Howard Pyle's The
Champions of the Round Table
How Sir Tristram encountered Sir Palamydes at the tournament and of what
befell Also how Sir Tristram was forced to leave the Kingdom of Ireland.
So came the time for the tournament that King
Angus of Ireland had ordained;
and that was a very famous affair at arms indeed. For it hath very rarely
happened that so noble a gathering of knights hath ever come together as that
company which there presented itself for that occasion at the court of the King
For you may know how excellent was the court of chivalry that foregathered
thereat when you shall hear that there came to that tournament, the King of an
Hundred Knights and the King of the Scots, and that there came several knights
of the Round Table, to wit: Sir Gawaine, Sir Gaheris and Sir Agravaine; and Sir
Bagdemagus and Sir Kay and Sir Dodinas, and Sir Sagramore le Desirous, and Sir
Gumret the Less, and Sir Griflet; and that there came besides these many other
knights of great renown.
These and many others gathered at the court of King Angus of Ireland, so that
all those meadows and fields coadjacent to the place of battle were gay as beds
of flowers with the multitude of tents and pavilions of divers colors that were
And on the day of the tournament there came great crowds of people into the
lists, so that all that place was alive with movement. For it was as though a
sea of people had arisen to overflow the seats and stalls thereof.
Now that tournament was to last for three days, and upon the third day there
was to be a grand mêlée in which all these knights contestant were to take stand
upon this side or upon that.
But upon the first two of those three days Sir Tristram sat in the stall of
the King and looked down upon the jousting, for, because of the illness from
which he had recovered, he was minded to save his body until the right time
should come, what time he should be called upon to do his uttermost.
And in those two days, Sir Tristram beheld that Sir Palamydes did more
wonderfully in battle than he would have believed it possible for any knight to do. For Sir Palamydes was aware
that the eyes of the Lady Belle Isoult were gazing upon him, wherefore he felt
himself uplifted to battle as with the strength of ten. Wherefore he raged about
that field like a lion of battle, seeking whom he might overthrow and destroy.
And upon the first day he challenged Sir Gawaine to joust with him, and then he
challenged Sir Gaheris, and the King of an Hundred Knights, and Sir Griflet, and
Sir Sagramore le Desirous and fourteen other knights, and all of these he met
and many he overcame, and that without any mishap to himself. And upon the
second day he met with great success Sir Agravaine and Sir Griflet and Sir Kay
and Sir Dodinas and twelve other knights. Wherefore those who beheld how he did
gave great shouts and outcries of applause and acclaim, saying: "Certes, there
was never knight in all of the world so great as this knight. Yea; even Sir
Launcelot himself could not do more than that knight doeth."
Then Belle Isoult was troubled in her mind, and she said:
in very truth is a most fierce and terrible knight. Now somewhiles I have fear
that you may not be able to overcome him."
Thereat Sir Tristram smiled very grimly, and said: "Lady, already I have
overcome in battle a bigger knight than ever Sir Palamydes has been or is like
to be." But the Lady Belle Isoult wist not that that knight of whom Sir Tristram
spake was Sir Marhaus of Ireland.
Now upon the evening of the second day of that tournament, Sir Palamydes came
to where the Lady Belle Isoult was, and he said: "Lady, all these things I have done for your
sake. For had it not been for my love for you, I would not have been able to do
a third part of that which I did. Now I think you should have pity and regard
for one who loves you so strongly as that; wherefore I beseech you to bestow
some part of your good-will upon me."
"Sir," said the Lady Belle Isoult, "you are not to forget that there is still
another day of this battle, and in it you may not happen to have the same
fortune that favored you to-day; so I will wait until you have won that battle
also before I answer you."
"Well," said Sir Palamydes, "you shall see that I shall do even more worthily
to-morrow for your sake than I have done to-day."
But the Lady Belle Isoult was not very well pleased with that saying, for she
began again to fear that maybe the will of Sir Palamydes was so strong that Sir
Tristram would not have any success against him.
So came the third day of that very famous contest at arms, and when the
morning was come there began to gather together in the two parties those who
were to contest the one against the other. Of one of these parties, Sir
Palamydes was the chiefest knight, and upon that side was also Sir Gawaine and
several of the knights who were with him. For these said, "There shall certes be
greater credit to be had with Sir Palamydes than against him," and so they
joined them with his party. Of the other party the chiefest knights were the
King of an Hundred Knights and the King of Scots, and both of these were very
famous and well-approved champions, of high courage and remarkable
Now when the time was nigh ready for that tournament, Sir Tristram went to
put on the armor that the Lady Belle Isoult had provided him, and when he was
armed he mounted very lightly upon the horse which she had given him. And the
armor of Sir Tristram was white, shining like to silver, and the horse was
altogether white, and the furniture and trappings thereof were all white, so
that Sir Tristram glistened with extraordinary splendor.
Now when he was armed and prepared in all ways, the Lady Belle Isoult came to
where he was and she said, "Tramtris, are you ready?" And he answered "Yea."
Therewith she took the horse of Sir Tristram by the bridle and she led him to
the postern gate of the castle, and put him out that way into a fair field that
lay beyond; and Sir Tristram abided in the fields for some while until the
tournament should have begun.
But the Lady Belle Isoult went to the tournament with her father, the King,
and her mother, the Queen, and took her station at that place assigned to her
whence she might overlook the field.
So in a little while that friendly battle began. And again Sir Palamydes was
filled with the vehement fury of contest, wherefore he raged about the field,
spreading terror whithersoever he came. For first he made at the King of an
Hundred Knights, and he struck that knight so direful a blow that both horse and
man fell to the ground with the force thereof. Then in the same manner he struck
the King of Scots with his sword, and smote him straightway out of the saddle
also. Then he struck down one after another, seven other knights, all of
well-proved strength and prowess, so that all those who looked thereon cried
out, "Is he a man or is he a demon?" So, because of the terror of Sir Palamydes,
all those in that contest bore away from him as they might do from a lion in
At this time came Sir Tristram, riding at a free pace, shining like to a
figure of silver. Then many saw him and observed him and said to one another: "Who is
this knight, and what party will he join with to do battle?
These had not long to wait to know what side he would join, for immediately
Sir Tristram took stand with that party which was the party of the King of an
Hundred Knights and the King of Scots, and at that the one party was very glad,
and the other party was sorry; for they deemed that Sir Tristram was certes some
Then straightway there came against Sir Tristram four knights of the other
party, and one of these was Sir Gaheris, and another was Sir Griflet and another was Sir Bagdemagus
and another was Sir Kay. But Sir Tristram was possessed with a great joy of
battle, so that in a very short time he had struck down or overthrown all those
knights, beginning with Sir Gaheris, and ending with Sir Kay the seneschal.
This Sir Gawaine beheld, and said to Sir
Sagramore: "Yonder is certes a
knight of terrible strength; now let us go and see of what mettle he be."
Therewith Sir Gawaine pushed against Sir Tristram from the one side, and Sir
Sagramore came against him on the other side, and so they met him both at once.
Then first Sir Gawaine struck Sir Tristram such a buffet that the horse of Sir
Tristram turned twice about with the force of that stroke; and therewith Sir
Sagramore smote him a buffet upon the other side so that Sir Tristram wist not
upon which side to defend himself.
Then, at those blows Sir Tristram waxed so exceedingly fierce that it was as
though a fire of rage flamed up into his brains and set them into a blaze of
rage. So with that he rose up in his stirrups and launched so dreadful a blow
upon Sir Gawaine that I believe nothing could have withstood the force of that
blow. For it clave through the shield of Sir Gawaine and it descended upon the
crown of his helmet and it clave away a part of his helmet and a part of the
épaulière of his shoulder; and with the force of that dreadful, terrible blow,
Sir Gawaine fell down upon the ground and lay there as though he were dead.
Then Sir Tristram wheeled upon Sir Sagramore (who sat wonder-struck at that
blow he had beheld) and thereafter he smote him too, so that he fell down and
lay upon the ground in a swoon from which he did not recover for more than two
Now Sir Palamydes also had beheld those two strokes that Sir Tristram had
given, wherefore he said: "Hah! Yonder is a very wonderful knight. Now if I do
not presently meet him, and that to my credit, he will have more honor in this
battle than I."
So therewith Sir Palamydes pushed straight against Sir
Tristram, and when Sir Tristram beheld that he was very glad, for he said: "Now it will
either be Sir Palamydes his day, or else it will be mine." So he upon his part pushed against
Sir Palamydes with good intent to engage him in battle, and then they two met in
the midst of the field.
Then immediately Sir Palamydes smote Sir Tristram such a buffet that Sir
Tristram thought a bolt of lightning had burst upon him, and for a little while
he was altogether bemazed and wist not where he was. But when he came to himself
he was so filled with fury that his heart was like to break therewith.
Thereupon he rushed upon Sir Palamydes and smote him again and again and
again with such fury and strength that Sir Palamydes was altogether stunned at
the blows he received and bare back before them. Then Sir Tristram
perceived how that Sir Palamydes bare his shield low because of the fierceness
of that assault, and thereupon he rose up in his stirrups and struck Sir
Palamydes upon the crown of the helmet so dreadful a buffet that the brains of
Sir Palamydes swam like water, and he must needs catch the pommel of his saddle
to save himself from falling. Then Sir Tristram smote him another buffet, and
therewith darkness came upon the sight of Sir Palamydes and he rolled off from
his horse into the dust beneath its feet.
Then all who beheld the encounter shouted very loud and with great vehemence,
for it was the very best and most notable assault at arms that had been
performed in all that battle. But most of those who beheld that assault cried
out "The Silver Knight!" For at that time no one but the Lady Belle Isoult wist
who that silver knight was. But she wist very well who he was, and was so filled
with the glory of his prowess that she wept for joy thereof.
Then the King of Ireland said: "Who is yonder knight who hath so wonderfully
overthrown Sir Palamydes? I had not thought there was any knight in the world so
great as he; but this must be some great champion whom none of us
know." Upon that the Lady Belle Isoult, still weeping for joy, could contain
herself no longer, but cried out: "Sir, that is Tramtris, who came to us so nigh
to death and who hath now done us so great honor being of our household! For I
knew very well that he was no common knight but some mighty champion when I
first beheld him."
At that the King of Ireland was very much astonished and overjoyed, and he
said: "If that is indeed so, then it is a very great honor for us all."
Now after that assault Sir Tristram took no more part in that battle but
withdrew to one side. But he perceived where the esquires attendant upon Sir
Palamydes came to him and lifted him up and took him away. Then by and by he
perceived that Sir Palamydes had mounted his horse again with intent to leave
that meadow of battle, and in a little he saw Sir Palamydes ride away with his
head bowed down like to one whose heart was broken.
All this Sir Tristram beheld and did not try to stay Sir Palamydes in his
departure. But some while after Sir Palamydes had quitted that place, Sir
Tristram also took his departure, going in that same direction that Sir
Palamydes had gone. Then after he had come well away from the meadow of battle,
Sir Tristram set spurs to his horse and rode at a hard gallop along that way
that Sir Palamydes had taken.
So he rode at such a gait for a considerable pass until, by and by, he
perceived Sir Palamydes upon the road before him; and Sir Palamydes was at that
time come to the edge of a woods where there were several stone windmills with
great sails swinging very slowly around before a strong wind that was
Now this was a lonely place, and one very fit to do battle in, wherefore Sir
Tristram cried out to Sir Palamydes in a loud voice: "Sir Palamydes! Sir
Palamydes! Turn you about! For here
is the chance for you to recover the honor that you have lost to me." Thereupon
Sir Palamydes, hearing that loud voice, turned him about. But when he beheld
that the knight who called was he who had just now wrought such shame upon him,
he ground his teeth together with rage, and therewith drave his horse at Sir
Tristram, drawing his sword so that it flashed like lightning in the bright
sunlight. And when he came nigh to Sir Tristram, he stood up in his stirrups and
lashed a blow at him with all his might and main; for he said to himself: "Maybe
I shall now recover mine honor with one blow which I lost to this knight awhile
since." But Sir Tristram put aside that blow of Sir Palamydes with his shield
with very great skill and dexterity, and thereupon, recovering himself, he
lashed at Sir Palamydes upon his part. And at that first stroke Sir Tristram
smote down the shield of Sir Palamydes, and gave him such a blow upon the head
that Sir Palamydes fell down off his horse upon the earth. Then Sir Tristram
voided his own horse very quickly, and running to Sir Palamydes where he lay he
plucked off his helmet with great violence. Therewith he cried out very
fiercely: "Sir Knight, yield thee to me, or I will slay thee." And therewithal
he lifted up his sword as though to strike off the head of Sir Palamydes.
Then when Sir Palamydes saw Sir Tristram standing above him in that wise, he
dreaded his buffets so that he said: "Sir Knight, I yield me to thee to do thy
commands, if so be thou wilt spare my life."
Thereupon Sir Tristram said, "Arise," and at that Sir Palamydes got him up to
his knees with some ado, and so remained kneeling before Sir Tristram.
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "I believe you have saved your life by thus
yielding yourself to me. Now this shall be my commandment upon you. First of
all, my commandment is that you forsake the Lady Belle Isoult, and that you do
not come near her for the space of an entire year. And this is my second
commandment; that from this day you do not assume the arms of knighthood for an
entire year and a day."
"Alas!" said Sir Palamydes, "why do you not slay me instead of bringing me to
such shame as this! Would that I had died instead of yielding myself to you as I
did." And therewith he wept for shame and despite.
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "let that pass which was not done. For now you
have yielded yourself to me and these are my commands." So with that Sir
Tristram set his sword back again into its sheath, and he mounted his horse and
rode away, leaving Sir Palamydes where he was.
But after Sir Tristram had gone, Sir Palamydes arose, weeping aloud. And he
said: "This is such shame to me that I think there can be no greater shame."
Thereupon he drew his misericordia, and he cut the thongs of his harness
and he tore the pieces of armor from off his body and flung them away very
furiously, upon the right hand and upon the left. And when he had thus stripped
himself of all of his armor, he mounted his horse and rode away into the forest,
weeping like one altogether brokenhearted.
So Sir Tristram drave Sir Palamydes away from the Lady Belle Isoult as he had
promised to do.
Now when Tristram came back to the castle of the King of Ireland once more,
he thought to enter privily in by the postern-gate as he had gone out. But lo!
instead of that he found a great party waiting for him before the castle and
these gave him loud acclaim, crying, "Welcome, Sir Tramtris! Welcome, Sir
Tramtris!" And King Angus came forward and took the hand of Sir Tristram, and he
also said: "Welcome, Sir Tramtris, for you have brought us great honor this
But Sir Tristram looked at the Lady the Belle Isoult with great reproach and
by and by when they were together he said: "Lady, why did you betray me who I was when
you had promised me not to do so?" "Sir," she said,
"I meant not to betray you, but in the joy of your victory I know not very well what I said."
"Well," said Sir Tristram, "God grant that no harm come of it." She said, "What
harm can come of it, Messire?" Sir Tristram said: "I may not tell you, Lady, but
I fear that harm will come of it."
Anon the Queen of Ireland came and said:
"Tramtris, one so nigh to death as
you have been should not so soon have done battle as you have done. Now I will
have a bain prepared and you shall bathe therein, for you are not yet hale and
"Lady," said Tristram, "I do not need any bain, for I believe I am now strong
and well in all wise."
"Nay," said the Queen, "you must have that bain so that no ill may come to
you hereafter from this battle which you have fought."
So she had that bain prepared of tepid water, and it was very strong and
potent with spices and powerful herbs of divers sorts. And when that bain was
prepared, Sir Tristram undressed and entered the bath, and the Queen and the
Lady Belle Isoult were in the adjoining chamber which was his bed-chamber.
Now whilst Sir Tristram was in that bath, the Queen and Belle Isoult looked
all about his chamber. And they beheld the sword of Sir Tristram where it lay, for he had
laid it upon the bed when he had unlatched the belt to make himself ready for
that bath. Then the Queen said to the Lady Belle Isoult, "See what a great huge
sword this is," and thereupon she lifted it and drew the blade out of its
sheath, and she beheld what a fair, bright, glistering sword it was. Then in a
little she saw where, within about a foot and a half from the point, there was a
great piece in the shape of a half-moon broken out of the edge of the sword; and
she looked at that place for a long while. Then of a sudden she felt a great
terror, for she remembered how even such a piece of sword as that which had been
broken off from that blade, she had found in the wound of Sir Marhaus of which
he had died. So she stood for a while holding that sword of Sir Tristram in her
hand and looking as she had been turned into stone. At this the Lady Belle
Isoult was filled with a sort of fear, wherefore she said, "Lady, what ails
you?" The Queen said, "Nothing that matters," and therewith she laid aside the
sword of Sir Tristram and went very quickly to her own chamber. There she opened
her cabinet and took thence the piece of sword-blade which she had drawn from
the wound of Sir Marhaus, and which she had kept ever since. With this she
hurried back to the chamber of Sir Tristram, and fitted that piece of the blade to the blade;
and lo! it fitted exactly, and without flaw.
Upon that the Queen was seized as with a sudden madness; for she shrieked out
in a very loud voice, "Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!" saying that word three times.
Therewith she snatched up the sword of Sir Tristram and she ran with
great fury into the room where he lay in his bath. And she beheld him where he
was there all naked in his bath, and therewith she rushed at him and lashed at
him with his sword. But Sir Tristram threw himself to one side and so that blow
failed of its purpose. Then the Queen would have lashed at him again or have
thrust him through with the weapon; but at that Gouvernail and Sir Helles ran to
her and catched her and held her back, struggling and screaming very violently.
So they took the sword away from her out of her hands, and all the while she
shrieked like one gone entirely distracted.
Then as soon as Gouvernail and Sir Helles loosed her, she ran very violently
out of that room with great outcry of screaming, and so to King Angus and flung
herself upon her knees before him, crying out: "Justice! Justice! I have found
that man who slew my brother! I beseech of you that you will deal justice upon
Then King Angus rose from where he sat, and he said: "Where is that man?
Bring me to him." And the Queen said: "It is Tramtris, who hath come hither
unknown unto this place."
King Angus said: "Lady, what is this you tell me? I cannot believe that what
you say is true." Upon this the Queen cried out: "Go yourself, Lord, and
inquire, and find out how true it is."
Then King Angus rose, and went forth from that place, and he went to the
chamber of Sir Tristram. And there he found that Sir Tristram had very hastily
dressed himself and had armed himself in such wise as he was able. Then King
Angus came to Tristram, and he said: "How is this, that I find thee armed? Art
thou an enemy to my house?" And Tristram wept, and said: "Nay, Lord, I am not
your enemy, but your friend, for I have great love for you and for all that is
yours, so that I would be very willing to do battle for you even unto death if
so be I were called upon to do so."
Then King Angus said: "If that is so, how is it that I find thee here armed
as if for battle, with thy sword in thy hand?" "Lord," said Sir Tristram,
"although I be friends with you and yours, yet I know not whether you be friends
or enemies unto me; wherefore I have prepared myself so that I may see what is
your will with me, for I will not have you slay me without defence upon my
part." Then King Angus said: "Thou speakest in a very foolish way, for how could
a single knight hope to defend himself against my whole household? Now I bid thee tell
me who thou art, and what is thy
name, and why thou camest hither knowing that thou hadst slain my brother?"
Then Sir Tristram said, "Lord, I will tell thee all the truth." And therewith
he confessed everything to King Angus, to wit: who was his father and his mother, and how he was
born and reared; how he fought Sir Marhaus, and for what reason; and of how he
came hither to be healed of his wound, from which else he must die in very
grievous pain. And he said: "All this is truth, Lord, and it is truth that I had
no ill-will against Sir Marhaus; for I only stood to do battle with him for the
sake of mine uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, and to enhance mine own honor; and I
took my fortune with him as he took his with me. Moreover, I fought with Sir
Marhaus upon the same day that I was made knight, and that was the first battle
which I fought, and in that battle I was wounded so sorely that I was like to
die as you very well know. As for him, he was a knight well-tried and seasoned
with many battles, and he suffered by no treachery but only with the fortune of
So King Angus listened to all that Sir Tristram said, and when he had ended,
quoth he: "As God sees me, Tristram, I cannot deny that you did with Sir Marhaus
as a true knight should. For it was certes your part to take the cause of your
uncle upon you if you had the heart to do so, and it was truly a real knightly
thing for you who were so young to seek honor at the hands of so famous a knight
as Sir Marhaus. For I do not believe that until you came his way there was any
knight in the world who was greater than he, unless it were Sir Launcelot of the
Lake. Wherefore, from that, and from what I saw you do at the tournament, some
time ago, I believe that you are one of the strongest knights in the world, and
the peer of Sir Launcelot, or of anybody else.
"But though all this is true, nevertheless it will not be possible for me to
maintain you in this country, for if I keep you here I shall greatly displease
not only the Queen and her kin, but many of those lords and knights who were kin
to Sir Marhaus or who were -united to him in pledges of friendship. So you must
even save yourself as you can and leave here straightway, for I may not help or
aid you in any way."
Then Sir Tristram said: "Lord, I thank you for your great kindness unto me,
and I know not how I shall repay the great goodness that my Lady Belle Isoult
hath showed to me. For I swear to you upon the pommel of my sword which I now
hold up before me that I would lay down my life for her sake. Yea, and my honor
too! for she hath the entire love of my heart, so that I would willingly die for
her, or give up for her all that I have in the world.
Now as for my knighthood, I do believe that I shall in time become a knight of
no small worship, for I feel within my heart that this shall be so. So if my
life be spared, it may be that you will gain more having me for your friend and
your true servant than you will by taking my life in this outland place. For
whithersoever I go I give you my knightly word that I shall be your daughter's
servant, and that I shall ever be her true knight in right or in wrong, and that
I shall never fail her if I shall be called upon to do her service."
Then King Angus meditated upon this for a while, and he said:
thou sayest is very well said, but how shall I get you away from this place in
Sir Tristram said: "Lord, there is but one way to get me away with credit
unto yourself. Now I beseech you of your grace that I may take leave of my lady
your daughter, and that I may then take leave of all your knights and kinsmen as
a right knight should. And if there be any among them who chooses to stop me or
to challenge my going, then I must face that one at my peril, however great it
"Well," said King Angus, "that is a very knightly way to behave, and so it
shall be as you will have it."
So Sir Tristram went down stairs to a certain chamber where Belle Isoult was.
And he went straight to her and took her by the hand; and he said: "Lady, I am
to go away from this place, if I may do so with credit to my honor; but before I
go I must tell you that I shall ever be your own true knight in all ways that a
knight may serve a lady. For no other lady shall have my heart but you, so I
shall ever be your true knight. Even though I shall haply never see your face
again, yet I shall ever carry your face with me in my heart, and the thought of
you shall always abide with me withersoever I go."
At this the Lady Belle Isoult fell to weeping in great measure, and thereat
the countenance of Sir Tristram also was all writhed with passion, and he said,
"Lady, do not weep so!" She said, "Alas I cannot help it!" Then he said: "Lady,
you gave me my life when I thought I was to lose it, and you brought me back
from pain unto ease, and from sorrow unto joy. Would God I were suffering all
those pangs as aforetime, so that there might be no more tears upon your
Then, King Angus being by, he took her face into his hands
and kissed her upon the forehead,
and the eyes, and the lips. Therewith he turned and went away, all bedazed with
his sorrow, and feeling for the latch of the door ere he was able to find it and
go out from that place.
After that Sir Tristram went straight unto the hall of the castle, and there
he found a great many of the lords of the castle and knights attendant upon the
King. For the news of these things had flown fast, and many of them were angry
and some were doubtful. But Tristram came in very boldly, clad all in full
armor, and when he stood in the midst of them he spoke loud and with great
courage, saying: "If there be any man here whom I have offended in any way, let
him speak, and I will give him entire satisfaction whoever he may be. But let
such speech be now or never, for here is my body to make good my knighthood
against the body of any man, whomsoever he may be."
At this all those knights who were there stood still and held their peace,
and no man said anything against Sir Tristram (although there were several
knights and lords who were kin to the Queen), for the boldness of Tristram
overawed them, and no one had the heart to answer him.
So after a little while Sir Tristram left that place, without turning his
head to see if any man followed him.
So he left that castle and Gouvernail went with him, and no one stopped
him in his going. After that, he
and Gouvernail came to the, shore and took a boat and they came to the ship of
Sir Tristram, and so they sailed away from Ireland. But the heart of Sir
Tristram was so full of sorrow that he wished a great many times that he was
So Sir Tristram, though as to his body he was very whole and sound, was, as
to his spirit, very ill at ease; for though he was so well and suffered no pain,
yet it appeared to him that all the joy of his life had been left behind him, so
that he could nevermore have any more pleasure in this world which lieth outside
of the walls of Paradise.