High History of the Graal; Perlesvaus
Here the story is silent of Lancelot, and talketh of Messire Gawain that
goeth to seek Perceval, and is right heavy for that twice hath he found him when
he knew him not. He cometh back again to the cross whereas he told Lancelot he
would await him so he should come thither before him. He went and came to and
fro by the forest more than eight days to wait for him, but could hear no
tidings. He would not return to King Arthur's court, for had he gone thither in
such case, he would have had blame thereof. He goeth back upon the quest and
saith that he will never stint therein until he shall have found both Lancelot
and Perceval. He cometh to the hermitage of Joseus, and alighted of his horse
and found the young hermit Joseus, that received him well and made full great
joy of him. He harboured the night therewithin. Messire Gawain asked him tidings
of Perceval, and the hermit telleth him he hath not seen him since before the
assembly of the Red Launde.
"And can you tell me where I may find him?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Not I," saith the hermit, "I cannot tell you whereabout he
While they were talking on this wise, straightway behold you a knight coming
that hath arms of azure, and alighteth at the hermitage to lodge there. The
hermit receiveth him right gladly. Messire Gawain asketh him if he saw a knight
with white arms ride amidst the forest.
"By my faith," saith the knight, "I have seen him this day and
spoken with him, and he asked me and I could tell him tidings of a knight that
beareth a shield of sinople with a golden eagle, and I told him, no. Afterward,
I enquired wherefore he asked it, and he made answer that he had jousted at him
in the Red Launde, nor never before had he found so sturdy assault of any
knight, wherefore he was right sorrowful for that he was not acquainted with
him, for the sake of his good knighthood."
"By my faith," saith Gawain, "The knight is more sorrowful than
he, for nought is there in the world he would gladlier see than him."
The knight espieth Messire Gawain's shield and saith, "Ha, Sir, methinketh
you are he."
"Certes," saith Messire Gawain, "you say true. I am he against
whom he jousted, and right glad am I that so good a knight smote upon my shield,
and right sorrowful for that I knew him not; but tell me where I may find
"Sir," saith Joseus the Hermit, "He will not have gone forth
from this forest, for this is the place wherein he wonneth most willingly, and
the shield that he brought from King Arthur's court is in this chapel."
So he showeth the shield to Messire Gawain that maketh great joy thereof.
"Ha, Sir," saith the knight of the white arms, "Is your name
"Fair Sir," saith he, "Gawain am I called."
"Sir," saith the knight, "I have not ceased to seek you for a
long while past. Meliot of Logres, that is your man, the son of the lady that
was slain on your account, sendeth you word that Nabigant of the Rock hath slain
his father on your account; wherefore he challengeth the land that hath fallen
to him; and hereof he prayeth you that you will come to succour him as behoveth
lord to do to his liege man."
"By my faith," saith Messire Gawain, "Behoveth me not fail him
therein, wherefore tell him I will succour him so soon as I may; but tell him I
have emprised a business that I cannot leave but with loss of honour until such
time as it be achieved."
They lay the night at the hermitage until after mass was sung on the morrow.
The knight departed and Messire Gawain remained. So when he was apparelled to
mount, he looketh before him at the issue of the forest toward the hermitage,
and seeth coming a knight on a tall horse, full speed and all armed, and he bore
a shield like the one he saw Perceval bearing the first time.
"Sir," saith he, "Know you this knight that cometh there!"
"Truly, Sir, well do I know him. This is Perceval whom you seek, whom you
so much desire to see!"
"God be praised thereof!" saith Messire Gawain, "Inasmuch as he
He goeth afoot to meet him, and Perceval alighteth so soon as he seeth him.
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "Right welcome may you be!"
"Good joy may you have," saith Perceval.
"Sir," saith the hermit, "Make great joy of him! this is Messire
Gawain, King Arthur's nephew."
"Thereof do I love him the better!" saith he. "Honour and joy
ought all they to do him that know him!"
He throweth his arms on his neck, and so maketh him great joy.
"Sir," saith he, "Can you tell me tidings of a knight that was in
the Red Launde at the assembly of knights?"
"What shield beareth he?" saith Messire Gawain.
"A red shield with a golden eagle," saith Perceval. "And more by
token, never made I acquaintance with any so sturdy in battle as are he and
"Fair sir, it pleaseth you to say so," saith Messire Gawain. "In
the Red Launde was I at the assembly, and such arms bore I as these you blazon,
and I jousted against a knight in white arms, of whom I know this, that all of
knighthood that may be lodged in the body of a man is in him."
"Sir," saith Perceval to Messire Gawain, "You know not how to
blame any man."
So they hold one another by the hands, and go into the hermitage.
"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "When you were in the court of King
Arthur for the shield that is within yonder, your sister was also there, and
prayed and besought the help of the knight that should bear away the shield, as
being the most discounselled damsel in the world. The King granted it her, and
you bore away the shield. She asked your aid of the King as she that deemed not
you were her brother, and said that if the King failed of his covenant, he would
do great sin, whereof would he have much blame. The King was fain to do all he
might to seek you, to make good that he had said, and sent us forth in quest of
you, so that the quest lieth between me and Lancelot. He himself would have come
had we been unwilling to go. Sir, I have found you three times without knowing
you, albeit great desire had I to see you. This is the fourth time and I know
you now, whereof I make myself right joyous; and much am I beholden to you of
the fair lodging your mother gave me at Camelot; but right sore pity have I of
her, for a right worshipful woman is she, and a widow lady and ancient, and
fallen into much war without aid nor comfort, through the evil folk that harass
her and reave her of her castles. She prayed me, weeping the while right
sweetly, that and if I should find you that are her son, I should tell you of
her plight, that your father is dead, and that she hath no succour nor aid to
look for save from you alone, and if you succour her not shortly, she will lose
her own one castle that she holdeth, and must needs become a beggar, for of the
fifteen castles she wont to have in your father's time, she hath now only that
of Camelot, nor of all her knights hath she but five to guard the castle.
Wherefore I pray you on her behalf and for your own honour, that you will grant
her herein of your counsel and your valour and your might, for of no chivalry
that you may do may you rise to greater worship. And so sore need hath she
herein as you hear me tell, nor would I that she should lose aught by default of
message, for thereof should I have sin and she harm, and you yourself also, that
have the power to amend it and ought of right so to do!"
"Well have you delivered yourself herein," saith Perceval, "And
betimes will I succour her and our Lord God will."
"You will do honour to yourself," saith Messire Gawain. "Thereof
will you have praise with God and worship with the world."
"Well know I," saith Perceval, "that in me ought she to have aid
and counsel as of right, and that so I do not accordingly, I ought to have
reproach and be blamed as recreant before the world."
"In God's name," saith the hermit, "you speak according to the
scripture, for he that honoureth not his father and mother neither believeth in
God nor loveth Him."
"All this know I well," saith Perceval, "And well pleased am I to
be reminded thereof, and well know I also mine intent herein, albeit I tell it
to none. But if any can tell me tidings of Lancelot, right willingly shall I
hear them, and take it kindly of the teller thereof."
"Sir," saith Joseus, "It is but just now since he lay here
within, and asked me tidings of Messire Gawain, and I told him such as I knew.
Another time before that, he lay here when the robbers assailed us that he
hanged in the forest, and so hated is he thereof of their kinsfolk that and they
may meet him, so they have the might, he is like to pay for it right dear, and
in this forest won they rather than in any other. I told him as much, but he
made light thereof in semblant, even as he will in deed also if their force be
not too great."
"By my head," saith Perceval, "I will not depart forth of this
forest until I know tidings of him, if Messire Gawain will pledge himself
And Messire saith he desireth nothing better, sith that he hath found Perceval,
for he may not be at ease until such time as he shall know tidings of Lancelot,
for he hath great misgiving sith that he hath enemies in the forest.
Perceval and Messire Gawain sojourned that day in the forest in the
hermitage, and the morrow Perceval took his shield that he brought from King
Arthur's court, and left that which he brought with him, and Messire Gawain
along with him that made himself right joyous of his company. They ride amidst
the forest both twain, all armed, and at the right hour of noon they meet a
knight that was coming a great gallop as though he were all scared. Perceval
asketh him whence he cometh, that he seemeth so a-dread.
"Sir, I come from the forest of the robbers that won in this forest
wherethrough you have to pass. They have chased me a full league Welsh to slay
me, but they would not follow me further for a knight that they have beset in
one of their holds, that hath done them right sore mischief, for he hath hanged
four of their knights and slain one, as well as the fairest damsel that was in
the kingdom. But right well had she deserved the death for that she harboured
knights with fair semblant and showed them much honour, and afterward brought
about their death and destruction, between herself and a dwarf that she hath,
that slew the knights."
"And know you who is the knight?" saith Perceval.
"Sir," saith the knight, "Not I, for no leisure had I to ask him,
for sorer need had I to flee than to stay. But I tell you that on account of the
meat that failed him in the hold wherein they beset him, he issued forth raging
like a lion, nor would he have suffered himself be shut up so long but for two
wounds that he had upon his body; for he cared not to issue forth of the house
until such time as they were healed, and also for that he had no horse. And so
soon as he felt himself whole, he ventured himself against the four knights,
that were so a-dread of him that they durst not come a-nigh. And moreover he
deigneth not to go a-foot, wherefore if they now come a-nigh, it may not be but
he shall have one at least out of their four horses, but they hold them
"Sir," saith Perceval, "Gramercy of these tidings."
They were fain to depart from the knight, but said he: "Ha, Lords, allow me
so much as to see the destruction of this evil folk that have wrought such
mischief in this forest! Sir" saith he to Messire Gawain, "I am cousin
to the Poor Knight of the Waste Forest that hath the two poor damsels to sister,
there where you and Lancelot jousted between you, and when the knight that
brought you tidings thereof died in the night."
"By my faith," saith Messire Gawain, "These tidings know I well,
for you say true, and your company hold I right dear for the love of the Poor
Knight, for never yet saw I more courteous knight, nor more courteous damsels,
nor better nurtured, and our Lord God grant them as much good as I would they
Messire Gawain made the knight go before, for well knew he the robbers' hold,
but loath enough had he been to go thither, had the knights not followed him
behind. Lancelot was issued forth of the hold sword in hand, all armed, angry as
a lion. The four knights were upon their horses all armed, but no mind had they
come a-nigh him, for sore dreaded they the huge buffets he dealt, and his
hardiment. One of them came forward before the others, and it seemed him shame
that they might not vanquish one single knight. He goeth to smite Lancelot a
great stroke of his sword above in the midst of his head, nor did Lancelot's
sword fail of its stroke, for before he could draw back, Lancelot dealt him such
a blow as smote oft all of his leg at the thigh, so that he made him leave the
saddlebows empty. Lancelot leapt up on the destrier, and now seemed him he was
safer than before. The three robber-knights that yet remained whole ran upon him
on all sides and began to press him of their swords in right sore wrath.
Thereupon behold you, the knight cometh to the way that goeth to the hold and
saith to Messire Gawain and Perceval, "Now may you hear the dashing of
swords and the melly."
Therewithal the two good knights smite horse with spur and come thither where
the three robber-knights were assailing Lancelot. Each of the twain smiteth his
own so wrathfully that they thrust their spears right through their bodies and
bear them to the ground dead. Howbeit the third knight was fain to flee, but the
knight that had come to show Messire Gawain the way took heart and hardiment
from the confidence of the good knights, and smote him as he fled so sore that
he pierced him with his spear to the heart and toppled him to the ground dead.
And the one whose leg Lancelot had lopped off was so trampled underfoot of the
knights that he had no life in him.
When Lancelot knew Perceval and Messire Gawain he made great joy of them and
they of him.
"Lancelot," saith Messire Gawain, "This knight that led us hither
to save your life is cousin to the Poor Knight of the Waste Castle, the brother
of the two poor damsels that lodged us so well. We will send him these horses,
one for the knight that shall be the messenger, and the two to the lord of the
Waste Castle, and this hold that we have taken shall be for the two damsels, and
so shall we make them safe all the days of their life. This, methinketh, will be
"Certes," saith Perceval, "you speak of great courtesy."
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "Messire Gawain hath said, and right
willingly will I grant him all his wish."
"Lords," saith the knight, "They have in this forest a hold
wherein the knights did bestow their plunder, for the sake whereof they murdered
the passers by. If the goods remain there they will be lost, for therein is so
great store as might be of much worth to many folk that are poverty-stricken for
They go to the hold and find right great treasure in a cave underground, and
rich sets of vessels and rich ornaments of cloth and armours for horses, that
they had thrown the one over another into a pit that was right broad.
"Certes," saith he, "Right well hath it been done to this evil
folk that is destroyed!"
"Sir," saith Lancelot, "in like manner would they have dealt with
me and killed me if they might; whereof no sorrow have I save of the damsel that
I slew, that was one of the fairest dames of the world. But I slew her not
knowingly, for I meant rather to strike the knight, but she leapt between us,
like the hardiest dame that saw I ever."
"Sirs," saith the knight, "Perceval and Lancelot, by the counsel
of Messire Gawain, granted the treasure to the two damsels, sisters to the Poor
Knight of the Waste Castle, whereupon let them send for Joseus the Hermit and
bid him guard the treasure until they shall come hither."
And Joseus said that he would do so, and is right glad that the robbers of the
forest are made away withal, that had so often made assault upon him. He guarded
the treasure and the hold right safely in the forest; but the dread and the
renown of the good knights that had freed the forest went far and wide. The
knight that led the three destriers was right joyfully received at the Waste
Castle; and when he told the message wherewith he was charged by Messire Gawain,
the Poor Knight and two damsels made great joy thereof. Perceval taketh leave of
Messire Gawain and Lancelot, and saith that never will he rest again until he
shall have found his sister and his widow mother. They durst not gainsay him,
for they know well that he is right, and he prayeth them right sweetly that they
salute the King and Queen and all the good knights of the court, for, please
God, he will go see them at an early day. But first he was fain to fulfil the
promise King Arthur made to his sister, for he would not that the King should be
blamed in any place as concerning him, nor by his default; and he himself would
have the greater blame therein and he succoured her not, for the matter touched
him nearer than it did King Arthur.
With that the Good Knight departeth, and they commend him to God, and he them
in like sort. Messire Gawain and Lancelot go their way back toward the court of
King Arthur, and Perceval goeth amidst strange forests until he cometh to a
forest far away, wherein, so it seemed him, he had never been before. And he
passed through a land that seemed him to have been laid waste, for it was all
void of folk. Wild beast only seeth he there, that ran through the open country.
He entered into a forest in this waste country, and found a hermitage in the
combe of a mountain. He alighted without and heard that the hermit was singing
the service of the dead, and had begun the mass with a requiem betwixt him and
his clerk. He looketh and seeth a pall spread upon the ground before the altar
as though it were over a corpse. He would not enter the chapel armed, wherefore
he hearkened to the mass from without right reverently, and showed great
devotion as he that loved God much and was a-dread. When the mass was sung, and
the hermit was disarmed of the armour of Our Lord, he cometh to Perceval and
saluteth him and Perceval him again.
"Sir," saith Perceval, "For whom have you done such service?
meseemed that the corpse lay therewithin for whom the service was
"You say truth," saith the hermit. "I have done it for Lohot,
King Arthur's son, that lieth buried under this pall."
"Who, then, hath slain him?" saith Perceval.
"That will I tell you plainly," saith the hermit.
"This wasted land about this forest wherethrough you have come is the
beginning of the kingdom of Logres. There wont to be therein a Giant so big and
horrible and cruel that none durst won within half a league round about, and he
destroyed the land and wasted it in such sort as you see. Lohot was departed
from the land and the court of King Arthur his father in quest of adventure, and
by the will of God arrived at this forest, and fought against Logrin, right
cruel as he was, and Logrin against him. As it pleased God, Lohot vanquished
him; but Lohot had a marvellous custom: when he had slain a man, he slept upon
him. A knight of King Arthur's court, that is called Kay the Seneschal, was come
peradventure into this forest of Logres. He heard the Giant roar when Lohot
dealt him the mortal blow. Thither came he as fist as he might, and found the
King's son sleeping upon Logrin. He drew his sword and therewith cut off Lohot's
head, and took the head and the body and set them in a coffin of stone. After
that he hacked his shield to pieces with his sword, that he should not be
recognised; then came he to the Giant that lay dead, and so cut oft his head,
that was right huge and hideous, and hung it at his fore saddle-bow. Then went
he to the court of King Arthur and presented it to him. The King made great joy
thereof and all they of the court, and the King made broad his lands right
freely for that he believed Kay had spoken true. I went," saith the hermit,
"on the morrow to the piece of land where the Giant lay dead, as a damsel
came within here to tell me with right great joy. I found the corpse of the
Giant so big that I durst not come a-nigh it. The damsel led me to the coffin
where the King's son was lying. She asked the head of me as her guerdon, and I
granted it to her willingly. She set it forthwith in a coffer laden with
precious stones that was all garnished within of balsams. After that, she helped
me carry the body into this chapel and enshroud and bury it.
"Afterwards the damsel departed, nor have I never heard talk of her
since, nor do I make remembrance hereof for that I would King Arthur should know
it, nor for aught that I say thereof that he should do evil to the knight; for
right sore sin should I have thereof, but deadly treason and disloyalty hath he
"Sir," saith Perceval, "This is sore pity of the King's son, that
he is dead in such manner, for I have heard witness that he ever waxed more and
more in great chivalry, and, so the King knew thereof, Kay the Seneschal, that
is not well-loved of all folk, would lose the court for ever more, or his life,
so he might be taken, and this would be only right and just."
Perceval lay the night in the hermitage, and departed on the morrow when he had
heard mass. He rideth through the forest as he that right gladly would hear
tidings of his mother, nor never before hath he been so desirous thereof as is
he now. He heard, at right hour of noon, a damsel under a tree that made greater
dole than ever heard he damsel make before. She held her mule by the reins and
was alighted a-foot and set herself on her knees toward the East. She stretched
her hands up toward heaven and prayed right sweetly the Saviour of the World and
His sweet Mother that they would send her succour betimes, for that the most
discounselled damsel of the world was she, and never was alms given to damsel to
counsel her so well bestowed as it would be upon her, for that needs must she go
to the most perilous place that is in the world, and that, save she might bring
some one with her, never would that she had to do be done.
Perceval drew himself up when he heard the damsel bemoaning thus. He was in
the shadow of the forest so that she saw him not. The damsel cried out all
weeping, "Ha, King Arthur, great sin did you in forgetting to speak of my
business to the knight that bare away the shield from your court, by whom would
my mother have been succoured, that now must lose her castle presently save God
grant counsel herein; and so unhappy am I, that I have gone through all the
lands of Great Britain, yet may I hear no tidings of my brother, albeit they say
that he is the Best Knight of the world. But what availeth us his knighthood,
when we have neither aid nor succour thereof? So much the greater shame ought he
to have of himself, if he love his mother, as she, that is the most gentle lady
that liveth and the most loyal, hath hope that, and he knew, he would come
thither. Either he is dead or he is in lands so far away that none may hear
tidings of him. Ha, sweet Lady, Mother of Our Saviour, aid us when we may have
no aid of any other! for if my lady mother loseth her castle, needs must we be
forlorn wanderers in strange lands, for so have her brothers been long time; he
that had the most power and valour lieth in languishment, the good King
Fisherman that the King of Castle Mortal warreth on, albeit he also is my uncle,
my mother's brother, and would fain reave my uncle, that is his brother, of his
castle by his felony. Of a man so evil my lady mother looketh for neither aid
nor succour. And the good King Pelles hath renounced his kingdom for the love of
his Saviour, and hath entered into a hermitage. He likewise is brother of my
mother, and behoveth him make war upon none, for the most worshipful hermit is
he of the world. And all they on my father's side have died in arms. Eleven were
there of them, and my father was the twelfth. Had they remained on live, well
able would they have been to succour us, but the knight that was first at the
Graal hath undone us, for through him our uncle fell in languishment, in whom
should have been our surest succour."
At this word Perceval rode forward, and the damsel heareth him. She riseth
up, and looketh backward and seeth the knight come, the shield at his neck
banded argent and azure, with a red cross. She clasped her two hands toward
heaven, and saith, "Ha, sweet Lady that didst bear the Saviour of the
World, you have not forgotten me, nor never may be discounselled he nor she that
calleth upon you with the heart. Here see I the knight come of whom we shall
have aid and succour, and our Lord God grant him will to do His pleasure, and
lend him courage and strength to protect us!"
She goeth to meet him, and holdeth his stirrup and would have kissed his foot,
but he avoideth it and crieth to her: "Ill do you herein, damsel!" And
therewith she melteth in tears of weeping and prayeth him right sweetly.
"Sir," saith she, "Of such pity as God had of His most sweet
Mother on that day He took His death, when He beheld Her at the foot of the
cross, have pity and mercy of my lady mother and of me. For, and your aid fail
us, we know not to whom to fly for rescue, for I have been told that you are the
Best Knight of the world. And for obtaining of your help went I to King Arthur's
court. Wherefore succour us for pity's sake and God's and for nought beside,
for, so please you, it is your duty so to do, albeit, had you been my brother
that is also such a knight as you, whom I cannot find, I might have called upon
you of a greater right. Sir," saith she, "Do you remember you of the
brachet you had at the court waiting for you until such time as you should come
for the shield, and that went away with you, how he would never make joy nor
know any save me alone? By this know I well that if you knew the soreness of our
need you would succour us. But King Arthur, that should have prayed you thereof,
"Damsel," saith he, "so much hath he done that he hath not failed
of his covenant with you, for he sent for me by the two best knights of his
court, and. so I may speed, so much will I do herein as that God and he shall be
well pleased thereof."
The damsel had right great joy of the knight that he should grant her his
aid, but she knew not he was her brother, or otherwise she would have doubled
her joy. Perceval knoweth well that she is his sister, but he would not yet
discover himself and manifest his pity outwardly. He helpeth the damsel to mount
again and they rode on together.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "Needs must I go to-night by myself to
the Grave-yard Perilous."
"Wherefore go you thither?" saith Perceval.
"Sir," saith she, "I have made vow thereof, and moreover a holy
hermit hath told me that the knight that warreth upon us may not be overcome of
no knight, save I bring him not some of the cloth wherewith the altar in the
chapel of the Grave-yard Perilous is covered. The cloth is of the most holiest,
for our Lord God was covered therewith in the Holy Sepulchre, on the third day
when He came back from death to life. Nor none may enter the holy grave-yard
that bringeth another with him, wherefore behoveth me go by myself, and may God
save my life this night, for the place is sore perilous, and so ought I greatly
to hate him that hath procured me this dolour and travail. Sir," saith she,
"You will go your way toward the castle of Camelot: there is the Widow Lady
my mother, that awaiteth the return and the succour of the Good Knight, and may
you remember to succour and aid us when you shall see how sore is our need of
"Damsel," saith Perceval, "So God allow me I will aid you to
the utmost of my power."
"Sir," saith she, "See, this is my way, that is but little
frequented, for I tell you that no knight durst tread therein without great
peril and great dread. And our Lord God have your body in keeping, for mine own
this night shall be in sore jeopardy and hazard."
Perceval departeth from the damsel, his sister, and hath right great pity for
that she goeth in so perilous place all alone. Natheless would he nor forbid
her, for he knew well that she might not go thither with him nor with other,
sith that such was the custom of the grave-yard that twain might not pass the
entrance, wherefore needs must one remain without. Perceval was not willing that
his sister should break her vow, for never none of his lineage did at any time
disloyalty nor base deed knowingly, nor failed of nought that they had in
covenant, save only the King of Castle Mortal, from whom he had as much evil as
he had good of the others.
The damsel goeth her way all alone and all forlorn toward the grave-yard and
the deep of the forest, all dark and shadowy. She hath ridden until the sun was
set and the night draweth nigh. She looketh before her and seeth a cross, high
and wide and thick. And on this cross was the figure of Our Lord graven, whereof
is she greatly comforted. She draweth nigh the cross, and so kisseth and adoreth
it, and prayeth the Saviour of the world that was nailed on Holy Rood that He
would bring her forth of the burial-ground with honour. The cross was at the
entrance of the grave-yard, that was right spacious, for, from such time as the
land was first peopled of folk, and that knights began to seek adventure by the
forest, not a knight had died in the forest, that was full great of breadth and
length, but his body was borne thither, nor might never knight there be buried
that had not received baptism and had repented him not of his sins at his death.
Thereinto entered the damsel all alone, and found great multitude of tombs
and coffins. Nor none need wonder whether she had shuddering and fear, for such
place must needs be dreadful to a lonely damsel, there where lay so many knights
that had been slain in arms. Josephus the good clerk witnesseth us that within
the grave-yard might no evil spirit meddle, for that Saint Andrew the apostle
had blessed it with his hand. But never might no hermit remain within for the
evil things that appeared each night all round about, that took the shapes of
the knights that were dead in the forest, wherof the bodies lay not in the
The damsel beholdeth their sepulchres all round about
the graveyard whereinto she was come. She seeth them surrounded of knights, all
black, and spears had they withal, and came one against another, and made such
uproar and alarm as it seemed all the forest resounded thereof. The most part
held swords all red as of fire, and ran either upon other, and gashed one
another's hands and feet and nose and face. And great was the clashing they
made, but they could not come a-nigh the grave-yard. The damsel seeth them, and
hath such affright thereof that she nigh fell to the ground in a swoon. The mule
whereon she sate draweth wide his nostrils and goeth in much fear. The damsel
signeth her of the cross and commendeth her to the Saviour and to His sweet
Mother. She looketh before her to the head of the grave-yard, and seeth the
chapel, small and ancient. She smiteth her mule with her whip, and cometh
thitherward and alighteth. She entered therewithin and found a great brightness
of light. Within was an image of Our Lady, to whom she prayeth right sweetly
that She will preserve her senses and her life and enable her to depart in
safety from this perilous place. She seeth above the altar the most holy cloth
for the which she was come thither, that was right ancient, and a smell came
thereof so sweet and glorious that no sweetness of the world might equal it. The
damsel cometh toward the altar thinking to take the cloth, but it goeth up into
the air as if the wind had lifted it, and was so high that she might not reach
it above an ancient crucifix that was there within.
"Ha, God!" saith the damsel, "It is for my sin and my disloyalty
that this most holy cloth thus draweth itself away from me!"
"Fair Father God, never did I evil to none, nor never did I shame nor
sinned deadly in myself, nor never wrought against your will, so far as in me
lay, but rather do I serve you and love and fear you and your sweet Mother; and
all the tribulation I receive, accept I in patience for your love, for well I
know that such is your pleasure, nor have I no will to set myself against nought
that pleaseth you.
"When it shall please you, you will release me and my mother of the
grief and tribulation wherein we are. For well you know that they have reaved
her of her castles by wrong, and of her land, for that she is a Widow Lady
without help. Lord, you who have all the world at your mercy and do your
commandment in all things, grant me betimes to hear tidings of my brother and he
be on live, for sore need have we of him. And so lend force to the knight and
power against all our enemies, that for your love and for pity is fain to
succour and aid my mother that is sore discounselled. Lord, well might it beseem
you to remember of your pity and the sweetness that is in you, and of compassion
that she hath been unrighteously disherited, and that no succour nor aid nor
counsel hath she, save of you alone. You are her affiance and her succour, and
therefore ought you to remember that the good knight Joseph of Abarimacie, that
took down your Body when it hung upon the rood, was her own uncle. Better loved
he to take down your Body than all the gold and all the fee that Pilate might
give him. Lord, good right of very truth had he so to do, for he took you in his
arms beside the rood, and laid your Body in the holy sepulchre, wherein were you
covered of the sovran cloth for the which have I come in hither. Lord, grant it
be your pleasure that I may have it, for love of the knight by whom it was set
in this chapel; sith that I am of his lineage it ought well to manifest itself
in this sore need, so it come according to your pleasure."
Forthwith the cloth came down above the altar, and she straightway found taken
away therefrom as much as it pleased Our Lord she should have. Josephus telleth
us of a truth, that never did none enter into the chapel that might touch the
cloth save only this one damsel. She set her face to it and her mouth or ever
the cloth removed.
Thereafter, she took the piece that God would and set it near herself full
worshipfully, but still the stout went on of the evil spirits round about the
church-yard, and they dealt one another blows so sore that all the forest
resounded thereof, and it seemed that it was all set on fire of the flame that
issued from them. Great fear would the damsel have had of them, had she not
comforted herself in God and in His dear, sweet Mother, and the most holy cloth
that was within there. A Voice appeared upon the stroke of midnight from above
the chapel, and speaketh to the souls whereof the bodies lie within the
grave-yard: "How sore loss hath befallen you of late, and all other whose
bodies lie in other hallowed church-yards by the forests of this kingdom! For
the good King Fisherman is dead that made every day our service be done in the
most holy chapel there where the most Holy Graal every day appeared, and where
the Mother of God abode from the Saturday until the Monday that the service was
finished. And now hath the King of Castle Mortal seized the castle in such sort
that never sithence hath the Holy Graal appeared, and all the other hallows are
hidden, so that none knoweth what hath become of the priests that served in the
chapel, nor the twelve ancient knights, nor the damsels that were therein. And
you, damsel, that are within, have no affiance in the aid of strange knight in
this need, for succoured may you never be save of your brother only!"
With that the Voice is still, and a wailing and a lamentation goeth up from
the bodies that lay in the church-yard, so dolorous that no man is there in the
world but should have pity thereof, and all the evil spirits that were without
departed groaning and making so mighty uproar at their going away that it seemed
the earth trembled. The damsel heard the tidings of her uncle that was dead, and
fell on the ground in a swoon, and when she raised herself, took on to lament
and cried: "Ha, God! Now have we lost the most comfort and the best friend
that we had, and hereof am I again discomforted that I may not be succoured in
this my next need by the Good Knight of whom I thought to have succour and aid,
and that was so fain to render it. Now shall I know not what to ask of him, for
he would grant it right willingly, and may God be as pleased with him thereof as
if he had done it."
The damsel was in sore misdoubting and dismay, for she knew not who the knight
was, and great misgiving had she of her uncle's death and right sore sorrow. She
was in the chapel until it was day, and then commended herself to God and
departed and mounted on her mule and issued forth of the church-yard full speed,
The story saith that the damsel went her way toward her mother's castle as
straight as she might, but sore dismayed was she of the Voice that had told her
she might not be succoured save of her brother alone. She hath ridden so far of
her journeys that she is come to the Valley of Camelot, and seeth her mother's
castle that was surrounded of great rivers, and seeth Perceval, that was
alighted under the shadow of a tree at the top of the forest in order that he
might behold his mother's castle, whence he went forth squire what time he slew
the Knight of the Red Shield. When he had looked well at the castle and the
country round about, much pleasure had he thereof, and mounted again forthwith.
Thereupon, behold you, the damsel cometh.
"Sir," saith she, "In sore travail and jeopardy have I been
sithence that last I saw you, and tidings have I heard as bad as may be, and
right grievous for my mother and myself. For King Fisherman mine uncle is dead,
and another of my uncles, the King of Castle Mortal, hath seized his castle,
albeit my lady mother ought rather to have it, or I, or my brother."
"Is it true " saith Perceval, "that he is dead?"
"Yea, certes, Sir, I know it of a truth."
"So help me God!" saith he, "This misliketh me right sore. I
thought not that he would die so soon, for I have not been to see him of a long
"Sir," saith she, "I am much discomforted as concerning you,
for I have likewise been told that no force nor aid of any knight may avail to
succour nor aid me from this day forward save my brother's help alone.
Wherefore, and it be so, we have lost all, for my lady mother hath respite to be
in her castle only until the fifteenth day from to-day, and I know not where to
seek my brother, and the day is so nigh as you hear. Now behoveth us do the best
we may and abandon this castle betimes, nor know I any refuge that we now may
have save only King Pelles in the hermitage. I would fain that my lady mother
were there, for he would not fail us."
Perceval is silent, and hath great pity in his heart of this that the damsel
saith. She followeth him weeping, and pointeth out to him the Valleys of Camelot
and the castles that were shut in by combes and mountains, and the broad
meadow-lands and the forest that girded them about.
"Sir," saith she, "All this hath the Lord of the Moors reaved of
my lady mother, and nought coveteth he so much as to have this castle, and have
it he will, betimes."
When they had ridden until that they drew nigh the castle, the Lady was at
the windows of the hall and knew her daughter.
"Ha, God!" saith the Lady, "I see there my daughter coming, and a
knight with her. Fair Father God, grant of your pleasure that it be my son, for
and it be not he, I have lost my castle and mine heirs are disherited."
Perceval cometh nigh the castle in company with his sister, and knoweth again
the chapel that stood upon four columns of marble between the forest and the
castle, there where his father told him how much ought he to love good knights,
and that none earthly thing might be of greater worth, and how none might know
yet who lay in the coffin until such time as the Best Knight of the world should
come thither, but that then should it be known. Perceval would fain have passed
by the chapel, but the damsel saith to him: "Sir, no knight passeth hereby
save he go first to see the coffin within the chapel."
He alighteth and setteth the damsel to the ground, and layeth down his spear and
shield and cometh toward the tomb, that was right fair and rich. He set his hand
above it. So soon as he came nigh, the sepulchre openeth on one side, so that
one saw him that was within the coffin. The damsel falleth at his feet for joy.
The Lady had a custom such that every time a knight stopped at the coffin she
made the five ancient knights that she had with her in the castle accompany her,
wherein they would never fail her, and bring her as far as the chapel. So soon
as she saw the coffin open and the joy her daughter made, she knew that it was
her son, and ran to him and embraced him and kissed him and began to make the
greatest joy that ever lady made.
"Now know I well," saith she, "that our Lord God hath not
forgotten me. Sith that I have my son again, the tribulations and the wrongs
that have been done me grieve me not any more. Sir," saith she to her son,
"Now is it well known and proven that you are the Best Knight of the world!
For otherwise never would the coffin have opened, nor would any have known who
he is that you now see openly."
She maketh her chaplain take certain letters that were sealed with gold in the
coffin. He looketh thereat and readeth, and then saith that these letters
witness of him that lieth in the coffin that he was one of them that helped to
un-nail Our Lord from the cross. They looked beside him and found the pincers
all bloody wherewith the nails were drawn, but they might not take them away,
nor the body, nor the coffin, according as Josephus telleth us, for as soon as
Perceval was forth of the chapel, the coffin closed again and joined together
even as it was before. The Widow Lady led her son with right great joy into her
castle, and recounted to him all the shame that had been done her, and also how
Messire Gawain had made safe the castle for a year by his good knighthood.
"Fair son," saith she, "Now is the term drawn nigh when I
should have lost my castle and you had not come. But now know I well that it
shall be safe-guarded of you. He that coveteth this castle is one of the most
outrageous knights on live. And he hath reaved me of my land and the Valleys of
Camelot without reasonable occasion. But, please God, you shall well repair the
harm he hath done you, for nought claim I any longer of the land since you are
come. But so avenge your shame as to increase your honour, for none ought to
allow his right to be minished of an evil man, and the mischiefs that have been
done me for that I had no aid, let them not wax cold in you, for a shame done to
one valiant and strong ought not to wax cold in him, but rankle and prick in
him, so ought he to have his enemies in remembrance without making semblant, but
so much as he shall show in his cheer and making semblant and his menaces, so
much ought he to make good in deed when he shall come in place. For one cannot
do too much hurt to an enemy, save only one is willing to let him be for God's
sake. But truth it is that the scripture saith, that one ought not to do evil to
one's enemies, but pray God that He amend them. I would fain that our enemies
were such that they might amend toward us, and that they would do as much good
to us without harming themselves as they have done evil, on condition that mine
anger and yours were foregone against them. Mine own anger I freely forbear
against them so far forth as concerneth myself, for no need have I to wish evil
to none, and Solomon telleth how the sinner that curseth other sinner curseth
"Fair son, this castle is yours, and this land round about whereof I
have been reft ought to be yours of right, for it falleth to you on behalf of
your father and me. Wherefore send to the Lord of the Moors that hath reft it
from me, that he render it to you. I make no further claim, for I pass it on to
you; for nought have I now to do with any land save only so much as will be
enough wherein to bury my body when I die, nor shall I now live much longer
since King Fisherman my brother is dead, whereof right sorrowful am I at heart,
and still more sorrowful should I be were it not for your coming. And, son, I
tell you plainly that you have great blame of his death, for you are the knight
through whom he fell first into languishment, for now at last I know well that
and if you had afterwards gone back and so made the demand that you made not at
the first, he would have come back to health. But our Lord God willed it so to
be, wherefore well beseemeth us to yield to His will and pleasure."
Perceval hath heard his mother, but right little hath he answered her, albeit
greatly is he pleased with whatsoever she hath said. His face is to-flushed of
hardiment, and courage hath taken hold on him. His mother looketh at him right
fainly, and hath him disarmed and apparelled in a right rich robe. So comely a
knight was he that in all the world might not be found one of better seeming nor
better shapen of body. The Lord of the Moors, that made full certain of having
his mother's castle, knew of Perceval's coming. He was not at all dismayed in
semblant, nor would he stint to ride by fell nor forest, and every day he weened
in his pride that the castle should be his own at the hour and the term he had
set thereof. One of the five knights of the Widow Lady was one day gone into the
Lonely Forest after hart and hind, and had taken thereof at his will. He was
returning back to the castle and the huntsmen with him, when the Lord of the
Moors met him and told him he had done great hardiment in shooting with the bow
in the forest, and the knight made answer that the forest was not his of right,
but the Lady's of Camelot and her son's that had repaired thither.
The Lord of the Moors waxed wroth. He held a sword in his hand and thrust him
therewith through the body and slew him. The knight was borne dead to the castle
of Camelot before the Widow Lady and her son.
"Fair son," saith the Widow Lady, "More presents of such-like
kind the Lord of the Moors sendeth me than I would. Never may he be satisfied of
harming my land and shedding the blood of the bodies of my knights. Now may you
well know how many a hurt he hath done me sithence that your father hath been
dead and you were no longer at the castle, sith that this hath he done me even
now that you are here. You have the name of Perceval on this account, that
tofore you were born, he had begun to reave your father of the Valleys of
Camelot, for your father was an old knight and all his brethren were dead, and
therefore he gave you this name in baptism, for that he would remind you of the
mischief done to him and to you, and that you might help to retrieve it and you
should have the power."
The Dame maketh shroud the knight, for whom she is full sorrowful, and on the
morrow hath mass sung and burieth him. Perceval made arm two of the old knights
with him, then issued forth of the castle and entered the great dark forest. He
rode until he came before a castle, and met five knights that issued forth all
armed. He asked whose men they were. They answer, the Lord's of the Moors, and
that he goeth seek the son of the Widow Lady that is in the forest.
"If we may deliver him up to our lord, good guerdon shal we have
"By my faith," saith Perceval, "You have not far to seek. I am
Perceval smiteth his horse of his spurs and cometh to the first in such sort
that he passeth his spear right through his body and beareth him to the ground
dead. The other two knights each smote his man so that they wounded them in the
body right sore. The other two would fain have fled, but Perceval preventeth
them, and they gave themselves up prisoners for fear of death. He bringeth all
four to the castle of Camelot and presenteth them to his lady mother.
"Lady," saith he, "see here the quittance for your knight that
was slain, and the fifth also remaineth lying on the piece of ground shent in
like manner as was your own."
"Fair son," saith she, "I should have better loved peace after
another sort, and so it might be."
"Lady," saith he, "Thus is it now. One ought to make war against
the warrior, and be at peace with the peaceable."
The knights are put in prison. The tidings are come to the Lord of the Moors
that the son of the Widow Lady hath slain one of his knights and carried off
four to prison. Thereof hath he right great wrath at heart, and sweareth and
standeth to it that never will he be at rest until he shall have either taken or
slain him, and that, so there were any knight in his land that would deliver him
up, he would give him one of the best castles in his country. The more part are
keen to take Perceval. Eight came for that intent before him all armed in the
forest of Camelot, and hunted and drove wild deer in the purlieus of the forest
so that they of the castle saw them.
Perceval was in his mother's chapel, where he heard mass; and when the mass
was sung, his sister said: "Fair brother, see here the most holy cloth that
I brought from the chapel of the Grave-yard Perilous. Kiss it and touch it with
your face, for a holy hermit told me that never should our land be conquered
back until such time as you should have hereof."
Perceval kisseth it, then toucheth his eyes and face therewith. Afterward he
goeth to arm him, and the four knights with him; then he issueth forth of the
chamber and mounteth on his horse, then goeth out of the gateway like a lion
unchained. He sitteth on a tall horse all covered. He cometh nigh the eight
knights that were all armed, man and horse, and asketh them what folk they be
and what they seek, and they say that they are enemies of the Widow Lady and her
"Then you do I defy!" saith Perceval.
He cometh to them a great run, and the four knights with him, and each one
overthroweth his own man so roughly that either he is wounded in his body or
maimed of arm or leg. The rest held the melly to the utmost they might endure.
Perceval made take them and bring to the castle, and the other five that they
had overthrown. The Lord of the Moors was come to shoot with a bow, and he heard
the noise of the knights, and cometh thitherward a great gallop all armed.
"Sir," saith one of the old knights to Perceval, "Look! here is
the Lord of the Moors coming, that hath reft your mother of her land and slain
her men. Of him will it be good to take vengeance. See, how boldly he
Perceval looketh on him as he that loveth him not, and cometh toward him as hard
as his horse may carry him, and smiteth him right through the breast so strongly
that he beareth to the ground him and his horse together all in a heap. He
alighteth to the ground and draweth his sword.
"How?" saith the Lord of the Moors, "Would you then slay me and
put me in worse plight than I am?"
"By my head," saith Perceval, "No, nor so swiftly, but I will
slay you enough, betimes!"
"So it seemeth you," saith the Lord of the Moors, "But it shall
not be yet!"
He leapeth up on his feet and runneth on Perceval, sword drawn, as one that fain
would harm him if he might. But Perceval defendeth himself as good knight
should, and giveth such a buffet at the outset as smiteth off his arm together
with his sword. The knights that came after fled back all discomfited when they
saw their lord wounded. And Perceval made lift him on a horse and carry him to
the castle and presenteth him to his mother.
"Lady," saith he, "See here the Lord of the Moors! Well might you
expect him eftsoons, sith that you were to have yielded him up your castle the
day after to-morrow!"
"Lady," saith the Lord of the Moors, "Your son hath wounded me
and taken my knights and myself likewise. I will yield you up your castle albeit
I hold it mine as of right, on condition you cry me quit."
"And who shall repay her," saith Perceval, "for the shame that
you have done her, for her knights that you have slain, whereof never had you
pity? Now, so help me God, if she have mercy or pity upon you, never hereafter
will I trouble to come to her aid how sore soever may be her need. Such pity and
none other as you have had for her and my sister will I have for you. Our Lord
God commanded in both the Old Law and the New, that justice should be done upon
man-slayers and traitors, and justice will I do upon you that His commandment be
He hath a great vat made ready in the midst of the court, and maketh the eleven
knights be brought. He maketh their heads be stricken off into the vat and
bleed therein as much blood as might come from them, and then made the heads and
the bodies be drawn forth so that nought was there but blood in the vat. After
that, he made disarm the Lord of the Moors and be brought before the vat wherein
was great abundance of blood. He made bind his feet and his hands right strait,
and after that saith: "Never might you be satisfied of the blood of the
knights of my lady mother, now will I satisfy you of the blood of your own
He maketh hang him by the feet in the vat, so that his head were in the blood as
far as the shoulders, and so maketh him be held there until that he was drowned
and quenched. After that, he made carry his body and the bodies of the other
knights and their heads, and made them be cast into an ancient charnel that was
beside an old chapel in the forest, and the vat together with the blood made he
be cast into the river, so that the water thereof was all bloody. The tidings
came to the castles that the son of the Widow Lady had slain the Lord of the
Moors and the best of his knights. Thereof were they in sore misgiving, and the
most part said that the like also would he do to them save they held themselves
at his commandment. They brought him the keys of all the castles that had been
reft of his mother, and all the knights that had before renounced their
allegiance returned thereunto and pledged themselves to be at his will for dread
of death. All the land was assured in safety, nor was there nought to trouble
the Lady's joy save only that King Fisherman her brother was dead, whereof she
was right sorrowful and sore afflicted.
One day the Widow Lady sate at meat, and there was great plenty of knights in
the hall. Perceval sate him beside his sister. Thereupon, behold you the Damsel
of the Car that came with the other two damsels before the Widow Lady and her
son, and saluted them right nobly.
"Damsel," saith Perceval, "Good adventure may you have!"
"Sir," saith she, "You have speeded right well of your business
here, now go speed it elsewhere, for thereof is the need right sore. King
Hermit, that is your mother's brother, sendeth you word that, and you come not
with haste into the land that was King Fisherman's your uncle, the New Law that
God hath stablished will be sore brought low. For the King of Castle Mortal,
that hath seized the land and castle, hath made be cried throughout all the
country how all they that would fain maintain the Old Law and abandon the New
shall have protection of him and counsel and aid, and they that will not shall
be destroyed and outlawed."
"Ha, fair son," saith the Widow Lady, "Now have you heard the
great disloyalty of the evil man that is my brother, whereof am I right
sorrowful, for that he is of my kindred."
"Lady," saith Perceval, "Your brother nor my uncle is he no
longer, sith that he denieth God! Rather is he our mortal enemy that we ought of
right to hate more than any stranger!"
"Fair son," saith the Widow Lady, "I pray and beseech you that
the Law of the Saviour be not set aside in forgetfulness and neglect there where
you may exalt it, for better Lord in no wise may you serve, nor one that better
knoweth how to bestow fair guerdon. Fair son, none may be good knight that
serveth Him not and loveth Him. Take heed that you be swift in His service nor
delay not for no intent, but be ever at His commandment alike at eventide as in
the morning, so shall you not bely your lineage. And the Lord God grant you good
intent therein and good will to go on even as you have begun."
The Widow Lady, that much loved her son, riseth up from the tables, and all the
other knights, and seemeth it that she is Lady of her land in such sort as that
never was she better. But full often doth she give thanks to the Saviour of the
World with her whole heart, and prayeth Him of His pleasure grant her son length
of life for the amendment both of soul and body. Perceval was with his mother of
a long space, and with his sister, and was much feared and honoured of all the
knights of the land, alike for his great wisdom and great pains-taking, as well
as for the valour of his knighthood.