Howard Pyle's The
Champions of the Round Table
How Sir Tristram was discovered at Tintagel and of what befell
Now during the time that Sir Tristram
abode thus unknown at the court of
Tintagel, he was allowed to wander thereabouts whithersoever he
chose, and no one hindered him either in going or in coming. For none in all
that place suspected who he was, but everyone thought that he was only a poor
gentle madman of the forest; so he was allowed to wander at will as his fancy
And Sir Tristram's memory never awoke; but though it awoke not, yet it
stirred within him. For though he could not remember what this place was
whereunto he had come, yet it was very strangely familiar to him, so that whithersoever he
went, he felt that those places were not altogether strange to him. And in some
of those places he felt great pleasure and in other places somewhat of pain, yet
he knew not why he should have the one feeling or the other.
Now of all those places whereunto he wandered, Sir Tristram found most
pleasure in the pleasance of the castle where was a fair garden and fruit trees;
for it was there that he and the Lady Belle Isoult had walked together aforetime
ere his affliction had befallen him, and he remembered this place better than
any other, and took more pleasure in it. Now one day Sir Tristram came wandering
thus into that pleasance and, the day being warm, he sat under the shade of an
appletree beside a marble fountain of water; and the appletree above his head
was all full of red and golden fruit. So Sir Tristram sat there, striving to
remember how it was that he had once aforetime beheld that fountain and that
garden and that appletree beneath which he sat.
So whilst he sat there pondering in that wise, there came the Lady Belle
Isoult into the garden of that pleasance and her lady, the dame Bragwaine, was
with her, and the hound, hight Houdaine, which Sir Tristram had sent to her by
Gouvernail, walked beside her on the other side. Then Belle Isoult perceived
that there was a man sitting under the appletree, and she said to dame Bragwaine:
"Who is yonder man who hath dared to come
hither into our privy garden?" Unto this, dame Bragwaine replied: "That,
lady, is the gentle madman of the forest whom Sir Launcelot brought hither two days ago."
Then the Lady Belle Isoult said, "Let us go nearer and see what manner of man
he is"; and so they went forward toward where Sir Tristram sat, and the dog
Houdaine went with them.
Then Sir Tristram was aware that someone was nigh; and therewith he turned
his face and beheld the Lady Isoult for the first time since he had gone mad in
the forest; and the lady was looking at him, but knew him not.
Then of a sudden, because of his great love for Belle Isoult, the memory of
Sir Tristram came all back to him in the instant, and upon that instant he knew
who he was and all that had befallen him, and how he had been brought there as a
madman out of the forest. But though he knew her in that wise, yet, as has been
said, she knew not him.
Then Sir Tristram was all overwhelmed with shame that he should be thus found
by that dear lady; wherefore he turned away his face and bowed his head so that
she might not remember him, for he perceived that as yet she did not know him who he was.
Now at that moment the dog, Houdaine, was aware of the savor of Sir Tristram;
wherefore he leaped away from the Lady Belle Isoult and ran to Sir Tristram and
smelt very eagerly of him. And with that he knew his master.
Then the two ladies who looked beheld Houdaine fall down at the feet
of Sir Tristram and grovel there
with joy. And they beheld that he licked Sir Tristram's feet and his hands, and
that he leaped upon Sir Tristram and licked his neck and face, and at that they
were greatly astonished.
Then of a sudden a thought came to dame Bragwaine, and she catched the Lady
Isoult by the arm and she said: "Lady, know you not who yonder madman is?" But
the Lady Belle Isoult said: "Nay, I know not who he is. Who is he, Bragwaine?"
And Bragwaine said: "Certes, that is Sir Tristram, and no one else in all the world."
Therewith, at those words, the scales suddenly fell from Lady Belle Isoult's
eyes and she knew him. Then, for a little space, she stood as though turned into stone; then she
emitted a great loud cry of joy and ran to Sir Tristram where be sat, and flung
herself down upon the ground at the feet of Sir Tristram and embraced him about
the knees. And she cried out in a voice of great passion: "Tristram! Tristram!
Is it thou? They told me thou wert dead, and lo! thou art come to life again!" And
with that she fell to weeping with such
fury of passion that it was as though the soul of her were struggling to escape
from her body.
Then Sir Tristram got to his feet in great haste and agitation and he said:
"Lady! Lady! This must not be--arise, and stay your passion or else it will be
our ruin. For behold, I am alone and unarmed in this castle, and there are
several herein who seek my life. So if it be discovered who I am, both thou and
I are lost."
Then, perceiving how that Belle Isoult was in a way distracted and out of her
mind with joy and grief and love, he turned him unto Bragwaine and said to her:
"Take thy lady hence and by and by I will find means whereby I may come to
speech with her in private. Meanwhile it is death both for her and for me if she
remain here to betray me unto the others of this castle."
So Bragwaine and Sir Tristram lifted up the Lady Belle Isoult, and Bragwaine
led her thence out of that place; for I believe that Belle Isoult knew not
whither she went but walked like one walking half in a swoon.
Now it chanced at that time that Sir Andred was in a balcony overlooking that
pleasance, and, hearing the sound of voices and the sound of a disturbance that
was suppressed, he looked out and beheld all that passed. Then he also wist who
was that madman whom Sir Launcelot had fetched to that place out of the forest,
and that he was Sir Tristram.
Therewith he was filled with a great rage and fury and was likewise
overwhelmed with great fear lest, if Sir Tristram should escape from that castle
with his life, he would reclaim those possessions that he, Sir Andred, had seized upon.
So therewith he withdrew himself from that balcony very softly, into the
apartment behind. And he sat down in that apartment for a little while as though
not knowing rightly what to do. But after a little while he arose and went to
King Mark; and King Mark looked up and beheld him and said, "What news do you
bring, Messire?" Thereunto Sir Andred made reply: "Lord, know you who that
madman is whom Sir Launcelot hath fetched hither?" King Mark said, "Nay, I know
not who he is." But with that he fell to
trembling throughout his entire body, for he began to bethink him who that
madman was. "Lord," said Sir Andred, it is Sir Tristram, and me seems Sir
Launcelot was aware who it was, and that he was plotting treason when he fetched
At that King Mark smote his hands together and he cried in a terrible voice,
"I know it! I know it!" And then he said: "Blind! Blind! How was it that I knew
him not?" Then after a little he fell to laughing and he said to Sir Andred:
"Lo! God hath assuredly delivered that traitor, Sir Tristram, into mine hands so
that I may punish him for his treasons. For, behold! he is here in our midst and
he is altogether unarmed. Go, Messire, with all haste, gather together such
force as may be needful, and seize upon him and bind him so that he may do no
further harm to any man. Then let justice be executed upon him so soon as it is
possible to do so." And Sir Andred said: "Lord, it shall be done according to
your demands and upon the instant."
Therewith Sir Andred went forth from where the King was, and he armed himself
in complete armor, and he gathered together a number of knights and esquires and
he led them to that place where he knew Sir Tristram would be; and there he
found Sir Tristram sitting sunk in thought. And when Sir Tristram beheld those
armed men come in thus upon him, he arose to defend himself. But then Sir Andred
cried out in a loud voice: "Seize him ere he can strike and bind him fast, for
he is unarmed and may do you no harm!"
With that a dozen or more of those who were with Sir Andred flung themselves
upon Sir Tristram, shouting and roaring like wild beasts. And they bore him to the earth by numbers,
and after a while, by dint of great effort, they held him and bound his hands
together by the wrists. Then they lifted up Sir Tristram and stood him upon his
feet, and lo! his bosom heaved with his struggles, and his eyes were all shot
with blood and his lips afroth with the fury of his fighting; and his clothes
were torn in that struggle so that his body was half naked. And they held him
there, a knight in armor with a naked sword standing upon his right hand and
another armed knight with a naked sword standing upon his left hand.
Then Sir Andred came and stood in front of Sir Tristram and taunted him,
saying: "Ha, Tristram, how is it with thee now? "Lo! thou camest like a spy into
this place, and now thou art taken with all thy treason upon thee. So thou shalt
die no knightly death, but, in a little while, thou shalt be hanged like a thief."
Then he came close to Sir Tristram, and he laughed and said: "Tristram where
is now the glory of thy strength that one time overcame all thine enemies? Lo!
thou art helpless to strike a single blow in defence of thine honor." And
therewith Sir Andred lifted his hand and smote Sir Tristram upon the face with
the palm thereof.
At that blow the rage of Sir Tristram so flamed up in him that his eyes
burned as with pure green fire. And in an instant, so quickly that no man wist
what he did, he turned with amazing suddenness upon that knight who stood at his
left hand, and he lifted up both hands that were bound, and he smote that knight
such a blow upon the face that the knight fell down upon the ground and his
sword fell out of his hand. Then Sir Tristram snatched the sword and, turning
with astonishing quickness, he smote the knight upon his right hand such a
buffet that he instantly fell down upon his knees and then rolled over upon the
ground in a swoon. Then Sir Tristram turned upon Sir Andred, and lifting high
the sword with both hands tied, he smote him so terrible a blow that the blade
cut through his epulier and half through his body as far as the paps. At that
great terrible blow the breath fled out of Sir Andred with a deep groan, and he
fell down upon the ground and immediately died.
Now all this had happened so suddenly that they who beheld it were altogether
amazed and stood staring as though bewitched by some spell. But when they beheld
Sir Tristram turn upon them and make at them with that streaming sword lifted on
high, the terror of his fury so seized upon them that they everywhere broke from
before him and fled, yelling, and with the fear of death clutching them in the
vitals. And Sir Tristram chased them out of that place and into the courtyard of
the castle, and some he smote down and others escaped; but all who could do so
scattered away before him like chaff before the wind.
Then, when they were gone, Sir Tristram stood panting and glaring about him
like a lion at bay. Then he set the point of his sword upon the pavement of the
court and the pommel thereof he set against his breast, and he drew the bonds
that held his wrists across the edge of the sword so that they were cut and he was free.
But Sir Tristram wist that in a little the whole castle would be aroused
against him, and that he would certainly be overwhelmed by dint of numbers,
wherefore he looked about him for some place of refuge; and he beheld that the door of the
chapel which opened upon the courtyard stood ajar. So he ran into the chapel and
shut to that door and another door and locked and bolted them both, and set a
heavy bar of wood across both of them so that for a while he was safe.
But yet he was only safe for a little while, for about the time of early
nightfall, which came not long thereafter, a great party of several score of
King Mark's people came against the chapel where he was. And when they found
that the doors were locked and barred, they brought rams for to batter in the
chief door of the chapel.
Then Sir Tristram beheld how parlous was his case, and that he must in a
little while die if he did not immediately do something to save himself. So with
that he ran to a window of the chapel and opened it and looked out thence. And
lo! below him and far beneath was the sea, and the rocks of the shore upon which
the castle was built; and the sea and the rocks lay twelve fathoms beneath him.
But Sir Tristram said, "Better death there than here;" and therewith
finding that the door was now falling
in beneath the rams, he leaped out from the window-ledge, and thence he dived
down into the sea; and no one saw that terrible leap that he made.
So he sank down deep into the sea, but met no rocks, so that he presently
came up again safe and sound. Then, looking about him, he perceived in the
twilight a cave in the rocks, and thither he swam with the intent to find shelter for a little.
Now when they who had come against him had broken into the chapel they all
ran in in one great crowd, for they expected to find Sir Tristram and to do
battle with him. But lo! Sir Tristram was not there, but only the empty walls.
Then at first they were greatly astonished, and knew not what to think. And some
who came cried out: "Is that man then a spirit that he can melt away into thin
air?" But after a little, one of them perceived where the window of the chapel
stood open, and therewith several of them ran thereunto and looked out, and they
wist that Sir Tristram had leaped out thence into the sea.
Then they said to one another: "Either that knight is now dead, or else he
will perish when the tide rises and covers the rocks; so to-night we will do no
more with this business; but to-morrow we will go and find his body where it
lies among the rocks of the shore." So thereupon they shut the window and went
Now Gouvernail was not at that time at Tintagel, nor did he return thereunto
until all this affair was over and done. But when he came there, there were many
voices to tell him what had befallen, and to all of them Gouvernail listened
without saying anything.
But afterward Gouvernail went and sought out a certain knight hight Sir
Santraille de Lushon, who, next to himself, was the most faithful friend to Sir
Tristram at that place. To him Gouvernail said: "Messire, I do not think that
Sir Tristram is dead, for he hath always been a most wonderful swimmer and
diver. But if he be alive, and we do not save him, he will assuredly perish when
the tide comes up and covers over those rocks amongst which he may now be hidden."
So Gouvernail and Sir Santraille went to that chapel unknown to anyone,
and they went to that window whence Sir Tristram had leaped, and they opened
the window, and leaned out and called upon Sir Tristram in low voices: "Sir
Tristram, if thou art alive, arise and answer us, for we are friends!"
Then after a while Sir Tristram recognized Gouvernail's voice and answered
them: "I am alive; but save me, or I perish in a little while." Then Gouvernail
said: "Lord, are you hurt, or are you whole?" Sir Tristram replied, "I am strong
and well in body, but the tide rises fast." Gouvernail said, "Messire, can you
wait a little? Sir Tristram said, "Ay; for a little, but not for too long."
Then Gouvernail and Sir Santraille withdrew from where they were and they
made all haste, and they got together a great number of sheets and napkins, and
tied these together and made a rope, and lowered the rope down to the rocks where
Sir Tristram was. Then Sir Tristram climbed up the rope of linen and so reached
the chapel in safety. And at that time it was nigh to midnight and very dark.
But when Sir Tristram stood with them in the chapel, he gave them hardly any
greeting, but said at once: "Messires, how doth it fare with the Lady Belle
Isoult?" For he thought of her the first of all and above all things else.
To this Sir Santraille made reply: "Sir, the lady hath been shut into a
tower, and the door thereof hath been locked upon her, and she is a close prisoner."
Then Sir Tristram said: "How many knights are there in the place who are my
friends, and who will stand with me to break out hence?" To this Gouvernail
said: "Lord, there are twelve besides ourselves, and that makes fourteen in all
who are with thee in this quarrel unto life or death."
Sir Tristram said: "Provide me presently with arms and armor and bring those
twelve hither armed at all points. But first let them saddle horses for
themselves and for us, and for the Lady Belle Isoult and for her waiting-woman,
Dame Bragwaine. When this is done, we will depart from this place unto some
other place of refuge, and I do not think there will be any in the castle will
dare stop or stay us after we are armed."
So it was done as Sir Tristram commanded, and when all those were gathered
together, and their horses ready, Sir Tristram and several of the knights of his party
went openly to that tower where the Lady Belle Isoult was prisoner. And they
burst open the doors and went in with torches, and found Belle Isoult and her
attendant in the upper part of the castle.
But when Belle Isoult beheld the face of Sir Tristram, she said: Is it thou,
my love; and art thou still alive, and art thou come to me? Sir Tristram said:
"Yea, I am still alive nor will I die, God willing, until I have first brought
thee out of this wicked castle and into some place of safety. And never again
will I entrust thee unto King Mark's hands; for I have great fear that if he
have thee in his hands he will work vengeance upon thee so as to strike at my
heart through thee. So, dear love, I come to take thee away from this place; and
never again right or wrong, shalt thou be without the shelter of my arm."
Then the Lady Belle Isoult smiled very wonderfully upon Sir Tristram so that
her face appeared to shine with a great illumination of love. And she said:
"Tristram, I will go with thee whithersoever thou wilt. Yea, I would go with
thee even to the grave, for I believe that I should be happy even there, so that
thou wert lying beside me."
Then Sir Tristram groaned in spirit and he said: "Isoult, what have I done,
that I should always bring unhappiness upon thee?" But the Lady Belle Isoult
spake very steadily, saying: "Never unhappiness, Tristram, but always happiness;
for I have thy love for aye, and thou hast mine in the same measure, and in that
is happiness, even in tears and sorrow, and never unhappiness."
With that Sir Tristram kissed Belle Isoult upon the forehead, and then he
lifted her up and carried her in his arms down the stairs of the tower and sat
her upon her horse. And Bragwaine followed after, and Gouvernail lifted her up
upon her horse.
Now all they of that castle were amazed beyond measure to find all
those knights armed and prepared
for battle so suddenly in their midst. And most of all were they filled with
terror to find Sir Tristram at the head of these knights. Wherefore when Sir
Tristram made demand that they should open the portcullis of the castle and let
fall the drawbridge, the porters thereof dared not refuse him, but did as he said.
So Sir Tristram and his knights rode forth with the Lady Belle Isoult and
Bragwaine and no one stayed them. And they rode into the forest, betaking their
way toward a certain castle of Sir Tristram's, which they reached in the clear
dawning of the daytime.
And so Sir Tristram brought the Lady Belle Isoult away from Tintagel and into