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The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur



ARTHUR was in Caerleon upon the Usk; and he went to hunt, and Peredur[35] went with him. And Peredur let loose his dog upon a hart, and the dog killed the hart in a desert place. And a short space from him he saw signs of a dwelling, and towards the dwelling he went, and he beheld a hall, and at the door of the hall he found bold swarthy youths playing at chess. And when he entered he beheld three maidens sitting on a bench, and they were all clothed alike, as became persons of high rank. And he came and sat by them on the bench; and one of the maidens looked steadfastly at Peredur and wept. And Peredur asked her wherefore she was weeping. “Through grief that I shall see so fair a youth as thou art slain.” “Who will slay me?” inquired Peredur. “If thou art so daring as to remain here to–night I will tell thee.” “How great soever my danger may be from remaining here I will listen unto thee.” “This palace is owned by him who is my father,” said the maiden, “and he slays every one who comes hither without his leave.” “What sort of a man is thy father that he is able to slay every one thus?” “A man who does violence and wrong unto his neighbors, and who renders justice unto none.” And hereupon he saw the youths arise and clear the chessmen from the board. And he heard a great tumult; and after the tumult there came in a huge black one–eyed man, and the maidens arose to meet him. And they disarrayed him, and he went and sat down; and after he had rested and pondered awhile, he looked at Peredur, and asked who the knight was. “Lord,” said one of the maidens, “he is the fairest and gentlest youth that ever thou didst see. And for the sake of Heaven, and thine own dignity, have patience with him.” “For thy sake I will have patience, and I will grant him his life this night.” Then Peredur came towards them to the fire, and partook of food and liquor, and entered into discourse with the ladies. And being elated with the liquor, he said to the black man, “It is a marvel to me, so mighty as thou sayest thou art, who could have put out thine eye?” “It is one of my habits,” said the black man, “that whosoever puts to me the question which thou hast asked shall not escape with his life, either as a free gift, or for a price.” “Lord,” said the maiden, “whatsoever he may say to thee in jest, and through the excitement of liquor, make good that which thou saidest and didst promise me just now.” “I will do so, gladly, for thy sake,” said he. “Willingly will I grant him his life this night.” And that night thus they remained.

[35] Peredur, the son of Evrawc, is the Welsh for Perceval, a part of whose story in the preceding pages is taken from the Mabinogeon.

And the next day the black man got up and put on his armor, and said to Peredur, “Arise, man, and suffer death.” And Peredur said unto him, “Do one of two things, black man; if thou wilt fight with me, either throw off thy own armor, or give arms to me that I may encounter thee.” “Ha! man,” said he, “couldst thou fight if thou hadst arms? Take then what arms thou dost choose.” And thereupon the maiden came to Peredur with such arms as pleased him; and he fought with the black man and forced him to crave his mercy. “Black man, thou shalt have mercy, provided thou tell me who thou art, and who put out thine eye.” “Lord, I will tell thee. I lost it in fighting with the Black Serpent of the Carn. There is a mound which is called the Mound of Mourning; and on the mound there is a carn, and in the carn there is a serpent, and on the tail of the serpent there is a stone, and the virtues of the stone are such that whosoever should hold it in one hand, in the other he will have as much gold as he may desire. And in fighting with this serpent was it that I lost my eye. And the Black Oppressor am I called. And for this reason I am called the Black Oppressor, that there is not a single man around me whom I have not oppressed, and justice have I done unto none.” “Tell me,” said Peredur, “how far is it hence?” “The same day that thou settest forth thou wilt come to the Palace of the Sons of the King of the Tortures.” “Wherefore are they called thus?” “The Addanc[36] of the Lake slays them once every day. When thou goest thence thou wilt come to the Court of the Countess of Achievements.” “What achievements are these?” said Peredur. “Three hundred men are there in her household, and unto every stranger that comes to the Court the achievements of her household are related. And this is the manner of it,– the three hundred men of the household sit next unto the Lady; and that not through disrespect unto the guests, but that they may relate the achievements of the household. And the day that thou goest there thou wilt reach the Mound of Mourning, and round about the mound there are the owners of three hundred tents guarding the serpent.” “Since thou hast indeed been an oppressor so long,” said Peredur, “I will cause that thou continue so no longer.” So he slew him.

[36] The Addanc was a mighty aquatic monster.

Then the maiden spoke, and began to converse with him. “If thou wast poor when thou camest here henceforth thou wilt be rich through the treasure of the black man whom thou hast slain. Thou seest the many lovely maidens that there are in this court, thou shalt have her whom thou likest best for the lady of thy love.” “Lady, I came not hither from my country to woo; but match yourselves as it liketh you with the comely youths I see here; and none of your goods do I desire, for I need them not.” Then Peredur rode forward, and he came to the Palace of the Sons of the King of the Tortures; and when he entered the palace he saw none but women; and they rose up and were joyful at his coming; and as they began to discourse with him he beheld a charger arrive, with a saddle upon it, and a corpse in the saddle. And one of the women arose, and took the corpse from the saddle and anointed it in a vessel of warm water, which was below the door, and placed precious balsam upon it; and the man rose up alive, and came to the place where Peredur was, and greeted him, and was joyful to see him. And two other men came in upon their saddles, and the maiden treated these two in the same manner as she had done the first. Then Peredur asked the chieftain wherefore it was thus. And they told him there was an Addanc in a cave, which slew them once every day. And thus they remained one night.

And next morning the youths arose to sally forth, and Peredur besought them, for the sake of the ladies of their love, to permit him to go with them; but they refused him, saying, “If thou shouldst be slain thou hast none to bring thee back to life again.” And they rode forward and Peredur followed after them; and after they had disappeared out of his sight he came to a mound, whereon sat the fairest lady he had ever beheld. “I know thy quest,” said she; “thou art going to encounter the Addanc, and he will slay thee, and that not by courage but by craft. He has a cave, and at the entrance of the cave there is a stone pillar, and he sees every one that enters, and none sees him; and from behind the pillar he slays every one with a poisonous dart. And if thou wouldst pledge me thy faith, to love me above all women, I would give thee a stone, by which thou shouldst see him when thou goest in, and he should not see thee.” “I will, by my faith,” said Peredur, “for when first I beheld thee I loved thee; and where shall I seek thee?” “When thou seekest me seek towards India.” And the maiden vanished after placing the stone in Peredur’s hand.

And he came towards a valley, through which ran a river; and the borders of the valley were wooded, and on each side of the river were level meadows. And on one side of the river he saw a flock of white sheep, and on the other side a flock of black sheep. And whenever one of the white sheep bleated one of the black sheep would cross over and become white; and when one of the black sheep bleated one of the white sheep would cross over and become black. And he saw a tall tree by the side of the river, one–half of which was in flames from the root to the top, and the other half was green and in full leaf. And nigh thereto he saw a youth sitting upon a mound, and two greyhounds, white–breasted and spotted, in leashes, lying by his side. And certain was he that he had never seen a youth of so royal a bearing as he. And in the wood opposite he heard hounds raising a herd of deer. And Peredur saluted the youth, and the youth greeted him in return. And there were three roads leading from the mound; two of them were wide roads and the third was more narrow. And Peredur inquired where the three roads went. “One of them goes to my palace,” said the youth. “And one of two things I counsel thee to do, either to proceed to my palace, which is before thee, and where thou wilt find my wife, or else to remain here to see the hounds chasing the roused deer from the wood to the plain. And thou shalt see the best greyhounds thou didst ever behold, and the boldest in the chase, kill them by the water beside us; and when it is time to go to meat my page will come with my horse to meet me, and thou shalt rest in my palace to–night.” “Heaven reward thee; but I cannot tarry, and onward must I go.” “The other road leads to the town, which is near here, wherein food and liquor may be bought; and the road which is narrower than the other goes towards the cave of the Addanc.” “With thy permission, young man, I will go that way.”

And Peredur went towards the cave. And he took the stone in his left hand, and his lance in his right. And as he went in he perceived the Addanc, and he pierced him through with his lance, and cut off his head. And as he came forth from the cave, behold the three companions were at the entrance; and they saluted Peredur, and told him that there was a prediction that he should slay the monster.

And Peredur gave the head to the young man, and they offered him in marriage which ever of the three sisters he might choose, and half their kingdom with her. “I came not hither to woo,” said Peredur, “but if peradventure I took a wife, I should prefer your sister to all others.” And Peredur rode forward, and he heard a noise behind him. And he looked back, and saw a man upon a red horse, and red armor upon him; and the man rode up by his side, and wished him the favor of Heaven and of man. And Peredur greeted the youth kindly. “Lord, I come to make a request unto thee.” “What wouldst thou?” “That thou shouldst take me as thy attendant.” “Who should I take as my attendant if I did so?” “I will not conceal from thee what kindred I am of. Etlym Gleddyv Coch am I called, an Earl from the East Country.” “I marvel that thou shouldst offer to become attendant to a man whose possessions are no greater than thine own; for I have but an earldom like thyself. But now thou desirest to be my attendant, I will take thee joyfully.”

And they went forward to the Court of the Countess, and all they of the Court were glad at their coming; and they were told it was not through disrespect they were placed below the household, but that such was the usage of the Court. For whoever should overthrow the three hundred men of her household would sit next the Countess, and she would love him above all other men. And Peredur, having overthrown the three hundred of her household, sat down beside her, and the Countess said, “I thank Heaven that I have a youth so fair and so radiant as thou, since I have not obtained the man whom best I love.” “Whom is he whom best thou lovest? By my faith, Etlym Gleddyv Coch is the man whom I love best, and I have never seen him.” “Of a truth, Etlym is my companion; and behold here he is, and for his sake did I come to joust with thy household. And he would have done so better than I had it pleased him.” “Heaven reward thee, fair youth, and I will take the man whom I love above all others.” And the Countess became Etlym’s bride from that moment.

And the next day Peredur set forth toward the Mound of Mourning. “By thy hand, lord, but I will go with thee,” said Etlym. Then they went forward till they came in sight of the mound and the forts. “Go unto yonder men,” said Peredur to Etlym, “and desire them to come and do me homage.” So Etlym went unto them, and said unto them thus: “Come and do homage to my lord.” “Who is thy lord?” said they. “Peredur, with the long lance, is my lord,” said Etlym. “Were it permitted to slay a messenger, thou shouldst not go back to thy lord alive, for making unto kings and earls and barons so arrogant a demand as to go and do him homage.” On this Peredur desired him to go back to them, and to give them their choice, either to do him homage or to do battle with him. And they chose rather to do battle. And that day Peredur overthrew the owners of a hundred tents. And the next day he overthrew the owners of a hundred more; and the third day the remaining third took counsel, to do homage to Peredur. And Peredur inquired of them wherefore they were there. And they told him they were guarding the serpent until he should die. “For then should we fight for the stone among ourselves, and whoever should be conqueror among us would have the stone.” “Wait here,” said Peredur, “and I will go to encounter the serpent.” “No, no, lord,” said they; “we will go all together to encounter the serpent.” “Verily,” said Peredur, “that will I not permit; for if the serpent be slain, I shall derive no more fame therefrom than one of you.” Then he went to the place where the serpent was, and slew it, and came back to them, and said, “Reckon up what you have spent since you have been here, and I will repay you to the full.” And he paid to each what he said was his claim. And he required of them only that they should acknowledge themselves his vassals. And he said to Etlym, “Go back unto her whom thou lovest best, and I will go forwards, and I will reward thee for having been my attendant.” And he gave Etlym the stone. “Heaven repay thee and prosper thee,” said Etlym.

And Peredur rode thence, and he came to the fairest valley he had ever seen, through which ran a river; and there he beheld many tents of various colors. And he marvelled still more at the number of windmills and of water–mills that he saw. And there rode up with him a tall, auburn–haired man, in a workman’s garb, and Peredur inquired of him who he was. “I am the chief miller,” said he, “of all the mills yonder.” “Wilt thou give me lodging?” said Peredur. “I will, gladly,” he answered. And Peredur came to the miller’s house, and the miller had a fair and pleasant dwelling. And Peredur asked money as a loan from the miller, that he might buy meat and liquor for himself, and for the household, and he promised him that he would pay him ere he went thence. And he inquired of the miller wherefore such a multitude were there assembled. Said the miller to Peredur, “One thing is certain; either thou art a man from afar, or thou art beside thyself. The Empress of Cristonobyl the Great is here; and she will have no one but the man who is most valiant; for riches she does not require. And it was impossible to bring food for so many thousands as are here, therefore were all these mills constructed.” And that night they took their rest.

And the next day Peredur arose, and he equipped himself and his horse for the tournament. And among other tents he beheld one which was the fairest he had ever seen. And saw a beauteous maiden leaning her head out of a window of a tent, and he had never seen a maiden more lovely than she. And upon her was a garment of satin. And he gazed fixedly on the maiden and began to love her greatly. And he remained there, gazing upon the maiden from morning until midday, and from midday until evening; and then the tournament was ended; and he went to his lodging and drew off his armor. Then he asked money of the miller as a loan, and the miller’s wife was wroth with Peredur; nevertheless the miller lent him the money. And the next day he did in like manner as he had done the day before. And at night he came to his lodging, and took money as a loan from the miller. And the third day, as he was in the same place, gazing upon the maiden, he felt a hard blow between the neck and the shoulder from the edge of an axe. And when he looked behind he saw that it was the miller; and the miller said unto him, “Do one of two things; either turn thy head from hence or go to the tournament.” And Peredur smiled on the miller, and went to the tournament; and all that encountered him that day he overthrew. And as many as he vanquished he sent as a gift to the Empress, and their horses and arms he sent as a gift to the wife of the miller, in payment of the borrowed money. And the Empress sent to the Knight of the Mill, to ask him to come and visit her. And Peredur went not for the first nor for the second message. And the third time she sent one hundred knights to bring him against his will, and they went to him, and told him their mission from the Empress. And Peredur fought well with them, and caused them to be bound like stags, and thrown into the mill dyke. And the Empress sought advice of a wise man. “With thy permission, I will go to him myself.” So he came to Peredur and besought him, for the sake of the lady of his love, to come and visit the Empress. And they went together with the miller. And Peredur went and sat down in the outer chamber of the tent, and she came and placed herself at his side. And there was but little discourse between them. And Peredur took his leave, and went to his lodging.

And the next day he came to visit her, and when he came into the tent there was no one chamber less decorated than the others. And they knew not where he would sit. And Peredur went and sat beside the Empress, and discoursed with her courteously. And while they were there they beheld a black man enter with a goblet full of wine in his hand. And he dropped upon his knee before the Empress, and besought her to give it to no one who would not fight him for it. And she looked upon Peredur. “Lady,” said he, “bestow upon me the goblet.” And Peredur drank the wine, and gave the goblet to the miller’s wife. And while they were thus, behold there entered a black man, of larger stature than the other, with a wild beast’s claw in his hand, wrought into the form of a goblet, and filled with wine. And he presented it to the Empress, and besought her to give it to no one but the man who would fight with him. “Lady,” said Peredur, “bestow it upon me.” And she gave it to him. And Peredur drank the wine, and sent the goblet to the wife of the miller. And when they were thus, behold a rough–looking crisp–haired man, taller than either of the others, came in with a bowl in his hands full of wine; and he bent upon his knee, and gave it into the hands of the Empress, and he besought her to give it to none but him who would fight with him for it; and she gave it to Peredur, and he sent it to the miller’s wife. And that night Peredur returned to his lodging; and the next day he accoutred himself and his horse, and went to the meadow, and slew the three men. Then Peredur proceeded to the tent, and the Empress said to him, “Goodly Peredur, remember the faith thou didst pledge me when I gave thee the stone, and thou didst kill the Addanc.” “Lady,” answered he, “thou sayest truth, I do remember it.” For she was the maiden who had been sitting on the mound when Peredur had gone in search of the Addanc.

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