[BACK]          [Blueprint]         [NEXT]


From Fabliaux or Tales, abridged from French Manuscripts of the XIIth and XIIIth Centuries by M. Le Grand, selected and translated into English Verse, by the late G. L. Way, Esq., with A Preface, Notes and Appendix, by the late G. Ellis, Esq., A New Edition, corrected in Three Volumes, Volume I, Printed for J. Rodwell, London; 1815; pp. 105-124, 191-201.



The Mantle Made Amiss.






SWEET cousin mine, since well I ween your eye,
Scans with delight the deeds of Arthur’s day,
And since, before all other things, I try
To win you solace howsoe’er I may;
Lo here, recorded of his table-round
A goodly tale, with pain compil’d, I send:
This in an ancient volume I found,
And scant could read, so rudely was it penn’d:
108 Please you, accept it kind; for name I wis
It may be well yclep’d ‘The Mantle made amiss.’

It was the time of Pentecost the feast,
When royal Arthur will’d high court to hold,
Statelier than e’er beforetime: thither press’d,
At his command, kings, dukes, and barons bold:
And for great jousts and tourneys were design’d,
Each he ordain’d his chosen fair to bring,
Damsel or spouse, the mistress of his mind:
So all was done, all stood before the king,
Damsel and dame, with many a matchless knight:
That never England’s realm beheld so proud a sight.

Each one to sport, to merrimake, was bent,
To merrimake beyond all former joy;
But Mourgue the fay bethought her to prevent,
To work fair Guenever the Queen’s annoy;
109 Long had she envied those superior charms
Which wan the heart of Launcelot du Lake;
Jealous she was, for he had shunn’d her arms;
So all were punish’d for their sovereign’s sake:
And yet, perchance, had Guenever the Queen
Besought her presence there, this harm might not have been.

Now were the tables all prepar’d to dine,
Whiles at a window that o’erlook’d the street
Join’d with Sir Gawaine Arthur did recline,
In social converse mingling, as was meet:
Soon they beheld a youth advance, whose steed
An ample case of costliest velvet bore;
Now he dismounts, now climbs the steps with speed;
Now bends with humbled knee the King before:
‘Sovereign, a boon!’ he cries, ‘with heart sincere
‘A boon my mistress craves, as she that loves you dear.
110 ‘No ill, no damage, or reproach, shall spring;
‘Thus doth my princely dame command me say;
‘Pass but your word ere I reveal the thing,
‘You never will have cause to rue the day.’
Won with his words, the monarch rais’d his head,
And, ‘Friend, we grant thy boon unknown,’ he cried:
Low louts the youth; ‘his princely dame,’ he said,
‘Told, by his mouth, her wish was satisfied.’
Then to the ground he bent, and ’gan unlace
The bands, embroider’d brave, that fast secur’d his case.

Well may ye guess King Arthur long’d amain
To see this costly crimson case unbound;
Curious he was, and so were all his train,
Though doughty warriours of the table-round.
Forth from its womb the youth a mantle drew,
Such ne’er was seen in England’s realm before,
111 So lovely did it seem, so rich so new;
Let the kind reader marvel ne’er the more;
For all of fairy filaments ’twas wrought.
By fairy fingers spun, with power of fairy fraught.

Damsel and dame behov’d them well beware,
Such were its virtues, and so strange its power,
If loose inconstancy had wanton’d e’er
In those soft breast which should be true love’s bower;
For to all such, whene’er they might assay
To deck them therewithal, ’twould shrink, ’twould swell,
Now long, now short ’twould be: — Ah wicked fay!
Thou know’st they fellow-females’ mood too well!
Had they but guess’d what silk ’twas wove withal,
The world might not have won their stay near Arthur’s ahll.

Now nigh the King the gentle youth advanc’d,
And to his hands the wondrous charge consign’d;
112 Told how its secret properties enhanc’d
Its outward excellence, and then rejoin’d;
‘Sire, let each fair who now adorns your court,
‘In turn assay the adventure to achieve;
‘Who best shall speed, nor find it long nor short,
‘Let her, so wills my dame, alone receive,
‘Fit guerdon of her worth, the mantle brave: —
‘This is the nameless boon, the boon you freely gave.’

Sore chaf’d King Arthur now, and seem’d to see
Much lurking mischief in his promise made;
Inly he fum’d, in moody reverie,
Till thus at length the sage Sir Gawaine said:
‘Sire, since your word is past, ’twere meet you send,
‘And bid your royal consort to the hall;
Let her with all her comely train attend,
‘Damsel and dame, to try this wondrous pall.’
113 ‘Go then,’ the King replied, ‘our consort bring;
‘Sacred should be the word, the promise, of a king.’

So to the Queen the sage Sir Gawain hies,
As one who conn’d his lesson passing well,
And fair salutes, and paints how fair a prize
The King decrees the worthies bonnibell;
But of those passing virtues nought to tell
Which lay conceal’d within the mystick pall
He well aviz’d, for sure that searching spell
Had scar’d these gentle dames from Arthur’s hall:
Now to the royal presence all are sped,
A blithe and buxom band, their sovereign at their head:

And Arthur now, who deem’d it shame full sore
To be so cozen’d by that crafty boy,
The gorgeous pall unfolding on the floor,
Thus briefly spake, with looks of little joy:
114 ‘High dames and fair! to her of all the train
‘Whose shape this curious mantle best may fit,
‘To her ’tis doom’d of right to appertain,
‘And may some mighty blessing wend with it!’
So spake the King; the mantle all admir’d;
And first, as first in place, the Queen the proof requir’d.

In luckless hour she first requir’d the proof,
And o’er her shoulders first the mantle flung;
For all too short before it shrunk aloof,
Albe a length of train behind there hung;
Thereat Sir Ewaine, good King Urien’s son,
Who spied this sovereign lady chang’d in hue,
And she who ween’d some secret shame was won,
Such loudly-buzzing laughter thence there grew;
Thus turn’d the shrewd surmisings of the rest;
For ill he bore the Queen should be her subjects’ jest:
115 ‘Leave, lady dear, that mantle, all too short
‘For stately mien and stature straight like thine,
‘And let this damsel here, the next in court,
‘Around her dainty limbs the prize entwine.’
Hector-the-son’s fair friend the lass was hight;
E’en as he spoke the pall she deftly raught,
And round her cast; full jocund was her spright;
But the shrewd cloak soon sham’d her all to nought:
For, howesoe’er she turn, or stretch, or hale,
Full half a foot or more its shrivell’d length would fail.

Of all the knights who grac’d King Arthur’s board
For flouting jests Sir Kay was most renown’d;
Nor might he now refrain his wanton word,
But to the Queen would every whit expound.
So, gently bending to his sovereign’s ear,
‘Great Queen,’ he whisper’d, ‘mirrour of all grace,
116 ‘Thy loyalty excels this damsel’s here.’ —
‘Sir Kay!’ the Queen replied, ‘unfold the case:
‘This strange device I will thou straight declare,
‘And why this wayward cloak hath left our skirts so bare.’

Therewith Sir Kay recounts the varlet’s tale;
From end to end the venom’d sleight he told:
Nought did the Queen of sage advisement fail
To bear with gree where little boots to scold;
And, well she ween’d, as one agriev’d to rail,
Would but the more their piteous plight unfold,
So loud exclaims, ‘What silly wight would quail
‘At Morgue the fay’s devices, known of old?
‘Come, damsels all, partake the fairy’s jest,
‘And see who first in place may bide this gamesome text.’

And, as she spake, the Seneschal Sir Kay,
Who joy’d to see these dames so ill bested,
117 Cries, ‘On, fair lasses! gladly greet the day
‘That showers such honour on each loyal head:
‘Now be it known how tender and how true
‘These looks of love, and breasts of ivory pure;
‘Now may those knights, so sad for lack of you,
‘With fresh delight their patient pains endure.’
So spake Sir Kay; the damsels one and all
Now wish’d them far away escap’d from Arthur’s hall.

Their sorry cheer, their looks deject and wan,
Did move the monarch’s noble heart to ruth;
Thence to that stripling page he thus began; —
‘This cloak meseems most vilely made, in sooth:
‘For aught I read, there wons not here in court
‘One dame or damsel, be she low or tall,
‘But finds this luckless garment long or short:
‘Hence — bear it back! — it suits not here at all.’
118 ‘Ah sire! your word is pass’d;’ the youth replied;
‘The promise of a king must evermore abide.’

What needs it further stretch my tale’s extent,
To tell how fail’d each dame, and fum’d each knight?
How Kay’s o’erweening mirth was fitly shent
When his frail spouse betook herself to flight:
Or how Sir Ydier’s paramour so bright,
(Sir Ydier, doubtless she of all was chaste,)
With that quaint garb in front full fairly dight,
Behind was scarcely clad beneath the waist:
Or how ’twas whisper’d in Sir Ydier’s ear,
‘Right well the dame is vail’d whose hinder parts appear.’

In fine, upon a bench, all wo-begone,
These luckless ladies side by side were plac’d;
In all that crowded court there was not one
But more or less she found herself disgrac’d.
119 Whereat the stripling varlet loudly cried,
As well aviz’d none there the pall might claim,
‘I pray thee, sire! be every chamber tried,
‘Lest some perchance there lurk of purer fame;
‘For so alone ’tis given me to fulfil
‘As fits in every point my sovereign lady’s will.’

With that the King comission’d Girflet straight”
In every nook and crevice Girflet pried;
Yet, though his peering search he nought would bate,
One only damsel hath his zeal espied;
And she, for ailment fain in bed to bide,
Excuse did plead, for that her strength was spent;
But he, forsooth, might not be so denied;
There would he be till she saw her clothes had hent:
No help the damsel saw, she needs must go;
So to the hall she pass’d with feeble steps and slow.
120 Her mate was there, the foremost wight in hall:
His name to learn perchance might please you well”
‘Twas Karados Brise-Bras, approv’d of all
A good and hardy knight, the sooth to tell.
Soon as he spied his mistress enter in,
As doom’d that dire adventure to assay,
Through all his frame he felt a war begin,
His face with crimson stain’d, his heart like clay;
And, for her absence glad of spright whilere,
So now his troubled sense was overwhelm’d with fear.

‘Dear lady mine!’ (he thus was heard to say,)
‘If aught misgives thee, shun that baleful robe!
‘To see thy shame, to feel my love decay,
‘I would not bide for all this earthly globe:
‘Far better were it aye in doubt remain,
Than read the truth by such disastrous test;
121 ‘Than see thee now thy sex’s honour stain,
‘And marshall’d there on bench, the vulgar jest.’
‘Nay, why so sore torment thee?’ Girflet cried,
‘Lo, there two hundred sit, so lately deified.’

The loyal damsel, ne’er a whit dismay’d,
Around her neck the mantle boldly threw;
The same so meetly all her limbs array’d,
No seamstress e’er might make it half so true:
Whereat the stripling page did loudly cry,
‘Now, lady fair! thy lover joy betide!
‘Thine be the pall, who winn’st the victory!
Thine be the pall! thy virtue well is tried!’
E’en as he spoke the King declar’d assent:
The rest with feigned scorn would vail their discontent.

But for Sir Karados, the damsel’s friend,
Him glad of heart I read as man might be;
122 Forth with the mantle straight that pair did wend,
And choicely priz’d , and hoarded charily.
Since then, whenas both these were dead and gone,
It close was stow’d where none the place might see,
Nor lives there wight on earth but I alone,
Of power, sweet cousin mine, to shew it thee.
Avize thee then; for , should ye crave the text,
Thou or thy friends of fair may presently be dress’d.

But should it chance the wiser counsel seem
In its dark den to let it slumber still,
There shall it bide; which way soe’er thou deem,
Thy wish alone can rule my yielding will;
For bent am I, and shall for aye remain,
So long as life within this frame may stay,
To count thy friendship as my greatest gain,
To strive how best I may thy will obey.
123 But should the pall some whit too scanty prove,
In sooth, sweet cousin mine, I might not leave to love.

And thus, meseems, the tale is fully done,
Save that I fail’d that damsel’s name to tell
Whose worth of yore the perlous mantle won;
Known be it then that peerless bonnibell
Was clep’d of all ——— so stay thee, story mine!
Come, bear around a brimmed bowl of wine!

[124] [blank]




M. LE Grand informs us, that in the ancient French manuscripts this tale is called Court Mantel; (The short mantle;) but that the copy he had chosen for abridgment was a prose one of the sixteenth century, printed by Didier, under the title of Le Manteau mal taillé. Some magical test of female fidelity seems to have been fashionable among the romance writers. In this tale we have a mantle: in the romance of Tristan, and in that of Perceval, it is a drinking-horn or cup; a fiction which has been borrowed both by Ariosto and Fontaine; as the mantle probably suggested to Spenser his Florimel’s girdle. ‘The Boy and Mantle’ in Percy’s Reliques of English Poetry has rendered the story familiar to every reader.

Page 107, Line 2. ‘Scans with delight the deeds of
‘Arthur’s day

Arthur, as Geoffrey of Monmouth informs us, was the 192 son of Uther Pendragon, King of Britain, by Igerna (or Iögerne) wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. The intercourse of Uther with this lady was effected by the assistance of the enchanter Merlin, who transformed the monarch into the likeness of Gorlois her husband. Gorlois (during this transaction) being slain in battle, Uther marries Igerna; and in due time Arthur is born. The classical reader needs hardly be reminded of Milton’s Epitaphium Damonis, line 166 —

‘Tum gravidam Arturo, fatali fraude, Iögernen,
Mendaces vultus, assumptaque Gorlois arma,
Merlini dolus.’ ——

(In the second series of notes to this tale, article Ewaine, is a quotation from Gruffydd Llwydd, alluding to Uther.)

Arthur, one of the neuf preus or nine worthies, is represented in romance as King of Great Britain, conqueror of Ireland, Gothland, Dacia or Denmark, Norway, and Gaul. He carried to the highest pitch of glory the order of knights of the round-table, instituted by his father, and so called from a mysterious table, the gift of the enchanter Merlin. Arthur possessed a magical sword named Escalibor or Caliburn; a word, according to the English Mort d’Arthur, (edit. 1634, Part I. chap. 28) signifying cut-steel: (possibly 193 its etymon may be the Latin chalybs: it has not been met with, by the translator, as a Welch word). His standard was a steel dragon which vomited flames. Notwithstanding these and other advantages, he was at length (A. D. 542) sorely wounded in a battle against his rebellious nephew Modred; and, being borne away in a barge by ladies to the vale of Avalon, either died, or was removed for a season from this world.

The reader who seeks for a spirited epitome of Arthur’s exploits, principally as recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth, will find it in the 4th song of Drayton’s Poly-Olbion. He will there be told, by a choir of Welch nymphs, of —

‘The richness of the armes their well-made worthie wore,
‘The temper of his sword, the try’d Escalaboure,
‘The bignes and the length of Rone his noble speare,
‘With Pridwin his great shield, and what the prrofe could beare;
His baudrick how adorn’d with stones of wondrous price,
‘The sacred virgin’s shape he bore for his device:’

And anon —


‘. . . . How he himself at Badon bore that day
‘When at the glorious gole his British scepter lay:
‘Two daies together how the battell stronglie stood:
‘Pendragon’s worthie sonne who waded there in blood,
‘Three hundred Saxons slew with his owne valiant hand.’
‘And, after these, in France th’ adventures him befell,
‘At Paris, in the lists, where he with Flollio fought:
‘For best advantage how they traversed their grounds,
‘The horrid blowes they lent, the world-amazing wounds.’

Afterwards —

‘. . . . How great Rython’s selfe hee slew in his repaire,
‘(Who ravisht Howell’s neece, young Hellena the faire,
‘And for a trophy brought the giant’s coat away,
‘Made of the beards of kings.’ . . . . . .
‘Then, by false Mordred’s hand, how last hee chanc’t to fall.
‘The howre of his decease, his place of buriall.’

An, in Selden’s illustrations of song 3d, will be found 195 the following account of the discovery of ‘Great Arthur’s tombe’ — ‘Henry II. (A. D. 1154 to 1189) in his expedition towards Ireland, entertayned by the way in Wales with Bardish songs, wherein he heard it affirmed, that in Glastenbury (made almost an ile by the river’s embracements,) Arthur was buried twixt two pillars, gave commandement to Henry of Blois, then abbot, to make search for the corps: which was found in a wooden coffin some 16 foote deepe: but, after they had digged 9 foot, they found a stone, on whose lower side was fixt a leaden crosse with his name inscribed, and the letter side of it turn’d to the stone. He was then honored with a sumptuous monument; and, afterward, the sculs of him and his wife Guinever were taken out (to remain as separat reliques and spectacles,) by Edward Longshanks and Elianor. the Bards’ songs suppose that, after the battell of Camlan in Cornwall, where trayterous Mordred was slaine, and Arthur wounded, Morgain le fay conveyed the body hither to cure it: which done, Arthur is to return (yet expected) to the rule of his country. Read these, attributed to the best of Bards. (Taliessin. — ap. Pris. defens. Hist. Brit.) expressing as much:


‘. . . . . Morgain suscepit honore
‘Inque suis thalamis posuit super aurea regem
‘Fulcra, manuque sibi detexit vulnus honestâ
‘Inspexitque diu: tandemque redire salutem
‘Posse sibi dixit, si secum tempore longo
‘Esset, et ipsius vellet medicamine fungi.’

‘Englisht in meeter thus by the author: (M. Drayton:) —

‘. . . . . Morgain with honor took,
‘And in a chaire of state doth cause him to repose;
‘Then with a modest hand his wounds she doth unclose,
‘And, having searcht them well, she bad him not to doubt,
‘He should in time be cur’d, if he would stay it out,
‘And would the med’cine take that she to him would give.’

See also Lydgate’s Fall of Princes, Book VIII. chap. 24. Refer to note on ‘Lay of Sir Lanval,’ Vol. II. Page 72, Line 10.

Roger Hoveden, and Walter of Coventry, report that Richard I. presented Tancred King of Sicily with Arthur’s sword Caliburn, said to have been found in his coffin.


Page 108, Line 4. ‘When royal Arthur will’d high
‘court to hold

In the early feudal times, the kings and sovereign princes kept no regular court, but, like their barons, lived privately in their castles or cities, with their families and the great officers of their household, and subsisted on the revenues of their domains. It was only on the three or four great annual festivals of the church that they ordinarily convoked their barons, and displayed their magnificence. These assemblies were called Cours Plenieres, and in the present translations are indiscriminately rendered plenar, plenary, high, full, or open, courts. They were announced in the different cities by heralds and publick messengers, and were resorted to not only by the nobility of the country, but by strangers. At these seasons of general festivity were united all the pleasures and pastimes of those ages: banqueting, dancing, minstrels, buffoons and jugglers, (jongleurs,) dancing-bears, &c. At the same time presents of clothes and money, under the name of largess, were distributed to the populace with inconceivable profusion.

The plenary courts seem to have been an imitation of the famous diets established by Charlemagne, and were continued in France by Hugh Capet and his 198 successors till the reign of Charles VII. who very wisely abolished them.

Page 108, Line 15. ‘But Mourgue the fay be-
‘thought her to prevent

Mourgue, Morgane, or Morgain, was sister to King Arthur; and was instructed in the art of magick by Merlin. Being one day in bed with her lover Sir Guiomars, she was surprised by Guenever, Arthur’s queen, who had the indiscretion to make the story publick. Mourgue retired from court, to concert her projects of vengeance, and this fatal mantle was one of the many artifices she devised for that purpose. Mr. Warton supposes her name to be derived from Mergian Peri, one of the most eminent Asiatick fairies.

Of beings distinguished by the name of fairies, two species may be observed in romance. The one resembles the nymphs, naiads, and dryads, of classical mythology: supernatural beings, having a proper and inherent power: of these the tales of Lanval and Gruélan furnish examples. The other sort are merely witches; such are Mourgue, Viviana, and the fairy of Burgundy; all scholars of Merlin. These conducted their operations by the intervention of demons. In the Journal of Paris in the reigns of Charles VI. and 199 Charles VII. it is asserted that the maid of Orleans, in answer to an interrogatory of the doctors, whether she had ‘ever assisted at the assemblies held at the fountain of the fairies near Domprein, round which the evil spirits dance?’ confessed, that she had, at the age of twenty-seven, often repaired to ‘a beautiful fountain in the country of Lorraine, which she named the good fountain of the fairies of our Lord.

Merlin, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth and the romances, was the issue of a demon and a virgin. He was born in Britain, and was very serviceable to Arthur by his proficiency in magick, which, however, was at last the cause of his own destruction. Having communicated to his mistress, the young and beautiful Viviana, two spells; the one to lay her parents asleep, and the other to confine them whenever she might think proper; she employed the first to protect her chastity from his attempts, and made a more cruel use of the second, confining him in a forest, (other MSS. say in a tomb,) in which he died. His spirit, however, still hovered about the place, and his voice was often heard by passengers. This catastrophe is alluded to by Spenser. (Faerie Queene, Book III. canto 3.) The story of the tomb is adopted by Ariosto, who places it in the neighbourhood of Poitiers.


Among the most extraordinary feats of Merlin, may be mentioned his transporting from the mountain of Kildare in Ireland to the plain of Ambresbury in Wiltshire, in memory of the Britons treacherously slain by Hengist, those huge blocks of stone called Stone-henge. These blocks (entitled the Giants’ dance,) had been previously carried to Kildare by the giants from the farthest coasts of Africa, and every stone possessed some healing virtue. See Geoffrey of Monmouth, Thompson’s translation, edit. 1718, page 246.

Page 108, Line 16. ‘To work fair Guenever the
‘queen’s annoy.

Guenever (in the British bard, Gwenhwyfar; in Geoffrey’s Latin, Guanhumara;) was the wife of Arthur, and the mistress of Sir Launcelot du Lake, one of the most distinguished knights of the round-table. If Arthur regarded female fidelity as a principal ingredient of conjugal happiness, he certainly was unwise in marrying Guenever, since, as appears by Mort d’Arthur, (Part I. chap 45. edit. 1634.) ‘Merlin warned the king privily that Guenever was not wholesome for him to take to wife, for he warned him that Launcelot should love her, and she him againe.’


Page 109, Line 9. ‘Join’d with Sir Gawaine Arthur
‘did recline.

Sir Gawaine (in the British Bards, Gwalchmai’; and in the Latin of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Walganus;) was nephew to King Arthur, by his sister Morgause, married to Lot, who (according to Geoffrey) was by Arthur made king of Norway. Sir Gawaine was one of the most famous knights of the round-table, and is characterized among the French romancers as the sage and courteous Gawaine. To this Chaucer alludes in his ‘Squieres Tale,’ where the strange knight ‘salueth’ all the court

‘With so high reverence and observance,
‘As well in speeche as in his contenance,
That Gawain with his olde curtesie,
‘Though he were come agen out of faerie,
‘Ne coude him not amenden with a word.’

In the English Mort d’Arthur, (edit. 1634, Part I. chap. 6, and 36,) Sir Gawaine’s father Lot is styled ‘King of Lowthean and of Orkeney:’ his mother is called Morgause, and is represented as having four sons: namely, Gawaine, Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth.


Page 112, Line 15. ‘Let her with all her comely
‘train attend
, &c.’

The etiquette of Arthur’s court did not, it seems, admit of the mixed society of men and women during meal-times in one common apartment. ‘At last’ (says Geoffrey of Monmouth, edit. 1718, page 303.) ‘When divine service was over at both churches, the king and queen put off their crowns, and putting on their lighter ornaments, go to the banquet; he to one palace with the men, and she to another with the women. For the Britons still observing the ancient custom of Troy, the men and women used to celebrate their festivals apart.’

Page 114, Line 11. ‘Thereat Sir Ewaine, good
‘King Urien’s son

Sir Ewain or Ywain (in Geoffrey, Eventus; in French, Yvain;) was son of King Urien or Urience, by his wife Mourgue or Morgain the fairy, who was Arthur’s sister. (See Mort d’Arthur, 1634, Part I. chap. 36.) Mr. Tyrwhitt (in his notes on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, edit. 1775, page 320,) quotes an English metrical romance of Ywain and Gawain. MS. Cott. Galb. E. IX. See a subsequent note to this tale for a further account of Sir Ewaine.


Page 115, Line 12. ‘For flouting jests Sir Kay
‘was most renown’d

Sir Kay (in the French, Messire Queux; and in Geoffrey of Monmouth, Caius;) was foster-brother of Arthur; and also seneschal, or superintendant of his feasts. Sir Kay is represented by the romance writers as caustick and fond of scandal, always boasting of his prowess, often fighting, and often beaten. He is seldom mentioned but as an object of ridicule. For some further notice of him, see a subsequent note to this tale.

Page 120, Line 3. ‘’Twas Karados Brise-bras, ap-
‘prov’d of all
, &c.’

‘To be ignorant, is painful;’ says Dr. Johnson; ‘but it is dangerous to quiet our uneasiness by the delusive opiate of hasty persuasion.’ The writers of romance, however, were as regardless of danger, when in pursuit of glory, as are the heroes they celebrate. They spurred furiously forward, in contempt of costume, chronology, and geography: nor do they appear to have been much more embarrassed by etymological impediments. If they met with a proper name among the bards of Britain or Armorica which seemed to accord in sound and meaning with any words in their own language, they presently (like the ancient 204 Greeks in Bryant’s Mythology,) equipped it with a derivation from that quarter. This has probably been the case with Sir Kay: (in British, Cai:) his office in the court of Arthur being, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, that of seneschal, or sewer, (superintendant of feasts,) occasioned his name to be detorted into Queux,, a word anciently signifying cusinier, (cook,) in the French language. (See Montfaucon’s Monarchie Françoise, Vol. II. page 19. Also Dictionnaire du vieux Langage, par Lacombe — ‘Isembert étoit grant queulx de France sous Louis IX. in 1250, nom affecté alors à l’officier du palais qui avoit inspection sur les cuisines du roi, et sur tout ce qui regardoit la service de sa table.’) The experiment seems pretty clearly, however, to have been tried upon Sir Karados Brise-bras, and is happily attended with a tolerable coincidence of signification. In ‘Trioedd ynys Prydain,’ or the Triades of the Island of Britain, one of the most valuable fragments now extant of the ancient British tongue, and composes, as appears, between the third and seventh centuries, (Jones’s Relicks, p. 9. edit. 1794.) we find Caradoc Freich-fras, or strong-armed Caradoc; from braich, an arm, and brâs, thick, or strong. (In the Armoric dialect brêch is an arm, and brâs is great.) The appellation 205 of Brise-bras or break-arm, employed by the French fabler, may hence fairly date its origin. For a further account of Sir Karados, the reader is referred to a subsequent note to this tale.

Page 123, Line 7. . . . . . . ‘So stay thee, story

Come, bear around a brimmed bowl of wine!’—

This concluding passage is added from the metrical original —

‘Li Romas faut: veez-ci la fin,
‘Or vous dovez boire du vin.’

(See Le Grand, Vol. III. page 106, notes to ‘Pauvere Mercier.’) The prose fabliau, with some homour, breaks off abruptly on the point of publishing the successful candidate.


It has been already intimated in the preface, that the French Trouveurs borrowed many of their subjects from the Bards of Britain and Armorica. (Ar-y-môr-ucha, the country on the upper sea; by the natives of Wales more frequently called Llydaw: ‘which woorde (Llydaw) seemeth to me (says H. Llwyd) to be derived from the Latine woorde Littus, signifying 206 the shoare.’) At the present tale affords a convenient opportunity, the reader may not be displeased at seeing a few notices which have occurred to the translator, thrown together in support of this opinion.

Arthur — (to begin then with one of the most celebrated heroes of the French romancers,) are both mentioned in the following passage of the Afallennau or orchard, a poem composed by Myrddyn Wyllt, or Merlin the Wile, who flourished in the sixth century, was a pupil of the celebrated Taliessin, and fought under the banner of Arthur at the fatal battle of Camlan, A. D. 542. —

‘A mi ddysgoganaf dyddaw etwa
‘Meddrawd ac Arthur modur tyrfa
‘Camlan darmerthan difieu yna
‘Namyn saith ni ddyraith o’r cymmanfa.
‘Edryched Wenhwyfar wedi ei thraha
‘Ban atfedd Cadwaladr . . . .
‘Eglwysig bendefig a’I tywysa.
‘Gwaeth i mi a dderfydd heb ysgorfa!
’Lleas mab Gwenddydd, fy llaw a’i gwna!’

That is — ‘Yet shall my song of prophecy announce the coming again of Meddrawd, (Modred,) and of Arthur, monarch of the host; again shall they rush to the battle of Camlan: two days will the conflict 207 last, and only seven escape from the contest. Then let Wenhwyfar (or Gwenhwyfar, that is, Guenever,) remember the crimes she has been guilty of, when Cadwalader reposses . . . . . . . when an ecclesiastical hero leads the warriour to battle. — Alas! — for more lamentable is my destiny! and hope affords no refuge! The son of Gwenddydd is dead! slain by my accursed hand!’ — (See Jones’s Musical Relicks, folio, London, 1784 and 1794.)

The Welch writers (with whom, as with the Druids, the number three seems to have been held in peculiar estimation,) assign to Arthur three consorts of the name of Gwenhwyfar. (In the preceding quotation from Myrddyn Wyllt the G is dropt euphoniæ gratiâ to avoid the harshness of colliding consonants; a practice justified by Welch prosody.) The lady in question was daughter to Gogrfan Gawr: that is, according to modern Welch, the giant Gogyrfan. With more propriety, probably, it would be rendered Prince Gogyrfan; for Cawr, in ancient British, signifies not only a man of great size, but also a king or chieftain. Of this perhaps Geoffrey of Monmouth might not be aware, since he is so liberal of his giants. (See Evans’s Specimens of Bardick Poetry, page 34, note: edit. 1764.) Geoffrey speaks but of one Guanhumara, and 208 her he represents as descended from a noble family of Romans, educated under Duke Cador, and surpassing in beauty all the women of the island. (Book IX. chap. 9.) Arthur’s round-table is noticed by Melchin, a British writer temp. Vortipor. Melchin is quoted by Harding, who calls him Mevinus; by Bale, who calls him M. Avallonius; and by Leland, who styles him one of the lights of Britain’s antiquaries. The historian Nennius, who lived about 400 years before Geoffrey of Monmouth, particularizes 12 battles of Arthur in his 62d and 63d chapters. (See Gale’s XV. Scriptores, p. 114.) The last battle he fought upon Badon-hill is noticed by Taliessin, chief Bard temp. Maelgwyn-Gwynedd, about A. D. 570. —

‘Gwae yntwy yr ynfidion pan fy warth Fadon
‘Arthurh ben haelion y lafneu by gochion
‘Gwnaeth ar y alon gwaith gwyr gofynion
‘Gofynion gwaed dared mach deyrn y gogledd
‘Heb drais heb drossedd.’

That is — ‘O miserable those’ (Saxons) ‘at Badon-hill, whose blood was there shed by Arthur, chief of nobles; in revenge for nobles by them slain in the north, whose valour long supported the kings thereof, without violence, without transgression.’

Lewis, in his ancient history of Britain, p. 175, says 209 that King Uther, after the death of Gorlois, and birth of Arthur, married the widow Eigr, (the Igerna of Geoffrey of Monmouth,) by whom he had a daughter named Anne, whom he married to Lot, Earl of Liel; of which marriage Meddrawd and Gwalchmai were the issue. Geoffrey of Monmouth (Book VIII. chap. 20) also tells us that by Igerna Uther had a daughter named Anne. This Anne must therefore be the Morgause of Mort d’Arthur. (Edit. 1634.)

The mountain Gader in Brecknockshire is styled Cadair Arthur. (Arthur’s Chair.) A river called Gargwy, or Garwy, descends from it, which possibly may have taken its name from Garwy hîr, (Garwy the tall,) who is noticed by the Bards was one of the warriours of Arthur. Mr. Pennant thiks Garwy is the Sir Gareth of romance.

Sir Gawaine. — In the British bards a Gwalchmai (of which name there were two cotemporary worthies,) is recorded as ‘one of the three golden-tongued heroes of Britain:’ hence probably originated Sir Gawaine’s character of sage and courteous in teh pages of romance; though the golden-tongued Gwalchmai seems not ot have been the nephew of Arthur, being called Gwalchmai mab Gwyar,’ (‘Gwalchmai son of Gwyar’). The bard Cynddelw Brydydd mawr about the year 210 1160, alludes to the prowess of a Gwalchmai in the following lines —

‘Gwersyll torfoedd tew llew lladdai,
‘Gorsaf tarf, taerfalch fal Gwalchmai.’

That is —

‘Like a lion, he mowed down thick troops in battle;
‘Like Gwalchmai he was fierce in chasing his enemies.’

Evans’s Dissertatio de Bardis, edit. 1764, pate 84.

A Gwalchmai was enamoured of the beautiful Olwen, daughter of Ysbyddaden Ben Cawr, a prince of North Britain. Such were her charms, that we are told, ‘Pedair meillion a derddynt.’ — ‘Four trefoils sprang up wherever she placed her foot.’ (See notes to Dafydd ap Gwillym.) A Gwalchmai was nephew to King Arthur, and half-brother to the traitor Meddrawd or Modred: But see the foregoing notes. Geoffrey also makes him whole