The Begetting of Lancelot; and Merlin and Nimiane
THE BEGETTING OF LANCELOT; AND MERLIN AND NIMIANE: FOOTNOTES1 discounfited, defeated; be, by.
2 to the, until.
4 of thiers, belonging to those.
6 herberowed, lodged.
7 wacched, guarded; that, so that.
11 were well, there were at least.
12 behoved, was fitting.
13 who that, whoever; noon, not.
14 saugh, saw.
15 seen, see.
16 Wherto, Why.
19 travaile, hardships.
21 hemself, themselves.
29 on slepe, asleep; fill, fell.
30 sore, greatly; afeerde, afraid; semed, thought.
31 bestes, beasts.
32 kendes, kinds.
33 hem, themselves; roos, arose.
34 ronne, ran; that oon, one.
35 turned, separated.
36 whereas, where.
37 the halvendell, half; grete, large.
39 lyonsewes, young lions.
40 were turned to, supported.
41 lyonsewes, young lions.
43-44 dissevered, separated.
45 boles, bulls; teyed be, tied by; ete, ate; rakke, feeding rack.
47 for, because; semed, thought.
48 bereve hym, take away.
49 hepes, groups.
50 departed, divided; mouncels, parts.
54 bateile, battle; herde speke, heard spoken of; fyn, end.
55 behoved, were forced.
55-56 was sore adredde, greatly feared.
56 lese, lose.
57 semed, thought.
60 semed, thought; blaste, storm.
61 wiste, knew.
62 saugh, saw.
63 hadde moche, had it much.
64 behilde, beheld.
65 yede, went.
67 resorte, turn.
69 made departe, left.
69-70 aqueynte hym, spoke.
70 drough, drew; partye, side.
73 turned to discounfiture, was defeated.
74 go crye mercy, beg for mercy.
76 behilde, beheld; wite, discover; yef, if; cowde, could.
77 be, by.
78 woxen and amended, grown and changed.
79 enclyned, bowed.
82 aboode, lay sleeping.
83 affraied of, frightened by.
84 her eyled, ailed her.
85 seyn, seen it.
88 savourly, deeply.
90 yeve, give.
93 avoutré, adultery; er, before.
94 well acorde with, be forgiven by.
95 creaunce, belief.
97 as, as if.
98 so sore theras, so strongly that.
99 nere, nearly.
101 wiste, knew.
102 memorie, senses.
103 shriven, confessed; than, then.
104 hoseled with, received.
110 ageins, against.
111 heren hereafter, hear later on.
112 noo foote londe, not a foot of land.
113 that after were, that later became; nonnes, nuns.
114-15 socour of, help from.
115 done, do.
117 disherited, disinherited.
118 yaf, gave.
119 reste to speke, put off speaking.
121 dyvers dremes, various dreams; mette, dreamed.
128 mette, dreamed; that, so that.
130 fierce, wondrous.
133 fayn, happily.
134 partye, portion.
135 apendeth, pertains.
139 saugh, saw.
142 booles, bulls.
143 assured, pledged; oon, one.
151 pees, peace.
152 sore, greatly.
156 abaisshed, astonished; pensef, pensive.
157 wise, wisdom.
161 aboode, awaited.
163 ledde, took; prively, secretly.
164 aperceyved of, seen by; no man, anyone.
165 for, because of.
167 till that, until; wolde, wished.
170 aparceyve, know.
171 sle yef, slay if.
173 fill, befell.
174 sette, seated; ympe, tree.
176 required hym so, urged him so much.
177 menynge, intention.
180 ly, lie.
181 flessly, physically.
182 tysed, enticed.
183 dele with, resist.
186 douted sore, feared greatly.
187 garnysshed, prepared; tho, those.
188 cowde, could.
189 partye, portion; that, what.
192 saugh, saw.
THE BEGETTING OF LANCELOT; AND MERLIN AND NIMIANE: NOTES
[Fols. 134r (line 19)-158v (line 4)]
After Arthur and his men help to repulse the attack on Benoyk and Gannes mounted by the several enemies of King Ban and King Bors, Merlin is called upon to interpret a pair of prophetic dreams, one experienced by Ban's wife Heleyne, and one by Ban himself. Although the dreams are enigmatic and Merlin refrains from explicating them fully, it is clear that the leopard in the queen's dream represents Lancelot, who has been conceived on that very night. King Ban's dream is not as fully related as the queen's, but the voice he hears is apparently providing an affirmative answer to what he had prayed for earlier, that he be allowed to die on the day that he desires it.
This episode does not occur in Morte D'Arthur, although Malory does briefly describe a visit Merlin makes to Benwyke in which he meets King Ban's wife and has his first sight of Lancelot as a young boy: "And there Merlion spake with kyng Bayans wyff, a fayrelady and a good; and hir name was Elayne. And there he saw yonge Launcelot. And there the queene made grete sorowe for the mortal werre that kynge Claudas made on hir lord and on hir londis" (Vinaver, p. 76).
Near the end of this section, Merlin goes once more to visit Nimiane, who now asks him to teach her how to accomplish some very particular things. Merlin knows very well why she wants to learn those things; he teaches her anyway, because he also knows he can deny her nothing.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 379-411.
10 the Newe Knyghtes. This phrase is used to refer to the young men previously called the Young Squires. Now the New Knights, and the Knights of the Round Table (Uther's knights who had been with Leodegan), and the Forty Fellows (or Forty Soldiers or Forty Companions, Arthur's original core of knights) are the three main groups within Arthur's forces.
28 Queene Heleyne conceyved a childe . . . Kynge Ban. The child she conceives is Lancelot; and in her dream that follows, he is represented by the leopard who becomes involved in the struggle between the crowned lion and the uncrowned lion.
44-45 four hundred boles. The 400 bulls represent Arthur's knights. In a very different context, Arthur's knights are also represented by bulls in Gawain's dream during the Grail section in Malory. In his vision in Morte D'Arthur, Gawain sees 150 bulls, almost all of which are black. He also sees three white bulls, representing the three successful Grail Knights (Vinaver, pp. 558-59).
93 he synne dedly in avoutré. King Ban learns in his dream that on one occasion he will succumb to the sin of adultery. This event is subsequently described in the PM when, by means of Merlin's enchantment, Ban sleeps with the daughter of Agravadain ly Noir, who then conceives Estor (Ector de Maris), Lancelot's half-brother. Because Ban was not personally responsible for his sinning, God forgives him.
127-28 Merlin hym tolde even as the kynge hadde mette. Merlin has the ability to relate both the queen's and king's dreams, even though no one has told them to him.
174 sette upon an ympe. This may mean that Merlin and Nimiane are sitting on the branch of a tree, but more likely they are sitting beneath the tree.
175 the mayden made hym to slepe in hir lappe. Perhaps Nimiane has simply lulled Merlin to sleep with his head in her lap; or perhaps she is trying out her newly-acquired ability to cause a person to sleep. There is nothing overtly sexual in the phrase "to slepe in hir lappe," and as we discover below, the author asserts that Merlin never required any sexual favors from Nimiane.
179 he taught hir thre names. Merlin gives Nimiane three magic names, or perhaps phrases, to protect her from being harmed sexually. It is likely that she believes she needs them in order to protect herself from Merlin.
185 we fynde not . . . eny vylonye of hir. The author of the PM declares there is no evidence in any written work to suggest that Merlin ever desired Nimiane (or any other woman) to engage in sex with him. But it is also clear that Nimiane suspected that that is precisely what he desired from her. Malory, on the other hand, offers a very different view of Merlin's intentions, stating of Merlin that "allwayes he lay aboute to have hir maydynhode . . . " (Vinaver, p. 77).
188 of thinges paste. In his mentoring of Nimiane, Merlin teaches her about things that have happened, about things that are happening, and about things that will happen in the future.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 419-20.
[The Begetting of Lancelot; and Merlin and Nimiane]
[Summary. The story now concerns the war between King Ban and King Bors and
their enemies - Claudas de la deserte and the King of Gaul, who are being aided by
the Romans Pounce Antony and Frolle. Arthur and his men cross over to the conti-
nent with the intention of helping Ban and Bors defend their kingdoms of Benoyk and
Gannes. A great battle takes place before the city of Trebes, and in it many of Arthur's
knights perform heroically. Gawain, in particular, displays his surpassing prowess as
a knight; and Gaheris, Gawain's young brother, also emerges as one of the best
knights after Gawain. Eventually the enemy forces suffer great losses and are forced
to retreat to the "desert." Fols. 134r (line 19)-145v (line 16).]
Thus were the foure princes discounfited, as ye have herde, be the witte of
Merlin. And whan thei hadde chaced hem to the nyght, thei returned with grete
plenté of prisoners and com before the Castell of Trebes, where thei were loigged
in tentes and pavilouns of thiers that were discounfited. And [thei] made grete
joye and feste all the nyght, for thei fonde the loigginges well stuffed of all that
neded to man that nothinge failed. And whan thei were herberowed, that nyght
wacched the hoste Pharien and Grascien that thei were not assailled of somme
maner peple. And the Kynge Ban and the Kynge Bohors ledde the Kynge Arthur
and Sir Gawein and the Knyghtes of the Rounde Table and the Forty Knyghtes
that ye have herde named and the Newe Knyghtes into the Castell of Trebes,
where he made to hem grete joye and feste, and were well three hundred knyghtes
of the contrey. And that nyght were thei well served of all that behoved.
But who that was gladde or noon, ther was noon like to the joye of the two
queenes that were sustres, whan thei saugh theire two lordes that thei hadde so
longe desired for to seen. And thei were yonge ladyes and of grete bewté. And
gretly thei hem peyned to honour the Kynge Arthur and alle his companye. Wherto
sholde I tarie to reherse theire servise and the ese of softe beddes that thei hadde
that nyght? For thei were served richely as worthi men. And after soper thei
wente to reste, for therto hadde thei nede, for thei were wery for travaile that thei
hadde that day suffred. And Arthur and Gawein and Segramor and Ewein and
Dodinell and Kay and Antor lay in a feire chamber by hemself; and with hem was
Merlin that from hem that nyght wolde not departe. And the Knyghtes of the
Rounde Table and the Newe Knyghtes and the Forty Felowes layn in other cham-
And whan the Kynge Ban and the Kynge Bohors hadde hem loigged at ese, thei
wente to bedde with theire wiffes, and lefte grete torches brennynge before hem
in chambres. That nyght shewed the two kynges grete love to theire wiffes. That
nyght the Queene Heleyne conceyved a childe by her lorde the Kynge Ban. And
whan thei were on slepe, the wiff of Kynge Ban fill into a merveilouse drem that
longe endured that sore she was afeerde whan she dide awake. For she semed that
she was on a high mountayn and saugh aboute her grete plenté of bestes of all
maner kendes that were in a feire pasture of grene grasse. And whan thei hadde
longe tyme fedde hem on the herbes, ther roos amonge hem a grete noyse that thei
ronne that oon upon the tother to dryve oute of the pasture.
And thei turned into two pastures, and the two partes wente on oon side, and
hem ledde a grete lyon full huge and merveillouse. And on that other side, whereas
were not so many by the halvendell, was a grete crowned lyon maister leder; but
he was not so grete as the tother. This lyon crowned hadde in his companye
eighteen lyonsewes crowned, wherof eche of hem hadde lordship and domynacion
over the tother bestes that were turned to the lyon crowned. And that other lyon
that was not crowned hadde with hym thirty lyonsewes that alle were crowned,
wherof eche of hem hadde domynacion of a parte of the bestes that were drawe
toward the lyon that was uncrowned. And whan these beestes were thus dissev-
ered and departed, she loked toward the crowned lyon and saugh four hundred
boles that alle were teyed be the nekkes before a grove, and ete at a rakke small
grasses and herbes that was newe mowen.
And for the lyon uncrowned semed thei hadde better pasture with the crowned
lyon than hadde he, he ran upon hym for envye for to bereve hym his pasture, and
toke a partie of his bestes that he made thre grete hepes, and thei lepe to fight with
the crowned lyon that hadde his bestes departed into eighteen mouncels; and in
eche mouncell was a lyonsewe that hadde lordshippe over hem to governe hem
and gide. And the four hundred boles that weren full fierce and full prowde and
the eighteen mouncels were with the crowned lyon. And [thei] smote betwene
hem the grettest bateile that she ever hadde seyn or herde speke. But in the fyn the
bestes with the crowned lyon behoved to turne bakke, and the crowned lyon was
sore adredde to lese his pasture.
And while these beestes fought thus as ye have herde, the lady semed that a
grete leopart full fierce and the moste prowde that ever was seyn com oute of hir
right thigh, and wente through a grete valey that was right depe; and whan he was
entred into the valey, the lady semed that a grete blaste toke awey her sight that
she wiste not where he was become. And whan she hadde hym loste, he turned
toward the beestes that yet were fightinge and saugh that the crowned lyon and
his bestes hadde moche the werse. And whan the leopart com oute of a grete
foreste that was savage, he behilde the bataile of the beestes full longe. And whan
he saugh the crowned lyon hadde the werse, he yede to helpe hym, and ran upon
the beestes of the lyon uncrowned that faught with hem so fiercely that he made
hem resorte bakke; and as longe as he was agein hem myght thei never have the
better of the bataile. And whan the lyon that was uncrowned saugh he myght not
have the better while he was agein hym, he made departe the bataile and aqueynte
hym with the leopart, till he drough hym on his partye and ledde hym with hym.
And the thridde day began agein the bateile of the beestes as it hadde be byforn,
and the leopart was with the lyon that was uncrowned. And the beestes fought so
togeder that the crowned lyon turned to discounfiture, and he made signe to the
lyon withoute crowne that he sholde go crye mercy. And so he dide, and so was
made the pees betwene the two lyouns in soche maner that never after were in no
wratthe togeder. And than the lady behilde the leopart to wite yef she cowde hym
knowe be eny wey; and at the laste hir thought it was the same that com oute of hir
thigh that was so woxen and amended. And hir thought that alle the beestes of the
Bloy Breteyne to hym enclyned, and alle thei of Gannes and of Benyok. And
whan he hadde alle the lordship of these beestes, she knewe not where he was
Thus she aboode all nyght in this avision till it was day; and than she awoke, all
affraied of the merveile of hir dreme. And whan the Kynge Ban saugh hir so
affraied, he asked hir what her eyled. And she tolde hym hir dreme as she hadde
seyn in her slepe; and whan she hadde all tolde, the kynge seide therof sholde
come but goode, with Goddes grace. Than thei aroos and wente to the firste masse,
bothe the kynge and his wif, as erly as thei myght; but thei wolde not awake the
Kynge Arthur so erly ne his companye that slepten savourly for the grete travaile
that thei hadd the day before. And the Kynge Ban praied oure Lorde with goode
herte that He wolde yeve hym the deth soche tyme as he wolde it aske. And this
prayour made he many tymes, till on a nyght in his slepe a voyse seide that his
prayour sholde be trewe and that he sholde have the deth as soone as he wolde it
aske the same day. But ones before sholde he synne dedly in avoutré er he dyed,
but therof not to be dismayed, for he sholde therof well acorde with oure Lord;
and he was right a goode man in his feith and creaunce.
In this dreme that the Kynge Ban was, hym thought whan the voyse departed
that it caste soche a crye as it hadde ben a thunder, the grettest and merveillouse
that ever he hadde herde. And he sprange therwith so sore theras he hilde the
queene in his armes, that nere he hadde fallen oute of the bedde that was grete and
large. And the queene was therwith so affraied that she myght speke no worde in
a longe while, and the kynge hymself so that he wiste not where he was. And
whan the kynge was come agein into his memorie, he aroos and wente to cherche
and was shriven, and than herde the servyse of oure Lorde. And ever after, as
longe as he lyved, was he confessed every eight dayes and was hoseled with the
blissed sacrement; and so dide Kynge Bohors his brother that was a full goode
man and of holy lyvinge.
Thus was the Kynge Arthur in the reame of Benoyk, he and his men, a moneth.
And [thei] ronne every day into Claudas londes and wasted it, so that longe tyme
after myght he have no power to arise upon the Kynge Ban. But after, he aroos
ageins hym by the force of Pounce Antony and by the force of the Kynge of
Gaule, as ye shall heren hereafter, and turmented so these two brethern that he
lefte hem noo foote londe, that thei died in poverté upon the grounde, and theire
yonge wiffes lefte withoute comfort, that after were nonnes veilled in the abbey
of the royal mynster for drede of Claudas. Ne never after myght thei have socour
of the Kynge Arthur, for he hadde so moche to done in his contrey that he myght
not come at that tyme. And so the heires that thei begat were longe tyme after
disherited. But in the ende Kynge Arthur hem therto restored and drof Claudas
oute of the londe, and yaf hem the reame of Gaule, as the booke shall reherse. But
now we shall reste to speke these thinges till tyme com therto, and returne to telle
how Merlin departed from the Kynge Arthur and how he certified the Kynge Ban
and his wif of dyvers dremes that thei hadden mette.
Upon a day com the Kynge Ban to Merlin and seide, "Sir, I am gretly in dispeir
of avision that is befalle to me and to my wif, wherefore I have grete nede of
counseile. And ye be the wisest man that now liveth; and therfore, yef it plese
yow, telle me what it betokeneth." "Certes, sir," seid Merlin. "In these two avisions
ther is grete significacion, and it is no wonder though ye therof be dredfull."
Than asked the Kynge Arthur what avisiouns ben thei, and Merlin hym tolde
even as the kynge hadde mette in his dreme, that the kynge hymself knewe well he
seide trouthe. Whan the Kynge Arthur and the Kynge Bohors and Sir Gawein
herde the fierce wordes that Merlin hadde seide, thei merveiled sore what hit
myght signyfie, and thoughten inough of many thinges. And than seide the Kynge
Arthur, "Ye have tolde what were the dremes. Now, yef it plese yow, telle us the
betokenynges, for it is a thinge that I wolde fayn knowe." "Sir," seide Merlin, "of
all will I not to yow declare, ne I ought not to do. But I shall telle yow a partye that
to yow apendeth." And than he gan to sey:
"Kynge Ban," quod Merlin, "hit is trouthe that the lyon that is not crowned
betokeneth a prince that is right riche and myghty of londes and of frendes, that
shall conquere twenty-nine reames by force and make come in his companye alle
these twenty-nine kynges crowned. And that other lyon that she saugh icrowned
that hadde the eighteen lyonsewes signyfieth a kinge that is right myghty that shall
have eighteen kynges under hym that alle shull be his liege men. And the four
hundred booles that she saugh betokeneth four hundred knyghtes that alle shull be
assured that oon to the tother eche of hem to helpe, and not faile for no drede of
deth, and alle shull thei be the kynges men. And this prince that I spake of firste
shall come upon this kynge for to conquere his londe. But he shall hym diffende
as longe as he may.
"And whan this prince hath the better of this kynge, than shall come a knyght
unknowen that longe hath be loste and helpe this kynge that the prince may not
hym chase oute of the felde ne discounfite. And this leopart signyfieth this knyght,
for like as the leopart is fierce and prowde above alle other bestes, so shall he be
the beste knyght that shall be in hys tyme. And by that knyght shall the pees be
made betwene the prince and the kynge that so sore shull have foughten. Now,"
quod Merlin, "have ye herde youre avision and the tokenynge. And now I moste
departe, for moche have I to do in other places."
And whan thei hadde iherde the merveile of the dreme that Merlin hadde tolde,
thei were more abaisshed and more pensef than thei were before. And than Arthur
asked yef he wolde declare eny othir wise to theire understondinge, and he seide,
"Nay." With that departed Merlin oute of Kynge Bans house, whereas the Kynge
Arthur was with grete companye of knyghtes; and this was on the Feeste of Seynt
And Merlin wente to his love that aboode hym at the welle, for to holde the
covenaunt that she hadde with hym imade. And whan she hym saugh she made to
hym grete chere, and ledde hym into the chambres so prively that he was not
aperceyved of no man. And she asked and enquered hym of many thinges, and he
her taught all her askynge for the grete love that he hadde to hir. And whan she
saugh he loved hir so wele, she asked hym how she myght make a frende for to
slepe and not to awake till that she wolde; and Merlin knewe well all hir thought;
and nevertheles he asked her whi she enquered, and yet he wiste it wele inough.
Quod she, "For I wolde make my fader aslepe alle the tymes that I wolde speke
with yow - whos name is Dionas - and my moder, that thei aparceyve never of
yow ne me, for witeth it well, thei wolden me sle yef thei parceyved of us two
These wordes seide the mayden ofte to Merlin. And it fill on a day that thei
were in a gardin by the fountayne hem to disporte, and were sette upon an ympe.
And the mayden made hym to slepe in hir lappe and hilde her so with hym that
Merlyn loved hir merveillously wele. Than the maiden required hym so that he
taught hir to make oon slepe, and he knewe hir menynge right wele; but nevertheles
he it hir taught, bothe that and many other thinges, for so wolde our Lorde. And
he taught hir thre names that she wrote for to helpe hirself at alle tymes whan she
sholde with hym ly that were full of grete force, for never as longe as thei were
upon hir ne myght never man touche her flessly.
And fro thensforth she tysed ever Merlin to come speke with hir, for he ne
hadde no power to dele with hir agein her will; and therfore it is seide that woman
hath an art more than the devell. Thus Merlin abode eight dayes full with the
damesell. But we fynde not in no writinge that ever he required eny vylonye of hir
ne of noon other. But she it douted sore whan she knewe what he was, and
therfore she garnysshed hire so agein hym. And in tho eight dayes he taught hir
many wonderfull thinges that eny mortall herte cowde thinke - of thinges paste,
and of thinges that were don and seide, and a partye of that was to come. And she
putte hem in writinge.
And than Merlin departed from hire and com to Benoyk, where the Kynge
Arthur rested, that gladde were whan thei saugh Merlin.
[Summary. Gawain and his knights make a pillaging expedition into the lands of
Claudas de la deserte; and then at Merlin's direction, they go to Rochelle, cross the
sea, and set out for Tamelide. Fols. 148r (line 12)-148v (line 11).]
Go To Merlin and Grisandolus