Adapted from Chapter IX of Yarns for Boy Scouts by Lord Baden-Powell (1909)
ST. GEORGE AND MERRIE ENGLAND
All Explorers should know about St. George.
St. George is the Patron Saint of England; he is also the Patron Saint of cavalry in all countries, and therefore Patron Saint of Explorers.
There is some confusion about his history, since many countries want to claim him as belonging to them, but the story which appears probable is this:
St. George was born in Cappadocia in the year 303 A.D. He became a cavalry soldier when he was seventeen, and soon became renowned for his bravery. On one occasion he came to a city, called Selem, near which lived a dragon who had to be fed daily with one of the citizens, who was chosen by lot each day to form his breakfast. The day St. George came there the lot had fallen on the King’s daughter, Cleolinda. St. George was resolved that she should not die, and so went out and attacked the dragon, who lived in a swamp close by, and killed him.
Some time afterwards he returned to his native city, and found there a proclamation had been issued by Diocletian against the Christians, and was posted up in the public place. St. George tore down the notice and trampled it under foot. For this he was arrested and tried, and was condemned and put to death on behalf of Christianity; he was made a Saint.
Four hundred years later, another good Christian named George was sent to England by the Pope of Rome to revive the Christian religion, which was not very flourishing over here at that time. He landed where Bristol now stands it was called Cealtide in those days and he worked among the people of the Severn valley there, which was at that time called the Sabrina. He did good work there and turned the whole of the inhabitants of that part into good Christians. In the stories which were always told of his good work in thus rescuing the people of Sabrina from the Devil, he came to be compared with his namesake, St. George, who rescued Cleolinda from the dragon, and thus people got mixed up between the two, and believed that St. George was an English Saint, who rescued a lady named Sabrina from the Devil in the form of a dragon.
The original St. George was one of the few Saints who was a horseman, and the English St. George was fond of horses, for he issued an order against people cropping their ears and slitting their nostrils, which, apparently, was a practice in those days; and he also told them they must not eat horseflesh as they had been accustomed to do.
(I am afraid that many good Explorers have had to break that rule since then, on active service when meat was scarce.)
The reason why St. George is the Patron Saint of cavalry is this. About 1,000 years after Christ, the Christian knights of Europe went to Asia Minor to fight the Saracens, who were heathen. They called themselves Crusaders, or “Defenders of the Cross.” Amongst the many battles which they fought, the most tremendous was, perhaps, the one in 1097, in which 70,000 knights were attacked by 250,000 mounted Saracens, and, in spite of their heroic fighting, they were very nearly overcome by force of numbers. In the end they managed to win by a final desperate charge in spite of the heavy odds against them, and two historians relate that this charge was headed by St. George and St. Demetrius, who suddenly appeared at the head of the knights mounted on white horses, and clad in gleaming armour. These charged at their head, and cut their way right through the Saracen host and so put it to flight.
The same thing happened again the following year at the battle of Antioch, and not only did the Christians believe in the fact, but also their enemies the Saracens related that they “saw these gods mounted on white horses leading the charge.”
Even one hundred years afterwards, in 1187, when another fierce battle was fought, one knight, mounted on a white horse, fought with such heroism, and performed such prodigies of valour, that when at last he fell, the Saracens believed that they had killed St. George himself, and treated the body with every respect, and divided his clothes and equipment among them as sacred possessions.
The flag of St. George was a red cross on a white ground, and this badge was worn by the English knights and the English men-at-arms in the form of a white shirt with a red cross, over their armour. This shirt was called a “jacque,” from which our word “jacket” is now derived, and eventually the flag of England, which was the cross of St. George on a white ground, came also to be called a “jack,” from which the Union Jack derives its name.
From the fact that St. George appeared to lead them in their worst extremity in battle, knights used to be accustomed to call on St. George whenever they went into a fight, and their battle-cry thus became: “Ho, for St. George and Merrie England.”
St. George’s colours, as I have said, are red and white, and it is on that account that red and white roses are worn by all good Englishmen and good Explorers on St. George’s Day, which is the 23rd of April.
St. George was typical of what an Explorer should be. That is to say, that, when he was faced by a great difficulty or danger, however great it appeared, even in the shape of a dragon, he did not avoid it or fear it, but went at it with all the power he could put into himself and his horse, and, although inadequately armed for such an encounter with merely a sword, he charged in, did his best, and finally succeeded in overcoming the difficulty which nobody had before dared to tackle. That is exactly the way in which an Explorer should face a difficulty or danger, no matter how great or terrifying it may appear to him, or how ill-equipped he may be for the struggle. He should go at it boldly and confidently, using every power that he can to try and overcome it, and the probability is that he will succeed.
He was (as you know if you have read your Scouting for Boys) the founder of British Explorers, since he first started the Knights of England.
The story goes that he never died, but when sorely wounded in battle was taken away in a boat by three queens, no one knows exactly whither to some cave, where he still sits sleeping.
A long time ago a shepherd was sitting near “The Wall” in Northumberland, knitting his stockings, when his ball of worsted rolled down a crevice in the rocks. In clearing away brambles and rubbish to get at it, he came on a small cave, into which he crept. He went on, and on, and the cave became bigger and bigger, till at last he saw a light, and, pushing on he came to a great hall in the cavern, where a flame-fire glowed, but never flickered, and there was King Arthur, surrounded by his Knights, in armour, sitting asleep. On the table lay a sword, a garter, and a bugle.
The shepherd took up the sword and cut the garter with it, and a mysterious whisper then told him to blow the horn. He was about to do so when he saw King Arthur move, as if to wake; this so startled him that he dropped the horn and fled terrified back along the dark passages of the cave until he found himself once more in the open, and finally safe at home.
But he was never able again to find the spot where he entered the cave.
I don’t know if the Explorers will be able to find it especially as there is almost exactly the same story about a similar cave in Yorkshire, at Richmond, where I live and, I daresay, in many other places, too.
But, even if we fail to find Arthur and to awaken him to revive chivalry, we may still awaken his memory, and revive chivalry among ourselves.
A Sword which Stuck into a Rock
King Arthur, as I have told you in Scouting for Boys, was the son of the King of South England and Wales, but lived with his relations, and was not known to be the King’s son. When his royal father died there were doubts as to who was the rightful heir to the crown.
Then appeared a great sword sticking in a rock in the churchyard at Canterbury, with the legend on it that anybody who could draw this sword from the rock was the real King of England.
The noblemen of the country all came and tried and pulled and hauled, but could not make the sword move. At last, one day, Arthur’s cousin wanted to take part in a tournament, but found he had left his sword at home, and asked Arthur to fetch it for him. Arthur could not find the sword, but remembering the one in the stone in the churchyard he went and pulled at it, and it came out quite easily.
After the tournament he stuck it back in the stone.
The nobles, on hearing of it, went and tried again, but could not get the sword to move, but when Arthur came along he drew it again without any difficulty. Thus it was that they agreed that he must be King.
Even as a youth the King proved himself to be a valiant knight and a good horseman and swordsman. In those days, you must remember, it was the duty of a knight to be prepared to fight against anyone who insulted his country, or who was rude to a woman, or who was not strictly honourable and true.
But after a time Arthur proved to be perfectly invincible in a fight; nobody could beat him, and it came about in this way.
In one fight he had broken his sword, and he asked old Merlin, who was his adviser and guardian, where he could get another. Now Merlin was really a magician, and could work miracles, so he took him to a lake, where they saw far out in the water an arm and a hand standing up out of the water, holding a glittering sword.
Then there came to them a damsel who was called the “Lady of the Lake,” and she said that Arthur could have the sword on condition that he would give her something later on when she might ask for it.
So, having consented, King Arthur and Merlin got into a boat and rowed out to the sword. As Arthur took hold of it the mysterious hand which held it up let go of it and sank beneath the waters.
While Merlin rowed the boat back to the shore Arthur examined the sword, and found it to be a beauty. On the blade was engraved its name, “Excalibur,” which meant “Cut-steel,” a sword that would cut through an enemy’s armour. It also had a rich jewelled scabbard with it, which had the magic power so the legend says of preventing the wearer suffering from loss of blood if wounded. It would be a useful kind of sword and scabbard to get nowadays.
Armed with these, it is only natural that Arthur was able to carry through successfully a great number of hairbreadth adventures in the cause of honour and chivalry.
King Arthur and the Round Table
Having told you how King Arthur, the founder of British Explorers, obtained his kingdom and got his good sword “Excalibur,” I will tell you now about his Knights and the Round Table.
First of all you must know that King Arthur had some difficulty in maintaining his position as King because several chieftains in Wales refused to acknowledge him, and made war against him. But he got assistance from other Kings and defeated them. One of these, King Leodegrance, had a beautiful daughter, Guinevere, and Arthur fell in love with her, and eventually she became his wife. The wedding took place with great pomp and ceremony at London, and King Leodegrance sent as a wedding present to King Arthur a splendid great round table. The table is still to be seen at Winchester.
On the day of his marriage King Arthur founded an association of Knights, who assembled round this table to discuss their rules and duties, and so they became known as the “Knights of the Round Table.”
The Knights’ Oath
With great ceremony each of these Knights solemnly bound himself by oath always to act as follows:
To reverence God.
To be loyal to the King.
To be kind and merciful to all.
To be always courteous and helpful to women.
To keep from fighting except in a high and just cause.
To be always honourable and true.
To be always obedient to the laws of Knighthood.
Among these laws of Knighthood it was enacted that a Knight must always “Be Prepared ” with his armour on to fight for the right to defend the poor and helpless and his country. He must never break a promise. He must maintain the honour of his country, although it cost him his life. He must do his duty with cheerfulness and grace, his main duty being to do good to others.
If he failed to carry out these laws after swearing to do so he was considered dishonourable and unfit to wear the badge of a Knight, and could be killed, or expelled from the association.
The Knights and the Explorers
So if you compare the oath and duties of the Explorers you will see that they are much the same as those of the Knights of King Arthur.
When a young man was selected to become a Knight he had first to prove that he was capable, in every way, of carrying out his duties, just as an Explorer has to pass tests before he can gain his badge.
The young Knight had his armour just as an Explorer has his uniform; his badge of being passed as a Knight was a pair of gold spurs to wear and a shield on which was drawn his crest, while an Explorer receives a Explorer’s badge and the head of his patrol animal as his crest.
King Arthur himself had as his crest on his shield the lion of England and also the “Fleur-de-lys,” or arrow-head of the Explorers; and his first motto was “Always Ready,” like our “Be Prepared.” So you see in very many ways the Explorers are like the Knights of the Round Table of King Arthur.
The Grit of Knights and Explorers
Like the vow of the Knights, the oath which an Explorer takes on joining is no light thing, for it is an oath which he swears to carry out for life, and if he fails he breaks his word of honour; he is no longer an honourable, manly fellow, but merely a weak boy who makes a promise one minute and then has not the grit to stick to it. We don’t want such fellows in the Explorers; we don’t want them in our country.
If a fellow means to take up scouting or any other line, he should think first of all what it lets him in for, and if he finds that it involves too much of a promise for him to make, if he feels that he is not manly or plucky enough to carry it out later on, he ought not to take it up; it is better to remain an ordinary “common or garden” boy than to promise to carry out your duties as an Explorer and then to go back upon your oath and become a “slacker.”
Once you have broken your word of honour there is a taint about it which hangs to you for the rest of your days. The manly course is to see the good of what you are going to do; bind yourself on your honour to carry it out, and then stick to it through thick and thin.
The Holy Grail
As they were sitting round the great Round Table one evening at Camelot (Winchester), a sudden brilliant light filled the room and there appeared and passed before them the “Holy Grail” covered up in a silken cloth.
This was the dish or cup from which Our Lord was said to have eaten His last supper, and in which also Joseph of Arimathea caught some of His blood when He was hanging upon the Cross.
It had been carefully preserved in the Holy Land, but had eventually disappeared, and no one knew where it had gone to.
And now, as had been foretold by Merlin, the old magician, the Holy Grail had appeared before the knights, although partially concealed by the cloth. When the vision had passed away the knights at once agreed that it was a divine call for them to go and search for the lost cup, and many of them got up there and then and followed the example of Sir Gawaine, who said:
“I will make a vow, and that is that to-morrow, without longer abiding, I shall labour in the quest of the Holy Grail for a twelvemonth and a day, or more if need be, and shall not return unto the Court till I have seen it more openly than it hath been seen here.”
As the others stood up and made similar vows the king was much distressed, for he knew that he would lose the services of a grand lot of loyal friends and that many of them would never return.
Next morning there was service in the Minster of Winchester, and then the knights rode in full armour through the streets, where all the people came out weeping to bid them farewell, and they started off by different ways to seek the Holy Grail.
The knights met with various adventures while on their journeys.
Sir Lancelot’s Adventure
Sir Lancelot in the course of his wanderings came upon a little old chapel in the forest where he fell asleep and had a vision. It was of an old, sick knight coming to the chapel and being at once cured of his ailments; and then, being anxious to go at once on knight-errant service that is to fight in the cause of honour and to help the weak he took Lancelot’s helmet, sword, and horse. When Lancelot awoke he found that this part of his dream at any rate was true his sword and horse were gone.
He wandered forth and finally came across an old hermit living in the woods, who appeared to know everything about him and gave him advice as to his future conduct and way in life, and told him that he was as yet too full of sin to be allowed by God to find the Holy Grail. For one thing he was in love with Guinevere, which was not right as she was already the wife of another man of his king. He vowed therefore to break himself from this affection, and set himself to do his best to be a true Christian and more than ever to help other people.
By direction of the hermit he now took up his residence in an empty ship by the shore and lived there for over a month till one day he was joined by a knight, who proved to be Sir Galahad. They both rejoiced greatly at meeting again.
Like true Explorers they could turn their hands to anything and were able to manage their boat themselves. And thus they spent six months cruising about, doing good whenever they could.
At length one day they were hailed by a knight who appeared upon the shore leading a white horse, and he called Galahad ashore to come and mount and seek the Holy Grail by land. So Galahad and Lancelot parted.
Sir Lancelot Finds the Holy Grail
Lancelot sailed on for some weeks till he came to a castle whose door was open, but two lions were wandering about guarding it.
A voice called to him and told him that what he sought was within the castle, so he armed himself and landed, sword in hand, to tackle the lions. But again he heard the voice saying, “You are a poor creature if you trust to your armour rather than to God. When a danger is too great for you to manage yourself, ask God to help you, and then tackle it.”
Lancelot thereupon prayed for help, and, putting his sword back in the scabbard, he strode forward into the castle. The lions made a rush as if to charge him, but he walked past them, fully confident that God would keep him safe; and so he came to the inner part of the castle, to a room where he felt sure the Holy Grail must be; but the door was fast shut. He called on the Lord to reward him and let him see the Grail.
Thereupon the door was opened, but a voice warned him not to enter. But as he looked in he saw the Holy Grail in the midst of a blaze of light, and in his joy and eagerness he could not stop himself, but rushed into the room. Almost immediately he fell senseless, and was so found next morning by the inhabitants of the castle.
It took him twenty-four days to recover, and as he was twenty-four years old he said that probably he was given a day of illness as a punishment for each year of his life, which had been evilly spent in not doing good to others.
So feeling all right again he put on his armour, and, thanking those who had been so hospitable to him, he started to return home.
A Tenderfoot Knight
Sir Percival was one of the knights of King Arthur. He had been commended to the king as the younger brother of a number of men who had proved themselves good knights, so, in respect for these, the king made him a knight. But he was very young and shy, and altogether what we should call a “Tenderfoot” and so he was a good deal chaffed by the other knights.
At night when they sat down to dinner he was given a place at the lower end of the table; but then a strange thing happened. One of the queen’s ladies who was dumb entered the hall, and taking Sir Percival by the hand she led him to a more honourable seat, and as she did so she found her voice and said, BO that all could hear, “This is the proper seat for you and it belongs to no one but you.”
Then she went out of the room and shortly afterwards died.
The King and his Court were greatly struck by this, and from that time forward they treated Sir Percival with great honour and respect.
Sir Percival soon after set out on a journey of knight-errantry that is, like the Explorers, to see where he could be of assistance to others and to do them good turns.
He meant to go and find Sir Lancelot, who, having been rebuked for some fault by Queen Guinevere, had partly gone out of his mind, and had disappeared from the Court no one knew whither.
So Sir Percival and his brother, Sir Algovale started out to find him.
They first called on their mother to say good-bye to her, which shows that the knights of old had true reverence and regard for their mothers; but though she begged them to stay at home with her since their father and three brothers had been killed in carrying out their duty as knights, they stuck to their resolve to help their comrade, Sir Lancelot, whatever it might cost them.
Honouring a Servant
After they had left her she sent a messenger, or “squire,” after them with some money for their journey. After some hours he overtook them; but they would not allow him to come with them, so sent him back to her with their thanks and blessings.
On his way back this squire was benighted, and went for shelter to the castle of a baron who was an enemy of Sir Algovale. When he recognized the squire as his enemy’s servant the baron had him killed in spite of the fact that he was a guest in his castle.
Next day Sir Algovale and Sir Percival passed by that way and saw a burial going on, and found that it was their own squire who was dead killed by the baron.
So they got off their horses and went on foot into the castle and sent word in to the baron to say who they were and that they had come to demand satisfaction for the traitorous murder of their squire.
The baron came out sword in hand and went for Sir Algovale while some of his men set upon Sir Percival. But Sir Percival very soon showed himself a match for them, and when he had cut down one or two of them with his sword, the remainder fled. In the meantime Sir Algovale had killed the baron.
The two brothers then had their faithful squire buried with all honour in the Priory.
They had thus shown the true spirit of the knights; they had been quite as ready to risk their lives for the honour of a dead servant as for that of the living queen.
A Cut that Nearly Killed a Friend
After this the two brothers parted and went off by different ways to find Lancelot.
Sir Percival very soon met with another adventure. He came to a bridge and there found a knight, Sir Persides, who had been caught by some enemies; they had chained him to the bridge and left him to die of starvation.
Sir Percival, of course, went to work to rescue him, and drawing his sword he made a tremendous cut at the chain. And he was successful, for he gave such a mighty stroke that he not only cut the chain in two, but his blade also went through Sir Persides’ hauberk and slightly wounded him. While they were laughing over this for the knights, like their successors, the Explorers, were always cheerful they saw a man riding hard for the bridge.
“Look out,” cried Sir Persides, “this is one of my enemies come back.”
“Let him come,” replied Sir Percival. And as the stranger charged him, Sir Percival met him with such a stroke as not only knocked him off his horse, but sent him flying over the bridge into the river, where, if there had not happened to be a boat handy at the time he would have been drowned.
The Finding of Sir Lancelot.
After many wanderings and adventures Sir Percival came to a castle on an island where there was a knight who had no name, but who had challenged anyone who came along to come and fight with him.
So Sir Percival accepted the challenge, and the unknown knight presently sallied out. They charged each other with such might that both of them, horses and all, were thrown down; but they were quickly on their feet and, drawing their swords, they continued the fight on foot, and fought, as the old history relates, as “hotly as two wild boars” till both were badly wounded in spite of the armour which they had on.
But neither could get the best of the other.
At last, after they had been fighting for two hours (Think of that! Two hours fighting in heavy armour!), Sir Percival asked his opponent what his name was. The other knight replied, “I have no name. I am only known as ‘The knight who did wrong.’ What is your name?”
When Sir Percival told him, he cried out: “Alas, what have I done! I, too, was a knight of your company ‘The Round Table’ and here I have been trying to kill you all this time.” With that he threw away his sword and shield, and then confessed to Sir Percival that he was the missing knight Sir Lancelot.
You may imagine how pleased our tenderfoot, Sir Percival, was when he heard this, and especially five days later when he brought him safely back to King Arthur’s Court, at Camelot (Winchester); for all the other knights now treated him with greatest honour, for he had proved himself a true knight he had earned his badge as a First-class Explorer.
Sir Percival’s Adventures
When the Knights went off to seek the Holy Grail, Sir Percival went also, riding at first with Sir Lancelot. Passing through a forest they met a strange knight who attacked them both, and, good fighters though they were, he rolled them both over without killing them and then rode away.
This knight was really one of their own comrades, Sir Galahad; but all being shut up in their armour none of them recognized each other.
Shortly afterwards Sir Percival, who had parted company with Lancelot, was attacked by a hostile knight and about twenty men-at-arms, and they were getting the better of him and would have killed him, but at the critical moment a new knight appeared upon the scene and charged in to rescue the one who was being set upon by so many. In the words of the old history, “He dressed him towards the twenty men-at-arms as fast as his horse might drive, with his spear in the rest, and smote the foremost man and horse to earth. And when his spear was broken he set his hand to his sword and smote on the right hand and on the left hand so that it was a marvel to see. At every stroke smote him one down or put him to rebuke, so that they would fight no more but fled them to a thick forest, and Sir Galahad (for it was he who was again the strange knight) followed them.”
Sir Percival recognized that this knight must be Sir Galahad, so he ran after him, calling to him to come back to him, but it was no good. After a time, when he was resting, a woman came along and offered to get him a horse, and she presently brought him a magnificent black charger, already saddled, and he jumped on and rode off to find Sir Galahad.
The horse must have gone like a motor-car, for the legend says that it carried him as far in an hour as an ordinary horse would have done in four days.
Finally, he found himself on the edge of a great sheet of water which was very rough and dangerous-looking; so, before plunging in to swim it, Sir Percival prayed to God for help and made the sign of the cross.
The moment he did this, the horse which he was riding, plunged violently and threw him off into the water, and Sir Percival recognized that the beast was really a fiend who had been sent to tempt him and to bring him to a bad end. He got ashore all right and thanked God for his escape.
The Biggest Fight of his Life
By and by there came a vessel sailing towards him, and from it there landed an old man dressed in the white robes of a priest.
After saluting each other the priest told Sir Percival that he was very soon to fight the biggest fight of his life with the greatest champion of the world, but that if he fought well according to what he had been taught as a knight, he would not be killed nor badly wounded. Then the old man sailed away again.
Presently another vessel came in sight and made for the place where he was resting. This time there was a lady on board, who came up and spoke with him, and among other things told him that she had lately seen Sir Galahad in the forest; Sir Percival then told her that that was the man he was in search of, and she promised to bring him to him, but she begged him in the meantime to do her a kindness first.
Of course, as a knight, he offered eagerly to be of any assist- ance that he could. Then she explained to him that she had been a great lady, but that, owing to a slight quarrel, her husband had driven her from home the home which belonged to her and not to her husband. The servants all loved her so and pitied her that they had left him and come with her; but she badly needed the help of a knight to try and get back her own place again. So she begged him, if he could, to do something for her.
This he at once promised to do.
Meantime the servants pitched a tent on the shore, for it was a hot, sunny day, and prepared food and wine for the knight. When the lady gave him the wine to drink he noticed that it was very nice but very strong, and it rather went to his head.
She kept plying him with it, and, finally, when he was be- coming hot-headed and thoughtless, she begged him not only to see her righted in this case, but always to be her friend and champion and to fight for her if at any time she was insulted or endangered. As a knight he was at once eager to take up the cause of a woman in distress, and without thinking of the other work, such as the search for the Holy Grail, to which he had already vowed himself, he was on the point of swearing to devote himself to her, when by chance he happened to look at his sword lying beside him with its handle shaped like a cross.
In a moment there came back to him the recollection of his former oath and engagements, and horrified at his own forgetfulness of his duty he prayed inwardly for strength and made the sign of the cross.
The moment he did so, as legend says, “The pavilion turned up-so-down and changed into smoke and a black cloud,” and the lady sailed away over the roaring sea, angrily reproaching him. Then he recognized that she had been merely sent by the evil one as a temptation to lead him away from doing his duty.
So, thanking God for his release, he punished himself by driving his sword into his thigh.
Very soon afterwards the old priest came again to him and asked him what he had been doing. Percival told him how nearly he had been tempted from his duty, and the priest then said, “Yes, that was the fight I told you you would have a fight with the most dangerous enemy in the whole world, namely Satan. But you luckily remembered what you had been taught as a knight that is, to stick to your duty in spite of temptations, and so you won your fight.”
The End of Sir Percival. Later on Sir Percival met another of the knights, Sir Bora, and after they had been travelling together for some time in a ship, Sir Galahad came on board and joined them. And eventually, after many wanderings and adventures, they found the Holy Grail and had charge of it for over a year. At the end of that time Sir Galahad died, to the great grief of his friends. At the same time in a miraculous way the Holy Grail was lifted up and borne away into Heaven.
Sir Percival became a monk and died some fourteen months later.
Sir Bors made his way back to the Court of King Arthur and gave him the account of all that they had done and how they had found the Holy Grail.
Now, about Sir Bors.
He was one of the Knights of the Round Table who started out to find the Holy Grail. On the journey he took counsel with a very learned and holy old man who warned him that only those would see the Holy Grail who lived a really pure and good life.
The Holy Grail was really what Heaven is to the ordinary man; only that man will see it who lives a clean life of doing good to others. The unclean fellow who gives way to his own lusts, who is unclean in his thoughts, words, or deeds, cannot see Heaven.
But Bors made up his mind that he would give way to no temptation, but would do all in his power to go straight and win his reward.
How Bors Deserted His Brother
One day, when he was riding along, he suddenly came upon two horsemen who were taking along a half-naked prisoner between them, and as they went they beat him with thorny sticks so that he was bleeding all over. To his horror and rage Sir Bors recognized the prisoner was his own brother, Lionel, and buckling up his armour he started to attack the horsemen and to rescue his brother.
Just at that moment, on the other side of him, he heard a shriek for help, and there he saw a young woman, who was being dragged away into a forest by a mounted man. As she caught sight of Sir Bors, she cried to him as a knight to save her.
It was difficult for him to know what to do at the moment. In the old history it says:
“Sir Bors had much sorrow to know what to do. ‘For,’ said he, ‘if I let my brother be in adventure (danger) he will be slain, and that would I not for all the earth; and yet, if I help not the maid in her peril, then I am ashamed (disgraced) for ever.’”
What would you my reader, have done under the circumstances ?
Well, this is what Bors did:
Although his natural inclination was to go and help his own brother, yet he felt it was his DUTY to help a woman first.
So, asking God to save his brother, he rushed upon the girl’s aggressor and felled him to the ground and soon released her. Very shortly afterwards her friends came along and received her from him with deepest gratitude and thankfulness.
Then Bors started off, like a true Explorer, to follow up the spoor of his brother in the forest. After a time he came upon an old man dressed like a monk, who, in reply to his inquiries, told him that Lionel had been killed by his guards; and he showed him a body lying hidden among the bushes.
Bors took up the body on his horse and carried it to a neighbouring chapel. I need scarcely say, how, as he went, he reproached himself for having deserted his brother, and yet he felt that he could not have done otherwise. So he buried the body with deepest grief, and then went on his way.
Two Brothers Fight Each Other
Not long afterwards on approaching a building, he was astounded to find his brother Lionel sitting outside it alive and well.
The monk who had shown him the dead body had been after all but one sent by Satan to hinder him from getting to see the Holy Grail.
When he saw his brother, Bors jumped down from his horse and ran to greet him. But Lionel stood back and told him he would have nothing to do with such a coward, and that there was only one thing to be done with so false a knight, and that was to kill him. Lionel then put on his armour and mounted his horse and called upon Bors to defend himself.
Bors, however, refused to fight his own brother and kneeled before him and begged him to desist. But Lionel was furious, and seeing that Bors would not fight him, he rushed upon him with his horse and trampled him under foot, so that Bors was knocked senseless. Lionel then dismounted and drew his sword to cut off his brother’s head, when an old man, who had been looking on, intervened and begged him to spare Bors’ life, and offered to die for him instead if taking life were necessary.
Lionel, in his anger, exclaimed that he was quite ready to accept his offer, and promptly cut the old man’s head off. But not content with this, he again went for Bors and began to unlace his helmet so as to cut his head off also.
Just then another Knight of the Hound Table came up and seeing what Lionel was at, he dragged him away from Bors; but Lionel, now mad with rage, attacked the new knight and killed him. Meanwhile, Sir Bors recovered his senses and tried to come to the assistance of the knight, but was too late. Lionel had killed him, and the next minute he turned on Bors who, though begging him to stop, now drew his sword in his own defence, for he said: “You have now slain one of the knights of our brotherhood, which is a greater crime than merely attacking your own brother.” At the same time he prayed God to stop the fight if possible. And just as they were coming together in the attack, a great flame of fire came between them and burned their shields, and both fell back and saw that they must not fight.
How Bors Found the Holy Grail.
Then Bors rode off on his journey and after a time came to the shore where he found Sir Percival’s ship, on which he then joined him.
After some adventures together they were joined by Sir Galahad, and with him they came to the Castle of Carboneck, where in the end they saw the Holy Grail.
Sir Galahad & The Siege Perilous
You remember that the great table round which the knights of King Arthur used to assemble had the names of the different knights written in gold at their different places. But there was one vacant seat which was called the “Siege Perilous,” or the ” dangerous seat,” because it would bring bad luck ona ny knight who sat there if he had any kind of fault or vice about him. So none of them had dared to try it.
One evening when they all came in and took their places for supper, they noticed that there was some writing on the table opposite the “Siege Perilous,” which said that this seat should be occupied on the 454th year after the birth of Christ. Well, that happened to be the very date of their assemblage that evening.
A Stone that Floated
While they were standing about waiting for supper, a curious thing happened: a man ran in and told them that there was a big stone floating on the river close by, with a sword sticking in it. So they ran out and saw it, and on the sword was written “No one shall draw me from this stone unless he is the man who ought to wear me, and he must be the best knight in the world.”
Bang Arthur turned to Sir Lancelot and said, “You are the best of the knights; this sword must be for you.” But Sir Lancelot said, “No, sir, it is not for me; I am no better than any other knight.”
Then the King made Sir Gawain try to draw it. He caught hold of it and tugged, but could not move it. Then the King made Sir Percival have a try, but he did no better. And, finally, a number of the knights in turn pulled at it, but without success. Afterwards they all returned to supper wondering greatly.
Galahad Joins the Knights
While they were eating, a very old man came into the hall leading with him a young man dressed in red, unarmed, and carrying an empty scabbard which hung from his belt.
The King, with the hospitality of an Explorer, asked the two to come and join them all at supper. The old man thanked him and led the young one straight to the dangerous seat, which had been covered over with a cloth. He lifted the cloth and it was seen that the writing which had been there had disappeared, and a new notice in its place said, “This is the seat of Galahad.”
Galahad was the name of the young man. Everybody was amazed. But King Arthur thought at once of the sword sticking in the stone, and so he took Galahad outside and asked him to see if he could pull the sword out.
Galahad seized the handle and drew out the sword quite easily. And as he put it into his empty scabbard, he jokingly said, “It seems to fit better there.” So he was at once accepted as one of the brotherhood of the Knights of the Round Table.
Sir Galahad’s Shield
When the Knights of the Round Table started out from Camelot (Winchester) to search for the Holy Grail, of course Sir Galahad went off too. But, you must remember, he had joined the knights without any weapons except a scabbard. He had got the sword out of the floating stone, but he still wanted a shield.
He started off on his travels without one, but four days later he came to an abbey where a beautiful shield was given to him. It was a white one with a red cross on it the same design that St. George of England had, and which is still shown on the centre of the Union Jack and on the white ensign of the Royal Navy. The shield was said to have been made by Joseph of Arimathea, the man who provided the tomb for Christ’s body after the Crucifixion.
A squire named Melias brought the shield to Galahad and asked to accompany him on his travels. But a few days later Melias was badly wounded in an encounter with a strange knight, and Sir Galahad was obliged to leave him behind in hospital while he went on to find some way of doing good turns to other people and to search for the Holy Grail.
The Castle of the Maidens
One day when Sir Galahad was saying his morning prayer to God, he heard a voice saying to him: “Go, Galahad, to the Castle of the Maidens and do away with the wickedness and cruelty which is going on there.”
He did not know where this castle was, but he prayed to God to guide him, and, getting on his horse, he rode off along the bank of the River Severn.
Soon he came in sight of a castle, and, on asking its name, was told it was the Castle of the Maidens; but he was at the same time strongly advised by all to turn back.
In reply to all their warnings and pleadings he said: “No; you may be sure that I shall not turn back. This is a great chance for doing some good and I’ll take the risks.”
The castle was held by seven knights, who were all brothers.
They had agreed among themselves to be revenged for some wrong that they had suffered by seizing everybody who came by their castle and imprisoning them there.
In this way they got a number of ladies and girls as their prisoners. Men were able to defend themselves and get away, and I suppose boys in those days were as cunning as Explorers, and managed to escape without being caught.
So Galahad looked to his armour and made sure that everything was right, put on his helmet, and, with a good spear in his hand, he rode up to the entrance of the castle.
A man came out and warned him not to come in as the knights in the castle would kill him if he did.
Galahad replied he did not care if they killed him; it was his duty to try and rescue all these poor captive ladies, and to put an end to the wickedness of these knights, and he meant to do so.
“Sir,” replied the man, “if you stick to that you will have enough to do.”
And he soon found it so, for, when he got inside the castle gate, the seven brothers all charged him at once. He killed the first with his spear, but had a rough time with the others, whom he fought with his sword. But he did not mean to be beaten, although they were six against one. He went at them so fiercely that they fell back before him and finally got driven out of their own castle.
Then Sir Galahad sounded a great ivory horn, which was used for calling together the people who lived round about on the lands belonging to the castle. And when they had come in he handed over the whole place to the lady who was its rightful owner, and released all the prisoners, and told the farm-people and tenants to protect their lady.
Of course, there were great rejoicings and the more so when they received news that the six knights in running away had encountered some more Knights of the Round Table and had been killed by them.
The next day Sir Galahad mounted his horse and rode on his way in search of the Holy Grail.
Sir Galahad to the Rescue
Sir Galahad was riding through a valley on his way to find the Holy Grail, when he heard the noise of fighting going on near him. He put spurs to his horse, and dashing forward he quickly came upon a curious sight. One knight was fighting against seven others, while there were more behind ready to go for him should they fail.
The single knight was Sir Percival, though it was not possible for Sir Galahad to recognize him, closed up as he was in his armour.
Still it did not matter to him who the knight was; it was enough that he was a plucky fellow and was not getting fair play in fact, he was on the point of getting killed, as his horse was down and he was hard put to it to protect himself.
Sir Galahad did not wait to count the odds against him; it was his business as a true knight to help any one in distress, although it might cost him his life, so he did not wait a second, but charged straight at the nearest man as hard as he could, and in the collision he rolled him over, horse and all. But he smashed his spear in doing so and had only just time to draw his sword before the others were upon him.
However, he went at them with such pluck and determination that he beat one after another of them down, and at last they began to hang back from him, and finally they turned and fled into the forest with Sir Galahad in hot pursuit behind them.
And so he disappeared from Sir Percival, who, having no horse, was unable to follow him, though he tried to do so on foot, in order to do his duty to his rescuer that is, to thank him. But I expect Sir Galahad kept on into the forest in order to avoid being thanked, and to keep his name a secret, because no truly brave man likes a fuss to be made about what he has done when he has been carrying out his duty.
Remember that, Explorers, when you have done a good thing, don’t hang about to be thanked or to be made a hero of, get away quietly and unnoticed. That’s the way with Explorers as with the knights of old.
Galahad Meets Old Friends
Some time after this adventure, Sir Galahad was riding along the shore when he came to a ship anchored close by, and on the beach was a knight whom he soon recognized as Sir Lancelot.
Of course, they were delighted at thus meeting each other, and for some weeks Sir Galahad stayed with Sir Lancelot on board, cruising about to see if they could be of use to any one.
At last Sir Galahad was called away by a knight who came riding along the shore, leading a splendid grey horse for him.
Galahad felt that this was a call to him from God, so he started off on his travels again to seek the Holy Grail.
He was resting one night at a hermit’s hut in a forest, when a woman, riding on a cob, called urgently for him to arm himself and come with her. He did not mind being roused up from his sleep. He quickly got his armour on and, mounting his horse, followed her as fast as possible through the forest till she brought him to the shore; and there he found a vessel in which were his old comrades Bors and Percival. So he thanked the lady and, leaving his horse behind, he embarked in the ship with them and set sail.
After a time they came to the island and castle of Carboneck where Sir Lancelot had already been and found the Holy Grail. It was now their turn.
How Sir Galahad Found the Holy Grail
They entered the great hall of the castle, where, as they sat at the table, they saw a vision of Christ, who came to them with the dish in his hands which they recognized as the Holy Grail.
He told them that they were to go on board a ship, and the Holy Grail would go with them to another place. And so it happened.
They sailed away with the Holy Grail till they came to a place called Sarras, where they took it ashore and set it up amid great rejoicing of the people.
Sir Galahad Becomes a King
But the king of the place did not like their coming, so he had the three knights seized and put in a dungeon. But they were so cheered by the feeling that they [had found the Holy Grail that dungeons did not matter to them, they felt that God was watching over them. And so it turned out, for soon afterwards the king fell sick, and when he found he was dying he sent for the knights and begged their forgiveness for falsely imprisoning them. Of course, they at once forgave him, for there is no sense in keeping up a nasty feeling against any one, even though he may have done you a bad turn at one time or another.
Shortly afterwards the king died, and, having no son to succeed him, the people chose Sir Galahad to be their king in his stead.
Sir Galahad had a splendid table made, upon which the Holy Grail was set up, and he and his knights prayed before it every morning.
The End of Sir Galahad
At the end of a year there appeared to the knights a man, dressed like a bishop, accompanied by a number of angels, and he called upon Sir Galahad and said that he had come as a messenger from God to him for two reasons.
Firstly, because he had earnestly sought for the Holy Grail in spite of dangers and difficulties since it was his duty. He had put his duty before all other things, and therefore God was pleased with him.
And secondly, he had been ” clean and virtuous ‘ -that is, he had kept himself from evil thoughts or acts of any kind whatever. He would not allow his mind to dwell on them for a moment, nor would he allow his tongue to say bad things to or about other people; but he had always been honest and brave and manly. And, therefore, God was going to take him to a higher fellowship than even that of the Knights of the Round Table that was the fellowship of the saints and angels in Heaven.
That was the reward for having been a good knight who stuck fearlessly to his duty
So Sir Galahad bade “Good-bye” to his comrades Percival and Bors, and knelt down before the altar and prayed. And as he did so his body fell forward dead, but his soul went up to Heaven.
It is said that at the same time Percival and Bors saw a hand come down which took the Holy Grail off the altar and carried it up to Heaven, and since that time no man has ever seen it again.
There was great grief among the people at the death of Gala- had as they had all come to love him dearly. After the funeral, Sir Percival went into a monastery as a monk, and only lived for about a year after Sir Galahad.
Sir Bors after many adventures succeeded in getting back to King Arthur, at Camelot, where he was received with the greatest rejoicing by the other knights, who had long thought him to be dead.
By the King’s order he told all the adventures that had be- fallen Sir Galahad, Sir Percival and himself, while a number of clerks sat by and took down his story in writing, and this record was afterwards kept stored in a great chest at Salisbury.
How Melias Got the White Shield
Sir Melias, although not so well known in history as some of the other knights, was not a bad sort.
You may remember that when Sir Galahad became a knight he had no weapons, but these gradually came to him by various strange chances. At one time a fine white shield with a red cross upon it was handed to him by a young squire. This squire was Melias, who was squire (or what we should call “orderly “) to a knight named Bagdemagus. This is how he got the shield.
At a certain abbey where Bagdemagus was staying, there was kept this great white shield, and there was a legend attached to it that if anybody used it who was not a really good knight in every way, it would not protect him in a fight, but would allow him to be wounded.
Sir Galahad and Sir Uwaine were also staying at the abbey, and they all went together into the chapel, where the shield was kept to have a look at it. Bagdemagus was so pleased with its appearance that he said he must try it. So he took it, and, putting on his armour, he mounted his horse and rode out to seek adventures.
The Fight for the Shield
It was not long before he met with more adventure than was good for him. He met with a hostile knight and at once proceeded to attack him. But the strange knight, in the charge, drove his spear past the shield, and through the armour, into Bagdemagus’ shoulder, and so unhorsed him. He dismounted and, taking the shield from Bagdemagus, warned him that he had done a silly thing in imagining himself to be the best knight in the world; he was not worthy to wear the shield, and had therefore got wounded.
Then he called to Melias, and handing the shield to him told him to take it at once to Sir Galahad and to give it him, and tell him that he was the knight for whom the shield was intended.
Melias, although given this pleasing mission by a great and powerful armed warrior, did not at once obey his order, because he thought his duty lay first with his own master, Bagdemagus.
So he went and tended him to begin with. He used his knowledge of “first aid” and bound up his wound, he then caught his horse and somehow managed to lift him on to it, which must have been a difficult job, considering the weight of the armour which knights wore in those days.
Then he led the horse slowly back to the abbey, where his master was lifted down, undressed, and put to bed, and there he lay for a long time in danger of dying, but eventually recovered.
Sir Galahad Grateful
Meantime Melias took the shield to Sir Galahad with the strange knight’s message, and Galahad used it always after- wards. But before he had made use of this fine present, Galahad did not forget the Explorers’ motto that “a present is not yours until you have thanked for it.” And he rode out to the place where the strange knight lived and thanked him for the shield, and after that he set out in greater confidence to seek the Holy Grail.
Melias Gets His First-Class Badge
But before starting he also wanted to thank Melias, the squire, for bringing him the shield, and finding that he was the son of the King of Denmark, and a very plucky as well as good-hearted lad, he made him a knight, just as a Leader might give a good tenderfoot an Explorer’s badge.
But Melias, now Sir Melias, begged that Sir Galahad would allow him to be his squire and to accompany him on his travels. So Galahad consented and they started off. About a week later as they were riding along they came to a cross-road where a notice said that if a knight took the left-hand road he would soon have a chance of showing his skill for he would be attacked; if he took the right-hand road he would not come out alive unless he were a good man in every way and a well- trained knight.
Sir Melias begged that as they must each take one or other of the roads, he might take the right-hand one in order to prove that he was a good knight and true, even though it was to be at the risk of his life.
Sir Galahad at first wanted to take it himself, but finding Sir Melias so eager, he gave up his own desires and took the other road instead.
Sir Melias’ Great Adventure
Sir Melias rode into the forest, and after a time he came upon a table spread with food, and also a golden crown lying on the ground. He did not want the food, but when he saw the crown he could not resist the temptation to pick it up and take it with him. He had no sooner done so than a strange knight suddenly appeared riding towards him and calling upon him to defend himself. Sir Melias did not hesitate a moment, but dashed forward to meet the newcomer, with all the hope of proving himself a good knight. But as they crashed into one another the stranger drove his spear through Sir Melias’ armour and he fell to the ground badly wounded.
Fortunately, Sir Galahad came riding along that way very shortly afterwards, and found him lying senseless. So he dismounted and bound up his wound. But while he was doing so, Galahad was suddenly attacked by the strange knight, who had come back to the spot; but Galahad success- fully unhorsed him and wounded him, when he was suddenly attacked from behind by a second stranger. Sir Galahad turned on his assailant with such fury that he very quickly defeated him also and drove both of them off into the forest. He then got Melias up on to his horse and brought him safely away to an abbey, where he handed him over to the care of an old monk. After an affectionate farewell he continued his journey. But Melias lay for many weeks in hospital.
Sir Melias’ Mistakes
As the monk pointed out to him, it was through his own fault that he had got wounded.
In the first place he ought not to have considered himself a real knight until he had been thoroughly trained as one (just as a tenderfoot should not pretend to be a first-class Explorer till he has passed the tests). He had too good an opinion of himself. Then, when he knew Sir Galahad wanted to come by the right-hand road, he should have given up his own desire and let his friend have it. He was, therefore, selfish. But his worst act was to take the crown away; it was nothing more nor less than stealing. And to give way to a temptation like that showed that the young knight was not half manly enough. And to steal a thing is so dishonest, entirely against what a man of honour would do, that it proved he was not as yet fit to be considered a knight, and he richly deserved all that he had got in being half-killed.
So it would be with a Explorer if, after he had been made a first-class Explorer, he went and let himself be tempted to forget his honour, to be selfish, and to steal, or lie, or do some other sneaking thing. He would no longer deserve to wear the badge or to be reckoned as an Explorer.
Every young Explorer will, like Melias, come to a chance one day or other of proving whether he is unselfish or not, and whether he can stand the temptation to be dishonest. Well, if you make up your mind to Be Prepared for this, you will come out of it all right, instead of being defeated like Melias.
WHICH WAS THE BEST KNIGHT?
King Arthur’s Examination of the Knights
King Arthur is said to have thought out for himself the same question which is put to you, namely which was the best of his knights; but you need not be bound by his choice if you have reasons for thinking differently.
Only a small number of the knights who had set out to find the Holy Grail returned to Camelot (Winchester), and only two of these had seen it.
Sir Bors was one. He was a good, honest, and plucky fellow, but was not content with seeing the Holy Grail unless his friend, Sir Lancelot, could see it too. Probably this was the cause of his success, because so often it happens that if you try and do a good turn to some one else, the luck comes to you. And yet if you try to get the good thing for yourself you often fail, and even if you succeed it never gives you the same pleasure.
When the knights were standing before the king, Bors was keeping in the background, putting his friend Lancelot forward; but King Arthur saw him and called to him to come forth and tell his adventures. He very unwillingly told, in a few words, that he had seen the Grail; but he would not say much, which is the way with men who have done big things, and he was feeling so unhappy that he should appear to have done better than his friend Lancelot.
So then the King asked Lancelot, calling him at the same time “the mightiest of the knights.”
But Lancelot knew that, although brave and chivalrous, he did not deserve the King’s praise or affection, because he was deceiving him all the time about his wife, Queen Guinevere. So Lancelot could only confess that, though he had seen visions, his sin was too great to allow him actually to see the Holy Grail itself.
Sir Gawain, when asked how he had got on, had to confess that in his wanderings he had met with cheerful company, and had spent a good time with them instead of going on with the hardships of travelling about looking for the Holy Grail. So that, though a bright and brave young fellow, the King saw that he was not steady enough and had not got the grit to go through difficulties to carry out his duty, so he was no good.
Then Sir Percival gave his account of what he had done, and told the King also about Sir Galahad who was dead.
And the rest of the knights were also questioned. But it is difficult to know what opinion the King came to as to which was the best; his opinion has not been recorded. It is an interesting point to think out for yourself.
Explorers are Knights Seeking the Holy Grail.
Now this is the whole meaning of the stories of King Arthur and his knights. Every man or boy who goes out into the world is a knight, and the Holy Grail is the Spirit of God. If he goes through his life trying to find that Holy Grail, doing his duty without selfishness and in spite of difficulties, such as poverty, temptations, want of time, and such things, he will in the end, ” see the Holy Grail,” he will get his reward from God.
And with you, Explorers, it is the same thing. You are knights bound by your oath to carry out the knights’ (or Explorers’) Law.
You are going about doing your duty, helping others, keeping straight and honest, cheery and brave, and, if you stick to that through thick and thin, you will see your Holy Grail you will get your reward.
Therefore it is a good thing for you to think out which was the best of the knights and why, and then to follow his lead in all that you do and avoid the faults of the other knights.
There is not so very much to choose between the different Knights; they were very much like any other body of Explorers some a little better, some a little worse than others, but all trying to do their duty aright.
Of course, the whole story of the Knights is rather mixed up, and not entirely true, although founded on facts. England was in those days divided up into various kingdoms, and King Arthur only reigned over one of them, but his rules for the Knights, and the splendid way hi which they carried them out, attracted the notice of many others, not only in England, but also in Germany and elsewhere, and, as there were no newspapers and very few books, the story of their deeds was told by one person to another, and for many years afterwards, so that it got a good many changes into it, and knights who had done great deeds in other countries came to be mixed up in the story with those of King Arthur, and so gradually were counted as King Arthur’s Knights.
But this does not affect the main point of the whole story, the general lesson of which was that if any man binds himself to carry out the rules of an association like the Knights or the Explorers, and really does so, in spite of dangers and temptations to give it up, he will in the end find his Holy Grail — that is, he will feel the greatest happiness of mind while on earth and will go to Heaven at his death.
The rules of the Knights, as you know, were these:
First. To be faithful to God and the King.
Secondly. To help other people.
Thirdly. To obey the laws of chivalry.
These were, to be always ready with your armour on, except when sleeping at night.
To defend the poor and helpless.
To do nothing to hurt or offend others.
To be prepared to fight in the defence of your country
To do all things honourably and honestly.
Never break a promise.
Maintain the honour of your country, even if it cost you your life.
Die honest rather than live disgracefully.
Do all your duty cheerfully.
And so also any Explorer should truly carry out the same rules, in spite of any temptations to slack off and to merely do the play part of scouting, and not the work. If he can stick to it and can carry out these rules, especially that one to do good turns daily to other people, he will in the end find his Holy Grail that is, he will know what true happiness is, he will rise to great things, and he need have no fear of death, for he will get his reward in Heaven.