ROUND TABLE

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ROUND TABLE. If we may believe tradition, towards the end of the fifth century, there reigned in Britain a Christian king, the British UtherPendragon, who had a most powerful and not less wise and benevolent enchanter, Merlin, for a counsellor. Merlin advised him to assemble all his knights, who were distinguished for piety, courage, and fidelity towards him, at feasts about a round table. It was calculated to receive fifty knights, and was to be occupied, for the present, only by fortynine, one place remaining empty for an occupant yet unborn. This was Arthur, or Artus, son of the king by Igerna, whom the king, by the magic power of Merlin, was permitted to enjoy under the form of her husband Merlin had exacted a promise that the education of the prince should be intrustedto him; and he accordingly instructed him in every thing becoming a brave, virtuous and accomplished knight. Arthur, therefore, at a later period, occupied the empty seat at the rouud table, which, under him, became the resort of all valiant, pious and noble knights. (See Merlin, and Arthur.) This table, admission to which became the reward of the greatest virtues and feats of arms, afforded materials for the romantic poets of the AngloNormans, forming a distinct cycle of characters and adventures. (See Romance, and Chivalry.) According to another account, Arthur himself established the round table at York. Von Hammer thinks the fiction is of Eastern origin. The adventures of the knights of the round table are founded on the legend of the Sangreal, or Sangraal, which is probably a corruption of the Latin sanguis realis, or the French saing real (true blood). According to this legend, Joseph of Arimathea received into the cup from which Jesus drank at the last supper the blood which flowed from his side on the cross. By means of this cup, called graal, Joseph performed the most astonishing miracles, in different countries, particularly in Britaina power which was also possessed by his descendants, who inherited the cup. In the course of time, however, it was lost; and, for the purpose of recovering it, Pendragon, father of Arthur, founded the order of the round table, the knights of which bound themselves to wander over ihe whole world in search of the sangraal. This legend was probably blended with the British traditions of king Arthur by the Trouveres, or AngloNorman poets. Among the romances of the round table, are Tristan de Leonnois, Lancelot du Lac (see Lancelot), Perceforest, Sangraal, &c.