The Joyous gard

With apologies to Malory, Tennyson, and Lewis

by Kristin Pender, Amelia Lehosit, and Esther Lawrence

Editor's note: the pieces in our Order and Chaos series were originally submitted to the Creative Writing competition as part of Interregnum XV at The King's College. The following piece won second place. It was submitted on behalf of the House of Truth.

The knight, he lay within the tomb,

His funeral shroud, wrapping gloom,

Self-banished to this wasting doom,

His only thought the crimson bloom, 

That bled from Camelot.

Knight who chaired the Perilous Siege,

Who had pledged his life to his liege,

Betrayed the King, with his besiege, 

For Queen of Camelot. 

The missive read from his foe’s hand,

Bidding return to the king’s land

And aid rebuff of traitor’s stand

And return home no longer banned, 

Begged the King of Camelot.

Believing it some foul deceit,

The knight would not attend with fleet

To fight with former foes and meet 

The Usurper of Camelot. 

The letters came and came again

Until the day they stopped and then

The Knight of France was made to ken

Of a dying King and his men

Betrayed by Camelot.

Hearing, the knight was stricken cold.

He’d thought the pleas were guile bold

Set at once, to aid liege of old

The King of Camelot. 

Camelot was lost to the flame.

T’was Mordred set but Lance’s blame.

He rode until his steed was lame

Then continued on foot the same 

To the ruins of Camelot

Bodies lay broken in the street.

Once proud towers trod under feet,

Uphended was the Arthur-seat 

As if Troy were Camelot. 

The flashing swords, pulled from their sheath,

The blood flowed like the River Lethe,

But there would be no laurel wreath

For those loyal knights on the heath, 

A mortal blow to Camelot.

Though Arthur waned, he would not yield,

Until his foe before him kneeled,

Then was bourne upon his shield 

But not to Camelot. 

Lancelot knelt among the rows,

Weeping like the river flows,

Recalling that Sybillic prose,

Foretelling death and then he knows 

T’was of Arthur and Camelot:

“The King would beg for the might

Of his belov’d brightest Knight

With whose sole aid he’d win the fight,

The Fight for Camelot.” 

Smoke was billowing in the sky.

Gone the towers that once stood high

Seeking the Queen and giving cry

As he found her limp body by 

The Splintered Throne of Camelot.

Lovely in death, pierced by a knife

He cradled her, he loved as wife.

They’d tasted love that cost her life,

The Love of Camelot. 

He bore Guinevere to her grave

And prayed mass as if tomb were nave

And carved in stone with his glaive

“Here lies a King, noble and brave, 

And his Queen of Camelot.”

He laughing wept in maddened craze

In despair of ill-deserved praise,

Knowing he caused the end of days,

The Death-Bringer Lancelot. 

“Oh damn this cursed love you sent,”

Cried Knight to God and on he went.

“I loved the Queen and she nigh brent,

And on my hands was much blood spent,”

Wept a Knight for Camelot. 

The Knight reflected on that bliss,

“Who am I and what is this?

Have I umade Eden for a kiss?” 

Lamented the Paris of Camelot. 

Lancelot was her own sworn knight,

He guarded her through dark and light,

And though he fought with all his might,

He fell in love that carnal night, 

The Forbidden Love of Camelot.

But Guinevere was Arthur-wed,

Yet came willing still, to his bed,

They gave no thoughts to oaths they shed 

The Trojan Lovers of Camelot. 

Mordred had lain in secret wait

To catch them by the lovers’ gate,

Consumed with envy, driven by hate

He stalked them through the evening late 

To rend the Tryst of Camelot.

He followed Lancelot to her door

As he had many times before

And listened to their lovers’ score 

That Knight of Camelot. 

He fled the door, he fled the hall

And met the King upon the wall.

Jealous Mordred, filled with gall,

Ignoring counsel, told him all 

That fickle Knight of Camelot.

Hearing such was Arthur wroth

They, he loved most and pledged him troth

Was worked into a frenzied froth 

The Cuckold King of Camelot. 

He was a Knight, he was a friend,

Never knew how love could rend.

King and Kingdom would never mend

All for the Queen with whom he sinned 

The Helen of Lancelot.

In this he had forsook his fate,

For lack of trust he came too late,

And found the severed thread of

Fate Of Arthur of Camelot. 

All that’s left is ashes and dust,

And the stone-sheath sword left to rust

All to slake only one man’s lust

This man who had betrayed the trust 

Of the King of Camelot.

Then Mordred did as he accused,

He bed the Queen and then he loosed

Such foul rebellion that refused 

The King of Camelot. 

Lancelot knelt. In the tomb wept,

Begging God but on they slept.

There he stayed as on darkness crept

Over liege and queen vigil kept

The Knight of Camelot.

He thought on things of legends told

As he lay grieving in the cold

And knew t’was he who tarnished gold 

The Golden Age of Camelot. 

Lancelot swore to guard their rest

As long as Life were in his chest

For days and weeks fulfilled his quest

Till came a stillness in his breast

Died Sir Lancelot.