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King Arthur Stories Part 4 The Sword Excalibur.
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Merlin took up King Arthur, and rode forth with him upon the knight's
horse. As they rode King Arthur said, "I have no sword." "No matter,"
said Merlin, "hereby is a sword that shall be yours, Sir King." So
they rode till they came to a lake, which was a fair water and a
broad; and in the midst of the lake King Arthur was aware of an arm
clothed in white samite, that held a fair sword in the hand. "Lo,"
said Merlin unto the king, "yonder is the sword that I spake of." With
that they saw a damsel going upon the lake. "What damsel is that?"
said the king. "That is the Lady of the Lake," said Merlin, "and
within that lake is a reach, and therein is as fair a place as any is
on earth, and richly beseen; and this damsel will come to you anon,
and then speak fair to her that she will give you that sword."
Therewith came the damsel to King Arthur and saluted him, and he her
again. "Damsel," said the king, "what sword is that which the arm
holdeth yonder above the water? I would it were mine, for I have no
sword." "Sir king," said the damsel of the lake, "that sword is mine,
and if ye will give me a gift when I ask it you, ye shall have
it."--"By my faith," said King Arthur, "I will give you any gift that
you will ask or desire.
"Well," said the damsel, "go ye into yonder
barge, and row yourself unto the sword, and take it and the scabbard
with you; and I will ask my gift when I see my time." So King Arthur
and Merlin alighted, tied their horses to two trees, and so they went
into the barge. And when they came to the sword that the hand held,
King Arthur took it up by the handles, and took it with him: and the
arm and the hand went under the water, and so King Arthur came to the
land, and rode forth. * * * Then the king looked upon the sword, and
liked it passing well. "Whether liketh you better," said Merlin, "the
sword or the scabbard?" "Me liketh better the sword," said King
Arthur.--"Ye are more unwise," said Merlin; "for the scabbard is worth
ten of the sword; for while ye have the scabbard upon you ye shall
lose no blood, be ye never so sore wounded; therefore keep well the
scabbard alway with you."
* * * Then Arthur proclaimed that all the lords, knights, and
gentlemen of arms, should draw unto a castle, that was called in those
days Camelot, and the king would have a council-general and a great
joust. So when the king was come thither, with all his baronage, and
lodged as them seemed best, there came a damsel, sent on message from
the great Lady Lily, of Avilion; and, when she came before King
Arthur, she told him from whom she came, and how she was sent on
message unto him for these causes.
And she let her mantle fall, that
was richly furred, and then she was girded with a noble sword, whereof
the king had great marvel, and said, "Damsel, for what cause are ye
gird with that sword? It beseemeth you not." "Now shall I tell you,"
said the damsel. "This sword, that I am gird withal, doth me great
sorrow and remembrance; for I may not be delivered of this sword but
by a good knight; and he must be a passing good man of his hands and
of his deeds, and without villany or treachery. If I may find such a
knight that hath all these virtues, he may draw out this sword of the
scabbard. For I have been at King Rience; for it was told that there
were passing good knights, and he and all his knights have assayed it,
and none can speed."
"This is a great marvel," said King Arthur, "and if besooth, I will
myself assay to draw out the sword; not presuming upon myself that I
am the best knight, but that I will begin to draw at your sword, in
giving example to all the barons, that they shall assay every one
after other, when I have assayed." Then King Arthur took the sword by
the scabbard and girdle and pulled at it eagerly, but the sword would
not out. "Sir," said the damsel, "ye need not pull half so hard; for
he that shall pull it out shall do it with little might."
well," said King Arthur: "now assay ye, all my barons; but beware ye
be not defiled with shame, treachery, nor guile."--"Then it will not
avail," said the damsel; "for he must be a clean knight, without
villany, and of gentle stream of father's side and mother's side."
Most of all the barons of the Round Table, that were there at that
time, assayed all in turn, but none might speed. Wherefore the damsel
made great sorrow out of measure, and said, "Alas! I weened in this
court had been the best knights, without treachery or treason." "By my
faith," said King Arthur, "here are as good knights as I deem any be
in the world; but their grace is not to help you, wherefore I am
It happened so, at that time, that there was a poor knight with King
Arthur, that had been prisoner with him half a year and more, for
slaying of a knight, which was cousin to King Arthur. The knight was
named Balin le Savage: and by good means of the barons he was
delivered out of prison; for he was a good man named of his body, and
he was born in Northumberland. And so he went privily into the court,
and saw this adventure, whereof his heart rose, and would assay it as
other knights did; but for because he was poor, and poorly arrayed, he
put him not far in press.