Howard Pyle's The Champions of the Round Table

Chapter First

How Sir Lamorack of Gales came to Tintagel and how he and Sir Tristram sware friendship together in the forest.

   After these happenings, Sir Tristram abode for awhile at the Court of Cornwall, for so King Mark commanded him to do. And he sought in every way to distract his mind from his sorrows by deeds of prowess. So during this time he performed several adventures of which there is not now space to tell you. But these adventures won such credit to his knighthood that all the world talked of his greatness.
   And ever as he grew more and more famous, King Mark hated him more and more. For he could not bear to see Sir Tristram so noble and so sorrowful with love of the Lady Belle Isoult.
   Also Sir Tristram spent a great deal of time at chase with hawk and hound; for he hoped by means also of such sports to drive away, in some measure, his grief for the loss of Belle Isoult.
   Now the season whereof this chapter speaketh was in the autumn of the year, what time all the earth is glorious with the brown and gold of the woodlands. For anon, when the wind would blow, then the leaves would fall down from the trees like showers of gold so that everywhere they lay heaped like flakes of gold upon the russet sward, rustling dry and warm beneath the feet, and carpeting all the world with splendor. And the deep blue sky overhead was heaped full of white, slow-moving clouds, and everywhere the warm air was fragrant with the perfume of the forest, and at every strong breeze the nuts would fall pattering down upon the ground like hailstones.
   And because the world was so beautiful and so lusty, Sir Tristram took great pleasure in life in spite of that trouble that lay upon him. So he and his court rode very joyfully amid the trees and thickets, making the woodlands merry with the music of winding horns and loud-calling voices and with the baying of hounds sounding like sweet tolling bells in the remoter aisles of the forest spaces.
   Thus Sir Tristram made sport all one morning, in such an autumn season, and when noon had come he found himself to be anhungered. So he gave orders to those who were in attendance upon him that food should be spread at a certain open space in the forest; and therewith, in accordance with those orders, they in attendance immediately opened sundry hampers of wicker, and therefrom brought forth a noble pasty of venison, and manchets of bread and nuts and apples and several flasks and flagons of noble wine of France and the Rhine countries. This abundance of good things they set upon a cloth as white as snow which they had laid out upon the ground.
   Now just as Sir Tristram was about to seat himself at this goodly feast he beheld amid the thin yellow foliage that there rode through a forest path not far away a very noble-seeming knight clad all in shining armor and with vestments and trappings of scarlet so that he shone like a flame of fire in the woodlands.
   Then Sir Tristram said to those who stood near him, "Know ye who is yonder knight who rides alone?" They say, "No, Lord, we know him not." Sir Tristram said, "Go and bid that knight of his courtesy that he come hither and eat with me."
   So three or four esquires ran to where that knight was riding, and in a little they came attending him to where Sir Tristram was, and Sir Tristram went to meet him.
   Then Sir Tristram said: "Sir Knight, I pray you for to tell me your name and degree, for it seems to me that you are someone very high in order of knighthood."
   "Messire," quoth the other, "I shall be very glad to tell you my name if so be you will do the like courtesy unto me. I am Sir Lamorack of Gales, and I am son of the late King Pellinore, who was in his days held to be the foremost knight in this realm. I come to these parts seeking Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, of whose fame I hear told in every court of chivalry whither I go. For I have never beheld Sir Tristram, and I have a great desire to do so."
   "Well," quoth Sir Tristram, "meseems I should be greatly honored that you should take so much trouble for nothing else than that; for lo! I am that very Sir Tristram of Lyonesse whom you seek."
   Then Sir Lamorack immediately leaped down from his war-horse and putting up the umbril of his helmet, he came to Sir Tristram and took him by the hand and kissed him upon the cheek. And Sir Tristram kissed Sir Lamorack again, and each made great joy of the other.
   After that, Sir Lamorack, with the aid of these esquires attendant upon Sir Tristram, put aside his armor, and bathed his face and neck and hands in a cold forest brook, as clear as crystal, that came brawling down out of the woodlands. Therewith, being greatly refreshed he and Sir Tristram sat down to that bountiful feast together, and ate and drank with great joy and content of spirit. And whiles they ate each made inquiry of the other what he did, and each told the other many things concerning the goodly adventures that had befallen him.
   And after they were through eating and drinking, Sir Tristram took his harp in hand and sang several excellent ballads and rondels which he had made in honor of Belle Isoult, and Sir Lamorack listened and made great applause at each song that Sir Tristram sang. And so each knight loved the other more and more the longer they sat together.
   Then, after a while, Sir Tristram said: "Dear friend, let us swear brotherhood to one another, for I find that my heart goeth out to thee with a wonderful strength."
   "Ha, Tristram," said Sir Lamorack, "I would rather live in brotherhood with thee than with any man whom I know, for I find that the longer I am with thee, the greater and the stronger my love groweth for thee."
   Then Sir Tristram drew from his finger a very splendid ring (for the ring held an emerald carved into the likeness of the head of a beautiful woman, and that emerald was set into the gold of the ring) and Sir Tristram said: "Give me that ring upon thy finger, O Lamorack! and take thou this ring in its stead; so we shall have confirmed our brotherhood to one another."
   Then Sir Lamorack did very joyfully as Sir Tristram bade him, and he took the ring that Sir Tristram gave him and kissed it and put it upon his finger; and Sir Tristram kissed the ring that Sir Lamorack gave him and put it upon his finger.
   Thus they confirmed brotherhood with one another that day as they sat together in the forest at feast, with the golden leaves falling about them. And so they sat together all that afternoon and until the sun began to hang low in the west; after that, they arose and took horse, and rode away together toward Tintagel in great pleasure of companionship.
   Now all the court at Tintagel was greatly rejoiced at the presence of so famous a knight as Sir Lamorack of Gales; so there was great celebration upon that account, and everybody did the most that he was able to give pleasure to Sir Lamorack. And during the time that Sir Lamorack was at Tintagel there were several joustings held in his honor, and in all these assays at arms Sir Lamorack himself took part and overthrew everyone who came against him, so that he approved himself to be so wonderful a champion that all men who beheld his performance exclaimed with astonishment at his prowess.
   But from all these affairs at arms Sir Tristram held himself aloof, and would not take part in them. For he took such pleasure in Sir Lamorack's glory that he would not do anything that might imperil the credit that his friend thus gained by his prowess. For though Sir Tristram dearly loved such affairs, he would ever say to himself: "Perhaps if I should enter the lists against my friend it might be my mishap to overthrow him and then his glory would be forfeited unto me."
   Now upon a certain time there was held a great day of jousting in honor of Sir Lamorack, and in that affair at arms twenty of the best knights, both of Cornwall and the countries circumadjacent, took the field to hold it against all comers. Of these knights, several were well-known champions, so that they maintained the field for a long while, to the great credit both of themselves and of Cornwall. But some while after the prime of day, there came Sir Lamorack into that field, and, the day being cool and fresh, he was filled with a wonderful strength and spirit of battle. So he challenged first one of those Cornish champions and then another, and in all such challenges he was successful, so that he overthrew of those knights, the one after the other, fifteen men, some of whom were sorely hurt in the encounter. Upon this, the other five of those champions, beholding the prowess and strength and skill of Sir Lamorack said to one another: "Why should we venture against this man? Of a verity, this knight is no mere man, but a demon of strength and skill. Wherefore no man may hope to stand against him in an assault of arms; for lo! if he doth but touch a man with his lance that man straightway falleth from his saddle." So they withdrew themselves from that encounter and would not have to do with Sir Lamorack.
   Now at that time Sir Tristram was sitting with the court of the King, and not far from the Lady Belle Isoult, overlooking the meadow of battle. To him King Mark said: "Messire, why do you take no part against this knight? Is it that you fear him?"
   To this Sir Tristram replied with great calmness: "Nay, I fear not him nor any man alive, and that you know, Lord, better than anyone in all of the world."
   "I am glad to hear of your courage and fearlessness," quoth King Mark, "for meseems it is a great shame to all of us that this gentleman, who is a stranger amongst us, should win so much credit to the disadvantage of all the knights of Cornwall. Now, as you say you have no fear of him, I pray you go down into the field and do battle with him in our behalf." So said King Mark, for he thought to himself: "Perhaps Sir Lamorack may overthrow Sir Tristram, and so bring him into disrepute with those who praise him so greatly."
   But Sir Tristram said: "No; I will not go down to battle against Sir Lamorack this day whatever I may do another day. For I have sworn brotherhood to that noble and gentle champion, and it would ill beseem me to assault him now, when he is weary and short of breath from this great battle which he hath done to-day against such odds. For if I should overthrow him now, it would bring great shame upon him. Some other day and in some other place I may assay him in friendliness, with honor and credit both to myself and him."
   "Well," said King Mark, "as for that, I do not choose to wait. Nor am I pleased that you should sit by and suffer this knight to carry away all the credit of arms from Cornwall in despite of the knights of Cornwall. For not only would this be a great shame to the knights of Cornwall (of whom you are the acknowledged champion), but it would be equally a shame unto this lady whom you have fetched hither from Ireland to be Queen of Cornwall. So I lay this command upon you-not only because I am your King, but because I am he who made you knight--that you straightway go down into yonder meadow and do battle with this knight who beareth himself so proudly in our midst."
   Then Sir Tristram looked upon King Mark with great anger and bitterness, and he said: "This is great shame and despite which you seek to put upon me by giving such commands unto me. Verily, it would seem that in all ways you seek to put shame and sorrow upon me. And yet I have ever been your true knight, and have saved your kingdom from truage to Ireland and have served you very faithfully in all ways. Would to God I had been made knight by any man in the world rather than by you."
   At this King Mark smiled very bitterly upon Tristram. "Sirrah," quoth he, "meseems you speak very outrageously to me who am your King. Now I herewith command you to go straightway down into that field without any further words and to do my bidding against yonder knight."
   Then Sir Tristram groaned in spirit, and then he said, "I go."
   So Sir Tristram arose and went away from that place very full of bitterness and anger against the King and his court. For whiles there were some of that court who were sorry for the affront that King Mark had put upon him in public before the eyes of the entire court, yet there were others who smiled and were glad of his humiliation. For even so true and noble a gentleman as Sir Tristram, when he groweth great and famous, is like to have as many enemies as friends. For there are ever those who envy truth and nobility in a man, as well as others who hate meanness and falsity, and so Sir Tristram ever had many enemies whithersoever he went. And that also was the case with Sir Launcelot and Sir Lamorack, and with other noble knights at that time.
   But though Sir Tristram was so filled with indignation he said nothing to any man, but went to his lodging and summoned Gouvernail, and bade Gouvernail to help him to his armor and his horse.
   Gouvernail said: "Lord, what would you do for to arm and horse yourself at this hour?" Sir Tristram made reply: "The King hath commanded me to do battle with Sir Lamorack, and yet Sir Lamorack is my very dear friend and sworn brother-in-arms. He is already weary with battle, and of a surety I shall be very likely to overthrow him in an assault at arms at this time." Gouvernail said, "Lord, that would be great shame to you as well as to him." And Sir Tristram said, "Yea, it is great shame." Then Gouvernail beheld Sir Tristram's face, how it was all filled with a passion of shame and indignation, and so he guessed what had passed, and held his peace.
   So when Sir Tristram was armed and mounted, he rode down into the meadow of battle, where was Sir Lamorack parading with great glory before the applause of all who looked down upon that field.
   But when Sir Lamorack beheld that it was Sir Tristram who came against him, he was greatly astonished, and cried out: "Ha, Tristram, how is this? Is it you who come against me? Have you then forgot that I am your brother-in-arms and a fellow of the Round Table?"
   To this Sir Tristram said: "Messire, I come not of my own free will, but only because I must needs come, being so commanded by the King of Cornwall."
   "Very well," said Sir Lamorack, "so be it as you will, though I am very much surprised that you should do battle against me, after all that hath passed betwixt us. More especially at this season when, as you very well know, I am weary and winded with battle."
   Thereupon and without further parley, each knight took stand for the encounter at the position assigned to him. Then when they were in all ways prepared, the marshal of the field blew upon his trumpet a call for the assault.
   So rushed those two together like two stones, flung each out of a catapult; and therewith they two smote together in the midst of their course like to a clap of thunder.
   In that encounter the spear of Sir Lamorack brake into as many as twenty or thirty pieces; but the spear of Sir Tristram held, so that the horse of Sir Lamorack, which was weary with the several charges he had made, was overthrown into a great cloud of dust.
   But Sir Lamorack did not fall with his steed; for he voided his saddle with a very wonderful agility and dexterity, so that he himself kept his feet, although his horse fell as aforesaid. Then he was filled with great rage and shame that he had been so overthrown before all those who looked upon him; wherefore he immediately drew his sword and cried out aloud: "Come down, Sir Knight, and do battle with me afoot, for though my horse hath failed me because of his weariness, yet you shall find that my body shall not so fail me."
   But that while Sir Tristram sat very sorrowful, and he said: "Nay, I will not have to do with thee again this day, for it was against my will that I came hither to do battle with thee, and it is to my shame that I did so. Wherefore I will not now do further battle with thee. But wait until to-morrow and until thou art fresh, and then I will give thee the chance of battle again."
   To this Sir Lamorack made answer very bitterly: "Sir, I think you talk to amuse me; for first you put shame upon me in this encounter, and then you bid me wait until to-morrow ere I purge me of that shame. Now I demand of you to do battle with me upon this moment and not to-morrow."
   Sir Tristram said: "I will not do battle with thee, Lamorack, for I have done wrong already, and I will not do more wrong."
   Upon this, Sir Lamorack was so filled with anger that he scarce knew what to say or to do. Wherefore he turned him to several who had come down into the meadow of battle, and he said: "Hear ye all, and listen to my words: This knight came against me in this field after I had had to do with fifteen other knights. In that encounter he overthrew me, because of the weariness of my horse. Having done that unknightly deed, he now refuseth me any further test of battle, but allows me to lie beneath that shame which he put upon me. Now I bid you who stand here to take this word to Sir Launcelot of the Lake; I bid ye tell Sir Launcelot that Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, having sworn brotherhood-in-arms to me, and being a fellow-knight of the Round Table, hath come against me when I was weary with battle and he was fresh. Tell Sir Launcelot that so Sir Tristram overthrew me with shame to himself and with discredit to me, and that he then refused me all satisfaction such as one true knight should afford another."
   Then Sir Tristram cried out in a loud voice, "I pray you, hear me speak, Messire!" But Sir Lamorack replied, "I will not hear thee!" and therewith turned and went away, leaving Sir Tristram where he was. And Sir Tristram sat there without movement, like to a statue of stone.
   After that Sir Lamorack did not tarry longer at Tintagel, but immediately left the King's court without making speech with anyone. And thereafter he went down to the seashore and embarked in a boat with intent to sail to Camelot where King Arthur was then holding court. For his heart was still so bitter against Sir Tristram that he intended to lay complaint against him before the court of chivalry at Camelot.
   But Sir Lamorack did not reach Camelot upon that voyage; for, whilst he was in passage, there suddenly arose a great tempest of wind, and in spite of all that the mariners could do, that small ship wherein he sailed was driven upon a cruel headland of rocks and cliffs where it was dashed to pieces.
   But Sir Lamorack had foreseen that that small boat was to be wrecked, wherefore, before the end came, he stripped himself entirely naked and leaped into the waters and swam for his life.
   So he swam for a long time until he was well-nigh exhausted and upon the point of drowning in the waters. But at that moment he came by good hap to where was a little bay of quiet water, whereinto he swam and so made shift to come safe to land--but faint and weak, and so sick that he feared that he was nigh to death. Then Sir Lamorack perceived that there was heather at that place growing upon the rocks of the hillside, so he crawled into the heather and lay him down therein in a dry spot and immediately fell into such a deep sleep of weariness that it was more like to the swoon of death than to slumber.
   Now the lord of that country whereunto Sir Lamorack had come was a very wicked knight, huge of frame and very cruel and hard of heart. The name of this knight was Sir Nabon, surnamed le Noir; for he was very swarth of hue, and he always wore armor entirely of black. This knight had several years before slain the lord of that land, and had seized upon all of the island as his own possession, and no one dared to come against him for to recover these possessions, for his prowess was so remarkable and his body so huge that all the world was afraid of him. So he dwelt there unmolested in a strong castle of stone built up upon a rock near to the seashore, whence he might behold all the ships that passed him by. Then, whenever he would see such a ship pass by, he would issue forth in his own ships and seize upon that other vessel, and either levy toll upon it or sink it with all upon board. And if he found any folk of high quality aboard such a ship, that one he would seize and hold for ransom. So Sir Nabon made himself the terror of all that part of the world, and all men avoided the coasts of so inhospitable a country. Such was the land upon which Sir Lamorack had been cast by the tempest.
   Now whilst Sir Lamorack lay sleeping in the heather in that wise as aforetold, there came by that way several fisher-folk; these, when they saw him lying there, thought at first that he was dead. But as they stood talking concerning him, Sir Lamorack was aware of their voices and woke and sat up and beheld them.
   Then the chiefest of those fisher-folk spake and said, "Who are you, and how came you here?" Him Sir Lamorack answered: "Alas! friend! I am a poor soul who was cast ashore from a shipwreck, naked as you see me. Now I pray you, give me some clothes to cover my nakedness, and give me some food to eat, and lend me such succor as man may give to man in distress."
   Then the chief fisherman perceived the ring upon Sir Lamorack's finger that Sir Tristram had given him, and he said, "How got you that ring upon your finger?" Sir Lamorack said, "He who was my friend gave it to me." "Well," quoth the fisherman, "I will give you clothes to wear and food to eat, but if I do so you must give me that ring that I see upon your hand. As for lending you aid, I must tell you that the lord of this island hath ordained upon peril of our lives that all who come hither must straightway be brought before him to be dealt with as he may deem fitting. Wherefore, after I have fed you and clothed you I must immediately take you to him."
   "Alas!" quoth Sir Lamorack, "this is certes an inhospitable land into which I have come! Ne'ertheless, as I am naked and starving, I see that I have no choice other than that which ye put upon me." So therewith he gave the chief of the fisher-folk the ring that Sir Tristram had given him, and in return the fishermen gave him such garments as they could spare to cover his nakedness; and they gave him black bread and cheese to eat, and bitter ale to drink from a skin that they carried with them. After that they tied Sir Lamorack's hands behind his back, and so, having made him prisoner, they brought him to the castle of Sir Nabon, and before Sir Nabon who was there at that time.
   Now it chanced that the swineherd of Sir Nabon's castle had been slain in a quarrel with one of his fellows, so that when Sir Nabon beheld Sir Lamorack, that he was big and sturdy of frame, he said: "I will spare this fellow his life, but I will make him my swineherd. So take ye him away and let him herd my swine."
   So they led Sir Lamorack away, and he became swineherd to Sir Nabon surnamed le Noir, and presently in a little while he grew so rough and shaggy that his own mother would hardly have known him had she beheld him.

   So endeth this adventure of Sir Lamorack. And now it shall be told how it befel with Sir Tristram after Sir Lamorack had left Tintagel as aforetold.

back.jpg (1384 bytes)