PREFACETOTHEEIGHTHEDITION DropCaseT hePublishershaveaskedmetoauthoriseanewedition,inmyownname,ofthis little book—now long out of print—which was written by me thirty-five years agoundertheinitialsJ.T.K. In acceding to their request I wish to say that the book as now published is merely a word-for-word reprint of my early effort to help to popularise the Arthurlegends. It is little else than an abridgment of Sir Thomas Malory’s version of them as printedbyCaxton—withafewadditionsfromGeoffreyofMonmouthandother sources—and an endeavour to arrange the many tales into a more or less consecutivestory. Thechiefpleasurewhichcametomefromitwas,andis,thatitbeganformea long and intimate acquaintance with Lord Tennyson, to whom, by his permission,IDedicateditbeforeIwaspersonallyknowntohim.
JAMESKNOWLES. AddendumbyLadyKnowles Inresponsetoawidelyexpressedwishforafresheditionofthislittlebook— nowforsomeyearsoutofprint—anewandnintheditionhasbeenprepared. InhisprefacemyhusbandsaysthattheintimacywithLordTennysontowhichit ledwasthechiefpleasurethebookbroughthim.Ihavebeenaskedtofurnisha fewmoreparticularsonthispointthatmaybegenerallyinteresting,andfeelthat Icannotdobetterthangivesomeextractsfromaletterwrittenbyhimselftoa friendinJuly1896. “DEAR——, “I am so very glad you approve of my little effort to popularise the Arthur Legends.Tennysonhadwrittenhisfirstfour‘IdyllsoftheKing’beforemybook
appeared, which was in 1861. Indeed, it was in consequence of the first four IdyllsthatIsoughtandobtained,whileyetastrangertohim,leavetodedicate my venture to him. He was extremely kind about it—declared ‘it ought to go through forty editions’—and when I came to know him personally talked very frequentlyaboutitandArthurwithme,andmadeconstantuseofitwhenheat lengthyieldedtomyperpetualurgencyandtookupagainhisforsakenprojectof treatingthewholesubjectofKingArthur. “He discussed and rediscussed at any amount of length the way in which this could now be done—and the Symbolism, which had from his earliest time haunted him as the inner meaning to be given to it, brought him back to the Poeminitschangedshapeofseparatepictures. “Heusedoftentosaythatitwasentirelymydoingthatherevivedhisoldplan, and added, ‘I know more about Arthur than any other man in England, and I thinkyouknownextmost.’Itwouldamuseyoutoseeinwhatintimatedetailhe usedtoconsultwithme—andoftenwithmylittlebookinfrontofus—overthe various tales, and when I wrote an article (in the shape of a long letter) in the Spectator of January 1870 he asked to reprint it, and published it with the collectedIdylls. “Foryears,whilehisboyswereatschoolandcollege,Iactedashisconfidential friendinbusinessandmanyothermatters,andIsupposehetoldmemoreabout himselfandhislifethananyothermannowlivingknows.” ISABELKNOWLES.
ILLUSTRATOR’SNOTE DropCaseO f scenes from the Legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table manylovelypictureshavebeenpainted,showingmuchdiversityoffiguresand surroundings, some being definitely sixth-century British or Saxon, as in Blair Leighton’s fine painting of the dead Elaine; others—for example, Watts’ Sir Galahad—show knight and charger in fifteenth-century armour; while the warriors of Burne Jones wear strangely impracticable armour of some mystic period.Eachofthesepainterswasfreetofollowhisownconception,puttingthe figures into whatever period most appealed to his imagination; for he was not illustrating the actual tales written by Sir Thomas Malory, otherwise he would havefoundhimselffacetofacewithadifficulty. King Arthur and his knights fought, endured, and toiled in the sixth century, when the Saxons were overrunning Britain; but their achievements were not chronicledbySirThomasMaloryuntillateinthefifteenthcentury. Sir Thomas, as Froissart has done before him, described the habits of life, the dresses, weapons, and armour that his own eyes looked upon in the every-day scenesabouthim,regardlessofthefactthatalmosteverydetailmentionedwas somethinglikeathousandyearstoolate. HadMaloryundertakenanaccountofthelandingofJuliusCaesarhewould,as a matter of course, have protected the Roman legions with bascinet or salade, breastplate, pauldron and palette, coudiére, taces and the rest, and have armed themwithlanceandshield,jewel-hiltedswordandslimmisericorde;whilethe Emperor himself might have been given the very suit of armour stripped from theDukeofClarencebeforehisfatefulencounterwiththebuttofmalmsey. DidnotevenShakespearecalmlygivecannontotheRomansandsupposeevery continentalcitytoliemajesticallybesidethesea?Bytheoldwriters,accuracyin thesematterswasdisregarded,andanachronismswerenotsomuchtoleratedas unperceived. Inillustratingthiseditionof“TheLegendsofKingArthurandhisKnights,”it hasseemedbest,andindeedunavoidableifthetextandthepicturesaretotally,
todrawwhatMalorydescribes,toplacethefashionofthecostumesandarmour somewhere about A.D. 1460, and to arm the knights in accordance with the TabardPeriod. LANCELOTSPEED.
Andrunningtoherchamber,shesoughtinhercasketfor thepieceofiron...andfitteditinTristram’ssword Bythetimetheyhadfinisheddrinkingtheylovedeach othersowellthattheirlovenevermoremightleave them Wavingherhandsandmutteringthecharm,and presentlyenclosedhimfastwithinthetree Galahad...quicklyliftedupthestone,andforthwith cameoutafoulsmoke “Thisgirdle,lords,”saidshe,“ismadeforthemostpart ofmineownhair,which,whileIwasyetintheworld,I lovedfullwell” Atlastthestrangeknightsmotehimtotheearth,and gavehimsuchabuffetonthehelmaswellnighkilled him ThenwasSirLancelotsentfor,andtheletterreadaloud byaclerk Butstilltheknightscriedmightilywithoutthedoor, “Traitor,comeforth!”
CHAPTERI ThePropheciesofMerlin,andtheBirthof Arthur DropCaseK ingVortigerntheusurpersatuponhisthroneinLondon,when,suddenly,upona certainday,raninabreathlessmessenger,andcriedaloud— “Arise, Lord King, for the enemy is come; even Ambrosius and Uther, upon whosethronethousittest—andfulltwentythousandwiththem—andtheyhave swornbyagreatoath,Lord,toslaythee,erethisyearbedone;andevennow theymarchtowardstheeasthenorthwindofwinterforbitternessandhaste.” AtthosewordsVortigern’sfacegrewwhiteasashes,and,risinginconfusionand disorder, he sent for all the best artificers and craftsmen and mechanics, and commanded them vehemently to go and build him straightway in the furthest west of his lands a great and strong castle, where he might fly for refuge and escapethevengeanceofhismaster’ssons—“and,moreover,”criedhe,“letthe work be done within a hundred days from now, or I will surely spare no life amongstyouall.” Then all the host of craftsmen, fearing for their lives, found out a proper site whereontobuildthetower,andeagerlybegantolayinthefoundations.Butno sooner were the walls raised up above the ground than all their work was overwhelmedandbrokendownbynightinvisibly,nomanperceivinghow,orby whom, or what. And the same thing happening again, and yet again, all the workmen, full of terror, sought out the king, and threw themselves upon their facesbeforehim,beseechinghimtointerfereandhelpthemortodeliverthem fromtheirdreadfulwork. Filledwithmixedrageandfear,thekingcalledfortheastrologersandwizards, andtookcounsel withthemwhatthesethingsmightbe,andhowtoovercome them.Thewizardsworkedtheirspellsandincantations,andintheenddeclared
thatnothingbutthebloodofayouthbornwithoutmortalfather,smearedonthe foundations of the castle, could avail to make it stand. Messengers were therefore sent forthwith through all the land to find, if it were possible, such a child.And,assomeofthemwentdownacertainvillagestreet,theysawaband of lads fighting and quarrelling, and heard them shout at one—“Avaunt, thou imp!—avaunt!Sonofnomortalman!go,findthyfather,andleaveusinpeace.” Atthatthemessengerslookedsteadfastlyonthelad,andaskedwhohewas.One saidhisnamewasMerlin;another,thathisbirthandparentagewereknownby noman;athird,thatthefoulfiendalonewashisfather.Hearingthethings,the officersseizedMerlin,andcarriedhimbeforethekingbyforce. But no sooner was he brought to him than he asked in a loud voice, for what causehewasthusdraggedthere? “My magicians,” answered Vortigern, “told me to seek out a man that had no humanfather,andtosprinklemycastlewithhisblood,thatitmaystand.” “Order those magicians,” said Merlin, “to come before me, and I will convict themofalie.” The king was astonished at his words, but commanded the magicians to come andsitdownbeforeMerlin,whocriedtothem— “Because ye know not what it is that hinders the foundation of the castle, ye haveadvisedmybloodforacementtoit,asifthatwouldavail;buttellmenow ratherwhatthereisbelowthatground,forsomethingthereissurelyunderneath thatwillnotsufferthetowertostand?” Thewizardsatthesewordsbegantofear,andmadenoanswer.ThensaidMerlin totheking— “Ipray,Lord,thatworkmenmaybeorderedtodigdeepdownintotheground tilltheyshallcometoagreatpoolofwater.” This then was done, and the pool discovered far beneath the surface of the ground. Then, turning again to the magicians, Merlin said, “Tell me now, false sycophants, what there is underneath that pool?”—but they were silent. Then saidhetotheking,“Commandthispooltobedrained,andatthebottomshallbe foundtwodragons,greatandhuge,whichnowaresleeping,butwhichatnight
awakeandfightandteareachother.Attheirgreatstruggleallthegroundshakes and trembles, and so casts down thy towers, which, therefore, never yet could findsecurefoundations.” Thekingwasamazedatthesewords,butcommandedthepooltobeforthwith drained; and surely at the bottom of it did they presently discover the two dragons,fastasleep,asMerlinhaddeclared. But Vortigern sat upon the brink of the pool till night to see what else would happen. Then those two dragons, one of which was white, the other red, rose up and came near one another, and began a sore fight, and cast forth fire with their breath.Butthewhitedragonhadtheadvantage,andchasedtheothertotheend ofthelake.Andhe,forgriefathisflight,turnedbackuponhisfoe,andrenewed thecombat,andforcedhimtoretireinturn.Butintheendthereddragonwas worsted,andthewhitedragondisappearednomanknewwhere. Whentheir battlewasdone,theking desiredMerlintotellhim whatitmeant. Whereathe,burstingintotears,criedoutthisprophecy,whichfirstforetoldthe comingofKingArthur. “Woe to the red dragon, which figureth the British nation, for his banishment comethquickly;hislurkingholesshallbeseizedbythewhitedragon—theSaxon whomthou,Oking,hastcalledtotheland.Themountainsshallbelevelledas thevalleys,andtheriversofthevalleysshallrunblood;citiesshallbeburned, andchurcheslaidinruins;tillatlengththeoppressedshallturnforaseasonand prevailagainstthestrangers.ForaBoarofCornwallshallariseandrendthem, andtrampletheirnecksbeneathhisfeet.Theislandshallbesubjecttohispower, andheshalltaketheforestsofGaul.ThehouseofRomulusshalldreadhim—all theworldshallfearhim—andhisendshallnomanknow;heshallbeimmortal inthemouthsofthepeople,andhisworksshallbefoodtothosethattellthem. “But as for thee, O Vortigern, flee thou the sons of Constantine, for they shall burntheeinthytower.Forthineownruinwastthoutraitortotheirfather,and didst bring the Saxon heathens to the land. Aurelius and Uther are even now upon thee to revenge their father’s murder; and the brood of the white dragon shallwastethycountry,andshalllickthyblood.Findoutsomerefuge,ifthou wilt!butwhomayescapethedoomofGod?” Thekingheardallthis,tremblinggreatly;and,convictedofhissins,saidnothing
inreply.Onlyhehastedthebuildersofhistowerbydayandnight,andrested nottillhehadfledthereto. Inthemeantime,Aurelius,therightfulking,washailedwithjoybytheBritons, whoflockedtohisstandard,andprayedtobeledagainsttheSaxons.Buthe,till hehadfirstkilledVortigern,wouldbeginnootherwar.Hemarchedthereforeto Cambria,andcamebeforethetowerwhichtheusurperhadbuilt.Then,crying outtoallhisknights,“AvengeyeonhimwhohathruinedBritainandslainmy fatherandyourking!”herushedwithmanythousandsatthecastlewalls.But, beingdrivenbackagainandyetagain,atlengthhethoughtoffire,andordered blazingbrandstobecastintothebuildingfromallsides.Thesefindingsoona proper fuel, ceased not to rage, till spreading to a mighty conflagration, they burneddownthetowerandVortigernwithinit. Then did Aurelius turn his strength against Hengist and the Saxons, and, defeatingtheminmanyplaces,weakenedtheirpowerforalongseason,sothat thelandhadpeace. Anontheking,makingmanyjourneystoandfro,restoringruinedchurchesand, creating order, came to the monastery near Salisbury, where all those British knights lay buried who had been slain there by the treachery of Hengist. For wheninformertimesHengisthadmadeasolemntrucewithVortigern,tomeet inpeaceandsettleterms,wherebyhimselfandallhisSaxonsshoulddepartfrom Britain,theSaxonsoldierscarriedeveryoneofthembeneathhisgarmentalong dagger, and, at a given signal, fell upon the Britons, and slew them, to the numberofnearlyfivehundred. ThesightoftheplacewherethedeadlaymovedAureliustogreatsorrow,andhe castaboutinhismindhowtomakeaworthytomboversomanynoblemartyrs, whohaddiedtherefortheircountry. When he had in vain consulted many craftsmen and builders, he sent, by the adviceofthearchbishop,forMerlin,andaskedhimwhattodo.“Ifyouwould honour the burying-place of these men,” said Merlin, “with an everlasting monument, send for the Giants’ Dance which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland;forthereisastructureofstonetherewhichnoneofthisagecouldraise without a perfect knowledge of the arts. They are stones of a vast size and wondrousnature,andiftheycanbeplacedhereastheyarethere,roundthisspot ofground,theywillstandforever.” At these words of Merlin, Aurelius burst into laughter, and said, “How is it
possibletoremovesuchvaststonesfromsogreatadistance,asifBritain,also, hadnostonesfitforthework?” “Ipraytheking,”saidMerlin,“toforbearvainlaughter;whatIhavesaidistrue, forthosestonesaremysticalandhavehealingvirtues.Thegiantsofoldbrought them from the furthest coast of Africa, and placed them in Ireland while they livedinthatcountry:andtheirdesignwastomakebathsinthem,foruseintime ofgrievousillness.Foriftheywashedthestonesandputthesickintothewater, it certainly healed them, as also it did them that were wounded in battle; and thereisnostoneamongthembuthaththesamevirtuestill.” WhentheBritonsheardthis,theyresolvedtosendforthestones,andtomake waruponthepeopleofIrelandiftheyofferedtowithholdthem.So,whenthey hadchosenUthertheking’sbrotherfortheirchief,theysetsail,tothenumberof 15,000men,andcametoIreland.ThereGillomanius,theking,withstoodthem fiercely,andnottillafteragreatbattlecouldtheyapproachtheGiants’Dance, thesightofwhichfilledthemwithjoyandadmiration.Butwhentheysoughtto movethestones,thestrengthofallthearmywasinvain,untilMerlin,laughing at their failures, contrived machines of wondrous cunning, which took them downwithease,andplacedthemintheships. Whenthey hadbrought thewholetoSalisbury,Aurelius,withthecrownupon hishead,keptforfourdaysthefeastofPentecostwithroyalpomp;andinthe midstofalltheclergyandthepeople,Merlinraisedupthestones,andsetthem roundthesepulchreoftheknightsandbarons,astheystoodinthemountainsof Ireland. Then was the monument called “Stonehenge,” which stands, as all men know, upontheplainofSalisburytothisveryday. SoonthereafteritbefellthatAureliuswasslainbypoisonatWinchester,andwas himselfburiedwithintheGiants’Dance. Atthesametimecameforthacometofamazingsizeandbrightness,dartingout abeam,attheendwhereofwasacloudoffireshapedlikeadragon,fromwhose mouth went out two rays, one stretching over Gaul, the other ending in seven lesserraysovertheIrishsea. At the appearance of this star a great dread fell upon the people, and Uther, marchingintoCambriaagainstthesonofVortigern,himselfwasverytroubledto learn what it might mean. Then Merlin, being called before him, cried with a
loud voice: “O mighty loss! O stricken Britain! Alas! the great prince is gone fromus.AureliusAmbrosiusisdead,whosedeathwillbeoursalso,unlessGod helpus.Haste,therefore,nobleUther,todestroytheenemy;thevictoryshallbe thine, and thou shalt be king of all Britain. For the star with the fiery dragon signifiesthyself;andtherayoverGaulportendsthatthoushalthaveason,most mighty,whomallthosekingdomsshallobeywhichtheraycovers.” Thus,forthesecondtime,didMerlinforetellthecomingofKingArthur.And Uther, when he was made king, remembered Merlin’s words, and caused two dragonstobemadeingold,inlikenessofthedragonhehadseeninthestar.One ofthesehegavetoWinchesterCathedral,andhadtheothercarriedintoallhis wars before him, whence he was ever after called Uther Pendragon, or the dragon’shead. Now,whenUtherPendragonhadpassedthroughalltheland,andsettledit—and evenvoyagedintoallthecountriesoftheScots,andtamedthefiercenessofthat rebelpeople—hecametoLondon,andministeredjusticethere.Anditbefellata certain great banquet and high feast which the king made at Easter-tide, there came, with many other earls and barons, Gorloïs, Duke of Cornwall, and his wifeIgerna,whowasthemostfamousbeautyinallBritain.Andsoonthereafter, Gorloïsbeingslaininbattle,UtherdeterminedtomakeIgernahisownwife.But inordertodothis,andenablehimtocometoher—forshewasshutupinthe high castle of Tintagil, on the furthest coast of Cornwall—the king sent for Merlin, to take counsel with him and to pray his help. This, therefore, Merlin promisedhimononecondition—namely,thatthekingshouldgivehimupthe firstsonbornofthemarriage.ForMerlinbyhisartsforeknewthatthisfirstborn shouldbethelong-wishedprince,KingArthur. WhenUther,therefore,wasatlengthhappilywedded,Merlincametothecastle onacertainday,andsaid,“Sir,thoumustnowprovidetheeforthenourishingof thychild.” Andtheking,nothingdoubting,said,“Beitasthouwilt.” “Iknowalordofthineinthisland,”saidMerlin,“whoisamanbothtrueand faithful;lethimhavethenourishingofthechild.HisnameisSirEctor,andhe hathfairpossessionsbothinEnglandandinWales.When,therefore,thechildis born,lethimbedelivereduntome,unchristened,atyonderpostern-gate,andI willbestowhiminthecareofthisgoodknight.” Sowhenthechildwasborn,thekingbidtwoknightsandtwoladiestotakeit,
bound in rich cloth of gold, and deliver it to a poor man whom they should discoveratthepostern-gate.AndthechildbeingdeliveredthustoMerlin,who himself took the guise of a poor man, was carried by him to a holy priest and christenedbythenameofArthur,andthenwastakentoSirEctor’shouse,and nourishedatSirEctor’swife’sownbreasts.Andinthesamehouseheremained privilyformanyyears,nomansoeverknowingwherehewas,saveMerlinand theking. Anonitbefellthatthekingwasseizedbyalingeringdistemper,andtheSaxon heathens,takingtheiroccasion,camebackfromoversea,andswarmeduponthe land, wasting it with fire and sword. When Uther heard thereof, he fell into a greater rage than his weakness could bear, and commanded all his nobles to comebeforehim,thathemightupbraidthemfortheircowardice.Andwhenhe hadsharplyandhotlyrebukedthem,hesworethathehimself,nighuntodeath althoughhelay,wouldleadthemforthagainsttheenemy.Thencausingahorselittertobemade,inwhichhemightbecarried—forhewastoofaintandweakto ride—hewentupwithallhisarmyswiftlyagainsttheSaxons. Butthey,whentheyheardthatUtherwascominginalitter,disdainedtofight withhim,sayingitwouldbeshameforbravementofightwithonehalfdead.So theyretiredintotheircity;and,asitwereinscornofdanger,leftthegateswide open.ButUtherstraightwaycommandinghismentoassaultthetown,theydid so without loss of time, and had already reached the gates, when the Saxons, repentingtoolateoftheirhaughtypride,rushedforthtothedefence.Thebattle ragedtillnight,andwasbegunagainnextday;butatlast,theirleaders,Octaand Eosa,beingslain,theSaxonsturnedtheirbacksandfled,leavingtheBritonsa fulltriumph. The king at this felt so great joy, that, whereas before he could scarce raise himselfwithouthelp,henowsatuprightinhislitterbyhimself,andsaid,witha laughing and merry face, “They called me the half-dead king, and so indeed I was;butvictorytomehalfdeadisbetterthandefeatandthebesthealth.Forto diewithhonourisfarbetterthantolivedisgraced.” But the Saxons, although thus defeated, were ready still for war. Uther would have pursued them; but his illness had by now so grown, that his knights and baronskepthimfromtheadventure.Whereattheenemytookcourage,andleft nothingundonetodestroytheland;until,descendingtothevilesttreachery,they resolvedtokillthekingbypoison.
Tothisend,ashelaysickatVerulam,theysentandpoisonedstealthilyaspring ofclearwater,whencehewaswonttodrinkdaily;andso,ontheverynextday, hewastakenwiththepainsof death,aswerealsoahundredothersafterhim, beforethevillainywasdiscovered,andheapsofearththrownoverthewell. Theknightsandbarons,fullofsorrow,nowtookcounseltogether,andcameto Merlinforhishelptolearntheking’swillbeforehedied,forhewasbythistime speechless. “Sirs, there is no remedy,” said Merlin, “and God’s will must be done;butbeyeallto-morrowbeforehim,forGodwillmakehimspeakbefore hedie.” So on the morrow all the barons, with Merlin, stood round the bedside of the king;andMerlinsaidaloudtoUther,“Lord,shallthysonArthurbethekingof allthisrealmafterthydays?” Then Uther Pendragon turned him about, and said, in the hearing of them all, “God’sblessingandminebeuponhim.Ibidhimprayformysoul,andalsothat heclaimmycrown,orforfeitallmyblessing;”andwiththosewordshedied. Then came together all the bishops and the clergy, and great multitudes of people,andbewailedtheking;andcarryinghisbodytotheconventofAmbrius, theyburieditclosebyhisbrother’sgrave,withinthe“Giants’Dance.”
CHAPTERII TheMiracleoftheSwordandStone,andthe CoronationofKingArthur—TheSword Excalilur—TheWarwiththeElevenKings DropCaseN owArthurtheprincehadallthistimebeennourishedinSirEctor’shouseashis ownson,andwasfairandtallandcomely,beingoftheageoffifteenyears,great in strength, gentle in manner, and accomplished in all exercises proper for the trainingofaknight. But as yet he knew not of his father; for Merlin had so dealt, that none save Utherandhimselfknewaughtabouthim.Whereforeitbefell,thatmanyofthe knights and barons who heard King Uther speak before his death, and call his son Arthur his successor, were in great amazement; and some doubted, and othersweredispleased. Anon the chief lords and princes set forth each to his own land, and, raising armedmenandmultitudesoffollowers,determinedeveryonetogainthecrown forhimself;fortheysaidintheirhearts,“Iftherebeanysuchasonatallasheof whom this wizard forced the king to speak, who are we that a beardless boy shouldhaveruleoverus?” Sothelandstoodlongingreatperil,foreverylordandbaronsoughtbuthisown advantage;andtheSaxons,growingevermoreadventurous,wastedandoverran thetownsandvillagesineverypart. Then Merlin went to Brice, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and advised him to require all the earls and barons of the realm and all knights and gentlemen-atarms to come to him at London, before Christmas, under pain of cursing, that they might learn the will of Heaven who should be king. This, therefore, the archbishop did, and upon Christmas Eve were met together in London all the greatestprinces,lords,andbarons;andlongbeforedaytheyprayedinSt.Paul’s