1 Bear our errand (prayer) between heaven and earth

2 Whoever will, for a time, stay (to listen to me)

3 And knew well how to distribute [wealth] and govern

4 [And he] had a double king's [birth]mark

5 On sentence of death for the child and wife / And for fear of your own life

6 He had never seen such [a beautiful one] among the people


Abbreviations: MS: Cotton Caligula A.ii; Kö: Kölbing; G: Gough; M: Mills; F&H: French & Hale; R: Rickert; Ri: Ritson; Ru: Rumble; S: Sands. See Select Bibliography for full references.

1-12 Although most romances begin with a prayer or invocation, this one is somewhat longer than most. R claims that it is "the longest introductory prayer in any English romance" (p. 33).

2 The images of light which inform the opening prayer are pervasive throughout the tale. Emaré herself is frequently described as "fayr and bryght" and her robe is dazzling.

4 The narrator asks God for an act of "grace" which will inform the actions of both narrator and listener. The narrative that follows illustrates the grace given for virtuous action.

7-8 The poet appeals to the Virgin, praying that she will intercede to secure a place for humanity in heaven. This same intercession is sought by Emaré in lines 315, 671. Emaré, as the long-suffering mother of the next Holy Roman Emperor, is modeled after the Virgin: the Virgin is intercessor between humanity and heaven, so Emaré is the intercessor between the various worlds of the poem, eventually uniting three generations of men.

23 R discusses the derivation of the name "Emaré," assuming it is meant to contrast with "Egaré," a name Emaré adopts in line 360. "Egaré" comes from the OF esgaree, meaning "outcast." The word "Emaré," stems from OF esmeree, meaning "refined" or "excellent"; although it also could come from OF esmarie, meaning "afflicted or troubled" (Emare, p. xxix).

24 The narrator calls attention to his source quite frequently throughout the poem, though no direct source is known. See lines 115, 162, 216, 319.

52-54 See Beaumanoir's La Manekine, in which the queen, on her deathbed, urges the king to marry his own daughter. She insists on this only if the barons refuse to recognize the daughter as heir to the throne. If he takes a second wife, she charges him that she must look exactly like his first wife; obviously, the only woman who will resemble the queen will be her own daughter. Here, the death of Queen Erayne begins Emaré's series of misfortunes. See also Perrault's rendition of the popular folk narrative Peau d'Ane (Donkey Skin), which adheres to these same stipulations which impel the king toward incest. The child without one or both parents is a common feature in medieval romance and folklore. See Chaucer's Clerk's Tale, Physician's Tale, Knight's Tale, and Perceval, various Tristrem romances, tales of the young Arthur, Le Freine, King Horn, Havelok, and Le Bone Florence of Rome.

56 The nurse figure who nurtures and/or trains the young protagonist can also be found in the OF La Belle Helene de Constantinople. R (in her line note) makes several suggestions about the name "Abro." Probably it comes from the medieval Latin "Abra," meaning "female servant," though a corruption from Arabic might also be possible.

58-62 The narrator emphasizes Emaré's ability to embroider throughout the text. See lines 67, 376-84, 427-29, 730. Embroidery is also the Amerayle's daughter's forte. In Nicholas Trivet's Anglo-Norman Chronicle, Constance learns the seven liberal arts and numerous foreign languages. See also Le Bone Florence of Rome (lines 58-63): "He set to scole that damsyell, / Tyll sche cowde of the boke telle, / And all thynge dyscrye, / Be that she was xv yere olde, / Wel she cowde as men me tolde, / Of harpe and sawtyre."

66 whyte. MS: whythe.

68 MS: All he.

77 A: And. R and M emend to read A ledde, meaning "he led," as in line 989.

78 Playnge may well carry sexual connotations here; see line 254.

83 The earliest medieval silks came from Sicily where schools of silk weavers were famous from the mid-twelfth century onward. Arab invasion and occupation of the island from 827 to 1091 placed skilled weavers and designers from the Middle East on the island. Later, under the Norman kings who conquered the island in 1091, the weaving industry continued to thrive, especially in Palermo. Palermo silks were highly prized in cathedrals and courts throughout Europe. Rickert notes that the cloth is similar to actual cloths woven in Palermo; she cites Michel, Recherches sur le Commerce, la Fabrication et l'Usage des Etoffes de Soie, d'Or, et d'Argent (Paris: Impr. de Crapelet, 1852-54), esp. vol. II, 354-55. She also speculates on potential connections between characters in the text and historical personages (Introduction, pp. xxxi-xxxii). The wealth associated with the cloth can be ascertained in comparison with statistics available on the cloth industry in medieval Europe. A fine piece of cloth from Brussels could easily be worth 800 grams of gold or one diamond, five rubies, and five emeralds.

83-180 The robe described in this passage is a key image in the poem (see introduction). The long description of the parade of fairy ladies in Sir Launfal has a similar effect, though placed toward the end of the narrative. Galeran de Bretagne, lines 509-51, presents a description of an elegant cloth. In that romance, the female child is abandoned wrapped in a cloth on which are embroidered two couples: Paris and Helen, and Floris and Blancheflor (see notes to Le Freine). For actual elegant fabrics, embroidery, and garments worn during the period, whether European or Byzantine, see Eunice R. Goddard, Women's Costume in French Texts of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, The Johns Hopkins Studies in Romance Literatures and Languages, vol. 7 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1927; rpt. New York: Johnson, 1973); Mary G. Houston, Medieval Costume in England & France, the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries, A Technical History of Costume, vol. 3 (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1939); Mary G. Houston, Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine Costume and Decoration, 2nd ed., A Technical History of Costume, vol. 2 (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1947; rpt. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965); Joan Evans, Dress in Medieval France (Oxford: Clarendon, 1952); Opus Anglicanum: English Medieval Embroidery (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1963); Blanche Payne, History of Costume (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), especially her chapters on the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, pp. 157-97; Pauline Johnstone, The Byzantine Tradition in Church Embroidery (London: Tiranti, 1967); Cyril G. E. Bunt, Byzantine Fabrics (Leigh-on-Sea: F. Lewis, 1967); Maurice Lombard, Les Textiles dans le monde musulman du VIIe au XIIe siecle (Paris: Mouton, 1978); Stella M. Newton, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340-1365 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1980); Kay Staniland, Embroiderers (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1991). Mary Houston's texts are especially use