Anon as King Arthur heard this he was greatly displeased, for he wist well that they might not again say their avows. “Alas!” said King Arthur unto Sir Gawaine, “ye have nigh slain me with the avow and promise that ye have made. For through you ye have bereft me of the fairest fellowship and the truest of knighthood that ever were seen together in any realm of the world. For when they depart from hence, I am sure they all shall never meet more in this world, for they shall die many in the quest. And so it forethinketh me a little, for I have loved them as well as my life, wherefore it shall grieve me right sore the departition of this fellowship. For I have had an old custom to have them in my fellowship.” And therewith the tears filled in his eyes. And then he said, “Gawaine, Gawaine, ye have set me in great sorrow. For I have great doubt that my true fellowship shall never meet here again.” “Ah,” said Sir Launcelot, “comfort yourself, for it shall be unto us as a great honour, and much more than if we died in any other places, for of death we be sure.” “Ah, Launcelot,” said the King, “the great love that I have had unto you all the days of my life maketh me to say such doleful words; for never Christian king had never so many worthy men at this table as I have had this day at the Round Table, and that is my great sorrow.” When the queen, ladies, and gentlewomen wist these tidings, they had such sorrow and heaviness that there might no tongue tell it, for those knights had holden them in honour and charity.
And when all were armed, save their shields and their helms, then they came to their fellowship, which all were ready in the same wise for to go to the minster to hear their service.
Then, after the service was done, the King would wit how many had taken the quest of the Holy Grail, and to account them he prayed them all. Then found they by tale an hundred and fifty, and all were knights of the Round Table. And then they put on their helms and departed, and recommended them all wholly unto the queen, and there was weeping and great sorrow.
And so they mounted upon their horses and rode through the streets of Camelot, and there was weeping of the rich and poor, and the King turned away, and might not speak for weeping. So within a while they came to a city and a castle that hight Vagon. There they entered into the castle, and the lord of that castle was an old man that hight Vagon, and he was a good man of his living, and set open the gates, and made them all the good cheer that he might. And so on the morrow they were all accorded that they should depart every each from other. And then they departed on the morrow with weeping and mourning cheer, and every knight took the way that him best liked.
SIR THOMAS MALORY.
[Notes: The Quest of the Holy Grail. This is taken from the ’Mort d’Arthur,’ written about the end of the fifteenth century by Sir Thomas Malory, and one of the first books printed in England by Caxton. King Arthur was at the head and centre of the company of Knights of the Table Bound. The Holy Grail, or the Sangreal, was the dish said to have held the Paschal lamb at the Last Supper, and to have been possessed by Joseph of Arimathea.