King Arthur vs. King Rion
KING ARTHUR VS. KING RION, NOTES: FOOTNOTES7 feo, rents; hool, whole.
8 will, desire.
9 fer and nygh, far and near; privé and straunge, intimate friends and strangers.
16 dere, dearly.
17 Even, Eve.
28 everiche, every one.
30 yeftes, gifts.
30-31 after theire astate, according to rank.
31 demened, conducted.
32 departed, gave.
35 stour, battle; nede, need.
41 ne, nor; power, i.e., realm.
42 ne lefte, was overlooked; jogeloure, entertainer; ne oon ne other, i.e., of this kind or that.
43 convenient to, fitting for.
49 offrande, offering.
50 bar, wear.
54 deyse, dais.
55 a renge, in a row.
56 feste, feast.
62 mese, course; feirest forme of, handsomest.
63 samyte, silk; girte, girded; bawdrike, baldric.
64 harnysshed, adorned.
65 crispe, straight.
66 shone, shoes.
67 orfraied, gold-adorned.
71 apeired, impaired.
72 iyen, eyes.
73 cheyne, chain; tacched, attached.
74 spayne, spaniel; bounde, tied; coler, collar.
75 harneysed, decorated.
77 refraite, refrain; salewed, addressed.
84 saugh, saw.
86 astonyed, amazed; and for, because.
90 grete thee nought, do not greet you.
91 do thee to undirstande, let you know.
92 avised, advised.
93 thee byhoveth, it would behove you.
95 Avise thee, i.e., Proceed in delivering.
96 encombraunce of, trouble from.
98 Cristin, the Christians.
99 whiche, who; sege, siege.
101 fees, rents; enclyne, do homage.
103 flayn of, cut off; beerdes, beards.
105 puyssaunt, myghty.
108-09 do rede, read.
110 corage, desire.
111 undirstonde, translate.
116 meyné, liegemen.
117 suerdes, swords.
118 reade samyte, red silk.
119 nygh all, nearly; therto longeth, i.e., is needed.
120 faile, that are lacking.
121 will, desire.
123-24 never before, not until.
124-25 Ne I will of noon other, Nor will I of any other.
127 puyssaunt, mighty.
129 pees, peace; nought, not.
130 don, do.
132 boustously, vigorously.
137 that1, what; that2, so that.
142 thei withynne, those inside; moche, many.
145 anoon, now.
146 sustene, protect.
149 lefte, remained.
152 this, these.
154 maner, forms.
155 semblaunces, guises.
158 Certes, Surely; reson, right.
160 reame, realm.
161 but, only; volunté, desires.
165 that, who; nought se, nothing se.
166 refute, refuge.
167 very guyde, true guide; condite, conduct.
169 prowe, profit.
170 behilde, looked at.
174 trowe ye, think you.
175 whiche, who.
176 hit withsey, oppose it; agein right, unreasonable.
177 but, unless.
179 wiste, knew.
181 abaisshed, astonished; for that, because.
182 aparceived, realized.
184 whelpe, puppy.
185 what, who; than, then.
188 solas, solace.
190 brecheles, pants-less.
191 appareile, prepare.
193 paleys, palace.
195 owe, ought.
207 er, before.
214 socour, aid.
218 Seth, Since.
227 sueth, follow; softely, slowly.
229 nygh after, close behind.
232 into, near.
233 renne, run.
234 abaisshed, frightened.
237 warante, protect.
238 game, jest; pees, peace.
239 lese, lose.
248 metten, met.
250 wende verily, truly believed; fendes, fiends.
251 discounfited, defeated.
253 dolour, sadness.
254 bemene, mean.
255 Be ye now arested, Are you resting; Sueth, Follow; loos, worship; pris, fame.
259 yoven, given; straught deed, struck dead.
261 were smyte, had charged.
267 begonne, began.
273 dide abide, i.e., were attacking.
274 inowe, enough.
278-79 ne hadde be, if not for.
281 bothe, so; semed it, they thought; feendes, fiends.
284 hem short, hemmed them in.
286 hilde, held.
287 but, unless.
288 Sewe, Follow.
290 aventure, danger.
292 abaisshed, frightened.
294 medlé, melee.
295 fill deed, fell dead.
296 deed cors, dead bodies; ther-as, where.
299 fell, fierce; theras, where.
300 lenynge, leaning.
301 heyr, air; reade, red.
303 As, To.
305 quyte, reward.
306 yate, gate; moo, more.
311 oo parte, one side.
312 saugh, saw.
313 wax, grew.
314 suffre, permit.
315 sicamor, sycamore; dissever, separate.
316 bateiles, armies.
318 yef, if.
319 recorded, i.e., believes; Delyver, Save.
320 tho, those.
321 rowme, distance.
322 covenaunt, agreement.
323 is me beleft on lyve, to me remain alive.
324 of, from; soget, subject.
328 all hooll, i.e., alive; yef, if.
333 douted, feared.
336 sured, swore; feithes, oaths.
337 departe, withdraw; bateiles, armies; drough, drew.
338 wrother, angrier.
340 require, ask; nother, neither.
341 ne noon, nor any.
342 seith, since.
346 but, butts (archery targets).
348 raundon, force.
350 fauced, pierced.
353 leide, laid.
354 serkeles, circles.
355 vertu, value.
357 araied, dealt with; nother, neither; leche, doctor.
360 pesaunt, strong, heavy; discovert, unprotected places.
362 traveile, the efforts; yevinge, giving.
363 hilde, saved.
364 to that, when.
365 toquasshed, smashed.
368 hym contene, himself defend.
369 wende, thought.
370 douted, feared.
374 lever, rather.
375 damage, shame.
376 for outraied, as defeated.
378 parformed, completed; live, lifetime.
379 fin, end.
384 maltalente, malice; blenched, turned aside.
385 ravyne, force; araught, struck.
386 kutte of, cut off; nasell, nose piece.
387 fill, fell.
388 wende, i.e., tried; lifte, left.
392 brast, burst.
393 raced, pulled.
394 outerly, utterly.
394-95 lever dye, rather die.
395 recreaunt, shamed.
396 outraied, defeated; of, off.
405 yoven, given; warisshed of, recovered from.
406 hool, whole.
416 forberen, not see.
417 somdell apesed, somewhat pacified.
418 disporte, enjoyment.
419 pensif, sad.
421 praied, requested; dierly, sincerely.
422 all be tyme, eventually.
423 Certes, Indeed.
424 myster, urgent want; wolde, would wish.
427 stodie sore, reflect seriously.
431 bere, bear.
433 belefte, left; myssese, uneasiness; abaisshed, concerned.
434 cesse, cease.
KING ARTHUR VS. KING RION: NOTES
[Fols. 199v (line 27)-224r (line 12)]
This section contains the grand climax of the PM. Now, with the rebellious barons finally pacified and the Saxons invaders finally expelled, the last remaining threat to Britain is posed by King Rion of the Western Isles (Ireland and the other islands west of Britain such as the Isle of Man). It is here that King Rion makes his demand for Arthur's beard, which he needs to complete his mantle that is trimmed with the beards of vanquished kings. This section culminates with King Arthur and King Rion confronting each other in single combat.
Near the close of this section Merlin tells Arthur that he will now be pursuing his own interests, since peace and order have been established in Arthur's kingdom. But Merlin assures a concerned Arthur that he will return to assist him when the lion that is the son of the bear shall run through Great Britain -- a prophecy alluding to the later treachery of Arthur's son Mordred.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 559-612.
5-6 the Feste of Assumpcion. The Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15.
22-23 And every man brought with hym his wif . . . his love. It is customary when Arthur holds high court that every man must be accompanied by a woman, whether his wife or his love. One of the earliest occurrences of this practice is found in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman tale "The Lay of the Horn," attributed to Robert Biket.
56-57 he made the Quene Gonnore sitte by hym crowned. Normally at major celebrations the women would not be seated with the men. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's description of Arthur's coronation, for example, the women feast quite separately: "the king went off with the men to feast in his own palace and the queen retired with the married women to feast in hers; for the Britons still observed the ancient custom of Troy, the men celebrating festive occasions with their fellow-men and the women eating separately with the other women" (Thorpe, p. 229). But because this particular feast is in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Arthur insists on having the women seated on equal terms with the men.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 615-18.
89-90 Kynge Arthur, I grete thee nought. The messenger has been instructed not to give Arthur a proper salutation, thus emphasizing the insulting nature of the message he brings.
105 he is lorde from the east into the west. In keeping with the general vagueness of Arthurian geography, it is never made entirely clear what lands King Rion controls, though it appears to be all the islands in the sea to the west of Britain, the chief of which would be Ireland. It is clear, however, that King Rion, in contrast to Arthur's Saxon foes, is a Christian and rules over a Christian people. He also abides by a more chivalric code of behavior than do the pagan Saxons.
110-11 And the kynge hit toke to the archebisshop. It is not clear whether the letter is given to the archbishop as a matter of ceremonial responsibility, or because Arthur lacks the ability to read it himself. It is true, however, that during the earlier Middle Ages many European monarchs were not highly literate.
118-19 I have made a mantell of reade samyte furred with the beerdes of these kynges. Beginning with Geoffrey of Monmouth, many Arthurian writers describe the request of an arch foe for Arthur's beard, which they wish to use in the trimming of a cloak or mantle. In Geoffrey of Monmouth, it is a giant called Retho who makes this request and who challenges Arthur to a duel. In the duel Arthur kills the giant and takes his beard (Thorpe, p. 240).
144-45 he seide he sholde not so soone have take the Kynge Leodogan. King Rion was planning to take his time during the siege of Toraise; now that Arthur has insulted him, he intends to take the city more quickly so that he can get on to the matter of dealing with Arthur.
164-65 Oure Lorde hath sette yow in His prison. The prison Arthur is referring to is the harper's "prison" of blindness.
200-01 to Pharien and to Leonces. These are the chief lieutenants of King Ban and King Bors who have been minding things in Benoyk and Gannes in the absence of their lords. King Ban and King Bors, of course, are currently fighting at Arthur's side.
248 that thei neded no salve. They needed no salve because they are dead -- an example of ironic understatement.
345 more than two but lengthe. That is, they moved apart more than the distance between two archery targets -- two "butts."
431-32 The lyon that is the sone of the bere . . . ye shall have. Merlin is here foretelling the final confrontation that will occur much later between Arthur and his son Mordred. (Arthur's epithet as "the bear of Britain" appears to have a very early origin; there is a marginal note in one of the "Nennius" MSS indicating that the name Arthur means "the dreadful bear.") One peculiarity of Merlin's prediction is his suggestion that he will return to assist Arthur in his great need against Mordred. In the traditional accounts, however, Merlin plays no role in the final battle between Arthur and Mordred.
[King Arthur vs. King Rion]
[Summary. Merlin goes to Blase and reports all that has happened. Then he goes to
Brittany to summon their armies to Salisbury for the great battle against the Saxons; he
also makes a brief visit to Nimiane before returning to Logres. Sagremor, Galashin, and
Dodinell ride off together seeking adventures, and three Round Table knights ride after
them, hoping to provoke a confrontation; but Ewain, Kay, and Gifflet prevent that and
bring the six knights back to court.
The Saxons, learning that Arthur is assembling a great force at Salisbury, also prepare
for battle. Merlin tells Arthur that as long as he trusts in God, he will have the victory over
his enemies. Arthur assures Merlin that he does. Merlin also predicts that never again will
so many good knights be assembled in one place until "the fader shall sle the sone and the
sone the fader, and that shall be in this same place." Arthur asks Merlin to explain this
cryptic remark, but Merlin prefers not to.
Arthur thanks all the barons for coming together with him, but several respond that
they have come out of their love of God and Holy Church, not their love of Arthur. King
Lot urges the barons to make peace with Arthur, but Uriens and Ventres respond angrily.
King Pelles's son Elizer comes to Gawain and requests to be made a knight. Gawain,
assisted by Gaheris, soon obliges. Meanwhile, the Saxon army is on the move. At King
Ventres's fortress of Garlot they kill the steward and capture King Ventres's wife. Gawain
and Elizer lead a party to the rescue; they attack the Saxons and retrieve the queen; then
Gawain presents her to her husband King Ventres, who is overjoyed.
The battle between the Saxons and Christians commences, with both sides inflicting
great slaughter. Eventually the Saxons give ground. Sensing defeat, they flee toward their
ships with the Christians in pursuit. The Saxons clamber aboard their ships and hoist the
sails, though many of them drown in the process. At last all of the barons do homage to
Arthur. Then they ride together to the city of Clarence where they force the Saxons besieg
ing the city to flee. These Saxons also sail for Saxony, finally freeing Britain from all
Arthur and his barons give thanks to God, and then Arthur and his closest companions
return to Camelot. Merlin advises King Ban and King Bors to return to their country and
protect it from Claudas de la deserte. Enroute, King Ban has an adventure at the castle of
Adravadain where, through Merlin's enchantment, he begets a son (Estor de
Maris) on Adravadain's daughter. Ban and Bors then go on to Benoyk, and Merlin makes
a brief visit to Nimiane, before reporting everything to Blase. Fols. 199v (line 27)-217v
Whan the Kynge Ban and the Kynge Bohors and Merlin were departed from the
Kynge Arthur for to go into theire owne contrey, the kynge abode stille at Cameloth,
gladde and myri with the Quene Gonnore that moche hym loved, and he hir; and
so thei abide in joye and myrthe longe tyme till it drough nygh the myddill of
Auguste. And than seide the kynge to Sir Gawein his nevew that at the Feste of
Assumpcion he wolde holde court roiall, and that alle sholde be sent fore that
were of hym holdinge londe or feo. For he seide he saugh never his hool power
togeder at no feeste that he hadde holden before. "And therfore," quod he, "I will
that alle be sent fore, bothe fer and nygh, bothe privé and straunge; and also I will
that eche bringe with hym his wif or his love that my court may be the more
honoured." And Sir Gawein seide that he hadde well devised and that of gentell
herte meved this purpos. "And therfore I beseke yow that this be so don that it be
to youre honour." And the kynge seide, "Certes, feire nevew, I desire to do so that
I have therof honour and that all the worlde therof may speke."
Than Sir Gawein lete write lettres and writtes and sente hem to the barouns and
to knyghtes of the londe and comaunded hem alle, as dere as thei hym loved, that
thei be on the Assumpcion Even at Cameloth, for than wolde he holden court
grete and roiall, and every man to bringe with hym his wif or his love. And the
messagers wente to the princes and barouns and shewed hem theire lettres and
dide theire message thourgh the contrey. And the princes and the barouns made
hem redy in the moste roiall wise and com to the court as the kynge hadde
comaunded. And every man brought with hym his wif, and he that hadde no wif
brought with hym his love. And than ther com thider so many that merveile it was
to beholde the nombre, for ther ne myght not the tenthe part into the citee of
Cameloth, but loigged withoute in the feire medowes in tentes and in pavelouns.
And the kynge hem resceived with grete joye and grete honour. And the Quene
Gonnore, that was the wisest lady of the worlde, resceyved the quenes and the
ladyes and the maydenes and damesels with grete honour, everiche of hem by
hemself, as she that hadde more witte and curtesie than eny lady in hir dayes, and
yaf to hem riche yeftes of golde and silver and clothes of silke, everiche after
theire astate. And she demened hir so well that thei seide ther was not soche
another lady in all the worlde as was she. And the kynge departed to knyghtes
robes and armes and horse, and dide hem so moche worship that day and curtesie
that thei loved hym the better as longe as theire lif endured. And that shewed well
after in many a stour and in many a nede, as ye shull heren herafter.
Grete was the feeste that the kynge hilde on the Even of the Assumpcion to the
riche baronye that to hym were come. Whan the kynge and the barouns hadde
herde evesonge at the Mynster of Seint Stephene, the tables were sette in teintes
and pavelons, for thei myght not alle into the town. And on that othir side was the
Quene Gonnore and the ladyes and damesels, with soche joye that merveile it
were to reherse; for in all the londe of Breteigne ne in all the power of Kynge
Arthur, ne lefte mynstrall ne jogelour ne oon ne other, but alle were come to that
feeste. And at that soper were thei served so well as was convenient to so myghty
a prince as was the Kynge Arthur. And thus endured thei in joye and myrthe till
tyme was to go to reste till on the morowe.
And on the morowe aroos the Kynge Arthur and the riche barouns and the
quene and wente to hire masse at the Mynster of Seint Stephene, and the servise
was honorably seide in the worship and reverence of that high feste, and grete and
riche was the offrande. And the Kynge Arthur and alle other kynges and quenes
that day bar crownes in worship of the day; and so ther were sixty crownes, what
of kynges and quenes. And whan the masse was seide and the servise ended, the
Kynge Arthur lepe on his palfrey, and alle the other kynges after hym icrowned,
and so dide the Quene Gonnore and alle the other quenes, and everyche of hem a
crowne of golde on theire heedes. And the Kinge Arthur satte at the high deyse
and made alle the twelve kynges sitte at his table downwarde a renge. And also in
honour of the high feste of Oure Lady, he made the Quene Gonnore sitte by hym
crowned, and so dide alle the other twelve quenes byfore theire lordes. And at
other tables satte other princes, dukes, and erles, and othir knyghtes were sette
richely thourgh the medowes in tentes and pavelouns, with grete joy and melodye
that never was seyn gretter in no court.
And as thei were in this joye and in this feste, and Kay the Stiward that brought
the firste mese before the kynge, ther com in the feirest forme of man that ever
hadde thei seyn before; and he was clothed in samyte and girte with a bawdrike
of silke harnysshed with golde and preciouse stones, that all the paleys flamed of
the light. And the heir of his hede was yelowe and crispe with a crowne of golde
theron as he hadde ben a kynge; and his hosen of fin scarlet and his shone of
white cordewan orfraied, and bokeled with fin golde. And [he] hadde an harpe
abowte his nekke of silver richely wrought, and the stringes were of fin golde
wire, and the harpe was sette with preciouse stones. And the man that it bar was
so feire of body and of visage that never hadde thei sein noon so feire a creature.
But this apeired moche his bewté and his visage for that he was blinde; and yet
were the iyen in his heed feire and clier.
And he hadde a litill cheyne of silver tacched to his arme, and to that cheyne a
litill spayne was bounde as white as snowe, and a litill coler aboute his nekke of
silke harneysed with golde. And this spaynell ledde hym streght before the Kynge
Arthur, and he harped a lay of Breteigne full swetely that wonder was to here.
And the refraite of his laye salewed the Kynge Arthur and the Quene Gonnore
and alle the other after. And Kay the Stiward that brought the firste cours taried
a while in the settinge down to beholde the harpur ententifly. Bot now we moste
cesse of hem a while and speke of the Kynge Rion.
[Summary. King Rion, smarting from his earlier humilation by Arthur, assembles a
huge force and marches against the city of Toraise in Tamelide; and he sends a messen
-ger to Camelot with a letter for Arthur. Fol. 218v (line 18)-219v (line 26).]
Whan this messager was departed from his lorde, he and his squyer rode forth
till thei com to Cameloth on the Day of the Assumpcion, and alight down of his
horse and com into the halle as Kay hadde sette the firste cours before the Kynge
Arthur. This knyght saugh these kynges and these quenes that satte at the high
deyse alle crowned for the high feeste and saugh the harpour crowned with golde,
[and] he was all astonyed and for the dogge that hym ledde thourgh the paleis.
And he asked of Kay that served whiche was the Kynge Arthur; and Kay hym
shewed anoon right. And the knyght, that was wise and well cowde speke, com
before the kynge and seide so lowde that alle myght it undirstonde, "Kynge Arthur,
I grete thee nought, for I am not therto comaunded by hym that hath me to thee
isente. But I shall do thee to undirstande what he doth to the sende. And whan
thow hast herde his comaundement, do as thow art avised. And yef thow do his
will, thow shalt finde therin profite; and yef thow wilt it nought do, thee byhoveth
to forsake thi londe and fle in exile." And whan the kynge this herde, he began to
smyle and seide full sobirly, "Avise thee of thi message; for of all that thow art
comaunded, thou mayst say boldly all thy will withoute eny encombraunce of me
or of eny other."
And than he seide: "Kynge Arthur, to thee sente me the kynge of alle Cristin
that is the Kynge Rion of the Yles, whiche is at sege before Toraise in Carmelide.
And with hym nine kynges that alle ben his liege men and holde of hym theire
londes and their fees in honour, for he hath made hem alle enclyne to hym by his
prowesse. And of alle the kynges that he hath conquered wherof ther be nine, he
hath flayn of theire beerdes. Now my lorde sendeth the comaundement that thou
become his man; and that shall be to the grete honour to become liege man to so
puyssaunt a kynge as is my lorde, for he is lorde from the east into the west of all
And whan the knyght hadde thus seide, he drough oute the letter of Kynge
Rion that was seled with ten seles roiall and seide to the Kynge Arthur, "Sir, do
rede this letter that my lorde hath thee sente, and than shalt thou heren his wille
and his corage." And therwith he delyvered hym the letter. And the kynge hit
toke to the archebisshop that was come thider to undirstonde the massage. And
he it unfolded and began to rede alowde that thei myght it wele undirstonde that
were in the halle.
the Kynge Rion, that am lorde of all the west, do hem alle to wite that these
letteres shull seen, that I am at sege before Toraise in Carmelide, and with me be
nine kynges of my meyné and alle theire peple of theire londes that armes may
bere. And of alle the kynges that I conquere, I have theire suerdes be my prowesse;
and also I have made a mantell of reade samyte furred with the beerdes of these
kynges. And this mantell is nygh all redy of all that therto longeth saf only tasselles;
and for the tassels faile, I have herde tidinges of thy grete renoun that is spredde
thourgh the worlde, I will that it be honoured more than eny of the other kinges;
and therfore I comaunde thee that thow sende me thy beerde with all the skynne;
and I shall hit sette on the tassels of my mantell for the love of thee, for never
before this mantell be tasselled shall it not hange aboute my nekke. Ne I will of
noon other have it made but of thy beerde, for aboute the handes and the nekke
ought every prince sette the moste honorable thinges. And for thow art the moste
puyssaunt kynge as the renoun of thee recordeth, I will that thow sende me thy
beerde by oon or tweyne of thy frendes; and after, come thou to me and become
my liege man and holde of me thy londes in goode pees. And yef thou wilt nought
thus don, I comaunde thee that thou go exiled and forsake thi londe; for as soone
as I have conquered the Kynge Leodogan, I shall come upon thee with all myn
hoste and make thy beerde be flayn and drawe from thy chyn boustously; and that
thou shalt knowe verily."
Whan the archebisshop hadde redde this letter before the Kynge Arthur and
before alle the barouns, he delyvered the letter agein to the kynge that was full
wroth and angry with this comaundement. And the messager seide, "Kynge Arthur,
do that my lorde thee comaundeth that I may returne." And the kynge seide he
myght wele returne whansoever he wolde, and telle his lorde that his beerd sholde
he never have while he myght it diffende. And the knyght departed and com to his
horse and rode forth, he and his squyer, till thei come to Toraise in Carmelide,
where he fonde the Kynge Rion that assailede the castell full fiercely.
And thei withynne diffended hem full harde, that thei withoute loste moche of
theire peple; and therfore was the Kynge Rion full wroth. And whan the knyght
was come before the Kynge Rion and tolde his ansuere from the Kynge Arthur, he
seide he sholde not so soone have take the Kynge Leodogan, but anoon he wolde
come upon hym with so grete power that he sholde not hem sustene ne endure.
And now shull we speke of the Kynge Arthur and of his barouns.
Whan the knyght that hadde brought this message from the Kynge Rion was
departed, the Kynge Arthur lefte stille, sittinge at mete in myrthe and in joye. And
the harpour wente from oon place to another and harped myrily, so that thei behilde
hym for a merveile, bothe oon and other; and hem liked more the melodye of this
harpour than eny thinge that this other mynstralles diden. And the Kynge Arthur
hadde grete merveile fro whens this man myght come, and yet he ought hym well
to knowe, for many tymes hadde he hym seyn in other maner and in other
And whan thei hadde eten and the clothes were taken up, the harpour com be
fore the kynge and seide, "Sir, yef it plese yow, graunte me reward for my servise."
"Certes, frende," seide the kynge, "it is reson, and ye shull it have with goode
will; and therfore sey youre will, for ye shull not faile yef it be soche thinge as I
may yeve, savinge myn honour and my reame." "Sir," seide the harpour, "ye shull
never have therin but honour, yef God will." "Than sey youre volunté," seide the
kynge boldely. Than seide the harpour, "I aske yow and require to bere youre
chief baner in the firste bataile that ye shall go to." "Feire frende," seide the kynge,
"sholde that be worship to me and my reame? Oure Lorde hath sette yow in His
prison. How myght ye youreself guyde, that may nought se, to bere a baner in
bateile of a kynge that ought to be refute and counfort to alle the hoste?" "Haa,
sir," quod the harpour, "God, that is the very guyde, me shall condite and lede that
in many perilouse places me hath ledde; and wite ye well, it shall be for youre
prowe." And whan the barouns it undirstode, thei hadde merveile.
Than behilde hym the Kynge Ban and remembred hym of Merlin that in the
Castell of the Marasse hym served in disgise of a yonge knyght of fifteen yere
age, and thought it sholde ben he. And [he] seide anoon to the kynge, "Sir, graunte
hym his request, for he semeth to be soche a man that his desire ne ought not to be
refusid." "Why," seide Arthur, "trowe ye it sholde be to oure profite and oure
honour that a mynstrall sholde bere oure baner in bateile, whiche may not lede
hymself? Though I hit withsey, I do nothinge agein right; for it is a thinge that I
sholde not graunte lightly but I knewe right well the persone that it sholde bere."
And anoon as this worde was seide, the harpour vanysshed amonge hem that
noon wiste where he be com. Than Arthur bethought hym on Merlin, and was
sory and wroth that he ne hadde it hym graunted. And alle that were therynne
were abaisshed for that he was loste so sodeinly. And the Kynge Ban of Benoyk,
that well aparceived it was Merlin, seide to the Kynge Arthur, "Certes, sir," quod
he, "ye ought hym wele for to knowen." "Trewly," seide Arthur, "ye sey full
trewe, but for that he hath made a whelpe hym for to lede that hath take awey fro
me the knowinge." "Sir," seide Gawein, "what is he, than?" "Nevew," quod the
kynge, "it is Merlin oure frende." "Yee," seide Gawein, "so helpe me God, I trowe
yow wele that it be he, for often hath he be disgised before youre baronye; and
this hath he don to make yow solas and counfort."
And as thei stode spekinge hereof, in the halle com in a litill childe that semed
of eight yere of age. And he was all naked and brecheles, and bar a staf in his
honde, and com before the kynge and seide, "Sir, appareile yow for to go agein
the Kynge Rion in bateile, and delyver me youre baner for to bere." And whan
thei that were in the paleys saugh hym in that aray, thei begonne to laugh harde.
And the kynge ansuerde all in laughinge, as he that soposed well it was Merlin,
"So helpe me God, ye owe it well to bere, and I it yow graunte." "Gramercy, sir,"
seide the childe, "for in me it shall be wele employde." And with that he comaunded
hem alle to God and wente oute of the paleis. And than anoon he toke his owne
semblaunce soche as he was wonte to have, and seide to hymself that now hym
behoveth to somown the kynges hoste.
And [Merlin] wente toward the see and passed over and com to Gannes, to
Pharien and to Leonces of Paierne, and badde hem to assemble theire power of all
that thei myght bring oute of the londe and come to Cameloth. And thei seide thei
wolde do hys comaundement. And Merlin com to the see and passed over and
wente to the londe of Kynge Urien and by the londe of Kynge Looth and seid to
the barouns and to othir princes that thei be withynne fifteen dayes afte Oure
Lady Day the Nativité in Septembre before Cameloth; and thei hym graunted alle.
And than he departed from them and com agein to the court er evesonge were alle
seide, upon the same day of the Assumpcion. And the kinge of hym made grete
joye and asked why he hadde hym so kept oute of sight. And he ansuerde that he
ought hym wele to knowen. "Ye, certes," seide the kynge, "yef in me were eny
witte." Thus thei abide in feeste and joye all that day.
On the morowe the kynge made alle his princes to assemble in his paleis and
ther also was Merlin. And the Kynge Arthur seide how hem behoveth to somowne
all the power that thei myght assemble, for he wolde socour the Kynge Leodogan
that was fader to the Queene Gonnore. And Merlin seide how thei were alle
somowned bothe at Gannes and at Benoyk and thourgh alle the londes of the other
barouns. And the Kynge Arthur hym asked whan that was don, and he seide,
"Seth yesterday after mete." And whan the kynge and the other princes this
undirstode that he hadde this don, thei hadde grete wonder, and were ther in joye
and in feste till all here peple was assembled. And than meved the Kynge Arthur
and his baronye and rode towarde the reame of Carmelide. And the kynge graunted
his baner to Merlin, as he hadde promysed before. And [thei] sped theire journyes
till thei come a litill journey fro Toraise, where the Kynge Rion had besege the
And whan thei were nygh the hoste, Merlin seide to Gawein and to Sir Ewein
and to Segramor, "Loke ye be ever nygh aboute me"; and thei seide thei wolde
don his pleisir. "Now than," quod Merlin, "sueth after me softely, and alle thei of
the hoste, till we be in bateile; and ye shull smyte upon hem of that other partye
withoute rennynge of youre bateile; and thinke ever to come nygh after my baner,
what wey that ever ye se me turne." And thei ansuerde that so thei wolde with
goode will; and so he seide to Arthur and to alle the other princes. And [thei]
wente forth till thei com into the hoste of Kynge Rion, and Merlin before hem alle
so harde as his horse myght renne, with the dragon in his hande that caste thourgh
his mouthe fire and flame, that alle thei therof were abaisshed. And Gawein, that
folowed hym next, mette with the Kynge Pharaon that with all his bateile com
hym ageins. And as soone as he saugh hem approche, Sir Gawein hym smote so
that shelde ne hauberk myght hym warante, but bar hym thourgh the body deed to
the erthe. And than he seide in game, "He this is sworn to pees, for by hym shall
never the Kynge Arthur lese acre of his londe ne his beerd be flayn from his
With that assembled bothe hostes, that oon agein that other. And grete was the
noyse and the fray of the peple of Kynge Rion and of the peple of Kynge Arthur.
And ther dide Gawein and Ewein and Segramor and Gaheries and the Knyghtes
of the Rounde Table merveiles with theire handes. For whan bothe hostes were
mette, ye myght have sein many oon leide to grounde of oo party and of other, for
thei were bold and hardy on bothe seides. And Merlin, that bar the dragon, drof
into the prees, and Sir Gawein and his companye after, and smote hem so harde
that thei metten that thei neded no salve; and the speres fly in peces.
And that was a thinge that discounforted the Kynge Rion and his peple, for thei
wende verily that fendes were fallen amonge the hoste. But thei were so bolde and
so chivalrouse that therfore thei wolde not be discounfited but hilde bateile grete
and merveilouse agein the peple of Kynge Arthur, and made hem resorte bakke at
hir first comyng. And therfore was Sir Gawein and his companye full of dolour.
And Merlin, that rode before hem, cried, "What, lordinges, what shall this bemene?
Be ye now arested? Sueth me, yef ye will youre loos encrese and your pris." Than
these felowes smyten in amonge hem of Irelonde, that well hem resceyved with
trenchaunt wepenes. But Sir Gawein and his companye dide so well in armes that
thei pressed thourgh the peple of Kynge Rion, but first was ther many a hevy
stroke yoven and resceived, and many a knyght straught deed to the erthe.
And the Kynge Arthur and the Kynge Looth of Orcanye and the Kynge Ban
and the Kynge Bohors were smyte into the bateile on another side where thei dide
merveiles amonge theire enmyes, for agein theire strokes endured noon armure.
But the peple of Kynge Rion mette hem so fiercely that thei smote down the Kynge
Looth and the Kynge Bohors from theire horse amydde the presse; and so thei
myght soone have hadde grete damage ne hadde ben the grete prowesse that was
in hem bothe. For thei lept on foote full vigerousely with theire swerdes drawen,
and begonne to smyte down horse and men so crewelly that ther ne was noon that
hem saugh but he hilde it for a merveile. And the Kynge Arthur and the Kynge
Ban pressed that wey hem to remounte. And Merlin com drivinge with the baner
in his hande that thourgh his throte caste fire and flame, and smote into the grettest
presse. And whan the peple of Kynge Rion saugh the grete merveile of the dragon
that so caste fire, thei hadden grete drede and forsoke place and the two kynges on
whom they dide abide. And Merlin com to them and delyvered to everiche of
theym a good horse and a swifte, for inowe ther were astray thourgh the felde.
And thei anoon lept upon horse and rode into the bateile and begonne to do so
well in armes, and so dide alle theire companye.
But the force of Kynge Rion was so grete that thei of the reame of Grete Breteigne
myght it not endure, but sholde alle have be discounfited, as to my felinge, ne
hadde be the prowesse of Sir Gawein and his companye and the Knyghtes of the
Rounde Table, for these shewed merveiles wher thei com, for thei smyte down
men and horse bothe that alle that hem withstode semed it were feendes.
On another side of the bateile was the Kynge Ventres and the Kynge Tradilyvans
and the Kynge Urien and the Kynge de Cent Chivalers, that full fiercely faught
agein the peple of the Yles that kept hem short, for of the Yles was many a valiaunt
knyght and bolde in armes. And [oon] hadde smyte down the Kynge Tradilyvans
of North Wales and hilde hym by the helme. And Merlin com to Gawein and
seide, "Now lete se what ye will do, for we have loste the Kynge Tradilyvans but
he hastely [have] socour. Sewe me!" Than wente Merlin that wey and Sir Gawein
and his felowes folowinge, till thei com to the Kynge Tradilyvans that was in
grete aventure of deth. And than begonne thei so harde bateile that wonder was to
beholde, so that thei that hilde the Kynge Tradilyvans, that were bolde and hardy
and durable in bateile, were alle abaisshed; but yet dide thei grete peyne hym to
withholde. And thei of the Rounde Table have hym rescowed and sette on horse,
and were full wroth and angry and begonne agein the bateile and the medlé, that
hidiouse was to have seyn; for oon fill deed upon another so that ther were grete
mountayns of deed cors thourgh the feelde theras the bateile was. For Sir Gawein
hadde so many slain with his swerde that bothe swerde and arme were all be-
soiled with blode and brayn.
Than the Kynge Leodogan saugh the bateile so crewell and so fell theras he
stode lenynge out at a wyndowe, and saugh the dragon that Merlin bar that caste
fier thourgh his mouthe so that the heyr was all reade. And he knewe it wele, for
he hadde it sein before tymes, and knew well it was the signe of Kynge Arthur.
And than he called upon his knyghtes and cried, "As armes, for my sone the
Kynge Arthur fighteth with oure enmyes, and is come me for to socour, God
quyte hym!" And whan thei this undirstode, thei ronne alle to armes thourgh the
castell and com oute at the yate iarmed ten thousand and moo of bolde men and
hardy, and smyten into the hoste of the kynges of the Yles full fiercely, and thei
hem resceived, for thei were of grete hardynesse. And Cleodalis the Stiward and
Hervy de Rivell and her other felowes begonne to do merveiles of armes. And the
bateile was so grete and so thikke on alle sides of the hoste of Kynge Rion that it
was merveile so many ther were deed of oo parte and of other.
And whan the Kynge Rion saugh the grete mortalité and slaughtur of his peple,
and also of the peple of Kynge Arthur, his herte wax tender and hadde therof
pitee, and seide to hymself that that mortalité wolde he no lenger suffre. And than
he toke a braunche of sicamor in his hande and wente before the hoste to dissever
the bateiles, and wente forth till he fonde the Kynge Arthur, and spake so high
that he myght wele ben herde. "Kynge Arthur, wherfore doost thow suffre thi
peple to be slayn and distroied, and also myn? Do thow now well, yef ther be so
moche worthinesse in thee as the worlde recorded. Delyver thy peple fro deth,
and I shall deliver also tho of myn, and we shull make oure peple withdrawe on
bothe parties a rowme. And thow and I shull fight togeder body for body, by
soche covenaunt that yef thow may me conquere, I shall returne to my contrey
with the peple that is me beleft on lyve; and yef I may thee conquere, thow shalt
holde thi londe of me and be my soget, as ben these other kynges that I have
conquered. And I shall have thy berde with all the skyn to make the tasselles of
"In the name of God," quod the Kynge Arthur, "thow sholdest so have the
better part of the pley whan thow sholdest repeire into thy contrey all hooll yef I
thee conquered, and ne sholdest not become my man. And thow desirest that I
sholde be thy man yef thow myght me conquere! But I will fight with thee in this
maner as thow hast seide, that yef I thee conquere thow shall be my liege man;
and in the same wise I graunte it thee yef thow me conquere." "Sir," seide the
Kynge Rion - that was so stronge that he douted no man body for body, and he
hadde conquered so nine kynges that alle were his liege men - "and I it yow
graunte, like as ye have seide."
Than thei sured theire feithes betwene hem two to holde these covenauntes, and
made departe the bateiles that were so horible. And the barouns drough aside that
were wroth and angry with these covenauntes. And Sir Gawein, that was wrother
than eny other, com to the kynge his uncle and seide, "Sir, yef it plese yow, graunte
me this bateile." "Now therof require ye no more," quod the Kynge Arthur, "nother
ye, ne noon other. For noon other than I shall sette therto noon hande, for I shall
do the bateile with the helpe of God, seith he hath me therto requireth."
Than bothe hostes were drawen aside on that oon part and on that other, and the
two kynges were armed full richely all that nedeth to a noble prince. And eche of
hem toke a spere stronge and rude, and than rode eche of hem from other more
than two but lengthe, and than smote the horse with spores and mette togeder as
tempest, for well ran bothe horse and were of grete force. And the two kynges
were fierce and hardy and mette with so grete raundon with speres that were grete
and shorte and the heedes sharp igrounden, upon the sheldes that thei perced; but
the hauberkes were so harde that thei fauced no mayle; and the horse were of
grete force and the knyghtes of grete prowesse that the speres splindered in
And than thei leide hande to theire swerdes that weren of grete bounté, and
smyten grete strokes upon helmes that thei breke the serkeles of golde and stones
whiche weren of grete vertu, and tohewen the sheldes and hauberkes, and in the
flessh so depe that the blood stremed after. And in short tyme eche of hem so
araied other that ther ne was nother of hem but he hadde nede of a leche. And
theire sheldes weren slitte and hewen that ther was left of theym [not] so moche
that thei myght with hem cover. And than thei caste the remenaunt to grounde and
caught the swerdes in bothe hondes, and smyte pesaunt strokes at discovert so
that thei toslitte helmes and torente hauberkes, so that the flessh shewed all bare.
And ther ne was noon of hem bothe but he was wery for traveile of yevinge of
strokes and receivinge. And that was oon thinge that lengest hem hilde, for yef
thei hadde ben fressh and newe to that thei weren withouten sheldes and theire
hauberkes torente and theire helmes toquasshed, thei myght not have endured.
Nevertheles, ther ne was noon of hem bothe but he was sore hurt and wounded.
Whan the Kynge Rion, that was bolde and hardy above alle thoo of the londe,
saugh the Kynge Arthur hym contene ageins hym, he hadde therof grete merveile,
for he wende that he sholde not agein hym have endured, and seide to hymself
that never beforn hadde he seyn so goode a knyght. And than he douted hym sore
and seide, "Kynge Arthur, hit is grete harme of thee, for thow art the beste knyght
that I faught with ever beforn; and I se well and knowe verily that thy grete herte
that thow hast shall make thee to dye, for it will not suffre thee to come to my
mercy; and I knowe well that thow haddest lever dye than be conquered, and that
is grete damage. And therfore, I wolde pray thee and requyre for the grete prowesse
that is in thee, that thou have pitee on thyself and yelde thee for outraied, for to
save thi lif thourgh the covenauntes that ben betwene us, so that my mantell were
parformed in my live. For better I love thi lif than thi deth, and thow art come to
thi fin - that knowest thow well, and so don alle these barouns here aboute that
Whan the Kynge Arthur undirstode the wordes of the Kynge Rion, he hadde
grete shame, for so many a valiante prince hadde it undirstonde. And than he ran
upon hym with his swerde in bothe handes as he that was full wroth and full of
maltalente, and wende to smyte hym on the helme. But the Kynge Rion blenched
that saugh the stroke comynge with so grete ravyne; and nevertheles, he araught
hym upon the helme and kutte of the nasell; and the stroke descended and smote
the stedes nekke asounder, and the Kynge Rion fill to the erthe.
And as he wende to have rise, Arthur smote hym on the lifte shuldre into the
flesshe two large ynche, and the Kynge Rion stombeled therwith and fill agein to
the erthe. And whan the Kynge Arthur saugh the Kynge Rion falle agein to grounde,
anoon he alight to grounde and ran to hym lightly and caught hym by the helme
and drough it to hym with so grete force that the laces brast asonder; and he it
raced from his heed, and than lifte up the swerde and seide he was but deed but he
wolde yelde hym outerly. And he seide that wolde he never, for he hadde lever
dye than live recreaunt. And whan Arthur saugh that he myght hym not therto
bringe to holde hym for outraied, he smote of the heed in sight of alle that were in
And than ronne to [hym] the princes on alle parties and made grete joye and
sette hym on a horse, and brought hym into the Castell of Toraise and hym un
armed and serched his woundes. And the baronye of Kynge Rion com to hym
and resceived of hym theire londes and theire fees and dide hym homage, and
than returned into theire contrey, and with hem bar the body of Kynge Rion, and
it biried with grete lamentacion and wepinge.
And the Kynge Arthur was at Toraise, gladde and joyfull of the victorie that
God hym hadde yoven; and sojourned in the castell till he was warisshed of his
woundes that he hadde in the bateile. And whan he was all hool, he departed fro
Toraise with grete joye and feste; and the Kynge Leodogan conveyed hym on his
wey and after returned. And the Kynge Arthur and his companye ride till thei
come to Cameloth whereas the Quene Gonnore and the other quenes were abidinge,
that of theire comynge made grete joye. And ther sojourned the princes four dayes,
and on the fifte day thei departed; and every man repeired to his owne contrey and
ledde with hem theire wyves, thei that eny hadden.
And the Kynge Arthur com agein into the citee of Logres and sojourned ther
longe tyme with the quene, and with hym was Sir Gawein and the Companye of
the Rounde Table and Merlin, that dide hem grete solas and grete companye. And
he com to Kynge Arthur and seide that from hensforth he myght hym wele forberen,
for he hadde somdell apesed his londe and sette it in reste. And therfore he wolde
go take his disporte where hym liked.
Whan the kynge this undirstode, he was pensif and sory, for he loved hym
entirly and fain wolde he that he abood stille, yef it myght be. And whan he saugh
he myght hym not withholde, he praied hym dierly that he wolde come to hym
agein in short tyme; and Merlin seide he sholde come agein all be tyme er he
hadde nede. "Certes," seide the kynge, "every day and every hour have I to yow
nede and myster, for withoute yow I can nought; and therfore I wolde we sholde
never departe companye." And Merlin seide, "I shall come another tyme to youre
nede, and I shall not faile day ne hour."
And the kynge was stille a longe while and began to stodie sore. And whan he
hadde be longe in this thought, he seide all sighinge, "Ha, Merlin, feire swete
frende, in what nede shull ye me helpe? I pray yow telle me, to sette myn herte in
more ese." "Sir," seide Merlin, "and I shall yow telle, and after I shall go my way.
The lyon that is the sone of the bere and was begeten of a leopart shall renne by
the reame of the Grete Breteigne; and that is the nede that ye shall have." With
that Merlin departed and the kynge belefte in grete myssese and sore abaisshed of
this thinge, for he knewe not to what it myght turne. But therof shull we cesse at
this tyme and returne to speke of Merlin.