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Sir Cleges


1 He thought to rid himself of debt by that means


Sir Cleges is extant in two fifteenth-century MSS (see introduction). The version presented in this volume is Bodleian 6922, which is more complete than the Edinburgh version. The entire MS is written by a single scribe identified as Rate and features drawings of a pike and a flower after several of the pieces.

Abbreviations: B: Bodleian MS 6922 (Ashmole); A: Advocates MS; Mc: McKnight; T: Treichel; H: Housum.

1 Lystyns lordynges. B: ystyns lordynges; T's emendation. A: Will ye lystyn, and ye schyll here. The line constitutes a conventional exhortation to the audience suggesting the orality/aurality of the poem as the reader gains the attention of the audience.

1-79 A number of scholars have noted the similarity between the initial situation of Sir Cleges and that of Sir Amadace; the two poems share the motif of the Spendthrift Knight. Both Amadace and Cleges give generously even after they incur great debt. See also Sir Launfal contained in this volume.

2 Off ansytores, that before us were. A: Of eldyrs, that before us were. One of the features of B is the scribal proclivity for writing double f. Thus "of" appears as off. H notes that ansytores and eldyrs refer to "ancestors and in general to those who lived in former times." She points out a distinction in the two terms that implies a gap in composition time between the two MSS. "The use of eldyrs to mean `ancestors' seems to have become less common around the end of the fourteenth century. The MED does not list any fifteenth-century citation of eldyrs meaning `ancestors'."

3 herdy and wyght. A stereotype of what ancestors were thought to be and a conventional expression in romance and Breton lay.

4-5 Uter and Pendragoun. A: In the tyme of kynge Uter. Mc suggests that the evocation of the name Pendragon in B refers to Uther's brother, which is his explan-ation for the separation of the names. However, the surname is often attached to Uther himself who, with the aid of Merlin, became the legendary father of King Arthur, as line five suggests. Arthur's mother is Igraine of Cornwall to whom a reference is made later in the poem (lines 386-89). H suggests that the double naming in B is a scribal error and is originally intended to suggest one man, Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father.

6 A sembly man of syght. A: A semely man in sight. H notes the frequency with which semely along with a variation of "see" is found in tail-rhyme poetry. The term is used again in line 27 to describe Dame Clarys.

7 knyghht, hyght. The scribe commonly uses yogh to indicate a palatal or velar fricative, which I have transcribed as gh.

Clegys. A: Cleges. Mc points out that Cleges is an uncommon name found a few times in Malory's Morte d'Arthur and the Awntyrs of Arthur. Jessie Weston and Mary Housum note the similarity to Chrétien de Troyes' title character in Cliges, but point out the lack of similarity in plot. The MED defines clege as a noun meaning "horsefly," which may be a joking comment on Cleges' horselessness later in the poem.

9 The evocation of the Round Table as well as the earlier evocation of Uther Pendragon places the narrative within the Arthurian tradition, though it is not often recognized as part of the Arthurian cycle, but rather as an apocryphal, independent narrative such as Thomas Chestre's Sir Launfal. The Round Table is more often understood to be the invention of King Arthur.

10 hy statoure. A: hight stature. Mc suggests that "high stature" is a literary convention describing the physical attributes of the protagonist. The phrase, used again at line 498, suggests a possible pun meaning both physical height and lofty status in the community.

13 he was one. The sense is that in his country Cleges is in a class apart from others C all alone in his kind, beyond the capability of anyone else.

13-15 The attributes of a knight, i.e., courtesy and gentilnesse or nobility, constitute necessary character traits both for a romantic hero and for an actual knight. In addition to "generosity," fre indicates Cleges' socio-economic status, namely that he is freeborn.

14 In all this werld. A: In all the lond. The phrase in B expands the boundaries of Cleges' reputation.

16-17 Cleges makes a practice of honoring those who did not fare well during the war.

18 gold and fe. In feudal English law a fee is a parcel of land or an estate held on condition of homage and service to a superior lord, by whom it is granted and in whom the ownership remains. The term is synonymous with fief and feudal benefice. Fee often appears in conjunction with something else of intrinsic value, usually gold.

19 Hys tenantes feyre he wold rehete. A: The pore pepull he wold releve. B's reading points to Cleges as a property owner, a status that plays an important role in this economy of manors/manners. The reading in A provides evidence of Cleges' charity to the poor.

20 No man he wold buske ne bete. A: And no man wold he greve.

H notes the variations in meaning of the word buske and its association with other words, e.g., busken, "to hasten," busshen "to push, press," and busten, "to bruise, beat." The MED, which cites only Sir Cleges, defines it as "to oppress, flog." The difference in meaning of the two lines is notable; the reading of B foreshadows Cleges' mode of justice later in the poem.

21 Meke as meyd was he. A: Meke of maners was hee.

In the Canterbury Tales Chaucer's exemplary knight is described similarly to the reading in B
And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
And of his port as meeke as is a mayde.
(General Prologue, 68-69)
27 Ne non semblyere in syght. A: And mery sche was on sighte. The description of Clarys in B parallels that of Cleges in line six.

28 Dame Clarys, as her name suggests, illuminates the narrative with her good sense, patience, and cheerful optimism. Mc expresses admiration by comparing her to such stalwart female characters as Le Freine, Emaré, Constance, and Griselda, though he finds Clarys "the most human of them all" (p. 74). Another worthy comparison may be Dame Beulybon in Erle of Tolous, who demonstrates a remarkable fortitude in response to a false accusation of adultery. H notes no other romance heroine of this exact name, but one Old French verse romance in which Cleges appears as a character is called Clarice after the hero; other sources of inspiration may be the Old French verse romance Claris et Laris, Clarice, the protective friend of Blanchefleur, in Floris and Blanchefleur, or the briefly mentioned character in Piers Plowman, Clarys of Cokkeslane. Given the themes of the poem, Clarys could allude to St. Clare, the thirteenth-century Franciscan nun who founded the Order of Poor Clares in Assisi shortly after the death and canonization of St. Francis.

31-32 Grete almusfolke bothe thei were. A: Almus gret sche wold geve. B defines both Cleges and Clarys as almsgivers. Almsgiving to the poor was both an indication of charity and an official activity.

32 Both to pore man and to frere. A: The pore pepull to releve. A distinction is being made in B between the ordinary poor and mendicants, orders of friars who embrace poverty voluntarily. Fraternal orders include the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Augustinians, and the Carmelites. According to the MED, frere could also refer to knights of a brotherhood such as the Templars or Hospitallers, an order founded by St. Julian the patron saint of hospitality.

34-36 The sense seems to be: For Claris and Cleges no person would suffer loss, whether rich or poor; for such people they would provide restitution.

38-39 It was customary on feast days for double portions to be served to guests as a sign of the king's liberality and good will. Largesse was particularly encouraged at Christmas. Compare Christmas feasts in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Perceval of Galles.

40-42 A lacuna appears in B. I have emended by supplying the missing passage from A.

46-54 Minstrels often performed in return for room and board and whatever remuneration a lord might offer for the entertainment. Most often reward consisted of robes and garments, but occasionally a valuable gold cup was given.

47 A: For there they myghht most myrthis fynd.

48 ther pay. A double sense is possible here: Minstrels will be there since they find their greatest pleasure amidst such mirth; or, since that is where they find greatest recompense.

52 rynges. B: thynges. T emends to rynges. I follow the emendation to maintain the alliteration and to avoid redundancy.

55 In B Roman numerals indicate cardinal numbers. I have emended all Roman numerals to their verbal equivalents.

56 In worschype of Hym, that all weld. A: In the worschepe of Mari myld. The disparity between MSS in the object of worship, i.e., Christ or the Virgin Mary, is interesting, perhaps indicating the interchangeability between the two in medieval piety, particularly at Christmas. Mary is evoked three more times in both MSS in exclamatory expressions.

58 slake. B: schake. T emends to slake to concur with the reading in A as well as for sense.

65 Both gentyll men and comenere. A: Many a knyght and squire. B expands the range of Cleges' largesse beyond strict delineations of class and estate.

68 The folk motif of the Spendthrift Knight has been noted as present in this and other poems, e.g., Thomas Chestre's Sir Launfal, the later Sir Lambewell, Sir Amadace, The Good Knight and His Jealous Wyfe, and the fifteenth-century ballad The True Tale of Robin Hood. H notes the occurrence of the motif "in the folktales and literature of many European cultures as well as far away as Japan" (p. 67).

78 A: Might not leve there on.

79 Mc marks this as the point of differentiation from the plot of Sir Amadace. Amadace's wealth is lost as a result of his charity toward a widow who is prevented from burying the corpse of her husband until she pays his debts and funeral costs. Amadace's fortune is restored by the ghost of the dead man disguised as a White Knight rather than by an equally grateful but living king as in Sir Cleges. In Sir Launfal, the hero's wealth is restored by a fairy mistress.

80 Weste awey onne every syde. A: Gan slake awaye on every syde. Either reading points to the unreliability of fair-weather friends.

82-83 B: To duell with hym ther left no mo / Bot hys wyfe and his chylder two. A: But he and his childyrn too; / Than was his hart in mech woo. B is more explicit in describing Cleges' family including two children and his wife, who play a significant supporting role in the narrative.

86 Syre Clegys and his wyfe. A: A kynge bethowght hym full evyn.

87 Cardyff syde. Cardiff is a city in Wales associated with the Arthurian cycle as are Carleon and Carlisle.

88 none. Noon often precipitates unusual occurrences in medieval narratives, e.g., Sir Orfeo. See John Block Friedman's "Orpheus, Eurydice and the Noon-day Demon," Speculum 41 (1966), 22-24.

89 Swooning is not uncommon in medieval romance. H notes other poems which incorporate the trope: Sir Launfal, Sir Eglamour, Amis and Amiloun, Sir Landevale, Sir Degaré. Also Constance and Griselda in Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale and the Clerk's Tale or both Troilus and Crisyde in their romance.

93 B: Tenandrys and landes wyde. A: And his renttes wyde.

96 Fore fallyd was his pride. Hanspeter Schelp, who categorizes Sir Cleges as an exemplary romance, argues that Cleges' pride is his downfall. [See Exemplarische Romanzen im Mittelenglishchen (Göttengen: Vandenhaeck & Ruprecht, 1967), pp. 93-97.]

99 dyverse mynstralsy. There are a number of similar listings of musical instruments in other romances. See Sir Launfal, Emaré, Pearl, Squire of Low Degree, Richard Coeur de Lyon, Libeaus Desconus, Thomas of Erceldoune, Kyng Alisaunder, Buke of Houlate, Sir Degrevant. Chaucer's Manciple's Tale lists the musical instruments similarly: "Bothe harpe, and lute, and gyterne, and sautrie" (line 268). Though the instruments differ among the poems, the frequency with which they occur in these narratives indicates the importance of music to everyday as well as festive medieval life.

101 notys. The MED (sb. 2d) suggests that notys in this line might refer to a musical instrument on grounds that A reads luttis; but that interpretation accords neither with the syntax of the line nor the sense of the series which presents performers and music rather than instruments. Line 102 does, however, mention instruments, as it does in A. But in B the progression in the series moves from musicians (line 100) to their music (line 101) to their instruments (line 102).

102 sytall. B: sycall; T's emendation.

103 In the Middle Ages carols included dancing. Men and/or women formed a circle and danced as they sang. A famous scene of carolling is staged in Handlyng Synne to serve as an example of wicked behavior.

119 That longes for any manus fode. A: That myght be gott, be the rode. In his prayer Cleges demonstrates his philosophy of charity. He will give to anyone in "any lond" (line 117) who has experienced misfortune and hunger. He is not only generous but undiscriminating in his generosity.

125 My trew wedyd fere. A: my trew fere.

130-32 There is a three-line lacuna in B which I have replaced with the corresponding passage in A.

145 tho. B: the; T's emendation.

148 fell. B: sell; T's emendation.

149 comforth. H observes that "comfort" implies more than "to cheer, or console," its primary meaning. Rather, it carries connotations of spiritual strength since "Clarys is leading her husband away from despair."

166-68 These three lines are missing in A.

171 Be chesyn. The phrase is rich with possible meanings. The sense could be that Cleges prays because of his wife's admonition, or choice, or resolve, or chastisement; or it could mean that he prayed on behalf of his wife, or in appreciation of her discretion, or in gratitude for the choice of wife that Christ, his gracious Lord, has bestowed upon him.

172 seyd. B: feyd; T's emendation.

179 The thankyd God omnipotent. A: And thanked God with good entent.

180 They went home so ryfe. A: And put away penci.

185 hys. B: hy; T's emendation.

191-92 Of all desesyd in poverté / That ever to hym He sente. A: Of his dysese and hys povertt / That to hym was sent. In B Cleges prays explicitly for those other than himself which is the implication of A.

193-201 The motif of the Miraculous Cherries has been traced by Sherwin Carr to Pseudo-Matthew, an apocryphal gospel, and demonstrated in The Birth of Christ or Joseph and the Midwives, the fifteenth play of the N-Town mystery cycle, sometimes called the Ludus Coventriae or The Play Called Corpus Christi. A similar motif appears in "The Cherry Tree Carol," Ballad 54, printed in F. J. Child's edition of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. In the play, the miracle occurs enroute to Bethlehem when Mary spies a cherry tree (see introduction).

In "The Cherry Tree Carol" the unborn child commands the tree to bend down and offer its fruit:
O then bespoke the babe,
within his mother's womb:
"Bow down then the tallest tree,
for my mother to have some."
The motif has also been noted in the Wakefield Master's Secunda Pastorum in The Towneley Cycle (see introduction).

194 chery-tre. Cherry trees were commonly found in medieval English gardens; cherry festivals were often held in orchards during cherry season. Reference to the fruit appears twice in John Gower's Confessio Amantis, in a discussion of teachers of religion and morality and again while speaking of love's delicacies.
Thei prechen ous in audience
That noman schalle his soule empeyre,
For al is bot a chirie feire.
(Prologue, 452-54)

Somtime I drawe into memoire
Hou sorwe mai noght evere laste;
And so comth hope in ate laste,
Whan I non other fode knowe
And that endureth bot a throwe,
Riht as it were a cherie feste;
(VI, 886-91)
The fruit also appears in an elaborate description of the hortus conclusus in The Pistel of Swete Susan: "The chirie and the chestein that chosen is of hewe" (line 93).

In Piers Plowman cherries are the food of the poor:
Al the pore peple . pese-coddes fetten,
Bake benes in bred . thei brouhten in heor lappes
Chibolles, cheef mete . and ripe chiries monye,
And proferde Pers this present . to plese with hungur.
(ed., Skeat, A text, VII, 279-82; see also B VI 294-97.
The line is omitted in the C text.)
A "ripe cherry" is likened to the material world in A Father's Instructions to His Son, a companion piece in B: "Son, set nought by this world's weal, for it fares as a ripe cherry."

The cherry is recognized in Christian iconography as symbolic. According to George Ferguson's Signs & Symbols in Christian Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954) the cherry "symbolizes the sweetness of character which is derived from good works. It is often called the Fruit of Paradise. A cherry, held in the hand of the Christ Child, suggests the delights of the blessed" (p. 29).

200-01 The motif of Unseasonable Growth has hagiological and folkloric resonances. C. Grant Loomis notes the Celtic legends of St. Ciaranus of Saigir, St. Kentigern, St. Barrus, St. Aidus, and St. Brynach, while Clement Miles, in Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan (London: T. F. Unwin, 1912), acknowledges an ancient belief in England of trees blossoming at Christmas. The belief is connected with a well-known legend of Joseph of Arimathea. Miles writes: "When the saint settled at Glastonbury he planted his staff in the earth and it put forth leaves; moreover it blossomed every Christmas Eve" (p. 268).

211 The cherry pit is left in Cleges' mouth, evidence of the kind of fruit this is.

220-25 Cleges interprets the sign as a portent, while Clarys interprets it as a miracle.

235 It was customary for rewards to be given for gifts offered to the King.

242 pannyere. The OED defines the term as:
a basket of considerable size for carrying provisions, fish, or other commodities; in later use mostly restricted to those carried by a beast of burden (usually in pairs, one on each side, slung across the back), or on the shoulders of a man or woman.
255 There seems to be an error in chronology. If the miracle occurs on Christmas Day then Cleges' journey to deliver the gift to King Uther takes place on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

262 The porter's duties include screening those desiring an audience with the king. Mc notes that "the minstrel was well accustomed to the ill treatment of porters, and the surly porter appears frequently in minstrel story" (p. 77). H notes that the Hindering Servant motif often appears with the Shared Strokes motif but also separately. These servants, including here the usher and the steward, prohibit heroes of several Middle English narratives from entering the castle, e.g., Sir Gowther, Octavian, Sir Tristrem, Robert of Cisyle, Beves of Hampton.

267 begers route. A frequent motif in medieval narrative, many heroes often become beggars or are disguised as beggars. In Sir Orfeo, Orfeo assumes the beggar's disguise to test his steward; in King Horn the hero goes to beggar's row:
He sette him wel loghe
In beggeres row.
(lines 1080-81)
In Piers Plowman, Will experiences poverty first hand:
Ich haue mete more than ynough . ac nought so moche worship
As tho that seten atte syde-table . or with the souereignes of the halle
But sitte as a begger bordeless . bi myself on the grounde.
(ed., Skeat, B text, XII, 199-201)
B: Go. T emends to To.

275 Cleges claims here and subsequently that his gift is from God Himself.

293 offycers. A: usscher. The office of usher called for an ability to distinguish class difference in order to seat people appropriately at table; or as F&H note "[to keep] the rabble from annoying guests at a feast." According to John Russell's Book of Nurture, a fifteenth-century treatise on the duties of domestic employees of the king including carvers, chamberlains, ushers, etc.:
An usher or marshal, without fail, must know all the estates of the Church, and the excellent estate of a king with his honourable blood. This is a notable nurture, cunning, curious and commendable . . . and now I will show you how they should be grouped at table in respect of their dignity, and how they should be served. (As quoted in The Babees Book: Medieval Manners for the Young, ed., Edith Rickert, pp. 69-71.)
316 wernyng. A: lesyng. The variant readings are worth noting. A implies that the usher expects Cleges to lie; B expects compliance.

337 stewerd. The steward acted as his lord's representative in decision making regarding household or manorial matters. Often held by a freeman it was a position requiring absolute trust and unwavering loyalty.

352 traveyll. A: labor.

355 Herlot. Contrary to modern associations of this word with female prostitution, in Middle English it means "a man of no fixed occupation, an idle rogue, a vagabond or beggar." Used as a term of abuse it connoted, "scoundrel, knave, rogue, reprobate, base fellow, coward." In the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer describes the Summoner as: "a gentil harlot and a kynde; / A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde" (I [A] 647-48). Larry D. Benson in The Riverside Chaucer glosses harlot "buffoon, jester," which casts the term in a more positive light.

358-59 B: Or with a staff I schall the twake / And bete thi ragges to thi bake. A: Ar wyth a staffe I schall the wake / That thy rebys schall all to quake. The physicality of the retribution provided by B renders the scene more graphically than the reading of A.

384 Without. B: With. T's emendation.

386 a lady gente. The allusion seems to be to Igraine, who becomes Uther's queen and Arthur's mother.

403 He brought Cleges before the Kyng. A: Whan he cam before the kynge. In B the King sends the squire to retrieve Cleges; in A the squire seems to get lost along the way.

428 strokes twelve. The motif of Shared Strokes is found in a number of cultures in various degrees of sophistication according to John R. Reinhard in "Strokes Shared," Journal of American Folklore 36 (1928), 380-400. But the four most often cited as related stories are from John Bromyard's Summa Praedicantium, a collection of exempla for preaching, where the story is found under the heading, "Invidia"; How the King's Son Shared His Reward, found in the Gesta Romanorum; a French tale, Le Vilain au Buffet; and Lucky They Are Not Peaches, printed in W. A. Clouston's Popular Tales and Fictions: Their Migrations and Transformations (Edinbugh and London: W. Blackwell and Sons, 1887), vol. II.

432 Fore Seynt Charyté. A: For send charyte. As one of three theological virtues (Faith and Hope are the other two), Charity is fittingly personified as a saint. H notes how common the expression is in Middle English romance, e.g., "For love of seynt charyté" (Sir Isumbras, line 156), "For seynt charite" (Amis and Amiloun, line 1608). J.O. Halliman in Thornton Romances (London: J. B. Nichols and Son, 1844), p. 272, cites its use by Shakespeare: "By Gis and by Saint Charity" (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5); and Spenser: "Ah! dear Lord, and sweet Saint Charitee! / That some good body once would pity me" (Shephard's Calendar, May, line 247).

440 graunteyng. B: graunte; T's emendation.

442 B: The Kyng was angary and grevyd sore. A: The kynge was sory therfore. B's reading demonstrates a more complex emotional response.

444 The dyntes schuld be payd. A: Therefore he was full sade. That Cleges' debt should be paid in "dyntes" is an important detail that the B poet/scribe does not overlook.

448 A describes the steward as proud; B does not.

454 strokes thre. There are four blows in all (a third of the twelve).

465 him grete. The resonances of word choice here are rich, ranging from "greeted him," "honored him," "welcomed or rewarded him," to "insulted, challenged, or struck him" or "made him weep" or "groan."

466 B: Syr seyd; T adds Cleges.

481 hys parlere. A private chamber separated from the main dining hall, a segregation of the King from his court that William Langland, author of Piers Plowman, finds lamentable:
Elyng is the halle . vche daye in the wyke,
There the lord ne the lady . liketh noughte to sytte
Now hath vche riche a reule . to eten bi hym-selue
In a pryue parloure . for pore mennes sake,
Or in a chambre with a chymneye . and leue the chief halle,
That was made for meles . men to eten inne.
(ed., Skeat, B, X, 93-99)
484 a geyst i-seyd. H observes a significant variance between MSS in this passage. While in A the harper sings a song of Cleges, in B the subject of the song is not mentioned.

496 thinke. B: thnke.

517-20 H observes that a similar situation occurs in Northern Octavian "where Clement, the bourgeois stepfather of the hero, angered at the expenses of his stepson's knighting, beats part of the emperor's retinue, in this case the minstrels, and causes the court to laugh at him": "Thereatt all the kynges loghe / There was joye and gamen ynoghe" (lines 1165-66).

545 Compare Sir Orfeo and its positive portrayal of the steward. In the Erle of Tolous Sir Barnard proves himself worthy to be bequeathed the Emperor's holdings.

554 colere. The investiture of a collar, often including a pair of spurs, signifies the making of a squire. The attainment of the position was not restricted to those of noble birth but open to peasants, tradesmen, and common soldiers. See Squire of Low Degree. A squire's training often included the singing and writing of poems, as in the case of Chaucer's Squire in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales.

566 old. B: hold; T's emendation.

569 kynne. B: lynne; T's emendation.

576 Amen. A is incomplete. Many of the companion pieces in B including a fragment of Erle of Tolous read: Amen quod Rate. There is some disagreement among scholars about the identity of the scribe or author. F. J. Furnivall, who reads the initial letter of the name as K rather than R, suggests that the scribe may be female: Quoth Kate. "The same name occurs at the end of the three next poems as they appear in Bodleian MS 6922 (Ashmole 61). It is probably a corruption, unless we have here one of the rare instances of a woman copyist." (As quoted in The Babees Book: Medieval Manners for the Young, ed. Edith Rickert, p. 183.) But H disspells the possibility with a specific name-- John Rathe.
   Lystyns, lordynges, and ye schall here
Off ansytores, that before us were,
   Bothe herdy and wyght.
In tyme of Uter and Pendragoun,
Kyng Artour fader of grete renoune,
   A sembly man of syght.
He had a knyghht, hyght Sir Clegys;
A doughtyere man was non at nedys
   Of the Ronde Tabull ryght.
He was man of hy statoure
And therto feyre of all fetour,
   A man of mekyll myght.
Mour curtas knyght than he was one
In all this werld was ther non;
   He was so gentyll and fre.
To squyres, that traveyled in lond of werre
And wer fallyn in poverté bare,
   He gaff them gold and fe.
Hys tenantes feyre he wold rehete;
No man he wold buske ne bete;
   Meke as meyd was he.
Hys mete was redy to every man,
That wold com and vyset hym than;
   He was full of plenté.
The knyght had a gentyll wyff,
A better myghht non be of lyfe
   Ne non semblyere in syght.
Dame Clarys hyght that lady;
Off all godnes sche had treuly
   Glad chere bothe dey and nyght.
Grete almusfolke bothe thei were
Both to pore man and to frere;
   They cheryd many a wyght:
Fore them had no man ought lore,
Whether thei wer ryche ore pore,
   Of hym thei schuld have ryght.
Every yere Sir Clegys wold
In Crystynmes a fest hold
   In the worschype of that dey.
As ryall in all thynge,
As he hade ben a kynge.
   For soth, as I you saye,
Ryche and pore in that contré
At that fest thei schuld be;
   There wold no man sey nay.
Mynstrellus wold not be behynd,
Myrthys wer thei may fynd.
   That is most to ther pay.
Mynstrellus, when the fest was don,
Schuld not withoutyn gyftes gon,
   That wer both rych and gode,
Hors and robys and rych rynges,
Gold and sylver and other thynges,
   To mend with ther mode.
Ten yere our twelve sych festes thei held
In worschype of Hym, that all weld
   And fore us dyghed upon the Rode.
Be than his gode began to slake,
Sych festes he gan make,
   The knyght of jentyll blode.
To hold hys feste he wold not lete;
Hys rych maners to wede he sete;
   He thought hymselve oute to quyte. 1
Thus he festyd many a yere
Both gentyll men and comenere
   In the name of God allmyght.
So at the last, soth to sey,
All hys gode was spendyd away;
   Than he had bot a lyte.
Thoff hys god were ne hond leste,
In the wyrschyp he made a feste;
   He hopyd, God wold hym quyte.
Hys ryalty he forderyd ay,
To hys maners wer sold awey,
   That hym was left bot one,
And that was of lytell valew,
That he and hys wyfe so trew
   Oneth myght lyfe therone.
Hys men, that wer so mych of pride,
Weste awey onne every syde;
   With hym ther left not one.
To duell with hym ther left no mo
Bot hys wyfe and his chylder two.
   Than made he mekyll mone.
It fell on a Crystenmes Eve,
Syre Clegys and his wyfe,
   They duellyd by Cardyff syde.
When it drew towerd the none,
Syre Clegys fell in swownyng sone;
   Wo bethought hym that tyde,
What myrth he was wonte to hold,
And he, he had hys maners solde,
   Tenandrys and landes wyde.
Mekyll sorow made he ther;
He wrong hys hondes and wepyd sore,
   Fore fallyd was hys pride.
And as he walkyd uppe and done
Sore sygheng, he herd a sowne
   Off dyverse mynstralsy,
Off trumpers, pypers, and nakerners,
Off herpers notys and gytherners,
   Off sytall and of sautrey.
Many carrals and grete dansyng
In every syde herd he syng,
   In every place, treuly.
He wrong hys hondes and wepyd sore;
Mekyll mon he made ther,
   Sygheng full pytewysly.
"A, Jhesu, Heven Kyng,
Off nought Thou madyst all thyng;
   I thanke The of Thy sonde.
The myrth, that I was won to make
In this tyme fore Thi sake,
   I fede both fre and bond,
And all, that ever com in Thi name,
They wantyd nother wylde ne tame,
   That was in any lond,
Off rych metys and drynkes gode.
That longes for any manus fode,
   Off cost I wold not wonde."
Als he stode in mournyng so,
And hys wyfe com hym to,
   In armys sche hym bente.
Sche kyssed hym with glad chere
And seyd: "My trew wedyd fere,
   I here wele what ye ment.
Ye se wele, sir, it helpys nought,
To take sorow in your thought;
   Therefore I rede ye stynte.
Let your sorowe awaye gon
And thanke God of Hys lone
   Of all that He hath sent.
"Be Crystes sake, I rede ye lynne
Of all the sorow that ye be ine,
   Agene this holy dey.
Now every man schuld be mery and glad
With sych godes, as thei had;
   Be ye so, I you pray.
Go we to ouer mete belyve
And make us both mery and blythe,
   Als wele as ever we may.
I hold it fore the best, trewly;
I have made owre mete treuly,
   I hope, unto your pay."
"Now I assent," quothe Cleges tho,
In with hyre he gan go
   Somwhat with better chere.
When he fell in thought and care,
Sche comforth hym ever mour,
   Hys sorow fore to stere.
After he gan to wex blyth
And wyped hys terys blyve,
   That hang on hys lyre.
Than thei wesch and went to mete
With sych god as thei myght gete
   And made mery chere.
When thei had ete, the soth to sey,
With myrth thei drofe the dey awey,
   The best wey that they myght.
With ther chylder pley thei dyde
And after evensong went to bede
   At serteyn of the nyght.
The sclepyd to it rong at the chyrche,
Godes servys forto wyrche,
   As it was skyll and ryght.
Up thei ros and went thether,
They and ther chylder together,
   When thei were redy dyght.
Syre Cleges knelyd on hys kne;
To Jhesu Cryst prayd he
   Be chesyn of hys wyfe:
"Grasyos Lord," he seyd tho,
"My wife and my chylder two,
   Kepe us out of stryffe!"
The lady prayd hym ageyn;
Sche seyd: "God, kepe my lord fro peyn
   Into everlastyng lyffe!"
Servys was don and hom their wente;
The thankyd God omnipotent;
   They went home so ryfe.
When he to hys palys com,
He thought his sorow was overgon;
   Hys sorow he gan stynt.
He made hys wyfe before hym gon
And hys chylder everychon;
   Hymselve alone he wente
Into a garthyn ther besyde;
He knelyd adoun in that tyde
   And prayd to God verament.
He thankyd God with all hys hert
Of all desesyd in poverté,
   That ever to hym He sente.
As he knelyd oune hys kne
Underneth a chery tre,
   Makyng hys praere,
He rawght a bowghe in hys hond,
To ryse therby and upstond;
   No lenger knelyd he ther.
When the bowghe was in hys hond,
Gren levys theron he fond
   And ronde beryes in fere.
He seyd: "Dere God in Trinyté,
What maner beryes may this be,
   That grow this tyme of yere?
"I have not se this tyme of yere,
That treys any fruyt schuld bere,
   Als ferre as I have sought."
He thought to tayst it, yff he couthe
One of them he put in hys mouthe;
   Spare wold he nought.
After a chery it relesyd clene,
The best that ever he had sene,
   Seth he was man wrought.
A lytell bow he gan of slyfe
And thought he wold schewe it hys wyfe;
   In hys hond he it brought.
"Lo, dame, here is a nowylté;
In ouer garthyn upon a tre
   Y found it sykerly.
Y ame aferd, it is tokenyng
Be cause of ouer grete plenyng,
   That mour grevans is ny."
His wyfe seyd: "It is tokenyng
Off mour godness, that is comyng;
   We schall have mour plenté.
Have we les our have we mour,
Allwey thanke we God therfore;
   It is the best, treulye."
The lady seyd with gode chere:
"Late us fyll a panyere
   Off the frute, that God hath sente.
Tomorrow, when the dey do spryng,
Ye schall to Cardyff to the Kyng,
   Full feyre hym to presente.
Sych a gyft the may hafe ther,
That we schall the beter fare;
   I tell you, verament."
Syr Clegys grantyd sone therto:
"Tomorowe to Cardyff I wyll go
   After your entent."
The morne, when it was dey lyght,
The lady had the pannyere dyght;
   To hyre eldyst son seyd sche:
"Take up this pannyere gladly
And bere it at thy bake esyly
   After thi fader so fre."
Syr Clegys than a staff he toke;
He had no hors, so seyth the boke,
   To ryde hys jorneye,
Nether sted ne palferey,
Bot a staff was his hakney,
   As maner in poverté.
Syre Cleges and hys son gent
The ryght wey to Cardyfe went
   On Crystenmes Dey.
To the castell gate thei com full ryght,
As thei wer to mete dyght,
   At none, the soth to sey.
As Sir Cleges wold in go,
In pore clothyng was he tho,
   In a symple aray.
The porter seyd full spytously:
"Thow schall withdraw the smertly,
   I rede, withoute deley,
Els, be God and Seynt Mary,
I schall breke thi hede smertly,
   Go stond in begers route.
Iff thou draw any mour inwerd,
Thow schall rew it afterwerd;
   I schall the so cloute."
"Gode sir," seyd Sir Cleges tho,
"I pray you, late me in go:
   Thys is withouten doute:
The Kyng I have a present browght
Fro Hym, that made all thinge of nought;
   Behold and loke aboute!"
The pourter to the pannyere wente;
Sone the lyde up he hente;
   The cherys he gan behold.
Wele he wyst, fore his commyng,
Fore hys present to the Kyng,
   Grete gyftes have he schuld.
He seyd: "Be Hym that me dere bought,
In at this gate commys thou nought,
   Be Hym that made this mold,
The thyrd parte bot though graunte me
Off that the Kyng wyll gyff the,
   Whether it be sylver our gold."
Syre Cleges seyd: "Therto I sente."
He gave hym leve, and in he wente
   Withouten mour lettyng.
In he went a grete pas;
The offycers at the dore was
   With a staff standyng.
In com Sir Cleges so wyght;
He seyd: "Go, chorle, out of my syght,
   Without any mour lettyng.
I schall the bete every lythe,
Hede and body, withoutyn grythe,
   And thou make mour presyng."
"Gode sir," seyd Sir Cleges than,
"For Hys love, that made man,
   Sese your angry mode,
For I have a presante brought
Fro Hym, that made all thyng of nowght
   And dyed upon the Rode.
Thys nyght this fruyt grew;
Behold, whether I be fals our trew;
   They be gentyll and gode."
The usschere lyfte up the lyde smertly;
The feyrest cherys, that ever he sey,
   He mervyllyd in his mode.
The usschere seyd: "Be Mary suete,
Thou comyst not in this halle on fete,
   I tell the, sykerly,
Bot thou graunte me, without wernyng,
The thyrd parte of thi wyneng
   When thou comyst ageyn to me."
Syre Cleges sey non other wone,
Bot ther he grantyd hym anon;
   It wold non other weys be.
Than Sir Cleges with hevy chere
Toke his son and his pannyere;
   Into the hall went he.
The stewerd stert fast in the hall,
Among the lordes in the halle
   That weryd ryche wede.
He went to Sir Cleges boldly
And seyd: "Who made the so herdy,
   To come hether, our thou were bede?"
"Cherle," he seyd, "thou arte to bolde.
Withdraw the with the clothes olde
   Smertly, I the rede."
He seyd: "Sir, I have a presant brought
Fro that Lord that us dere bought
   And on the Rode gan bled."
The stewerd stert forth wele sone
And plukyd up the lyde anon,
   Als smertly as he mought.
The stewerd seyd: "Be Mary dere,
Thys saw I never this tyme of yere,
   Seth I was man i-wrought.
Thow schall cum no nere the Kyng,
Bot if thou grante me myn askyng,
   Be Hym that me dere bought.
The thyrd parte of the Kynges gyfte
I wyll have, be my thryfte,
   Or els go truse the oute!"
Syre Cleges stode and bethoughht hym than:
And I schuld parte betwyx thre men,
   Myselve schuld haue no thyng.
Fore my traveyll schall I not gete,
Bot if it be a melys mete."
   Thus thought hym sore sygheng.
He seyd: "Herlot, has thou no tong?
Speke to me and tary not long
   And grante me myn askyng,
Or with a staff I schall the twake
And bete thi ragges to thi bake
   And schofe the out hedlyng!"
Syre Cleges saw non other bote,
Hys askyng grante hym he mote,
   And seyd with syghyng sore:
"What that ever the Kyng rewerd,
Ye schall have the thyrd parte,
   Whether it be lesse our more."
When Sir Cleges had seyd that word,
The stewerd and he wer acorde
   And seyd to hym no more.
Up to the Kyng sone he went;
Full feyre he proferd hys presente,
   Knelyng onne hys kne hym before.
Syre Cleges uncoveryd the pannyere
And schewyd the Kyng the cherys clere,
   Upon the ground knelyng.
He seyd: "Jhesu, ouer Savyoure,
Sente you this fruyt with grete honour
   Thys dey onne erth growyng."
The Kyng saw the cherys fressch and new,
And seyd: "I thanke the, swete Jhesu,
   Here is a feyre newyng."
He comandyd Sir Cleges to mete,
A word after with hym to speke,
   Without any feylyng.
The Kyng therfore made a presente
And send unto a lady gente,
   Was born in Corneweyle.
Sche was a lady bryght and schen;
After sche was hys awne Quen,
   Withouten any feyle.
The cherys wer served throughe the hall;
Than seyd the Kyng, a lord ryall:
   "Be mery, be my conseyle!
And he that brought me this present,
I schall make hym so content
   It schall hym wele avayle."
When all men wer merye and glad,
Anon the Kyng a squyre bade:
   "Bryng hym me beforne,
The pore man that the cherys brought."
Anon he went and taryd nought,
   Withouten any scorne;
He brought Cleges before the Kyng.
Anon he fell in knelyng,
   He wend hys gyft had be lorn.
He spake to the Kyng with wordes felle;
He seyd: "Lege lord, what is your wylle?
   I ame your man fre borne."
"I thanke the hertely," seyd the Kyng,
"Off the grete presentyng,
   That thou hast to me do.
Thow hast honouryd all my feste
With thi deyntes, moste and leste,
   And worschyped me allso.
What that ever thou wyll have,
I wyll the grante, so God me save,
   That thin hert stondes to,
Whether it be lond our lede
Or other gode, so God me spede.
   How that ever it go."
He seyd: "Gare mersy, lege Kyng!
Thys is to me a hye thing,
   Fore sych one as I be.
Forto grante me lond our lede
Or any gode, so Gode me spede,
   Thys is to myche fore me.
Bot seth that I schall ches myselve,
I aske nothyng bot strokes twelve,
   Frely now grante ye me,
With my staff to pay them all
Myn adversarys in this hall,
   Fore Seynt Charyté."
Than ansuerd Uter the Kyng;
He seyd: "I repent my grantyng,
   The covenand, that I made."
He seyd: "Be Hym that made me and the,
Thou had be better take gold our fe;
   Mour nede therto thou hade."
Syr Cleges seyd withouten warryng;
"Lord, it is your awne graunteyng;
   I may not be deleyd."
The Kyng was angary and grevyd sore;
Never the les he grante hym thore,
   The dyntes schuld be payd.
Syre Cleges went into the hall
Among the grete lordes all,
   Withouten any mour.
He sought after the stewerd;
He thought to pay hym his rewerd,
   Fore he had grevyd hym sore.
He gafe the stewerd sych a stroke,
That he fell doune lyke a bloke
   Among all that there were,
And after he gaff hym strokes thre;
He seyd: "Sir, for thi curtassé,
   Stryke thou me no mour!"
Out of the hall Sir Cleges wente:
To pay mo strokes he had mente,
Withowtyn any lette.
To the usschere he gan go;
Sore strokes gaffe he tho,
   When thei togeder mette,
That afterwerd many a dey
He wold wern no man the wey
   So grymly he hym grete.
Syr Cleges seyd: "Be my thryfte,
Thou hast the thyrd parte of my gyfte,
   Ryght evyn as I the hyght."
To the porter com he yare;
Foure strokes payd he thare;
   His parte had he tho.
Aftyrwerd many a day
He wold wern no man the wey.
   Nether to ryde ne go.
The fyrst stroke he leyd hym onne,
He brake atwo hys schulder bone
   And hys ryght arme also.
Syre Cleges seyd: "Be my thryfte,
Thow hast the thyrd parte of my gyfte;
   Covenant made we so."
The Kyng was sett in hys parlere,
Myrth and revell forto here;
   Syre Cleges theder wente.
An harper had a geyst i-seyd,
That made the Kyng full wele apayd,
   As to hys entente.
Than seyd the Kyng to this herpere:
"Mykyll thou may ofte tyme here,
   Fore thou hast ferre wente.
Tell me trew, if thou can:
Knowyst thou thys pore man,
   That this dey me presente?"
He seyd: "My lege, withouten les,
Somtyme men callyd hym Cleges;
   He was a knyght of youre.
I may thinke, when that he was
Full of fortone and of grace,
   A man of hye stature."
The Kyng seyd: "This is not he in dede;
It is long gon that he was dede,
   That I lovyd paramour.
Wold God that he wer wyth me;
I had hym lever than knyghtes thre:
   That knyght was styff in stoure."
Syre Cleges knelyd before the Kyng;
For he had grantyd hym hys askyng,
   He thankyd hym curtasly.
Spesyally the Kyng hym prayd,
The thre men that he strokes payd,
   Wherefore it was and why.
He seyd: "I myght not com inwerd,
To I grantyd iche of them the thryd parte
   Off that ye wold gyff me.
Be that I schuld have noght myselve;
To dele among theym strokys twelve
   Me thought it best, trewly."
The lordes lewghe, both old and yenge,
And all that there wer wyth the Kyng,
   They made solas inowghe
They lewghe, so thei myght not sytte;
They seyd: "It was a nobull wytte,
   Be Cryst we make a vow."
The Kyng send after hys stewerd
And seyd: "And he grante the any reward,
   Askyth it be the law."
The stewerd seyd and lukyd grym:
"I thynke never to have ado with hym;
   I wold I had never hym knaw."
The Kyng seyd: "Withouten blame,
Tell me, gode man, what is thi name,
   Before me anon ryght?"
"My lege," he seyd, "This man you tellys,
Som tyme men called me Sir Cleges;
   I was your awne knyght."
"Arte thou my knyghht, that servyd me,
That was so gentyll and so fre,
   Both strong, herdy and wyght?"
"Ye, lord," he seyd, "so mote I the,
Tyll God Allmyght hath vyset me;
   Thus poverté hath my dyght."
The Kyng gaffe hym anon ryght
All that longes to a knyght,
   To aray hys body with.
The castell of Cardyff also
With all the pourtenans therto,
   To hold with pes and grythe.
Than he made hym hys stuerd
Of all hys londys afterwerd,
   Off water, lond and frythe.
A cowpe of gold he gafe hym blythe,
To bere to Dam Clarys hys wyfe,
   Tokenyng of joy and myrthe.
The Kyng made hys son squyere
And gafe hym a colere forte were
   With a hundryth pownd of rente.
When thei com home in this manere,
Dame Clarys, that lady clere,
   Sche thankyd God verament.
Sche thankyd God of all maner,
Fore sche had both knyght and squyre
   Somwhat to ther entente.
Upon the dettys that they hyght,
They payd als fast as thei myght,
   To every man wer content.
A gentyll stewerd he was hold;
All men hym knew, yong and old,
   In lond wer that he wente.
There fell to hym so grete ryches,
He vansyd hys kynne, mour and les,
   The knyght curtas and hend.
Hys lady and he lyved many yere
With joy and mery chere,
   Tyll God dyde fore them send.
Fore ther godnes, that thei dyd here,
There saulys went to Heven clere,
   There is joy withouten ende.
hear; (see note)
Of ancestors; (see note)
hardy; strong; (see note)
Uther Pendragon; (see note)
Arthur's father
handsome; to look upon; (see note)
called; (see note)
stronger; in time of need
virtuous (lawful); (see note)
high stature; (see note)
fair; feature
great power
More courteous; (see note)
(see note)
noble; freeborn
struggled in wartime
were; poverty
gave; fee; (see note)
nourish (cheer up); (see note)
quarrel with nor punish; (see note)
Meek (humble); maid; (see note)
present himself
noble wife
more beautiful; (see note)
was called; (see note)
almsgivers; (see note)
friars; (see note)
cheered; person
On account of them; lost; (see note)
Christmas; (see note)
honor; day
royal; (see note)
As if
(see note)
where; (see note)
their delight; (see note)
go without gifts
(see note)
benefit; spirit
[For] ten or; they; (see note)
who rules all; (see note)
died; Rood (Cross)
But then; fortune; fall away; (see note)
noble blood
manors as security; put up
commoner; (see note)
to tell the truth
(see note)
but little left
Though; goods; nearly lost
defray the expense (redeem him)
royal estate; frittered away
Until; manors were
Scarcely; live; (see note)
(see note)
Fell away; (see note)
dwell; (see note)
a great moan
(see note)
i.e., in the region of; (see note)
noon; (see note)
into a swoon suddenly; (see note)
joy; could have
Tenancies; extensive property; (see note)
wrung; wept sorrowfully
Utterly gone; (see note)
up; down
Pitifully sighing; sound
diverse; (see note)
trumpeters, pipers; drummers
harpers' music; cythernists'; (see note)
citole; psaltery; (see note)
carols; dancing; (see note)
Everywhere he heard singing
Great moan; there
Out of nothing
for; sending (message)
freeborn; bonded
neither wild nor domestic game
Whoever desires; man's food; (see note)
Because of; withhold
companion; (see note)
hear; complain about
advise; cease
(see note)
counsel to desist
they have
our dinner eagerly
merry; joyful
As well
to your liking
then; (see note)
her; did
Whenever; anxiety; (see note)
(see note)
grow happy
washed; dinner
they drove; day
their children play they did
At an appropriate time
They slept until [the bell]
service; work
(see note)
their children
For the discretion (choice, resolve); (see note)
Gracious; (see note)
on his behalf
husband; pain
done; home they went
They; (see note)
quickly; (see note)
gone forever
(see note)
garden; beside
earnestly (truly)
[who] suffer; (see note)
on his knee; (see note)
(see note)
reached for a bough with his hand
help him rise; stand up
Green leaves; found; (see note)
berries in abundance
kind of berries might these
time; year
trees should bear any fruit
As far
taste; if; could
As; released clean; (see note)
Since; born
bough; to cut off
our garden
I am afraid; omen; (see note)
our; complaining
more grievance; coming
a token
Of more goodness
less or; more
good cheer
Let us fill a basket
day begins
Such; have there; (see note)
we shall fare better
As you advise
morrow, i.e., next day
basket prepared; (see note)
her eldest
on your back easily
steed; palfrey
Nothing but; hackney
In the manner of poverty
straight way
(see note)
were preparing for dinner
noon; truth
Just as he was
simple array
scornfully; (see note)
remove yourself promptly
advise; delay
Or else
break your head
stand in the beggars' class; (see note)
any further inward
so [thoroughly] beat you
From; out of nothing; (see note)
Quickly; lid; lifted
Well; knew
Great gifts
unless you grant
Of whatever; will give you
[The porter]; permission
delay (hindrance)
He entered a great hallway
officer; door; (see note)
beat you; limb
If you advance any further
Cease; mood
false or true
noble; good
usher; lifted; promptly
fairest cherries; saw
admired; mind
By; sweet
You; during the feast
Unless; refusal; (see note)
i.e., return
said no other word
But; agreed immediately
It would be no other way
sober countenance
steward started forth quickly
Who wore rich clothing
you; [fool]hardy
before you were invited
Instantly, I advise you
did bleed
came; immediately; (see note)
plucked up; swiftly
As quickly; might
Since; born
come no nearer
By Him who
throw yourself
thought to himself
trouble; get nothing; (see note)
tasty dinner
sorely sighing
He [the steward]; Harlot; tongue; (see note)
beat you; (see note)
ribs into your back
shove you out headfirst
demand; must
were in agreement
our Savior
novelty (i.e., something new)
without fail; (see note)
(see note)
radiant (lovely)
Afterward; own
Without fail
avail him well
Soon thereafter; commanded
tarried not
(see note)
As soon as
knew; payment; lost
you have given
honored; also
Whatever you want
land or people
Grant mercy liege
a great honor
Were you to grant me land or holdings
too much
But if I might choose [for] myself
(see note)
(see note)
or goods
own granting; (see note)
vexed; sorely grieved; (see note)
blows; paid; (see note)
(see note)
gave; such
down like a block
(see note)
more; intended
Painful; gave
fiercely; (see note)
By my good luck; (see note)
as I promised you
share; then
laid on him
broke in two
seated; chamber; (see note)
Joy; revelry; hear
told a story; (see note)
According to his desire
travelled afar
(see note)
high status
in fact
It's long been thought; dead
Whom; very much
I wish to God
would rather have him
staunch in battle
Specially; inquired of him about
to whom
Until; each
whatever; give
laughed; young; (see note)
pleasure; enough
laughed [so hardily]; sit
noble joke
looked grim
want nothing to do
wish; known him
noble; gracious
so might I thrive
Until; blessed
Thereafter; has been my lot
appurtenances; (see note)
peace; mercy
land; royal forest
cup; joyfully
carry home
As a token
collar to wear; (see note)
in every way
debts; incurred
Until; was
known as
(see note)
advanced; (see note)
Until; sent for them
good works; on earth
Their souls; shining
Where there; (see note)

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