Howard Pyle's The
Champions of the Round Table
How Sir Tristram had to do in battle with three knights of the Round Table.
Also how he had speech with King Arthur.
So came the next morning, and uprose the sun in all the splendor of his
glory, shedding his beams to every quarter with a rare dazzling effulgence. For
by night the clouds of storm had passed away and gone, and now all the air was
clear and blue, and the level beams of light fell athwart the meadow-lands so
that countless drops of water sparkled on leaf and blade of grass, like an
incredible multitude of shining jewels scattered all over the earth. Then they
who slept were awakened by the multitudinous voicing of the birds; for at that
hour the small fowl sang so joyous a roundelay that all the early morning was
full of the sweet jargon of their chanting.
At this time, so early in the day, there came two knights riding by where Sir
Tristram and his companions had set up their pavilions. These were two very
famous knights of King Arthur's court and of the Round Table; for one was Sir
Ector de Maris and the other was Sir Morganor of Lisle.
When these two knights perceived the pavilions of Sir Tristram and his
knights-companion, they made halt, and Sir Ector de Maris said, "What knights
are these who have come hither?" Then Sir Morganor looked and presently he said:
"Sir, I perceive by their shields that these are Cornish knights, and he who
occupies this central pavilion must be the champion of this party. "Well," quoth
Sir Ector, "as for that I take no great thought of any Cornish knight, so do
thou strike the shield of that knight and call him forth, and let us see of what
mettle he is made."
"I will do so," said Sir Morganor; and therewith he rode forward to where the
shield of Sir Tristram hung from the spear, and he smote the shield with the
point of his lance, so that it rang with a very loud noise.
Upon this, Sir Tristram immediately came to the door of his pavilion, and
said, "Messires, why did you strike upon my shield?" "Because," said Sir Ector,
we are of a mind to try your mettle what sort of a knight you be." Quoth Sir Tristram: "God forbid that you should not be satisfied. So
if you will stay till I put on my armor you shall immediately have your will in
Thereupon he went back into his tent and armed himself and mounted his horse
and took a good stout spear of ash-wood into his hand.
Then all the knights of Cornwall who were with Sir Tristram came forth to
behold what their champion would do, and all their esquires, pages, and
attendants came forth for the same purpose, and it was a very pleasant time of
day for jousting.
Then first of all Sir Morganor essayed Sir Tristram, and in that encounter
Sir Tristram smote him so dreadful, terrible a blow that he cast him a full spear's length over the crupper of
his horse, and that so violently that the blood gushed out of the nose and mouth
and ears of Sir Morganor, and he groaned very dolorously and could not arise
from where he lay.
"Hah," quoth Sir Ector, "that was a very wonderful buffet you struck my
fellow. But now it is my turn to have ado with you, and I hope God will send me
a better fortune."
So he took stand for battle as did Sir Tristram likewise, and when they were
in all wise prepared they rushed very violently to the assault. In that encounter Ector suffered hardly
less ill fortune than Sir Morganor had done. For he brake his spear against Sir
Tristram into as many as an hundred pieces, whilst Sir Tristram's spear held so
that he overthrew both the horse and the knight-rider against whom he drove.
Then all the knights of Cornwall gave loud acclaim that their knight had
borne himself so well in those encounters. But Sir Tristram rode back to where
those two knights still lay upon the ground, and he said: "Well, Messires, this
is no very good hap that you have had with me."
Upon that speech Sir Ector de Maris gathered himself up from the dust and
said: "Sir Knight, I pray you of your knighthood to tell us who you be and what
is your degree, for I declare to you, I believe you are one of the greatest
knights-champion of the world."
"Sir," said Sir Tristram, "I am very willing to tell you my name and my
station; I am Sir Tristram, the son of King Meliadus of Lyonesse."
"Ha," quoth Sir Ector, "I would God I had known that before I had ado with
you, for your fame hath already reached to these parts, and there hath been such
report of your prowess and several songs have been made about you by minstrels
and poets. I who speak to you am Sir Ector, surnamed de Maris, and this, my
companion, is Sir Morganor of Lisle."
"Alas!" cried out Sir Tristram, "I would that I had known who you were ere I
did battle with you. For I have greater love for the knights of the Round Table
than all others in the world, and most of all, Sir Ector, do I have reverence
for your noble brother Sir Launcelot of the Lake. So I take great shame to
myself that any mishap should have befallen you this day through me."
Upon this Sir Ector laughed. "Well," quoth he, "let not that trouble lie with
you, for it was we who gave you challenge without inquiry who you were, and you
did but defend yourself. We were upon our way to Camelot yonder, when we fell
into this mishap, for King Arthur is at this time holding court at that place.
So now, if we have your leave to go upon our way, we will betake ourselves to
the King and tell him that you are here, for we know that he will be very glad
of that news."
Upon this Sir Tristram gave them leave to depart, and they did so with many
friendly words of good cheer. And after they had gone Sir Tristram went back
into his pavilion again and partook of refreshment that was brought to him.
Now, some while after Sir Ector and Sir Morganor had left that place, and
whilst Sir Tristram was still resting in his pavilion, there came a single
knight riding that way, and this knight was clad altogether in white armor and his shield was
covered over with a covering of white leather, so that one could not see what
device he bare thereon.
When this white knight came to the place where Sir Tristram and his
companions had pitched their pavilions, he also stopped as Sir Ector and Sir
Morganor had done, for he desired to know what knights these were. At that time
Gouvernail was standing alone in front of Sir Tristram's pavilion, and unto him
the white knight said: "Sir, I pray you, tell me who is the knight to whom this
Now Gouvernail thought to himself: "Here is another knight who would have ado
with my master. Perhaps Sir Tristram may have glory by him also." So he answered
the white knight: "Sir, I may not tell you the name of this knight, for he is my
master, and if he pleases to tell you his name he must tell it himself."
"Very well," said the white knight, "then I will straightway ask him."
Therewith he rode to where the shield of Sir Tristram hung, and he struck
upon the shield so violent a blow that it rang very loud and clear.
Then straightway came forth Sir Tristram and several of his knights-companion
from out of the pavilion, and Sir Tristram said, "Sir Knight, wherefore did you
strike upon my shield?"
"Messire," quoth the white knight, "I struck upon your shield so that I might
summon you hither for to tell me your name, for I have asked it of your esquire
and he will not tell me."
"Fair Knight," quoth Sir Tristram, "neither will I tell you my name until I
have wiped out that affront which you have set upon my shield by that stroke you
gave it. For no man may touch my shield without my having to do with him because
of the affront he gives me thereby."
"Well," said the white knight, "I am satisfied to have it as you please."
So therewith Sir Tristram went back into his pavilion and several went with
him. These put his helmet upon his head and they armed him for battle in all ways. After that Sir
Tristram came forth and battle in all mounted his horse and took his spear in
hand and made himself in all ways ready for battle, and all that while the white
knight awaited his coming very calmly and steadfastly. Then Sir Tristram took
ground for battle, and the white knight did so likewise. So being in all ways
prepared, each launched forth against the other with such amazing and terrible
violence that those who beheld that encounter stood as though terrified with the
thunder of the onset.
Therewith the two knights met in the midst of the course, and each knight
smote the other directly in the centre of the shield. In that encounter the
spear of each knight broke all to small pieces, even to the truncheon which he
held in his fist. And so terrible was the blow that each struck the other that
the horse of each fell back upon his haunches, and it was only because of the
great address of the knight-rider that the steed was able to recover his
footing. As for Sir Tristram, that was the most terrible buffet he ever had
struck him in all his life before that time.
Then straightway Sir Tristram voided his saddle and drew his sword and
dressed his shield. And he cried out: "Ha, Sir Knight! I demand of you that you
descend from your horse and do me battle afoot."
"Very well," said the white knight, "thou shalt have thy will." And thereupon
he likewise voided his horse and drew his sword and dressed his shield and made
himself in all ways ready for battle as Sir Tristram had done.
Therewith they two came together and presently fell to fighting with such
ardor that sparks of fire flew from every stroke. And if Sir Tristram struck
hard and often, the white knight struck as hard and as often as he, so that all
the knights of Cornwall who stood about marvelled at the strength and fierceness
of the knights-combatant. Each knight gave the other many sore buffets so that
the armor was here and there dinted and here and there was broken through by the
edge of the sword so that the red blood flowed out therefrom and down over the armor, turning its brightness in
places into an ensanguined red. Thus they fought for above an hour and in all
that time neither knight gave ground or gained any vantage over the other.
Then after a while Sir Tristram grew more weary of fighting than ever he had
been in all of his life before, and he was aware that this was the greatest
knight whom he had ever met. But still he would not give ground, but fought from
this side and from that side with great skill and address until of a sudden, he
slipped upon some of that blood that he himself had shed, and because of his
great weariness, fell down upon his knees, and could not for the instant rise
Then that white knight might easily have struck him down if he had been
minded to do so. But, instead, he withheld the blow and gave Sir Tristram his
hand and said: "Sir Knight, rise up and stand upon thy feet and let us go at
this battle again if it is thy pleasure to do so; for I do not choose to take
advantage of thy fall."
Then Sir Tristram was as greatly astonished at the extraordinary courtesy of
his enemy as he had been at his prowess. And because of that courtesy he would
not fight again, but stood leaning upon his sword panting. Then he said: "Sir
Knight, I pray thee of thy knighthood to tell me what is thy name and who thou
"Messire," said the white knight, "since you ask me that upon my knighthood,
I cannot refuse to tell you my name. And so I will do, provided you, upon your
part, will do me a like courtesy and will first tell me your name and
Quoth Sir Tristram: "I will tell you that. My name is Sir Tristram of
Lyonesse, and I am the son of King Meliadus of that land whereby I have my
"Ha, Sir Tristram," said the white knight, "often have I heard of thee and of
thy skill at arms, and well have I proved thy fame this day and that all that is
said of thee is true. I must tell thee that I have never yet met my match until I
met thee this day. For I know not how this battle might have ended hadst thou
not slipped and fallen by chance as thou didst. My name is Sir Launcelot,
surnamed of the Lake, and I am King Ban's son of Benwick."
At this Sir Tristram cried out in a loud voice: "Sir
Launcelot! Sir Launcelot! Is it thou against whom I have been doing battle! Rather I would that
anything should have happened to me than that, for of all men in the world I
most desire thy love and friendship."
Then, having so spoken, Sir Tristram immediately kneeled down upon
his knees and said: "Messire, I yield myself unto thee, being overcome not
more by thy prowess than by thy courtesy. For I freely confess that thou art the greatest knight in
the world, against whom no other knight can hope to stand; for I could fight no
more and thou mightest easily have slain me when I fell down a while since."
"Nay, Sir Tristram," said Sir
Launcelot, "arise, and kneel not to me, for I
am not willing to accept thy submission, for indeed it is yet to be proved which
of us is the better knight, thou or I. Wherefore let neither of us yield to the
other, but let us henceforth be as dear as brothers-in-arms the one toward the
Then Sir Tristram rose up to his feet again. "Well, Sir
Launcelot," he said,
"whatsoever thou shalt ordain shall be as thou wouldst have it. But there is one
thing I must do because of this battle."
Then he looked upon his sword which he held naked and ensanguined in his hand
and he said: "Good sword; thou hast stood my friend and hast served me well in several battles,
but this day thou hast served me for the last time." Therewith he suddenly took
the blade of the sword in both hands--the one at the point and the other nigh
the haft--and he brake the blade across his knee and flung the pieces away.
Upon this Sir Launcelot cried out in a loud voice: "Ha,
Messire! why didst
thou do such a thing as that? To break thine own fair sword?"
"Sir," quoth Sir Tristram, "this sword hath this day received the greatest
honor that is possible for any blade to receive; for it hath been baptized, in
thy blood. So, because aught else that might happen to it would diminish that
honor, I have broken it so that its honor might never be made less than it is at
this present time."
Upon this Sir Launcelot ran to Sir Tristram and catched him in his arms, and
he cried out: "Tristram, I believe that thou art the noblest knight whom ever I
beheld!" And Sir Tristram replied: "And thou, Launcelot, I love better than
father or kindred." Therewith each kissed the other upon the face, and all they
who stood by were so moved at that sight that several of them wept for pure
Thereafter they two went into Sir Tristram's pavilion and disarmed
themselves. Then there came sundry attendants who were excellent leeches and these searched their hurts and
bathed them and dressed them. And several other attendants came and fetched soft
robes and clothed the knights therein so that they were very comfortable in
their bodies. Then still other attendants brought them good strong wine and
manchets of bread and they sat together at table and ate very cheerfully and
were greatly refreshed.
So I have told you of that famous affair-at-arms betwixt Sir Launcelot and
Sir Tristram, and I pray God that you may have the same pleasure in reading of
it that I had in writing of it.
Now, as Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram sat in the pavilion of Sir Tristram
making pleasant converse together, there suddenly entered an esquire to where
they were sitting. This esquire proclaimed: "Messires, hither cometh King
Arthur, and he is very near at hand." Thereupon, even as that esquire spoke,
there came from without the pavilion a great noise of trampling horses and the
pleasant sound of ringing armor, and then immediately a loud noise of many
voices uplifted in acclamation.
Therewith Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram arose from where
they sat, and as they did so the
curtains at the doorway of the pavilion were parted and there entered King
Arthur himself enveloped, as it were, with all the glory of his royal
Unto him Sir Tristram ran, and would have fallen upon his knees, but King
Arthur stayed him from so doing. For the great king held him by the hand and
lifted him up, and he said, "Sir, are you Sir Tristram of Lyonesse?" "Yea," said
Sir Tristram, "I am he." "Ha," said King Arthur, "I am gladder to see you than
almost any man I know of in the world," and therewith he kissed Sir Tristram
upon the face, and he said: "Welcome, Messire, to these parts! Welcome! And
Then Sir Tristram besought King Arthur that he would refresh himself, and the
King said he would do so. So Sir Tristram brought him to the chiefest place, and
there King Arthur sat him down. And Sir Tristram would have served him with wine
and with manchets of bread with his own hand, but King Arthur would not have it
so, but bade Sir Tristram to sit beside him on his right hand, and Sir Tristram
did so. After that, King Arthur spake to Sir Tristram about many things, and
chiefly about King Meliadus. the father of Sir Tristram, and about the court of
Then, after a while King Arthur said:
"Messire, I hear tell that you are a
wonderful harper." And Sir Tristram said, "Lord, so men say of me." King Arthur
said, "I would fain hear your minstrelsy." To which Sir Tristram made: reply:
"Lord, I will gladly do anything at all that will give you pleasure."'
So therewith Sir Tristram gave orders to
Gouvernail, and Gouvernail brought
him his shining golden harp, and the harp glistered with great splendor in the
dim light of the pavilion.
Sir Tristram took the harp in his hands and tuned it and struck upon it. And he played upon the
harp, and he sang to the music thereof so wonderfully that they who sat there
listened in silence as though they were without breath. For not one of them
had ever heard such singing as that music which Sir Tristram sang; for it was as
though some angel were singing to those who sat there harkening to his
So after Sir Tristram had ended, all who were there gave loud acclaim and
much praise to his singing. "Ha, Messire!" quoth King Arthur, "many times in my
life have I heard excellent singing, but never before in my life have I heard
such singing as that. Now I wish that we might always have you at this court and
that you would never leave us." And Sir Tristram said: "Lord, I too would wish
that I might always be with you and with these noble knights of your court, for
I have never met any whom I love as I love them."
So they sat there in great joy and friendliness of spirit, and,. for the
while, Sir Tristram forgot the mission he was upon and was happy in heart and
glad of that terrible storm that had driven him thitherward.
And now I shall tell you the conclusion of all these adventures, and of how
it fared with Sir Tristram.