Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

Sir Palamedes has agreed to meet Sir Tristram in combat on an assigned day; Sir Tristram keeps his side of the bargain, a knight arrives and 'they fight together the space of four hours' before Sir Tristram realises that he is fighting with Sir Lancelot.

Sir Tristram wishes to fight Sir Palamedes, but Sir Palamedes is injured and weary from recent combat whilst Sir Tristram is still fresh. ...for ye ar freyshe and I am sore woundid, says Sir Palamedes, And therefore, and ye will nedys... – and therefore, if you insist upon fighting with me – assygne me a day, and than shall I mete with you withoute fayle.

They agree upon a day a fortnight hence by a stone tomb near the river that flows beside Camelot. – ‘Beware,’ seyde sir Trystram to sir Palomydes, ‘loke that ye fayle nat that day that ye have sette with me.’

The day arrives and Sir Tristram rides to the stone where they have agreed to meet.

So whan sir Trystram come to the towmbe – so when Sir Tristram came to the tomb he looked around for Sir Palamedes and soon became aware of a fine-looking knight riding against him, all in white and with his shield covered. Whan he cam nyghe sir Trystram, he seyde on hyght: ‘Ye be wellcome, sir knyght, and well and trewly have ye holdyn your promyse.’

They readied their spears and shields and came together with all the power that their horses could muster. And they struck one another so fiercely that their horses fell to the ground, and they with them. They recovered as quickly as they could and began to fight each other on foot, striking one another with shining swords like powerful warriors, each inflicting upon the other some horrible wounds, so that the grass was soon covered in blood. - And thus they fought the space of four owres, that never one wolde speke to other...

So they stoode and wepte bothe, and made grete dole whan they sawe their swerdys overcoverde with bloode of there bodyes. Than at the laste sir Launcelot spake... - then at last the white knight, who is in fact Sir Lancelot, spoke to Sir Tristram: ‘Knight, you fight as well as any knight I have ever encountered.’ he said. ‘If it pleases you, tell me your name...’

Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones. VI. The Round Table, pp 345–50.

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