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Stories of King Arthur and His Knights - Retold from Malory's "Morte dArthur"
by U. Waldo Cutler
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CHAPTER XLII

OF THE END OF THIS BOOK

When Queen Guenever understood that King Arthur was slain, and all the noble knights, Sir Mordred and all the remnant, then she stole away, and five ladies with her, and so she went to Almesbury, and there she let make herself a nun, and lived in fasting, prayers, and alms-deeds, that all manner of people marvelled how virtuously she was changed. And there she was abbess and ruler, as reason would.

When Sir Launcelot of the Lake heard in his country that Sir Mordred was crowned king, and made war against his uncle, then he made all haste with ships and galleys to go unto England. So he passed over the sea till he came to Dover. There the people told him how that King Arthur was slain, and Sir Mordred, and an hundred thousand died on a day, and how Sir Mordred gave King Arthur there the first battle at his landing, and how there was good Sir Gawaine slain. And then certain people of the town brought him unto the castle of Dover, and showed him the tomb. And he made a dole for Sir Gawaine, and all the priests and clerks that might be gotten in the country were there and sang mass of requiem.

Two nights Sir Launcelot lay on Sir Gawaine's tomb in prayers and in weeping, and then on the third day he called his kings, dukes, earls, barons, and knights, and said thus: "My fair lords, I thank you all of your coming into this country with me; but we come too late, and that shall repent me while I live, but against death may no man rebel. Since it is so, I will myself ride and seek my lady Queen Guenever, for, as I hear say, she hath great pain and much disease. Therefore ye all abide me here fifteen days, and then, if I come not again, take your ships and your fellowship, and depart into your country."

So Sir Launcelot rode forth alone on his journey into the west country. There he sought seven or eight days, and at the last came to the nunnery where was Queen Guenever. Once only he had speech with her, and then took his horse and rode away to forsake the world, as she had done.

He rode all that day and all that night in a forest, and at the last he was ware of an hermitage and a chapel betwixt two cliffs. Thither he rode, and there found Sir Bedivere with the Bishop of Canterbury, for he was come to their hermitage. And then he besought the Bishop that he might remain there as a brother. The Bishop would gladly have it so, and there he put hermit's clothes upon Sir Launcelot, and there Sir Launcelot served God day and night with prayers and fasting.

The great host abode in Dover fifteen days, as Sir Launcelot had bidden them. Then, since Sir Launcelot did not return, Sir Bors of Ganis made them take ship and return home again to Benwick. But Sir Bors himself and others of Sir Launcelot's kin took on them to ride all England across and endlong, to seek Sir Launcelot. So Sir Bors by fortune rode so long till he came to the same chapel where Sir Launcelot and Sir Bedivere were, and he prayed the Bishop that he also might remain and be of their fellowship. So there was an habit put upon him, and there he lived in prayers and fasting. And within half a year there were come seven other knights, and when they saw Sir Launcelot, they had no list to depart, but took such an habit as he had.

Thus they remained in true devotion six years, and Sir Launcelot took the habit of priesthood. And there were none of those other knights but read in books, and holp in the worship and did bodily all manner of service. And so their horses went where they would, for they took no regard of worldly riches.

Thus upon a night there came a vision to Sir Launcelot, and charged him to haste unto Almesbury, for Queen Guenever was dead, and he should fetch the corpse and bury her by her husband, the noble King Arthur. Then Sir Launcelot rose up ere day, took seven fellows with him, and on foot they went from Glastonbury to Almesbury, the which is little more than thirty miles. They came thither within two days, for they were weak and feeble to go, and found that Queen Guenever had died but half an hour before. The ladies said she had told them all, ere she passed, that Sir Launcelot had been a priest near a twelvemonth, and that he came thither as fast as he might, to take her corpse to Glastonbury for burial.

So Sir Launcelot and his seven fellows went back on foot beside the corpse of Queen Guenever from Almesbury unto Glastonbury, and they buried her with solemn devotion in the chapel at the hermitage. When she was put in the earth Sir Launcelot swooned, for he remembered the noblesse and kindness that was both with the King and with herself, and how by his fault and his pride they were both laid full low. Then Sir Launcelot sickened more and more, and within six weeks afterwards Sir Bors and his fellows found him dead in his bed. The Bishop did his mass of requiem, and he and all the nine knights went with the corpse till they came to Joyous Gard, his own castle, and there they buried him in the choir of the chapel, as he had wished, with great devotion. Thereafter the knights went all with the Bishop of Canterbury back to his hermitage.

Then Sir Constantine of Cornwall was chosen King of England, a full noble knight that honourably ruled this realm. And this King Constantine sent for the Bishop of Canterbury, for he heard say where he was, and so was he restored unto his bishopric, and left that hermitage. Sir Bedivere was there ever still hermit to his life's end, but the French book maketh mention that Sir Bors and three of the knights that were with him at the hermitage went into the Holy Land, and there did many battles upon the miscreant Turks, and there they died upon a Good Friday, for God's sake.

Here is the end of the book of King Arthur and his noble knights of the Round Table, that when they were whole together were ever an hundred and forty. And here is the end of the Death of Arthur. I pray you all gentlemen and gentlewomen that read this book of Arthur and his knights from the beginning to the ending, pray for me while I am alive that God send me good deliverance, and when I am dead, I pray you all pray for my soul; for this book was ended the ninth year of the reign of King Edward the Fourth by Sir Thomas Maleore, knight, as Jesu help him for his great might, as he is the servant of Jesu both day and night.

Thus endeth thys noble and joyous book entytled Le Morte Darthur. Notwithstanding, it treateth of the byrth, lyf and actes of the sayd Kynge Arthur, of his noble knyghtes of the Round Table, theyr mervayllous enquestes and adventures, the achyevying of the Holy Grail, and in the end the dolourous deth and departyng out of thys world of them al. Whiche book was reduced in to englysshe by Syr Thomas Malory knyght as afore is sayd, and by me enprynted and fynyshed in the abbey Westminster the last day of July, the yere of our Lord MCCCCLXXXV.

Caxton me fieri fecit.

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