Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Index  BOOK XX  Previous  Next 


Of the sorrow that King Arthur made for the war, and of
another battle where also Sir Gawaine had the worse

ALAS, said the king, that ever this unhappy war was
begun; for ever Sir Launcelot forbeareth me in all places,
and in likewise my kin, and that is seen well this day by
my nephew Sir Gawaine.  Then King Arthur fell sick for
sorrow of Sir Gawaine, that he was so sore hurt, and
because of the war betwixt him and Sir Launcelot.  So
then they on King Arthur's part kept the siege with little
war withoutforth; and they withinforth kept their walls,
and defended them when need was.  Thus Sir Gawaine
lay sick three weeks in his tents, with all manner
of leech-craft that might be had.  And as soon as Sir Gawaine
might go and ride, he armed him at all points, and start
upon a courser, and gat a spear in his hand, and so he came
riding afore the chief gate of Benwick; and there he cried
on height:  Where art thou, Sir Launcelot?  Come forth,
thou false traitor knight and recreant, for I am here, Sir
Gawaine, will prove this that I say on thee.

All this language Sir Launcelot heard, and then he
said thus:  Sir Gawaine, me repents of your foul saying,
that ye will not cease of your language; for you wot well,
Sir Gawaine, I know your might and all that ye may do;
and well ye wot, Sir Gawaine, ye may not greatly hurt
me.  Come down, traitor knight, said he, and make it
good the contrary with thy hands, for it mishapped me
the last battle to be hurt of thy hands; therefore wit thou
well I am come this day to make amends, for I ween this
day to lay thee as low as thou laidest me.  Jesu defend
me, said Sir Launcelot, that ever I be so far in your
danger as ye have been in mine, for then my days were
done.  But Sir Gawaine, said Sir Launcelot, ye shall not
think that I tarry long, but sithen that ye so unknightly
call me of treason, ye shall have both your hands full of
me.  And then Sir Launcelot armed him at all points,
and mounted upon his horse, and gat a great spear in his
hand, and rode out at the gate.  And both the hosts were
assembled, of them without and of them within, and stood
in array full manly.  And both parties were charged to
hold them still, to see and behold the battle of these two
noble knights.  And then they laid their spears in their
rests, and they came together as thunder, and Sir Gawaine
brake his spear upon Sir Launcelot in a hundred pieces
unto his hand; and Sir Launcelot smote him with a greater
might, that Sir Gawaine's horse's feet raised, and so the
horse and he fell to the earth.  Then Sir Gawaine deliverly
avoided his horse, and put his shield afore him, and eagerly
drew his sword, and bade Sir Launcelot:  Alight, traitor
knight, for if this mare's son hath failed me, wit thou well
a king's son and a queen's son shall not fail thee.

Then Sir Launcelot avoided his horse, and dressed his
shield afore him, and drew his sword; and so stood they
together and gave many sad strokes, that all men on both
parties had thereof passing great wonder.  But when Sir
Launcelot felt Sir Gawaine's might so marvellously
increase, he then withheld his courage and his wind, and
kept himself wonder covert of his might; and under his
shield he traced and traversed here and there, to break
Sir Gawaine's strokes and his courage; and Sir Gawaine
enforced himself with all his might and power to destroy
Sir Launcelot; for as the French book saith, ever as Sir
Gawaine's might increased, right so increased his wind
and his evil will.  Thus Sir Gawaine did great pain unto
Sir Launcelot three hours, that he had right great pain for
to defend him.

And when the three hours were passed, that Sir
Launcelot felt that Sir Gawaine was come to his own
proper strength, then Sir Launcelot said unto Sir Gawaine:
Now have I proved you twice, that ye are a full dangerous
knight, and a wonderful man of your might; and many
wonderful deeds have ye done in your days, for by your
might increasing you have deceived many a full noble and
valiant knight; and, now I feel that ye have done your
mighty deeds, now wit you well I must do my deeds.
And then Sir Launcelot stood near Sir Gawaine, and then
Sir Launcelot doubled his strokes; and Sir Gawaine
defended him mightily, but nevertheless Sir Launcelot smote
such a stroke upon Sir Gawaine's helm, and upon the old
wound, that Sir Gawaine sinked down upon his one side
in a swoon.  And anon as he did awake he waved and
foined at Sir Launcelot as he lay, and said:  Traitor
knight, wit thou well I am not yet slain, come thou near
me and perform this battle unto the uttermost.  I will no
more do than I have done, said Sir Launcelot, for when I
see you on foot I will do battle upon you all the while I
see you stand on your feet; but for to smite a wounded
man that may not stand, God defend me from such a
shame.  And then he turned him and went his way
toward the city.  And Sir Gawaine evermore calling him
traitor knight, and said:  Wit thou well Sir Launcelot,
when I am whole I shall do battle with thee again, for I
shall never leave thee till that one of us be slain.  Thus
as this siege endured, and as Sir Gawaine lay sick near a
month; and when he was well recovered and ready within
three days to do battle again with Sir Launcelot, right so
came tidings unto Arthur from England that made King
Arthur and all his host to remove.