Back to top

Erle of Tolous


1 They delayed neither for wind nor [foul] weather

2 Whatever I might receive from that generous person / Every time I were to see her / It would assuage (redeem) me from my sorrow (poverty)


Abbreviations: B: Bodleian 6922 (Ashmole 61); Bo: Bodleian 6926 (Ashmole 45); C: Cambridge, T: Thornton, H: Halliwell; L: Lüdtke, F&H: French & Hale.

15 Syr Dyoclysyan probably refers to the third century Roman leader, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus. According to the Oxford Classical Dictionary, Diocletian rose through the ranks to become Emperor Numerian's bodyguard. He distinguished himself initially by avenging Numerian's death, striking down the praetorian prefect, Aper, a name which also means "wild boar." The naming of a boar may have particular intertextual significance since a companion text in the Cambridge MS, the Seven Sages of Rome, not only points to Dioclesian,
Some tyme ther was a noble man
Who name was clepyd Dyaclysyan,
but contains a short didactic narrative about a wild boar ("Aper" appears in the margin). But Diocletian's most famous contribution to the Roman Empire was his establishment of a tetrarchy, a four-part joint rulership. He established himself Augustus in the East, took Galerius to be his Caesar, and elevated an old comrade who had proven valorous in combat, to Augustus in the West and assigned Constantius Chlorus to be his Caesar. The two Caesars were bound to their Augusti by marriage with their daughters . . . Diocletian's genius was as an organizer, and many of his administrative measures lasted for centuries. The tetrarchy was an attempt to provide each part of the Empire with a ruler and to establish an ordered, non-hereditary succession (p. 346).

In T the Erl of Toulous appears under the title heading, Romance of Dyoclicyane with the subtitle Erl of Toulous and the Empress Beaulibone while in C the title appears as an incipit: Here foloweth the Erle of Tolous.

25 Mortimer J. Donovan, in The Breton Lay: A Guide to Varieties, notes that Syr Barnard points to a legendary ninth-century love affair between Count Bernard of Barcelona and Empress Judith, second wife of Louis the Pious:
Bernard I, count of Barcelona and Toulouse, was made prime minister with the connivance of Empress Judith, second wife of Louis le Debonnaire, who used him to forward plans for her son Karl. The two conspirators of the poem are identified with Hugo, Count of Tours, and Matfrid, Count of Orleans. The Empress was accused of adultery with Bernard and at an assembly in 831 cleared herself when, according to law, no accuser appeared. Although Bernard was ipso facto exonerated, he asked the privilege of a duel with any accuser, but, none coming, never fought. (p. 207)
According to Allen Cabaniss in "Judith Augusta and Her Time," University of Mississippi Studies in English 10 (1969), 67-109, the Empress Judith was "banished to Poitiers and required to take the veil at St. Radegunda's convent of the Holy Cross . . . . For six or seven months Empress Judith suffered, like an earlier Heloise, restriction to cloister life at St. Radegunda, deprivation of her husband and son, separation from her lover Bernard, if lover he was, and above all loss of the recent gay life at court" (p. 88). She was released from her vows by Pope Gregory IV and stood trial before the emperor, his sons, and barons of the empire. "The assembly was asked if anyone wished to make indictment of her. Not a single voice was lifted, although less than a year before there had been riotous clamor against her. Judith thereupon solemnly purged herself by oath of any charge that might have been alleged against her. Once again she was wife as well as empress" (p. 92).

29 Three hundred pounds worth of land would have been an extraordinary acquisition.

37-38 The Emperor's wife, Beulybon, is being compared with yet subordinated to the Virgin Mary, who, in the late Middle Ages, was understood to be both an icon of female perfection and a mediatrix. According to Adelaide Harris in The Heroine of the Middle English Romances (Norwood: Norwood Editions, 1978), the analogy is a medieval romance convention (see notes 151, p. 188).

33-48 Thomas Aquinas lists three conditions necessary to sanction a just war: the authority of a sovereign, a just cause, and a rightful intention, (Summa Theologica, Pars II, Q. 40, Art. I). Romances often challenged those conditions; as Beulybon's response to her husband's actions suggests. See also Margaret Gist's Love and War in the Middle English Romance (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1947), p. 114.

65 All other MSS read swordys and schylde.

79 C: raumsomyd. F&H emend to raunsonyd.

83 According to F&H manly suggests virtue, character, dignity, and courageous behavior.

86 C: Bodely. L emends to Boldely.

93 A hauberk is a tunic of chain mail worn as protective garb over the torso. As with all pieces of armor, it conveyed symbolic significance. In Ramón Lull's Book of the Order of Chivalry, for example, it represents a "castle and fortress against vices and weaknesses. For just as a castle or fort is walled in, so a hauberk is firm and closed on all sides to remind a noble Knight that he should not enter with his courage into treason nor any other vice" (p. 67).

95 C uses the Roman numeral for hundred (C) here as in line 124.

113 This line constitutes an addition from T. F&H supply the line in parentheses and I have followed them in order to maintain both poetic and stanzaic integrity.

137 no gode. L omits no.

151 In T the Empress is named in the title (see note for line 15). Beulybon's name, a combination of belle meaning "beautiful" and bon meaning "good," suggests that she complies with conventional notions of the medieval romance heroine (see note for line 188). Laura Hibbard Loomis sees evidence in the heroine's name for a lost French original (Medieval Romance in England, p. 36).

152 Seynt John. Though there are many saints by the name of John, including John the Baptist, this is probably a reference to John the Evangelist, a.k.a. John the Apostle, the author of the Gospel and Epistles bearing his name as well as the Book of Revelation. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Saints he was immensely popular:
One hundred and eighty-one ancient churches and not a few modern ones are dedicated to him. He must have been a very familiar figure to medieval people through being represented on rood-screens, while the iconography of medieval apocalypses often include a series of pictures of his life. He is often represented in the West with John the Baptist as on the stole of Cuthbert, embroidered at Winchester during the 9th century. (p. 228)
174 During the Hundred Years War fought between England and France (1337-1453) ransoming became a popular mode of raising revenue not only for the aristocracy but also for ordinary folks. Desmond Seward in The Hundred Years War (New York: Atheneum, 1978) writes:
A prince or nobleman commanded an enormous price, but the market was not restricted to magnates; a fat burgess or an important cleric could be an almost equally enviable prize . . . For ransoming was often more like the kidnap racket of modern times, and small tradesmen and farmers had their price; even ploughmen fetched a few pence. (p. 80)
Geoffrey Chaucer, when taken prisoner during an expedition to Brittany, was held ransom. Edward III contributed £16 for his release (p. 98). Later the poet wrote in the Tale of Melibee: that wot ful litel what werre amounteth." (CT VII 1039)
175 F&H add alle from T.

179 F&H supply this line from T.

182 F&H's conjecture that "play" suggests hawking is probably correct not only because hawking constitutes a common leisure activity for aristocrats in the Middle Ages, but because there is a direct correlation between avian and human hierarchies. According to De Arte Venandi Cum Avibus, a thirteenth-century hunting manual (reiterated in Juliana Berners' tract on hawking in The Boke of Albans in the fifteenth century), social status is indicated by particular species of hunting bird:
Emperor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . eagle
King . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .gerfalcon and its tercel
Prince . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .falcon gentle and its tercel
Duke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .rock falcon
Earl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .peregrine falcon
Baron . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . bastard
Knight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .saker
Squire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .lanner
Lady . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .merlin
Young man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . hobby
Yeoman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .goshawk
Poor man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .male goshawk
Priest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .sparrowhawk
Holy water clerk . . . . . . . . . . . . .musket
Servant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . kestrel
For further discussion of falconry see Robin Oggins, "Falconry and Medieval Social Status," Mediaevalia 12 (1989), 43-55. It is interesting to note that an activity often thought of as strictly aristocratic should have a designation for people belonging to non-aristocratic social circles, e.g., the "poor man." Hawks were so highly treasured that it was a felony to steal one.

188 In compliance with conventions of medieval romance, the heroine is described as the "fayrest woman" alive. Standards for beauty found in romance narratives include grey eyes, a small waist, a complexion "bryght of blee" and as white as "whale's bone" (see lines 340-43, 353-57). According to Adelaide Harris, in addition to these attributes, "no heroine of romance has dark hair. Even in Tristan, where contrast would be effective, both Iseult of Ireland and Iseult of Brittany are blondes" (p. 14).

190 by boke and by belle. F&H note that "a similar ceremony is in Richard Coeur de Lion, line 605. The Saracens in the 'Chanson' swear on the Koran, line 610. Most of the articles mentioned here are used in Ywain, lines 3907ff. The penalty for swearing falsely was violent death sent from heaven. See Joseph of Arimathea, line 362; Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale, CT 11[B], lines 666-76. In Amis and Amiloun, lines 1250-60, the punishment is leprosy" (p. 81). According to Addis & Arnold's Catholic Dictionary:
Many solemn oaths ordered by the Church are made more solemn by touching the Gospels; and in the Middle Ages persons swearing often touched the Blessed Sacrament, relics, the sacred vessel, etc.
The Dictionary of Medieval Knighthood & Chivalry sheds more light on the significance of this practice:
The intense veneration of relics caused them to be adopted as the most effective means of adding security to oaths; because the simple oath was given such little respect these adjuncts came to be regarded as an essential feature of the oath and the oath was divested of its binding force without them (p. 347).
210 F&H supply this line from T.

219 Chivalry relies upon, among other things, the validity of oral contracts among knights and their superiors.

232 we. The pronoun is inserted above the line in a later hand. Medieval scribes often omit pronomial subjects, especially with incipient verbs, but here the we suits the meter.

235 Seynt Andrewe. Andrew was popular throughout the Middle Ages. Legend indicates that his relics were transferred from Patras in Achaia, the place of his crucifixion, by Regulas, an eighth-century Pope to Fife, Scotland now known as St. Andrews. Fife became an important center of evangelism and pilgrimage.

244 The word for appears as an insertion above the line.

280 mut. L emends to mot. The honorable Beulybon recognizes that it would be a grave sin to forswear an oath, since the promise was made with God as witness.

286 It was customary to attend mass upon rising.

288 All other MSS read slouth.

296 F&H add wyth.

307 oryall. The MED defines oriel as a bay window, recess (in a building or ship); a balcony, gallery, loft; a small private room. Joseph Ritson suggests that the windows were occasionally ornamented with painted glass.

320 F&H suggest that the "chapel probably was attached to the buildings of Diocletian's castle. The oriel seems to have opened off the vestibule" (p. 393).

340 F&H note that this eye color is blue, while Larry D. Benson in The Riverside Chaucer suggests that the true color is "uncertain," but acknowledges the frequency with which grey is used to describe the eyes. That the color - whatever it might be - constitutes a special feminine attribute, perhaps deriving from the grey-eyed Athena of classical Greek tradition, is of no dispute. Chaucer uses the term in the Romaunt of the Rose to describe the watchful eyes of the beautiful maiden at the garden door. Note the color of her hair as well:

A mayden curteys openyde me.
Hir heer was as yelowe of hewe
As ony basyn scoured newe,
Hir flesh tendre as is a chike,
With bente browis smothe and slyke
And by mesure large were
The opening of hir yen clere
Hir nose of good proporcioun
Her yen greye as a faucoun.
(lines 538-46)

yellow; hue

smooth; sleek

eyes grey; falcon
And again in the Prioress' description in the Canterbury Tales: "hir nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas" (GP, line 152).

355 Joseph Ritson's nineteenth-century note on whale's bone is interesting:
This allusion is not to what we now call whale-bone, which is wel-known to be black, but to the ivory of the horn or tooth of the Narwhal, or sea-unicorn.
Modern science knows whale's bone to be white (perhaps Ritson is referring to baleen, the dark-colored transverse palatal plates used to make women's corsets in the nineteenth century), but the rest of his comment is probably accurate. Albertus Magnus in Man and the Beasts lists the Narwhal under Monoceros and describes it as "a sea creature endowed with a single horn in the front of its head, with which it can pierce fish and even some boats" (p. 363). Anne Clark in Beasts and Bawdy (New York: Taplinger, 1975) elaborates:
The narwhal, which is sometimes called the sea-unicorn, has a long tusk which is twisted in this way. These, and the horns of the rhinoceros or other animals, were often either genuinely mistaken for the horns of unicorns, or were fraudulently offered for sale under that name. (p. 48) Ground into a powder the "unicorn" horn was famous both as a remedy for poison and as an aphrodisiac.
377 y wolde. C: he wolde. F&H follow L's emendation as do I since the Earl seems to be indicating his own desire.

379 C: y not. F&H comply with L's emendation as do I.

389 C: Of on. F&H and L omit on thereby eliminating an inherent contradiction.

398 C: kyssyd hyt. F&H emend to hyt kyssyd to improve the meter. L reads kyssys hyt.

430 L notes variations on the name Kaunters found in the other MSS: Kamiters, Camtres, Kanteres, Kankerus. There seems to be no precedent for the name which is not the case with Kaym. The Index of Arthurian Names lists several variations on Kaym, e.g., Kaymes, Caym, Cayn, etc. which appear in Arthurian works. All are variations on Cain, the murderous son of Adam.

572 hanged and to-drawe. The official punishment for treason. MED cites John Trevisa's translation of Higden's Polychronicon as example of what the procedure entailed: "He was first i-compned and then to drawe with horses, and than an honged by the throte, and than i-quartered and to deled to dyvers places of Engelond" (8.267); and Brut-1333 (Rawlinson B. 171), 209-23: "Sir Gilbert of Midelton was atteint, and take, and honede & drawe [eviscerated] and his body quartarede, and his hevede smyten of an sette oppon a spere . . . and the iiij quarters sent to iiij citees of England." This method of execution appears in the Song of Roland, where Ganelon is drawn and quartered for his treachery and betrayal of Roland and Charlemagne.

602 lefe brothyr. A "leve [dear/faithful] brother" is a sworn friend.

625 worde. F&H note that this may be a "possible blunder for the usual orde and ende" (I, p. 402).

703 This line is added by F&H.

707 According to the MED the carver is one who attends a superior at the table by cutting up his/her meat and serving food; one who waits table. The duties of a carver appear in John Russell's Book of Nurture, a medieval instruction manual for boys:

My son, thy knife must be clean and bright; and it beseems thee to have thy hands fair washed. Hold always thy knife surely, so as not to hurt thyself, and have not more than two fingers and the thumb on thy keen knife . . . (as quoted in The Babees Book: Medieval Manners for the Young, ed. Edith Rickert, pp. 58-59).

730 Seynte Jermayne. F&H note that this St. Germaine refers to Germanus of Auxerre, who "led a British army against the Picts and the Scots in 429 A.D. His name is preserved in several Welsh place-names" (p. 405). Other significant details may include his rise to the governorship of Auxerre, an Armorican border province. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Saints:
On the death of Amator, bishop of Auxerre, in 418, Germanus was chosen as his successor . . . he directed British forces in battle, when they won the famous 'Alleluia victory' against a combination of Picts and Saxons, apparently without bloodshed. A year later he was in Ravenna pleading the cause of the rebellious Bretons to the Emperor (p. 180).
Another possibility may be Germanus of Man, who Celtic scholars believe was "born in Brittany c. 410, went to Ireland to stay with Patrick in 440, came to Wales and lived in the monastery of Brioc and Illtud c. 450, left Gaul to meet Patrick in Britain c. 462, where he engaged in a magic contest with Gwrtheyrn, returned to Ireland and became bishop of Man c. 466" (p. 169). He is often confused with Germanus of Auxerre.

731 There are several theories of age operating in the Middle Ages. See J. A. Burrow's The Ages of Man: A Study in Medieval Writing and Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). That a twenty-year-old carver is referred to as a child suggests his novice status rather than his degree of maturity. See also Sir Degaré, Floris and Blanchfleur. In Love and War in the Middle English Romances, Margaret Gist comments that romance heroes are often older when they initiate their adventures than might occur in real life wherein people married at an early age, e.g., twelve for girls and fourteen for boys (p. 27).

758 ay worthe them woo. This portion of the line derives from T. F&H's emendation.

759 To ther. All MSS read: To hur. L's emendation, followed by F&H.

768 C: traytour.

771 Other MSS read: swerdys and torchys.

785 mysansweryd. F&H gloss "spoke abusively," though the sense might also be "spoke deceitfully," as they viciously bring her own words home to her (see lines 653 and 786).

789 wonduryng. F&H gloss as wandering. But wondering is possible too, as if to say that she will be made a spectacle - "a marvel" - in her infidelity.

809 F&H read berys rather than borys. Though the word appears to be berys in C, I have emended it to conform with T. External evidence including commentary and the related tale of Diocletian in the Gesta Romanorum support my emendation. Also boars with their tusks are more commonly associated with the ravishing of women. See Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, V. 1436-84.

813 F&H gloss hopyd than as "knew with certainty" rather than "hoped that." To maintain consistency, they gloss hopud in line 822 similarly, though there is a marked difference between absolute knowledge of any situation and the uncertainty hoping implies.

818 It was customary for long-distance travellers to carry an extraordinary supply of provisions to compensate for a lack of adequate accommodations along the way.

851 they seyde. C: he seyde. L's emendation, followed by F&H.

852 Syr Antore. The name may allude to the giantslayer in Libeaus Desconus or may be another name for Arthur.

856 in fere. "Together," though possible, is too neutral a gloss. "Keeping company" or "copulation" is the implication of the conniving knights.

865-88 kele. C: kelee. F&H's emendation.

867 Had not . . . hym slayn. The two lines are corrupt. F&H gloss: "had not a knight interferred, he would have slain his informant, and thus discomfited the traitor" (I, p. 409). Or, perhaps the sense is: had a knight not been present the Emperor would have slain himself [hym slayn] and destroyed the traitor as well. Or, conceivably, line 868 might imply that, had the Emperor slain himself, the traitor would have gone scot-free [broght owt of heele: "released from constraint"].

873 The motif of the Woman Falsely Accused is found in a number of other romances, most notably Octavian, Oliva, Gaudine, Sir Aldingar, and Avowing of Arthur. See Edwin A. Greenlaw, "The Vows of Baldwin: A Study of Medieval Fiction," PMLA 21 (1906), 575-636.

881 he naked. C: they naked. L's emendation, followed by F&H.

1035 hele. F&H gloss as "conceal," though that sense of helen does not suit the context well. "Embrace" or "preserve" seem the more likely meanings. See MED helen v(1). 3b or v(2). 1d.

1039 heyle. "conceal." Given the fact that the priest has just revealed the contents of his niece's confession, the Earl has good reason to request secrecy.

1041 Trial by combat was customary in a chivalric dispute of this kind. It necessitated a contest between two knights fought with weapons of war until one of the two was unable to fight any longer. According to Broughton's Dictionary of Medieval Knighthood & Chivalry this method of settling disputes flourished under Edward III (1327-1377), whose interest in chivalry inspired him to create the Order of the Garter.

1047 That the priest reveals the secrets of the confessional to a stranger here is perhaps a mark of his trust in his niece and her virtue rather than a breech of his office. But if it is a breech of office it is minor compared to his letting the Earl hear confession subsequently.

1065 F&H and others acknowledge a direct source to be non-extant.

1095 Tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet, this act constitutes a public challenge. By picking it up, the opponent accepts the challenge.

1110 basenet. A protective head covering worn under the helmet.

1133 them. C: hym. L's emendation, followed by F&H.

1145 byschoperyke. A province under the authority of a bishop or archbishop, a bishopric constitutes a generous gift.

1154 Syr. L emends to Syr [abbot], to fill out the line metrically; followed by F&H.

1164 In C thee is obliterated by a smudge.

1198 Many scholars have noted the romance as non-extant.

1199 The steward in medieval romance is often portrayed negatively. In Sir Orfeo that convention is reversed when Orfeo confers temporary kingship upon his steward, later tests him, discovers and acknowledges his loyalty. And, here, the steward is certainly good.

1200 sesyd. According to the MED seisin means to "endow in legal or formal possession of a kingdom, land, feudal estate, goods, etc."

1203 The election takes place because the Emperor and Beulybon have no heirs. Just as the steward in Sir Orfeo, Sir Barnard proves himself to be a worthy candidate for rulership.

1208 This line recalls a similar line in Emaré: wedde her to his wife. See also Henry Weber's edition of Seven Sages of Rome, line 3343.

1215 L notes that Rome may suggest romance. H concurs by noting the difference between the manuscripts and the printed edition which reads "In romance this chronicle is" suggesting that the "boke of Rome" is a volume written in a Romance language, probably French. This conclusion, however, discourages consideration of other possibilities, i.e., the Gesta Romanorum or the Seven Sages of Rome, a companion text in C. Both contain stories of Diocletian and may be, if not direct sources, then indirect resources. In the Gesta Romanorum the tale begins:
When Diocletian reigned, he decreed that whatsoever woman committed adultery should be put to death.
In addition, rome is not capitalized in the MS; its capitalization is a modern editorial decision. In line 1151 it clearly refers to the city.

1215 The poem is being specifically associated with Breton lay.

1219 L notes the variations in endings in two MSS: Amen qd Rate in B and Sic transit gloria mundi in Bo. The ending to T is missing.
Jhesu Cryste, yn Trynyté,
Oonly God and persons thre,
   Graunt us wele to spede,
And gyf us grace so to do
That we may come thy blys unto,
   On Rode as thou can blede!
Leve lordys, y schall you telle
Of a tale, some tyme befelle
   Farre yn unknowthe lede:
How a lady had grete myschefe,
And how sche covyrd of hur grefe;
   Y pray yow take hede!
Some tyme there was in Almayn
An Emperrour of moche mayn;
   Syr Dyoclysyan he hyght;
He was a bolde man and a stowte;
All Chrystendome of hym had dowte,
   So stronge he was in fyght;
He dysheryted many a man,
And falsely ther londys wan,
   Wyth maystry and wyth myght,
Tyll hyt befelle upon a day,
A warre wakenyd, as y yow say,
   Betwene hym and a knyght.
The Erle of Tollous, Syr Barnard,
The Emperrour wyth hym was harde,
   And gretly was hys foo.
He had rafte owt of hys honde
Three hundred poundys worth be yere of londe:
   Therfore hys herte was woo.
He was an hardy man and a stronge,
And sawe the Emperour dyd hym wronge,
   And other men also;
He ordeyned hym for batayle
Into the Emperours londe, saun fayle;
And there he began to brenne and sloo.
Thys Emperour had a wyfe,
The fayrest oon that evyr bare lyfe,
   Save Mary mekyll of myght,
And therto gode in all thynge,
Of almesdede and gode berynge,
   Be day and eke be nyght;
Of hyr body sche was trewe
As evyr was lady that men knewe,
   And therto moost bryght.
To the Emperour sche can say:
"My dere lorde, y you pray,
   Delyvyr the Erle hys ryght."
"Dame," he seyde, "let that bee;
That day schalt thou nevyr see,
   Yf y may ryde on ryght,
That he schall have hys londe agayne;
Fyrste schall y breke hys brayne,
   Os y am trewe knyght!
He warryth faste in my londe;
I schall be redy at hys honde
   Wythyn thys fourteen nyght!"
He sente abowte everywhare,
That all men schulde make them yare
   Agayne the Erle to fyght.
He let crye in every syde,
Thorow hys londe ferre and wyde,
   Bothe in felde and towne,
All that myght wepon bere,
Sworde, alablast, schylde, or spere,
   They schoulde be redy bowne;
The Erle on hys syde also
Wyth forty thousand and moo
   Wyth spere and schylde browne.
A day of batayle there was sett;
In felde when they togedur mett,
   Was crakydde many a crowne.
The Emperour had bataylys sevyn;
He spake to them wyth sterne stevyn
   And sayde, so mot he thryve,
"Be ye now redy for to fyght,
Go ye and bete them downe ryght
   And leveth non on lyve;
Loke that none raunsonyd bee
Nothyr for golde ne for fee,
   But sle them wyth swerde and knyfe!"
For all hys boste he faylyd gyt;
The Erle manly hym mett,
   Wyth strokys goode and ryfe.
They reryd batayle on every syde;
Bodely togedyr can they ryde,
   Wyth schylde and many a spere;
They leyde on faste as they were wode,
Wyth swerdys and axes that were gode;
   Full hedeous hyt was to here.
There were schyldys and schaftys schakydde,
Hedys thorogh helmys crakydde,
   And hawberkys all totore.
The Erle hymselfe an axe drowe;
An hundred men that day he slowe,
   So wyght he was yn were!
Many a stede there stekyd was;
Many a bolde baron in that place
   Lay burlande yn hys own blode.
So moche blode there was spylte,
That the feld was ovyrhylte
   Os hyt were a flode.
Many a wyfe may sytt and wepe,
That was wonte softe to slepe,
   And now can they no gode.
Many a body and many a hevyd,
Many a doghty knyght there was levyd,
   That was wylde and wode.
The Erle of Tollous wan the felde;
The Emperour stode and behelde:
   Wele faste can he flee
To a castell there besyde.
Fayne he was hys hedde to hyde,
   And wyth hym Erlys thre;
No moo forsothe scapyd away,
But they were slayn and takyn that day:
   Hyt myght non othyr bee.
The Erle tyll nyght folowed the chace,
And sythen he thanked God of hys grace,
   That syttyth in Trynyté.
There were slayne in that batayle
Syxty thousand, wythowte fayle,
   On the Emperours syde;
Ther was takyn thre hundred and fyfty
Of grete lordys, sekyrly,
   Wyth woundys grymly wyde;
On the Erlys syde ther were slayne
But twenty, sothely to sayne,
   So boldely they can abyde!
Soche grace God hym sende
That false quarell cometh to evell ende
   For oght that may betyde.
Now the Emperour ys full woo:
He hath loste men and londe also;
   Sore then syghed hee;
He sware be Hym that dyed on Rode,
Mete nor drynke schulde do hym no gode,
   Or he vengedde bee.
The Emperes seyde, "Gode lorde,
Hyt ys better ye be acorde
   Be oght that y can see;
Hyt ys grete parell, sothe to telle,
To be agayne the ryght quarell;
   Be God, thus thynketh me!"
"Dame," seyde the Emperoure,
   "Y have a grete dyshonoure;
   Therfore myn herte ys woo;
My lordys be takyn, and some dede;
Therfore carefull ys my rede:
   Sorowe nye wyll me sloo."
Then seyde Dame Beulybon:
"Syr, y rede, be Seynt John,
   Of warre that ye hoo;
Ye have the wronge and he the ryght,
And that ye may see in syght,
   Be thys and othyr moo."
The Emperour was evyll payde:
Hyt was sothe the lady sayde;
   Therfore hym lykyd ylle,
He wente awey and syghed sore;
Oon worde spake he no more,
   But held hym wonder stylle.
Leve we now the Emperour in thoght:
Game ne gle lyked hym noght,
   So gretly can he grylle!
And to the Erle turne we agayn,
That thanked God wyth all hys mayn,
   That grace had sende hym tylle.
The Erle Barnard of Tollous
Had fele men chyvalrous
   Takyn to hys preson;
Moche gode of them he hadde;
Y can not telle, so God me gladde,
   So grete was ther raunsome!
Among them alle had he oon,
Was grettest of them everychon,
   A lorde of many a towne,
Syr Trylabas of Turky
The Emperour hym lovyd, sekurly,
   A man of grete renowne.
So hyt befell upon a day
The Erle and he went to play
   Be a rever syde.
The Erle seyde to Trylabas,
"Telle me, syr, for Goddys grace,
   Of a thyng that spryngyth wyde,
That youre Emperour hath a wyfe,
The fayrest woman that ys on lyfe,
   Of hewe and eke of hyde.
Y swere by boke and by belle,
Yf sche be so feyre as men telle,
   Mekyll may be hys pryde."
Then sayde that lord anon ryght,
"Be the ordre y bere of knyght,
   The sothe y schall telle the:
To seeke the worlde more and lesse,
Bothe Crystendome and hethynnesse,
   Ther ys none so bryght of blee.
Whyte as snowe ys hur coloure;
Hur rudde ys radder then the rose-floure,
   Yn syght who may hur see;
All men that evyr God wroght
Myght not thynke nor caste in thoght
   A fayrer for to bee."
Then seyde the Erle, "Be Goddys grace,
Thys worde in mornyng me mas.
   Thou seyest sche ys so bryght;
Thy raunsom here y the forgeve,
My helpe, my love, whyll y leve
   Therto my trowthe y plyght,
So that thou wylt brynge me
Yn safegarde for to bee,
   Of hur to have a syght,
An hundred pownde, wyth grete honoure,
To bye the horses and ryche armoure,
   Os y am trewe knyght!"
Than answeryd Syr Trylabas,
"Yn that covenaunt in thys place
   My trowthe y plyght thee;
Y schall holde thy forward gode
To brynge the, wyth mylde mode,
   In syght hur for to see;
And therto wyll y kepe counsayle
And nevyr more, wythowte fayle,
   Agayne yow to bee;
Y schall be trewe, be Goddys ore,
To lose myn own lyfe therfore;
   Hardely tryste to mee!"
The Erle answeryd wyth wordys hende:
"Y tryste to the as to my frende,
   Wythowte any stryfe;
Anon that we were buskyd yare,
On owre jurney for to fare,
   For to see that wyfe;
Y swere be God and Seynt Andrewe,
Yf hyt be so y fynde the trewe,
   Ryches schall be to the ryfe."
They lettyd nothyr for wynde not wedur, 1
But forthe they wente bothe togedur,
   Wythowte any stryfe.
These knyghtys nevyr stynte nor blanne,
Tyll to the cyté that they wan,
   There the Emperes was ynne.
The Erle hymselfe for more drede
Cladde hym in armytes wede,
   Thogh he were of ryche kynne,
For he wolde not knowen bee.
He dwellyd there dayes three
   And rested hym in hys ynne.
The knyght bethoght hym, on a day,
The gode Erle to betray;
   Falsely he can begynne.
Anone he wente in a rese
To chaumbur to the Emperes,
   And sett hym on hys knee;
He seyde, "Be Hym that harowed helle,
He kepe yow fro all parelle,
   Yf that Hys wylle bee!"
"Madam," he seyde, "be Jhesus,
Y have the Erle of Tollous;
   Oure moost enemye ys hee."
"Yn what maner," the lady can say,
"Ys he comyn, y the pray?
   Anone telle thou me."
"Madam, y was in hys preson;
He hath forgevyn me my raunsom,
   Be God full of myght -
And all ys for the love of the!
The sothe ys, he longyth yow to see,
   Madam, onys in syght!
And hundred pownde y have to mede,
And armour for a nobull stede;
   Forsothe y have hym hyght
That he schall see yow at hys fylle,
Ryght at hys owne wylle;
   Therto my trowthe y plyght.
Lady, he ys to us a foo;
Therfore y rede that we hym sloo;
   He hath done us gret grylle."
The lady seyde, "So mut y goo,
Thy soule ys loste yf thou do so;
   Thy trowthe thou schalt fulfylle,
Sythe he forgaf the thy raunsom
And lowsydd the owt of preson,
   Do away thy wyckyd wylle!
To-morne when they rynge the masbelle,
Brynge hym into my chapelle,
   And thynke thou on no false sleythe;
There schall he see me at hys wylle,
Thy covenaunt to fulfylle;
   Y rede the holde thy trowthe!
Certys, yf thou hym begyle,
Thy soule ys in grete paryle,
   Syn thou haste made hym othe;
Certys, hyt were a traytory,
For to wayte hym wyth velany;
   Me thynkyth hyt were rowthe!"
The knyght to the Erle wente;
Yn herte he helde hym foule schente
   For hys wyckyd thoght.
He seyde, "Syr, so mote y the,
Tomorne thou schalt my lady see;
   Therfore, dysmay the noght:
When ye here the masbelle,
Y schall hur brynge to the chapelle;
   Thedur sche schall be broght.
Be the oryall syde stonde thou stylle;
Then schalt thou see hur at thy wylle,
   That ys so worthyly wroght."
The Erle sayde, "Y holde the trewe,
And that schall the nevyr rewe,
   As farre forthe as y may."
Yn hys herte he waxe gladde:
"Fylle the wyne," wyghtly he badde,
   "Thys goyth to my pay!"
There he restyd that nyght;
On the morne he can hym dyght
   Yn armytes array;
When they ronge to the masse,
To the chapell conne they passe,
   To see that lady gay.
They had stonden but a whyle,
The mowntaunse of halfe a myle,
   Then came that lady free;
Two erlys hur ladde;
Wondur rychely sche was cladde,
   In golde and ryche perré.
Whan the Erle sawe hur in syght,
Hym thoght sche was as bryght
   Os blossome on the tree;
Of all the syghtys that ever he sye,
Raysyd nevyr none hys herte so hye,
   Sche was so bryght of blee!
Sche stode stylle in that place
And schewed opynly hur face
   For love of that knyght.
He beheld ynly hur face;
He sware there be Goddys grace,
   He sawe nevyr none so bryght.
Hur eyen were gray as any glas;
Mowthe and nose schapen was
   At all maner ryght;
Fro the forhedde to the too,
Bettur schapen myght non goo,
   Nor none semelyer yn syght.
Twyes sche turnyd hur abowte
Betwene the Erlys that were stowte,
   For the Erle schulde hur see.
When sche spake wyth mylde stevyn,
Sche semyd an aungell of hevyn,
   So feyre sche was of blee!
Hur syde longe, hur myddyll small;
Schouldurs, armes therwythall,
   Fayrer myght non bee;
Hur hondys whyte as whallys bonne,
Wyth fyngurs longe and ryngys upon;
   Hur nayles bryght of blee.
When he had beholden hur welle,
The lady wente to hur chapell,
   Masse for to here;
The Erle stode on that odur syde;
Hys eyen fro hur myght he not hyde,
   So lovely sche was of chere!
He seyde, "Lorde God, full of myght,
Leve y were so worthy a knyght,
   That y myght be hur fere,
And that sche no husbonde hadde,
All the golde that evyr God made
   To me were not so dere!"
When the masse come to ende,
The lady, that was feyre and hende,
   To the chaumbur can sche fare;
The Erle syghed and was full woo
Owt of hys syght when sche schulde goo;
   Hys mornyng was the mare.
The Erle seyde, "So God me save,
Of hur almes y wolde crave,
   Yf hur wylle ware;
Myght y oght gete of that free,
Eche a day hur to see
   Hyt wolde covyr me of my care." 2
The Erle knelyd down anon ryght
And askyd gode, for God allmyght,
   That dyed on the tree.
The Emperes callyd a knyght:
"Forty floranse that ben bryght,
   Anone brynge thou mee."
To that armyte sche hyt payde;
Of hur fyngyr a rynge she layde
   Amonge that golde so free;
He thankyd hur ofte, as y yow say.
To the chaumbyr wente that lady gay,
   There hur was leveste to bee.
The Erle wente home to hys ynnys,
And grete joye he begynnys
   When he founde the rynge;
Yn hys herte he waxe blythe
And kyssyd hyt fele sythe,
   And seyde, "My dere derlynge,
On thy fyngyr thys was!
Wele ys me, y have thy grace
   Of the to have thys rynge!
Yf evyr y gete grace of the Quene
That any love betwene us bene,
   Thys may be our tokenyng."
The Erle, also soone os hyt was day,
Toke hys leve and wente hys way
   Home to hys cuntré;
Syr Trylabas he thanked faste:
"Of thys dede thou done me haste,
   Well qwyt schall hyt bee."
They kyssyd togedur as gode frende;
Syr Trylabas home can wende,
   There evell mote he thee!
A traytory he thoght to doo
Yf he myght come thertoo;
   So schrewde in herte was hee!
Anon he callyd two knyghtys,
Hardy men at all syghtys;
   Bothe were of hys kynne.
"Syrs," he seyde, "wythowt fayle,
Yf ye wyl do be my counsayle,
   Grete worschyp schulde ye wynne;
Knowe ye the Erle of Tollous?
Moche harme he hath done us;
   Hys boste y rede we blynne;
Yf ye wyll do aftur my redde,
Thys day he schall be dedde,
   So God save me fro synne!"
That oon knyght Kaunters, that odur Kaym;
Falser men myght no man rayme,
   Certys, then were thoo;
Syr Trylabas was the thrydde;
Hyt was no mystur them to bydde
   Aftur the Erle to goo.
At a brygge they hym mett;
Wyth harde strokes they hym besett,
   As men that were hys foo;
The Erle was a man of mayn:
Faste he faght them agayne,
   And soone he slew two.
The thrydde fledde and blewe owt faste;
The Erle ovyrtoke hym at the laste:
   Hys hedd he clofe in three.
The cuntrey gedryrd abowte hym faste,
And aftur hym yorne they chaste:
   An hundred there men myght see.
The Erle of them was agaste:
At the laste fro them he paste;
   Fayne he was to flee;
Fro them he wente into a waste;
To reste hym there he toke hys caste:
   A wery man was hee.
All the nyght in that foreste
The gentyll Erle toke hys reste:
   He had no nodur woon.
When hyt dawed, he rose up soone
And thankyd God that syttyth in trone,
   That he had scapyd hys foon;
That day he travaylyd many a myle,
And ofte he was in grete parylle,
   Be the way os he can gone,
Tyll he come to a fayre castell,
There hym was levyst to dwelle,
   Was made of lyme and stone.
Of hys comyng hys men were gladde.
"Be ye mery, my men," he badde,
   "For nothyng ye spare;
The Emperour, wythowte lees,
Y trowe, wyll let us be in pees.
   And warre on us no mare."
Thus dwellyd the Erle in that place
Wyth game, myrthe, and grete solase,
   Ryght os hym levyst ware.
Let we now the Erle alloon,
And speke we of Dame Beulyboon,
   How sche was caste in care.
The Emperoure lovyd hys wyfe
Also so moche os hys own lyfe,
   And more, yf he myght;
He chose two knyghtys that were hym dere,
Whedur that he were ferre or nere,
   To kepe hur day and nyght.
That oon hys love on hur caste:
So dud the todur at the laste,
   Sche was feyre and bryght!
Nothyr of othyr wyste ryght noght,
So derne love on them wroght,
   To dethe they were nere dyght.
So hyt befell upon a day,
That oon can to that othyr say,
   "Syr, also muste y thee,
Methynkyth thou fadyste all away,
Os man that ys clongyn in clay,
   So pale waxeth thy blee!"
Then seyde that other, "Y make avowe,
Ryght so, methynketh, fareste thou,
   Whysoevyr hyt bee;
Tell me thy cawse, why hyt ys,
And y schall telle the myn, ywys:
   My trouthe y plyght to thee."
"Y graunte," he seyde, "wythowt fayle,
But loke hyt be trewe counsayle!"
   Therto hys trowthe he plyght.
He seyde, "My lady the Emperes,
For love of hur y am in grete dystresse;
   To dethe hyt wyll me dyght."
Then seyde that othyr, "Certenly,
Wythowte drede, so fare y
   For that lady bryght;
Syn owre love ys on hur sett,
How myght owre bale beste be bett?
   Canste thou rede on ryght?"
Then seyde that othyr, "Be Seynt John,
Bettur counsayle can y noon,
   Methynkyth, then ys thys:
Y rede that oon of us twoo
Prevely to hyr goo
   And pray hur of hur blys;
Y myselfe wyll go hyr tylle;
Yn case y may gete hur wylle,
   Of myrthe schalt thou not mys;
Thou schalt take us wyth the dede:
Leste thou us wrye sche wyll drede,
   And graunte the thy wylle, ywys."
Thus they were at oon assent;
Thys false thefe forthe wente
   To wytt the ladyes wylle.
Yn chaumbyr he founde hyr so free;
He sett hym downe on hys knee,
   Hys purpose to fulfylle.
Than spake that lady free,
"Syr, y see now well be the,
   Thou haste not all thy wylle;
On thy sekeness now y see;
Telle me now thy prevyté,
   Why thou mornyst so stylle."
"Lady," he seyde, "that durste y noght
For all the gode that evyr was wroght,
   Be grete God invysybylle,
But on a booke yf ye wyll swere
That ye schull not me dyskere,
   Then were hyt possybyll."
Then seyde the lady, "How may that bee?
That thou darste not tryste to mee,
   Hyt ys full orybylle.
Here my trowthe to the y plyght:
Y schall heyle the day and nyght,
   Also trewe as boke or belle."
"Lady, in yow ys all my tryste;
Inwardely y wolde ye wyste
   What payne y suffur you fore;
Y drowpe, y dare nyght and day;
My wele, my wytt ys all away,
   But ye leve on my lore;
Y have yow lovyd many a day,
But to yow durste y nevyr say -
   My mornyng ys the more!
But ye do aftur my rede,
Certenly, y am but dede:
   Of my lyfe ys no store."
Than answeryd that lovely lyfe:
"Syr, wele thou wottyst y am a wyfe:
   My lorde ys Emperoure;
He chase the for a trewe knyght,
To kepe me bothe day and nyght
   Undur thy socowre.
To do that dede yf y assente,
Y were worthy to be brente
   And broght in grete doloure;
Thou art a traytour in thy sawe,
Worthy to be hanged and to-drawe
   Be Mary, that swete floure!"
"A, madam!" seyde the knyght,
"For the love of God almyght,
   Hereon take no hede!
Yn me ye may full wele tryste ay;
Y dud nothyng but yow to affray,
   Also God me spede!
Thynke, madam, youre trowthe ys plyght
To holde counsayle bothe day and nyght
   Fully, wythowte drede;
Y aske mercy for Goddys ore!
Hereof yf y carpe more,
   Let drawe me wyth a stede!"
The lady seyde, "Y the forgeve;
Also longe os y leve,
   Counsayle schall hyt bee;
Loke thou be a trewe man
In all thyng that thou can,
   To my lorde so free."
"Yys, lady, ellys dyd y wronge,
For y have servyd hym longe,
   And wele he hath qwytt mee."
Hereof spake he no mare,
But to hys felowe can he fare,
   There evyll must they the!
Thus to hys felowe ys he gon,
And he hym frayned anon,
   "Syr, how haste thou spedde?"
"Ryght noght," seyde that othyr:
"Syth y was borne, lefe brothyr,
   Was y nevyr so adredde;
Certys, hyt ys a boteles bale
To hur to touche soche a tale
   At borde or at bedde."
Then sayde that odur, "Thy wytt ys thynne:
Y myselfe schall hur wynne:
   Y lay my hedde to wedde!"
Thus hyt passyd ovyr, os y yow say,
Tyl aftur on the thrydde day
   Thys knyght hym bethoght:
"Certys, spede os y may,
My ladyes wylle, that ys so gay,
   Hyt schall be thorowly soght."
When he sawe hur in beste mode,
Sore syghyng to hur he yode,
   Of lyfe os he ne roght.
"Lady," he seyde, "wythowte fayle,
But ye helpe me wyth yowre counsayle,
   Yn bale am y broght."
Sche answeryd full curtesly,
"My counsayle schall be redy.
   Telle me how hyt ys;
When y wott worde and ende,
Yf my counsayle may hyt mende,
   Hyt schall, so have y blysse!"
"Lady," he seyde, "y undurstonde
Ye muste holde up yowre honde
   To holde counsayle, ywys."
"Yys," seyde the lady free,
"Thereto my trouthe here to the,
   And ellys y dudde amys."
"Madam," he seyde, "now y am in tryste;
All my lyfe thogh ye wyste,
   Ye wolde me not dyskevere;
For yow y am in so grete thoght,
Yn moche bale y am broght,
   Wythowte othe y swere;
And ye may full wele see,
How pale y am of blee:
   Y dye nere for dere;
Dere lady, graunt me youre love,
For the love of God, that sytteth above,
   That stongen was wyth a spere."
"Syr," sche seyde, "ys that youre wylle?
Yf hyt were myne, then dyd y ylle;
   What woman holdyst thou me?
Yn thy kepeyng y have ben:
What haste thou herde be me or sene
   That touchyth to any velanye,
That thou in herte art so bolde
Os y were a hore or a scolde?
   Nay, that schall nevyr bee!
Had y not hyght to holde counsayle,
Thou schouldest be honged, wythowt fayle,
   Upon a galowe tree."
The knyght was nevyr so sore aferde
Sythe he was borne into myddyllerde,
   Certys, os he was thoo.
"Mercy," he seyde, "gode madam!
Wele y wott y am to blame;
   Therfore myn herte ys woo!
Lady, let me not be spylte;
Y aske mercy of my gylte!
   On lyve ye let me goo."
The lady seyde, "Y graunte wele;
Hyt schall be counseyle, every dele,
   But do no more soo."
Now the knyght forthe yede
And seyde, "Felowe, y may not spede.
   What ys thy beste redde?
Yf sche telle my lorde of thys,
We be but dedde, so have y blys:
   Wyth hym be we not fedde.
Womans tonge ys evell to tryste;
Certys, and my lorde hyt wyste,
   Etyn were all owre bredde.
Felow, so mote y ryde or goo,
Or sche wayte us wyth that woo,
   Hurselfe schall be dedde!"
"How myght that be?" that othur sayde;
"Yn herte y wolde be wele payde,
   Myght we do that dede."
"Yys, syr," he seyde, "so have y roo,
Y schall brynge hur wele thertoo;
   Therof have thou no drede.
Or hyt passe dayes three,
In mekyll sorowe schall sche bee:
   Thus y schall qwyte hur hur mede."
Now are they bothe at oon assente
In sorow to brynge that lady gente:
   The devell mote them spede!
Sone hyt drowe toward nyght;
To soper they can them dyght,
   The Emperes and they all;
The two knyghtys grete yapys made,
For to make the lady glade,
   That was bothe gentyll and small;
When the sopertyme was done,
To the chaumbyr they went soone,
   Knyghtys cladde in palle
They daunsed and revelyd, os they noght dredde,
To brynge the lady to hur bedde:
   There foule muste them falle!
That oon thefe callyd a knyght
That was carver to that lady bryght;
   An Erleys sone was hee;
He was a feyre chylde and a bolde;
Twenty wyntur he was oolde:
   In londe was none so free.
"Syr, wylt thou do os we the say?
And we schall ordeygne us a play,
   That my lady may see.
Thou schalt make hur to lagh soo,
Thogh sche were gretly thy foo,
   Thy frende schulde sche bee."
The chylde answeryd anon ryght:
"Be the ordur y bere of knyght,
   Therof wolde y be fayne,
And hyt wolde my lady plese,
Thogh hyt wolde me dysese,
   To renne yn wynde and rayne."
"Syr, make the nakyd save thy breke;
And behynde the yondur curtayn thou crepe,
   And do os y schall sayne;
Then schalt thou see a joly play!"
"Y graunte," thys yonge knyght can say,
   "Be God and Seynte Jermayne."
Thys chylde thoght on no ylle:
Of he caste hys clothys stylle;
   And behynde the curtayn he went.
They seyde to hym, "What so befalle,
Come not owt tyll we the calle."
   And he seyde, "Syrs, y assente."
They revelyd forthe a grete whyle;
No man wyste of ther gyle
   Save they two, veramente.
They voyded the chaumber sone anon;
The chylde they lafte syttyng alone,
   And that lady gente.
Thys lady lay in bedde on slepe;
Of treson toke sche no kepe,
   For therof wyste sche noght.
Thys chylde had wonder evyr among
Why these knyghtys were so longe:
   He was in many a thoght.
"Lorde, mercy! How may thys bee?
Y trowe they have forgeten me,
   That me hedur broght;
Yf y them calle, sche wyll be adredd,
My lady lyeth here in hur bede,
   Be Hym that all hath wroght!"
Thus he sate stylle as any stone:
He durste not store nor make no mone
   To make the lady afryght.
Thes false men ay worthe them woo!,
To ther chaumbur can they goo
   And armyd them full ryght;
Lordys owte of bedde can they calle
And badde arme them, grete and smalle:
   "Anone that ye were dyght,
And helpe to take a false traytoure
That wyth my lady in hur bowre
   Hath playde hym all thys nyght."
Sone they were armyd everychone;
And wyth these traytours can they gone,
   The lordys that there wore.
To the Emperes chaumber they cam ryght
Wyth torchys and wyth swerdys bryght
   Brennyng them before.
Behynde the curtayne they wente;
The yonge knyght, verrament,
   Nakyd founde they thore.
That oon thefe wyth a swerde of were
Thorow the body he can hym bere,
   That worde spake he no more.
The lady woke and was afryght,
Whan sche sawe the grete lyght
   Before hur beddys syde.
Sche seyde, "Benedycyté!"
Syrs, what men be yee?"
   And wonder lowde sche cryedd.
Hur enemyes mysansweryd thore
"We are here, thou false hore:
   Thy dedys we have aspyedd!
Thou haste betrayed my lorde;
Thou schalt have wonduryng in thys worde:
   Thy loos schall sprynge wyde!"
The lady seyde, "Be Seynte John,
Hore was y nevyr none,
   Nor nevyr thoght to bee."
"Thou lyest," they seyde, "thy love ys lorne" -
The corse they leyde hur beforne -
   "Lo, here ys thy lemman free!
Thus we have for they hym hytt;
Thy horedam schall be wele quytte:
   Fro us schalt thou not flee!"
They bonde the lady wondyr faste
And in a depe preson hur caste:
   Grete dele hyt was to see!
Leve we now thys lady in care,
And to hur lorde wyll we fare,
   That ferre was hur froo.
On a nyght, wythowt lette,
In hys slepe a swevyn he mett,
   The story telleth us soo.
Hym thoght ther come two wylde borys
And hys wyfe all toterys
   And rofe hur body in twoo;
Hymselfe was a wytty man,
And be that dreme he hopyd than
   Hys lady was in woo.
Yerly, when the day was clere,
He bad hys men all in fere
   To buske and make them yare.
Somer horsys he let go before
And charyettes stuffud wyth stoore
   Wele twelve myle and mare.
He hopud wele in hys herte
That hys wyfe was not in querte;
   Hys herte therfore was in care;
He styntyd not tyll he was dyght,
Wyth erlys, barons, and many a knyght;
   Homeward can they fare.
Nyght ne day nevyr they blanne,
Tyll to that cyté they came
   There the lady was ynne.
Wythowt the cyté lordys them kepyd;
For wo in herte many oon wepyd:
   There teerys myght they not blynne.
They supposyd wele yf he hyt wyste
That hys wyfe had soche a bryste,
   Hys yoye wolde be full thynne;
They ladden stedys to the stabyll,
And the lorde into the halle,
   To worschyp hym wyth wynne.
Anon to the chaumbur wendyth he:
He longyd hys feyre lady to see,
   That was so swete a wyght.
He callyd them that schoulde hur kepe:
"Where ys my wyfe? Ys sche on slepe?
   How fareth that byrde bryght?"
The two traytours answeryd anone,
"Yf ye wyste how sche had done,
   To dethe sche schulde be dyght."
"A, devyll!" he seyde, "how soo,
To dethe that sche ys worthy to go?
   Tell me, in what manere."
"Syr," they seyd, "be Goddys ore,
The yonge knyght Syr Antore,
   That was hur kervere,
Be that lady he hath layne,
And therfore we have hym slayne;
   We founde them in fere;
Sche ys in preson, verrament;
The lawe wyll that sche be brente,
   Be God, that boght us dere."
"Allas!" seyde the Emperoure,
"Hath sche done me thys dyshonoure?
   And y lovyd hur so wele!
Y wende for all thys worldys gode
That sche wolde not have turned hur mode:
   My joye begynnyth to kele."
He hente a knyfe wyth all hys mayn;
Had not a knyght ben, he had hym slayn,
   And that traytour have broght owt of heele.
For bale hys armes abrode he bredde
And fell in swowne upon hys bedde;
   There myght men see grete dele.
On the morne be oon assente,
On hur they sett a perlyament
   Be all the comyn rede.
They myght not fynde in ther counsayle
Be no lawe, wythowt fayle,
   To save hur fro the dede.
Then bespake an olde knyght,
"Y have wondur, be Goddys myght,
   That Syr Antore thus was bestedde,
In chaumbyr thogh he naked were;
They let hym gyf none answere,
   But slowe hym, be my hedde!
Ther was nevyr man, sekurly,
That be hur founde any velany,
   Save they two, y dar wele say;
Be some hatered hyt may be;
Therfore doyth aftur me
   For my love, y yow pray.
No mo wyll preve hyt but they twoo;
Therfore we may not save hur fro woo,
   For sothe, os y yow say,
In hyr quarell but we myght fynde
A man that were gode of kynde
   That durste fyght agayn them tway."
All they assentyd to the sawe:
They thoght he spake reson and lawe.
   Then answeryd the Kyng wyth crowne,
"Fayre falle the for thyn avyse."
He callyd knyghtys of nobyll pryce
   And badde them be redy bowne
For to crye thorow all the londe,
Bothe be see and be sonde,
   Yf they fynde mowne
A man that ys so moche of myght,
That for that lady dar take the fyght,
   "He schall have hys warison."
Messangerys, y undurstonde,
Cryed thorow all the londe
   In many a ryche cyté,
Yf any man durste prove hys myght
In trewe quarell for to fyght,
   Wele avaunsed schulde he bee.
The Erle of Tullous harde thys telle,
What anger the lady befell;
   Thereof he thoght grete pyté.
Yf he wyste that sche had ryght,
He wolde aventure hys lyfe to fyght
   For that lady free.
For hur he morned nyght and day,
And to hymselfe can he say
   He wolde aventure hys lyfe:
"Yf y may wytt that sche be trewe,
They that have hur accused schull rewe,
   But they stynte of ther stryfe."
The Erle seyde, "Be Seynte John,
Ynto Almayn wyll y goon,
   Where y have fomen ryfe;
I prey to God full of myght
That y have trewe quarell to fyght,
   Owt of wo to wynne that wyfe."
He rode on huntyng on a day,
A marchand mett he be the way,
   And asked hym of whens he was.
"Lorde," he seyde, "of Almayn."
Anon the Erle can hym frayne
   Of that ylke case:
"Wherefore ys yowre Emperes
Put in so grete dystresse?
   Telle me, for Goddys grace.
Ys sche gylté, so mote thou the?"
"Nay, be Hym that dyed on tree,
   That schope man aftur Hys face."
Then seyde the Erle, wythowte lett,
"When ys the day sett
   Brente that sche schulde bee?"
The marchande seyde sekyrlyke,
"Evyn thys day thre wyke,
   And therfore wo ys mee."
The Erle seyde, "Y schall the telle:
Gode horsys y have to selle,
   And stedys two or thre:
Certys, myght y selle them yare,
Thedur wyth the wolde y fare,
   That syght for to see."
The marchand seyd wordys hende:
"Into the londe yf ye wyll wende,
   Hyt wolde be for yowre prowe,
There may ye selle them at your wylle."
Anon the Erle seyde hym tylle,
   "Syr, herkyn me nowe:
Thys jurney wylt thou wyth me dwelle
Twenty pownde y schall the telle
   To mede, y make avowe!"
The marchand grauntyd anon;
The Erle seyde, "Be Seynt John,
   Thy wylle y alowe."
The Erle tolde hym in that tyde
Where he schulde hym abyde,
   And homeward wente hee.
He busked hym, that no man wyste,
For mekyll on hym was hys tryste.
   He seyde, "Syr, go wyth mee!"
Wyth them they toke stedys sevyn -
Ther were no fayre undyr hevyn
   That any man myght see.
Into Almayn they can ryde:
As a coresur of mekyll pryde
   He semyd for to bee.
The marchand was a trewe gyde;
The Erle and he togedur can ryde,
   Tyll they came to that place.
A myle besyde the castell
There the Emperoure can dwelle,
   A ryche abbey ther was;
Of the abbot leve they gatt
To sojorne and make ther horsys fatt;
   That was a nobyll case!
The abbot was the ladyes eme;
For hur he was in grete wandreme,
   And moche mornyng he mase.
So hyt befell upon a day,
To churche the Erle toke the way,
   A masse for to here.
He was a feyre man and an hye;
When the abbot hym sye,
   He seyde, "Syr, come nere:
Syr, when the masse ys done,
Y pray yow, ete wyth me at noone,
   Yf yowre wylle were."
The Erle grauntyd all wyth game;
Afore mete they wysche all same,
   And to mete they wente in fere.
Aftur mete, as y yow say,
Into an orchard they toke the way,
   The abbot and the knyght.
The abbot seyde and syghed sare;
"Certys, Syr, y leve in care
   For a lady bryght;
Sche ys accusyd - my herte ys woo! -
Therfore sche schall to dethe goo,
   All agayne the ryght;
But sche have helpe, verrament,
In fyre sche schall be brente
   Thys day sevenyght."
The Erle seyde, "So have y blysse,
Of hyr, methynkyth, grete rewthe hyt ys,
   Trewe yf that sche bee!"
The abbot seyde, "Be Seynte Poule,
For hur y dar ley my soule
   That nevyr gylté was sche;
Soche werkys nevyr sche wroght
Neythyr in dede nor in thoght,
   Save a rynge so free
To the Erle of Tullous sche gafe hyt wyth wynne,
Yn ese of hym and for no synne:
   In schryfte thus tolde sche me."
The Erle seyde, "Syth hyt ys soo,
Cryste wreke hur of hur woo,
   That boght hur wyth Hys bloode!
Wolde ye sekyr me, wythowt fayle,
For to holde trewe counsayle,
   Hyt myght be for yowre gode."
The abbot seyde be bokes fele
And be hys professyon, that he wolde hele,
   And ellys he were wode.
"Y am he that sche gaf the rynge
For to be oure tokenynge.
   Now heyle hyt, for the Rode!
Y am comyn, lefe syr,
To take the batyle for hyr,
   There to stonde wyth ryght;
But fyrste myselfe y wole hur schryve,
And yf y fynde hur clene of lyve,
   Then wyll my herte be lyght.
Let dyght me in monkys wede
To that place that men schulde hyr lede,
   To dethe to be dyght;
When y have schrevyn hyr, wythowt fayle,
For hur y wyll take batayle,
   As y am trewe knyght!"
The abbot was nevyr so gladde;
Nere for joye he waxe madde;
   The Erle can he kysse;
They made meré and slewe care.
All that sevenyght he dwellyd thare
   Yn myrthe wythowt mysse.
That day that the lady schulde be brent,
The Erle wyth the abbot wente
   In monkys wede, ywys;
To the Emperour he knelys blyve,
That he myght that lady schryve:
   Anon resceyved he ys.
He examyned hur, wyttyrly,
As hyt seythe in the story;
   Sche was wythowte gylte.
Sche seyde, "Be Hym that dyed on tree,
Trespas was nevyr none in me
   Wherefore y schulde be spylte;
Save oonys, wythowte lesynge,
To the Erle of Tollous y gafe a rynge:
   Assoyle me yf thou wylte;
But thus my destanye ys comyn to ende,
That in thys fyre y muste be brende;
   There Goddys wylle be fulfyllyt."
The Erle assoyled hur wyth hys honde,
And sythen pertely he can up stonde
   And seyde, "Lordyngys, pese!
Ye that have accused thys lady gente,
Ye be worthy to be brente."
   That oon knyght made a rees:
"Thou carle monke, wyth all thy gynne,
Thowe youre abbot be of hur kynne,
   Hur sorowe schalt thou not cees;
Ryght so thou woldyst sayne
Thowe all youre covent had be hyr layne;
   So are ye lythyr and lees!"
The Erle answeryd, wyth wordys free,
"Syr, that oon y trowe thou bee
   Thys lady accused has.
Thowe we be men of relygyon,
Thou schalt do us but reson
   For all the fare thou mas.
Y prove on hur thou sayst not ryght.
Lo, here my glove wyth the to fyght!
   Y undyrtake thys case;
Os false men y schall yow kenne;
Yn redde fyre for to brenne;
   Therto God gyf me grace!"
All that stoden in that place
Thankyd God of hys grace,
   Wythowte any fayle.
The two knyghtys were full wrothe:
He schulde be dedde, they swere grete othe;
   But hyt myght not avayle.
The Erle wente there besyde
And armyd hym wyth mekyll pryde,
   Hys enemyes to assayle.
Manly when they togedur mett,
They hewe thorow helme and basenet
   And martyrd many a mayle.
They redyn togedur, wythowt lakk,
That hys oon spere on hym brakk;
   That othyr faylyd thoo;
The Erle smote hym wyth hys spere;
Thorow the body he can hym bere:
   To grounde can he goo.
That sawe that odyr, and faste can flee;
The Erle ovyrtoke hym undur a tre
   And wroght hym mekyll woo;
There thys traytour can hym yylde
Os recreaunt yn the fylde;
   He myght not fle hym froo.
Before the Emperoure they wente
And there he made hym, verrament,
   To telle for the noonys.
He seyde, "We thoght hur to spylle,
For sche wolde not do oure wylle,
   That worthy ys in wonnys."
The Erle answeryd hym then,
"Therfore, traytours, ye schall brenne
   Yn thys fyre, bothe at onys!"
The Erle anon them hente,
And in the fyre he them brente,
   Flesche, felle, and boonys.
When they were brent bothe twoo,
The Erle prevely can goo
   To that ryche abbaye.
Wyth joye and processyon
They fett the lady into the towne,
   Wyth myrthe, os y telle may.
The Emperoure was full gladde:
"Fette me the monke!" anon he badde,
   "Why wente he so awaye?
A byschoperyke y wyll hym geve,
My helpe, my love, whyll y leve,
   Be God that owyth thys day!"
The abbot knelyd on hys knee
And seyde, "Lorde, gone ys hee
   To hys owne londe;
He dwellyth wyth the pope of Rome;
He wyll be glad of hys come,
   Y do yow to undurstonde."
"Syr abbot," quod the Emperoure,
"To me hyt were a dyshonoure;
   Soche wordes y rede thou wonde;
Anone yn haste that y hym see,
Or thou schalt nevyr have gode of me,
   And therto here myn honde!"
"Lorde," he seyde, "sythe hyt ys soo
Aftur hym that y muste goo,
   Ye muste make me sewrté,
Yn case he have byn youre foo,
Ye schall not do hym no woo;
   And then, also mote y thee,
Aftur hym y wyll wynde,
So that ye wyll be hys frende,
   Yf youre wylle bee."
"Yys," seyd the Emperoure full fayne,
"All my kynne thogh he had slayne,
   He ys welcome to mee."
Then spake the abbot wordys free:
"Lorde, y tryste now on thee:
   Ye wyll do os ye sey;
Hyt ys Syr Barnard of Tollous,
A nobyll knyght and a chyvalrous,
   That hath done thys jurney."
"Now certys," seyde the Emperoure,
"To me hyt ys grete dyshonoure;
   Anon, Syr, y the pray
Aftur hym that thou wende:
We schall kysse and be gode frende,
   Be God, that owyth thys day!"
The abbot seyde, "Y assente."
Aftur the Erle anon he wente,
   And seyde, "Syr, go wyth mee:
My lorde and ye, be Seynt John,
Schull be made bothe at oon,
   Goode frendys for to bee."
Therof the Erle was full fayne;
The Emperoure came hym agayne
   And sayde, "My frende so free,
My wrath here y the forgeve,
My helpe, my love, whyll y leve,
   Be Hym that dyed on tree!"
Togedur lovely can they kysse;
Therof all men had grete blysse:
   The romaunse tellyth soo.
He made hym steward of hys londe
And sesyd agayne into hys honde
   That he had rafte hym froo.
The Emperoure levyd but yerys thre;
Be alexion of the lordys free,
   The Erle toke they thoo.
They made hym ther Emperoure,
For he was styffe yn stoure
   To fyght agayne hys foo.
He weddyd that lady to hys wyfe;
Wyth joye and myrthe they ladde ther lyfe
   Twenty yere and three.
Betwene them had they chyldyr fifteen,
Doghty knyghtys all bedene,
   And semely on to see.
Yn Rome thys geste cronyculyd ywys;
A lay of Bretayne callyd hyt ys,
   And evyr more schall bee.
Jhesu Cryste to hevyn us brynge,
There to have owre wonnyng!
   Amen, amen, for charytee!
Here endyth the Erle of Toullous
and begynneth Syr Egyllamoure of Artas.
Cross; did bleed
Permit [me]
once occurred
recovered from her
much might
was called; (see note)
lands won
i.e., it happened
war arose; I say to you
(see note)
reft, i.e., taken, gouged
(see note)
formidable knight
saw [that]
(see note)
prepared himself
without delay
burn; slay
(see note)
i.e., lived
almsdeeds; proper behavior
By; also
also; beautiful
Deliver (return); property
break; brain
makes war vigorously
prepare themselves
Throughout; far; wide
carry weapons
crossbow; shield; spear; (see note)
ready to go
shield shining
cracked; head
battalions seven
spoke; powerful voice
thrive, i.e., win
leave none alive
(see note)
Neither; nor; property
threats; nonetheless
courageously met him; (see note)
Boldly; (see note)
charged; mad
hideous; hear
spears broken
Heads; helmets cracked
hauberks torn to pieces; (see note)
slew; (see note)
effective; war
was slain
As if it; flood
used to sleep peacefully
know no good (i.e., are wretched)
left lying
used to be wild; ferocious
won; field
Quickly did
Eager; (see note)
three Earls
more; escaped
not be any other way
followed; chase
without doubt
Only; to tell the truth
did they face the foe
Whatever; happen
(see note)
Until; avenged
peril truthfully
opposed to; just cause
[suffered]; dishonor
wretched; deliberation
nearly; slay
(see note)
I advise by; (see note)
truly just as
it ill-pleased him
Not one word
amazingly still
nor joy pleased
did; grieve
Who; might
sent to him
(see note)
(see note)
confidently; (see note)
came about
(see note)
By; river
Of something widely known
(see note)
color; skin
(see note)
bear as
complexion; redder than
i.e., imagine
mourning; makes
pledge; (see note)
Providing that
(see note)
by God's grace
Firmly trust me
trust you; friend
Soon; prepared nimbly; (see note)
(see note)
stopped; tarried
(see note)
hermit's clothing
be known
(Trylabas) thought to himself
nervous rush
harrowed hell
Tell me why he has come
as reward
suggest; slay
caused; grief
must; (see note)
loosed (released) you
mass bell; (see note)
trick; (see note)
an act of treason
lie in wait for; treachery; (see note)
foully disgraced
might I thrive
Tomorrow morning
do not dismay
hear; call to Mass
By; oriel (passageway); (see note)
worthily wrought
goes to my liking
prepare himself
(see note)
In the time required to ride half a mile
fair of countenance
(see note)
forehead; toe
Twice; around
angel; heaven
middle, i.e., waist
whale's bone; (see note)
He couldn't take his eyes off her
Would that
did she return
mourning; more
(see note)
If she were willing
(see note)
Who died
From; (see note)
grew happy
many times; (see note)
precious darling
as it
Took his leave
good friends
evil befall him
by all accounts
by my counsel
boast; advise; squelch
i.e., listen to my counsel
(see note)
than; those
need; wait
both of them
i.e., got winded
gathered; quickly
eagerly; pursued
wilderness area
took his cares
no other dwelling
on throne
escaped; enemies
most pleased
lies (i.e., to tell the truth)
make war; more
mirth; solace
Just as it suited him
thrown into despair
dear to him
Whether; far; near
i.e., guard
did; other
secretly; affected them
nearly brought
might I thrive
i.e., you're wasting away
a vow
make sure it be
Without a doubt
suffering; eased
beg; favor
to her
catch us
betray us; be afraid
This; thief
Then spoke
by you
dare I not
disclose, i.e., tell on me
it would be possible
dare not trust
conceal you
suffer for you
pine; sulk
well-being; mind
Unless; believe; words
I never dare speak
Then; person
certainly you know
(see note)
don't be offended
did; frighten
Let me be pulled apart by horses
forgive you
evil; suffer
questioned soon
(see note)
hopeless cause
other; thin
head; wager
thoroughly probed
as if he cared not
Into woe
(see note)
I think
Yes; noble
Or else I did amiss
i.e., mental anguish
nearly die of suffering
What kind of woman do you think I am
heard about me
As if; whore; a gossip
middle Earth
for; guilt
I've had no luck
i.e., unsafe
if; knew
Before; inflicts
well satisfied
Before three days pass
pay her her reward
reward them
Soon; drew
supper; prepare themselves
i.e., rich fabrics
(see note)
(see note)
Earl's son
handsome; confident
as I tell you
invent; game
except your breeches
Germaine; (see note)
(see note)
Whatever happens
knew; guile
Except those; truly
left sitting
move; moan
(see note)
(see note)
(see note)
were there
(see note)
Through; thrust
Bless us
i.e., spoke abusively; (see note)
deeds; witnessed
exile (wandering); (see note)
promiscuous lover
whoredom; proven
deep prison
far; from
dream; dreamed
wild boars; (see note)
That; tore all to pieces
knew with certainty; (see note)
bade; all together
arm; prepare themselves
Pack horses; sent ahead; (see note)
wagons; provisions
was certain
deeply concerned
stopped; prepared
did; proceed
Outside; awaited
Their tears; stop
lead the steeds
have guarded
knew; behaved
death; condemned
by God's grace; (see note)
(see note)
With; has lain
together (copulating); (see note)
demands; burned
I believed; world's good
i.e., been unfaithful
joy; cool; (see note)
seized; strength
himself; (see note)
despair; opened
parliament; (see note)
(see note)
Except those
By; hatred
i.e., as I say
No one else; prove
cause; unless
Blessings on you
quickly prepared
by sea; shore
advanced in rank
heard; proclamation
be sorry
Unless; stop
Germany; go
abundant enemies
where he was from
guilty; may you prosper
created; image
three weeks
promise you
As reward
agreed instantly
wait for him
armed himself
great; him [the merchant]; trust
seven horses
none fairer
permission; got
[with] mourning he was overwhelmed
saw him
before eating; wash together
dine; together
fire; burned
i.e., in a week
Such deeds
practice; thought
Except; graciously
For his comfort
Who redeemed
by many books
embrace; (see note)
Or else; mad
conceal; Cross; (see note)
dear sir
fight in her cause; (see note)
i.e., guiltless
me be dressed; monk's garb
(see note)
For; prepared
Nearly; went crazy
merry; set aside
knelt humbly
questioned; intelligently
says; (see note)
then boldly
churlish; trickery
Though; kin
monastery; by her lain
liar; false
be held accountable
accusations you make
(see note)
expose (make known)
for to be burnt
very angry
swore; oath
i.e., to no avail
(see note)
i.e., ruined; chainmail
own; broke
from him
at once
seized; (see note)
skin; bones
bishopric; (see note)
hope you
(see note)
advise you cease
i.e., I swear it
an assurance
(see note)
may I prosper
Yes; happily
even though
as you say
i.e., promise you
as one
(see note)
(see note)
returned; (see note)
three years
election; (see note)
fierce; battle
(see note)
story is chronicled truly
(see note)
dwelling; (see note)

Go To Sir Cleges, Introduction
Go To Sir Cleges
Go To The Table of Contents