Thomas Bulfinch > The Age of Fable > Vol. III: The Age of Chivalry > XVI. Sir Palamedes
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Thomas Bulfinch (1796–1867).  Age of Fable: Vol. III: The Age of Chivalry.  1913.

King Arthur and His Knights
 
XVI.  Sir Palamedes
 
WHILE Sir Tristram and the fair Isoude abode yet at La Joyeuse Garde, Sir Tristram rode forth one day, without armor, having no weapon but his spear and his sword. And as he rode he came to a place where he saw two knights in battle, and one of them had gotten the better and the other lay overthrown. The knight who had the better was Sir Palamedes. When Sir Palamedes knew Sir Tristram, he cried out, “Sir Tristram, now we be met, and ere we depart we will redress our old wrongs.” “As for that,” said Sir Tristram, “there never yet was Christian man that might make his boast that I ever fled from him, and thou that art a Saracen shalt never say that of me.” And therewith Sir Tristram made his horse to run, and with all his might came straight upon Sir Palamedes, and broke his spear upon him. Then he drew his sword and struck at Sir Palamedes six great strokes, upon his helm. Sir Palamedes saw that Sir Tristram had not his armor on, and he marvelled at his rashness and his great folly; and said to himself, “If I meet and slay him, I am shamed wheresoever I go.” Then Sir Tristram cried out and said, “Thou coward knight, why wilt thou not do battle with me? for have thou no doubt I shall endure all thy malice.” “Ah, Sir Tristram!” said Sir Palamedes, “thou knowest I may not fight with thee for shame; for thou art here naked, and I am armed; now I require that thou answer me a question that I shall ask you.” “Tell me what it is,” said Sir Tristram. “I put the case,” said Palamedes, “that you were well armed, and I naked as ye be; what would you do to me now, by your true knighthood?” “Ah!” said Sir Tristram, “now I understand thee well, Sir Palamedes; and, as God bless me, what I shall say shall not be said for fear that I have of thee. But if it were so, thou shouldest depart from me, for I would not have to do with thee.” “No more will I with thee,” said Sir Palamedes, “and therefore ride forth on thy way.” “As for that, I may choose,” said Sir Tristram, “either to ride or to abide. But, Sir Palamedes, I marvel at one thing,—that thou art so good a knight, yet that thou wilt not be christened.” “As for that,” said Sir Palamedes, “I may not yet be christened, for a vow which I made many years ago; yet in my heart I believe in our Saviour and his mild mother, Mary; but I have yet one battle to do, and when that is done I will be christened, with a good will.” “By my head,” said Sir Tristram, “as for that one battle, thou shalt seek it no longer; for yonder is a knight, whom you have smitten down. Now help me to be clothed in his armor, and I will soon fulfil thy vow.” “As ye will,” said Sir Palamedes, “so shall it be.” So they rode both unto that knight that sat on a bank; and Sir Tristram saluted him, and he full weary saluted him again. “Sir,” said Sir Tristram, “I pray you to lend me your whole armor; for I am unarmed, and I must do battle with this knight.” “Sir,” said the hurt knight, “you shall have it, with a right good will.” Then Sir Tristram unarmed Sir Galleron, for that was the name of the hurt knight, and he as well as he could helped to arm Sir Tristram. Then Sir Tristram mounted upon his own horse, and in his hand he took Sir Galleron’s spear. Thereupon Sir Palamedes was ready, and so they came hurling together, and each smote the other in the midst of their shields. Sir Palamedes’ spear broke, and Sir Tristram smote down the horse. Then Sir Palamedes leapt from his horse, and drew out his sword. That saw Sir Tristram, and therewith he alighted and tied his horse to a tree. Then they came together as two wild beasts, lashing the one on the other, and so fought more than two hours; and often Sir Tristram smote such strokes at Sir Palamedes that he made him to kneel, and Sir Palamedes broke away Sir Tristram’s shield, and wounded him. Then Sir Tristram was wroth out of measure, and he rushed to Sir Palamedes and wounded him passing sore through the shoulder, and by fortune smote Sir Palamedes’ sword out of his hand. And if Sir Palamedes had stooped for his sword Sir Tristram had slain him. Then Sir Palamedes stood and beheld his sword with a full sorrowful heart. “Now,” said Sir Tristram, “I have thee at a vantage, as thou hadst me to-day; but it shall never be said, in court, or among good knights, that Sir Tristram did slay any knight that was weaponless; therefore take thou thy sword, and let us fight this battle to the end.” Then spoke Sir Palamedes to Sir Tristram: “I have no wish to fight this battle any more. The offence that I have done unto you is not so great but that, if it please you, we may be friends. All that I have offended is for the love of the queen, La Belle Isoude, and I dare maintain that she is peerless among ladies; and for that offence ye have given me many grievous and sad strokes, and some I have given you again. Wherefore I require you, my lord Sir Tristram, forgive me all that I have offended you, and this day have me unto the next church; and first I will be clean confessed, and after that see you that I be truly baptized, and then we will ride together unto the court of my lord, King Arthur, so that we may be there at the feast of Pentecost.” “Now take your horse,” said Sir Tristram, “and as you have said, so shall it be done.” So they took their horses, and Sir Galleron rode with them. When they came to the church of Carlisle, the bishop commanded to fill a great vessel with water; and when he had hallowed it, he then confessed Sir Palamedes clean, and christened him, and Sir Tristram and Sir Galleron were his godfathers. Then soon after they departed, and rode towards Camelot, where the noble King Arthur and Queen Guenever were keeping a court royal. And the king and all the court were glad that Sir Palamedes was christened. Then Sir Tristram returned again to La Joyeuse Garde, and Sir Palamedes went his way.   1
  Not long after these events Sir Gawain returned from Brittany, and related to King Arthur the adventure which befell him in the forest of Breciliande, how Merlin had there spoken to him, and enjoined him to charge the king to go without delay upon the quest of the Holy Greal. While King Arthur deliberated Tristram determined to enter upon the quest, and the more readily, as it was well known to him that this holy adventure would, if achieved, procure him the pardon of all his sins. He immediately departed for the kingdom of Brittany, hoping there to obtain from Merlin counsel as to the proper course to pursue to insure success.   2

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