The Baron's Revolt
THE BARONS' REVOLT: FOOTNOTES2 do yow to wite, want you to know.
3 wreche, vengeance.
4 foule, foully; quyente, cunning.
8 jape, mock.
16 for norture, for instruction.
17 fayn, be glad.
18 and1, if.
20 tendirnesse, inexperience.
21 mayntene, support.
23 mene, common.
24 but, unless.
26 deliverid of, freed from.
27 rede, advise.
30 untrouthe, dishonor.
33 werre, war.
34 geauntes, giants.
39 berdes, beards.
39-40 in dispite, as an insult.
40 mantell, mantle, cloak.
43 werreth, makes war.
44 marcheth to, borders on.
45 ne were, if it were not for.
48 yeve, give.
49 longeth, will belong.
50 doute, worry.
52 forfete, injure; but, except; playn contrees, open countryside.
53 garnysshe, provision.
54 vitayle, food; artrye, weapons.
61 wite, know; abaisshed, surprised.
62 disese, harm; discounfite, defeated.
69 it hadde, got it from.
72 forwarde, agreement.
74 mayné, army.
78 wolde, wished.
80 yaf, gave; dolerouse, grievous.
81 forfet, damage.
82 for, despite.
83 yef, if.
85 bobaunce, proud boasts.
86 logges, lodges, tents.
90 moche, fast; horse, i.e., horses.
91 on their asseles, under their armpits; bristes, breasts.
92 be thens, been thence.
92-93 wende not, had not thought.
95 astoned with, overcome by; symple, meager
97 gretly, widely; beholden, observed.
100 yef, if.
101 carnell frendes, blood-relatives.
104 myster, need; socoure, aid.
105 moche, large.
106 prime barbe, first beard.
107 grete-growen, thick.
109 dressed agein, directed towards.
111 briaunt, well.
112 afficched, affixed.
113 hetely, heartily; preced, pierced.
115 crompe, flanks.
115-16 rebounded, shook.
118 cosin germains, first cousins.
120 hoill, whole.
121 dowte, fear
122 tymbres, spears.
123 hurtelid, rushed.
124 beyes, mail; astonyed, overcome.
125 crowpe, haunches.
127 stoure, battle.
130 medlé, melee; fellenouse, fierce.
131 peyne, effort.
132 skabrek, scabbard.
133 semed, thought.
134 tapres brennynge, burning torches.
136 Ebrewe, Hebrew.
137 kyttynge, cutting.
139 prese, crowd.
141 discendir, fall.
142 chyne, spine.
144 occision, slaying.
146 fell, fierce.
149 attones, all at once; for elles, or else.
150 henten, took.
151 ranndon, force.
152 haubrek, hawberk, mail shirt.
153 no mayle ne perced, the mail was not pierced; bar to hym, rushed against him.
156 hedylyche, headlong.
157 tymbir, wood; stelen heede, steel head.
162 abode upon, surrounded.
163 stonyed, stunned; pesaunt, heavy.
164 astonyd, stunned.
166 stoupe, stoop, droop; arson, bow.
169 stour, fighting.
172 meene, common.
178 wolde or noon, wished to or not; yede discounfit, departed in defeat.
179 not, nothing.
180 heed, head.
182 fill it, it happened.
184 even asondre, in two.
185 blusshet, fell.
186 stour, battle.
191 steyned, stained.
192 reade, red.
195 harneys, equipment.
196 valew, value; brente, burned.
THE BARONS' REVOLT: NOTESThe Barons' Revolt
[Fols. 35v (line 27)-40r (line 17)]
The barons' refusal to accept Arthur's kingship and their rebellion against him is one of the major narrative strands of the PM, and it is woven throughout the greater part of the work. There is nothing comparable to this rebellion in the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth or Wace, but the initial events in the barons' revolt have a close parallel in Malory's Morte D'Arthur (Vinaver, pp. 11-13), though Malory's rendition is much briefer, as is usually the case.It is at this point in the OF Vulgate Merlin that the sequel section to Robert de Boron'sMerlin commences. In the ME text, the only indication of this is a large capital letter on fol. 35v that is similar to the one with which the text began.
Summary Based on EETS 10, pp. 107-13.
31 This is in the reame of Kynge Leodegan of Tamalide. Although the text is not very explicit about this, it becomes clear that the Knights of the Round Table have left the realm of Logres to help King Leodegan defend his kingdom against his enemy King Rion. Leodegan's kingdom is sometimes called Tamelide and sometimes Carmelide. This confusion probably results from the fact that the capital letters C and T are often difficult to distinguish in many scribal hands.
39 he hath taken alle their berdes. As the text indicates, King Rion trims his mantle with the beards of defeated kings. Later in the PM, as well as in Malory (Vinaver, p. 36), King Rion sends a messenger to Arthur requesting Arthur's beard, which is the final beard he needs to complete his mantle. Arthur points out that his beard is still rather meager because of his youth. In the Balin section in Malory, Balin and his brother capture King Rion and present him to Arthur (Vinaver, pp. 46-47). Geoffrey of Monmouth noted that Arthur had once killed a giant named Retho who made a fur cloak from the beards of kings he had slain (Thorpe, p. 240); there appears to be a connection between Geoffrey's Retho and King Rion in the PM, who also hails from a land of giants.
44 yef he lese his londe, thow shalt lese thyn after. If King Rion is able to capture Tamelide, Merlin suggests, then Arthur's kingdom of Logres will soon be overcome also -- a medieval variation on the domino theory.
48 he shall yeve thee his doughter to be thy wif. Here Merlin predicts that Arthur will wed Gonnore, King Leodegan's daughter. It is important to note that throughout the PM Merlin always speaks favorably of Gonnore, and he fully endorses Arthur's marriage to her. His attitude stands in sharp contrast to that of Malory's Merlin, who warns Arthur that she will not be wholesome for him (Vinaver, p. 59).
54-56 archebisshop shall a-curse. As Merlin here indicates, the archbishop will soon set his curse upon the rebel kings. In all probability, by cursing them the archbishop is placing them under interdict rather than the more serious curse of excommunication. Interdict would mean that all church services were forbidden except for baptism and last rites. Early in the thirteenth century Pope Innocent III had placed just such an interdiction on King John's England.
66 Merlin made to Kynge Arthur a baner. This is the famous dragon banner which is similar to that which Merlin had fashioned earlier for King Uterpendragon. Kay, Arthur's foster brother and steward, is chosen to bear the standard for Logres.
118 cosin germains. This phrase means that they are first cousins, which is one of the most important relationships in Arthurian romances; at times first cousins share an even stronger bond of loyalty and friendship than brothers do.
132 he drowgh his swerde oute of skabrek. This passage has a close parallel in Malory: "thenne he drewe his swerd Excalibur, but it was so bryght in his enemyes eyen that if gaf light lyke thirty torchys . . ." (Vinaver, p. 12). Here Arthur's famous sword is called Escaliboure, but later it is called Calibourne, and the two names are used indiscriminately. These and other variations on the name of Arthur's sword occur throughout Arthurian literature. Geoffrey of Monmouth called it Caliburn, and noted that the sword was forged in the Isle of Avalon. In the story of "Culhwch and Olwen" from the Mabinogion Arthur's sword is named Caledywlch (Gantz, p. 140). In "The Dream of Rhonabwy" from the Mabinogion it is described as having two serpents on its golden hilt, and when it is unsheathed, "What was seen from the mouths of the serpents was like two flames of fire, so dreadful that it was not easy for anyone to look upon" (Gantz, p. 184). In Malory the sword which Arthur receives from the Lady of the Lake is also called Excalibir, which is said to have the meaning "Kutte Stele" (Vinaver, p. 40). The suggestion that the name originates in Hebrew occurs in the OF Vulgate.
147 the seven kynges. In the PM it is repeatedly stated that there are seven kings who oppose Arthur, but only six are clearly identified: Lot of Orcanye, Uriens of Gorre, Ventres of Garlot, Carados of Strangore, Aguysas of Scotlonde, and Ydiers. The seventh may be Briadas, who is said to have married one of Ygerne's daughters. At this point in Malory there are only six rebel kings: Lott, Uryens, Nayntres, Cardos, the Kynge of Scotland, and the Kyng with the Honderd Knyghtes (Vinaver, p. 11).
[The Barons' Revolt]
[Summary. In August Arthur convenes his royal court at the city of Carlion, with all
the barons in attendance. Arthur honors the barons and offers them gifts; but the barons
insult Arthur, refuse his gifts, and order him to leave the country or be killed. Eluding
them, Arthur takes refuge in the fortress of Carlion. After fifteen days Merlin arrives on
the scene and announces his support for Arthur. He tells the barons that Arthur is not
Antor's son but is actually Uterpendragon's son, and Ulfin verifies Merlin's account of
Arthur's birth. But the barons, continuing their opposition to Arthur, declare that no bas-
tard will ever be their king; they prepare themselves for battle. Arthur has only a few
knights on his side, but the townspeople offer their support. Merlin then confronts the
assembled barons. Fols. 35v (line 27)-37v (line 16).]
And as thei spake thus, com Merlin to hem and seide, "Sirs, what is that ye
purpose to do? Y do yow to wite ye will gete yourself the werse and shull lese
theron more than ye shull wynne; for God will shewe soche wreche that ye shull
be full rebuked and foule shamed, the moste quyente of yow alle. For ye beth
agein hym with wronge of the eleccion that the archebisshop hath made, like as ye
"Now hath the enchauntor well spoken!" seide the barouns, and begonne for to
jape oon to another. And whan Merlin saugh thei made japes of his wordes, he
returned anoon agein to Kynge Arthur and bad hym he sholde nothinge be dismaied,
for he sholde not drede hem alle; for he wolde hym helpe so that the moste hardy
of hem in the oste, er it were nyght, sholde wiesshe to be at home in his owne
contree. Than Arthur toke Merlyn and ledde hym aparte, and the archebisshop
and Antor and Kay and Ulfyn and Bretell; these seven were prevely in counseile.
And than seide Arthur to Merlin: "Dere frende Merlin, I have herde say thatye
loved well my fader Uterpendragon as longe as he was lyvinge; and therfore I
praye yow, for the love of God and for norture, that ye will me counseile in this
matere, as ye knowe well these barouns do me grete wronge. And I wolde fayn
and it plesed yow to be with me as ye were with my fader; and knowe it for
trouthe that I shall never do thinge that ought yow to displese to my power; and ye
have me holpen in my yowthe and in my tendirnesse, and therfore I praye yow
helpe to mayntene and to strengthe me to kepe my londe; for by yow and by my
fader the archebisshop, and Antor that hath me norisshed, am I come to this that I
am atte. And therfore, at the reverense of God, have pité of me and of the mene
peple that alle shull be distroied but God sette remedye."
"Now dismaye yow nothinge, sir," seide Merlin, "for ye shull not have no fere
of hem. But as soone as ye be deliverid of these barouns that beth here now come
for to assaile yow, do that I shall yow rede and counseile. This is the trouthe, that
the Knyghtes of the Round Table that was stablisshed and founded in the tyme of
Uterpendragon youre fader -- on whos soule God have mercy -- thei be gon to
sojourne to their owne contrees, for the grete untrouthe that thei syen in this reame.
This is in the reame of Kynge Leodegan of Tamalide, that is an olde man and his
wif is deed, and of alle his childeren is lefte but oon doughter, to whom the reame
shall falle after his deth. And the Kynge Leodegan hath grete werre agein the
Kynge Ryon, that is kynge of the londe of geauntes and of the londe of pastures,
wherin dar noon inhabite for diverse aventures and merveiles that ther fallith bothe
day and nyght.
"This Kynge Rion of whom I speke is right myghty of londe and of peple, and
full of high prowesse, and is right a crewell man. And he hath conquered by force
twenty kynges crowned, fro whom he hath taken alle their berdes by force and in
dispite, and sette hem in a mantell whiche he maketh every day a knyght to holde
afore hym atte mete at alle tymes whan he holdeth courte rioall; and he hath sworn
that he shall never finysshe till he have conquereth thirty kynges. This kynge
werreth upon Leodegan and in his londe doth grete damage. ThisLeodegan
marcheth to thy reame, and yef he lese his londe, thow shalt lese thyn after. And
undirstonde well that he sholde have loste his londe longe er this tyme, ne were
the Knyghtes of the Rounde Table that mayntened his werre, for he is now in
grete age. And therfore I rede that thow go and serve hym a while, the Kynge
Leodegan, and he shall yeve thee his doughter to be thy wif, to whom the reame
longeth after his deth. And she is right feire and yonge, and the wisest lady of the
worlde of so yonge age. And of thy londe have thow no doute, for eche of these
barouns that now werreth upon thee, thei shull have so moche to do that litill shull
thei forfete in thy londe, but passinge thourgh the playn contrees.
"But er thow go, do garnysshe thy forteresses of every citee and every castell
with vitayle and men and stuffe of other artrye. And the archebisshop shall a-
curse alle tho that in thy londe eny thinge forfete agein thee or in thy contree. And
the archebisshop hymself shall shewe the cursynge in sight of alle the barouns
that now ben here, and comaunde alle the clergie to do the same in heringe of hem
alle. And soone after ye shall se soche thinges, by the helpe of God, that the
proudest of hem shall be affraide. And wite ye well that I will be redy with yow in
every grete nede. And whan I crye to yow, `Now upon hem,' set forth boldely and
smyte in amonge hem, and wite it verily that thei shull be so abaisshed that litill
thei shall yow disese, but alle thei shull be fayn to fle as discounfite." "Sire,"
seide the kynge, "gramercy." And than thei departed.
And the archebisshop wente upon the walles on high, and the Kynge Arthur
dide his peple make hem redy; and [thei] lepe on horse and in that manerwise thei
abide longe tyme. And Merlin made to Kynge Arthur a baner wherein was grete
significacion, for therin was a dragon which he made sette on a spere, and be
semblaunce he caste oute of his mouth fire and flame. And he hadde a grete taile
and a longe. This dragon no man cowde wite where Merlin it hadde, and it was
merveilouse light and mevable. And whan it was set on a launce thei beheilde it
for grete merveile. Than toke the kynge the dragon and yaf it to Kay his stiwarde,
in soche forwarde that he be chef banerer of the reame of Logres ever while hislif
Thus arraied thys mayné the Kynge Arthur, and abode in soche maner on horsbak
before the yate before the paleis. And the barouns made picche her teynte and
pavelouns thourgh the medowes that were large and faire. And whan the
archebisshop that saugh, he asked what thei were come to seche so armed. And
thei seide that thei were come to take the maister toure, which thei wolde no man
sholde be inne but by hem.
Than the archebisshop yaf the scentence full dolerouse, and cursed of God and
with all his power alle tho that in the londe dide eny forfet, or were agein the
Kynge Arthur. And the barons seide that for eny cursinge, thei wolde not cesse
till thei hadde dryve the kynge oute of the londe. And yef thei myght hym take,
thei lete hym knowe that he sholde not escape withoute the deth. And whanne
Merlin undirstode their bobaunce, he caste his enchauntement so that alle their
logges and pavilouns were alle on fire aflame. And thei therof were so abaisshed
that hem thought longe er thei myght gete oute into the medowes fro the fyre. But
er thei myght come ther thei caught grete harme, and foule were thei skorched
with the fier. Merlin ran to the kynge and seide, "Sir, now hastely upon them!"
And thei spronge oute at the yate as moche as theire horse myght renne, the
speres on their asseles, theire sheldes before her bristes. And thei were so abaisshed
and affraide that the moste hardy of hem wolde fain have be thens, for thei wende
not that ther hadde be so moche peple withinne. For thei withoute were sodenly
many of hem born down with speres, and moche peple slain; for thei were so
astoned with the hete of the fier that theire deffence was but symple. Ther was
grete slaughter of men and horse. Ther dide Arthur merveillouse dedes of armes
that gretly he was beholden, bothe on that oon part and on the tother. He overthrewe
knyghtes, bothe horse and man, with stroke of spere and of swerde. And therto
hadde the princes and barouns grete envye, and assembled hem togeder, and seide
that it were grete shame yef he so escaped. And thei werenoble knyghtes and
hardy, and full of high prowesse, and many of hem carnell frendes.
Than seyde Kynge Ventres of Garlot that he wolde hem delyvere in short tyme,
for yef Arthur oonly were deed, the werre of the remenaunt were soone fynysshed.
"Goth on," seide the othir prynces, "and yef ye have myster we shall yow socoure."
Therwith departed the Kynge Ventres and his company, that was a moche man of
body, and a gode knyght and yonge, of prime barbe. And he was mervelouse
stronge, and he helde a shorte grete-growen spere, sharp grounden, and rode agein
Whan Arthur saugh hym come, he dressed agein hym his horse hede, and griped
a grete aisshen spere, the heede sharp trenchaunt of stiell, than smote the horse
with the spores that it ran so faste and so briaunt that alle hadden merveile that it
behelden. And he afficched hym so in the sturopes that the horse bakke bente; and
[thei] smote togeder so hetely upon the sheldes that thei preced thourgh. The Kynge
Ventres brake his spere upon Kynge Arthur, and Arthur smot hym agein so sore
that he bar hym over the horse crompe, and his legges upright, that the erthe re-
bounded; but he hadde noon other hurte. And whan the Kynge Loth of Orkanye
saugh the Kynge Ventres overthrowen, he was wroth and sorowfull, for thei were
bothe cosin germains, and also thei hadde wedded two sustres.
Than smote he the horse with spores agein Arthur, that yet hadde he his spere
hoill. And whan he saugh the comynge of Kynge Loth, he come agein with grete
hardinesse, as he that of hym hadde no dowte. And [thei] mette togeder on the
sheldis so that the horse ne myght not passe ferther till the tymbres were broken.
And on the passinge forth thei hurtelid togeder so fiercely with sheldes and with
her beyes and her helmes that the Kynge Loth was so astonyed that he fley over
his horse crowpe.
Than aroos grete noyse and cry on the oon part and the tother. Ther began a
grete stoure and merveillouse. The knyghtes that were with Kynge Ventres peyned
hem sore to socoure their lorde, and so dide the knyghtes of Kynge Loth. And
Arthur's knyghtes peyned hem sore to helpe Arthur, and to take and holde these
other two kynges. And so began the medlé on bothe parteis crewell and fellenouse.
But with grete peyne were these two kynges rescowed and horsed agein.
Whan Arthur was releved, he drowgh his swerde oute of skabrek, whiche was
so cler and bright shynynge, as thei semed that it behelden, that it glistred as it
hadde be the brightnesse of twenty tapres brennynge. And it was the same swerde
that he toke oute of the ston; and the letteres that were write on the swerde seide
that the right name was cleped Escaliboure, whiche is a name in Ebrewe that is to
sey in Englissh, "kyttynge iren, tymber, and steill." And the letteres seide trewe,
as ye shall heeren hereafter.
Whan the Kynge Arthur hadde drawen oute his swerde, he smote into the prese
theras he saugh thikkeste, and smote a knyght on the sholder so that he made it
discendir from the body. The stroke was grete and the swerde trenchaunt, so that
he slyt asonder the sadell and the chyne of the horse, that bothe the knyght and the
horse fill on an hepe. And than he smote aboute hym grete strokes, bothe on the
lefte syde and on the right side, and made so grete occision aboute hym that all
that it syen helde it grete merveile, and ne durst not abide his strokes, but made
wey and voided place for drede of his swerde and of his fell strokes.
Whan the seven kynges saugh the damage and the grete losse that they hadde
thourgh hym, thei were wroth and right sorowfull, and seyde eche to other, "Now
let us alle sette on hym attones and bere hym down to the erthe, for elles may we
nothynge conquere." And to this thei acorded. Than thei henten speres grete and
rude, and ronnen agein hym with as grete ranndon as their horse myght hem bere,
and smyten hym on the shelde and on the haubrek; but [it] is so stronge and sure
that no mayle ne perced. But thei bar to hym so harde that Arthur was throwe to
erthe, bothe he and his horse on oon hepe.
And whan Kay and Antor and Ulfin and Bretell and other of Arthur's frendes
syen this, Antor hasted hym to Kynge Carados and met hym so hedylyche with a
grete spere that bothe the tymbir and stelen heede shewed thourgh his shuldre, and
threwe bothe hym and his horse to the erthe, and [he] lay longe in swowne. And
Ulfin and Kynge Ventres of Garlot mette so sore togeder that ether bar other to the
grounde, and the horse upon hem. And the Kynge Ydiers and Bretell brake their
spers that oon upon the tother, withoute more harme doynge.
And alle the tother barouns abode upon the Kynge Arthur that yet lay at the
erthe all stonyed, and thei smote on his helme grete strokes and pesaunt, so that
thei made hym moche more astonyd. And whan Kay saugh that the kynge was at
so grete myschef, he griped his swerde and come ther the kynge was overthrowen,
and smote the Kynge Loth upon the helme that he made hym stoupe on the arson
of his sadell, and leyde on hym so grete strokes that Loth all astonyed fill to the
grounde. Than come thei to the rescowe, bothe on the oon and on the tother.
Ther was grete bataile and stronge stour and grete slaughter, bothe of men and
horse. And so peyned thei that were with Kynge Arthur that thei have hym re-
mounted on his horse. But firste hadde thei grete payne and traveile and grete
losse, for the meene peple of the town were come oute with all wepen that thei
myght have deffensable. And the cry and the noyse rose thourgh all the contré, so
that alle the commons hasted thider all that myghten, and seiden that thei wolden
alle be deed on the same grounde er that Kyng Arthur hadde eny greef, as longe as
thei myghten hym deffende. Than they smyten in amonge the preesse of the seven
kynges that many they dide sle and wounde, and so put hem to flight whether they
wolde or noon. And so thei yede discounfit. But thei seiden thei sholde never have
gladnesse till they were venged, and that they wolde not take of Arthur but his
The Kynge Arthur, that was full wrothe, and Kay hem chased fercely before
alle other. And so fill it that Arthur overtoke Kynge Ydiers and wende to smyte
hym on the helme, but the horse bar hym to faste, so that the stroke descended on
the horse and slyt hym even asondre behynde the sadill; and Ydiers and his horse
blusshet to the erthe, wherefore his men were gretely affraied leste he hadde be
slain, and returned hym to rescowe. Ther began the stour grete and merveillouse,
for that oon part peyned to withholde and to take Kynge Ydiers, and on the tother
syde thei peyned hym to rescowe; and so was ther do more damage and harme
than hadde be all the day before. For ther was neyther horse ne man that myght
endure agein the swerde of Arthur that was cleped Calibourne, that was all blody
of brain and blode so that his armes were so steyned that nought was sein but all
Nevertheles, so peyned Ydiers men that they have hym remounted on horsebak;
and so ben thei departed discounfited, and the chase lasted longe tyme. And so the
seven kynges losten inough, for of all the harneys that thei hade brought thider,
thei hadde not with hem the valew of two pence, that all ne was brente with the
fier that Merlin made discende amonge theire tentes and pavelouns, saf only the
vessels of golde and silver and the money.