And thus upon a night, there came a vision to Sir Lancelot, and charged him, in remission of his sins, to haste him unto Almesbury: ‘And by then thou come there, thou shalt find Queen Guenevere dead. And therefore take thy fellows with thee, and purvey them of an horse bier, and fetch thou the corpse of her, and bury her by her husband, the noble King Arthur.’ So this avision came to Sir Lancelot thrice in one night. Then Sir Lancelot rose up or day, and told the hermit.
‘It were well done,’ said the hermit, ‘that ye made you ready, and that ye disobey not the avision.’
Then Sir Lancelot took his seven fellows with him, and on foot they yede from Glastonbury to Almesbury, the which is little more than thirty mile. And thither they came within two days, for they were weak and feeble to go. And when Sir Lancelot was come to Almesbury within the nunnery, Queen Guenevere died but half an hour before.
And the ladies told Sir Lancelot that Queen Guenevere told them all or she passed, that Sir Lancelot had been priest near a twelvemonth. “And hither he cometh as far as he may to fetch my corpse; and beside my lord, King Arthur, he shall bury me.” Wherefore the queen said in hearing of them all, “I beseech Almighty God that I may never have power to see Sir Lancelot with my worldly eyes”. ‘And thus,’ said all the ladies, ‘was ever her prayer these two days, till she was dead.
Then Sir Lancelot saw her visage, but he wept not greatly, but sighed. And so he did all the observance of the service himself, both the dirge, and on the morn he sang mass. And there was ordained an horse bier; and so with an hundred torches ever burning about the corpse of the queen, and ever Sir Lancelot with his seven fellows went about the horse bier, singing and reading many an holy orison, and frankincense upon the corpse incensed. Thus Sir Lancelot and his seven fellows went on foot from Almesbury unto Glastonbury.
And when they were come to the chapel and the hermitage, there she had a dirge, with great devotion. And on the morn the hermit that sometime was Bishop of Canterbury sang the mass of requiem with great devotion. And Sir Lancelot was the first that offered, and then all his eight fellows. And then she was wrapped in cered cloth of Rennes, from the top to the toe, in thirtyfold: and after she was put in a web of lead, and then in a coffin of marble. And when she was put in the earth Sir Lancelot swooned, and lay long still, while the hermit came and awaked him, and said, ‘Ye be to blame, for ye displease God with such manner of sorrow making.’
‘Truly,’ said Sir Lancelot, ‘I trust I do not displease God, for He knoweth mine intent. For my sorrow was not, nor is not, for any rejoicing of sin, but my sorrow may never have end. For when I remember of her beauty, and of her noblesse, that was both with her king and with her, so when I saw his corpse and her corpse so lie together, truly mine heart would not serve to sustain my careful body.
Then Sir Lancelot never after ate but little meat, nor drank, till he was dead. For then he sickened more and more, and dried, and dwined away. For the Bishop nor none of his fellows might not make him eat, and little he drank, that he was waxen by a cubit shorter than he was, that the people could not know him. For evermore, day and night, he prayed, but sometime he slumbered a broken sleep; ever he was lying grovelling on the tomb of King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. And there was no comfort that the Bishop, nor Sir Bors, nor none of his fellows, could make him, it availed not.
So within six weeks after, Sir Lancelot fell sick, and lay in his bed; and then he sent for the Bishop that there was hermit, and all his true fellows. Then Sir Lancelot said with dreary steven, ‘Sir Bishop, I pray you give me all my rites that longeth to a Christian man.’
‘It shall not need you,’ said the hermit and all his fellows, ‘it is but heaviness of your blood, yet shall be well mended by the grace of God tomorn.’
‘My fair lords,’ said Sir Lancelot, ‘wit you well my careful body will into the earth, I have warning more than now I will say; therefore give me my rites.’
Then there was weeping and wringing of hands among his fellows. So at a season of the night they all went to their beds, for they all lay in one chamber. And so after midnight, against day, the Bishop that was hermit, as he lay in his bed asleep, he fell upon a great laughter. And therewithal the fellowship awoke, and come to the Bishop, and asked me what he ailed.
‘Ah Jesu mercy,’ said the Bishop, ‘why did ye awake me? I was never in all my life so merry and so well at ease.’
‘Wherefore?’ said Sir Bors.
‘Truly,’ said the Bishop, ‘here was Sir Lancelot with me with more angels than ever I saw men in one day. And I saw the angels heave up Sir Lancelot unto heaven, and the gates of heaven opened against him.’
‘It is but dretching of swevens,’ said Sir Bors, ‘for I doubt not Sir Lancelot aileth nothing but good.’
‘It may well be,’ said the Bishop; ‘go yet to his bed, and then shall ye prove the sooth.’
So when Sir Bors and his fellows came to his bed they found him stark dead, and he lay as he had smiled, and the sweetest savour about him that ever they felt. Then was there weeping and wringing of hands, and the greatest dole they made that ever made men.
And on the morn the Bishop did his mass of requiem, and they laid his corpse in the body of the choir, and sang and read many psalters and prayers over him and about him. And ever his visage was laid open and naked, that all folks might behold him. For such was the custom in those days, that all men of worship should so lie with open visage till that they were buried.
And right thus as they were at their service, there came Sir Ector de Maris, that had seven year sought all England, Scotland and Wales, seeking his brother, Sir Lancelot.
And when Sir Ector heard such noise and light in the choir of Joyous Guard, he alit and put his horse from him, and came into the choir, and there he saw men sing, weep, and all they knew Sir Ector, but he knew not them.
Then went Sir Bors unto Sir Ector, and told him how there lay his brother, Sir Lancelot, dead; and then Sir Ector threw his shield, sword and helm from him. And when he beheld Sir Lancelot’s visage, he fell down in a swoon. And when he waked it were hard any tongue to tell the doleful complaints that he made for his brother.
‘Ah Lancelot,’ he said, ‘thou were head of all Christian knights, and now I dare say that thou were never matched of earthly knight’s hand. And thou were the couteoust knight that ever bare shield. And thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse. And thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman. And thou were the kindest man that ever struck with sword. And thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights. And thou was the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.’
Then there was weeping and dolour out of measure. Thus they kept Sir Lancelot’s corpse loft fifteen days, and then they buried it with great devotion.
And then at leisure they went all with the Bishop of Canterbury to his hermitage, and they were together more than a month.
Then Sir Constantine was chosen king of England. And he was a full noble knight, and worshipfully he ruled this realm. King Constantine sent for the Bishop of Canterbury, for he heard say where he was. And so he was restored unto his bishopric, and left that hermitage. And Sir Bedevere was there ever still hermit to his life’s end.
Then Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Gahalantine, Sir Galihad, Sir Galihodin, Sir Blamore, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Villiars le Valiant, Sir Clarrus of Cleremont, all these knights drew them to their countries. And there they all lived in their countries as holy men.
Here is the end of the whole book of King Arthur, and of his noble knights of the Round Table, that when they were whole together there was ever an hundred and forty. And here is the end of the death of Arthur. I pray you all, gentlemen and gentlewomen that readeth this book of Arthur and his knights from the beginning to the ending, pray for me while I am alive, that God send me good deliverance, and when I am dead, I pray you all pray for my soul. For this book was ended the ninth year of the reign of King Edward the Fourth, by Sir Thomas Malory, knight, as Jesu help him for His great might, as he is the servant of Jesu both day and night.