صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

knight of the Joyeuse Garde*, which ends in the discomfiture of Gawayne, and ultimately in his death. The quest of the Saint Graal by Arthur's knights forms a novel incident in the narrative, and connects the story with Robert du Borron's first work. Among those whose exploits are recorded in this quest, Sir Gawayne's name is one of the most prominent, and although, like Lancelot, he is not destined to achieve the adventure, yet he succeeds in reaching the magic castle of the guardian of the Holy Vessel, and witnesses the marvels which ensue on his resting upon the lit adventureux†. His deeds of valor against King Gallehault's forces and elsewhere are so extraordinary, that Arthur orders them first to be recorded by his four veracious chroniclers, among whom Arrodian of Cologne is mentioned. The estimation also in which he was held at the court is shewn by his being elected unanimously king in the place of Arthur, on the disappearance and supposed death of that monarch. Of the episodes relating to him, those of his adventure with his amie, the daughter of the king of North Wales, and the history of his captivity in the prison of the giant Karados, are perhaps the most interesting. In the former we are told that the lady's chamber was guarded by twenty armed knights. These however at night fall asleep very opportunely, and Gawayne is enabled without resistance to reach his mistress's apartment. He takes

On the subject of this castle (placed by English poetical antiquaries at Berwick) see a curious paper in the Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de France, vol. x. p. 237, 8vo, 1834, intitled, “ Mémoire sur le Chateau de la Joyeuse Garde, sur la rivière d'Elorn, près Landerneau, Department du Finistère. Par le Chevalier de Freminville."

+ In the Roman de Perceval, f. xxxix, the incident of the enchanted bed is repeated, but under different circumstances. It forms the subject of an ivory carving engraved in the Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, vol. xviii. p. 322, 4to, 1753, and in Ferrario, Analisi degli Romanzi di Cavalleria, vol. ii. p. 101, which is unintelligible to the writers.

Vol. i. f. cxliiib. One might forgive the writer in the Bibliothèque des Romans for believing in the historical reality of these personages (See Dunlop's Hist. of Fiction, i. 295); but it is matter of sincere regret to find so gross a blunder sanctioned by the name of Daunou, in the Hist. Litt. de la France, tome xvi. p. 177.


valrous of his undertakings is the acquisition of the famous sword with which St. John was beheaded, in the course of which he slays a monstrous giant on the top of a hill; much after the fashion in which Arthur killed the giant Dinabuc on the Mont St. Michel. We have also a narrative, as in the Lancelot, but differing much in the circumstances, of Gawayne's arrival in the palace of King Pescheur, and the marvels of the Graal.

Map's series of romances is closed by the Mort Artus, which is generally confounded with the Lancelot. The queen's amour

with the latter here leads to the disunion and destruction of the Round Table. The war undertaken by Arthur against the violator of his honor, proves his ruin. A furious battle takes place, in which Gawayne singly kills thirty knights, but his valor avails not, for in a second encounter Arthur's forces are worsted. The Pope interferes, and Lancelot gives up the queen, and retires to his paternal dominions. Arthur follows him, at the instigation of Gawayne, and a combat takes place between Gawayne and Lancelot. The victory is long doubtful, but at length is given to the more youthful opponent, and Gawayne is left on the field, severely wounded in the head. After this follows the conflict between the forces of Arthur and the Roman emperor, and the return of Arthur to Britain on account of Mordred's treason, all of which is founded on the narrative of Geoffrey, but told with the usual license of the romance-writers. The part which relates to Gawayne's death has some pathos and interest, and will bear an abridgment.

Arthur and his fleet arrive at Dover, where he is joyfully received at the castle. At vesper-time he is sent for by his nephew, and on coming to him, finds Gawayne so weak, as scarcely to be able to speak. On hearing the king's sorrow he opened his eyes, and said, "Sire, I am dying, and I pray you in God's name to refrain from a battle with Mordred, for I tell you truly he is

[ocr errors]

the man who will cause your death." He then desires to be remembered to Lancelot, whose pardon he asks, and requests him to visit his tomb.-" And I pray you, Sire, that you cause me to be interred at Kamalot, with my brothers; and I wish to be laid in the tomb wherein my brother Gaheriet lies, for him I loved most, and this inscription to be placed above, CY GISENT LES DEUX FRERes Gaheriet et GAUVAIN, QUE LANCELOT OCCIST PAR L'OULTRAIGE DE GAUVAIN." Arthur asks if he believes Lancelot to have been the cause of his death, which he answers in the affirmative, on account of the wound he had received in his head, which was renewed in the battle with the Romans. Et a tant se teust messire G. que plus ne parla, fors au derrenier qu'il dist, Jesu Crist, pere debonnaire, ne me juge pas selon mes mesfaitz!" Arthur swoons several times with grief, and exclaims, "Ha! Ha! mort villaine, comment as tu esté si hardye d'assaillir ung tel homme comme estoit mon nepveu, qui de bonté passoit tout le monde !" On the mournful news arriving at the castle, the lamentation is so excessive, that you could not have heard God thunder*. They enveloped the corpse in silk, and surrounded it with so many lighted tapers, that the castle seemed on fire. In the morning Arthur caused a bierre chevaleresse to be brought, and Gawayne's body placed therein, which he gave in charge to one hundred men to convey to Kamalot. Every eye is moistened, and the people cry out, "O preudhomme courtois, et bon chevalier sur tous aultres, mauldicte soit la morte qui de toy nous a osté la compaignie !” The corpse is carried to the castle of Belloc, the lady of which, on hearing whose it is, loudly deplores his fate, and avows she had never loved any one but Gawayne. Her husband requites this declaration with a stroke of his sword, which cuts off her

* This phrase is found in Benoit de St. More and other French writers of the twelfth century. It passed thence into the English romance of Alexander. See Weber, Metr. Rom. Introd., p. xxxiv.

shoulder, and penetrates deeply into the dead body of the knight. The lady expires, and requests to be buried by his side. Her death is revenged by the attendants, who then proceed with the body to Kamalot, and bury it in the tomb of Gaheriet, in the middle of the monastery. The remains of the lady of Belloc are also interred close by, with an inscription stating that she had been killed for her love of Gawayne*.

The substance of this romance, but much abridged, is to be found in Malory's Morte d'Arthur, books 18, 20, and 21, and the latter text was versified in the reign of Henry the Seventh by an anonymous English author, who follows it in some instances verbally+.

The account of Gawayne's death differs considerably in the various versions of the story, nor is the place of his sepulture less a subject of disagreement. In Geoffrey, Arthur lands at the Portus Rutupi, rendered Richborough by Thompson, and Sandwich by Ellis and others, where a battle takes place, in which Gawayne and his companions are slain. Wace, Lazamon§, and Robert of Brunne copy this narrative, but fix the spot at Romney. The Cotton MS. of Wace, Vitell. A. x., reads Toteneis (Totnes), while the Welsh (Tysilio) translation of Geoffrey and the alliterative poem in the Lincoln MS. place the locality at Southampton. Malory and

* Vol. iii. ff. 191b, 192b, ed. 1513.

+ This metrical version is preserved in MS. Harl. 2252, and was printed in 1819 for the Roxburghe Club. Ellis is in error in stating that it was translated immediately from the French text, Metr. Rom. i. 324, (copied by Dunlop, Hist. of Fiction, i. 244.) Had he taken the trouble of comparing them together, he would not have hazarded such an assertion.

Ellis probably followed the general stream of the chroniclers who borrow from the English prose Brut, subsequently known under the title of Caxton's Chronicle and Fructus Temporum. In this and in its French prose MS. original, the place of landing is called Sandwich. See also a ballad printed in Percy, vol. iii. p. 40, ed. 1794.

§ But in another passage Lazamon writes, that Gawayne was killed "suth in Cornwale.” vol. ii. p. 546.

his metrical translator follow the romance of Lancelot, in assigning the locality to Dover*, but they vary in the detail. The latter says of our hero:

Syr Gawayne armyd hyme in that stounde,
Allas to longe hys hede was bare,

He was seke, and sore vnsond,

Hys woundis greuyd hym fulle sare.

One hytte hym vpon the olde wounde,

Wt a tronchon of an ore;

There is good Gawayne gone to grounde,

That speche spake he neuyr more.

MS. Harl. 2252, fol. 123b.

Malory follows the French text more closely, but inserts a letter, supposed to be written by the dying knight to Sir Lancelot, and concludes," And so at the houre of none Syr Gawayn yelded up the spyryte; and thenne the kynge lete entiere hym in a chappel within Douer Castel; and there yet alle men maye see the sculle of hym, and the same wound is sene that Syr Launcelot gaf hym in bataill.” vol. ii. p. 435. Caxton, in his Preface, alleges the last mentioned circumstance as a proof of the reality of the fact; and Leland quotes the authority of the Chronicon Dovarensis monasterii for the existence of Gawayne's bones in the same place, which were shewn to himself on his visit there+. Leland therefore rejects the statement of William of Malmesbury, who says, that in the reign of William the Conqueror, the sepulchre of Gawayne was discovered on the sea-shore of a province of Wales, named Ross, [in Pembrokeshire,] fourteen feet in length, “ubi, à quibusdam ut asseritur, ab hostibus vulneratus, et naufragio

* Ellis must have read the passage carelessly, or he would not have transferred the place of sepulture to the Cathedral of Canterbury. See Metr. Rom. i. 392.

↑ Collectanea, vol. iii. p. 50; also in his Codrus, ib. vol. v. p. 7; and in Assertio Arthuri, ib. vol. v. p. 25.

« السابقةمتابعة »