Percy's Reliques - The Boy and the Mantle.

The Boy and the Mantle.

            This is printed verbatim from the old MS. described in the preface. The Editor believes it more ancient than it will appear to be at first sight; the transcriber of that manuscript having reduced the orthography and style in many instances to the standard of his own times.

            The incidents of the mantle and the knife have not, that I can recollect, been borrowed from any other writer. The former of these evidently suggested to Spenser his conceit of Florimel's Girdle, b. iv., c. 5, st. 3.

"That girdle gave the virtue of chaste love
And wivehood true to all that did it beare;
But whosoever contrarie doth prove,
Might not the same about her middle weare,
But it would loose or else asunder teare."

So it happened to the false Florimel, st. 16, when

"-- Being brought, about her middle small
They thought to gird, as best it her became,
But by no means they could it thereto frame,
For ever as they fastend it, it loos'd
And fell away, as feeling secret blame, &c.

That all men wondred at the uncouth sight
And each one thought as to their fancies came.
But she herself did think it done for spight,
And touched was with secret wrath and shame
Therewith, as thing deviz'd her to defame:
Then many other ladies likewise tride
About their tender loynes to knit the same,
But it would not on none of them abide,
But when they thought it fast, eftsoones it was untide.

Thereat all knights gan laugh and ladies lowre,
Till that at last the gentle Amoret
Likewise assayed to prove that girdle's powre.
And having it about her middle set
Did find it fit withouten breach or let
Whereat the rest gan greatly to envie.
But Florimel exceedingly did fret,
And snatching from her hand, &c."

            As for the trial of the horne, it is not peculiar to our poet: It occurs in the old romance, entitled Morte Arthur, which was translated out of French in the time of King Edward IV., and first printed anno 1484. From that romance Ariosto is thought to have borrowed his tale of the Enchanted Cup, c. 42, &c. See Mr. Warton's Observations on the Faerie Queen, &c.

            The story of the horn in Morte Arthur varies a good deal from this of our poet, as the reader will judge from the following extract:-- "By the way they met with a knight that was sent from Morgan la Faye to King Arthur, and this knight had a fair home all garnished with gold, and the horne had such a virtue, that there might no ladye or gentlewoman drinke of that horne, but if she were true to her husband: and if shee were false she should spill all the drinke, and if shee were true unto her lorde, shee might drink peaceably: and because of queene Guenever and in despite of Sir Launcelot du Lake, this home was sent unto King Arthur." This horn is intercepted and brought unto another king named Marke, who is not a whit more fortunate than the British hero, for he makes "his queene drinke thereof and an hundred ladies moe, and there were but four ladies of all those that drank cleane," of which number the said queen proves not to be one.-- Book ii chap. 22. Ed. 1632.

            In other respects the two stories are so different, that we have just reason to suppose this ballad was written before that romance was translated into English.

            As for Queen Guenever, she is here represented no otherwise than in the old histories and romances. Holinshed observes, that "she was evil reported of, as noted of incontinence and breach of faith to hir husband."-- Vol. i. p. 93.

*** Such readers as have no relish for pure antiquity, will find a more modern copy of this ballad at the end of this volume.

IN the third day of May,
To Carleile did come
A kind curteous child,
That cold much of wisdome.

A kirtle and a mantle
This child had uppon,
With brouches and ringes
Full richelye bedone.

He had a sute of silke
About his middle drawne;
Without he cold of curtesye
He thought itt much shame.

"God speed thee, King Arthur,
Sitting at thy meate
And the goodly Queene Guénever,
I cannott her forgett.

"I tell you, lords, in this hall;
I hett you all to heede;
Except you be the more surer
Is you for to dread."

He plucked out of his poterner,
And longer wold not dwell,
He pulled forth a pretty mantle,
Betweene two nut-shells.

"Have thou here, King Arthur;
Have thou heere of mee:
Give itt to thy comely queene
Shapen as itt is alreadye.

"Itt shall never become that wiffe,
That hath once done amisse.—"
Then every knight in the kings court
Began to care for his.

Forth came Dame Guenever;
To the mantle shee her hied;
The ladye shee was newfangle,
But yett shee was affrayd.

When shee had taken the mantle;
She stoode as shee had beene madd:
It was from the top to the toe
As sheeres had itt shread.

One while was it gule;
Another while was itt greene;
Another while was it wadded:
Ill itt did her beseeme.

Another while was it blacke
And bore the worst hue:
"By my troth," quoth King Arthur,
"I thinke thou be not true."

Shee threw downe the mantle,
That bright was of blee;
Fast with a rudd redd,
To her chamber can shee flee.

She curst the weaver, and the walker,
That clothe that had wrought;
And bade a vengeance on his crowne,
That hither hath itt brought.

"I had rather be in a wood,
Under a greene tree;
Then in King Arthurs court
Shamed for to bee."

Kay called forth his ladye,
And bade her come neere;
Saies, "Madam, and thou be guiltye,
I pray thee hold thee there."

Forth came his ladye
Shortlye and anon;
Boldlye to the mantle
Then is shee gone.

When she had tane the mantle,
And cast it her about;
Then was shee bare
Before all the rout.

Then every knight,
That was in the kings court,
Talked, laughed, and showted
Full oft att that sport.

Shee threw downe the mantle,
That bright was of blee;
Fast, with a redd rudd,
To her chamber can shee flee.

Forth came an old knight
Pattering ore a creede,
And he proferred to this litle boy
Twenty markes to his meede;

And all the time of the Christmasse
Willingly to ffeede;
For why this mantle might
Doe his wiffe some need.

When she had tane the mantle,
Of cloth that was made,
Shee had no more left on her,
But a tassell and a threed:
Then every knight in the kings court
Bade evill might shee speed.

Shee threw downe the mantle,
That bright was of blee;
And fast, with a redd rudd,
To her chamber can shee flee.

Craddocke called forth his ladye,
And bade her come in;
Saith, "Winne this mantle, ladye,
With a little dinne.

"Winne this mantle, ladye,
And it shal be thine,
If thou never did amisse
Since thou wast mine."

Forth came Craddockes ladye
Shortlye and anon;
But boldlye to the mantle
Then is shee gone.

When she had tane the mantle,
And cast it her about,
Upp att her great toe
It began to crinkle and crowt:
Shee said, "Bowe downe, mantle,
And shame me not for nought.

"Once I did amisse,
I tell you certainlye,
When I kist Craddockes mouth
Under a greene tree;
When I kist Craddockes mouth
Before he marryed mee."

When shee had her shreeven,
And her sines shee had tolde;
The mantle stoode about her
Right as shee wold:

Seemelye of coulour
Glittering like gold:
Then every knight in Arthurs court
Did her behold.

Then spake Dame Guénever
To Arthur our king;
"She hath tane yonder mantle
Not with right, but with wronge.

"See you not yonder woman,
That maketh her self soe cleane?
I have seene tane out of her bedd
Of men fiveteene;

Priests, clarkes, and wedded men
From her, bedeene:
Yett shee taketh the mantle,
And maketh her self cleane."

Then spake the little boy,
That kept the mantle in hold;
Sayes, "King, chasten thy wife,
Of her words shee is to bold:

"Shee is a bitch and a witch,
And a whore bold:
King, in thine owne hall
Thou art a cuckold."

The litle boy stoode
Looking out a dore;
And there as he was lookinge
He was ware of a wyld bore.

He was ware of a wyld bore,
Wold have werryed a man:
He pulld forth a wood knife,
Fast thither that he ran:
He brought in the bores head,
And quitted him like a man.

He brought in the bores head,
And was wonderous bold:
He said there was never a cuckolds knife
Carve itt that cold.

Some rubbed their knives
Uppon a whetstone:
Some threw them under the table,
And said they had none.

King Arthur, and the child
Stood looking upon them;
All their knives edges
Turned backe againe.

Craddocke had a little knive
Of iron and of steele;
He britled the bores head
Wonderous weele;
That every knight in the kings court
Had a morssell.

The litle boy had a horne;
Of red gold-that ronge:
He said, there was "noe cuckolde
Shall drinke of my horne;
But he shold it sheede
Either behind or beforne."

Some shedd on their shoulder,
And some on their knee;
He that cold not hitt his mouthe,
Put it in his eye:
And he that was a cuckold
Every man might him see.

Craddocke wan the horne,
And the bores head:
His ladie wan the mantle
Unto her meede.
Everye such a lovely ladye
God send her well to speede.

 

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