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The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur



Now this is how Arthur hunted the stag. The men and the dogs were divided into hunting–parties, and the dogs were let loose upon the stag. And the last dog that was let loose was the favorite dog of Arthur, Cavall was his name. And he left an the other dogs behind him, and turned the stag. And at the second turn the stag came toward the hunting–party of Arthur. And Arthur set upon him, and before he could be slain by any other Arthur cut off his head. Then they sounded the death–horn for slaying, and they all gathered round.

Then came Kadyriath to Arthur, and spoke to him. “Lord,” said he, “behold, yonder is Guenever, and none with her save only one maiden.” “Command Gildas, the son of Caw, and all the scholars of the court,” said Arthur, “to attend Guenever to the palace.” And they did so.

Then they all set forth, holding converse together concerning the head of the stag, to whom it should be given. One wished that it should be given to the lady best beloved by him and another to the lady whom he loved best. And so they came to the palace. And when Arthur and Guenever heard them disputing about the head of the stag, Guenever said to Arthur, “My lord, this is my counsel concerning the stag’s head; let it not be given away until Geraint, the son of Erbin, shall return from the errand he is upon.” And Guenever told Arthur what that errand was. “Right gladly shall it be so,” said Arthur. And Guenever caused a watch to be set upon the ramparts for Geraint’s coming. And after midday they beheld an unshapely little man upon a horse, and after him a dame or a damsel, also on horseback, and after her a knight of large stature, bowed down, and hanging his head low and sorrowfully, and clad in broken and worthless armor.

And before they came near to the gate one of the watch went to Guenever, and told her what kind of people they saw, and what aspect they bore. “I know not who they are,” said he. “But I know,” said Guenever; “this is the knight whom Geraint pursued, and methinks he comes not here by his own free will. But Geraint has overtaken him, and avenged the insult to the maiden to the uttermost.” And thereupon, behold, a porter came to the spot where Guenever was. “Lady,” said he, “at the gate there is a knight, and I saw never a man of so pitiful an aspect to look upon as he. Miserable and broken is the armor that he wears, and the hue of blood is more conspicuous upon it than its own color.” “Knowest thou his name?” said she. “I do,” said he; “he tells me that he is Edeyrn, the son of Nudd.” Then she replied, “I know him not.”

So Guenever went to the gate to meet him, and he entered. And Guenever was sorry when she saw the condition he was in, even though he was accompanied by the churlish dwarf. Then Edeyrn saluted Guenever. “Heaven protect thee,” said she. “Lady,” said he, “Geraint, the son of Erbin, thy best and most valiant servant, greets thee.” “Did he meet with thee?” she asked. “Yes,” said he, “and it was not to my advantage; and that was not his fault, but mine, lady. And Geraint greets thee well; and in greeting thee he compelled me to come hither to do thy pleasure for the insult which thy maiden received from the dwarf.” “Now where did he overtake thee?” “At the place where we were jousting and contending for the sparrow–hawk, in the town which is now called Cardiff. And it was for the avouchment of the love of the maiden, the daughter of Earl Ynywl, that Geraint jousted at the tournament. And thereupon we encountered each other, and he left me, lady, as thou seest.” “Sir,” said she, “when thinkest thou that Geraint will be here?” “To–morrow, lady, I think he will be here with the maiden.”

Then Arthur came to them. And he saluted Arthur, and Arthur gazed a long time upon him, and was amazed to see him thus. And thinking that he knew him, he inquired of him, “Art thou Edeyrn, the son of Nudd?” “I am, lord,” said he, “and I have met with much trouble and received wounds insupportable.” Then he told Arthur all his adventure. “Well,” said Arthur, “from what I hear it behooves Guenever to be merciful towards thee.” “The mercy which thou desirest, lord,” said she, “will I grant to him, since it is as insulting to thee that an insult should be offered to me as to thyself.” “Thus will it be best to do,” said Arthur; “let this man have medical care until it be known whether he may live. And if he live he shall do such satisfaction as shall be judged best by the men of the court. And if he die too much will be the death of such a youth as Edeyrn for an insult to a maiden.” “This pleases me,” said Guenever. And Arthur caused Morgan Tud to be called to him. He was chief physician. “Take with thee Edeyrn, the son of Nudd, and cause a chamber to be prepared for him, and let him have the aid of medicine as thou wouldst do unto myself if I were wounded; and let none into his chamber to molest him, but thyself and thy disciples, to administer to him remedies.” “I will do so gladly, lord,” said Morgan Tud. Then said the steward of the household, “Whither is it right, lord, to order the maiden?” “To Guenever and her handmaidens,” said he. And the steward of the household so ordered her.

The next day came Geraint towards the court; and there was a watch set on the ramparts by Guenever, lest he should arrive unawares. And one of the watch came to Guenever. “Lady,” said he, “methinks that I see Geraint, and a maiden with him. He is on horseback, but he has his walking gear upon him, and the maiden appears to be in white, seeming to be clad in a garment of linen.” “Assemble all the women,” said Guenever, “and come to meet Geraint, to welcome him and wish him joy.” And Guenever went to meet Geraint and the maiden. And when Geraint came to the place where Guenever was he saluted her. “Heaven prosper thee,” said she, “and welcome to thee.” “Lady,” said he, “I earnestly desired to obtain thee satisfaction, according to thy will; and, behold here is the maiden through whom thou hadst thy revenge.” “Verily,” said Guenever, “the welcome of Heaven be unto her; and it is fitting that we should receive her joyfully.” Then they went in and dismounted. And Geraint came to where Arthur was, and saluted him. “Heaven protect thee,” said Arthur, “and the welcome of Heaven be unto thee. And inasmuch as thou hast vanquished Edeyrn, the son of Nudd, thou hast had a prosperous career.” “Not upon me be the blame,” said Geraint; “it was through the arrogance of Edeyrn, the son of Nudd, himself, that we were not friends.” “Now,” said Arthur, “where is the maiden for whom I heard thou didst give challenge?” “She is gone with Guenever to her chamber.” Then went Arthur to see the maiden. And Arthur and all his companions, and his whole court, were glad concerning the maiden. And certain were they all that, had her array been suitable to her beauty, they had never seen a maid fairer than she. And Arthur gave away the maiden to Geraint. And the usual bond made between two persons was made between Geraint and the maiden, and the choicest of all Guenever’s apparel was given to the maiden; and thus arrayed, she appeared comely and graceful to all who beheld her. And that day and the night were spent in abundance of minstrelsy, and ample gifts of liquor, and a multitude of games. And when it was time for them to go to sleep they went. And in the chamber where the couch of Arthur and Guenever was the couch of Geraint and Enid was prepared. And from that time she became his wife. And the next day Arthur satisfied all the claimants upon Geraint with bountiful gifts. And the maiden took up her abode in the palace, and she had many companions both men and women, and there was no maiden more esteemed than she in the island of Britain.

Then spake Guenever. “Rightly did I judge,” said she, “concerning the head of the stag, that it should not be given to any until Geraint’s return; and behold, here is a fit occasion for bestowing it. Let it be given to Enid, the daughter of Ynywl, the most illustrious maiden. And I do not believe any will begrudge it her, for between her and every one there exists nothing but love and friendship.” Much applauded was this by them all, and by Arthur also. And the head of the stag was given to Enid. And thereupon her fame increased, and her friends became more in number than before. And Geraint from that time forth loved the hunt, and the tournament, and hard encounters; and he came victorious from them all. And a year, and a second, and a third, he proceeded thus, until his fame had flown over the face of the kingdom.

And, once upon a time, Arthur was holding his court at Caerleon upon Usk; and behold, there came to him ambassadors, wise and prudent, full of knowledge and eloquent of speech, and they saluted Arthur. “Heaven prosper you!” said Arthur; “and whence do you come?” “We come, lord,” said they, “from Cornwall, and we are ambassadors from Erbin, the son of Custennin, thy uncle, and our mission is unto thee. And he greets thee well, as an uncle should greet his nephew, and as a vassal should greet his lord. And he represents unto thee that he waxes heavy and feeble, and is advancing in years. And the neighboring chiefs, knowing this, grow insolent towards him, and covet his land and possessions. And he earnestly beseeches thee, lord, to permit Geraint his son to return to him, to protect his possessions, and to become acquainted with his boundaries. And unto him be represents that it were better for him to spend the flower of his youth and the prime of his age in preserving his own boundaries, than in tournaments which are productive of no profit, although he obtains glory in them.”

“Well,” said Arthur, “go and divest yourselves of your accoutrements, and take food, and refresh yourselves after your fatigues; and before you go from hence you shall have an answer.” And they went to eat. And Arthur considered that it would go hard with him to let Geraint depart from him, and from his court; neither did he think it fair that his cousin should be restrained from going to protect his dominions and his boundaries, seeing that his father was unable to do so. No less was the grief and regret of Guenever, and all her women, and all her damsels, through fear that the maiden would leave them. And that day and that night was spent in abundance of feasting. And Arthur told Geraint the cause of the mission, and of the coming of the ambassadors to him out of Cornwall. “Truly,” said Geraint, “be it to my advantage or disadvantage, lord, I will do according to thy will concerning this embassy.” “Behold,” said Arthur, “though it grieves me to part with thee, it is my counsel that thou go to dwell in thine own dominions, and to defend thy boundaries, and take with thee to accompany thee as many as thou wilt of those thou lovest best among my faithful ones, and among thy friends, and among thy companions in arms.” “Heaven reward thee! and this will I do,” said Geraint. “What discourse,” said Guenever, “do I hear between you? Is it of those who are to conduct Geraint to his country?” “It is,” said Arthur. “Then it is needful for me to consider,” said she, “concerning companions and a provision for the lady that is with me.” “Thou wilt do well.” said Arthur.

And that night they went to sleep. And the next day the ambassadors were permitted to depart, and they were told that Geraint should follow them. And on the third day Geraint set forth, and many went with him,– Gawain, the son of Gwyar, and Riogoned, the son of the king of Ireland, and Ondyaw, the son of the Duke of Burgundy, Gwilim, the son of the ruler of the Franks, Howel, the son of the Earl of Brittany, Perceval, the son of Evrawk, Gwyr, a judge in the court of Arthur, Bedwyr, son of Bedrawd, Kai, the son of Kyner, Odyar, the Frank, and Edeyrn, the son of Nudd. Said Geraint, “I think I shall have enough of knighthood with me.” And they set forth. And never was there seen a fairer host journeying towards the Severn. And on the other side of the Severn were the nobles of Erbin, the son of Custennin, and his foster–father at their head, to welcome Geraint with gladness; and many of the women of the court, with his mother, came to receive Enid, the daughter of Ynywl, his wife. And there was great rejoicing and gladness throughout the whole court, and through all the country, concerning Geraint, because of the greatness of their love to him, and of the greatness of the fame which he had gained since he went from amongst them, and because he was come to take possession of his dominions, and to preserve his boundaries. And they came to the court. And in the court they had ample entertainment, and a multitude of gifts, and abundance of liquor, and a sufficiency of service, and a variety of games. And to do honor to Geraint, all the chief men of the country were invited that night to visit him. And they passed that day and that night in the utmost enjoyment. And at dawn next day Erbin arose, and summoned to him Geraint, and the noble persons who had borne him company. And he said to Geraint: “I am a feeble and an aged man, and whilst I was able to maintain the dominion for thee and for myself, I did so. But thou art young, and in the flower of thy vigor and of thy youth. Henceforth do thou preserve thy possessions.” “Truly,” said Geraint “with my consent thou shalt not give the power over thy dominions at this time into my hands, thou shalt not take me from Arthur’s court.” “Into thy hands will I give them,” said Erbin, “and this day shalt thou receive the homage of thy subjects.”

Then said Gawain, “It were better for thee to satisfy those who have boons to ask, to–day, and to–morrow thou canst receive the homage of thy dominions.” So all that had boons to ask were summoned into one place. And Kadyriath came to them to know what were the requests. And every one asked that which he desired. And the followers of Arthur began to make gifts, and immediately the men of Cornwall came, and gave also. And they were not long in giving, so eager was every one to bestow gifts. And of those who came to ask gifts, none departed unsatisfied. And that day and that night were spent in the utmost enjoyment.

And the next day at dawn Erbin desired Geraint to send messengers to the men to ask them whether it was displeasing to them that he should come to receive their homage, and whether they had anything to object to him. Then Geraint sent ambassadors to the men of Cornwall to ask them this. And they all said that it would be the fulness of joy and honor to them for Geraint to come and receive their homage. So he received the homage of such as were there. And the day after, the followers of Arthur intended to go away. “It is too soon for you to go away yet,” said he; “stay with me until I have finished receiving the homage of my chief men, who have agreed to come to me.” And they remained with him until he had done so. Then they set forth towards the court of Arthur. And Geraint went to bear them company, and Enid also, as far as Diganwy; there they parted. And Ondyaw, the son of the Duke of Burgundy, said to Geraint, “Go, now, and visit the uttermost parts of thy dominions, and see well to the boundaries of thy territories; and if thou hast any trouble respecting them, send unto thy companions.” “Heaven reward thee!” said Geraint; “and this will I do.” And Geraint journeyed to the uttermost parts of his dominions. And experienced guides, and the chief men of his country, went with him. And the furthermost point that they showed him he kept possession of.

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