Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XXI CHAPTER V

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How King Arthur commanded to cast his sword Excalibur
into the water, and how he was delivered to ladies in
a barge

BUT I may not stand, mine head works so.  Ah Sir
Launcelot, said King Arthur, this day have I sore missed
thee: alas, that ever I was against thee, for now have I
my death, whereof Sir Gawaine me warned in my dream.
Then Sir Lucan took up the king the one part, and Sir
Bedivere the other part, and in the lifting the king
swooned; and Sir Lucan fell in a swoon with the lift,
that the part of his guts fell out of his body, and
therewith the noble knight's heart brast.  And when the king
awoke, he beheld Sir Lucan, how he lay foaming at the
mouth, and part of his guts lay at his feet.  Alas, said
the king, this is to me a full heavy sight, to see this noble
duke so die for my sake, for he would have holpen me,
that had more need of help than I.  Alas, he would not
complain him, his heart was so set to help me: now Jesu
have mercy upon his soul!  Then Sir Bedivere wept for
the death of his brother.  Leave this mourning and weeping,
said the king, for all this will not avail me, for wit
thou well an I might live myself, the death of Sir Lucan
would grieve me evermore; but my time hieth fast, said
the king.  Therefore, said Arthur unto Sir Bedivere, take
thou Excalibur, my good sword, and go with it to yonder
water side, and when thou comest there I charge thee
throw my sword in that water, and come again and tell
me what thou there seest.  My lord, said Bedivere, your
commandment shall be done, and lightly bring you word

So Sir Bedivere departed, and by the way he beheld
that noble sword, that the pommel and the haft was all of
precious stones; and then he said to himself:  If I throw
this rich sword in the water, thereof shall never come
good, but harm and loss.  And then Sir Bedivere hid
Excalibur under a tree.  And so, as soon as he might, he
came again unto the king, and said he had been at the
water, and had thrown the sword in the water.  What
saw thou there? said the king.  Sir, he said, I saw nothing
but waves and winds.  That is untruly said of thee, said
the king, therefore go thou lightly again, and do my
commandment; as thou art to me lief and dear, spare not,
but throw it in.  Then Sir Bedivere returned again, and
took the sword in his hand; and then him thought sin
and shame to throw away that noble sword, and so eft he
hid the sword, and returned again, and told to the king
that he had been at the water, and done his commandment.
What saw thou there? said the king.  Sir, he said, I saw
nothing but the waters wap and waves wan.  Ah, traitor
untrue, said King Arthur, now hast thou betrayed me
twice.  Who would have weened that, thou that hast been
to me so lief and dear? and thou art named a noble
knight, and would betray me for the richness of the sword.
But now go again lightly, for thy long tarrying putteth
me in great jeopardy of my life, for I have taken cold.
And but if thou do now as I bid thee, if ever I may see
thee, I shall slay thee with mine own hands; for thou
wouldst for my rich sword see me dead.

Then Sir Bedivere departed, and went to the sword,
and lightly took it up, and went to the water side; and
there he bound the girdle about the hilts, and then he
threw the sword as far into the water as he might; and
there came an arm and an hand above the water and met
it, and caught it, and so shook it thrice and brandished,
and then vanished away the hand with the sword in the
water.  So Sir Bedivere came again to the king, and told
him what he saw.  Alas, said the king, help me hence, for
I dread me I have tarried over long.  Then Sir Bedivere
took the king upon his back, and so went with him to
that water side.  And when they were at the water side,
even fast by the bank hoved a little barge with many fair
ladies in it, and among them all was a queen, and all they
had black hoods, and all they wept and shrieked when
they saw King Arthur.  Now put me into the barge, said
the king.  And so he did softly; and there received him
three queens with great mourning; and so they set them
down, and in one of their laps King Arthur laid his head.
And then that queen said:  Ah, dear brother, why have
ye tarried so long from me? alas, this wound on your head
hath caught over-much cold.  And so then they rowed
from the land, and Sir Bedivere beheld all those ladies go
from him.  Then Sir Bedivere cried:  Ah my lord Arthur,
what shall become of me, now ye go from me and leave
me here alone among mine enemies?  Comfort thyself,
said the king, and do as well as thou mayst, for in me is
no trust for to trust in; for I will into the vale of Avilion
to heal me of my grievous wound: and if thou hear never
more of me, pray for my soul.  But ever the queens and
ladies wept and shrieked, that it was pity to hear.  And
as soon as Sir Bedivere had lost the sight of the barge, he
wept and wailed, and so took the forest; and so he went
all that night, and in the morning he was ware betwixt two
holts hoar, of a chapel and an hermitage.