Percy's Reliques - Essay On The Ancient Metrical Romances, Etc.

Essay On The Ancient Metrical Romances, Etc.

I. The first attempts at composition among all barbarous nations are ever found to be poetry and song. The praises of their gods, and the achievements of their heroes, are usually chanted at their festival meetings. These are the first rudiments of history. It is in this manner that the savages of North America preserve the memory of past events:[ 1] and the same method is known to have prevailed among our Saxon ancestors, before they quitted their German forests.[ 2] The ancient Britons had their bards, and the Gothic nations their scalds or popular poets,[ 3] whose business it was to record the victories of their warriors, and the genealogies of their princes, in a kind of narrative songs, which were committed to memory, and delivered down from one reciter to another. So long as poetry continued a distinct profession, and while the bard, or scald, was a regular and stated officer in the prince's court, these men are thought to have performed the functions of the historian pretty faithfully; for though their narrations would be apt to receive a good deal of embellishment, they are supposed to have had at the bottom so much of truth as to serve for the basis of more regular annals. At least succeeding historians have taken up with the relations of these rude men, and, for want of more authentic records, have agreed to allow them the credit of true history.[ 4]

            After letters began to prevail, and history assumed a more stable form, by being committed to plain simple prose; these songs of the scalds or bards began to be more amusing than useful. And in proportion as it became their business chiefly to entertain and delight, they gave more and more into embellishment, and set off their recitals with such marvellous fictions as were calculated to captivate gross and ignorant minds. Thus began stories of adventures with giants and dragons, and witches and enchanters, and all the monstrous extravagances of wild imagination, unguided by judgment and uncorrected by art.[ 5]

            This seems to be the true origin of that species of romance which so long celebrated feats of chivalry, and which at first in metre, and afterwards in prose, was the entertainment of our ancestors, in common with their contemporaries on the Continent, till the satire of Cervantes, or rather the increase of knowledge and classical literature, drove them off the stage, to make room for a more refined species of fiction, under the name of French romances, copied from the Greek.[ 6]

            That our old romances of chivalry may be derived in a lineal descent from the ancient historical songs of the Gothic bards and scalds, will be shewn below, and indeed appears the more evident, as many of those songs are still preserved in the North, which exhibit all the seeds of chivalry before it became a solemn institution.[ 7] "Chivalry, as a distinct military order, conferred in the way of investiture, and accompanied with the solemnity of an oath, and other ceremonies," was of later date, and sprung out of the feudal constitution, as an elegant writer has clearly shown.[ 8] But the ideas of chivalry prevailed long before in all the Gothic nations, and may he discovered as in embryo in the customs, manners, and opinions of every branch of that people.[ 9] That fondness of going in quest of adventures, that spirit of challenging to single combat, and that respectful complaisance shewn to the fair sex (so different from the manners of the Greeks and Romans), all are of Gothic origin, and may be traced up to the earliest times among all the Northern nations.[ 10] These existed long before the feudal ages, though they were called forth and strengthened in a peculiar manner under that constitution, and at length arrived to their full maturity in the times of the Crusades, so replete with romantic adventures.[ 11]

            Even the common arbitrary fictions of romance were (as is hinted above) most of them familiar to the ancient scalds of the north, long before the time of the crusades. They believed the existence of giants and dwarfs;[ 12] they entertained opinions not unlike the more modern notion of fairies;[ 13] they were strongly possessed with the belief of spells and enchantment;[ 14] and were fond of inventing combats with dragons and monsters.[ 15]

            The opinion therefore seems very untenable, which some learned and ingenious men have entertained, that the turn for chivalry, and the taste for that species of romantic fiction, were caught by the Spaniards from the Arabians or Moors after their invasion of Spain, and from the Spaniards transmitted to the bards of Armorica[ 16], and thus diffused through Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and the north. For it seems utterly incredible that one rude people should adopt a peculiar taste and manner of writing or thinking from another, without borrowing at the same time any of their particular stories and fables, without appearing to know any thing of their heroes, history, laws, and Religion. When the Romans began to adopt and imitate the Grecian literature, they immediately naturalized all the Grecian fables, histories, and religious stories; which became as familiar to the poets of Rome as of Greece itself. Whereas all the old writers of chivalry, and of that species of romance, whether in prose or verse, whether of the northern nations, or of Britain, France, and Italy, not excepting Spain itself,[ 17] appear utterly unacquainted with whatever relates to the Mahometan nations. Thus with regard to their religion, they constantly represent them as worshipping idols, as paying adoration to a golden image of Mahomet, or else they confound them with the ancient Pagans, &c. And indeed in all other respects they are so grossly ignorant of the customs, manners, and opinions of every branch of that people, especially of their heroes, champions, and local stories, as almost amounts to a demonstration that they did not imitate them in their songs or romances: for as to dragons, serpents, necromancies, &c. why should these be thought only derived from the Moors in Spain so late as after the eighth century? since notions of this kind appear too familiar to the northern scalds, and enter too deeply into all the northern mythology, to have been transmitted to the unlettered Scandinavians, from so distant a country, at so late a period. If they may not be allowed to have brought these opinions with them in their original migrations from the north of Asia, they will be far more likely to have borrowed them from the Latin poets after the Roman conquests in Gaul, Britain, Germany, &c. For I believe one may challenge the maintainers of this opinion to produce any Arabian poem or history, that could possibly have been then known in Spain, which resembles the old Gothic romances of chivalry half so much as the Metamorphoses of Ovid.

            But we well know that the Scythian nations situate in the countries about Pontus, Colchis, and the Euxine sea, were in all times infamous for their magic arts; and as Odin and his followers are said to have come precisely from those parts of Asia, we can readily account for the prevalence of fictions of this sort among the Gothic nations of the North, without fetching them from the Moors in Spain, who for many centuries after their irruption lived in a state of such constant hostility with the unsubdued Spanish Christians, whom they chiefly pent up in the mountains, as gave them no chance of learning their music, poetry, or stories; and this, together with the religious hatred of the latter for their cruel invaders, will account for the utter ignorance of the old Spanish romancers in whatever relates to the Mahometan nations, although so nearly their own neighbours.

            On the other hand, from the local customs and situations, from the known manners and opinions of the Gothic nations in the north, we can easily account for all the ideas of chivalry, and its peculiar fictions.[ 18] For, not to mention their distinguished respect for the fair sex, so different from the manners of the Mahometan nations,[ 19] their national and domestic history so naturally assumes all the wonders of this species of fabling, that almost all their historical narratives appear regular romances. One might refer, in proof of this, to the old northern Sagas in general: but, to give a particular instance, it will be sufficient to produce the history of King Regner Lodbrog, a celebrated warrior and pirate, who reigned in Denmark about the year 800.[ 20] This hero signalized his youth by an exploit of gallantry. A Swedish prince had a beautiful daughter, whom he intrusted (probably during some expedition) to the care of one of his officers, assigning a strong castle for their defence. The officer fell in love with his ward, and detained her in his castle, spite of all the efforts of her father. Upon this he published a proclamation through all the neighbouring countries, that whoever would conquer the ravisher and rescue the lady should have her in marriage. Of all that undertook the adventure, Regner alone was so happy as to achieve it: he delivered the fair captive, and obtained her for his prize. It happened that the name of this discourteous officer was Orme, which in the Islandic language signifies serpent: wherefore the scalds to give the more poetical turn to the adventure, represent the lady as detained from her father by a dreadful dragon, and that Regner slew the monster to set her at liberty. This fabulous account of the exploit is given in a poem still extant, which is even ascribed to Regner himself, who was a celebrated poet, and which records all the valiant achievements of his life.[ 21]

            With marvellous embellishments of this kind the scalds early began to decorate their narratives: and they were the more lavish of these in proportion as they departed from their original institution; but it was a long time before they thought of delivering a set of personages and adventures wholly feigned. Of the great multitude of romantic tales still preserved in the libraries of the north, most of them are supposed to have had some foundation in truth; and the more ancient they are, the more they are believed to be connected with true history.[ 22]

            It was not probably till after the historian and the bard had been long disunited, that the latter ventured at pure fiction. At length, when their business was no longer to instruct or inform, but merely to amuse, it was no longer needful for them to adhere to truth. Then succeeded fabulous songs and romances in verse, which for a long time prevailed in France and England before they had books of chivalry in prose. Yet in both these countries the minstrels still retained so much of their original institution as frequently to make true events the subject of their songs;[ 23] and indeed, as during the barbarous ages, the regular histories were almost all written in Latin by the monks, the memory of events was preserved and propagated among the ignorant laity by scarce any other means than the popular songs of the minstrels.

II. The inhabitants of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, being the latest converts to Christianity, retained their original manners and opinions longer than the other nations of Gothic race: and therefore they have preserved more of the genuine compositions of their ancient poets than their southern neighbours. Hence the progress, among them, from poetical history to poetical fiction is very discernible: they have some old pieces, that are in effect complete romances of chivalry.[ 24] They have also (as hath been observed) a multitude of Sagas[ 25], or histories on romantic subjects, containing a mixture of prose and verse of various dates, some of them written since the times of the crusades, others long before: but their narratives in verse only are esteemed the more ancient.

            Now as the irruption of the Normans[ 26] into France under Rollo did not take place till towards the beginning of the tenth century, at which time the scaldic art was arrived to the highest perfection in Rollo's native country, we can easily trace the descent of the French and English romances of chivalry from the northern sagas. That conqueror doubtless carried many scalds with him from the north, who transmitted their skill to their children and successors. These, adopting the religion, opinions, and language of the new country, substituted the heroes of Christendom instead of those of their Pagan ancestors, and began to celebrate the feats of Charlemagne, Roland, and Oliver; whose true history they set off and embellished with the scaldic figments of dwarfs, giants, dragons, and inchantments. The first mention we have in song of those heroes of chivalry is in the mouth of a Norman warrior at the conquest of England;[ 27] and this circumstance alone would sufficiently account for the propagation of this kind of romantic poems among the French and English.

            But this is not all; it is very certain that both the Anglo-Saxons and the Franks had brought with them, at their first emigrations into Britain and Gaul, the same fondness for the ancient songs of their ancestors, which prevailed among the other Gothic tribes,[ 28] and that all their first annals were transmitted in these popular oral poems. This fondness they even retained long after their conversion to Christianity, as we learn from the examples of Charlemagne and Alfred.[ 29] Now poetry, being thus the transmitter of facts, would as easily learn to blend them with fictions in France and England as she is known to have done in the north, and that much sooner, for the reasons before assigned.[ 30] This, together with the example and influence of the Normans, will easily account to us why the first romances of chivalry that appeared both in England and France[ 31] were composed in metre as a rude kind of epic songs. In both kingdoms tales in verse were usually sung by minstrels to the harp on festival occasions: and doubtless both nations derived their relish for this sort of entertainment from their Teutonic ancestors, without either of them borrowing it from the other. Among both people narrative songs on true or fictitious subjects had evidently obtained from the earliest times. But the professed romances of chivalry seem to have been first composed in France, where also they had their name.

            The Latin tongue, as is observed by an ingenious writer,[ 32] ceased to be spoken in France about the ninth century, and was succeeded by what was called the Romance tongue, a mixture of the language of the Franks and bad Latin. As the songs of chivalry became the most popular compositions in that language, they were emphatically called Romans or Romants; though this name was at first given to any piece of poetry. The romances of chivalry can be traced as early as the eleventh century.[ 33] I know not if the Roman de Brut, written in 1155, was such: But if it was, it was by no means the first poem of the kind; others more ancient are still extant.[ 34] And we have already seen, that, in the preceding century, when the Normans marched down to the battle of Hastings, they animated themselves, by singing (in some popular romance or ballad) the exploits of Roland and the other heroes of chivalry.[ 35]

            So early as this I cannot trace the songs of chivalry in English. The most ancient I have seen is that of Hornechild, described below, which seems not older than the twelfth century. However, as this rather resembles the Saxon poetry than the French, it is not certain that the first English romances were translated from that language.[ 36] We have seen above, that a propensity to this kind of fiction prevailed among all the Gothic nations;[ 37] and though, after the Norman conquest, this country abounded with French romances, or with translations from the French, there is good reason to believe that the English had original pieces of their own.

            The stories of King Arthur and his Round Table may be reasonably supposed of the growth of this island; both the French and the Armoricans probably had them from Britain.[ 38] The stories of Guy and Bevis, with some others, were probably the invention of English minstrels.[ 39] On the other hand, the English procured translations of such romances as were most current in France; and in the list given at the conclusion of these remarks many are doubtless of French origin.

            The first prose books of chivalry that appeared in our language were those printed by Caxton;[ 40] at least, these are the first I have been able to discover, and these are all translations from the French. Whereas romances of this kind had been long current in metre, and were so generally admired in the time of Chaucer, that his rhyme of Sir Thopas was evidently written to ridicule and burlesque them.[ 41]

            He expressly mentions several of them by name in a stanza, which I shall have occasion to quote more than once in this volume:

Men speken of romaunces of pris
Of Horn-Child, and of Ipotis
Of Bevis, and Sire Guy
Of Sire Libeux, and Pleindamour,[ 42]
But Sire Thopas, he bereth the flour
Of real chevalrie.

            Most if not all of these are still extant in MS. in some or other of our libraries, as I shall shew in the conclusion of this slight essay, where I shall give a list of such metrical histories and romances as have fallen under my observation.

            As many of these contain a considerable portion of poetic merit, and throw great light on the manners and opinions of former times, it were to be wished that some of the best of them were rescued from oblivion. A judicious collection of them accurately published, with proper illustrations, would be an important accession to our stock of ancient English literature. Many of them exhibit no mean attempts at epic poetry: and though full of the exploded fictions of chivalry, frequently display great descriptive and inventive powers in the bards who composed them. They are at least generally equal to any other poetry of the same age. They cannot indeed be put in competition with the nervous productions of so universal and commanding a genius as Chaucer; but they have a simplicity that makes them be read with less interruption, and be more easily understood; and they are far more spirited and entertaining than the tedious allegories of Gower, or the dull and prolix legends of Lydgate. Yet, while so much stress was laid upon the writings of these last, by such as treat of English poetry, the old metrical romances, though far more popular in their time, were hardly known to exist. But it has happened, unluckily, that the antiquaries, who have revived the works of our ancient writers, have been, for the most part, men void of taste and genius, and therefore have always fastidiously rejected the old poetical romances, because founded on fictitious or popular subjects, while they have been careful to grub up every petty fragment of the most dull and insipid rhymist, whose merit it was to deform morality or obscure true history. Should the public encourage the revival of some of those ancient epic songs of chivalry, they would frequently see the rich ore of an Ariosto or a Tasso, though buried it may be among the rubbish and dross of barbarous times.

            Such a publication would answer many important uses: It would throw new light on the rise and progress of English poetry, the history of which can be but imperfectly understood if these are neglected: It would also serve to illustrate innumerable passages in our ancient classic poets, which, without their help, must be for ever obscure. For, not to mention Chaucer and Spenser, who abound with perpetual allusions to them, I shall give an instance or two from Shakespeare, by way of specimen of their use.

            In his play of King John our great dramatic poet alludes to an exploit of Richard I. which the reader will in vain look for in any true history. Faulconbridge says to his mother, act. i. sc. 1.

"Needs must you lay your heart at his dispose . . .
Against whose furie and unmatched force,
The awlesse lion could not wage the fight,
Nor keepe his princely heart from Richard's hand:
He that perforce robs Lions of their hearts
May easily winne a woman's:"--

            The fact here referred to, is to be traced to its source only in the old romance of Richard Cœur de Lyon,[ 43] in which his encounter with a lion makes a very shining figure. I shall give a large extract from this poem, as a specimen of the manner of these old rhapsodists, and to shew that they did not in their fictions neglect the proper means to produce the ends, as was afterwards so childishly done in the prose books of chivalry.

            The poet tells us, that Richard, in his return from the Holy Land, having been discovered in the habit of "a palmer in Almayne," and apprehended as a spy, was by the king thrown into prison. Wardrewe, the king's son, hearing of Richard's great strength, desires the jailor to let him have a sight of his prisoners. Richard being the foremost, Wardrewe asks him, "if he dare stand a buffet from his hand?" and that on the morrow he shall return him another. Richard consents, and receives a blow that staggers him. On the morrow, having previously waxed his hands, he waits his antagonist's arrival. Wardrewe accordingly, proceeds the story, "held forth as a trewe man," and Richard gave him such a blow on the cheek, as broke his jawbone, and killed him on the spot. The king, to revenge the death of his son, orders, by the advice of one Eldrede, that a lion, kept purposely from food, shall be turned loose upon Richard. But the king's daughter, having fallen in love with him, tells him of her father's resolution, and at his request procures him forty ells of white silk "kerchers;" and here the description of the combat begins:

And aboute his arme he wonde;
And thought in that ylke while,
To sle the lyon with some gyle.
And abode the lyon fyers and wode,
With that came the jaylere,
And other men that wyth him were,
And the lyon them amonge;
His pawes were stiffe and stronge.
The chambre dore they undone,
And the lyon to them is gone.
Rycharde sayd, Helpe, lorde Jesu,
The lyon made to hym venu,
And wolde hym have all to rente:
Kynge Rycharde besyde him glente;[ 45]
The lyon on the breste hym spurned,
That aboute he tourned.
The lyon was hongry and megre,
And bette his tayle to be egre;
He loked aboute as he were madde;
Abrode he all his pawes spradde.
He cryed lowde, and yaned[ 46] wyde.
Kynge Rycharde bethought hym that tyde
What hym was beste, and to him sterte,
In at the throte his honde he gerte,
And hente out the herte with his honde,
Lounge and all that he there fonde.
The lyon fell deed to the grounde:
Rycharde felte no wem,[ 47] ne wounde.
He fell on his knees on that place,
And thanked Jesu of his grace."
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

            What follows is not so well, therefore I shall extract no more of this poem -- For the above feat the author tells us, the king was deservedly called

"Stronge Rycharde Cure de Lyowne,"

That distich which Shakespeare puts in the mouth of the madman in King Lear, act iii. sc. 4

"Mice and rats and such small deere
Have been Tom's food for seven long year,"

has excited the attention of the critics. Instead of deere, one of them would substitute geer; and another cheer.[48] But the ancient reading is established by the old romance of Sir Bevis, which Shakespeare had doubtless often heard sung to the harp. This distich is part of a description there given of the hardships suffered by Bevis, when confined for seven years in a dungeon:

"Rattes and myse and such small dere
Was his meate that seven yere."-- Sign. F. iii.

III. In different parts of this work, the header will find various extracts from these old poetical legends; to which I refer him for farther examples of their style and metre. To complete this subject, it will be proper at least to give one specimen of their skill in distributing and conducting their fable, by which it will be seen that nature and common sense had supplied to these old simple bards the want of critical art, and taught them some of the most essential rules of epic poetry.-- I shall select the romance of Libius Disconius,[49] as being one of those mentioned by Chaucer, and either shorter or more intelligible than the others he has quoted.

            If an epic poem may be defined[ 50] "A fable related by a poet, to excite admiration, and inspire virtue, by representing the action of some one hero, favoured by heaven, who executes a great design, in spite of all the obstacles that oppose him," I know not why we should withhold the name of epic poem from the piece which I am about to analyse.

            My copy is divided into nine parts or cantos, the several arguments of which are as follows.


            Opens with a short exordium to bespeak attention: thee hero is described; a natural son of Sir Gawain, a celebrated knight of King Arthur's court, who being brought up in a forest by his mother, is kept ignorant of his name and descent. He early exhibits marks of his courage, by killing a knight in single combat, who encountered him as he was hunting. This inspires him with a desire of seeking adventures: therefore cloathing himself in his enemy's armour, he goes to King Arthur's court, to request the order of knighthood. His request granted, he obtains a promise of having the first adventure assigned him that shall offer.-- A damsel named Ellen, attended by a dwarf, comes to implore King Arthur's assistance, to rescue a young princess, "the Lady of Sinadone," their mistress, who is detained from her rights, and confined in prison. The adventure is claimed by the young knight Sir Lybius: the king assents; the messengers are dissatisfied, and object to his youth; but are forced to acquiesce. And here the first book closes with a description of the ceremony of equipping him forth.


            Sir Lybius sets out on the adventure: he is derided by the dwarf and the damsel on account of his youth: they come to the bridge of Perill, which none can pass without encountering a knight called William de la Braunch. Sir Lybius is challenged: they just with their spears: De la Braunch is dismounted: the battle is renewed on foot: Sir William's sword breaks: he yields. Sir Lybius makes him swear to go and present himself to King Arthur, as the first fruits of his valour. The conquered knight sets out for King Arthur's court: is met by three knights, his kinsmen; who, informed of his disgrace, vow revenge, and pursue the conqueror. The next day they overtake him: the eldest of the three attacks Sir Lybius; but is overthrown to the ground. The two other brothers assault him: Sir Lybius is wounded; yet cuts off the second brother's arm: the third yields; Sir Lybius sends them all to King Arthur. In the third evening he is awaked by the dwarf, who has discovered a fire in the wood.


            Sir Lybius arms himself, and leaps on horseback: he finds two Giants roasting a wild boar, who have a fair lady their captive. Sir Lybius, by favour of the night, runs one of them through with his spear: is assaulted by the other: a fierce battle ensues: he cuts off the giant's arm, and at length his head. The rescued lady (an earl's daughter) tells him her story; and leads him to her father's castle; who entertains him with a great feast; and presents him at parting with a suit of armour and a steed. He sends the giant's head to King Arthur.


            Sir Lybius, maid Ellen, and the dwarf, renew their journey: they see a castle stuck round with human heads; and are informed it belongs to a knight called Sir Gefferon, who, in honour of his leman, or mistress, challenges all comers: he that can produce a fairer lady, is to be rewarded with a milk-white faulcon, but if overcome, to lose his head. Sir Lybius spends the night in the adjoining town: in the morning goes to challenge the faulcon. The knights exchange their gloves: they agree to just in the market place: the lady and maid Ellen are placed aloft in chairs: their dresses: the superior beauty of Sir Gefferon's mistress described: the ceremonies previous to the combat. They engage: the combat described at large: Sir Gefferon is incurably hurt; and carried home on his shield. Sir Lybius sends the faulcon to King Arthur: and receives back a large present in florins. He stays forty days to be cured of his wounds, which he spends in feasting with the neighbouring lords.


            Sir Lybius proceeds for Sinadone: in a forest he meets a knight hunting, called Sir Otes de Lisle: maid Ellen charmed with a very beautiful dog, begs Sir Lybius to bestow him upon her: Sir Otes meets them, and claims his dog: is refused: being unarmed he rides to his castle, and summons his followers: they go in quest of Sir Lybius: a battle ensues: he is still victorious, and forces Sir Otes to follow the other conquered knights to King Arthur.


            Sir Lybius comes to a fair city and castle by a river-side, beset round with pavilions or tents: he is informed, in the castle is a beautiful lady besieged by a giant named Maugys, who keeps the bridge and will let none pass without doing him homage: this Lybius refuses: a battle ensues: the giant described: the several incidents of the battle; which lasts a whole summer's day: the giant is wounded; put to flight; slain. The citizens come out in procession to meet their deliverer: the lady invites him into her castle: falls in love with him; and seduces him to her embraces. He forgets the princess of Sinadone, and stays with this bewitching lady a twelvemonth. This fair sorceress, like another Alcina, intoxicates him with all kinds of sensual pleasure; and detains him from the pursuit of honour.


            Maid Ellen by chance gets an opportunity of speaking to him; and upbraids him with his vice and folly: he is filled with remorse, and escapes the same evening. At length he arrives at the city and castle of Sinadone: is given to understand that he must challenge the constable of the castle to single combat, before he can be received as a guest. They just: the constable is worsted: Sir Lybius is feasted in the castle: he declares his intention of delivering their lady; and inquires the particulars of her history. "Two Necromancers have built a fine palace by sorcery, and there keep her inchanted, till she will surrender her duchy to them, and yield to such base conditions as they would impose."


            Early on the morrow Sir Lybius sets out for the inchanted palace. He alights in the court: enters the hall: the wonders of which are described in strong Gothic painting. He sits down at the high table: on a sudden all the lights are quenched: it thunders, and lightens: the palace shakes; the walls fall in pieces about his ears. He is dismayed and confounded: but presently hears horses neigh, and is challenged to single combat by the sorcerers. He gets to his steed: a battle ensues, with various turns of fortune: he loses his weapon; but gets a sword from one of the necromancers, and wounds the other with it: the edge of the sword being secretly poisoned, the wound proves mortal.


            He goes up to the surviving sorcerer, who is carried away from him by inchantment: at length he finds him, and cuts off his head: he returns to the palace to deliver the lady; but cannot find her: as he is lamenting, a window opens, through which enters a horrible serpent with wings and a woman's face: it coils round his neck and kisses him; then is suddenly converted into a very beautiful lady. She tells him she is the Lady of Sinadone, and was so inchanted, till she might kiss Sir Gawain, or some one of his blood: that he has dissolved the charm, and that herself and her dominions may be his reward. The Knight (whose descent is by this means discovered) joyfully accepts the offer; makes her his bride, and then sets out with her for King Arthur's court.

            Such is the fable of this ancient piece: which the reader may observe, is as regular in its conduct, as any of the finest poems of classical antiquity. If the execution, particularly as to the diction and sentiments, were but equal to the plan, if would be a capital performance; but this is such as might be expected in rude and ignorant times, and in a barbarous unpolished language.

IV. I shall conclude this prolix account, with a list of such old Metrical Romances as are still extant; beginning with those mentioned by Chaucer.

1. The Romance of Horne Childe is preserved in the British Museum, where it is intitled The geste of kyng Horne. See Catalog. Harl. MSS. 2253, p. 70. The language is almost Saxon, yet from the mention in it of Sarazens, it appears to have been written after some of the Crusades. It begins thus:

"All heo ben blithe
That to my sons ylythe
A song ychulle ou sing
Of Allof the gode kynge,"[
51] &c.

            Another copy of this poem, but greatly altered, and somewhat modernized, is preserved in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, in an MS. quarto volume of old English poetry [W. 4,1] no. xxxiv. in seven leaves or folios,[52] intitled, Hornchild and Maiden Rinivel, and beginning thus:

"Mi leve frende dere
Herken and ye may here."

2. The Poem of Ipotis (or Ypotis) is preserved in the Cotton Library, Calig. A.2, fol. 77, but is rather a religious legend than a romance. Its beginning is:

"He that wyll of wysdome here
Herkeneth now
ze may here
Of a tale of holy wryte
Seynt Jon the Evangelyste wytnesseth hyt."

3. The Romance of Sir Guy was written before that of Bevis, being quoted in it.[53] An account of this old poem is given in Book viii. No. i., below. To which it may be added, that two complete copies in MS. are preserved at Cambridge, the one in the public Library,[54] the other in that of Caius College, Class A.8.-- In Ames's Typog. p. 153, may be seen the first lines of the printed copy. The first MS. begins:

"Sythe the tyme that God was borne."

4. Guy and Colbrande, an old romance in three parts, is preserved in the Editor's folio MS. (p. 349.) It is in stanzas of six lines, the first of which begins thus:

"When meate and drinke is great plentye."

            In the Edinburgh MS. (mentioned above) are two ancient poems on the subject of Guy of Warwick: viz. No. xviii. containing 26 leaves, and xx. 59 leaves. Both these have unfortunately the beginnings wanting, otherwise they would perhaps be found to be different copies of one or both the preceding articles.

5. From the same MS. I can add another article to this list, viz. The Romance of Rembrun son of Sir Guy; being No. xxi. in nine leaves: this is properly a continuation of the History of Guy: and in art. 3, the Hist. of Rembrun follows that of Guy as a necessary part of it. This Edinburgh Romance of Rembrun begins thus:

"Jesu that erst of mighte most
Fader and Sone and Holy Ghost."

            Before I quit the subject of Sir Guy, I must observe, that if we may believe Dugdale in his Baronage (vol. i. p. 243, col. 2), the fame of our English Champion had in the time of Henry IV. travelled as far as the East, and was no less popular among the Sarazens, than here in the West among the nations of Christendom. In that reign a Lord Beauchamp travelling to Jerusalem, was kindly received by a noble person, the Soldan's lieutenant, who hearing he was descended from the famous Guy of Warwick, "whose story they had in books of their own language," invited him to his palace; and royally feasting him, presented him with three precious stones of great value; besides divers cloaths of silk and gold given to his servants.

6. The Romance of Syr Bevis is described in Book ix. No. i., below. Two manuscript copies of this poem are extant at Cambridge; viz. in the public Library,[55] and in that of Caius Coll. Class A. 9. (5.)-- The first of these begins:

"Lordyngs lystenyth grete and smale."

            There is also a copy of this Romance of Sir Bevis of Hamptoun, in the Edinburgh MS. No. xiii. consisting of twenty-five leaves, and beginning thus:

"Lordinges herkneth to mi tale,
Is merrier than the nightingale."

            The printed copies begin different from both: viz.

"Lysten, Lordinges, and hold you styl."

7. Libeaux (Libeaus, or Lybius) Disconius is preserved in the Editor's folio MS. (pag. 317.) where the first stanza is,

"Jesus Christ christen king;
And his mother that sweete thinge;
Helpe them at their neede,
That will listen to my tale,
Of a Knight I will you tell,
A doughtye man of deede."

            An older copy is preserved in the Cotton Library (Calig. A. 2. fol. 40), but containing such innumerable variations, that it is apparently a different translation of some old French original, which will account for the title of Le Beaux Disconus, or the Fair Unknown. The first line is,

"Jesu Christ our Savyour."

            As for Pleindamour, or Blandamoure, no romance with this title has been discovered; but as the word Blaundemere occurs in the romance of Libius Disconius, in the Editor's folio MS. p. 319, he thought the name of Blandamoure (which was in all the editions of Chaucer he had then seen) might have some reference to this. But Pleindamour, the name restored by Mr. Tyrrwhitt, is more remote.

8. Le Morte Arthure is among the Harl. MSS. 2252, § 49. This is judged to be a translation from the French; Mr. Wanley thinks it no older than the time of Henry VII. but it seems to be quoted by Syr Bevis (Sign. K ij b). It begins,

"Lordinges that are leffe and deare."

            In the Library of Bennet College, Cambridge, No. 351. is a MS. intitled, in the catalogue, Acta Arthuris Metrico Anglicano, but I know not its contents.

9. In the Editor's folio MS. are many songs and romances about King Arthur and his Knights, some of which are very imperfect, as King Arthur and the King of Cornwall, (p. 24) in stanzas of four lines, beginning:

"'Come here,' my cozen Gawaine so gay."

            The Turke and Gawain (p. 38), in stanzas of six lines, beginning thus:

"Listen lords great and small."[ 56]

but these are so imperfect that I do not make distinct articles of them. See also below, Book vii. No. ii., iv., v.

            In the same MS. (p. 203) is the Greene Knight, in two parts, relating a curious adventure of Sir Gawain, in stanzas of six lines, beginning thus:

"List: wen Arthur he was k:"

10. The Carle of Carlisle is another romantic tale about Sir Gawain, in the same MS. p. 448, in distichs:

"Listen: to me a little stond."

            In all these old poems the same set of knights are always represented with the same manners and characters; which seem to have been as well known, and as distinctly marked among our ancestors, as Homer's heroes were among the Greeks; for, as Ulysses is always represented crafty, Achilles irascible, and Ajax rough; so Sir Gawain is ever courteous and gentle, Sir Kay rugged and disobliging, &c. "Sir Gawain with his olde curtysie," is mentioned by Chaucer as noted to a proverb, in his Squire's Tale. Canterb. Tales, vol. ii. p. 104.

11. Syr Launfal, an excellent old romance concerning another of King Arthur's knights, is preserved in the Cotton Library, Calig. A. 2. f. 33. This is a translation from the French,[57] made by one Thomas Chestre, who is supposed to have lived in the reign of Henry VI. (See Tanner's Biblioth.) It is in stanzas of six lines, and begins:

"Be douzty Artours dawes."

            The above was afterwards altered by some minstrel into the romance of Sir Lambewell, in three parts, under which title it was more generally known.[58] This is in the Editor's folio MS. p. 60, beginning thus:

"Doughty in King Arthures dares."

12. Eger and Grime, in six parts (in the Editor's folio MS. p. 124.) is a well invented tale of chivalry, scarce inferior to any of Ariosto's. This, which was inadvertently omitted in the former editions of this list, is in distichs, and begins thus:

"It fell sometimes in the Land of Beame."

13. The Romance of Merline, in nine parts, (preserved in the same folio MS. p. 145) gives a curious account of the birth, parentage, and juvenile adventures of this famous British prophet. In this poem the Saxons are called Sarazens; and the thrusting the rebel angels out of Heaven is attributed to "oure Lady." It is in distichs, and begins thus:

"He that made with his hand."

            There is an old romance Of Arthour and of Merlin, in the Edinburgh MS. of old English poems: I know not whether it has any thing in common with this last mentioned. It is in the volume numbered xxiii., and extends through fifty-five leaves. The two first lines are,

"Jesu Crist, heven king,
Al ous graunt gode ending."

14. Sir Isenras (or as it is in the MS. copies, Sir Isumbras) is quoted in Chaucer's R. of Thop. v. 6. Among Mr. Garrick's old plays is a printed copy; of which an account has been already given in vol. i. Book iii. No. viii. It is preserved in MS. in the Library of Caius Coll. Camb. Class A. 9. (2) and also in the Cotton Library, Calig. A. 12. (f. 128). This is extremely different from the printed copy, e.g.

"God that made both erthe and hevene."

15. Emarè, a very curious and ancient romance, is preserved in the same volume of the Cotton Library, f. 69. It is in stanzas of six lines, and begins thus:

"Jesu that ys kyng in trone."

16. Chevelere assigne, or, The Knight of the Swan, preserved in the Cotton Library, has been already described in the Essay on P. Plowman's Metre, &c., above, as hath also

17. The Siege of Jêrlam (or Jerusalem), which seems to have been written after the other, and may not improperly be classed among the romances; as may also the following, which is preserved in the same volume, viz.,

18. Owaine Myles, (fol. 90) giving an account of the wonders of St. Patrick's Purgatory. This is a. translation into verse of the story related in Mat. Paris's Hist. (sub. ann. 1153.)-- It is in distichs beginning thus:

"God pat is so full of myght."

            In the same manuscript are three or four other narrative poems, which might be reckoned among the romances, but being rather religious legends, I shall barely mention them; as, Tundale, f. 17. Trentale Sci Gregorii, f. 84. Jerome, f. 133. Eustache, f. 136.

19. Octavian imperator, an ancient romance of chivalry, is in the same volume of the Cotton Library, f. 20.-- Notwithstanding the name, this old poem has nothing in common with the history of the Roman emperors. It is in a very peculiar kind of stanza, whereof 1, 2, 3, and 5 rhyme together, as do the 4 and 6. It begins thus:

"Ihesu that was with spere ystonge."

In the public Library at Cambridge,[ 59] is a poem with the same title, that begins very differently:

"Lyttyll and mykyll, olde and yonge."

20. Eglamour of Artas (or Artoys) is preserved in the same volume with the foregoing, both in the Cotton Library, and public Library at Cambridge. It is also in the Editor's folio MS. p. 295, where it is divided into six parts.-- A printed copy is in the Bodleian Library, C. 39. Art. Seld. and also among Mr. Garrick's old plays, K. vol. x. It is in distichs, and begins thus:

"Ihesu Crist of heven kyng."

21. Syr Triamore (in stanzas of six lines) is preserved in MS. in the Editor's volume (p. 210), and in the public Library at Cambridge, (690, § 29. Vid. Cat. MSS. p. 394.)-- Two printed copies are extant in the Bodleian Library, and among Mr. Garrick's plays, in the same volumes with the last article. Both the Editor's MS. and the printed copies begin:

"Nowe Jesu Chryste our heven kynge."

            The Cambridge copy thus:

"Heven blys that all shall wynne."

22. Sir Degree (Degare, or Degore, which last seems the true title), in five parts, in distichs, is preserved in the Editor's folio MS. p. 371, and in the public Library at Cambridge (ubi supra. )-- A printed copy is in the Bod. Library, C. 39. Art. Seld. and among Mr. Garrick's plays, K. vol. ix.-- The Editor's MS. and the printed copies begin

"Lordinge, and you wyl holde you styl."

            The Cambridge MS. has it:

"Lystenyth, lordyngis, gente and free."

23. Ipomydon (or Chylde Ipomydon) is preserved among the Harl. MSS. 2252, (44). It is in distichs, and begins:

"Mekely, lordyngis, gentylle and fre."

            In the Library of Lincoln Cathedral, K. k 3. 10. is an old imperfect printed copy, wanting the whole first sheet A.

24. The Squyr of Lowe Degre, is one of those burlesqued by Chaucer in his Rhyme of Thopas.[60]-- Mr. Garrick has a printed copy of this among his old plays, K. vol. ix. It begins:

"It was a squyer of lowe degre,

That loved the kings daughter of Hungre."

25. Historye of K. Richard Cure [Cœur] de Lyon (Impr. W. de Worde, 1528, 4to.) is preserved in the Bodleian Library, c. 39. Art. Selden. A fragment of it is also remaining in the Edinburgh MS. of old English poems, No. xxxvii. in two leaves. A large extract from this romance has been given already above. Richard was the peculiar patron of chivalry, and favourite of the old minstrels, and Troubadours.-- See Warton's Observ. vol. ii. p. 29.; vol. ii. p. 40.

26. Of the following I have only seen No. xxvii, but I believe they may all be referred to the class of romances.

            The Knight of Courtesy and the Lady of Faguel (Bodl. Lib. C. 39., art. Seld. a printed copy). This Mr. Warton thinks is the story of Coucy's Heart, related in Fauchet, and in Howel's letters (V. i. s. 6. l. 20.-- See Wart. Obs. v. ii. p. 40). The Editor has seen a very beautiful old ballad on this subject in French.

27. The four following are all preserved in the MS. so often referred to in the public Library at Cambridge (690. Appendix to Bp. More's MSS. in Cat. MSS. tom. ii. p. 394), viz. The Lay of Erle of Tholouse, (No. 27), of which the Editor hath also a copy from "Cod. MSS. Mus. Ashmol. Oxon." The first line of both is,

"Jesu Chryste in Trynyte."

28. Roberd Kynge of Cysyll (or Sicily), shewing the fall of pride. Of this there is also a copy among the Harl. MSS. 2386, § 42) The Cambridge MS. begins:

"Princis that be prowde in prese."

29. Le bone Florence of Rome, beginning thus:

"As ferre as men ride or gone."

30. Dioclesian the Emperour, beginning

"Sum tyme ther was a noble man."

31. The two knightly brothers Amys and Amelion (among the Harl. MSS. 2386, § 42) is an old romance of chivalry; as is also, I believe, the fragment of the Lady Belesant, the duke of Lombardy's fair daughter, mentioned in the same article. See the Catalog. vol. ii.

32. In the Edinburgh MS. so often referred to (preserved in the Advocates' Library, W. 4. 1), might probably be found some other articles to add to this list, as well as other copies of some of the pieces mentioned in it; for the whole volume contains not fewer than thirty-seven poems or romances, some of them very long. But as many of them have lost the beginnings, which have been cut out for the sake of the illuminations, and as I have not had an opportunity of examining the MS. myself, I shall be content to mention only the articles that follow;[61] viz.,

            An old romance about Rouland (not I believe the famous Paladine, but a champion named Rouland Louth; query) being in the volume, No. xxvii, in 5 leaves, and wants the beginning.

33. Another romance, that seems to be a kind of continuation of this last, intitled, Otuel a Knight (No. xxviii, in 11 leaves and a half). The two first lines are:

"Herkneth both zinge and old,
That willen heren of battailes bold."

34. The King of Tars (No. iv, in 5 leaves and a half; as is also in the Bodleian Library, MS. Vernon, f. 304) beginning thus:

"Herkneth to me both eld and zing,
For Maries love that swete thing."

33. A tale or romance (No. i, 2 leaves) that wants both beginning and end. The first lines now remaining are:

"Th Erl him graunted his will y-wis,
                that the knicht him haden y told.
The Baronnis that were of mikle pris,
                befor him thay weren y-cald."

36. Another mutilated tale or romance (No. iii, 4 leaves). The first lines at present are:

"To Mr. Steward will y gon
                and tellen him the sothe of the
Reseyved bestow sone anon,
zou will serve and with hir be."

37. A mutilated tale or romance (No. xi, in 13 leaves). The two first lines that occur are

"That riche Dooke his fest gan hold
With Erls and with Baronns bold."

            I cannot conclude my account of this curious manuscript, without acknowledging, that I was indebted to the friendship of the Rev. Dr. Blair, the ingenious professor of Belles Lettres, in the University of Edinburgh, for whatever I learned of its contents, and for the important additions it enabled me to make to the foregoing list.

            To the preceding articles, two ancient metrical romances in the Scottish dialect may now be added, which are published in Pinkerton's "Scottish Poems, reprinted from scarce editions." Lond. 1792, in 3 vols. 8vo. viz.:

38. Gawan and Gotogras, a metrical romance, from an edition printed at Edinburgh, 1508, 8vo. beginning,

"In the tyme of Arthur, as trew men me tald."

It is in stanzas of thirteen lines.

39. Sir Gawan and Sir Galaron of Galloway, a metrical romance, in the same stanzas as No. 38, from an ancient MS. beginning thus:

"In the time of Arthur an aunter[ 62] betydde
By the Turnwathelan, as the boke tells;
Whan he to Carlele was comen, and conqueror kyd, &c."

Both these (which exhibit the union of the old alliterative metre, with rhyme, &c. and in the termination of each stanza the short triplets of the Turnament of Tottenham) are judged to be as old as the time of our King Henry VI., being apparently the production of an old poet, thus mentioned by Dunbar, in his "Lament for the Deth of the Makkaris:"

"Clerk of Tranent eik he hes take,
That made the aventers of Sir Gawane."

            It will scarce be necessary to remind the reader, that Turne-wathelan is evidently Tearne-Wadling, celebrated in the old ballad of the Marriage of Sir Gawaine. See no. xix. book ix, below.

            Many new references, and perhaps some additional articles, might be added to the foregoing list from Mr. Warton's History of English Poetry, 3 vols. 4to., and from the notes to Mr. Tyrwhitt's improved edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, &c., in 5 vols. 8vo., which have been published since this Essay, &c., was first composed; but it will be sufficient once for all to refer the curious reader to those popular works.

            The reader will also see many interesting particulars on the subject of these volumes, as well as on most points of general literature, in Sir John Hawkins's curious History of Music, &c. in 5 volumes. 4to. as also in Dr. Burney's Hist, &c. in 4 vols. 4to.


1. Vid. Lasiteau Mœurs des Sauvages, t. 2. Dr. Browne's Hist. of the Rise and Progress of Poetry.

2. Germani celebrant carminibus antiquis (quod unum apud illos memoriæ et annalium genus est) Tuistonem, &c.-- Tacit. Germ. c. 2.

3. Barth. Antiq. Dan. lib. i. cap. 10.-- Wormii Literatura Runica, ad finem.

4. See "Northern Antiquities, or a Description of the Manners, Customs, &c. of the ancient Danes and other northern Nations, translated from the French of M. Mallet," 1770, 2 vol. 8vo. (vol i. p. 49, &c.)

5. Vide infra.

6. Viz. Astræa, Cassandra, Clelia, &c.

7. Mallet, vide Northern Antiquities, vol. i, p. 318, &c. vol. ii. p. 234, &c.

8. Letters concerning Chivalry, 8vo, 1763.

9. Mallet.

10. Ibid.

11. The seeds of chivalry sprung up so naturally out of the original manners and opinions of the northern nations, that it is not credible they arose so late as after the establishment of the feudal system, much less the crusades. Nor, again, that the romances of chivalry were transmitted to other nations, through the Spaniards, from the Moors and Arabians. Had this been the case, the first French romances of chivalry would have been on Moorish or at least Spanish subjects: whereas the most ancient stories of this kind, whether in prose or verse, whether in Italian, French, English, &c. are chiefly on the subjects of Charlemagne, and the Paladins; or of our British Arthur, and his Knights of the Round Table, &c. being evidently borrowed from the fabulous Chronicles of the supposed Archbishop Turpin, and of Jeffery of Monmouth. Not but some of the oldest and most popular French romances are also on Norman subjects, as Richard Sans-peur, Robert Le Diable, &c.; whereas I do not recollect so much as one in which the scene is laid in Spain, much less among the Moors, or descriptive of Mahometan manners. Even in Arnadis de Gaul, said to have been the first romance printed in Spain, the scene is laid in Gaul and Britain; and the manners are French: which plainly shows from what school this species of fabling was learnt and transmitted to the southern nations of Europe.

12. Mallet, North. Antiquities, vol. i. p.36; vol. ii. passim

13.Olaus Verel. ad Herdarer Saga, pp. 44, 45. Hickes's Thesaurus, vol ii. P. 311. Northern Antiquities, vol. ii. Passim.

14. North. Antiquities, vol. i. p.69, 374, &c.; vol. ii. P. 216, &c.

15. Rollof's saga. Cap. xxxv. &c.

16. It is peculiarly uofortuuate that such as maintain this opinion are obliged to take their first step from the Moorish provinces in Spain, without one intermediate resting-place, to Armorica or Bretagne, the province in France from them most remote, not more in situation than in the manners, habits, and language of its Welsh inhabitants, which are allowed to have been derived from this island, as must have been their traditions, songs, and fables,-- being doubtless all of Celtic origin. See p. 3 of the "Dissertation on the Origin of Romantic Fiction in Europe," prefixed to Mr. Tho. Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. i. 1774, 4to. If any pen could have supported this daring hypothesis of Dr. Warburton, that of this ingenious critic would have effected it. But under the general term Oriental, he seems to consider the ancient inhabitants of the north and south of Asia as having all the same manners, traditions, and fables; and because the secluded people of Arabia took the lead under the religion and empire of Mahomet, therefore everything must be derived from them to the northern Asiatics in the remotest ages, &c. With as much reason, under the word Occidental, we might represent the early traditions and fables of the north and south of Europe to have been the same; and that the Gothic mythology of Scandinavia, the Druidic or Celtic of Gaul and Britain, differed not from the classic of Greece and Rome.

            There is not room here for a full examiuation of the minuter arguments, or rather slight coincidences, by which our agreeable dissertator endeavours to maintain and defend this favourite opinion of Dr. W., who has been himself so completely confuted by Mr. Tyrwhitt.-- See his notes on Love's Labour's Lost, &c. But some of his positions it will be sufficient to mention: such as the referring the Gog and Magog, which our old Christian Bards might have had from Scripture, to the Jagiouge and Magiouge of the Arabians and Persians, &c. [p. 13.] -- That "we may venture to affirm that this [Geoffrey of Monmouth's] Chronicle, supposed to contain the ideas of the Welsh Bards, entirely consists of Arabian inventions." [p. 13.] -- And that, "as Geoffrey's History is the grand repository of the acts of Arthur, so a fabulous history, ascribed to Turpin, is the groundwork of all the chimerical legends which have been related concerning the conquests of Charlemagne and his twelve peers. Its subject is the expulsion of the Saracens from Spain; and it is filled with fictions evidently congenial to those which characterize Geoffrey's History." [p. 17.] --That is, as he afterwards expresses it, "lavishly decorated by the Arabian Fablers." [p. 58.] -- We should hardly have expected that the Arabian Fablers would have been lavish in decorating a history of their enemy; but what is singular, as an instance and proof of this Arabian origin of the fictious of Turpin, a passage is quoted from his fourth chapter, which I shall beg leave to offer, as affording decisive evidence that they could not possibly be derived from a Mahometan source. Sc. "The Christians under Charlemagne are said to have found in Spain a golden idol, or image of Mahomet, as high as a bird can fly. It was framed by Mahomet himself of the purest metal, who, by his knowledge in necromancy, had sealed up within it a legion of diabolical spirits. It held in its hand a prodigious club; and the Saracens had a prophetic tradition, that this club should fall from the hand of the image in that year when a certain king should be born in France," &c. [Vide p. 18, note.]

17. The little narrative songs on Morisco subjects, which the Spaniards have at present in great abundance, and which they call peculiarly Romances, (see book iii. no. xvi., &c.,) have present in great abundance, and which they call peculiarly romances, (see book iii. No. xiv &c.) have nothing in common with their proper romances (or Histories) of chivalry; which they call Historias de Cavallerias: these are evidently imitations of the French, and shew a great ignorance of Moorish manners: and with regard to the Morisco, or song-romances, they do not seem of very great antiquity: few of them appear, from their subjects, much earlier than the reduction of Granada, in the fifteenth century: from which period, I believe, may be plainly traced, among the Spanish writers, a more perfect knowledge of Moorish customs, &c.

18. See Northern Antiquities, passim.

19. Ibid.

20. Saxo Gram. p. 152, 153. Mallet, North. Antiq. vol. i. p. 321.

21. See a translation of this poem among "Five Pieces of Runic Poetry," printed for Dodsley, 1764, 8vo.

22. Vid. Mallet Northern Antiquities, passim.

23. The Editor's MS. contains a multitude of poems of this latter kind. It was probably from this custom of the minstrels that some of our first historians wrote their chronicles in verse, as Robert of Gloucester, Harding, &c.

24. See a specimen in second vol. of Northern Antiquities, &c. p. 248, &c.

25. Eccardi Hist. Stud. Etym. 1711, p. 179, &c. Hickes's Thesaur. vol. ii. p. 314.

26. i.e. Northern Men: being chiefly emigrants from Norway, Denmark, &c.

27. See the account of Taillefer above.

28. Ipsa CARMINA memoriæ mandabant, et prælia inituri decantabant: qua memoria tam fortium gestorum à majoribus patratorum ad imitationem animus adderetur.-- Jornandes de Gothis.

29. Eginhartus de Carolo Magno. "Item barbara, et antiquissima CARMINA, quibus veterum regum actus et bella canebantur, scripsit." c. 29.

            Asscrius de Ælfredo magno. "Rex inter bella, &c . . . Saxonicos libros recitare, et MAXIMA CARMINA SAXONICA memoriter discere, aliis imperare, et solos assidue pro viribus, studiosissime non desinebat." Ed. 1722, 8vo. p. 43.

30. See above. &c.

31. The romances on the subject of Perceval, San Graal, Lancelot du Lac, Tristan, &c. were among the first that appeared in the French language in prose, yet these were originally composed in metre: The Editor has in his possession a very old French MS. in verse, containing L'ancien Roman de Perceval; and metrical copies of the others may be found in the libraries of the curious. See a note of Wanley's in Harl. Catalog. No. 2252, p. 49, &c. Nicolson's Eng. Hist. Library, 3d ed. p. 91, &c. -- See also a curious collection of old French romances, with Mr. Wanley's account of this sort of pieces, in Harl. MSS. Catal. 973, 106.

32. The Author of the Essay on the Genius of Pope, p. 282.

33. Ibid. p. 283. Hist. Lit. tom. vi. vii.

34. Voir Preface aux "Fabliaux & Contes des Poëtes François des xii, xiii, xiv, & xv. siècles, &c. Paris, 1756 3 tom. 12mo." (a very curious work.)

35. See the account of Taillefer in vol. i. Essay, and Note. And see Rapin, Carte, &c.-- This song of Roland (whatever it was) continued for some centuries to be usually sung by the French in their marches, if we may believe a modern French writer. "Un jour qu'on chantoit la Chanson de Roland, comme c'etoit l'usage dans les marches. Il y a long temps, dit il [John K. of France who died in 1364], qu'on ne voit plus de Rolands parmi les Francois. On y verroit encore des Rolands, lui repondit un vieux Capitaine, s'ils avoient un Charlemagne à leur tête,"-- Vid. tom. p. 202, des Essaies Hist. sur Paris de M. de Saintefoix, who gives, as his authority, Boethius in Hist. Scotorum. This author, however, speaks of the complaint and repartee as made in an assembly of the states (vocato senatu), and not upon any march, &c. Vid. Boeth. lib. xv. fol. 327. Ed. Paris, 1574.

36. See, on this subject, Notes on the Essay on the Ancient Minstrels, (S2) and (GG).

37. The first romances of chivalry among the Germans were in metre; they have some very ancient narrative songs (which they call Lieder) not only on the fabulous heroes of their own country, but also on those of France and Britain, as Tristram, Gawain and the Knights von der Tafel-ronde. Vid. Goldasti Not. In Eginhart. Vit. Car. Mag. 4to. 1711, p. 207.

38. The Welsh have still some very old romances about King Arthur; but as these are in prose, they are not probably their first pieces that were composed on that subject.

39. It is most credible that these stories were originally of English invention, even if the only pieces now extant should be found to be translations from the French. What now pass for the French originals were probably only amplifications, or enlargements of the old English story. That the French romancers borrowed some things from the English appears from the word Termagant, which they took up from our minstrels, and corrupted into Tervagaunte.

40. Recuyel of the Hystoryes of Troy, 1471. Godfroye of Boloyne 1481. Le Morte de Arthur, 1485. The Life of Charlemagne, 1485, &c. As the old minstrelsy wore out, prose books of chivalry became more admired, especially after the Spanish romances began to be translated into English, towards the end of Q. Elizabeth's reign: then the most popular metrical romances began to be reduced into prose, as Sir Guy, Bevis, &c.

41. See extract from a letter, written by the Editor of these volumes, in Mr. Warton's Observations, vol. ii. p. 139.

42. Canterbury Tales (Tyrwhitt's Edit.), vol. ii. p. 238.-- In all the former editions, which I have seen, the name at the end of the fourth line is Blandamoure.

43. Dr Grey has shewn that the same story is alluded to in Rastell's Chronicle: As it was doubtless originally had from the romance, this is proof that the old Metrical Romances throw light on our first writers in prose: many of our ancient historians have recorded the fictions of romance.

44. i.e. handkerchiefs. Here we have the etymology of the word, viz. "Couvre le Chef."

45. i.e. slipt aside.

46. i.e. yawned.

47. i.e. hurt.

48. Dr. Warburton.-- Dr. Grey.

49. So it is intitled in the Editor's MS. But the true title is Le beaux Disconus, or The Fair Unknown. See a Note on the Canterbury Tales, vol. iv. p. 333.

50. Vid. "Discours sur la Poésie Epique," prefixed to TELEMAQUE.

51. i.e. May all they be blithe, that to my song listen: A song I shall you sing, Of Allgif the good king, &c.

52. In each full page of this vol. are forty-four lines, when the poem is in long metre: and eighty-eight when the metre is short, and the page in two columns.

53. Sign. K. 2. b.

54. For this and most of the following, which are mentioned as preserved in the public Library, I refer the reader to the Oxon Catalogue of MSS. 1697, vol. ii. p. 394; in Appendix to Bp. Moore's MSS. no. 690, 33, since given to the University of Cambridge.

55. No. 690, § 31. Vid. Catalog. MSS. p. 394.

56. In the former editions, after the above, followed mention of a fragment in the same MS. intitled, Sir Lionel, in distichs (p. 32); but this being only a short ballad and not relating to King Arthur, is here omitted.

57. The French original is preserved among the Harl. MSS. No. 978, § 12. Lanval.

58. See Laneham's Letter concerning Queen Eliz. entertainment at Killingworth, 1575, 12mo., p. 34.

59. No. 690 (30). Vid. Oxon. Catalog. MSS. p. 344.

60. This is alluded to by Shakespeare in his Henry V. (Act v.) where Fluellyn tells Pistol, he will make him a squire of low degree, when he means to knock him down.

61. Some of these I give, though mutilated and divested of their titles, because they may enable a curious inquirer to complete or improve other copies.

62. i.e. adventure.



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