Gareth and Lynette – Chapter I

Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory is a collection of English versions of Arthurian legends written in the 1400’s. Many of them are based on the French Vulgate Lancelot cycle. Being in middle English, it is not an easy read for modern readers. Here is my rendering of the first chapter, where we are introduced to the youth “Beaumains”. I attempt as usual to stay faithful to the original while making it easy to read.

Chapter I – Sir Beaumains

When Arthur held his Round Table most fully, it happened that he commanded that the high feast of Pentecost would be held at a city and a castle that in those days was called Kink Kenadon, upon the sands on the border of Wales. The king always had a custom that at the feast of Pentecost, unlike all other feasts in the year, he would not eat until he had heard of or seen a great marvel. And due to that custom, all manner of strange adventures came before Arthur at that feast before all other feasts.

Sir Gawain, a little before noon of the day of Pentecost, saw from a window three men upon horseback, and a dwarf on foot. The three men dismounted and the dwarf kept their horses. One of the three men was taller than the other two by a foot and a half. Sir Gawain went to the king.

“Sir, go to dinner,” he said, “for strange adventures are at hand.”

So Arthur went to the feast with many other kings. All the knights of the Round Table were there, except those that were prisoners or slain in battle. At that high feast they would finally reach a hundred and fifty in number, and the Round Table would be fully complete.

Two richly provisioned men came into the hall, and upon their shoulders leaned the largest young man that they all had ever seen. He was tall and broad in the shoulders, and handsome. Though he was the fairest and the largest handed that any man ever saw, he went as though he could not carry himself unless he leaned on the other men’s shoulders.

When Arthur saw the youth, he quieted the hall, and all made room. His men went with him unto the high dais, without saying a word. Then young man pulled back, and easily stood up straight.

“King Arthur, God bless you,” he said, “and all your fair fellowship, and especially the fellowship of the Round Table. I have come here to ask you to give me three gifts. They will not be unreasonable, but ones that you may easily grant to me at no great hurt nor loss to yourself. The first gift I will ask for now, and the other two gifts I will ask a year from this this day, wherever you hold your high feast.”

“Ask,” said Arthur, “and you shall have your gift.”

“Sir, this is my request for this feast,” said the young man, “That you will give me sufficient food and drink for this year, and, when it is up, I will ask for my other two gifts.”

“My fair boy,” said Arthur, “I would counsel you to ask for more, for this is a simple request. My heart tells me that surely you come from men of renown, and my wits fail me greatly if you will not prove a man worthy of great praise.”

“Sir,” said the youth, “that may be, but I have asked for all that I will ask.”

“Well, said the king, “you shall have meat and drink enough. I never denied that, to either my friend or my foe. But what is your name?”

“I cannot tell you,” said the youth.

“It is amazing,” said the king, “that you do not know not your name, when you are the most admirable young man that I have ever seen.”

Then the king turned to Sir Kay, the steward.

“Give him of all manner of the best meats and drinks of the best, as though he were a lord’s son,” said Arthur.

“There’s little need,” said Sir Kay, “to expend such cost upon him. I dare claim he is a born villain, and will never be a man, for he had come of nobility, he would have asked for a horse and armour from you. But such as he is, so he asks. And since he has no name, I shall give him the name Beaumains, meaning “fair hands”, and I will send him to the kitchens. There, he will have tallow gruel every day, and be as fat by the year’s end as a pork hog.”

Right then, the youth’s two companions departed, leaving him to Sir Kay, who had scorned and mocked him.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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