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The Lay of Marie by Matilda Betham

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These lays were made, so sayeth this rhyme, &c.

The Bretons never failed converting into lays all the anecdotes they
thought worth consigning to memory; and the following was thus composed,
and called Lay le Fraine (frene), or "The Aventure of the Ash."

In the "West countrie" lived two knights, men of opulence, friends from
their infancy, and married about the same time. One of the ladies having
twins, her husband sent to announce the event to his friend.

The messenger goth, and hath nought forgete,
And findeth the knight at his mete;
And fair he gret, in the hall,
The lord, the levedi, the meyne all;
And sith then, on knees down him set,
And the lord full fair he gret.
"He bade that thou should to him _te_,[34]
And, for love, his _gossibbe_[35] be."
"Is his levedi deliver'd _with sounde?_"[36]
"Ya, sir, y-thonked be God, _yestronde._"[37]
"And whether a maiden child, other a knave?"
"Tway sones, sir, God hem save!"
The knight thereof was glad and blithe,
And thonked Godes sonde swithe,
And granted his errand in all thing,
And gaf him a palfray for his tiding.
Then was the lady of the house
A proud dame, and malicious,
_Hoker-full, iche mis-segging_,[38]
Squeamous, and eke scorning;
To iche woman she had envie;
She spake these words of felonie:
"Ich have wonder, thou messenger,
Who was thy lordes conseillor,
To teach him about to send,
And tell shame _in iche an end!_"[39]
"That his wife hath tway children y-bore!
Well may iche man wite therfore
That tway men her han hodde in bower:
That is hir bothe dishonour!"

The messenger was sorely abashed by these unexpected and unjust
reflections; the husband reprimanded his wife very severely for the
intemperance of her tongue; and all the women of the country, amongst
whom the story rapidly circulated, united in prayer, that her calumny
might receive some signal punishment. Accordingly, the lady shortly
after brought into the world two daughters. She was now reduced to the
alternative of avowing herself guilty of a calumny against her innocent
neighbour, or of imputing to herself, in common with the other, a crime
of which she had not been guilty; unless she could contrive to remove
one of the twins. The project of destroying her own child, was, at
first, rejected with horror; but after revolving the subject in her
mind, and canvassing with great logical acuteness the objections to this
atrocious measure, she determined to adopt it, because she could
ultimately cleanse herself from the sin, by doing private penance, and
obtaining absolution.

Having thus removed her scruples, she called the midwife, and directed
her to destroy one of the infants, and to declare that one only had been
born. But she refused; and the unnatural mother was reduced to seek for
a more submissive and supple agent. She had a maid-servant, educated in
the family, to whom she imparted her difficulties; and this confidential
counsellor at once proposed a contrivance for removing them: "Give me
the child," said she, "and be assured that, without destroying, I will
so remove it, that it shall never give you any further trouble. There
are many religious houses in the neighbourhood, whose inhabitants cannot
be better employed than in nursing and educating orphan children. I will
take care your infant shall be discovered by some of these good people,
under whose care, by the blessing of Providence, it will thrive and
prosper; and in the mean time I will take such means that its health
shall not suffer. Dismiss your sorrow, therefore, and trust in my
discretion." The lady was overjoyed, and accepted the offer with
assurances of eternal gratitude.

As it was her wish that those who should find the child might know it
was born of noble parents,

She took a rich _baudekine_,[40]
That her lord brought from _Constantine_,[41]
And lopped the little maiden therein;
And took a ring of fine gold,
And on her arm it knit,
With a lace of silk in _plit._[42]

The maid took the child her _mid_,[43]
And stole away in an even tide,
And passed over a wild heath;
Thorough field and thorough wood she _geth_,[44]
All the winter-long night.
The weather was clear, the moon was light,
So that she com by a forest side;
She wox all weary, and gan abide.
Soon after she gan heark,
Cockes crow, and dogs bark;
She arose, and thither wold;
Near and nearer, she gan behold,
Walls and houses fell the seigh,
A church, with steeple fair and high;
Then was there nother street no town,
But an house of religion;
An order of nuns, well y-dight,
To servy God both day and night.
The maiden abode no _lengore_;[45]
But yede her to the church door,
And on her knees she sate her down,
And said, weepand, her orisones.
"O Lord," she said, "Jesus Christ,
That sinful mannes _bedes_,[46]
_Underfong_[47] this present,
And help this seli innocent!
That it mote y-christen'd be,
For Marie love, thy mother free!"
She looked up, and by her seigh
An asche, by her, fair and high,
Well y-boughed, of mickle price;
The body was hollow, as many one is.
Therin she laid the child for cold,
In the _pel_,[48] as it was, _byfold_[49]
And blessed it with all her might.
With that it gan to dowe light.
The fowles up, and sung on bough,
And acre-men yede to the plough,
The maiden turned again anon,
And took the way she had ere gon.
The porter of the abbey arose,
And did his office in the close;
Rung the bells and tapers light,
Laid forth books, and all ready dight.
The church door be undid,
And seigh anon, in the _stede_,[50]
The pel liggen in the tree,
And thought well that it might be,
That thieves had y-robbed somewhere,
And gone there forth, and let it there.
Therto he yede, and it unwound,
And the maiden child therin he found.
He took it up between his honde,
And thanked Jesu Christes sonde,
And home to his house he it brought,
And took it to his daughter, and her besought
That she should keep it as she con,
For she was _melche, and couthe thon._[51]
She bade it suck, and it wold,
For it was nigh dead for cold.
Anon, fire she a-light,
And warmed it well _aplight_,[52]
She gave it suck upon her _barm_,[53]
And siththen, laid it to sleep warm.
And when the mass was y-done,
The porter to the abbesse com full soon.
"Madame, what rede ye of this thinge?
To-day, right in the morning,
Soon after the first _stound_,[54]
A little maiden child ich found
In hollow ash thin out
And a pel her about;
A ring of gold also was there;
How it came thither I wot ne'er."
The abbesse was a-wondered of this thing.
"Go," she said, "on _hying_[55]
And fetch it hither, I pray thee;
It is welcome to God and me.
Ich will it helpen as I can,
And segge it to my kinswoman."
The porter anon it gan forth bring,
With the pel, and with the ring.
The abbesse let clepe a priest anon,
And let it christen in function.
And for it was in an ash y-found,
She cleped it _Frain_ in that stound.
The name[56] of the ash is a frain,
After the language of Bretayn;
_Forthy_[57] Le Frain men clepeth this lay,
More than ash, in each country.
This Frain thriv'd from year to year;
The abbess niece men ween'd it were.
The abbess her gan teach, and _beld._[58]
By that she was twelve winter eld,
In all England there was none
A fairer maiden than she was one.
And when she couthe ought of _manhede,_[59]
She bade the abbesse her _wisse_[60] and rede,
Which were her kin, one or other,
Father or mother, sister or brother.
The abbesse her in council took,
To tellen her she nought forsook,
How she was founden in all thing;
And took her the cloth and the ring,
And bade her keep it in that stede;
And, therwhiles she lived, so she did.
Then was there, in that cuntre,
A rich knight of land and fee,
Proud, and young, and jollif,
And had not yet y-wedded wife.
He was stout, of great renown,
And was y-cleped Sir Guroun.
He heard praise that maiden free,
And said, he would her see.
He dight him in the way anon,
And jolliflich thither is gone,
And bode his man segge, verament,
He should toward a tournament.
The abbesse, and the nonnes all,
Fair him grette in the guest-hall;
And damsel Frain, so fair of mouth,
Grette him fair, as she well couth.
And swithe well he gan devise,
Her semblant, and her gentrise,
Her lovesome eyen, her _rode_[61] so bright.
And commenced to love her anon-right;
And thought how he might take on,
To have her for his lemon [Errata: leman].
He thought, "Gificcome her to
More than ich have y-do,
The abbesse will _souchy_[62] guile,
And _wide_[63] her away in a little while."
He compassed another _suchesoun;_[64]
To be brother of that religion.
"Madam," he said to the abbesse,
_"I-lovi_[65] well, in all goodness,
Ich will give one and other
Londes and rentes, to become your brother,[66]
That ye shall ever fare the _bet_[67]
When I come to have recet."[68]
At few wordes they ben _at one._
He graithes him[69], and forth is gone.
Oft he com, by day and night,
To speak with that maiden bright;
So that, with his fair _behest_,[70]
And with his glosing, at lest
She granted him to don his will,
When he will, loud and still.
"Leman," he said, "thou must let be
The abbesse _thy neice_,[71] and go with me;
For ich am riche, of swich powere,
Ye finde bet than thou hast here."
The maiden grant, and to him trist,
And stole away, that no man wist;
With her took she no thing
But her pel and her ring.
When the abbess gan aspy
That she was with the knight _owy_,[72]
She made mourning in her thought,
And her _bement_,[73] and gained nought.
So long she was in his castel,
That all his meynie loved her well.
To rich and poor she gan her 'dress,
That all her loved more and less;
And thus she led with him her life,
Right as she had been his wedded wife.
His knightes com, and to him speke,
And holy church commandeth eke,
Some lordis daughter for to take,
And his leman all forsake.
And said, him were well more fair
In wedlock to get him an heir,
Than lead his life with swiche one,
Of whose kin he knew none.
And said, "Here besides, is a knight
That hath a daughter fair and bright,
That shall bear his heritage,
Taketh her in marriage!"
Loth him was for that deed to do,
Oc, at last, he granted therto.
The _forward_[74] was y-marked aright,
And were at one, and troth plight.
Allas! that he no had y-wit,
Ere the forward were y-suit!
That she, and his leman also,
Sistren were, and twinnes two!
Of o father begeten they were,
Of o mother born _y-fere_:[75]
That _hi_[76] so were ne wist none,
Forsooth, I say, but God alone.
The new bride was graithed with oil,
And brought home to the lord is host,
Her father come with her also,
The levedi her mother, and other mo.
The bishop of the lond, withouten fail,
Come to do the spousail.

* * * * *

The young rival of Le Frain was distinguished like her sister, by a
sylvan appellation; her name was _Le Codre_ (Corylus, the Hazel), and
the knight's tenants had sagaciously drawn a most favourable prognostic
of his future happiness, from the superiority of nuts to vile ash-keys;
but neither he nor any of his household were disposed to augur
favourably of a marriage which tended to deprive them of the amiable
orphan. The feast was magnificent, but dull; and never were apparent
rejoicings more completely marred by a general feeling of constraint and
formality. Le Frain alone, concealing the grief which preyed on her
heart, was all zeal and activity; and, by her unceasing attentions,
conciliated the pity and esteem of the bride, and even of her mother,
who had hitherto felt the utmost anxiety to procure her dismissal. At
the conclusion of the banquet she employed herself in the decoration of
the bridal chamber, and having observed that the covering of the bed was
not sufficiently costly, spread over it the magnificent mantle she had
received from the abbess, and had hitherto preserved with the utmost
solicitude. She had scarcely left the room when the bride entered it
accompanied by her mother, who casting her eyes on this splendid mantle,
surveyed it with feelings of the most poignant remorse, and immediately
recognized the testimony of her crime. She questioned the chamberlains,
who were unable to explain the appearance of an ornament they had never
before beheld; she then interrogated Le Frain, and, at the end of a
short examination, fell into a swoon, exclaiming, "Fair child, thou art
my daughter!" Her husband was then summoned, and she confessed to him
with tears, and every expression of penitence, the sinful act she had
committed, and the providential discovery of her daughter by means of
the mantle and the ring, both of which were presents from himself. The
knight embraced his child with the utmost tenderness, and prevailed on
the bishop to dissolve the just solemnized marriage, and unite their
son-in-law to the original object of his affections. The other sister
was shortly after bestowed on a neighbouring lord, and the adventures
of Le Frain and Le Codre were formed into a Lay, which received its name
from the former.


[33] Jests.

[34] Perhaps a mistake in the MS. for ge, i.e. go.

[35] Gossip, godfather.

[36] Health, safety.

[37] Yesterday.

[38] Full of frowardness, each mis-saying or reviling.

[39] Each an end, i.e. in every quarter.

[40] A rich mantle, lined with fur.

[41] Constantinople.

[42] Plaited, twisted.

[43] With.

[44] Goeth.

[45] Longer.

[46] Prayers.

[47] Receive.

[48] Fur.

[49] Folded.

[50] Place.

[51] She had milk, and was able to suckle it.

[52] Certainly, I plight; I promise you.

[53] Lap.

[54] Hour.

[55] In haste.

[56] In the MS. it is "freyns," which maybe a mistake of the

[57] Therefore.

[58] Protect, defend.

[59] Manhood, here used for the relation of consanguinity.

[60] Teach and advise her.

[61] Complexion.

[62] Suspect.

[63] Void, carry away.

[64] Excuse.

[65] Beloved.

[66] Of the same religious fraternity.

[67] Better.

[68] Lodging, abode.

[69] Agreed.

[70] Promise.

[71] It should be _thy aunt._

[72] Away.

[73] Bemoaned.

[74] Contract.

[75] Together.

[76] They, Sax.

* * * * *


This is the Breton name for an animal, which the Normans call Garwolf;
into whose form men were often formerly metamorphosed; and during such
times were the most ferocious and destructive inhabitants of the forest.

There lived formerly in Bretagne a baron, comely in his person, wise,
courteous, adored by his neighbours, much beloved by his sovereign, and
married to a noble and beautiful lady, for whom he felt the warmest
affection, which she appeared to return. But she had observed, her
husband was regularly absent during three days in the week; and,
suspecting there must be something mysterious in this periodical
disappearance, resolved, if possible, to extort the secret. She
redoubled her expressions of tenderness, bitterly lamented her frequent
intervals of solitude, and, affecting to be persuaded that they were
spent with a mistress, conjured him to calm her apprehensions by a
disclosure of the truth. The good baron in his turn begged her to desist
from an enquiry which would only lead to their permanent separation,
and the extinction of all her fondness; but her tears and blandishments
prevailed, and he confessed that, during half the week, he became a
Bisclaveret. The lady, though she felt a secret horror at finding
herself the wife of a wolf, pursued her enquiry;--Were his clothes also
transformed at the same time? the baron answered, that he was naked:
where, then, did he leave his dress? To this question he endeavoured to
avoid giving an answer; declaring, should that be discovered, he should
be condemned to wear his brute form through life; and observing that, if
she loved him, she could have no wish to learn a secret, useless to her,
and in its disclosure fatal to himself. But obstinacy is always an
over-match for rational argument: she still insisted; and the
good-natured husband ultimately told that, "by the side of an old
chapel, situated on the road to the thickest part of the forest, was a
bush, which overhang and concealed an excavated stone, in which he
constantly deposited his garments." The wife, now mistress of his fate,
quickly sent for a gallant, whose love she had hitherto rejected; taught
him the means of confirming the baron's metamorphosis; and, when their
friends had renounced all hope of his return, married her new favourite,
and conveyed to him a large inheritance, the fruit of their joint
treachery. In about a year the king went to hunt in the forest, and
after a chase which lasted the whole day, had nearly run down the
unfortunate Bisclaveret, when the persecuted animal rushed from the
thicket, and running straight up to him, seized his stirrup with his
fore-paw, began to lick his feet, and with the most piteous whinings to
implore his protection. The king was, at first dreadfully frightened,
but his fear gave way to pity and admiration. He called his attendants
to witness the miracle; ordered the dogs to be whipped off, solemnly
took the brute under his royal protection; and returned to his palace,
closely followed by his savage attendant. Bisclaveret became an
universal favourite; he was fed with the greatest care, slept in the
royal apartments, and though indefatigable in attentions to his master,
returned the caresses of the courtiers, who admired and esteemed,
without envying his superior intelligence and accomplishments. At
length, the king having summoned a plenar at court, his barons flocked
from all quarters, and, among the rest the husband of the false lady. No
one had thought of paying the least attention to Bisclaveret, whose
gentleness was even more remarkable than his sagacity; but no sooner did
the knight make his appearance than the animal attacked him with the
greatest fury, and was scarcely prevented, even by the interposition of
the king himself, from tearing him to pieces. The same scene occurred a
second time, and occasioned infinite surprise. Not long after this, the
king went to hunt in the same forest, and the wicked wife, as lady of
the manor, having sent before her a magnificent present, set forth to
pay her court to her sovereign. Bisclaveret saw her approach, flew upon
her, and instantly tore her nose from her face. This act of discourtesy
to a lady excited universal indignation: even the king took part against
his favourite, who would have been punished with instant death, but for
the interference of an aged counsellor. "This lady, Sir," said he to the
king, "is wife of that knight whom you so tenderly loved, and whose
unaccountable disappearance you have so long regretted." The baron whom
Bisclaveret first assaulted is her present husband. He becomes ferocious
only on the appearance of these two; there is some mystery in this,
which the lady, if imprisoned and interrogated would probably discover.
Britany is the country of wonders--

Mainte marveille avuns veu
Qui en Bretaigne est avenu.

In compliance with this advice the lady was put in close confinement,
the whole secret extorted, and the clothes of Bisclaveret duly restored.
But when they were brought before him the animal appeared to survey
them with listlessness and inattention; and the king had again recourse
to his sapient counsellor, by whose advice they were transferred to the
royal bed-chamber, where Bisclaveret was left, without witnesses, to
effect, if possible, his metamorphosis. In due time the king, attended
with two of his barons, repaired to the chamber, and found the knight in
his natural form, asleep on the royal bed. His master immediately
embraced him with the utmost affection, restored all his estates; added
more, and banished the wicked wife, together with her paramour, from the
country. It is remarkable that afterwards she had several children, all
of whom were females, and distinguished by the disagreeable singularity
of being born without noses. Be assured that this adventure is strictly
true, and that the Lay of Bisclaveret was composed for the purpose of
making it known to the latest posterity.

* * * * *

No. V.--_The Lay of SIR LANVAL_.

It was the time of Pentecost the bless'd,
When royal Arthur held the accustom'd feast,
When Carduel's walls contained the vast resort
That press'd from every land to grace his plenar court.
There did the sovereign's copious hand dispense
Large boons to all with free magnificence,
To all but one; from Bretany he came,
A goodly knight, Sir Lanval was his name.
Long had the king, by partial temper sway'd,
His loyal zeal with cold neglect repaid;
Yet from a throne Sir Lanval drew his birth,
Nor could all England boast more comeliness and worth.
Whate'er the cause, no gift the monarch gave,
The knight with honest pride forbore to crave,
Till at the last, his substance all forespent,
From his lord's court the hopeless liegeman went.
No leave he took, he told no mortal wight,
Scarce had he thought to guide his steps aright,
But all at random, reckless of his way,
He wander'd on the better half of day.
Ere evening fell he reached a pleasant mead,
And there he loos'd his beast, at will to rest or feed;
Then by a brook-side down his limbs he cast
And, pondering on the waters as they pass'd,
The while his cloak his bended arm sustain'd,
Sadly he sat, and much in thought complain'd.
So mus'd he long, till by the frequent tread
Of quickening feet constrain'd, he turn'd his head;
Close by his side there stood a female pair,
Both richly clad, and both enchanting fair;
With courteous guise the wondering knight they greet
With winning speech, with invitation sweet
From their kind mistress, where at ease she lay,
And in her tent beguil'd the lingering day.
Awhile Sir Lanval reft of sense appear'd;
Then up at once his mailed limbs he rear'd,
And with his guides impatient to proceed,
Though a true knight, for once forgot his steed.
And now with costliest silk superbly dight,
A gay pavilion greets the warrior's sight;
Its taper spire a towering eagle crown'd,
In substance gold, of workmanship renown'd.
Within, recumbent on a couch, was laid
A form more perfect than e'er man survey'd:
The new-blown rose, the lily's virgin prime,
In the fresh hour of fragrant summer-time,
Though of all flowers the fairest of the fair,
With this sweet paragon might ill compare;
And o'er her shoulders flow'd with graceful pride,
Though for the heat some little cast aside,
A crimson pall of Alexandria's dye,
With snowy ermine lin'd, befitting royalty;
Yet was her skin, where chance bewray'd the sight,
Far purer than the snowy ermine's white.
'Lanval!' she cried, as in amazed mood,
Of speech and motion void, the warrior stood,
'Lanval!' she cried, ''tis you I seek for here;
Your worth has won me: knight, I love thee dear;
And of my love such proof will soon impart,
Shall wing with envy thy proud sovereign's heart:
Then slighted merit shall be fully known,
And kings repine at wealth beyond their own.'
Words such as these arous'd the astonish'd knight,
He felt love's kindling flame inspire his spright,
And, 'O pure paragon,' he straight replied,
'Thy love is all! I hold no wish beside!
If bliss so rare thy favouring lips decree,
No deed shall foil thy champion's chivalry;
No toil shall wear, no danger shall dismay,
Let my queen will, and Lanval must obey:
So may I thrive as, from this moment bless'd,
One hope I cherish, one sole boon request,
Thy winning form, thy fostering smiles to see,
And never, never more to part from thee.'

So speaking ceas'd awhile the enraptur'd knight,
For now the two fair damsels met his sight;
Each on her arm resplendent vestments brought,
Fresh from the loom, magnificently wrought:
Enrob'd in them, with added grace he mov'd,
As one by nature form'd to be belov'd;
And, by the fairy to the banquet led,
And placed beside her on one genial bed,
Whiles the twain handmaids every want supplied,
Cates were his fare to mortal man denied:
Yet was there one, the foremost of the feast,
One food there was far sweeter than the rest,
One food there was did feed the warriors flame,
For from his lady's lovely lips it came.

What feeble wit of man might here suffice,
To point with colours dim Sir Lanval's extacies!
There lapt in bliss he lies, there fain would stay,
There dream the remnant of his life away:
But o'er their loves his dew still evening shed,
Night gathered on amain, and thus the fairy said;
'Rise, knight! I may not longer keep thee here;
Back to the court return and nothing fear,
There, in all princely cost, profusely free,
Maintain the honour of thyself and me;
There feed thy lavish fancies uncontroul'd,
And trust the exhaustless power of fairy gold.
'But should reflection thy soft bosom move,
And wake sad wishes for thy absent love;
(And sure such wishes thou canst never frame,
From any place where presence would be shame),
Whene'er thou call thy joyful eyes shall see
This form, invisible to all but thee.
One thing I warn thee; let the blessing rest
An unrevealed treasure in thy breast;
If here thou fail, that hour my favours end,
Nor wilt thou ever more behold thy friend:'--
Here, with a parting kiss, broke off the fay,
'Farewell!' she cried, and sudden pass'd away.
The knight look'd up, and just without the tent
Beheld his faithful steed, and forth he went;
Light on his back he leap'd with graceful mein,
And to the towers of Carduel turn'd the rein;
Yet ever and anon he look'd behind
With strange amaz'd uncertainty of mind,
As one who hop'd some further proofs to spy
If all were airy dream or just reality.

And now great Arthur's court beheld the knight
In sumptuous guise magnificently dight;
Large were his presents, cost was nothing spar'd,
And every former friend his bounty shar'd.
Now ransom'd thralls, now worthy knights supplied
With equipage their scanty means denied;
Now minstrels clad their patron's deeds proclaim,
And add just honour to Sir Lanval's name.
Nor did his kindness yield a sparing meed
To the poor pilgrim, in his lowly weed;
Nor less to those who erst, in fight renown'd,
Had borne the bloody cross, and warr'd on paynim ground:
Yet, as his best belov'd so lately told,
His unexhausted purse o'erflow'd with gold.
But what far dearer solace did impart,
And thrill'd with thankfulness his loyal heart,
Was the choice privilege, that, night or day,
Whene'er his whisper'd prayer invok'd the fay,
That loveliest form, surpassing mortal charms,
Bless'd his fond eyes, and fill'd his circling arms.

Now shall ye hear how these delights so pure
Chang'd all to trouble and discomfiture.

'Twas on the solemn feast of sainted John,
When knights past tale did in the castle won,
That, supper done, 'twas will'd they all should fare
Forth to the orchard green, awhile to ramble there.
The queen, who long had mark'd, with much delight,
The gallant graces of the Breton knight,
Soon, from the window of her lofty tower,
Mid the gay band espied him in a bower,
And turning to her dames with blythe intent,
'Hence, all!' she cried; 'we join the merriment!'
All took the word, to the gay band they hied,
The queen, besure, was close to Lanval's side,
Sprightly she seem'd, and sportfully did toy,
And caught his hand to dance, and led the general joy,

Lanval alone was dull where all was gay,
His thoughts were fixed on his lovely fay:
Soon as he deftly might, he fled the throng;
And her dear name nigh trembled on his tongue,
When the fond queen, who well had trac'd his flight,
Stepp'd forth, and cross'd his disappointed sight.
Much had she sought to meet the knight alone;
Now in these words she made her passion known:
'Lanval!' she said, 'thy worth, long season past,
'In my deserv'd esteem hath fix'd thee fast:
'Tis thine this prosperous presage to improve:--
Say, gentle knight, canst thou return my love?

The knight, ye wot, love's paragon ador'd,
And, had his heart been free, rever'd his word;
True to his king, the fealty of his soul
Abhorr'd all commerce with a thought so foul.
In fine, the sequel of my tale to tell,
From the shent queen such bitter slander fell,
That, with an honest indignation strong,
The fatal secret 'scap'd Sir Lanval's tongue:
'Yes!' he declar'd, 'he felt love's fullest power!
Yes!' he declar'd, 'he had a paramour!
But one, so perfect in all female grace,
Those charms might scarcely win her handmaid's place;
Those charms, were now one menial damsel near,
Would lose this little light, and disappear.'

Strong degradation sure the words implied;
The queen stood mute, she could not speak for pride;
But quick she turn'd, and to her chamber sped,
There prostrate lay, and wept upon her bed;
There vow'd the coming of her lord to wait,
Nor mov'd till promis'd vengeance seal'd her hate.

The king, that day devoted to the chace,
Ne'er till the close of evening sought the place;
Then at his feet the fair deceiver fell,
And gloss'd her artful tale of mischief well;
Told how a saucy knight his queen abus'd,
With prayer of proffer'd love, with scorn refus'd;
Thereat how rudely rail'd the ruffian shent,
With slanderous speech and foul disparagement,
And boastfully declar'd such charms array'd
The veriest menial where his vows were paid,
That, might one handmaid of that dame be seen,
All eyes would shun with scorn imperial Arthur's queen.
The weeping tale of her, his heart ador'd,
Wak'd the quick wrath of her deluded lord;
Sternly he menac'd some disastrous end
By fire or cord, should soon that wretch attend,
And straight dispatched three barons bold to bring
The culprit to the presence of his king.

Lanval! the while, the queen no longer near,
Home to his chamber hied with heavy cheer:
Much did he dread his luckless boast might prove
The eternal forfeit of his lady's love;
And, all impatient his dark doom to try,
And end the pangs of dire uncertainty,
His humble prayer he tremblingly preferr'd,
Wo worth the while! his prayer no more was heard.
O! how he wail'd! how curs'd the unhappy day!
Deaf still remained the unrelenting fay.
Him, thus dismay'd, the approaching barons found;
Outstretch'd he lay, and weeping, on the ground;
To reckless ears their summons they declar'd,
Lost was his fay, for nought beside he car'd;
So forth they led him, void of will or word,
Dead was his heart within, his wretched life abhorr'd.

They reach the presence; there he hears surpriz'd
The mortal charge of felony devis'd:
Stern did the monarch look, and sharp upbraid
For foul seducement of his queen assay'd:
The knight, whose loyal heart disdain'd the offence,
With generous warmth affirm'd his innocence;
He ne'er devis'd seduction:--for the rest,
His speech discourteous, frankly he confess'd;
Influenc'd with ire his lips forwent their guard;
He stood prepared to bide the court's award.
Straight from his peers were chosen judges nam'd:
Then fix the trial, with due forms proclaim'd;
By them 'tis order'd that the accus'd assign
Three men for pledge, or in a prison pine.

Lanval! 'tis told, had pass'd from foreign strand,
And kinsmen none there dwelt on English land;
And well he knew that in the hour of proof
Friends for the most part fail, and stand aloof:
Sue them he would not, but with manly pride
In silence turn'd, and toward his prison hied.
With generous grief the deed Sir Gawaine view'd;
Dear to the king was he, and nephew of his blood,
But liberal worth past nature's ties prevail'd,
And sympathy stood forth, if friendship fail'd;
Nor less good-will full many a knight inspir'd;
With general voice the prisoner all requir'd,
All pledg'd their fiefs he should not fail the day,
And homeward bore him from the court away.

His friends, for sure they well that title claim,
First thought the licence of his tongue to blame;
But, when they mark'd how deeply he was mov'd,
They sooth'd and cherish'd rather than reprov'd.
Each day, as mute he sat in desperate grief,
They spoke kind words of comfort and relief;
Each day, howe'er they sought, howe'er they sued,
Scarce might they win his lips to taste of food:
'Come, welcome death!' forever was his cry;
'Lo, here a wretch who wishes but to die!'
So still he wail'd, till woe such mastery wan
They trembled for his nobler powers of man;
They fear'd lest reason's tottering rule should end
And to a moping ideot sink their friend.

At length came on the day, long since decreed,
When the sad knight should suffer or be freed.
From every part the assembling barons meet:
Each judge, as fore-ordain'd, assumes his seat;
The king, too strongly sway'd by female pride,
O'er the grave council will himself preside,
And, while the presence of his queen inspires,
Goads on the judgment as her wrath requires.
There might be seen that honourable band
Late for the prisoner pledg'd in fief and land;
Slow they advance, then stand before the board,
Whiles all behold the entrusted thrall restor'd.
With many a question next the accus'd was prov'd;
Then, while the votes were given, awhile remov'd.
But those brave warriors, when they weigh'd the plight
And the fair promise of this hapless knight,
His youth, for yet he reach'd not manhood's prime;
His gallant mien, his life without a crime,
His helpless state by kindred unsustain'd,
In a strange court and in a foreign land,
All cried aloud, were Lanval doom'd to die,
It were a doom of shame and cruelty.

At first 'twas mov'd, that straight conducted thence,
Some meet confinement should chastise the offence;
When one grave peer, in honest hope to wave
The dire debasement of a youth so brave,
Produc'd this purpose, with such reasoning grac'd,
'Twas with the general plaudit soon embrac'd:
''Twas urg'd,' he said, 'and sure the offence he blam'd,
Their queen by base comparison was sham'd;
That he, the prisoner, with strange fury mov'd,
Had prais'd too proudly the fair dame he lov'd;
First, then, 'twere meet this mistress should be seen
There in full court, and plac'd beside the queen;
So might they judge of passion's mad pretence,
Or truth had wrought the ungrateful preference.'

So spoke the judge; Sir Lanval hears the doom,
And weens his hour of destiny is come;
Quench'd is the lore that erst, in happier day,
Won to his whisper'd prayer the willing fay;
And the last licence pitying laws devise,
Serves but to close the count of miseries!

When, lo! strange shouts of joy and clamourous cheers,
Rose from without, and stay'd the astonish'd peers:
At hand two damsels entering in were seen,
Lovely alike their look, and noble was their mien;
On a grey dappled steed each lady rode,
That pac'd for pride, as conscious of his load;
'Lo here!' 'twas murmured round with new delight,
'Lo here, the mistress of the Breton knight!'
The twain meanwhile pass'd onward undelay'd,
And to the king their graceful greetings paid,
Then told their lady's coming, and desir'd
Such harbourage as highest rank requir'd.

E'en as they spoke, twain others, lovelier fair,
Of stature loftier, of more royal air,
Came proudly on: of gold their purfled vest,
Well shap'd, each symmetry of limb confess'd:
On goodly mules from farthest Spain they brought,
This pair the presence of the sovereign sought.

The impatient king, ere well their lips had power,
To claim fit harbourage of board and bower,
Led on their way; and, court'sies scantly done,
Back to the peers be sped, and press'd the judgment on;
For much, meseems, his vengeful heart misgave
Some thwarting chance the Breton knight might save.

Just were his boding fears: new shouts ascend
Of loud acclaim; and wide the welkin rend.
A female form the wondering peers behold,
Too bright for mixture of earth's mortal mould:
The gridelin pall that down her shoulders flow'd
Half veil'd her snow-white courser as she rode;
On her fair hand a sparrow-hawk was plac'd,
Her steed's sure steps a following grey-hound trac'd
And, as she pass'd, still pressing to the right
Female and male, and citizen and knight,
What wight soe'er in Carduel's walls was found,
Swell'd the full quire, and spread the joy around.

Lanval, the while, apart from all the rest,
Sat sadly waiting for his doom unbless'd:
(Not that he fear'd to die: death rather sued;
For life was nought, despoil'd of all its good:)
To his dull ears his hastening friends proclaim
The fancied form and presence of his dame;
Feebly he rais'd his head: and, at the sight,
In a strange extacy of wild delight,
''Tis she! 'tis she!' was all his faultering cry,
'I see her once again now satisfied I die!'

Thus while he spake, the peers with seemly state.
Led by their king, the illustrious stranger wait;
Proud Carduel's palace hail'd its princely guest,
And thus the dame the assembled court address'd.
'List, king, and barons!--Arthur, I have lov'd
A knight most loyal in thy service prov'd;
Him, by thy foul neglect, reduc'd to need,
These hands did recompense; they did thy deed.
He disobey's me; I forbore to save;
I left him at the portal of the grave:
Firm loyalty hath well that breach repair'd--
He loves me still, nor shall he lack reward.
'Barons! your court its judgment did decree,
Quittance or death, your queen compar'd with me:
Behold the mistress of the knight is come,
Now judge between us? and pronounce the doom.'

All cry aloud, the words of love were right,
And one united voice acquits the knight.
Back from the palace turns the parting fay,
And with her beauteous damsels speeds away:
Her, as she pass'd the enraptur'd Lanval view'd;
High on the portal's marble steps he stood;
On his tall steed he sprang with vigorous bound;
Thenceforth their footsteps never wight hath found.

But 'tis the Breton tale, they both are gone
To the fair isle of fertile Avalon;
There, in the lap of love for ever laid,
By sorrow unassail'd, in bliss embay'd,
They make their won: for me, where'er they dwell,
No farther tale befalls me here to tell.

Thomas Chestre translated this tale in the reign of Henry 6, but the
extracts published by Mr. Warton, differ in some particulars from the
tale here given.


In Neustria, now called Normandy is a single mountain of unusual height
and verdure, railed the mountain "of the two lovers," in consequence of
an adventure to which it gave rise, and of which the Bretons have formed
a lay. Close to it are the remains of a city, now reduced to a few
houses, but formerly opulent, founded by the king of the Pistreins,
whence it was called Depistreins, and the neighbouring valley Val de
Pistre. This king had one only daughter, whom he loved so much that he
could not bear to be separated from her. With a view to check the
pursuits of the lovers, whom her beauty and accomplishments attracted,
he published a decree, that her hand should never be granted but to a
suitor who should be able to carry her, without resting, from the bottom
to the top of the adjoining mountain. Many attempted the enterprise, for
presumption is common; none achieved it, because its execution was
barely possible. The suitors disappeared, one by one, and the beautiful
princess seemed doomed to eternal celibacy. There was one youth, the son
of a neighbouring baron, who was a favourite with the king and the whole
court, and whose assiduities, which were dictated by an unconquerable
and sincere passion, ultimately gained the lady's warmest affections.
It was long a secret to all the world: but this discretion became, at
length, almost intolerable; and the youth, hopeless of fulfilling the
condition which alone could obtain her hand, earnestly conjured her to
fly from her father's court. To this she would not consent, but
suggested a mode of accomplishing their wishes more compatible with her
filial piety: "I have," said she, "a rich aunt, who resides, and has
studied during thirty years, at Salerno. In that celebrated school she
has so completely acquired the art of medicine; has learned so many
_salves_ and drugs; has so studied _herbs_ and _roots_, that she will be
enabled to compose for you _electuaries_ and _drinks_, capable of
communicating the degree of vigour necessary to the accomplishment of
the trial prescribed by my father. To her you shall bear a letter from
me, and at your return shall demand me from the king, on the terms to
which he has himself assented." The lover thanked her; went home,
provided the necessary assortment of rich clothes, and other
merchandize, of palfreys, beasts of burthen and attendants, and set off
for Salerno. His mission was successful: the good aunt's electuaries
rendered him much more athletic than before; and he brought back, in a
small vial, an elixir capable of instantly restoring strength at the
moment of complete exhaustion. He therefore was full of confidence, and
claimed the trial. The king having summoned all his principal vassals to
behold the ceremony, conducted his daughter into the great plain on the
banks of the Seine, and found the youth already stationed at the foot of
the mountain. The lovely princess had scarcely tasted food since the
departure of her lover; she would gladly have wasted herself to the
lightness of air for the purpose of diminishing his labour. She wore
only a single robe which closely enveloped her. Her lover catching her
up with one hand, and bearing the precious vial in the other, appeared
perfectly unconscious of the burthen, and bore her, with the rapidity of
lightning, more than half way up the mountain: but here she perceived
his breath began to fail, and conjured him to have recourse to his
medicine. He replied, that he was still full of vigour; was too much
within sight of the multitude below, that their cries on seeing him
stop, even for an instant, would annoy and dishearten him; and that,
while able to proceed alone, he would not appeal to preternatural
assistance. At two-thirds of the height she felt him totter under the
weight, and again repeated her earnest entreaties. But he no longer
heard or listened: exerting his whole remains of strength, he staggered
with her to the top, still bearing the untasted vial in his hand, and
dropped dead on the ground. His mistress, thinking he had only fainted,
knelt down by his side, applied the elixir to his lips, but found that
life had left him. She then dashed the vial on the ground, uttered a
dreadful shriek, threw herself on the body, and instantly expired. The
king and his attendants, much surprized at not seeing them return,
ascended the mountain, and found the youth fast locked in the arms of
the princess. By command of her father they were buried on the spot in a
marble coffin, and the mountain still retains the name of "The Two
Lovers." Around their tomb the ground exhibits an unceasing verdure; and
hither the whole country resort for the most valuable herbs employed in
medicine, which owe their origin to the contents of the marvellous


There lived once in Britain a rich old knight, lord of Caerwent, a city
situated on the river Duglas. He had married, when far advanced in
years, a young wife of high birth, and transcendant beauty, in hopes of
having an heir; but when, at the end of seven years, this hope was
frustrated, he locked her up in his strong castle, under the care of his
sister, an aged widow lady, of great devotion and asperity of temper.
His own amusements were confined to the chace; those of his sister to
thumbing the Psalter, and chanting its contents: the young lady had no
solace but tears. One morning in April, when the birds began to sing the
songs of love, the old gentleman had risen early, and awakened his
sister, who carefully shut the doors after him, while he sallied forth
for the woods, and his young wife began her usual lamentations. She
execrated the hour when she was born, and the fatal avarice of her
parents, for having united her to an old, jealous tyrant, afraid of his
own shadow, who debarred her even from going to church. She had heard
the country round her prison was once famed for adventures; that young
and gallant knights used to meet, without censure or impediment,
beautiful and affectionate mistresses; but her lot was endless misery
(for her tyrant was certainly immortal), unless the supreme Disposer of
events should, by some miracle, suspend the listlessness of her
existence. She had scarcely finished this ejaculation, when the shadow
of a bird, which nearly intercepted all the light proceeding from the
narrow window of her room, arrested her attention, and a falcon of the
largest size flew into the chamber, and perched at the foot of her bed.
While she gazed, it gradually assumed the figure of a young and handsome
knight. She started, changed colour, and drew a veil over her face, but
still gazed and listened, with some fear, much astonishment, but more
pleasure. The knight soon broke silence. He begged her not to be
alarmed; confessed his mode of visiting was new, and rather mysterious;
but that a falcon was a gentle and noble bird, whose figure ought not to
create suspicion. He was a neighbouring prince, who had long loved her,
and wished to dedicate the remainder of his days to her service. The
lady, gradually removing her veil, ingenuously told him, he was much
handsomer, and apparently more amiable, than any man she had ever seen;
and she should be happy to accept him as a lover, if such a connection
could be legitimate, and if he was orthodox. The prince entered at large
into the articles of his creed; and concluded by advising that she
should feign herself sick, send for his chaplain, and direct him to
bring the host; "when," said he, "I will assume your appearance, and
receive the Sacrament in your stead." The lady was satisfied with this
proposal; and, when the old woman came in, and summoned her to rise, she
professed to be at the point of death, and entreated the immediate
assistance of the chaplain. Such a request, in the absence of her lord,
could not be regularly granted; but a few screams, and a fainting fit,
removed the old lady's doubts, and she hobbled off in search of the
chaplain, who immediately brought the host; and Muldumaric (the
falcon-prince) assuming the appearance of his mistress, went through the
sacred ceremony with becoming devotion, which they both considered as a
marriage contract. The lady's supposed illness enabled the prince to
protract his visit; but at length the moment of separation came, and she
expressed her wish for the frequent repetition of their
interviews.--"Nothing is so easy," said Muldumaric; "whenever you
express an ardent wish to see me, I will instantly come. But beware of
that old woman: she will probably discover our secret, and betray it to
her brother; and I announce to you, the moment of discovery will be that
of my death." With these words he flew off. His mistress, with all her
caution, was unable to conceal entirely the complete change in her
sensations. Her solitude, formerly so irksome, became the source of her
greatest delight; her person, so long neglected, again was an object of
solicitude; and her artful and jealous husband, on his return from the
chase, often discovered in her features the traces of a satisfaction his
conscience told him he was not the author of. His vague suspicions were,
after a time, communicated to his sister; but being, as she thought, the
young lady's sole companion, and not able to reproach herself with any
enlivening qualities, she could not account for this contented
demeanour. At length she was commanded to conceal herself in his wife's
apartments during his absence, to watch indefatigably, and report
whatever she could discover. The result was a full confirmation of all
his suspicions. He now exerted himself in devising means of vengeance:
he secretly prepared and placed before the fatal window a trap, composed
of sharpened steel arrows, and, rising long before day, set off on his
usual occupation. The old lady, carefully shutting the doors after him,
returned to her bed till day break; and his wife, awakened at this
unusual hour, could not refrain from uttering an ardent wish for the
company of her dear Muldumaric. He was instantly at her side; but had
received his death wound, and she found herself sprinkled with his
blood. Overpowered by fear and surprize, she could scarcely hear him say
he died for her, and that his prophecy was accomplished. She fainted in
his arms; but he conjured her to preserve her life, and announcing she
would have a son, whom she must call Ywonec, and who was destined to be
the avenger of both his parents. He then hastily departed through an
open and unguarded window. His mistress, uttering a piteous scream,
threw herself out of the same window, and pursued his flight by the
trace of his blood, which the first beams of morning enabled her to
distinguish. At length she arrived at a thick wood, where she was soon
surrounded with darkness; but pursued the beaten track, and emerged into
a meadow, where, recovering the trace of blood, she pursued it to a
large city of unexampled magnificence, which she entered, and proceeded
to the palace. No one was visible in the streets. In the first apartment
she found a knight asleep. She knew him not, and passed on to the next,
where she found a second equally unknown to her. She entered the third
room; and on a bed, which almost dazzled her by the splendour of its
ornaments, and which was surrounded by numerous torches blazing in
golden candlesticks, she recognised her dear Muldumaric, and sunk almost
lifeless with fatigue and terror by his side. Though very near his last
moments, he was still able to comfort and instruct her. He adjured her
to return instantly, while she could escape the notice of his subjects,
to whom, as their story was known, she would be particularly obnoxious.
He gave her a ring, in virtue of which he assured her she would in
future escape the persecution, and even the jealousy of her husband. He
then put into her hands his sword, with directions that it should never
be touched by man till his son was dubbed a knight; when it must be
delivered to him with due solemnity, near the tomb of his father, at the
moment he should learn the secret of his birth, and the miseries
produced by it. She would then see the first use to which her boy would
put it. The prince had nearly spent his last breath in the service of
his beloved mistress; he could only instruct her by signs to put on a
magnificent robe which lay near him, and hasten her departure. She
staggered through the town, arrived in the solitary fields, heard the
distant knell announce her lover's death, and sunk exhausted to the
ground. At length the air revived her; she slowly renewed her journey,
and returned to her castle, which, by virtue of her ring, she entered
undisturbed. Till the birth of her son, and from that time to the
conclusion of his education, she lived in silent anguish, and in patient
expectation of the day of vengeance. The young Ywonec, by his beauty and
address, recalled to her mind the loved image of his father; and at
length she beheld him, with a throbbing heart, invested, amidst the
applause of all the spectators, with the dignity of knighthood. The hour
of retribution was now fast approaching. At the feast of St. Aaron, in
the same year, the baron was summoned with his family to Caerleon, where
the festival was held with great solemnity. In the course of their
journey they stopped for the night in a spacious abbey, where they were
received with the greatest hospitality. The good abbot, for the purpose
of detaining his guests another day, exhibited to them the whole of the
apartments, the dormitory, the refectory, and the chapter-house, in
which they beheld a vast sepulchral monument, covered with a superb
pall, fringed with gold, and surrounded by twenty waxen tapers in golden
candlesticks, while a vast silver censer, constantly burning, filled
the air with fumes of incense. The guests naturally inquired concerning
the name and quality of the person who reposed in that splendid tomb;
and were told it was the late king of that country; the best, the
handsomest, the wisest, the most courteous and liberal of mankind; that
he was treacherously slain at Caerwent, for his love to the lady of that
castle; that since his death his subjects had respected his dying
injunctions, and reserved the crown for a son, whose arrival they still
expected with much anxiety. On hearing this story the lady cried aloud
to Ywonec, "Fair son, thou hast heard how Providence hath conducted us
hither. Here lies thy father whom this old man slew with felony. I now
put into thy hands the sword of thy sire; I have kept it long enough."
She then proceeded to tell him the sad adventure of his birth, and,
having with much difficulty concluded the recital, fell dead on the tomb
of her husband. Ywonec, almost frantic with grief and horror, instantly
sacrificed his hoary stepfather to the manes of his parents, and having
caused his mother to be interred with suitable honours, accepted from
his subjects the crown they had reserved for the representative of a
long line of royal ancestors.


[77] The subject of this romance appears to have been taken
from the ecclesiastical history of Normandy. There is still remaining,
near Rouen, the priory of the Lovers, which tradition reports to have
been founded by the father on the very same spot where they perished,
and on the tomb which contained them. M. de la Mere's Dissertation.

No. 8.--LAUSTIC.

The author tells us, this lay is called, in the Breton tongue,
Laustic,[78] and in "right English," the Nihtegale (Nightingale). It is
very well written, and contains many picturesque descriptions; in the
district of St. Malos is the town of Bon, which derives its name from
the goodness of two knights who formerly dwelt in it. One was married;
the other was in love with his neighbour's wife, who returned his
affection. The houses were so near, being only separated by a wall, that
they could easily, from the windows of their respective bed chambers,
interchange glances, talk without being overheard, and toss to each
other little presents and symbols of attachment. For the purpose of
enjoying this amusement, the lady, during the warm nights of spring and
summer, used to rise, and throwing a mantle over her, repair to the
window, and stay there till near the dawn of day. Her husband, much
annoyed by this practice, roughly asked what was the object which so
constantly allured her from her bed, and was told that it was the sweet
voice of the Nightingale. Having heard this he set all his servants to
work, spread on every twig of his hazels and chesnut trees a quantity of
bird-lime, and set throughout the orchard so many traps and springs,
that the nightingale was shortly caught. Immediately running to his
wife, and twisting the bird's neck, he tossed it into her bosom so
hastily that she was sprinkled with the blood; adding that her enemy
was now dead, and she might in future sleep in quiet. The lady, who, it
seems, was not fertile in expedients, submitted to the loss of her
nightly conversations, and was contented with exculpating herself
towards her lover by sending him the dead bird inclosed in a bag of
white satin, on which she embroidered the history of its fate; and her
gallant paramour caused his mistress's present to be inclosed in a
golden box, richly studded with gems, which he constantly carried about
his person.[79]


[78] Laustic is still a Nightingale in the Breton language, and
l'eaustic is the French manner of speaking.

No. IX.--MILUN.[80]

Milun was a knight of South Wales. His strength and prowess were such,
that he never met an adversary who was able to unhorse him. His
reputation spread far beyond the borders of his own country, and he was
known and admired in Ireland, Norway, Gothland, Loegria (England), and
Albany (Scotland). At no great distance from his castle dwelt an opulent
baron, who had an only daughter, courteous and beautiful. Hearing his
praises from all quarters, she became enamoured, and sent a messenger to
say, her heart was at his service if he thought it worth acceptance.
Milun, whose affections were not pre-engaged, returned an answer
expressive of gratitude, sent his gold ring as a symbol of inviolable
constancy; and, having fixed her messenger in his interests by
magnificent presents, arranged with him a secure place of meeting. Their
intercourse was managed so discreetly as to excite no suspicion; till
the young lady, sending for her lover, represented to him that longer
concealment was impossible. By an ancient law she was subject, on
discovery, at her father's option, to be punished with instant death or
sold as a slave; and she saw no means of escaping this frightful
alternative. Milun listened in silent horror, but could suggest no
expedient, when her old nurse undertook to conceal the rest, if the
child could be properly disposed of; and for this the young lady found a
ready contrivance. She had a sister richly married in Northumberland, to
whom Milun might cause the child to be conveyed, with a letter
explaining all, and his gold ring, by means of which it might, in due
time, discover and make itself known to its parents. It proved to be a
boy; the ring was hung about its neck, with a purse containing the
letter; he was placed in a soft cradle, swathed in the finest linen,
with an embroidered pillow under his head, and a rich coverlid edged
with sable to protect him from the cold. Milun, in delivering him to the
attendants, ordered that during the journey he should stop seven times
in the day, for the purpose of being washed, fed, and put to sleep. The
nurse, and all the servants who attended, had been selected with great
care, and performed their charge with fidelity; and the Northumbrian
lady assured her sister, by a letter which they brought back, that she
accepted the charge with pleasure. This being settled, Milun left his
castle for a short time on some military business, and during his
absence the young lady's father resolved to bestow her in marriage on a
neighbouring baron. She was now almost reduced to despair, her lover, to
whom she was more than ever attached, was absent; to avow to her new
husband what had happened was impossible, and to conceal it extremely
difficult. But she was compelled to submit. The marriage took place; and
Milun, on his return, was scarcely less distressed than his mistress,
till he recollected she was still in the neighbourhood, and he might
perhaps be able to devise some means of procuring an interview. He had a
favourite swan, long accustomed to feed out of his hand. Having written
and sealed a letter, he tied it round its neck, and finding it
effectually concealed by the feathers, called a favourite servant, and
directed him to repair to the lady's habitation, devise some contrivance
for gaining admission, and deliver the same into her own hands. The man
executed his commission with great ingenuity. He represented himself to
the porter of the castle as a poacher; stated that he had just caught a
fine swan close to Caerleon; and much wished to conciliate the future
intercession of the lady by presenting it to her. The porter, after some
hesitation, went to explore the anti-chamber; and, finding in it only
two knights, intent on a game of chess, returned immediately, and
conducted the man to his lady's apartment, which, on his knocking, was
opened to them. Having graciously accepted the present, she was going to
recommend the swan to the care of one of her valets; but the messenger
observing "it was a royal bird, who would only accept food from her own
hand," and desiring her to caress it, she soon perceived the letter, and
changed colour, but recovering herself, dismissed the messenger with a
present, turned out her own attendants, excepting one maid, and
proceeded to examine the mystery. It contained the warmest protestations
of her lover's unalterable attachment, expressed a hope that she might
be able to point out a secure place of meeting; and shewed her an easy
method of continuing the correspondence. "The swan, already tame, might,
by good feeding, be easily attached to her; after which, if debarred
from meat during three days, he would, when set at liberty, fly back to
his old master." After kissing the welcome letter till she had nearly
obliterated its contents she proceeded to put in practice his
injunctions; and having by stealth procured some parchment and ink, made
an equally tender reply, which, being tied round the swan's neck, was
rapidly and faithfully conveyed to Milun. During twenty years they kept
up, by this means, a regular correspondence, and their frequent
interviews were managed with a secresy which secured them against
detection. In the mean time their son, after receiving an excellent
education, had been dubbed a knight, and learned from his aunt the name
of his father, and the mystery of his birth. Inflamed with a noble
ambition, he resolved instantly to set off for foreign countries and to
surpass his sire in military glory. The next day he communicated the
project to his aunt, who gave him a number of instructions for his
future conduct; which, lest he should forget, she repeated more than
once, and accompanied her admonitions with such liberal presents as
would enable him to rival in splendour the richest of his competitors.
He repaired to Southampton; landed at Barbefluet (Barfleur); passed into
Britany; engaged, by his generosity, a numerous attendance of poor
knights, eclipsed the proudest of his rivals by superior liberality;
vanquished the stoutest; gained the prize in every tournament; and,
though he concealed his name, was quickly known through the country by
the appellation of "The Knight without a Peer." The fame of this
youthful warrior at length reached the care of his father. From the
first moment of his bestriding a horse, that father had never
encountered an equal; and as he trusted age had added to his address
more than it had yet subtracted from his vigour, he hoped to prove, by
the overthrow of this unknown, that his high renown was owing to the
absence of Milun. After this exploit he meant to go in quest of his son,
whose departure into foreign countries he had lately learnt, and having
obtained the permission of his mistress, embarked for Normandy, and
thence proceeded into Bretagne. The tournaments did not begin till the
festival of Easter; Milun, therefore, who arrived before the end of
winter, spent the interval in travelling from place to place, in
exercising hospitality, and searching out the most meritorious knights,
whom he attached to himself by his liberality. At length the festival
took place, at Mont St. Michel, and was attended by a crowd of French,
Flemish, Norman and Breton, knights, though by very few English. Milun
enquired minutely into the arms and devises of the unknown knight, and
had no difficulty in procuring ample information. The tournament began:
the two rivals separately acquired a manifest superiority, and bore down
all who opposed them, but the opinions of the assembly were divided
between the two. The strength and address of the veteran appeared
invincible, yet the suppleness and activity of the youth attracted still
more admiration. Even Milun himself beheld him with a mixture of wonder
and delight, and summoned all his skill and strength when he rode to
encounter this formidable adversary. His spear was too well-directed to
miss its aim; but it flew into a thousand splinters, while that of the
youth remained entire, and threw him at some distance upon the ground.
By the violence of the shock the ventail of his helmet was broken off,
and displayed his beard and hair, gray with age; when the youth,
bringing back his horse, courteously requested him to remount,
expressing his regret at having, by his accidental victory, sullied the
fame of a respectable veteran. Milun, surveying him with increased
admiration, discovered on his finger, while he held the rein, his own
ring, and earnestly conjured him to relate his history, and the names of
his parents. He obeyed, and was proceeding to tell all he knew, when the
old knight again springing from his horse, and catching him by the
skirts of his coat of mail, hailed him as his son, and received him in
his arms as he dismounted to request the paternal benediction. The
tournament being over, they retired amidst the tears and applauses of
the assembly, and retreated to their inn, where Milun related the whole
series of his adventures. The young man listened till the end with
respectful attention; and then exclaimed, "In faith, fair sire, I will
unite you to my mother. I will kill her present husband, and you shall
marry her." This being arranged, they parted for the night. On the next
day they arrived at the sea: embarked; landed in Wales after a short and
pleasant passage; and were proceeding to Milun's castle, when they were
met by a messenger bearing a letter to Milun from his lady, in which she
announced the death of her husband, and requested him to hasten his
return. At this joyful news they hurried on to the lady's castle; and
she had the satisfaction of being for ever united to her lover, at the
same time that she embraced a son every way worthy of his accomplished
parents. On this occasion says the author, "_the ancients_ made a lay
which I have here set down _in writing_, and which I always relate with
fresh pleasure."


[79] This lay has been translated into English metre, under the
title of "the _Nythingale_." Bibl. Cotton. Calig. A. 11.

[80] Perhaps Milwr, a _warrior_.

* * * * *


There lived formerly, at Nantes in Bretagne, a lady of such exquisite
beauty that no one could behold her with impunity. All the young men of
the town were rivals for her smiles; but four, nearly of the same age,
and of equal birth and accomplishments, soon eclipsed all the rest of
the competitors. Each of these four deserved, and obtained, a place in
her affections; but their merits were so equal that she was unable to
make a choice. At tournaments she sent to all some mark of distinction;
a ring, a scarf, a pennant, or other ornament; and all ascribed to her,
as mistress of their actions, the exploits they had the good fortune to
perform. It happened once, that Nantes was appointed for the celebration
of a tournament at the Easter festival. The four knights set out to meet
the foreign ones, and proposed to joust with an equal number: the offer
was accepted, and the contest ended to the advantage of the town. On the
following day the four young lovers still further distinguished
themselves; but the spectacle at length degenerated, as was frequently
the case, into a real combat, in which three out of the four were
accidentally slain, and the fourth dangerously wounded. They were
brought back to the lady, who caused the three to be magnificently
interred, and summoned the best physicians of the town to assist her
attendance on the survivor. Their joint efforts were at length
successful. He became convalescent; and, finding his passion revive with
his returning health, daily importuned the lady for her hand, to which
there now remained no other equal claimant. But she gave him to
understand, that feeling herself singular in misfortune, by having lost
in one day three admirers of superior merit, she would not consent to
bear to the bridal ceremony a heart consumed by eternal regret; and
that, as a monument of her grief, she intended to compose a lay, the
title of which should be "Les quatre Dols," (the four griefs). The
lover, instead of attempting to argue her out of this resolution, only
employs his eloquence in convincing her that the title of the new lay
ought to be "Le Chaitivel," (the wretch), because his rivals had found
in death the end of their disappointments, while he was doomed to a life
of sorrow and privation. The lady having assented to this change, the
story is abruptly brought to a conclusion.

* * * * *

No. XI.--_Translation of the Lai DEE CHEVREFOIL_:

_(From Notes to Sir Tristrem, edited by Walter Scott, Esq.)_

I am much pleased with the lay which is called Chevrefoil. Let me relate
to you truly on what occasion it was made, and by whom. Many persons
have narrated the story to me; and I have also found it in writing, in
the work which treats of Tristrem, and of the Queen; and of their
constant love, from which they suffered a thousand sorrows; and expired
on the same day.[81]

King Markes had been much offended with his nephew, Tristrem; and had
banished him on account of his attachment to the queen. The knight
retired into the country where he was born; spent there a whole year of
affliction; and, being still forbidden to return, became careless of
life. Do not wonder at this; for a true lover, where his wishes are
crossed by insuperable obstacles, can set no bounds to his grief.
Tristrem, therefore, thus driven to despair, left his home; passed into
Cornwall, the abode of the queen, and concealed himself in the thickest
part of the forest; from which he issued only at the close of the day,
at which time he took up his lodgings among the peasants and the poorest
of mankind. After frequent questions to these his hosts, concerning the
public news of the court, he at length learned the king had convoked his
barons, and summoned them to attend him at Pentecost, at the castle of
Tintagel. Tristrem was rejoiced at this news; because it was impossible
the queen could arrive at the meeting without giving him an opportunity
of getting sight of her during the journey. On the appointed day,
therefore, be took his station, in that part of the wood through which
the road passed, cut down a branch of _codre_ (hazel), smoothed it,
wrote his name on it with the point of his knife, together with other
characters, which the queen would well know how to decypher. He
perceives her approaching; he sees her examine with attention every
object on her road. In former times they had recognized each other by
means of a similar device; and he trusts, that, should she cast her eyes
on the stick, she will suspect it to belong to her lover. This was the
purport of the characters traced on it: "That he had long been waiting
at a distance, in hopes of being favoured with some expedient which
might procure him a meeting, without which he could no longer exist. It
was with these two, as with the _chevrefoil_ and the _codre._ When the
honey-suckle has caught hold of the _codre_, and encircled it by its
embraces, the two will live together and flourish; but if any one
resolves to sever them, the _codre_ suddenly dies, and the honey-suckle
with it. Sweet friend, so it is with us; I cannot live without you, nor
you without me."

The queen slowly riding on, perceives the stick, and recognizes the
well-known characters. She orders the knights who accompany her to stop.
She is tired; she will get off her horse for a short time, and take some
repose. She calls to her only her maid, her faithful Brenguein; quits
the road, plunges into the thickest part of the forest, and finds him
whom she loved more than all the world. Both were delighted beyond
measure at this meeting, which gives them full leisure to concert their
future projects. She tells him, that he may now be easily reconciled to
his uncle. That the king has often regretted his absence, and
attributes to the malicious accusations of their common enemies, the
severe measure of his banishment. After a long conversation, the queen
tears herself from him; and they separate with mutual grief. Tristrem
returned to South-Wales, from whence he was soon recalled by his uncle;
but, in the mean time, he had repeated to himself, over and over again,
every word of his mistress's late conversation; and, while full of the
joy he felt at having seen her, he composed (being a perfect master of
the lays) a new lay, describing his stratagem, its success, his delight,
and the very words uttered by the queen. I will tell you the name of
this lay it is called _Goat-leaf_ in English, and _Chevre-foil_ in
French. I have now told you the whole truth.[82]


[81] Marie, who drew all her materials from Bretagne, probably
refers to some Armorican edition, of the history of these ill-fated

[82] From this, which forms no part of the Sir Tristrem of
Thomas, the Rhymer, it is evident that the same tale was popular in
France, at least thirty years before the probable date of that work.


This is stated to be a _very_ old Breton lay. Its original title was
"Guildeluec ha Gualadun," from the names of the two heroines; but it was
afterwards more commonly stiled, The Lay of Eliduc.

Eliduc was a knight of Bretagne, much admired for military prowess,
courtesy, and political sagacity; in consequence of which, his
sovereign, who loved and admired him, was in the habit of entrusting to
his management the most important cares of government. Indeed, so great
was his influence at court, that he enjoyed, almost as completely as the
king, the privilege of the chace in the royal forests. But the favour of
sovereigns is always precarious; and so adroit were his enemies, that he
was suddenly deprived of all his honours, and even banished the country,
without being able to obtain from his once indulgent master, the
privilege of knowing his crimes, or being confronted with his accusers.
Fortunately he was in the prime of life, fond of adventure, and not of a
temper to despond. He retired to his castle, convened his friends, and
communicated to them the king's injustice, and his own projects; which
were, to embark for England, and there enter into the pay of the first
king who might want his assistance. But he had a wife, the fair and
amiable Guildeluec, whom he tenderly loved; and whom, as he was
unwilling to carry her into exile, he earnestly recommended to their
care and attentions. He then selected ten knights as his companions, and
departed for the sea-coast, escorted by nearly all his friends and
vassals, and accompanied by his wife, who was almost frantic with grief
at this cruel separation, and whom he could scarcely reconcile to her
fate, by repeating again and again the most solemn assurances of eternal
and inviolable fidelity. At length he embarked with a fair wind, and
landing at Totness, in Devonshire, proceeded towards Exeter. The king of
this district had an only daughter, heiress of his dominions; and,
having refused to bestow her on a neighbouring prince, was at that time
involved in a most distressful war, and besieged in his capital. Eliduc
went no further: he sent a message to the distressed king, offering his
assistance; and requesting, should the proposal be rejected, a safe
conduct through the country. The king most gladly accepted the offer,
and ordered his constable to prepare a house for the reception of the
welcome guests, and issue a suitable sum of money, with a supply of
provisions for their monthly expenditure. Eliduc and his attendants were
magnificently entertained. His inn was the house of the richest burgess
in the town, and _the grand tapestry room_[83] was surrendered to the
knight by its proprietor. Eliduc on his part was equally liberal. He
issued strict orders to his attendants, that during the first forty
days, none of them should accept either pay or provisions from the
court; and during this time kept, at his own expence, a profuse table
for the accommodation of such knights as were unprovided with other
means of subsistence. On the third day, an alarm was spread that the
enemy had again over-run the country, and might shortly be expected at
the gates. Eliduc flew to arms; and, having assembled his ten knights,
was soon after joined by fourteen more from different parts of the city,
who declared themselves ready to encounter, under his commands, any
inequality of numbers. Eliduc praised their zeal; but observed, that
this intemperate valour was more fitted for the lists of a tournament
than for useful service; and requested that they, who knew the country,
would shew him some defile in which he could hope to attack the enemy on
equal terms. They pointed out a hollow way in the neighbouring forest,
by which the invaders usually passed and returned; and Eliduc, while
hastening there, described the measures he meant to pursue, and exhorted
them to follow him with vigour. All was so well planned and executed,
that the foe were surprized laden with booty; and their commander, with
thirty principal officers, seized on his palfrey, and made prisoners
almost without resistance. The squires and other attendants at the same
time secured a large quantity of baggage, and the troop immediately
hastened their return towards the city, where their appearance excited
no small consternation. The king, having mounted a watch-tower, had
descried his small garrison of knights engaged in a distant action with
very superior numbers; after which, seeing a large body in full march
for the city, he concluded Eliduc had betrayed him; caused the gates to
be shut, the alarm to be sounded, and commanded the citizens to defend
the walls. But being quickly undeceived, he welcomed his deliverer with
transports of joy and gratitude; and, after receiving his oath of
allegiance for a year, invested him with the supreme military command,
and assigned ample pensions to himself and all his attendants. The
king's daughter, the beautiful Guilliadun, became anxious in her turn to
behold the extraordinary stranger, who had confirmed her father in his
throne, by means of a troop of knights, who scarcely appeared competent
to the defence of the walls. She invited him to an audience, to which he
was formally introduced by one of her chamberlains; seated him near her
on a bed; and entered into conversation on a variety of indifferent
topics. But during the discourse, she could not help remarking that this
consummate warrior and statesman was young and handsome; and found her
heart completely engaged. After sighing and turning pale, and making
many reflections on the indelicacy of avowing her passion, she would
probably have done it, if the knight had not, by respectfully taking
leave, put an end to the interview. He, in the mean time, had not been
blind to her perfections, her youth, beauty, simplicity and frankness of
character, and, above all, those artless sighs which assured him of her
affection, had made an indelible impression on his heart. At length the
image of his wife, and his solemn assurances of fidelity, interrupted
the dream of happiness in which he had involuntarily indulged; but the
interruption became painful; and while he mentally repeated the promise
of adhering to duty, he felt that promise disavowed by his inclination.
Guilliadun, after a sleepless night, found it impossible to keep her
secret, and having summoned a trusty chamberlain, confided to him her
sudden, and, as she thought, inexplicable passion. After a long
discussion, she at length, at his suggestion, dispatched him to the
knight with the usual salutations of courtesy, and with the present of
her ring and a rich girdle. Eliduc immediately replied by an equally
courteous message; put the ring on his finger; bound the girdle round
his loins; offered a rich present to the chamberlain, who declined it;
but avoided all discussion on the subject of his message. The impatient
princess was almost driven to despair by the report of her chamberlain,
who, though convinced that Eliduc could not be insensible to the
kindness of his mistress, was unable to satisfy her mind, or even his
own, concerning the cause of such extreme discretion. Both, indeed, were
ignorant of the conflicts by which he was agitated. To recall his former
fondness for his wife, and to conciliate his duty and affection, was no
longer possible: to betray and dishonour the amiable Guilliadun would be
infamous; and to encourage her passion and his own, without being
hurried too far, was extremely difficult; yet on this he ultimately
resolved; and, having mounted his horse, set off for the palace under
pretence of paying his court to the king, but with the real view of
obtaining an interview with his daughter. The monarch was at that moment
in the apartment of the princess, to whom, while be played a game of
chess with a foreign knight, he explained the moves. On the entrance of
Eliduc he immediately introduced him to her, enjoining her to entertain
and form an acquaintance with a knight, who had few equals in merit; and
the young lady, gladly obeying the injunction, retired with her lover to
the farther end of the apartment. After a long silence equally painful
to both, and which each ineffectually attempted more than once to
interrupt, Eliduc luckily bethought himself of returning thanks for the
ring and girdle; which, as he assured her, he valued far beyond all his
earthly possessions. This warmth of expression encouraging the princess,
she frankly proceeded to make an avowal of her passion, declaring, if he
should reject her hand, there was no other man on earth whom she would
ever accept as a husband; and, when he mysteriously replied, that, as
far as his wishes were concerned, there could be no bar, but that it was
his purpose, after the year of service for which he was pledged to her
father, to return and establish himself in his own country, she told him
she had full confidence in his honour, and was persuaded, when the time
arrived, he would make all proper arrangements for her future destiny.
Thus ended the interview to their mutual satisfaction. Eliduc, watchful,
enterprizing, and indefatigable, soon recovered for her father all the
lost provinces, and insured future tranquillity by the capture of his
enemy; but scarcely was the war concluded, when the knight received an
embassy from his former master, whose ingratitude had been punished by
the loss of half his kingdom, and the jeopardy of the rest, adjuring him
to come with all speed to the rescue of a country which was now purged
of the monsters whose false accusations had occasioned his exile. Such
an embassy, a few months sooner would have been most welcome, but to
part with Guilliadun now appeared the heaviest of misfortunes. He felt,
however, that duty called him away, and determined to obey the summons.
He went to the king; read the letters he had received; and earnestly
requested leave to depart, though his stipulated term of service was not
expired; observing, at the same time, that the state of his majesty's
affairs no longer required his attendance; and, promising at the first
appearance of difficulty, he would return with a powerful body of
knights. The king, after making the most splendid offers to detain him,
unwillingly yielded; but to obtain the consent of Guilliadun was far
more difficult. Trusting that she possessed the whole heart of her
lover, and perfectly unconscious that his hand had been previously given
to another, she insisted on accompanying him, and threatened to destroy
herself in case of his refusal. His remonstrances were accompanied by
fainting fits, which terrified Eliduc into a solemn promise of
unqualified submission to her will; but he represented, that having
sworn fealty to her father, she could not now go with him, without a
breach of his oath; whereas, after the expiration of his term of
service, he could, without disgrace, comply with her wishes; and he
promised, on the honour of a knight, that if she would fix a day, he
would return and carry her off. With this promise she was satisfied, and
after many tears, and a mutual exchange of rings, ultimately permitted
him to depart. The return of Eliduc gave infinite pleasure to his
friends, to the king his master, and above all, to his excellent wife,
who now hoped she should be indemnified, by his beloved society, for her
long and dreary hours of widowhood. But she beheld, with surprise and
consternation that he harboured some secret grief, and anxiously
enquired if any thing in her conduct had given him displeasure. Eliduc
assured her of the contrary, but told her, in apparent confidence, that
he was forced by his oath to return to the king whom he had lately
quitted, so soon as he should have settled the affairs of his own
country; that he had much to endure, much to accomplish; and that,
harassed as he was on all sides, he should never regain his former
gaiety till he should have extricated himself from all his difficulties.
In the mean time, his mere name had inspired the enemy with alarm; his
re-appearance at the head of the armies brought back victory to the
royal standard; he saw and seized the moment of making an advantageous
peace; and, having done so, prepared for the execution of a more
pleasing enterprise. Taking with him only two nephews, a chamberlain and
a trusty squire, all of whom he swore to secresy, he embarked for
Loegria; stationed his vessel at some distance from the harbour of
Totness; and landing his chamberlain alone, and in disguise, sent him,
with secret instructions to the princess. The confidant executed his
commission with address; made his way unobserved to the chamber of
Guilliadun, informed her of his master's arrival, and explained the
measures he had devised for her escape. They waited for the approach of
night; when Guilliadun, without any other attendant, having muffled
herself in a short and warm mantle, which concealed the richness of her
usual garments, followed him out of the town, to a small wood, where
Eliduc, who had deferred his landing till evening, awaited her. The
knight instantly placed her on a horse, springing on another, and taking
her rein in his hand, hurried forward to the sea, and embarked without
having excited the slightest suspicion of the enterprise, to which none
were privy excepting those on board. Both wind and tide were favourable;
they arrived near the coast of Bretagne, and were on the point of
entering the harbour, when a sudden squall from the shore split their
mast, rent their sail, and exposed them for some hours to the most
imminent danger. All exertions to guide the vessel being ineffectual,
they had recourse to prayers, invoking St. Nicholas and St. Clement, and
requesting the intercession of the blessed Virgin and her Son, that they
might be permitted to land in safety. The storm continued; when one of
the sailors suddenly exclaimed, "Sir knight, you carry with you the
cause of our calamity. In defiance of God, religion, justice and honour,
you are carrying off that lady, having already a beautiful and lawful
wife in your own country. Permit us to throw your paramour into the sea,
and we shall speedily find our prayers effectual." The princess was then
lying, almost exhausted with fatigue, sickness, and fear, in the arms of
her lover; who, though bursting with rage, could only express it by
execrations, which he vented as loudly as he could in the hope of
drowning the hateful voice of the mariner, but the fatal assurance
"Eliduc was already married," had reached the ear, and sunk deeply into
the heart of Guilliadun. She fainted, and though he and his friends
employed all the means in their power for her recovery, they were unable
to produce any symptom of returning animation, a general exclamation of
grief pronounced her dead; when the knight, starting from the body,
seized an oar, felled at one blow the presumptuous seaman, threw him by
the foot into the sea, took possession of the helm, and directed it so
skilfully that the vessel reached the harbour in safety. They all
landed, and in a very few hours might reach the castle of Eliduc, which
was not far from the coast; but where could he deposit the body of his
mistress, how inter it with all the honours suitable to her rank and
merit? he at length recollected, that in the forest which surrounded his
mansion, dwelt an aged hermit, at whose cell the corpse might remain
till its interment: he could then enjoy the sad pleasure of visiting
daily the object of all his solicitude, and he determined to found on
the spot an abbey, in which a number of monks should pray for ever for
the soul of the lovely and injured Guilliadun. He then mounted his
palfrey, and, carrying the body in his arms, proceeded with his
attendants to the hermitage. The door was shut; and they discovered,
after having at length procured an entrance, the grave of the holy man,
who had expired a few days before. Eliduc caused a bed to be made within
the chapel; and placing on it his mistress, whose deadly paleness had
not yet injured her beauty, burst into a flood of tears, kissed her
lips and eyes, as if in the hopes of restoring their animation; and
solemnly pronounced a vow, that from the date of her interment he would
never more exercise the functions of a knight; but, after having erected
an abbey on the spot, sanctified by her remains, would assume himself
the monastic habit, and daily visit her tomb to express his love, his
grief, and his remorse. He then, with difficulty tore himself from the
body, and departed; having first sent a messenger to his castle to
announce that he was arrived, but so much fatigued and way-worn, as to
require nothing but repose and solitude. His wife met him with her usual
gentleness of affection; but instantly saw in his haggard looks that his
heart laboured with some misery which her tenderness was unable to
remove. His manners were such as to awaken without satisfying her
curiosity. He rose at day break, spent some hours at prayers, walked
alone into the forest, proceeded instinctively to the fatal hermitage,
and returned late in the evening, bearing with him, as it appeared, an
additional load of misery. He saw with astonishment that death seemed to
abstain from ravaging the beauties of Guilliadun; he involuntarily gave
way to the most flattering hopes; and, after many long sad hours of
tears and fruitless prayer, retired in anguish and disappointment. On
the third day he gave notice he should go to court, and pass the evening
with the king. His wife, in the mean time, by the promise of the most
tempting rewards, had engaged one of her pages to follow his master at a
distance, during his forest walk, and report what he should see and
hear; and the page, having on that morning executed his commission, she
determined to take advantage of Eliduc's absence to visit the hermitage,
and discover, if possible, the cause of that excessive grief to which he
gave way; and of which the death of the old hermit, much as he might
have loved him, was far from affording a satisfactory explanation. She
set forth with the page, entered the chapel, beheld, with much surprize,
a bed handsomely ornamented; and, on lifting up the covering, saw, with
still more astonishment, the young and blooming Guilliadun, "_qui
resemblot rose nuvele_." The faultless beauty of a living rival might
have excited some indignation in the bosom of the most patient wife, but
the eyes of the lovely object before her, appeared closed for ever; and
Guildeluec could find no place in her heart, for any sentiments but
those of admiration and pity. After calling her page to survey the
spectacle which fully explained and excused her husband's immoderate
grief, she sat down by the bed to reflect on the past, and decide on
her own future conduct. During, the long absence of Eliduc she had
devoted the greater part of her time to religious exercises, and now
clearly saw that to them only could she look for comfort. Having
convinced herself of this necessity, she turned, with tears in her eyes,
to the fair object of her husband's regret; when a circumstance,
apparently trifling, involuntarily arrested her attention. A weasel,
creeping from under the altar, ran upon the bed, and passing several
times over the face of the entranced Guilliadun, so far incensed the
page, that with a blow of his stick he laid it dead at his feet, and
then threw it on the floor. The animal had lain there only a few
moments, when another weasel, coming from the same hole, ran up, and
attempted awhile to sport with it, and then, after exhibiting every
appearance of grief, suddenly ran off into the wood, and returned with a
flower of a beautiful vermilion colour, which it carefully inserted into
the mouth of the dead animal. The effect was sudden, the weasel
instantaneously got upon its legs, and was preparing to escape; when the
lady exclaimed to the page, to strike it again, and he aimed a second
blow, that caused the creature to drop the flower, which Guildeluec
instantly seized, and carefully placed between the lips of Guilliadun.
The plant had not lost its efficacy. The princess, awakening from her
trance, expressed her surprise at having slept so long, and then gazed
with astonishment at the bed on which she lay, at the walls of the
chapel by which she was surrounded, and at the two unknown figures, of
Guildeluec and the page; who, kneeling by her side, loudly expressed
their thanksgiving to the Almighty for what they thought her miraculous
resurrection. At length the good lady, having finished her devotions,
began to question the fair stranger respecting her birth and preceding
adventures, which she related with the utmost candour and exactness,
till the fatal moment when the discovery of Eliduc's prior marriage had
deprived her of sense and motion. The rest was better known to her
hearers than herself; and Guildeluec, more and more charmed with her
innocence, and frankness, after avowing herself, lost no time in
comforting her, by the assurance that all her hopes and wishes might now
be speedily gratified. "Your youthful beauty," said she, "might
captivate any heart, and your merit will fix for ever that of Eliduc,
who is unalterably attached to you, and whose grief for your loss was
such as to preclude all hopes of consolation. It is my intention to take
the veil, and abandon all claim to those affections which are estranged
from me for ever. In restoring you to the now wretched Eliduc, I shall
promote, by the only means in my power, that happiness to which I have
hitherto been the unintentional obstacle." Guilliadun consented, with
silent gratitude, to accept the sacrifice so generously offered, and was
united to her lover as soon as the solemn ceremony had taken place, by
which Guildeluec consecrated the remainder of her days to heaven, in a
nunnery erected and endowed by her husband, on the site of the ancient
hermitage. Their union was followed by many years of happiness; and they
closed a life of charity and benevolence by following the pious example
of Guildeluec, who received Guilliadun into her order, while Eliduc took
the cowl in a monastery, to the endowment of which he dedicated the
remainder of his worldly possessions. From the adventure of these three,
"the olde gentil Bretons" (_li auncien Bretun curteis_) formed a lay to
transmit to future ages.



La bele chambre encurtinee
Li ad li ostes deliveree.

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