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Merlin and Nimiane


1 were medled with, were involved with.

2 meyné, army; saugh, saw.

3 wiste, knew.

5 reame, realm.

9 soone elles, otherwise.

13 on that other side, furthermore; purchased, arranged.

15 be, by.

16 sese, seize; remes, realms.

17 somowne, summon; partees, sides; be meved, are on the move.

20 on that other part, in addition; hem, them.

21-22 cosin germain, first cousin.

23 thise, i.e., the people.

24 er, before; war, aware.

26 that, so that.

29 lupart, leopard; cercles, circles; ne steile, nor steel.

30 tree, wood; lede, lead.

31 streite, tightly.

33 doute, fear.

34 than, then.

36 wote, know.

37 hym sayned, crossed himself.

38 Yef, If; falle of, happen to.

40 justise, i.e., control.

41 scowred, cleansed; thei, i.e., the Saxons.

44 surmounte, surpass; Bloy Bretaigne, Brittany.

45 enclyne, bow down.

47 yef, if; do agein, work against.

48 yove, given.

51 wete, know.

51-52 at youre yie, with your eyes.

52 er, before; deed, dead.

57 maner, manor.

58 beside to, near.

60 vavasor, a lesser noble.

61 Diane, the goddess Diana.

63 godsone, godson; yaf, gave; yefte, gift.

64 see, sea.

66 coveyted of, desired by.

68 witte and connynge, knowledge and skills.

68-69 by force of nygremauncye, by the power of necromancy.

70 volunté, wishes.

71 enquereth, asks about.

72 yaf, gave; yefte, gift; was grete, i.e., was a grown man.

73 moche and longe, large and tall.

76 deduyt, pleasure.

77 hadde a parte in, owned a section of.

77-78 so that, that.

78 halvendell all quyte, an even half [of the forest].

79 yaf, gave.

81 maner, manor; repeire to, stay at.

82 Vyvier, the name of a river?

83 deduyt, pleasure.

85 yede, went.

86 agein, against.

89 parte, portion; heyres, heirs.

90 foyson, plenty.

91 saugh, saw; tho, those who.

92 repeyred, lived.

94 cleped, called.

95 Ebrewe, Hebrew; seith, means.

103 saugh, saw; moche, greatly; avised, studied; er, before.

104 moche fole, great fool; yef, if; slepte, slipped; lese, lose.

105 deduyt, delight.

106 lese, lose.

107 salued, greeted.

108 volunté, wishes.

109 corage, desires.

112 what, who.

113 vavasour, a member of the gentry.

116 moche, much.

117 cowde, could; reyse, raise.

118 withoute, on the outside.

119 mo maistries, marvels; go, walk.

122 queynte, rare; fayn wolde, happily would.

123-24 mo delitable pleyes, more delightful marvels.

124 noon, no one.

125 will, wish.

126 yef, if; gref, grief.

127 pleyes, wonders; by covenaunt, with the agreement.

129 party, portion.

131 that . . . thought, who suspected no mischief.

132 cerne, circle; yerde, stick; myddell, middle; launde, meadow.

133 anoon, soon.

137 jogelours, jugglers; tymbres, tumblers; tabours, i.e., musicians; cerne, circle.

140 for that, because; rere, rear (i.e., rise up).

141 vergier, garden; yaf, gave.

143 abaisshed of, astonished by.

144 entende, study; seiden, said (i.e., sang).

145 saf, except; in refreite, in the refrain; hir, their.

145-46 Vraiement . . . dolours, Truly, love begins in joy and ends in sorrows.

148 here, hear.

149 heren, hear.

150 man and wif, i.e., men and women.

152 ther2, where.

155 dured, lasted.

156 quyntayne, tilting board; in myddes, in the middle.

157 bourde, sport with.

158 bourded, sported.

161 how seme ye, i.e., what do you think.

164 be ye eny clerk, i.e., if you are a scholar.

165 cowde, knew.

169 moste myster, greatest wonder.

170 faynest, most happily.

172 of, for; abide, wait; yef, if.

173 plesier, pleasure.

174 parlement, conversation.

175 bourdinge, playing.

176 fro whens, from whence.

177 oon ne wiste, one did not know.

178 cleped, named.

179 Repeire, The Abode; Feeste, Mirth.

183 pleyes, marvels; ne haste yow not sore, do not be in a hurry.

184 inowe, enough; moste, must; sojour, time to stay.

186 suerté, pledge.

187 will, wish.

189 by soche forwarde, with such agreement.

190 hem, them.

193 sureté, pledge.

194 pley, marvel; wrought, worked; to do come, to make appear.

196 inowe, enough; perchemyn, parchment.

197 cowde, could.

199-200 Seint Johnes Even, St. John's Eve.

202 saugh, saw; cesse, cease.


Merlin and Nimiane

[Fols. 106v (line 16)-109v (line 22)]

In this section Merlin has his initial encounter with the young woman who will prove his undoing. The author of the PM provides far more information about the developing relationship between Merlin and Nimiane than does Malory, surrounds it with greater moral complexity, and brings the two together under very different circumstances. In Malory, the young woman named Nenyve, who is said to be one of the damsels of the Lady of the Lake (Vinaver, p. 76), is first brought to Arthur's court by Pellynore; and Malory treats Merlin's fatal attraction to her, and her attempts to avoid his designs on her, in less than two pages. In the PM, Merlin goes to Brittany to seek her out, after first informing Blase that in that land is "the wolf" (Nimiane) who will bind "the leopard" (Merlin).

16 the two remes of Benoyk and Gannes. Benoyk and Gannes are the two small kingdoms in Brittany ruled by King Ban and King Bors. They are vulnerable because Ban and Bors are in Britain helping Arthur deal with the rebelliousbarons. (Later on in the story King Ban fathers Lancelot and his half-brother Estor, and King Bors fathers Bors, Lionel, Blamour, and Bleoberis.)

27-31 "And yet," quod Merlin . . . he shall not meve. Here Merlin obliquely foretells his own demise at the hands of Nimiane, who will bind him in "circles" made of no earthly material. The closest parallel to this prediction in Malory occurs when Merlin informs Arthur that Arthur will die a worshipful death, but Merlin will "dye a shamefull dethe, to be putte in the erthe quycke" (Vinaver, p. 29). In both cases the clear suggestion is that despite his foreknowing, there is nothing Merlin can do to avoid his fate.

42-48 the merveillouse leopart . . . ordenaunce of God. Here Merlin predicts the coming of Lancelot (the leopard), who will father the greatest of the Grail Knights, Galahad (the lion). Merlin knows that his responsibilities, which require him to go to Brittany, will also lead to his downfall; indeed, if he were not obligated to fulfill God's "ordenaunce," Merlin would prefer not to go there at all.

Summary Based on EETS 21, pp. 305-07

61-62 Diane . . . the goddesse. There is a curious, though not unusual, blending of mythologies here. It is not made clear why Dionas is the goddess Diana's godson, but it is clear that Diana has plans of her own for Dionas's daughter. Since Diana is the moon goddess -- i.e., "The White Goddess" -- Nimiane's abilities and designs may be informed by paganism.

76 the deduyt of the wode and the river. Dionas's love of hunting and hawking (which often occurred along the edge of a river) identifies him as a young nobleman of aristocratic tastes, as does his building of a manor house in the forest to which he can "repair."

85 [and] hym served with nine knyghtes. Dionas appears to be one of ten knights who are most esteemed by King Ban; for his service in the war against Claudas de la deserte, Dionas is richly rewarded by both King Ban and King Bors.

96 And this turned upon Merlin. Nimiane's name -- which means "I shall not lie" -- is rather ironic, since she "turns" Merlin's infatuation to her own advantage and to Merlin's considerable disadvantage.

104-06 and thought . . . God to lese and displese. As this passage reveals, Merlin is fully aware of the danger in allowing his reason to be seduced by his sensuality. He knows it is sinful; he knows he will shame himself; he knows he will displease God -- yet he is unable to stop himself from proceeding.

108 That lorde that alle thoughtes knoweth. In her welcoming remarks to Merlin, Nimiane suggests that she is aware of the powers he possesses, and hints at her willingness to grant him what she knows he desires.

127 by covenaunt that . . . youre love. Here Nimiane states her intentions quite clearly, although promising to be his love does not necessarily imply her willingness to give him her physical love; Merlin is quick to accept her offer.

131 that noon evell ne thought. The text is ambiguous in regard to which of them expected no harm to come from it, and it might be argued that young Nimiane is the naive one. But in the larger context of this passage, it seems fairly clear that it is Merlin who is being led down the garden path by the young woman rather than the other way round.

145-46 Vraiement . . . dolours. In a piece of ironic foreshadowing, the singers Merlin has conjured up provide a perfect description of what will occur in Merlin's affair with Nimiane in the refrain of their song.

187-88 and ye also for to do my plesier of what I will. Now Merlin asks that she be willing to give him whatever he wishes, a more explicit indication of his desire for her physical love. After a moment's thought Nimiane assents, on the condition that she will be able to perform herself all the things that she asks him to teach her. Falling into her trap, Merlin readily agrees.
[Merlin and Nimiane]
Now seith the storye that whan Gawein and his felowes were medled with the
meyné of Taurus, and this knyght saugh that Gawein hadde his moder rescowed,
he departed awey so sodeynly that no man wiste where that he be com, and
wente into Northumbirlonde to Blaase his maister and tolde hym alle these aventures
that hadde be don in the reame of Logres. And Blase of hym was joyfull and
gladde, and wrote these thinges that he hym tolde; and by hys booke have we yet
the knowynge of the seide aventures.
And whan he hadde be ther as longe as hym liked, he seide he wolde go into the
reame of Benoyk, for soone elles myght the Kynge Ban and the Kynge Boors
have grete damage while thei ben with Arthur in Tamelide; and that were dedly
synne, for thei ben full noble men and trewe. For the Kynge Claudas de la Desert
hath don homage to the Kynge of Gaule, and he hath promysed hym to helpe and
to mayntene; and on that other side, this Claudas hath so purchased that he hath be
at Rome; and he and the Kynge of Gaule have take theire londes to the emperoure
be soche covenaunt that the Emperour Julius shall sende hym socour and wolde
sese the two remes of Benoyk and Gannes.
And thei assemble and somowne on alle partees, and now be meved the
Romaynes with an huge peple; and theire lorde and governoure is Pounce and
Antony, tweyne of the counseillours of Rome that be two grete lordes and myghty.
And also on that other part cometh for love of hem Frolle, a Duke of Almayne,
that is right a grete lorde of londe and of richesse and of frendes, and is cosin
germain to Antony and to Pounce. And ech of these bringeth twenty thousandeat
his baner; and thise of the reame of Benoyk ne knowen it nought, and so sholde
thei alle be distroide er thei token hede or were therof war.
Whan Blase this undirstode, he began to wepe and seide to Merlin, "For the
love of God, have pitee of Cristin peple that thei be not distroied." And he seide
while that he myght lyve he wolde hem helpe with all his counseile. "And yet,"
quod Merlin, "it is the londe that I ought moste for to hate, for in that londe is the
wolf that the lupart shall bynde with cercles that shall nother be of iren, ne steile,
ne tree, ne golde, ne silver, ne lede, ne nothinge of the erthe, ne of the water, ne
herbe; and [he] shall be so streite bounde that he shall not meve."
God mercy!" quod Blase. "Merlin, what is that ye sey? Is not the leopart
more of strength than is the wolf, and more he is to doute?" "Yesse, truly," quod
Merlin. "How may the wolf than have power over the leopart?" quod Blase. "Ye
shull no more knowe," quod Merlin. "But thus moche I will telle yow, that this
prophesie shall falle upon me, and I wote well I may me not kepe therfro."
And Blase hym sayned for the merveile; and than he began to aske and seide,
"Merlin, now telle me this. Yef ye go now into Benoyk, what shall falle of this
londe that the Saisnes thus go distroyinge?"
"Of this ne care yow nought," quod Merlin, "for Arthur shall never justise his
barouns till that thei be well scowred; and knowe it well, thei shall be driven oute
in short tyme. And on that othir side, ne were for the merveillouse leopart that
shall come oute of the reame of Benoyk that shall be so grete and so fiers that alle
other beestes shall surmounte, bothe of this contrey and of the Bloy Bretaigne.
And of hym shall come the grete lyon to whom alle beestes shull enclyne and for
whos look the hevene shall open. I wolde not go ne come ther as longe as I myght
me holde thens, but I shull synne dedly yef I sholde do agein the ordenaunce of
God; wherefore He hath me yove soche witte and discrescion as I have, for to
helpe acomplissh the aventures of the Seynt Graall that shall be acomplisshed and
made an ende in the tyme of Kynge Arthur. But enquere now no ferther, forthow
shalt it [wete] in tyme comynge what this may be, and youreself shull it se at
youre yie er ye be deed."
Whan Blase herde Merlin thus covertly speke, he thought longe on these wordes;
but ever be putte hem in writinge as he hadde hem seide.
[Summary. Merlin goes to Benoyk. There he advises Leonces to prepare for the
invasion by the Roman forces, and he tells Leonces what defensive tactics to employ.
He also predicts that there will be a great battle before Trebes on the Feast of St.
John. Fols. 107r (line 24)-108r (line 7).]

Than eche departed from other, and as soone as Merlin was departed fro Leonces,
he wente to se a maiden of grete bewté; and [she] was right yonge, and was in a
maner that was right feire and delitable and right riche, in a valee under a mounteyne
rounde side, beside to the Forest of Briok that was full delitable and feire for to
hunte at hertes and at hyndes and bukke and doo and wilde swyn.
This mayden of whom I speke was the doughter of a vavasor of right high
lynage, and his name was cleped Dionas. And many tymes Diane com to speke
with hym, that was the goddesse, and was with hym many dayes, for he was hir
godsone. And whan she departed, she yaf hym a yefte that plesed hym wele.
"Dionas," quod Diane, "I graunte thee, and so doth the god of the see and of the
sterres shull ordeyne, that the firste childe that thow shalt have female shall be so
moche coveyted of the wisest man that ever was erthly or shall be after my deth,
whiche in the tyme of Kynge Vortiger of the Bloy Mountayne shall begynne for
to regne, that he shall hir teche the moste parte of his witte and connynge by force
of nygremauncye in soche manere that he shall be so desirouse after the tyme that
he hath hir seyn that he shall have no power to do nothinge agein hir volunté. And
alle thinges that she enquereth, he shall hir teche."
Thus yaf Diane to Dionas hir yefte, and whan Dionas was grete, he was righta
feire knyght and a goode, of high prowesse of body, and he was moche and longe,
and longe tyme served a Duke of Burgoyne that to hym yaf his nyece to ben his
wif, that was right a feire maiden and a wise.
This Dionas loved moche the deduyt of the wode and the river while that he
was yonge; and the Duke of Burgoyne hadde a parte in the Foreste of Brioke so
that was his the halvendell all quyte; and that other half was the Kynge Ban. Whan
the Duke hadde maried his nyece, he yaf to Dionas his part of this foreste and
londe that he hadde aboute grete plenté. And whan Dionas wente it for to se, it
plesed hym wele, and he lete make a maner to repeire to, that was right feire and
riche by the Vyvier. And whan it was made, he com thider to be ther for the
deduyt of the wode and the river that was nygh.
And ther aboode Dionas longe tyme, and repeired ofte to the court of Kynge
Ban, [and] hym served with nine knyghtes. And in his servise he yede at many a
grete nede agein the Kynge Claudas, to whom he dide many a grete damage, till
that the Kynge Ban and the Kynge Boors hadden hym in grete love, for thei knewe
hym so noble a knyght and so trewe. And the Kynge Ban to hym graunted his
parte of this foreste in heritage to hym and to his heyres, and londe and rentys
grete foyson. And the Kynge Boors yaf hym also a town and men and londe, for
the grete trouthe that he saugh in hym. And he was so graciouse that alle tho that
aboute hym repeyred loved hym above all thinge.
Thus dwelled Dionas in that londe longe tyme, till that he gat upon his wif a
doughter of excellent bewté, and hir name was cleped Nimiane. And it is a name
of Ebrewe that seith in Frensch, "ment neu ferai"; that is to sey in English, "I shall
not lye." And this turned upon Merlin, as ye shall here herafter.
This mayden wax till she was twelve yere of age, whan Merlin com to speke
with Leonces of Paerne. And Merlin spedde hym so that he com to the Foreste of
Brioke, and than he toke a semblaunce of a feire yonge squyre and drowgh hym
down to a welle, whereof the springes were feire and the water clere andthe
gravell so feire that it semed of fyn silver. To this fountayn ofte tyme com Nimiane
for to disporte; and the same day that Merlin com thider was she come. And whan
Merlin hir saugh, he behilde hir moche and avised hir well er he spake eny worde,
and thought that a moche fole were he yef he slepte so in his synne to lese his
witte and his connynge for to have the deduyt of a mayden, and hymself shamed,
and God to lese and displese.
And whan he hadde longe thought, he hir salued. And she ansuerde wisely and
seide, "That lorde that alle thoughtes knoweth, sende hym soche volunté and soche
corage that hym be to profite, and hym not greve ne noon other; and the same
welthe and the same honour hym sende as he wolde to other." And when Merlin
herde the maide thus speke, he sett hym down upon the brinke of the welle and
asked hir what she was. And she seide she was of this contrey, the doughter of a
vavasour, a grete gentilman that was at a manoir therynne.
"And what be ye, feire swete frende?" quod she. "Damesell," quod Merlin, "I
am a squyer traveillinge that go for to seche my maister that was wonte me for to
teche; and moche he is for to preise." "And what maister is that?" seide the maiden.
"Certes," quod he, "he taught me so moche that I cowde here reyse a castell; and
I cowde make withoute peple grete plenté that it sholde assaile, and withynne also
peple that it sholde defende. And yet I sholde do mo maistries, for I cowde go
upon this water and not wete my feet; and also I cowde make a river whereas
never hadde be water."
"Certes," seide the maiden, "these be queynte craftes, and fayn wolde I that I
cowde do soche disportes." "Certes," seide the squyer, "yet can I mo delitable
pleyes for to rejoise every high astate more than these ben, for noon can devise
nothinge but that I shall it do and make it to endure as longe as I will."
"Certes," seide the maiden, "yef it were to yow no gref, I wolde se somme
pleyes by covenaunt that I sholde ever be youre love." "Certes," seide Merlin,"ye
seme to me so pleasaunt and deboneir that for youre love I shall shewe yow a
party of my pleyes, by covenaunt that youre love shall be myn, for other thinge
will I not aske."
And she hym graunted, that noon evell ne thought. And Merlin turned hym
apart and made a cerne with a yerde in myddell of the launde; and than [he] re-
turned to the maiden and satte agein down by the fountayn. And anoon the mayden
beheilde and saugh come oute of the Foreste of Briogne ladyes and knyghtes and
maydons and squyres, eche holdinge other by the hondes; and [thei] com singinge
and made the grettest joye that ever was seyn in eny londe. And before the maiden
com jogelours and tymbres and tabours, and [thei] com before the cerne that Mer-
lin hadde made. And whan thei were withynne, thei begonne the caroles and the
daunces so grete and so merveilouse that oon myght not sey the fourthe parte of
the joye that ther was made. And for that the launde was so grete, Merlin lete rere
a vergier whereynne was all maner of fruyt and alle maner of flowres that yaf so
grete swetnesse of flavour that merveile it were for to telle. And the maiden that
all this hadde seyn was abaisshed of the merveile that she saugh, and was so at ese
that sche ne atended to nothinge but to beholde and entende what songe thei seiden,
saf that thei seiden in refreite of hir songe, "Vraiement, comencent amours en
joye et fynissent en dolours."
In this maner dured the joye and feste from mydday to evenesonge, that oon
myght here the noyse from fer, for it was right high and clere and plesaunt to
heren, and it semed to be of moche peple. And oute of the castell com Dionas and
man and wif grete plenté, and beheilde and saugh the feire orcharde and the daunces
and the caroles so feire and so grete, that never hadde thei seyn soche in theire
lives. And thei merveilled gretly of the orcharde that thei saugh ther so feire ther
noon was before; and on that other side thei merveiled whens alle theseladyes and
the knyghtes were come so wele apareiled of robes and juewelles. And whan the
caroles hadde longe dured, the ladyes and the maydenys satte down upon the
grene herbes and fressh floures; and the squyres set up a quyntayne in myddes of
the medowes, and wente to bourde a party of the yonge knyghtes; and on that
other parte bourded the yonge squyres with sheldes, oon agein another, that never
ne lefte till evesonge tyme.
And than com Merlin to the mayden and toke hir be the hande and seide,
"Damesell, how seme ye?" "Feire swete frende," seide the mayden, "ye have don
so moche that I am all yours." "Damesell," quod he, "now holde my covenaunt."
"Certes," seide the mayden, "so shall I with goode chere." "Also," quod Merlin,
"be ye eny clerk, and I shall teche yow so many merveilles that never woman
cowde so many."
Quod the maiden, "How knowe ye that I am a clerke?" "Damesell," quod Mer-
lin, "I knowe it well, for my maister hath me so well taught that I knowe alle
thinges that oon doth." "Certes," seide the mayden, "that is the moste connynge
that ever I herde and moste myster were therof in many places; and that I wolde
faynest lerne. And of thinges that be to come, knowe ye ought?" "Certes," quod
he, "swete love, yee, a grete part." "God mercy!" quod the mayden, "what go ye
than sechinge?" "Truly," quod Merlin, "of that ye moste yet abide, yef it be youre
And while the mayden and Merlin helde this parlement, assembled agein the
maidenes and the ladyes, and wente daunsinge and bourdinge toward the foreste
fro whens thei were come fyrste. And whan thei were nygh, thei entred in so
sodaynly that oon ne wiste where thei were become. But the orcharde abode stille
ther longe tyme, for the maiden that swetly therof hym praide, and was cleped
ther by name the Repeire of Joye and of Feeste. And whan Merlin and the maiden
hadde be longe togeder, Merlin seyde at the laste, "Feire maiden, I go, forI have
moche to do in other place than here."
"How," quod the maiden, "feire frende, shull ye not teche me firste some of
youre pleyes?" "Damesell," quod Merlin, "ne haste yow not sore, for ye shull
know inowe all in tyme, for I moste have therto grete leyser and grete sojour, and
on that other side I have yet no suerté of youre love." "Sir," quod she, "what
suerté wolde ye aske? Devise ye, and I shall it make."
"I will," quod Merlin, "that ye me ensure that youre love shall be myn, and ye
also for to do my plesier of what I will." And the maiden her bethought a litill, and
than she seide, "Sir," quod she, "with goode will, by soche forwarde that after
that ye have me taught all the thinges that I shall yow aske and that I can hem
And Merlin seide that so it plesed hym well. Than he asured the maiden to
holde covenaunt like as she hadde devised, and he toke hir sureté. Than he taught
hir ther a pley that she wrought after many tymes, for he taught hir to do come a
grete river over all theras her liked, and to abide as longe as she wolde, and of
other games inowe, whereof she wrote the wordes in perchemyn soche as he hir
devised; and she it cowde full well bringe to ende. And whan he hadde abiden ther
till evesonge tyme, he comaunded hir to God and she hym. But er he departed, the
maiden hym asked whan he sholde come agein. And he seide on Seint Johnes
Even; and thus departed that oon fro that other.
And Merlin wente to Tamelide, where the kynges made hym grete joye whan
that thei hym saugh. But now awhile we moste cesse here, and speke of the mes-
sage that the Kynge de Cent Chivaliers sente to speke with the princes by the
counseile of the kynge cleped Tradilyvaunt of North Wales.

Go To Arthur and Gonore; and The Battle against King Rion