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NOTES TO CANTO FIRST.
As when the Champion of the Lake
Holds converse with the unburied corse.-P. 17. The Romance of the Morte Arthur contains a sort of abridgment of the most celebrated adventures of the Round Table; and, being written in comparatively modern language, gives the general reader an excellent idea of what romances of chivalry actually were. It has also the merit of being written in pure old English ; and many of the wild adventures which it contains, are told with a simplicity bordering upon the sublime. Several of these are referred to in the text; and I would have illustrated them by more full extracts, but as this curious work is about to be republished, I confine myself to the tale of the Chapel Perilous, and of the quest of Sir Launcelot after the Sangreall.
“Right so Sir Launcelot departed ; and when he came to the Chapell Perilous, he alighted downe, and tied his horse to a little gate. And as soon as he was within the church-yard, hee saw, on the front of the chapell, many faire rich shields turned upside downe, and many of the shields Sir Launcelot had seene knights have before ; with that hee saw stand by him thirtie great knights, more, by a yard, than any man that ever hee had seene, and all those grinned and gnashed at Sir Launcelot; and when hee saw their countenance, hee dread them sore, and so put his shield afore him, and tooke his sword in his hand, ready to doe battaile; and they were all armed in black harneis, ready, with their shields and swords drawen. And when Sir Launcelot would have gone through them, they scattered on every side of him, and gave him the way, and therewith hee waxed all bold, and entred into the chapell, and then hee saw no light but a dimme lampe burning, and then was he ware of a corps covered with a cloath of silke ; then Sir Launcelot stooped downe, and cut a peece of that cloath away, and then it fared under him as the earth had quaked a little, whereof he was afeard, and then hee saw a faire sword lye by the dead knight, and that he gat in his hand, and hied him out of the chappell. As soon as he was in the chappell-yerd, all the knights spoke to him with a grimly voice, and said, • Knight Sir Launcelot, lay that sword from thee, or else thou shalt die.' • Whether I live or die,' said Sir Launcelot, with no great words get yee it againe, therefore fight for it and yee list. Therewith he passed through them ; and, beyond the chappell-yard, there met him a faire damosell, and said, • Sir Launcelot, leave that sword behind thee, or thou wilt die for it.' 'I will not leave it,' said Sir Launcelot, for no threats.' No;' said she, “and he did leave that sword, Queene Guenever should ye never
see.' Then were I a foole and I would leave this sword, said Sir Launcelot. Now, gentle knight,' said the damosell, • I require thee to kisse mee once.' • Nay,' said Sir Launcelot, that, God forbid !' • Well, sir,' said she, “and thou haddest kissed me, thy life dayes had been done ; but now, alas!' said she, “ I have lost all my labour; for I ordeined this chappell for thy sake, and for Sir Gawaine: and once I had Sir Gawaine within it; and at that time he fought with that knight which there lieth dead in yonder chappell, · Sir Gilbert the bastard, and at that time hee smote off Sir Gilbert the bastard's left hand. And so, Sir Launcelot, now I tell thee, that I have loved thee this seaven yeare; but there may no woman have thy love but Queene Guenever ; but sithen I may not rejoyce thee to have thy body alive, I had kept no more joy in this world but to have had thy dead body; and I would have balmed it and served, and so have kept it my life daies, and daily I should have clipped thee, and kissed thee in the despite of Queene Guenever. • Yee say well ; said Sir Launcelot, - Jesus preserve me from your subtill crafts !' And therewith he took his horse, and departed from her.”
Note II. -
He might not view with waking eye.-P. 17.