Sir Thomas Malory (d. 1471). The Holy Grail. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Sixteenth Book
How Sir Bors Met with an Hermit, and How He Was Confessed to Him, and of His Penance Enjoined to Him
WHEN Bors was departed from Camelot he met with a religious man riding on an ass, and Sir Bors saluted him. Anon the good man knew him that he was one of the knights errant that was in the quest of the Sangreal. What are ye? said the good man. Sir, said he, I am a knight that fain would be counselled in the quest of the Sangreal, for he shall have much earthly worship that may bring it to an end. Certes, said the good man, that is sooth, for he shall be the best knight of the world, and the fairest of all the fellowship. But wit you well there shall none attain it but by cleanness, that is pure confession. So rode they together till that they came to an hermitage. And there be prayed Bors to dwell all that night with him. And so he alit and put away his armour, and prayed him that he might be confessed; and so they went into the chapel, and there he was clean confessed, and they ate bread and drank water together. Now, said the good man, I pray thee that thou eat none other till that thou sit at the table where the Sangreal shall be. Sir, said he, I agree me thereto, but how wit ye that I shall sit there. Yes, said the good man, that know I, but there shall be but few of your fellows with you. All is welcome, said Sir Bors, that God sendeth me. Also, said the good man, instead of a shirt, and in sign of chastisement, ye shall wear a garment; therefore I pray you do off all your clothes and your shirt: and so he did. And then he took him a scarlet coat, so that should be instead of his shirt till he had fulfilled the quest of the Sangreal; and the good man found in him so marvellous a life and so stable, that he marvelled and felt that he was never corrupt in fleshly lusts, but in one time that he begat Elian le Blank. Then he armed him, and took his leave, and so departed. And so a little from thence he looked up into a tree, and there he saw a passing great bird upon an old tree, and it was passing dry, without leaves; and the bird sat above, and had birds, the which were dead for hunger. So smote he himself with his beak the which was great and sharp. And so the great bird bled till that he died among his birds. And the young birds took the life by the blood of the great bird. When Bors saw this he wist well it was a great tokening; for when he saw the great bird arose not, then he took his horse and yede his way. So by evensong, by adventure he came to a strong tower and an high, and there was he lodged gladly.