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Chaucer's lines in reference to our hero are well known*, and so are the passages in the romance of Ywaine and Gawin†, composed nearly at the same period. In a legendary MS. work, intitled Cursor Mundi, of the same age, we read in the prologue,—
Man yhernes rimes for to here,
And romans red on manere sere,-
MS. Cott. Vesp. A. 111. fol. 1.
In the fifteenth century there are numerous allusions to Sir Gawayne, and the vernacular translations of the Saint Graal and Merling, Mort Artus ||, Perceval¶, Launfal**, the Squyr of Lowe Degrett, and other romances, united with the publication of Malory's diffuse work towards the close of this period, must have powerfully operated in diffusing a knowledge of his romantic career. In a metrical version of Guido de Colonna's War of Troy, which has erroneously been attributed to Lydgate, the writer thus enumerates the popular fictions of the day,
Canterbury Tales, 1. 10,409, and Rom. of the Rose, 1. 2209. Tyrwhitt's Glossary, in v.
L. 1419, ap. Ritson, Metr. Rom., vol. i.
This copy of the poem is written in the northern dialect. See the same passage, with numerous variations, quoted from the Laud MSS., No. 416, Bodl. Library, in Warton, Hist. E. P., i. 127.
§ Preserved in Corpus Chr. Coll. Cambr., No. 80, and hitherto unpublished. The trans
lator names himself Herry Lonelich: see Nasmyth's Catalogue, p. 55, 4to, 1777.
|| MS. Harl. 2252. Printed for the Roxburghe Club, 4to. 1819.
TMS. Eccles. Lincoln., A. 1. 17.
** Ritson's Metr. Rom., vol. i.
++ Ibid., vol. iii.
Off Bevis, Gy, and of Gawayn,
Off kyng Richard, and of Owayn,
Off Rouland Ris and Aglavale.
MS. Laud. 595, fol. 1. Bodl. Libr.
And in the inedited romance of Syr Degrevante, a composition of much merit, we are told,—
Wt kyng Arthure, I wene,
This comly knyghte;
MS. Linc. A.1.17.
In the reign of Henry the Eighth we learn from a curious passage in Skelton's Litle Boke of Phillip Sparow, what were the principal romance-stories then in vogue, and among them is "Gawen and Syr Guy," as well as Lancelot, Tristan, and Libius Diosconius, Gawayne's son. The repeated editions of such romances in the course of the sixteenth century must have rendered the name of Gawayne familiar to all, and at length, by the natural course of all popular literature, the ballad-makers succeeded the minstrels in the commemoration of his exploits. Perhaps one of the latest passages in which his name is used as a bye-word occurs in Laneham's amusing account of the actors in the Coventry pageant before Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth :-" But aware! keep bak, make room noow, heer they cum! And fyrst captin Cox,―an od man, I promiz yoo,-by profession a mason, and that right skilfull; very cunning in fens, and handy as Gawin, for hiz tonsword hangs
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M.S. Cott Nero. A.x. fol. 91.
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