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the southern counties, we must then with Mr. Guest give Huchowne the priority over Barbour, and he will stand first in the list of Scotish "makkaris." Of course by this I shall be understood to range myself on the side of those who consider Thomas of Erceldoune's claim to Sir Tristrem as apocryphal. To discuss this subject at length here would take me too much out of my way, therefore I shall only observe in passing, from a passage in the inedited portion of Robert de Brunne's Chronicle, that Kendal's christian name was also Thomas, and that he wrote a "tale" about Flayn, the brother of the giant Skardyng, the lord of Scarborough castle; a piece of information which I believe to be new to all the writers on the subject.
In regard to the peculiarity of Huchowne's stanza and style, it cannot fail to excite observation how well it corresponds with the character given by the chronicler. It has also been ingeniously remarked by Mr. Guest, that the form of the stave, with its abrupt bob-line preceding the wheel, distinguishes the romance of Syr Gawayn and the Pystyl of Sussan from other somewhat similar productions of the fifteenth century, and fairly intitles them to be considered of earlier date'. The question of the introduction of alliteration into Scotland is a difficult one, as well as the period of its being first used; but I should be glad to have pointed out to me any poem in that metre, previous to the year 1350, composed unquestionably by a native of North Britain. As far as we can at present judge, it must have been borrowed from their southern neighbours, and retained subsequently to the middle of the sixteenth century. Mr. Guest is inclined to place among the earliest specimens the portion of the romance of Alexander, inserted in the splendid copy of the French romance in the Bodleian Library2, which he places about the middle of the fourteenth century3. But the writing of this portion is of the reign of Henry the Sixth, nor is there any reason to believe the poem itself very much earlier than the year 1400. A larger portion of the same romance is in a MS. in the Ashmolean Library, and I possess a transcript of a fragment of an English alliterative romance on the same subject, which would appear from internal evidence to have been composed by the author of William and the Werwolf.
Of the sources whence the author has availed himself in composing Syr Gawayn and the Grene Knyzt, it now remains to say something. It is professedly not of his own invention, nor founded upon popular tradition, for he expressly refers at
The Rev. W. Conybeare assigns it to so early a period as the end of the thirteenth. Illustr. p. lxx. This and many other similar statements by eminent writers, prove that a critical history of English poetry is still a desideratum.
4 No. 44 paper, fifteenth century. It contains 27 passus, the 18, 19, 20 and 21 of which are in MS. Bodl. 264.
the commencement to written authority, "in stori stif and strong with lel letteres loken'," and again at the end,
Thus in Arthurus day this aunter bitidde,
The Brutus bokes ther of beres wyttenesse.
To my knowledge no English romance of an earlier period than the one before us exists, in which the writer might have found the story he has so ingeniously converted to his own purpose; but on turning to the early Anglo-Norman literature,— an extensive knowledge of which was undoubtedly at this period diffused over Scotland, I have been more successful. The immediate original of the Grene Knyzt appears to exist in the Roman de Perceval, one of the most celebrated of Arthur's knights, whose adventures were written in verse by Chrestien de Troyes, at the close of the twelfth century, and continued after his death by Gautier de Denet and Manessier, at the beginning of the thirteenth 2. This romance was translated into prose in the sixteenth century, and printed in 1530. In this it is related, that king Carados of Vaigue came to Arthur's court to ask for a wife, and receives from the suzerain a lady named Ysenne de Carahais. During the ceremonial of the nuptials an enchanter named Eliaures falls in love with the bride, and by magical delusion contrives to take the husband's place. The issue of this intercourse is a son, also named Carados, who is subsequently sent to the court of Arthur by his supposed father, to acquire a knowledge of chivalrous exercises. After a time the monarch resolves to hold a court plenière in the city of Carlisle (Cardeuil), for the purpose of conferring the order of knighthood on his young nephew, and communicates his intention to Gawayne, who highly approves of it. The feast is kept at Pentecost with extraordinary splendor, the ceremony of knighthood takes place, and Arthur, according to his usual practice, is only awaiting some adventure before he proceeds to the banquet, when at this moment a knight hastily rides up, singing an air "bien doulcement," whose appearance is thus described :-" et avoit dessus le bonnet ung cercle, ou pendoit ung chapeau de fleurs, et estoit vestu de satin verd, fourré de erminnes; et avoit une espée saincte, dont puis eust la teste couppée, et en estoient ses renges ou saincture de fine soie, batue en or, et force perles semées par
1 p. 4, 1. 34. See also p. 27, 1. 690.
*Copies of the metrical romance are rare in Great Britain. I have only been able to discover one, in the College of Arms, MS. Arund. 14; but this is imperfect, and does not proceed beyond f. xlvii. of the edition. There is said to exist a second perfect copy in the Advocates Library. In a copy of this romance among the MSS. of the Bibliothèque du Roi at Paris, Suppl. Français, No. 430 ; the Episode of Carados and Elaures occurs at fol. 89b.
dessus." The knight comes to the king, and begs to have a request granted,—to exchange blow for blow. "How is that?" said Arthur." Sire, I will tell you," replied the stranger, "I will deliver my sword to a knight, before your majesty and all the assembly, and if he is able to cut off my head with it at a blow, in case I should af terwards recover, I will then return him the stroke." Keux, the seneschal, declares he would not accept the proffer for all the world, and brands with the name of fool any one hardy enough to attempt it. The knight, however, persists, and drawing his sword presents it first on one side and then on the other, much to the displeasure of the king, who sees his bravest champions draw back. At last young Carados starts forward, and seizes the weapon. The knight then lays down his head on a block, and Carados, persisting in the enterprise against the wishes of the whole court, raises the sword, and at a blow sends the stranger's head rolling off the length of a lance. The headless trunk immediately rises and takes up the head, which unites as well as ever, and the knight now claims the fulfilment of the conditions, but defers it for one twelvemonth, and on leaving the court reminds Carados strictly to observe the agreement. The court is much troubled at so strange an adventure, and many tears are shed for Carados, who, however, does not seem to regard the peril, but passes the time in feats of arms. At length the prescribed term arrives, and he returns to Carlisle at Pentecost day, when Arthur and his Round Table are assembled as before. The stranger knight again makes his appearance, and demands the accomplishment of the covenant. Carados lays his head on the block, and tells the knight to do his worst. Arthur and his queen both make an effort to save Carados from what appears cer tain death, but in vain; and the stranger having sufficiently kept them all in suspense, raises his sword, and strikes the neck of Carados, but with the flat side only of the weapon. He then tells him to rise, and reveals to him that he is Eliaures, the enchanter, his real father, and how it was brought about. He afterwards mounts his horse and departs, leaving Arthur and his knights to celebrate their feast in gladness'. From a comparison of this narrative with the Scotish romance, we may be better able to judge fairly of the merit of the author of the latter, and how far he has drawn on his own inventive powers for the changes and embellishments of the story.
We meet with an incident of the same kind in the fabliau of La Mule sans Frein, probably of the thirteenth century. In this Gawayne is the hero, and on behalf of a damsel undertakes a perilous adventure. He arrives at the castle of a giant, sur
1 Edit. 1530, ff. 76-79b. Southey in his notes to the preface to the Morte d'Arthur, gives an analysis of this story, p. xxxv., and refers it to a Welsh or Breton original. It is most surprising he should have been ignorant of the existence of the metrical French text. See ibid., p. xxvi.
rounded by a paling, on which are fixed four hundred human heads. The giant receives him civilly, but when he is about to retire to rest, he is ordered to strike off the giant's head, who warns him at the same time, that on the following morning he will have to suffer a similar blow. Gawayne is nothing daunted, and smites the giant's head off, but is infinitely astonished to see the body rise, take it up, and replace it. He goes to bed, and, strange to say, sleeps tranquilly. The next morning the giant comes with his axe, and awaking Gawayne, reminds him of the disagreeable conditions made the previous evening. The knight holds forth his neck, but it proves to be only a trial of his courage, and the giant praises and embraces him1. This is evidently the same story as the preceding one, but diversified according to the fancy or memory of the minstrel. A third adventure of a similar description occurs in the second part of the Roman du Saint Graal, ascribed to Helie de Borron, and manifestly composed subsequent to the romance of Perceval. It is there related of Lancelot du Lac, that in one of his rambles he entered the Gaste Cité, from which issues a knight richly clad, holding a huge axe in his hands. Lancelot cuts his head off with the weapon, on the same conditions as Carados. At the appointed time he returns, and a strong and tall knight, brother of the one beheaded, approaches him, habited "de court, comme celluy qui veult faire office," and holding the fatal glayve, which he had just whetted to make it cut sharper. Lancelot prepares to fulfil the conditions, makes a cross on the earth, and kneels down on it. The sole thought that troubles him is of his mistress, queen Guenever. He regrets he had not seen her once more to bid her adieu, and fears death only because it will separate him from her. His tears flow for the first time in his life. He extends his neck, and the tall knight steps back, and aims a blow. Lancelot sees the shadow of the weapon, and eludes it. "Ha!" cried the knight, "my brother, whom you killed, did not act thus, but held his head firm, and so must you do." At this crisis Lancelot is saved by the interference of two ladies from the castle, and the two enemies become friends.
Some points of resemblance will here also be remarked with the Scotish Romance, and it is highly probable that the author may have mingled together several narratives for the purpose of rendering his own more attractive. The series of temptations to which Gawayne is exposed, undoubtedly connects it with another traditionary story of his exploits, which I shall have occasion to speak of when I come to the romance of the Carle of Carelyle.
To one of the preceding sources, in all probability, was Ariosto indebted for his
In Meon's Nouv. Rec. des Fabliaux, t. i. p. 1. 8vo, 1823; and Le Grand d'Aussy, Fabliaux ou Contes, vol. i. p. 79, ed. 1829.
Roman du St. Graal, ff. 149b, 181, 4to, 1516.
episode of the necromancer Orrilo, whose powers in replacing his limbs when cut off exceed those of Eliaures:
Se gli spiccano il capo, Orrilo scende,
E col capo salvo alla ripa esce1.
In the Appendix to the present volume will be found a modern rifacimento of this romance of Syr Gawayn and the Grene Knyzt, printed from the well-known Percy manuscript.
P. 3, 1. 1. Sithen the sege & the assaut watz sesed at Troye, etc.
Respecting the claim of the Britons and other nations to a Trojan descent, see the remarks of Thompson, in the preface to his translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 8vo, 1748; Warton's Hist. Engl. Poetr., vol. i. p. 131, note, and Diss. on Rom. Fict., p. xi. ed. 1824; Ritson's Life of Arthur, p. 6, 8vo, 1825; and Panizzi's Essay, prefixed to his edition of Boiardo and Ariosto, p. 49, 12mo, 1830. It is adopted by all the romancers, French and English, and introduced into Spenser's Faerie Queen, b. iii, c. 9, st. 38, 41. Thus also the author of the alliterative Morte Arthur, in the Lincoln MS. A. 1. 17.
Thus endis kyng Arthure, as auctors alegges,
Ibid. 1. 5. Hit watz Ennias the athel, & his highe kynde.
The authority for this assertion was doubtless the Latin history ascribed to Dares
1 Orlando Furioso, canto xv. st. 71.