Clemence Housman

The Life of Sir Aglovale de Galis - Chapter I



"Thanks be to God for my good brother, who has blessed this
life of mine." C.H.

"THEN a man truly perceiveth and considereth himself who and what he is, and findeth himself utterly vile and wicked and unworthy, he falleth into such a deep abasement that it seemeth to him reasonable that all creatures in heaven and earth should rise up against him. And therefore he will not and dare not desire any consolation and release, but he is willing to be unconsoled and unreleased; and he doth not grieve over his sufferings, for they are right in his eyes, and he hath nothing to say against them. This is what is meant by true repentance for sin, and he who in this present time entereth into this hell, none may console him. Now, God hath not forsaken a man in this hell, but He is laying His hand upon him that the man may not desire nor regard anything but the Eternal Good only. And then, when the man neither careth nor desireth anything but the Eternal Good alone, and seeketh not himself nor his own things, but the honour of God only, he is made a partaker of all manner of joy, bliss, grace, rest, and consolation, and so the man is henceforth in the kingdom of heaven. This hell and this heaven are two good safe ways for a man, and happy is he who truly findeth them."
Theologia Germanica.

THE first record of Aglovale shows him in boyhood
tilting among others with his younger brother Lamorak.
Under conduct of old squires the boys trained on
the castle green, watched from above by fair, kind critics,
damsels and dames, one a queen. Aglovale, then in early
teens, held his own with sufficient address among his fellows
to take the lead that was fitting his birth. Young Lamorak
in due time hurled against him; and Aglovale, the elder by
a year, the taller by a head, went shocked over his horse's
tail. Loud sprang cheers from the rest, and on high white
hands fluttered applause.

When later the boys ranked for the mellay, King Pellinore,
with an honoured guest, young King Arthur, came out to watch, and the Queen, descending, stood with them under the gateway.

Throughout the tough game the names of the rival brothers
were calling. "Lamorak, Lamorak," rang like the beat of steel;
less strong for a rallying cry tossed the name of Aglovale.

Behind his leader, little Durnor rollicked along heedless of
danger, was rescued by Aglovale, was spared by Lamorak, till
he and his cob tumbled perilously, and he was led away perforce, despite his valiant laughter and tears.

Fortune went with Lamorak, for his emulation was a
contagious ardour; while Aglovale, nervous and dour, did little
to stay defeat.

Then the Queen, proud of her dearest son Lamorak, told
how he had forejusted his elder; thereupon King Pellinore,
well pleased also, called the pair out to run a course before
King Arthur.

"You are fit enough, boys?"

"Yes, yes, sire!" shouted Lamorak, passing fain and eager.

Aglovale said nothing; he was badly bruised, but he would
not plead. So matched with his younger he could get no
credit, Lamorak could get no shame. Deep, then, bit the snake
that poisoned his life thereafter. He set his teeth and wheeled
for position. "Lamorak, Lamorak," hammered heavy on his
heart, and his own name scarcely could he hear as their young
fellows shouted.

Down went Lamorak. No fault was his, for his girths were
rotten and broke. He rose fierce and clamorous, and sprang
to the first horse that offered, eager to dispute his brother's
nominal advantage. Aglovale claimed none. "Though a
back should break," swore Lamorak, "'tis not I shall quit the
saddle." Again they ran; and Aglovale, the elder by a year,
the taller by a head, went shocked over his horse's tail. How
"Lamorak, Lamorak" rang!

Away pranced the gallant boy; he saluted the Kings, the
Queen; he flung off and sprang up to the mother, bareheaded
for her kiss.

Aglovale stood up mute as death, came on foot, leading his
horse, saluted, and passed. Arthur spoke kindly, commending
both. The Queen looked after her son with tardy compunction, and when she saw him standing apart, stepped down and
crossed to him over the green, pacing slow with folded arms;
for in those days she went heavily with a double burden that
proved to be Percivale and his sister Saint.

"Are you hurt, my son?"

He lied, saying, "No."

Her kind, grave eyes questioned his sombre countenance.

"By this is a noble knight shown: that he rises with no
rancour from a fair overthrow; that he admires the force that
can bring him down; that he knows no base envy."

Aglovale breathed patiently. He dared not out with
another word lest the shame of weeping should attend. In
his heart he cried, "Does he love you more than I, that you
should love him more than me?"

"Ah, Aglovale," said the Queen, wistfully, "a degree of
excellence you might have brought from the ground, though
Lamorak from the selle brought more. Then had I been a
happier mother and proud of both my sons."

Aglovale quivered and hung his head silent; and she
turned away sighing over his evil temper. From the incoherent
conscience of youth he could not declare how the intolerable
bitterness of overthrow lay in her balancing his loss so lightly
against Lamorak's gain.

Yet then and afterwards, for all the Devil did with Aglovale,
never could, he kindle in him the least spark of hatred against
his brother Lamorak.

On a day not long after, the Queen sent for Aglovale to
her chamber, and showed him, pacing the court below, King
Pellinore and a stranger, whose hand rested on his shoulder,
whose face was addressed to him as the moon's to her earth,
whose voice and laughter rang the tune of close and familiar

"That is Sir Griflet le Fise de Dieu, a good knight that I
would you should love and honour."

Then with her arm round the boy's neck she told how that
friendship sprang: young Sir Griflet, on the first day of knight-
hood, sought to win worship of King Pellinore, who first
refused him, warning him of his might; and when he would
not be stayed, lightly smote him down; and then the King
took him up nigh slain, gave him wind, and set him on his
horse again, commending him for his great heart. And thereafter, she said, Sir Griflet loved and worshipped him greatly.

Aglovale sighed against her heart. He understood; and
he willed to love and worship Sir Griflet.

That good Queen did not herself fail to be gracious and
generous when within her woman's sphere she was tried.
From the wedding of Arthur and Guenever, King Pellinore returned with a goodly young knight, his new-found son Tor,
the love-child he to a peasant girl had given, and she to her
man Aries the cowherd, eighteen years before. Here may not
enter the full tale of how noble blood sent Tor from the low
estate of his mother, with a bold request straight to the presence of his unguessed father; and how Arthur gave him knighthood before his own nephew Gawaine, and was justified straightway by his noble deeds, while Gawaine fell to disgrace. All this is written in the books of my most dear Master whom I love so much.

The Queen, large-hearted, greeted her lord's son sweetly,
fairly, without misgiving for his peasant mother. She found
for him room in her good grace next her own sons, aye, in
the end above one, and he her firstborn; for Tor had touches
of his father, was gentle, courteous, of good parts, passing true
of his promise; and he never did outrage.

Aglovale's likeness to his father was but in strong hawk
features and swarthy skin. The stately build inherited by Tor
was not to be his; manhood could hardly redeem the lank
and awkward sprouting of his youth. Lamorak, in the bloom
of boyish grace, preluded the man of perfect strength and
beauty, whose fine force and prowess ranked him equal with
great Launcelot, and Tristram biggest of Arthur's knights.

Still, as the boys grew Lamorak gained over Aglovale; and Tor the strong, admirable Tor himself freely owned that the day would soon come when he, too, would be bettered of his brother; and Pellinore of himself said the same in his heart.

From their blunt play the boys went early to the sharp work of battle. When Danes and Irish landed in hosts against Arthur and ravaged from North Wales, Pellinore, staying for larger levies, sent on Tor with a troop of his best knights; and Aglovale and Lamorak, as young squires, attended on their
bastard brother.

A horrid foretaste they had when by night the active Irish
rushed the unwary camp where in the midst lay Guenever
withal. From shrouds of destruction Tor cut them out, and with him they headed a desperate stand to bar the way that the Queen had gone, with but four to defend her: Arthur, Kay the foster brother, Gawaine, and Griflet.

Step by step, stubborn Tor and his poor few gave back
before heavy odds, till the night went blind, and broken and
dispersed through the forest they fought or fled. Aglovale
and Lamorak held together, swept away from Tor's voice by
a surge of rattling steel. Joining in breathless rallies that
scattered again with loss, wounded, horsed, and unhorsed,
spent with the weight of harness, through that dreadful night
they endured a dark, inglorious struggle.

About dawn as they fell into a broad greenway, a foul knight came by who spurred upon Aglovale. His weary arm beat down the spear; it missed his side, pierced his thigh clean through, bore him to earth and broke. Then Lamorak, savage, houghed the horse without scruple, and stood before his brother in stout defence. Aglovale on his knees fought too. Down the greenway came the tramp of riders whose call was "Stranggore," and some spurred forward to the boys at bay. Aglovale called for rescue, but Lamorak cried, "Let be, let be ! I will deal in full payment." And even as he spoke, with a stroke deep through the gorget, he ended his work.

Fresh come at need here rode King Bagdemagus and his knights of Stranggore, with news of Pellinore following up from the south; with news of Tor whose driven foes they circled to head; but of Guenever and her four without news. By him the sons of Pellinore were not left horseless to foul murderers of the wounded; though scarcely might Aglovale ride for his hurt wherein the truncheon stack. To stay him from a fall a young squire of his age came to ride on the one side, as Lamorak rode on the other: this was Meliagraunce, son to King Bagdemagus.

On they rode under sky-dawn for the edge of the forest. And as the broad Humber opened ahead, flashing to the tide's uprush, helms golden in the first sun moved forward down a silver glade. Here shone lost Arthur and his fellows with a gathering troop; he, Gawaine, and Griflet each bore token of
a king he had slain, while Kay bore two.

Forth into the open swung the joint force, and lo! on Humber's tide far out steered a dark blot, where Guenever went safe on a ferry barge; and on Humber's bank glittered the thousands of the Danes and their allies, rank on rank, well ordered, pricking forward.

"Can our hundreds face these?" said Bagdemagus.

"Aye," answered Arthur, "for see, now they find their dead."

Even Guenever, far off, must have heard and shuddered at the dreadful cry of rage and lamentation that went up from the desolated hosts; and close after may have heard, too, the first great crash of battle; for while yet the foe reeled and surged and thronged, Arthur bore down upon them and began to slay.

In that battle Aglovale had no part. Lamorak shot away to the charge, and he was following insanely when Griflet saw him, reeling, loose-reined, clinging to the saddle peak. He cursed him roundly for a fool, guided him clear of the rush, brought him to a stand, and bade him go back. Where Griflet left him he stayed, nor went back nor forward.

The heart of Denmark was broken for its king; and Tor drove in on the rear the shattered strength of Ireland; and the allies, men of the Vale and of Soleise, between the Humber and backward pressure, turned frantic and fought friend and foe alike. That day there was fearful slaughter of the dense hosts of the invaders.

After the field was won, Tor found his brother fainting on his horse's neck. Weeping for joy, he lifted him down and cared for him; from the stiffened wound he drew out the spear head, and staunched the fresh blood that sprang free, comforting, praising, regarding naught else, refusing to leave him until Arthur summoned.

Then Aglovale, looking after, saw not far off King Arthur and his knights gathered red from the field; and Queen Guenever was come again and stood near between Kay and Gawaine. Fair gold was her hair. Fair gold was the hair of his mother, Pellinore's queen.

The King stood there with his sword bare in his hand to give knighthood. Aglovale sprang to his feet: the first to come and kneel was young Lamorak. More he could not stand to see. His wound broke out streaming afresh; for pure envy also his nostrils gushed blood; so fierce, then, was the stress of the master passion of his youth.

After Lamorak came Gawaine's two brothers, Gaheris and Agravaine, and many another; among the rest, Meliagraunce. And when the last stood up a knight, Arthur questioned after
one more. Tor answered him; Lamorak, Bagdemagus, Griflet
answered him.

Across the greensward ran Tor; in all his harness he ran. He lifted Aglovale.

"I cannot stand or go," said the boy, feebly.

"You shall! Aglovale, it is for knighthood of King Arthur!"

He drew his young brother's arm round his neck and lifted him along. Lamorak came too, and between them they took him and helped him to his knees before Arthur. Excalibur touched his shoulder, and his famishing spirit was satisfied.

Tor set him on his feet. "Keep up," said Lamorak, low, "for we go before Queen Guenever."

"Keep up," said Tor, low, "for we pass by Sir Gawaine and his brethren."

Sweet salutation the fairest of women gave, and gracious thanks to each, and praise namely to Sir Tor. Fair gold was her hair. On Lamorak her eyes rested, because of his boyish grace and beauty. She said in her heart, and afterwards to Arthur, "An angel, a man, and a devil."

"A man indeed," said Arthur, "but no devil, and on my faith no angel. Good knights all they will prove."

Gawaine and his brethren eyed hard the sons of Pellinore, for blood feud was unfinished, and these sons of Lot were passing good haters. Gawaine and Tor saluted coldly. Yet sooth that day had cancelled an old misdeed recorded in the books of him I love so much, restoring to Gawaine the fair place long withheld him in Queen Guenever's regard. Let it be said of him that then, and always, faithful and blameless was his worship
of Arthur's queen; and for the oath she had imposed on him in
his day of disgrace ever was he gentle and courteous to all ladies, and to all men who asked he showed mercy. The blood
of Pellinore would ask none of him; nor would Dinadan, nor

One envied Aglovale. Said Meliagraunce, "For your night of defence, Sir Aglovale, would I give my day of onslaught; for to me dearer than knighthood were such fair and particular greeting from Queen Guenever."

Aglovale wondered, and liked the youth, nor thought ill of the words. Alas! he so speaking was at first dawn of a passion
that afterwards drove him to rape and treason, and brought
him to so evil an end that Guenever denied him life and Arthur begrudged him burial.

Fuller reward awaited Sir Tor at Camelot; he, Gawaine, Griflet, and Kay were chosen in place of knights of the Round Table fallen by the Humber. My most dear Master has told at length how the vacant sieges were filled; and also of the trict fairness of Pellinore, and of the resentment of King Bagdemagus. Of Aglovale in boyhood there is no more to tell.

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