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Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

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Author Topic: Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic  (Read 2321 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #45 on: January 27, 2009, 11:06:53 pm »

[paragraph continues] (meaning that she could read and write, like the clergy), and of astronomy could she enough, for Merlin had her taught, and she learned much of egromancy (magic or necromancy); and the best work-woman she was with her hands that any man knew in any land, and she had the fairest head and the fairest hands under heaven, and shoulders well-shapen; and she had fair eloquence and full debonair she was, as long as she was in her right wit; and when she was wroth with any man, she was evil to meet." This lady was one of Merlin's pupils, but the one whom he loved most and instructed the most was Nimiane or Vivian, already mentioned, who seems to have been to him rather a beloved younger sister than anything else, and he taught her so much that "at last he might hold himself a fool," the legend says, "and ever she inquired of his cunning and his mysteries, each thing by itself, and he let her know all, and she wrote all that he said, as she was well learned in clergie (reading and writing), and learned lightly all that Merlin taught her; and when they parted, each of them commended the other to God full tenderly."

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The form of the enchanter Merlin disappeared from view, at last--for the legends do not admit that his life ever ended--across the sea whence he came.

The poet Tennyson, to be sure, describes Nimiane or Vivian--the Lady of the Lake--as a wicked enchantress who persuaded Merlin to betray his secrets to her, and then shut him up in an oak tree forever. But other legends seem to show that Tennyson does great injustice to the Lady of the Lake, that she really loved Merlin even in his age, and therefore persuaded him to show her how to make a tower without walls,--that they might dwell there together in peace, and address each other only as Brother and Sister. When he had told her, he fell asleep with his head in her lap, and she wove a spell nine times around his head, and the tower became the strongest in the world. Some of the many legends place this tower in the forest of Broceliande; while others transport it afar to a magic island, where Merlin dwells with his nine bards, and where Vivian alone can come or go through the magic walls. Some legends describe

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« Reply #46 on: January 27, 2009, 11:07:21 pm »

it as an enclosure "neither of iron nor steel nor timber nor of stone, but of the air, without any other thing but enchantment, so strong that it may never be undone while the world endureth." Here dwells Merlin, it is said, with nine favorite bards who took with them the thirteen treasures of England. These treasures are said to have been:--

1. A sword; if any man drew it except the owner, it burst into a flame from the cross to the point. All who asked it received it; but because of this peculiarity all shunned it.

2. A basket; if food for one man were put into it, when opened it would be found to contain food for one hundred.

3. A horn; what liquor soever was desired was found therein.

4. A chariot; whoever sat in it would be immediately wheresoever he wished.

5. A halter, which was in a staple below the feet of a bed; and whatever horse one wished for in it, he would find it there.

6. A knife, which would serve four-and twenty men at meat all at once.

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7. A caldron; if meat were put into it to boil for a coward, it would never be boiled; but if meat were put in it for a brave man, it would be boiled forthwith.

8. A whetstone; if the sword of a brave man were sharpened thereon, and any one were wounded therewith, he would be sure to die; but if it were that of a coward that was sharpened on it, he would be none the worse.

9. A garment; if a man of gentle birth put it on, it suited him well; but if a churl, it would not fit him.

10, 11. A pan and a platter; whatever food was required was found therein.

12. A chessboard; when the men were placed upon it, they would play of themselves. The chessboard was of gold, and the men of silver.

13. The mantle of Arthur; whosoever was beneath it could see everything, while no one could see him.

It is towards this tower, some legends say, that Merlin was last seen by some Irish monks, sailing away westward, with a maiden, in a boat of crystal, beneath a sunset sky.



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« Reply #47 on: January 27, 2009, 11:07:55 pm »

p. 63

VIII
SIR LANCELOT OF THE LAKE

SIR LANCELOT, the famous knight, was the son of a king and queen against whom their subjects rebelled; the king was killed, the queen taken captive, when a fairy rose in a cloud of mist and carried away the infant Lancelot from where he had been left beneath a tree. The queen, after weeping on the body of her husband, looked round and saw a lady standing by the water-side, holding the queen's child in her arms. "Fair, sweet friend," said the queen, "give me back my child." The fairy made no reply, but dived into the water; and the queen was taken to an abbey, where she was known as the Queen of Great Griefs. The Lady of the Lake took the child to her own home, which was an island in the middle of the sea and surrounded by impassable walls. From this the lady had her

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name of Dame du Lac, or the Lady of the Lake (or Sea), and her foster son was called Lancelot du Lac, while the realm was called Meidelant, or the Land of Maidens.

Lancelot dwelt thenceforward in the castle, on the island. When he was eight years old he received a tutor who was to instruct him in all knightly knowledge; he learned to use bow and spear and to ride on horseback, and some cousins of his were also brought thither by the Lady of the Lake to be his comrades. When he was eighteen he wished to go to King Arthur's court that he might be a knight.

On the eve of St. John, as King Arthur returned from the chase, and by the high road approached Camelot, he met a fair company. In the van went two youths, leading two white mules, one freighted with a silken pavilion, the other with robes proper for a newly made knight; the mules bore two chests, holding the hauberk and the iron boots. Next came two squires, clad in white robes and mounted on white horses, carrying a silver shield and a shining helmet; after these, two others, with a sword

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« Reply #48 on: January 27, 2009, 11:08:12 pm »

in a white sheath and a white charger. Behind followed squires and servants in white coats, three damsels dressed in white, the two sons of King Bors; and, last of all, the fairy with the youth she loved. Her robe was of white samite lined with ermine; her white palfrey had a silver bit, while her breastplate, stirrups, and saddle were of ivory, carved with figures of ladies and knights, and her white housings trailed on the ground.

When she perceived the king, she responded to his salutation, and said, after she had lowered her wimple and displayed her face: "Sir, may God bless the best of kings! I come to implore a boon, which it shall cost you nothing to grant." "Damsel, even it should cost me dear, you should not be refused; what is it you would have me do?" "Sir, dub this varlet a knight, and array him in the arms he bringeth, whenever he desireth." "Your mercy, damsel! to bring me such a youth! Assuredly, I will dub him whenever he will; but it shameth me to abandon my custom, for 'tis my wont to furnish with garments and

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arms such as come thither to receive chivalry." The lady replied that she desired the youth to carry the arms she had intended him to wear, and if she were refused, she would address herself elsewhere. Sir Ewain said that so fair a youth ought not to be denied, and the king yielded to her entreaty. She returned thanks, and bade the varlet retain the mules and the charger, with the two squires; and after that, she prepared to return as she had come, in spite of the urgency of the king, who had begged her to remain in his court. "At least," he cried, "tell us by what name are you known ?" "Sir," she answered, "I am called the Lady of the Lake."

For a long way, Lancelot escorted the fairy, who said to him as she took leave: "King's son, you are derived from lineage the most noble on earth; see to it that your worth be as great as your beauty. To-morrow you will ask the king to bestow on you knighthood; when you are armed, you will not tarry in his house a single night. Abide in one place no longer than you can help, and refrain from

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« Reply #49 on: January 27, 2009, 11:08:39 pm »

declaring your name until others proclaim it. Be prepared to accomplish every adventure, and never let another man complete a task which you yourself have undertaken." With that, she gave him a ring that had the property of dissolving enchantment, and commended him to God.

On the morrow, Lancelot arrayed himself in his fairest robes, and sued for knighthood, as he had been commanded to do. Sir Ewain attended him to court, where they dismounted in front of the palace; the king and queen advanced to meet them; each took Sir Ewain by a hand, and seated him on a couch, while the varlet stood in their presence on the rushes that strewed the floor. All gazed with pleasure, and the queen prayed that God might make him noble, for he possessed as much beauty as was possible for man to have.

After this he had many perilous adventures; he fought with giants and lions; he entered an enchanted castle and escaped; he went to a well in the forest, and, striking three times on a cymbal with a hammer hung there for the

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purpose, called forth a great giant, whom he slew, afterwards marrying his daughter. Then he went to rescue the queen of the realm, Gwenivere, from captivity. In order to reach the fortress where she was prisoner, he had to ride in a cart with a dwarf; to follow a wheel that rolled before him to show him the way, or a ball that took the place of the wheel; he had to walk on his hands and knees across a bridge made of a drawn sword; he suffered greatly. At last he rescued the queen, and later than this he married Elaine, the daughter of King Pelles, and her father gave to them the castle of Blyaunt in the Joyous Island, enclosed in iron, and with a deep water all around it. There Lancelot challenged all knights to come and contend with him, and he jousted with more than five hundred, overcoming them all, yet killing none, and at last he returned to Camelot, the place of King Arthur's court.

One day he was called from the court to an abbey, where three nuns brought to him a beautiful boy of fifteen, asking that he might be made a knight. This was Sir Lancelot's

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« Reply #50 on: January 27, 2009, 11:08:56 pm »

own son, Galahad, whom he had never seen, and did not yet know. That evening Sir Lancelot remained at the abbey with the boy, that he might keep his vigil there, and on the morrow's dawn he was made a knight. Sir Lancelot put on one of his spurs, and Bors, Lancelot's cousin, the other, and then Sir Lancelot said to the boy, "Fair son, attend me to the court of the king;" but the abbess said, "Sir, not now, but we will send him when it shall be time."

On Whitsunday, at the time called "underne," which was nine in the morning, King Arthur and his knights sat at the Round Table, where on every seat there was written, in letters of gold, the name of a knight with "here ought to sit he," or "he ought to sit here;" and thus went the inscriptions until they came to one seat (or siège in French) called the "Siege Perilous," where they found newly written letters of gold, saying that this seat could not be occupied until four hundred and fifty years after the death of Christ; and that was this very day. Then there came news

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of a marvellous stone which had been seen above the water, with a sword sticking in it bearing the letters, "Never shall man take me hence, but only he by whose side I ought to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world." Then two of the knights tried to draw the sword and failed to draw it, and Sir Lancelot, who was thought the best knight in all the world, refused to attempt it. Then they went back to their seats around the table.

Then when all the seats but the "Siege Perilous" were full, the hall was suddenly darkened; and an old man clad in white, whom nobody knew, came in, with a young knight in red armor, wearing an empty scabbard at his side, who said, "Peace be with you, fair knights." The old man said, "I bring you here a young knight that is of kings' lineage," and the king said, "Sir, ye are right heartily welcome." Then the old man bade the young knight to remove his armor, and he wore a red garment, while the old man placed on his shoulders a mantle of fine ermine, and said, "Sir, follow after." Then the old man led him to the "Siege

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« Reply #51 on: January 27, 2009, 11:09:27 pm »

[paragraph continues] Perilous," next to Sir Lancelot, and lifted the cloth and read, "Here sits Sir Galahad," and the youth sat down. Upon this, all the knights of the Round Table marvelled greatly at Sir Galahad, that he dared to sit in that seat, and he so tender of age. Then King Arthur took him by the hand and led him down to the river to see the adventure of the stone. "Sir," said the king to Sir Galahad, "here is a great marvel, where right good knights have tried and failed." "Sir," said Sir Galahad, "that is no marvel, for the adventure was not theirs, but mine; I have brought no sword with me, for here by my side hangs the scabbard," and he laid his hand on the sword and lightly drew it from the stone.

It was not until long after, and when they both had had many adventures, that Sir Lancelot discovered Galahad to be his son. Sir Lancelot once came to the sea-strand and found a ship without sails or oars, and sailed away upon it. Once, when he touched at an island, a young knight came on board to whom Lancelot said, "Sir, you are welcome," and when the young

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knight asked his name, told him, "My name is Sir Lancelot du Lac." "Sir," he said, "then you are welcome, for you are my father." "Ah," said Lancelot, "are you Sir Galahad?" Then the young knight kneeled down and asked his blessing, and they embraced each other, and there was great joy between them, and they told each other all their deeds. So dwelt Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad together within that ship for half a year, and often they arrived at islands far from men where there were but wild beasts, and they found many adventures strange and perilous which they brought to an end.

When Sir Lancelot at last died, his body was taken to Joyous-Gard, his home, and there it lay in state in the choir, with a hundred torches blazing above it; and while it was there, came his brother Sir Ector de Maris, who had long been seeking Lancelot. When he heard such noise and saw such lights in the choir, he alighted and came in; and Sir Bors went towards him and told him that his brother Lancelot was lying dead. Then Sir Ector threw his shield and sword and helm from him, and when he looked

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« Reply #52 on: January 27, 2009, 11:09:57 pm »

on Sir Lancelot's face he fell down in a swoon, and when he rose he spoke thus: "Ah, Sir Lancelot," said he, "thou wert dead of all Christen knights! And now I dare say, that, Sir Lancelot, there thou liest, thou wert never matched of none earthly knight's hands; and thou wert the curtiest knight that ever beare shield; and thou wert the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrood horse, and thou wert the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman; and thou wert the kindest man that ever strooke with sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that ever came among presse of knights; and thou wert the meekest man and the gentlest that ever eate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortall foe that ever put speare in the rest."



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« Reply #53 on: January 27, 2009, 11:11:13 pm »

p. 74

IX
THE HALF-MAN

KING ARTHUR in his youth was fond of all manly exercises, especially of wrestling, an art in which he found few equals. The old men who had been the champions of earlier days, and who still sat, in summer evenings, watching the youths who tried their skill before them, at last told him that he had no rival in Cornwall, and that his only remaining competitor elsewhere was one who had tired out all others.

"Where is he?" said Arthur.

"He dwells," an old man said, "on an island whither you will have to go and find him. He is of all wrestlers the most formidable. You will think him at first so insignificant as to be hardly worth a contest; you will easily throw him at the first trial; but after a while you will find him growing stronger; he seeks out all

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your weak points as by magic; he never gives up; you may throw him again and again, but he will conquer you at last."

"His name! his name!" said Arthur.

"His name," they answered, "is Hanner Dyn; his home is everywhere, but on his own island you will be likely to find him sooner or later. Keep clear of him, or he will get the best of you in the end, and make you his slave as he makes slaves of others whom he has conquered."

Far and wide over the ocean the young Arthur sought; he touched at island after island; he saw many weak men who did not dare to wrestle with him, and many strong ones whom he could always throw, until at last when he was far out under the western sky, he came one day to an island which he had never before seen and which seemed uninhabited. Presently there came out from beneath an arbor of flowers a little miniature man, graceful and quick-moving as an elf. Arthur, eager in his quest, said to him, "In what island dwells Hanner Dyn?" "In this island," was the answer. "Where is

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« Reply #54 on: January 27, 2009, 11:11:47 pm »

he?" said Arthur. "I am he," said the laughing boy, taking hold of his hand.

"What did they mean by calling you a wrestler?" said Arthur.

"Oh," said the child coaxingly, "I am a wrestler. Try me."

The king took him and tossed him in the air with his strong arms, till the boy shouted with delight. He then took Arthur by the hand and led him about the island--showed him his house and where the gardens and fields were. He showed him the rows of men toiling in the meadows or felling trees. "They all work for me," he said carelessly. The king thought he had never seen a more stalwart set of laborers. Then the boy led him to the house, asked him what his favorite fruits were, or his favorite beverages, and seemed to have all at hand. He was an unaccountable little creature; in size and years he seemed a child; but in his activity and agility he seemed almost a man. When the king told him so, he smiled, as winningly as ever, and said, "That is what they call me--Hanner Dyn, The Half-Man." Laughing merrily, he

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helped Arthur into his boat and bade him farewell, urging him to come again. The King sailed away, looking back with something like affection on his winsome little playmate.

It was months before Arthur came that way again. Again the merry child met him, having grown a good deal since their earlier meeting. "How is my little wrestler?" said Arthur. "Try me," said the boy; and the king tossed him again in his arms, finding the delicate limbs firmer, and the slender body heavier than before, though easily manageable. The island was as green and more cultivated, there were more men working in the fields, and Arthur noticed that their look was not cheerful, but rather as of those who had been discouraged and oppressed.

It was, however, a charming sail to the island, and, as it became more familiar, the king often bade his steersman guide the pinnace that way. He was often startled with the rapid growth and increased strength of the laughing boy, Hanner Dyn, while at other times he seemed much as before and appeared to have made but little progress. The youth seemed never tired of wrestling;

p. 78

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« Reply #55 on: January 27, 2009, 11:12:10 pm »

he always begged the king for a trial of skill, and the king rejoiced to see how readily the young wrestler caught at the tricks of the art; so that the time had long passed when even Arthur's strength could toss him lightly in the air, as at first. Hanner Dyn was growing with incredible rapidity into a tall young fellow, and instead of the weakness that often comes with rapid growth, his muscles grew ever harder and harder. Still merry and smiling, he began to wrestle in earnest, and one day, in a moment of carelessness, Arthur received a back fall, perhaps on moist ground, and measured his length. Rising with a quick motion, he laughed at the angry faces of his attendants and bade the boy farewell. The men at work in the fields glanced up, attracted by the sound of voices, and he saw them exchange looks with one another.

Yet he felt his kingly dignity a little impaired, and hastened ere long to revisit the island and teach the saucy boy another lesson. Months had passed, and the youth had expanded into a man of princely promise, but with the same sunny look. His shoulders

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were now broad, his limbs of the firmest mould, his eye clear, keen, penetrating. "Of all the wrestlers I have ever yet met," said the king, "this younker promises to be the most formidable. I can easily throw him now, but what will he be a few years hence?" The youth greeted him joyously, and they began their usual match. The sullen serfs in the fields stopped to watch them, and an aged Druid priest, whom Arthur had brought with him, to give the old man air and exercise in the boat, opened his weak eyes and closed them again.

As they began to wrestle, the king felt, by the very grasp of the youth's arms, by the firm set of his foot upon the turf, that this was to be unlike any previous effort. The wrestlers stood after the old Cornish fashion, breast to breast, each resting his chin on the other's shoulder. They grasped each other round the body, each setting his left hand above the other's right. Each tried to force the other to touch the ground with both shoulders and one hip, or with both hips and one shoulder;

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« Reply #56 on: January 27, 2009, 11:12:32 pm »

or else to compel the other to relinquish his hold for an instant--either of these successes giving the victory. Often as Arthur had tried the art, he never had been so matched before. The competitors swayed this way and that, writhed, struggled, half lost their footing and regained it, yet neither yielded. All the boatmen gathered breathlessly around, King Arthur's men refusing to believe their eyes, even when they knew their king was in danger. A stranger group was that of the sullen farm-laborers, who left their ploughs and spades, and, congregating on a rising ground, watched without any expression of sympathy the contest that was going on. An old wrestler from Cornwall, whom Arthur had brought with him, was the judge; and according to the habit of the time, the contest was for the best two bouts in three. By the utmost skill and strength, Arthur compelled Hanner Dyn to lose his hold for one instant in the first trial, and the King was pronounced the victor.

The second test was far more difficult; the boy, now grown to a man, and seeming to grow

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older and stronger before their very eyes, twice forced Arthur to the ground either with hip or shoulder, but never with both, while the crowd closed in breathlessly around; and the half-blind old Druid, who had himself been a wrestler in his youth, and who had been brought ashore to witness the contest, called warningly aloud, "Save thyself, O king!" At this Arthur roused his failing strength to one final effort, and, griping his rival round the waist with a mighty grasp, raised him bodily from the ground and threw him backward till he fell flat, like a log, on both shoulders and both hips; while Arthur himself fell fainting a moment later. Nor did he recover until he found himself in the boat, his head resting on the knees of the aged Druid, who said to him, "Never again, O king! must you encounter the danger you have barely escaped. Had you failed, you would have become subject to your opponent, whose strength has been maturing for years to overpower you. Had you yielded, you would, although a king, have become but as are those dark-browed men who till his

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fields and do his bidding. For know you not what the name Hanner Dyn means? It means--Habit; and the force of habit, at first weak, then growing constantly stronger, ends in conquering even kings!"



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« Reply #57 on: January 27, 2009, 11:13:04 pm »

p. 83

X
KING ARTHUR AT AVALON

In the ruined castle at Winchester, England, built by William the Conqueror, there is a hall called "The Great Hall," where Richard Coeur de Lion was received by his nobles when rescued from captivity; where Henry III. was born; where all the Edwards held court; where Henry VIII. entertained the emperor Charles V.; where Queen Mary was married to Philip II.; where Parliament met for many years. It is now a public hall for the county; and at one end of it the visitor sees against the wall a vast wooden tablet on which the names of King Arthur's knights of the Round Table are inscribed in a circle. No one knows its date or origin, though it is known to be more than four hundred years old, but there appear upon it the names most familiar to those who have read the legends of

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[paragraph continues] King Arthur, whether in Tennyson's poems or elsewhere. There are Lancelot and Bedivere, Gawaine and Dagonet, Modred and Gareth, and the rest. Many books have been written of their deeds; but a time came when almost all those knights were to fall, according to the legend, in one great battle. Modred, the king's nephew, had been left in charge of the kingdom during Arthur's absence, and had betrayed him and tried to dethrone him, meaning to crown himself king. Many people joined with him, saying that under Arthur they had had only war and fighting, but under Modred they would have peace and bliss. Yet nothing was farther from Modred's purpose than bliss or peace, and it was agreed at last that a great battle should be fought for the kingdom.

On the night of Trinity Sunday, King Arthur had a dream. He thought he sat in a chair, upon a scaffold, and the chair was fastened to a wheel. He was dressed in the richest cloth of gold that could be made, but far beneath him he saw a pit, full of black

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« Reply #58 on: January 27, 2009, 11:13:42 pm »



''And the chair was fastened to a wheel, and the wheel began to turn, and King Arthur went down, down among the floating things, and they wreathed themselves about him till he cried, 'Help! help!'''--p. 85



 
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« Reply #59 on: January 27, 2009, 11:13:58 pm »

p. 85

water, in which were all manner of serpents and floating beasts. Then the wheel began to turn, and he went down, down among the floating things, and they wreathed themselves about him till he cried, "Help! help!"

Then his knights and squires and yeomen aroused him, but he slumbered again, not sleeping nor thoroughly waking. Then he thought he saw his nephew, Sir Gawaine, with a number of fair ladies, and when King Arthur saw him, he said, "O fair nephew, what are these ladies who come with you?" "Sir," said Sir Gawaine, "these are the ladies for whose protection I fought while I was a living man, and God has given them grace that they should bring me thither to you, to warn you of your death. If you fight with Sir Modred to-morrow, you must be slain, and most of your people on both sides." So Sir Gawaine and all the ladies vanished, and then the king called upon his knights and squires and yeomen, and summoned his lords and bishops. They agreed to propose to Sir Modred that they should have a month's delay, and meanwhile

p. 86

agreed to meet him with fourteen persons on each side, besides Arthur and Modred.

Each of these leaders warned his army, when they met, to watch the other, and not to draw their swords until they saw a drawn sword on the other side. In that case they were to come on fiercely. So the small party of chosen men on each side met and drank wine together, and agreed upon a month's delay before fighting; but while this was going on an adder came out of a bush and stung a knight on the foot, and he drew his sword to slay it and thought of nothing farther. At the sight of that sword the two armies were in motion, trumpets were blown instantly, and the men of each army thought that the other army had begun the fray. "Alas, this unhappy day!" cried King Arthur; and, as the old chronicle says, "nothing there was but rushing and riding, fencing and striking, and many a grim word was there spoken either to other, and many a deadly stroke."

The following is the oldest account of the battle, translated into quaint and literal English

p. 87

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