Sir Thomas Malory on Excalibur

Sir Thomas Malory's ''Morte Darthur''(also referred to as ''Le Morte d'Arthur'') brought the tales of King Arthur back from France to 15th-century Britain in the first long piece of English prose to be read with enjoyment and understanding in later periods. It has a clear and simple, almost scriptural style, as exemplified in this passage when the mortally wounded king tries to have his sword Excalibur restored to the Lady of the Lake in the waters whence it came.

''Therefore,'' said Arthur unto Sir Bedivere, ''take thou Excalibur, my good sword and go with it to yonder water-side, and when thou comest there I charge thee throw my sword in that water, and come again and tell me what thou there seest.''

''My lord,'' said Bedivere, ''your commandment shall be done, and (I shall) lightly bring you word again.''

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So Sir Bedivere departed, and by the way he beheld that noble sword, that the pommel and the haft was all of precious stones; and then he said to himself: ''If I throw this rich sword in the water, thereof shall never come good, but harm and loss.'' And then Sir Bedivere hid Excalibur under a tree. And so, as soon as he might, he came again unto the king, and said he had been at the water , and had thrown the sword in the water. ''What saw thou there?'' said the king. ''Sir,'' he said, ''I saw nothing but waves and winds.'' ''That is untruly said of thee,'' said the king, ''therefore go thou lightly again, and do my commandment; as thou art to me lief and dear, spare not, but throw it in.''

Then Sir Bedivere returned again, and took the sword in his hand; and then him thought sin and shame to throw away that noble sword, and so eft he hid the sword, and returned again, and told to the king that he had been at the water, and done his commandment.

''What saw thou there?'' said the king. ''Sir,'' he said, ''I saw nothing but the waters wap and waves wane.'' ''Ah, traitor untrue,'' said King Arthur, ''now hast thou betrayed me twice. Who would have weened that, thou that has been to me so lief and dear? And thou art named a noble knight, and would betray me for the richness of the sword. But now go again lightly, for thy long tarrying putteth me in great jeopardy of my life, for I have taken cold. And but if thou do now as I bid thee, if ever I may see thee, I shall slay thee with mine own hands; for thou wouldst for my rich sword see me dead.''

Then Sir Bedivere departed, and went to the sword, and lightly took it up, and went to the water-side; and there he bound the girdle about the hilts, and then he threw the sword as far into the water as he might; and there came an arm and an hand above the water and met it, and caught it, and so shook it thrice and brandished, and then vanished away the hand with the sword in the water. So Sir Bedivere came again to the king, and told him what he saw.

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