Thereto great help Dame Nature’s self doth lend:
For some so goodly gracious are by kind,
That every action doth them much commend;
And in the eyes of men great liking find,
Which others that have greater skill in mind,
Though they enforce themselves, cannot attain;
For everything to which one is inclined
Doth best become and greatest grace doth gain;
Yet praise likewise deserve good thewes enforced with pain.
[Notes: Edmund Spenser (born 1552, died 1599), the poet who, in Elizabeth’s reign, revived the poetry of England, which since Chaucer’s day, two centuries before, had been flagging.
Gracious are by kind, i.e., by nature. Kind properly means nature.
Good thewes = good manners or virtues. As thew passes into the meaning “muscle,” so virtue (from vis, strength) originally means manlike valour.]
* * * * *
THE QUEST OF THE HOLY GRAIL.
Then the King and all estates went home unto Camelot, and so went to evensong to the great minster. And so after upon that to supper, and every knight sat in his own place as they were toforehand. Then anon they heard cracking and crying of thunder, that them thought the place should all to-drive. In the midst of this blast entered a sunbeam more clearer by seven times than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw other by their seeming fairer than ever they saw afore. Not for then there was no knight might speak one word a great while, and so they looked every man on other, as they had been dumb. Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail, covered with white samite, but there was none might see it, nor who bare it. And there was all the hall full filled with good odours, and every knight had such meats and drinks as he best loved in this world; and when the Holy Grail had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became. Then had they all breath to speak. And then the King yielded thankings unto God of His good grace that He had sent them. “Certes,” said the King, “we ought to thank our Lord Jesu greatly, for that he hath shewed us this day at the reverence of this high feast of Pentecost.” “Now,” said Sir Gawaine, “we have been served this day of what meats and drinks we thought on, but one thing beguiled us: we might not see the Holy Grail, it was so preciously covered; wherefore I will make here avow, that to-morn, without longer abiding, I shall labour in the quest of the Sancgreal, that I shall hold me out a twelvemonth and a day, or more if need be, and never shall I return again unto the court till I have seen it more openly than it hath been seen here; and if I may not speed, I shall return again as he that may not be against the will of our Lord Jesu Christ.” When they of the Table Round heard Sir Gawaine say so, they arose up the most party, and made such avows as Sir Gawaine had made.