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degree of praise. His character for courtesy is indeed acknowledged, and an awkward fiction is alleged to account for his inferior powers, by stating that in the tournament of Galles, maintained between Arthur and the Seigneur des Loingtains Isles, (Gallehault,) he received such hurts as to deprive him of his previous force, so that afterwards he never recovered it." Et du grant dueil qu'il en eut, il fist depuis moult de felonies, que la Table Ronde achepta moult durement." From the work of Rusticien de Pise it is probable that Sir Thomas Malory compiled the English prose Morte d'Arthur in the year 1469, in which, as Scott and Southey have remarked, the character of Gawayne is traduced, and his history misrepresented. There are a few adventures of Gawayne in this work which I have not found elsewhere, but they were doubtless furnished by the French manuscript originals, which I have had no opportunity of consulting*.
The metrical romances composed by Chrestien de Troyes require next to be noticed. They all appear to have been borrowed from the prose romances, but contain also incidents derived from other sources. The longest and best known of these is the Perceval le Gallois, so large a portion of which relates to the exploits of sir Gawayne, that, as a French writer has already observed, it sixteenth century, shortly before it was printed, but in Sir Thomas Phillipps's possession is a MS. of the fourteenth century, agreeing generally with the printed text, and containing the preface of Helie de Borron to his Gyron le Courtois, which in the printed edition of Meliadus is erroneously attributed to Rusticien. From this cause have sprung innumerable misstatements on the subject of these works, and the age of the composers.
* There are no copies in the British Museum or Bodleian Library of the compilations of Helie de Borron and Rusticien. In Sir Thomas Phillipps's Library is a recension of Helie's work by Jehan le Vaillant, made in the year 1391, which was formerly in the La Vallière collection. I find also that a prose work intitled Roman du Roi Artus was printed at Paris in 1488, but is so scarce, that I do not know if a copy is to be found in England. It is evidently a late compilation, chiefly taken from the Merlin, but with variations. It is here stated, that at Loth's death Mordred disputes the right of Gawayne to his father's throne, and on Arthur taking the part of the latter, the catastrophe is brought on which ends in the monarch's destruction. This is quite a new version of the story.
might with equal propriety have been named after both these heroes. I have already spoken of this romance in my Notes, (p. 305,) and its popularity in Scotland and England must have been great, since no less than three of the poems printed in the present volume are founded on episodes in it. Here, as in the second part of the Saint Graal, the adventures of Gawayne in search of the Mysterious Vessel and the palace of king Pescheur, occupy a prominent place. His character for valor and courtesy re-appears in its original lustre, and is praised with the same warmth as in the romance of Merlin.-" Sire," says an esquire to Arthur, after relating the feats of Gawayne at the enchanted castle of queen Yguerne, "en ma puissance Gauvain assez suffisaument louer n'est pas possible; le propoz assez aorné ne la langue diserte ne ay-je elegante ne propice à ce faire, pource que, comme je croy, de toute chevallerie est la perle; c'est celluy qui de tout vice est nect, innocent, et immaculle; c'est celluy qui ne pourroit endurer felonnie ne mechanceté; c'est le consolateur des desollez, le père des orphelins, l'abresse et la reconfort des femmes vefues." fol. xlvii. We are also in this romance introduced to Giglan, the son of Gawayne by the sister of Brandelis, of whom mention only previously occurs in the first part of the prose Tristan.
The remaining romances by Chrestien, are the Tristan, apparently now lost; the Chevalier au Lion, which is known as the original of the English Ywaine and Gawin; the Roman d'Erec et Enide, in which Gawayne is assigned the first station among the knights of the Round Table*; the Roman de Fregus, a narrative in many respects resembling that of Perceval, and the hero of which
* Devant toz les bons chevaliers
Li seconz Erec, li filz Lac,
Et li tierz Lanceloz dou Lac.
MS. de la Bibl. du Roi, No. 7498, f. 13.
is a native of Scotland; the Roman de la Charrette, which is an episode taken from Lancelot; and the Roman de Cliges. The last four still remain in manuscript, in the Bibliothèque du Roi at Paris, but analyses of them are given in the Bibliothèque des Romans and the Histoire Litteraire de la France. In all of them we find Gawayne very honorably noticed.
Besides the longer romances several shorter poems of the same chivalrous character exist, in which Syr Gawayne's adventures are commemorated. One of these is the Chevalier à l'Epée*, the author of which blames Chrestien de Troyes for omitting to celebrate Gawayne in a distinct poem, and says he will narrate one out of his numerous exploits. The subject connects it with the English tale of Syr Gawene and the Carle of Carlyle, as I have pointed out in the Notes, (p. 345.) Here too we meet with the amusing incident of the greyhounds†, which seems to have been borrowed from the metrical Perceval. Another is the fabliau of La Mule sans Freint; in which Gawayne undertakes for a lady the adventure of the bridle, and after many hazardous conflicts, succeeds in gaining it. A prosaical episode also is preserved, intitled the Conte de l'Atre Perilleux, containing an interesting account of Gawayne's encounter with a formidable magician or semi-dæmon, whom he destroys amidst flashes of lightning, and afterwards rescues a damsel from the power of a redoubtable knight named Ersanors de la Montagne§.
In all probability other narratives remain in manuscript relating to the same personage, and some may have been lost. In the
* Printed in Meon's Recueil de Fabliaux, vol. i. p. 127, and analysed by Le Grand.
↑ See Dunlop's Hist. of Fiction, i. 272.
Printed, ib. vol. i. p. 1. See Notes, p. 306.
§ Analysed in the Bibl. des Romans, Juillet, 1777, p. 70. It is mentioned in the Inventaire des livres de l'ancienne Bibliothèque du Louvre, fait en l'année 1373, p. 75, 8vo, 1836; edited by M. Van Praet.
Reductorium Morale of Pierre Bercheur, Prior of St. Eloi, at Paris, better known by his Latin name of Berchorius, who is supposed by Warton to have been the author of the Gesta Romanorum*, at the end of his Prologue to book 14, De Naturæ Mirabilibus, speaking of the wonderful relations extant of Britain, he writes, "What shall I say of the marvels which occur in the histories of Gawayne (Galvayni), and Arthur? Of which I will mention only one, namely, of the palace under the water, which Gawayne accidentally discovered, where he found a table spread with eatables, and a chair placed ready for him, but was not able to find the door by which he might go out; but being hungry, and about to eat, suddenly the head of a dead man appeared in the dish, and a giant, who lay on a bier near the fire, rising up, and striking the roof with his head, and the head calling out and forbidding the repast, he never dared touch the viands, and after witnessing many wonders, got away he knew not how†!" Berchorius here evidently refers to the prodigies seen by Gawayne at the palace of the Graal, but the manuscripts used by him must have differed greatly from those now extant, or he must have quoted from memory, and much misrepresented the story. The former conjecture seems the most probable. So also in a copy of the Merlin, No. 6958 of the Bibliothèque du Roi, we meet with an episode not in the usual text of this romance. Gawayne rescues a lady by force of arms from Oriol, King of the Saxons, and to his great
* See my Preface to the Old English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum, printed for the Roxburghe Club, 4to, 1838. Bercheur died in 1362.
↑ Edit. fol. Col. Agr. 1631, tom. ii. p. 901. He adds, "Melius ergo arbitror de istis tacere, quàm de ipsis aliqua narrativè asserere, ne forte videar fabulas hominum vel etiam opera dæmonum pro naturali veritate narrare. Ista ergo ad præsens omittam, nisi forte quando de fabulis poetarum tractabo, inseram aliquid de præmissis." This work, which was to have formed the fifteenth book, is unfortunately lost, or was never completed.
Compare the Roman de Perceval, ff. cxxi—cxxiii.
delight recognises her as his mie, the Countess of Limos.-" Si saut jus du cheval, et l'embrace, et baise en la face, et ele lui, que onques dangier nul ne l'en fait; et li dist, Certes, sire, bien me devez baisier et accoler, que onques mais baisier n'eustes, au mien escient, que vous autretant chierement eussiez acheté.' 'Dame,' fait il, de tant suis-je plus liez*.'
Our hero seems to have been famed more for his various intrigues than his constancy. At the trial of the ivory horn sent by Morgain to Arthur's court, he is the first to raise it to his lips, but no sooner does he touch the wine than it runs over the enchanted rim, for "Ja nul chevallier n'y bevra qui aura triché son amye, ou que sa mie l'ait triché, que le vin sur lui ne respande†.' In the Jeaste of Gawayne we have one of his affairs of gallantry narrated, copied from the Perceval, and in the same romance we have a similar account of his amour with the daughter of the king of Escallon, with whom being surprised, he defends himself with a chess-board. A third affair of the same kind takes place with Taurée, sister of the Little Knight of the Great Forest, and in the Lancelot and Malory's Morte d'Arthur we have additional narratives of his influence with the fair sex; so that we can readily understand why he is addressed by the lady in the Scotish romance of the Grene Knyzt as a master and pattern not only of courtesy but of the art of love.
One more romantic composition relative to Gawayne remains to be noticed, which is the more remarkable from its being quite distinct from the established fictions of the Round Table. This composition may be assigned to the early part of the fourteenth century, and is written in Latin; but whether derived from "floating Celtic traditions," or from an Anglo-Norman original, must be left
P. Paris, Manuscrits François, ii. 344.
↑ Roman de Perceval, f. cb. Comp. Rom. de Tristan, i. f. liii. In the similar fabliau of the Manteau mal taillé it is Genelas, the mie of Gawayne, who fails in the trial,