason for that enmity,
Nor even his name. And so a course they ran;
And my lord fell before a stronger spear.
At which the strange knight, with no more regard,
His way continued. But a fall too hard
My lord had taken. From a wounded side
The life-blood pulsed; and from that wound he died
In the last hour."

                "May God requite thy woe
In better days to be. But tell me now
What fame in life he bore."

                "Sir Garladoun,
Who might, by better fate, have come to be
Not least of Arthur's chosen."

                        "Not to thee
He should be less by failure. Late or soon,
Some wayside chance the surest life will let;
And what hath been may all but God forget."

Three further days he sought, and when the night
Again was closing, at a forest bound,
A lodge well-furnished for his ease he found,
For wandering knights devised; and here he met
Two comrades bruised and wroth, to whom he said:
"Fair knights, how come ye in such guise to be?
Met ye a knight whose arms ye might not see?
Fell ye to one who left ye where ye lay?"

And Gawain answered: "Very sooth you say.
That knight we met; and with no cause at all
For hard dispute (except he overheard
That Bleoberis spake a prudent word,
Counselling we pass him, which he took for scorn),
Against my comrade rode, and gave a fall
Which surely few to such a knight should give.
Thereat for shame I must his firmness test.
Hard course we ran, which left him still the best.
My lance and charger failed alike, but he
Either of scorn or magnanimity,
Looked on us where we lay, and turned aside.
Evil the hour in which our strength he tried!"

And Tristram answered: "Such an hour before
Myself have known, and Palomides too.
For both with one good spear he overthrew,
And left us in contempt, as left he you."

"Now by my faith," said Gawain, "wise were we
No further wrath to feel, nor more pursue.
For surely when the Table meets anew
At the next feast, we shall not fail to see
That where the greatest are this knight will be."

"Do as thou wilt," said Tristram, "but for me
Is one path only, and one fixed intent:
To find him, and to cause his hard repent
The fall he gave."

                "Fair knight," Sir Gawain said,
"Who art thou, of so bold a mind?"

                                "My name
Is Tristram, who but late from Cornwall came."

"Then who were equal that proud knight to tame
But who the Irish champion overthrew?"

"Nay, but with God is all."

                        With fair adieu
At morn they parted. Tristram, seeking still
His casual foe to find, at noon espied
Two knights who in a meadow turned aside
For grazing, and their charger's thirsts to fill
Where through the starry grass a streamlet ran.

"Good knights, what tidings?"

                "Tidings naught but ill,"
Answered Sir Kay.

                "Then tell me what they be.
For on the trace of such a knight I ride
As few shall match."

                "He bears what cognisance?"

"I know not that. He rides with arms concealed.
A black cloth hides whatever paints his shield."

"Then should ye seek not but avoid his lance,
For he was lately of our company,
And when he learned our names, so lewd was he
To taunt us of the Table's villainy,
And at the king with evil tongue to jeer
- Yea, even of the queen no grace to say -
That I must challenge, and beneath his spear
Next moment, like an offcast cloak, I lay."

"What did thy comrades?"

                        "At Sir Dinadan
He turned him next, but he, whose fear outran
What else he felt, without one change of blow,
Took the boughs' shelter as a craven man."

And Dinadan laughing answered: "Think ye so?
To reach by wit what others learn by woe?
I knew him for a stronger knight than I.
How would it mend his tongue that I should lie
In dust to please him? Let his humours be.
Unperilled stands the throne; and time may see
That shield uncovered as my best reply."

"God keep ye," said Sir Tristram, "such may be
The wisdom of the Table; but for me
Is little leisure till that knight I know."

Then through the forest rode he hard and long.
Seven days he rode, and came at evensong
Where stood a priory in the golden glow
Of summer twilight when the winds are still.

The prior, a joyful man of friendly will,
Knew all the tales that fluctuant rumours brought.
Much could he tell of wandering knights, but naught
Of him whose devious trace Sir Tristram sought.

And Tristram, of his nearing tryst aware,
Must needs a search of less occasion stay.
Six days of summer heat he rested there,
While to a city three short leagues away,
Some harness to renew and some repair,
Govenale he sent.

                The seventh break of day
Its violation of reluctant night
To full conception had not forced, but yet
The bolder stars remained, when Tristram set
His foot to stirrup, and the charger's way
Toward that roadside tomb where Lanceor lay.

But scantly had he left the priory gate
When barred his way two knights importunate,
Requiring him in knighthood's name to play
A jousting bout: the constant comrades they,
Dodinas and Sagramore.

                "Fair knights," he said,
"You ask me that I do not oft deny.
But pledged to take a starker strife am I,
Who seek appointment with my mortal foe.
I pray your pardon."

                        "Be ye loth or no,"
Said Sagramore, "no choice is thine. We joust
With all we meet."

                "Then that I must I may
Without degrade of earlier oath. I trust
To clear thy debt for that respectless must."

Thereat with ire he rode on Sagramore,
And cast him earthward. Ere he rose, the score
Of Dodinas alike was paid. Thereat
Sir Tristram, with no halting, onward went.
But they, arising from the dust they bought,
Remounting, followed. With one mind they sought
To cause their victor in like dirt repent
His earlier gain.

                Sir Tristram heard the beat
Of those pursuing hooves. He backward came.
"Behold," he said, "you asked your late defeat.
What would you more?"

        "We would for those despites
Our just revenge."

        "Fair courteous knights, recall.
Ye forced a proof at which I did not aim.
And now, if here to further strife we fall,
It is not reason but such perilous knights,
As by repute ye are, some harm will deal.
Wounds from your hands I should be loth to feel,
Who in three days a mortal strife must take;
And better honour to your names shall be
If ye forbear me now."

                        "What knight is he,"
They asked, "of whom you hold so large a dread?"

"His name is Palomides."

                        "By my head,"
Answered Sir Sagramore, "a valiant knight
As any known is he. What name is thine?"

"My name is Tristram."

                "For thy worship's sake
At that near strife, we will forbear thee now,
Who else had met thee in no light combine,
For all reports thy noble grace allow,
And grace, by knighthood's rule, should grace requite."


The road where once Columbe and Lanceor died
Sun-drenched between its shadowed woodlands lay,
Clothed in the dust of summer, bare and wide,
As Balyn found it on that fatal day.

The sky was August's blue: the mounting sun
The distant towers of Camelot overrode,
And lit the tomb where those of life fordone
Found their secure and undisturbed abode,
As Tristram, halting on the vacant road,
Waited, and doubted his unchristianed foe.

Yet not for long was doubt, for soon he saw
A knight approach in ready guise of war,
Yet did not arms on shield, or symbol show
Cresting his helm, but all in white was he.
And Tristram asked not who this knight should be,
But lightly seeing whom he thought to see,
Addressed his shield, and sank his spear; and so
Clashed with such might that in one overthrow
Two chargers rolled, two knights unseated fell.

Then as they might they rose, and knightly well
Their sunbright swords in flashing clangour hewed
Marvellously and long; and he that strife who viewed
Four hours which mounted to the heat of noon,
Govenale, to that white knight's attendant said:
"I wonder much that any knight endure
The strokes my master deals. I look that soon
Thy lord shall falter and stoop."

                "Now, by my head,
My master's dealing calls an equal praise.
For that he worst endures, he most repays."

"So is it. I thought not Palomides might,
Nor even Lancelot, with no more respite,
Such strife sustains."

                "If longer time they bleed,
Their eager valour will their lives mislead;
For all too equal are the wounds they deal,
And that their swords inflict themselves must feel."

As thus they spake, for simple ruth they wept,
But even then the white knight backward stept,
And sank his blood-dimmed blade the while he said:
"Sir knight, before this strife to death we bring,
Fain would I know with whom I strive, for here
Did Merlin say the world's best knights would meet.
I claim not that. But yet such furious heat
As thine too seldom have I seen or met
To call thee lowlier than the best."

                                "As yet,
My name, unless perforce, thou shalt not know."

"Yet none, meseems, his name should shrink to show."

"Then lightly from thyself thy word I take,
And ask thine own."

                "I am Lancelot of the Lake."

"Alas the word! What fault is mine! I strive
With whom the lothliest of all knights alive
My hand would harm."

                "I ask thy name once more."

"I am Tristram of the Lyonesse land."

                                "To thee
I rather yield than further strife should be."

Thereat he knelt; but Tristram's bended knee
Was no less instant. So alike they bore
Affection of more weight than fame's defeat,
Whereby their fames alike augmented shone.

Then turned they to the tomb by which they fought,
And side by side for common rest thereon
Accorded and conversed, their wounds as naught
Beside the joy by that communion brought;
And, being thus refreshed, arose and took
The road to Camelot.

                        Sooner than they saw
Its tower-flanked gates, two outward knights they met,
Who barred their passage: "Tell us whom ye be."
And Tristram answered: "Rather, whom are ye,
So bold of challenge?"

                        He who rode ahead
Gave answer: "One am I whom most will know
Who ride through Camelot's gates."

                        "It well may be.
Known may ye be to most, but not to me,
Who am stranger here."

                "I am Lothian's lord, and he,
My comrade, is Gaheris."

                        "I need not say
I know the names that surely all men may."

"Nor less," said Lancelot, "should his fame to thee
Be known, and honoured. Lyonesse' greatest name
He bears."

                "Then in good hour we meet, for we
Were charged by Arthur through all lands to ride
Until we found him whose advancing fame
Hath gained so great a height, and spread so wide
That Arthur sues him to our bond.... Fair knight,
Much labour have you saved me. What good chance
Hath brought thee here?"

                And Tristram, answering, told
His tryst with Palomides: "Much I doubt
What cause withheld him from the mortal bout
So pledged and sworn."

                "It will be known at last,"
Lord Gawain answered. "Till its cause appear
The truth a random thought may overcast."

With that they turned to Camelot's gates, and so
To Arthur came, or rather he to them,
On hearing whom they brought: "Was never one
Of all the wide world's knights more welcome here,"
With hands outstretched he said. "Our court to know
I thank whatever chance your wandering led."

But when of that unhappy strife he heard
Waged at the tomb of Lanceor, words are none
More woeful than were his: "By chance so dire
Near was the risk that your mistaken ire
Had shattered from the crown of Christian knights
One either jewel of its fairest two."

"Nay," said Sir Lancelot, "our contending mights
Too nearly equalled for a short ado
To bring us or to triumph or to tire."

Then Palomides' rescue Tristram told,
And how they vowed upon a later day,
When better matched, to meet. "And sooth to say,
He swore so stoutly that methought he meant
Either for life or loss that tryst to hold.
But after that we parted. Both alike
A nameless knight confounded, whom I sought
By various ways, but did not find, although
The path he rode was strewn with overthrow
That led me forward on a doubtless trail."

"That is but truth," said Gawain. "Him we met,
Myself and Bleoberis; both to fail,
That bruised and left in mere contempt we lay."

"So likewise was I tumbled," said Sir Kay.

"And whom he was ye have no deeming yet?"
Laughed Arthur. "If ye know not, more know I,
Who see him in your comrade standing by."

Then looked they at Sir Lancelot. "Sure," they said,
"That covering of thy shield our wits misled."

"It is an old devising," said the king.
"He did it afore."

                "My lord," Sir Lancelot said,
"I sought more freedom in adventuring;
And lest good wits a twice-played game should guess
I spake our Table all reproachfulness."

"That did he in truth," the common voice allowed,
"Even of the queen -" But to their group there drew
Guenever, and round her in an eager crowd
The ladies of the court, intent to view
The Lyonesse knight.

        "Oh, gentle prince," they cried,
"Thou art welcome."

        "Welcome surely," said the queen.

"Welcome to all," the king confirmed, "for thou
By gentle usage hast thyself allied,
As by thy valorous deeds, to all the pride
That knighthood's practice is exalting now
Through the dark lands where anarch rage hath been.
Therefore I ask a boon."

                        "A boon to thee,
Lord King, is granted ere its terms be told,
If aught within my power its service be."

"I ask thee that thou here abide."

                        "My king,
That were I loth to pledge, surrendering
The wandering freedom which I most desire."

"Yet may I to thy pledge thy freedom hold."

"Lord, that I must I will."

                        "The seat that late
Sir Marhaus graced is vacant, held await
For one not less than he. Who else but thou,
His victor in set strife, should take it now?"


When to the court of Mark the minstrel came,
Or wandering chapman seaborne goods to sell,
Not coral bead nor smooth Sicilian shell,
Nor jest and song alone, could largesse claim,
But ever, at the hint of Tristram's name,
The king would call aside; the queen would send
A secret damsel further words to buy.
No slander and no hate would Mark offend:
No praise to Iseult's ear would sound too high.

All that she would she heard, and all that he
Most loathed was constant in such tales: "He stands
Alone with Lancelot. Mightiest of their hands;
Venturous and splendid in their deeds, and meek
In all relations and regards, as though
The mean were highest, and the loftiest low."

Then in despite that such repute should be
King Mark resolved Sir Tristram's life to spill.
Riding disguised, and taking for his train
Two knights who knew not that his evil will
To such a purpose led their swords, until,
As near they came to Camelot, craftfully,
He told it; and the younger knight of these
- They were Sir Amant and Sir Bersules -
Gave angered answer: "Not for land in fee,
Nor weight of gold, nor honour's last degree
Within thy power, or Arthur's own, would I
Conspire that thus a noble knight should die,
Or wink at thy contriving. Take ye back
Mine oath of service. Roof or meal to lack
I count no evil in such foul compare."

"False traitor," cried the king, "such words ye dare,
And think to leave me with a prating tongue?"
Unarmed were they beside the board, but there
Were arms at random cast on chest and chair;
And Mark stretched out a hand where, thereamong,
His own sword lay. An upward thrust he made
That caught Bersules' throat beneath the chin.
Even to the brain the deadly point went in.
He sank and died.

                "Behold a traitor slain;
And better service yield," the murderer said,
His fierce and furtive eyes upon the dead,
And those who watched the deed. To which Amant
Gave answer: "Never to thy use again
My sword belongs. I will this mischief show
In Arthur's court."

                With cunning eyes aslant
Mark weighed the chances of as shrewd a blow
As that Bersules felt. But either side
The squire of him who lived and him who died
Stood stoutly by Amant. Such odds to try
He little willed. He answered: "Wit ye well,
I should not fail the better tale to tell,
If there I met thee. But it will not be.
I go no more to Camelot. Yet for thee,
Who till this hour the Cornish arms hast worn,
Bethink that swearing thou must swear foresworn,
And perjured lips will Arthur lean to hear?
Give but thine oath thou wilt not more reveal
Of what hath been, and I release thee now
From obligation of thine earlier vow."

"Yea," said Amant, "you could fair truth conceal
As few men else, I doubt not. As for me,
I lift no cloak so foul a sight to show.
Thou needst not fear it. Take thy horse, and go.
We bide, Bersules' requiem rites to see."


Now fled King Mark along the narrower way,
That none should meet him, or his path betray.
Random through forest paths he rode. He found
At heat of noon a fountain. Here to ground
He cast his harness, turned his steed to graze,
And pondered, doubtful, what he next should do.
Venom and prudence pointed diverse ways:
One would his purpose leave, and one pursue.

And while he doubted, to the stream there drew
A knight of Arthur. Mark he did not see;
But heedless on the bank he sate, and so
Told the green silence of his secret woe.

"Morgause! Oh, Queen Morgause!" Aloud he said,
"Mother of strong knights thou art, but more to me
Than ever virgin-fashioned youth should be.
Yet must I doubt that either scorn would pay,
Or mockery light, or pity worse than they,
If I the secret of my heart should tell."

Then to the mourner spake King Mark: "Behold,
I could not help but hear, and comfort cold
For such lament another's words must be."

"Yea," said the knight, "mine own complaint is jest
Beside the sorrow of my hopeless quest."

"Who art thou?"

        "Cause is naught my name to hide,
Even to knights of Cornwall's mean degree
(For by your speech I count you such to be),
Sir Lamorack de Galis called am I."

"Why to all Cornwall is thy speech awry?"

"Men judge of Cornwall by its chosen king,
Whom none of noble thought, or seemly pride,
Though humblest known by every choice beside,
Would consort. When a nobler knight there came
To champion Cornwall, to his deathless shame,
He chased him from the land. I need not say
I mean Sir Tristram. If the tale be true,
The Queen Iseult herself doth nightly rue
Cold-hearted in such caitiff arms to lie."

To which King Mark gave answer craftfully:
"You speak of things in which no part have I;
Nor would I rashly of such tales debate.
But I, who wandered to this land but late,
Would thank thee to recount its ventures nigh."

And Lamorack answered: "If for tournament
You seek, as errant knights are like to do,
You come by fortunate chance, for round Jagent,
Even now, the barriers rise, the white and blue
Of him the Hundred knights who leads, defies
The Irish king with all his seigniories.

As thus they spake, another knight appeared.
And shortened rein to greet them, Dinadan.
To ground he came, and asked them whence they were,
And when he learned a Cornish knight was there,
His bitter japes a hundred times outran
Sir Lamorack's scorn: "I had not thought," he said,
"That any such had dared these woods to ride,
Being, by most reports, as mean as he,
Their mongrel-hearted king, who drave away
The one good knight they had. If Cornish pride
Be thine to boast what all men else deride,
Wilt thou for Cornwall ride a course with me?"

Hateful at heart, Mark gave smooth answer: "Nay,
Too well thy valour and repute I know.
Nor shouldst thou scorn me that I wilt not so.
Doth not thy prudence in like choice decline
To fall beneath a stronger lance than thine?"

"Well, as thou wilt!" Low-voiced, he spake aside.
"I blame thee naught. But if a simpler chance
Would rouse thy valour, here is that ye may.
For whom ye call Sir Lamorack is but Kay,
Prankt in his arms. He tried this ruse afore,
When Lancelot's arms through many lands he bore,
And all men feared a never-tested lance."

"This knight is larger-limbed. He is not Kay."

"So might you think. For in an earlier day
He was but lean. But that is long-away.
And now that gladly would he strive with none,
Old fame, that days of ease have long fordone,
Becomes a cloak too thin..... For Cornwall now
Well may an easy course our japes rebut."

Craft from his mind by hidden anger shut,
As Dinadan mocked him thus, with words of scorn,
Such as lack-valour hearts will lightly spume,
Against the weaker, whom he thought Sir Kay,
He challenged; and in little time he lay
Cast from his selle, three lances' length away,
As fruit upon the point of Lamorack's spear.

Sore bruised he rose, to watch that knight resume
His path, regardless of the fall he gave.
But Dinadan stayed beside him: "Dost thou see,"
He asked, "how briskly, in his mortal fear,
He rides away? By that unlikely chance
That gave thy fall, he thinks his life to save,
Ere sleight of sword redress thy wavering lance."

Then Mark remounted. Little doubt had he
That bout of sword play should redeem his shame,
For he could use the sword full craftfully,
And even to him was Kay no daunting name.

Sir Lamorack wheeled upon him: "What! Would ye more?"
The king's bare sword he met, and long forbore
A weaker foe, but, being pressed, he smote.
Till Mark, back-reining, sank his head full low.

Thereat Sir Lamorack stayed: "Still would ye more?"
Again he asked. "We are not matched, perde."

"What name is thine?"

                "I told thee that before;
I am Lamorack."

                "Then with thee I strive no more.
Basely hath this false knight deluded me.
He called thee Kay."

                "When more his moods ye know,
Not lightly wilt thou be deluded so."

With little love, but with no more debate,
Onward they rode together, till the way
Fell to a stream a fair bridge spanned, and then,
On the far bank, a tower.... Two knights await
Guarded the bridge.

                "Now here," Sir Dinadan said,
"The chance is thine to overget thy shame.
Arms assorted thus are not of lustrous name.
Valiant belike, but skilled they will not be."

At that, King Mark agreed the first to meet,
Rode a short course, and held a shaken seat,
Both lances breaking. Then the knight he met,
Sir Trian, sent a second lance, that he
Who, riding errant, lacked the armoury
The tower supplied, might try that course anew.

But Mark excused him of that courtesy.
And Dinadan's shield the while the warden knew
Who for Sir Tor that passage held, and he,
Berludes, welcomed him full heartily,
And Lamorack, and, by right of company,
The Cornish knight; and thus, accorded well,
They entered to a courtyard ordered so
That all the honour of its rule might know.

Then later to the board they came, and there
The Cornish king, unhelmed, Berludes knew.
Hardened his eyes thereat.

                "Sir knight," he said,
"I know ye whom ye are: the king who slew
My father by a dastard's stroke, and I,
A frightened child, with only wit to fly,
Had died alike, except the friending boughs
Had hid me from thee. Now I warn thee well.
His trust in me to whom this tower belongs
Precludes the righting of my private wrongs
While here ye bide; and these with whom ye be
Include ye in the bond of courtesy.
No evil lodging shalt thou find, nor hurt,
Allowed while here ye bide to thine or thee.
But once from out these gates, a mile away,
And I will hurt thee, if by might I may,
Even to thy death. That better knights allow
The miscreant converse of such knaves as thou
Is marvel more than measured words will say."

Naught said Sir Lamorack nor Sir Dinadan.
Wroth were they of that caitiff company
They had not guessed. With morn, Sir Lamorack
Turned sideward, lonely on his chosen track.
But Dinadan, still with Mark, to Camelot
Resumed his way. Three miles they had not gone
When hot pursuit they heard. With comrades two
Berludes came. To Mark he cried on high:
"Defend thee, if thou canst, and falter not,
For flight is vain. I would thy life pursue
Where-ever craft could hide, or fear could fly."

But Dinadan answered: "Courteous knight, forebear.
He goes to Arthur's court. As guard and guide
My word I pledged, not knowing whom he were.
As for this time, we are in sort allied,
However loveless is his kind to me."

"That me repents. But what you must you can.
My chance I will not loose for even thee."

Then at King Mark he hurled, while Dinadan
Against his comrades rode, and overthrew
One after one.

                Foul fall had Mark, but he
Rose, as Berludes' comrades rose. They drew,
And clashed at once together, two to three,
In brief confusion, for his comrades two
Gave ground, and left Berludes. Dinadan's sword
He faced, and hard on helm and coif it fell.
Forward he stumbled to earth, and like a snake
The point of Mark's shot sideward. Death had been,
But Dinadan's blade uprising shone between.

"Nay," said he to Mark, "mine aid ye much mistake
If to thy murdering ways ye think it tends."
Then to Berludes: "Rise, sir knight, and go."

To which Berludes answered: "Friend and foe,
Both hast thou been to me. But nobler friends
I wish thee than that king, who Heaven offends,
Even that he live."

                        "We haply think as one,"
Sir Dinadan answered. "Yet shall harm him none,
While in the surance of my word he rides."

At that they parted. Mark and Dinadan
Rode on to Camelot. Four short miles ahead,
Where, cast to join a stream's precipitous sides,
A narrow bridge to bear the roadway ran,
A knight sat guardant.

                "Lo," Sir Dinadan said,
"Meseems a call is here our strength to try."

"That must be as thou wilt. It is not I
To whom this joust belongs."

                "Ye count it so?
So be it. If his shield I rede aright,
Is none that men should call a nobler knight."

That course Sir Dinadan rode with all his skill,
But heavier strength, and lancecraft deadlier still,
He countered, that outmatched to ground he fell.

Vext past his wont that Mark such fall should see,
Rising, his sword for further strife he drew,
But naught his victor would accord thereto.
"It is the custom of the bridge," said he,
"One only course to ride, or foul or well."

Sir Dinadan gained his horse, and silently
Rode on in wrath he hardly reined, the while
King Mark beheld him with a slanting smile.
"I deemed," he said, "you Table knights so strong
That none the balance of your seats could wrong."

"The Table's best are better knights than I.
But surely now thyself my strength shall try."

"Nay, by God's fear! My very friend art thou.
But one thing is which I will ask thee now.
I would not, when the court we reach, reveal
The name I bear, for in its close conceal
My safety lies. Too many there to me
Are cold at heart, or hold such enmity
As only blood should sate."

                        "I well believe
That those are there who would thy name receive
In hateful ways. They shall not learn from me,
Who have no honour from thy company,
Nor will to boast it. But the shame is thine
That here, where valour doth its light combine
With that of courteous use, there is for thee
No honour, no regard, no courtesy.
For thou murderous of thy mood, a shame
Alike to Cornwall's throne and knighthood's name.
Had I not turned thy fatal point aside,
By thy base malice had Berludes died,
Who had not cast him."

                        "To my open foe
Why should I vantage lose, or mercy show?"

"It were but waste to tell thee."

                        So they went
With strife of words, or silent, matched so ill.
Mark's need, or Dinadan's purpose to fulfil
The word he gave, could scarce their breech prevent.

At noon, a hospitable knight they met,
A host who gave free shelter and good fare
To all who errant rode, but best preferred
Those knights who known of Arthur's Table were.
Here were their chargers stalled, their board was set
With liberal choice. At ease they rested well;
And Dinadan asked that friendly knight to tell
Who held the bridge by which they came.

                He said:
"Why dost thou ask?"

                "I ask my victor's name.
For there we jousted, and to ground I came."

"Ye need not marvel that, nor much regret.
For one is he of noblest hardihed.
The cowherd's son, Sir Tor."

                "The cowherd's son?
Well, as thou wilt! A son of Pellinor
Half, by a doubtful shield, I thought I met.
And surely, as thyself, I called him Tor."

As passed the noon, their forward course they set,
With thanks for bounty given; and as they rode
A wide low plain that, from that knight's abode,
Stretched to a reeded water, clear in view
Six camping knights appeared. Sir Dinadan knew
Their scattered shields. The two Ewaines were there,
Modred, Ozanna of the Hardy Heart,
Brandiles, Agravain.

                        "Now do thy part,"
Dinadan's light malice urged, "and so will I.
For gain of honour when were choice more fair?"

"Beshrew thee!" Said King Mark, "they are six to two."

"Yet do thou aid me, for I will not spare."

The six were scattered on the turf. They sate
At ease, disarmed, the while they drank and ate,
Their chargers wandering free, as trust allowed,
Or grazing tied. Sir Dinadan sank his spear,
And rode upon them, but he came not near
At such a pace as Mark in flight withdrew.

Then Dinadan raised his lance, and backward threw
His shield's defence, and those good knights, who knew
Its silver symbol, hailed him friend, and so
He came to earth beside them.

                        "Who was he,"
They asked, "so instant from thy side to flee?"

"He was a Cornish knight too mean to know.
His name is naught."

                As Dinadan thus forebore
His name to offer, and they asked no more,
Mark might have ridden unknown, except that night
They sheltered at the same lone tower as he,
And Dinadan, wandering round, its walls to see,
Found him, who furtive from their sight withdrew.

"Why didst thou leave me in so base a flight?"

"For they were many, and we were but two.
I marvel how you fared."

                        "I dangered naught.
I found them better friends than first I thought."

"Here came they with thee?"

                "Here alike we came."

"Then I would ask thee of their leader's name."


                "What arms are his?"

                "A silver shield
With two black bends thereon." In jest he spake,
Desiring Mark should Modred's arms mistake
For those of Lancelot. "In my fellowship,
I pray thee ride again."

                "I will not that.
I like not comrades who my side forsake
At hazardous hours." And with that word he went,
Returning to his friends, with whom he met
Griflet le fils de Dieu, and Dagonet,
Who also rode to Camelot.

                        These he told,
Naming no name: "The Cornish knight is here.
He trembles at the thought of Lancelot's spear;
For Modred's shield I said did Lancelot bear."

He laughed the jest, but Modred answered cold:
"Were ye so wise? I have an injured side.
A course with even him I could not ride.
My harness, if he will, shall Dagonet wear."

"It were not much a Cornish knight to dare,"
Sir Dagonet answered, counting more the jest
Than any hazard that his seat should test.
For he was great of heart, though mean of limb,
And well he knew that honour's path for him
Was other than the way that Lancelot took.

Then was he closed in Modred's arms, and rode
A high white charger, such as Lancelot would.
"Now, said he boldly, as his spear he shook,
"Show me the knight who will Sir Lancelot dare,
And I will fling him as Sir Lancelot should."

They halted in a sunflecked glade that lay
Side-open to the winding woodland way.
Here came King Mark. He watched with flickering eyes
The shadowy copse, the turning path's surprise,
Not in the bold attempt of knighthood's law,
But less in hope than fear of all he saw.
Strange and new paths were evil paths to him.

Now knew he, suncaught amidst the copsewood dim,
The steel-bright points of lurking spears arise,
And halted with quick words his varlet train.

Already turned, and with spurred heel aswing,
No thought had he to any strife sustain
When Dagonet charged. Gay fool and frightened king
Plunged pathless through the boskage: "Traitor, stay!"
Sir Dagonet madly cried: "Thy life to slay
I will not stint. To Tristram pledged am I
That Cornish knights I meet shall yield or die."

Back looked King Mark. The silver shield he knew,
Black-bended: "It is Lancelot's self," he said.
And through the thicker woods he faster fled.

Behind came Dagonet. And more behind,
With rush of horses urged the woodland through,
And cries, and crack of boughs, the wind was loud,
As eight strong knights their heavy steeds acrowd
Drave as they might through brake and branch to find
Where led the chase, some nearly-following way.

For those there were of sober mind to say
That Dinadan jested ill. Brandiles said,
Riding beside Ewaine: "If ill befall,
The king without restraint his wrath will let.
For sooner than were hurt to Dagonet,
He would a score of Table knights should fall.
Did he not knight him for his nimble wit,
Saying that those who failed to equal it
Should not be titled in a lordlier way?
Recall his anger when the spite of Kay
Loosed him on Brewnor in a like disguise.
If by mischance the Cornish knight should slay
Too bold a fool, the bitter blame would be
Not Dinadan's sole, but thyself and me,
And all who join him in this random wise."

Meantime the flying Mark by fortune came
To where a strong knight watched a ford. He sate
Motionless, armed: "Now hold," he cried, "for shame!
Why from one knight should one unwounded fly?"

"He is," said Mark, "a better knight than I."

"Then turn behind me. None I think is he
To challenge knighthood of the first degree.
But Tristram's self, or whosoe'er he be,
I shall not fail him."

                "Hearing this the king
Turned his blown steed, and took his rescuer's side.
Whereat, against the near pursuit that came,
The strong knight charged, and on his bending spear
Sir Dagonet from his charger lifted clear.
Far backward was he cast, and hard he fell.

Wroth was Brandiles: "Keep thyself!" He cried,
"For here are those whom most would fail to fling."
Hard was the course he rode, and knightly well
He ruled the splintering spear, but not for that
His seat he held; and, close behind, Ewaine
Marvelled his fall: 'A doubtful knight is here.'
He charged. But that unknown's unbroken spear
Cast him alike, and so, short tale to tell,
Ozanna charged alike, and likely fell.

"Now, if my counsel please," Sir Griflet said,
"Before our further strength be vainly sped,
We should the name of this strong knight enquire,
Whether to Arthur's part he hold, or ire
Against our Table urge him. Well I guess
It is Sir Lamorack."

                        So by Griflet's squire,
His name they asked, and gained but scant reply:
"My name I do not give. No knight am I
Of Arthur's court, nor bear it friendliness.
Joust if ye will, or from my path retire."

"Now soothly, by my head," said Agravain,
"Whatever name be his, a knight is he
Whom few should dare; but yet for shame must we
Our comrades venge, or of like loss complain."

Thereat he found an equal fall. And thus
Fell Griflet, and Ewaine the Adventurous,
Beneath the stranger's lance, while in the rear
Sir Dinadan hoved, but did not sink his spear;
And Modred charged not, for no arms he wore.

Then turned that nameless knight, and rode away,
Leaving the Table knights from where they lay
To rise as best they might, and him beside
With thanks and praise did Mark unheeded ride.
For ever, murmuring to himself, he sighed.
And naught to Mark he spake, and naught replied.

But when from out the woods, long miles away,
At length they came, and fair beneath them lay
A meadowed vale, the strange knight turned his eyes
To where a manor on a beechen rise
Shone whitely in the sunlight: "Ride thereto,"
Calling a varlet of King Mark, he said,
"And greet the lady of the house and pray
That she will send good wines, and meats and bread,
For those who errant ride, and if she say:
'For whom are those?' 'The knight who doth pursue
The glatisant beast,' thou shalt her answer give,
Which surely will secure them."

                        Thus he went,
And thus he said, and with free hand she sent
All that was asked. But in a word aside
The varlet said to Mark: "With whom we ride
I surely learned, for when the word I gave
The dame (a Pagan dark as God me save)
Cried, near to swoon: 'And will he naught abide,
My good son, Palomides?'"

                        "Good to know
Is this you tell, for he is Tristram's foe
And I may soon contrive a further ill
Against the man we hate. But keep thee still
Until my hour to show him whom I be."

So practised Mark a barren craft, for soon,
Content with meats, and in the heat of noon,
They slept, and Palomides, waking first,
Looked on them with no favour: "Lo," said he,
"Why ride I with this scum of Cornwall cursed?"
And having mounted in a noiseless way,
Pricked a sharp pace, and left them where they lay.


To those strong knights by heavy falls dismayed,
And bruised and bleeding, Dinadan gave the aid
That friendship may: "My lord, Ewaine," said he,
"I doubt not it was Lamorack, but for me
I pledge ye all, the truth of whom it were
I will not fail to find. He did not see
The shield I bear, and of your company
He will not think me..... Dagonet's fall I deem
Dishonour fixed; unless my lance redeem
(Of which my hope is small) a lasting shame."

But Dagonet answered: "Better wit from thee
I thought to hear, for all my safety lies
In that I am not of such proved emprise,
Or dextrous lance-craft, as a knight should be.
Words being my sword, a better end than this
Had neared a peril that I largely miss."

"Words being the only sword a fool may wield,
Then surely silence is the knightly shield,"
Sir Dinadan answered. "I alone must ride
The while you nurse your hurts."

                        He ranged afar
Through the dark woods, until a knight he met
Who chased the deer: "Fair knight, of courtesy,"
He asked, "I pray thee tell if such there be
As wander errant in these woods. I seek
A knight on whose white-grounded shield are shown
Two lions' heads in gold."

                        "His hoof-marks yet
Print the wet sward." (A summer shower had been.)
"You should not miss them on the leftward way."

Swiftly the trace he took, and as the eve
Combined the shadows of the woods, he heard
The knight he sought. To some sharp woe relieve
He loud lamented. Dinadan reined unseen
Nearly to where beneath an oak he lay;
And pausing there, behind a hawthorn screen,
He saw King Mark, who lurked in furtive wise
To hear what that lamenting knight should say.

"Alas!" He said, "that I such hopeless woe
Should nurse, who yet its hopeless nature know.
How should I lose who doth not love me? How
Cast out the love which is no weaker now
Than when I met her, and her eyes to me
Were kinder than the later days should see?

"How, being Tristram's, should she turn aside
To arms of any lover less than he?
How, being Mark's, devoid of princely pride,
Mean-souled and caitiff, should she call it shame
Though docile to the lowliest knight she came?
How could I hope, if she were Tristram's bride?
How, being Mark's, can hope be thrown aside?
One aim, one hope, one only hope I know,
That I might rise by Tristram's overthrow.
Unrivalled in her love, my rival slain,
Should she not share me, did but Mark remain?"

Now while Sir Dinadan paused, in knightly doubt
To bare his presence or to turn about
From audience of that long half-heard lament,
King Mark observed him, and in haste he went,
Fearing lest Dinadan his word forgo,
And, for the tool he sought, a hateful foe
Be his to face. Back to his varlet train,
By Palomides neither seen nor guessed,
In abject fear he slunk, and sought again
The road to Camelot.

                        Next eve he came
To those high gates; and with no rightful name,
And in the meaner streets' obscurity,
Craven he lodged. No better thought had he,
Here where high dreams and noble deeds were said,
Than some close net for Tristram's feet to spread,
Or, with such venom as a viper may,
To strike his heel.

                But scarce an hour of day
Had brought him forth the crowded street to view,
Before Amant's short-doubting eyes he knew,
Hard with implacable hate. Regarded so,
He had no space to turn, no time to go,
Before Bersules' friend had barred his way.

"Now for a murderous stroke thy life shall pay."

"I walk unarmed. Ye dare not such to slay
In Camelot's streets."

                "I had no thought so base.
But I will meet thee in a rightful place,
And overthrow thee in the knightly way."

"Sworn art thou that my name thou shalt not show."

"I name thee only as my nameless foe."

So trapped, and treason-charged at Arthur's seat,
Amant he could not more avoid to meet
In ordeal of set strife.

                In all men's sight
Next morn they met, and he of evil will
(Is here a doubt that only faith can still),
While from his helm the spear-point glanced aside,
So pierced Amant that in short hour he died,
Even where he lay.

                There were three damsels there
Sent by Iseult her loving words to bear
To Tristram, and his welfare learn. They knew
Amant's repute, of word and purpose true;
And one, far better than abroad she told,
Had loved him fainly whom she might not hold.
Now rose they with the right that friends may claim
For comfort of the dying knight. They came
To where upon the blood-wet turf he lay
Too hurt to move. The broken spear-point still
Transfixed his side, and while it there remained,
Some words his dying lips contrived to say.

Enough they learned of who his life had baned,
And why he died, to turn to Arthur's seat,
And charge King Mark: "He did Bersules kill,
And doth before thy throne the wrong repeat,
Slaying Amant (by God's bewildering will)
Because they would not Tristram's death conspire."

And Arthur, hearing, burned with generous ire,
While Tristram wept those loyal deaths to know.
"I must more clearly of this cause enquire,"
Said Arthur. "Call King Mark." But Mark had fled.

Then spake Sir Lancelot: "By thy leave," he said,
"I will pursue him wheresoe'er he go."

"That," said the king, "I well would have ye do,
Yet would not that thy wrath the caitiff slew,
Which were not clearly to my worship seen.
But bring him back perforce, and what hath been,
That will I straitly search, and justly pay."

Forth rode Sir Lancelot. Three short miles away,
Upon the western road, the hurrying king
His better charger overreached. He cried:
"Halt, and return! For if thou wilt or no,
As recreant knight thou shalt to Arthur go."

Smooth spake King Mark: "Fair sir, thy name I would."

"I am Lancelot. If thou canst, defend thee."

"I yield. I yield."

                "Thou canst not yield as yet.
Thou hast not fought."

                "But I will yield, I say.
At thy good bidding will I move or stay."

"Alas!" Said Lancelot, "that I may not get
One buffet at thee, for Sir Tristram's sake,
Or for Iseult's release, or vengeance due
For all thy murders, on thy head to deal.
Go thou before me as such caitiffs do,
And ponder on how soon thy neck may feel
The falling sword of justice."

                So he brought
A shaking caitiff back to Arthur's court,
Who fell before the king's high seat, and lay
Grovelling, and put him in his grace, and cried
Abject for mercy.

                "Mark," the king replied,
"None is there living I would welcome less;
Yet art thou welcome, for I lightly guess
That not by choice ye came."

                "I came perforce.
Sir Lancelot brought me."

                "For Bersules' loss,
Why should I pause to slay thee?"

                "Lord, of right
Thou canst not. In set lists, in all men's sight,
The ordeal I sustained, and overthrew
My false accuser."

                "False I would not say.
Yet hath God judged, and after no man may.
I grant thee that. But of thy service due,
Homage and fealty to my throne, that more
Is thine to render since Sir Tristram shore
The Irish bond? Fief of my fief wast thou.
And holding but the right of Gorlois now,
How hast thou served me? Deeds of evil will,
And deaths of knights that in thy danger lay,
All winds report. Can none of all be true?"

"By Christ His Cross, as though my heart were bare,
Though never ran my thoughts thy knights to kill,
Nor work against thy peace by night or day,
Aught that I did of wrong I will not do,
And that I did not wholly to thy will
I will amend henceforward."

                        "Wilt thou so?
Not words will serve thee, but thy deeds must show.
Wilt thou be friend to Tristram?"

                        "I will be
As true a friend to him as he to me."

"If Tristram swear, his oath he will not break."

"I will not swerve from any oath I take."

And so, with half belief, for Tristram's sake,
Did Arthur to his peace accept the king,
And twixt those twain a hollow love-day bring.


Sir Dinadan, when King Mark the brake had left,
Approached Sir Palomides. "Knight," he said,
"Whatever loss be thine uncomforted,
I grieve for that I did not seek to hear."

"Who art thou?"

                "I am errant knight as thou,
Who long hath sought thee by thy shield."

                                "How so?
Good knights enough have cause this shield to know."

"So be it. But I speak in friendship now.
Wilt thou that on a common path we ride?"

"I ride at random only."

                        "That would I."

"There is no road but I may turn aside
And leave it, if the questing beast I hear,
Being vowed to follow that I do not see."

"That once was Pellinor's quest, and now to thee
It falleth? Gladly at thy side I go.
Fain am I further of that beast to know."

"I have no more to tell. Its sound I hear
As when a score of coupled hounds give tongue.
Sometimes in daylight far; or near among
The thickets dense I hear it breaking way
When night is darkest. Only once I saw
A shadowy form before me."

                "Wandering so,
Met ye Sir Tristram?"

                "Tristram dost thou know?
I met him, whom I love not. Yet, perde,
When I was most beset he rescued me."

"Ruled would he be by knighthood's noblest law."

"I nothing doubt it; though no love there be,
But mortal hate between us."

                        Then he told
The tryst they made at Lanceor's tomb to meet,
And how he could not: "In a caitiff's hold,
By cunning dungeoned, for long weeks was I.
It was not that I feared him. Vext I were
If so he think and boast it."

                        "Thy retreat
He doth not boast, but wonders. Went he there
At the set hour, and by mischance he met
Sir Lancelot. Facing shields that neither knew,
Lancelot a stranger fought, while he for you
Mistook Sir Lancelot."

                        "Tristram overset
Lancelot, as well I guess?"

                        "He did not so.
Nor was he worsted. At the last they learned
Whom both they were, and strife to friendship turned.
Sworn are they now of full accord to be
Till death make ending."

                        "Then is proof of naught.
Yet know I surely, had they further fought,
Sir Tristram had been proved the hardier knight,
Whose courage all to dare, and skill to do,
Are matched of no man. Well at heart I know
To win him were to fear no earthly foe."

"You speak so surely, you have met the two?"

"I have seen Sir Tristram fight: Sir Lancelot, no."
(He spake unwitting that the knight unknown
By whom were he and Tristram overthrown
Had been Sir Lancelot.)

                "We may let them be.
Prove one the worse, and yet, with lance to knee,
I would avoid him with exceeding care."

"Speak you in jest, as half I think you do,
Or in default of all a knight should dare,
I will not ask. But if at pass I were
With either, either with the like goodwill
I would encounter, as I would with you."

"Fair knight, I doubt it naught. In gentleness,
Tell me thy name."

                "My name I need not hide.
I am Palomides, to Segwarides
Brother, and to Safere."

                "Thy name to guess
I had not erred. I will not call thee less
Than those we name. Yet having hoved beside,
I say for Lancelot, where he choose to ride,
Desiring gentleness, and dealing strife
In the king's name, for later peace to pay,
His jestless, confident, relentless way,
Of those who cross it, few but learn to fear.
Him should ye meet in peace, and welcomed well,
If came ye to the court.... A tale I hear
That Beale Iseult (its truth I may not tell)
Cometh there but soon."

                "To Arthur's court to go,
I had not thought. I do not call him foe;
But friend I am not to the Christian way."

"Yet wert thou welcome."

                "Beale Iseult to see
I would not miss."

                "Then I will guide thee there,
In safety pledged. But why ye seek so far
A queen who will not in thy guidance be
Bewilders all my thought. She may be fair,
(She is so in all men's eyes, nor least to me),
But surely not for thee her favours are.
Why shouldst thou combat where thou wilt not win?
Or turn to chase a beast thou dost not see?"

And answered Palomides: "Fool to thee
I may be, and to Heaven belike the more.
Yet may I nothing other do therein
Than all men must who own a beckoning star.
By thine own Table's code, such deeds ye do
As may be other's gain, but loss to you."

And Dinadan laughed and not the charge denied,
But featly tossed it with light words aside:
"You gibe our custom that a knight should give
His life untimely that a maid may live?
I grant the fault. For better use say I
That the knight live, and let the damsel die."


Now planned Sir Dinadan in secret thought
A test of Palomides' friendly will
To those of Arthur's part, and of the skill
His deeds and larger boasts proclaimed. 'The court
He hath not seen: the road is strange: the way
He will not question though I ride astray.'
Such was his thought, and north and west, and wide
From Camelot's broader road he swerved aside,
Until, as Palomides restless grew,
('The land is wider than before I knew')
They came to where a castle's heavenward height
Closed half the sky. No path to left or right
But close beneath its flanking bastions ran.
Grim was it, massive, of such virgin strength
As few would test, and those its siege began
Left its indifferent walls inviolate.

Awhile Sir Palomides silent sate
On his reined charger; at the mighty walls
Marvelling aloud: "I have seen strong holds," he said,
"In many lands and far, but seldom yet
Such height of towers in such a girdle set
Of tenfold bastioned walls, that none might dread
To hold against the whole world's armament.
Whose are they?"

                "Arthur's of good right. He lent
Their use to Urience and his dame, Le Fey.
But often hath he cursed the evil day
That loosed their keys to such a hand, for he,
Urience is loyal, but of feeble will
To rein Queen Morgan, and her purpose still
Is hostile to her brother's life and power.

"Her wizard crafts, within so strong a tower
He may not scourge, and only Nimue
Can foil them; only Nimue lightly meets
The deadly meaning of her worst conceits."

"Is here a hold in which we will not bide
For any feastful ease its halls provide."

"Not of our wills," replied Sir Dinadan,
"But past its gates I may not hope to ride
Except our spears prevail to bear us through.
I know not how would Morgan meet with you,
Who are Saracen born, but we of Arthur's part,
If we be worsted when perforce we joust,
(For with one knight, or haply more, we must)
Are stripped of horse and arms and all beside,
And either naked to the winds released,
Or held in such most shamed captivity
As bids us jocund join in song and feast,
And sportive to Queen Morgan's lusts to be."

Answered Sir Palomides: "Here is shame,
So witness Heaven, as any knight should tame
Who hath strength of arms therefor. King Arthur stands
So famed alike in these and heathen lands
That none should seek that high repute to stain.
And she, his sister, might the last remain
To shun such usage. If they seek to stay
Our forward course, as by your word they may,
Of bicker well their felon hands to fill
I shall not fail them."

                As they halted thus,
Came with his squires a knight adventurous
Approaching boldly from the northern road.
Red as let life his gay shield-roses glowed:
Full richly was he armed, and well beseen.
Lamorack de Galis he.

                "Fair knights," he said,
"To break the custom of this shameful queen
Here am I come. Of gentle courtesy,
I pray ye stand aside, and let me deal;
And if I fall your further right shall be."

"Now in God's name," Sir Palomides said,
"Do that thou wilt, and how thy lance shall speed
We will but watch, until thy valorous deed
The highway wholly from this blight hath freed,
Or to thy succour shall our own be sped."

Then forward Lamorack rode, and him to meet
A strong knight issued from the gates. They met
In clangour and dust; and hurled in hard defeat
Queen Morgan's champion fell; and overset
Were two that followed. As they tumbled thus
Sir Lamorack's squires disarmed them. "Stand aside
Till the bout end;" and loosed their chargers, wide
To range the woods at will.

                        Along the walls
Was crowding now of ladies richly clad,
And knights in steel or cloaks of maintenance,
And grooms and servitors who watched the falls
Of those three knights, at first with light applause
Of who prevailed; and then in silence grim.

Now a fourth knight, of ampler girth and limb,
And on a mightier charger than were they
Already fallen, sank a ponderous spear
To meet Sir Lamorack. Palomides said:
"Permit me now, for you have done such play
As most would tire."

                Sir Lamorack answered him:
"Seem I so wearied? Pray ye stand aside.
Nor need ye doubt, though twenty came beside,
I might endure them."

                Then - the roses red
Dressed to spare all except the bended head -
He charged, and to such use the lance controlled,
With flashing hooves the back-flung charger rolled,
And further cast the huge knight sprawling lay.

He moved not, though the squires dishelmed his head.
Twice broken, neck and back, they left him dead,
Taking the charger as the victor's prey.

"Now," said Sir Palomides, "truth to swear,
He could not more, though Lancelot's self he were."

"He is not Lancelot."

                "How the next will fare
Now watch we."

                Out another knight there came.
A white skull on a sable shield he bore,
As warning of the fate his foes should share.
But through that skull the lance of Lamorack tore
So rude a way, and though the mail he wore,
That at his back the shining point was bare.

"Fair knight," said Palomides, while the dead
They lifted, and new champions lagged, "meseems
Much harm you do, and worn you well may be.
I pray thee of thy grace and courtesy
To let me joust awhile."

                "Why, sir, to you
Seem I so feeble by the deeds I do
I need thy succour? Be thy courtesy
To leave me now. If thirty more there came,
I might endure. But if I fall to shame
You may avenge me. Dost thou urge me still?
Then to discover if I joust so ill
We may encounter while we wait their will."

"Fair knight, with that intent I did not speak."

"Then stand aside. I am not yet so weak
That I should yield to thee the praise I seek."

"Nor do I shun thy challenge."

                "As thou wilt."

Knightly they met, and Lamorack's rearing steed
He scarce could rein, but yet to ground he spilt
His strong opponent, who in wrath arose,
The while to Dinadan Lamorack called: "Take heed.
Next art thou."

                "Nay," Sir Dinadan said, but saw
Sir Lamorack's swift advance, and sank his spear.
Fairly it broke, but Lamorack cast him clear
Of saddle and steed.

                From that sharp interlude
Sir Lamorack turned, a careless word to say:
"Take not their steeds, for errant knights are they,"
And to the castle gateway looked anew.

Then seven strong knights in further strife he threw.
Five times he flung his foe, and twice he slew.
And then from out the castle gates there came
A pursuivant unarmed: "Fair lord," he said,
"We joust no more. Our best thy spear hath sped.
Much we repent thy coming. Honouring one
Who hath the custom of our gates fordone,
Queen Morgan would receive thee."

                "Would she so?
Reply that through no castle gates I go
But those which to the Table knights are free."

Then on his hilted sword the eight he swore
That evil custom to maintain no more,
And let them free, and while the crowded wall
Watched with acclaim, or marvel, or dismay,
Called to his squires, and turned, and rode away.

Sir Palomides was not wrothed the less
Because a sharp wound in his side he felt
Where Lamorack's lance had scored it: "Never shame
Was mine as now. I will this wrong redress
By sleight of sword," he said. "He hath not dealt
Only with those a single bout may tame."

"Now if ye heed my counsel," Dinadan said,
"Ye will not so. For if thy sword should fail
Much shame were thine. And though ye fairly sped
What honour were there? Meaner knights prevail
Against the strongest being toiled as he."

"Yet, by the might of God, I may not rest
Until the temper of his sword I test."

"Well, as thou wilt. It shall be mine to see."

Thereat their squires their horses brought, and they
Rode on Sir Lamorack's path a downward way
That to a fountain fell, and him they sought
They saw beside it. There relaxed he lay,
Dishelmed, to take the ease he largely bought.

Fast to his side Sir Palomides came.
"But late," he cried, "you did my knighthood shame.
Arise, and dress thee now, that debt to pay."

"Fair knight," Sir Lamorack answered, "for today
I have done so much that more ye may not claim
With hope of worship."

                "Yet thy pride to tame
I will not stint."

                "Then if thou wilt not let,
Haply I may endure thee."

                With the word
He rose and armed him. As his steed he gained,
Sir Palomides, who the while remained
Dismounted, sharply spake: "I will not set
Lance against lance again. I know too well
There were no harvest there."

                        "Thou wilt not so?
Yet such the use, as all of knighthood know."

"That have we done. But this remains to do."

As thus he spake, Sir Palomides threw
His shield before him, and his sword he drew.

Then Lamorack knightly from his horse alit,
And sword to sword encountered. Long they fought,
Traced and traversed, and blows descending caught
On lifted shields, until their shields became
Hacked and defaced, and Lamorack's roses gay
Were splashed with darkening gore that once as they
Had crimsoned; and the bright mail hacked and rent
Bare flesh and blackening bruise and streaming gore
Showed fenceless to the blow that next should fail.

Alike their wounds their urgent hearts repent,
But most that hurt which Palomides felt
Where Lamorack's spear had razed his side before,
Constrained him now. Of weakening strength aware,
He backward stept: "Fair knight, a bout too sore
Is ours, who know not whom our foe we call.
I pray thy name."

                "That am I loth to tell
To one who would not of his choice forebear
A knight so worn, of whom no wrong he had.
Yet if thy name thou tellest, so will I."

"I am Palomides."

                "I am Lamorack, heir
And son to that strong knight, King Pellinor;
And brother mine, by half his blood, Sir Tor."

Then Palomides bent his knees, and said:
"I ask thy mercy for the outrage mine,
That forced this strife without regard to all
Thy deeds of arms preceding."

                        "That you say
Is more than need be, and the most you may,"
Sir Lamorack answered. "Me repenteth sore
The equal wounds our swords have dealt; and yet
Blithe am I to so famed a knight have met."

"That am I alike, and though my wounds are more,
Soon will they heal; and not for transient pains,
Nor for the fairest hold this land contains,
Would I have missed to meet thee. Courtesy
For my discourteous use so moveth me
That, save my brethren, first my faith to thee
Is turned henceforward."

                "Save my brethren, I
Will hold thee in like bond, to gain or die."

And so, by hard blows brought to amity,
And being by their squires well comforted,
And their torn harness patched and linked anew,
They rode with Dinadan, as eve was red,
To where there dwelt a prior of reverend age
Who in his priory gave them harbourage.


"Why didst thou lead me here, so far astray?"

"Because my heart misliked the straighter way."

So Palomides asked, and Dinadan
Gave answering words in which no answer lay.
"Yet must I haste," he said, "at prime of day,
Who cannot more endure the long delay
From Tristram's side."

        "From Tristram? Dost thou know
That he thou namest is my mortal foe?"

"So have we heard thee swear. But friend to thee
Doth not include to share thine enmity."

"Canst thou befriend the chase, and those who fly?"

"Why doubt it? Friend of all good knights am I."

"I doubt it naught. But shouldst thou ride today
It is alone from me. My wounds are yet
Too raw for that."

        "Then must I leave thee here.
And Lamorack's wounds may choose a like delay.
Yet something for thine ease, while here ye stay
I tell thee, and a jape ye need not fear.
Behold that tower across the vale that lies?
There the Haut Prince Queen Morgan's might defies,
And when the tale of her flung knights you tell,
Sir Lamorack's capon will be larded well."

So went they separate ways, and Dinadan
To Camelot rode, until a knight he met
Who nameless sought a wayside bout to try.
"Wilt thou to joust?"

                "I will not, of my will."

"Yet I to knighthood's rule must hold thee still."

"Wouldst thou in love or evil mind debate?"

"I seek to joust in love, and naught in hate."

"Hard is the love that points a sharpened spear.
Joust of my choice I surely will not here.
Ask me at Arthur's court a later day,
And I will meet thee, if thy purpose stay."

"Tell me thy name, and I may let thee so."

"I am Sir Dinadan."

                "Now thy name I know,
I will thy will. For of thy gentleness,
And of thy knighthood in set strife no less,
Do all men speak. I love thee heartily."

So with good words they parted. Dinadan rode
Forthright to Camelot, where few than he
Were surer to be hailed with welcoming.

Of counsel wise, and sharp of jest was he,
And courteous to all men of all degree,
And gentle in his ways to churl or king.
And one who would not turn to left or right
From the strait vows that bound a Table knight,
Though emulous bouts his better wits would shun.

"What," asked King Arthur, "have thy ventures been?"

"Little of worth, and deeds for boasting none,"
He answered, "have I wrought, but more have seen.
Some will King Mark perchance have told; and I
Should vainly with his Cornish versions vie.
From then with Lamorack to the more degree
Much have I seen which was a joy to see,
As you may joy to hear it."

                        Then he told
Of Lamorack's deeds before Queen Morgan's hold;
And how with Palomides, after all,
He proved the stronger.

                "That," King Arthur said,
"I cannot well believe, for he you name,
The Saracen knight, since to our land he came,
Hath done such deeds as any strength should dread."

"Yet was it so; and had their strife pursued
Its ominous end, I could not else conclude
But Lamorack must have slain him."

                "Say ye thus,
I must believe, and call it marvellous,
As all men will who Palomides know."

"Yet," said Sir Tristram, "not to call it so
I must presume against thee. I have felt
The might of both, and Palomides dealt
The weaker blows than Lamorack. Never yet
Out-wearied have I been, though Lancelot
I will not ask to equal. Save but he,
Against no knight I ever sword have set
To equal Lamorack."

                "Be he best or not,"
Answered the king, "he is of such degree
That I am fain that here his place should be."

"Content ye," said Sir Dinadan. "Fain or loth,
Soon, in full vigour, shalt thou greet them both."


King Arthur spake to Lancelot: "Near I call,
At the far priory in the western wood,
An open tourney. At this festival
No range of parties or of lands shall be,
As when the choice of British knights withstood
The might of Benoic; or Northumbria's king
With Ireland joined against the chivalry
Of the Haut Prince, and all North Gales, and he
The Hundred Knights who led. No ordering
Of rank to rank, or tale of jousts shall be
A fore-appointed rite. But each who will
His course against another knight may ride,
Or watchful only in his place abide
Without abate of honour. Ordering so,
It would be largely to my peace to know
That neither Tristram nor thyself wilt show
Armed presence in the lists."

                He spake as though
He would not that they clashed for mastery,
But other object in his heart had he,
Who feared the bitter growth of rivalry
Between the British and the Benoic knights.
Let Lancelot stand apart, and Orkney's spears
Might all confound, and yet might Benoic say:
'It was but that our greatest held away.'
Gainers and losers would alike remain
With prides unbroken. So he sought to stay
The sharp dissension's sure-approaching day
Which would his realm divide and then destroy,
With all the splendour of its noble gain.
So planned he to an end he could not know,
And hastened in its course a different woe.

Yet the first hours went all to Arthur's will.
Ector de Maris long endured; but most
Sir Gawain and his brethren bore the boast
That many jousts they ran, with force to spill
All knights they met; till, from the woodland shade,
Out to the sunlight rode a knight arrayed
Royally in all, and with two squires behind.

No shield's device he showed, nor crest he wore,
The while two Table knights he downward bore,
Who found against his foiling sleight of shield
Their ponderous spears were vain: against his skill
Their shields were nothing worth to turn the shock.

Then Modred rode a vicious course, but still
The strange knight held an undefeated field,
No more unknown, for Modred's lance had torn
The covering from his shield. The roses red
Showed to the lauding crowd their blazon bold
As fell Gaheris.

                "Now," King Arthur said,
"A knight is here whom not the best could scorn,
Such champions in the dust one lance hath rolled.
Who cometh the next?"

                The next was Agravain.
Alike he fell. Loud were the cries: "Beware!
Beware the knight with the red shield." But now
Sir Gawain took the field his fate to dare.
Wroth was he for his brethren's falls, and fain
To venge their failures, not their falls to share.
Yet with an equal loss to ground he fell.

"So God me help," said Arthur, "marvellously
Doth the red knight. Yet was it plain to see
Sir Gawain's saddle slipped. The girth gave way...
I would I knew whom that strange knight may be."

"I know him, but his name I should not tell,"
Sir Dinadan answered.

                "That is naught to say;
For here are those who know that shield full well.
It is Sir Lamorack. Now the king shall see
That Palomides cannot joust as he."
So spake Sir Tristram.

                "Peace," Sir Lancelot said.
"Lord Gawain rides again."

                        Again he rode
Full knightly, but the storm-red roses glowed
Once more above the fallen.

                        All who came
Thenceafter, Lamorack to an equal shame
Downcast, that twenty knights in all he threw.
By Arthur's voice, and by the crowd's acclaim,
His was the prize. Yet, as the trumpets blew
For cease of tourney, to the woods he drew.
Avoiding all. But on his twilight track
Rode Arthur, Lancelot, Tristram, Dinadan,
In honour to the court to bring him back.
And as the moon its slow ascent began
From birth of darkness to its lovelier noon,
They led him to a night of feast and song,
And tales of joyance that in right belong
To life's heroic days that close too soon.

But Gawain with his brethren held debate
Bitter and secret. "Here may all men see
That Arthur loveth whom we needs must hate.
His father slew our father first, and we
His father slew therefor. What peace can be
Between our houses now? And more to weigh
The scales of vengeance, by his lance today
Shamed were we all."

                "Fair brethren," Gawain said,
"Bide we our time, until our chance we set.
Say naught, do naught, by wrath see wisdom led."


"I may not longer at thy court abide.
The needs of Cornwall call," King Mark had said.

"So may they of good right," the king replied.
"Go ye in peace, with gifts of worth; but one
I will entreat of thee."

                "Thy most require
Were small, within the range of my desire
In all to serve thee."

                "That I ask is plain,
And lightly in thy power. To take again
Sir Tristram to thy side, and for my sake,
And for the strength and safety of thy land,
That he to Cornwall and his friends return:
A bond of honour that he will not break
Between yourselves henceforward."

                "Thy command
(For so I call it) will I straitly do.
I swear it by my faith to God and you."

"Then is goodwill; and all the past forgot."

So Mark in hall was sworn, but Lancelot,
Who heard with Dinadan, believed him not,
And meeting Mark aside, they hardly said:
"Not for thine oath - for what are oaths to thee? -
But for thy safety, which no breadth of sea,
Nor depth of cavern, of avail would be
To save, if Tristram in thy land were sped,
Regard him as thyself."

                "The oath I swore
Should well content ye. Overmuch my shame
If I should break it. All your knighthood heard,
Which needs must bind me."

                        "Never yet thy word
Withheld thy treasons. Such thy constant name
In all the lands that know thee. Now the more
We doubt thee that we count that here ye came
To seek his life. Did ever deed deny
The fullness of thy treasons and thy guile?
Take warning now from lips that do not lie."

So warned they Tristram with like words, but he
With laughter left them. Would he fear the while
Iseult the merle, Iseult the douth wind sang,
More clear, more loud, with every hastened mile?

End of part 2.