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King Arthur's Death

Thomas Percy 1729 (Bridgnorth) – 1811

On Trinitye Mondaye in the morne,
This sore battayle was doom'd to bee,
Where manye a knighte cry'd, Well-awaye!
Alacke, it was the more pittìe.

Ere the first crowinge of the cocke,
When as the kinge in his bed laye,
He thoughte Sir Gawaine to him came,
And there to him these wordes did saye:

"Nowe, as you are mine unkle deare,
And as you prize your life, this daye
O meet not with your foe in fight;
Putt off the battayle, if yee maye.

"For Sir Launcelot is nowe in Fraunce,
And with him many an hardye knighte:
Who will within this moneth be backe,
And will assiste yee in the fighte."

The kinge then call'd his nobles all,
Before the breakinge of the daye;
And told them howe Sir Gawaine came,
And there to him these wordes did saye.

His nobles all this counsayle gave,
That earlye in the morning, hee
Shold send awaye an herauld-at-armes,
To aske a parley faire and free.

Then twelve good knightes King Arthur chose,
The best of all that with him were,
To parley with the foe in field,
And make with him agreement faire.

The king he charged all his hoste,
In readinesse there for to bee;
But noe man shold noe weapon sturre,
Unlesse a sword drawne they shold see.

And Mordred, on the other parte,
Twelve of his knights did likewise bringe,
The best of all his companye,
To hold the parley with the kinge.

Sir Mordred alsoe charged his hoste,
In readinesse there for to bee;
But noe man sholde noe weapon sturre,
But if a sworde drawne they shold see.

For he durste not his unkle truste,
Nor he his nephewe, sothe to tell;
Alacke! it was a woefulle case,
As ere in Christentye befelle.

But when they were together mette,
And both to faire accordance broughte,
And a month's league betweene them sette,
Before the battayle sholde be foughte,

An addere crept forth of a bushe,
Stunge one o' th' king's knightes on the knee;
Alacke! It was a woefulle chance,
As ever was in Christentìe.

When the knighte found him wounded sore,
And sawe the wild-worm hanginge there,
His sworde he from his scabberde drewe;
A piteous case, as ye shall heare.

For when the two hostes sawe the sworde,
They joyned battayle instantlye;
Till of soe manye noble knightes,
On one side there were left but three.

For all were slain that durst abide,
And but some fewe that fled awaye:
Ay mee! it was a bloodye fielde,
As ere was foughte on a summer's daye.

Upon King Arthur's own partyè,
Onlye himselfe escaped there,
And Lukyn Duke of Gloster free,
And the king's butler Bedevere.

And when the king beheld his knightes
All dead and scattered on the molde,
The teares fast trickled downe his face;
That manlye face in fight so bolde.

"Nowe reste yee all, brave knights," he said,
"Soe true and faithful to your trust:
And must ye then, ye valiant hearts,
Be lefte to moulder into dust!

"Most loyal have yee been to mee,
Most true and faithful unto deathe:
And, oh! to rayse yee up againe,
How freelye could I yield my breathe!

"But see, the traitor's yet alive!
Lo where hee stalkes among the deade!
Nowe bitterlye he shall abye:
And vengeance fall upon his head."

"O staye, my liege," then sayd the duke;
"O staye for love and charitìe;
Remember what the vision spake,
Nor meete your foe, if it may bee."

"O staye mee not, thou worthye wight,
This debt my loyal knights I owe:
Betide my life, betide me death,
I will avenge them of their foe."

Then straite he grasp'd his trustye speare,
And on his horse then mounted hee:
As his butler holpe him to his horse,
His bowels gushed to his knee.

"Alas!" then sayd the noble king,
"That I should live this sight to see!
To see this good knight here be slaine,
All for his love in helping mee!

He put his speare into his reste.
And to Sir Mordred loud gan crye:
"Nowe sette thyself upon thy guarde,
For, traitor, nowe thy death is nye."

Sir Mordred lifted up his sworde,
And fierce to meet the king ran hee:
The king his speare he through him thrust,
A fathom thorow his bodìe.

When Mordered felt the stroke of death,
And found that he was wounded soe,
He thrust himselfe upon the speare,
And strucke the king a deadlye blowe.

Then grimmlye dyed Sir Mordered,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Thomas Percy

Thomas Percy was Bishop of Dromore, County Down, Ireland. Before being made bishop, he was chaplain to George III. Percy's greatest contribution is considered to be his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, the first of the great ballad collections, which was the one work most responsible for the ballad revival in English poetry that was a significant part of the Romantic movement. more…

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