Sir Launfal


1 The red rose, when it first blooms, / Is, in comparison with her complexion, of insignificant color

2 I know thy situation, beginning and end

3 What need has any man to take heed of him?

4 It seemed to him that he would completely consume himself (with envy or enmity) / Unless he could play (i. e. compete) with Launfal

5 Where he [usually] found spending money plentiful

6 And the losing of you - that, for me, is the worst trial

7 Twelve knights were brought to the book (sworn in as jurors)


Abbreviations: MS: Cotton Caligula A.ii; Bl: Bliss; F: Fellows; F&H: French and Hale; J&W: Johnson and Williams; M: Mills; R: Rickert; Ri: Ritson; Ru: Rumble; S: Sand. See bibliography for complete references. The title occurs in the MS as Launfal Miles.

1 In early Arthurian literature, King Arthur played an active role; he still does so in Malory's opening books of the Morte d'Arthur as well as in the fourteenth-century Alliterative Morte Arthure and Stanzaic Morte Arthur, but he also takes on a passive role in many romance narratives of the later Middle Ages, remaining at court while his knights take up the active roles as warriors and wanderers.

1-2 These lines anticipate the power of law to constrain Arthur's rage toward Launfal later in the tale.

2 The nostalgic opening is typical, not only of romances and Breton lays, but of many late fourteenth-century texts. The need for "good lawes" is echoed by Thomas Chestre's contemporaries. See Langland's Piers Plowman, Chaucer's "Ballad for a Former Age," the works of John Gower, and such romances and diatribes as Athelston and Piers Plowman's Creed.

5 Bl suggests: "In many of the Breton lays the name of the lay is mentioned with some emphasis, as if to recall to the reader (or listener) the tune to which the original lyrical lay was sung" (p. 83).

6 The presence of both performer and audience is articulated in this line, as well as many others. See lines 49, 817, 1036-37. See also Erle of Tolous, lines 7-8, 23, 173, 478-79; Emaré, lines 19-20, 70-72, 96, 144, 310-12, 381, 946-948; and similar lines in Sir Gowther and other lays and romances.

7 Kardevyle: Carlisle as a place associated with Arthuriana is rendered "Kaer-dubalum" in Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1136). Wace (c. 1155) uses the form "Kaerleil" but never situates Arthur's court there. In their book, The Place-Names of Cumberland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950-52), pp. 40-42, A. M. Armstrong et al provide an etymology for the word "Carlisle": in Latin, the place-name was "Luguvalium, [from] Modern Welsh Caer Liwelydd 'belonging to Luguvallos,' a personal name meaning 'strong as Lugus' [a Celtic god]." In her Lanval Marie de France places Arthur's court at Kardoel. And the Middle English Landevale places it at "Carlile." It certainly can be confused with Caerleon near the river Usk in Wales, a city long associated with Arthur. Caerleon means "Fort of the Legions." Malory situates Guenevere's trial and her subsequent rescue from the stake in Carlisle, in contrast to Chestre's condemnation and blinding of Guenevere here in the Launfal poem. It appears that Caerleon and Carlisle have a confused and interwoven role to play in the late medieval Arthurian records.

13-24 This list of knights does not occur in either Marie de France's Lanval or in the Middle English Landevale, but Libeaus Desconus does contain a list like this (see lines 218-21) as does the OF Le Bel Inconnu. In the introduction to his critical edition, Bl calls attention to Chestre's ordering. Notably, the list proceeds from the most important knight, Perceval (who achieves the Holy Grail) to the least important: Galafre and Launfal, both otherwise unknown as Round Table knights. The ordering may suggest a hierarchy of worth, or it could simply be determined by meter or be a way of placing Launfal in the ultimate position among the company of the best and greatest of Arthur's knights. In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Gawain, Gaheres and Agravayn are all brothers, sons of King Lot and Arthur's half-sister, Morgawse. They are mentioned again in Launfal, lines 637-38. This group is followed by Lancelot, then Sir Kay (Arthur's stepbrother), Ywayn (Arthur's nephew and son of Morgan la Fay), then King Ban and King Bors (father and uncle to Lancelot and allies of Arthur), and finally Galafre and Launfal. Perceval is hero of numerous romances, particularly Chrétien's twelfth-century metrical romance and the early fifteenth-century English Percevall of Galles. Yvain is the main hero of Chrétien's Chevalier au Lion as well as the Middle English Ywain and Gawain. Gawain's inclusion in the Arthurian retinue has a long history. He can be found in William of Malmesbury (c. 1125) as Arthur's most distinguished knight; he is also a powerful figure in Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1136), Wace (c. 1155), and Layamon (c. 1190). In a number of continental romances, he becomes degenerate - hence, his brutishness in Malory's Morte d'Arthur. But he remained a noble figure in English popular literature and within texts like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Awntyrs of Arthur. In Sir Launfal, he is the picture of courtesy (see lines 853, 892, 662) and one of the hero's best friends. Gawain stands next to Launfal during the dance (line 662), does surety for him (line 814), and announces the arrival of the maidens (lines 853, 892). See Chaucer's Squire's Tale (line 95): "Gawain, with his olde curteisye. . . ." Bl notes, "the substitution of [Lancelot's] name in Launfal (line 910) for the 'Gawayn' of Landevale (line 413), at the cost of ruining the metre, must be the work of a late scribe more familiar with the continental than with the English tradition" (p. 40). Galafre is not known as an Arthurian knight. On the origins of Launfal's name see Bl. Spearing (p. 107) argues that the list illustrates Chestre's desire "to 'epicize' Launfal's role" and render him more heroic than he appears in Sir Landevale.

19 King Banbooght and King Bos are most likely King Ban and King Bors found elsewhere in Arthurian literature. They are father and uncle of Lancelot and fight as allies with Arthur against kings who resist Arthur's kingship and thus help solidify the kingdom. The word "booght" is obscure. Bl notes that "Possibly Booght is a duplication of Bos. The Old French form of Bors is nominative Bo(h)ors, oblique Bo(h)ort; in many fifteenth-century hands the letter 'r' after 'o' has exactly the form of the upper part of yough, so that an ill-written 'Boort' could easily be read as 'booght' " (1958, p. 84).

22 The name "Galafre" is not found elsewhere as a knight of the Round Table; see note to lines 13-24 above.

25 bacheler. Here means a novice or young knight who would lack the retinue of experienced and more wealthy established knights.

28-30 Largesse or generosity is a knightly virtue. See Sir Isumbras, lines 25-30. See also Sir Cleges, lines 13-23. For medieval codes of chivalry, see Ramón Lull, Le libre del orde de cauayleria (c. 1276), available in Caxton's 1484 translation; Honoré Bonet, Arbre des Batailles (c. 1387), trans. G. W. Coopland: The Tree of Battles of Honoré Bonet (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 1949); and John of Salisbury, Policraticus (c. 1159), ed. and trans. Cary J. Nederman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

29 clothes. MS: clodes.

30 The word "squyer" can designate someone who is in training for knighthood, a personal servant who attends a knight's needs, or a soldier below the rank of "knight."

32 A frequent figure of romances and lays, the loyal steward was in charge of his master's household. He would supervise all domestic servants, oversee the master's table, and regulate the household's expenditures. A steward held considerable power within the domestic world of high ranking aristocrats. See Sir Orfeo, lines 204-08, 554-79, 593-96, and Amis and Amiloun, lines 191, 205-16.

37-72 This material does not appear in Landevale or Lanval (see appendices).

38 Merlin appears here briefly and then never again. He does not appear at all in either Marie de France's Lanval or Landevale. Chestre's Merlin advises Arthur to marry Guenevere; elsewhere, Merlin commonly counsels Arthur against marrying Guenevere. Although it can be found in numerous Arthurian romances, the marriage episode was apparently added to Sir Launfal by Chestre; it does not occur in either Lanval or Landevale.

40 King Ryon is, most likely, King Ryence who appears in other romances where he is usually ruler of North Wales. In other texts central to the Arthurian canon, Ryence is an enemy to Arthur and Lodegryaunce. Lodegryaunce, or Leodegraunce, is commonly Guenevere's father. Perhaps Lodeg "ryaunce" has become "Ryon" here.

41 fette. Ri reads sette.

42 Gwennere: Contracted forms of Guenevere's name are common in ME (see lines 157, 164). In the Welsh tradition, references to her extend back to the Triads, collections of Welsh myth, history, and legend; there, her name is "Gwen-hwyfar" meaning "White Phantom." The standard edition of the Triads, including a discussion of the texts, is Trioedd ynys Prydein: The Welsh Triads, ed. and trans. Rachel Bromwich (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1961; 2nd. ed., 1978; 1991).

44 lykede. The implication is that Gwennere was displeased with Launfal and other Round Table knights, since "lykede" is usually impersonal in ME; however, like modern English "liked," it would mean that Launfal and the other knights disapproved of Gwennere because of her promiscuity (lines 46-48).

46-47 Early Welsh tradition, preserved within the Triads, ascribes "Gwenhwyfar" with a reputation of being adulterous. She is listed as more treacherous than any notorious woman named in the triad of "Three Faithless Wives": "and one was more faithless than those three: Gwenhwyfar, wife of Arthur, since she shamed a better man than any of them" (Triad #80 in Bromwich; also translated by John K. Bollard, "Arthur in the Early Welsh Tradition," in The Romance of Arthur, ed. James J. Wilhelm and Laila Z. Gross (New York: Garland, 1984), p. 25. Although Chrétien de Troyes and other high and late medieval authors frequently idealized Guenevere, the portrait of her in Chestre's poem is consistent with the earliest written records of her character; that is, Guenevere's affair with Lancelot is not mentioned in Sir Launfal.

50 Whitsunday, meaning literally "White Sunday," is another name for Pentecost, a high feast of the Christian calendar; it is often the day adventures begin in Arthurian romances.

56 baronette. A lesser noble, a diminuitive of "baron." R suggests "knight-landowner," Early English Romances (London: Chatto and Windus, 1908), p. 59.

57 A tag phrase. Bl translates: "There is no reason for concealment."

64 A boteler is a wine servant or cupbearer.

67-72 See Graelent, lines 151-62. In this source, Guenevere's motive for not giving Launfal a gift or payment is, perhaps, made clear. The queen advises the king not to pay Graelent so that he cannot leave the court. It may, then, be intended to make Launfal more vulnerable to Guenevere's promiscuity or punish him for his aloofness, although the text never explicitly explains the queen's move. See also lines 676-80 below. Spearing interprets Guenevere in Freudian terms "as a stepmother figure, an intruder into the family" (p. 108).

82 Sir Hugh and Sir John are not found elsewhere in the extant Arthuriana as nephews of Arthur. Bl suggests that these names may be corruptions of Ywain and Gawain, who were Arthur's nephews (1958, p. 86).

85-216 No parallels for this material exist in Landevale or Lanval, but Graelent contains some likenesses.

88 Karlyoun. Often identified with Camelot: see Derek Brewer, Arthur's Britain: The Land and the Legend (Cambridge: Pevensey Press, 1985), p. 109.

89 The romance of Graelent (lines 172-80) does not describe him as a mayor.

101 departyd. MS: þe party. Ri and Bl read thepartyth; so too F&H, with the gloss "departed."

103 Ne ther thar. Bl combines the first two words; so too F&H with thar glossed as "need." S reads Nether thare, with the gloss "nor/need."

112 MS: vij. The final -e in ynome has been trimmed from the MS.

118-20 Bl (p. 86) translates these lines: "Now you can see what it is like to be in the service of a lord of little importance, and how grateful the lord will be for your service." Launfal speaks with bitter sarcasm.

119 Under. MS: Unþer. The scribe often writes d for þ. E.g., 29, 202, 204, 209, 414, 450, 511, 530, 587, 594, 596, 598, 641 (unþer), 683, 763, 779, 780, 891, 905, 1021.

133 This marks one full year that Launfal has been away from court.

136 Syr Huwe and Syr John are Arthur's nephews mentioned in line 82 who accompanied Launfal "hom." See note to line 82.

137-49 See also Sir Amadas, lines 351-75.

140 tresour. MS: tosour. Ri emends to tresour. Emendation followed by F&H, Bl, Ru, and S.

142 MS: the -e on fre has been trimmed from the MS.

143 MS: Tellyd. Ri reads Tell yd; Ru emends to tellyth.

149 Glastonbury has long been associated with the island of Avalon. See Brewer, Arthur's Britain, pp. 60-62.

154-55 Retainers and servants were regularly provided with clothes and food by their lords. When Sir Hugh and Sir John return to Arthur's court wearing the same clothes they had on a year before, it would be immediately noticeable and evoke questions; these clothes are tattered and torn.

160 knytes. S emends to knightes.

162 See Lay le Freine, line 101.

164 MS, F&H, Ru, and Bl read: Gonnore; Ri, Gonere; S, Gwenere.

171 holtes hore is a common description found in romances (see line 230). It usually suggests grey, bare branches of a winter forest or lichen-covered trees. Here, however, the action is set in summer, where hore suggests shadowy.

174 wore. S: "A disputed line whose crux is 'wore,' either 'wore,' or 'were,' either interpretation being possible. The sense is probably '[dressed just] as we were in his presence"' (p. 208).

181 Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Whitsun and celebrates the Holy Trinity. In the time frame of the narrative, this happens one week after Sir Hugh and Sir John leave him.

185 borjaes. Bl reads boriaes; S, borieies.

191-216 See Graelent, lines 176-94.

202 MS: clodynge.

204 Though. MS: dough. See note to line 119.

211 A courser is a powerful horse used by knights in battle.

214 The image of a young dashing courtier riding a horse was a common iconographic image for the month of May. Consequently, the image of Launfal and his horse falling into the mud is potentially comic. This is a detail apparently added by Chestre. In Graelent 201-02, the onlookers stare because the knight's clothes are old and tattered. William J. Stokoe, "The Sources of Sir Launfal: Lanval and Graelent," PMLA 58 (1948), 398: "[In Marie de France's version,] the horse trembles because it feels the presence of the supernatural." Here, however, it falls in the "fen." Bl writes, "it illustrates the general lack of respect for the upper classes which is a feature of the poem" (p. 88).

222 Chestre's extant sources, Landevale and Graelent, both situate this scene near a river, as is consistent with Celtic mythology. William H. Schofield assumes a river is implied in lines 244-45 and that the maidens carrying the basin and towel are fetching water for bathing, "The Lays of Graelent and Lanval, and the Story of Wayland," PMLA, 15 (1900), 145. Here it seems the maidens have been sent to fetch Launfal, and, since he's hot and muddy, he would need washing.

227 Sitting under the shadow of a tree often leads to an adventure in the English lays: see Sir Orfeo lines 67-68. Constance Bullock-Davies, "Ympe Tre and Nemeton," Notes and Queries n.s. 9 (1962), 6-9; John Block Friedman, "Eurydice, Heurodis, and the Noon-day Demon," Speculum 41 (1966), 22-29. See notes to Orfeo, line 70 in this volume. See The Pistel of Swete Susan (also found partially in Cotton Caligula A.ii, fols. 3a-5a) where Susan, undressing to bathe, relaxes under a laurel tree at midday before she is trapped by the elders.

235 MS: felwet. S emends to felvett. The maidens are dressed in green, connecting this summons with Celtic folk materials. See Cross, "Celtic Elements" (p. 595 and fn. 3 on the same page). See also Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Child, Ballad #37.

249 Just why Launfal would sigh isn't clear. Is he struck by the maidens' beauty? Is he embarrassed by his poverty and filth? Does he simply want to be left alone?

250 Instead of glossing hoth as "heath," as I have done, Bl (p. 89) assumes it designates an actual place. He cites A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Sussex (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929/30), p. 270, to support his reading.

255 Tryamour. The lady is not named in Lanval or Landevale. A number of meanings are suggested by this name. Obviously "try-amour" meaning "to test or try love" is one. But the first syllable also contains echoes of the prefix, "tri" meaning three. This association could be reminiscent of "Tir" or "Tyr" which in Saxon and ancient Cimbric was the name for Odin and sometimes other deities. Ri's notes on the name are informative: "Tyr," he claims, could be used for any great leader, prince, lord, emperor, and occasionally meant Creator or God. In Libeaus Desconus, found in the same manuscript as Launfal, "Termagaunt" refers to the God of the Saracens. The syllable "ter" also carries meanings of "very" as well as "three." The word "three" had, as Ri notes, mythic signification well before Christianity's Trinity. He cites Virgil's Aeneid IV: "Tergeminamque Hecaten, tria virginia ora Dianae." Closer to our fourteenth-century text, the name is given to a knight in the medieval romance, Sir Tryamour. In Sir Launfal the number "three" recurs in the three fairy images which adorn the magic purse Dame Tryamour gives to Launfal and the three ermines which are, apparently, her heraldric signs: see lines 328-30. Bl (p. 89) prefers a simpler explanation: in his notes to the line, he suggests it means "choice love." Although the fairy lover's name is Tryamour, she may have connections to Morgan le Fay. Bl (p. 20) argues for this connection by citing the association in Old French between Graelent, Guingamor, and Lanval, and by recalling that Morgan le Fay is the lover of both Graelent (a.k.a. Graillemuers) and Guingamor in Chrétien de Troyes' Erec. See also Laurence Harf-Lancner, Les Fées au Moyen Age: Morgane et Mélusine, La naissance des fées (Paris: Champion, 1984).

266 werk of Sarsynys. Romances often contain references to Middle Eastern, non-Christian characters, places, cultures, and objects. After Sicily was conquered by the Normans, the silk weavers found there traded their goods throughout Europe more easily.

271 carbonkeles: R (1908, p. 63) notes that in the lapidaries, carbuncles are noted for their light-giving qualities. F (1993, p. 286) notes: "A belief prevailed in the Middle Ages that precious stones, particularly carbuncles, shone with a light of their own. It has been suggested that descriptions of buildings surmounted by such refulgent gems may represent an attempt to interpret the lighthouse of Alexandria: see E. Faral, Recherches sur les sources latines des contes et romans courtois du moyen age (Paris: E. Champion, 1913), pp. 81-85. Descriptions of brilliant bejewelled cities and palaces occur frequently in Middle English romance." Compare castles in Libeaus Desconus line 1789ff.; Huon of Burdeaux XXV, p. 75, CXVII, 424; Sir Degrevant, lines 1425, 1473; and Reinbroun, stanza 79ff.; Le Bel Inconnu, lines 1877-1919; esp. lines 1913-16.

272 they schon. MS: the schon.

274 Alexander the Great, one of the nine worthies, a well-known hero of romances.

278 Olyroun. Perhaps the island d'Oleron off the coast of Brittany. Lanval, line 641, reads "Aualun" and Landevale (line 92) reads "Amylion." See Huon of Burdeux (EETS e.s. 40, 41, 43, 50) where Oberon's palace is across the sea and next to a large body of water (p. 597; see also pp. 358, 439, 379, 584). In Le Bel Inconnu, the caste of the Ile d'Or is also situated across water. Ri (p. 12) notes that maritime laws were called "la ley Olyron" and notes that Richard I revised the maritime laws on the island of Olyroun on his way back to England from the Holy Lands.

280 The consensus among scholars studying fairy lore is that the word fairy comes from Latin and French origins. Lewis Spence, Fairy Tradition in Britain (London: Rider, 1948), links "fairy" with Fata which is itself linked to both the Fates of classical mythology and the nymphic Fatuae. His opinion has been sustained more or less by subsequent scholars. See Laurence Harf-Lancner, Les Fées au Moyen Age (Paris: Champion, 1984). Jack Zipes, Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales (New York: Methuen, 1984) and James Roy King, Old Tales and New Truths: Charting the Bright-Shadow World (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), consider the fairytale's cultural role in the contemporary West. Their analyses of the fairytale raise some provocative issues to consider in relation to Sir Launfal, particularly since it belongs to "popular culture." See also the notes to Sir Orfeo, line 10.

281 Occient. May mean "west" or "ocean," perhaps a reference to Avalon, a land or island associated with faery or the Otherworld.

292-300 The description of Dame Tryamour conforms to myriads of other medieval catalogue descriptions of women's faces and bodies. See D. S. Brewer, "The Ideal of Feminine Beauty in Medieval Literature," Modern Language Review 50 (1955), 257-69. See also Launfal, lines 934-45.

301-16 The wooing woman is a motif common in Celtic folklore. See Howard R. Patch, "The Adaptation of Otherworld Motifs to Medieval Romance," in Philologica: The Malone Anniversary Studies, eds. Thomas A. Kirby and Henry Bosley Woolf (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1949), pp. 115-23. See also Judith Weiss, "The Wooing Woman in Anglo-Norman Romance," in Romance in Medieval England, ed. Mills, Fellows, and Meale, pp. 149-61.

316-17 These words are close to contemporary betrothal vows. Vows spoken between two people, even when not witnessed, could constitute a valid marriage. The solemnization of marriage includes the following lines "wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, wilt thou love her, honour her, keep her and guard her, in health and in sickness, as a husband should a wife, and forsaking all others on account of her, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?" The Sarum Missal in English trans. Frederick E. Warren (London: Alexander Moring, 1911) and found conveniently in Chaucer Sources and Backgrounds, ed. Robert P. Miller (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 373-84. Compare Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas, lines 794-95: "Alle othere wommen I forsake, / And to an elf-queen I me take."

319-33 The gifts Dame Tryamour gives to Launfal parallel quite closely the gifts Graelent receives. (See Graelent, lines 350-92.)

329 Ri's edition misnumbers the text hereafter, with line 329 as 330.

323 A mark is quite a sum of money. In the late fourteenth century, it signifies about eight ounces of gold.

326 Blaunchard is a white horse (OF: blanche). The white horse appears frequently as a fairy horse. See Sir Orfeo, line 146, Graelent, line 354, and the supernatural horse in Sir Amadas, line 427. Roger S. Loomis, in his book, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1927), pp. 88-89, 106-07, identifies many tales in which Morgan le Fay gives a knight a horse, particularly a white one. The correspondence may suggest a connection between Dame Tryamour and Morgan le Fay, although the gift of the white horse can be easily found occurring elsewhere as well. See Cross, "Celtic Elements," pp. 628-35.

327 Gyfre is not found in Landevale or Lanval, but the hero in Graelent (line 351) is given a servant, his "chambellanc."

328 pensel. A small pennon, a "favor" worn to signify allegiance to his lady.

336 kepte. Bl (p. 91) suggests the word is the past participle "embraced." Ru emends to klepte meaning "embraced." S glosses the line: "No better have I received," noting an obsolete sense of "to receive" for keep attested to here. F&H emend to chepe, which they gloss as "bargain." I have glossed the term as a form of keeping, with the implication of "provision" or "offering" being received.

343 Fairy food is often dangerous for mortals to eat. A number of medieval texts include in their descriptions of the Otherworld the imprisoning capacity of fairy food. In Chrétien de Troyes' Erec, for example, humans who eat fruit from King Evrain's garden are unable to find their way out of that kingdom. In the Irish romance of Connla the Fair, Connla eats a fairy apple and, from that moment on, wants no mortal food, and, for another taste of that magic fruit, follows the fairy away into the Otherworld. Although there is nothing in this text to suggest that the fairy food is dangerous, Launfal does, at the end of the text, follow his lemman into her otherworld.

344 Pyement and clare are both red wines mixed with honey and spices. Reynysch wyn is, apparently, Rhine wine. The MED gives the example from the Alliterative Morte d'Arthur, line 203: "Rynisch wyne," which indicates a rarer and more costly wine.

362 The fairy-lover puts a geis, or magic taboo, on Launfal, whereby he must never mention her name. This motif derives from folk materials. Its origin is disputed; J. G. Frazer, in his volume on "Taboo," writes that in some cultures "persons most intimately connected by blood and especially by marriage . . . are often forbidden, not only to pronounce each other's names, but even to utter ordinary words which resemble or have a single syllable in common with these names," The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, 3rd. ed., 12 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1911-15), II, 335. The name taboo suggests that anyone who possesses an individual's name may exert power over that individual. Thus, in some cultures, individuals have two names: one, the sacred name, known only to her/himself, and the other, the common name, used by the community.

373-420 Material not found in either Lanval or Landevale. Chestre draws, apparently, on Graelent to construct this episode.

394-95 This exchange between a boy of the town and Gyfre helps to reinforce the theme of generosity which is prominent in the poem.

409-14 Compare Chaucer's Parson's Tale X (I) 443: "Pride of the table appeereth eek ful ofte; for certes, riche men been cleped to festes, and povre folk been put awey and rebuked."

414 thyne. MS: dyne.

416 Wearing purple is a common sign of wealth in medieval literature.

417 Ermine fur, like purple cloth, indicates wealth.

419 It is amusing that Launfal is now so wealthy that Gyfre serves not only as his squire but as his accountant as well. Bl (p. 92) notes that the two nouns "tayle" and "score" are "identical in meaning." Each originally meant a notch in a stick, and each came to mean the stick that bears the notches. The reference is to the medieval system of book-keeping whereby the amount of debt was recorded by a number of notches cut into a stick; the stick was then split longitudinally; one half was kept by the creditor, the other by the debtor, so that neither could falsify the record.

421-32 David Carlson has examined these lines closely, identifying the way they echo Matthew 25: 34-40 and James I: 27. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas cite these passages as the origin of the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy. The passage from Matthew reads, "Then shall the king [Christ] say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me" (Douai translation). The passage from James reads, "Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one's self unspotted from this world." Carlson uses lines 421-32 in Sir Launfal and the corresponding lines in the other English versions to argue that the Middle English redactions derive, not directly from the Old French, but from another intermediate text, now lost. Marie de France's Lanval names only one act of Corporal Mercy - visiting the imprisoned:
Lanval donnoit les riches dons,
Lanval aquitoit les prisons.
Lanval vestoit les jugleors,
Lanval feoit les granz honnors . . .
(Lanval, lines 209-12)
See David Carlson, "The Middle English Lanval, the Corporal Works of Mercy, and Bibliotheque Nationale, Nouv. Acq. FR. 1104," Neophilologus 72 (1988), 97-106. Interestingly, Dame Tryamour also accomplishes works of corporal mercy, although no one has commented upon this, using the material rather to discuss Launfal. And, interestingly, Launfal may well create widows and orphans when he slaughters all the Lords of Atalye (lines 607-12); and, obviously, neither Launfal nor Dame Tryamour is chaste.

422-32 The repetition of the word "Fyfty" where Marie de France's Lanval repeats the hero's name has led Julian Harris, in "A Note on Thomas Chestre," Modern Language Notes 46 (1930), 24-25, to argue that Chestre "was apparently using a MS which contained the abbreviation L. for Lanval in lines 209-216 of Marie de France's Lanval." Harris speculates that Chestre mistook the "£" for "L" meaning fifty. Marie de France's lines read:
Lanval donnoit les riches dons,
Lanval aquitoit les prisons.
Lanval vestoit les jugleors,
Lanval feoit les granz honnors,
Lanval despendoit largement,
Lanval donnoit or et argent.
N'i ot estrange ne prive
A cui Lanval n'eust donne.
430 Here, as in other romances, the narrator calls attention to the generosity given by aristocrats to minstrels, perhaps a plea for the immediate audience to give generously to the minstrel performing or reciting the lay. It is, perhaps, a topos which marks the texts' original oral performance and need for patronage. See also Sir Orfeo (lines 25-38; 430-52; 515-18), and Sir Cleges (lines 49-54).

433-504 This material is unique in Chestre's version of the narrative. However, in line 474, he makes reference to "the Frenssch tale," which may be a now-lost source or it may be the conventional claim to authority. Bl suggests (p. 25) an analogue in Andreas Capellanus's Art of Courtly Love, trans. John J. Parry (New York: Norton, 1969), pp. 177-86.

450 MS: kyghtes wonþer.

467 The clever squire Gyfre claims the constable's horse.

470 MS: wreththe.

484 Notice that Blaunchard delivers blows alongside Launfal. The motif of the helpful animal-guide figure is common in folklore. See Roger S. Loomis, Arthurian Tradition and Chrétien de Troyes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1949), pp. 315-16. However, a well-accoutred war horse might wound men with spiked armor as it moved.

505-06 MS indents these two lines, as if to leave space for a rubricated A. Ri marks his text here as Part II.

505-612 Chestre's Valentine episode is paralleled in Graelent. It is also a tale told by Andreas Capellanus. Bl discusses the relationships between these versions of the story in his notes to lines 505-612 (pp. 93-94) and on page 25 of his critical edition. Eger and Grime locates Greysteel, the knights' supernatural combatant-adversary, in another land across a river, and Arthur, in the Alliterative Morte Arthure, must fight a giant who lives across the channel atop Mont St. Michael. The journey across water to fight a giant adversary on an island has a long tradition; see Tristan and Beowulf, for example. Spearing considers this episode "absurd" and evidence of the poem's failure (p. 106).

509 How that. MS: That that. S's emendation. Bl, Ru, F&H follow MS.

511 wonder. MS: wonther. Ru's emendation, followed by S.

527-28 See lines 1027-28. These lines are obviously intended to be insulting. The challenge is multivalent: challenging the knight's masculinity and challenging the court's "effeminacy."

530 do. MS: tho. Ru's emendation.

536 Bl glosses the line: "'skillful in every device,' or, in a free translation, 'up to all the tricks"'(p. 94).

541-43 Notice that Launfal does not reveal his lover's identity; he simply said "He wold wyth hym play."

561 Atalye. Bl (p. 94) notes: "according to the OF romance of Otinel, lines 190-92, the city of Atille was built by the 'pagans' in Lombardy, between two rivers."

569 Ri heads the line with And.

582 Gyfre apparently can make himself invisible as he helps Launfal out.

587 thonkede . . . sythe. MS: donkede . . . syde.

594 doune. MS: þoune.

596 sythe. MS: syde.

598 dere. MS: þhere.

606 To be "drawn" means to be torn apart by horses pulling in opposite directions. Arthur will threaten Launfal with the same punishment later in the poem (line 726).

610 MS: sclayn.

616 he let. MS: alet. Ri emends let to read "letter." I follow Bl who reads the a as the pronoun "he."

618 The feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24), yet another summer festival.

624 F&H add a pronoun to the line so it reads: "For he cowthe of largesse."

636 partye also means "country."

656 sche. MS: sch.

668 The citole is a flat-backed stringed instrument which is plucked like a guitar or lute.

669 MS: un rryght.

676-81 The inconsistency between these lines and Guenevere's treatment of Launfal earlier in the lay suggests that these lines are not to be understood as coy and disingenuous, but seductive. However, we could also read them back into the beginning of the poem as a reason why Launfal left the court and why Guenevere passed him over at the gift-giving. See notes to lines 67-72. Spearing (p. 108) argues: "I suspect that . . . Guenevere's promiscuity has come to symbolize the general problem of the mother's sexuality, which makes her both desirable and frightening to the son; and [this] encounter between her and Launfal, in which he perceives her as having attempted to seduce him while her story is that he has attempted to seduce her, is another way of treating the ambivalence of the son's desire for the mother."

683 day. MS: þay. Bl (p. 96) notes the similarity of this refusal to Amis and Amiloun, lines 598-609.

689 In this line Guenevere accuses the hero of homosexuality. Marie de France's Lanval (281-82) is more explicit: Guenevere accuses Launval of preferring boys to women; Laundevale (line 226) has the exact same line as Chestre's version here.

696 Nothing in the poem indicates the passing of seven years, until we reach this line. Of course, when Launfal visits the fairy Otherworld, time slows for him even though it has gone on as usual in this world.

697 MS: lothlokste.

705-08 The dynamic of the powerful woman who accuses a lower-ranking man of rape or of desiring her sexually can be found along a continuum of incest tales like the Seven Sages. In that text, the queen, desiring sex with her own step-son, is so outraged that he won't comply that she accuses him of rape and has him thrown in prison. The text records the debate in the court between the empress, who seeks her own step-son's execution, and the seven sages (councilors) who defend her step-son's life.

714 Although the usual phrase is "my heart will break in two," Bl (p. 96) notes "this rather ludicrous modification is necessitated by the rhyme."

715 Gwenevere accuses Launfal of two crimes: trying to seduce her and insulting her beauty. The ensuing trial actually revolves around the insult, since it is conventionally taken to be an attack on the king.

719 MS: lodlokest.

721 wroth. MS: worth. Bl's emendation.

724 F&H emend wente to sente.

730 The apparent dissolution of the fairy world happens suddenly. Compare Perceval who, falling asleep at the castle of maidens, wakes next morning to find himself under a tree, the castle completely vanished in Chrétien's Conte du Graal (lines 26971ff.). It is a common motif in folktales and legends.

733-44 This material is not in Lanval or Landevale. It is present in Graelent (lines 529-30). M discusses possible sources for the episode in "A Note on Sir Launfal, 733-744," Medium Aevum 35 (1966), 122-24.

738 Up. Ri emends to Upon, to improve meter and sense.

741 Romances often make reference to sources (real or imagined), as if to lend credence to the tale. The device is also found in early English hagiography and late classical literature. See H. L. Levy "As myn auctor seyth," Medium Aevum 12 (1943), 25-39. Most likely, it means a "French book" (see line 474). In this instance the tag is perhaps triggered by the veiled literary allusion to the ubi sunt trope - the "where are the sorrows of yesteryear" - in line 740, which puts the narrator in mind of literary conventions, and thus the tag acknowledging such tropes.

755 Launfal suffers from conventional lovesickness which afflicts many lovers in medieval literature.

760 The trial scene occurs in Marie de France with an emphasis on the legal maneuvers. Both Rychner, in his critical edition of Lanval, and E. A. Francis in her article, "The Trial in Lanval," in Studies in French Language and Mediaeval Literature Presented to Mildred K. Pope (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1939), pp. 115-24, assume that Marie de France based her representation of Lanval's trial on a real trial. Here, Chestre follows Landevale, thereby rendering the episode quite briefly. His interest seems, rather, on the passages describing the entrance of the maidens.

761 Bl translates "ataynte" as "convicted," stressing Arthur's hasty and angry judgment on Launfal (p. 97).

763 MS: lodlokest.

772 Sethe. The first word of the line has been deleted by the scribe; sethe is the second word.

772-83 Launfal denies the first charge Gwenevere has brought against him and, faced with the second charge, he stands by his word, leaving the court to decide.

779 MS: lodlokest.

780 MS: wordye.

783 The word "loke" resonates with several meanings: it can mean command and it can mean look. Just as Launfal "fell" under the scorn of many men in lines 209-19 and sprang to his horse, riding toward the west to escape their "lokynge," here, at the end of the poem, he falls under many men's "lokynge," and will eventually "sprynge" to his horse and ride "ynto a jolif ile" (lines 1015, 1022).

784-86 F&H translate: "They were forced to consult books to say what was law" (I, p. 371). Bl: "Twelve knights were compelled . . . to swear a Bible-oath . . . to judge truly what the position was in all respects" (p. 98).

790 Literally "bore repute (fame) of such a charge of infidelity."

800 MS: scluld.

811-16 Perceval and Gawain agree to serve as hostages or sureties for Launfal. They guarantee he will be present for his trial; it is a serious pledge of support, for if Launfal fails to uphold his word, the sureties could be executed.

831 Because recordede carries legal meaning far beyond what Chestre inscribes here, Bl (pp. 98-99) notes that an accurate translation of the line would be "The king had the charge and the defence read out from the record." Chestre's text, however, seems to omit much of the legality which Marie de France found interesting; consequently, the line could read "His [Launfal's] sureties brought him before the king; the king recorded that, and bade him [Launfal] to produce his beloved." Since sureties can guarantee the "word" or "truth" of the accused, their lives are on the line.

838 The Earl of Cornwall is mentioned in Landevale (line 335) and in Lanval (line 433), but the other three MSS call him a duke. Earlier Arthuriana refer to the "Duke of Cornwall," even though the Dukedom of Cornwall didn't formally exist until 1337. Consequently, Bl (p. 99) assumes that the scribe of Landevale wanted to reflect historical accuracy in his text and that Thomas Chestre simply followed suit. The last Earl of Cornwall died in 1237. The title Duke of Cornwall was revived in the fourteenth century and conferred on the Black Prince and his son, the future Richard II.

840-46 Bl (p. 99) notes, "Both Launfal and Landevale abridge, or rather omit the greater part of the long and reasoned judgment delivered by the Earl of Cornwall in Lanval." See Lanval, lines 433-60.

846 The threat of banishment is ironic, considering both Launfal's earlier choice to avoid Guenevere's advances by leaving the court and his later choice, at the end of the poem, to "flee" with his lemman into another world.

863 As Bl (p. 99) notes, only extremely high ranking guests would be housed in more private quarters; most would simply share the great hall.

876 We. MS: Whe.

877 Ru suggests that tale may mean "tally," in which case the sense would be "A new tally they took then."

891 MS: clodynge.

905 MS: clodes.

918 thou. Omitted in MS; supplied by Ri, F&H, Bl, and S.

925-72 Compare Libeaus Desconus (lines 925-48), Erle of Tolous, (lines 343-60), and notes to lines 292-300 above.

958 Paytrelle (or peitrel) is a word which can indicate either decorative trappings worn across the breast of the horse or an armor which protects the horse in battle. The image works either way. As ornament, it adds to the opulence of the fee; as armor, it adds to the image of the woman as a warrior coming to rescue her lemman. See Chaucer's Parson's Tale X (I) 431-33: "Also the synne of aornement or of apparaille is in thynges that apertenen to ridynge, as in to manye delicat horses that been hoolden for delit, that been so faire, fatte, and costlewe; / and also in many a vicious knave that is sustened by cause of hem; and in to curious harneys, as in sadeles, in crouperes, peytrels, and bridles covered with precious clothyng, and riche barres and plates of gold and of silver. / For which God seith by Zakarie the prophete, 'I wol confounde the rideres of swiche horses."'

961 The gerfawcon was usually carried by a king; the MED identifies it as a large falcon. Both Lanval and Landevale have Dame Tryamour carrying a sparrowhawk, a smaller hawk more commonly carried by priests or ladies. Chestre's iconography here may simply indicate Dame Tryamour's aristocratic rank as a king's daughter, but it may also add to the powerful warrior imagery already established in the description of Dame Tryamour's horse. See John Cummins, The Hound and the Hawk: The Art of Medieval Hunting (New York: St. Martins, 1988), pp. 188, 194.

970-72 Compare Landevale, lines 459-60: "Now I have her seyn with myn ee, / I ne reke when that I dye."

989 Cross, in "Celtic Elements," comments that "the dropping of the mantle as a sign of respect was common both among men and women in medieval courtly circles." He also notes, however, that the action can be meant to stun the onlookers with the power of the body's exhibition, in this case, because Dame Tryamour is so beautiful (p. 639).

997 MS: myne. F&H retain myne and gloss the idiom: "take good heed." S retains the MS spelling, but provides no gloss on the line. I follow Bl in emending to "nyme," as does Ru. Ri reads myne.

999 MS: lemmam.

1006-08 The blinding of Guenevere is unique to Launfal. It is foreshadowed in line 810 by Guenevere herself. Despite its uniqueness, Stith Thompson comments, "Medieval storybooks are filled with tales of persons who are deceived into humiliating positions. Such stories are usually purely literary and often go back to much older sources. Many of them . . . concern exposed adultery" [The Folktale (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1949), p. 202]. A number of romances record narratives wherein the hero humiliates someone or a number of people. Sir Ipomadon tells the story of a knight who pretends not to joust (in fact, he jousts and wins each tournament incognito). The courtiers who laugh at Ipomadon are, themselves, the fools of the story. Guenevere and the mayor play similar parts here where they treat Launfal poorly, only to be repaid with a vengeance for their foolishness and for their attack on, or neglect of, the hero.

1015-17 In Landevale, the hero receives the lady's forgiveness only after she scolds him thoroughly (lines 503-28).

1021 Thorth. MS: dorþ.

1024 yer. MS: er. F&H's emendation, followed by Ru and S.

1025 See Graelent, lines 735-40, where the hero's horse is heard neighing in mourning for its master who, while riding across the river, was swept in and lost. Cross notes that the Irish Each Labhra (Speaking Horse) "was wont to issue from a mound on every midsummer eve, and answer questions regarding the events of the coming year" ("Celtic Elements," p. 634, fn. 3). Cross also cites Gervais of Tilbury's Otia Imperialia and the Gesta Romanorum for instances in the Cambridge region of "a supernatural warrior on horseback [who] meets all who challenge him on moonlight nights" (ibid., p. 635).

1027-28 An echo of lines 526-27 which were an insult to Launfal's manhood. Since they are first Sir Valentyne's challenge to Launfal and here Launfal's challenge to any other men, they suggest the possibility that Launfal has replaced Valentyne in the scheme of things as the one who tests mortal men. Compare Sir Bertilak, the Green Knight, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and his subservience to Morgan le Fay. The mythic yearly return of the knight on horseback, the icon for the month of May, suggests correspondences between Launfal and season mythology like the Persephone myth. See Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History, trans. W. R. Trask, Bollingen Series XLVI (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954; rpt. 1964).

1042-44 As Bl (p. 102) notes, "the invocation of the Blessed Virgin . . . is surprisingly rare in the romances." Here at the end, Chestre provides the Christian prayer which conventionally closes literary works. The text is, however, over-whelmingly secular in its concerns and in its language.
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Sir Launfal

Be doughty Artours dawes
That helde Engelond yn good lawes,
   Ther fell a wondyr cas
Of a ley that was ysette,
That hyght "Launval" and hatte yette.
   Now herkeneth how hyt was!
Doughty Artour som whyle
Sojournede yn Kardevyle,
   Wyth joye and greet solas,
And knyghtes that wer profitable
Wyth Artour of the Rounde Table -
   Never noon better ther nas!
Sere Persevall and Syr Gawayn,
Syr Gyheryes and Syr Agrafrayn,
   And Launcelet du Lake;
Syr Kay and Syr Ewayn,
That well couthe fyghte yn playn,
   Bateles for to take.
Kyng Banbooght and Kyng Bos
(Of ham ther was a greet los -
   Men sawe tho nowher her make),
Syr Galafre and Syr Launfale,
Wherof a noble tale
   Among us schall awake.
Wyth Artour ther was a bacheler,
And hadde ybe well many a yer:
   Launfal, forsoth he hyght.
He gaf gyftys largelyche,
Gold and sylver and clothes ryche,
   To squyer and to knyght.
For hys largesse and hys bounté
The kynges stuward made was he
   Ten yer, I you plyght;
Of alle the knyghtes of the Table Rounde,
So large ther nas noon yfounde
   Be dayes ne be nyght.
So hyt befyll, yn the tenthe yer
Marlyn was Artours counsalere;
   He radde hym forto wende
To Kyng Ryon of Irlond, right,
And fette hym ther a lady bright,
   Gwennere, hys doughtyr hende.
So he dede, and hom her brought,
But Syr Launfal lykede her noght,
   Ne other knyghtes that wer hende;
For the lady bar los of swych word
That sche hadde lemmannys under her lord,
   So fele ther nas noon ende.
They wer ywedded, as I you say,
Upon a Wytsonday,
   Before princes of moch pryde.
No man ne may telle yn tale
What folk ther was at that bredale
   Of countreys fer and wyde!
No nother man was yn halle ysette
But he wer prelat other baronette
   (In herte ys naght to hyde).
Yf they satte noght all ylyke,
Har servyse was good and ryche,
   Certeyn yn ech a syde.
And whan the lordes hadde ete yn the halle,
And the clothes wer drawen alle,
   As ye mowe her and lythe,
The botelers sentyn wyn
To alle the lordes that wer theryn,
   Wyth chere bothe glad and blythe.
The Quene yaf yftes for the nones,
Gold and selver and precyous stonys
   Her curtasye to kythe.
Everych knyght sche gaf broche other ryng,
But Syr Launfal sche yaf nothyng -
   That grevede hym many a sythe.
And whan the bredale was at ende,
Launfal tok hys leve to wende
   At Artour the kyng,
And seyde a lettere was to hym come
That deth hadde hys fadyr ynome -
   He most to hys beryynge.
Tho seyde Kyng Artour, that was hende,
"Launfal, yf thou wylt fro me wende,
   Tak wyth the greet spendyng,
And my suster sones two -
Bothe they schull wyth the go
   At hom the for to bryng."
Launfal tok leve, wythoute fable,
Wyth knightes of the Rounde Table,
   And wente forth yn hys journé
Tyl he come to Karlyoun,
To the meyrys hous of the toune,
   Hys servaunt that hadde ybe.
The meyr stod, as ye may here,
And sawe hym come ryde up anblere,
   Wyth two knightes and other mayné.
Agayns hym he hath wey ynome,
And seyde, "Syr, thou art well come!
   How faryth our Kyng? - tel me!"
Launfal answerede and seyde than,
"He faryth as well as any man
   Ane elles greet ruthe hyt wore.
But, Syr Meyr, without lesyng,
I am departyd fram the Kyng,
   And that rewyth me sore.
Ne ther thar no man, benethe ne above,
For the Kyng Artours love
   Onowre me never more.
But, Syr Meyr, I pray the, par amour,
May y take wyth the sojoure?
   Som tyme we knewe us, yore."
The Meyr stod and bethoghte hym there
What might be hys answere,
   And to hym than gan he sayn,
"Syr, seven knyghtes han her har in ynome
And ever y wayte whan they wyl come,
   That arn of Lytyll Bretayne."
Launfal turnede hymself and lowgh,
Therof he hadde scorn inowgh,
   And seyde to hys knyghtes tweyne,
"Now may ye se, swych ys service
Under a lord of lytyll pryse! -
   How he may therof be fayn!"
Launfal awayward gan to ryde.
The Meyr bad he schuld abyde
   And seyde yn thys manere:
"Syr, yn a chamber by my orchardsyde,
Ther may ye dwelle wyth joye and pryde,
   Yyf hyt your wyll were."
Launfal anoon ryghtes,
He and hys two knytes,
   Sojournede ther yn fere;
So savegelych hys good he besette
That he ward yn greet dette
   Ryght yn the ferst yere.
So hyt befell at Pentecost,
Swych tyme as the Holy Gost
   Among mankend gan lyght,
That Syr Huwe and Syr Jon
Tok her leve for to gon
   At Syr Launfal the knight.
They seyd, "Syr, our robes beth torent,
And your tresour ys all yspent,
   And we goth ewyll ydyght."
Thanne seyde Syr Launfal to the knightes fre,
"Tellyth no man of my poverté,
   For the love of God Almyght!"
The knyghtes answerede and seyde tho
That they nolde hym wreye never mo,
   All thys world to wynne.
Wyth that word they wente hym fro
To Glastyngbery, bothe two,
   Ther Kyng Artour was inne.
The kyng sawe the knyghtes hende,
And agens ham he gan wende,
   For they wer of hys keene.
Noon other robes they ne hadde
Than they owt wyth ham ladde,
   And tho wer totore and thynne.
Than seyde Quene Gwenore, that was fel,
"How faryth the prowde knyght Launfal?
   May he hys armes welde?"
"Ye, madame," sayde the knytes than,
"He faryth as well as any man,
   And ellys God hyt schelde!"
Moche worchyp and greet honour
To Gwenore the Quene and Kyng Artour
   Of Syr Launfal they telde,
And seyde, "He lovede us so
That he wold us evermo
   At wyll have yhelde.
But upon a rayny day hyt befel
An huntynge wente Syr Launfel
   To chasy yn holtes hore;
In our old robes we yede that day,
And thus we beth ywent away,
   As we before hym wore."
Glad was Artour the kyng
That Launfal was yn good lykyng -
   The Quene hyt rew well sore,
For sche wold wyth all her myght
That he hadde be bothe day and nyght
   In paynys mor and more.
Upon a day of the Trinité
A feste of greet solempnité
   In Carlyoun was holde;
Erles and barones of the countré
Ladyes and borjaes of that cité,
   Thyder come, bothe yongh and old.
But Launfal, for hys poverté,
Was not bede to that semblé -
   Lyte men of hym tolde.
The meyr to the feste was ofsent;
The meyry's doughter to Launfal went
   And axede yf he wolde
In halle dyne wyth her that day.
"Damesele," he sayde, "nay!
   To dyne have I no herte.
Thre dayes ther ben agon,
Mete ne drynke eet y noon,
   And all was for povert.
Today to cherche I wolde have gon,
But me fawtede hosyn and schon,
   Clenly brech and scherte;
And for defawte of clothynge,
Ne myghte y yn the peple thrynge.
   No wonder though me smerte!
But o thyng, damesele, y pray the:
Sadel and brydel lene thou me
   A whyle forto ryde,
That I myghte confortede be
By a launde under thys cyté,
   Al yn thys underntyde."
Launfal dyghte hys courser,
Wythoute knave other squyer.
   He rood wyth lytyll pryde;
Hys hors slod, and fel yn the fen,
Wherefore hym scornede many men
   Abowte hym fer and wyde.
Poverly the knyght to hors gan sprynge.
For to dryve away lokynge,
   He rood toward the west.
The wether was hot the underntyde;
He lyghte adoun, and gan abyde
   Under a fayr forest.
And, for hete of the wedere,
Hys mantell he feld togydere,
   And sette hym doun to reste.
Thus sat the knyght yn symplyté,
In the schadwe under a tre,
   Ther that hym lykede beste.
As he sat yn sorow and sore
He sawe come out of holtes hore
   Gentyll maydenes two:
Har kerteles wer of Indesandel,
Ylased smalle, jolif, and well -
   Ther myght noon gayer go.
Har manteles wer of grene felvet,
Ybordured wyth gold, ryght well ysette,
   Ypelured wyth grys and gro.
Har heddys wer dyght well wythalle:
Everych hadde oon a jolyf coronall
   Wyth syxty gemmys and mo.
Har faces wer whyt as snow on downe;
Har rode was red, her eyn wer browne.
   I sawe nevir non swyche!
That oon bar of gold a basyn,
That other a towayle, whyt and fyn,
   Of selk that was good and ryche.
Har kercheves wer well schyre,
Arayd wyth ryche gold wyre.
   Launfal began to syche;
They com to hym over the hoth;
He was curteys, and agens hem goth,
   And greette hem myldelyche.
"Damesels," he seyde, "God yow se!"
"Syr Knyght," they seyde, "well the be!
   Our lady, Dame Tryamour,
Bad thou schuldest com speke wyth here
Yyf hyt wer thy wylle, sere,
   Wythoute more sojour."
Launfal hem grauntede curteyslyche,
And went wyth hem myldelyche.
   They wheryn whyt as flour.
And when they come in the forest an hygh,
A pavyloun yteld he sygh,
   Wyth merthe and mochell honour.
The pavyloun was wrouth, forsothe, ywys,
All of werk of Sarsynys,
   The pomelles of crystall;
Upon the toppe an ern ther stod
Of bournede golde, ryche and good,
   Ylorysched wyth ryche amall.
Hys eyn wer carbonkeles bryght -
As the mone they schon anyght,
   That spreteth out ovyr all.
Alysaundre the conquerour,
Ne Kyng Artour yn hys most honour,
   Ne hadde noon scwych juell!
He fond yn the pavyloun
The kynges doughter of Olyroun,
   Dame Tryamour that hyghte;
Her fadyr was Kyng of Fayrye,
Of Occient, fer and nyghe,
   A man of mochell myghte.
In the pavyloun he fond a bed of prys
Yheled wyth purpur bys,
   That semyle was of syghte.
Therinne lay that lady gent
That after Syr Launfal hedde ysent,
   That lefsom lemede bryght.
For hete her clothes down sche dede
Almest to her gerdylstede
   Than lay sche uncovert.
Sche was as whyt as lylye yn May,
Or snow that sneweth yn wynterys day -
   He seygh never non so pert.
The rede rose, whan sche ys newe,
Agens her rode nes naught of hewe, 1
   I dar well say, yn sert.
Her here schon as gold wyre;
May no man rede here atyre,
   Ne naught wel thenke yn hert.
Sche seyde, "Launfal, my lemman swete,
Al my joye for the y lete,
   Swetyng paramour!
Ther nys no man yn Cristenté
That y love so moche as the,
   Kyng neyther emperour!"
Launfal beheld that swete wyghth -
All hys love yn her was lyghth, -
   And keste that swete flour
And sat adoun her bysyde,
And seyde, "Swetyng, whatso betyde,
   I am to thyn honour!"
She seyde, "Syr Knyght, gentyl and hende,
I wot thy stat, ord and ende; 2
   Be naught aschamed of me!
Yf thou wylt truly to me take
And alle wemen for me forsake,
   Ryche I wyll make the.
I wyll the yeve an alner
Ymad of sylk and of gold cler,
   Wyth fayre ymages thre.
As oft thou puttest the hond therinne,
A mark of gold thou schalt wynne
   In wat place that thou be.
"Also," sche seyde, "Syr Launfal,
I yeve the Blaunchard, my stede lel,
   And Gyfre, my owen knave.
And of my armes oo pensel
Wyth thre ermyns ypeynted well,
   Also thou schalt have.
In werre ne yn turnement
Ne schall the greve no knyghtes dent,
   So well y schall the save."
Than answerede the gantyl knyght
And seyde, "Gramarcy, my swete wyght!
   No bettere kepte y have!"
The damesell gan here up sette,
And bad her maydenes her fette
   To hyr hondys watyr clere -
Hyt was ydo wythout lette.
The cloth was spred, the bord was sette,
   They wente to hare sopere.
Mete and drynk they hadde afyn,
Pyement, clare, and Reynysch wyn,
   And elles greet wondyr hyt wer.
Whan they had sowpeth, and the day was gon,
They wente to bedde, and that anoon,
   Launfal and sche yn fere.
For play, lytyll they sclepte that nyght,
Tyll on morn hyt was daylyght.
   Sche badd hym aryse anoon;
Hy seyde to hym, "Syr gentyl knyght,
And thou wylt speke wyth me any wyght,
   To a derne stede thou gon.
Well privyly I woll come to the
(No man alyve ne schall me se)
   As stylle as any ston."
Tho was Launfal glad and blythe,
He cowde no man hys joye kythe
   And keste her well good won.
"But of o thyng, Syr Knyght, I warne the,
That thou make no bost of me
   For no kennes mede!
And yf thou doost, I warny the before,
All my love thou hast forlore!"
   And thus to hym she seyde.
Launfal tok hys leve to wende.
Gyfre kedde that he was hende,
And brought Launfal hys stede;
Launfal lepte ynto the arsoun
And rood hom to Karlyoun
   In hys pover wede.
Tho was the knyght yn herte at wylle;
In hys chaunber he hyld hym stylle
   All that underntyde.
Than come ther, thorwgh the cité, ten
Well yharneysyth men
   Upon ten somers ryde;
Some wyth sylver, some wyth gold -
All to Syr Launfal hyt schold;
   To presente hym, wyth pryde,
Wyth ryche clothes and armure bryght,
They axede aftyr Launfal the knyght,
   Whar he gan abyde.
The yong men wer clothed yn ynde;
Gyfre, he rood all behynde
   Up Blaunchard whyt as flour.
Tho seyde a boy that yn the market stod,
"How fere schall all thys good?
   Tell us, par amour!"
Tho seyde Gyfre, "Hyt ys ysent
To Syr Launfal, yn present,
   That hath leved yn greet dolour."
Than seyde the boy, "Nys he but a wrecche!
What thar any man of hym recche? 3
   At the Meyrys hous he taketh sojour."
At the Merys hous they gon alyghte,
And presented the noble knyghte
   Wyth swych good as hym was sent;
And whan the Meyr seygh that rychesse
And Syr Launfales noblenesse,
   He held hymself foule yschent.
Tho seyde the Meyr, "Syr, par charyté,
In halle today that thou wylt ete wyth me!
   Yesterday y hadde yment
At the feste we wold han be yn same,
And yhadde solas and game,
   And erst thou were ywent!"
"Sir Meyr, God foryelde the!
Whyles y was yn my poverté,
   Thou bede me never dyne.
Now y have more gold and fe,
That myne frendes han sent me,
   Than thou and alle thyne!"
The Meyr for schame away yede.
Launfal yn purpure gan hym schrede,
   Ypelured wyth whyt ermyne.
All that Launfal hadde borwyth before,
Gyfre, be tayle and be score,
   Yald hyt well and fyne.
Launfal helde ryche festes.
Fyfty fedde povere gestes,
   That yn myschef wer.
Fyfty boughte stronge stedes;
Fyfty yaf ryche wedes
   To knyghtes and squyere.
Fyfty rewardede relygyons;
Fyfty delyverede povere prysouns,
   And made ham quyt and schere;
Fyfty clodede gestours.
To many men he dede honours
   In countreys fer and nere.
Alle the lordes of Karlyoun
Lette crye a turnement yn the toun
   For love of Syr Launfel,
And for Blaunchard, hys good stede,
To wyte how hym wold spede
   That was ymade so well.
And whan the day was ycome
That the justes were yn ynome,
   They ryde out also snell.
Trompours gan har bemes blowe.
The lordes ryden out arowe
   That were yn that castell.
Ther began the turnement,
And ech knyght leyd on other good dent,
   Wyth mases and wyth swerdes bothe.
Me myghte ysé some therfore
Stedes ywonne and some ylore,
   And knyghtes wonder wroghth.
Syth the Rounde Table was,
A bettere turnement ther nas,
   Y dare well say, forsothe!
Many a lord of Karlyoun
That day were ybore adoun,
   Certayn wythouten othe.
Of Karlyoun the ryche constable
Rod to Launfal, wythout fable,
   He nolde no lengere abyde.
He smot to Launfal, and he to hym;
Well sterne strokes and well grym
   Ther wer yn eche a syde.
Launfal was of hym yware:
Out of hys sadell he hym bar
   To grounde that ylke tyde;
And whan the constable was bore adoun,
Gyfre lepte ynto the arsoun
   And awey he gan to ryde.
The Erl of Chestere therof segh;
For wrethe yn herte he was wod negh,
   And rood to Syr Launfale
And smot him yn the helm on hegh
That the crest adoun flegh -
   Thus seyd the Frenssch tale.
Launfal was mochel of myght:
Of hys stede he dede hym lyght,
   And bar hym doun yn the dale.
Than come ther Syr Launfal abowte
Of Walssche knyghtes a greet rowte,
   The numbre y not how fale.
Than myghte me se scheldes ryve
Speres tobreste and todryve,
   Behinde and ek before.
Thorugh Launfal and hys stedes dent
Many a knyght verement
   To ground was ybore.
So the prys of that turnay
Was delyvered to Launfal that day,
   Wythout oth yswore.
Launfal rod to Karlyoun,
To the meyrys hous of the toun,
   And many a lord hym before.
And than the noble knyght Launfal
Held a feste ryche and ryall
   That leste fourtenyght.
Erles and barouns fale
Semely wer sette yn sale
   And ryaly wer adyght.
And every day Dame Triamour,
Sche com to Syr Launfal bour
   Aday whan hyt was nyght.
Of all that ever wer ther tho
Segh her non but they two,
   Gyfre and Launfal the knyght.
A knyght ther was yn Lumbardye;
To Syr Launfal hadde he greet envye -
   Syr Valentyne he hyghte.
He herde speke of Syr Launfal,
How that he couth justy well
   And was a man of mochel myghte.
Syr Valentyne was wonder strong;
Fyftene feet he was longe.
   Hym thoughte he brente bryghte
But he myghte wyth Launfal pleye 4
In the feld, betwene ham tweye
   To justy other to fyghte.
Syr Valentyne sat yn hys halle;
Hys massengere he let ycalle,
   And seyde he moste wende
To Syr Launfal, the noble knyght
That was yholde so mychel of myght.
   To Bretayne he wolde hym sende:
"And sey hym, for love of his lemman,
Yf sche be any gantyle woman,
   Courteys, fre, other hende,
That he come wyth me to juste,
To kepe his harneys from the ruste,
   And elles hys manhod schende."
The messengere ys forth ywent
To do hys lordys commaundement.
   He hadde wynde at wylle
Whan he was over the water ycome;
The way to Syr Launfal he hath ynome,
   And grette hym wyth wordes stylle,
And seyd, "Syr, my lord Syr Valentyne,
A noble werrour and queynte of gynne,
   Hath me sent the tylle,
And prayth the, for thy lemmanes sake,
Thou schuldest wyth hym justes take."
   Tho lough Launfal full stylle,
And seyde, as he was gentyl knyght,
Thylke day a fourtenyght,
   He wold wyth hym play.
He yaf the messenger, for that tydyng,
A noble courser, and a ryng,
   And a robe of ray.
Launfal tok leve at Triamour,
That was the bryght berde yn bour,
   And keste that swete may.
Thanne seyde that swete wyght,
"Dreed the nothyng, Syr gentyl knyght,
   Thou schalt hym sle that day!"
Launfal nolde nothyng wyth hym have
But Blaunchard hys stede and Gyfre hys knave
   Of all hys fayr mayné.
He schypede, and hadde wynd well good,
And wente over the salte flod
   Into Lumbardye.
Whan he was over the water ycome
Ther the justes schulde be nome
   In the cyté of Atalye,
Syr Valentyn hadde a greet ost,
And Syr Launfal abatede her bost
   Wyth lytyll companye.
And whan Syr Launfal was ydyght
Upon Blaunchard, hys stede lyght,
   Wyth helm and spere and schelde,
All that sawe hym yn armes bryght
Seyde they sawe never swych a knyght,
   That hym wyth eyen beheld.
Tho ryde togydere thes knyghtes two,
That har schaftes tobroste bo
And toschyverede yn the felde;
Another cours todgedere they rod,
That Syr Launfal helm of glod,
   In tale as hyt ys telde.
Syr Valentyn logh, and hadde good game:
Hadde Launfal never so moche schame
   Beforhond, yn no fyght.
Gyfre kedde he was good at nede
And lepte upon hys maystrys stede -
   No man ne segh wyth syght;
And er than thay togedere mette,
Hys lordes helm he on sette,
   Fayre and well adyght.
Tho was Launfal glad and blythe,
And thonkede Gyfre many sythe
   For hys dede so mochel of myght.
Syr Valentyne smot Launfal soo
That hys scheld fel hym fro,
   Anoon ryght yn that stounde.
And Gyfre the scheld up hente
And broghte hyt hys lord, to presente,
   Er hyt cam doune to grounde.
Tho was Launfal glad and blythe,
And rode ayen the thrydde sythe,
   As a knyght of mochell mounde.
Syr Valentyne he smot so dere
That hors and man bothe deed were,
   Gronyng wyth grysly wounde.
Alle the lordes of Atalye
To Syr Launfal hadde greet envye
   That Valentyne was yslawe,
And swore that he schold dye
Er he wente out of Lumbardye,
   And be hongede and todrawe.
Syr Launfal brayde out hys fachon,
And as lyght as dew he leyde hem doune
   In a lytyll drawe;
And whan he hadde the lordes slayn,
He wente ayen yn to Bretayn
   Wyth solas and wyth plawe.
The tydyng com to Artour the Kyng
Anoon, wythout lesyng,
   Of Syr Launfales noblesse.
Anoon he let to hym sende
That Launfall schuld to hym wende
   At Seynt Jonnys Masse,
For Kyng Artour wold a feste holde
Of erles and of barouns bolde,
   Of lordynges more and lesse.
Syr Launfal schud be stward of halle
For to agye hys gestes alle,
   For cowthe of largesse.
Launfal toke leve at Triamour
For to wende to Kyng Artour,
   Hys feste forto agye.
Ther he fond merthe and moch honour,
Ladyes that wer well bryght yn bour,
   Of knyghtes greet companye.
Fourty dayes leste the feste,
Ryche, ryall, and honeste
   (What help hyt forto lye?),
And at the fourty dayes ende,
The lordes toke har leve to wende,
   Everych yn hys partye.
And aftyr mete Syr Gaweyn,
Syr Gyeryes and Agrafayn,
   And Syr Launfal also
Went to daunce upon the grene
Under the tour ther lay the Quene
   Wyth syxty ladyes and mo.
To lede the daunce Launfal was set.
For hys largesse he was lovede the bet
   Sertayn, of alle tho.
The Quene lay out and beheld hem alle:
"I se," sche seyde, "daunce large Launfalle;
   To hym than wyll y go."
"Of alle the knyghtes that y se there,
He ys the fayreste bachelere.
   He ne hadde never no wyf;
Tyde me good other ylle,
I wyll go and wyte hys wylle:
   Y love hym as my lyf!"
Sche tok wyth her a companye,
The fayrest that sche myghte aspye -
   Syxty ladyes and fyf -
And wente hem doun anoon ryghtes,
Ham to pley among the knyghtes,
   Well stylle wythouten stryf.
The Quene yede to the formeste ende
Betwene Launfal and Gauweyn the hende,
   And after her ladyes bryght;
To daunce they wente, alle yn same:
To se hem play, hyt was fayr game,
   A lady and a knyght.
They hadde menstrales of moch honours,
Fydelers, sytolyrs, and trompours,
   And elles hyt were unryght;
Ther they playde, forsothe to say,
After mete, the somerys day
   All what hyt was neygh nyght.
And whanne the daunce began to slake,
The Quene gan Launfal to counsell take,
   And seyde yn thys manere:
"Sertaynlyche, Syr Knyght,
I have the lovyd wyth all my myght
   More than thys seven yere!
But that thou lovye me,
Sertes y dye fore love of the,
   Launfal, my lemman dere!"
Than answerede the gentyll knyght,
"I nell be traytour day ne nyght,
   Be God, that all may stere!"
Sche seyde, "Fy on the, thou coward!
Anhongeth worth thou hye and hard!
   That thou ever were ybore!
That thou lyvest, hyt ys pyté!
Thou lovyst no woman, ne no woman the -
   Thou were worthy forlore!"
The knyght was sore aschamed tho;
To speke ne myghte he forgo
   And seyde the Quene before,
"I have loved a fayryr woman
Than thou ever leydest thyn ey upon
   Thys seven yer and more!
"Hyr lothlokest mayde, wythoute wene,
Myghte bet be a Quene
   Than thou, yn all thy lyve!"
Therefore the Quene was swythe wroghth;
Sche taketh hyre maydenes and forth hy goth
   Into her tour, also blyve.
And anon sche ley doun yn her bedde.
For wrethe, syk sche hyr bredde
   And swore, so moste sche thryve,
Sche wold of Launfal be so awreke
That all the lond schuld of hym speke
   Wythinne the dayes fyfe.
Kyng Artour com fro huntynge,
Blythe and glad yn all thyng.
   To hys chamber than wente he.
Anoon the Quene on hym gan crye,
"But y be awreke, y schall dye!
   Myn herte wyll breke athre!
I spak to Launfal yn my game,
And he besofte me of schame -
   My lemman for to be;
And of a lemman hys yelp he made,
That the lothlokest mayde that sche hadde
   Myght be a Quene above me!"
Kyng Artour was well wroth,
And by God he swor hys oth
   That Launfal schuld be sclawe.
He wente aftyr doughty knyghtes
To brynge Launfal anoonryghtes
   To be hongeth and todrawe.
The knyghtes softe hym anoon,
But Launfal was to hys chaumber gon
   To han hadde solas and plawe.
He softe hys leef, but sche was lore
As sche hadde warnede hym before.
   Tho was Launfal unfawe!
He lokede yn hys alner,
That fond hym spendyng all plener, 5
   Whan that he hadde nede,
And ther nas noon, for soth to say;
And Gyfre was yryde away
   Up Blaunchard, hys stede.
All that he hadde before ywonne,
Hyt malt as snow ayens the sunne,
   In romaunce as we rede;
Hys armur, that was whyt as flour,
Hyt becom of blak colour.
   And thus than Launfal seyde:
"Alas!" he seyde, "my creature,
How schall I from the endure,
   Swetyng Tryamour?
All my joye I have forelore,
And the - that me ys worst fore - 6
   Thou blysfull berde yn bour!"
He bet hys body and hys hedde ek,
And cursede the mouth that he wyth spek,
   Wyth care and greet dolour;
And for sorow yn that stounde
Anon he fell aswowe to grounde.
   Wyth that come knyghtes four
And bond hym and ladde hym tho
(Tho was the knyghte yn doble wo!)
   Before Artour the kyng;
Than seyde Kyng Artour,
"Fyle ataynte traytour,
   Why madest thou swyche yelpyng?
That thy lemmannes lothlokest mayde
Was fayrer than my wyf, thou seyde!
   That was a fowll lesynge!
And thou besoftest her, befor than,
That sche schold be thy lemman -
   That was mysprowd lykynge!"
The knyght answerede wyth egre mode,
Before the kyng ther he stode,
   The Quene on hym gan lye:
"Sethe that y ever was yborn,
I besofte her herebeforn
   Never of no folye! -
But sche seyde y nas no man,
Ne that me lovede no woman
   Ne no womannes companye.
And I answerede her, and sayde
That my lemmannes lothlekest mayde
   To be a Quene was better worthye.
"Sertes, lordynges, hyt ys so!
I am aredy for to do
   All that the court wyll loke."
To say the soth, wythout les,
All togedere how hyt was,
   Twelf knyghtes wer dryve to boke. 7
All they seyde ham betwene,
That knewe the maners of the Quene
And the queste toke,
The Quene bar los of swych a word
That sche lovede lemmannes wythout her lord -
   Har never on hyt forsoke.
Therfor they seyden alle
Hyt was long on the Quene, and not on Launfal -
   Therof they gonne hym skere;
And yf he myghte hys lemman brynge
That he made of swych yelpynge,
   Other the maydenes were
Bryghtere than the Quene of hewe,
Launfal schuld be holde trewe
   Of that, yn all manere;
And yf he myghte not brynge hys lef,
He schud be hongede as a thef,
   They seyden all yn fere.
Alle yn fere they made proferynge
That Launfal schuld hys lemman brynge.
   Hys heed he gan to laye;
Than seyde the Quene, wythout lesynge,
"Yyf he bryngeth a fayrer thynge,
   Put out my eeyn gray!"
Whan that wajowr was take on honde,
Launfal therto two borwes fonde,
   Noble knyghtes twayn:
Syr Percevall and Syr Gawayn,
They wer hys borwes, soth to sayn,
   Tyll a certayn day.
The certayn day, I yow plyght,
Was twelfe moneth and fourtenyght,
   That he schuld hys lemman brynge.
Syr Launfal, that noble knyght,
Greet sorow and care yn hym was lyght -
   Hys hondys he gan wrynge;
So greet sorowe hym was upan,
Gladlyche hys lyf he wold a forgon
   In care and yn marnynge;
Gladlyche he wold hys hed forgo.
Everych man therfore was wo
   That wyste of that tydynge.
The certayn day was nyghyng:
Hys borowes hym brought befor the kyng;
   The kyng recordede tho,
And bad hym bryng hys lef yn syght.
Syr Launfal seyde that he ne myght -
   Therfore hym was well wo.
The kyng commaundede the barouns alle
To yeve jugement on Launfal
   And dampny hym to sclo.
Than sayde the Erl of Cornewayle,
That was wyth ham at that counceyle,
   "We wyllyd naght do so.
Greet schame hyt wer us alle upon
For to dampny that gantylman,
   That hath be hende and fre;
Therfor, lordynges, doth be my reed!
Our kyng we wyllyth another wey lede:
   Out of lond Launfal schall fle."
And as they stod thus spekynge,
The barouns sawe come rydynge
   Ten maydenes, bryght of ble.
Ham thoghte they wer so bryght and schene
That the lodlokest, wythout wene,
   Har Quene than myghte be.
Tho seyde Gawayn, that corteys knyght,
"Launfal, brodyr, drede the no wyght!
   Her cometh thy lemman hende."
Launfal answerede and seyde, "Ywys,
Non of ham my lemman nys,
   Gawayn, my lefly frende!"
To that castell they wente ryght:
At the gate they gonne alyght;
   Befor Kyng Artour gonne they wende,
And bede hym make aredy hastyly
A fayr chamber, for her lady
   That was come of kynges kende.
"Ho ys your lady?" Artour seyde.
"Ye schull ywyte," seyde the mayde,
   "For sche cometh ryde."
The kyng commaundede, for her sake,
The fayryst chaunber for to take
   In hys palys that tyde.
And anon to hys barouns he sente
For to yeve jugemente
   Upon that traytour full of pryde:
The barouns answerede anoon ryght,
"Have we seyn the madenes bryght,
   We schull not longe abyde."
A newe tale they gonne tho,
Some of wele and some of wo,
   Har lord the Kyng to queme:
Some dampnede Launfal there,
And some made hym quyt and skere -
   Har tales wer well breme.
Tho saw they other ten maydenes bryght,
Fayryr than the other ten of syght,
   As they gone hym deme.
They ryd upon joly moyles of Spayne,
Wyth sadell and brydell of Champayne,
   Har lorayns lyght gonne leme.
They wer yclodeth yn samyt tyre;
Ech man hadde greet desyre
   To se har clothynge.
Tho seyde Gaweyn, that curtayse knyght,
"Launfal, her cometh thy swete wyght,
   That may thy bote brynge."
Launfal answerede wyth drery thoght
And seyde, "Alas! y knowe hem noght,
   Ne non of all the ofsprynge."
Forth they wente to that palys
And lyghte at the hye deys
   Before Artour the Kynge,
And grette the Kyng and Quene ek,
And oo mayde thys wordes spak
   To the Kyng Artour:
"Thyn halle agrayde, and hele the walles
Wyth clothes and wyth ryche palles,
   Ayens my lady Tryamour."
The kyng answerede bedene,
"Well come, ye maydenes schene,
   Be Our Lord the Savyour!"
He commaundede Launcelot du Lake to brynge
   hem yn fere
In the chamber ther har felawes were,
   Wyth merthe and moche honour.
Anoon the Quene supposed gyle:
That Launfal schulld, yn a whyle,
   Be ymade quyt and skere
Thorugh hys lemman, that was commynge.
Anon sche seyde to Artour the kyng,
   "Syre, curtays yf thou were,
Or yf thou lovedest thyn honour,
I schuld be awreke of that traytour
   That doth me changy chere.
To Launfal thou schuldest not spare,
Thy barouns dryveth the to bysmare -
   He ys hem lef and dere!"
And as the Quene spak to the Kyng,
The barouns seygh come rydynge
   A damesele alone
Upoon a whyt comely palfrey.
They saw never non so gay
   Upon the grounde gone:
Gentyll, jolyf as bryd on bowe,
In all manere fayr ynowe
   To wonye yn wordly wone.
The lady was bryght as blosme on brere;
Wyth eyen gray, wyth lovelych chere,
   Her leyre lyght schoone.
As rose on rys her rode was red;
The her schon upon her hed
   As gold wyre that schynyth bryght;
Sche hadde a crounne upon her molde
Of ryche stones, and of golde,
   That lofsom lemede lyght.
The lady was clad yn purpere palle,
Wyth gentyll body and myddyll small,
   That semely was of syght;
Her matyll was furryd wyth whyt ermyn,
Yreversyd jolyf and fyn -
   No rychere be ne myght.
Her sadell was semyly set:
The sambus wer grene felvet
   Ypaynted wyth ymagerye.
The bordure was of belles
Of ryche gold, and nothyng elles
   That any man myghte aspye.
In the arsouns, before and behynde,
Were twey stones of Ynde,
   Gay for the maystrye.
The paytrelle of her palfraye
Was worth an erldome, stoute and gay,
   The best yn Lumbardye.
A gerfawcon sche bar on her hond;
A softe pas her palfray fond,
   That men her schuld beholde.
Thorugh Karlyon rood that lady;
Twey whyte grehoundys ronne hyr by -
   Har colers were of golde.
And whan Launfal sawe that lady,
To alle the folk he gon crye an hy,
   Bothe to yonge and olde:
"Her," he seyde, "comyth my lemman swete!
Sche myghte me of my balys bete,
   Yef that lady wolde."
Forth sche wente ynto the halle
Ther was the Quene and the ladyes alle,
   And also Kyng Artour.
Her maydenes come ayens her, right,
To take her styrop whan sche lyght,
   Of the lady Dame Tryamour.
Sche dede of her mantyll on the flet,
That men schuld her beholde the bet,
   Wythoute a more sojour.
Kyng Artour gan her fayre grete,
And sche hym agayn, wyth wordes swete
   That were of greet valour.
Up stod the Quene and ladyes stoute,
Her for to beholde all aboute,
   How evene sche stod upryght;
Than wer they wyth her also donne
As ys the mone ayen the sonne
   Aday whan hyt ys lyght.
Than seyde sche to Artour the Kyng,
"Syr, hydyr I com for swych a thyng:
   To skere Launfal the knyght;
That he never, yn no folye,
Besofte the quene of no drurye,
   By dayes ne be nyght.
"Therfor, Syr Kyng, good kepe thou nyme!
He bad naght her, but sche bad hym
   Here lemman for to be;
And he answerede her and seyde
That hys lemmannes lothlokest mayde
   Was fayryre than was sche."
Kyng Artour seyde wythouten othe,
"Ech man may ysé that ys sothe,
   Bryghtere that ye be."
Wyth that Dame Tryamour to the quene geth,
And blew on her swych a breth
   That never eft myght sche se.
The lady lep an hyr palfray
And bad hem alle have good day -
   Sche nolde no lengere abyde.
Wyth that com Gyfre all so prest,
Wyth Launfalys stede, out of the forest,
   And stod Launfal besyde.
The knyght to horse began to sprynge
Anoon, wythout any lettynge,
   Wyth hys lemman away to ryde;
The lady tok her maydenys achon
And wente the way that sche hadde er gon,
   Wyth solas and wyth pryde.
The lady rod thorth Cardevyle
Fer ynto a jolyf ile,
   Olyroun that hyghte.
Every yer, upon a certayn day,
Me may here Launfales stede nay,
   And hym se wyth syght.
Ho that wyll ther axsy justus,
To kepe hys armes fro the rustus,
   In turnement other fyght,
Dar he never forther gon;
Ther he may fynde justes anoon
   Wyth Syr Launfal the knyght.
Thus Launfal, wythouten fable,
That noble knyght of the Rounde Table,
   Was take ynto Fayrye;
Seththe saw hym yn thys lond noman,
Ne no more of hym telle y ne can,
   For sothe, wythoute lye.
Thomas Chestre made thys tale
Of the noble knyght Syr Launfale,
   Good of chyvalrye.
Jhesus, that ys hevene kyng,
Yeve us alle Hys blessyng,
   And Hys modyr Marye!
   Explicit Launfal
In mighty Arthur's days; (see note)
Who; (see note)
befell a wondrous event
Of which a lay was composed
was named; is called yet; (see note)
listen; (see note)
at one time; (see note)
was not
(see note)
knew how to; on the field
Battles to win
(see note)
them; fame
then; their equal
(see note)
(see note)
had been
was called
gave; generously; (see note)
(see note)
squire; (see note)
steward; (see note)
year; assure
generous; none
it befell; year; (see note)
Merlin; counselor; (see note)
advised; go
right away; (see note)
fetch; (see note)
daughter courtly; (see note)
did; home
(see note)
were well-bred
bore reputation; renown; (see note)
lovers besides
many; was not ever an end
Whitsunday; (see note)
All the; bridal feast
From; far
Unless; prelate or; (see note)
No reason to hide anything; (see note)
Even if; equally
Their service
Truly on all sides
table clothes; removed
may hear; listen
wine servants served wine; (see note)
gave gifts believe me; (see note)
to make known
gave brooch or
saddened; time
wedding feast
asked permission to depart
his father taken
must [go]; burying
you costly gifts
sons; (see note)
To accompany you home
a lie; (see note)
(see note)
mayor's; (see note)
Who had been his servant
mayor; hear
[The mayor] went to meet him
Or else it were great pity
estranged; (see note)
aggrieves me sorely
Nor; need; low born or high; (see note)
Honor; anymore
for friendship's sake
Once; knew each other, long ago
did he speak
have taken lodging here; (see note)
Who are
such; (see note)
value; (see note)
be appreciative
Lodged; together
wealth; spent
(see note)
(see note)
their; (see note)
are torn
(see note)
badly clothed
(see note)
(see note)
would not betray him ever
Even to gain the whole world
(see note)
Where; residing
to them; hastened
(see note)
them had taken
those; all torn
Can he still bear arms
(see note)
If otherwise; prevent; (see note)
(see note)
desired us forever
To have stayed freely
To hunt in ancient woods; (see note)
have come
In what we previously wore; (see note)
regretted sorely
(see note)
burgesses; (see note)
invited; gathering
Little [did]; think
(see note)
because of
wanted to
lacked hose; shoes
Clean breeches
lack; (see note)
among; make my way
that I smart (am hurt); (see note)
In a clearing near
morning time
harnassed; charger; (see note)
slipped; mud; (see note)
To stop [their] staring
that morning
dismounted; rest
Beside; (see note)
because of; weather
shadow; (see note)
it pleased him
ancient forest
Their gowns; Indian silk
Laced tightly; neatly
Their; velvet; (see note)
Embroidered; adorned
Furred; grey; white
Their;[a] hill
complexion; eyes
carried; basin
silk; expensive
head-dresses; very bright
sigh; (see note)
heath; (see note)
toward them goes
greets them politely
(see note)
Bade; her
If it;sir
to them consented
were; aflower
tent pitched; saw
wrought, truly indeed
work; Saracens; (see note)
pole knobs
top; eagle
Decorated; costly enamel
eyes;rubies; (see note)
moon; by night; (see note)
spreads; over
(see note)
such jewel
(see note)
who was called
Fairyland; (see note)
far; near; (see note)
Covered; linen
lovely one glittered brightly
Because of the heat; undid
Almost; waist
lily; (see note)
saw; beautiful
with certainty
describe her attire
Nor; imagine in [his] heart
darling; (see note)
Sweet lover
creature (wight)
upon her had settled
whatever happens
at; service
in my presence
devote [yourself]; (see note)
give a purse; (see note)
thy hand
(see note)
loyalsteed; (see note)
servant; (see note)
coat-of-arms a banner; (see note)
ermines; (see note)
harm; blow
thank you; thing
provision have I received (see note)
did sit herself up
done; delay
their supper
plenty; (see note)
Spiced wines; Rheinish; (see note)
lovemaking; slept
If; wish to; any time
secret place
secretly; will
still; stone
could[to]; make known
kissed; many times
boast; (see note)
no kind of reward
[as] before
leave to go
showed; helpful
at ease; (see note)
held himself at peace
pack-horses riding
it should [go]
asked about
far; these treasures go
for friendship's sake
as a
Who; lived; misery
He is nothing but; (see note)
to him
considered; sorely abused
have been together
But before [I could invite you], you were gone
reward; (see note)
never invited me to dine [with you]
[But] now; wealth
(see note)
purple dressed himself; (see note)
Trimmed; (see note)
by tally; by account; (see note)
(see note)
He fed fifty poor guests; (see note)
Who were in distress
Bought fifty steeds
[And] gave fifty sets of fine clothing
Rewarded fifty clerics
them free; clear
Clothed fifty minstrels; (see note)
far; near
(see note)
know; he would succeed
Who; built
jousts; [to be] held
began to blow their horns
in a row
inflicted on the others
A person might see
enraged; (see note)
[Ever] since
never was
Surely; oath
a lie
would not; endure [Launfal's success]
hit at
serious blows; fierce
on both sides
very moment
saddle; (see note)
saw all this
wrath; nearly mad; (see note)
on the top
[So] that; fly
of great strength
Off; knocked him
threw; on the ground
There clustered all around Launfal
I[know] not how many
one see shields split
broken and splintered to pieces
Through; blow[s]; (see note)
prize; tournament
lasted [a]
Seemly; hall
Each day
Saw; none
(see note)
was called
heard; tell
knew how to joust; (see note)
(see note)
field; them two
had called
must go
or polite
harness; (see note)
Or else; shame
(see note)
favorable wind
skillful; ingenuity; (see note)
to you
Then laughed; quietly
(see note)
[On] this; [in]
gave; occasion
striped robe
radiant lady; bower
kissed; maid
would not take anything
To where; held
city; (see note)
quashed their arrogance
few companions
agile (eager, swift)
(see note)
toward one another
So that their spears both shattered
splintered; field
Launfal's helmet was knocked off
it; told
laughed; was delighted
Launfal had
knew; greatly in need
saw; (see note)
thanked; times; (see note)
smote; so [hard]
fell; from
immediately; moment
[to]; to present
before; came; (see note)
again; third time; (see note)
great valour
fiercely; (see note)
Because; slain
he [Launfal]
hanged; drawn; (see note)
drew; sword
laid them down
(see note)
solace; joy
noble deeds
had; (see note)
Saint John's Mass; (see note)
control; guests
knowledge; generosity; (see note)
found mirth
in his [own] direction; (see note)
meat (dinner)
tower where
(see note)
Them; play (dance)
still (peacefully)
went; beginning
citole players; (see note)
wrong; (see note)
dinner; summer's
Until; nearly
spoke privately with Launfal
Certainly; (see note)
[For] more than these
Surely; die
will not; (see note)
By; should rule
A hanging you deserve high
[Alas] that
livest; pity
(see note)
fit to be destroyed
He couldn't keep himself from speaking
laid; eye
(see note)
most loathly; doubt; (see note)
very angry
her; they
she made herself sick
(see note)
would; avenged
Unless; avenged
in three; (see note)
(see note)
propositioned me shamefully
most loathly; (see note)
very angry; (see note)
valiant; (see note)
hanged and drawn
enjoyment; pleasure
sought; lover; lost; (see note)
Then; wretched
looked; purse; (see note)
was none
had ridden
Upon; (see note)
won (earned)
melted; under
(see note)
survive[away] from you
beat;head also
in a swoon; (see note)
bound; led
double woe
(see note)
Vile filthy traitor; (see note)
most loathsome attendant; (see note)
foul lie
asked; then
an arrogant desire
angry mood
where; stood
against him did slander
Since; (see note)
sought from her
any foolishness
(see note)
(see note)
command; (see note)
tell the truth; lies; (see note)
What really happened
among themselves
Who; ways (behavior)
And undertook consideration of the question
deserved such accusation; (see note)
besides her husband
Not one of them denied it
the fault of
Of that [first charge]; acquit
could; beloved bring (to court)
Of whom; boasting
judged innocent; (see note)
that (second charge)
could not; lover
should; hanged
in agreement
As one;proposal
head; gave as pledge
lovely eyes
wager; agreed upon; (see note)
sureties (hostages) found
months; two weeks
on; had settled
hands; wring
Gladly; have forgone
knew; tiding
appointed; nearing
(see note)
bade; beloved
condemn him to be slain
(see note)
them; council
(see note)
do according to my advice
wish to go another way
[this] land; flee (be exiled); (see note)
fair of face
It seemed they [the maidens]
most loathly; doubt
Their; then
fear; man
Here; gracious loved one
None; them; is
beloved friend
they [the maidens]
ready immediately
their; (see note)
from; kin (lineage)
palace; time
delay; (see note)
discussion; began; (see note)
good; bad
Their; please
acquitted; blameless
arguments; quite heated
in appearance
judged them
harness brightly glittered
samite attire
their; (see note)
Nor none; those youth
dismounted; high dais
prepare; cover
rich drapes; (see note)
To greet
at once
where their
suspected guile
Be acquitted; free
(see note)
avenged on
gets me so riled up
beloved of them; dear
(see note)
bird; bough
extremely fair
dwell; worldly dwelling
complexion shone radiantly
twig; complexion
wire; shines
crown; head
lovely gleamed
purple cloth
mantle; trimmed; ermine
Lined splendidly; fine
seemly adorned
saddle blankets; velvet
Painted; images
saddle bows
two jewels; India
Exceedingly brilliant
breast-plate; palfrey; (see note)
stately; magnificent
gyrfalcon; bore; (see note)
slow pace; went
Two; ran
Their collars
aloud (eagerly)
Here; (see note)
misfortunes relieve
There where
toward her decorously
stirrup; dismounted
took off; floor
anymore delay
on every side
straight (tall, proudly)
[compared] with her as dim
moon against; sun; (see note)
By day; it
Besought; illicit love
take good heed; (see note)
her; (see note)
he [Launfal]
see what is truth
More beautiful
goeth; (see note)
lept onto
would; longer
(see note)
each one
previously taken
through; (see note)
Far; pleasant isle
is called
year; (see note)
One; hear; neigh; (see note)
Who; ask to joust; (see note)
tournament or combat
Need; further go
without a doubt
taken; the land of faery
Since then; this land no one
(see note)

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