by: Anne Laskaya (Editor) , Eve Salisbury (Editor)
from: The Middle English Breton Lays 1995
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"Allas," sche seyd, "that y was born!91-97 Superlative descriptions of appearance are usually reserved for the romance heroine. The description of the fairy knight is the first in the poem following the introduction of the king's daughter, who is left undescribed.
Withouten ende ich am forlorn!
(Lay le Freine, lines 95-96)
In th' olde dayes of Kyng Arthour,Laura Hibbard Loomis, in "Chaucer and the Breton Lays of the Auchinleck MS," suggests that, though Degaré is not an Arthurian tale, Chaucer had it in mind when he wrote the Wife's story:
Of which that Britons speken greet honour,
Al was this land fulfild of fayerye . . . .
And so bifel it that this kyng Arthour
Hadde in his hous a lusty bacheler,
That on a day cam ridynge fro ryver;
And happed that, allone as she was born,
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
By verray force, he rafte hir maydenhed.
(lines 857-59; 882-88)
In these two preliminary episodes in the Wife's Tale and in Degaré, each serving as the incidental opening to a more important main story, we have the same association of "Britoun land" with fairy folk, the same emphasis on a king's noble knight, and the same situation, a helpless maiden ravished by this "noble" knight. When we reflect that no other known version of the Loathly Lady story has the rape incident for its introduction, that this was again, so far as we know anything about it, Chaucer's private and peculiar contribution, the probability that he borrowed it from something already associated in his mind with Britoun fairy tale is heightened (p. 31).116 schilde. S emends to child here and elsewhere in the text.
When God wild, sche was unbounde,193 mighte hove. A: my houe. S: behove. I follow F&H's emendation.
And deliverd al with sounde:
(Lay le Freine, lines 85-86)
The maide toke the childe hir mide,219 child. A: chil.
And stale oway in an eventide,
And passed over a wild heth;
Thurch feld and thurch wode hye geth
Al the winterlong night.
The weder was clere, the mone was light.
Lysteneth, lordinges, gente and fre,
Ich wille you telle of Sire Degarre:
Knightes that were sometyme in londe
Ferli fele wolde fonde
And sechen aventures bi night and dai,
Hou thai mighte here strengthe asai;
So dede a knyght, Sire Degarree:
Ich wille you telle wat man was he.
In Litel Bretaygne was a kyng
Of gret poer in all thing,
Stif in armes under sscheld,
And mochel idouted in the feld.
Ther nas no man, verraiment,
That mighte in werre ne in tornament,
Ne in justes for no thing,
Him out of his sadel bring,
Ne out of his stirop bringe his fot,
So strong he was of bon and blod.
This Kyng he hadde none hair
But a maidenchild, fre and fair;
Here gentiresse and here beauté
Was moche renound in ich countré.
This maiden he loved als his lif,
Of hire was ded the Quene his wif:
In travailing here lif she les.
And tho the maiden of age wes
Kynges sones to him speke,
Emperours and Dukes eke,
To haven his doughter in mariage,
For love of here heritage;
Ac the Kyng answered ever
That no man sschal here halden ever
But yif he mai in turneying
Him out of his sadel bring,
And maken him lesen hise stiropes bayne.
Many assayed and myght not gayne.
That ryche Kynge every yere wolde
A solempne feste make and holde
On hys wyvys mynnyng day,
That was beryed in an abbay
In a foreste there besyde.
With grete meyné he wolde ryde,
Hire dirige do, and masse bothe,
Poure men fede, and naked clothe,
Offring brenge, gret plenté,
And fede the covent with gret daynté.
Toward the abbai als he com ride,
And mani knyghtes bi his side,
His doughter also bi him rod.
Amidde the forest hii abod.
Here chaumberleyn she clepede hire to
And other dammaiseles two
And seide that hii moste alighte
To don here nedes and hire righte; 1
Thai alight adoun alle thre,
Tweie damaiseles and ssche,
And longe while ther abiden,
Til al the folk was forht iriden.
Thai wolden up and after wolde,
And couthen nowt here way holde.
The wode was rough and thikke, iwis,
And thai token the wai amys.
Thai moste souht and riden west 2
Into the thikke of the forest.
Into a launde hii ben icome,
And habbeth wel undernome
That thai were amis igon.
Thai light adoun everichon
And cleped and criede al ifere,
Ac no man aright hem ihere.
Thai nist what hem was best to don; 3
The weder was hot bifor the non;
Hii leien hem doun upon a grene,
Under a chastein tre, ich wene,
And fillen aslepe everichone
Bote the damaisele alone.
She wente aboute and gaderede floures,
And herknede song of wilde foules.
So fer in the launde she goht, iwis,
That she ne wot nevere whare se is.
To hire maidenes she wolde anon.
Ac hi ne wiste never wat wei to gon.
Whenne hi wende best to hem terne,
Aweiward than hi goth wel yerne.
"Allas!" hi seide, "that I was boren!
Nou ich wot ich am forloren!
Wilde bestes me willeth togrinde
Or ani man me sschulle finde!"
Than segh hi swich a sight:
Toward hire comen a knight,
Gentil, yong, and jolif man;
A robe of scarlet he hadde upon;
His visage was feir, his bodi ech weies;
Of countenaunce right curteis;
Wel farende legges, fot, and honde:
Ther nas non in al the Kynges londe
More apert man than was he.
"Damaisele, welcome mote thou be!
Be thou afered of none wihghte:
Iich am comen here a fairi knyghte;
Mi kynde is armes for to were,
On horse to ride with scheld and spere;
Forthi afered be thou nowt:
I ne have nowt but mi swerd ibrout.
Iich have iloved the mani a yer,
And now we beth us selve her,
Thou best mi lemman ar thou go,
Wether the liketh wel or wo."
Tho nothing ne coude do she
But wep and criede and wolde fle;
And he anon gan hire at holde,
And dide his wille, what he wolde.
He binam hire here maidenhod,
And seththen up toforen hire stod.
"Lemman," he seide, "gent and fre,
Mid schilde I wot that thou schalt be;
Siker ich wot hit worht a knave; 4
Forthi mi swerd thou sschalt have,
And whenne that he is of elde
That he mai himself biwelde,
Tak him the swerd, and bidde him fonde
To sechen his fader in eche londe.
The swerd his god and avenaunt:
Lo, as I faugt with a geaunt,
I brak the point in his hed;
And siththen, when that he was ded,
I tok hit out and have hit er,
Redi in min aumener.
Yit paraventure time bith
That mi sone mete me with:
Be mi swerd I mai him kenne.
Have god dai! I mot gon henne."
Thi knight passede as he cam.
Al wepende the swerd she nam,
And com hom sore sikend,
And fond here maidenes al slepend.
The swerd she hidde als she mighte,
And awaked hem in highte,
And doht hem to horse anon,
And gonne to ride everichon.
Thanne seghen hi ate last
Tweie squiers come prikend fast.
Fram the Kyng thai weren isent,
To white whider his doughter went.
Thai browt hire into the righte wai
And comen faire to the abbay,
And doth the servise in alle thingges,
Mani masse and riche offringes;
And whanne the servise was al idone
And ipassed over the none,
The Kyng to his castel gan ride;
His doughter rod bi his side.
And he yemeth his kyngdom overal
Stoutliche, as a god king sschal.
Ac whan ech man was glad an blithe,
His doughter siked an sorewed swithe;
Here wombe greted more and more;
Therwhile she mighte, se hidde here sore.
On a dai, as hi wepende set,
On of hire maidenes hit underyet.
"Madame," she seide, "par charité,
Whi wepe ye now, telleth hit me."
"A! gentil maiden, kinde icoren,
Help me, other ich am forloren!
Ich have ever yete ben meke and milde:
Lo, now ich am with quike schilde!
Yif ani man hit underyete,
Men wolde sai bi sti and strete
That mi fader the King hit wan
And I ne was never aqueint with man!
And yif he hit himselve wite,
Swich sorewe schal to him smite
That never blithe schal he be,
For al his joie is in me,"
And tolde here al togeder ther
Hou hit was bigete and wher.
"Madame," quad the maide, "ne care thou nowt:
Stille awai hit sschal be browt.
No man schal wite in Godes riche
Whar hit bicometh, but thou and iche."
Her time come, she was unbounde,
And delivred al mid sounde;
A knaveschild ther was ibore:
Glad was the moder tharfore.
The maiden servede here at wille,
Wond that child in clothes stille,
And laid hit in a cradel anon,
And was al prest tharwith to gon.
Yhit is moder was him hold:
Four pound she tok of gold,
And ten of selver also;
Under his fote she laid hit tho, -
For swich thing hit mighte hove;
And seththen she tok a paire glove
That here lemman here sente of fairi londe,
That nolde on no manne honde,
Ne on child ne on womman yhe nolde,
But on hire selve wel yhe wolde.
Tho gloven she put under his hade,
And siththen a letter she wrot and made,
And knit hit with a selkene thred
Aboute his nekke wel god sped
That who hit founde sscholde iwite.
Than was in the lettre thous iwrite:
"Par charité, yif ani god man
This helples child finde can,
Lat cristen hit with prestes honde, 5
And bringgen hit to live in londe,
For hit is comen of gentil blod.
Helpeth hit with his owen god,
With tresor that under his fet lis;
And ten yer eld whan that he his,
Taketh him this ilke gloven two,
And biddeth him, wharevere he go,
That he ne lovie no womman in londe
But this gloves willen on hire honde;
For siker on honde nelle thai nere
But on his moder that him bere."
The maiden tok the child here mide,
Stille awai in aven tide,
Alle the winteres longe night.
The weder was cler, the mone light;
Than warhth she war anon
Of an hermitage in a ston:
An holi man had ther his woniyng.
Thider she wente on heying,
An sette the cradel at his dore,
And durste abide no lengore,
And passede forth anon right.
Hom she com in that other night,
And fond the levedi al drupni,
Sore wepinde, and was sori,
And tolde hire al togeder ther
Hou she had iben and wher.
The hermite aros erliche tho,
And his knave was uppe also,
An seide ifere here matines,
And servede God and Hise seins.
The litel child thai herde crie,
And clepede after help on hie;
The holi man his dore undede,
And fond the cradel in the stede;
He tok up the clothes anon
And biheld the litel grom;
He tok the letter and radde wel sone
That tolde him that he scholde done.
The heremite held up bothe his honde
An thonked God of al His sonde,
And bar that child in to his chapel,
And for joie he rong his bel.
He dede up the gloven and the tresour
And cristned the child with gret honour:
In the name of the Trinité,
He hit nemnede Degarre,
Degarre nowt elles ne is
But thing that not never what hit is,
Other thing that is neggh forlorn also; 6
Forthi the schild he nemnede thous tho.
The heremite that was holi of lif
Hadde a soster that was a wif;
A riche marchaunt of that countré
Hadde hire ispoused into that cité.
To hire that schild he sente tho
Bi his knave, and the silver also,
And bad here take gode hede
Hit to foster and to fede,
And yif God Almighti wolde
Ten yer his lif holde,
Ayen to him hi scholde hit wise:
He hit wolde tech of clergise.
The litel child Degarre
Was ibrout into that cité.
The wif and hire loverd ifere
Kept his ase hit here owen were.
Bi that hit was ten yer old,
Hit was a fair child and a bold,
Wel inorissched, god and hende;
Was non betere in al that ende.
He wende wel that the gode man
Had ben his fader that him wan,
And the wif his moder also,
And the hermite his unkel bo;
And whan the ten yer was ispent,
To the hermitage he was sent,
And he was glad him to se,
He was so feir and so fre.
He taughte him of clerkes lore
Other ten wynter other more;
And when he was of twenti yer,
Staleworth he was, of swich pouer
That ther ne wan man in that lond
That o breid him might astond.
Tho the hermite seth, withouten les,
Man for himself that he wes,
Staleworht to don ech werk,
And of his elde so god a clerk,
He tok him his florines and his gloves
That he had kept to hise bihoves.
Ac the ten pound of starlings
Were ispended in his fostrings.
He tok him the letter to rede,
And biheld al the dede.
"O leve hem, par charité,
Was this letter mad for me?"
"Ye, bi oure Lord, us helpe sschal!
Thus hit was," and told him al.
He knelede adoun al so swithe,
And thonked the ermite of his live,
And swor he nolde stinte no stounde
Til he his kinrede hadde ifounde.
For in the lettre was thous iwrite,
That bi the gloven he sscholde iwite
Wich were his moder and who,
Yhif that sche livede tho,
For on hire honden hii wolde,
And on non other hii nolde.
Half the florines he gaf the hermite,
And halvendel he tok him mide,
And nam his leve an wolde go.
"Nai," seide the hermite, "schaltu no!
To seche thi ken mightou nowt dure
Withouten hors and god armure."
"Nai," quad he, "bi Hevene Kyng,
Ich wil have first another thing!"
He hew adoun, bothe gret and grim,
To beren in his hond with him,
A god sapling of an ok;
Whan he tharwith gaf a strok,
Ne wer he never so strong a man
Ne so gode armes hadde upon,
That he ne scholde falle to grounde;
Swich a bourdon to him he founde.
Tho thenne God he him bitawt,
And aither fram other wepyng rawt.
Child Degarre wente his wai
Thourgh the forest al that dai.
No man he ne herd, ne non he segh,
Til hit was non ipassed hegh;
Thanne he herde a noise kete
In o valai, an dintes grete.
Blive thider he gan to te:
What hit ware he wolde ise.
An Herl of the countré, stout and fers,
With a knight and four squiers,
Hadde ihonted a der other two,
And al here houndes weren ago.
Than was thar a dragon grim,
Ful of filth and of venim,
With wide throte and teth grete,
And wynges bitere with to bete.
As a lyoun he hadde fet,
And his tail was long and gret.
The smoke com of his nose awai
Ase fer out of a chimenai.
The knyght and squiers he had torent,
Man and hors to dethe chent.
The dragon the Erl assaile gan,
And he defended him as a man,
And stoutliche leid on with his swerd,
And stronge strokes on him gerd;
Ac alle his dentes ne greved him nowt:
His hide was hard so iren wrout.
Therl flei fram tre to tre -
Fein he wolde fram him be -
And the dragon him gan asail;
The doughti Erl in that batail
Ofsegh this child Degarre;
"Ha! help!" he seide, "par charité!"
The dragoun seth the child com;
He laft the Erl and to him nom
Blowinde and yeniend also
Als he him wolde swolewe tho.
Ac Degarre was ful strong;
He tok his bat, gret and long,
And in the forehefd he him batereth
That al the forehefd he tospatereth.
He fil adoun anon right,
And frapte his tail with gret might
Upon Degarres side,
That up-so-doun he gan to glide;
Ac he stert up ase a man
And with his bat leide upan,
And al tofrusst him ech a bon,
That he lai ded, stille as a ston.
Therl knelede adoun bilive
And thonked the child of his live,
And maked him with him gon
To his castel right anon,
And wel at hese he him made,
And proferd him al that he hade,
Rentes, tresor, an eke lond,
For to holden in his hond.
Thanne answerede Degarre,
"Lat come ferst bifor me
Thi levedi and other wimmen bold,
Maidenes and widues, yonge and olde,
And other damoiseles swete.
Yif mine gloven beth to hem mete
For to done upon here honde,
Thanne ich wil take thi londe;
And yif thai ben nowt so,
Iich wille take me leve and go."
Alle wimman were forht ibrowt
In wide cuntries and forth isowt:
Ech the gloven assaie bigan,
Ac non ne mighte don hem on.
He tok his gloven and up hem dede,
And nam his leve in that stede.
The Erl was gentil man of blod,
And gaf him a stede ful god
And noble armure, riche and fin,
When he wolde armen him therin,
And a palefrai to riden an,
And a knave to ben his man,
And yaf him a swerd bright,
And dubbed him ther to knyght,
And swor bi God Almighti
That he was better worthi
To usen hors and armes also
Than with his bat aboute to go.
Sire Degarre was wel blithe,
And thanked the Erl mani a sithe,
And lep upon hiis palefrai,
And doht him forth in his wai;
Upon his stede righte his man,
And ledde his armes als he wel can;
Mani a jorné thai ride and sette.
So on a dai gret folk thei mette,
Erles and barouns of renoun,
That come fram a cité toun.
He asked a seriaunt what tiding,
And whennes hii come and what is this thing?
"Sire," he seide, "verraiment,
We come framward a parlement.
The King a gret counseil made
For nedes that he to don hade.
Whan the parlement was plener,
He lette crie fer and ner,
Yif ani man were of armes so bold
That with the King justi wold,
He sscholde have in mariage
His dowter and his heritage,
That is kingdom god and fair,
For he had non other hair.
Ac no man ne dar graunte therto,
For mani hit assaieth and mai nowt do:
Mani erl and mani baroun,
Knightes and squiers of renoun;
Ac ech man, that him justeth with, tit
Hath of him a foul despit:
Some he breketh the nekke anon,
And of some the rig-bon;
Some thourgh the bodi he girt,
Ech is maimed other ihirt;
Ac no man mai don him no thing
Swich wonder chaunce hath the King.
Sire Degarre thous thenche gan:
"Ich am a staleworht man,
And of min owen ich have a stede,
Swerd and spere and riche wede;
And yif ich felle the Kyng adoun,
Evere ich have wonnen renoun;
And thei that he me herte sore,
No man wot wer ich was bore.
Whether deth other lif me bitide,
Agen the King ich wille ride!"
In the cité his in he taketh,
And resteth him and meri maketh.
On a dai with the King he mette,
And knelede adoun and him grette:
"Sire King," he saide, "of muchel might,
Mi loverd me sende hider anon right
For to warne you that he
Bi thi leve wolde juste with the,
And winne thi dowter, yif he mai;
As the cri was this ender dai,
Justes he had to the inome."
"De par Deus!" quath the King, "he is welcome.
Be he baroun, be he erl,
Be he burgeis, be he cherl,
No man wil I forsake.
He that winneth al sschal take."
Amorewe the justes was iset;
The King him purveid wel the bet,
And Degarre ne knew no man,
Ac al his trust is God upon.
Erliche to churche than wente he;
The masse he herde of the Trinité.
To the Fader he offreth hon florine,
And to the Sone another al so fine,
And to the Holi Gost the thridde;
The prest for him ful yerne gan bidde.
And tho the servise was idon,
To his in he wente wel son
And let him armi wel afin,
In god armes to justi in.
His gode stede he gan bistride;
His squier bar his sschaft biside;
In the feld the King he abide gan,
As he com ridend with mani a man,
Stoutliche out of the cité toun,
With mani a lord of gret renoun;
Ac al that in the felde beth
That the justes iseth
Seide that hi never yit iseghe
So pert a man with here egye
As was this gentil Degarre,
Ac no man wiste whennes was he.
Bothe thai gonne to justi than,
Ac Degarre can nowt theron.
The King hath the gretter schaft
And kan inowgh of the craft.
To breke his nekke he had iment:
In the helm he set his dent,
That the schaft al tosprong;
Ac Degarre was so strong
That in the sadel stille he set,
And in the stiropes held his fet;
For sothe I seie, withoute lesing,
He ne couthe nammore of justing.
"Allas!" quath the King, "allas!
Me ne fil nevere swich a cas,
That man that ich mighte hitte
After mi strok mighte sitte!"
He taketh a wel gretter tre
And swor so he moste ithe,
"Yif his nekke nel nowt atwo,
His rigg schal, ar ich hennes go!"
He rod eft with gret raundoun
And thought to beren him adoun,
And girt Degarre anon
Right agein the brest-bon
The schaft was stef and wonder god,
And Degarre stede astod,
And al biforen he ros on heghth,
And tho was he ifallen neghth;
But as God Almighti wold,
The schaft brak and might nowt hold,
And Degarre his cours out ritte,
And was agramed out of his witte.
"Allas!" quath he, "for vilaynie!
The King me hath ismiten twie,
And I ne touchede him nowt yete.
Nou I schal avise me bette!"
He turned his stede with herte grim,
And rod to the King, and he to him,
And togider thai gert ful right,
And in the scheldes here strokes pight
That the speres al toriveth
And up right to here honde sliveth,
That alle the lordings that ther ben
That the justing mighte sen
Seiden hi ne seghe never with egye
Man that mighte so longe dreghye,
In wraththe for nothing,
Sitten a strok of here King;
"Ac he his doughti for the nones,
A strong man of bodi and bones."
The King with egre mod gan speke:
"Do bring me a schaft that wil nowt breke!
A, be mi trewthe, he sschal adoun!
Thai he be strengere than Sampson;
And thei he be the bare qued,
He sschal adoun, maugré his heved!"
He tok a schaft was gret and long,
The schild another al so strong;
And to the King wel evene he rit;
The King faileth, and he him smit;
His schaft was strong and god withal,
And wel scharped the coronal.
He smot the Kyng in the lainer:
He might flit nother fer ne ner.
The King was strong and harde sat;
The stede ros up biforn with that,
And Sire Degarre so thriste him than
That, maugré whoso grochche bigan,
Out of the sadel he him cast,
Tail over top, right ate last.
Than was ther long houting and cri;
The King was sor asschamed forthi;
The lordinges comen with might and mein
And broughte the King on horse agein,
An seide with o criing, iwis,
"Child Degarre hath wonne the pris!"
Than was the damaisele sori,
For hi wist wel forwhi:
That hi scholde ispoused ben
To a knight that sche never had sen,
And lede here lif with swich a man
That sche ne wot who him wan,
No in what londe he was ibore;
Carful was the levedi therefore.
Than seide the King to Degarre,
"Min hende sone, com hider to me:
And thou were al so gentil a man
As thou semest with sight upan,
And ase wel couthest wisdomes do
As thou art staleworht man therto,
Me thouwte mi kingdoms wel biset:
Ac be thou werse, be thou bet,
Covenaunt ich wille the holde.
Lo, her biforn mi barons bolde,
Mi douwter I take the bi the hond,
And seise the her in al mi lond.
King thou scalt ben after me:
God graunte the god man for to be!"
Than was the child glad and blithe,
And thonked the Kyng mani a sithe.
Gret perveaunce than was ther iwrout:
To churche thai were togidere ibrout,
And spoused that levedi verraiment,
Under Holi Sacrement.
Lo, what chaunse and wonder strong
Bitideth mani a man with wrong,
That cometh into an uncouthe thede
And spouseth wif for ani mede
And knowes nothing of hire kin,
Ne sche of his, neither more ne min,
And beth iwedded togider to libbe
Par aventoure, and beth neghth sibbe!
So dede Sire Degarre the bold
Spoused ther is moder
And that hende levedi also
Here owene sone was spoused to,
That sche upon here bodi bar.
Lo, what aventoure fil hem thar!
But God, that alle thingge mai stere,
Wolde nowt that thai sinned ifere:
To chirche thai wente with barouns bolde;
A riche feste thai gonne to holde;
And wan was wel ipassed non
And the dai was al idon,
To bedde thai sscholde wende, that fre,
The dammaisele and Sire Degarre.
He stod stille and bithouwte him than
Hou the hermite, the holi man,
Bad he scholde no womman take
For faired ne for riches sake
But she mighte this gloves two
Lightliche on hire hondes do.
"Allas, allas!" than saide he,
"What meschaunce is comen to me?
A wai! witles wrechche ich am!
Iich hadde levere than this kingdam
That is iseised into min hond
That ich ware faire out of this lond!"
He wrang his hondes and was sori,
Ac no man wiste therefore wi.
The King parceyved and saide tho,
"Sire Degarre, wi farest thou so?
Is ther ani thing don ille,
Spoken or seid agen thi wille?"
"Ya, sire," he saide, "bi Hevene King!"
"I chal never, for no spousing,
Therwhiles I live, with wimman dele,
Widue ne wif ne dammeisele,
But she this gloves mai take and fonde
And lightlich drawen upon hire honde."
His yonge bride that gan here,
And al for thout chaunged hire chere
And ate laste gan to turne here mod:
Here visage wex ase red ase blod:
She knew tho gloves that were hire.
"Schewe hem hider, leve sire."
Sche tok the gloves in that stede
And lightliche on hire hondes dede,
And fil adoun, with revli crie,
And seide, "God, mercy, mercie!
Thou art mi sone hast spoused me her,
And ich am, sone, thi moder der.
Ich hadde the loren, ich have the founde;
Blessed be Jhesu Crist that stounde!"
Sire Degarre tok his moder tho
And helde here in his armes two.
Keste and clepte here mani a sithe;
That hit was sche, he was ful blithe.
Than the Kyng gret wonder hadde
Why that noise that thai made,
And mervailed of hire crying,
And seide, "Doughter, what is this thing?"
"Fader," she seide, "thou schalt ihere:
Thou wenest that ich a maiden were,
Ac certes, nay, sire, ich am non:
Twenti winter nou hit is gon
That mi maidenhed I les
In a forest as I wes,
And this is mi sone, God hit wot:
Bi this gloves wel ich wot."
She told him al that sothe ther,
Hou the child was geten and wher;
And hou that he was boren also,
To the hermitage yhe sente him tho,
And seththen herd of him nothing;
"But thanked be Jhesu, Hevene King,
Iich have ifounde him alive!
Ich am his moder and ek his wive!"
"Leve moder," seide Sire Degarre,
"Telle me the sothe, par charité:
Into what londe I mai terne
To seke mi fader, swithe and yerne?"
"Sone," she saide, "bi Hevene Kyng,
I can the of him telle nothing
But tho that he fram me raught,
His owen swerd he me bitaught,
And bad ich sholde take hit the forthan
Yif thou livedest and were a man."
The swerd sche fet forht anon right,
And Degarre hit out plight.
Brod and long and hevi hit wes:
In that kyngdom no swich nes.
Than seide Degarre forthan,
"Whoso hit aught, he was a man!
Nou ich have that ikepe,
Night ne dai nel ich slepe
Til that I mi fader see,
Yif God wile that hit so be."
In the cité he reste al night.
Amorewe, whan hit was dai-lit,
He aros and herde his masse;
He dighte him and forth gan passe.
Of al that cité than moste non
Neither with him riden ne gon
But his knave, to take hede
To his armour and his stede.
Forth he rod in his wai
Mani a pas and mani jurnai;
So longe he passede into west
That he com into theld forest
Ther he was bigeten som while.
Therinne he rideth mani a mile;
Mani a dai he ride gan;
No quik best he fond of man,
Ac mani wilde bestes he seghth
And foules singen on heghth.
So longe hit drouwth to the night,
The sonne was adoune right.
Toward toun he wolde ride,
But he nist never bi wiche side.
Thenne he segh a water cler,
And amidde a river,
A fair castel of lim and ston:
Other wonying was ther non.
To his knave he seide, "Tide wat tide,
O fote forther nel I ride,
Ac here abide wille we,
And aske herberewe par charité,
Yif ani quik man be here on live."
To the water thai come als swithe;
The bregge was adoune tho,
And the gate open also,
And into the castel he gan spede.
First he stabled up his stede;
He taiede up his palefrai.
Inough he fond of hote and hai;
He bad his grom on heying
Kepen wel al here thing.
He passed up into the halle,
Biheld aboute, and gan to calle;
Ac neither on lond ne on hegh
No quik man he ne segh.
Amidde the halle flore
A fir was bet, stark an store, 7
"Par fai," he saide, "ich am al sure
He that bette that fure
Wil comen hom yit tonight;
Abiden ich wille a litel wight."
He sat adoun upon the dais,
And warmed him wel eche wais,
And he biheld and undernam
Hou in at the dore cam
Four dammaiseles, gent and fre;
Ech was itakked to the kne.
The two bowen an arewen bere,
The other two icharged were
With venesoun, riche and god.
And Sire Degarre upstod
And gret hem wel fair aplight,
Ac thai answerede no wight,
But yede into chaumbre anon
And barred the dore after son.
Sone therafter withalle
Ther com a dwerw into the halle.
Four fet of lengthe was in him;
His visage was stout and grim;
Bothe his berd and his fax
Was crisp an yhalew as wax;
Grete sscholdres and quarré;
Right stoutliche loked he;
Mochele were hise fet and honde
Ase the meste man of the londe;
He was iclothed wel aright,
His sschon icouped as a knight;
He hadde on a sorcot overt,
Iforred with blaundeuer apert.
Sire Degarre him biheld and lowggh,
And gret him fair inowggh,
Ac he ne answerede nevere a word,
But sette trestles and laid the bord,
And torches in the halle he lighte,
And redi to the soper dighte.
Than ther com out of the bour
A dammeisele of gret honour;
In the lond non fairer nas;
In a diapre clothed she was
With hire come maidenes tene,
Some in scarlet, some in grene,
Gent of bodi, of semblaunt swete,
And Degarre hem gan grete;
Ac hi ne answerede no wight,
But yede to the soper anon right.
"Certes," quath Sire Degarre,
"Ich have hem gret, and hi nowt me;
But thai be domb, bi and bi
Thai schul speke first ar I."
The levedi that was of rode so bright,
Amidde she sat anon right,
And on aither half maidenes five.
The dwerw hem servede al so blive
With riche metes and wel idight;
The coppe he filleth with alle his might.
Sire Degarre couthe of curteisie:
He set a chaier bifore the levedie,
And therin himselve set,
And tok a knif and carf his met;
At the soper litel at he,
But biheld the levedi fre,
And segh ase feir a wimman
Als he hevere loked an,
That al his herte and his thout
Hire to love was ibrowt.
And tho thai hadde souped anowgh,
The drew com, and the cloth he drough;
The levedis wessche everichon
And yede to chaumbre quik anon.
Into the chaumbre he com ful sone.
The levedi on here bed set,
And a maide at here fet,
And harpede notes gode and fine;
Another broughte spices and wine.
Upon the bedde he set adoun
To here of the harpe soun.
For murthe of notes so sschille,
He fel adoun on slepe stille;
So he slep al that night.
The levedi wreith him warm aplight,
And a pilewe under his heved dede,
And yede to bedde in that stede.
Amorewe whan hit was dai-light,
Sche was uppe and redi dight.
Faire sche waked him tho:
"Aris!" she seide, "graith the, an go!"
And saide thus in here game:
"Thou art worth to suffri schame,
That al night as a best sleptest,
And non of mine maidenes ne keptest."
"O gentil levedi," seide Degarre,
"For Godes love, forgif hit me!
Certes the murie harpe hit made,
Elles misdo nowt I ne hade;
Ac tel me, levedi so hende,
Ar ich out of thi chaumber wende,
Who is louerd of this lond?
And who this castel hath in hond?
Wether thou be widue or wif,
Or maiden yit of clene lif?
And whi her be so fele wimman
Allone, withouten ani man?"
The dameisele sore sighte,
And bigan to wepen anon righte,
"Sire, wel fain ich telle the wolde,
Yif evere the better be me sscholde.
Mi fader was a riche baroun,
And hadde mani a tour and toun.
He ne hadde no child but me;
Ich was his air of his cuntré.
In mené ich hadde mani a knight
And squiers that were gode and light,
An staleworht men of mester,
To serve in court fer and ner;
Ac thanne is thar here biside
A sterne knight, iknawe ful wide.
Ich wene in Bretaine ther be non
So strong a man so he is on.
He had ilove me ful yore;
Ac in herte nevere more
Ne mighte ich lovie him agein;
But whenne he seghye ther was no gein,
He was aboute with maistri
For to ravisse me awai.
Mine knightes wolde defende me,
And ofte fowghten hi an he;
The beste he slowgh the firste dai,
And sethen an other, par ma fai,
And sethen the thridde and the ferthe, -
The beste that mighte gon on erthe!
Mine squiers that weren so stoute,
Bi foure, bi five, thai riden oute,
On hors armed wel anowgh:
His houen bodi he hem slough.
Mine men of mester he slough alle,
And other pages of mine halle.
Therfore ich am sore agast
Lest he wynne me ate last."
With this word sche fil to grounde,
And lai aswone a wel gret stounde.
Hire maidenes to hire come
And in hire armes up hire nome.
He beheld the levedi with gret pité.
"Loveli madame," quath he,
"On of thine ich am here:
Ich wille the help, be mi pouere."
"Yhe, sire," she saide, "than al mi lond
Ich wil the give into thin hond,
And at thi wille bodi mine,
Yif thou might wreke me of hine."
Tho was he glad al for to fighte,
And wel gladere that he mighte
Have the levedi so bright
Yif he slough that other knight.
And als thai stod and spak ifere,
A maiden cried, with reuful chere,
"Her cometh oure enemi, faste us ate!
Drauwe the bregge and sschet the gate,
Or he wil slen ous everichone!"
Sire Degarre stirt up anon
And at a window him segh,
Wel i-armed on hors hegh;
A fairer bodi than he was on
In armes ne segh he never non.
Sire Degarre armed him blive
And on a stede gan out drive.
With a spere gret of gayn,
To the knight he rit agein.
The knighte spere al tosprong,
Ac Degarre was so strong
And so harde to him thrast,
But the knight sat so fast,
That the stede rigge tobrek
And fel to grounde, and he ek;
But anon stirt up the knight
And drough out his swerd bright.
"Alight," he saide, "adoun anon;
To fight thou sschalt afote gon.
For thou hast slawe mi stede,
Deth-dint schal be thi mede;
Ac thine stede sle I nille,
Ac on fote fighte ich wille."
Than on fote thai toke the fight,
And hewe togidere with brondes bright.
The knight gaf Sire Degarre
Sterne strokes gret plenté,
And he him agen also,
That helm and scheld cleve atwo.
The knight was agreved sore
That his armour toburste thore:
A strok he gaf Sire Degarre,
That to grounde fallen is he;
But he stirt up anon right,
And swich a strok he gaf the knight
Upon his heved so harde iset
Thurh helm and heved and bacinet
That ate brest stod the dent;
Ded he fil doun, verraiment.
The levedi lai in o kernel,
And biheld the batail everi del.
She ne was never er so blithe:
Sche thankede God fele sithe.
Sire Degarre com into castel;
Agein him com the dammaisel,
And thonked him swithe of that dede.
Into chaumber sche gan him lede,
And unarmed him anon,
And set him hire bed upon,
And saide, "Sire, par charité,
I the prai dwel with me,
And al mi lond ich wil the give,
And miselve, whil that I live."
"Grant merci, dame," saide Degarre,
"Of the gode thou bedest me:
Wende ich wille into other londe,
More of haventours for to fonde;
And be this twelve moneth be go,
Agein ich wil come the to."
The levedi made moche mourning
For the knightes departing,
And gaf him a stede, god and sur,
Gold and silver an god armur,
And bitaught him Jhesu, Hevene King.
And sore thei wepen at here parting.
Forht wente Sire Degarre
Thurh mani a divers cuntré;
Ever mor he rod west.
So in a dale of o forest
He mette with a doughti knight
Upon a stede, god and light,
In armes that were riche and sur,
With the sscheld of asur
And thre bor-hevedes therin
Wel ipainted with gold fin.
Sire Degarre anon right
Hendeliche grette the knight,
And saide, "Sire, God with the be;"
And thous agein answered he:
"Velaun, wat dost thou here,
In mi forest to chase mi dere?"
Degarre answerede with wordes meke:
"Sire, thine der nougt I ne seke:
Iich am an aunterous knight,
For to seche werre and fight."
The knight saide, withouten fail,
"Yif thou comest to seke batail,
Here thou hast thi per ifounde:
Arme the swithe in this stounde!"
Sire Degarre and his squier
Armed him in riche atir,
With an helm riche for the nones,
Was ful of precious stones
That the maide him gaf, saun fail,
For whom he did rather batail.
A sscheld he kest aboute his swere
That was of armes riche and dere,
With thre maidenes hevedes of silver bright,
With crounes of gold precious of sight.
A sschaft he tok that was nowt smal,
With a kene coronal.
His squier tok another spere;
Bi his louerd he gan hit bere.
Lo, swich aventoure ther gan bitide -
The sone agein the fader gan ride,
And noither ne knew other no wight! 8
Nou biginneth the firste fight.
Sire Degarre tok his cours thare;
Agen his fader a sschaft he bare;
To bere him doun he hadde imint.
Right in the sscheld he set his dint;
The sschaft brak to peces al,
And in the sscheld lat the coronal.
Another cours thai gonne take;
The fader tok, for the sones sake,
A sschaft that was gret and long,
And he another also strong.
Togider thai riden with gret raundoun,
And aither bar other adoun.
With dintes that thai smiten there,
Here stede rigges toborsten were.
Afote thai gonne fight ifere
And laiden on with swerdes clere.
The fader amerveiled wes
Whi his swerd was pointles,
And seide to his sone aplight,
"Herkne to me a litel wight:
Wher were thou boren, in what lond?"
"In Litel Bretaigne, ich understond:
Kingges doughter sone, witouten les,
Ac I not wo mi fader wes."
"What is thi name?" than saide he.
"Certes, men clepeth me Degarre."
"O Degarre, sone mine!
Certes ich am fader thine!
And bi thi swerd I knowe hit here:
The point is in min aumenere."
He tok the point and set therto;
Degarre fel iswone tho,
And his fader, sikerli,
Also he gan swony;
And whan he of swone arisen were,
The sone cride merci there
His owen fader of his misdede,
And he him to his castel gan lede,
And bad him dwelle with him ai.
"Certes, sire," he saide, "nai;
Ac yif hit youre wille were,
To mi moder we wende ifere,
For she is in gret mourning."
"Blethelich," quath he, "bi Hevene Kyng."
Syr Degaré and hys father dere,
Into Ynglond they went in fere.
They were armyd and well dyghtt.
As sone as the lady saw that knyght,
Wonther wel sche knew the knyght;
Anon sche chaungyd hur colowr aryght,
And seyd, "My dere sun, Degaré,
Now thou hast broughtt thy father wyth the!"
"Ye, madame, sekyr thow be!
Now well y wot that yt ys he."
"I thank, by God," seyd the kyng,
"Now y wot, wythowtt lesyng,
Who Syr Degaré his father was!"
The lady swounyd in that plass.
Then afterward, now sykyrly,
The knyghtt weddyd the lady.
Sche and hur sun were partyd atwynn,
For they were to nyghe off kyn.
Now went forth Syr Degaré;
Wyth the kyng and his meyné,
His father and his mother dere.
Unto that castel thei went infere
Wher that wonnyd that lady bryght
That he hadd wonne in gret fyght,
And weddyd hur wyth gret solempnité
Byfor all the lordis in that cuntré.
Thus cam the knyght outt of his care;
God yff us grace well to fare.
The lyff of Syr Degaré
Both curteys and fre.
gentle; noble; (see note)
were once; (see note)
Wonderfully many; discover
How they; their; try; (see note)
was not any; truly
jousts by any means
heir; (see note)
as; (see note)
childbirth; lost; (see note)
shall ever have her
tried; succeed; (see note)
wife's minding-day (memorial); (see note)
company of men
requiem; (see note)
abbey; (see note)
they must dismount
had ridden forth; (see note)
their; (see note)
wood; thick I imagine
took the wrong way
land they came
realized; (see note)
had gone amiss
called; all together
But; heard them at all; (see note)
weather; twelve o'clock
They lay themselves
chestnut tree; think; (see note)
everyone; (see note)
listened to; birds
far; goes; indeed
knows not where she is
her; would [return] quickly
But she didn't know which way
she thought; return to them
Now I know; lost
beasts will eat me
Before any; shall find me
handsome; (see note)
face; in every way
afraid of no man
nature; (see note)
I have loved you
are here by ourselves
You must become my lover before you go
Whether you like it or not; (see note)
Then nothing could she do; (see note)
began to seize her
as he desired
With child I know; (see note)
is good; fitting
broke; its head; (see note)
it [the point]; here
purse; (see note)
Yet sometime may come
Have a good day; must go
weeping; she took
came home sorely sighing; (see note)
found her maidens all sleeping
them in haste
saw she at last
Two; riding swiftly
To learn where
came gladly to the abbey
nones was past
But; and joyful; (see note)
sickened and sorrowed greatly
she hid herself wretchedly
she sat weeping
Why do you weep
living child (i.e., pregnant)
If any man should perceive it
sty; path; (see note)
learns of it
don't worry; (see note)
with sound health
Yet his mother; faithful
be of aid; (see note)
then; (see note)
her lover; from
would not fit any human
Neither; they would not [fit]
those gloves; head
should any good
its own goods
when he is
Give him these
not love any
Unless; [fit] her hands
they will not ever fit
evening; (see note)
she became aware soon, (i.e., remembered)
downcast; (see note)
together their matins
called; in haste
what he should do
named; (see note)
knows not ever
bade her; heed; (see note)
Grant him ten years of life; (see note)
Again; bring about; (see note)
her husband together
as if it were their own; (see note)
By the time
nourished; courteous; (see note)
uncle too; (see note)
Another ten winters or more
such power; (see note)
no one; (see note)
Who could withstand one blow from him
That he was capable of being his own master
do each task
for his age
gave him; (see note)
fulfill his needs
spent in his fostering
dear uncle; (see note)
Who shall help us
would wait not a moment
kindred had found
Who his mother was
If she still lived
half; with him
seek; kin; endure
Without a horse; good armor
cut down; massive; ugly
stout; oak; (see note)
Never was there; (see note)
well past nones
a valley, one great blow
Earl; strong; fierce
hunted a deer or two
fierce; (see note)
i.e., feet like a lion
As fire out of a chimney
as wrought iron
The Earl fled
saw; (see note)
cudgel; (see note)
soon fell down
he [Degaré] lept
smashed; each bone
The Earl; humbly
for his life
made him go with him
say goodbye and leave
brought forth; (see note)
sought; (see note)
gloves to try on
But; put them on
picked them up
took; from that place
suitably [rides]; squire
journey; set upon
convened; (see note)
in full session
cause him any harm
began to reflect
knows where; born
befall; (see note)
greeted; (see note)
lord; now; (see note)
He would undertake to joust with you
By God; (see note)
one florin; (see note)
eagerly did pray
when; done; (see note)
To his inn
carried his lance
saw; (see note)
distinguished; their eyes
knew where he came from
lance; (see note)
helmet; landed; blow
once more; violence
twice; (see note)
advise myself better; (see note)
broke to pieces
Said they never saw; eyes
Even in serious combat; (see note)
Endure; from their
But he is valiant certainly
eager mood (anger)
Ah! By my
though; devil himself; (see note)
despite all his strength
child (Degaré); equally
met him in mid-course
sharpened; spear head
thrust; (see note)
one shout indeed
prize; (see note)
begot; (see note)
i.e., good deeds
would be well served; (see note)
endow her to you with
you be a good man
married; lady truly; (see note)
chance; great marvel
live; (see note)
Marry there his mother; (see note)
together; (see note)
when; i.e., late afternoon
Ah woe!; (see note)
no man knew why
why do you behave
remembrance; countenance; (see note)
lost you; found you
Kissed; embraced; time
blissful; (see note)
By these gloves: I know
begotten; (see note)
bestowed on me
give it to you then
fetched right away
such [sword was] known; (see note)
Whoever owned it
kept [in my possession]; (see note)
I will not
step; a journey
Where he was begotten
living [domestic] beast
birds singing; high
continues until; (see note)
never knew by which direction
Happen what will happen
One step; will not
knave in safe keeping; (see note)
on ground floor or above
living person; saw
at the high table
bare-legged (tacked up); (see note)
carried bows and arrows; (see note)
stood up; (see note)
greeted them politely
not at all
shoes slashed; (see note)
an open surcoat
Trimmed with white fur
fabric with patterned figures
no one; (see note)
ever looked upon
went; right away
wrapped; warmly I assure you
head placed; (see note)
went; in that place
dress yourself and depart
guarded; (see note)
caused [the sleep]
there; many women
If it should do me any good
For company (suitors)
I know; none
for a long time
ravish, i.e., abduct
[By] his own hand; (see note)
in a faint; while
quickly toward us
slay every one of us
broke into pieces
horse's backbone broke in two; (see note)
on foot, i.e., hand-to-hand
Death blow; reward
horse; will not
cut in two
broke to pieces there
head so vigorously brought down
at the breast the blow stopped
after twelve months
commended him to
doughty, i.e., strong
Villain; (see note)
I seek none of your deer
you've found your match
Arm yourself swiftly; place
cast around; neck
heraldic ornament; precious
When he realized that
Listen; for a moment
Son of a king's daughter; lie
But I don't know who
into a swoon
began to swoon; (see note)
arose from his swoon; (see note)
if you are willing
son; (see note)
right you are
without a doubt
divorced; (see note)
too close of; (see note)
retinue; (see note)
give; (see note)