Sir Lyonel’s Choice

on August 29 | in Inspirations | by | with Comments Off on Sir Lyonel’s Choice

By Michel Gantelet (Original at Bibliothèque nationale de France)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sir Lyonel was the nephew of the famous knight Sir Lancelot at a time in Arthur’s kingdom when there were no major wars to be fought. The young knights have had no fire to temper their steel, and the peace of the land is rotting out the nobility of the Round Table. The young knights have taken to idle amusements, gossip, and pursuit of women.

King Arthur and his lovely Guinevere work to get the aging knights to take the young ones out on quests to restore their nobility, succeeding in inspiring Lancelot to go questing with his nephew. As the knights travel, Sir Lyonel asks insulting questions and at last Lancelot must make a mighty effort to not kill his nephew.

With that victory of restraint, Lancelot lays to sleep under an apple tree and Lyonel makes a profound decision.

Watching over the sleeping knight, Sir Lyonel thought of the endless talking of young knights gathered to celebrate death without having lived, critics of combat by those whose hands had never held a sword, losers who had made no wager. He remembered how they said this sleeping knight was too stupid to know he was ridiculous, too innocent to see the life around him, convinced of perfectibility in a heap of evil, romantic and sentimental in a world where reality is overlord, an anachronism before the earth was born. And in his ears he could hear the words of smug failure, weakness, and poverty sneering that strength and richness are illusions, cowardice in the armor of wisdom.

Sir Lyonel knew that this sleeping knight would charge to his known defeat with neither hesitation nor despair and finally would accept his death with courtesy and grace as though it were a prize. And suddenly Sir Lyonel knew why Lancelot would gallop down the centuries, spear in rest, gathering men’s hearts on his lance head like tilting rings. He chose his side and it was Lancelot’s. He brushed a dungfly from the sleeping face.

John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

He chose his side and it was Lancelot’s.

What side do you choose?

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