Read BOOK OF SIR TRISTRAM : STORY OF SIR TRISTRAM AND THE LADY BELLE ISOULT - CHAPTER IV of The Story of the Champions of the Round Table, free online book, by Howard Pyle, on

How Sir Tristram encountered Sir Palamydes at the tournament and of what befell.  Also how Sir Tristram was forced to leave the Kingdom of Ireland.

So came the time for the tournament that King Angus of Ireland had ordained; and that was a very famous affair at arms indeed.  For it hath very rarely happened that so noble a gathering of knights hath ever come together as that company which there presented itself for that occasion at the court of the King of Ireland.

These and many others gathered at the court of King Angus of Ireland, so that all those meadows and fields coadjacent to the place of battle were gay as beds of flowers with the multitude of tents and pavilions of divers colors that were there emplanted.

And on the day of the tournament there came great crowds of people into the lists, so that all that place was alive with movement.  For it was as though a sea of people had arisen to overflow the seats and stalls thereof.

Now that tournament was to last for three days, and upon the third day there was to be a grand melee in which all these knights contestant were to take stand upon this side or upon that.

But upon the first two of those three days Sir Tristram sat in the stall of the King and looked down upon the jousting, for, because of the illness from which he had recovered, he was minded to save his body until the right time should come, what time he should be called upon to do his uttermost.

Then Belle Isoult was troubled in her mind, and she said:  “Tramtris, yonder in very truth is a most fierce and terrible knight.  Now somewhiles I have fear that you may not be able to overcome him.”

Thereat Sir Tristram smiled very grimly, and said:  “Lady, already I have overcome in battle a bigger knight than ever Sir Palamydes has been or is like to be.”  But the Lady Belle Isoult wist not that that knight of whom Sir Tristram spake was Sir Marhaus of Ireland.

“Sir,” said the Lady Belle Isoult, “you are not to forget that there is still another day of this battle, and in it you may not happen to have the same fortune that favored you to-day; so I will wait until you have won that battle also before I answer you.”

“Well,” said Sir Palamydes, “you shall see that I shall do even more worthily to-morrow for your sake than I have done to-day.”

But the Lady Belle Isoult was not very well pleased with that saying, for she began again to fear that maybe the will of Sir Palamydes was so strong that Sir Tristram would not have any success against him.

So came the third day of that very famous contest at arms, and when this morning was come there began to gather together in the two parties those who were to contest the one against the other.  Of one of these parties, Sir Palamydes was the chiefest knight, and upon that side was also Sir Gawaine and several of the knights who were with him.  For these said, “There shall certes be greater credit to be had with Sir Palamydes than against him,” and so they joined them with his party.  Of the other party the chiefest knights were the King of an Hundred Knights and the King of Scots, and both of these were very famous and well-approved champions, of high courage and remarkable achievements.

Now when he was armed and prepared in all ways, the Lady Belle Isoult came to where he was and she said, “Tramtris, are you ready?” And he answered “Yea.”  Therewith she took the horse of Sir Tristram by the bridle and she led him to the postern gate of the castle, and put him out that way into a fair field that lay beyond; and Sir Tristram abided in the fields for some while until the tournament should have begun.

But the Lady Belle Isoult went to the tournament with her father, the King, and her mother, the Queen, and took her station at that place assigned to her whence she might overlook the field.

At this time came Sir Tristram, riding at a free pace, shining like to a figure of silver.  Then many saw him and observed him and said to one another:  “Who is this knight, and what party will he join with to do battle?” These had not long to wait to know what side he would join, for immediately Sir Tristram took stand with that party which was the party of the King of an Hundred Knights and the King of Scots, and at that the one party was very glad, and the other party was sorry; for they deemed that Sir Tristram was certes some great champion.

This Sir Gawaine beheld, and said to Sir Sagramore:  “Yonder is certes a knight of terrible strength; now let us go and see of what mettle he be.”

Therewith Sir Gawaine pushed against Sir Tristram from the one side, and Sir Sagramore came against him on the other side, and so they met him both at once.  Then first Sir Gawaine struck Sir Tristram such a buffet that the horse of Sir Tristram turned twice about with the force of that stroke; and therewith Sir Sagramore smote him a buffet upon the other side so that Sir Tristram wist not upon which side to defend himself.

Then, at those blows Sir Tristram waxed so exceedingly fierce that it was as though a fire of rage flamed up into his brains and set them into a blaze of rage.  So with that he rose up in his stirrups and launched so dreadful a blow upon Sir Gawaine that I believe nothing could have withstood the force of that blow.  For it clave through the shield of Sir Gawaine and it descended upon the crown of his helmet and it clave away a part of his helmet and a part of the épaulière of his shoulder; and with the force of that dreadful, terrible blow, Sir Gawaine fell down upon the ground and lay there as though he were dead.

Then Sir Tristram wheeled upon Sir Sagramore (who sat wonder-struck at that blow he had beheld) and thereafter he smote him too, so that he fell down and lay upon the ground in a swoon from which he did not recover for more than two hours.

Now Sir Palamydes also had beheld those two strokes that Sir Tristram had given, wherefore he said:  “Hah!  Yonder is a very wonderful knight.  Now if I do not presently meet him, and that to my credit, he will have more honor in this battle than I.”

So therewith Sir Palamydes pushed straight against Sir Tristram, and

Then immediately Sir Palamydes smote Sir Tristram such a buffet that Sir Tristram thought a bolt of lightning had burst upon him, and for a little while he was altogether bemazed and wist not where he was.  But when he came to himself he was so filled with fury that his heart was like to break therewith.

Then all who beheld the encounter shouted very loud and with great vehemence, for it was the very best and most notable assault at arms that had been performed in all that battle.  But most of those who beheld that assault cried out “The Silver Knight!” For at that time no one but the Lady Belle Isoult wist who that silver knight was.  But she wist very well who he was, and was so filled with the glory of his prowess that she wept for joy thereof.

At that the King of Ireland was very much astonished and overjoyed, and he said:  “If that is indeed so, then it is a very great honor for us all.”

Now after that assault Sir Tristram took no more part in that battle but withdrew to one side.  But he perceived where the esquires attendant upon Sir Palamydes came to him and lifted him up and took him away.  Then by and by he perceived that Sir Palamydes had mounted his horse again with intent to leave that meadow of battle, and in a little he saw Sir Palamydes ride away with his head bowed down like to one whose heart was broken.

All this Sir Tristram beheld and did not try to stay Sir Palamydes in his departure.  But some while after Sir Palamydes had quitted that place, Sir Tristram also took his departure, going in that same direction that Sir Palamydes had gone.  Then after he had come well away from the meadow of battle, Sir Tristram set spurs to his horse and rode at a hard gallop along that way that Sir Palamydes had taken.

So he rode at such a gait for a considerable pass until, by and by, he perceived Sir Palamydes upon the road before him; and Sir Palamydes was at that time come to the edge of a woods where there were several stone windmills with great sails swinging very slowly around before a strong wind that was blowing.

Then when Sir Palamydes saw Sir Tristram standing above him in that wise, he dreaded his buffets so that he said:  “Sir Knight, I yield me to thee to do thy commands, if so be thou wilt spare my life.”

Thereupon Sir Tristram said, “Arise,” and at that Sir Palamydes got him up to his knees with some ado, and so remained kneeling before Sir Tristram.

“Well,” said Sir Tristram, “I believe you have saved your life by thus yielding yourself to me.  Now this shall be my commandment upon you.  First of all, my commandment is that you forsake the Lady Belle Isoult, and that you do not come near her for the space of an entire year.  And this is my second commandment; that from this day you do not assume the arms of knighthood for an entire year and a day.”

“Alas!” said Sir Palamydes, “why do you not slay me instead of bringing me to such shame as this!  Would that I had died instead of yielding myself to you as I did.”  And therewith he wept for shame and despite.

“Well,” said Sir Tristram, “let that pass which was not done.  For now you have yielded yourself to me and these are my commands.”  So with that Sir Tristram set his sword back again into its sheath, and he mounted his horse and rode away, leaving Sir Palamydes where he was.

So Sir Tristram drave Sir Palamydes away from the Lady Belle Isoult as he had promised to do.

Now when Tristram came back to the castle of the King of Ireland once more, he thought to enter privily in by the postern-gate as he had gone out.  But lo! instead of that he found a great party waiting for him before the castle and these gave him loud acclaim, crying, “Welcome, Sir Tramtris!  Welcome, Sir Tramtris!” And King Angus came forward and took the hand of Sir Tristram, and he also said:  “Welcome, Sir Tramtris, for you have brought us great honor this day!”

Anon the Queen of Ireland came and said:  “Tramtris, one so nigh to death as you have been should not so soon have done battle as you have done.  Now I will have a bain prepared and you shall bathe therein, for you are not yet hale and strong.”

“Lady,” said Tristram, “I do not need any bain, for I believe I am now strong and well in all wise.”

“Nay,” said the Queen, “you must have that bain so that no ill may come to you hereafter from this battle which you have fought.”

So she had that bain prepared of tepid water, and it was very strong and potent with spices and powerful herbs of divers sorts.  And when that bain was prepared, Sir Tristram undressed and entered the bath, and the Queen and the Lady Belle Isoult were in the adjoining chamber which was his bed-chamber.

Then as soon as Gouvernail and Sir Helles loosed her, she ran very violently out of that room with great outcry of screaming, and so to King Angus and flung herself upon her knees before him, crying out:  “Justice!  Justice!  I have found that man who slew my brother!  I beseech of you that you will deal justice upon him.”

Then King Angus rose from where he sat, and he said:  “Where is that man?  Bring me to him.”  And the Queen said:  “It is Tramtris, who hath come hither unknown unto this place.”

King Angus said:  “Lady, what is this you tell me?  I cannot believe that what you say is true.”  Upon this the Queen cried out:  “Go yourself, Lord, and inquire, and find out how true it is.”

Then King Angus rose, and went forth from that place, and he went to the chamber of Sir Tristram.  And there he found that Sir Tristram had very hastily dressed himself and had armed himself in such wise as he was able.  Then King Angus came to Tristram, and he said:  “How is this, that I find thee armed?  Art thou an enemy to my house?” And Tristram wept, and said:  “Nay, Lord, I am not your enemy, but your friend, for I have great love for you and for all that is yours, so that I would be very willing to do battle for you even unto death if so be I were called upon to do so.”

Then King Angus said:  “If that is so, how is it that I find thee here armed as if for battle, with thy sword in thy hand?” “Lord,” said Sir Tristram, “although I be friends with you and yours, yet I know not whether you be friends or enemies unto me; wherefore I have prepared myself so that I may see what is your will with me, for I will not have you slay me without defence upon my part.”  Then King Angus said:  “Thou speakest in a very foolish way, for how could a single knight hope to defend himself against my whole household?  Now I bid thee tell me who thou art, and what is thy name, and why thou earnest hither knowing that thou hadst slain my brother?”

So King Angus listened to all that Sir Tristram said, and when he had ended, quoth he:  “As God sees me, Tristram, I cannot deny that you did with Sir Marhaus as a true knight should.  For it was certes your part to take the cause of your uncle upon you if you had the heart to do so, and it was truly a real knightly thing for you who were so young to seek honor at the hands of so famous a knight as Sir Marhaus.  For I do not believe that until you came his way there was any knight in the world who was greater than he, unless it were Sir Launcelot of the Lake.  Wherefore, from that, and from what I saw you do at the tournament, some time ago, I believe that you are one of the strongest knights in the world, and the peer of Sir Launcelot, or of anybody else.

“But though all this is true, nevertheless it will not be possible for me to maintain you in this country, for if I keep you here I shall greatly displease not only the Queen and her kin, but many of those lords and knights who were kin to Sir Marhaus or who were united to him in pledges of friendship.  So you must even save yourself as you can and leave here straightway, for I may not help or aid you in any way.”

Then Sir Tristram said:  “Lord, I thank you for your great kindness unto me, and I know not how I shall repay the great goodness that my Lady Belle Isoult hath showed to me.  For I swear to you upon the pommel of my sword which I now hold up before me that I would lay down my life for her sake.  Yea, and my honor too! for she hath the entire love of my heart, so that I would willingly die for her, or give up for her all that I have in the world.  Now as for my knighthood, I do believe that I shall in time become a knight of no small worship, for I feel within my heart that this shall be so.  So if my life be spared, it may be that you will gain more having me for your friend and your true servant than you will by taking my life in this outland place.  For whithersoever I go I give you my knightly word that I shall be your daughter’s servant, and that I shall ever be her true knight in right or in wrong, and that I shall never fail her if I shall be called upon to do her service.”

Then King Angus meditated upon this for a while, and he said:  “Tristram, what thou sayest is very well said, but how shall I get you away from this place in safety?”

Sir Tristram said:  “Lord, there is but one way to get me away with credit unto yourself.  Now I beseech you of your grace that I may take leave of my lady your daughter, and that I may then take leave of all your knights and kinsmen as a right knight should.  And if there be any among them who chooses to stop me or to challenge my going, then I must face that one at my peril, however great it may be.”

“Well,” said King Angus, “that is a very knightly way to behave, and so it shall be as you will have it.”

So Sir Tristram went down stairs to a certain chamber where Belle Isoult was.  And he went straight to her and took her by the hand; and he said:  “Lady, I am to go away from this place, if I may do so with credit to my honor; but before I go I must tell you that I shall ever be your own true knight in all ways that a knight may serve a lady.  For no other lady shall have my heart but you, so I shall ever be your true knight.  Even though I shall haply never see your face again, yet I shall ever carry your face with me in my heart, and the thought of you shall always abide with me withersoever I go.”

At this the Lady Belle Isoult fell to weeping in great measure, and thereat the countenance of Sir Tristram also was all writhed with passion, and he said, “Lady, do not weep so!” She said, “Alas I cannot help it!” Then he said:  “Lady, you gave me my life when I thought I was to lose it, and you brought me back from pain unto ease, and from sorrow unto joy.  Would God I were suffering all those pangs as aforetime, so that there might be no more tears upon your face.”

After that Sir Tristram went straight unto the hall of the castle, and there he found a great many of the lords of the castle and knights attendant upon the King.  For the news of these things had flown fast, and many of them were angry and some were doubtful.  But Tristram came in very boldly, clad all in full armor, and when he stood in the midst of them he spoke loud and with great courage, saying:  “If there be any man here whom I have offended in any way, let him speak, and I will give him entire satisfaction whoever he may be.  But let such speech be now or never, for here is my body to make good my knighthood against the body of any man, whomsoever he may be.”

At this all those knights who were there stood still and held their peace, and no man said anything against Sir Tristram (although there were several knights and lords who were kin to the Queen), for the boldness of Tristram overawed them, and no one had the heart to answer him.

So after a little while Sir Tristram left that place, without turning his head to see if any man followed him.

So Sir Tristram, though as to his body he was very whole and sound, was, as to his spirit, very ill at ease; for though he was so well and suffered no pain, yet it appeared to him that all the joy of his life had been left behind him, so that he could nevermore have any more pleasure in this world which lieth outside of the walls of Paradise.