Merlin's Imprisonment; and Gawain and the Dwarf Knight
MERLIN'S IMPRISONMENT; AND GAWAIN AND THE DWARF KNIGHT: FOOTNOTES
7 departed, dismissed; yode, went; into, unto.
10 he, i.e., Merlin; talent, desire.
11 seth, since.
12 drough, drew; faste on, near; sette, agreed upon.
13 behoved, needed.
14 entierly, earnestly.
17 seth, since.
18 agein, against; volunté, desire.
23 sore abaisshed, greatly upset.
25 sped, fared; sethen, since [last time].
27 of, with.
28 duerfe, dwarf.
32 for that, because.
33 araied she, she transformed him.
34 dispite, shame.
35 wikes, weeks; cesse, end.
41 ne1, and; ne2, nor; ne3, or.
43 seth, since.
44 hir covenaunt, her a promise; supprised with, overcome by.
46-47 hir withsein, from her withhold.
47 ne it disturve, nor it prevent.
50 after, later.
51 holden, considered.
53 cowde, did.
54 withholde, possess; glose, flatter.
55 can, know.
58 shet, shut; tour, tower.
59 be, by.
63 withholde, imprison; supprised, overwhelmed.
69 seth that, since.
70 volunté, wishes.
71 will, desire.
72 teche, to show; convenable, private.
76 volunté, desire.
77 devise, teach; crafte unto, skill to.
83 shadowe, shade.
84 taste, touch him.
85 cerne, circle; wymple, scarf.
87 cerne, circle.
89 hilde, held; hym semed, thought.
90 tour, tour.
92 but yef, unless.
93 abide, stay.
96 hym hilde wele covenaunt, kept her promise to him.
97 Ne, But.
98 wolde, wished; moste, must.
101-02 sore abaisshed, greatly troubled.
102 aboode after, waited for.
103 wikes, weeks.
104 hevynesse, sadness; eiled, ailed.
105 trowe, believe.
106 abiden, stayed away.
108 in doute, fearful; sey soth, spoke the truth.
109 lesinge, a falsehood.
110 lever, rather; wite, know.
112 seche, seek; verité, truth.
113 volunté, wishes.
114 meve fordwarde, make a promise; suere, swear; be, by.
115 but, unless.
117 her, their.
118 departed, separated.
120 sooll, alone.
124 Walsh myle, Welsh miles; hym agein, towards him.
127 samyte, silk; kirchires, scarfs.
129 salue, greet.
130 was, had.
131 renomee, fame.
132 renneth of thee, circulates about you.
135 renoon, renown; that2, who.
136 haste, have; felonye, crime; roted, rooted.
137 ones, once; salue ne, greet nor.
141 agein, towards.
143 sechinge, seeking.
144 abye, pay for; dere, dearly.
146 salue, greet.
147 ne of that thou goist sechinge, as to what you are seeking.
148 noon, it not.
149 theras, where.
150 that1, what; moved fore, looking for.
151 mote, must; se, see; eftsones, later on.
153 Walissh, Welsh; duerf, dwarf.
154 even, evening.
159 yeve, give; aventure, fortune.
161 bewté, handsomeness; be, been.
163 hym behoved, he needed; do awey, discard.
164 nothinge meete, unsuitable.
172 two bowe draught, two bow shots.
175 behilde, looked.
177 that2, what.
181 renges, belt.
182 gige, strap.
184 lever to, rather.
189 reproves hym seiden, insults said to him
190 prowesses, fine deeds.
191 netthir, nor.
192 cowde, could.
194 here, hear.
195 drough nygh, drew near.
199 yef, if; delyver powsté, normal condition.
200 nought, not; dispite, ridicule.
201 abide, delay; of goinge, returning; Certes, To be sure.
202 evell seide, evilly said.
203 for that, because.
204 abide but, delay unless.
207 In, After.
208 fill as, it happened that.
209 moone, moan.
210 weymentacion, lamentation.
212 eyre, air.
214 behoveth, needs.
215 cleped, called.
217 Ne knowe ye me nought, Do not you know me; were wonte to, used to.
219 iye, eye; foryeten, forgotten; be, with.
221 for that, because.
222 yef, if.
226 apere, appear.
228 hevieth, grieves.
229 saf, save.
230 leef, love.
231 Ne fro hens, Nor from here.
232 a clos, an enclosure; whereas, where.
235 ne noon, nor none.
238 do, done.
238-39 ne ye may not . . . me, can you not show me.
239 that be, [you] who are; moste fole, greatest fool.
241 lerned, taught.
244 as, for.
245 suffre, endure.
247 meveth, attempts; seche, seek.
248 grete, greet.
252 discounforte . . . befalle, do not be discouraged by what has befallen you.
253 whereas, where.
254 salue, greet; ne nought I shall, I shall not.
255 beteche, commend; kepe, protects.
258 releveth, relieved.
260 Walis, Wales.
261 saluynge, greeting.
262 of that, what.
263 douted, worry.
264 er, before; dide of, took off.
267 somdell, somewhat.
269 don of, taken off; pight, stuck.
270 hilde, held; enforce, rape.
271 therto, to do that; talent, desire; assaye, test.
275 deed, dead; for that, because.
276 lordship, realm.
277 sure, safely; saugh, saw; ascried, called out.
280 theras where;, either.
283 douted of, feared; and nevertheles, even though.
285 anoye, harm.
287 duerf, dwarf; countirfeted, ill-shaped.
288 dele, deal.
291 behof, need; me semeth, it seems to me; requere, fight.
294 forfete, do harm; ne, nor.
296 hente, took.
297 wey, path; playne, open.
298 withdrough, withdrew; agein, toward.
300 braste, burst; hym meved not, did not budge him.
301 upright, on his back.
302 brosed, bruised.
306 yeve, give; aventure, fortune.
307 ne were it, if not.
308 you to, to you; anoye, harm; countirfet, ill-shaped.
310 dispite, ridicule.
313 warisshen, correct.
318 volunté, desires.
320 salue er, greet before.
322 poynte, condition.
323 with, so.
327 brake, broke; layners, thongs.
328 membres, limbs.
331 raught, caught.
337 her thier.
MERLIN'S IMPRISONMENT; AND GAWAIN AND THE DWARF KNIGHT: NOTES
[Fols. 236v (line 15)-245v (line 33)]
The final section of the PM focuses on Merlin's departure from Arthurian society. After saying his personal farewells to Arthur and Blase, his two dearest friends, Merlin proceeds to his fateful rendezvous with Nimiane, knowing that it will result in his permanent imprisonment. Overlapping with this poignant account of Merlin's fated demise is the strange episode of the handsome knight who has been transformed into a dwarf by a woman to whom he denied his love. That enchantment is subsequently shifted from the knight to Gawain, who has gone in search of Merlin. It is while Gawain is still in this dwarfish form that he has his final encounter with Merlin, or rather with the voice of Merlin, for all Gawain is able to see is a misty cloud. After Merlin details his plight to Gawain, Gawain carries the story back to Arthur and the court. This episode also provides an explanation for Gawain's great courtesy toward women; for it is when Gawain inadvertently fails to accord proper respect to a woman that the enchantment is cast upon him that transforms him into a dwarf. This explanation for Gawain's kindness toward women is strikingly different from the one provided in Malory's Morte D'Arthur; there, the act for which Gawain must atone is the beheading of an innocent lady.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 669-78.
Estor (line 9), who is the son of King Ban, is also Lancelot's brother; the usual form of his name is Ector de Maris.
52 the Seven Artes. These are Seven Liberal Arts of the Trivium and the Quadrivium. The Trivium, the three verbal arts, are grammar, rhetoric, and logic (or dialectic); the Quadrivium, the four mathematical arts, are arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.
94 Feire swete frende . . . do all youre plesier. Here Nimiane indicates that she will spend much time with Merlin as his companion in his captivity, and her attitude toward Merlin is clearly benign. But this is not at all the case in Malory's Morte D'Arthur, where she desires to be rid of his unwanted attentions. See E. A. Robinson's Merlin (1917), which likewise presents an eroticized version of Merlin and Nimiane's happy love of each other in Broceliande.
Summary Based on EETS 36, pp. 682-89.
155 Trinité Sonday. Trinity Sunday is the Sunday following Pentecost; it usually falls on the first or second Sunday of June, depending on the date of Easter.
210 he herde a voice a litill upon the right side above. Gawain hears Merlin's voice coming out of a smoky-mist in the air above him, which is quite a different concept from that suggested in Malory, where Merlin is trapped in the ground beneath a huge rock. In Morte D'Arthur it is Bagdemagus, not Gawain, who hears Merlin's voice (Vinaver, p. 81).
318 Ye shull to me swere be the oth . . . er she salue you. Gawain's oath to never fail lady, maiden, or damsel serves the practical end of undoing the enchantment that has been placed upon him, but it also explains his great courtesy toward women. In Malory, the queen and the ladies of the court force Gawain to swear a similar oath, after he explained why he returned to court with a lady's head hanging from a rope around his neck (Vinaver, p. 67).
Summary Based upon the OF text found in BL Additional MS 10292, from fol. 216r, col. 3, I.14 to its end on fol. 216v, where the OF text concludes with the rubric:"Explicit lenserrement de merlin; / dieux tous a boine fin" [Here ends the imprisonment of Merlin; / May God bring us all to a good
[Merlin's Imprisonment; and Gawain and the Dwarf Knight]
[Summary. As Arthur's forces are returning through France, they are set upon by men
loyal to Claudas de la deserte, King Ban and King Bors's old enemy. Many men are killed
in the fighting before Claudas's men finally flee. Then Arthur's army proceeds on to Benoyk.
Meanwhile, a rich lord comes to Agravadain at the Castle of the Marasse and asks for his
daughter in marriage. When Agradavain's daughter privately tells her father she is carry
ing King Ban's child, he is angry, but he agrees to ask the rich lord to postpone the mar
riage for two years. Angered by being put off, the rich lord besieges the castle. Agradavain
successively fights the best knights in the besieging army, defeating them all; his daughter
has her baby, naming him Estor.
In Jerusalem, all that Merlin had predicted now comes about. The saracen ruler Flualis
is overcome by the Christians and his children are slain. He and his wife convert to Chris
tianity, being baptized and changing their names. They have four daughters who marry
four Christian princes and have fifty-four children. Those children prove to be good knights
who claim pagan lands for the Christian faith; some of them go to Logres to serve King
In Benoyk, tidings are brought to Arthur that King Leodegan of Tamelide has died.
Arthur immediately prepares to depart for Britain. He says his final farewells to King Ban
and King Bors, and after that time he never sees them again. Fols. 236v (line 15)-239v
Whan the Kynge Arthur was departed fro the two kynges that were brethern
that so moche honour hadde hym don, he traveiled so by his journeyes that he
com to the see and entred into shippes and passed over and landed at the port of
Dover. And [they] lepe on theire horse and ride forth to Logres, and ther thei
fonde the Quene Gonnore that hem resceived with grete joye. And [she] tolde
how hir fader was passed oute of this worlde, and he hir counforted in the beste
wise he myght. And after, the kynge departed his peple, and thei yode hom into
theire contreyes. And the Kynge Arthur aboode at Logres, and Sir Gawein and the
Knyghtes of the Rounde Table and Merlin sojourned ther longe tyme.
Than he hadde grete talent for to se Blase his maister for to telle hym of all that
was befallen seth he fro hym departed; and fro thens he wolde go to Nimiane his
love, for the terme drough faste on that was sette. And he wente to the kynge and
seide that hym behoved to go. And the kynge and the quene prayed hym right
entierly soone for to come agein, for he dide hem grete solas and counfort of his
companye, for the kynge hym loved feithfully, for in many a nede he hadde hym
socoured and holpen, for by hym and by his counseile was he kynge. And he
seide to hym right tenderly, "Dere frende Merlin, seth ye will go, I dar yow not
withholde agein youre wille and volunté. But I shall never be in hertes ese till that
I may se yow; and therfore, I praye you for the love of oure Lorde, haste you
soone to come agein."
"Sir," seide Merlin, "this is the laste tyme; and therfore, to God I you comaunde."
Whan the kynge herde how he seide it was the laste tyme that he sholde hym se,
he was sore abaisshed. And Merlin departed withoute moo wordes sore wepinge,
and travailed till he com to Blase his maister that grete chere hym made, and
asked how he hadde sped sethen; and he seide "Wele."
And than he tolde him alle thinges as thei were befalle of the Kynge Arthur and
of the geaunte that he hadde slayn; and of the bateile of the Romains; and how he
had slain the cat; and tolde hym also of the litill duerfe how the damesell hadde
hym brought to court, and how the kynge hadde made hym knyght. "But thus
moche," seide Merlin, "I shall telle yow; he is a grete gentilman and is no duerf
by nature; but thus hath a damesell hym myshapen whan he was thirteen yere of
age for that he wolde not graunte hir his love. And he was than the feirest creature
of the worlde; and for the sorowe that the damesell hadde, araied she hym in
soche wise that now is the lothliest creature and of moste dispite. And fro hens
nine wikes shall cesse the terme that the damesell sette, and [he] shall come into
the age that he ought for to be, for at that day shall he be twenty-two yere olde."
Whan Merlin hadde alle thinges rehersed and Blase hadde hem alle writen oon
after another in ordre, and by his boke have we the knowinge therof. And whan
Merlin hadde be ther eight dayes, he toke leve of Blase and seide, "This is the
laste tyme that I shall speke with yow eny more, for fro hensforth I shall sojourne
with my love, ne never shall I have power hir for to leve ne to come ne go."
Whan Blase undirstode Merlin, he was full of sorowe and seide, "Dere frende,
seth it is so that ye may not departe, cometh not ther." "Me behoveth for to go,"
quod Merlin, "for so have I made hir covenaunt; and also, I am so supprised with
hir love that I may me not withdrawen. And I have her taught and lerned all the
witte and connynge that she can, and yet shall she lerne more, for I may not hir
withsein ne it disturve."
Than departed Merlin from Blase, and in litill space come to his love that grete
joye of hym made, and he of hir, and dwelled togeder longe tyme. And ever she
enquered of his craftes, and he hir taught and lerned so moche that after he was
holden a fooll, and yet is. And she hem well undirstode and put hem in writinge as
she that was well expert in the Seven Artes.
Whan that he hadde hir taught all that she cowde aske, she bethought hir how
she myght hym withholde forever more. Than began she to glose Merlin more
than ever she hadde do even beforn and seide, "Sir, yet can I not oon thinge that I
wolde fain lerne, and therfore I pray you that ye wolde me enforme." And Merlin,
that well knewe her entent seid, "Madame, what thinge is that?" "Sir," quod she,
"I wolde fain lerne how I myght oon shet in a tour withouten walles or withoute
eny closure be enchauntement, so that never he sholden go oute withouten my
licence." And whan Merlin it herde, he bowed down the heed and began to sigh;
and [whan] she it aparceived, she asked whi he sighed.
"Madame," seide Merlin, "I shall telle yow. I knowe well what ye thinke, and
that ye will me withholde; and I am so supprised with love that me behoveth to do
youre plesier." And than she caste hir armes aboute his nekke and hym kiste, and
seide that wele he ought to be hirs seth that she was all his. "Ye knowe wele that
the grete love that I have to you hath made me forsake alle other for to have yow
in myn armes nyght and day; and ye be my thought and my desire, for withoute
yow have I neither joye ne welthe. In you have I sette all my hope, and I abide
noon other joye but of yow; and seth that I love you and also ye love me, is [it] not
right than that ye do my volunté and I yours?"
"Certes, yesse," seide Merlin. "Now sey than what ye will." "I will," quod she,
"ye teche me a place feire and covenable that I myght enclose by art in soche wise
that never myght be undon; and we shull be ther, ye and I, in joye and disporte
whan that yow liketh." "Madame," seide Merlin, "that shall I well do." "Sir,"
quod she, "I will not that ye it make, but lerne it to me that I may it do, and I shall
make it than more at my volunté." "Well," seide Merlin, "I will do youre plesire."
Than he began to devise the crafte unto hir, and she it wrote all that he seide;
and whan [he] hadde alle devised, the damesell hadde grete joye in herte. And he
hir loved more and more, and she shewed hym feirer chere than beforn. And so
thei sojourned togeder longe tyme till it fill on a day that thei wente thourgh the
foreste hande in hande, devisinge and disportinge, and this was in the Foreste of
Brochelonde, and fonde a bush that was feire and high of white hawthorne full of
floures; and ther thei satte in the shadowe. And Merlin leide his heed in the damesels
lappe, and she began to taste softly till he fill on slepe. And whan she felt that he
was on slepe, she aroos softly and made a cerne with hir wymple all aboute the
bussh and all aboute Merlin, and began hir enchauntementez soche as Merlin hadde
hir taught, made the cerne nine tymes and nine tymes hir enchauntementes. And
after that she wente and satte down by hym and leide his heed in hir lappe and
hilde hym ther till he dide awake. And than he loked aboute hym, and hym semed
he was in the feirest tour of the worlde and the moste stronge, and fonde hym
leide in the feirest place that ever he lay beforn.
And than he seide to the damesell, "Lady, thou hast me disceived but yef ye
will abide with me, for noon but ye may undo this enchauntementes." And she
seide, "Feire swete frende, I shall often tymes go oute, and ye shull have me in
youre armes, and I yow. And fro hensforth shull ye do all youre plesier." And she
hym hilde wele covenaunt, for fewe hours ther were of the nyght ne of the day but
she was with hym. Ne never after com Merlin oute of that fortresse that she hadde
hym in sette, but she wente in and oute whan she wolde. But now moste we reste
a while of Merlin and of his love and speke of the Kynge Arthur.
The same hour that Merlin was departed fro the Kynge Arthur and that he hadde
seide how it was the laste tyme that he sholde hym se, the kynge aboode sore
abaisshed and full pensif of that worde. And in soche maner he aboode after Mer
lin seven wikes and more. But whan he saugh that he com nought, he was full
pensif and full of hevynesse. And on a day, Sir Gawein asked what hym eiled.
"Certes, nevew," seide the kynge, "I thinke on that I trowe I have loste Merlin,
and that he will never more come to me; for now hath he abiden lenger than he
was wonte. And gretly I am dismayed of the worde that he seide whan he fro me
departed, for he seide this is the laste tyme; therfore I am in doute that he sey soth,
for he ne made never lesinge of nothinge that he seide. For so helpe me God, I
hadde lever lese the cité of Logres than hym. And therfore, fain wolde I wite yef
eny myght hym finde fer or nygh; and therfore I praye you as derely as ye me love
that ye hym seche till ye knowe the verité."
"Sir," seide Gawein, "I am all redy to do youre volunté, and anoon ye shull se
me meve fordwarde. And I suere to you be the oth that I made to you whan ye
made me knyght that I shall seche hym a yere and a day, but withynne that space
I may knowe trewe tidinges." In this same wise swor Sir Ewein and Segramor and
Agravain and Geheret and Gaheries and twenty-five of her felowes.
[Summary. The knights set out on the quest to find Merlin. In the meantime, the lady
and the dwarf-knight that Arthur had knighted have a series of adventures. The dwarf
defeats a knight in single combat and requires him to go to Arthur's court where he tells of
his defeat by the dwarf. Ewain and his companions encounter this same lady, who now
rides mourning for her love (who is called Avadain the Dwarf), for she believes he is
about to be killed by five knights. Ewain rides to help the dwarf-knight; when he gets
there, the dwarf has already defeated several of his foes. Ewain unhorses one of the at
tacking knights. When the dwarf-knight attempts to kill the knight, Ewain stays his hand,
telling him he has done enough. The defeated knight thanks Ewain for saving his life, and
yields his sword to the dwarf. Ewain and his companions ride on their way; and at the end
of the year, they return to court, not having found Merlin. The story now returns to Gawain.
Fol. 241r (line 3)-243r (line 22).]
Whan that Sir Gawein was departed fro his felowes, he rode forth thourgh the
foreste, he and five knyghtes of his companye; and ther thei departed and eche
wente his wey, for he wolde ride sooll by hymself. And in this wise thei departed
so that eche of hem toke his wey. And Sir Gawein rode so alone serchinge grete
part of the londe till it fill on a day that he rode pensif and hevy for that he myght
not finde Merlin. And in this stody he entred into a foreste; and he hadde riden
aboute two Walsh myle, ther com a damesell hym agein that rode on the feirest
palfrey of the worlde. And [it] was all blak, and the sadell and the stiropes were
all of golde, and the cloth of scarlet trailinge to the erthe, and the bridill of golde.
And she was clothed in white samyte and hir kirchires of silke and richely atired,
and com ridinge before Sir Gawein, as he was in this pensifnesse, that he dide her
And whan he was passed the damesell, she reyned hir bridill and turned the
heed of hir palfrey and seide, "Gawein, Gawein, hit is not trewe the renomee that
renneth of thee thourgh the reame of Logres; for it is seide of thee that thou art the
best knyght of the worlde; and of that thei sey [not the] trouthe. Also it is seide
that thou art the gentilest and the moste curteise knyght; but in that faileth the
renoon, for thou art the moste vileyn knyght that ever I mette in my lif, that in this
forest so fer fro peple haste me imet alone; and so grete felonye in the is roted that
thow deynest not me ones to salue ne to speke a worde; and knowe thow verily,
thow shalt it repente of that thow hast don in so moche that thou shalt wissh thou
haddest it not don for all the reame of Logres."
And whan Sir Gawein undirstode the damesell, he was sore ashamed and turned
agein hir his bridell of Gringalet, and seide all shamefast as ye shull heren.
"Damesell," quod Sir Gawein, "so help me God, I thought upon a thinge that I go
sechinge; and therfore I pray yow that ye foryeve it me that I have mysdon." "So
helpe me God," quod the damesell, "rather shalt thou abye it full dere, for inough
thou shalt have of shame and lothlynesse; and therfore, remembre another tyme
whan thou metest with eny lady or damesell that thou hir salue for curtesie. But I
sey not that it shall thee ever endure; ne of that thou goist sechinge, shalt thou
finde noon in the reame of Logres that thee can telle no tidinge, but in the Litill
Breteigne maist thou here som maner tidinges. And I will go now theras I have to
don; and thou shalt go seche that thou art moved fore. And the firste man that thou
metest with mote thou be like, till thou se me eftsones."
Than departed Sir Gawein and the damesell. But he hadde not riden fully half a
Walissh myle thourgh the foreste that he mette with the duerf knyght and the
damesell that on the even before were departed fro Sir Ewein and hadde sent the
foure knyghtes in Arthurs prison; and it was on Trinité Sonday aboute mydday.
And than he remembred hym on the damesell that he hadde mette before, and lefte
his pensifnesse and seide to the damesell, "God yeve you good day and moche
joye of hir companye." And the damesell and the duerf hym ansuerde that God
yeve hym good aventure. And so thei past a litill asonder, Sir Gawein on that oon
part and thei on that other. And whan thei were departed a litill thens, the duerf
knyght becom agein into his bewté as he hadde be at the first tyme, and was in the
age of twenty-two yere, right wele furnysshed and wonderly well shapen of large
stature; and therfore hym behoved to do awey his armes, for thei were to hym
nothinge meete. And whan the damesell saugh hir love come agein into so grete
bewté, she hadde so grete joye that no tonge myght it telle; and caste hir armes
aboute his nekke and hym kiste an hundred tymes. And [they] ride forth that oon
by that other, gladde and joyfull in grete solas, and thanked oure Lorde of the
honour that he hadde hem don, and praied oure Lorde to sende Sir Gawein good
aventure that hadde seide that God yeve hem joye. And so hadde he done, and
thus thei ride forth theire journey. But now shull we speke of Gawein.
Whan that Sir Gawein was passed the duerf knyght and the damesell wele a
two bowe draught, anoon he felte that the sleves of his hauberk passed fer of
lengthe over his hondes, and also the lengthe of his hauberk henge down benethe
his feet, and his legges were waxen so short that thei passed not the skirtes of the
sadill. And [he] behilde and saugh how his hosen of stiell resten in the stiropes,
and saugh how his shelde henge toward the erthe, and aperceyved wele that he
was become a duerf; and seide to hymself that it was that the damesell hadde hym
promysed. And therwith he wax so wroth that for a litill he hadde gon oute of his
witte; and rode forth so in that wrathe and in that anguyssh in the foreste till he
fonde a crosse and a ston therby. And thider he rode and alight upon the ston and
toke his stiropes and made hem shorter and his hosen of stiell and the renges of
his swerde and the gige of his shilde and the sleves of his hauberk with thonges of
lether upon his shuldres, and araied hym in the beste wise he myght, so wroth and
angry that he hadde lever to be deed than on lyve.
And after that he lepte up and rode forth his wey, and cursed the day and the
hour that ever he entred into that quest, for shamed he was and dishonoured. And
so hath he gon in this maner that never he lefte castell ne towne ne burgh but that
he asked tidinges of Merlin of alle the men and women that he mette; and many
oon he mette that grete shame and grete reproves hym seiden. And nevertheles he
dide many prowesses, for though he were a duerf and mysshapen, he hadde not
loste his strengthe netthir his hardinesse, and many a knyght he conquered. And
whan he hadde serched the reame of Logres up and down and saugh that he cowde
not finde Merlin, he thought to passe the see and go into the Litill Breteigne. And
so he dide, and serched it fer and nygh, but never cowde he here no tidinge of
Merlin. And so it drough nygh the terme that he hadde promysed to returne.
And than he seide to hymself, "Allas, what shall I now do, for the terme aproched
that I muste returne, by the oth that I have sworn to myn oncle to repeire. Returne
moste I nede, for elles sholde I be forsworne and untrewe, and that will I not in no
maner, for the oth was soche that yef I were in my delyver powsté, and in my
powsté am I nought, for I am foulé disfigured and a thinge of grete dispite and I
have nought of myself; and therfore may I wele abide of goinge to court. Certes,
now have I evell seide, for never will I be forsworne for to go ne to come, what
persone that ever I be; and for that I am not shet in prison, I may go at my wille.
And I may not abide but I be forsworne; and therfore me behoveth to go, for
untrouthe will I never do. But I pray to God to have of me mercy and pité, for my
body is shamefully and lothly arayed."
In these complayntes that Sir Gawein ther made, he returned bak for to come to
courte; and fill as he rode thourgh the Foreste of Brocheliande and wolde turne
for to come to the see. And ever as he rode he made grete moone; and as he made
this weymentacion, he herde a voice a litill upon the right side above. And he
turned that wey where he hadde herde the voice, and loked up and downe and
nothinge he saugh but as it hadde ben a smoke of myste in the eyre that myght not
passe oute. Than he herde a voice that seide, "Sir Gawein, disconfort you nothinge,
for all shall falle as it behoveth to falle."
Whan Sir Gawein herde the voyce that hadde hym cleped by his right name, he
ansuerde and seide, "Who is that, in the name of God, that to me doth speke?"
"How is that?" quod the voice. "Ne knowe ye me nought? Ye were wonte to
knowe me right wele, but so goth the worlde; and trewe is the proverbe that the
wise man seith, that 'Who is fer from his iye is soone foryeten'; and so fareth it be
me. For while that I haunted the courte and served the Kynge Arthur and his
barouns, I was wele beknowen of yow and of many other. And for that I have left
court, I am unknowen; and that ought I not to be, yef feith and trouthe regned
thourgh the worlde."
Whan Sir Gawein herde the voice thus speke, he thought anoon it was Merlin,
and ansuerde anoon. "Certes, it is trouthe I ought you wele for to knowe, for many
tyme have I herde youre speche; and therfore I pray you that ye will apere to me
so that I may yow se." "My lorde Sir Gawein," quod Merlin, "me shull ye never
se; and that hevieth me sore that I may do noon other. And whan ye be departed
fro hens, I shall never speke with yow no more, ne with noon other saf only with
my leef. For never man shall have power hider for to come for nothinge that may
befalle. Ne fro hens may I not come oute, ne never I shall come oute, for in all the
worlde is not so stronge a clos as in this whereas I am. And it is nother of iren ne
stiell ne tymbir ne of ston, but it is of the aire withoute eny othir thinge by
enchauntemente so stronge that it may never be undon while the worlde endureth.
Ne I may not come oute ne noon may entre, saf she that me here hath enclosed,
that bereth me companye whan hir liked, and goth hens whan hir liste."
"How is that, swete frende," quod Gawein, "that ye be in this maner withholden,
that noon may you delyver by no force that may be do, ne ye may not you shewe
to me, that be the wisest man of the worlde?" "Nay, but the moste fole," quod
Merlin, "for I wiste wele that sholde befalle; and I am soche a fole that I love
another better than myself, and have hir lerned so moche wherethourgh I am thus
beclosed and shette in prison, ne noon may me oute bringe." "Certes," seide Sir
Gawein, "that me hevieth sore, and so [it] will the Kynge Arthur myn uncle whan
he it knoweth, as he that maketh yow to be sought thourgh alle londes."
"Now he moste it suffre," quod Merlin, "for he shall me se never more, ne I
hym, for thus is it befalle. Ne never shall no man speke with me after you. Therfore
for nought meveth eny man me for to seche. For youreself, anoon as ye be turned
fro hens, ye shull never here me speke. And therfore, now returne and grete wele
the Kynge Arthur and my lady the quene and alle the barouns, and telle hem how
it is with me; and ye shull fynde the kynge at Cardoell in Wales. And whan ye
come thider, ye shull finde alle youre felowes ther that fro you were departed.
And discounforte yow not of that is yow befalle, for ye shall fynde the damesell
that so hath yow mysshapen in the foreste whereas ye hir mette. But foryete not
hir to salue, for it were folye." "Sir," seide Gawein, "ne nought I shall, yef God
will." "Now," quod Merlin, "I beteche yow to God that kepe the Kynge Arthur
and the reame of Logres as for the best peple of the worlde."
Than departed Sir Gawein gladde and sorowful - gladde for that Merlin hadde
hym assured to be releveth from his lothlynesse, and sory for that he hadde Merlin
thus loste. And [he] rode so forth till he com to the see, and passed over hastely
inough, and than toke his wey to ride to Cardoell in Walis. And [it] fill that he
mette the damesell that [he] hadde passed by withoute saluynge in the foreste.
And than he remembred of that Merlin hadde hym seide that he sholde not foryete
hir to salue whan he hir mette. And he hadde grete feer and douted lesse she
passed er he myght hir salewe; and [he] dide of his helme of his heed for to se hir
more clerly, and began to beholde before and behynde and on alle sides, till that
he com in the same place where he mette the damesell. And than he loked betwene
two busshes, for the forest was somdell depe and thikke, and saugh two knyghtes
that were armed at alle poyntes, saf of theire sheldes and helmes that thei hadde
don of, and hadde theire horse reyned to theire speres that were pight in the grounde,
and hilde a damesell betwene hem two and made semblaunce hir to enforce, and
yet therto hadde thei no talent, for the damesell made hem it for to do for to assaye
the will and the corage of Sir Gawein; and she made countenaunce like as thei
hadde constreyned hir be force.
And whan Sir Gawein saugh this, he wax wroth and rode thider gripinge his
spere, and seide to the knyghtes that thei were but deed for that thei dide force the
damesell withynne the lordship of Kynge Arthur. "For ye knowe wele," quod he,
"that thei sholde go sure." And whan the damesell hym saugh, she hym ascried
and seide, "Gawein, now shall it be sene yef ther be soche prowesse in you that ye
may me delyver from this shame." "Damesell," seide Gawein, "so God be my
socour, as ye shull have no shame theras I may you diffende, for owther I shall
dye or I shall you delyver." And whan the knyghtes this undirstode, thei hadde
therof grete disdeyne and dispite; and lepte on foote and laced theire helmes, for
yet thei douted of hym, and nevertheles the damesell hadde hem assured that of
hym sholde thei have noon harme, and hadde hem so enchaunted by hir art that no
man myght hem anoye; and therfore thei were the more sure at that tyme. And
whan theire helmes were laced, thei henge theire sheldes aboute theire nekkes and
seide to Sir Gawein, "So helpe me God, false duerf countirfeted, thou art but
deed; and nevertheless shame us semeth to dele with soche a wrecche as thou art."
And whan Sir Gawein herde hymself cleped duerf and so dispised, he hadde
grete sorowe in herte and seide, "As lothly a wrecche as I am, in evell tyme I am
come to youre behof. But lepe upon youre horse, for vilonye me semeth to requere
you on horsebak while ye be on foote." "Trustest so moche in thyself," seide the
knyghtes, "that thou wilt abide till we be horsed?" "I trust so moche in God,"
quod Gawein, "that whan ye departe fro me ye shull never forfete to lady ne
damesell in the londe of Kynge Arthur."
Than thei lepe to theire horse and hente theire speres and seide to Sir Gawein
that he was but deed; and drough hem to the wey that was moste playne and
withdrough that oon fro that other. And than thei bothe lete renne agein Sir Gawein
and he agein hem. And thei smote bothe upon his shelde so harde that theire speres
braste asonder, but thei hym meved not from his sadill. And he smote so that oon
that he bar hym to the erthe upright, and the spere brake in peces, and he rode over
hym that was fallen and unhorsed so that he brosed hym sore. Than he drough his
suerde and rode toward that other and wolde smyte hym upon the helme. And
than the damesell cried, "Inough, Sir Gawein, ne do no more!" "Damesell," seide
Gawein, "will ye that it so be?" And she seide, "Ye." "And I will suffre than for
youre sake, that God yeve you than good aventure and to alle the damesels of the
worlde. And wite ye well, ne were it for youre prayer, thei sholde be slayn; for
thei have don you to grete shame and anoye, and to me seide vilonye, that "countirfet
duerf" have me called. And yet therof thei seide soth, for I am the moste lothly
creature of dispite that is in the worlde, and in this foreste it me befill eight monethes
And whan the damesell and the knyghtes hym undirstode, thei begonne to laugh;
and than seide the damesell, "What wolde ye yeve hir that of that wolde warisshen?"
"Certes," seide Gawein, "yef it myght be that it were warisshed, I wolde yeve
mysilf firste and formest, and after, all that I myght raunsome in all the worlde."
"It shall not nede you yeve so moche," seide the damesell, "but ye shull make to
me an oth soche as I shall you devise." "Lady," seide Gawein, "I will do all youre
volunté." Quod she, "Ye shull to me swere be the oth that ye made to the Kynge
Arthur youre uncle that never ye shull faile lady ne maiden ne damesell, ne never
mete lady ne damesell but ye shull hir salue er she salue you, yef ye may." "Lady,"
quod Gawein, "this I graunte as I am trewe knyght." "And I take the oth in this
maner that yef ye breke youre oth that ye become into the same poynte that ye be
now." "Lady," quod he, "to this I assent, with that the quarell be trewe of hir that
of helpe me requereth, for untrouthe will I not do in no maner wise, nother for lif
ne for deth." "Thus I you graunte," quod the damesell, "for I will that ye be soche
as ye were before."
Anoon brake the layners that he had bounden up his hosen of stiell, for his
membres that were strecched oute and com agein anoon in his owne semblaunce.
And whan he felte that he was come agein into his power, he kneled before the
damesell and seide that he was hir knyght for ever more. And the damesell hym
thanked and raught hym up be the honde. Than toke the damesell leve of Sir Gawein
and departed, and hir two knyghtes with hir, and comaunded eche other to God.
And Sir Gawein abood there and lengthed his hauberke and appareiled his shelde
and his armes full richely, and lepte upon the Gringalet with his shelde aboute his
nekke and his spere in hande, and rode forth toward Cardoell so fro day to day till
that he com thider at the terme devised. And the same day that Sir Ewein and
Segramor and her felowes were comen; and eche of hem hadde seide his aventure
of that was hem befallen in [this quest].
[Here the Middle English text breaks off.]
[Summary. Everyone marvels at Gawain's adventures, but Arthur grieves for Merlin.
While the court is celebrating Gawain's return, a handsome young man enters accompa
nied by a damsel. He informs the king he is the dwarf that Arthur had knighted earlier,
and he explains how he came to regain his real shape. Arthur invites this handsome knight,
whose name is Evadem, to join the Round Table.
The story turns to events in Benoye, where King Ban and King Bors are living joyfully
with their wives. King Ban's wife gives birth to a son who is baptised Gallead and is
surnamed Lancelot; King Bors's wife gives birth to a son named Lyonel and a year later
to a son named Bohort. These three sons will achieve great renown in the land of Logres
later on. But now the fortunes of King Ban and King Bors take a turn for the worse, for
King Bors is stricken by a terrible sickness, and their old enemy Claudas de la deserte
begins to mount a new military campaign against the land of Benoye. King Ban has too
few people to repel Claudas's attack; and when King Ban is betrayed by his own sen
eschal, the Castle of Trebes falls to his enemy, as the story will later describe.]
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