Sacred-Texts Main Index  Northern European Index  Graal Index  Previous  Next 

The High History of the Holy Graal: Branch XXIII


Of Perceval the story is here silent, and saith that King Arthur and Messire Gawain have taken leave of Perceval and all them of the castle. The King leaveth him the good destrier that he won, with the golden crown. They have ridden, he and Messire Gawain together, until they are come to a waste ancient castle that stood in a forest. The castle would have been right fair and rich had any folk wonned therein, but none there were save one old priest and his clerk that lived within by their own toil. The King and Messire Gawain lodged there the night, and on the morrow went into a right rich chapel that was therein to hear mass, and it was painted all around of right rich colours of gold and azure and other colours. The images were right fair that were there painted, and the Figures of them for whom the images were made. The King and Messire Gawain looked at them gladly. When the mass was said, the priest cometh to them and saith: "Lords," saith he, "These imagings are right fair, and he that had them made is full loyal, and dearly loved the lady and her son for whom he had them made. Sir," saith the priest, "It is a true history."

"Of whom is the history, fair Sir?" saith King Arthur.

"Of a worshipful vavasour that owned this hold, and of Messire Gawain, King Arthur's nephew, and his mother. Sir," saith the priest, "Messire Gawain was born there within and held up and baptized, as you may see here imaged, and he was named Gawain for the sake of the lord of this castle that had that name. His mother, that had him by King Lot, would not that it should be known. She set him in a right fair coffer, and prayed the good man of this castle that he would carry him away and leave him where he might perish, but and if he would not do so, she would make another do it. This Gawain, that was loyal and would not that the child should be put to death, made seal letters at the pillow-bere of his cradle that he was of lineage royal on the one side and the other, and set therein gold and silver so as that the child might be nurtured in great plenty, and spread above the child a right rich coverlid. He carried him away to a far distant country, and so came one early morning to a little homestead where dwelt a right worshipful man. He delivered the child to him and his wife, and bade them they should keep him and nurture him well, and told them that it might be much good should come to them thereof. The vavasour turned him back, and they took charge of the child and nurtured him until that he were grown, and then took him to Rome to the Holy Father, and showed him the sealed letters. The Holy Father saw them and understood that he was the son of a King. He had pity upon him, and gave him to understand that he was of his kindred. After that, he was elected to be Emperor of Rome. But he would not be Emperor lest he should be reproached of his birth that had before been concealed from him. He departed thence, and lived afterwards within yonder. Now is it said that he is one of the best knights in the world, insomuch that none durst take possession of this castle for dread of him, nor of this great forest that lieth round about it. For, when the vavasour that dwelt here was dead, he left to Messire Gawain, his foster-son, this castle, and made me guardian thereof until such time as Messire Gawain should return."


The King looketh at Messire Gawain, and seeth him stoop his head toward the ground for shame.

"Fair nephew, be not ashamed, for as well might you reproach me of the same. Of your birth hath there been great joy, and dearly ought one to love the place and honour it, where so good a knight as are you was born."

When the priest understood that it was Messire Gawain, he made great cheer to him, and was all ashamed of that he had recorded as concerning his birth. But he saith to him: "Sir, small blame ought you to have herein, for you were confirmed in the law that God hath established and in loyalty of marriage of King Lot and your mother. This thing King Arthur well knoweth, and our Lord God be praised for that, you have come hither!"

Next: The High History of the Holy Graal: Branch XXIV