The romance known as Lancelot of the Laik
survives in only one manuscript, Cambridge University Kk.1.5, and even there it is incomplete, ending abruptly in the middle of the 3487th line. As R. J. Lyall suggests (in "The Lost Literature of Medieval Scotland" in Bryght Lanternis: Essays on the Language and Literature of Medieval and Renaissance Scotland
, ed. J. Derrick McClure and Michael R. G. Spiller [Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1989], 50), this poem may be the "Lancelot du Lac
referred to in the Complaynt of Scotland
." The ms. dates from very late in the fifteenth century. The writing of the poem has generally been placed not much earlier. Vogel dates it "not earlier than the latter part of 1482" (10). However, this specific date is based on the opinion that the poem's political advice to King Arthur is a response to the problems of the reign of James III of Scotland, advice which R. J. Lyall has demonstrated to be "almost entirely conventional" (25). Nevertheless a part of the poem seems to belong to "a tradition of political advice which enjoyed continuous currency in Scotland between about 1450 and about 1580" (Lyall 25), and so was most likely composed not long before the writing of the surviving manuscript.
The poem was written in a Scottish dialect, as is evidenced by a number of terms typical of that dialect and by numerous forms common to Scottish and northern dialects. Among the words indicative of the Scottish are, for example, are anerding
, in line 345), degen
(Sc. form of deign
, in line 949), uall
e, in line 1317), feill
, in line 2854), radour
, in line 3465), as well as the more common words such as sic
, as in line 560 and 2115, where the form is sice
), the ilk
, meaning that
, in line 629), forms in quh
instead of wh
, line 335; quhar
, line 640; quhich
, line 1053; sumquhat,
line 1059; quhill
, line 1229; quhat
, line 1253; etc.).
Among the forms found both in Scottish and northern dialects are the third person singular and plural of the present tense in -s
, in line 1690; clerkis redis
, in line 204; thei has
, in lines 495-96); the present participle in -and
, line 2173; prekand
, line 3089; fechtand
, line 3127); and the third person plural pronoun in th
- (e.g., thaim, line 144, thei, line 382). Words typical of northern England and Scotland include sal (line 110); fra
(line 218); mekil
(line 857); and those retaining the long a
, where other dialects have shifted to o
, line 1139, and hamlyness
, line 2463.
But the dialect that appears in the Cambridge manuscript is far from uniform. Beside ham
, one could cite homme
(line 897) and homely
(line 2463). In addition to fra
, and sic
, one finds frome
(line 6), shall
(line 454), and such
(line 388). The form thinking
(line 1230) appears as well as thenkand
The mixture of dialectical forms is the result of several factors. There is, of course, the possibility that some of the non-northern forms have been introduced by the scribe. However, other factors are certain to have contributed to the form of the text. By the late fifteenth century, the process of standardization of the written language was well under way. In addition, just as the style and ideas of the author of Lancelot of the Laik
were influenced by poets like Chaucer and Gower, surely his language must have been as well. (It should be noted, however, that Gregory Kratzmann--in Anglo-Scottish Literary Relations 1430-1550 [Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1980], 231--believes that "the fact that Lancelot is written in a heavily anglicised form of Scots . . . may well denote an attempt to imitate the language of the [Kingis
rather than that of Chaucer's poetry.")
In accordance with the practice of the TEAMS texts, I have expanded abbreviations in the manuscript and have regularized u/v and j/i spellings according to modern orthography. As an extension of this principle I have also regularized the orthography when a w
in the text would be a v
in modern orthography and vice versa. Another point of orthography needs mention. The scribe makes use of a y
-shaped thorn, not an uncommon practice in fifteenth-century texts. Earlier editors have transcribed this as y
in most instances. Thus Skeat, for example reads "yat" (line 82) where what is clearly intended is "that" and "yi" (line 145) where "thi" is intended. Only in a couple of places in his notes does Skeat indicate that the y
-shaped letter stands for th
: his note to line 160 reads, "yis
, this"; to line 1044: "oyer
." So in MS.; the y
representing the old th
; to line 1187: "qwheyar
," whether; and to line 1240 "yarof
," thereof. But generally the letter is merely transcribed as y
and presented without comment. I have treated this letter according to TEAMS guidelines and transcribed it as th
One other idiosyncracy of the manuscript is worthy of note. The scribe frequently writes -ing
where one would normally find the ending -en
(as in an infinitive or a plural form of a verb, or a past participle), e.g., "Fore to avysing" (line 424); "thei waryng into were" (line 443); and "The day is cumyng" (i.e., has come, line 447). Alternatively he often uses -ine
where one would expect -ing
, e.g., "bookis longyne to ther artis" (line 433). The inversion of the usual spelling is clear in line 448: "Besichyne them to shewyng ther entent."
Criticism of Lancelot of the Laik
has generally promoted two opinions about the poem. The former is stated bluntly by Helaine Newstead in her account of the poem in the Manual of Writings in Middle English
: "The poem has slight claim to literary merit or originality. It is a paraphrase of the first part of the Vulgate Lancelot
. . . marked by the incompetence that the poet freely admits" (50-51). This opinion is shared by Robert Ackerman, in his essay on "English Rimed and Prose Romances" in Roger Sherman Loomis's Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages
, who calls the poem "a badly conceived rehandling of the first portion of the French Prose Lancelot
" (491). These two authoritative works merely affirmed what some earlier critics had said. Vogel, for example says that "in the remarkable history of Arthurian literature," Lancelot of the Laik
is "perhaps even insignificant" (1).
The second opinion about the poem was first expressed by Vogel. He asserts that the "extremely lengthy 'digression' on the natures and duties of the king . . . is of considerable interest" (1). The interest for Vogel lies in his belief that this amplification of the remarks on kingship in the French source was inspired by "the degraded state of government in Scotland under James III" (5). Ackerman accepts this judgment and says of these references "to the contemporaneous political scene" that "only in this respect is the romance of much interest" (491).
In fact, the passage containing the presumed topical allusions dominate the small body of critical studies of Lancelot of the Laik
. Every article to deal with the poem since Vogel's 1943 study has focused on this section of the poem. Flora Alexander examines the poem along with other Scottish treatments of Arthur and concludes that the criticism of his reign is not related to fears of English aggression but rather to the inadequacies of James III as a king. Wurtel sees much of the advice as traditional and therefore considers Lancelot of the Laik
a precursor of the type of courtesy book offering advice to a prince popular in the Renaissance. And R. J. Lyall argues that since the advice to Arthur is almost entirely conventional, this section is not reliable evidence for dating the poem.
The reason the passage of advice to the king receives such attention is that it is the longest expansion of the French source in the surviving text. The Amytans section, which begins with the wise man's appearance in lines 1294 and following and runs to the king's taking of his leave from Amytans in lines 2145-46, dominates the second book of the poem and resonates in the incomplete third book. But to say that it is important is different from considering it the raison d'etre of the poem.
Perhaps the reason for the emphasis on this passage as well as for the disparaging comments on the poem as a whole is that Lancelot of the Laik
is incomplete. As a result, this passage occupies a large percentage of the surviving lines--even though it would not loom so large if the poem were completed as projected. The incompleteness of the poem has presented a problem to critics of medieval literature, many of whom were trained in New Critical reading, which prizes form and structure. It is no accident that for many years critical discussion of medieval literature focused much of its praise and blame and much of its debate on the structure of the works under consideration. The parallel structure of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
, whether Malory's Morte d'Arthur
is one book or eight, the relation between the Visio and the Vita in Piers Plowman
, the ordering of Chaucer's tales and the thematic grouping of them, the apparent weakness of the link between the parts of poems like the Awntyrs of Arthure
, and other such questions have filled many a page in scholarly journals and monographs. These are all important issues and they have led to important insights. However, the inclination to focus on such issues can easily lead to the slighting of works that have much to offer, especially if those works are structurally incomplete. The Canterbury Tales
have received so much comment in spite of its incompleteness because parts of the larger work--the individual tales--often have a brilliant completeness of their own, because there are enough of them to let a reader see some of the ways in which they are interconnected, and because the plan for the whole is reasonably clear.
To appreciate an incomplete work like Lancelot of the Laik
, or any other fragmentary work, one must apply a similar aesthetics of incompleteness in order to assess it properly. Even the consideration of the significance of Amytans' advice can not be understood without imagining it as part of a larger whole and without considering its relationship to that larger whole. No doubt scholars have been drawn to this passage because it is complete and the full content of Amytans' speech can be analyzed. But to see it in isolation distorts both the poem in which it appears and the passage itself.
Projecting the completed work makes it clear that Lancelot of the Laik
is not a courtesy book but a romance in which the advice plays an important but subsidiary role. Such projection requires a reader to consider the poet's own statement about the contents and the changes made by the English author in adapting the French romance. Such an examination provides a basis for challenging the assumptions that Lancelot of the Laik
lacks originality and literary merit and that it is only of interest because of the passage of political advice given to Arthur.
Lancelot of the Laik
has its source in the French Vulgate Lancelot
. It would, however, be a mistake to call it a translation of the French romance or even "a paraphrase of the first part of the Vulgate Lancelot
," as the Manual of Writings in Middle English
calls it (I, 51). In the process of creating a verse romance from the prose of the French, the Scottish poet has translated some passages fairly closely, changed details in others, sometimes expanded on the text, sometimes abbreviated it. But the most obvious change he makes is to select a portion of the much longer source and focus on that. It is clear that the poet knew the longer romance, that he is not working from an incomplete manuscript because he recounts in his prologue many of the events that he will not treat. His sense of various parts of the French romance as stories in themselves is made obvious when he says that one of the many incidents he has recounted in his occupatio would provide material for a "gret [i.e., long] story" (line 296). In fact, the author of Lancelot of the Laik
adapts his source in a manner that has been described by Larry Benson (in Malory's Morte Darthur
[Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1976], 43) as typical of Middle English romancers' "concentration on action, as contrasted to the courtly psychological subtleties of Chrétien de Troyes, their relative lack of interest in mysticism and symbolism of the sort we find in the French Grail romances, and their preference for simple, brief, relatively straightforward narrative lines in contrast to the structural complexities of French works."
Having selected the section of the French romance that he wishes to treat, the author of the English poem does more than paraphrase it. It is generally accepted that he has added significantly to Amytans' advice, but the significance of some of the other differences from the source has not been noted. And even the role of the Amytans section has not been clearly defined in relation to the complete work.
Perhaps the strongest indication that Lancelot of the Laik
must be read as a romance and not as a poem of political advice is found in the Prologue. This section, which has no parallel in the French source, contains the poet's love complaint and a dream vision in which a messenger from the god of Love instructs him either to tell his lady of his love for her or to write a "trety" (narrative) of love or arms--but something joyful and not sorrowful--which will let his lady know that he is in her service. After a disclaimer about his lack of literary talent, which critics have taken too literally, he decides to write for his beloved the story of Lancelot.
However conventional such an opening might be, it clearly puts the following poem in a particular context. The tale of Lancelot is selected because it is the story of a great lover. The implied simile is that the poet's love for the woman for whom the poem is written is like Lancelot's love for Guinevere. Given this context, it would be totally inappropriate for the author to write a courtesy book or to have political advice as his primary emphasis. In fact, the poet explains in the Prologue that Arthur's war with Galiot is important because Lancelot was the reason for Arthur's victory and won the most honor in those wars. And the love of Guinevere was his reward for his achievements in those wars (see lines 304-13). Thus Arthur's travails are important only as a showcase for Lancelot's valor.
The first book supports this contention, for while much of it is devoted to the deeds of Gawain, it is Lancelot who prevents Arthur's forces from being defeated. He proves himself in battle--and he also sees and falls in love with Guinevere. It is for her that he performs the wondrous deeds of valor that save the day. He tells himself that he should either deserve her love through his deeds or he should die like a knight. The emphasis is kept on the romance rather than the political element in this book by having the Lady of Melyholt, Lancelot's captor, fall in love with him because of the deeds he has performed. It is indicative of the method, and perhaps of the theme, employed by the English poet that, as Göller noted (138), he moves the visit of the Lady of Melyholt and her cousin to a point in the narrative immediately following Lancelot's exploits. In the French, this scene occurs after Amytans' advice. The advice and the exploits of Lancelot are interlaced. By placing the visit immediately after the battle, the English author has emphasized that it is knightly deeds that have made Lancelot worthy of the love of a noble lady.
This arrangement of the narrative, without the interlacing of the French source, is one of the elements that contributes to the impression that Book II, the section devoted to Amytans' advice, is central to the story. After all, it has a major portion of the narrative devoted to it. It is structured so as to form a separate unit, uninterrupted by the account of Lancelot's exploits. But the focus on Arthur's character does in a general and a specific sense relate to Lancelot. Amytans informs Arthur that victory in battle and the very reign of a king depend on God's will. If Arthur changes his ways and perseveres in virtue, his reign will prosper--and, though Amytans does not say this specifically, the narrative makes it clear that Lancelot is the instrument by which Arthur's power will be maintained.
Even more to the point is the scene in which Amytans advises Arthur to confess all his failings. Arthur returns and claims to have fulfilled the injunction. Amytans says, in effect, didn't you forget to confess how you treated King Ban and his wife; and he adds, "Bot of ther sone . . . / Ne spek Y not" (lines 1450-51). Their son is, of course, Lancelot. The sin to which Amytans refers is his failure to come to the aid of Ban, Arthur's vassal, even though Ban had faithfully rendered service to Arthur when called upon to do so (see the note to line 1448 for a full account of this incident).
Amytans ends his sermon to Arthur by telling the king that it is now up to him to lose or retain his honor and his reign. In response, Arthur says that he has only one concern--whether Galiot's boast that the knight who defended Arthur's realm (that is, Lancelot) shall be persuaded to enter Galiot's service, as Galiot himself had boasted he would. Arthur asks: "If that shall fall Y pray yhow tellith me, / And quhat he hecht and of quhat lond is hee" (lines 2139-40). His main concern is that Lancelot, whose name Arthur does not yet learn, should remain in his service and not in that of his enemy. Obviously Arthur believes that his honor and his reign depend on the knight who fought so valiantly.
The importance of Lancelot to Arthur is emphasized by an interesting verbal echo. In explaining his melancholy humor to Gawain, the king says that it was once assumed that he had in his household "the flour of knichthed and of chevalry" but that now he sees that the contrary is true since "the flour of knychthed is away" (lines 2183-85). To speak of the epitome as "the flower" is fairly common in Middle English; in fact the term is used in this sense elsewhere in this poem. However, in this context, in the same book in which the Blessed Virgin is referred to symbolically as a flower--the last such reference being only sixty lines earlier--it is difficult not to associate the two. Just as on a moral and spiritual level, Mary is the "flour that al our gladness sterith" (line 2104) and the "flour of our salvatioune" who shall be Arthur's "succour" and who shall "thi harm, sche sall thi ned redress" (lines 2110-14), so on a worldly level Lancelot is Arthur's succor and salvation.
That the echo is not accidental or coincidental is supported by two facts. First, the reference to Mary as the "flour" is made repeatedly. In lines 2088-2104, ten of the seventeen lines begin with the phrase "this is the flour," as does line 2108; and the word "flour" appears two more times, in lines 2109 and 2123. Secondly, when the term "flour of knychthed" appears in lines 2183 and 2185, it is not translating the French "flors," as the references to Mary as the flower are. Rather the first use of the phrase "flour of Knychthed" translates "toute la proeche terriene," all earthly prowess, (Sommers III, 226, lines 28-29) and the second "li mieudres cheualiers del monde," the best knight of the world, (line 30). The implied comparison between Lancelot on a worldly level and Mary on a spiritual level is one more way that the poet links the advice of Amytans to his central purpose of emphasizing Lancelot's superiority as knight and lover.
Other changes that the English author made in his source indicate that he has adopted a strategy similar to that used by Malory. He has made changes in his source which are designed to enhance the position and reputation of Lancelot. Of course in the French source Lancelot has a central position; nevertheless Lancelot's love and valor are even more prominent in the English. For example, the passage in which Lancelot, "byrnyng in loves fyre" battles through the field "lyk to o lyone" and in which Gawain praises him as a knight who does more deeds of valor in a shorter space than he has ever seen (lines 1091-1128) is the English author's addition. So too is Lancelot's complaint, written in five-line stanzas (in lines 699-718) and his lament in lines 1011-28. Likewise Lancelot's reminder to himself to fight well in the sight of his lady (lines 3270-88) is not found in the French.
Other examples might be added, including places where Lancelot's speeches are expanded from the French source, as is the case with his tribute to Gawain when he thinks Gawain might have died (lines 2749-72) and his exhortation to Arthur's troops (lines 3445-72). The cumulative effect of these changes to the source is to alter the focus from that of the French text, so that the English poem becomes a romance of love and valor, of which virtues Lancelot is the exemplar, rather than a part of the history of Arthur in which Lancelot plays a prominent role.
Thus placing the passage of advice to Arthur in its proper context and observing the changes the author made to his source leads to the conclusion that Amytans' advice is far from the most important or most interesting element of Lancelot of the Laik
. In fact, one must conclude, focusing on that passage distorts the understanding of the poem.
While the fragmentary nature of the one surviving manuscript of the poem makes it impossible to be certain where the emphasis on Lancelot is leading, the poet's method in the surviving portion and his statement in the Prologue about his intent and subject matter allow for some conjecture. In lines 299-313, the author summarizes his "mater." He will tell of the wars between Arthur and Galiot, of how Lancelot "berith the renownn" in these wars--this is the subject of the surviving books and would have continued at least to the end of book three. Then in a bridging section he will tell how Lancelot brings about peace between the two rulers. Finally he will tell--probably in a section at least comparable in length to the first three books--how Venus rewards Lancelot for bringing about "concorde" by allowing him to have his lady's (i.e., Guinevere's) favor. Though not referred to specifically by the poet, a concluding epilogue in which the poet offers his work to his lady and compares his love to that of Lancelot for Guinevere might have ended the work.
Had such a completed romance survived, it is likely that Lancelot of the Laik
would have had a much higher reputation and would probably have been looked upon as an interesting example of late medieval romance. At the least, critics would have been forced to place Amytans' advice in a proper context and to focus on other aspects of the poem, such as its detailed and sometimes lively battle scenes and the poet's interesting use of direct speech. The poem's novel use of the dream vision is also worthy of attention since the vision provides not a means of understanding for the narrator but rather instruction to make a poem. This advice that a poem might substitute for a direct expression of love seems to suggest a deliberate, conscious artifice as a means of expressing emotion; and this seems a precursor of Renaissance love poetry.
A final interesting and original element of the poem is worth noting. Because of author's purpose to create a poem to express his love, which therefore must be one which "soundith not oneto no hevyness / Bot oneto gladness and to lusteness" (lines 149-50), the love of Lancelot and Guinevere is not linked to the ultimate tragedy of Arthur. It is the only medieval English romance in which such a connection is not made. Malory, of course, makes Lancelot central to his Morte d'Arthur
but, as the conventional title suggests, his love brings about the downfall of Arthur and his realm. The same is true in the stanzaic Morte Arthur
, the only other romance in which Lancelot is the central character. There is no other medieval English treatment of Lancelot besides the relatively short ballad "Sir Lancelot du Lake," which recounts Lancelot's battle with Sir Tarquin and does not concern itself with matters of love.
Even in later literature, the story of Lancelot and Guinevere is rarely told without coupling it with the death of Arthur. Tennyson does this in the Idylls of the King
--though the completed portion of his early Arthurian effort, "Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere: A Fragment," focuses on the queen's beauty and only alludes to the tragedy by saying that a man would give "all other bliss / And all his worldly worth" to be able to "waste his whole heart in one kiss / Upon her perfect lips." William Morris, of course, links the tragedy to the love in "King Arthur's Tomb" and "The Defence of Guinevere," as do other poets as diverse as Edwin Arlington Robinson (in his Lancelot
), Sara Teasdale (in "Guenevere") and John Ciardi (in "Launcelot in Hell"). Playwrights, novelists, and filmmakers follow in this tradition. J. Comyns Carr's King Arthur
, T. H. White's The Once and Future King
and John Boorman's Excalibur
all link the love of Lancelot and Guinevere to the downfall of Camelot. Thus, though it is based largely on its French source, the poem is quite original in the context of English literature.
The conclusion that one reaches after considering Lancelot of the Laik
in the context of medieval and other English treatments of Lancelot is the same as that reached when considering the poem in relation to its source and as an example of medieval romance: that it is a far more interesting poem than it has been thought to be and one which deserves wider reading and further study.
Go To Lancelot of the Laik, Prologue and Book I
Cambridge University Ms. Kk.1.5.vii, ff. 1r.-42v.
The Scottish Metrical Romance of Lancelot du Lak: Now First Printed from a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, Belonging to the University of Cambridge. With Miscellaneous Poems from the Same Volume
. Edinburgh: The Maitland Club, 1839. (This edition was reprinted in 1971 by AMS Press.)
Lancelot of the Laik: A Scottish Metrical Romance (About 1490-1500 A.D.). Re-Edited from a Manuscript in the Cambridge University Library, with an Introduction, Notes, and Glossarial Index
. Ed. W. W. Skeat. EETS o.s. 6. 1865, 2d ed. 1870; rpt. London: Oxford UP for The Early English Text Society, 1965.
Lancelot of the Laik: From Cambridge University Library MS
. Ed. Margaret Muriel Gray. STS n.s. 2. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons for the Scottish Text Society, 1912.
Ackerman, Robert W. "English Rimed and Prose Romances." In Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History
. Ed. Roger Sherman Loomis. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Pp. 480-519 (pp. 491-493 are devoted to Lancelot of the Laik
). Ackerman considers the poem "a badly conceived rehandling of the first portion of the French Prose Lancelot
Alexander, Flora. "Late Medieval Scottish Attitudes to the Figure of King Arthur: A Reassessment." Anglia
93 (1975): 17-34. Alexander examines a number of Scottish works which comment on King Arthur. She concludes about Lancelot of the Laik
that its criticism of Arthur "is not connected with the national fear of English aggression" and that "the poet's interest is not in national independence, but in the pressing internal problem of the reign of James III."
Göller, Karl Heinz. König Arthur in der Englischen Literatur des späten Mittelalters
. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963. Göller sees Lancelot of the Laik
as a treatise on statecraft ("Fürstenspiegel
") and considers the figure of Arthur as he appears in the poem an "exemplum malum
Lyall, R. J. "Politics and Poetry in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Scotland." Scottish Literary Journal
3.2 (Dec. 1976): 5-29. Lyall concludes that the discussion of kingship in Lancelot of the Laik
and a number of other Scottish poems of the fifteenth century is "almost entirely conventional" and warns that "a mere interest in the nature of good government does not provide a basis for dating a poem."
Lyall, Roderick J. "Two of Dunbar's Makars: James Affleck and Sir John the Ross." The Innes Review
27 (1976): 99-109. Lyall offers "a suggestion . . . rather than proof" of the identities of two poets named in Dundar's Lament for the Makaris
, James Affleck and John the Ross. Affleck, a variant of Auchinleck, has been considered to be the author of the Quair of Jelousy
, and Skeat has suggested that the same author wrote Lancelot of the Laik
. Lyall does not believe that "common authorship of these works can be aassumed" but suggests that "James Auchinleck the son of Sir John of that Ilk can be considered a likely candidate as Dunbar's James Affleck."
Skeat, Walter W. "The Author of 'Lancelot of the Laik.'" The Scottish Historical Review
8 (1911): 1-4. Skeat argues, on the basis of similarities in "style, prosody, vocabulary, grammar, and phonology," that the author of the Quair of Jelousy
, identified by D. Laing as James Auchinleck (Dunbar's James Affleck) is also the author of Lancelot of the Laik
Vogel, Bertram. "Secular Politics and the Date of Lancelot of the Laik
." SP 40.1 (Jan. 1943): 1-13. Vogel contends that Amytans' speech on kingship may be "the most important element of the Scots poem." He believes that it was probably "the degraded state of government in Scotland under James III which immediately impelled the poet not only to select this particular romance . . . but more, to translate this particular portion of the story selected, and to amplify the political comments contained in the original. The historical background that he sees in the poem leads him to date it "not earlier than the latter part of 1482."
Wurtele, Douglas. "A Reappraisal of the Scottish Lancelot of the Laik
." Revue de l'Université d'Ottowa
46 (1976): 68-82. Wurtele argues that Lancelot of the Laik
is more than a topical poem responding to "the political climate generated by the long minorities of James II and James III." He notes parallels to the Secreta Secretorum
and the Confessio Amantis
and concludes that "Amytans' sermon, far from constituting a blemish on the poem, puts the work in the ranks of these and other seriously meant books of instruction" and marks the poem as "an early attempt, through use of the Arthurian romance tradition, at the kind of superior 'courtesy book' to be produced in the next century by Castiglione, Ascham, Elyot, and, supremely, Spenser."