Gilbert's King Arthur's Knights
VIII. OF SIR LANCELOT AND THE FAIR MAID OF ASTOLAT
It befell on a time that King Arthur made proclamation of a great joust and tournament
which should be holden at Camelot fifteen days after the Feast of the Assumption. The
noise of it went forth throughout all the king's dominions, and knights and barons, and
earls and kings, made haste to get them ready to go thither.
Sir Lancelot had but lately been sore wounded, and when all the knights had gone from the
king's palace in London, Sir Lancelot pined in the great hall. The chatter of the ladies
and the tricks of the pages became irksome to him, and he began to think how gay must be
the company of the knights of the Round Table, as they rode through the leafy country ways
towards Camelot, with the great Arthur at their head.
"I will see the king's leech," he said to himself, "and bid him give me
some medicament that shall strengthen my wound. For I cannot abide that I stay here like
some toothless old hound, while his fellows are gone to the hunting."
So Sir Lancelot betook him to the lodging of Morgan Todd, the king's physician, but found
that he too had gone with the king.
When Sir Lancelot was turning away, sore aggrieved and angry, the man that had opened the
door to him cried:
"Be not vexed, Sir Lancelot, for I wot well you would rather go with the king than
nurse that wound of thine. Come down, then, and let me advise thee."
Sir Lancelot, thinking this would be the chief disciple or pupil of Morgan Todd,
dismounted, and followed the man that had spoken, who was old and thin and gnarled, with
beady black eyes. When he had examined Sir Lancelot's wound, the old man smiled strangely,
"If ye take but common care of thy wound, 'twill not break out again, but your heart
was ever bigger than thy wit, sir knight. Thou wilt do more than any other knight, and in
thy strength ye may well maim yourself."
"Then I may go to Camelot, to the jousting?" asked Sir Lancelot.
"Ay, ye may go," said the leech. "But hearken. Stay not on thy way at
Astolat. If ye do so, ye shall leave so great a wound there on one that will not harm
thee, that the ill shall cause thee woe out of all measure."
"Keep thy counsel, good leech," said Sir Lancelot with a laugh. "I hurt
none that desire not my hurt. And, for the rest, I will take the adventure that God will
Sir Lancelot set out forthwith, thinking naught of what the leech had said. By eventide he
came to Astolat, and, looking about for a lodging, he suddenly remembered the words of the
"I will beg a lodging outside the town," he said, gravely smiling. "So I do
not stay in the town, I may escape the ill which the old croaker spoke of."
He saw the manor-house of a baron beside the way, and begged a lodging there for the
night, which was freely and most courteously granted unto him. The baron was an old man,
of reverend aspect, named Sir Bernard, and he welcomed Sir Lancelot warmly, though he knew
At meat they were all very merry, and with Sir Bernard were his two sons, handsome youths,
but lately made knights. There was also a young damsel, named Elaine the Fair, the
daughter of Sir Bernard; but Sir Lancelot, though he saw how sweet and gentle she was,
noted her not overmuch. Neither she nor Sir Lavaine, the younger son, could bear to take
their eyes from the face of Sir Lancelot; for there was so magnificent yet gentle an air
about the great knight that they deemed he must be some very brave and noble warrior.
Sir Lancelot told them it was in his mind to go to the jousts at Camelot. Laughingly he
turned to Sir Bernard, and said:
"Fair sir, I would pray you to lend me a shield that may not be greatly known, for
mine has been too much seen by warriors."
"Sir," replied the old baron, "I will gladly give you your desire, for I am
sure you are one of the likeliest knights of the world. This, my eldest son, Sir
who you see hath yet the pallor of sickness, was hurt on the day on which the great Sir
Tristram of Lyones gave him knighthood, and as he cannot now ride, ye shall have his
"Sir, I thank you," replied Sir Lancelot, "for showing me such
"And I would crave a service of you," went on Sir Bernard. "My younger son
here, Sir Lavaine, is eager to go out with some knight of proved valour and prowess ; and
as my heart goeth unto you, and believeth ye to be a knight of great nobility, I beseech
you that you let him ride with you tomorrow."
"I shall be pleased, indeed, to have the young knight to ride with me," replied
"Would it please you, sir," asked Sir Bernard, "to tell us your name?"
"Not at this time, sir, " replied Sir Lancelot; "but if God give me grace
at the jousts, and I win honour there, I will of a surety return and tell you."
Sir Lancelot, with his nobleness and courtesy, and his tales of fair ladies and brave
knights, so won upon them all, that it was late ere they each departed to their beds.
The maiden Elaine thought that she had never seen or heard of a knight so full of
gentleness, yet withal so martial of mien, as this stranger who would not tell his name.
In the morning Sir Lancelot made himself ready to depart, and the maid Elaine lingered
long about her brother, and would never say that she had really buckled the last strap of
his armour. Then, when at length she could keep them no longer, she came up to Sir
Lancelot, with a face all pale and red by turns, yet striving to laugh away her fear.
"Sir," she said, "I wish you noble deeds at the jousts and much fame. Sir,
I have never had a knight wear favour of mine. Therefore, lord, will you wear a token of
mine in your helm for good fortune?"
Lancelot looked down into the lovely face and smiled.
"Fair damsel," he said gently, "if I granted you that, I should do more for
you than ever I have done for any dame or damsel living."
At that she thought he refused, and the tears sprang like jewels into her blue eyes, and
she turned away.
Sir Lancelot was grieved to think his refusal hurt one that seemed so sweet and gentle.
Then he remembered that he desired to go to the jousts disguised, and he bethought him
that if he wore a lady's token in his helm, no one would recognize him, for all knew that
never would he consent to wear such things in joust or tournament, as was the custom of
"Stay, fair damsel," he said kindly, "I will grant you to wear a token of
yours upon my helm. Therefore, bring it me."
Instantly the face of Elaine shone with joy and pride as she looked up quickly at the
great steel-clad figure on the horse beside her. Then, quickly running, she brought what
she had in her mind he should wear.
"See," she said, giving it into his hand, "it is a sleeve of mine, of
scarlet samite, embroidered with great pearls."
"I will wear it at the jousts, fair maiden," said he, "for the sake of the
kindness you and yours have shown me. And will you keep the shield which is mine own
against the time when return? For I will take thy brother's."
"I will keep it in my own room," said Elaine, "and will see that it doth
Then Sir Lancelot and young Sir Lavaine rode forth, each bearing a white shield, as if
both were young knights who had not yet done some deed, in memory whereof they could
blazon a device upon their shields.
So they rode to Camelot, where they found the narrow streets of the little town packed
with the press of knights, dukes, earls, and barons come to take part in the jousts. Sir
Lancelot got them lodgings with a rich burgess, and so privily and closely did they keep
the house that none knew that they were there.
On the day of the jousts the trumpets began to blow in the field where they should be
held. King Arthur sat on a great scaffold which was raised at one end, to judge who did
best in the jousting. So great was the press of folk, both noble and common, earls and
chiefs, that many did marvel to think that the realm of Britain held so many people.
The knights held themselves in two parties and went to either end of the lists. Some
called themselves the band of Arthur, and would fight all comers; and among them was Sir
Palomides, Sir Conn of Ireland, Sir Sagramore, Sir Kay the seneschal, Sir
Griflet, Sir Mordred, Sir Gallemon, and Sir Saffre, all knights of the Round Table. On the other side
were the King of Northgales, the King of Swordlands, Sir Galahalt the Proud, and other
knights of the north. These were the smaller party, yet were they very valiant knights.
Sir Lancelot made him ready with the others, and fashioned the red sleeve upon his helm.
But it was in his mind to see which party fared the worse before he would choose his part;
for ever Sir Lancelot liked a task which was not easy.
So he rode forth with Sir Lavaine into a little wood upon a knoll, whence they could look
into the lists and see the knights hurtle and crash together. Soon they saw the knights of
King Arthur's band come against the northern knights, and many of the latter were smitten
down. Then he saw how the King of the Northgales and the King of Swordlands with a few
knights made a bold and brave stand against the many knights of King Arthur's Round Table.
"See," said Sir Lancelot to Sir Lavaine, "how that company of knights hold
out against that great press! They are like brave boars in the midst of the hounds."
"Ye say truth," said Sir Lavaine; "they are indeed brave souls."
"Now," said Sir Lancelot, "if you will help me a little, you may see that
great company go back more quickly than they came forward."
"Sir, spare not," said the young knight, "and I will do what I may."
Sir Lancelot spurred forward into the lists, and so fierce was his onslaught and so hard
was his blow that with one spear he overthrew Sir Sagramore, Sir Kay, Sir
Griflet, and Sir Saffre, and with another spear he smote down five others.
Thereupon the northern knights
were much comforted, and greeted, the strange knight full courteously, though they
wondered that he had but a white shield.
Then the band of Arthur's knights took counsel and gathered together Sir Bors, Sir Ector
de Maris, Sir Lionel, Sir Blamore and five others. These were all mighty knights, and all
were great fighters and close kin to Sir Lancelot. They resolved to rebuke the two
stranger knights with white shields whom they knew not; and chiefly him with the lady's
sleeve upon his helm did they seek to bring to the dust.
Again the knights hurtled mightily together, and Sir Bors, Sir Ector, and Sir Lionel drove
at Sir Lancelot, and so great was their force that they smote Sir Lancelot's horse to the
ground. By ill hap, the spear of Sir Bors pierced through his cousin's shield into his
side, and the head of the lance broke off and remained in the wound.
Then Sir Lavaine, seeing his friend prone, did mightily assault Sir Mordred, who was on
the other side, and hurled him to the ground; and, bringing Sir Mordred's horse to Sir
Lancelot, he helped him to mount.
Sir Lancelot was exceeding wroth, and took a great strong spear, and smote Sir
horse and knight, to the ground; and likewise he served Sir Ector and Sir Lionel, and four
other knights. The others retreated, for they feared his great strength.
"I marvel who is that knight that hath the red sleeve in his helm? " said King
Arthur to Sir Gawaine, who sat with him.
"Sir," said the other, "he will be known ere he depart." When the king
caused the trumpet to sound the end of the day's jousting, the heralds cried that the
prize was to go to the knight with the red sleeve. But when the northern knights came to
Sir Lancelot and would have him go to the king and take the prize, he said:
"Fair lords, let me depart, I pray you. For I have bought my victory with my life;
and now I would rather have quiet than all the wealth of the world."
Forthwith he galloped away with Sir Lavaine until they came to a great forest; and then
Sir Lancelot groaned and said he could no further go, and forthwith he fell from his horse
in a great swoon. Sir Lavaine went to find water in the wood, and had to go far ere he
found it. But presently he saw a clearing, and there was a little hermitage and a stream
running by. Sir Lavaine called the hermit, who was a man full reverend and noble of
aspect, and told him how his friend lay in a deathly swoon.
In a little while they had brought Sir Lancelot to the hermitage, where the hermit took
out the head of the spear and bound up the wound and gave to the knight a strong cordial.
Anon he was refreshed and came to his senses again.
Next day the court journeyed towards London, and rested for the night at
the town being full, it chanced that Sir Gawaine went to the manor of Sir Bernard, which
lay just outside the city. When he had dined, the old knight Sir Bernard began to speak to
him, and to ask who had done the best at the jousts at Camelot.
Ever since he had arrived, Sir Gawaine had seen how the fair girl, the daughter of the
knight, who had attended upon him, was pale and thoughtful; and now she looked white and
red by turns as he began to speak.
"There were two knights," said Sir Gawaine, "who each bore a white shield,
and one had a red sleeve upon his helmet."
Sir Gawaine saw how the damsel clasped her hands together, and her face lit up with a
great light and her eyes were bright and proud.
"And I swear that never saw I so valiant and stout a knight as he," said Sir
Gawaine. "For I dare swear that he beat down twenty knights of the Round Table, and
his fellow also did well."
"Now, blessed be God," said the fair maid of Astolat, with a great cry of joy,
"that the good knight sped so well; for he is the one man in the world whom I have
ever loved, and truly he shall be the last man that ever after I shall love."
"Then do ye know his name?" asked Sir Gawaine.
"Nay, I know it not," said Elaine, "nor whence he came. But I know that I
love him and none other."
Then they told Sir Gawaine how they had first had knowledge of the strange knight; and the
damsel said that he had left her his shield in place of the white one he had taken, so
that none should know him. Sir Gawaine begged that she would fetch it from her chamber.
Elaine brought it and drew it from the case of leather in which she had wrapped it, and
said, "See, there is no spot of rust upon it, for I have cleaned it with my own hands
"Alas," said Sir Gawaine, when he saw the device upon the shield, "now is
my heart full heavier than it hath ever been."
"Why, oh why?" cried Elaine, and stood pale and breathless.
"Is the knight that owneth that shield your love?" asked Gawaine.
"Yes, truly," said the maiden, "I love him;" and then sadly she said,
"but would that he should tell me that I was also his love."
"However that be," said Sir Gawaine, "you should know that you love the
noblest knight in all the world, the most honourable and one of the most worth."
"So thought me ever," said the maid of Astolat, proudly smiling; "for never
have I seen a knight that I could love but that one."
"And never hath he borne token or sign of any lady or gentlewoman before he bore
thine," said Sir Gawaine.
At these words the maid Elaine could have swooned for very joy, for she deemed that Sir
Lancelot had borne her token for love of her. Therefore, she was cast more deeply in love
with him than ever.
"But I dread me," went on Sir Gawaine, "for I fear we may never see him in
this life again."
"Alas! alas!" cried Elaine, throwing herself at the feet of the knight, and
clutching his arm tightly, while she gazed with terror into his face. "How may this
be? oh, say not - say not that he is - is -"
She could not say the word, but Sir Gawaine made answer.
"I say not so, but wit ye well that he is grievously wounded."
"Alas!" cried Elaine, "what is his hurt? Where is he? Oh, I will go to him
She rose, wildly wringing her slender hands.
"Truly," said Sir Gawaine, who, though a great warrior, was a slow talker, and
had no thought of the sorrow of the poor maid, "the man that hurt him was one that
would least have hurt him had he known. And when he shall know it, that will be the most
sorrow that he hath ever had."
"Ah, but say," cried Elaine, "where doth my lord lie wounded?"
"Truly," replied Gawaine, "no man knoweth where he may lie. For he went off
at a great gallop, and though I and others of King Arthur's knights did seek him within
six or seven miles of Camelot, we could not come upon him."
"Now, dear father," said the maid Elaine, and the tears welled from her eyes,
"I require you give me leave to ride and seek him that I love, or else I know well
that I shall go out of my mind, for I may never rest until I learn of him and find him and
my brother Sir Lavaine."
So the maid Elaine made her ready, weeping sorely, and her father bade two men-at-arms go
with her to guard and guide her on her quest.
When she came to Camelot, for two days was her seeking in vain, and hardly could she eat
or sleep for her trouble. It happened that on the third day, as she crossed a plain, she
saw a knight with two horses, riding as if he exercised them; and by his gestures she
recognized him at length, and it was her brother. She spurred her horse eagerly, and rode
towards Sir Lavaine, crying with a loud voice:
"Lavaine, Lavaine, tell me how is my lord, Sir Lancelot?"
Her brother came forward, rejoicing to see her, but he asked how she had learned that the
stranger knight was Sir Lancelot, and she told him.
"My lord hath never told me who he was," said Lavaine, "but the holy hermit
who hath harboured him knew him and told me. And for days my lord has been wandering and
distraught in his fever. But now he is better."
"It pleaseth me greatly to hear that," said Elaine.
When Sir Lavaine took her into the room where lay Sir Lancelot so sick and pale in his
bed, she could not speak, but suddenly fell in a swoon. And when she came to her senses
again she sighed arid said:
"My lord, Sir Lancelot, alas, why are ye in so sad a plight?"
Therewith she almost swooned again. But Sir Lancelot prayed Sir Lavaine to take her up and
bring her to him. And she came to herself again, and Sir Lancelot kissed her, and said:
"Fair maid, why fare ye thus? It hurts me to see your sorrow, for this hurt of mine
is of little account ,to cause you to grieve in this wise. If ye come to minister to me,
why, ye are truly welcome, and ye shall quickly heal me, by the grace of God, and make me
"I would gladly serve you till you are well again," said the maid.
"I thank you, fair Elaine," replied the knight, "but I marvel how ye knew
"It was by Sir Gawaine, fair lord," said the damsel, "for he lodged at my
father's house and saw your shield."
Sir Lancelot's heart was heavy at these words, for he foreboded sorrow from this
Afterwards the maid Elaine never went from Sir Lancelot, but watched him day and night,
and gave such comfort to him that never woman did more kindly nurse a wounded man than
Sir Lancelot was full courteous and kindly in his turn, never giving more trouble than he
could avoid both were of good cheer and merry together, for Sir Lancelot deemed not as yet
that the maid loved him deeply, and the maid was glad to be with him arid to do him all
the service that she could.
Then in a little while came Sir Bors, the knight who had wounded Sir Lancelot, who was
also his cousin, and Sir Bors lamented sorely that his had been the arm that had given his
kinsman so sore a wound. But Sir Lancelot prayed him not to grieve, and said "I have
that which I deserved, for in my pride I was nigh slain; for had I given thee, my cousin,
warning of my being there, I had not been hurt. Therefore, let us leave off speaking
thereof, and let us find some remedy so that I may soon be whole."
"Fair cousin," said Sir Bors, as he leaned on the bed, speaking in a low voice,
"there is one nigh thee, or I am much in error, that will not know whether to be glad
or sorry when thou shalt be hale enough to ride away.
" What dost thou mean?" asked Sir Lancelot.
"Is this she that is so busy about thee - is she the lady that men call the Lily Maid
"She it is," replied Sir Lancelot, "and kindlier nurse hath never man
"It is easy to see she loveth her task," said Sir Bors, and he was full of pity
and kindness for the fair meek maid, "seeing that she loveth thee."
"Nay, man, nay, that cannot be," said Sir Lancelot, half angry, half denying.
"She hath come to me because I was sick, and because I wore her token in my helm,
"Wise art thou in all knightly prowess, Sir Lancelot," said Sir Bors, "and
full courteous and kindly art thou to all ladies and damsels. But I fear thou knowest not
the heart of this fair maid. For it hath been easy for me to see by her looks this way how
she is jealous of my talking to thee, and I know from her diligence about thee that she
loveth thee with all her heart."
"If that be so, then, by Heaven, I sorrow it is so," said Sir Lancelot heavily.
"And I must send her from me forthwith."
"Why shouldst thou do that, fair cousin?" said Sir Bors. "She is a passing
fair damsel and well taught, and I would that thou couldst love her in return. But as to
that, I may not nor dare not counsel thee. For I know that love blows where it listeth and
will be forced by none."
"It repenteth me sorely," said Sir Lancelot, and he was heavy in spirit
thereafter, and was eager to get whole again and to go away.
In four or five days he made a plot with Sir Bors, that he should rise and clothe himself
in his armour and get upon his horse, and in this way show to the hermit and to the maid
Elaine that indeed and in truth he was strong enough to ride forth. Therefore they made
excuses and sent both the hermit and the maid away into the forest to gather herbs.
Sir Lancelot rose from his bed and Sir Bors helped him to put on his armour and to mount
his horse. And so eager was the knight to feel that he was hale again that he put his
lance in rest and spurred his horse, and so furiously did he ride across the mead, as if
he rode at a knight, that of a sudden his wound broke out again, and he swooned and fell
from his horse to the ground.
Sir Bors and Sir Lavaine made great sorrow and dole as they raised him and carried him
back to the hermitage. It befell that Elaine, who had not gone far, heard their cries and
came running swiftly, and seeing Sir Lancelot borne between them pale as with death, she
cried and wept and kneeled beside him, and put her arms about his neck and kissed him many
times, and called to him to wake him.
"0 traitors that ye are," she cried to her brother and to Sir Bors, "why
have ye let him go from his bed? Oh, if ye have slain him I will denounce you for his
Therewith came the holy hermit and was right wroth, and they put Sir Lancelot to bed
again, and the hermit stanched the wound and gave the knight a cordial, so that he awoke
out of his swoon.
"Why have you put your life in jeopardy thus?" asked the hermit.
"For that I weary of being here," said Sir Lancelot, "and I would ride
"Ah, Sir Lancelot," said the hermit, "your heart and your courage will
never be done till your last day. But now ye must do as I command, and stay till I say ye
are hale again."
Soon after this Sir Bors departed, and the hermit promised that if he came back in a
month, Sir Lancelot would be ready to depart with him. Thus Sir Lancelot stayed in the
hermitage, and ever did the fair maid Elaine labour with diligence day and night to heal
and comfort him, and to keep the time from wearying him.
And never was child meeker to her parent, nor wife kinder to her husband, nor mother
sweeter and more tender to her child, than Elaine was to Sir Lancelot.
The knight sorrowed that this was so; and he ever bore himself courteous, but not familiar
in speech, for it grieved him that he had no love in his heart for her, however deep might
be her love for him.
When the month was over, Sir Bors returned and found Sir Lancelot walking about the
forest, hale and strong again and eager to be riding.
In a day they all made them ready to depart from the hermit, and to go to King Arthur's
court, which was then in London. The Lily Maid went with them, sad that all her loving
care was now ending, but glad to see the noble air with which Sir Lancelot bestrode his
horse, and thankful that sometimes, as they rode uipon their way, he turned to her smiling
gravely, and sunlight, the birds and trees they spoke of the bright sunlight, the birds
and trees they saw, and the company and travellers they passed.
Then they came to Astolat, and Sir Bernard gave them all great welcome, and they were well
feasted and well lodged.
On the morrow, when they should depart, the maid Elaine was pale and very quiet, until Sir
Lancelot came into the hall to say farewell. Then the maid, bringing her father and her
two brothers with her, went up to Sir Lancelot and said:
"My lord, now I see that ye will depart. But oh, do thou have mercy upon me, for I
must say that which damsels and gentlewoman are not used to say."
Sir Lancelot with grave sad face looked at her and knew what she would say, and in very
heaviness of spirit replied:
"Lady, it grieves me that I have unwittingly put such grief upon you."
"O fair and gracious knight, suffer me not to die for love of you," cried
Elaine, and looked most piteously and wanly upon him. "Oh, I would have none but you
to be my husband."
"Fair damsel," replied Sir Lancelot, "heavy is my grief to refuse you, but
I have not turned my mind to marriage. "
"Alas," said Elaine, and smiled sadly, "then there is no more to be
And with a cry Elaine fell to the ground in a swoon, and her gentlewoman bore her into her
chamber and sorrowed over her.
In great heaviness Sir Lancelot would depart, and went to his horse to mount it and Sir
Lavaine went with him.
"What would you do?" asked Sir Lancelot of him.
"What should I do," said Sir Lavaine, "but follow you, unless you drive me
"I cannot do that, so come with me," said Sir Lancelot.
Then came Sir Bernard unto the knight and said, lifting his grey head and wrinkled and
reverend face to Sir Lancelot as he bestrode his horse.
"Sir, I think my daughter Elaine will die for your sake. For ever was she quiet, but
strong in mood and of a very fond heart."
"It must not be," said Sir Lancelot; "but do thou cheer her, and when I am
gone she will forget me. Never did I do or say aught but what a good knight should, and
never made as if I cared for her. But I am right sorry for her distress, for she is a full
fair maid, good and gentle, and sweet of voice and mood."
"Father," said Sir Lavaine, "my sister Elaine doeth as I do, For since I
first saw my lord Lancelot, I could never depart from him, nor never will if I may follow
Night and day did the fair maid Elaine sorrow in silence, so that she never slept, ate,
or drank. At the end of ten days her ghostly father bade her leave such grief and change
"Nay," she said, "I may not, and I would not if I could. And I do no sin to
love the most peerless knight in all the world, the most gentle and courteous of men, and
the greatest in all nobility. Therefore, as I know I may not live, do thou shrive me, good
father, for I must needs pass out of this world."
Then she confessed her sins and was shriven. And anon she called her father and her
brother, Sir Tirre, and begged that they would do as she desired as to her burial, and
In a little while she died, and a letter was put into her cold hand, and she was placed in
a fair bed, with all the richest clothes she had about her. Then they carried her on the
bed in a chariot, slowly, with many prayers and with much weeping, to the Thames, and
there they put her and the bed in a barge.
Over all the bed and the barge: except her fair face, was placed a cloak of black samite
and an old and faithful servant of the house stepped into the barge to guide it.
They let it go from
them with great grief, and the aged man steered it down the river towards London, where
was the court of Arthur.
It happened that, as the king and his queen were looking from a window of the palace which
looked upon the Thames, they saw the black barge, and marvelled what it might mean.
The king made the barge to be held fast, and took the queen's hand, and with many knights
went down to the water's edge, and there they saw a fair gentle-woman lying on a rich bed,
and she lay as if she slept.
The king took the letter gently from the fair hand which held it, and went into his court,
and ordered all his knights to assemble, and then opened the letter and read what was
written. The words were these:
"Most noble knight, my lord Sir Lancelot du Lake, now hath death come to me, seeing
that you would not give me your love. Yet do thou do this little thing I ask, now that I
am dead, for I ask thee to pray for my soul and to bury me, and think of me sometimes.
Pray for my soul and think of me, as thou art a knight peerless and most gentle."
Lancelot heard it word by word and went pale as ashes, so that men marvelled to see his
sorrow. When it was finished, he said:
"My lord, King Arthur, wit ye well that I am right heavy for the death of this fair
damsel. God knoweth that I was never causer of her death by my will, as her brother Sir
Lavaine here will avouch for me. She was both fair and good, and exceeding kind to me when
I was wounded; but she loved me out of all measure, and of that I was sore heavy."
"Ye might have loved her," said the queen, weeping for sorrow at the hapless
fate of one so fair and fond.
"Madam," said Sir Lancelot, "I could not be constrained to love her, but I
sorrow for her death exceedingly."
"Truth it is," said the king, "that love is free and never will be forced,
for all the prayers that may be said to it. But thou wilt of thy worship bury this fair
maid, Sir Lancelot?"
"That will I do," said the knight, "and in all richness and
Thus was it done, and all the knights of the Round Table sorrowfully followed the body of
the fair Elaine to the grave.
On her tomb in letters of gold both thick and deep were set the words:
"Here lieth the body of Elaine, the Lily Maid of Astolat, who died of a passing great