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Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

    “Sir Cradock called his lady,
      And bade her to come near: 
    ’Come win this mantle, lady,
       And do me credit here: 

    “’Come win this mantle, lady,
      For now it shall be thine,
    If thou hast never done amiss,
      Since first I made thee mine.’

    “The lady, gently blushing,
      With modest grace came on;
    And now to try the wondrous charm
      Courageously is gone.

    “When she had ta’en the mantle,
      And put it on her back,
    About the hem it seemed
      To wrinkle and to crack.

    “‘Lie still,’ she cried, ’O mantle! 
      And shame me not for naught;
    I’ll freely own whate’er amiss
      Or blameful I have wrought.

    “’Once I kissed Sir Cradock
      Beneath the greenwood tree;
    Once I kissed Sir Cradock’s mouth,
      Before he married me.’

    “When she had thus her shriven,
      And her worst fault had told,
    The mantle soon became her,
      Right comely as it should.

    “Most rich and fair of color,
      Like gold it glittering shone,
    And much the knights in Arthur’s court
      Admired her every one.”

[Footnote 1:  New-fangled—­fond of novelty.]

The ballad goes on to tell of two more trials of a similar kind, made by means of a boar’s head and a drinking horn, in both of which the result was equally favorable with the first to Sir Cradock and his lady.  It then concludes as follows: 

    “Thus boar’s head, horn, and mantle
      Were this fair couple’s meed;
    And all such constant lovers,
      God send them well to speed”

    —­Percy’s Reliques.

CHAPTER VIII

LAUNCELOT OF THE LAKE

King Ban, of Brittany, the faithful ally of Arthur was attacked by his enemy Claudas, and after a long war saw himself reduced to the possession of a single fortress, where he was besieged by his enemy.  In this extremity he determined to solicit the assistance of Arthur, and escaped in a dark night, with his wife Helen and his infant son Launcelot, leaving his castle in the hands of his seneschal, who immediately surrendered the place to Claudas.  The flames of his burning citadel reached the eyes of the unfortunate monarch during his flight and he expired with grief.  The wretched Helen, leaving her child on the brink of a lake, flew to receive the last sighs of her husband, and on returning perceived the little Launcelot in the arms of a nymph, who, on the approach of the queen, threw herself into the lake with the child.  This nymph was Viviane, mistress of the enchanter Merlin, better known by the name of the Lady of the Lake.  Launcelot received his appellation from having been educated at the court of this enchantress, whose palace was situated in the midst, not of a real, but, like the appearance which deceives the African traveller, of an imaginary lake, whose deluding resemblance served as a barrier to her residence.  Here she dwelt not alone, but in the midst of a numerous retinue, and a splendid court of knights and damsels.

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