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Item 21, Sir Corneus


1 He knew no other means [to obtain this knowledge]


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Diction­ary; OED: The Oxford English Dictionary;

Title No title or incipit. The title is that used by Furrow’s edition and several descriptions of the manuscript, based on the author’s name as claimed in line 246. The name Corneus seems to be derived from the Latin cornus, “horn.” The text begins halfway down the page of fol. 59v, immediately after the colo­phon of the preceding text.

16 as I rede in story. This formula may not refer to any text at all or to any in parti­cular, but stories of Guinevere’s adultery were available in various Arthurian texts of the later Middle Ages, particularly in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur and French Arthurian cycles.

22 bugyll horn. The horn of a wild ox, used as a drinking horn. Animal horns, or cups in the shape of horns, were used as ceremonial drinking vessels, particu­larly in pre-Conquest England.

52 tabull dormounte. Most of the tables in a medieval hall were movable boards placed on trestles; the table dormant was a fixed table reserved for the highest- ranking members of the household and selected guests of honor.

59 Garlandys of wylos. Willows were traditionally associated with those unlucky in love.

74 Duke of Gloseter. The first duke of Gloucester was Thomas of Woodstock (1355–97), one of the sons of King Edward III; the title is thus an anach­ronism in this context. The title has traditionally been given to one of the younger sons of the king.

91 erle. The poem uses duke and erle interchangeably to refer to the duke of Gloucester.

98 spake. The correct reading should be sayd, for the sake of rhyme.

109 merchandabull. From the verb, “merchaunden,” “to sell.” The OED lists this as the earliest instance of the word merchantable.

116 baske fysyke. The MED lists one other instance of the compound “bask-fisik” (from baske, “bitter,” and fisike, “medicine”), which may also be a reference to sexual intercourse.

119 lecherus craft. As Furrow points out in the notes to her edition, there may be a pun here on leecher, “physician” (Ten Fifteenth-Century Comic Poems, p. 384).

176 wont beforn. As line 27 makes clear, Arthur has drunk successfully from the horn before; he has only recently been cuckolded.

207 To wesch. The ritual washing that preceded the meal followed the same hier­archies of rank involved in the service of the meal itself. See Stans Puer ad Mensam (item 7), line 154 and note.

241 Skarlyon. Caerleon, in Wales, is one of the traditional locations of Arthur’s court in Arthurian romance.

246 Syr Corneus. See note to title. A Corneus is mentioned in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, but without any suggestion of cuckoldry.

249 In herpyng or other gle. Furrow suggests that this line means “to bear that name whenever the gest is performed, to a harp or other music” (Ten Fifteenth-Century Comic Poems, p. 385).

255 To hevyn Amen Amen. The final line is followed by drawings of a grinning fish and a five-petaled flower on its stem, which separate Sir Corneus from the following text (The Jealous Wife).


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

14 honouryd. MS: houryd.

55 bord. MS: berd.

140 came. MS: same.

142 every one. MS: ever one.

206 causyd the. MS: causyd the the.

239 wente. MS: wentent.

248 namyd. MS: mamyd.






fol. 60r











fol. 60v












fol. 61r












fol. 61v











fol. 62r   




All that wyll of solas lere,
Herkyns now and ye schall here —
     And ye kane understond —
Of a bowrd I wyll you schew,
That ys full gode and trew,
     That fell sometyme in Ynglond.

Kynge Arthour was of grete honour,
Of castellus and of many a toure,
     And full wyde yknow;
A gode ensample I wyll you sey,
What chanse befell hym onne a dey —
     Herkyn to my saw.

Cokwoldys he lovyd, as I you plyght;
He honouryd them both dey and nyght,
     In all maner of thyng.
And as I rede in story,
He was kokwold sykerly —
     For sothe it is no lesyng.

Herkyngys sires what I sey:
Here may ye here solas and pley,
     If ye wyll take gode hede.
Kyng Arthour had a bugyll horn
That ever more stod hym beforn,
     Were so that ever he yede.

For when he was at the bord sete,
Anon the horne schuld be fette,
     Therof that he myght drynke.
For myche crafte he couth therby,
And ofte tymes the treuth he sey;
     Non other couth he thynke.1

If any cokwold dryke of it,
Spyll he schuld withouten lette;
     Therfor thei were not glade.
Gret dispyte thei had therby,
Because it dyde them vilony
     And made them oft tymes sade.

When the kyng wold hafe solas,
The bugyll was fett into the plas
     To make solas and game.
And than changyd the cokwoldys chere;
The kyng them callyd ferre and nere,
     Lordyngys by ther name.

Than men myght se game inowghe,
When every cokwold on other leughe,
     And yit thei schamyd sore.
Wherever the cokwoldys were sought,
Befor the kyng thei were brought,
     Both lesse and more.

Kyng Arthour than, verament,
Ordeynd throw hys awne assent —
     Soth as I yow sey —
The tabull dormounte withouten lette;
Therat the cokwoldys were sette
     To have solas and pley.

For at the bord schuld be non other
Bot every cokwold and hys brother —
     To tell treuth I must nedys.
And when the cokwoldys were sette,
Garlandys of wylos schuld be fette,
     And sett upon ther hedys.

Of the best mete, withoute lesyng,
That stode on bord befor the kyng,
     Both ferr and nere,
To the cokwoldys he sente anon,
And bad them be glad everychon,
     For his sake make gode chere.

And seyd, “Lordyngys, for your lyves,
Be never the wrother with your wyves,
     For no maner of nede.
Of woman come duke and kyng,
I yow tell without lesyng;
     Of them com owre manhed.”

So it befell, serteynly,
The Duke of Gloseter com in hyghe
     To the courte with full gret myght.
He was reseyved at the kyngys palys
With mych honour and grete solas,
     With lordys that were wele dyght.

With the kyng ther dyde he duell,
Bot how long I can not tell:
     Therof knaw I non name.
Of Kyng Arthour a wonder case,
Frendys, herkyns how it was,
     For now begynnes game.

Uppon a dey, withouten lette,
The duke with the kyng was sette
     At mete with mykell pride.
He lukyd abowte wonder faste,
Hys syght on every syde he caste
     To them that sate besyde.

The kyng aspyed the erle anon,
And fast he lowghe the erle upon,
     And bad he schuld be glad.
And yit for all hys grete honour,
Cokwold was kyng Arthour,
     Ne galle non he hade.

So at the last the duke he brayd,
And to the kyng this wordys spake —
     He myght no lenger forbere —
“Syr, what hath this men don,
That syche garlondys thei were upon?
     That skyll wold I lere.”

The kyng seyd the erle to,
“Syr, none hurte thei have do,
     For this was thrught a chans.
Sertys, thei be fre men all,
For non of them hath no gall;
     Therfor this is ther penans.

“Ther wyves hath be merchandabull,
And of ther ware compenabull;
     Me thinke it is non herme.
A man of lufe that wold them crave,
Hastely he schuld it have,
     For thei couth not hym wern.

“All ther wyves, sykerlyke,
Hath usyd the baske fysyke
     Whyll thes men were oute.
And oft thei have draw that draught.
To use wele the lecherus craft,
     With rubyng of ther toute.

“Syr,” he seyd, “now have I redd,
Ete we now and make us glad,
     And every man fle care.”
The duke seyd to hym anon,
“Than be thei cokwoldys everychon?”
     The kyng seyd, “Hold thee there.”

The kyng than, after the erlys word,
Send to the cokwoldys bord
     To make them mery amonge
All maner of mynstralsy
To glad the cokwoldys by and by,
     With herpe, fydell, and song.

And bad them take no greffe,
Bot all with love and with leffe,
     Every man with other.
For after mete, without distans,
The cokwoldys schuld together danse,
     Every man with hys brother.

Than began a nobull game:
The cokwoldys together came,
     Befor the erle and the kyng.
In skerlet kyrtells every one,
The cokwoldys stodyn everychon,
     Redy unto the dansyng.

Than seyd the kyng in hye,
“Go fyll my bugyll hastely,
     And bryng it to my hond.
I wyll asey with a gyne
All thes cokwold that here is in;
     To knaw them wyll I found.”

Than seyd the erle, “For charyté,
In what skyll, tell me,
     A cokwold may I know?”
To the erle the kyng ansuerd,
“Syr, be my hore berd,
     Thou schall se within a throw.”

The bugull was brought the kyng to hond.
Than seyd the kyng, “I understond
     Thys horne that ye here se,
There is no cokwold fer ne nere
Hereof to drynke hath no power,
     As wyde as Crystianté.

“Bot he schall spyll on every syde,
For any cas that may betyde,
     Schall non therof avanse.”
And yit for all hys grete honour,
Hymselfe noble Kyng Arthour
     Hath forteynd syche a chans.

“Syr Erle,” he seyd, “take and begyn.”
He seyd, “Nay, be Seynt Austyn,
     That were to me vylony.
Not for all a reme to wyn
Befor you I schuld begyn,
     For honour of my curtassy.”

Kyng Arthour ther he toke the horn,
And dyde as he was wont beforn,
     Bot ther was yit gon a gyle.
Bot he wend to have dronke of the best,
Bot sone he spyllyd on hys brest,
     Within a lytell whyle.

The cokwoldys lokyd yche on other,
And thought the kyng was there awne brother,
     And glad thei were of that.
“He hath us scornyd many a tyme
And now he is a cokwold fyne,
     To were a cokwoldys hate.”

The quene was therof schamyd sore;
Sche changyd hyr colour lesse and more,
     And wold have ben awey;
Therwith the kyng gan hyr behold,
And seyd he schuld never be so bold
     The soth agene to sey.

“Cokwoldys no more I wyll repreve,
For I ame one and aske no leve,
     For all my rentys and londys.
Lordyngys, all now may ye know
That I may dance in the cokwold row
     And take you by the handys.”

Than seyd thei all at a word
That cokwoldys schuld begynne the bord,
     And sytte hyest in the halle.
“Go we, lordingys, all same,
And dance to make us gle and game,
     For cokwoldys have no galle.”

And after that sone anone,
The kyng causyd the cokwoldys ychon
     To wesch, withouten les.
For ought that ever may betyde,
He sett them by hys awne syde,
     Up at the hyghe dese.

The kyng hymselff a garlond fette;
Uppon hys hede he it sette,
     For it myght be non other.
And seyd, “Lordyngys, sykerly,
We be all of a freyry:
     I ame your awne brother.

“Be Jhesu Cryst that is aboffe,
That man aught me gode loffe
     That ley by my quene.
I were worthy hym to honour,
Both in castell and in towre,
     With rede skerlyt and grene.

“For he me helpyd when I was forth
To cher my wyfe and make her myrth,
     For women lovys wele pley.
And therfor, syrys, have ye no dowte,
Bot many schall dance in the cokwoldys rowte,
     Both by nyght and dey.

“And therfor, lordyngys, take no care:
Make we mery, for nothing spare,
     All brether in one rowte.”
Than the cokwoldys were full blythe,
And thankyd God a hundred syth,
     For soth withouten doute.

Every cokwold seyd to other,
“Kyng Arthour is owr awne brother;
     Therfor we may be blyth.”
The Erle of Glowsytour, verament,
Toke hys leve and home he wente,
     And thankyd the kyng fele sythe.

Kyng Arthour left at Skarlyon,
With hys cokwoldys everychon,
     And made both gam and gle.
A knyght ther was, withouten les,
That servyd at the kyngys des:
     Syr Corneus hyght he.
He made this gest in hys gam,
And namyd it after hys awne name,
     In herpyng or other gle.

And after nobull Kyng Arthour
Lyved and dyghed with honour,
    As many hath don senne,
Both cokwoldys and other mo.
God gyff us grace that we may go
    To hevyn. Amen, Amen.
entertainment hear; (see note)
joke; tell

happened once

example (story, lesson)

Listen; story

Cuckolds; promise

(see note)
In truth it is no lie


(see note)
That always stood before him
Wherever he went

at the table

much skill (tricks) he knew

should drink
without fail


brought into [that] place


[were] shamed sorely

Commanded by his own decision
Truly as I tell you
   permanent (fixed) table without fail; (see note)

table; (t-note)

I must
willows; fetched; (see note)

food; lying (i.e., in truth)
on [the] table

commanded; everyone

[Born] from woman


solemnly; (see note)


no information
a remarkable event

without fail

looked about very intently

earl; (see note)

Nor did he have any courage to resist

spoke up (exclaimed)
(see note)
stay silent
these men
upon [their heads]
reason; learn

on account of a chance [event]

ready for business (cheap); (see note)
generous of their wares
It seems to me no harm

could not refuse him

bitter (strong) medicine; (see note)
these men
poured that potion
lechers’ art; (see note)


each of them
Be still


Each [should act] to each other


scarlet tunics; (t-note)
stood each one of them

at once

discover with a device


With what method

hoary (white) beard
see in a moment

Who has any power to drink from it

No matter what shall happen
No one shall be successful

Has encountered such a fate

by Saint Augustine
realm to win

accustomed to before; (see note)
a trick
Although he thought

[Suited] to wear a cuckold’s hat

sorely shamed

To speak against the truth

ask no permission (exception)

at once (in unison)
begin the table (be seated foremost)


no courage to resist an affront

each one; (t-note)
To wash, in truth; (see note)
No matter what happened

dais (high table)


Because it could not be otherwise

owes me good love

I would be worthy to honor him

red and green [clothes]

when I was away
make mirth [for] her


for nothing hold back
brothers in one company


many times

remained at Caerleon; (see note)
each one

Sir Corneus was his name; (see note)
this story
performance; (see note)



(see note)

Go To Item 22, The Jealous Wife, introduction
Go To Item 22, The Jealous Wife, text