Merlin and Grisandolus
MERLIN AND GRISANDOLUS: FOOTNOTES5 disconfiture, warfare.
11 for the drede, for fear.
12 her, their; nones, occasion.
14 tressed, arranged.
21 moche, large; semly, attractive; demened, conducted.
22 saf only, without.
29 quyntayne, tilting board; mede, meadow.
30 bourdinge, games.
31 bapteme, baptism.
33 bar awey the pris, took first place.
41 a fadome large, a fathom freely.
42 avised, considered.
45 lyonsewes, youthful lions.
48 do, done.
49 conversaunt, spoken of.
53 yede, went.
57 stodye, study.
60 certefie, explain.
62 entré, entry.
63 herte, hart.
66 renne, run.
67 partyes, sides.
74 abandon, unchecked; began, caused.
83 rudely, suddenly.
85 sey, saw.
89 gentill, noble.
96 spede, aid.
100 flessh newe, fresh meat.
102 uncouthe, secret.
104 thens, thence; doute, doubt.
106 walope, gallop.
107 that, what.
111 myster, needed; theras, to where.
115 fele, smell.
116 be, by.
120 forrympled, rumpled.
121 pilche, outer garment of furs.
124 chacche and frote, scratch and poke.
125 rore, roar; wood, insane.
128 tho inough, i.e., cooked enough; raced it of, grabbed it off.
133 onslepe, asleep.
135 streytely, tightly.
138 right sore, very tightly.
139 shamefaste, ashamed; mate, confused.
140 horse, horses.
147 saf, save.
155 moche, many; abidinge almesse, waiting for alms.
157 on traverse, askance.
158 repaired, altered; disnatured fro Kynde, distorted from Nature.
163 fill, it befell; toward, beginning.
168 agein, to.
169 flap, blow.
170 shamefaste, ashamed.
171 ne rofte nothinge, cared not at all.
174 abaisshed, astonished.
178 behilde, watched.
182 be leyser, at their leisure.
183 that1, as.
186 be that, by then.
194 wite in tyme comynge, soon know.
196 fill in, came into; corage, heart.
198 hadde lever be deed, would rather be dead.
204 a traverse, askance.
205 diffouled, destroyed; rasour, razor; fountayne coraunt, flowing fountain.
206 But, Except.
208 fell, fierce.
211 ageins, toward.
212 facion, appearance.
214 graces, steps.
220 entermete, bother.
222 Cristyndome, Christian faith.
231 sool, alone; Durste, Dared.
232 repeired, returned.
240 seth, since.
253 partyes, sides.
263 yaf no force of nothinge, had no concerns about anything.
266-67 in traverse, askance.
270 dispite, scorn.
276 yeve, give; certefied, explicated.
279 conne, do, cause; magré, grief.
287 heer, hair.
288 fadome, fathom.
289 semed, believed.
291 sein, seen.
292 lyonsewes, young lions.
294 do that, done what; wolde, wanted.
297 demened, treated.
298 brent, burned.
301 swevene, dream; yef, if; se, see.
302 sey, say.
304 seth, since.
307 se, see.
308 apertly, clearly.
309 heer, hair.
314 behoveth, need.
315 quyte, free.
324 abaisshed, disturbed.
325-26 Dispoile mo tho, Unclothe more those.
330 do, done.
331 seth, since.
333 flayn all quyk, skinned alive.
338 of, on; renomede, renown.
342 avisee, informed.
349 tho, those.
353 engyn, subtlety.
358 aboode after, waited for; almesse, alms.
361 her, herself.
362 coverte, veiled.
363 habite, appearance.
366 hir, i.e., woman (not Avenable); disceyaunt, deceitful; sonken, destroyed.
369 be1, because of; wratthed, angered.
370 debate of, dispute over; rech, concern.
372 apeire, occur.
373 luxuré, lechery; closeth, enclosed.
375 weneth, thinks.
376 fragelité, frailty; corage, desire.
377 volunté, wishes.
379 of thyn, by yours.
380 wynne, win.
381 lese, lose.
384 maugré the diffence, despite the contrary advice.
387 bole, bull.
390 owe, ought; nought, not; falle, befall.
391 longeth, pertains.
393 betokenynges, meanings.
394 ther1, where.
395 avoure, possessions.
396 douteth, fears; nother, neither.
399 be myschaunce, by misfortune; sey maugré, blame (?).
402 ought, anything.
403 borough, borrow.
405 pletours, pleaders.
406 apeire, abuse.
407 daungier, power.
410 sawe, saying.
411 yoven, given.
413 corage, desire.
419 dispite, anger; for, because of.
424 draweth, follows.
425 yef, if.
429 neded to enquere, one could find.
433 reame, realm.
435 do2, follow.
443 seche, seek.
444 yelde, give.
447 that, what.
454-55 lyon volage, zealous lions.
461 parties, territories.
464 fawnes, i.e., young knights.
465 volunté, wishes.
469 betaught, consigned.
471 Grewe, Greek; tho, those.
473 hert brancus, antlered hart.
476 wite, know.
481 whider as, where.
482 aventure, good fortune.
483 wende, thought.
485 hem berafte, from them taken; agein seide, opposed.
487 pees, peace.
490 deduyt, delight.
491 massage, message.
493 unethe, scarcely.
495 yie, eyes.
496 Grewe, Greek; lightly, easily.
MERLIN AND GRISANDOLUS: NOTESMerlin and Grisandolus
[Fols. 148v (line 12)-158v (line 4)]
This largely self-contained episode allows Merlin to showcase his multifarious talents as prankster, shape-shifter, prophet, philosopher, and moral counselor; and it also provides some important information concerning the conflict that will develop before much longer between Britain and Rome. But the most intriguing aspect of this episode, in all likelihood, is the daring young woman named Avenable. Having been separated from her family, she turns up in Rome disguised as a young man named Grisandolus. By virtue of her abilities Grisandolus becomes knighted, and shortly thereafter he/she is appointed by the emperor to be the steward of Rome. By the time the events in this episode reach a conclusion, her true identity and her true sex have been revealed; and in the end, Avenable/Grisandolus marries the emperor of Rome - all of which may seem reminiscent of Shakespearean comedies, such as Twelfth Night.
4 it was that Julius. Arthur's later victory over the Romans is here foreshadowed, although the Roman leader that Gawain will kill is Lucius, not Julius.
18 This mayden com in semblaunce of a squyer. There are a great many stories and episodes in medieval and Renaissance literature involving cross-dressing, particularly ones in which a young woman is disguised as a man; but this story, which probably derives from an independent source, is one of the few to find its way into Arthurian narrative.
64 five braunches. The hart that Merlin has transformed himself into has a very impressive rack of antlers.
108 that by . . . hir cleped. The hart has addressed the steward by her true name - Avenable - rather than as Grisandolus, the name by which she is known in Rome.
226-38 This is the trouthe . . . what I am. The savage man's account of his begetting, birth, and Christian baptism provides a rough analogue to - or perhaps a kind of allegorical version of - his actual birth as it was told in the initial section of the PM.
227 Foreste of Brocheland. This is the famous Forest of Broceliande, a place of wondrous and mysterious occurrences throughout Arthurian literature.
353 that a woman hadde. Merlin is saying that only a woman - not a man - could possess the crafty subtlety of mind needed to ensnare him. This remark anticipates his lecture on the nature of women that soon follows; and it may also provide an oblique comment on Merlin's relationship with Nimiane.
357 the grettest tresour hidde. This is the second time in the PM that Merlin serves as a kind of divining rod for buried treasure.
382 But the prophesie seith. This somewhat misplaced paragraph provides the first installment of Merlin's prophecies concerning the war that will occur between Britain and Rome.
401 the riche userer. Following his general comments on the sin of avarice, Merlin offers a more specific commentary on the sin of usury - lending money at exorbitant rates. Medieval texts frequently contain satire against usurers and usury, and also against lawyers, the next group that Merlin will comment on.
410 who hath a goode neighbour hath goode morowe. This is the first recorded example of this proverbial saying in English (see Whiting N77); and see its opposite: "Evil neighbor makes evil morn" (Whiting N75). The gist of the proverb is that if you have a good neighbor, you can wake up in the morning knowing that he has not stolen from you during the night.
443 Province . . . Monpellier. Montpellier is located in Provence, in southeastern France.
454-55 the lyon crowned . . . the lyon volage. Arthur is the crowned lion; and Gawain, presumably, is the lyon volage - the youthful (or perhaps over-eager) lion.
454-64 I tolde yow . . . sle the grete boor. Merlin now elaborates upon the prophecy he had mentioned earlier concerning the coming warfare between Britain and Rome. In his allegorical depiction of it, the dragon is the Emperor Julius, the turtle is Avenable, and the boar is Lucius; the lion is Arthur, and the fawn that will kill the boar is Gawain. In his earlier comment Merlin had called Gawain a bole (bull), not a fawn.
Summary From EETS 36, pp. 437-47.
[Merlin and Grisandolus]
As soone as Merlin was departed from Arthur, he wente into the forestes of
Rome that were thikke and depe. And in that tyme Julyus Cesar was emperour.
But it was not that Julyus Cesar that the deed knyght slough in his pavilion of
Perce, but it was that Julius that Gawein, the nevew of Kynge Arthur, slough in
bateile under Logres at the grete disconfiture that after was betwene hym and the
Kynge Arthur that hym diffied. And what the cause was that Merlin wente that
wey, it is reson it be declared.
This is the trouthe, that this Julyus Cezar hadde a wif that was of grete bewté.
And she hadde with hir twelve yonge men araied in gise of wymen with whom
she lay at alle tymes that the emperour was oute of hir companye, for she was the
moste lecherouse woman of all Rome. And for the drede that theire beerdes sholde
growe, she lete anoynte her chynnes with certeyn oynementes made for the nones.
And thei were clothed in longe traylinge robes, and theire heer longe waxen in
gise of maydenes and tressed at theire bakkes, that alle that hem saugh wende
wele thei were wymen. And longe thei endured with the empresse unknowen.
In this tyme that the emperesse ledde this lif, it fill that a mayden com to the
emperours court that was the doughter of a prince; and the name of this prince
was Matan, Duke of Almayne. This mayden com in semblaunce of a squyer. And
this Matan, the Duke Frolle hadde disherited and driven out of his londe. And she
com to serve the emperour, for she wiste not where her fader ne moder were
becomen. And she was moche and semly and well-shapen, and demened hir well
in all maners that a man ought, saf only eny vylonye; and never was she knowen
but for a man by no semblante. And so [she] aboode with the emperour and was
of grete prowesse, and peyned tendirly to serve well the emperour, and plesed
hym so well that she was lorde and governnour of hym and his housolde. And the
emperour hir loved so well that he made hir knyght atte a Feeste of Seint John
with other yonge squyers, wherof were mo than two hundred, and after made hir
stiward of all his londe.
Than the newe knyghtes reised a quyntayne in the mede of Noiron and begonne
the bourdinge grete and huge. And many ther were that dide right wele, but noon
so well as dide Grisandoll, for so she lete hir be cleped; but in bapteme her name
was Avenable. This bourdinge endured all day on ende till evesonge that thei de-
parted; and Grisandols bar awey the pris amonge alle other. And whan the emperour
saugh Grisandoll of so grete prowesse, he made hym stiward of all his londe and
comaunder above alle that ther weren. And Grisandols was well beloved of riche
And upon a nyght after, it fill that the emperour lay in his chamber with the
emperesse. And whan he was aslepe, he hadde a vision that hym thought he saugh
a sowe in his court that was right grete before his paleys; and he hadde never seyn
noon so grete ne so huge. And she hadde so grete bristelis on her bakke that it
trayled on the grounde a fadome large, and hadde upon hir heed a cercle that
semed of fyn golde. And whan the emperour avised hym wele, hym thought that
he hadde seyn hir other tymes and that he hadde hir norisshed up; but he durste
not sey of trouthe that she were hys. And while he entended to avise hym on this
thinge, he saugh come oute of his chamber twelve lyonsewes, and com into the
courte to the sowe and assailed hir, oon after another.
Whan the emperour saugh this merveile, he asked his barouns what should be
do with this sowe by whom these lyonsewes hadde thus leyn. And thei seide she
was not worthi to be conversaunt amonge peple, ne that no man sholde ete nothinge
that of hir come, and juged hir to be brente and also the lyonsewes togeder. And
than awooke the emperour, sore affraied and pensif of this avision. Ne never to
man ne to wif wolde he it telle, for he was full of grete wisdom.
On the morowe as soone as he myght se the day, he aroos and yede to the
mynster to here messe. And whan he was come agein, he fonde the barouns
assembled, and hadde herde messe at the mynster, and the mete was all redy. And
whan thei hadde waisshen, thei satte to mete and were well served. Than fill that
the emperour fill into a grete stodye, wherfore all the courte was pensif and stille.
And ther was noon that durste sey a worde, for sore thei dredde for to wrathe the
emperour. But now we moste turne a litill to Merlin, that was come into the
foreste of Romayne to certefie these thinges and these avisiouns.
While that the emperour satte at his mete amonge his barouns thus pensif,
Merlin come into the entré of Rome and caste an enchauntement merveilouse. For
he becom an herte, the gretteste and the moste merveilouse that eny man hadde
seyn, and hadde oon of his feet before white, and hadde five braunches in the top,
the grettest that ever hadde be seyn. And than he ran thourgh Rome so faste as all
the worlde hadde hym chaced. And whan the peple saugh hym so renne and
saugh how it was an herte, the noyse aroos and the cry on alle partyes, and ronne
after grete and small with staves and axes and other wepen, and chaced hym
thourgh the town. And he com to the maister yate of the paleys whereas the
emperour satte at his mete. And whan thei that served herde the noyse of the
peple, thei ronne to the wyndowes to herkene what it myght be; and anoon thei
saugh come rennynge the herte and all the peple after. And whan the herte com to
the maister paleys, he drof in at the yate sodeynly, and than he ran thourgh the
tables abandon, and tombled mete and drynke all on an hepe, and began therin a
grete trouble of pottis and disshes.
And whan the herte hadde longe turned therynne, he com before the emperour
and kneled and seide, "Julius Cezar, emperour of Rome, wheron thinkest thow?
Lete be thi stodyinge, for it availeth nought; for never of thyne avision shalt thow
not knowe the trouthe before that man that is savage thee certefie. And for nought
is it that thow stodyest theron eny more."
Than the herte hym dressed, and saugh the yate of the paleyse cloos. And he
caste his enchauntement that alle the dores and yates of the paleise opened so
rudely that thei fly alle in peces. And the herte lept oute and fledde thourgh the
town, and the chace began agein after hym longe, till that he com oute into the
playn feeldes. And than he dide vanysshe that noon cowde sey where he becom.
And than thei returned agein.
And whan the emperour wiste the herte was ascaped, he was wroth, and lete
crye thourgh the londe that who that myght brynge the savage man or the herte
sholde have his feire doughter to wif, and half his reame, yef that he were gentill
of birthe, and after his deth have all. And lepe to horse many a valiaunt knyght and
squyer of pris, and serched and sought thourgh many contrees. But all was for
nought, for never cowde thei heere no tidinges of that thei sought. And whan thei
myght no more do, thei returned agein.
But ever Grisandols serched thourgh the forestes, oon hour foreward, another
bakke, that so endured eight dayes full. And on a day as Grisandol was alight
under an oke for to praye oure Lorde to helpe and to spede for to fynde that he
sought. And as he was in his prayours, the herte that hadde ben at Rome com
before hym and seide, "Avenable, thow chacest folye, for thow maist not spede
of thy queste in no maner; but I shall telle thee what thow shalt do. Purchese
flessh newe and salt, and mylke and hony, and hoot breed newe bake, and bringe
with thee foure felowes and a boy to turne the spite till it be inough rosted. And
com into this foreste by the moste uncouthe weyes that thow canste fynde; and
sette a table by the fier, and the breed and the mylke and the hony upon the table.
And hide thee and thi companye a litill thens, and doute thee nought that the
savage man will come."
Than ran the herte a grete walope thourgh the foreste. And Grisandol lept to
horse and thought well on that the herte hadde seide; and thought in his corage
that it was some spirituell thinge that by hir right name hadde hir cleped; and
thought well that of this thinge sholde come some merveile.
And Grisandol rode forth to a town nygh the forest seven myle, and toke ther
that was myster, and com into the foreste theras he hadde spoke with the herte as
soone as he myght, and roode into the deepe of the foreste whereas he fonde a
grete oke full of leves; and the place semed delitable. And he alight and sette their
horse fer thens, and made a grete fier and sette the flesshe to roste, and the
smoke and the savour spredde thourgh the foreste that oon myght fele the savour
right fer, and than sette the table be the fier. And whan all was redy, thei hidde
hem in a bussh.
And Merlin, that all this knewe and that made all this to be don, covertly that he
were not knowen drough that wey with a grete staffe in his hand, smytinge grete
strokes from oke to oke. And [he] was blakke and rough forrympled, and longe
berde, and barfoote, and clothed in a rough pilche. And so he com to the fier
theras the flesshe was rosted. And whan the boy saugh hym come, he was so
aferde that he fledde nygh oute of his witte. And he thus com to the fier and began
to chacche and frote aboute the fier, and saugh the mete, and than loked all aboute
hym, and began to rore lowde as a man wood oute of mynde, and than beheilde
and saugh the cloth spredde and soche mete theron as ye have herde. And after he
behielde towarde the fier and saugh the flesshe that the knave hadde rosted that
was tho inough, and raced it of with his hondes madly, and rente it asonder in
peces, and wette it in mylke and after in the hony, and ete as a wood man that
nought ther lefte of the flessh. And than he eete of the hoot breed and hony that he
was full and swollen grete. And somwhat was it colde, and he lay down by the
fier and slepte.
And whan Grisandol saugh he was onslepe, she and hir felowes com as softely
as thei myght and stale awey his staffe. And than thei bounde hym with a cheyne
of iren streytely aboute the flankes, and than delyvered hym to oon of the companye
by the tother ende of the cheyne. And whan he was so well bounde, he awooke
and lept up lightly and made semblaunt to take his staff as a wilde man. And
Grisandolus griped hym in his armes right sore and hilde hym stille. And whan he
saugh hym so bounde and taken, he hilde hym as shamefaste and mate. And than
the horse were brought forth, and he was sette upon oon of hem and bounden to
the sadell with two bondes. And a man sette behynde hym that was bounde to
hym and enbraced hym by the myddill; and so thei rode forth her wey.
And the savage man loked on Grisandolus that rode by hym, and began to laugh
right harde. And whan Grisandolus saugh hym laughe, he approched ner and rode
side by side and aqueynted with hym the beste that he myght, and enquered and
asked many thinges; but he ne wolde nought ansuere. And Grisandol asked why
he lough, but he wolde not telle saf that he seide, "Creature formed of Nature
chaunged into other forme, fro hensforth begilynge alle thinges, venimouse as
serpent, holde thi pees! For nought will I telle thee till that I com before the
With that the savage man hilde his pees and spake no more and rode forth
togeder. And Grisandolus of this that he hadde seide spake to his companye. And
thei seide that he was wiser than he shewed and that som grete merveile sholde
falle in the londe. Thus thei ride spekynge of many thinges till thei passede before
an abbey, and saugh before the yate moche pore peple abidinge almesse; and than
the savage man lowgh right lowde. And than Grisandol com toward hym and
swetly praide hym to telle wherefore he lough. And he loked proudly on traverse
and seide, "Ymage repaired and disnatured fro Kynde, holde thy pees! Ne enquere
no mo thinges, for nought will I telle thee but before the emperour." And whan
Grisandolus this undirstode, he lete hym be at that tyme, and no more thinge hym
asked; and hereof spake thei in many maners.
Thus thei rode forth all day till nyght and on the morowe till the hour of prime.
And fill that thei passed byfore a chapell where a preste was toward masse, and
fonde a knyght and a squyer heringe the servyse. And whan Grisandolus saugh
this, thei alight alle the companye, and entred in to here the masse. And whan the
knyght that was in the chapell saugh the man bounde with chaynes, he hadde
merveile what it myght be. And while the knyght beheilde the man that was sav-
age, the squyer that was in an angle behynde the chapel dore com agein his lorde,
and lifte up his hande and yaf hym soche a flap that alle thei in the chapell myght
it here; and than returned thider as he com fro, all shamefaste of that he hadde
don. And whan he was come in to his place, he ne rofte nothinge, for the shame
lasted no lenger but while he was in returnynge. And whan the savage man saugh
this, he began to laugh right harde. And the knyght that was so smyten was so
abaisshed that he wiste not what to sey, but suffred. And Grisandolus and the
other companye merveiled sore what it myght be.
Anoon after the squyer com agein to his lorde and yaf hym soche another
stroke as he dide before, and wente agein in to his place. And the savage man hym
behilde, and began to laughe right harde. And yef the knyght before were abaisshed,
he was than moche more. And the squyer that hadde hym smyten returned sorowfull
and pensif to the place he com fro, and hilde hymself foule disceyved of that he
hadde don. And whan he was in his place, he rought never. And Grisandolus and
the companye merveiled right sore, and herden oute the servise be leyser. And in
the menewhile that thei thoughten upon these thinges that thei hadde seyn, the
squyer com the thridde tyme and smote his lorde sorer than he hadde don before.
And therat lowgh the wilde man sore.
And be that was the masse at an ende; and than Grisdandolus and alle wente
oute of the chapell. And the squyer that hadde smyten his lorde com after and
asked of Grisandolus what man it was that thei hadde so bounde. And thei seide
that thei were with Julius Cezar, emperour of Rome, and ledde to hym that savage
man that thei hadde founden in the foreste for to certefie of a vision that was
shewed hym slepinge.
"But sir," seide Grisandolus, "tell me wherefore hath this squyer yow smyten
thre tymes, and ye ne spake no worde agein. Have ye soche a custome?" And the
knyght ansuerde that he sholde it wite in tyme comynge. Than the knyght cleped
his squyer and asked hym before Grisandolus wherefore he hadde hym smyten.
And he was shamefaste and seide he wiste never, but so it fill in his corage. And
the knyght hym asked yef he hadde now eny talent hym for to smyte. And the
squyer seide he hadde lever be deed. "But that," quod he, "it fill in my mynde that
I myght not kepe me therfro." And Grisandolus lough of the merveile.
Than seide the knyght that he wolde go to court with hem for to here what the
savage man wolde sey. And with that thei rode forth on her wey, and Grisandolus
by the savage mannes side. And whan thei hadde a while riden, he asked the wilde
man wherfore he lough so thre tymes whan the squyer smote his lorde. And he
loked on hir a traverse and seide, "Ymage repeyred, semblaunce of creature wherby
men ben slayn and diffouled, rasour trenchaunt, fountayne coraunt that never is
full of no springes, holde thy pees and nothinge of me enquere! But before the
emperour, for nought will I telle thee." And whan that Grisandolus undirstode the
fell wordes that he spake, he was all abaisshed and pensef and durste not no more
enquere; and rode forth till thei come to Rome.
And whan thei entred into the town and the peple hem parceyved, thei wente alle
ageins hem for to se the man that was savage. And the noyse was grete of the
peple that folowed and behilde his facion as longe as thei myght; and so thei con-
veyed hym to the paleise. And whan the emperour herde the tidinges, he com hem
ageins, and mette with hem comynge upon the graces. And than com Grisandolus
before the emperour and seide, "Sir, have here the man that is savage that I to yow
here yelde; and kepe ye hym fro hensforth, for moche peyne have I hadde with
And the emperour seide he wolde hem well guerdon, and the man sholde be well
kepte. And than he sente to seche a smyth to bynde hym in chaynes and feteres.
And the savage man badde hym therof not to entermete; "for wite it right well,"
quod he, "I will not go withoute youre leve." And the emperour hym asked how he
therof sholde be sure; and he seide he wolde hym asure by his Cristyndome. Quod
the emperour, "Art thow than Cristin?" And he seide, "Ye, withoute faile." "How
were thow than baptized," seide the emperour, "whan thow art so wilde?" "That
shall I well telle you," quod he.
"This is the trouthe, that my moder on a day com from the market of a town.
And it was late whan she entred into the Foreste of Brocheland, and wente oute
her wey so fer that the same nyght behoved hir to lye in the foreste. And whan she
saugh she was so alone be hirself, she was afeerde, and lay down under an oke
and fill aslepe. And than com a savage man oute of the foreste and by hir lay
because she was sool by hirself. Durste she not hym diffende, for a woman aloone
is feerfull. And that nyght was I begeten on my moder. And whan she was repeired
hom, she was full pensif longe tyme till that she knewe verily that she was with
childe. And [she] bar me so till I was born into this worlde, and was baptised in a
fonte, and dide me norishe till I was grete. And as soone as I cowde lyve withouten
hir, I wente into the grete forestes, for by the nature of my fader behoveth me
thider to repeire; and for that he was savage, I am thus wilde. Now have ye herde
what I am."
"So God me helpe," seide the emperour, "never for me shalt thow be putte in
feteres ne in irenes, seth thow wilt me graunte that thow will not go withoute my
Than tolde Grisandolus how he dide laugh before the abbey and in the chapell
for the squyer that hadde smyten his maister, and the dyverse wordes that he
hadde spoken whan he asked wherefore he dide laughe. "And he seide that never
wolde he nought sey till he com before yow, and now is he here; and therfore,
aske hym why he hath so often laughed by the wey." And than the emperour hym
asked; and he seide he sholde it knowe all in tyme. "But sendeth first for alle youre
barouns, and than shall I telle yow that and other thinges."
With that entred the emperour into his chamber and the savage man and his
privé counseile. And ther thei rested and disported and spake of many thinges.
And on the morowe the emperour sente to seche his barouns, hem that he sup-
posed sonest to fynde. And than thei come anoon, bothe oon and other, from alle
On the fourthe day after, the savage man was comen where that the lordes
were assembled on the maister paleise. And the emperour [called] this savage
man and made hym to sitte down by hym. And whan the barouns hadde inough
hym beholden, thei asked why he hadde for hem sente. And he tolde hem for a
vision that hym befill in his slepynge, "for I will that it be expowned before yow."
And thei seide that the significacion wolde thei gladly heren.
Than the emperour comaunded this man to telle the cause why that he was
sought. And he ansuerde and seide that he wolde nothinge telle till that the
emperesse and hir twelve maydones were comen. And she com anoon with gladde
semblaunce, as she that yaf no force of nothinge that myght befalle. Whan the
emperesse and hir twelve maydones were come amonge the barouns, the lordes
aroos agein hir and dide hir reverence.
And as soone as the savage man hir saugh comynge, he turned his heed in
traverse and began to laughe as in scorne. And whan he hadde a while laughed, he
loked on the emperour stadfastly, and than on Grisandolus, and than on the
emperesse, and than on hir twelve maydenys that weren with hir. And than he
turned toward the barouns and began to laughe right lowde as it were in dispite.
Whan the emperour saugh hym so laughe, he preied hym to telle that he hadde in
covenaunt, and whi that he lough now and other tymes.
With that he stode up and seide to the emperour so lowde that all myght it heren,
"Sir, yef ye me graunte as trewe emperour before youre barouns that ben here that
I shall not be the werse ne no harme to me therfore shall come, and that ye will
yeve me leve as soone as I have yow certefied of youre avision, I shall telle yow
the trewe significacion."
And the emperour hym ansuerde and graunted that noon harme ne annoye to
hym sholde be don, ne that he sholde conne hym no magré, to telle hym that he
was so desirouse for to heren, and that he sholde have leve to go whan hym liste.
"But I praye thee, telle me myn avision in audience of alle my barouns what it was,
and than shall I thee better beleve the significacion, whan thow haste me tolde of
that I never spake to no creature." And he ansuerde, as for that sholde hym not
greve, and therfore wolde he not lette. And than he began the avision.
"Sir," seide the savage man to the emperour, "it fill on a nyght that ye lay by
youre wif that is here. And whan ye were aslepe, ye thought ye saugh before yow
a sowe that was feire and smothe; and the heer that she hadde on her bakke was
so longe that it trailed to grounde more than a fadome; and on hir heed she hadde
a cercle of goolde bright shynynge. And yow semed that ye hadde norisshed that
sowe in youre house, but ye cowde it not verily knowe; and therwith yow semed
that ye hadde hir othir tymes sein. And whan ye hadde longe thought on this
thinge, ye saugh come oute of youre chamber twelve lyonsewes full feire and
smothe. And thei com by the halle thourgh the courte to the sowe, and lay by hir
oon after another. And whan thei hadde do that thei wolde, thei wente agein into
"Than com ye to youre barouns and hem asked what sholde be do with this
sowe that ye saugh thus demened. And the barouns and alle the peple seide she
was nothinge trewe, and thei juged to be brent bothe the sowe and the twelve
lyonsewes. And than was the fier made redy grete and merveillouse in this courte,
and therynne was the sowe brente and the twelve lyonsewes. Now have ye herde
youre swevene in the same forme as ye it saugh in youre slepinge. And yef ye se
that I have eny thinge mystaken, sey it before your barouns." And the emperour
seide he hadde of nothinge failed.
"Sir Emperour," seide the barouns, "seth that he hath seide what was youre
avision, hit is to beleve the significacion yef he will it telle; and it is a thinge that
[we] wolde gladly heren."
"Certes," seide the man, "I shall it declare to yow so openly that ye may it se
and knowe apertly that I yow shall sey. The grete sowe that ye saugh signifieth
my lady the emperesse, youre wif that is ther. And the longe heer that she hadde
on hir bakke betokeneth the longe robes that she is ynne iclothed. And the sercle
that ye saugh on her heed shynynge betokeneth the crowne of goolde that ye made
her with to be crowned. And yef it be youre plesier, I will no more sey at this
"Certes," seide the emperour, "yow behoveth to sey all as it is, yef ye will be
quyte of youre promyse."
"Certes," seide the man, "than shall I telle yow. The twelve lyonsewes that ye
saugh come oute of a chamber betokeneth the twelve maydenes that be ther with
the emperesse. And knowe it for very trouthe that thei be no wymen, for it be
men; and therefore make hem be dispoiled and ye shull se the trouthe. And as ofte
as ye go oute of the town, she maketh hem serve in hir chamber and in hir bedde.
Now have ye herde youre avision and the significacion. And ye may se and knowe
yef that I have seide to yow the soth."
Whan the emperour understode the untrouthe that his wif hadde don, he was so
abaisshed that he spake no worde a longe while. And than he spake and seide that
that wolde he soone knowe. And than he cleped Grisandolus and seide, "Dispoile
mo tho dameseles, for I will that alle the barouns that be hereynne knowe the
trouthe." And anoon Grisandolus and other lept forth and dispoiled hem before the
emperour and his barouns, and fonde hem formed alle as other men weren. And
than the emperour was so wroth that he wiste not what to do.
Than he made his oth that anoon ther sholde be do justice soche as was right to
be awarded. And the barouns juged seth she hadde don hir lorde soche untrouthe,
that she sholde be brente and the harlottes hanged; and some seide that thei sholde
be flayn all quyk. But in the ende thei acorded that thei sholde be brente in a fier.
And anoon as the emperour herde the jugement of the barouns, he comaunded to
make the fier in the place, and anoon it was don. And thei were bounde hande and
foot and made hem to be caste into the brynynge fier; and in short tyme thei were
alle brent, for the fier was grete and huge. Thus toke [the] emperour vengaunce
of his wif. And grete was the renomede that peple of hym spake whan that it was
Whan the emperesse was brente, and thei that she hadde made hir maydenes,
the barouns returned agein to the emperour and seide oon to another that the
savage man was right wise and avisee, for yet shall he sey some other thinges
wherof shall come some grete merveile [to] us and to all the worlde. And the
emperour hymself seide that he hadde seide his avision as it was in trouthe. Thus
wiste the emperour the lyvinge of his wif. And than the emperour hym called and
asked yef he wolde sey eny more. And he seide "Ye," yef he asked hym whereof.
"I wolde wite," quod he, "wherefore thow didst laughe whan thow were in the
foreste and loked on Grisandolus; and also whan thow were ledde before an ab-
bey; and in the chapell whan the squyer smote his lorde; and why thow seidest tho
wordes to my stiwarde whan he asked why thow loughe; and after, telle me what
betokeneth the laughter hereynne whan thow saugh the emperesse come."
"Sir," seide the savage man, "I shall telle yow inowgh. I do yow to wite that the
firste laughter that I made was for that a woman hadde me taken by her engyn,
that no man cowde not do. And wite ye well that Grisandolus is the beste maiden
and the trewest withynne youre reame; and therefore was it that I lough. And the
laughter that I made before the abbey was for ther is under erthe before the yate
the grettest tresour hidde that eny man knoweth; and therfore I lough for that it
was under feet of hem that aboode after the almesse. For more richesse is in that
tresour than alle the monkes beth worth, and all the abbey, and all that therto
belongeth. And the pore peple that theron stoden cowde it not take. And Avenable
your stywarde, that Grisandolus doth her clepen, saugh that I lowgh and asked
me wherefore. And the coverte wordes that I to hir spake was for that she was
chaunged into the fourme of man, and hadde take anothir habite than hir owne.
And alle the wordes that I spake thei ben trewe, for by woman is many a man
"And therefore I cleped hir disceyaunt, for by women ben many townes sonken
and brent, and many a riche londe wasted and exiled, and moche peple slayn. But
I sey it not for noon evell that is in hir. And thow thyself maist well perceyve that
be women be many worthi men shamed and wratthed that longe have loved togeder,
yef it were not for debate of women. But now rech thee not for thy wif that thou
haste distroied, for she hath it well deserved. And have therfore no mystrust to
other, for as longe as the worlde endureth it doth but apeire. And all that cometh to
hem be the grete synne of luxuré that in hem is closeth. For woman is of that
nature and of that disire, that whan she hath the moste worthi man of the worlde
to hir lorde, she weneth she have the werste. And wite ye fro whens this cometh
of the grete fragelité that is in hem, and the foule corage and the foule thought that
thei have where thei may beste hir volunté acomplish. But therfore be not wroth,
for ther ben in the worlde [many] that ben full trewe. And yef thow have be
desceyved of thyn, yet shall thow have soche oon that is worthy to be emperesse
and to resceyve that high dignité. And yef thow wilt it beleve, thow shalt wynne
theron more than thow shalt lese.
"But the prophesie seith that the grete dragon shall come fro Rome that wolde
distroie the reame of the Grete Breteyne and put it in his subjeccion, and the fierce
lyon crowned, maugré the diffence of the turtill that the dragon hath norisshed
under his wynges. And as soone as the grete dragon shall meve to go to the Grete
Breteigne, the lyon crowned shall come hym ageins, and shull fight so togeder that
a fierce bole that is prowde, whiche the lyon shall bringe with hym, shall smyte so
the dragon with oon of his hornes that he shall falle down deed; and therby shall
be delyvered the grete lyon. But I will not telle the significacion of these wordes,
for I owe it nought to do. But all this shall falle in thy tyme; and therfore, be well
ware of evell counseile, for grete part longeth to thee.
"The tother laughter that I made in the chapell was not for the buffetes that the
squyer yaf his lorde but for the betokenynges that therynne ben. In the same place
ther the squyer stode was entred, and yet ther is undir his feet a merveillouse
tresour. The firste buffet that the squyer yaf his lorde signifieth that for avoure
the worlde becometh so prowde that he douteth nother God ne his soule, no more
than the squyer douted to smyte his maister. But the riche wolde oppresse the
pore under theire feet; and that make these untrewe riche peple whan enythinge
cometh to hem be myschaunce, thei swere and stare and sey maugré have God
for His yeftes. And wite ye what maketh this? Nothinge but pride of richesse.
"The seconde buffet betokeneth the riche userer that deliteth in his richesse and
goth scornynge his pore nyghebours that be nedy whan thei come to hym ought
for to borough. And the userer so leneth hem litill and litill, that at laste thei moste
selle theire heritage to hym that so longe hath it coveyted.
"The thridde buffet signifieth these false pletours, men of lawe, that sellen and
apeire theire neyghbours behinde here bakke for covetise and envye of that thei se
hem thrive, and for thei be not in her daungier. For whan these laweers sen that
her neighbours don hem not grete reverence and servise, thei thenken and aspien
how thei may hem anoyen in eny wise, and to make hem lese that thei have. And
therfore men seyn an olde sawe: who hath a goode neighbour hath goode morowe.
"Now have ye herde the significaciouns why the buffetes were yoven. But the
squyer delited nothinge therynne whan that he smote his maister; but he wiste not
fro whens this corage to hym com. But God that is almyghty wolde have it to be
shewed in exsample that men sholde not be prowde for worldly richesse; for to
covetouse theire richesse doth hem but harme, that slepen in averice and foryete
God and don the werkes of the devell, that ledeth hem to everlastinge deth. And all
is for the grete delite that thei have in richesse.
"But now shall I telle you whi I lough today whan I saugh the emperesse comynge
and hir lechours. I do yow to wite that it was but for dispite, for I saugh that she
was youre wif, and hadde oon of the worthiest men of the worlde that eny man
knoweth of youre yowthe. And she hadde take these twelve harlottes and wende
ever for to have ledde this foly all hir lif. And therfore hadde I grete dispite for the
love of yow and of youre doughter, for she is youre doughter withoute doute, and
draweth litill after hir moder. Now have ye herde alle the laughtres and wherefore
thei were. And therfore, may I go yef it be youre plesier?"
"Now abide a litill," seide the emperour, "and telle us the trouthe of Grisandolus.
And also we shull sende to digge after the tresour, for I will wite yef it be trewe."
And he therto dide assent. Than the emperour comaunded that Grisandolus were
sought, and so she was founden, oon of the feirest maydenes that neded to enquere
in eny londe. And whan the emperour knewe that Grisandolus, his stiwarde that
longe hadde hym served, was a woman, he blissed hym for the wonder that he
ther-of hadde. Than he asked the savage man counseile what he sholde do of that
he hadde promysed to yeve his doughter and half his reame, for loth he was to
falsen his promyse of covenaunt.
"I shall telle yow," quod the man, "what ye shull do, yef ye will do my counseile.
And wite it well, it is the beste that eny man can yeven." "Sey on, than," seide the
emperour, "for what counseile that thow yevest, I shall it well beleve, for I have
founde thy seyinge trewe."
Than seide the savage man, "Ye shall taken Avenable to be yowre wif. And wite
ye whos doughter she is? She is the doughter to the Duke Matan that the Duke
Frolle hath disherited and driven oute of his londe for envye with grete wronge.
And he and his wif be fledde, and his sone, that is a feire yonge squyer, into
Province into a riche town that is called Monpellier. And sende to seche hem and
yelde hem her heritage that thei have loste with wronge. And make the mariage of
youre doughter and Avenables brother that is so feire, and ye may her no better be
And whan the barouns undirstode that the savage man seide, thei spoke moche
amonge hem, and seiden in the ende that the emperour myght do no better, after
theire advis. And than the emperour asked his name, and what he was, and the
hert that so pertly spake unto hym. And than seide he, "Sir, of that enquere no
more, for it is a thinge the more ye desire to knowe, the lesse shull ye witen."
"For sothe," seide the emperour, "now suppose I well what it may be. But shull
ye telle us eny more?"
"Ye," quod he. "I tolde yow right now of the lyon crowned and of the lyon
volage; but now shall I telle yow in other manere for that ye shull be better
remembred whan tyme cometh. emperour of Rome," quod he, "this is trewe
prophesie, that the grete boor of Rome, that is signified by the grete dragon, shall
go agein the lyon crowned of the Bloy Breteyne, agein the counseile of the turtell
that hath an heed of golde and longe hath ben his love. But the boor shall be so full
of pride that he will not hir beleve, but shall go with so grete pride with all his
generacion into the parties of Gaule to fight with the crowned lyon that shall
come ageins hym with alle his beestes.
"Ther shall be grete slaughter of beestes on bothe sides. Than shall oon of the
fawnes of the lyon crowned sle the grete boor. And therfore I praye thee, yef
thow wilt ought do for me er I departe, that thow do nothinge agein the volunté of
thy wif after that day that thow haste her wedded. And wite well, yef thow do
thus, thow shalt have profite. And now I take my leve, for here have I no more to
And the emperour betaught hym to God, seth it myght no better be. And therwith
he wente on his wey. And whan he com to the halle dore, he wrote letteres on the
lyntell of the dore in Grewe that seide: "Be it knowe to alle tho that these letteres
reden, that the savage man that spake to the emperour and expounded his dreme,
hit was Merlin of Northumberlande, and the hert brancus with fifteen braunches
that spake to hym in his halle at mete amonge alle his knyghtes, and was chaced
thourgh the citee of Rome, that spake to Avenable in the foreste whan he tolde hir
how she sholde fynde the man savage. And lete the emperour well wite that
Merlin is maister counseller to Kynge Arthur of the Grete Breteyne." And than he
departed and spake no mo wordes.
Whan this savage man was departed from the emperour, he sente into Province
to seche the fader and the moder of Avenable and Patrik hir brother, in the town of
Monpeller, whider as thei were fledde. And anoon thei com, gladde and joyful of
the aventure that God hadde hem sente. And whan thei were comen, thei hadde
grete joye of theire doughter that thei wende never to have seyn. Than thei abide
with the emperour longe tyme, and the emperour restored hem to here herytage
that Frolle hadde hem berafte. But as Frolle myght, he it agein seide, for he was of
grete power. And so endured the werre longe tyme; but in the ende the emperour
made the pees. And than he maried his doughter to Patrik, and hymself toke
Avenable to his wif. And grete was the joye and the feeste that the barouns maden,
for moche was she beloved bothe of riche and pore.
And as the emperour was in joye and deduyt of his newe spouse, ther com a
massage to hym oute of Greece for a discorde that was betwene the barouns of
Greese and the Emperour Adrian that sholde hem justise, for the Emperour Adrian
myght unethe ride for febilnesse of age. And whan the messager hadde spoke to
the emperour and don all that he sholde, he toke his leve to go. And as he caste up
his yie upon the halle dore, he saugh the letteres that Merlin hadde writen in
Grewe. And anoon he redde hem lightly, and than he gan to laughe right harde,
and shewed hem to the emperour and seide, "Sir, is this trewe that these lettres
"What sey thei?" quod the emperour. "Wote I never." Quod the massager, "Thei
seyn that he that tolde yow the untrouthe of youre wif, and youre dreme expowned,
and spake to yow in the gise of an herte, that it was Merlin of Northumbirlande,
the maister counseller of Kynge Arthur of Breteyne, by whos counseile ye have
spoused youre wif Avenable."
And whan the emperour undirstode these wordes, he merveiled sore. And than
befill a grete merveile whereof alle that were therynne hadde wonder, and the
emperour hymself. For as soone as the emperour herde what the letteres mente,
anoon the letteres vanysshed so sodeynly that no man wiste how. And therof
hadde thei grete wonder, and moche it was spoken of thourgh the contrey. But
now cesseth the tale of the emperour of Rome that abode in his paleis gladde and
myry with his wif Avenable, and ledde goode lif longe tyme. For bothe were thei
yonge peple, for the emperour was but twenty-eight yere of age at that hour, and
his wif was twenty-two. And yef thei ledde myri lif, yet Patrik and Foldate, the
doughter of the emperour, lyved in more delite. But now returneth the tale agein to
speke of Merlin.
[Summary. The scene shifts to Britain where the rebel barons, having consolidated
their forces, directly confront the Saxon invaders. A terrible and chaotic battle takes
place in a rain storm; when the weather clears, the Saxons drive the Christians from
the field. That night the Christians mount yet another attack upon the Saxons, and
they slaughter a great many of them. But the Saxons regroup; and returning to the
battlefield, they thoroughly rout the Christians. The defeated barons now retreat to
their home cities, not wishing to do further battle with the Saxons. Fols. 155r (line
10)-158v (line 4).]
Go To The Marriage of Arthur and Gonnore