The High History of the Holy Graal

Author: Unknown


"Sir," saith King Arthur, "To amend me have I come hither, and to be better counselled than I have been. Well do I see that the place is most holy, and I beseech you that you pray God that He counsel me and I will do my endeavour herein to amend me."

"God grant you may amend your life," saith the holy hermit, "in such sort that you may help to do away the evil Law and to exalt the Law that is made new by the crucifixion of the Holy Prophet. But a great sorrow is befallen in the land of late through a young knight that was harboured in the hostel of the rich King Fisherman, for that the most Holy Graal appeared to him and the Lance whereof the point runneth of blood, yet never asked he to whom was served thereof nor whence it came, and for that he asked it not are all the lands commoved to war, nor no knight meeteth other in the forest but he runneth upon him and slayeth him and he may, and you yourself shall well perceive thereof or ever you shall depart of this launde."

"Sir," saith King Arthur, "God defend me from the anguish of an evil death and from wickedness, for hither have I come for none other thing but to amend my life, and this will I do, so God bring me back in safety."

"Truly," saith the hermit, "He that hath been bad for three years out of forty, he hath not been wholly good."

"Sir," saith the King, "You speak truth."

The hermit departeth and so commendeth him to God. The King cometh to his horse and mounteth the speediest that ever he may, and setteth his shield on his neck, and taketh his spear in his hand and turneth him back a great pace. Howbeit, he had not gone a bowshot’s length when he saw a knight coming disorderly against him, and he sate upon a great black horse and he had a shield of the same and a spear. And the spear was somewhat thick near the point and burned with a great flame, foul and hideous, and the flame came down as far as over the knight’s fist. He setteth his spear in rest and thinketh to smite the King, but the King swerveth aside and the other passeth beyond. "Sir knight, wherefor hate you me?"

"Of right ought I not to love you," saith the knight.

"Wherefore?" saith the King.

"For this, that you have had my brother’s candlestick that was foully stolen from him!"

"Know you then who I am?" saith the King.

"Yea," saith the knight; "You are the King Arthur that aforetime were good and now are evil. Wherefore I defy you as my mortal enemy."

He draweth him back so that his onset may be the weightier. The King seeth that he may not depart without a stour. He setteth his spear in rest when he seeth the other come towards him with his own spear all burning. The King smiteth his horse with his spurs as hard as he may, and meeteth the knight with his spear and the knight him. And they melled together so stoutly that the spears bent without breaking, and both twain are shifted in their saddles and lose their stirrups. They hurtle so strongly either against other of their bodies and their horses that their eyes sparkle as of stars in their heads and the blood rayeth out of King Arthur by mouth and nose. Either draweth away from other and they take their breath. The King looketh at the Black Knight’s spear that burneth, and marvelleth him right sore that it is not snapped in flinders of the great buffet he had received thereof, and him thinketh rather that it is a devil and a fiend. The Black Knight is not minded to let King Arthur go so soon, but rather cometh toward him a great career. The King seeth him come toward him and so covereth him of his shield for fear of the flame. The King receiveth him on the point of his spear and smiteth him with so sore a shock that he maketh him bend backward over his horse croup. The other, that was of great might, leapeth back into the saddle-bows and smiteth the King upon the boss of his shield so that the burning point pierceth the shield and the sleeve of his habergeon and runneth the sharp iron into his arm. The King feeleth the wound and the heat, whereof is he filled with great wrath, and the knight draweth back his spear to him, and hath great joy at heart when he feeleth the King wounded. The King was rejoiced not a whit, and looked at the spear that was quenched thereof and burned no longer.

"Sir," saith the knight,"I cry you mercy. Never would my spear have been quenched of its burning, save it were bathed in your blood."

"Now may never God help me," saith King Arthur, "whenever I shall have mercy on you, and I may achieve!"

He pricketh towards him a great run, and smiteth him in the broad of the breast and thrusted his spear half an ell into his body, and beareth him to the ground, both him and his horse all in a heap, and draweth his spear back to him and looketh at the knight that lay as dead and leaveth him in the launde, and draweth him towards the issue incontinent. And so as the King went, he heard a great clashing of knights coming right amidst the forest, so as it seemed there were a good score or more of them, and he seeth them enter the launde from the forest, armed and well horsed. And they come with great ado toward the knight that lay dead in the midst of the launde. King Arthur was about to issue forth, when the damsel that he had left under the tree cometh forward to meet him.

"Sir," saith she, "For God’s sake, return back and fetch me the head of the knight that lieth there dead."

The King looketh back, and seeth the great peril and the multitude of knights that are there all armed. "Ha, damsel," saith he, "You are minded to slay me."

"Certes, Sir, that I am not, but sore need will there be that I should have it, nor never did knight refuse to do the thing I asked nor deny me any boon I demanded of him. Now God grant you be not the most churlish."

"Ha, damsel, I am right sore wounded in the arm whereon I hold my shield."

"Sir," saith she, "I know it well, nor never may you be heal thereof save you bring me the head of the knight."

"Damsel," he saith, "I will essay it whatsoever may befal me thereof."


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Chicago: Unknown, "VIII.," The High History of the Holy Graal, trans. Evans, Sebastian in The High History of the Holy Graal Original Sources, accessed November 30, 2023,

MLA: Unknown. "VIII." The High History of the Holy Graal, translted by Evans, Sebastian, in The High History of the Holy Graal, Original Sources. 30 Nov. 2023.

Harvard: Unknown, 'VIII.' in The High History of the Holy Graal, trans. . cited in , The High History of the Holy Graal. Original Sources, retrieved 30 November 2023, from