Merlin and Nimiane; and Arthur and the Giant of St. Michael's Mount
MERLIN AND NIMIANE; AND ARTHUR AND THE GIANT OF ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT: FOOTNOTES1 stinte, stopped.
2 yede, went; sore, greatly.
3 cowde, knew; of that, what.
5 connynge, skill; will, desire; ly, lie.
6 pelow, pillow.
9 oo, one.
13 clergie, knowledge; lightly, quickly.
15 comaunded, commended.
19 seth, since.
22 trussed, packed.
23 geaunte, giant.
25 disolate, frightened.
26 born, taken.
28 whereas, where; repeired, dwelled; closed with, surrounded by; see, sea.
29 yet cleped, still called; nother, neither.
30 ne, nor; durst, dared.
32 slough, slew; roches, rocks.
36 cleped, summoned.
40 o, one.
43 bote, boat; flos, tide.
44 see, sea.
45 doute, fear.
46 wende, thought; be, been; hardynesse, courage; drough, drew.
47 hoped for, expected.
50 saugh, saw; clier brennynge, brightly burning.
52 torente, torn.
53 what, who.
54 dolour1, grief; dolour2, sorrow.
55 yef, if; Fle hens hastely, Flee from here quickly; maist, may.
56 unhappy, misfortunate.
58 Whan, Then; regrated, sorrowed for.
59 but yef, unless.
60 what, who.
62 lith, lies.
63 dolerouse caitif, pitiful wretch; waymentacion, lamentation.
64 that, who; yaf souke, gave suck.
65 it was me comaunded, I was ordered; norish, nurture.
66 kepe, protect.
67 leyn, lain.
68 suffre, permit; moche, huge.
69 berafte, murdered; falsly, wickedly.
70 be, by; biried, buried.
71 wherfore, why; hens, away; seth, since.
73 for that, because; se, see.
75 entered, interred; wende wele have, nearly.
76 abide, stay.
77 that, so that; moste, must.
78 whedir I wolde or noon, whether I wished to or not.
79 ner, nearly.
82 maist, may; maner, way; ascape, escape; anoon right, right now; in, on.
84 lef, leave.
85 seth, then.
86 that, what.
87 ther, where.
91 yef it be myster, if there is need.
92 abide, waited.
94 kut of, cut off; [was] most inough, was well cooked.
95 a softe pas, i.e., moving silently.
96 wende, hoped.
98 stert to, reached for.
99 plante, branch; oke, oak; birthon, burdon.
100 leide, placed; nekke, shoulder.
103 he, i.e., Arthur; wight, agile; delyver, quick.
104 wende, hoped.
105 kept it on, blocked it with.
106 somdel, somewhat; touched, hit.
107 conquered of, had captured from.
108 yen, eyes.
109 scarmyshe, flail about.
110 wood, mad.
111 areche, reach.
112 tobrosed, battered.
113 that1, while.
114 tastinge, searching; that, until.
115 sesed, seized.
116 anoon, now; wende, expected; threst, stabbed; he hadde, he would have.
117 wight, agile; delyver, quick; wrast, twisted; peyne, effort.
119 fremysshed, shook.
120 atame, penetrate.
122 wiste, knew; durste, dared.
124 it sesed, he halted.
125 theras, where; wende, hoped; blenched, moved back.
126 areche, reach.
127 tasted, tried; chacche, catch.
128 frotinge, rubbing; iyen, eyes.
130 gripes, grip; brosten, broken; chyne, spine.
131 craspe, reach.
133 here, hear.
135 kne, knee; swowne, swooning.
136 hente, grabbed; ther, where.
137 rof, stabbed.
138 grete, huge.
140 yove, given.
141 of, off.
142 of, from.
144 flode, tide; disesed, bothered.
145 peyne, effort; passed the greves, crossed the sands.
146 sore abaisshed, greatly concerned; wiste, knew.
147 whider, where;
147-48 ne hadde ben, if not for.
148 hastely, soon.
149 afray, fear.
150 teinte, tent.
151 trussed at, tied to.
153 afray, fright; ther, where.
156 trussed, brought.
MERLIN AND NIMIANE; AND ARTHUR AND THE GIANT OF ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT: NOTESMerlin and Nimiane; And Arthur and the Giant of St. Michael's Mount
[Fols. 224r (line 13)-230r (line 28)]
Surprisingly, Arthur's European campaign against the Romans takes up relatively little space in the PM. This portion of the Arthurian story originates with Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain, comprising more than half of the narrative material concerning Arthur in that work. It is also the central focus in the ME Alliterative Morte Arthure; but by the time of Malory's Morte D'Arthur, its centrality to Arthur's story was considerably diminished. Arthur's great personal combat against the Giant of St. Michael's Mount also has it origin in Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain, and it remains a basic component of the Arthurian narrative in many later medieval accounts. Perhaps the most stirring rendition of this episode is found in the MEAlliterative Morte Arthure (lines 900-1221), which is also the direct source for Malory's version of the episode in Morte D'Arthur (Vinaver, pp. 119-23).
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 631-34.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 635-45. In line 9, the arrival of a group of twelve messengers provokes Arthur's compaign against the Romans as they demand his allegedly unpaid tribute to the Roman Emperor Lucius. Arthur treats the messengers who bring this demand hospitably, but he sends them back to Rome bearing a strongly hostile reply. In line 13, Britain's claim on Rome is based on historical precedents, that is, the exploits of earlier British heroes whose European campaigns are described by Geoffrey of Monmouth -- first Belinus and Brennius, and later, Maximianus.
29 Mounte Seint Michel. This is the famous Mont Saint Michel, located on the seacoast of Normandy close to the border with Brittany.
58 Helayn. The name of the young woman for whom the old woman is grieving is Elaine or Helena; she is the niece of Hoell of Nantes, the Duke of Brittany.
119-120 the hide of the serpent. The giant is protected by the skin of a serpent (perhaps a dragon's hide); when Arthur finally kills the giant, he has to lift the skin and stab the giant beneath it.
[Merlin and Nimiane; and Arthur and the Giant of St. Michael's Mount]
[Summary. Merlin leaves Logres and goes to Jerusalem where King Flualis, the pow
erful saracen ruler, has had an engimatic dream. When Flualis's wisemen cannot
explain the dream, Merlin proceeds to do so. The dream signifies the coming of the
Christians and the defeat of the saracens. Fols. 224r (line 13)-225r (line 5)].
And Merlin wente a grete spede that never he stinte till he com to the reame of
Benoyk, and yede to Nimiane his love that sore desired hym for to seen, for yet
cowde not she of his art of that she desired for to knowe. And she made hym the
grettest joye that she myght; and [thei] ete and dranke and lay in oon bedde. But
so moche cowde she of his connynge that whan he hadde will to ly with hire, she
hadde enchaunted and conjured a pelow that she kepte in his armes; and than fill
Merlin aslepe. And the storie maketh no mencion that ever Merlin hadde flesshly
to do with no woman. And yet loved he nothinge in this worlde so wele as woman;
and that shewed well, for so moche he taught hir oo tyme and other that at laste he
myght holde hymself a fooll; and thus dide he sojourney with his love longe tyme.
And ever she enquired of his connynge and of his maistries ech thinge by hitself.
And he lete her all knowe; and she wrote all that he seide, as she that was well
lerned in clergie, and lerned it lightly all that Merlin hir taught. And whan he
hadde sojourned with hir longe tyme, he toke his leve and seide that he sholde
come agein at the yeres ende; and so eche of theym comaunded other to God full
And than com Merlin to Blase his maister, that gladde was of his comynge and
sore he longed hym for to se, and he hym also. And Merlin tolde hym alle the
aventures that were befalle seth he fro hym departed, and how he hadde be with
Nimiane his love, and how he hadde hir taught of his enchauntmentz. And Blase
wrote all in his boke.
[Summary. Merlin rejoins Arthur at Logres. As the court is assembled in the great hall,
a beautiful damsel enters accompanied by an ugly dwarf; she asks the king for a boon;
Arthur agrees, as long as her request is honorable. To the amusement of the court, she
asks Arthur to make the dwarf a knight; she claims he is actually a lord of noble birth. Kay
makes jokes at the dwarf's expense, but Arthur agrees to her request. Then two squires
appear at court bearing knightly equipment, and the damsel herself produces a pair of
golden spurs. Kay asks for the honor of knighting the dwarf, but the damsel refuses him.
Arthur knights the dwarf; then the damsel and the dwarf ride on their way.
Shortly thereafter a group of twelve messengers arrive at the court bearing a letter
from Lucius, the emperor of Rome. Arthur is accused of having taken lands and rents
away from the emperor; and he is ordered to appear before the emperor in Rome to make
amends. Arthur and his privy council consider the matter; they decide that rather than
Rome having a claim on Britain, Britain has firm historical precedents for making a claim
on Rome. Thus Arthur gives the messengers gifts and then sends them back to the emperor
with his negative reply. Angered, the emperor assembles his forces. Arthur does likewise;
and then he and his army sail to Brittany. There Arthur has a vision in which he sees a
great bear on a mountain attacked by a fiery dragon. Merlin interprets the dream, saying
that the bear is a giant and Arthur is the dragon. Fols. 225r (line 20)-228v (line 12).]
With that thei trussed tentes and pavilons and ride forth on theire wey. But thei
hadde not longe gon whan tidinges com to the Kynge Arthur of the geaunte that
distroied the londe and the contrey so that therynne duelled nother man ne woman
but fledde thourgh the feldes as bestes disolate for drede of the geaunte. And [he]
hadde born by force a mayden of the contrey that was nyece to a lorde of the
contrey that was a grete gentilman. And he hadde born hir with hym up to a
mounteigne whereas he repeired, that was all closed with the see. And that
mounteign is yet cleped the Mounte Seint Michel, but at that tyme ther was nother
mynster ne chapell; ne ther was no man so hardy ne so myghty that durst fight
with the geaunte. And whan the peple of the contrey dide hym assaile, thei myght
not agein hym endure neither on londe ne on se, for he slough hem with the
roches and made theire shippes to sinke. And the peple of the contrey fledde thourgh
the wodes and forestes and mounteynes with theire children in theire armes; and
so thei lefte theire londes and theire richesses.
Whan Arthur herde how the geaunte distroied so the londe, he cleped Kay the
Stiward and Bedyver and badde hem make hem redy-armed aboute mydnyght;
and thei dide his comaundement and com togeder, thei thre and two squyres only
and no mo, and rode till thei come upon the mounte and saugh a grete fire bright
shynynge on that o side. And on that othir side was another mounte that was not
so grete as that, and theron was a fire merveilouse grete; and thei wiste not to
whiche thei sholde gon. Than he cleped Bediver and bade hym go loke on whiche
mounte the geaunte was. Than Bediver wente into a bote that was full of the flos
of the see. And whan he was come to the next monteyn, he wente up hastily on the
roche and herde grete wepinge. And whan he that herde he hadde doute, for he
wende the geaunte hadde be there. But he toke upon hym hardynesse and drough
his swerde, and wente forth and hoped for to fight with hym, as he that for no
drede of deth ne wolde be founde no cowarde; and in this thought he clymbed
upon the mountein.
And whan he was come up, he saugh the fier that was clier brennynge and
saugh a tombe faste by that was newly made; and beside that tombe satte an olde
woman discheveled and all torente hir heir, and wepte and sighed full sore. And
whan she saugh the knyght she seide, "Haa! Gentilman, what art thow? What
dolour hath brought thee into this place? For with grete dolour thou shalt ende thy
lif, yef the geaunte thee finde. Fle hens hastely as faste as thow maist, for thou art
to unhappy yef thow abide till that this devell come that hath no pité of nothinge!
Fle hens as fer as thou maist, yef thow wilt thy lif save!"
Whan Bediver saugh the woman so wepe and so pitously regrated Helayn
sighinge, and bad hym to fle but yef he wolde dye. And he seide, "Good woman,
lete be thy wepinge, and telle me what thou art and why thou makest so grete
sorowe and why thou art upon this mounte by this tombe. And telle me all the
occasion of thy sorowe, and who lith here in this sepulture."
"I am," quod she, "a dolerouse caitif that wepe and make waymentacion for a
mayden that was nyece to Hoell of Nauntes, that I norished and yaf souke with my
mylk; and she lieth under this tombe, and it was me comaunded hir to norish and
to kepe. Now is ther a devell that hir hath taken awey and brought hider her and
me, and wolde have leyn by the childe that [was] yonge and tender. But she myght
hym not suffre ne endure, for he was moche and hidiouse and lothly. And so he
made the soule departe from the body, and thus he berafte my doughter, falsly and
be treson. And ther I have hir biried, and for hir wepe bothe day and nyght."
"And wherfore," quod Bediver, "gost thou not hens, seth thou art left here alone
and hast hir loste seth that ther is noon recover?" "Sir," quod she, "I knowe well
ther is no recover; but for that I se ye be a gentilman and therto so curteise, I will
kepe nothinge from youre knowinge but I will telle yow the trouthe. Whan that
my dere doughter was entered, for whos love I wende wele have loste my witte
and dyed for doel, the geaunte made me to abide stille to have his foule lecherouse
lust upon me. And he hath me diffouled by his strengthe that I moste suffre his
wille whedir I wolde or noon, for I have no myght agein hym. And I take oure
Lorde God to recorde it was never my will, and ner therwith he hadde me slain;
for with hym have I suffred grete peyne and gret anguysh, for he is unmesurable
grete; and he cometh hider to fulfille his lecherie upon me. And thou art but deed
and maist in no maner ascape, for he cometh anoon right; for he is ther above in
that mountayn where thou seist that fier. And therfore I pray thee go hens thy
wey, and lef me here to compleyne and make my mone for my doughter."
Grete pité hadde Bediver of the woman, and moche he hir counforted. And seth
he com agein to the kynge and tolde that he hadde sein, and seide how the geaunte
was upon the high hill ther he saugh the grete fier and smoke. Than the kynge
made his felowes go with hym upon the mounteyne, and thei were come upon the
hill. Than the kynge comaunded his felowes to abide and seide that hymself alone
wolde go fight with the geaunte. "Nevertheles," seide the kynge, "loke that ye
waite well upon me; and yef it be myster, cometh me to helpe." And thei seide
thei wolde with good will, and thei abide.
And the kynge wente toward the geaunte that satte before the fire and rosted
flessh on a spite, and kut of the side that [was] most inough and ete it. And the
kynge wente toward hym with swerde in honde drawen a softe pas gripinge his
shelde, for he wende hym to have supprised. But the geaunte, that was full false
and maliciouse, behelde and saugh the kynge come and lept up, for the kynge
hadde his swerde in his hande. And the geaunte stert to a grete clobbe that stode
by hym, that was grete and hidiouse of a plante of an oke, that was a grete birthon
for a myghty man; and caught it from the fire, and leide it on his nekke and com
fiercely agein the kynge as he that was of a grete force, and seide to the kynge that
a grete fooll was he to come ther, and reised the batte for to smyte the kynge on
the heed. But he was wight and delyver, and lept aside so that he of hym failed;
and therwith the kynge smote at hym and wende to smyte hym on the heed. But
the geaunte, that was bolde and hardy, kept it on his clobbe or elles hadde he be
deed. Nevertheles, somdel he touched hym with Marmyadoise, his good swerde
that he conquered of the Kynge Rion, and touched hym betwene the two browes
that he wax all blinde for the blode that ran over his yen. And that was a thinge
that sore hym greved, for he myght not se where to smyte, and began to scarmyshe
and to grope aboute hym with his staffe as a wood devell and sore abaisshed. And
the kynge hasted hym full harde but areche hym myght not, for the geaunte caste
about hym grete strokes that yef he hadde hym smyten he hadde ben all tobrosed.
And thus thei foughten longe that the oon ne touched not that other, and therfore
thei were sore anoyed. And than the geaunte wente tastinge here and there that he
sesed the kynge by the arme. And whan he hadde hym caught he was gladde and
joyfull, for anoon he wende hym to have threst to deth. And so he hadde, but that
the kynge was wight and delyver and wrast out of his gripinge with grete peyne.
And than he ran upon hym with his swerde and smote hym on the heed and on the
lifte sholdre that all the arme fremysshed. And so harde was the hide of the ser
pent that in the flessh myght it not atame. And the geaunte myght hym not se, for
his iyen were all covered with blode; and than he saugh the shadowe of the kynge,
and than he ran that wey. But the kynge, that wiste he was of grete force, durste
not come in his handes.
And so hath he gon up and down that he stombeled on his clubbe; and it sesed
and ran theras he wende to finde the kynge. But the kynge blenched so that he
myght hym not areche, and therfore hadde he grete sorow in herte. And than he
caste awey his clubbe and tasted to chacche the kynge in his armes. And so he
wente gropinge and frotinge his iyen till he saugh the light and the shadowe of the
kynge. And than he spronge to hym and caught hym by the flankes with bothe his
armes that nygh he hadde with his gripes brosten his chyne. And than he began to
craspe after his arme for to take from hym his swerde out of his honde. But the
kynge it well perceyved and threwe down the swerde, that in the fallinge he myght
here it ringe cler. And than he griped the kynge with that oon hande and stouped
down to take the swerde with that other hande; and in the stoupinge, the kynge
smote hym with his kne that he fill in swowne. And than he lept to the swerde and
hente it up, and stert to the geaunte ther he lay and lifte up the serpentes skyn and
rof hym thourgh the body with the swerde. And so was the geaunte slain.
And Kay the Stiwarde and Bediver made grete joye of the kynge, and behelde
the geaunte that so grete [was] that wonder was to beholden, and thanked oure
Lorde of the honour and the victorie that he hadde yove the kynge, for never
hadde thei seyn so grete a feende. And the kynge bad Bediver smyte of the heed
that it myght be born into the hoste to se the grete merveile of the gretnesse of
hym. And he dide his comaundement; and than [thei] com down of the mounteyn
and lepe on their horse. And the flode was come agein that gretly hem disesed.
And with grete peyne thei passed the greves and com agein to the hoste. And the
barouns were sore abaisshed for the taryinge of the kynge, for that thei wiste not
whider he was wente; and thei were meved hym for to seche in diverse parties, ne
hadde ben Merlin that bad hem be nothinge dismayed, for he sholde come hastely.
While the princes and the barouns were in this afray for the Kynge Arthur, he
and the stiwarde and Bediver com down into his teinte, and hadde the heed of the
geaunte trussed at Bedivers sadell by the heir. And thider com alle the barouns
whan he was alight, and asked fro whens he com, for he hadde put hem in grete
afray. And he seide he com fro thens ther he hadde foughten withe the geaunte
that distroied so the londe and the contrey theraboute, and how he hadde hym
slayn thourgh the grace of oure Lorde. And than he shewed hem the heed that
Bediver hadde trussed. And whan the barons it saugh, thei blessed hem for the
wonder therof, and seide that never in all theire lif had thei not seyn so grete an
heed. And alle that were in the hoste preised God for the kynges victorie. And han
thei dide unarme the kynge with grete joye and gladnesse.
Go To The Defeat of Lucius; and Arthur and the Devil Cat