William Morris


THAT the wise speak is goodly gain,
For thereby do we win amain
Of sense, of good and courtesy:
'Tis good to haunt the company
Of him who of his ways hath heed,
And hath no keep of folly's deed.
For as in Solomon we find,
The man that is of wisdom's kind
Doth well in every deed there is;
And if at whiles he doth amiss
In whatso wise, unwittingly,
Swift pardon shall he have thereby.
Whereas he willeth penitence.

BUT now I needs must draw me hence
To rhyming, and to tell in word
A tale that erewhile I have heard,
About a King of Paynemry
A great lord of the days gone by;
He was full loyal Saracen
And of his name hight Saladin.
Cruel he was, and did great scathe
Full many a time unto our faith,
And to our folk did mickle ill
Through pride of heart and evil will.
So on a time it fell out so
That 'gainst him to the fight did go
A Prince hight Hugh of Tabary,
Therewith was mickle company,
The Knights of Galilee, to hand;
For lord was he of that same land.
That day were great deeds done amain,
But nought was our Creator fain,
He that the lord of glory hight,
That we should vanquish in the fight;
For there was taken the Prince Hugh
And led along the streets and through,
And right before lord Saladin,
Who greeted him in his Latin,
For well he knew it certainly:
"Hugh, of thy taking fain am I
By Mahomet," so spake the King;
"And here I promise thee one thing,
That it behoveth thee to die
Or with great ransom thee to buy."
Then answered him the lord Sir Hugh,
"Since choice thou givest me hereto
Unto the ransom do I fall
If so be I have wherewithal."
"Yea," said the King, "then payest thou
An hundred thousand besants now."
"Ah Sir, this thing I may not do
if all my lands I sell thereto."
"Yet dost thou well." "Yea Sire & how?"
"Thou art full of hardihood enow
And full of mighty Chivalry,
Thy lords shall nought gainsay it thee,
But with thy ransom deal they should
And give to thee a gift full good,
And in this wise quit should'st thou be."
"Yet one thing would I ask of thee,
How may I get me hence away?"
Then thereto Saladin did say:
"Hugh, unto me shalt thou make oath
By that thy faith and by thy troth
To come again unto this place
Without fail in a two year's space,
And then to pay thy ransom clear,
Or come back to the prison here.
Thus wise from henceforth art thou quit."
"Sir," quoth he, have thou thank for it
And all my faith I pledge thereto."

THEN craveth he a leave-to-go
That he may come to his own land.
But the King takes him by the hand
And leads him to his chamber fair
And prayeth him full sweetly there:
"Hugh," saith he, "by the faith ye owe
Unto the God whose law ye know
Now make me wise: for sore I crave
The right road straight-away to have,
And I have will to learn aright
In what wise one is made a Knight."
"Fair sir," he said, "this may not be
And wherefore I will tell to thee:
The holy order of Knighthood
In thee will nowise turn to good;
For evil law thou holdest now,
Nor faith nor Baptism hast thou.
Great fool is he that undertakes
To clothe and cover o'er a jakes
With silken web, and then to think
That never more the same shall stink;
In nowise one may do the feat,
E'en so to me it were unmeet
To lay such order upon thee,
O'er hardy were such deed to me,
For sure blame thereby should I win."
"Ha Hugh, quoth he, nought lies herein,
This is no evil deed to do,
For in my prison dost thou go
And needs must do the thing I will
Howso to thee it seemeth ill."
"Sir, since ye drive me to the thing
And nought avails my nay-saying
Then riskless I the work shall earn."

THEREWITH he fell the King to learn
In all wise what behoved to do
With face and hair and beard thereto,
And did him clothe himself right well
As to a new-made Knight befel,
And in that bath wash lithe and limb.
Then 'gan the Soudan ask of him
What these same things might signify,
And answered Hugh of Tabarie:
"This bath wherein thy body is
Forsooth it signifyeth this.
For e'en as infants born in sin,
Stainless from out the font do win,
When they to baptism are brought,
E'en so Sir Soudan, now ye ought
To come forth free from felony,
And be fulfilled of courtesy;
In honesty and in good will
And kindness should'st thou bathe thee still
And grow beloved of all on earth."
"Beginneth this fight well of worth,
By God the great," spake forth the King.

THEN from that fair bath outgoing
He laid him in a full fair bed
That dearly was apparelled.
"Tell me without fail, Hugh," he saith,
"What this same bed betokeneth."
"Sire, betokeneth now the bed
That one by Knighthood should be led
The bed of Paradise to win
Which God gives to his friends therein.
For there a bed of rest there is
Made for no evil man ywis."
So on the bed a while he lay
And did on there full fair array,
Which was of linen white of hue.
Then in his Latin said Sir Hugh:
"Sir, deem not that my word is vain,
The web that next your skin hath lain
All white, would do you this to wit,
That Knights should ever look to it
To hold them clean, if they will well
To come their ways with God to dwell."

WITH scarlet gown he clad him then
And marvelled Saladin again
Wherefor the Prince be-dight him so.
"Hugh," said he, "now I fain would know
What this same gown betokeneth."
Then Hugh of Tabarie answereth:
"This gown in gift is given withal
That ye may know the sum of all,
And fail not more your blood to give
In serving God the while ye live,
And Holy Church to fortify
That by no man it fare awry.
For all these deeds to Knights are meet
If they to God would make them sweet.
The scarlet gown betokeneth this."
"Hugh," said he, "much my marvel is."

SHOES on his feet he then did do
Of loose-wrought say all brown of hue,
And spake he: "Sir, withouten fail
For thy remembrance doth avail
This foot-gear that is shapen black,
That ne'er shalt thou the memory lack
Of death, and earth to lie in low,
Whence cam'st thou, whither thou dost go.
So ward ye then your eye, withal,
Lest into pride at last ye fall,
For never o'er a Knight should pride
Bear sway, or in his heart abide;
Of simpleness should he have heed."
"All this is good to hear indeed,"
Spake then the King, "nor grieveth me."
THEN upright on his feet stands he,
And girds him with a belt withal
That white is and of fashion small.
"Lo Sire, this little belt doth mean
That thou thy flesh shalt hold all clean,
Thy reins and all the body of thee
And hold it ever steadfastly;
Yea even as in virginhood
Thy body to hold clean and good,
And lechery to blame and ban.
For ever loveth knightly man
To hold his body free from stain,
Lest he be shamed and honour wane.
For unclean things God hateth sore."
The King said: "Goodly is thy lore."

TWO spurs thereafter did he on
His feet, and word therewith he won
"Sir, e'en as swift and speedily
As ye would wish thine horse should be,
And of good will to run aright
When ye with spurs his sides do smite,
That swiftly he may wend all wise,
And here and there as ye devise,
These spurs betoken without doubt
(Gilt as they be all round about)
That ever heart should be in you
To serve your God your life days through.
For even thus doth every Knight
That loveth God in heart aright
To serve him with a heart full dear."
Fain then was Saladin to hear.

THEREWITH he girt to him a sword
And Saladin hath asked the word
What thing betokeneth the brand.
"Sir," said he, "'tis a guard to hand
'Gainst onslaught of the fiend to bear,
Even as now thou seest here;
The two-edged blade doth learn thee lore
How a good Knight should ever more
Have blended right and loyalty.
Which is to say it seemeth me,
To guard the poor folk of the land
Against the rich man's heavy hand,
And feeble people to uphold
'Gainst shaming of the strong and bold;
This then is Mercy's work to win."
All this yeasayeth Saladin,
Who hearkened well all words he said.

THEREAFTER set he on his head
A coif which was all shining white
And told its tokening all aright.
"Now look hereon Sir King," said he,
"E'en as this coif, as thou dost see,
Is wholly without stain or sear,
And fair and white, and clean and clear,
And sitteth now upon thine head;
So on the day of doom the dread,
Free from the great guilt we have wrought,
And clear and clean from deeds of nought
Which ever hath the body done,
We then must render everyone
To God that we may win the prize
Of all delights of Paradise.
Because no tongue may tell the tale,
Ear hearken, nor a heart avail
To think of Paradise the fair,
And what his friends God giveth there."
To all this hearkened well the King,
And afterward he asked a thing,
If aught he lacked whereof was need.

YEA Sir, but dare I not the deed."
What is it then? "The stroke," said he.
"Why hast thou given it not to me
And told me its betokening?"
"Sir, 'tis the memory-stirring thing
Of him who hath ordained the Knight
And duly with his gear him dight.
Now I will lay it not on thee,
For in thy prison here I be,
Nor ugly deed here may I do,
Lest men lay wite on me thereto;
Nor by me shall the stroke be laid
With things so done, be thou apaid.

YET will I show thee further-more,
And learn and tell thee o'er and o'er
Three matters weightiest to tell,
Whereof should new Knight wot full well,
And hold them all his life-days through,
If honour he would come unto.
And this is first of all I wot,
That with false doom he meddle not
Nor in the place of treason bide,
But lightly wend him thence and wide;
But if the ill he may not turn,
Thence forth away must he full yerne.
The other matter liketh well.
Never may Dame nor Damosel
Of him have any evil rede;
But if the rede of him they need
Aid them should he with all his might,
If he would win fair fame aright.
For women should of worship be,
And deeds for them done mightily.

THIS also must thou look unto
That rightwise abstinence to do,
And this I tell you verily
On Fridays must there fasting be,
The holy memory to bear
How Christ was smitten with the spear
Even for our redemption,
And gave to Longius pardon.
On that same day till life be past,
For the Lord's sake, then, should one fast.
But if it be for sickness sake,
Or fellowship against it make;
Or if perchance fast one may not,
The peace of God must then be got
By almsdeed or some otherwise.

THE next and last thing I devise,
Mass should one hear each day and all,
And offer if one have withal;
For right well offering lies ywis
That laid upon God's table is:
For there it beareth mickle might."

SO hath the King heard all aright
Of all that Hugh hath told him there,
And joy he maketh great and fair.
Then stood the King upon his feet
Apparelled as it was meet:
He entered straight his feast-hall fair,
And fifty admirals found there,
Who were all men of his country;
Then on his high-seat down sat he,
And Hugh before his feet sat down,
But soon had place of more renown,
For the King made him sit on high.

THEN spake the King: "Know verily
Because thou art a valiant man
A right fair gift for thee I can;
For this I grant thee frank & free;
When so thy folk shall taken be
In battle pitched, or in the fray
For thy love they shall go their way.
If this to crave, thou come to hand.
But if thou ride amidst my land,
Without impeace fair shalt thou go
And on thy palfrey's neck thereto
Shalt lay thine helm before men's eyes,
That nought of fray 'gainst thee arise.
Moreover of thy taken men
Now will I give thee up to ten
If thou wilt have them hence with thee."
"Sir," said he, "of thy much mercy
Much thank and good can I: but yet
One thing I would not all forget.
Thou leadest me to seek and crave
Of good men, if I might them have,
To help me to my ransoming:
But never shall I find, O King,
A valianter than thou ywis;
Therefore give me, as right it is,
E'en that ye learned me crave of you."
King Saladin, he laughed thereto,
And spake as one well pleased would say:
"Right well hast thou begun the way
And fifty thousand besants bright
Now will I give to thee outright;
By me thou shalt not fail herein."
Unto his feet then did he win
And to the lord Hugh spake he so:
"To every baron shalt thou go
And I will wend along with thee."
"Sir," said the King, "give him and me
Wherewith this mighty lord to buy."
To giving fell they presently,
The Admirals all round about,
Till all the ransom was told out
And remnant was, if all were paid,
Of thirteen thousand besants weighed;
So much they promised him, and gave.
Then would lord Hugh the free leave have
To get him gone from paynemry.
"Thus wise thou partest not from me,"
Said then the King, "until ye get
The remnant that is over yet
Of what behight they to be told.
For all those besants of mere gold
From out my treasure shall we take."
Then to his treasurer he spake
To give the besants to Sir Hugh,
And take them after, as was due,
Of them who had the promise made.
Then he the besants duly weighed
And gave them to the Count Sir Hugh,
Who took them, would he, would he no.
But he to take them was unfain;
Liever were he to buy again
His folk who in the prison were
In thralldom and right heavy cheer,
In hand of barons Sarrazin.
But when thereof heard Saladin,
Then by his Mawmet strong he swore
They should be ransomed never more.
And when Hugh heard it, for his part
Great wrath he had within his heart,
But further durst not pray the King,
Since he by Mawmet swore the thing.
Nor durst he wroth him more that day.
Therewith he bade them to array,
Those ten fellows, whom he did crave
The road to their own land to have.
Yet did he tarry from the road
And there for eight days yet abode
In feast full great and all delight.
Then he the let-pass craved aright
To pass therewith the foeman's land.
And Saladin gave 'neath his hand
Of his own folk great company.
A fifty fellows there had he,
And they from Paynemrie him lead
Without ill pride or evil deed,
That never had they fight nor fray.
So too they then the backward way,
And to their land ride frank and free.
Therewith the Prince of Galilee
In likewise gat him home again,
But for his folk hard was his pain
That he behoved to leave behind,
Whereof no mending might he find.
More grieved is he than all and some.

SO to his own land is he come
With but those ten and hath no more.
Then shareth he the wealth good store
That thence awayward he had brought,
And unto no man giveth nought,
That wealthy wax they, each, and hail.

FAIR sirs, well wended is the tale
Amidst good people of good will;
For nought it shall be to the ill,
Who no more than the sheep shall hear
By God and Paradise the dear!
For well may he his jewels tyne
Who casteth them before the swine:
They shall but tread them under feet,
And deem them neither good nor sweet.
For nothing of it should they wot
But ever understand it not,
And whoso such a tale should tell,
Down trod he should be e'en as well,
And held of nought by their un-wit.

BUT he who willeth learn of it,
Two things in this same tale shall find
well worthy worship in his mind.
And this the first, to wot aright
In what wise one is made a Knight
Such as the whole world worship shall
Whereas he wardeth one and all.
For if there were not fair Knighthood
Then Lordship were but little good:
For Holy Church it wardeth still,
And from ill doer's evil will
In right and justice keepeth all;
So this I praise what e'er befall.
Who loves it not is such as they
Who would the mass-cup steal away
That doth upon God's altar stand.
Lo, how their rightwiseness hath care
For all men good defence to bear,
For drove they not ill men away,
Good men might dure not ever a day.
Then all were Sarracens in sooth,
And Albigeois and men uncouth,
Folk of the law of devilry,
Who should us make our faith deny:
But these the Knighthood have in fear.
Therefore those should we hold full dear
In honour and in worship meet,
And ever rise upon our feet
Against their coming from afar.
Certes well worth the shame they are
Who hold such men in grudge and hate.
For now forsooth I tell you straight,
That power full due still hath the Knight
To have his weapons all aright,
And them in holy church to bear
When he hath will the mass to hear:
That missay may no evil one
The worship of the Mary-Son;
Or the all-hallowed sacrament,
From whence is our salvation sent.
And if missayeth any wight,
There may he slay the same outright.

SOME deal more needeth yet to say:
Do ye the right, come what come may.
The Knight is bidden hold this same.
If he would win the word of fame
This word he well must understand.
Boldly I tell you out of hand
If he after his Order doth
None hinder may, or lief or loth,
But he wend straight to Paradise.

SO have I learned you this devise
To do the thing ye should of right
In worship ever of a Knight
Over all men; saving the priest
Who doth the sacrament and feast
Of God's own body / Thus I tell
True tale that ye may know it well
Of what betided to Prince Hugh,
A valiant man and wise thereto.
Of Saladin great praise had he
Whereas he found his valiancy:
Also he made him honoured fair
Whereas he wrought with pain and care
After his might good works to win.
For good gain lieth still therein,
And in the Latin read I thisG
Of good deed ever good end is.
So for our ending let us pray
To him who endeth never a day,
That coming to the end of all
We to good ending may befall,
And win unending joyance then
Which hath no end for righteous men.
And pray for him who wrote as well
With Jesus Christ for aye to dwell
And in the love of Mary May.
Now each and all, amen we say.

THE end of the Ordination of Chivalry.


The "Ordination of Knighthood", being a translation by William Morris of the anonymous 14th C. text "L'Ordene de Chevalerie"
was printed by Morris at the Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, Middlesex, England, as part of the book, The Order of Chivalry,
finished on 24 February 1893.