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The Legends Of King Arthur And His Knights

James Knowles


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Description

Stories from the legends of King Arthur, the famous British leader who led the defence of Britain against the Saxon invaders in the 5th and 6th centuries. Chapter subjects include: The Prophecies of Merlin, and the Birth of Arthur; The Miracle of the Sword and Stone, and the Coronation of King Arthur; King Arthur drives the Saxons from the Realm; The Battles of Celidon Forest and Badon Hill; King Arthur Conquers Ireland and Norway, Slays the Giant of St. Michael’s Mount, and Conquers Gaul; Sir Balin Smites the Dolorous Stroke; The Marriage of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, and the Founding of the Round Table, and many more.

This book has 242 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1862.

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Excerpt from 'The Legends Of King Arthur And His Knights'

King Vortigern the usurper sat upon his throne in London, when, suddenly, upon a certain day, ran in a breathless messenger, and cried aloud—

“Arise, Lord King, for the enemy is come; even Ambrosius and Uther, upon whose throne thou sittest—and full twenty thousand with them—and they have sworn by a great oath, Lord, to slay thee, ere this year be done; and even now they march towards thee as the north wind of winter for bitterness and haste.”

At those words Vortigern’s face grew white as ashes, and, rising in confusion and disorder, he sent for all the best artificers and craftsmen and mechanics, and commanded them vehemently to go and build him straightway in the furthest west of his lands a great and strong castle, where he might fly for refuge and escape the vengeance of his master’s sons—“and, moreover,” cried he, “let the work be done within a hundred days from now, or I will surely spare no life amongst you all.”

Then all the host of craftsmen, fearing for their lives, found out a proper site whereon to build the tower, and eagerly began to lay in the foundations. But no sooner were the walls raised up above the ground than all their work was overwhelmed and broken down by night invisibly, no man perceiving how, or by whom, or what. And the same thing happening again, and yet again, all the workmen, full of terror, sought out the king, and threw themselves upon their faces before him, beseeching him to interfere and help them or to deliver them from their dreadful work.

Filled with mixed rage and fear, the king called for the astrologers and wizards, and took counsel with them what these things might be, and how to overcome them. The wizards worked their spells and incantations, and in the end declared that nothing but the blood of a youth born without mortal father, smeared on the foundations of the castle, could avail to make it stand. Messengers were therefore sent forthwith through all the land to find, if it were possible, such a child. And, as some of them went down a certain village street, they saw a band of lads fighting and quarrelling, and heard them shout at one—“Avaunt, thou imp!—avaunt! Son of no mortal man! go, find thy father, and leave us in peace.”

At that the messengers looked steadfastly on the lad, and asked who he was. One said his name was Merlin; another, that his birth and parentage were known by no man; a third, that the foul fiend alone was his father. Hearing the things, the officers seized Merlin, and carried him before the king by force.

But no sooner was he brought to him than he asked in a loud voice, for what cause he was thus dragged there?

“My magicians,” answered Vortigern, “told me to seek out a man that had no human father, and to sprinkle my castle with his blood, that it may stand.”

“Order those magicians,” said Merlin, “to come before me, and I will convict them of a lie.”

The king was astonished at his words, but commanded the magicians to come and sit down before Merlin, who cried to them—

“Because ye know not what it is that hinders the foundation of the castle, ye have advised my blood for a cement to it, as if that would avail; but tell me now rather what there is below that ground, for something there is surely underneath that will not suffer the tower to stand?”

The wizards at these words began to fear, and made no answer. Then said Merlin to the king—

“I pray, Lord, that workmen may be ordered to dig deep down into the ground till they shall come to a great pool of water.”

This then was done, and the pool discovered far beneath the surface of the ground.

Then, turning again to the magicians, Merlin said, “Tell me now, false sycophants, what there is underneath that pool?”—but they were silent. Then said he to the king, “Command this pool to be drained, and at the bottom shall be found two dragons, great and huge, which now are sleeping, but which at night awake and fight and tear each other. At their great struggle all the ground shakes and trembles, and so casts down thy towers, which, therefore, never yet could find secure foundations.”

The king was amazed at these words, but commanded the pool to be forthwith drained; and surely at the bottom of it did they presently discover the two dragons, fast asleep, as Merlin had declared.

But Vortigern sat upon the brink of the pool till night to see what else would happen.

Then those two dragons, one of which was white, the other red, rose up and came near one another, and began a sore fight, and cast forth fire with their breath. But the white dragon had the advantage, and chased the other to the end of the lake. And he, for grief at his flight, turned back upon his foe, and renewed the combat, and forced him to retire in turn. But in the end the red dragon was worsted, and the white dragon disappeared no man knew where.

When their battle was done, the king desired Merlin to tell him what it meant. Whereat he, bursting into tears, cried out this prophecy, which first foretold the coming of King Arthur.

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