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How a voice spake to Sir Launcelot, and how he found his
horse and his helm borne away, and after went afoot.

THEN anon Sir Launcelot waked, and set him up, and
bethought him what he had seen there, and whether it
were dreams or not.  Right so heard he a voice that
said:  Sir Launcelot, more harder than is the stone,
and more bitter than is the wood, and more naked
and barer than is the leaf of the fig tree; therefore go
thou from hence, and withdraw thee from this holy
place.  And when Sir Launcelot heard this he was
passing heavy and wist not what to do, and so departed
sore weeping, and cursed the time that he was born.
For then he deemed never to have had worship more.
For those words went to his heart, till that he knew
wherefore he was called so.  Then Sir Launcelot went
to the cross and found his helm, his sword, and his
horse taken away.  And then he called himself a very
wretch, and most unhappy of all knights; and there he
said:  My sin and my wickedness have brought me unto
great dishonour.  For when I sought worldly adventures
for worldly desires, I ever enchieved them and had the
better in every place, and never was I discomfit in no
quarrel, were it right or wrong.  And now I take upon
me the adventures of holy things, and now I see and
understand that mine old sin hindereth me and shameth
me, so that I had no power to stir nor speak when the
holy blood appeared afore me.  So thus he sorrowed till
it was day, and heard the fowls sing: then somewhat he
was comforted.  But when Sir Launcelot missed his horse
and his harness then he wist well God was displeased
with him.

Then he departed from the cross on foot into a forest;
and so by prime he came to an high hill, and found an
hermitage and a hermit therein which was going unto
mass.  And then Launcelot kneeled down and cried on
Our Lord mercy for his wicked works.  So when mass
was done Launcelot called him, and prayed him for
charity for to hear his life.  With a good will, said the
good man.  Sir, said he, be ye of King Arthur's court
and of the fellowship of the Round Table? Yea forsooth,
and my name is Sir Launcelot du Lake that hath been
right well said of, and now my good fortune is changed,
for I am the most wretch of the world.  The hermit
beheld him and had marvel how he was so abashed.  Sir,
said the hermit, ye ought to thank God more than any
knight living, for He hath caused you to have more
worldly worship than any knight that now liveth.  And
for your presumption to take upon you in deadly sin for
to be in His presence, where His flesh and His blood was,
that caused you ye might not see it with worldly eyes;
for He will not appear where such sinners be, but if it be
unto their great hurt and unto their great shame; and
there is no knight living now that ought to give God so
great thank as ye, for He hath given you beauty,
seemliness, and great strength above all other knights; and
therefore ye are the more beholding unto God than any
other man, to love Him and dread Him, for your
strength and manhood will little avail you an God be
against you.