- THE HIGH HISTORY OF THE
Here beginneth again another branch of the Graal in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Messire Gawain goeth his way and evening draweth on; and on his right hand was there a narrow pathway that seemed him to be haunted of folk. Thitherward goeth he, for that he seeth the sun waxeth low, and findeth in the thick of the forest a great chapel, and without was a right fair manor. Before the chapel was an orchard enclosed of a wooden fence that was scarce so high as a tall man. A hermit that seemed him a right worshipful man was leaning against the fence, and looked into the orchard and made great cheer from time to time. He seeth Messire Gawain, and cometh to meet him, and Messire Gawain alighteth. `Sir,' saith the hermit, `Welcome may you be.' `God grant you the joy of Paradise,' saith Messire Gawain. The hermit maketh his horse be stabled of a squire, and then taketh him by the hand and maketh him sit beside him to look on the orchard. `Sir,' saith the hermit, `Now may you see that whereof I was making cheer.' Messire Gawain looketh therewithin and seeth two damsels and a squire and a child that were guarding a lion. `Sir,' saith the hermit, `Here see you my joy, which is this child. Saw you ever so fair a child of his age?' `Never,' saith Messire Gawain. They go into the orchard to sit, for the evening was fair and calm. He maketh disarm him, and thereupon the damsel bringeth him a surcoat of right rich silk furred of ermine. And Messire Gawain looketh at the child that rode upon the lion right fainly. `Sir,' saith the hermit, `None durst guard him or be master over him save this child only, and yet the lad is not more than six years of age. Sir, he is of right noble lineage, albeit he is the son of the most cruel man and most felon that is. Marin the Jealous is his father, that slew his wife on account of Messire Gawain. Never sithence that his mother was dead would not the lad be with his father, for well knoweth he that he slew her of wrong. And I am his uncle, so I make him be tended here of these damsels and these two squires, but no one thing is there that he so much desireth to see as Messire Gawain. For after his father's death ought he of right to be Messire Gawain's man. Sir, if any tidings you know of him, tell us them.' `By my faith, Sir,' saith he, `Tidings true can I give you. Lo, there is his shield and his spear, and himself shall you have this night for guest.' `Fair sir, are you he?' saith the hermit. `So men call me,' saith Messire Gawain, `And the lady saw I slain in the forest, whereof was I sore an-angered.'
`Fair nephew,' saith the hermit, `See here your desire. Come to him and make him cheer.' The lad alighteth of the lion and smiteth him with a whip and leadeth him to the den and maketh the door so that he may not issue forth, and cometh to Messire Gawain, and Messire Gawain receiveth him between his arms. `Sir,' saith the child, `Welcome may you be!' `God give you growth of honour!' saith Messire Gawain. He kisseth him and maketh cheer with him right sweetly. `Sir,' saith the hermit, `He will be of right your man, wherefore ought you to counsel him and help him, for through you came his mother by her death, and right sore need will he have of your succour.' The child kneeleth before him and holdeth up his joined hands. `Look, Sir,' saith the hermit, `Is he not right pitiful? He offereth you his homage.' And Messire Gawain setteth his hands within his own: `Certes,' saith Messire Gawain, `Both your honour and your homage receive I gladly, and my succour and my counsel shall you have so often as you shall have need thereof. But fain would I know your name?' `Sir, I am called Meliot of Logres.' `Sir,' saith the hermit, `He saith true, for his mother was daughter of a rich earl of the kingdom of Logres.'
Messire Gawain was well harboured the night and lay in a right fair house and right rich. In the morning, when Messire Gawain had heard mass, the hermit asked him, `Whither ward go you?' and he said, `Toward the land of King Fisherman, and God allow me.' `Messire Gawain,' saith the hermit, `Now God grant you speed your business better than did the other knight that was there before you, through whom are all the lands fallen into sorrow, and the good King Fisherman languisheth thereof.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `God grant me herein to do His pleasure.' Thereupon he taketh his leave and goeth his way, and the hermit commendeth him to God. And Messire Gawain rideth on his journeys until he hath left far behind the forest of the hermitage, and findeth the fairest land in the world and the fairest meadowlands that ever had he seen, and it lasted a good couple of great leagues Welsh. And he seeth a high forest before him, and meeteth a squire that came from that quarter, and seeth that he is sore downcast and right simple. `Fair friend,' saith Messire Gawain, `Whence come you?' `Sir,' saith he, `I come from yonder forest down below.' `Whose man are you?' saith Messire Gawain. `I belong to the worshipful man that owneth the forest.' `You seem not over joyful,' saith Messire Gawain. `Sir, I have right to be otherwise,' saith the squire, `For he that loseth his good lord ought not to be joyful.' `And who is your lord?' `The best in the world.' `Is he dead?' saith Messire Gawain. `Nay, of a truth, for that would be right sore grief to the world, but in joy hath he not been this long time past.' `And what name hath he?' `They call him Parlui there where he is.' `And where then, is he, may I know?' `In no wise, Sir, of me; but so much may I well tell you that he is in this forest, but I ought not to learn you of the place more at large, nor ought I to do any one thing that may be against my master's will.' Messire Gawain seeth that the squire is of passing comeliness and seeth him forthwith bow his head toward the ground and the tears fall from his eyes. Thereupon he asketh what aileth him. `Sir,' saith he, `Never may I have joy until such time as I be entered into a hermitage to save my soul. For the greatest sin that any man may do have I wrought; for I have slain my mother that was a Queen, for this only that she told me I should not be King after my father's death, for that she would make me monk or clerk, and that my other brother, who is younger-born than I, should have the kingdom. When my father knew that I had slain my mother, he withdrew himself into this forest, and made a hermitage and renounced his kingdom. I have no will to hold the land for the great disloyalty that I have wrought, and therefore am I resolved that it is meeter I should set my body in banishment than my father.' `And what is your name?' saith Messire Gawain. `Sir, my name is Joseus, and I am of the lineage of Joseph of Abarimacie. King Pelles is my father, that is in this forest, and King Fisherman mine uncle, and the King of Castle Mortal, and the Widow Lady of Camelot my aunt, and the Good Knight Par-lui-fet is of this lineage as near akin as I.'
With that, the squire departeth and taketh leave of Messire Gawain, and he commendeth him to God and hath great pity of him, and entereth into the forest and goeth great pace, and findeth the stream of a spring that ran with a great rushing, and nigh thereunto was a way that was much haunted. He abandoneth his high-way, and goeth all along the stream from the spring that lasteth a long league plenary, until that he espieth a right fair house and right fair chapel well enclosed within a hedge of wood. He looketh from without the entrance under a little tree and seeth there sitting one of the seemliest men that he had ever seen of his age. And he was clad as a hermit, his head white and no hair on his face, and he held his hand to his chin, and made a squire hold a destrier right fair and strong and tall, and a shield with a sun thereon; and he was looking at a habergeon and chausses of iron that he had made bring before him. And when he seeth Messire Gawain he dresseth him over against him and saith: `Fair sir,' saith he, `Ride gently and make no noise, for no need have we of worse than that we have.' And Messire Gawain draweth rein, and the worshipful man saith to him: `Sir, for God's sake take it not of discourtesy; for right fainly would I have besought you to harbour had I not good cause to excuse me, but a knight lieth within yonder sick, that is held for the best knight in the world. Wherefore fain would I he should have no knight come within this close, for and if he should rise, as sick as he is, none might prevent him nor hold him back, but presently he should arm him and mount on his horse and joust at you or any other; and so he were here, well might we be the worse thereof. And therefore do I keep him so close and quiet within yonder, for that I would not have him see you nor none other, for and he were so soon to die, sore loss would it be to the world.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, What name hath he?' `Sir,' saith he, `He hath made him of himself, and therefore do I call him Par-lui-fet, of dearness and love.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `May it not be in any wise that I may see him?' `Sir,' saith the hermit, `I have told you plainly that nowise may it not be. No strange man shall not see him within yonder until such time as he be whole and of good cheer.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `Will you in nowise do nought for me whatsoever I may say? ` `Certes, sir, no one thing is there in the world that I would tell him, save he spake first to me.' Hereof is Messire Gawain right sorrowful that he may not speak to the knight. `Sir,' saith he to the hermit, `Of what age is the knight, and of what lineage?' `Of the lineage of Joseph of Abarimacie the Good Soldier.'
Thereupon behold you a damsel that cometh to the door of the chapel and calleth very low to the hermit, and the hermit riseth up and taketh leave of Messire Gawain, and shutteth the door of the chapel; and the squire leadeth away the destrier and beareth the arms within door and shutteth the postern door of the house. And Messire abideth without and knoweth not of a truth whether it be the son of the Widow Lady, for many good men there be of one lineage. He departeth all abashed and entereth again into the forest. The history telleth not all the journeys that he made. Rather, I tell you in brief words that he wandered so far by lands and kingdoms that he found a right fair land and a rich, and a castle seated in the midst thereof. Thitherward goeth he and draweth nigh the castle and seeth it compassed about of high walls, and he seeth the entrance of the castle far without. He looketh and seeth a lion chained that lay in the midst of the entrance to the gate, and the chain was fixed in the wall. And on either side of the gate he seeth two serjeants of beaten copper that were fixed to the wall, and by engine shot forth quarrels from their cross-bows with great force and great wrath. Messire Gawain durst not come anigh the gate for that he seeth the lion and these folk. He looketh above on the top of the wall and seeth a sort of folk that seemed him to be of holy life, and saw there priests clad in albs and knights bald and ancient that were clad in ancient seeming garments. And in each crenel of the wall was a cross and a chapel. Above the wall, hard by an issue from a great hall that was in the castle, was another chapel, and above the chapel was a tall cross, and on either side of this cross another that was somewhat lower, and on the top of each cross was a golden eagle. The priests and the knights were upon the walls and knelt toward this chapel, and looked up to heaven and made great joy, and well it seemed him that they beheld God in Heaven with His Mother. Messire Gawain looketh at them from afar, for he durst not come anigh the castle for these that shoot their arrows so strongly that none armour might defend him. Way seeth he none to right nor left save he go back again. He knoweth not what to do. He looketh before him and seeth a priest issue forth of the gateway. `Fair sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `Welcome may you be! ` `Good adventure to you also,' saith the good man, `What is your pleasure?' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `So please you, I would fain ask you to tell me what castle is this?' `It is,' saith he, `the entrance to the land of the rich King Fisherman, and within yonder are they beginning the service of the Most Holy Graal.' `Allow me then,' saith Messire Gawain, `that I may pass on further, for toward the land of King Fisherman have I emprised my way.' `Sir,' saith the priest, `I tell you of a truth that you may not enter the castle nor come nigher unto the Holy Graal, save you bring the sword wherewith S. John was beheaded.' `What?' saith Messire Gawain, `Shall I be evilly entreated and I bring it not?' `So much may you well believe me herein,' saith the priest, `And I tell you moreover that he who hath it is the fellest misbelieving King that lives. But so you bring the sword, this entrance will be free to you, and great joy will be made of you in all places wherein King Fisherman hath power.' `Then must I needs go back again,' saith Messire Gawain, `Whereof I have right to be sore sorrowful.' `So ought you not to be,' saith the priest, `For, so you bring the sword and conquer it for us, then will it be well known that you are worthy to behold the Holy Graal. But take heed you remember him who would not ask whereof it served.' Thereupon Messire Gawain departeth so sorrowful and full of thought that he remembereth not to ask in what land he may find the sword nor the name of the King that hath it. But he will know tidings thereof when God pleaseth.
The history telleth us and witnesseth that he rode so far that he came to the side of a little hill, and the day was right fair and clear. He looketh in front of him before a chapel and seeth a tall burgess sitting on a great destrier that was right rich and fair. The burgess espieth Messire Gawain and cometh over against him, and saluteth him right courteously and Messire Gawain him. `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `God give you joy.' `Sir,' saith the goodman, `Right sorrowful am I of this that you have a horse so lean and spare of flesh. Better would it become so worshipful man as you seem to be that he were better horsed.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `I may not now amend it, whereof am I sorry; another shall I have when it shall please God.' `Fair sir,' saith the burgess, `Whither are you bound to go?' `I go seek the sword wherewith the head of S. John Baptist was cut off.' `Ha, sir,' saith the burgess, `You are running too sore a peril. A King hath it that believeth not in God, and is sore fell and cruel. He is named Gurgalain, and many knights have passed hereby that went thither for the sword, but never thence have they returned. But, and you are willing to pledge me your word that so God grant you to conquer the sword, you will return hither and show it me on your return, I will give you this destrier, which is right rich, for your own.' `Will you?' saith Messire Gawain, `Then are you right courteous, for you know me not.' `Certes, sir,' saith he, `So worshipful man seem you to be, that you will hold well to this that you have covenanted with me.' `And to this do I pledge you my word,' saith Messire Gawain, `that, so God allow me to conquer it, I will show it to you on my return.'
Thereupon the burgess alighteth and mounteth upon Messire Gawain's horse, and Messire Gawain upon his, and taketh leave of the burgess and goeth his way and entereth into a right great forest beyond the city, and rideth until sundown and findeth neither castle nor city. And he findeth a meadow in the midst of the forest, right broad, and it ran on beyond, like as there were the stream of a spring in the midst. He looketh toward the foot of the meadow close by the forest, and seeth a right large tent, whereof the cords were of silk and the pegs of ivory fixed in the ground, and the tops of the poles of gold and upon each was a golden eagle. The tent was white round about, and the hanging above was of the richest silk, the same as red samite. Thitherward goeth Messire Gawain and alighteth before the door of the tent, and smiteth off the bridle of his horse, and letteth him feed on the grass, and leaneth his spear and his shield without the tent, and looketh narrowly within and seeth a right rich couch of silk and gold, and below was a cloth unfolded as it were a feather-bed, and above a coverlid of ermine and vair without any gold, and at the head of the couch two pillows so rich that fairer none ever saw, and such sweet smell gave they forth that it seemed the tent was sprinkled of balm. And round about the couch were rich silken cloths spread on the ground. And at the head of the couch on the one side and the other were two seats of ivory, and upon them were two cushions stuffed with straw, right rich, and at the foot of the couch, above the bed, two candlesticks of gold wherein were two tall waxen tapers. A table was set in the midst of the tent, that was all of ivory banded of gold, with rich precious stones, and upon the table was the napkin spread and the basin of silver and the knife with an ivory handle and the rich set of golden vessels. Messire Gawain seeth the rich couch and setteth him down thereon all armed in the midst, and marvelleth him wherefore the tent is so richly apparelled and yet more that therein he seeth not a soul. Howbeit, he was minded to disarm him.
Thereupon, behold you, a dwarf that entereth the tent and saluteth Messire Gawain. Then he kneeleth before him and would fain disarm him. Then Messire Gawain remembereth him of the dwarf through whom the lady was slain. `Fair sweet friend, withdraw yourself further from me, for as at this time I have no mind to disarm.' `Sir,' saith the dwarf, `Without misgiving may you do so, for until to-morrow have you no occasion to be on your guard, and never were you more richly lodged than to-night you shall be, nor more honourably.' With that Messire Gawain began to disarm him, and the dwarf helpeth him. And when he was disarmed, he setteth his arms nigh the couch and his spear and sword and shield lying within the tent, and the dwarf taketh a basin of silver and a white napkin, and maketh Messire Gawain wash his hands and his face. Afterward, he unfasteneth a right fair coffer, and draweth forth a robe of cloth of gold furred of ermine and maketh Messire Gawain be clad therewithal. `Sir,' saith the dwarf, `Be not troubled as touching your destrier, for you will have him again when you rise in the morning. I will lead him close hereby to be better at ease, and then will I return to you.' And Messire Gawain giveth him leave. Thereupon, behold you, two squires that bear in the wine and set the meats upon the table and make Messire Gawain sit to eat, and they have great torches lighted on a tall cresset of gold and depart swiftly. Whilst Messire Gawain was eating, behold you, thereupon, two damsels that come into the tent and salute him right courteously. And he maketh answer, the fairest he may. `Sir,' say the damsels, `God grant you force and power to-morrow to destroy the evil custom of this tent.' `Is there then any evil custom herein, damsel?' saith he. `Yea, sir, a right foul custom, whereof much it grieveth me, but well meseemeth that you are the knight to amend it by the help of God.'
Therewith he riseth from the table, and one of the squires was apparelled to take away the cloths. And the two damsels take him by the hand and lead him without the tent, and they set them down in the midst of the meadow. `Sir,' saith the elder damsel, `What is your name?' `Damsel,' saith he, `Gawain is my name.' `Thereof do we love you the better, for well we know that the evil custom of the tent shall be done away on condition that you choose to-night the one of us two that most shall please you.' `Damsel, gramercy,' saith he. Thereupon he riseth up, for he was weary, and draweth him toward the couch, and the damsels help him and wait upon his going to bed. And when he was lien down, they seated themselves before him and lighted the taper and leant over the couch and proffered him much service. Messire Gawain answered them naught save `Gramercy,' for he was minded to sleep and take his rest. `By God,' saith the one to the other, `And this were Messire Gawain, King Arthur's nephew, he would speak to us after another sort, and more of disport should we find in him than in this one. But this is a counterfeit Gawain, and the honour we have done him hath been ill bestowed. Who careth? To-morrow shall he pay his reckoning.'
Thereupon, lo you, the dwarf where he cometh. `Fair friend,' say they, `Keep good watch over this knight that he flee not away, for he goeth a-cadging from hostel to hostel and maketh him be called Messire Gawain, but Messire Gawain meseemeth is he not. For, and it were he, and we had been minded to watch with him two nights, he would have wished it to be three or four.' `Damsel,' saith the dwarf, `He may not flee away save he go afoot, for his horse is in my keeping.' And Messire Gawain heareth well enough that which the damsels say, but he answereth them never a word. Thereupon they depart, and say: `God give him an ill night, for an evil knight and a vanquished and recreant, and command the dwarf that he move not on any occasion. Messire Gawain slept right little the night, and so soon as he saw the day, arose and found his arms ready and his horse that had been led all ready saddled before the tent. He armed himself as swiftly as he might, and the dwarf helpeth him and saith to him: `Sir, you have not done service to our damsels as they would fain you should, wherefore they make sore complaint of you.' `That grieveth me,' saith Messire Gawain, `if that I have deserved it.' `It is great pity,' saith the dwarf, `when knight so comely as be you is so churlish as they say.' `They may say their pleasure,' saith he, `for it is their right. I know not to whom to render thanks for the good lodging that I have had save to God, and if I shall see the lord of the tent or the lady I shall con them much thanks thereof.'
Thereupon, lo you, where two knights come in front of the tent on their horses, all armed, and see Messire Gawain that was mounted and had his shield on his neck and his spear in his fist, as he that thinketh to go without doing aught further. And the knights come before him: `Sir,' say they, `Pay for your lodging! Last night did we put ourselves to misease on your account and left you the tent and all that is therein at your pleasure, and now you are fain to go in this fashion.' `What pleaseth it you that I should do?' saith Messire Gawain. `It is meet I should requite you of my victual and the honour of the tent.' Thereupon, lo you, where the two damsels come that were of right great beauty. `Sir Knight,' say they, `Now shall we see whether you be King Arthur's nephew!' `By my faith,' saith the dwarf, `Methinketh this is not he that shall do away the evil custom whereby we lose the coming hither of knights! Albeit if he may do it, I will forego mine ill will toward him.' Messire Gawain thus heard himself mocked by day as well as by night and had great shame thereof. He seeth that he may not depart without a fight. One of the knights drew to backward and was alighted; the other was upon his horse all armed, his shield on his neck and grasping his spear in his fist. And he cometh toward Messire Gawain full career and Messire Gawain toward him, and smiteth him so wrathfully that he pierceth his shield and pinneth his shield to his arm and his arm to his rib and thrusteth his spear into his body, and hurtleth against him so sore that he beareth him to the ground, him and his horse together at the first blow. `By my head! Look at Messire Gawain the counterfeit! Better doth he to-day than he did last night!' He draweth back his spear, and pulleth forth his sword and runneth upon him, when the knight crieth him mercy and saith that he holdeth himself vanquished. Messire Gawain bethinketh him what he shall do and whether the damsels are looking at him. `Sir knight,' saith the elder, `Need you not fear the other knight until such time as this one be slain, nor will the evil custom be done away so long as this one is on live. For he is the lord of the other and because of the shameful custom hath no knight come hither this right long space.' `Hearken now,' saith the knight, `the great disloyalty of her! Nought in the world is there she loved so well in seeming as did she me, and now hath she adjudged me my death!' `Again I tell you plainly,' saith she, `that never will it be done away unless he slay you.' Thereupon Messire Gawain lifteth the skirt of his habergeon and thrusteth his sword into his body. Thereupon, lo you, the other knight, right angry and sorrowful and full of wrath for his fellow that he seeth dead, and cometh in great rage to Messire Gawain and Messire Gawain to him, and so stoutly they mell together that they pierce the shields and pierce the habergeons and break the flesh of the ribs with the points of their spears, and the bodies of the knights and their horses hurtle together so stiffly that saddle-bows are to-frushed and stirrups loosened and girths to-brast and fewtres splintered and spears snapped short, and the knights drop to the ground with such a shock that the blood rayeth forth at mouth and nose. In the fall that the knight made, Messire Gawain brake his collar-bone in the hurtle. Thereupon the dwarf crieth out: `Damsel, your counterfeit Gawain doth it well!' `Our Gawain shall he be,' say they, `so none take him from us!' Messire Gawain draweth from over the knight and cometh toward his horse, and right fain would he have let the knight live had it not been for the damsels. For the knight crieth him mercy and Messire Gawain had right great pity of him. Howbeit the damsels cry to him; `And you slay him not, the evil custom will not be overthrown.' `Sir,' saith the younger damsel, `And you would slay him, smite him in the sole of his foot with your sword, otherwise will he not die yet.' `Damsel,' saith the knight, `Your love of me is turned to shame! Never more ought knight to set affiance nor love on damsel. But God keep the other that they be not such as you!' Messire Gawain marvelleth at this that the damsel saith to him, and draweth him back, and hath great pity of the knight, and cometh to the other side whither the horses were gone, and taketh the saddle of the knight that was dead and setteth it on his own horse and draweth him away. And the wounded knight was remounted, for the dwarf had helped him, and fleeth toward the forest a great gallop. And the damsels cry out, `Messire Gawain, your pity will be our death this day! For the Knight without Pity is gone for succour, and if he escape, we shall be dead and you also!'
Thereupon Messire Gawain leapeth on his horse and taketh a spear that was leaning against the tent and followeth the knight in such sort that he smiteth him to the ground. Afterward he saith to him: `No further may you go!' `That grieveth me,' saith the knight, `For before night should I have been avenged of you and of the damsels.' And Messire Gawain draweth his sword and thrusteth it into the sole of his foot a full palm's breadth, and the knight stretcheth himself forth and dieth. And Messire Gawain returneth back, and the damsels make great joy of him and tell him that never otherwise could the evil custom have been done away. For, and he had gone his way, all would have been to begin over again, for he is of such kind seeing that he was of the kindred of Achilles, and that all his ancestors might never otherwise die. And Messire Gawain alighteth, and the damsels would have searched the wound in his side, and he telleth them that he taketh no heed thereof. `Sir,' say they, `Again do we proffer you our service, for well we know that you are a good knight. Take for your lady-love which of us you will.' `Gramercy, damsel,' saith Messire Gawain, `Your love do I refuse not and to God do I commend you.' `How?' say the damsels, `Will you go your way thus? Certes, meeter were it to-day for you to sojourn in this tent and be at ease.' `It may not be,' saith he, `for leisure have I none to abide here.' `Let him go!' saith the younger, `for the falsest knight is he of the world.' `By my head,' saith the elder, `it grieveth me that he goeth, for his stay would have pleased me well.' Therewithal Messire Gawain departeth and is remounted on his horse. Then he entereth into the forest.
- THE HIGH HISTORY OF THE
Another branch that Josephus telleth us recounteth and witnesseth of the Holy Graal, and here beginneth for us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Messire Gawain rode until he came to a forest, and seeth a land right fair and rich in a great enclosure of wall, and round the land and country-side within, the wall stretched right far away. Thitherward he cometh and seeth but one entrance thereinto, and he seeth the fairest land that ever he beheld and the best garnished and the fairest orchards. The country was not more than four leagues Welsh in length, and in the midst thereof was a tower on a high rock. And on the top was a crane that kept watch over it and cried when any strange man came into the country. Messire Gawain rode amidst the land and the crane cried out so loud that the King of Wales heard it, that was lord of the land. Thereupon, behold you, two knights that come after Messire Gawain and say to him: `Hold, Sir Knight, and come speak with the king of this country, for no strange knight passeth through his land but he seeth him.' `Lords,' saith Messire Gawain, `I knew not of the custom. Willingly will I go.' They led him thither to the hall where the King was, and Messire Gawain alighteth and setteth his shield and his spear leaning against a mounting stage and goeth up into the hall. The King maketh great joy of him and asketh him whither he would go? `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `Into a country where I was never.' `Well I know,' saith the king, `where it is, for that you are passing through my land. You are going to the country of King Gurgalain to conquer the sword wherewith S. John was beheaded.'
`Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `You say true. God grant me that I may have it!' `That may not be so hastily,' saith the King, `For you shall not go forth of my land before a year.' `Ha, Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `For God's sake, mercy!' `None other mercy is here,' saith the King. Straightway he maketh Messire Gawain be disarmed and afterward maketh bring a robe wherewith to apparel him, and showeth him much honour. But ill is he at ease, wherefore he saith to him: `Sir, wherefore are you fain to hold me here within so long?' `For this, that I know well you will have the sword and will not return by me.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `I pledge you my word that, so God give me to conquer it, I will return by you.' `And I will allow you to depart from me at your will. For nought is there that I so much desire to see.' He lay the night therewithin, and on the morrow departed thence and issued forth of the land right glad and joyful. And he goeth toward the land of King Gurgalain. And he entereth into a noisome forest at the lower part and findeth at the right hour of noon a fountain that was enclosed of marble, and it was overshadowed of the forest like as it were with leaves down below, and it had rich pillars of marble all round about with fillets of gold and set with precious stones. Against the master-pillar hung a vessel of gold by a silver chain, and in the midst of the fountain was an image so deftly wrought as if it had been alive. When Messire appeared at the fountain, the image set itself in the water and was hidden therewith. Messire Gawain goeth down, and would fain have taken hold on the vessel of gold when a voice crieth out to him: `You are not the Good Knight unto whom is served thereof and who thereby is made whole.' Messire Gawain draweth him back and seeth a clerk come to the fountain that was young of age and clad in white garments, and he had a stole on his arm and held a little square vessel of gold, and cometh to the little vessel that was hanging on the marble pillar and looketh therein, and then rinseth out the other little golden vessel that he held, and then setteth the one that he held in the place of the other.
Therewithal, behold, three damsels that come of right great beauty, and they had white garments and their heads were covered with white cloths, and they carried, one, bread in a little golden vessel, and the other wine in a little ivory vessel, and the third flesh in one of silver. And they come to the vessel of gold that hung against the pillar and set therein that which they have brought, and afterward they make the sign of the cross over the pillar and come back again. But on their going back, it seemed to Messire Gawain that only one was there. Messire Gawain much marvelled him of this miracle. He goeth after the clerk that carried the other vessel of gold, and saith unto him: `Fair Sir, speak to me.' `What is your pleasure?' saith the clerk. `Whither carry you this golden vessel and that which is therein?' `To the hermits,' saith he, `that are in this forest, and to the Good Knight that lieth sick in the house of his uncle King Hermit.' `Is it far from hence?' saith Messire Gawain. `Yea, Sir,' saith the clerk, `to yourself. But I shall be there sooner than will you.' `By God,' saith Messire Gawain, `I would fain I were there now, so that I might see him and speak to him.' `That believe I well,' saith the clerk, `But now is the place not here.' Messire Gawain taketh leave and goeth his way and rideth until he findeth a hermitage and seeth the hermit therewithout. He was old and bald and of good life. `Sir,' saith he to Messire Gawain, `Whither go you?' `To the land of King Gurgalain, Sir; is this the way?' `Yea,' saith the hermit, `But many knights have passed hereby that hither have never returned.' `Is it far?' saith he. `He and his land are hard by, but far away is the castle wherein is the sword.' Messire Gawain lay the night therewithin. On the morrow when he had heard mass, he departed and rode until he cometh to the land of King Gurgalain, and heareth the folk of the land making dole right sore. And he meeteth a knight that cometh a great pace to a castle.
`Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `Wherefore make the folk of this castle such dole, and they of all this land and all this country? For I hear them weep and beat their palms together on every side.' `Sir,' saith he, `I will tell you. King Gurgalain had one only son of whom he hath been bereft by a Giant that hath done him many mischiefs and wasted much of his land. Now hath the King let everywhere be cried that to him that shall bring back his son and slay the Giant he will give the fairest sword of the world, the which sword he hath, and of all his treasure so much as he may be fain to take. As at this time, he findeth no knight so hardy that he durst go; and much more blameth he his own law than the law of the Christians, and he saith that if any Christian should come into his land, he would receive him.' Right joyous is Messire Gawain of these tidings, and departeth from the castle and rideth on until he cometh to the castle of King Gurgalain. The tidings come to the King that there is a Christian come into his castle. The King maketh great joy thereof, and maketh him come before him and asketh him of his name and of what land he is. `Sir,' saith he, `My name is Gawain and I am of the land of King Arthur.' `You are,' saith he, `of the land of the Good Knight. But of mine own land may I find none that durst give counsel in a matter I have on hand. But if you be of such valour that you be willing to undertake to counsel me herein, right well will I reward you. A Giant hath carried off my son whom I loved greatly, and so you be willing to set your body in jeopardy for my son, I will give you the richest sword that was ever forged, whereby the head of S. John was cut off. Every day at right noon is it bloody, for that at that hour the good man had his head cut off.' The King made fetch him the sword, and in the first place showeth him the scabbard that was loaded of precious stones and the mountings were of silk with buttons of gold, and the hilt in likewise, and the pommel of a most holy sacred stone that Enax, a high emperor of Rome, made be set thereon. Then the King draweth it forth of the scabbard, and the sword came forth thereof all bloody, for it was the hour of noon. And he made hold it before Messire Gawain until the hour was past, and thereafter the sword becometh as clear as an emerald and as green. And Messire looketh at it and coveteth it much more than ever he did before, and he seeth that it is as long as another sword, albeit, when it is sheathed in the scabbard, neither scabbard nor sword seemeth of two spans length.
`Sir Knight,' saith the King, `This sword will I give you, and another thing will I do whereof you shall have joy.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `And I will do your need, if God please and His sweet Mother.' Thereupon he teacheth him the way whereby the Giant went, and the place where he had his repair, and Messire Gawain goeth his way thitherward and commendeth himself to God. The country folk pray for him according to their belief that he may back repair with life and health, for that he goeth in great peril. He hath ridden until that he cometh to a great high mountain that lay round about a land that the Giant had all laid waste, and the enclosure of the mountain went round about for a good three leagues Welsh, and therewithin was the Giant, so great and cruel and horrible that he feared no man in the world, and for a long time had he not been sought out by any knight, for none durst won in that quarter. And the pass of the mountain whereby he went to his hold was so strait that no horse might get through; wherefore behoveth Messire Gawain leave his horse and his shield and spear and to pass beyond the mountain by sheer force, for the way was like a cut between sharp rocks. He is come to level ground and looketh before him and seeth a hold that the Giant had on the top of a rock, and espieth the Giant and the lad where they were sitting on the level ground under a tree. Messire Gawain was armed and had his sword girt on, and goeth his way thitherward. And the Giant seeth him coming and leapeth up and taketh in hand a great axe that was at his side, and cometh toward Messire Gawain all girded for the fight and thinketh to smite him a two-handed stroke right amidst the head. But Messire Gawain swerveth aside and bestirreth him with his sword and dealeth him a blow such that he cut off his arm, axe and all. And the Giant returneth backward when he feeleth himself wounded, and taketh the King's son by the neck with his other hand and grippeth him so straitly that he strangleth and slayeth him. Then he cometh back to Messire Gawain and falleth upon him and grippeth him sore strait by the flanks, and lifteth him three foot high off the ground and thinketh to carry him to his hold that was within the rock. And as he goeth thither he falleth, Messire Gawain and all, and he lieth undermost. Howbeit, he thinketh to rise, but cannot, for Messire Gawain sendeth him his sword right through his heart and beyond. Afterward, he cut off the head and cometh there where the King's child lay dead, whereof is he right sorrowful. And he beareth him on his neck, and taketh the Giant's head in his hand and returneth there where he had left his horse and shield and spear, and mounteth and cometh back and bringeth the King's son before the King and the head of the Giant hanging.
The King and all they of the castle come to meet him with right great joy, but when they see the young man dead, their great joy is turned into right great dole thereby. And Messire Gawain alighteth before the castle and presenteth to the King his son and the head of the Giant. `Certes,' said he, `might I have presented him to you on live, much more joyful should I have been thereof.' `This believe I well,' saith the King, `Howbeit, of so much as you have done am I well pleased, and your guerdon shall you have.' And he looketh at his son and lamenteth him right sweetly, and all they of the castle after him. Thereafter he maketh light a great show of torches in the midst of the city, and causeth a great fire to be made, and his son be set thereon in a brazen vessel all full of water, and maketh him be cooked and sodden over this fire, and maketh the Giant's head be hanged at the gate.
When his son was well cooked, he maketh him be cut up as small as he may, and biddeth send for all the high men of his land and giveth thereof to each so long as there was any left. After that he maketh bring the sword and giveth it to Messire Gawain, and Messire Gawain thanketh him much thereof. `More yet will I do for you,' saith the King. He biddeth send for all the men of his land to come to his hall and castle. `Sir,' saith he, `I am fain to baptize me.' `God be praised thereof,' saith Messire Gawain. The King biddeth send for a hermit of the forest, and maketh himself be baptized, and he had the name of Archis in right baptism; and of all them that were not willing to believe in God, he commanded Messire Gawain that he should cut off their heads.
In such wise was this King baptized that was the lord of Albanie, by the miracle of God and the knighthood of Messire Gawain, that departeth from the castle with right great joy and rideth until he has come into the land of the King of Wales and bethought him he would go fulfil his pledge. He alighted before the hall, and the King made right great cheer when he saw him come. And Messire Gawain hath told him: `I come to redeem my pledge. Behold, here is the sword.' And the King taketh it in his hand and looketh thereon right fainly, and afterward maketh great joy thereof and setteth it in his treasury and saith: `Now have I done my desire.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `Then have you betrayed me.' `By my head,' saith the King, `That have I not, for I am of the lineage of him that beheaded S. John, wherefore have I better right to it than you.' `Sir,' say the knights to the King, `Right loyal and courteous knight is Messire Gawain, wherefore yield him that which he hath conquered, for sore blame will you have of evil-treating him.' `I will yield it,' saith the King, `on such condition that the first damsel that maketh request of him, what thing soever she may require and whatsoever it be shall not be denied of him.' And Messire Gawain agreeth thereto, and of this agreement thereafter did he suffer much shame and anguish and was blamed of many knights. And the King yielded him the sword. He lay the night therewithin, and on the morrow so soon as he might, he departed and rode until he came without the city where the burgess gave him the horse in exchange for his own. And he remembered him of his covenant, and abideth a long space and leaneth him on the hilt of his sword until the burgess cometh. Therewithal made they great joy the one of the other, and Messire showeth him the sword, and the burgess taketh it and smiteth his horse with his spurs and goeth a great gallop toward the city. And Messire Gawain goeth after a great pace and crieth out that he doth great treachery. `Come not after me into the city,' saith the burgess, `for the folk have a commune.' Howbeit, he followeth after into the city for that he might not overtake him before, and therein he meeteth a great procession of priests and clerks that bore crosses and censers. And Messire Gawain alighteth on account of the procession, and seeth the burgess that hath gone into the church and the procession after. `Lords,' saith Messire Gawain, `Make yield me the sword whereof this burgess that hath entered your church hath plundered me.' `Sir,' say the priests, `Well know we that it is the sword wherewith S. John was beheaded, wherefore the burgess hath brought it to us to set with our hallows in yonder, and saith that it was given him.' `Ha, lords!' saith Messire Gawain, `Not so! I have but shown it to him to fulfil my pledge. And he hath carried it off by treachery.' Afterward he telleth them as it had befallen him, and the priests make the burgess give it up, and with great joy Messire Gawain departeth and remounteth his horse and issueth forth of the city. He hath scarce gone far before he meeteth a knight that came all armed, as fast as his horse could carry him, spear in rest. `Sir,' saith he to Messire Gawain, `I have come to help you. We were told that you had been evil-entreated in the city, and I am of the castle that succoureth all strange knights that pass hereby whensoever they have need thereof.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `Blessed be the castle! I plain me not of the trespass for that right hath been done me. And how is the castle named?' `Sir, they call it the Castle of the Ball. Will you return back thither with me, since you are delivered, and lodge there the night with Messire, that is a right worshipful man, and of good conditions?' Therewith they go together to the castle, that was right fair and well-seeming. They enter in, and when they were within, the Lord, that sate on a mounting-stage of marble, had two right fair daughters, and he made them play before him with a ball of gold, and looked at them right fainly. He seeth Messire Gawain alight and cometh to meet him and maketh him great cheer. Afterward, he biddeth his two daughters lead him into the hall.
When he was disarmed, the one brought him a right rich robe, and after meat the two maidens sit beside him and make him right great cheer. Thereupon behold you, a dwarf that issueth forth of a chamber, and he holdeth a scourge. And he cometh to the damsels and smiteth them over their faces and their heads. `Rise up,' saith he, `ye fools, ill-taught! Ye make cheer unto him whom you ought to hate! For this is Messire Gawain, King Arthur's nephew, by whom was your uncle slain!' Thereupon they rise, all ashamed, and go into the chamber, and Messire Gawain remaineth there sore abashed. But their father comforteth him and saith: `Sir, be not troubled for aught that he saith, for the dwarf is our master: he chastiseth and teacheth my daughters, and he is wroth for that you have slain his brother, whom you slew the day that Marin slew his wife on your account, whereof we are right sorrowful in this castle.' `So also am I,' saith Messire Gawain, `But no blame of her death have I nor she, as God knoweth of very truth.'
Messire Gawain lay the night at the castle, and departed on the morrow, and rode on his journeys until he cometh to the castle at the entrance to the land of the rich King Fisherman, where he seeth that the lion is not at the entrance nor were the serjeants of copper shooting. And he seeth in great procession the priests and them of the castle coming to meet him, and he alighteth, and a squire was apparelled ready, that took his armour and his horse, and he showeth the sword to them that were come to meet him. It was the hour of noon. He draweth the sword, and seeth it all bloody, and they bow down and worship it, and sing Te Deum laudamus. With such joy was Messire Gawain received at the castle, and he set the sword back in his scabbard, and kept it right anigh him, and made it not known in all the places where he lodged that it was such. The priests and knights of the castle make right great joy, and pray him right instantly that so God should lead him to the castle of King Fisherman, and the Graal should appear before him, he would not be so forgetful as the other knights. And he made answer that he would do that which God should teach him.
`Messire Gawain,' saith the master of the priests, that was right ancient: `Great need have you to take rest, for meseemeth you have had much travail.' `Sir, many things have I seen whereof I am sore abashed, nor know I what castle this may be.' `Sir,' saith the priest, `This Castle is the Castle of Inquest, for nought you shall ask whereof it shall not tell you the meaning, by the witness of Joseph, the good clerk and good hermit through whom we have it, and he knoweth it by annunciation of the Holy Ghost.' `By my faith,' saith Messire Gawain, `I am much abashed of the three damsels that were at the court of King Arthur. Two of them carried, the one the head of a king and the other of a queen, and they had in a car an hundred and fifty heads of knights whereof some were sealed in gold, other in silver, and the rest in lead.' `True,' saith the priest, `For as by the queen was the king betrayed and killed, and the knights whereof the heads were in the car, so saith she truth as Joseph witnesseth to us, for he saith of remembrance that by envy was Adam betrayed, and all the people that were after him and the people that are yet to come shall have dole thereof for ever more. And for that Adam was the first man is he called King, for he was our earthly father, and his wife Queen. And the heads of the knights sealed in gold signify the new law, and the heads sealed in silver the old, and the heads sealed in lead the false law of the Sarrazins. Of these three manner of folk is the world stablished.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `I marvel of the castle of the Black Hermit, there where the heads were all taken from her, and the Damsel told me that the Good Knight should cast them all forth when he should come. And the other folk that are therewithin are longing for him.' `Well know you,' saith the priest, `that on account of the apple that Eve gave Adam to eat, all went to hell alike, the good as well as the evil, and to cast His people forth from hell did God become man, and cast these souls forth from hell of His bounty and of His puissance. And to this doth Joseph make us allusion by the castle or the Black Hermit, which signifieth hell, and the Good Knight that shall thence cast forth them that are within. And I tell you that the Black Hermit is Lucifer, that is Lord of hell in like manner as he fain would have been Lord of Paradise.' `Sir,' saith the priest, `By this significance is he fain to draw the good hermits on behalf of the new law wherein the most part are not well learned, wherefore he would fain make allusion by ensample.' `By God,' saith Messire Gawain, `I marvel much of the Damsel that was all bald, and said that never should she have her hair again until such time as the Good Knight should have achieved the Holy Graal.' `Sir,' saith the good man, `Each day full bald behoveth her to be, ever since bald she became when the good King fell into languishment on account of the knight whom he harboured that made not the demand. The bald damsel signifieth Joseu Josephus, that was bald before the crucifixion of Our Lord, nor never had his hair again until such time as He had redeemed His people by His blood and by His death. The car that she leadeth after her signifieth the wheel of fortune, for like as the car goeth on the wheels, doth she lay the burden of the world on the two damsels that follow her; and this you may see well, for the fairest followeth afoot and the other was on a sorry hackney, and they were poorly clad, whereas the third had costlier attire. The shield whereon was the red cross, that she left at the court of King Arthur, signifieth the most holy shield of the rood that never none durst lift save God alone.' Messire Gawain heareth these significances and much pleaseth him thereof, and thinketh him that none durst set his hand to nor lift the shield that hung in the King's hall, as he had heard tell in many places; wherefore day by day were they waiting for the Good Knight that should come for the shield.
`Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `By this that you tell me you do me to wit that whereof I was abashed, but I have been right sorrowful of a lady that a knight slew on my account albeit no blame had she therein, nor had I.' `Sir,' saith the priest, `Right great significance was there in her death, for Josephus witnesseth us that the old law was destroyed by the stroke of a sword without recover, and to destroy the old law did Our Lord suffer Himself to be smitten in the side of a spear. By this stroke was the old law destroyed, and by His crucifixion. The lady signifieth the old law. Would you ask more of me?' saith the priest. `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `I met a knight in the forest that rode behind before and carried his arms upside down. And he said that he was the Knight Coward, and his habergeon carried he on his neck, and so soon as he saw me he set his arms to rights and rode like any other knight.' `The law was turned to the worse,' saith the priest, `before Our Lord's crucifixion, and so soon as He was crucified, was again restored to right.' `Even yet have I not asked you of all,' saith Messire Gawain, `For a knight came and jousted with me party of black and white, and challenged me of the death of the lady on behalf of her husband, and told me and I should vanquish him that he and his men would be my men. I did vanquish him and he did me homage.' `It is right,' saith the priest, `On account of the old law that was destroyed were all they that remained therein made subject, and shall be for ever more. Wish you to enquire of aught further?' saith the priest. `I marvel me right sore,' saith Messire Gawain, `of a child that rode a lion in a hermitage, and none durst come nigh the lion save the child only, and he was not of more than six years, and the lion was right fell. The child was the son of the lady that was slain on my account.' `Right well have you spoken,' saith the priest, `in reminding me thereof. The child signifieth the Saviour of the world that was born under the old law and was circumcised, and the lion whereon he rode signifieth the world and the people that are therein, and beasts and birds that none may govern save by virtue of Him alone.' `God!' saith Messire Gawain, `How great joy have I at heart of that you tell me! Sir, I found a fountain in a forest, the fairest that was ever seen, and an image had it within that hid itself when it saw me, and a clerk brought a golden vessel and took another golden vessel that hung at the column that was there, and set his own in place thereof. Afterward, came three damsels and filled the vessel with that they had brought thither, and straightway meseemed that but one was there.' `Sir,' saith the priest, `I will tell you no more thereof than you have heard, and therewithal ought you to hold yourself well apaid, for behoveth not discover the secrets of the Saviour, and them also to whom they are committed behoveth keep them covertly.'
`Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `I would fain ask you of a King. When I had brought him his son back dead, he made him be cooked and thereafter made him be eaten of all the folk of his land.' `Sir,' saith the priest, `Already had he leant his heart upon Jesus Christ, and would fain make sacrifice of his flesh and blood to Our Lord, and for this did he make all those of his land eat thereof, and would fain that their thoughts should be even such as his own. And therefore was all evil belief uprooted from his land, so that none remained therein.' `Blessed be the hour,' saith Messire Gawain, `that I came herewithin!' `Mine be it!' saith the priest. Messire Gawain lay therewithin the night, and right well lodged was he. The morrow, when he had heard mass, he departed and went forth of the castle when he had taken leave. And he findeth the fairest land of the world and the fairest meadow-grounds that were ever seen, and the fairest rivers and forests garnished of wild deer and hermitages. And he rideth until he cometh one day as evening was about to draw on, to the house of a hermit, and the house was so low that his horse might not enter therein. And his chapel was scarce taller, and the good man had never issued therefrom of forty years past. The Hermit putteth his head out of the window when he seeth Messire Gawain and saith, `Sir, welcome may you be,' saith he. `Sir, God give you joy, Will you give me lodging to-night?' saith Messire Gawain. `Sir, herewithin none harboureth save the Lord God alone, for earthly man hath never entered herewithin but me this forty year, but see, here in front is the castle wherein the good knights are lodged.' `What is the castle?' `Sir, the good King Fisherman's, that is surrounded with great waters and plenteous in all things good, so the lord were in joy. But behoveth them harbour none there save good knights only.' `God grant,' saith Messire Gawain, `that I may come therein.'
When he knoweth that he is nigh the castle, he alighteth and confesseth him to the hermit, and avoweth all his sins and repenteth him thereof right truly. `Sir,' saith the hermit, `Now forget not, so God be willing to allow you, to ask that which the other knight forgat, and be not afeard for ought you may see at the entrance of the castle, but ride on without misgiving and adore the holy chapel you will see appear in the castle, there where the flame of the Holy Spirit descendeth each day for the most Holy Graal and the point of the lance that is served there.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `God teach me to do His will!' He taketh leave, and goeth his way and rideth until the valley appeareth wherein the castle is seated garnished of all things good, and he seeth appear the most holy chapel. He alighteth, and then setteth him on his knees and boweth him down and adoreth right sweetly. Thereafter he remounteth and rideth until he findeth a sepulchre right rich, and it had a cover over, and it lay very nigh the castle, and it seemed to be within a little burial-ground that was enclosed all round about, nor were any other tombs therein. A voice crieth to him as he passeth the burial-ground: `Touch not the sepulchre, for you are not the Good Knight through whom shall it be known who lieth therein.' Messire Gawain passeth beyond when he had heard the voice and draweth nigh the entrance of the castle, and seeth that three bridges are there, right great and right horrible to pass. And three great waters run below, and him seemeth that the first bridge is a bowshot in length and in breadth not more than a foot. Strait seemeth the bridge and the water deep and swift and wide. He knoweth not what he may do, for it seemeth him that none may pass it, neither afoot nor on horse.
Thereupon, lo you, a knight that issueth forth of the castle and cometh as far as the head of the bridge, that was called the Bridge of the Eel, and shouteth aloud: `Sir Knight, pass quickly before it shall be already night, for they of the castle are awaiting us.' `Ha,' saith Messire Gawain, `Fair sir, but teach me how I may pass hereby.' `Certes, Sir Knight, no passage know I to this entrance other than this, and if you desire to come to the castle, pass on without misgiving.' Messire Gawain hath shame for that he hath stayed so long, and forthinketh him of this that the Hermit told him, that of no mortal thing need he be troubled at the entrance of the castle, and therewithal that he is truly confessed of his sins, wherefore behoveth him be the less adread of death. He crosseth and blesseth himself and commendeth himself to God as he that thinketh to die, and so smiteth his horse with his spurs and findeth the bridge wide and large as soon as he goeth forward, for by this passing were proven most of the knights that were fain to enter therein. Much marvelled he that he found the bridge so wide that had seemed him so narrow. And when he had passed beyond, the bridge, that was a drawbridge, lifted itself by engine behind him, for the water below ran too swiftly for other bridge to be made. The knight draweth himself back beyond the great bridge and Messire Gawain cometh nigh to pass it, and this seemed him as long as the other. And he seeth the water below, that was not less swift nor less deep, and, so far as he could judge, the bridge was of ice, feeble and thin, and of a great height above the water, and he looked at it with much marvelling, yet natheless not for that would he any the more hold back from passing on toward the entrance. He goeth forward and commendeth himself to God, and cometh in the midst thereof and seeth that the bridge was the fairest and richest and strongest he had ever beheld, and the abutments thereof were all full of images. When he was beyond the bridge, it lifted itself up behind him as the other had done, and he looketh before him and seeth not the knight, and is come to the third bridge and nought was he adread for anything he might see. And it was not less rich than the other, and had columns of marble all round about, and upon each a knop so rich that it seemed to be of gold. After that, he beholdeth the gate over against him, and seeth Our Lord there figured even as He was set upon the rood, and His Mother of the one side and S. John of the other, whereof the images were all of gold, with rich precious stones that flashed like fire. And on the right hand he seeth an angel, passing fair, that pointed with his finger to the chapel where was the Holy Graal, and on his breast had he a precious stone, and letters written above his head that told how the lord of the castle was the like pure and clean of all evil-seeming as was this stone.
Thereafter at the entrance of the gate he seeth a lion right great and horrible, and he was upright upon his feet. So soon as he seeth Messire Gawain, he croucheth to the ground, and Messire Gawain passeth the entrance without gainsay and cometh to the castle, and alighteth afoot, and setteth his shield and his spear against the wall of the hall, and mounteth up a flight of marble steps and cometh into a hall right fair and rich, and here and there in divers places was it painted with golden images. In the midst thereof he findeth a couch right fair and rich and high, and at the foot of this couch was a chess-board right fair and rich, with an orle of gold all full of precious stones, and the pieces were of gold and silver and were not upon the board. Meanwhile, as Messire Gawain was looking at the beauty of the chess-board and the hall, behold you two knights that issue forth of a chamber and come to him. `Sir,' say the knights, `Welcome may you be.' `God give you joy and good adventure,' saith Messire Gawain. They make him sit upon the couch and after that make him be disarmed. They bring him, in two basins of gold, water to wash his face and hands. After that, come two damsels that bring him a rich robe of silk and cloth of gold. Then they make him do on the same. Then say the two damsels to him, `Take in good part whatsoever may be done to you therewithin, for this is the hostel of good knights and loyal.' `Damsels,' saith Messire Gawain, `So will I do. Gramercy of your service.' He seeth well that albeit the night were dark, within was so great brightness of light without candles that it was marvel. And it seemed him the sun shone there. Wherefore marvelled he right sore whence so great light should come.
When Messire Gawain was clad in the rich robe, right comely was he to behold, and well seemed he to be a knight of great valour. `Sir,' say the knights, `May it please you come see the lord of this castle?' `Right gladly will I see him,' saith he, `For I would fain present him with a rich sword.' They lead him into the chamber where lay King Fisherman, and it seemed as it were all strown and sprinkled of balm, and it was all strown with green herbs and reeds. And King Fisherman lay on a bed hung on cords whereof the stays were of ivory; and therein was a mattress of straw whereon he lay, and above a coverlid of sables whereof the cloth was right rich. And he had a cap of sables on his head covered with a red samite of silk, and a golden cross, and under his head was a pillow all smelling sweet of balm, and at the four corners of the pillow were four stones that gave out a right great brightness of light; and over against him was a pillar of copper whereon sate an eagle that held a cross of gold wherein was a piece of the true cross whereon God was set, as long as was the cross itself, the which the good man adored. And in four tall candlesticks of gold were four tall wax tapers set as often as was need. Messire Gawain cometh before the King and saluteth him. And the King maketh him right great cheer, and biddeth him be welcome. `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `I present you with the sword whereof John was beheaded.' `Gramercy,' saith the King: `Certes, I knew well that you would bring it, for neither you nor other might have come in hither without the sword, and if you had not been of great valour you would not have conquered it.' He taketh the sword and setteth it to his mouth and so kisseth it right sweetly and maketh right great joy thereof. And a damsel cometh to sit at the head of the bed, to whom he giveth the sword in keeping. Two others sit at his feet that look at him right sweetly. `What is your name?' saith the King. `Sir, my name is Gawain.' `Ha, Messire Gawain,' saith he, `This brightness of light that shineth there within cometh to us of God for love of you. For every time that a knight cometh hither to harbour within this castle it appeareth as brightly as you see it now. And greater cheer would I make you than I do were I able to help myself, but I am fallen into languishment from the hour that the knight of whom you have heard tell harboured herewithin. On account of one single word he delayed to speak, did this languishment come upon me. Wherefore I pray you for God's sake that you remember to speak it, for right glad should you be and you may restore me my health. And see here is the daughter of my sister that hath been plundered of her land and disinherited in such wise that never can she have it again save through her brother only whom she goeth to seek; and we have been told that he is the Best Knight of the world, but we can learn no true tidings of him.' `Sir,' saith the damsel to her uncle the King, `Thank Messire Gawain of the honour he did to my lady-mother when he came to her hostel. He stablished out land again in peace, and conquered the keeping of the castle for a year, and set my lady-mother's five knights there with us to keep it. The year hath now passed, wherefore will the war be now renewed against us and God succour us not, and I find not my brother whom we have lost so long.' `Damsel,' saith Messire Gawain, `I helped you so far as I might, and so would I again and I were there. And fainer am I to see your brother than all the knights of the world. But no true tidings may I hear of him, save so much, that I was at a hermitage where was a King hermit, and he bade me make no noise for that the Best Knight of the world lay sick therewithin, and he told me that his name was Par-lui-fet. I saw his horse being led by a squire before the chapel, and his arms and shield whereon was a sun figured.' `Sir.' saith the damsel, `My brother's name is not Par-lui-fet, but Perlesvax in right baptism, and it is said of them that have seen him that never comelier knight was known.' `Certes,' saith the King, `Never saw I comelier than he that came in hither nor better like to be good knight, and I know of a truth that such he is, for otherwise never might he have entered hereinto. But good reward of harbouring him had I not, for I may help neither myself nor other. For God's sake, Messire Gawain, hold me in remembrance this night, for great affiance have I in your valour.' `Certes, Sir, please God, nought will I do within yonder, whereof I may be blamed of right.'
Thereupon Messire Gawain was led into the hall and findeth twelve ancient knights, all bald, albeit they seemed not to be so old as they were, for each was of a hundred year of age or more and yet none of them seemed as though he were forty. They have set Messire Gawain to eat at a right rich table of ivory and seat themselves all round about him. `Sir,' saith the Master of the Knights, `Remember you of that the good King hath prayed of you and told you this night as you have heard.' `Sir,' saith Messire Gawain, `God remember it!' With that bring they larded meats of venison and wild-boar's flesh and other in great plenty, and on the table was rich array of vessels of silver and great cups of gold with their covers, and the rich candlesticks where the great candles were burning, albeit their brightness was hidden of the great light that appeared within.
Thereon, lo you, two damsels that issue forth of a chapel, whereof the one holdeth in her hands the most Holy Graal, and the other the Lance whereof the point bleedeth thereinto. And the one goeth beside the other in the midst of the hall where the knights and Messire Gawain sat at meat, and so sweet a smell and so holy came to them therefrom that they forgat to eat. Messire Gawain looketh at the Graal, and it seemed him that a chalice was therein, albeit none there was as at this time, and he seeth the point of the lance whence the red blood ran thereinto, and it seemeth him he seeth two angels that bear two candlesticks of gold filled with candles. And the damsels pass before Messire Gawain, and go into another chapel. And Messire Gawain is thoughtful, and so great a joy cometh to him that nought remembereth he in his thinking save of God only. The knights are all daunted and sorrowful in their hearts, and look at Messire Gawain. Thereupon behold you the damsels that issue forth of the chamber and come again before Messire Gawain, and him seemeth that he seeth three there where before he had seen but two, and seemeth him that in the midst of the Graal he seeth the figure of a child. The Master of the Knights beckoneth to Messire Gawain. Messire Gawain looketh before him and seeth three drops of blood fall upon the table. He was all abashed to look at them and spake no word.
Therewith the damsels pass forth and the knights are all adread and look one at the other. Howbeit Messire Gawain may not withdraw his eyes from the three drops of blood, and when he would fain kiss them they vanish away, whereof he is right sorrowful, for he may not set his hand nor aught that of him is to touch thereof. Therewithal behold you the two damsels that come again before the table and seemeth to Messire Gawain that there are three, and he looketh up and it seemeth him to be the Graal all in flesh, and he seeth above, as him thinketh, a King crowned, nailed upon
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- I'lll be darned, this classic is online all over the web, not only at the location below, but also at Wikisource: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_High_History_of_the_Holy_Graal - another excellent online library. I'll do a more thorough check next time.