For the longest time, near the lonely sea
On the shores of the coast of Brittany
He would gaze, with a keenness within his eyes
To the land of Logres, where Arthur lies.
For his form was strong, and his face was fair
And the sea-breeze blew round his locks of hair.
He was strongly trained, in his manly might
So was well entitled to be made knight.
For the joust, for the hunt, for the sharp sword-play
He had fought, he had trained, many a hard day.
In the shield and spear, in the sword and blade
He excelled in the war-sports that all knights played.
There he stood and he stared while the sun grew hot
Twas the youthful, goodly, young Lancelot.
When the boat he saw, he relaxed and smiled.
To the sea-swept shores, with a cry both wild
And free he hailed sailor-men on board.
With a carefree heart and his father’s sword
He embarked. Then they sailed in the failing light
Onto Logres’ shores with the untried knight.
For a knight he would be – nothing was more plain
He would stand, he would fight, serve his lord till slain.
Arthur’s court noised abroad was the talk of the world
His impatience was such, as the sailors unfurled
Every stitch of cloth, to make good headway.
Lancelot slept not. All rest kept at bay –
His excitement grew. To Logres he came!
His honour’s increase, mighty deeds of fame,
Garner him renown. To high chivalry
And to Arthur his king he’d devoted be.
All his worries were naught. What might there go wrong?
He was young. He was bold. Confident and strong.
But so rarely do things in this world hap right.
And that’s true in especial for the new-made knight.
To the coast when they come the youth hops off board
With farewell to all. A last parting word
Sets him straight on the road to where Arthur is found.
In his armour he rides. Lightly he looks round
At the trees of broad oak on both sides of the road.
He rides on his great steed, checking safely is stowed
Everything for the ride. Then he gallops with speed
For his horse is an excellent Brittany steed.
From the brow of a hill, comes the challenge. A call
To take arms for the passage. Not fearing a fall
The young knight gazes soberly. A knight in black.
No device on his shield sits awaiting attack.
Lancelot dons his helm and brings out a new lance
While the black knight sits waiting the stranger’s advance.
Lancelot gallops fast in a bone-shaking charge
As the black knight towards him takes aim at his targe.
With a clash of raw steel, lances strike, and sparks fly
And the young knight unhorsed on the hard ground does lie.
But he springs to his feet, raging angry with shame
Thinking that but perhaps ’twas his horse was to blame.
With a shout of defiance, unsheathed is his blade
And the black knight accepts that his challenge is made.
With a courteous courage, the black knight alights
And on foot draws his blade. Approaches and quick smites.
Though the young knight’s prepared, he’s surprised at the strength
Of the black knight: his quickness, his reach and the length
Of his strokes which belabour, give Lancelot pause.
He is wary: he parries and searches for flaws
In defence. But the knight gives back good as he gets
And the younger, enraged, changes tack and besets
Round the helm, on the shield, raining hard many blows
As the black knight defends him as well as he knows.
So the din of the battle, the clash of the blades
Carries on through the daylight, is heard ‘mongst the glades
Of the forest around. As the hours of light
Circle on, till the twilight at last views the fight.
Then the black knight draws aback. With a question bemused
Speaks aloud: “Stay thy hand, stripling knight. Hardly used
To hard combat for so long, with someone so young.
Please to tell me your name?” Though the tone his pride stung
Lancelot – on his guard – spoke his name with good grace.
Then surprised, as the helm is removed from the face
Of King Arthur – the black knight – who laughed gleefully
As the young knight – chagrined – flings himself to his knee
Pleading pardon. “To serve you and your Table Round
From Brittany came I. Now my leige – you I’ve found –
Please forgive my hard strokes. I was all unaware…”
Arthur laughed heartily at the joke he would share.
Then in a different mood – he demanded his sword.
Lancelot offers blade. Then did Arthur award
A deft tap on his shoulder. “This day, you are knight!
Arise Sir Lancelot. From this day, with all might
You will serve Logres well. To my own Table Round
I myself will escort you. Your praises I’ll sound!
You are brave as myself. You will make a good knight.
You will champion the weak. You will war for the Right.”
Thus to Camelot rode they, the knights-in-arms twain
Lancelot took his first step on his path to fame.