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Full text of "The chief Middle English poets; selected poems, newly rendered and ed., with notes and bibliographical references"

HANDBOUND 
AT THE 



UNIVERSITY OF 



THE CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 






THE CHIEF 

MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



NEWLY RENDERED AND EDITED, WITH NOTES 
AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES 



JESSIE L. WESTON 




HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO DALLAS SAN FRANCISCO 

be i\tUen>foe Press 



COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY JESSIE L. WKSTON 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



PR 
\ZQ3 

W43 



LIBRARY 

736863 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 



CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS 
PRINTED IN THE U . S . A 



PREFACE 

THE selection of texts to be included in this volume has been a matter of much 
careful consideration. I already possessed a list of works of the period, drawn up 
for my guidance by Professor Schofield; a questionnaire, circulated by Messrs. 
Houghton Mifflin Company among the leading professors of English literature in 
America, brought forth numerous valuable additional suggestions; finally, I referred 
the list of translations, then practically completed, to Professor W. P. Ker, who, 
on his part, suggested other additions. The collection may thus claim to be fairly 
representative of the best American and English opinion, and as such will, it is hoped, 
meet the requirements of the majority of students of our common literature. 

But if I have been guided by others in the choice of the texts, for the manner in 
which they are presented I am myself responsible. It has seemed to me desirable 
to give the poems as much as possible in their entirety, or, that being impracticable, 
in complete and representative episodes. I am, and always have been, strongly of 
opinion that to compile such a manual as the present on the lines of short extracts 
only results in inflicting injustice alike on the student and on the author. I have at 
present before me a work designed for the use of students of English literature, where 
Amis and Amiloun and Sir Tristrem are represented by five and a half stanzas 
allotted to each, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl by three and a few lines, 
breaking off in the midst of a section; in one case not even at a full stop! Is it pos 
sible for any student to form an opinion of the style and merits of an author from 
such a collection of " shreds and patches "? Or is it fair to such poets as, for example, 
Layamon, or the author of Pearl, to present them in such a mutilated form? On the 
other hand, the continued utility of such compilations as those of Ritson and Weber, 
which, in spite of their age (both have been published for more than a century) and 
many critical imperfections, are still consulted by scholars, seems to me an argument 
in favor of printing the complete texts. 

So far as possible the collection has been arranged to include all the principal 
branches of English mediaeval literature; in the "Chronicles" section special atten 
tion has been given to Layamon, both on account of the real poetical merit of his 
work, and also for its critical interest. As is well known, his account of the found 
ing of the Round Table is unique, and of extreme value as throwing light upon the 
character of Arthurian tradition before it came under the influence of the ideals 
of chivalric romance. Again, Arthur's dream as related here should be compared 
with the version of the Thornton Morte Arthure, given in my volume entitled Ro 
mance, Vision, and Satire (Boston, 1912). Layamon's version is distinctly the more 
vigorous and dramatic. It is interesting, too, to compare his account of the closing 
scenes of Arthur's life, and his testimony to the persistent belief of the folk in the 
hero's return, with the more polished version of the same themes given in the Har- 
leian M . A.; both are fine, but there is a note of poignant reality and regret in Laya 
mon's lines which seem to place the writer in a closer and more intimate relation 



vi PREFACE 

with his theme; we may suspect that the Saxon priest of the twelfth century was not 
altogether disinclined to share the belief of the folk among whom he lived, while to 
the unknown poet of the fourteenth century Arthur was a poetic tradition, and no 
more. 

The "Introduction," given from each of the "Chronicles," throws an interesting 
light on the aim and purpose (indirectly also on the personality) of the writers, and 
the sources they employed. 

The "Legendaries" form so important a section of our mediaeval literature, and 
were so active a factor in the instruction and edification of our forefathers, that it 
seemed well they should be fully represented. Saint Dunstan and Saint Thomas 
were included in my original scheme; they are of historical interest, and, in the 
case of the latter, of decided literary merit. On the advice of Professor Ker I have 
added Saint Brandan, which affords a notable example of the Wonder-Voyage, a 
favorite theme in all literatures; examples of the Northern Legendary, and Lives of 
the Saints in their earlier and independent form. Of the "Romances" here given, 
Amis and Amiloun and Arthur and Merlin were added as the result of the question 
naire, and Syr PercyveUe on the suggestion of Professor Ker; this romance is so inter 
esting a factor in the criticism of the evolution of an important romantic cycle that 
it is as well to render it more easily accessible than it is at present. 

To the section devoted to works of edification I have added the Bestiary, on my 
own initiative, as its quaint lore has so strongly colored mediaeval art and teaching. 

The "Lyrical and Religious" section has grown with the progress of the work; in 
looking up isolated texts, I frequently, in the same volume, came across poems which 
seemed to me too good to be omitted from our collection. As it stands now I hope it 
may be found fairly representative of the different branches of a singularly rich and 
varied literature, and as such receive the kindly welcome of scholars. 

In conclusion, my thanks are due to all those scholars who, by advice and sugges 
tion, have contributed towards the formation and completion of the work; I only 
trust that, in the form it has finally assumed, it may prove to them of enduring inter 
est and utility. 

J. L. W. 

PARIS, December, 1913. 



CONTENTS 

HISTORICAL 

LATAMON ".'.'*'. li^ 

Introduction 1 

King Leir ..1 

The Founding of the Round Table 11 

The Passing of Arthur 13 

ROBERT OP GLOUCESTER'S CHRONICLE 20 

Introduction 20 

ROBERT OF BRUNNE'S CHRONICLE 25 

Introduction 25 v 

BARBOUR'S BRUCE 26 

Introduction 26 

In Praise of Freedom 27 

James of Douglas 27 

How the Bruce crossed Loch Lomond 28 

How Aymer de Valence, and John of Lorn chased the Bruce with Hound and Horn . 29 

How King Robert was hunted by the Sleuth-Hound 31 

LAMENT FOR KING EDWARD I 32 

LEGENDARIES 

THE LIFE OF SAINT DUNSTAN 37 

THE DEATH OF SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 41^ 

SAINT BRANDAN 57 

SAINT CECILIA 72 

PLACIDAS (SAINT EUSTACE) 78 

OWAIN MILES 83 

Owain's Visit to Paradise 83 

ROMANCES 

KING HORN 93 

'HAVELOK THE DANE 110 v 

ARTHUR AND MERLIN 119 

The Choosing of Arthur 119 

RICHARD COEUR DE LION 123 

His Parentage 123 

How Richard won the Name of Coeur de Lion 126 

SIR ORFEO 133 / 

SIR TRISTREM 141 

AMIS AND AMILOUN 174 

SIR LAUNFAL 204 ' 

SIR AMADACE 216 

YWAIN AND GAWAIN 228 

The Winning of the Lady of the Fountain 228 

SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 236 

SIR LANCELOT 262 

The Maid of Ascolot 262 

The Death of Arthur ...... 269 



viii CONTENTS 



TALES 

THE Fox AND THE WOLP 275 

THE LAND OF COCKAIGNE 279 

THE SEVEN SAGES OF ROME 281 

Tale II 281 

Tale XI 283 



PROVERBIAL AND DIDACTIC 

PRECEPTS OP ALFRED ................ 289 

THE PROVERBS OF HENDYNGE .............. 294 

THE SACRILEGIOUS CAROLLERS .............. 298 

THE DEBATE OF THE BODY AND THE SOUL . - . , . . . . ..... 304 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE ./*&*** * n 4** c^jA^v r -M>^*: . . . 310/ 
A BESTIARY ..... . . . .*> . .V ....... 325 / 

The Lion ................... 325 

The Eagle ............ . ...... 325 

The Serpent .................. 320 

The Ant ................... 327 

The Hart ........ . .......... 328 

The Fox ................... 329 

The Spider ................. . 330 

The Whale ................... 331 

The Sirens ................... 331 

The Elephant .................. 332 

The Turtle Dove ................. 333 

The Panther .................. 333 

The Dove .... .334 



RELIGIOUS AND LYRICAL 

HYMN OF SAINT GODRIC 337 

ORMULUM 337 

Dedication 387 

A GOOD ORISOUN OF OUR LADIE 341 

A LOVE RUNE 34-3 

A HYMN TO THE VIRGIN 345 

A SONG ON THE PASSION 340 

QUIA AMORE LANGUEO 347 

FILIUS REGIS MORTUUS EST 349 

LYRICS 351 

Alisoun 351 

A Spring Song 351 

Winter Song 352 

Love-Longing 352 

RELIGIOUS POEMS 353 

The Sweetness of Jesus 353 

Prayer at the Elevation . 35 1 

Orison to the Five Joys of Our Lady 355 

A Miracle of Our Lady 355 

Against my Will I take My Leave 357 

Deo Gratias 358 

Mane Nobiscum, Domine 359 



CONTENTS ix 



Truth is Ever Best 360 

Salve, Sancta Parens! 361 

CAROLS 362 

Omnes de Saba venient 362 

Mater, ora filium . . . 362 

To-day was born Our Saviour 363 

All of a Rose, a lovely Rose 363 

Amice Christi, Johannes 363 

What shall I sing but Hoy! 364 

This very night 365 

LYRICS BY RICHARD ROLLE OP HAMPOLE 366 

THE FIVE JOYS OF THE VIRGIN MARY 367 

NOTES 375 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 385 

INDEX OF FIRST LINES 393 

INDEX OF TITLES . . 895 



THE CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

HISTORICAL 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



LAYAMON 



INTRODUCTION 

THERE was a priest of yore, 

Layamon, the name he bore; 

The son of Leuca he 

God to him gracious be 

At Ernley that priest did dwell 

Where the churches be builded well; 

There, upon Severn's flood, 

The place, it seemed him good, 

To Radestone was it nigh 

There he read books, verily, to 

And the thought upon him fell, 

In his mind he pondered well, 

How folk might by him be told 

Of the noble deeds of old; 

How men those folk did call, 

Whence they had come withal, 

Who first did England hold 

As their own, in days of old, 

After that flood was spent 

Which God on the world had sent, 30 

When every soul was drowned, 

And no man alive was found 

Save Noah, I trow, and Shem, 

And Japhet and Ham with them; 

These four, each one with his wife, 

In the ark, they kept in life. 

Layamon, as I understand, 

He journeyed far thro' the land, 

And sought for each noble book, 

Which he as his model took; 30 

The English book, to wit, 

Which erst by Saint Bede was writ; 

And one of Latin lore, 

By Saint Albin made of yore, 

And eke by fair Austin wrought 

Who Baptism hither brought. 



And a third book he took alway 

Which he 'twixt the twain did lay 

(T was a French clerk made that same, 

Wace, did men call his name, 40 

And well did he write, I wis! 

And he offered that book of his 

To Eleanor, Henry 's queen 

A high king was he, I ween.) 

He laid those books adown, 

That priest, hight Layamon, 

He turned the leaves carefully, 

And looked on them lovingly, 

(God be gracious to him, I pray!) 

Then a pen he took that day so 

And he wrote upon parchment fair 

The true words together there, 

And of these three books, anon, 

For our use hath he made but one. 

Now Layamon doth beseech 

That good men, all and each, 

For the love of God on high, 

Who this book read verily, 

And learn its runes alway, 

That in soothfast words they pray 60 

That his soul, who did him beget, 

May in endless bliss be set, 

And his mother's soul also, 

Who bare him, such bliss may know; 

And for Layamon pray that he 

May hereafter the better be! 

KING LEIR 1 

AFTER Bladud came Leir 
His son, whom he held full dear; 
He held this lordly land 
Long time in his own hand, 

Ed. Madden, vol. i, p. 123. 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Sixty winters past 
So long did his life-days last. 
A goodly burg he wrought 
Through the counsel his wise men brought, 
And he called that castle fair 
E'en by the name he bare; 10 

Kaer-Leir he the burg did call, 
('T was dear to his heart withal,) 
But when men speak thereof to-day 
Leirchestre do they say. 
Of yore, in the olden days, 
'T was a burg right fair to praise, 
Since then much woe hath it seen, 
Mickle sorrow its lot hath been, 
For 't was all destroyed and undone, 
And its folk they were slam, each 
one. 20 

Thus sixty winters all told 
Leir did his kingdom hold. 
The queen, his wife, she bore 
Three daughters, and no child more; 
The king he had ne'er a son, 
(Sorrow therefrom he won,) 
Who heir to his honour should be" 
He had but these daughters three. 
And thus were they hight; Gornoille, 
Then Regau, the third Cordoille; 30 
The youngest sister was she 
And fairest of all the three, 
To her father's heart was she near, 
E'en as his life was dear. 
The king, he waxed old in days, 
And feeble in strength always, 
And much did he vex his mind 
What counsel 't were best to find, 
And who should the kingdom hold 
When he should be under mould. ' 40 
And thus he himself bethought, 
(Evil thereby he wrought,) 
"My realm in three will I share^ 
Betwixt these my daughters fair; 
To my children I '11 give my land 
To have, and to hold in their hand. 
But first will I search and see 
The which of them best loves me, 
And she shall have largest measure 
Of my goodly lands and treasure.*' 50 



In this manner, the king, he thought, 

And even thereafter wrought, 

For he bade Gornoille come near, 

The first of his daughters dear, 

And forth she came from her bower 

To her father the self-same hour. 

And these words did the old king say 

As he sat on his throne that day : 

"Gornoille, hearken and speak, 

Soothfast words do I seek, 60 

Very dear art thou to me, 

Say, am I dear to thee? 

What worth dost thou set this hour 

On me, and my kingly power?" 

Wary was Gornoille there, 

As women be everywhere, 

And she answered a fair leasing 

Unto her father the king : 

"Hearken, dear father and lord, 

By the god I have aye adored, 70 

(So help me Apollin to-day, 

For my trust is in him alway,) 

I wot that I love thee more 

Than this world and its treasure store; 

Yet more would I say to thee, 

Thou art dearer than life to me! 

This do I say thee for sooth, 

Thou shalt hold it for very truth." 

And Leir, the king, hearkened and heard, 

He believed his daughter's word, 80 

And this was the answer told 

From the lips of that father old : 

"I say to thee, Gornoille, here, 

Gentle daughter and dear, 

Right goodly shall be thy meed 

As fitting for goodly deed: 

I am old and feeble grown, 

Great love to me thou hast shown, 

I am dearer than life to thee 

Now this land will I deal in three, 90 

And thine be the larger part, 

Daughter dear to my heart! 

And for lord will I give thine hand 

To the highest thane in my land." 

The old king, he spake thereafter 

With Regau, his second daughter: 

"Regau, my daughter dear, 



LAYAMON 



Rede me thy counsel here, 

Before all my folk say to me 

How dear to thy heart I be!" 100 

Then wisely she played her part, 

And made answer, with mouth, not with 

heart: 

"One limb of thine do I love 
All on this earth above, 
Yea, dearer than life it were" 
But no word of truth spake she there 
No more than her sister had done. 
Yet the lies they spake, each one, 
Their father for truth did hold: 
Then he answered, King Leir the old, no 
For his daughter pleased him well 
"The third part of my land will I tell 
To thine hand, and at my behest 
Choose thy lord where thou likest best." 
Yet the king he was not content, 
On his folly he still was bent; 
To come to his presence he bade 
Cordoille, the third fair maid, 
(The youngest was she in sooth, 
And the wisest in words of truth, 120 
And the king he loved her more 
Than the twain who had come before). 
Cordoille, who had hearkened and heard, 
Knew that false was her sisters' word, 
And she sware upon oath that day 
That never a lie would she say, 
Nor the truth from her father hide 
Were he lief, were he loth, that tide. 
In this wise spake Leir, the king, 
(111 rede was he following,) 130 

"Now from thy lips will I hear, 
Cordoille my daughter dear, 
(Apollin be good to thee!) 
How dear is my life to thee? " 
Then answered Cordoille the daughter, 
With mirth, and aye with laughter, 
"My father is dear to me 
As thy daughter is dear to thee, 
Soothfast my love, I ween, 
For the kinship us twain between. 140 
As I hope for mercy alway 
This more I to thee will say; 
Thou art worth as much, I trow, 



As that which thou boldest now, 
And methinks the tale of thy treasure 
Shall be e'en of men's love the measure; 
For right soon are they loathed of all 
Whom misfortune doth aye befall." 
Thus, the maiden, she spake her will, 
And afterward held her still. 150 

The king, he was wroth at her word, 
It pleased him ill what he heard, 
For aye in his heart he thought 
That to shame him the maiden sought; 
He thought that she held him light, 
And less dear he was in her sight 
Than he was to her sisters twain 
But to leasing they aye were fain ! 
Then King Leir, he waxed black withal, 
Black as a funeral pall, 160 

So changed his skin and his hue 
As the anger within him grew, 
And he fell aback in a swoon 
But he lifted him up full soon. 
The maiden feared when he spake, 
With ill words his wrath out-brake: 
"Hearken, Cordoille, to me, 
My will here I tell to thee; 
My dearest daughter wast thou, 
I count thee most hateful now ! 170 

Never a foot of my land 
Shall be given into thine hand ! 
In two portions my realm shall fall 
And thy sisters shall hold it all. 
But care shall thy portion be, 
And thy dwelling with misery, 
For ne'er had I dreamt this thing 
That thou shame upon me should'st 

bring ! 

Henceforth art thou dead to me, 
From my sight do I bid thee flee : 180 
To thy sisters my land I give, 
For such is my will, while I live, 
Cornwall's duke, he with Regau shall 

share, 

And the Scotch king wed Gornoille fair, 
All mine shall be their's evermore, 
Yea, all that I ruled afore!" 
And thus the old king he wrought 
In such wise as he had thought; 



4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Oft was that maiden sad, 

But never more cause she had ! xgo 

She was heavy at heart and sore 

For the anger her father bore; 

She gat her into her bower, 

Where she hid her many an hour, 

But never a lie would she tell 

Though she loved her father well. 

Shamefast that gentle maid, 

From her father she shrank afraid; 

Wise rede she found at that tide, 

In her bower did she still abide, 200 

And wept, and lamented her sore 

For the sorrow of heart she bore. 

Thus one day after another 

It passed, each like to the other. 

In France was a king, I ween, 

A rich man, and warrior keen, 

Aganippus was he hight, 

Chief of the folk, that knight. 

Young was the king at that tide, 

Nor as yet had he found a bride. 210 

He sent messengers at this same, 

And unto Britain they came, 

Even to Leir, the king. 

Fair greeting they here did bring 

From their chief, Would Leir hearken 

his prayer 

And give him Cordoille the fair, 
He would have her to crown her as queen, 
And do all that should best to her seem, 
Even all she desired at her word. 
From wayfaring men had he heard 220 
How men spake of that maiden fair, 
Of the fairness and fame she bare 
E'en before the French king's throne 
Of the beauty that was her own, 
Of her honour and patient mind, 
Of her courteous ways and kind, 
In all the land of King Leir 
Was there none men might call her peer. 
In this wise Aganippus, the king, 
To King Leir did greeting bring. 230 
King Leir, he himself bethought, 
And fitting answer he sought; 
He bade his scribes to write 



And a letter right well indite, 

And he sent it forthwith by hand 

Into the French king's land; 

Thus ran King Leir, his writ, 

Wide spread the news of it 

"To Aganippus, France's chief, 

Leir of Britain, this brief 240 

All honour I wish to thee still 

For thy good deed, and right good will, 

And the message so fair and meet 

With which thou myself didst greet. 

But I do thee well to wit, 

Here, by my royal writ, 

That my lordly land and fair 

I have given, in equal share, 

To my daughters, each a part, 

For the twain are dear to my heart. 250 

A third daughter I have, I trow, 

But her dwelling I know not now, 

For she hath despised me 

And angered me bitterly; 

For a wretch she doth me hold, 

And because I be waxen old 

Hath she put me to open shame, 

The greater shall be her blame! 

Of all my folk or my land 239 

Which I hold, or may hold, in my hand 

No whit, so I swear to thee, 

Of this shall her portion be. 

But an if thou desire that maid, 

(She is very fair be it said,) 

I herewith yield ye consent; 

In a ship shall the maid be sent, 

With the clothes that she with her bore, 

Of me shall she have no more. 

If thou wilt take her alway 

I will do even this that I say. 370 

Now thou know'st of my wrath the 

ground 

I pray thou abide whole and sound." 
This writing to France they bring, 
Straight to that noble king, 
He bade them open and read, 
Dear were its runes, indeed. 
The king he deemed awhile 
That the words were but words of guile; 
That King Leir, her father old, 



LAYAMON 



The maiden would fain withhold, 280 

And the madder grew his desire, 

And the flame of his love waxed higher, 

And he spake to his barons thus, 

The folk-king, Aganippus : 

"A rich man enow I be, 

I care not for lands or fee, 

Never shall it be said 

That King Leir refused me the maid; 

But I will have her, I ween, 

For consort, and noble queen. 290 

Her father his lands may hold 

And keep all his silver and gold, 

I ask no treasure of his, 

Mine own be enow, I wis ! 

I ask but the maid Cordoille, 

With her shall I have my will.'* 

With writ and with word once more 

His folk he sent to this shore, 

And again to King Leir made prayer 

To send him his daughter fair, 300 

And he would receive her well 

In honour, as queen, to dwell. 

The old king, he no whit stayed, 

He took that noble maid 

But with the clothes she ware, 

And he bade her hence to fare 

O'er the sea, that maiden good; 

Stern was her father's mood! 

But the French king, of heart so mild, 

He welcomed the maiden child; 310 

His folk, they deemed it right, 

And they crowned her queen forth-right. 

Thus Cordoille must with them dwell, 

And the people loved her well. 

But her father, Leir, the king, 

In this land had his harbouring, 

And had given his daughters dear 

All his land, and all his gear. 

He gave first Gornoille's hand 

To the king of the Scottish land, 320 

Maglaunus the prince was hight, 

Great was his power and his might! 

And Cornwall's duke thereafter 

Did he wed to Rcgau his daughter. 

But soon there chanced this thing 

That the duke and the Scottish king 



In secret together spake, 

And thus did they counsel take, 

That they would rule all the land 

And have it in their own hand; 330 

And to Leir, the king, they would give, 

For the while that he yet might live, 

Food for his days and his nights, 

With forty hired knights. 

And further there should be found 

What was fitting in hawk and hound, 

That through the land he might ride 

And ever in bliss abide 

The while that his life should last 

This counsel made they fast; 340 

But e'en as their word they spake 

Thereafter that word they brake; 

And erstwhile it pleased the king, 

And thereafter did sorrow bring. 

King Leir, he deemed it well 

With the Scottish folk to dwell, 

With Maglaunus the king, his son, 

Since the elder daughter he won. 

Right welcome the king was made 

And many fair words were said ; 350 

They furnished him there forth-right 

With forty household knights, 

With horses, and eke with hounds, 

All that was meet they found. 

But soon after it so befell 

That Gornoille bethought her well 

As to what were the wiser rede, 

For evil it seemed, indeed, 

That her father maintained these 

knights 

And she spake to her lord by night 360 
As the twain in bed they lay, 
And thus she began to say 
"My lord give me counsel now, 
(Dearest of men art thou !) 
Of my father would I complain ; 
Methinks that he be not sane, 
For honour is he unfit 
For now hath he lost his wit; 
Methinks that so old he be 
He doteth full speedily. 3?c 

Now here hath he forty knights, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



He keepeth them days and nights; 

Here doth he hold these thanes 

And with them their serving swains, 

Their hounds and their hawks, I trow, 

Thereof cometh harm enow ! 

For never elsewhere do they wend, 

And ever the more do they spend, 

But blithe of heart do they live 

And take the good that we give. 380 

Well-doing ever we sow, 

And naught but unthank do we know! 

Mischief they do evermore, 

For they beat our men full sore, 

My father he hath in his maisnie 

Of idle men too many. 

Now thus doth it seem me just, 

The fourth part we forth will thrust, 

Of thirty he'll yet be lord 

Enow to serve at the board. 300 

Ourselves we have cooks enow 

For the kitchen service, I trow! 

Ourselves we have butlers still 

And cup-bearers at our will; 

Let some of this folk forth fare 

As it pleaseth them, otherwhere, 

As mercy I hope and implore 

I will suffer it never more!" 

When he heard, King Maglaunus, 

That his queen she spake to him thus,4oo 

He answered the lady there 

In noble speech and fair; 

"Lady, thou doest ill, 

Hast thou not treasure at will? 

But keep thou thy father in bliss, 

He liveth not long, I wis. 

For it may be that foreign kings 

Should hear of us evil things, 

That we had dealt with him thus 

And shame should it bring upon us. 410 

But let him keep them still, 

All his folk, at his will. 

And this, forsooth, is my rede, 

For right soon shall he be dead, 

And then shall we have in our hand 

The better half of his land!" 

But Gornoille would have her will, 

And she said, "My lord, hold thee still, 



Leave it all in my hand 

And I will dismiss this band." 420 

She sent them all with guile 

To their hostelry the while ; 

Thence she bade them depart with speed, 

Since she would them no longer feed 

Many, I ween, of the thanes, 

And many too of the swains 

Who were servants to Leir, the king, 

And whom he did hither bring. 

And when the king heard thereof 

In sooth he waxed very wroth, 430 

Sadly the old king spake, 

Bitter complaint did he make; 

Thus said the old king good, 

(Sorrowful was his mood!) 

"Now woe to that man betide 

Who hath honour, and lands so wide, 

And all to his child doth give 

The while that he still doth live 

And may rule, for ere life be spent 

Methinks he may sore repent! 440 

But now will I take my way 

To Cornwall without delay, 

Counsel I think to hear 

From Regau, my daughter dear, 

Duke Hemeri hath her hand 

And half of my goodly land." 

Forth did King Leir wend 

To Britain's southernmost end, 

To Regau his daughter fair, 

For counsel failed him there. 450 

When the king to Cornwall came, 

They welcomed him at the same; 

There a full half year did he dwell 

With his knights, and thought it well. 

Then Regau spake craftily 

To her lord, Duke Hemeri, 

"My lord, hearken thou to me, 

In good sooth I say to thee 

We have done but a foolish thing 

In receiving Leir, the king, 460 

And these thirty knights of his, 

It displeaseth me sore, I wis! 

Send we twenty away, 

Ten knights may serve him alway, 

For ever they drink and they eat, 



LAYAMON 



I find in them naught that is meet!" 

Hemeri, the duke, he said, 

(His old father he there betrayed,) 

"So sure as I be alive 

Of knights shall he have but five, 470 

With them hath he folk enow, 

He doeth naught, I trow; 

And if that his will be so 

Right soon shall he from us go!" 

And as they had planned withal 

Even so did the matter fall; 

They took from the king his knights 

And the folk that was his by rights, 

But five of his men they left, 

Of the others was he bereft. 480 

When King Leir of this was ware, 

Woe was his portion there; 

Troubled at heart was he, 

He lamented him bitterly. 

Thus did he speak that day, 

And with sorrowful mien did say 

"Weal, Weal, Weal, Weal, 

With men dost thou falsely deal, 

When on thee most their trust is laid 

By thee are they most betrayed ! 490 

Two years, they have scarcely flown 

Since, a rich king, I held mine own; 

Many knights were under my sway; 

Now I live to see the day 

That I sit here stripped and bare; 

Bereft of all must I fare! 

Woe is me that I saw this land! 

I were better in Gornoille's hand, 

My goodly daughter and fair; 

With her folk I tarried there, 500 

Thirty knights would she give, 

In some wise I might fitly live; 

From her country I needs must go, 

I deemed it were better so, 

But the worse hath been my share! 

To Scotland again will I fare, 

With my daughter again to speak, 

At her hand will I pity seek 

If honour she will not give 

Yet let her once more receive 510 

Me, and these five, my knights, 

I will dwell with her days and nights, 



And a short while endure this strife, 

No whit long shall last my life!" 

Thus Leir, the king, fared forth 

To his daughter who dwelt in the North; 

She harboured him full three nights, 

Her father, and these his knights; 

The fourth day an oath she sware, 

By all the Powers that were, 520 

That no more should he have of right 

Than but one serving knight, 

An he liked it not he might fare 

And seek harbourage other-where. 

Full oft Leir had woeful been, 

Never worse than then, I ween! 

Thus spake Leir, the king, 

Sorrow his heart did wring, 

"Alas, Death, where art thou? 

Why dost thou not slay me now? 530 

I wot Cordoille spake sooth, 

Now do I know it for truth 

My youngest daughter was she 

And very dear to me, 

Yet thereafter she was to me loth 

For these the words she quoth 

' The man who hath little, I deem, 

Shall be held in light esteem, 

And methinks of men's love the measure 

Is even the tale of thy treasure!' 540 

Well spake that maiden young, 

Wisdom lay on her tongue! 

The while I my kingdom held 

My face men with joy beheld; 

For my land, and for my fee, 

My earls they fell to my knee. 

Now am I wretched enow 

And beloved of no man, I trow! 

My daughter spake truth to me 

I believe her verily! 550 

And these, her sisters twain, 

To lie were they ever fain 

When they said they held me near, 

Their own life was not so dear. 

But Cordoille, my daughter young, 

She said with truthful tongue, 

That she loved me e'en as a daughter 

Were bound to love her father; 

What more were I fain to hear 



8 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



From the lips of a daughter dear? 560 

I will fare hence speedily 

And get me across the sea; 

To Cordoille I think to turn, 

Her will I am fain to learn. 

Her truthful speech did I blame, 

Therefrom I won mickle shame, 

For now all my succour lies 

In the one I did erst despise. 

I look for no worse at her hand 

Than that she forbid me her land." 570 

King Leir, he fared to the sea 

But a single servant had he 

To a ship he went straightway, 

Never man knew him that day. 

Over the sea they won 

To a haven they came anon, 

Forth went Leir, the king, 

But one swain in his following; 

He asked where the queen might lie, 

They were fain to come her nigh? 580 

And the folk, forthwith they showed 

Where the queen of that land abode. 

A field the king had found; 

There he rested upon the ground. 

His swain he alone would send, 

(He was e'en a trusty friend,) 

Cordoille, the queen, to seek 

And in secret with her to speak. 

Thus he said: "Queen, all hail to thee! 

Thy father's swain I be; soo 

Thy father the sea hath crossed, 

For all his land hath he lost; 

Thy sisters the realm have ta'en, 

Foresworn, I ween, are the twain. 

He cometh, in truth and in deed, 

To this land, of very need; 

Help him now in thy might, 

As thy father, it is but right!" 

Then the queen, fair Cordoille, 

For a while, she sat very still. 600 

Then the red to her chrok did flow 

As if from the wine drjivight's glow 

(The swain he sat at h ,T feet, 

Right soon he found counsel meet.) 

At length all her heart out-brake, 



'T was very good that she spake 

"Apolliii, fair thanks to thee, 

That my father hath come to me. 

Tidings right glad I hear 

That he liveth, my father dear! 610 

Of me shall he have good rede 

An I be not afore that dead ! 

Now, good swain, hearken to me, 

Hear what I say to thee: 

I will give now unto thy care 

A coffer rich and fair; 

Pennies therein be found, 

I wot, to a hundred pound. 

I give unto thee a steed 

Right good, and strong at need 620 

To carry this treasure here 

E'en to my father dear. 

Say that from me ye bear 

A goodly greeting, and fair, 

And bid him without delay 

To some fair burg to find his way, 

And in some rich town, or street, 

To take him a lodging meet. 

There shall ye buy for him first 

That which may please him most, 630 

What he needeth to drink and to eat, 

And vesture fitting and meet. 

Hawks and hounds as he needs 

And the very best of steeds. 

And be to his household told 

Forty good knights and bold, 

In garments rich and fair 

Then shall ye a bath prepare, 

And a couch, and bed him soft, 

And bleed him little and oft. $40 

If silver be lacking thee, 

Then ask it again of me, 

And he shall have at my hand 

Enough from this my land. 

Of his old land never again 

Shall he speak to knight or thane. 

When forty days be gone 

Ye shall make it known, anon, 

To this, my lord so dear, 

That Leir the king be here, 650 

He hath crossed the water to me 

My land and kingdom to see. 



LAYAMON 



And I, I will take it so 

As if naught thereof did I know; 

With my lord I'll towards him ride 

And rejoice that we meet that tide; 

So shall it be known of none 

That he be not newly come. 

But thus shalt thou writing bring 

Unto my lord the king. 660 

Take thou this money from me 

And see that well-spent it be; 

And if thou dost wisely deal 

It shall be to thy good and weal!" 

The swain took the money there 

And swift to his lord did fare, 

Even to Leir, the king, 

And the tidings did truly bring 

To where on the field he lay 

Resting for grief that day. 670 

When all to the king was told 

Of good comfort was Leir the old; 

Truly he spake with voice 

In these words did he there rejoice 

"Thus Good after Evil betides, 

Well is he who its coming abides!*' 

To a fair burg his way he made 

Right so as the queen him bade, 

There he did right wisely and well 

All things, e'en as she did tell. 680 

And when it came at last 

That the forty days were past, 

Then took to him King Leir 

The knights he held most dear, 

To the French king they greeting bore, 

(He was his son-in-law,) 

And sent word to him by their hand 

That King Leir had come to his land 

And speech with his daughter prayed, 

She was dear to him, he said. 690 

Aganippus, he was fain 

That Leir had crossed the main; 

Toward him he went forth-right, 

And led with him many a knight, 

And his fair queen, Cordoille. 

Then had King Leir his will; 

Together they met in bliss 

With many a clasp and kiss, 

To the burg they took their way 



Joy was with them that day 700 

They bade the trumpets blow, 
And the pipes sound loud and low, 
Throughout the castle hall 
Were hangings of silken pall; 
The boards that were spread for food 
Glittered with gold so good ; i 
Gold rings, and golden bands 
Each man ware on arms and hands. 
Fiddle and harp were strung 
And men to their music sung. 710 

The king set men on the wall 
And bade them proclaim over all 
And declare that Leir, the king, 
In this land now made sojourning 
"And thus saith Aganippus, 
He that is chief over us, 
That now unto Leir the king 
Ye all shall obedience bring; 
Lord shall he be in this land 
And have it all in his hand 720 

Even as many year 
As it please him to tarry here. 
And Aganippus, our king, 
He shall be but Leir's underling. 
He who would live and thrive 
Hold this peace while he be alive! 
And if any this covenant break 
Swift vengeance the king will take. 
And he chargeth all who have heard 
To hearken, and keep his word!" 730 
And the folk they quoth: "We will 
Keep the king's peace, loud and still!" 
And thus for that same year 
They did, even as ye hear, 
In peace and loyalty, 
And with mickle fealty. 
When another year was come, 
Then would King Leir fare home. 
He was fain to see this land, 
And prayed leave at the French king's 
hand. 740 

Then the king Aganippus 
Answered his father thus : 
"Thou shalt never leave my coast 
Save with a mickle host. 
Of my folk I will thee lend; 



10 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Five hundred ships will I send 

Filled with the best of my knights 

And all they may need for the fight. 

And thy daughter Cordoille, I ween, 

Who is of this kingdom queen, 750 

She, too, shall sail with thee 

With an army, across the sea. 

Now haste to that land amain 

Where thou didst aforetime reign, 

And if there be any still 

Fain to withstand thy will 

And take from thee thy right 

And thy kingdom, then shalt thou fight, 

And slay them, and take the land, 

And set it in Cordoille's hand, 760 

That it be hers to have and to hold 

Whenever thy days be told." 

These words said Aganippus, 

And Leir, he did even thus, 

In everything he wrought 

E'en as his friend had taught. 

O'er the sea he gat him here 

With Cordoille his daughter dear, 

Peace did he swear alway 

With those who would own his sway, 770 

And he felled with his great might 

All who would with him fight. 

Thus all the kingdom and land 

He won again to his hand 

And freely to Cordoille gave 

Who was queen from across the wave. 

Thus was the wrong made good 

And so for a while it stood, 

Leir the king this land 

For three years held in his hand. 780 

Then came the end of his day, 

The king, he lifeless lay; 

In Leicestre, so 't is said, 

His daughter the body laid, 

In the temple of Janus, to wit, 

In the book may ye read of it. 

And Cordoille, she held the land, 

With high strength, five years in her 

hand, 

Five years as queen did she reign 
Then tidings came o'er the main 790 
That the French king was dead, I ween, 



And widowed was Cordoille, the queen. 

So men did the tidings bring 

Unto the Scottish king, 

That dead the French king lay, 

And Leir, too, was dead alway; 

Through Britain then did he send, 

To Cornwall, at its south end, 

The strong duke did he command 

To harry the Southern land, 800 

And he would sally forth 

And conquer again the North. 

For he deemed it a mickle shame 

And held it to them for blame, 

That a queen should have all in her 

hand 

And rule as king in the land, 
While their sons should landless be 
Who in sooth were better than she, 
Since their mothers the elder were 
And their's was the greater share. 8i& 
"No more will we suffer this wrong, 
But the land shall to us belong, 
For our sons we the realm will win." 
Thus did they the war begin. 
Mischief came swift thereon ; 
Of their men, her sisters' sons 
Led an army against her there 
These were the names they bare, 
Morgan, and Cunddegis 
Oft they led their folk, I wis, 820 

Oft they fought, oft they won the 

day, 

Oft they lost so it went alway, 
Till at last the Britons were slain, 
And Cordoille was captive ta'en. 
Their aunt they in prison cast, 
In a torture house full fast. 
Wrathful the woman's mood, 
They vexed her more than was good, 
Until she became so wroth, 
To her very self was she loth, 830 

And she took a long sharp knife 
And therewith did she end her life. 
But this was an evil rede 
That she slew herself, indeed, 
And thus the kingdom and land 
Fell to her nephews' hand. 



LAYAMON 



ii 



THE FOUNDING OF THE ROUND 
TABLE 1 

IT chanced on a Yule-tide day 
That King Arthur in London lay; 
There had come to him at that tide 
Vassals from far and wide; 
From Scotland, and Britain bold, 
From Ireland, and Iceland cold, 
From every folk and land 
That had bowed them to Arthur's hand. 
They had sent their highest thanes, 
With their horses and serving swains: 10 
And beside the folk that, still, 
Bowed them to Arthur's will, 
Came seven kings' sons, I ween, 
With seven hundred knights so keen. 

Now each man thought in his heart 

That to him fell the higher part, 

And each man deemed that he were 

Better than this, his peer; 

The folk came from diverse lands 

And envy came with their bands 20 

This one held him of high degree, 

This other, much higher than he! 

Then they blew the trumpets' blast, 

And they set the boards full fast, 

And bare water to young and old 

In basons of good red gold. 

Soft were the cloths in the hall, 

Of white silk woven all. 

There Arthur sat in his pride, 

With Wenhavere, the queen, at his side, 

And the guests in order right, 3 i 

First earl, then baron, then knight, 

Each found his appointed seat 

As the king's men deemed it meet. 

There were men right nobly born 

Who did service that Yule-tide morn, 

And bare the meat forth-right 

To each gay and gallant knight. 

Then they turned them toward the thanes, 

And below those still, the swains, 40 

Thus served they, one and all, 

The folk in King Arthur's hall. 

1 Ed. Madden, vol. 11, p. 532. 



Thus all for a space went well 
But after, a change befell, 
For the folk, they fell to strife, 
And blows were among them rife. 
First they threw the loaves of bread, 
And then, when the last was sped, 
The bowls of silver-shine 
Filled with the good red wine. so 

Thereafter with fists they fought 
Each the neck of his foeman sought. 
Then sprang forth a young man there, 
(From Winet land did he fare 
As hostage to Arthur's hand, 
The king's son of Winet land, 
Rumaret was his father hight ) 
And out spake that gallant knight, 
And cried on the king that hour; 
"Lord Arthur, get to thy bower, 60 
And take with thee Wenhavere, 
And the kinsmen thou boldest dear, 
And we shall fight out this fray 
With the foreign folk to-day!" 
And e'en as he spake the word 
He leapt to the royal board 
Where lay the sharp knives keen, 
For the service of king and queen; 
Three knives he grasped in his hand, 
And he smote the chief of the band 70 
And clave the neck of the knight 
Who first began the fight, 
With a blow so swift and sore 
That his head rolled e'en to the floor. 
Thereafter he slew another, 
Even that first thane's brother, 
Ere the swords might come to the hall 
Seven men had he slain in all. 
'T was a grim and a grisly fight, 
Each man would the other smite, 80 
Blood gushed forth at every stroke, 
Bale was upon the folk. 

Then forth from the king's bower strode 

Arthur in wrathful mood, 

And with him a hundred knights 

In helmet and burnie bright; 

Each bare in his strong right hand 

A gleaming white steel brand. 



12 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Then Arthur, king most dear, 

Cried so that all might hear: 90 

"Sit ye down, sit ye down, each one, 

As ye love your lives, sit down! 

He that will not while yet he may 

I doom him to death straightway ! 

Now take me that self -same man 

Who first this fight began; 

Round his neck put a withy stout, 

And draw him the hall without 

To the moorland and marsh hard by; 

There shall ye let him lie! 100 

Then seek out his next of kin, 

All such as be here within, 

And with your broad swords keen 

Shall ye strike off their heads, I ween! 

Then take ye his women-folk, 

And with swift, and with cunning, stroke 

Carve off their noses there 

That they be no longer fair. 

And thus will I bring to shame 

The kindred of which he came! no 

And if it be brought to my ear, 

Or I otherwise chance to hear, 

That one of my house or hold, 

High or low, or young or old, 

Shall hereafter awaken strife 

For this slaughter, I swear on my life, 

Neither gold, nor goodly steed, 

Nor treasure, nor warlike weed, 

Shall be ransom for that man's head 

That he be not swiftly dead, X3 o 

Or horses his limbs shall draw 

So speak I the traitor's law ! 

Bring me the hallows here, 

On them will I soothly swear, 

And so shall ye too, my knights, 

And all who were at this fight." 

First Arthur, the noblest of kings, 
He swore by the holy things; 
Then earls, and barons, and thanes, 
And last of them all, the swains, 130 
A solemn oath they swore 
To wake that strife never more. 
Then the dead men, one and all, 
They bare them from out the hall, 



And laid them low in the earth 
Then the trumpets they blew with mirth. 
Each of them, were he lief or loth, 
Must needs take water and cloth, 
And they sat them, at one accord 
Once more, adown to the board, 140 
For they feared King Arthur's hand, 
Noblest of kings on land ! 
The cupbearers went their round, 
The harpers made merry sound, 
The glee-men sang songs so good, 
The folk were in gladsome mood; 
Thus for full seven days all told 
King Arthur his feast did hold. 

Thereafter I 'Id have ye know, 

To Cornwall the king would go, iso 

And there cometh to him anon 

A crafty and skilful man, 

And he met the king in the way, 

And in greeting fair did say: 

"Arthur, all hail to thee now! 

Noblest of kings art thou, 

I am thine own true man, 

To serve thee as well I can. 

I have journeyed in many a land, 

Right skilful is this, mine hand, i^ 

In craft of wood, or of tree, 

But now it was told to me 

The slaughter thy knights had wrought, 

When of late at thy board they fought, 

And how, on mid-winter's day, 

Mickle pride wrought murderous play; 

For that each man by right of kin, 

And high lineage, would sit within. 

Now I will for thee, lord, prepare 

A board exceeding fair, 170 

Where sixteen hundred may sit, 

And more, if it seem thee fit. 

And all they shall turn about, 

So that no man shall be without, 

But without and within shall they be, 

Man against man, verily! 

And when thou to ride art fain, 

Thou shalt carry it in thy train; 

And when thou shalt hold thee still, 

Thou shalt stablish it at thy will; i8a 



LAYAMON 



And never shalt thou fear more, 
So long as the world endure, 
That for envy a moody knight 
Shall raise at thy board a fight, 
Of high or of low degree 
All men there shall equal be!" 

Then they bade men timber win 
That he might the board begin; 
For the space of four weeks he wrought 
Ere the work to an end he brought. 190 
Then when a high day was come 
The folk he called, every one; 
And Arthur himself, the lord, 
Sat him down at the new-wrought board, 
And he bade every gallant knight 
Take his place at his side forth-right, 
And when each had found his seat, 
And all were sat down to meat, 
Then each man spake with the other 
In such wise as he were his brother, 200 
In order they sat about, 
And no man was left without; 
No knight, whatsoe'er his race, 
But found there a fitting place, 
Were he high, were he low, in that hall 
Was a place for each and all. 
And each man, he quaffed at the board 
The drink that was there outpoured, 
Nor thought he might call for other 
Than the draught that would serve his 
brother. 210 

Now this was that very Round Table 

Of which Britons oft-times fable; 

And many a lie shall ye hear 

Of Arthur that king so dear; 

But I think me 't is ever so 

That the custom of men doth go, 

He that loveth his friend, I ween, 

For his honour is over-keen, 

Nor shall deem it a shame to lie 

If he win him more praise thereby! 220 

The songs that the songmen sing 

Of Arthur, the noble king, 

AU lies are they not, nor all sooth, 



But this do I hold for the truth, 

There was never such other lord 

So mighty in deed and in word, 

For so ye may find it writ 

In his history, every whit, 

From the first to the last, how things 

Fell out for Arthur, the king. ty 

Neither more nor less may ye read, 

But all these, his acts, and his deeds. 

The Britons, they loved him well, 

And many a tale they tell, 

And many a wondrous thing 

Concerning Arthur, the king, 

Such as never were wrought by man 

Since ever the world began ! 

Yet he who would speak but the truth 

He may find, in very sooth, 240 

Enough to shape goodly rhymes 

Of Arthur, the king, and his times. 

THE PASSING OF ARTHUR 1 

A-HORSE to the king's host drew 

A knight, both good and true, 

Tidings he thought to bring 

To Arthur, the Britons' king, 

Of Modred his sister's son 

A welcome glad he won 

From the king, who thought to hear 

That which should bring him cheer. 

Arthur lay long that night 

And spake with that youthful knight, 10 

But never a word did he say 

Of that which had chanced alway. 

When it came to the morrow's morn, 
And the folk, they stirred with the dawn, 
Then Arthur arose from his bed; 
He stretched his arms over his head, 
Then he stood, and he sat again, 
E'en as one for misease is fain. 
Then asked him that goodly knight, 
"Lord, how hast thou passed the night? " 
And Arthur, the king so good, 21 

Made answer in troubled mood: 
"Last night, as I lay on sleep 

i Ed. Madden, vol. in, p. 117. 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



In my tent, and slumbered deep, 

There came such a dream to me 

As hath vexed me right bitterly 

Methought men lifted me there, 

And raised me high in air, 

Until that the roof-tree tall 

I bestrode, of a lofty hall, 30 

I sat there as I would ride, 

And below me, stretched out wide, 

I saw all my goodly land ; 

Before me, sword in hand, 

Sat Walwain, my kinsman true. 

Then Modred towards us drew, 

With him came a goodly throng; 

In his hand was an axe so strong 

And with mighty strokes he felled 

The posts that the hall upheld. 40 

And then I saw Wenhavere, 

(Woman to me most dear,) 

With her hands the roof she tare 

Of that hall, so great and fair, 

Till the building rocked and swayed, 

And I fell to the ground dismayed; 

And there my right arm I brake 

'Take that!' so Modred spake. 

Then in ruins fell that hall, 

And it bare Walwain in its fall 50 

From the roof- tree e'en to the ground, 

And he brake both arms at that stound. 

Then I gripped my sword so good 

In my left hand, as best I could, 

And smote off Modred's head, 

On the wold he fell down dead. 

In pieces I hewed the queen 

With my sword blade, good and keen, 

And, methought, her corse at last 

In a deep black pit I cast. 60 

My folk, they had fled away, 

And I knew not, by Christ, that day 

Whither they all had gone 

But methought I stood alone 

On a moor-land bleak and cold; 

I wandered afar on the wold, 

Gryphons I saw, I trow, 

And grisley fowls enow! 

Then over the down to me 

Came a beast, most fair to see, 70 



A golden lion, methought 

'Twas a work that God's hand had 

wrought! 

The beast came to me forthright, 
By the middle it gripped me tight, 
And carried me o'er the land 
Till we came to the salt sea strand, 
And I saw the waves of the sea 
How they drave right heavily. 
Then the lion the flood would swim, 
Bearing me ever with him, 8c 

But scarce were we come in the sea 
Ere the waves bare him far from me. 
Then a great fish came in my need, 
And bare me to land with speed; 
I was wet and weary, I trow, 
For sorrow, and sick enow ! 
And then must I needs awake, 
My heart did within me quake. 
Then a heat and a trembling fell, 
And I burned as with fires of Hell! 90 
Thus all night long have I lain 
And dreamed that dream o'er again, 
'T is a token true, I wis, 
That vanished is all my bliss, 
And, while life be left to me, 
Grief shall my portion be! 
Alas! that I have not here 
Wenhavere my queen so dear." 
Then out spake that youthful knight: 
"My lord, thou doest not right, 100 

No man should so read a dream 
As to turn it to sorrow, I ween ! 
For of all kings, I know full well, 
Who under the welkin dwell, 
To whose rule the people bow, 
The richest and wisest art thou ! 
And if it should chance to be, 
(May Christ keep it far from thee !) 
That Modred, thy sister's son, 
The heart of thy queen had won, no 

And had taken thy wife and thy land, 
And had set them all in his hand, 
(All thou didst leave in his care 
When thou though test afar to fare,) 
And were thus for a traitor shown, 
Still mightest thou hold thine own, 



LAYAMON 



And avenge thyself by war, 

And rule thy folk as before, 

And the men who this wrong had done 

Thou could'st slay them every one, 120 

Yea, and sweep them clean from the 

ground, 

So that none should alive be found!" 
Arthur, he answered then : 
(Noblest was he of men,) 
" So long as ' ever ' may be 
Ne'er do I think to see 
The day that my kinsman dear, 
The man to my heart most near, 
Hath ever such treason planned 
As to seize my crown and my land; 130 
Or Wenhavere, my queen and love, 
Shall other than steadfast prove! 
Such work they would ne'er begin, 
Tho' they thought thus the world to 

win!" 

As he spake the word, forthright 
There answered that gallant knight: 
"I speak but the truth, my King, 
For I am thine underling, 
Even thus hath Modred done, 
The heart of thy queen hath he won, 140 
And all Britain, and thy fair land, 
Hath he taken in his own hand. 
As king and queen do they reign 
Nor deem thou shalt come again, 
'T is a far cry to the Roman shore, 
From thence shalt thou come no more! 
But I am thy man O King! 
And I saw this evil thing, 
To thyself have I brought this word, 
And the truth, e'en as thou hast heard, 
My head in pledge will I lay, 151 

'T is sooth and no lie, that I say, 
But even thus have they done, 
Thy queen and thy sister's son, 
Modred hath taken thy throne, 
Thy land, and thy wife, for his own!" 

Then never man stirred of all 

Those knights in King Arthur's hall, 

Right sorrowful was their mood 

For the grief of their king so good. 160 



Downcast and sad of mien 

Were the British men, I ween ! 

'T was thus for a space, and then 

Rose a clamour of angry men, 

Till all far and wide might know 

Of the Britons' wrath and woe! 

In sooth might ye there have heard 

Full many a threatening word, 

Doom to the faithless pair, 

Modred and the queen, they sware, 170 

And the men who held with the twain 

They all should be swiftly slain. 

Then Arthur cried thro' the hall, 

Fairest of Britons all, 

"Sit ye down, and hold ye still 

My knights, and hearken my will, 

Strange words do I think to say, 

To-morrow, when it be day, 

By Christ, His power, and His grace, 

Will I get me forth from this place. 180 

To Britain I take my way, 

And there will I Modred slay, 

And the queen with fire will I burn; 

And to loss and to ruin turn 

All that have joined their hand 

With them, and this treason planned. 

But here will I leave in my place 

Hoel, the fair of face, 

(The first of my kinsmen he, 

And dearest of men to me,) 190 

With half of my army bold 

That this kingdom he keep and hold, 

And all this goodly land 

That I late have set in mine hand. 

And when I have vengeance ta'en 

I will turn me to Rome again, 

And my lands so wide and fair 

Will I give into Wai wain's care. 

No empty threat do I make 

But my life on my word I stake, 200 

I will fell my foes every one, 

Who this treason and wrong have done! " 

Then Walwain arose in the ring, 

He was kinsman unto the king, 

Wrathful and stern his mood, 

And he spake, "O almighty God, 

Who dost judgment and doom award, 



16 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And this middle earth dost guard, 

How did this thing begin? 

Why hath Modred wrought this sin? 210 

Now ye folk, lend to me the ear; 

This day I forsake him here, 

I myself will his Doomsman be, 

(So the Lord grant it unto me!) 

Higher than e'er another 

With this hand will I hang my brother! 

And the queen I will judge by God's law, 

Wild horses her limbs shall draw. 

For never shall I be blithe 

The while that I be alive 220 

Till I right mine uncle and lord 

To the best of my hand and sword!" 

The Britons made answer then 

With one voice, as valiant men: 

"Our weapons are keen and bright, 

To-morrow we march forthright!" 

Then, since the Lord willed it so, 

To-morrow they forth would go, 

Arthur moved with the dawning light, 

And with him his valiant knights, 230 

One half of the folk must stay, 

And one half marched with him alway. 

Thus he led his men through the land 

Till they came at the last to Whitsand; 

Ships, full many and good, 

Ready in harbour stood, 

But a fortnight full his host 

It lay becalmed on that coast, 

Till the weather changed once more, 239 

And the wind blew fresh from the shore. 

Now in Arthur's host that day 
Was one who would traitor play, 
And when he heard men speak 
Of the vengeance they thought to wreak, 
Forthwith he took his swain, 
And he bade him haste amain, 
And bear to Wenhavere the word 
Of how Arthur the tale had heard, 
And how he would come ere long, 
With a mickle host, and strong; 250 
And how he had sworn an oath 
To take vengeance upon them both. 



The queen came to Modred then, 
(Dearest to her of men,) 
And told to him everything 
Concerning Arthur the king, 
How he would act in that day, 
And how he the twain would slay. 
Then Modred sent speedily 
To Saxland across the sea, 260 

And he prayed that Childerich, 
A monarch exceeding rich, 
Would swiftly to Britain fare, 
(Of the land should he have his share ) 
And he prayed of the king that tide 
To send messengers far and wide, 
East, West, and South, and North, 
And bid all his knights fare forth, 
Even all they met on their way, 
And to get them without delay 270 

To Britain, and part of the land 
Would he give into Childerich's hand; 
North of the Humber all 
Should be his without recall, 
If he men to his aid would bring 
Against Arthur his lord and king. 
Childerich helped him in need, 
To Britain he came with speed; 
And Modred called on his men 
To gather for battle then, 280 

There were sixty thousand all told, 
Hardy warriors and bold, 
Who were come out of Heathennesse 
For King Arthur's sore distress, 
For Modred they came to fight, 
That evil and traitorous knight! 
And when all were come to the place, 
Of every folk and race, 
Rank upon rank did they press, 
One hundred thousand, no less, ' 290 
Of heathen, or Christian, that morn 
Were with Modred the false and fore 
sworn. 

Now Arthur and all his host, 
At Whitsand they lay, on the coast, 
Too long seemed those fourteen days 
And Modred he knew always 
What Arthur he planned and he wrought, 
For tidings each day were brought 



LAYAMON 



From the army that lay by the sea 
Then the rain, it rained steadily, 300 
And the wind, it shifted at last, 
And blew from the east full blast, 
And Arthur gat him aboard 
With every knight and lord; 
And he bade his shipmen steer 
For Romney, and have no fear, 
There he thought him to land, and then 
March inland with all his men. 
When they came to the haven and shore 
Modred was there before, 310 

And ere ever the dawn grew bright 
The hosts they had fallen to fight, 
And they fought through the live-long 

day, 

Full many there lifeless lay! 
Some of them fought on the land, 
And some on the salt sea strand, 
Some from the ships' deck cast 
Sharp spears, which flew full fast. 
Wai wain, he went before, 
And cleared their path to the shore, 320 
Eleven thanes did he slay 
With Childerich's son, that day, 
Whom his father had hither brought 
When the sun his rest had sought 
Bowed was each British head 
For Walwain lay there dead 
And robbed of his life-days all 
(Through a Saxon earl did he fall, 
Sorry be that man's soul!) 
To Arthur 't was bitter dole, 330 

Full sorrowful was his mood, 
And he spake, that chieftain good, 
(Mightiest of Britons he ) 
"I have lost, ah, woe is me! 
Walwain whom I loved so well, 
E'en so did my dream foretell, 
I deemed it would sorrow bring! 
Now slain is Angel the king, 
Who was mine own darling, and thane, 
And my sister's son, Walwain, 340 

Ah, woe is me for this morn, 
I would I had ne'er been born ! 
Now up from your ships, and fight 
As ye ne'er yet have fought, my knights !" 



Then, even at his command, 

His warriors leapt to the land, 

Sixty thousand all told, 

Stalwart Britons and bold, 

And they brake through Modred 's host, 

Well nigh he himself was lost! 350 

Then Modred, he 'gan to flee 

And his men followed speedily, 

'T was a marvel to see how they fled, 

The fields rocked beneath their tread, 

And the stones in the river course 

Jarred 'neath the blood-streams' force! 

Full well had they ended that fight 

Were it not for the coming of night, 

Had the darkness but made delay 

All their foes had been slain that day. 360 

The night fell between the twain 

O'er the hills Modred fled amain, 

He fled so far and so fast 

That to London he came at last, 

But they knew, the burghers stout, 

How the matter had fallen out, 

And bade him and his followers all 

Abide there, without the wall. 

Modred, he might not stay, 

But to Winchester took his way, 370 

And they gave him shelter there 

And all that with him did fare. 

But Arthur, with all his might, 

Pursued after him forth-right, 

And to Winchester came ere long 

With a mickle host and strong; 

With his army he sat him down, 

And shut Modred within the town. 

When Modred saw him so nigh 

He bethought him craftily, 380 

And oft he turned in his mind 

What counsel he there might find. 

And there, on that self-same night, 

He called unto him his knights, 

And bade them to arm them straight 

And march out of the city gate, 

For there would he make a stand 

And fight for the crown and the land. 

And unto the burghers he swore 

Free law for evermore 390 



i8 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Would they stand by him at his need 
And help him with act and deed. 
And thus, when it waxed to light, 
All ordered they stood for fight. 
Arthur beheld this thing, 
Wroth was the Britons' king: 
Then the trumpet blast rang clear, 
And his men came together there, 
And he prayed of his thanes forth-right, 
And of every noble knight, 400 

To help him, and fight right well, 
That he might all his foemen fell; 
And to level the city wall, 
And to hang the burghers all. 
Together they marched, as one man, 
And sternly the fight began. 
Then Modred, again he thought 
In his heart, and counsel sought, 
And he did in his danger there 
E'en as he did elsewhere, 410 

With the best could he traitor play 
For treason he wrought alway ! 
He worked a betrayal grim 
On the comrades who fought for him; 
For he called from among the rest 
The knights whom he loved the best, 
And the friends whom he held most 

dear 

Of the folk who were with him there, 
And he stole from the fight away 
The Devil led him that day! 4 *> 

And left his good folk on the land, 
To be slain there by Arthur's hand. 
Thus all day long they fought, 
That their lord was nigh they thought, 
And they deemed that he took good heed 
To succour them in their need. 
But Modred, he went his way 
On the road that toward Hampton lay, 
And made for the haven then 
(Wickedest he of men! ) 430 

Of the ships he took speedily 
All that were fitted for sea, 
And the steersmen, one and all, 
That no harm should his ships befall; 
Thus Modred, that traitorous king, 
Did they safe into Cornwall bring. 



And Arthur his army cast 
Round Winchester, fair and fast, 
And all the folk did he slay 
Sorrow was their's that day ! 440 
He spared no soul that drew breath, 
Young or old, all he put to death. 
Thus the people to loss he turned, 
And the city with fire he burned. 
And then he bade them withal 
To break down the city wall; 
And thus was fulfilled the word, 
Aforetime from Merlin heard: 
"Winchester, woe unto thee, 
For swallowed of earth shalt thou be!" 
Thus Merlin the seer foretold, 451 

Wisest wizard of old! 

In York the queen abode, 

Right sorrowful was her mood, 

Saddest of women, I ween, 

Was Wenhavere, Arthur's queen! 

For she heard men say for sooth, 

And knew them for words of truth, 

How that Modred, he ever fled, 

And Arthur behind him sped, 460 

Woe was upon her that morn 

That ever she had been born ! 

From York did she take her flight, 

In secret, by shades of night, 

And to Caerleon made her way 

Swiftly, without delay, 

Not for all this world's treasure-store 

Would she look upon Arthur more. 

Thus with but two knights in her train 

At Caerleon she drew rein, 470 

To the city she came by night, 

And they hooded her there forth-right, 

And a nun must she henceforth be, 

Saddest of women she! 

Then men of the queen knew naught, 

Where she went, or what fate she sought; 

E'en when many years had flown 

The truth might by none be known. 

And never a book may tell 

In what wise her death befell, 480 

And if in the water's flow 

She cast herself, none may know. 



LAYAMON 



19 



In Cornwall was Modred then, 

And he gathered to him his men; 

To Ireland he sent with speed 

Messengers in his need, 

To Scotland, to Saxland, too, 

Help from them all he drew. 

He bade them come to his land, 

All who would win to their hand 490 

Silver, or gold, or fee 

Thus he guarded him prudently, 

As a wise man will ever do 

When need forceth him thereto. 

Tidings to Arthur they bring, 

(Was never so wroth a king !) 

How Modred in Cornwall sped, 

That a mighty host he led, 

And there he thought to abide 

Till Arthur should 'gainst him ride. 500 

Then messengers Arthur sent, 

Through the breadth of his land they 

went, 

And they bade every living knight 
In the land, who had strength to fight, 
To arm him, and come straightway. 
But if he would traitor play, 
And hold with Modred, then 
The king would have none of such 

men. 

And whoever should take no heed 
To do Arthur's will with speed 510 

Should be burnt alive on the land, 
Or slain, at the king's command. 
Then towards the army sped 
A folk unnumbered, 
A-horse and afoot they came, 
Thick as the falling rain. 
To Cornwall marched Arthur the king, 
With a mighty following. 
And when Modred the tidings knew 
Toward him he swiftly drew Sao 

Countless the folk that day, 
O'er many of them were fey! 
To the Tamar their face they set, 
By the river those armies met, 
Camelford, did they call that shore, 
And the name dureth ever more! 
Arthur, he reckoned then 



On his side, sixty thousand men, 

But more by thousands were they 

Who stood by Modred that day ! 53^ 

No longer would Arthur abide 

But thitherward would he ride; 

Bold were his knights and fleet, 

They hasted their fate to meet! 

On the banks of the Tamar river 

The armies they came together, 

The banners above them flew, 

The ranks together drew, 

Their long swords flash in the light, 

Hard on the helms they smite; 540 

The sparks sprang beneath the stroke, 

The spears, they shivered and broke; 

Cloven each goodly shield, 

The shafts they splinter and yield; 

The folk they fought passing well, 

Their number no man might tell ; 

Tamar, it ran on flood 

Swollen with streams of blood. 

Never might man in the fight 

Know one from the other knight, sso 

Who did better, or who did worse, 

So mingled the battle's course, 

For each, as he might, would slay, 

Were he swain, were he knight, that 

day! 

There was Modred of life-days reft, 
On the field was he lifeless left, 
And with him all of his knights 
Were slain in that fearsome fight. 
There too were slain, I ween, 
Full many good knights and keen, 560 
King Arthur's warriors brave 
High and low, all found there their 

grave, 

With every British lord 
Who sat at Arthur's board, 
And the men who bowed to his hand 
Of every kin and land. 
And Arthur was smitten sore, 
Of spear wounds that day he bore 
Fifteen, so deep, and se wide, 
In the least gash two gloves might ye 

hide! 570 

When it came to the end of the strife 



20 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Nor more were there left on life, 

Of two hundred thousand men 

Who lay hewn in pieces then, 

Save only Arthur, the king, 

And two knights of his following. 

And Arthur was smitten sore, 

Wondrous the wounds he bore! 

Then a young knight came to the king, 

He was one of his kith and kin, 5 8o 

Son to Cador the keen, 

Who earl of Cornwall had been, 

Constantine was he hight, 

Arthur he loved that knight 

The king looked his face toward 

As he lay on the bloody sward, 

And thus he spake to the lad 

With sorrowful heart and sad : 

"Constantine, thou art welcome now, 

Cador's son wert thou, 590 

I leave thee my kingdom here, 

Guard thou my Britons dear 

So long as thy life shall last 

And see that they still hold fast 

The laws that in my day stood, 

And King Uther's laws so good. 

But to Avalon will I fare, 

A maiden, she ruleth there, 

By name Argante the queen, 

Fairest of elves I ween ! 600 

My wounds shall she handle and heal, 

Turning my woe to weal, 

For sound is he who hath quaffed 

At her hand a healing draught! 

And then will I come again 



And once more o'er my kingdom reign, 

And dwell with my Britons dear 

In great joy, and mickle cheer!" 

And e'en as the words he said 

Swift o'er the sea there sped 610 

A little boat, and low, 

That came with the wavelets' flow. 

Within were two women fair 

Who a wondrous semblance bare; 

They took up Arthur the king, 

And swift to the boat did bring, 

Soft they laid down his head, 

And swiftly from thence they sped. 

Ah! then was fulfilled the word 

From Merlin the prophet heard 620 

That sorrow and woe should spring 

From the passing of Arthur the king. 

But the British folk, they say 

That Arthur, he lives alway, 

That held by a fairy spell, 

In Avalon doth he dwell; 

And each Briton's hope is strong 

That he cometh again ere long ! 

And there liveth no mother's son 

Who desire of women hath won, 630 

Who knoweth a better lore 

Or of Arthur can tell ye more. 

But whilom was a wizard wight, 

Merlin that man was hight, 

And he said in words of truth, 

(For ever his sayings were sooth,) 

That Arthur shall come again, 

And once more o'er the Britons reign! 



ROBERT OF GLOUCESTER'S CHRONICLE 



INTRODUCTION 

ENGLAND, it is a right good land, I ween of lands the best, 

'T is set in one end of the world, and lieth toward the West; 

The sea, it girts it all about, it stands as doth an isle, 

Thus of their foes they have less doubt, save that they come thro* guile 

The people of that self-same land as hath been seen of old. 

From South to North the land is long, eight hundred miles full told, 



ROBERT OF GLOUCESTER'S CHRONICLE 21 

He who would cross from East to West two hundred miles must wend, 

So is the mid-land measure told, 't is less toward the end. 

And here in England all good things in plenty may ye see 

Save thro' wrong-doing of the folk the years the worser be. 10 

For England, it is full enow of fruit, and trees so green, 

Of woodland, and of parks so fair, joyful to see, I ween; 

And birds and beasts, both wild and tame, ye sure shall find them there 

With fishes too, both salt and fresh, and many a river fair! 

And wells of water, sweet and cold, pastures and meads wide-spread, 

And mines of silver and of gold, of tin, and eke of lead, 

Of steel, of iron, and of brass; garners of good corn full, 

And wheat have they, and therewithal the very best of wool. 

And waters have they there enow, above all others three ; 

(Across the land to sea they run, e'en as its arms they be,) ac 

Whereon the ships may safely sail, and from the sea may wend 

To land with merchandise enow, and reach to either end. 

Two be the Severn and the Thames, Humber the third they call, 

And these, e'en as I said to ye, run thro' the land withal. 

The Humber runneth to the North, a goodly stream and wide, 

South-West, I trow, the Severn's course, the Thames, on the East side, 

So that enow of merchandise from distant lands, I wis, 

Is borne by them thro' England, the folk, they nothing miss. 

And many a smaller isle there be that lieth off this land 

But three there be above them all, so do I understand. 30 

That which they call the Isle of Man lies in the Irish sea, 

And the great Isle of Orkney shall North of Scotland be, 

South, toward Normandy, the third the Isle of Wight they call, 

These be the three best islands, and the best known of all. 

The earliest lords and masters who dwelt within that land 

They reared the towns and cities that chief in England stand ; 

London, and York, and Lincoln. Leicester, the names they bore, 

Colchester, Canterbury, Bristol, and Worcester, four, 

And Chichester, and Cambridge, with Cirencester, these three 

With Dorchester, and Winchester, and Gloucester, next shall be. 40 

Other great towns be found there, in Wales, the sooth to say, 

And thus it was in England when Britons there held sway. 

Men have'made war on England, thither as conquerors come, 

First, mighty lords they ruled it, the Emperors of Rome, 

They fought, and eke they won it, and held it at that same; 

The Picts and Scots thereafter, from North to England came, 

They warred, and wide they wasted, yet won not all they sought; 

Then Angles came, and Saxons, by Britons hither brought 

Against these foes to help them they gained the upper hand 

Against these self -same Britons, and took from them their land. 50 

And since that time in England the warfare scarce may cease, 

First, thro' the folk of Denmark, who be not yet at peace, 

England oft-times they won it, and held by mastery 



22 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

Fifthly, the land was conquered by folk from Normandy 

And still they dwell among us, and shall for evermore 

The book hereafter telleth of all this woe so sore. 

The Britons were the first folk who landed on this shore, 

The kingdom they divided, and gave to rulers four; 

The kings of Kent, and Wessex, and of Northumberland, 

And of the March, this last king, he ruled the middle land. 60 

The Saxons, and the English, when they the land had won 

In shires five and thirty they parted it anon, 

Sussex, I trow, and Surrey, Essex, and Kent they be, 

And Berkshire next, and Hampshire, and Middlesex, these three. 

Then Dorsetshire, and Wiltshire, and Somerset, also, 

And Devonshire and Cornwall, with Gloucestershire ye know. 

Then Shropshire nigh to Worcester, thereafter Hereford, 

With Warwickshire, and Cheshire, Derby, and eke Stafford; 

And Lincolnshire, and Bedford, and also Huntingdon, 

Buckingham, and Northampton, and Oxenford, anon. 70 

Norfolk there is, and Suffolk, and Cambridge-shire also, 

And Hertfordshire, and Leicester, and Nottingham thereto. 

York and Carlisle, Northumberland, these three complete the tale 

These shires be all in England, without the March of Wales. 

With that there be in England Bishoprics seventeen, 

Carlisle they be, and Durham, and York, so do I ween, 

Ely, and Canterbury, Norwich, and Rochester, 

With London, too, and Salisbury, Chichester, Winchester, 

Of Lincoln, and of Chester, and Worcester, last there be 

Bath, Hereford, and Exeter these be the final three. 80 

With that, Wales too, hath bishops, but three alone, no more, 

Saint David first, then Landaff, the third is of Bangor. 

But York and Canterbury, Archbishoprics are they, 

They of Carlisle, and Durham, must York's decrees obey; 

The others all of England with those of Wales, the three, 

They all shall owe allegiance to Canterbury's see. 

When Saxons ruled in England, tho* they in power did thrive, 

But seven kings they made here, and afterward but five; 

Northumbria, and East Anglia, these be the names of two, 

The kings of Kent, and Wessex, and of the March also. y 

Who ruled the March, I think me, at that time had the best, 

The greater part of England, that lieth toward the West, 

Both Worcestershire and Warwick, with Gloucester to him fell, 

('T was well nigh all one Bishopric, of Worcester, so men tell.) 

And Derbyshire, and Cheshire, and Staffordshire, those three 

Again be held together, and make one Bishop's see, 

The Bishopric of Chester, yet more to him was told, 

Since Shropshire, and the half share of Warwick did he hold. 

And this king, too, had Hereford, one bishopric it is, 



ROBERT OF GLOUCESTER'S CHRONICLE 23 

(But Shropshire forms the half part of that same see, I wis. 100 

Of Gloucester part, and Warwick) nor this, I trow, was all, 

For still more land as portion unto the March did fall; 

Northamptonshire, and Buckingham, and Oxfordshire also, 

With Leicestershire, and Lincoln, and Hertford, shall ye know. 

One Bishopric 't is counted, of Lincoln is the see, 

Whilom it was of Dorchester, that shall by Oxford be. 

And Nottinghamshire also fell to that same king's share 

(Unto York's see 't is reckoned, altho' it be not there ) 

And thereto Wales was added, 't is a great land I ween, 

And all this, of aforetime, the March of Wales hath been. no 

But for the land 'twixt Humber and Thames, that land, I wis, 

Is reckoned unto Lincoln, within that see it is. 

The Bishopric of Lincoln, and West of all that land, 

Who ruled the March, that monarch had all that in his hand. 

The King of Wessex, Wiltshire he held beneath his sway 

With Dorsetshire and Berkshire, one Bishopric are they 

By Salisbury's Bishop holden and Sussex, too, was his, 

The Weald, and with it Chichester, a Bishopric it is. 

Southamptonshire and Surrey be 'neath one Bishop's power, 

The Bishopric of Winchester it standeth to this hour. 120 

With Somerset, that erstwhile belonged to Wells, I trow, 

Of Bath too, is that Bishop, ye know it well enow. 

Yet had the King of Wessex all Devonshire, I wis, 

And Cornwall, in the bishopric of Exeter it is. 

The King of Kent, he ruled then o'er all the Kentish land 

Two Bishoprics they had then, and still the same they stand, 

The one is Canterbury, that ranks the first of all, 

The next place on the West side to Rochester doth fall. 

The King of the East Angles, o'er Norfolk did he reign, 

The Bishopric is Norwich; Suffolk was his again, 130 

Thereto the see of Ely, in Ely's isle it is, 

And Cambridgeshire was reckoned unto his land, I wis. 

Northumbria's king was ruler, so do I understand, 

Of all beyond the Humber, up to the Scottish land. 

All these were kings aforetime where now one bears the crown 

For that the King of Wessex put all the others down, 

Sithen, alone he ruled there, as doth our King indeed, 

Here in this book 't is written, and men the tale may read. 

In Canterbury's country most fish be found, I wis; 

Round Salisbury most hunting of the wild beasts there is; 140 

Most ships be found at London; at Winchester, most wine; 

Most sheep and kine in Hereford; and Worcester's fruit is fine; 

From Coventry the soap comes; in Gloucester iron is found; 

And lead and tin in Exeter, and all that country round. 

The fairest woods hath Yorkshire; Lincoln, the fairest men; 

And Huntingdon and Cambridge, the most of marsh and fen. 



24 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

Ely, of places fairest; best to sight, Rochester; 

Facing toward France there standeth the land of Chichester; 

Norwich doth face toward Denmark; Chester, the Irish shore; 

And Durham looks toward Norway; so doth it run, my lore. 150 

Three Wonders be in England, and three alone, I wot, 

The one be the Bath waters, that evermore are hot, 

And ever freshly springing, be the chill ne'er so great, 

Of such baths there be many, alike in house and street. 

On Salisbury's plain it standeth, the second, strange it is, 

Stonehenge its name, no marvel shall greater be, I wis; 

Upright and high it standeth, 't is wondrous all to see, 

The stones they be so mighty, that greater none may be, 

Others lie high above them, that men may sorely fear, 

And in their hearts may wonder who did them first uprear? 160 

For neither strength nor cunning, I trow, that work might do; 

And men shall speak hereafter of these same wonders two 

How that they first were fashioned The other wonder is 

Upon a hill, they call it the Peak, the wind, I wis, 

Up from the earth it cometh, e'en as thro' holes it were, 

And thro' these holes it bloweth so that it taketh there 

Great cloths, aloft it bears them, if so they be anigh, 

And here and there it blows them, up in the air on high. 

And of fair roads full many there be throughout that land 170 

But four above all others, so do I understand, 

The Kings of old, they made them, and by them men may wend 

From the one end of England right to the other end. 

From South to North it runneth, the first, 't is Erning Street; 

From East to West who travels must go by Ykenilde Street; 

From Dover up to Chester by Watling Street men fare 

From South-east unto North-west, a long road, and a fair; 

The fourth, it is the longest, it starteth from Totness, 

From the one end of Cornwall, and goeth to Caithness, 

From South-west to the North-east, even to England's end, 

By many good towns the Fossway, so is it called, doth wend. x8c 

So clean a land is England, and from all whoredom free 

The fairest men in all the world in England born shall be; 

So clean they be midst others, so fair and pure, I ween, 

In every land men know them, where'er they may be seen. 

So clean be all that country, so pure men's blood, that ne'er 

The evil men call "Holy Fire" may find an entrance there; 

That ill men's limbs devoureth, e'en as tho* burned by flame, 

But men of France in such case may rid them of that same, 

If they be brought to England whereby they well may see 

That England is the best land, e'en as I tell to ye. 190 



ROBERT OF BRUNNE'S CHRONICLE 



ROBERT OF BRUNNE'S CHRONICLE 



INTRODUCTION 

LORDINGS all who now be here 

Lend to this, my tale, an ear, 

England's story, hearken it, 

As Robert Mannynge found it writ, 

Into English, as 't is spoke, 

Turned it, for the simple folk 

(Who in this land were not few, 

And nor French nor Latin knew) 

For their solace and their glee 

When in fellowship they be. 10 

For 't is wise that of their land 

Men should read and understand, 

Know what folk that land first won, 

From what race it was begun. 

Good it is for many things 

Men should hear the deeds of kings, 

Who were fools, and who were wise, 

Who most cunning in devise, 

Who did wrong, and who did right, 

Kept the peace, or strove in fight. ao 

Of their deeds shall be my saw 

Of what time, and of what law, 

I from step to step will say 

Even from Sir Noah's day; 

From Noah unto JEneas, 

And the folk that 'twixt them was; 

From ^Eneas until Brutus came 

(From whom Britain took its name) 

Till Cadwallader we see, 

Last of British princes he! 30 

All the race, and all the fruit 

Sprung from Brutus is the Brut, 

The right Brut is told no more 

When the Britons' rule is o'er. 

After them the English band 

Won the lordship of this land, 

North and South, and East and West, 

That men call the English Geste. 

When they first to Britain came 

Saxons did they call their name, 40 

Saxons, English, differ naught, 



Sandwich the first land they sought, 

Vortigern, who then held sway 

Suffered them to land alway, 

Brothers twain led them in fight, 

Hengist, Horsa, were they hight, 

These the heads, to whom we trace 

This, our English folk and race. 

And as heathen dwelt they here 

Well nigh for two hundred year 50 

Ere the Christian Faith they knew 

From the lips of Austin true, 

Mid the Britons in much woe, 

Slaughter, slander, threat, and throe. 

Ye these deeds may hear right well 

E'en as Piers the tale doth tell; 

Master Wace in French, to wit, 

Turned the Brut, in Latin writ, 

From vEneas, till there came 

Cadwallader, there left the same. &> 

I, what Master Wace doth say 

Tell in English, that same way. 

Wace doth all the Latin rhyme, 

Piers, he skipped it many a time; 

Wace, the Brut throughout he reads, 

Piers, tells all the English deeds; 

And where Master Wace doth fail 

Piers, he oft begins his tale, 

Tells the English history, 

As he says then, so say I. 70 

So, as they have writ and said, 

Have I all in English laid, 

Even in such simple speech 

As be easiest for each, 

Not for those my care alway 

Who can speak, or harp a lay, 

But for love of simple men 

Who strange English may not ken. 

Many hear good English rhymes 

Who their sense know not oft-times, 80 

Save they know what here is meant 

All my pains were but ill-spent; 

Yet for praise I wrote it not, 

But for layman's use, I wot! 



26 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Were it made in rhyme couv6, 

Rhymes alternate, strange, since they 

Who read English yet be few 

Who can turn a couplet true, 

This, in couvi, or baston, 

Had been past the wit of some, go 

So that many who should hear 

Should not read my meaning clear. 

I have seen, in song, and tale, 

Of Ercildoun, and of Kendale, 

None be told as they were wrought, 

In the saying they seem naught. 

In Sir Tristrem ye may see, 

Of all Gestes the best it be, 

Of all tales that e'er were made 

If men say what Thomas said; 100 

None I hear thus tell the tale, 

Of the couplets, some, they fail, 

So, for all their cunning speech, 

Of his labour faileth each. 

But for pride the tale they say 

Deeming none be such as they; 

That which they desire withal 

That same fame shall perish all, 

'T is in such strange speech, I wis, 

Many know not what it is. no 

Thus it irketh me the more 

In strange rhymes to travail sore, 

All too dull my wit to learn 

In strange speech my rhymes to turn, 



And forsooth, I knew it naught, 

This strange English that they wrought, 

And men prayed me many a time 

I would write in easy rhyme, 

Saying: "If strange words ye use 

Many shall to hear refuse," i ao 

(For the names be strange, I trow, 

Such as men they use not now.) 

Thus, for folk who simple be, 

And would gladly hearken me, 

I in simple speech began 

For love of the unlearned man, 

Telling of the chances bold 

That were said and done of old; 

For my toll I ask no meed 129 

Save your prayers when ye shall read. 

Therefore, all ye lordings lay, 

For whose sake I wrought alway, 

Pray to God He shew me grace. 

I have worked for your solace, 

Should men blame, of Brunne I came, 

Robert Mannynge is my name, 

God in Heaven bless him still 

Who doth name me with good-will. 

In Third Edward's time was I 

When I wrote this history, 

In Sixille's house dwelt anon 

Then Dan Robert, of Malton, 

Bade me, for my comrade's sake, 

Write, that we might solace make. 



140 



BARBOUR'S BRUCE 



INTRODUCTION 

STORIES we read right willingly, 
Altho' they naught but fables be, 
So should a truthful tale of old, 
An it were well and fitly told, 
Be doubly good to hear, I trow 
1'leasant the telling were enow, 
Twofold that pleasure, if right well 
Ye tell the thing as it befell; 
And truth, when it shall please the ear 
Is found by men right good to hear, xo 



Therefore I fain would set my will, 
If so my wit suffice me still, 
To write a story true of old 
That men may aye in memory hold, 
So that it live in this, my rhyme, 
Nor be forgot thro' length of time. 
For such old tales, to him who reads, 
Do represent the valiant deeds 
Of stalwart folk, who lived of yore, rg 
E'en as they chanced their face before; 
And we their memory sure should prize 
Who in their days were brave and wise s 



BARBOUR'S BRUCE 



And in great travail passed their life 
In battle oft, and sternest strife 
Did win of chivalry the praise 
Avoiding false and cowardly ways. 
For such was our King Robert's part, 
Hardy was he of hand and heart, 
And good Sir James of Douglas, who 
Was in his time a knight so true, 30 
So valiant, and so free of hand, 
Men sang his praise in many a land. 
Of them this book I fain would write, 
God give me Grace that I, aright 
May treat my theme that ne'er thro' me 
Aught but the truth therein shall be. 

IN PRAISE OF FREEDOM 

ALAS! that folk who once were free, 
And wont in freedom aye to be, 
Thro* their mischance and folly great 
Were fallen on such woeful state, 
Had made him judge who erst was foe 
What greater sorrow might man know? 
Ah, Freedom is a noble thing! 
Freedom a man to joy doth bring, 
Freedom to man sweet solace gives, 
He lives at ease who freely lives! 10 
A noble heart may find no ease, 
In life is naught that shall him please, 
If Freedom fails, for to be free 
Above all things desired shall be. 
Only the man who lived before 
In Freedom, knows the anguish sore, 
The wrath, the wretchedness and pain 
That 's coupled with foul thralldom 's 

chain. 

But let him once have tested it 
And then I trow he well shall wit, 20 
And Freedom prize, and dearer hold 
Than all of this world's wealth in gold; 
Thus evermore things opposite 
The worth of each doth bring to light. 
And naught the thrall his own may call 
For that he has abandoned all 
Unto his lord, whoe'er he be 
Yet is he still in no wise free 
To live as pleaseth him, or do 



That which his heart inclines him to. 30 
Hereof do clerks a question take 
And often disputation make, 
That, if a man shall bid his thrall 
Do aught, and that his wife, withal, 
Doth come, her right of him to pray, 
Shall he his lord's command let stay, 
First pay his debt, ere that he go 
His lord's commandment for to do? 
Or shall he leave his wife unpaid 
Till that his lord's will be obeyed? 40 
I trow that question they may try 
Who be more skilled in subtlety, 
But since they think there lieth strife 
Betwixt the rights of wedded life 
And a lord's bidding to his thrall, 
Ye need no words from me withal 
The ills of thralldom well to see 
For men may know, who wedded be, 
That marriage is the hardest band 
That any man may take on hand. 50 
But thralldom shall be worse than 

death 

For while a thrall may draw his breath 
It mars his life in flesh and bone, 
Death vexeth him but once alone. 
In short, it passeth telling all 
The sore condition of a thrall! 

JAMES OF DOUGLAS 

THUS Douglas to Saint Andrews came, 
The Bishop, courteous, at that same 
Received him, gave unto his care 
His knives, to carve before him there. 
He clad him well, in raiment fit, 
And gave him lodging fair to wit. 
There many days did Douglas dwell; 
Men for his bounty loved him well 
For he was in his ways most fair, 
Courteous and wise and debonaire, 10 
True and large-hearted aye was he, 
And o'er all things loved loyalty. 
'T is well if men their love thus give, 
By loyalty men righteous live; 
A man, if he but loyal be 
Of virtue hath sufficiency, 



28 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Without it, none his worth shall prize, 
Altho' he valiant be and wise, 
For nothing else where that doth fail 
May be of value, nor avail ao 

To make a man so good that he 
Shall for "a good man" holden be. 
But Douglas was in all things leal, 
At all times he disdained to deal 
In treachery, or falsehood's part, 
But on high honour set his heart, 
And bare him in such wise that dear 
Was he to all who came him near. 
Yet was he not so fair to see 
That he for beauty praised might be, 30 
In visage was he somewhat gray, 
And had black hair, as I heard say; 
But in his limbs well-shapen all, 
Large -boned, broad-shouldered, he, 

withal: 

Lean was his body, shapen well 
As those who saw him love to tell; 
When he was blithe, then gracious he, 
Gentle and meek in companie, 
On battlefield, his folk declare 
Another countenance he ware! 40 

And in his speech he lisped somewhat, 
But that became him well, I wot, 
With Hector good, of Troy, might he 
In many things well likened be; 
For Hector's hair was black, I trow, 
Strong-limbed was he, well made enow, 
And Hector lisped, e'en as did he, 
And was fulfilled of loyaltie, 
And was a wise and courteous knight 
Of manhood true, and mickle might. 50 
Yet none who lived on earth I dare 
With Hector, truly, to compare 
For in his days the deeds he wrought 
Much love and honour to him brought. 

HOW THE BRUCE CROSSED LOCH 
LOMOND 1 

THE king, he would no longer stay, 
But to Loch Lomond took his way, 
The third day to their goal they came, 

i Book iv, 405. 



But found no vessel at that same, 
Which might them o'er the waters bear 
I trow right woeful then they were. 
The loch was broad they well must 

know, 

At heart they feared them much, also, 
To meet their foes, who spread full wide; 
Therefore, along the water's side, 10 
Full eagerly about they cast, 
Till James of Douglas, at the last, 
A little boat, half-sunken, found, 
And drew it with all speed to ground. 
But 't was so small, that boat, that ne'er 
More than three men at once 't would 

bear. 

They tell the king thereof, and he, 
I trow, was glad exceedingly; 
He first into the boat hath gone, 
Douglas with him, the third was one 20 
Who rowed them swift that water o'er, 
And set them dry upon the shore. 
He rowed so often to and fro 
Fetching them over, two by two, 
That in the space of night and day 
Safely across the loch were they; 
For some of them could swim full fair, 
And on their back a burden bear, 
By force of swimming, and of oar, 
They and their goods across they bore. 
The king, the while, right merrily, 31 
Read to his men, who sat him nigh, 
The tale of valiant Fierabras, 
How that in strife vanquished he was, 
In doughty wise, by Olivere; 
And how, one while, the douze peres, 
Were fast besieged in Egrimore 
When King Lavyne, the walls before, 
With many thousands round them lay 
And but eleven then were they, 40 

One woman with them Sore bestead, 
They wist not where to look for bread, 
Save what they from their foes might 

take, 

And yet such brave defence did make 
That they the tower held manfully, 
Until Richard of Normandy, 
Maugre his foes, might warn the king, 



BARBOUR'S BRUCE 



29 



Who was right joyful of this thing, 
For that he deemed they had been slain 
Wherefore he turned him back again, 50 
Won Mantrybill, passed Flagote's flood, 
Lavyne and all his host withstood, 
And vanquished them right manfully! 
And in this wise his knights set free, 
And won the Nails, and eke the Spear, 
And Crown of Thorns, as ye may hear; 
And of the Cross, a portion fair 
He won him by his valour there. 
In this wise did the Scottish king, so 
To his men's hearts, fresh courage bring 
With knightly game, and solace good, 
Till all had safely passed the flood. 



HOW AYMER DE VALENCE, AND 
JOHN OF LORN CHASED THE 
BRUCE WITH HOUND AND 
HORN 1 

SIR AYMER had great companie 
Of noble men of high degree, 
From England, and from Lothian; 
And he had also with him then 
John of Lorn, with all his might 
Of valiant men, and good in fight, 
More than eight hundred with him go 
A sleuth-hound had he there, also, 
Which no man from a trail might bring 
And some men say, I trow, the king 10 
For coursing once that dog had had, 
And aye so mickle of him made, 
He 'Id feed the hound with his own hand, 
Take him where'er he went on land 
And that the dog he loved him so, 
That he would never from him go 
How John of Lorn, he gat that hound, 
Thereof I never mention found, 
But this men say of certainty, 
The dog should in his keeping be. ao 
He thought thro' him to take the king 
The dog loved him o'er everything, 
And ne'er for chance that him befell, 
The Bruce's scent, he knew right well, 

i Book vi, 476. 



Would that dog ever change or miss. 
This John of Lorn did hate, I wis, 
The king, for John of Comyn's sake, 
His uncle, Fain the king to take, 
He valued not his life a straw 
So that he fitting vengeance saw. 30 
The Warden, then, Sir Aymery, 
With John of Lorn in company, 
And many another goodly knight, 
(One of them Thomas Randolph 

hight, ) 

In Cumnok came to seek the king 
The Bruce had knowledge of that thing; 
His force had greater waxed by then, 
He had with him three hundred men. 
His brother too, with him did fare, 
And James of Douglas, he was there. 40 
Sir Aymer's army well he saw, 
The plain they held, and eke the la we, 
For battle all, in fair array 
At the king's heart small doubt there lay 
That all his foemen he saw there, 
For none beside them had he care; 
Wherein he wrought right foolishly, 
For John of Lorn, with subtlety, 
Thought from behind to seize the king 
Therefore, with all his gathering, so 
Behind a hill he took his way 
Holding himself in ambush aye. 
Thus came he to the king full nigh; 
Ere he his coming did espy, 
Well nigh upon the king he fell 
Sir Aymer, with his men, right well, 
Pressed on their foes so hardily 
The king, he was in jeopardy, 
Beset he was on either side, 
By foes, who hard to slay him tried; 60 
And e'en the lesser force, that day, 
More than sufficed his men to slay. 
Seeing how strait they on him pressed, 
He thought him well what course were 

best, 
And quoth: "My Lords, we have no 

might 

To-day to hold our own in fight, 
Divide we now, in parties three, 
Thus all will not assailed be, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And in three parties go our way." 
Further, he did his council say 70 

Betwixt them there, full privily, 
Where their next hiding-place should be. 
With that, they gat them on their way, 
In parties three they fled that day. 
But John of Lorn, he came full fain, 
There, whence the Bruce his flight had 

ta'en, 

The hound set on his track straightway, 
That lingered not, nor made delay, 
But held the track where he fled fast, 
E'en as by sight The dog, he cast 80 
About, tracks twain, he left them there, 
Knowing the path whereon to fare 
The king, he saw the hound that tide, 
He kept the line, nor swerved aside, 
And knew what dog that same should be, 
Therefore he bade his companie 
In the three bands to make their way, 
And this they did without delay, 
Holding their road in parties three 
The hound, he showed his mastery, 90 
For ne'er he swerved aside, but led 
Straight on the track where Bruce, he 

fled. 

The king perceived at that same, 
His foemen still behind him came, 
*T was him they followed, not his men 
He gat to him assurance then 
That he was known for that cause, he 
Now bade his men, right hastily, 
To scatter, and to go his way 
Each man alone and so did they, xoo 
Each on his several way has gone 
The king, he had with him but one, 
His foster-brother, no man more, 
The twain, they fled their foes before; 
The hound, he still pursued the king, 
And swerved not, for their severing, 
But followed on the track full fast, 
Knowing right well which way he past. 
When John of Lorn thus surely saw 
The hound his course thus straight to 

draw, no 

And follow hard the twain, he knew 
One was the king, by tokens true. 



He chose five of his soldiers then, 
Who hardy were, and valiant men, 
And who right swift of foot should be, 
Swiftest of all his companie, 
Bade them pursue the Bruce, "That so 
He may in no wise pass ye fro' " 
Swift as they heard that counselling 
They followed hard upon the king, 120 
So speedily their way they make 
That soon they did their foes o'ertake; 
The king, he saw them draw anear, 
Methinks, he deemed it sorry cheer, 
He thought, an they were men of might, 
They would in such wise stay his flight, 
Force him to make so long a stand, 
He were o'er- ta'en by all the band; 
But might he dread no other foe 
Than five, then do I surely know 130 
Of them were he in little dread 
Then to his fellow, as they fled, 
He said: "Yon five come speedily, 
Well nigh o'er-taken now are we, 
Say, canst thou give me help in fight? 
Assailed shall we be forthright!" 
"Yea, Sire," he said, " as best I may " 
The king quoth: " 'T is well, by my fay, 
I see they draw to us full near, 
No further will I, but right here 140 
I'll make my stand, while breath doth 

last, 

And try their valour fair and fast." 
The king, he stood there sturdily, 
And the five foemen, speedily, 
Came with great clamour, menacing; 
Three of them set upon the king, 
While t'ward his man the other two, 
With sword in hand, they swiftly go. 
The king, these foemen who him sought 
Hath met, on one his vengeance wrought 
In such wise that he shore away 151 
Cheek, ear, and shoulder on that day. 
So swift he smote, so dizzily, 
The twain who saw, thus suddenly, 
Their fellow fall, for very fear 
They held them back, nor drew so near. 
The king, with that he glanced aside, 
And saw the other twain, that tide, 



I 



BARBOUR'S BRUCE 



'Gainst his man sturdily to fight 159 
With that, he left his two, forthright, 
And t'ward those who his man would slay 
Full swift and light he leapt that day, 
The head of one he off hath ta'en, 
Then turned him to his foes again, 
Who set on him right hardily 
He met the first so eagerly, 
That with his sword, that sharply shore, 
The arm he from the body tore. 
What strokes they smote I cannot tell, 
But to the king it chanced so well 170 
That, tho' he travail had, and pain, 
Four of his foemen hath he slain. 
His foster-brother true, that day, 
The fifth from life hath reft away; 
And when the king saw of that five 
Not one was left on ground alive, 
To his companion did he say: 
"Well hastthou helped me now, i-fay!" 
"To say so pleasures ye," quoth he, 
"Too great a share ye took to ye 180 
Who slew five, where I slew but one!" 
The king quoth: "So the game did run, 
Better than thou I here might do, 
Of leisure more had I thereto; 
Those fellows twain, who dealt with thee, 
When they saw me assailed by three 
No more of me they went in dread, 
Deeming I were too sore bestead, 188 
And e'en because they feared me not, 
Could I harm them the more, I wot." 
With that, the king, he looked near by, 
Saw John of Lorn, his company, 
That with the hound came on full fast; 
Straightway into the wood they passed, 
There, with his comrade would he lie, 
God save them for His great Mercie! 

HOW KING ROBERT WAS HUNTED 
BY THE SLEUTH-HOUND 1 

THE king hath sought the wood withal, 
Covered with sweat, and redeless all, 
Straight thro' the wood, and without 
fail, 

t Book vn, 78. 



He held him downward to a vale, 
Where thro' the wood a stream doth 

flow 

Thither in haste the king doth go, 
Full fain was he to rest him there, 
He said he might no further fare 
His man quoth: "Sire, that may not be, 
Abide ye here ye soon shall see 10 

Five hundred, yearning ye to slay, 
'Gainst two, I trow too many they! 
Since we may aid us not with might 
Help that we get us hence by sleight." 
The king quoth: "Since wilt have it so, 
Go on, and I will with thee go; 
But I have oft-times heard men say 
Would one thro' water take his way, 
Wading a bow-shot long, that he 
Could from a sleuth-hound shake him 

free, 20 

For dog and leader should him lose 
I rede that we this sleight now choose, 
For were yon Devil's hound away 
I 'Id care not for the rest, i-fay!" 

As he devised have they done; 
Straight to the water have they gone, 
Along the stream their way they make, 
Then, once again, to woodland take, 
And flee, as aye before that day. 
Then John of Lorn, with great array, 3 o 
Hath come unto that place, I trow, 
Wherein his men were slain but now, 
And when he saw them lying dead, 
He sware with mickle grief that stead, 
He would have vengeance for their blood, 
In other ways take payment good. 
He thought to dwell no longer there, 
But on the king's track straight would 

fare. 

They follow true, until at last 
They find the water where he passed, 40 
The sleuth-hound might no further go 
Long time he wavered to and fro, 
Nor led them truly here nor there. 
Then John of Lorn was well aware 
Of how the hound had lost the trail 
He quoth: "This shall us naught avail, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The wood, it is both broad and wide, 
And he hath gone far by this tide, 
Therefore I rede we turn again, 
And weary us no more in vain.'* 50 

With that he called his companie, 
Back to the host his way took he. 

Thus he escaped, the noble king; 
But other-wise some tell this thing, 
And say that his escape befell 
Not thro' his wading, for they tell 
How the king had an archer true, 
Who, when he his lord's peril knew, 
How he was left with ne'er a man, 
Ever on foot beside him ran 60 

Till he into the wood was gone 
Then said he to himself alone, 



That he would there behind him stay, 
And see if he the hound might slay. 
For, an that dog should live, he knew 
Full well he 'Id follow, fast and true, 
The king's track, till they found him 

fair 

Full well he wist they 'Id slay him there; 
And, since his lord he fain would aid, 
His life he on the venture laid. 70 

Hidden within a bush he lay 
Until the sleuth-hound passed his way, 
Then, with an arrow, he him slew, 
And forthwith to the wood withdrew. 
But whether his escape befell 
As first I said, or as these tell, 
I wot not, but I know one thing, 
At that stream he escaped, the king. 



LAMENT FOR KING EDWARD I 



ALL men that be of heart full true 
Hearken awhile to this my song 
Of dole, that Death has dealt anew, 
(I needs must sigh and sorrow long ) 
I sing a knight, so brave and strong, 
Of whom God now hath done His Will, 
Methinks that Death hath wrought us 

wrong 
That he so soon lies cold and still. 

I trow all England well doth know 
Of whom that song is which I sing, 10 
Edward our king, now lieth low, 
Thro* all the world his name doth ring! 
The truest man in everything, 
Wary in war was he, and wise, 
For him our hands we needs must wring, 
Of Christendom he bare the prize! 

Before that this, our king, was dead, 
He spake as one oppressed with care: 
"Clerks, knights, and barons," so he 

said, 

"I charge ye by the oath ye sware ao 
That ye to England now be true; 



I die, my life is well nigh done, 
Aid ye my son, crown him anew, 
For he is nighest to the throne." 

"Here I bequeath my heart aright 
That it be ta'en, as I devise, 
Across the sea; let Hugh be dight 
With fourscore knights, all men of prize, 
Who wary be in war, and wise 
Against the Paynim for to fight; 30 
To raise the Cross, that lowly lies, 
Myself I'd given, an I might." 

O! King of France, thou workedst ill 

When to such deed didst set thy hand 

To hinder thus King Edward's will 

To go unto the Holy Land. 

Our king, he fain had given command 

All England so to rule, I wis, 

That, faring to the Holy Land, 

We thus had won us Heavenly Bliss. 40 

A messenger, the Pope he sought, 
And told him that our king was dead, 
The letter that he there had brought, 



LAMENT FOR KING EDWARD I 



33 



The Pope himself he took, and read. 
I trow his heart became as lead 
He spake a word of honour there: 
"Alas!" he said, "is Edward dead? 
Of Christendom the flower he bare!" 

The Pope, he to his chamber went, 
For sorrow he might speak no more, 50 
Straight for his Cardinals he sent 
Who well were versed in Holy lore, 
And both the less, and eke the more, 
He bade them both to read and sing 
Then might ye see a dole full sore, 
How many a man his hands did wring. 

Saint Peter's Pope, he stood at Mass, 
And there, with great solemnity, 
The soul departed did he bless; 
"King Edward, honoured shalt thou 
be! 60 

God grant that thy son after thee 
May end what thou hast well begun, 
The Holy Cross, once wrought of tree, 
Full fain thou hadst Its freedom 



won! 



t" 



"Jerusalem, thou here hast lost 
The Flower of all chivalrie, 



King Edward from this life hath passt 
Alas, that he so soon must die! 
He would have raised again on high 
Our banners brought unto the ground,7o 
Full long we needs must call and cry 
Ere such a king again be found!" 

Now Edward of Carnarvon, he, 
The king of England shall be hight, 
God grant that he no worse man be 
Than was his sire, nor less of might 
To see the poor man hath his right, 
And counsel good to understand; 
He shall not fail for faithful knights 
To help him rule our English land. 80 

But tho' my tongue were made of steel, 
And this, my heart, of molten brass, 
The goodness I might ne'er reveal 
That did with our King Edward pass. 
King, whom men hailed as conqueror 
In every fight thou fought, I wis, 
God bringeth thee to that honour 
That ever was, and ever is, 
And lasteth aye without an end 
To God, and this, Our Lady, pray go 
That he to Jesu's Bliss us send 
Amen, Amen, for Charite! 



LEGENDARY 



THE LIFE OF SAINT DUNSTAN 

SAINT DUNSTAN was of English blood, and born on English earth; 

Our Lord a wonder wrought for him ere yet he came to birth; 

While he was in his mother's womb, all on a Candlemas, 

When folk enow were in the church, for so the manner was, 

And as they stood there with their lights, as men are wont to now, 

The tapers went out every one, and none wist why, or how. 

The lights one while they burnt right well and then the lights were out, 

The folk they stood in wonder great, and also in great doubt, 

And each to other spake, and asked, what might the meaning be 

That thus the light that each one bare was quenched so suddenly? i< 

And as they stood and spake thereof, in marvel great, each one, 

Saint Dunstan's mother's taper burst forth into flame anon, 

The while she held it in her hand, and wist not whence the flame! 

The folk, they stood, and gazed thereon, and wondered at that same, 

And none knew whence it came, that light, but deemed 't was of God's Grace, 

Therefrom they kindled all anew their lights throughout that place. 

And wherefore did Our Lord and God the light from Heaven send, 

And all the folk that stood around their tapers therefrom tend, 

Save to foretell of that fair child, ere yet he came to birth, 

How that his saintly name should shed a light on English earth? a< 

Nine hundred years and twenty-five, whenas this child was born, 

Had passed since Our Dear Lord saw light on Holy Christmas morn, 

It was the coronation year of our King Athelstan, 

His mother's name was Cymfath, his father's Heorstan; 

And when the child was born, I wot, his parents took good heed, 

They gave him to the good monks' care, to nourish, and to feed. 

At Glastonbury was he taught his Credo, and for prayer 

The Pater Noster, there he waxed a goodly child and fair; 

Small care had he for worldly things, for righteousness he yearned, 

And all men who heard tell of him, for joy, their hearts, they burned. 3 

W r hen he to man's estate had come, at Canterbury's throne 

He sought Saint Aldhelm, who the lad as nephew fain would own, 

Great joy he had of him, I trow, his gladness waxed the more 

The more he of his goodness knew, and of his wisdom's lore. 

For very pride and love, the youth he speedily did bring 

Unto the lord of all the land, to Athelstan the king; 

Thereof the king had joy enow, and granted him this boon, 

Of anything that he might ask it should be done right soon. 

He prayed of him an Abbey there, e'en where he first was brought, 

Beside the town of Glastonbury the king refused him naught, 4 



38 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

But granted him forthwith that boon, and after him also 

Edmund, his brother, who was king, arid had the power thereto. 

To Glastonbury soon he went, Saint Dunstan, that good man, 

Since both the kings they gave him leave, Edmund, and Athelstan. 

His house at Glastonbury soon in order fair he set, 

For much he made of law and rule, which ne'er had been as yet. 

That Abbey fair was founded first four hundred years, they say, 

And fifty three, ere Dunstan good had seen the light of day; 

For monks were there, or so folk say, ere yet Saint Patrick came, 

Or Austin upon English earth had lit the sacred flame. so 

Two hundred years and fifty two, had passed since that glad morn, 

(At Patrick's death,) when Our Dear Lord of Virgin Maid was born, 

But all the monks who first were there dwelt each one separately, 

As men before the foes of Christ must to the desert flee. 

Saint Dunstan, and Saint Adelwold, God willed it so alway, 

Received the gift of priesthood both upon the self -same day; 

To Glastonbury, speedily, Dunstan his way did wend, 

And Abbot did they make him there His life he fain would mend, 

And since he would not with his will a moment idle be, 

A smithy there beside his cell he made him privily, 6c 

And when his orisons he needs must leave for weariness 

With hand he fain would labour there, to flee from idleness. 

The while his life-time might endure he served the poor alway, 

And all day long, for love of God, he took of them no pay. 

And while he sat there at his work, his hands wrought at his trade, 

His heart was aye with Jesus Christ, his lips they ever prayed, 

So that his labour was, I ween, but one, and yet threefold, 

His hands at work, his heart with God, his lips, his bedes they told. 

Therefore the Devil had of him envy and hatred great, 

One time he to the smithy came, whenas the day waxed late, 70 

E'en as the sun was going down, and there, in woman's guise, 

He spake to him about his work, in gay and gladsome wise. 

And told him how she had with him much work that must be done 

Trifling, she changed her theme, and spake another tale anon. 

That holy man, he marvelled, as her words flew here and there, 

He sat him still, and wondered much what meaning this might bear. 

Then he bethought him how it was, and for his tongs did reach, 

And laid them in the furnace hot, and spake with gentle speech 

Until the tongs were all red-hot, then, ere she was aware, 

He gripped the Devil by the nose, and held her fast and fair! 80 

He held and shook her by the nose, until the fire out-sprung, 

The Devil wriggled here and there, yet fast Saint Dunstan clung, 

She yelled and hopped, and tugged amain, and made full grisley cheer, 

(Had he but known, for all his wealth he had not come anear!) 

So with his tongs he blew her nose, and vexed the fiend full sore 

But now the dusk had come, 't was night, and he could see no more, 

The fiend was glad and blithe enow to 'scape from out his hand, 



THE LIFE OF SAINT DUNSTAN 39 

He flew, and cried the welkin thro', men heard o'er all the land: 
"Out! Out! What hath the bald-head done? What hath the bald-head done?" 
Thro' all the land the foul fiend's cry, men heard it every one! go 

But since the Saint he found at home, who blew his nose so sore, 
Thither, to cure him of his cold, he hied him never more ! 

Dunstan, the holy Abbot, he had great fame and power, 

The while King Edmund lived and reigned he was his counsellor; 

But when, after King Edmund's death, the years had come and gone, 

And Edwyn, he was crowned king, then it fell out anon 

That Edwyn hearkened evil rede, and evil ways would go, 

With holy Dunstan he was wroth, which wrought him mickle woe; 

He drave him from his Abbey forth, and did him shame the while, 

But aye the more he did him wrong the more the good man smiled. 100 

He drave him forth from English earth, as outlaw must he fare, 

The good man, he went forth with joy, he took but little care, 

To Saint Amand, beyond the sea, he gat him then, I trow, 

And in the Abbey long time dwelt, with ease and peace enow. 

But when King Edwyn's life was done, Edgar the crown must win, 

For that he was his brother born, and therefore next of kin; 

A man of holy life was he, who well loved Holy Kirk, 

And when men gave him counsel good thereafter would he work. 

Men told him of Saint Dunstan whom the king drave from the land 

Unjustly, for his righteousness thereto he set his hand, no 

And sent his messengers anon, and bade him come again, 

For of his counsel and his rede, he, Edgar, was full fain. 

Saint Dunstan, he came home again, the king received him well, 

And gave him back his Abbey fair, wherein in peace to dwell. 

The King, he shewed him favour great, his rede would gladly hear, 

And much of Dunstan's goodness spake the folk, both far and near. 

It chanced that Worcester's bishop soon thereafter came to die, 

Archbishop Odo, and the King, held counsel privily, 

Dunstan, the holy Abbot, a bishop made they there, 

To raise him higher in God's law, tho' 'gainst his will it were. no 

Some of Archbishop Odo the reason fain would know 

Wherefore he made him Bishop, and did such favour shew? 
"Tis fitting" quoth Sir Odo, "because that after me 

Dunstan shall be Archbishop, as men shall surely see." 
"What meanest thou," quoth the other, "dost know what shall befall? 

Thou mayest not see beyond thy foot, 't is God Who ruleth all!" 
"Dear Friend" the good man answered him, "thou chidest me for naught, 

For well I know what my Lord Christ within my mouth hath brought, 

And thus He saith about this thing, and by His leave I say 

What shall befall in Holy Church when I be passed away." 130 

Thereafter unto Dunstan the see of London fell, 

Worcester and London both he ruled as Bishop, passing well. 

Ere long Archbishop Odo died, in Canterbury's need 



40 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

King Edgar and the Pope of Rome together sought good rede, 

And that good man Saint Dunstan, Archbishop made they there, 

And all the folk who were his friends right glad of it they were. 

The Christian Faith on English earth he built it up anew, 

The laws and rites of Holy Church he 'stablished fast and true; 

He set it fast through England that every priest must choose 

To free himself from taint of lust, or else his church to lose. 140 

The story saith that Oswald, bishop of Worcester then, 

And Adelwold of Rochester, who both were holy men, 

These bishops twain, and Dunstan, they all were of one rede, 

Of one mind with King Edgar to do this goodly deed. 

These bishops three, they journeyed throughout the English land, 

And each light priest, they cast him out, none might their will withstand, 

Their churches, and their worldly goods, they took them there and then, 

And thro' the Pope's grant these, their goods, bestowed on poorer men. 

And eight and forty Abbeys, for monk and eke for nun, 

They 'stablished throughout England with this, the treasure won. 150 

So all was better ordered than e'er it was of old, 

For when good men be masters good deeds ye may behold! 

And good were these three bishops who ruled in days of yore, 

England is better for their lives, and shall be evermore. 

Our Lord, He gave Saint Dunstan on earth such special grace 
That one time as he was in prayer, all in a lonely place, 
His father, and his mother both, in Heavenly joy and bliss, 
Altho* the twain were dead, he saw right openly, I wis! 
No greater love Our Lord and God to any man might shew 
Than thus to grant him, while in life, His hidden things to know! 160 

For as he lay another time upon his bed, at night, 
The joy of Heaven he beheld, and Heavenly mansions bright; 
He heard the angels sing a song, the gate of Heaven within, 
Even as when in Holy Church the choir doth Mass begin; 
"Kyrie Eleison," so it rang, the wondrous note and song, 
The holy man who hearkened this he deemed the time not long ! 
And well might he to Heaven come, whenas his life should end, 
To whom, while he was yet on earth, God did such visions send ! 
The harp, methinks, he loved right well, and well thereon he played, 
One day he sat in solace, and a goodly lay he made; i?c 

The harp he hung upon the wall, when it was time to eat, 
And when it was in safety brought, he sat him down to meat. 
Of Heaven he 'gan think anon, the joys that we shall share, 
The gladsome bliss of Paradise, the Saints who wait us there. 
He sat as he were in a trance, and from the flesh were brought 
The harp which hung upon the wall, whereon he little thought, 
Took knowledge of his holy dreams dead tree it was alway 
And by God's Will 't was as it heard what never tongue might say, 
For by itself it 'gan to harp a joyous strain, I wis, 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 41 

Which men yet sing in Holy Church, whereof the English is: 180 

"Rejoice all holy souls to-day who have in Heaven your seat, 
Who followed on Our Dear Lord's way, and for His Love so sweet 
Have shed your blood, for thereby ye your crown in Heaven have won, 
And reign as Kings for evermore with Christ, God's Only Son! " 
This Antiphon, that gladsome is, the folk they heard it all, 
Whenas the harp sang by itself, there, hanging on the wall. 
Great grace Our Lord He shewed him then, when e'en the lifeless tree 
Sang of the joys that waited him when he in Heaven should be! 
Lord ! Praised for evermore Thy Grace, and praised Thy Might also, 
Who for Thy Saint, while yet on earth, such miracles didst shew ! 190 

Now when this holy man had lived on earth full many a day, 

And nigh unto his death had come, as well he knew alway, 

On Holy Thursday he fell sick, as it fell in that year, 

He called unto him all his friends, the men to him most dear, 

And those who did him service too, he called them every one, 

And there forgave them any wrong that they to him had done. 

And there assoiled them of their sins So in God's Hands he lay 

Throughout the Holy Thursday, and eke through the next day. 

Then on the Saturday he called to him the brethren all 

And bade them all "Farewell," and said what should them next befall; aoo 

And bade them give him the last rites, and Corpus Domini, 

Therewith his soul this world forsook, and passed to Heaven high. 

Nine hundred years and eighty eight, I ween, had passed on earth, 

Since Our Dear Lord from Mary Maid took Human Flesh, and Birth. 

Now sweet our lord, Saint Dunstan, grant us with thee to fare 

In Heaven's bliss, where Angel bands thy ransomed spirit bare! 



THE DEATH OF SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 

SAINT THOMAS, then, he sighed full sore, for he did understand 

That he for all too long had been out of the English land, 

And, tho' it were against his will, it seemed him an ill deed 

That thus his Bishopric had lacked for rule, and eke for rede. 

Unto the King of France he went, and to good men and fair, 

And from them all his leave he took, to England would he fare. 

He thanked them for the honour all that they to him had done, 

And so with love, and escort fair, he went his way anon. 

With honour great he leaveth France, England to seek withal, 

And at a haven did abide, that men shall Whitsand call. TO 

The letters that he bare from Rome to England did he send 

To spread the sentence far and wide ere that he thither wend ; 

Of York th' Archbishop was condemned, and so, I trow, should be 

The Bishops twain, of London town and him of Salisbury. 



42 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

He excommunicated them in that they wrong had done 

Crowning the young King in the See that was Saint Thomas' own. 

But when those tidings came to them they waxed full wroth, I trow, 

Heaped threats upon this holy man, and woe to him did vow. 

Saint Thomas turned him to the ship, to England would he fare 

When that a man from out that land of goodwill met him there: 20 

"Ah Sire!" he cried, "for love of God, pass not the sea, I pray, 
In England there be many knights full ready thee to slay, 
In every haven lie in wait against thee many a one, 
And if thou com'st among them now thou shalt be slain anon ! '* 

"Nay, certes," quoth Saint Thomas then, "I will no longer bide, 
But get me back to England now, betide what may betide, 
And tho' they tear me limb from limb tarry will I no more, 
Too long have I been absent now, and that doth rue me sore! 
The souls committed to my care, six years and more, I wis, 
Have been without my watch and ward, Alas, too long it is! 30 

Right well I know I shall be slain, nor long the time shall be, 
And, for the sake of Holy Church, I'll take death joyfully. 
Now pray for me to Jesu Christ, this do for charitie, 
But above all, one thing alone I bid thee pray for me, 
That God doth me, of His good Grace, to Canterbury send, 
That, quick or dead, to mine own church once more my way I wend; 
If that I come not there alive, ere that I martyred be 
My body dead be thither brought, pray God to grant it me!'* 
Then dolefully his leave he took, to ship he there hath gone 
Thanking them for the honour all that they to him had done; 40 

Commending France to Jesu Christ, he blessed it ere he passed, 
The folk there made a dole enow, long did their sorrow last. 
At Dover were there knights who heard how that he came again 
And made them ready that when he should land, he might be slain; 
Sir Renald de Warenne was one, with him Randolf de Broke, 
And Gervase too, the sherriff there, much folk with him he took, 
At Dover they, this holy man, on landing from the sea 
Would take, save he should do their will slain should he surely be. 
But unto Sandwich drave the ship, and there to harbour came, 
His foes at Dover lay in wait with threatening at that same. 50 

On the ship's sail, this holy man, he bade them set on high 
A Cross, sown fast unto the sail, that men from far might spy, 
That of his banner was the sign, for other had he none 
The men who stood on Sandwich beach beheld the cross anon: 

"Our Bishop Thomas hither-ward doth sail, as well we see!" 
Altho' the ship was far from land they wist who it should be. 
The cry, it spreadeth far and wide, the folk together ran, 
And ere the ship had gained the shore there met him many a man. 
They cried their thanks on Jesu Christ that they him living see 
And welcomed him with joy enow, nor greater bliss might be. 60 

T was the third day of Advent, the Christmas Feast before, 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 43 

That this good man, Saint Thomas, did land upon our shore; 
The seventh year since that he first had left the English land, 
Banished for six years and one month, was he, I understand. 
Eleven hundred years it was, and sixty more, and ten, 
Since that God, from His mother's womb, was born on earth mid men. 
Tidings to Dover do they bear unto the knightly band 
That Thomas, holy man, had now at Sandwich come to land; 
Then swift to Sandwich did they go, Saint Thomas found anon 
And with a threatening mien, I trow, they welcomed him each one; 70 

And said: "Why hast thou thus thy way once more to England ta'en 
In that thou dost disturb the land soon as thou com'st again? 
Yea, and upsetteth Holy Church, as all men well may see, 
Would'st Bishops excommunicate who thine own fellows be. 
Thou should'st by all law love the peace, and cherish and hold dear, 
Yet peace was never in this land since thou wast Bishop here! 
Would'st thou do well, undo this deed, we counsel thee, right soon, 
Or men, I trow, shall do to thee as should to such be done!" 
'My dear friends," quoth Saint Thomas then, "the sooth it is to say 
That judgment did I give of right, and not of wrong alway, 80 

By leave of this my lord the King, that each man have his right, 
And who such trespass great hath done should make amends forthright. 
For, an it were so soon condoned, against all right and law, 
J T would prejudice full sore my church this judgment to withdraw." 
Then when the knights they heard him say the King agreed thereto 
They did forsake their angry mood, and threatenings great also, 
And did beseech him courteously to cancel his decree, 
And 'twixt his fellows and the King to cherish charitie; 
And respite now, of this their prayer, they granted at that same 
So that Saint Thomas with the morn to Canterbury came. 90 

Then, with the morn, Saint Thomas doth to Canterbury fare 
The country all with joy and bliss came out to greet him there, 
For every priest, his parish all, he summoned, end to end, 
That they should in procession fair to meet th* Archbishop wend. 
In many a procession then, I trow, all fairly found, 
With Cross and lighted tapers fair to meet him are they bound, 
With cross, and tapers all alight, as many as might be, 
And thanks they gave to Jesu Christ that they him, living, see. 
Then loud they chimed, the bells, I trow, whenas to town he came 
And loudly, to their instruments, their song rose at that same. xou 

Yea, men might hear no other thing, the noise it was so loud, 
No greater joy, I trow, was made afore by any crowd. 
As on Palm Sunday Christ, our Lord, was met with honour high 
When to Jerusalem He rode, and to His Death drew nigh, 
So was Saint Thomas, as methinks, men might hereafter see 
For that Our Lord had willed his death like to His Own should be. 
Then, ere Saint Thomas, holy man, came to his church that day, 
The monks in fit procession there they met him on the way. 



44 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

He from his palfrey lighted down, and then the monks each one, 
To the High Altar, fittingly, they led him up anon, nc, 

And when he in the church had done all that was there to do 
Then with his men, so courteously, he to his inn did go. 
Now ere Saint Thomas long had been within his palace hall 
These self -same knights they came again answer to crave withal; 
They did beseech him, as before, to loose the ban that day, 
And these three Bishops to absolve, who 'neath the judgment lay. 
Then quoth Saint Thomas: "Nay, BeaufrSre, herein I can do naught, 
For that the doom wherein they lie the Pope on them hath brought, 
And I may not undo his deed, ye wot, in any place; 

But none the less, in that I have such trust in this, his grace, 120 

I will absolve them in this form, to wit, that henceforth they 
Assurance give to Holy Church they will her laws obey, 
Submit to Holy Church's Head this form, I trow, or none!" 
The Knights who hearkened well his words, to chiding fell anon, 
As they none other answer found in wrath they hence did wend 
That message to the Bishops bare who did them thither send. 
The Bishops, they were wroth enow, their threats they fell full fast, 
Natheless, the twain of them withdrew, and yielded at the last, 
The Bishops both of Salisbury and London sware that they 
Would yield themselves to Holy Church, and all her law obey. 130 

But York's Archbishop, he withstood, with word and eke with deed, 
And quoth: "Now shame his portion be who giveth us such rede, 
That we should put us in his grace who was our foe of yore 
For he hath done us many a shame, and now would do us more. 
Altho' he may have power o'er you, yet hath he none o'er me 
In that I too Archbishop am, ye wot, as well as he! 
And I, I have a coffer good, that standeth whole and sound, 
Therein shall be, as I think well, at least eight hundred pound, 
That am I ready now to spend, nor much it seemeth me, 
That we may lower this, his pride, of him avenged may be. 140 

Now go we to the King anon, and tell him of this deed, 
That if he peace be fain to have he find some other rede." 
Then these three Bishops, hastily, across the sea they hied, 
And came in safety to the King, ere it was Christmas-tide, 
They found him there in Normandy, they knelt low on their knee, 
Prayed him his honour to maintain, and their good lord to be, 
They told him how that this good man, since that to land he came, 
Disturbance wrought, alike in Church, and Kingdom, at that same, 
And that he had, with mickle pride, his doom upon them laid, 
Who, with his own consent, his son as King afore had made; 150 

And how he, in despite of him, had done such evil deed, 
That of the land he did outright refuse the laws to heed. 
The King, whenas he heard the tale, for wrath was well nigh wood, 
Awhile strode up and down the hall, awhile in thought he stood; 
"If he doth excommunicate those who made my son King 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 45 

The doom, it falleth first on me who did ordain this thing, 
Now who would in such misery for long time lead his life? 
This traitor, he doth ruin my realm, and brings me woe and strife!" 
And oft-times did he curse those men he had to honour brought 
That of the priest who was his foe they would avenge him naught, 160 

The priest, who had his land disturbed, and sorrow on it laid 
As thus the King strode up and down, and as these words he said, 
The knights, who hearkened all his words, they stood, and held them still, 
And silent, in themselves they thought to do their master's will. 
Then four of them, the fiercest there, they thought what they might do, 
Sir Rainald de Fitzurse was one, Sir Hugh de Morville two, 
Sir William Tracy was the third, the fourth, Richard de Brut, 
Their names, for this, their wickedness, they ne'er shall be forgot. 
They held their counsel secretly, o'er sea to take their way, 
And, to fulfil the royal will, Saint Thomas would they slay. 170 

Then, secretly, they gat them forth, that no man saw them go 
And well nigh came unto the sea ere that the King did know; 
But when the King, he understood, after them did he send, 
And bade them leave their folly there, and back to him to wend; 
But with no toil this messenger unto the knights hath won 
For, ere he came unto the sea, they were far out thereon. 
This wrought to Henry dole enow, that thus their way they went, 
And spake not with the messenger whom after them he sent. 
At Canterbury, Thomas good, upon midwinter's day, 

He stood, and preached unto the folk as many a man doth say, 180 

And in his sermon, suddenly, began to sigh full sore, 
And made such dole and sorrow there that never man made more; 
And weeping, he beheld his tears, how fast they ran adown, 
I trow that many an eye was wet that day throughout the town! 
"My dear Friends:" quoth Saint Thomas, the while he wept full sore 
" Your priest I now somewhile have been, but I shall be no more, 
For that my end is well nigh come, nor long I here shall be, 
But suffer death for Holy Church I must, right speedily. 
For love of God, now pray for me, and Holy Church also 
That now is well nigh brought to ground save God His Mercy show. igo 

Yet would I fain be put to death, when so God's Will shall be, 
For this, the right of Holy Church, ere that she ruined be." 
Candle and book he took anon, and banned them then and there 
Who on the rights of Holy Church made war, her foemen were, 
Namely Sir Randolf, he of Broke, Robert of Broke also, 
Who this, his See and Bishopric did wrongfully misdo. 
For that, the while he was away, of wrong King Henry took 
The Bishopric, and gave its lands to Randolf, he of Broke, 
Who made Robert de Broke his clerk, for him to come and go, 
And Warden under him to be, he wrought the land much woe, aoo 

And did destroy the Bishopric, and took to him its gold, 
And of these goods, won wrongfully, had built to him a hold; 



46 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

And therein, on that Christmas Day, when Thomas laid the ban, 

He sat at meat, in noble state, and with him many a man. 

Unto his hounds he threw the bread, that there before him lay, 

But every hound, he turned aside, the folk who saw it say. 

Then took he to him other bread, and with it mixed anew 

Bread from another's trencher, which to the dogs he threw, 

And every bit he handled there the dogs, they let it lie, 

The other bread, they chose it out, and ate it greedily! aio 

The Curse, I trow, was on him seen, upon the self-same day, 

The rightful vengeance of Our God, as all the folk must say, 

When that the dogs the bread forsook that lay to them anear 

And Christmas-Day, methinks, it fell on Friday, in that year, 

When these four wicked knights of whom the deed I tell to-day 

Their way to England thus had ta'en Saint Thomas for to slay. 

And on Saint Stephen's Day, those four to Saltwood Castle came 

Six miles from Canterbury, there they 'lighted, at that same; 

And unto them Randolf de Broke, he made his way anon, 

That night they counsel took, I trow, how best the deed were done. aao 

The morrow, ('t was on Child-Mass Day) as God the grace did send, 

To Canterbury speedily, Randolf de Broke did wend, 

(For of Saint Thomas he would know where he should be that tide 

That he might flee them not, that day, nor might in safety hide.) 

Those knights, I trow, when Tuesday came, they would no longer stay, 

To Canterbury did they ride before the close of day, 

About the time of Evensong they to Saint Thomas came 

And boldly to his chamber they betook them at that same. 

They came, and found him peacefully, there, in his chamber, stand, 

With him his privy clerks, for they a council had on hand. 330 

Then grimly, Sir Rainald Fitzurse, he did toward him wend, 

And: "Sire:" he saith, "our lord, the king, doth us in message send, 

And here, from him in Normandy, we this command have brought, 

That thou should'st here his bidding do, and should'st delay thee naught, 

And that thou go unto his son, for crowned king he is, 

And should'st amend to him what thou his sire hast done amiss, 

And swear thou wilt be true to him, and loyally wilt do 

What, for the lands thou hold'st from him in chief thou needs must do; 

The clerks, whom thou dost bring with thee, with thee in this must stand, 

Swear to be true unto the king, or they must flee the land." 240 

"Beau Sire," then answered this good man, "I think to tell no lie, 
I'll do my homage to the king for this, my baronie, 
But God wills not that Holy Church 'neath foot be trodden so 
That I, or other of my clerks, should this thy bidding do. 
Thou knowest well the laymen all who be within this land 
They take upon them no such oath as here I understand, 
By this thou thinkest Holy Church in servitude to bring 
More than the lot of laity, nay, I swear no such thing!" 

"I think me well," Sir Rainald quoth, "thou wilt obey in naught 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 47 

This same behest, which unto thee we from the king have brought. 250 

And now we bid, on his behalf, that thou absolve straightway 
Those Bishops, whom beneath thy ban thou didst but lately lay." 

"Beau Sire," he quoth, Saint Thomas, "'twas not my deed, I trow, 
From his own mouth the Pope himself he hath condemned them now, 
And thou know'st well that I may not the Pope's own deed undo " 

"The Pope's deed?" quoth Sir Rainald, "Nay, 'tis thy deed also!" 

"Sooth" said Saint Thomas, "if the Pope those men to judgment brought 
Who this my church have so misdone, it doth displease me naught!" 
Sir Rainald made swift answer there: "By all thine acts dost shew 
Thou would 'st annoy our lord, the king, and that thou art his foe, a6o 

And 't is thy will to work him harm, that do we clearly see, 
Thou fain would'st take from him his crown, but that shall never be! 
And king thou would'st be in his stead, but that thou shalt be ne'er!" 

"Certes, Sire," quoth Saint Thomas, "that thought I cherished ne'er, 
But rather would I be his friend and helper, an I may, 
For him, and for his honour do I pray both night and day, 
For there is no man on the earth whom I love more, I wis, 
Than him, save but his father, who still my liege lord is. 
Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, in sooth I tell to thee, 

A full accord was made betwixt my lord the King and me, 270 

He gave me leave to ban all those who did in aught misdo 
The Church that is his Mother, and naught else did I do!" 

"Avaunt thee, priest," quoth Rainald, "too much, I trow, dost say 
Thou would'st thine own lord slander, too clever thou alway! 
Would'st say that he, my lord the king, would ban them, and disown 
Those who had crowned his son as king? Was not the deed his own? 
Was it not with his own consent, by no man's rede or lore? 
Avaunt, Sir Priest, bethink thee, and say thou so no more ! " 

"Sir," said Saint Thomas, "thou know'st well that others had a share, 
For thou wert present there thyself, as many others were, 280 

Archbishops, Bishops, too, I ween, other great men and high, 
Yea, well five hundred men and more, as thou didst see with eye!" 

"Be still," then quoth that wicked knight "and hold thy tongue to-day, 
Thou foully dost belie thy lord, woe him who thus doth say ! 
Who should such slander suffer, and not avenge the deed? 
Nay, by the faith I owe to God I'll teach thee other rede!" 
With one consent, his fellows, their arms about they cast, 
And fared as men who were nigh mad, their threats they fell full fast. 
Then to the monks he turned anon, "Come forth!" he then did cry, 

' 'T is the King's foe ye have in hold, he knows it verily, 70 o 

To the King's will his body yield, or here do I declare 
He taketh to him all your lands, your manors layeth bare!" 

"Sir Rainald," quoth Saint Thomas, "dost think that I will flee? 
Nay, pard6, I '11 not stir a foot, nor for the king nor thee!" 

"By God, Sir Priest," quoth Rainald, "thou soon wast at a stay, 
Thy flight, I trow, it were but short, nor far should'st go alway!" 



48 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

Those knights, they wrathful were enow, they gat them forth anon, 

And then, when they were fully armed they came again, each one, 

With swords, and eke with axes, and other weapons more; 

Robert of Broke, that wicked clerk, he went them all before, 309 

To Canterbury's cloisters they came with all their might, 

The monks were singing Compline, for now 't was nigh to night; 

Then some, for the great noise they heard, they fell adown for fear, 

And some began to run about, as tho' they witless were. 

Saint Thomas took his Cross in hand, of other arms had none, 

And therewith, with all boldness, towards his foes hath gone, 

The monks, they cried upon him there: "Now, Mercy, Sire," they say, 

" For God's Sake, bide thee here, Our Lord may give thee rede alway, 
Suffer us here to aid thee, or else with thee to die!'* 
And some, they would shut fast the door, when they their foes espy. 310 

"Nay, leave that," quoth this holy man, "therein shall ye do wrong, 
Sing on the service of Our Lord, and this, your Evensong, 
No man of Holy Church should make a castle 'gainst his foe, 
He leaveth fools to rave a stound, and in their folly go." 
With that, on folly bent, the knights they rushed in speedily, 

"Where is" they quoth, "that Bishop false, that traitor, where is he?" 
Saint Thomas took the Cross in hand, and answer made anon: 

"Behold me here, God's Priest am I, but traitor am I none! 
Look ye for them who think to flee, or do your threatenings dread, 
For not more ready are your swords here now to smite me dead ja 

Than this, my heart, is ready here death from your hand to take, 
And ne'er the rights of Holy Church for death will I forsake!" 
The knights, they rushed on him anon, his cap from off his head, 
His mantle from his back, they tare, reviling him that stead, 
Sir Rainald de Fitzurse, I trow, doth close beside him go 

"Sir Rainald," quoth Saint Thomas there, "what thinkest thou to do? 
For oft have I done good to thee, and others too, I trow!" 
The other quoth: "What I may do, thou learnest soon enow 
Traitor! This will I do to thee, right swiftly shalt thou die!" 

"In sooth," then quoth that holy man, "ready thereto am I, 330 

Now for the rights of Holy Church to die were I full fain 
If so that after this, my death, she should in peace remain. 
But if, in sooth, 't is me ye seek, I pray ye, in Christ's Name 
That ye come nigh no other man to work upon him shame, 
In that none other guilty is of what ye put on me, 
Blameless are all, save I alone, of that ye sure may be, 
And therefore, since they blameless be, unharmed now let them wend *' 
The good man knelt down on his knee, he saw it was his end, 
And to receive his martyrdom he bowed his head adown, 
And soft and low, as some men heard, he spake his orisoun; 340 

"Now to Our Lord, and Saint Marie, and eke Saint Dionis, 
And all the patrons of this church where I be slain, I wis, 
I here in death commend my soul, and Holy Church's right " 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 49 

While yet he prayed for Holy Church, he had none other might, 

Sir Rainald de Fitzurse, of all the fiercest there was he, 

Drew forth his sword, that holy man to smite right speedily, 

But Edward Grim, of Grantboro', who was his clerk, they say 

Stretched out his arm, for he was fain to help his lord that day; 

The stroke his arm hath wounded sore, the blood it ran adown, 

And with that self-same blow he smote Saint Thomas on the crown, 350 

So that the blood adown his face, on the right side, did flow, 

Then loud he cried, this wicked knight, "Now shall ye smite them low!" 

Then Edward Grim, and all the men who stood the Bishop near 

To the side altars then they ran, fleeing for very fear 

For e'en as with Our Lord it fared, when the Jews seized Him there, 

All His disciples fled away, He wist not where they were 

For in the Gospels it is writ, Christ spake it verily, 

"When men shall smite the Shepherd, then the sheep shall scattered be " 
And Christ for His disciples prayed that no man harm should do 
To them, and so Saint Thomas, he, prayed for his monks also. 360 

Another smote Saint Thomas, in that same wound I trow, 
And made him look toward the ground, and his face downward bow; 
In the same place, the third knight, a blow he smote anon 
And prone he fell, the Bishop, his face upon the stone. 
The fourth knight, then he smote him, in that same place again 
And on the marble of the floor his sword point brake in twain, 
For honour of the holy man who thus his death there met 
That point, at Canterbury, the monks they keep it yet. 
That stroke hath smitten off the skull, the crown from off the head, 
So that, upon the pavement, the brains abroad were spread, 370 

White brain, with red blood mingled, lay on the pavement there 
And tho' 't was pity great to see, the colour, it was fair! 
And it ran all around his head, e'en as a diadem, 
And lay, in sooth for all to see, a marvel seemed it them! 
For men, when they would paint a saint, I trow, forget it ne'er 
But ever paint around his head a circle fit and fair 
A diadem, or halo, and so men well might see 
By this, the diadem of blood, that he a Saint should be. 
Then, when the holy man was slain, the knights, they cried each one: 

"This traitor now to death is brought, now go we hence anon, 380 

This shall they see, the king's men, and all who with him be, 
We on this traitor be avenged, as all men now may see, 
He would be higher than the king, and fain had worn the crown, 
And all the land have brought to naught, and now is he cast down!" 
E'en so the Jews spake of Our Lord, when Him they fain would slay, 
That He would make Himself a King, and Son of God alway. 
Then when these wicked knights a space had from Saint Thomas gone 
Robert de Broke bethought himself, and turned him back anon, 
And thro' the skull he smote his sword, right far the head within 
So that the skull was empty, no brain was left therein, soo 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



E'en as the Jews they smote Our Lord, after His Death did take 

A spear, and thro' His very Heart a fifth Wound there did make, 

Those wicked men did in that stead Saint Thomas smite, I ween, 

So that the skull was spread abroad, e'en as the crown had been. 

For he was ne'er a man who deigned his head to turn aside, 

Nor yield a foot unto his foe, but would the stroke abide, 

Nor made he cry, nor uttered groan, but, gracious, bowed his head, 

And held it steady, tho' his foes would smite it off that stead. 

Those wicked knights, they wend anon unto his treasury, 

The doors and coffers there they brake, and wreaked foul robbery. 400 

They took his clothes, and eke his horse, and treasure, too, that day, 

Charters, and private writings, in coffer locked away; 

Randolf de Broke, he took them then, to the king now would wend 

To Normandie, and say these knights they did the writings send, 

Praying him deal as was his will, if there were any there 

Against his royal right and will he should them straightway tear. 

Among his treasures did they find two hair shirts rough that day 

And vilely did they handle them, as worthless, cast away, 

Yet, natheless, they bethought them there, and were afeared, I ween, 

And softly spake between themselves, a good man had he been. 410 

William of Tracy later told of this good man and true 

To Exeter's good Bishop, when he was shrived anew, 

That when Saint Thomas had been slain, and they from hence would go, 

Well nigh they had waxed mad for fear, such horror did they know, 

It seemed them, as they gat them hence, that, swift as they might fare, 

The earth, it gaped to swallow them, all living as they were. 

Then when Saint Thomas, he was slain, and hence the knights had gone, 

Thro' Canterbury town, I trow, 't was known by all anon, 

The folk, with cries so doleful, to church they ran, I wis, 

Honoured that holy body, and ofttimes did it kiss. 420 

The monks, they hasten thither, the holy body take, 

On a fair bier they laid it, before the altar wake, 

The face was white and clear enow, no blood was there within, 

From the left half of his forehead to the left half of his chin 

A little streak there was of blood, that o'er his nose did flow, 

But no more blood was in his neck as well the folk did know. 

The wound, it bled the long night thro', men took thereof, I ween, 

To-day, in Canterbury church that blood may still be seen. 

Yet he in no-wise changed his hue, for all that he bled there 

Clear was he, of good colour, as tho' alive he were, 430 

And, somewhat smiling with his mouth, lay as he were asleep 

The folk, they gathered thick around, the blood were fain to keep, 

And gather up the drops that there had fallen to the ground, 

And of that earth all soaked in blood, glad was he who it found. 

That would no man deny them, and much they took away, 

Who touched that holy body, a glad man he, that day. 

Then, with the morn, those wicked knights, they arm themselves eftsoon, 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 



Without the town took counsel, what now might best be done, 

Fain had they ta'en that body, with horses drawn it there, 

High on a gibbet hanged it, and said the law it were, 440 

Unworthy he within a kirk or kirkyard for to lie 

The monks o'er much believed this, and feared them mightily, 

And swift that body buried, in a place near beside, 

With little pomp or ritual, they durst no longer bide. 

But in Christ's Minster buried the body there anon, 

Before Saint Austin's altar, and that of Baptist John. 

The monks durst wait no longer, nor wash that body dear 

But all unready, laid it low, and fled away for fear. 

But, as they stript him of his clothes, the vesture, it did show 

The clothing that beseemed a clerk, and other garb below, 450 

For a monk's habit was beneath, e'en as they found it there 

The cowl, and woollen robe, I trow, above the shirt of hair; 

So that within he was a monk, tho' secular without, 

And no man knew his secret who was with him about. 

Next to his flesh his girdle bare of knots full many a one 

That deep into his flesh they ate, some even to the bone. 

Tho' shirt and breeches he might wear he little ease might feel 

So tightly was he bound therein from shoulder e'en to heel, 

Uneasily he needs must sit, uneasily must ride, 

Uneasy would he lie at night, or turn on either side. 460 

And all his flesh was full of worms, to add to other woe, 

Never another creature so many worms might show, 

For everywhere within his flesh they were so thickly set 

That scarce the large ones for the small unto their meat might get, 

But one upon the other crept, and twined them all about, 

The small, they clave close to the flesh, the larger were without. 

He died, eleven hundred years, and seventy and one 

After Our Lord came down to earth, and took our flesh and bone; 

And three and fifty years of age were counted to him there 

And many a fair day had he lived, in woe, and eke in care. 470 

The king was aye in Normandy, and of the deed knew naught, 

But dole and sorrow made enow, whenas the news was brought, 

In the castle of Argenteyne, he heard the tidings sore 

And came not forth from out the gate for forty days and more; 

In privacy he kept him, with weeping, and with woe, 

And for no need that men might urge without the door would go, 

Recked naught of this world's doings, while spare his food should be, 

Such dole and grief as there he made no man I trow, might see. 

To Canterbury sent anon, all for this doleful deed, 

And prayed the monks full piteously for him to intercede, 480 

He sent them word assuring them that naught of this he bade, 

The knights had gone forth secretly, and nothing to him said, 

He sent a message bidding them turn again speedily 

But ere the man might come to them they were far out at sea. 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And, as 't was good, unto the Pope, the king, he sent right soon 

And prayed his counsel piteously, what now might best be done? 

And for the love of God besought, in this his anguish, rede, 

That he be shriven and absolved of this right wicked deed. 

The Pope, I trow, had pity great in that he thus did send 

And great joy, too, that he, his life was willing to amend, 490 

Two cardinals he sent him, wise men they were, those two, 

That he be shriven of this sin, and be absolved also, 

And to absolve those bishops, who 'neath the ban yet lay 

Right welcome were those cardinals unto the king alway! 

Then, dolefully, he prayed them absolve him of this deed, 

That he would stable stand, and swear to follow all their rede. 

And there upon the Hallows sware that he therein did naught, 

Not by his will, nor his behest, Thomas to death was brought. 

Nay, never for his father's death had he such sorrow sore, 

Nor for his mother had he felt such grief as now he bore. joo 

And that he would, with willing heart, the penance take and bear 

That they should lay upon him, however hard it were. 

For he was cause of this, his death, and of his woes also, 

In that his knights, to please him, had brought him thereunto. 

Then, when the cardinals, they saw he did repent that wrong 

They shrived him there, and laid on him a penance stern and strong, 

But all in secret, as 't was right that no man of it spoke 

But this that I now tell ye was known to all the folk. 

That he should send to Holy Land two hundred knights, to fight 

A year long with the Templars, for Holy Church's right. 510 

The Statutes, too, of Clarendon, he should revoke them all 

'T was for their sake that holy man did thus, a martyr, fall. 

And that, to Canterbury's See he wholly yield again 

That which, wroth with Saint Thomas, he erst from it had ta'en. 

And that those men should freely, and wholly, be forgiven 

Whom of ill-will, for Thomas' sake, he from the land had driven. 

The king, he granted all their will, the while he wept full sore 

And said it was too little, prayed they 'Id lay on him more; 

And saith: "Now here, of my good will my body may ye take 

Give me a penance sharp enow, I will it not forsake." 5*0 

Unto the church door did he go, to be absolved, I ween, 

Holding himself unworthy within it to be seen. 

Without the church door, piteous, he knelt him on his knee, 

The cardinals, they willed not his body stript should be 

But in some wise, above his clothes, they did absolve him there, 

I trow, full many wept for grief of those who round him were. 

Upon his son he laid behest with sorry cheer, that he 

Fulfil his father's penance, if that unfit he be; 

That, should he fall on feeble state, ere to the end he came, 

He take the penance on himself, of good will, at that same. & 

Thus that good man, Saint Thomas, to martyrdom was brought 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET $3 



And since then many a marvel for his sake hath been wrought. 
Men wist in far Jerusalem that he to death was done 
Within a fortnight of the day his earthly race was run, 
For that a monk of that same land in his death-struggle lay 
His abbot came unto him, ere yet he passed away, 
Conjured him solemnly, that dead, he should, without debate, 
Return again to him, and say what there should be his state. 
The monk, he died soon after, e'en as it was God's Will, 
And to the abbot came again, his bidding to fulfil, 540 

And told him that, among the saved, in Heaven's joy was he, 
And spake much of the gladness that he in Heaven did see, 
And told him, in that self -same time that he to Heaven did come 
Of Canterbury th' Archbishop had suffered martyrdom, 
And that his soul, that self-same hour, to Heaven did ascend 
And fair was the procession that did to greet him wend; 
Of Patriarchs, of Angels, Apostles, too, also, 
Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, they did to meet him go, 
They met and brought his holy soul unto Our Lord, anon, 
With great rejoicing as He sat upon the Great White Throne. 550 

His crown, it all was smitten off, and bloody was his head, 
No brain was left within it, all with his blood was shed. 
"Ah, Thomas, Thomas!" quoth Our Lord, "this lot is fallen to thee 
To come thus to thy Lord's own Court, and in such guise to Me! 
For thy good service will I give to thee such joy and bliss 
As I gave to Saint Peter, who mine own Apostle is." 
He set upon his head a crown, of gold so bright and good, 
And well it showed, the gleaming gold, upon the crimson blood! 
And greater joy there ne'er might be than was in Heaven withal 
For Canterbury's Archbishop, whom men Saint Thomas call. 560 

The Tuesday after Christ's Own Mass, the next as it did come, 
That holy man, Saint Thomas, he suffered Martyrdom. 
And when thou nearest of his death from English men, in sooth, 
Thou shalt remember this my tale, and know 't was very truth!" 
The abbot, on the morrow he of Saint Thomas thought, 
The tale unto the Patriarch of Jerusalem he brought, 
So that they, later in the year, right well did understand 
Whenas the pilgrims thither came out of the English land, 
And that these pilgrims told as truth all that the monk had seen 
The very manner of his death, and when he slain had been. 570 

Thus, in Jerusalem, I trow, Saint Thomas' death was known 
Within a fortnight of the day that he to death was done. 
When five years he had martyred been, so doth the story tell, 
Between King Henry and his son a contest great befell, 
The son waxed proud of this, his power, since he as king did reign 
But lightly held his father, to war with him was fain. 
Of England all the greater part they with the son did hold, 
The kings of France and Scotland too, so in the tale 't was told, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Then this old man and feeble, much pain and grief he knew, 

And laid it on his wicked deed, that men Saint Thomas slew. $80 

From Normandy to England he gat him at that tide, 

Ere he to Canterbury came nowhere would he abide. 

When he was far without the wall from horse he 'lighted down 

And all afoot, and barefoot, did wend him to the town, 

And with his kirtle all ungirt, as folk might see that day, 

He took his way unto the place wherein Saint Thomas lay. 

His hands outstretched in sorrow, mercy did aye implore 

And at his tomb he knelt adown with sighs and weeping sore, 

In Orisons, with weeping, and fasting, there he lay 

And thus beside that good man's tomb abode a night and day. 500 

And each monk of the Minster he prayed to scourge him there 

Each with a rod, and yet he thought the pain too little were. 

And dolefully he prayed them, each one, for him to pray, 

The evil laws that he had made he sware to put away; 

And then he bade them sing a Mass, ere that he thence might wend, 

In honour of Saint Thomas, that grace to him he send. 

And even while this Mass was sung, as God did grant it so, 

The King of Scotland, he was ta'en, who was his fiercest foe, 

And many another too with him, who were his foes anon, 

And they who thus were captive ta'en power against him had none. 600 

So this king old and feeble, who had the lower place, 

Was raised again to honour all by Saint Thomas' grace. 

His son was put beneath him, little he won that tide 

By warring 'gainst his father thro' this, his sorry pride. 

By this a man may warning take that never, hastily, 

He give his lands unto his son, while yet in life he be! 

King Henry's son, thereafter, much evil hath he wrought, 

And long before his father died he to his death was brought, 

Full sore he pined in sickness, his life it seemed him long, 

And died at last a doleful death, in bitter pains and strong. 6xo 

His brother too, Sir Geoffrey, the Earl of Brittany, 

He fell in the same sickness, the self -same death had he, 

So when he died, King Henry, of heir remained there none 

Save this, their brother Richard, and after him was John. 

But yet, Sir Geoffrey's children, by rightful law of land, 

Were heirs unto the kingdom, so do I understand; 

Of Brittany the maiden, his only daughter, she, 

For this cause all her lifetime a prisoner must be. 

And all four of those wicked knights, who did Saint Thomas slay 

Died an ill death, and painful, small wonder 't was alway! 620 

They were each one repentant, nay, never men were more, 

For mercy on Saint Thomas, I trow, they cried full sore. 

Soon after they had done this deed they from their goods did wend 

To Holy Land betook them, their lives they would amend. 

But William Tracy fared not forth with these his fellows three, 

Deeming that he, hi England, a penitent might be. 



SAINT THOMAS A BECKET 55 

But very soon thereafter in sickness sore he fell 

His flesh, it rotted on him, and evil did it smell; 

So foul the stench, I trow me, that dole it was to see, 

And for its very foulness no man might nigh him be. 630 

His flesh, it rotted on him, each day it fell away, 

Till that his bones were waxen bare, his joy was all away. 

His flesh, with his own hands he tare from off him at the last, 

And piece by piece he took it, and far from him he cast. 

He tare, I trow, his hands and arms, till there was left thereon 

No trace of flesh, but nothing more save sinews, and bare bone. 

And many men, they deemed in truth he bare it willingly 

To pay sin's debt, that so his soul in lesser peril be. 

At last in bitter pain his soul did from his body wend 

And, as it were God's Will alway, he made a godly end. 640 

Thus, for their wicked deed, these knights, full soon they died each one 

And in the third year after there was left living none. 

For even as the Psalter saith, the men who treacherous be 

They shall not live out half their days, and so we surely see; 

E'en tho' they be repentant, as these knights were, I ween, 

They shall not live out half their life, on them this well was seen. 

Saint Thomas, now, that holy man, in earth he buried lay 

Ere men might lay him in a shrine, I trow, for many a day; 

For forty years therein he lay, and half a year should be 

With eight days added thereunto ere brought from earth was he. 650 

For God would wait a fitting time for such a holy thing 

Till to a good archbishop was joined a godly king. 

The king who came before him, and wicked was also, 

He little thought within his day such godly deed to do; 

But his young son, King Henry, he would not long delay, 

Tho' young he was when made a king, the saint in shrine to lay. 

Scarce thirteen years, I trow, had he, when that he did this thing 

And in the fourth year this befell since that they made him king. 

The good Archbishop, Stephen, he counselled him thereto 

So it was by the rede of both that they this deed did do. 660 

Honorious, he was Pope then, and thither would he send 

From Rome, the Legate Pandolf , to bring this thing to end. 

The Pope decreed a pardon to all who there would go 

That for long years in England men no such pardon know. 

To honour this, his body, the folk they came ere long 

Of bishops, and of abbots, full many thither throng, 

Of priors, and of parsons, and many a clerk also, 

And many an earl and baron with knights did thither go; 

The squires and serjants flocked there, and husbandmen enow, 

And of the simple land folk, so many came, I trow, 670 

That all the land about there, the country far and wide, 

Might scarce contain the people who flocked from every side. 

So these high men, and noble, elect this deed to do, 

Were much in care, lest, for the press, they come not thereunto; 



56 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

So the Archbishop, Stephen, of whom but now I told, 
And Salisbury's Bishop, Richard, they did a council hold, 
E'en with the Prior Walter, head of the Convent he, 
And thus they took their counsel to do it privilie; 
So as men lay and slept by night, thereof had little thought, 
They took those holy bones up, and in a coffin brought, 680 

And set them in a secret place until the day they see 
That it was cried throughout the land the grave should opened be. 
July, the month, I think me, upon the seventh day, 
It fell upon a Tuesday, so all the folk they say, 
On that day to the Minster in order have they gone 
With the young child, King Henry, the high men, every one. 
And on that day, at underne, they to the body come, 
And Pandolf, he hath gone the first, the Legate he, from Rome. 
And the Archbishop Stephen, and from beyond the sea 
From Rheims came the Archbishop, to this solemnitie. 690 

Hubert de Brom, he followed, High Justice was he then 
And four great lords came with him, all wise and noble men. 
And they, upon their shoulders, the body take anon, 
Of bishops, and of abbots, have many with them gone. 
And thus to the High Altar of the Trinity they bare 
The holy bones, and laid the chest in stately shrine and fair. 
He was so young, King Henry, that there he durst do naught, 
Nor help them bear the body lest that it hurt him aught, 
The holy bones, they raised them on Tuesday, as men tell, 
And all his life's chief happenings, on Tuesdays all they fell. 700 

For on a Tuesday was he born, from mother's womb he came; 
And even as men bring a thief, so was he brought with shame 
On Tuesday to Northampton, to stand before the king, 
And to receive his judgment they say, who saw the thing, 
That even worse than any thief the folk they served him there 
Banished was he on Tuesday, from England forth must fare; 
At Ponteney, on a Tuesday, Our Lord to him did come 
And to him spake a gracious word of this, his Martyrdom: 
Saith Our Dear Lord: "Now Thomas, thro' shedding of thy blood 
Shall all my Church be honoured!" Methinks these words be good. 710 
Then back again to England on Tuesday did he come, 
After he had been banished, to take his Martyrdom. 
And thus at Canterbury, on Tuesday was he slain, 
At last, upon a Tuesday, enshrined within that fane. 
Thus seven things on Tuesday befell from first to last, 
And therefore on a Tuesday doth many a man keep fast 
And eat no flesh on Tuesday, others but one meal eat, 
And go to Canterbury, to do him honour meet. 
Now Jesu, for that great Love, on which Saint Thomas thought 
Bring us unto those self -same joys that he so dearly bought! 720 

Amen. 



SAINT BRANDAN 57 



SAINT BRANDAN 

SAINT BRANDAN, that same holy man, he lived in this, our land, 
A monk he was of strictest life, so do I understand, 
In fasting and in penance lived, and Abbot was he there, 
Over a thousand monks held rule, who all beneath him were. 
And as it fell upon a day, by God's will and decree, 
Another abbot came to him, Beryn by name was he; 
Saint Brandan prayed of him anon that he would say that tide 
What things soe'er he might have seen in other countries wide. 
Then the good man, on hearing this, began to sigh eftsoon, 
For heavy thought began to weep, and fell adown in swoon. 10 

Between his arms Saint Brandan took that good man, at that same, 
And kissed him oft, and called on him, till to himself he came. 
'Father" he said, "for charity thou other rede must take, 
Here for our solace art thou come, and not such dole to make; 
Tell us the things that thou hast seen, as thou afar didst wend 
Upon the seas of Ocean wide, where Our Lord did thee send." 
(Now is the sea of Ocean the greatest sea of all 
The world it doth encircle, and all waters to it fall ) 
With that Beryn, the aged man, e'en from his heart so deep, 
He told them all that he had found, the while he needs must weep. ao 
He said he had a right good son, and Mernok was his name, 
! A monk he was, e'en as we be, therewith a man of fame; 
His heart, it urged him forth to wend, to privy place and still, 
Wherein he might dwell all alone, and thus might serve God's Will. 
Thus by my will did he go forth, e'en as I tell ye now, 
To a far island in the sea, that pleasant was enow, 
It lies beside the Mount of Stones, the which is known full wide, 
And that same monk, he liked it well, and there did long abide; 
And in that time full many a monk he had beneath him there, 
And I, when I heard tell thereof, I thither thought to fare. 30 

And then a vision Our Sweet Lord unto that monk did send 
Bidding him go to meet me, a three days' journey wend. 
To ship, I trow, we went right soon, Eastward our way did trace 
On the far sea of Ocean, as Our Lord sent us Grace. 
Toward the East so far we sailed that we were come, at last, 
To a place dim and dusky, with clouds all over-cast; 
There we abode in darkness, for well nigh all the day, 
Until it pleased Our Lord at last to speed us on our way. 
A new land we beheld then, and thither turned our prow, 
Brighter it was than sunshine, and joy there was enow; 40 

The trees and herbs, so thickly they grew on either side, 
And stones so fair and precious lay gleaming far and wide; 
Each bush was full of blossom, and full of fruit each tree. 



58 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

Save that it were in Heaven, such perfume ne'er might be! 
Therein, with joy and gladness, a long time did we spend, 
Yet but short while it seemed us Nor might we find the end, 
We came unto a water, so clear and bright to see, 
From Eastward ever springing, Westward it floweth free. 
We stood and looked about us, nor crossing might we find, 
A woman came toward us, so young, and fair, and kind, so 

And bade us each one welcome in gentle words and sweet, 
Each by his right name hailing, gracious she did us greet, 
And said that Our Lord Jesus we now should thank aright 
'Who sheweth you His secrets, and therewithal His might; 
This is the land He giveth, whenas the world shall end, 
To those on earth He loveth, hither His dear ones wend. 
One half on this shore lieth, ye see it is full wide, 
And half beyond the water, upon the further side. 
Ye may not pass that water, the other half to see, 

A year long have ye been here, and meat-less all ye be; 60 

Ye ate not, and ye drank not, nor sleep hath closed your eye, 
Nor cold nor heat hath grieved you, or be ye low or high. 
This is Our Lord's own Country, 't is He Who gives it light, 
Thus day for aye endureth, and ne'er shall wane to night. 
Had Adam 'gainst God's bidding transgressed not, then I ween 
Herein had been his dwelling, here had his offspring been; 
But now ye needs must turn again, ye may not linger here, 
Tho' a short while ye deem it, here have ye dwelt a year.' 
Then to our ship she brought us, and bade us there 'Farewell* 
The sea, it homeward bare us, her way we might not tell. 70 

Against our will she left us, I trow it grieved us sore 
Back to the monks, our brethren, swiftly the ship us bore, 
The monks, they came to meet us, when they our barque had seen, 
And grieved were they, and wrathful, that we so long had been. 
We said, in joy and gladness we for awhile did stand, 
Before the gates of Paradise, in this, the Promised Land, 
Which our Dear Lord hath promised to those He loveth here, 
Where it is never night-fall, but ever daylight clear. 

'Certes,' the monks, they answered, 'this we right well have seen, 
By the sweet smell upon you, there have ye surely been.' " 80 

Saint Brandan, when he heard this, awhile in thought stood still, 
And in himself he pondered what now might be God's Will. 
Then to his monks he turned him, and twelve he took that day, 
Those unto whom he trusted, if need upon them lay. 
The twelve he took to counsel, and privily he spake: 

"A secret thing I purpose, whereof your rede I 'Id take: 
To seek the Land of Promise, an God will thither lead, 
Now say, what is your counsel? Say, shall we do this deed?" 

"Dear Father," spake the others, "our own will did we leave, 
Our friends, and all our riches, and unto thee did cleave, 



SAINT BRANDAN 59 



We do as thou desirest; if so thy will shall be 

With thee we '11 blithely journey, the Grace of God to see." 

Then forty days they fasted, and penance sore they bare, 

This, Our Lord's Grace, beseeching their voyage to prosper fair. 

A great ship did they dight there, and then above it cast 

A strong hood for a covering, and thereto nailed it fast. 

And all without they pitched it, to keep it dry and fair, 

Then went they to their brethren, and leave they prayed them there. 

Si then, in this, Our Lord's Name, forth to their ship they go, 

The brethren left behind them, each one must sorrow know. xoo 

When they the ship had boarded, after them came there two 

And straitly they besought them that they with them might go. 

"That may ye," quoth Saint Brandan, "yet one shall at the end, 
Repent of this, his coming, to Hell shall, living, wend." 
This holy man, he went forth whither Our Lord should guide, 
And these two monks, who came last, went with them at that tide. 
On the great sea of Ocean forth do they row full fast, 
In God's good guidance trusting, for naught are they aghast. 
The sea, it drave their ship at will, the wind was strong and high, 
And as the breeze it bare them, the ship sailed steadily, no 

Ever toward sun-rising, on a mid-summer day, 
No man of them wist where he was, or where the land, it lay. 
And thus, forthright, for forty days, the wind, it bare them fast, 
Till that, upon the North-side, a great isle rose at last. 
Of hard rock was it, great enow, and from the sea rose high, 
Three days they sailed about it, ere that they might come nigh. 
A little haven there they found, to land they get them there, 
They went ashore as 'mazed men, who wist not where they were. 
Then came to them a goodly hound, as guide he drew them near, 
And fell down at Saint Brandan's feet, and made of him good cheer. 120 

" Beaux Freres," then quoth Saint Brandan, "to fear have ye no need, 
I trow this be a messenger, who will us rightly lead." 
The hound, it led this holy man to a fair hall that day, 
Noble it was, and high, and strong, within he leads the way; 
The monks, they found within the hall a board, with cloths o'erspread, 
Thereon was bread, with fish enow, they deemed they were well sped. 
They sat them down, and ate full fast, much need had they each one, 
And beds were there, all ready made, ere that their meal was done. 
Then supper o'er, to bed they went, to rest them as was wise, 
And tho' they weary were enow, full soon they 'gan arise, 130 

And gat them to their ship again, where they afore had been, 
And long time on the sea they were ere land again was seen. 
They saw it, on the other side, rise fair from out the wave, 
An island green, with pastures fair, thither their barque it drave. 
Whenas they came to this fair land, and round about them spied, 
The fairest sheep that e'er might be they saw on every side. 
Each sheep was greater than an ox, and whiter none might be, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Great joy, it waxed within them, that they this sight might see. 
Then came to them a goodly man, greeting he gave them fair, 
And said: "The land where ye be come, ye saw aforetime ne'er, 140 

It is y'clept ' The Land of Sheep,' for here fair sheep they be 
Mickle, and white, and great enow, as ye full well may see; 
And fairer far than are your sheep, greater beyond compare, 
The weather here is good enow, the pastures rich and rare; 
For never winter vexeth us, nor here shall hay be found, 
But each doth crop the herbage new as it doth spring from ground. 
And men, they take not of their milk, that they the worser be, 
For this and many another thing, they profit verilie. 
From hence ye to a land shall fare, by this, Our Lord's good Grace, 
That is * The Paradise of Birds,' and a right joyous place, 150 

And there this Easter shall ye be, and Whitsuntide shall spend; 
Now go ye forth in God's good Name, to bring this voyage to end." 
Saint Brandan, and his brethren then, to ship they go anon, 
And fast they row forth on the sea, with tempests many a one, 
Till on the other side they saw an island great up-stand, 
Their ship, I trow, by grace of God, it drew toward that land, 
So that it almost came thereto, but on the rock did ride, 
And came not close unto the isle, but lay the land beside. 
Saint Brandan stayed within the ship, the monks, they wade to shore, 
They thought to make them here a meal of what they had in store. 160 
A fire they made, and boiled them fish all in a cauldron fast, 
But ere the fish was cooked enow, somewhat were they aghast, 
For as the fire, it burned right thro', the isle, it quaked anon, 
And as in wrath it rose up there, the monks took fright each one, 
Each after other to the ship they fled, as at that same, 
He deemed himself best loved of God who soonest thither came! 
And then they saw how this same isle fared thro' the sea full fast, 
As a live thing leapt up and down, and fire from off him cast, 
More than a two-mile distance swam while that it burned, the fire, 
The monks, they saw the flame from far, and were in terror dire. 170 

They cried upon Saint Brandan, what should this marvel be? 
"Bide still," then quoth this holy man, "fear not for what ye see, 
Ye deem it be an island, therein ye think amiss, 
It is a fish of this great sea, the greatest that there is, 
Jastoni, is he named, and seeketh, night and day, 
To take his tail within his mouth, for size doth fail alway." 
Then forth they rowed upon the sea, and Westward swift they fare 
Three days, ere land it came in sight, somewhat they feared them there. 
A right fair land they see then, where thick the flowers grow, 
And much the sight rejoiced them, their barque they thither row. 180 

Thro' this fair land they wandered, longer than I may tell, 
A place they found within it, a very goodly well, 
There stood a tree beside it, 't was broad and wide enow, 
And white and fair the birdlings that sat on every bough; 



SAINT BRANDAN 61 



So thick they perched upon it, ye scarce a leaf might see, 
'T was joy and bliss sufficing to look on such a tree! 
For joy he wept, Saint Brandan, and on his knee bent low 
Praying that God the meaning of this strange sight would show. 
A small bird fluttered upward, and as he took his flight, 
His wings were as a cithole, toward him came aright, XQO 

(Than instrument of music sweeter his wings they were ) 
He looked upon Saint Brandan with goodly cheer and fair; 
"I bid ye," quoth Saint Brandan, "an messenger ye be, 
Tell me of these, your doings, your nature show to me!" 
Altho' it seemed a marvel, this bird he spake anon, 
And quoth: "We were aforetime angels in heaven, each one, 
But e'en as we were fashioned, for this, his beauty's pride, 
He, Lucifer, our master, full soon was put outside; 
And many another with him the self-same doom did win; 
And we, adown we fell then, yet not for any sin, aoo 

And not that we assented to what he did 'gainst right, 
But only to bear witness to this, Our Sweet Lord's might. 
Nor here in pain we're holden, in joy enow we be, 
And somewhat of Our Dear Lord, His might and power, we see. 
And on the earth we fly now, and thro' the air also, 
As angels good or evil, methinks, may rightly do. 
The good aid men to goodness, the evil, evil make 
Our day of rest is Sunday, and then such form we take 
As white birds are we fashioned, as here ye well may see, 
And honour God our Maker, here, on this spreading tree. axo 

A twelvemonth hath passed over, since that ye forth did wend, 
Six years more must ye journey ere this, your toil, may end. 
When seven years ye 've voyaged, Our Lord shall send to ye 
The sight that ye full long have sought, yet passed those years must be. 
And each year shall ye here with us the Feast of Easter hold 
As now ye do, till ye at last the Promised Land behold." 
Now it was on an Easter-day that they this venture knew, 
The bird, he took his leave of them, and to his fellows flew. 
The birds, when it was eventide, began their evensong, 
And sweeter song there might not be, were God their ranks among! 220 
The monks, they went to bed and sleep, when they had supper ta'en, 
And when 't was time for Mattins, then they rose up again. 
The birds, they sang their Mattins, they knew the fitting time, 
The verses of the Psalter too, and sithen sang they Prime, 
At Underne, and at Midday, at Nones, so sang they then, 
At all the Hours throughout the day as fitting Christian men. 
The monks, they in that land abode until eight weeks had flown, 
And they the Feasts of Easter and Whitsuntide had known. 
With Trinity there cometh that good man to them there 
Who met them in the Land of Sheep, and showed its marvels fair; ajo 

Their ship he well had loaded, of meat and drink, a store, 



62 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

Bade them Farewell right gently, and turned them from that shore. 
When with his monks, Saint Brandan, once more a-ship was he, 
The bird that erst spake with them, it sought them presently, 
And spake: "Ye have been with us thro' this high Feast, I ween, 
Great travail doth await ye ere land once more be seen, 
Ye shall, full seven months ended, behold a goodly isle, 
By name 't is called Abbey, it lies hence many a mile; 
There with good men, and holy, Midwinter shall ye spend, 
Your Easter shall be holden, as ye this year did wend, 340 

On that great Fish's back-bone, whereof your monks had fear, 
The Feast with us be ended, e'en as it was this year." 
Then, in God's Name, Saint Brandan, and these his monks, each one, 
On the great sea of Ocean they sailed forth anon ; 
The wind, it tossed them up and down, they many a peril knew, 
And of their lives waxed weary, nor wist they where to go. 
For months they were upon the sea, which did them much torment, 
Since they saw naught but water, and eke the firmament. 
Then saw they land afar from them, as if an isle it were, 
And strait they cried on Jesu Christ that He would bring them there. 250 
Yet after that Saint Brandan the isle might first espy 
For forty days they sailed about ere that they might come nigh, 
So that they deemed their life was lost, the monks were much in fear, 
And loud they cried on Jesu, that He would help them here. 
A haven small and narrow they found there at the last, 
Their ship, it scarce might come therein that they might anchor cast. 
These monks to shore betook them, too long they 'd haven sought, 
And looked all round about them, 't was joyous to their thought; 
Then two fair wells they see there, the one was very clear, 
Troubled and thick the other The monks they went anear a6o 

To drink of that clear water, Saint Brandan spake straightway: 
"Without the leave of others ye go not nigh to-day, 
The leave of old men ancient, who be here thro* God's Will, 
For they will share it with us, and therefore hold ye still." 
A fair old man, and hoary, toward them came, I wis, 
And gave them gracious greeting, and did Saint Brandan kiss; 
Then forth with him he led them, by a fair way, and good, 
Thro' many a pleasant pasture, to where an Abbey stood. 
Saint Brandan looked about him, and asked what place it were? 
What men should dwell within it? And how they had come there? a?o 
The old man held him silent, and answered not his prayer 
Then came a fair procession, a Cross before them bare, 
With tapers lit beside it, monks were they, every one, 
In choir-copes fairly vested, toward them came anon 
And fair was the procession, the abbot closed the band, 
Gracious, he kissed Saint Brandan, and took him by the hand. 
He and his monks he led them into a noble hall, 
There in a row he set them, their feet he washed withal 



SAINT BRANDAN 63 



In this, the troubled water, that they did first espy; 

To the refectory led them, and set them down on high, 280 

With these, his own monks, mingled, when each was in his seat, 

Then one there came who served them, and brought to each his meat. 

A fair white loaf he set there betwixt each two and two, 

A white mess, as of herbs 't were, before them set also, 

And sweeter food might none be, 't was known afore to none 

Of that clear well the waters, the monks have drunk each one. 

"Be glad now:" quoth the abbot, "and take deep draughts and long 
In love of this same water ye fain had ta'en with wrong; 
Better it is to drink it in love, as now 't is brought, 
Than as a thief to steal it, as was at first your thought. ago 

This bread that here we eat of, we know not what it is, 
Each day a strange man brings it unto our store, I wis, 
We trow by God's Grace only this food to us is brought, 
Whoso in Jesu trusteth, methinks shall fail for naught. 
We be Friars, four and twenty, when thus we take our seat 
Twelve manchets white they bring us each day to this, our meat. 
And on each holy Feast day, and Sundays too, I wis, 
They bring us four and twenty, that every man hath his; 
And what each brother leaveth that shall his supper be, 
To-day for ye 't is doubled, as ye right well may see; 300 

Nor here is all our Convent, there be who do not eat, 
But by His Grace Our Dear Lord hath sent to all his meat. 
From out Saint Patrick's Abbey, in Ireland, so I ween, 
For four-score years we dwell here, no man hath nigh us been, 
Yet thro' His Grace, our Dear Lord hath fed us, every one, 
And aye have we fine weather, and sickness is there none. 
When we should do His Service, Our Lord, He sends us light, 
Our tapers be not lessened, tho' burnt by day and night!" 
They rose, and forth they gat them to church, thus after meat, 
Twelve other Friars they met then, who thither go to eat; 310 

"How is this?" quoth Saint Brandan. "Why were they not with us?" 

"Dear Father:" quoth the Abbot, "of needs it must be thus, 
For four and twenty only, hath our Refectory space, 
Whenas that ye were with us then these might find no place, 
While Evensong we're singing, then shall they sit and eat, 
And after sing their office, when they have had their meat." 
Saint Brandan saw that Altar, it seemed to him here, 
With Chalice, and with cruets, all wrought of crystal clear; 
The choir had seven tapers, nor more nor less, to wit, 
The stalls were four and twenty wherein the monks should sit; 330 

For four and twenty brethren there were, and each had his, 
Midst of the choir the Abbot, he had his seat, I wis. 
Saint Brandan asked the Abbot, "Now tell me, dear my brother, 
Why do ye keep such silence that none speaks with the other?" 

"Our Lord knows," quoth the Abbot, "that here we now have been 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



For years four-score, and leading such life as ye have seen, 

Nor was there one among us who spake, before to-day, 

A word, save what was needed his Office well to say, 

And none of us waxed feeble, and sickness fell on none " 

Saint Brandan, when he heard this, for joy he wept anon, 330 

"Dear Father" thus he answered, "here may we bide with ye?" 

"Ye wot well: " quoth the Abbot, "that may in no wise be, 
Hath not our Lord well shown thee that which thou needs must do? 
Thou needs must go to Ireland, thy brethren twelve also; 
And at the Isle of Ankres, the thirteenth from thee wend, 
To Hell alive, the fourteenth, and be there without end." 
With that, a fiery arrow in at the window flew, 
As tho' it were from Heaven, and trimmed the tapers true, 
And then thro' that same window it passed, e'en as it came, 
Long enow burned the tapers, nor wasted in the flame. 340 

"Lord Christ," then quoth Saint Brandan, "I wonder in my thought, 
How thus they burn, these tapers, and how they waste for naught?" 

"Hast thou not," quoth the Abbot, "in Holy Scripture found 
How Moses saw a thorn burn, from topmost twig to ground, 
Yet aye the more it burned there, greener the leaves they were, 
Dost thou not deem Our Lord be as mighty here as there?" 
Those monks they were together till Christmas-tide was o'er, 
Yea, e'en till after Twelfth-day, ere they set forth once more. 
Then on the Feast of Hilary, Saint Brandan forth did wend 
With his monks on the Ocean, tho' grace that God did send; 350 

In grief enow they floated, tossed up and down they be, 
Till Lent was well nigh ended, nor sign of land might see, 
Till that, about Palm-Sunday, their glance around they cast, 
And saw, in the dim distance as 't were a cloud at last. 
The monks, thereof they wondered, what that same cloud, it were 

"Bide still" then quoth Saint Brandan, "aforetime were ye there, 
There is our procurator, who did us good of yore, 
Both in the Paradise of Birds, and Isle of Sheep, afore," 
So that, at last, their vessel came to that Isle, I ween, 
Upon the Maunday Thursday, in travail great they'd been. 360 

The old man came toward them, and welcomed them anon, 
Saint Brandan's feet, he kissed them, and then the monks', each one; 
Sithen set them at supper, as fitting for the day, 
Then all their feet he washed there, the Maund he would obey. 
Thus Maunday did they keep there, and rested at that same 
Throughout the whole Good Friday, till Easter Eve, it came; 
On Easter Eve that old man bade them take ship anon, 
Their Easter Mass to hold it that Fish's back upon. 
After the Resurrection he bade them go once more 

Unto the Paradise of Birds, where they had been afore. 370 

These holy men, they sailed forth, God's Grace did guide their way 
To this great Fish, in safety, they came the self-same day. 



SAINT BRANDAN 65 



It stood still, as an island, their cauldron found they here, 

As on its back they'd left it, e'en in that bye-gone year; 

Lord Christ, to think such monster should in this wise stay still 

And suffer men upon it to come and go at will! 

There, on its back, the holy men, abode throughout the night, 

Sang Evensong, and Mattins, and then, with morning light, 

Their Easter Mass they sang there, upon its back, each one, 

And that great Fish, it stayed there as still as any stone. 380 

Then, when their Resurrection they 'd kept with honour due, 

And all the monks had sung there their Mass in order true, 

About the time of Underne, to ship they took their way, 

And to the Paradise of Birds they came the self-same day. 

When the birds saw them coming, each one brake into song 

With melody to greet them, as doth to Nones belong. 

The Bird that erst spake with them, toward them winged his way, 

His wings, they beat sweet music, greeting he gave that day, 

And quoth: "Ye ought to thank Him, Our Lord Christ, with the best, 

Who thus prepared four places whereon ye now may rest, 390 

With our good Procurator your Maunday well to do, 

Sithen, your Resurrection on that great fish, also, 

And here with us full eight weeks, till Whitsuntide, to pass, 

And in the Isle of Abbey Christmas to Candlemas. 

But on the sea of Ocean in peril must ye wend 

These other days, in travail, till seven years shall end. 

And then the Land of Promise by God's Will shall ye see, 

And forty days within it in bliss and joy shall be. 

Thence, to the land ye came from ye shall thereafter wend, 

In ease, and without travail, and there your lives shall end." 400 

These holy men abode there, even to Trinitie, 

The old man, their provider, he fed them plenteouslie, 

And meat and drink he brought them, as he afore had done, 

Therewith, their barque he loaded, and bade them sail anon. 

These holy men, they went forth as God would send them there, 

The Grace of God was with them, so might they better fare. 

As thus one time they journeyed before a tempest's blast, 

A great Fish, and a grisley, the ship it followed fast, 

And burning foam he spued forth from out his jaws so wide, 

Each time it rose, the water, high o'er the vessel's side, 410 

E'en as a house he wallowed, pursuing them so fast, 

So fierce, I trow, his threatening, the monks were sore aghast. 

They cried upon Saint Brandan, and on Our Lord also, 

So swift he did pursue them well nigh he came thereto, 

Well nigh did he o'ertake them, their lives for lost they hold, 

When, swimming from the West-ward, a great Fish they behold, 

This evil fish it met with, and smote upon it fast 

Till the foul back was cloven in three parts at the last. 

Then the same way he came from, thither he turned again, 



66 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

The monks gave thanks to Jesu, they of His aid were fain! 430 

Long time these good men wandered upon the Ocean wide, 
Till they were sore a-hungered, no meat had they that tide. 
Then came a small bird flying, a great bough with him brought 
Laden with ripe grapes, ruddy, their ship he straightway sought. 
Thereon for days full fourteen, they lived, and lacked for naught. 
Then, when these grapes were finished, hunger, it vexed them sore, 
An isle they saw beside them, therein of meat a store, 
Full of fair trees that island, laden each bough they found 
E'en with those grapes I spake of, they trailed upon the ground. 
From ship he went, Saint Brandan, the grapes, he plucked them fast, 430 
Aboard for food he bare them, for forty days they last. 
Soon came a Gryphon flying, pursued them on their way, 
And in their ship assailed them, and fain he would them slay; 
In dole these monks, they cried out, they deemed their life was o'er 
They saw that small bird flying toward them as before 
With whom they oft had spoken, in the Bird's Paradise, 
Whenas Saint Brandan saw him the sight rejoiced his eyes; 
This small bird smote the gryphon, and aimed his blow so high, 
That with the first blow only he smote out either eye. 

That evil beast, he slew it, dead in the sea it fell, 440 

For none may harm the creature to whom God wisheth well ! 
These monks on sea they wandered, and sailed now here, now there, 
In one of these four places at each high Feast they were. 
And one Feast of Saint Peter they joyful spake with tongue, 
In honour of Saint Peter on sea they merry sung. 
And in that place, it chanced then, so clear the sea they found 
On either side about them they saw e'en to the ground, 
They deemed the ground on each side with fish was all on heap 
And all so still they lay there, as they had been asleep. 
The monks beseech Saint Brandan from loud speech to refrain 450 

Lest that the fish, awakened, should break the ship in twain. 
"Why fear ye?" quoth Saint Brandan. "Whereof are ye in dread? 
The Master of the Fishes, on him ye were well sped, 
Fire on his back ye kindled, and come there year by year." 
Then, louder than aforetime, his song rang sweet and clear, 
They started up, the fishes, as wakened from their sleep, 
About the ship came thronging, as it were on an heap, 
Thick on each side they floated, no water might ye see, 
Beset the ship all round about, from water were they free. 
Around the barque lay thickly, and did it close pursue 46^ 

Until his Mass Saint Brandan, had sung it fair and true; 
Each on its way departed e'en as the Mass did end 
Yea, man may see great wonders who wide in world doth wend ! 
The wind, it was both strong and stiff, and drave their ship so fast, 
While seven nights they sailed did that clear water last, 
So that, as clear as it were land, they saw beneath the wave, 



SAINT BRANDAN 67 



These good monks, much they wondered, and thanks to God they gave. 

With that there came a South wind, and Northward fast they drew, 

And long that wind was with them, for full eight days it blew; 

Far, in the North, they saw it, a dismal land and dark, 470 

It smoked as doth a smithy, thitherward drave their barque. 

With that, they heard a blowing of many bellows there, 

And beating great, and noise enow, e'en as it thunder were. 

Sore vexed was then Saint Brandan, and crossed himself full fast, 

With that came forth a wicked wight, full swiftly at the last, 

All black was he, and burning, he looked upon the men, 

Anon, he turned him back again, the monks were 'frighted then; 

That evil wight gave forth a cry, that men might hear him wide, 

Then of his like came many more, they thronged on either side, 

With tongs, and eke with hammers, and all afire each one, 480 

And swiftly to the water's edge, after the ship they run. 

Then, since they might not come anigh, they 'gan to yell full fast, 

Their hammers all a-burning, after the monks they cast, 

That naught but flame about them, those men may hear or see, 

The sea all round was burning, as tho' afire it be! 

Their casts came each on other, some missiles threw on high, 

Thus threw they all around the ship, yet never came they nigh. 

At last aback they turn them, since they might profit naught, 

And all the land they dwelt in, it was afire, they thought; 

And all the sea around it, it burned and smoked full fast, 4pc 

The smoke was thick, and stinking, and long time did it last, 

Altho' that smoke was some part flame When they could see no more, 

Yet still they heard their yelling, the thieves, they wept full sore. 

"What think ye?" quoth Saint Brandan: "Was this a merry pass? 
No more we'll come anigh there, one end of Hell it was, 
The fiends, they deemed they had here, a good catch, so I wot, 
But praised be Sweet Jesu, they drew a blank for lot!" 
But still the South wind lasted, and still it drave them forth, 
Until a hole they saw there, afar, toward the North, 

Of glowing smoke, and burning, and strong the stench withal, 500 

The lowe thereof, it reached on high, as tho' it were a wall; 
If in the other place was much, there was, I trow, much more! 
One of the monks he then began to weep and wail full sore 
For that his time, it now was come, nor might it be delayed, 
Straightway he leapt from out the ship, amid the sea 'gan wade, 
Ran fast upon the water, toward that fire drew near, 
With dismal yells and doleful, great dole it was to hear: 

"Alas!" he cried, "my wretched life, for now I see mine end, 
In joy have I been with ye, but back I may not wend, 
Accurst be she who bare me, the hour that I was born, ice 

The father who begat me, for now am I forlorn!" 
The fiends they came toward him, they held that wretch full fast, 
And strongly did they bind him, and 'mid the furnace cast; 



68 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

'T was sooth he said, Saint Brandan, when that he forth would wend 
That Grace should surely fail him, his sinful life to mend. 
So fast it burned the mountain, that naught of it they know, 
For that they still were distant, naught but the fiery glow. 
The wind, to North it turned then, Southward it drave them fast, 
On each side did it strongly blow till seven nights were past. 
So long they sailed Southward until at last they see sac 

A rugged rock in Ocean, washed over by the sea; 
By water oft-times covered, and oft-times was it bare, 
And as they drew anigh it they of a ghost were 'ware. 
They saw, on that rock seated, when the wave backward drew, 
A wretched ghost all naked, and sore mis-ease he knew; 
A cloth was spread above him, with two clasps, made full fast 
Beneath his chin at one end, the wind it wide did cast, 
That ever when the water withdrew, the cloth from high 
Beat downward as the wind blew, and smote him in the eye. 
The waves, they beat him also, before, and eke behind, sac 

I trow a ghost more wretched a man might hardly find. 
Then, in God's Name Saint Brandan conjured him, that he tell 
His name, and his misdoing, and why this doom befell? 
He quoth: "My name is Judas, a doleful ghost am I, 
Who sold Our Lord for silver, with Him on earth was I, 
But this is not my dwelling, Our Lord doth me this Grace, 
Somewhat to ease my suffering He sets me in this place; 
'T is not for good I did erst, but of His Mercy's store, 
For never pain I suffer but I were worthy more! 

For in that Hell that burneth, there, where ye saw it aye, S4c 

Therein have I my portion, to burn by night and day, 
And there was I but lately when this, your brother, came, 
And there was led to torment, and doom of endless flame. 
And therefore Hell was joyful, and burned with such a glow, 
For that he was come thither, it is their custom so 
When any soul, it cometh at first within their thrall, 
But I, thro' God's great Mercy from out their clutches fall; 
Here am I every Sunday, from Saturday at eve 
To Evensong on Sunday, and here they must me leave. 
And at Midwinter also, till Twelfth Day, I may know ss< 

This ease, from dawn of Easter to Whitsunday, also. 
And on Our Lady's Feast days, so full of Grace He is, 
At other times my portion is cast in Hell, I wis, 
With Pilate, and Herodias, Annas, and Caiaphas, 
Now may the hour be cursed that born on earth I was! 
For love of God I pray ye, now deal ye on this wise, 
This night abide ye near me till that the sun shall rise, 
And from the fiends protect me, who soon will come for me!" 
"By God's Grace." quoth Saint Brandan, "thy shield we sure shall be, 
But say, what may that cloth be, that hangeth o'er thee there?" 56c 



SAINT BRANDAN 69 



"The while that I on earth was, and Our Lord's silver bare, 
This cloth I gave a leper, and yet mine own 't was naught, 
With pence of this my Master, and comrades, was it bought. 
Since for God's Love I gave it, from me it is not ta'en, 
The least man doeth for Him shall be repaid again. 
Yet since the cost was others', so have I understood, 
Altho' it hangs before me, it doth more harm than good, 
For in mine eyes it beateth, and doth them hurt, I wis 
To give at cost of others man may be warned by this, 

As many a rich man doeth, who oft with wrong doth take 570 

Their goods from many a poor man, and alms thereof doth make. 
That for God's Love they do it, it shall not be forgot, 
Yet to their pain be turned, as they shall surely wot. 
These clasps, also:" quoth Judas, "that o'er my head ye see, 
To two priests did I give them, and therefore here they be, 
Each man shall find that surely which he hath done for love 
The stone that here I sit on, lifted the waves above, 
Once on a road I found it, where it was useless all, 
Into a ditch I cast it, lest men should o'er it fall. 

But few have been the good deeds whereof I now may tell, 580 

The smallest one is garnered, either in Heaven or Hell!" 
Now, since 't was eve of Sunday, the fiends came on the blast, 
That ghost, to Hell to lead it, they howled and yelled full fast; 

"Go hence," they said, "thou good man, here may'st thou nothing speed, 
But let us take our comrade, to Hell we will him lead, 
We dare not face our Master ere that we him have brought, 
'T is time thou turned'st from him, thou shalt us hinder naught." 

"Ye shall not," quoth Saint Brandan, "here do your Master's will, 
Our Lord Christ doth forbid it, Who is more powerful still." 
The fiends they quoth: "How dar'st thou before him name that Name? SQC 
Betrayed he did, and sold Him, to death with mickle shame." 
Saint Brandan quoth: "In His Name I bid ye, as I may, 
To lay no hand upon him ere dawns to-morrow's day." 

. Rueful, the fiends they yelled then, and homeward 'gan to flee, 
Judas, he sadly thanked him, and dole it was to see. 
The morrow, with the daylight, the fiends they thither hied, 
With grisley yell, and weeping, full fast began to chide: 

"Away," they said, "thou good man, accursed be the stound, 
That thou drew nigh unto us, and that we thee here found, 
Our Master, he hath plagued us right bitterly this night 600 

With strong pains, since we brought not, with us this sorry wight, 
But for these coming six days we '11 double all his woe, 
And so will we avenge us, to his own count 'twill go!" 
Sore quaked that ghost so wretched, *t were dole to see, or tell, 
The fiends, with them they took him, and led him into Hell. 
Saint Brandan there forbade them, in this, Our Dear Lord's, Name, 
That for this night of respite they do him greater shame. 



70 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

Then with his monks, Saint Brandan, he put forth on the sea, 
And by Our Lord's Grace journeyed Southward for days full three, 
The fourth day, to the Southward they saw an isle rise high, 610 

And when Saint Brandan saw it, full sorely did he sigh; 

"I trow that Paul, the Hermit, is in that isle I see, 
For forty years he dwells here, and never meat hath he." 
Whenas they reached the island ashore they went, each one, 
That aged man, the Hermit, toward them came anon, 
Down to his feet flowed thickly the hair of beard and head, 
Hidden was all his body, that naught was bare that stead ; 
Naught else had he for raiment, his limbs for age were hoar 
Saint Brandan he beheld him, and there he wept full sore: 

"Now living as an angel, a mortal man I see!" 620 

"Be still," then quoth the Hermit, "for God doth well by thee, 
And shows, as to none other what these, His Secrets, be ! 
A monk by his own labour, and toil, I trow, doth live, 
But thou, by God's Grace only, what He to thee doth give! 
In th* Abbey of Saint Patrick a monk was I, I wis, 
And of his church a warden, where Purgatory is; 
One day a man came to me, I asked who he might be? 
He quoth, *I am thine Abbot, have thou no fear of me!' 

'No man save holy Patrick mine Abbot is,' I said; 

'I am that man' he answered, 'be not for that afraid, $30 

To-morrow, with the daylight,' quoth he 'to sea must wend, 
There doth a ship await thee, that God to thee will send, 
And in that ship shalt set forth, upon the sea so wide, 
It to the place will lead thee, wherein thou shalt abide.' 
Early next morn I rose up, to do his will was bound, 
And to the sea-shore coming, full soon the ship I found. 
I bade that ship sail with me, and straight we forth did wend, 
In seven days to this island, Our Lord, He did me send. 
Whenas from ship I landed, then, guided by God's Grace, 
The way, aright I found it, that led me to this place. 640 

Sick, and alone, I came here, and comfort had I none 
On his hind feet an Otter, he came to me anon, 
Betwixt his fore-feet brought me fire-iron, and flint, I trow, 
Wherewith a fire to kindle, and good fish, too, enow. 
He went his way, the Otter, and fire I made me there, 
And cooked me fish, in God's Name, I had for three days fare. 
And ever since, the third day, that Otter comes to me, 
And brings me meat sufficient to last for days full three. 
From out this hard rock, water springs at Our Lord's command, 
Each day enough there floweth to drink and wash my hands. 650 

But here, for thirty winters, I such a life had led 
Ere first the well, it sprang forth, as ye see at this stead. 
By this well have I lived now, a forty years, full told, 
And ere that I came hither, full fifty was I old; 



SAINT BRANDAN 71 



So that of years, one hundred, and twenty more, to-day 
May to my lot be counted, God's Will be done, alway ! 
Here I my death await now, when God the day shall send, 
And bid me come unto Him, and from this world to wend. 
But take now of this water, for thou hast need anon, 
And wend forth on the Ocean, thy journey is not done, 660 

For on the sea thou further for forty days must fare, 
Thine Easter Mass be holden, as it was holden ere; 
Thence, to the Land of Promise, believe me, shalt thou go, 
For forty days abiding, its pleasures shalt thou know, 
And, leaving it, shalt journey to thine own land again " 
With dole enow, those good men departed them in twain. 
These holy men, they sailed forth, a tempest bare them fast, 
For forty days to Southward the while that Lent did last, 
To their good procurator, on Easter Eve, them bore 
And joy enow he made them as he had done afore. 670 

To the great Fish he led them, e'en as the evening fell, 
All night, till Easter morning, they on its back did dwell. 
There did they sing their Mattins, and Easter Mass anon 
The Fish began to move there, e'en as the Mass was done; 
Bearing the monks forth with him, he swam forth very fast, 
Cleaving the sea so strongly, the monks were sore aghast; 
I trow it was a marvel, an one were there to see, 
So great a beast forth faring, as 't were a great countrie! 
Straight to the Paradise of Birds he bare the monks that day, 
There whole and sound he left them, and went upon his way. 680 

These monks, when they came thither, so glad and blithe they were 
Till Trinity was over, the while they stayed them there, 
For their good procurator brought meat and drink enow, 
As he had done aforetime, their ship he stored, I trow, 
And also went forth with them where God should think to send 
Toward the east they sailed, and forty days they wend, 
And when those days were finished, it 'gan to hail full fast, 
And a thick mist enwrapped them, for long time did it last; 
"Rejoice!" he quoth, their guide, then, "and make ye right good cheer, 
This is the Land of Promise, I trow that we be here!" 6go 

When from this mist they came forth, and well might look around, 
The land, it was the fairest that ever yet was found, 
So clear it was, and sun-lit, it wrought them joy enow, 
The trees with fruit were laden, that clustered on each bough; 
With trees 't was set full thickly, and each was very fair, 
And with ripe apples laden, as harvest-time it were. 
And forty days they dwelt there, and did about it wend, 
Nor of the land might find there, on either side, the end. 
And evermore 't was daylight, and nevermore 't was night, 
Nowhere where they had journeyed had they found so much light. 700 
The air was ever tempered, nor hot, nor yet too cold, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The joy they found within it, it may by none be told. 
They came to a fair water, nor might they further go, 
But all the land beyond it for very fair they know. 
A young man came toward them, goodly, and fair to see, 
'T was God Who sent him to them, fairer no man might be, 
Each one by name he welcomed, and kissed them one by one, 
Did honour to Saint Brandan, and took his hand anon. 
< Lo! here," he said, "the country, that ye have sought so widv 
But yet Our Lord, He wills not that ye for long abide; 7ia 

Now ye have seen His Secrets, ye shall again to sea, 
But load your barque with fruit now, since here ye may not be." 
Then courteous, to Saint Brandan that young man spake: "Fair Friend, 
To thine own land returning thou on thy way must wend, 
This world, thou soon must leave it, thy life is near its end. 
The water that thou seest, divides this land in two, 
This half, right fair ye deem it, beyond, 't is even so 
Ye may not pass the bounds now, for that it is not right; 
This fruit aye ripe abideth, this land is ever light, 

And when, Our Lord, He willeth a man to Him to draw, 720 

So that he well doth know Him, and understand His law, 
That land to him He showeth, and when the world shall end, 
The souls that be His chosen, they all shall thither wend." 
Saint Brandan and his monks there, of this fruit plucked full fast, 
And precious stones took also, into their ship did cast; 
Fair leave they then have taken, and when they this had done, 
With weeping, grief, and dole enow, they did depart, anon, 
And wended homeward on the sea, e'en as Our Lord did send, 
And sooner came they home again than they did outward wend. 
Their brethren, when they saw them, joyful were they indeed, 730 

Saint Brandan, he, that holy man, full soon to death must speed, 
For never after this same time, for this world cared he aught, 
But as one of another world, he fared as aye in thought. 
And soon he died in Ireland, after that self-same stound, 
And sithen, many a miracle for his sake hath been found. 
A right fair Abbey men have reared, where he was buried low 
God bring us to that self-same joy that this, His saint, doth know ! 



Amen. 



SAINT CECILIA 



CHRIST JESUS, pitiful is He, 

And to mankind of mercy free, 

And showeth forth His power and might 

Oft-times, as men may see with sight, 

So that we may his marvels ken 

Alike in women as in men. 



But most in maidens we behold 
Who to His bidding faithful hold, 
As an ensample we may see 
In Saint Cecilia, maiden free. xt 

That maid was born of gentle blood, 
Holy was she, and mild of mood, 



SAINT CECILIA 



73 



And in her heart full well she knew 
The lore of her dear Lord, Jesu, 
And unto Him did ever pray 
And ceased not, by night or day. 
Urban, the Pope, hath her baptized 
In the true Faith of Jesus Christ. 
Unto her friends right dear was she, 
And all who should her comrades be 20 
Because she was both fair and good, 
And to all folk of gracious mood. 
Her friends would wed her with a man 
Who hight by name, Valerian, 
A young man he, and fair of face, 
And sprung from a right noble race, 
Heathen he was, and unbaptized, 
And knew naught of the law of Christ, 
Nor other durst Cecilia do 29 

Save what her friends, they told her to. 
The day was set, they should be wed, 
In cloth of gold fair robed that stead, 
Therein Cecilia took no pride, 
A cere-cloth 'neath it did she hide; 
To outward show, rich raiment ware 
Such as her friends for her prepare. 
Thus on this wise, when they were wed, 
Full many folk, their friends, they fed. 
Whenas the bridal came to end, 39 

And each man on his way would wend, 
Cecilia to her chamber went, 
Calling on God with good intent, 
A sound they heard, that was full near, 
Of Angels' song, and organs clear, 
Music she made, their song among, 
And in this wise Cecilia sung: 
"Fiat cor meum, et corpus meum immacu- 

latum, ut non confundar." 
And this, I trow, the words shall mean: 
"My heart, O Lord ! do thou make clean, 
My body keep unstained within, 50 
So that I be not lost thro' sin." 
When in this wise she 'd made her prayer 
To God, with good intent, and fair, 
She with her husband went to bed 
As the law would, since she was wed, 
But in her heart she purposed right 
To keep her clean, if so she might. 
So by her lord when she was laid 



In this wise unto him she said: 
"Sir, if it so thy will might be 60 

A counsel would I give to thee, 
That must be said now, with thy leave, 
And, good my lord, in no wise grieve. 
An Angel, Sir, of heaven bright, 
My guardian is, by day and night, 
A servant unto God is he 
I love him well, so doth he me, 
And if he should be 'ware, this while, 
That thou my body should'st defile, 
Or carnal love should'st offer me, 70 
For this will he be wroth with thee, 
And vengeance will upon thee take 
That thou all solace shalt forsake, 
And lose of this, thy youth, the flower, 
'T were well my lord, to dread his 

power! " 

Valerian, he waxed wroth that stead, 
Nor durst her touch, for very dread, 
Her words he deemed but sorry pay, 
And in this wise he spake alway: 
"Woman, if thou wilt that I trow 80 
The words that thou did'st speak but 

now, 

Betwixt us twain here let me see 
Him, who thou say'st so loveth thee, 
So that I of myself may see 
Whether in truth he angel be, 
And servant unto Heaven's will. 
If so, I'll do thy bidding still; 
But if thou dost another love 
Thy bane that bargain sure shall prove, 
Nor he, nor thou, shall 'scape my wrath, 
But I myself will slay ye both, <>x 

With mickle shame thy deed repay " 
An answer soft she gave alway, 
"Good Sir," she said, "ne'er grieved be 
If thou may'st not God's angel see, 
For ne'er to man such vision fell 
Save he believe, as I shall tell, 
In God Who made all things below 
Himself did ne'er beginning know, 
But is, and evermore shall be, xoo 

The most of might, of mercy free 
And in His dear Son, Jesus Christ 
Wilt thou believe, and be baptized, 



74- 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Then say I, Sir, that thou shalt see 

The angel, that I promise thee! 

Now Sir, if thou wilt this essay 

To Bishop Urban take thy way, 

To tell him all these words be bold, 

Recite the tale as I have told; 

Tell him thy life from end to end, no 

What is amiss shall he amend. 

Then when thy troth is plighted true 

He '11 clothe thee all in clothing new, 

Robes white and clean he '11 give to 

thee 

Then shalt thou in my chamber see 
That angel bright from heaven, I trow, 
Who loves me, as I said but now, 
And from him shalt thou surely have 
Whatever thing thy heart doth crave." 
Then thro' the Spirit's Grace, he rose, 
And in all haste he swiftly goes 121 

To the good Bishop Urban there, 
And doth his tale straightway declare, 
How with him, and his wife it stood 
When Urban this had understood, 
He raised his hands to heaven's height, 
And called on God, the most in might: 
"Lord Jesu Christ, loved may'st Thou be 
Who sowest seeds of chastity, 
And counsel chaste to men dost give 130 
Whereby their souls may ever live. 
Take Thou the fruit now, as Thine own, 
Of seed once in Cecilia sown, 
It waxeth now, and multiplies, 
As man may see in this same wise; 
A spouse she took, with her to dwell, 
Who, as a lion, was fierce and fell, 
A rebel both by day and night 
Who aye against Thy law did fight. 
Thy servant now, she maketh him 140 
Meek as a lamb, in soul and limb, 
For were he not thus waxen meek 
Salving of me he would not seek, 
And since he hath salvation sought 
Lord, save him, and deny him naught!" 
Then, when his prayer had come to end, 
Before them both they saw descend 
An old man, clad in linen clean 
And white, who stood the twain between, 



Who in his hand a book did hold 150 
All written o'er with letters gold. 
Valerian when he saw that sight 
Was vanquished by excess of light; 
For dread he fell adown that stead 
And lay as still as he were dead. 
The old man then his right hand took 
And raised him up, and bade him look 
What writing this same book should 

bear 

Which he had brought unto him there. 
Valerian did the letters trace, 160 

And thus 't was written in that place: 
"Umts Dominus, Una Fides, Unum 

Baptisma." 

And this is what the letters mean, 
"One God is over all, I ween; 
All folk shall to one Faith belong; 
One Baptism cleanse all souls from 

wrong." 

W r henas Valerian this had read 
The old man asked him, in that stead, 
"What now thou readest, trow'st thou 

well, i6g 

Or doubt within thy soul doth dwell?" 
Then answered him Valerian: 
"What more befitteth mortal man 
Thro' book, or word of mouth indeed, 
Then to believe a Heavenly rede? 
And with my mind I now believe, 
All that is written here receive." 
Whenas Valerian this did say 
The old man, he hath gone his way, 
But how, they might no way devise 
Urban, Valerian doth baptize, 180 

Bade him believe, with conscience clean, 
All things that he had heard and seen. 
Valerian promised with good will 
That he his bidding would fulfil; 
Then was he bade go, at that same, 
Unto his wife, from whom he came, 
And comfort her, as best he might 
Thus, to his wife he went forthright, 
Into Cecilia's chamber went 
To thank her that she had him sent 190 
To get salvation from his sin 
That he a new life might begin. 



SAINT CECILIA 



75 



Kneeling in prayer his wife he found, 
And soon before her, at that stound, 
He saw God's angel, shining bright, 
That all the house it beamed with light, 
And in his hand two crowns he brought 
So fair, as ne'er on earth were wrought, 
Gave one unto Cecilia, then 
The other to Valerian, 200 

And swift he set them on their head, 
And spake unto them in that stead : 
"Keep these, your crowns, ye twain be 
tween, 

With body chaste, heart pure and clean, 
From Paradise I have them brought, 
For in that same place were they 

wrought, 

My Lord for you did them prepare." 
Then to Valerian spake he there: 
" Since that thou here consent dost give 
By laws of Chastity to live, 210 

Jesus, my Lord, of mercy free, 
A message hath He sent by me, 
Whate'er from Him dost crave as boon, 
Ask, and the same shalt have right soon, 
What thing thou wilt yet understood 
That it shall be for thy soul's good." 
Valerian then this boon besought: 
"Of other thing now reck I naught, 
This, above all, were sweet to me, 
My brother dear from bale to free, 220 
That He should help, my Lord Jesus, 
My brother, that Tyburcius, 
Shall this, His law, henceforth obey, 
And be baptized, as I to-day, 
That we may both uprightly live, 
Our spirits wholly to Him give." 
Whenas the angel this had heard 
He to Valerian spake this word, 
And said: "Thy will, it shall be done, 
For that thou askest as thy boon 230 
That which thy Lord likes better now 
To give, than thou to ask, I trow! 
For as my Lord, He hath won thee 
Thro' this, thy wife, His servant free, 
So, through thy prayer, He now shall 

win 
Thy brother from the bands of sin, 



And thou and he together come 
Unto the meed of Martyrdom." 
When this was said, he went, I wis, 
In glowing light, to heaven's bliss. 240 
And then Valerian and his wife, 
In holy wise they led their life; 
And after this, as God deemed well, 
Tyburcius, of whom I tell, 
Valerian's brother, as I say, 
He came to him upon a day, 
To know how fared his brother dear, 
He of his holiness did hear. 
And as he entered this, their house, 
He kissed his brother, and his spouse, 250 
He kissed Cecilia, and spake thus: 
"A perfume sweet there is 'midst us, 
As rose and lily 't were, I trow, 
I ne'er have smelt the like ere now, 
Nor scent so sweet was known of man." 
Then answered him Valerian: 
"Brother, since God doth think it meet 
To send to thee this perfume sweet, 
Herewith I boldly promise thee 
If thou in Faith wilt steadfast be, 260 
And Our Lord Jesus Christ adore, 
As we who turn us to His lore, 
Then shall be granted unto thee 
God's angel both to hear and see, 
And save thy soul, as now I say." 
Tyburcius answered him straightway: 
"If so I might God's angel see 
No truer token might there be, 
And this, His law, as guide I 'Id take." 
Cecilia heard that thus he spake, 270 
And fell adown, and kissed his feet, 
Answering him with words so sweet: 
"Now will I thee, where'er I wend, 
Own as my cousin, and my friend, 
For as the love of Jesu free 
Did make thy brother yield to me, 
So shall He turn thee, that thou take 
His might, idolatry forsake. 
And Sir, since thou be ready now 27? 
To plight thy troth, His truth to trow, 
Now shalt thou with thy brother go 
Unto the Bishop whom we know, 
And all his bidding shalt obey." 



7 6 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



As she deemed right they did straight 
way; 

The Bishop he baptized him then, 
And he became a holy man, 
So that God granted him such grace 
That he might see, in every place, 
At will, God's angels come and go, 
And all his pleasure to them show, 290 
And aye from them might ask, and have, 
What thing soe'er his soul might crave. 
These brothers then, of whom ye hear, 
Cecilia, whom they both held dear, 
The three, in love they lived aright, 
And honoured God with all their might. 
Tyburcius and Valerian there, 
Since now the twain baptized were, 
To serve their God they held them 

bound, 

In field and town they preached that 
stound, 300 

Against the idols, less and more, 
In which they put their trust of yore. 
It were too long their life to tell, 
The marvels all that to them fell, 
This treatise, it shall show withal 
What things did at their death befall, 
What wonders God, for them, He 

wrought, 

When they to martyrdom were brought. 
There lived a prince in that same land 
Wherein they preached, I understand, 
Whose faith was in idolatry, 311 

And bare to them great enmity; 
He said, with dole the twain he 'Id slay 
Save they should change their rede 

straightway. 

He sent to fetch them at that same; 
And when they to his presence came, 
The law of Christ they preached that 

day 

So that the prince had naught to say, 
Nor had he power to do them ill, 319 
But gave them leave to work their will. 
A Christian he himself became, 
And all his mesnie at that same, 
And all those men were turned also 
Who to the brethren harm would do. 



Soon as Cecilia heard them tell 
Of this same chance, how it befell, 
Then unto them she soon hath sought, 
And thither priests with her she brought, 
Who there baptized them every one, 
That they should keep Christ's law alone. 
When this same prince, Maximius, 331 
And all his men baptized were thus, 
Cecilia words of comfort spake, 
And bade them every way forsake 
The idols they believed ere now, 
And unto Jesu humbly bow; 
She bade them leave the works of night, 
In heavenly armour clothe them bright, 
She said: " Your course ye have fulfilled 
Full worthily, as Christ hath willed, 340 
Victors in a great fight are ye, 
And therefore shall ye crowned be 
With crowns which Christ Himself shall 

give, 

In bliss eternal aye shall live; 
Therefore be not dismayed to take 
Your martyrdom, for Christ's dear 

sake.'* 
They promised they would do Christ's 

Will, 

And all His bidding would fulfil. 
Almachius then, this cursed king, 
Whenas he heard of this same thing 350 
Bade them to sacrifice each one, 
Or else they should to death be done. 
And since they would not work his will 
With bitter pains he plagued them still, 
And at the last, without delay, 
Bade them smite off their heads that 

day. 

Thus he their bodies did torment, 
But swift their souls to heaven they 

went, 

And many a man must see, I wis, 
How angels led them into bliss, 36* 

And many folk, for that same sight 
Turned Christian, and believed aright. 
Maximius, that convert good, 
He spake, as 'midst them all he stood, 
He said: "I see their souls take flight 
With angels, into Heaven's height, 



SAINT CECILIA 



77 



Borne up with wings, lest that they fall, 
And like clean virgins are they all!" 
Almachius, the king, heard tell, 
Of all this marvel, how it fell, 370 

And what Maximius had said, 
And how his folk were sore afraid, 
So with the morn he bade, the king, 
Maximius, 'fore him to bring, 
And torments sore on him he wrought 
Until he too, to death was brought, 
His soul, it went to heaven straightway 
With solace more than I may say. 
Almachius, that wicked king, 
When as that he had done this thing, 380 
And saw thus that Valerian, 
And other saints were slain, each man, 
Straightway bethought him, in his mood, 
To take unto him all their good; 
Sent to Valerian's house withal, 
Since he was richest of them all, 
And of Cecilia his wife, 
They, with loud voice, and mickle strife, 
Command she bring forth all the store 
That was her husband's less and more; 
"As traitor done to death is he, 391 
And all his goods the king's shall be." 
Cecilia did great mourning make, 
And in such wise to them she spake 
That all those men were turned to Christ, 
And in His Name they were baptized, 
Their idols all they there did leave, 
And did on Jesus Christ believe, 
As wise men worshipped Him that tide, 
And in His service lived and died. 400 
Whenas Almachius heard of this 
For wrath nigh mad was he, I wis, 
He bade Cecilia should be sought, 
And in all haste before him brought, 
And all her house commanded he 
That burned with fire it straight should 

be. 

But first he asked in eager mood, 
Where now was all Valerian's good? 
She said, his riches did she take 
To feed the poor, for Jesu's sake. 410 
Then at her words so wroth waxed he 
He bade that burned they all should be, 



Her house and chattells, more and less, 
And she herself, in that same stress. 
And soon, at this, the king's desire, 
Her dwelling did they set on fire. 
And she herself in midst did stand, 
And all about was nery brand, 
But all who looked on her, I ween, 419 
Had deemed she in a bower had been, 
A garden fair, with blossoms bright, 
So stood she thro' a day and night, 
And ne'er her heart -felt prayeri did 

fail 

Whenas Almachius heard that tale, 
He bade the messengers straightway 
Smite off her head, nor make delay. 
His doomsman to Cecilia went, 
There as she stood, with good intent, 
Then unto God her prayer she made, 
And bowed her neck before the blade. 
The custom was, in that countrie, 431 
That but three strokes should smitten be, 
But when three strokes he smote that 

day 

Her neck was not cut thro* alway, 
Untouched some sinews were, and veins 
He left her thus, in bitter pains, 
The law was, as I said afore, 
He might give three strokes, and no 

more. 

And thus upon her knees she sat, 
And lived for three days after that, 440 
And maidens who with her had been 
Straightway they came to her, I ween, 
And all those days to them she spake 
Bidding them all to comfort take. 
Unto Pope Urban then she sent, 
And told unto him her intent, 
She quoth: "Sir, God hath granted me 
Here, in this world, to live days three, 
As I have prayed Him, this befell 
That I my will to thee might tell. 450 
My maidens all to thee I give 
To guard them well, the while they live, 
And teach them that they wisely work 
Now in my name build thou a kirk 
Where these, my maidens, aye may 

dwell, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



With will and voice, to serve God well.*' 
When this was said, with no delay 
To God her spirit passed away; 
And Urban, when she thus was dead, 
He buried her in that same stead, 460 



And made a kirk at great expense, 
For worship great, and reverence 
Of Jesus Christ, Our Saviour true, 
To whom be honour ever due. 

Amen, Amen, 



PLACIDAS (SAINT EUSTACE) 



ALL who love God's holy lore, 
Old and young, and less and more, 
Hearken now this stound, 
Of a knight of heathen-ness, 
Who had much of earthly bliss, 
Many a golden pound. 

And this knight, named Placidas, 
With the Emperor Trajan was, 
A wise man of rede; 
With the rich that knight was good, 
With the poor, of generous mood, 
Righteous in his deed. 

He of hunting knew enow, 

In thick wood, 'neath forest bough, 

On wild field and wold; 

Thus, while hunting on a day 

He a hart found, as he lay, 

Right fair to behold. 

Fairest of his kind was he, 
There in wood, 'neath linden tree, 
Great was he and tall; 
Many a hart and hind also, 
Great and small, did with him go, 
Stateliest he of all. 

That great hart, he fled away; 
Placidas, by night and day, 
Followed him alone, 
To another monarch's land, 
There the hart did, waiting, stand 
On a rock of stone. 

High his horns he holdeth now. 
There, beneath the woodland bough, 



And spake: "Placidas, 
Art a knight who huntest free, 
Dost me chase, I fly from thee, 
Ride a gentler pace! 

" If betwixt my horns wilt look 

Fairest sight aye writ in book 

Thou forthright shalt see, 

'T is the Cross of Christ I wis, 40 

That shall bring thee unto bliss, 

Christ, He hunteth thee!" 

Of the light of Heaven, a gleam, 
Brighter than the sunshine's beam, 
O'er that hart was poured, 
Spake that hart with tongue forthright 
To that good and gentle knight, 
Trow me, 't was Our Lord. 

"Placidas, I tell thee now 

Changed shall be thy name, and thou so 

Shalt a Christian be; 

Jesus Christ, of Heaven, He is 

Who with thee doth speak, I wis, 

Tarry not from Me. 

" Take thy children, and thy wife, 

Get thee forth withouten strife, 

Swift baptized be; 

And for ye I '11 henceforth care, 

Thou and she must sorrow bear 

All for love of Me." 60 

Bairns and wife he took straightway, 

Gat him forth without delay 

To the font of stone, 

There to be baptized was fain, 



PLACIDAS (SAINT EUSTACE) 



79 



With his wife and children twain, 
He was not alone. 

Placidas, of old he hight, 

Eustace, they baptized that knight 

" So I heard Christ say!" 

To the woodland forth they fare, 70 

All about they wander there, 

Thank Our Lord alway. 

As the knight, with comrades three, 

Sat beneath a linden tree, 

Fain to rest that stound, 

There, beneath the greenwood bough 

Tidings good he heard, I trow, 

Brought from heaven to ground. 

Spake to him an Angel bright: 79 

"Hearken, Eustace, God's own knight, 
Blessed may'st thou be, 
These thy children and thy wife, 
They shall each one win to life, 
Endless bliss shall see. 

" Tho' from land and folk did'st fly, 

Hall and bower, and station high, 

For that, sorrow not, 

Since to Christendom hast ta'en 

Oft the Fiend will seek full fain 

This thy harm, I wot." 99 

Quoth the Angel: "Wend God's way, 

W'atch thy soul by night and day, 

And my rede believe, 

One and all shall suffer thus, 

For the love of Christ Jesus 

Martyrdom receive." 

To his house I trow, anon, 

Swift as may be, hath he gone, 

Wife and bairns also, 

All his sheep to death were bitten, 100 

And his steed by thunder smitten, 

He afoot must go. 

All he loved, they went him fro* 
Save his wife and children two, 



They from land must wend; 
Ere had dawned the light of day 
Silent, went they on their way 
By a woodland end. 

Thus toward Egypt did they fare, 

Sorely were they bowed with care, no 

Love and sorrow bore 

For the Christ Who all things made, 

Who on earth was lowly laid, 

With spear smitten sore. 

To the sea-shore have they gone, 

And a ship they found anon, 

Would the water brave; 

He aboard the ship would go 

With his wife and children two. 

Dark and stern the wave; no 

Saw the shipman that good knight 
And his gentle lady bright, 
Saw her fair and sheen, 
Straightway saith unto him there: 
"Whence had'st thou this woman 

fair? 
She '11 be mine, I ween!" 

From the ship the knight he threw, 
And with him his children two, 
Woe for that he bore; 
Loudly cried the lady there, 130 

From her lord full loath to fare, 
Wept and sorrowed sore. 

Sat the knight down on a stone, 
Saw his wife from him was gone, 
Ta'en from him with wrong, 
Quoth: "Alas that I was born!" 
Deemed himself well nigh forlorn, 
He had lived too long! 

On the ship his eyes he cast, 139 

When from out his sight 't was passed, 

Saw his children two, 

Quoth: "Methinks my heart will bleed, 

Motherless, how may I feed 

Ye? full sore my woe!" 



8o 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



So long fared he at that same 

That he to a water came 

Must thereover fare; 

Wade he must, the stream was cold, 

Wild, on either side, the wold, 

Greater was his care. 150 

Thus one child he takes on arm, 
Wot ye well, it took no harm, 
Bare it to the strand; 
To himself in grateful mood 
Saith: "God's help is ever good, 
That I understand! 

"Sit thee still, my son so dear, 

I will fetch thy brother here, 

Give thee meed this stead; 

I will come to thee alway 160 

E'en as quickly as I may, 

Be thou not in dread." 

He to wade the stream was fain, 
To deep water came again, 
Saw the further side; 
How a lion fierce there came 
Seized his young son at that same 
With jaws gaping wide. 

Thus the child away with him 

Bare the lion, gaunt and grim, 170 

Nigh he swooned there! 

There was he in water deep, 

*T was no wonder he must weep, 

Had enow of care! 

When he came from out his swoon 

Looked he up, and then right soon 

Back to land turned he, 

And a wonder saw he there, 

For a wolf his child forth bare, 

Down he fell on knee. 180 

When he from his swoon uprose, 
Looking up, he forward goes, 
Nigh of wit forlorn, 
Ever thought he of Christ's Pain, 
How He died, and rose again, 
Who for us was born. 



" God of Might, my grief Thou know'st, 

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 

Here I make my moan, 

Of my wife who was so true, igo 

Fair and gracious, bright of hue 

Now am I alone! 

"Of my children twain forlorn, 
Whom wild beasts away have borne 
None with me may bide! 
To what land now shall I go? 
How long must I live in woe? 
Where my head may hide? 

"I of Job must think, I ween, 

Who in bliss long time had been, 200 

Sithen fell in care, 

Lord, I pray, for love of Thee 

Let me ne'er too sorry be, 

Howsoe'er I fare. 

"Soul, now hast thou wept thy fill, 
Weep no more, but hold thee still, 
God's Help is full nigh." 
With that came an Angel bright, 
With soft voice unto the knight 
Spake of God on high: 210 

"Be thou still and glad, Eustace, 
God in Heaven prepares thy place, 
Joyful shalt thou be; 
These thy children and thy wife 
They shall have eternal life, 
Heaven's Bliss shall see." 

So long hath he gone his way 

Saying prayers both night and day 

Till a town he found, 

Toil and travail knew anon 220 

Since his money all was gone 

This his task that stound. 

With his arrows, bow, and horn, 
Was he guardian of the corn 
Eke by day and night, 
Toll to take, and cattle mind; 
Little knew he of that kind, 
Hay ward he, and knight! 



PLACIDAS (SAINT EUSTACE) 



81 



Fifteen years abode he there 

Ere that men wist who he were, 230 

Sought had he been long; 

Those the Emperor sent to seek 

Were wise men, who well could speak, 

Knights both stern and strong. 

Thro* the corn one day came three 

Riding, men alike to see, 

There he did them meet; 

Rode those knights on horses tall, 

Mild their words and fair withal, 

They the hayward greet. 240 

Then the hayward blew his horn, 

He was warden of the corn, 

Toll he bade them yield, 

Asked them what had brought them there? 

What they sought? And why they fare 

Over that wide field? 

"Sir, three knights are we, and ride 

On a quest both far and wide 

After one we seek; 

Emperor's counsellor, I ween, 250 

Far and near he sought hath been, 

None of him can speak. 

" Of us all the wisest knight, 
Placidas, by name he hight, 
Hunting did he go, 
Never since his home hath sought, 
Ne'er were tidings of him brought, 
None his fate might know. 

"Here, methinks, he found shall be, 

We deem surely thou art he, 260 

By thy goodly cheer, 

And thy nose a scar doth show 

By the which we rightly know 

Thee for comrade dear!" 

"Nay," quoth he, "how may that be? 

How may I be mate to ye 

Who of goods have none?" 

"To the Emperor must thou fare 

And again that honour bear 

Which was thine anon." 970 



Eustace took his leave that tide, 
With his comrades doth he ride, 
To the court again; 
Joy and bliss were his that while, 
Trajan doth upon him smile 
With knight, groom, and swain. 

To his lord he told his care, 

His hard life, his scanty fare, 

Even to the end; 

Of the ventures he must meet, 8o 

Whether they were sad or sweet, 

That God did him send. 

Afterward, ere it was long, 
War brake out both fierce and strong, 
'Gainst that Emperor brave, 
Thither went full many a knight, 
Right well armed for the fight, 
Fain his realm to save. 

Thither came two knights that day, 
Very good in fight were they, 290 

Had good horse and brand; 
There was no man on the field 
Who with either spear or shield 
Durst their dints withstand. 

Thro' the day they valiant fought, 
'T was well done, so each one thought, 
To their inn they went, 
Comrades good became that tide, 
In one house would they abide 
Without ill intent. 300 

Eat together of one dish, 
Were it flesh, or were it fish, 
Mickle mirth they make; 
After meat they tales would tell, 
Of adventures that befell 
In their lives they spake. 

Then the younger of the twain 

Of his comrade asked again 

What his kin might be? 

Still he sat, and sighed full sore, 310 

Little spake, but thought the more, 

Dismal cheer made he: 



82 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"Sir, wilt keep my secret well 
If I of my welfare tell 
And my woe this tide? 
Of a rich man's race I came, 
Placidas, my father's name, 
Who had journeyed wide. 

" He, my sire, was goodly knight, 

And my mother, lady bright, 320 

Dwelling fair did own, 

Children twain they had, none other, 

I, and but one younger brother, 

Dwelt in tower of stone. 

" Taken by my sire were we, 

Mother, brother, yea, all three, 

Thro' God's Grace one day, 

To the font he hath us led, 

There were we baptized that stead, 

In God's Name alway. 330 

" Sithen, so it seemeth me, 
We fell into poverty, 
Went from out that land, 
O'er a water broad and deep 
Sailed, my mother sore did weep, 
Wailed and wrung her hands. 

" Very fair my mother, she 

In that land should fairest be 

Both of skin and hue, 

And the shipman in that day 340 

Bare her from us all away, 

Waxed our grief anew; 

" We went thro' the wilderness 
Weeping sore, in heaviness, 
To a river came, 
O'er the stream my father bare 
Me, and left my brother there 
Till again he came. 

" Came a lion fierce that tide 

Caught me in its jaws so wide, 350 

Bare me in its mouth; 

Shepherds did the beast espy, 

Scared him with their horn blasts high 

Eke by North and South. 



" Gently took they me that stead, 

Bare me softly to a bed, 

Blessed be God's Might! 

And a rich man of that land 

All I needed, free of hand 

Gave, and dubbed me knight." 360 

"Brother, hearken now to me, 
Came a wolf, and seized me, 
Forth in mouth he bare, 
Ploughmen did the same espy, 
Blew their horns both loud and high, 
Very strong they were. 

"Took me softly in that stead, 

And a lady hath me fed, 

And hath dubbed me knight, 

Palfrey gave she me, and steed, 370 

Helm and birnie, other weed, 

Sword and spear so bright." 

She, their mother, heard that tide 
In an orchard there beside, 
Wept for very bliss, 
To her bower she fain had gone 
Swiftly as she might, anon, 
Glad was she, I wis. 

Riding then Sir Eustace came 

Where his wife dwelt at that same, 380 

Fain those knights to see; 

She beheld that goodly knight, 

He, that lady fair and bright, 

Blithe of cheer was she. 

Quoth he: "Lady, tell to me 

What men in that inn may be, 

Here, in this next house?" 

"Sir," she said: "two knights there be, 

Who should be well known to thee, 

Welcome, dear, my spouse!" 300 

"Ah, my lord, art known to me 
By the scar that well I see 
On thy nose, I ween; 
Love, I must full hardly fare, 
Passed my life in mickle care, 
As may well be seen." 






OWAIN MILES 



" He who did me from thee take 
Fain would me his leman make, 
Pagan he, alway; 

In that ship there was a knight, 400 
Freed me from the shipman's might, 
Bare me safe away. 

" True love, without more delay 
To this next house go our way, 
For our sons be there, 
And with joy and mickle bliss 
Give we thanks to Christ, I wis, 
Who hath cured our care." 

Thither then the twain have gone, 

Swiftly as they might, anon, 410 

Found a welcome fair; 

Bade them sit, and drink there wine 

In gold cups, with spices fine, 

Good cheer made they there. 

Spake Sir Eustace of his care, 

His hard life, his scanty fare, 

Wept the knights for bliss, 

Never one with other spake, 

From their lips no word might break, 

Could but clasp and kiss. 420 



To the Emperor news they bare 
How with joy and bliss they fare, 
Christians were that stound; 
Then he sendeth knights anon 
For to fetch them every one, 
All whom there they found. 

Shut them all in prison strong, 
Lions and leopards fierce among, 
And beasts fierce and fell; 
Yet those beasts so strong and wild 430 
Glad of them they were, and mild, 
Would them no wise quell. 

Then, in bowls of brass that day, 
One in each, ('t is sooth I say 
Fire was made below,) 
One and all to death they burn, 
But their souls to Heaven they turn, 
And no pain they know. 

Pray we all to Saint Eustace, 

That he gain for us such grace 440 

That to heaven we wend, 

And when we its bliss have won 

With Sweet Jesu, Mary's Son, 

Dwell there, without end. 

Amen. 



OWAIN MILES 



OWAIN'S VISIT TO PARADISE 

THE fiends, with them the knight they 

bear, 

To a foul-smelling water fare, 
Such as he ne'er had seen; 
Fouler it smelt than any hound, 
And deep for many a mile its ground, 
And black as pitch, I ween. 

Sir Owain saw across it lie 

A narrow bridge, both strong and high, 

The fiends they spake also; 

" Behold, Sir Knight, before thee lies xo 

The bridge that leads to Paradise, 

Across it must thou go. 



"And after thee we stones shall throw, 
And strong winds shall upon thee 

blow, 

And work thee mickle ill; 
Scarce shalt thou go half-way, withal, 
But if midway thou chance to fall, 
Thou fallest to our will. 

"And when thou thus adown shalt 

fall 
Thou comest 'midst our comrades 

all, 20 

With hooks they shall thee speed; 
A new play teach to thee alway, 
For thou hast served us many a day, 
To Hell they shall thee lead." 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Owain beheld that bridge uplift, 
The water 'neath it, black and swift, 
And dread, it vexed him sore, 
And of one thing he took good note, 
Thick as the motes in sunbeam float, 
The fiends, they were yet more ! 



3 



High as a tower that bridge should be, 

And sharp as razor, verilie, 

Narrow it was, also, 

With that, the stream that ran there 
under, 

It gleamed as lightning, roared like 
thunder, 

That did he hold for woe! 

f 

There is no clerk may write with ink, 

And never man in heart may think, 

Nor master may attain, 

Diviner's skill may naught devise 40 

Beneath that bridge of Paradise 

To tell one half the pain. 

So the Dominical doth tell, 

There is the entrance gate of Hell, 

Saint Paul, he witness bore, 

Who from that bridge doth fall so low, 

Redemption may he never know, 

Or less, I trow, or more! 

The fiends, the knight they threaten 
there, 49 

"Across this bridge thou may'st not fare, 
How sore soe'er thy need, 
Flee thou this peril, grief, and woe, 
And to that place thou comest fro* 
Right gladly we'll thee lead." 

Sir Owain, he bethought him there 

How oft, from out the foul fiends' snare, 

God had him safely sped, 

He set his foot upon the bridge, 

Felt of the razor no sharp ridge, 

Nor aught to cause him woe. 60 

But when the fiends they saw that he 
Half-way across the bridge should be 



Loudly they cry and call : 
"Alas! that e'er he saw the light, 
For now we sure have lost this knight, 
He hath escaped our thrall!" 

Thus Owain, o'er the bridge he went, 
Gave thanks to God Omnipotent, 
And Mary, full of grace, 6g 

Who thus had deigned his way to speed, 
And, from the foul fiends' torment freed, 
Brought to a better place. 

A cloth of gold to him was brought, 
But of its coming saw he naught, 
Save God had sent that same; 
That cloth he did on him that stound, 
And whole and healed the wounds he 

found 
Wrought by the fire's fierce flame. 

Then thanked he God in Trinitie, 

And, looking further, thought to see *o 

E'en as it were a wall; 

He looked about him far and nigh, 

But never end he might espy, 

Of gold it shone withal. 

And further more he needs must see, 

A gate, none fairer might there be 

In all this world, well wrought; 

Of wood or iron there was none, 

'T was all red gold, and precious stone, 

And all God made of naught ! 90 

Of Jasper, Coral, Topaz bright, 
Of Pearls so pure and Crystal white, 
And of rich Sapphire stone, 
Ruby and Onyx might he see, 
Chrysoprase, and Chalcedony, 
And Diamonds brightly shone. 

In tabernacles were they wrought, 
Richer, I trow, had ye found naught, 
Slender the pillars small; 
Curved arches of carbuncle stone, 100 
And red-gold bosses wrought thereon, 
Turrets of crystal all. 



OWAIN MILES 



E'en as Our Lord surpasseth still 
Of goldsmith, or of artist's skill, 
Seek where ye will in land; 
So are the gates of Paradise 
Fairer than mortal may devise 
As ye may understand. 

E'en as the gates themselves unclose 
So sweet a perfume forth there flows 
As precious balm and dear, m 

The knight was of that sweetness fain, 
And drew such strength from it again 
As ye shall forthwith hear. 

It seemed such strength to him were 
told 

He well might bear a thousand-fold 

More of such woe and pain; 

That he, against the fiends to fight, 

Might well have turned him back forth 
right 

The road he came again. 120 

The knight, he drew the gate anear, 
And see, there came with goodly cheer, 
Processions fair anon, 
Tapers, and candlesticks of gold, 
Fairer no man might see on mold, 
With Cross, and Gonfanon. 

And Popes, in dignity they go, 
And many Cardinals also, 
And Kings and Queens were there, 
And Knights, and Abbots, many Priors, 
With Canons, Monks, and preaching 
Friars, 131 

Bishops, who croziers bare. 

Friars Minor, and Friars Jacobin, 
And Carmelites, and Friars Austin, 
And Nuns, both black and white, 
All manner of religious there 
Did in that great procession fare 
Who Orders took aright. 



There Wedlock's order did he see; 
Of men and women many be 



140 



Who thanked God for His Grace, 
Who sent the knight the aid he sought. 
And from the foul fiends' torment 

brought 
A live man, to this place. 

When they had made this melody 
There came two from the company 
And palms of gold they bare, 
And straightway to the knight they hied, 
And took him, one on either side, 
Archbishops both they were; 150 

And up and down they led that knight 

And many a joy they shewed to sight 

And mickle melody; 

Merry the carols he must hear, 

Nor songs of folly met his ear 

But joy and minstrelsy. 

They danced in carols all a-row, 
Their joy, I trow, may no man know, 
Of God they spake, and sung, 
And angels set the measure free 160 
With cithole, harp, and psaltery, 
And bells that merry rung. 

And none may carol there within 
Save that he be all clean of sin 
And from all folly free; 
Now God, for these, Thy Five Wounds 

all, 

Grant us to carol in that hall 
Thro' Thy Mother, Marie! 

And this same joy, as ye may see, 

It is for love and charitie, 170 

Towards God, and towards man's kin, 

Whoso forsaketh earthly love 

For love of God, Who reigns above, 

May carol there within. 

And other joys he saw enow; 

Perched on high trees, with many a 

bough, 

The birds of Heaven rejoice; 
Their notes ring out with merry glee, 



86 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



In many a changeful melody 
On high they lift their voice! 



180- 



And, hearkening to the birds' sweet song, 
He deemed he might abide there long, 
Yea, till the world should end; 
There he beheld that Tree of Life 
Whereby both Adam and his wife 
To Hell they needs must wend. 

Gardens with flowers of diverse hue, 
The rose, the lily, there he knew 
Primrose and periwink; 
Mint, fetherfoy, and eglantine, 190 

'Mid other flowers, and columbine, 
More than a man may think. 

And herbs be there of other kind 
Than here on earth a man may find 
And e'en the least of price 
For ever waxeth green, I wot, 
With changing season, changeth not, 
Sweeter than liquorice! 

And many a well he there must know, 
Sweeter than mead their waters flow, 
But one above them all, 201 

E'en as Saint Owain did behold, 
From thence, the stream it runs four-fold, 
From Paradise doth fall. 

And Dison, so men call one stream, 

Its waters flow with brightest gleam, 

And gold therein is found; 

Fison, the second named shall be, 

And of more value, verilie, 

The stones within its ground. 210 

The third stream shall Euphrates be 

Without a lie I say to ye 

Its course it runs aright; 

The fourth stream, it is hight Tigris, 

Nor hath the world the like, I wis, 

Of these, its stones so bright. 

Who lives in purity below 

This bliss he shall as portion know 



And see that seemly sight; 
Yet more did Owain see with eye **o 
Beneath God's Glory, there on high, 
Blessed shall be His Might! 

Some souls, he saw, dwelt by themselves, 
Others by ten, or e'en by twelve, 
But each one knew the other, 
When they together came, I wis, 
Then they rejoiced in mickle bliss, 
As sister doth with brother. 

And some, they were in scarlet clad, 
Fair robes of purple others had, 230 
And some in ciclaton, 
E'en as the priest at Mass doth wear 
Thus alb and tunicle they bare, 
Some, cloth of gold had on. 

And thus, I trow, full well the knight 
By this, their clothing, knew aright 
E'en in what state they were, 
And what the deeds they erst did do, 
(By that he saw them clothed so) 
While they 'midst men did fare. 240 

Here will I a resemblance tell, 

The same, in truth, accordeth well, 

E'en by the stars so bright, 

As one star brighter is to see 

Than others, yea, perchance, than three, 

And is of greater might, 

So God, He dealeth in this wise 
E'en with the Bliss of Paradise, 
Deals not the same to all, 
The Soul who hath the least, I wot aso 
Doth think the greater is his lot, 
Doth hold him rich withal! 

The Bishops came to him again, 

They took the knight betwixt them 

twain, 

And led him up and down, 
Said: "Brother, God be praised by thee, 
This, thy desire fulfilled shall be, 
Hearken our words anon, 



OWAIN MILES 



"Now thou, with these, thine eyes, hast 

seen 

Alike the joys and pains, I ween, 260 
For that, praise God, His Grace, 
We'll tell thee here the common doom, 
The way that thou hast hither come 
Ere yet thou leave this place. 

"That land thou sawest full of sorrow, 
Alike to-day, and eke to-morrow, 
The which thou passed'st by, 
Wherein didst suffer pain and woe, 
With many another soul also, 
Men call it Purgatory. 270 

"And this same land so fair and wide, 

That mickle is on every side 

And is so full of bliss, 

Wherein thou even now shalt be, 

And where thou many a joy dost see, 

'T is Paradise I wis! 

"And never man may hither win 
Save that he first be purged of sin, 
And be well cleansed then, 
Then come they here " the Bishop 
said, 280 

"By us unto these joys they're led 
At times, by twelve or ten. 

"But some, they be so straitly bound, 
That men know not how long a stound 
They suffer in that heat, 
Save that their friends on earth who 

be 

Sing Mass for them of charitie 
Shall give the poor to eat; 

"Or other wise shall do alms-deed, 289 
By which they may the better speed, 
And these, their torments, cease, 
And come to Paradise, I wis, 
Wherein is ever joy and bliss, 
And there abide in peace. 

"And as from Purgatory's pain 
We pass, so do we rise again 



To God, in Glory's height , 
That is the Heavenly Paradise, 
Beheld by none but Christian eyes, 
No joy is like that sight! 



300 



"And when we passed from out the 

flame 

Of Purgatory, here we came, 
We may not scale that height, 
(Till that we here long time have been 
God's Face by us may not be seen ) 
Nor in that place alight! 

"The child who was but born last night 

Ere his soul hither shall be dight 

Those pains shall over flee; 

Heavy and strong the torment told 310 

To that man who is waxen old 

And long in sin shall be." 

Forth went they till, before their eye, 
There rose a mountain fair and high 
And full of game and glee; 
So long upon their way they passed 
They came unto its top at last 
Where they these joys might see. 

There diverse songs the birdlings sung, 
Great joy they made themselves among, 
As ye may understand, 321 

More joy in these birds' trill shall be 
Than cithole, harp, or psaltery, 
Heard here, on sea or land. 

That land that is so good withal 

'T is Paradise terrestrial, 

On earth it lieth fair; 

The Heavenly Paradise, I wis, 

No bliss is like unto its bliss, 

That is above the air. 330 

In that which hath on earth its place 
Therein was Owain for a space, 
'T was that which Adam lost, 
Had Adam there but held him still 
And wrought according to God's Will, 
Ne'er His commandment crost, 



88 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



He, nor his offspring, trow me, ne'er 
From out that bliss were forced to 

fare, 

But, since that same he brake, 
With pick and spade in ditch to delve, 
To help his wife, and eke himself, 341 
Much toil God made him take. 

God was, I trow, with him so wroth, 
He left unto him ne'er a cloth, 
But leaf of a fig-tree, 
All naked there he went, and stood, 
I trow a man might well nigh wood 
At such a counsel be. 

An Angel there unto him came 
With aspect stern, and sword of flame, 
Fear in his soul had birth, 351 

That they should toil and sorrow know, 
The while that they must live below 
Drave them to middle-earth. 

And when he died he went to Hell, 
To him and his this portion fell 
Till God's own Son was born, 
And by His Pain and Passion sore 
Hath opened wide that prison door, 
Else were we all forlorn. 360 



(Lacuna, in MS.) 

The Bishops then the knight did pray 
To tell them there without delay 
If Heaven were grey or white, 
Or blue, or yellow, red or green? 
The knight, he answered them, I ween, 
"That shall I say forthright. 

"Methinks, it be a thousand-fold 
Brighter than e'er was any gold 
That man with eye might see!" 369 
Then quoth the Bishops to the knight: 
"That self -same place ye deem so bright 
Shall but the entrance be. 

"And each day it doth so befall 
A meal, to make us glad withal, 



Doth come for this, our need; 
E'en a sweet smell, as of all good 
That to our soul is fitting food, 
Stay, and with us shalt feed." 

Anon, he saw right well, the knight, 
A flame of fire that sprang so bright, 380 
From Heaven's gate it fell, 
It seemed him there that, far and nigh, 
O'er Paradise that flame did fly 
And gave so sweet a smell; 

The Holy Ghost, as flame so bright, 

Did there upon Sir Owain light, 

And in that self -same place, 

By Virtue of that flame alway 

The might of earth was purged away 

He thanked God for His Grace. 390 

Then quoth the Bishops in that stead: 
"God feeds us daily with His Bread 
Yet we be not so nigh 
Nor have such foretaste of His Grace 
Nor such a sight of this, His Face, 
As those that be on high. 

"The souls who to God's Feast have 

passed 

Their joy, it shall for ever last, 
And never know an end; 399 

Now must thou dree the common doom, 
And by the road that thou didst come 
Again thou needs must wend. 

" Now keep thee well from deadly sin, 
That thou shalt never fall therein 
Whate'er shall be thy need; 
Then at thy death-day shalt thou wend 
Unto the joy that hath no end, 
Angels shall thither lead." 

Then sore he wept, Sir Owain, there, 
And for God's Mercy prayed them fair 
That he with them might dwell, 4 
And that he might behold no more 
That sight that he had seen before, 
The bitter pains of Hell. 



OWA1N MILES 



89 



But this, his prayer, was all in vain, 

He took his leave, and turned again, 

His heart was full of woe, 

Ten thousand fiends he saw that stead, 

But from before his face they fled 

As bolt from a cross-bow. 420 

No nearer than a bolt might fly 
I trow, the fiends might come anigh 
Tho' they the world would win, 
And when he came unto the hall 
The thirty men he found withal 
Awaiting him therein. 

Each held his hand up in that place, 
Gave thanks to Christ for this, His 

Grace, 

More than a thousand-fold, 
Bade him make no delaying there 430 
But back again to Ireland fare, 
Swift on his way to hold. 

So I find writ in history, 
The Prior of Patrick's Purgatory, 
To him came word that night, 
That Owain had o'ercome his pain, 
And with the morrow came again 
Thro* grace of God's great Might. 

Then with his monks, the Prior anon, 
With Crosses, and with Gonfanon, 440 
Went to that hole forthright, 
Thro' which knight Owain went below, 
There, as of burning fire the glow, 
They saw a gleam of light; 



And right amidst that beam of light 

He came up, Owain, God's own knight, 

By this knew every man 

That he in Paradise had been, 

And Purgatory's pains had seen, 

And was a holy man. 450 

To Holy Church they take their way 
To work the works of God that day 
There he his prayer doth make, 
And on the fifteenth day, at end, 
The knight upon his way would wend, 
And staff and scrip did take; 

And then the Holy places sought 
Where Jesus Christ us dearly bought 
Upon the Rood's rough Tree; 
Where from the grave He rose alive 460 
By Virtue of these same Wounds Five, 
Yea, blessed may He be! 

And Bethlehem, where Christ was 

born 

Of Mary Maid, as flower from thorn, 
And where He rose to Heaven; 
Sithen to Ireland came anon, 
There a monk's habit did he on, 
And lived for years full seven. 

And when he died he went, I wis, 
To Paradise, with joy and bliss, 470 
Thro' help of God's good Grace; 
Now God, for good Saint Owain's love 
Grant us in bliss of Heaven above 
To stand before Thy Face! 

Amen. 



ROMANCES 



KING HORN 



I BID ye all be gay 
Who list to this my lay ! 
A song I now will sing 
Of Murry, crowned king; 
He reigned in the West 
While he with life was blest. 
Godhild she hight, his queen, 
None fairer e'er was seen. 
He had a son hight Horn, 
A goodlier ne'er was born 
On whom the rain fell light, 
On whom the sun shone bright. 
None might his fairness pass; 
Brighter was he than glass, 
White as the lily flower, 
Red as the rose in bower; 
Nor near nor far on ground 
Might one his peer have found. 
Twelve were his comrades gay 
Who fared with him alway, 
Rich men their fathers were 
And all were children fair, 
Each at his beck and call 
But two he loved o'er all, 
The one hight Hathulf Child, 
The other Fikenhild; 
Hathulf was good, I trow, 
Fikenhild, false enow. 

E'en as the tale I say 
'T was on a summer's day 
That Murry, the good king, 
Rode forth a-pleasuring, 
E'en by the salt sea side 
As he was wont to ride; 
He found upon the strand, 
There, where they came to land, 
Of ships, I trow, fifteen, 
With Saracens so keen, 



And asked what there they sought? 
What had them thither brought? 40 

A Paynim heard the king 
And thus made answering: 
'Thy folk we think to slay 
With all to Christ who pray, 
Yea, and thyself, this tide: 
Think not thou hence shalt ride!" 
He sprang from off his steed 
For thereto had he need, 
(Two knights both good and true 
Had he, they were too few;) 50 

They grasp their sword hilts tight. 
And all together smite, 
By force of sword and shield 
They fell their foes on field, 
Yet all too few were they 
Against their foes that day, 
With ease the Paynim might 
Hath slain those three in fight. 

The Paynims came to land, 
They took it in their hand, 60 

The folk they smote and slew, 
The churches down they threw, 
All were of life forlorn, 
Stranger or landsman born, 
Save they forsook Christ's lore 
And Paynim gods adore. 

Saddest of women there 

I trow was Godhild fair; 

For Murry she wept sore 

And for her son yet more, 7* 

She fled forth from her hall 

And from her maidens all; 

Beneath a rock of stone 

The queen abode alone, 



94 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And there to God she prayed, 
(By Paynim law forbade) 
To Christ did service true, 
(Thereof no Paynim knew) 
Ever for Horn would pray, 
Christ be his strength and stay. 

Horn was in Paynim hands, 
He and his folk, and lands; 
Full fair was he to see, 
Christ wrought him verily. 
The Paynims would him slay, 
Or would him living flay, 
An he less fair had been 
All had been slain I ween. 
Then spake an Emir old 
In words was he full bold : 
"Horn, thou art quick and keen, 
As may be lightly seen, 
Thereto art thou full tall 
And fair and strong withal, 
Nor shalt thou be full grown 
Ere seven years be flown; 
An we thy life should spare, 
Thine, and thy comrades fair, 
Methinks it so might fall 
That ye should slay us all. 
Therefore shalt thou to sea, 
Thou, and thy mates with thee, 
A-ship, 'twixt wave and wind, 
Thy death thou 'It surely find; 
Thou in the sea shalt sink, 
No more of thee we '11 think. 
But an thou wert on life, 
With sword, or e'en with knife, 
We at thine hand were sped 
For this, thy father, dead!" 

The bairns they brought to strand 
Wringing for woe their hands, 
And set them all aboard 
At bidding of their lord. 
Horn had been sad, I trow, 
Yet ne'er so sad as now ! 
The tide began to flow, 
Horn Child began to row, 
So fast o'er wave they sped 



80 



The bairns were sore adread, 120 

Full well they deemed, I ween, 

Their life had forfeit been. 

They drifted day and night 

Till dawned the morning light, 

And Horn beheld the land 

And folk upon the strand; 
"My comrades young," quoth he, 
" Good news I have for ye, 

I hear the sweet birds sing, 

I see the green grass spring, 130 

Blithe shall be now our band 

For here we be at land!" 

The ship a haven found, 
They set their foot to ground, 
There on the flowing tide 
They left their ship to ride. 
Then spake aloud Child Horn, 
(In Suddene was he born,) 
"Ship, on the salt sea flood 
Make thou a voyage good, 140 

Ride gaily on the wave 
Nor find therein a grave. 
If thou to Suddene fare 
Greet well my kinsfolk there, 
And well I bid thee greet 
Godhild my mother sweet. 
And bid that Paynim know, 
(Of Christ is he the foe) 
That I, both hale and sound, 
Have safely come to ground, 150 

And say, he yet shall feel 
How Horn a blow can deal!" 

The children sought the town 
By dale and e'en by down; 
They met Almair the king, 
(Of Christ have he blessing) 
King he, of Westerness, 
(Christ give him mickle bliss,) 
Thus spake he to Horn Child 
With courteous speech and mild: 160 
"Whence come ye, children dear, 
Who thus have landed here? 
I see ye all thirteen 
Of body strong and keen, 



KING HORN 



95 



By God Who made us all 

Such chance did ne'er befall 

That I so fair a band 

Should greet in this my land, 

Your errand to me tell!*' 

Horn knew their speech full well 170 

And answered for them all 

Since so it did befall; 

(Fairest was he of face, 

And dowered with speech of grace :) 

"In Suddene were we born, 
From noble kinsfolk torn, 
Men of true Christian blood, 
Of royal race and good. 
But Paynims on our shore 
Have wrought a slaughter sore, 180 
In pieces did they hew 
Full many a Christian true, 
As Christ shall give me rede, 
Us children did they lead 
Unto a ship, and gave 
As sport to wind and wave, 
Two days hence, without fail; 
Rudder had we, nor sail, 
Our ship drave with the tide 
E'en to this country's side. 190 

Thou can'st us beat, and bind 
Our hands our back behind, 
Or, an it be thy will, 
Can'st bring us out of ill!" 
Out spake the good king then, 
No niggard he midst men, 

"Tell me thy name, fair boy, 
Here shalt thou find but joy!" 

The child made answer clear 

As he those words might hear: aoo 

."Horn, it shall be my name, 
Hither by boat I came, 
Drifted by wave of sea 
In good hour unto thee!" 
Swift the king's answer came: 

"Have joy of this thy name, 
Horn, it shall echo shrill 
O'er holt, I ween, and hill, 
Horn shall ring up and down 
Thro' dale and over down, axo 



Thy name and fame shall spring 
From knight, I ween, to king, 
And this, thy goodliness, 
Bring joy to Westerness. 
The strength of thy right hand 
Be felt thro' every land ! 
Horn, thou art fair and sweet, 
None may thee ill entreat!" 
Homeward rode Aylmar there 
With him his foundling fair 
And all his comrades good 
Who to his heart nigh stood. 

The king came to his hall, 
And his knights one and all, 
His steward he called forthright, 
(Athelbrus was he hight:) 
"Now steward to thy care 
I give my foundling fair, 
Teach him thy craft so good, 
Of water and of wood; 
Teach him the harp to play 
With finger deft alway; 
To carve in fashion fair; 
The wine-cup fitting bear; 
To him all craft be shown 
That thou hast ever known. 
(His comrades otherwise 
Bestow in fitting guise,) 
Horn shall to thee belong, 
Teach him of harp and song." 

Athelbrus took in care 
Horn, and his comrades fair; 
Horn, he held fast in heart 
The rede he did impart, 
All men the court about 
Within, and e'en without, 
Bare love unto Horn Child 
But chiefly Rimenild, 
The king's own daughter fair, 
Such love to Horn she bare, 
So fast on him her thought, 
The maid was nigh distraught; 
For that at royal board 
With him she spake no word, 
Nor might she in the hall 



240 



250 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Among the courtiers all: 
Speak could she in no stead, 
Since she of folk had dread, 
By night and e'en by day, 
No word to him durst say. 260 

Sore pain of heart and mind 
She bare, nor cure might find. 
Thus sad and sorry, she 
Bethought her warily, 
By messenger straightway 
She Athelbrus did pray 
To make no tarrying 
But Horn Child with him bring 
And seek her in her bower 269 

With guile she wrought that hour 
Yea, and the message said 
That sick she lay, the maid, 
And bade him come with speed 
To comfort her at need. 
The steward at heart was woe, 
He wist not what to do, 
What Rimenild besought 
A marvel great he thought, 
That Horn, at her bidding, 
He to her bower should bring. 280 
He deemed in thoughtful mood, 
Such act were scarce for good, 
He called to him Horn's peer, 
Athulf , his comrade dear. 
"Athulf, now come with me 
To bower speedily, 
For Rimenild, she will 
Speak with us, soft and still, 
As Horn be thou arrayed, 
And thus deceive the maid, ago 

My mind misgives me sore 
She hath some guile in store!" 
Athulf and Athelbrus 
They sought her bower thus, 
And Rimenild, the fair, 
She deemed that Horn it were; 
On her bed must he sit, 
She wooed him well, to wit 
Her arms round him she cast, 
Athulf she held full fast, 300 

And quoth: "Horn, hearken me, 
Great love I bear to thee, 



Troth with me shalt thou plight, 
Here on my hand forthright, 
To hold me as thy wife, 
As I thee lord, for life!" 

Athulf spake in her ear 
Softly, as she might hear: 
"Speak thou no more of this, 
Horn is not here, I wis, 510 

Unlike we twain shall be, 
Fairer and richer he, 
Fairer by measure Horn 
Than any man yet born, 
Tho' he were under mould, 
Or wandering far on wold, 
Distant full many a mile, 
I would not him beguile!" 

Then Rimenild, the maid, 
Did Athelbrus upbraid; 320 

"Thou traitor, get thee gone, 
Mine hatred hast thou won, 
Go forth from out my bower, 
May ill o'er thee have power! 
I would thy shame be sung, 
And thou on gallows hung ! 
This is not Horn, I ween, 
More courteous had he been, 
And fairer far to see, 
A shameful death on thee!" 330 

Athelbrus at that stound 
Fell low upon the ground: 
"Lady I prithee grace, 
Hearken a little space, 
Hear why I dare not bring 
Horn at thy summoning; 
For Horn is rich and fair, 
None may with him compare, 
And Aylmar, my good king, 
Gave him to my keeping; 340 

If Horn were hereabout 
I sorely me misdoubt 
Since thou of him art fain, 
That were betwixt ye twain 
Should make my lord wax wroth 
So think 1, on my troth 



KING HORN 



97 



Rimenild, lady sweet, 
Forgive me, as is meet, 
And Horn I'll bring to thee 
Whate'er the forfeit be!" 



350 



Then Rimenild, her speech 
A gentler tone would teach, 
Her heart waxed glad and gay, 
Blithe was the maid that day. 
"Then go," she quoth, "right soon, 
And send him after noon, 
Whenas the king shall rise 
And fare in simple wise 
With hound and horn to play, 
None shall us then betray; 360 

And here till eventide 
He may with me abide, 
After, for good or ill, 
Let folk say what they will!" 

The steward went at that stound, 

Horn in the hall he found, 

On dai's sat the king, 

Horn did the wine-cup bring; 
"Horn," quoth he, "for my sake 

Thy way in secret take 370 

After meat, unafraid, 

To Rimenild, the maid, 

And words both true and bold 

In heart I bid thee hold, 

Be thou to me but true 

And thou shalt never rue." 

Then Horn, to heart he laid 

What Athelbrus had said, 

He went his way forthright 

Unto that maiden bright, 380 

Then kneeling, as was meet, 

He proffered greeting sweet, 

His fairness in that hour 

I wot, made light her bower. 

He spake with gracious speech 

Such as no man may teach: 
"Full soft thou sittest there, 

Maid Rimenild, the fair, 

Thou, and thy maids twice three 

Who sit the nighest thee. 390 

Thy father's steward, I trow, 



He sent me here but now, 
Since thou would'st speak with me 
Say what thy will shall be, 
Speak Lady, without fear, 
Since I am fain to hear!" 

Rimenild bade him stand, 
She took him by the hand, 
Set him on silken pall 
And gave him wine withal. 400 

She made him goodly cheer 
Her arms the maiden dear 
Cast round his neck, I wis, 
And gave him many a kiss. 
"Horn," quoth she, "without strife, 
Thou shalt take me to wife, 
Have of my sorrow ruth, 
Plight me thy troth in truth!" 

Horn thought him well that day 
What it were best to say : 410 

" Christ be thy Help in this, 
And give thee mickle bliss 
Of him who wins thy hand 
Where'er he be on land. 
But I be born too low 
Such maid as wife to know 
For I am come of thrall, 
A foundling too withal, 
It were not fit for thee 
To wed thyself with me. 420 

*T is no fit match, I ween, 
For thrall to mate with queen!" 

Then Rimenild, the maid, 
She sighed, full sore dismayed, 
Her arms she loosed full soon, 
Adown she sank in swoon. 

Horn was to comfort fain, 

He raised her up again 

Within his arms, I wis, 

And gave her many a kiss. 430 

He quoth: "My Lady dear, 

Now take thou courage here, 

Help me that I be knight 

Pray thou, with all thy might, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



My lord the king so free 
Knighthood to grant to me. 
For then, when my thralldom 
Hath once knighthood become, 
Honour shall wax the more 
And I may do thy lore!" 



440 



Then Rimenild eftsoon 
She wakened from her swoon: 
"Horn," quoth the maid, "thy rede 
It shall be done with speed, 
The king shall dub thee knight 
Within this seven-night. 
This cup I bid thee bring, 
And with it, too, this ring, 
To Athelbrus the bold, 
Covenant bid him hold; 450 

Tell him that I beseech 
In fit and courteous speech, 
That he shall lowly fall 
Before the king in hall, 
And pray that thou, forthright, 
Of him be made a knight; 
Silver, I ween, and gold, 
Be his in payment told, 
Christ speed him well, I pray, 
My bidding to obey." 460 

Then Horn must take his leave, 
The day it waxed to eve; 
Athelbrus straight he sought, 
And gave him what he brought, 
The truth he told him there, 
How he in bower did fare, 
And told him all his need, 
Proffering goodly meed. 

The steward, with no delay, 
To hall he made his way, 470 

"Lord King, now hearken me, 
Good rede I bring to thee: 
Thou shalt bear royal crown 
To-morrow in this town, 
To-morrow is high-day, 
When men must needs be gay, 
Methinks 't were well the morn 
If thou should'st knight Child Horn, 



If arms he bear for thee 
Good knight he'll surely be!" 480 
The king, he quoth anon: 
14 Methinks that were well done, 
Of Horn 't is sooth to tell 
Knighthood became him well, 
That shall he have from me 
My darling shall he be 
And they, his goodly band 
Of comrades, at his hand 
Shall knighted be forthright 
Before me, that same night." 490 

Athelbrus deemed alway 

'T were long till dawn of day, 

When night at last was sped 

Horn to the king he led, 

With comrades twelve, I trow 

Evil were some enow! 

There Horn he was dubbed knight 

With sword and spurs so bright, 

On milk-white steed so fair, 

None might with him compare. 500 

The king, a blow so light 

Dealt, bidding him be knight. 

Before King Aylmar free 
Athulf, he bent his knee, 
And quoth: "O! King, so brave, 
A boon from thee I crave. 
Now hast thou knighted Horn 
Who in Suddene was born, 
Lord is he of that land 
O'er us who by him stand. $xo 

Thine arms hath he, and shield, 
To fight for thee on field, 
Now bid him make us knight 
For that is sure our right." 
Then Aylmar straightway spake: 
'Thy will I bid thee take." 
Forthwith did Horn alight, 
He dubbed his comrades knight. 
Merry the feast and gay, 
Mirthful their jest and play. 520 

But Rimenild, in her bower, 
Seven years she deemed the hour; 
A word to Horn she sent, 



KING HORN 



He to her presence went, 
But not alone he sped, 
Athulf with him he led. 
Rimenild waiting stood, 
His coming she deemed good; 
"Sir Horn, art welcome here 
With Athulf, knight so dear, 530 

Sir Knight, 't is fit and meet 
By me to take thy seat, 
Do that whereof we spake 
Me for thy true wife take, 
If thou in deeds be true 
Yield me what is my due, 
Thou hast what thou didst crave, 
Me from my sorrow save." 

"Maiden," quoth Horn, "be still, 
I promise thee thy will, 540 

But thus it must betide 
With spear I first must ride, 
And thus my knighthood prove 
Ere yet I think of love. 
As knights we be but young 
But since this day were sprung 
And ever of knighthood 
This is the custom good, 
Each, with some other knight, 
Must for his lady fight 550 

Or yet a wife he take 
Thus speed I needs must make 
With Christ's good aid, straightway, 
Prowess I'll shew to-day 
For thy love, in the field, 
With spear and eke with shield; 
If I come forth with life 
Thee will I take to wife." 



Quoth she: "Sir Knight, i-sooth 
I think thou speakest truth; 
Take thou this golden ring, 
Fair is its fashioning, 
Graven upon the gold 
My name shalt thou behold; 
Far as the sun shall shine 
Is none so fair and fine; 
This for my love now wear, 
Upon thy finger bear, 



560 



The stones, they have such grace, 

That ne'er in any place 570 

Of dints shalt thou have dread, 

Tho* ne'er so sore bestead, 

If thou in battle see 

This ring and think of me. 

Sir Athulf, too, thy brother, 

I'll give to him another, 

And Horn, I here beseech 

In love, with gentle speech, 

Christ give thee furthering 

And back in safety bring." 580 

The knight he kissed the maid, 
Blessing on him she prayed, 
He took leave at the same 
And to the hall he came. 
The knights, they went to meat, 
Horn sped with footsteps fleet, 
In stable sought his foal, 
(Black was he, e'en as coal,) 
His byrnie shook amain, 
The court, it rang again, sgo 

The steed, it gave a spring, 
Merrily Horn 'gan sing 
The twain in little while 
Had ridden o'er a mile. 
A ship he found on strand, 
By Paynims was it manned, 
He asked them what they sought, 
What had them hither brought? 
One did Sir Horn behold 
Who spake in words so bold: 600 

"This land we think to win 
And slay the folk therein." 
Horn gripped his sword with power, 
And wiped it clean that hour; 
The Saracen, I wot, 
He smote, his blood was hot, 
Methinks at every blow 
A Paynim head fell low. 
The heathen hounds came on, 
Horn, he was all alone, 610 

His glance the gold ring sought, 
On Rimenild he thought, 
He slew there in that press 
One hundred men, no less, 



100 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The tale might no man tell 
Of those who 'fore him fell, 
They who were left alive 
I trow might little thrive. 

Horn took the chieftain's head, 
In sooth a trophy dread, 620 

High on his sword point bright 
'T was set, a grisley sight ! 
He fared him home to hall 
Among the knights withal; 
"Well dost thou sit, and free, 
King, and thy knights with thee! 
To-day didst dub me knight, 
I gat me hence forthright, 
A ship did hither row, 
E'en as the flood did flow, 630 

Filled with a Paynim band 
Men of another land, 
Full well they thought to-day 
Thee and thy folk to slay. 
With force did they assail, 
My sword it did not fail, 
Some, have I felled to ground, 
Some, deathly wounds have found, 
The head I hither bring 
Of one, their chief and king, 640 

Now is thy guerdon paid 
Lord, who me knight hast made!'* 

Next morn, as day might spring, 

A-hunting rode the king, 

Fikenild stayed behind, 

(Worst son of woman-kind,) 

He sought the maidens' bower 

For venture, in that hour. 

He saw fair Rimenild 

As one with sorrow filled; 650 

She sat there in the sun, 

Swiftly her tears did run 

Horn quoth: "Sweet love, give o'er, 

Why weepest thou so sore?" 

She spake: "I needs must weep, 

E'en as I lay asleep 

My net in sea I cast, 

And, ere long time had past, 

I caught a fish full fair 



But thro' my net he tare 660 

Methinks that I shall lose 

The prize my heart would choose!" 

Quoth Horn: "By Christ I deem 

Right foolish is thy dream, 

Ne'er will I thee betray 

But do thy will alway, 

I give myself to thee 

In steadfast fealty, 

As all may know forthright 

Thereto my troth I plight!" 670 

I wot with mickle ruth 

They sware that pledge of truth. 

Rimenild wept alway 

Tho* Horn her tears would stay; 

He quoth: "My Lady dear, 

Further I bid thee hear; 

God shall thy dream fulfil 

Or some man means us ill; 

The fish that brake the net 

I wis, may harm us yet; 680 

An it mean ill, I ween, 

That shall be swiftly seen." 

Aylmar a-hunting rode, 
Horn in the bower abode, 
111 words spake Fikenild, 
His heart with envy filled 
'Aylmar I would thee warn, 
Now be thou ware of Horn, 
I heard the words he said; 
He drew his good sword blade 690 
And sware to take thy life 
And win thy child to wife. 
By Rimenild in bower 
He lieth in this hour, 
'Neath covering fair and soft, 
And so he doth full oft. 
Now hie thee there forthright 
And thou shalt see with sight, 
Bid him get hence straightway 
Else will he thee betray!" 700 

Aylmar, he turned him then, 
(Saddest was he of men) 
Horn he found, taking rest 
On his fair daughter's breast; 



KING HORN 



101 



He cried: "Foul thief, away! 
Forfeit my love for aye, 
Get thee hence speedily, 
111 fortune go with thee, 
Haste thee, or by my word, 
I'll smite thee with my sword; 710 
Save that my land thou flee 
Shame shall thy portion be!" 
Horn saddled his good steed, 
His arms he sought with speed, 
His byrnie swiftly laced, 
His harness fitly placed, 
His sword he girt straightway 
Nor longer thought to stay. 
Blithely he sought that tide 
Fair Rimenild, his bride; 720 

He quoth: "Darling, I deem 
Thou findest here thy dream, 
The fish that thy net rent 
Thy love from thee hath sent. 
Rimenild, fare thee well, 
No longer here I dwell, 
To stranger lands straightway 
Needs must I make my way; 
There shall my lot be cast 
Till seven long years be past, 730 

And at the seven years' end, 
If I come not, nor send, 
A husband may'st thou take 
Nor tarry for my sake. 
Now hold me close and fast 
?or one long kiss, our last!" 

She kissed him in that stound, 
Then, swooning, fell to ground 
Child Horn, he went his way, 
No longer might he stay; 740 

Athulf , his comrade fair, 
He clasped, and kissed him there: 
'With true knight's fealty 
Guard thou my love for me, 
Faith hast thou aye fulfilled, 
Now keep well Rimenild!" 

His steed he would bestride, 
From thence he fain would ride, 
To haven did he fare, 



A ship he hired him there, 750 

That should from out this land 

Bear him to Western strand. 

Fast Athulf's tears down fall, 

Sore weep the people all 

Horn safe in haven rode, 

His steed forthwith bestrode; 

Two knights upon his way 

He found, king's sons were they, 

Harold, was named one brother, 

And Berold hight the other. 760 

Berold, he prayed straightway 

That he his name would say, 

Whither he thought to fare, 

And what had brought him there? 

"Cuthbert," he quoth, "my name, 
Hither by boat I came, 
In West-land to fulfil 
My fate, for good or ill." 
Berold drew nigh, full fain, 
He took his bridle rein, 770 

"Knight, thou shalt welcome be, 
A while abide with me, 
For by my life, I swear 
The king's badge shalt thou wear, 
So fair a knight before 
Ne'er came unto this shore." 
Cuthbert he led to hall 
The knight on knee did fall 
Greeting he gave, kneeling, 
Unto the noble king : 780 

Quoth Berold, the king's son: 

"Sire, here a prize hast won, 
Set him to guard thy land 
Thou wrongest no man's hand, 
For 't is the fairest knight 
That on our shores did light." 
Then quoth the king so dear: 

"Knight, thou art welcome here; 
Berold, go thou straightway 
And make him blithe and gay, 790 
But wouldst thou wooing go 
Then send him from thee fro', 
Hadst thou a mind to wive 
Away he should thee drive ! 
For such his beauty's meed 
That thou shouldst never speed." 



102 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The Yuletide feast, at last 
Had come, nor yet was past, 
But, e'en as 't was high noon, 
There came a giant full soon 800 

All armed in Paynim guise 
And spake upon this wise: 

"Now bide thee still, Sir King, 
And hear the news I bring : 
Paynims be come to shore 
Full five, I wot, and more, 
They stay them on the strand, 
Sir King, in this thy land. 
One of them fain would fight 
Against a three-fold might 810 
If one by three be slain 
Take thou thy land again, 
But if one vanquish three 
This kingdom ours shall be 
To-morrow will we fight 
E'en as day conquers night." 
Out quoth the King Thurston: 

"Cuthbert, thou shalt be one, 
Berold shall be the other, 
The third Harold, his brother, 820 
For of my knights ye three 
The best in arms shall be. 
But little boots this rede 
Since death shall be our meed!" 
Then Cuthbert, at the board, 
He spake a valiant word: 

"Sir King, it were not right 
For one with three to fight, 
That 'gainst one Paynim hound 
Three Christian men be found. 830 
Sire, all alone, would I 
My fate against him try, 
Full lightly shall my sword 
Death's portion him award." 

The king rose on the morrow, 
Mickle, I ween, his sorrow; 
Cuthbert must needs awake, 
His arms he thought to take, 
Child Horn his byrnie cast 
Upon him, laced full fast, 840 

Swift to the king he sped 
E'en as he rose from bed, 



He quoth: "King, seek the field, 

See how, with sword and shield, 

Together we shall fight 

And test each other's might." 

Right as it were prime tide 

Forth from the town they ride. 

And found upon the green 

A giant, cool and keen; 850 

His comrades at his side, 

Ready their blow to bide. 

The giant, without fail, 

Cuthbert he did assail, 

Their dints they dealt full well, 

Many a-swooning fell; 

The giant to rest was fain 

For he was well nigh slain 

He quoth: "Knight, bide thee 

still 

Awhile, an so ye will, " 860 

He quoth, that blows so sore 
He ne'er had felt before 
Save once from Murry's hand 
Who reigned in Suddene land; 
Kinsman was he to Horn 
Who was in Suddene born. 
Horn waxed wroth at the word, 
His blood within him stirred, 
He saw before him stand 
The folk who took his land, 870 

They, who his father slew, 
'Gainst them his sword he drew. 
The ring his eyes have sought, 
On Rimenild he thought, 
She smote him to the heart 
That must full sorely smart: 
His foes, once keen for fight, 
Before him turn to flight, 
Horn, and his company, 
They follow speedily, 880 

They slew the Paynim hounds 
Ere they their ships had found, 
In death they low were laid, 
His sire's blood well they paid. 
But of King Thurston's knights 
Not one escaped that fight, 
Not the king's son the twain 
Before his eyes were slain. 



KING HORN 



103 



The king, he wept withal, 
Fast did his tears down fall, BOO 

A bier they fashioned there, 
The bodies homeward bare; 
The king, in hall he stood 
Amid his knights so good, 
And quoth: "Horn, hearken me, 
Do as I say to thee, 
Slain are my sons in fight, 
And thou art valorous knight, 
Of body fair and tall 
And strong of hand withal, goo 

Have thou my lands for life, 
And take to thee for wife 
Reynild, my daughter fair, 
Who sitteth throned there." 
'Nay, nay, my Sire, 't were ill 
Did I such wish fulfil, 
Thy daughter and thy land 
To take unto mine hand, 
Such service, verily, 
I'll yield thee ere thou die QIO 

Thy sorrow shall be sped 
Ere seven years' term be fled. 
When grief be passed away 
Then, Sire, give me my pay; 
When I reward have won 
Then take me for thy son!" 

For seven years long, I ween, 
Cuthbert, he there hath been, 
Nor Rimenild sweet, he sought, 
Nor word to her was brought. 920 
She dwelt in Westerness 
In grief and heaviness; 
A king, he sought that land, 
Who prayed the maiden's hand, 
Her father gave consent 
The twain, on marriage bent, 
But short shrift gave the maid, 
Rimenild, sore dismayed, 
Their will dare not gainsay 
Message she sent straightway, 930 
Athulf the words did write, 
He loved well Horn the knight, 
And bade him who should bear 
The script, with speed to fare 



Thro' every land and shore 
Till Horn he stood before. 
Of this Child Horn knew naught, 
Until one day he sought 
The wood, in search of game 
A lad towards him came; 940 

Horn spake: "My comrade good, 
What seek'st thou in this wood? " 
"Knight, an it be thy will 
I'll tell thee loud and still, 
From West I seek, in stress, 
Child Horn, of Westerness, 
For maiden Rimenild 
Who is with sorrow filled; 
A king that maid will wed, 
And bring her to his bed, 950 

Mody of Reynes, he, 
W r ho was Horn's enemy. 
I've wandered far and wide 
By land and waterside, 
And found him not alway. 
Alas, woe worth the day! 
Alas, woe worth the maid! 
Now is she sore betrayed." 

Horn hearkened with his ears, 
And spake with bitter tears : 960 

"Good fortune thee betide, 
Horn standeth at thy side; 
Back to thy lady go, 
And bid her cease her woe 
For I shall come in time 
Ere Sunday wax to prime." 
The lad was glad and gay, 
He hied him on his way; 
The wind waxed high withal 
Beneath her castle wall 970 

The lad lay drowned on shore; 
(The maid repented sore.) 
Maid Rimenild that tide 
Her door she opened wide 
To gaze with longing eye 
If Horn perchance be nigh. 
Of life she found him spent 
Whom she for Horn had sent, 
Hither her love to bring 
Her hands she 'gan to wring. 8o 



104 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Now Horn had Thurston sought, 
To him his tidings brought, 
By what name he was known, 
How Rimenild was his own, 
And of his kinship fair 
Who rule in Suddene bare 
How those he slew in strife 
Had ta'en his father's life 
And quoth "Now, good my Lord, 
I pray of thee reward, 990 

Help me, nor spare thy pain, 
To win my love again. 
Thy daughter shall espouse 
One of a goodly house, 
For husband shall she have 
Athulf , my comrade brave, 
The best of knights is he, 
And truest, verily!" 
The king quoth loud and still, 
"Child Horn, have now thy will." 1000 
He sent by his command 
Writing to Ireland's strand 
To summon many a knight 
Irishmen, good at fight, 
Enow had Horn of men 
To ship they gat them then, 
Horn set forth ere 't was long 
On galley stout and strong, 
The wind blew fresh and free 
Ere they were long at sea, 1010 

The waves with storm and stress 
Bare them to Westerness; 
They hauled down sail and mast 
And anchored them full fast. 
But ere the dawn of day 
The bells rang glad and gay, 
And word to them was borne 
'T was e'en the wedding morn. 
Horn did thro' water wade 
Nor closer landing made, 1020 

His ship lay off the strand, 
He gat him to the land 
And bade his folk abide 
Hidden, the wood beside. 
He gat him forth alone 
O'er stock, and over stone, 
A palmer did he meet 



And forthwith courteous greet: 

"Good Palmer, without fail 
Now tell me here thy tale." 1030 

Then quoth the palmer keen: 

" A bridal have I seen, 
The bride, that lady bright, 
Maid Rimenild was hight, 
Her weird she might not dree 
But wept right bitterly, 
And vowed full steadfastly 
Wedded she would not be 
A lord had she alway 
Tho' he were far away. 1040 

There, by the fortress hall, 
Within the castle wall, 
Vainly I needs must wait, 
I might not pass the gate; 
At Mody's word, that tide, 
To burg they led the bride 
I turned me on my way, 
Small heart had I to stay, 
The bride, she weepeth sore, 
And that be sorry lore!" 1050 

Quoth Horn: "So Christ me rede 
We two will change our weed, 
My habit hast thou here, 
Give me thy palmer's gear; 
A draught I'll drink to-day 
That some shall dearly pay!" 
His staff he laid aside, 
And doffed his robe that tide, 
Horn's clothes he took straightway, 
Nor loth was he that day ! 1060 

The staff and scrip took Horn, 
And made a face forlorn, 
Twisted his mouth awry, 
And blacked him swarthily, 
Uncomely was he then 
And strange to all men's ken. 
The warden of the gate 
Made answer stern and straight, 
Horn prayed him, once and oft, 
To ope, in accents soft, 1070 

But nothing might he win 
Nor come a step within. 
Then Horn no more would wait 
He forced the wicket gate, 



KING HORN 



The guard o'er bridge he threw, 
Horn's coming must he rue! 
His ribs he brake withal. 
Horn gat him to the hall 
And sat him, still and low, 
Down in the beggars' row. 1080 

He cast around his eyes, 
Safe in his foul disguise, 
There sat maid Rimenild, 
Distraught, with sorrow filled, 
Full sore she wept alway, 
No man her tears might stay. 
Each corner did he spy 
But might not see with eye 
Athulf , his comrade true 
That he his presence knew. 1090 

Athulf, I ween, that hour 
Had gat him to the tower 
To see if Horn, the brave, 
Came sailing o'er the wave; 
He saw on every side 
Naught but the salt sea tide, 
And thus he made his song: 
;< Horn, thou dost tarry long; 
Thou gav'st thy love so fair 
Unto my faithful care, noo 

Loyal have I been ever 
Come now, or come thou never ! 
My charge I may not keep 
Longer, so must I weep." 

Then rose fair Rimenild 

The cup must needs be filled 

When meat was done, in hall, 

With wine and ale withal. 

One horn she bare in hand 

(As meet in this her land), mo 

And knight and squire they quaffed 

Therefrom of beer a draught. 

All drank save Horn alone, 

Thereof would he have none. 

Horn sat upon the ground 

As he in thought were bound, 

And spake: "Queen, graciously, 

I pray thee turn to me 

And serve us with the first, 

We beggars be athirst." nac 



Then turned fair Rimenild 

And to the brim she filled 

His bowl, a gallon fair, 

Glutton she deemed him there: 

She quoth "Now take this cup 

And swiftly drink it up, 

Ne'er saw I, so I ween, 

Beggar for drink so keen.*' 

Horn to his comrades bare, 

And quoth: "My queen so fair 1130 

Wine pleaseth not my sight 

Save that the cup be white; 

Beggar am I to see, 

Fisherman, verily, 

I came from the far East 

To fish, at this thy feast, 

My net lies here at hand 

Upon a full fair strand; 

I ween it hath lain here 

For now full seven year. 1140 

Now am I come to see 

What fish therein may be, 

Here have I come to fish 

Now drink from this my dish, 

And quaff a horn to Horn 

From far I fare this morn." 

She gazed, fair Rimenild, 

Her heart within her chilled, 

His word she read not right, 

She knew not Horn with sight, 1150 

Right strange she needs must think 

His prayer, to Horn to drink. 

She poured of wine a draught 

And to the pilgrim quaffed, 

And said: "Now drink thy fill 

And tell me, soft and still, 

If thou hast seen with sight 

Child Horn, that goodly knight?" 

The wine, Horn drank it up, 

His ring dropped in the cup u6o 

The queen, she sought her bower 

With maidens four that hour, 

She found there what she sought, 

The ring of red gold wrought 

That once she gave to Horn 

Heavy her heart that morn, 



io6 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



For sore she feared the ring 
Of death were tokening. 

The palmer, in that hour, 
She bade unto her bower, 1170 

And spake: "Palmer, I know 
The ring that thou didst throw; 
Say now, who gave it thee, 
And why art come to me?'* 
He quoth: "Now, by Saint Giles, 
I've wandered many a mile, 
Far hence, unto the West, 
I ween hath been my quest; 
And there Child Horn I found, 
On ship-board was he bound, n8o 
He said thro' storm and stress 
He must to Westerness; 
Upon the salt sea flood 
I sailed with Horn the good, 
But he fell sick and died, 
And, dying, on me cried: 
'This ring fail not to bear 
To Rimenild the fair.' 
Oft-times the ring he 'Id kiss 
God bring his soul to bliss." 1190 

Then out the maiden spake: 
"My heart, now must thou break 
For thou shalt see no more 
Him thou hast mourned so sore." 
On her couch fell the maid 
There had she hid a blade 
Wherewith, methinks, the twain 
Mody and she, were slain 
Before the morning light 
I If Horn came not ere night. xaoo 

The point to heart she set, 
But Horn her deed would let, 
He wiped his face from stain, 
Quoth: "Sweet, now look again, 
I am Child Horn, I trow, 
Dost thou not know me now? 
In thine arms hold me fast 
For Horn is come at last." 
The twain they clasp and kiss 
W T ith joy and mickle bliss, mo 

He quoth: "Now love, I wend 



Down to the woodland's end, 

There have I many a knight 

Ready, and armed for fight; 

Armed are they under cloth 

This folk we'll make full wroth, 

Yea, all they whom the king 

Did to his feasting bring, 

I '11 teach to them such lore 

As they shall rue full sore." 1220 

Horn hasted from the hall, 
His palmer's weed let fall; 
The queen went from her bower 
To Athulf in his tower, 
"Athulf," she quoth " be gay, 
Go seek thou Horn straightway, 
Beneath the woodland bough 
There hath he knights enow." 
Athulf, he made good speed, 
Such news were joyful rede, 1230 

Horn did he follow there 
Swift as his steed might fare, 
He did him overtake, 
Much bliss the twain did make. 
Horn hearkened to his prayer 
And bid him with him fare, 
Full soon they came to hall, 
The gates were open all, 
His men were, in that stead, 
Well armed, from foot to head, 1240 
All whom he found he slew 
Save his twelve comrades true 
And Aylmar, the land's king 
To death he did them bring, 
The wedding guests were left 
Each one, of life bereft. 
But Horn no vengeance wrung 
From Fikenhild's false tongue. 
Then all they sware an oath 
That never, on their troth, 1250 

Would they Child Horn betray 
Tho' he on death-bed lay. 

Forthwith the bells were rung, 
The wedding Mass was sung, 
Horn went his way withal 
To Aylmar's palace hall, 



KING HORN 



107 



Bread was there and sweet ale, 
Nor of rich guests did fail; 
And none might tell with tongue 
What gladsome songs were sung. 1260 
Horn sat high on his chair 
And bade them hearken there: 
"King, listen now to me, 
A tale I tell to thee, 
I say it not for blame: 
Child Horn shall be my name, 
Thou madest me a knight 
Proven am I in fight. 
But men in secret said 
That I had thee betrayed; 1270 

Forthwith from out this land 
I fled, at thy command, 
Thou deemest that I wrought 
What ne'er was in my thought, 
By Rimenild did lie 
That do I here deny; 
Nor will I so, I ween, 
Till I have won Suddene. 
I'll trust her to thy care 
The while I hence shall fare 1280 

Into mine heritage 
And to my baronage; 
My land I'll win again, 
Avenge my father slain, 
Rule as a king in town 
And wear the royal crown, 
Then Rimenild my bride 
She shall lie at my side." 

Horn sought his ship forthright, 

With him each Irish knight; 1290 

Athulf he took, his brother, 

And saving him, none other. 

Forward the ship did sail 

Nor favouring wind did fail, 

And ere five days were o'er 

They came to Suddene's shore. 

Then, even at midnight, 

Horn went his way forthright, 

Took Athulf by the hand, 

And gat him there to land. 1300 

He found, beneath his shield, 

A knight full famed in field, 



Right there, beside the way, 

That knight in slumber lay. 

Child Horn his arm did take 

And quoth: "Sir Knight, awake, 

And say, a watch dost keep? 

Or wherefore here dost sleep? 

A shining cross dost bear, 1309 

Christ's arms, methinks, dost wear; 

Save that thou shew the way 

I shall thee straightway slay!" 

Uprose that knight so brave, 

Answer to Horn he gave: 

He quoth: "Against my will 

I serve these Paynims still, 

Christian was I erst-while 

Then came I to this isle, 

And the black Paynims there 

Made me my faith forswear; 1320 

In Christ would I believe 

Here have they made me reeve, 

This way 'gainst Horn to hold 

Now waxed to manhood bold; 

Eastward his home shall be 

A valiant knight is he, 

He slew with his right hand 

The ruler of this land, 

With many a hundred men 

Right strange I deem it then 1330 

He comes not here to fight; 

God help him to his right 

And give him favouring wind 

That these their death may find. 

Murry the king they slew 

Who was Horn's father true, 

And Horn adrift they sent. 

Twelve comrades with him went, 

Athulf, I trow, was one, 

Mine own child he, my son, 1340 

If Horn were whole and sound, 

And Athulf safe on ground, 

(He loved him well, I ween, 

And sure hath faithful been,) 

And I might see with eye 

The twain, for joy I 'Id die." 

* Knight be thou joyful then 
And blithe above all men, 



io8 



CHIEF MIDDLE .ENGLISH POETS 



Athulf, and Horn, I trow 
They stand before thee now!" 1350 
To Horn he gat him there 
And gave him greeting fair, 
Much joy they make that tide 
While they together bide. 
"How fared ye, children, tell? 
That ye be come 't is well, 
Think ye this land to win 
And slay the folk therein?" 
He quoth: "Now Child Horn, hear, 
Godhild, thy mother dear, 1360 

Yet lives, she well might speed 
Knew she this joyful rede." 
Child Horn, he quoth straightway: 
; 'Now blessed be the day 
I came unto Suddenne 
With these, my Irish men; 
These Paynim hounds we '11 teach 
To speak in this our speech, 
The folk we swift shalt slay 
And living, will them flay." 1370 

Child Horn his horn loud blew, 
His men the summons knew, 
On shore they gat them there 
Beneath Horn's banner fair, 
They fight and e'en they slay 
Till night had waxed to day, 
Till of that Paynim kin 
No man was left therein. 
Horn bade the folk straightway 
In church and chapel pray, 1380 

The bells he bade them ring 
And many a Mass to sing, 
He sought his mother's bower 
In rock-hewn cave that hour, 
Corn for the feast bid bear 
And all make merry there, 
With gladness there he wrought 
Which Rimenild dear bought. 



Now Fikenhild, at heart, 
Sore for his shame must smart, 
He gave, to young and old, 
Gifts, that with him they hold, 
Great stones together brought 
(Thus for his profit wrought) 



1390 



A castle strong he made, 
The sea around it played 1 , 
That none might there alight 
Save with the sea-bird's flight; 
But when the tide was low 
Then men the way might know. 1400 
He set him, Fikenhild, 
To woo fair Rimenild, 
The king, her sire, that day 
He durst not say him nay, 
The maid was sad of mood, 
She wept with tears of blood. 
That night Horn restless lay 
And dreamed sad dreams alway, 
That on a ship that tide 
Men bare his maiden bride; 1410 

The ship, it sank adown, 
And she was like to drown, 
Then as, with upraised hand, 
She won her way to land, 
With sword-hilt, Fikenhild, 
He thrust down Rimenild. 
Horn, he awakened there 
As one in sudden fear; 
'Athulf, make no delay, 
To ship we must straightway, 14*0 
Fikenhild, ill hath wrought, 
My love to sorrow brought; 
Christ, by Thy Five Wounds' Might, 
Bring me to her to-night!" 
Thus Horn to ship would ride, 
His comrades at his side. 
Fikenhild, as day did spring, 
Betook him to the king, 
Rimenild, fair and bright, 
He thought to wed ere night. 1430 
Before the dawning hour 
He led her to his tower. 
The feast they had begun 
Ere yet uprose the sun; 
Horn knew it not alway, 
But, with the dawning day 
His ship stood neath the tower 
Before his lady's bower. 
(The maid, small hope had she, 
That Horn alive should be ) 1440 
Strange to their eyes, and new, 



KING HORN 



109 



The castle no man knew; 

Of Athulf's kin a knight, 

Arnoldin was he hight, 

They found, who at that tide 

Horn's coming would abide; 

He quoth "King's son, Child Horn, 

Welcome be thou this morn, 

To-day false Fikenhild 

Doth wed with Rimenild, 1450 

No lie I speak, i-troth, 

He hath beguiled ye both. 

This tower he bade them make 

Even as for thy sake, 

Enter I ween, none can, 

By any wile of man, 

An Christ aid not, Child Horn, 

Of love art thou forlorn." 

Now Horn knew every wile 

Wherewith man may beguile, 2460 

His harp he took in hand 

With certain of his band, 

Good knights who, at his will, 

Clothed them as harpers still. 

They gat them o'er the sand 

Towards the tower on strand, 

Gaily the harpers sang, 

Joyful their music rang, 

Rimenild hearkened there 

And questioned who they were? 1470 

They said "The harp we play, 

The viol and lute alway." 

Without they need not wait, 

Men oped the castle gate, 

Set Horn on bench straightway, 

His harp they bade him play. 

A lay, the bride before, 

He harped, she mourned full sore, 

Swooning she fell awhile 

Never a guest did smile, 1480 

It smote Horn to the heart, 

Right bitter was love's smart; 

His glance the ring hath sought, 

On Rimenild he thought, 

Bared was his goodly sword, 

He strode up to the board, 



Fikenhild fell adown, 

Cloven the traitor's crown, 

His knights who sat a-row 

To ground they swiftly throw, 1490 

Slain were they all forthright, 

And drawn that traitor knight. 

Where Aylmar rule did bear 

Arnoldin crown shall wear 

And rule o'er Westerness 

For this, his faithfulness; 

The king, and all his men, 

They sware him fealty then. 

Horn took his bride by hand 

And led her to the strand, 150* 

And with her Athelbrus, 

The steward of his house. 

The tide full fast did flow, 

Horn Child began to row, 

He came unto the shore 

Where Mody ruled of yore, 

Athelbrus made he king 

For his good fostering, 

Mercy he shewed that day 

As knighthood's fitting pay. 1510 

Horn o'er the waves did ride 

Blown o'er the waters wide, 

He came to Irish ground 

Where he had shelter found, 

Athulf he wedded there 

To Reynild, maiden fair. 

Thence fared he to Suddene 

Amidst his kinsmen keen, 

There crowned his maiden bride, 

And set her at his side. 1530 

The folk, they loved them true, 

Their death they needs must 

rue 

Now are they dead indeed, 
Christ give their souls good speed. 
Here ends the tale of Horn, 
Fair knight, to honour born; 
Glad may we be, I wis, 
That thus he won to bliss; 
And Jesus, Heaven's King, 
Us to like ending bring. 1530 



no 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



HAVELOK THE DANE 

(After the death of Havelok' s father, Godard seizes the kingdom, kills Havelok' s sisters, 
and orders Havelok himself to be drowned.) 



GODARD took the maids that day, 

As it were with them to play, 

As his mood had sportive been 

(Hunger made them black and green) 

Of the twain the throat he slits, 

Hacked them both, I trow, to bits; 

Sorrowful the sight that day 

By the wall the children lay 

Dead, and weltering in their blood. 

Havelok saw, as nigh he stood, 10 

Sorrowful was he that stead, 

Well might he know mickle dread, 

At his heart he saw a knife 

Raised to rob him of his life. 

Knelt the little lad that day 

To that Judas quoth straightway : 

"Lord, now mercy show to me, 

Homage here I offer free, 

I will Denmark to ye give 

If so be ye let me live, 20 

Here, on book, I'll freely swear 

That I never more will bear 

'Gainst ye, lord, nor shield nor arm, 

Spear nor sword that may ye harm; 

Lord, have mercy now on me 

This day Denmark will I flee, 

Never to return again 

And I '11 swear that Birkabeyne 

Ne'er in life begat a son!" 

When the devil heard, anon, 30 

He his deed did somewhat rue, 

And the dripping knife withdrew 

Wet with guileless children's blood 

'T was a miracle right good 

That the lad he did not slay 

But for ruth withheld that day; 

Tho' he were full fain that stead 

The child Havelok had been dead, 

Yet since, foul fiend tho' he were, 

He was loth such deed to dare, 40 



He thought then, as Havelok stood 

Staring, as one well nigh wood: 

"If alive I let him go 

He may work me mickle woe, 

Peace with me he ne'er will make 

But will watch my life to take. 

An he were no more alive, 

And my bairns should live and 

thrive, 

Lord and sovereign after me 
Of all Denmark should they be. so 

So God help me he shall die 
For no better rede have I, 
Men shall cast him in the sea 
In its wave he drowned shall be, 
Round his neck an anchor good 
That he float not on the flood." 
Then straightway he bade them go 
Fetch a fisher, who should do 
All his will, and when he came 
Spake he to him at that same: 60 

"Grim, thou know'st thou art mv 

thrall, 

An thou doest my will withal, 
That which I demand of thee, 
On the morn I'll make thee free, 
And with goods will wealthy make 
Now this boy I bid thee take, 
Lead him forth with thee to-night, 
When the moon doth give her light, 
On the sea, drown him therein, 
On my head shall be the sin." 70 

Grim the child hath bound full fast, 
Tightly that the bonds might last, 
For of full strong line were made; 
Then was Havelok sore dismayed, 
Never had he known such woe! 
Christ, Who made the lame to go, 
And the dumb hath caused to speak 
Vengeance now on Godard wreak ! 



HAVELOK THE DANE 



in 



Grim the boy full fast hath bound, 79 

With an old cloth wrapped him round, 

Took of filthy rags a clout, 

Gagged him that he ne'er cry out 

Wheresoe'er he should him lead 

Then, when he had done that deed, 

As the traitor to him spake 

Bidding him the boy to take, 

And to drown him in the sea, 

This he promised faithfully. 

In a sack so foul and black 

Soon he took him on his back, 90 

To his hut the boy he bare, 

Gave him to Dame Leve's care; 

Quoth: "This boy guard well, my wife, 

E'en as thou wouldst guard my life, 

I must drown him in the sea, 

And for that freedman shall be, 

Gold and fee we'll have enow, 

Thus my lord hath sworn, I trow." 

When his wife she heard, straightway, 

From her seat she rose that day, 100 

Threw the boy so hard adown 

That well nigh he cracked his crown 

'Gainst a stone that lay full nigh 

"Wellaway!" might Havelok cry: 

"That King's son I be to-day, 

Better had I been their prey 

Eagle, Griffin, Wolf, or Bear, 

Lion, or She-wolf, beasts that tear!" 

There he lay till middle night IOQ 

Then Grim bade them bring him light, 

He would clothe him, little loath 

"Now bethink thee of the oath 

That I sware unto my lord, 

Never will I break my word, 

I will bear him to the sea, 

Well dost know it so must be, 

Drowned shall he be therein 

Now rise up, and go within, 

Blow the fire, a candle take." 

As the clothes she 'Id ready make 120 

For his use, the embers blow, 

Ix>! therein a light did glow, 

E'en as bright as it were day 

Round the boy, who sleeping lay; 

From his mouth it forth did stream 



Bright it was as sunlight beam, 

And the dwelling did it light 

E'en as taper, burning bright. 

"Jesu Christ!" Leve cried in fear, 129 

"What this light? How came it here? 

Stir up, Grim, and look and see, 

What dost think the light can be?" 

To the boy he straight did go, 
Right good will had he thereto, 
Loosed the gag, the lad unbound, 
And right soon on him they found, 
As his shirt they turned down there, 
On his neck the king's mark fair, 
Very bright and fair to see 
Quoth Grim :" God wot, this is he 140 
To whom Denmark shall belong, 
He shall be a ruler strong, 
He shall hold one day in hand 
All Denmark and Engelland, 
Godard shall he harm that day, 
Hang him high, or, living, flay, 
Or alive, burn him anon, 
Mercy shall he show him none!" 
Thus quoth Grim, and sore did greet, 
Down he fell at Havelok's feet, 150 

Praying: "Lord, have mercy here, 
On me, and my wife so dear; 
Lord, we own us bound to thee, 
Thralls, and servants both are we. 
Lord, we'll cherish thee, and feed, 
Till that thou canst ride on steed, 
Till the day that thou canst wield 
Knightly helm, and spear and shield, 
That foul traitor Godard, he 
Naught shall know, I swear it thee, 160 
And none other, lord, save thou 
Makest me free man, I trow, 
Thro' thee, lord, will I be free 
I will watch and care for thee, 
And by thee be freed alway " 

Havelok, he was glad that day, 
Up he sat, and craved for bread, 
Quoth: "Now am I well nigh dead, 
What with hunger, and the bands 
Thou did'st fasten on my hands, 170 



112 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And the gag, which, at the last 
In my mouth thou madest fast, 
Therewith was I squeezed so tight, 
Thou hadst strangled me outright!" 
"Godwot," quoth Leve, "it pleaseth me 
Thou wouldst eat, I'll fetch for thee 
Milk and butter, cheese, and bread, 
Pasties, pancakes, for thee spread, 
With such food we shall thee feed 
Lord, in this thy mickle need. 180 

Sooth 't is, as men say and swear, 
Whom God helps, is harmed ne'er!" 

When the dame had brought the meat, 
Havelok, he began to eat 
Greedily, tho' blithe that tide 
He might not his hunger hide; 
A whole loaf he ate, and more, 
For he needs must hunger sore, 
Since for full three days, I ween, 
Never meat the lad had seen. 190 

Then, when he was fully fed, 
Grim, he made a right fair bed, 
Did his clothes off, laid him low, 
Quoth: "Sleep, Son, 't is better so, 
Sleep thou sound, and dread thee naught, 
Thou from bale to bliss art brought." 
Soon as dawned the light of day 
Grim, he went upon his way, 
To that traitor, false Godard, 
Who of Denmark was the steward, 200 
Quoth to him: "Lord, I have done 
All thou badest me anon, 
Drowned the boy in salt sea flood, 
Round his neck an anchor good. 
Verily, that boy is dead, 
Never more he eateth bread, 
He lies drowned in the sea 
Give me gold and other fee, 
That henceforth I rich may be, 
With thy charter make me free. 210 
Such the promise thou didst make 
When I lately with thee spake." 
Godard stood, and looked at him 
With a piercing glance and grim, 
Quoth: "Thou fain wouldst be an Earl? 
Get thee home, thou dirty churl, 



Go thy way, and evermore 
Be the thrall thou wast before. 
Other meed thou shalt have none 
With but little thou hadst gone 220 

To the gallows, God me speed 
Thou hast done a wicked deed, 
Here too long thou well mayst stay, 
Get thee quickly hence away!" 

With all haste then, Grim, he ran 
From that wicked, traitorous man, 
Thought: "What were it best to do? 
An he knew, he'll take us two 
Hang us high on gallows-tree, 
Better 't were the land to flee 230 

So we both may save our life, 
And my children, and my wife." 
Grim, he sold his corn, I trow, 
Fleecy sheep, and horned cow, 
Horse, and swine, and goat withal, 
Geese, and hens, he sold them all; 
All that he of worth might hold 
And could sell, that same he sold, 
Turned it into money there 
Then his ship he fits with care, 240 

Tarred and pitched it so that she 
Safe on sand or creek might be; 
Fixed therein a goodly mast, 
Cables strong to hold it fast, 
Right good oars, and right good sail, 
The ship lacked for ne'er a nail 
Nor for aught a man might do 
When he had prepared it so 
Havelok on board led he 
With his wife, and his sons three, 250 
And his daughters, maidens fair 
To the oar he bent him there, 
Drew him out on the high sea 
Where he deemed he best might flee. 
But within a little while, 
When he scarce had rowed a mile 
Rose a wind from out the North, 
Bise men call it, drave them forth, 
Drave them to the English land 
Which was later in his hand, 260 

Havelok, as men call his name 
But he first must suffer shame, 



HAVELOK THE DANE 



Mickle grief and care, I wis, 
But at last it all was his 
E'en as I will tell ye here 
An ye lend to me your ear. 
Grim the Humber did ascend, 
E'en to Lindesey, the North end, 
There his ship ground on the sand, 
Grim, he drave it to the land. 
There he made a little cote 
For himself, and for his boat; 
There the land he thought to take 
A small house of earth to make, 
So that they therein might dwell 
In that haven harbour well. 
And since Grim that place did own 
By his name it soon was known, 
Grimsby, men the town do call 
Who speak of it, one and all, 
And so men shall call it aye 
Betwixt now and Judgment Day. 

Grim, he was a fisher good, 
Skilful he upon the flood, 
Many fish therein he took 
Both with net, and eke with hook, 
Sturgeon did he catch, and whale, 
Turbot, salmon, without fail, 
Soles and eels, the sooth to tell 
Oftentimes he sped full well, 
Cod and porpoise took he there, 
Herrings too, and mackerel fair, 
Plaice, and halibut, and thornback. 
Baskets good he did not lack, 
Four, I trow, he made him there 
That he and his sons might bear 
Fish for sale or for exchange 
There was never town or grange 
Where he went not with his ware; 
And he came back never bare, 
But of bread or victuals, store 
In his shirt or cloak he bore, 
In his sack were beans or corn, 
Ne'er his toil was vainly borne. 
When 't was lampreys he had ta'en 
Well he knew the way again 
To Lincoln town, that borough true, 
Oft he passed it thro' and thro' 



290 



300 



Till his fish he all had sold 
And the pence for it was told. 310 

Then his home he gladsome sought, 
For ofttimes with him he brought 
Cakes and simnels, shaped as horn, 
Full his bags with meat and corn, 
Flesh of neat, and sheep, and swine, 
Hemp wherewith to twist his line, 
And strong rope to fix the net 
Which in sea full oft he set. 

Thus hath Grim a fair life Jed, 

With his folk right well he fed, 320 

Winters twelve, I trow, and more 

Havelok knew he laboured sore 

For his meat, while still he lay, 

Thought: "No child am I to-day, 

But well-grown, and I could eat 

More than ever Grim may get; 

I eat more, by God alive, 

Than Grim and his children five! 

It may not for long be so, 

Godwot, I with them will go, 330 

I will learn to get some good, 

I will toil for this, my food, 

'T is no shame to toil alway, 

Eat and drink that man well may 

Who for all has toiled full long; 

Thus to lie at home were wrong, 

God reward him, I ne'er may, 

Who hath fed me to this day, 

Glad I '11 bear a basket now, 

It shall harm me naught, I trow, 340 

E'en tho' great the burden be 

As a net, yea, verily, 

No more will I idle stay 

But to-morrow go my way." 

On the morn, with light of day, 

Up he gat, nor longer lay, 

Did a basket on his back 

With fish piled up in a stack, 

Yea, as much alone he bare 

As the four, mine oath I'll swear! 350 

Well he bare it, sold it well, 

All the silver down did tell, 

Of the monies he brought back 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Not a farthing there did lack; 

Thus he gat him forth each day 

And no longer idle lay. 

So his trade he learned full well 

On the land a famine fell 

Both of corn and bread also; 

Grim, he wist not what to do, 360 

How his house-hold might be fed 

He for Havelok was in dread, 

Strong he was, and much he ate, 

More than ever Grim might get. 

On the sea no fish he caught. 

Ling nor hornback home he brought, 

Nay, nor other fish to feed 

This his household in their need. 

Havelok wrought him mickle care 

Pondering how he might fare, 370 

These, his children vexed him naught, 

Havelok was all his thought. 

Grim quoth: "Havelok, son so dear, 

Death, I think me, draweth near, 

Hunger presseth us too strong, 

Food hath failed us over long, 

Better now to go thy way 

Than with us o'er-long to stay, 

Till it were too late to go 

Thou right well the road dost know 380 

Unto Lincoln, that good town, 

Oft hast paced it up and down; 

My life is but worth a sloe, 

It were well thou thither go, 

Many good men dwell therein, 

With them thou thy bread mayst win, 

Woe is me! too naked thou, 

Of my sail I'll make, I trow, 

Coat that thou mayst round thee fold 

Son, that thou mayst take no cold." 

Shears he taketh from the nail, 391 

Made a garment of the sail, 
Havelok wrapped it round him there; 
Neither hose nor shoes he ware, 
Other weed had none that day, 
Barefoot did he go his way. 
In the town he was full woe, 
Had no friend to whom to go, 
Two days, fasting, went his way 



None his work with food would pay. 
The third day he heard men call : 401 
"Porters, Porters, come ye all!" 
All the poor men at that cry 
Swift as sparks from embers fly, 
Havelok smote down nine or ten, 
In the dust he laid them then, 
Came he straightway to the cook 
Meat for the Earl's table took, 
That he at the bridge did buy, 
Let the porters lowly lie, 410 

And the meat to castle bare 
Farthing cake they gave him there. 

The next day good heed he took, 
Lay in wait for the Earl's cook, 
On the bridge he stood that tide, 
Fishes many lay beside, 
For the Earl of Cornewall 
Bought he meat, and loud did call: 
"Porters, Porters, hither hie!" 
Havelok hearkened joyfully, 420 

When he "Porters!" heard him call 
Down he smote the others all, 
Who that day betwixt them stood, 
Sixteen lads, so stout and good; 
To the cook he made a leap 
Thrust them down all in a heap, 
With his basket reached his side 
Gathered up the fish that tide. 
Well a cart-load did he bear, 
Sounds, and salmon, plaices fair, 430 
Lampreys great he took and eels, 
Spared he neither toes nor heels. 
To the castle came again 
Where his burden men have ta'en. 
Then when men had helped him down, 
Ta'en the load from off his crown, 
The cook eyed him well, I trow, 
Thought him stalwart man enow, 
Quoth: "Now wilt thou stay with me? 
I will feed thee willingly, 440 

Well art worth thy hire alway 
And the food I'll to thee pay!" 
"Godwot," quoth he, "gentle sire 
Here I pray none other hire, 
Food enow give thou to me, 



HAVELOK THE DANE 



i Water, Fire, I '11 fetch for thee, 
Blow the fire, and right well make, 

: Sticks I know well how to break, 

' And a fire to kindle here 
That shall burn both bright and clear. 

i I can cleave wood passing well; 451 

I How to skin an eel can tell; 
Dishes can I wash also, 
All you will I well may do." 
Quoth the cook: "T is well, anon, 
Go thou yonder, sit thou down, 
And good bread I'll give thee free, 
Broth in kettle make for thee, 
Sit thee down, thy fill mayst eat, 
Woe to those who grudge thee meat!" 

Havelok sat him down anon, 461 

Stayed as still as any stone 

Till meat was before him set; 

A fair meal did Havelok get. 

When he ate his will that day 

To the well he went straightway, 

Drew a tub of water there, 

Bade no man to help him bear, 

But with his own hands alone 

In the kitchen set it down. 470 

He could carry water there, 

He the meat from bridge would bear; 

Turf and peat he carried all, 

Bare the wood from bridge withal; 

All that ever men might use 

Havelok carries, draws, or hews, 

No more rest he takes than he 

Should a beast of burden be. 

Of all men was he most meek, 

Ever smiling, blithe did speak, 480 

Glad and joyous he that tide 

Knew full well his grief to hide. 

Never was there child so small, 

Who was fain to sport withal, 

But with him would Havelok play; 

Bairns he met upon his way 

Readily he did their will, 

Gave them all of sport their fill. 

All men loved him, quiet and bold, 

Knights and children, young and old, 

Well-beloved of all was he 491 



Both of high and low degree. 

Far and wide of him they speak 

How he was both strong, and meek; 

"God ne'er wrought a man more fair, 

Yet he goeth well nigh bare!" 

For of clothing naught had he 

But a loose robe, ill to see, 

Soiled it was, and all unclean, 

Not a fir-twig worth, I ween. 500 

But his plight the cook did rue, 

Clothes he bought him, all brand new, 

Hose and shoes he bought anon, 

Bade him swiftly put them on, 

When new clad, and hosed, and shod, 

None so fair was made by God! 

Of all men who trod the earth 

And of women had their birth, 

Never man had ruled, to wit, 

Over kingdom, who so fit 510 

King or Kaiser for to be, 

To all seeming, than was he! 

For when all together came 

There, at Lincoln, for their game, 

And the Earl's men stood him by, 

Havelok, by the shoulder high, 

Towered above the tallest there 

If to wrestle one would dare 

Havelok him to ground soon cast, 

Stood above him like a mast; 520 

And as he was broad and long 

So was he both stout and strong, 

None in England was his peer 

Or for strength could come him near. 

Gentle was he too, as strong, 

Tho' a man oft did him wrong 

III for ill he ne'er repaid 

Nor a hand upon him laid. 

As a maiden pure and clean, 

Ne'er in game or woodland green 530 

Would he with a woman play, 

Cast such things, as straw, away. 

In that time the English land 

All lay in Earl Godrich's hand, 

To the town he bade them fare, 

Many an Earl and baron there, 

And all men, who at that tide 

Lived in England far and vide, 



n6 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To all men he summons sent 
To attend this parliament. 540 

Nor of champions was there lack 
With their men, both brown and black, 
And it fell out that these men, 
Some among them, nine or ten, 
Midst themselves began to play 
Strong and weak were there that 

day, 

Less and more together fell, 
All who in the burg did dwell; 
Champions, and lads so strong, 
Bondsmen with their goads so long, 550 
As they gat them from the plough, 
'T was a gathering great, I trow. 
Never stable-knave should be, 
Tho' his horse in hand had he, 
But he came to see that play. 
At their feet a tree, it lay, 
They began to put the stone 
Those strong lads, yea, many a one, 
Mickle was that stone and great, 
Even as a neat its weight, 560 

He a stalwart man should be 
Who should lift it to his knee; 
There was neither clerk nor priest 
Who could raise it to his breast. 
The champions the test they dare, 
With the barons came they there, 
And that man whose throw went past 
By an inch another's cast, 
Were he young, or were he old, 
Men did him for champion hold. 570 
Staring, there they stood around; 
Lords and champions, on that ground 
Make a great debate, I wot, 
Which shall be the better shot. 
Havelok stood and watched the sport, 
But of putting knew he naught, 
Never yet he saw them play 
*'Put the Stone" before that day. 
Then his master bade him go 
See what he therein might do, 580 

Tho' his master had him bade 
Of the task was he afraid; 
Thither goeth he anon, 
Catcheth up the heavy stone, 



Wherewith he should put that day 
At the first put did it lay 
Over all that came before 
A good twelve-foot cast, and more. 
The champions who saw that throw 
Shoved each other, laughing low, $go 
No more would they put that day, 
Quoth: "Now all too long we stay." 
Men might not this marvel hide, 
Loud thereof they spake that tide 
How that Havelok threw the stone 
Far beyond them, everyone; 
How that he was fair and tall, 
Very strong, and white withal. 
Thro' the land of him they speak 
How he was both strong and meek; 600 
In the castle, high in hall, 
Thereof spake the nobles all, 
So that Godrich right well heard 
Tales of Havelok, every word; 
How he tall and strong should be, 
Strong of hand, and fair and free. 
Then thought Godrich: "Thro' this 

knave 

England in my power I'll have, 
I, and my son after me, 
So I will that it shall be. 610 

Athelwold, he made me swear, 
On the Holy Mass-gear there, 
That I would his daughter give 
To the tallest who should live, 
Best and fairest, strongest aye, 
That I soothly sware that day. 
Where shall I find one so tall 
As this Havelok? Skilled withal 
Tho' I sent to search thro' Ynde 
One so strong I may not find, 620 

Yea, with him my quest is sped 
With Goldboro shall he wed." 
This he thought of treachery, 
Of treason, and of felony, 
For he deemed that Havelok, he, 
Naught but a churl's son should be, 
Ne'er should hold of English land 
E'en a furrow in his hand 
Tho' he wed the rightful heir 
Who was good as she was fair. 63* 



HAVELOK THE DANE 



117 



Havelok he deemed a thrall, 
Therefore thought he should have all 
England, that the maid's should be 
Worse than Sathanas was he, 
He, whose power on earth Christ 

shook 
Well might he be hanged on hook ! 

Goldboro he hither bade 

(Very fair and sweet that maid) 

And to Lincoln did her bring; 

All the bells for her did ring, 6 4 o 

Mickle joy he made that day 

Natheless, traitor he, alway ! 

Said, for lord he 'Id give her there 

One who was of men most fair; 

Then she answered him anon, 

Sware by Christ, and by Saint John, 

That with no man would she wed, 

None should bring her to his bed, 

Save a king, or a king's heir 

Tho' he were of men most fair. 650 

Godrich Earl, he waxed full wroth 
When he heard her swear such oath, 
Quoth: "What, Maiden, wouldst thou be 
Queen and Lady over me? 
With a vagabond shalt wive 
And no other King alive! 
Thou shalt wed with my cook's knave, 
Ne'er another lord shalt have; 
Woe to him who other lot 
Gives thee while I live, I wot, 660 

With the morn I shall thee wed 
Willy-nilly, to his bed!" 
Goldboro wept sore that stead, 
Fain were she she had been dead; 
On the morn, at dawning hour 
Rang the bell from the church tower, 
Judas sent for Havelok (he 
Worse than Sathanas should be) 
Quoth: "Say, Master, wilt a wife?" 
"Nay," quoth Havelok, "by my life! 
With a wife I naught may do, 671 

Find her food, nor clothes, nor shoe, 
Where should I a woman bring? 
Of mine own I have no thing, 



Neither house nor hut have I, 
Stick nor twig, or green or dry, 
Neither bread nor victuals own, 
But an old coat, that alone, 
For these clothes that cover me 
Are the cook's, his knave I be!" 680 
Up sprang Godrich, beat him well, 
Hard and strong the blows they fell, 
Quoth: "Save thou that maiden take 
Whom I think thy wife to make, 
Thou shalt hang on gallows high, 
Or I will put out thine eye!" 
Havelok was adread that day, 
Quoth, he would his word obey; 
For the maid he sent full soon, 
Fairest woman 'neath the moon, 690 
Swift he spake to her withal, 
That foul traitor, wicked thrall: 
"Save that thou take this man's hand 
I will drive thee from the land, 
Or shalt haste to gallows tree, 
In a fire thou burnt shall be!" 
Much she feared his threats that day, ' 
Durst not say the spousals nay, 
For altho' she liked it ill 
Yet she deemed it were God's Will, 700 
For that God, Who grows the corn, 
Willed her to be woman born. 
Then when he for dread did swear 
He would wed and feed her there, 
And she sware she would him hold, 
Then were pence in plenty told, 
Mickle monies on the book 
Thus he gave, and thus she took. 
They were wedded fast that day 
And the Marriage Mass did say, 710 
All pertaining to a Clerk, 
The Archbishop good, of York, 
For the parliament he came 
Sent by God, as at that same. 

By God's law they wed have been, 
And the folk the deed have seen 
Sore dismay doth Havelok know, 
Wist not what they best might do, 
Should they bide, or go their way? 
There, he would no long-time stay, 720 



nS 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Godrich hated them he saw 

(Food he, for the Devil's maw) 

And if he to dwell there sought, 

(This, I trow, was Havelok's thought) 

To his wife men might do shame, 

Or else bring upon him blame, 

Liever he if dead he were 

Other rede he took him there, 

That from thence they both would flee, 

Seek to Grim and his sons three, 730 

There he deemed they best might speed, 

Both to clothe them and to feed. 

Foot to ground they set straightway, 

Other rede had none that day, 

Took the right road at that same 

Till they safe to Grimsby came. 

When he came there, Grim was dead, 

Nor with him might speak that stead, 

But his children were alive, 

Sons and daughters, all the five, 740 

And to welcome him were fain 

When they knew he came again ; 

Greeted him with gladness mickle, 

Ne'er, I trow, he found them fickle! 

On their knees fell speedily, 

Greeting Havelok heartily, 

Quoth: "Dear Lord, art welcome here, 

Welcome too thy Lady dear, 

Blessed be the day ye both 

Each to other sware your troth, 750 

Well is us that now we live, 

Thine we are, to sell or give, 

Thine we are, to give or sell, 

So that thou wilt with us dwell. 

Lord, we here possess much good, 

Horses, cattle, ships on flood, 

Gold and silver, mickle store 

That was Grim's, our sire, of yore; 

Gold and silver, other fee 

He hath bid us hold for thee; 760 

We have sheep, and we have swine, 

Dwell here, Lord, and all is thine! 

Thou art lord and thou art sire, 

We thy servants at thine hire. 

These, our sisters, will fulfil 

All that is thy Lady's will, 



They her clothes will wash and wring, 
Water for her hands will bring, 
Spread the couch for her and thee, 
For our lady shall she be!" 770 

Thus rejoicing do they make, 
Fetch the sticks, and swiftly break, 
Make the fire to burn so bright, 
Goose nor hen they spare that night, 
Neither duck, nor yet the drake, 
Food in plenty ready make. 
For good meat they did not fail, 
Wine they drew for them, and ale, 
Of good heart did they rejoice, 779 

"Wassail" bade, with gladsome voice. 

On that night Goldboro lay 

Sad at heart, and sorrowing aye, 

Deemed she was betrayed by Fate 

With a low-born man to mate. 

Thro' the dark she saw a light 

Very fair, and very bright, 

Yea, so bright it shone, I ween, 

As a blazing fire had been. 

Looked she North, and looked she 

South, 

Lo! it came from out his mouth, 790 
Who beside her lay in bed 
'T was no wonder she had dread, 
Thought: "What may this marvel 

mean? 

He is high-born, so I ween, 
He is high-born, or is dead!" 
On his neck, in gold so red, 
Lo! a Cross, and in her ear 
She an angel's voice doth hear. 

" Goldboro, let thy mourning be, 
Havelok, who hath wedded thee, 800 
Is a King's son, and King's heir 
As that Cross betokens fair. 
More it showeth, in his thrall 
Denmark, yea, and England all; 
Sovereign he, both strong and true 
O'er England, and Denmark too, 
With thine eyes this shalt thou see, 
With him Queen, and Lady be!" 



ARTHUR AND MERLIN 



119 



ARTHUR AND MERLIN 



THE CHOOSING OF ARTHUR 

AT Yule the Bishop Bricius, he 
Gave proof that he no fool should be, 
There stood he forth amid them all, 
In this wise did upon them call : 
"Lordings, since ye may not accord 
To choose unto ye here a lord, 
I pray, for love of Christ so dear, 
Ye work by wile and wisdom here; 
For such a choice the time is right 
Now go we all to church to-night 10 
And pray to Christ, so good and free, 
A king to send us, who shall be 
Strong for the right against the wrong, 
Whom He shall choose our ranks among ; 
Pray that to us He token send 
When the morn's Mass be brought to 

end." 

That in such wise it might be done, 
To this, they say, "Amen" each one. 
Thus they betake them, more or less, 
That night to church, with morn to 

Mass, 20 

In prayer their cause to God commend 
That He a rightful king should send. 
And thus, when at the end of Mass, 
From out the church the folk would pass, 
Before the church door, there they 

found 

A great stone standing on the ground, 
'T was long and high, the sooth to say, 
Therein a right fair sword, it lay. 
Then king and duke, baron, and knight, 
Were filled with wonder at that sight; 
The Bishop, he beheld with eye, 31 

And rendered thanks to Christ on high, 
And here I rede ye all to wit 
That on the pommel fair 't was writ : 
"Excalibur, the name I bear, 
For a king's treasure fashioned fair.*' 
In English writing there displayed, 
In steel 't was graven on the blade. 



The Bishop quoth to them anon: 
"Who draws this sword from out the 

stone 40 

That same shall be our king indeed, 
By God's Will, and by this, our rede." 
Thereto they give consent alway, - 
King Lot, his hand to hilt did lay, 
Thinking to draw it out forthright, 
But stirred it not, for all his might; 
King Nanters, nor King Clarion, 
Might not withdraw it from the stone, 
Nor gentle man, whoe'er he be, 
Was there might stir it, verily. 50 

Thither came all of noble blood, 
And there till Candlemas it stood; 
All who were born in English land 
Each to this stone he set his hand, 
For life or death, I trow, was none 
Might stir that sword from out the 

stone. 

There did it stand till Easter-tide; 
Thither came men from far and wide, 
From this shore, from beyond the sea, 
But prospered not, 't was God's decree ! 
The stone stood there till Pentecost; 61 
And thither came a goodly host, 
For tournament at that same tide 
E'en as it were the stone beside. 
Sir Antour did his son then, Kay, 
With honour make a knight, that day, 
This Kay was ta'en, so saith the Geste, 
Away from this, his mother's breast, 
For Arthur's sake, she nursed that child 
Who grew up courteous, meek, and mild. 
Kay was a noble knight, I trow, 71 

Save that he stammered somewhat now, 
Thro' nurture did he win that same, 
They say that from his nurse it came; 
And Arthur, he had served King Lot 
For this long time, so do I wot. 

When thus, Sir Kay, he was made knight, 
Sir Antour counselled him forthright 



K20 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Arthur to fetch to him again 
And there to make of him his swain, 80 
For he was hardy, true to test, 
Thro' all the land of youths the best. 
Therewith Kay, he was right well paid 
Then all was done as Antour said, 
Arthur came home, and was with Kay, 
To tourney went with him alway; 
There Kay, he shewed himself in fight 
To be a very valiant knight, 
O'er all the field, at end, by side, 
Full many did he fell that tide. 90 

Then, as he came amid the throng, 
He laid about with strokes so strong 
That this, his sword, asunder brake 
Anon, to Arthur thus he spake: 
"Now to my lady swiftly wend, 
Pray her another sword to send." 
And so he did, nor thought to bide, 
But swiftly home again did ride, 
His lady found he not that day 
So turned him back upon his way. 100 

Then to that sword within the stone 
I trow me, he hath swiftly gone, 
(And never man was there to see 
Since all should at the Tourney be,) 
Arthur, he took the hilt in hand 
Towards himself he drew the brand, 
Light from the stone it came away 
He took it in his hand straightway 
And leapt upon his horse anon, 
Back to the Tourney hath he gone no 
And said: "Have here this sword, Sir 

Kay, 

Thy lady found I not to-day." 
Right well Kay knew the sword, I wis, 
To Arthur spake "Whence had'st thou 

this?" 
"Certes" quoth Arthur, "that same 

brand 

There, in a stone, I saw it stand." 
(Arthur, he saw it ne'er before 
Nor wist the meaning that it bore.) 
With that, to Arthur spake Sir Kay, 
"Par amour, now to no man say 120 



Whence thou didst take this sword, I 

trow, 

And riches shalt thou have enow." 
Arthur he answered, "Certes, nay!" 
With that he gat him forth, Sir Kay, 
And led his father, Sir Antour 
Straight to the church of Saint Saviour, 
And saith: "The sword I forth did draw, 
Now am I king, by right and law ! " 
Sir Antour, he beheld that sword, 
Answered again with ready word 130 
"'T is but a boast, by God above! 
An sooth it be, that must thou prove 
Before these nobles everyone, 
Must thrust this sword back in the 

stone; 

Save thou again canst draw it free 
Then shame upon thy head shall be! " 

With that, they get them to the stone, 
And Kay thrust back the sword anon, 
But tho' a knight both stiff and stout 
He had no strength to draw it out. 140 
With that besought him Sir Antour, 
"Now tell me son, here, par amour, 
Who was it drew this sword so good?" 
Sir Kay, he laughed as there he stood, 
And sware: "By God, as here I stand, 
Arthur, he brought it in his hand!" 
Antour, he called Arthur there 
And to the stone he bade him fare 
And there, I trow me, swift and soft, 
Both in and out he drew it oft. 150 

Antour was blithe and glad that day, 
Arthur he took to church straightway 
And saith to him full secretly, 
"Arthur, I prithee, hearken me, 
Since thou wast born, 't is true, I ween, 
In my house nourished hast thou been." 
With that he told him all that morn 
How he begotten was, and born ; 
How that King Uther was his sire, 
And bow, at that same king's desire, 160 
"A nurse I took for my son Kay, 
And thee at my wife's breast did lay." 
Then Antour quoth: "Now list to me, 
Thro' nurture thou my son shalt be, 



ARTHUR AND MERLIN 



121 



It were not right didst thou gainsay 
A boon that I should rightful pray, 
So I beseech, grant me a boon 
Which I will ask of thee full soon, 
And Arthur, son, I will thee aid 169 
That king with honour thou be made." 
Then Arthur answered, fair and free : 
"Now Christ in Heaven forbid it me 
That I deny thee anything 
When thou to me a prayer dost bring." 
Quoth Antour: "God thee well repay; 
Now I for love this boon will pray, 
To Kay my son the stewardship give 
For all the years that thou mayst live; 
In weal, in woe, I pray thee fair, 
In every stead, protection swear, 180 
And I shall aid, in this, thy need, 
That thro' God's Help thou surely 
speed." 

With that Sir Arthur spake full soon; 
"Sir Antour, take thou this, thy boon, 
Kay shall be steward in my land, 
For weal or woe I'll by him stand, 
And if I ever fail Sir Kay 
Then Christ forget me, that same day!" 
With that Sir Antour, he forthright 
Took Arthur, and hath dubbed him 
knight, 190 

First gave him cloth and fitting weed, 
Then found him harness for his steed, 
Helmet, and byrnie, coat of mail, 
Nor plate for arm or thigh did fail; 
With collar, shield, and sword to smite, 
And shaft with blade that well could bite. 
Anon, of knights he gave him there 
Forty, to do him service fair. 
With morn to tournament they go, 199 
And so they dealt, I 'Id have ye know, 
That here Sir Arthur, day by day, 
Honour and praise he bare away. 
At morn Sir Antour, who should be 
No fool, to Bishop Brice went he, 
And saith to him, a knight he knew 
Both fair and noble, good and true, 
"Who shall be king, by this our law, 
For that the sword he forth may draw." 



With that, the Bishop, well content, 
After Sir Arthur straightway sent, 210 
Before the nobles of that land 
Arthur, he took the sword in hand, 
He drew it out, he thrust it in 
Then many a man must wonder win, 
For none might stir it from that stone 
I plight my word, save he alone! 
Then kings and earls, without a doubt. 
They crowded there, the lad about, 
Thinking to prove his knowledge here 
Ever he was of gracious cheer, 220 

Nor better could a man devise 
Than this, his speech, in every wise. 
With that, Sir Antour help did bring 
So that he there was chosen king, 
And to his crowning there withal 
Full many a prince and king they call, 
All who would come, they pray them 

well 
To gather, as Saint John's-tide fell. 



'T is merry in the June-tide fair 

When fennel hangeth everywhere, 230 

And violets and rose in flower 

Be found in every maiden's bower; 

The sun is hot, the day is long, 

And merry sounds the birdling's song; 

Then first King Arthur bare the crown 

Within Cardoil, that noble town. 

King Lot, who wedded Belisent, 

He to the coronation went, 

The King of Lyoneis was he, 

A strong man, of great courtesie. 240 

Five hundred knights were in his train, 

Hardy and strong, for fighting fain. 

King Nanters came, as I am told, 

Who did the land of Garlot hold, 

A noble man, a valiant wight, 

Strong to defend himself in fight. 

The same had wedded with Blasine, 

King Arthur's sister, fair and fine, 

Full seven hundred knights, the king 

Did with him, as his mesnie, bring, 250 

And many a charger, many a steed, 

That should be found right good at need. 



122 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And thither too, King Urien sped, 
Who did with the third sister wed, 
'T was from the land of Gorre he came, 
A young man he, of noble fame, 
With twenty thousand men, and five, 
No better knights were there alive. 

King Carados, he too, was there, 

The crown of Strangore did he bear, 260 

A mighty man, and well renowned, 

Knight was he of the Table Round, 

From far, unto Cardoil he sought, 

Six hundred knights with him he 

brought, 

Who well knew how to joust in field, 
With stiff lance, 'neath the sheltering 

shield. 

Thither came Ider in that hour, 
King of the Marches, of great power, 
And with him brought full thirty score 
Of knights who rode his face before. 270 

King Anguisant did thither ride, 
The King of Scotland at that tide, 
The richest he, among them all, 
Youngest, and of great power withal, 
Five hundred knights he brought, I wot, 
Both stout and strong, each man a Scot; 
And many more, from South and East, 
Thither have come, to that high feast. 
Then king and baron, as I tell, 279 

Nobly they welcomed them, and well, 
And Bishop Brice, the court among, 
Crowned Arthur, and the office sung. 
And when the service came to end, 
Unto the feast their way they wend; 
They found all ready, cloth and board, 
And first hath gone the highest lord ; 
Men serve them then with plenteous 

fare, 

With meat and drink, and dainties rare, 
With venison of hart and boar, 289 

Swan, peacock, bustard, to them bore; 
Of pheasant, partridge, crane, that day 
Great plenty and no lack had they. 
Piment and claret served they free 
To high lords, and their companie, 



Serving them in such noble wise 

As any man might well devise. 

And when the guests had eaten all, 

Both high and low, within that hall, 

His gifts to give did Arthur rise, 

To noble men, of high emprise, 300 

Their homage they should straightway 

plight 

E'en as the custom was, and right. 
But e'en as this he did, I trow, 
King Lot, King Nanters, men enow, 
Of these his gifts they had despite, 
And to the crown denied his right. 

Up from the board they spring with 

boast, 

Each king of them, with all his host, 
Swearing that ne'er for anything 
They 'Id own a bastard for their king, 310 
Thus, with dishonour great they fare, 
Thinking to slay King Arthur there. 
But Arthur's men, they came between, 
And Merlin, in that strife, I ween, 
Stood forth, and spake, no bastard he, 
But nobler than them all should be, 
And there he told them all that morn 
How Arthur was begat, and born. 
The wise men of that country, they 
Gave thanks to Jesu Christ, alway, 320 
In that their king, thro' this, His Grace, 
Was come of royal Pen dragon's race. 
The barons, they to Merlin say: 
"Thy witchcraft wrought his birth 

alway, 

Thou traitor, know that verily, 
For all enchantments known to thee. 
No child born in adultery 
The king and lord o'er us shall be, 
But he shall starve here, now anon 
Towards King Arthur have they gone, 
The king was armed, from head to heel, 
And all his friends, in iron and steel, 332 
Resistance made they, strong, and stout, 
And of a surety, drave them out, 
With swords and knives full speedily, 
From hall, who Arthur's foes should 
be. 



RICHARD CCEUR DE LION 



Those same six kings, they were right 

wroth, 

And all their barons sware an oath, 
That never they two meals should eat 
Till they had taken vengeance meet; 340 
With that they pitch their tents that 

day 
Without the town, a little way. 



List, tho' ye many be or few, 

In May the sun doth slay the dew, 

The day is merry, waxing long, 

The lark doth, soaring, pour his song, 

The meads they seek, the maidens 

fair, 
And many a floweret gather there. 



'T is merry in the month of May, 
Birds in the woodland groves be gay, 350 
In every land ariseth song 
Christ Jesu, be Thy folk among ! 



Merry it is in summer-tide 
When birds sing in the forest wide, 
On jousting bent, the squires they ride, 
And maidens deck them in their pride. 



Merry is June, when flowers blow fair, 
And meadows sweet perfume the air, 
Lily and rose be bright to see, 
The rivers clear from mire be free, 360 
Both knight, I trow, and vavassour, 
Their demoiselles love par amour. 



RICHARD CCEUR DE LION 



i 

HIS PARENTAGE 

LORD JESUS, King of Victory, 

Who did such grace, and such glory, 

Send unto our King Richard, 

Who was never proven coward, 

Good it is in Geste to read 

Of his conquests, and his deeds! 

Many tales men weave anew 

Of good knights, so strong and true, 

Men their deeds read in romance 

Both in England, and in France; 10 

Of Roland, and of Oliver, 

And of every dosiper; 

Alexander, Charlemagne, 

Of King Arthur and Gawain, 

Courteous knights and good, they 

were 

Of Turpin, and the Dane Ogier. 
And of Troy men read in rhyme, 
How they warred in olden time, 
Of Hector and Achilles true 
And the folk whom there they slew. 20 



In French books this rhyme is wrought, 
Laymen of the tale know naught, 
'Mid hundred laymen there be none 
Who know French, save, perchance, 

one! 

None the less, with gladsome cheer 
There be many fain to hear 
Noble jousts, I understand, 
Wrought by knights of Engelland; 
Therefore I, parfoi, will read 
Of a king of doughty deed, 30 

Richard, king and warrior best 
Men may find in any Geste; 
All who to my tale attend 
May God grant them right good end! 

Lordings, hearken first of all 

How King Richard's birth did fall 

Henry, was his father hight; 

In his time, to tell aright, 

As I find it writ again 

Was Saint Thomas foully slain 40 

At Canterbury's altar stone 

Where be many marvels shown. 



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CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Twenty years to him were told, 

Then was he a king full bold, 

But of wife would he hear naught 

Tho' she treasure with her brought. 

But to wed they pressed him still 

Till he yielded to their will, 

Sent of messengers a band 

Into many a diverse land, 50 

That the fairest maid on life 

They should bring their king as wife. 

Swift those messengers were dight 

Ship they took the self-same night, 

Hoisted up the sail, I trow, 

For the wind was good enow. 

When they were well out at sea 

Then the breeze failed suddenly 

This hath wrought them woe, I ween 

They another ship have seen, 60 

Ne'er had they seen such an one, 

White it was, of whales bone, 

Every nail was gold engraved, 

Of pure gold the rudder-stave, 

Ivory the mast sans fail, 

And of samite all the sail; 

And the ropes were twined of silk, 

Every one as white as milk. 

All the vessel they behold 

Hung about with cloth of gold, 70 

Loof and windlass, fair to view, 

All were bright in azure blue. 

In that ship, I trow, there were 
Valiant knights, and ladies fair, 
And one maiden 'midst them all, 
Bright as sun thro' glass doth fall. 
Swift, her men aboard they stand, 
Seize those others by the hand, 
Pray them there with them to dwell 
And their tidings swiftly tell. 80 

And they answer, they would show 
All they might desire to know; 
"To far lands our way we went, 
For King Henry us hath sent 
That the fairest maid on life 
We may bring to him for wife!" 
As the words were spoken fair 
Rose a king from off his chair 



(Of carbuncle was that throne, 
Never they its like had known.) go 

Two dukes stood that king beside, 
Noble men, of mickle pride, 
Welcome fair they gave that day, 
Bade them come aboard straightway; 
Thirty knights, I speak no lie, 
Were they, in that companie, 
Straight aboard that barque they went 
Who as messengers were sent. 
Knights there were, and maids enow 
Seven score, and more, I trow, 100 

Welcomed them with one accord, 
Set up trestles, laid a board, 
Cloth of gold was spread thereon, 
And the king, he bade, anon, 
That his daughter speedily 
Set before his face should be. 
Then, with sound of trumpet blast, 
Lo! that maid before them passed, 
In her train, of knights a score, 
And of ladies, many more, no 

Knelt before that maiden free, 
Asked her what her will might be? 

Thus they feasted and made gay 

As the king himself did pray, 

And when they had eaten well 

Their adventures would they tell. 

Then the king, he straightway said, 

How in vision he was bade 

From his land to take his way 

And to England go straightway, 120 

And his daughter dear also 

With him on the ship should go 

"So, in fitting fashion dight 

We would seek that land forthright." 

Straight there spake a messenger 

(That man's name was Berenger ) 

"To seek further is no need, 

Bring her to our king with speed, 

When his eyes behold the maid 

He will deem him well repaid." 130 

From the north-east blew the wind, 

Better breeze they might not find, 

At the Tower they land straightway 

And to London take their way. 



RICHARD CCEUR DE LION 



I2 S 



Soon the knights their lord have told 

Of that lady, fair and bold, 

How a ship lay off the Tower 

With a maiden white as flower. 

Then King Henry did him dight, 

Earls and barons, many a knight, 140 

Rode with him that maid to meet, 

Courteously he would her greet. 

Soon that maid to land they led, 

Cloth of gold before her spread, 

And her father walked before, 

Crown of gold on head he wore; 

Messengers on either side, 

Minstrels too, of mickle pride. 

Henry swift from horse did spring, 

Greeted fair that stranger king, 150 

And that lady fair and free 

"Welcome be ye both to me!" 

Thus to Westminster they go, 

Lords and ladies fair also, 

Trumpets sound a blast so gay 

As to meat they take their way. 

Knights, they served them with all speed, 

More to tell there is no need. 

After meat, right courteously, 

Spake our lord, the King Henry, 160 

To that king, there, at that same: 

"Say, dear Sire, what is thy name?" 

"Sire, men call me Corbaryng, 

I of Antioch am king " 

Then he told our lord how he 

Thro' a vision, set to sea: 

"Sire, had it not been for this 

I had brought more men, I wis, 

And of vessels many more 

That of victuals bare a store." 170 

Asked our king the lady there: 

"And thy name, thou maiden fair?" 

"Cassidorien, without lie." 

Thus she answered readily. 

"Demoiselle, so bright and sheen 

Wilt thou stay here as my queen?" 

Quoth the maiden soft and still; 

"I am at my father's will." 

Then her father spake anon, 

All the king's will should be done 180 

And she should, with speed, be wed 



As a queen, to royal bed; 

But she prayed this courtesie 

She be wedded privily. 

Thus were they espoused that night, 

At the feast danced many a knight, 

Joy was made the court among 

With the morn a Mass was sung 

Ere the Host they raised, I ween, 

In a swoon she fell, the queen, 190 

Wonder smote the folk, and dread 

To a chamber was she led, 

Quoth: "This spell is laid on me 

That the Host I may not see." 

Corbaryng, the morrow's tide, 

Sailed, nor longer would abide. 

Henry dwelt with his fair queen, 

Babes were born to them, I ween, 

Two sons, and a daughter fair 

As the book doth well declare, 200 

Richard was the first, sans fail, 

(He of whom I tell this tale) 

John his brother, at that same, 

Topyas, their sister's name. 

Thus the twain this life they led 

Till full fifteen years were sped. 

On a day, before the Rood, 

At the Mass, King Henry stood, 

Came a lord of high degree, 

"Sire," he quoth, "how may this be 210 

That your wife, my lady-queen, 

Dare not at the Mass be seen? 

Give us leave to hold her here 

So that she the Gospel hear, 

Keep her still till Mass be said 

Thou shalt see a sight of dread!" 

Then the king doth grant their will, 

Said that they might hold her still: 

"Nor for weal, nor yet for woe 

From the kirk ne'er let her go!" 220 

When the sacring bell they ring 

For the canon to begin 

From the kirk she would away 

But the Earl, he straight said: "Nay, 

Lady, thou shalt here abide 

Matters not what may betide." 

By the hand she held anon 

Her daughter and her young son, John, 



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Thro' the roof she took her flight 
Openly, in all men's sight, 330 

From the air John fell to ground, 
Brake his thigh there in that stound. 
With her daughter fled the queen, 
Never more by men was seen. 
Marvel on the king was laid 
That she such an ending made, 
For her love, who was served so, 
No more would he come nor go, 
His son Richard, by decree, 
After him the king should be. 240 



II 

X 

HOW RICHARD WON THE NAME 
OF CGEUR DE LION. 

Now they dight them speedily 

These three knights, to set to sea, 

Hoisted sail, the wind was good, 

Swift they crossed the salt sea flood, 

Into Flanders did they go, 

Richard, and his comrades two; 

Took their way, with gladsome cheer, 

Thro' strange lands, both far and near, 

Till to Brindisi they came, 

('T is a haven of great fame.) 10 

There a goodly ship they found 

Which was unto Cyprus bound, 

The sail was raised, the ship was strong, 

But the voyage, they deemed it long, 

When 't was o'er, I understand, 

They did in Famagusta land; 

There they tarried forty days 

Of that land to learn the ways. 

Then once more they set to sea, 

Came to Acre speedily, 20 

Thence they passed to Macedon, 

And the city, Babylon. 

They would Csesarea see 

Then would pass to Nineveh; 

Came unto Jerusalem, 

And the town of Bethlehem; 

Saw the Sultan Turry's hold, 

Ebuda did there behold, 



And the Castle Orgelous, 
And the city Aperrous; 50 

To Jaffa go, and to Safrane, 
To Tabaret, and eke Archane. 
Thus they spied the Holy Land, 
How to win it to their hand; 
Homeward turned their face at last, 
Into England fain had passed. 
When they came o'er the great sea 
To Almayne, those palmers three, 
There they wrought, ere hence they 

go, 

That which brought them mickle woe; 
How it chanced I now will tell, 41 

Lordings, listen to me well! 
They had bought a goose for fare 
In the tavern where they were; 
Richard stirred the fire, I wit, 
Thomas set the goose on spit, 
Fulk d'Oyley, he trimmed the wood 
Very dear they bought that food ! 
When they well had dined that day 
Came a minstrel on his way, 50 

And he quoth: "Good men, be ye 
Pleased to hear my minstrelsie?" 
Richard bade him forth to go, 
Words that turned to mickle woe, 
For he laid that speech to mind, 
Saying: "Ye be men unkind, 
Ye shall rue, if so I may, 
That ye gave me naught to-day, 
Gentlemen should well entreat 
Minstrels whom they chance to meet, 60 
Of their meat and drink be free, 
Fame is spread thro' minstrelsie!" 
English, he the English knew 
By their speech, and look, and hue; 
On his road he went that day 
Where the King of Almayne lay, 
To the castle hath he gone, 
With the porter spake anon : 
"Go, nor wait for summoning, 
Speak thus to thy lord the King : 70 
"There be come unto thy land 
Palmers three, a valiant band, 
In Christendom the strongest they 
And their names I '11 tell straightway, 



RICHARD CCEUR DE LION 



127 



*T is King Richard, warrior grim, 

Comrades twain he leads with him, 

Sir Fulk d'Oyley, of renown, 

And Sir Thomas of Multoun." 

Sped the porter to the hall, 

Told his lord these tidings all, 80 

Glad, the king, he hearkened there 

And by Heaven an oath he sware 

He who brought to him this tale 

For reward he should not fail. 

Then his knights he bade straightway 

To the city take their way: 

"Take ye n?w these palmers three, 

Bring them swiftly here to me." 

Forth in haste those knights have gone 

Unto Richard came anon, 90 

Asked: "Who here at meat may be?" 

Richard answered, fair and free: 

"We be palmers three, no less, 

Come from lands of heatheness," 

Spake the knights in answer there 

"To the king ye needs must fare 

Of your tidings is he fain " 

With the three they turn again; 

When King Richard he did see, 99 

"Dieu me garde'' he quoth, "'t is he 

Yea, in sooth, my deadly foe, 

Hence he shall not lightly go!" 

Straight he doth of them demand, 

"Say, what seek ye in my land?" 

Quoth again: "With traitorous eye 

Ye be come my lands to spy, 

Treason would ye work on me!" 

Quoth King Richard, readily, 

"We be palmers, sooth to say, 109 

From God's Land we pass this way." 

Called the King on Richard's name, 

Spake unto him words of shame : 

"Now for king I know thee well, 

These thy knights, tho' sooth to tell 

Thou dost seem but ill bedight; 

So I say it is but right 

That thou in foul dungeon lie 

Right and reason here have I!" 

Richard quoth, with heart so free : 

"Thou dost ill, so seemeth me, 120 

Palmers passing on their way 



Should go free, by night or day, 

Nay, Sir King, for courtesie 

Do us here no villainie, 

For His Love Who thee hath bought 

Let us go, and grieve us naught; 

It may to your lot betide 

In strange lands to wander wide." 

But the king, he bade ere long 

Shut them fast in prison strong. 130 

Then the jailer at command 

Took King Richard by the hand 

And with him his comrades twain 

Food they might not taste again 

Till the morrow waxed to prime. 

The king's son, at that same time, 

(Arthur was the prince's name,) 

Thought to do King Richard shame, 

(He was held throughout the land 

For the strongest man of hand,) 140 

To the jailer then quoth he: 

"Let me now the prisoners see!" 

Quoth the jailer, " At thy will 

Thy command I will fulfil." 

Swift he bringeth them anon, 

And King Richard first hath gone, 

The king's son, he spake forthright, 

"Art thou Richard, that strong knight, 

Whom men praise in every land? 

Wilt a buffet from me stand, 150 

And anon, as I shall live, 

Thou shalt me a buffet give?" 

Then King Richard, undismayed, 

Hath with him this forward made, 

And the king's son, proud and brave, 

Such a blow to Richard gave 

From his eyes, the fire, it sprung 

Richard deemed he did him wrong: 

"By Saint Helena, I swear, 

With the morn to pay thee fair!" 160 

The king's son, he mocked him still, 

Bade them give him, at his will, 

Both of drink, and eke of meat, 

Of the best that he might eat, 

That he thirst nor hunger know 

Lest o'er-feeble be his blow. 

On the morrow when 't was day, 

Richard rose, without delay, 



128 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And a fire he hath him dight, 

Wax he took, so fair and white, 170 

At the fire he waxed his hand 

All about, I understand. 

Came the king's son, free and bold, 

As true man, his pledge to hold, 

And before King Richard stood, 

Spake to him, with eager mood: 

"Richard, smite with all thy might 

As thou wouldst be held true knight, 

And if e'er I stoop or yield 

May I never carry shield!" 180 

'Neath his cheek his hand he laid, 

(He who saw it soothly said,) 

Flesh and skin were torn away; 

In a swoon he fell that day, 

For in twain it brake, the bone, 

He fell dead as any stone! 

To the king a knight then sped, 

Bare to him these tidings dread: 

"Richard, he hath slain thy son!'* 

" Woe is me! Now have I none!" 190 

With that cry he fell to ground 

As a man by woe fast bound, 

Swooned for sorrow at their feet; 

Knights, they raised him as was meet, 

Saying: "Sire, turn from this thought, 

Now 't is done, 't will help us naught!" 

Then the king aloud did cry 

To the knights who stood near by, 

Saying: "I to hear am fain 

In what manner he was slain ! " 200 

Silent stood they every one, 

Yea, for sorrow speaketh none; 

At their cry she came, the queen, 

Cried: "Alas! What here hath been? 

Why this sorrow, this despair? 

Who hath brought ye all to care?" 

"Dame," he quoth, "say, know'st thou 

naught? 

Thy fair son to death is brought! 
Since the day that I was born 
No such grief my heart hath torn, 210 
All to loss is turned my gain, 
Yea, myself I fain had slain!" 
When the queen, she understood, 
Certes, she was well nigh wood, 



With her nails her cheeks she tare 
As one doth in madness fare, 
Covered was her face with blood 
Rent the robe wherein she stood, 
Cursed the day she first drew breath; 
" Say, how was he done to death? " 220 
Saith the king, "I'll tell to thee, 
Here the knight who told it me, 
Say the sooth," so spake the king, 
"In what wise it chanced this thing, 
If thou aught but truth shalt say 
An ill death shalt die to-day ! " 
Then he doth the jailer call, 
Bade him stand before them all, 
Bear them witness here again 
How the king's son had been slain. 130 
He quoth: "Yesterday, at prime, 
Came your son, in evil time, 
To the prison door, to me; 
Said, the palmers he would see, 
Bade me fetch them forth to show: 
First of all did Richard go, 
Straightway Arthur asked him there, 
If to stand a blow he 'Id dare 
If so, as true knight in land, 
He would take one from his hand. 24* 
Richard answered: 'By this light, 
Smite at will, and do thy might!' 
Arthur smote him such a blow 
That he well nigh laid him low, 
Saith, ' Now here I challenge thee 
Such, at morn, to give to me.' 
So they parted in this wise, 
With the morn did Richard rise 
And your son, again he came; 
Richard met him at that same 250 

As the forward 'twixt them lay, 
Richard smote him, sooth to say, 
Smote his cheek-bone there in twain 
Fell your son before him slain. 
Here I swear I truly tell 
In this wise his death, it fell." 
Quoth the king with eager will : 
"There in prison keep them still, 
And in fetters bind with speed; 
Trow me, for this evil deed, 260 

In that he hath slain my son, 



RICHARD CCEUR DE LION 



129 



He shall now to death be done." 
Forthwith doth the jailer go, 
Swift his lord's command will do, 
Meat that day the knights had naught, 
Never drink to them was brought. 
The king's daughter, that same day, 
With her maids, in bower she lay, 
Margery, she hight, that maid, 
She her love on Richard laid; 270 

At the midday, ere 't was noon, 
To the prison hath she gone, 
Taking with her maidens three 
"Jailer," quoth she, "let me see 
These thy prisoners hastily." 
Quoth the jailer, "Certainly." 
Richard did he bring forthright, 
Fair he greets that lady bright, 
Saith to her with heart so free, 
"Lady, what wilt thou with me?" 280 
When her eyes on him she cast 
Love of him hath gripped her fast, 
And she quoth: "Save God above 
O'er all things I do thee love!" 
Richard answered in that stound. 
"Nay! With wrong brought here to 

ground, 

What may my love profit thee? 
Captive I, as thou mayst see, 
Now a second day hath gone 
That of food I have had none !" 290 
Then the maid, of great pitie, 
Said this should amended be, 
And she bade the jailer there 
Meat and drink to him to bear, 
And the irons from him take 
"Do thou this, for thine own sake, 
And at eve, when supper's done, 
Bring him to my bower anon, 
A squire's vesture shall he wear, 
I myself will keep him there, 300 

By Christ, and by Saint Simon, thou 
Shalt have guerdon fair, I trow!" 
'ihe jailer, he forgat it naught, 
To her bower was Richard brought, 
With the princess dwelt he still, 
Of her favours had his fill, 
Thus, until the seventh day, 



Came and went he on his way. 

Then hath spied on him a knight, 

How he came to her by night, 310 

To the king he spake with tongue: 

"Shamed is now thy daughter young!" 

And the king, he asked anon: 

"Say, who now this deed hath done?" 

"This that traitor Richard, he 

Who hath thus dishonoured thee, 

On my faith as Christian, know 

I have seen him come and go!" 

Then the king, he sighed full sore, 

But to him he spake no more, 320 

Swiftly did he send withal, 

Did his council to him call, 

Earls and barons, clerks also, 

They should hear the words of woe. 

Forth the messengers are gone 

Came the councillors anon, 

It was on the fourteenth day 

That they came, the tale doth say. 

With one voice the king they greet, 

Saith the tale, and fair entreat, 330 

"Lords," he quoth, "be welcome all." 

Forth they went unto the hall, 

There the king his seat doth take 

And without delay he spake 

"Lordings, I have bid ye come 

That ye speak a traitor's doom, 

Richard, who hath done this wrong 

Lies now in my prison strong;" 

Then he told them of his pain, 

How his son by him was slain, 340 

And his daughter brought to shame 

"I had killed him at this same 

Save the law doth straitly say 

That no man a king may slay." 

Then out spake a baron bold : 

" How came Richard in your hold, 

Who so great a king is thought 

That no man dare do him aught?" 

Then he told them in what wise 

He had come there, in disguise, 350 

And two others with him came, 

Noble lords, of knightly fame 

"I, suspecting them alway 

Did them fast in prison lay." 



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CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Leave the king hath taken there, 

Bade them to a hall repair, 

And take counsel there alone, 

Of what now might best be done. 

Thus in speech they conned it o'er 

For three days, I ween, and more. 360 

Some had slain him willingly, 

Some said, 't would unlawful be, 

In this wise with jangling word 

Could they come to no accord. 

"Truly," said the wisest there, 

"We his doom may not declare." 

These the tidings that they tell 

To their king, believe me well! 

Swift a knight spake to the king : 

"Vex thee not, Sire, for this thing, 370 

Sooth, I wis, Sir Eldred, he 

Soon shall tell what best may be, 

Counsel ye right well he can, 

He hath doomed full many a man." 

Then the king, without delay, 

Bade Sir Eldred come straightway, 

He was brought before the king, 

And he prayed him of this thing: 

"How may I avenged be 

Of King Richard, tell to me!" 380 

Quoth Sir Eldred, "Sooth to tell, 

Thereon have I pondered well, 

Ye wot well 't is 'gainst the law 

Majesty to hang and draw, 

This shall now my counsel be, 

Take your lion speedily, 

And withhold from him his meat 

That for three days naught he eat, 

Shut ye Richard in a hall, 

Loose the lion on him withal, sgo 

In this wise he slain may be j 

And the law kept, verily, 

When the lion thy foe hath slain 

Hast thou fitting vengeance ta'en." 

But the maid, she did espy 

How he should, thro' treason, die, 

Sent to call him speedily 

That he warned thereof should be. 

Came he to her bower straightway 

"Welcome, Love," she said that day, 400 

"Know, my father doometh thee, 



Three days hence thou slam shalt be, 
In a chamber shut full close 
They on thee a lion will loose, 
Famishing, and hungered sore, 
Then, I trow, thy life is o'er. 
But, dear Love, (this wise she spake,) 
Hence to-night our flight we '11 take, 
With us gold and treasure store 
That may last us evermore." 410 

Richard quoth: "Nay, nay, not so, 
'T were unlawful thus to do, 
So to fly, nor take our leave, 
Loth were I the king to grieve. 
For the lion care I naught, 
How to slay him have I thought, 
And by prime, on this third day 
Thou shalt have his heart for prey." 
Then he kerchieves prayed, of silk 
"Give me forty, white as milk, 420 

To the prison bring them all 
Ere the shades of evening fall." 
When the hour had come, straightway 
Went the maid upon her way, 
And with her a noble knight, 
There they had a supper dighi, 
Richard bade his comrades two 
With him to her supper go: 
"And, Sir Jailer, come thou still, 
For it is my lady's will." 430 

That night were they glad and gay, 
Then to chamber took their way, 
Richard and that lady bright 
Stayed together all that night. 
At the morn, when it was day, 
Richard bade her go her way; 
"Nay," she quoth, "by God above 
I shall die here with my love; 
Here I will with thee abide 
E'en tho' death should now betide, 440 
Certes, hence I will not wend, 
But will here await mine end." 
Richard quoth: "Now, lady free, 
Save thou swiftly go from me 
Thou shalt surely grieve me sore 
That I ne'er may love thee more." 
Then again she answered: "Nay, 
If so be, then Love, Good-day, 



RICHARD CCEUR DE LION 



God, Who died upon the Tree, 
Save thee, if His Will so be!'* 450 

Then the kerchieves hath he wound 
Round his arms, full tightly bound, 
For he surely hoped that day 
With some wile the lion to slay; 
But a kirtle did he wear 
And the lion awaited there. 
Then the jailer came anon, 
Other two with him have gone, 
With them lead the lion strong, 
Claws had he both sharp and long, 460 
Richard cried: "Help, Heaven's King!" 
Swift the lion on him did spring, 
Fain had torn him in that tide 
But King Richard sprang aside, 
With his fist the lion he spurned 
That the beast around he turned, 
Famished was the lion sans fail, 
Wrathful, bit at his own tail, 
Then the wall he clawed that stead, 
All about his paws he spread, 470 

Roaring loud, with jaws gaped wide 
Richard saw right well that tide 
What to do he thrust full fast, 
Down his throat his arm he passed, 
Tore out with his hand the heart, 
Lungs and liver rent apart, 
On the ground the lion fell dead 
Scatheless all the king that stead; 
Down he kneeled in that place, 479 

Gave God thanks for this, His Grace, 
Shielding him from shame and harm 
Then he took the heart, yet warm, 
Bare it swiftly to the hall, 
'Fore the king and courtiers all; 
Sat the king at meat that day, 
Dukes and earls in great array, 
On the board the salt it stood 
Richard pressed out all the blood, 
Dipped the heart the salt within, 
(All beheld who sat therein,) 49 o 

Without bread the heart he ate. 
Marvelled much the king thereat: 
"Now it seemeth me, I wis, 
This a fiend and no man is, 
Who hath now my lion slain 



And his heart from out him ta'en, 
Of good will that heart did eat, 
Men shall call him, as is meet, 
Christened king of greatest fame, 
Coeur-de-Lion shall be his name!" 500 
Speak we no more of this thing, 
Hearken how he did, the king, 
Mournful doth he fare withal, 
Caitiff he himself doth call, 
Cursed the hour that he was born 
To be thus of son forlorn, 
And his daughter shamed to see, 
While his lion slain should be. 
Earls and barons came, I ween, 
To her lord she hastes, the queen, 510 
Asked of him what did him ail? 
"Well ye wot," he quoth, "the tale, 
If I now in mourning go 
'T is for Richard, my strong foe, 
Who such harm on me hath wrought 
Yet may not to death be brought; 
So I deem that from his hand 
Ransom I may well demand, 
'Gainst the Sacrament hath he 
Shamed my daughter, verily, 520 

From each church where priest shall sing, 
Mass be said, or bell shall ring, 
If two chalices there be 
One of them shall be for me; 
And if there be more than twain 
I to have the half am fain. 
When they bring me this as fee 
Then shall Richard be set free." 
Thus, he said it shall be done 
Then his lords assent anon, 530 

And they call King Richard near " 
That the judgment he may hear. 
Richard cometh to the hall, 
Greets the king and barons all, 
Quoth the king: "Know, verily, 
This our judgment and decree, 
Thou shalt ransom pay forthright 
For thyself, and for each knight. 
Every church throughout thy land 
Shall pay tribute to my hand, 540 

Where two chalices there be 
One of them be brought to me, 



132 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And wherever there be more 

I take half of all the store. 

Thro' thy kingdom, mark it now, 

I will have the half, I trow, 

When thou this to me shalt pay 

Thou hast leave to wend thy way, 

And my daughter take with thee 

That ye twain I no more see." 550 

Richard quoth: "As thou hast said, 

So our forward fast be made." 

Then spake Richard, fair and free, 

Said: "Who now will go for me, 

Seek my chancellor straightway 

That he here my ransom pay? 

Whoso, faithful, comes again 

Shall have guerdon for his pain." 

Rose a knight so courteous there, 

Said: "Thine errand I will bear." 560 

Richard did a letter write, 

(A skilled clerk did it indite,) 

And therein he mention made 

How the ransom should be paid. 

"Greeting shall ye bear again 

Unto my archbishops twain, 

To my chancellor now say 

That my letter he obey, 

And if they in nowise fail 

It shall mickle them avail." 570 

Then he sealed the script that day 

The knight maketh no delay 

But made ready speedily 

For to sail across the sea. 

When he to his goal was brought 

On his task forgat he naught. 

Swift to London did he go, 

There the folk he found in woe, 

With the letter, as I say, 

To th' archbishops made his way, 580 

Bade them swift the writing read 



"It was sent in mickle need." 

There they read among them all 

How the matter did befall, 

How their king, betrayed to hate, 

In Almayne did ransom wait: 

"He hath slain the emperor's son, 

And his daughter hath undone, 

And hath killed his lion also 

All this harm he there did do." sgo 

Straight they bade their clerks to hie 

To the churches, severally, 

That their errand swift be wrought 

And the treasure to them brought. 

"Messenger," so spake they there, 

"Here shalt dwell, and thus shalt fare; 

Bishops five shall ride with thee, 

And five barons, certainlie, 

Other folk shalt have enow, 

We shall fail thee not, I trow." <5oc 

Of each kirk, both less and more, 

Gather they the treasure store, 

O'er the sea their way they take 

That they may their offering make, 

Thus unto the city fare, 

To the king their greeting bear, 

Quoth, as they themselves bethought: 

"We have here the ransom brought, 

Take it, as your will shall be, 6oc 

And set these, your prisoners, free." 

Quoth the king: "They have my leave, 

I will them no longer grieve." 

Takes his daughter by the hand, 

Bids her straightway leave his land. 

Then the queen, in that same hour 

Called her daughter to her bower, 

Saith, "Thou here shalt dwell with me 

Till King Richard sends for thee, 

As a king sends for his queen 

This the better rede, I ween." 6ac 



SIR ORFEO 



SIR ORFEO 



WE read full oft, and find it writ, 
As ancient clerks give us to wit, 
The lays that harpers sung of old 
Of many a diverse matter told. 
Some sang of bliss; some heaviness; 
And some of joy and gladsomeness. 
Of treason some, and some of guile; 
Of happenings strange that chanced 

awhile! 

Of knightly deeds; of ribaldry; 
And some they tell of Faerie. 10 

But of all themes that men approve 
Methinks the most they be of Love. 
In Britain first these lays were wrought, 
There were they made, and thence were 

brought. 

They told of venturous deeds and days, 
Whereof the Britons made their lays, 
For, an they heard a story told 
Of wondrous hap that chanced of old, 
They took their harp withouten fail, 
Made them a lay, and named the tale. 
And of the deeds that thus befell 21 
A part, not all, is mine to tell; 
So hearken, lordings, true and leal, 
The tale of Orfeo's woe and weal. 

This Orfeo, he was king with crown, 
A mighty lord of high renown, 
A stalwart man, and hardy too, 
Courteous and free of hand also. 
His parents might their lineage trace 
To Pluto, and to Juno's race, 30 

Who, for their marvels manifold, 
Were held as gods in days of old. 
Now chief of all the arts that be 
Sir Orfeo loved good minstrelsy, 
He honoured much the harpers' skill, 
And harboured them of right good 

will. 

Himself upon the harp would play, 
And set thereto his mind alway, 
Till such his skill that, far or near, 



No better harper might ye hear. 40 

For never man of woman born, 

Altho* for sorrow all forlorn, 

But an he heard Sir Orfeo play 

Forgot his heaviness straightway, 

And deemed himself in Paradise 

For joy of such sweet melodies. 

In Traciens Orfeo held his court, 

A city strong, a goodly fort, 

And with him reigned his queen so fair, 

Dame Heurodis, beyond compare sc 

The fairest lady, so I read, 

That ever ware this mortal weed; 

So full of love and gentleness 

That none might tell her goodliness. 

It was the coming in of May, 
When gay and gladsome is the day, 
Vanished the chilly winter showers, 
And every field is full of flowers, 
When blossoms deck the bough so green, 
And every heart is glad, I ween, 60 

That Heurodis, the queen, was fain 
To take unto her maidens twain, 
And go forth on a morning tide 
For pastime to an orchard side, 
To hear the birds sing loud and low, 
And watch the blossoms bud and blow. 
And there they sat them down all three 
Beneath a spreading elder tree; 
And as they sat in shadows green 
A slumber deep o'ertook the queen. 70 
That sleep her maidens dare not break, 
But let her lie, nor bade her wake; 
And so she slept the morning through 
Until the day to even drew. 
But when she woke, ah me, the change! 
Strange were her words, her actions 

strange; 

She wrung her hands, and tare her face 
Till that the blood ran down apace; 
Her goodly robes she soon had torn, 
As if of sense she were forlorn. 80 



134 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Affrighted were those maidens twain, 
Back to the hall they ran amain, 
And of their lady's woeful plight 
They told each gallant squire and 

knight, 

And aid to hold the queen they sought, 
For sure they deemed her all distraught ! 
Forth run the knights, the ladies run, 
Full sixty maids, if ever a one, 
Swift to the orchard shade they hie, 
And take the queen up speedily; 90 
They bear her to her couch at last, 
And there by force they hold her fast, 
But she crieth what no man under 
stands, 

And will up and away from their holding 
hands. 

Straight to the king they brought the 

word, 
('Twas the sorriest tidings he ever 

heard,) 

Ten of his knights he called that hour, 
And gat him to his lady's bower; 
He looked on the queen right woefully, 
And spake: "Sweet heart what aileth 

thee? ioo 

Wast ever wont to be so still, 
And now thou criest wondrous shrill! 
Thy flesh, but now so soft and white, 
Hast torn with thy nails, a doleful sight! 
Thy face, this mom so rosy red, 
Is pale and wan, as thou wert dead; 
Alack ! and Alas ! for thy fingers small, 
Bloody they are, and white withal, 
And thine eyes, so lovesome and shining 

clear, 
Are e'en as a man's whose foe draws 

near. no 

Sweet heart, I prithee, hear my plaint, 
Cease for a while thy sore complaint, 
And say who hath wronged thee, when 

and how? 
And if never a man may help thee 

now?" 

Still was the queen for a little space, 
While the bitter tears they flowed apace, 



And she spake to the king with voice so 

drear : 

"Alas, Sir Orfeo, lord most dear, 
Since first the day we to wed were fain, 
No word of wrath chanced between us 
twain, 120 

But I, thy wife, have loved thee 
E'en as my life, as thou hast me; 
But now must we part, Ah woe the day! 
Do what thou wilt, for I must away!" 
"Alack," quoth the king: "forlorn am I, 
Where goest thou, Sweeting, to whom, 

and why? 

Whither thou goest I go with thee, 
And where I may be shalt thou bide with 

me!" 

"Nay, sir, nay, 't is an empty word, 
For hearken and hear what hath chanced 

my lord: 130 

As I lay but now by our orchard side, 
And slumbered away the morning tide, 
There came two gentle knights to me, 
Armed at all points as knights should be, 
And bade me come, nor make delay, 
To speak with their lord the king 

straightway. 

But I answered back, in queenly mood, 
I might not, and would not if I could. 
They turned them about, and fled 

amain, 
And swift came the king with all his 

train, 140 

A hundred knights, I wis, had he, 
And a hundred maidens, fair to see; 
And each one rode on a snow-white steed, 
And each was clad in a snow-white 

weed, 

Of all the folk that mine eyes have seen 
They were the fairest folk, I ween. 
The king ware a crown upon his head, 
But it was not wrought of gold so red, 
Nor of silver, but eke of a precious 

stone, 

Bright as the noonday sun it shone. 150 
And e'en as he came, without yea or 

nay, 
Needs must I go with him straightway, 



SIR ORFEO 



An I would or no, I must with him ride; 
He gave me a palfrey by his side, 
And he brought me unto his palace fair, 
Builded and garnished beyond compare. 
He showed me castles, and goodly 

towers, 

Rivers and forests, meads with flowers, 
And many a goodly steed and tall 
Then he turned again from his castle hall, 
And brought me back to my orchard 

tree, 161 

And spake in such wise as I tell to thee: 
'Lady, to-morrow I bid thee be 
Here, on this spot, 'neath this elder tree, 
Hence shalt thou ride with me away, 
To dwell at my court for ever and aye. 
And if thou delayest to do my will 
Or here, or there, it shall be thine ill; 
For no man may help thee, or hold thee 

now, 
Did they tear thee limb from limb, I 

trow; 170 

For living or dying, or whole or torn, 
Must thou ride with us to-morrow's 

morn!'" 

"Alas!" cried the king: "now woe is me, 
In sorry case methinks we be, 
For liever were I to lose my life 
Than thus to be robbed of my queen, my 

wife." 

Counsel he craveth in this his need, 
But no man knoweth a fitting rede. 



% T is the morrow's dawn, and with cour 
age high, 

Sir Orfeo arms him fittingly, 180 

And full a thousand knights with him 
Are girded for combat stout and grim. 
Forth with the queen they now will ride 
To the elder tree by the orchard side, 
And there in its shadow they take their 

stand, 

And a shield-wall build on either hand, 
And each man sweareth he here will stay, 
And die, ere his queen be reft away. 



Yet e'en as their lips might form the 

vow 
The queen was gone, and no man knew 

how, . 190 

For the fairy folk, they have cast their 

spell, 
And whither they bear her no man may 

tell! 

Oh! then there was wailing, I ween, and 

woe, 
To his chamber straight the king doth 

go, 
And he casteth him down on the floor 

of stone, 

And he maketh such dole, and such bit 
ter moan, 

That well nigh he wept his life away, 
But counsel or aid was there none that 

day. 

Then he bade his men come, one and all, 

Earls, barons, and knights, to his council 

hall, 200 

And they came and he spake: "My 

lords so dear, 

I take ye to witness before me here 
That I give my high steward, and 

Seneschal, 

The rule of my lands and kingdoms all; 
I will have him stay in this my stead, 
And rule the land, e'en as I were dead; 
For since I have lost my wife, the queen, 
The fairest lady this earth hath seen, 
To dwell in the wilderness am I fain, 
And look on no woman's face again, 210 
But to spend my days, for evermore, 
With the beasts of the field, in the wood 
land hoar. 
And when ye know that my days be 

done 

Then come ye together, every one, 
And choose you a king. Now I go my 

way, 

Deal with my goods as best ye may ! " 
Then a voice of weeping rose in the 

hall, 
And a bitter cry from one and all, 



136 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And scarce might they speak, or old or 
young, 

For fast-flowing tears that chained their 
tongue; 220 

But they fell on their knees with one 
accord, 

And they prayed, an so it might please 
their lord, 

That he should not thus from his king 
dom go 

"Go to," he quoth: "it must needs be 
so!" 

Thus Sir Orfeo forth would fare, 
Only a staff in his hand he bare, 
Neither kirtle he took, nor hood, 
Shirt, nor other vesture good, 
But alway he took his harp in hand, 
And gat him, barefoot, out of the land. 
Never a man might with him go 231 
Alack! there was weeping, I ween, and 

woe, 
When he who aforetime was king with 

crown 

Passed, as a beggar, out of the town. 
By woodland and moorland the king 

hath passed, 

To the wilderness is he come at last, 
There findeth he naught that his soul 

may please, 

But ever he liveth in great misease. 
He that was wrapt in fur withal 
And slumbered soft 'neath purple and 

pall, 240 

On the heather he now must rest his 

head, 
With leaves and grass for a covering 

spread. 

He that had castles, halls with towers, 
Rivers, forests, fields with flowers, 
Must make his bed 'neath the open sky 
Though it snow and freeze right pierc 
ingly. 

Once knights and ladies, a goodly train, 
To do him service were ever fain ; 
Now none are in waiting to please the 

king, 



But the worms of the woodland coil and 

spring. 250 

He that erstwhile might take his fill 
Of food, or drink, as should be his will, 
Now must he dig and delve all day 
For the roots that may scarce his hunger 

stay. 

In summer-time hath he fruit to eat, 
The hedgerow berries, sour and sweet, 
But in winter he liveth in sore misease, 
On roots, and grasses, and bark of trees, 
Till all his body was parched and dry, 
And his limbs were twisted all awry ; 260 
Dear Lord, who may tell what sorrow 

sore 

Sir Orfeo suffered, ten year, and more! 
His beard, once black, is grey, I trow, 
To his girdle clasp it hangeth low. 
His harp, which was wont to be his glee, 
He keepeth safe in a hollow tree, 
And when the sun shone bright again 
To take that harp he aye was fain, 
And to temper the cords as should seem 

him good, 
Till the music rang through the silent 

wood, 270 

And all the beasts that in woodland 

dwell 

For very joy at his feet they fell; 
And all the birds in the forest free 
Were fain to seek to the nearest tree, 
And there on the branch they sat a-row 
To hearken the melody sweet and low; 
But when his harp he had laid aside 
Nor beast nor bird would with him abide. 

Oft-times, I ween, in the morning bright, 
Sir Orfeo saw a fairer sight, 280 

For he saw the king of the Fairies ride 
A-hunting, down by the forest side; 
With merry shout, and the horn's gay 

blast, 
And the bay of the hounds the hunt 

swept past, 

But never the quarry they ran to bay, 
And he knew not whither they went 

alway. 



SIR ORFEO 



137 



In other fashion he 'Id come again, 
With a warlike host in his royai train, 
Full thousand riders richly dight, 
Each -armed as becometh a valiant 

knight, 290 

Of steadfast countenance, tried and true; 
Full many a banner above them flew, 
As they rode with drawn sword, on war 
fare bent, 

But never he wist the way they went. 
And then they would come in other 

guise: 

Knights and ladies in joyous wise, 
In quaint attire, as of days gone by, 
Pacing a measure soberly, 
To sound of tabor and pipe they pass, 
Making sweet music, across the grass. 
Again it chanced that he saw one day 
Sixty ladies, who rode their way 302 
Gracious and gay as the bird on the tree, 
And never a knight in that company. 
Falcon on hand those ladies ride, 
On hawking bent, by the river side; 
Full well they know it as right good 

haunt 

Of mallard, of heron, and cormorant. 
But now hath the waterfowl taken flight, 
And each falcon chooseth his prey 

aright, 310 

And never a one but hath slain its 

bird 
Then Sir Orfeo, laughing, spake this 

word: 
"By faith, but those folk have goodly 

game, 

I will get me thither, in Heaven's name, 
Of old was I wont such sport to see " 
Thus he came to that goodly company, 
And stayed his steps by a lady fair, 
He looked on her face, and was well 

aware, 

By all the tokens of truth, I ween, 
That 'twas Heurodis, his own sweet 

queen! 320 

Each on the other to gaze was fain, 
Yet never a word passed betwixt the 

twain, 



But at sight of her lord in his sorry 

plight, 

Who aforetime had been so fair a knight, 
The tears welled forth, and flowed 

amain 
Then the ladies round they seized her 

rein, 

By force must she ride with them away, 
Nor with her lord might she longer stay. 
"Alack!" quoth the king: "woe worth 

the day, 

Thou sluggard, Death, why make de 
lay? 330 
Ah! wretched me that I live, I ween, 
After the sight that mine eyes have seen ! 
Alas, that I needs must live my life 
When I may not speak with my love, 

my wife! 
And she dare not speak to her lord so 

true 

Now break my heart for ruth and rue ! 
I' faith," he quoth: "whate'er betide, 
Whithersoe'er those ladies ride 
That self -same way shall my footsteps 

fare, 

For life, or death, I have little care ! " 340 
Then with staff in hand, and harp on 

back, 

He gat him forth on the toilsome track, 
Nor for stock nor for stone will he hold 

him still, 

But goeth his way of right good will. 
Thro' a cleft in the rock lies the Fairy 

way 

And the king he follows as best he may; 
Thro' the heart of the rock he needs 

must go, 
Three miles and more, I would have ye 

know, 

Till a country fair before him lay, 349 
Bright with the sun of a summer's day; 
Nor hill nor valley might there be seen 
But level lands, and pastures green, 
And the towers of a castle met his eye, 
Rich and royal, and wondrous high. 
The outer wall of that burg, I ween, 
Was clear and shining, as crystal sheen, 



138 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And a hundred towers stood round 

about, 

Of cunning fashion, and building stout. 
Up from the moat sprang the buttress 

bold, 359 

Arched and fashioned of good red gold. 
The castle front was of carven stone, 
All manner of beast might ye see 

thereon, 

And the dwelling rooms within that hall 
Of precious stones were fashioned all, 
The meanest pillar ye might behold 
Was covered all over with burnished 

gold. 
Throughout that country 'twas ever 

light, 

For e'en when the hour was mirk mid 
night 

Those goodly jewels they shone, each one, 
Bright as at midday the summer sun. 
'T was past all speech, and beyond all 

thought, 371 

The wondrous work that there was 

wrought, 

Sir Orfeo deemed that at last his eyes 
Beheld the proud palace of Paradise. 
In at the gate rode the Fairy train, 
And the king to follow them was full fain, 
He knocketh loud at the portal high, 
And the warder cometh speedily, 
He asketh him where he fain would go? 
"A harper am I" quoth Sir Orfeo; 380 
"And methinks an thy lord would 

hearken me 

I would solace his hours with min 
strelsy." 

With that the porter made no ado, 
But gladly he let Sir Orfeo through. 
The king looked round him, to left, to 

right, 

And in sooth he beheld a fearsome sight; 
For Jiere lay folk whom men mourned as 

dead, 
Who were hither brought when their 

lives were sped ; 
E'en as they passed so he saw them 

stand, 



Headless, and limbless, on either hand. 
There were bodies pierced by a javelin 

Cast, 391 

There were raving madmen fettered fast, 
One sat erect on his warhorse good, 
Another lay choked, as he ate his food. 
Some floated, drowned, in the water's 

flow, 
Shrivelled were some in the flame's 

fierce glow; 
There were those who in childbed had 

lost their life, 

Some as leman, and some as wife; 
Men and women on every side 
Lay as they sleep at slumbertide, 400 
Each in such fashion as he might see 
Had been carried from earth to Faerie. 
And her, whom he loved beyond his life, 
Dame Heurodis, his own sweet wife, 
He saw, asleep 'neath an elder tree. 
And knew by her raiment that it was 

she. 

He looked his fill on these marvels all 
And went his way to a kingly hall, 
And he saw therein a goodly sight; 
Beneath a canopy, rich and bright, 410 
The king of the Fairies had his seat 
With his queen beside him, fair and 

sweet, 
Their crowns, their vesture, agleam with 

gold, 

His eyes might scarcely the sight behold ! 
Sir Orfeo gazed for a little space, 
Then he kneeled on his knees before the 

dais: 

"O king," he said: "an it were thy will, 
As minstrel I gladly would shew my 

skill," 
And the king he quoth: "Who mayest 

thou be 

Who thus, unbidden, hast come to me? 
I called thee not unto this my court, 421 
No man of mine hath thee hither 

brought, 

For never, I ween, since my reign began 
Have I found so foolish and fey a man 
Who found his way unto this my home, 



SIR ORFEO 



Save that I bade him hither come!" 
"Lord," quoth Sir Orfeo: "know for sure 
That I am naught but a minstrel poor, 
And e'en as the minstrel's manner is 
I seek out castles and palaces; 430 

Though never a welcome our portion be, 
Yet needs must we proffer our min 
strelsy!" 

Then he took his harp, so sweet of tone, 
And he sat him down before the throne, 
And he tuned the strings, as well he 

knew, 
And so sweet were the sounds that he 

from them drew, 

That no man within the palace bound 
But sped swift-foot as he heard the 

sound, 

And down they lie around his feet, 
The melody seemeth to them so sweet. 
The king he hearkens, and holds him 

Still, 441 

Hearing the music of right good will, 
And the gentle queen she was glad and 

gay, 

Such comfort was their's from the min 
strel's lay. 

When he had finished his minstrelsy 
Out spake the monarch of Faerie; 
"Harper, right well hast thou played, 

I trow, 
Whatever thou wilt thou may'st ask me 

now, 

I am minded in royal wise to pay, 
So what is thy will? Now harper say!" 
Quoth Sir Orfeo: "Sire, I would pray 
of thee 451 

One thing alone, that thou give to me 
That lady fair, who is sleeping now 
Beneath the shade of the elder bough!" 
"Nay," quoth the king, "'t were an ill- 
matched pair 
Did I send thee forth with that dame so 

fair, 

For never a charm doth the lady lack, 
And thou art withered, and lean, and 
black, 4S 8 

'T were a loathly thing, it seemeth me, 



To send her forth in such company." 
"Sire," quoth Sir Orfeo: "gentle king, 
To my mind it seemeth a fouler thing 
To belie a word, and forswear an oath 
Sire, thou didst promise, nothing loth, 
That that which I asked I should have 

of thee, 
And that promise thouneed'st must keep 

tome!" 
Then spake the king: "Since the thing 

be so 

Take that lady fair by her hand, and go, 
And may bliss and blessing with ye 

dwell!" 
Then he kneeled adown, and thanked 

him well. 470 



Sir Orfeo took his wife by the hand, 
And he gat him swift from the Fairy land, 
Out of the palace he took his way 
By the self -same road he had come that 

day; 

And never he stayed till again he stood 
Before the walls of that city good 
Where aforetime as king he ware the 

crown 

But no man knew him in all that town. 
But a little way from the gate they go 
Ere they come to a dwelling poor and low, 
And Sir Orfeo deemed they would har* 

bour there, 481 

For more would he know ere he 'Id 

further fare. 
So he prayed, as a minstrel wan and 

worn, 
They would shelter him and his wife 

till morn. 
Then he asked his host who was ruler 

there? 

And who was king of that country fair? 
And the beggar answered him word for 

word, 
And told him the tale as ye e'en have 

heard ; 
How ten years agone, in the month of 

May, 489 



140 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Their queen was by Fairies stolen away, 
And, an exile, their king had wandered 

forth, 
But none knew whither, or south, or 

north, 
And the steward since then the land did 

hold 

And many another tale he told. 
When the morrow came, and 't was high 

noontide, 

The king bade his wife in the hut abide, 
And he clad himself in the beggar's gown, 
And, harp in hand, he sought the town, 
And he gat him into that city good 
That all men might see him an they 

would. 500 

Earl, and baron, and lady bright, 
Stared agape at the wondrous sight, 
"Was ever," they cried, "such marvel 

known? 
The man is by hair, as by moss, o'er- 

grown. 

Look how his beard hangeth to his knee! 
'T is e'en as he were a walking tree!" 
Then as to the palace his way was set 
In the city street the steward he met, 
And he cried aloud: "Sir Steward, I pray 
That thou have mercy on me this day; 
I am a harper of heathennesse, 511 

Help me in this my sore distress!" 
And the steward he quoth: "Now come 

with me, 

All that I have will I share with thee, 
Every good harper is welcome here 
For Sir Orfeo's sake, my lord most dear." 
The steward he sat him down at the 

board, 

With many a noble knight and lord, 
All kinds of music had they, I trow, 519 
Of trumpet and tabour, and harp enow, 
In the hall was no lack of melody 
Sir Orfeo hearkened silently 
And till all had done he held him still 
Then he took and tempered his harp with 

skill, 
And I think me no tongue of man may 

say 



How sweet was the music he made that 

day. 

To hearken and hear was each one fain, 
But the steward he gazed on the harp 

again, 
And it seemed to him that he knew it 

well 
"Minstrel," he quoth: "I beseech thee 

tell -530 

Whence had'st thou that harp, and who 

gave it thee? 

I pray that thou truly answer me! " 
"Lord," he quoth: "afar from here, 
As I took my way through a desert drear. 
I found, in a valley dark and grim, 
A man by lions torn limb from limb, 
Wolves gnawed his bones with teeth so 

sharp, 

And beside the body I found this harp. 
Full ten years ago it needs must be." 
"Alas!" cried the steward: "now woe is 

me!" 540 

'T was the corse of my lord Sir Orfeo ! 
Ah! wretched me, what shall I do? 
Of so good a lord am I left forlorn, 
Methinks 't were best I had ne'er been 

born! 

Ah woe, that for him such lot was cast, 
And so foul a death he must die at last ! " 
With that, the steward, he swooning fell, 
But the lords they comforted him right 

well, 

For no man so sad who draweth breath 
But findeth healing at last in death. 



By all these tokens Sir Orfeo knew 551 
A loyal man was his steward and true, 
One who loved his lord, nor his pledge 

would break 
Then up he stood, and on this wise 

spake : 
"Hearken, I pray thee, steward, my 

word, 

Put case I were Orfeo now, thy lord, 
Say I had suffered torments sore 
In the wilderness full ten years and more, 



SIR TRISTREM 



141 



That at last I had won my queen away 
From the land where the Fairy king 

holds sway, 560 

And that we had safely come, we twain, 
Back to this city and burg again, 
And my wife abode with a beggar poor 
While I came again to my palace door, 
In lowly guise, thus to test thee still, 
And see if thou bore me right good 

will; 

I wot, an I found thee so leal and true, 
My coming again thou should'st never 

rue, 

Verily, and indeed, without yea or nay, 
The throne should be thine when I 

passed away! 570 

But if news of my death had been joy to 

thee 
Thou hadst passed from this house right 

speedily!" 

Then never a man at the castle board 
But knew that this was indeed their 

lord, 

The steward right well his master knew, 
Over and over the board he threw, 
And low at Sir Orfeo's feet would fall 
And so do the lordings, one and all, 
And they cry with one voice till the 

rafters ring: 579 

"Thou art our lord, Sire, and our king!" 
Blithe of his coming they were and gay, 



To his chamber they led the king straight 
way, 
And they bathed him well, and trimmed 

his hair, 

And clad him in royal raiment fair. 
And then with solemn and stately train 
They brought the queen to her burg 

again, 

With all manner of music and min 
strelsy; 

I' faith there was joyous melody, 
And the tears of joy they fell like rain 
When the folk saw their king and queen 
again. 590 



Now is Orfeo crowned once more, I wis, 
With his lady and queen, Dame Heuro- 

dis, 

And many a year they lived those two, 
And after them ruled the steward so true. 
Harpers in Britain, as I was told, 
Heard how this marvel had chanced of 

old, 

And thereof they made a lay so sweet, 
And gave it the king's name, as was 

meet. 

"Sir Orfeo," thus the title stood, 
Good are the words, the music good 
Thus came Sir Orfeo out of his care, 601 
God grant to us all as well to fare! 



SIR TRISTREM 



I WAS at Ercildoune, 

With Thomas spake I there, 

In mystic rede and rune 

He told who Tristrem bare 

(He ware a royal crown ) 

And who gave fostering fair, 

A baron of renown 

E'en as their elders were. 

Thus, year by year, 

Thomas, he told in town 

What ventures were their share. 



Of this sweet summer's day 
In winter naught is seen, 
The groves be waxen gray 
That in their hour were green; 
So doth this world alway 
(So do I wot and ween), 
Our sires be passed away 
Who right good men had been 
And so abide 
Of one I make my theme 
Whose fame has waxen wide. 



142 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Roland would thole no wrong 

Though Morgan ruled o'er all; 

He brake his castles strong, 

And levelled many a hall. 

He smote his hosts among 

Loss did his foes befall, 

And strife that dured long. 

For peace did Morgan call, 30 

Full sore his need, 

Of fear was he the thrall 

Lest death should be his meed. 

For thus the strife began, 

(I rede ye well 't was so) 

Betwixt the Duke Morgan 

And Roland, fiercest foe. 

The land they overran, 

And wrought the poor much woe, 

They slew full many a man, 40 

In strife they were not slow 

But men of price; 

The one was Duke Morgan, 

The other Roland Riis. 

Those knights, I ween, were wise, 

A cov'nant made they there 

To rest in peaceful guise 

For seven years full fair. 

The duke and Roland Riis 

Thereto they steadfast sware. 50 

Forthwith, as knights of prize 

To England would they fare 

And see with sight 

Mark, who the royal crown ware, 

And many a gallant knight. 

To Mark the king they wend 

With followers, famed in fight, 

The venture to the end 

They told him, fair and right. 

He prayed them, as their friend, 60 

Abide, both day and night, 

In peace; thereto they lend 

Their will, each gallant knight, 

For act and deed. 

To Tourney they invite 

Full many, stout on steed. 



A joyful man is he 
Who will the Tourney cry ; 
Maidens his deeds shall see 
As o'er the wall they lie. 70 

They question fair and free : ' 
"Who hath the mastery?" 
Men say: "The best is he 
The knight from Ermonie!" 
Henceforth, in bower, 
The chosen love is he 
Of maiden Blancheflower. 

That maiden, fair and bright, 

She called her masters three, 

And quoth: "That stranger knight 80 

Full sore hath wronged me, 

Methmks, by Magic's might 

A wondrous man is he 

Thus through my heart to smite ! 

Wounded to death I be, 

And that so soon! 

Save he the wrong make right 

My night is come ere noon!" 



'T were hard his praise to mend, 
That wise and stalwart wight, 
Unto the wide world's end 
Was never better knight, 
Nor truer to his friend, 
And Roland Riis he hight. 
To battle did he wend, 
And wounds he won in fight 
Full sore and fell; 
Blancheflower, the maiden bright, 
The tale she heard them tell. 

And cried, "Ah, wellaway!" 
When men sware it was so; 
Her mistress did she pray 
That she might straightway go 
There, where the good knight lay, 
She swooned for very woe; 
He comforted the may, 
And in that hour the two 
Begat a son 

Whom men as Tristrem know 
Where'er the tale doth run. 



oo 



SIR TRISTREM 



That oath the foeman sware 

And to maintain had thought, 

Duke Morgan brake his share, 

Of truce would he have naught. 

Rohant, of fealty fair, 

A writing swift he wrought, 

And bade to Roland bear; 

His lord he there besought, 

In this his need, 

To help him as he ought, 120 

Or all were lost indeed. 

Then Roland Riis in woe 
Prayed leave of Mark the king: 

"Hence must I swiftly go ' 
For men ill tidings bring; 
A false and faithless foe 
Seeketh my undoing " 
Blancheflower full soon must know, 
Her hands the maid must wring 
For sorrow sore: 130 

"Myself to ruin I bring 
For love I to thee bore! 



"In shame I bide here still, 
Thou sailest over sea " 
Quoth Roland: "Here I dwell 
Save that thou wend with me!" 

"To bide for me were ill, 
Behold, and thou mayest see! 
Steadfast my wish and will 
From hence to fare with thee, 
That I may find 
Thy fair folk, frank and free, 
Thy goodly land, and kind!" 



140 



They make them ready there, 
No longer will they bide, 
With banners floating fair 
From haven forth they ride. 
To Roland's castle fair 
The winds their vessel guide. 
Her sails adown they tear, 
Forth from the ship they stride; 
The knights, steel-clad, 
In Roland's service tried, 
To do his will were glad. 



ISO 



Swift Rohant's rede was sped : 
"This maiden shall be our's, 
With Roland Riis to wed, 
And rule within these towers. 
Fittest to share his bed, 
Brightest in lady's bower, 160 

None fairer e'er was bred 
Than maiden Blancheflower, 
That lady sweet!" 
After love's richest dower 
The parting followed fleet. 

The folk, right well they know 

How Morgan subtly wrought, 

With wisdom, to and fro, 

Among his men he sought. 

His true knights, high and low, 170 

Were to his summons brought; 

With banners all a-row, 

In weapons lacking naught; 

That knight so bold, 

As crowned king he thought 

To win him fame untold. 

With folk on field arrayed, 
Morgan his foe would bide, 
Naught Roland's onslaught stayed, 
Against him would he ride. 180 

Sooth, 't was a mighty raid ! 
' Sorrow befell each side, 
With prowess proud displayed 
Roland, he felled their pride. 
'T was but with pain 
Morgan escaped that tide, 
Well nigh had he been slain! 

The foemen came anew 

Where Roland valiant stood, 

The helms they hack and hew, xgo 

Thro' burnies wells the blood. 

Then nigh to death there drew 

Full many a hero good, 

Of Roland men may rue 

The death, by Holy Rood! 

A hero bold, 

His son, of valiant mood, 

Payment full dearly told. 



144 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



A rueful rede now hear 
Of Roland Riis the knight, 
Three hundred slew he there 
With sword so keen and bright. 
Of all who foemen were 
None might him fell in fight. 
In traitorous wise they fare, 
And thus the death-blow smite, 
With cruel guile 
To death the hero dight 
Alas! Woe worth the while! 

The steed his master bore 
Dead, on his homeward way; 
The folk marvelled the more 
Who saw his knightly play. 
They came with rueful lore 
To Blancheflower straightway, 
For her I sorrow sore 
On childbed, where she lay 
In woe, was born 
Sir Tristrem that same day 
She died ere morrow's morn. 

A ring of richest hue 
She ware, that lady free, 
She gave it Rohant true 
Her son's henceforth to be. 
"Then grimy brother knew, 
My father gave it me; 
King Mark methinks shall rue 
When he that same shall see, 
And sorely weep! 
As Roland loved thee 
The ring for his son keep!" 

The folk around her bed 

Sadly their lady see, 
*' Roland my lord is dead, 

He speaks no more with me:" 
"Our lady too, is sped, 

She dieth verily : 

What do we in this stead?" 
"As God wills, let it be 

For good or ill." 

Right sad it was to see 

Her lying cold and still. 



230 



240 



Begotten thus, and born, 

Was he, the child of woe; 

Rohant was all forlorn 

Nor wist what he might do. 

His own true wife that morn 

To childbed needs must go: 

He sware that twins were born, 

To joy was turned his woe 250 

Now shall ye list, 

The child at court they know 

As Tram before the Trist. 

The duke was well content, 

His foe was slain alway; 

His messengers he sent, 

The folk he straight did pray, 

To yield to his intent, 

And to his word obey, 259 

Yield town, and tower, and tent 

None might his word gainsay, 

But all right soon 

Unto his will had bent, 

No king had better done. 

Who gave rich jewels of gold? 

Duke Morgan, he alone; 

Ruthless of heart and cold, 

To face him was there none. 

Unto his counsel told 

Was Rohant, true as stone, 270 

In wisdom versed of old 

By craft he held his own 

His heart to hide, 

Perished were blood and bone 

If hope were laid aside ! 

Now Rohant, evermore, 

Hides Tristrem, blithe is he, 

The child of scholar's lore 

Learneth full speedily; 

By books he setteth store, 280 

And studieth readily; 

Glad hearts, in sooth, they bore 

Who owed him fealty. 

The lad, so bright, 

His skill shewed readily 

Against them when he might. 



SIR TRISTREM 



Now years full fifteen long 

He hid, Rohant the true, 

Tristrem, and every song 

He taught him, old and new; ago 

And laws of right and wrong, 

And wise saws not a few; 

The chase he followed long, 

And to such skill he drew 

I ween, that thus 

Of venerie he knew 

More than Manerius. 

A ship of Norroway 

Came to Sir Rohant's hold, 

With hawks both white and gray, 

And cloths full fair in fold; 301 

So Tristrem heard men say 

For sport the lad so bold 

Would twenty shillings pay 

E'en as Sir Rohant told, 

And ever taught; 

The seamen to him sold 

The fairest hawk they brought. 

A chessboard by a chair 

He saw, and fain would play; 310 

The captain, debonair, 

Quoth: "Child, what wilt thou lay?" 
"Against this hawk so fair 

Shillings two score, I say, 

He who calls 'Mate' shall bear 

The twain with him away." 

The captain bold, 

With good will spake straightway: 
"That cov'nant will I hold." 

Their pledge in order lies, 320 

To play they now begin; 

They set the board in guise 

A right long match to win. 

The stakes they 'gan to rise 

Tristrem shewed guile therein, 

He dealt as one full wise, 

And gave as he might win, 

The lad so brave; 

The game's short space within 

Six hawks he won, and gave. 330 



Rohant would go on shore, 
His sons he called away, 
The fairest hawk he bore 
Tristrem had won that day. 
And with him he left more 
Money, wherewith to play; 
The captain roundly swore 
Silver and gold to lay 
In stake that stound 
Tristrem, he won alway 
Of him a hundred pound. 



340 



Tristrem won all they laid; 

A treason there they planned; 

E'en as his master said 

That even was at hand, 

The while they sat and played 

They gat them from the land. 

Their sails the breezes fanned; 

O'er waves they leap 

Blithely they leave the strand; 350 

But Tristrem sore did weep. 

They set his master free, 

Gave boat, and eke an oar, 

Crying: "Here is the sea, 

And yonder be the shore, 

Choose what thy lot shall be, 

The which were wiser lore, 

To sink, or sail; with me 

The child, for evermore 

Shall sail the flood." 360 

Tristrem, he wept full sore; 

The captain deemed it good. 

Nine weeks, I ween, and more, 
Those seamen sailed the flood, 
Till anchor failed, and oar, 
And storms their course with 
stood. 

Tristrem, the blame he bore 
For this, their mournful mood; 
Small use the steersman's lore, 
The waves they were so wood 370 
With storm and wind 
To land their will was good 
Might they a haven find. 



146 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To land they drew anigh, 

A forest as it were, 

The hills, they were full high, 

The holts, they were full fair. 

To shore right speedily 

Tristrem the seamen bare, 

His gains, his jewellery, 380 

And bread, they gave him there, 

The lad so mild 

In calm they thence did fare, 

On shore they left the child. 

The wind full fair did hold; 
Alone on land was he, 
His heart for fear grew cold 
When he no ship might see. 
His grief to Christ he told 
The Lord Who died on Tree 390 
"My plight, Dear Lord behold, 
And guidance send to me 
After Thy Will; 
And of Thy Mercy free 
Let me not come to ill!" 

Thomas, he asks alway, 
Who would of Tristrem hear 
The tale aright must say, 
And make each step full clear. 
"Of a prince proud in play 400 

Now hearken, lordings dear, 
Who knoweth more alway 
Let him shew counsel here 
As courteous friend; 
The tale to all men dear 
Let each man praise at end." 

The robe that wrapped him round 

Tristrem from ship had brought, 

'T was of a bliaunt brown, 

The richest that was wrought. 410 

So Thomas told in town 

Of that land he knew naught, 

So, seemly, sat him down, 

And ate as good he thought, 

And then, anon, 

The forest path he sought 

Whenas his meal was done. 



The track it was not light, 
His prize with him he bore, 
The hills of goodly height 420 

He climbed, and holts so hoar. 
The road it came in sight 
(Well knew he woodland lore!) 
He struck the pathway right, 
Two palmers there before 
He saw, and quoth: 

"Whence came ye to this shore?" 

"Of England be we both." 

Fearing they might him slay 

He said he sought the king, 430 

Money would gladly pay 

(To each man ten shilling) 

For guidance on the way, 

Would they to palace bring 

They sware right gladly: "Yea, 

By Heaven's Almighty King 

'T were done right soon " 

Full wise his ordering, 

Swiftly he had his boon. 

Fair was the forest wide, 440 

With game well plenished, 

The court was nigh beside, 

His guides toward it sped. 

Tristrem saw huntsmen ride, 

A leash of hounds they led; 

A booty, in that tide 

They bare, of harts well fed 

Across their steed 

Tristrem they, in that stead, 

Beheld, in goodly weed. 450 

Quartered the beasts they bare, 
In simple wise they wrought 
E'en as they cattle were 
At Martinmas i-bought! 
Tristrem, he haled them there, 
Their ways full strange he thought, 
And quoth: "Now saw I ne'er 
Quarry in such wise brought 
Of men's good will; 
Of such craft I know naught, 460 

Or else ye do full ill!" 



SIR TRISTREM 



TJpstood a serjant bold, 
And thus to Tristrem said: 
'I wot our sires of old 
On us this custom laid, 
If other thou dost hold 
There lies a beast unflayed, 
Thy will in act be told, 
Deal with it unafraid, 
We are full fain 470 

To see " The huntsmen stayed 
Their steeds, and gazed amain. 

Tristrem, the breast he slit, 

The tongue laid with the pride, 

The hams, with skill, I wit, 

He carved, and set aside. 

The belly then he split 

And laid it open wide, 

With skilful strokes and fit, 

He reft away the hide. 480 

I wot and ween 

The hart he trimmed that tide 

As many since have been. 

The first joint carven fair 

The bowels he cast away, 

The knee-joints sundered were, 

In twain they severed lay. 

Right well his part he bare 

The hounds they had their pay, 

The numbles did he share 490 

As all men saw that day; 

Before their eyes 

He cleft the spine alway, 

The backbone cut crosswise. 

The huntsman's share by right 
The shoulder left shall be 
With liver, heart and lights, 
Which men do call quirrie ; 
Hide for the hounds he dights, 
And bids them all to see. 500 

Now on the tree there lights 
The raven for his fee 
And sits a-row 
''Now, huntsmen, where be ye, 
The prize in form to blow?" 



The flesh on fork they bound, 

And eke the gargilon; 

A hunters' blast they wound 

With cadence true and tone. 

A messenger they found, $xo 

Bade seek the king alone, 

And tell him, at that stound, 

How all were fitly done 

And homeward brought 

Then Mark the King with crown, 

Right fair such tidings thought. 

The merry blast they blew 
Brought joy to many a heart, 
None there such custom knew, 
Up from the board they start. $20 
"Forsooth, some huntsman new 
Hath taught our men this art! 
Methinks 't is fair and due 
To others to impart 
An unknown lore " 
Thus blithe were they of heart 
Who came the king before. 

Quoth Mark : " Where wast thou born? 
Who art thou, Bel ami?' ' 
Tristrem, he spake that morn, 530 
"Fair sire, in Hermonie 
My father dwells, forlorn, 
Rohant, by name is he, 
Right skilful on the horn, 
And king of Venerie 
In all men's thought." 
Mark deemed 't was verity, 
Of Rohant he knew naught. 



The king, he said no more, 

But washed and gat to meat, 

Bread lay each man before, 

Enough they had to eat. 

Whether they set most store 

On ale, or red wine sweet, 

At each one's will they bore 

Great horns, or goblets meet 

To fit their mood 

At will they kept their seat, 

And rose when seemed them good. 



540 



148 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



A harper made a lay 550 

(Tristrem spake fair and free ) 

The harper went his way: 
"An thou can'st, better me!" 
"An I do not this day 

Wrong have I done to thee!" 

The harper quoth straightway: 
"My haip I yield to thee 

Of right good grace " 

Before the monarch's knee, 

Tristrem must take his place. 560 



Right gladsome were they all, 
And marked his skill therein, 
Each man throughout the hall 
Were fain the child to win. 
King Mark did Tristrem call, 
That lad of royal kin, 
Clad him in silken pall 
And robe of fairest skin, 
For raiment meet 
The royal bower within 
He maketh music sweet. 



Now Tristrem leave we there, 
To Mark is he right dear 
Sorrow is Rohant's share, 
No tidings may he hear; 
Afar he needs must fare, 
With sad and rueful cheer, 
The pilgrim's staff he bare; 
Through seven kingdoms drear 
Tristrem he sought 
Riven the robes he ware, 
His heart it failed him naught. 

And still he naught might learn, 
Rohant, that noble knight 
He wist not where to turn, 
Bereft was he of might. 
Men forced him then to earn 
His bread, as labouring wight, 
With hinds, on straw and fern 
To lie throughout the night 
At dawn, I ween, 
Those Palmers hove in sight 
Whom Tristrem erst had seen. 



570 



580 



590 



The question ever new, 
He asked, whate'er befell 
The lad the Palmers knew, 
And where he now should dwell; 
"His robe is of one hue, 
Of bliaunt, sooth to tell, 
His name is Tristrem true, 600 

The meat he carveth well 
The king before " 
For guidance did he tell 
Ten shillings from his store: 

"The same I'll give to ye," 
Quoth Rohant, "an ye may 
Shew that same court to me." 
The Palmers answered: "Yea." 
Joyful at heart was he, 
And paid them there straightway, 610 
Of money round, in fee, 
Ten shillings good that day, 
And more, for gain 
Of Tristrem speedily 
To hear, was he full fain. 



Tristrem is his delight, 
Of him he speaks alway 
The porter, in despite, 
Quoth: "Churl, get thee away, 
Or else I swift shall smite 
Why tarry here all day?" 
He gave him there forthright 
(The porter ne'er said Nay) 
A ring in hand 
Wise man was he alway 
Who first gave gifts in land! 



620 



Rohant, of hand so free, 
He bade to pass the gate, 
The ring was fair to see, 
The gift were ill to mate. 
The usher bade him flee : 
"Churl, tempt thou not thy fate, 
Broken thy head shall be, 
And thou, ere it be late, 
Trodden to ground " 
Rohant quoth: "Now let be, 
And help me at this stound." 



630 



SIR TRISTREM 



149 



That man, so meek on mold, 
Held forth another ring. 
The usher took the gold, 
('T were meeter for a king.) 
Thus to the royal hold 
He paid his entering, 
And unto Tristrem bold 
The usher would him bring, 
And straightway brought 
Tristrem deemed wondering 
A stranger him besought. 

Tho' men had soothly sworn 
The news he scarce might heed 
That Rohant e'er had worn 
So torn and rent a weed. 
He prayed him fast that morn : 
'Fair child, so God thee speed, 
Wast thou not from me torn? 
Hast thou forgot indeed?" . 
Rohant again ^ 

He knew, and knelt with speed, , 
And clasped, and kissed, full fain. 



640 



650 



660 



"Father, now vex thee naught, 
Right welcome shalt thou be, 
By God, Who man hath bought, 
Full hardly knew I thee! 
With toil thou hast me sought, 
To know that grieveth me " 
To Mark the word he brought: 

"Wilt thou my father see 
Here, in thy sight? 
I'll robe him fittingly 
As doth become a knight." 670 

Tristrem, no more afraid, 
Told Mark how he must fare, 
How he with shipmen played, 
How him from land they tare; 
How storms their course delayed, 
Brake oar and anchor there; 
"My winnings then they laid 
In hand, and bade me fare, 
Set me on ground 
I climbed the holts so bare 680 

Till I thy huntsmen found." 



Rohant from bath did win; 

A barber brought they there 

Who shaved him, cheek and chin, 

All snow-white was his hair. 

In robe of costly skin 

They garbed him, fresh and fair, 

Rohant, of noble kin, 

That raiment fitly ware 

As knight so bold; 6go 

Who that had seen him there 

Might for a prince him hold. 

His tale in fitting wise 

He told, though he came late; 

Tristrem, in courtly guise, 

To hall he led him straight. 

Men quoth, none might devise 

A fairer form or state 

Than his they did despise, 

And turn back from the gate 700 

With beggar's fare 

Now no man bare him hate, 

But bade him welcome there. 

Water they asked straightway, 

The cloth and board were spread, 

With meats and drink alway, 

And service, swiftly sped. 

Tristrem they serve that day, 

And Rohant fitly fed, 

They fain would go their way 710 

The king, with crowned head, 

He rose that tide 

An I have rightly read, 

He set him by his side. 

Rohant spake free and fair, 
Thus was his tale begun : 
'An ye wist who he were 
Tristrem your love had won. 
Your sister did him bear " 
(The king he heard anon) 720 

'I owe him fealty fair, ; 
By birth is he no son 
Tome, O King! 
See, ere her race was run 
Blancheflower gave me this ring!" 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"When Roland Riis, the bold, 
In strife did Morgan meet " 
Ere yet the tale was told 
Rohant full sore did greet. 
Mark saw that knight so old, 730 

How fast the tears did fleet, 
He took that ring of gold; 
His sister's token meet 
And sign, he knew, 
Raised Tristrem to his feet, 
With kiss, as kinsman true. 



They kissed him, one and all, 
Both lady fair and knight, 
The servants there in hall, 
And many a maiden bright. 
Tristrem did Rohant call, 
And prayed him there forthright: 
"Sir, how did this befall, 
How may I prove aright, 
Nor doubt remain? 
Tell me, for God's great Might, 
How was my father slain?" 



740 



Rohant, he told anon 
The venture, fierce and keen, 
How battle had begun, 
How erst the strife had been. 
How Blancheflower, she was won, 
The love the twain between : 
"When Roland's race was run, 
And Blancheflower dead, I ween, 
Full sore afraid 
Of Morgan, foe so keen, 
My son thou wast, I said." 

Tristrem, with kindling eye, 
Before the king came he 
"Now into Ermonie 
My heart, it draweth me; 
Thither I fain would fly 
My leave I take of thee; 
Morgan I will defy, 
I slay him, or he me, 
With good right hand 
Else none my face shall see 
Again on England's strand!" 



750 



760 



Woeful was Mark that day, 770 

And heavily he sighed: 
'Tristrem, I bid thee stay, 
On English land abide. 
Morgan is ill to slay, 
His knights are men of pride; 
Tho' thou be brave alway 
Let others with thee ride 
In rank and row 
Take Rohant at thy side, 
Thy friends he best will know !" 780 

To arms, the king, he bade 

The folk throughout his land; 

Tristrem, for better aid, 

He knighted with his hand, 

And gave him, fair arrayed, 

The bravest of his band 

To ride with him on raid 

And by him true to stand 

As staff and stay 

Yet, bound in sorrow's band, ?go 

No man might make him gay. 

Nor would he dwell a night 

No more was there to say, 

Ten hundred men of might 

They rode with him away. 

Rohant, that gallant knight, 

Ready was he alway, 

His castle hove in sight, 

Upon the seventh day 

Their goal they won; 800 

His marshal did he pay 

Gave knighthood to each son. 

His friends they were full fain, 
(Small blame they won thereby !) 
That he had come again 
Thus, unto Ermonie. 
Tidings were brought amain 
That Morgan lay hard by, 
Of that was Tristrem fain 
'With Morgan speak will I 810 

And that with speed ; 
Too long we idle lie, 
Myself must serve my need!". 



SIR TRISTREM 



Tristrem, that valiant knight, 

Made ready as he swore, 

Fifteen the tale of knights 

Who rode with him, no more. 

To court they came forthright 

(Men served their lord before,) 

All deemed they saw with sight 820 

Ten kings' sons pass the door, 

And each, unsought, 

The head of a wild boar 

As goodly gift had brought. 

(A thought to Rohant came, 
And to his knights quoth he: 
"As woman dowered with shame 
Twofold, it were to me, 
An harm to Tristrem came; 
HI guardians sure were we! 830 

Now arm ye at this same, 
My knights, and hasten ye 
On swift steeds lithe, 
Till that I Tristrem see 
My heart shall ne'er be blithe!") 

Tristrem would speech unfold 
"Sir King, God deal with thee 
As I in love thee hold, 
And thou hast dealt with me!" 
Morgan made answer bold: 840 

"I pray, my lord so free, 
Or ban or bliss be told 
Thine own the cost may be, 
Thou daring knight! 
Now make thou known to me 
Thine errand, here forthright!" 

"Amends! For father slain, 

And theft of Ermonie!" 

The Duke, he spake again: 
"Certes, thou say'st no lie, 850 

An thou for strife art fain, 
'Amends!' thou well mayst cry! 

Therefore, thou haughty swain, 

I'll meet thee presently 

In fitting guise; 

Art thou come hastily 

From Mark, thy kinsman wise? 



"Thou shalt my will abide 
Thou fool, my wrath to dare! 
Thy mother's shame to hide 860 

She with her love must fare! 
Now would'st thou come with pride; 
Betake thee otherwhere!" 
Tristrem, he spake that tide: 

"In that, thou liest, I swear! 
The truth I know " 
With a loaf Morgan there 
At Tristrem dealt a blow. 

Down to his breast amain 

It gushed, the crimson blood; 870 

His sword was bare for bane, 

Nigh to the duke he stood; 

He smote through bone and brain, 

As one in murderous mood. 

E'en as, with knightly train, 

Came Rohant, friend so good, 

In welcome aid 

All that their hand withstood 

With life the forfeit paid. 

As prisoner did they take 880 

Baron, and earl, and knight, 

I wot for Morgan's sake 

Many were slain outright. 

Many a shaft they shake 

Riven the shields so bright 

Many a head they brake 

Methinks, in sorry plight 

Were found their foes 

From nones it was till night 

Before the battle's close. 8go 

Thus Tristrem, fair of face, 

Morgan the duke hath slain, 

He gave his foes no grace 

Till every hold were ta'en. 

They yield in every place 

Cities and towers amain, 

The folk, they sought his grace, 

No foeman did remain 

Upon the land 

His father's slayer slain goo 

All bowed them to his hand. 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Two years he ruled that land, 
And fitting laws did cry; 
All bowed them to his hand, 
Almain, and Ermonie, 
Both at his will did stand 
Ready to do or die. 
Rohant he gave command 
And set him there on high, 
E'en at his side 910 

" Rohant your cause shall try 
And rule this land so wide/* 

"Rohant and his sons five 
Shall hold this land of me, 
The while he be alive 
His shall it surely be 
What boots it more to strive? 
Farewell, I bid to ye, 
Southward my course I'll drive, 
Mine uncle Mark to see 920 

In life once more." 
He turned, Tristrem the free, 
His face to England's shore. 

Goodly his furnishing, 

And goodly his ships' fare; 

Rohant he left as king 

O'er all his winnings there. 

Shipmen his barque did bring 

Safely to England there. 

There heard he new tidings 930 

Such as, methinks, had ne'er 

Come to his ear 

Weeping, the folk did fare 

For Ireland's tribute drear. 

Mark's tribute thus was told 
(Crowned king altho' he be,) 
Three hundred pounds of gold 
Must he lay down in fee 
Of silver, wrought and rolled, 
Next year the sum must be; 940 

When had past seasons three, 
The same he 'Id pay 
The fourth, the tale was told 
In noble bairus alway. 



Tribute to fetch there came 

Moraunt, the noble knight; 

Far-spreading was his fame, 

As giant, famed in fight. 

Three hundred bairns, his claim, 

His tribute they, by right. 950 

Tristrem, as at that same, 

Came to the shore by night 

And there abode; 

He of the ship had sight 

As it hi haven rode. 



Mark, he was glad and gay 
Tristrem once more to see, 
Kissed him full oft that day, 
Welcome in sooth was he. 
Mark, he would tidings pray, 
Know, how he had set free 
His lands? Tristrem did say; 
'What may this gathering be, 
So sore they greet?" 
'Tristrem, I'll tell to thee 
The truth, tho' all unsweet. 



960 



"The King of Ireland, 

Tristrem, I am his thrall; 

Too tight he strains the band, 

With wrong 't was won withal. 

Fain would I now withstand, 

On him the blame must fall " 
"Thereto I set my hand," 

Tristrem spake in the hall, 

Both loud and still. 
"Moraunt, tho' fierce withal, 

Here shall not wreak his will!" 

Mark gat him then to rede; 
Counsel he prayed of this, 
And said: "With wrongful deed 
Tribute he claims amiss." 
Tristrem quoth: "Take ye heed, 
His mark he here shall miss!" 
Quoth Mark the King, with speed : 
"These bairns were never his 
By law, or right 
Quoth Tristrem: "That, I wis, 
I will uphold as knight." 



970 



980 



SIR TRISTREM 



X 5J 



Throughout the royal hold 

For tribute men made moan. 990 

Tristrem, he bade withhold 

Payment, in lofty tone. 

On him the lot was told, 

Otherwise was there none, 

Never a man so bold, 

Fashioned of flesh and bone, 

Never a knight 

Who dare for wealth untold 

Against Sir Moraunt fight. 

Tristrem his way hath ta'en 1000 

To Moraunt word to bring; 

He spake in wrathful strain: 
"Naught is to thee owing!" 

Moraunt, he quoth again: 
"Thou liest in this thing, 

My body I were fain 

To risk before the king 

In battle's rage " 

He proffered him a ring; 

Tristrem, he took the gage. 1010 

They sailed the sea so wide, 

Of barques they had but two 

Moraunt, his boat fast tied 

But Tristrem let his go. 

Moraunt upon him cried : 
"Tristrem, why dost thou so?" 
"Needs must one here abide 

Tho' each find fitting foe, 

And so, I wis, 

Whoever hence may go 1020 

May fit his need with this!" 

Broad was the strand alway 
Where they began their fight; 
Of that was Moraunt gay, 
Tristrem he held full light. 
Sure ne'er was seen such fray ! 
With blades of goodly might 
Each would the other slay 
They hewed the helmets bright. 
Now, for England 1030 

He fights, Tristrem, the knight. 
May God uphold his hand! 



Moraunt, with all his might 

He rode a rapid course 

Against Tristrem the knight, 

To bear him from his horse. 

His lance was none too light 

The lion shield with force 

He smote Tristrem, forthright, 

Pierced in his knightly course 1040 

The dragon shield 

Moraunt the bold, perforce, 

He bare down on the field. 

Forthwith to foot he sprung, 

And leapt upon his steed; 

As ravening wolf he flung 

Himself Take ye good heed! 

Tristrem his sword high swung 

Small dread he knew in need! 

The sharp blade smote and stung 

Moraunt began to bleed. 1051 

Right there, amain 

In Moraunt's greatest need 

His steed's back brake in twain ! 

Then up he sprang again, 
And cried: "Tristrem, alight! 
Since thou my steed hast slain 
Afoot we needs must fight!" 
"Thereto am I full fain," 
Quoth Tristrem: "by God's Might!" 
Together came the twain; 1061 

On gleaming helms they smite, 
And hew, and pierce, 
Tristrem as valiant knight 
Fought in that battle fierce. 

The champion of Ireland 

Smote Tristrem on the shield 

That half fell from his hand 

Riven upon the field. 

Tristrem would him withstand, 1070 

His sword he well could wield 

Thus with his trusty brand 

Well nigh he forced to yield 

Moraunt, the knight 

With wonder unconcealed 

King Mark beheld that fight! 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Moraunt to win was fain 

lie fought as valiant knight; 

That Tristrem should be slain 

He strove, with all his might. 1080 

Tristrem, he smote amain, 

His sword brake in the fight, 

And fast in Moraunt's brain 

It held, a splinter bright 

His death he bore; 

But through the thigh forthright. 

Tristrem was wounded sore. 

A word that smacked of pride 
Spake Tristrem thus quoth he: 
"Ye folk of Ireland's side 1090 

Your mirror may ye see! 
He who will hither ride, 
Such shall his portion be!" 
With sorrow sore that tide 
Moraunt, unto the sea 
Weeping, they bare 
With joy Tristrem the free 
To Mark the King did fare. 

His sword, as offering due, 

He to the altar bare; 1100 

As Mark's near kinsman true 

Tristrem was honoured there. 

A covenant they drew 

And stablish'd fast and fair; 

As he had freed anew 

The land, there he should bear 

The rule one day, 

If so he living were 

When Mark had passed away. 

Tho' Tristrem deemed it naught, mo 

Yet was he wounded sore; 

Tho' healing salves they sought, 

And drinks from distant shore, 

Leeches no healing wrought, 

His pain was aye the more 

To such pass was he brought 

The foul smell no man bore, 

From him they ran 

And none abode there more 

Save Gouvernail, his man. mo 



Three years he lingering lay 
Tristrem, (the True, he hight;) 
No joy was his by day 
Such pain he bare all night. 
For dole is none that may 
Behold him now with sight, 
And each one, sooth to say, 
Forsaketh now the knight, 
From him they fare, 
Each had done what he might, 1130 
And had no further care. 

At length upon a day 
To Mark he did complain; 
The counsel, sooth to say, 
Was brief betwixt the twain: 
"In grief have I been aye, 
My life brings little gain "; 
King Mark quoth: "Wellaway, 
That I must see thy pain 
Nor aid may bring!" 1140 

Tristrem a ship, was fain 
To pray from Mark the King. 

"Uncle," he quoth: "I die, 
From land will I away, 
A ship forthwith will I, 
My harp, whereon to play, 
And food and drink thereby 
To keep me, send alway " 
Tho' Mark would fain deny, 
Tristrem they bare straightway 1150 
To the sea strand 
Save Gouvernail that day 
None fared with him from land. 

The ship was ready there, 
He craved Mark's benison; 
From haven did he fare, 
The town hight Carlion 
Nine weeks the salt waves bare 
His vessel up and down, 1159 

The wind blew fresh and fair 
They came unto a town, 
Help was full nigh, 
Develfn hight that town 
In Ireland, verily. 



SIR TRISTREM 



155 



He ran before the wind 
Shipmen towards him bore, 
His barque to boats they bind 
And draw it to the shore. 
There in the ship they find 
A sick man wounded sore. 
He said; On shores unkind 
Men wounded him, and bore 
Him hither bound, 
None lingered with him more 
So ill the stench they found. 

Gouvernail quoth again: 
"How call ye this sea strand? " 

To answer were they fain 
"Develm is this land." 
Tristrem to hear was fain, 
Swift did he understand; 
Her brother had he slain 
Who ruled within the land 
In deadly fight; 

To make him known were vain, 
Tramtris, henceforth he hight. 

Upon his barque that day 
Gladness there was, and glee, 
And every kind of lay 
That harped or sung might be. 
Then to the queen said they, 
(Sister to Moraunt she,) 
How a man wounded lay, 
A sorry sight to see 
And full of care 
"A merry man were he 
If but in health he were." 

In Develfn her repair, 
That lady sweet, the queen, 
Fairest in vesture fair 
In healing too, I ween, 
Skill had she and to spare, 
(That was on Tristrem seen;) 
She brought him out of care 
Though vain his search had been 
By night and day 
She sent a plaister keen 
That drew the stench away. 



1170 



1180 



1190 



The morrow when 't was day 
That dame of high degree 1210 

She came where Tristrem lay 
And asked who he might be? 
"A merchant I, alway, 
Hight Tramtris verily, 
By pirates, sooth to say, 
My comrades on the sea 
Were slain rich store 
Of stuffs they took from me 
And wounded me full sore." 

He seemed a man to praise xaao 

Tho' doleful wounds he bare, 
Strange to their ears his lais, 
(Men deemed them wondrous 

fair) 

His harp, his lute always, 
The chess board that he bare, 
All filled them with amaze, 
By Patrick good they sware 
Never in all their days 
The like were seen 
"A man of gentle ways 1*30 

In health had he but been!" 

That lady of high kin 

To search his wounds was bent, 

Knowledge she fain would win, 

Grimly he made lament. 

(His bones brake through the skin 

For anguish was he spent;) 

They bare him to an inn, 

A bath, with good intent, 

Both soft and strong 1140 

They made, that, well content, 

Tristrem could walk ere long. 

Soft salves to him they brought 

And drinks both strong and sweet, 

The cost they counted naught 

So they brought healing fleet. 

Oft to his harp they sought, 

His pastimes they hold meet; 

The queen his presence sought 

And oft would him entreat nso 

To seek her bower, 



156 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



With mirth and music sweet 
To wile away an hour. 

The king's own daughter dear 

Maiden Ysonde she hight 

Music was fain to hear 

And Geste to read aright. 

A teacher without peer, 

Sir Tramtris bent his might 

His skill to bring her near, 1260 

And train both hand and sight, 

Till, sooth to say, 

In Ireland was no knight 

Who durst with Ysonde play. 

Ysonde men praise alway, 

So fair, so bright, is she, 

All clad in green and gray 

With scarlet fittingly. 

On earth is none who may 

With her compared be 1270 

Save Tramtris, who alway 

Was lord of courtesie 

And games on ground 

Tramtris would hence away 

Since healed was his wound. 

Tramtris, on Irish ground 

He dwelt, a twelvemonth clear, 

Such tending good he found 

Whole was he in that year. 

He to the queen was bound 

In service due and dear, 

Ysonde, in glee and round 

He trained, right sweet to hear; 1280 

She knew each lay 

Then leave he prayed them here, 

By ship he would away. 

The wise queen, undismayed, 
To Tramtris did she say: 
" An ye a stranger aid 
He passeth soon away!" 1290 

His hire to him she paid 
Silver and gold that day, 
What he would, that the maid, 
Ysonde, gave for his play; 



Then, without fail, 

He bade them both "Good-day," 

With him went Gouvernail. 

Fair sails to mast they drew, 

Both white and red as blood; 

A favouring wind fresh blew, 1300 

Towards Carlion they stood. 

Now is he Tristrem true 

And f areth over flood ! 

The ship the landsmen knew 

It seemed to them right good, 

The news was known 

(Of wrath in fear they stood 

Since he had sailed alone!) 

They ran and told the king 
The ship was come again; 1310 

I ween of no tiding 
Was ever Mark so fain! 
Straightway to town they bring 
Tristrem with joyful train, 
Full blithe was their meeting 
The king to hear was fain 
There, at that stound, 
" Tristrem, art whole again? 
Cure for thy wound hast found?" 

He told them all the tale 1320 

Right strange unto their ear, 
How she had blessed his bale 
Who Moraunt held so dear, 
And made him whole and hale 
All that he bade them hear. 
Then Tristrem, without fail, 
Of Ysonde, maiden dear, 
Told tidings new 
" Fair is she without peer 
In love is none so true." 1330 

Mark did to Tristrem say : 
" My land I yield to thee 
To hold after my day 
Thine own it sure shall be 
An thou bring me that may 
That I her face may see." 
This ever was his way, 



SIR TRISTREM 



157 



Of Ysonde speaketh he, 
How men should prize 
Her grace and courtesie; 
In love was none so wise. 



1340 



Thro' England far and wide 

The barons them bethought 

To quell Sir Tristrem's pride; 

In cunning wise they wrought, 

They prayed the king that tide 

A queen for him be sought; 

That Tristrem should abide 

And claim hereafter naught, 

Nor reign as king 1350 

He should, this was their thought, 

Ysonde from Ireland bring. 

' As blood upon the snow 
So red and white her cheek, 
A bride thus fair to show 
Tristrem for thee shall seek." 
Tristrem quoth: "Now I know 
Thro' lies their spite they 'Id wreak, 
What never may be so 
To ask is fools' bespeak! 1360 

To wise man's mind 
'T is folly all to seek 
What man may never find! 

1 1 bid ye cease your strife, 
I heard a swallow sing, 
Ye say, I 'Id keep from wife 
King Mark, since I 'Id be king! 
Then, since such talk be rife, 
Bring ship and plenishing, 
Ye see me not in life 1370 

Save that to ye I bring 
Ysonde the bright; 
But find at my bidding, 
Fifteen men, sons of knight." 

The knights they chose that day, 

All wary men, and wise, 

Of lofty rank alway 

Whom men might highest prize. 

A ship with green and gray 

And furs of varied dyes, 1380 



With everything, I say, 
Fitting to merchandise 
In goodly store 
They set sail on this wise 
For Ireland's distant shore. 

His ship was richly found 

With all the needful ware, 

From Carlion was he bound, 

Fitly he forth did fare. 

They reared their gonfanoun, 1390 

The wind blew fresh and fair, 

They came to Develin town, 

A haven sought they there 

As fit and best 

Gifts to the king they bare 

And prayed his leave to rest. 

Gifts for the king they brought, 

And gifts they gave the queen, 

For Ysonde took they thought, 

(That do I wot and ween.) 1400 

As they their vessel sought, 

Who now at court had been, 

(No fairer maid they thought 

Had e'er on earth been seen 

By mortal sight ) 

The town and shore between 

The folk were in full flight. 

From Develin they fled 
Fast as their feet might fly; 
Down to the shore they sped 1410 
To drowning were they nigh; 
All for a dragon dread 
"On ship-board!" was their cry, 
The ships were dressed that stead, 
Naught recked they, verily, 
That he who slew 
The dragon, his should be 
Ysonde, as guerdon due. 

Tristrem, right glad was he, 1419 

He called his knights straightway; 
" Which of ye all would be 
The man to dare this fray?" 
Each would the other see, 



158 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



1430 



And for himself said nay; 
" In sooth now woe is me! " 

Sir Tristrem quoth that day : 
"To aid, who can?" 

Now hearken an ye may 

Deeds of a valiant man. 

From ship a steed he drew, 

The best that he had brought, 

His armour, it was new, 

Richly with gold inwrought. 

His heart was staunch and true, 

(In life it failed for naught,) 

The country well he knew 

Ere he the dragon sought, 

And saw with eye 

How Hell-fire, so he thought, 

Did from the monster fly. 1440 



Against that dragon dread 

Tristrem he rode that tide, 

Fierce as a lion he sped 

The battle to abide. 

With strong spear, at that stead, 

He smote the dragon's side, 

Naught was he furthered, 

The spear point off did glide 

With ne'er a dint, 

That fearsome dragon's hide 

Was hard as any flint! 



1450 



Tristrem thereof was woe, 
Another spear took he, 
Against his dragon foe 
It brake in pieces three. 
The dragon dealt a blow, 
The good steed, slain was he; 
Tristrem, I 'Id have ye know, 
He sprang beneath a tree, 
To pray was fain 
" Dear God in Trinity, 
Let me not here be slain!" 

On foot did Tristrem brave 
Against that dragon fight, 
Blows with his falchion gave 
E'en as a doughty knight. 



1460 



His lower jaw he clave 

In twain, with stroke of might; 

The dragon 'gainst him drave, 

His breath, as fire alight 1470 

Burning, he sent, 

His arms that erst were bright 

All scorched were they and rent. 

Such fire he cast again 

As burnt both shield and stone, 

The good steed lieth slain, 

His arms are burnt each one. 

Tristrem, he cleft the brain, 

And brake the fiend's back-bone 

Ne'er had he been so fain 1480 

As when that fight was done. 

Then more, to boot, 

The fiend's tongue hath he ta'en 

And shorn off at the root. 

The tongue he safe would hide 

And in his hose would bear; 

Scarce had he gone ten stride 

Ere speech had failed him there. 

Needs must he here abide, 

No further may he fare 1490 

The king's steward came that tide, 

The head away he bare; 

With guile he brought 

That pledge to Ysonde fair 

And vowed 't was dearly bought! 

The steward had full fain 

Won Ysonde, an he might 

The king, he quoth again, 

Full fair had been that fight. 

Ysonde to blind were vain, 1500 

She fast denied his right; 

There, where the foe was slain, 

The queen and she, by night 

They took their way, 

And sought the valiant wight 

Who could such monster slay. 

" Think ye he did this deed 
The steward?" quoth Ysonde; "Nay! 
Look at yon gallant steed 



SIR TRISTREM 



'59 



He owned it ne'er a day. 1510 

Look at this goodly weed, 
'T was ne'er his, sooth to say!" 
Further with haste they speed, 
And found a man who lay 
And breath scarce drew, 
Quoth they "So God us rede 
This man the dragon slew ! " 

Betwixt his lips alway 
Cordial they pour with care; 
When speak Sir Tristrem may 1520 
His tale he told them there: 
1 This dragon did I slay" 
(Freely he spake and fair) 
'The tongue I cut away, 
Venom with me I bare " 
Straightway they look; 
The queen, with craft and care, 
Forthwith the tongue she took. 

They quoth, his was the right, 

The steward, he had lied ; 1530 

They asked him, would he fight 

With him who claimed the bride? 

Tristrem spake as a knight 

The test he would abide. 

So well his faith he plight 

Ysonde, she laughed that tide. 

Her gage he met, 

His ship with all its pride 

Pledge for his faith he set. 

The queen asks who he is 1540 

Who dared that fiend abide? 
'Merchant am I, I wis, 

My ship lies here beside. 

Now hath the steward done this, 

I will abate his pride 

Ere that he Ysonde kiss!" 

Against him would he ride 

With all his might 

Ysonde, she softly sighed: 
'Alas, wert thou but knight!" 1550 

Their champion, day by day, 
With fitting food they feed, 



Until they deem he may 

Adventure doughty deed. 

His arms, full long were they, 

His shoulders broad at need, 

The wise queen, sooth to say, 

To bathe would Tristrem lead 

Such skill she knew, 

Herself she went with speed 1560 

A strengthening drink to brew. 

Now Ysonde, secretly, 

Deemed that he Tramtris were, 

His sword she fain would see, 

Broken she finds it there. 

Forth from a coffer, she 

Draweth a piece with care 

And fits it tremblingly 

The blade is whole and fair! 

It fitteth right 157* 

Ysonde, in her despair 

Would slay Tristrem the knight. 

Ysonde by Tristrem stood, 
Unsheathed she held the brand 
'Moraunt, my kinsman good, 
He fell beneath thine hand, 
For this thy red heart's blood 
I 'Id see shed on this strand!" 
The queen deemed she were wood; 
Smiling, with cup in hand, 1580 

T'ward them she drew 
'Nay, thou shalt understand, 
This wretch thy brother slew! 

'Tristrem our foe is he, 
That may not be denied, 
The piece thou here may'st see 
Thro' that mine uncle died, 
It fitteth evenly, 
See, I the twain have tried!" 
Fain had she smitten free 1590 

Sir Tristrem in that tide, 
'T is sooth, I say, 
He in the bath had died 
Save for the queen that day. 

Sir Tristrem smiling spake 



i6o 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To sweet Ysonde the bright; 
"The chance was your's to take 
The while I Tramtris hight; 
Wroth are ye for the sake 
Of Moraunt, noble knight, 1600 

I no evasion make, 
In battle and fair fight 
I have him slain; 
An he had had the might 
So had he me, full fain! 

"The while I Tramtris hight 
I taught thee game and song; 
Later, as best I might, 
I spake thy praise with tongue 
To Mark, the noble knight, 1610 

Till he for thee did long!" 
Thus sware he day and night, 
And pledges set full strong 
Their lands between, 
That, for amends of wrong, 
Ysonde should aye be queen. 

Tristrem, he sware that thing, 

(They said, so should it stand,) 

That he should Ysonde bring, 

(Thereto they set their hand) 1620 

To Mark the noble king, 

An he still bare command, 

That she be made with ring 

Queen of the English land. 

The sooth to say 

So did the forward stand 

Ere yet they sailed away. 

The steward denied his deed, 
Hearing he Tristrem hight; 
The king sware, God him speed, 1630 
They both should have their 

right! 

The steward took better rede 
And sware he would not fight 
To Tristrem as his meed 
They gave Ysonde the bright 
That they should bring 
In ward that traitor knight 
The maid besought the king. 



Tristrem prayed land nor fee, 
Only that maiden bright: 1640 

For parting speedily 
They trussed them, squire and knight. 
Her mother, blithe was she, 
She brewed a drink of might, 
That love should waken free 
A maiden, Brengwain hight, 
She gave the draught: 
' See, on their bridal night 
By king and queen 't is quaffed!" 

Ysonde, the bright of hue,j 1650 

Is far out on the sea, 

A wind against them blew, 

No sail might hoisted be. 

They rowed, those knights so true, 

Tristrem, an oar took he 

E'en as his turn fell due, 

Nor one, against the three, 

From toil would shrink 

Ysonde, the maiden free, 

Bade Brengwain give them drink. 1660 

The cup was richly wrought, 

Of gold it was, the pin, 

In all the world was naught 

To match the drink therein. 

Brengwain, she was distraught, 

She to that flask did win 

And to sweet Ysonde brought 

She bade Tristrem begin; 

The sooth to say, 

Each heart there found its twin 1670 

Until their dying day. 

A dog was at their side, 

That was yclept Hodain, 

The cup he licked that tide 

When set down by Brengwain. 

These three in love allied, 

(Thereof were they full fain,) 

Together must abide 

In joy, and eke in pain, 

Long as man's thought 1680 

In an ill hour they drain 

The drink that ill was wrought. 



SIR TRISTREM 



161 



Tristrem, each night he lay 

Beside that lady sweet, 

And found with her alway 

Such solace as was meet. 

In her bower, night and day, 

Gaily the hours they fleet 

They dallied in love's play 

Brengwain doth well entreat 1690 

For love the twain. 

As sun in summer's heat 

So waxed their love amain. 

Two weeks thus bound to strand 

No sail to mast they drew; 

By favouring breezes fanned 

Towards the shore they flew. 

Mark hunted in the land 

A varlet whom he knew 

He knighted with his hand 1700 

For tidings good and true 

That he did bring 

Ysonde, the fair of hue, 

She wedded Mark the King. 

Wedded with ring were they 

Of feasting speak I naught 

Then Brengwain, sooth to say, 

Did as the three had thought; 

(She took the drink that day 

That was with magic fraught,) 1710 

To Mark the King alway 

In Ysonde's stead, was brought 

Brengwain, that tide; 

Till he his will had wrought 

On her who lay beside. 

When Mark had had his will 
Ysonde her place would take; 
cup she bade them fill 
it she her thirst might slake, 
le drink she swift did spill; 1720 
>mall need for Tristrem's sake 

summon magic skill, 
lo man the bands might break 
letwixt the twain, 
Tor clerk of wisdom make 
?heir true Love's secret plain. 



They looked for joy alway, 

Certes, it was not so! 

Their dreams, they went astray, 

Doubts fell betwixt the two. 1730 

The one in languor lay; 

The other fain would go; 

Ysonde was blithe and gay 

When Tristrem was in woe, 

Such feint she made 

Ysonde, I 'Id have ye know, 

Brengwain full ill repaid. 



She said: "I may be wroth, 
She lay first with the king; 
I vowed she should have cloth, 
Gold, and a rich wedding. 
Tristrem and I for troth 
Win shame and slandering 
Methinks *t were best for both 
That maid to death to bring, 
Secret and still 
Then, fearing naught the king, 
Free, we may work our will.'* 



1740 



*75 



The queen bade to her side 
Two workmen, on a day; 
And told them at that tide 
What was her will to say. 
'I will ye slay and hide 
Brengwain, that merry may! " 
She quoth: "Ye shall abide 
In wealth for many a day. 
Now go with speed, 
Nor fear for lack of pay 
An well ye do this deed." 



Into a dark ravine 
They led the maiden good, 
One drew his sword so keen, 
And one behind her stood. 

"Mercy," she cried, I ween, 
And quoth: "By Christ on Rood, 
What hath my trespass been, 
Why would ye spill my blood?" 

"The sooth to say, 
Ysonde, that lady good 
She sent us thee to slay." 1770 



170* 



162 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Then Brengwain secretly 
Bade them to seek the queen: 
1 Greet well my sweet lady, 
Say, I have faithful been; 
White smocks had she and I, 
But her's had lost its sheen, 
When she by Mark should lie 
I lent her mine all clean 
And that she wore: 
Against her, well I ween, 
Have I done nothing more." 



1780 



The maid they would not slay 

But gat them to the queen; 

Ysonde, she asked alway 

What passed the three between? 
"She bade us soothly say: 
'Since soiled your smock had been 

When erst by Mark ye lay, 

I lent ye mine all clean, 

As well ye knew.' " 1790 

Quoth Ysonde, quick and keen, 
"Where is my maiden true?" 

Ysonde in wrathful mood 

Quoth: "Ye have killed Brengwain!" 

She sware by Christ on Rood 

Hanging should be their pain. 

She proffered gifts so good 

To bring that maid again: 

They fetched her where she stood, 

Then was Ysonde full fain 1800 

And, sooth to say, 

So true she found Brengwain 

She loved her from that day. 

Peace was betwixt them made, 

And pardon given for ill 

Tristrem, all undismayed, 

Of Ysonde had his will 

From Ireland's shore there strayed 

A harper; to fulfil 1809 

His thought, at court he stayed; 

His harp waa wrought with skill, 

No man with sight 

Had seen its like, and still 

He bare it day and night. 



The queen he loved her e'er 

The harp he hither brought 

And in his bosom bare, 

Full richly was it wrought. 

He hid it aye with care 

And drew it forth for naught. 1820 
"Thy harp why wilt thou spare 

If thou of skill hast aught 

In lay or glee?" 
"It cometh forth for naught 

Save a right royal fee!" 

Quoth Mark: "Now let me see, 

Harp thou as best thou may, 

And what thou askest me 

That will I freely pay." 
"Of right good will!" quoth he, 1830 

And harped a merry lay. 
"Sir King, by gift so free 

Ysonde is mine to-day 

With harp, I ween : 

Foresworn art thou alway 

Or else I take thy queen!" 

Mark hath his council sworn 
And asketh rede thereto: 
"My manhood is foresworn 
Or Ysonde must us fro'." 1844 

Mark was of joy forlorn; 
Ysonde, she fared in woe; 
Tristrem, it chanced that morn, 
Would to the woodland go 
The deer to slay, 
Nor of the tale might know 
Till Ysonde was away. 

Tristrem in wrath I ween 
He chode with Mark the King: 
"Dost give gleemen thy queen? i8$ 
Hadst thou no other thing?" 
His lute he there hath seen, 
He took it by the ring; 
Tristrem, he followed keen; 
Ysonde to ship they bring 
With joy and glee. 
Tristrem began to sing, 
She hearkened willingly. 



SIR TRISTREM 



'63 



He sang so sweet a strain 
It wrought her mickle woe; 
For love her heart was fain, 
Well nigh it brake in two. 
The earl, he came amain 
And many knights also, 
He spake in tender strain: 
"Sweet heart, why mournest so? 
Tell me, I pray!" 
Ysonde to land would go 
Ere yet she sailed away. 



1860 



1870 



"Within an hour this day 
Shall I be whole and sound, 
I hear a minstrel play 
Like Tristrem's rings his round." 

"Cursed were he alway, 
An he should here be found! 
That minstrel for his lay 
Shall have an hundred pound 
This day of me, 

An he with us be bound 1879 

Since Love, thou lov'st his glee!" 



To hear that music sweet 
The queen was set on land; 
Beside the waters fleet 
The earl, he took her hand. 
Tristrem, as minstrel meet, 
A merry ruse had planned; 
With ivory lute would greet 
Their coming to the strand 
Upon that stound. 
Ysonde, on the sea sand 
Full soon was whole and sound. 



1890 



Whole was Ysonde, and sound, 

By virtue of that glee; 

I wot the earl that stound 

A joyful man was he. 

Of pence two hundred pound 

He gave Tristrem in fee. 

To ship they now are bound, 

In Ireland would they be, 

Of heart full fain, 1900 

The earl and his knights three 

With Ysonde and Brengwain. 



Tristrem, he took his steed, 
And leapt thereon to ride; 
The queen would have him 

lead 

And take her at his side. 
Tristrem was swift to heed 
The twain in woodland hide. 
He scoffed: "Now in this need 
Earl, have I lowered thy pride 1910 
Without dispute 
Won by thy harp that tide 
Thou'st lost her by my lute!" 

Tristrem, he Ysonde bare 

Into the woods away, 

They found a bower fair 

And fit for lovers' play. 

Seven nights abode they there 

Then took to court their way; 
"Henceforth, Sir King," 1930 

Tristrem to Mark did say, 
"Give minstrels other thing." 

Now Meriadoc was one 

Whom Tristrem trusted aye; 

Much good he him had done, 

The twain together lay. 

Tristrem to Ysonde won 

By night, with her to play; 

Wiser than he was none, 

A board he took away 1930 

From off her bower. 

Ere he went on his way 

Of snow there fell a shower. 

So fast the snow did fall 
That all the way was white. 
Tristrem was woe withal 
For sorrow and despite. 
'Twixt bower, I ween, and 

hall 

Narrow the road to sight 
A chance did him befall 1940 

As we find writ aright, 
In hall he found 
A straw wisp, and full tight 
Around his feet he bound. 



i6 4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Meriadoc that night 

He rose up, all unseen, 

He took the path aright 

That led him to the queen. 

The board was loose to sight, 

And there, in sooth, I ween, 1950 

Of Tristrem's robe, the knight, 

He found a piece of green 

But lately tore 

Then Meriadoc, the keen, 

It wondered him the more. 

He told the king next morn 
All he had seen with sight: 

"Tristrem, traitor foresworn, 
With Ysonde lay last night. 
Counsel of need be born 1960 

Ask, Who shall be her knight 
To shield her? Thou art sworn 
The Cross to take forthright 
If so ye may. 

'Tristrem, the noble knight.' 
The queen herself will say!" 

The king, he told the queen, 

(They lay together there:) 
"Lady, full soon, I ween, 

On crusade must I fare; 1970 

Say now, us twain between, 

Who shall thee shield from care?" 
"O'er all thy knights so keen, 

Tristrem!" she answered there, 
"None better can; 

He hath my favour fair, 

He is thy near kinsman!" 



All that Mark to her told 
At morn she told Brengwain; 

"He sails on errand bold, 
Now may we be full fain! 
Tristrem his court shall hold 
Until he come again." 
Brengwain did speech unfold: 

"Thy deeds are known amain 
And seen with sight 
Mark testeth thee again 
In other wise to-night. 



1980 



"Now watch thou well his will; 
To wend with him thou pray, 1990 
And if he love thee still 
Bid Tristrem go his way. 
Pray him to deal with skill; 
Thy foe was Tristrem aye; 
Thou fear'st he'll do thee ill 
An so he holdeth sway 
The land above 
Thou loved 'st him ne'er a day 
Save for his uncle's love!" 

Ysonde, when came the night, aooc 
Cried: "Mark, some pity show, 
And deal with me aright, 
Would 'st leave me to my foe? 
God knows, I, an I might, 
From land with thee would go, 
And slay Tristrem the knight, 
Save that I love would show 
To thee this day 
For men make feint to know 
That Tristrem by me lay!" aoic 

Mark, he was blithe and bold, 

Faith in her word had he: 

Him, who the tale had told, 

He used despitefully. 

Meriadoc, as of old 

Spake: "Now thou let him be, 

Their loves shalt thou behold 

All for the love of me; 

In sooth, I ween, 

By wisdom thou shalt see aoac 

The love the twain between." 

Mark severed then the two, 
Bade Tristrem go his way. 
Ysonde was ne'er so woe 
Nor Tristrem, sooth to say. 
Tristrem was laid full low, 
Ysonde herself would slay, 
In sooth she mourned so, 
And Tristrem, night and day; 
In very deed, 2030 

Each man may see alway 
The life for love they lead. 



SIR TRISTREM 



'65 



Quoth Meriadoc: "I rede 

Thou bid thy huntsmen ride 

A fortnight full at need 

To see thy forests wide; 

Thyself the band shall lead; 

Tristrem shall here abide, 

And in the act and deed 

Thou 'It take them at that tide. 2040 

Here, in the tree, 

I counsel thee to hide, 

Thou shalt their feigning see." 

Tristrem abode in town, 

Ysonde was in her bower, 

The streamlet bare adown 

Light linden twigs that hour. 

With rune he wrote them round 

Ysonde knew branch and flower 

She Tristrem's message found, 2050 

With grace his prayer would dower, 

His coming bide 

Next day, ere evening hour, 

Tristrem was at her side! 

Beneath the orchard's shade 
They met, Ysonde and he, 
Love's solace there they made 
When they might win them free. 
The dwarf a snare had laid, 2060 

He watched them from a tree 
Anon, King Mark he prayed 
To come, that he might see 
Their deeds with sight 
"Thus, Sire, assured thou'lt be, 
Thyself shalt prove me right." 

His falsehood to fulfil 
Forthwith he fain would greet 
Tristrem (his thought was ill), 
From Ysonde, lady sweet: 
"The queen's wish I fulfil, 3070 

As she did me entreat, 
She prayeth thee of good will, 
That thou would'st with her meet, 
Both, face to face, 
Tho' Mark be far, 't is meet 
It be in secret place!" 



Sir Tristrem him bethought: 
"Master, my thanks to thee, 
Since thou this word hast brought 
My robe I give to thee. 2080 

That thou hast failed in naught 
Say to that lady free; 
Her words I dearly bought 
To Mark she slandered me, 
That gentle may ! 
At morn she shall me see 
In church, 't is sooth to say." 

The dwarf he went his way, 
To Mark he came full keen: 
"By this robe judge ye may tago 

How well he loves the queen! 
He trusteth me no way 
In guise of go-between, 
By seeming ye might say 
Her face he ne'er had seen, 
Before with sight 
And yet full sure I ween 
He meeteth her to-night!" 

King Mark hid in that tree 
The twain they met below; 2100 

The shadow did he see 
Tristrem, nor spake too low 
That Ysonde warned should be, 
And call Tristrem her foe 
"Here is no place for thee, 
Hast no right here to go, 
What doth thee bring? 
Dead, would I fain thee know 
Save that I love the king ! 



My foe wast thou alway, 
Full sore thou wrongest me 
With mockery night and day, 
Mark scarce my face will see, 
And threatens me to slay 
More courteous 't were in thee 
To follow friendship's way 
By God in Trinity! 
Or I this tide 
From this land must away 
And seek Welsh deserts wide! " 



4110 



i66 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"Tristrem, tho', sooth to say, 
I wish thee little good, 
I slandered thee no day 
That swear I, by God's rood! 
Men said thou with me lay, 
By that thine uncle stood 
Now get thee on thy way, 
Thou ravest as one wood, 
None save the man 
Who had my maidenhood 2130 

I love, or ever can!" 

" Sweet Ysonde, hear my prayer, 
Beseech the king for me, 
If so thy will be fair, 
That he would speak me free! 
From land then will I fare, 
No more my face he'll see " 
(Mark's heart was heavy there, 
He hearkened from the tree 
And thus he thought: auo 

*' Guiltless, I ween, they were 
In this vile slander brought.") 

"Wrong 'gainst thee I deny, 

Men said thou with me lay, 

Yet, if for this I die 

Thy message will I say. 

Thine uncle's state is high, 

Equip thee well he may 

I reck not if I lie 

So that thou be away 2150 

Of thine own will." 

Mark to himself did say : 
"He shall abide here still." 

Tristrem, his way would go, 

And Ysonde too, I wis. 

Never was Mark so woe, 

Himself he heard all this, 

In sorrow must he go 

Till he might Tristrem kiss, 

And hatred keen must know 2160 

'Gainst him who spake amiss 

Then waked anew 

At court their joy, with bliss 

They welcome Tristrem true. 



Now Ysonde hath her way, 

Tristrem is Marshal hight 

Three years he wrought love's play 

With Ysonde, lady bright. 

None might the twain betray 

So cunning was their sleight ; 2170 

But Meriadoc, he lay 

In watch, both day and night, 

With ill intent, 

To ruin both queen and knight 

Had he been well content! 

A ruse he found alway, 
Thus to the king said he: 
"Their folly dureth aye, 
'T was sooth I sware to thee. 
Look now, upon one day 2180 

Bid blood be let ye three, 
And do as I shall say; 
True token shall men see 
And that right soon 
Bloody her couch shall be 
Ere yet their will be done!" 

Now have they bled the king, 

Tristrem, and eke the queen; 

After the blood-letting 

They sweep the chamber clean. 2igo 

Meriadoc flour did bring, 

Strewed it the beds between 

That ne'er might pass a thing 

But that its trace were seen 

Clear to men's sight 

The thirty feet between 

Tristrem he leapt that night. 

Now Tristrem's will was this, 

With Ysonde would he play, 

They might not come to kiss 2200 

So thick the flour it lay! 

Tristrem, he leapt, I wis, 

Full thirty feet alway, 

But e'en as he did this 

The bandage brake away 

And fast he bled 

I wot ere dawn of day 

He leapt from out her bed. 



SIR TRISTREM 



167 



The thirty feet again 
He leapt, I speak no lie 
It hurt him sore, the vein, 
Small wonder, verily. 
Mark, he beheld the stain, 
'T was plain unto the eye, . 
He spake unto Brengwain: 
"Tristrem brake traitorously 
The vow he plight." 
The land he needs must fly 
Out of his uncle's sight. 

Tristrem was fled away, 
In land was no more seen; 
At London, on a day, 
Mark, he would purge the queen 
Of guilt that on her lay 
A Bishop stood between; 
With red-hot iron, they say, 
She thought to make her clean 
Of all they spake 
Ysonde was fain, I ween, 
That doom on her to take. 

Men set the lists full fair, 
At Westminster aright, 
Hot irons would she bear 
All for that valiant knight. 
In weeds that beggars wear 
Tristrem, he came that night, 
(Of all the folk that were 
None knew him then by sight 
Who him had seen ) 
E'en to sweet Ysonde bright, 
As pledged the twain between. 



2230 



2240 



O'er Thames she needs must ride 
An arm 't is of the sea 
"E'en to the vessel's side 
This man shall carry me:" 
Tristrem bare her that tide 
And with the queen fell he, 
E'en by her naked side 
As every man might see 
Nor need to show 2250 

Her flesh above the knee 
All bare the knights must know. 



In flood they had him drowned, 
Or worse, an that they may : 

"Ye 'quite him ill this stound," 
The queen to them would say : 

"He little meat hath found 
Or drink, this many a day, 
For weakness was he bound 
To fall, the sooth to say, 2260 

And very need 
Now give him gold, I pray, 
That he bid me God-speed." 

Gold did they give him there 
The judgment hath begun; 
Ysonde doth soothly swear 
That she no wrong hath done 
"But one to ship me bare, 
These knights, they all looked on, 
Whate'er his will then were 2270 

Full nigh to me he won. 
'T is sooth, this thing, 
So nigh came never none 
Saving my lord the king!" 

Sweet Ysonde, she hath sworn 
Her clean, that merry may, 
Ready for her that morn 
The iron they heat alway; 
The knights, they stand forlorn 
And for her safety pray 2280 

The iron she there hath borne 
Mark pardoned her that day 
In word and deed 
And Meriadoc, they say, 
Hath spoken traitorous rede. 

Ysonde was spoken clean 

In Meriadoc's despite, 

Ne'er had she found, the queen, 

Such favour in Mark's sight. 

Tristrem, the true, I ween, 2290 

To W T ales he took his flight: 

In battle hath he been, 

Conflict he sought forthright 

In sooth, I wis, 

Solace he seeks in fight, 

Ysonde he may not kiss. 



i68 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



In Wales the crown he bare 

A king, hight Triamour, 

He had a daughter fair 

Men called her Blanche-flower. 2300 

Urgain the giant there 

Besieged him in his tower, 

That maid he fain would bear 

With him unto his bower 

For that would fight 

Tristrem, with much honour, 

Became of that king knight. 

Urgain the land would hold 

In wrongful guise alway; 

Oft from his robber hold 2310 

On Triamour he 'Id prey. 

This tale to Tristrem told 

The king, one summer's day, 

And quoth, he Wales shall hold 

An that he win it may 

Of lawful right 

Tristrem, none may say nay, 

He won that land in fight. 

Tristrem, he met Urgain 2310 

The twain in field would fight 
Ere they together ran 
He spake as doughty knight: 
"My brother true, Morgan, 
Didst slay at meat, with might, 
As I be valiant man 
His death thou 'It rue to-night 
Here, as my foe " 
Quoth Tristrem: "Here I plight 
My word, thou'rt slain also!" 

Twelve foot, the staff on strand 2330 

Wherewith Urgain made play 

None shall his stroke withstand, 

'T were strange if Tristrem may ! 

Full sharp was Tristrem's brand, 

The staff it fell away, 

And more, the giant's right hand 

Was smitten off that day 

In very deed 

Sir Tristrem, sooth to say, 

He made the giant bleed! 2340 



Urgain, with wrathful mien, 

With his left hand he fought 

Against his foenian keen; 

A stroke, with danger fraught, 

Fell on his helmet's sheen 

Tristrem to ground was brought 

But up he sprang, I ween, 

And aid from Heaven besought 

Of God's great Might 

With brand for warfare wrought 2350 

Fast he began to fight. 

The giant, afar he stood, 

Now had he lost his hand 

He fled as he were wood 

To where his burg did stand. 

Tristrem, in blood he trode, 

He found the giant's right hand 

With that away he rode; 

The giant, I understand 

Healing had sought 2360 

Salves that would cure his hand 

With him he swiftly brought. 

Urgain, unfelled his pride, 
After Sir Tristrem ran; 
The folk from far and wide 
Were gathered to a man. 
Sir Tristrem thought that tide 
'I'll take what take I can" 
On bridge did he abide, 
Many their deeds did scan, 2370 

They met for fray 
Urgain on Tristrem ran 
With challenge grim alway. 

Then strokes of mickle might 

Were dealt the twain between; 

That thro' the burnies bright 

The blood of both was seen. 

Tristrem fought as a knight 

Urgain, in anger keen 

Dealt him a stroke un-light, 2380 

His shield was cloven clean 

In pieces two 

Tristrem, I wot and ween, 

Had never been so woe! 



SIR TRISTREM 



169 



Urgain, he smote amain, 
The stroke, it went astray, 
Tristrem, he struck again 
And ran him through that day. 
Urgain to spring was fain, 
Dead 'neath the bridge he lay 2390 
" Tristrem the giant hath slain ! " 
The folk around they say 
Both loud and still; 
The king with joy that day 
Gave Wales unto his will. 



The king, a dog he brought 
And gave to Tristrem true, 
How fairly it was wrought 
I would declare anew 
Softer than silk to thought, 
He was red, green, and blue, 
They who the dog had sought 
Much joy of him they knew 
I wot alway; 

His name was Petitcrewe, 
Much praise of him they say. 



The good King Triamour 
That dog to Tristrem gave 
Who from the giant's power 
Him and his land did save. 
Tristrem was proved that hour 
Courteous as he was brave, 
To maiden Blancheflower 
Wales for her own he gave 
For aye, I ween, 
The dog he sent o'er wave 
To Ysonde, the sweet queen. 

Now Ysonde, sooth to say, 
Was of the dog full fain, 
She sent him word straightway 
That he might come again; 
Mark, he had heard alway 
How Urgain had been slain, 
And sent men on their way 
To say that he was fain 
Tristrem to see. 
His coming he deemed gain 
And kissed him fair and free. 



2400 



2410 



2420 



King Mark did Tristrem call 

And gave to him, I ween, 2430 

Cities and castles, all 

E'en as he steward had been. 

Who then was blithe in hall 

But Ysonde, the sweet queen? 

Howe'er it might befall 

The game was played between 

Those lovers two 

They bare of love the mien 

Mark saw the thing was so. 

Mark, he hath seen, I wis, 2440 
The love the twain between, 
Certes, the thought was his 
Avenged to have been. 
Tristrem he called with this 
And bade him take the queen, 
And drave them forth, I wis, 
No more they should be seen, 
They must away 
Blither they ne'er had been 
I wot, for many a day ! 2450 

Into a forest fair, 

The twain, they fled that tide, 

No dwelling have they there 

Saving the woodland wide. 

O'er hills and holts they fare, 

Amid them they abide, 

Ysonde of joy hath share, 

And Tristrem, at her side; 

I wot, full well, 

Never before that tide 2460 

In such bliss did they dwell ! 

Ysonde and Tristrem true 

Are banished for their deed, 

Hodain and Petitcrewe 

The twain with them they lead. 

An earth-house there they knew, 

Thither they fare with speed; 

He taught them, Tristrem true, 

The beasts to take at need, 

Nor be out-paced 2470 

In forest fastness freed 

Tristrem with Hodain chased. 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Tristrem wild beasts would slay 

With Hodain, for their meat; 

In an earth-house they lay, 

There found they solace sweet, 

Giants in a by-gone day 

Wrought it in fashion meet 

Each even, sooth to say, 

Thither they turned their feet, 8480 

As best they might 

Thro* woodland boughs they greet 

Changes of day and night. 

In winter it was hot, 

In summer it was cold, 

Fair was that hidden grot, 

The path to none they told. 

No wine had they, I wot, 

Nor good ale strong and old, 

I trow it vexed them not 2490 

They lacked for meat on mold, 

Each had their will, 

The loved one to behold, 

Nor ever gaze their fill ! 

On a hill Tristrem stood, 

Aforetime was he there, 

He found a well right good, 

Crystal its waters were. 

Thereto in joyous mood 

He came, with Ysonde fair; 2500 

I wot this was their food, 

On forest flesh they fare 

With herbs, and grass 

In joy, all free from care, 

Twelve months, save three weeks, pass. 

Tristrem, ere dawn of day, 

With Hodain forth would fare, 

He found a beast of prey 

Within a secret lair. 

He slew that beast straightway 2510 

And with him homeward bare 

Sweet Ysonde sleeping lay, 

Tristrem, he laid him there 

Beside the queen 

His brand, unsheathed and bare, 

Was laid the twain between. 



A hart to bay he ran 

King Mark, that self -same day; 

The track his huntsmen scan 

And find a woodland way; 2520 

Tristrem, in little span, 

And Ysonde, sooth to say, 

They find sure no such man, 

And none so fair a may, 

E'er met their sight 

Between the twain there lay 

A drawn sword, burnished bright. 

The huntsmen went forthright, 

Told Mark where they had been; 

That lady and that knight 2530 

Had Mark aforetime seen; 

He knew them well by sight 

The sword, it lay between, 

A sunbeam passing bright 

It shone upon the queen 

Thro' crevice small, 

Upon her face so sheen 

It vexed the king withal. 

His glove he set therein 
To keep the sun away 2540 

King Mark, he woe must win, 
And spake: "Ah, wellaway, 
Two who would dwell in sin 
Never in such wise lay! 
Who live as loyal kin 
Have no thought for love's play, 
T is sooth, I wis 
The knights with one voice say: 
* Pledge of their truth is this!" 

Then wakened Tristrem true 2550 

And Ysonde, fair and sheen, 

The glove away they drew 

And spake the twain between; 

That it was Mark's they knew 

And wist he there had been. 

Their joy awakened new 

To know he thus had seen 

Them both with sight 

With that came knights so keen 

To fetch the twain forthright. 2560 



SIR TRISTREM 



171 



To court had come the twain 

Who dwelt in woodland wide; 

Mark kissed Ysonde again 

And Tristrem, true and tried; 

Forgiven was their pain, 

Naught was to them denied; 

Tristrem did office gain 

Therein would he abide 

As at that stound 

Hearken, who at this tide 3570 

Would know of love the ground. 

It fell the twain between 
Upon a summer's day, 
That Tristrem and the queen 
Sought solace in love's play, 
The dwarf the twain had seen, 
To Mark he swift did say : 
"Sir King, I surely ween 
Thy wife is now away 
With her true knight, 2580 

Wend swiftly on thy way, 
O'ertake them, an thou might." 



King Mark, he swiftly ran; 
His coming both might see, 
Tristrem spake, woeful man, 

"Sweet Ysonde, lost are we, 
By naught that we may plan 
The thing may hidden be," 
Ne'er was so sad a man 
As Tristrem, verily, 
True knight and friend 

"For fear of death I flee, 
In woe my way I wend. 



2590 



"I flee, since death I dread, 
I may not here abide, 
In woe I seek this stead 
The friendly forest side " 
A ring ere hence he sped 
She gave him at that tide 
For fear of death he fled 
Unto the woodland wide 
Forthwith I ween 
To seek him swift they ride, 
Alone they found the queen. 



2600 



Tristrem hath gone his way 
As naught 'twixt them had been; 
Therefore the knights they say 
That Mark amiss had seen. 
And straightway do they pray 
That Mark forgive the queen 
Tristrem by Ysonde lay 2611 

That night, in sooth I ween, 
Good watch he kept 
Love's solace was between 
The twain while others slept. 

Tristrem hath fled away, 

He cometh not again, 

He sigheth, sooth to say, 

For sorrow and for pain. 

Tristrem, he fareth aye 2620 

As one who would be slain, 

Nor ceaseth, night and day, 

Conflict to seek amain, 

That knight so free 

He wandereth thro* Spain, 

Of giants, he slew three. 

Anon from Spain he fared, 
Fain Rohant's sons to see, 
Their joy they nowise spared, 
Welcome to them was he. 2630 

Long time with them he fared 
Good reason there should be, 
Their land they fain had shared 
With him who set them free 
An 't were his thought 
He quoth: "My thanks have ye, 
Of your land will I naught." 

To Britain did he hie, 

There was he the duke's knight, 

The land in peace did lie 2640 

That erst was full of fight. 

The duke's lands, presently, 

He won again with fight 

He gave him, 't is no lie, 

His daughter fair and bright 

There, in that land; 

The maiden, she was hight 

Ysonde, of the White Hand. 



172 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Tristrem, with love so strong, 
He loved Ysonde the queen, 
Of Ysonde made a song 
By Ysonde sung, I ween. 
The maiden deemed a-wrong 
That song of her had been 
Her yearning lasted long, 
That hath her father seen, 
Her will he knew 
Ysonde with hand of sheen 
He offered Tristrem true. 



2650 



2660 



Tristrem a wish doth hold 
Fast hidden in his thought; 
'King Mark, mine uncle bold, 
Great wrong on us hath brought, 
I am to sorrow sold, 
Thereto she me hath brought 
Whose love was mine of old, 
The book, it saith, with naught 
Of lawful right" 
The maid henceforth he sought 
For that she Ysonde hight. 2670 



That was her heart's demand, 
Her will would he obey 
True covenant and band 
He bound with that fair may, 
Ysonde of the White Hand 
He wedded her that day 
At night, I understand, 
As he would go his way 
To bower and bed, 
Tristrem's ring fell away 
As men him thither led. 



2680 



Tristrem beheld the ring, 
His heart was full of woe 
"Ysonde did no such thing, 
She ne'er betrayed me so 
Tho' Mark, her lord and king, 
Force her with him to go 
My heart may no man bring 
From her, as well I know, 
The fair and free 
Now severed are we two, 
The sin, it rests on me!" 



2690 



Tristrem, in bed he lay, 
His heart was full of care; 
He quoth: "Love's secret play 
In sooth, I may not dare." 
He said the maiden nay, 
If so her will it were 
She answered him straightway: 
" Of that have thou no care, 2700 
I'll hold me still, 
Nor ask for foul or fair 
Save as it be thy will." 

Her father on a day 

He gave them lands so wide, 

Afar, upon the way, 

The posts were set beside. 

The duke's lands this side lay, 

A giant's the other side 

No man durst there to stray, 2710 

The giant would him abide 

And challenge fight 

Lowered perforce his pride 

Or king he were, or knight. 

"Tristrem, I would thee rede 
That thou, for love of me, 
Pass not, for any need, 
Beyond yon arm of sea. 
Of Beliagog take heed, 
A giant stern is he, 2720 

Thou should'st him fear indeed 
Since thou his brothers three 
Hast slain in fight, 
Urgain, Morgan, truly, 
And Moraunt, noble knight. 

"An thine hounds seek a hare 
And from his lands come free, 
So be thou debonaire 
If his hounds come to thee." 
The forest, it was fair 2730 

With many an unknown tree, 
Tristrem would thither fare 
However it might be 
His foe abide 

"That country will I see 
What chance soe'er betide." 



SIR TRISTREM 



Tristrem would hunt the wood, 

To chase a hart began, 

There, where the boundary stood, 

His hounds across it ran. 2740 

Tho' black and broad the flood 

He crossed it like a man, 

The duke's word he withstood 

But followed for a span 

The further shore 

Then blew, as hunters can, 

A blast, three notes and more. 

Beliagog came that tide, 

And asked who he might be? 
"A-hunting here I ride 2750 

As Tristrem men know me " 
"Who slew Moraunt with pride, 

That Tristrem, art thou he? 

Who Urgain too defied, 

And slew? T were ill did we 

Here kiss as kin, 

That wrong shall righted be 

Now thou my land art in!'* 

"I slew them, sooth to tell, 
So hope I thee to slay, 2760 

This forest will I fell 
And build a burg straightway. 
'T were merry here to dwell, 
So here I think to stay " 
The giant heard full well 
And waxed right wroth that day, 
He scarce was wise 
In such wise did the fray 
Betwixt the twain arise. 

Then mighty spears and tried 2770 
The giant to hurl began, 
Sir Tristrem's life that tide 
Had well nigh reached its span. 
Betwixt hauberk and side 



The dart methinks it ran 

Tristrem, he sprang aside, 

Gave thanks, as valiant man 

To God's great Might 

Tristrem, as best he can, 

Now girdeth him for fight. 2780 

Now Beliagog, the bold, 
E'en as a fiend did fight, 
As Thomas hath us told 
He nigh had slain the knight. 
By God's Will, there on mold, 
His foot did he off-smite 
Tristrem, to earth he rolled 
That man of mickle might, 
And loud he cried : 

"Tristrem, now peace be plight, 2?go 
Take thou my lands so wide. 

" Now hast thou vanquished me 
In battle and in fight, 
Fealty I swear to thee, 
'Gainst thee have I no right." 
His wealth he bade him see, 
Tristrem, the noble knight, 
And Tristrem spake him free 
His faith the giant did plight 
That he full fain, 2800 

Would build a bower bright 
For Ysonde and Brengwain. 

The giant led the way 

Until a burg they found, 

The water round it lay, 

His fathers held that mound. 

Tristrem the giant did pray 

Strong walls to build around, 

And Beliagog that day 

Gave him of woodland ground 280: 

Enough for all 

Ysonde, so fairly found, 

He 'Id lead unto that hall. 



(End of MS.) 



174 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



FOR love of God in Trinity 

Ye who be gentle hearken me, 

I pray ye, par amour ; 

Hear what befell beyond the sea 

To barons twain, of great bountie, 

And men of high honour; 

Their fathers, they were barons free, 

And lordings come of high degree, 

Renowned in town and tower; 

The tale of these their children twain 10 

Alike in pleasure and in pain 

To hear is great dolour. 

In weal and woe what was their lot, 
And how their kinsmen knew them not, 
Those children brave and fair; 
(Courteous and good they were, forsooth, 
And friends became from early youth, 
E'en as in court they were.) 
And how the twain they were dubbed 

knight, 

And how together sware troth-plight, 20 
And did as comrades fare; 
The land from which those children 

came, 

And how each one was called by name 
I will to ye declare. 

In Lombardie, I understand, 

Of old it chanced, in that same land, 

E'en as in Geste we read, 

There dwelt two barons, brave and bold, 

Who did as wives in wedlock hold 

Two ladies, fair in weed. 30 

And as it fell, those ladies fair 

A son each to her lord did bear 

Who doughty was in deed; 

And true were they in everything, 

And therefore Jesu, Heaven's King, 

Eequited them their meed. 

The children's names as they were hight 
In rhyme I will rehearse aright 



And tell in tale to ye; 

Begotten in the self -same night, 40 

The self -same day they saw the light, 

Forsooth and verily; 

And the one baron's son, I wis, 

They called him by his name, Amis, 

When christened he should be; 

The other was called Amiloun, 

He was a child of great renown, 

And came of high degree. 

Those bairns, I trow, they well did 

thrive, 

No fairer bairns were seen alive, so 

So courteous, true, and good; 
Whenas their years they reckoned five 
Then all their kin of them were blithe 
So mild were they of mood; 
When seven years were their's, I wis 
That every man of them had bliss 
Who saw them as they stood; 
And when they were twelve winters old 
Throughout the land all did them hold 
Fairest of bone and blood. 60 

Now in that time, I understand, 

A duke was lord of that same land 

Renowned in town and tower; 

A message he sent speedily 

To earl and baron, bond and free, 

To ladies bright in bower, 

A right rich feast he thought to make 

And all for Our Lord Jesu's sake 

Who is Our Saviour; 

And many folk, the sooth to say, 70 

He bade them come by a set day, 

With mirth and great honour. 

Those barons twain, who were so bold, 
And these, their sons, of whom I told, 
To court they came straightway, 
When all were gathered, young and old, 
Full many did the lads behold 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



Of lordings blithe and gay; 

Saw them in body full of grace, 

To all men's eyes alike in face, 80 

Well taught in Wisdom's way; 

And all men sware that: "Verily, 

Children so fair as these shall be 

We saw not ere to-day!" 

In all the court there was no wight 
Nor earl nor baron, swain nor knight, 
Were he or lieve or loth, 
For that they were so like to sight, 
And in their growth of equal height, 
(I tell this on my troth ) 90 

Since that they were so like to see 
Nor rich man there, nor poor might be, 
Of those who saw them both, 
Father nor mother of the two, 
Who knew the one the other fro* 
Save by their coat and cloth. 

The rich duke, he his feast did hold 

With earls, and many a baron bold, 

As ye may list my lay, 

A fourteen-night, as I was told, 100 

With meat and drink, merry on mold, 

He bade his guests be gay; 

For mirth they had, and melody, 

And every kind of minstrelsy, 

To show their skill alway; 

Upon the fifteenth day they make 

Ready, their homeward way to take, 

With thanks their host they pay. 

Then ere the lordings forth had gone 
The duke of gracious mien, anon, no 
He called to him that tide 
These barons, proved in courtesie, 
And prayed that they his friends should 

be 

And in his court abide; 
And let their two sons, of goodwill, 
Be of his house to serve him still, 
And fare forth at his side; 
And he as knight would dub the twain 
And would them fittingly maintain 
As loadings proud in pride. xac 



The barons answered him straightway, 
And with their ladies spake that day 
And made him answer fair, 
And said, they were both glad and fain 
That these their lovely children twain 
In this his service were; 
Blessing they gave their sons th&t day, 
And Jesu, Heaven's King, did pray 
To shield them both from care; 
Full oft they thanked the duke that tide, 
Then took their leave from thence to 
ride 131 

And to their country fare. 



Thus were those children twain, I wis, 
Childe Amiloun and Childe Amis, 
Made free in court to feed, 
A-hunting 'neath the boughs to ride, 
O'er all the land their praise was cried 
As worthiest in weed; 
Such love each to the other bore 
Were never children who loved more 140 
Neither in word nor deed; 
Betwixt the twain, in blood and bone, 
A truer love was never shown, 
In Geste as ye may read. 

Thus on a day, these children bright, 
Their troth each to the other plight, 
While they might live and stand, 
That both alike, by day and night, 
In weal or woe, for wrong or right, 
By free and friendly band, 150 

They 'Id hold together in all need, 
In word and work, in will and deed, 
Where'er they were hi land; 
From that day forward ne'er to fail 
Each other, aye for bliss or bale, 
To that they set their hand. 

Thus in the Geste as ye may hear 
Within that land, those children dear 
Did with the duke abide; 159 

The duke, he was both blithe and fain 
Dear to him were those children twain 
Who fared forth at his side. 



i 7 6 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



When they were fifteen winters old 
He dubbed them both, those bairns so 

bold, 

As knights in that same tide, 
And gave them all that they might need, 
Horses and weapons, knightly weed, 
As princes proud hi pride. 

That rich duke loved those lads so brave 
All that they would he freely gave, 170 
Steeds had they, white and brown; 
Where'er they were to sojourn fain 
The land, it spake but of those twain, 
Were it in tower or town; 
In whatsoever place they went, 
Were it for joust or tournament, 
Amis and Amiloun 
The doughtiest were in every deed, 
With shield and spear to ride on steed 
They won them great renown. 180 

The rich duke, he the twain did prize, 

For that they wary were and wise, 

Holden good knights to be, 

Sir Amiloun, and Sir Amis, 

He gave them office high, I wis, 

In court for all to see; 

Sir Amis, as I tell ye now, 

Chief butler did he make, I trow, 

Since he was fair and free; 

Sir Amiloun, of his knights all igo 

He made chief steward in his hall 

To order his mesnie. 

When thus into his service brought 
To win them praise they spare them 

naught, 

In courteous wise they fare; 
With rich and poor so well they wrought 
That they, I trow, in word and thought, 
Well loved by many were, 
For that they were so blithe of cheer 
Throughout the land, both far and near. 
All did their praise declare. 201 

And the rich duke, an truth be told, 
Above all men who lived on mold 
Most love to them he bare. 



The duke, for so I understand, 

Had a chief steward o'er his land, 

A doughty knight was he, 

By envy urged, he, at this same, 

Strove hard to bring them both to 

blame, 

By guile and treachery; 210 

For that they courteous were and good, 
And high in the duke's favour stood, 
He needs must envious be; 
His lord with evil words he sought 
And fain had shame upon them brought, 
Such was his felonie. 

Ere yet two years to end were brought 

A messenger hath swiftly sought 

Sir Amiloun hi hall, 

And said his parents twain were dead, 

Father and mother, in that stead, 221 

Must answer to God's call 

A sad man was the knight that day, 

Unto the duke he took his way, 

Told him what did befall, 

How father brave, and mother fair, 

Were dead, and he must homeward fare 

And take his lands withal. 

Then the duke rich, and fair to see, 
He spake with kind words graciously, 
And said: "So God me speed, 231 

Sir Amiloun, thou hence shalt wend, 
Ne'er grieved I so for any friend 
Who left my court indeed ! 
But if the chance it falleth so 
That thou shalt be hi war or woe, 
And of my help hast need, 
Come thou thyself, or message send, 
With all the force my land may lend 
I'll aid thee in that deed." 24 c 

Sir Amiloun was sad at heart 

That he must from Sir Amis part, 

On him was all his thought, 

He with a goldsmith speech did hold, 

And bade him make two cups of gold," 

For pounds three hundred bought; 

The twain they of one weight should be, 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



177 



And of one fashion, verily, 
Full richly were they wrought; 
And both they were as like, I wis, 250 
As Amiloun was like Amis, 
Thereto there failed naught. 

Whenas Sir Amiloun was dight 

He took his leave to wend forthright 

And ride as swift might be, 

Sir Amis was so full of care 

For grief and woe, and sighing sare 

That well nigh swooned he 

He sought the duke in dreary mood, 

And prayed of him e'en as he stood, 

Spake, " Sire, of charitie, 261 

Now give me leave to wend thee fro', 

Save I may with my brother go 

My heart shall break in three!'* 

But the rich duke, so fair to see, 
With courteous words, and graciouslie, 
Answered without delay 
And said: "Sir Amis, my good friend, 
Now would ye both from this court 

wend? 

Certes, I tell ye nay! 270 

For an ye both should me forsake 
Then all my sorrow should ye wake, 
My joy were all away. 
Thy brother seeks his lands this tide, 
Thou on his way with him shalt ride 
And come again to-day." 

When they were ready forth to ride 
The barons bold who should abide. 
They busked them up and down; 
Now hearken here, naught would I hide, 
Those doughty knights who, at that 

tide, 281 

Fared forth from out the town, 
E'en as they rode, throughout the day, 
Great mourning did they make alway 
Amis and Amiloun, 
And when they needs must part, the 

twain, 

Then fair together on a plain 
From horse they lighted down. 



And when the twain on foot were 'light, 

Sir Amiloun, that courteous knight, 290 

Was likewise of good rede, 

Thus to Sir Amis spake forthright: 

"Brother, as we our troth once plight, 

Alike in word and deed, 

From that day forward, without fail, 

To be of aid in bliss or bale, 

And help in every need, 

So brother, now be true to me, 

And I will be as true to thee, 

So God give me good speed ! 300 

" And brother, here I would thee warn 
For His Sake, Who the Crown of Thorn 
To save Mankind once wore, 
Against thy lord ne'er be foresworn, 
For if thou art, shalt be forlorn, 
And lost for evermore! 
But hold to truth and treason shun, 
And think of me, Sir Amiloun, 
Since parting lies before. 
And brother, this I pray of thee 310 
Shun the false steward's companie, 
He'll do thee mischief sore!" 

As thus they stood, those brethren 

bold, 

Amiloun took those cups of gold, 
Alike in everything, 
And bade Sir Amis that he should 
Choose whether of the twain he would 
Without more parleying; 
And quoth to him: "now dear, my 

brother, 

Take thou the one, and I the other, 320 
For God's Love, Heaven's King; 
And let this cup ne'er go from thee, 
But look on it, and think on me. 
For Friendship's tokening!" 

With sorrow sore they part, I wis, 
With weeping eyes and many a kiss, 
Those knights so fair and free, 
To God each doth commend his friend, 
Then sprang on steed his way to wend, 
And rode thence speedily; 330 



i 7 8 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Sir Amiloun, he sought his land, 

And brought straightway beneath his 

hand 

All that his sire's should be, 
Then with a lady fair he wed, 
His bride with honour homeward led, 
And much solemnity. 



Sir Amiloun now leave we here, 

In his own land, with wife so dear, 

(God grant them well to fare,) 

And of Sir Amis will we tell, 340 

Who came again, at court to dwell, 

Then blithe of him they were; 

For that he courteous was and good 

Men blessed the sire, in bone and blood, 

Who him begat and bare; 

Save but the steward, who ever strove, 

Since hate and envy did him move, 

To bring the knight to care. 

Then as it chanced upon a day, 

He met the steward on his way, 350 

Who spake full courteouslie, 

And quoth: "Sir Amis, thou art woe 

In that thy brother hence must go, 

Certes, 't is so with me, 

But for his going cease to grieve, 

If thou wilt now my rede believe 

And let thy mourning be, 

And wilt as comrade with me wend 

I'll be to thee a better friend, 

Than ever yet was he!'* 360 

He quoth: "Sir Amis, hear my prayer, 
And brotherhood with me now swear, 
Plight we our troth, we two; 
Be true to me in word and deed, 
And I shall be, so God me speed, 
As true to thee also; " 
Sir Amis quoth: "My troth I plight 
Sir Amiloun, that gentle knight, 
Ere that he hence must go, 
And whiles that I in life shall be 370 
That troth shall ne'er be broke by me, 
Neither for weal nor woe! 



"For by the truth that God doth send 

I found him aye so good a friend 

Since we each other knew, 

For that to him my troth was plight, 

Where'er he go, that gentle knight, 

To him will I be true. 

And if I now should be foresworn 

And break my troth, I were forlorn, 380 

And sore it should me rue. 

But win me friends where'er I may 

I ne'er shall change, by night or day, 

This old friend for a new!" 

The steward was of evil mood, 

For wrath, I trow, he waxed nigh wood, 

And spake without delay, 

And sware by Him Who died on Rood: 

"Thou traitor, of unnatural blood, 

Shalt dearly buy this 'nay '"; 390 

And thus he spake: "Be warned by me, 

A bitter foe I'll be to thee, 

Henceforward, from this day!" 

Sir Amis bold, he answered there, 

"Sir, not a sloe for that I care, 

Do all the ill ye may!" 

'T was thus their quarrel rose that day, 
In wrath upon their separate way 
Those barons bold they go; 399 

The steward ceased not day and night 
Striving to shame that doughty knight 
If chance the way should show. 
In court together had they been 
With wrathful cheer, and lowering mien, 
For half a year or so, 
And after that it chanced one while 
The steward by treason and by guile 
He wrought him mickle woe. 



Then on a time, 't is written fair, 

The rich duke did a feast prepare 410 

Seemly, in summer-tide, 

And many a gentle guest there came, 

Good meat and good drink, at that 

same, 
Were served on every side; 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



179 



Mickle the folk assembled all, 

Of earl and baron, great and small, 

And ladies proud in pride, 

Nor greater joy on earth might be 

Than in that hold of chivalrie 

With bliss in bower to bide. 



420 



The duke, so doth the Geste declare, 

He had a daughter passing fair, 

Courteous and good was she, 

When fifteen winters she had told 

In all the land the people hold 

Was none so fair to see; 

Gentle she was, and avenant, 

And by her name hight Belisant, 

As ye may list from me; 

Ladies and maidens bright in bower 430 

They guarded her with great honour 

And much solemnity. 

The feast was held full fourteen-night, 

With barons and with ladies bright, 

And lords, full many a one, 

And many a gentle knight was there, 

And many a serjant, wise and ware, 

To wait on every one; 

Sir Amis, in that self-same hour, 

As butler, he was deemed the flower, 440 

So doth the true tale run; 

The doughtiest in every deed, 

The comeliest in every weed, 

So, seemly, praise he won. 

Then when the guests at the feast's 

end 

Should from that lordly dwelling wend 
E'en as in book we read, 
That merry maid, she asked anon 
Of these her maidens, every one, 
Saying: "As God ye speed, 450 

Say, who was held for bravest knight, 
And seemliest in all men's sight, 
And worthiest in weed? 
Whose fame as fairest knight doth stand, 
The most renowned throughout the 

land, 
The doughtiest of deed?" 



Her maidens answered her straightway, 

And quoth: "Madame, we sure will say 

The sooth in this same hour, 

Of earl or baron, swain or knight, 460 

The fairest man, and most of might, 

And held in most honour, 

Is the chief butler, Sir Amis, 

The world hath not his peer, I wis, 

Neither in town nor tower. 

He is the doughtiest knight in deed, 

He is the worthiest in weed, 

Of praise he bears the flower!" 

Then Belisant, that maid so fair, 
When thus her maids the truth declare 
As ye may hear from me, 471 

Upon Sir Amis, gentle knight, 
I wis, her love it now did light, 
Yet in all secresy; 
Where'er she saw him ride or go 
Her heart was fain to break for woe 
That speech there might not be, 
Since she might not, by night or day, 
Speak with that knight, the gentle may 
Full oft wept bitterly. 4 8o 

That gentle maiden, young and fair, 

Lay in love-languishing and care 

Alike by night and day; 

As in the tale I tell to ye 

Since speech betwixt them might not be, 

In bed sore sick she lay; 

Her mother to her side did go, 

Full fain was she her grief to know 

And help her, if she may. 

She answered her without debate 400 

Her pain, it was so sore and great 

Soon must she lie in clay. 

That rich duke on a morn was fain, 
With many a lording in his train, 
As prince so proud in pride, 
Without delay to dight him here 
And go a-hunting of the deer, 
They busked them for to ride; 
When as the lordings every one 4Q<j 
From out that stately hold were gone, 



i8o 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



(Here have I naught to hide ) 
Sir Amis, so 't is sooth, that day 
For that a sickness on him lay, 
At home he would abide. 

When as the lordings forth would go 

With huntsmen keen, and bended bow, 

To hunt 'neath greenwood tree, 

Sir Amis, as the tale doth tell, 

Was left behind, at home to dwell, 

And guard what there should be. 510 

That gentle knight was minded so 

Into the garden fair to go, 

For solace, verily; 

Under a bough, I trow he lay 

To listen to the birdling's lay 

In bliss, I trow, was he! 



Now, gentles, list, and ye shall hear 

How the duke's daughter, fair and dear, 

Sore sick in bed she lay, 

Her mother came with doleful mien, 520 

With all her ladies, so I ween, 

To solace that sweet may; 

" Arise," she said: "my daughter fair, 

And to the garden now repair 

This seemly summer's day, 

There shall ye list the birdlings* song, 

Hearkening their joy and bliss, ere long 

Thy care shall pass away." 

Then up she rose, that lady bright, 

And to the garden went forthright 530 

With maidens fair and free, 

And bright and fair the summer's day, 

The sun shone as a flame alway 

Seemly it was to see; 

They heard the birds both great and small, 

The nightingale's sweet notes withal 

That gaily sang on tree, 

But in such straits her heart was brought, 

On pain of love was all her thought 

She would nor game nor glee. 540 

And so that maiden in her pride 
Forth to the orchard went that tide 



To ease her of her care, 

Then straight Sir Amis did she see 

There, as he lay beneath a tree, 

To hear that song so fair; 

Great bliss, I trow, that maid must 

know, 

Her joy she could to no man shew, 
Whenas she saw him there; 540 

She thought she would for no man stay, 
But straight to him would take her way 
And say how she did fare. 

Then was that maiden blithe of mood, 
When she beheld him as she stood 
She sought to him, the sweet; 
Not for all good the world might hold 
Would she fail with this knight so 

bold 

In courteous wise to treat. 
And even as that gentle knight 559 

Beheld that maid, in bower so bright, 
As she would with him meet, 
Straightway towards her did he go, 
With courteous mien and word also 
He did the lady greet. 

With that, the gentle maid, anon 

She bade her ladies all begone, 

Withdraw from her away, 

And when the twain were left alone 

She to Sir Amis made her moan, 

And thus to him did say 570 

" Sir Knight, t'ward thee my heart is 

brought, 

And on thy love is all my thought 
Alike by night and day; 
Save that thou wilt my lover be 
I trow my heart shall break in three, 
Nor longer live I may ! 

" Thou art," she quoth, "a gentle knight, 

And I a maid in bower bright 

And of high lineage born, 

Alike by night and e'en by day 580 

My heart is set on thee alway, 

I am of joy forlorn ; 

Plight me thy troth thou wilt be true 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



181 



Nor change thine old love for a new, 
For none in this world born, 
And I will plight my troth again 
Till God or Death part us in twain 
I ne'er will be foresworn." 

That gentle knight then still he stood, 
And very thoughtful waxed his mood, 
He spake with heart so free: 591 

"Lady, for Him Who died on Rood 
As thou art come of gentle blood, 
And this land's heir shalt be, 
Bethink thee of thy great honour, 
For son of king and emperour, 
Were none too high for thee! 
Certes, I deem thou dost not right 
To set thy love on a poor knight 
Who hath nor land nor fee. 600 

" And if we should Love's game begin 
And any man of this thy km 
Should chance the same to know, 
Then all our joy and praise that day 
For this, our sin, we 'Id lose straightway, 
And win God's Wrath also; 
Should I dishonour thus my lord 
Traitor were I, of all abhorred, 
Nay, it may not be so ! 
Sweet Lady, do thou by my rede, 610 
! Think what should come of this, our 

deed, 
I trow me, naught but woe!" 



That maiden fair, of great renown, 
Answered: "Sir Knight, hast shaven 

crown? 

By God Who bought thee dear, 
Or priest or parson shalt thou be, 
Canon or monk, that thus to me 

I Dost preach in such wise here? 
Thou never shouldst have been a knight 

I To company with maidens bright, 620 
A Friar were thee more near! 

; Whoe'er he be who taught thee this 
May have his lot in Hell, I wis, 
Were he my brother dear! 



" Alas ! by Him Who hath us wrought 
All this, thy preaching, helpeth naught 
Withstand thou ne'er so long, 
Save that my will thou doest here 
Thou shalt pay this, my love, full dear, 
With pains both sharp and strong, 630 
My kerchief and my robe, anon, 
I'll tear, and swear that thou hast 

done 

To me a mickle wrong; 
I'll say that thou hast forced me now, 
By law they '11 hang thee then, I trow, 
On gallows-tree, ere long!" 

With that, the courteous knight stood 

still, 

For in his heart he liked it ill, 
To speak, I trow, was slow; 
He thought, "If here I steadfast be 640 
With this, her tongue, she '11 ruin me 
Ere yet I hence may go; 
And if I do my lord this wrong 
Drawn with wild horses swift and strong 
The punishment I'll know!" 
Full loth to do her will that day, 
More loth to lose his life alway, 
Ne'er had he known such woe. 

And then he thought that, verily, 

To grant her will should better be 650 

Than life to lose alway, 

Thus to the maid made answering: 

"For love of Christ, our Heavenly King, 

Hearken to me to-day; 

As thou art maiden good and true 

Bethink how rape doth turn to rue 

And bitter grief and gray, 

But wait we for a seven-night, 

And I, as true and courteous knight, 

Will do as thou shalt pray." 660 

Then answered him that maiden bright, 
And sware: "By Jesu, Lord of Might, 
Thou goest not thus from me, 
But here and now thy troth shalt plight 
That thou, as true and gentle knight 
To tryst shalt faithful be!" 



182 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



With that her will he granted there, 
Troth-plight each to the other sware 
With kisses verily; 

Into her bower she went again, 670 

Then was the maid so glad and fain 
Past speech her joy should be. 



Sir Amis tarried not, but straight 
His lord's home-coming to await, 
To hall he turned him there; 
When from his hunting at that same 
With many a noble lord he came 
Unto that dwelling fair, 
Then tidings of his daughter dear 
He asked, they said that of good cheer 
Was she, and free from care. 68x 

To eat in hall they brought that may, 
And blithe and glad were all that day 
And joyful hearts they bare. 

Whenas the lords, without a lie, 
Were set upon the dais high 
With ladies fair and sweet, 
As prince who was full proud in pride 
The duke was richly served that tide 
With mirth and worship meet; 690 

Whenas that maid of whom I spake 
Among the maids her place must take 
There, as she sat in seat, 
Upon that courteous knight, Amis, 
A thousand times she looked, I wis, 
And did with eyes entreat. 

Upon that gentle knight, Amis, 

For evermore she gazed, I wis, 

Nor would her glances spare; 

The steward, with a traitorous eye 700 

He did that maiden well espy 

And of her mien was ware, 

For by her glances did he see 

That love betwixt the twain should 

be, 

Sore was he grieved there, 
Bethought him how, within a while, 
He might with treason and with guile 
Bring both of them to care. 



And thus, I wis, that merry may 
She ate in hall, with joy and play, 710 
For four days, or for five, 
Whene'er Sir Amis she might see 
Then was her heart from sorrow free, 
She joyed to be alive, 
Where'er he sat or stood in hall 
Her eyes were fain on him to fall 
With longing looks to strive; 
The steward for envy he was fain 
To bring much sorrow on the twain, 
Now evil may he thrive! 720 



That rich duke, now, as ye shall hear, 
He rode a-hunting of the deer 
And with him many a knight; 
Then Belisant, that gentle may, 
The chamber where Sir Amis lay 
Thither she sought forthright. 
The steward, as I read, that tide 
Was in a chamber near beside, 
He saw that maiden bright 
As secretly her love she sought, 730 

To spy upon the twain he thought, 
Followed as swift he might. 

Whenas the maiden came, anon, 
She found Sir Amis there alone, 
"Hail!" quoth the lady bright, 
"Sir Amis," swiftly did she say, 
" It is a seven-night to-day 
That we our troth did plight, 
And therefore am I come to thee 
To know, as thou art fair and free, 740 
And held for courteous knight, 
Whether thou wilt me now forsake 
Or wilt me now unto thee take 
To hold, in truth and right?" 

" Lady," then quoth the knight again, 
" To wed with thee I were full fain 
As thou with me would'st wive; 
But an thy father heard men say 
That with his daughter dear I lay 
From land he would me drive. 750 

If I were ruler of this land 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



183 



And had more gold in this, my hand, 
Than other kings full five 
Right gladly would I wed with thee; 
Certes, I but a poor man be; 
Alas, that I'm alive!" 

" Sir Knight," then quoth that maiden 
kind, 

" Now by Saint Thomas, slain in Ynde, 

Why dost thou say me Nay? 

Thou ne'er shalt be so poor, I trow, 760 

But riches I may find enow 

Alike by night and day!" 

That courteous knight no more de 
layed, 

But in his arms he took the maid 

And kissed that gentle may; 

They dealt with word and deed anon 

Till he her maidenhood had won 

Ere yet she went away. 

And aye that steward did abide 
In hiding, by the chamber side, 770 

Their speech he hearkened there; 
And thro' a hole, 't was none too wide, 
He watched them both, at that same 

tide, 

As they together were, 
i And as he saw the twain with sight, 
! Sir Amis, and that maiden bright, 
The rich duke's daughter fair, 
Then wroth was he, of angry mood, 
And gat him thence, as he were wood, 
Their counsel to declare. 780 

Whenas the duke he homeward came 

The steward he met him at that same 

Their secret to betray; 

"My lord, the Duke," he saith anon, 

"Of thine own mischief, by Saint John, 

I 'Id warn thee here to-day, 

In this thy court thou hast a thief, 

Who to my heart hath done sore grief, 

Yea, shame it is to say; 

Certes, he shall a traitor be, 790 

But now, by force and villainy, 

He with thy daughter lay!" 



The duke, his wrath it waxed to flame, 
"Now who," he cried, "hath done this 

shame 

Tell me, with ne'er a lie?" 
"Saint James," he quoth, "my witness 

be, 

His name I'll truly tell to thee, 
Now bid him hang on high; 
It is thy butler, Sir Amis, 
A traitor was he aye, I wis, 800 

He with that maid did lie; 
Myself I saw them, on my troth, 
As I will prove before them both, 
They shall me not deny!" 

Then was the duke of wrathful mood; 

To hall he ran, as he were wood, 

For naught would he abide, 

But with a falchion sharp and bright 

Full fain would he Sir Amis smite, 

The stroke, it went aside; 810 

Sir Amis to a chamber fled, 

And shut the door fast at that stead, 

For fear his head would hide; 

The duke, he smote so fierce a blow 

That thro' the door the steel did go, 

So wrathful he that tide. 

And all who there around him stood 
Besought the duke to calm his mood, 
Both baron, earl, and swain, 8ig 

He sware by Him Who died on Rood, 
For all the world might hold of good 
He 'Id have that traitor slain : 
"Great honour hath he had from me, 
And now a traitor vile shall be, 
Hath with my daughter lain, 
Not for the whole world's wealth, I 

trow, 

The traitor shall escape me now, 
But die by these hands twain!" 

"Sire," quoth Sir Amis at the last, 
"Let this, thy wrath, be overpast, 830 
I pray, of Charitie, 

If thou canst prove now, by Saint 
John, 



i8 4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



That e'er such deed by me was done, 

Then hang me high on tree! 

If any man our harm hath sought, 

And such a charge against us brought, 

Then, whosoe'er he be, 

He is a liar, shalt thou know 

As I will here in battle show, 

And prove us quit and free! " 840 

"Yea," quoth the duke, "and wilt thou 

so? 

Say, dost thou dare to combat go 
And make thee quit and clear?" 
"Yea, certes, Sire," he answered free, 
"And here my glove I give to thee, 
His falsehood shall appear." 
The steward answered back forthright, 
And quoth: "Thou traitor, perjured 

knight, 

Thou art attainted here, 
Why, I myself have seen to-day 850 
How that she in thy chamber lay, 
Yourselves ye cannot clear!" 

As thus the steward he said his say; 
And thus Sir Amis answered, "Nay, 
The thing it was not so." 
The duke bade bring that maiden 

fair, 

The steward did aye the same declare, 
And sware: "T was as I show!" 
The maiden wept, her hands she wrung, 
And ever on her mother hung, 860 

Vowing it was not so. 
Then quoth the duke: "Now, without 

fail, 

Here shall we see the truth prevail 
By combat 'twixt the two." 

So 'twixt the twain they set the fight 
For that day past a fourteen-night 
For many a man to see; 
The steward was of mickle might, 
In all the court there was no knight 
Would Amis' surety be; 870 

The steward was so strong, I trow, 
That sureties might he find enow, 



Twenty at least they be; 

Then quoth they all, that till that tide 

Sir Amis should in prison bide 

Lest he from thence should flee. 

With that she spake, the maiden bright, 
And sware by Jesu, Lord of Might, 
That this were mickle wrong : 
"Take ye my body for the knight, 880 
And till the day he come for fight, 
Hold me in prison strong; 
And if the knight should flee away, 
Nor durst abide the chance that day 
That doth to fight belong, 
Then, as the law is, deal with me, 
And doom my body drawn to be, 
And high on gallows hung!" 

Then, with bold words, her mother still 

Said she would be of right good will 890 

His surety also; 

That he fail not to keep the day 

But as good knight and true alway 

Should fight against his foe. 

And thus those ladies fair and bright 

Their lives for Amis, gentle knight, 

As surety would forego, 

With that, the lordings every one 

Said, other hostage would they none, 

The thing should aye be so. 900 



When this was done, as now I say, 

And pledges ta'en without delay, 

And thus they granted were, 

Sir Amis sorrowed night and day 

For all his joy was fled away 

And come was all his care; 

For that the steward was so strong, 

And had the right, and he the wrong, 

When he accused him there; 

For his own life, he held it naught, 910 

But of the maid was all his thought, 

Such sorrow no man bare. 

For that he knew he needs must sw< 
Ere that he should to battle fare, 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



'85 



An oath, on that same morn, 

Praying that God should be his speed, 

As he was guiltless of the deed 

That was against him borne. 

And then he thought, with ne'er a lie, 

Rather would he be hanged on high 

Than thus to be foresworn; 921 

And oft he did to Jesu pray 

That He should save them both that day 

Nor let them be forlorn! 

So it befell upon a day 

He met the lady, and that may, 

Beneath an orchard side; 

"Sir Amis," quoth the lady there, 

"Why dost thou go so full of care? 

Tell me the truth this tide; 930 

Now dread thee naught," she spake 

forthright, 

"Against thy foeman now to fight, 
Whether thou go, or ride, 
So well I '11 arm thee, foot and head, 
That thou of no man shalt have dread, 
But battle well abide." 

"Madam," then quoth that gentle 

knight, 

"For love of Jesu, Lord of Might, 
Take to my words good heed; 939 

Mine is the wrong, and his the right, 
For that I be afraid to fight, 
So God give me good speed, 
For I must swear, nor else may be, 
So help me God to victory 
As he in word and deed 
Is false Therewith am I foresworn, 
And am of life and soul forlorn, 
Thereto I find no rede." 

Then quoth the lady presentlie, 949 

"None other way then, may there be 

To bring that traitor down?" 

"Yea, Lady," quoth he, "by Saint Giles, 

There dwelleth distant many miles, 

My brother Amiloun; 

And if to him I now dare go, 

Then, by Saint John, full well I know, 



He wears of truth the crown, 
An his own life should forfeit be, 
His help he now would give to me, 
And smite my foeman down." 960 

"Sir Amis," did the lady say, 
"Take leave to-morrow with the day, 
And journey speedily, 
And I will say that thou art gone 
To thine own land, since thou anon 
Thy parents fain would see. 
When to thy brother com'st aright, 
Pray him, as he be faithful knight, 
And of great courtesie, 
That he will here defend the right, 970 
For thee against the steward fight 
Who thinks to ruin us three." 



With morn Sir Amis busked him there, 

And took his leave from thence to fare 

And went upon his way, 

For nothing would he slacken speed, 

But, ruthless, forward spurred his steed. 

Alike by night and day; 

So fast he rode, and rested not, 

The steed whereon he rode, I wot, 980 

When far upon the way, 

Was overpressed, and fell down dead, 

Sir Amis, brought in evil stead, 

He cried, "Ah, wellaway!" 

Then when the chance had fallen so 

That he must needs on foot now go 

Then, sorrowful, that knight, 

He girt his skirts about him there, 

And on his way began to fare 

To hold what he had hight; 990 

And all that day ran far and fast, 

To a wild forest came at last, 

Betwixt the day and night; 

A slumber strong o'ercame him now, 

Not for the whole world's wealth, I trow, 

Further might fare that knight. 

That courteous knight, so fair and free, 
He laid him down beneath a tree, 



i86 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And fell asleep that tide, 

And all that night so still lay he, 10 

Till on the morrow men might see 

Daylight on every side. 

And that knight's brother, Amiloun, 

Whom all men held of great renown 

Thro' all that country side, 

Dwelt, from the spot where Amis lay, 

But hah* the journey of a day 

As men might walk or ride. 



Sir Amiloun, that gentle knight, 

In slumber soft he lay that night, 1010 

In dream it seemed him so, 

That he Sir Amis needs must see 

His brother troth-plight, verily, 

Beset by many a foe; 

For of a bear, both wild and wood, 

And other beasts that with it stood 

The onslaught must he know, 

Alone, amidst them all he stood, 

Nor found 'gainst them resistance good, 

I trow, he was full woe ! 1020 

Whenas Sir Amiloun did wake, 

Great sorrow he began to make, 

His wife, he told her there, 

How black beasts, so hi dream he 

thought, 

With wrath, his brother Amis sought 
To slay, with mickle care; 
"Certes," he quoth, "some man with 

wrong 

Hath brought him into peril strong, 
Of bliss shall he be bare "; 1029 

And then he quoth: "Forsooth, I wis, 
I may know neither joy nor bliss 
Till I wot how he fare!" 

From bed he sprang up in that tide, 
Nor longer would he there abide, 
But dight him fair, anon, 
His mesnie, too, without delay, 
Made ready for to ride straightway; 
With him they fain had gone, 
But that he bade them now to cease, 



For love of Heaven to hold their peace, 
Thus spake he to each one, 1041 

And sware by Him Who made Mankind 
That no companion there he 'Id find, 
But would go forth alone. 

He robed him then in right rich weed, 

And leapt astride upon his steed, 

For naught would he abide; 

His folk, he straight forbade them there 

That none among them all should dare 

After their lord to ride; 1050 

So thro' the night he rode till day, 

And came to where Sir Amis lay 

All in that forest wide; 

He saw, thro' weariness foregone, 

A knight, who, sleeping, lay alone 

And sought to him that tide. 

With that, he called on him straight- 

way, 

"Rise up, Sir Knight, for it is day 
And time from hence to go!" 
Sir Amis he beheld with sight, 1060 

Straightway he knew that gentle knight 
And he knew him also; 
That courteous knight, Sir Amiloun, 
From off his steed did light adown. 
With that, they kissed the two: 
"Brother," he quoth, "why liest thou 

here? 
And why dost make such mournful 

cheer? 
Say, who hath wrought thee woe?'* 

"Brother," Sir Amis answered there, 
" In sooth such sorrow knew I ne'er 
Since me my mother bore; 1071 

Since thou didst from me go, I wis, 
With joy, and eke with mickle bliss, 
I served my lord before, 
But now the steward, thro' sheer envy, 
By guile, and eke by treachery, 
Hath wrought me sorrow sore; 
Save that thou help me in my need 
Certes, I see none other rede, 
My life must I give o'er!" 1080 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



187 



"Brother," Sir Amiloun he said, 
"What hath the steward 'gainst thee 

laid? 

Why thus hath done thee shame?" 
"Certes, he doth by treason strive 
From out mine office me to drive 
And bring upon me blame," 
With that Sir Amis told him there 
How that he, and that maiden fair, 
In love together came, 1089 

And how the steward did them betray, 
And how the duke, he would him slay 
In anger, at that same. 

And how himself he needs must plight 

His troth against the steward to fight 

In battle fierce and strong, 

And how, to save those ladies bright, 

As surety, he ne'er a knight 

Might find, the court among; 

How ere he did to battle fare 1099 

Needs must that he should falsely swear 

Since he was in the wrong, 

"A man foresworn can never speed, 

Since I can find no better rede 

* Alas ! ' may be my song ! " 



When thus Sir Amis told his tale 
How the false steward should sure pre 
vail 

O'er him, with evil mood, 
Sir Amiloun, with words so bold, 
Sware: "By the Lord Whom Judas sold, 
Who died upon the Rood, mo 

Of this, his hope, he faileth now, 
For I shall fight for thee, I trow, 
Altho' he were well wood, 
And if I meet him now aright, 
With this, my brand, that is so bright 
I'll shed his heart's best blood! 

"But, Brother, this my weed take thou, 
And in thy robes I '11 clothe me now, 
E'en as thyself I were, 1119 

And I shall swear, So God me speed, 
That I am guiltless of the deed 



And plaint he 'gainst me bare." 
With that, those courteous knights, anon, 
Each other's raiment did they on; 
When they were ready there, 
Quoth Amiloun: "Now by Saint Gile, 
Thus we the traitor shall beguile 
Who would thy ruin prepare. 

"Brother," he quoth, "go home forth 
right 

Unto my wife, that lady bright, 1130 
And there with her remain; 
And as thou art a gentle knight 
Lie thou beside her every night 
Until I come again; 
Say, thou hast sent thy steed, I wis, 
Unto thy brother Sir Amis, 
Then will they be full fain, 
They '11 deem that thou my-self shalt be 
For none shall know thee now from me, 
So like we be, we twain." n 4 o 

And when he thus his word had plight 

Sir Amiloun, that gentle knight, 

He rode upon his way. 

Sir Amis gat him home forthright 

Unto his brother's lady bright 

And made no more delay, 

And said, how he had sent his steed 

Unto his brother for his need 

By a knight's hand that day. 

And every man thought Sir Amis 1150 

To be their very lord, I wis, 

So like, the twain, were they. 

And when Sir Amis spake full fair 

And told them now of all his care 

Full well the thing did go, 

For great or little, verily, 

All men who there in court should be 

They deemed it had been so. 

When it was come unto the night 

Sir Amis and that lady bright 1160 

To bed they fain would go; 

When side by side the twain were laid 

Sir Amis drew his shining blade 

And laid it 'twixt the two. 



i88 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The lady looked on him alway, 

And wrathful gleamed her eyes of gray, 

She deemed her lord were wood, 

And, "Sir," she asked, "why dost thou 

so? 

Thus wert thou never wont to do 1169 
Who now hath changed thy mood?" 
"Lady," he answered, "verily 
I be sick of a malady 
That doth infect my blood, 
And all my bones so sore they be 
Thy flesh may not be touched by me 
For all of this world's good!" 

And thus, I wis, that faithful knight 
He kept him for a fourteen-night, 
As lord and prince in pride, 
And he forgat not every night 1180 

Betwixt him and that lady bright 
His sword to lay beside; 
The lady deemed 't was rightly done 
For that her lord, Sir Amilon, 
He was sore sick that tide; 
Therefore she thought to hold her still 
And speak no word, but this, his will, 
She would in peace abide. 



Now Lordings, hear, and I shall say 

How Amiloun, he went his way, 1190 

And would for nothing spare; 

He spurred his steed by night and day 

As hero stout and stiff alway 

To court he swift doth fare; 

The self-same day, withouten let, 

That was afore for battle set 

Sir Amis was not there, 

They take those ladies by the hand, 

The judgment now they needs must 

stand, 
With tears and sighing sare. 1200 

The steward mounts his steed that tide, 
With shield and spear would combat bide 
He boasteth loud alway; 
Before the duke he spurs his steed 
And saith, "Now, Sire, as God me speed 



Hearken to what I pray, 

This traitor, he hath fled the land, 

And if he now were nigh at hand 

He should be hanged to-day, 1209 

Therefore 't is meet that judgment turn 

Against his sureties, that they burn 

E'en as the law doth say." 

That rich duke, moved by anger there, 
He bade them take those ladies fair 
And lead them forth beside, 
A great fire then he bade them make, 
Therewith should they a barrel take 
To burn them there, inside; 
Then, as they looked upon the field, 
They saw a knight with spear and 
shield 1220 

Come pricking in his pride, 
With that each one he cried, "I wis, 
Yonder comes hastening Sir Amis " 
They should his coming bide. 

Sir Amiloun no stone doth heed, 

But o'er them all he spurred with speed 

The duke seeks hastily, 

"My lord, the Duke," he saith, "for 

shame, 

Set free these ladies at this same, 
For good and true they be, 1230 

And hither am I come to-day 
To save them both, if so I may, 
From bond to set them free; 
Certes, a mickle wrong it were 
To make a roast of ladies fair, 
'T were naught but crueltie!" 

I trow it pleased those ladies well, 
Their joy they might to no man tell 
Their care was all away; 1239 

And sithen, as ye now may know, 
The twain did to their chamber go 
And made no more delay, 
But richly did they arm that knight 
With helm, and plate, and byrnie 

bright, 

His tiring, it was gay; 
When he was mounted on his steed 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



189 



That God the knight should save and 

speed, 
Full many a man did pray. 



As he came riding from the town, 1240 

There came a voice from Heaven adown 

That no man heard save he, 

And saith: "Thou knight, Sir Amilon, 

The God Who died the Rood upon 

Doth message send by me; 

An thou this combat fight withal 

A venture strange shall thee befall 

And that within years three, 

For ere these three years they be gone 

Leper so foul was never none 

As thou thyself shalt be. 1260 

" And since thou art good knight and free 

Jesu this word hath sent by me 

To warn thee now anon, 

So foul a wretch thou shalt be sure, 

Such grief and poverty endure, 

As fell, I trow, to none; 

O'er all the world, both far and near, 

Thy best friends, whom thou held most 

dear, 

They shall thy presence shun; 1269 

Yea, e'en thy wife and all thy kin 
Shall flee the place that thou art in, 
Forsake thee every one!" 

That knight stood still as any stone; 
Those words he hearkened every one 
That were so drear and dread; 
He knew not what were best to do, 
To flee, or to the combat go, 
His heart was e'en as lead; 
He thought: "If I confess my name 
Then is my brother put to shame, 
His life in sorrow fled, 1281 

Certes," he quoth, "for fear of care 
To keep my troth I will not spare, 
The Will of God be sped!" 

And all the folk, they deemed, I wis, 
That this knight he was Sir Amis, 



Who came to fight indeed, 

He, and the steward, as I say, 

Before the justice brought were they 

To swear for this their deed, 1290 

Before the folk, the steward, he, 

Sware that his word no lie should be, 

God help him at his need! 

Sir Amiloun, he steadfast sware 

He ne'er e'en kissed that maiden fair, 

Our Lady be his speed! 

When they had sworn, as thus I told, 
To fight were fain those barons bold 
And busked them for to ride, 1299 

And young and old, all folk that day, 
They straightly unto God did pray 
He would Sir Amis guide! 
On steeds that were both stiff and 

strong 
They met, their spears, so sharp and 

long, 

Were shivered on each side; 
Then each man drew his sword so good 
Together hew, as they were wood, 
For naught would they abide. 

Those champions, who were fierce to 

sight, 

With falchion fell begin to fight, 1310 
As madmen hack and hew, 
Hard on each other's helm they smite 
With strokes so strong, and of such 

might 

That fire from out them flew; 
So hard they smote on head and side 
That from their deadly wounds and wide 
Blood wells in crimson hue; 
From morning-tide till noon were past 
The combat did betwixt them last, 
Fiercer their anger grew. 1320 

Sir Amiloun, as flame of fire, 
Sought for his foe with fierce desire 
And smote with might and main, 
His blow, it glanced aside that stead 
And smote the good steed on the head, 
Scattered was all the brain; 



190 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The steed fell dead upon the ground 
Then was the steward, in that stound, 
Fearful lest he be slain; 
Sir Amiloun adown doth light, 1330 

Afoot he seeks the steward forthright 
Raising him up again. 

"Now rise up, Steward," the knight did 

say, 

"Thou needs must fight afoot to-day 
Since thou hast lost thy steed; 
By Saint John, he were craven knight 
Who with a fallen man would fight 
Who thus were brought in need "; 
That courteous knight, so free and fair, 
The steward by hand he taketh there, 
Saying: "So God me speed, 1341 

Since that afoot thou needs must go 
I'll fight with thee afoot also: 
Other were falsehood's rede!" 

The steward, and that man of might, 

Anon together met in fight 

With brands both bright and bare; 

So fierce a fight they then began 

The blood from out their armour ran 

For nothing would they spare; 1350 

The steward his shoulder smote that tide, 

And made a wound both deep and wide 

A grisley gash it were, 

And thro' that wound, as ye may hear, 

That knight was known with rueful 

cheer, 
When he was come to care. 

Wroth was Sir Amiloun and wood, 
Seeing his armour red with blood 
That erst was white as swan, 1359 

Then, with his falchion sharp and bright, 
He smote in wrath a blow of might 
As hero bold, anon, 
That even from the shoulder blade 
Down to the breast a wound it made 
Sheer thro' the heart hath gone; 
With that the steward fell down dead, 
Sir Amiloun smote off his head 
Thanked God the fight was won! 



Then all the lordings, men of might, 

Or lesser folk, who saw that sight 1370 

Were filled with joy that tide, 

The head upon a spear they bare 

And to the town they gat them there 

For nothing would abide; 

From town to meet the knight they came 

In fair procession, at that same, 

Seemly, from either side, 

The victor to the tower they led 

With mickle honour at that stead 

As a prince proud in pride. 1380 

When to the hall they came, I wis, 
All in that palace deemed Amis, 
He stood their face before, 
" Sir Amis," quoth the duke anon 
Before the lordings every one, 
"What I forbade of yore 
I grant thee now, that gentle may, 
My daughter, dearly bought to-day 
With grisley wounds and sore; 1389 

Therefore I freely grant thee here 
My land, with this my daughter dear 
To hold for evermore." 

Then glad and blithe that courteous 

knight, 

And thanked the duke with all his might, 
Full glad was he, and fain; 
In all the court was none, I ween, 
Who wist what his true name had been 
Who saved those ladies twain. 
Then leeches to their will they found 
Who handled these, his wounds, and 

bound, 1400 

And made him whole again, 
And all were joyful in that hold, 
To God gave thanks a thousand-fold 
In that the steward was slain. 

Sir Amiloun, he dight him there 

And said that he from thence would fare 

And get him on his way, 

And tell his friends, both less and more, 

And all who friendship to him bore 

How he had sped that day; 1410 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



191 



The duke, he granted leave that tide, 
And proffered knights with him to ride. 
But he made answer, Nay, 
No man he thought with him to take 
But swiftly did him ready make 
And rode from thence away. 

Thus on his way he went alone 

For never man with him had gone 

Or were he knight or swain, 1419 

That knight, so brave in blood and bone, 

He stayed for neither stock nor stone, 

Till he came home again. 

Sir Amis, as I now shall say, 

Waited his coming every day, 

Up in the forest plain, 

There Amiloun and he they meet, 

With joy he doth Sir Amis greet, 

Tells how the steward he'd slain; 

And saith how he should wed for meed 
That gentle maid, in goodly weed, 
Who was so fair of face. 1431 

Down from his steed he sprang anon, 
The other's raiment each does on 
As erst in that same place, 
"Brother," he quoth, "now go thy 

way-" 

And taught him all that he should say 
Within a little space. 
Sir Amis, he hath joy untold 
And thanked him there a thousand-fold, 
Who shewed him so much grace. 1440 

And as they needs must part, the twain, 

Sir Amis thanked him oft again 

For this, his right good deed: 

"Brother," he saith, "an it should be 

That care or woe befalleth thee 

And of my help hast need, 

Send thou thy messenger nor spare, 

Be sure that I shall fail thee ne'er, 

As God shall be my speed, 

For be thy peril ne'er so strong 1450 

I'll be thy help, for right or wrong, 

If life I lose for meed!" 



With that they part asunder there, 

Sir Amiloun, that knight so fair, 

Went homeward in that tide 

Unto his wife, who scarce was kind, 

Welcome he from his friends did find 

As a prince proud in pride; 

And when it came unto the night 

And he, with this, his lady bright, 1460 

In bed lay, side by side, 

Within his arms with many a kiss 

He clasped her close, in joy and bliss, 

For nothing would abide. 

His wife, she was full fain to know 
For what cause he had acted so 
For this last fourteen-night, 
And laid his sword betwixt them two 
That she durst not, for weal or woe, 
Touch him, her lord, aright? 1470 

With that, Sir Amiloun, he knew 
That Amis, as a knight so true, 
Had kept the troth he plight; 
"Lady," he quoth, "I now will say 
And tell the truth to thee alway 
Betray me to no wight!" 

With that the lady straitly prayed 
For love of Him, Who this world 

made, 

To tell her how it were; 1479 

Without delay, that gallant knight, 
The truth he told to her forthright 
How he to court did fare, 
And how he slew the steward strong 
Who would, by treason and by wrong, 
His brother bring to care; 
And how Sir Amis, courteous knight, 
Had lain beside her every night 
While he afar did fare. 

The lady wrathful waxed that tide 
And angrily her lord did chide, 1490 
Words waxed betwixt the two; 
She quoth: "With wrong, and not with 

right 

Now hast thou slain a gentle knight, 
I wot thou ill didst do." 



192 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"Lady," he quoth, "by Heaven's King, 

I did it for no other thing 

Only to save from woe 

My brother; and were I in need 

I hope he 'Id give his life for meed 

If he might help me so !" 1500 

And thus, as now the Geste doth say, 

Sir Amis, he was glad and gay, 

To court went speedily; 

And when he thither came again 

By earl and baron, knight and swain, 

Honoured, I trow, was he; 

The rich duke took him by the hand, 

And gave htm seizin of his land 

That his for aye it be; 

Sithen, with joy upon a day 1510 

He wed with Belisant, the may, 

And true and kind was she. 

A seemly folk, and great, withal, 

Came to that bridal, there in hall, 

Whenas he wed that flower, 

And earls and barons, many a score, 

With other lordings, less and more, 

And ladies bright in bower; 

A royal feast they there did hold 

Of earls and many a baron bold 1520 

With joy and great honour; 

Throughout that land, from east to 

west, 

Amis was held of knights the best, 
For praise elect in tower. 



And then, within a two years' space, 

Unto the twain there chanced a grace 

By God's hand was it told, 

For the rich duke, he needs must die, 

With him his lady low did lie 

Buried in clay so cold; 1530 

Then men Sir Amis, fair and free, 

As duke, and lord, in majesty 

O'er all that land did hold, 

Two bairns begat he on his wife, 

No fairer children e'er saw life 

As in the Geste 't is told. 



So was that knight of great renown, 

The lord of many a tower and town, 

A mighty duke was he, 

While this, his brother Amiloun, 1540 

In grief and care was brought adown 

Who erst was fair and free; 

For as the Angel had foretold 

No fouler leper did one hold 

Within the world than he, 

In Geste to read it is sore ruth, 

What grief he had for this his truth 

Ere years had passed but three. 

For ere three years had come to end 

He wist not whither he might wend 

Such woe was his, alway; 1551 

For all who erst his friends had stood, 

And most of all his kinsmen good 

As foes they turned away; 

Yea, and his wife, as I say truth, 

By day and night she wrought him ruth 

More than they all, i' fay. 

When this hard lot befell the knight 

A man in a more friendless plight 

Were not on earth that day. 1560 

A wicked shrew she was, his wife, 

She pierced his heart, as with a knife, 

With words so sharp and keen, 

She quoth : " Thou caitiff wretch, in strife 

The steward he wrongful lost his life 

As may by thee be seen, 

Therefore, by Saint Denys of France, 

This evil sore to thee doth chance, 

Pity were sin, I ween!" 1569 

Then oft his hands for woe he wrung 

Vowing that he hath lived too long 

Whose life but loss hath been! 

Alas! Alas! that gentle knight 

Who whilom was so fair to sight 

And suffered so much woe, 

That from his wife, so fair and bright, 

From his own chamber, of a night 

Was bidden forth to go ! 

And in his own hall, in the day, 1579 

From the high board was turned away 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



193 



For it was ordered so, 
At the board's end he ate, to wit, 
For no man would beside him sit, 
Sore sorrow must he know. 

When but six months had passed withal 

That he had eaten thus in hall 

And had good nourishing, 

His lady's anger waxed full strong, 

She deemed that he had lived too long, 

No lie I here do bring 1590 

"Now thro' the land there runs this 

word, 

I feed a leper at my board, 
He is so foul a thing 
My kin these tidings sore displease, 
No longer shall he sit at ease, 
By Jesu, Heaven's King!" 

She summoned him upon a day, 
"Sir, it doth chance," so did she say, 
! "Tis truth, I swear to thee, 1599 

That thou dost eat too long in hall, 
Thy presence doth displease us all, 
My kin be wroth with me!" 
The knight, he wept, and spake so 

still: 

"Now send me where it be thy will 
That no man shall me see, 
And I from thee no more will pray 
Than meat for but one meal a day, 
For holy charitie ! ' ' 

That lady then, for her lord's sake, 
She bade that men should timber take, 
For nothing would she stay, 1611 

Without the gates, but half a mile, 
She bade them build a lodge that 

while, 

That stood beside the way, 
And when that lodge, I trow, was 

wrought 

With him, of all his wealth, he brought 
But his gold cup away; 
When he was in his lodge alone 
To God in Heaven he made his moan, 
Gave thanks to Him alway. 1620 



When he within that lodge was dight 

In all the court there was no knight 

Would do him service there 

Save but one child, who with him came, 

Childe Owen, did they call his name, 

Who wept for this, his care; 

The child was true, of good renown, 

And sister's son to Amiloun, 

He spake with words full fair, 

Saying he would beside him stand 1630 

Nor cease to serve him, foot and hand, 

While that in life he were. 



The child, who was so fair and bold, 

As Owen was his name first told, 

He came of noble blood, 

When he was twelve years old withal 

Then Amoraunt his name they call, 

Courteous was he, and good, 

Beside his lord each night he lay 

And fetched from out the hall each day 

What they should have for food; 1641 

And when each man made mirth and 

song 

For his lord's sake, he sat among 
Them all in dreary mood. 

Thus Amoraunt, as I now say, 
To court he cometh every day, 
Nor stayed for all they strive, 
For all, that he should come away 
And leave the leper, straitly pray, 
Then should he better thrive. 1650 

He answered them in gentle mood, 
Swearing by Him Who died on Rood 
And suffered Wounds full five, 
That for the whole world's wealth to take 
His lord he never would forsake 
Whiles that he were alive. 

When as the twelvemonth's end did fall 
And Amoraunt came to the hall 
Their food to take, one day, 
The lady, she waxed wroth anon 1660 
And bade her servants every one 
To drive that child away; 



194 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



She sware by Him Whom Judas sold, 
That tho' for hunger and for cold 
Stark dead her lord, he lay, 
Nor meat nor drink, nor anything 
To succour him should any bring 
From her, from that same day. 

The child, his hands he wrung, the twain, 

And, weeping, gat him home again 1670 

With mickle grief and care, 

His lord, he did him straightway pray 

And bade him tell without delay 

What thus had grieved him there? 

He answered him, and said also; 

"I wis I well may be in woe, 

And grief and sorrow bear, 

Thy wife hath sworn in evil mood 

That she no more will give us food, 

Alas! how shall we fare?" 1680 

"God help me!" quoth that gentle 

knight; 

"Whilom was I a man of might, 
To deal out meat and cloth, 
And now I am so foul to see 
That every man who looks on me 
The sight of me doth loathe! 
Now son," he saith, "thy weeping 

stay, 

Tho' these be tidings ill to-day, 
I tell thee by my troth, 
Certes none other rede I know 1690 

Than that to beg our bread we go, 
So it behoves us both." 

The morrow soon as it was light 

The child, and eke that gentle knight, 

Made ready to be gone, 

And forth they journeyed in that stead 

As needs they must, to beg their bread, 

Since they of meat had none. 

So long they journeyed up and down 

They came unto a market town, 1700 

A five mile further on; 

Weeping, they go from street to street, 

For love of God they pray for meat, 

Much grief they knew anon. 



In that same time, I understand, 

Great plenty was throughout the land 

Both meat and drink had they; 

The folk, they were of hand right free, 

And brought unto them willingly 

Of everything that day, 1710 

Since they the man a leper see, 

And the child passing fair to be, 

Pity upon them lay, 

They brought enow of all their good, 

Then was the boy right blithe of mood, 

And let his weeping stay. 

The good knight's foot, it waxed so sore 
That he, I trow, might walk no more 
For all of this world's good, 1719 

To the town's end the lad him bare 
And straight a hut he built him there 
That by the highway stood; 
And as the country folk, each day, 
To market bound, must pass that way, 
They gat from them their food, 
And Amoraunt oft went to town 
And meat and drink begged up and down 
When most hi need they stood. 

Thus in the Geste 't is writ to see 

That here they dwelt for years full three 

The lad and he, also, 1731 

In poverty and care they live 

On what the country folk may give 

As thus they come and go; 

But it fell out in the fourth year 

That corn began to wax full dear, 

Hunger stalked to and fro, 

Was neither young nor old, I trow, 

Who meat and drink would give them 

now, 
Then want they needs must know. 1740 

Oft Amoraunt to town hath gone 

But meat and drink there found he none, 

Neither of man nor wife, 

And when the twain they were alone 

Then ruefully they made their moan, 

Weary were they of life; 

Amiloun's wife, the sooth to say, 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



Within that land she dwelt alway 
Of miles but distant five, 
And lived in joy both night and day 
While he in care and sorrow lay, 1751 
Now evil may she thrive! 

One day, as thus they sat alone, 

That gentle knight, he made his moan, 

Spake to the child that tide, 

And saith: "Now must thou go, my son, 

And seek my lady swift anon, 

Who dwelleth here beside, 

Pray her, by Him Who died on Rood, 

She grant me now, of all my good, 1760 

An ass, whereon to ride, 

Forth from the land we now will fare 

And beg our bread with grief and care 

Nor longer here abide." 

Then Amoraunt, to court went he, 
Before that lady fair to see, 
With courteous speech alway : 
"Lady," he quoth, "with good intent, 
My lord a message by me sent, 
For walk no more he may, 1770 

He prayeth thee, in humble mood, 
This much to grant of all his good, 
An ass to ride to-day; 
Then forth from out this land we'll fare, 
And come again I trow me, ne'er, 
Tho' hunger should us slay." 

The lady quoth she were full fain 

To send unto them asses twain 

If they from hence would fare, 

Afar, in distant lands remain 1780 

"Nay, certes, Lady, ne'er again 

Thou seest us " he sware. 

The lady, she was blithe and glad, 

An ass she bade them give the lad, 

And said in anger there: 

"Now ye from out my land shall go, 

God grant that it may fall out so 

That I behold ye ne'er!" 



The lad, he would no longer bide, 
But'swift his ass lie did bestride 



1790 



And gat him home again, 

And told his lord in that same tide 

All that his lady, in her pride, 

Did shamelessly maintain; 

He set the knight upon the ass, 

Forth from the city gate they pass 

Thereof were they full fain, 

Through many a country, up and down, 

They begged their meat from town to 

town, 
Alike in wind and rain. 1800 

By God's Will, o'er that land, ere long, 

The famine waxed so grim and strong 

As they went far and wide, 

That they for hunger were nigh dead, 

They had not half their fill of bread, 

The twain were sorely tried, 

Then quoth the knight upon a day: 

"We needs must sell our ass away, 

'T is our sole wealth this tide, 

Save this, my goodly cup of gold, 1810 

And certes, that shall ne'er be sold, 

Tho' I for hunger died!" 

Amoraunt, and the good knight, there, 
With rueful cheer, in grief and care, 
With morn, upon a day, 
They gat them to a market-town, 
And when the knight had lighted down, 
With never more delay, 
Amoraunt, to the town he sped, 
And this, their ass, with him he led, 
Five shillings, did men pay; i8ai 

And on that money lived they long, 
The whiles the dearth, it waxed full 

strong, 
Nor more might get alway. 

And when that ass they now had sold, 
For shillings five, as here I told, 
There they abode days three, 
Amoraunt, he waxed strong, I ween, 
Of winters had he told fifteen, 
Courteous, and fair, and free, 1830 

For this, his lord, he well did care, 
Upon his back he set him there, 



196 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Forth from the town went he, 
And thus, for half a year and more, 
To seek his meat the knight he bore, 
Now blessed shall he be! 

Thus Amoraunt waxed strong and stout, 

And thus he bare his lord about 

As read in Geste ye may, 1839 

Then winter came, so hard and strong 

That oft, "Alas!" must be their song, 

For deep the country lay; 

The roads in mud were deep, that tide, 

And oft-times did they slip and slide, 

And fall down in the clay; 

True was the lad, and kind of blood, 

And served his lord in gentle mood, 

Nor thought to go his way. 

Thus Amoraunt, as now I say, 1849 

He served his lord by night and day 

And on his back still bore, 

But "Wellaway" was oft his cry, 

So deep in mire the land did lie 

His bones they waxed full sore, 

And all their money, it was gone, 

Till but twelve pence was left alone, 

Therewith, so runs my lore, 

The twain, a hand-cart did they buy, 

So that the knight therein might lie, 

He might not bear him more. 1860 

Thus the lad pushed Sir Amiloun 
Thro' many a country, up and down, 
As ye may understand, 
Till to a town they came, I wis, 
Wherein that baron, Sir Amis, 
Was duke and lord in land, 
Then straitly did he pray, the knight, 
"Bear me to the duke's court forth 
right, 

Good lad, 't is my command, 
He is a man of gentle mood, 1870 

And there, I ween, we '11 get some good, 
Thro' grace of God's own Hand. 

"But hearken to me now, dear son, 
And for His Love, Who this world won, 



As thou art fair and free, 

See thou tell no man, at this same, 

Whither I go, or whence I came, 

Or what my name shall be." 

The lad, he heard and answered, "Nay," 

Forthwith to court he took his way 

As ye may hear from me, 1881 

Before the other beggars then 

He pushed his cart thro' mire and fen, 

Great dole it was to see! 

And it befell that self -same day 

As now I tell, in this my Lay, 

It was mid-winter tide, 

And the rich duke now at the same 

With joy and bliss from church he came 

As lord and prince in pride; 1890 

When he came to his castle-gate 

The beggars all who stood thereat 

They drew them on one side, 

And with his knights and serjaunts all 

He passed into his noble hall 

In joy and bliss to bide. 

As in king's court, 't is law, I know, 
The trumpets for the meat 'gan blow, 
To board they went so bold, 
When all were set in order there 1900 
Then in due time they served them 

fair 

As men most blithe on mold; 
And that rich duke, no lie I tell, 
E'en as a prince they served him well 
With right rich cups of gold, 
While he who brought him to that state, 
He lay shut out, without the gate, 
A-hungered sore, and cold. 

Forth from the gate a knight there 

came, 

With him a serjaunt at that same, 1910 
To field they passed anear, 
And thro' the Grace of God on high 
On Amiloun he cast his eye 
Saw him of loathly cheer, 
Sithen, they Amoraunt behold, 
And very fair the lad they hold, 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



197 



As ye in Geste may hear; 
Then said they both that, by Saint John, 
In all the court they knew of none 
For beauty half his peer ! 



IQ2O 



That good knight straight to him did go 

And courteously was fain to know, 

As ye may understand, 

Whither he went, and whence he came, 

And why he stood there at that same, 

And whom he served in land? 

He answered : " Sir, so God me save 

Here am I but mine own lord's knave 

Who lieth in God's Hand, 

As thou be knight of gentle blood 1930 

I pray thee, that to us some good 

Be done, at thy command!" 

With that the good knight asked him fair 

If he would leave the leper there 

And service with him take? 

And promised him, by sweet Saint John, 

To serve the duke in court anon, 

And rich he would him make. 

The lad, he answered, mild of mood, 

And sware, by Him Who died on Rood, 

Whiles he might walk and wake, 1941 

That, might he win this whole world's 

good, 

This, his dear lord, by whom he stood, 
He never would forsake ! 

The good man deemed him mad to be, 

Or fool to a wise man was he, 

Who was of wit forlorn; 

Or else his lord, so foul to eye, 

Had been a man of station high 

Of noble lineage born; 1950 

Therefore he thought no more to say, 

But back to hall he took his way, 

Spake to the duke that morn : 

"My lord," he said, "now hearken me, 

The best jest, by my loyalty, 

Shalt hear, since thou wert born!" 

Then the rich duke bade him anon 
To tell before them every one 



His tale, without delay 
"Now, Sire," he said, "by sweet Saint 
John, 1960 

Without this gate I now had gone 
Intent on this my play, 
Of poor men many, at thy door, 
Both old and young, both less or more, 
There I beheld them stay, 
And midst the men who there did stand, 
The foulest thing in any laud, 
A leper, there he lay. 

"That leper in a cart doth lie, 

He is so feeble, verily, 1970 

On foot he may not go, 

A naked lad by him doth stay, 

No fairer child, the sooth to say, 

In this world do I know. 

In Christendom, I trow, there be 

No fairer lad to-day than he 

That any land can show; 

And yet the greatest fool he is 

With whom I ever spake, I wis, 

Here in this world below." 1980 

The rich duke answered him straight 
way, 

"What folly, tell me, did he say, 
How is he mad of mood?" 
"Now, Sire," he said, "I bade him part 
From this, the leper in the cart, 
By whom but now he stood, 
And in thy service should he be, 
I proffered him both land and fee, 
Enough of this world's good. 
He answered me straightway with No, 
He from his lord would never go, 1991 
Therefore I hold him wood." 

Then quoth the duke r " Perchance of yore 

His lord, who now doth suffer sore, 

Hath holpen him in need ; 

Or of his blood the boy was born; 

Or he an oath, may be, hath sworn 

With him his life to lead. 

Or stranger he, or of his blood, 1999 

That lad," he said, "is true and good, 



i 9 8 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



As God, He shall me speed, 

I 'Id speak with him ere hence they go, 

Since he such steadfast truth doth 

show, 
I would requite his meed." 

With that the duke, in Geste 't is told, 
He called to him a squire so bold, 
And spake as he was fain : 
"Take thou," he quoth, "my cup of 

gold, 

As full of wine as thou may'st hold, 
Within these, thy hands twain; 2010 
Forth to the gate the cup now bear, 
A leper shalt thou seek out there, 
He lieth in a wain; 

This wine, now, by Saint Martin, say, 
He and his page shall drink straight 
way, 
My cup, bring thou again." 

The squire, he took the cup that stead, 

And to the castle gate he sped, 

The cup brimfull he bare, 

And to the leper straight did say: 2020 

"This cup of wine, my lord to-day 

Sends, drink it if ye dare." 

The leper took his cup of gold, 

'T was fashioned in the self -same mould, 

E'en as the duke's it were, 

And the rich wine therein did pour 

Till both alike, nor less, nor more, 

Of wine had equal share. 

The squire gazed those cups upon, 
The leper's and his lord's, anon, 2030 
E'en as he stood before, 
And never in that moment he 
Could say which should the better be 
So like the guise they wore; 
Back to the hall he ran that day, 
And, "Certes, Sire," he straight did 

say, 

"Hast lost good deeds of yore, 
Here a good deed was wasted now, 
He is a richer man than thou, 
I swear thy face before!" 2040 



With that the rich duke answered, 

"Nay, 

That may not be, by night or day, 
Against the law it were!" 
The squire again he answered, "Yea, 
A traitor is he, by my fay, 
Who should to judgment fare, 
For when I brought him this, thy wine, 
A gold cup he drew forth, so fine, 
Thine own, methought it were, 2049 
Thro' all the world, by sweet Saint John, 
So wise a man there shall be none, 
Who could discern the pair!" 

"Certes," Sir Amis quoth anon, 

"In all the world, of cups were none 

So like in everything, 

Save mine, and his, my brother's true, 

The twain were wrought for us anew, 

At this, our severing; 

If it be so, then, so I ween, 

Sir Amiloun, he slain hath been, 2060 

An here no lie ye bring, 

If any stole his cup away 

Then I myself that thief shall slay 

By Jesu, Heaven's King!" 

Then from his seat he sprang, the lord, 
And, like a madman, drew his sword, 
Urged on by wrath and wrake, 
Straight to the castle gate he ran 
In all the world there was no man 
Who might him overtake; 2070 

He saw the leper in the wain, 
And gripped him fast with his hands 

twain, 

And soused him in the lake, 
And smote him e'en as he were wood, 
And all who there about him stood, 
Great dole began to make. 



"Traitor," then quoth the duke so bold, 
"Say, whence had'st thou that cup of 

gold; 

How didst thou come thereto? 2079 

For now, by Him Whom Judas sold, 
My brother did that same cup hold, 






AMIS AND AMILOUN 



199 



Whenas he went me fro'." 

" Yea, certes, Sire, so doth it stand, 

'T was his, while he in his own land 

Abode, now is it so 

As certainly, while I be here, 

That it is mine, I bought it dear, 

And have a right thereto!" 

With that the duke waxed fierce of mood, 
There was no man who by him stood 
Durst lay upon him hand, 2091 

But with his foot he spurned him there, 
And smote him, as he frenzied were, 
With this, his naked brand. 
The leper fast by feet he made, 
And in the slough and mire he laid, 
For naught would he withstand, 
But cried : "Thief, shalt be slain straight 
way, 

Save of the cup the truth dost say 
How came it in thine hand?" 2100 

Amoraunt stood the folk among, 

Saw how his lord with woe and wrong 

So ruefully was dight, 

A hardy lad and strong was he, 

He gripped the duke right manfully, 

With arms he held him tight, 

And saith: "Sire, of discourteous mind 

Art thou, and in thy deeds unkind, 

To slay this gentle knight, 

For he the day may rue full sore 2110 

That for thy sake such wounds he bore, 

And saved thy life in fight! 

"For he Sir Amiloun is hight, 
Who whilom was a noble knight 
Alike to ride or go, 
Now must he thole sore pain and loss, 
May God Who died upon the Cross 
Bring him from out his woe ! 
For thy sake he of bliss is bare, 
Full ill didst thou repay him there, 
Breaking his bones in two! 2121 

He helped thee at thy sorest need, 
Full ill dost thou repay his meed, 
Alas, why dost thou so?" 



Whenas Sir Amis heard, forthright, 
He turned him swiftly to the knight 
With never more delay, 
Clasped him within his arms that tide, 
And of ten-times, "Alas!" he cried, 
His song was "Wellaway!" 2130 

He looked upon his shoulder bare, 
The grisley wound he saw it there 
As Amoraunt did say, 
Therewith fell swooning to the ground, 
And oft he cried "Alas ! " that stound, 
That e'er he saw this day! 

"Alas!" he cried, "my joy is gone, 
Unkinder blood was never none, 
I wot not what to do ! 
For he that saved my life of yore, 2140 
With scorn did I requite him sore, 
And wrought him mickle woe ! 
Brother," he cried, "of charitie, 
This wicked deed forgive it me, 
That I did smite thee so!" 
Then swift he gave forgiveness fair, 
And many times he kissed him there 
While fast the tears they flow. 

Then was Sir Amis glad and fain, 

For very joy he wept again 2150 

And seized his brother there, 

He took him in his arms withal 

And carried him into the hall, 

None other might him bear; 

Within the hall his wife, she stood, 

She deemed her lord were surely wood, 

And ran, that lady fair, 

Crying: "Now, Sire, what is thy 

thought? 

Why hast this leper hither brought? 
For Christ's sake now declare!" 2160 

"Oh, wife!" he cried, "by sweet Saint 

John, 

Such woe ne'er lay my heart upon 
As thou must know to-day, 
In all the world so good a knight 
Was none, yet sore I did him smite, 
Well nigh I did him slay! 



200 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



It is my brother Amiloun, 
Who now by grief is cast adown, 
Who erst was knight so gay!" 
Swooning, that lady fell to ground, 2170 
Weeping, she wrung her hands that 

stound, 
And oft "Alas!" did say. 

Tho* he was leper foul, I wis, 
That lady straightway did him kiss, 
For nothing would she spare, 
And oft-times she "Alas!" did cry, 
That such hard fate on him should 

lie, 

To live in woe and care, 
Into her bower she did him lead, 
And cast aside his beggar's weed, 2180 
And bathed his body bare; 
Then to a bed the knight they brought 
Covered with clothes so richly wrought, 
Right glad of him they were. 

And thus, as now the Geste doth say, 
Twelvemonths he in her chamber lay 
For true they were and kind, 
And ne'er denied him with a "Nay," 
Whate'er he asked, by night or day, 
It tarried not behind, 2190 

He every meat and drink must share 
That men at board before them bare, 
They kept him aye in mind; 
And after this a twelvemonth's space 
God granted them a wondrous Grace, 
As in the Geste we find. 

For it befell upon a night 

The duke, Sir Amis, that good knight, 

In slumber as he lay, 2199 

An angel bright he saw that stead, 

From Heaven, stand before his bed 

Who thus to him did say: 

An he would rise on Christmas Morn, 

E'en at the hour that Christ was born 

And his two children slay, 

Anoint his brother with their blood, 

By grace of God, Who aye is good, 

His ill were turned away. 



And thus he thought that, for nights 

three, 

That angel bright he sure did see, 2210 
Who warned him evermore, 
And said, an he did as he hight, 
His brother were as fair a knight, 
As e'er he was before. 
Sir Amis, he was blithe that day, 
Yet for his children grieved alway, 
Fairer no woman bore, 
Full loth was he his bairns to kill, 
More loth to fail his brother still 
Who was so true of yore. 2220 

To Amiloun, too, did it seem, 

An angel warned him in a dream, 

And did to him declare, 

An Amis had his children slain 

The virtue of their heart's blood twain 

Might cleanse him from his care. 

With morn Sir Amis went his way, 

And sought his brother as he lay 

And asked how he did fare? 2229 

And Amiloun quoth low and still : 

" Brother, I here abide God's Will, 

My hope, it lieth there!" 

Then, as they sat together there 
Spake of adventures as it were, 
Those knights so fair and free, 
Sir Amiloun quoth at that tide: 
"Brother, I naught from thee would 

hide 

But tell thee privilie, 
As in a dream I saw last night 
An Angel come from Heaven bright, 
Forsooth, he said to me, 2241 

The blood of these, thy children twain, 
Might make me whole and clean again, 
From sorrow set me free." 

Then thought the duke that, sooth to 

say, 

These children young, the twain to slay 
It were a deadly sin, 
And then, by Heaven's King, he thought, 
An Amiloun from grief were brought, 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



201 



He 'Id risk the wrong therein; 2250 

So it befell, on Christmas Night, 
What time that Jesu, Lord of Might, 
Was born, to save men's kin, 
That all the men in court who were, 
They dight them, forth to church to 

fare 
With joy, for this world's win. 

When all were ready forth to fare 
The duke bade all men who were there 
To church to wend straightway, 
And, as they all his friends should be, 
Of great or small, none, verily, 2261 
Should there in chamber stay; 
He quoth, that he himself that night 
Would guard his brother, the true knight, 
Who was so good alway. 
To say him "Nay," I trow, was none, 
To church the household went anon, 
The duke at home did stay. 

The duke, with care he did espy 
The keys of this the nursery, 2270 

Ere that they should be gone; 
And privily he watched them there, 
And of the place he was aware 
Where they had laid them down. 
When all men thus to church did go, 
Sir Amis, as the Geste doth show, 
He there was left alone; 
He took a candle, burning bright, 
And to the keys he went forthright, 
Bare them away anon. 2280 

With that alone, with no delay, 
He to the chamber made his way 
Where these, his children, were; 
Beheld them both, as in that stead 
They lay together in the bed, 
Sleeping together there, 
And thus unto himself did say: 
"By Saint John, it were ill to slay 
What God hath wrought so fair!" 
His knife, he drew it forth that tide, 
For very grief he turned aside, 2291 

And wept for sorrow sare! 



Awhile he wept there as he stood, 

Anon he changed again his mood, 

And saith without delay: 

"My brother was so true and good, 

From grisley wounds he shed his blood 

For love of me that day; 

Then why should I my children spare 

To bring my brother out of care? 2300 

certes!" he quoth, "nay! 

To help my brother in his need, 
Maid Mary grant that well I speed, 
God prosper me alway!" 

No longer lingering, as he stood, 

He grasped the knife in dreary mood, 

And took the children two, 

And, since he would not spill their blood, 

Over a basin fair and good, 

Their throats, he slit them thro*. 2310 

And when the two he thus had slain 

He laid them back in bed again, 

Small marvel he were woe! 

Covered them, that by none 't were seen 

That any man with them had been, 

From chamber forth did go. 

When from the chamber he had gone, 
The door, behind him shut, anon, 
Fast as it had been aye, 
The keys he laid beneath a stone, 2320 
Thinking that men would deem, each 

one, 

That they had gone astray. 
Straight to his brother did he go, 
Quoth to that man so full of woe, 
By dawn of Christmas Day: 
"Here have I brought my children's 

blood, 

1 trust that it may do thee good, 
So did the Angel say!" 

"Brother," Sir Amiloun did say, 
"Didst thou indeed thy children slay? 
Alas ! Why didst thou so? " 2331 

He wept, and cried: "Ah! Wellaway! 
Liever had I till Judgment Day 
Lived thus in pain and woe!" 



202 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Then quoth Sir Amis: "Be thou still, 

Thro' Jesu, an it be His Will, 

I bairns again may know, 

For my sake thou of bliss art bare, 

I wis, to bring thee out of care, 

To death I 'Id freely go!" 



2340 



He took the life-blood, red and bright, 
Anointed there that gentle knight, 
Who erst was fair and hale, 
And then in bed he did him lay 
And wrapt him warm and soft alway 
Nor coverings rich did fail: 
"Brother," he quoth, "now lie thou still 
And fall asleep, now, as God's Will 
The Angel told in tale; 
And well I trust, with ne'er a lie, 2350 
That Jesu, King of Heaven High, 
Shall bring thee out of bale." 

Sir Amis let him lie alone 

And to his chamber went anon 

As ye in Geste may hear, 

And for the bairns whom he had slain 

To God in Heaven he did complain, 

Praying, with rueful cheer, 

That he be saved from shame that day 

Thro' Mary Mother, who alway 2360 

Was to his heart full dear. 

And Jesu Christ, in his sore need, 

To that knight's prayer He gave good 

heed, 
As ye in Geste may hear. 

The morrow, soon as it was day, 
Homeward she came, that lady gay, 
With knights in train, I trow, 
They sought the keys where they should 

lie. 

And might no trace of them descry, 
Woeful were they enow; 2370 

The duke, he bade their mourning cease, 
And prayed them all to hold their peace, 
And quiet keep them now, 
He had the keys, his wife alone 
Should thither go, beside them, none, 
That did he surely vow. 



Anon, his wife he prayed her hear, 
And quoth to her: "My love so dear, 
Prithee be glad of mood, 2371 

By Him Who for mankind was born 
Our children have I slain this morn, 
Who were so fair and good, 
For that in dream I saw, by night, 
An Angel come from Heaven's height, 
Who told me, by their blood 
My brother should be freed from pain, 
For his sake did I slay the twain 
To help him, as I should." 

Then was that lady full of woe, 

Seeing her lord in sorrow go 2390 

She comforted him there : 

"Oh! dearest life," thus did she say, 

"God, He can give us bairns alway, 

Of them have thou no care, 

For if it were mine own heart's blood, 

An it might do thy brother good, 

My life I would not spare; 

Our eyes alone our bairns shall see, 

To-morrow shall they buried be, 

As natural death it were." 2400 

Thus did that lady, fair and bright. 
Comfort her lord with all her might, 
As ye may understand; 
With that, the twain, they go their way, 
Sought Amiloun, there, where he lay 
Who erst was free of hand; 
When Amiloun, he woke anon, 
Behold, his foulness all was gone, 
Thro' grace of God's Command! 
And then was he as fair a knight 2410 
As ever he was seen by sight 
Since he was born in land! 

With that full blithe and glad they weix;, 
Their joy they might to none declare, 
They thanked God oft, that day, 
And then, as here the Geste doth shew, 
They swiftly to the chamber go 
Wherein the children lay, 
Without a wound the bairns they founcl, 
With ne'er a scar, but whole and sound, 



AMIS AND AMILOUN 



203 



The twain, they lie, and play! 2421 

They wept for joy as there they stood, 
Gave thanks to God in humble mood, 
Their care was all away. 



When Amiloun was whole and fair 
And all his strength had waxen there, 
And he might go and ride, 
Amoraunt, as a squire so bold, 
Of gladsome cheer he then did hold 
To serve his lord beside; 2430 

Then quoth the knight upon a day 
That homeward would he take his way, 
Speak with his wife that tide, 
For that she so had helped his need 
He thought to well requite her deed, 
Nor longer there abide. 

Sir Amis, then, with swift intent, 
For many a valiant knight he sent, 
Who doughty were in deed, 2439 

Five hundred knights, both true and keen, 
And many a baron more, I ween, 
On palfrey and on steed, 
And night and day they, at that same, 
Rode swift, till to his land they came 
There was he lord indeed ; 
A knight of that same country there 
He had espoused that lady fair 
As now in Geste we read. 

And thus in Geste as now I say, 

Home came her lord the self-same day 

They would the bridal hold, 2451 

To castle rode without delay, 

Anon began a sorry play 

Among those barons bold; 

A messenger to run was fain 

Crying, her lord was come again 

As fairest man on mold ! 

The lady, she waxed pale and wan, 

And there was many a mournful man 

Imong them, young and old! 2460 

Sir Amiloun, and Sir Amis, 
With many a baron bold, I wis, 



And knights and squires withal, 
With helmet, and with habergeoun, 
And with their sword blades bright and 

brown, 

They gat them to the hall, 
And all whom they within it caught 
With many a mighty stroke they 

sought, 

Yea, were they great or small, 
And glad and blithe they were that day 
Whoso alive might flee away, 2471 

Such bridal did befall! 

And thus, when they had vengeance 

ta'en, 

And brown and black to flee were fain 
From out that hall, anon, 
Amiloun, for his lady's sake, 
A great lodge there he bade them 

make 

Builded of lime and stone, 
Within it was that lady led, 
On bread and water was she fed, 
Till her life-days were done. 2481 

In such wise died that lady He 
Who mourns her fate, a knave must be 
As ye have heard, each one! 

Then Amiloun sent speedily 

To earls and barons, bond and free, 

All who were frank and fair, 

And when they came, he seized in hand 

Childe Owen, over all this land, 

Who true and kind was e'er; 2490 

And when he thus had done, I wis, 

With this, his brother, Sir Amis, 

He back again did fare; 

There, in much joy and little strife, 

Together did they lead their life 

Till called of God they were. 

Anon those courteous barons twain 
To build an Abbey were they fain 
Endow it well also, 

In Lombardy, till Judgment-Day 2500 
Mass for their souls to sing alway 
And for their parents' too. 



204 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The same day died those knights so 

brave, 

Were laid together in one grave, 
As men to-day shall show; 



For this, their steadfast truth, I wis, 
They have reward in Heavenly Bliss 
That ne'er an end shall know ! 
Amen, Amen. 



SIR LAUNFAL 



IN the days when Arthur bold 

Rule in English land did hold 

Such a feat befell 

That men set it in a Lay, 

Hight "Sir Launfal" e'en to-day 

Ye may know it well. 

Doughty Arthur did some while, 

Hold his court in fair Carlisle, 

And, in solace fair, 

Valiant knights with him were found, 

Heroes of the Table Round, n 

Better knights were ne'er. 

Perceval, and good Gawain, 

Gaheries, and Agravain, 

Lancelot du Lake; 

Kay the seneschal, Ywain, 

Who in fiercest fight on plain 

Stern defence could make; 

King Banboort, King Bors, his mate, 

(Of these twain the praise was great) 

None their peer might find; 21 

Sir Galafre, Sir Launfale, 

Of this last a noble tale 

Here I 'Id bring to mind. 

Arthur had a knight, I ween, 
(Many a year at court he'd been,) 
Launfal, was he hight; 
Gift nor largesse did he spare, 
Gold and silver, raiment fair, 
Gave to squire and knight. 30 

For his gifts and bounty free 
Steward unto the king was he 
Fourteen years, forthright; 
Nay, of all the Table Round 
None so free of hand was found 
Both by day and night. 



Then it chanced, in the tenth year, 

Merlin, who was Arthur's seer, 

Bade the king to ride 

Unto Ryon, Ireland's king, 4 a 

Thence his daughter fair to bring, 

Gwennore, as his bride. 

Arthur brought her home, I wot, 

But Sir Launfal liked her not, 

Nor his comrades tried, 

Such repute the lady bare 

Lovers had she, and to spare, 

Her good lord beside. 

They were wedded, so men say, 

On the Feast of Whitsunday, 5<? 

Many a prince of pride, 

And more folk than man may tell 

To that bridal came as well 

From lands far and wide. 

Each who in that hall was set 

Bishop was, or Baronet, 

(Naught in heart I 'Id hide ) 

Tho' men sat not equal there 

Service rich and good they bare 

Certes, to each side. 60 

When the lords had eaten all, 
And the cloths were drawn in hall, 
E'en as ye may hear, 
Butlers bare, with one accord, 
Wine to each and every lord 
Yea, with gladsome cheer. 
Then the queen gave gifts so fair, 
Gold and silver, jewels rare, 
Courtesy to show; 69 

To each knight gave brooch or ring, 
To Sir Launfal ne'er a thing, 
Grief he needs must know. 



SIR LAUNFAL 



205 



Came the wedding-feast to end, 

Launfal fain his way would wend, 

Prayed leave of the king. 

Said: "The news but now is sped 

How my father lieth dead, 

To his burying 

I would go" The king so free, 

Quoth: "Launfal, wilt go from me 80 

Take for thy spending; 

And my sister's sons, the two, 

I will bid with thee to go, 

Homeward thee to bring." 

Launfal, on his journey bound, 
Took leave of the Table Round, 
Went his way, I ween, 
Till to Karlion he came, 
And the mayor's house, at that same, 
Who his man had been 90 

Stood the mayor without, that tide, 
Saw his master gently ride, 
Knights with him doth bring. 
Forth he goes the knight to greet, 
"Sir, I bid thee welcome meet, 
Say, how fares our king?" 

Launfal spake in answer there: 

"Ne'er a man doth better fare, 

Else were ruth the more 

But Sir Mayor, without leasing, too 

I be parted from the king, 

And that rues me sore; 

None beneath me, nor above, 

For the sake of Arthur's love 

Owes me honour more. 

Sir, I prithee, of thy grace, 

May I here have dwelling-place, 

We were friends of yore? " 

Straight the mayor him bethought, 
And a fitting answer sought no 

Thus to him 'gan say : 
"Seven knights would dwell with me, 
Here to-day they sure shall be, 
Of little Britain they " 
Launfal turned him with a smile, 
Knightly scorn he gave for guile, 



Saith to his knights twain : 
"Who a lord of little fame 
Thinks to serve, he, of that same 
Service shall be fain!" 120 

Launfal on his way would ride, 

Quoth the Mayor: "My lord, abide " 

(In this wise he spake ) 

" Turn ye by mine orchard side, 

I have where, in joy and pride, 

Ye your home may make." 

Launfal, he anon alights, 

Thinking there, with his two knights, 

For awhile to dwell; 

Right and left his wealth he cast 130 

Till, ere the first year was past, 

In great debt he fell. 

So it chanced at Pentecost, 

Such time as the Holy Ghost 

Did on men alight, 

That Sir Hugh, and eke Sir John, 

Took their leave, for to be gone 

From Launfal, the knight; 

Saying: "Sir, our robes be rent, 

And thy treasure all be spent, 140 

We be evil dight." 

Quoth Sir Launfal, fair and free, 

"Tell none of my povertie, 

Prithee, by God's Might." 

Spake the gallant knights straight 
way, 

They would ne'er his plight betray 
All this world to win. 
So they left him at that same, 
Straight to Glastonbury came, 
Arthur lay therein. 150 

When he saw those knights draw nigh 
Swift towards them did he hie 
They were of his kin; 
But the self-same robes they ware 
As when they from court did fare, 
Torn they were, and thin. 

Of ill-will, the queen quoth there: 
"Say, how doth the proud knight fare 



206 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



May he armour wield?" 159 

Quoth the good knights: "Lady, yea, 

Well he fares, as good men may, 

Heaven be his shield!" 

Good the tidings that they bring 

To the queen, and eke the king, 

Of Launfal the bold, 

And they quoth: "He loved us so 

That when we were fain to go 

He would us withold; 

" But there came a rainy day 

When Sir Launfal went his way 170 

Hunting thro' holts hoar, 

In our old robes did we ride, 

So we went our way that tide 

As we came of yore." 

Arthur was right glad of mood 

That it well with Launfal stood 

Grieved was queen Gwennore 

She desired with all her might 

He should have, by day and night, 

Pain and sorrow sore. 180 

Came the feast of Trinitie, 

Which, with great solemnitie 

Men in Karlion hold; 

Earls and barons, many a knight, 

Burgess good, and lady bright, 

Flock there, young and old; 

But Launfal, the knight so free, 

Might not of that gathering be, 

For his lack of gold; 

To the feast the mayor was bent, 190 

His fair daughter straightway went 

To the knight so bold; 

Prayed him dine with her that day 

"Demoiselle," quoth Launfal, "nay, 

Thereto I lack heart; 

For the three days that be gone 

Meat and drink have I had none, 

This my sorry part, 

I had fain heard Mass to-day, 

Hose and shoes I lacked alway, 200 

Linen clean and white. 

Thus for want of clothing fair 



In the feast I may not share 
That doth me despite. 

" This one thing I pray of thee, 

Saddle, bridle, lend to me 

That I forth may ride, 

Solace would I find withal, 

In a meadow, 'neath the wall, 

In this undern-tide." 310 

Launfal, then, he girt his steed, 

Squire nor page had he at need, 

Humbly did he ride; 

His horse threw him in the fen, 

Mocked he was of many men, 

Yea, on every side. 

On his horse he sprang again, 

And, to chase his longings fain, 

Rode towards the west; 

Sultry waxed that undern-tide, 220 

He, dismounting, would abide 

'Neath a fair forest; 

And, because the day was hot, 

He would fold his cloak, I wot, 

Sat him down to rest. 

Sat thus in simplicitie 

'Neath the shadow of a tree 

Where it liked him best. 

As he sat, and sorrowed sore, 229 

Forth there came, from holts so hoar, 

Maidens twain that day; 

Silk of Inde their kirtles were, 

Tightly laced, and fitting fair, 

Never maids more gay; 

Velvet were their mantles green 

Bordered well with gold, I ween, 

Lined with fur so gray; 

On each gracious head was set, 

Wrought of gold, a coronet, 

Set with gems alway. 240 

White their skin as snow on down, 
Red their cheeks, their eyes were 

brown, 

(None such have I seen ) 
One, a basin all of gold 



SIR LAUNFAL 



207 



Bare, the other maid did hold 

Towel of silken sheen. 

Bright their kerchiefs were to see 

With gold thread in broiderie 

Launfal 'gan to sigh 

O'er the turf to him they came 250 

He would, rising, at that same 

Greet them courteously : 

"God be with ye, maidens bright! " 

"Fair befall thee, noble knight, 

Know, Dame Triamour 

Bids thee come and speak with her 

An it were thy will, fair Sir, 

In this very hour." 

Launfal answered, courteously, 

He would come right willingly 260 

White were they as flour. 

In the forest glade on high 

He a fair tent did espie, 

Merrie was that bower. 



That fair tent was wrought, I wis, 
All of work of Sarsynys, 
Crystal was each ball; 
Over all an eagle stood, 
Wrought of red gold, rich and good, 
And enamelled all; 
For his eyes carbuncles bright 
As the moon that shines at night 
Did the beams fair fall; 
Alexander, monarch great, 
Arthur, in his richest state, 
Lacked such gem withal ! 



270 



And in that pavilion 
Lay the maid of Oleron, 
Triamour, she hight; 
King, her sire, of Faerie, 
All the West, at his decree 
Owned him man of might. 
In that tent a couch withal 
Found he, decked with purple pall, 
Seemly 't was to sight, 
Therein lay that gentle maid 
Who Sir Launfal thither bade, 
Lovesome lady bright. 



280 



For the heat she cast aside 

Covering, to her waist that tide *QO 

Well nigh was she bare; 

White as lily-flower in May, 

Or as snow on winter's day 

He knew none so fair 

Yea, the red rose, newly-blown, 

Pale against her cheek had shewn, 

This to say I dare. 

Bright her hair as threads of gold, 

None her rich attire had told, 

Thought had known it ne'er. 300 

Quoth she: "Launfal, hark to me, 

All my joy I 'Id leave for thee, 

Be my paramour; 

For in Christendom is none 

Whom I love, save thee alone, 

King nor Emperour." 

Launfal looked on that sweet maid, 

All his love on her he laid, 

Kissed her in that hour. 

Down he sat him at her side, 310 

Saying: "Sweet, whate'er betide 

I am in thy power." 

Quoth she: "Gentle knight, and free, 

All thy state is known to me 

Prithee, shame thee not; 

Wilt thou me as true love take, 

Other maids for me forsake, 

Rich shall be thy lot. 

For a purse I '11 give thee here 

Wrought of silk and gold so clear 320 

With fair figures three; 

Oft as thou thy hand within 

Puttest, thou a mark shalt win 

Wheresoe'er thou be. 

"Yea, and more my gifts shall be, 
With my steed, I '11 give to thee 
Geoffrey, mine own knave; 
Of mine arms, a penoncel, 
With three ermines painted well, 
From thy lance to wave. 330 

And in war and Tourney, know 
Thou shalt ne'er be harmed by blow, 



208 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



I my knight will save!" 
Then he quoth, the gentle knight: 
"Gramercie, my lady bright, 
No more shield I'll crave." 

Up she sat, the lady fair, 

Bade her maidens bring her there 

Water, for her hand; 

This they did, nor made delay, 340 

Set the board, and served straightway 

Supper at command. 

Dainties had they, fair and fine, 

Pyement, claret, Rhenish wine, 

Else great wonder were 

Thus they supped, the day was sped, 

Then anon they sought their bed, 

Knight and lady fan*. 

Scarce for joy they slept that night, 

Till dawn came, and morning light, 350 

Then she bade him rise, 

Spake to him: "Sir Knight, art fain 

E'er to speak with me again 

Guard 'gainst prying eyes. 

Secretly, I'll come to thee 

In a place where none may see 

Still as any stone." 

Blithe and glad was Launfal then, 

Joyful, he, above all men, 

Kissed that maid anon. 360 

" But of one thing warned be, 

Ne'er, tho' profit 't were to thee, 

Boast of me shalt make; 

If thou doest, I thee warn 

Thou shalt be of love forlorn " 

Thus the lady spake. 

Launfal prayed her leave to go 

Geoffrey fain his skill would show 

Brought the knight his steed, 

Launfal straight the steed bestrode, 370 

Back to Karlion he rode, 

Poor was still his weed. 

Glad at heart, his lady's will 
Fain to do, he held him still, 
All that undern-tide; 



Thro' the burg came riding men, 

Harnessed well, in number ten, 

Sumpter steeds they ride. 

Some with silver, some with gold, 

(This for Launfal did they hold 380 

Fit gear to provide,) 

Raiment rich, and armour bright 

Then thy ask: "Launfal, the knight, 

Where doth he abide?" 



Silk of Inde the ten they ware, 
Geoffrey, he behind did fare 
On Blaunchard, the white; 
In the market place one stood, 
Quoth: "Where goeth all this good, 
Tell us, gentle wight?" 
Geoffrey spake: "As gift so fair 
We this store to Launfal bear 
Who in dolour rides " 
Quoth the boy : " He lives in need, 
Men of him take little heed, 
With the mayor he bides." 



390 



At the mayor's door they light, 
Proffer to the noble knight 
All the gifts they bear; 
The mayor saw their goodliness, 
Knew Sir Launfal's nobleness, 
Shame o'ertook him there. 
Quoth: "Sir Knight, of Charitie, 
Prithee eat to-day with me, 
As yestre'en it were 
To the feast with thee I 'Id ride, 
Solace had been ours that tide 
But thou forth didst fare." 

"Nay, Sir Mayor, God pardon thee, 

While I dwelt in povertie 

Ne'er didst bid me dine, 

Now my friends have sent to me 

Greater store in gold and fee 

Than was ever thine!" 

Shamed, the mayor, he went his 

way, 

Launfal did on fair array, 
Purple, furred with white; 
All the debts he ever made 



400 



410 



SIR LAUNFAL 



209 



Geoffrey hath the tale repaid 

As was fit and right. 420 

Launfal held rich feast that stead, 

Fifty poor guests well he fed 

Who were in ill plight; 

Gave to fifty, each a steed, 

Gave to fifty, goodly weed, 

Were they squire or knight. 

Fifty priests, I trow, he paid, 

Fifty prisoners he made 

From their bondage free, 

"Fifty jesters clothed he then, 430 

<3x>nour did to many men 

Tho' of far countrie. 

Lords of Karlion that tide 

Bid a Tournament be cried 

All for Launfal's love, 

And for Blaunchard, his good steed, 

All to wit how he might speed 

And his valour prove. 

When the day at last they see 

That the jousts should ridden be 440 

Forth to field they move, 

Trumpeters a shrill blast blow, 

All the lords ride out a-row 

From the burg above. 

Thus the Tourney fair was set, 

Each doth on the other whet 

Swords, and maces both, 

So doth Fortune shifting run, 

Some lose steeds, and some have 

won, 

Knights were wondrous wroth; 450 

Since the Table Round begun 
Better Tourney was there none 
That I say for sooth. 
Many lords of Karlion town 
On that field were smitten down, 
Certes, without oath. 

The constable of Karlion 

Did upon Sir Launfal run 

Nor would more abide 

He smote Launfal, Launfal him, 460 



Stern, I trow, the strokes and grim, 
Smitten on each side. 
Launfal of his foe was ware, 
From his steed he did him bear 
To the ground that tide. 
As the constable lay low, 
Geoffrey leapt to saddle-bow, 
From the field would ride. 

Chester's earl beheld with eye, 

Wroth he was, to madness nigh, 470 

Rode on Launfal good. 

On the helm he smote withal 

That the crest adown must fall, 

(So the French tale stood ) 

Launfal was of mickle might, 

From his steed he did alight, 

Laid his foemen low; 

Then there came, the knight about, 

Of Welsh knights so great a rout 

None their tale might know. 480 

Shields were shattered then withal, 

Shivered spears in splinters fall, 

Yea, in rear and van; 

Launfal and his steed of pride 

Bare to earth, I ween, that tide 

Many a gallant man. 

So the Tourney's prize by right 

Gave they to Launfal the knight, 

Nor had need of oath. 

Many a lord, I trow, that day 490 

To the mayor's house took their way 

With him, little loth. 

Then that noble knight and bold 
Royal feast and rich did hold, 
E'en for fourteen-night; 
Earls and barons in that hall 
Service seemly found withal, 
Royally were dight. 

Every day fair Triamour 499 

Sought her love, Sir Launfal's, bower, 
Fell the shades of night; 
But of all men in that place 
Two alone might see her fare, 
Geoffrey, and her knight. 



210 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Lived a knight in Lombardie, 

Jealous of Sir Launfal he, 

Valentine he hight. 

Of Sir Launfal he heard tell 

How he jousted wondrous well 

Man of mickle might. 510 

Valentine was strong, I ween, 

Measured well of foot fifteen, 

Deemed himself good knight ;j 

Launfal he to test was fain, 

In fair field to meet, they twain, 

Or for joust or fight. 

Valentine, he sat in hall, 

Bade a messenger to call, 

Said: "Needs must thou wend 

Unto Launfal, that good knight, r $ao 

Who is held of such great might 

I'll to Britain send. 

Say, for love of his ladie, 

If of gentle birth she be, 

Courteous, fair, and free, 

Would he keep his armour bright ] 

Nor be deemed a coward knight, . 

He must joust with me." 

Fain to do his lord's command 

Sailed the messenger from land, 530 

Fair the wind at will; 

O'er the water came anon, 

To Sir Launfal hath he gone 

Spake with words so still, 

Quoth: "Sir Valentine, my lord, 

Who right skilful is with sword 

Sent me unto thee, 

Praying, for thy true love's sake 

Thou a spear with him wilt break " 

Launfal laughed out free. 540 

Quoth, as he was gentle knight 
That same day, a fourteen-night, 
He would 'gainst him ride 
For the tidings he did bring 
Gave the messenger a ring, 
Horse, and robe of pride. 
Launfal kissed fair Triamour, 
(Brightest maiden she in bower) 



Prayed her leave to ride 

Then she quoth, that maiden dear, 550 

"Of thy foeman have no fear, 

He shall fall that tide." 

None would Launfal with him lead 

Saving Geoffrey, and his steed, 

Blaunchard, so they three 

Took to ship, the wind was good, 

Swift they crossed the salt sea flood, 

Came to Lombardie. 

And when he had crossed the tide 

Where the joust he needs must ride, 560 

E'en in Atalie, 

Valentine had there great host, 

Launfal he hath lowered their boast, 

With small companie. 

When Sir Launfal, armed aright, 
Sprang upon his charger white, 
Spear and shield did hold, 
All who saw his armour bright 
Quoth that ne'er so fair a knight 
Did their eyes behold. s?o 

Then they rode a joust so well 
That their lances shivered fell 
Shattered on the field, 
At the second joust alway 
Launfal's helm, the tale doth say, 
To the spear did yield. 

Laughed his foeman, and made 

game, 

Launfal ne'er had felt such shame 
Nay, tho' fierce the fight. 
Geoffrey proved him good at need, 580 
Leapt upon his master's steed, 
(No man saw that sight ) 
Ere the knights again had met 
Launfal's helm on head he set, 
Laced it fair and tight. 
Launfal, he was glad and gay, 
Geoffrey well he thanked that day 
For his deed of might. 



Valentine, he smote so well, 
Launfal's shield adown it fell 



500 



SIR LAUNFAL 



211 



Even at that stoimd; 

Geoffrey, he that shield hath ta'en, 

Given it to his lord again 

Ere it came to ground. 

Launfal, he was blithe and gay, 

The third joust he rode straightway, 

Showed his valour there; 

Smote his foeman in that stead, 

Horse and man, they both fell dead, 

Grisley wounds they bare. 600 

But of Atalie, the men, 

Were full wroth with Launfal then 

Since their knight was dead, 

Sware that he should surely die 

Ere he passed from Lombardie, 

Hanged, and drawn that stead. 

Launfal drew his falchion bright, 

Smote them low, as dew falls light, 

In a little space; 

When he thus their lords had slain 610 

He to Britain's shores again 

Joyful set his face. 

Thus to Arthur news they bring, 

All the truth they tell the king 

Of Launfal, his fame, 

Then a script the king would send 

Bidding Launfal to him wend 

When Saint John's Feast came; 

For the king a feast would hold 

Of his earls and barons bold, 6ao 

Lordings great and less, 

Launfal should be steward in hall, 

And the guests should order all 

And give fair largesse. 

Launfal straight his leave did pray 

From his love, to go his way 

The king's feast to lead. 

Mirth he found and praise that hour, 

Ladies, who were bright in bower, 

Knights, right good at need. 630 

Forty days the feast so high 

Held they rich and royally, 

Truth I tell to ye, 

Came the forty days to end, 



Then the lords their way would wend, 
Each to his countrie. 

After meat it chanced Gawain, 

Gaheries, and Agra vain, 

And Launfal, the knight, 

Went to dance upon the green 640 

'Neath the tower where lay the queen 

And her ladies bright. 

Launfal led the dance withal, 

(For largesse, in hold and hall 

Men, they loved him so;) 

The queen lay, the dance would see, 

Spake: "There danceth Launfal free, 

I to him will go! 

"He of all the knights I see 
Seemeth fairest unto me, 650 

Never had he wife, 
An it be for good or ill 
I will ask of him his will, 
Whom I love as life!" 
Maids she chose, a companie, 
Of the fairest she might see 
Sixty-five they were, 
Thus they went their way forth 
right 

To disport them with the knights 
Courteously they fare. 660 

Thus the queen her place hath ta'en 

Twixt Launfal, and good Gawain, 

And her ladies bright 

Followed her full speedily, 

Yea, 't was fair the dance to see 

Each maid with a knight. 

Minstrels well the fiddle play, 

Cithole, too, and trumpet gay, 

As 't was fit and right. 

So they sported, sooth to say, 670 

After meat, the summer's day, 

Till 't was nigh to night. 

When the dance was done, I ween, 
Nigh to Launfal drew the queen, 
Spake thus in his ear: 
"Know for certain, gentle knight, 



212 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



I have loved thee, day and night, 

More than seven year; 

Save thy love be given to me 

I shall die for love of thee, 680 

Launfal, leman dear!" 

Quoth the good knight at that same: 

"Traitor ne'er shall be my name, 

Heaven help me here!" 

Quoth the queen: "Thou coward, fie! 
Fain I were men hanged thee high 
Would thou ne'er wast born ! 
That thou livest, grieveth me, 
Scorning women, all scorn thee, 
Art of love forlorn!" 690 

Sore abashed, the knight so bold 
Speech no longer might withold, 
Spake the queen before: 
" I have loved a maid more bright 
Than thou e'er hast seen with sight 
Seven years and more. 

" Lowest maiden of her train 

Fitter were as queen to reign 

Than thou e'er hast been!" 

Very wroth, the queen, that day 700 

With her maidens went her way 

To her bower, I ween; 

Laid her down upon her bed, 

Sware she was full sick that stead, 

Sware, as she might thrive, 

She 'Id on Launfal vengeance wreak, 

All the land of him should speak 

Ere days waxed to five! 

From the chase doth Arthur ride, 

Blithe and gay was he that tide 710 

To his bower went he 

Then the queen on him did cry: 

" Save thou 'venge me I shall die, 

My heart breaks in three! 

I to Launfal spake, my king, 

And he prayed a shameful thing, 

W r ould my leman be. 

When I would not, boast he made 

Of his love, whose loathliest maid 

Fairer were than me !" 720 



Then King Arthur, he waxed wroth, 

And by God he sware an oath 

Launfal would he slay; 

Bade his doughty men, forthright 

Take Launfal, and that good knight, 

Hang and draw straightway. 

Sought they for that knight anon 

To his chamber had he gone, 

Fain was he to play, 

But his love, she came no more* 73* 

As she warned him once of yore 

So it fell alway. 

Then his purse he did behold 

Which was ever full of gold, 

When of gold was need; 

Ne'er a piece was there that day, 

Geoffrey, he had ridden away 

On Blaunchard, his steed. 

All the good that he had won 

Passed, as snow beneath the sun, 740 

So the tale doth read; 

E'en his harness, shining white, 

Had become as black as night 

Launfal, in his need 

Spake: "Alas! how may it be 

That I live apart from thee 

Sweetest Triamour? 

Of all wealth am I forlorn, 

And, far worse, from thee am torn 

Brightest maid in bower!" 730 

Then he smote him on the head, 

Cursed the mouth that spake, that stead, 

Yea, he sorrowed sore, 

And for very grief that stound 

Fell a-swooning to the ground 

Then of knights came four, 

Laid the knight in bands straightway 
(Double waxed his woe that day) 
Led him to the king 
Arthur quoth, with anger moved, 760 
"Heark to me, thou traitor proved, 
Why make such boasting? 
Fairer than my wife, didst say 
Thy love's loathliest maid alway 



SIR LAUNFAL 



213 



Foul the lie, I trow ! 
And ere that wert fain the queen 
Should thy paramour have been 
All too proud art thou!" 

Quoth the knight, in eager mood, 

As before the king he stood : 770 

"T is the queen doth lie! 

Never since I saw the light 

I besought her, day nor night, 

Of such treacherie; 

But she quoth, no man was I, 

Woman's love, it passed me by, 

Maids would naught of me 

And 1 answered her, and said, 

I held my love's loathliest maid 

Fitter queen to be! 780 

" Certes, lordings, this is so, 

I am ready here to do 

All the court shall say " 

Saith the story, at that same, 

Twelve good knights together came, 

Judgment sought straightway, 

And they spake themselves between, 

How right well they knew the queen, 

This was aye her way 

"Of her ever went the word 700 

She loved others than her lord, 

None shall that gainsay." 

On the queen, and not the knight, 

Should the blame be laid by right, 

Thereof was he free; 

And might he his lady bring, 

She of whom he spake this thing, 

And her maids should be 

Brighter than the queen in hue, 

Launfal should be holden true, 800 

Free from felonie; 

But, save he his love might show, 

A thief's death he needs must know, 

And be hanged on tree. 

This, then, was their counselling: 
Launfal should his true love bring, 
His life on it lay 



Quoth the queen, with ne'er a lie: 
"If she fairer prove than I, 
Blind these eyes of gray!" 810 

Thus the wager fast was bound, 
Launfal hath two sureties found, 
Noble knights were they 
Perceval and good Gawain, 
They were sureties, the twain, 
Till a certain day. 

This they sware, my faith I plight, 

In a year, and fourteen night, 

He his love must bring 

Sorrow sore, and bitter care 8^0 

Then, I ween, were Launfal's share 

He his hands did wring; 

Yea, so heavy was his woe, 

All his life henceforth must know 

Naught but mourning drear, 

Glad his head to forfeit he 

Full of woe all men must be 

Who these tidings hear. 

Draweth nigh th' appointed day 
With his sureties he, straightway, 830 
'Fore the king must go. 
Arthur spake: "Thy love now 

bring " 

Launfal answered, sorrowing, 
"It may not be so." 
Arthur bade his lords forthright 
Sit in judgment on the knight, 
Speak his doom straightway; 
Spake the earl of Cornwall free, 
(Leader of the council he) 
Boldly said him "Nay," 840 

"Mickle shame on us would light 

An we doomed this gentle knight, 

Fair is he, and free, 

This my lords, shall be my rede, 

We our king shall better lead, 

Launfal hence shall 10 ee." 

As they council hold that tide 

Maidens thro' the city ride, 

Ten, right fair to see; 

Yea, so fair were they, and bright, 850 



214 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



That the loathliest to sight 
Well a queen might be. 

Quoth Gawain, that knight so dear: 

"Brother, be of better cheer, 

See thy true love ride!" 

Launfal answered him : " I wis, 

None of these my true love is, 

Comrade true and tried!" 

To the castle are they gone, 

At the gate they 'light anon, 860 

To the king they win, 

Bade him in all haste prepare 

For their dame a chamber fair, 

Maid of royal kin. 

"Who is she?" King Arthur said 

' Ye shall wit well" spake the maid, 

"Hither doth she ride." 

Arthur bade prepare that hour 

For that maid the fairest bower 

In his palace wide; 870 

Then his barons straightway bade 

That the doom be not delayed 

Of that traitor's pride. 

But the barons quoth forthright: 

"Till we see those maidens bright 

Must our judgment bide." 

A new tale they weave also, 
Part of weal, and part of woe, 
To appease their lord; 879 

Some would judge Launfal, the knight, 
Some would speak him free by right, 
Diverse was their word. 
Maidens ten again they see, 
Fairer than the first they be, 
As they 'Id doom the knight 
Each one rode a mule of Spain, 
Saddle, bridle, of Champagne, 
Harness, gleaming bright. 

Clothed they were in silk of Tyre 
Each man yearned their fair attire 890 
Better to behold; 

Gawain quoth, that courteous knight: 
'* Launfal see, thy lady bright 



Freeth thee from hold!" 
Launfal quoth right drearily: 
"Strangers one and all they be, 
They, and all their race." 
To the hall the maids forthright 
Ride, and at the dais alight, 
'Fore King Arthur's face. 



90C 



King and queen they gracious greet; 
One maid spake, in fashion meet, 
To the king that hour: 
"Deck thy hall and hang the wall 
Eke with purple and with pall 
For fair Triamour!" 
Arthur answered them forthright, 
" Welcome be ye maidens bright, 
Yea, in Christ's own Name." 
Lancelot du Lake he bade 910 

To her fellows lead each maid 
Courteous, at that same. 

Then the queen, with thought of 

guile, 

Fearing Launfal, in a while, 
Should be spoken free 
Thro' his love, who thither came, 
Cried on Arthur at that same; 
"Sire, 't were courtesie, 
And for honour fit and right 
To avenge me of that knight 9?- 

Who set shame on me! 
Launfal should'st thou nowise spare, 
Fain thy lords were thee to snare, 
Dear to them is he!" 

As the queen spake on this wise, 

Lo! before the baron's eyes 

Rode a demoiselle, 

On a palfrey white and tall, 

Never such was seen withal, 

That I know right well, 9*1 

Light was she as bird on bough 

In all fashion fair enow 

A king's hall to grace, 

Bright as blossom blowing meet, 

Gray her eyes, her smile was sweet, 

Very fair her face. 



SIR LAUNFAL 



2T 5 



Red her cheeks as rose is red, 

And the hair upon her head 

As gold thread was bright; 

And her crown ye might behold 940 

Of rich stones, and ruddy gold, 

Gleaming in the light. 

Clad was she in purple pall, 

Slight of form, in waist full small, 

Seemly to men's sight; 

And her mantle, fair and wide, 

Showed, turned back on either side, 

Fur of ermine white. 

Rich her saddle was, I ween, 
With its skirts of velvet green 950 

Painted cunningly; 
And a border all of bells, 
Of pure gold, and nothing else 
That a man might see, 
Front and back, each saddle-bow 
Was with eastern gems a-glow, 
Gay exceedingly; 
And her palfrey trappings bare 
1 That were worth an earldom fair 
E'en in Lombardie. g6o 

Hawk on hand the lady rode, 

Soft and slow her steed, it trode, 

All might well behold; 

Thus thro' Karlion did she ride, 

Two white greyhounds, at her side, 

Collars bare of gold; 

Launfal saw that lady's face, 

Raised his voice, and in that place 

Cried on young and old; 

"Now may ye my true love see, 970 

Who may, an she gracious be, 

Set me free from hold!" 

Rode that lady to the hall 
1 Where the queen, and maidens all, 

Sat beside the king; 
j Swift to aid fair Triamour 

All her maidens, in that hour, 
, To her stirrup spring. 
i Straight her cloak she cast aside 

That the better in that tide, 980 



Men her form might see, 
Arthur would her gracious greet, 
And she spake, in answer meet, 
Words both fair and free. 

Stood the queen, and maidens all, 
They, that lady fair and tall, 
Fain would see with sight; 
All their beauty was fordone, 
As the moon before the sun 
Fades with morning light. 
Quoth she then unto the king: 
*' Sire, I come but for one thing, 
E'en to save my knight. 
Ne'er had he such traitorous thought 
That he the queen's love besought, 
Ne'er by day nor night! 

" Therefore, Sire, take heed to this, 

Tho' he prayed not, she, I wis, 

Fain his love would be; 

He refused her, and said 10 

That his true love's lowest maid 

Fairer were than she!" 

Arthur spake: "It needs no oath, 

All can see that, by my troth, 

Fairer far ye be!" 

To the queen the lady stept, 

But a breath her brow hath swept, 

Blind for aye is she. 

To her steed she leapt straightway, 

Quoth: **I bid ye all Good-day," 10 

No more would she bide. 

From the forest Geoffrey sped, 

Launfal's steed with him he led 

To his master's side. 

On his back he sprang, the knight, 

Tarried not, but thought forthright 

With his love to ride. 

And the maidens, every one, 

With their dame their way have gone 

In great joy and pride. 10 

Rode the lady thro' Carlisle, 
Far, unto a goodly isle, 
Oleron, 't was hight, 



2l6 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And each year, as falls that day, 
Launfal 's steed ye may hear neigh, 
Yea, and see with sight! 
He who fain a joust would see, 
Keep from rust his harness free, 
Or in field would fight, 
Needeth not to further ride, 
Jousts enow he'll find that tide 
With Launfal, the knight. 

Thus Launfal, who erst was found 
Good knight of the Table Round, 



1030 



Passed to Faerie; 

None in this land saw him more, 

Nor of him have better lore 

Than I tell to ye; 

Thomas Chester made this tale 

Of the good knight, Sir Launfale, 

Famed for chivalrie; 

Jesu Christ, we pray thee here, 

With Marie, Thy Mother dear, 

Send us blessings free ! 

Amen. 



1041 



SIR AMADACE 



THEN the good knight and his steward 

true 

They sat them down, and counsel drew 
Alike from far and near; 
Quoth the steward : " Sir ye owe yet more 
Than your lands have yielded heretofore 
E'en for this seven year, 
Of whom ye can, I beseech you pray 
He give you grace to a further day; 
Then call your household here, 
And put away many of your men, 10 
And keep but one where ye now keep ten 
Tho' they be ne'er so dear." 

Sir Amadace quoth : " 'T were long, to wit, 

Ere I of all these, my debts, were quit 

Altho' I naught might spend, 

Did I dwell the while where I was born 

I were held of every man in scorn 

Who now have many a friend ! 

Accursed of all men should I be 19 

Since I of their goods had been so free 

That they erst while did lend. 

Or I must hold them by fear and threat 

Lest that which was theirs again they 

get 
Thus made I a sorry end! 

" I will take unto me another rede, 
And another counsel, in this my need, 



Hid sorrow is better than seen ! 

But now good Steward, as thou hold'st 

me dear, 

Of my plight so sore let no man hear, 
Hide it us twain between! 30 

My land in pledge for seven years set, 
To the worth of all that I be in debt, 
So shall I be freed, I ween! 
For out of this land I think to wend 
The while I have silver and gold to spend 
Till of debt I be quit full clean. 

" But certes ere yet afar I fare 

My goods in right royal wise I'll share 

To aid me thou shalt not fail: 39 

Rich gifts will I give at each man's desire 

To noble knight and to humble squire, 

The poor shall his portion hail. 

For some there be, an they knew my 

woe, 
Who were even fain that it should be 

so, 

And naught would better my bale, 
So courteous a man was never born 
Who should 'scape from every breath of 

scorn 
When each man had told his tale!" 

Sir Amadace, so the tale doth say, 
Would get him forth, as fell the day, 50 



SIR AMADACE 



217 



From his country in that stound, 
But first full rich were the gifts he gave 
Alike to squire and knight so brave, 
Of steed and hawk and hound. 
Thereafter, so doth it run, my tale, 
He made him ready withouten fail 
And to his woe he found, 
When he upon his way would wend, 
Naught in his coffers had he to spend 
But barely forty pound ! 60 

Thus as I tell ye Sir Amadace 

Gat him forth on his way apace 

As fast as ever he might, 

He rode thro' a wood right cheerily 

Till he came to a chapel of stone and tree 

Wherein there burnt a light; 

He bade his servant thither speed, 

And take of that light therein good heed 

And tidings bear forthright. 

The servant, he hasted to do his will, 70 

But the stench of the chapel, he liked it 

ill, 
Withstand it no man might! 

His hood he drew over mouth and nose, 

And came to the chapel door full close, 

Tidings he fain would hear: 

He turned his eye to a pane of glass 

To see what marvels within might pass, 

And lo! there stood a bier, 

Around it candles, a goodly store, 

A woman watcher, and no man more, 80 

Christ, she was sad of cheer! 

To tarry there was he no-wise fain, 

Back to his master he sped again 

And told him the tale so drear. 

He quoth: "At yon chapel have I been, 
A wondrous sight I there have seen, 
My heart is heavy as lead; 
There standeth a bier, of lights great 

store, 
There sitteth a woman, and no man 

more, 

Bitter the tears she shed! oo 

So evil a savour there was alway 



That certes never before to-day 
Have I been so sore bestead ! 
By grace of the palfrey that I bestride 
But short while did I in that stress 

abide, 
I trow I had soon been dead!" 

Sir Amadace bade his squire to fare : 
"Ask thou of the woman what doth she 

there, 

True tidings bring to me!" 
The squire he gat to the chapel wall, 100 
And e'en as he said he saw withal, 
It vexed him right bitterly : 
But his nostrils were smitten with such 

a smell 

He might there in no-wise longer dwell, 
Back to his lord went he, 
And quoth: "Good Master, by your 

leave, 

Altho' I be loath your heart to grieve 
Naught may ye know thro' me ! 

" A bier and candles, and nothing more, 
A woman watching, and weeping sore, 
Christ, she hath mickle care ! m 

She sigheth sore, and her hands doth 

wring, 

And ever she calls on Heaven's King 
How long must he lie there? 
She saith: 'Dear God, why must this 

be, 

This sorrow that I needs must see, 
Why should he so foully fare?' 
She saith she will leave him not alone 
Till she lieth dead on that floor of stone 
For the love that to him she bare." 120 

Sir Amadace hearkened, and spurred his 

steed, 

To the chapel door he came with speed, 
And hastily did alight; 
As his squire had said, so he found it 

truth, 
T was the wickedest whiff he had smelt, 

i-sooth, 
Yet in went that gallant knight, 



8X8 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And he quoth: "Dame, God's mercy be 

with thee." 
She answered: "Sir, welcome may ye 

be," 

Greeting she gave aright. 
He quoth: "Say, Lady, what dost thou 

here, 130 

Watching this dead corpse on this bier 
Thus lonely throughout the night? " 

She saith: "Sir, my place is at his side 

For in sooth none other will here abide, 

He was my husband dear." 

Sir Amadace quoth: "I like it not, 

'T will be your death, so God me wot, 

He lieth o'er long on bier! 

But say, what manner of man was he? " 

"Sir, a merchant of good degree 140 

In this city; every year 

Of rent had he full three hundred pound, 

Of ready money, good and round, 

And for debt he lieth here!" 

Sir Amadace quoth: "By the Holy 
Rood, 

In what manner hath he so spent his 
good 

That thus it be all away?" 

"Sir, on knights, and squires, and offi 
cers, 

And lordings great who were his peers, 

He gave them gifts alway. 150 

Right royal feast he loved to make; 

The poor folk, too, for Christ's dear sake, 

He fed them every day; 

Who to his door should come anon 

And for love of God would pray a boon 

He ne'er would say him nay. 

" Yet in sooth he wrought as doth a fool, 
For he clad more men at every Yule 
Than ever a noble knight! 159 

His meat he thought in no wise to spare, 
The board in his hall was never bare 
With fair cloth richly dight; 
And if I said that he did amiss, 
He sware 'God would all repay,' I wis, 



And made of my words full light. 
To so much had he pledged his name 
I dare not say for very shame 
How sorry was his plight! 

"And then came death Ah, woe is 

me! 

My lord and I must sundered be, 170 
He left me sorrow sore! 
When the neighbours heard that sick he 

lay 

They came in haste, nor made delay, 
Of their goods they asked the store: 
All that was ever his or mine, 
House or oxen, sheep or swine, 
Forthwith from me they tore. 
My marriage portion then I sold, 
And all the pennies in payment told, 
And yet he owed still more ! 180 

" For when my quittance thus was told 

Yet thirty pounds of good red gold 

As debt remained alway, 

To a merchant of this city good 

Who fared afar by field and flood 

Nor came till dead he lay. 

Soon as he knew my sorry fare 

He came as grim as any bear 

The burial rites to stay: 

He sware dogs should his body draw 190 

And on the field his bones should gnaw 

Drear is my lot alway ! 

" These sixteen weeks I have sat me here 

Guarding this dead corpse on the bier 

With candles burning bright, 

And so I think to do alway 

Till death shall take me hence away 

By Mary, Maid of might!" 

Sir Amadace asked the merchant's name 

Who thus had done her grievous shame, 

She told him how he hight. 201 

He quoth: "God's Power may well 

avail 

To comfort thee, and cure thy bale, 
I bid thee, Dame, good-night!" 
Fytte 



SIR AMADACE 



219 



Sir Amadace on his palfrey leapt, 
Nor might forbear, but sorely wept, 
On his deeds he him bethought: 
He quoth: "He who lieth those walls 

within 

Of a truth he and I might well be kin 
For right so have I wrought!" 210 

He told his squire how the merchant 

hight, 

And said: "In his house I will lie to 
night 

By Christ Who dear me bought! 
Go, look that the supper be ordered fair 
With royal meats, and dainties rare, 
Of spices spare thou naught!" 

Soon as the squire he heard the tale 
To seek the merchant he did not fail 
Ajid made ready for the knight. 
Sir Amadace came with valiant show 
But in his heart was mickle woe, 221 
Hastily down he light, 
He gat him into a chamber there, 
And robed him in raiment rich and rare, 
Set torches burning bright; 
Forthwith he bade his squire to go 
And pray his host, and his wife also, 
To sup with him that night. 

Straightway the squire he went his way, 

And came to the merchant without delay, 

His errand told anon : 231 

The host right joyfully he sware: 

"By Christ Whom Mary Maid did bear, 

Thy lord's will shall be done!" 

The board was set, and the cloth was laid, 

The meal with dainties fair displayed, 

Thus to the dais they won ; 

Sir Amadace sat, and made good cheer, 

But he thought of the dead man on the 

bier, 
Full sadly he mused thereon. 240 

He quoth : " As I rode my way, I trow, 
I saw a sight which I think on now 
It grieveth me evermore, 
In a lonely chapel beside the way 



All on a bier a body lay, 

With a woman weeping sore." 

"Yea," quoth his host, "God give him 

woe, 

And all such wastrels as he also, 
He wrought me ill of yore; 249 

He lieth there with my thirty pound 
Of honest money, red gold and round, 
I shall see it never more!" 

Quoth the knight: "I will tell thee a 

better rede 
Forgive, e'en as God has forgiven, his 

deed, 

And merit thou sure shalt have; 
Think thou how God ordained for thee 
A better lot than this man might see, 
Let the corse be laid in grave!" 
Then he sware: "By Jesu, Mary's Son, 
That body its rest shall ne'er have won 
Till I have the price I crave; 261 

Let the woman die, as well as he, 
Dogs shall gnaw their bones, as I fain 

would see, 
Wastrel was he, and knave!" 

When Sir Amadace heard what the mer 
chant sware 

He bade his steward in haste to fare, 
Great kindness he did that day: 
He said: "Go fetch me thirty pound 
Of ready money good and round, 
Nor tarry upon the way." 270 

The steward, he held it for little skill, 
Yet needs must he do his master's will, 
Now hearken, for well ye may! 
Full thirty pound the knight paid him 

there, 
Then bade them the wine cup around to 

bear, 
And prayed his host be gay. 

Sir Amadace quoth: "Sir Host, now 

tell, 
Doth he owe thee more?" "Nay, God 

keep thee well, 
Thou hast paid me all, Sir Knight." / 



22O 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Then he quoth : " So far as ten pound will 
take 280 

That will I do for the dead man's sake, 
So far shall he have his right; 
Mass for his soul shall they say and sing, 
His body to Christian burial bring, 
That shalt thou see with sight. 
Bishop and priest shalt thou aye entreat 
That to-morrow they eat with me at 

meat, 
And see that the feast be dight." 

Whenever it came to dawning time 

Then all the bells began to chime 290 

To bring that soul from stress; 

All the religious, every one, 

Towards that dead corpse are they gone 

With many a rich burgess. 

Thirty the priests who that day did sing, 

And that gentle knight, he gave a ring 

At every Mass, no less. 

And then, when the service was done, 

full soon 

He prayed them to eat with him at noon 
Great, and small, in gentleness. 300 

The host, by a pillar he took his stand 
And men drew nigh him on either hand 
To wit what he would say 
He said: "Sirs, of late there hath lain 

here 

The corpse of a man upon a bier, 
Ye know the cause alway; 
Hither a royal knight he rode, 
Of all the money the dead man owed 
Hath he made me ready pay; 309 

Then from his coffer he bade them bring 
Ten pounds, with many a goodly ring 
For his burying here to-day. 

" In his name, and in that of the Dead, 

't is meet 

I bid ye to-day with him to eat 
All of ye who be here." 
As Sir Amadace prayed so did they all, 
Of meat and drink took their fill withal, 
Rich wine and food full dear. 



But Sir Amadace spared to sit adown, 
He served the poor folk of that town, 
They lay to his heart anear. 321 

When they had eaten their fill withal 
Sir Amadace took his leave of all, 
It seemed, of right good cheer. 

When all the folk thus had had their fill 
They saddled his palfrey at his will 
And brought it before the door; 
Sir Amadace, he was ready dight, 
But he knew not where he should lie that 

night, 

Of money had he no more! 330 

Small wonder if he were sad at heart 
When from all his goods he thus must 

part, 

In sooth it was sorry lore! 
Then, e'en as a courteous knight became, 
He prayed leave of the master of noblest 

name, 
So gentles were wont of yore ! 

And scarcely the knight had gone his way 
When every man would have his say 
Ere he had passed the gate; 339 

Some said: " This money was lightly won 
When thus like water he lets it run, 
And spendeth both morn and late." 
Some said: " He was born in a lucky day 
Who might win a penny of that man's 

pay!" 

Little they knew his state! 
Lo! how they misjudged that gentle 

knight 
Who had spent even more than he justly 

mighf, 
Sorrow was now his mate! 

At the six-mile stone he drew his rein 
Where a cross, it parted the way in 

twain, 35 

And he quoth, Sir Amadace, 
To his faithful steward, ('t was him full 

loth,) 
To his sumpterman, and his squires 

both, 



SIR AMADACE 



221 



And said: "Now by Christ, His Grace, 
Good Sirs, I pray ye do not grieve 
But now must ye take from me your 

leave 

Yourselves, ye know my case; 
No man will I longer with me lead 
When I have no silver that man to feed 
Or clothe, in any place!" 360 

Never a man was so hard of heart 
But when he thus from his lord must 

part, 

He made mourning, loud and low. 
Sir Amadace quoth: "Nay, have no 

care, 

For ye shall find masters everywhere, 
I wot well it shall be so. 
And God of His mercy, I give ye rede, 
May send me counsel in this my need, 
And bring me clean out of woe; 
Merry of heart shall I once more be, 
Then a welcome glad shall ye have from 

me, 371 

That would I have ye know." 

He quoth to his servants in that stound: 
"The worst steed here is worth full ten 

pound, 

That shall ye have anon; 
Sumpterman, steward, squire and knave, 
Each of you all for his own shall have 
The horse that he rides upon, 
Saddle, and bridle, and other gear, 
Altho' I bought it never so dear, 380 
I give it ye, by Saint John ! 
God keep ye all good men, I trow! 
To the keeping of Christ I commit ye 

now " 
So they left him, every one. 

Thus all his men they went their way 
And the knight, in sorrow he rode that 

day, 

All by himself alone. 
Through the forest thick the road led 

right, 
Down from his palfrey would he alight 



And, mournful, he made his moan, 390 
When he thought of his lands, so fair 

and good, 

His towns and castles that stately stood, 
How all were set on loan ; 
And how he was now so sore bestead 
That for poverty he afar had fled, 
For folly must thus atone. 

Then in sorrow he spake, Sir Amadas : 
"A man that of good but little has, 
Men set him lightly by; 
When I had three hundred pound of 

rent 400 

Two hundred I spent in that intent 
Of such forethought was I! 
The while I such household had at hand 
Men held me a noble lord in land, 
And gave to me honour high. 
But now may the wise man dwell at 

home 

While fools are forced afar to roam, 
And Christ wot, so may I! " 

He said: "Sweet Jesu, Who died on 

Rood, 

Who shed for me Thy Precious Blood, 
And all this world hath won, 411 

I pray that I come not in the sight 
Of any who knew me afore as knight, 
Save I prosper, 'neath moon and sun. 
And grant that I win unto me again 
Those who their way from me have 

ta'en, 

Who have loyal service done. 
Or else, Lord, I humbly pray of Thee 
That Death may come swiftly unto me, 
And my race betimes be run. 4?o 

" For want of wit, so it seemeth me, 
Out of the land I needs must flee, 
From friendship I find small grace: 
Thro' naught save good will and kindli 
ness 
Have I brought myself to this sorry 

stress " 
Thus prayed Sir Amadace : 



222 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And he quoth: "Lord Jesu, Who died on 

Tree, 
I pray Thee Thy succour send now to 

me 

Speedily, in this place; 429 

For if but a measure of help thou send 
I wot of that measure I fain would lend, 
Nor turn from the poor my face!" 

Thus he rode thro* the forest ways alone 
And deemed that no man might hear his 

moan, 

For no man was there in sight; 
Yet sudden a horseman was at his side, 
And spake to him hastily in that tide, 
Thereof was he sore affright: 
The horseman, he rode a milk-white 

steed, 

And milk-white, I ween, was all his weed 
He seemed a full gallant knight. 441 
Tho' Sir Amadace was to sorrow brought 
In courtesy was he lacking naught, 
Greeting he gave aright. 

Quoth the White Knight: "Say, Friend, 

shalt thou be he 

Who maketh his moan thus bitterly, 
With sad and sorry cheer?" 
Sir Amadace, he made answer, "Nay!" 
Quoth the knight: "That availeth thee 

naught alway, 

This long while have I been here; 450 
I rede thee to mourn not in such wise, 
He who falls, by the grace of God may 

rise, 

For His help is ever near. 
Riches are but a loan, I wot. 
Which thou hast, and again thou hast it 

not, 
Thou shalt find full many a peer! 

" Now think thou on Him Who died on 

Rood, 
Who shed for the world His Precious 

Blood, 

For thee, and for mankind all; 
The man who giveth in fashion free 460 



To his fellow of high, or of low, degree 

Shall reap his reward withal; 

He who ever dealeth in customs kind 

A courteous man, forsooth, shall find 

Who shall his need forestall. 

Repent thee of naught that thou hast 

done, 
For God, He Who shapeth moon and 

sun, 
Shall yet repay thee all. 

"Say, would 'st thou love him o'er 

everything 
Who should thee out of thy sorrow 

bring, 470 

And set thee free from care? 
To the land of a king art thou full 

near 

Who hath no treasure so close and dear 
As his daughter young and fair: 
He hath sworn to no man her hand to 

yield 
Save to hmi whom men reckon the first 

in field, 

Who the prize of the joust shall bear, 
Now I hold thee well for the goodliest 

knight 

That ever mine eyes have seen with sight 
Of all men who harness wear. 480 

" Thou shalt ride to the joust in such fair 

array 

As ever a knight of worship may, 
But thou needs must go alone: 
Thou shalt say: the folk who set forth 

with thee 
Were drowned in a tempest upon the 

sea, 

Thou hast lost them every one. 
Rich gifts shalt thou scatter with open 

hand, 
And shalt win thee the nobles of the 

land, 

I would have thee spare for none; 
See thou be fair of speech and free 490 
Till thou draw a following unto thee, 
From me is their payment won ! " 



SIR AMADACE 



223 



He quoth: "Be thou free of hand alway, 

The cost of thy household will I pay 

Tho' it count ten thousand head: 

For mickle honour thy deeds shall crown, 

Fair fields and forests, tower and town, 

That lady shalt thou wed! 

And when thou hast won thy friends to 

thee 

Then look thou again my face to see, 500 
I will seek thee in that stead. 
But a covenant make ere hence I fare 
That thou wilt freely with me share 
In such wise as thou hast sped! " 

Then answered him fair, Sir Amadace: 
"An thou hast power, by God's good 

grace, 

In this wise to comfort me, 
Thou shalt find me in all things true and 

leal, 

All that I have will I fairly deal 
In twain, 'twixt me and thee." 510 

The White Knight quoth: "Now 

Friend, Farewell, 

The blessing of God upon thee dwell, 
And work with thee verily." 
Sir Amadace answered: "Friend, God 

speed, 

I trow thou shalt find me in act and deed 
True as a man may be!" 
Fytte 

Sir Amadace came to the salt sea strand, 

And lo! ships lay broken upon the sand, 

A marvel it was to see ! 

Wreckage lay scattered here and there, 

Knights in armour and minevere, 521 

And strong steeds white and gray. 

Riches and goods in every guise 

That the heart of man might well devise 

Cast up by the waters lay; 

Chests and coffers of gold and good, 

Scattered among the wreckage stood, 

No man had borne aught away ! 

Sir Amadace robed himself with speed 
In a web of gold, a goodly weed, 530 



Better there might not be; 

He chose him a steed whereon to ride, 

A better methinks, might none bestride, 

Who jousting were fain to see. 

This chance befell him beside a tower, 

Thereafter he won to him great honour 

Within that fair citie. 

The king beheld that goodly knight, 

He, and his daughter fair and bright, 

The prize of the joust was she. 540 

The king to his daughter quoth that 

tide: 

"Lo! yonder a gallant knight doth ride." 
Messengers took he there, 
His body-squire, and of good knights 

three, 

And saith : " Go, see who yon man may be 
And whence he did hither fare. 
Tell him his goods shall be held in hand 
Wholly as he shall here command, 
For that shall he have no care. 540 

If he asketh aught that ye well may do 
Say ye that your will is good thereto, 
If hither in peace he fare." 

The messengers came to the salt sea 

strand, 

They took Sir Amadace by the hand, 
Tidings of him they pray : 
"Our lord, the king, us hath hither sent 
To welcome your coming with good 

intent 

An ye your will shall say. 
He saith, your goods shall be held in 

hand 

Wholly as ye shall here command, 560 
No lie do we speak to-day. 
Whatsoever ye will that the king's men 

do 
Ye have but to give them command 

thereto 
For service right glad and gay." 

Quoth Sir Amadace: "I was a prince of 

pride, 
And I had bethought me at this tide, 



224 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



At the tourney here to be: 

I was victualled well with meat and 

wine, 

With gallant steeds and harness fine, 
And good knights, verily, 570 

But such a storm did upon us break 
That my goodly ships are gone to wreck, 
As ye yourselves may see. 
Of gold and silver have I enow, 
But the men who sailed with me, I trow, 
Not one is left to me." 

Sir Amadace on his gallant steed 
Anon to the castle gates they lead, 
And told the king his case; 
The king, he quoth: "Thou art welcome 

here, 580 

I rede thee to be of joyful cheer, 
Thank Jesu for His Grace! 
So fierce a tempest hast thou been in, 
'Twas a right fair hap that thou 

should'st win 
To shelter in this place. 
But of all the men I have seen, I trow, 
None have come so near to my heart as 

thou 
Who art fair of speech and face." 

Thereon the king, for that good knight's 

sake, 

A cry through the city bade them make, 
And stablished it by decree, SQT 

That all who a master were fain to find 
Of knight or squire, of knave or hind, 
Each man in his degree, 
Should get him unto Sir Amadace, 
Who found himself in such sorry case, 
His men had been drowned at sea. 
He would give them payment as much 

and more 

As any master had done before, 
An they would with him be. 600 

The gentlemen all who heard that cry 
They gat them to him right hastily, 
Of his service were they fain, 
So when the Tourney abroad was cried 



There was no lord on either side 

With half such gallant train ! 

There did he win to him great renown 

In field and meadow, tower and town, 

Castles he held again; 

A hundred steeds and more he won, 610 

One half he gave to the King anon, 

Parting his prize in twain. 

Thence to the palace the knights would 

fare, 

Thither they went, and would not spare, 
As fast as they might ride; 
The King made that knight full noble 

cheer, 
And saith: "Now welcome my friend so 

dear, 

Ye be come in a happy tide! " 
He called him his daughter so fair and 

sweet, 
And they sat them down to the board at 

meat, 620 

The knight by the maiden's side; 
Each on the other to gaze was fain, 
The love-light was kindled betwixt the 

twain, 
True lovers were they and tried ! 

Then the king, he led Sir Amadace 
Aside with him for a little space, 
And thus to him did say : 
"Sir Knight, I have but one daughter 

fair, 

Of all my lands shall she be the heir, 
She ate with thee to-day: 630 

An thou be a man who would wed a 

wife, 

I swear to thee truly by my life, 
I will give thee that gentle may; 
And another gift I will with her give, 
The half of my kingdom while I live, 
And the whole when I be away!" 

"Gramercy, 9fae!" quoth Sir Amadace: 
He thanked the king for his royal grace, 
And for his gifts so good. 
Thereafter, so the tale doth say, 640 



SIR AMADACE 



225 



They made forthwith to the kirk their 

way, 

He wedded her, by the Rood ! 
Of gold he gave freely in that stound, 
Largesse of silver, many a pound, 
As on their way they rode; 
Then they sat them down to feast in hall 
Full many a lord and lady, all 
Who were of gentle blood. 

Thus came Sir Amadace forth of woe, 
God grant us His grace, that we find it 

so 650 

Great feasting did they make! 
The revel lasted a good fortnight, 
With meat and drink the board was 

dight, 

Nor spears they spared to break; 
A year and a half with that lady fair 
He dwelt, and a son unto him she bare, 
Great mirth made for his sake! 
Now listen, lordings, and ye shall hear 
How there came to him his comrade 

dear, 
His share of all to take. 660 

He came in raiment so sheen and fair, 

Even as he an angel were, 

Clad was he all in white : 

The porter his errand fain would know, 

He quoth: "Do thou to thy master go 

And bear my words aright; 

Go quickly, and if he ask aught of me, 

Whence I be come, and of what countrie, 

Say, I ride all in white; 

And say that we twain have together 

been, 670 

Methinks, he aforetime my face hath 

seen, 
jf he be a loyal knight!" 

The porter, he sped to the castle hall, 
Full soon he had sought out his lord 

withal, 

And he hailed him thus anon: 
"Lord, lord, there be come the fairest 

knight 



Whom ever mine eyes have seen with 

sight, 

Beneath or sun or moon, 
White as the snow his gallant steed, 
White as the snow his knightly weed, 
He asketh of thee no boon, 681 

He saith that ye have together been 
I trow who aforetime his face hath seen 
Shall know him again eftsoon!" 

"Is he come?" quoth the knight, "my 

comrade dear, 

I trow me he is right welcome here, 
As behoveth him well to be ! 
Now one and all, here I make command 
That ye do to this knight, with foot and 

hand, 

Such service as due to me!" 690 

Sir Amadace straight to the portal drew, 
And with him she went, his lady true, 
WTio was right fair to see; 
And she made him welcome with right 

good cheer, 
For the friends of her lord to her heart 

were dear, 
Blessed such wives as she! 

Who should stable his charger then? 
Knight, squire, yeoman, nor serving 

men, 

No one with him he brought: 699 

Gentlemen gladly would take his steed, 
Knights would him fain to his chamber 

lead, 

Thereof would he have naught. 
He saith: "Nay, certes, the sooth to tell, 
Here will I eat, nor drink, nor dwell, 
By Christ, Who dear me bought! 
But now shalt thou deal thy goods in 

two, 

Give me my portion, and let me go, 
If I be worthy aught!" 

Then quoth Sir Amadace fair and free : 
"For the love of God, let such words be, 
They grieve my heart full sore, 711 

For we may not part in equal share 



226 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Our lands that lie so broad and fair, 

In a fortnight's space, and more! 

But let us dwell together here, 

E'en as we twain were brethren dear, 

And thine the treasure store! 

'T were well the rest should not parted 

be, 

But we hold it all as due to thee, 
Methinks 't were the better lore!" 720 

The White Knight quoth: "Keep thy 

lands so wide, 

Thy towers, and castles, on every side, 
Of these do I covet none: 
Keep thou thy woods, thy waters clear, 
Thy fields and forests far and near, 
Thy rings with sparkling stone; 
Thy silver and thy gold so red, 
I trow they may stand me in no stead, 
I swear it by Saint John! 729 

But upon thy faith, and without strife, 
Give me half thy child, and half thy wife, 
To fare with me anon!" 

Then Sir Amadace cried with woeful 

cheer : 

"Alas, that I won this lady dear, 
Or aught of this world's good! 
For the love of Him Who died on tree, 
Whatsoever thou wilt, that do with me, 
By Him Who died on Rood! 
Yea, take all the goods that here I have 
With thee, but her life I prithee save!" 
The knight, he understood, 741 

And he sware: "By God, Who dear me 

bought, 

Of other things I will have naught 
Of all thy worldly good! 

" Think thou on the covenant that we 

made 
In the wood, when thou wast so sore 

dismayed, 

How thou didst speak me fair!" 
Sir Amadace quoth: "'T is truth alway, 
But methinks should I now my lady 

slay 



A deadly sin it were!" 750 

The lady fair, right well she knew 
How the matter stood betwixt the two, 
She stayed her weeping there 
And spake: "As thou art a loyal knight 
Thy covenant shalt thou keep aright, 
Nor for love of me forbear!" 

Then bravely she spake, that lady 

bright, 
"Thou shalt keep thy faith with this 

goodly knight, 
By the Blessed Trinity; 
Ye made a covenant true and fast, 760 
Look it be holden to the last, 
By Him Who died on Tree! 
If the Will of Christ must needs be so 
Take me, and part me here in two, 
My lord art thou verily! 
God forbid that for true love's sake 
A scorn of thy name in the land I make, 
And falsehood of fealty!" 

Steadfast she stood, and fair of face, 
Nor shed a tear, a little space, 770 

Then quoth that lady dear: 
"Fetch me my little son so fair 
Whom a while since I of my body bare, 
Lay him my heart anear." 
"Now," quoth the White Knight: 

"answer me, 
Which of the twain shall more precious 

be?" 

He saith: "My wife so dear!" 
"Then since thou lovest her the best 
Thou shalt part her in twain at my 

behest, 
Her flesh asunder shear!" 780 

Then when Sir Amadace needs must se<* 
That never a better lot might be 
He fared as he were wood; 
And all the men who were in that hall 
Swooning for sorrow adown they fall, 
Who erst by their master stood: 
They made ready a board whereon to lie, 
She kissed her lord full tenderly, 



SIR AMADACE 



227 



And signed her with Holy Rood. 789 
Then meekly she laid her down in place, 
And they drew a cloth across her face, 
That lady mild of mood! 

Quoth the White Knight: "I would not 

do thee wrong, 

The goods which of right unto thee be 
long, 

Thou shalt part them at thy will:" 
Then answered Sir Amadace fair and free: 
" E'en as thou sayest, so shall it be, 
Thy wish would I fulfil." 
Sir Amadace lifted his sword alway 
To smite the lady who lowly lay 800 
Quoth the White Knight: " Peace, be 

still!" 

He lifted the lady and child so fair, 
And gave them again to Sir Amadace 

there, 
And quoth, "That were little skill! 

" I blame thee little, by this my troth, 
If to slay such lady thou wert full loth, 
Tho' it were thy pledge to save: 
But now shalt thou know I was e'en as 

glad 

When thou gavest all that ever thou had 
My body to lay in grave! 810 

Unburied, I lay, doomed the hounds to 

feed, 
First thirty pounds didst thou pay at 

need, 

Then all that thou didst have. 
I prayed God to bring thee forth from 

care 

Who hadst made thyself of goods so bare, 
Mine honour and name to save ! 

"Now, farewell," he said: "my comrade 

dear, 

For no longer may I linger here 
Nor speak with thee at will : 
But see thou cherish her as thy life 820 
Who had given her body withouten 

strife 
Thy covenant to fulfil!" 



With that he swift from their sight did 

pass 

As dew it melteth from off the grass, 
And the twain abode there still; 
Then down they knelt them upon their 

knee, 
And gave thanks to God, and to Mary 

free, 
Who had guarded them from ill! 

Thus Sir Amadace, and his gentle wife, 
With joy and bliss they passed their life 
Unto their dying day. 831 

I wot there be ladies not a few 
To-day, who had been to their lord as 

true, 

Yet some would have said him nay! 
But whoso serveth right faithfully 
Our Lord, and His Mother Maid Marie 
Of him would I soothly say, 
Tho' like misfortune at times befall 
Yet God shall grant Him his will withal, 
And lead him in Heaven's way. 840 

His messengers then that good knight 

sent, 

Far and near thro' the land they went 
E'en to his own countrle, 
Till all unto whom his lands he sold, 
Field or forest, town or hold, 
Were bought out rightfully. 
His steward and those who to him were 

dear 

He sent, and called them again anear, 
And dowered with gold and fee, 
That they with him their days might 

spend 850 

Evermore, unto their life's end, 
In gladness and peace to be. 

And then it chanced, at God's good will, 
The king died, and the knight abode 

there still, 

As ye shall understand: 
And now was he lord of town and tower, 
They came to his bidding in that hour 
The knights throughout the land: 



228 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 


They crowned Sir Amadace on that 
day 
With golden crown, in royal array, 860 
And bowed to his command. 


Now pray we One God, in Persons 
Three, 
To gladden and comfort this companie, 
And keep us safe in His Hand! 



YWAIN AND GAWAIN 



THE WINNING OF THE LADY 
OF THE FOUNTAIN 1 

THEN went Sir Ywain to his inn, 
His men he ready found therein, 
Unto a squire then did he say: 
"My palfrey saddle now straightway, 
The same do by my strongest steed, 
And take with thee my richest weed; 
At yonder gate I forth will ride, 
Without the town I will abide. 
Now hie thee swiftly unto me, 
I go a journey, speedily, 10 

My palfrey thou again shalt bring, 
And speak no word of this same thing 
If me again thou fain would 'st see, 
Let none know of this secresy, 
If any man would fain be told, 
See that thou, loyal, promise hold." 
"Yea, sir," he quoth, "with right good 
will, 

All that thou biddest, I'll fulfil, 
And at your own will shall ye ride, 
Thro' me, ye shall of none be spied." 20 

Forth did he go then, Sir Ywain, 
He thinketh, ere he come again, 
To 'venge his cousin, an he might 
The squire, he hath his harness dight, 
He followed aye his master's rede, 
Brought him his harness and his steed. 
When Ywain was without the town 
He from his palfrey lighted down, 
Robed him, as fitting, in his weed, 
And leapt upon his goodly steed, 30 
Into the country rode forthright, 

i Ywain and Gawain, ed. Schleich, 11. 565-1266. 



Until the day drew nigh to night. 
He rode by many a mountain high, 
Desert, and plain, he passed them by, 
Until he to that pathway came 
Which he must needs take, at that 

same, 

Then was he sure that he should see 
The fountain, and the wondrous tree. 
The castle he beheld at last, 
Thither he hied him fair and fast, 40 
More courtesy, and honour fair, 
1 trow me, were his portion there 
And comforts more, by manifold, 
Than Colgrevance in sooth had told; 
Within that tower he lodged, I wot, 
Better than e'er had been his lot. 

At morn he rode forth on the street, 
And with the churl right soon did 

meet 

Who should direct him on his way 
He crossed himself, the sooth to say, sc 
Twenty times, in a little span. 
Such marvel had he of that man, 
He wondered much so foul a wight 
E'er on this earth had seen the light. 
Then to the well he rode, swift pace, 
Down he alighted in that place, 
The basin would he take anon, 
Water he cast upon the stone; 
Full soon there followed, without fail, 
Both wind and thunder, rain and hail, 60 
When ceased the storm, he straight did 

see 

The birds alight upon that tree, 
They sang as sweetly on the bough 
As they had done afore, I trow. 



YWAIN AND GAWAIN 



229 



And then, full soon, he saw a knight, 
Coming as swift as bird in flight, 
With semblance stern, and wrathful 

cheer, 

And hastily he drew anear. 
To speak of love they thought no more 
For each the other hated sore, 70 

They drive together on the field, 
Riven full soon is each knight's shield, 
Shivered to haft, their spears they fell, 
But each knight kept his seat full well. 
Then forth they drew their swords so 

keen, 

Dealt doughty strokes, the twain be 
tween. 

To pieces have they hewn each shield, 
! The fragments fly full far afield; 
They smite the helms with wrath and 

ire, 

At every stroke outbursts the fire; 80 
Buffets right good they give, indeed, 
But neither stirs from off his steed 
Boldly, the twain, they shew their 

might, 

I trow it was no feint, their fight! 
As from their hauberks men might 

know 

The blood did from their bodies flow, 
Each on the other smote so fast 
i No long time might such battle last. 
| Hauberks were broken, helmets riven, 
Strong strokes, and stiff, I trow, were 
given; 90 

Yet on their steeds they fought always 
| The battle was the more to praise. 
Sir Ywain, at the last, doth show, 
Valiant, his might against his foe, 
So eagerly he smote him there 
Helmet and head, he cleft them fair, 
The knight was well-nigh slain, indeed, 
Flight was, he knew, the better rede, 
And fast he fled, with might and main, 
And fast he followed, Sir Ywain; 100 
But he might not his flight overtake, 
Therefore great mourning did he make, 
Yet followed stoutly where he fled, 
Full fain to take him, quick, or dead. 



So to the city followed he 

And ne'er a living man did see; 

Both, to the castle-gate they win 

Ywain would swiftly pass therein; 

At either entry hung, I wis, 

Full straitly wrought, a portcullis, no 

With iron and steel 't was shod full 

well 

Fitting right closely where it fell. 
There-under, was a blade so keen 
That sore misliked the knight, I ween 
His horse's foot, it touched thereon, 
The portcullis, it fell anon, 
Before the hinder saddle-bow, 
Saddle, and steed, it smote them thro* 
The spurs from off his heels it shore 
Sir Ywain, he must mourn him sore, 120 
But, ere he could have passed them 

quite, 

The other gate, it closed full tight. 
'T was of God's Grace it chanced so 
That tho' it cut his steed in two, 
And smote the spurs from either heel 
Yet he himself no harm did feel. 
Betwixt the gates he's captive now, 
Much mourning did he make, I trow, 
And much bemoaned his evil plight 129 
And that he'd thus escaped, the knight- 
As in a trap he stood, withal, 
He heard behind him, in a wall, 
A doorway open, fair and well, 
Thereout there came a demoiselle, 
The door behind her fast did make 
And gracious words to him she spake. 
"Sir, by Saint Michael," thus quoth she, 
"Here hast thou evil hostelry, 
Dead art thou, dost thou here remain, 
For this, my lord, whom thou hast 

slain, 140 

For sooth it is, thou didst him slay, 
My lady mourneth sore alway, 
Yea, and his household, every one, 
Full many a foeman there hast won. 
Yea, for thy bane they be full bold, 
Thou comest not from out this hold, 
They shall not fail for very might, 
Slay thee they will, in open fight." 



230 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



He quoth: "By God, Who gave me 

breath 

Numbers shall ne'er do me to death. 150 
Their hands on me they ne'er shall 

lay" 

"Nay, certes," quoth she, "an I may, 
For tho' thou be full straitly stead 
Methinks, in no wise art adread; 
And Sir," she quoth: "I owe to thee 
Service and honour fair and free; 
Long time ago, I needs must bring, 
When young, a message to the King 
Such wisdom had I not, or wit, 
As doth a maiden well befit, 160 

And from the time I did alight 
At court, was none so courteous knight 
Who unto me would then take heed, 
Save thou alone, God give thee meed! 
Great honour didst thou do to me 
And I shall now repay it thee. 
Tho' seldom I thee saw, I trow, 
By birth, King Urien's son art thou, 
And men shall thee, Sir Ywain, call; 
Of me thou may'st be sure withal, 170 
Wilt thou my counsel follow still 
No man shall do thee harm or ill; 
My ring I here will leave with thee, 
(But at my asking yield it me,) 
When thou be brought from out thy 

pain 

Then shalt thou give it me again. 
For as the bark doth shield the tree, 
E'en so my ring shall shelter thee, 
When on thy hand thou bear the stone 
Of mischief men shall do thee none. 180 
For this same stone, it hath such might 
That no man shall of thee have sight." 
Now wit ye well, that Sir Ywain, 
Of these her words, he was full fain; 
In at the door she hath him led, 
And set him down upon her bed, 
A noble quilt, it lay thereon, 
Richer, I trow, was never none, 
She said, if he would aught, anon, 
That, at his liking, should be done; 190 
He said to eat was he full fain; 
She went, and swiftly came again, 



A roasted capon brought she soon, 
With a clean cloth, and bread thereon, 
A jar of rich wine too, she bore, 
And cup, wherein the wine to pour. 
With right good cheer he drank and 

ate, 

I trow, his need thereof was great. 
When he had drunk, and eaten well, 
A noise, upon his ears it fell, 200 

Men sought for him, they would him 

slay, 

Fain to avenge their lord were they, 
Ere that the corpse in earth was laid 
The demoiselle, she to him said : 
"Thy foemen seek to slay thee now, 
But whoso comes or goes, do thou 
Of them be in no wise adread, 
But stir thou not from out this stead; 
Within this chamber seek they will, 200 
But on this couch here hold thee still, 
And of them all thou shalt make light. 
But when they bear the corpse forth* 

right 

Unto the kirk, upon the bier, 
Forsooth, a sorry cry shalt hear, 
Then shall they make a doleful din, 
Then shall they seek thee oft herein, 
But look thou be of heart full light, 
Never of thee shall they have sight, 
Here shalt thou be, maugre their beard, 
And therefore be nowise afeard; 220 
Thy foes shall be e'en as the blind, 
Seeking before thee, and behind, 
On every side shalt thou be sought. 
Now must I go, but fear thee naught, 
I'll do as shall be good for thee 
Tho' ill thereof should come to me." 

Then to the portal forth she gat, 
Full many men she found thereat, 
Well armed they were, and were full fo'Ji 
Sir Ywain to have caught, and slain. 230 
Half of his steed they found that day 
Where dead within the gate it lay, 
But of the knight there found they 

naught. 
There mickle grief had they unsought, 



YWAIN AND GAWAIN 



231 



Of door or window, was there none 
Thro' which he might away have gone. 
They quoth, that there he needs must be 
Unless in witchcraft skilled were he, 
Or nigromancy well had known, 
Or else on wings away had flown. 240 
Thus, hastily, they gat them all, 
And sought him in the maiden's hall, 
In chambers high, where naught did 

hide, 

In cellars deep, on every side; 
Ywain, of that was well aware, 
Still on the couch he held him there, 
No man amid them all who might 
Come nigh, a blow thereon to smite. 
But all about they smote so fast 240 
That they their weapons brake at last, 
And great their sorrow, and their woe, 
That they their vengeance must forego. 
They went their way with doleful cheer, 
And soon thereafter came the bier, 
A lady followed, milk-white, fair, 
None with her beauty might compare, 
She wrung her hands, out-burst the 

blood, 

For sorrow was she well nigh wood; 
Her locks so fair she tare eft-soon, 
And oft she fell adown in swoon, 260 
In doleful tone she mourned her loss 
The holy water, and the Cross 
Men bare before that train anon; 
There followed many a mother's son, 
Before the corpse a knight bestrode 
The dead man's steed, a charger good, 
In all his harness well arrayed, 
With spear and shield fitly displayed. 
The cry, Sir Ywain heard it there, 
The dole of this, the lady fair, 270 

None might surpass her grief and woe 
When thus her lord to grave must go, 
The priests and monks, in fit degree, 
They do the service solemnly. 

Lunete, she stood within the throng 
Until Sir Ywain deemed it long, 
\ Then from the crowd she goes again, 
Swiftly she seeketh Sir Ywain, 



She quoth: "How goes it Sir, with thee? 
I trust thou well advised shalt be?" 280 
"Certes," he quoth, "thou speakest 

well, 

Abashed was I the sooth to tell"; 
He quoth: "Leman, I pray of thee 
If it in any wise may be, 
That I may look a little space 
Thro' hole or window, in this place, 
For wondrous fain" he quoth, "am I 
To see your lady, verily." 
That maid, she soon undid withal, 
A little wicket in the wall, 290 

There of that dame he gat a sight: 
Aloud she cried on God's great Might: 
"Have mercy on his sins, I pray, 
For in no land there lived alway 
A knight who was so fair as he, 
And none such may there ever be 
Thro' the wide world, beneath the sun, 
So fair, so courteous, was there none! 
God grant thee grace, that so thou 

may 

Dwell with His Son, in endless day. 300 
So generous liveth none on land, 
Nor none so doughty of their hand." 
When thus her speech to end was brought 
Swooning, oft-times she fell, distraught. 

Now let we that fair lady be, 

Of Ywain speak we presently, 

Love, that so mickle is of might, 

With sore wounds doth Sir Ywain smite, 

That wheresoe'er he ride, or go, 

She hath his heart who was his foe. 310 

His heart is surely set, I ween, 

Where he himself dare not be seen; 

Thus, sorely longing, bideth he, 

Hoping his lot may bettered be. 

All men who at that burial were 

Their leave take of that lady fair, 

And to their home they all be gone 

The lady have they left alone, 

She with her waiting-maid doth dwell. 

And others, whom she loveth well, jao 

Then her lament began anew 

For sorrow paled her skin and hue, 



232 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



For his soul's health her beads she 

told 

She took a psalter all of gold, 
To say the psalms she swift began 
And took no heed to any man. 
Sir Ywain woeful was indeed, 
For little hope had he to speed, 328 

He quoth: "Here am I much to blame 
Since I love them who would me shame, 
But yet I wrought her woe, 't is true, 
Since I it was her lord who slew; 
Nor know I how I may begin, 
With trick or wile, her love to win; 
Slender that lady is, and small, 
Her eyes be clear as crystal all, 
Certes, no man on earth that be 
Could tell her beauties fittingly." 
Thus was Sir Ywain sore bestead, 
From Reason's path aside was led 340 
To set his love on one, who 'Id see 
Him brought to death right willingly; 
He said, he 'Id have that dame to wife 
Or in that cause would lose his life. 

Thus doth he sit and think amain: 
The maiden comes to him again, 
She said: "How hast thou fared to-day 
Since that from thee I went away?" 
Soon did she see him wan and pale 
And knew right well what did him ail, 
She quoth: "I know what would thy 
heart, 351 

To hinder it were ne'er my part, 
Certes, I'll help thee out of ward 
And bring thee to a sure reward, " 
He quoth: "Now Lady, certainly, 
Hence will I steal not, privily, 
But I will go in full day-light 
So that I be in all men's sight, 
Openly, and on every side 
What matters it what may betide? 360 
But as a man I hence will fare." 
Then answered him that maiden fair: 
"Sir, thou shalt hence in honour go, 
And goodly succour shalt thou know, 
But Sir, abide here patiently 
Until I come again to thee." 



Soothly she knew his heart's intent, 

And therefore 't was she wisely went 

Unto the lady fair and bright, 

For unto her she freely might 370 

Say all that was within her will, 

For that she was her mistress still, 

Keeper, and counsellor full dear 

To her she spake as ye shall hear 

In counsel good betwixt the twain 

"Madam, to marvel am I fain 

That ye thus grieve, and sorrow sore; 

For God's sake, give your mourning 

o'er, 

Bethink ye now of this one thing, 379 
How that he comes, Arthur the King, 
Bethink ye of that message well 
That late the sauvage Demoiselle 
Did in her letter to ye send 
Alas ! Who shall ye now defend, 
Your land, and all your folk, I pray 
Since ye will not your weeping stay? 
Ah ! madam, now take heed to me, 
You have no knight in this countrie 
Who durst his body risk at need 
Upon the chance of doughty deed, 390 
Nor who should dare withstand the 

boast 

Of Arthur, and his goodly host. 
Yet if none dare the king withstand 
Then ye, for certain lose your land!" 

The lady understood full well 
Why in this wise her counsel fell, 
She bade her swiftly leave her there, 
And that she should in no wise dare 
To speak with her such words again 
Her heart, for grief, to break was 

fain. 400 

She quoth : " Now get thee hence away ! " 
The maiden thus began to say : 
"Madam, 't is often women's mood 
To blame those who give counsel good." 
She went her way, dismayed for 

naught, 

And then the lady her bethought 
The maid, in sooth, had said no wrong, 
And so she sat, and pondered long. 



YWAIN AND GAWAIN 



233 



In study thus she sat alone: 
The maiden, she returned anon, 410 
"Madam," she said, "a child ye be, 
Yourself may ye harm easily, 
Chastise your heart, Madam, I pray, 
Great shame it doth to ye alway, 
Thus sore to weep and make great cry, 
Think thou on all thy chivalry; 
Dost deem that all thy knighthood's 

flower 

Died with their lord, in that same hour, 
And were with him put under mold? 
Nay, God forbid such tale were told, 420 
For better knights than he shall be!" 
"By Heaven's Queen, thou liest!" 

quoth she; 

"Now tell me, if so be thou can, 
Where shall be found such valiant man 
As he was, who was wed with me?" 
"Yea, can I, an thou promise free 
And give me full assurance here 
That thou shalt hold me none less dear!" 
She quoth: "Now be thou sure alway 
That for no word that thou canst say 430 
Will I wax wrathful against thee " 
"Madam," she said, "now answer me, 
I'll tell a secret in thine ear, 
And no one save we twain shall hear. 
Say, if two knights be in the field, 
Mounted on steed, with spear and 

shield, 

And one be by the other slain 
Which is the better of the twain?" 
She quoth : " Now he who wins the fight ! " 
"Yea," saith the maiden, "ye be right; 
The knight who lives shall braver be 441 
Than was your lord, since slain was he. 
Your lord, he fled from out the place, 
The other knight, he gave him chase, 
And followed him e'en to his hold 
Here may ye wit that he was bold." 
The lady quoth: "Thou doest shame 
Here before me to speak his name, 
Thou sayest neither sooth nor right, 
Now get thee swiftly from my sight!" 
The maiden said: "So may it be, 451 
And yet but now ye promised me 



Ye would in no wise me miscall " 
With that she gat her from the hall, 
And hastily she went again 
Unto her bower, to Sir Ywain. 
The lady pondered thro' the night 
How she in no wise knew a knight 
To keep her land, as guardian stout, 
Against King Arthur and his rout. 460 
Then she began herself to shame, 
And in her heart she took much blame, 
'Gainst herself brought reproaches 

strong 

She quoth: "I trow, I did her wrong, 
Now doth she deem I never more 
Will love her, as I did afore; 
I'll love her well, in grateful mood, 
For all she said was for my good." 

With morning light the maiden rose, 
And soon unto the chamber goes, 470 
There did she find that fair ladie 
Hanging her head full drearily, 
There, where she left her, yestere'en 
Then, in such wise she spake, I ween, 
E'en as she spake the day before 
Thus spake the dame: "It rues me 

sore 

That I miscalled thee yesterday, 
Amends I'll make, if so I may, 
For of that knight I fain would hear, 
Who is he? Say, whence came he here? 
I trow I spake too hastily, 481 

I '11 do as thou shalt counsel me. 
Now, ere thou leave, tell me aright 
If he be gently born, this knight?" 
"Madam," she saith, "I swear to thee, 
Of better birth shall no man be, 
The fairest man ye shall him find 
Of all men born of Adam's kind." 
"To know his name I sure were fain " 
"Lady," she quoth, "it is Ywain 490 
And gentler knight was never none, 
Unto King Urien is he son." 
Content she was to hear that thing, 
That he was son unto a king: 
"Now bring him here into my sight 
Sometime 'twixt this, and the third night, 



234 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Or earlier, if it so might be, 
I am full fain that knight to see. 
Nay, bring him, if thou canst, to 
night" 

"Madam," she quoth, "that were not 
light, 500 

His dwelling further is away 
Than one may journey in a day, 
But I have a swift-footed page 
Who'll do that journey in a stage 
And bring him here to-morrow night.*' 
The lady quoth: "See, if he might 
To-morrow eve be here again " 
"Yea, he shall speed with might and 

main." 

"Bid him to hasten on his way, 
I will his service well repay, 510 

A higher post shall be his boon 
An so he do his errand soon/* 
"Madam," she quoth, "my word I 

plight 

To have him here ere the third night; 
The while unto your council send, 
And ask them who shall ye defend, 
Your well, your castle, and your land, 
Against King Arthur, and his band, 
For of them all I trow is none 
Who such a battle will not shun. 5*0 
Then shall ye say: *I needs must take 
A lord to do what ye forsake ' 
Ye needs must have some noble knight 
Who will and may defend your right, 
And say: were death your lot alway 
Ye would but do as they shall say. 
Blithe shall they be of this, your speech, 
And thank ye oft-times, all and each." 
The lady quoth: "By God's great Might 
I'll talk with them this very night, 530 
Methinks too long thou here dost stay, 
Send forth thy messenger straightway." 

Then was the lady glad and gay, 
She did all that her maid did say; 
Unto her council sent anon, 
And bade them come there, every one. 
The maid to play her part was fain. 
A bath made ready for Ywain, 



Clad him right well in scarlet fold, 
Well furred, and trimmed with fret of 

gold; 540 

A girdle rich she brought him there, 
Of silk enwrought with stones so fair. 
She told him all that he should do, 
When he was come that lady to, 
And thus, when he was ready dight, 
She to her mistress went forthright, 
And said, he came, her messenger 
She swiftly spake: "Now, let me hear, 
As thou would'st thrive, comes he 

straightway ? " 540 

"Madam," she quoth, "without delay 
I'll bring him swiftly to ye here " 
Then quoth the dame, with gladsome 

cheer : 

" Go, bring him hither privily 
That none may know, save thou and I." 
With that the maiden went again, 
Swiftly she came to Sir Ywain, 
She quoth: "Sir, as I bliss may win, 
My lady knows thou art within, 
To come before her be thou bold, 539 
And keep in mind what I have told." 
Then by the hand she took the knight, 
And led him to the bower forthright, 
Before her lady sooth to tell 
Her coming, it rejoiced her well. 
Sir Ywain feared much at that same, 
When he unto the chamber came, 
The chamber floor, and all the bed, 
With cloth of gold was overspread, 
For peerless knight she doth him take, 
But never word to him she spake. 570 
For fear, he fain aback would draw, 
The maiden laughed, when this she 

saw, 

And quoth: "Now ill befall that knight 
Who hath of such a lady sight, 
And to her dare not shew his mind! 
Come forth, Sir Knight, and courage 

find, 

Fear not my lady smiteth thee, 
She loves thee well, and guilelessly, 
Do thou to her for mercy cry, 
And for thy sake, e'en so will I, 580 



YWAIN AND GAWAIN 



235 



That she forgive thee, in this stead, 

For Salados, le Roux, now dead, 

That was her lord, whom thou hast 

slain " 

Upon his knees fell Sir Ywain, 
"Madam, I yield me to your will, 
Do with me as shall please ye still, 
E'en if I might, I would not flee " 
She quoth: "Now, wherefore should 

that be? 

If I to death should do thee now, 
Small profit 't were to me, I trow. 590 
But since so humble thou shalt be, 
And in such wise be come to me, 
And thus hath put thee in my grace, 
I here forgive thee in this place. 
Sit down," she said, "and tell me here 
Wherefore dost shew such gracious 

cheer?" 
"Madam," he quoth, "with but one 

look, 

My heart erstwhile thou captive took, 
Since first thou earnest to my sight 
Have I thee loved, with all my might; 
Other than thee, my lady fair, 601 

Hath in my love nor part, nor share, 
And for thy love prepared am I 
Faithful to live, or faithful die." 
She quoth: "Now durst thou undertake, 
In this, my land, true peace to make, 
And steadfast to uphold my rights 
Against King Arthur, and his knights?" 
He quoth: "Yea, surely, as I thrive, 
'Gainst him, or any man alive!" 610 
Such counsel had she ta'en ere this, 
She quoth : " Now are we friends, I wis." 
Her lords to counsel her were fain 
To take a lord to her again. 

Swiftly she went unto the hall, 
Assembled were her barons all, 
There did they hold their parliament 
That she should wed, by their assent. 
She quoth: "Sirs, ye with one accord, 
Have said, I needs must have a lord 620 
My lands to govern and defend 
Say now, whereto your rede doth tend?" 



"Madam," they quoth: "your will now 

do, 

And we will all assent thereto." 
Straightway the lady went again 
Unto her bower, to Sir Ywain, 
She quoth: "By God, this vow I make, 
None other lord than thee to take, 
If I thee left, that were not right, 629 
King's son art thou, and noble knight." 

Now has the maid done as she thought 
Sir Ywain out of anger brought, 
The lady led him to the hall, 
Before him rose the barons all, 
And all men said, with certainty, 
"This knight shall wed with our Lady." 
And soothly said, themselves between, 
So fair a man they ne'er had seen 
"So fair is he in hall and bower 
He seemeth well an emperour, 640 

We would that these twain were troth- 
plight 

And wedded, aye, this very night." 
She sat her down, that lady fair, 
And bade them all keep silence there, 
And bade her steward somewhat say 
Ere that from court men went away. 
The steward said: "Sirs, understand, 
That war doth threaten this, our land, 
King Arthur, he be ready dight 
To come within this fourteen-night, 650 
He thinketh, with his knights, the king, 
This land within his power to bring; 
They know full well that he be dead 
Who once was ruler in this stead, 
None have we here weapons to wield, 
No man our land boldly to shield, 
Women may ne'er maintain their power, 
They need a lord, and governour. 
Therefore our lady needs must wed, 
E'en hastily, for very dread, 660 

But to no lord her will is bent 
Save that it be with your consent." 
The lords, a-row, to counsel fell, 
They deemed that he had spoken well, 
And with one voice assent they make 
That at her will a lord she take. 



236 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Therewith the lady spake forthright: 
"What think ye now of this same 

knight? 

He proffers here, in every wise 
To serve me, as I may devise, 670 

And certes, sirs, the sooth to say, 
I saw him never ere to-day. 
But, so I trow the tidings run, 
Unto King Urien is he son; 
He cometh of high parentage, 
Most doughty he, in vassalage, 
Wary, and wise, and courteous he, 
And fain his wife he 'Id have me be. 
Nevertheless, I trow, he might 679 

Have chosen better, 'twere his right!" 
Then with one voice the barons said: 
"Madam, we hold us well repaid, 
But hasten ye, if so ye may, 
That ye be wed this very day." 



And prayer from every side they make 
That she be pleased the knight to take. 

Then soon unto the kirk they went, 
And wedded were, with full consent; 
Full solemnly was wedded there 
Ywain, to Alundyne, the fair, 690 
Duke's daughter of Landuit, she 
Else should her country wasted be. 
The marriage did they celebrate 
Among their barons, all in state, 
And mickle mirth they made that day, 
And feasting fair, with rich array 
Rejoicing great they made that stead, 
And all forgotten is the dead. 
Of him, sometime their lord so free, 699 
They say, this knight is worth the three. 
And that they love him mickle more 
Than him, who was their lord before. 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



DEAR Lords, listen now to me, 
Hearken words but two or three 
Of a hero fair and free, 

Who was fierce in fight; 
His right name was Percyvelle, 
He was fostered on the fell, 
Drank the water of the well 

Vet was valiant wight. 
Of a nobleman the son, 
Who, since that he first begun, 
Goodly praise and worship won 

When he was made knight. 
In the good King Arthur's hall 
He was best beloved of all, 
Percyvelle they did him call 

Whoso reads aright. 

Who the tale aright can read 
Knows him one of doughty deed, 
A stiff knight upon a steed, 

Wielding weapons bold; 
Therefore did the King Arthour 
Do unto him great honour, 



Gave his sister Acheflour 

For to have and hold 
As his wife, to his life's end; 
And with her broad lands to spend, 
For right well the knight he kenned 

Gave her to his hold. 
And of goodly gifts full share 
Gave he with his sister there, 30 

(As it pleased the twain full fair,) 

With her, robes in fold. 

There he gave him robes in fold, 
And broad lands of wood and wold 
With a store of goods untold 

That the maid he take; 
To the kirk the knight did ride 
There to wed that gentle bride 
For rich gifts and lands so wide 

And for her own sake; 4 

Si then, without more debate, 
Was the bridal held in state 
For her sake who, as her mate, 

This good knight would take; 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



237 



Afterward, withouten let, 
A great jousting there was set, 
And of all the knights he met 
None would he forsake. 

None would he forsake that stead, 
Not the Black Knight, nor the Red, 50 
None who there against him sped 

With or shaft or shield; 
There he did as noble knight, 
Who well holdeth what he hight, 
And full well he proved his might, 

All to him must yield; 
There full sixty shafts I say 
Brake Syr Percy velle that day, 
On the wall his bride, she lay, 

Watched him weapons wield. 60 

Tho' the Red Knight, he had sworn, 
From his saddle is he borne, 
And, well nigh of life forlorn, 

Lieth on the field. 

As he lay there on the wold 
Many a man must him behold 
Who, thro' shield and armour's hold, 

'Stonied was that tide; 
All men marvelled who were there, 
Whether great or small they were, 70 
That thus Percyvelle should dare 

Doleful dints abide; 
There was no man, great or small, 
No, not one amongst them all, 
Who on grass dare risk a fall 

And would 'gainst him ride; 
There Syr Percyvelle that day 
Bare the tourney's prize away, 
Homeward did he take his way, 

Blithe was she, his bride! 80 

But tho' blithe the bride, and gay 
That her lord had won the day 
Yet the Red Knight sick he lay 

Wounded by his hand; 
Therefore goodly gifts he plight 
That, an he recover might, 
And again by day or night, 

In the field might stand, 



That he'ld quit him of the blow 
Which he from his hand must know, 90 
Nor his travail fruitless go, 

Nor be told in land 
That Syr Percyvelle, in field, 
Thus had shamed him under shield 
Payment full for that he'ld yield 

If in life he stand! 

Now in life they be, the two, 

But the Red Knight naught may do 

To bring scathe upon his foe 

Till the harm befell; 100 

As it chanced, there fell no strife 
Till that Percyvelle, in life, 
Had a son by his young wife, 

After him to dwell; 
And whenas that child was born 
He bade call him on the morn 
By the name his sire had worn, 

Even Percyvelle; 

Then the knight was fain to make 
Feast for this, his young son's sake, no 
Thus without delay they spake 

And of jousting tell. 

Now of jousting do they tell, 
And they say, Syr Percyvelle, 
In the field he thinks to dwell 

As he aye has done; 
There a jousting great they set 
E'en of all the knights they met 
For he would his son should get 

That same fame anon ; 120 

When thereof the Red Knight heard 
Blithe was he of that same word, 
Armed him swift with shield and sword, 

Thither hath he gone; 
'Gainst Syr Percyvelle would ride 
With broad shield and shaft that tide, 
There his vow he would abide, 

Mastery maketh moan! 



Mastery, it hath made moan 
Percyvelle right well hath done 
For the love of his young son, 
On the opening day, 



130 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Ere the Red Knight thither won 
Percyvelle smote many a one, 
Duke, earl, knight, and eke baron 

Vanquished in the play; 
Honour had he won for dower, 
Came the Red Knight in that hour 
But, "Woe worth false armour" 

Percyvelle may say! 140 

There Syr Percyvelle was slain 
That the Red Knight was full fain 
In his heart, I will maintain, 

When he went his way ! 

When he went upon his way, 
Then no man durst aught to say 
Were it earnest, were it play, 

For to bid him bide; 
Since that he had slain right there 
The best champion that was e'er, 150 
With full many a wound so sare, 

'Stonied all that tide; 
Then no better rede had they 
Than the knight to lowly lay, 
As men must the dead alway, 

And in earth must hide: 
She who was but now his wife 
Sorely might she rue her life, 
Such a lord to lose in strife, 

She ailed not for pride. 160 

Now is Percyvelle, the knight, 
Slain in battle and in fight, 
And her word that lady plight, 

Keep it if she may, 
That ne'er, so her vow doth run, 
She will dwell with her young son 
Where such deeds of arms were 
done, 

Nor by night, nor day. 
In the woodland shall he be, 
Where, forsooth, he naught shall see 170 
But the green and leafy tree, 

And the groves so gray; 
Never shall his mind be bent 
Nor on joust nor tournament, 
But in the wild wood content, 

He with beasts shall play ! 



There with wild beasts should he play 
Thus her leave she took straightway, 
Both of king and lord that day, 

Gat her to the wood ; 180 

Left behind her bower and hall, 
But one maid she took withal, 
Who should answer to her call, 

When in need she stood; 
Other goods would she have naught, 
But a flock of goats she brought, 
For their milk might serve, she thought, 

For their livelihood; 
And of all her lord's fair gear 
Naught she beareth with her here igo 
Save a little Scottish spear, 

Serve her son it should. 

And when her young son should go 

In the woodland to and fro', 

That same spear, I 'Id have ye know, 

She gave him one day ; 
"Mother sweet," then straight quoth 

he, 

" Say, what may this strange thing be, 
Which ye now have given me, 

What its name, I pray?" 200 

Then she spake, that fair ladie, 
"Son," she quoth, "now hearken me, 
This a doughty dart shall be 

Found in woodland way." 
Then the child was pleased at heart 
That she gave to him this dart, 
Therewith he made many smart 

In the woodland gay. 

Thus amid the woodland glade 

Dart in hand, the lad, he strayed, ant 

Underneath the wild wood's shade, 

Throve there mightily, 
And with this, his spear, would sUy 
Of wild beasts and other prey 
All that he might bear away, 

Goodly lad was he; 
Small birds too, he shot them there, 
Many a hart and hind so fair 
Homeward to his mother bare, 

Never lack had she. 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



239 



So well did he learn to shoot, 
There was no beast went afoot, 
But in flight might find small boot, 
Run them down would he! 

All the prey he marked, it fell 
Thus he grew and throve right well, 
Was a strong lad, sooth to tell, 

Tho' his years were few; 
Fifteen winters, yea, and more, 
Dwelt he in those holts so hoar, 230 

Naught of nurture nor of lore 

From his mother knew; 
Till it fell upon a day, 
That to him she thus did say: 
" Sweet son, now I rede thee pray 

To God's Son so true, 
By His aid to prosper thee, 
So that, by His Majesty, 
Thou a good man well may'st be 

And long life thy due!" 240 

" Mother sweet," then answered he, 
"Say, what kind of god is He 
Whom thou now hast bidden me 

In this wise to pray?" 
"Son, 't is the great God of Heaven," 
So she spake, "within days seven 
Hath He made both Earth and Heaven, 

Ere closed the sixth day." 
"By great God," his answer ran, 
"An I may but meet that man, 250 

Then, with all the craft I can, 

I to Him will pray!" 
Thus then, did he live and wait, 
E'en within his mother's gate, 
For the great God lay in wait, 

Find Him if he may! 

Then, as thro' holts hoar he fled, 
So the chance befell that stead, 
That three knights toward him sped, 

Of King Arthur's inn; 260 

One, King Urien's son, Ywain, 
And with him was good Gawain, 
Sir Kay rode with the twain, 

All were of his kin; 



Thus in raiment rich they ride, 
But the lad had naught that tide 
Wherewith he his bones might hide, 

Saving a goat's skin; 
Burly was he, broad to see, 
On each side a skin had he, 270 

Of the same his hood should be 

Even to his chin. 

The hood came but to his chin, 
And the flesh was turned within, 
The lad's wit, it was full thin 

When he should say aught; 
And the knights were all in green, 
Such as he had never seen, 
Well he deemed that they had been 

The great God he sought; 280 

And he spake: "Which of ye three 
Shall in sooth the great God be, 
Who, my mother told to me, 

Hath this wide world wrought?" 
Straight made answer Sir Gawain, 
Fair and courteous spake again: 
"Son, so Christ to me be fain, 

Such shall we be naught." 

Then he quoth, the foolish child, 

W 7 ho had come from woodland wild, 290 

To Gawain the meek and mild, 

Soft of speech and fair: 
"I shall slay ye now all three 
Save ye straightway tell to me 
What things ye shall surely be, 

Since no Gods ye were?" 
Swift he answered him, Sir Kay, 
"Yea, and then who should we say 
Were our slayer here to-day 

In this woodland bare?" 30* 

At Kay's words he waxed full wroth, 
Save a great buck 'twixt them both 
Stood, I trow me, little loth, 

Had he slain him there. 

But Gawain, he quoth to Kay: 
"Thy proud words shall us betray, 
I would win this child with play, 
Would'st thou hold thee still." 



240 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"Sweet son," in this wise spake 

he, 

"Knights, I trow we be, all three, 310 
With King Arthur dwelling free 

Who waits on the hill." 
Quoth then Percyvelle, so light, 
He who was in goatskin dight: 
" Will King Arthur make me knight, 

An I seek him still?" 
Then Sir Gawain answered there: 
"That to say, I do not dare, 
To the king 1 rede thee fare, 

Ask of him his will." 



320 



330 



Thus to know King Arthur's will, 
Where he tarried stayed they still, 
And the child he hastened, till 

To his home he came. 
As he sped him thro* the wood, 
There he saw a full fair stud 
Both of colts and mares so good, 

But not one was tame; 
And he said: "Now, by Saint John, 
Such beasts as I now see yon, 
Such the knights did ride upon, 

Knew I but their name! 
But as I may thrive, or thee, 
E'en the biggest that I see 
It shall shortly carry me 

Home urto my dame!" 



"When I come unto my dame 
An I find her, at this same, 
She will tell to me the name 

Of this stranger thing." 
Then, I trow, the biggest mare 
Swiftly did he run down there, 
Quoth: "I trow thou shalt me bear 

With morn, to the King." 
Saddle-gear the lad did lack, 
Sprang upon the horse's back, 
She bare him the homeward track, 

Failed him for no thing. 
Then his mother, woe-begone, 
Wist not what to do anon, 350 

When she saw her youthful son 

A steed with him bring. 



340 



Horse she saw him homeward bring; 
And she wist well by that thing 
What is in-born out will spring 

Spite of wiles she sought. 
Swift she spake, the fair ladie: 
"That this dole I needs must dree, 
For the love of thy body 

That I dear have bought!" 360 

"Dear son," so she spake him fair, 
"Much unrest for thee I bear, 
What wilt do with this same mare 

That thou home hast brought?" 
But the boy was blithe and gay 
When he heard his mother say 
This, the brood-mare's name alway, 

Of naught else he thought. 

Now he calleth her a mare, 

E'en as did his mother ere, 370 

Such he deemed all horses were, 

And were named, i' fay; 
"Mother, on yon hill I've been, 
There three knights I now have seen, 
And with them have spoke, I ween, 

These words did I say : 
I have promised them all three, 
That I with their king will be, 
Such an one shall he make me 

As they be to-day." 380 

Thus he sware by God's great Might: 
"I shall keep the words I plight, 
Save the king shall make me knight 

Him with morn I'll slay." 

Spake the mother full of woe, 
For her son she grieved so 
That she thought she death should 
know, 

Knelt down on her knee: 
"Son, bast ta'en to thee this rede, 
Thou wilt turn to knightly deed, 300 
Now where'er strange fate may lead, 

This I counsel thee; 
Morn is furthermost Yule-day, 
And thou say'st thou wilt away 
To make thee knight, if so thou may, 

So hast told to me; 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



241 



Dost of nurture little know, 
Now in all things measure show 
If in hall or bower thou go, 
And of hand be free." 



400 



Then she quoth, the lady bright: 
"Where thou meetest with a knight 
Doff thy hood to him forthright, 

Greet him courteously; " 
"Mother sweet," he answered then, 
" Saw I never any men, 
If a knight I now should ken 

Tell the sign whereby?" 
Then she showed him miniver, 
For such robes she had by her, 410 

"Son, where thou shalt see such fur 

On their hoods to lie." 
"By Great God," then answered he, 
"Where that I a knight may see 
Mother, as thou biddest me, 

Even so do I." 

All that night till it was day 
He beside his mother lay, 
With the morn he would away, 

May what will betide; 420 

Bridle had he never none, 
In its stead, he naught hath won, 
But a withy took anon 

This, his steed, to guide; 
Then his mother took a ring, 
Bade the same again to bring: 
"This shall be our tokening 

Here I '11 thee abide." 
Ring and spear he taketh there, 
Springeth up astride the mare, 430 

From the mother who him bare 

Forth the lad doth ride. 

Fytte II 

On his way, as he did ride, 
Stood a hall, his way beside, 
"Now for aught that may betide 

Here within will I." 
Without let within he strode, 
Found a broad board set with food, 
A well plenished fire of wood 



Burning bright thereby. 440 

And a manger too, he found, 
Therein corn, it lay, unground, 
To the same his mare he bound 

E'en with his withy. 
Said: "My mother counselled me 
That I should of measure be, 
Half of all that here I see 

I shall let it He." 

Thus the corn, he parts it fair, 

One half gives unto his mare, 450 

To the board betakes him there 

Well assured that tide; 
Found a loaf of bread so fine, 
And a pitcher, full of wine, 
And a mess, whereon to dine, 

With a knife beside. 
All the meat he findeth there 
With his hands, in even share 
He doth part "One half the fare 

Shall for other bide." 460 

And the one half eateth he, 
Could he more of measure be? 
He of hand would fain be free, 

Tho' he had no pride! 

Tho' the lad he had no pride, 
Further did he go that tide 
To a chamber there beside 

Wonders more to see; 
Clothing rich he there found spread, 
Slept a lady there, on bed, 470 

Quoth: "A token that we wed 

Shalt thou leave with me." 
Then he kissed her, that sweet thing, 
From her finger took a ring, 
His own mother's tokening 

Left her there in fee. 
Then he went forth to his mare, 
The short spear he with him bare, 
Leapt aloft as he was ere, 

On his way rides he. 480 

Now upon his way rides he, 
Marvels more full fain to see, 
And a knight he needs must be 



242 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



With no more delay. 
He came where the king should be. 
Served of the first mess was he, 
And to him, right hastily, 

Doth he make his way; 
Hindrance brooked not, nor debate, 
E'en at wicket, door, or gate, 490 

Gat in swift, nor thought to wait, 

Masterful, that day; 
E'en at his first entering, 
This, his mare, no lie I sing, 
Kissed the forehead of the king, 

Came so close alway. 

Startled was the king, I trow, 
And his hands, he raised them now, 
Turned aside from off his brow 

Muzzle of the mare; 500 

And he quoth: "Fair child, and free, 
Stand thou still, aside of me, 
Say from whence thou now shalt be, 

And thy will declare?" 
Quoth the fool to Arthur mild: 
"I be mine own mother's child 
Come from out the woodland wild 

Unto Arthur fair; 
Yesterday I saw knights three, 
Such an one make thou of me 510 

Here, on this my mare by thee, 

Ere thy meat thou share.'* 

Out then spake Sir Gawain free, 
Carver to the king was he, 
Saith: "Forsooth, no lie this be, 

I was one, i' fay. 

Child, now take thou my blessing 
For thy fearless following, 
Here in sooth hast found the king 

Who makes knights alway." 520 

Then quoth Percy velle the free: 
"Now, if this King Arthur be, 
Look a knight he make of me 

Even as I say:" 
Tho' he were uncouthly dight, 
He sware: "By God's mickle Might, 
Save the king shall make me knight, A 

Here I shall him slay." 



All who heard him, young and old, 
Marvelling, the king behold 530 

That he suffer words so bold 

From so foul a wight; 
Stayed his horse the king beside 
Arthur looked on him that tide, 
Then for sorrow sore he sighed 

As he saw that sight; 
Tears fell from his eyes apace, 
Following each the other's trace, 
Quoth the king: "Alas, this place 

Knew me, day, or night 540 

That without him I should be 
Living, who was like to thee, 
Who so seemly art to see 

An thou wert well dight!" 

Quoth the king: "Wert better dight, 
Thou wert like unto a knight, 
Whom I loved with all my might 

Whiles he was in life; 
And so well he wrought my will, 
In all ways of knightly skill, 530 

That my sister, of goodwill, 

Gave I him for wife. 
For him must I make my moan, 
He, now fifteen years agone, 
By a thief to death was done 

For a little strife; 
Sithen am I that man's foe, 
For to wreak upon him woe, 
Death thro' me he may not know 

He in crafts is rife !" 560 

Quoth: "His crafts they be so rife 

There is no man now in life 

Who, with sword, or spear, or knife, 

'Gainst him may avail, 
Save but Percy velle's young son; 
An he knew what he had done, 
The book saith, he might anon 

'Venge his father's bale," 
The lad deemed too long he stayed 
Ere that he a knight was made, 570 
That he e'er a father had, 

Knowledge did him fail; 
Thus his meaning less should be 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



243 



When unto the king said he: 
"Sir, now let thy chattering be, 
I heed not such tale." 

Quoth: "I think not here to stand, 

Nor thy chatter understand, 

Make me knight with this, thy hand, 

If it may be done." 580 

Courteously, the king, he hight 
That he now would dub him knight 
If that he adown would light 

Eat with him at noon; 
Saw the king his face so free, 
Evermore he trowed that he, 
This child, of a sooth should be 

Percy velle's own son; 
And it ran in the king's mood, 
Acheflour, his sister good, 530 

How she gat her to the wood 

With her boy alone. 

This boy, he came from the wood, 
Evil knew he not, nor good, 
And the king, he understood, 

He was a wild wight; 
So he spake him fair withal 
Then he lighted down in hall, 
Bound his mare among them all, 

To the board was dight; 600 

But, ere that he might begin, 
Or unto the meat might win, 
'Mid them all, the hall within, 

Came he, the Red Knight; 
Pricking on a blood-red steed, 
Blood-red too, was all his weed, 
Fain to mock them all at need 

With crafts, as he might. 

With his crafts began to call, 
Loudly hailed them recreants all, 610 
| King and knights within that wall 

At the board they bide; 
Roughly took the cup in hand 
That before the king did stand, 
None withstood him, all that band 

Deemed him mad that tide ; 
Portion full of wine it bare, 



The Red Knight, he drank it there, 
And the cup was very fair 

All of red gold tried. 620 

In his hand, as there it stood, 
Took he up that cup so good, 
Left them sitting at their food, 

And from thence did ride. 

As from them he rode away, 
He who made this tale doth say 
The grief that on Arthur lay 

Never tongue might tell; 
"Ah, dear God!" the king, he said, 
"Thou Who all this wide world made, 
Shall this man be ever stayed, 631 

Yon fiend forced to dwell? 
Five years has he, in this way, 
Borne my cup from me away, 
And my good knight did he slay, 

E'en Syr Percyvelle. 
Sithen, has he taken three, 
And from hence he rideth free 
Ere that I may harness me 

Him in field to fell!" 640 

"Peter!" Percyvelle doth cry, 
"Strike that knight adown will I, 
And thy cup bring presently, 

Wilt thou make me knight." 
"As I be true king," said he, 
"I will make a knight of thee 
If again thou bringest me 

This, my cup so bright." 
Up he rose, I trow, the king, 
To his chamber hastening, 650 

Thence good armour would he bring 

That the lad be dight; 
Ere the armour down was cast, 
Percyvelle from hall had passed, 
On his track he followed fast 

Whom he thought to fight. 

With his foe he goes to fight, 
He none other wise was dight 
But in goatskins three, to sight, 

As a fool he were; 660 

Cried: "Man, on thy mare now hear, 



244 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Bring again now the king's gear, 
Or I '11 smite thee with my spear, 

And make thee less fair!" 
After the Red Knight would ride 
Boldly, would for naught abide, 
Quoth: "A knight I'll be this tide, 

Of thine armour heir!" 
And he sware by Christ's sore Pain : 
"Save thou bring this cup again 670 
With my dart thou shalt be slain, 

Cast down from thy mare!" 
When the knight beheld him so, 
Fool he deemed who was his foe 
Since that he had called it so, 

This his steed, a mare. 

Thus to see him well with sight 
He his vizor raised forthright, 
To behold how he was dight 

Whose words sense did lack; 680 

Quoth: "An I reach thee, thou fool, 
I will cast thee in the pool, 
E'en for all the Feast of Yule, 

As thou wert a sack!" 
Then quoth Percy velle the free: 
"Fool or no, whate'er I be, 
This I trow, we soon shall see 

Whose brows shall be black ! " 
There his skill the lad would try, 
At the knight a dart let fly, 690 

Smote him full there in the eye, 

Came out at the back ! 

For the blow that he must bear, 
From the saddle shaken there, 
Who the sooth will hearken fair, 

The Red Knight was slain! 
On the hill he fell down dead, 
While his steed, at will it fled, 
Percy velle quoth in that stead: 

"Art a lazy swain!" 700 

Quoth the child in that same tide: 
"Would'st thou here my coming bide, 
I to catch thy mare will ride, 

Bring her thee again; 
Then I trow we twain with might, 
Will as men together fight, 



Each of us as he were knight 
Till the one be slain." 

Now the Red Knight lieth slain, 

Left for dead upon the plain, yio 

And the boy doth ride amain, 

After his good steed; 
But 't was swifter than the mare, 
For naught else it had to bear 
But the harness, fast and fair 

Fled, from rider freed; 
Big with foal the mare that tide, 
Of stout make was she beside, 
Little power to run when tried, 

Nor pursue with speed; 730 

The lad saw how it should be, 
Swift adown to foot sprang he, 
And the right way hastily 

Ran, as he had need. 

Thus, fleet-foot, the lad he fled, 
On his way he surely sped, 
Caught, strong -hand, the steed that 
stead, 

Brought it to the knight; 
"Now a fell foe shalt thou be, 
Wilt not steal away from me, 730 

Now I pray thou dealest free 

Blows, as fits a knight! 
See, thy mare I bring thee here, 
Mickle of thy other gear, 
Mount, as when thou first anear 

Came, an thou wilt fight!" 
Speechless still the knight he lay, 
He was dead, what could he say? 
The child knew no better way 

Than adown to light. 740 

Percy velle adown is light, 

Of his arms would spoil the knight, 

But he might not find aright, 

How was laced the weed; 
Armed was he from head to heel 
In iron harness, and in steel; 
The lad knew not how to deal, 

Aid himself in need; 
Quoth: "My mother counselled me 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



245 



When my dart should broken be, 750 
From the iron burn the tree, 

Fire is now my need." 
Thus he seeks a flint straightway, 
His fire-iron he takes that day, 
And with never more delay 

He a spark hath freed. 

Kindles there a flame, I trow, 
Mid the bushes seeking now, 
Swift he gathers branch and bough, 

That a fire would make; 760 

There a great blaze doth he light, 
Thinks therein to burn the knight, 
Since he knew no better sleight 

This, his gear, to take. 
Now Sir Gawain, he was dight, 
Followed fast to see the fight 
Twixt the lad, and the Red Knight, 

All for the boy's sake; 
Found the Red Knight where he fell, 
Slain was he by Percyvelle, 770 

And a fire, that burnt right well, 

Birch and oak did make! 

Of these twain the fire alway, 

Great the brands and black, that day; 

"With this fire what wilt thou, say?" 

Quoth he, soft and still. 
"Peter!" quoth the boy also, 
"An I thus the knight might know, 
From his iron I'll burn him so, 

Right here, on the hill." 780 

Answered him the good Gawain: 
"Since the Red Knight thou hast 

slain, 
To disarm him am I fain, 

Wilt thou hold thee still." 
Then Sir Gawain down did light, 
Took his harness from the knight, 
On the child the same did dight, 

E'en at his own will. 

In his armour doth he stand, 
Takes the knight's neck in his hand, 790 
Casts him on the burning brand 
There to feed the flame; 



Then quoth Percyvelle in boast: 
"Lie thou still therein and roast, 
I keep nothing of thy cost, 

Naught that from thee came." 
Burns the knight, and none doth heed, 
Clad the boy is in his weed, 
And hath leapt upon his steed, 

Well-pleased, at that same; 800 

He looked downward at his feet, 
Saw his gear so fair and meet, 
"Men may me as knight entreat, 

Call me by that name!" 

Quoth Gawain the boy unto : 
"From this hill I rede we go, 
Hast done what thou willed to do, 

Near it draws to night." 
Quoth the lad: "Dost trow this thing, 
That unto thy lord and king, 810 

I myself again will bring 

This, his gold so bright? 
Nay, so I may thrive, or thee, 
I'm as great a lord as he, 
Ne'er to-day he maketh me, 

Any way a knight! 
Take thou now the cup so fair, 
And thyself the present bear, 
Forth in land I'll further fare 

Ere from steed I light." 820 

Neither would the lad alight, 

Nor would wend with that good 

knight, 
Forth he rideth all the night, 

So proud was he then; 
Till at morn, on the fourth day, 
With a witch met, so men say, 
And his horse and fair array, 

She right well might ken; 
And she deemed that it had been Sag 
The Red Knight, whom she had seen 
In those arms afore, I ween, 

Such steed spurred he then; 
Swiftly she to him would hie, 
Quoth: "In sooth I tell no lie, 
Men said, thou didst surely die, 

Slain by Arthur's men ! 



246 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"Of my men one but now came 
From yon hill, and at that same, 
Where thou see'st the fierce fire flame, 

Said that thou wast there!" 840 

Percy velle he sat stone still, 
Answer made he none, until 
She had spoken all her will, 

Never word spake there : 
"I on yonder hill have been, 
Nothing else I there have seen, 
But goat-skins, naught else, I ween, 

Than such worthless fare." 
" My son, tho' thou there wast slain, 
And thine armour from thee ta'en, 850 
I could make thee whole again, 

Hale, as thou wert e'er." 

Then by that wist Percyvelle 
It had served him right well 
That wild fire he made on fell, 

When the knight was slain; 
And he deemed 't were well that she 
In that self -same place should be; 
That old witch on spear bare he 

To the fire again; 860 

There in mickle wrath and ire 
Cast the witch into the fire: 
"With the son thou didst desire 

Lie ye still, ye twain." 
Thus the lad, he left them there, 
And upon his way did fare, 
Such-like deeds to do and dare, 

Was the child full fain. 

Came he by a forest side, 

There ten men, he saw them ride, 870 

Quoth: "For aught that may betide 

With them would I be." 
When the ten they saw him, they 
Deemed him the Red Knight alway, 
Who would seek them all to slay, 

Fast they turned to flee; 
Since he so was clad that stead, 
For their life from him they fled, 
Aye the faster that they sped 

Faster followed he. 880 

Till he knew one for a knight, 



Of the miniver had sight, 
Put his vizor up forthright: 
"Sir, God look on thee!" 

Quoth the child: "God look on thee!" 
Quoth the knight: "Well may'st thou 

be, 
Ah! Lord God, now well is me 

That I live this day!" 
By his face right well he thought 
The Red Knight it should be naught, 
Who as foeman had them sought, 891 

Boldly there did stay; 
For it seemed him by the sight 
That the lad had slain the knight 
In whose armour he was dight, 

Rode his steed alway; 
Soon the knight, he spoke again, 
And to thank the child was fain; 
"Thou the fiercest foe hast slain 

Who beset me aye!" coo 

Quoth then Percyvelle the free, 
Saith: "Now wherefore did ye flee 
All of ye when ye saw me 

Riding here anigh?" 
Then he spake, that aged knight, 
Who was past his day of nJght, 
Nor with any man might fight, 

Answered, loud and high,, 
Saying: "These nine children herfe 
They be all my sons so dear Q** 

Since to lose them I must fear 

For that cause fled I, 
For we deemed that it had been 
The Red Knight we now had seen. 
He had slain us all, I ween, 

With great cruelty. 

"Without mercy he were fain 
One and all of us were slain, 
To my sons he'd envy ta'en 

Most of any men: 9* 

Fifteen years agone, 't is true, 
That same thief my brother slew 
And hath set himself anew 

For to slay us then; 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



247 



Fearing lest my sons should know 
When they should to manhood grow, 
And should slay him as their foe 

Where they might him ken. 
Had I been in that same stead 
When he smote my brother dead, 930 
I had never eaten bread, 

Till I'd burned him then!" 

"Burned," quoth Percy velle, "he is, 
I sped better than I wist," 
As the last word he must list 

Blither waxed the knight; 
By his hall their road it fell, 
Strait he prayed that Percy velle 
There awhile with them should dwell, 

And abide that night. 940 

Well it should his guest befall 
So he brought him to the ball, 
Spake him fair, that he withal 

From his steed should light; 
Then, the steed in stable set, 
To the hall the lad doth get, 
And, with never further let, 

They for meat are dight. 

Meat and drink for them were dight, 
! Men were there to serve aright, 950 

| And the lad found with the knight, 

Enow, to his hand. 
As at meat they sat, and ate, 
Came the porter from the gate, 
Said, a man without did wait, 

From the Maiden-Land; 
Saith: "Sir, he doth pray of thee 
Meat and drink for charitie, 
For a messenger is be, 

Nor for long may stand." 960 

The knight bade him come within, 
For he said: "It is no sin 
That the man who meat may win 

Fill the traveller's hand." 

Came the traveller at that stead, 
By the porter thither led, 
Hailed the knight who sat at bread 
On the dais on high. 



And the knight, he asked him there 
Courteously, whose man he were? 970 
And how far he thought to fare? 

"Tell me without lie." 
"From the Lady Luf amour 
Am I sent to King Arthour, 
That he lend, for his honour 

To her grief an eye; 
There hath come a Soudan bold, 
Ta'en her lands, slain young and 

old, 
And besieged her in her hold, 

Plagues her ceaselessly ! 980 

"Saith, at peace he'll leave her ne'er 
Since the maid is wondrous fair, 
And hath mickle wealth for share, 

He doth work her woe. 
Thus in grief she leads her life, 
All her men he fells in strife, 
Vows he'll have her for his wife, 

And she will not so; 
By that Soudan's hand, I ween, 
Slain have sire and uncle been, 990 

Slain hath she her brothers seen, 

He is her worst foe ! 
He so closely her hath sought 
To one castle is she brought, 
From those walls he yieldeth naught, 

Ere he come her to. 

"Saith, he will her favours know 
Liever she to death would go 
Than that he, her bitterest foe, 

Wed her as his wife! xooo 

But he is so valiant wight, 
All his foes he slays forthright, 
And no man may with him fight, 

Tho' his fame were rife!" 
Then quoth Percy velle: "I pray 
Thou wilt show to me the way, 
Thither, as the road it lay, 

Without any strife! 
Might I with that Soudan meet, 
Who a maid doth so entreat, 1010 

He full soon his death should meet, 

I remain in life!" 



248 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



But the messenger, he sware, 

He should bide there where he were: 

44 To King Arthur will I fare, 

There mine errand say. 
Mickle sorrow me betide 
If I longer here abide, 
But from hence I now will ride 

Swiftly as I may." 1020 

When the lad in this wise spake, 
Prayer to him the knight doth make, 
His nine sons with him to take, 

But he saith him "Nay." 
Yet so fair his speech shall be 
That he taketh of them three, 
In his fellowship to be, 

Blither then were they. 

Of their errand blithe they were, 
Busked them, on their way to fare, 1030 
Mickle mirth then made they there, 

Little their amend! 
He had ridden but a while, 
Scarce the mountenance of a mile, 
He bethought him of a guile 

They the worse did wend! 
They with him to fare were fain 
Otherwise thought their chieftain, 
Sendeth ever one again 

Back, at each mile's end, 1040 

Till they one and all were gone 
Then he rideth on alone 
Spurring over stock and stone 

Where no man him kenned. 

Known of no man would he be; 
Ever further rideth he 
'Midst a strange folk, verilie, 

Valiant deeds to do; 
Now, I trow, hath Percy velle 
With two uncles spoken well, 1050 

Nor might one the other tell, 

Or his true name know ; 
Now upon the way he's set 
That shall lead him, without let, 
Till the Soudan he has met, 

Blacked his brows with blow. 
Percy velle no more I'll sing, 



On his way God shall him bring 
Unto Arthur now, the king, 
Thither will we go. 1069 

On our way we '11 go anon 
To Caerbedd the king has gone, 
Mourning doth he make and moan, 

He doth sigh full sore; 
Woe its will on him doth wreak, 
And his heart is waxen weak 
For he deems that he shall speak 

With Percyvelle no more. 
As abed he lieth there 
Came the messenger, who bare 1070 
Letters from the lady fair, 

Stood the king before; 
Arthur might not stand that day, 
Read the script as there he lay : 
"This thy message," doth he say, 

"Answered is before." 

Quoth: "Thine answer dost thou see, 
He who sick and sore may be 
Scarce may fare afar, that he 

In the field may fight!" 1080 

Cried the messenger withal, 
Quoth: "Woe worth this wicked hall, 
Why did I not turn at call, 

Go back with that knight?" 
"What knight was that?" quoth the 

king; 

"Whom thou meanest in this thing, 
In my land is no lording 

Worthy name of knight!" 
Quoth the messenger straightway: 
"This his name he would not say, xogo 
Fain were I to know alway 

What the lad, he hight. 

"This much had I from that knight, 
He 'His mother's son' was hight, 
In what manner he was dight 

Now I shall ye tell; 
Worthy wight was he to see, 
Burly, bold of body he, 
Blood-stained arms should, verilie, 

Tale of battle tell; xxoo 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



249 



He bestrode a blood -red steed, 
Aketoun, and other weed, 
All of that same hue indeed, 

They became him well!" 
Then he gave command, the king, 
Horse and armour forth to bring : 
"May I trow thy chattering, 

That was Percy velle!" 

For the love of Percyvelle 

They to horse and armour fell, mo 

There would they no longer dwell, 

Forth to fare were fain: 
Fast they ride upon their way, 
They were sore afeard that day 
Ere they come unto the fray 

That he should be slain; 
Arthur with him taketh three 
Knights, the fourth himself shall be, 
Now so swiftly rideth he 

Follow may no swain. 1120 

Now the king is on his way, 
Let him come whene'er he may 
I will seek now in my play 

Percyvelle again. 

Seek we Percyvelle again, 
He hath passed out on the plain, 
Over moorland, and mountain 

Seeketh Maiden -Land; 
Till toward the eventide 
Warriors bold he saw abide, 1130 

With pavilions pitched in pride 

Round a city stand; 
Hunting was the Soudan then, 
He had left there many men, 
Twenty score, an ye would ken, 

Should the gates command; 
Ten score, while the day was light, 
And eleven, through the night, 
All of them were armed aright, 

Weapons in their hand. 1140 

There with weapons in their hand 
They would fight e'en as they stand, 
Sitting, lying, all that band, 
Eleven score of men; 



Riding as one rides a race, 
Ere he wist, in little space, 
Thro' the thickest press, apace, 

Rode he 'mongst them then; 
Started up a soldier bold, 
Of his bridle layeth hold, 1150 

Said that he would fain be told 

Of his errand then; 
Said he: "I be come here fain 
For to see a proud Soudain, 
He, i' faith, shall soon be slain 

If I might him ken! 

"If to know that man I may, 
Then at morn, when dawns the day, 
Fast together shall we play 

With our weapons tried!" 1160 

When they heard that he, in fray, 
Thought their Soudan for to slay 
Each one fell on him that day, 

There to make him bide; 
When he saw he thus was stayed, 
Him, who hand on bridle laid, 
Rode he down, and undismayed, 

There, the gate beside, 
Thrust with spear about him there, 
And his point through many bare, 1170 
There was no man who might dare 

Face the lad that tide. 

Who in town the tidings tell 
Say, beneath his feet they fell, 
That bold body, Percyvelle 

Sped, his foes to still; 
Thought, 'twas small speed with his 

spear, 

Tho' it shore thro' many sheer, 
Folk enow he found them here, 

Had of fight his fill; 1180 

From the hour of middle night, 
Even till the morning light, 
Were they ne'er so wild, or wight, 

He wrought at his will; 
And he dealt thus with his brand, 
There was none might 'gainst him stand, 
Half a blow take from his hand 

Struck with such good-will. 



2 S 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Now he striketh them, I ween, 

Till the Paynim's heads are seen ngo 

Hop as hailstones on the green, 

Round about the grass; 
Thus he dealt them many a blow, 
Till the dawn began to show 
He had laid their lives full low, 

All who there would pass; 
When his foes thus slain should be 
Very weary then was he, 
This I tell ye verilie, 

He but cared the less, 1200 

An he living were, or dead, 
So he found him in such stead 
He might peaceful lay his head, 

Surety find in stress. 

There he found no surety 

Save what 'neath the wall should be, 

There a fair place chooseth he, 

And adown did light; 
There he laid him down that tide, 
And the steed stood him beside, 1210 
For the foal was fain to bide, 

Wearied with the fight. 
On the morn, when it was day, 
On the wall the watchman lay, 
Saw signs of an ugly fray 

On the plain there dight; 
Yet more marvel should there be, 
Living man was none to see, 
Then they call that fair ladie 

To behold that sight. 1220 

Comes the lady to that sight; 
Luf amour, that maiden bright, 
Mounts the wall, that from the height, 

She may see the field; 
Heads and helmets, many a one, 
(Trow me, lie I tell ye none,) 
There they lay the grass upon, 

With them many a shield; 
'T was a marvel great they thought, 
Who had such a wonder wrought 1230 
In such wise to death had brought 

All that folk on field, 
And within the gate came ne'er 



For to tell what men they were, 
Tho' they knew the maid was there 
Fair reward to yield. 

Their reward she fain would pay 
Forth in haste they go their way 
If on field they find them aye 

Who had done this deed. 1240 

'Neath their hand they looked around, 
Saw a mickle steed that stound, 
Blood-stained knight who lay on ground 

By a blood-red steed; 
Then she quoth, that lady bright: 
" Yonder doth there lie a knight, 
Who has surely been in fight 

If I right may read; 
Either hath that man been slain, 
Or to slumber is he fain, 1250 

Or he is in battle ta'en, 

Blood-stained is his weed." 

Quoth she: "Blood-stained is his weed, 

Even so his goodly steed, 

Such knight in this land, indeed, 

Did I never see; 
What may he be, if he rise? 
He is tall as there he lies, 
And well made in every wise 

As a man may be." 1260 

Then she called her chamberlain, 
Who by name hight fair Hatlayne, 
The courtesy of good Gawain 

In hall practised he; 
Then she bade him go his way 
"If yon knight he live alway, 
Bid him come to me straightway, 

Pray him courteously." 



Now to pray him as he can 
'Neath the wall he swiftly ran, 
Warily he waked the man, 

But the steed stood still; 
As the tale was told to me 
Down he kneeled on his knee, 
Mildly hailed the knight so free, 

Spake him soft and still; 
"This my lady, Luf amour, 






1279 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



251 



She awaits thee in her bower, 
Prayeth thee, for thine honour 

Come, if so thou will." 1280 

When he heard her message there 
Up he rose with him to fare, 
That man, who a stout heart bare, 

Would her prayer fulfil. 

Now her prayer to fulfil 
Followed he her servant's will, 
Went his way with him, until 

To that maid came he; 
Very blithe that maiden bright 
When she saw that lad with sight, 1390 
For she trowed that he was wight, 

Asked him fair and free 
Of that lad she asks alway, 
(Tho' he fain had said her nay,) 
If he wist who did them slay 

Who her foes should be? 
Quoth he: "None of them I sought, 
I had with the Soudan fought, 
To a stand they had me brought, 

Slain they were by me." 1300 

Quoth he: "There they needs must 

stay!" 

Lufamour, that lady gay, 
By his words she knew straightway 

That the lad was wight; 
And the maid was blithe that stound 
That she such an aid had found 
'Gainst the Soudan, who was bound 

With them all to fight; 
Straight she looked upon him there, 
Thought him meet her land to share 
If on field he won her fair 1311 

With mastery and might; 
Then they stabled there his steed, 
And himself to hall they lead, 
For delaying was no need, 

They to dine are dight. 

Set the lad on dai's fair, 
And with richest dainties there, 
*T is no lie I now declare, 
Serve him speedily; 1320 



Sat him on a chair of gold 
By the mildest maid on mold, 
And the fairest to behold, 

As at meat sat she; 
There she made him semblance good, 
As they fell there to their food, 
Skilfully she soothed his mood 

At meat, mirthfully ; 
That for this, her sake, I trow, 
He doth undertake, and vow, 1330 

He will slay the Soudan now, 

And that speedily. 

Quoth he: "Without any let 
When I have the Soudan met, 
A sad stroke on him I'll set 

That his pride shall spill." 
Quoth the lady fair and free: 
"Who my foeman's bane shall be 
He shall have my land and me, 

Rule us as he will.". 1340 

There his meal had been but small 
When word came unto the hail 
Saying, many men withal 

Harnessed were on hill. 
Woeful for their fellows slain 
They the city nigh had ta'en, 
Men within the hold amain 

Tolled the bell with will. 

Now they toll the common bell; 

Word is come to Percyvelle 1350 

He no longer there would dwell, 

Leapt from dai's that day. 
Lust for fighting did he know, 
Crying: "Kinsmen, now I go 
All yon men I'll lay them low 

Ere I cease to slay!" 
Then she kissed him without let, 
On his head the helm she set, 
To the stable did he get 

Where his steed did stay. 1360 

There were none with him to fare 
For no man from thence he 'Id spare, 
Forth he rides, and hastes him 
there 

To the thickest fray. 



252 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To the press he came apace 
Riding as one rides a race, 
All the folk before his face 

They of strength had none; 
Tho' to take him fain they were 
Yet- their blows, they harmed him 

ne'er, 1370 

'T was as they had smitten there 

On a right hard stone; 
Were they weak, or were they wight, 
All on whom his brand did smite 
Felled their bodies were forthright 

Better fate had none; 
And I wot so swift he sped 
Ere the sun was high o'er head 
He that folk had smitten dead 

Left in life not one. 1380 

When they all were slain, then he 
Looked around him, fain to see 
If anigh him more should be 

Who would with him fight; 
As he, hardy, did behold, 
Lo, he saw far off on wold, 
Four knights under shield so bold 

Thither ride aright; 
The first should King Arthur be, 
Then Ywain, flower of chivalry, 1390 
And Gawain, he made them three, 

Kay, the fourth was hight; 
Percy velle, he spake full fair: 
"Now to yonder four I'll fare, 
If the Soudan shall be there 

Do, as I am plight." 

Now to hold the troth he plight 
'Gainst the four he rideth right, 
On the wall, the lady bright 

Lay, and did behold, 1400 

How these many men he 'd slain, 
Sithen, turned his steed again 
'Gainst four knights doth ride amain 

Further on the wold; 
Then I trow she was full woe 
When she saw him further go 
And to seek four knights as foe 

Shield and shaft uphold; 



Mickle men and stern they ride, i 4 og 
And right well she deemed that tide 
That with bale they 'd make him bide 
Who was her strong hold. 

Tho' he was her surest hold 
Yet that maid must needs behold 
How he rideth forth on wold 

'Gainst the four amain; 
Then King Arthur quoth forthright: 
"Hither comes a valiant knight 
Who, because he seeketh fight, 

Forth to ride is fain; i 420 

If to fight he fares anon 
And we four should strive 'gainst one, 
Little fame we then had won 

If he soon were slain." 
Fast the four, they forward ride, 
And the lot they cast that tide, 
Sought who first the joust should bide, 

That fell to Gawain. 

When unto Gawain it fell 

Thus to ride 'gainst Percyvelle, 1430 

Then the chance it pleased him well, 

From them did he fare; 
Ever nearer as he drew, 
Ever better then he knew 
Of the arms and steed the hue 

That the lad he bare; 
"Ah! dear God," quoth Gawain free, 
"Now what may this venture be? 
An I slay him, or he me, 

Sorry fate it were ! 1440 

We be sisters' sons, we twain, 
Were one by the other slain 
He who lives might mourn amain 

That he born was e'er!" 

Of his skill no proof he showed 
Sir Gawain, as there he rode, 
Drew his rein, and there abode 

To himself quoth low: 
"Now an unwise man I be 
Thus to vex me foolishly; 1450 

None shall aye so hardy be 

But his peer may know; 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



252 



Percyvelle, he slew that knight, 
Yet another, e'en as wight, 
May in that same gear be dight, 

Taken all him fro' 
If my kinsman I should spare 
And his gear another ware 
Who should overcome me there 

That would work me woe! 1460 

"That would work me mickle woe 
Now, as I on earth may go 
It shall ne'er befall me so 

If I right may read; 
One shaft shall I send, to wit, 
And will seek first blow to hit, 
Then shall I know, by my wit, 

Who doth wear that weed." 
No word more he saith that tide 
But together swift they ride, 1470 

Men, who joust were bold to bide 

And stiff knights on steed; 
Strong and stalwart steeds had they, 
And their shields failed not that day, 
But their spears brake in that fray, 

As behoved them need. 

Spears, that erst were whole, they 

brake, 

With that, Percyvelle, he spake, 
In this wise a tale would make 

That on his tongue lay; 1480 

Saith: "My way I wide have gone, 
Yet, I trow me, such Soudan, 
I' faith, saw I never none, 

Ne'er by night or day : 
I have slain, if I thee ken, 
Twenty score of these, thy men, 
Yet of all whom I slew then 

Deemed it but a play, 
'Gainst the dint I took from thee, 
Ne'er such debt was owed by me, 1490 
Two for one, my pay shall be 

If so be I may!" 

Then he answered, Sir Gawain, 
(Sooth it is, be ye certain 
Of that same was he full fain 



Where in field they fight;) 
For, by these, bis words so wild 
Of a fool, the knight so mild 
Wist full well it was the child 

Percyvelle, the wight 1500 

Quoth: "No Soudan now I be, 
But that same man, certainly, 
Who thy body aided thee 

First in arms to dight; 
Thy stout heart I praise alway 
Tbo' thy words were rough to-day, 
And my name, the sooth to say 

Is Gawain, the knight!" 

Quoth he: "Who will read aright 1509 
Knows me for Gawain the knight." 
Then the twain, they ceased to fight, 

As good friends of old ; 
Quoth: "Bethink thee, when thy foe 
Thou wast fain in fire to throw 
To disarm thou didst not know 

This, his body cold "; 
Then was Percyvelle the free 
Joyful, as he well might be, 
For he wist well it was he 

By this token told; 1530 

Then, as Gawain did him pray, 
He his vizor raised straightway 
With good cheer they kissed that day 

Those two barons bold. 

Now they kiss, the barons twain, 
Si then talked, as they were fain, 
Then, by them he draweth rein, 

Arthur, king, and knight; 
Then, as they afore had done, 
Gave he thanks to God anon. 1530 

Mickle mirth, I trow, they won, 

That they met aright; 
Sithen, without more delay, 
To the castle made their way 
And with them he rides that day 

Percyvelle the wight; 
Ready was the porter there, 
Thro' the gate the knights they fare, 
Blither heart no lady bare 

Than Lufamour, the bright! 1540 



254 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"Succour great thou dost me send, 

This my castle to defend 

If the Soudan 'gainst me wend 

Who is my worst foe!" 
Then they set their steeds in stall 
And the king wends to the hall, 
His knights follow him withal 

Since 't was fitting so, 
Ready was their meal that day, 
And thereto they take their way 1550 
With the king, the lady gay, 

And the knights also. 

Welcome good she gave her guest, 
Rich meats proffered of the best, 
Dearest drinks at their behest 

Brought for them, I ween, 
Ate and drank with mirth on mold, 
Si then talked, and tales they told 
Of deeds that were wrought of old 

Both the king and queen; 1560 

And the first thing, did she pray 
Of King Arthur, he would say 
Of child Percyvelle alway 

What his life had been? 
Lufamour, she wondered sore, 
That he arms so bravely bore, 
Yet knew naught of knightly lore 

As she well had seen. 

She had seen, with this same child, 
Naught but words and works so 

wild, 1570 

Marvelled much, that lady mild, 

Of his folly there; 

Then hath Arthur shewn, that stead, 
How that Percyvelle was bred 
From the first, till he was led 

Forth, on field to fare; 
How his father, slain was he, 
And his mother fain would flee, 
Dwell alone 'neath woodland tree, 

None her flight to share; 1580 

"There he dwelt for fifteen year, 
Had for fellow the wild deer, 
Little need ye wonder here 

That so wild he were!" 



When he told this tale withal 
To that lady fair in hall 
Gracious words had he at call 

For them everyone; 
Then quoth Percyvelle, the wight: 
"If I be not yet a knight 1590 

Thou shalt keep thy promise plight 

Thou would'st make me one!" 
Then the king he answered so: 
"Other deeds thou needs must do, 
'Gainst the Soudan shalt thou go, 

Thus thy spurs be won!" 
Then quoth Percyvelle the free: 
"Soon as I the Soudan see, 
Even so, I swear to thee, 

Shall the deed be done!" 160, 

"As I sware," so doth he say, 
"That I would the Soudan slay, 
I will work as best I may 

That word to maintain." 
That day did they no more deed, 
Those knights, worthy under weed, 
Busked them there, to bed to speed 

Great and small were fain; 
Till ere morn hath waxen high 
Comes the Soudan with a cry 1610 

All his folk, he found them lie, 

They'd been put to pain; 
Soon he asked who was the knight 
Who had slain his men with might 
And in life had left the fight, 

Mastery to gain? 

Now to win the mastery 

To the castle doth he cry 

If one were with heart so high 

Fain with him to fight? 1620 

Man for man to challenge fain : 
"Tho' he all his folk hath slain, 
He shall find Gollrotherame 

Meet him as is right; 
But this forward I demand, 
That thereto ye set your hand, 
He who shall the better stand, 

Prove the most of might, 
That he slay his foe this tide, 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



255 



He the land, both broad and wide, 1630 
Holds, and taketh for his bride 
Luf amour, the bright!" 

And that same, the King Arthour, 

And the lady Lufamour, 

All who were within that tower 

Granted readily; 

They called Percyvelle the wight, 
And the king there dubbed him knight 
Tho' he little knew in sight 

Stout of heart was he; 1640 

Bade him that he be to praise, 
Gentle, and of courteous ways, 
And Syr Percyvelle the Gallays, 

Should his title be. 
Thus the king, in Maiden-land, 
Dubbed him knight with his own 

hand, 
Bade him firm 'gainst foe to stand, 

Plague him ceaselessly. 

Little peace he took that same, 
'Gainst the Soudan swift he came, 1650 
Who hight Gollerotherame, 

And was fell in fight; 
In the field so broad and wide 
No more carping made that tide 
But together soon they ride 

With their shafts aright; 
Then the Soudan, strong in weed, 
Percyvelle bare from his steed, 
Two land's length, I trow, indeed, 

With mastery and might; 1660 

On the earth the Soudan lay, 
And his steed, it fled away, 
Jesting, Percyvelle doth say: 

"Hast the troth I plight! 

"I thee plight a blow, I trow, 
And methinks, thou hast it now, 
Were it so, 't would please me, thou 

Ne'er of this should mend!" 
O'er the Soudan did he stay, 
As upon the ground he lay, 1670 

Held him down to earth alway 
, E'en with his spear-end. 



Fain he had his foeman slain, 
E'en that miscreant Soudane, 
But no way could find again, 

Had small skill to wend; 
Then he thinks, the lad so bold, 
Of wild works he wrought of old, 
"Had I now a fire on wold 

Burning were thine end!" 1680 

Quoth: "I 'Id burn thee here forthright, 
Then thou should'st have no more might 
'Gainst a woman aye to fight, 

I would teach thee fair!" 
Quoth the good Gawain that day: 
"Thou could'st, didst thou know the 

way, 
And would 'st light from steed alway 

Overcome him there." 
Light of mood, the boy, and gay, 
Thinks on other thing straightway. 1690 
Quoth: "A steed, now didst thou say? 

I deemed this a mare I" 
In the stead there, as he stood, 
Little recked for ill or good, 
Swiftly did he change his mood 

Slacked his spear point there. 

When he up his spear had ta'en, 
With that, Gollerotherame, 
This same miscreant Soudane, 

Sprang upon his feet, 1700 

Forth his sword then draweth he, 
Strikes at Percyvelle the free, 
And the boy scarce skilled should be 

These, his wiles, to meet; 
But the steed, at his own will, 
Saw the sword, and stayed not still, 
Leapt aside upon a hill, 

Five strides maketh fleet; 
Even as he sprang there-by, 
Then the Soudan raised a cry. 1710 

Waked the boy full suddenly 

From his musings sweet. 

He in musing deep did stay, 
All his dreams then fled away, 
Lighted down without delay 



256 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



'Gainst him for to go; 
Quoth: "I trow, hast taught to me 
How I best may deal with thee." 
Swift, his sword then draweth he, 

Struck hard at his foe; 1720 

Thro' the neck-bone shore the blade, 
Mouthpiece, gorget, useless laid, 
And the Soudan's head he made 

Fly the body fro'. 

Then he strode, the knight so good, 
To his steed, as there it stood, 
That fair maiden mild of mood, 

Much mirth might she know. 

Very mirthful he, that tide, 

To the castle did he ride, 1730 

Boldly there did he abide 

With that maiden bright; 
Joyful were they everyone 
That the Soudan was undone, 
And he had the woman won 

By mastery and might. 
Said of Percyvelle, that he 
Worthy was a king to be, 
Since he kept full faithfully 

That which he had hight. 1740 

There was nothing more to say 
But, on the appointed day, 
He wed Lufamour, the may, 

Percyvelle, the wight- 

Now has Percyvelle the wight 
Wedded Lufamour, the bright, 
King hath he become of right 

Of that land so wide; 
Then King Arthur, on a day, 
Thought no longer there to stay, 1750 
Took leave of the lady gay 

And from thence would ride; 
Percyvelle there leaveth he 
King of all that land to be 
Since with ring, the knight so free, 

Wed that maid as bride. 
Siihen, on th' appointed day, 
Rode the king upon his way, 
As for certain sooth I say, 

Nor would more abide. 1760 



Now doth Percyvelle abide 
There, within those boroughs wide, 
For her sake who was his bride, 

Wedded there with ring; 
Well he wielded rule in land, 
All men bowed them to his hand, 
At his will the folk, they stand, 

Know him for their king; 
Thus within that burg, right well, 
Till the twelvemonth's end, it fell, 1770 
With his true love did he dwell, 

Thought of ne'er a thing, 
Thought not how his mother, she, 
Dwelt beneath the greenwood tree, 
How her drink should water be 

That from well doth spring. 

Drinks spring-water from the well, 

Eats of herbs, no lie I tell, 

With none other thing doth dwell 

In the holts so sere; 1780 

Till it chanced upon a day 
As within his bed he lay, 
To himself he 'gan to say 

Soft, with sigh and tear: 
"Last Yule day, methinks it were, 
I on wild ways forth did fare, 
Left my mother man-less there 

In the woodland drear " 
To himself then sayeth he: 
"Blithe, I ween, I ne'er may be 1790 
Till I may my mother see, 

Or of her may hear." 

Now to wot how she doth fare 
That good knight doth armour bear, 
Nor would longer linger there 

Spite of aught they say; 
Up he rose within that hall, 
Took his leave of one and all, 
Both of great and eke of small, 

Forth would go his way, iMP 

Tho' she doth him straight entreat, 
Lufamour, his true love sweet, 
While the days of Yule fast fleet 

He with her should stay, 
He denied her of that thing, 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



2 57 



But a priest he bade them bring, 
Bade a Mass for him to sing, 
Rode forth that same day. 

Now from thence the knight doth 

ride, 

Never man he wist that tide 1810 

Whitherward he thought to ride 

His grief to amend; 
Forth he rideth all alone, 
Goeth from them everyone, 
None might know where he is gone 

Or might with him wend; 
Forward doth he take his way, 
'T is the certain sooth I say, 
Till a road he found alway 

By a forest end. 1820 

Then he heard, the road anigh, 
As it were a woman's cry 
Praying Mary mild, on high, 

She would succour send. 

Praying Mary, mild of mood, 

She would send her succour good 

As he came there thro' the wood 

He a marvel found; 
For a lady, fair to see, 
Stood fast bounden to a tree, 1830 

'T is the sooth I say to ye, 

Hand and foot were bound; 
When her plight he thus did know 
Fain was he to ask her who 
He should be, who served her so, 

As he thus had found? 
Saith she: "Sir, 't is the Black Knight, 
He who is my lord by right, 
Who in this wise hath me dight 

Brought me to this stound." 1840 

Quoth she: "Here he left me bound 
For a fault that he hath found, 
Yet I warrant thee this stound, 

Evil did I none ! 
For it chanced e'en as I say, 
That upon my bed I lay 
As it were the last Yule-Day, 

Now a twelvemonth gone, 



Were he knight, or were he king, 

One in jest hath done this thing, 1850 

He with me exchanged a ring, 

Richer had I none ! 
That man did I never see 
Who made this exchange with me, 
But I wot, whoe'er he be, 

He the better won!" 

Quoth: "The better doth he own, 

For such virtue in a stone, 

In this world I ne'er have known, 

Set within a ring, 1860 

For the man who doth it wear, 
Or upon his body bear, 
Never blow may harm him there, 

Or to death him bring." 
Percy velle wist without fail, 
When he heard that lady's tale, 
He had brought her into bale 

When he changed her ring; 
Straightway to her speaketh he, 
To that lady fair and free: 1870 

"I shall loose thee from that tree 

By my faith as king!" 

Percyvelle was king and knight, 
Well he held what he had hight, 
And he loosed that lady bright, 

Who stood bound to tree; 
Down she sat, the lady fair, 
Percyvelle beside her there, 
Wayworn, since he far did fare, 

Fain to rest was he; 1880 

Deemed he well might rest that tide, 
Yet short leisure might he bide, 
As he lay, the dame beside, 

His head on her knee, 
She waked Percyvelle the wight, 
Bade him flee with all his might: 
"Yonder cometh the Black Knight, 

Slain thou sure shalt be!" 

Quoth she: "Sir, thou sure shalt die, 
This 1 tell thee certainly, 1890 

Yonder, see, he draweth nigh 
Who shall slay us two." 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



But the knight he answered free: 
"Thou but now didst say to me 
That no dint my death should be, 

Nor should work me woe." 
Then his helm on head he set, 
But, ere he to horse might get, 
The Black Knight with him hath met, 

Hailed him as his foe; 1900 

Quoth he: "How? What dost thou 

here? 

Would'st thou then thy playmate cheer? 
For this shalt thou pay full dear 

Ere I hence shall go!'* 

Quoth the knight: "Ere hence I go, 
I shall surely slay ye two, 
And the like of ye also, 

Fair reward to yield!" 
Then quoth Percy velle the free: 
"Now, methinks, we soon shall see 1910 
Who of us shall worthy be 

To be slain in field!" 
No word more they spake that tide, 
But right soon together ride, 
As men who would war abide, 

Stiff, with shaft and shield. 
And Syr Percyvelle, the wight, 
He hath borne down the Black Knight, 
Then, I trow, the lady bright 

Succoured him on field; 1920 

His best succour did she wield, 
Save she there had been his shield, 
He had sure been slain on field, 

Swift and certainly; 
For as Percyvelle the keen 
Fain the Black Knight's bane had been 
Came the lady in between, 

And did "Mercy!" cry; 
For her sake did he forbear, 
And he made the Black Knight swear 
To forgive that lady fair, 1931 

Put his ill-will by; 
A.nd, himself, he sware that day 
That he ne'er beside her lay, 
Wronged her not in any way 

That were villainy! 



"Villainy I did her ne'er, 
When I saw her sleeping there, 
Then I kissed that lady fair, 

That to own, I 'm fain ! 1940 

From her hand I took a ring, 
And I left her slumbering, 
And the truth of that same thing 

Will I here maintain!" 
That naught else had chanced, that, 

he 

Sware by Jesu, verilie, 
For that same, right readily, 

Here would he be slain! 
"Ready is the ring, I trow, 
If mine own wilt give me now, 1950 

Of that same exchange, I vow, 

Shall I be full fain!" 

Quoth: "Mine own I'll gladly take " 
In this wise the Black Knight spake: 
"No denial will I make 

Thou too late shalt be! 
Swift that ring did I demand, 
Drew it there from off her hand, 
To the lord of this same land, 

Bare it speedily! 1960 

Mourning sore, that ring I bare, 
To a good man took it there, 
No more stalwart giant shall fare 

On this earth than he! 
There is neither knight nor king 
Who durst ask from him that ring, 
But that same to death he'll bring, 

Hot his wrath shall be!" 

"Be he hot, or be he cold " 

Thus spake Percyvelle the bold, 1970 

(For the tale that knight had told 

He waxed wroth that day;) 
Quoth: "On gallows high may he 
Hang, who gives this ring to thee 
Ere mine own thou bringest me, 

Which thou gav'st away ! 
If none other way there be 
Then right soon shalt tell to me 
What like man, in sooth, is he 

Who is strong in fray? 1980 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



259 



I to speak no more be fain, 
I must win it back again, 
Lost thy share in these rings twain 
Tho' more precious they!" 

Quoth: "Had they more precious 

been " 

Quoth the knight in wrath, I ween, 
"That with small delay be seen, 

What like man is he, 
If to keep thy word thou dare, 
Percy velle of Galays, fare 1990 

To yon lofty palace, there 

Should he surely be; 
Thy ring with that giant grim, 
(Bright the stone, and nothing dim,) 
There, forsooth, shalt find with him, 

Given it was by me. 
In that hold, or eke without, 
Or, perchance, he rides about, 
But of thee he'll have small doubt 

As thou sure shalt see!" 2000 

Quoth the knight: "Thou sure shalt see, 
That I tell thee certainlie," 
On his way then rideth he 

Wondrous swift that tide; 
Stood the giant in his hold 
Who was lord o'er wood and wold, 
Saw Syr Percyvelle the bold 

O'er his land to ride; 
On his porter calls, I ween, 
Saith: "Now say, what may this mean? 
For a bold man have I seen son 

O'er my lands to ride. 
| Reach me down my plaything there, 
And against him will I fare, 
Better lot at Rome he 'Id share 

As I thrive, this tide!" 

An he thrive, or vanquished be, 

Club of iron taketh he, 

And 'gainst Percyvelle the free, 

Goes his way forthright, 2020 

Weighty blows that club should deal, 
That a knight full well should feel, 
For the head, well wrought of steel, 



Twelve stone weighed aright; 
Bound the staff with iron band, 
And with ten stones of the land, 
One was set behind his hand, 

Was for holding dight; 
Three and twenty, fully told, 
111 might any man on mold, 
As the tale it now is told, 

'Gainst such weapon fight! 



2030 



Thus, to smite each other down, 
Met they on a moorland brown, 
A full mile from any town, 

'Neath their shield so bold; 
Then he quoth, the giant wight, 
Soon as he beheld that knight: 
"Mahoun, praised be thy might!" 

Did him well behold; 2040 

"Art thou he, now tell me true, 
Who Gollerotherame slew, 
Other brother ne'er I knew 

Than himself, of old?" 
Then quoth Percyvelle the free: 
"Thro' God's Grace, I'll so serve thee, 
And such giants as ye be 

Slay them all on fold!" 

Such a fight was seldom seen, 

For the dale it rang, I ween, 2050 

With the dints that passed between 

These two, when they met; 
The giant, with his weapon fell, 
Fain bad smitten Percyvelle, 
Bending low, he swerved full well, 

And a stroke swift set; 
The giant's blow, it went astray, 
Hard as flint the club alway, 
Ere the staff he well might stay, 

Or his strength might let, 2060 

In the earth the club, it stood, 
To the midmost of the wood, 
Percyvelle, the hero good, 

Forth his sword would get. 

Forth he drew his sword that day, 
Smote the giant without delay, 
Nigh unto his neck alway 



260 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Even as he stood, 
Strikes his hand off with a blow, 
His left foot doth cleave also, 2070 

Dealt such dints upon his foe, 

Nighed him as he would; 
Percy velle he quoth: "I ween, 
Had thy weapon smaller been 
Better luck thy hand had seen, 

Thou hadst done some good; 
Now, I trow, that ne'er again 
Shall thy club from earth be ta'en, 
Or thy way thou ridest fain, 

Ne'er, upon the Rood!" 2080 

Quoth he: "By the Holy Rood, 

As in evil aye thou stood, 

Of thy foot thou get'st no good, 

Save that hop thou may!" 
Then his club aside he laid, 
Smote the hero undismayed, 
In the neck, with knife's sharp blade, 

Near enow were they. 
Wrathful at the blow, I ween, 
The giant's hand he smote off clean, 
As none had aforetime been, 2091 

Both hands were away! 
Then his bead from off him drave 
He was a discourteous knave 
Thus a giant's beard to shave, 

I forsooth, may say ! 

Then, as I the sooth may say, 
Left the giant where he lay 
And rode forth upon his way 

To the fortress-hold; 2100 

When he saw his lord was dead, 
Then the porter swiftly sped, 
From the knight, the keys, that stead, 

Would he not withhold; 
Percyvelle, ere other thing, 
Prayed the porter of the ring, 
Thereof, could he tidings bring? 

And straightway he told, 
Showed him straightway to the kist, 
Where the treasure was, he wist, 2110 
Bade him take there, as he list, 

All he would of gold. 



Percyvelle, from treasure hold 
Speedy, turned out all the gold, 
There, before him on the mold, 

Fell the ring he sought; 
Stood the porter at his side, 
Saw the ring from coffer glide, 
And he quoth: "Woe worth the tide 

That same ring was wrought!" zia 
Percyvelle, he answered free, 
Asked him why, and wherefore, he 
Banned that ring so bitterly, 

What was in his thought? 
Then the porter answered fair, 
By his loyalty he sware: 
"I the truth will here declare 

And delay for naught." 

Quoth: "The truth I tell to thee, 
The knight whose this ring should 

be 213 

As a present gave it free, 

And hath hither brought; 
He, forsooth, my master there, 
Took the gift with favour fair, 
Lord of this land was he e'er, 

For his marvels wrought. 
Dwelling nigh, there chanced to be 
At that time, a fair ladie, 
And my lord, right loyally, 

Loved her, as I thought; ai4 

So it chanced upon a day 
As in sooth I now shall say, 
That my lord went forth to play, 

And her love besought. 

" Now the lady doth he pray 
His true love to be alway, 
Pleading straitly, that he may 

Of her favoured be; 
As his first prayer he would bring, 
He would proffer her the ring. 
When she saw that tokening, 

Sore dismayed was she ; 
Wept, and wailed, and cried amain: 
'Traitor, thou my son hast slain, 
And the ring from him hast ta'en 

That was given by me!' 



SYR PERCYVELLE OF GALLES 



261 



Then her clothes from off her tare, 
Gat her to the woodland there, 
Witless doth that lady fare, 
This the cause shall be! 2160 

"Even for such cause as this 
Is the lady mad, I wis, 
Wild within the wood she is 

Ever since that tide; 
Fain would I her succour be, 
But whene'er she seeth me 
From me swiftly doth she flee, 

Will for naught abide." 
Quoth Syr Percy velle that day: 
"Now will I without delay 2170 

Strive to make that lady stay, 

But I will not ride; 
But afoot I now will go, 
An that lady shall me know 
I may bring her out of woe, 

For her son she '11 bide!" 

Quoth: "For this, her son, she'll bide, 
But ahorse I will not ride 
Till that lady I have spied, 

Speed as best I may; 2180 

With none armour that may be," 
Quoth the knight: "I'll cover me, 
Till that I my mother see, 

Or by night or day; 
But the self -same garb I ware 
When from her I forth did fare, 
That, I think again to bear 

After other play; 
And I trow that never more 
Come I from the holts so hore 2190 

Till her lot, who once me bore, 

I again may say.*'* 

"This for sooth I think to say." 
With that would he go his way, 
With the morn, at dawn of day, 

Forth the knight did fare; 
All his harness left within, 
Did on him a coat of skin, 
To the woodland forth did win 

'Mid the holts so bare; 2200 



Seven days long in vain he sought, 
Of his mother found he naught, 
Nor of meat or drink he thought, 

He was full of care; 
On the ninth day it befell 
That he came unto a well 
Nigh where he was wont to dwell, 

And refresh him there. 

He had drunk his fill that tide, 
Further thought to wander wide, 2210 
When he saw, close to his side, 

That same lady free; 
But, whenas she saw him there, 
She with threats would 'gainst him fare, 
And swift answer did she dare 

E'en that fair ladie; 
She began to call and cry, 
Saying: "Such a son had I!" 
Then his heart for joy beat high, 

Blithe, I trow, was he; 2220 

As he came to her anear, 
So that she his voice might hear, 
Spake he: "Sweet my mother dear, 

Bide ye there for me!" 

By that time so nigh was he 
That she might in no wise flee, 
This I tell ye certainly, 

She must needs abide; 
Sprang on him in wrath so keen, 
That of very truth, I ween, 2230 

Had her strength but greater been 

He were slain that tide; 
But the stronger was he e'er, 
Up he took his mother there, 
On his back the lady bare, 

Pure, I trow, his pride. 
To the castle gate that day 
Hastens he, the nearest way, 
And the porter without stay, 

Opens to him wide. 2240 

Bare his mother in that day, 

He who made the tale doth say 

With what robes they had alway 

Wrapped her warmly there; 



262 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



There the lord a drink had wrought, 
And that same the porter brought, 
For none other had he thought 

Save that lady fair. 
Then, for so the tale they tell, 
With a spoon they fed her well, 2250 
And asleep she swiftly fell 

As I now declare; 
And the lady sleeping lay 
Three nights, and three days, alway 
Doth the porter with her stay 

Wakes and watches there. 

Thus the porter watched her there, 
Loyal love to her he bare, 
Till at last the lady fair 

Wakened, so I ween; 3360 

Then distraught was she no more, 
But herself in such wise bore 
As one hale, who ne'er of yore, 

Otherwise had been; 
Then they kneeled down, the three, 
Gave God thanks on bended knee 



That men thus His grace should see 

As on them was seen. 
Sithen, go they on their way, 
And a rich bath make straightway, 3270 
For that lady, robed her gay, 

Both in gray and green. 

Percyvelle without delay, 
'T is the sooth to ye I say, 
Took his mother, and his way 

Homeward rideth he; 
Then great lords, and his sweet queen, 
Welcomed him with joy, I ween, 
When they him in life had seen 

Blithe they well may be. 3280 

Then he fared to Holy Land, 
Cities won with his strong hand, 
There was slain, I understand, 

This his end should be! 
Jesu Christ, high Heaven's King, 
Who is Lord of everything, 
Grant to us His dear blessing, 

Amen, for charitie. 



SIR LANCELOT^ 



THE MAID OF ASCOLOT 

(Sir Lancelot would ride secretly to a 

Tournament.) 

AN earl, he dwelt there at that tide, 
The lord of Ascolot he hight, 
Thither Sir Lancelot would ride, 
Craving a shelter for the night. 
They welcomed him with fitting pride, 
A supper rich for him they dight; 
His name from all he fain would hide 
Saying, he was a stranger knight. 

Of sons the earl he had but two, 
And those two newly knighted were 
At that time was the custom so 

That, when young knights their shield 
would bear, 



Throughout the first year must they 

show 

One hue alone, whate'er that were, 
Or red, or yellow, white, or blue 
Thus of young knights the fashion fair. 

Then, as they sat at meat, forthright 
Sir Lancelot his host did pray: 
"Sir, is there here a youthful knight 
Who fain were for the Tourney's fray?" 
"I have two sons, dear to my sight, 31 
But one, he lieth sick to-day, 
An he a comrade found, 't were right 
The other sought the field alway." 

"Sir, an thy son will thither ride, 
His company I'll keep withal; 
There will I battle at his side, 



From the Harleiao MS. 



SIR LANCELOT 



263 



And help him there, lest harm befall." 
"Thy courtesy thou can'st not hide; 
Good knight art thou, 't is plain to all, 
Now till to-morrow here abide, 31 

My son shall ride with thee from hall." 

"Fain would I ask ye one thing more, 
I ask it here for better speed, 
Say, have ye armour here in store 
That I might borrow for my need?" 
"My son, he lies in sickness sore, 
Take ye his harness and his steed, 
Brethren they 'Id deem ye, an ye wore, 
The twain of ye, the same red weed." 

The earl, he had a daughter sweet, 41 
Fain was she Lancelot to see, 
(Her face was red as blossom meet, 
Or flower in field that springe th free.) 
Gladly she sat by him at meat, 
In sooth, a noble knight was he! 
Yet swift her tears adown they fleet, 
Fast set on him her heart shall be. 

Up rose that maiden fair and still, 
And to her bower she went in woe, 50 
Adown upon her couch she fell, 
Her heart, it well nigh brake in two. 
Sir Lancelot, he wist her will 
(The signs of love he well doth know,) 
He called her brother soft and still, 
And to her chamber swift they go. 

He sat him, for that maiden's sake, 
Down on the bed whereon she lay, 
In courteous wise to her he spake 
(He fain will comfort, an he may,) 60 
Then in her arms she doth him take 
And these the words she soft doth 

say: 

"Sir, save that ye the medicine make, 
No leech may save my life to-day!" 

"Lady, I prithee cease to fret, 
And do thyself for me no ill, 
My heart elsewhere is steadfast set, 
My love lies not within my will. 



Yet naught on earth henceforth will let 
Me from thy service, loud or still, 70 
Another time when we have met 
Thou mayest better speak thy fill." 

"Then, since I may no better fare, 
As thou be valiant knight, and free, 
I pray thee in this Tourney bear 
Some sign of mine, that men may 

see." 

"Lady, the sleeve thou now dost wear 
I'll take it for the love of thee, 
So much I did for lady ne'er 
Save her, who most hath loved me!" 80 

Then, on the morrow, when 't was day, 
They dined, and made them ready there, 
Then gat them forth upon their way 
In guise as tho' they brethren were 
(Then follows the account of the Tour 
nament, in which Lancelot greatly 
distinguishes himself, but is badly 
wounded. The Maiden of Ascolot and 
her aunt tend him carefully. Meanwhile 
Arthur, who suspects the winner of the 
Tourney to be Lancelot, sends Gawain 
in search of him.) 

Then from the king, and from the queen, 
Sir Gawain took his leave that tide, 
Of all his comrades too, I ween, 
And busks himself, with mickle pride. 
To Ascolot, by wood-ways green, 
He hastes as fast as he may ride, go 
Till he Sir Lancelot hath seen 
Nor night, nor day, would he abide. 

By that, Sir Lancelot, whole again, 
Made ready on his way to go, 
Leave of the folk hath courteous ta'en 
The maiden wept for grief and woe: 
"Sir, if your will thereto were fain, 
Since I of ye no more may know, 
I pray that I some gift may gain 99 
To look on, when my tears fast flow." 

Lancelot spake, with heart so free 
(The maiden's grief would he amend ) 



26 4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"Mine armour will I leave with thee, 
And in thy brother's hence will wend. 
Look that thou long not after me, 
No space within these walls to spend 
Have I, yet short the time shall be 
Before I either come or send." 

Sir Lancelot, he fain would ride, 
And on his way he went forthright, 
Sir Gawain came within that tide m 
And tidings asked of such a knight. 
They welcomed him with mickle pride, 
And supper for him richly dight, 
The truth they have small care to 

hide 
"He left but now for fourteen night." 

Sir Gawain courteous mien doth make, 
He sat him down, that maid anear, 
And told of Lancelot du Lake, 
How in the world was none his peer. 120 
The maid, of Lancelot she spake, 
Said, how he to her heart was dear: 
"Yea, for his love he doth me take, 
His armour might I show you here." 

"Sweet Demoiselle," he saith anon, 
"Right glad am I the thing be so, 
For such a lover hast thou won 
That this world may no better show. 
Of lady fair there liveth none 120 

For wealth or beauty famed, that tho' 
Her heart were hard as steel or stone 
With love for him it would not glow. 

"But, Demoiselle, I 'Id ask of thee 
That thou his shield to me would'st 

show, 

That if Sir Lancelot's it be 
By its device I well may know." 
That maiden was both frank and free, 
She led him to a chamber new, 
Lancelot's shield she bade him see, 
And all his armour forth she drew. 140 

Sir Gawain turned him swift about, 
And to the maiden gaily spake: 



"Lady," he quoth, "without a doubt 
He is Sir Lancelot du Lake ! 
And Lady, that a knight so stout 
Should ye for true-love truly take 
Rejoiceth me, within, without, 
I am your servant, for his sake!" 

With that sweet maid he spake the night 
All that he had in heart to say, 150 

Till that his bed for him they dight 
Much mirth he made, and gladsome play. 
He took his leave of earl and knight 
At morrow morn, when dawned the day, 
Bade "Farewell," to that maiden bright, 
And gat him forth upon his way. 

He wist not where to seek that knight, 
Nor whither Lancelot would ride, 
For when he once was out of sight 
He wist right well his tracks to hide. 160 
He takes the road he knows aright, 
To Arthur's court he needs no guide, 
Welcome he was to king and knight, 
As hero courteous, true, and tried. 

Then it befell upon a tide 

The king and queen together spake, 

(Sir Gawain standing at their side,) 

Each to the other plaint doth make 

How long they must with sorrow bide 

His coming, Lancelot du Lake, 

Of Arthur's court abased the pride, 

And sore the sighing, for his sake. 

"Certes, an Lancelot did live 
So long from court he ne'er would be ! 
Swiftly Gawain doth answer give: 
"Nay, nay, no marvel 't is to me, 
The fairest lady that doth live 
Chosen unto his love hath he, 
Gladness to every man 't would give 
An he so fair a sight might see !" 180 

King Arthur, he was glad that day, 
Such tidings deemed he passing fair; 
Then of Gawain he straight did pray 
He would the maiden's name declare. 



SIR LANCELOT 



265 



"Earl's daughter she," (so doth he say,) 
"Of Ascolot, I well did fare 
Within that burg so blithe and gay, 
Lancelot's shield she shewed me there." 

The queen, she spake no word that 

day, 

She gat her to her bower with speed, 190 
And prone upon her couch she lay, 
Nay, well nigh mad was she, indeed. 
"Alas," she cried, and "Wellaway! 
That ever life on land I lead, 
Now have I lost, I trow for aye, 
The best knight who e'er spurred a 

steed!" 

The ladies who about her stood, 
And all her secrets well might know, 
They bade her be of comfort good, 
And to no man her sorrow show. 200 
They made her bed with sorry mood, 
And on her couch they laid her low, 
Ever she wept, as she were wood, 
Full sore they mourn their lady's woe. 

The queen thus sick for sorrow lay, 
Never her grief might solace know, 
Until it chanced, upon a day, 
Sir Lionel and Sir Hector go 
Forth to the forest, blithe and gay, 
'Neath leafy branch, where sweet 
flowers blow, 210 

And as they rode the woodland way 
Sir Lancelot himself doth show. 

Small wonder they were glad, the twain, 
When they their master saw with sight, 
Upon their knees to fall are fain, 
Give thanks to God, for this, His Might. 
'T was joy to see, and gladsome gain, 
The meeting with that noble knight, 
Nor can he question swift refrain : 219 
"How fares it with my Lady bright?" 

Straightway the knights they answer 

free: 
"The queen, she lies in sickness sore, 



'T is dole enow to hear, and see, 
Such mickle grief ne'er lady bore. 
The king, a sorry man is he 
Since that to court ye come no more, 
He saith, that dead ye sure must be, 
So do the courtiers, less, and more. 

"Were it your will with us to fare, 
And speak a little with the queen, 230 
Methinks that blithe henceforth she 

were 

An she but once your face had seen. 
The king, he goes in grief and care, 
And so doth all the court, I ween, 
They deem no more in life ye were 
Since ye from court o'er long have been." 

He granteth them their prayer that day, 
Saith, he will homeward with them ride, 
Forsooth, those knights were glad and 

gay 
And busked them there with mickle 

pride. 24 o 

Straight to the court they take their way, 
Nor day nor night they would abide, 
Both king and court were blithe alway 
Whenas they heard the news that tide. 

The king, he stands on tower so high, 
And by him standeth Sir Gawain, 
When Lancelot they saw with eye 
Were never men on mold so fain ! 
Whenas the gates he drew anigh 
They ran there-out, with might and 

main, 250 

Gave welcome glad, both low and high, 
And kissed him, king, and knight, and 

swain. 

The king him to a chamber led, 
Close in his arms he did him fold, 
And set him on a goodly bed 
That covered was with cloth of gold. 
No man, to serve him at that stead 
But strove, with labour manifold. 
With joy and gladness was he sped 
Then all his deeds to them he told. 260 



266 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Of days in court he dwelt full three 
But never spake word with the queen, 
So fain the folk were him to see, 
The king, and all the court, I ween. 
That lady, fair as flower on tree, 
She wept her love, so long unseen, 
Ever her tears they flow so free 
Fain would she hide her mournful 
mien. 

Then did it chance upon a day 

The king, he would a-hunting ride, 270 

In forest fair he maketh gay 

And all his knights are at his side. 

Sir Lancelot, in bed he lay, 

Fain was he with the queen to bide, 

Thus to her bower he takes his way 

And greeteth her in knightly pride. 

He kissed that lady fair and sheen, 
And greeted her with gladsome glee, 
And all her ladies too, I ween, 
For joy, the tears flow fast and free. 280 
"Ah, wellaway !" thus sighed the queen, 
"Sir Lancelot, that I thee see, 
The love that was us two between 
That now it thus should severed be! 

"Alas, Sir Lancelot du Lake, 

That thou hast all my heart in hold, 

And now would'st the earl's daughter 

take 

Of Ascolot, so was it told. 
Now for her love thou wilt forsake 
Thy doughty deeds, thy ventures bold, 
So must I woeful weep and wake 291 
Till this, my heart, in clay be cold! 

"But, Lancelot, I beseech thee here, 
Since that of needs it must be so, 
That no man from thy lips shall hear 
The love that was betwixt us two! 
And never hold that maid so dear 
That ye should knightly deeds forego, 
Such tidings were to me full drear 
Henceforth I needs must walk in 



woe! 



300 



Then Lancelot, so still he stood, 
His heart was heavy as a stone, 
So sorrowful it waxed, his mood, 
For ruth his joy was all foregone. 
"Madam," he said, "by Holy Rood, 
What is the meaning of thy moan? 
By Him Who bought me with Hij 

Blood 
Of all these tidings knew I none. 

"But by these words it seemeth me 
That ye were fain I were away, 310 

In sooth no more ye shall me see, 
My Lady fair, have ye Good-day ! " 
Forth from the chamber goeth he, 
In sooth grief o'er his heart held sway; 
The queen, she fell in swoonings three, 
Fain had she slain herself straightway. 

The knight his chamber sought wil 

speed 

There, where his harness ready lay, 
He armed himself in knightly weed, 
Small joy was in his heart that day. 320 
As sparks from glowing embers freed, 
(Yet sorely grieving, sooth to say ) 
He sprang forth on his goodly steed. 
And to the forest went his way. 

(Here follows the death by poison of Me 
de la Porte, and the accusation of 
queen.} 

Now leave we Lancelot to dwell 
In hermit cell, in forest green, 
And forthwith of a venture tell 
That came to Arthur, king so keen. 
With Gawain would he counsel well, 
Full sore their mourning for the queen, 
So on a morn, as chance befell, 331 

The two met in a tower, I ween. 

And as they there in converse stood 
How best the thing might ordered be, 
The river fast beneath them flowed, 
And on the water, there they see 
A little boat, and passing good, 
That with the current floated free, 



SIR LANCELOT 



267 



No fairer sail was seen on flood, 

No better boat was wrought of tree. 340 

Whenas King Arthur saw that sight 
He wondered of the hangings fair 
Wherewith the boat was all bedight, 
So rich the coverture it bare. 
All arched above with cloth so bright 
Shining as gold, it saileth there 
Then quoth Gawain, that gentle knight: 
"This boat in costly wise doth fare!" 

"Forsooth," the king in answer spake: 
"Such boat I never saw before, 350 

I rede our way we thither take 
Some venture surely lies in store. 
Be it within of such-like make 
As 't is without, or may be more, 
An oath I 'Id dare thereof to take 
Its wonders be not swiftly o'er!" 

Arthur the king, and good Gawain, 
Forth from the tower adown have 

gone. 

They to the boat to haste are fain, 
Swiftly they go, those two alone. 360 
They came as it hath harbour ta'en, 
And, sooth to say, they gaze anon, 
Then doth he raise the cloth, Gawain, 
That hides the boat, and steps thereon. 

When they were in, on either side 
Richly arrayed it was to see, 
A fair couch in the midst they spied 
Whereon a king might bedded be. 
Then with their hand they draw aside 
The coverture, right hastily, 370 

Its folds, a maiden's corpse they hide, 
Fairest of women once was she. 

Then to Gawain he spake, the king, 
"I trow Death here a wrong hath 

wrought, 

In that he hath so fair a thing 
Forth from the world untimely brought. 
Her beauty passeth everything, 
Tidings of her I fain had sought, 



Who might she be, this sweet darling? 
And where her life to end was brought." 

His eyes Sir Gawain on her cast, 381 
Beheld her face with heart so free, 
And well he knew her at the last, 
The Maid of Ascolot was she. 
(Whom he ere-while had wooed full 

fast, 

His love would fain have had her be, 
His proffered love she from her cast 
For Lancelot's alone was she.) 

Thus to the king he spake, Gawain: 
"Dost mind thee of a certain day 390 
How with the queen we stood, we twain, 
And made together jest and play? 
I of a maid to tell was fain 
Whom Lancelot loved well Now say? " 
"Forsooth," the king he spake again. 
"Now thou dost mind me of it, yea!" 

"Then, Sire, forsooth," Gawain doth 

say: 

"This is the maid whereof I spake, 
O'er all the world, I trow, alway 
She loved Sir Lancelot du Lake." 400 
"Then sure," King Arthur spake 

straightway, 

"Her death it rues me for his sake, 
Your words the cause full well betray 
For grief and love her heart it brake." 

Forthwith Gawain, the gentle knight, 
About that maiden fair he sought, 
A purse he found, so richly dight, 
With gold and pearls 't was all in 
wrought. 

Empty at first it seemed to sight, 
But when into his hand 't was brought, 
A letter lay therein, so light, 411 

Fain would they know if it told aught. 

The writing eager to behold 
Sir Gawain took it to the king, 
Bade him that letter swift unfold, 
Thereto he made small dallying, 



268 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Within he found the story told 
From first to last, without leasing, 
'T was but that tale both new and old 
How Love a maid to death may bring. 

"Unto the king, and all his knights 421 
Who to the Table Round belong, 
Who courteous be, of valiant might, 
Stable and steadfast, true, and strong; 
Most worshipful in fairest fight, 
Most helpful where men most have 

wrong, 

The Maid of Ascolot, aright 
Would greeting send, with truest tongue. 

"Thus to ye all my plaint I make, 
Bemoan the wrong that hath been 

wrought, 430 

Yet I would not ye undertake 
To mend the ill, 't would profit naught. 
This would I say, for this, your sake, 
That tho* men thro' the wide world 

sought 

Your like doth neither walk nor wake, 
For deeds with courage courteous 

wrought. 

"Wherefore to ye it shall be shown 
How I, in sooth, for many a day 
Such loyal love, and true, have known 
That Death hath fetched me hence 
away. 440 

But would ye know for whom alone, 
I thus so long in languor lay 
I'll tarry not the truth to own, 
Denial profits naught to-day. 

"And would I now rehearse the tale 
For whom I suffered all this woe, 
I say, Death wrought on me this 

bale 
For the best knight this earth may 

know! 

In doughty dints he doth not fail, 
Such royal mien may no man show, 450 
So churlish yet, 'neath silk, or mail, 
Have I found neither friend nor foe! 



"Of foe, or friend, the sooth to say, 
So harsh in deed was never none, 
His gentleness was all away, 
Such churlish manners he put on. 
For ne'er so straitly might I pray, 
Kneeling, with tears and rueful moan, 
To win his love, but he said 'Nay,' 
Vowing of leman he 'Id have none. 460 

"Therefore, my lords, for this, his sake, 
Grief to my heart I took and care, 
Till Death at last did me o'er-take, 
Forth from this life it did me bear. 
Thus for true love my heart I brake, 
And of my bliss was stripped all bare, 
For sake of Lancelot du Lake, 
An ye would know what knight it 
were! " 

Arthur, I ween, that noble king, 469 
He read the script, and knew the name, 
And quoth to Gawain, marvelling: 
"Lancelot here hath been to blame; 
Men shall account as evil thing 
That soileth much his knightly fame, 
That love this maid to death did bring 
That he denied her doth him shame!' 

Then to the king he quoth, Gawain: 
"I did but jest the other day 
When I said Lancelot was fain 
To take for love that gentle may, 
His love, it seeketh higher gain, 
Know ye it is but truth I say, 
A lowly love he doth disdain, 
He will some lady great and gay." 

"Sir Gawain," quoth King Arthur thei 
"Now say, what here shall be th: 

rede, 

How deal we with this maiden fair?" 
Sir Gawain quoth: "So God me speed, 
Methinks 't were well we should 

bear, 

(An so it were your will indeed,) 
Within the town, for burial care 
In noble wise, as is her meed." 



SIR LANCELOT 



The king, he gave assent withal; 
Sir Gawain called men, hastily, 
Straightway, unto the palace hall 
They bare that maiden tenderly. 
The king, he told his barons all, 
Whether of high or low degree, 
How she a prey to death did fall 
Since Lancelot's she might not be. 500 

Sir Gawain straightway went his way 
Unto the queen, and thus he spake: 
" Madam," he quoth, "I trow alway 
I wronged Sir Lancelot du Lake; 
I did but jest the other day 
When we together sport did make, 
In that I said he idle lay 
For the fair Maid of Ascolot's sake. 



"Of Ascolot, that maiden free, 
I said she was his love, I trow, 



510 



That I so jested rueth me, 
For all the truth I know it now. 
He loved her not, that may we see, 
She lieth dead as snow on bough 
So white and writing there shall be 
With plaint of Lancelot enow!" 

The queen was wroth as winter wind, 
And to Sir Gawain thus began: 
"Forsooth, Sir, thou wert too unkind 
Thus to make jest of any man. 520 

'T were best to keep it in thy mind, 
Or yea, or nay, howe'er it ran, 
Thy courtesy, it lagged behind 
When first thine idle jests began ! 

"Much hast thou harmed thy knightly 

fame 

In wronging thus so good a knight, 
I trow he never wrought thee shame, 
Therefore thou hadst the lesser right 
To jest unseemly with his name, 
Behind his back, out of his sight, 530 
And Sir, thou know'st not, at this 

same, 
What harm may spring from words so 

light! 



"I deemed thee steadfast knight, an</ 

true, 

The mirror of all courtesie, 
Methinks, hast got thee manners new, 
Which all be turned to villainy ! 
'Gainst other knights thine envy grew, 
Therefore didst jest thus recklessly, 
Who honoured thee, it may them rue 
Now get thee from my companie." 540 

Sir Gawain swiftly went his way, 
He saw the queen was angered sore, 
No more he thought to her to say, 
Deeming she 'Id hate him ever more. 
The queen, she cried: "Ah, wellaway!" 
Wringing her hands, she wept full 

sore, 

"Most wretched I, I well may say, 
Of all whom ever mother bore! 

"My heart, alas, why wert so wood 
To trow that Lancelot du Lake 550 

So fickle were, so false of mood, 
That other love than thee he 'Id take? 
Nay, certes, all of this world's good 
He had despised for thy sake, 
And naught that knight, by field or 

flood, 
Might tempt, his vows to thee to 

break." 
(The end of the episode is missing.) 



THE DEATH OF ARTHUR 

SINCE Brutus out of Troy was brought, 
And Britain for his kingdom won, 
Such wonders ne'er before were wrought 
Of mortal man beneath the sun. 
By eventide there lived there naught, 
Who erst was clad in flesh and bone, 
Than Arthur, and two knights he 

brought 
Thither, and Mordred, they alone. 

Lucain the butler was one knight, 

I trow his wounds were sore to see, 10 



270 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



His brother, in the self-same plight, 
Sir Bedivere, right sick was he. 
Arthur, he spake these words forthright: 
"That traitor slain by us shall be!" 
With fell intent, their spears gripped 

tight, 
They ran together manfully. 

Smitten is Mordred thro* the breast, 
The spear e'en thro' the back-bone shore, 
Needs must he yield to death's behest, 
Word hath he spoken never more. 20 
Yet, dying, on his foe he prest, 
And dealt the king a wound full sore, 
Right to the head, thro' helm and crest, 
Thrice hath he swooned, that blow 
before. 

Sir Lucain and Sir Bedivere 
Upheld the king betwixt them twain, 
They get them forth with sorry cheer, 
Their comrades on the field lie slain. 
That doughty king, their lord so dear, 
His strength for wounds it ebbed amain, 
A chapel to that place was near, 31 

No better shelter might they gain. 

All night they in the chapel lay 

Beside the sea, so did I hear, 

To Mary Mother crying aye 

With woeful voice, and many a tear. 

To Jesu Christ they piteous pray, 

Beseech Him for His Name so dear 

To lead his soul in the right way 

That Heaven's Bliss he lose not here. 40 

Then from the mount, Sir Lucain good 
Saw folk, who to the field drew nigh, 
Bold barons they, of bone and blood, 
Their thoughts were bent on robbery. 
Of besant, brooch, and baldric good 
They took all that they might espy 
Back to the king again he would, 
Thinking to warn him hastily. 

He spake to Arthur soft and still, 
With rueful cheer, in voice full low : so 



"Sire, I have been on yonder hill 
There many folk, they come and go, 
Whether they will us good or ill 
I know not, be they friend or foe 
I rede, an so it be your will, 
We busk us, to some town to go.'* 

"Sir Lucain, good thy rede I hold, 
Now lift me up, while life doth last " 
The knight he in his arms did fold, 
With all his strength he held him fast. 6 
Wounded to death, that monarch bold 
Swooning, his weight on him hath cast, 
Sir Lucain did the king uphold, 
His heart within him brake at last. 

Half-swooning, as I tell ye here, 
The king beside an altar stood, 
Sir Lucain, whom he held full dear, 
Lay dead, and weltering in his blood. 
His brother, bold Sir Bedivere, 
I trow he was of mournful mood, 70 
For grief the corpse he might not near, 
But ever wept, as he were wood. 

The king, he turned him as he stood, 
And spake to him, in words so keen: 
"Excalibur, my sword so good, 
(A better brand was never seen,) 
Go, cast it in the salt sea flood, 
Then shalt thou marvels see, I ween. 
Now hie thee swift, by Holy Rood, 
And tell me all that thou hast seen." 80 

The knight, he was both fair and 

free, 

To save that sword had he been fain, 
He thought, "Who shall the better be 
If none this weapon see again? 
Were I to cast it in the sea, 
Then were I mad, that seemeth plain " 
He hid the blade beneath a tree 
And gat him to his lord again. 

"What saw'st thou there? " then said the 

king, 
" Now tell me if thou canst, anon." QO 



SIR LANCELOT 



271 



"Certes," he quoth: "never a thing 
Save waters deep, and wild waves wan.'* 
"Ah! thou hast failed me!" cried the 

king; 

"Why didst thou so, thou faithless man? 
Far other tidings must thou bring!" 
Straightway Sir Bedivere he ran 

He thought the sword he still might hide 
And cast the scabbard in the flood, 
"If any venture then betide 
Thereby shall I see tokens good." 100 
From hand he let the scabbard glide, 
And there awhile on land he stood, 
Back to the king he went that tide, 
Said, "Sire, 't is done, by Holy Rood." 

"And saw'st tbou any marvel fair?" 
"Nay, certes, Sire, there saw I naught." 
"Ah! traitor false," cried Arthur there, 
"Now twice on me hast treason wrought. 
The punishment shalt surely bear, 
Bold tho' thou art, 'twere dearly 

bought!" no 

The knight cried: "Lord, thy wrath 

now spare," 
And swift the sword again he sought. 

Needs must the knight obey at last, 

To the good sword he went his way, 

Into the sea the blade he cast, 

A marvel great he saw that day. 

A hand from out the water, fast 

Hath caught the blade, with deftest 

play 

Brandished it high, then swift it passed 
E'en as the lightning's gleam, away. 120 

Swift to the king he hastened there, 
And quoth: "Liege Lord, I saw a hand, 
Forth from the waves it came all bare, 
And brandished thrice that goodly 

brand." 

"Now help me, that I thither fare " 
He led his lord down to the strand, 
A goodly ship, with ladies fair, 
And richly found, had put to land. 



The ladies, who were frank and free, 
Welcomed the king with courteous 

tongue, 130 

And one, who fairest was to see, 
Wept sore the while her hands she 

wrung; 

" Brother," she said; "Ah! woe is me, 
Thy wounds lack leechcraft over-long; 
I wot that sorely grieveth me, 
Methinks thy pains be all too strong!" 

The knight, he raised a bitter moan, 
As sick and sore, on land he stood: 
"Ah! why dost leave me thus alone? 
Whither dost go, my lord so good?" 140 
The king, he spake in mournful tone, 
"I will a little o'er this flood, 
Unto the Vale of Avalone, 
There shall my wounds find healing 
good." 

Whenas the ship from land was brought, 
The knight, he saw that barque no 

more 

Throughout the forest land he sought, 
The hills so high, he passed them o'er, 
For this, his life, he careth naugth, 
Faring all night in sorrow sore, 150 

At daybreak he hath found, fair wrought, 
A chapel 'twixt two holts so hoar. 

Thither he straight hath ta'en his 

way 

There doth he see a wondrous sight, 
Upon the ground a hermit lay 
Before a tomb, all newly dight. 
Covered it was with marble gray, 
And with rich letters graven aright, 
And on a hearse in fair array 
Full hundred tapers, all alight. 160 

Then of the hermit was he fain 
To ask who might be buried there? 
The hermit answered him again, 
He wist not rightly who it were; 
"At midnight came a goodly train 
Of ladies, but I knew them ne'er, 



272 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Bearing on bier a body slain, 

Full piteous were the wounds it bare. 168 

"They proffered me of Besants bright, 
Methinks, more than a hundred pound, 
And bade me pray, both day and night, 
For him, whose tomb thou here hast 

found, 

That Christ's dear Mother, of her might, 
Should help his soul, as at this stound," 
The knight the letters read aright, 
For sorrow fell he to the ground. 

"Hermit, in sooth," so did he cry, 
"Now of my lord am I forlorn, 



Arthur, my king, he here doth lie, 

The best prince e'er in Britain born. 180 

Give me thy habit presently, 

For Him Who ware the Crown of Thorn, 

That I within these walls may lie 

And pray for him both night and morn." 

That holy hermit said not Nay 
(Sometime Archbishop had he been, 
By Mordred was he driven away 
And found a home in forest green.) 
Christ Jesu did he thank that day 
That he Sir Bedivere had seen, IQO 

Right welcome was he there to stay 
The twain, they dwelt in peace, I ween. 



TALES 



THE FOX AND THE WOLF 



A FOX came forth from out the wood, 
A-hungered sore, in search of food, 
Never in all his life before 
Had hunger plagued him half so sore. 
He went by neither road nor street, 
For loth he was with folk to meet, 
Liever he were one hen to see 
Than fifty women, tho' fair they be! 
Over the fields he sped full fast, 
Till that he came to a wall at last, 10 
Within the wall a house there stood; 
The fox he hastened in eager mood, 
For he thought his hunger there to 

still 
With meat or drink, as should be his 

will. 

Looking about him on every side 
With swifter pace the fox, he hied, 
Until he came to the wall of stone, 
And some thereof was overthrown, 
And the wall was broken all along, 
But locked was the one gate stout and 

strong. 20 

At the nearest breach that the fox might 

win 

Over he leapt, and gat him in. 
When he was in he laughed, I trow, 
And of his coming made sport enow, 
For that he had entered and asked no 

leave 

Either of bailiff, or yet of grieve! 
To an open door he crept so soft, 
There sat the hens in a row aloft, 
Five there were, which doth make a 

flock, 
And there in the midst there sat one 

cock. 30 

The cock, he had perched him far on 

high, 
And two of the hens they sat him nigh. 



"Fox," quoth the cock: " what dost thou 

there? 
Get thee from hence, Christ give thee 

care! 
Oft to our hens hast thou done foul 

shame, 

Be gone, I bid thee, in Heaven's Name! " 
Then answered the fox: "Sir Chanti 
cleer, 

Fly thou adown, and come anear, 
Ne'er have I done thee aught but good, 
To thy hens have I sometime let their 

blood, 40 

Sick they were 'neath the ribs, I wot, 
Short span of life had been then their 

lot 
Save that their veins should opened 

be, 

And that have I done, for charity ! 
I have but drawn from their veins the 

blood, 
And Chanticleer, it would do thee 

good, 
Thou, too, hast that sickness beneath 

the spleen, 
Scarce ten days more shalt thou live, I 

ween, 

Thy life-days all shall pass with speed 
Save that thou follow this my rede, 50 
I will let thee blood beneath the breast, 
Else soon must thou bid to thee the 

priest!" 
"Get hence," quoth the cock: "shame be 

to thee, 

Thou hast wronged our kin right woe 
fully, 

Get thee away, ere thou doest worse, 
And here I call on thee Heaven's curse! 
For an I came down, in Heaven's Name, 
I were assured of bitter shame. 



2 7 6 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



But an he wist, our Cellarer, 
That thou hadst dared to enter here, 60 
For sure he were on thy track ere long, 
With pikes, and stones, and staves so 

strong, 

All thy bones he would swiftly break, 
And thus our vengeance upon thee 

take! " 

The fox was still, he spake no more, 
But now was he athirst full sore, 
I ween the thirst it vexed him more 
Than e'er the hunger had done afore; 
All around him he prowled and sought 
Until by hap his wanderings brought 70 
Him nigh to a well of water clear, 
Of cunning fashion, as ye shall hear. 
Two buckets there at the well he 

found, 

The one was down to the water wound, 
And when men wound it up to the 

brink 

The other bucket adown would sink. 
The fox knew naught how the matter 

lay, 

Into the bucket he leapt straightway, 
For so he thought him his fill to drink 
But swift the bucket began to sink; 80 
Too late the fox himself bethought, 
And saw how he in a snare was caught, 
But tho' he bethought himself enow 
It helped him naught in this need, I 

trow! 
Down must he go, he was held fast 

there, 

Trapped he was in a cunning snare, 
Had he known, it had been his will 
To leave that bucket hanging still ! 
What with sorrow, and what with dread, 
All his thirst, it hath from him sped. 90 
Thus at last he came to the ground, 
Water, enow, I ween, he found, 
But tho' 't was there, he little drank, 
For it seemed to him that the water 

stank 
Since against his will he was there down 

thrust 



"Woe worth," quoth the fox: "desire 

and lust, 
That knoweth not measure unto his 

meat, 

Were I not minded o'ermuch to eat 
This shame had never my portion been, 
But the lust of my mouth was over 

keen, too 

He who to thieving doth set his hand, 
111 is his portion in every land! 
Here am I caught in trap and gin, 
Methinks some devil brought me herein, 
I was wont to be wise, but now I see 
My race is run, here 's an end of me!" 

The fox he wept, and made loud lament: 
There came a wolf on like errand bent, 
Out of the woodland deep he sped, 
For he, too, was sore a-hungered, no 
Nothing throughout the night he found 
To still his hunger at that stound. 
He came to the well where the fox made 

moan, 

And knew him again by his voice alone, 
For that he had long his neighbour been, 
And gossip unto his bairns, I ween. 
Adown by the brink of the well he sat, 
Quoth the wolf aloud: "What now is 

that? 

Whose voice is that in the well I hear, 
Art thou baptized my comrade dear? 120 
Mock me not, but I prithee tell 
Who now hath put thee adown the 

well?" 

The fox, he knew him well for his kin, 
And straight by his coming did counsel 

win, 
And sought some wile that success might 

crown, 

To bring himself up, and the wolf adown. 
Quoth the fox in answer: "Who cometh 

here, 

I ween it be Sigrim's voice I hear?" 
"That is sooth:" quoth the wolf with 

speed, 
"But who shalt thou be? So God give 

thee rede!" 130 



THE FOX AND THE WOLF 



277 



"Aye," quoth the fox: "now hearken 

me, 

In no single word will I lie to thee; 
I am Reynard, thy friend of old, 
And had'st thou afore-time thy coming 

told 
Then in very sooth had I prayed for 

thee, 
As boon, that thou should 'st come here 

to me!" 
" To thee ?" quoth the wolf, " I prithee 

tell, 

What should I do there, in the well?" 
Quoth the fox: "Nay, nay, thou art un 
wise, 

Here is the bliss of Paradise, 140 

Here in plenty I ever fare 
Free from trouble, and free from care, 
Here be meat and drink enow, 
And bliss that fadeth not, I trow, 
Hunger herein shall ye never know, 
Nor sorrow, nor any kind of woe, 
Of every good is there plenty here " 

ic wolf he laughed those words to hear : 
"God give thee rede, art thou dead, 

i-troth, 149 

Or yet of this world? " the wolf he quoth. 
He spake again: "When dids't thou die? 
And what art thou doing there, verily? 
There are scarce passed days but three 
Since thou and thy wife ye supped with 

me, 

Ye, and your children, small and great, 
Ye all together with me ate." 
"Yea," quoth the fox: "thou sayest 

sooth, 

God be thanked, yet now hear the truth, 
Now have I made a right fitting end, 159 
Naught do I owe thee for that, my friend; 
For all this world hath of good or gain 
To dwell therein am I no more fain, 
Why should I again to this world fare? 
Therein is naught but woe and care ! 
In sin and uncleanness my life I past, 
Here many a joy to my lot is cast, 
Here be both sheep and goats, I ween!" 
The wolf was vexed by hunger keen, 



'T was over-long since he last might eat, 
And when he thus heard him speak of 

meat 170 

Right fain was he then to share the food; 
"Ah!" quoth the wolf: "my comrade 

good, 

Many a meal hast thou ta'en from me, 
Let me, I pray thee, come down to thee ! 
And all, I promise, shall be forgiven " 
"Yea," quoth the fox: "an thou first 

wert shriven, 

If all thy sins thou would'st now forsake, 
And thyself to a better life betake, 
Then would I in such wise pray for thee 
That thou shouldest come adown to 



me! 



180 



The wolf he quoth : "An that be so 
To whom may I for confession go? 
Here in this place be none alive 
Who in this stress my sins could shrive; 
Oft hast thou been my comrade dear, 
Wilt thou now my confession hear? 
And all my life will I truly tell " 
"Nay," quoth the fox: "that were not 

well." 
Quoth the wolf: "For mercy I pray once 

more, 

For in sooth I be a-hungered sore, 190 
I wot to-night am I dead indeed 
Save thou find counsel in this my need ! 
For the love of Christ do thou be my 

priest!" 

The wolf, he bowed adown his breast, 
In sob and sighing forth he brake 
"Wilt thou," quoth the fox: "confession 

make, 

One by one thy misdeeds unfold 
That never a sin remain untold? " 
"Yea," quoth the wolf: "that shall be 

my will 

All my life-days have I done ill, 200 

Upon me lieth the widow's curse, 
Therefore, I ween, do I fare the worse. 
A thousand sheep have I torn and bit 
ten, 
And more, if the tale thereof were 

written ! 



2 7 8 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Thereof do I now repent me sore 
Say, Master, needs must I tell thee 

more?" 
"Yea," quoth the fox: "all must thou 

say, 

Otherwise must thou forfeit pay." 
"Friend," quoth the wolf: "forgive it 

me, 

Oft have I spoken ill of thee, 210 

Men said of thee when thou wert on 

life 
That thou hadst ill dealings with my 

wife; 

One time to watch ye was I fain, 
In bed together I found ye twain. 
Often times was I nigh to ye, 
How ye fared together I needs must see, 
I deemed, as many another doth, 
That what I saw with mine eyes was 

sooth, 

Therefore to me thou wast full loath 
Dear Gossip, I prithee, be not wroth!" 
"Wolf," the fox quoth to him alway : 221 
"All thou hast done before this day, 
Be it in word, or deed, or will, 
In each and every kind of ill, 
All I forgive thee at this need." 
"Now," quoth the wolf: "may Christ 

thee speed, 

Now at last am I clean in life, 
Little I reck for child or wife, 
But tell me now what I needs must do, 
And how I may come thy bliss unto?" 
"Do?" quoth the fox: "that shalt thou 

hear, 231 

See'st thou a bucket hang anear? 
There is the entrance to Paradise, 
Leap thou therein, an thou be wise, 
So shalt thou be with me anon " 
Quoth the wolf: "That is lightly done!" 
He sprang therein, and his weight 'gan 

tell, 

(Of that the fox had advised him well) 
The wolf he sank, the fox he rose. 
Sorrow and fear the wolf he knows, 240 
When he came mid-way adown the pit 
The fox on the upward way he met; 



"Friend," quoth the wolf: "what dost 

thou now? 
What hast thou in mind? Where goest 

thou?" 

"Whither I go?" the fox he said, 
"I will up! so God give me aid! 
Go thou down to thy meed withal, 
Methinks thine earnings shall be but 

small ! 

Therefore am I both glad and blithe 249 
That thou be shriven and clean of life, 
A fitting knell I '11 bid them ring, 
And Mass for thy soul I'll have them 



sng 



" 



That wretch in the well he nothing 

found 
Save water, by hunger he fast was 

bound, 

At a banquet cold he needs must feed, 
Frogs the dough for his bread must 

knead. 

Down in the well the wolf, he stood, 
Mad for hunger, I ween, his mood, 
He cursed him roundly who brought 

him there, 

The fox thereof had little care. 260 

Nigh to a house it stood, the well, 
Where many good Friars, I ween, did 

dwell, 
And when it came that the night was 

done, 
And the brethren must needs arise, each 

one, 

To say their Mattins, and Morning- 
song, 

One Friar was there, the rest among, 
Who should them all from their sleep 

awake, 
When they to the Chapel their way 

should take; 

He bade them arise by one and one, 
And come to the House-song, every 

one. 7 

That same Friar he was hight Ailmer, 
He was their Master-Cellarer, 



THE LAND OF COCKAIGNE 



279 



It chanced he was gripped by thirst full 

strong 

Ere yet they had finished their morning- 
song, 

All alone to the well he went, 
To quench his thirst was the brother 

bent; 
He came to the well, and would water 

wind, 

Heavy the weight he needs must find, 
The friar be drew with all his might 
Until that the wolf he hove in sight, 280 
When he saw the wolf in the bucket sit, 
He cried: "The Devil is in the pit! " 
To the well the brethren hied each one 



Well armed with pike, and staff, and 

stone, 

Each with his weapon was not slack, 
Woe worth him who a tool did lack ! 
They drew the wolf up e'en to the 

ground, 

Many a foeman the wretch there found, 
Fain would they chase the wolf that day, 
Hunt him with hounds, and beat alway, 
Fell and fiercely they smote him there, 
Stung him with staves, and pierced with 

spear, 292 

The fox betrayed him with guile, I wis, 
For in sooth he found no kind of bliss, 
Nor pardon for all he had done amiss ! 



THE LAND OF COCKAIGNE 



FAR in the sea, and west of Spain, 
There lieth a land, i-hight Cockaigne; 
Beneath high Heaven there lies, I wis, 
No land in goodness like to this! 
Tho' Paradise be fair and bright 
Cockaigne is e'en a gladder sight; 
Paradise, what doth it bear 
But trees, and grass, and flowerets 

fair? 

Of joy and pleasure no lack is known, 
But no meat is there save fruit alone : 10 
In hall or bower is naught, for sure, 
To quench the thirst, save water pure! 
Two men only, I rede thee well, 
Elias and Enoch, there may dwell; 
Lonely I ween, their lot, and sore, 
Who of comrades may have no more! 

In Cockaigne is meat and drink, 
Free from sorrow, care, and stint, 
The meat is choice, the drink is clear, 
At every meal throughout the year. 20 
I say for sooth, this wide world round, 
Its peer may nowhere else be found, 
'Neath Heaven there is no land, I wis, 
Of such abounding joy and bliss ! 



There is many a goodly sight, 
'T is ever day, there falls no night, 
There is no quarrel, there is no strife; 
There is no death, but endless life; 
There is no lack of wealth, nor cloth; 
Nor man nor woman there waxeth 
wroth; 30 

There is no serpent, wolf, nor fox, 
Horse nor gelding, cow nor ox; 
There is no goat, nor swine, nor sheep, 
Never a steading, so God me keep! 
Neither stallions, nor mares for brood, 
The land is full of other good. 
There is no fly, nor flea, nor louse, 
In cloth nor bedding, town, nor house; 
There is no thunder, sleet, nor hail, 
No vile earth-worm, nor e'en a snail! 40 
There is no storm, no rain, no wind; 
There is no man nor woman blind; 
But all is gladness, joy, and glee, 
Oh! Well is him who there may be! 

There be rivers great and fine, 
Of oil, milk, honey, and eke of wine, 
Water, it serveth naught, I ween, 
Save for washing, and to be seen: 



28o 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



There be fruits of all kinds, I trow, 
There is solace, and joy enow! so 

There is a right fair Friary, 

Both of the White Friars, and the Grey; 

There, I ween, be bowers and halls, 

All of pasties be the walls, 

Of flesh, of fish, of choicest meat, 

The daintiest that a man may eat. 

Of floury cakes the shingles all 

On church and cloister, bower and hall; 

The pinnacles be of plump puddings 

Meet for princes, and eke for kings! 60 

A man thereof may eat his fill, 

Free from sorrow, of right good will; 

All is common to young and old, 

To stout and valiant, meek and bold. 

There is a cloister fair and light, 

Broad and long, a seemly sight: 

The pillars of that cloister tall 

Are wrought of crystal clear withal; 

With every base and capital 

Of jasper green, and of red coral. 70 

In the meadow there is a tree, 

Very pleasant it is to see, 

The roots are ginger and spices good, 

The branches all of liquorice wood, 

Of choicest mace it is, the flower, 

Cinnamon, the bark, of sweet odour, 

Of gilly-flower cloves the fruit, I ween. 

No lack of cabobs there is seen 

Roses red, methinks, there be, 

And snow-white lilies, fair to see, 80 

That fade not either by day or night, 

Methinks it should be a goodly sight! 



Four be the wells in that Friary, 

Of treacle one, and of healing whey, 

Of balsam, and of spiced wine, 

Ever running, fair and fine, 

With their streams to enrich the 

mould 

There be precious stones and gold; 
There be pearl and sapphire rare, 
Carbuncle red, and crystal fair. 90 



Emerald, jacinth, chrysoprase, 
Beryl, onyx, and eke topaze, 
Amethyst, and chrysolite, 
Chalcydone, and malachite. 
Of birds 't were ill to count the tale, 
Throstle, thrush, and nightingale; 
Woodpeckers green, and larks there be, 
And of all birds great company, 
That never slack, but use their might 
In merry song, both day and night. 100 

And yet I do you more to wit 
Roasted geese upon the spit 
Fly to that abbey, so God wot, 
Crying, "Geese, all hot, all hot! " 
Garlick they bring in plenty there, 
Right so as cunning cooks prepare; 
The laverocks too, I say for sooth, 
Fly adown to each man's mouth, 
Stewed they are, and right well done, IOQ 
Stuffed with cloves, and with cinnamon. 
Of any drink that there be, at will 
Every man may take his fill. 
When the friars they go to Mass 
All the windows that be of glass 
Turn themselves to crystal bright 
That the brethren may have more light. 
Wlien the Masses all be said, 
And the books aside are laid, 
The crystal turns to glass once more, 
Even as it had been afore. 120 



Whoso will come that land unto 

Sorry penance must he do; 

Seven years long, in filth and grime 

Must he wade, and all the time 

Therein be plunged, up to the chin 

So shall he to that land win ! 

Lordings good, I 'Id have ye know, 

Never shall ye thither go 

Save that first ye take this chance, 

And fulfil this sore penance, 130 

So may ye this fair land gain, 

And may never turn again. 

Pray we God it so may be! 

Amen, Amen, by Charity! 



THE SEVEN SAGES OF ROME 



281 



THE SEVEN SAGES OF ROME 



Talell 

THE Emperor rose at dawn of day 
And bade them bring his son straightway, 
And hang the lad, ere it was long, 
Upon a gallows high and strong. 
The knights and townsfolk, high and low, 
Much pity for the boy they show 
That he should thus to death be dight, 
And all of wrong, with naught of right. 
A-horse came Master Bausillas, 
Who the lad's master soothly was, 10 
His pupil sore bestead must see, 
Heavy at heart, I trow, was he. 
To gallows-tree the lad must fare, 
The Master rode in grief and care; 
Unto the palace-gate he came, 
His horse he leaveth at that same, 
Fast doth he hie him to the hall 
The Emperor sits 'mid courtiers all 
Greeting he gave, the Master good; 19 
The monarch spake, in mournful mood: 
"To evil end may'st thou be brought 
Who thus my son hast evil taught!" 
Quoth Master Bausillas straightway: 
"Why are ye vexed Sire? Tell me pray, 
Ye who of old were meek and mild 
Now wrongfully would slay your child ! " 
The Einperor, without more ado, 
Quoth: " Flatterer, I'll slay thee too! 
My son I gave unto thy care 
To learn his book, in fashion fair, 30 
111 customs have ye taught him here, 
For such ye sure shall pay full dear. 
My son is reft of speech withal 
The Devil take ye, each and all! 
With that he fain had forced my wife 
Therefore shall no man save his life; 
But sure to death I'll have them done 
Who should have better taught my son ! " 
"Nay, Sire," quoth Master Bausillas: 
"That were great wrong, saving your 
grace, 4 o 



Say that your son had vexed your wife 
Were that a cause to take his life?'* 
Quoth he: "I found my wife forlorn, 
Her face and raiment rent and torn, 
If one be ta'en in act and deed 
Of other witness is small need." 
The Master quoth: "Sire, have a care, 
Trow not a step-dame's tale tho' fair, 
Her bolt is all too swiftly shot, 
Rather for ill than good, I wot! 50 

If thou for her shalt slay thy son 
Such payment may'st thou well have 

won 

As fell unto that knight so true 
Who once his faithful greyhound slew." 
To hear that tale the Emperor prayed 
Straightway the Master answer made: 
"Sire, while that I may tell my tale 
Thy son may suffer mickle bale, 
Thus were my travail all for naught 
I pray that he be hither brought, 60 
Give him respite, and, without fail, 
I'll tell to ye a wondrous tale." 
The Emperor quoth: "I grant the 

boon." 

A sergeant went his way right soon, 
And brought the lad into the hall 
Before his sire, and courtiers all; 
Obeisance fitting doth he make 
To all, yet never word he spake. 
The Emperor quoth: " Now this thy tale 
Set forth, Bausillas, without fail." 70 

He quoth : " Sire, in this same citie, 

Upon a Feast of Trinitie, 

A tournament men fain would hold 

For many a noble knight, and bold, 

On meadow green, with knightly play 

And it befell on that same day 

The knight I speak of, at that stound, 

At home had left his good greyhound. 

His manor by that meadow stood 

Encircled by the river's flood, 80 



282 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And very ancient was each wall 
By hole and cranny pierced withal. 
The knight had wed a lady fair, 
A goodly child she to him bare; 
Cherished he was by nurses three, 
One gave him suck, it seemeth me; 
One washed and bathed him as 't was 

need, 

Bedded, and dressed in goodly weed; 
The third she washed his sheets full oft, 
And rocked the babe to slumber soft. 90 
The dog, of whom but now I told, 
A right good hound it was, and bold, 
Therewith had he been trained so well 
For naught that knight his dog would 

sell. 

The knight then, armed in fitting weed, 
Full soon had leapt upon his steed, 
With shield on arm, and shaft in hand, 
To joust with knights of that same 

land, 

Full soon unto the field he came 
His gentle lady, at that same, 100 

Beheld him from the turret stair, 
Full fain to see the tourney fair. 
The nurses said they too would go 
And look upon the knightly show, 
The three they gat forth from the hall 
Setting the cradle 'neath a wall 
Wherein the child fast sleeping lay, 
The three they went to see the play 
E'en from a secret place beside. 
Now hearken what befell that tide. 
An adder lurked within that wall, m 
It heard the sound of hoof-beats fall, 
And creeping forth the cause to know 
Beheld the child who lay below. 
Down to the ground it made its way, 
Intent, the child forthwith to slay. 
The greyhound wandering thereabout 
Saw where the snake crept stealthy out, 
The adder did he swift assail, 
Taking it tightly by the tail, 120 

But soon the adder bit him sore 
So that he dare keep hold no more. 
Loosed from his jaws, the adder crept 
To where the babe in cradle slept, 



Full fain was he the child to sting 
Once more the hound did on him spring, 
Amid the back be held him tight, 
Shook him on high with all his might, 
Betwixt the adder and the hound 
The cradle fell unto the ground, 130 
They over-turned it in the fray 
So that the child face downward lay; 
The four posts held it o'er the child, 
Unharmed was he, and undefiled. 
The adder bit the greyhound there 
On side, on back, yea, everywhere; 
The adder bleeds, e'en so the hound, 
Fierce was the fight they fought that 

stound ! 

At last the dog the snake doth kill, 
Tare him to pieces at his will; 140 

When they had done, then all around 
With blood was dyed and stained the 

ground. 

" The tournament to end is brought, 
The knights, I trow, they stay for naught, 
Each takes his harness as he may 
And swiftly goes the homeward way. 
The nurses to the hall they go, 
Great was their grief, and great their 

woe; 

The cradle with the child they found 
O'erturned, it stood upon the ground; 150 
They deemed the child were dead, i' fay, 
Therefore they looked not where it lay, 
But all about they saw the blood 
Such was their woe they waxed nigh 

wood! 

Great sorrow had they in their heart 
The greyhound howled for bitter smart, 
They deemed he had waxed wood and 

wild, 

And, in his madness, slain the child. 
The lady oft in swoon did fall 
There, 'mid her maidens in the hall : 160 
'Alas,' she said, 'that I was born 
Now my fair child from me is torn ! ' 
The knight came home at that same 

tide 
And all his men were at his side, 



THE SEVEN SAGES OF ROME 



283 



He saw them sorrow evermore, 

For the child's sake they wept full sore. 

The knight he asked what ailed them 

there? 

The tale they swift to him declare, 
The lady said: 'Sir, this your hound 
Our child hath eaten on this ground, 170 
Save that thou here shalt take his life 
I'll slayi'myself with this, my knife.' 
The knight, he went without delay; 
The good dog met him on the way, 
To fawn upon his lord was fain 
Barking the while, for very pain, 
To run about he might not cease, 
The venom gave him little peace. 
With wagging tail fawned on his lord 
The knight in haste drew forth his 

sword, 180 

Upon the back-bone smote the hound, 
Clave him asunder to the ground. 
The greyhound good, he lieth dead 
The knight unto the cradle sped, 
Wherein the infant peaceful slept 
The while the women sorely wept. 
The knight, he found the adder dead, 
And torn to pieces in that stead, 
With blood of snake, and blood of 

hound, 189 

Stained were the cradle and the ground. 
The cradle turned, the child they see 
Alive, and marvel mightily 
They saw the hound, the snake had 

slain 

The knight, he sorroweth amain, 
His grief, I trow, was grim and great: 
'Sorrow,' he quoth, 'shall be his mate 
Right certainly, and without fail, 
Who hearkeneth to a woman's tale! 
Alas!' he quoth 'for so did I!' 
With that he mourned, and made great 

cry, 200 

He called his household less and more, 
And showed to them his sorrow sore, 
How that his child was hale and sound, 
But he had slain his faithful hound 
All for his valour, and good deed, 
In that he trowed his lady's rede. 



'Alas,' he quoth, 'in slaying thee 

Myself must rue it bitterly, 

Good knights and true I'll teach each 

one 

The counsel of their wives to shun, 210 
He sat him down in dole so drear, 
And bade a groom take off his gear, 
His garments gay aside did throw, 
And barefoot all, he forth would go. 
He took no leave of wife nor child 
But gat him to the woodland wild, 
In forest far from men would be 
That no man might his sorrow see, 
And suffered many a sorry stound 
For grief of this, his good greyhound. 220 
Thus, thro' the counsel of his wife, 
In woe henceforth he passed his life. 
Sir Emperor, so may ye share 
Sorrow and shame, dishonour bear, 
If ye should slay, against all right, 
Your son, as did his hound the knight, 
O'er hasty he, of ruthless deed, 
And of his wife he wrought the rede." 

The Emperor sware: "By Jesu free, 
Such fortune ne'er shall fall to me, 230 
And Master, here I soothly say 
My son, he shall not die to-day!" 
"Yea Sire," quoth Master Bausillas: 
Follow my counsel in this case, 
For all the world shall him despise 
Who trusts his wife, nor heeds the 

wise." 

The Emperor quoth: "Ye rightly say, 
I will not do what she doth pray." 
His son he back to prison sent, 
Upon his way the Master went. 240 



Tale XI 

When all from out the hall had gone 
The Emperor sought his bower anon, 
The Empress did he find therein 
Sorry of cheer, of mournful mien; 
"Lady," he quoth: "what aileth thee?" 
She answered: "Sire, 'tis naught to 
thee, 



28 4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Wilt not avenge me of my foe, 
Therefore I think from thee to go 
Unto my kin, who hold me dear, 
And never more to come thee near, 250 
Liever were I to wend my way 
Than dwell in dole by night and day!" 
He answered: "Have I done amiss 
Speak, and I'll right the wrong, I wis!" 
She quoth: "It profits naught, by 

Heaven, 

Thy ruin shall be thy Masters seven, 
To whom thou lendest ear alway 
Aye sparing him who shall thee slay. 
To thee may well befall such thing 
As fell to Herod's lot, the king, 260 

Who lost his sight for evil rede 
'T were well if thou this tale wouldst 

heed!" 

"Lady," he quoth: "I pray of thee 
That self -same tale now tell to me." 
"Yea Sire," she said: "with right good 

cheer 
God send thee grace to rightly hear!" 

"Once Sire, there lived in high estate 
An Emperor of honour great, 
Herod, I trow, that monarch's name, 
A mighty prince of noble fame; 270 

And seven clerks had he always 
Like these, whom ye for wisdom praise, 
And whatsoe'er was in his thought 
After their rede he ever wrought. 
The seven clerks, they made decree, 
Stablished a custom, wrongfully, 
That who so dreamed in any night, 
And gat him to the clerks, forthright, 
Bringing with him a crown of gold, 
And to the clerks his vision told, 280 
That they thereto would take intent, 
And tell him what the dream had meant. 
And some was false, and some was 

true, 

Yet many folk to them they drew, 
Burghers, arid peasants, high and low, 
The meaning of their dream would know. 
And nobles came from divers lands 
Each brought a besant in his hand 



They wrought this craft for many a day 
Till richer than their lord were they. 290 

" The Emperor, upon a day, 

Thought he would wend him forth to 

play, 

Out of the gate he fain would ride 
With him his men on either side, 
Sudden he waxed blind as a stone 
Unto his clerks he sent anon, 
And asked them what had made him 

blind? 

But ne'er a reason might they find; 298 
For four-score days they asked respite, 
Within that time they hoped they might, 
By lore of books, find reason why 
Their lord waxed blind thus suddenly. 
The Emperor gat him home again 
The clerks, they wrought with mickle 

pain 

Within their books the cause to find 
Why thus the Emperor was blind. 

" The clerks soon after on a day, 
Met with an old man in the way, 
To him they now recount their tale, 
And he quoth: 'Masters, without fail, 310 
No man may help ye, more or less, 
Saving a child, who 's fatherless, 
True counsel shall he give to ye, 
But I wot not where he may be.' 
The Masters would no longer bide, 
To seek that child they forth would ride, 
And some rode East, and some rode 

West, 

Where'er they thought to find him best, 
A fortnight thus they fruitless ride, 
Seeking the child on every side. 320 

At last their way led thro' a town 
Where children sported up and down, 
They saw one boy who smote another, 
Calling him 'Blockhead, Devil's Bro 
ther, 

Thou art a son of Devil's blood, 
Evil dost work, and never good, 
Fatherless blockhead, I thee call!' 
Thereto agreed the children all. 



THE SEVEN SAGES OF ROME 



28c 



Two of the Masters right well beard 329 
The children's striving, word by word ; 
Then Merlin saw he was espied, 
And straitly sware his fellows lied, 
He saith: 'Now here two clerks I see, 
In many a place they seek for me, 
To Rome, methinks, they 'Id have me 

go 

Judgment on certain points to show.* 
The Masters came unto that child, 
And spake to him in accents mild : 
* Child, tell us what shall be thy name?' 
'Merlin,' he answered at that same. 340 
With that, a goodman of that land 
Came with a besant in his hand 
To Merlin gave it presently 
He quoth: 'Full hasty Sir, shalt be 
The meaning of thy dream to know 
That may full well misfortune show; 
But since thou profferest such meed 
Ready am I thy dream to read. 
There, in thy midden, didst thou see 
A well spring forth with waters free, 350 
And of that water sweet, I think, 
Thou, and thy neighbours oft did drink. 
This is the meaning. In that mould 
Shalt find a hoard of good red gold, 
Which in thy midden hid doth lie, 
Thither we'll go, the truth to try/ 
Then with that man they all would go, 
For all were fain the truth to know; 
Their way unto the place they made 
The child bade bring forth pick and 

spade, 360 

A hole they delved, deep in the ground, 
There, as he said, a hoard they found, 
For good red gold the hole did fill, 
The good-man bade take at their will, 
His fellow towns-men, all and each 
With that same treasure were made 

rich ; 

The Masters took gold at their will, 
But Merlin, he refused it still. 
To Rome their way the Masters make, 
The little lad with them they take; 370 
Then, as they went upon their way, 
They asked the child if he could say 



Or any certain reason find 
Wherefore the Emperor was blind? 
Merlin he quoth: 'Assuredly, 
I well can tell the reason why * 
Then were the Masters blithe and gay, 
Swiftly to Rome they took their way, 
And ere the term was at an end 
Safely to court their way they wend. 380 
Then to the Emperor thus they say : 
'Sir, we be come on this set day.' 
He saith: 'An answer do ye bring?' 
'Nay, Sire' they quoth, 'by Heaven's 

King, 

But Sire, a child we here have brought 
Who well may tell ye all your thought.' 
The Emperor said : ' Ye surety stand 
For this, upon your life and land?' 
'Yea, Sire,' they said, 'our all we '11 

stake 

That he an answer true shall make.' 390 
The Emperor quoth: 'Tell, if thou may.' 
The child spake : ' Swiftly go thy way 
Unto thy chamber, there, aright, 
I '11 say why thou hast lost thy sight.' 
Into his chamber went anon 
The Emperor, and his clerks each one, 
Upon his bed he sat him there 
And bade the child the truth declare. 
Quoth Merlin to the Emperor: 399 

'Beneath thy bed, in this same bower, 
Beneath the ground, yea, deep adown, 
Lieth a boiling calderon, 
That bubbles sevenfold, day and night, 
And Sire, that has thee reft of sight, 
For while these bubbles boiling rise 
The sight is banished from thine eyes; 
But might a man those bubbles stay 
Thine eyes were fair and bright alway.' 

" The Emperor marvelled much at this, 
And bade them move his bed, I wis, 410 
Full deep they digged at that same 
Until they to the caldron came, 
The seven bubbles boiling see, 
And know the lad spake veritie. 
Then quoth the Emperor straightway: 
' Child, I will do thy will alway, 



286 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Some reason canst thou find, I ween, 
Of what this calderon may mean?' 
The child quoth: 'Yea Sire, without 

doubt, 

But bid thy Masters stay without, 420 
The tale to end then shall ye know/ 
The Emperor bade them forth to go, 
No man of them might longer stay 
The child began his tale straightway; 
'Those seven bubbles shall ye know 
Thy seven Masters soothly show, 
For they have stablished customs new 
The which ye shall full sorely rue. 
If any man dream, night or day, 
That they shall come to them straight 
way, 430 
And bring a besant in that stead 
That so their dream be rightly read. 
The dream at will they read alway 
And thus thy clerks the folk betray, 
And for this sin, Sire, do I find, 
Thou of thine eyes be waxen blind.* 
The Emperor quoth: 'If it be so 
Tell me what it were best to do?' 
The lad quoth: 'Sire, I trow 't were best 
By one of them the truth to test, 440 
If ye the oldest Master slay 
The largest bubble sure shall stay.' 



The Emperor bade his men off-smite 
The oldest Master's head, forthright, 
And even as that deed was done 
The largest bubble ceased anon. 
With that the Emperor, straightway, 
Bade men the Masters all to slay; 
Then cold and calm the water grew, 449 
And joy henceforth the Emperor knew, 
Merlin, he washed his eyes that tide, 
Then could he see to walk and ride: 
The Emperor thus regained his sight, 
His seven Masters lost their might. 

" Sir, so they blind thee, and beguile, 
Thy Masters seven, with cunning wile, 
For if thou follow this their rede 
An evil road they will thee lead, 
As Herod, for his trusting came 
Well nigh unto an end of shame." 460 
The Emperor quoth: "Nay, Lady fair, 
Such shame shall never be my share, 
Sooner shall they to death be dight!" 
"Certes," she quoth, "there art thou 

right!" 

"Lady, I pledge me in this stead 
To-morrow shall my son be dead, 
And none shall free him from his bale.' 5 
Here endeth the eleventh tale. 



PROVERBIAL AND DIDACTIC 



PRECEPTS OF ALFRED 



THERE sat, in the town of Seaford, 
Full many a thane and lord, 
Earls were there, proud in might, 
And each one a gallant knight. 
There Aelfric, the earl, I saw, 
A wise man he, in their law; 
And Alfred, too, might ye see, 
Shepherd of England he, 
Of English men was he king, 
And of England was he darling. 
His folk would he teach right well 
As now ye may hear me tell, 
Good counsel he gave, wise rede 
How they their lives should lead. 



Alfred, he ruled England 

As king, with his strong right hand, 

He was king, he was clerk as well 

God's Word he loved right well. 

Very wise was he in rede, 

And wary, too, in his deed: to 

Wisest was he of men 

Who dwelt in England then. 

II 

Quoth Alfred, England's king, 

For Englishmen's profiting: 

"An ye, my folk so dear, 

The words of your lord would hear, 

Guide ye aright he could 

And teach ye things wise and good 

How ye in this world may share 

Worship and honour fair, 30 

And yet save your soul, I wis, 

And get ye to Christ in bliss." 

(Wise was the counselling 

Spoken by Alfred the king ) 

"Mildly I'ld 'monish here 

Ye all, my friends so dear, 



(Both rich and poor are ye, 

Yet all ye my folk shall be,) 

I would that all men here 

Our Lord Christ fitly fear, 40 

Love Him, withouten strife, 

For He is the Lord of Life; 

He is One God in Three, 

Good o'er all Goodness He 

Joy, o'er all Joyfulness 

Bliss, o'er all earthly Bliss. 

A Man among men shall He be, 

The mildest of Masters He; 

As Father, this folk He'll guide, 

As Comforter, Help provide, 50 

Righteous His Governing-* 

And so Mighty is He as Ipng 

That lack He shall never know 

Nor shall he his will forego 

Who fitting honour alway 

To God in this world doth pay." 

m 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 

For Englishmen's profiting : 

"His crown may no king wear 

'Neath Christ, nor rule fitly bear, 60 

Save that he learned be 

In book-lore, cunningly, 

So that his wits, all five, 

May thro* his knowledge thrive. 

In letters he versed must be, 

That he himself may see 

How he his land should school, 

And hold it in lawful rule." 

IV 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"The earl and the atheling 70 

Under the king they be, 

To rule the land lawfully. 



290 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



The clerk, I ween, and the knight, 
Judgment shall give aright, 
Equal to poor and rich, 
The judgment, for all and each. 
For e'en as a man doth sow 
That crop, I ween, must he mow, 
And each man's doom to his door 
Returneth, evermore." 



80 



Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"The knight shall this service bring, 

To stand upon watch and ward 

Wary, the land to guard; 

With hunger and harness prest. 

That so the Church may have rest, 

And the churl abide in peace 

To gather his land's increase. 

In such wise to sow his seed, 

In such wise to mow his mead, 90 

In such wise his plough to drive, 

That all men therefrom may thrive. 

This is the law of the knight 

See that he hold it aright!" 

VI 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"The man who in youth doth bring 

Good will to his fostering, 

Is fain to learn wisdom and wit, 

And the lore that in books be writ, 

I trow in old age, that he 100 

A right good teacher shall be. 

But he who in youth doth prove 

That for learning he hath small ' 

love, 

Careth naught for wisdom and wit, 
And the lore that in books be writ; 
That which he lacked in his youth 
His old age shall rue, for sooth. 
For old age cometh apace, 
And sickness he needs must face, 
And his hopes, that full high had 

been, no 

To loss are they turned, I ween. 
In such wise do they him betray, 
In such wise vanish away." 



vn 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"Weal is a worthless thing 

Save Wisdom with it it bring; 

For tho' a man have and hold 

Seventy acres, all told, 

And tho' those acres were sown 

With good red gold alone, 120 

And that gold should grow, I ween, 

As groweth the grass so green, 

That man shall, for all his share 

Of wealth, none the better fare, 

Save friends for himself he win 

Ere ever his toil begin; 

For naught but a stone is gold 

Save a wise man have it in hold." 

VIII 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"Youth, be thou 'ware of this thing; 130 

Yield not to sorrowing 

Tho' the lot that to thee may fall 

Pleasure thee not at all; 

And tho' thou shalt hold far less 

Than the goods thou would 'st fain 

possess. 

For God may give, an He will, 
Good, in the stead of 111, 
Weal in the stead of Woe 
Well is he who doth find it so." 



IX 



140 



Thus quoth Alfred the king, 

For Englishmen's profiting: 

"A hard task it is to row 

When the salt sea doth 'gainst thee flow; 

So is it to labour and toil 

If ill fortune thine efforts foil. 

He who, in the days of his youth, 

So striveth that he, in truth, 

May win this world's wealth alway 

And so, in his old age, may 

Rest, and enjoy his ease, 150 

And eke, with his goods' increase, 

Serve God, ere he hence shall go, 

His toil he doth well bestow!" 



PRECEPTS OF ALFRED 



291 



Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"Full many shall think a thing 

In which be small profiting; 

A man countetb on length of days 

But ill Fate him full oft betrays, 

For even as he doth find 

His life be most to his mind, 160 

That life is he forced to leave 

Altho' he full sore may grieve. 

For there groweth no herb so good 

In meadow, I ween, nor wood, 

That the life of a man it may 

Prolong to an endless day. 

And no man the hour doth know 

When he from this world must go; 

None knoweth the way of his end, 

Or whither he hence shall wend. 170 

The Lord of all Power, I wot, 

He casteth and ruleth, our lot, 

And God, He alone, doth know 

When we from this life must go.'* 

XI 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 

For every man's profiting: 

"If so be that thou silver and gold, 

And the wealth of this world, shalt hold, 

Beware lest it so betide 

That thy profiting turn to pride. 180 

'T is not from thy sire thou dost own 

Thy wealth, 't is from God a loan, 

In the hour that His Will is so 

Therefrom must we surely go; 

This life of ours must we quit 

And all that we hold, to wit, 

And our foes shall seize and hold 

What once to our lot was told, 

The treasure we needs must leave 

For us shall they little grieve!" 190 

XII 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 
"See not over much trust thou bring 
In the tide that floweth fair 
If treasure shall be thy share, 



If thou hast money, and more, 

Of gold and silver a store, 

Yet all may crumble to naught, 

To dust may thy wealth be brought 

God liveth, nor waxeth old 

Many a man, for his gold, 200 

Hath won him God's Wrath alway, 

And for his silver, such pay 

That his soul he at last hath lost 

In such wise must he pay the cost 

That 't were better for him, I ween, 

If born he had never been." 

XIII 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"My folk, give me hearkening; 

Since yours it shall be, the need, 

I will give unto ye good rede. 210 

Wit and Wisdom, believe me well, 

Do all other things excel, 

He safe and secure may sit 

Who for comrades hath Wisdom and 

Wit. 

For tho' riches may flit away 
His Wisdom shall with him stay, 
And never that man shall perish 
Who Wisdom as friend shall cherish, 
But harm shall he from him hold 
The while his life-days be told." 220 

XIV 

Thus quoth Alfred the king : 

"An thou goest sorrowing 

Then speak it not loud nor low, 

But whisper thy saddle-bow, 

And ride thence singing away 

So that the folk may say, 

(Who little thy thoughts can tell,) 

'This life, it pleaseth him well!' 

For if sorrow draw to thee near 

And thy foeman thereof shall hear 230 

Tho' he pity thee much to thy face 

To thy back he will mock thee apace. 

Thy grief to a man may'st tell 

Who in sooth may wish thee full well, 

While another will hear thee complain 

And wish thee as much woe again ! 



2 9 2 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Thy sorrow hide well in thine heart 
For so it shall bring thee less smart; 
The servant should never be told 239 
What the master's heart doth hold." 

XV 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 

For the husband's profiting: 

"An thou seekest a wife, beware; 

Choose her not for her face so fair, 

Nor for gold, nor for other thing 

That she unto thee may bring. 

But mark well what her ways may be 

For needs must she shew them thee; 

He who chooseth wealth, I trow, 

Oft findeth evil enow; 250 

And oft, with a face full fair, 

Hath he frailty for his share. 

Woe to him who an evil wife 

Bringeth to share his life, 

I ween he shall little thrive 

In his time, who shall evil wive. 

For she worketh him here on earth 

Sorrow in place of mirth; 

And many a man doth sing 259 

When his bride he doth homeward bring, 

Did he know what he brought, in 

truth, 
He had wept, for sorrow and ruth!'* 

XVI 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 

For the husband's profiting : 

"See thou be never so mad, 

Tho' the wine-cup make thee glad, 

As to tell thy wife, loud or still, 

All that is in thy will. 

For if it should so fall out 

That thy foemen were round about, 270 

And that thou had'st made her wroth 

With thy words, then, by my troth, 

Never, for living thing, 

Thou could'st her to silence bring, 

Upbraid thee, she would alway, 

Thine ill fortune to all display. 

Word-mad is woman, I ween, 

Her tongue aye too swift hath been, 



And rule it, she never may 

Tho' such were her will alway !" 2? 

XVII 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 
For the husband's profiting: 
"Leisure and pride, alway, 
Oft lead a young wife astray; 
So that oft she the thing hath done 
That were better if left undone. 
And yet, I think me, 't were light 
Vice and evil to put to flight, 
Were she willing to toil and sweat, 
And her hand to labour set; age 

Tho' 't is ill to bow, in the end 
The tree breaks that will not bend. 
The cat learneth to mouse, I \v^en, 
Where the mother her guide hath 

been. 

But woe to the man who shall let 
His wife the mastery get! 
For never shall he be heard, 
Nor be lord o'er his will and word; 
With him shall she "ternly deal, 
To his woe, and not to his weal, 300 
Of gladness is he forlorn 
Whom his wife doth hold in scorn; 
As an apple is fair to see 
When the taste thereof sour shall be, 
So with woman it doth befall 
She is fair in her father's hall, 
Sweet to a man's embrace 
And yet she doth bring disgrace. 
So full many men there be 
Who a-horse be goodly to see, 3 

Yet as friends are worth naught 

thee 

Haughty are they upon steed, 
And worthless in hour of need-" 

XVIII 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 

"I rede thee for profiting 

That thou be not too swift to heed 

Thy wife's counsel, nor follow her rede: 

For so that she wroth may be 

For word or deed, verily, 



PRECEPTS OF ALFRED 



293 



She weepeth for angry mood 320 

More oft than for reason good. 
She maketh plaint, loud, and still, 
But that she may have her will; 
She weepeth some other while 
Because she would thee beguile; 
Solomon saith indeed 
That women give evil rede, 
Would'st thou her counsel follow 
She bringeth thee swift to sorrow. 
And as the old song doth say: 330 

* Bubbles rise swift, and swift pass 

away ' ; 
And 't was said by the folk of old: 

* Women's counsel is counsel cold.' 
And that man doth come to ill 
Who is led by a woman's will. 

But that a good woman, God wot, 
Is a good thing, I doubt it not; 
Well for him, who, from out all other, . 
Shall choose her, and ne'er another." 

XIX 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 340 

For every man's profiting: 
"Full many a man, in thought, 
Hath that which small good hath 

wrought, 

That he hath a friend for his share 
In the man who speaketh him fair; 
To his face, he doth give him praise, 
To his back, he maligneth his ways. 
But his wealth, an the truth be 

told, 

A man may the longer hold 
If he ever to trust be slow 350 

Where speech doth more swiftly flow. 
Then believe not everything 
Which thou hearest men to sing, 
For of soft speech many shall be 
Who would lightly do ill to thee; 
Nor canst thou lightly conceive 
In what wise he will thee deceive." 

XX 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 
For every man's profiting: 



"By wise saws a man waxeth wise; 3 6c 

With himself, too, his wisdom lies, 

For by falsehood, he winneth hate, 

And by ill deeds, a worthless state. 

For the grasping hand alway 

The head must oft forfeit pay. 

Keep thee from falsehood's rede, 

AmTshlm every evil deed, 

And so, where'er thou shalt dwell, 

The folk, they shall love thee well. 

And of thy neighbour take heed, 370 

For he may be good at need. 

If to market or church thou shalt fare 

Make to thee friends everywhere; 

Whether rich, whether poor, they be, 

Of all alike, verily. 

Then steadfast and sure thy seat 

For abiding, an seem thee meet, 

Or secure shalt thou journey still 

Thro' the land, an it be thy will." 

XXI 

Thus quoth Alfred the king. 380 

For every man's profiting: 

"The wealth that this world hath 

brought 

I ween, it shall turn to naught, 
And the treasure a man doth hold 
Shall melt into muck and mould. 
And our life shall be swiftly past, 
But a little space shall it last. 
For e'en an it did betide 
That a man ruled the world so wide 
Yea, and all joys might win 390 

Of the joys that be here within, 
Yet neither for gladness nor gold 
His life might he longer hold, 
But all must be forfeited 
When but a few years be sped. 
And then shall this earthly bliss 
Be turned to bale I wis, 
Save that we bend us still 
To follow and work Christ's Will. 
Now bethink us, and take good heed 400 
Our life in such wise to lead 
As Christ in His Word doth tell; 
For so may we hope full well 



2 9 4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To be honoured by Him alway. 
For thus doth Solomon say : 
*The man who doth well below 
Hereafter reward shall know.' 
He leaveth his life behind, 
And fareth, reward to find.*' 

xxn 

Thus quoth Alfred the king, 410 

For every man's profiting: 

"I rede thee be ne'er so bold 

As to wrangle against a scold; 

Nor chide 'gainst a foolish tale 

For error shall aye prevail. 

And ne'er, an thou wouldst not rue, 

Begin to tell tidings new; 

And at every freeman's board 

Be thou sparing of thy word. 

The wise man his task hath done 420 

With few words, and may much have 

won; 

A fool's bolt full soon is shot, 
And I hold him a fool, God wot, 
Who sayeth all in his will 
When his profit were to be still. 
A tongue breaketh bones full oft 
Tho' itself be boneless and soft!" 

xxin 

Thus quoth Alfred the king: 
"The wise child bliss shall bring . 



430 



440 



To his father; if so it be 

That a bairn be born to thee, 

The while he be young and small 

Teach him good customs all; 

Then, as he shall wax, and grow, 

He shall turn his mind thereunto; 

And the better shall be his worth 

5"he while he abide on earth. 

But if thou shalt let him go 

In this world, to and fro, 

Ever, both loud and still, 

Working but his own will, 

Then as the years o'er him roll 

Thou shalt him no more control 

Than thou rulest death; I trow, 

That shall bring thee grief enow 

Oft shall he thy word transgress, 

And bring thee to heaviness. 

'T were better for thee, I ween, 

That born he had never been; 

For better an unborn child 450 

Than a son unruly and wild. 

The man who the rod doth spare 

And letteth his young child fare 

In such wise that it beareth the rule, 

And he may not teach it, nor school, 

When he cometh to years so hoar 

Me thinks he shall rue it sore!" 

Amen. 
Expliciunt Dicta Regis Alfredi. 



THE PROVERBS OF HENDYNGE 



WHO would learn of Wisdom's rede 
Let him take to Hendynge heed, 
Marcolf's son was he; 
Laws and customs, not a few, 
Did he teach to many a shrew, 
As his wise should be. 

Jesu Christ, Our Help in thrall, 
Who hath died to save us all 
Nailed to the Tree, 
Teach us Wisdom's way to wend 



That we serve thee to the end, 
Amen, par Charitie. 
"Good beginning maketh good ending," 
quoth Hendynge. 

Wit and Wisdom learn full fain, 

See none other thee restrain, 

Be in Wisdom free; 

Better walk in Wisdom's way 

Than go clad in rich array 

Wheresoe'er thou be. ac 



THE PROVERBS OF HENDYNGE 



295 



"Wit and Wisdom be a good garri 
son," 

quoth Hendynge. 

-3 

Here on earth is ne'er a man, 
Let him try as try he can, 
If he bide at home, 
Who such knowledge may attain 
As that man, for learning fain, 
Who afar doth roam. 
"So many Folk, so many Fashions,'* ag 
quoth Hendynge. 

4* 

Tho' the child be dear, I wis 
An it doeth aught amiss, 
Spare the rod for naught; 
An its way it goeth free, 
Willy, nilly, it shall be 
But a good-for-naught. 
"Lief child behoveth lore," 

quoth Hendynge. 

9 

Wisdom thou shalt win to thee 
From what thou dost hear and see 40 
Man, in this thy youth, 
Thou in age shalt surely follow, 
Both at eve, and on the morrow, 
Thine it is, in sooth. 
"What thou young dost hold, thou shalt 
lose not old," 

quoth Hendynge. 

If thou list a sin to do, 
And thy thoughts be turned thereto, 
Good 't is to refrain; 
For when heat be overcome, so 

And thy wit again hast won, 
Thou shalt count it gain. 
"Let lust overgo, liking shall follow," 
quoth Hendynge. 

Art thou light of thought withal, 
That thou should'st thro' weakness 

fall 

In a wicked sin, 
Be that fault so rarely told 
That in sin thou grow not old, 



Nor shalt die therein. 60 

"Better be eye-sore than blind," 

quoth Hendynge. 



Men may teach a simple child 
Teachable of mood, and mild, 
With but little lore; 
But an ye would further go 
Pain and trouble shall ye know 
Ere ye teach him more. 
"The simple son is taught right soon," 
quoth Hendynge. 

Would'st from fleshly lusts be free 71 
Thou must fight, and swiftly flee 
Both with eye and heart. 
Fleshly lust, it bringeth shame, 
What the Body thinketh game 
Makes the Soul to smart. 
"He fights well who flees well," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Wise men ne'er of words are free, 

For they will begin no glee 80 

Ere they tune their pipe; 

Fools be fools, as may be seen 

By their words, they speak them 

green, 

Ere that they be ripe. 
"A Fool's bolt is soon shot," 1 * 

quoth Hendynge. 
> 

See thou ne'er thy foeman tell 
Shame or loss that thee befell, 
Nor thy care nor woe; 
He will try, an so he may, 90 

Both by night, and eke by day 
One woe to make two. 
"Tell never thy foe if thy foot acheth," 

quoth Hendynge. 

/ ^-^ 

Hast of bread and ale no lack 
Put it not all in thy sack, 
Deal it freely out; 
If thy meals dost freely share 
Then where men have meat to spare, 



296 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Thou go'st not without. t*K" 100 

"Better an apple given than eaten," 

quoth Hendynge. 
J 

Yet, the while I lived on earth, 
I have deemed of little worth 
Wine from other's store; 
That which I may call mine own, 
Wine and water, stock and stone, 
That doth please me more. 
"Best be our own Brand," 109 

quoth Hendynge. 

If thou lackest meat or cloth 
Be not for that cause too wroth 
Tho' thy debtor stay; 
He that still hath his good plough 
And of worldly good enow, 
Knoweth no care alway. 
"Good-less is greedy," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Art thou rich in house and hold 

Be not thou for that too bold, 120 

Nor wax wood and wild; 

Measure shew in everything, 

That shall sure a blessing bring, 

Be thou meek and mild. 

"Full cup needs steady hand," 

quoth Hendynge. 

If an old man thou shalt be 

Take no young maid unto thee 

For to be thy spouse, 

Tho' thou shew her love, I trow, 130 

She shall flout thee oft enow 

E'en in thine own house. 

"Oft a man doth sing 

When he home doth bring 

His young wife; 

Did he know what he brought 

He had wept, methought, 

The rest of his life," 

quoth Hendynge. 



Tho' thou thinkest much, withal, 
Guard thy tongue as with a wall, 



140 



Speak not all thy rede; 
He who swallows down his speech 
Ere unto his lips it reach, 
Findeth friends at need. 
"The tongue breaketh bone, tho' itself 
it hath none," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Many a knave, I trow, there be, 
Who, if men but little fee 
Give him, wrath doth show, 150 

I say : * He doth well by me 
Who doth give a little fee 
When he naught doth owe.' 
"Who little doth give is fain I should 
live," 

quoth Hendynge. 

If it please thee to do ill 
When the world is at thy will, 
Then of this take heed, 
If from thine estate thou fall 
That which thou hast brewed withal, 160 
Shalt thou drink at need. 
"The better thou be, the better thee 
be-see, " 

quoth Hendynge. 

Tho', forsooth, 'twould please thee 

well 

In a goodly house to dwell 
Thou must need abide; 
Best within a hut to be 
Till thou feel that thou art free 
From all taint of pride. 
"Neath a bush may ye hide, and the 

storm abide," l 170 

quoth Hendynge. 

No man wretched do I hold 
Tho' unto his lot be told 
That which makes him smart; 
When man goeth most in fear 
God, I trow, the prayer shall hear 
Offered from true heart. 

> Cf. Scotch proverb. "He 'U gae daft on a hone that '* 
prood on a ponie." 



THE PROVERBS OF HENDYNGE 



297 



"When Bale is highest, Boot is nigh- 
est," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Islr 

Draw thy hand back with all speed 180 

When they do thee an ill deed, 

Whom didst help with store; 

So that child withdraws his hand 

From the fire, and from the brand, 

Who was burnt afore. 

"A burnt child dreads the fire," 

quoth Hendynge. 

To some men I've lent my cloth 

Who have made me feel right wroth 

Ere it came again; 190 

He that served me so, i-fay, 

Tho' such loan right oft he pray, 

He shall lose his pain! 

"Seldom comes loan laughing home," 

quoth Hendynge. 

If thou trust to borrowing 
Thou shalt lack for many a thing, 
Tho' thou like it ne'er; 
But if thou thine own hast won 
All thy woe is overcome, 200 

Thou hast no more care. 
"A man's ain is his ain, another's, but 
blame," 

quoth Hendynge. 
^* 

This world's love I hold not dear, 
Little reck I who may hear 
WTiat I speak on high; 
Well I see that oft one brother 
Careth little for the other, 
Be he out of eye. 
"Far from eye, far from heart," aio 

quoth Hendynge. 

That man who betrayeth me 

And of my goods maketh free 

His own fame to win, 

For the veriest cur I take 

Who at board the bread shall break 

His own hall within. 



"Of unbought hide ye may make thongs 
wide," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Many say: "An rich I were 220 

No man should with me compare 
For my gifts so free; 
But when he much goods hath gotten, 
This free hand is all forgotten, 
And laid under knee. 
"He is free of his horse who never had 
none," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Many a man of poor estate 

Doth his daughter lightly mate 

Nor is better sped, 33* 

Who, if he a wise man were, 

Might, with but a little care, 

Have her better wed. 

"Lightly won is lightly held," 

quoth Hendynge. 
-^4 

Riches, hard to get they be, 
And their going ill to see, 
Wise man, think on this; 
All too dear is bought the ware 
That may never, free from care, 240 
Please man's heart, I wis. 
"Dear is bought the honey that is licked 
off the thorn," 

quoth Hendynge. 

"3o 

Ye who fain would cross the flood 

If the wind be wild and wood 

Bide ye quiet and still; 

Bide thee still, if so thou may, 

Thou shalt have, another day, 

Weather to thy will. 249 

"He abideth well who waiteth well," 

quoth Hendynge. 
s 

But an ill hap his shall be 
Who a-ship shall set to sea 
When the wind is wood; 
Be he come unto the deep 
He may wring his hands and weep 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



In right dreary mood. 
" Rashness oft rueth," 



quoth Hendynge. 
"32 

Trow ye well, an evil man 260 

May do wonders, an he can, 
All the world affright; 
Yet he fares as doth the knave 
Whom men with a trusty stave 
Ever smartly smite. 
"Tho' the thief master be he hangs 
highest on tree," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Wicked man, and wicked wife, 

If they led a sinful life, 

Ever evil wrought, 270 

Never they such road might wend 

But they needs must, at the end, 

Show their inmost thought. 

"An ill-spun web aye ravels out," 

quoth Hendynge. 
3 * 

Better is the rich man sped 
Who doth a good woman wed 
Tho' her purse be bare, 
Than to bring into his house 
A proud maiden for his spouse 280 

Who is false as fair. 

"For land and name many wed them to 
shame," 

- quoth Hendynge. 

Let no man trust child or wife 
When he needs must leave this life, 



Nigh to death be brought; 
When his bones be laid in mold 
They will take to them his gold, 
Of his soul reck naught. 
"Friendless is the dead," 290 

quoth Hendynge. 

3&> 

When the glutton finds good ale 
He to drink it shall not fail, 
And for naught will stay 
Drink he will with one and all 
Seeks his home when night doth 

fall, 

Lies dead by the way. 
"Drink less alway, and go home by 

day," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Rich and poor, and young and old, 300 
While that wit to you is told, 
Seek ye your soul's bliss; 
For when ye shall hope the best 
To rejoice in peace and rest 
The tree falls, I wis. 
"Hope of long life beguiles many good- 
wife," 

quoth Hendynge. 

Mickle sooth he spake, Hendynge 
Jesu Christ, of Heaven the King 
Us to gladness bring; 310 

And for His sweet Mother's love, 
Who doth sit in Heaven above 
Grant us good ending. Amen. 



THE SACRILEGIOUS CAROLLERS 



FULL ill shall it be in churchyard to dance, 
This same will I show ye by sore mischance 
And this tale, so I swear to thee, is truth, 
Yea, as Gospel lore, so shall it be sooth 
And it happened here, in this very land, 
Yea, here in this England, I understand; 

From Robert of Brunne's Bandlyng Synn*. 



THE SACRILEGIOUS CAROLLERS 299 

In the days of a king men called Edward 

It befell, this chance that was wondrous hard. 

For so it fell out, on a Christmas Night, 

That twelve foolish folk would a carol dight, to 

Yea, in fashion mad, as in strife it were, 

To the town of Colbek they needs must fare; 

Therein was a church which was fair and great, 

To St. Magnus the Martyr 't was dedicate, 

With St. Buckcestre joined, for she, I ween, 

Had sister unto St. Magnus been. 

The dancers' names, they be written all, 

Of some shall ye learn how men did them call 

Gerlew, was he hight, the leader, 't was he 

Set the time of their dance, and made the glee; 20 

And maidens twain were that band within, 

Merswynde were they called, and Wybessyn. 

Thus to Colbek the dancers their way had ta'en 

To seek the priest's daughter they there were fain; 

The priest was hight Robert he had a son, 

And as I have read, he was named Ayone, 

And his sister, she whom the band did crave 

To join in the Carol, was known as Ave. 

Then counsel the dancers held withal 

Who that maiden forth from the house should call, 30 

The council, I trow, they were of one mind 

They would send Wybessyne, and maid Merswynde. 

Straightway went the women, and brought her out, 

To carol with them the churchyard about. 

Bevis was the dancer who led the ring, 

While Gerlew, he wrote what they all should sing, 

And this was the carol the dancers sung 

As men found it writ in the Latin tongue 
"Equitabat Bevo per silvam frondosam, 

Ducebat secum Merswyndam formosam 40 

Quid stamus, cur non imus?" 
" Bevis he rode thro' the leafy glade, 

He led with him Merswynde, the lovely maid 

Why stand we here? Why go we not?" 

This the carol that Gerlew wrote, I wot. 

So sang they in the churchyard there, 

Nor fear for their folly in heart they bare, 

But they sang till the Mattins all were done, 

And 't was time for the Mass to be begun; 

The priest, he vested him for the Mass, 50 

But never a whit they danced the less, 



3 oo CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

As they began, so they danced alway, 

Nor e'en for the Mass did they think to stay. 

The priest at the altar, he needs must hear 

The noise, and the dance, that were all too near; 

From the altar down stepped the priest so good, 

And without the door, 'neath the porch, he stood, 

And he quoth: "In God's Name, now take ye heed, 

I forbid ye all, longer to do such deed, 

But in fashion seemly now draw anear, 60 

And come into the church, the Mass to hear. 

Of Christian folk shall ye keep the law, 

Nor longer carol have Christ in awe, 

And worship Him now with all your might 

Who once of a Virgin was born this night." 

But for all his bidding they stayed them naught, 

But danced on ever, as was their thought. 

The priest for that was full sorely grieved, 

And he prayed to God, on Whom he believed, 

That, for Magnus the Martyr, since in his name 70 

The church was founded, to guard His fame, 

And such vengeance upon the dancers send 

Ere yet they might forth from the churchyard wend, 

That then- song, and their carol, should ever last 

Until that the twelvemonth be overpast 

(But I trow, in Latin the writing bore 

Not "a twelvemonth" only, but "evermore.") 

Thus on each one singly the curse he laid 

The while that, dancing, they merry made. 

And soon as the words from his lips had passed 80 

The hands of the dancers were locked full fast, 

That never a man, for spell, or wonder, 

For a twelvemonth might part their clasp asunder. 

The priest went home when the Mass was done, 
And straightway hath bidden Ayone, his son, 
His sister Ave, without more delay, 
Forthwith from the Carol to bring that day. 
But all too late he the words had said, 
For the curse on them all was straitly laid! 
Ayone, he did after his father's rede, 
And unto that Carol he went with speed, 
His sister he fast by the arm did take 
When lo! the arm from the body brake! 
All wondered that marvel to behold, 
But a greater marvel shall now be told, 
For altho' the arm in his hand he bore, 
The body, it danced on ever more, 



THE SACRILEGIOUS CAROLLERS 301 

And neither the body, nor e'en the arm, 
Shed a drop of blood, were it cold, or warm, 

But muscle and bone were as dry to see 100 

As a stick that is broken from a tree. 
Ayone, he would back to his father fare, 
And a sorry present he brought him there: 
'Look, Father," he quoth, "see I bring thee here ' 
Her arm who was once thy daughter dear, 
Who was, of aforetime, my sister Ave 
I went thither intent the maid to save, 
But thy curse hath fallen, as may be seen, 
On thy very flesh and blood, I ween ! 

All too bitter thy curse, and all too soon no 

Thou didst pray for vengeance, thou hast thy boon!" 
Small need to ask me if sorrow sore 
Fell on the priest, and on many more! 

The priest who had cursed thus that evil dance, 

On himself, and his folk there fell mischance; 

He hath taken his daughter's arm, forlorn, 

And hath buried it on the morrow's morn 

But the very next day, that arm of Ave, 

He hath found it lying above the grave! 

Once more was it buried, the self-same day, 120 

On the morrow, without the grave it lay; 

A third time the arm, it was buried low, 

And again the ground it forth did throw. 

The priest, he dare bury that arm no more, 

For the dread of God's Vengeance oppressed him sore, 

But into the church did he bear that arm 

In dread, and in doubting of further harm, 

Ordaining that it in such place should be 

That all men with eye might the marvel see. 

The dancers who carolled there in that band, 130 

Thro* the whole year round, hand fast in hand, 

Forth from that place might they never go, 

For no man might lead them the churchyard fro' ; . 

Where first in the curse's fetters bound, 

In that self-same spot did they dance their round, 

Nor pain nor weariness did they know, 

Such as falls to folk who too far shall go. 

They stayed them not, or for meat, or drink; 

And never they slept, not a passing wink; 

Were it day, were it night, they noted none, 140 

For they knew not whether 't was come, or gone; 

Neither frost nor snow, neither hail nor rain, 

Neither cold nor heat it might bring them pain. 



3 02 CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 

Their hair nor their nails, ne'er a whit they grew, 

Nor faded their clothes, and changed in hue; 

Thunder nor lightning, it vexed them not, 

God's Mercy, it sheltered them well, I wot, 

They sang aye the song that the woe had wrought 
"Why stand we? Why go we naught?" 

I trow ne'er a man should living be 150 

Who such marvel were not full fain to see. 

The Emperor, Henry, he came from Rome, 

He was fain to behold this dance of doom, 

But when he had seen it, full bitterly 

Did he weep, to behold such misery; 

He bade his carpenters build full fast 

A roof that should shelter them from the blast, 

But all in vain was the work they wrought, 

For unto an end might it ne'er be brought, 

That which they builded within one day 160 

At dawn of another, on ground it lay, 

Once, twice, a third time, the roof they wrought, 

But for all their making it came to naught, 

From the cold they should never covered be 

Till in Christ's own time they should Mercy see. 

And that time of Grace came, by God's great Might, 

At the twelvemonth end, on that same Yule night, 

At the self-same hour that the dance was banned, 

At that very hour they loosed their hand; 

At the self -same hour that the curse he spake 170 

At that very hour the ring it brake; 

Then, e'en in the twinkling of an eye, 

Straight to the church did the dancers fly, 

And all, on the pavement they fell adown, 

And lay as men dead, or in a swoon. 

Three days did they lie, as still as stone, 

And never they moved, nor in flesh nor bone, 

And then when the three days' course was run 

To life hath God brought them, every one, 

Upright they sat them, and all men heard 180 

How to Robert the priest they spake this word: 
" 'T is thou art the author and cause withal 

Of the penance long which did on us fall, 

The maker thou wert of our travail sore 

That full many a man hath marvelled o'er, 

And by travail too shalt thou find thine end, 

For soon to thy long home shalt thou wend!" 

Then rose they up, on the self -same day, 
Save Ave, she, lifeless, beside them lay 



THE SACRILEGIOUS CAROLLERS 303 

Her father and brother great mourning made, 190 

And wonder and dread on all men were laid, 

Her soul, they deemed it was safe that stead, 

But they needs must mourn o'er the body dead. 

I trow that the first by her side to lie 

Was her father, the priest, in veritie. 

The arm that had once belonged to Ave, 

Since it ne'er might lie quiet in the grave, 

The Emperor bade that a shrine be made 

Therein, in the church, should it be displayed, 

That all men might look thereupon, and see, ^ 

And think of the dance and its penaltie. 

Those men that had carolled, a godless band, 

Thro' the whole year long, hand fast locked in hand, 

Tho' at last their ring, it asunder brake, 

Yet the world it still of that wonder spake, 

For e'en as they, springing, the carol led, 

So, dancing, from land to land they sped; 

As aforetime they never might be unbound 

So together they never might now be found, 

For never, I trow, an it were but twain, 210 

To one place, at one time, they came again! 

To the court of Rome four, methinks, did go, 

Ever hopping and springing to and fro', 

With leaps and bounds did they get them thither, 

But never, I trow, did they come together; 

Their clothes ware not out, and their nails ne'er grew; 

Their hair waxed not long, nor hath changed in hue; 

Nor cure might they find for their sore complaint 

At the shrine, so 't is said, of any Saint, 

Save but at S. Edith's, the virgin pure, aao 

There they say that S. Theodrich found a cure, 

On Our Lady's day, in a Lenten tide, 

E'en as he slumbered, her tomb beside, 

He found there the medicine he sore did crave 

At S. Edith's, the holy virgin's, grave. 

Now Bruno, the bishop of S. Toulous, 

He hath written this tale so marvellous, 

Sithen, did he win him a greater fame, 

For as Leo, the Pope, all men know his name. 

Even there, at the court of Rome, to wit, 330 

In the chronicles shall ye find it writ. 

And in many places beyond the sea 

It is better known than in this countrie, 

And therefore the saying, it goes abroad, 



34 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



"The nearer the church, the further from God." 
And in different wise the tale doth fare, 
For some for a fiction that same declare, 
While in other places they hold it dear, 
And the marvel be ever fain to hear. 
But the tale doth examples twain rehearse: 
For first, 't is a warning against a curse; 
And again, it should teach ye to fear this thing, 
In church, or in churchyard, to dance and sing; 
Still less shall ye do it against the will 
Of the priest, if he bid ye cease, be still! 



240 



THE DEBATE OF THE BODY AND THE 

SOUL 



IT chanced, as on a winter's night, 
I drowsing lay, ere dawn of day, 
Methought I saw a wondrous sight 
Upon a bier a Body lay, 
That erst had been a haughty knight, 
Who God would neither praise nor pray; 
Now was he reft of this life's light, 
His Spirit, freed, must hence away. 

But ere that Spirit far would roam 
It turned, and, by the bier it stood, 10 
Beheld the Body, erst its home, 
In sorrowful and dreary mood: 
"Ah, wellaway!" it made its moan 
" Woe worth th y flesh, woe worth thy blood , 
Thou wretched Body, now alone 
Dost lie, who wast so wild, and wood ! 

" Thou that wast wont afield to ride, 
On warlike steed, 'mid courtly crowd, 
Of stature tall, in garment wide, 
E'en as a lion fierce and proud, 20 

Where now is all thy mickle pride, 
Thy boastful speech, ere-while so loud? 
Thou liest bare, hast naught beside 
One garment poor, and that a shroud ! 

"Where be thy castles, where thy towers, 



Whose walls were painted fair with 

flowers 

And where thy rich apparel all? 
Where be thy couches, where thy bowers? 
Thy sendals, and thy costly palls? 30 
Sorrow awaiteth thee as dower, 
With morn thy fate shall thee befall. 

"Where now are all thy goodly weeds? 
The sumpter-mules that bare thy bed? 
Thy palfreys, and thy noble steeds, 
By hand of goodly pages led? 
The hawks that thou wast wont to feed? 
The hounds that swift behind thee sped? 
Methinks God bringeth thee to need 39 
Since all thy friends be from thee fled! 

" Where be thy cooks who served 

well, 

And dainty meats did aye prepare, 
With fragrant spices sweet to smell? 
Methinks thou wast aye full of care 
To make that flesh with fatness swell 
Which now shall be the foul worm's h 
Henceforth, methinks, the pains of He 
For gluttony shall be thy share! 

"For God thee in His image cast, 



Thy chambers and thy stately halls? | And dowered thee with wit and skill, 



THE DEBATE OF THE BODY AND THE SOUL 



305 



But in thy choosing was I last, 
Didst follow aye thy wilful will!" 
"No wisdom had I in the past, 
I wist not what was good or ill, 
But in dumb folly h olden fast 
All thy behests did I fulfil. 

" To serve and please thee was I bent, 
Alike at even and at morn, 
Ever I sought for thy content, so 

E'en from the time that thou wast born: 
Thou who to judge my deeds wast lent, 
Why didst thou not thy comrade warn? 
Thou sawest me on folly bent, 
Now of thyself art thou forlorn!" 

The Soul it quoth: "Body, lie still, 
Who now hath taught thee all this wit? 
Thou chidest me with words at will 
Tho' swollen as by viper bit ! 
Thinkest thou, wretch, that tho' thou fill 
With that foul flesh of thine a pit 70 
Of all the deeds thou wrought of ill 
That thou so lightly shalt be quit? 

" Thinkest thou peace with God to win 
Whenas thou liest low in clay? 
Tho' thou be rotted bone and skin, 
And blown upon the blast away, 
Yet shalt thou come with joint and limb 
Again to me on Judgment Day, 
We twain to God's high court must win 
Together take our bitter pay ! 80 

" Yea, tho' to teach thee I had thought 
Full soon to Evil didst thou speed, 
Thou with thy teeth the bridle caught, 
Naught of my counsel wouldst thou heed. 
To sin and sorrow hast thou sought, 
To evil custom, lawless deed, 
Tho' to withstand thee still I fought 
Thou hearkened'st but thy Body's rede! 

" Whenas I thought to tame and teach 
Of what was ill, and what was good, 90 
Of Christ and kirk would'st hear no 
speech, 



Didst start and shy, as wild and wood! 
Enow I then might pray and preach, 
But ne'er a jot might turn thy mood, 
To God thy knowledge ne'er might 

reach, 
Thou didst what in thy heart first stood. 

" I bade think on thy soul's sore stress, 
On Matins, Mass, and Evensong, 
Thou said'st: 't was naught but idleness, 
Must follow first the busy throng. 100 
To water, wood, and field would'st 

press, 

Or sped to court, to judge a-wrong, 
Saving for pride, or gain, no less, 
Small good hast done thy whole life long! 

" Now may the wild beasts seek their 

den, 

And lie in peace 'neath linden tree, 
The wild fowl fly by field and fen, 
Since Death hath cleft the heart in thee. 
Thine ear is deaf, naught canst thou ken, 
Thy mouth is dumb, thou canst not see, 
And tho' thou fiercely grin, yet men x 
Shrink from the evil smell of thee! 

" There is no lady bright of blee, 

Tho' late for praise she deemed thee 

meet, 

Who now would lie a night by thee, 
Tho' men might richly her entreat. 
Unseemly art thou now to see, 
Uncomely all for kisses sweet, 
Thou hast no friend who would not flee 
Didst thou come stalking down the 

street!" I20 

The Body quoth: "Now this I say, 
Soul, thou hast done me wrong, I wis, 
When thou the blame on me dost lay 
That thou, thro' me, hast lost thy 

bliss. 

Where have I fared, by wood or way, 
Or sat, or stood, or wrought amiss, 
When I beyond thy glance did stray? 
Well dost thou know the truth of this! 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



" Whether I journeyed up or down, 
I bare thee aye, as on my back, 130 
Whenas I fared from town to town 
Why led'st thou me to ruin and wrack ? 
Were I to speech or action bound 
Counsel from thee I did not lack, 
Truth to men's ears my plaint shall 

crown 
Tho* now I lie so blue and black ! 

" The while thou wast my comrade dear 
Naught did I lack of fit and meet, 
Then might I speak, and see, and hear, 
Might come and go, and drink and eat. 140 
Changed for the worse is now my cheer, 
Since thou afar from me didst fleet, 
Now dumb and deaf I lie on bier, 
And fettered fast in hands and feet. 

" Fain had I been a silly sheep, 
Dumb as a neat, or e'en as swine, 
To eat and drink and lie and sleep, 
No cause had I then to repine! 
Of cattle never count they keep, 
Of water naught they know, nor wine, 
Ne'er shall they lie in Hell-pit deep ! 151 
No wisdom had I save but thine ! " 

The Soul it quoth: "Yea, without doubt 
Thou barest me, Body, aye with thee, 
Had'st need thereto ! I was without 
Hand or foot, it seemeth me! 
Yet as thou bore me thus about 
For action was I never free, 
Must follow aye thy guidance stout, 
Needs must, where never choice may 
be! 160 

" Alike of woman born and bred 
Body, I think me, were we two, 
Together fostered fair and fed 
Till thou could'st somewhat speak and 

go. 

For love, right softly thee I led, 
I was full loth to cause thee woe, 
The loss of thee I needs must dread, 
Other save thee I ne'er might know. 



" When thou wast young, a little space 
Thou didst my will, in childish wise, 170 
For awe of friends, didst thou lack 

grace 

With rod thy faults they would chastise. 
But when hadst thriven and grown 

apace, 

Desire beset thee in such guise, 
Didst learn of rest and leisure's grace, 
And wrought as thy will might devise. 

" I saw thee fan* in flesh and blood, 

And all my love to thee addrest, 

That thou should'st thrive, that seemed 

me good, 

The while I joyed in peace and rest. 180 
And so thou waxed of wilful mood, 
Drear were thy deeds, and all unblest, 
Small profit mine, an I withstood, 
I, whom thou barest in thy breast! 

" To riot in lust and gluttony, 
In pride and wicked covetousness, 
To hate and strive in black envy 
'Gainst God in Heaven, and all of His; 
Ever in discontent to lie 
With waste and want no jot of this 190 
But I must now full dearly buy 
Full sore I now must greet, I wis! 

" What should us both at last befall 
Times and enow I warning gave, 
But idle tales didst deem them all 
Tho' thou saw'st kinsfolk laid in grave. 
What the world bade, that didst thou all, 
All that thy flesh of thee might crave 
I bare madness did me befall, 
I made thee master, I was slave!" 200 

"Nay, Soul, I ween it profits naught 
Not so I ween thy debt is paid, 
For all too worthily wast wrought 
To say that thrall of thee I made. 
Never in life to ill I sought 
In theft or robbery undismayed, 
But first from thee it came, the thought, 
Forfeit is by the loser paid! 



THE DEBATE OF THE BODY AND THE SOUL 



307 



" How might I know or wrong or right, 
What I should take, and what should 
shun, 210 

Save thou didst set it in my sight, 
Thou who alone hadst wisdom won? 
If thou against my will didst fight, 
And bid me for misdeed make moan, 
Thereafter did I strive with might 
To do what pleasured me alone! 

"Ah! would to Christ in very sooth 
Hadst plagued with hunger, thirst, and 

cold, 

And warned me rashness led to ruth 
When in ill-doing I waxed o'erbold! 220 
That which I had begun in youth, 
I held that same as I grew old, 
Didst let me ravage North and South, 
Ever I had my will on wold! 

"Thou should est for neither life nor land, 
Nor profit that thou here couldst win, 
Have suffered me to lend a hand 
To that which turns to shame or sin. 
But thou wast easy to withstand, 
Thy wit and wisdom, I found thin 230 
And yielding, e'en as hazel-wand, 
To mend I never might begin ! 

" To sin thou knewest I aye inclined, 
Forsooth with man 't is ever so ! 
On this poor world I set my mind, 
Followed the Fiend who is our foe. 
Thou should'st have striven my will to 

bind, 

When I mis-wrought have done me woe, 
As when the blind doth lead the blind 
We both in ditch are fallen low!" 240 

But then the Soul 'gan weep full sore, 
And sighed "Ah, Body, Alas! Alas! 
My love I set on thee of yore 
Since all my pains sans profit pass ! 
Feigning to love me ever-more 
Thou madest for me a cap of glass, 
I did on which thy heart set store, 
Traitor to me thou wert, Alas! 



" Who may more cunning treason do, 
Or know more skilful web to wind 250 
Than he his lord trusts all things to, 
Without, within, as faithful hind? 
For since that thou could 'st come and go 
I strove to serve with all my mind 
That ease and pleasure thou might 

know 
And now my ruin in thee I find ! 

" The Fiend of Hell, who e'er doth try 
To snare mankind, his plots he laid, 
Dwelt in us twain, methinks, as spy, 
When to good deeds I thee had prayed, 
The World he took to company 261 

Who many a soul hath aye betrayed, 
With Flesh to folly brought thee nigh, 
Thy course both wild and witless made ! 

" Whene'er I bade thee shrift to make, 
Forsake thy sin for ever and aye, 
To fast, do penance, early wake, 
The Fiend forbade thee that straight 
way! 

Thus soon didst thou thy bliss forsake 
Ever in grief and pain to stay, 270 

I counselled joy and bliss to take, 
Thus should'st thou live for many a 
day! 

" And when I bade thee leave thy pride, 
Thy many meats, thy harness stout, 
The World stood ever at thy side 
And bade thee all my warnings flout, 
And garb thy Flesh in rich robes wide, 
Not as a beggar, in a clout, 
And high on warlike steed to ride 
With knightly comrades in and out! 280 

" And when I bade thee early rise 
And me, thy Soul, in safety keep, 
Thou said'st it pleased thee in no wise 
To lose thy merry morning sleep! 
And now ye summon your assize, 
Ye traitors three, I needs must weep, 
Ye load me now with your emprise, 
E'en as a butcher doth the sheep 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



" For when three traitors at one tale 
Together be against me sworn, 290 

Ye make my words of none avail, 
Of plea, methinks, am I forlorn ! 
Ye lead me on by down and dale, 
E'en as an ox is led by horn, 
Unto the spot that brings him bale 
Whenas his life is from him torn ! 

" For love I followed all thy will, 
And thus to mine own death I drew, 
Through serving thee, my servant still, 
Who fickle wast, and aye untrue. 300 
Thou didst the deed, I hid the ill, 
That it was evil well we knew, 
Therefore our fate must we fulfil 
In pain, and shame, and sorrow new! 

" Tho* all the men now under moon 
To sit on Judgment seat were brought 
Of all the shame that shall be done 
To us, not half were in their thought! 
It profits us nor bede nor boon, 
And all our wit availeth naught, 310 
The hounds of Hell, they come full soon, 
Way of escape in vain were sought!" 

But when that Body saw the Ghost 
Such doleful moan, and mourning make, 
It quoth: "Alas, my life is lost, 
Since I have lived but for Sin's sake! 
'T were better that my day had past 
Ere yet to life I might awake, 
Then had I been in cold clay cast, 
Or lain and rotted in a lake! 320 

"For then, methinks, I naught had 

learned 

Of what was ill, and what was good, 
And ne'er towards the wrong had 

yearned, 

Nor suffered pain in wrathful mood. 
No saint with this our prayer hath 

turned 

To Him Who bought us with His Blood, 
That when in Hell-fire we be burned 
He do us mercy, by His Rood!" 



"Nay, Body, now it is too late, 
It boots thee naught to pray or preach, 
For now the hearse is at the gate, 331 
And now thy tongue hath ceased from 

speech. 

One pang of torture to abate 
Exceeds the skill of wisest leech, 
Together must we gang our gait 
Where God's forgiveness may not reach! 

" But hadst thou turned a willing ear 
The while that life to us was lent, 
And as the hour of death drew near 
Been shrived, the Devil's power were 
spent. 340 

Hadst thou but dropt a rueful tear, 
To mend thy life thy will had bent, 
Then were we free from fright or fear, 
And God His bliss to us had sent. 

" Tho' all the men that be on life 
Were priests, and Mass for thee would 

sing, 

And every maid, and every wife, 
A widow, hands for grief to wring 
And every one, methinks, were five, 349 
And in this world five-fold each thing, 
We ne'er might hope ourselves to shrive, 
And none to bliss us twain might bring! 

" Body, no longer may I dwell, 
Nor linger here to speak with thee, 
The hounds of Hell, I hear them yell, 
And devils, more than man may see, 
They come to carry me to Hell, 
I may in no wise from them flee, 358 
With flesh and bone, I rede thee well, 
At Doomsday shalt thou come to me!" 

And scarce the Soul had spake this word, 
(Who wist right well where it must go,) 
When in there rushed a hideous horde, 
Full thousand devils, all a-row. 
With talons sharp the Soul they clawed 
In woe their grip it needs must know, 
A sorry sight it did afford 
Whenas they haled it to and fro. 



THE DEBATE OF THE BODY AND THE SOUL 



309 



For they were rugged, rough, and tailed, 
With hunches huge upon their back, 370 
Long were their claws, and sharply 

nailed, 

And ne'er a limb such gear did lack! 
On all sides was the Soul assailed 
By many a devil, foul and black, 
Its prayers for mercy naught availed, 
For Christ His vengeance would not 

slack. 

And some, the cheeks and jaws they tare, 
And molten lead therein they poured, 
To drink thereof they prayed him fair 
The while they spread it all abroad. 380 
At last there came a devil there, 
Master of all, he seemed, and lord, 
A red-hot coulter did he bear, 
And pierced the heart, as with a sword. 

Then glowing glaves, methinks, they set 
To back, and breast, and to each side, 
The points, within his heart they met 
And made him wounds both deep and 

wide. 
They quoth: "Full well we'll plague thee 

yet, 389 

Thou heart that wast so full of pride, 
That which was promised shalt thou get, 
And more, and worse, shall thee betide!" 

They said that goodly weeds to wear 
That were the thing he loved the best, 
In quenchless cope they robed him there, 
All burning bright with mocking jest ! 
With red-hot clasps that gleamed a-flare 
They fitted it to back and breast, 
A helmet that was none too fair 
Anon upon his head they prest. 400 

Then forth they brought, with mickle 

pride, 

A cursed devil, as a foal, 
That gnashed, and gaped, with jaws full 

wide, 
Where-from both smoke and flame did 

roll. 



The saddle that he should bestride 
Of sharp pikes, pointed, bare its toll, 
Jagged as a hedge whereon to ride, 
And all was glowing as a coal! 

Upon that saddle he was slung, 

As one who should to Tourney fare, 410 

A hundred devils on him hung, 

And, ruthless, dragged him here and 

there. 

With fiery spears his flesh they stung, 
Anon with hooks they catch and tear, 
At every blow the sparks they sprung, 
As when men forge a red-hot share. 

Thus in this wise a course he rode 
Upon that sharp and fiery seat, 
Then down they cast him, as a toad, 
With hounds of Hell he needs must meet! 
They sprung from out those pits so 

broad, 421 

As he to Hell-ward set his feet, 
And underfoot the Soul they trod 
Till blood -drops marked each foot-step 

fleet. 

Anon his horn they bade him blow, 
On Hanston and on Bevis cry, 
The hounds that he was wont to know, 
To bay they brought him speedily 
A hundred devils on a row 429 

Drew him with ropes, he fain would fly, 
Natheless they brought him to that glow 
That marked Hell's portals, verily! 

When to that grisley goal they won 
The fiends, they set up such a yell, 
The earth, it open'd wide anon, 
Smother and smoke thereout did well; 
With stench of pitch, and eke brim 
stone, 

Men five miles off might know the smell; 
Ah, Lord! That man is woe-begone 
Who to his share one tithe may tell ! 440 

But when the Soul had come so nigh 
And knew its goal, it cried in woe, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And quoth : "Thou Christ, Who sit'st on 

high, 

Upon Thy sheep now mercy shew! 
Didst Thou not shape me, verily? 
Thy creature was I here below, 
E'en as those souls who sit thee nigh, 
To whom Thou dost such favour shew! 

" Thou knowest all things, eve and morn, 
Why wrought 'st Thou me for bale alway, 
That I should thus be tugged and torn, 
While others have such goodly pay? 452 
They that are doomed to be forlorn, 
Wretches Thou mightest cast away, 
Why dost thou let them e'er be born 
To give the Fiend such goodly prey?" 

The fiends against him clamoured high: 
"Wretch, it availeth thee no more 
To raise to Christ thy piteous cry 
Or Mary Mother to implore; 460 

For thou hast lost their company 
Since thou hast served us well of yore, 
Thou needs must find such hostelry 
As those who well have learned our lore ! " 

The foul fiends all, as they were fain, 
Anon upon the soul they fell, 
And cast it down, with might and main, 
Into the deepest pit of Hell. 



The sun's light shall he seek in vain, 469 
Where he hath sunken must he dwell, 
The earth hath closed o'er him again, 
The dungeon gates are locked full well! 

(He who beheld that vision sore 
Lo ! he speaketh somewhat more /) 

When they had borne that evil load 
Unto Hell's gates, ere dawn of day, 
On every hair a drop it stood 
For very dread as there I lay. 
To Jesus Christ, with humble mood, 479 
My soul it yearned, and fain would pray, 
As when the Foul Fiend's noisome brood 
Were come to carry me away ! 

I thanked Him Who His Blood did spill 
On Rood, and torment for us bore, 
Who shieldeth me from many an ill 
Which for my sins had lain in store. 
All sinful souls I rede them still 
To shrive them, and do penance sore, 
Never may sin a measure fill 489 

But that Christ's mercy shall be more! 

(Christ His Grace to him impart 
Who with hand this tale hath writ, 
That he serve with perfect heart 
Father, Son, and Spirit!) 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



IN summertide it so befell 

I found me in a hidden dell, 

Where strife did 'twixt two birds pre 
vail, 

Even an Owl and Nightingale. 

Their plaint was shrill, and sharp, and 
strong, 

Whiles was it soft, then loud, their song; 

Each with the other waxed right wroth, 

And each her evil mood poured forth; 

Each on the other's customs cried, 9 

And said the worst she knew that tide; 



And each one 'gainst the other's song 
There made complaint both loud 
long. 

The Nightingale was first with speech, 
Ensconced was she within a beech, 
And perched upon a fair green bough, 
While all about were flowers enow; 
For very thick it grew, the hedge, 
With blades of grass mixed, and green 

sedge, 
The gladder for that fair green bough 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



Skilful her song, and sweet, I trow, 20 
Yea, one had deemed, those notes to 

hear, 

That harp and pipe were hidden near; 
Rather it seemed it came, each note, 
From harp, or pipe, than from bird's 

throat. 

There stood an old stump near beside, 
There the Owl sung her song that tide, 
With ivy was it over-grown, 
Unto the Owl 't was house and home. 

The Nightingale the Owl saw well, 
Scornful her glances on her fell, 30 

She thought right evil of that Owl, 
(Men deem it aye loathly, and foul ) 
"Monster," she quoth; "hence shalt 

thou flee, 

I am the worse for seeing thee, 
I trow thine evil cry, and strong, 
Doth force me oft to cease my song ; 
My tongue doth fail, my courage flee, 
When thus I know thee close to me, 
Liefer am I to spit than sing, 39 

Thy hooting doth such loathing bring!" 

The Owl sat still, for eve drew nigh, 
Nor longer would withold reply, 
Her heart it swelled to hear that tale, 
Well nigh her breath for wrath did fail. 
She spake a word ere it was long : 
"How? Thinkest thou to blame my 

song? 

What, dost thou deem I cannot sing 
Since trill nor run I skilful string? 
I trow full oft thou dost me blame 
And heapest on me scorn and shame; 50 
Nay, an my foot had hold of thee, 
May chance betide that so it be ! 
And thou wert down from off thy bough, 
Wouldst sing another song, I trow!" 

The Nightingale made answer there: 
"An I may keep me fast and fair, 
And shield me with the open bough, 
I care not for thy threats, I trow. 



So I may hold my hedge alway, 

I little care what thou may'st say. 60 

I wot small mercy dost thou tell 

To those who may not shield them 

well, 

Dost show thy wrath, and evil spite 
To all small birds, when hast the might. 
All kinds of fowl, they loath thee sore, 
And drive thee hence, their flocks before: 
'Gainst thee they shriek, 'gainst thee 

they cry, 

And ever close behind thee fly. 
The very titmouse, tho' she be 
Right small, would tear thee M r illingly ! 
Yea, thou art loathly to behold, 71 

Thine ugliness is manifold; 
Thy body short, thy neck so small, 
Greater thy head than thou withal; 
Thine eyes be black, and broad to see, 
As with burnt wood they painted be; 
Thou stares t, as wert fain to bite 
Those whom thy claws would sharply 

smite. 

Thy bill is hooked, and sharp withal, 
Yea, like unto a crooked awl; 80 

With that thou clackest oft, and long, 
And that alone shall be thy song. 
Fain art to threaten this, my flesh, 
Would'st catch and hold me in a mesh, 
As I to frogs were kin, I wit, 
Who hidden 'neath the mill-wheel sit, 
But snails and mice, and vermin small, 
These be thy kin, thy right withal. 
Dost hide by day, by night dost fly, 
A monster art thou, verily, QO 

Loathsome thou art too, and unclean, 
As by thy nest is clearly seen, 
And by thine owlets, right foul brood 
Be they, and fed on right foul food." 



These words she spake, the Nightingale, 
And having ended thus her tale, 
She sang so loud, and shrill, and sharp, 
'T was e'en as tho' one twanged a harp. 
The Owl, she hearkened well that cry, 
And ever downward turned her eye, too 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



So puffed and swollen was she seen, 
As she had gulped a frog, I ween, 
For that she wist the song should be 
Against her sung, in mockery. 
Natheless, swift answer would she try; 
"Why dost not in the open fly, 
And see which of us twain shall be 
Brightest of hue, most fair to see?" 
"Nay, all too sharp thy claws, I trow, 
I would not they should hold me now, 
So swift and strong thy clutch doth fall, 
E'en as a tongs it grips withal, 112 

Didst think, as doth thy like alway, 
Thou could'st with fair words me 

betray? 

I follow not thy rede, I wis, 
Thy counsel fain would lead amiss, 
Forsooth, it bringeth shame on thee, 
Discovered is thy treachery! 
Nay, shield thy treason from the light, 
And hide thy wrong beneath the right; 
Wilt thou indulge thine evil spleen, 121 
Then look thou that it be not seen! 
For treason is with hate received 
If it be open, and perceived. 
Thy guile, it naught may profit thee 
Since I be ware, and well may flee; 
It helps thee naught that thou hast 

might, 

I, with my wiles, may better fight 
Than thou may'st do, with all thy 

strength, 

I have, alike in breadth and length, 130 
Here on my bough good harbourage, 
' Well fights, who flies well,' saith the 

sage! 

But put we to this strife an end, 
It profits naught such words to spend, 
And a right judgment now to win 
W T ith fair and peaceful words begin. 
Though we be not of one accord 
'T were better far with gentle word, 
Without discord, and without fight, 
To plead our cause with sooth and 

right. 140 

Let each of us say what she will, 
In words well chosen, and with skill." 



Then quoth the Owl: "Who shall be 

fain 

To judge aright betwixt us twain?" 
"I trow well," quoth the Nightingale 
"Hereof shall be no lengthy tale, 
For Master Nichole, of Guildford, 
Right wise shall be, of skilful word, 
In judgment wary he, and wise, 
No vice finds favour in his eyes, 150 
He'll know right well, in this our song, 
Who singeth right, who singeth wrong, 
And he can sever from the right 
The wrong, the darkness from the light." 

The Owl awhile had her bethought 
Before this answer forth she brought: 
"I'll grant that he our judge shall be; 
Tho' one-while passionate were he, 
And loved the Nightingale withal, 
And other song-birds that be small, 160 
I trow his passions now be cooled, 
And he by thee will not be fooled 
In such wise that, for olden love, 
He put me down, and thee above. 
Ne'er shalt thou please him so, I wis, 
That he for thee shall judge amiss. 
Of wisdom ripe, of steadfast rede, 
To ill advice he'll ne'er take heed; 
Now hath he no more lust for play, 
But sure will take the rightful way." 170 

Ready the Nightingale; (I trow 
Had learned her lesson well enow ) 
"Owl," quoth she then, "now say me 

sooth, 

Why dost thou as a monster doeth? 
Thou sing'st by night, and not by day, 
And all thy song is 'Wellaway/ 
I trow thy song, it bringeth fear 
To all men who its fashion hear; 
Thou to thy mate dost shriek and yell 
In grisley wise, the sooth to tell. 180 
Wise men, or fools, awaked from sleep, 
They deem thou sing'st not, but dost 

weep. 

Thou fly'st by night, and not by day 
Thereof I marvel, and well may, 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



For everything that shunneth right 
Loveth the darkness, hateth light; 
And every one who loves misdeed 
Seeketh the darkness for his need. 
A wise word, tho' perchance unclean, 
Is in men's mouths full oft, I ween, 190 
King Alfred, he hath written, Owl, 
' A man shuns those who know himfoul.'L 
I trow e'en so with thee it is, 
Thou fliest aye by night, I wis. 
Another thing with thee is seen, 
By night thine eyes be bright and keen, 
By day-light shalt thou be stark blind, 
Thou see'st neither bough nor rind; 
Art blind, or well nigh blind, by day 
Thereby in parable men say: 200 

Right so the evil man doth wend 
Who seeth naught to a good end, 
And is so full of evil guile 
That no man may escape his wile. 
Right well the dark way doth he know, 
And from the light aside doth go. 
And even so thy kin doth fare, 
For light, I trow, have they no care." 

The Owl had hearkened over long, 
Her wrath by now had waxed full strong, 
She quoth: "Thou Nightingale would'st 

be, an 

Chatterer, were fit name for thee! 
Forsooth, too many tales dost tell, 
A splint would suit thy tongue right well ! 
Thou deemest thou hast won the day; 
Now shalt thou let me have my say, 
Shalt hold thee still, and let me speak, 
I will my vengeance on thee wreak. 
Now list how I'll defend me well 
And truly, nor long tale will tell. 220 
Thou say'st I hide my head by day 
Thereto I think not to say Nay, 
But hearken, and I'll tell to thee 
Both why, and wherefore, this shall be. 
I have a bill both stiff and strong, 
And right good claws, both sharp and 

long, 

As suiteth well unto hawk's kin 
Pleasure and practice lie herein 



That I may nature follow free 

No man for that lays blame on me, 230 

Therefore in me it may be seen 

That I by nature be right keen. 

Thus to the small birds loath am I, 

Who low by ground or thicket fly, 

They cry and shriek behind my back, 

Follow in flocks upon my track; 

It pleaseth me to be at rest, 

And hold me still upon my nest, 

I trow no whit the better I 

To chafe and chatter, verily, 240 

And scold them in foul words withal, 

Herdsmen each other so miscall. 

With shrews I have no lust to chide, 

My way, it lieth from them wide. 

A wise man judgeth thus alway, 

And he full oft that same doth say : 

'Men should not with the foolish chide 

Nor with the oven yawn full wide,' 

And I have some-time heard it tell 

How Alfred spake, wisely, and well: 250 

'Look that thy way thou never hold 

Where men be wont to strive and scold 

Let fools chide, and the wise men go * 

And I be wise, and do also. 

And Alfred spake, some other tide, 

A word well known, both far and wide: 

* Who mixeth with a fool, I ween, 

He cometh never from him clean.* 

Dost think the hawk the worse shall 

be 

When marsh-crows scold him angrily, 
And follow on his track in might 261 
As they were fain with him to fight? 
The hawk good counsel takes thereby, 
He goes his way, and lets them cry. 
But now thou say'st another thing; 
Dost tell me that I cannot sing, 
My song shall naught but wailing be, 
Grisley to hear, in veritie. 
That is not true, full oft I sing 
Full loud, my voice doth clearly ring, 
All songs thine ear as grisley strike 271 
That be not to thy piping like. 
My voice is bold, not weak to hear, 
As a great horn it ringeth clear; 



3 J 4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



But thine is like a feeble pipe, 
Blown thro' a reed, green, and unripe. 
Better I sing than thou at best, 
As Irish priest thou chatterest; 
I sing at eve, when day is sped, 
I sing when men should seek their bed, 
I sing again when 't is midnight, 281 
And so my song is fitly dight 
Whenas I see to rise afar 
The daybreak, or the morning star. 
Thus with my throat much good I win, 
And men much profit find therein. 
But thou dost sing the live-long night 
From even, to the morning light, 
And dost repeat that self-same song 
Unceasing, thro' the whole night long. 
Dost crow thy wretched cry alway 291 
That never ceaseth, night nor day, 
But with thy pipe, I trow thee well, 
Dost din men's ears, who near thee dwell, 
Until thy song doth worthless grow 
And men no joy therein may know. 
For mirth, I ween, so long may last 
That all its pleasure be o'erpast ; 
And harp and pipe, and birdling's song 
Mislike men, if they last o'er long. 300 
Nor shall thy song so joyful be 
But one shall deem it misery 
If he must hearken 'gainst his will 
So shall thy song be wasted still. 
Alfred, he spake the sooth indeed, 
As one in book right well may read: 
*AU things may lose their goodliness 
Thro' lack of measure, and excess. ,' 
With pleasure thou may'st satiate, 
And over-fullness breedeth hate; 310 
Each joy to weariness shall tend 
If it continue without end, 
Save one, that is God's Kingdom meet, 
Ever the same, and ever sweet; 
Take without ceasing from that store, 
*T is ever full, and running o'er, 
God's Kingdom is a wonder sure 
That aye shall spend, and aye endure. 

"Thou puttest on me other shame; 
Thou say'st, I in mine eyes be lame; 320 



Thou say'st, in that I fly by night 
'T is that I cannot see in light. 
Thou liest! It may well be seen 
That I have sight both good and keen, 
For there be never duskiness 
In which I e'er may see the less. 
Thou deem'st, I cannot see with eye 
Therefore by day I do not fly; 
The hare all day shall hidden be 
Natheless the hare right well can see, 
And should hounds chance to run his 
way 33I 

Full swift he flies from them away; 
And many a narrow path doth take, 
And many a twist and turn doth make, 
And fares with many a bound and leap, 
So to the groves his way doth keep. 
For both his eyes so never he 
Would do, if that he might not see. 
Well as the hare I see, methinks, 
Tho' thro' the day I sit, and blink. 340 
The valiant man, who beareth shield, 
And, near and far, doth fare afield, 
Thro' many a land his way doth take 
And doth by night good progress make; 
Follow these valiant men will I, 
And with their band by night will fly." 

The Nightingale, within her thought 
She pondered this, and long she sought 
What she thereafter best might say, 
Since she in no wise might gainsay 350 
That which the Owl had said, indeed, 
For that she spake both right, and 

rede. 

In sooth she deemed she so had sped, 
Their speech to such a point had led, 
She needs must fear right ill to fare 
Nor true and fitting answer bear. 
Natheless, she spake out valiantly 
For he is wise, who, hardily, 
Doth make good face against his foe, 355 
Nor cause thro' cowardice doth forego. 
For they wax bold, an thou shalt flee, 
Who 'Id fly didst thou fight valiantly, 
For, if he see thee bold, straightway, 
Your boar 's a barrow pig, i' fay! 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



370 



v / And therefore, tho' full sore afraid, 
The Nightingale a brave show made. 
She quoth: "Now, Owl, I prithee say, 
Why sing in winter, 'Wellaway'? 
Thou sing'st as doth a hen in snow, 
All that she singeth is for woe; 
In winter thou dost cry, and wail, 
In summer-time thy song doth fail. 
'T is for foul envy thou, alway, 
With other birds wilt not be gay. 
For jealousy dost burn, I wis, 
Whenas our bale be turned to bliss; 
Thou dost as evil men do still, 
All gladness is against thy will; 
To frown, and grudge, that is their way, 
Whenas that other men be gay. 380 

The envious would ever spy 
Salt tears in this, his neighbour's, eye, 
Nor recks he tho' their flocks shall fare 
In wild confusion, head, and hair. 
So is thy custom, at this tide, 
For, when the snow lies thick and wide 
And every man goes sorrowing, 
Then thou from eve to morn dost sing. 
But I, with me I bring all bliss, 
My song rejoiceth all, I wis, 390 

Men bless the day they hear my voice, 
And at my coming all rejoice. 
Blossom and leaf again are seen 
On bough of tree, on meadow green; 
The lily beauteous doth blow 
To welcome me, I 'Id have ye know, 
And by her fairness doth invite 
That I, to her, shall wing my flight. 
The rose, that blusheth red, I trow, 
And springeth from the thorney bough, 
She biddeth me to sing alway 401 

For love of her, a roundelay. 
And so I do, by night, by day, 
The more I sing, the more I may. 
And thus I please them with my song, 
That, natheless, lasteth not o'erlong, 
For when I see that men be glad 
Naught would I do to make them sad, 

! When I have done what hither brought 
My flight, I fare, by wisdom taught. 410 
For when man thinketh on the sheaf, 



And yellow hues come on the leaf, 
I say, Farewell, and hence I go 
Naught do I reck of winter's woe, 
For when hard times I needs must see 
I get me home right speedily. 
Thus love and thanks I ever know, 
In that I come, and that I go. 
Once I have done my work, then say, 
Why should I bide, and wherefore? Nay, 
I hold him no wise man, indeed, 421 
Who lingers where there is no need!" 

The Owl in silence sat, and heard, 
And held in heart word after word, 
And then bethought her how she might 
An answer give, both fit and right; 
For every man must take good heed 
When he, 'gainst trick of word must 

plead. 
"Thou askest me," she quoth, "this 

thing, 

Why I, in winter cry and sing 430 
It is with men a custom good, 
From the beginning hath it stood, 
That each good man should, with his 

friend, 

From time to time, in gladness spend 
Some hours with him, in house, and 

board, 

With gracious speech, and gracious word, 
And specially at Christ's own Feast, 
When rich and poor, greatest, and least, 
Their Antiphon sing, night and day 
I fain would help them, an I may, 440 
My mind is set on other thing 
Than just to play, or eke, to sing, 
And, answer were I fain to find, 
I have one ready to my mind; 
For summer-tide is all too fair, 
And man full oft misdoeth there; 
For Purity he careth naught, 
On Lust, I trow, is all his thought, 



" And thou thyself art there among, 
In that of Lust is all thy song, 450 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



" And when thine hour of passion 's o'er 
I trow thy song is heard no more. 



"Now art thou ta'en, what thinkest 

thou? 
Art rightly overcome, I trow!" 

"Nay, Nay," she quoth, the Nightin 
gale, 

" Now shalt thou hear another tale, 
Not yet our speech fore- judged shall be, 
Now hold thee still, and list to me ; 
With but one word I '11 swiftly teach 
How all of naught it is, thy speech!" 460 
"That were not right," the Owl then 

said, 

"Thou at thy will thy plaint hast made, 
And I have answered even so 
Now, ere we both to judgment go, 
Here I set forth my cause 'gainst thee, 
Thou, in thy turn, shalt speak 'gainst me, 
And answer me, if so thou might! 
But tell me now, thou wretched wight, 
If thou hast any merit still 469 

Save that thy throat be loud, and shrill? 
No good art thou for anything, 
Naught dost thou know, save chattering, 
For small thou art, and weak shalt be, 
Thy plumage nothing is to see, 
What good I pray, dost do 'mid men? 
No more than doth a wretched wren! 
In thee men find none other good 
Save that thou criest in the wood, 
And if thy song be past and gone 
Of other wisdom hast thou none. 480 
King Alfred said, a wise man he, 
And well he spake, for true it be: 
' There is no man who, for his song, 
Is loved or cherished over-long, 
For he is but a worthless thing 
Who knoweth naught, save how to sing? 
And thou art but a thing of naught, 
Nor, save thy chatter, hast thou aught; 
Of dim and dull hue art, withal, 
Naught but a little sooty ball! 490 



" \Vhat dost thou eat, save only lice? 
Spiders thou lovest, and foul flies, 
And worms, if such thou mayest find 
In crevices of bark, and rind. 
But true and good my service is, 
I watch men's dwellings well, I wis, 
And men, they deem my service good, 
For that I help them with their food. 
The mouse I take in barn withal, 
And eke in church, when dusk doth 
fall; 5 oo 

For dear to me shall be Christ's House, 
Gladly I cleanse it from the mouse, 
And never shall there come thereto 
Vermin, if I my will may do. 
And if it so shall please me well 
To 'void the place where men may dwell, 
I have within the wood a tree, 
Thick and well-clad its boughs shall be, 
And ivy green doth it o'er grow, 
Ever the same that tree shall show; 510 
Its hue, I trow, is never lost, 
Whether it be or snow or frost; 
Therein I have a sure stronghold; 
In winter warm, in summer cold, 
My house stands ever bright and green 
When of thy dwelling naught is seen." 

The Nightingale herself bethought, 
Good counsel to her aid she brought, 
Seeking 'mid hard and tough, I trow, 
Until her rede seemed good enow, 520 
And she an answer fit had found 
To do her service at this stound. 
"Owl," thus she quoth, "fain would'st 

thou know 

If I another skill may show 
Save to sing sweet in summer-tide, 
And bliss to spread both far and wide. , 
Why ask what further skill be mine? 
Better my one than all of thine 
Better one song from me to win 
Than all the songs of all thy kin 530 
Hearken, and hear wherefore I wot 
Man, he was born but to this lot 
That he should come to Heaven's bliss, 
Which is but song and mirth, I wis, 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



: 



And every man doth strive thereto 
Who aught of good doth know, or do. 
Therefore in Holy Church men sing, 
And clerks their skill in music bring 
That men be minded by their song 
Whither they go, and thereto long; 540 
That men shall of true bliss be fain, 
And thereof think, thereto attain, 
Since by the church good proof is given 
How glad shall be the bliss of Heaven. 
Thus clerks, and monks, and canons all, 
Who dwell within this holy wall, 
Rise from their couches at midnight, 
And sing a song of Heaven's light; 
And priests, throughout the land they 
sing, 549 

Whenas the light of day doth spring; 
And I, I help as best I may 
And sing with them both night and day. 
And thus for me more joy they know, 
For me their song doth swifter flow, 
So do I warn men for their good 
That they should be of blithesome mood, 
And thus I bid them seek alway 
That self-same song that lasts for aye. 
Now, Owl, thou well mayst sit and blink, 
Here is no chatter, so I think, 560 

Ready am I afar to fare 
And from the Pope my judgment bear. 
Yet, natheless, shalt a little stay 
And hear what I have yet to say, 
Nor shalt thou, for this English land, 
My words with any truth withstand. 



" Thou deemest me the worse for this 
That but one craft I know, I wis, 



" Cast thou thy crafts together, still 
The mine shall be the better skill. 570 
The hounds the fox to death can drive, 
The cat can save himself alive 
Tho' never trick he know save one 
The fox, such good trick knoweth none 
Altho' he hath full many a wile, 
And deems each hound he may beguile. 



The fox knows secret paths enow 
The cat, he hangeth on the bough 
So that the hound doth go astray, 
And turneth oft another way. 580 

The fox, he thro' the hedge doth crawl, 
And from his first path bend withal, 
Full oft he doth such cunning show 
The dogs the scent no longer know, 
Nor know whether, upon the track 
'T were best to go afore, or back. 
Thus doth the fox his wiles expend 
That to his earth he, at the end, 
Hath safely come, yet, sooth to tell, 
Altho' his tricks may serve him well, 590 
Spite of his wiles, at last he'll be 
Robbed of his red coat, verily. 
The cat, he knows but one trick still, 
Whether he fly by fen, or hill, 
He knows right well to climb, alway, 
So can he ward his coat of gray. 
Thus my one craft, I say to thee, 
Better than all thy twelve shall be!" 

"Abide, abide," the Owl did cry, 
" Thy plaint, it leans to treachery, 600 
Thou glozest so thy words alway 
That men shall deem thou sooth dost say. 
Abide, abide, I'll answer thee 
So that all men shall truly see 
That here dost much, and greatly, lie, 
I'll show thine untruth, verily. 
Thou say'st, that by thy song, Mankind 
Be taught their way from hence to find 
Up to the song that lasts for aye 
In sooth I wonder, and well may, 610 
Thou darest to lie thus openly 
Dost think that thou, so easily, 
Shalt bring to Heaven's bliss by song? 
Nay, nay, they needs must find ere long 
That, with sore tears and weeping, they 
Must for their sins still pardon pray 
Ere they may hope that bliss to find 
I rede men that they bear in mind 
Rather to weep, than thus to sing, 619 
An they would fain see Heaven's King. 
For there be no man void of sin, 
Therefore needs must, ere hence he win, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



That he with grief and tears entreat 
He find that sour, that erst was sweet 
Thereto I '11 help him as I may 
Therefore I sing no empty lay; 
My song is all with longing blent, 
At whiles it turneth to lament, 
That man bethink him well, I wis, 629 
And mourn what he hath done amiss, 
Thus would I urge him by my song 
To groan for this, his guilt, and wrong. 
If here would'st take to arguing 
Better I weep than thou dost sing, 
If right shall go ahead of wrong 
Better my mourning than thy song. 
And tho' some men be truly good, 
And pure in heart, of righteous mood, 
Natheless they yearn from hence to go 
That they be here, it brings them woe, 6 4 o 
Tho' they themselves be saved, I ween, 
Here have they naught but sorrow keen; 
For other's sins they weep alway, 
Ever for them Christ's Mercy pray. 
Thus in both ways I help enow, 
And two-fold aid I give, I trow; 
The good I urge to yearning strong, 
His longing quickens at my song, 
And I the sinful help also, 
Teaching, his way doth lead to woe. 650 



" But thou dost sing of lustfulness, 
Man finds in thee no holiness. 



" Why dost not seek some other land 

Where folk in greater need shall stand? 

In Ireland thou dost never sing, 

To Scotland ne'er thy flight dost wing, 

Why dost not fare to Norroway, 

Or sing to men of Galloway? 

For there be men who little know 

Of how a song should sweetly flow; 660 

Why to their priests dost thou not sing 

And knowledge of thy trilling bring? 

Couldst teach them by thy voice, I 

wis, 
How angels sing in Heavenly bliss. 



Nay, as a useless well dost do 
That springeth by a streamlet's flow, 
The down it leaveth parched and dry 
And, useless, runs the waters by. 
But I, both North and South I roam, 
In every land I be at home, 670 

Both far and near, both East and West, 
I do mine office with the best, 
And warn men by my voice to heed 
Lest thy false song should them mislead. 
I warn them well, by this my song, 
That they in sin dwell not o'erlong; 
I pray them cease their sin alway 
Nor that they should themselves betray; 
Better by far bemoan them here 
Than be the mate of Devils drear! 680 



" Once didst thou sing, 't is sooth indeed, 
In lady's bower, and fain would lead 
That dame a secret love to know 
There didst thou sing both loud and low, 
Wouldst lead her to a deed of shame 
And wrong against her wifely fame. 
Her lord was well aware that time, 
And cunning snare of gin, and lime, 
He set to catch thee there withal, 
Full soon into the trap didst fall; 690 
Taken thou wast in cunning snare 
Fast by the foot it held thee there. 
This was thy doom, and this the law, 
Wild horses should thy body draw. 
Seek, if thou wilt, by evil rede 
Or wife, or maiden, to mislead, 
Such profit shalt thou win, by hap, 
That thou shalt dangle from a trap!" 

The Nightingale, at this same word, 699 
With knightly art of spear and sword, 
An she were man, were fain to fight, 
So hath she done as best she might, 
And wise, did ward her with her tongue, 
" Who speaks well, fights well," saith the 

song. 

Thus, in her tongue her trust she laid : 
" ' Who speaks well, fights well,' Alfred 

said; 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



3*9 



Wouldst shame me by this tale? I trow 
Thereof the lord had grief enow; 
He was so jealous of his wife 
That he would not, for very life, 710 
That with another man she spake, 
It went full nigh his heart to break. 
He locked her in a bower ere long, 
That builded was full sure and strong, 
I but took pity on her woe, 
And sorrow for her lot would show; 
Fain would I please her with my song, 
Early I sang, and late, and long. 
Therefore the knight with me was wroth, 
For envy, I to him was loath, 720 

He thought on me to wreak his shame, 
But all was turned to his blame. 
Henry the King thereof had dole, 
(Jesu have mercy on his soul!) 
He set his ban upon the knight 
Who thus had sinned against the right 
In such a good king's land and state, 
For envy sheer, and foulest hate, 
A little bird did cruelly snare 
And, limb from limb, asunder tear. 730 
*T was to the honour of my kin, 
Thereby the knight small joy did win, 
He gave for me an hundred pound 
Thereof my birds, much joy they found, 
Such bliss was theirs, and sheer delight, 
They blithely sang, as well they might, 
Since I was so avenged, I hold 
My speech henceforth shall be more bold, 
Since Fate thus once hath dealt with 

me, 

Ever the blither shall I be. 740 

Now may I sing both loud and low, 
No man may wrath against me show. 
But thou, thou miserable ghost, 
I wot that ne'er a nook thou knowest, 
No hollow bush to hide, withal, 
Where no man's grasp on thee shall fall. 
Master, and servant, children, be 
All of one mind to worry thee, 
If they may see thee sit alone 
Swift do they take to them a stone, 750 
With turf, and stones on thee they fall, 
Thy bones are fain to break withal. 



If thou to death be smitten, or shot, 
Then first art thou of use, I wot, 
Men hang thee then upon a stick 
And with thy feathers, foul and thick. 
And with thy claws that erstwhile fore, 
Guardest the wheat, from the barn door. 
Tho' thou art naught as flesh and blood 
Thou art as scare-crow very good! 760 
And when men would their new seeds 

sow, 

Sparrow, nor goldfinch, rook, nor crow, 
Never to come anigh will dare 
If so thy body hangeth there. 
And so the tree shall surely blow, 
And the young seeds shall spring and 

grow, 

And never bird comes there among 
If thou shalt be above them hung. 
Thy life is vile and foully sped, 
Thou art no use, save thou be dead. 770 
So shalt thou know, of surety, 
Thy features all right grisley be 
The while thou livest, when dost see 
That when thou, dead, hanged high 

shalt be, 

They dread of thee the very sight 
Those birds, who cried upon thy flight. 
I trow with reason men be wroth 
'Gainst thee, thy song to them is loath, 
Early and late, I trow, thy song 
Is ever of man's loss and wrong, 780 
Men well may dread to hear thy cry, 
Thou singest ere some man shall die; 
Ever thy song, it bodeth woe 
A man shall loss of riches know; 
Perchance a friend shall ruined be; 
Perchance his house burnt presently; 
Or thieves, or foemen, steal by night; 
Or murrain shall his cattle smite; 
The folk shall suffer scarcity; 
Or wife bereft of husband be; 790 

Ever foretellest misery 
Ever of harm to man dost sing, 
Sorrow and poverty dost bring; 
In. very sooth thou singest ne'er 
Save when thou would'st some ill 

declare. 



320 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



That thou be shunned by all, 't is meet, 
And that men should thee pelt, and beat 
With sticks, and stones, with turf, and 

clout, 

So that thou findest no way out. 
Woe to the herald who shall ne'er 800 
A message save of evil, bear, 
Who ever bringeth tidings ill, 
Whose speech is but of mischief still; 
Yea, God with him full wroth shall be, 
And all who wear such livery!" 
The Owl, she tarried not o'erlong, 
But gave an answer sharp and strong: 
"*' What?" so she quoth, "shalt cowled be 
That thus thou cursest laity? 809 

Priest's office here thou fain wouldst do 
Say, hast thou been ordained thereto? 
I know not if thou Mass canst sing 
But loud enow thy curses ring ! 
'T is but for thine old jealousy 
That thus thou layest blame on me. 
Here is an answer good alway; 
'Draw to thee!' doth the carter say; 
Wouldst here reproach me with insight, 
For knowledge deep, and secret might? 
For, in good sooth, I be full wise, 820 
And know what in the future lies, 
For I of war and famine know; 
Whether a man live long, or no; 
I know what wife shall widowed be; 
What land shall waste and violence see; 
Who breathes on gallows his last breath, 
Or dies some other evil death; 
When men shall forth to battle fare 
The victor I could well declare; 829 

I know when pest shall smite the kine; 
I know when deer for hunger pine; 
Right well I know which tree shall blow; 
Right well I know if corn shall grow; 
I know which house with fire shall burn; 
Who from his foe in flight shall turn ; 
I know when seas o'er-whelm the ship; 
I know when frost and snow shall grip; 
And yet I trow I know e'en more 
Well am I learned in book-lore, 
And of the Gospels know I well 840 
Far more than I can rightly tell; 



For I full oft to churches turn 
And much of wisdom there I learn. 
Of Symbols I the meaning know, 
And many another thing also; 
If ill to any man befell 
And I its coming may foretell, 
Full oft, for this, my mickle wit, 
Right sad and sorrowful I sit. 
For when I see that woe and ill 850 
Draw near, I must bemoan me still. 
I would that men thereof take heed 
And find aforetime fitting rede. 
Alfred in wisdom spake this word 
He well may ponder who hath heard 
' The ill that thou canst well foresee 
Of half its strength it robbed shall be. 1 
Tho' hard the dints, their force is less 
If I keep me in wariness, 
And all in vain the shaft shall wing 860 
If thou hast seen it leave the string. 
For thou right well may'st turn aside 
And flee, if thou its course hast spied. 
And if disgrace a man befall 
Should he reproach me therewithal? 
Tho' I afore his harm have seen 
It was not caused by me I ween. 
So dost thou see one who is blind, 
Who the straight path may nowise 

find, 

Shall follow a false road withal 870 

Till in the ditch and mire he fall. 
Dost ween because the harm I see 
It therefore falls more speedily? 
E'en so it fareth with my wit 
The while upon my bough I sit 
I know, and see, with sight full clear, 
That harm to some man draweth near; 
Shall he, who naught thereof may know 
Reproach me, if the thing be so? 
Shall he the mischief lay to me 880 

Because I wiser am than he? 
But when I see that grief and pain 
Be nigh to man, I sore complain, 
And pray that he himself may guard 
For that misfortune's ways be hard. 
But tho' I mourn, both loud and still, 
All that betides is thro' God's Will. 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



321 



Then why should men blame me, for 
sooth, 

In that I warn them of the truth? 
For tho' I warn throughout the year 890 
Evil to them is not more near, 
But for this reason do I sing 
That they may understand this thing, 
That some misfortune draweth nigh 
Whenas they hear me hoot and cry. 
For no man so assured hath been 
But that he well may dread, I ween, 
That harm shall sometime him befall 
Altho' he see it not withal. 
King Alfred, very well he spake, 900 
(And men his words as Gospel take) 
That each man shall the better speed 
The better that he taketh heed, 
And trusts to none his wealth, I trow, 
In haste, tho' folk he have enow. 
No heat there be but cold may grow; 
No white so pure but stain may know; 
Nothing so dear but may wax loath; 
No gladness but may make men wroth; 
But all that ever was, I wis, 910 

Is fleeting, as is this world's bliss. 
Here may'st thou know full speedily 
That thou dost speak but giddily, 
All that thou sayest for my shame 
It turneth ever to thy blame, 
Go as it may, it chances yet 
Thou fallest to thine own onset; 
The words thou dost against me spend 
Turn to mine honour in the end, 
Nay, better must thy plaint begin 920 
If aught but shame dost think to win!" 
The Nightingale, she sat, and sighed, 
Right woeful was she at that tide, 
For that the Owl spake in this wise 
And laid her speech in such like guise. 
Good counsel to her heart she laid 
Pondering what she thereafter said, 
Nntheless, her part she understood 
"What, Owl," she quoth, "say, art thou 

wood? 

Of secret wisdom speakest aye, 930 

Thou know'st not whence it comes 
alway 



Save that in witchcraft it hath share; 
Thereof, thou wretch, should'st well 

beware, 

If thou midst men in peace would'st be 
Else from the land thou need'st must flee, 
For all who in such dealings share 
From days of yore accursed were 
By priest, and such thou yet shalt be 
From witchcraft ne'er hast set thee free. 
In such wise did I speak but now 940 
And thou didst ask of me, I trow, 
In mockery, if 'cowled' I were, 
That ban, it reacheth everywhere, 
And tho' no priest in land were seen, 
A cursed wretch thou still hadst been. 
For every child shall call thee foul, 
Each man, 'A miserable owl,' 
Yea, I have heard, and sooth it be, 
That men be star-wise, verily, 
And thus may future things foretell, 950 
Thou sayest what is known full well. 
But, wretch, what know'st thou of a star 
Save that thou see'st it from afar? 
So doth full many a beast and man 
Who of such knowledge nothing can; 
An ape may well a book behold 
And turn its leaves, its pages fold, 
But for all that he knows no more 
Nor first, nor last, of clerkly lore; 959 
And thus, tho' thou the stars shalt see 
Never the wiser shalt thou be. 
Again, foul thing, thou chidest me, 
And dost reproach me wrathfully, 
Saying, that by my song alway 
Wives learn their husbands to betray. 
Thou liest, I wis, thou wretched thing, 
Shame did I ne'er on marriage bring; 
But sooth it is I sing alway 
For ladies sweet, and maidens gay. 
And sooth it is of love I sing, 970 

For marriage many a wife doth bring 
To give to this, her husband true, 
A love that ne'er her lover knew. 
And maidens well such love may choose 
That they their honour never lose, 
But love with rightful love that same 
Who hath the right their love to claim; 



3 22 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Such love I teach, such love they learn, 
Thereto my song their heart doth turn.'* 



The Owl rejoiced at such a tale, 980 
But yet bethought the Nightingale, 
Tho* she at first the sooth would say, 
At last had somewhat gone astray. 
She quoth: "Now, of a sooth, I find 
That maidens' weal be in thy mind, 
Dost cherish them, and guard them well 
And art full fain their praise to tell, 
Ladies full often turn to me, 
And let me oft their sorrow see. 



" For there be husbands manifold 990 
Who know not how a wife to hold, 
If others speak with her, I trow, 
He deems she'll break her marriage vow; 
Nay, to behold if she but dare 
Another man, or speak him fair, 
He shuts her in with lock and key, 
Thereby shall vows oft broken be, 
For oft by wrong shall she be brought 
To do what ne'er was in her thought. 
Woe to him who so swift shall speak 1000 
That his wife shall such vengeance 

wreak! 

Thereof the ladies' plaint shall be 
Full oft, and sore it troubleth me, 
My heart, I trow, for grief is fain 
To break, when I behold their pain, 
With them I needs must weep full sore, 
And pray Christ's Mercy evermore, 
To aid that lady ere too late, 
And send to her a better mate. 
Another tale I 'Id now begin : 1010 

And thou shalt ne'er, to save thy skin, 
With answer fit o'er this prevail 
But thy contention here shall fail. 
Many a merchant, many a knight, 
Doth love, and hold his wife, aright, 
And many a bondsman, even so 
The good wife, she the same shall do, 
And serves her lord, by bed and board, 
With gentle deed, and gentle word, 



And ever seeks in service true 1020 

The thing that to her lord is due. 
Full oft it doth her lord befall 
To fare afield, when need doth call, 
Then is that good wife sad at heart 
In that she from her lord must part; 
She sits, and sigheth evermore, 
For woe her heart is grieved full sore, 
And, all for this her dear lord's sake, 
Watcheth by^day, by night doth wake, 
And very long it seems, the while, 1030 
Each step, she deemeth it a mile. 
When others sleep her couch about, 
I, alone, hearken there without; 
And, since I know her mournful mood, 
At night I sing, for this, her good, 
And of my song, for this, her sake, 
Sometime a lamentation make, 
Thus, in her sorrow take a share 
Therefore she gives me welcome fair. 
Thus do I help her all I may 1040 

For that she treads the rightful way. 
But thou hast shamed me bitterly, 
My heart thereof shall heavy be, 
So that, in sooth, I scarce may speak 
But yet my wrath I needs must wreak. 
Thou sayest, that I to man be loth, 
That every man is with me wroth; 
With sticks and stones doth threaten me, 
Beats me, and tears me, willingly; 
And when at last I shall be slain 1050 
To take and hang me they be fain, 
That I may scare the pie and crow 
From off the furrows where they sow. 
Say it were sooth, I do them good, 
And for their profit shed my blood, 
I die, and serve them at that same 
Wherefore to thee the greater blame; 
When thou art dead, shrivelled and dry, 
Thy death helps no man, verily! 
In sooth, I know not how it might 1060 
For thou art but a wretched wight! 
But tho' my life be shot away 
Good service may I do alway, 
For men may set me on a stick 
There, where the wood grows close and 
thick, 



THE OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 



323 



And thus may draw unto their snare 
The little birds, and catch them there. 
And so thro' me it doth befall 
Man findeth roast for food withal 
But thou, thou ne'er, alive or dead, 1070 
To profit man didst stand in stead, 
I know not why dost rear thy brood 
Alive, or dead, thou art no good!" 

The Nightingale heard well enow 
And hopped upon the leafy bough; 
Higher she perched than she did ere 
"Owl," so she quoth, "now be thou 

ware, 

With thee I think to plead no more 
For thou hast lost the rightful lore, 
Thou criest, thou to man art loth, 1080 
That every man with thee is wroth; 
That with thy cry, and with thy yell, 
Thou art accurst, thou knowest well. 
Thou say'st that grooms take thee in 

snare, 

High on a rod they hang thee there, 
They tear thee, and in pieces shake, 
And some a scare-crow of thee make. 
Methinks, that thou hast lost the game, 
Thou criest aloud of thine own shame, 
Methinks, dost play into mine hand 1090 
Crying thy shame throughout the land." 
When she had said this word, I trow, 
She sat her on a leafy bough 
And lifted up her voice on high 
And sang so shrill, so piercingly, 
That far and near men heard her song 
Anon, unto that tree they throng, 
Thrush, throstle, wood-hatch, song-birds 

all, 1098 

Of fowls, I trow, both great and small, 
For that they deemed the Nightingale 
The Owl had vanquished, without fail, 
Therefore they cried and sang, I wis, 
Among the boughs with mickle bliss. 
E'en so men heap upon him shame 
Who, playing dice, hath lost the game. 
The Owl the clamour heard withal : 
"Would'st thou," she cried, "an army 

call? 



And would'st thou, wretch, against me 

fight? 

Nay, nay, thereto hast thou no might. 
Why dost thou call them here to thee? 
Methinks, would'st lead them against 

me, im 

But thou shalt know, ere hence thou go, 
How my kin guard them 'gainst a foe, 
All they whose bills be strong and 

hooked, 
All they whose claws be sharp and 

crooked, 

All they be of my kin, indeed, 
All they will come to me at need. 
The very cock, who well can fight, m8 
Should hold with me, I trow, of right, 
We both have voices loud and strong, 
And both, by night we sing our song; 
Should I my loudest cry 'gainst thee 
The stronger army mine should be. 
' Pride goeth aye before a fair \ 
A turf were more than worth ye all! 
And ere the day be turned to eve 
I 'Id not a quill upon ye leave. 
But 't was our forward fast and true 
Ere yet to thither-ward we drew, 
That we should other daysman seek 
Who judgment fair 'twixt us should 

speak, 1I3 i 

And now would'st from that forward 

shrink 

The judgment all too hard dost think ! 
Never thou durst that doom abide 
So would'st thou, wretch, now fight and 

chide. 

But would ye all my counsel take 
Ere hue and cry 'gainst ye I make, 
Then ye our strife would now let be, 
And from this place would swiftly flee 
For, by the claws of which I boast, 1140 
If ye should now await my host, 
Ye soon another song shall sing, 
And curse all strife and quarrelling, 
For none so keen shall be this tide, 
I trow, mine onslaught to abide." 
The Owl, she spake right valiantly, 
Tho' she would not, so speedily, 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



After her army straightway fare, 1148 
Yet would she, natheless, answer there 
The Nightingale with fitting word 
For many a man, with spear and sword, 
Hath little strength, or e'en with shield, 
But yet may well upon the field, 
With valiant words, so brave appear 
He makes his foe to sweat for fear. 
The wren, who sang well, at that same, 
In morning-tide, she thither came, 
To help the Nightingale withal; 
For tho' her voice, it was but small. 
Her notes were very clear and shrill, 1160 
And many songs had she at will; 
The wren for wise men ever hold, 
Tho' she were born upon the wold, 
Yet among men had she been taught, 
And all her lore from them she brought, 
And she might speak where'er she would, 
Before the King, if so she should. 
"Listen," she quoth, "the word I'll take, 
What, think ye here the peace to break, 
And do unto the King such shame? 1170 
Yet is he neither dead nor lame, 
And harm and shaming shall ye win 
An ye break peace his land within. 
Let be, and make your peace, I pray, 
And to your judgment go straightway, 
And take the verdict on your plea 
E'en as ye sware it so should be." 
"That will I," quoth the Nightingale, 
"Yet, Wren, I go not for thy tale 
But all for sake of lawfulness; n8o 

I would not, of unrighteousness 
Be at the ending overcome 
In sooth, I fear for no man's doom, 
But I have said, and hold for truth, 
That Master Nichole, who, in sooth, 
Is wise, should judge between us two, 
And still I deem he so will do. 
But say, where shall we find him now?" 
The Wren sat on a linden bough; 
"What, know ye not," quoth she, "his 
home? 1190 

He dwelleth sure at Portesholme, 



In Dorset that same town shall be 

Beside an inlet of the sea. 

There judgment doth he deal aright, 

And many wise saws doth indite, 

And thro' his mouth, and thro' his hand. 

Bettered we be to Scottish land. 

Easy it is to seek his face 

For he hath but one dwelling-place. 

I trow that doth the bishops shame, 1200 

And every man who of his name 

Hath heard, and knoweth of his deed 

Why seek they not from him good rede 

That he among them oft shall be 

To teach them wisdom, verily, 

Find him a place, and goodly rent, 

That so his time with them be spent?" 

"Certes," the Owl quoth, "that is so, 
And these rich men much wrong they 

do 

When they a good man leave aside 
(Who is in wisdom true and tried ) 
And office give to whom they will 121: 
Unheeding, and neglect him still. 
But with their kin are they more free, 
And children office-holders be, 
111 judgment on their wit they pass, 
As sheweth Master Nicholas. 
But let us now unto him fare 
For judgment swift awaits us there." 
"That do we," quoth the Nightingale, 
"But who shall now rehearse our tale, 
And set it forth ere judgment fall?" 122; 
"That," quoth the Owl, "I'll do withal 
For our debate, in order fair, 
Word after word, I will declare, 
And if thou think'st I speak amiss 
Then shalt thou check my tale, I wis." 
Then with these words away they flew 
Alone, nor followers with them drew; 
To Portesholme, I trow, they came, 1230 
But how they fared at that same 
That can I you in no wise tell, 
I know no more of what befell. 

Explicit. 



A BESTIARY 



325 



A BESTIARY 



THE LION 
I 

THE Lion from a hill doth hear 

If the huntsman draws anear, 

Or thro' his scent so keen, 

Knoweth him nigh, I ween; 

By which-ever way he will 

Wend to the dale from hill, 

His foot-prints, at that same tide, 

Behind him he well doth hide, 

His tail doth with dust o'erlay 

The track that would mark his way, 10 

Either with dust or with dew, 

That no man may him pursue. 

Thus he goeth adown to his den 

Where he hideth him well from men. 

II 

And another custom is his; 

Whene'er he is born, I wis, 

All still the lion doth keep, 

And stirs not, as if in sleep, 

Till that the sunshine's ray 

Doth three times upon him play, 20 

Then his sire doth cause him to wake 

With the roaring he doth make. 

m 

A third custom the lion doth keep; 
When he lieth adown to sleep, 
Never, in his repose, 
The lids of his eyes he'll close. 

Significatio 
I 

The hill that is very high, 

Is Heaven, assuredly, 

And the Lion, our Lord shall be 

Above, in Heaven, is He, 30 

Whenas it seemed Him well 

Here upon earth to dwell, 



The Fiend might not know, I wis, 
Tho' all huntsman's craft were his, 
How He came down that tide, 
Nor how He Himself did hide. 
Or unto that Maiden came 
Mary, I trow, her name 
From whom He took human frame. 

n, m 

When Our Lord for us did die, 40 

And willed in the grave to lie, 

In a cave so still He lay 

Till it came unto the Third day; 

With His Father's help, that stead, 

He rose again from the dead; 

To Life eternal thus 

'T is His will to waken us. 

As a shepherd his flock doth keep 

Is He Shepherd, we, His sheep, 

He will shield us from all ill 50 

If His word we hearken still 

And in no way forsake His will. 



THE EAGLE 

OF the Eagle I'll speak this stead, 
As in book I his ways have read, 
How he casts old age away, 
And reneweth his youth that day: 
When he feels of his limbs the weight, 
And his beak, it is none too straight, 
And weak hath become his flight, 
And dimmed of his eyes the sight, 
Thus doth he renew his might. 
He seeks a well flowing aye, i 

That springeth by night and day, 
Thereover doth upward fly, 
Till he seeth the heaven high; 
Thro' the skies both six and seven,' 
Till he cometh unto the heaven, 
And his way so high hath won 
That he cometh e'en to the sun, 



326 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And the heat doth stay his flight, 
His eyes maketh once more bright. 
Scorched are his feathers all, 20 

And downward he needs must fall, 
E'en to the well's deep ground, 
Where he waxeth both whole and sound, 
And cometh forth all anew, 
Save his beak, which is yet untrue. 
Tho* his limbs, they be waxen strong, 
If his beak, it be twisted wrong, 
Then may he not find him food 
That doeth him any good. 
Therewith doth he seek a stone, 30 

And pecketh full hard thereon, 
Pecks, till his beak once more 
To its right shape he doth restore, 
Si then, with a straightened bill 
Doth he get him meat at his will. 

Significaiio 

Like an Eagle be ye men, 

Listen now to me, 

Old in sin ye've waxen then 

Ere ye Christian be; 

Thus is he renewed, each man, 40 

When he goes to kirk, 

Ere that think thereof he can 

These, his eyes, be mirk. 

There he Satan must forsake, 

And each sinful deed, 

And to Jesu Christ betake, 

He shall be his meed. 

Doth on Jesus Christ believe, 

Priestly lore doth learn, 

So the mist his eyes shall leave, 50 

Ere he thence shall turn. 

All his hope to God doth run, 

Learns His Love so true, 

This, I trow, shall be the Sun 

Gives him light anew! 

Naked, falls he to the font, 

There renewed is he, 

But a little doth he want, 

That I '11 tell to ye; 

All untutored yet his mouth, 60 

Paternoster, Creed, 



Fare he North, or fare he South, 

He to know doth need. 

Teach his mouth in humble mood 

God to praise and pray, 

Thus to win his soul's true food 

Thro' God's Grace alway. 



THE SERPENT 
I 

A WORM thro' the world doth go, 

Full well men that same they know, 

Adder, by name is he 

Thus he renewed shall be; 

When his strength, it begins to break, 

And old age doth him overtake, 

He fasteth, for days full ten, 

Till his skin, it loosens then, 

He is lean, and weak also, 

And scarce on his way may go. xo 

Crippled, he creeps on his way, 

And thus doth his craft display; 

A stone with a hole seeks he, 

And narrow that hole must be, 

Thro' the hole he his way doth find, 

But his skin, he leaves behind, 

In the flesh he comes forth that day; 

Water-ward makes his way, 

As he drinketh there, to wit, 

He the venom forth doth spit 20 

That bred in his breast hath been 

From his birth-time, so I ween, 

And when he his fill hath ta'en 

Then is he renewed again. 

II 

When the Adder hath shed his skin, 

Is of poison purged within, 

If a naked man he spy 

Then he will not go anigh, 

But fast from his face will flee 

As if he a fire should see. 30 

If a clothed man he behold, 

Straightway he waxeth bold, 

And reareth him up on high, 

To harm him readily, 



A BESTIARY 



327 



To harm him, or e'en to slay, 

Is he ready, if so he may. 

And save the man valiant be, 

And defend himself worthily, 

With the Worm is fain to fight, 

And doth him attack forthright, 40 

'Gainst the Adder defence shall wield, 

And make of his body shield, 

In this wise to shield his head 

For his limbs he hath little dread 

Scarce his life he may hold that stead. 

Significatio 

Ye Christian men know now 

What ye each to Christ did vow, 

There, at the kirk door fair, 

Such time as ye christened were. 

Thou didst vow to believe His saw, 50 

And to love His holy law, 

To hold with heart and hand 

To Holy Church's command, 

If thou hast broken this vow 

Then feeble and failing thou, 

And forfeit, I trow, thy share 

In the endless Life, and fair. 

Art waxen too old for Bliss 

As this Worm of the world it is! 

Thou must, so I tell thee true, 60 

Like the Adder, thyself renew, 

Thou hast need thereof no less 

Confirm thee in steadfastness, 

In virtue, and all good deed, 

And help the poor man in need, 

Whenever they meet with thee. 

Think not thou shalt worthy be 

To walk with thy head on high, 

And thy glances toward the sky; 

As ye walk among men, be seen 70 

Gentle, and mild of mien, 

And I rede thee, beware of pride, 

And all other vice beside; 

And see that thou ever pray 

Alike by night and by day, 

That Mercy may be thy meed, 

And pardon for thy misdeed. 

This life, it betokens withal 



The path that the Adder doth crawl, 
And this is the hole in the stone 80 

Thro' which thou must pass anon; 
Thou must free thee from this, thy sin, 
As the Worm he doth from his skin, 
Then unto God's house draw near; 
The Gospel thou there shalt hear 
To the soul is refreshing drink, 
And the quenching of sin, I think. 
The tale of thy sins alway 
To the priest in shrift shalt say, 
Thus the filth from thy breast be 

cast, 90 

And the covenant h olden fast, 
In this thine heart aright 
Which thou didst aforetime plight. 
Thus shalt thou be young and new; 
To thy forward be thou true, 
And the Devil, he needs thee not, 
He may do thee no harm, I wot, 
He shall flee from before thee there 
As the Worm from him that is bare. 
With the clothed man the Adder is 

bold, ioo 

And the Devil on sins hath hold; 
And the man who is sinful yet 
With his wiles doth he oft beset. 
For ever against mankind 
Hatred he bears in mind 
If leave unto him be given 
From Him, yea, Our Lord in Heaven, 
To do to us mischief sore 
As he did to our sires of yore. 
So put we our body in bale, no 

To the soul shall it much avail; 
What was given us from on high 
Let us hold it worthily. 



THE ANT 

THE Ant is mighty, tho' small, 
And mickle her toil withal, 
In summer, and weather soft, 
In such wise as we see full oft. 
In the harvest-time we see 
How she goeth openly, 



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CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And runneth to and fro, 

And rest doth she seldom know, 

But food doth she fetch to her mind 

Where'er she the same may find, 10 

And gathers whereon to feed 

Whether of wood or of weed; 

Corn and grass doth she gather free 

Where'er she the same may see; 

Such store in her hold hath laid 

As later shall be her aid. 

When the winter snows lie deep 

She into her cave may creep, 

And the whiter may harm her not 

Who meat in her hole hath got 20 

Whereby she may live, I wot! 

Thus she layeth up a store 

Ere the fitting time be o'er, 

So well doth she know her lore. 

But wheat above all the rest 

Is the corn that she liketh best, 

For that will the seed forsake 

Of the which but now I spake. 

But the barley she leaveth there, 

And never about will bear, 30 

She shuns it, and shakes the same, 

E'en as she held it shame. 

In the Ant is a marvel seen 

More than a man doth ween, 

The corn that she bears, forthright 

The grain she in twain will bite, 

Lest it sprout, and be spoilt for meat 

Ere she willeth the same to eat. 

Significatio 

The Ant, she doth teach us still 

For our meat to toil and till, 40 

This our livelihood to gain, 

The while we on earth remain. 

For when we must wend our way 

Then cometh our winter's day, 

We shall hunger and hardship bear 

Save that we here were 'ware. 

Do we as the Ant doth here, 

Then I tell ye true, 

On that day of Doom so drear 

We shall never rue. so 



Seek we our life's Food, I wis, 

Then we sure may be 

As the Ant in winter is, 

Never lack to see. 

As the Ant doth barley shun 

When she takes the wheat, 

With the Old Law ye have done, 

Find the New Law sweet! 

As the corn she bears for food 

She in twain doth break, 60 

So the Law bids us do good, 

Bids us sin forsake; 

Gives us earthly rules so good, 

Heavenly laws also, 

Yet I ween that different food 

Soul and Body know; 

Our Lord Christ, He bade us aye 

On His law to feed, 

Now, and on the last great Day, 

When we be in need. 70 



THE HART 

THE Hart, it hath customs twain 
From which we ensamples gain; 
Thus we read in the book withal 
That men Physiology call. 
He doth drag the Adder from stone, 
With his nose pulls it up anon, 
From stone, or from stock also 
When thereunder it fain would go. 
Swift doth he swallow the Worm, 
Thereafter he sore doth burn, 10 

For the poisonous thing that tide 
To heat doth it turn inside. 
Then with cunning, he fareth fleet 
Where floweth the water sweet, 
And he drinketh it at his will 
Till thereof he hath ta'en his fill, 
And the venom hath no more power 
To harm him, from that same hour. 
But then doth he cast his horn, 
Either in thicket or thorn, 20 

Thus the wild Deer renews his 

youth 
So have I learned for truth. 



A BESTIARY 



329 



Significatio 

Thus men, they the poison draw 

From our elders, who brake the Law, 

Thro' the Serpent, thereby Mankind 

Have envy and strife in mind, 

Be lustful, and covetous, 

Lascivious and gluttonous, 

And haughty, and proud in mien 

This is the poison I mean. 30 

Full oft do we burn in mood, 

And fare as if we were wood, 

And whenever we thus do burn 

It behoveth us swift to turn 

And haste to Christ's living well, 

That we may not go to Hell. 

If His Teaching, we drink it in, 

It will quench in our heart each sin. 

Let us cast away pride that stead, 

As the Hart his horns doth shed, 40 

And to God -ward renew us thus 

That Salvation be sure for us. 



A practice have hart and hind, 
That we all ought to bear in mind; 
They be all of the self-same mood, 
If they go forth in search of food 
And over the water fare 
None leaveth his comrade there, 
But one, he in front doth swim, 
And the others, they all follow him, 50 
Whether he swim or wade 
At need each the other doth aid, 
The one doth his shinbone lay 
On the other's loin alway; 
If he who the train doth lead 
For weariness slacks his speed, 
The others, they come anear, 
And help him to take good cheer, 
Bear him, from watery ground, 
To the shore, all hale and sound, 60 
Thus aid in his need he found. 
This custom is mid'st them seen 
Tho' a hundred in herd they've 
been. 



Significatio 

From the Hart this lesson we win 

Ne'er to help another to sin, 

But each one to love the other 

E'en as he were his brother; 

With his friend to steadfast fare 

And his burthen with him to share, 

And help him, in case of need, 70 

For this, God, He giveth meed. 

Heaven's Kingdom we sure shall see 

If to others we helpful be. 

Thus Our Dear Lord's law should we 

Lovingly fulfil, 

Mickle need, I trow, have we 

To obey His Will. 



THE FOX 

A WILD beast there is, I trow, 

That knoweth of wiles enow, 

For her cunning and craft, the fame, 

Fox, do men call her name. 

To the husbandman is she loth 

For the harmful deeds she doth, 

The cock and the capon good 

She seizeth them both for food; 

The gander and goose will take, 

By neck or by beak fast make xo 

And carry them off to her lair. 

Thus men to her hatred bear, 

And men alike, and fowl, 

After her cry and howl. 

Now hearken ye to a wonder 

That this beast, she doth for hunger; 

In the field to a furrow she '11 go, 

And therein she lieth low. 

Where the plough thro' the earth did 

cleave, ig 

Thus the birds would she fain deceive. 
And she stirreth not in that stead, 
But lieth as she were dead 
For a good part of the day, 
And scarce draweth breath alway. 
The raven he sees, I wot, 
Thinks a corse lieth there to rot, 



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CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



And other birds come with speed 
Thinking thereon to feed, 
Safely, and without dread, 
For they deem that the beast be dead. 
On the Fox's fur they peck 31 

When she feeleth them on her back, 
Then she leapeth up straightway 
And swiftly doth them repay, 
For these, the pecks of their beak, 
She a vengeance ill doth wreak, 
And teareth them all, I ween, 
With her fangs so sharp and keen, 
And when she hath eaten her fill 
Then she goeth her way at will. 40 

Significatio 

Methinks that qualities twain 

We find in this beast again, 

Prudent and wise is she 

So the Devil and bad men be, 

For subtle the Devil's way, 

As he would in no wise betray, 

Maketh feint he would harm us not, 

Yet leads us to sin, I wot. 

Bids us do of the Flesh the will, 

And eat and drink our fill, so 

And in our amusement, there 

He prepareth for us a snare. 

He pecketh the Fox's fell 

Who idle tales doth tell, 

And his flesh he, I trow, doth rend 

Who himself to sin doth lend; 

And the Devil these pecks alway 

Doth with shame and disgrace repay, 

For his sinful work and deed 

Into darkest Hell doth lead. 60 

The Fiend like the Fox shall be, 

Full of guile and deceit is he; 

Men like to the Fox in name 

Be worthy of naught but shame; 

He who good words and fair doth find 

But hath evil thoughts in mind, 

Is both Fiend and Fox, I wis 

Nor the Book it doth lie in this, 

For a false Fox Herod we know, 

What time Christ on earth did go 70 



He said he 'Id believe His word, 
Yet he purposed to slay Our Lord. 



THE SPIDER 

SOME things created they be 

And now in the world we see, 

That be loathly and loathsome all, 

And yet we believe withal 

That every living thing 

May to man a lesson bring. 

The Spider, she spins with speed, 

To the house roof, as she hath need, 

This, her means of life at last 

To beam, or to eave makes fast. 10 

From old hath she had this skill 

This, her web, to cast at will, 

In her wise to weave aright 

Until she the same hath dight. 

With that, she doth go her way, 

In her hole doth hidden stay, 

And, watching, in wait doth lie, 

Till thitherward fares a fly, 

And, fallen therein at last, 

In the web it struggles fast ao 

Striving itself to free; 

Then she runneth rapidly, 

For ever ready is she. 

She comes anon to the net, 

Takes the fly in the trap she set, 

To bite it sharply is fain, 

So doth she become its bane. 

She slays it, and drinks its blood, 

Nor doeth it other good, 

Then when she her fill hath ta'en 30 

Into hiding she goes again. 

Significatio 

This creature betokens alway 

The man who would pthers betray, 

Whether in stead or in stall, 

In market, or moat, or hall, 

In open or secret guise, 

Or in any other wise. 

To bite his neighbour he sought 



A BESTIARY 



Who hath bale upon him brought; 
Methinks he doth drink his blood 
Who maketh him sad of mood; 
And he eateth his neighbour still 
When he worketh upon him ill. 



THE WHALE 

THE Whale is a fish, I wis, 
None greater in sea there is, 
So that thou sure would 'st say, 
Did'st thou see it float alway, 
That the same must an island be, 
Girdled about by the sea. 
That fish is so huge, the tide 
That it hungers it gapeth wide, 
From his throat comes a scent so fair 
Earth hath naught may therewith com 
pare, 10 
Other fishes to him draw nigh, 
For it pleaseth them mightily. 
Thus into his mouth they swim, 
For they know not the guile of him; 
The whale shuts his jaws straightway, 
Sucks them in without more delay, 
T is the small fish he doth deceive, 
The greater, he needs must leave. 
He dwells in the deep sea ground, 
And liveth there hale and sound, 20 
Until it shall chance that there be 
A storm that stirs up the sea. 
When summer and winter strive, 
There may he no longer thrive; 
So troubled the sea, its ground, 
He may not abide that stound, 
But doth rise up, and lieth still 
While the weather it is so ill. 
The sailors, in tempest's strife, 29 
Who dread death, and are fain for life, 
Looking round them, this fish they see, 
And they deem it an isle to be, 
Then joy in their hearts they know, 
And toward it they swiftly row, 
Their ship do they fasten there 
And up on its back they fare, 
With tinder and steel, and stone, 



They make them a fire anon, 38 

They warm them, and eat and drink 
The Whale, feeling the fire, doth sink, 
And soon doth he dive to the ground, 
And all, without wound, are drowned. 

Significatio 

The Devil is mighty in wile, 

(So witches have craft and guile,) 

He maketh men hunger and thirst 

With sinful desires accurst, 

And draweth to him with his breath 

(Whoso follows him, findeth death ) 

They who love but little the law; 

The great he may never draw, 50 

The great, those who true have been 

In body and soul, I mean. 

He who lists to the Devil's lore 

At long last he shall rue it sore; 

He who fastens his hope on him 

Must him follow to Hell's depths dim. 



THE SIRENS 

I WOULD have ye know, in the sea 
Full many a marvel there be, 
There is one is y'clept Mermaid, 
That is like to a maiden made 
In body, and eke in breast, 
But it is not so with the rest; 
From the navel down is she 
Other than man to see, 
But the form of a fish doth show 
With fins that from out her grow. 
This wonder her home doth keep 
In treacherous parts of the deep, 
And there, on the whirlpool's brink, 
She maketh the ship to sink, 
And doth scathe to the sailor bring. 
Merrily doth she sing, 
And many voices hath she, 
Diverse and shrill they be, 
And evil are all verilie; 
For the shipmen forget to steer 
Whenever her voice they hear, 



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CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



But a slumber doth them o'ertake, 
They sleep, and too late they wake, 
The ship sinks with its folk, I ween, 
And never again is seen. 
But he who is wise and ware 
Will turn again from her snare, 
And oft he escape th still 
From the breast that would do him ill. 
Of the marvel he hath been told 30 
Now this creature strange to behold, 
Half man, and half fish, it is 
Some lesson for us, I wis. 

Significatio 

Now in many a man, I ween, 
The meaning of this is seen, 
Without, do they show lamb's-skin, 
But they be very wolves within; 
They speak full righteouslie, 
But their deeds, they wicked be; 
Their deeds, they accord but ill 4 o 

With what their mouth speaketh still. 
Thus two-fold, I trow, their mood, 
They are ready to swear by the Rood, 
By the Sun, and eke by the Moon, 
And yet do they lie eftsoon. 
Thus with what they sing and they say 
Do they many a man betray, 
Of thy goods by treason take toll, 
And by lying, destroy thy soul. 



THE ELEPHANT 

IN Ynde ye may Elephants see, 

Big and burly in body they be, 

Together they herd on the wold, 

As sheep that come forth from the fold. 

And of young they beget and rear 

But one, tho' three hundred year 

In this world to their lot were set 

No more would they aye beget. 

One thing have they most in thought, 

That they ne'er to a fall be brought, 10 

Since they be lacking the power 

To rise again in that hour. 



(How this beast his rest doth take 

When he wanders wide, 

Since he is of monstrous make 

Hear me tell this tide.) 

He doth seek to himself a tree, 

That shall strong and steadfast be, 

And against the trunk doth lean 

When weary with walking, I ween. 24 

When the hunter this doth know, 

Who a trap will set, 

Seeing where the beast doth go 

This his rest to get, 

Then the tree doth he saw away, 

In such wise as best he may, 

His work he with care doth hide 

And makes him a place that tide 

Wherein he may watch and see 

If the beast, he deceived shall be. 30 

Then cometh the monster, I ween, 

On his side 'gainst the tree doth 

lean, 

In the shade of the tree so tall, 
Doth he sleep, and together they fall. 
If none other near him be stayed 
Then he crieth and calleth for aid, 
And rueful, I ween his cries 
He hopeth with help to rise, 
One cometh who nigh is at hand, 
And hopeth to make him stand, 40 

With all his might tho' he tries, 
He stirs him no whit as he lies. 
Naught can he do, nor another, 
They can only cry with their brother. 
Tho' they shake him, a goodly band, 
Deeming to make him stand, 
Yet for the help of them all 
He may not arise from his fall. 
Then they trumpet so loud and fast, 
Like a bell, or of horns the blast, 50 
And for this, their mickle cry, 
A youngling comes hastily, 
And stooping adown that tide 
His trunk he puts 'neath his side, 
With the help of all the band 
He makes him again to stand, 
Thus he 'scapeth the hunter's snare 
In such wise as I now declare. 



A BESTIARY 



333 



Significatio 

Thus Adam, he fell thro' a tree, 

Our first father, and so fell we; 60 

Moses fain would him raise again, 

But he might in no wise attain, 

Nor after him prophets all 

Could make him arise from his fall, 

And stand once more as he stood 

The heir to all Heavenly good. 

With sorrow and sighing they thought 

How succour might best be brought, 

And with one voice they raised a cry 

That pierced unto Heaven high, 70 

And their calling and care did bring 

To their aid Christ, Our Heavenly King. 

Who is greatest in Heaven, withal 

Became Man, and on earth was small, 

His Passion He bare for us, 

And going 'neath Adam thus 

Raised him up, and Mankind with 

him, 
Who had fallen to Hell's depths dim. 



THE TURTLE DOVE 

IN the book of the Turtle Dove 

We find it writ in rhyme, 

How, loyal to one true love 

She keepeth her whole life time. 

If she once hath found a mate, 

Never will she stray, 

Wives from her may pattern take 

As I now will say; 

By her mate she sits at night, 

Thro' the day they fly, i 

Whoso saith they part in flight, 

I say, he doth lie. 

But and if her mate be dead, 

Widowed then is she, 

Lone she flies and fares that stead, 

Will none other's be. 

So she sitteth alone for aye, 

Her old love awaiteth she, 

In her heart bears him night and day, 

E'en as he alive should be. 



Significatio 

List, each loyal man, this lore, 

Oft upon it muse, 

This, our Soul, at the kirk door 

Christ for mate did choose. 

Of our Soul the Spouse is He, 

Love Him with your might, 

Never from Him severed be 

Or by day or night. 

Tho' from out our sight He fare 

Be we to Him true, 30 

Take no other lord, and ne'er 

Change old love for new; 

But believe He lives to reign 

High on Heaven's Throne, 

And that He will come again, 

And by us be known; 

Judgment upon man to tell 

By Doom diverse given, 

Those He hates shall pass to Hell, 

Those He loves, to Heaven ! 4 o 



THE PANTHER 

THE Panther, a wild beast is he, 

On earth is none fairer to see, 

For black is his hue, I wot, 

Marked over with many a spot, 

Round as a wheel, and white, 

That becometh him well to sight. 

And where'er he his life doth lead 

He on other beasts doth feed; 

He taketh the best at will 

And eats of the meat his fill, 10 

Then still in his lair he keeps, 

And for three days long he sleeps, 

Then, when the third day is o'er, 

He doth rise, and will loudly roar; 

From his throat there cometh a scent, 

With his voice it abroad is sent, 

That balsam doth far exceed 

In sweetness, (so runneth my rede,) 

Or all things of perfume fair 

Whether moist or dry they were. x> 

For the sweetness his breath hath stored, 



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CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Whenever he walks abroad, 

Wherever he wander, or stay, 

The beasts, they draw near alway, 

And follow him up on the wold 

For the sweetness whereof I have told; 

Save the Dragon, that stirs not out 

While the Panther, he roams about, 

But stays in his lair that stead 

As if he for fright were dead. 30 

Significatio 

Now this beast of which I have told 

For a token of Christ I hold, 

Fairer is He than men, 

As a star is fairer than fen; 

And He showed man His love full well 

When He won him by Holy spell, 

And lay alone in a hole 

When for us He would share Death's 

dole. 

Three days did He lie alone, 
Dead in blood, and in flesh, and bone, 
Then He rose up, and cried, I wis, 41 
Of Hell's torment, and Heaven's Bliss, 
And rising to Heaven's fair host 
Dwells with Father, and Holy Ghost. 
With man left He so sweet a smell, 
'T is the lore of His Holy Spell, 



Whereby we may follow His way, 
With the Godhead abide for aye. 
And the Dragon, our foe is he; 
Where the sound of God 'sword shall be 
He stirs not, nor nigh may draw 51 
To him who doth love God's law. 



THE DOVE 

WITH the Dove we good customs find 
That by us should be borne in mind, 
Seven qualities good hath she 
Which may well our ensample be. 
The Dove hath in her no gall; 
Be we simple and soft withal. 
Nor her living as thief doth win; 
Hold we robbery for a sin. 
She lives not on worms but on seed; 
On Christ's lore we all should feed. 10 
To other birds is she a mother; 
So ought we to be to each other. 
As a moan and a groan her song; 
So should we confess our wrong. 
She in water the hawk doth see; 
Warned in Book of the Fiend are we. 
In the rock doth she make her nest; 
In Christ's Mercy our hope should 
rest. 



RELIGIOUS AND LYRICAL 



HYMN OF SAINT GODRIC 



HOLY MARY, thou Virgin clean, 
Mother of Jesu, the Nazarene, 
Me, thy Goderic, help alway, 
Shield, accept me, when I pray, 
That eternally with thee 
In God's Kingdom I may be. 



Holy Mary, in Christ's Bower 
Pearl of Maids, of Mothers Flower, 
All my sins wash thou away, 
Reign within my heart to-day, 10 
Bring me to God's Bliss with thee, 
God Himself for aye to see! 



ORMULUM 



DEDICATION 



Now, Brother Walter, brother mine 
After the flesh, in sooth, 
And brother mine in Christendom 
Thro' Baptism, and thro' truth, 
And Brother mine in God's own House 
In the third wise thou art, 
Since in the self -same rule of life 
We two have sworn our part 
And that we do as Canons live 
Saint Austin's rule fulfil 10 

After thy bidding have I done, 
And have performed thy will, 
And turned into the English tongue 
The Gospel's holy lore, 
After such little wit as God 
Hath given me in store. 
For that thou thoughtest it might well 
To mickle profit turn, 
If English folk, for love of Christ, 
Were fain the same to learn. 20 

And follow it, its best fulfil, 
In word, and deed, and thought, 
And therefore didst thou much desire 
This work by me be wrought. 
And now, behold, 't is done for thee 
As Christ His Help did lend, 
Twere fitting that we both thank 
Christ 



That now 't is brought to end. 

In sooth, well nigh the Gospels all 

In book I've gathered here ,o 

That in the Mass-book may be found 

For Mass, throughout the year; 

And after every Gospel text 

Its meaning may ye read, 

That one may to the folk make clear 

That which their soul doth need; 

And yet, beside this, more enow 

I've added thereunto 

Of that which all Christ's Holy Folk 

Shall both believe and do 40 

And I have set here, in this book, 

Amid the Gospels still, 

All of myself, full many a word, 

The rhythm and rhyme to fill. 

But thou shalt find that these, my words, 

Where'er they added be, 

Shall help the man who readeth it 

To understand, and see 

In better wise how he, in sooth, 

The Gospel Words should hear 50 

Therefore I trow thou should'st permit 

The words I've written here, 

Where'er such words, in Gospel lore, 

May not by thee be found 

For whoso must, to simple folk, 

The Gospel lore expound, 

His words, to words of Holy Writ, 



338 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Full oft he addeth still, 

And I might not, with Gospel Words, 

My verses fitly fill; 60 

And therefore doth it chance that I 

Should find the need, oft-time, 

To add unto the Gospel Words 

To fill my verse and rhyme. 

To thee I now entrust this book 

As charge and duty high, 

That thou right well thro* it should'st 

look, 

The verses search and try, 
That ne'er in all this book shall be 
A word 'gainst Christ's Own Lore, 70 
A word the folk may not believe 
And practise evermore. 
They shall be trodden underfoot, 
And cast out utterly, 
(This is the doom of that foul flock 
Who blind thro' malice be, ) 
Who blame the thing that they should 

praise 

Thro* pride and envy drear; 
Methinks, they shall judge scornfully 
Our labour, Brother dear! 80 

For all such folk the work shall hold 
Useless and idle all, 

And this not thro' their skill, thro* pride 
And envy shall befall. 
Here it behoves us pray to God 
That He forgive their sin, 
And that we love Him well, for Whom 
We did this work begin. 
And give Him thanks that it be brought 
By this His aid, to end, 90 

For it may help all, who thereto 
A willing ear shall lend, 
And love its lore, and follow it 
In thought and word, and deed 
And when, hereafter, any man 
To write this book doth need, 
I bid him to set down aright 
Whate'er the book doth hold, 
And follow closely all that I, 
In this first copy, told. 100 

With all such rhyme as here is set, 
The words in number right, 



And that he look right well that he 

The letters double write; 

For everywhere throughout this book 

He '11 find 't is written so 

Let him mark well that so he write, 

For naught else may he do 

In English, would he write it right, 

That shall he soothly know! no 

And if a man should ask me why 

I thought this deed to do, 

I did it for this cause, because 

Man's bliss for evermore 

Doth hang upon this thing, that he 

The Gospel's Holy Lore 

With all his might should follow right 

In thought, and word, and deed, 

For all on earth to follow this, 

The Christian's Faith, have need, 120 

As they be taught, in deed and truth, 

Of Holy Gospel Lore 

And therefore whoso learneth it, 

And doth it, evermore, 

He at his end shall worthy be 

To God's salvation reach 

And therefore have I turned it 

Into the English speech, 

For that I would, right joyfully, 

That English people all 130 

Who with their ears shall hearken it, 

In heart believe it all, 

They, with their tongue, should tell it 

forth, 

After its precepts do, 
So that their soul, thro* Christian Faith, 
Come God's Salvation to. 
For if they thus its teaching hear, 
And walk its ways within, 
I shall have helped them, by Christ's 

Grace, 

Eternal Bliss to win. 140 

And I shall have, for this my toil, 
A good reward, I wis, 
In that I here, for love of God, 
And hope of Heavenly Bliss, 
Have done this into English speech, 
Men's souls to profit win 
And if they now reject my work 



ORMULUM 



339 



'T is counted them for sin. 
But I, I shall have earned thereby 
The Grace of Christ indeed, 150 

In that I wrought for them this book 
To help their soul's true need; 
Altho' they may, thro' sinful pride, 
Refuse my words to read! 

Now Gospel is in English writ 

Good Word, or Tidings Good, 

Good Errand, insomuch as it 

Thro' Holy Writers stood, 

All wrought and written in a Book 

Of how Christ came to earth, 160 

And how, for Mankind's need, True God 

As Man had here His Birth. 

Of how Mankind, thro' this, His Death, 

Was freed from bonds of Hell, 

How He assuredly rose from Death 

The Third Day doth it tell. 

How he thereafter did ascend 

Surely to Heaven high, 

And shall hereafter come again 

All folk to judge and try, 170 

And payment mete to every man 

Fair, after his own deed 

That which of such good bringeth word 

Good Tidings are indeed. 

Therefore, I trow, the Gospel we 

Good Message well may call, 

And men may in the Gospel books 

Right good deeds find withal; 

Kindness, that Our Lord Jesus Christ 

Hath done for us on earth, 180 

When that He came to Man, for us 

As Man had here His Birth. 

For this good deed for us He did 

The Lord Christ, here below, 

In that He did True Man become 

To free Mankind from woe 

Another kindness hath He done 

Lord Christ, for this our good, 

In that He was, for all men's need, 

Baptized in Jordan's flood; 190 

Since He would water, for our use * 

In Baptism, sanctify, 



Therefore was He Himself baptized 

In water, verily. 

A Third good hath He done for us, 

The Lord Christ, in that He 

Hath yielded up His Life for us 

Of right good will, and free, 

To suffer Death upon the Cross, 

Guiltless, and without stain, 200 

To free Mankind, by this, His Death, 

From out the Devil's chain. 

The Fourth good that He did for us, 

The Lord Christ, will I tell, 

'T was thro' His Holy Soul's descent 

From Cross to Shades of Hell; 

To draw out from the pains of Hell 

The good souls, every one, 

Who in this life had pleased Him well, 

And righteously had done. 210 

The Fifth good He hath done for us, 

The Lord Christ, will I say, 

'T was in that, for our good, He rose 

From Death, on that Third Day, 

And let th' Apostles see Him well 

In human Flesh, and kind, 

For that He would the Truth implant 

And fasten in their mind, 

That He, in very Truth and Deed, 

Did from the Dead arise 220 

In that same Flesh, which to the Cross 

Was nailed before their eyes. 

Since He would fasten and implant 

That Truth within their heart, 

His Presence to th' Apostles He 

On earth did oft impart 

Within the space of forty days 

Since that He rose, I wis 

The Sixth good He hath done for us, 

The Lord Christ, it is this 230 

That He ascended, for our good, 

Again to Heaven's Bliss, 

Thereafter sent the Holy Ghost 

To His Disciple's band 

To comfort, and embolden them 

The Devil to withstand; 

To give them Wisdom, that aright 

His Holy Lore they know, 

And good desire, and fitting might, 



340 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Patient to suffer woe, 240 

All for the Love of God, and ne'er 

To win them earthly gain 

A Seventh good, I trow, Our Lord 

To do for us is fain, 

In that, on Doomsday, He to us 

Heaven's Bliss shall open throw, 

If it so chance we worthy be 

God's Mercy for to know. 

And thus to us hath Our Lord Christ 

A Sevenfold goodness shown 250 

In that He unto us hath come, 

As Man on Earth was known. 

Now, in that Holy Book that as 

Apocalypse we know, 

Thro' teaching of the Holy Ghost, 

Saint John to us doth show 

That up in Heaven he saw a Book, 

With Seven Seals beset, 

And so fast closed that never one 

Was found to ope it yet, 260 

Save but the Holy Lamb of God, 

Whom he saw there, in Heaven, 

And this, I trow, the token of 

Those Seals, in number Seven 

The Sevenfold favours, that, for us, 

Christ thro' His Coming won, 

That never by no man, I trow, 

Those Seals should be undone 

Save by God's Lamb, Who came to us 

And thereby are we shown 270 

Angel nor man there ne'er shall be 

Nor any creature known, 

Who of Himself could ever show 

Such goodness sevenfold 

To Man, that he might loose Mankind 

From out of Hell's dark hold 

Nor give him might, that Heaven's Bliss 

Shall to his share be told! 

But even as the Lamb of God 

By this, His Might alone, 280 

With little toil hath light, I trow, 

Those Seven Seals undone, 

Thus, even so, did Our Lord Christ, 

By this, His Might alone, 



(With Father and with Holy Ghost 

As One God only known ) 

Even so did He right easily, 

By this, His Might and Power, 

Upon Mankind, Himself alone, 

A Sevenfold goodness shower. ago 

So that He lightly might Mankind 

From bonds of Hell set free 

And give Mankind Desire and Love, 

Power, Wisdom, Will, that we 

May persevere in serving God, 

And Heaven's Bliss may win; 

And therefore is that goodness shown 

The Gospel Book within, 

This Sevenfold kindness that Our Lord 

Hath shown us evermore 300 

Thus it behoves all Christian Folk 

To follow Gospel Lore, 

And therefore have I rendered it 

In English, as 't is spoke, 

For that I would, right joyfully, 

That all our English folk 

With ear should hearken to its rede, 

In heart believe it aye, 

And with their tongue should tell it 

forth, 

By deeds their Faith display; 310 

And thus their souls, thro' Christian 

Faith, 

With Heaven's Bliss fulfil 
Now God Almighty give us Power, 
Desire, and Wit, and Will, 
To follow from this English Book 
All holy lore, I wis, 
That so at last we worthy be 
To taste of Heaven's Bliss! 

Amen, Amen, Amen. 
And I, who did this English write 320 
For English men withal, 
I, men, when they did christen me, 
As Orm, they did me call; 
And here I, Orm, right earnestly, 
With mouth and heart, would pray 
That Christian men, who hear this 

book, 

Or read its words alway, 
I would beseech them, one and all, 



A GOOD ORISOUN OF OUR LADIE 



341 



This prayer for me to pray 329 

"The Brother who, in English tongue, 
First hath this writing wrought, 



May he, for this his work's reward, 
To Heavenly Bliss be brought!'* 

Amen. 



A GOOD ORISOUN OF OUR LADIE 



CHEIST'S dear Mother, Mary mild, 
Light of life, Maid undefiled, 
Low I bow and bend the knee, 
Mine heart's blood I offer thee. 
Thou my soul's light, mine heart's bliss, 
Life, and hope, and health, I wis, 
I thy praise sing, day and night, 
Honouring thee with all my might. 
Thou hast helped me passing well, 
Brought my soul from out of Hell 10 
E'en to Heaven so thanks I give, 
Lady dear, the while I live. 
Christian men should worship here, 
Sing thy praise with gladsome cheer, 
Since thou, freed from Satan's hand, 
Brought them to the Angel's land; 
So we owe thee, lady sweet, 
Our heart's love, and worship meet. 
Fairest, blest o'er women thou, 
Dearest to God's Heart, I trow; 20 

Maidens worship thee alone, 
Flower of Maids, before God's throne. 
None on earth be like to thee, 
None in Heaven thy peer shall be; 
High thy throne o'er Cherubim, 
Christ thou see'st 'mid Seraphim; 
'Fore thee angels merry sing, 
Music make, with carolling, 
In thy presence glad to be, 
Never sad thy face to see. 30 

None thy bliss may understand 
Heaven lies within thine hand, 
Of thy friends thou makest Kings; 
Royal robes, and golden rings 
Thou dost give and rest full fair, 
Safe from sorrow, death, or care. 
There in bliss bloom, red and white, 
Blossoms frost nor snow may smite, 
Ever fresh, in summer glad 
There no man is weak or sad ; 40 



There they rest who served thee here, 
Kept their lives from evil clear, 
Free from sorrow, toil, or tears, 
Groans of Hell ne'er vex their ears. 
There they quaff, from cups of gold, 
Draughts of life, with bliss untold. 
Never heart of man may reach, 
Never tongue may tell with speech, 
What their share of Heaven's delight 
Who have served thee day and night! 
White the robes thine household wear, 
Crown of gold doth each one bear; 52 
White as lily, red as rose, 
Glad the songs that each one knows! 
In each crown the gems gleam fair; 
Never wish is thwarted there; 
Christ their King, their Queen art thou; 
Wind nor rain may vex them now. 
Endless day they have for night, 
Song for sorrow, peace for fight. 60 

Theirs is bliss without annoy, 
Game and gladness, endless joy, 
Lady dear, too long the day 
Till thou f etchest us away ! 
Perfect joy we ne'er may know 
Till thy bliss thou dost us show. 
Chosen Maid, God's Mother dear, 
Earth hath never seen thy peer, 
Mother thou, and Maid confest, 
Holy, high, in Angel's rest! 70 

Saints and angels ever sing, 
Hailing thee of life the spring; 
Mercy aye is found in thee, 
None who trusts thee lost shall be. 
Save thy Son, all things above, 
In my heart, I do thee love! 
Heaven fulfilled is with thy bliss, 
Earth with this, thy gentleness; 
Such thy grace, thy mercy free, 
None lack help who cry to thee! 80 



342 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Mercy dost refuse to none 
Tho' he wrong 'gainst thee have done. 
Holy Queen of Heaven, I pray, 
Thou wilt list my bede to-day, 
"Lady, by that greeting fair 
Gabriel from on high did bear, 
For the Sake of Jesu's Blood 
Shed for us on Holy Rood, 
Mother's pain, and sorrow sore, 
When thou stood'st His Cross before, 90 
Make me clean, without, within, 
That I be not lost thro' sin. 
The foul fiend, and all his train 
Banish, keep me free from stain; 
From thy love I'll ne'er depart, 
Thou my life, my safety, art; 
For thy love I toil and sigh, 
For thy love thy thrall am I; 
For thy love forswore, I wis, 99 

All things dear think thou on this ! 
Sore I rue what grieveth thee, 
For Christ's Five Wounds, pity me! 
Save for that, I know full well, 
I shall burn in fires of Hell. 
Silent, all my deeds didst see, 
Where, and what, yet bore with me; 
Hadst thou 'venged thee of my sin 
Paradise I ne'er might win. 
Since thou, merciful, didst spare, 
Pardon full I hope to share, no 

Ne'er in pains of Hell to fall 
Since I yield me here thy thrall. 
Thine I am, and thine will be 
On God's Mercy, and on thee, 
Rests my life For thee I long 
With desire exceeding strong! 
Without thee no joy I know 
Be thou near when hence I go, 
Show thy love at my last breath, 
Shield my soul from lasting death. 120 
Would I thrive? Look well to me, 
No weal cometh save thro' thee. 
With vile sins my soul is bound, 
Healing in thine hand is found; 
Thee I trust, next to thy Son, 
For His Name, my life, as loan 



Grant me, keep the fiend away, 
Lest of Hell I be the prey. 
For the best rule thou my days, 
If I thrive, be thine the praise; 130 

Never sinner didst forsake 
Who did true repentance make. 
Lightly could'st my grief allay, 
Grant me more than I could pray, 
Thou could'st still my sorrow now 
When I, weeping, lowly bow; 
Nothing fair in me to see, 
Nothing fit to offer thee, 
Wash me, clothe me, at this tide, 
Thro' thy mercy, spreading wide. 140 
Small thine honour if I fall, 
Great the Devil's joy withal, 
He doth grudge thee worship fair 
And the bliss thy servants share. 
Well thou know'st he hateth me 
Most, because I honour thee ! 
Watch me, ward me, so I pray, 
From his toils, from error's way; 
An thou dost, thou 'It grant, I wis, 
Portion fair of Heavenly bliss. 150 

Sinning much, I'll much repent, 
Shrive me, pray as penitent, 
Yea, while life and health be mine 
Ever servant true of thine 
At thy feet I'll lie, and grieve, 
Till my misdeeds thou forgive. 
Life, and love, and heart's blood, thine, 
Lady, I dare claim thee mine. 
Have thou praise on Heaven and earth, 
And the joy that 'seems thy worth. 160 
Do thou, of Christ's Charitie, 
Love and blessing give to me; 
Keep my body pure alway 
God in mercy grant, I pray, 
I may see thee throned in bliss; 
And my friends may be, I wis, 
Better for this Lay I sung 
Here to-day, in English tongue. 
Mary, for thy holiness, 
Bring this monk to joyfulness 
Who this song hath made of thee, 
Christ's dear Mother, Saint Marie!" 

Amen. 



A LOVE RUNE 



343 



A LOVE RUNE 



A MAID of Christ did me entreat 
To weave for her a rhyme of love, 
That she might learn, in fashion meet, 
On whom 't were best to set her love. 
Where truth were sure with truth to meet, 
And best a woman's choice approve 
I '11 not deny that maiden sweet, 
But teach her, as my heart doth move. 

"Maiden, here may'st thou well behold 
How this world's love full fast doth flee, 
Beset by frailties manifold, n 

Fickle, and false, it faileth thee. 
Thy wooers, but awhile so bold, 
Have passed, as wind that bloweth free, 
Beneath the clay they now lie cold 
As meadow-grass, they withered be. 

"There is no man, I trow, alive, 

Who steadfast here on earth may be, 

With sorrow must he ever strive, 

In peace or rest small share hath he. 20 

Swift at the goal doth he arrive, 

His life-days fleet so speedily, 

And Death from this world shall him drive 

When he doth live most joyfully. 

"No man so rich, no man so free, 
But taketh soon from hence his way, 
Nor shall he find safe warranty 
In gold nor silver, green, nor gray. 
None so swift-foot his death to flee, 
And guard his life, e'en for a day; 30 
Thus is this world, as ye may see, 
A shadow, that fast fleets away. 

" Its fashion shall ye changing find, 
The one doth come, the other go, 
He now doth lead who lagged behind, 
Who once was friend is now your foe. 
Forsooth, he doth as doth the blind 
Who sets his heart on this world's show, 
Ye '11 see it do as doth the wind 39 

That e'er from shifting point doth blow. 



" Think not that love shall here abide. 
Dost trust? 'T is to thy grief, I trow, 
Be sure it swift from thee shall glide 
Unsound, as reeds that wavering bow. 
Froward it is at every tide, 
While it endures, 't is grief enow; 
At end, no man so true and tried 
But he shall fall, as leaf from bough. 

" Man's love endureth but a stound, 49 
Now doth he love, now is he sad, 
He cometh, none his place have 

found, 

Now is he wroth, now is he glad ! 
Here one-while, then afar he 's bound, 
He loves, ere love return hath had, 
But never true hath he been found, 
Who trusteth him methinks is mad. 

" If one be rich in this world's weal, 
His heart, it none the less doth ache, 
Dreading that thieves shall stealthy 

steal 59 

He thro' the night doth watch and wake. 
He ponders how he best may deal 
To guard, and full assurance make; 
What profits all to help or heal 
When Death the whole will from him 

take? 

" Where now is Paris? Helen, where? 
Beauteous they were, and bright and 

gay; 

Where Amadace and Idoine fair? 
Tristrem and Isoude, where be they? 68 
Hector, who shield did dauntless bear, 
And Caesar, who o'er worlds held sway? 
As shaft from bow-string fast doth fare 
So from this world they 've passed away. 

" I trow 't is as they ne'er had been, 
Yet men of them have wonders told, 
And still are fain to hear, I ween, 
Their pains and sorrows manifold. 



344 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



What they in life had said and seen 
But now their heat is turned to cold, 
Thus hath this world aye faithless been, 
Vainly ye think its joys to hold. 80 

" Yea, tho' as rich a man he were 
As Henry, now our king, shall be, 
And fair as Absalom was fair, 
Whose equal earth shall never see; 
Yet soon his pride from him doth fare 
(A herring were too dear a fee ) 
Maiden, wouldst have of love thy share 
True lover will I show to thee. 

" Ah! Maiden sweet, an thou but knew 
The virtues all that in Him be, 90 

So fair He is, so bright of hue, 
Of gladsome cheer, and mild is He. 
Delight of Love, in Truth most true, 
In Wisdom wise, of Heart most free, 
Forsooth, thy deed thou ne'er shalt rue 
If to His power thou yieldest thee. 

" Richest of men is He on land 
So far as men may speak with mouth, 
The folk, they bow them to His Hand, 
To East, to West, to North, to South. 
Henry, the King of Engelland, 101 

His vassal is, to Him he boweth; 
Maiden, He bids thee understand 
That Friendship fair to thee He voweth. 

"He will with thee nor folk, nor steed, 
Nor green, nor gray, nor raiment fair, 
Of all such gear He hath no need 
For riches hath He and to spare. 
If thou wouldst proffer Him indeed 
Thy love, wert fain His Love to share, 
He 'Id wrap thee in such royal weed m 
As never King nor Kaiser ware! 

" What speakest thou of house or hold, 
Such as was raised by Solomon? 
Of jasper, sapphire, purest gold, 
And many another precious stone? 
Fairer His dwelling, hundredfold, 
Than aught that man hath seen , or known , 



He will its gates to thee unfold 

If thou wilt Him for True-love own. 120 

" On a foundation sure withal 
*T is set, that may not yield nor fail, 
No sapper undermines that wall, 
No foeman may its towers assail. 
All ills are healed within that hall, 
And endless bliss doth there prevail; 
For thee this hold is destined all, 
Thou know'st not of its joys the tale! 

" There friend from friend ne'er goes his 
way, 1 29 

None may be robbed of this, his right, 
Nor hate nor wrath therein may stay 
But pride and envy take their flight. 
And all shall with the angels play 
In concord sweet, in Heavenly light; 
Do they not well, sweet Maiden, say, 
Who such a Lord shall love aright? 

" And never man His face shall see 
E'en as He is, enthroned in Might, 
But all with bliss fulfilled shall be 
Beholding Him, Our Lord, wilh sight. 
To look on Him is joy and glee, 141 

For He is Day, that knows not Night, 
Methinks, sweet Maid, right blest is she 
Who hath her home with such a Knight! 

" He set a treasure in thy power 
Better than gold, or raiment fair, 
And bade thee lock it in thy bower, 
He 'Id have thee guard it with all care. 
'Gainst thieves, 'gainst robbers, every 

hour, 

Needs must thou wakeful be, and ware, 
Sweeter thou art than any flower 151 
The while thou dost it scatheless bear. 

" A gem it is, from far 't was brought, 
Better is none 'neath Heaven's ground, 
Chosen o'er all that be in thought 
The wounds of love it maketh sound. 
Ah! Happy she who so hath wrought 
To guard it well at every stound, 



A HYMN TO THE VIRGIN 



345 



For an that gem be lost, for naught 
May it again by her be found ! 160 

" Of this same stone wouldst know the 

name? 

I trow, 't is called 'Maidenhood/ 
A precious gem it is, its fame 
O'er other jewels high hath stood. 
*T will bring thee, Maiden, free of 

shame 

To Paradise, of gladsome mood, 
Whilst for thine own that gem dost 

claim 
Sweeter art thou than spices good. 

" Nay, speakest thou of any stone 

That be in virtue rich, or grace, 170 

Of amethyst, of chalcedone, 

Of lectorie, or e'en topace, 

Of jasper, sapphire, of sardone, 

Emerald, beryl, chrysoprace, 

Above all other precious stone 

This one is prized, in every place. 

" Sweet Maiden, as I thee have told, 
This precious gem that thou dost 

bear 

Is better, yea, an hundredfold, 
Than all these, tho' their hues be fair. 
For set it is in Heavenly gold, 181 

Of love hath fulness, and to spare, 
All may right well that jewel behold, 
In Heaven's bower it shineth fair. 



" Maiden, didst pray me in thy rede 
To choose for thee a lover, so 
To do thy will I '11 take good heed 
And choose for thee the best I know. 
Methinks, he doth an evil deed 
Who, when his choice doth lie 'twixt two, 
Shall choose the worse, and without 
need 191 

Shall let the better from him go. 

"This rhyme, sweet Maid, to thee I 

send, 

'T is open, and unsealed alway, 
Prithee, unroll it to the end, 
And learn by heart what it doth say. 
Thine ear unto its lesson lend, 
And teach it other maids, I pray, 
Whoso doth pains to learn it spend 
Shall profit much, by night and day. aoo 

" So when thou sittest, languishing, 
This written rhyme then take to thee, 
And with sweet voice its verses sing, 
And do what writ therein shall be. 
Thy Love, He sendeth thee greeting, 
May God Almighty be with thee, 
And thee unto His Bridal bring 
In Heaven, where His Throne shall be ! 

"And give to him a good ending 
Who this same rhyme hath writ for 
thee. 210 

Amen." 



A HYMN TO THE VIRGIN 



To one that is so fair and bright, 

Velut maris stella, 
Brighter than the noonday light, 

Par ens et puella, 
To her I cry: "See thou to me, 
Sweet lady, pray thy son for me, 

tarn pia, 
So that I may come to thee, 

Maria ! 



' Thou in care art counsel best, 

Felix fecundata, 
To the weary art thou rest, 

Mater honorata ! 

Pray thou Him with mildest mood, 
Who for us hath shed His Blood 

in cruce, 
That by Him at last we're stood 

in luce. 



346 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



" All this world it was forlorn, 

Eva peccatrice, 20 

Till Our Lord as Man was born, 

di te, genitrice, 
With A ve, it passed away 
Darkest night, and dawned the day, 

Salutis, 
From thee sprang the well alway, 

Virtutis. 

" Lady, flower of everything, 

Rosa sine spina, 
Who bare Jesu, Heavenly King, 30 

Gratia divina, 
Thou o'er all dost bear the prize, 



Lady, Queen of Paradise, 

electa, 
Mother-maid, our prayers arise, 

es effecta I 

" Well He knows He is thy Son, 

Ventrem quern portasti, 
He will not deny thy boon, 

Parvum quern lactasti ; 40 

Good and gracious as He is, 
He hath brought us unto Bliss, 

Superni, 
And the pit hath closed, I wis, 

Infernil" 

Explicit cantus iste. 



A SONG ON THE PASSION 



SUMMER 's come, and whiter gone, 
Longer wax the days, 
And the birdlings every one, 
Joyful songs they raise, 
Yet by care I'm straitly bound 
Spite of joy that may be found 
in land, 

All for a Child 

That is so mild 

of Hand. 10 

Fair that Child, and wondrous kind, 
Mighty is His thought, 
Thro' the woods and hills to find 
Me, he straitly sought; 
And at last He findeth me 
Thro' an apple from a tree 
fast bound, 

He brake ere long 

The bands so strong, 

with Wound. 20 

That Child, Who was so fair and free, 

To me bent Him low, 

Sold unto the Jews for me, 

Naught of Him they know, 

But they quoth: "Now here shall we 



Nail Him high upon a tree 

on hill, 

Yet ere that same 
We '11 do Him shame 

at will." 3 o 

Jesus, is that fair Child's Name, 
King of every land, 
Of this King have they made game, 
Smitten Him with hand, 
Fain to try Him; on the tree 
Gave Him wounds, yea, two and three 
full sore, 

And therewithal 

A drink of gall 

they bore. 40 

Death He bare on the Rood tree 
For the life of all, 
Otherwise no help might be, 
We to Hell must fall, 
And the fires of Hell must meet, 
That, I trow, were never sweet 
withal; 

Nor might us save 

Tower, castle brave, 
nor hall. 



QUIA AMORE LANGUEO 



347 



Maid and Mother, there she stood, 
Mary, full of grace, 
From her eyes, the tears of blood 
Fell fast in that place, 
As the tears of blood ran free 
Changed in flesh and blood was she, 
and face, 

Her Son was drawn 

As deer is torn 

in chace! 60 

Death He bare as Man, for men, 

High upon the Rood, 

All our sins He washed them then 

With His Holy Blood, 

With that flood adown did 'light, 

Brake the gates of Hell forthright; 



From hold 
He led, I wis, 
Those who were His 

of old. 

Thus He rose on the Third Day, 
Sat Him on His throne, 
Comes again on Judgment Day 
And our doom makes known. 
Ever may he groan and greet, 
Who his death in sin doth meet; 

Jesus, 

As to the skies 
Thou did'st arise, 
Raise us ! 

Amen. 



70 



QUIA AMORE LANGUEO 



As thro' a vale, in restless mind, 

I sought by mountain and by mead, 

A true-love for my need to find, 

Unto a hill then took I heed; 

A voice I heard (there did I speed ) 

That spake in dolour and in woe: 

"Behold My Sides, how sore they 

bleed! 
Quia Amore langueo I" 

Upon this hill I saw a tree, 
Beneath, there sat a Man alone, 10 

Wounded from Head to Foot was He, 
I saw His Heart's Blood run adown. 
Well fitted He to wear a Crown, 
Such gracious mien He sure did show; 
I asked His grief, He spake anon : 
" Quia Amore langueo ! 

"I am True Love, that false was 

ne'er, 

I loved Man's Soul, my sister, so, 
That, eager all with her to share, 
Forth from My Kingdom did I go; 20 
I wrought for her a palace fair 



She fled, I followed, loving so 
That I this piteous pain did bear 
Quia Amore langueo I 

"My fair Love, and My Spouse so bright 
From stripes I saved; she smote Me sore; 
Her robe I wrought of Grace and Light, 
Behold My Vesture crimsoned o'er! 
And yet love-longing waxed the more 
Sweet are the stripes I bare, and lo ! 30 
The troth I pledged I ne'er forswore 
Quia Amore langueo I 

"Of Bliss her crown, and Mine of Thorn; 
The Bower her portion, Mine the Tree; 
Worship I brought her, she, but Scorn; 
Honour I gave, she, Villanie. 
Love paid for Love is easy fee, 
Her Hate ne'er made my Love her foe; 
Ask Me no more why this should be 
Quia Amore langueo ! 40 

"Look well upon My Hands, O man! 
These Gloves as gift from her were 
brought, 



348 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



They be not white, but red, and wan, 
Blood's broiderie My Spouse hath 

wrought ! 

I doff them not, nor loose for aught, 
They woo her still where'er she go, 
These Hands for her so friendly fought 
Quia Amore langueo I 

"Marvel not, man, tho' I sit still; 49 
See, Love hath shod Me wondrous strait, 
Buckled My Feet, as was her will, 
With sharpest Nails (Thou well 

may'st wait!) 

My Love thereof made no debate, 
My Members would I open throw, 
My Body, to her heart as mate 
Q uia Amore langueo I 

"Within My Side I made her nest, 
Look in, how wet a Wound is here! 
Here as in chamber may she rest, 
Together shall we slumber here. 60 

Here may she wash her white and 

clear, 

Here is the charm for all her woe, 
Come when she will she shall have 

cheer 
Quia Amore langueo I 

"Lo! I abide and wait her will, 
I'll sue the more she sayeth Nay; 
If ruthless she, I'll press her still; 
If dangerous, I will her pray. 
But if she weep, with no delay 
Mine arms out-spread I'll round her 
throw, 70 

Cry once, 'I come!' Now, Soul, assay! 
Quia Amore langueo ! 

"Set on a hill, as watch-tower high, 
I watch the vale, my spouse to see, 
She runs away, yet cometh nigh, 
Out of My sight she may not flee. 
Some wait their prey, to make her flee, 
I run before, and chase her foe, 
Return my spouse again to me, 
Quia Amore langueo I 80 



"Behold! my Love, let us go play; 
My garden beareth apples fine, 
I shall thee clothe in rich array, 
Feed thee with honey, milk, and wine 
Behold ! My Love, let us go dine 
Within My scrip thy food is Lo ! 
Tarry thou not fair Spouse of Mine 
Quia Amore langueo I 

"If thou be foul, I 'IP cleanse the stain; 
If thou be sick, I will thee heal; 90 

Comfort thee if thou should'st com 
plain; 

Fair Love, dost fear with Me to deal? 
Foundest thou ever love so leal? 
What wilt thou, Soul, that I shall do? 
With force I may not make appeal 
Quia Amore langueo I 

"What shall I do now with My Spouse 
But wait her will with gentleness 
Till she look forth from out her house 
Of Worldly Love? Yet Mine she is 
Her couch is made, her pillow bliss, 101 
Her chamber chosen Since 't is so, 
Look on me, Love, in kindliness 
Quia Amore langueo I 

"My Love is in her chamber, peace! 
Make ye no noise, but let her sleep, 
Vex not of this, My Babe, the ease, 
I were full loth My Child should weep ! 
Nay, on My Breast I will her keep 
Marvel not tho' I tend her so no 
My Side had ne'er been pierced so deep 
Save, Quia Amore langueo I 

"Nay, would'st thou set thy love on 

high? 

My Love is more than thine may be; 
In joy, in sorrow, I am nigh, 
Would'st thou but once, Love, look on 

Me! 

I would not that thy food should be 
But children's meat, nay, Love, not so! 
I'll prove thee with adversitie, 
Quia Amore langueo I 120 



FILIUS REGIS MORTUUS EST 



349 



"Nay, wax not weary, Mine own Wife, 

'T were ill to live at ease alway, 

In tribulation and in strife 

I reign with but the surer sway. 



In Weal and Woe I am thy stay, 
Mine own Wife, bide, nor from Me go, 
Death bringeth thee thy meed alway 
Quia Amore langueol" 



FILIUS REGIS MORTUUS EST 



As reason ruled my reckless mind, 
And on wild ways as forth I went, 
A city grave I chanced to find, 
To turn thereto was mine intent; 
I met a Maid, a Mother kind, 
With sobs and sighing well nigh spent, 
She wept, she wailed, so sore she pined, 
Her hair and face with hands she rent. 
Herself she did full sore torment, 
Body, and bosom, without rest 10 

She tare, and cried aye as she went: 
"Filius Regis mortuus est!" 

"The King's Son" so she cried: "is 

dead, 

The joy on which my life was stayed, 
To see my Son, how sore He bled, 
It cuts my heart as knife's sharp blade! 
My Son, Whom at my breast I fed, 
Soft lapped, with songs to sleep hath 

laid, 

To see Him thus His life-blood shed 19 
Makes me, His mother, sore dismayed; 
I am both mother, wife, and maid, 
Have no more sons to suck my breast, 
Thus my grief's debt may ne'er be 

paid 
Filius Regis mortuus est ! 

" Thus Filius Regis, mine own Child, 
Hangs on the Cross, I needs must see 
How He was wounded, and defiled 
With spear and spitting, piteouslie! 
I cried on Him as I were wild: 29 

'My dear sweet Son, say see'st Thou me 
Thy mother dear? ' With looks so mild 
He spake: * Mourn not, let sorrow be, 
I shall be thine, and come to thee ' 



He spake, I swooned, by grief opprest, 
Son mine! Son mine! On rough Rood 

Tree 
Filius Regis mortuus est I 

" He died ! He died ! Who was my bliss 
I seeing, swooned, and cried, 'Alas!' 
Small wonder if I mourn like this, 
My Father, Brother, Spouse, He was! 
My Mother, Succour, all that is, 41 
All orphaned on my way I pass, 
Of Spouse and Brother robbed, I wis, 
A thing forlorn, that nothing has 
Gabriel hailed me 'full of Grace,' 
Nay, 'full of Sorrow ' had been best, 
The tears, they trickle down my face 
Filius Regis mortuus est!" 

She said: "I looked up to my Child, 
Cried on the Jews to hang, ere long, 50 
Mother by Son, the Undefiled - 
Oh Death! Oh Death! ,Dost do me 

wrong, 

My Babe dost slay, Who ne'er was wild, 
My slaying tarries over long, 
Thou Murderer, why art thou mild 
To me, who would to Death belong? 
Dost pain my Son with torment strong, 
The mother pain, at her behest, 
Alas ! I sing a sorry song 
Filius Regis mortuus est ! 60 

"Oh Earth! 'gainst thee complaint, I 

make 
That thou didst drink His guiltless 

Blood; 
Stone, why didst thou thy hardness 

slake 



350 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To Mortar, that the Cross firm stood? 
The earth, the stone, Himself did make 
Ye yield ye servants to the Rood 
To slay your Lord an truth ye spake 
He did ye never harm, but good ! 
Meek was He ever, mild of mood, 
Ye pierce Him as He were a beast, 70 
Alas ! my Babe, my life's true Food 
Filius Regis mortuus est ! 

" Thou Tree, thou Cross, how durst thou 

be 

Gallows, to hang thy Maker so? 
His Sire, to Him I cry 'gainst thee 
Who on His Son hast worked this woe! 
Not cause, but help, that slain is He! 
Mercy ye trees! Ye be my foe, 
Had ye but made a Rood for me 79 
To hang by Him, 't were fitting so 
What may I say? Where shall I go? 
The Tree hath hanged a King, a Priest! 
Of all kings none His peer I know, 
Filius Regis mortuus est I 

" Ye creatures cruel, Iron, Steel, sharp 

Thorn, 

How dare ye thus your best Friend slay? 
The Holiest Child that e'er was born 
Did wounds and torment on Him lay ! 
With spear and nails His Flesh have torn ; 
Spear! the smith's hand why didst not 

stay, 90 

That ground thy blade so sharp this morn 
That to His Heart didst cleave a way? 
I cry on thee both night and day, 
A Maiden's Son to death didst wrest, 
Forlorn, I wring my hands alway, 
Filius Regis mortuus est 1 

" Thou Scourge, thus made of toughest 

skin, 

Knotted and jagged, I cry on thee, 
Didst beat my Babe, Who ne'er knew 

sin, 99 

Why smotest Him, and spared'st me? 
Did He not make thee? Wherefore then 
Kis flesh should thus so mangled be 



That ne'er a spot should mercy win 
But Flesh and Blood must follow thee? 
Didst mar what was so fair to see 
Yet o'er thee shall He win conquest 
Father of Heaven in pity see, 
Filius Regis mortuus est I 

' ' Thou Wretch, who proffered Him the gall 
For drink, thou didst torment Him 
more; no 

Here down upon my knees I fall 
God's judgment on thee now implore! 
Upon ye Jews, the first of all, 
Ye would Him not, His Flesh ye tore 
With these, the tools on which I call, 
Ye made them thus to grieve Him sore! 
Ye Jews He made, and to restore 
Was born as Man, but ye have drest 
His Cross! Unhappy who ye bore! 
Filius Regis mortuus est I 120 

" O ye false Jews! why did ye thus? 
Why did ye slay your Saviour so? 
When He in judgment sits o'er us 
To shun His Wrath where will ye go? 
All creatures else were piteous, 
The Sun, the Clouds, for this, His Woe 
Their mourning made, discourteous 
Ye mocking words did 'gainst Him throw! 
Temple, and tower, 'neath earthquake's 
throe 129 

They shook, to bear ye on earth's breast, 
The sun no light to ye would show 
Filius Regis mortuus est ! 

" Now mortuus est mine own fair Lord, 
Death doth mine own dear Child deface; 
Now thro' this world I walk abroad 
E'en as a wretch that wanteth grace; 
My grief I fain would thus record, 
No more may I behold His Face! 
The weary way from Calvary-ward 
Weeping, and wailing, thus I trace. 140 
If any love me, lend a place 
Where I may weep my fill, and rest, 
My Son for that will grant ye Grace 
Filius Regis mortuus **/" 



LYRICS 



LYRICS 



ALISOUN 



MARCH is yielding to April, 
Leaf and flower afresh they spring, 
Little birdlings at their will 
In their wise do sing. 
I in love and longing go 
For the sweetest maid I know, 
She can bring me out of woe, 
I to her am bound. 
A happy chance doth me betide, 
Methinks that Heaven my choice did 
guide 10 

From other maids to turn aside, 
And light on Alisoun! 

Oh! Her hair is fair to see, 

Black her eyes 'neath dusky brow, 

Sweetly doth she smile on me, 

Slight is she, I trow. 

An it were her will to take 

This poor heart, and me to make 

Her true love, I 'Id life forsake, 

Dying, fall adown! 20 

A happy chance doth me betide, 

Methinks that Heaven my choice did 

guide 

From other maids to turn aside, 
And light on Alisoun! 

Thro' the night I watch and wake 

So my cheeks wax pale withal, 

Lady, all for thy sweet sake 

I be longing's thrall! 

In this world I know is none 

Fit to sing her praise, not one, 30 

White her throat as throat of swan, 

Fairest maid in town. 

A happy chance doth me betide, 

Methinks that Heaven my choice did 

guide 

From other maids to turn aside, 
And light on Alisoun! 

1 Boddeker, Alt Englische Dichtungen, MS. Harl. 2253. 



Weary as the sleepless tide, 

All for-worn with wooer's woe, 

Lest Fate rob me of my bride, 

Lo! I yearning go. 40 

Better languish for a day, 

Than in mourning go alway, 

Fairest maid, in gear so gay, 

Listen to my rune! 

A happy chance doth me betide, 

Methinks that Heaven my choice did 

guide 

From other maids to turn aside, 
And light on Alisoun! 

A SPRING SONG 

LENT is come with Love to town, 

With blossom, and with birdling's rune, 

That all gladness bririgeth 

Daisies blow on down and dale, 

Sweetly trills the nightingale, 

Each her glad song singeth. 

The Throstle-cock doth loudly cry, 

Past is winter's misery 

When the woodruff springeth; 

Yea, so glad the birdlings be 10 

When they Winter's waning see, 

That the woodland ringeth! 

Now the rose is clad in red; 

On the light twigs overhead 

Leaves unfold at will; 

And the moon doth shew her light, 

Fair the lily blossoms white, 

The fennel by the rill. 

Wooing, preens himself the drake; 

Man and maid, they merry make ac 

Where the stream runs still. 

But the sad, he moaneth aye, 

I be one of those to-day, 

Love doth like me ill ! 

Now the moon sends forth her light, 
As the seemly sunbeams bright 



352 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



When the birds sing gay; 

Dank, the dew on down it lies; 

Lovers in their secret wise 

Speak their Yea, or Nay. 30 

'Neath the clod the worm doth woo, 

And the maidens proudly go, 

Fair to see are they ! 

If I lack the love of one 

Of this joy will I have none 

But will, outlawed, stray! 

WINTER SONG 

WINTER wakeneth all my care, 

Now the boughs be waxen bare, 

Oft I sigh, and mourn full sair 

When it cometh in my thought 

How this world's joy doth go to naught! 

Now it is, and now 't is not, 
As it ne'er had been, I wot, 
Many a man this word hath got: 
"Naught endureth save God's Will" 
That we must die doth please us ill. 10 

What afore was fresh and green 
Now doth fade and fail, I ween, 
Jesu, let Thine Help be seen, 
Shield us all from Hell 
For where I go I may not know, 
Nor how long I here may dwell! 

LOVE-LONGING 

WHEN I see the blossoms spring, 

Hear the birds' sweet song, 

Yearning thought, and love-longing 

Thro* my heart they throng. 

All set on a love so new 

Love so sweet, and love so true 

Gladdens all my song. 

For in very truth, I wis, 

All my joy, and all my bliss, 

Go with Him along! 10 



When myself I, wondering, stand, 

And with eye do see 

How they pierced Him, Foot and Hand, 

With sharp nailes three; 

And all bloody was His Brow 

There was naught of Him, I trow, 

That from pain was free. 

Well, ah! well, should'st thou, my 

heart, 

For His love have bitter smart, 
Sigh, and sorry be! 20 

Jesu mild, I Thee implore, 

Grant me strength and might, 

That, with ceaseless yearning sore, 

I love Thee aright. 

Pain may suffer willingly 

For thy gentle Son, Mary, 

Lady free and bright. 

Maiden thou, and Mother mild, 

For the love of This thy Child, 

Grant us Heaven's light. 30 

Woe is me! Could I to-day 

Turn to Him my thought, 

Take Him for my love alway 

Who us dearly bought; 

W r ide and deep His Wounds they were, 

Long and sore the Pains He bare 

(We of love know naught!) 

By the Blood that flowed that tide 

From His pierced Hands and Side, 

Us from Woe He brought! 

Jesu, Lord, so mild and sweet, 

Here I sing to Thee, 

Yea, full oft I would Thee greet, 

Pray Thee piteouslie, 

Grant that I may sin forsake, 

In this world atonement make, 

And from wrong be free, 

And when this, our life, shall end, 

And from hence we needs must wend, 

Take us unto Thee! 



RELIGIOUS POEMS 



353 



RELIGIOUS POEMS 



THE SWEETNESS OF JESUS 

LORD CHRIST, might I Thy Sweetness 

see, 

Thy Grace to me wouldst truly show, 
Bitter all earthly love should be, 
Thy Love alone I fain would know. 
Teach Thou this lesson, Lord, to me, 
To long in such wise here below 
That all my heart be set on Thee, 
And all my yearning t'ward Thee flow. 

My Lord of love most worthy is 

To souls who may Him soothly see, 10 

To love Him rightly were true bliss, 

The King of Love y-clept is He. 

By chains of true love wrought, I wis, 

Fast bound to Him I fain would be, 

That so my heart be wholly His, 

For none save Him rejoiceth me! 

If for love shewn I love my kin, 
Why, then, it seemeth to my thought, 
I should of right with Him begin 
Whose Love hath fashioned me of 

naught. 20 

His Likeness set my soul within 
This goodly world for me hath 

wrought 

As Father, seeks my love to win, 
And me for heir of Heaven hath bought. 

A Mother's love to me He gave 
Who, ere my birth, to me took heed, 
That babe in Baptism's font did lave 
Who erst was soiled thro' Adam's deed. 
Rich Food and nourishment He gave, 
For with His Flesh He did me feed, 30 
A better Food no man may crave 
To lasting Life He doth me lead. 

Brother and Sister is He still 

For that He spake and taught this lore; 

1 From the Vernon MS. 



That they who do His Father's Will 
His Brethren are they, evermore. 
He chose mankind this lot to fill 
I set my trust on Him therefore, 
That He will keep me safe from ill 
And heal me from His Mercy's store. 40 

His Love surpasseth, so I wis, 
All earthly love that may be here, 
My spouse, both God and Man He is, 
I earth-born wretch, must hold Kim 

dear! 

For Heaven and Earth be wholly His 
A mighty Lord is He to fear 
His title is the King of Bliss 
To Him I fain would draw me near. 

Yea, for His Love I needs must long 49 
Since He hath mine so dearly bought, 
When I had sinned, and wrought Him 

wrong, 
From Heaven to Earth my soul He 

sought. 

As Man, was born mankind among, 
And all His glory held for naught; 
He strove with prayer and crying strong 
Ere me again to bliss He brought. 

When I was thrall, to make me free 
His Love from Heaven to Earth Him 

led, 

Naught but my love He asked in fee, 
For me His Life with Death was 

wed. 60 

When with my foe He fought for me 
Wounded He was, and sorely bled; 
His precious Blood, as on the Tree 
He hung, for me was freely shed. 

Blood-stained He was, and stripped all 

bare 

Who sometime was all fair to s^e; 
His Heart with spear was pi'*rr<Vl there, 
His wide Wounds gaped full piteously. 



354 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



He gave His Life, and naught would 

spare, 

That all my guilt should ransomed be; 70 
Thus I his suffering fain would share 
And hold His Death most dear to me. 

For grief my heart must break in twain 
If to His Love I take good heed, 
The cause was I of all His pain, 
He suffered sore for my misdeed. 
That I eternal life should gain 
He died as Man such is man's meed, 
Then, when He willed to live again, 
He rose as God, in very deed. 80 

To Heaven He passed with mickle 

bliss, 
Vanquished, the fiends before Him 

quail, 

His banner o'er me floats, I wis, 
Whene'er my foes would me assail. 
My heart must needs be wholly His, 
For He as Friend shall never fail, 
Nor asked He more than simply this: 
Troth of true Love, for sore Travail. 

Thus did my Lord my battle fight, 
And for my sake was wounded sore, 90 
To win my love to Death was dight, 
What favour might He shew me more? 
To pay Him doth surpass my might, 
I can but love Him evermore, 
And do His Will, and deal aright, 
E'en as He taught in lovesome lore. 

His Bidding faithful to fulfil 

That were, methinks, both fit and 

kind, 

By day and night to work His Will 
And bear Him ever in my mind. 100 
But ghostly foes they work me ill 
E'en as frail flesh doth make me blind; 
I needs must crave His Mercy still, 
For better aid I may not find. 

None other help is left to me, 
I to His Mercy me betake, 



Who with His Flesh hath made me free, 
And me, poor wretch, His Child would 

make. 

I pray my Lord, of Charitie, 
That He this sinner ne'er forsake, no 
But give me grace from sin to flee 
And in His Love my longing slake. 

Sweet Jesu, grant me only this, 
Take thought of me when hence I wend, 
Keep me in steadfast truth, I wis, 
From foul fiends shield me and befriend. 
Forgive what I have done amiss, 
From pains of Hell my soul defend, 
And lead me, Lord, unto Thy Bliss 119 
To dwell with Thee, World without end! 

Amen. 

PRAYER AT THE ELEVATION 

WELCOME, Lord, in form of Bread, 
Thou the Living, Thou the Dead, 
Jesu, Thee we name ! 
Thou, One God in Persons Three, 
Lord, have Mercy upon me, 
Shield me here from shame! 

Thou the Sole-Begotten Son, 
With the Spirit, Three in One, 
Crowned King art Thou ! 
Man of more than mortal Might, 
God of God, and Light of Light, 
Born of Mary now! 

Jesu, hail! we worship Thee! 
Fairest Blossom on Life's tree, 
Hail ! Thy message fair ! 
Hail ! the Fruit, and hail ! the Flower, 
Be our Saviour in this hour, 
Lord of Earth and Air! 

Hail! Thou King of Life and Light! 
Hail! Thou Man of Deathless Might, 
Prince enthroned and crowned! 
Hail! Thou Mighty Conqueror! 
Hail! be Thou the Governor 
Of this wide world round! 



RELIGIOUS POEMS 



355 



Holy Flesh, and Holy Blood, 

God and Man, be Thou our Food, 

Jesu, King of Kings! 

Hail ! Thou Born of Maiden mild, 

Very God and very Child, 

Maker of all things! 30 

Hail! thou Rose upon the Bough, 
Here as Man we hail Thee now, 
For us wert Thou dead! 
Hail! Thou God of endless Might, 
Son of God, in Glory bright, 
Hail! in form of Bread! Amen. 



ORISON TO THE FIVE JOYS OF 
OUR LADY 

MARY MOTHER, hail to thee! 
Maid and Mother, think on me 
For thy mickle might; 
Mary, Maiden meek and mild, 
From mischance keep me thy child, 
And harm, by day and night. Ave. 

Mary, Maid withouten peer, 

This my orison now hear 

Tho' I merit naught; 

Unto thee I cry and call, 10 

Thou, who art the flower of all, 

Keep me in thy thought! Ave. 

Mother thou, and Maid alway, 
By that first joy here I pray 
Born of Gabriel's rede, 
That it keep me day and night 
From the devil and his might, 
Shield me from misdeed! Ave. 

For thy joy when God was born, 
Lady, leave me not forlorn 20 

Whom thy Son bought dear! 
Grant that this my prayer to-day 
Stand me in good stead alway, 
To me lend thine ear! Ave. 

For thy joy when Christ, Alive 



Rose, as God, with wide Wounds Five, 
On the Paschal Day, 
Pray thy Son, O Mother mild! 
That He keep from ill His child, 
E'en as well He may ! Ave. 30 

For thy joy at His Ascent 
When to Heaven again He went, 
Help me, Maid of might! 
Be my shield, and be my spear, 
That no evil one draw near 
Keep me day and night. Ave. 

For thy joy at thy last end 

When thou didst to Heaven wend 

Gladness to fulfil; 

To that rest, O! Maiden pure, 40 

Which for ever shall endure, 

Bring me, at thy will! Ave. 

A MIRACLE OF OUR LADY 

WHOSO loves Our Lady aye 
She his love will well repay, 
Whether life or death his share; 
Gracious is she, e'en as fair 
As this tale doth truly tell 
Which in Paris once befell. 

In that city, long ago, 

A poor child went to and fro; 

As a beggar, would he win 

Food and drink for this, his kin, ic 

Father, mother, up and down 

Begged his way throughout the town. 

With his mouth his bread he won, 
Other craft the boy had none, 
Save his voice so sweet and clear, 
All men joyed his song to hear; 
With his notes that rang so sweet 
He gat food from street to street, 
All men hearkened readily 
The Antiphon of Our Ladie. 20 

And men called the song, I wis, 
"Alma Mater Redemptoris*" 



356 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Would ye now its meaning hear, 
"Hail the Saviour's Mother dear! 
Gate of Heaven, Star of the Sea, 
Save the souls that trust in thee." 
On that song men set great store 
As he sang from door to door. 

But so sweetly rang the song 

AH the Jews waxed wroth ere long; 30 

Till it chanced, one Saturday, 

That his road thro' Jewry lay, 

Loud he sang the song, and clear, 

Well he loved the words to hear, 

To the Jews 't was loath alway 

So they thought the child to slay. 

One, on evil purpose bent, 
Bade him enter, well content; 
Seized the child, and with a knife, 
Cut his throat, and took his life. 40 
HI the deed, and foul the wrong, 
Yet it might not stay the song, 
Even when that deed was done 
Way to silence him was none! 

Then the Jew, full sore afraid 

Lest his malice be displayed, 

Down a sewer-hole, full nigh, 

Thrust the corpse right secretly; 

Down the hole the child he threw, 

Yet the song burst forth anew; 50 

Lustily it rang, the cry 

Of a boy's voice, clear and high. 

All men heard, both far and near, 

Piercing rang the notes, and clear. 

The child's mother, patiently, 
Till the noontide sun was high, 
Waited, that he homeward bare 
Food and drink, with them to share. 
Noontide came, and noontide passed, 
And the mother, sore aghast, 60 

In dismay, thro' every street 
Sought, where she her boy might meet. 

When she came to Jewery 

Lo! his voice rang sweet and high, 



Clearer as she nigher drew 
Where he was right well she knew. 
Then she prayed her child to see 
But the Jew spake, verily, 
No such child was there alway 
Yet she ceased not to pray 
Quoth her boy was there indeed 
Still the Jew denied her rede. 



70 



Said the woman: "Thou art wrong, 
He is here, I hear his song." 
Still the Jew he steadfast sware 
No such child had passed by there. 
None the less all men might hear 
How the song rang loud and clear, 
And the longer, louder grew, 
Far and near his voice they knew. 80 

On her way she went anon, 
Hath to mayor and bailiff gone, 
Saith: the Jew he did her wrong, 
Stole her child for this his song. 
Prayeth of them law and right, 
That her son be brought to sight; 
Prays the mayor, of Charitie 
From his bonds her boy to free. 

Then she tells, the folk among, 

How she lived by this, his song 90 

The mayor pitied her withal, 

Did the folk together call, 

Told them of the mother's plight, 

Quoth, he would do law and right, 

Bade the folk with him to wend 

To bring the matter to an end. 

They came with clamour loud and 

noise, 

Yet o'er all they heard the voice, 
As an angel's, to their ear 
Loud it rang, so sweet and clear, 
The mayor forced the door forthright 
Bade them bring the boy to sight. 
No more might the Jew refuse, 
Otherwise himself excuse, 
But confessed his deed of wrong 
Brought to judgment by a song! 



RELIGIOUS POEMS 



357 



The mayor to seek the boy was bound 
In the sewer the corpse they found, 
Drowned deep in filth straightway 
Forth 't was drawn to light of day. no 
Filth and grime the corpse besmear, 
Slit the throat from ear to ear, 
Ere the folk would wend their way 
For his crime the Jew must pay. 

Then the Bishop, verily, 

Came, this wonder fain to see, 

In his presence, loud and clear, 

Sang the child, for all to hear. 

With his hand the Bishop sought 

To the throat, and forth he brought 120 

A lily flower, so glistening white 

Fairer none had seen with sight, 

On its leaves, in gold, I wis, 

"Alma Mater Redemptoris /" 

As the lily forth they take 

Of that song an end they make, 

These sweet notes are heard no more, 

'T was a dumb, dead corpse they bore. 

Then in guise most solemn, all 

As the Bishop bade, withal, 130 

Through the town the corpse they bare 

(He himself would with them fare,) 

With priest and clerk, who well could 

sing, 

While the bells he bade them ring; 
With lighted torch, and incense sweet 
To that corpse do honour meet. 
To the Minster came they then, 
Did as meet for all dead men, 
Sang a Mass of Requiem fair 
Soon they stood astonied there 140 

Rose the corpse the clerks among, 
"Salve Sancta Par ens," sung. 

The child, as men right well might 

see, 

Well had loved Our Sweet Ladie, 
Here she honoured him, I wis, 
And his soul she brought to bliss. 
So I rede that every man 
Do her service, as he can, 



Yield her love, as best he may, 
She that love will well repay, 150 

Mary Maid, by this, thy might, 
Bring us safe to Heaven so bright! 



AGAINST MY WILL I TAKE MY 
LEAVE 

Now lords and ladies, blithe and bold, 
To bless your name I fain were bound, 
I thank ye all a thousand-fold, 
And pray God keep ye whole and sound. 
Where'er ye fare, on grass or ground, 
I pray He cause ye not to grieve, 
For friendship fair I here have found, 
Against my will I take my leave. 

For friendship fair, for gifts so good, 
For meat and drink, in great plentie, 10 
The Lord Who suffered on the Rood 
Keep all this comely companie. 
On sea or land, where'er ye be, 
I pray He cause ye not to grieve, 
So well have ye entreated me 
Against my will I take my leave. 

Against my will I needs must wend 
Nor longer make abiding here, 
For everything must have an end, 
And friends may not be ever near. ao 
Hold we each other ne'er so dear 
Notice to quit we all receive, 
And when we busk us for our bier 
Against our will we take our leave. 

Depart we must, I know not when, 

Nor know I whither we must fare, 

But this is aye within our ken 

Each man, or bliss, or bale, shall share. 

Therefore I rede ye all, beware, 

Nor deem fair words ill works retrieve, 30 

That so our soul we forfeit there 

When that of life we take our leave. 

When this our life our form hath left 
Our body, shrouded, lieth low, 



358 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



Our riches all from us be reft 

And cold earth on our corpse they throw. 

Where are the friends who thee may 

know? 

Say now, who shall thy soul relieve? 
I rede thee, man, ere hence thou go 
Prepare thee well to take thy leave. 40 

Be ready for what may befall 
Lest suddenly the summons smite, 
Thou know'st not when thy Lord may 

call, 

Look that thy lamp be burning bright. 
Believe me well, save thou have light 
Thy Lord shall thee right ill receive, 
And drive thee hence from out His Sight 
For all too late didst take thy leave. 

Christ, Whom a Virgin Mother bore, 
Now grant us grace to serve Him so 50 
That we may come His Face before 
When from this world we needs must go, 
Amend the ill that here we do 
While that to clay we cling and cleave, 
And make our peace with friend and 

foe 
So in good time to take our leave. 

Now Fare-ye-well, ye good men all, 
And Fare-ye-well, both young and old, 
And Fare-ye-well, both great and small, 
I thank ye all a thousand-fold. 60 

I wot that good were richly told 
If from mine hand ye might receive; 
Christ shelter ye from care so cold 
For now 't is time to take my leave. 

DEO GRATIAS 

IN a church this chance befell, 
Bells to morning Mass did ring, 
Sure it pleased me wondrous well 
So I tarried, lingering. 
Saw a clerk a book forth bring, 
Pointed well in many a place, 
Swift he sought what he should sing : 
All was Deo Gratias. 



All the cantors in the choir 
With one voice the words they cry, 10 
Sweet the sound I drew me nigher, 
Called a priest full privily; 
Said: "Sir, of thy courtesy 
Prithee, grant me now this grace, 
Say what meaneth this, and why 
Ye sing Deo Gratias?" 

All in silk that clerk was clad, 

O'er a lectern leaned he, 

Spake a word that made me glad 

Saying: "Son, now hearken me; ao 

Father, Son in Trinitie, 

Holy Spirit, Fount of Grace, 

God we praise, so oft as we 

Sing our Deo Gratias. 

" Sure, to thank Him are we bound 
With such wit as man may win, 
Sorrowful the wide world round 
Till He crept into our kin. 
Virgin womb He lay within 
Mary Maiden, full of grace; 30 

Shed His Blood for all men's sin 
Therefore Deo Gratias." 

Quoth the priest: "Son, by thy leave 
I must now mine office say, 
Nor for this I prithee grieve, 
Thou hast heard the truth alway. 
Wherefore now we priests must pray, 
Holy Church must offer Mass 
In Christ's Honour, day by day, 
Saying, Deo Gratias." 

From the church my way I went, 
On that word was all my thought, 
Said it o'er and o'er, intent, 
Praying, I forgat there naught. 
Tho' from bliss my lot were brought 
'T were small help to cry, Alas ! 
In God's Name, whate'er be wrought, 
Say I, Deo Gratias. 

Mend what thou hast done amiss, 
Do the right, from fear be freed, > 






RELIGIOUS POEMS 



359 



Be thy lot or bale, or bliss, 
Sure, thy patience winneth meed, 
An a gentle life thou lead, 
Kindness show in every case, 
Thank thy God if well thou speed, 
Saying, Deo Gratias. 

Should God on thee gifts bestow 

More than other two or three, 

Then I rede thee, rule thou so 

That men may speak well of thee. 60 

Shun all pride, from boasting flee, 

Lest thy virtues sin deface, 

Keep thee courteous, pure, and free, 

Think on Deo Gratias. 

Should men bid thee office bear, 

Set thee in a place of might, 

See thou givest judgment fair, 

Rob thou no man of his right. 

Art thou valiant, fierce in fight, 

See thou none for envy chase; 70 

Fear thy God by day and night, 

Think on Deo Gratias. 

If this word in heart we bear, 
And in love and loyalty lend, 
We thro' Christ may claim a share 
In the joy that knows no end. 
When from out this world we wend 
To His Palace we may pass, 
With His Saints to sing sans end 
Blissful, Deo Gratias. 80 

MANE NOBISCUM, DOMINE 

ONE summer, ere Ascension fell, 
'T was Evensong, and eke Sunday, 
Long in devotion did I dwell, 
And earnestly for peace did pray. 
A text I heard that pleased me aye, 
Written it was in words but three, 
And thus it runneth, sooth to say, 
'Mane nobiscum, Domine!" 

Now what this word doth rightly mean 
In English tongue that will I tell, 10 



If we in conscience keep us clean 
"Deign Thou, Our Lord, with us to dwell." 
The foul Fiend's power do Thou fell 
Who died for us upon the Tree, 
Whether things fall out ill or well, 
Mane nobiscum, Domine I 

When Thou from death had'st risen, 

anon, 

In Palmer's guise Thy way wouldst go, 
Thou met'st with pilgrims making moan, 
But Who Thou wert, they might not 

know. 20 

Then Cleophas this word also 
Spake: "Night is nigh as we may see, 
The light of day is waxing low, 
Mane nobiscum, Domine i " 

Abide with us Our Father dear, 
Thy dwelling is in Heaven's Bliss, 
Thy Name by us be hallowed here 
That we Thy Kingdom may not miss. 
In Heaven Thy Will fulfilled is, 
And that it so on earth may be 30 

Guide us aright to teach us this 
Mane nobiscum, Domine ! 

Our daily bread, our natural food, 
Dear Lord, we pray Thee, for us dight, 
Our debts, do Thou our God so good, 
Forgive us, of Thy mickle Might. 
So shall we those, with heart so light, 
Forgive, who in our debt may be; 
Then, lest we rule us not aright, 
Mane nobiscum, Domine I 40 

Dwell with us, lest we suffer loss, 
Let no temptation lead astray, 
But if we sin, then by Thy Cross 
Mercy and pardon would we pray. 
With all the meekness that we may 
We cry, low kneeling on our knee, 
"When men our corpse on bier shall lay 
Mane nobiscum, Domine!" 

Lord, dwell with us in all our need, 
For without Thee we have no might so 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To raise our hands, or tell our bede, 
Nor wit nor wealth may cleanse our 

sight. 

What snare soe'er may hold us tight 
Safe are we, an we cry to Thee, 
In all our need, by day and night, 
Mane nobiscum, Domine! 

He dwelleth with thee, have no fear 

For evil chance that may befall, 

Or for the fiend who lurketh near 

To rob us of our bliss withal. 60 

Save we be 'neath Thy ruling here 

Our flesh is frail, we cannot flee, 

Then keep our path from cumbrance 

clear 
Mane nobiscum, Domine I 

Dwell with us, Lord of Love and Peace, 
And make Thy home our hearts within, 
That we in Charity increase, 
And keep us clean from deadly sin. 
Grant us Thy Smile, O Lord, to win, 
For Mary's sake, that Maiden free 70 
In every work that we begin, 
Mane nobiscum, Domine I 

Mane nobiscum, Domine ! 
Without Thee we were surely naught, 
What Joy or Bliss else may there be 
For those whom Thou so dear hast 

bought? 

In word and will, in heart and thought, 
We here beseech the Trinitie: 
"When we from out this world be 

brought 
Mane nobiscum, Dominel" 80 

TRUTH IS EVER BEST 

WHOSO would him well advise 
Of this sad world's way, I ween, 
He must needs, forsooth, despise 
Falsehood foul, that wrought hath 

been. 

Certes, some day shall be seen 
How our toil doth miss its quest, 



When Good and 111 be judged, I ween, 
We shall find that Truth is best. 

Truth is best for king and knight 
Certes, he who runs may read, i 

Ladies all, so fair and bright, 
Truth should love in act and deed. 
Merchant-men, in goodly weed, 
Who to buy and sell are prest, 
Should from falsehood foul be freed, 
Follow Truth, 't is ever best. 

Verily, I dare to say, 
Man nor woman here shall be 
But would fain, if but they may, 
Have in life prosperity; 2* 

And at death would presently 
Come to Heaven's eternal rest 
None those goodly courts shall see 
Who held not here that Truth was best. 

Truth shall judge us all one day, 
Righteously, and without wrong, 
Then must we both see, and say, 
We withstood him overlong. 
Therefore lordings, stout and strong, 
Judge betimes at Truth's behest; 30 
For God's Love, all men among, 
Truth uphold, as aye the best. 

Therefore keep this in your mind, 
Whoso dealeth with the law, 
Ne'er with Falsehood's feints unkind 
Stifle right, nor Truth withdraw. 
Nay, of Falsehood stand in awe, 
Tho' ye be for Truth opprest, 
For Christ's Sake, let no gold draw 
Thee aside since Truth is best. 

Would we rule us all with Truth, 
Make Him aye our Governour, 
Sin nor Sloth should work us ruth, 
We should be of Knighthood flower. 
Truth in strife shall aye have power, 
Greatest, when most hardly pressed, 
Stand we faithful in that hour 
Vowing, Truth is ever best. 



RELIGIOUS POEMS 



361 



Truth was sometime here our Lord, 
Virtue reigned with Him as Queen, 50 
Spain and Britain this record, 
Other lands have witness been 
That we honour due, I ween, 
Did them, bade them here to rest, 
Falsehood ne'er with them was seen, 
Truth they loved 't was ever best. 

Would we now let Truth again 
O'er us crown and sceptre bear, 
Other lands should yield full fain 
Fealty and homage fair. 60 

Boldly this I would declare, 
Falsehood foul should stand confest, 
None, from prince to page would 

dare 
War with Truth, that aye is best. 

Falsehood well may reign awhile 
When maintained by Avarice, 
Greed at last shall him beguile 
Tho' in wisdom he be nice. 
Falsehood, he hath had his price 
In the North, and eke in West, 70 

Hunt him, as the cat hunts mice, 
He who chooseth Truth doth best. 

SALVE, SANCTA PARENS ! 



, lovely Lady, leman bright, 
Mighty Mother, and Maiden mild, 
Who bare within thy body bright 
At once thy Maker, and thy Child, 
And yet wert Maiden undefiled 
Rose and Root of true reverence, 
Wit and Wisdom unbeguiled, 
Salve, Sancta Par ens I 

Hail for the joy when Gabriel, 
Chieftain chosen in chastitie, 
Low on his knees before thee fell, 
And spake with great solemnitie : 

Hail full of grace, God is with thee, 
Thou shalt conceive without offence, 
For all time blessed shalt thou be 
Salve, Sancta Parens 1" 



Hail, Empress high of Heaven and Hell! 
When of that angel's tidings fair 
Elisabeth didst speed to tell 
Right joyful was the meeting there. 20 
He leapt for joy, the babe she bare, 
For John of Jesus was gaudens, 
Thus Queen, to thee I make my prayer, 
Salve, Sancta Parens! 

Hail, Maiden, hope of men forlorn; 
In Eastern skies there shone a Star, 
To Bethlehem, when thy Babe was born, 
It led three kings from lands afar. 
Rich offerings for thy Child they bare 
Of gold, and myrrh, and frankincense, 
To thee I sing, as I did ere, 31 

Salve, Sancta Parens I 

Hail, Woman crowned with Weal and 

Woe, 

Whenas the Passion-tide drew nigh 
And dole and dread thy Son must 

know 

That Man be saved eternally; 
When, on His Resurrection Day 
He saw thee erst in His Presence, 
In gracious wise He spake alway: 
' ' Salve, Sancta Parens /" 40 

"Hail, holy Mother!" Sooth to say 
Thus spake Our Lord, in fashion 

meet, 

To Mary, and then went His Way, 
Nor did henceforth Our Lady greet. 
And Holy Church, she knoweth why, 
As clerks declare it in sequence, 
It draweth me to thee, Mary 
Salve, Sancta Parens I 

Hail, crowned Queen of Heaven and Hell ! 
Hail, true Love to the Trinitie! 50 

Thou Darling dear, dight us to dwell 
In Paradise, that fair citie. 
Princess sans peer, of thy pitie, 
Put us in peace when we pass hence, 
That we may sing with joy to thee, 
Salve, Sancta Parens! 



362 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



CAROLS 



Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 
Omnes de Saba venient. 

Out of the East a star shone bright, 
To three kings hath it given light, 
Who travelled far by day and night 
To seek the Lord, Who all hath sent 

Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 

Omnes de Saba venient. 

Thereof King Herod needs must hear, 
How three kings drew his land anear, 
Seeking a Child Who had no peer, n 
And after them he straightway sent 

Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 

Omnes de Saba venient. 

He spake, King Herod, to those kings 

three: 

"If so be that Child ye are fain to see, 
Pass on, yet come again to me 
And tell if your labour be well spent 
Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 
Omnes de Saba venient. 20 

Then forth they went by the starry 

gleam 

Till they came to gladsome Bethlehem, 
And a goodly Babe, forsooth, they deem 
Him Who His Blood for us hath spent. 

Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 

Omnes de Saba venient. 

Balthasar, he kneeled first adown, 
And he cried : " Hail King of high renown, 
Thou of all kings dost bear the Crown, 
Therefore have gold for Thy Present! " 

Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 31 

Omnes de Saba venient. 

Melchior, he knelt, that king so good, 
And he quoth: "All hail to Thy high 
Priesthood, 



Take incense as gift to Thy true Man 
hood, 
For here I brought it with good 

intent " 

Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 
Omnes de Saba venient. 

But Jaspar, he kneeled in that stead, 
And quoth: "Hail Lord, for Knighthood 
sped 40 

I offer myrrh to Thy true Godhead, 
For Thou art He Who all hath sent!" 

Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 

Omnes de Saba venient. 

Now lords and ladies in rich array 
Lift up your hearts on this Holy 
Day, 

And to God the Son here let us pray, 
Who once for us on Rood was rent 
Rejoice, all ye who be here present, 
Omnes de Saba venient. so 



Mater, ora filium, 
Ut post hoc exilium 
Nobis donet gaudium 
Beatorum omnium / 

"Who this Babe, O! Maiden fair, 
Thou within thine arm dost bear?'* 
"'T is a King's Son, mark Him well, 
Who in highest Heaven doth dwell!" 
Mater, ora filium, etc. 

"Man for Father had He none, 
Save Himself, Yea, God alone, 
Fain to save Mankind forlorn 
Of a maiden was He born." 

Mater, ora filium, 

"Kings their homage free have told, 
Frankincense, and myrrh, and gold, 



CAROLS 



363 



To my Son, of aweful Might, 
King of Heaven, and Lord of Light." 
Mater, ora filium, 

"Maiden, do thou pray for us 
To thy gentle Son Jesus, 
That He grant us of His grace 
In His Heaven to find a place! 

Mater, ora filium," 



Make we merry in hall and bower, 
To-day was born Our Saviour I 

To-day hath God, of His Mercie 
Sent His Son with man to be, 
To dwell with us in veritie, 

God that is Our Saviour! 

To-day in Bethlehem did befall 
A Child was born in ox's stall, 
Who needs must die to save us all, g 
God that is Our Saviour! 

To-day there spake an angel bright 
To shepherds three, who watched by 

night, 

And bade them take their way forth 
right 

To God, that is Our Saviour! 

Therefore, 't is meet we kneel to-day 
And Christ Who died on Cross we 

pray 
To shew His Grace to us alway, 

God that is Our Saviour! 



All of a Rose, a lovely Rose, 
All of a Rose I sing a song. 

Hearken to me both old and young, 
How from its root a Rose-tree sprung. 
Of fairer rose no song was sung, 
Never, in any king's land ! 



Branches six had that Rose, I ween, 
Those branches were both bright and 

sheen, 8 

That Rose is Mary, Heaven's Queen 

From her breast a Flower sprung! 

The first Branch was of wondrous might, 
When It sprang forth on Christmas 

night 
A star shone over Bethlehem bright, 

Far and wide its beams flung. 

The second Branch was of great honour, 
It came adown from Heaven's tower, 
Blessed shall be that goodly Flower, 

Break It shall the Fiend's band. 

The third Branch, wide afar it spread; 
To Mary, in her lowly bed, 20 

Three kings Its beams have safely led, 
Branch and Flower to show! 

The fourth Branch sprang adown to 

Hell 

The foul Fiend's boast to surely quell, 
That never soul therein should dwell 

Blest be the day, and land ! 

The fifth Branch was right fair to see, 
It sprang to Heaven, both top and tree, 
There shall It dwell, our Boon to be, 

Yet rest in priest's hand. 30 

The sixth Branch, it shall, bye and 

bye, 

Be the Five Joys of Maid Marie, 
Now Christ save all this companie, 

That long life we may know! 



Pray for us to the Prince of Peace, 
Amice Christi, Johannes I 

To thee, who wast Christ's own darling 
Man and maid alike, I bring 
My homage, and from heart I 'Id sing, 
Amice Christi, Johannes! 



3 6 4 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



For that he was so pure a maid 
On Christ's Own Breast asleep he laid, 
God's secrets were to him displayed 
Amice Christi, Johannes I 10 

When Christ to Pilate's house was 

brought 

This virgin Knight forsook Him naught, 
To die with Him was all his thought 
Amice Christi, Johannes! 

Christ's Mother in his care was laid, 
Fit mate a maiden for a Maid, 
Now pray we to him for his aid 
Amice Christi, Johannes! 



What shall I sing but Hoy I 

When tfie jolly shepherd made so much joy ? 

The shepherd upon a hill he sat, 
He ware his tabard and his hat, 
He had tarbox, pipe, and flageolet, 
And his name was Jolly, Jolly, Wat, 
For he was a good herd-boy 

utHoy! 
In his pipe he made so much joy, 

What shall I sing but Hoy ? 10 

The shepherd down on the hill was laid, 
His dog was fast to his girdle made 
In a little while he was sore dismayed, 
" Glorta in Excelsis ! " to him was said 

ut Hoy ! 
In his pipe 

What shall I sing 

The shepherd high on the hillside stood, 
The sheep, they flocked round the 

shepherd good, 

With his hand he raised from his brow 
the hood, 20 

He saw a star as red as blood 

ut Hoy ! 
In his pipe 

What shall I sing 



"Now Farewell Mall, and Will, Fare- 

well, 

Now keep ye still, and guard ye well, 
Until I come my news to tell, 
And Will, ring evermore thy bell " 

utHoy! 

In his pipe 30 

What shall I sing 

" Now must I go where Christ is born, 
Farewell, I come again with morn, 
Dog, keep the sheep from out the corn, 
And gird ye well when I blow my horn " 

ut Hoy I 
In his pipe 

What shall I sing 

To Bethlehem now Wat hath sped, 
His sweat ran down, so fast he fled, 40 
Jesus doth lowly hide His Head, 
'T wixt ox and ass he makes His bed 

ut Hoy I 
In his pipe 

What shall I sing 

The shepherd said: "I go forthright 
To see that strange and wondrous sight, 
Where angels sing from Heaven's 

height, 

And yonder star doth shine so bright." 
ut Hoy I 50 

In his pipe 

What shall I sing 

" Jesu, my pipe I give to Thee, 
Robe, tarbox, scrip, I offer free, 
Home to my fellows now I flee, 
The sheep, methinks, have need of me/ 

utHoy! 
In his pipe 

What shall I sing 

"Now Farewell Wat, my herdsman 

true" 

" What, lady, so my name ye knew? 
Lull ye my Lord to sleep anew, 
And Joseph, now Good-day to you ! 



CAROLS 



365 



In his pipe 



utHoy! 

What shall I sing 



"Now dance and sing full well I may, 
For at Christ's Birth was I to-day, 
Home to my mates I'll take my way, 
Christ bring us all to bliss I pray." 70 

ut Hoy ! 
In his pipe he made so much joy, 

What shall I sing but Hoy ? 



This very night 
I saw a sight, 
A star as bright 
As any day ; 
And hearkened long 
A Maiden's song, 
Lulley, by-by, 
Lully, lulley. 

A lovely Lady sat and sung, 
Thus to her Babe did say: 10 

"My Son, my Lord, my Dear Dar 
ling, 

Why liest thus in hay? 
Mine own dear Son, 
Whence art Thou come? 
Art very God, I-fay, 
Yet none the less 
I will not cease 
To sing, by, by, lully, lulley" 

This very night 

Then spake the Babe that was so young, 
And thus methinks He said: 21 

"Yea, I am known in Heaven as 

King, 

Tho' now in manger laid. 
And angels bright 
Round me shall light, 
E'en now they wing their way; 
In that fair sight 
Shall ye delight, 

And sing, by, by, lully, lulley." 29 

This very night 



" Jesu my Son, of Heaven the King, 
Why liest Thou here in stall, 
And why hast Thou no fair bedding 
Spread in some rich king's hall? 
Methinks of right 
The Lord of Might 
Should lie in fair array; 
But none the less 
I will not cease 

To sing, by, by, lully, lulley" 40 

This very night 

"Ol Mary Mother, queen of Bliss, 

Methinks it were ill done 

If I should seek the kings, I wis 

'T is they should hither run. 

But you shall see 

Kings crowned three 

Come here on the twelfth day 

For this behest 

Give Me your breast, 50 

And sing, by, by, lully, lulley" 

This very night 

"Jesu, my Son, I pray Thee say, 

As Thou art to me dear, 

How may I please Thee best alway, 

And make Thee right good cheer? 

For all Thy Will 

I would fulfil, 

Thou knowest it well, I-fay, 

Bock Thee, perchance, 60 

Or may -be, dance, 

And sing, by, by, lully, lulley." 

This very night 

"Now Mary, Mother, heark to Me, 

Take thou Me up aloft, 

And in thine arms soft cradle Me, 

And dance Me now full oft; 

And lap Me warm, 

That, free from harm, 

Secure I rest alway, 70 

And if I weep, 

And will not sleep, 

Then sing, by, by, lully, lulley." 

This very night - 



3 66 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



" Jesu, my Son, high Heaven's King, 
If so Thy Will it were, 
Grant me my will in this one thing 
As seemeth fit and fair; 
And all men still 
Who can, and will, 80 
Make merry on this Day, 
To Bliss them bring, 
And I will sing, 
Lully, by, by, lully, lulley." 


This very night 
I saw a sight, 
A star as bright 
As any day ; 
And hearkened long 
A Maiden's song, g 
Lulley, by-by, 
Lully, lulley. 



LYRICS BY RICHARD ROLLE OF 
HAMPOLE 



JESU! For us didst hang on Rood, 
For Love Thou gavest Thine Heart's 

Blood, 

Love made of Thee our soul's True Food, 
Thy Love has brought us to all good. 

Jesu, my Love! Of Heart so free, 
All this didst do for love of me, 
What shall I for this offer Thee? 
Naught dost Thou crave but love from me. 

Jesu! My God, my Lord, my King, 
Would 'st have of me none other thing 10 
Save but true love, and heart's longing, 
And tears of love, and true mourning. 

Jesu! My Love, my Joy, my Light, 
I would thee love as is Thy right, 
Grant me to love with all my might 
And mourn for Thee by day and night. 

Jesu! Grant me such love of Thee 
That all my thought on Thee may be, 
Turn Thou Thine eyes, I pray, on me, 
And graciously my sorrow see! 20 

Jesu! Thy Love is all my thought, 
Of other things I reck me naught 



Save what I have against Thee wrought 
And Thou hast me so dearly bought! 

II 

Jesu! Forsooth naught doth me move 
In all this world both far and near, 
With longing sore, and with true love, 
Save Thou, my Lord, and Love so dear \ 

Jesu ! True love I owe to Thee 29 

Who on the Cross didst show, that tide, 
The Crown of Thorns, the sharp Nails 

three, 
The cruel Spear that pierced Thy Side. 

Jesu! Of Love the pledge I see, 
Thine Arms are spread to clasp me close, 
Thine Head is bowed for kisses free, 
Thy cloven Side, thine Heart's L< 
shows ! 

Lord Jesu! When I think of Thee, 
And look upon Thy Cross aright, 
Thy Body stained with Blood I see, 39 
Lord, pierce my heart with that sad sight! 

Jesu! Thy Mother by Thee stood, 
Her tears of love full fast must flow, 
To see Thy Wounds, Thy Holy Blood, 
Her heart it sore oppressed with woe. 



THE FIVE JOYS OF THE VIRGIN MARY 



367 



Jesu! Love made Thy Tears to fall, 
'T was Love that made Thy Blood to flow, 
For Love wast scourged and smitten all, 
For Love Thy Life Thou didst forego. 



Mary, I pray, as thou art free, 
A part of this thy grief I 'Id bear, 
That I may sorrow here with thee, 
And bliss with thee hereafter share ! 



THE FIVE JOYS OF THE VIRGIN MARY 1 



FULL many a man a song doth find 
For her who gladdens all mankind 

And once was born on earth; 
Yet, tho' all men who speak with tongue 
Should sound her praise in joyous song, 

Still more should be her worth! 

Angels on high their voices raise, 
As Queen of Heaven show forth her 
praise, 

And find in her their bliss; 
Earth doth her as Our Lady own, xo 
And throughout Hell her power is known, 

For Empress there she is. 

The cause of all this dignity, 
Her pureness and humility, 

And God's Almighty Grace, 
Whereby she bare high Heaven's King; 
So men may worthy worship bring 

To her, in every place. 

All that is on, or under, mold 

How might they now from her withhold 

The reverence that is meet, 21 

When He, Who rules the world alway 
Himself doth homage to her pay 

As this, His mother sweet? 

And many a virgin now doth fare 
Who doth God in her spirit bear 

And in her holy thought, 
But she, who never man had known, 
In deed, and not in thought alone, 

Her God to birth hath brought. 30 

Of her, from whom God flesh did take 
A fitting song how might I make 

William of Shoreham. 



Whose life so foul hath been? 
Yet Sister, thou dost bid me sing, 
And in one song together bring 

These, her Five Joys, I ween. 

That such a song be made by me 
Who an unlearned man shall be, 

In sooth, I dare not say, 
I trust me to Our Lady still, 40 

And make it as shall be her will 

To teach me that same Lay. 

As in our Creed we well may see 
Her joys so manifold they be, 

None may them rightly tell, 
Such joy she hath thro' her dear Son, 
As never by mankind was won, 

No tongue may speak the spell. 

Four Joys, they were her portion here 
Thro' Grace of Him, her Son so dear, so 

The Gospel bids us know, 
And all from that same Fount of bliss 
Whereof she now doth joy, I wis, 

As streams from well they flow. 

The well of Paradise, I ween, 
Hath of this same a token been 

With its fair rivers four, 
That watered all that goodly ground, 
And never mortal man hath found 

The measure of its store. 60 

This well is God Himself, made Man, 
And all her joys from Him they ran, 

In four-fold fashion sped ; 
First when she did her Child conceive, 
And Gabriel must high Heaven leave 

As messenger, that stead, 



368 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To bring her tidings great that morn 
How Christ of her would fain be born 

Man's guilt to wipe away, 
To bring mankind from out of Hell 70 
What heart may think, or tongue may tell 

The joy she felt that day? 

In Nazareth, that goodly town, 
There Gabriel, he 'lighted down, 

"Ave Maria!" his cry, 
He gave that maiden greeting fair, 
And unto her a gift he bare 
From God in Heaven high. 

In her would God His dwelling make, 
There flesh and blood of her to take 80 

E'en as the angel said; 
Nor she a man should know, I trow, 
Nor break in any wise her vow, 

But still abide a maid. 

Saint John the Baptist knew that same, 
Whenas she to his mother came, 

Sprang when he heard her voice; 
Elizabeth knew well that tide 
How the babe moved beneath her side, 

And there would fain rejoice. 90 

More cause, Our Lady, then had she, 
Joyous and blithe I ween, to be, 

Without or pride or boast, 
For well she knew the truth, I wot, 
And wist full well He was begot 

Of God the Holy Ghost. 

And Joseph dealt as man so mild, 
For that he wist she was with child 

Alone he 'Id go his way, 
He would not that she should be slain, 
Nor by the law be judged, and ta'en, 101 

And stoned with stones alway. 

And Joseph, he was blithe that night 
Whenas there came an angel bright 

To give assurance still; 
And blither far was she, that may, 
For she was comforted all day 

With angels, at her will. 



To this First Joy, of which I speak, 
We count her joy of forty weeks no 

The while she went with child; 
Within her womb, as at that same, 
The unicorn, He waxed full tame, 

That erstwhile was so wild. 

The Second Joy, it was her lot 
When Jesus, He was born, I wot, 

Upon the Christmas night, 
With never sorrow, never sore 
And so shall never woman more 

Who is for child-birth dight. xao 

For e'en as she did first conceive, 
Nor sin its stain upon her leave, 

From fleshly lust was freed; 
Therefore her Child, to birth He won 
As thro' the glass doth pass the sun 

Nor opening doth need. 

In swaddling bands she did Him dight, 
As it shall be for children right, 

And gave Him suck anon; 
Tho' He was born in dark of night 130 
Yet was there never lack of light 

For Heaven itself looked on. 

In beam of light an angel came 
Into the field of Bethlehem, 

The shepherd-folk among, 
The tidings of Christ's Birth he bore 
Therewith came singing many more, 

Of angels a great throng. 

I trow those words he spake full well 
"Gratia plena," Gabriel, 

That meaneth, "full of Grace; " 
They sang of glory great above, 
And peace our portion, for her love, 

The angels in that place. 

The ox and ass, amid the straw, 
Whereas they their Creator saw 

There, 'mid their food to lie, 
Altho' unknowing beasts were they 
Yet they rejoiced in their own way, 

And language, verilie. i 



THE FIVE JOYS OF THE VIRGIN MARY 



369 



And when it came to the eighth day 
He did the Jewish law obey, 

Was circumcised aright, 
Jesus, they called His name that morn, 
As angels, ere that He was born, 

Had said He should be hight. 

Mary with mickle joy espied 
Three Kings, as they did thither ride 

From Eastern lands afar, 
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they 
bring, 160 

Since He was Lord, of kings the King, 

As tokened by the Star. 

When He was offered fittingly 
Within the templo Domini 

E'en as the law did say, 
The old man, Simeon, on high 
He spake of Him a prophecy 

As in his arms He lay. 

When He had but twelve winters told, 
Seated among the masters old, 170 

Altho' He softly spake, 
Men held it for a marvel fair, 
To all the clerks who questioned there 

An answer could He make. 

Thus virtue crowned His Childhood's 

hour, 
And so He waxed to Manhood's power, 

In Jordan's stream, aright 
He was baptized ; from Heaven above 
The Father spake, in form of Dove 

The Holy Ghost did 'light. 180 

And to this Joy we count them all, 
The joys, that to her lot did fall 

Of this, her Child, so good, 
E'en from the day that He was born 
To save mankind that was forlorn 

Until He died on Rood. 

A Third Joy must Our Lady 's be 
When she the Risen Christ did see 

From Death's hard bondage wend, 



From out the grave wherein He lay 190 
As it befell on the third day 
After His Life did end. 

What joy of Him might she have more 
After such grief and suffering sore 

As she had seen with eye, 
Than thus in life her Son to see, 
And know He aye alive should be 

And never more might die? 

That He was Life, and Strength, and 

Might, 
That did He show on Easter night 200 

Ere darkness passed away, 
And all the Earth, I trow, did quake, 
And Heaven above did joyful make 

His Resurrection Day! 

For thence came angels, white in weed, 
Who said that Christ was Risen indeed, 

She saw that they spake true; 
That in the grave no more He lay 
Lest any should their word gainsay 

The stone they overthrew. 210 

By these, His Manhood's deeds, she 

knew 
"Dominus tecum" to be true, 

As erst the angel said, 
That is to say "God is with thee," 
And here in truth and verity 

The Godhead was displayed. 

Nor was she lonely in her bliss, 
But shared it with her friends, I wis 

It was so much the more ; 519 

For gladness sure doth seem more fair 
When with our friends the same we share 

After we 've sorrowed sore. 

Ah! blithe I trow they well may be 
Their Living Lord again to see, 

Amid them had He been! 
First showed Himself, for our relief, 
To her, of penitents the chief, 

To Mary Magdalene; 



370 



CHIEF MIDDLE ENGLISH POETS 



To Peter next, then unto all 
Thomas of Ynde, to doubt a thrall, 230 
His Wounds hath felt that stound, 
And handling flesh, and bone, and blood, 
He cried aloud, as there he stood, 
"My Lord I here have found!" 

Our Lord made answer swift, I ween: 
"Thou dost believe since thou hast seen 

And touched Me as I stand; 
My Blessing, Thomas, here I leave 
To those who, seeing not, believe, 

Nor crave to touch with hand!" 240 

And to this Joy I count as well 
All other joys whereof they tell 

Body or soul's content, 
From this, Christ's Resurrection Day, 
Till His Ascension came alway 

When forty days were spent. 

The Fourth Joy, as I now will tell, 
Upon the Holy Thursday fell 

Upon a mountain high, 
Jesus she saw, Who was her Son, 250 
And flesh and blood from her had won, 

Ta'en up into the sky. 

All joy, I trow, was hers that tide 
WTien she our kinsman thus espied, 

Jesus, her own dear Son, 
'/hus rise into high Heaven's bliss, 
A worthy home to make, I wis, 

Where she might dwell anon. 

Yet were it not enough, I ween, 

That this, her place, prepared had been 

Thus high in Heavenly bliss, 261 
But also ours, there is none other, 
For that He is so kind a Brother 

As we believe, I wis! 

Nor doth He will a long delay, 
But we to Him shall go our way 

Whenas we hence shall win, 
Save that to Him we be unkind, 
And bear not this, His Love, in mind, 

But grieve Him by our sin. 270 



Yet is He mild, and spareth some 
As He went hence, so shall He come 

On Doomsday, with great light, 
To try of every man his deed. 
And then, according to his meed, 

Judgment to give aright. 

There is no better counsel here 

Than thus to be Christ's comrades dear 

In Heavenly Bliss, for aye, 279 

From stain of sin we needs must flee, 
And pray God, and Our sweet Ladie, 

To be our help, alway. 

Her power shall ne'er the lesser be, 
Above all others blest is she, 

Be they, or wife, or maid, 
As this, the Gospel telleth us,' 
"Benedicta tu in mulieribus y " 

Elizabeth, she said. 

And all her joys at Pentecost, 

And other joys, both least and most, 29* 

That did on earth befall, 
Since Christ's Ascension, with that same, 
Until her own Assumption came, 

I here include them all. 

The Fifth Joy of Our Lady dear 
No tongue of man may speak it here, 

Thereof no more descry, 
Save that the glorious Bride, at last, 
From out this world in glory passed 

With sweetest melody. 300 

Unknown to man the mode, for sure, 
The office of her sepulture 

Was all in heavenly wise, 
And duller man to heavenly speech 
Than beast, that man were fain to teach 

Reason, in human wise. 

Therefore thereof is nothing writ, 
For man thereof knows naught, to wit, 

So lofty is the theme; 
But Holy Church right well doth know 
To feel of death no mortal throe 3" 

Doth such a life beseem. 



THE FIVE JOYS OF THE VIRGIN MARY 



We find it writ that angels bright 
Do at a good man's death alight 

Who here on earth doth lie, 
From Holy Writ we apprehend 
That God Himself, He would descend 

Whenas she came to die. 

Thereby, I trow, we well may wit, 
Tho' there be naught in Holy Writ, 320 

That Christ Himself was there, 
And Heaven's host with Him that day, 
Our Lady sweet to lead away 

Lest fiends to touch her dare. 

Thus, brethren dear, did she ascend, 
With soul and body heavenward wend, 

For Christ is true, and kind, 
That flesh wherefrom He Flesh did take 
Should it its grave 'mid others make 

Nor greater honour find? 330 

So I dare say, and with good right, 
That all the Court of Heaven did 'light 

When she from hence would fare, 
And Christ Himself, He came that day, 
Body and soul He bare away 

His dwelling-place to share. 



There doth she reign as Queen, sans 

end, 
I pray her grace to us she send 

Who these her joys now tell; 
I trust from sin she '11 keep us still, 340 
For He is fain to do her will 

Who is of joy the well. 

For of her womb the Fruit is He 
Whereby the angels nourished be, 

Who is our holy Food; 
Elizabeth hath spoken this 
"Et benedictus fructus ventris 

Tuiy Jesus" the good! 

Now this my song to end is brought, 
As thou, my Sister, hast besought, 350 

And as I best might speed; 
To Heaven's Queen now pray and 

sing, 

That us from pain and loss she bring, 
E'en in our utmost need. 

Amen. 

(Oretis pro anima Willelmi de Schorekam t 
quondam vicarii de Chart, iuxta Ledes.) 



NOTES 



NOTES 



HISTORICAL 

LATAMON. The translations are based 
upon Sir Frederic Madden's edition (2 vols., 
1847). A special interest attaches to Laya- 
mon's work, both from the point of view of 
language and of subject-matter. It marks 
the transition point from Anglo - Saxon to 
English, and is therefore one of the very earli 
est monuments of English literature, in the 
strict sense of the term. Ostensibly a trans 
lation of the French Brut, by Wace, it is fully 
twice as long as that work, and contains much 
material absent from it. This is particularly 
remarkable in the Arthurian section; the ac 
count of the founding of the Round Table, and 
of Arthur's Dream, given in the text, are pe 
culiar to Layamon; Wace simply says that 
Arthur founded the Round Table "Dont 
Bretons dient moult fables," but gives us no 
idea of the character of these "fables." He 
makes no allusion to Arthur's dream, yet this 
latter must have been a well-established tra 
dition, for it appears in the romances in a 
form different from that here given. In a pre 
vious volume, Romance, Vision, and Satire, 
I have translated the version found in the Old 
English Morte Arthure, where Arthur's fate is 
foreshadowed under the symbolism of For 
tune's Wheel, in which form it was taken over 
by the prose romances. Layamon's version 
of the fall of the rooftree, if less elaborate, is 
even more vivid and picturesque, and pos 
sesses the additional feature, absent from the 
romances, that Gawain is associated with his 
uncle's downfall, which of course corresponds 
with the facts, both in pseudo-history and 
romance. There can be little doubt that there 
was a popular tradition asserting that Arthur's 
fate was foretold to him through a dream, but 
whether Layamon represents the original 
form of that tradition we cannot say. Nor is it 
easy to decide whence he drew his additional 
material; there are three theories as to his im 
mediate source, all of which are possible: (a) 
He may have used a later, and much enlarged 
" Wace " text, differing from that of the manu 
scripts preserved to us. (6) He may have used 
an intermediate chronicle, based upon Wace, 
but incorporating insular traditions unknown 



to the French writer. Such, for example, 
might have been the Brutus of Martin of 
Rochester, referred to in a manuscript of 
Robert de Borron's Merlin. That such a 
chronicle did really exist seems to be proved 
by the latter part of the Modena Perceval, 
where we find lines and passages derived from 
Wace in juxtaposition with details found only 
in Layamon. (c) That Layamon, living on 
the borders of Wales, was familiar with, and 
utilized, popular tradition, orally transmitted, 
especially tradition connected with Arthur; 
(6) and (c) are not exclusive of each other, 
and may both have been operating causes. I 
should be more inclined to accept the con 
junction of these two than to postulate the 
existence of a "Wace" version which has now 
completely disappeared. There is a large field 
for research work here, and, in any case, the 
literary merit of Layamon's chronicle is so 
great, he is so genuine a poet and patriot, that 
his work must always possess an interest and 
fascination for the st