Launcelot to Lay of the Last Minstrel

Launcelot, bard to the countess Brenhilda’s father.—Sir W. Scott: Count Robert of Paris (time, Rufus).

Launcelot (Sir), originally called Galahad, was the son of Ban king of Benwick (Brittany) and his wife Elein (pt. i. 60). He was stolen in infancy by Vivienne the Lady of the Lake, who brought him up till he was presented to king Arthur and knighted. In consequence, he is usually called sir Launcelot du Lac. He was in “the eighth degree [or generation] of our Saviour” (pt. iii. 35); was uncle to sir Bors de Ganis (pt. iii. 4); his brother was sir Ector de Maris (pt. ii. 127); and his son, by Elaine daughter of king Pelles, was sir Galahad, the chastest of the 150 knights of the Round Table, and therefore allotted to the “Siege Perilous” and the quest of the holy graal, which he achieved. Sir Laucelot had from time to time a glimpse of the holy graal; but in consequence of his amours with queen Guenever, was never allowed more than a distant and fleeting glance of it (pt. iii. 18, 22, 45).

Sir Launcelot was the strongest and bravest of the 150 knights of the Round Table; the two next were sir Tristram and sir Lamoracke. His adultery with queen Guenever was directly or indirectly the cause of the death of king Arthur, the breaking up of the Round Table, and the death of most of the knights. The tale runs thus: Mordred and Agravain hated sir Launcelot, told the king he was too familiar with the queen, and, in order to make good their charge, persuaded Arthur to go a-hunting. While absent in the chase, the queen sent for sir Launcelot to her private chamber, when Mordred, Agravain, and twelve other knights beset the door, and commanded him to come forth. In coming forth he slew sir Agravain and the twelve knights; but Mordred escaped, and told the king, who condemned Guenever to be burnt to death. She was brought to the stake, but rescued by sir Launcelot, who carried her off to Joyous Guard, near Carlisle. The king besieged the castle, but received a bull from the pope, commanding him to take back the queen. This he did, but refused to be reconciled to sir Launcelot, who accordingly left the realm and went to Benwick. Arthur crossed over with an army to besiege Benwick, leaving Mordred regent. The traitor Mordred usurped the crown, and tried to make the queen marry him; but she rejected his proposal with contempt. When Arthur heard thereof, he returned, and fought three battles with his nephew, in the last of which Mordred was slain, and the king received from his nephew his death-wound. The queen now retired to the convent of Almesbury, where she was visited by sir Launcelot; but as she refused to leave the convent, sir Launcelot turned monk, died “in the odour of sanctity,” and was buried in Joyous Guard (pt. iii. 143-175).

“Ah! sir Launcelot,” said sir Ector; “thou were [sic] head of all Christian knights.” I dare say,” said sir Bors, “that sir Launcelot there thou liest, thou were never matched of none earthly knight’s hand; and thou were the courteoust knight that ever bare shield; and thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrode horse; and thou were the truest lover of sinfull man that ever loved woman; and thou were the kindest man that ever struck with sword; and thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights; and thou were the meekest man and the gentlest that ever eat in hall among ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in rest.”—Sir T. Malory: History of Prince Arthur, iii. 176 (1470).

N.B.—The Elaine above referred to is not the Elaine of Astolat, the heroine of Tennyson’s Idyll. Sir Ector de Maris is not sir Ector the foster-father of king Arthur; and sir Bors de Ganis must be kept distinct from sir Bors of Gaul, and also from sir Borre or sir Bors a natural son of king Arthur by Lyonors daughter of the earl Sanam (pt. i. 15).

Sir Launcelot and Elaine. The Elaine of Tennyson’s Idyll, called the “fair maid of Astolat,” was the daughter of sir Bernard lord of Astolat, and her two brothers were sir Tirre (not sir Torre, as Tennyson writes the word) and Lavaine (pt. iii. 122). The whole tale, and the beautiful picture of Elaine taken by the old dumb servitor down the river to the king’s palace, is all borrowed from sir T. Malory’s compilaton. “The fair maid of Astolat” asked sir Launcelot to marry her, but the knight replied, “Fair damsel, I thank you, but certainly cast me never to be married;” and when the maid asked if she might be ever with him without being wed, he made answer, “Mercy defend me, no!” “Then,” said Elaine, “I needs must die for love of you;” and when sir Launcelot quitted Astolat, she drooped and died. But before she died

  By PanEris using Melati.

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