The Defeat of Lucius; and Arthur and the Devil Cat
THE DEFEAT OF LUCIUS; AND ARTHUR AND THE DEVIL CAT: FOOTNOTES1 discounfiture, defeat.
2 yoven, given; ther, where.
4 serched, attended to; sores, wounds.
6 beere, bier; trewage, tribute.
9 agein into, back toward.
12 at, to; ne, nor.
14 werre, war.
15 repeireth, dwells; an enmy so, such an enemy.
16 dar nother, dares neither; sleth, slays.
17 May ther no man hym endure, If no man can survive him.
18 than, then; catte, cat.
19 ougly, ugly.
20 whens, from whence.
22 hens a foure yere, four years ago; fissher, fisherman.
23 engynes, equipment.
32 kyton, kitten; cool, coal.
33 mees, mice.
36 into, until; se, see; areche, reach.
38 sette, restore.
38-39 in reste, to comfort.
40 gonne, began.
42 tokne, sign.
43 trowed, believe.
44 falsed broken; covenaunt, promise.
46 contrei, country.
51 se, see.
55 roche, rock.
57-58 se hastely, soon see.
60 preve, test
61 lowde, loudly.
62 wende, hoped.
65 wende, thought.
68 wood, mad; tronchon, shaft.
70 wende, hoped; sese, seize.
74 astoyned. stunned.
75 upright, face-up.
75-76 at discovert, unprotected.
76 be, by.
77 brast, burst.
78 reade blode, red blood.
82 likked, licked.
84 do, done; launched, raised.
85 breied, pounced.
86 gige, strap.
87 enarmynge, handle.
88 bereve, release; henge in, hung on; be, by.
93 sterte, leaped; grenned, grinned.
94 coveited, desired; launched, lunged; wende, hoped.
95 therwith, then.
97 that, so that.
98 holde, held.
100-101depe ficched, deeply embedded.
103 whowle, howl; braye, cry.
106 whereas, from which.
107 launched, leaped; wende, hoped.
108 of, off.
112 wite, know.
113 doute of, fear for.
119 abaisshed, astonished.
120 cracchinges, scratches; leches, doctors.
121 dight, readied.
122 letted nothinge, was able.
124 lete bere, carried.
125 cofer, chest.
127 lak, lake.
128 will, wish.
130 ne, nor.
131 dureth, endures.
THE DEFEAT OF LUCIUS; AND ARTHUR AND THE DEVIL CAT: NOTES
The Defeat of Lucius; and Arthur and the Devil Cat
[Fols. 230r (line 28)-236v (line 14)
Stories about monstrous cats or devil cats are common in European folklore and were especially prevalent in medieval France, where the story of the monster cat "Le Capalu" first became associated with the story of Arthur. In early Celtic literature cats were often depicted as possessing dark and demonic powers, and perhaps the most famous of these Celtic cats is the monstrous "Cath Palug." In the PM, the story of the murderous monstercat is for all intents and purposes little more than a moral fable about keeping one's promises to God. When the fisherman's selfishness causes him to break his promise to God, he pays a great price personally, and he unleashes this terrible monster on the world.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 650-64.
In line 4, Gawain's impulsive act of cutting off his head, first described by Geoffrey of Monmouth who depicts Gawain as a rash and impassioned youth, jeopardizes the mission and precipitates a great battle. In lines 10-11, the drama of Gawain's killing of Lucius using Calibourn is at odds with most other medieval accounts. Geoffrey of Monmouth states that Lucius was felled by an unknown hand; and Malory, following the account in the ME Alliterative Morte Arthure, has Arthur being the one to inflict the fatal wound.
22 the Assencion. The Feast of the Ascension of the Virgin, which is celebrated on August 15.
26 thirty shillings. Perhaps the amount is intended to suggest a parallel with the pieces of silver Judas received for his betrayal of Christ.
[Merlin and Nimiane; and Arthur and the Giant of St. Michael's Mount]
[Summary. Arthur's forces proceed against the Romans. Gawain leads an envoy to the
Roman camp, telling the Romans they must leave Arthur's lands. The emperor is angered
by this demand; and when a young man sitting beside him says the Briton's words are
greater than his deeds, Gawain immediately cuts off his head. The messengers leap to
their horses, with the Romans in pursuit. Arthur's men ride to the rescue, and the Britons
slaughter many Romans. The entire Roman force enters the fray, causing the Britons to
lose many knights; the Britons are forced to retreat. Before the great battle is about to
commence, the emperor gives his troops a stirring talk; then they prepare to attack. The
battle ensues, with both sides using their full forces. The Britons do many great deeds, yet
of them are slain. Gawain advances on the emperor, and they fight; using Calibourne,
Gawain succeeds in killing Lucius. The enraged Romans fight on, but the Britons prove
too much for them, and the surviving Romans are forced to flee. Fols. 230r (line 28)-235r
Full gladde was the Kynge Arthur of the discounfiture of the Romains and of
the victorie that God hadde hym yoven. And than [thei] com into the feelde ther
the bateile hadde be and biryed the deed bodies in chirches and abbeyes of the
contrey, and the wounded lete hem be ledde to townes and serched theire sores.
And after, [the Kynge Arthur] made take the body of the emperour and sente it to
Rome on a beere and sente worde to the Romains that it was the trewage of
Bretaigne that he sent to Rome; and yef thei wolde aske eny more, he wolde hem
sende soche another in the same wise. And whan he hadde don thus, he toke
counseile wheder he sholde holde forth his wey or turne agein into Gaule; and the
princes seide he sholde take counseile of Merlin.
Than the kynge called Merlin and seide, "Dere frende, how pleseth it you that
I shall do?" "Sir," seide Merlin, "ye shull not come at Rome ne ye shull not yet
returne, but holde forth youre wey, for ther be peple that have grete nede of youre
helpe." "How so?" seide the kynge. "Is ther werre in this contrey?" "Sir," seide
Merlin, "ye, beyonde the Lak de Losane, for ther repeireth a devell, an enmy so
that ther dar nother abide man ne woman, for he distroieth the contrey and sleth
all that he may gete." "How so?" seide the kynge. "May ther no man hym endure,
than is he no man as other ben?" "No," quod Merlin, "it is a catte full of the devell
that is so grete and ougly that it is an horible sight on to loke." "Jhesu mercy!"
seide the kynge to Merlin, "whens myght soche a beeste come?" "Sir," seide
Merlin, "that can I welle telle you.
"Hit befill at the Assencion hens a foure yere that a fissher of the contrey com
to the Lak de Losane with his nettes and his engynes. And whan he was redy to
caste his nette into the water, he promysed to oure Lorde the firste fissh that he
sholde take. And whan he drough up his nette, he toke a fissh that was worth
thirty shillings. And whan he saugh the fissh so feire and grete, he seide to hymself
softly betwene his teth, "God shall not have this, but He shall have the next that I
take." Than he threwe his nett agein into the water and toke another fissh that was
better than the firste. And whan he saugh it was so good and so feire, he seide that
yet oure Lorde God myght wele abide of this, but the thridde sholde He have,
withoute eny doute. And than he caste his nett into the water and drough oute a
litill kyton as blakke as eny cool. And whan the fissher it saugh, he seide that he
hadde nede therof in his house for rattes and mees. And he it norisshed and kept
up in his house till it strangeled hym and his wif and his children, and after fledde
into a mountayn that is beyonde the lak that I have to you of spoken. And [he]
hath be ther into this tyme, and distroieth and sleth all that he may se and areche.
And he is grete and horible that it is merveile hym to se; and we shull go that wey,
for it is the right wey toward Rome. And yef God will, ye shull sette the peple in
reste that be fledde into straunge londes.
"Whan the barons undirstode these wordes, thei gonne to blesse hem for the
grete merveile that thei hadden, and seiden that it was vengeaunce of oure Lorde,
and a tokne that he was wroth for the synne that the fissher hadde broken his
promys. And therfore thei trowed oure Lorde were wroth with hym for that he
hadde falsed his covenaunt. Than the kynge comaunded to trusse and to make
hem redy to ride. And thei dide his comaundement and toke theire wey toward the
Lak de Losane, and fonde the contrei wasted and voide of peple that nother man
ne woman durste therynne enhabite.
And thei laboured so till that thei com under the mounte whereas this devell
dide abide, and loiged hem in a valey a myle fro the mountein. And the Kynge
Looth toke his armes, and Sir Gawein and Gaheries and the Kynge Ban and Mer
-lin for to go withe the Kynge Arthur, and seide thei wolde go se this feende that so
grete damage and harme hadde don in the contrey. And thei clymbe upon the
mountein as Merlin hem ledde that well knewe the wey for the grete witte that
was in hym.
And whan thei were come up, than seide Merlin to Arthur, "Sir, in that roche
ther is the catte," and shewed hym a grete cave in a medowe that was right large
and depe. "And how shall the catte come oute?" seide the kynge. "That shull ye se
hastely," quod Merlin. "But loke ye be redy you to diffende, for anoon he will
yow assaile." "Than drawe yow alle abakke," seide the Kynge Arthur, "for I will
preve his power." And thei dide his comaundement; and anoon as thei were
withdrawen, Merlin whistelid lowde. And whan the catte that herde, anoon he
lept oute of the cave, for he wende that it had be som wilde beste, and he was
hungry and fastinge and ran woodly astraye toward the Kynge Arthur.
And as soone as the kynge saugh hym comynge, he bar agein hym a short spere
and wende to smyte hym thourgh the body. But the feend caught the steill heed in
his teth so harde that he made it bende; and in the turnynge that the kynge made,
the shaft tobrake faste by the heed that was in [the] cattes mowthe. And he began
to make a grym noyse as he were wood. And the kynge caste down the tronchon
of the spere and drough his suerde and caste his shelde hym before. And the catte
lepte to hym anoon, and wende to sese hym by the throte; and the kynge lifte the
shelde agein hym so fiercely that the catte fill to grounde. But soone he lepte upon
his feet and ran upon the kynge full fiercely, and the kynge lifte up the suerde and
smote the catte on the heed that he cutte the skyn. But the heed was so harde that
he myght not entre; and nevertheles, he was so astonyed that he fill to the erthe
upright. But er the kynge myght his shelde recover, the catte sesed hym at disco
vert be the sholdres so harde that his clawes griped thourgh his hauberke into the
flesshe, and plukked so hard that he brast moo than four hundred mayles that the
reade blode folowed his clawes. And ther failed but litill that the kynge hadde
falle to the erthe.
And whan the kynge saugh his blode, he was wonder wroth. Than he caste his
shelde before his breste and hilde his swerde in his right hande and ran to the catte
vigerously, that likked his clawes that were weet of blode. And whan he saugh the
kynge come toward hym, he lepe hym ageins and wende to sese hym as he hadde
do beforn. But the kynge launched his shelde hym before, and the catte smote
therin his two feet before with so grete fiersnesse thourgh the shelde, and breied
so harde that the kynge enclyned to the erthe so that the gige of the shelde fly
from his nekke. But he griped the shelde so faste by the enarmynge that the catte
myght it not hym bereve ne pulle oute his clawes, but henge in the shelde be the
two feet before.
And whan the kynge saugh this, he griped faste the shelde and smote hym with
his swerde upon bothe legges that he cutte hem asonder by the knees, and the
catte fill to grounde. And the kynge caste awey his shelde and ran to hym with
swerde drawen; and the catte sterte upon the hynder feet and grenned with his teth
and coveited the throte of the kynge. And the kynge launched at hym and wende
to smyte hym on the heed. And therwith the catte strayned hys hynder feet and
lept in his visage and griped hym with her hynder feet and with hir teth into the
flesshe, that the blode stremed out in many places of breste and sholdres on high.
And whan the kynge felte hym holde so harde, he sette the point of his swerde to
the bely for to launche hym thourgh; and whan the catte felte the suerde, she lefte
hir bitinge and wolde have falle to grounde. But the two hynder feet were so depe
ficched in the hauberke that the heed of the catte hanged downwarde; and than the
kynge smote asonder the two hynder feet, and the body fill to grounde.
And as soone as the catte was fallen, she began to whowle and to braye so
lowde that it was herde thourgh the hoste. And whan she hadde caste this cry, she
began to crepe faste down the foreste by the grete strengthe that was in hir, and
drough toward the cave whereas she com oute. But the kynge wente betwene hir
and the cave and ran upon the catte; and the catte launched toward hym and wende
to cacche hym with hir teth. But in the launchinge, the kynge smote of hir two
And than Merlin and the other ronne to hym and asked how it was with hym.
"Well," seide the kynge, "blessed be oure Lorde, for I have slain this devell that
grete harm hath don in this contrey. And wite it verily that I hadde never so grete
doute of mysilf as I hadde now agein this catte, saf only of the geaunte that I
slough this other day on the mountein; and therfore I thanke oure Lorde."
"Sir," seide the barouns, "ye have grete cause." Than thei loked on the feet that
were lefte in the shelde and in the hauberk, and thei seide that never soche feet
hadde thei sein before. And Gaheries toke the shelde and wente to the host makinge
grete joye. And whan the princes saugh the feet and the clawes that were so longe,
thei were abaisshed, and ledde the kynge to his tente and unarmed hym, and loked
on the cracchinges and the bitinge of the catte. And the leches waisshed softly his
woundes and leide therto salve and oynementes to clense the venym, and dight
hym in soche maner that he letted nothinge to ride.
And that day thei sojourned till on the morowe that thei returned toward Gaule.
And the kynge lete bere the shelde with the cattes feet; and the feet that were in
the hauberk lete put in a cofer and comaunded to be well kept. And the kynge
asked Merlin how this mountein was cleped; and Merlin seide that peple of the
contrey cleped it the Mountein de Lak, for the lak that was in the valey. "Certes,"
seide the kynge, "I will that this name be taken awey; and I will it be cleped the
Mountein of the Catte, for the catte hadde ther his repeire and was ther slain."
And after that the name of that hill never chaunged, ne never shall while the worlde
dureth. And now awhile cesseth the tale and returneth to hem that ledde the pris-
Go To Merlin's Imprisonment; and Gawain and the Dwarf Knight