Percy's Reliques - Sir Cauline.

Sir Cauline.

            This old romantic tale was preserved in the Editor's folio manuscript, but in so very defective and mutilated a condition (not from any chasm in the manuscript, but from great omission in the transcript, probably copied from the faulty recitation of some illiterate minstrel), and the whole appeared so far short of the perfection it seemed to deserve, that the Editor was tempted to add several stanzas in the first part, and still more in the second, to connect and complete the story in the manner which appeared to him most interesting and affecting.

            There is something peculiar in the metre of this old ballad; it is not unusual to meet with redundant stanzas of six lines; but the occasional insertion of a double third or fourth line, is an irregularity I do not remember to have seen elsewhere.

            It may be proper to inform the reader before he comes to Part 2, v. 110, 111, that the ROUND TABLE was not peculiar to the reign of King Arthur, but was common in all the ages of Chivalry. The proclaiming a great tournament (probably with some peculiar solemnities) was called "holding a Round Table." Dugdale tells us that the great baron Roger de Mortimer "having procured the honour of knighthood to be conferred 'on his three sons' by King Edward I, he, at his own costs, caused a tourneament to be held at Kenilworth; where he sumptuously entertained an hundred knights, and as many ladies, for three days; the like whereof was never before in England; and there began the ROUND TABLE, (so called by reason that the place wherein they practised those feats was environed with a strong wall made in a round form:) And upon the fourth day, the golden lion, in sign of triumph, being yielded to him; he carried it (with all the company) to Warwick."-- It may further be added, that Matthew Paris frequently calls justs and tournaments Hastiludia Mensæ Rotundæ.

            As to what will be observed in this ballad of the art of healing being practised by a young princess; it is no more than what is usual in all the old romances, and was conformable to real manners: it being a practice derived from the earliest times among all the Gothic and Celtic nations, for women, even of the highest rank, to exercise the art of surgery. In the Northern Chronicles we always find the young damsels stanching the wounds of their lovers, and the wives those of their husbands[ 1]. And even so late as the time of Queen Elizabeth, it is mentioned among the accomplishments of the ladies of her court, that the "eldest of them are skilful in surgery." See Harrison's Description of England, prefixed to Hollingshed's Chronicle, &c.


IN Ireland, ferr over the sea,
There dwelleth a bonnye kinge
And with him a yong and comlye knighte,
Men call him Syr Caulėne.

The kinge had a ladye to his daughter,
In fashyon she hath no peere;
And princely wightes that ladye wooed
To be theyr wedded feere.

Syr Cauline loveth her best of all,
But nothing durst he saye;
Ne descreeve his counsayl to no man,
But deerlye he lovde this may.

Till on a daye it so beffell,
Great dill to him was dight;
The maydens love removde his mynd,
To care-bed went the knighte.

One while he spred his armes him fro,
One while he spred them nye:
"And aye! but I winne that ladyes love,
For dole now I mun dye."

And whan our parish-masse was done,
Our kinge was bowne to dyne:
He sayes, Where is Syr Cauline,
That is wont to serve the wyne?

Then aunswerde him a courteous knighte,
And fast his handes gan wringe:
"Sir Cauline is sicke, and like to dye
Without a good leechinge."

"Fetche me downe my daughter deere,
She is a leeche fulle fine:
Goe take him doughe, and the baken bread,
And serve him with the wyne soe red;
Lothe I were him to tine."

Fair Christabelle to his chaumber goes,
Her maydens followyng nye:
"O well, she sayth, how doth my lord?"
"O sicke, thou fayr ladyč."

"Nowe ryse up wightlye, man, for shame,
Never lye soe cowardlee;
For it is told in my fathers hall;
You dye for love of mee."

"Fayre ladye, it is for your love
That all this dill I drye
For if you wold comfort me with a kisse,
Then were I brought from bale to blisse,
No lenger wold I lye."

"Sir knighte, my father is a kinge,
I am his onlye heire;
Alas! and well you knowe, Syr knighte,
I never can be youre fere."

"O ladye, thou art a kinges daughter,
And I am not thy peere,
But let me doe some deedes of armes
To be your bacheleere."

"Some deedes of armes if thou wilt doe,
My bacheleere to bee,
(But ever and aye my heart shall rue,
Giff harm shold happe to thee,)

"Upon Eldridge hill there groweth a thorne,
Upon the mores brodinge;
And dare ye, Syr knighte, wake there all nighte
Untill the fayre morninge?

"For the Eldridge knighte, so mickle of mighte,
Will examine you beforne:
And never man bare life awaye,
But he did him scath and scorne.

"That knighte he is a foule paynim,
And large of limb and bone;
And but if heaven may be thy speede,
Thy life it is but gone."

"Nowe on the Eldridge hilles Ile walke,[ 2]
For thy sake, fair ladėe;
And Ile either bring you a ready token,
Or Ile never more you see."

The lady is gone to her chaumbere,
Her maydens following bright:
Syr Cauline lope from care-bed soone,
And to the Eldridge hills is gone,
For to wake there all night.

Unto midnight, that the moone did rise,
He walked up and downe;
Then a lightsome bugle heard he blowe
Over the bents soe browne;
"Quoth hee, If cryance come till my heart,
I am ffar from any good towne."

And soone he spyde on the mores so broad,
A furyous wight and fell;
A ladye bright his brydle led,
Clad in a fayre kyrtčll:

And soe fast he called on Syr Cauline,
"O man, I rede thee flye;
For but if cryance comes till my heart,
I weene but thou mun dye."

He sayth, "No cryance comes till my heart,
Nor, in faith, I wyll not flee;
For, cause thou minged not Christ before,
The less me dreadeth thee."

The Eldridge knighte, he pricked his steed;
Syr Cauline bold abode:
Then either shooke his trustye speare
And the timber these two children[ 3] bare
Soe soone in sunder slode.

Then tooke they out theyr two good swordes,
And layden on full faste,
Till helme and hawberke, mail and sheelde,
They all were well-nye brast.

The Eldridge knighte was mickle of might,
And stiffe in stower did stande,
But Syr Cauline with a backward stroke
He smote off his right hand;
That soone he with paine and lacke of bloud
Fell downe on that lay-land.

Then up Syr Cauline lift his brande
All over his head so hye:
"And here I sweare by the holy roode,
Nowe, caytiffe, thou shalt dye."

Then up and came that ladye brighte,
Fast wringing of her hande:
"For the maydens love, that most you love,
Withold that deadlye brande:

"For the maydens love, that most you love,
Now smyte no more I praye;
And aye whatever thou wilt, my lord,
He shall thy hests obaye."

"Now sweare to mee, thou Eldridge knighte,
And here on this lay-land,
That thou wilt believe on Christe his laye,
And therto plight thy hand:

"And that thou never on Eldridge come
To sporte, gamon, or playe:
And that thou here give up thy armes
Until thy dying daye."

The Eldridge knighte gave up his armes
With many a sorrowfulle sighe;
And sware to obey Syr Caulines hest,
Till the tyme that he shold dye.

And he then up and the Eldridge knighte
Sett him on his saddle anone,
And the Eldridge knighte and his ladye
To theyr castle are they gone.

Then he tooke up the bloudy hand,
That was so large of bone,
And on it he founde five ringes of gold
Of knightes that had be slone.

Then he tooke up the Eldridge sworde,
As hard as any flint:
And he tooke off those ringes five,
As bright as fyre and brent.

Home then pricked Syr Cauline
As light as leafe on tree:
I-wys he neither stint ne blanne,
Till he his ladye see.

Then downe he knelt upon his knee
Before that lady gay:
"O ladye, I have bin on the Eldridge hills:
These tokens I bring away."

"Now welcome, welcome, Syr Cauline,
Thrice welcome unto mee,
For now I perceive thou art a true knighte,
Of valour bolde and free."

"O ladye, I am thy own true knighte,
 Thy hests for to obaye:
And mought I hope to winne thy love!"--
Ne more his tonge colde say.

The ladye blushed scarlette redde,
And fette a gentill sighe:
"Alas! Syr knight, how may this bee,
For my degree's soe highe?

"But sith thou hast hight, thou comely youth,
To be my batchilere,
Ile promise if thee I may not wedde
I will have none other fere."

Then shee held forthe her Lilly-white hand
Towards that knighte so free;
He gave to it one gentill kisse,
His heart was brought from bale to blisse,
The teares sterte from his ee.

"But keep my counsayl, Syr Cauline,
Ne let no man it knowe;
For and ever my father sholde it ken,
I wot he wolde us sloe."

From that daye forthe that ladye fayre
Lovde Syr Cauline the knighte:
From that daye forthe he only joyde
Whan shee was in his sight.

Yea and oftentimes they mette
Within a fayre arboure,
Where they in love and sweet daliaunce
Past manye a pleasant houre.

*** In this conclusion of the First Part, and at the beginning of the Second, the reader will observe a resemblance to the story of Sigismunda and Guiscard, as told by Boccace and Dryden: See the latter's description of the lovers meeting in the cave; and those beautiful lines which contain a reflection so like this of our poet, "Everye white," &c., viz.--

But as extremes are short of ill and good,
And tides at highest mark regorge their flood;
So Fate, that could no mooe improve their joy,
Took a malicious pleasure to destroy
Tancred, who fondly loved, &c.


EVERYE white will have its blacke,
And everye sweete its sowre:
This founde the Ladye Christabelle
In an untimely howre.

For so it befelle, as Syr Cauline
Was with that ladye faire,
The kinge her father walked forthe
To take the evenyng aire:

And into the arboure as he went
To rest his wearye feet,
He found his daughter and Syr Cauline
There sette in daliaunce sweet.

The kinge hee sterted forthe, i-wys,
And an angrye man was hee:
"Nowe, traytoure, thou shalt hange or draw;
And rewe shall thy ladič."

Then forthe Syr Cauline he was ledde,
And throwne in dungeon deepe:
And the ladye into a towre so hye,
There left to wayle and weepe.

The queene she was Syr Caulines friend,
And to the kinge sayd shee:
"I praye you save Syr Caulines life,
And let him banisht bee."

"Now, dame, that traitor shall be sent
Across the salt sea fome:
But here I will make thee a hand,
If ever he come within this land,
A foule deathe is his doome."

All woe-begone was that gentil knight
To parte from his ladyč;
And many a time he sighed sore,
And cast a wistfulle eye:
"Faire Christabelle, from thee to parte,
Farre lever had I dye."

Faire Christabelle, that ladye bright,
Was had forthe of the towre;
But ever shee droopeth in her minde,
As nipt by an ungentle winde
Doth some faire lillye flowre.

And ever shee doth lament and weepe
To tint her lover soe
"Syr Cauline, thou little think'st on mee,
But I will still be true."

Manye a kinge, and manye a duke,
And lorde of high degree,
Did sue to that fayre ladye of love;
But never shee wolde them nee.

When manye a daye was past and gone,
Ne comforte she colde finde,
The kynge proclaimed a tourneament,
To cheere his daughters mind:

And there came lords, and there came knights,
Fro manye a farre countryč,
To break a spere for theyr ladyes love
Before that faire ladyč.

And many a ladye there was sette
 In purple and in palle:
But faire Christabelle soe woe-begone
Was the fayrest of them all.

Then manye a knighte was mickle of might
Before his ladye gaye;
But a stranger wight, whom no man knewe,
He wan the prize eche daye.

His acton it was all of blacke,
His hewberke, and his sheelde,
Ne noe man wist whence he did come,
Ne noe man knewe where he did gone,
When they came from the feelde.

And now three days were prestlye past
In feates of chivalrye,
When lo upon the fourth mornėnge
A sorrowfulle sight they see.

A hugye giaunt stiffe and starke,
All foule of limbe and lere;
Two goggling eyen like fire farden,
A mouthe from eare to eare.

Before him came a dwarffe full lowe,
That waited on his knee,
And at his backe five heads he bare,
All wan and pale of blee.

"Sir," quoth the dwarffe, and louted lowe,
"Behold that hend Soldāin!
Behold these heads I beare with me!
They are kings which he hath slain."

"The Eldridge knight is his own cousėne,
Whom a knight of thine hath shent:
And hee is come to avenge his wrong,
And to thee, all thy knightes among,
Defiance here hath sent.

"But yette he will appease his wrath
Thy daughters love to winne:
And but thou yeelde him that fayre mayd,
Thy halls and towers must brenne.

Thy head, syr king, must goe with mee;
Or else thy daughter deere;
Or else within these lists soe broad
Thou must finde him a peere."

The king he turned him round aboute,
And in his heart was woe:
"Is there never a knighte of my round table,
This matter will undergoe?

"Is there never a knight; amongst yee all
Will fight for my daughter and mee?
Whoever will fight yon grimme soldān,
Right fair his meede shall bee.

"For hee shall have my broad lay-lands,
And of my crowne be heyre;
And he shall winne fayre Christabelle
To be his wedded fere."

But every knighte of his round table
Did stand both still and pale;
For whenever they lookt on the grim soldān,
It made their hearts to quail.

All woe-begone was that fayre ladyč,
When she save no helpe was nye:
She cast her thought on her owne true-love,
And the teares gusht from her eye.

Up then sterte the stranger knighte
Sayd, "Ladye, be not affrayd:
Ile fight for thee with this grimme soldān,
Thoughe he be unmacklye made.

"And if thou wilt lend me the Eldridge sworde,
That lyeth within thy bowre,
I truste in Christe for to slay this fiende
Thoughe he be stiff in stowre."

"Go fetche him downe the Eldridge sworde,"
The kinge he cryde, "with speede:
Nowe heaven assist thee, courteous knighte;
My daughter is thy meede."

The gyaunt he stepped into the lists,
And sayd, "Awaye, awaye:
I sweare, as I am the hend soldān,
Thou lettest me here all daye."

Then forthe the stranger knight he came
In his blacke armoure dight:
The ladye sighed a gentle sighe,
"That this were my true knighte!"

And nowe the gyaunt and knighte be mett
Within the lists soe broad;
And now with swordes soe sharpe of steele,
They gan to lay on load.

The soldan strucke the knighte a stroke,
That made him reele asyde;
Then woe-begone was that fayre ladye,
And thrice she deeply sighde.

The soldan strucke a second stroke,
And made the bloude to flow:
All pale and wan was that ladye fayre,
And thrice she wept for woe.

The soldan strucke a third fell stroke,
Which brought the knighte on his knee:
Sad sorrow pierced that ladyes heart,
And she shriekt loud shriekings three.

The knighte he leapt upon his feete,
All recklesse of the pain:
Quoth hee, "But heaven be now my speede,
Or else I shall be slaine."

He grasped his sworde with mayne and mighte,
And spying a secrette part,
He drave it intō the soldan's syde,
And pierced him to the heart.

Then all the people gave a shoute,
When they sawe the soldan falle:
The ladye wept, and thanked Christ,
That had reskewed her from thrall.

And nowe the kinge with all his barons
Rose uppe from offe his seate,
And downe he stepped intō the listes,
That curteous knighte to greete.

But he for payne and lacke of bloude
Was fallen into a swounde,
And there all walteringe in his gore,
Lay lifelesse on the grounde.

"Come downe, come downe, my daughter deare,
Thou art a leeche of skille;
Farre lever had I lose halfe my landes,
Than this good knighte sholde spille."

Downe then steppeth that fayre ladye,
To helpe him if she maye;
But when she did his beavere raise,
"It is my life, my lord," she sayes,
And shriekte and swound awaye.

Sir Cauline juste lifte up his eyes
When he heard his ladye crye,
"O ladye, I am thine owne true love;
For thee I wisht to dye."

Then giving her one partinge looke,
He closed his eyes in death,
Ere Christabelle, that ladye milde,
Begane to drawe her breathe.

But when she found her comelye knighte
Indeed was dead and gone,
She layde her pale cold cheeke to his,
And thus she made her moane:

"O staye, my deare and onlye lord,
For mee thy faithfulle feere;
'Tis meet that I shold follow thee,
Who hast bought my love soe deare."

Then fayntinge in a deadlye swoune,
And with a deepe-fette sighe,
That burst her gentle hearte in twayne,
Fayre Christabelle did dye.


1. See Northern Antiquities, &c. vol. i. p. 318. vol. ii. p. 200. Mémoires de la Chevalerie, tom. i. p. 44.

2. Perhaps "wake," as in ver. 61.

3. i.e. Knights. See the preface to Child Waters, Series III.


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