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The Parlement of the Thre Ages


1 And hastens (forks) swiftly to her den and makes herself ready to rest

2 I saw a hart with a head of antlers, a large rack, indeed

3 The second branches (ryalls) extended splendidly from the beam

4 And he finished off with a set of six troches (clusters of points) on the one side and five on the other

5 But there followed him a soar (four-year-old buck) that served him very attentively

6 And at the trunk of a birch tree made my hunting dog lie down

7 Set the stock of my crossbow firmly in position and took aim at the hart

8 And looked cautiously about and sniffed the air eagerly

9 And the soar paused and advanced cautiously and stared all about

10 And he stumbled and bellowed and dashed through the thicket

11 As if everything that lived in the wood had been thrown into confusion

12 And loosed my leash and let him (the hound) cast about for the scent

13 Where he (the stag) had crept into a crag and pressed himself down to the earth

14 Of fertilizing with manure and marl, and repairing of houses

15 And now their debate I shall make known -- understand it if you like

16 And made laments about lovers and piteously sighed

17 Until I resolutely in chain mail have jousted with honor

18 And if you've caught your horse you care not for the cart-load (i.e., Youth uses his horse for pleasure, not as a draught animal)

19 And keep your wits, man, for you're well nigh destroying yourself

20 To the wetlands with their beating rods to flush out the birds

21 Lanners (female) and lannerets (male hawks) swoop down upon ducks (OE ende)

22 And whoops (calls) them (the hawks) [by swinging the lure] to the quarry (the heron) that has been crushed to death

23 He quarries the hawks (feeds them on the quarry) and gluts them, and whips the rods loudly to direct them (to it)

24 Draws up the leather braces (cowers), in order to hold the hood tight over the falcon's head

25 Muddied from pursuing ducks that had been driven down into the water

26 Then I fertilized with muck and marl and refurbished my estates

27 Made me crooked, bent me low, deformed my hands

28 Never shrink from this reflection [or] foreshadowing [of death] in my mirror

29 To make amends for what Emenidus had done amiss

30 When they were scattered and dispersed and divided asunder

31 And Widukund (a Saxon chief) their accursed king would not submit

32 But when death comes doughtiness (prowess, valor) dares not abide

33 To prepare and produce gold for the great Alexander when it pleased him


T=Thornton MS (copy text for this edition); W=the fragmentary Ware MS; G=Gollancz; O=Offord's Early English Text Society edition; T-P=Turville-Petre's 1989 edition.

1ff. As in Wynnere, the opening description of a May morning in the woods creates a sense of transience. See Peck and Waldron.

4-5 The season for hunting deer in medieval England almost certainly began in May, as it did in France (O). Hunting was often a metaphor for the pursuit of love; it also was a conventional prologue to dream visions. A much less common tradition associates the hunters mentioned in Jeremiah 16:16 with prelates who hunt men to make them holy. Of special note here is the fact that the narrator is clearly a poacher (see Peck [1972], Scattergood [1983], and Waldron [1972]). Simply having a bow and arrows or a dog in the forest made a person liable to prosecution; the normal punishment for poaching was a fine or imprisonment.

9-10 The flowers mentioned here, though conventionally associated with Spring, may imply more. Boccaccio, Lydgate, and Skelton all associate the primrose with shortness of life. The periwinkle was identified with death; the piliole, or woodland mint, was commended for its medicinal qualities in medieval herbals; and the daisy was a symbol of faithful love of Christ in scriptural exegesis. For Lampe (1973), the flowers balance fleshly excess with its renunciation, thus preparing for the debate.

13-14 Both the cuckoo and the wood-pigeon (cowschote) were traditionally associated with Spring; the cuckoo, however, was thought to be unnatural in its rejection of all love, while the cushat, being a dove, was thought to be too lusty. Lampe (1973) connects the cuckoo with Medill Elde, the wood-pidgeon with Youthe. On the contending thrushes, see Wynnere, line 37.

17ff. Like the flowers and birds, animals mentioned may carry metaphorical overtones. The fox was a symbol of fraudulence; the polecat (filmarte) emblemized viciousness; the hare, lust. In some traditions, the stag and its soar were exemplars of virtuous conduct; in others, the stag stood for longevity of life.

17 gouen. A difficult word. I follow O in deriving it from a form of gaw, "to gape or stare at." It could also be a form of "give," in the sense of "devote oneself to." T-P emends to gon. G glosses "betook themselves."

19-20 Compare Wynnere, line 14.

21ff. Descriptions of deer hunts are common in the alliterative poems: making the hunter a poacher is not (see Peck, Scattergood [1983], and Whitney). This description has been often praised for its technical precision and for its use of many realistic details. In the following notes, I rely mainly on O's explanation of technical terms, which generally are derived from medieval hunting treatises.

26 unburneschede. Deer burnish their antlers against trees to rub off the light skin that coats them. Burnished antlers have reached their final stage of growth for the season.
beme. The main horn, from which the antlers spring.

27 feetur. A growing antler or tine; as thi fote suggests their massiveness.
forfrayed. "Fraying" is the raggedy effect of the shedding skin during the burnishing process. Forfrayed means polished clean.

28-30 The tine nearest the head is the "antler," the next above it is the "royal," the third is the "surroyal." At the end of each tine are the troches (line 67), the points by which the head (size and age) of the hart is reckoned.

31 assommet. A hart was "summed" when its horns were fully formed for that season.

34 sowre. A soar was a four-year-old male deer. Older stags often train younger male deer to act as their "squires," watching for danger and providing a decoy during the chase. See George Turbervile's Book of Hunting, p. 238: "A Bucke is called the first yeare a Fawne, the second a Pricket, the third a Sorell, the fourth a Sore, the fifth a Bucke of the first head, and the sixth a Bucke" (as cited by O, pp. 37-38).

39 berselett. A dog used specifically for hunting with a bow.

44 tylere. The main beam of the cross-bow; it had a groove to guide the arrow, and a mechanism for holding and releasing the cord (O).

53 hallede to the hokes. "Drew back the catches (hooks)," thus releasing the bowstring. See The Master of Game, ed. William A. and F. Baillie-Grohman (1909; rpt. New York: AMS, 1974), the appendix on "Arms of the Chase," for types of crossbows used in hunting during the fourteenth century.

66-99 For other accounts of the brittling of a deer, see Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 1323-64, and Sir Tristrem, lines 452-515.

68 keuduart. MED derives this from French culvert, "treacherous"; compare kiluarde at line 516. O suggests "rascal," both in its normal sense and in the technical sense of a young deer, usually not yet fit to hunt or eat.
tonge. The tongue was a great delicacy reserved for the leader of the chase.

69 owte. Omitted in T. Supplied by G, O, and T-P.

70 I slitte hym at the assaye. T: sisilte; G: scliste. I follow O's emendation. The assaye refers to a part of the breast where the deer's flesh is tested.

74 To "make the arber" was to remove the first stomach, empty it, fill it with blood and fat from the paunch, and then sew it up.

80 corbyns bone. A small piece of gristle thrown to crows or ravens for good luck. O (p. 41) cites The Boke of St. Albans on this practice:


Than take owt the shulderis and slytteth a noon
The baly to the syde from the corbyn bone
That is corbyns fee: at the deeth he will be.

84 pawnche. T: pawche.

94 fostere of the fee. A forester who held his office by legal inheritance.

104ff. The "thre thro men" the dreamer sees are the Three Ages. The division of life into stages ultimately goes back to Aristotle (Rhetoric, 2.12-14 and Generation of the Animals, 10.18), for whom middle age was the pivotal phase of development, youth leading to it, old age declining from it. The number of ages, however, varied from as many as ten to as few as two. For most writers there were either seven or four ages; in the Middle Ages, four was far more popular than three.
   No matter the division, each age was always characterized by typical qualities. Youth was a time of extravagance and general irresponsibility, when one loved hunting and was inclined to lust (according to Horace and Cicero, both authorities in the Middle Ages); Middle Age's conservatism, ambitions, and avarice are well documented in medieval sermons and popular lyrics of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as are Old Age's loquacity, quarrelsomeness, anger, and envy. Other, less common traditions, one should note, stressed the wisdom of Old Age, and the reverence it should be shown.
   In scriptural commentary, the division of life into three ages generally served to stress how brief life is on earth; consequently, these writers emphasized the need to prepare to face God. Some authors connected the three ages with the three watches which Luke (12:37-40) says the faithful keep for Christ's coming, others with the ages mentioned in the Parable of the Sowers (Matt. 13:8; see below note to lines 133ff.). For a general introduction, see Burrow (1988) and Coffman (1934), Lampe (1973), Rowland (1975), Turville-Petre (1977). Further information about Youthe, Medill Elde, and Elde will be given at the appropriate points in the notes.

105 moted. T: moten.

106 ane hande-while. T-P follows G and emends to a litell while.

109ff. The depiction of Youthe here and in his speeches has been praised for its vitality; a number of readers have noted that although youth's excesses are uniformly condemned in moralistic tradition, Youthe seems entirely approved of in the poem.

120ff. Alliterative poets often ornamented their descriptions of clothing with lists of gems; for the suggestion that Youthe's costume reflects the actual fashions of the later fourteenth century, see Lewis (1968).

130 Medieval saddles were generally made of wood and often richly painted (O).

132 cropoure. G emends to trapoure to maintain alliteration; T-P agrees. O calls the emendation unnecessary.

133ff. The ages of Youthe, Medill Elde, and Elde have received much comment; medieval tradition usually put thirty closer to middle age than to youth. Many sources designate old age as between forty and sixty. Rowland (1975) argues that the ages of the debaters, thirty, sixty, and one hundred respectively, reflects scriptural commentary on the Parable of the Sowers (Matt. 13:8), in which these ages are typically assigned to the stages of life and concomitant degrees of spiritual perfection. For Peck they mark the extremity of each age to keep us "mindful of the inevitability of each one's passing to the next degree" (1972, p. 338).

135 semelyeste. T: semely.

136ff. Medill Elde has not generally been well thought of by modern readers. For Moran (1978), however, he represents the economic activities of the aristocracy in the aftermath of the Black Death: as they did, Medill Elde farms out desmense lands, is concerned about the collecting of rents, and is very involved in the many particulars of managing his estate. To Moran, Medill Elde's greedy preoccupation, more than what he actually does, is the object of the poem's satire.

137 Medill Elde wears workaday clothes.

147-48 stiewardes. T: stiewarde. A steward ran his lord's estate. A storrour is a store-keeper, such as Chaucer's Reeve (see The Canterbury Tales I.597-99). A countour is the lord's auditor who presided over the manorial court. He was sometimes assisted by clerkes.

158 In Piers Plowman B.5.190, Avarice is similarly described.

166 I. Omitted in T.

173 seyde. T: seyden.

180 with onere. T omits with. O's emendation. G emends to hafe ones.

184 es. Omitted in T. G follows T.

190-93 See Wynnere, lines 288-93.

209-45 Like the brittling of the deer, this account of hawking is fully described and technically precise; knowledge of both were perquisites of nobility. Again I follow O's explanation of technical terms.

212 Hawks were hooded when they were not in flight.

214 Bells of different tones were attached to the back of each leg of the falcon to enable them to be heard even when they could not be seen.

218 Sowssches. A term from falconry, meaning "to drive into the air."
serven: to drive the quarry out of the covert for the hawk.

223 With hoo and howghe. Traditional cries to rouse game from cover.

224 brynges hym to sege. Since the heron, being a larger bird, may sustain several strikes from the falcon before it is downed, it is as if it were under siege. But T-P's gloss on the phrase, namely to "drive him to the ground," offers the better sense. As he notes, "The `siege' is `the station of a heron on the watch for prey' (OED, 2c). The action of these lines is described by George Turbervile, The Booke of Faulconrie or Hauking (1574, p. 164): `As soone as the Hearon leaueth the siege, off with hir [the falcon's] hood, and let hir flee: and if shee climb to the Hearon, and beate hir so that she bring hir downe, runne in apase to reskewe hir [the falcon], thrusting the Hearons bil into the grownd and breaking hir winges and legges" (p. 79). The danger is that the heron, on the ground, might harm the hawk with its pointed beak.

226 The transcription of the poem in the Ware MS begins here.

228 For the bitt. W: For wiz the butte. T-P: For with the bitt.

231 The heron's wings were twisted to prevent them from injuring the hawk.

232 maryo. The marrow was traditionally the hawk's reward. Here the falconer serves his bird from his glove. It is not likely the poet would have used another word, even though this gives his line an aa/xx alliterative pattern. G emends maryo to pyth.

233 quopes. T: quotes; W: whopis. The whoop was a signal for the falcon to come into her quarry.

234 quyrres. W: wharris. To quarry means to let the hawk feed on the quarry.

quotes. O glosses as "poss. gluts," citing OED sv quate, quet. T-P cites MED, which lists the verb under both houten, "shout to," and quaten, "make calm." The latter sense is preferable.

235 Cheres thaym. T: cheresche hym. Although MED records an instance from 1415 of cherish meaning "to coax an animal" (5b), the faultiness of the grammar supports emending to cheres thaym. W: He cheris zem.

ecchekkes. The "check" is any unfit bird, such as a dove or crow, which the hawk attacks instead of its intended prey.

238 vertwells. These "varvels," on which the owner's name was often engraved, were little silver rings attached to the "jess," a short strap of leather attached to each of the falcon's legs.

239 luyre. The bait for recalling hawks.

245 Bedagged. Garments were often "dagged" in the fourteenth century, which meant their edges were slashed into long pointed pendants (O).

252 thay. T: thaire.

254 coundythes. The "condut" was a part-song, usually with three voices. Like the carol, it was frequently accompanied by dancing.

260 thou haste long sparede. W: zou sparid; T-P and G follow W.

261 rothelede. W: ratlid. O notes that the word in T possibly could mean "counsel, advise."

263 It is possible the word "full" preceding "yore" has been dropped from T. W reads ful yore; G, O, and T-P follow W.

280 ploughe-londes. Approximately 120 acres (O).

296 Hafe passed the pase. On death as a pass from which there is no turning back see Dante, Inferno, Canto 1, lines 26-27: "lo passo / che non lascib già mai persona viva."

300 firste. T-P emends to arste.

300ff. The purpose and appropriateness of Elde's disquisition on the Nine Worthy has been much discussed (e.g., Peck (1972), Turville-Petre (1977, 1979), Kiser (1987)). The Worthy first appear in Jacques de Longuyon's Les Voeux du Paon (c. 1312), though it is likely that there were earlier accounts of them which have not survived. In the Voeux, which was popular in England - there even remain a few lines from an alliterative translation of it, apart from the use Barbour made of it in his Bruce (1376) - the poet abruptly interrupts his description of a battle between Alexander and Clarus (see below, note to 339ff.) to say that not even the Nine could compare with Porrus, Clarus' son. The chivalric prowess and glory of Hector, Alexander, and Julius Caesar, Judah Maccabee, Joshua, and David, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey de Bouillon are then described. This grouping of three pagan, Jewish, and Christian heroes became well known throughout Europe. In Middle English alliterative verse, the Worthy are mentioned in The Siege of Jerusalem, Golagros and Gawain, and, most notably, in Morte Arthure (lines 3250-3455). In some versions, the royal character of the Nine is emphasized. Moran (1978) suggests that aristocratic interest in idealized images of past royalty (common in literature from the North and West Midlands during the second half of the fourteenth century), might explain the Worthy's appearance in Parlement. Turville-Petre (1979), however, shows that the Worthy were commonly used to exemplify the vanity of all things and the inevitability of death (see Morte Arthure, lines 3452-55).

300 For this account of Hector, besides the Voeux (lines 7484-94), the poet probably drew on Guido delle Colonne's Historia Destructionis Troiae; there is an alliterative Middle English poem, The Destruction of Troy, in which Hector's death is described as well (lines 8643ff.).

308 nynetene and nyne. T: xix and ix; most editors follow W's nynety & ix. and emend to nynety. In the Voeux, Hector is said to kill nineteen kings and many other people (lines 7484-94).

314-15 The source for Achilles' death is probably Dictys Cretensis' Ephemeridos belli Troiani (3.29); see note to line 331.

319 doun. T-P emends to plat.

322 serely. W: surely; T-P: sorely; G: sarrely.

325 Pantasilia the quene. G supplies [prowde]; followed by T-P.

331 Dittes and Dares. Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygius both wrote accounts of the Trojan War, which they said were eye-witness reports but which are in fact entirely fictional. They became the chief authorities on the Trojan War in the Middle Ages; Homer was known only second-hand at best.

demeden. T and T-P: demedon; W: demyn. G's emendation, followed by O.

332 For Alexander's exploits in defeating the Indian king Porrus and then in capturing Babylon, the poet drew on Longuyon's Voeux, which mentions the poisoning of Alexander in Babylon, but departs considerably from the descriptions one finds in the French poem. The poet has incorporated other material from sources unknown to us. Alexander was the subject of two Middle English alliterative poems, Kyng Alisaunder and The Wars of Alexander, as well as a prose life that translates the same source as the poet of The Wars used.

334 Ercules boundes. Hercules was thought to have erected two pillars at the straits of Gibraltar, the extreme western verge of the world, where he journeyed to obtain the cattle of Geryon. Alexander's voyage to the Pillars and to the Earthly Paradise (see next note) was well known. See M. M. Lascelles, "Alexander and the Earthly Paradise in Mediaeval English Writings," Medium Aevum 5 (1936), 31-47, 79-104, 173-88.

335-36 Enoch and Elias were often pictured as rapt before they died to the Earthly Paradise, where they would remain until the coming of the Antichrist, whom they were supposed to challenge. Dante also mentions Elijah (Elias) in close conjunction with the Hercules' pillars in Inferno 26.

338 Jazon the Grewe. T: Iazon the Iewe; W: Iosue the Iewe. W was attempting to make sense of an undoubted confusion that was also in T's exemplar; for flese of golde, W reads slevis of golde. I accept G's emendation to Grewe, "Greek."

339-59 The poet is referring to Alexander's battle against Gadifer of Larris, a leader of the people of Gadres (perhaps Gaza). During his defense of the city, Gadifer was unhorsed and killed by Emenidus. Alexander then joined the battle with his host, which included Emenidus, Sir Filot, and the other knights named in lines 349-52. They were met by Cassamus, Gadifer's brother, who, though an old man, greatly desired to avenge Gadifer's death. Alexander instead took council with Cassamus and persuaded him to make peace with Emenidus. Cassamus told Alexander that Gadifer had two sons, young Gadifer and Betis, whom Clarus, wicked king of Ind, wanted to dispossess; Clarus also wanted to marry Gadifer's daughter Fesonas, much against her will, and had laid siege to Epheson, where all Gadifer's children were. Alexander promised to battle Carrus to make good Emenidus' slaying of Gadifer. There is a Middle English romance of Cassamus.

340 Gadyfere . . . Gaderayns. T and T-P: Godfraye . . . Goderayns.

356 hade Fozome. W and T-P: hade his fomen.

360-93 During the seige of Epheson, Clarus' son Porrus was captured but treated with courtesy. One day, while walking in a courtyard, Porrus saw a peacock, which he slew and had prepared for a feast. During the feast, Cassamus proposed that each man make a vow to the peacock; Porrus' vow was to take Emenidus' horse in battle. Baudrain vowed to take Alexander's sword from his own hand, amid all his men. This he does, but is killed by Floridas, one of Alexander's knights. Cassamus vows that if he met Clarus dismounted in battle, he would set him on his horse again, for Porrus' sake, but then slay him. This Cassamus did, which led to his own death at Porrus' hands. The Indians were heartened by this, but ultimately fled before Alexander. Porrus was captured again and chastized by Alexander for his vow; nevertheless, because of his courage in battle, Porrus was treated as a hero. He was allowed to marry Fesonas, who had vowed to marry no one except the man Alexander should choose. Baudrain married Edias, and Betis, Fesonas' brother, married Idores at the same time.

360 Facron is the river that flowed through Fozayne (Epheson), line 356.

369 abaschede. W: basshed; T-P: baschede.

371 kynges. T-P emends to beryns.

389 bolde Bawderayne of Baderose, i.e., the bold ruler of Bauderis from Bauderis.

394-404 Alexander's adventures in Babylon are very briefly touched on. His romance with Queen Candace is described in Kyng Alisaunder (lines 6648ff.; 7616ff.) and The Wars of Alexander (lines 5057ff.).

396 Candace. T and T-P: Candore. W: Cadace.

397 assayllede. W: saylid; T-P: sayllede.

407 Bruyte. According to medieval legend, Aeneas' grandson Brutus founded Britain. His name eventually came to stand for any chronicle of British history. Here he seems to be considered an author of one of these chronicles. The poet, as O notes, seems to stress Caesar's connections with Britain to a greater extent than the passages in the Voeux do.

408-11 That Caesar built the Tower of London is a long-standing tradition, as is the idea that he built Dover Castle.

414-15 Romayne. A province of Rome (?Gaul). (O). Here the poet seems to be following Longuyon, where, as T-P notes (p. 88), "Caesar `sousmist as Ronmains le roy Cassibilant', Voeux 7507." The poet seems unaware that Cassivelaunus was, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, a British king.

416 gete hym. G and O emend to gete it. T-P supports T, glossing gete hym as "conquered them." W reads zem.

426ff. The poet seems to conflate, if not confuse, the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 3-4) and the passage through the Red Sea (Ex. 14-16). The stories were linked, even in the Bible. Three French texts of the fifteenth century also make Joshua cross the Red Sea (Turville-Petre, 1979).

442 Drightynes. T and T-P: Drightyn. G's emendation, followed by O.

443ff. The story of Goliath is in 1 Sam. 17; that of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba in 2 Sam. 11. A similar account of David and Goliath appears in Morte Arthure (lines 3416-19); David's conduct with Uriah and Bathsheba is much more starkly presented here than in the Voeux.

454ff. The story of Judah Maccabee is in 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha.

457 kynge. W and T-P: knyght.

460 W: That ful low han be laid of ful long tyme; G and T-P follow W.

464ff. The account of Arthur in the Voeux is very short; it only mentions his battle with the giant Roystone (Ruston), described at lines 481ff., and the encounter on St. Michael's Mount. The poet has added allusions to the Siege Perilous, the names of Arthur's knights, and the battle with Mordred.

470ff. Sege Perilous. The Siege Perilous, the seat Merlin made for Arthur. At the start of the Quest for the Holy Grail, letters appear mysteriously inscribed in it that announce that it is reserved for Sir Galahad. In the Morte Arthure (lines 3250-3455), Arthur dreams he sees a lady turning a wheel on which there is a silver chair. Six kings have fallen from that chair; two others are climbing toward it. The lady lifts Arthur himself to the seat, gives him gifts, but then turns the wheel, which breaks Arthur's back. The Nine Worthy thus are subject to fortune and the loss of all goods; soon after, Arthur learns of Mordred's betrayal.

476ff. All the knights named were well known in Arthurian legend.

481 Roystone. T: Boystone; W: Rusten. In the Voeux the name is Ruiston. Analogues of this story are in the alliterative Morte Arthure and the prose Merlin.

482 blyot. A bleaunt is a long embroidered garment. As O observes, the account here is noteworthy in that the giant wants the beards to make a mantle for his bride.

486 oure kyng. G supplies athell between these words; T-P follows.

497ff. Assuming Wawayne is not a scribal alteration for the sake of alliteration - Turville-Petre (1979) thinks, on the evidence of W's Ewan, that Ywain is meant - only here does Arthur bid Gawain throw his sword into the lake; in other versions, it is Lancelot Gyrflet (Mort Artu) or Sir Bedivere (Morte Arthure and Malory).

502 Wawayne swith. O, following W, emends to Wawayne [start] swith.

513ff. The account of Godfrey of Bouillon agrees closely with that in the Voeux; only the last line, mentioning Godfrey's death, is new.

520ff. The account of Charlemagne in the Voeux is only nine lines: it says Charles conquered Spain, defeated the Saxons, and reestablished Christianity in Jerusalem. In the Parlement, Elde lists the twelve peers, and speaks at greater length of the campaign against the Saxons; he gives a sketchy account of the story of Ferumbras (compare the Middle English translation, Sir Ferumbras), and refers to Ganelon's treason and Roland's battle at Roncesvalles, the battle at Saragossa, the siege of Narbonne, and Charlemagne's death at Saint-Denis. All of these events are chronicled in the various French and English romances that deal with Charlemagne's career. The most famous of these is the Chanson de Roland.

521 doussypers. Originally the twelve peers ("douze pers," "twelve equals") bound to Charlemagne, the term came to designate any illustrious person. The persons mentioned here are Roland, Reiner of Gennes (?Genoa), Oliver (Reiner's son), Aubrey of Burgogne, Ogier the Dane, Naimes of Bavaria, Archbishop Turpin, Tierri the Angevin, Samson, Berard de Mondisdier, Guy of Burgundy, and the four sons of Aymon. "There seems to have been no constant tradition as to the names of the peers, and the list differs almost from text to text" (O, p. 63).

523 T-P follows W for sake of meter: Olyuer and Aubrye and Ogere the Deannyes.

529 knyghtes, as in G, O, T-P, and W. T: kynges.

533 Salamadyne. As with Nioles and Maundevyle in lines 539-40, these names have not survived in any other source, although T-P notes that after Charlemagne went to Paderborn, he met the Governor of Barcelona, Suleiman Ibn Al-Araby, with whom he made an alliance.

534 T omits cité.

541-47 The story of Sir Ferumbras was the most popular of the Charlemagne romances. T-P gives the following summary: "The giant Saracen, Ferumbras, defeated by Oliver, agrees to be christened. Oliver and other knights are captured and taken over the river Flagot to Mautrible [in Spain], then moved the next day to Aigremont [a Saracen stronghold], where they are imprisoned by Balan, father of Ferumbras. Balan's daughter, Floripas, takes pity on them and rescues them, and hands over the Holy Relics that Ferumbras had taken from Jerusalem. Charlemagne arrives at Aigremont and captures Balan, who refuses to be baptized and so is killed by Ogier. Floripas is baptized, and Charlemagne returns to St Denis with the Holy Relics" (p. 93). A lively version of this narrative appears in Middle English as "The Sultan of Babylon," Three Charlemagne Romances, ed. Alan Lupack (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1990), pp. 1-103.

546 Balame. T-P follows W with Marchel. So too in line 548. In lines 558 and 569 he changes Marchill to Balame. His note explains: "The poet has reversed the names of Balan of the Ferumbras story and Marsile from the Chanson de Roland. The scribe, Robert Thornton, who had already transcribed two Charlemagne romances, realized the poet's error and corrected the mistake, but the alliterative patterns and the readings of ms. W reveal what the poet wrote. See Turville-Petre (1974:43n)" (p. 94).

552 cristened, as in T and O. W: halowd; G and T-P: fologhed.

555 naylede, as in T and O. T-P: pynnede; G: put. W inverts word order to read: was on ze rode naylid.

558-70 These events are chronicled in the Chanson de Roland. Merchill is Marsile, Saracen king of Spain.

570 T omits hym.

571-77 The siege of Narbonne is described in a cycle of eight "chansons de geste."

577 To have and. T: To kepe it and. T-P emends: To have it and.

586 In popular medieval tradition, Aristotle and Virgil were both considered masters of all worldly knowing; many legends of their fabulous powers (including their command of alchemy) grew up around them.

588 T-P follows the metrically preferable syntax of W to read: The grete Alexander to graythe golde when hym lyste.

593 blaunchere. T: plaunchere. Literally, a whitener of metals. Compounds of arsenic were used to whiten metals so that they could be transmuted.

594 In the legend referred to, Virgil himself consulted the oracular head he had made when he was about to go on a journey. It said all would be well if Virgil took care of his head. He thought this meant the talking head he had made; on his journey, however, he rode with his head uncovered and died of sunstroke.

verrayle. T: vernayle, or vervayle. W: veryall. I have adopted G's emendation.

600 As O notes, these books probably are the apocryphal Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, which were attributed to Solomon in the Middle Ages, rather than Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

608 graythed. T: graythen. Galyan appears to be Merlyn's girlfriend, perhaps the Lady of the Lake (?) or an equivalent to Malory's Nyneve.

kepe. W reads gete, which O and T-P follow.

610 yitt. Omitted in W; so too in T-P.

614ff. All the lovers mentioned were famous in the Middle Ages. Although no Middle English romance corresponds to the French Amadas et Ydoine, the two lovers are frequently referred to. There are Middle English romances of Ipomadon, Generides, Eglamour, and Tristram and Iseult.

617 bothe. T: boghte. G's emendation. In favor of boghte one might note that although Death does not ordinarily "buy" people, the words are associated; in Lydgate's Chronicles of Troy (1430) a character says he will buy honor with his death. Boghte can also play on the theological meaning of "redemption."

618 Ipomadon of Apulia marries "La fière" of Calabria; she was called "the haughty one" because she vowed she would only marry the bravest knight in the world.

627 Candace, as in G and O. W: Candore, and so in T-P.

628 passed, as in O and T-P. T: pasten. W and G: passid.

629 thay bothen. W and T-P: thay all.

640 T, W, and T-P omit the first es.

642 "For there is no redemption in Hell" became part of the Office of the Dead.

656 The horn that awakens the dreamer certainly is a hunting horn; in the Middle Ages, Death also was thought to have a summoning trumpet (see Rosemary Woolf, The English Religious Lyric [Oxford: Clarendon, 1968], pp. 323, 354); trumpet blasts also were expected to announce the Day of Judgment. See Peck and Turville-Petre, 1977.


1 monethe] monethes

31 of fyve] of v fyve

48 myntid] mytid

69 owte] om.

70 slitte] sisilte

84 pawnche] pawche

105 moted] moten

135 semelyeste] semely

147 stiewardes] stiewarde

166 I] om.

173 seyde] seyden

180 with] om.

184 es] om.

233 quopes] quotes

235 Cheres thaym] cheresche hym

252 How thay] how thaire

331 demeden] and demedon

338 Grewe] Iewe

340 Gadyfere] godfraye Gaderayns] goderayns

396 Candace] Candore

416 gete it] gete hym

442 Drightynes] drightyn

446 stong] stongen

481 Roystone] Boystone

502 start] om.

511 la Faye] lafaye

529 knyghte] kynges

534 cite] om.

570 hym] om.

577 have] kepe it

580 nyne] ix nyne

593 blaunchere] plaunchere

594 verrayle] vernayle or vervayle

608 graythed] Graythen

617 now] and now bothe] boughte

618 his] hir

627 Candace] Candore

628 passed] pasten

640 es] om.







































































































































In the monethe of Maye when mirthes bene fele,
And the sesone of somere when softe bene the wedres,
Als I went to the wodde my werdes to dreghe,
Into the schawes myselfe a schotte me to gete
At ane hert or ane hynde, happen as it myghte;
And as Dryghtyn the day drove frome the heven,
Als I habade one a banke be a bryme syde,
There the gryse was grene, growen with floures,
The primrose, the pervynke, and piliole the riche,
The dewe appon dayses donkede full faire,
Burgons and blossoms and braunches full swete,
And the mery mystes full myldely gane falle;
The cukkowe, the cowschote, kene were thay bothen,
And the throstills full throly threpen in the bankes,
And iche foule in that frythe faynere than other
That the derke was done and the daye lightenede.
Hertys and hyndes one hillys thay gouen,
The foxe and the filmarte thay flede to the erthe;
The hare hurkles by hawes and harde thedir dryves,
And ferkes faste to hir fourme and fatills hir to sitt.1
Als I stode in that stede one stalkynge I thoghte:
Bothe my body and my bowe I buskede with leves,
And turnede towardes a tree and tariede there a while.
And als I lokede to a launde a littill me besyde,
I seghe ane hert with ane hede, ane heghe for the nones:2
Alle unburneschede was the beme, full borely the mydle,
With iche feetur as thi fote, forfrayed in the greves,
With auntlers one aythere syde egheliche longe.

The ryalls full richely raughten frome the myddes,3
With surryals full semely appon sydes twayne;
And he assommet and sett of six and of fyve,4
And therto borely and brode and of body grete,
And a coloppe for a kynge, cache hym who myghte.
Bot there sewet hym a sorwe that servet hym full yerne,5
That woke and warned hym when the wynde faylede,
That none so sleghe in his slepe with sleghte scholde hym dere,
And went the wayes hym byfore when any wothe tyde.
My lyame than full lightly lete I doun falle,
And to the bole of a birche my berselett I cowchide;6
I waitted wiesly the wynde by waggynge of leves,
Stalkede full stilly no stikkes to breke,
And crepite to a crabtre and coverede me therundere.
Then I bende up my bowe and bownede me to schote,
Tighte up my tylere and taysede at the hert.7
Bot the sowre that hym sewet sett up the nese,
And wayttede wittyly abowte and wyndide full yerne.8
Then I moste stonde als I stode and stirre no fote ferrere,
For had I myntid or movede or made any synys,
Alle my layke hade bene loste that I hade longe wayttede.
Bot gnattes gretely me grevede and gnewen myn eghne;
And he stotayde and stelkett and starede full brode,9
Bot at the laste he loutted doun and laughte till his mete,
And I hallede to the hokes and the hert smote.
And happenyd that I hitt hym byhynde the lefte scholdire,
That the blode braste owte appon bothe the sydes;
And he balkede and brayed and bruschede thurgh the greves,10
As alle had hurlede one ane hepe that in the holte longede.11
And sone the sowre that hym sewet resorte to his feris,
And thay, forfrayede of his fare, to the fellys thay hyen,
And I hyede to my hounde and hent hym up sone,
And louset my lyame and lete hym umbycaste.12
The breris and the brakans were blody byronnen;
And he assentis to that sewte and seches hym aftire
There he was crepyde into a krage and crouschede to the erthe.13
Dede als a dore-nayle doun was he fallen;
And I hym hent by the hede and heryett hym uttire,
Turned his troches and tachede thaym into the erthe,
Kest up that keuduart and kutt of his tonge,
Brayde owte his bewells my bereselet to fede.
And I slitte hym at the assaye to see how me semyde,
And he was floreschede full faire of two fyngere brede.
I chese to the chawylls chefe to begynn,
And ritte doun at a rase reghte to the tayle,
And than the herbere anone aftir I makede;
I raughte the righte legge byfore, ritt it theraftir.
And so fro legge to legge I lepe thaym aboute;
And the felle fro the fete fayre I departede,
And flewe it doun with my fiste faste to the rigge.
I tighte owte my trenchore and toke of the scholdirs,
Cuttede corbyns bone and keste it awaye.
I slitte hym full sleghely and slyppede in my fyngere,
Lesse the poynte scholde perche the pawnche or the guttys;
I soughte owte my sewet and semblete it togedire,
And pullede oute the pawnche and putt it in an hole.
I grippede owte the guttes and graythede thaym besyde,
And than the nombles anone name I thereaftire;
Rent up fro the rygge reghte to the myddis,
And then the fourches full fayre I fonge fro the sydes,
And chynede hym chefely and choppede of the nekke,
And the hede and the haulse homelyde in sondree.
The fete of the fourche I feste thurgh the sydis,
And hevede all into ane hole and hidde it with ferne,
With hethe and with horemosse hilde it about,
That no fostere of the fee scholde fynde it theraftir;
Hid the hornes and the hede in ane hologhe oke,
That no hunte scholde it hent ne have it in sighte.
I foundede faste therefro for ferde to be wryghede,
And sett me oute one a syde to see how it chevede
To wayte it frome wylde swyne that wyse bene of nesse.
And als I satte in my sette the sone was so warme,
And I for slepeles was slome and slomerde a while.
And there me dremed in that dowte a full dreghe swevynn,
And whate I seghe in my saule the sothe I schall telle.

I seghe thre thro men threpden full yerne,
And moted of myche-whate and maden thaym full tale.
And ye will, ledys, me listen ane hande-while,
I schall reken thaire araye redely for sothe,
And to yowe neven thaire names naytly thereaftire.
The firste was a ferse freke, fayrere than thies othire,
A bolde beryn one a blonke bownne for to ryde,
A hathelle on ane heghe horse with hauke appon hande.
He was balghe in the breste and brode in the scholdirs,
His axles and his armes were iliche longe,
And in the medill als a mayden menskfully schapen,
Longe legges and large, and lele for to schewe.
He streghte hym in his sterapis and stode uprightes;
He ne hade no hode ne no hatte bot his here one,
A chaplet one his chefelere chosen for the nones,
Raylede alle with rede rose, richeste of floures,
With trayfoyles and trewloves of full triede perles,
With a chefe charebocle chosen in the myddes.
He was gerede alle in grene, alle with golde bywevede,
Enbroddirde alle with besanttes and beralles full riche;
His colere with calsydoynnes clustrede full thikke,
With many dyamandes full dere dighte one his sleves.
The semys with saphirs sett were full many,
With emeraudes and amatistes appon iche syde,
With full riche rubyes raylede by the hemmes;
The price of that perry were worthe powndes full many.
His sadill was of sykamoure that he satt inn,
His bridell alle of brente golde with silke brayden raynes,
His cropoure was of tartaryne that traylede to the erthe;
And he throly was threven of thritty yere of elde,
And therto yonge and yape, and Youthe was his name,
And the semelyeste segge that I seghe ever.

The seconde segge in his sete satte at his ese,
A renke alle in rosette that rowmly was schapyn,
In a golyone of graye girde in the myddes,
And iche bagge in his bosome bettir than othere.
One his golde and his gude gretly he mousede,
His renttes and his reches rekened he full ofte,
Of mukkyng, of marlelyng, and mendynge of howses,14
Of benes of his bondemen, of benefetis many,
Of presanttes of polayle, of pufilis als;
Of purches of ploughe-londes, of parkes full faire,
Of profettis of his pasturs, that his purse mendis;
Of stiewardes, of storrours, stirkes to bye,
Of clerkes, of countours, his courtes to holde;
And alle his witt in this werlde was one his wele one.
Hym semyde for to see to of sexty yere elde,
And therfore men in his marche Medill Elde hym callede.

The thirde was a laythe lede lenyde one his syde,
A beryne bownn alle in blake with bedis in his hande,
Croked and courbede, encrampeschett for elde;
Alle disfygured was his face and fadit his hewe,
His berde and browes were blanchede full whitte,
And the hare one his hede hewede of the same.
He was ballede and blynde and alle babirlippede,
Totheles and tenefull, I tell yowe for sothe;
And ever he momelide and ment and mercy he askede,
And cried kenely one Criste and his crede sayde,
With sawtries full sere tymes to sayntes in heven;
Envyous and angrye, and Elde was his name.
I helde hym be my hopynge a hundrethe yeris of age,
And bot his cruche and his couche he carede for no more.
Now hafe I rekkende yow theire araye redely the sothe,
And also namede yow thaire names naytly thereaftire,
And now thaire carpynge I sall kythe - knowe it if yowe liste.15

Now this gome alle in grene so gayly attyrede,
This hathelle one this heghe horse with hauke one his fiste,
He was yonge and yape and yernynge to armes,
And pleynede hym one paramours and peteuosely syghede.16
He sett hym up in his sadill and seyde theis wordes:
"My lady, my leman, that I hafe luffede ever,
My wele and my wirchip in werlde where thou duellys,
My playstere of paramours, my lady with pappis full swete,
Alle my hope and my hele, myn herte es thyn ownn!
I byhete the a heste and heghely I avowe,
There schall no hode ne no hatt one my hede sitt
Till that I joyntly with a gesserante justede hafe with onere,17
And done dedis for thi love, doghety in armes."

Bot then this gome alle in graye greved with this wordes,
And sayde, "Felowe, be my faythe thou fonnes full yerne,
For alle es fantome and foly that thou with faris.
Where es the londe and the lythe that thou arte lorde over?
For alle thy ryalle araye renttis hase thou none,
Ne for thi pompe and thi pride penyes bot fewe,
For alle thi golde and thi gude gloes one thi clothes,
And thou hafe caughte thi kaple thou cares for no fothire.18
Bye the stirkes with thi stede and stalles thaym make,
Thi brydell of brent golde wolde bullokes the gete,
The pryce of thi perrye wolde purches the londes,
And wonne, wy, in thi witt, for wele neghe thou spilles."19

Than the gome alle in grene greved full sore,
And sayd, "Sir, be my soule, thi counsell es feble.
Bot thi golde and thi gude thou hase no god ells;
For, be the Lorde and the laye that I leve inne,
And by the Gode that me gaffe goste and soule,
Me were levere one this launde lengen a while,
Stoken in my stele-wede one my stede bakke,
Harde haspede in my helme and in my here-wedys,
With a grym grownden glayfe graythely in myn honde,
And see a kene knyghte come and cowpe with myselven,
That I myghte halde that I hafe highte and heghely avowede,
And parfourme my profers and proven my strengthes,
Than alle the golde and the gude that thoue gatt ever,
Than alle the londe and the lythe that thoue arte lorde over;
And ryde to a revere redily thereaftir,
With haukes full hawtayne that heghe willen flye,
And when the fewlis bene founden fawkoneres hyenn
To lache oute thaire lessches and lowsen thaym sone,
And keppyn of thaire caprons and casten fro honde;
And than the hawteste in haste hyghes to the towre,
With theire bellys so brighte blethely thay ryngen,
And there they hoven appon heghte as it were heven angelles.
Then the fawkoners full fersely to floodes thay hyen,
To the revere with thaire roddes to rere up the fewles,20
Sowssches thaym full serely to serven thaire hawkes.
Than tercelettes full tayttely telys doun striken;
Laners and lanerettis lightten to thes endes,21
Metyn with the maulerdes and many doun striken;
Fawkons thay founden freely to lighte,
With hoo and howghe to the heron thay hitten hym full ofte,
Buffetyn hym, betyn hym, and brynges hym to sege,
And saylen hym full serely and sesyn hym thereaftire.
Then fawkoners full fersely founden tham aftire,
To helpen thaire hawkes thay hyen thaym full yerne,
For the bitt of his bill bitterly he strikes.
They knelyn doun one theire knees and krepyn full lowe,
Wynnen to his wynges and wrythen thaym togedire,
Brosten the bones and brekyn thaym in sondire,
Puttis owte with a penn the maryo one his glove,
And quopes thaym to the querrye that quelled hym to the dethe.22
He quyrres thaym and quotes thaym, quyppeys full lowde,23
Cheres thaym full chefely ecchekkes to leve,
Than henttis thaym one honde and hodes thaym theraftire,
Cowples up theire cowers thaire caprons to holde,24
Lowppes in thaire lesses thorowe vertwells of silvere.
Than he laches to his luyre and lokes to his horse,
And lepis upe one the lefte syde als the laghe askes.
Portours full pristly putten upe the fowlis,
And taryen for theire tercelettis that tenyn thaym full ofte,
For some chosen to the echecheke thoghe some chefe bettire.
Spanyells full spedily thay spryngen abowte,
Bedagged for dowkynge when digges bene enewede;25
And than kayre to the courte that I come fro,
With ladys full lovely to lappyn in myn armes,
And clyp thaym and kysse thaym and comforthe myn hert,
And than with damesels dere to daunsen in thaire chambirs,
Riche romance to rede and rekken the sothe
Of kempes and of conquerours, of kynges full noblee,
How thay wirchipe and welthe wanne in thaire lyves;
With renkes in ryotte to revelle in haulle,
With coundythes and carolles and compaynyes sere,
And chese me to the chesse that chefe es of gamnes:
And this es life for to lede while I schalle lyfe here.
And thou with wandrynge and woo schalte wake for thi gudes,
And be thou dolven and dede thi dole schall be schorte,
And he that thou leste luffes schall layke hym therewith,
And spend that thou haste longe sparede, the devyll spede hym els!"

Than this renke alle in rosett rothelede thies wordes:
He sayde, "Thryfte and thou have threpid this thirtene wynter;
I seghe wele samples bene sothe that sayde bene yore:
Fole es that with foles delys; flyte we no lengare."

Than this beryn alle in blake bownnes hym to speke,
And sayde, "Sirres, by my soule, sottes bene ye bothe!
Bot will ye hendely me herken ane hande-while,
And I schalle stynte your stryffe and stillen your threpe.
I sett ensample bi myselfe and sekis it no forthire:
While I was yonge in my youthe and yape of my dedys,
I was als everrous in armes as outher of youreselven,
And as styffe in a stourre one my stede bake,
And as gaye in my gere als any gome ells,
And as lelly byluffede with ladyse and maydens.
My likame was lovely, es lothe nowe to schewe,
And as myche wirchip I wane, iwis, as ye bothen.
And aftir irkede me with this and ese was me levere,
Als man in his medill elde his makande wolde have.
Than I mukkede and marlede and made up my howses,26
And purcheste me ploughe-londes and pastures full noble,
Gatte gude and golde full gaynly to honde,
Reches and renttes were ryfe to myselven.
Bot Elde undireyode me are I laste wiste,
And alle disfegurede my face and fadide my hewe;
Bothe my browes and my berde blawnchede full whitte,
And when he sotted my syghte than sowed myn hert,
Croked me, cowrbed me, encrampeschet myn hondes,27
That I ne may hefe tham to my hede ne noghte helpe myselven,
Ne stale stonden one my fete bot I my staffe have.
Makes youre mirrours bi me, men, bi youre trouthe:
This schadowe in my schewere schunte ye no while.28
And now es dethe at my dore that I drede moste;
I ne wot wiche day ne when ne whate tyme he comes,
Ne whedirwardes, ne whare, ne whatte to do aftire.
Bot many modyere than I, men one this molde,
Hafe passed the pase that I schall passe sone,
And I schall neven yow the names of nyne of the beste
That ever wy in this werlde wiste appon erthe,
That were conquerours full kene and kiddeste of other.

The firste was Sir Ector and aldeste of tyme,
When Troygens of Troye were tried to fighte
With Menylawse the mody kynge and men out of Grece,
That thaire cité assegede and sayled it full yerne,
For Elayne his ownn quene that thereinn was halden,
That Paresche the proude knyghte paramours lovede.
Sir Ectore was everous als the storye telles,
And als clerkes in the cronycle cownten the sothe:
Nowmbron thaym to nynetene and nyne mo by tale
Of kynges with crounes he killede with his handes,
And full fele other folke, als ferly were ellis.
Then Achilles his adversarye undide with his werkes,
With wyles and no wirchipe woundede hym to dethe
Als he tentid to a tulke that he tuke of were.
And he was slayne for that slaughte sleghely theraftir
With the wyles of a woman as he had wroghte byfore.
Than Menylawse the mody kynge hade myrthe at his hert,
That Ectore hys enymy siche auntoure hade fallen,
And with the Gregeis of Grece he girde over the walles,
The prowde paleys dide he pulle doun to the erthe,
That was rialeste of araye and rycheste undir the heven.
And then the Trogens of Troye teneden full sore,
And semblen thaym full serely and sadly thay foughten.
Bot the lure at the laste lighte appon Troye,
For there Sir Priamus the prynce put was to dethe,
And Pantasilia the quene paste hym byfore.
Sir Troylus, a trewe knyghte that tristyly hade foghten,
Neptolemus, a noble knyghte at nede that wolde noghte fayle,
Palamedes, a prise knyghte and preved in armes,
Ulixes and Ercules, that full everrous were bothe,
And other fele of that ferde fared of the same,
As Dittes and Dares demeden togedir.

Aftir this Sir Alysaunder alle the worlde wanne,
Bothe the see and the sonde and the sadde erthe,
The iles of the Oryent to Ercules boundes -
Ther Ely and Ennoke ever hafe bene sythen,
And to the come of Antecriste unclosede be thay never -
And conquered Calcas knyghtly theraftire,
Ther jentille Jazon the Grewe wane the flese of golde.
Then grathede he hym to Gadres the gates full righte,
And there Sir Gadyfere the gude the Gaderayns assemblet,
And rode oute full ryally to rescowe the praye;
And than Emenyduse hym mete and made hym full tame,
And girdes Gadyfere to the grounde, gronande full sore,
And there that doughty was dede and mekill dole makede.
Then Alixander the Emperour, that athell kynge hymselven,
Arayed hym for to ryde with the renkes that he hade:
Ther was the mody Meneduse, a mane of Artage -
He was Duke of that douth and a dussypere -
Sir Filot and Sir Florydase, full ferse men of armes,
Sir Clyton and Sir Caulus, knyghtis full noble,
And Sir Garsyene the gaye, a gude man of armes,
And Sir Lyncamoure thaym ledys with a lighte will.
And than Sir Cassamus thaym kepide, and the kyng prayede
To fare into Fesome his frendis to helpe;
For one Carrus the kynge was comen owte of Inde,
And hade Fozome affrayede and Fozayne asegede
For Dame Fozonase the faire that he of lufe bysoughte.
The kynge agreed hym to goo and graythed hym sone,
In mendys of Amenyduse that he hade mysdone.29
Then ferde he towarde Facron and by the flode abydes,
And there he tighte up his tentis and taried there a while.
There knyghtis full kenely caughten theire leve
To fare into Fozayne Dame Fozonase to see,
And Idores and Edease all bydene;
And there Sir Porus and his prynces to the poo avowede.
Was never speche byfore spoken sped bettir aftir,
For als thay demden to doo thay deden full even.
For there Sir Porus the prynce into the prese thrynges,
And bare the batelle one bake and abaschede thaym swythe.
And than the bolde Bawderayne bowes to the kyng,
And brayde owte the brighte brande owt of the kynges hande,
And Florydase full freschely foundes hym aftir,
And hent the helme of his hede and the halse crakede.
Than Sir Gadefere the gude gripis his axe,
And into the Indyans ofte auntirs hym sone,
And thaire stiffe standerte to stikkes he hewes.
And than Sir Cassamus the kene Carrus releves:
When he was fallen appon fote he fet hym his stede.
And aftyr that Sir Cassamus Sir Carus he drepitt,
And for that poynte Sir Porus perset hym to dethe.
And than the Indyans ofte uttire tham droghen,
And fledden faste of the felde and Alexandere suede.
When thay were skaterede and skayled and skyftede in sondere,30
Alyxandere oure athell kyng ames hym to lenge,
And fares into Fozayne festes to make,
And weddis wy unto wy that wilnede togedire.
Sir Porus the pryce knyghte moste praysed of othere
Fonge Fozonase to fere, and fayne were thay bothe;
The bolde Bawderayne of Baderose, Sir Cassayle hymselven,
Bele Edyas the faire birde bade he no nother;
And Sir Betys the beryne the beste of his tyme,
Idores his awnn lufe aughte he hymselven;
Then iche lede hade the love that he hade longe yernede.
Sir Alixander oure Emperour ames hym to ryde,
And bewes towardes Babyloyne with the beryns that were levede,
Bycause of Dame Candace that comforthed hym moste;
And that cité he bysegede and assayllede it aftire,
While hym the gatis were yete and yolden the keyes.
And there that pereles prynce was puysonede to dede,
Thare he was dede of a drynke, as dole es to here,
That the curssede Cassander in a cowpe hym broghte.
He conquered with conqueste kyngdomes twelve,
And dalte thaym to his dussypers when he the dethe tholede;
And thus the worthieste of this werlde went to his ende.

Thane Sir Sezere hymselven, that Julyus was hatten,
Alle Inglande he aughte at his awnn will,
When the Bruyte in his booke Bretayne it callede.
The trewe toure of Londone in his tyme he makede,
And craftely the condithe he compaste thereaftire,
And then he droghe hym to Dovire and duellyde there a while,
And closede ther a castelle with cornells full heghe,
Warnestorede it full wiesely, als witnesses the sothe,
For there es hony in that holde holden sythen his tyme.
Than rode he into Romayne and rawnsede it sone,
And Cassabalount the kynge conquerede thereaftire.
Then graythed he hym into Grece and gete hym belyve;
The semely cité Alexaunder seside he theraftire;
Affrike and Arraby and Egipt the noble,
Surry and Sessoyne sessede he togedir,
With alle the iles of the see appon iche a syde.
Thies thre were paynymes full priste and passed alle othire.

Of thre Jewes full gentill jugge we aftir,
In the Olde Testament as the storye tellis,
In a booke of the Bible that breves of kynges,
And renkes that rede kane Regum it callen.
The firste was gentill Josue that was a Jewe noble,
Was heryet for his holynes into hevenriche.
When Pharaoo had flayede the folkes of Israelle,
Thay ranne into the Rede See for radde of hymselven,
And than Josue the Jewe Jhesu he prayed
That the peple myghte passe unpereschede that tyme.
And than the see sett up appon sydes twayne,
In manere of a mode walle that made were with hondes,
And thay soughten over the see sownnde alle togedir.
And Pharaoo full fersely folowede thaym aftire,
And efte Josue the Jewe Jhesus he prayede,
And the see sattillede agayne and sanke thaym thereinn -
A soppe for the Sathanas; unsele have theire bones!
And aftire Josue the Jewe full gentilly hym bere,
And conquerede kynges and kyngdomes twelve,
And was a conqueroure full kene and moste kyd in his tyme.

Than David the doughty thurghe Drightynes sonde
Was caughte from kepyng of schepe and a kyng made.
The grete grym Golyas he to grounde broghte
And sloughe hym with his slynge and with no sleghte ells.
The stone thurghe his stele helme stong into his brayne,
And he was dede of that dynt - the Devyll hafe that reche!
And than was David full dere to Drightyn hymselven,
And was a prophete of pryse and praysed full ofte.
Bot yit greved he his God gretely theraftire,
For Urye his awnn knyghte in aventure he wysede
There he was dede at that dede, as dole es to here;
For Bersabee his awnn birde was alle that bale rerede.

The gentill Judas Machabee was a Jewe kene,
And thereto worthy in were and wyse of his dedis.
Antiochus and Appolyne aythere he drepide,
And Nychanore, another kynge, full naytly thereaftire,
And was a conquerour kydde and knawen with the beste.
Thies thre were Jewes full joly and justers full noble,
That full loughe have bene layde sythen gane full longe tyme:
Of siche doughety doers looke what es worthen.
Of the thre Cristen to carpe couthely thereaftir,
That were conquerours full kene and kyngdomes wonnen,
Areste was Sir Arthure and eldeste of tyme,
For alle Inglande he aughte at his awnn will,
And was kynge of this kythe and the crowne hade.
His courte was at Carlele comonly holden,
With renkes full ryalle of his Rownnde Table,
That Merlyn with his maystries made in his tyme,
And sett the Sege Perilous so semely one highte,
There no segge scholde sitt bot hym scholde schame tyde,
Owthir dethe withinn the thirde daye demed to hymselven,
Bot Sir Galade the gude that the gree wanne.
There was Sir Launcelot de Lake full lusty in armes,
And Sir Gawayne the gude that never gome harmede,
Sir Askanore, Sir Ewayne, Sir Errake Fytz Lake,
And Sir Kay the kene and kyd of his dedis,
Sir Percevalle de Galeys that preved had bene ofte,
Mordrede and Bedwere, men of mekyll myghte,
And othere fele of that ferde, folke of the beste.
Then Roystone the riche kyng, full rakill of his werkes,
He made a blyot to his bride of the berdes of kynges,
And aughtilde Sir Arthures berde one scholde be;
Bot Arthure oure athell kynge another he thynkes,
And faughte with hym in the felde till he was fey worthen.
And than Sir Arthure oure kyng ames hym to ryde;
Uppon Sayn Michaells Mounte mervaylles he wroghte,
There a dragone he dreped that drede was full sore.
And than he sayled over the see into sere londes,
Whils alle the beryns of Bretayne bewede hym to fote.
Gascoyne and Gyane gatt he thereaftir,
And conquered kyngdomes and contrees full fele.
Than ames he into Inglonde into his awnn kythe;
The gates towardes Glassthenbery full graythely he rydes.
And ther Sir Mordrede hym mett by a more syde,
And faughte with hym in the felde to alle were fey worthen,
Bot Arthur oure athell kyng and Wawayne his knyghte.
And when the felde was flowen and fey bot thaymselven,
Than Arthure Sir Wawayne athes by his trouthe
That he swiftely his swerde scholde swynge in the mere,
And whatt selcouthes he see the sothe scholde he telle.
And Sir Wawayne swith to the swerde and swange it in the mere,
And ane hande by the hiltys hastely it grippes,
And brawndeschet that brighte swerde and bere it awaye.
And Wawayne wondres of this werke, and wendes bylyve
To his lorde there he hym lefte, and lokes abowte,
And he ne wiste in alle this werlde where he was bycomen.
And then he hyghes hym in haste and hedis to the mere,
And seghe a bote from the banke and beryns thereinn.
Thereinn was Sir Arthure and othire of his ferys,
And also Morgn la Faye that myche couthe of sleghte.
And there ayther segge seghe othir laste, for sawe he hym no more.

Sir Godfraye de Bolenn siche grace of God hade
That alle Romanye he rode and rawnnsunte it sone;
The Amorelle of Antyoche aftire he drepit,
That was called Corborant, kiluarde of dedis;
And aftir he was callede kynge and the crownn hade
Of Jerasalem and of the Jewes gentill togedir,
And with the wirchipe of this werlde he went to his ende.

Than was Sir Cherlemayne chosen chefe kynge of Fraunce,
With his doghty doussypers, to do als hym lykede;
Sir Rowlande the riche and Duke Raynere of Jene,
Olyver and Aubrye and Ogere Deauneys,
And Sir Naymes at the nede that never wolde fayle,
Turpyn and Terry, two full tryed lordes,
And Sir Sampsone hymselfe of the Mounte Ryalle,
Sir Berarde de Moundres, a bolde beryn in armes,
And gud Sir Gy de Burgoyne, full gracyous of dedis;
The katur fitz Emowntez were kydde knyghtes alle,
And other moo than I may myne or any man elles.
And then Sir Cherlles the chefe ches for to ryde,
And paste towardes Polborne to proven his strenghte;
Salamadyne the Sowdane he sloghe with his handis,
And that cité he bysegede and saylede it full ofte,
While hym his yernynge was yett and the gates opynede;
And Witthyne thaire waryed kynge wolde nott abyde,31
Bot soghte into Sessoyne socoure hym to gete;
And Cherlemayne oure chefe kynge cheses into the burgh,
And Dame Nioles anone he name to hymselven,
And maried hir to Maundevyle that scho hade myche lovede;
And spedd hym into hethyn Spayne spedely thereaftire,
And fittilled hym by Flagott faire for to loge.
There Olyver the everous aunterde hymselven,
And faughte with Sir Ferambrace and fonge hym one were;
And than they fologhed hym in a fonte and Florence hym callede.
And than moved he hym to Mawltryple Sir Balame to seche,
And that Emperour at Egremorte aftir he takes,
And wolde hafe made Sir Balame a man of oure faythe,
And garte feche forthe a founte by-fore-with his eghne,
And he dispysede it and spitte and spournede it to the erthe,
And one swyftely with a swerde swapped of his hede.
And Dame Floripe the faire was cristened thereaftire,
And kende thaym to the corownne that Criste had one hede,
And the nayles anone nayttly thereaftire,
When he with passyoun and pyne was naylede one the rode.
And than those relikes so riche redely he takes,
And at Sayne Denys he thaym dide, and duellyd there forever.
And than bodworde unto Merchill full boldly he sendys,
And bade hym Cristyne bycome and one Criste leve,
Or he scholde bette doun his borowes and brenn hym thereinn;
And garte Genyone goo that erande that grevede thaym alle.
Thane rode he to Rowncyvale, that rewed hym aftire,
There Sir Rowlande the ryche Duke refte was his lyfe,
And Olyver his awnn fere that ay had bene trewe,
And Sir Turpyn the trewe that full triste was at nede,
And full fele othir folke, als ferly were elles.
Then suede he the Sarazenes seven yere and more,
And the Sowdane at Saragose full sothely he fyndis,
And there he bett downn the burghe and Sir Merchill he tuke,
And that daye he dide hym to the dethe als he had wele servede.
Bot by than his wyes were wery and woundede full many,
And he fared into France to fongen thaire riste,
And neghede towarde Nerbone, that noyede thaym full sore.
And that cité he asseggede appone sere halfves,
While hym the gates were yette and yolden the keyes,
And Emorye made Emperour even at that tyme,
To have and to holde it to hym and to his ayers.
And then thay ferden into Fraunce to fongen thaire ese,
And at Sayn Denys he dyede at his dayes tyme.
Now hafe I nevened yow the names of nyne of the beste
That ever were in this werlde wiste appon erthe,
And the doghtyeste of dedis in thaire dayes tyme,
Bot doghetynes when dede comes ne dare noghte habyde.32

Of wyghes that were wyseste will ye now here,
And I schall schortly yow schewe and schutt me ful sone.
Arestotle he was arste in Alexander tyme,
And was a fyne philozophire and a fynour noble,
The grete Alexander to graythe and gete golde when hym liste,33
And multiplye metalles with mercurye watirs,
And with his ewe ardaunt and arsneke pouders,
With salpetir and sal-jeme and siche many othire,
And menge his metalles and make fyne silvere,
And was a blaunchere of the beste thurgh blaste of his fyre.
Then Virgill thurgh his vertus verrayle he maket
Bodyes of brighte brasse full boldely to speke,
To telle whate betydde had and whate betyde scholde,
When Dioclesyane was dighte to be dere Emperour;
Of Rome and of Romanye the rygalté he hade.

Than Sir Salomon hymselfe sett hym by hym one;
His bookes in the Bible bothe bene togedirs.
That one of wisdome and of witt wondirfully teches;
His sampills and his sawes bene sett in the tother:
And he was the wyseste in witt that ever wonnede in erthe,
And his techynges will bene trowede whills the werlde standes,
Bothe with kynges and knyghtis and kaysers therinn.

Merlyn was a mervayllous man and made many thynges,
And naymely nygromancye nayttede he ofte,
And graythed Galyan a boure to kepe hyr therin,
That no wy scholde hir wielde ne wynne from hymselven.
Theis were the wyseste in the worlde of witt that ever yitt were,
Bot dethe wondes for no witt to wende were hym lykes.

Now of the prowdeste in presse that paramoures loveden
I schalle titly yow telle and tary yow no lengere.
Amadase and Edoyne in erthe are thay bothe,
That in golde and in grene were gaye in thaire tyme;
And Sir Sampsone hymselfe full savage of his dedys,
And Dalyda his derelynge, now dethe has tham bothe.
Sir Ypomadonn de Poele full priste in his armes,
The faire Fere de Calabre, now faren are they bothe.
Generides the gentill full joly in his tyme,
And Clarionas that was so clere, are bothe nowe bot erthe.
Sir Eglamour of Artas full everous in armes,
And Cristabelle the clere maye es crept in hir grave,
And Sir Tristrem the trewe, full triste of hymselven,
And Ysoute his awnn lufe, in erthe are thay bothe.
Whare es now Dame Dido was qwene of Cartage?
Dame Candace the comly was called quene of Babyloyne?
Penelopie that was price and passed alle othere,
And Dame Gaynore the gaye, nowe graven are thay bothen,
And othere moo than I may mene or any man elles.

Sythen doughtynes when dede comes ne dare noghte habyde,
Ne dethe wondes for no witt to wende where hym lykes,
And therto paramours and pride puttes he full lowe,
Ne there es reches ne rent may rawnsone your lyves,
Ne noghte es sekire to youreselfe in certayne bot dethe,
And he es so uncertayne that sodaynly he comes,
Me thynke the wele of this werlde worthes to noghte.
Ecclesiastes the clerke declares in his booke
Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas,
That alle es vayne and vanytes and vanyte es alle.
Forthi amendes youre mysse whills ye are men here,
Quia in inferno nulla est redempcio -
For in Helle es no helpe, I hete yow for sothe.
Als God in his gospelle graythely yow teches,
Ite ostendite vos sacerdotibus,
To schryve yow full schirle and schewe yow to prestis.
Et ecce omnia munda sunt vobis,
And ye that wronge wroghte schall worthen full clene.
Thou man in thi medill elde hafe mynde whate I saye!
I am thi sire and thou my sone, the sothe for to telle,
And he the sone of thiselfe, that sittis one the stede,
For Elde es sire of Midill Elde, and Midill Elde of Youthe.
And haves gud daye, for now I go - to grave moste me wende.
Dethe dynges one my dore, I dare no lengare byde."

When I had lenged and layne a full longe while,
I herde a bogle one a bonke be blowen full lowde.
And I wakkened therwith and waytted me umbe.
Than the sone was sett and syled full loughe,
And I founded appon fote and ferkede towarde townn.
And in the monethe of Maye thies mirthes me tydde,
Als I schurtted me in a schelfe in the schawes faire,
And belde me in the birches with bewes full smale,
And lugede me in the leves that lighte were and grene.
There dere Drightyne this daye dele us of thi blysse,
And Marie that es mylde qwene amende us of synn. Amen Amen.

Thus Endes the Thre Ages.
joys are many; (see note); (t-note)
to try my luck
thickets; (see note)
hart; hind

abided; side of a stream
periwinkle; penny-royal; (see note)
spread moisture
wood-pigeons; lively; (see note)
vigorously contend in song
each bird; woods; more glad
stare intently (?); (see note)
huddles; hedges; (see note)

place; (see note)


unpolished; massive; (see note)
tine; rubbed clean; groves; (see note)
fearsomely; (see note)

(see note); (t-note)
massive; broad
tasty bit of meat
(see note)

sly; harm
danger befell
(see note)
judged shrewdly

strung; prepared
(see note)
soar; followed; nose

taken aim; signs; (t-note)
bit; eyes

bent; took up
drew back the catches; (see note)

(see note)
(see note)
returned; companions
terrified; moors
hastened; seized

pursuit; gives chase
(see note)

seized; dragged him out; (see note)
horns; impaled
turned over; rascal(?); (see note)
Drew; bowels; (see note); (t-note)
assay; (see note); (t-note)
lined with fat; breadth
started at; jaws; first of all
ripped; rush
first stomach soon; (see note)
grasped; ripped
moved quickly
flayed; backbone
drew; knife
ravens'; (see note)
suet; gathered
(see note); (t-note)
edible innards soon took
slit; back
haunches; took
split along the spine; off
neck butchered
haunch; secured
heather; hairmoss concealed
forester; (see note)
hunter; seize
hastened; fear; betrayed
turned out
keep; nose

long dream

keen; [who] disputed; eagerly; (see note)
spoke at great length; (see note); (t-note)
listeners; moment; (see note)
tell; dress
name; exactly
fierce man; (see note)
knight; steed equipped
noble man; great
shoulders; in like manner
stretched; stirrups
garland; head (of hair)
trefoils; love knots; fine; (see note)
choice carbuncle conspicuous
dressed; interwoven
gold coins; beryl gems


(see note)

crupper; rich silk; (see note)
vigorously; (see note)
knight; (see note); (t-note)

(see note)
red-brown wool; amply; (see note)
money bag
goods; mused

services; laborers; favors
poultry; small parcels of land

storekeepers, heifers; (see note); (t-note)
legal pleaders; manorial courts

look at

ugly; [who] leant on

bowed down, contorted

bald; thick-lipped; (see note)
mumbled and moaned

psalteries (psalms); various

except for
told; readily; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)

lively; eager for
(see note)
(see note); (t-note)
lover; always loved
happiness; devotion
healer; breasts
make you a promise; solemnly
hood; hat; head
(see note); (t-note)

man; complained
by; play the fool
deal with; (see note); (t-note)


Buy yourself heifers; (see note)

jewelry; buy for yourself


by; faith; believe
gave spirit
I would rather; linger
Enclosed; coat of mail
buckled; battle attire
sword ready

proud; high; (see note)
take; loosen
snatch off; hoods; (see note)
rises in soaring flight
gaily; (see note)
are poised
water courses

Swishes; vigorously; (see note)
peregrines; swiftly; teal

Meet; mallards
hasten eagerly; swoop
ho and huff; (see note)
siege; (see note)
attack; separately
hastens; (see note)

sharp edge; (the heron's) bill; (see note)

(see note)
quill; marrow; (see note)
(see note); (t-note)
(see note)
Encourages; especially; (see note); (t-note)
takes; hoods

Loops; leashes; rings; (see note)
picks up his lure; (see note)
Bearers; keenly
wait; harass
go; achieve

(see note)

recount; truth
honor; (see note); (t-note)
part-songs; various; (see note)
betake myself

buried; mourning
least love; sport
help; (see note)

croaked angrily; (see note)
proverbs; (see note)
Fool; deals; dispute

prepares himself

stop; quarrel
eager for glory; either
loyally beloved
body; [which] is ugly

grew tired; preferable

(see note)
Got wealth; readily
Riches; plenteous
undermined; before; least suspected

blurred; grieved

Nor stand up; unless
Take me as example

don't know which

prouder; earth
(see note)
name you
person; knew
brave; most renowned

(see note)


They reckon; (see note)

many; strange

was tending; man; in
(i.e., Achilles); slaughter; (see note)

Greeks; rushed
(see note)
most royal
individually; (see note)

died; (see note)

excellent; proven
many others; company
declared; (see note); (t-note)

(see note)
sand; solid
(see note)
(see note)
coming; released
Where; (see note); (t-note)
prepared; ways; directly; (see note)
people of Gadres; (see note); (t-note)


army; one of twelve peers


alarmed; besieged; (see note)


(see note)
set up

all together
peacock made vows

thick of battle goes
returned blows; (see note)
drew; sword; (see note)


fetched; horse
feat of arms; pierced
withdrew into the open
(see note)
resolves to stay
person to person
(see note)
Beautiful; woman

own; obtained
each person
resolves to go; (see note)
turns; left
(see note); (t-note)
(see note)
Until; surrendered

divided; suffered


(see note)
(see note)
aqueduct; wrought
Provisioned; prudently

(see note)

quickly; (see note); (t-note)
of Alexandria

Syria; Saxony


let us consider

Book of Kings
(see note)
carried off
put to flight

went; safe

sop; misfortune


God's dispensation; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)

struck; (t-note)
him who cares


Uriah; peril; sent

evil-doing done

(see note)
dexterously; (see note)

low; (see note)

First; (see note)


magical powers
(see note)

supreme reward won

Eric, son of King Lac; (see note)

rash; (see note); (t-note)
robe for; (see note)

(see note)

Until; bowed down
Gascony; Guienne

ways; promptly

(see note)

quickly; (see note); (t-note)


had knowledge of; (t-note)

(see note)
(?) a region in Asia Minor

(see note)
(see note)

(see note)

Berard de Mondisdier
four sons of Aymon; (see note); (t-note)

Paderborn (in Saxony)
(see note)
(see note); (t-note)
Until; granted


(see note)
prepared; river Flagot; lodge
eager ventured
Mautrible; (see note)
(i.e., Balan); Aigremont

he (Balan); kicked

(see note)
(see note)

message; (see note)

caused Ganelon


deserved; (see note); (t-note)
soldiers; (see note)

Narbonne; annoyed
all sides
Aymeri de Narbonne
heirs; (see note); (t-note)


(see note)

(see note)
alchemist; refiner of metals
(see note)
ardent spirit (alcohol)
sal-gem (a gem-like salt)
refiner; (see note); (t-note)
powers; verily; (see note); (t-note)

had happened

set himself apart
(see note)


prepared; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)

(see note)

(see note); (t-note)
keen; (see note); (t-note)

pure maiden

(see note); (t-note)
excellent; (see note); (t-note)
Guinevere; (see note)
tell of


comes to nothing

Eccl. 1:2, 12:8
(see note); (t-note)
Therefore; sin
Job 7:9; (see note)
Luke 17:14
Luke 11:41


by the river; (see note)
looked around me
sunk; low
hastened; went
befell me
amused; bank
sheltered myself; boughs
May precious God