Howard Pyle's King
Arthur and his Knights
Chapter Second. How Merlin Journeyed With Vivien Unto the Valley of Joyousness and How
He Builded for Her a Castle at That Place. Also, How He Taught Her the Wisdom of Magic and
of How She Compassed His Downfall Thereby.
So, Merlin and Vivien and those who were with them travelled for three days to the
eastward, until, toward the end of the third day, they reached the confines of a very dark
and dismal forest. And there they beheld before them trees so thickly interwoven together
that the eyes could not see anything at all of the sky because of the thickness of the
foliage. And they beheld the branches and the roots of the trees that they appeared like
serpents all twisted together. Wherefore Vivien said, "Sir, this is a very dismal
woodland." "Yea," said Merlin, "so it appeareth to be. Ne'theless
there lieth within this forest that place which is called by some the Valley of
Joyousness, and by others the Valley of Delight, because of the great beauty of that
place. And there are several pathways extending through this forest by the means of which
that valley may be reached by a man, whether a-horse or afoot."
And after a while they found it was as Merlin said, for they came by and by upon one of
those pathways and entered it and penetrated into the forest. And, lo! within that doleful
woodland it was so dark that it appeared as though night-time had fallen, although it was
bright daylight beyond the borders thereof, wherefore many of that party were very much
afraid. But Merlin ever gave them good cheer and so they went forward upon their way. So,
by and by, they came out at last from that place and into the open again, whereat they
were greatly rejoiced and took much comfort.
Now, by this time, the evening had come, very peaceful and tranquil, and they beheld
beneath them a valley spread out in that light and it was wonderfully beautiful. And in
the centre of the valley was a small lake so smooth and clear, like to crystal, that it
appeared like an oval shield of pure silver laid down upon the ground. And all about the
margin of the lake were level meadows covered over with an incredible multitude of flowers
of divers colors and kinds, very beautiful to behold.
When Vivien saw this place she cried unto Merlin, "Master, this is, indeed, a very
joyous valley, for I do not believe that the blessed meadows of Paradise are more
beautiful than this." And Merlin said, "Very well; let us go down into it."
So they went down and, as they descended, the night fell apace and the round moon arose
into the sky and it was hard to tell whether that valley was the more beautiful in the
daytime or whether it was the more beautiful when the moon shone down upon it in that
So they all came at last unto the borders of the lake and they perceived that there was
neither house nor castle at that place.
Now upon this the followers of Merlin murmured amongst themselves, saying, "This
enchanter hath brought us hitherward, but how will he now provide for us that we may find
a resting-place that may shelter us from the inclement changes of the weather. For the
beauty of this spot cannot alone shelter us from rain and storm." And Merlin
overheard their murmurings and he said, "Peace ! take ye no trouble upon that matter,
for I will very soon provide ye a good resting-place." Then he said to them,
"Stand ye a little distance aside till I show ye what I shall do." So they
withdrew a little, as he commanded them, and he and Vivien remained where they were. And
Vivien said, "Master, what wilt thou do?" And Merlin said, "Wait a little
and thou shalt see."
Therewith he began a certain very powerful conjuration so that the earth began for to
tremble and to shake and an appearance as of a great red dust arose into the air. And in
this dust there began to appear sundry shapes and forms, and these shapes and forms arose
very high into the air and by and by those who gazed thereon perceived that there was a
great structure apparent in the midst of the cloud of red dust.
Then, after a while, all became quiet and the dust slowly disappeared from the air,
and, behold! there was the appearance of a marvellous castle such as no one there had ever
beheld before, even in a dream. For the walls thereof were of ultramarine and vermilion
and they were embellished and adorned with figures of gold, wherefore that castle showed
in the moonlight like as it were a pure vision of great glory.
Now Vivien beheld all that Merlin had accomplished and she went unto him and kneeled
down upon the ground before him and took his hand and set it to her lips. And while she
kneeled thus, she said, "Master, this is assuredly the most wonderful thing in the
world. Wilt thou then teach me such magic that I may be able to build a castle like this
castle out of the elements?" And Merlin said, "Yea; all this will I teach thee
and more besides; for I will teach thee not only how thou mayst create such a structure as
this out of invisible things, but will also teach thee how thou mayst, with a single touch
of thy wand, dissipate that castle instantly into the air; even as a child, with a stroke
of a straw, may dissipate a beautiful shining bubble, which, upon an instant is, and upon
another instant is not. And I will teach thee more than that, for I will teach thee how to
change and transform a thing into the semblance of a different thing; and I will teach
thee spells and charms such as thou didst never hear tell of before."
Then Vivien cried out, "Master, thou art the most wonderful man in all of the
world!" And Merlin looked upon Vivien and her face was very beautiful in the
moonlight and he loved her a very great deal. Wherefore he smiled upon her and said,
"Vivien, dost thou still hate me?" Andshe said, "Nay, master."
But she spake not the truth, for in her heart she was evil and the heart of Merlin was
good, and that which is evil will always hate that which is good. Wherefore, though Vivien
lusted for the knowledge of necromancy, and though she spake so lovingly with her lips,
yet in her spirit she both feared and hated Merlin because of his wisdom. For she wist
right well that, except for the enchantment of that ring which he wore, Merlin would not
love her any longer in that wise. Wherefore she said in her heart, "If Merlin teaches
me all of his wisdom, then the world cannot contain both him and me."
Now Merlin abided with Vivien in that place for a year and a little more, and in that
time he taught her all of magic that he was able to impart. So at the end of that time he
said unto her, "Vivien, I have now taught thee so much that I believe there is no one
in all of the world who knoweth more than thou dost of these things of magic which thou
hast studied in this time. For not only hast thou such power of sorcery that thou canst
make the invisible elements take form at thy will, and not only canst thou transform at
thy will one thing into the appearance of an altogether different thing, but thou hast
such potent magic in thy possession that thou mayst entangle any living soul into the
meshes thereof, unless that one hath some very good talisman to defend himself from thy
wiles. Nor have I myself very much more power than this that I have given to thee."
So said Merlin, and Vivien was filled with great joy. And she said in her heart,
"Now, Merlin, if I have the good fortune to entangle thee in my spells, then shalt
thou never behold the world again."
Now, when the next day had come, Vivien caused a very noble feast to be prepared for
herself and Merlin. And by means of the knowledge which Merlin had imparted to her she
produced a certain very potent sleeping-potion which was altogether without taste. This
potion she herself infused into a certain noble wine, and the wine she poured into a
golden chalice of extraordinary beauty.
So when that feast was ended, and whiles she and Merlin sat together, Vivien said,
"Master, I have a mind to do thee a great honor." And Merlin said, "What is
it?" "Thou shalt see," said Vivien. Therewith she smote her hands together
and there immediately came a young page unto where they were, and he bare that chalice of
wine in his hand and gave it unto Vivien. Then Vivien took the chalice and she went to
where Merlin sat and kneeled down before him and said, "Sir, I beseech thee to take
this chalice and to drink the wine that is within it. For as that wine is both very noble
and very precious, so is thy wisdom both very noble and very precious; and as the wine is
contained within a chalice of priceless cost, so is thy wisdom contained within a life
that hath been beyond all value to the world." Therewith she set her lips to the
chalice and kissed the wine that was in it.
Then Merlin suspected no evil, but he took the chalice and quaffed of the wine with
After that, in a little, the fumes of that potent draught began to arise into the
brains of Merlin and it was as though a cloud descended upon his sight, and when this came
upon him he was presently aware that he was betrayed, wherefore he cried out thrice in a
voice, very bitter and full of agony, "Woe! Woe! Woe!" And then he cried out,
"I am betrayed!" And therewith he strove to arise from where he sat but he could
That while Vivien sat with her chin upon her hands and regarded him very steadily,
smiling strangely upon him. So presently Merlin ceased his struggles and sank into a sleep
so deep that it was almost as though he had gone dead. And when that had happened Vivien
arose and leaned over him and set a very powerful spell upon him. And she stretched out
her forefinger and wove an enchantment all about him so that it was as though he was
entirely encompassed with a silver web of enchantment. And when she had ended, Merlin
could move neither hand nor foot nor even so much as a finger-tip, but was altogether like
some great insect that a cunning and beautiful spider had enmeshed in a network of fine,
Now, when the next morning had come, Merlin awoke from his sleep and he beheld that
Vivien sat over against him regarding him very narrowly. And they were in the same room in
which he had fallen asleep. And when Vivien perceived that Merlin was awake, she laughed
and said, "Merlin, how is it with thee?" And Merlin groaned with great passion,
saying, "Vivien, thou hast betrayed me."
At this Vivien laughed again very shrilly and piercingly, and she said, "Behold!
Merlin, thou art altogether in my power; for thou art utterly inwoven in those
enchantments which thou, thyself, hast taught me. For lo! thou canst not move a single
hair without my will. And when I leave thee, the world shall see thee no more and all thy
wisdom shall be my wisdom and all thy power shall be my power, and there shall be no other
in the whole world who shall possess the wisdom which I possess."
Then Merlin groaned with such fervor that it was as though his heart would burst
asunder. And he said, "Vivien, thou hast brought me to such shame that even were I
released from this spell I could not endure that any man should ever see my face again.
For I grieve not for my undoings so much as I grieve at the folly that hath turned mine
own wisdom against me to my destruction. So I forgive thee all things that thou hast done
to me to betray me; yet there is one thing alone which I crave of thee."
And Vivien said, "Does it concern thee?" And Merlin said, "No, it
concerns another." Thereupon Vivien said, "What is it?"
Then Merlin said, "It is this: Now I have received my gift of foresight again, and
I perceive that King Arthur is presently in great peril of his life. So I beseech thee
Vivien that thou wilt straightway go to where he is in danger, and that thou wilt use thy
powers of sorcery for to save him. Thus, by fulfilling this one good deed, thou shalt
haply lessen the sin of this that thou hast done to betray me." Now at that time
Vivien was not altogether bad as she afterward became, for she still felt some small pity
for Merlin and some small reverence for King Arthur. Wherefore now she laughed and said,
"Very well, I will do thy desire in this matter. Whither shall I go to save that
Then Merlin replied, "Go into the West country and unto the castle of a certain
knight hight Sir Domas de Noir, and when thou comest there then thou shalt immediately see
how thou mayst be of aid to the good King." Upon this Vivien said, "I will do
this thing for thee, for it is the last favor that anyone may ever render unto thee in
Therewith Vivien smote her hands together and summoned many of her attendants. And when
these had come in she presented Merlin before them, and she said, "Behold how I have
bewitched him. Go! See for yourselves! Feel of his hands and his face and see if there be
any life in him." And they went to Merlin and felt of him; his hands and arms and his
face, and even they plucked at his beard, and Merlin could not move in any wise but only
groan with great dolor. So they all laughed and made them merry at his woful state.
Then Vivien caused it by means of her magic that there should be in that place a great
coffer of stone. And she commanded those who were there that they should lift Merlin up
and lay him therein and they did as she commanded. Then she caused it that, by means of
her magic, there should be placed a huge slab of stone upon that coffer such as ten men
could hardly lift, and Merlin lay beneath that stone like one who was dead.
Then Vivien caused it to be that the magic castle should instantly disappear and so it
befell as she willed. Then she caused it that a mist should arise at that place, and the
mist was of such a sort that no one could penetrate into it, or sever it asunder, nor
could any human eye see what was within. Then, when she had done all this, she went her
way with all of her Court from that valley, making great joy in that she had triumphed
Nevertheless she did not forget her promise, but went to the castle of Sir Domas de
Noir, and after a while it shall all be told how it befell at that place.
Such was the passing of Merlin, and God grant it that you may not so misuse the wisdom
He giveth you to have, that it may be turned against you to your undoing. For there can be
no greater bitterness in the world than this: That a man shall be betrayed by one to whom
he himself hath given the power of betraying him.
And now turn we unto King Arthur to learn how it fell with him after Merlin had thus
been betrayed to his undoing.