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  Arthur at  
Avalon

 


The Island of Apples, which men call the Fortunate Isle, is so named because it produces all things of itself. The fields there have no need of farmers to plough them, and Nature alone provides all cultivation....Thither after the battle of Camlan, we took the wounded Arthur...and Morgan received us with becoming honour. In her own chamber she placed King Arthur on a golden bed, with her own and noble hand uncovered the wound and gazed at it long. At last she said that health could return to him if he were to stay with her a long time and wished her to make use of healing art. Rejoicing, therefore, we committed the King to her, nad returning gave our sails to favouring winds.

Life of Merlin, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1135-50
 
 
 

   Avalon   


 
 

The place of Arthur's last battle, Camlann, remains obscure. The name means crooked bank, or glen and many sites have been suggested. The closest contender could possibly be the area of South Cadbury. This site is nearest to the river Cam, which could have possibly been Avalon, the blessed island of apples, where Arthur's wounded body was taken.

Those who live in Glastonbury claim this site as Arthur's burial place. The older forms of the legend, however, cannot bear to kill the king and he is said to be sleeping, awaiting a call to rise and save his people.

Excerpt from The Alliterative Morte Arthure

"The king with Caliburn comes down like a knight,

And the cantle of the bright shield he carves asunder

And into the shoulder of the man, a hand's breadth wide,

So that the shining blood showed red on his mail.

Now Mordred shudders and flinches and shrinks a little;

But now, in his fine attire, he shoves in hard,

That thief with the gleaming sword, and grimly strikes,

And the flesh on the far side he flaps away

Through tunic and jesseraunt of noble mail.

The man cut out a half foot's breadth of flesh,

And Arthur knew he must die; then more's the pity

That ever that hero should fall, through heaven's will!

And yet with Caliburn he cruelly strikes,

Casts up his shining sword and covers himself,

Swipes off the sword hand, sweeping past-

Severed it clean, an inch below the elbow,

So that Sir Mordred swoons on the sward in a faint,

And he cut through brown steel bracer and bright mail

So that both hilt and hand lie flat on the heath.

Then firecely Arthur raises up the shield

And bears down with his sword to the beaming hilts,

And Mordred screamed and settled down toward death.

"In faith," said the dying king, "it gives me grief

That such a false theif finds so fair an end."..........

"Then did he as they told them, all together,

And went towards Glastonbury by the quickest way:

At the Isle of Avalon, King Arthur alights

And goes to a manor, for he could not ride on further.

A surgeon from Salerno examines his wound,

And the king discovers with questions that death is near.

Soon to his surest men he said these words;

"Call to me my confessor, with Christ in his arms;

I'll take the sacrament quickly, whatever may come.

My cousin Constantine shall bear the crown,

As suits his nature, assuming Christ allows it.

Cousin, for blessing, bury yon lords

Who are brought down from life in battle, by the sword;

And afterward make your way to Morderd's children,

And see them duly slain and slung to the waters,

And let no wicked weed wax mightly on earth;

I warn you for your honor, do as I bid you!

And for God's love in heaven, I give up my wrath:

If Guinevere is well, may peace be with her."

He said, on the land where he lay, "In manus tuas,"

And thus his spirit passed and he spoke no more" (Gardner 110-113.)