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and Gawayne, mindful of his promise, gives the knight her kiss, without any explanation, in exchange for the game. But this Vivien, though she cannot conquer his virtue so as to win from him an embrace, corrupts his faith by inducing him to accept a green girdle which has the marvellous property of warding off death from the wearer; and Gawayne, wishing to keep the same, withholds the gift and all mention of it when the host again comes back from his hunting.
It is now time for Gawayne to quit the castle for the Green Chapel, said to be but two miles distant. No chapel can he find, only a hollow hill, but, lo! the Green Knight appears, and calls on Gawayne to bare his neck to the blow. He feigns to strike; Gawayne swerves. The Green Knight prepares a second stroke, and this time the victim remains firm. Then the axe descends again, but very gently, and the blood trickles down Gawayne's neck. The ordeal is over, and anon the mummery is explained. The first feint was intended to complete the original bargain. The second stroke was bloodless, because Gawayne had honourably rejected the lady's overtures, while the third stroke had punished the slight breach of honour involved in the keeping of the girdle. Gawayne is stung with remorse at his own cowardice and treachery; but the old knight makes light of the matter, and invites him to return with him to the castle. The courtesy having been declined, the young adventurer hastens back to Camelot, and recounts his adventures to his welcoming friends.
The subject of English romances is so large and has so many sides that any attempt to deal with it in full would be hopeless.1 Yet it may not be amiss to exhibit in some detail the relations between a French original and an English adaptation, select
A Compariton. .
ing for the purpose Wulvvm of Falermo. As regards the matter, the chief distinction between the French and the English version is that the adapter, a much truer poet, curtails reflections and accounts of
1 Nearly a hundred, ranging in date from the late thirteenth to the late fifteenth or earliest sixteenth century, have been enumerated, nor is there yet any single book which gives a complete account of them. Ellis's well-known Specimens is still the best introduction. Nearly, but not quite, all the most interesting will be found in the collections of which a detailed list has been appended below, or in the publications of the Early English Text Society. The dates of the romances are usually guesswork, but those certainly belonging to our present period may be ascertained from the contents of the famous Auchinleck MS. (middle fourteenth century), which contains, among other things, Guy, Bevis, the King of Tars, Amis and Amiloun, Sir Degar(, The Seven Wise Masters, Florice and Blancejloure, Arthour and Merlin, Roland and Vernagu, Otuel, Alisaunder, Tristrem, Orfco, Horn-Child, and Richard Cceur-de-Lion. References in the extremely interesting religious poem of the Cursor Mundi show us some of these, and others, as existing still earlier; but it is improbable that many date before 1300.
The principal collections are—
(a) Ritson (J.) Ancient English Metrical Romances. 3 vols. London, 1802.
(6) Weber (H.) Metrical Romances of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Centuries. 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1810.
(c) Utterson (R.) Select Pieces of Popular Poetry. 2 vols.
(d) Hartshorne (C. H.) Ancient Metrical Tales.
(e) Halliwell (J. 0.) The Thornton Romances. Camden Society,
(/) Hazlitt, (W. C.) Early Popular Poetry of England. 4 vols. London, 1864.
(g) Hales (J. W.), and Furnivall (F. J.) Bishop Percy's Folio MS. 3 vols. London, 1867.
feasts, while, as compensation, he gives free scope to descriptions of Nature. This is seen, not only in long passages wholly interpolated, but in incidental touches. For instance, the lines—
"En ceste forest le trouvai,
are represented in the translation by
"How he him fond in that forest here fast bi-side,
The length of the line and the needs of alliteration help to explain the particularity, but such picturesque accessories, when not too obtrusive, certainly enhance the interest of the narrative. On the other hand, when motives are in question, the English version is less lucky. The emperor asks William what his father is called, and the boy declines to satisfy him.
"' Nay, sire, bi God,' quath the barn, 'be ye right sure,
The French William is more precise.
"Non ferai, sire, et por coi,
Alliterative poetry took an even stronger hold of Scotland.1 The writer curiously designated by Wyn
See Scottish Alliterative Poems, S.T.S., ed. Amours, Edinburgh,
toun the chronicler, from whom alone we hear of him, as "Huchown of the awle ryale" has been Scottish identified by some with Sir Hugh Eglinsmw,Kes. toun of Ayrshire, brother-in-law of Robert II., but this is mere guesswork. Of the three works attributed to him, the Epistle of Susanna, the Adventure of Gawain, and the Great Geste of Arthur, the first alone has come down to us with a fair degree of certainty. The poem—especially in the dinouement, where God sends Daniel to deliver the chaste and harassed matron—has many suggestions of the Pearl. The metre is the thirteen - lined stanza, combining alliteration and rhyme in the style of the Adventures of Arthur at the Tarn Watheling. With respect to the Great Geste of Arthur, the main question is whether it is one and the same with the still extant alliterative Morte Arthure, a poem characterised by a high sense of the glory of knighthood joined to an intense feeling for the beauty of Nature.
The note of originality, and the national spirit, never more active and awake than in this the heroic age of the Scottish people, are shown by
John Barbour. .
a contemporary poet with whom Huchown —if Sir Hugh Eglintoune were he—was associated in
1897, where the best account of "Huchown" and the guesses about him will be found. It contains Susanna and The Adventures of Arthur, with others. Most, if not all, of these alliterative romances have been edited for the Early English and the Scottish Text Societies, and many of them have attracted the attention of German scholars— e.g., Herr Hans Koster, who has published a critical edition of the Pistel of Swete Susan (Triibner, Strassburg).
the audit of public accounts. The name Barbour, or Barber, suggests a plebeian origin, but impenetrable gloom surrounds the parentage and youth of the bard. According to some, he was born as early as 1317, while by others the event is postponed to the year 1330. For some time he studied at Oxford. Entering the Church, he attained to the dignity of Archdeacon of Aberdeen, and in 1357 was appointed by his bishop a member of the commission for deciding the ransom of King David. He died in 1395.
Barbour's first achievement appears to have been his Trojan War, but whether the fragments attributed to him by a fifteenth-century copyist, and recently brought to light, are genuine, may well be doubted. If they are, all that can be said is that they do not serve to convey any lofty idea of Barbour's talents at this stage of their development, being neither more nor less than a slavish translation of the columnar Guido's History of Troy.
A very different verdict must be passed on his Bruce. There is nothing in English literature exactly resembling this work. To call it an epic might be misleading, for the term inevitably suggests a free exercise of the imagination, whereas it was Barbour's intention to hand down the actual memory of events. The theory has been mooted that the Bruce was manufactured, as it were, out of folk-songs, of the existence of which Barbour was certainly aware, current at the period. That these racy and spontaneous effusions influenced him on his poetic side hardly admits of question; but there, it is likely, his obligations